Monthly Newspaper • DIOCESE OF BRIDGEPORT

‘Let Us Enter the Upper Room with the Lord’

My dear friends in Christ, for the last year, we have faced an unprecedented time that has dramatically changed every aspect of life, in ways known and unknown. One can say that we have lived a time of spiritual twilight, when we experienced a growing sense of darkness, mixed with moments when the light of charity and kindness broke through to encourage us.

For who among us has not wrestled with fear and anxiety as we tried to deal with the uncertainties caused by a pandemic that upended our lives without warning? How many of our family members and friends suffered deeply because of the loss of a job, sudden illness, living in long periods of isolation or the fear of the unknown? Who has not been moved to tears when we looked at the sight of family members visiting relatives in hospitals, unable to be with them in their hour of sickness? How difficult it was to spend birthdays, anniversaries and holidays separated from parents and grandparents, unable to visit them so as to keep them safe! How many have endured the sadness and disappointment of making the hard decision to remain at home and not attend Sunday Mass, not simply to avoid risking their own health but to protect the well-being of their loved ones?

Yet, throughout these difficult days, we have also experienced moments of great joy and light. We have been moved by the sight of young children writing letters to seniors to quell the lonely days as the world entered quarantine. Neighbors have run errands and gone shopping for neighbors unable to leave their homes. Doctors and nurses and other frontline workers have sacrificed their own health and safety to care for those who have fallen ill, forgoing vacations and overtime pay to make sure those who are critically ill are not left alone. Families have gathered virtually, talking more during the pandemic than perhaps they would otherwise, simply to check in and check up on one another. Indeed, the virtual means of communications have brought so many closer together. Finally, how can we forget those faithful men and women, clergy and laity alike, who kept our churches clean when Masses resumed, who reimagined faith formation so that our young people could remain connected, who worked so tirelessly to keep our Catholic schools open? These moments of hope and light have reminded us that, even in the darkest times, we are a people of light.

For everyone who brought light in the midst of the darkness, I thank God each day for your witness and generosity.

Now as we begin to look to a time beyond the pandemic, many speak of a “new normal” that is a way of life that will be different because of what we have experienced together. If this is true, I ask you, should we not draw greater light out of this darkness by shaping the “new normal” so that our personal faith may be strengthened, the unity of our Church deepened and we are ready to go out in mission and witness to the Gospel in new and courageous ways? As Christians, we believe suffering and death leads to new life. Let us use the months ahead to work together to craft a future that will bring greater unity and renewal to ourselves, our families and our Church. As we anticipate the grip of the pandemic to slowly loosen in the coming months, let us now begin with a quiet period of personal and communal prayer, study and renewal. For having been strengthened in mind and spirit, we will be ready later this year to go out into the larger world and bear witness to Christ in new, bold and creative ways.

I come to you now, my dear friends, when many may be wondering about the future direction of our Church, to invite you to begin this spiritual journey with me, seeking the Lord’s grace to transform this time of suffering into a springtime of renewal for the life of the Church. It will be a journey that will move us beyond the fatigue that has settled in as weeks turned into months and as what we hoped would be temporary began to change the world around us. It will be a journey where we will rise out of the darkness with the Lord Jesus at our side, and in obedience to the promptings of the Holy Spirit bring new energy and commitment to the preaching of the Gospel, in word and witness. It is a journey that will last for a lifetime.

I. The Upper Room

“When the day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread arrived, the day for sacrificing the Passover Lamb, He (Jesus) sent out Peter and John, instructing them, ‘Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.’ They asked Him, ‘where do you want us to make the preparations?’ And He answered them, ‘When you go into the city, a man will meet you carrying a jar of water. Follow him into the house that he enters and say to the master of the house, ‘The teacher says to you, ‘Where is the guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large upper room that is furnished. Make the preparations there” (Lk. 22: 7-12).

Since every journey demands preparation, our journey of renewal will begin by accepting the Lord’s invitation to enter in the quiet of our hearts and rediscover His presence and power in our personal lives, our families and in our communities of faith. The image that comes to my mind is that of the Upper Room where the Lord often gathered with His apostles and disciples, in times of challenge or decision, to strengthen them for what lay ahead.

Recall that it was in the Upper Room that the Lord celebrated the Last Supper with His apostles, to feed them in anticipation of the sufferings that they would endure by proclaiming His Passion and Death. It was in the Upper Room where the apostles, having seen the Risen Lord, could not overcome their fear until the seven-fold gifts of the Holy Spirit gave them the courageous strength to become fearless missionaries in a harsh and cruel world. It was also in the Upper Room where the apostles learned to discern the Spirit’s plan for each of them and to go out in mission.

My friends, the Lord is inviting you and me into the Upper Room to receive the same gifts He gave to His apostles and disciples. In the months to come, in courageous and prayerful silence, the Lord will feed us, teach us and prepare us to go out in mission into our divided world to bring the light of Christ’s love to everyone we meet.

If we accept this invitation to spend time in the Upper Room with Him, He will offer us the same spiritual gifts already in our midst that will prepare us for the mission ahead. These are the same gifts that our recent Diocesan Synod highlighted, including the need for daily personal prayer, to seek forgiveness of our sins and to receive and adore the Eucharistic Lord. These gifts, which lie at the heart of our Catholic faith, are not new but will take on new power and purpose as together we celebrate their power to heal us, feed us and give us strength. This letter will explore how these gifts can bring us renewal and prepare us for the larger mission to come.

My friends, the Synod was guided by these words spoken by the Lord: “Remain in me as I remain in you” (Jn. 15:4). In this moment of preparation, may these words echo in our minds and hearts. For if we wish for true renewal and to be ready to go out into the larger world, nothing can be accomplished apart from the Lord and His grace.

II. Upper Room: A Place to be Fed

“Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ” (Jn. 17:3).

In the Upper Room on the night before He died, the Lord fed His apostles both His Word and His Sacred Body and Blood. Recognizing that the Lord cannot force us to accept His gifts, these same gifts will feed you and me only if we are willing to receive them.

1. Personal Prayer

We can begin our preparations by making a conscious, daily decision to spend time in prayer with the Lord, with no short cuts and no excuses. We must not allow the fear of silence to dissuade us from prayer. Rather, if we have the courage to enter into the silence, the Lord will gently whisper the assurance of His love for us. He will speak to our hearts and remind us that He is always with us, in every moment of every day.

We can pray in any manner we wish, whether reciting the rosary, novena prayers, the Liturgy of the Hours or simply in unstructured conversation with the Lord. We can choose whatever time and place is most conducive to allow us to settle our minds and hearts to enter into the Lord’s presence. However, our commitment to pray—not as an addendum to a busy schedule but as a foundational part of our day—is crucial for the work that lies ahead of us. For if we wish to invite our children, grandchildren, neighbors and friends to share the joy of Catholic faith, how can we lead them to Christ if we do not spend time with the Lord each day deepening our own personal relationship with Him?

I ask that you consider including the Word of God in whatever prayer you choose. As we take our place at the Lord’s feet, as the apostles did in the Upper Room, we will be fed by listening to His Word. Unlike the apostles who had the privilege of hearing the Lord’s words with their own ears, you and I can hear the Lord’s words in and through the Sacred Scriptures. In our prayer and study, we can listen to the Lord’s teachings from His own lips, learn to follow in His footsteps and be inspired by the examples of the holy women and men of faith who followed Him.

Praying with the Scriptures can take many forms, including Lectio Divina, or engaging in Scripture sharing and study, whether online or in person. I call upon all pastoral and Diocesan leaders to make available whatever resources they can to unlock the beauty, meaning and power of the Word of God. For the admonition of Saint Jerome must never be forgotten: “Whoever does not know Scripture does not know the power and wisdom of God, then ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ” (Prologue of the Commentary on Isaiah: 1, CCL 73, 1).

2. Reconciliation with Christ

In the quiet of the Upper Room, we will also find the strength to seek the Lord’s word of forgiveness from the sins that may haunt us, sometimes hidden deep within our heart.

For we live in a time when sin is equated with “committing a mistake,” “making a poor choice” or “attending to my private business.” Sin is denied because to admit it may “impose guilt” that is perceived to be harmful. If the human person is considered the standard of truth and morality, what place does sin have in such a life? Yet, in the quiet of the Upper Room, the foolishness of these presumptions will be laid bare. For it was in the Upper Room where the Lord cast aside His outer garment, tied a towel around His waist and proceeded to wash the feet of His apostles, in anticipation of the Last Supper to follow. By this task, usually reserved for slaves to perform, the Lord reminded His apostles of their need to be cleansed, in order to receive His sacred Body and Blood and to serve others worthily.

If we enter the quiet of His presence, the Lord will gently hold up a mirror into our souls so that we can gaze upon our sins without excuses or pretense. At those moments, we will encounter a Savior who does not seek to condemn us but to forgive. He will whisper the same words to us that He spoke to the woman caught in adultery: “Has no one condemned you?…. Neither do I condemn you. Go and from now on do not sin anymore” (Jn. 8:10-11). Our gentle and merciful Shepherd will offer to wash away our sins so that we can receive His Body and Blood with hearts and minds renewed.

Before we invite others to experience the liberating word of God’s forgiveness, should we not take this privileged time to relearn how to examine our conscience, admit our sinfulness and seek the forgiveness of our sins through the Sacrament of Penance?

I recognize that the pandemic has created obstacles for many who wish to approach the Sacrament of Penance. It is for this reason that I am asking that Centers of Mercy, once established in our Diocese during the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy (2015), be re-established in every deanery. These Centers of Mercy will be parishes that will offer the Sacrament of Penance in the evenings, with the help of the priests of the area, so that no one need wait more than two days in order to receive this healing sacrament. These Centers, along with the parishes already offering the Sacrament of Penance throughout the Diocese, will observe every protocol needed to maintain the safety of penitent and priest alike. These new Centers of Mercy will begin their work no later than March 1st and a comprehensive list will be published in every media platform of the Diocese.

On Monday, March 29th, we will hold our annual observance of Reconciliation Monday. As you may know, on this day, Confessions will be heard in many parishes throughout the Diocese, both in the afternoon and evenings, so that everyone who wishes to receive the sacrament can do so before the Easter Triduum. I ask you to consider participating in this unique opportunity to receive the gift of forgiveness that only Christ can give.

My friends, the Lord wishes to free each of us from the burden of our sins. Should we not then use this time to shed the baggage of our sins and accept His freedom with joy?

3. The Holy Eucharist

Finally, and most importantly, it was in the Upper Room that at the Last Supper the Lord Jesus fed His apostles His Sacred Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. The Lord fed them His Body and Blood so that they could anticipate through grace the mystery of His Passion and Death, and to strengthen them for the sufferings that lay ahead.

My friends, each time we have come to Mass, we have taken a seat at the table in the Upper Room, like the apostles, to be fed the sacred Body and Blood of our Savior and Redeemer. Through grace, we participate in an unbloodied way in the one sacrifice of the Lord’s death on the Cross. At Mass, we enter in the mystery of our redemption and salvation in Christ. It is celestial food that gives us the strength to go into mission wherever that may lead us.

I recognize that among the many disruptions caused by the pandemic, none has created greater hardship, sadness and disappointment than the inability of many to come to Sunday Mass. It was with great sorrow that I suspended Sunday worship last year, to ensure that the lives of our people, especially the sick and elderly, were protected from an unknown and unseen menace. Ever since public worship has resumed, we have maintained our health protocols to allow those who are ready and able to attend Sunday Mass to come to church as safely as possible. I understand the burden that many may feel because of these measures and I deeply appreciate your cooperation. As I write this letter, more than 25,000 Catholics have returned to Sunday Mass, and we await the return of many more Catholics to Sunday Mass as conditions improve.

I also wish to thank those individuals who have remained connected to the celebration of the Mass by viewing it online due to their inability to return to church at the present time. Christian prudence demands that every person carefully examine the circumstances of their life and to make decisions that will keep them safe and protect the well-being of their loved ones. The Lord feeds you His grace through the Spiritual Communion you now receive, until the day comes when you can return to receive His sacred Body and Blood without fear. When that time comes, your parish community will welcome you home with open arms.

My friends, let us also use this quiet time of preparation to ask the Lord to reawaken in our hearts a passion, respect and reverence for the Blessed Sacrament. Our reverence is deepened as our understanding and appreciation of the “Mystery of Faith” that is the Eucharist grows. Sadly, many adult Catholics have not had the opportunity to explore the depth, breadth and richness of this central mystery of our faith. I call upon our clergy and pastoral leaders to offer sustained and comprehensive adult catechesis on the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the coming months so that our love and passion for the Eucharist can grow. Diocesan resources will also be published soon, including a detailed theological reflection on the mystery of the Eucharist, as fuel to awaken the fire of our Eucharistic faith. Let us use the months ahead to deepen our knowledge and appreciation of so great a divine gift.

We must also acknowledge the debilitating spiritual effects created by the celebration of Mass that lacks reverence or beauty. For it is the power of beauty that engages the heart, allowing the grace of the Eucharist to move its participants to remember that their destination is heaven and to embrace their mission to preach the Gospel in the world. A beautiful and reverent celebration of the Mass demands a proper disposition by the celebrant and lay faithful alike. We cannot allow the distractions of the world to draw our attention away from the mystery before us. Each of us must relearn the power of preparation before Mass, interior silence and thanksgiving at the conclusion of Mass so that the gift given can yield its proper fruit.

I have also asked that every deanery establish at least one Center of Adoration—a local parish that will offer Eucharistic Adoration throughout the day, so that everyone who wishes can be fed by the Eucharistic Lord in a personal and powerful way. These Centers will also afford those who remain uncomfortable with attending Mass on Sunday an opportunity to encounter the Eucharistic Lord in quiet throughout the day. It is my desire that every deanery will have at least one such Center of Adoration operating no later than the start of April.

III. Upper Room: A Place to Listen

“I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own but he will speak what he hears and will declare to you the thigs that are coming” (Jn. 16:12-13).

In addition to being fed, the Lord wishes for us to enter into the Upper Room with Him to relearn how to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, often spoken in and through the lives of the people around us. For we cannot be effective in mission unless we can address the concerns that believers and non-believers hold in their hearts.
Some believers continue to have questions of faith for which they have never received adequate answers. Others have wounds that burden them or hurts from past failures in the Church that tempt them to walk away in indifference. Each of us must ask the Lord to teach us how to listen to those concerns so that in our personal encounters with the people we meet, we can be effective in leading our brothers and sisters to find the answers that they seek in Jesus.

IV. Upper Room: A Place to Recommit to Mission

“When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim” (Acts 2: 1-4).

Finally, like the apostles, we must be prepared to reenter the larger world as courageous missionaries of the Gospel.
In our Baptism and Confirmation, each of us was given the mission to be a disciple of Christ who can speak an effective word of salvation to whomever we meet, whether they be our family members, co-workers, friends or even strangers. This word of salvation that comes from Christ invites every human person to become “a new creation” in Him (2 Cor. 5:17).

To speak an effective word of salvation does not always require spoken words but can be powerfully conveyed by the example of a joyful, faithful life. It often does not require that we leave our homes or places of work to be missionaries. In fact, it is in these familiar places that our mission begins. This means that at every moment of every day we are called to be missionaries, even during these days of the pandemic. In fact, these past months have given us unique opportunities to offer help, consolation and care in the name of Jesus. In those occasions, we lived the vision attributed to Saint Teresa of Avila who taught her sisters:

“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”

Saint Paul describes this mission by using the word “ambassador.” He writes, “So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us” (2 Cor. 5:20). Who are these ambassadors? Simply put, they are you, me and all who have encountered the person of Jesus Christ. Where are we to go? We serve as ambassadors of Christ in our homes, classrooms, workplaces, clubs, ball fields, and when we shop, travel, and spend time with friends. For the work of an ambassador is to build a living bridge to the people we meet, accompanying them in their struggles, answering their questions and allowing them to experience how much they are loved by Christ, through you and me. When I first came to the Diocese, in my installation homily, I spoke about my deep desire to build bridges to those who were seeking meaning and direction in life. It seems to me that the time has come when we are all called to be bridge-builders to the people around us, leading them to Christ, for whom we serve as His ambassadors.

At times we have all failed to be true ambassadors of Christ. Such failure has a familiar look. As Saint Ignatius of Antioch describes it: “Do not have Jesus Christ on your lips and the world in your hearts” (Letter to the Romans, Chpt. 4:7). We must resolve to learn from any past mistakes we have made and serve with new zeal in this work the Lord has given us.

Furthermore, the time is coming when we will be able to leave the safety of our homes and reenter a world forever changed by the pandemic—one that may not welcome the message we will bring. We must recognize that we live within a post-Christian world, in which many do not understand the Christian faith nor have had an encounter with the Lord and His mercy. It is a world where many may not readily welcome the Gospel or may even actively oppose it. It is a world that will nonetheless be surprised by the power of the Gospel and its ability to bring joy and hope where the world cannot give it.

Let us draw hope from our knowledge that the world did not welcome Jesus in whose name we were baptized. Indeed, we are in good company as we go out into the world.

As we begin preparations for a great evangelical outreach into the larger world that will begin in the fall of 2021, the pastors of our Diocese and I will need the assistance of co-workers who will not be afraid to go out into their communities to invite people to encounter the Lord and His mercy. We will need people to echo the prophets and saints who have gone before us, willing to see light through the darkness and willing to say to the Lord, “Here I am. Send me” (Is. 6:8).

Such co-workers, drawn from the laity and clergy alike, must be willing to use the months ahead to undergo intensive personal and spiritual formation to prepare themselves to be missionary ambassadors of Christ. When ready, they will be sent out into their community, under the care of their local pastor, to invite those who have left active participation in the life of the Church to return home. In time, this same invitation will be extended to people of good will and anyone searching for the real meaning of life. For such meaning is found only in the Lord Jesus.
Our pastors have been asked to discern who among their people they can recommend to enter this formational experience, which will be done both online and in person. Formation will include a period of discernment for those who might wonder if this particular opportunity is something the Lord is calling them to do.

If the challenge of serving as a missionary ambassador stirs your heart, I ask that you contact your local pastor and discuss this pastoral opportunity. Evenings of information will be held in the first week of March to provide prospective candidates further information. Furthermore, I call on everyone to pray for those who will respond to this important invitation.

Conclusion: Saint Joseph, “A Righteous Man” (Mt. 1:19)

As we reflect upon the challenges we face and the mission that lies ahead, we may be tempted to be discouraged. Join me to seek the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to enlighten our minds, give joy to our hearts, strengthen our will and shake off all discouragement. Let us prepare ourselves to respond boldly and courageously to whatever awaits us. Let us enter into the Upper Room with Christ so that He can strengthen us for the task that lies ahead.
May these words attributed to Saint John Henry Newman stir our hearts, “Teach us, dear Lord, frequently and attentively to consider this truth: that if I gain the whole world and lose you, in the end I have lost everything; whereas if I lose the whole world and gain you, in the end I have lost nothing.” For if we place our hope in the Lord and not in the world, what do we have to fear?

As you know, Saint Joseph, the righteous one, is being honored this year throughout the Church. For he was a man well acquainted with unexpected change, having his life upended by visits from the Archangel Gabriel and flight into an unknown land. Yet, it was his courage, strength of faith and quiet perseverance that allowed him to overcome the challenges the Holy Family faced. He quietly and faithfully guided and protected the Lord Jesus and our Lady until his death.

On March 19th, the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, the Husband of Mary, I will consecrate the people of the Diocese to the protection and intercession of Saint Joseph during a solemn celebration of Mass at Saint Augustine Cathedral at 7 pm. This celebration will be livestreamed as well. I have also asked all the pastors of our Diocese to offer the same Mass and consecration in their local parishes, also at 7 pm. A plenary indulgence will be available for all those who participate in either the Diocesan or parish celebrations. The spiritual requirements needed to receive this extraordinary grace will be published shortly. As we begin this journey of renewal, I can think of no better guide and protector to whom we can entrust our journey than Saint Joseph. May he help us quietly and faithfully to fulfill the work that lies before us.

My friends, I offer you these reflections on the day when we accept ashes on our foreheads as a sign of our mortality and an invitation to conversion. It begins the holy season of Lent, during which we journey with Christ into the desert so that we can be purified and made ready to celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord at Easter. It is a season, for many, reminiscent of the twilight we have been enduring for some time. Still, we are gifted with the knowledge that Good Friday is followed by Easter Sunday. We know that Easter joy follows the Lenten twilight.
May we bring the ashes we receive today into the Upper Room where we will discover that the Lord can bring light into darkness, lead twilight to dawn and raise ashes to new life.

Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano
Ash Wednesday
February 17, 2021

Authority of Jesus’s teaching is antidote to our anxiety

BRIDGEPORT— At a time of growing anxiety in the face of the pandemic and social change, we can find strength and peace in the teachings of Jesus, said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano in his online Mass for the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

In his homily the bishop reflected on readings from First Corinthians (7:32-25), “I should like you to be free of anxieties,” and the impact of Jesus’s teachings in Capernaum ( Mark 1:21-28, ), “The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority.”

“I should like you to be free of anxieties– How often have those words come to our lips” said the bishop, noting that we often seek to console friends and family members during times of stress and uncertainty.

He urged the faithful to accompany others during the pandemic, so they do not face their sufferings and fears alone.

Our anxieties can divert our attention from that which can bring us greater peace each day when we understand that “all manner of things will be well when we find the one who teaches with authority,” he said.

The bishop began his homily by noting that he and his nephew recently watched a Netflix docudrama called “The Social Dilemma,” which focused on the way social media is manipulating human life, particularly among the young who are dependent and even addicted to it, leading to anxiety in their lives.

The bishop said we all seem to struggle with anxiety at one time or another. However, in this time of Covid-19, many people are experiencing a crippling anxiety that is affecting their daily life and “becoming a burden too heavy to carry.”

“The Christian obligation is to care for those who are struggling with any form of mental illness, even compulsive, burdening anxiety,” he said, adding that people should seek professional help if necessary and not be held back by the stigma of mental illness.

The Gospel of Mark offers a clue to help us deal with the normal anxieties of life along with our deeper and abiding worries, he said. “The clue comes from St. Mark’s depiction of Jesus as one who taught with authority,”

‘What does that mean?. Knowledge can come from reason, experience or intuition—the deep and abiding awareness one has that what is before them is more than meets the eye,” he said.

The bishop said that the people of Capernaum had that intuition when they heard Jesus speak. They understood and believed that Jesus taught with authority, and that when he spoke, they heard the fullness of truth.

“That intuition in the rough and tumble of our lives struggling with normal anxieties is the need to go back and do what the people of Capernaum did—sit before the Lord and listen to that intuition in our hearts that he speaks with authority.”

The bishop said there are no questions that Jesus can’t t answer or wounds he cannot heal “because he walks with us in lightness and in darkness, and he has shed his blood so that our mistakes might be forgiven,… and we might not be enchained by sin but find new life.”

The bishop said our mission is to be messengers who can lead others to the one who speaks with authority and can heal them.

“Let us find the strength to sit at his feet and allow him to lead us ever more, step by step, day by day, into the peace he promises to all who follow him.”

Following Mass the bishop said he continued to pray for the people of the diocese and he invited all to join him in the weekly family Rosary, saying that “there is no better way to sit at the feet of the Lord and allow the Lord’s peace to take root in our heart.”

You are also invited to join Bishop Caggiano for the Sunday Family Rosary every Sunday at 7:30 p.m. visit: https://formationreimagined.org/sundayfamilyrosary/
The Bishop’s Sunday Mass is released online every Sunday morning at 8 a.m. and available for replay throughout the day. To view the Bishop’s Sunday Mass, recorded and published weekly, click this link or visit the YouTube Mass Playlist.

Bishop: Find unity by ‘fixing our eyes on Jesus’

BRIDGEPORT— At a time of division in society and within the Church, “true unity is not making peace with ourselves, but making peace with Him,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano in his online Mass from the Catholic Center chapel on the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Reflecting on the Gospel of Mark (1:14-20 ) when Jesus invites the apostles Simon, Andrew, James and John to follow him, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men,” the bishop said that Jesus extends the same call to us “in the singular moment we are living as Americans and believers in Him.”

“The Lord invites us to allow the power of the Holy Spirit to help us get beyond what divides us,” he said, emphasizing that our shared faith in Jesus “gives us a greater purpose so our differences don’t matter anymore.”

The bishop said that the faithful can overcome its divisions and work toward unity and a common mission not simply by thinking that we can solve all of our own problems, but “by fixing our eyes on Him who is the truth, the way and the life.”

He began his homily by recalling that a few years ago when he led the diocesan pilgrimage to Washington D.C. for the dedication of a prayer garden alongside the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, he found time to visit the Vietnam War Memorial.

Noting that the wall of black granite adorned with names of those who died serving the country was “beautiful to behold in itself,” the bishop said it was important to look behind the names to the lives that were lost.

“Each time I gaze on the names, I remind myself that behind every name is a person’s face, life, and history that needs to be remembered and honored. The name is a pathway to glimpse the beauty of each individual who is memorialized there.”

Likewise, as Jesus begins his ministry, we are introduced to the apostles by name, but we are also invited to be drawn into the story of their faith.

Describing the apostles as an unlikely group that was beset by differences, bickering, and lack of understanding of what Jesus was saying, the bishop said we may wonder why Jesus selected them.

“He loved them for who they were and who they could become,” said the bishop, adding that we should be encouraged by “the inexplicable fact that the bickering, envy, jealousy, and disunity ended in the Upper Room when the ragtime group of men accepted the Holy Spirit in their heart.”

He said that by “fixing their eyes on Jesus after first recognizing their own sinfulness, they allowed the Spirit to touch them with power and grace… They found true unity and began to imagine what men that they could become.”

Noting that there is presently much division in the Church between liberal and conservative voices, the bishop said that we are in need of reconciliation much like the apostles.

“Enough is enough, the Pentecost has come,” he said, adding that we often end up fighting over things that divide us superficially rather than deepen our lives in Christ’s as His modern day disciples.

He said the Lord loves us for who we are, but like the apostles, we can’t move forward without the admission of our own sinfulness and acceptance of His forgiveness in our lives.

“This is our singular moment, the time the Lord in the upper room is whispering to us, ‘I will lead you to what you desire. Will you come after me, follow me, become fishers of women and men?’”

The bishop said that when we have gone from this life, many may remember our names, but the lives we live behind the names are what matters, particularly if we unite in His love.

“Let us use this moment to go beyond the names of the Apostles to discover them for the true men and saints they became, and let us have the courage to follow their example, so we might heal divisions in our own Church, the division in our world and the divisions in our hearts—yours and mine.”

Before final blessing the bishop said he prayed for all families of the diocese that they remain safe and healthy, and he also asked for prayers for him and diocesan leaders during this difficult time. “Without the grace of the Holy Spirit we can’t find our way forward. With him there is no challenge we cannot meet.”

The Bishop’s Sunday Mass is released online every Sunday morning at 8 a.m. and available for replay throughout the day. To view the Bishop’s Sunday Mass, recorded and published weekly, click this link or visit the YouTube Mass Playlist.

You are also invited to join Bishop Caggiano for the Sunday Family Rosary every Sunday at 7:30 p.m. visit: https://formationreimagined.org/sundayfamilyrosary/

The Dedication of Our Teachers

The dedication of teachers during this pandemic never ceases to amaze me. Take Margarita Nicolasa Sulugüí, a 4th-grade teacher from Guatemala, for example. I found out about her from Catholic Relief Services, which helps train teachers in her area.

When the pandemic made its way to her community, she decided to start visiting her students at home. Wearing a mask and carrying hand sanitizer, she visits 4 – 5 students per day, spending extra time with those who need additional help. Margarita gives her lessons in an open space – usually outside on a patio, on rocks, or under shady trees. After the visits, she makes herself available by phone for the parents who have questions about the homework. In the words of the parents, “Her visits are very good because we feel supported, we’re happy, we’re not alone.”

Let’s make sure we thank all of our teachers who are doing their best during this very difficult time. My special thanks to the teachers of our Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Bridgeport!

The previous reflection originally appeared on Bishop Frank Caggiano’s Facebook page. Follow the Bishop for daily reflections and weekly videos.

Statement on Violence in Washington, DC

There are few words that can describe the shock I feel to see our Capitol Building occupied by violent and unlawful rioters earlier today. As Americans, we should be deeply disturbed to see such an important symbol of freedom and liberty in our nation violated in such a way. Our nation is better than such behavior.

The peaceful transfer of power is one of the most important and revered aspects of our democracy. We must recommit ourselves to the values we hold dear as Americans: democracy, freedom, and peace. As people of faith we condemn violence in all its forms as a moral betrayal of the Gospel. We also know that our nation needs prayer, now more than ever, so that we may always remain one nation, under God.

In that spirit, please join me tonight in praying for the United States during this unprecedented and frightening time in our history. Let us pray for peace in our communities, in our capital, in our Country, but most of all, in our own hearts.

The previous reflection originally appeared on Bishop Frank Caggiano’s Facebook page. Follow the Bishop for daily reflections and weekly videos.

We need to persevere until the tide turns

As I begin my seventh day of quarantine, I am grateful to the Lord that I have not developed any symptoms associated with the coronavirus. Unfortunately, a number of dear friends have recently contacted me by text or email and told me that they have received both a positive test result and also begun to experience some severe side effects from the virus. My heart goes out to them and their families. Let us continue to keep everyone who has been afflicted by this terrible disease in our prayers.

Given the fact that many who have recently contracted the Coronavirus fell ill through small gatherings that they attended at Christmastime, I urge everyone to remain vigilant in doing all that we can to protect ourselves and our families against this terrible disease. I recognize that we are all weary of what has become our ”new” way of life: wearing masks, socially distancing and frequently washing our hands. However, in those settings when we do not follow these protocols, precisely in small gatherings with family and friends, is when many have fallen ill. We need to persevere until the tide turns and this terrible disease is vanquished from our midst.

Please be assured of my daily prayers for all of you, your family and friends.

The previous reflection originally appeared on Bishop Frank Caggiano’s Facebook page. Follow the Bishop for daily reflections and weekly videos.

An Update from Bishop Frank

My dear friends, I am so deeply grateful for all the emails and texts you have sent me offering prayers as I begin my quarantine. I deeply appreciate your kindness and support. Thankfully, I remain asymptomatic which is very encouraging.

For those who join me for the electronic celebration of Mass, I am sorry that I will be unable to offer Mass until my quarantine is over. However, be assured of a remembrance in my own prayers as I celebrate Eucharist in private for the next ten days.

Finally, let us continue to pray for everyone who has been affected by the scourge of this pandemic in any way, especially those who are sick and our health care workers who care for them. May the Lord grant the sick a full and complete recovery and continued protection and well-being for all our health care workers.

Best wishes for a Blessed, Joyful, and Healthy New Year to you and your families.

The previous reflection originally appeared on Bishop Frank Caggiano’s Facebook page. Follow the Bishop for daily reflections and weekly videos.

Blessed Mother teaches us to untie knots of sin & selfishness

BRIDGEPORT—“On this the last Sunday of Advent, Our Lady figures prominently as we stand on the threshold of Christmas,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano in his weekly online Mass from the Catholic Center.

“It’s her fiat, her “Yes” that begins this offer, this drama, this sacred message of salvation in the son she bore into the world,” he said in his homily at Mass for the 4th Sunday of Advent.

The Bishop said the Blessed mother’s obedience and willingness to do the will of God is an example of how to avoid the destructive entanglement of sin “that prevents us from doing what He asks us and mires us in paths that are destructive and worse.”

After reading Luke’s account of the Annunciation ( 1:26-38) when Mary is visited by the Angel Gabriel (“Behold, you will bear a son and you shall name him Jesus”), the bishop said the Blessed Mother gave us a new beginning and a path to salvation.

The bishop began his homily by noting that as a young boy he often struggled to untie the knots in his shoes– an effort that usually required his mother’s help in order to get him out of the house and off to school on time.

“I did know how to tie my shoes, but I usually couldn’t find where the knot was. To this day, I’m not sure why it was such a problem,” he said recalling his mother’s help and patience.

“Now I stand nearly 62 years of age at a time in my life that I still have a problem with knots–and perhaps you do too. Not knots made with shoe laces, but the knots you and I create by your sins and mine– knots that create entanglements that prevent us from being where we were meant to be in Christ.”

The bishop said that as we prepare for Christmas the example of the Blessed Mother can help us untie the knots that make us unhappy and separate us from God.

“The Blessed Mother is considered the new Eve, the un-tier of knots that our first earthy parents created, which entangled all of our lives,” he said.

He said that the word “obedience” describes the Blessed Mother’s reaction to God’s call, but it is also a word that has fallen out of favor in contemporary society.

Today, obedience has become a negative word for people who think “My life is all about me and what I want, and my desires,” he said.

He said Mary was a woman who had planned to consecrate her life but had no hesitation when she was called to a radically different task by God– one that could have led to her being shunned and ostracized as an unwed, pregnant woman.

However, she responded without hesitation because she knew how “to listen with open heart to God’s will and to do it.”

The Blessed Mother lived “her life in the holiness of grace, even when it took her to a place that was unforeseen, a place that was uncomfortable and a place that was unacceptable,” he said.

Likewise, we must learn to listen to God and not get entangled in our own plans and wants.

“We’re not ourselves when we do it our way—not God’s way; when we seek pleasure instead of purpose, when we’re self-promoting rather than neighbor promoting… when we live life in a way we choose and not the way the Virgin Mary’s son has taught us.”

“My earthly mother helped me untie my earthly shoes, and my Heavenly Mother helps us from falling into the sins that can entangle us,” he said. “She reminds us as a good mother, that if want to talk through life, get on with the journey and not fall on our face, we have to avoid knots and move on.”

The bishop concluded his homily by saying that he continues to wear a scapula that his mother gave him years ago, and sometimes in the morning it gets tangled with chain that holds the Cross he wears as a bishop.

He said that when he stands before the bathroom mirror trying to untangle them, he sometimes finds himself chuckling when he understands that both his “earthly mother and spiritual mother are teaching me the basic lesson of life– that it’s far easier to live without knots.”

At the end of Mass, the Bishop invited all those who will be unable to attend Christmas Mass in person to join him in the online Mass on Christmas day. “I look forward to praying with you through this electronic format for this most wonderful and joyful day of the coming into the world of the Savior and Redeemer,” he said.

The Bishop’s Sunday Mass is released online every Sunday morning at 8 a.m. and available for replay throughout the day. To view the Bishop’s Sunday Mass, recorded and published weekly, click this link or visit the YouTube Mass Playlist.

For information on the Sunday Family Rosary every Sunday at 7:30 p.m. visit: https://formationreimagined.org/sundayfamilyrosary/

Simple acts of kindness can revive the spirit and rekindle hope

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A few days ago, Debbie, my assistant, and I were puzzled with the arrival of a package to my office that listed no sender. Within it was an Advent wreath that had electrically powered candles- something that I had never seen before. After some thought, Debbie suggested that perhaps someone in the Catholic Center ordered it and it was sent to my office by mistake. The explanation seemed logical so I moved on to my other work.

Later that evening, I began preparations for the recording of my next podcast. Suddenly I understood the mystery of the wreath. For in my last podcast, I made mention of an incident a few years ago when I accidentally left the candles of my Advent wreath lit and only be sheer grace, having forgotten my keys, returned to my room to discover the danger. Since then, I keep my Advent wreath unlit- until the arrival of the electric wreath that was sitting in my office! A kind and generous person who listened to my podcast sent me the electric wreath, so that I could once again pray with the light of its candles in safety!

I cannot describe how moved I was when I realized this beautiful act of generosity and kindness given to me. In the face of all the challenges that have become a daily part of leadership, to know that there are persons who care enough to reach out in simple and anonymous ways, to provide support and encouragement, was one of the greatest spiritual gifts I have received in a long time. It powerfully reminded me that simple acts of kindness can revive the spirit and rekindle hope.

To whomever sent me the Advent wreath, I am praying for you, your family and your intentions each day that I light . Thank you for your kindness, generosity and support.

The previous reflection originally appeared on Bishop Frank Caggiano’s Facebook page. Follow the Bishop for daily reflections and weekly videos.

Water is Life, but it is also Time

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My friends, people say “water is life,” and that’s true…but water is also time. Many children and women all around the world spend hours every day just getting water because there’s no access to clean water at home.

A simple water pump or water tank can change all of that. 13-year-old Elisa Niyobyose, pictured in this photo, knows this first hand. Catholic Relief Services worked with members of her community in Rwanda to build a water tank. She said, “I used to spend at least one hour to collect water from the neighboring village. Now it takes me about 15 minutes because this tank is in the center of our village.” Thanks to the water tank, more time for children like Elisa often means more opportunity to do other important things, like her studies. What a difference a simple thing like a water tank can make.

The previous reflection originally appeared on Bishop Frank Caggiano’s Facebook page. Follow the Bishop for daily reflections and weekly videos.

Statement of Bishop Frank J. Caggiano on Release of McCarrick Report

Today, the Holy See has published its report on the institutional knowledge and decision-making process related to former Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick, prepared by the Vatican Secretariat of State by mandate of Pope Francis.

The 460-page report will receive intensive review in the coming days, and I believe, based on the 12-page summary, that it will prove to be another important step forward in the Church’s long struggle to confront the crimes of sexual abuse by clergy including Bishops and Cardinals.

At this time, my thoughts and prayers are first and foremost with all victims and survivors of sexual abuse, especially those who suffered at the hands of the former Cardinal McCarrick. I am deeply sorry for the pain and suffering that you and your families have endured.

I also wish to reiterate my fierce and enduring commitment to continue to address this crisis and attack this evil in our midst. Our Diocese is currently implementing the final recommendations from the Independent Accountability Investigation conducted by Judge Robert Holzberg, and I hope to issue an update soon. Early last week, I promulgated a new Safe Environment Handbook, which incorporates the Judge’s recommendations and can be found on the diocesan website: www.bridgeportdiocese.org.

Lastly, I am working with a team of dedicated and faithful survivors of sexual abuse, many of whom I am blessed to call friends, on this year’s Service on Hope and Healing, which I hope to share details on shortly.

We remain committed to Safe Environments through verifiable policies, practices, and oversight that safeguards all children and vulnerable adults. I pledge that we will continue to move forward together in the solidarity of faith, a commitment to absolute accountability and transparency, and in the spirit of hope, and we will renew the Church.

Radio: Saving Lives in the Central African Republic

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Each week, I look forward to recording my podcast, Let Me Be Frank with Veritas Catholic Network. Recording my podcast has helped reinforce in me an appreciation for how powerful the spoken word can be, which is why I so appreciate how people in the Central African Republic — a country literally in the middle of Africa — use radio as an important way to provide accurate and essential information to stop the spread of COVID-19. Catholic Relief Services, which has been in the Central African Republic since 1999, works with partners and radio programs there to dispel rumors about the disease. In a country where the internet isn’t widely available, radio is one of the best tools for fighting the spread of the virus by providing people with accurate information. It’s a simple and effective way of reaching millions of people, and saving lives.

The previous reflection originally appeared on Bishop Frank Caggiano’s Facebook page. Follow the Bishop for daily reflections and weekly videos.

Fear is best confronted when we are not alone

I am most grateful to everyone who took the courageous step to describe many of their personal fears. As you can see, we share many of the same fears. I am most thankful to everyone who took this first step in confronting whatever fears you may have. Now the question is: What is the second step?

Naming our fears unmask their presence and power in our lives. Whatever we are afraid of is brought into the light, where for a brief glimpse we can see it for what it really is. In that brief moment, we know that our fears cannot harm us. However, fear will always try to find its way back into the shadows of our hearts, seeking to reassert its destructive and painful power over us. So, it seems to me that the second step in facing and overcoming fear is to find a trusted friend or guide to whom you or I can sit and, with confidence that we will be taken seriously, discuss the fear that threatens to overwhelm us. Fear is best confronted when we are not alone in trying to conquer it.

Most often a person with whom we will discuss our fears will not have a simple answer that will eliminate them. They may initially have little or no advice to give. Yet, it is their very comforting and reassuring presence, their commitment to be of help and their desire to accompany as we confront our fears is truly a great gift. Their presence can give us the reassurance we need to unmask the reasons for our fears and to explore ways by which we can learn to cope with them, and even overcome them.

Jesus always asked his disciples to go out into mission two by two. When you consider the obstacles a disciple faced and the fears those obstacles created, the Lord was already giving his disciples the first two steps to overcome those fears. My friends, the time has come that we starting opening our hearts with one another and to do the same.

The previous reflection originally appeared on Bishop Frank Caggiano’s Facebook page. Follow the Bishop for daily reflections and weekly videos.

Naming Our Fears

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Over these past seven months during which we have endured the deadly consequences of the Coronavirus in our midst, each of us has confronted a myriad of personal fears, some greater than others. For my part, I have feared for the health of my family, especially my great-niece and great-nephew- that they escape the clutches of this deadly, invisible invader. I fear for the long term health of our Church that continues to struggle to resume our common, ecclesial life under difficult circumstances. I am afraid that there will be a second wave of the pandemic, possibly condemning tens of thousands of innocent people to suffering and possible death. I also fear the long-term, unknown consequences of the virus in those who were infected and recovered, especially our young people, who now may be carrying a dormant virus that may cause damage in the future, in ways unknown to us, at a time of its choosing.

I have learned in my life that the first step in overcoming my fears is to have the courage to name them. By naming them, one by one, those fears exit the shadows of our lives where they can do the most harm and allows us, with the grace of God and the use of our reason, gifts, and talents, to forge ahead with a personal plan that will prevent those fears from overtaking our lives. Naming our fears also allows us to bring them to the feet of Jesus and to ask for His grace to overcome them.

What are your fears at this moment in your life? I invite you to share them with all who read this posting, so that together we can move ahead with God’s grace to confront and overcome them.

The previous reflection originally appeared on Bishop Frank Caggiano’s Facebook page. Follow the Bishop for daily reflections and weekly videos.

This is the Church’s love in action

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My friends, as you know, I have the honor and privilege to serve as the chairman of the Catholic Relief Services board of directors.
 
I am so grateful for this vital work the Church does to assist the poor, both in the United States and overseas. I would like to share with you an example of recently shared with me.
 

Low-income people around the world don’t typically have access to traditional banks, making it difficult to get loans or save money. CRS works side by side with low-income communities to create savings groups using a holistic, microfinance approach that provides a safe place for families to save and borrow to increase their income. It truly makes a difference in people’s lives, like Remy. Her house in the Philippines would sometimes flood up to her waist when there were heavy rains, but after she got a loan through her local CRS savings group, she was able to start a small business selling coconuts. The money she earned allowed her to raise the floor of her house, so now she doesn’t have to worry about flooding. This is the Church’s love in action.

The previous reflection originally appeared on Bishop Frank Caggiano’s Facebook page. Follow the Bishop for daily reflections and weekly videos.