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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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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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