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Valuing life: Priceless

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley

More than 40 years ago, the Supreme Court of the United States issued Roe v. Wade, its landmark ruling legalizing abortion throughout the United States. Case closed. End of discussion. Or was it? Obviously the Supreme Court decision has not put an end to the public debate on abortion. The conversation continues, often rather contentiously.

The recent and ongoing release of a series of clandestine videos obtained by the Center for Medical Progress demonstrating Planned Parenthood’s involvement in the trafficking of organs harvested from aborted fetuses (pre-born babies) has renewed this debate with an urgency not seen in quite some time.

The graphic videos and incriminating statements made by Planned Parenthood officials have put that organization and its allies in the media and the government on the defensive. They also have awakened the consciences of many good-willed people and galvanized many more in the pro-life movement by providing new evidence of the gruesome facts intrinsic to the harsh realities of abortion, which have often been disguised by sanitized euphemisms such as “pro-choice” and “reproductive health.” This justified outrage has led to a renewed call for the federal government to defund Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the United States.

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Summer, leisure and the Lord’s Day

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley

In the Gospel, Jesus invites us to “Come away … and rest awhile” (Mk.6:31). This is a timely summertime theme since now is the time that many of us acknowledge our need for rest, and look forward to a change of pace in our busy lives.

 Whatever the rhythms of our lives, from time-to-time we need to refresh ourselves. We need time away from our ordinary work and daily concerns to restore our energies, to enjoy the natural beauties of creation, to spend time with family and friends, to remember our Creator. The rhythm of a regular “Sabbath” rest is very much a part of God’s plan for our well-being: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mk.2:27).

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A first pass at ‘Laudato Si’

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley

 There is no question that “Laudato Si,” Pope Francis’ encyclical “On the Care of Our Common Home,” has been the most widely anticipated papal document in generations, perhaps ever.

 Many media organizations, social and religious commentators, and political candidates prepared talking points even before they read what the pope actually said.

 Having finally had an opportunity to read the lengthy text, I would like to share a few of my own reactions and invite you to take time to read and reflect upon this remarkable text yourselves. It is beautiful. It is challenging.

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The future of marriage hangs in the balance

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley

 The recent media fascination with the “transition” of Bruce Jenner into Caitlyn has highlighted the tragic confusion about gender and sexual difference in society today. Rooted in both natural law and divine revelation, our Catholic teaching affirms that men and women are equal and different. Together they are created in the image and likeness of God. Man and woman are designed by God in relation to one another to form a conjugal union that brings forth children. The consequences of this affirmation are far-reaching.

 Sexual difference is essential to marriage and child rearing. Our bodies matter. We don’t just have a body. We are a body. Without this basis in sexual difference and complementarity, there is no limit to what “marriage” could mean.

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Solidarity with the suffering Church

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley

 At the beginning of the 3rd century, the ancient Christian writer Tertullian observed that, “the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians.” If this is so, we have reason to hope for an abundant harvest as the Church continues its pilgrimage into this third Christian millennium. We are living in an age of martyrs.

 Though we have recently become keenly aware of the persecution of Christians around the world due to the proliferation of smart phones and social media, this phenomenon is not new. Though largely ignored by the media, by social and political commentators and even by history books, the last 100 years have produced more Christian martyrs than any period in history.

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A new Pentecost for a new evangelization

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley

 Novenas are not as common of a form of popular piety as they once were. But, they are still with us. The practice of praying a novena, which is a prayer of petition that spans nine days, often has been used to seek special favors or to prepare for major events or special feast days. In the days leading up to my installation as the Archbishop of Oklahoma City, the archdiocesan family was invited to pray a novena seeking God’s blessing upon the ministry I was about to undertake.

 The first novena, which set the pattern for subsequent novenas, was the nine-day period of prayerful anticipation following the Lord’s Ascension and leading up to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. Jesus had urged the apostles not to leave Jerusalem, but to await the promised gift of the Father for “in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5).

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Mother’s Day and Mary’s month

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley

 By decree of President Woodrow Wilson, Mother’s Day has been observed in the United States on the second Sunday of May every year since 1915. Contrary to a well-known urban legend, this beloved holiday was not the creation of Hallmark cards!

 This day honoring mothers and motherhood gained traction and took root largely due to the efforts of one tireless woman, Anna Jarvis. Anna wished to honor her own mother, Ann Reaves Jarvis, who in addition to bringing Anna into the world, spent her time caring for other mothers’ sons by tending wounded soldiers on both sides of the battlefield during the Civil War. Anna Jarvis reminds us that our mother is “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world.” 

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Let mercy season justice

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley

 Like most Americans old enough to remember April 19, 1995, I recall the moment when I learned of the devastating blast that destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. It was the worst act of terrorism ever committed on U.S. soil up to that time, claiming the lives of 168 innocent men, women and children, plus the lives of several unborn children killed in their mothers’ wombs. In truth, those numbers hardly begin to tell the whole story of those affected that terrible day. The rest of the story would tell of the survivors who were injured and those who walked away, the first responders, the families, the members of the media, clergy and counselors, and so many others who were touched and changed forever that day.

 I was living in Kansas at that time. And, like people all over the world who followed the story, I was profoundly moved by the way this community responded to such unspeakable violence and evil. Those tragic days brought out the best in this community and its people. A remarkable spirit of kindness, hospitality and care for one another and for strangers was on display before the world. That spirit of solidarity has come to be known as the Oklahoma Standard. It was a light shining in darkness.

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Blessing for the OKC National Memorial 20th Anniversary Ceremony

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley
Archdiocese of Oklahoma City
April 19, 2015

Lord God, we lift our hearts in prayer and remembrance this beautiful day. We praise you for your faithfulness and love. We are standing on holy ground. This place has been consecrated and made forever sacred by the lives of your children who suffered and died here, and by the countless acts of kindness and service of so many who came to the aid of their neighbors, coworkers, friends and even strangers twenty years ago today.

 

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Opening our eyes to the sin of racism

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley

 At the climactic moment of the Risen Lord’s appearance to his downcast disciples on the road to Emmaus, Saint Luke writes, “With that, their eyes were opened and they recognized him” (Luke 24:31).

 The gift of faith, so intimately linked with Baptism, enables us to see with new eyes. As the Church celebrates Baptism at Easter, welcoming the newly baptized and inviting all Christians to renew their baptismal promises, we acknowledge that Baptism brings us only to the threshold of new life in Christ. It sets us firmly on the path. The process of conversion, sanctification and transformation continues throughout a lifetime of discipleship in the Church.

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