Domestic Violence Awareness Sunday – October 26th

As Catholics in the Diocese of Orange, we are committed to the protection of the life and dignity of every human person, not only during this Respect Life Month, but in our pastoral outreach and ministry as priests of Jesus Christ.  The Gospel of Life, so well-articulated by Pope Saint John Paul II, exhorts us to live this commitment in practical ways. Domestic violence is a hidden threat to our families and communities that demands more of us. As the U.S. Bishops wrote in When I Call for Help: “Violence against women, inside or outside the home, is never justified. Violence in any form—physical, sexual, psychological, or verbal—is sinful; often, it is a crime as well.” As parish priests we have all encountered our share of the spiritual and physical damage that ensues from this reality.

 

Domestic violence is far too common, affecting women and men, teenage dating relationships, children, and the elderly. Within Orange County, domestic violence is occurring even in our parishes and centers, across all ethnic and economic backgrounds. Domestic violence often occurs concurrently with other pro-life concerns. Here are just a few startling statistics:

  • 1 in 4 women will be physically assaulted by a jealous boyfriend or husband during her lifetime
  • 1 in 5 teenage girls will experience dating violence
  • Children who grow up in homes with domestic violence are more likely to become abusers or be abused
  • 90% of elder abuse is committed by family members
  • In Orange County, 26.3% of women surveyed said they have experienced domestic violence; the state average is 20.5%.

 

As pastors, parishes, and people of God, we are all called to be bearers of hope to those struggling with domestic violence. I am thankful to all of those who for years have been involved in this ministry, in our time we can respond to these challenges with God-given insights and resources we have now that were not perhaps accessible or understood in years past. We do so in order to make our parishes safe, healthy, healing, and hopeful places for those whose lives are touched by domestic violence, both the victims and the perpetrators. The Gospel offers hope to all and we are well-equipped to be communities that encourage all to find safety and shelter in the loving arms of our God, healing under the care of the Great Physician, and hope in the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

Strengthened by God’s grace, our call is certainly one of prayer, education, and being of assistance where we can and where the Lord calls us to be.   We can help break the cycle of violence by making our parishes places that can direct people affected by domestic violence to timely help and provide spiritual support along the way.

 

Thank you for all that you do to live and teach by the Gospel of Life by word and example.

 

__________

Bishop Vann has designated the last Sunday of Respect Life Month, October 26th, as Domestic Violence Awareness Sunday. Find out more about our Domestic Violence Awareness Initiative, community partners, and more resources: http://www.lifejusticepeace.org/programs-initiatives/domesticviolence/

 

RESPECT LIFE MONTH: “Misa de Intercesión para Familias con Hijos Discapacitados”

Respect life 4The month of October brings with it a number of themes, topics and prayers to be considered here in the United States, as it has been designated “Respect Life Month” by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  The packet that the Bishops receive, and accompanying materials, suggestions and prayers have always been helpful.  However, it seems to me, what can speak the strongest in this month (or indeed at any time) is when one encounters a “living Gospel” or living example of living the theme of Respect Life:  or indeed  when one sees the living result of “choosing life” in a person or family.  This echoes the words often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi “preach the Gospel and if necessary use words.”

This was certainly the case this year when for the second time, I celebrated the Intercession Mass for Families of Children with Disabilities, or in Spanish “Misa de Intercesión para Familias con Hijos Discapacitados.” This year was a celebration of the twenty-first anniversary of this Mass, sponsored by the Office for Hispanic Ministry of the Diocese of Orange and the Hispanic Consortium of Orange County. The Mass was held at the parish of St. Boniface in Anaheim, and the care, love of the families – many of them probably with financial struggles and some probably without proper documentation – had for their children (some of them adults by this time with elderly parents or aunts or uncles) was evident.  Some of the children couldn’t speak or had to be restrained and have constant attention by their families.  What was evident to me was how they loved their children and did not see them as a burden in any way.  Many introduced them to me proudly by name and asked for pictures.  I was deeply moved again this year, as was Fr. Gilberto, the pastor at St. Boniface.

These families chose to bring these children to birth, in spite of most likely, great culture and societal pressure for abortion.  It was clear here that a “no” to abortion means a resounding “yes” to life, to care and to support. The witness of the families present at this Mass certainly mirror the words of Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium (213).  This is a theme that the Holy Father takes up elsewhere also when he ways that “Among the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes to care for with particular love and concern are unborn children, the most defenseless and innocent among us.  Nowadays efforts are made to deny them human dignity and to do with them whatever one pleases, taking their lives and passing laws preventing anyone from standing in the way of this.  Frequently, as a way of ridiculing the Church’s efforts to defend their lives, attempts are made to present her position as ideological, obscurantist and conservative.  Yet this defense of unborn life is closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right.  It involves the conviction that a human being is always sacred and inviolable in any situation and at every stage of development.  Human beings are ends in themselves and never a means of resolving other problems.  Once this conviction disappears, so do solid and lasting foundations for the defense of human rights, which always be subject to the passing whims of the powers that be.”

Finally, speaking of “passing whims”, these families and their children are “easy targets” for language of “compassionate choice” that the currents of the assisted suicide and right to die movements use so often these days.  We always have to be very attentive and vigilant in this regard and commit ourselves to the proclamation of the inherent dignity of each and every human life.  The Holy Father’s apostolic exhortation certainly does this and urges us on.  Even more so, the love, faith and support of the Faith community for these families at yesterday’s Mass at St. Boniface does so even more!

 

Praying for rain—and the future

As crowds gathered in Huntington Beach recently for the Blessing of the Waves, I was struck by the majesty, might and beauty of the Pacific—particularly “mighty” that day with 6-foot swells and a powerful rip current. Big waves and their beauty can also mean, on the reverse side, evacuations and damaged homes in Mexico and record rainfall in Arizona and parts of California. Unfortunately, the rain fell so fast and hard that precious water became runoff rather than soaking into the ground to alleviate our drought.

Our relationship with nature, as part of nature, is full of contradictions. The beauty of nature can draw us to God, helping us to reflect on God’s creation—water is essential to our liturgical and celebrations. However, the consequences of a lack of water, or a deluge, can be catastrophic. We learn to adjust to seasons and changes in creation, from new farming techniques to fuels and construction materials. Listeners to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount knew that building one’s house on sand is foolish.

Nonetheless, technologies and methods have different consequences and sometimes what was once thought to be a rock-solid foundation shows cracks. Ours is a “throwaway culture” and it is not only things that are thrown away, but people as well. We know that adverse climate and environmental degradation always hurt the poor and vulnerable most. Catholic Relief Services witnesses these effects firsthand in countries where they work.

Here in Orange County we can take for granted our beautiful environment, fertile land, and stable weather. But we know that all this can change. Right now California is entering its fourth year of a record-setting drought. As my brother bishops and I wrote recently: The shortage of water illustrates how precious, and sometimes precarious, that connection can be…Californians have responded with support for fire victims, greater water conservation and realistic conversations on future water management. The solidarity and compassion that guide these efforts must become abiding habits of the heart as we discern the best way to ensure a sustainable future for the present and future generations of Californians.

What can we do? Ora et labora. Pray for the good of creation and work to conserve and increase our practices of sustainability. A great place to start is the work of the Catholic Climate Covenant, which has gathered a host of helpful resources (including the St. Francis Pledge) and actions that you can take, locally, nationally and globally, to care for God’s creation.

By the example and intercession of Saint Francis, may we protect creation, safeguarding the dignity of the human person and life itself. In the words of Pope Benedict (who wrote and spoke extensively about care for the environment and which was often overlooked): “My dear friends, God’s creation is one and it is good. The concerns for non-violence, sustainable development, justice and peace, and care for our environment are of vital importance for humanity. They cannot, however, be understood apart from a profound reflection upon the innate dignity of every human life from conception to natural death: a dignity conferred by God himself and thus inviolable.” Let us remember the One who has made each one of us and all the beauty we enjoy and let us worship our Creator with great joy and care.

 + Bishop Kevin Vann

Well Done Good and Faithful Servant and Friend: Fr. Benedict J. Groeschel CFR

groeschel   This past Saturday morning, as I was attending to some of my correspondence at home, I was reflecting on the death of my good friend Fr. Benedict Groeschel CFR.  Two thoughts came to me that day in various moments:  1) that he had his own “transitus” into Eternal Life at the same time of the celebration of the “transitus” of St. Francis.  How appropriate for someone who certainly was a son of St. Francis, through and through!  And 2) The words of exhortation during the ordination to the Diaconate refer to the destination of eternal life when the one ordained would hear “Well done good and faithful servant, enter now into the joy of your Lord.”   Truly, well done good and faithful servant, Fr. Benedict, may we accompany you as you enter into the joy of the Lord.  These words of the Catholic Rite of the Ordination to the diaconate are certainly in contrast to Fr. Benedict’s own jokes about purgatory being “drinking bubble gum soda and listening to tapes of his own talks.”

     I first got to know Fr. Benedict in the summer of l994 when I had the blessing to spend a week at Seton Hall University in South Orange at then Msgr. Andrew Cusack’s wonderful summer sessions for priests.  I spent part of the time listening to his conferences, and over the years we became good friends.  He became a good friend and a real help and support during some difficult times in my home Diocese.  He came to Springfield and I was able to assist him, as a canonist, with the proceedings in the testimony for a possible cause for beatification of Cardinal Cooke.

    I admired his care for the poor, his courage, his pro-life work and his willingness to speak about his concerns about inaccurate and poor Scripture Scholarship, and the absolute necessity of authentic living of religious life and one’s priestly vocation.  His courage and humor continued to inspire me, especially as I got to know well the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.   I am grateful to be considered among their “family.”  Sometimes others simply need someone to speak up and speak for authenticity and truth, and others will find the courage to follow. His fearlessness and courage to speak up on behalf of the unborn was a great inspiration to me and many others, and was especially evident in the coming into existence of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.  His gifts of courage, love and humor were a great gift to me and so many others, especially when I was able to visit him at Trinity Retreat.  I helped him at least once in distributing food for the poor in New York City.  

    He gave my ordination retreat nearly ten years ago when I was ordained the Bishop of Fort Worth and after that I was also blessed with the friendship of his family with his brother Ned and sister in law Dolores. His work “The Courage to be Chaste” was an invaluable reference for me when I was a parish priest and I still offer this book as a reference to others.  It is a book of hope and courage for those who struggle with, but still wish the grace and blessing of the virtue of chastity, and don’t know how to begin or take the challenging “narrow way”.  This book, like all of his work and ministry was done with great love and humor.  I would laugh again and again at his stories, particularly the one about Father Innocent Fuestler, OFM Cap, and the Capuchin Friary on the feast day of Our Lady of the Angels!  [The Friars will know exactly what I am speaking about!] His remembrances of Father Solanus Casey, OFM Cap, were also a great source of inspiration for many. 

   In his last major book which he authored (that I know of)  I Am With You Always: A Study of the History and Meaning of Personal Devotion to Jesus Christ for Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Christians [Ignatius Press, 2010] he wrote to me “To my dear friend Bishop Kevin Vann.  Oremus pro invicem.  Benedict.”  In the introduction to this book we find, I believe the foundation of his life and vocation:

    “To summarize this definition, we can define Christian devotion as a powerful awareness of or long for Christ’s presence, accompanied by a trustful surrender to Him of our personal needs.  To this is joined a willingness to do His will and a sense of repentance for any previous failure to do so.  We must true Him not only with our present need but also with the salvation of our souls and those we care about.  Finally, in some way we must anticipate our meeting with Him at the hour of death…Our personal response to these words and to that Presence is Christian devotion.  It was there when the first Christian martyrs surrendered in spirit to Christ.  That Presence and that devotion will also be there when the last Christian, at the point of death, prepares for the face-to-face encounter with the Risen Lord.”

    These words of introduction to this one of his last, but most profound writings were prophetic, I believe, for his own “transitus” to this past week to the Lord whom he loved and whom he served with great love, courage and humor.  Indeed, “Well done good and faithful servant, enter now into the joy of your Lord.”

   As we pray for him, may be pray for us that we may continue to labor in the Lord’s vineyard with the same love, courage and humor!

 

 

 

+Kevin W. Vann

 

Bishop of Orange

 

October 6, 2014

 

Feast of St. Bruno

 

 

                                                                              

Each of Us is a Masterpiece of God’s Creation!

October is upon us and Catholic Churches across the nation are observing Respect Life Month. Here in the Diocese of Orange, I have been blessed to encounter so many individuals, groups, and parishes committed to upholding the life and dignity of the human person. From the Mass for handicapped children and families, seeing the witness of immigrant families welcoming their children into this world rather than choosing abortion, to the recognition of Nancy Phan for her work saving lives and caring for women through Viet Respect Life; with Pastor Rick and Kay Warren, and so many wonderful people, gathered to address mental illness, and our diocesan Domestic Violence Awareness Initiative; we are working to remove stigmas and address threats to life. In our support for Proposition 47, California bishops have affirmed that respecting life and dignity does not stop at prison walls and ought to create pathways for alternative treatment for nonviolent offenders. From conception to natural death–

 

Each of Us is a Masterpiece of God’s Creation!

 

Let us reflect on this theme for the 2014 Respect Life Program. Throughout all our pro-life activities, we must never lose sight of the fundamental encounter with God and one another. As Pope John Paul II stated, “The inviolability of the person which is a reflection of the absolute inviolability of God, finds its primary and fundamental expression in the inviolability of human life.” He went on to admonish that “the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights—for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture—is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination.” Far from narrowing our many efforts to care for the human person, these words help us remain steadfast in our respect for the gift of life, from beginning to end, especially where it is most threatened. I encourage you to connect with the Catholic Legislative Network at the California Catholic Conference (cacatholic.org) to advocate for public policy that seeks the common good, affirms the life and dignity of the human person.

 

“The credibility of a healthcare system,” said Pope Francis to medical professionals, “is not measured solely by efficiency, but above all by the attention and love given to the person, whose life is always sacred and inviolable.” Locally, St. Joseph Health is a model of this type of healthcare. Indeed the credibility of all of our ministries is measured by this love and respect for one another, and especially the least. In his July letter, Bishop Dominic reminded pastors and parishioners alike that our Pennies from Heaven campaign (which raised over $240,000 last year) seeks to bless the clinics, centers, and shelters that enable life-affirming choices and provide essential services for women, men, and children in crisis. As we celebrate Respect Life Month, let us unabashedly witness to the Gospel of Life: God’s love for the unborn, women and families in crisis, those on death row, unaccompanied refugees, those struggling with mental illness, or surviving domestic violence. Each of Us is a Masterpiece of God’s Creation! And all of us can lend a helping hand to a neighbor in need.

 

For more on how to become involved, go to lifejusticepeace.org/respectlife and inquire at your parish about local activities.

 

Ministering to the divorced

Some years ago, Francis Cardinal George, now Archbishop Emeritus of the Archdiocese of Chicago, appointed me to be the liaison to the North American Conference of Separated and Divorced Catholics. He asked me to do this because it was important to him, and to the Bishops’ Conference, to support this ministry to those who struggle with the loss and pain of divorce, and who at the same time seek to maintain the bonds of family and ecclesial communion. I supposed I was asked to take this on because of my canon law degree, my experience in the Diocesan and Appellate Tribunal, and general experience as a pastor who deals with marriage preparation, weddings, and pastoral care of families. I undertook this specialized ministry while I was still the Bishop of Fort Worth and still have this role for the Bishops’ Conference (along with several others). I have recently returned from spending three mornings with the leaders of this ministry at their annual meeting in St. Louis. Many in this ministry have experienced the tragedy of a broken family (as my own father did), but now walk with others in their time of transition and change. The ministers also help them to process their petitions for declarations of nullity of their previous marriages as Tribunal Advocates. They certainly uphold the sacrament of marriage as they minister to those whose marriages have failed, and to some who seek to be able to maintain the bonds of communion and marry again in the Church. I salute and thank them for their heroic and, at times, demanding ministry.

 

I reflected with them on the teaching of Saint John Paul II in his document on the family that followed the Synod of l980, titled Familiaris Consortio. In numbers 83 and 84 of this document the Holy Father makes very clear the importance of pastoral care and outreach to those whose marriages have failed. He clearly gives a foundation for this mission, even before the Code of Canon Law was revised in l983, which helped to simplify and streamline the previous process for a declaration of nullity. At the same time, we reflected on the introduction to Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, which, in effect, now sends them (and all of us) on a mission to live our faith with joy. One of the sentences from the apostolic exhortation that I shared with them were the following words, which in their ministry and mission they should take with them: “I never tire of repeating those words of Benedict XVI, which takes us to the very heart of the Gospel: ‘Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, which gives life a new horizon and decisive direction.’”

 

To all involved in this pastoral and canonical care of those who have journeyed through separation, divorce and remarriage, thank you, and be assured of our prayers and support. Your ministry has always been important and is especially so now, in the times of these next two synods.

Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant

As the Sundays in Ordinary Time count on, and as the number is higher each week (this coming Sunday is the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, having missed the 24th due to the celebration of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross), we are reminded that we are not only approaching the fall season, but we are also getting nearer the end of the Church’s liturgical year, with its consideration of the “last things,” reflections on the “end times” and, frankly, our own mortality. We always live in the shadow of eternity, and the Church’s liturgy serves to teach us that very truth.

However, sometimes the death of a loved one that comes unexpectedly and seemingly suddenly can remind us of the necessary preparations to always be ready to meet the Lord. An unexpected death is also a time to reflect on the goodness of God reflected in our families and friends. Such is the case with Bishop Cirilo Flores. His vigil service is scheduled for Tuesday of this week in San Diego and his Mass of the Resurrection the next day, also in San Diego. We are going to have a Mass of the Resurrection for him on Sept. 24 at St. Norbert Church in Orange at 10 a.m.

I was blessed to know him for several years before I was assigned here to Orange, and I always found him to show the love and goodness of God to all he met. He gave me good advice in a number of situations over the years, and was very supportive and helpful upon my nomination as bishop. From our recent discussions, I know that Bishop Brown truly appreciated his support and ministry.  We had several good reflections over the past two years in our work together in Sacramento at the California Catholic Conference, over the appreciation of the University of Notre Dame at their support for Catholic Grade schools, and we had mutual admiration for the efforts of the Neocatechumenal Way in their outreach and evangelization efforts. Over and over I have heard of his goodness and ministry in the Diocese, especially at St. Anne Church in Santa Ana, St. Norbert Church in Orange and Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in La Habra. And I know that these are but a fraction of the stories of his ministry here in Orange. His life was recently described on the well-known national blog “Whispers in the Loggia” as a “beautiful disciple.” I couldn’t agree more. As we mourn his passing in these days, our prayers and reflections of gratitude accompany him with the angels into eternal life. May the words of the Lord found in the Ordination Rite, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter now into the joy of your Lord,” greet him as he enters into the fullness of life with Christ, the promise of which he received at his baptism.

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

When I was a priest graduate student at the Angelicum  and living  at the Casa Santa Maria dell’ Umilta of the North American College in Rome in the early 1980s, we would gather in the chapel of the “Casa” for Mass and morning and evening prayer. We would all look up above the high altar at a painting that pictured the apostles gathered around an open tomb filled with beautiful flowers. This is a famous painting and reflects a legend surrounding the end of life of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The story is that at the time of her death, she was buried. All were present except Saint Thomas, just as on the evening of the Resurrection. He later returned and wanted to see her body. When the apostles went back to the tomb and opened it, the body was gone, and in its place were beautiful flowers. This account has legendary characteristics, but it nevertheless reflects a belief that was already present in the life of the Church: that at the end of her life Mary simply “went to sleep” and was taken body and soul into Heaven. This dogma of Faith, therefore, was not a sudden idea of Pope Pius XII, but was a belief that was clarified through the centuries through the life, teaching and worship of the Church. One of the very earliest homilies on this teaching comes from a bishop whose name was “Theoteknos,” the bishop of Livias on the left bank of the Jordan. He says, in part, that “It was fitting that the most holy body of Mary, God-bearing body, receptacle of God, incorruptible, illuminated by divine grace and full of glory…should be entrusted to the earth for a little while and raised up to heaven in glory with her soul pleasing to God.”

The articulation and clarification of this belief is concurrent with the writing and development of the canon of Sacred Scripture and reminds us how Scripture and tradition are “intertwined.” The belief in the Assumption is a reflection of the Paschal Mystery of Christ and our hope in the gift of eternal life. Reflecting on this mystery, the well-known catechist and Norbertine Father Alfred McBride notes that “One of the unique contributions of Pope John Paul II to modern thinking is his theology of the body. He stresses its unity with the soul. We are more than a frail and tenuous union of body and soul; we are embodied souls. Deep within the body are the longings of the soul. Two elements are mysteriously united in one reality, the human person. His thinking extends and deepens our understanding of the Assumption of Mary and our appreciation of the Assumption of Mary and our understanding of the future resurrection of our bodies. Seen this way, the Assumption of Mary is a canticle of praise for the fullness of the human person, an embodied soul.” Because this is a reflection of the Paschal Mystery of the death and resurrection of the Lord, it is liturgically equivalent to a Sunday, and that is why it is a Holy day of Obligation.

On another note of current importance, both places of pilgrimage associated with this mystery of Faith, Ephesus and Jerusalem, are found in a place of the world that we know too well is marked currently by violence and flight of refugees, which affects us all. Let us continue to inform ourselves of these events, and pray for peace, especially on August 17, as Pope Francis has requested.

Coming up this Saturday on the Christ Cathedral Campus

I would like to take just a few moments and thank and commend the efforts of the Catholic Medical Association of the Diocese of Orange and the Women of Endow (group of Catholic women already here in the Diocese which the Orange County Catholic has already written about) for their upcoming workshop tomorrow, August 9, on the Christ Cathedral Campus.  It is timely because it reflects the writings of Saint John Paul II on suffering in his encyclical “Salvifici Doloris” and also is reflective of the teaching of the soon to be beatified Pope Paul VI.  It is still not too late to attend.

As their advertising says “This unique retreat allows participants to step away from the busyness of their lives to reflect with Pope Saint John Paul II on the message of joy and hope in suffering.  When we suffer in union with Christ, it can be a source of innumerable graces and blessings, a powerful means through which our lives are transformed and made holy.  During this retreat will explore the various ways that we experience suffering in the world, its origins and our quest for its meaning.  Pope Saint John Paul II will show us how it is only in Christ that we can hope to find any meaning and purpose in our experience.”

Thanks to all who helped to sponsor and plan this day, especially the Catholic medical Association of the Diocese of Orange, the Women of Endow, and our Diocesan Natural Family Planning teachers.  Given the fact that the Church in the United States recently marked “Natural Family Planning Week” and the upcoming Beatification of Pope Paul VI, their involvement is especially appreciated.

This event will be held tomorrow, August 9, from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM in the Catholic Cultural Center on the Christ Cathedral Campus, 13280 Chapman Avenue, Garden Grove, California.   This event also reminds us how the Christ Cathedral campus is a place of welcome for gatherings, for evangelization, teaching, and living our Faith in many ways.

In Christ,

+ Bishop Kevin Vannin_the_christian_meaning_of_suffering

 

Summer holidays – Days of Faith and pastoral life

I have not been able to write a “blog” entry for a while, so now that the great days of Confirmations and graduations have passed for this year, I am able to spend more time on writing and reflection on my blog.  I thank all for their patience.

The days of summer seem to be framed and celebrated around the triad of three great civic days:  Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day.  I will be reflecting on the Memorial Day at the moment.  In a few days I will write on the Fourth of July and toward September I will write a reflection on Labor Day.

These days are great days connected with the history of the United States of America.  However, more often than not, now their original significance seems to be lost in the distance and the focus is on free days, holidays, and festivities.  While these are good things, we must never forget the original meaning and intent of these days, which in fact, are anchored in the Judeo-Christian foundations of Western culture, and in particular here, in the United States of America.

I remember that when I was growing up in the Midwest, Memorial Day was called “Decoration Day.”  It was a time for us to gather at Calvary cemetery in Springfield, attend Mass celebrated by the Bishop, and then visit all of the family graves, decorating them with fresh flowers.  Many graves had American flags placed on them as well, and flags were posted on the homes in the neighborhood.  Later on the name was changed to Memorial Day, as the day was intended to honor Veterans.  My father is a proud Veteran of World War II serving in the Pacific Theater for all of the War.  Many of my high school classmates are veterans of Vietnam.

In the intervening years, I have continued to celebrate Masses in the cemeteries and  parishes of the Diocese wherever I have been stationed, and I am grateful to say that I have continued that here.

While the festivity of the day is important, let us never let the memory and the “why” of this day recede from us.  There has been a lot written in recent months on the plight of our Veterans who seem to have been forgotten, and their sacrifices taken for granted.  Many are homeless.  I would like to recall the words of Saint John Paul II in this regard: “Here I wish to express gratitude to the international organizations and to all those who are daily engaged in the application of international organizations and to all those who are daily engaged in the delicate work of resolving conflicts and restoring the many necessary conditions of peace.  I wish to remind them of the words of the Second Vatican Council:’ All those who enter the military in service to their country should look upon themselves as guardians of the security and freedom of their fellow-countrymen, and in, carrying this duty properly, they too contribute to the establishment of peace.”

Whatever opportunity, great or small, to help and acknowledge our Veterans in this service to our country, and to thank them, should never pass us by.  It is a great response of Faith and gratitude.  In this regard, I wish to especially acknowledge Fr. Bill Barman of our Diocese, whose care and advocacy for our Veterans is a reminder of their service to our country and the thanks and care for them that we should now return.

Our gathering in prayer at our cemeteries will be repeated here again near All Souls Day, and is also an opportunity to reflect on the communion of the Saints and the spiritual work of mercy of praying for the living and the dead.

In Christ,

Bishop Kevin Vann

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