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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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An Urgent Cry from the Middle East

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley

Early this month, Pope Francis summoned his papal nuncios (ambassadors accredited by the Holy See) stationed in the Middle East for an emergency meeting at the Vatican. They met from Oct. 2-4. Their purpose was to discuss the deteriorating situation in the Middle East, especially the plight of Christians in that ancient land that gave birth to the Christian faith. The Christian population has plummeted in recent years as Christians have borne a disproportionate share of the burden in a region rife with conflict and a host of humanitarian crises.

From Oct. 7-12, I had the privilege of traveling to the Middle East with Catholic Relief Services (CRS). We visited Gaza, Jerusalem and the Kurdish region of Iraq. Our purpose was to observe, to listen and to learn from local church leaders, government officials and aid partners. But most importantly, we were there to put a face on a human tragedy and to demonstrate the solidarity of the Church in the United States and all Americans with our brothers and sisters who, regardless of their creed or ethnicity, are caught up in a crisis of catastrophic proportions.

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ANOTHER STEP CLOSER

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley

In a recent issue of the Sooner Catholic I shared a copy of the Aug. 29 letter I had submitted to Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, concerning the Servant of God, Father Stanley Rother.

I had presented my letter personally along with an extensive document called the Positio, which summarizes the facts and testimony concerning the life and death of Father Rother. In that letter, I formally petitioned the Congregation to consider the merits of Father Rother’s Cause for Beatification and Canonization, and render an affirmative judgment that he is worthy to be considered a martyr of the Church. To that petition I added my own opinion that he is indeed worthy of such a designation.

In the course of a very cordial meeting, Cardinal Amato described the next steps in the process of advancing the Cause of this heroic priest from Okarche, who laid down his life while serving his parish of Santiago Atitlan in Guatemala on July 28, 1981.

Though there are numerous Causes submitted to the Congregation each year, and ours would have to be considered as only one among many, I went away from our meeting confident in the merits, strength and timeliness of our petition. My sense from the meeting was that this is precisely the kind of witness that Pope Francis wishes to offer the Church as a stimulus for the New Evangelization and to summon all Christians to heroic lives of missionary discipleship.

Apparently, that confidence has been well placed. In his Sept. 11 letter, Cardinal Amato informed me that the Cause of the Servant of God, Father Stanley Francis Rother, will be submitted the Theological Commission of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints early in 2015. To be very honest, this is a far more rapid response than I would have dared to imagine even after such an encouraging meeting with the Prefect.

What this means is that the members of this commission will begin their study of the Cause in the next few months. After completing their thorough analysis, they will submit their own findings to the Cardinals and Archbishops who constitute the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

The members of the Congregation will conduct their own study, make their own comments and ultimately submit their recommendation to the Holy Father. Should the Holy Father determine that Father Rother died as a martyr, a decree would be issued to that effect, thus allowing for his subsequent beatification.

Beatification, the final stage prior to canonization, permits public veneration and declares that the life of the Blessed is worthy of imitation among the Christian faithful.

More than 30 years have passed since Father Rother’s death. Many have prayed and labored that his heroic life might one day be lifted up as a beacon of holiness and pastoral charity for others. Now there is good reason to hope that the Church may soon acknowledge Father Stanley Rother as one of her martyrs. I am eager to share this news with you in order to urge you to renew your prayer for his beatification and canonization. What a blessing this would be for the Church in Oklahoma and throughout America, North and South.

 

Eucharistic Holy Hour - Homily


Archbishop Paul S. Coakley
September 21, 2014
St. Francis of Assisi Church

Praised be Jesus Christ!  It is my great privilege to welcome you to St. Francis of Assisi Church and to spend this hour together with the Lord in prayer and adoration.  Thank you for being here.  Your presence is a powerful witness of faith in the midst of what has been a particularly challenging time for our community.  I would like to gratefully acknowledge the participation of our Catholic people from around the Archdiocese but also those of you who have come from near and far to join us today.  I am especially grateful for the presence of my brother bishops (and their support), Archbishop Beltran, Bishop Slattery of Tulsa, Bishop Kemme of Wichita, Abbot Lawrence of St. Gregory's University and so many priests, deacons and religious women and men.  It is a special blessing to recognize here so many Christian leaders and believers from other churches and ecclesial communities who have come to join us in prayer as well.

We gather today in the presence of our Eucharistic Lord who is the source of our unity, imperfect though it might be, and our bond of charity.  We just heard our Lord proclaim:  “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” For Catholics these words from the sixth chapter of St. John’s Gospel are the very heart of our understanding and appreciation of the Holy Eucharist.  Jesus does not speak metaphorically when he says, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.  For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.”  It is truly Jesus whom we encounter and receive in the Holy Eucharist.

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THE HOUR HAS COME

 

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley

On Sunday, Sept. 21, a local satanic sect apparently will be allowed to conduct a public act of blasphemy in the form of a so-called black mass at the Civic Center in Oklahoma City. In spite of an overwhelming outcry of alarm from around the world, our city leaders will allow this outrage to take place in a publicly supported facility. They will not accede to the reasonable requests of local citizens to stop this outright mockery of the Catholic Mass nor the reasonable concerns of so many that this satanic ritual invokes powers of evil and invites them into our community.

Even though our city leaders apparently do not take this threat seriously, I do. As a Catholic priest and bishop I have witnessed in my ministry the battle between forces of good and evil in both ordinary and extraordinary ways. It is not merely a struggle rooted in human weakness and ignorance, though these are certainly the source of much suffering and mayhem in our lives and in our world. Demonic activity and the chaotic forces of evil are very real. The madness of war accompanied by increasingly brutal acts of terror, the violence in our schools and communities are all evidence that something is terribly wrong.

The crucial battleground for the forces of good and evil is the human heart. As a Christian, I believe that Jesus Christ came to conquer the power of sin and to cast out demons. This was an essential part of his mission and ministry. It continues in his Church. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus Christ has gained the victory. He has destroyed the power of Satan, the Prince of Darkness and Father of Lies. The war has been won, though skirmishes will continue until Christ comes again in glory. As people of faith we dare not lose hope. Victory is assured.

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POSITIO ON THE MARTYRDOM OF FATHER STANLEY ROTHER

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley

On Wednesday, Sept. 3, I had the privilege of presenting the Positio on the Servant of God, Father Stanley Rother, to the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome. The Positio is the distillation of all of the historical research and testimony that was painstakingly gathered to examine the course of Father Rother’s life and heroic death while serving as a parish priest at the Oklahoma mission in Guatemala. 

The Positio will be studied by the members of the Congregation, who then will recommend to the Holy Father whether Father Rother can be justly honored as a martyr for the Faith. This is a very important step in the process, which we hope will lead toward Father Rother’s beatification and canonization. I am including the text of my letter to Cardinal Amato that accompanied the Positio at its formal presentation. Please continue to remember this important intention in your prayers!

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