By Archbishop Paul S. Coakley March 6, 2016
As I sit to compose this column, my mind and memory are flooded with thoughts and images of the past 11 days when I traveled with Catholic Relief Services to two very different parts of the world.
The first leg of the journey was to the Middle East where we visited the work CRS is engaged in with its various partners in Lebanon and Jordan. Next, we traveled to Ghana at the invitation of the bishops of West Africa to participate in the plenary assembly of the Regional Episcopal Conference of West Africa. CRS and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have been engaged in humanitarian and pastoral projects for many years in solidarity with the Church in Africa. What follows are somewhat random accounts of what I was privileged to witness and now feel compelled to share.
By Archbishop Paul S. Coakley Feb. 21, 2016
“Our generation will show that it can rise to the promise found in each young person when we know how to give them space. This means that we have to create the material and spiritual conditions for their full development; to give them a solid basis on which to build their lives; to guarantee their safety and their education to be everything they can be." – Pope Francis
Education, as Pope Francis says above, provides the solid basis on which our children build their lives. It is the way we seek to ensure our children achieve their full selves – academically, professionally, morally and spiritually.
Archbishop Paul S. Coakley Feb. 7, 2016
Each year, the Church offers us the beautiful season of Lent as a time of repentance and renewal. We begin our Lenten journey this week on Ash Wednesday. As we are signed with ashes we are reminded of our own mortality; we come from dust and to dust we shall return. We are called to repent and believe the Good News.
From its beginnings, Lent was the final time of preparation and purification for the catechumens. These were the men and women preparing for Baptism and full initiation into the Church that they would celebrate during the sacred Easter Triduum.
Archbishop Paul S. Coakley Jan. 24, 2016
There are certain dates in our nation’s history that will “live in infamy,” as President Franklin D. Roosevelt once remarked. These dates are seared into our consciousness because they are forever tied to the memory of some unprecedented attack on innocent life and on the very fabric of our nation’s principles and values. On Dec. 7, 1941, the attack on Pearl Harbor triggered the United States’ entry into World War II, the costliest war in human history. Sept. 11, 2001, brought our nation face to face with a new kind of enemy, international terrorism in the form of Al Qaeda.
Jan. 22, 1973, marks one of these watershed moments in our history as well. On that date, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark decision in the case of Roe v. Wade, legalizing abortion on demand throughout the United States.
Archbishop Paul S. Coakley Jan. 10, 2016
The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City recently completed a research study on our Catholic schools conducted by The Catholic University of America. The results of this comprehensive study will be unveiled in the coming months after we have had a chance to digest and prioritize the findings and recommendations. One thing is clear. In spite of the many challenges that our Catholic schools face, they are a sound investment. And, they are bearing good fruit. This issue of the Sooner Catholic provides an annual profile of our Catholic schools. We have a great story to tell and we ought not to shrink from telling it!
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.