• Lazarus at the rich man’s gate by Fyodor Bronnikov, 1886.

    In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus tells the parable of the rich man and poor Lazarus. The rich man lives in luxury and egoism and is indifferent to the suffering of Lazarus, the beggar on his doorstep. At the end of their lives, Lazarus was welcomed into paradise, whereas the rich man ended up in torment. Lazarus was received “in the bosom of Abraham” whereas the rich man ended up in Hades. Divine justice prevails after their death.

    This well-known parable reminds us that we must live according to God’s will, otherwise, after death, it will be too late to repent. God’s will is that we care for the poor, that we serve others in the charity of Christ. His will is that we live in solidarity with others and that we not ignore the poor and suffering in our midst. The path to heaven is love.

    In the world today, there are so many people who lie outside the door, like Lazarus, while the dogs come and lick their sores. So many are deprived of the basic necessities of life, like food, housing, and medical care. To ignore them is to become like the rich man who pretended not to see the beggar Lazarus.

    Whenever I hear this parable, I remember the homily of Saint John Paul II in Yankee Stadium in New York in 1979, during his first visit as pope to the United States. He said that this parable “must always be present in our memory; it must form our conscience.” He said: “We cannot stand idly by, enjoying our own riches and freedom, if, in any place, the Lazaruses of the twentieth century stands at our doors.” These words are as relevant in 2016 as they were in 1979. There are still many Lazaruses in our world, here and abroad, who are hungry and too often ignored. I think particularly of the millions of refugees in the world today, innocent victims of war who have lost their livelihoods and their homes. So many are sitting outside the doors of nations that are indifferent to their plight.

    Almost fifty years ago, Blessed Pope Paul VI spoke of the campaign against hunger in these words: “It is a question of building a world where every person can live a fully human life… where the poor man Lazarus can sit down at the same table with the rich man” (Populorum Progressio 47). Hunger is still a pressing issue today. Feed the hungry, Pope Benedict XVI wrote, “is an ethical imperative for the universal Church, as she responds to the teachings of her Founder, the Lord Jesus, concerning solidarity and the sharing of goods” (Caritas in veritate, 27).

    Catholics Confront Global Poverty is an initiative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Relief Services. It involves advocacy and action. It is way to reach out to the Lazaruses at our doors. As a member of the Board of CRS, I have learned a lot about its work to fight world hunger. This work involves not only providing food in emergency and crisis situations, but also addressing the problem of food insecurity from a long-term perspective. CRS’s efforts in agricultural development and its investment in helping local communities to make best use of resources, to have the necessary resources in technology, to have adequate irrigation systems, and to gain access to the market are having a great impact in many poor countries. Catholic Relief Services also has many peace-building programs in troubled areas of the world. These efforts are also extremely important since war and violence are so often causes of hunger, poverty, and homelessness. Our support of CRS is a way to reach out to the Lazaruses in poor areas of the world.

    Right here in our own diocese, we must not ignore the Lazaruses at our door. I am very grateful for the involvement and generosity of so many of our faithful who reach out to the hungry and the poor through their parishes, food pantries and soup kitchens, Catholic Charities, the Saint Vincent de Paul Society, the Christ Child Society, etc.

    This coming Tuesday, September 27th, is the feast of Saint Vincent de Paul. In 16th century France, Saint Vincent de Paul observed the disparity between the rich and the poor. As a priest, he had the opportunity to experience the aristocratic life as well as the life of the destitute poor in Paris. He organized groups of women called Charities who gave their time and belongings to the poor. Some of these women chose the consecrated life and became the first female congregation to live a consecrated life “in the world,” and not in the cloister. Saint Vincent de Paul and Saint Louise de Marillac founded this congregation, named the “Daughters of Charity.”  Our first U.S.-born saint, Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton, founded the U.S. branch of the Daughters of Charity.

    Two centuries after Saint Vincent de Paul, a 20-year old college student, Frederick Ozanam, and five other students, witnessed the dire poverty of the lower social classes in Paris. They decided to dedicate themselves to the poor, after the example of Saint Vincent de Paul. In 1833, they established the “Conference of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul,” soon to be called “The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul.”  They were determined to bring not only bread but friendship to the poor. They would not ignore the Lazaruses at their door in 19th century Paris. Frederic Ozanam was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1997.

    We are blessed to have so many conferences of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society in our diocese. I encourage people to join these conferences which do so much to serve the Lazaruses at the door right here in our own diocese. I especially encourage our young adults in this regard. Many members of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society have served for many years and they continue to do great work. It is important that their service continues and grows, that more young people join them in this beautiful apostolate of charity.

    The parable of the rich man and Lazarus certainly speaks to us today in a world where there is so much poverty and destitution alongside wealth and affluence. The poor are our brothers and sisters to be welcomed and loved, not strangers to be ignored or rejected. In the poor, we are to see the face of Jesus as did our newest saint, Mother Teresa of Calcutta. May the Gospel parable of the rich man and Lazarus stir our consciences!  The Lord whom we see in the great gift of the Holy Eucharist asks us to see Him also in the lives of the poor and the suffering. May the Eucharist strengthen us in charity!

    Posted on September 20, 2016, to:

  • Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades blesses the University of Saint Francis’ new downtown campus on Aug. 16.

    The following is the text of the homily given by Bishop Rhoades at the University of Saint Francis on August 31, 2016:

    It is joy every year to celebrate this opening Mass of the academic year here at the University of Saint Francis. It is good to pray with you this morning and to ask the Lord to bless you and your studies and all your endeavors in this upcoming year.

    I imagine most of you attend Saint Francis to prepare yourselves for a chosen field of future employment, to be educated for your future careers. Some of you are probably not sure yet what career path to follow. Perhaps you are taking a variety of courses to see what interests you the most. I hope all of you, though, are pursuing studies with an even higher aim, the aim of an education at a Catholic university. That aim is truth, truth in all its many aspects: the truth about the world and nature, the truth about the human person, and ultimately, the truth about God.

    The mission of a Catholic university is not only to impart useful knowledge, not only to teach data, facts, and other information, but to pursue truth and all aspects of truth in their essential connection with the supreme Truth, who is God.

    Catholic universities, born from the heart of the Church, have an expansive view of human reason, not one that is limited to certain scientific or mathematical truths or to the material world, but a reason that is open to transcendence, a reason open to the deeper realities of the human experience, like love, a reason that is open to God.

    We pursue truth on the wings of both faith and reason. Not faith alone and not reason alone. We firmly uphold the compatibility of faith and reason. Against fideism (faith alone), the Catholic Church defends the power of reason and its ability to attain the truth. Against rationalism (reason alone), the Church believes that faith transforms reason and imbues it with the power to contemplate the highest truths.

    Faith enriches the intellectual pursuits of the university. Our faith stirs our reason to move beyond the empirical and to take the risk to seek the true, the good, and the beautiful. Faith broadens the horizons of reason and enables it to be open to a reality beyond itself, and to the eternal and ultimate truth, Creative Reason itself. Ours is a religion of the Logos, the Word, not an impersonal Word, but the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us, the One who brings the ultimate and definitive answer to the question of human meaning. He is the human face of God, namely, Jesus of Nazareth. “The truth of Christ, since it affects every person in search of joy, happiness, and meaning, far exceeds any other truth that reason can discover..”(Pope Benedict XVI).

    A Catholic university teaches beauty and recognizes that “the infinite beauty of God shines on the face of Christ” (Pope Benedict XVI). A Catholic university teaches goodness and virtue and recognizes that God’s goodness shines on the face of the One who suffered and died for us, the face that shows us that good triumphs over evil.

    A Catholic university is open to mysteries that surpass, but do not contradict, reason. I think that education can be sterile and unfulfilling if it is not open to mystery, not open to pursue the ultimate questions, and the longings of the human heart. I invite you to take advantage of your Catholic education here at the University of Saint Francis to go deeper. I pray that you will have a real passion for the truth and for beauty and for goodness.

    I encourage you to consider more deeply your vocation as human beings created in God’s image and likeness. What is that vocation? It’s the vocation to love, to find yourself through the sincere gift of self. I pray that while here at the University of Saint Francis, you will learn to live this vocation and that you will grow in intelligence of the heart as well as the mind!

    Learning to live a life of virtue, a good and moral life, is part of the enterprise of Catholic education. A truly Catholic university recognizes that every student has not only a mind, but a soul. An authentic Catholic university seeks to inculcate a spirit of service in its students and obedience to the Lord’s command in today’s Gospel: “love one another as I love you.”

    This coming Sunday, Mother Teresa of Calcutta will be canonized a saint. What a great day of celebration that will be for the entire Church. It is very appropriate that Mother Teresa is being canonized during this Jubilee Year of Mercy. Pope Francis wrote that he desired that this Jubilee Year “be steeped in mercy, so that we can go out to every man and woman, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God.” That is what Mother Teresa did. She heard God’s call to give up everything to serve Him in the poorest of the poor. She was truly His face of mercy, love, and compassion in the lives of so many suffering people.

    In the faces of the saints, we see something of the love and mercy of God. This is because the saints, like Mother Teresa, opened their hearts to the merciful love of God in their lives. Then they carried that mercy and love to others. Mother Teresa carried God’s love to people who were unwanted, unloved, lonely, forgotten, and abandoned. She teaches all of us about our vocation to love. She teaches us, as Pope Francis exhorts us, to “go out to every man and woman, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God.” This is a lesson that is part of an education at a Catholic university. I pray that your education here at the University of Saint Francis will be an education of the heart as well as the mind, an education in virtue, and an education in love. That’s what we learn at this altar today, at the school of the Eucharist, that “no one has greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

    Here at this altar, the sacrifice of Christ becomes present for us in mystery, in the sacrament of His Body broken for us and His blood poured out for us. The Eucharist is the sacrament of charity. Here we learn, celebrate, and receive Christ’s gift of Himself to us, the gift of love that strengthened Mother Teresa for her amazing life of loving service of the poor, the gift of love that strengthens us to live good and holy lives. The education we receive here at the Eucharist is the most important lesson you can learn at the University of Saint Francis, because if it’s learned, the reward is more than a diploma, it’s a crown of glory in heaven!

    Posted on September 13, 2016, to:

  • It is providential that Mother Teresa of Calcutta will be canonized a saint during this Jubilee Year of Mercy. Next Sunday, September 4th, Pope Francis will declare this humble nun, renowned throughout the world, a saint of the Catholic Church. It will be a day for all of us to rejoice as we give thanks to God for the blessing of Mother Teresa’s life and her beautiful example to all of us of our call to holiness by bringing the love and mercy of Jesus to others, especially the poor and the suffering.

    Pope Francis wrote that he desired that this Jubilee Year “be steeped in mercy, so that we can go out to every man and woman, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God.” That is what Mother Teresa did, especially during her fifty years as a Missionary of Charity, the name of the religious congregation she founded. She heard God’s call to give up everything to serve Him in “the poorest of the poor.” She was truly His face of mercy, love, and compassion in the lives of so many suffering people. She saw the face of her beloved Jesus in the faces of all whom she served.

    Mother Teresa’s successor as superior of the Missionaries of Charity, Sister Nirmala, said that “Mother’s heart was big like the Heart of God Himself, filled with love, affection, compassion, and mercy. Rich and poor, young and old, strong and weak, learned and ignorant, saints and sinners of all nations, cultures, and religions found a loving welcome in her heart, because in each of them she saw the face of her Beloved – Jesus.”

    Pope Francis invites us in this Jubilee Year to “enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel where the poor have a special experience of God’s mercy.” Mother Teresa has taught us how to do so. She entered into the heart of the Gospel through her daily prayer, daily Mass, and adoration of the Eucharist. She gazed on the Body of Christ in the Sacred Host and then saw the Body of Christ in the poor whom she served. There was no disconnect between her contemplative and her active life, between her prayer and her works. Mother Teresa said: “The Jesus whom I receive in the Eucharist is the same Jesus whom I serve. It is not a different Jesus.” This was her deep desire: to serve and love Jesus in the poor.

    I feel so privileged to have met and spoken with Mother Teresa on several occasions. It was always a very humbling experience when I would go to the house of the Missionaries of Charity in Rome to celebrate a weekly Mass there and sometimes Mother Teresa would be present, kneeling in the back of the chapel. I knew then that she was a saint, so I always felt a little nervous about my homily – I would think: “what can I preach to Mother Teresa?” Even if I felt my words were inadequate, Mother Teresa was always so kind and loving, also humorous(!), in our conversations after Mass.

    One of the greatest joys of my life was introducing my mother to Mother Teresa in Rome. After being disappointed that I was unable to get close enough at a general audience to have my Mom meet Pope John Paul II, I took her to the San Gregorio convent to meet some of my Missionary of Charity friends. One of my friends, Sister Prema, now the Superior General of the Missionaries of Charity, whispered to me that Mother Teresa was in the convent. She went to get her to meet my mother. When Mother Teresa came down, my mother was totally surprised and speechless! Mother thanked my Mom for giving her son to the priesthood. I will never forget the joy in my mother’s tear-filled eyes and the joy of that encounter. My disappointment turned to joy since my mother got to meet the other “living saint” who, like John Paul, so inspired me as a seminarian and young priest.

    In the faces of the saints, we see something of the love and mercy of God. This is because the saints, like Mother Teresa, opened their hearts to the merciful love of God in their lives. Because Mother Teresa believed in God’s love with all her heart, she was able, by His grace, to carry that love to the poorest of the poor. She had an absolute childlike trust in God’s loving care for us. And she believed in Mary’s love for us. Mother Teresa would often give Miraculous Medals to people.

    One of the central themes of Mother Teresa’s spiritual life were the words of Jesus on the cross: “I thirst.” She felt the call to quench the infinite thirst of Jesus on the cross for love and souls. Mother Teresa said: “We are to quench the thirst of Jesus for souls, for love, for kindness, for compassion, for delicate love. By each action done to the sick and the dying, I quench the thirst of Jesus for love of that person – by my giving God’s love to that particular person, by caring for the unwanted, the unloved, the lonely, and all the poor people. This is how I quench the thirst of Jesus for others by giving His love in action to them.”

    We can learn so much from Mother Teresa that helps us to follow Jesus and to live as His true disciples. This new saint of merciful love is an inspiration for us to live the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. She is an example for us of fidelity to prayer, of devotion to the Holy Eucharist and the Blessed Mother, and of serving our Lord in the least of our brothers and sisters. She teaches us, as Pope Francis exhorts us, to “go out to every man and woman, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God.” She was able to do so because she allowed Jesus to act in and through her. She was filled with the energy of Christ’s love.

    May soon-to-be “Saint” Teresa of Calcutta intercede for us, that we may live in the love of the Lord and spread His merciful love to all, especially to the poor, the suffering, and all those who are hurting!

    Posted on August 31, 2016, to:

  • On the way to Auschwitz, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades makes a point at a stop to visit the Jewish synagogue.

    See more photos from the WYD trip in the gallery.

    Last week, 137 young pilgrims, priests, seminarians, sisters, lay leaders from our diocese and I participated in World Youth Day in Krakow, an experience of faith and joy with young people from over 180 countries throughout the world. It was a beautiful gathering of Catholic youth and young adults sharing the joy of being disciples of Jesus, inspired to be apostles of mercy in the contemporary world.

    The young people from our diocese made me very proud to be their bishop. They participated wholeheartedly in the pilgrimage experience: in prayer, great camaraderie, and zeal. I am very grateful to all the diocesan and parish leaders of the pilgrimage for their hard work and dedication to our young people.

    From our arrival in Warsaw on July 22nd to our departure on August 1st, we experienced the kindness and hospitality of our Polish hosts. It was great to celebrate the 31st World Youth Day in the homeland of the founder of WYD, Pope Saint John Paul II. In many places we visited, we followed the amazing life of Karol Wojtyla, Pope John Paul II, the principal patron saint of WYD this year, along with Saint Faustina, the messenger of Divine Mercy. Throughout our pilgrimage, we learned about many Polish saints and blesseds, prayed at their tombs, and were inspired by their heroic Christian lives.

    Our first Mass in Poland on the day we arrived was at Saint Stanislaus Kostka Church in Warsaw where Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko served. We prayed at the grave of this young priest who ministered and preached to the workers of the Solidarity labor movement and was martyred by Communist authorities in 1984. We asked Father Popieluszko, a martyr of truth and love, to intercede for us as we began our pilgrimage.

    First Mass in the chapel at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church.

    Early Saturday morning (July 23rd), we traveled from Warsaw, Poland’s political capital, to Czestochowa, Poland’s spiritual capital. We visited the Jasna Gora monastery of the Pauline monks and its Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa. I felt privileged to celebrate Holy Mass in the chapel of the Black Madonna, the famous icon of Mary, the Queen of Poland. Pope Saint John Paul II was intensely devoted to the Virgin Mary and to her icon at Czestochowa. It was a great place to spend our first full day in Poland, asking Our Lady to accompany us on our pilgrim journey. Late in the afternoon, we traveled from Czestochowa to Katowice, a city in Upper Silesia in southern Poland, our base for the next two days of pilgrimage. There we visited the small wooden church of Saint Michael the Archangel, built in 1510.

    On Sunday, July 24th, we visited Kalwaria and Wadowice. Kalwaria (“Calvary”) is a sanctuary in the Carpathian foothills with a beautiful Basilica, adjacent to the Franciscan monastery. There are 42 churches and chapels along six miles in the mountains recounting Our Lord’s Passion and Death. The young Karol Wojtyla, whose hometown of Wadowice is not far away, prayed and hiked often at Kalwaria. We spent a few hours at this holy site and were able to visit some of the chapels. I’d love to return some day to walk the six miles and visit all the chapels!

    From Kalwaria, we went to Wadowice and celebrated an afternoon Mass in the parish church where Karol Wojtyla was baptized, received his first Holy Communion, and was confirmed. It was his family’s parish where he served Mass as he grew up. The beautiful baroque church, now a basilica, under the title of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is located in the central square of Wadowice. Our group enjoyed several hours in the church and square and also toured the museum with the apartment home of the Wojtyla family, a three-room flat in a building next to the church. In Wadowice, our youth discovered the delicious ice cream made in Poland as well as the favorite dessert of Pope John Paul II, a Polish cream cake.

    In these pilgrimage spots, we met pilgrims from other countries who were also making their way to World Youth Day in Krakow. The joyful spirit of all was palpable.

    On Monday (July 25th), we left Katowice to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau, the most somber time of our pilgrimage. We walked through these two camps of terror, genocide, and the Holocaust in respectful silence. Tears filled the eyes of many as we prayed at spots throughout the camps, including at the building where Saint Maximilian Kolbe was martyred, and outside the one remaining gas chamber and crematorium. At Birkenau, we walked along the train tracks on which hundreds of thousands of unsuspecting innocent captives arrived, including Saint Edith Stein. We could only walk in silence as we contemplated the incomprehensible evil and cruelty that took place there. Our pilgrimage of faith, love, and mercy met the exact opposite at Auschwitz. It was important that we visited there to remember the Nazi terror and the over 1.1 million victims killed at Auschwitz, mostly Jews, but also Poles, gypsies, Soviet prisoners of war, and homosexuals. It was also important while there to pray for an end to the terrors that continue to plague our world.

    From Auschwitz, we traveled to Krakow for a visit of several hours at the Sanctuary of Divine Mercy. It was a special grace to pray in the chapel of the convent of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy where Saint Faustina’s relics are kept under the famous image of the merciful Jesus. There, Sister Faustina received the extraordinary grace of the revelations of Divine Mercy. After reflecting on the darkness of evil at Auschwitz, we turned to the Divine Mercy which is truly a light for the world amid the darkness. Here it was good to reflect on the truth that evil can be overcome through merciful love. In the light of Divine Mercy, we can live in hope. I thought of the words of Saint Faustina: “Mankind will not find peace until it returns with trust to God’s mercy.”

    Cardinal Sean O’Malley celebrated Mass for 2,000 of us, mostly U.S. pilgrims, that afternoon in the large new church next to the convent. The church resembles an arc and has a lower and upper basilica. The tabernacle in the upper church is shaped like the earth and has an image of the Divine Mercy above it with pictures of the apostles of Divine Mercy on either side, Saint Faustina and Saint John Paul II. Many of us also visited the new Saint John Paul II Sanctuary .5 kilometers away. It is a center devoted to the life and works of the great Polish Pope. The Shrine Church is decorated with beautiful mosaics and contains the cassock worn by Pope John Paul during his attempted assassination in 1981.

    From Tuesday, July 26th to Sunday, July 31st, we participated in the activities of World Youth Day in Krakow. It is not possible to recount in this column all the many and varied experiences during these days. In small groups, our diocesan pilgrims visited many sites in the beautiful city of Krakow, beginning with Wawel Castle and Cathedral where we prayed at the tomb of Saint Stanislaus, a bishop and martyr of the 11th century. During these days, we walked the streets and visited dozens of beautiful historic churches, praying at tombs of saints, and joining thousands of young people in celebrations in city squares, like the beautiful main Market Square with the exquisite gothic Saint Mary’s Cathedral. On Thursday, our diocesan group celebrated Mass together in the church where Saint Stanislaus was martyred in the year 1079.

    Thanks to the Knights of Columbus, U.S. pilgrims could gather for daily catechesis, Mass, and prayer at the large Tauron Arena in Krakow. Our diocesan group spent all day there on Wednesday.

    The main official events of World Youth Day began with the Opening Mass at Blonia Park on Tuesday (July 26th), celebrated by Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the Archbishop of Krakow, who had been the personal secretary of Pope John Paul II for many years. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims were welcomed by Cardinal Dziwisz. Two days later, we gathered again in Blonia Park to welcome the arrival of Pope Francis with much joy and excitement. The two-hour welcoming ceremony was a festive gathering with a procession of young people carrying flags from all their countries, along with banners of Saints of Mercy from all six continents. During the ceremony, a Liturgy of the Word, the Holy Father told the pilgrims that “a young person who is touched by Christ is capable of truly great things.” He praised the energy and enthusiasm of the youth and encouraged them to bring God’s love and mercy to the world.

    On Friday, July 27th, Pope Francis and the WYD pilgrims gathered again Blonia Park for the Way of the Cross. Each Station of Jesus’ Passion was linked to a corporal or spiritual work of mercy. At the end, the Holy Father called on the young people to live the works of mercy, to serve others, and to walk the path of Jesus, the Way of the Cross, the path of personal commitment and self-sacrifice. It is “the Way,” he said, “that conquers sin, evil, and death, for it leads to the radiant light of Christ’s resurrection and opens the horizons of a new and fuller life.” It was evident that the young people at WYD believe in this message and seek to live it.

    The climax of every World Youth Day is the Vigil with the Holy Father on Saturday night and the Closing Mass on Sunday morning. The youth camp out and sleep at the site (the bishops are bussed back to the hotel!) In Krakow, the Vigil and Mass were held at the “Campus Misericordiae” (“The Field of Mercy”), located about 9 kilometers from the center of Krakow, on July 30 and 31. About 1.6 million youth attended the Vigil. Three young people shared emotional testimonies. One was a young Syrian woman who shared her pain and sorrow over the destruction of her city, Aleppo. She witnessed to her faith in God amid the suffering and asked for the prayers of all. Besides the testimonies, the Vigil included choreographed performances. One that touched me especially was of Pope John Paul II forgiving his would-be assassin in his prison cell. Pope Francis gave a heartfelt homily urging the youth to offer the best of themselves and to leave a mark on the world, to practice the works of mercy, and to promote brotherhood and communion in a world beset by conflict and terrorism.

    The Closing Mass was filled with joy. Pope Francis spoke of the amazing encounter in the Gospel between Jesus and Zacchaeus and how that encounter changed Zacchaeus’ life, despite the obstacles Zacchaeus had to face in order to meet Jesus.  He said: “The Lord wants to enter your homes, to dwell in your daily lives and in your studies, your first weeks of work, your friendships and affections, your hopes and dreams. How greatly He desires that you bring all this to prayer!” At the end of the liturgy, Pope Francis announced that the next World Youth Day will held in Panama. Mass ended with the beautiful and uplifting music we had sung throughout World Youth Day.

    World Youth Day 2016 was an amazing experience. Our young pilgrims loved it and were enlivened in their faith. Often throughout the trip and at the huge liturgies, we sang the beautiful WYD hymn. The lyrics of the refrain, which our young people also learned to sing in Polish, express the theme of WYD 2016: “Blessed are the merciful, for it is mercy that shall be shown to those who show mercy.” I pray that, as a fruit of our pilgrimage, all of us will return home to live this Beatitude of Jesus with true fervor. I pray especially that our wonderful young people will be witnesses of mercy. May God, rich in mercy, pour out the gifts of His mercy onto the Church and the world!

     

     

    Posted on August 3, 2016, to:

  • Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades and Msgr. John Seltzer stand with Sister Nancy Frentz after she professed her perpetual vows of diocesan hermitage on July 11 at the St. Mother Theodore Guerin Chapel, Fort Wayne.

    The following is the homily delivered by Bishop Rhoades at the Mass of the profession of perpetual vows of diocesan hermit, Sister Nancy Frentz, on July 11, 2016, the Memorial of Saint Benedict:

    I  remember many years ago as a seminarian visiting Subiaco, about an hour and a half drive from Rome.  On the outskirts of the town, there is a large statue of Saint Benedict and a welcome sign that reads “Birthplace of Western Monasticism.”  It was in Subiaco at the age of 17 that Benedict began his consecrated life and he began that life as a hermit.  Later, many would follow him and he would found monasteries with communities of monks at Subiaco and later at Monte Cassino.  But his consecrated life began as a hermit.

    I remember visiting the monastery in Subiaco that was built around the original cave where Saint Benedict lived for three years as a hermit. Over the door of the entrance courtyard of the monastery is an inscription in Latin which translated reads:

    “If you searched for the light, Benedict, why did you chose a dark cave?  A cave doesn’t offer the light you desire.  Why have you gone to darkness to seek radiant light?”  The answer is inscribed:  “Only in a profoundly dark night do the stars brightly shine.”

    It was living in the solitude of that dark cave as a hermit that Saint Benedict was illumined by the light of Christ, enabling him to eventually go forth and to become the great Father of Western Monasticism.  It was very special to me to spend some time of prayer and reflection in that original cave.  There’s a white marble statue of a young Saint Benedict in the cave and also a fresco depicting a monk named Romanus who would bring food to Benedict each day, lowering a basket into the cave by a rope with a bell that alerted Benedict to its arrival.

    It is good to recall Saint Benedict’s three years as a hermit today as Sister Nancy makes her perpetual profession of vows as a hermit.  During those three years, Benedict was transformed through his prayer in solitude.  He grew in wisdom and holiness through the Holy Spirit’s action in his soul.  Sister Nancy does not live her eremitical life in a cold, damp cave and Sister Jane doesn’t lower a basket of food by a rope to provide her food.  But Sister Nancy does, like Benedict’s original eremitical life, live most of her day in prayerful solitude to allow the Holy Spirit to act in her soul.  We pray today that, like Saint Benedict, Sister Nancy will continue to grow in wisdom and holiness.

    In the first reading today we heard a passage from the Book of Proverbs, one of the Wisdom books of the Old Testament.  It speaks of searching for wisdom, knowledge, and understanding, like searching for a treasure.  This search is important in our life, whatever our particular vocation.  Yet, the hermit’s search is a witness to all of us where we will truly find wisdom since, as Proverbs teaches: “It is the Lord who gives wisdom.  A person’s heart must be in the right place.  The heart is the place of encounter, the place of covenant.  It is where God speaks to us.”

    In the silence and solitude of her eremitical life, Sister Nancy ponders in her heart the Word of God, her ears are attentive to God’s wisdom.  Her life, the eremitical life, is a special vocation in the Church and reminds all of us of the importance of the encounter with God in prayer, of opening our hearts to the wisdom and love of the Lord.  The heart is the place of truth, where we choose life or death.  It is the place of wisdom, where God’s wisdom enters and enlightens and refreshes our soul.

    One of the questions that arises in our hearts as disciples of Jesus is the question posed by Peter to Jesus in today’s Gospel:  “What will there be for us?”  Peter was speaking on behalf of the apostles who had left their former lives behind in order to follow Jesus.  Our Lord responds that in the new age they will sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.  Our Lord is foretelling their role as founders and leaders of the Church.  But then Jesus gives a general promise that applies to all of us, to all His disciples:  “everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life.”

    Sister Nancy’s profession today reminds us of this promise of Jesus.  Her renunciation of wealth through her vow of poverty, for example.  The losses that the evangelical counsels entail bring about the attainment of something infinitely greater – eternal life.  Of course, it is impossible for us to achieve eternal life on our own; we must receive it as a gift from God, just as children receive what they lack from their parents.  Jesus also proclaims in the Gospels that we must keep God’s commandments in order to enter eternal life.  We must live by both truths:  accepting eternal life as God’s gift to us while striving to obey God’s commands, loving and serving others, denying ourselves, and taking up our crosses to follow Jesus.

    The evangelical counsels and the detachment they entail help us to receive the blessing Jesus promised:  eternal life.  Sister Nancy’s perpetual profession today and her consecrated life as a hermit not only help her to receive this blessing, they help us and others to set our sights on this ultimate goal of discipleship.  And I would add:  Sister Nancy’s prayers and sacrifices for the Church, especially for our priests, are a beautiful gift and help all of us to live our vocations and ultimately inherit eternal life.  As Sister Nancy prays so often for us, we pray today especially for her.  May the Lord bless her with His grace, wisdom, and love!  May He help her, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, to be faithful to her vows.  Living as a hermit, may she never feel alone, but always know the presence of the Lord and the accompaniment of the community of Jesus’ disciples, the Church.

    Sister Nancy, may the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, Saint Benedict, and all the holy hermits among the saints in heaven, intercede for you today and every day of your consecrated life in the Lord!

    Posted on July 20, 2016, to: