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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The fellow on the train was talking on his cell phone so loudly that the rest of us could hear, and it was a pretty unsettling conversation at 6:50 in the morning – a conversation we’ve all had at one time or another about our children or family members or close friends. It was a story about alienation and substance abuse and the inability to forgive, and it had all the elements of a first-rate tragedy.

His son was addicted to prescription drugs, and there was nothing he could do. He had tried intervention, appeals, fatherly advice, bailing him out of jail and sending him to rehab; and, for this aging father, the price had been a high one, financially and emotionally. And yet, all his efforts produced no results.

"There’s nothing else I can do," he concluded. "All I can do is pray."

It sounded like the course of action of last resort. Nothing else worked, so the only thing he could do was let go and let God and turn his son over to the care of his Higher Power.

How many times have we uttered those words, "All you can do is pray." We say them fatalistically when we reach the point where our efforts have been fruitless and we realize no human efforts will be able to solve the problem, whether it’s a troubled marriage, a tormented alcoholic, a financial crisis or a terminal diagnosis from the doctor.

"All you can do is pray," and we understand that we have to turn the situation over to God and accept his will for us, whatever it may be.

Of course, long before we reach the stage of last resort, we should be relying on prayer, and it shouldn’t have the connotation of a death sentence, but rather of hope and faith that God can work out the thorniest problems in ways that our puny human minds can’t even begin to conceive.

All of us generally underestimate the power of prayer and fail to realize that God is doing his thing to help us long before we finally conclude it’s time to fall on our knees and ask for help. Prayer, to many of us, is the last resort when it should be the first resort.

As Jesus said, our heavenly Father knows our needs before we do, and he’s always there to assist us and guide us.

I thought of the power of prayer and exactly how much society underestimates it – and misinterprets it – after reading a story recently about a respected British doctor who risked losing his job because he told a 24-year-old patient that praying to Jesus would get him out of his "rut."

In our distorted and misguided secular society, the act of praying is always viewed as somehow subversive. And the severity of the crime gets worse for those who suggest that Christ might be the answer. It can cost you your job and get you a lot of negative press coverage because people tend to view you as a crackpot.

So when the patient told his mother about the doctor’s advice, she flipped out and complained to the General Medical Council, which oversees British physicians. (Of course, it raises the question of why the mother of a 24-year-old was calling the shots for her adult son.)

The doctor, who is a former missionary, defended himself by pointing out it was done with the patient’s consent – and that the young man was a regular patient. The next thing you know, the British press was all over the story, but fortunately, the doctor’s colleagues rallied to his defense.

One said, "All good doctors try to treat their patients as whole persons, not just biochemical machines. That does sometimes include spiritual matters, dealing with questions of meaning and purpose."

Let’s hope – and certainly pray – that the young man listened to what the doctor had to say.

Prayer works, and if more of us turned to prayer early on, there would be less anxiety and fewer emotional difficulties, and probably a lot less mental illness and addiction.

J.F. Pisani is a writer who lives with his family in the New Haven area.

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.