• I was on retreat with our priests at Pokagon State Park when the new encyclical of Pope Francis was released. It is entitled Laudato Si: On Care For Our Common Home. The title comes from the Canticle of the Sun, by Saint Francis of Assisi. Saint Francis praises God our Creator for the sun, the moon, the earth, and all creation. I read the encyclical surrounded by the beauty of the state park: the lake, the trees, the wildlife, and plants. It was a perfect locale to reflect on a document about the environment.

    I encourage everyone to read this important encyclical letter of our Holy Father. It has captured the world’s attention, as well it should, since it deals with matters very important for the present and the future of humanity. Pope Francis expresses his grave concern about the harm that has been inflicted upon the earth by “our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.” He writes about the deterioration of the global environment. Building on the teaching of his predecessors, Pope Saint John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis brings new urgency to the need to respect the natural environment and to protect our common home. The Holy Father is appealing to everyone, not just Catholics, to address the immense challenge of preserving our planet for future generations.

    I don’t know how often we have considered the issue of ecology from the perspective of our faith, yet it is an integral part of our faith. We profess that God is the Creator of the heavens and the earth. Our responsibility toward our Creator includes our stewardship of nature and creation. Pope Francis writes rather bluntly: “We are not God. The earth was here before us and it has been given to us.” The Pope explains that the Genesis account of man’s dominion over the earth does not mean domination. He writes: “we must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures.”

    Pope Francis reminds us of the words of the book of Genesis: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it (2:15)”. The Holy Father writes: “‘Tilling’ refers to cultivating, ploughing or working, while ‘keeping’ means caring, protecting, overseeing and preserving. This implies a relationship of mutual responsibility between human beings and nature. Each community can take from the bounty of the earth whatever it needs for subsistence, but it also has the duty to protect the earth and to ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations.”

    Our responsibility for the care of the earth is part of our faith. We are to use the goods of the earth responsibly. We should be deeply concerned about the depletion of the natural resources of the earth, air and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity. We should be concerned about the harmful effects of global warming, which most scientists attribute largely to greenhouse gases. Pope Francis writes: “Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.”

    We have a moral responsibility toward creation, a responsibility we must assert in the public sphere. This is about protecting God’s creation: the earth, water, and air. This is also about protecting human life, what the Popes have called “human ecology.” The deterioration of nature impacts human life and well-being. Our duties toward the environment are linked to our duties toward the human person. Pope Francis writes: “Human beings too are creatures of this world, enjoying a right to life and happiness, and endowed with unique dignity. So we cannot fail to consider the effects on people’s lives of environmental deterioration, current models of development and the throwaway culture.” The Pope highlights how those most harmed by environmental degradation are the poor.

    I am just highlighting in this column a few of the many points covered in Laudato Si. Again, I encourage you to read the encyclical in its entirety, to study it, and to prayerfully reflect on it. A global response is needed to the difficult challenges we face. Pope Francis is calling for public action on every level: local, national, and international. The Church has a duty to speak out in the public square. We are facing an ecological crisis. Too often, self-interest or political ideology can get in the way of progress in addressing this crisis. Pope Francis is challenging us to move forward together with a strong commitment to care for our common home today so that it will be a healthy home for future generations. This is not just a social or political issue. It is a spiritual and moral issue.

    Laudato Si is a call to conversion for all of us, a call to care better for God’s creation. It’s a call to reject consumerism and a “throwaway culture” that drives so many of our environmental problems. Pope Francis is calling us to examine our own lifestyles, for example, how we so often waste food and energy. Small everyday actions matter, like turning off unnecessary lights, recycling, planting trees, etc. The Holy Father is calling us to personal spiritual conversion, to live rightly within the world we live in, and to witness to our faith that creation is God’s gift to humanity, a gift that needs protection.

    Following the example of Saint Francis of Assisi and assisted by his intercession, may we praise and serve God by respecting the beauty and goodness of creation! May we be responsible guardians of creation, working together to protect our common home!

    Posted on June 23, 2015, to:

  • The following is the homily that Bishop Rhoades delivered at the Mass on May 31, 2015, celebrating the 150th anniversary of the incorporation of the city of South Bend:

    Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. We contemplate the mystery of God in Himself: one God in Three Divine Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is the greatest mystery of our faith, a mystery we cannot fully comprehend, but which Jesus, the Son, revealed to us. He revealed to us that God is eternal and infinite love, a communion of three divine Persons. God is not infinite solitude, but an eternal communion of life and love. The Holy Trinity is a mystery that transcends us, yet the reality that is closest to us, the life that dwells in us and sustains us. We were all baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Through Baptism, we were introduced into the life of the Blessed Trinity: the love of God was poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. We are reminded of this every time we make the sign of the cross in the name of the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity.

    Faith in the Most Holy Trinity was proclaimed and lived here in this area of northern Indiana long before South Bend was incorporated as a city 150 years ago. The first Mass in this region was probably celebrated in the late 1600’s by French missionary priests. We know that in the 1680’s Jesuit missionaries formed Saint Joseph Mission for the Native Potawatomis, a mission located between present-day Niles, Michigan, and South Bend. This mission laid the foundation for the Christian faith in this region. In the latter part of the 1700’s, the mission was left without resident priests for six decades, but thanks to Potawatomi Chief Leopold Pokagon, the missionary priest Father Stephen Badin, and his lay catechist Angelique Campeau, the mission was revived in 1830. The Catholic faith was reactivated among the native Americans. Today’s celebration would not be complete without our remembrance of the first native Catholics of this region, the Potawatomis. Nor would it be complete without our remembering the holy missionaries: Father Stephen Badin, Father Louis Deseille, and Father Benjamin Petit, beloved and holy priests who stood by the side of the Potawatomi faithful during those difficult and tragic times. I especially remember the young Father Petit who accompanied the Potawatomis on the Trail of Death, when so many of our brothers and sisters were expelled from this region. Father Petit himself died while returning to Indiana, at the age of 28. Though he is not canonized, I think he is our first saint of northern Indiana.

    It was just three years after Father Petit’s death that the young French priest, Father Edward Sorin, with six religious brothers of the Congregation of Holy Cross, arrived here. They moved into a log building and chapel on a 524 acre property given to Father Sorin by the Bishop of Vincennes. This was property that was originally bought by Father Stephen Badin in 1832 and named by him Notre Dame des Lacs. With the arrival of Father Sorin and the Holy Cross brothers in 1842, a new era in the history of Catholic life in this region began. They began the school that became the University of Notre Dame. Father Sorin and later, a succession of Holy Cross priests, brothers and sisters ministered to the Catholics living in this area and beyond.

    The Diocese of Fort Wayne was established in 1857 and encompassed the whole northern half of the state of Indiana. There were probably about 20,000 Catholics in the whole diocese at that time. The Catholics in this area worshiped at Sacred Heart at Notre Dame until 1853 when Father Sorin and Holy Cross priests bought the land where we now stand and built a chapel in 1853 on the northeast corner of what is today Hill and LaSalle Streets. It was named Saint Alexis Chapel, in honor of the patron saint of South Bend’s founder, Alexis Coquillard. This became Saint Joseph Parish, the oldest Catholic parish of South Bend, though some debate this, since at that time, this property was part of Lowell, a town that was only annexed to South Bend in 1867. We can say, however, that it is the oldest parish in present-day South Bend. The first parishioners were mostly French, many from Canada, and a few German and Irish families. The first parish on the west side of the Saint Joseph River was founded in 1859 in honor of Saint Patrick. Saint Patrick’s was a multiethnic, but mostly Irish, parish. In 1865, when South Bend was incorporated as a city, Saint Patrick was the only Catholic parish within the city boundaries.

    The Catholic population of South Bend grew steadily beyond the original Native-Americans, French, and French-Canadians with the arrival of not only Irish and German immigrants, but later more numerous Polish, Hungarian, Italian and Belgian immigrants. Many ethnic parishes, along with Catholic schools, were established in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. The Polish Catholic presence has been especially prominent in the history of the Church in South Bend. In 1927, a specific ministry to South Bend’s fifty African-American Catholic families began and became Saint Augustine Parish in 1941. The Hispanic Catholic presence in South Bend began in the 1950’s and has grown significantly in the past several decades. We see a beautiful, rich tapestry of ethnic Catholic communities throughout South Bend’s history, a unity in diversity that is still evident today.

    I don’t have time to discuss all the rich history of the Church in South Bend these past 150 years, but I must mention the significant decree from the Vatican in 1960 changing the title of our diocese from the Diocese of Fort Wayne to the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. Bishop Leo Pursley asked for this change to honor South Bend and its religious heritage. With this re-naming of the diocese, Saint Matthew Church was promoted to the rank of the diocese’s co-cathedral.

    Today it is good to give thanks to the Most Holy Trinity for the rich heritage of faith here in South Bend, to remember our ancestors in the faith, and to be resolved to continue their beautiful legacy in the present and future. We pray for the city of South Bend during this 150th anniversary year, for all our brothers and sisters of different faiths. Together we are called to work together for the good of this city, especially mindful of those who are in need or struggling to make a living. We pray for the peace and prosperity of this city.

    Finally, on this Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, we praise God from whom all the blessings of our life flow. We praise the Father who is the origin of all life. We praise the Son who redeemed us by His death and resurrection. We praise the Holy Spirit who refreshes us and renews the face of the earth. We praise the One God who is love and who calls us to enter into the embrace of His love. May God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit bless you and bless this city of South Bend!

     

    Posted on June 2, 2015, to:

  • This coming Sunday, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. In the Gospel, we will hear Jesus’ instruction to the apostles to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” With this Baptism in the name of the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity, we became adopted sons and daughters of God the Father, members of Christ and His Body, the Church, and temples of the Holy Spirit. We entered into God’s life, the life of the Most Holy Trinity.

    The Holy Trinity is the center of our Christian faith and life. We carry within us the life of the triune God. God has welcomed us into His life, into His own eternal life of love, the eternal communion of Him who, though Three, is One.

    The mystery of the Holy Trinity, God’s innermost life, would be unknown to us if God had not revealed Himself to us. It would not be possible through the mere means of human reason to know this mystery that transcends our human understanding. We accept this truth in faith. Jesus revealed this mystery to us, though the revelation of the Trinity was foreshadowed in the Old Testament. The glory of the Trinity became present in time and space and was manifested in Jesus. The truth of one God in three equal and distinct Persons became known to us in the Incarnation, when God the Father sent His Son into the world through the action of the Holy Spirit who overshadowed the Virgin Mary. The glory of the Trinity was revealed when “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). The Incarnation was not only a revelation of the Trinity, but also a revelation of the Trinity’s love for us. “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son” (John 3:16).

    When we think about the Trinity, we recognize that the love of God the Father is the first origin of everything. Everything springs from His unending love, above all His eternal Son and the Holy Spirit. The Son is eternally begotten of the Father, not as a creature, but as “light from light” and “true God from true God.” The Holy Spirit eternally proceeds from both and is “one and equal” with the Father and the Son. The Father and the Son are one in the communion of the Holy Spirit. We who have been touched by Christ’s grace are included in this communion. Here is what we read in the Catechism:

    Grace is a participation in the life of God. It introduces us into the intimacy of Trinitarian life: by Baptism the Christian participates in the grace of Christ, the Head of His Body. As an ‘adopted son’ he can henceforth call God ‘Father,’ in union with the only Son. He receives the life of the Spirit who breathes charity into him and who forms the Church (CCC 1997).

    The Trinity is an amazing mystery to contemplate. Since it is so beyond our human understanding, we can be tempted to consider the mystery too abstract, like the philosopher Immanuel Kant who regarded it as a sort of “heavenly mathematical theorem” with no implications for human life. But nothing could be further from the truth. God is not an abstraction. God is love. As Pope Francis has said: “God is not a sentimental, emotional kind of love but the love of the Father who is the origin of all life, the love of the Son who dies on the Cross and is raised, the love of the Spirit who renews human beings and the world. Thinking that God is love does us so much good, because it teaches us to love, to give ourselves to others as Jesus gave Himself to us and walks with us. Jesus walks beside us on the road through life.”

    The mystery of God in Himself has the greatest implications for our life since we are blessed to share in His life, the life of the Trinity, the loving communion of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Our life even now is open to eternal life because our life shares in the life of God. This truth should always fill us with wonder, awe, and thanksgiving. God calls us into the embrace of His communion which is eternal life.

    I will never forget the evening of July 19, 2008, participating in the Vigil of World Youth Day with Pope Benedict XVI in Sydney, Australia. I was there with young pilgrims from the Diocese of Harrisburg. It was a beautiful clear night under the constellation of the Southern Cross. The Holy Father gave a profound reflection on the Holy Spirit as the Giver of life who leads us into the very heart of God, into the communion of the Blessed Trinity. Pope Benedict shared with the young people deep insights from Saint Augustine on the Holy Spirit as unity, abiding love, and gift. Inspired by these insights, Pope Benedict said to the young people: “let unifying love be your measure; abiding love your challenge; self-giving love your mission!” The Pope said: What constitutes our faith is not primarily what we do but what we receive. And then he posed to the young people two great and penetrating questions, questions which are good for all of us to ponder: Friends, do you accept being drawn into God’s Trinitarian life? Do you accept being drawn into His communion of love?

    God has shown us His face and His face is Love. To be truly alive is to live in the love of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. May we say Yes like Mary to the gift of sharing in God’s eternal life of love!

    Posted on May 26, 2015, to:

  • The following is the homily that Bishop Rhoades preached on May 14th at Mass in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception during the Dorothy Day Conference sponsored by the University of Saint Francis:

    Dorothy Day is pictured with children in an undated photo. Co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement and candidate for sainthood, Day was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1897, and died at the Catholic Worker’s Maryhouse in New York in 1980. The University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne is the sponsor of the “Dorothy Day and the Church: Past, Present, and Future” conference, May 13-15.

    Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Matthias, the apostle chosen to replace Judas, as we heard in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles. Matthias is not mentioned anywhere else in the New Testament, so we know very little about him. We do know that he was suited for apostleship because of his experience of being with Jesus from His baptism to His ascension, as Acts tells us. He must also have been suited personally or he would not have been considered and nominated for so great a responsibility. Perhaps the Gospel today can help us to see what made him suitable, indeed, what makes us suitable for discipleship and the apostolate.

    First and foremost, it involves remaining in Jesus’ love. This is what Jesus said to the disciples in His farewell discourse: Remain in my love. Jesus and the apostles shared an intimate friendship. Jesus told them that He no longer calls them slaves, but He calls them friends. As He prepares to take leave from them, Jesus asks the apostles to remain in His love, in His friendship. This entails keeping His commandments: If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love. And Jesus gives them the new commandment: love one another as I have loved you.

    It’s all very simple when we think about it. Remain in my love. That’s the essence of the Christian life, together with the command: Love one another as I have loved you. Dorothy Day understood this. With her conversion, she became a true friend of the Lord who, through a devoted prayer life, learned to remain in His love. She understood, of course, that this love for God could not be separated from love of neighbor, especially the poor and destitute. I think of her powerful and challenging words: I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.

    Dorothy Day desired to change the world. She and fellow members of Catholic Worker fought for the rights of workers and the poor. In the midst of this battle for justice, she said, there is nothing we can do but love, and, dear God, please enlarge our hearts to love each other, to love our neighbor, to love our enemy as our friend.”

    We can learn so much from the words and example of Dorothy Day. She challenges us with the radical truth of the Gospel. She challenges us to love one another as Christ has loved us. She challenges us, as Pope Francis challenges us, to be a Church of and for the poor. They challenge us with the words of Jesus in the parable about the last judgment: “whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do to me.” In her typically incisive way, Dorothy Day wrote that “those who cannot see Christ in the poor are atheists indeed.”

    Pope Francis is very critical of a Church that is egocentric, that is engaged in an ego-drama, what he calls a “self-referential Church,” one that is turned in on itself. He is calling us to go out from our comfort zone in order to reach all the peripheries in need of the light of the Gospel. This is what Dorothy Day did. At the same time, Dorothy Day and Pope Francis do not mean that we rush out aimlessly into the world. We go out with a mission, a clear mission, the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ, the Gospel that invites us to respond to the love of the God who saves us. Dorothy Day’s life was anchored in the Word of God and in the Eucharist. The Word and the Mass strengthened and nourished her. She experienced the Eucharist as the sacrament of love, the mystery of the cross made present, the most amazing encounter we can have with God on this earth.

    Dorothy Day teaches us that Christianity isn’t about embracing abstractions. It’s about living the Gospel. Dorothy Day would quote the words of Dostoevsky: Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared with love in dreams. Think of the saints: they were men and women who embodied the Gospel. They didn’t just talk about it in lofty language. When they saw someone hungry, they gave them food. When they saw someone suffering, they helped them. This is our vocation as well. As Dorothy Day wrote: everything a baptized person does every day should be directly or indirectly related to the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. 

    We are called to sanctity: the perfection of charity, to love God and neighbor, and to love one another as Christ has loved us. Encountering a multitude of challenges in her life and efforts, Dorothy Day kept this at the center: love of God and neighbor. She wrote that love and ever more love is the only solution to every problem that comes up.

    When we think of Dorothy Day or of the lives of the saints, we should realize that they were not born perfect and they had their weaknesses. But they lived their lives with passion and purpose. What animated their lives was that they recognized God’s love and they followed it with all their heart without reserve or hypocrisy. They spent their lives serving others, they endured suffering and adversity without hatred and responded to evil with good, spreading joy and peace (Pope Francis, November 1, 2013). This is our calling too. And here at this altar, we see and we experience the epitome of such love, the sacrifice of Jesus. We hear anew the words of Jesus and the real truth of those words: No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. And yes, we truly are His friends if we do what He commands us, which is really to live the Eucharist we celebrate and receive.

    Posted on May 13, 2015, to:

  • Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades gives the homily at the Ave Maria Press 150th anniversary Mass at Moreau Seminary at the University of Notre Dame.

    The following is the homily given by Bishop Rhoades at the Mass celebrating the 150th anniversary of Ave Maria Press on May 1st at Moreau Seminary, Notre Dame:

    Early in the existence of the community of Holy Cross, Blessed Basil Moreau told his religious that the work of Holy Cross is not the work of human beings but the work of God. The anniversary we celebrate today can be counted among those works: the 150th anniversary of Ave Maria Press.

    On this day, May 1st, in the year 1865, the first edition of the family magazine, The Ave Maria, a weekly periodical devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary, was published. That was before May 1st was designated by the Church as the feast of Saint Joseph the Worker. But it seems appropriate that today we celebrate the Mass of Saint Joseph the Worker as we celebrate the holy work of Ave Maria Press, 150 years of work for the Church, the work of evangelization and catechesis, the work of promoting devotion to the Blessed Mother, the work of providing good Catholic reading, a work that continues today. As we celebrate this publishing work that is under the title of the Blessed Virgin Mary, it seems appropriate that we do so on this feast of her spouse, Saint Joseph, the patron of workers. We ask Jesus, the one known as the carpenter’s son, as we heard in today’s Gospel, to continue to bless the work of Ave Maria Press.

    Saint Paul wrote to the Colossians: Whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. These words are good for all of us to ponder as we consider our daily work. Certainly, these words express the attitude Father Edward Sorin had in founding the Ave Maria as well as Notre Dame.

    With the spirit of parrhesia (boldness) typical of him, Father Sorin began the venture of the Ave Maria magazine despite many naysayers who thought the project would fail. But Father Sorin was determined to honor the Blessed Virgin through this periodical. He wanted to encourage Marian devotion. He was resolute in moving forward because he felt that there was a great need to provide this publication for the Catholic faithful, mostly immigrant and poor, living in a dominant Protestant culture. He wanted them to have the spiritual sustenance that the Blessed Mother provides. A few months before the first publication, Father Sorin wrote to Neal Gillespie the following: I may be deceived, disappointed, laughed to scorn, but with all that I will still retain my conviction that the Ave Maria will be the source of most abundant blessings, one of the best things ever done in the Congregation, and ultimately a glorious work for our Blessed Mother.

    I don’t think the rather quick and early success of the Ave Maria endeavor would have happened without the support and work of the Holy Cross brothers and sisters, especially Mother Angela Gillespie at Saint Mary’s. This strong, well educated, cultured and faith-filled woman, having just completed her great service of the wounded and dying in the Civil War, did so much to make the Ave Maria a success. Mother Angela was the actual director of the new magazine in those early years. She solicited the essays and articles and discerned what should be published in each issue.

    Mother Angela Gillespie also oversaw the sisters who did the typesetting and layout of the magazine. She worked hard to assist Father Sorin, the editor, in making the Ave Maria the most popular and most read Catholic periodical in the country. Father Sorin once said that Mother Angela is a person whom heaven blesses in everything she touches. And she certainly touched the Ave Maria enterprise. I recently learned that my predecessor, the first bishop of Fort Wayne, John Henry Luers, whose native language was German, sent an article or essay to be inserted into the Ave Maria. In doing so, he said to Father Sorin, if my English is not correct, let Mother Angela rectify it.

    Though I am focusing on the early years of Ave Maria Press, we should also remember today all those who continued the work of Father Sorin and Mother Angela through the past century and a half. I think, for example, of Mother Angela’s younger brother, Father Neal Gillespie, who succeeded her as the behind-the scenes editor of the Ave Maria, and all the Holy Cross priests, brothers, and sisters through the years, as well as all the devoted lay people who continue this Holy Cross apostolate.

    We remember all who have worked, and continue to work, with Ave Maria Press as its publishing has expanded since the weekly magazine ended in 1970. The form of the mission has changed, but not its substance. It continues as a Catholic enterprise, a ministry of the Congregation of Holy Cross. It continues in the mission of Holy Cross in helping people know, love, and serve God and in spreading the Gospel of Jesus. It continues to spread Father Sorin’s deep devotion to the Mother of God. It continues to serve the spiritual, catechetical, and pastoral ministries of the Church.

    On this memorial of Saint Joseph the Worker, when the Church reflects on the value and meaning of human work, it is good for us to remember that work honors the gifts of God our Creator and the talents we receive from Him. All of you who work for Ave Maria Press and support its work are collaborators with Jesus in His redemptive work. As disciples of Jesus, we are all called to holiness by doing the work He calls us to accomplish, by doing our work with dedication and love. The Church teaches that work can be a means of sanctification and a way of animating earthly realities with the Spirit of Christ (CCC 2427). This happens by being industrious, using our talents for the glory of God and the good of others.

    On this anniversary and as we look to the future, we ask the Lord’s blessing on the work of Ave Maria Press. We move forward with the counsel of Saint Paul in our minds and hearts: Whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. And we move forward, asking the intercession of Saint Joseph the Worker and his most-holy spouse, our Blessed Mother. With the angel Gabriel, we say Hail Mary, Ave Maria. Like Father Sorin, we entrust this work to Jesus through Mary; we entrust Ave Maria Press to Our Lady. May the mother of the carpenter’s son who is the Son of God pray for us!

    Posted on May 5, 2015, to: