• The Year of Consecrated Life, announced by Pope Francis, begins this coming Sunday, the First Sunday of Advent, and will end on February 2, 2016, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. Pope Francis proclaimed this special year which also marks the 50th anniversary of the decree on religious life entitled Perfectae Caritatis of the Second Vatican Council.

    This special year is an opportunity for us to grow in our appreciation of the gift of the consecrated life to the Church. It is also an opportunity to highlight this vocation and to invite young people to consider the possible call to follow Christ in the consecrated life.

    What is the consecrated life? It is way of life that includes the profession of the three evangelical counsels: poverty, chastity, and obedience. The Catechism teaches that the state of consecrated life is thus one way of experiencing a ‘more intimate’ consecration, rooted in Baptism and dedicated totally to God. In the consecrated life, Christ’s faithful, moved by the Holy Spirit, propose to follow Christ more nearly, to give themselves to God who is loved above all and, pursuing the perfection of charity in the service of the Kingdom, to signify and proclaim in the Church the glory of the world to come (CCC 916).

    There are various forms of consecrated life in the Church. We are probably most familiar with what is called “the religious life.” This is the life of religious sisters, brothers, and priests who live a common life in a religious community. We are blessed in our diocese with many religious sisters, brothers, and priests. We have motherhouses of the following religious communities in our diocese: the Congregation of Holy Cross (sisters, brothers, and priests), the Sisters of Saint Francis of Perpetual Adoration, the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, and the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Victory. There is also a novitiate of the Conventual Franciscan Friars in our diocese.

    We are also blessed in our diocese with three communities that are “on the road” to becoming religious institutes: the Franciscan Brothers Minor, the Franciscan Sisters Minor, and the Poor Sisters of Saint Clare (a cloistered, contemplative community).

    Besides “the religious life,” there are also other forms of consecrated life in the Church. These include secular institutes (whose members live in the world); consecrated virgins; and consecrated hermits. All these forms of consecrated life are lived within a permanent state of life recognized by the Church.

    I think we need a renewed appreciation of the consecrated life as a gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church. Some are quite pessimistic about the future of consecrated life in the context of today’s society and culture. But I am not so pessimistic. Realistically, we have seen a steep decline in the number of consecrated men and women. Yet, I believe that the tide can be turned. I believe that God is still calling men and women to radically follow the Gospel as religious brothers, sisters and priests; as consecrated virgins; as hermits; and as members of secular institutes. Pope Saint John Paul II called the consecrated life “an integral part of the Church’s life.” He said (and I agree) that “the Church and society itself need people capable of devoting themselves totally to God and to others for the love of God.”

    Ultimately, embracing the consecrated life is a response to God’s love. Those who embrace this life desire to love and serve the Lord with great generosity, devoting their whole lives to the service of Christ and His Church. I hope and pray that the Year of Consecrated Life, in highlighting this beautiful vocation, will be an occasion for fresh efforts in the promotion of vocations to the consecrated life.

    In a homily last year at a Mass with seminarians and novices, Pope Francis said the following: People today certainly need words, but most of all they need us to bear witness to the mercy and tenderness of the Lord which warms the heart, rekindles hope, and attracts people towards the good. What a joy it is to bring God’s consolation to others! I think this is a good description of the mission of consecrated women and men in the Church: to bring to others the consolation of God and to bear witness to His mercy. Of course, this mission will only be fruitful if the consecrated men and women themselves have experienced the Lord’s mercy and consolation. This is why prayer is a central part of the life of consecrated men and women. Liturgical and personal prayer is integral to every form of consecrated life.

    I hope that this Year of Consecrated Life will bear much good fruit for the Church in our diocese and beyond. I hope it will be a time of special blessing for all our brothers and sisters who are living in this state of life. Let us pray for them, their fidelity, and their growth in holiness. Let us also pray for an increase in vocations to the consecrated life in our diocese and throughout the world.

     

    Posted on November 25, 2014, to:

  • Jesuit priest and martyr Blessed Miguel Pro Juarez is pictured just before his execution by firing squad Nov. 23, 1927, in Mexico. Though he did not support the armed insurrection against the Mexican government’s anti-Catholic actions, he was arrested and executed without trial. His final words were reported as, “Viva Cristo Rey!” (“Long live Christ the King!”).

    This coming Sunday, the last Sunday of the liturgical year, is the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King. This beautiful feast was instituted in 1925 by Pope Pius XI at a time when Fascist dictators were rising to power in Europe. It is said that the specific impetus for the Pope establishing this universal feast of the Church was the martyrdom of a Catholic priest, Blessed Miguel Pro, during the Mexican revolution.

    Cardinal Gerhard Muller, the Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, explains:

    As Father Pro was being taken out to be shot — his only crime being that he was a Catholic priest — in one last act of defiance he stretched out his arms in the shape of a cross and shouted “Viva Cristo Rey.” His cry rang out throughout the whole Church and the Pope declared that a feast of Christ the King should be included in the general liturgical calendar. The institution of this feast was, therefore, almost an act of defiance from the Church against all those who at that time were seeking to absolutize their own political ideologies, insisting boldly that no earthly power, no particular political system or military dictatorship is ever absolute. Rather, only God is eternal and only the Kingdom of God is an absolute value, which never fails. And this because all political or military kingdoms are ultimately based on and maintained by force or coercive power. 

    The Solemnity of Christ the King still has great relevance today. There are still currents of thought and action that seek to absolutize particular political ideologies, ignoring the sovereignty of God and the absolute value of His Kingdom. The Kingdom of God is not imposed by force. Jesus did not want to rule a political kingdom by force. He said clearly to Pontius Pilate: My kingship is not of this world. Jesus teaches that real power is not the ability to coerce or conquer others. The power of Christ the King is the strength to love and to serve. Jesus turns the values of the world upside down when He proclaims His Kingdom. That is the Kingdom we pray for when we recite the Our Father.

    In the beautiful Preface at Mass on the Solemnity of Christ the King, the Kingdom of God is described as an eternal and universal kingdom, a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace. This is the Kingdom Christ brings. We became citizens of this Kingdom when we were baptized. Our primary allegiance should always be to Christ, the King of the Universe, since we are first and foremost citizens of His Kingdom.

    Having said all this, it is important to keep in mind that we are also members of the earthly kingdom. We live in a civil society with duties as citizens of this society. We are called to love and serve our nation. It is our duty “to work with civil authority for building up a society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom” (CCC 2255). At the same time, we are “obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons or the teachings of the Gospel” (CCC 2242).

    Blessed Miguel Pro recognized the primacy of Christ the King over the unjust dictator who was suppressing the Church in early 20th century Mexico. He gave his life, like so many martyrs of the past and even now in the present, for the sake of the truth of Christ. Father Pro, as he was being shot, extended his arms, making the sign of the cross with his body. He preached Christ the King to the end, by giving his life for the sake of His truth. How many Christians in the world today are doing the same in the face of religious persecution! This is the calling we have all received: to make our lives into a sign of the cross and preach Christ the King by living in His Truth.

    We live in Christ’s truth by witnessing to the Gospel in our everyday lives. We live by Christ’s truth when we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, shelter the homeless, defend the unborn, welcome the immigrant, and serve the needy. We live by Christ’s truth when we defend and promote marriage and family life, according to the divine plan. We live by Christ’s truth when we are merciful and forgiving. We live by Christ’s truth when we reach out with the love of Christ to those who are lonely or abandoned. We live by Christ’s truth when we stand up for what is right and good in a culture of increasing secularism and relativism.

    The Church teaches that everyone is called to enter the Kingdom of God and that this Kingdom belongs to the poor and lowly, that is, to those who have accepted it with humble hearts. Pope Francis is constantly reminding us that Jesus invites sinners to the table of the kingdom. Jesus invites sinners to that conversion without which one cannot enter the kingdom, but shows them in word and deed his Father’s boundless mercy for them and the vast joy in heaven over one sinner who repents (CCC 545). On the Solemnity of Christ the King, it is good for us to reflect on the kingdom that Jesus inaugurated, the kingdom present in the person of Jesus, the kingdom that begins in the Church and that remains in our midst in the Holy Eucharist.

    The true nature of Christ’s kingship was revealed when He was raised high on the cross. The cross is His throne. May Christ the King, the King of love on Calvary, reign in our lives! This happens when we conform our wills to His. Immediately after we pray Thy kingdom come, we pray Thy will be done. These two petitions go together.

    May the Holy Spirit help us to be faithful followers of Christ our King!

    Posted on November 18, 2014, to:

  • On All Souls Day, Nov. 2, more than 100 faithful attended a Mass celebrated by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades in the Resurrection Mausoleum at the Catholic Cemetery in Fort Wayne. Bishop Rhoades makes final remarks to those gathered before the dismissal hymn.

    Following is the text of the homily that Bishop Rhoades delivered during Mass on All Souls’ Day, November 2nd, 2014, at the Catholic Cemetery in Fort Wayne:

    Today, All Souls’ Day, we bring to the Lord all our loved ones who have died, who have gone before us in faith. We pray and intercede for them and for all the holy souls in purgatory.

    Pope Saint John XXIII once said that the devotion to the memory of the dead is one of the beautiful expressions of the Catholic spirit. We need a renewal and revival of this spirit. We live in a culture where many try to avoid as much as possible the thought and reality of death. This is seen even at funerals where the emphasis is more on celebrating the departed person’s past life on earth than on praying for them and their future glory. It’s true that at funerals we should be giving thanks to God for the person’s earthly life, but the important funeral rites of the Church are primarily liturgies in which we pray for the recently departed person. I say to my family and close friends: “when I die, please don’t focus on my meager accomplishments; focus on the Lord and pray for me, for my eternal rest and peace. Help me with your prayers and sacrifices, especially with Masses, that through the trial of purgatory I may attain eternal joy.”

    One way of showing devotion to the memory of the dead is visiting and praying at their graves. It is appropriate that we offer this Mass today here at our Catholic cemetery. Let us remember in a special way those who are buried here, as we also remember all our loved ones wherever they are buried.

    In entrusting the souls of the faithful departed to the Lord, we recognize our solidarity with them as brothers and sisters in the communion of saints, the Church. Yesterday, All Saints Day, we celebrated the feast of our brothers and sisters who are already in heaven. We also live in solidarity with them — they help us and we ask them to do so when we invoke their intercession. Today, All Souls Day, we remember the souls in purgatory. The doctrine of the communion of saints expresses the great truth that the union among us who are members of the Body of Christ goes beyond earthly life, beyond death. In fact, it endures forever. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, said the following concerning the communion of saints:

    This union among us goes beyond and continues in the next life; it is a spiritual communion born in Baptism and not broken by death, but, thanks to the Risen Christ, is destined to find its fullness in eternal life. There is a deep and indissoluble bond between those who are still pilgrims in this world (us) and those who have crossed the threshold of death and entered eternity. All baptized persons here on earth, the souls in Purgatory, and all the blessed who are already in Paradise make one great Family. This communion between earth and heaven is realized especially in intercessory prayer.

    Did you ever notice that we pray for the dead at every Mass? Each of the Eucharistic prayers includes intercession for the faithful departed. This is important also in our prayer outside of Mass, to remember the souls in purgatory. And also to have Masses offered for our loved ones who have died. This is a beautiful gift we can give to them.

    None of this makes any sense without the hope we have in eternal life, a hope founded on the death and resurrection of Christ. Because of Jesus, we believe that death does not have the last word. It’s not our final destiny, rather, it is a passage to eternal life. As we pray in the first Preface of Masses for the Dead: Indeed for your faithful, Lord, life is changed not ended, and, when this earthly dwelling turns to dust, an eternal dwelling is made ready for them in heaven.

    Praying for the dead is a spiritual work of mercy. It is an important obligation, because even if they have died in God’s grace and in God’s friendship, most probably still need final purification in order to enter the joy of heaven. Every trace of attachment to evil must be eliminated and every imperfection of the soul corrected before we see God face to face. This is the complete purification that is meant by the Church’s teaching on purgatory. Praying for the souls in purgatory is a gift of love that we share with them. Sometimes when we pray for them, we can feel their closeness to us.

    Today is also a good day for us to reflect on our own preparedness for death or lack thereof. We are pilgrims here on earth and we must never lose sight of the final destination of our pilgrimage, our heavenly homeland. What is most important in life is that we live and that we die in God’s grace and friendship. We all desire eternal happiness. We live in hope that one day we will be with the Lord and with our loved ones in the perfect joy of heaven. This should be the horizon toward which we direct our lives and our choices: eternal life with God, to be among “the souls of the just that are in the hand of God.” This is God’s desire too, as Jesus said in today’s Gospel: this is the will of the One who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what He gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day. 

    Today and throughout this month of November, let us offer prayers and sacrifices for the faithful departed. Let us be devoted to the memory of the dead. As Pope Saint John XXIII said: this is truly one of the beautiful expressions of the Catholic spirit!

    Posted on November 4, 2014, to:

  • Last week, I and the other Bishops of Indiana expressed our disappointment with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on October 6th not to review Indiana’s appeal of the court ruling that the prohibition of so-called “same-sex marriage” is unconstitutional.

    The Church continues to oppose the redefinition of marriage to include two persons of the same sex since such redefinition denies the truth and reality of what marriage is: the lifelong partnership between one man and one woman ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children. In God’s plan, sexual difference is essential to marriage. Marriage is a unique form of love and commitment, a “communion” in which “the two become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

    The Church believes that homosexual persons are certainly equal in dignity to heterosexual persons. The Church teaches that “every sign of unjust discrimination in regard to homosexual persons should be avoided” (CCC 2358). Not allowing two persons of the same sex to marry is not unjust discrimination. The “right to marry” is the right to enter into a relationship that is unique and rooted in a nature that includes sexual difference.

    I and many others have been worried about the many possible threats to our religious freedom as a result of the redefinition of marriage. Changing the legal definition of marriage may threaten the liberty of the Church and our institutions in numerous ways. One example could be the government forcing religious institutions to extend any special spousal benefits they afford to actual marriage to “same-sex marriage” as well. This past week, the University of Notre Dame decided “to extend benefits to all legally married persons, including same-sex spouses,” since “the law in Indiana now recognizes same-sex marriages” (quotes from public statement issued by Notre Dame).

    Many have asked for my opinion on this decision of the University of Notre Dame. I must admit my uncertainty at this time about the legal implications of Indiana’s law for our Catholic institutions. Notre Dame believes that the law requires the university to extend the legal benefits of marriage to “same-sex married couples” in its employ. I would like to see further study of what the law requires as well as what religious liberty protections Notre Dame and our other Catholics institutions have so as not to be compelled to cooperate in the application of the law redefining marriage. Our Indiana Catholic Conference is studying these issues.

    In announcing its decision to extend benefits to “same-sex spouses,” I am glad that Notre Dame affirmed that as a Catholic university, it “endorses a Catholic view of marriage,” though I would say that Catholic teaching on the heterosexual nature of marriage is more than “a view.” The heterosexual nature of marriage is an objective truth known by (right) reason and revelation. As a Catholic university, it is important that Notre Dame continues to affirm its fidelity to Catholic teaching on the true nature of marriage as a union of one man and one woman. I have communicated to Notre Dame my conviction that this affirmation should also include efforts to defend the religious liberty of our religious institutions that is threatened in potentially numerous ways by the legal redefinition of marriage, including the government forcing our Catholic institutions to extend any special benefits we afford to actual marriage to same-sex “marriage” as well. I have asked the Notre Dame administration to work together with the Indiana Catholic Conference on these efforts.

    Living in conformity with our Catholic teaching that marriage by its nature is between one man and one woman needs religious liberty protection so we are not forced to treat same-sex unions as equivalent to marriage. Just as it is not unjust to limit the bond of marriage to the union of one man and one woman, the Church teaches that “it is not unjust to oppose granting to homosexual couples benefits that in justice belong to (true) marriage alone” (USCCB, “Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination”). It is important that this not be interpreted as an attitude of intolerance or bigotry against homosexual persons. The Church strongly upholds the human dignity of homosexual persons while also strongly upholding the truth about marriage. The Church affirms that “persons with a homosexual inclination have the same basic rights as all people” (ibid). The Bishops of the United States, in the Pastoral letter “Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan,” stated the following:

    Basic human rights must be afforded to all people. This can and should be done without sacrificing the bedrock of society that is (true) marriage and the family, and without violating the religious liberty of persons and institutions.

    I wish to extend my own commitment as bishop to all persons in the Church with a homosexual inclination, especially to your pastoral care and growth in holiness. Our Courage groups in Fort Wayne and South Bend exist to help you in this growth. All of us have the vocation to love. This vocation is lived not only through the vocation of marriage, but also through chaste friendships. I hope you know the Church’s love for you. You are our brothers and sisters in Christ. I encourage you to persevere in your faith within the Catholic community as together we strive to be faithful disciples of Jesus.

    I hope and pray that all will work together, in a spirit of love and respect for all people, in the face of so many problems that arise from the redefinition of marriage. I recommend to all the excellent website (an initiative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops): Marriage: Unique for a Reason. The internet address is www.marriageuniqueforareason.org.

    Posted on October 14, 2014, to:

  • “The Holy Family, the beacon of true love, is to be contemplated in every family situation so as to draw light, strength and consolation,” states the working document of the extraordinary assembly of the Synod of Bishops. The Synod topic is “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization,” and will assemble Oct. 5-19. Above is the painting for the 2015 World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. Shown in the painting is St. Anne and St. Joachim with Mary, Joseph and the child Jesus.

    In his apostolic exhortation The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis wrote: The family is experiencing a profound cultural crisis, as are all communities and social bonds. In the case of the family, the weakening of these bonds is particularly serious because the family is the fundamental cell of society, where we learn to live with others despite our differences and to belong to one another; it is also the place where parents pass on the faith to their children. 

    In light of this cultural crisis, the Holy Father has convoked an extraordinary assembly of the Synod of Bishops to treat the topic: The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization. The Synod Assembly will take place from October 5th to the 19th. It will be followed up by the Ordinary General Assembly of Bishops in October 2015, demonstrating Pope Francis’ deep concern for the challenges facing marriage and family throughout the world.

    The Preface of the working document for the Synod affirms that “the proclamation of the Gospel of the Family is an integral part of the mission of the Church.” The Church has the duty to proclaim the truth and beauty of God’s plan for marriage and the family. It has the duty to promote the dignity of marriage and the family. The Church faces much resistance in today’s culture to its teaching on moral issues related to the family. The bishops will be looking at ways to better present the Church’s teaching and to promote its wider acceptance. They will also be looking at how the Church can better support parents and families through its pastoral care.

    The Synod will also be addressing some difficult pastoral situations, including cohabitation and de facto unions. It will be devoting attention to the situation of separated and divorced persons as well as those who have divorced and remarried. The working document for the Synod states that “pastoral charity impels the Church to assist people who have suffered the breakdown of their marriage and are living with their situation relying on the grace of Christ. A more painful wound results when these people remarry and enter a state of life which does not allow them to receive Holy Communion.” The document states: “With patience and understanding, the Church must explain to these people that their not being able to celebrate the sacraments does not mean that they are excluded from the Christian life and a relationship with God.”

    The Synod will also be addressing the lack of acceptance by many of the Church’s teaching on openness to life, especially in a highly secularized society. In the face of a contraceptive mentality, the working document states that “the Church needs to reflect on how to encourage a mentality which is more open to life.”

    The bishops will also be discussing the challenges of the upbringing of children today, particularly their upbringing in the faith. They will be looking, for example, at the challenges faced when parents are living in irregular situations. We must be committed to transmitting the gift of faith to our children and young people.

    The challenges facing the Church regarding marriage and family may seem overwhelming. I can’t think of an area where the “new evangelization” is needed more. I am grateful for the priority that Pope Francis is giving to the proclamation of the Gospel of the Family, in continuity with Popes Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI. We must pray for “a new springtime for the family.”

    It is important that, in the face of so many challenges, we not lose hope. The source of our hope is God and His love. The working document of the Synod states in its last paragraph that “the love of God shines in a particular way in the Holy Family of Nazareth, the sure point of reference and comfort for every family. The Holy Family, the beacon of true love, is to be contemplated in every family situation so as to draw light, strength and consolation.” I, therefore, invite you during the month of October to pray the following Prayer to the Holy Family written by Pope Francis:

    Jesus, Mary and Joseph,

    in you we contemplate

    the splendor of true love,

    to you we turn with trust. 

     

    Holy Family of Nazareth,

    grant that our families too

    may be places of communion and prayer,

    authentic schools of the Gospel

    and small domestic Churches.

     

    Holy Family of Nazareth,

    may families never again

    experience violence, rejection and division:

    may all who have been hurt or scandalized

    find ready comfort and healing. 

     

    Holy Family of Nazareth,

    may the approaching Synod of Bishops

    make us once more mindful

    of the sacredness and inviolability of the family,

    and its beauty in God’s plan. 

     

    Jesus, Mary and Joseph,

    graciously hear our prayer.

     

    Posted on September 30, 2014, to: