What I Have Seen and Heard
"I made my fourth pastoral visit to the Catholic community of St. Helena in Clayton this past Sunday to bless and dedicate their new pastoral center, which is truly beautiful! My Sunday morning trip reminded me that the Archdiocese of Atlanta is indeed a territorially diverse community. While the overwhelming majority of our people live in the metropolitan environment that surrounds the city of Atlanta, we also have an enormous territory that is truly rural, agricultural and far-flung in the regional frontiers. Yet the one Eucharist that we share holds all of this diversity perfectly together and indeed renders it a grace. We break One Bread and drink from One Cup that makes us all one in Christ. The Lord remains present in the Eucharist in all of the churches throughout the Archdiocese, and in that presence He invites us to see our oneness in Him. As we concluded our Eucharistic Congress this past weekend—and I made my unfamiliar approach to Clayton—I could not but help to give thanks and praise to God for the wondrous spirit of unity that we in the Archdiocese of Atlanta have come to experience because of the Eucharistic Lord who holds us together in Himself and turns our differences into blessings."
"Move your tassels to the left! With that announcement, hundreds of our Catholic high school seniors have succeeded at moving from being students at our local schools to becoming alumni thereof. The widespread use of a mortarboard and the accompanying tassel perhaps has Catholic clerical roots. Some believe that the mortarboard itself may be an academic variation on the biretta that clerics all once wore. The changing of the position of the tassel has a less certain origin. Nevertheless, its symbolic movement indicates that these young people have taken an important step toward their futures as they leave their high school years behind them."
"She was the wife of a prominent Chicago surgeon and the mother of four sons and literally one of the funniest and most energetic women that I have ever known. Charlotte (Coke) Redden died last month after a long illness and I prayed for her every day during the past several weeks, but always with a smile. I met her and her wonderful family in 1972 while serving as a deacon at Mary, Seat of Wisdom Parish in Park Ridge, Ill. It was a friendship that endured for more than 40 years. When her beloved husband, Jack, died in April 2005, I wrote in an early edition of this column about his praying the Our Father as his last prayer. I am sure that Coke also offered that very same prayer at the end of her life—a prayer that she and her husband taught their sons many years before."
"Events from this past Easter Sunday managed to place me into a direct personal relationship with two Catholic saints—well, in truth, I was put into immediate connection with two local relatives of two saints—and since then I have not been able to stop thinking about the coincidence of those two separate Easter encounters. "
"One of the local customs that I have come to treasure since moving to Atlanta is that ladies here still do often choose to wear hats—and they seem to delight in that tradition! Springtime is often hat time for many of our Atlanta ladies. Obviously ladies elsewhere also do wear hats, but there is an Atlanta flair in that practice that I have not seen present in the other places where I have lived. The display of millinery finery is now in high gear, and I will get a special privileged exhibition at my home in a couple of weeks when the Atlanta Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women holds its annual brunch there. The women of this organization arrange this annual event, and I am so grateful that they do, not simply to see which hats will make a stunning debut but to witness the great camaraderie that marks this occasion."
"March Madness is the name that most folks ordinarily give to the championship basketball games played by college and university teams throughout our nation at this time of the year. Many people who are not ordinarily sports enthusiasts dutifully fill out their brackets to see if they can correctly predict which college team will ultimately be triumphant. It has become the incontestable signal of the end of that particular sports season as we already now anticipate the beginning of the baseball season that lurks just around the corner. "
"As the three of us walked back up the hill to the North American College in Rome where I am staying, after a late evening pizza, I mentioned to Father Luke Ballman and Matthew Dalrymple (our Atlanta seminarian at the college) that I had to come up with a topic for my column for The Georgia Bulletin this week. They both suggested that I could write about them! I told them that many people in the Archdiocese already had seen and heard about them! As we chuckled at their recommendation and at my response, it became clear to me that what most everyone really wants to know about this week is the one who will appear on the loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica as our new Pope. In fact the entire world is interested in knowing about this still unknown priest—even people who are not themselves Catholics or may not believe in what the Church teaches."
"As of this Thursday afternoon, I now will have witnessed six vacancies of the See of St. Peter in my own lifetime. In 1958 I viewed the first. I was at the time a newly enrolled sixth-grader in a Catholic school on the South Side of Chicago with only about five weeks’ familiarity with the Catholic Church when as a result of the death of Pope Pius XII the Cardinals of the Church were brought together to select his successor. I vividly can recall the grainy black and white television broadcasts of the preparations for the conclave and the eventual appearance of Blessed Pope John XXIII on the loggia of St. Peter’s. As a 10-year-old youngster with almost no Catholic background, the significance of the events was largely unappreciated, but even then the international excitement was obvious."
"Yesterday, we began Lent, one of the most important seasons of the year. It is a time that has its own mystique that is deeply and forever rooted in the tradition of the Church and in our own personal experiences from Lents of the past. While there are many other notable celebrations and times that fill the liturgical calendar, Lent is unique because it touches something so universal in all of us. Lent tends to attract and to inspire many people who are not particularly observant of church attendance as well as an abundant number of those who are quite faithful in their participation in church activities. "
"Last week much of North Georgia had an ice scare! Some communities within the Archdiocese that are located in the Georgia mountains actually did experience icy road conditions, and there were travel delays and fender-benders galore! There were some school closings and a few delayed school openings, but by and large schools were in session for most of our kids. I know that was a disappointment for many of our students who might have longed for an extra day out of class—and it was also probably a great relief for those parents who perhaps did not have an alternative plan for the care of their students, if they were given a free day with such short notice. Snow days bring joy to some and concern to others."
"We Catholics are decidedly territorial by nature, and most of us tend to view our Church through a neighborhood lens. For many communities that may have a high Catholic population percentage, it is not uncommon for some folks to identify their local parish with the entire neighborhood—“I’m from St. Linus Parish,” which may be used to describe all of the territory of St. Linus as well as all of its inhabitants—whether they happen to be Catholic or not. "
"One of my two California nephews has been working on a career in the film industry. He’s found some early success so he is quite enthused, and needless to say I am very proud of him. When I spoke with him over the Christmas holidays, he told me that he is currently engaged in a project that will be dedicated to the Tuskegee Airmen. Those extraordinary African-American pilots defied the segregation standards of the time and rose to heroic military status during World War II in the defeat of the Nazi regime. In order to prepare for the film project, my nephew has to research and study the Tuskegee training program that prepared these fine American pilots: Before he can perform on the silver screen depicting this moment in history, he must learn about the men and the struggles that they faced. "
"This entire season is all about a Baby and the time we spend waiting anxiously for the birth of that Baby. Babies tend to bring joy to every human heart no matter where they happen to be born. "
"We have roughly 220 permanent deacons who are currently ministering or who have ministered to the people of the Archdiocese of Atlanta. While some of our deacons are now retired from a full-time pastoral assignment, all of them have added much to the life of faith in this local Church. Last week, because of several different and unexpected encounters, I had the fortunate opportunity of reflecting on the generous and wise pastoral service these men—with the full collaboration of their equally generous wives—provide for us."
"During the relatively early years of television, when there were only about three or four network stations broadcasting and all available programming generally concluded around 12 midnight, the weekly sitcoms and the game shows and the news programs typically ended their weekly airings on Friday with the encouragement: “Please remember to worship in a church or synagogue of your choice!” "
"Michael Alexander is one of our resident artists who is outfitted with only a camera! Over the years he has captured so many special moments in the life of this local Church with his camera and his unassuming and unobtrusive presence. Pictures do tell stories that written texts simply cannot summarize—which only confirms the ancient adage that a picture is worth a thousand words—and perhaps even many more. From the most solemn religious moments to the most comical everyday occasions, Michael’s imaginative eye serves us with exquisite judgment. "
"We live in arguably the most privileged nation in the history of the world. We are blessed not simply in the abundant resources that are ours, not merely in the vastness of our territory, not only in the stability of our institutions, but because every four years we can decide once again the direction that this nation will take into its future. "
"The Marian Shrine of Loreto has held a revered status in the heart of the Church for more than seven centuries. Tradition says that its most important relic is the birth home of the Blessed Virgin Mary which is now sheltered in the famous basilica in this Italian town. "
"There was such obvious enthusiasm at St. Benedict’s for the celebration of their Silver Jubilee festivities and the reopening of the church, which had undergone a renovation of the sanctuary during the last few months. This wonderfully flourishing parish is only 25 years old; however, its astonishing growth is nothing less than amazing! As I walked into the bustling atrium of the church, I encountered..."
"Last Saturday I went to the barber. As I sat in the chair, I noticed that there was a young father at the shop with his toddler son who had to have been all of about 3 years of age. The little boy sat quietly (amazingly so) in the chair next to me as he got a haircut. Then it was his father’s turn in the same chair. The little one was given his dad’s iPhone to entertain him. I was amazed at the dexterity, ease and facility with which this youngster navigated the instrument. I could see that there was a program on the phone with cartoon characters and some games—the 3-year-old was perfectly comfortable with moving the buttons on the screen to animate the program and laughing in sheer delight with whatever the cartoon figures were doing. "
"“Is it a sin to get a tattoo?” That was one of the questions that I fielded at Milledgeville last Tuesday evening as I made my annual visit to the Campus Catholics ministry at Georgia College. While I assured the young person that tattoos themselves were not sinful, it’s an entirely different question about them being wise, prudent or tasteful, but that was not the question the young person raised. We Catholics occasionally use the category of sin to apply to a vast array of unrelated human issues. The world is not neatly divided into those things that are sinful—of which there are quite a few—and those things that are not sinful. Sin is very serious business and should not be taken lightly. Sin involves hatred, violence, lies, deception and the intentional destruction of relationships between us and God and among one another. In and of themselves, tattoos just don’t make the grade!"
"People frequently ask me how I go about choosing a topic for this column. I have to tell them that I try to ponder the events that I have shared with people in my service as Archbishop and what faith lessons that I manage to learn from those encounters and what faith instructions that I can then share with the rest of you. These usually provide the source of my thoughts for this column. Even when I am unwinding, I sometimes discover those moments. One such occasion occurred at a parish church in Myrtle Beach, S.C., this past July where I was attending Sunday Mass along with several hundred other vacationers when, at the sign of peace, the couple in front of me turned around and almost gasped in disbelief as their Archbishop was in the pew behind them. "
"When my father died a year and a half ago, I was able to have firsthand personal experience of the magnificent work that Hospice provides for families during the closing moments of the life of a loved one. A couple of months after my dad’s death, I received a telephone call from the Hospice group that had cared for him to ask me how I was coping with his passing. I was grateful for the call and responded that the caller might want to know that I was the Catholic Archbishop of Atlanta. The gentleman said, “Well, then you must have a good support group to assist you in your grieving and recovery.” When I hung up the phone, I thought to myself that was a very foolish response on my part. Hospice was calling me not because I was the Archbishop of Atlanta, but because they care for people who have lost a loved one irrespective of their title, position or circumstance."
"I positively love going to Rome! It reminds me of my youth, as I arrived in that blessed city for the first time in early September 1976 as a young priest embarking upon what would eventually prove to be an adventure of study and ongoing priestly formation that has changed and completely shaped my life. I am especially pleased to make this particular trip with Bishop Zarama, my beloved Auxiliary Bishop. "
"The Quinquennial Report on the state of the Archdiocese of Atlanta that I recently submitted to the Holy See amounted to over 220 pages in length. It was filled with many statistics and significant data about the extraordinary growth and development of this local Church since the last report was submitted in 2004. I am deeply grateful to all of my colleagues at the Chancery who helped me to prepare such a fine document. "
"Our Jewish friends and neighbors this year began their observance of Passover on the same day that we Catholics celebrated Good Friday last week, and both of our religious families were called back to the admonition that we find in the Book of Deuteronomy that charges us to teach our faith to the next generation. Both communities are challenged to pass on our faith to our children. The rituals of Catholics and Jews provide many opportunities during this sacred time of year for parents and grandparents to hand on the religious heritage to their youngsters."
"Lent is rapidly coming to an end—and perhaps not a moment too soon for many of us. We may have grown weary of the penances that we began on Ash Wednesday and long to return to those pleasures that we have set aside as a sign of our mortification and self-denial. In these closing days of Lent, our penances seem to be more like an endurance contest than what we began them as—an expression of our desire to deepen our love for God and our neighbor over any other pleasure or joy. With only a few days left, our penances often become a spiritual workout that pushes us to our limits. I know that to be the case since it is true for me as well. Yet it is during these final days of Lent, as we listen to the Scriptures of the heightening conflicts that led to the Lord’s Passion, we know that He, above all, has decided to endure a mortification that will result not only in His new life, but ours as well!"
"We here in the Archdiocese of Atlanta celebrated a quiet anniversary just a few weeks ago without much public attention. On February 21 of this year, we observed our 50th anniversary as an archdiocese. On February 21, 1962, we were separated from the Province of the Archdiocese of Baltimore and became a new independent ecclesiastical province that, at the time, included all of the Carolinas and Georgia and Florida. I recently was playing golf with a wonderful Catholic man who asked me the question, “How many archbishops are there?” I had to go into a rather detailed description of the definition of an ecclesiastical province since an archbishop is generally the Shepherd of the ranking diocese of a province. Usually an archdiocese is the oldest or the largest in a territorial cluster of dioceses. "
"The most recent statistics on religious affiliation in the U.S. indicate that there are approximately 69 million of us who currently claim to be Catholic. I often think about what would happen if all of us simultaneously decided to come to church on any given Sunday. We obviously would not have the seating capacity to accommodate all those who would want to attend Mass—even if our parishes had to double or triple or quadruple the numbers of Masses on a given weekend—we would not be able to provide a seat for all 69 million Catholics who sought to attend Mass on any given Sunday. But what a splendid problem it would be to attempt to try to handle."
"Two weeks ago, millions of people watched Super Bowl XLVI and those now almost essential parts of this classic sporting event—the wonderfully clever commercials that have fast become an indispensable ingredient of the game. Admittedly, these commercials can be very imaginative and quite witty. And now broadcasters not only engage in Monday morning quarterbacking regarding the football game but they also weigh in on the cleverness of the commercials that were aired during the game. "
"I love this particular week each year in my calendar—Catholic Schools Week. I love it because it means that I get a chance to visit a number of the schools in our Archdiocese. I generally visit schools throughout the course of the year, in the fall when the new year begins, at the close of the academic season for graduation ceremonies, and throughout the year for special moments, but Catholic Schools Week brings me to many of our schools simply to praise God for the gift of these wonderful Catholic institutions. And the students and teachers always put on their very best for me."
"Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy and his enduring presence hold a unique place within the heart of this Archdiocese. Atlanta, after all, was his home as a young man and later the privileged location where he exercised the zenith of his pastoral career. Atlanta was the place where his funeral was held and is now the resting place for his mortal remains. Atlanta is forever identified with his mission and with his personal history. This must be a source of pride for all those of us who now call Atlanta our home, no matter where we might have originated. As we recall his legacy during this time of year, we should also remember that he was concerned about a great many other social issues in his lifetime well beyond that of advancing civil rights for African-American peoples. Dr. King was deeply involved with the peace movement, with the plight of those who were economically underprivileged, and with the moral fabric of our nation."
"All in all, I think there were about 40 of them, many of them looking quite relaxed wearing jeans and running shoes. Some sported mustaches while others were clean shaven. There were Koreans, Hispanics, Vietnamese, Anglos and African-Americans. Their ages varied perhaps from the early 20s to the mid-30s—maybe one or two of them in their 40s. The young men who participated in our annual discernment retreat this year were quite characteristic of the Church in North Georgia. One was the son of one of our deacons, while many others were transplants to the Atlanta area from other states and countries. They presented a very hopeful outlook for the future. "
"I’ve now made it somewhat of a personal campaign that whenever a person wishes me the generic greeting “happy holidays,” I respond with an enthusiastic “Merry Christmas.” I suppose that for some people it might seem just an inconsequential gesture, but I have become more and more frustrated at the progressively growing and quite obvious attempt to eliminate any specific religious references to the 25th of December."
"During the past couple of Advents, our Holy Father has launched several new liturgical traditions in his public schedule. A few years ago, he changed the time of the midnight Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica to 10 p.m., thus making it a little more convenient for people—especially for families with little ones or those with special needs—to attend this venerable celebration of the Birth of the Lord because of the earlier hour. "
"The month of November has long been associated with the Church’s ceaseless prayer for our faithful departed loved ones, our own dear deceased relatives and friends “who have gone before us with the sign of faith.” Each one of us holds within his or her own heart the memories of some departed loved one. We earnestly pray for our beloved dead, and we keep their memories ever close to heart. Visiting a cemetery is a tradition for many people as an expression of their love for those who have enriched our lives with their affection and goodness. However, especially over the last century we have become a very mobile people and Atlanta is now populated with thousands of folks who have moved here from many other regions in our nation—and many from countries well beyond. It is not possible for many of us to visit the graves of our loved ones as we might have done in the past or would like to do today. Yet we all seek ways of remembering our beloved departed relatives and friends."
"The Diocese of Savannah is 161 years old this year, and it has now witnessed the arrival of 14 bishops over those many years. For 106 of those years, the bishop of Savannah was also the bishop of the territory that would eventually become the Archdiocese of Atlanta and, in fact, the entire state of Georgia. Therefore, it was fitting that a goodly number of people from Savannah’s daughter diocese attended this past week’s Episcopal Ordination and Installation of Bishop #14. A great many of our clergy, religious and faithful did, in fact, attend, and we rejoiced with our mother diocese in receiving Bishop Gregory John Hartmayer, OFM Conv., as Bishop #14."
"It was a charming human interest story that appeared last week in many local newspapers and even was occasionally aired on television newscasts—the blessing of pets on or near the feast of St. Francis of Assisi. It was enchanting to see children and adults bringing their treasured pets to be blessed and sprinkled with holy water as the Church honored the memory of St. Francis, who is universally known and regarded as the patron saint of animals of all types. Francis is often depicted in art with birds, donkeys, a wolf, sheep and many other animals as an indication that he found these creatures as precious symbols and expressions of God’s creative goodness."
"Last week the identities of four American families were the frequent focal point of attention in the media: the family names of MacPhail, Davis, Byrd and Brewer. Two of those families have had to live for many years with the awful loss of a loved one who was taken from them suddenly and violently. Their anguish has been intense and should evoke every ounce of our compassion. Two of those families have lived for almost as many years with the impending loss of a son, a brother, or a father living on death row for numerous years. They too deserve our consideration. All four families have no doubt shed too many tears in deep sorrow. Here in Georgia the attention was largely focused on Mark MacPhail and Troy Davis—Georgia natives. The other two names were from Texas, and less local media attention was given to James Byrd Jr. and Lawrence Russell Brewer. Yet their families also suffered in spite of the imbalance of media exposure here regarding the tragedy that their lives endured. The juxtaposition of these stories could not have been more thought provoking."
"Parents of college-age students throughout North Georgia, and in other places well beyond this region, have been participating in a ritual that uniquely belongs to this time of year. They are bringing their students back to school. Whether they are bringing their first college student to a new university campus or they have done this routine several times before, there is poignancy in the process. Parents bring their youngsters to a place where they hope they will be safe, successful and happy, and they will continue the process of growing up. They turn their youngsters over to professors, administrators, dorm directors, and—for Catholic parents—campus ministers who seek to assist their growth in faith. "
"A rather unexpected set of circumstances has provided the impetus for the topic of this column. Last week, Russ Spencer from FOX 5 News invited me to comment on the widespread and obviously increasing level of anxiety that many people are feeling in the wake of the various natural and economic disasters that are now besetting us. Like everyone else, I know that we have faced an extraordinary number of unsettling events recently and we sometimes might feel as though the world is spinning out of control. We are all alarmed by the presence of violence and worried by the events of life over which we seem to have little or no control."
"As you are reading this column, I will be en route back home from a mission trip to Nigeria where two of the bishop delegates that I met at the 2009 Synod for Africa had invited me for a visit. Archbishop Valerian Okeke of the Archdiocese of Onitsha and Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of the Archdiocese of Abuja had asked me over a year ago to come on a pastoral visit to these two local Churches. I was honored to accept their kind invitation. Nigeria has sent many of its sons and daughters to reside in Atlanta, and more than a few of those sons and daughters are priests and women religious who enrich this local Church through their ministry and generous spiritual witness."
"During the past couple of weeks, I have run into a number of folks at the grocery store, the cleaners, and the gas station—usually I was in casual attire and garnered a few quizzical glances before we identified one another as a member of a parish or from a school in the Archdiocese. Summertime is filled with many such informal encounters as lots of people are on vacation or away from their ordinary routines—including the Archbishop! "
"The following homily was delivered by Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory at the closing Mass, on the vigil of the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, at the 2011 Eucharistic Congress."
"The last time our Archdiocesan Pastoral Council met, one of the recommendations that was raised on the agenda for our consideration was the possibility of having more remote preparation time for the new Missal changes that are scheduled to take place on the First Sunday of Advent this year."
"I used Skype for the first time last week to video chat with one of our seminarians who is currently studying in Mexico. For those of you who, like myself, continue to be initiated into the 21st-century’s communication opportunities by our younger colleagues, Skype is a computer-generated video-telephone service. You can see the other person by means of a small camera mounted on the computer as you speak with them, and they, of course, can see and speak with you. The projected image reminded me of the early years of television, but like that now common household appliance, I am sure that those pictures will continue to improve and grow sharper with each succeeding development."
"Idyllic times from the past appear attractive to all of us! We all like to remember those moments when life was more harmonious and seemed more “user friendly.” No matter what our current age might be, each of us can recall a moment from the past that seems better than today. The Book of the Acts of the Apostles is filled with the description of idyllic times for our Church. Those early moments of our history were overflowing with experiences that all of us perhaps wish we could now live and claim as our own. "
"Marie B. Craig was the 96-year-old mother of my now-deceased classmate and cherished childhood friend, Father Larry Craig. Larry died suddenly five years ago of an aneurysm, and Marie died last Wednesday. I had continued to call her on those certain special days, Larry’s birthday, our ordination anniversary and, of course, on Mother’s Day. She was always so glad to hear my voice, as I was comforted to hear hers. I had known her gentle voice for nearly 50 years since I first met her son when we were high school students in the prep seminary in Chicago back in 1961."
"The joyful celebration of Holy Week is made possible in our parishes because of the great and generous kindness of so many parishioners, who pitch in to help their community of faith achieve all of the projects and plans needed to have beautiful ceremonies that mark that most important time of the Christian year. Thanks to the countless numbers of people who sang, read, cleaned, decorated, served, assisted around the altar and then attended our Holy Week celebrations throughout North Georgia!"
"Ecumenical dialogue requires patience, determination and a great deal of humility. Humility in ecumenical dialogue does not indicate that one partner does not believe firmly in the theological or doctrinal truths of their faith heritage. Humility means that the dialogue partners realize that the ecumenical dialogue is the work of God’s Holy Spirit and that it is always done in respectful response to the Lord Jesus’ prayer that unity would be the state of His Church. The Roman pontiffs who have governed the Church for the past half-century have all worked and prayed for the advancement of many different ecumenical initiatives. Fortunately the initiatives of the Roman pontiffs have also been matched by the equally sincere work and the prayer of leaders in other Churches and ecclesial communities. The now famous and poignant picture of Pope Paul VI embracing the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras has become a model of their fraternal respect and affection and is represented in many artistic expressions of the ongoing ecumenical dialogue over the past decades. Both men were harshly criticized by those who see the ecumenical dialogue as a betrayal of their churches’ doctrine. "
"Each year the rather restrained season of Lent is interrupted by two extremely festive events—the feasts of St. Patrick and St. Joseph—coming annually in rapid succession. On these two days, we tend to set aside our penitential feelings to praise God for sending these two wonderful men into the heart of the Church. Saints are very important to Catholics, and Patrick and Joseph are among the most popular of them all."
"At the conclusion of the Confirmation ceremony at Prince of Peace Parish a week ago last Sunday evening, Father Eric Hill announced the schedule for Ash Wednesday services to the standing-room-only crowd. He concluded his remarks with the reminder that on Ash Wednesday there would be no self-ashing available! While everyone chuckled at the comment, I kept thinking about his unusual admonition for the next several days—and how very true it was for the entire Church."
"Canon 511 from the 1983 Code of Canon Law may not be one of the more recognized of the Church’s canons, perhaps because it addresses the issue of the optional establishment of a diocesan pastoral council. In many respects, I continue to find it to be one of the most beneficial of all of the canons governing my service as a diocesan bishop. For more than 15 years, I have been graced with the wisdom, recommendations and observations of the members of the diocesan pastoral councils in both the Diocese of Belleville, Ill., and now here in the Archdiocese of Atlanta. This forum provides me with an irreplaceable insight into the heart of the local Church. It also affords me the opportunity to hear candidly and to respond to the voices of the people of God entrusted to my pastoral care."
"During the past couple of weeks the Gospel selections at daily Mass have provided us with a number of narratives of Jesus’ healing power and ministry. We begin each calendar year with quite a few examples of Jesus’ outreach to and care for the sick. One of the conclusive signs of the era of the Messiah according to Scripture would be the healing of the sick. This would be a powerful indicator of the messianic moment not only because illness was such a source of mystery for the ancients who lacked our medical sophistication, but because sickness remains a concern even in our sophisticated contemporary world. Knowing about an illness and being able to cure it remain a definite challenge for our world today—no less than in days past."
"Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Atlanta brings compassion and hope to the lives of countless thousands of people in North Georgia every year. This agency is our local branch of an organization that has been identified with the charitable mission of the Catholic Church in the United States for more than 100 years."
"For six years I have been warned by many of you of what a serious and crippling impact too much snow and ice can have on us in North Georgia. But as a native-born Chicagoan who had lived through many previous significant snow events in my life (including the January 1967 Chicago record snowfall of 23 inches in 30 hours during my sophomore year in college seminary), I took those warnings with a grain of salt. I am now a firm believer!"
"Frequently, matters come to my attention through my unexpected contact with our folks that linger with me for a very long time. Recently one of those types of issues was presented to me in the form of a comment from a lady outside of our Cathedral, and it touched me deeply. She lamented the lack of serious public attention to the violence that Catholics in many different places have recently endured throughout the world. At first blush, her obvious distress might have seemed to me like a personal criticism, but after a few moments, she disclosed that she was simply voicing a concern that many other people have, and although she was speaking directly to the Archbishop, she was really challenging all of us to take these matters much more seriously. "
"The celebration of the Christmas Mystery is an annual opportunity for all of us to recall many cherished moments from our own personal pasts. We all have memories of Christmases that we knew from the past, especially the ones that we experienced when we were youngsters, and those memories always seem to be dominant in how we now understand the great event of God becoming Man in Christ. "
"One of the traditions that I have established since becoming the Archbishop of Atlanta—and one that has proven to be a great source of encouragement and insight for me and I trust for those who participate in this custom—is an annual gathering of the provincial leadership of the religious communities currently serving in the Archdiocese of Atlanta. There are 17 women religious congregations and 17 men religious congregations currently represented in the archdiocese. (I think that identical representation is a happy coincidence.) Each year we begin with the celebration of Mass, an enjoyable lunch, followed by open conversation regarding life here in the archdiocese as well as matters of interest and importance for those in Consecrated Life within this local Church."
"According to a commonly held national tradition, the first Thanksgiving observance was accomplished as a multicultural feast—the newly arrived settlers and the Native Americans shared a common meal to signify their gratitude for having survived a harsh winter and in thanks for the plentiful harvest. We all enjoy believing that this first shared meal brought people from diverse backgrounds together in friendship and peaceful harmony. Unfortunately, we do not currently possess any clear written documents to verify our traditions, which have only increased over the decades and now include the very festive and elaborate meal that we will share with our families and friends this week. There is something stirring and encouraging about this established feast, no matter what its exact origins might have been. "
"I enjoy visiting the parishes of the Archdiocese of Atlanta and having the occasion to encounter our people personally. Even those casual conversations that sometimes take place under unexpected circumstances often give me much food for thought and prayer. After a confirmation ceremony the other day, a gentleman stopped me during the reception and asked me this question: “Archbishop, do you think that Jesus told jokes?” I told him that I was personally quite convinced that the Lord has a well-developed sense of humor, and I am equally certain that Jesus frequently laughed. And when I consider all of the members of the Church, those people that He has chosen to be His own, I am even more convinced that He can appreciate comedy. After further reflection, I think that the man’s question was even more profound than it might have appeared to me on the surface: “Does the Lord call us to joy?” "
"Last Monday evening I had to fly to New York City for a Tuesday meeting of a committee that I serve on with Archbishop Timothy Dolan, Cardinal William Keeler, Bishop Basil Losten and a number of Reform rabbis and Catholic and Jewish leaders. This dialogue has been going on now for several years and aims at bolstering the honored bonds that unite Catholics and Jews in our country. It is a fascinating venture and one in which I am pleased to participate. We recently have focused our conversations on some issues that impact both of our communities. Last spring, we discussed the disturbing trend of the loss of our people to other religious traditions or to no religious practice at all. Both of our faiths suffer from this disturbing trend, and we have much to learn from one other in finding ways to stem this tide. "
"Life inside the papal apartment is generally a very private matter, and rarely do we catch a glimpse of how the Holy Father might spend the few hours when he is alone and not engaged in prayer, study or private meetings. Occasionally, however, we do get some snippets of what some of the recent Holy Fathers’ personal joys might include. Usually these are never confirmed officially but continue to survive aided by a persistent casual observation or two."
"Our Lady of LaSalette is one of two Church-endorsed Marian devotions that were begun in France during the middle of the 19th century. Along with Lourdes, the images of the Blessed Virgin from these apparitions have journeyed throughout the world. They are well recognized among millions of people. The message of hope that Mary left with the youngsters outside Grenoble and with the youthful Bernadette in Lourdes has spread far beyond the borders of France. So too has her call for us to repent and to seek God’s forgiveness, and without a doubt our society needs to heed that message no less than did the people of 19th-century France. "
"Since I began writing a regular column back in 1995 I have never repeated a column for either The Messenger, the Belleville, Ill. diocesan newspaper, or The Georgia Bulletin, our own archdiocesan newspaper. The issues upon which I reflect are always changing and unique to each community that I have been privileged to serve, and they vary with time and with circumstances. In spite of that I have looked back on the events that surrounded September 11, 2001, and the situations that we face today, nine years later. What I wrote in response to 9/11 at that time bears repeating today. This is especially the case since we seem to have forgotten some of the lessons which that tragedy taught us about tolerance, respect for others, national unity and the importance of not demonizing others because of the differences that distinguish us."
"This summer three special celebrations came together on my calendar, and they all honored and offered an opportunity for us to express our gratitude to some of the women religious serving in the Archdiocese of Atlanta."
"During the course of each year, the Archdiocese of Atlanta hosts several events to commemorate special anniversary occasions. We begin the year each February with the annual vespers and supper for those in consecrated life, when we recognize our religious men and women who have reached a significant milestone within their religious communities. Later in the year, we then pause to celebrate the special jubilees of our priests in the spring. Since becoming the Archbishop, I have established the tradition of bringing together the couples in our diocese observing their 50th or 60th wedding jubilees for a celebration of that blessed event during the fall. Remarkable moments deserve a special pause to praise God for His goodness and to celebrate the accomplishments of people’s fidelity to the promises made in their youth and then lived faithfully over a lifetime."
"When Archbishop Paul Hallinan received Atlanta’s first auxiliary bishop in 1966, the archbishop at that time was suffering from the acute hepatitis that two years later would claim his life. Bishop Joseph Bernardin arrived from the Diocese of Charleston to assist the ailing Archbishop of Atlanta. The Catholic population of the Archdiocese of Atlanta in 1966 was approximately 50,000. Last year at this very time, we received our second auxiliary bishop—but there were some very different circumstances that prompted this appointment. We needed an auxiliary bishop not because the archbishop was sick but because we now have so many Catholics, parishes, ceremonies and events that one bishop simply cannot attend to all of the many activities that require the presence of a bishop! "
"The three boys sitting behind me at the Delta airport lounge appeared to range in age from about 15 to 10 years old. They were obviously traveling with their dad, and the four were noticeably pleased to have just met Francis Cardinal George, their archbishop. The Tampa International Airport was overflowing with departing bishops heading home last Saturday from our June assembly in Florida. The sight of so many clerics and the encounter with their own bishop evidently prompted one of the youngsters to declare: “Maybe I’ll become a priest.” It was that proclamation that piqued my interest as I began to pay closer attention to their ensuing conversation. Their father was not only open to the possibility that one of his sons might want to become a priest—he was even encouraging of that option. I was relieved to hear his reaction. With three young sons, I am certain that he had entertained other such conversations about possible vocations, but in today’s environment, to have a young dad send a clear and positive message to a son about the priesthood was reassuring and refreshing."
"As is typically the case with any significant parish event, there are usually many people who work quietly behind the scenes to make special celebrations go smoothly. The behind-the-scenes folks often prefer not to step into the limelight; they like being the workforce that goes about their business without much fanfare. Occasionally even when the list of contributors is being assembled, they insist on not having their names included. Nevertheless our Eucharistic Congresses are much more than simple parish events, and they depend upon the assistance of countless hundreds of volunteers, donors and helpers and therefore I would like to draw those wonderful folks into the limelight of this column! You were spectacular! As I roamed the halls of the Georgia International Convention Center, I saw so many folks who were quietly helping this Congress go smoothly, and they were successful well beyond their ability to know. I thank them in my name and in the names of all of those who attended this year’s Eucharistic Congress."
"For the past six years I have observed the tradition of celebrating Mass on Memorial Day at one of our two national cemeteries here in the Archdiocese of Atlanta—either the new cemetery in Canton or the historic cemetery in Marietta. Both places resonate with the cherished memories of thousands of our military veterans and their families who are interred there. Both cemeteries hold the legacy of bravery that our American military personnel have bequeathed to this nation in their dedication and sacrifices for our freedom. I am happy to observe with so many of you who annually attend these Masses a moment of gratitude for the heritage of service that these places enshrine."
"Last week an important national gathering held at Notre Dame University brought together a team of Catholic people who represent the great diversity of cultures, ethnic groups, races and regions of our Church in the United States of America. The conference was called by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and approximately a dozen bishops, including myself, took part. The papal nuncio, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, attended as well in an obvious expression of the Holy See’s encouragement for and interest in this topic. The face of Christ Himself was represented in this gathering—and what a glorious and beautiful face it is."
"I owe a personal apology to three young people at Queen of Angels Parish in Thomson for not being able to visit the parish for their confirmation because of the weather system that settled into our area on Saturday afternoon. Some flooding in low-lying areas suggested that it would be wise for me to designate their pastor, Father Bill Williams, to celebrate their confirmation since the weather patterns that afternoon predicted that things would get much worse before they got any better on Saturday evening. While I have already written to them with my regrets, this last-minute change in my plans was another sign that none of us is ever completely in charge of our own lives and our plans are always subject to the power of God’s creation. "
"The small voice behind me quietly proclaimed to me: “I’m from Atlanta!” Michael, a third-grader from St. Catherine of Siena School in Kennesaw, introduced himself to me as we were lined up just about to begin Mass at the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) Convention that was held in Minneapolis during Easter Week. He was obviously there with a parent or two in attendance at this annual gathering of Catholic teachers and catechists. When his big grin revealed those shiny braces and his obvious joy at finding his Archbishop, I understood, once again, what a great privilege and responsibility that all those of us who are engaged in Catholic education assume in caring for our youngsters. "
"This week in great metropolitan communities, in remote tropical locations, and in little rural villages throughout the world, Catholics will recall the events that mark our salvation. We will listen to the words of Sacred Scripture and follow the ritual traditions that are now almost two thousand years old that recall and renew the Mystery of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection for all of us in this year of 2010. We celebrate what began as the faith experience of a handful of believers."
"Anyone who has ever sought membership in a professional society or at a prestigious athletic club knows that the process usually involves having a sponsor. The application procedure includes not only the customary factual information about your background, but also the witness of someone who is already a member and who can attest that you are a person who will fit into the organization, follow the rules of the society and be a good member of the club. The Church uses sponsors in much the same fashion. During the Rite of Election, the candidates who will soon become fully initiated members of our Church were accompanied by their sponsors who spoke on their behalf and assured the Church that these soon-to-be full members are good prospective Catholics."
"Archbishop Timothy Dolan wrote to me at the beginning of Advent last year asking me to provide some high profile support and publicity for the tremendous work of Catholic Relief Services, which functions as the preeminent international outreach ministry of the Catholic Church in the United States to the needy and suffering in more than 100 countries throughout the world. Archbishop Dolan serves as the chairman of the board of CRS. Coincidentally, I had already scheduled a meeting in Advent with Jim Lund, a Chicago friend who now serves on the national staff of CRS and some local representatives here in the Archdiocese of Atlanta who also asked me to consider doing that very same thing. Then the earthquake struck Haiti and the work of CRS was clearly visible to all who saw their presence and effectiveness in responding to this particular disaster."
"Like a lot of Catholics who spent their formative years in the first half of the last century, my maternal grandmother was never completely convinced that the Lenten practices that our Church implemented in the second half of that same century were really kosher! She often recalled the Lenten customs that she had to observe as a young woman in the 1920s when Catholic Lenten traditions were much more rigorous and unquestionably mandatory. As much as I loved her, I had to remind her that the Church had followed many different Lenten customs over the years that were alternately more demanding or less arduous according to national customs, during times of war, and even regarding the age, health, and working conditions of people. Yet she had a point! The Lenten customs of her youth did demand far more from most Catholics than ours do today."
"I should have remembered that any person who is in serious pursuit of holiness in any age will routinely be positioned outside of a society’s standard for what is normal. As John Paul II’s life continues to be scrutinized under the procedures of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints that may lead eventually to his beatification, more and more public attention will be paid to the way that he lived his life. "
"Last Thursday evening as I was leaving Los Angeles, after celebrating the funeral Mass for Father Gerard P. Weber, the priest who had baptized me and then continued to serve as a mentor, friend and model for my priestly service, I approached the Delta ticket agent, silently hoping that the current increased security protocols would not slow my passage through LAX. The lovely lady smiled at me and then, without prompting, began reciting the Our Father. She said the whole prayer flawlessly as the people in back of me must have been wondering what this was all about. Then she told me that she had attended Catholic schools and learned that prayer there. She seemed unfazed by the people who were obviously waiting their turn at the ticket counter."
"“Notable passings in 2009” is the general category that nearly all media outlets use when cataloging their retrospectives on the deaths of the rich, powerful and famous people who have passed away during the previous year. When I typically check through the names of those that are to be found on those types of lists, I am increasingly aware that the people who make those lists are generally not the folks that I either would recognize as famous or well-known—with some notable exceptions, of course. I am also sure that the people who have died during the past year that I personally remember when looking back over 2009 would not make any media register of the rich, powerful or famous. But they are cherished by me and by many of you as well."
"This time of year always brings out the best in most of us. We are inclined to be more gentle and caring about one another. Even the news reports take time to broadcast many of the acts of charity and compassion that seem to abound during the weeks and days that surround Christmas. The lead stories in the newspapers often focus on the generosity of people rather than the violence and deception that seem to capture the headlines most of the time. There is a peacefulness about nature that seeps into our spirits during this time of year. I often wonder, why can’t we be this way all the time?"
"“Do you mind if I call you Father?” was the question from one of my young servers in the sacristy before the Notre Dame Academy Thanksgiving week Mass. Just as the principal was about to tell the young man my formal title, I intervened and told him that Father would be just fine with me! Later that same week, as I was pulling into Our Lady of Victory Catholic School to celebrate a Grandparents Day Mass, the young crossing guard who was busy assisting the kids as they entered the church called out to me, “Welcome, Mr. Archbishop!” I get lots of titles—especially from little ones! And none of them is ever unwelcome or intentionally impolite."
"“Please pray for me!” I have received requests like this almost every day of my life as a priest. Sometimes the prayer request is for a child who may have gone astray, or for a sick spouse, or to find a job, or simply to continue living the good fortune that has come into someone’s life. People believe in prayer, and they believe that my prayers for them are valuable. I take those requests very seriously, and I usually take them with me to the altar where I can quietly speak to the Lord about the needs of my people."
"One of the colossal questions regarding faith that somehow manages to touch, in some form or fashion, all of the world’s religions is the issue of evil and suffering. It remains the obstacle that keeps some people from joining a religious family. They simply cannot understand how an all-loving, all-powerful, all-knowing God can allow the horrible things that occur so regularly to touch our world. How could such a God tolerate hurricanes and tsunamis, devastating diseases and death, horrific violence and hatred to bring so much sorrow to so many people in our world? We know that evil is a reality, and yet we are all stymied to understand or explain why God permits such events to happen—especially to innocent people."
"Archbishop Gregory sent his column from Rome, Italy, where he is participating in the Synod of Bishops for Africa as a member chosen by Pope Benedict XVI. This is the third Synod of Bishops that I have attended, and I believe that I have begun to understand the typical dynamic of this collegial exercise of pastoral authority. First of all, I am amazed that the Holy Father is able to attend the vast majority of the sessions. He is the presider at every synod, and he convenes them. Yet his appointed leaders for the synod conduct the day-to-day business. The pope listens very carefully to the discussions and never interrupts the interventions. He truly wants to hear what the people of the Church have to say on the given topic. And although the bishops comprise the vast majority of the participants, there are always others who engage in the conversation."
"My brother, a bishop is called to exercise a three-fold office within the Church as you obviously are well aware. He must teach, govern and sanctify the People of God. Each dimension of a bishop’s service is important although your days will never unfold in such a neatly ordered sequence in regard to these three-fold responsibilities. In each pastoral activity that you undertake you will always be teaching, governing and sanctifying the people entrusted to your care. Yet it is helpful to consider each of these three responsibilities individually for the sake of our reflection in prayer today."
"No one that I know needs to be told or reminded that we have been enduring one of the more severe economic downturns in a very long time. The impact of our current financial situation is truly a global concern. And as in all such fiscal recessions, the poor are those who felt its impact first and deepest."
"Three years ago, the Archdiocese of Atlanta celebrated our 50th anniversary of diocesan foundation, and there were many people who told me of those pioneer moments in our rather brief history. Fifty years is a long enough time to merit celebration, but not so long a period as to lack some people who can recall the very foundation of a diocese or a parish. Indeed last Saturday, Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Decatur celebrated its 50th anniversary, and among the assembly were people who had been founding members of that community of Faith. "
"Newspapers of all sorts far and wide are facing significant financial trauma. Some of the oldest and most revered dailies are recognizing and attempting to respond to the universally changing horizon of the media. "
"Those of you who are the parents of teenagers or young adults are quite accustomed to having them introduce new words and phrases into your lives."
"Each one of our physical senses is a blessing from God, and they work in perfectly balanced harmony for most of us."
"Although people get married every day, and ordinations take place throughout the calendar year, this time of year seems to have a surplus of wedding anniversaries and priesthood ordination anniversaries."
"Patriotism is a deeply religious virtue!"
"Would St. Paul Twitter?"
"For the first millennium of Christianity there was one Church."
"The newest Catholics are an important reminder that God is still at work within His Church bringing forth life and hope for each generation."
"Most of us would tend to regard the profession of teaching as the fine art of transmitting learning from the teacher to the pupil, and indeed that is the ordinary progression and directional flow in the classroom."
"Last Thursday evening more than 550 people gathered for our second annual Catholic Charities Gala at the JW Marriott in Buckhead."
"Routinely over the past 50 years, I have had the great privilege of celebrating or participating in the ceremonies of the Triduum, but because of my temporarily limited mobility, this year I was obliged to pray those hours that I have never prayed before in the quiet of my home chapel."
"I don't know of any person who has not been repeatedly dismayed and shocked during these last few weeks with the news of too many acts of senseless and unpredictable violence."
"I praise God for giving this local Church so many skillful young priests who apparently have taken to their first pastorates like 'ducks to water.'"
"Perspective shades the way we all tend to view things...Three weeks ago, I tore my Achilles tendon playing racquetball."
"Each penance should fit the person and not be so difficult as to guarantee frustration and ultimate failure."
"To have fire damage any church building is a deeply felt sorrow for the parishioners and should touch the hearts of all of their fellow Catholics."
"I welcome all those within the Archdiocese of Atlanta who will grace us through the Easter Sacraments in a few weeks’ time."
"Our Archdiocesan Pastoral Council is developing into a forum of wisdom and dialogue."
"Last Saturday evening, I heard a homily that caused me to reflect in faith upon an experience that I had also shared."
"The Franciscans will be participating in "A Chapter of Mats" this April to mark their eighth century of establishment in 1209."
"When folks encounter a warm and sincere welcome at the church door, they are inclined to return."
"I'm going to school this week!"
"I often feel that this time of the year is a triptych for Catholics in North Georgia because we celebrate in rapid succession three different, although thematically related, moments during the middle of January."
"The time that I spent with little ones last week was a blessing for me since it reminded me of how much the Church depends upon the witness of Faith that children find in their homes and in the lives of their parents."
"After four years, I think that I have identified one of the more important characteristics of ecclesial life in the Archdiocese of Atlanta—we are a community that welcomes diverse cultural traditions, usually with only minor difficulty!"
"May 2009 be a year of grace and peace for each home and heart in this local Church."
"The excitement of this wondrous season is now noticeably upon us as we prepare to celebrate the Mystery of Christmas—the free choice of God Almighty to become one with us, born an Infant of a Virgin Mother."
"'It was the best of times; it was the worst of times'."
"Monday marked the 50th anniversary of the horrible Our Lady of the Angels School fire that claimed 92 young lives and the lives of three women religious."
"We thank God at this time of year, as the harvest is gathered in and the bounty of the earth gives us reasons to once again acknowledge that we have received disproportionately more than our labors merit."
"I like to hold the door open for those who come into God's house."
"I suggest that before you purchase your Christmas cards and stamps, you pause to remember that Christmas is a religious holiday and festival. It is the commemoration of the Birth of the Word Made Flesh."
"The bonds of the Church are not broken with death; we are called to pray for those who are still completing their journey into the fullness of life with God."
"I deliberately chose to save this column until the final weekend before our election so that I could speak with you about these issues in those closing moments before you cast your ballots."
"The other day, I happened to receive a spam message that read “quit your boring job!” I laughed out loud at the suggestion that my job was “boring.”"
"October is the month of the Holy Rosary and like the month of May, Catholics everywhere seem to be drawn to the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary."
"There are no people who are 'just a Catholic.' "
"Life has changed for all of us."
"An important, universal and unavoidable dimension of adolescence is hero admiration."
"I began writing this weekly column almost 15 years ago, soon after beginning my service as the bishop of Belleville, Ill...I now look upon it as a great blessing and a vital expression of my responsibility as a bishop of the Church."
"To be a disciple is to become a person fixed on the challenges of tomorrow."
"May all of our priests now listen carefully to that Spirit whispering to each one of us."
"Faith is a lifelong journey..."
"I love sports, and what I may lack in athletic talent, I try to make up for in enthusiasm."
"Some of you might wonder: 'What do bishops talk about when they get together?' We talk about you!"
"Mary did it for us!"
"We Americans are all too accustomed to our personal liberty trumping all other concerns, but there are times when the common good must triumph over personal freedom."
"While schedules do not permit me to attend all of the separate graduation events that fill the calendars of our schools, I wanted to share with all of our graduates some personal reflections that I was able to offer to those whose ceremonies I did attend so far this year..."
"Each generation should have a place of honor within the community of the Church."
"I urge all of you to become more familiar with the work of the Hawthorne Dominican Sisters and our Cancer Home on our archdiocesan Web site."
"Marriage is a public promise that brings reassurance and happiness to two individual hearts and to the heart of the Church."
"Viva il Papa!"
"The Catholic Church in the United States of America will be the focus of intense media attention this week because Peter will be in our midst!"
"These [building] projects confirm the obvious growth and expansion of the church throughout the Archdiocese of Atlanta. They are indications that we are an increasing community of Faith."
"Forty years after the deaths of Archbishop Hallinan and Dr. King, we should consider the progress that we have made as an archdiocese and as a nation a splendid and well-deserved tribute to the goodness of both of these men."
"Titles are very important and wonderful, but the way that we treat one another is far more significant."
"This week, I will bless oils, wash feet, walk the way of the Cross, ignite a new fire, bathe and anoint new Catholics and, above all, gaze upon the faces of those who hold our Catholic Faith sacred in their lives."
"Since we are about to begin a concentrated period of the celebration of the sacrament of confirmation in the weeks following Easter, I think it might be helpful for me to remind our parents and youngsters in their consideration of just who will fulfill that role in the lives of our confirmandi."
"Catholic social teaching is a rich source of good judgment and moral perspective on a host of public policy issues."
"...the Catholic Church is thriving in this archdiocese and ... parishes play such a vital role in passing on the faith."
"These families represent the diversity of our Archdiocese and most of them over the years have discovered many ways of encouraging and supporting their relatives who have special needs but who also possess special gifts for the life of their families and the Church."
"May all of us pursue the grace of these 40 days with intense confidence in God’s grace—even if the sobriety and restraint that usually describes Lent for most of us was a bit tardy this year."
"May our Catholic schools continue to provide the same type of atmosphere of faith, excellence and joy that caused a certain young man to seek out the baptismal font … and eventually the Priesthood of Jesus Christ."
"Communications and media capabilities have made it possible for on-the-spot sharing of information, which can and should be a tremendous blessing in bringing the human family together."
"It snowed twice last week, a rare event for Atlanta, and I could not help but chuckle that God’s way of responding to our prayer is often not what we might have envisioned when we originally asked Him to help us."
"I always feel very much like a parent when I visit the seminaries where our students are enrolled."
"Epiphany is the feast that reminds the Church of the gifts that the three kings offered the Infant Christ. These women religious certainly are gifts to this local Church."
"Let us begin this New Year of 2008 with a renewed willingness to trust in God’s grace and design for each of us."
"The past is a treasure-the present a blessing! Merry Christmas, my dear sisters and brothers!"
"Set aside some time in an already busy calendar for the sacrament of Penance during these closing days of Advent."
"I'm back at work, and I have returned with a profound experience of the love and prayerful support of so many people in our Archdiocese!"
"This time of year is often described as a time that belongs to children-in fact, the entire Kingdom of God belongs to them!"
"God willing, I will be in attendance at the November [U.S. Bishops' Conference] meeting next year, and I know most of the pastoral challenges will be there since as bishops we must continue to confront all of the current difficulties that belong to us as the pastors of the Church at this moment in time and that will await us tomorrow."
"The list of people who frequently go above and beyond what we might have originally expected is much longer than we occasionally hope for. And whether they do so as an expression of professional competence or as an example of their faith, we can often see Christ present in their actions."
"Whether it be the distribution of contraceptives to our youngsters, or the defense of abortion on demand...if enough people approve of these activities, our world seems to be willing to think that they are OK or appropriate."
"I believe that I have received expert medical advice and that I will have the best of medical care. ... I anticipate returning to a fully active schedule after my recuperation."
"On Monday morning, Nov. 5, I will undergo prostate surgery at Emory University Hospital. I was diagnosed with the early stage prostate cancer after a biopsy in September."
"An important component of every bishop's ministry, no matter where he might serve, is his chancery."
"I invite all Catholics to include in your personal prayers an intention for rain so that the earth that we are entrusted with will be spared even greater damage."
"...the best vocational advertisement continues to be happy, joyful and positive priests and Religious who convey with our enthusiasm, smiles and laughter that God is doing something wonderful in our lives and that He might be willing to do the same in your life-given half the chance."
"...the summer slow-down [is] officially over and that life here in the Church in North Georgia [is] gearing up for an exciting fall and future!"
"We who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ and yet who find ourselves fragmented must embrace and give serious attention to the prayer of Jesus that we all be one."
"Family history remains an important interest for most people even today, and it has a special significance for our young people to learn about their own personal heritage and family origins."
"Let us pray for this great nation of ours that we may truly be a source of hope and freedom in a world that is so different and more fragile than it was on Sept. 11, 2001."
"People are intrigued by the fact that a woman of such enormous and widely known charity and dedication could have experienced doubts of faith."
"I invite all of you, both individually and as parish families, to pray for the safety and well-being of people who live with the power of nature-and from my experience in three different homes, that pretty much includes all of us."
"Seminarians were very much on the minds and in the hearts of those in the Archdiocese of Atlanta within the past couple of weeks..."
"As school shuts down and the clocks are not set for such early hours of rising, as the sun comes up earlier and sets later, we can all enjoy a more leisurely pace. The persons that we are need "down time" to pause and to enjoy so many of God's abundant graces and gifts."
"Young people need to see that such forever promises are possible and that they bring joy, fulfillment and happiness."
"The liturgical calendar is another way that we live out our faith as Catholics. It marks our time as disciples of the Lord and opens for us the Mystery of Christ in a measured, steady fashion."
"Let us remember not only our military personnel on this day, but all of the families of those serving our nation in the armed forces at this time. They too deserve not only our prayerful support, but our deep and enduring gratitude as well."
"The other evening, I spent some time with about 200 of our teenagers for an evening of prayer."
"Mothers are pivotal in helping us come to appreciate, to accept, and to follow our Catholic Faith-or any other religious customs that we have."
"...after almost 24 years of Confirmations and more than 1,500 separate celebrations, it is still one of the activities that I love to do the most."
"Gladly do I pray for those who seek my prayers-and even those who may not have a chance to ask for them personally. I also rely on your prayers for me-because I too need them as a member of this family of believers."
"Selecting a college is a huge decision for every young person fortunate enough to have the opportunity for higher education."
"I celebrated Easter Sunday Mass in the Cathedral gymnasium, where the overflow crowd of young families and guests turned the auditorium into a warm church event. ... What a wonderful sight to behold so many people gathered in what might be considered less than ideal confines to sing with the church an Alleluia to the Risen Christ."
"May this Holy Week be a time for all of us to renew our faith, hope, and love in the Christ who has accomplished all of these things for love of us."
"We are a complex group of peoples who speak several different languages, come from diverse backgrounds, and face specific challenges as we bring our gifts to the Church. Yet the Sacraments that we share unite us to each other and to all Catholics..."
"...We recognized all of the treasures that we currently enjoy in the Archdiocese of Atlanta that are either directly or indirectly the results of so many Irish priests and Religious who helped to establish and continue to serve our parishes and institutions of today."
"Christ still seeks out the sick and wants to comfort them through our visits, our prayers, our cards and notes even today."
"Last Wednesday was Catholic Day at the Georgia Legislature...a watershed moment as the Legislature recognized and applauded the Catholic community here in Georgia. "
"Being a member of the Church means being one with all those who struggle to believe, to love, to serve others and to hope as we do."
"With a humble and contrite heart let us follow the Lord during these 40 days so that we will rise with Him anew at Easter."
"February is not usually associated with the celebration of many new things...Yet this February has been a bit different here in the Archdiocese of Atlanta because we have witnessed three new moments of exhilaration that defy the usual February gloom!"
"These men and women have surrendered their lives, as did the Infant Christ who was presented to God in the Temple-a fitting reminder of the generous surrender that is the hallmark of Religious Life."
"The holiness of Marriage is a matchless gift for the Church and a sign of Christ's Love for us, which is everlasting!"
"The Church in North Georgia has an important investment in the ecumenical dialogue because we live in a rich Christian environment but as a minority Christian presence."
"The Catholic Church in North Georgia is in a unique position to lead the way in showing how all people must live in unity and in mutual respect."
"Every priest is supposed to make a meaningful retreat each year—including bishops!"
"If the Lord is to come during this New Year, then we ought to live in such a way that we will welcome His return - even if He chooses not to return, that’s still pretty sound advice."
"And to you, my dearest brothers and sisters in Christ, may this Christmas be for all of us a moment of grace, happiness and joy. The Mystery of God becoming Man is not a secular feast; it is a moment when the whole world is made new."
"The Kenedy Directory report on the works of kindness that come from the people of this local Church will always be somewhat inaccurate because your goodness is beyond any real perfect measure-except for those records that are kept in God's Kingdom, and they record every act of charity flawlessly!"
"All of us need to remember that the reason for all of this frantic activity is to give ourselves to one another in the presents that we offer."
"After more than 33 years in the Priesthood of Jesus Christ, I have been fortunate to preside at most of the ministries that the Lord offers to His priests."
"We have a number of smaller parishes and missions just like St. Elizabeth Seton's, and some of our now-bustling urban parishes were once small communities like that. The Church in North Georgia exists in many different contexts, and each setting is a blessing."
"Atlanta has been uniquely blessed because we have benefited from the many people who have come here to make their home in North Georgia."
"Saint Joseph's Hospital has embarked upon an ambitious capital campaign, 'Creating the Future of Health Care for Atlanta,' to ensure that future care given to those who seek healing at this outstanding institution is professionally state-of-the-art and that the hospital is financially secure."
"During those years of college, the Church needs to reassure these young people that Faith is not something that you grow out of but something that you grow into. The campus ministry programs are intended to do just that."
"Our Catholic Faith is a beacon that sheds light on the most complex social issues. Don't forget your light when you cast your vote."
"Poverty is a reality that knows few limits in the human condition, and none of us can ever completely ignore its presence."
"The Church has grown to depend upon the ministry of those who are deacons, and we still look for men of good repute to fill those ranks-whether for a brief time before they become our priests or for a lifelong commitment in that Office."
"I spent a bit of quality time last week with some of our young people..."
"Last Monday the Serrans of the Archdiocese of Atlanta hosted their annual Clergy Appreciation and Fun Day at Lake Lanier."
"When we look at the future, we must all be grateful for the work of the past...We want to be grateful for all the efforts of the true champions of our heritage who have laid the foundation for the successes that we enjoy today."
"Kindred Spirits – Singles 40 & Better...I endorse this group as an important expression of the mission of the Church."
"I have found the members of the Council of Catholic Women to be the most generous participants in Church life that one could ever hope to encounter."
"The interview was a fascinating exchange and gave the world an informative glimpse into the man who is now our Holy Father. "
"...the Archdiocese of Atlanta is growing and developing into an evermore vibrant community of Faith, and we need to find ways to provide for those services that are the obvious result of 50 years of growth and faith - a happy problem to be sure."
"It’s good to be back!"
"Thank you for the Eucharistic Congress!"
"We are an Archdiocese that is richly blessed by people who have settled here and made us a community every bit as diverse as that one described in the story of the first Pentecost."
"May all of the youngsters in North Georgia enjoy a safe, happy, and blessed summertime."
"Old traditions and new customs blend well in May, as we give thanks to God for the care and protection that His Mother provides for us all - no matter where we might be."
"Congratulations to all of our graduates and to their parents throughout the Archdiocese of Atlanta!"
"I spent most of last Saturday afternoon with a group of Scouts from various parishes in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, who assembled at Saint John Neumann Parish for the annual Scouts Mass and Award ceremony."
"Southern Catholic College may well be the newest Catholic college in the United States."
"This past week another group attended a convention in Atlanta—the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) held its first convention in our Archdiocese."
"When do any of us become Catholics?"
"Holy Week is transforming. It changes us, as we all understand more perfectly how truly magnificent is Christ's love for us all."
"During the rest of this year, we will celebrate our 50th anniversary with a series of events intended to allow this happy occasion to touch as many people as possible."
"We are urged to visit the sick by none other than the Lord Himself: “‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ … He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’” (Mt 25:37,40)"
"This past week—on two separate occasions—I had the opportunity to renew my esteem and respect for the Benedictines."
"This is one of the most challenging columns that I have ever composed since there were so many diverse and wonderful things that I saw and heard last week in Colombia, South America."
"This weekend, I celebrated four separate Rites of Election throughout the Archdiocese."
"The season [of Lent] has a threefold focus - prayer, penance and acts of charity."
"In two different locations, separated by only a few miles, two groups of young Catholics from the Archdiocese of Atlanta rejoiced in the Faith that unites us all this past Saturday."
"This past Tuesday, I held an interview with a local newspaper reporter. The predictable topic was a reflection on my first year as Archbishop of Atlanta—the high and the low points."
"January is a time to recommit ourselves to the promotion of the dignity of all human life."
"During the course of the past year, I heard many of the stories of the Faith legacy of our Archdiocese."
"My prayer for you, Dear Brothers and Sisters, is that as we all sing the songs that remind us of God’s Great Gift, we will carry the spirit and the deep meaning of Christmas into a New Year of Hope and Peace for all those that we love and for all those that need our love."
"Last Thursday evening, it rained! It was not a very good night to take a walk, but it was nonetheless a wonderful evening to honor the Mother of God under Her title of the Immaculate Conception."
"The word itself sounds quite specialized, but it’s really quite ancient and very simple in its implication: intergenerational."
"Advent more often than not begins quietly with a simple change of color of vestments, with the first display and lighting of the Advent wreath and with the replacement of the Ordo (the liturgical calendar) in the sacristy."
"This first Thanksgiving will remind me that almost one year ago to the day, I received a telephone call from the Papal Ambassador informing me that Pope John Paul II had nominated me Archbishop of Atlanta."
"I receive a lot of mail that includes requests for a meeting with me!"
"I celebrated Mass this week in two different cemeteries, which at face value may not be all that earthshaking because after all we did observe All Souls Day on Nov. 2."
"What do you do when 20,000 teenagers stop by for a visit? Well, after you catch your breath, you confidently turn to the amazing people of the Archdiocese of Atlanta to help plan for our largest ever youth conference."
"On one of the final evenings of my trip to Rome, I had a pizza with a friend of mine who works at the Congregation for the Saints, the Vatican office that oversees the processes for canonizations."
"Kids Say the Darndest Things!"
"Unless you happen to be one of our high school students enrolled in a Western civilization class, you right now might be asking yourself “what was so important about the Battle of Lepanto and why would students trudge off to find out where it took place?"
"For the next three and a half weeks, I will be composing my column in Rome where I am attending the 11th Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops."
"Now you might be thinking—has the new Archbishop become “a tree-hugging environmentalist”?? Not really, but I am one who believes that we must all be more careful with the resources that we use all too often with little reflection on their scarcity."
"We are living the very motto that we find on our American currency, e pluribus unum “from the many there is one.” "
"T.S. Eliot begins his poem “The Wasteland” with the proposition that “April is the cruelest month.” Many Americans would have to disagree with the poet and say that September, at least recently, has been the far crueler month."
"Human beings can only look at so much violence without eventually experiencing personal trauma and shock."
"...pictures are an important part of a family’s history and heritage."
"Several couples that I have known for all of my years as a Priest are observing their 50th wedding anniversaries during the coming year."
"We have just about 200 permanent Deacons serving the Archdiocese. They are an exceptionally generous and dedicated group of men, most of whom have equally generous and devoted wives."
"I did not know...that American Sign Language is the third most common language used in the United States, after English and Spanish."
"In the three dioceses (Chicago, Belleville and Atlanta) that I have been blessed to serve, it’s always called the same name: “downtown.”"
"No bishop can have a “favorite parish” any more than a parent can have a “favorite child.”"
"Lay organizations abound in this local Church."
"One of my carefully selected questions to ask our youngsters at Confirmation is, “Do you have a favorite prayer and who taught it to you?”"
"“The Spirit of the Lord fills the whole world. It holds all things together and knows every word spoken by man!”"
"Like most of you, I associate Mother’s Day with the wonderful gift of my own mother."
"The gentle and compassionate face of Christ is found in both of these places as the Church ministers to those who have so very little."
"When you read this column, you will already know the name of the new Pope, Benedict XVI, and you may be busy following all of the news reports regarding his background, his age, his national origin, his hobbies, his plans for the Church—even though the new Pope will not have had much time to do or say much more than his willingness to serve the Lord’s Church faithfully."
"One of the frequent, if not favorite, questions that youngsters like to ask me is: “Is it fun being the Archbishop?”"
"I have received so many verbal, written and electronic expressions of condolence and sympathy at the death of Pope John Paul II."
"As I looked into the eyes of the 30-plus newly baptized, professed, and confirmed Catholics at our Cathedral last Saturday evening, I could not help but to ask myself the question: What causes people to join the Catholic Church these days?"
"Jewish leaders in greater Atlanta hosted a luncheon last Friday, March 18, to welcome me as the new Roman Catholic Archbishop in North Georgia. It was a splendid event and one that helped me to understand even better the vitally important work of ecumenical and interfaith dialogue."
"Cemeteries are sacred vessels of a community’s heritage. "
"The Archdiocese of Atlanta is blessed with a large and evidently growing population of young adult Catholics."
"...I will celebrate Mass at the Cathedral of Christ the King as part of a vocations celebration. It will be an important opportunity for me to invite and to begin to meet the next generation of priests for Atlanta—so if you’re thinking about the priesthood, the Archbishop would like to pray with and to chat with you. Please come!"
"As I have already mentioned to many people, I am beginning this weekly column in The Georgia Bulletin. It will be a vehicle for me to communicate with the people of our Archdiocese. "