The following is Bishop Caggiano’s homily for the Second Sunday of Lent, given at St. Augustine Cathedral in Bridgeport.

My dear friends,

It’s amazing the difference one week can make. For if you recall, when we gathered last Sunday, we heard the great story of the Lord’s temptations in the desert, and He was about to begin His ministry. Now, a week later, in the 9th chapter of St. Mark, Jesus is almost halfway done with his ministry and had already made the decision to turn His attention to go to Jerusalem, where He knew – had foreseen – what awaited Him. That He would freely give His life up so that you and I, His apostles, and all who believe in Him, might have eternal life.

And so He pauses and chooses three of His apostles to come up the mountain so that they might see a glimpse of His glory, the glory He had before He entered the world, the glory that would be His again after His death and resurrection, when He ascended to the right hand of His Father, a glory that was meant to encourage them so that they could endure His passion and death. But there was something else going on, my friends, for the apostles began to notice at this point in His ministry that even the crowd was beginning to turn, turn away from the Lord, begin to question and doubt Him. That would lead to the mobs that said crucify Him. And they also began to realize that what happened to Jesus could happen to them, that there was a cost to follow Jesus. And so the Lord wants to encourage them not only to witness what would happen to Him, but so that they could bear whatever sufferings would come to be faithful to Him, a lesson most of the apostles found very hard to learn.

That encouragement is also for us in our life of faith, as you and I struggle to be faithful in a world that is making it ever more difficult to follow the Lord Jesus. But I do have a question to ask you. There were twelve apostles. All twelve walked with Jesus. Why did the Lord only choose three to go up the mountain and not twelve?

For all twelve would suffer. All twelve would have to sacrifice. But He chose only three, Peter, James and John.

And I think if we reflect on a possible reason for that choice, then it gives us a spiritual challenge for you and I in the modern world. For let us consider what those three were asked to do. Peter was the first bishop of Antioch and the first bishop of Rome who would lead the christian community in a time of great persecution. James was the leader of the church of Jerusalem, a place where the apostles and the disciples of Jesus would be persecuted. And he himself was the first apostle to die.

John was the one who did not betray Jesus or abandon Him. And to him was given the singular duty to take care of the Mother of God. After Jesus rose from the dead and he brought her to Antioch, where he lived and cared for her until she was assumed into heaven, which the tradition holds. Mary was 72 years old.

All three were asked to assist others in faith. All three were asked to accompany and encourage and strengthen those around them. In other words, my friends, they were chosen to be encouraged, not only for their own sake, but that they may encourage others. That what they received, they would share. That they would be the ones when the Lord had risen and ascended, to be the ones who would lead, help encourage, support, walk with their fellow christians when they were questioning, doubtful, confused, when they were suffering.

You see, my friends, every single one of us has a cross to carry. My mother used to say, God makes it in such a way that it’s just heavy enough for you to carry. So my cross is not yours and yours is not mine. However, as we carry our cross in life, whatever it may be, what the Lord is teaching us today is that no one is to carry it alone, but we are to walk with each other and encourage each other and support each other in our life of faith. So let me ask you a question.

If you look around this church like I do, how many of the people here sitting next to you, behind you, in front of you, how many of them do you and I know what cross they bear? How many do we know here by name? And yet the Lord asks us to walk with each other?

You see, my friends, can we dare to build a church? Can we dare to hope in the power of the Holy Spirit that the day would come when everyone knows everyone else’s name? When everyone who comes here to celebrate the sacrifice of the mass would know each other’s crosses? And could we dare to believe that the day would come when there is no single person in our church, no matter how great the cross may be, will carry it alone? But there would be others to walk with them.

You see, my friends, that is the challenge of the transfiguration.

Consider in a few moments, I will come to the altar and join with you in this great sacrifice. The Lord will come, and He will be veiled under the form of bread and wine. But it is truly, really, completely the body, blood, soul and divinity of the risen, crucified and risen. Lord, He comes with all his glory, no different than the glory on the mount of transfiguration. He comes here and He is veiled.

But He comes here to dwell in you and me so that we might lift the veil out there and show the world and people that He is alive in us and to lift it here so that everyone who believes and walks in faith may strengthen each other until we walk together to heaven.

And so, as I often ask you, allow me to ask you this question. Is there someone in your life that you know that you know is carrying a cross and perhaps carrying it alone? Is there someone in your life or mine that we have been meaning to reach out to because chances are no one else would? Is there someone in this church right now that you’ve often asked yourself? You know what? I always see that person, but I don’t know their name. I would like to get to know them. Because by doing that, my friends, you will get to know not only a person’s name, but a person’s life and perhaps a person’s cross. Don’t you think it is time for you and me to walk up the mountain of the transfiguration with Christ alive in your heart and mind and lift the veil of glory and help someone else to see it so that they might have courage and faith in Him?

Who here is ready? Go up the mountain with Jesus.

My dear sisters and brothers in the Lord,

As we do each first Sunday in Lent, the church asks us to meditate upon that event in the Lord’s life.

When in the midst of the desert He was visited by the Father of Evil and tempted, having already been baptized in the Jordan for our sake. And before He began His public ministry, Jesus entered into the solitude of the desert to pray. And there the Father of Evil did his best. From the gospel of Matthew and Luke, we know that there were three temptations the Lord had. But interestingly, today in the gospel of Mark, Mark does not list the three temptations. He simply says Jesus was tempted.

And it’s curious. One could say, well, didn’t St. Mark think it was important? And of course, he certainly would have. But I think he’s trying to teach us a lesson, a lesson that you and I need to apply in our own lives. Because, my friends, whether we talk about the temptation the Lord endured for power, authority or possession, they all have the same root. They have one temptation that underlies them all. The temptation was this, that the Father of Evil tempted the Lord in his Humanity not to do what the Father asked, to create a wedge between the Lord and His Father, to take Him away from His mission, ultimately to deny who He was and why He came into the world in the first place.

And Jesus resisted precisely because there was no greater desire in His heart than to be faithful to His Father. There was no more burning passion in the heart, the sacred heart of the Lord, than to do what His Father asked and to love Him to the end, regardless of what the cost would be. The Lord’s heart was singular, pure, single, focused, and Satan left defeated.

You may ask, well, then, bishop, what’s the lesson for you and I? The lesson, my friends, rests in this simple fact, that temptation, when it comes in your life and mine, most often finds its root in the desires of your heart and mine. For unlike Jesus, our hearts are divided. Our desires at times are not ordered to the good. We want to do the good, but we’re attracted to do something else, which perhaps is not good, or even worse, is sinful. Part of our lives want to be faithful to God, and part of us want to be aligned to allegiance with something else. Our hearts are not always singular. They are divided. And in that crack is where the Father of Evil makes his home. And so it seems to me that in this first week in lent, you and I have spiritual homework. And it begins by asking the question for these next six days, ask it every day.

What is it that I truly desire in my heart? What is it that you and I truly want? To be honest. Brutally honest. And by being brutally honest, we can begin to diagnose why at times we fall prey to temptation and why we do the things we know are wrong. But we do them anyway, in part because we want to do them because we desire what they supposedly will give us. Pleasure, power, privilege, authority, whatever it may be. I cannot answer that question for you, but I am obliged to answer it for myself. For to overcome temptation in life, my friends, is a lifetime journey.

Allow me to offer three steps where you and I can perhaps get the better of the Father of Evil when he comes knocking on the door of our hearts. Step number one is exactly what I said, is to be honest with the desires that we have to face them in the honesty of our hearts. Because if we cannot name them, if we’re not honest with ourselves, then they will always wreak havoc. And once we have understood at this point what it is I want, or tomorrow what I want, or later today, what my heart is desiring, then step number two, my friends, is never put ourselves in the occasion where the temptation will grow.

A person who is addicted will not find a place of welcome in a bar or a drug den. They need to be away from all that tempts them. The same is true for you and me. If we’re tempted to lust, then be custodians of our eyes, what are we looking at and why are we looking at it? If we are tempted to possessions, then why is it that we continue to go online, on tv, in the stores and continue to buy and put ourselves in the position to continue to buy when we know we don’t need anymore? You see, my friends, step number two is avoid the occasions of sin, occasions when we are tempted.

And then step number three, my friends, is the hardest of all. When you and I are standing before the Father of Evil and he is whispering in your heart, do it. Go there. What difference does it make? You really want it, don’t you? You and I can never make the mistake that we can overcome that temptation alone, but dwells within us the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, of the one true God. And in those moments of temptations, I beg you, my friends, as I do in my own life, to turn to the Holy Spirit and ask the Holy Spirit for the grace to say no. For left to ourselves, more than likely, we will stumble and say yes. But armed with His power, we can and will say no.

And the Father of Evil will go away defeated.

My friends, in the life of faith, temptation will come. It came to the Lord. It will come to us. Let us guard the doors of our hearts so that the Lord will be victorious and the Father of Evil will leave defeated.

My dear friends, over the last 20 or 30 years, there has been a tremendous change in medicine, a change for the better. For I remember when I was a little boy, I always avoided going to the doctor until there was absolutely no possibility of avoiding it.

But now we are told that we should be more proactive. We speak of “wellness visits,” that we should take our health more seriously and do what’s necessary to prevent disease from coming in the first place because our health is a precious gift: the health of body, health of mind.

Well, that being the case, my friends, you and I gather here on this first (day) of the discipline of Lent so that we may begin a spiritual wellness check: to look at the health of our spiritual life, and if necessary, ask the Lord for the remedy. We might need to become more healthy in our relationship with him and our relationship with each other.

For example, as there is disease in the physical body, so there is disease in the spiritual life. And that disease, you and I know, (is) our sins. They are poison. They destroy the grace that is meant to dwell in our hearts. It turns us against God, ourselves and our neighbor. And first and foremost, if we seek spiritual wellbeing or health, our sins need to be admitted. They need to be placed before the mercy of God in the sacrament of confession. And he will forgive them. That, my friends, is essential for spiritual health.

These 40 days will allow us many opportunities to root out the disease of sin. But there is more to spiritual health. And in these 40 days, the Church asks us to look at three tools to help us to grow more spiritually alive: prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

And what does all that mean? Will allow me to ask you three questions, my friends?

How comfortable are you or I to sit in the quiet of our rooms, our cars, whatever place we choose, and to sit in the presence of the Lord and allow him to speak to us? That ultimately is what prayer is. It is more than saying prayers. It’s allowing the Lord to touch us with his mercy, his compassion, his warning, his admonition, his challenge, whatever it is he wishes to tell us. Any relationship requires two speaking, not one. And if you are sitting there saying to yourself, “Bishop, you know, I’m not exactly sure how to do that,” then in Lent is the time for you and I to learn it again: to learn to be silent, to learn to listen, to learn to understand the signs of God’s presence in our lives. For that takes us to ever greater health in the Spirit, to learn how truly to pray.

No different than fasting. You know my friends, we fast today (and) Good Friday. We abstain from meat from the Fridays of Lent, and you are invited to do it every Friday of the year. We do that for a reason. We deny ourselves to remind ourselves that everything is a blessing. Everything is a gift. We live in a world that’s entitled. We live in a world that wants us to believe our possessions are what really matters. And in that world, our possessions possess us. Fasting gives us freedom to understand everything is a blessing. And I can give up this or that or the other because by doing that, whatever I would have spent on that, I can give to you or to as someone in need. It’s freedom. How free are you and I?

And lastly, almsgiving. My friends, we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves. And in a world where talk is cheap, what do we in fact do to love our neighbor in the concrete, in the daily life? Today, you and me.

What I outlined for you and me today is not easy, my friends. It is a regimen far more difficult than any cardiac regimen, any exercise regimen, anything you and I would do with our physical diet. This is a lifetime’s work, but that is what we are called to do as disciples of Christ. Not only to value our physical health and our mental health, they are gifts. But to value our spiritual health and to be alive in Christ, to be the shining example of his presence in the world.

For in a few moments, you and I will come forward and we will be marked with these ashes. And you and I will be reminded that we are made of dust and unto dust we shall return. For no matter how much we are proactive with our health, the day will come when you and I will have to enter the mystery of death. This life cannot endure forever. And when you consider all that we do to continue to maintain our health, and rightfully so, isn’t it worth every effort you and I make to not simply be ready for our physical death, but to avoid at all cost? Our eternal death Lent invites us to walk the journey with Christ unto eternal life.

Who here is ready for the journey?


The following is Bishop Caggiano’s February 11, 2024 Sunday homily

The year was 1979, and I was 20 years old, and I was attending the college seminary. And so while I attended most of my time and attention to my studies, there was a part of me that still kept one eye on the business world because I was still discerning whether or not I wanted to truly be a priest. And it was in that very year that AT&T, the telephone company, which then was the largest company in the world, launched an advertising campaign. Which so struck me that 45 years later, I still remember it. And I remember it precisely because it was so simple.

It featured a woman sitting at a desk picking up the receiver of those old fashioned telephones. Those of you who are younger may not know what I mean, but actually sitting on a desk and the slogan – what she thought – and then she made her phone call. And the slogan was “reach out and touch someone”. And it was brilliant, because at the time you paid by the calls you made.

The more calls you made, the more money AT&T made. Brilliant. And the slogan makes sense. But in first century Palestine, it would not have made sense, particularly as we hear in the gospel in the occasions when some of the members of the community were afflicted with disease, most especially leprosy. For the last thing you would want to do is reach out and touch them for many reasons.

First and foremost, if one were to even accidentally touch someone who had leprosy, then you would be ritually unclean and you would have to undergo the same ostracization isolation that a leper did. You would be cut off from your family, your friends, your livelihood, your money, your house. Out you went. And secondly, as we know from Hansen’s disease, which is leprosy, it is very contagious. So by touching someone with leprosy, you are putting yourself in great danger.

And so perhaps the slogan would say, don’t reach out and don’t touch those who have leprosy. Simple as that.

Today in the gospel, we hear that Jesus, in His great compassion and mercy, heals this man, makes him clean, heals him physically, heals him spiritually and sets him free so he could return to the life he had once. A beautiful reminder of his healing as Lord that you and I share in. But I must ask you a question, my friends. Why did Jesus touch the leper? Says it clearly in the gospel.

Jesus healed many times without touching anyone. He could have done it any way He wished, but He chose to touch the leper. And I would like to suggest that offers us a challenge. For as is true for the lepers, of the time of Jesus that they were literally isolated, they were segregated, they were left on their own. And you can imagine the great turmoil they felt because they literally had no one and no place to turn.

They were left to be alone, to die. So, too, when we sin, at times we feel alone, don’t we? We feel as if there is no one to turn to who could understand the whole we have created for ourselves. And even when you and I suffer in the modern world, when you get the diagnosis that, God forbid, you or I have cancer, there are many around who will sympathize, try to help, empathize, but the diagnosis is yours alone in the depth of your heart and mine to come to terms with. You see, my friends, what Jesus was reminding us is whether we talk about the effects of sin or the effects of physical illness or disease or suffering, there is a great loneliness, isolation that occurs.

And He touched the leper to let him know that he is not alone, that there is someone who walks with Him.

You have heard me often say, my friends, that you and I are to accompany each other in our life of faith, and rightfully so. But the path of conversion also demands that we walk with each other. When someone is asked to walk the path of suffering and illness, we are to walk with each other. And when someone enters into the last moments or stages of his or her life, that is when we walk with each other, there is no moment in our lives that we are to be alone, isolated, fearful. The Lord was willing to touch the man who had nowhere to turn.

And so I ask you, my friends, are you and I willing to do the same thing? Are we willing to touch the one who is addicted and is looking for someone to take his or her hand in recovery every single day? Are you and I willing to walk and touch the heart of the person who is suffering from perhaps illness that may not have an immediate cure or no cure at all? Are you and I willing to reach out and touch the one who has grown frail with old age and for whom the phone does not ring? Who is willing to go out and touch them, walk with them and let them know they are loved and not alone?

You see, my friends, it is easy to say that we will be a merciful and forgiving people. Perhaps to forgive at times is a challenge. But allow me to suggest it is not enough. But rather, you and I are asked to walk with each other even after we have forgiven one another, so that we can walk together in life hand in hand, and never to face whatever challenge we have alone.

In three days we will begin the great discipline of Lent, when we will walk with the Lord to face our own sinfulness, and He will reach out and touch us and forgive us, and remind us that even in our greatest sin we are never alone, He is always there with us.

Perhaps this Lent, you and I, to make the resolution that as the Lord has touched us, perhaps you and I can pick one person we know, frail, sick, suffering, addicted, struggling, depressed, lonely, anxious, one person we know and dare to reach out and to touch them.

The following is Bishop Caggiano’s January 21, 2024 Sunday homily

My dear sisters and brothers, as it was true in the time of Jesus, it still remains true even in our own age, among our sisters and brothers of the jewish faith that are orthodox in their practice, that one of the greatest privileges a young man can receive is to be called, that is, chosen by a rabbi to be trained so that one day he himself may become a rabbi.

Usually the boy was perhaps ten years old, a boy that showed promise, intellect and talent. And he would go off months at a time to be with the rabbi, to learn from him, to learn from his example, to be able to be formed so that one day he might be an authority in the law. So with that, in the back of our minds, we can understand why the apostles reacted the way they did, because in their 20s, that call they must have thought was long gone. And now suddenly, this extraordinary rabbi appears and calls them to come to follow Him. The excitement, the enthusiasm, the zeal.

St. Mark tells us that they left their nets. And you know what that meant? They left their family. They left their obligation to care for their family.

They left their parents, especially their fathers, who depended on them to make sure their family had enough food. They left their social status, they left their security, they left everything in the enthusiasm to follow this rabbi who said, come, follow Me. Extraordinary. But what the apostles did not realize is that there are nets and there are nets. There are the things that you can give up in the enthusiasm of the moment.

And then with the sober passage of time, there is the need to learn what one must really give up to follow this extraordinary rabbi, who is far more than any rabbi. And in the journey of their life, they began to realize that they had nets that you could not see, but nets that they found very hard to give up. For example, the fact that the apostles would argue among themselves as to was the greatest among them, for they still sought privilege and status. And the Lord said, that’s a net you gotta get rid of. Or when the crowds began to turn against Jesus and they began to murmur amongst themselves, Jesus said to them, if you’re to follow Me, you have to leave your fear for your own safety behind.

And of course, when the Lord faced the moment of His passion, we know the apostles ran. But the call did not end, for the Lord called them back in His mercy. And once forgiven and receiving the grace of the Holy Spirit, they let go of all the rest of the nets that entangled them, held them, tripped them, including their many sins. And then they walked to the ends of the earth, free to follow the One who called them. Why do I tell you all this, my friends, is because you and I have been chosen by Christ, have we not?

On the day of our baptism, you and I walk in the footsteps of the Lord. You and I, because we are in this church, have given up much for the Lord. And the Lord rewards us, does He not? Whatever we give up, He gives us a hundredfold in his mercy, love, forgiveness and grace for His consolation and power. However, there is not a person in this church, myself included, who still does not at one time or another, cling to our nets.

Something in your life and mine we have not given over. And as we prepare for Lent, which, my friends, is not far away, the beginning of Lent is Valentine’s day of all days. So I’m telling you now, celebrate Valentine’s Day on the 13th, not the 14 February. It is not far away. Perhaps we can use these few weeks to prepare, to ask ourselves the question, what is it that is entangling me from following the Lord, for example?

We live in a world – you have often heard me describe it as self absorbed. It’s all about me. Well, is your opinion or mine? Your thoughts or mine?

Is your stance on things or mine more important than following the Lord? Who may choose otherwise? Do we resist to do things my way rather than His way? How much do we fear when people will oppose us because we walk in the footsteps of this extraordinary Savior? Rabbi, do we say, like the rest of the world, well, that’s enough.

Enough is enough. If you do more than this, you’re like a fanatic. “This is good enough.” Is it? And then, of course, you and I all come here with our sins, some of them known to us, quite frankly, some that may not be known to you or to me.

And yet they don’t just simply hold us back. They trip us. The nets literally prevent us from moving forward, whatever it is. My friends, may I suggest we spend the next few weeks looking ourselves in the mirror and not just celebrating what we have already given up to follow Christ, but what we have not yet. So that in the weeks of Lent, with the grace of the Holy Spirit, we may learn one finger at a time to let go.

Because only then, with His freedom, can we follow Him wherever he asks us to go.

For my dear friends, the apostles set free with all their nets gone, walked to the ends of the earth. The question for you and I is, are we willing to follow their example?

The following is Bishop Caggiano’s December 31, 2023 Sunday homily

Thank you, my dear friends in Christ. The very first world Youth Day that I attended as a catechist bishop was in 2008, in the most exotic of places in Sydney, Australia. And at the end of the very first session, when I gave my talk and I invited questions to be given from those who attended, one of the last questions that was offered was by a gentleman from New Zealand. And this is what he asked me. He said, bishop, what do you consider to be the greatest challenge that young people face in their life of faith?

Now, I must confess, I was not prepared for the question. I didn’t have an answer to the question, and I don’t even remember what I said as a response to the question. But I have not forgotten the question. It has haunted me for almost 16 years, and quite frankly, my friends, with all the experiences that have happened since, perhaps I can venture now to answer the question. But it is a question that does not apply solely to young people.

Quite frankly, it is a challenge that we all face of every age, even those of us in this church, even me.

And tonight, today’s feast may provide us part of the response we want to give to that challenge. So, first, what is the challenge? I’m sure others could answer the question in a different way, but at least for my part, the best way to describe the challenge is to put it this way. Seems to me you and I are either navigating in a world, or, for those who are younger, are growing up in a world where the world out there in so many obvious and subtle ways, in mass media, entertainment, television, social media, commercial marketing, our economics, and even our political life, tell us over and over and over and over again every day that you and I are not quite worth it. In other words, we need the latest to be accepted.

We need to have the right friends to get ahead. That we need the latest car or house, whatever, so that we’re more acceptable, that we’re never worth what we are as we are now, that there’s always more. So to put it another way, we’re never quite athletic enough, beautiful enough, handsome enough, rich enough, associated enough connected enough, educated enough to be worth it to someone else. And if you and I sit with that for long enough, we will come to the conclusion that we are not lovable as we are, that we have to work at being lovable. And if we’re not lovable the way we are, with all our faults and failings, then who can actually love us?

We accept that lie, for it is a lie. Then you can see, my friends, why we are coming into a world that’s becoming ever more angry and lonely and disassociated and anxious and sometimes leading even to despair. It may sound bleak, but there is a solution, my friends. There’s a solution as obvious as our face when we look in a mirror. For the solution is for you and I to go back to the roots of who you and I are in Jesus Christ and look at the holy family as the model for you and I to live in our own families.

You may say, bishop, well, why is this the solution? Pope Benedict, God rest his soul, before he died, said in one of his homilies, it is the family where, in the privileged place, that all its members learn to give love and to receive love, no matter what our family looks like. And they are all very different. They all are the seed beds of where you and I learn to be loved and to love one another. The holy family whom we honor today was that family.

It was the place where the father’s love was made real, literally, his son, who is love made in the flesh. And yet they lived a place, a time, a life, where their members, all three, loved each other completely and faced every challenge and suffering the world threw at them together. Consider, my friends, none of our families are without challenge. None of our families are perfect. None of them.

But the holy family faced sufferings and challenges that our families, perhaps, please God, will never have to. Giving birth in a stable, for there was no room in the world for their son to run for their lives to a different country. Because the government wanted to kill my child. To leave family, language, household, relatives, to live in a time when the gossip would have said that Mary was pregnant by God knows who. All those challenges they faced, always remaining a place where love animated all that they did.

So for you and I, my friends, to follow their example. We need to remember this. To be a loving family does not mean we have to be a perfect family, but to make the choices we need to make so that we never take advantage or granted for the people God has given us, our spouses, our children, our elderly parents, our aunts and uncles, and all those who are part of our family, near and far away. I’m not talking about love that the world understands. I’m talking about love that you and I have explored together.

Love, that’s a choice to do what’s good and right for the person. So when parents discipline their children, it’s an act of love, even though the child may not receive it with the best of humor. When a wife makes it her business or a husband, her business to spend time with his or her spouse and listen to what they’re really saying. To create space where they can share their innermost hopes and dreams. That’s an act of love.

To be able to forgive even when someone messes up royally. Hold them accountable for what they did, but never turn their back. Never turn one’s back to them. See, that’s the seed bed of love. And it is there, where you and I can relearn over and over again, that we are really lovable and that there are those who love us.

And going forth in life, we may face whatever challenge there is confident that God loves us also.

So may I make a suggestion, my friends? Tonight is New Year’s Eve. I presume almost all of us will stay up to welcome the new year. I will not, for the record, but I wish you all well at midnight. And you’re going to make resolutions, I presume I will make them, too.

I pray they will last at least the first week. I hope they will last. But may I suggest a resolution we can all make? What is the one thing you can do in your family to make it more a place of love? What is it you and I can do so that in our relationship with our spouse, our children, our parents, whoever else in this new year can make a difference, so that that person knows that they are truly loved and lovable for me, for God, and for those around him.

And perhaps that’s a resolution that we should keep, not just one day or one week, not just for one year, but for the rest of our lives.

The following is Bishop Caggiano’s homily for Christmas Eve

Good evening, everyone. Merry Christmas to you all. Thank you. A few years ago, I had the occasion to go to dinner with some boyhood friends couple of nights after Christmas. And of course, we reminisced of the old days and shared some war stories.

But much of the conversation really was reminiscing about Christmas and the experiences that we had growing up. And one of my friends spontaneously asked the question, what was your favorite Christmas hymn? Growing up, there were four of us. Silent night got three votes. I was the lone man out for my friends since as far back as I could remember.

The hymn I find most beautiful, most haunting, most provocative is Greensleeves. It is the english melody which begins with the words, “What child is this?” And of course, because I want to keep tonight merry, I will not sing it for you. But you know the words, “what child is this that laid to rest in Mary’s lap, sleeping? What is this child?”

You see, my dear friends, for 2000 years humanity has had to face that question and to answer it. Of course, many answers have been given through those ages. But you and I come here as a people of faith because we can answer it with our minds and hearts renewed. We come here to proclaim to all the world that this child, born in the quiet and silence and poverty of a manger in a small town in the middle, basically of nowhere, is Christ the Lord. The desire of every human heart, the fulfillment of what God promised us, the long awaited Messiah, the one who gives hope, the one who gives life, the one who is love himself, God made man.

And we join christians throughout the ages and throughout this world to proclaim that message, that this child has changed all creation and you and me. And so we come here to sing and proclaim in words this ancient faith.

But, my friends, to proclaim it in words is not enough. And so allow me to ask the question again. What is this child to me and you? And what is it that he is asking of us to give back to him? Another way to answer the question is, how will my life be different because of this child coming into my life?

What is it that I must do differently? How is it that I must respond by action? Because words are easy to speak. And perhaps the very place where Jesus was born can give us the answer to the question. For if you ever have the occasion to go to the holy land, to Bethlehem, which tonight we remember, sits in quiet because its inhabitants live in the midst of a war where many have died and are dying.

The place where the prince of peace was born and a land that yearns for peace that still eludes it deeply. If you and I were to go to the basilica of the nativity, we would find that the entrance to the basilica is completely blockaded and has been for 500 years, to protect it against those who invaded it over and over and over again. And the only way to enter into it is a small door. And the only way to enter in is literally to bow down, to go into the basilica and enter into the presence of this child. And that gesture is the answer to the question, what is it that you and I to do for this child?

You and I are to bow down through this door of humility and dare to walk in his footsteps, to give over to this child our very heart, our very life. You may be saying, bishop, what does that look like? Allow me to paint a brief picture. You see, my friends, in a world of great entitlement, you and I are asked to bow down and offer a heart that is grateful for everything we have, big and small, extraordinary and ordinary, in a world then as now, that did not find room for God when he came. You and I are to offer our hearts in humility and have a welcoming heart to all around us, even those with whom we don’t agree, even those who are our immigrants in our midst, even those whom the world has no place for in the world out there, my friends, that oftentimes divides.

A world out there that finds no mercy, a world out there that is sometimes cold and cruel. As it was on the day Christ was born in Bethlehem, so, too, you and I respond how? With a humble heart that dares to be forgiving, understanding, kind and loving, even when it hurts.

You see, my friends, we are going to bow down and adore the Christ child. And we are asked to do it in our words, in our actions, today and every day of our lives. And so we come here to pray for the grace to do that, for it is not easy. But walking in the footsteps of this child has never been easy. But for those who persevere, they will walk unto eternal life with Him.

So I ask you, what is your favorite Christmas hymn? Whatever it is, leave this church and sing it with all your hearts, wherever you go. And by our lives, let us continue to proclaim that. Who is this child? He is Christ the Lord.

The following is Bishop Caggiano’s homily for the Second Sunday of Advent

My dear friends, the very first time in my life that I looked upon the desert with my own eyes was the very first time I went to visit the Holy Land. And it was the desert that we hear described in the Gospel, the very desert that John the Baptist entered and invited others to follow to seek conversion of life. There are many ways to describe that experience. It is really impressed in my memory, but perhaps these are the sort of words that can best describe it. Certainly it is a formidable place, the desert.

I could not imagine being lost in it, because if one were lost in it, you would surely perish. But it is also beautiful in its own way. In a very strange sort of a way. It’s beautiful, eerily so. There’s almost a fascination with the desert which needs to be tempered.

And of course, above all else, it is silent. I was with a group of priests and I found my way drifting off, and so I was on my own. One could say the silence was deafening.

And it seems to me if we were to speculate as to why John the Baptist preached this message of conversion in the desert, in fact, it is precisely the silence that may have been part of the motivation, because John’s message to his people and to you and me is one of conversion. And if we wish to convert our life literally, as we say in Greek, metanoia, to change one’s face, to change its direction, to seek radical holiness in life, that’s not possible unless you and I devote ourselves to prayer, to deep and profound prayer. And what I’d like to suggest is, if you and I are serious about praying, then we need to rediscover the power of silence, quiet in a very busy and frenetic world.

The truth is, my friends, many of us struggle with that to find, if I may say, our personal desert in the busyness of our lives, a place where we can lay aside all of the concerns and anxieties and worries and thoughts that you and I have that kind of impinge on our lives, that kind of motivate the things we do. It’s very hard to take the demands of life away for a bit and to sit in silence.

It is in that silence that you and I need to remember that prayer is not time to seek things from the Lord. It is also a time to seek the Lord. And they are not the same thing for many times when you and I sit to pray, if we can carve that silence for very good intentions, we have a long list of things we ask the Lord for, for ourselves, for our spouses, for our children, for our friends and neighbors, for the world and the needs of the world, which are so many. And all of that, my friends, is good.

But what about the Lord himself?

What about entering into the silence with nothing to say and nothing to ask for, except for Him to sit before Him? So what can happen? So that, like a gentle mirror, the Lord could hold the mirror up to you and me, and we can see reflected back not only the good that we have done and the good people we strive to be, but also with His mercy and gentleness, to begin to glimpse where we have failed, where we have sinned, where we have compromised, where we have become mediocre, where we have become lukewarm, where we have become no different than the world out there. And many times, my friends, we fear that the Lord will judge us. But the truth is, the Lord does not come first and foremost to judge us.

He comes to invite us to new life, to invite us to begin again in Him. And He will provide his mercy and grace so that we can admit in honesty our faults and failings and begin to turn our lives where it is necessary to walk a path of conversion that will take our life to reach its destination. But if we do not seek Him, then I’d like to suggest we cannot truly seek a road of conversion, for it’s not something to do. It is something to be. And we must find Him so he may lead us to ever greater holiness of life.

So may I ask you a question? In the second week of Advent, and this advent, as you know, is very brief.

Where is your desert? Where is mine? Where do you find in your life the intentional decision to go into a place that is beautiful, formidable, and profoundly quiet? Are you and I ready to find that place, to carve out the time whenever it may be, and to enter into that place and not ask things of the Lord, but to seek the Lord, to have the courage to run into that space and not worry about what will happen. Not worry about, I’ll be okay.

Not worry about. Could I get lost in it? Just go in. And to find him, the gentle, loving, merciful shepherd who will take us by the hand, reveal to us our faults and failings, grant us the grace of his mercy, and walk with us in life, to eternal life.

My friends, this coming April, I was to visit the Holy Land. But unfortunately, that pilgrimage has been canceled because of the terrible war that is going on in the Holy Land. It is so deeply paining for all of us to consider that the very land the Lord walked, the Savior Redeemer, is marred with so much violence and destruction, so much hatred and bitterness. We pray for the prince of peace. We pray that peace will find its way in the Holy land for all those who are suffering.

But please God, peace will be restored. And please God, we will be able once again for those who have the opportunity to go back to the land that is holy, because the Lord walked there. And I think to myself that the very first place I want to go to when I return, if it is God’s will to return, is back to the desert.

My dear friends, rejoice in the Lord always. I say it again. Rejoice. Those are the words we just heard from St. Paul to the people of Philippi.

And, of course, tonight we do gather here with great joy in our hearts, all of us. Because in our midst are 40 of our sisters and brothers who have been chosen to be honored by Pope Francis for their extraordinary witness, for their deep generosity, for the great conviction of their hearts and faith, as in the midst of our church, as catalysts – catalysts of hope.

And yet it is remarkable, isn’t it, my friends, that those words come from the man who was no stranger to suffering and challenge. By the time St. Paul wrote these words to the people of Philippi, he had already been shipwrecked more than once, imprisoned, literally escaped by the skin of his teeth, certain death precisely because of his faith and commitment to Jesus Christ.

And yet Paul was a man who knew that God’s grace could overcome any challenge, any difficulty, any suffering for those who are willing to stand firm in faith. And so when you see rejoicing in that context, it also gives us a clue why we are here in the first place and why those of you, my dear friends, who are being honored are being honored tonight.

For you yourselves have been no stranger to not only challenge in your own lives, which we all share, but to see clearly the challenges of our sisters and brothers those who are poor, those who are homeless, those who are sick, those who are young, seeking an education to be formed in the mind of Christ. Those of you who walk quietly and generously in your life, making a difference in so many unassuming ways for those who are facing such profound challenge. Many, when they see such challenge, walk away. But you did not, and you do not, and you will continue not to. Why?

Because the same faith and conviction that burned in the heart of St. Paul burns in your heart and has for some for many, many years.

You see, my friends, you may be tempted to believe that you are here solely because of the good works that you have done. And that is, in fact, one reason you are here. But it is not the most important reason you are here. You are here because you have been chosen precisely because you have lived a life that demonstrates sin, who can rejoice in the Lord and make a difference in those who face challenge and suffering day in and day out. You are here because of who you are more than what you have done.

Now, you may say, Bishop, that’s lovely. It’s quite slowly. But what do you really mean?

Well, let me demonstrate it by this way. When you ask young people why they left the Church and they have left the Church in large numbers, the number one reason might surprise you. It certainly surprised me. It is not, first and foremost, the teachings of the Church, even the moral teachings of the Church. Certainly they struggle with them.

But it is not the principal reason they’ve walked away from the Church. It is not the misgivings and the sins of the leaders of the Church which trouble all of us. But the number one reason they cite why they leave the Church is because they do not see integrity of life among the Christians. They know or to put it bluntly, they know many Christians who talk the talk and do not walk the walk. And they say, if it’s not worth walking, why are you asking me to walk it with you?

You, my dear friends, are here being honored because you are among those who walk the walk. For you are men and women of deep integrity, who don’t just speak about your faith, just don’t simply do the things of faith, but that in every plot, in every moment of your lives, you have been like St. Paul, a woman or man whose faith animates and radiates your heart. And if you’re thinking sitting there, he’s talking about someone else and not me, I am talking about you.

All of you who are being honored are deeply humble, and many of you have done things that no one will ever know. But what everyone does know, because you cannot hide it, is that you are a people who love Christ and are not ashamed to show it in every day of your life. And that, my dear friends, is a reason for the whole Church to rejoice. And Pope Francis is inviting all of the Church to rejoice with you.

Allow me one last thought, because I see you’re all very uncomfortable.

Can you imagine how many people’s lives you have touched in so many small and big ways? Children who had a path to an education they would not have dreamt of before? Someone who is homeless, who now has a place where his or her name is known and they considered our guests, not our clients. How many people have you touched by the simple smile that radiates an honesty of a hospitality and a devotion that perhaps a person has not encountered for a very long time?

Consider, young and old, the thousands, the tens of thousands, perhaps even more than that, whose lives have been made better, more whole and more holy because they simply met. You, my dear friends. That is why you’re here.

You have been ambassadors of the Renewal of the Church long before there ever was a Bishop Caggiano here in Bridgeport. And the truth is, you are my greatest and most important colleagues to continue the renewal of the Church. Because the renewal of the Church will not be any grand program, any grand initiative. It’s no great banner. There’s none of that.

All those days are over. The Renewal of the Church is going to be one person of authentic life, touching the life of someone else. And when we touch one after another after another, we begin to create a tsunami of renewal. And you, my friends, are at the forefront of that. And for this reason, I can say, in the name of Francis, the successor of Peter himself, and all the good people of this diocese, thank you for your witness and for the remarkable men and women you are.

St. Paul says rejoice in the Lord. I say it again. Rejoice in your midst. My friends, this night it is easy to rejoice.

And so I congratulate you. And I thank you. And we have more work to do. And together we will bring that renewal to the whole Church.

The following is Bishop Caggiano’s homily given at the Annual Red Mass February 5, 2023

My dear sisters and brothers in the Lord. One of the very first tasks I was asked to attend to after I received word that I was going to be named the auxiliary Bishop of Brooklyn was to create a coat of arms. And I had absolutely no idea how to do that. I always thought coats of arms were like mystic houses of monarchs and kings. And I said, do I need one?

And they said, oh, no, absolutely, you need one. So after a few days of trying to struggle as to how you do this, a kind, gentle, older priest said, Frank, you highlight the people, the saints, the ones in your life that truly matter. The Lord, our lady and St. Michael.

Now, it’s interesting. There are two symbols that represent St. Michael’s, and so I chose one. One that all of you who are here as part of the legal profession know very well. It is the symbol of the scales. And the reason for that is St. Michael is the guardian of the Divine Law. He is the keeper of the Gates of Heaven, and he is the one to ensure that those who enter into glory are the ones who have followed the Divine Law.

Those of us here in the legal profession, Lady Justice blindfolded holding the scale, is a reminder that entrusted to you, who are the administrators and the guardians of the law, your noble profession and vocation is to ensure that the law is administered equally justly, one could say blindly, so that the law can fulfill its basic purpose. In short, to allow for the right ordering of society, the protection of the common good, the protection of individual rights within that common good, so that society can enshrine its values and live by them. And if I may put it in religious terms, that all God’s children can live in justice, equality and peace. And that is why you’re here today, so that the whole church can pray for you, because your vocation is noble and is being lived in very difficult circumstances. And to add to the difficulty is the Lord Himself, because in His great kindness, He offers to all of us whether we are the guardians of the divine law or the guardians of our civil law.

A great challenge today, and He wastes no time in spelling out exactly what it was, is, and presumably will always be.

He challenges the scribes who are the teachers of the law and the Pharisees, who valued themselves as the perfect practitioners of the law and reminded them that there is a duty more than just following the letter of the law.

Many times, my friends, we follow the law because we fear the consequences of breaking it. And that is a motivating factor. But the law exists for more than that. It enshrines values, goods that, whether the law existed or not, should in fact mark our common life and my life and yours in our journey of discipleship. We speak of the letter of the law and the spirit of the law.

And the Lord is reminding us that it is not enough to administer and protect the law. But it is also for you and I, in His Divine Law and our civil law to embrace the values upon which those laws were created and to live them every day of our lives.

The difficulty is, for those of you who practice the law day in and day out and day out you can’t legislate somebody’s heart.

And that is true even in the realm in which we now sit. For we can easily fall into the temptation to follow the laws of the Church and not have them touch our lives.

So what are we to do? Particularly in a world where in the church and in civil society the common good is fracturing before our very eyes and that we cannot even begin to agree on the values upon which the law was created in the first place? Where do we go from here? How do we follow the Lord’s mandate to live the Spirit and the letter both? My friends, you will have to turn to a much smarter preacher than me to have the answer to that question.

But this much I can offer as advice, for it haunts me now. I wish it will haunt you as well.

If you cannot legislate the Spirit, what you and I can do is witness to it is to order our lives in such a way that we need not ever fear breaking the law because we are living the spirit of the law ever more deeply and perfectly in our life. To persuade society to find its way back to unity and peace to persuade our sisters and brothers that the greater value is not to avoid punishment, but it is to strive for greatness. If you and I, who administer and are the guardians of the law are given this noble task to allow our society to find what it seeks that every human heart may find the peace it deeply desires then perhaps the best way forward is for you and I personally, to commit ourselves to be a mirror, a shining example, a life of integrity that takes the very values that you and I believe in and the values that our society are built on and to live them ever more perfectly in our life. Whether we are in the courtroom, whether we are in the supermarket, whether we are in the sacred space of our churches that heroic, zealous witness is far more persuasive than any homily, any law brief, any talk that can ever be given.

And it seems to me the Lord, in his great kindness is reminding us that we can find a way forward not simply by protecting the letter of the law, but to be women and men who live the spirit of the law.

And to do it to the best of our ability in grace.

My dear friends, I mentioned the fact that there are two symbols for St. Michael. There is another symbol. And when I came to Bridgeport, I was asked to change it, so I did.

I’m very obedient. It’s fine. Let’s change it. And the symbol now, for St. Michael the second symbol is the fiery sword because it is to Michael to administer injustice whatever punishment is meted out to those who do not follow God’s commands.

We are not given a fiery sword, but what we are given the task to walk together as sisters and brothers to lead those of goodwill with us to embrace the values that will allow all of us never to have to face the fiery sword of God.

The following is Bishop Caggiano’s homily given at the Diocese’s 70th Anniversary Mass, Saturday, October 21, 2023

My dear sisters and brothers in the Lord,

“To thine own self be true.”

I remember reading those words for the very first time in freshman English class. Of course, they come from the opening acts of probably one of the most famous plays ever written in English, written by Shakespeare – Hamlet. And at the time I remember it so vividly because it struck me as both quite reasonable and also quite challenging. Reasonable because I would think everyone and anyone would want to live a life of authentic integrity, to be at peace with one another and be at peace to reveal who we are to the world, who / whatever that person may be. But challenging because, as I learned in 13 and I learned at 64, it is a work in progress to live that life of deep integrity, authenticity. To be able to truly be true to oneself.

Now people of goodwill will strive to do that, for obvious reasons. But for you and I, on this most important day, gather as believers and followers of the Lord, we must remind ourselves, my friends, that for us it is not an option. For we are called, each of us, to be true to our own selves in Jesus Christ.

For consider who we are. That although all of us are sinners, nonetheless on the day of our baptism we were claimed by the Father and made His sons and daughters in Grace. On that day you and I were forgiven original sin and all the sins we may have have committed up to that point. And we be given a destiny and a mission of holiness, destiny of eternal life. And all of us baptized are the dwelling of the Holy Spirit, so the very Living God and me inspiring us, enlightening us, giving us the Seven Gifts of His Grace so that by being true to who we are in Christ, we may become His presence in the world.

We can add our voices to Peter and to Thomas in response to the question we heard today from the Lord: who do you say that I am, being true to ourselves? We can say you are our Lord and our God, you are our Our Savior and Our Redeemer, you are the deepest desire of my heart, you are my only lasting hope.

And when we are true to ourselves in Christ, we take seriously the great call the Lord asks of us, to find the time to recognize His presence, to encounter Him over and over and over again, every day. To fall more and more in love with Him because He is the center of my life, and yours. And with Him we have everything. And without Him we have nothing.

But my dear friends, on a day like today when we gather here to celebrate the anniversary of the founding of our local Church by the successor of Peter himself, reminded that to be true to ourselves in Christ means that we must always remember discipleship is never lived alone.

Look at this church, look at the diversity of God’s people. Who alone could claim us as His own and forge us into a family where the bonds of grace are more powerful than the bonds of blood and nature? Look upon this gathering here in all our different vocations. And who are we, in fact, but branches of a divine vine? We are members of a living, mystical body. The world out there thinks we’re some venerable human institution that does some charitable work, helps educate kids…they kind of tolerate us in the modern world. But they are blind to what we see.

Because you see, my friends, in this Holy Church, what we see is that you and I are the assembly of those who worship and open the doors of eternal life. Here is where heaven and earth meet. Here is where we receive the fortaste of the banquet that will never end. It is for this reason, my friends, that we gather here to remember that we are the universal sacrament of salvation. For there is no salvation without the presence of Christ. And we are His living presence in the world. We, who are His disciples, we are the sons and daughters of His heavenly Father.

And on this day when we remember the founding of our local Church seventy years strong, we come here with gratitude. For we stand on the shoulders of giants. Bishops, priests, deacons, women and men in consecrated life, lay faithful of every race and language and culture. For seventy years, nearly four generations before us, they struggled with zeal, with courage, with fidelity, with generosity, and made the church alive and real in so many ways that I could not even begin to enumerate here today.

We come here with thanksgiving, as we look to the past that we have as a local Church which was certainly not without difficulty, not without challenge. But life is filled, at times, with challenges. But with a heroism and a zeal and a fidelity, that there is no way I can fully describe. And we come here to give thanks that we are part of that family, that is part of another family that began in the upper room with the apostles, our lady, and the great Martyrs of our Church.

We would not be here if they had not come before us. And today we thank them. And many of them have gone to the Lord and we pray that every single one of them rests in the glory of everlasting life.

But my friends, we must remember they did not have an easy time of being true to themselves. Consider, in this state, it was until the end of the second decade of the 19th century that Catholics were actually given the right to vote. It was in the 20th century that fellow Christians stopped gathering together, to oppose Catholics to have any role in society. It has not been easy. And yet those who came before us in the individual struggles they faced, and in the corporate struggles this assembly faced, they remained true.

And so in this moment of Grace I want to remind all of us that we are no strangers to challenges, are we not? Certainly. But the challenges of our modern world are different. For what do we face? We face the spectre of mediocrity, irrelevance. We face the spectre and the challenges of that world that wants us to simply go away. And we are going nowhere.

I invite you, my friends, as we begin this writing this new chapter in the life of our local Church, that we strive to be true to who we are in Christ. That each of us strives to seek radical Holiness so that our Lord is not a mystical, historical figure but He is the friend who caresses our heart every day. And despite my faults and yours, to also seek to accompany each other, all of us, as sisters and brothers, so that we could realize the vision of Augustine, our Patron who says “the tears of one are the tears of all. The joys of one are the joys of all.” And zeal in joyful optimism that shining fervently in faith, hope, and love. That world out there that wants to make us irrelevant will stop in its tracks and come to realize that what it seeks, what it hopes for, what it longs for, it can find it right here in Jesus Christ.

You know, we all know “to thine own self be true”, Polonius’ words to his son in the first act, third scene of Hamlet. But he offers that advice to his son because a fruit comes from it. If you read the rest of the line it says, and I am paraphrasing, that one who does that cannot do harm to his brother or sister.

My dear friends, on this joyful day when we move forward in optimism and grace, let us consider what it is that awaits us. If you and I, this day and every day, are true to who we are in Christ, the scriptures told us we will rise resplendant. We, you and I will see the beginnings of a new Heaven and a new Earth. You and I will be invited to become members of a Kingdom that will never end. And my friends, we will have the great Grace to be able to answer the question of the Lord. Looking Him straight in the face and to proclaim to Him what our life as individuals, and as this one family of faith, will proclaim to all the world: you are my Lord and my God. To Him be glory and honor, now and forever. Amen.

The following is Bishop Caggiano’s homily at the Annual Saint Luke Guild Mass:

My dear sisters and brothers in the Lord,

They were words that were burned into my mind and into my heart. Words that I never expected to be said, although somewhat feared that they would be said. The diagnosis is non-small cell lung cancer and it was spoken to my mother. And I froze in the response, of which I had none. And my mother, in her great holiness, just sat there with that look of resignation that I knew very well.

And it began an odyssey of thirteen months. And its an odyssey that taught me, my friends, very personally, the beauty and power of Christian healing. For my mother had the privilege to be attended at Memorial Sloan Kettering, which is a secular, private hospital. And yet, as grace would have it, her attending physician and all those who cared for her, were deeply faithful Catholics. And they showed my mother the face of the healing power of Christ.

For you see my friends, they certainly tried to attend to her disease as best they could. But they also recognized from the beginning that my mother, and I, and you, and they are destined as pilgrims for a greater life. They revered her dignity as a child, daughter of God, and yet they attended to her spirit as well.

In the those moments of doubt and fear and isolation that even the greatest believers have when they face a medical challenge that is deeply grave, they accompanied her on her journey. And as I said, they showed the face of Jesus.

For what is Catholic health care, my friends?

That which we celebrate here today. We celebrate the men and women who are doctors, physicians, nurses, physician aides, healthcare workers, attendants in hospitals, every single person who allows health care to be delivered. We celebrate all of them today. But what is it that they do together? It seems to me that they extend the healing Ministry of Jesus Christ. For we hear in the Gospels that the Lord healed, and He did – interestingly, He healed more those afflicted in spirit than those afflicted in the body. But He healed them both. And He healed them as a sign of a Kingdom that was coming in Him. That we would all please God one day to the mystery of death which is inevitable For all of us will enter into His Glory by His Mercy.

Isaiah spoke of about it today in the first reading. The mountain we will dwell on, the mountain of the Glory of God where even death itself will be destroyed. Christ has brought that to us. And in His Ministry of Healing, He seeks to make whole what is broken, but always recognizing the infinite value and dignity of every human person made in the image and likeness of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

And He comes to heal not just the body, but the spirit. And my friends, it seems to me often times, healing the spirit is far more difficult than healing the body. And it is a Ministry that doesn’t just practition, but it’s a Ministry of compassion. Catholic healthcare walks with people on their journey. For those who are doctors and nurses and other healthcare workers, I could imagine the difficulty in your own spirit when there is a diagnosis that you know there will be a point – there will be nothing else to do except walk in faith. To walk so that no one walks alone to the great wedding feast that Jesus refers to us in the Gospel.

My dear friends, all of you who who are here, who are involved in health care in any way possible, every way possible, when you do it in the name of Jesus you are offering a Ministry that is beyond price. You are the co-workers of the building of the Kingdom. You are the face of Christ to those who are facing difficult moments in their life journey. And every year we come here, I come, we come to say thank you for doing that, reflecting that, being the instruments of healing and compassion in the name of Jesus.

But this year we will do one more thing. And you will notice from your program, when my homily is complete, I will have the great privilege to inaugurate a new Guild that is a company, a community, a fraternity of sisters and brothers who share the same healthcare Ministry. So that they might be fed and strengthened in the work Christ has chosen for them. For my friends, you know how difficult it is to be faithful to Christ in our modern world. And in the world of healthcare there are many challenges, in a world that wants to make Health Care a business. Those who are Catholic healthcare professionals make it a Ministry. And that is difficult.

And so we are creating a new Guild in honor of St. Luke, physician and evangelist, so that those who give compassion may receive it. Those who give healing might themselves be accompanied in the times when they need strength and fortitude, to grow together in prayer and formation, and to walk with each other and please God. I to walk with them. So that they may remain strong and faithful in the Ministry Christ has asked of them. And to which everyone in this church is deeply grateful for.

So my friends we heard in the Gospel that Jesus, the man who gave the feast, said go out and get everyone. And those who came were not prepared, were thrown out. Because we do not know the day or the hour, when perhaps a doctor, nurse or someone may say to us, the diagnosis is X. And therefore you and I need to be ready.

But how fortunate we are, that whether the diagnosis is the flu or the diagnosis is non-small cell lung cancer, how fortunate we are that we have here, in this church and throughout our Diocese and throughout the world, we have sisters and brothers who are the face of Jesus to us as we journey onto eternal life.

The following in Bishop Caggiano’s homily for the Twenty-Seventh Sunday In Ordinary Time:

My dear sisters and brothers in the Lord,

As Jesus does each time, He teaches us a parable. Today the Lord, in this Parable, is teaching us what the Kingdom of God will look like. The Kingdom of Heaven that He brought by His life, death, and resurrection. A Kingdom that we are all walking towards with His help and the power of the Holy Spirit.

But as He also does in His parables, He’s also asking us to look inside of ourselves so that we might be ready to receive the Gift. And more than that, that you and I are ready today to help build that Kingdom in this world with His grace.

And so today in the parable of the tenants and the vineyard, the Lord is building on what Isaiah had taught centuries before. It seems the more time passes, the more things stay the same. And in the time of Isaiah. he preached, gave this image of a vineyard. Remember, my friends, the vineyard is not a place. As we heard from the psalm, it is a people in the time of Isaiah. God’s chosen people.

And what did they do when they heard about this message of life, of a Kingdom? They rejected it. Because it demanded that they change their lives. It demanded that they they look deep within themselves, that they be obedient to the words of the prophets, that they set aside their sin, they seek a new life. And many said no.

So too for the Lord Jesus. Remember, He is the King of the Kingdom. And in the parable we hear that even when the Son comes to preach a Word, what? Not of judgment, but a Word of mercy, of kindness, of forgiveness, of patience. Many who heard Him then, and many who hear Him now, refuse to change their lives, Refuse to walk in His footsteps, Refuse to live as He asks us to live, imitating Him.

So allow me to ask you a question. How do you and I avoid the fate of those who say no? How is it that you and I can say yes to the Lord Jesus and to what He asks?

Well you see, my friends, if you look at this parable of the tenants, let me ask you another question. If you were the owner of the vineyard and you sent one person to try to reason with the people who were tending the vineyard, or a second person, or a third person, or a fourth person, and everyone you sent got beat up, got manhandled, got thrown into a pit, and you heard all this and you kept sending people, and they kept doing the same thing, let me ask you – would you send your son or your daughter to those people? Would you put someone who was so dear to you in harm’s way? Would you or I actually risk he or she, whom we love, perhaps the most, to send them to a people who showed themselves to be stubborn and ungrateful? Would you do that?

I’m not sure I would. But God did. And that’s the point.

For you see, my dear friends, the lesson of the parable is that God never gives up on us. God’s love for us is so deep, so beautiful, so profound, that he will offer you and me everything and anything, even his most beloved Son, whom we depict here on the cross. There is no limit to God’s love for us because He wants us to be part of His Kingdom. He wants us to receive what our hearts truly desire. He wants to give you and me the joy and peace only He can give. He wants you and I to be free from our sins. He wants us to run and laugh and dance as His own children. And He will spare nothing so that we might have the chance to have so great a gift.

And how sad it is that there are so many who say no.

How do you and I avoid saying no? Well allow me me to ask you one day to look in the mirror, the mirror of your own spirit, as I will mine. And mirrors do not lie, do they? And look deep within your own heart and ask yourself the question, what prevents me from doing to my neighbor what God is offering for me? What is it that I can do more to help my sister, brother, husband, wife, neighbor, classmate, or friend so that I may show to them the Lord Jesus alive in me? Who is it in your life that you are refusing to forgive? When will you and I forgive them? Who in your life, in my life, do we have a grudge? And we say to ourselves, well only if the person does this or this or this, maybe I’ll speak to them.

But God does not do that to us. Why do we do it to others? How far will you and I walk to be merciful and kind and forgiving, even when we get nothing back in return?

For you see, my dear brothers and sisters, in order to enter into the Kingdom, you and I must become like the King, in this case the vineyard owner. And if you and I live lives where we only want to be faithful until it’s comfortable, we only want to be faithful until it hurts maybe just a a little bit, that we’re willing to be comfortable only to the point where everyone else around me is doing the same thing. If you and I want to be part of this Kingdom, then my dear friends, what the Lord is asking of us is to dare to live as He did.

And that is not easy. It is not easy to give and receive nothing back. It’s very difficult to forgive when a person may not return the forgiveness to us. But that is what we are called to do, one step at a time. And we come here to the Altar of God because what we cannot do, He can do in us.

And boys and girls, for those of you who are here from religious education, remember you are going to learn about your faith. Not so much that it stays here, but it has to move to here. And it has to move to here as you walk and live and talk. And choose friends who will help you to imitate the Lord Jesus.

My dear friends, allow me to end by asking you one last question. What would it take in your life to do what the landowner did? What has to change in your life or mine so that we can give up everything for Jesus? And perhaps we could spend this week asking our ourselves that question. And to the extent that we can get an answer, we have work to do.

The following in Bishop Caggiano’s homily for the Twenty-Sixth Sunday In Ordinary Time:

My dear friends,

For about a year and a half between College Seminary and major Seminary, I worked in the world as a salesman for McGraw-Hill Publishing Company. And my territory was New York and the greater region. And part of my job was to just visit my customers to make sure they were happy.

I had one customer in particular, the most important one I had, who as soon as she saw me did not like me. And nothing I could do could change that. So much so that we saw each other face to face the first time I went, and not after that. For as soon as I would show up and they announced that I was there, she would walk down the hall, always in front of me, and I would be talking to her but she wouldn’t be looking at me. And then she’d go into her office and close her door on my face. And I knew the visit was over, and I go home.

In those months when I worked for McGraw Hill I also was considering, reflecting, praying on whether I had made the right decision, whether the Lord was really calling me to be a priest. And because at times I can be stubborn, it took almost 20 months to realize that everything I wanted, which I had, was not what I needed. What I needed is to follow God’s will.

So I decided to go back to the Seminary. And so my district manager said ‘Frank, you have to go visit this person and tell her yourself.’ I thought, ‘okay’.

So I arrived, and she’s walking down the hall, and I’m right behind her. And she was so far ahead of me that I literally had to scream out. And I said to her, ‘by the way, I’m leaving’. And she stopped, and she turned around, so I saw her face to face for the only second time. And she said to me – I’m going to change the phrasing because we’re in church – she said she said to me, ‘who would hire you?’ And I said ‘Jesus’.

And my friends, the reaction was amazing. You could see her face, I saw her face change. Her shoulders, they were always like this, began to relax. And for the first time, not yelling but whispering, she said to me, ‘What did you just say?’

I said ‘Jesus. I’m going back to the Seminary to be a priest.’

And then she was at her door, she flung the door open and she said to her secretary, ‘cancel my appointments’. And she said ‘you’, pointing to me, ‘you come with me’.

And I went into her office for the first time, which was the last day I was there, and for almost two hours she talked. And I just sat there. And she talked about her life, which was a life filled with a lot of suffering, a lot of pain, a lot of wounds. And I don’t think I said five words. And at the end she was kind of cordial. She wished me well. And I left the school. And I was on Seventh Avenue in Manhattan and I said to myself, ‘what was that? what happened?’ And then the words of the second reading today came to mind.

Saint Paul and Philippians sings at the name of Jesus, ‘every knee shall bend in the heavens on Earth, and under the Earth. And every tongue professed to the Glory of God the Father Jesus Christ is Lord, the name of Jesus.’

You see my dear friends, all of us come here to this church with our own names given to us in baptism. But many times we forget that we have one name we all share together, also given to us in baptism. In that name is Christian. For we are all named after Jesus the Christ.

And we know in baptism we were given the gift of the Holy Spirit, the forgiveness of original sin, the enlightenment of our minds, and the gifts of faith, hope, and love.

But what we sometimes forget is that we will also given the Name of Jesus. And with the Name of Jesus comes power, and grace, and authority for us to use in service of our brothers and sisters.

Now you may say, ‘Bishop, this gift of the name of Jesus, how can it be shared?’ Like, ‘what does it do for me?’

Well I glimpsed it that day, where it freed the tongue of this woman to share something probably she had not shared with anyone else. And she began to feel the healing power of God.

But my friends, with the name of Jesus you and I can see what the world is blind to. And by seeing brothers and sisters who are sick and homeless and handicapped and alone, we can be the ones to reach out to them. Because they are our brothers and sisters, with names and respect and dignity.

And what will happen? Christ will use us to bring healing and hope to them. With the power of Jesus, His name in The Gift of the Holy Spirit, He asks that we allow our hearts to become compassionate, merciful, kind, patient, and forgiving. Not because we are doing it alone, but because He will do it through us.

And what will happen? There will be people, couples, neighbors, co-workers, friends, our communities, and even our Parish that will find freedom from sin. Joy that only Christ can give. That they will find that they can be forgiven, and they will learn how to forgive. They will recognize that God’s love is real because we have brought it to them. And all of that comes to us through the name and power of Jesus and His presence in you and me, in His Holy Spirit.

How often do you and I reflect on this gift? How often when you and I pray, do we ask that the power of the Name of Jesus be unleashed in you and me? How often do we go out these doors and proudly profess who we are? For we are Christians. And our allegiance is with Jesus Christ, in word, witness, and the lifestyle that we choose to show.

May I ask this week for our spiritual homework, is to reflect on that question. Have I had this gift all these years and have done very little with it? For the time has come to unleash its power in you and me. For if you are wondering what difference can one name make, in the case of Jesus, the difference is everlasting life.

The following in Bishop Caggiano’s homily for the Twenty-Fifth Sunday In Ordinary Time:

Sisters and brothers in the Lord,

When I look back on the many many times that my sister and I fought when we were young, the majority of those occasions were precipitated because one of us thought we were being unjustly treated. Because we were keenly aware of what the other was getting.

Now the truth of the matter is, most of those times it was all self-interest. But it does demonstrate for even when we’re very young, there’s an innate desire for justice. That we be treated fairly, we be treated equally, we be treated with dignity. And unfortunately in the society in which we live that struggle, you and I as Believers must bring forward. For the world does not treat everyone equally or justly. We have much work to do to realize that basic human desire and need. It is, after all, a basic virtue.

Now I raised this for a reason. Because this parable is strange, isn’t it? For when you read it or hear it at first
value, it seems as if the landowner is being unjust. For if you worked a full day and you worked for an hour, who in our structure of life would give you the same wage? It seems unjust.

And yet, Isaiah tells us our ways are not God’s ways. Our thoughts are not His. So what is the Lord actually teaching us?

well perhaps my dear friends, part of the answer lies with the fact that the context of the parable is the clue to the answer we are looking for. For the Lord is not giving us an example of human interaction or how society operates. He would not waste his time doing that.

This parable, like every parable, like every miracle, is a sign and teaching of the Kingdom. He says so, the evangelist, right at the beginning. And if that’s the case, we have to see it with a different set of eyes. So let me ask you, what is the wage that is being given if the landowner is the king of the Kingdom? What is the wage being given? What is at the heart of the Kingdom if not the generous, reckless love of God that cannot be earned, no matter how long or how short we work? It is a gift open to all. It is a gift that is not given to us because we are meriting it.

And let me ask you a second question. What is the day the Lord’s referring to? It’s not the 24 hours you and I measure, but perhaps it is the measure of one’s life. And if you see it in those terms, in that lens, then this wage, this gift of God’s love to some come at the beginning of their lives, some in the middle of their lives, some in the twilight of their lives. For none of them is wages earned, they are free gifts.

And therefore you may ask yourself, well then Bishop, why would I need to get it at the beginning of my life and work in the vineyard for the love of God. Why would I do it at the beginning? Well precisely because of what the love does to you and me. It heals us, it frees us, it empowers us, it enlightens us, it encourages us to be the instruments of God’s love to our sisters and brothers.

You see, that is what makes the labor a joy. For the gift, the wage was given. And we journey through life. And those who receive it towards the end of their lives certainly are healed and forgiven. But perhaps they could look at the arc of their life and sometimes wonder, why I was not able to say yes earlier, see the benefits that they glimpse towards the end of their earthly life. But that is not for us to judge. The question we ask ourselves, me, you, all of us is, in the journey of our day have we accepted this love? Do we allow it to enter our lives? Will we allow God to heal us, forgive us, empower us, enlighten us? Or do we still cling to the idea that somehow I am not worthy, somehow I need to earn it.

There is another lesson to be learned though my friend. And that is, unfortunately, a tendency we can all fall into. And that is, as I look upon this church and you look at one another, we are all workers receiving the wage. And how often are we tempted to compare ourselves to others? Others who perhaps have been in the vineyard, faithful to Christ longer than us. Or the many, many who are not even here at all, as if my holiness has anything to do with your holiness.

The truth of the matter is my friends, religious observance is not the equivalent of a holy life. It is a means to a holy life. And the love of God is given to you and me so that we might be impelled with His help, to seek His will, and do it faithfully. And that is the road to holiness. That is the result of a life lived working for the Kingdom. For the ultimate wage is eternal life with Him.

So when we re-read this parable, it is not only just but wildly generous, isn’t it? That no matter where you and I are on the Journey of our Life, the day of our work, wherever we happen to be, whether our life is a mess, whether we have just begun the journey, the Gift is ours.

Who here in this church believes, then, that it is not worth working for the Kingdom having received so great a gift?