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The death penalty is morally obsolete

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley

In April, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case out of Oklahoma (Glossip v. Gross) that challenges the widely used lethal injection protocol in carrying out the death penalty. This comes a year after the high profile flawed execution of convicted killer Clayton Lockett.  At that time, I called for a reexamination of the use of the death penalty in our state and a moratorium that might lead ultimately to its abolition.

I want to reaffirm my opposition to the use of the death penalty and call upon Catholics, and all people of Oklahoma, to work together toward the abolition of the death penalty in our state. Let us pray together that the court’s review will lead to a recognition that this form of institutionalized violence against persons is not in the best interest of the state, and is ultimately harmful to society because it further erodes respect for the dignity of the human person.

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Missionary discipleship and advocacy

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley

 Initiation into the Catholic Church through the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist has an essential missionary dimension. The Church by its very constitution is missionary. “Go, make disciples!” Our mission is to proclaim the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ by our words and by the witness of our lives. We are called to be light for the world and salt for the earth. Pope Francis often has reminded us that when the Church becomes merely self-referential – more concerned about maintenance than mission – it becomes anemic, at best. The Church exists in a permanent state of mission, and all of us are called to be missionary disciples.

 When I was a child, the idea of missions and missionaries conjured images of exotic places. I recall the colorful Maryknoll magazine that regularly came to our home and filled me with admiration for the work of those generous missionaries laboring in faraway places. Those foreign missions still exist and the work of those dedicated men and women remains important. But, in our post-Christian society, there is a mission field much closer to home that requires our attention.

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Lent is the Church’s annual retreat

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley

As I write this column on Valentine’s Day, there is a media frenzy swirling over the “next big thing” in pop culture, the opening of the film “Fifty Shades of Grey.” The film, based on a trilogy of books by the same title, graphically depicts how far our mainstream cultural tastes have descended the slippery slope of self-indulgent fantasy and depravity. It is a story that glamorizes sexual violence. Its premise condones a blatant disrespect for the dignity of women and scorn for the beauty of God’s plan for spousal love and intimacy within marriage. It’s about sado-masochism. And it’s wildly popular. While this may be a cultural barometer pointing to something terribly disordered in our society, and in our souls, there is another popular gathering this month that will garner very little media attention, but is a sign of hope.

As this edition of the Sooner Catholic is published on the First Sunday of Lent, hundreds of our neighbors from across the archdiocese will gather at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help for the Rite of Election.

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“Join Me. Our Mission: Make Disciples!”

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Praised be Jesus Christ! The year 2014 was a year of blessings, challenges and opportunities for the Church in the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. Through your prayers, your participation and your support we were able to face those challenges and embrace those opportunities.

God is good. And God is never outdone in generosity! Now, it is my privilege to present to you the 2015 ADF Archbishop’s Appeal and to ask you for your support.

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Catholic Relief Services values partnerships

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley

Each time I have had the privilege of travelling as board chairman with Catholic Relief Services to one of the 93 countries where CRS serves, I have gained a deeper appreciation of the work CRS undertakes on behalf of Catholics in the United States.

Last week (Jan. 13-16), I was part of a small delegation to Haiti that included Dr. Carolyn Woo, CRS president and CEO, and Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). While there, we celebrated the 60th anniversary of our CRS presence in Haiti and marked the fifth anniversary of the devastating 2010 earthquake that left so much destruction in this already impoverished country.

My takeaway from this trip has been a deeper appreciation of one of the distinctive ways in which CRS operates around the globe. Catholic Relief Services places great value on the quality and importance of its partnerships. It is through CRS partnerships with the local Church, other Church organizations, relief and development agencies and governments that CRS is able to have its greatest impact in enhancing human dignity, responding to natural disasters, promoting peace and justice, and building sustainable mechanisms for greater food security, healthcare and economic opportunities for families and communities.

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Catholic schools: A legacy worth preserving

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley

For more than 200 years, Catholic parents, clergy and religious have championed Catholic schools across the United States. Faced with a frontier culture that was often hostile to their values, the Catholic community built schools that allowed their children to grow in knowledge and faith – as good Catholics committed to improving their neighborhoods and society. And with sweat, resolve and prayer, these immigrants built the largest system of non-public schools the world has ever seen. We have inherited a remarkable legacy!

Catholic schools have educated many generations of young Catholics, forming them in faith, virtue, knowledge and a readiness to serve. They have breathed life into parishes and communities and, most importantly, drawn children into deeper communion with Christ and the Church. It is precisely because of these benefits that the Catholic community today must continue to invest in the future of our children and their schools.

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The enduring value of the consecrated life

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley

The 2000-year history of the Church is a story of reforms and renewals associated with men and women whom the Lord raised up at precisely the right moment. These holy witnesses have helped the Church refocus on some aspect of the Gospel that perhaps had been in eclipse. Many of these individuals were founders and foundresses of new forms of consecrated life.

When Rome and its ancient civilization were crumbling before the advance of barbarian invasions, the Lord raised up Saint Benedict of Nursia. Saint Benedict gathered a family of brothers and established a monastic rule of life based on a simple rhythm of work and prayer. The common life and the cloister were hallmarks of this renewal. Benedictine life became the basis for the flourishing of a new Christian culture throughout Western Europe.

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He shall be called Prince of Peace

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley

“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Lk.2:14). The angels’ proclamation of the gift of peace, given in Christ, announces the fulfillment of the messianic promises cherished throughout the ages by God’s chosen people: “For to us a child is born, a son is given; and his name shall be called … Prince of Peace” (Is.9:6).

As Advent leads us toward the celebration of Christmas we turn our attention day by day to reflect upon the meaning of the birth of Christ. The Christmas mystery celebrates God’s gift of peace. Peace has descended from heaven to earth. The Word has become flesh. The order intended by God for his creation is finally realized in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God and Son of Mary. This profound communion between God and man is the source of genuine peace and reconciliation.

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Take time to celebrate Advent

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley

In the simple beauty of its liturgy, Advent is one of the richest seasons of the year. The prayers and readings at Mass as well as the hymns and antiphons of the Liturgy of the Hours invite us to a quiet reflection that heightens our sense of longing as we prepare to welcome the King who comes to save us.

Advent also is a season with memorable rituals and traditions for the home as well. Lighting each candle of the Advent wreath may be the occasion to gather family or friends for a moment of prayer. The child’s anticipation and joy each day upon opening another door or window of an Advent calendar reminds us why the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who become like little children.

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November and the four last things

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley

During the month of November the Church’s liturgy and popular devotion turn our attention to the Four Last Things: death, judgment, heaven and hell. This is no morbid fascination, but a sober reminder of the transitory nature of this world and a bold summons to Christian hope. We begin the month celebrating the saints in glory on the Solemnity of All Saints. On Nov. 2, we observe the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls Day) and later in the month, on the last Sunday of the liturgical year, we celebrate the triumphant Solemnity of Christ the King.

Though we may rarely ponder these realities, they are inescapable for each of us. They remind us of the eternal destiny of joy that God has prepared for us in Christ and the eternal consequences of turning our back on God’s love. St. John of the Cross wrote, “In the evening of our life, we shall be judged on our love.” Perfect love will make possible our immediate entrance into heaven. Imperfect love will require purification. The ultimate rejection of divine love will mean eternal separation from God.

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