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 23, 1976 when Archbishop Henry J. O'Brien passed away.
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George Weigel

As my too-cute-to-be-true grandson, Master William Joseph Susil, zipped around the house over Thanksgiving, exercising his rapidly expanding vocabulary and wreaking havoc on unsecured objects in his path, I couldn’t help but imagine possible futures for him: The guy who breaks Alex Rodriguez’s MLB record for career home runs? Author of the Great American Novel? Victor over Chelsea Clinton in the 2048 presidential campaign? The first American pope? (No, one shouldn’t wish that job on anyone.) Inventor of morally sound genetic therapies? (With two M.D. parents, one of whom does big-time medical research and both of whom are gung-ho pro-lifers, that sounds reasonable enough...)

Reveries aside, William’s presence in the family these past 20 months has been a happy reminder that nothing so sweetly pulls us out of ourselves as a baby. Infants and toddlers are human magnets drawing the rusty metal of self-absorption out of the members of the species who fancy themselves grown up, while leading us into the bright, sometimes frightening, but never cynical, world of childhood. Which prompted a further thought: this special capacity of babies to drain the rest of us of egocentricity and cynicism helps explain why God decided to enter the world as a newborn.

Because we certainly would have done it differently, wouldn’t we? If any of us were God, I doubt we’d have chosen to be born in less-than-optimal obstetrical circumstances in a ramshackle village on the far edge of the civilized world. Indeed, were any of us God, would we have chosen to go through the normal human drill of growing up, with its seemingly endless frustrations and alarums? Why not just arrive on the scene full-grown, at the height of our divine/human powers?

That, however, is not how Emmanuel, whom Pope Benedict XVI calls the "God who has a human face," chose to make his entrance onto the stage. By coming into the world and its history as a newborn, Emmanuel, from the beginning, begins to draw the lives he touches out of themselves and into self-giving love. Mary, Joseph, shepherds, Magi, the rest of the familiar cast of characters: they don’t know the Chalcedonian confession of "two natures in one divine person," but they do know that this is a baby, beautiful as all babies are. And whatever the hymns of the angelic choir add by way of identifying this baby as Someone Special, the characters we place around our crèches are already being drawn out of themselves and into self-giving love by ... well, by a baby.

In an interview on German television before his return home in the autumn of 2006, Pope Benedict suggested that "it’s become more difficult to believe because the world in which we find ourselves is completely made up of ourselves." That’s a crowded place, that world in which there is only us – which, primarily, means, "only me." A world made up of me, myself, and I – and those few others I occasionally deign to let into my "space" – is a closed and claustrophobic world. And one of the goods that’s shut out of such a world is love.

In that same interview, the Holy Father noted that "Christianity, Catholicism, isn’t a collection of prohibitions: it’s a positive option." It’s an option for love, for that radical self-giving and receptivity in which both giver and receiver are mysteriously enhanced. It’s an option for losing oneself in order to find the truth about each of us: that our human and spiritual fulfillment comes through making ourselves into the gifts for others that our lives are to us.

Christianity isn’t about our search for God. Like its parent, Judaism, Christianity is about God’s search for us, and our learning to take the same path through history that God does. The God with a human face began the climactic portion of his salvific journey through history as a baby, calling others out of themselves as only babies can do. Every year, the crèche calls us to ponder the Law of the Gift written on the human heart by the God who is Love.

George Weigel is a senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C


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.