Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

As we celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese, we look back… on July 22, 1960 when ground was broken for St. Philip Church, East Windsor.
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June 16, 2016

I am writing this second reflection while attending a semi-annual meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. All the lives lost and people senselessly injured in Orlando as a result of terrorist brutality is central to our conversations about the pastoral care and spiritual leadership we as bishops need to exercise as part of our ministry.

No matter what one’s religious or political beliefs may be, senseless hatred, rage and bloodshed are more than most of us can process – psychologically, emotionally and spiritually, especially since the Orlando massacre follows other murderous rampages in Paris, Mumbai, London, Colorado Springs, San Bernardino and beyond.

Many people are asking: What does faith have to say about this? What is an appropriate response? How are we to show mercy and live by “fraternal love” in the face of such a hateful and violent assault on human life? The overriding faith question, though, is this: What do mercy and forgiveness mean in the wake of terrorism?

In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, proclaimed by Pope Francis, we recall Christ’s command to “be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Lk 6:36). However, the call to forgive is certainly not easy to fulfill, especially in the face of the “worst mass shooting in U.S. history.” Only faith in God can free us to have the will to forgive despite our feelings. Why? Because faith teaches us that God is both infinitely just and infinitely merciful. One does not negate the other. Right now, we cannot comprehend how the two can be reconciled. It will only be given to us to understand in eternity. Hence the need for faith, just as the apostles needed faith on Good Friday while they were still clueless about Easter Sunday.

I am heartened and inspired by the outpouring of compassion, generosity and courage that is shown far and wide after acts of terrorism. The swiftness of security and emergency first-responders, the blood donors standing in mile-long lines, people supporting victims and their families, those offering their prayers worldwide are all emblematic of human solidarity and goodness in the face of evil.

Mark Twain once described forgiveness as the “fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” The fragrance of our prayers rising up to God as a result of hatred is rightly offered for the repose of the souls of those who have died and for the living who bear the wounds of personal loss and grief. But, if we are to be true to Christ and his words, we must also pray for those who have committed such horrific crimes. We must pray for all who seek their ends by violence and terror, imploring our Heavenly Father that they have a conversion of heart and come to know the value and sanctity of human life.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12).

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.