As I write, I am at the airport in Rome awaiting my flight
home through Philadelphia to snowbound Buffalo. I followed news of the storm on CNN at the Pontifical North American College, our U.S. seminary in Rome, where I stayed during the meeting.
In my heart and my prayer are the people who lost their lives during this superstorm, those who mourn their passing, and all who have been impacted by this unprecedented weather event - especially everyone whose challenging and dangerous task it is to "work" the storm and its aftermath.
My trip to Rome was occasioned by an invitation from the Vatican's Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith to participate in an international colloquium on the complementarity of man and woman in marriage. It was truly a historic gathering. We heard presentations on the topic from scholars and leaders representing the major religions of the world: Buddhist, Sikh, Hindu, Taoist, Islamic and Jewish, as well as many Christian traditions, mostly Anglican and Evangelical, along with a significant Catholic presence.
Pope Francis addressed us on the first day of the three-day meeting. Although the many speakers came from very different religious perspectives, there was absolute unanimity of conviction that marriage is in its very essence the union of one man and one woman, open to the birth and rearing of children. The Catholic Church is not alone in defending and promoting the truth and beauty of marriage.
For us, though, added to the natural reality of marriage is the deep biblical truth that this loving union of woman and man is an icon of the intimate relationship of Christ the bridegroom with the Church, His bride ... and that bride, of course, is all of us baptized who constitute the community of His disciples.
Speaking of disciples, in mid-Advent we are launching a major evangelizing initiative in the Catholics Come Home "evangomercials" that will air on local television through the Christmas season. Most of you have viewed a brief DVD in your parishes introducing this program. The initial buzz about this project among our people is very positive and enthusiastic. All of us know good folks who have become inactive in the life of the Church, including family members, friends and associates.
We long for their return to the Lord's Table. We want to invite all of the baptized to embrace an intentional way of discipleship living. Catholics Come Home is one way (proven in nearly 40 dioceses) to re-propose the beauty and meaning of our life together in Jesus Christ. I hope that it deepens and extends an evangelizing culture throughout our diocese.
Please pray that this initiative will bear much fruit during this wonderful season when we celebrate the coming of our Savior, Emmanuel. That was my prayer as I knelt yesterday at the tomb of St. John Paul II, the great prophet of the New Evangelization.
May we, who would welcome others to come to Jesus, first welcome Him in a deeper way into our own lives. St. John Paul II, pray for us.