I recently returned from a 7-day retreat at Mount Angel Abbey in Oregon. During the retreat, the director shared timely insights from a retreat Pope Francis gave in 2006 to Spanish bishops titled, “In Him Alone is Our Hope.” This brings me to a message about a virtue our country and world is sorely lacking today: peace.
Like my retreat, our liturgical calendar providentially also has emphasized peace in the past few weeks. The first week of January, we celebrated the Epiphany, a feast recognizing Jesus, the Prince of Peace, who was born into our world to redeem and unify all peoples. A week later, this past Sunday, we celebrated the Lord’s Baptism. With great humility, John the Baptist immersed Jesus in the Jordan River and as he emerged from the waters, the Holy Spirit came upon him in the form of a dove. The Father then declared, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” This same affirmation is declared by God about us when we are baptized, thus beginning our companionship with Jesus, who invites us to follow him in the way of peace born from the Father of Truth.
Sadly, last week, we also saw a violent civil disturbance occur at our nation’s capitol, an event all the more shocking because it took place where laws are established for our country to achieve peace for all Americans. Our form of government is founded on the conviction that respect for the rule of law guards freedom. The American idea of liberty has never been a self-oriented, “I can do whatever I want,” but is intended to be freedom properly rooted in citizens’ interior virtue and expressed on behalf of the common good through external laws.
The Founding Fathers understood that virtue is the cornerstone of a civil society, which is why Thomas Jefferson said, “For people to rule themselves in a republic, they must have virtue.” Once virtue is disregarded, it is easy to cast aside the rule of law, too, and dismiss laws that do not align with our personal worldview or ideology. The common good becomes “might makes right,” and we abandon the most vulnerable among us to serve our own interests or appease the desires of those in power. We are no longer free but become slaves to our desires and to sin. Freedom is not possible without self-restraint and accepting that we have a duty to protect and advance the welfare of others, not just ourselves.
After a year of COVID-19, civil disturbances, and unimaginable political division, many have shared that they struggle to maintain peace in their homes and within their hearts. We must remember that all interior disturbances and social division come from the Evil One, whose plan has always been to “divide and conquer” God’s children to destroy hope and peace. Instead of accepting the world’s solution to our problems--violence--we must recommit ourselves to authentically Catholic pursuit of peace, articulated so beautifully by Pope St. John Paul II:
Opting for peace does not mean a passive acquiescence to evil or compromise of principle. It demands an active struggle against hatred, oppression, and disunity, but not by using methods of violence. Building peace requires creative and courageous action."
I urge the faithful with greater fervor to increase prayers for peace for our nation. I ask each parish to turn to Our Lady, Queen of Peace, by offering a devotional Mass or praying the rosary. It is Mary, patroness of America, who gave birth to the Prince of Peace and will ask her Son to usher in a new era of peace. It is only through staying close to Christ himself that we will encounter the beauty, goodness and truth of the Father and counter the hatred, division, and violence that ravages our nation. As Jesus reminds us, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid” (John 14:27).
The Prince of Peace is already victorious over evil. With the mighty wind of the Holy Spirit, may he bring holy order and hope to our souls, families, and nation.
In Christ’s peace,
†Most Reverend Chad W. Zielinski Catholic Bishop of Northern Alaska Diocese of Fairbanks CWZ/las
Yesterday, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Francis announced a year dedicated to St. Joseph beginning on December 8, 2020 and ending on December 8, 2021 to mark the 150th anniversary of Pope Pius IX’s declaration of St. Joseph as patron of the universal Church in 1870. Since that declaration various popes have encouraged devotion to the foster father of Christ in various ways:
• Leo XIII in 1889 asked that a prayer to Joseph be added to the rosary during the month of October and that the month of March be kept in honor of St. Joseph; • Pius XII in 1955 erected the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker celebrated on May 1st; • John XXIII in 1962 added Joseph’s name to the Roman Canon (Eucharistic Prayer I); and • Francis completed an effort begun by Benedict XVI by decreeing that Joseph’s name be added to all the Eucharistic Prayers.
“Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God, the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ with righteous deeds at his coming, so that, gathered at his right hand, they may be worthy to possess the heavenly Kingdom.” These are the first words from the Opening Prayer, Collect, that will be proclaimed for the First Sunday of Advent. As we begin Advent, we recognize that fiery anticipation to encounter Christ at his birth.
This interior response of heart, mind, body and soul to “run forth” is so beautifully proclaimed at the Annunciation when Mary’s “yes” to God and being filled with the very body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ drives her to move in haste to visit her cousin, Elizabeth. Granted, during these days of rising numbers of COVID-19 cases throughout the State of Alaska, there is not much “running forth” as people are limiting their contact out of respect for another’s health and well-being. The challenging side of this amidst the diminishing hours of daylight, 7 minutes a day in Fairbanks, the limited contact compounds challenges and puts all of us to the test.
On Tuesday, November 10, 2020, the Vatican released a long-awaited report on the investigation of Theodore McCarrick, a former cardinal and bishop. The report is over 450 pages long and can be found on the Vatican’s website at https://bit.ly/3kqK7jw. Pope Francis took seriously the allegations of abuse committed by Theodore McCarrick and he was laicized on February 16, 2019. This action and the promulgation of “Vos estis lux mundi” echoes the seriousness of the Church’s accountability and transparency of allegations against, bishops, priests and religious regarding abuse of minors and vulnerable adults. Such criminal and heinous behavior is never acceptable within our Church as we promote a safe environment in all our gathering spaces
In the past 6 years serving as Bishop of the Diocese of Fairbanks, I have traveled to all 46 parishes. I have had the extremely sorrowful and heart wrenching experience of listening to stories of individuals who were abused by clergy or Church personnel during their childhood or adolescent years. Many of these victims are in their mid to later adult years, the horror of this abuse is still alive in their memory today. I have apologized to them firsthand and extend a sincere apology to any person ever abused by clergy or Church personnel. If you have ever been abused by clergy or Church personnel and have not reported this, please contact your local law enforcement. You may also contact our Victim Assistance Coordinator, Cynthia Klepaski, at (907) 750-1132 or email@example.com. We will report it to law enforcement and make every effort to assist you.
(2:18) – With testimonies from priests and family members, this short video shows the importance of a Catholic funeral not only for the deceased but also for those left behind. It shows how we imitate the reverence that was shown to Jesus’ body. It also emphasizes the importance of a family taking a role in putting the funeral Mass together as a final gift to their loved one.
(1:38) – This is a short video that uses the testimony of loved ones to focus on the beauty and the healing powers of a funeral. It shows that the funeral is not only an opportunity for loved ones to express sorrow and love for the deceased, but also to express their faith in God, and to create a lasting memory of the deceased. It re-emphasizes that through our Catholic faith there is hope for a life after death.
(3:51) – How do humans, and specifically Catholics, think about death? What lies behind a fear of death? Should you bring children to funerals? Interviews with priests, monks, and laity offer food for thought.
(3:34) – Witnesses speak of perhaps being afraid of dying but not afraid of being dead. Jesus’ dying helps us to overcome the fear of death. We hear of the “joy” surrounding dying and what death leads to. The transition from life to death can even be exciting – we have a taste of heaven through our Catholic faith, but really cannot comprehend how beautiful it will be.
(5:12) – This video focuses on our own mortality – we will all die. We hear from people who came near death and how they came to better understand that we are not in control – God is. If we have faith in the Paschal Mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection, if we have faith that there is a heaven, then death is not something to be feared.