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O come, let us adore Him

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley                                             Dec. 27, 2015

In one of our most beloved Christmas carols we sing the joyful refrain, “O come, let us adore him.” Christmas invites all of the faithful to a renewed spirit of adoration and wonder before the mystery we celebrate: the Word has become flesh. God has become a man born of the Virgin Mary. His name is Jesus. He has been born for us and for our salvation in the silence and poverty of the stable at Bethlehem.

God’s humility displayed so poignantly in the manger evokes astonishment and brings our restless hearts to silence before such a great and unexpected gift. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “No one, shepherd or wise man, can approach God here below except by kneeling before the manger at Bethlehem and adoring him hidden in the weakness of a newborn child.” (CCC 563)

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Jesus too was a refugee

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley                                              Dec. 13, 2015

In late September, Pope Francis made history when he addressed a Joint Session of Congress. In that remarkable speech, the Holy Father demonstrated a surprising appreciation of America’s history and values while appealing to all that is best in the American spirit. To a nation of immigrants who have been generous in welcoming newcomers he reminded us that, “Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions. We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation.”

This is what Americans have always done when we have been at our best. There are certainly episodes in our history when we have not demonstrated that noble magnanimity: our history of slavery, our treatment of American Indians and the confinement of Japanese-Americans during World War II testify to the power of our baser instincts rooted in fear.

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His mercy endures forever

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley

This past Sunday, I had the privilege of ritually sealing a door at Our Lady’s Cathedral that has been designated as a “holy door” in anticipation of the Jubilee of Mercy, which begins on Dec. 8.

What is a holy door? Each of the four major basilicas in Rome has a holy door that remains sealed until the beginning of each Holy Year, which ordinarily occurs every 25 years. On Dec. 8, Pope Francis will unseal the holy door at Saint Peter’s in Rome, and in subsequent days he will open the holy doors at the other three major basilicas.

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Family Bible or a book for the family?

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley

Among the memories of my childhood home is the beautiful leather-bound family Bible. It occupied a place of prominence on the coffee table in the living room.

Ironically, the living room was not a place that we kids were ordinarily allowed to go except on special occasions. It was more for display and for guests. I would have to say that the family Bible was probably treated in much the same way. I don’t recall ever sitting down to read it. I do recall occasionally looking at the wonderful glossy pictures of scenes from the life of Jesus and from salvation history. That’s the way things were in many Catholic homes in the 1960s. But, that began to change about 50 years ago.

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Seminarian appeal is an opportunity to support, give thanks

Most Reverend Paul S. Coakley

Last week, while visiting one of our Catholic schools, a student asked, “What is the best thing you get to do as an archbishop?” “Ordaining new priests,” was my enthusiastic response. The logical question followed, “What’s the hardest thing that you have to do?” The answer I offered came without serious thought, “Finance council meetings!” They laughed.

Had I paused to really consider the question, my answer would have reflected what I was preparing to do the following morning when I presided at the funeral of Father Shane Tharp. Father Tharp was only 42 years old. He was gifted, enthusiastic and finding his stride as one of our truly effective pastors. If one of a bishop’s greatest joys is ordaining new priests, one of his sorrows is burying those who have come to the end of their journey. It is very hard to lose such a faithful shepherd, especially when he dies so young. Reflecting on both the joy and sorrow elicited by those students’ questions, I realized how much my life as a bishop is tied up with the well-being of our priests.

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The Saints: “Who are those guys?”

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley

I am a classic movies’ fan. There is a scene in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” in which the two hero/outlaws (Paul Newman and Robert Redford) are being tracked through mountains and deserts by a relentless band of lawmen. In spite of all of their efforts, they are unable to shake them. Sundance turns to Butch and asks incredulously, “Who are those guys?”

We might ask the same question as we prepare to celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints on Nov. 1. Who are these men and women to whom the Church extends such honors?

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A crisis of global proportions

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley                                             Oct. 4, 2015

One of the great humanitarian challenges of our time has been the migration and refugee crisis that has grabbed the attention of the whole world.

Until recently, many of us in the United States have thought about migration primarily as an American concern. We think of our own immigration crisis. Recent political debates have reminded us of the complex issues surrounding our own immigration problems.

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Pope Francis is coming to the United States

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley

 By all measures Pope Francis’s visit to the United States this week will be an extraordinary event. It’s hard to recall a time when the Catholic Church in America has received such a positive media “buzz” throughout both traditional and social media channels. Pope Francis’ personal charisma is largely responsible for the widespread interest his pastoral visit is generating even before he sets foot on American soil.

 Pope Francis will be in the United States from Sept. 22-27. This visit will include a number of “firsts.”

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What can we learn from the passing of Mark Costello?

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley

Last week, Oklahomans publicly mourned the death of Mark Costello, who was tragically slain by the hand of his own dear son, Christian. The governor ordered flags flown at half-staff in Mark’s memory in acknowledgement of his dedicated service to the people of Oklahoma as labor commissioner, an office he had held since his election in 2010. As became apparent in the remarkable media coverage throughout the days following his death, Mark was many things to many people.

Mark was a dedicated and loving husband and father. He was a Catholic, passionately devoted to his faith in Jesus Christ. He was a successful businessman and entrepreneur. He was certainly a committed Republican. He was a generous benefactor to many Catholic institutions and other causes that he believed in. Mark was a friend to many, including many who were often forgotten and overlooked.

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Youth sports and sportsmanship

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley

 Karol Wojtyla, the man who became Saint John Paul II, was an avid athlete. As a youth and young man he played soccer. As a young priest he took college students on kayak outings. After becoming pope he continued to ski and even had a swimming pool built in Vatican City.

 Reflecting on the importance of sports Saint John Paul II observed that many important human values such as loyalty, fair play, generosity, solidarity and respect are common to both sports and Christian discipleship: “Are not these athletic values,” the pope mused, “the deepest aspirations and requirements of the Christian message?” These values form the foundation of solid human virtues and strong characters.

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