At the heart of our pilgrimage to the Kingdom of heaven is gratitude. I have often expressed this reality on many occasions. In this column I wish to address it in three concrete ways.
The first is - simply acknowledging God with thanks in our heart for the gift of life and for the ability to love him and one another.
The second is - simply seeking forgiveness of God and our fellow travelers for our insensitivity to them as we journey so self-centeredly through life. The highest act of gratitude and of love is forgiveness - both giving it and receiving it from others.
The third is - not living our lives in clutching, possessive ways, but living with a spirit of openness, sharing with others what we have been given, and how we see life - a life in Christ, a life as a member of his Body, the Church.
St. Paul reminds us that we are one body, member for member, that we belong to Christ, dependent upon him who is our Head.
As I reached my 75th year in life, 50 as a priest, 22 as Bishop, and nine as Bishop of Madison, I am grateful for the gift of life and love, the gift of forgiveness from and to others, and for an ever-growing openness in my life by creating space for others to be who they are.
Taking persons for granted
There are many, many people we all take for granted, and while in an appropriate way it is a very high compliment to be taken for granted, that is counted on, we also must find words and ways to say thanks to those closest to us.
As Sept. 29th approaches, my heart is full of gratitude to many persons who were, are, and will be part of my life.
God's love, strength for today
As our lives cross here on earth in our pilgrimage to the Kingdom of heaven, God has provided loving, caring, concerned people who truly do want the best for us. Their love is a source of new strength each day.
It occurs to me quite often that "hurts," "neglects," "harsh words," "stony silence," "insults," and the like, dissolve like grease in a good liquid detergent when we live life in a spirit of gratitude, forgiveness, and openness.
Love is saying you're sorry
I believe that real love is saying you are sorry, and often, and it will be to those with whom we live and work, in family, and friendship.
Some say, "I can forgive but I can't forget." To that I say, "That is fine, keep your memories, past and present, but remember: forgetting doesn't have much to do with forgiving."
Christ and Peter
Today in the Kingdom of heaven are Jesus and St. Peter.
Peter never forgets each day that he betrayed Christ and denied knowing him because he cowered in fear. In an ongoing way Peter has an ever new and abiding reason to love Jesus because he forgave him, and Jesus eternally offers the same ongoing act of forgiveness. It lasts forever.
By recall of memory, rehearsing, and rehashing of old events and people, we often reconnect and reawaken the "anger," "hurt," or "insult." If we live with grateful hearts, we will be able to see the way in which Christ and Peter live each day.
This column is a long way to make a simple point on the occasion of our diocesan celebration of my anniversaries on Sept. 29th.
The point is, I wish to express thanks to everyone, especially to our staff and the many persons on the Celebration Planning Committee for their hard work, long hours, and enduring difficulties which naturally surface when lots of people are involved in a project. Thank you for helping to make Sept. 29th a special day in my life.
Theme of good will and careful planning
The theme of good will, the careful planning, and expert preparation was based on an often repeated statement of the planning committee, "We want Bishop's celebration to be nice and what he will be comfortable in doing as our way of saying thanks to him for all he is to us and what he has been able to accomplish in his nine years as our Bishop. We love him and as an expression of that love we want to be with him as he gives thanks."
Wow! What grateful thanks is in my heart and how wonderful it makes me feel as I realize your gratitude, love, forgiveness, and openness. God has blessed me indeed and I approach Sept. 29th with a full and grateful heart.
Thoughts, prayers on Iraq
As sabers rattle and swords of modern warfare flash in the spotlight of media attention, you and I must pray that our day may be a time of reconciliation between people and peace restored among nations, a time when swords are beaten into ploughshares and the clash of arms gives way to songs of peace.
The U.S. Bishops have issued statements on the situation as part of our reflection on the terrorist acts of Sept. 11, 2001, the first anniversary of which we have just observed. While the headlines of the newspapers and the top of the hour reports of the media have their say, we as Catholics have the Gospel as the word of God and the teachings of the Church to continually guide us.
Much is being said about a planned attack by the United States on Iraq. It is difficult to discern the truth about the situation, and what course of action ought to be taken. What is clear are two realities that I wish to bring before you, the people of the Diocese of Madison.
First, we support all reasonable measures to bring peace to the Middle East. We support our President and Congress in their efforts to eliminate terrorism and its continuing threat to the world, including to the United States of America.
Second, as Catholics desiring to live with a good conscience, we subscribe to the principles of a "just war" as outlined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I refer you specifically to Section III of the Catechism, beginning with paragraph 2302 and following: on war, including arms, the arms race, our duty to avoid war, economic and other injustices, a just war, the obligation to resist unjust orders, peace, and the permanence of the moral law during armed conflict.
Those who love peace and who promote the welfare and well being of all peoples have a grave obligation to defend the common good against terrorist attacks, doing so in a way that conforms with norms for a just war.
We take seriously the ongoing threat of Iraq which promotes threats to peace, including terrorism, its weapons of mass destruction of any kind, and its repression of its own people and their rights.
Limits on intervention, a just cause, legitimate authority, the probability of success and proportionality, norms governing the conduct of war - all these must be studied and evaluated carefully.
Terrorism is a grave evil and all nations of the world are becoming victims of it, including the U.S.A. Our right to defense and aggressive action remains, but we need to study, reflect, pray, and be guided by the social justice teachings of the Gospel and of the Church as we apply our tactics to bring about peace.