Let us Give Thanks to the Lord our God

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Giving thanks is embedded in our Catholic and our American DNA. Eucharist comes from the Greek word for grateful, or giving thanks, thus our “Sacrament of Sacraments” is one of thanksgiving. In America, Thanksgiving as a feast celebrating thanks by sharing, is part of our earliest tradition.

It is interesting that both the Eucharist and Thanksgiving are community events as the words of the old German hymn Now thank we all our God, based on Sirach 50 and 51, reminds us. The Eucharistic prayer begins with the words, “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.” Our annual Thanksgiving celebration is traditionally one to be shared with family and friends.

So, for what are we thankful? Of course, we should give thanks for our gift of faith, for the gift of Jesus, our Savior. We should be grateful to God for the gift of family and friends, for good health, for material blessings — and for life — the blessing of being.

It is important to remember to give thanks not only for those things we have received but also for those things we desired, but in the wisdom of God, or our parents, we were denied for our own good.

Finally, let us give thanks for love, the love of God and of others. That unconditional love that hopes and forgives. As we learn in 1 John 4:16, God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.

I pray that you and yours will share in God’s abundant love this Thanksgiving.

Image Credit: Thanksgiving Square Chapel From the Floor by John McStravick on Flicker

The Double Tragedy Surrounding the Immigration Problem

The Double Tragedy Surrounding the Immigration Problem

Political rhetoric surrounding the immigration problem and, most recently President Barack Obama’s executive action, brings to mind what the Holy Father has called our “throwaway culture” that depersonalizes people who simply become another commodity to be dealt with.

A little over a year ago, Pope Francis made his first trip out of Rome to the Island of Lampedusa in the Mediterranean to bless a memorial to the hundreds of refugees who have drowned seeking refuge in the small landmass off the coast of North Africa. Most of those drowned were Muslims hoping to reach the Italian island and safety in Europe.

On that occasion, the Holy Father praised the people of Lampedusa for taking in survivors of the tragedy and setting an example of solidarity to a selfish society sliding into the globalization of indifference. “We have become used to other people’s suffering, it doesn’t concern us, it doesn’t interest us,” Pope Francis said.

We have chosen terms like “the undocumented” and the “illegals” to describe human beings — women, men and children — who have been criminalized for seeking refuge and freedom. It is the same refuge and freedom that was sought and received by the ancestors of those who feel no mercy or compassion when it comes to discussing today’s immigration problem.

I have previously chosen the passage from Leviticus 19:34: “You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; you shall love the alien as yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt.” The admonition is repeated more than once in the Hebrew Scripture. Jesus, himself, was a refugee child of parents seeking a safe haven in Egypt from persecution.

There is a double tragedy here. The first is that thousands have had to flee terror and persecution. The second is that their plight has not met with the mercy and compassion and the welcome our forefathers received, but rather has become a political football.

Perhaps we need to be reminded of the verse from Emma Lazarus’ poem the New Colossus that graces the base of the Statue of Liberty as an invitation to the world:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

How to Reach Out to the Homeless, the Poor and the Lonely

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The chill winds of November are upon us reminding everyone that the happy business of the Holiday Season is just around the corner. The warmth of the spirit of Thanksgiving and Christmas makes the cold winter more endurable…for most of us.

Unfortunately there are many for whom the holidays bring only loneliness and bone-chilling cold. Instead of sitting in front of a welcoming fireplace, they huddle around a fire kindled in a garbage can. The homeless among us are invisible, except when one approaches our car at a traffic stop asking for a handout…. making us very uncomfortable and maybe a little scared. Most of us pretend we don’t see them and turn away.

For others, the holidays mean working two or three jobs to buy a few gifts for the children and manage a small tree to bring a bit of the spirit of Christmas into their lives. Jesus’ statement that the poor will always be with us (Mt 26:11) was a lament not a prophesy. Jesus also judged harshly those who did not feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger or visit the imprisoned. (Mt 25).

I was shocked and saddened by the front page story in Monday’s Dallas Morning News on the number of homeless children in our country. It is shameful that in our time and place there can be 2.5 million homeless children. There are many reasons, but two primary causes are domestic violence and the lack of affordable housing, particularly for families with children. Affordable housing is being demolished to build new upscale condos and town houses. Landlords are refusing to rent to families with children.

Our Holy Father Pope Francis is committed to clarifying Jesus’ Gospel of mercy and compassion. His words to us are not his message, but Jesus’ message. Reach out to the homeless, the poor and the lonely. Reach out to bring hope to the hopeless and to dispel the darkness that overwhelms so many with the light of love, compassion and mercy.

Give of yourself, give of your treasure, become a light in the darkness. There are many ways to help as a volunteer or by monetary assistance. Make your own holiday happier by giving of yourself or your treasure. If you do not know where to start, Catholic Charities Dallas offers many opportunities. Check out their website at www.catholiccharitiesdallas.org.

You will be blessed!

Image Credit:  Marc Brüneke on Flickr

Forming Families through Adoption


Catholic Charities of Dallas is committed to building families…one child at a time. Every child needs and deserves a home with the love and support of a mother and a father. As we observe National Adoption Awareness Month, we celebrate all of those wonderful families that have been formed through adoption.

Due to a variety of circumstances, there are birth parents who recognize they are unable to provide for their child. Some are birth mothers who were courageous enough to choose adoption not abortion for their baby but are unable to provide the home and family the child needs. It is a blessing for birth parents to have Catholic Charities to turn to for assistance in making an adoption plan.

For couples wishing to parent a child from infant to six months, Catholic Charities’ Infant Adoption program offers the assistance needed to make the right choice for the birth parents, adoptive parents, and, most importantly, the child.

There are other children who are in the foster care system, who live day-to-day, never knowing when or where they will move next.  They long to be a permanent part of a “forever family.” Catholic Charities Finally Home program places children three or older currently in foster care for adoption by a family who will provide the love, care and security that only a “forever home” can give them.

If you or someone you know is experiencing an unplanned pregnancy and needs to find such a home for a baby, please call Catholic Charities hotline at 1-800-222-9383 (1-800-BABY-DUE) to get more information.

If you are a couple that has love to share and are considering forming your family through adoption, please call (214) 526-2772 to schedule an appointment.  It will be the first step in experiencing the unconditional love and excitement that children bring.

Image credit: Freepik 

National Parish Religious Education Week

At the heart of evangelization is the parish. It is there that we celebrate our Catholic faith. It is there that we deepen our faith. It is there that we enrich our faith and it is there that we pass on our faith.

As we observe National Parish Religious Education Week, we recognize the important role that our parish Religious Education Program plays in Evangelization. Religious educators are deeply involved in all four of these elements of evangelization through the parish’s role as the hub of lifelong faith formation programs.

Gone are the days when religious education was something only for children. We realize now that our faith life is one of continual conversion and deepening understanding and spiritual development that not only enriches our faith but our participation in liturgical celebrations.

Of course, faith formation must begin in the home, but religious education programs for our children, particularly when they involve the family, insure that their spiritual growth parallels their physical and mental growth. Lifelong faith formation means we no longer try to develop an adult faith with only a First Communion or maybe Confirmation spirituality.

During this week, I particularly want to honor our religious educators, volunteer and professional, who dedicate themselves to the important work of teaching our faith and keeping it dynamic, lest it become stagnant and lacking vitality.  Please join me by thanking the religious educators in your parish.  May God bless them as they do the Lord’s work!

Our Heroic Veterans

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No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:13)

Veterans Day began with Armistice Day, which marked the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front of World War I. The signing of the Armistice took place in a railroad car in the Forest of Compiègne in France. It took effect at 11 a.m. on November 11, the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

One year later the first observance of Armistice Day took place in Buckingham Palace in London. The date was soon adopted by most Western nations as a day of remembrance for those who died in the “war to end all wars.” It became customary to observe a moment of silence at 11 a.m. on Armistice Day to recall the sacrifices of the combatants. The United States made it official in 1926.

World War I unfortunately did not end all wars and several wars later, in 1954, following World War II, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who led the Allied Troops in Europe during World War II, signed an act of Congress changing Armistice Day to Veterans Day, a day to honor all veterans of all wars. It honors those who gave their lives in all wars and all those who served in the armed forces who, by their military service, indicated a willingness to lay down their lives for their country.

As Catholic Christians we should pray for our deceased heroes and those still suffering from physical and mental wounds. It is also very important that we offer prayers for the fulfillment of the hope of Blessed Pope Paul VI who, in speaking before the United Nations General Assembly in 1972, called for “No more war, war never again. It is peace, peace which must guide the destinies of peoples and of all mankind.”

I pray that God bless all of our heroic veterans and their families and that peace in the world can become a reality.

Image credit:  Herald Post on Flickr https://flic.kr/p/5CWz4J

Fear is an insidious thing

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Fear is an insidious thing. Fear blinds us to reality and causes us to act in a rash and precipitous manner. Fear is capable of taking possession of an otherwise rational person. History is pockmarked with tragic events triggered by unreasoning fear.

In recent weeks we have witnessed the effects of fear brought about by the Ebola crisis. In Dallas, effective leadership, responsible community-wide cooperation and media coverage prevented a potentially volatile situation from developing.

Because of its sudden onset, the Ebola crisis caught us unprepared despite warnings from health authorities that its occurrence in the United States was inevitable. When we are caught unprepared, the pressure to take action immediately can, and often does, result in hasty and ill thought out decisions that can unintentionally escalate fear.

There is no front line in the war against Ebola as we have discovered, but international cooperation is essential in preventing the epidemic in West Africa from becoming a worldwide pandemic. We must recognize the heroism of those healthcare volunteers who are fighting there, as well as those working here, to contain this disease.

Ebola is not going away. This is a time for calm, compassion and consultation in developing a comprehensive strategy that will protect our citizens and healthcare workers without violating human rights and dignity.

We will do well to remember the words of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

 

Image Credit: Mattia Notari on Flickr – https://flic.kr/p/hyiGYU

 

Catholic Charities Sunday – November 2nd

 

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Charity is touching another with the love of Jesus. But because Jesus has no hands but ours, His mercy, His compassion and His love is mediated through us. We are the instruments of His love.

Charity should begin at home, but it must not end there. In the Gospel of St. Matthew (25:31-46) Jesus reminds us that we must reach out to the hungry, those who thirst, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison. If we are unable or are ill equipped to do that personally, then we should enable those who can. That is the ministry of Catholic Charities of Dallas.

Some are able to give generously of themselves but if we cannot give of ourselves, then we can give of our substance. Gifts to Catholic Charities welcome the stranger, feed the hungry, give hope to the desperate, and bring the compassion, love and mercy of Jesus to the hungry, the immigrant, the homeless, the despairing and the lonely.

Blessed Mother Teresa said “It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” Each of us needs to put a lot of love into our gift to Catholic Charities next Sunday. It is a way of lending Jesus your hands and your heart.