Each year, the annual Mass and March for Life in Washington, D.C., is becoming more and more a kind of youth and young adult event. Of course, we're grateful to all the old timers (like me) who continue to attend. I am extremely proud of our Catholic colleges and high schools that send delegations each year to witness to the sacredness of human life. If your school was represented this year, thank you. If not, why not? See you next year, maybe?
As important as the March for Life is in terms of public pro-life witness, there are many other ways in which we can and should take a pro-life stand. One such matter is currently taking place right here in New York state. Governor Andrew Cuomo has proposed a non-fiscal budget bill this year, which includes language that is a radical and unnecessary expansion of late-term abortion. This proposed legislation would allow abortion for any reason and at any time in a pregnancy including into the ninth month right up until the moment of birth, which would essentially legalize infanticide. We need to take action against this deplorable legislation! You can visit the New York State Catholic Conference website at www.nyscatholic.org and click the "Take Action!" tab to express your concerns to your state senator. The state budget must be enacted by April 1. I urge you to take immediate action by visiting this website and sending a strong message to your lawmaker. Please join me in praying that this atrocious legislation shall not come to pass.
The Church of England encourages its members to fast from using plastics as a Lenten discipline this year. Wish I'd thought of that. Anything that protects the integrity of God's creation, our common home, is a good thing!
Speaking of England, I will be leading a diocesan pilgrimage to the sacred sites of England and Scotland this Oct. 26 through Nov. 5. The 11-day pilgrimage will provide many opportunities to experience the tremendous spiritual and cultural history of these two countries. I invite every member of our diocese to consider joining me as this is meant to be a diocesan pilgrimage. If you are interested in participating in this pilgrimage, please see the ad below this column for more details. Take note that there is an early booking discount in place until April 1.
If you are a parent giving some thought to your funeral arrangements, be sure to specify in your will that you wish to have the full Rites of Christian Burial celebrated upon your death. Pastors tell me that too often these days, parents who have been lifelong faithful Catholics - maybe even daily Mass goers - are deprived of a Funeral Mass by their non-practicing children, who insist on an abbreviated service such as prayers at the wake or cemetery.
What about the recent Ash Wednesday/St. Valentine's Day dispute? The Church asks us to fast and abstain on only two days each year - Ash Wednesday and Good Friday - and people want a dispensation? I call that insipid religiosity, or perhaps Catholic Lite. This reminds me of a conversation I had with a gentleman in Maine. He grew up Catholic, he told me, and then in his 40s converted to an evangelical Protestant congregation. I asked him why. His answer: "Catholicism is too easy. I want a faith that makes serious demands on me." I myself find the Catholic faith pretty demanding. But it's something to ponder during this Lenten season.
Gun violence must stop. How many more students must be killed or seriously injured, how many more parents and classmates heartbroken in grief before we realize that all of us together - the people of the United States - must get to the root of this evil and begin to eradicate the violence and destruction in our midst. St. John Paul II warned 25 years ago that Western society was becoming more and more a culture of death. I am afraid that his prescient words are being proven true with each passing month. Stand up for human life, which is sacred from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death ... and at every moment in between!
Lastly, I extend a heartfelt thank you to all of the schools that welcomed me during Catholic Schools Week. It is always a great joy to pray with you, to visit your classrooms, and to view your STREAM projects. Catholic Schools: Different Where It Counts!
St. Patrick and St. Joseph, pray for us as we continue our Lenten journey!