Bishop reflects on appointment as Chairman of CRS’ Board Of Directors

I am deeply grateful to Archbishop José H. Gomez for the trust he has shown in me by appointing me to serve as the chair of Catholic Relief Services. In the months ahead, I will do whatever I can to assist the work of the Board and to strengthen the work of CRS in serving the poorest of the poor throughout the world.

Most Catholics I have met do not know a great deal about CRS and its work. However, its mission is essential and its scope is large. CRS is the global services organization of the American Catholic Church and it serves people in 114 countries around the world, assisting in times of natural disaster and providing for long-term development assistance to empower the poor, vulnerable and marginalized through education, agricultural assistance and technical support.

For more than 75 years, CRS has been committed to treat each person it serves with dignity and respect, reflecting our basic Catholic faith. Its core mission is to live the Lord’s mandate found in Matthew 25, where the Savior reminds us that what we do for the least of our sisters and brothers, we do unto Him. Among the issues that CRS strives to address are poverty, violence, lack of education, hunger and homelessness throughout the world.

I look forward to serving with the other members of the Board in our common commitment to strengthen and make known the many essential works CRS provides throughout the world.

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

Awe and Wonder at the Universality of the Church

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As I continue to reflect upon my ad limina visit to Rome, my heart remains filled with many feelings. What is interesting is that the same two feelings come to mind regardless of how many times I have visited the Eternal City.

The first is a deep sense of awe and wonder at the universality of the Church. A simple walk down the Via Della Conciliazione (which is the large avenue that opens onto Saint Peter’s Basilica) reveals the breadth and scope of believers who are united in faith to the Successor of Peter. They are young and old, rich and homeless, speaking a symphony of languages, all united by one Lord, one faith and one baptism. It is remarkable and humbling to see people of every race and language spiritually united into one family of faith and to remember that I am one of them.

The second emotion is gratitude for being part of something that has endured for centuries. To think that we now walk on streets in modern Rome which sit upon ancient streets that saw the martyrs die for their faith, countless people walk in prayer and bishops who participated in the great Councils of the Church are amazing. The long history of the Church, with all its triumphs and failures, evokes in me a deep sense of hope that despite our present challenges, some of which is grace, the Church will endure until the Lord returns to claim His people and lead them to glory.

Rome has its share of challenges, as does every modern city. However, to visit there is to encounter a spiritual reality far greater and more beautiful than any other city can offer.

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

There is a Reason They Call it “Eternal Rest”

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As the annual meeting of the bishops continues here in Baltimore, the Church celebrates the feast of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, an immigrant from Italy who came to the United States to serve her fellow Italian immigrants in New York. She and the other members of her order founded schools, hospitals and orphanages, often raising money by begging on the street. By the time of her death in Chicago, she had started over 65 different institutions that served children, the poor and sick. She was a remarkable woman of faith, courage and determination and is the first US citizen to be canonized in our church.

When I reflect upon her extraordinary life, a number of questions have often crossed my mind. I have often wondered how she found the time to do all that she accomplished? From where did she get the energy and stamina? How could she trust so completely in the will of God while serving in a country that was foreign to her in both language and culture?

Of course, the answer to these questions is the same. It was her profound faith in the Lord Jesus, her trust in His grace and her openness to be used as His vehicle of mercy that gave her all that she needed to live such a remarkable and heroic life. It is an example that challenges me and also gives me great encouragement.

Mother Cabrini was once counseled by a fellow sister to get more rest from her many projects and labors. Mother’s response was simple. She reminded her fellow sister that we call life after death to be “eternal rest” for a reason. She gently reminded the sister that this life was the time to work. Real rest will come later.

Many times when I am exhausted by the many projects that I am called to lead, I remember Mother Cabrini’s words. Let us take consolation in the fact that Christ will sustain us in our current labors and one day, if we are found worthy, He will give us true, eternal rest in the life to come.

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

Bishop Reflects on First Day of Ad Limina Visit

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The first day of the ad limina visit began this morning with a Mass celebrated by all the bishops from New England in the Basilica of Saint Mary Major. On this feast day of Saint Charles Borromeo who was a bishop who helped reform the church of Milan after the Reformation, Archbishop Blair of Hartford served as the principal concelebrant. He reminded all of us who are bishops that we are called to witness to a life of genuine holiness. Only in this way can we, as bishops, foster true spiritual renewal in our local churches.

After Mass we attempted to go to our first congregational visit, only to be caught up in a huge traffic jam that was caused by Rome’s observance of “National Unity Day” and “Armed Forces Day”. Both celebrations commemorate the ending of World War I. All traffic was diverted away from Piazza Venezia where the tomb of the unknown soldier is located. There was a wreath laying ceremony and also a fly over by the Italian air force. Unfortunately, it was directly in our path so what would have been a 20 minute drive devolved into a car ride of one hour and 40 minutes! Needless to say we were very late for our first meeting.

Tomorrow we will be visiting the Congregation for Bishops and the Congregation for Clergy. These visits will be very important occasions to exchange views and to raise some important questions for clarification and direction.

May I ask that you please continue to pray for everyone here on this spiritual pilgrimage!

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

Embracing the fullness of the Gospel of Life

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As I sit here at Seattle International Airport, I am deeply grateful to have had the opportunity to share faith with over 800 people last night on the critical topic of the “Gospel of Life.” I was deeply impressed by the spirit and enthusiasm of those who participated, especially the young adults who attended. Unfortunately, jet lag got the best of me last night, so I was not able to attend the young adult social that followed my presentation. I am sure that it was a lively and uplifting gathering.

I have often warned against the phenomenon of “false choices” in life. A false choice is the decision to pick one aspect of the truth, while leaving other aspects, equally important, to the side. Such a tendency is powered perhaps by a deeply felt passion for a particular cause or pastoral work. Last night, I challenged my listeners to avoid making false choices when dealing with the Gospel of Life. While it is a central part of that Gospel to protect life at its conception and at its natural death, it is also important that we value life at all its stages, especially when challenged by poverty, sickness, discrimination, racism, lack of drinkable water, unemployment, disability, social isolation, mental illness, lack of education, homelessness- just to name a few critical issues of our modern world.

It is a daunting task to embrace the fullness of the Gospel of Life and strive to be faithful to it. However, in our broken world and during this challenging moment in the life of the Church, it is the task that God has asked us to fulfill.

Let us pray for heroic courage to do so so that we can how the Gospel of Life will transform our church and the entire world.

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

Praying the Rosary is Time Well Spent

On Monday we celebrated the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. We recall the gift of the rosary as a powerful means by which we can meditate on the mysteries of Christ’s life through the intercession of the Mother of God. It also provides us a simple tool that we can use often to deepen our life of prayer.

For the past year, as I drive each day from my residence at Saint John Fisher Seminary in Stamford to the Catholic Center in Bridgeport, I have adopted the habit of praying the rosary in the car. At first, it was in partial response to the busy pace of my life, trying to ensure that I prayed the rosary each day by better utilizing my time in the car. As I drove, I would often listen to the news on the radio that repeated the same stories over and over again. Now my time in the car has become a spiritual haven, creating a place of peace and reflection, despite all the traffic around me. What was once wasted time has become valuable time with the Lord and Our Lady. In fact, there are even times that I slow my driving to ensure that I have enough time to pray the rosary before I arrive at the Office. It seems that Our Lady can even help me to follow the traffic laws!

I strongly urge you to consider praying the rosary each day, at a time that is now devoted to something that may be entertaining but not of any lasting value. Find a time when you can be alone and reflective on the mysteries of Christ’s life. It will be time very well spent!

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

Asking our Guardian Angels for help

A few weeks ago, when I was visiting with my niece and her family, my grand-niece proudly announced that she had learned a prayer at school which she wanted to recite for us. The prayer was the Guardian Angel Prayer, which she prayed with great attention and a big smile. It gave me tremendous consolation to see this young girl recognize, celebrate and ask for help from her guardian angel- a practice that too many Christians have forgotten in our secular world.

The simple truth is that guardian angels are real, present in our midst and our great spiritual companions in the life of faith. To neglect their presence or to forget to ask for their help is no loss to them, only a loss for us. They always stand by us, seeking ways to help us to avoid evil and do the will of the Father who sent them to our aid. The only thing we need to do is ask.

Saint Bernard said it best when he wrote, “And so the angels are here; they are at your side, they are with you, present on your behalf. They are here to protect you and to serve you. But even if it is God who has given them this charge, we must nonetheless be grateful to them for the great love with which they obey and come to help us in our great need.”

On the feast of the Guardian Angels, do you not think that the time has come for every Christian to acknowledge the presence of the guardian angels and to ask for their help!

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

Learning to Share Our Time

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Among the many possessions that we have, it seems to me that one of the most precious possessions we have is our time. As I look at my own busy life, given the many competing issues that I need to address each day, I am constantly making decisions where I spend my time, both opening and closing opportunities to minister to those around me. I am always reminded how precious every moment is and how important it is to keep my priorities in line with what the Lord wishes me to do each day.

Since we are all living busy lives, it is inevitable that we cannot get everything done that our hearts desire. We will always be “pressed for time.” However, what is in our power is to make each moment count, by being attentive and fully engaged in whatever we are doing at a given moment. This is especially true when we are with other people, who should receive our full attention and concern when we are with them. For this is another way to share our time, by making it quality time with those around us.

How often do we neglect to engage family members or friends when we are with them? How often do we stop paying attention to someone who is speaking with us? How many times are our thoughts already on something that may occur later in the day (i.e., dinner, evening engagement, afternoon meeting, etc.), all the while allowing the present moment to slip away? On such occasions, we may be physically present but we are not sharing our time as a gift.  And the person who is always the poorer for such decisions is ourself.

Remembering the words of Jesus in this past Sunday’s Gospel, if we choose God over our possessions, then we must learn to share our time well.

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

You can’t force someone to accept a gift

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In Monday morning’s First Reading at Mass, we hear these words of Saint Paul addressed to Timothy, “This is good and pleasing to God our Savior, who wills everyone to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.” This sentence has often been misinterpreted by those who claim that salvation is assured for everyone. Based on these words, some also claim that there really is no judgment at death or the existence of hell. All these assertions are false and would have given Saint Paul great distress if he had heard them. In our own age when everything seems to be acceptable, we need to reflect upon their true meaning.

My mother used to say that you cannot force someone to accept a gift. They may initially accept it from you politely but soon after, they will easily and quickly dispose of it because it may not be to their liking. In contrast, when we give a gift, especially when we have given the choice a great deal of thought and perhaps even sacrificed to obtain it, it would be our hope that the gift would be welcomed, used and make a positive difference in the person’s life.

This dynamic can also help us to understand the gift of divine salvation offered to all humanity by Jesus the Lord. It is a gift that is freely given to all. However, there is a profound need on our part to understand it, accept it and allow His presence to transform us by it. The Lord will never force us to accept His saving love. We need to recognize and accept it freely.

It is true that there are many in the world who have not effectively heard the word of salvation in Christ. There are others who have turned away from Christ because of the contradictory and even hypocritical witness that Christians have given them. Their salvation is ultimately wrapped in the Paschal Mystery of Christ’s Death and Resurrection in ways that our minds cannot understand. But for those of us who have heard the message of salvation in Christ and claim to be His disciples, it is our duty and responsibility to accept the word of salvation offered by the Lord Jesus in and through the Church, allowing His love to transform us into worthy recipients of so priceless a gift. To do otherwise will be to set aside the greatest gift we have been offered, at an ultimate cost.

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

We need to trust that the Lord will do as He sees fit

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When I read this morning’s selection in the Office of Readings for the feast of Saint Gregory the Great, his reflection upon the difficulties that he experienced in his ministry resonated deeply with me. As a religious who once enjoyed the quiet of the monastery for prayer and study, Saint Gregory became Pope during a time when the Roman Empire had effectively collapsed, many Church leaders were in need of reform and the needs of the faithful were great. He summarized his dilemma in these words, “With my mind divided and torn to pieces by so many problems, how can I meditate or preach wholeheartedly without neglecting the ministry of proclaiming the Gospel?” I must confess that I also feel this anxiety often, as do many others in every level of leadership in the Church.

So in times of anxiety and challenge, how can you and I keep our attention focused on the things that really matter? While never easy to do, I often remind myself that this task requires at least two things. First, we need to keep listing for ourselves each day the things that really matter. We can easily forget them in the midst of so many other issues that demand our immediate attention. You and I need to take time each day and bring to mind the people, tasks, and goals that really matter to us. Otherwise, they can easily be forgotten.

Second, we need to take time to sit in silence before the Lord, to ask His help to accomplish what we cannot do for ourselves. The truth is that there are many challenges and issues beyond our ability to address or solve. For example, some of our loved ones find themselves in situations that we cannot help them to escape. Also, we may be facing a challenge that is too great for us to solve alone or even with the help of those around us. In such cases, only the Lord can do what we cannot do. We need to sit before Him in silence and after we have done all that we can, give the issue over to Him. We need to trust that the Lord will do as He sees fit.

At another time in the Church’s life that was marked with many challenges and change, Pope Saint John XXIII went to bed each night and slept deeply. He was once asked how he managed to sleep so soundly. His answer was a simple one. When he went to bed, Pope John reminded the Lord that the Church was His, not John’s and left all the problems of the day at the Lord’s feet, trusting that the Lord would address them in His own way.

I have come to realize personally that Pope Saint John XXIII was a very wise man indeed!

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

Let Us Pray for Our Teachers

On Tuesday, I will have the privilege to celebrate the opening Mass for all the teachers of our Diocese. It is held at the Klein Auditorium in Bridgeport, in part because all who attend will remain for a day of professional development and reflection. As has been true for all the years that I have attended this special event, it is an occasion of great spiritual blessings.

Serving as a teacher, regardless of the school in which the teacher may be, is a challenging vocation. The rise of unbridled technology, the influence of social media and growing up in a culture that does not trust authority and sees oneself as the center of reality all work together to make teaching a more difficult profession. For this reason, let us pray for all teachers as we begin this new school year. Let us pray that they can live their vocation in a selfless and grace-filled manner as described by Saint Joseph Calasanz:

“All who undertake to teach must be endowed with deep love, the greatest patience, and, most of all, profound humility. They must perform their work with earnest zeal. Then, through their humble prayers, the Lord will find them worthy to become fellow workers with him in the cause of truth. He will console them in the fulfillment of this most noble duty and finally will enrich them with the gift of heaven.”

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

Condemning all hateful ideologies wherever we meet them

When I was a boy growing up in my Brooklyn neighborhood, the joke was that everyone who lived on my street was either Italian or Jewish and you could never tell the difference! In fact, I only learned that some of my neighbors were not Catholic as I entered middle school since no one ever asked the question. They were kind, concerned and trustworthy neighbors who watched over all the children of the neighborhood, not just their own- including me. As I look back at my childhood, I wish that the world had not lost that “blindness” because it reminds us of the truth of who we are as the children of God

Recent events have highlighted the growing menace of discrimination, bigotry, racism, and antisemitism in our country. As a people of Christian faith, we must unambiguously proclaim and defend the Church’s teachings that such hateful ideologies are grave sins against the dignity of the human person and the divine mandate to love our neighbor as ourselves. To live in any way contrary to Christ’s divine command is a betrayal of the Gospel.

As Christians, we value, respect and defend every human life because every person is made in the divine image and likeness of God. The state of being made in God’s image was never lost, even with original sin. Furthermore, every human life has immeasurable worth because God took a human life in Jesus Christ. Through His death and resurrection, every human life has been offered the possibility of eternal glory through the forgiveness of sins and reception into the life of grace. Thus, every human life must be protected and be offered the possibility to live a dignified and safe life.

As the tone of our national dialogue continues to become more corrosive and poisonous, let us condemn all hateful ideologies wherever we meet them. Let us begin by searching the prejudice in our own hearts, root out whatever evil we find there and be courageous enough to challenge those who use racist language or promote divisiveness. This means evaluating what we say, and how we say it on social media and toning down hostile or vitriolic rhetoric.

There is a popular myth that wants us to believe that modern life is always progressing forward. The truth is that at times our society takes many steps backward at great cost. While much has changed for the better, society can learn a lot from my old neighbor in Brooklyn, where no one asked the question and no one was interested in the differences that existed between us.

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

St Hippolytus and St. Pontian, pray for us

Earlier this week, the Church observed the feast of two saints who died together in exile, after having been reconciled with one other following many years of theological and pastoral conflict. They are Saint Pontian and Saint Hippolytus. Their reconciliation provides a power example for us in an age where there are growing divisions within our own Church.

The issue that was the cause of the conflict between these two men was the “lapsi controversy”. The word “lapsi” referred to those Christians who had given in to the demands of the Romans and sacrificed to their pagan gods in order to save their lives during times of persecution in the second and third centuries. Many of these Christians repented of this grave sin and sought to return to the Church by asking for forgiveness. In response, the Church divided into two camps: those who were open to allow such Christians to return, after a sustained period of penance and those who believed that their sin was so grave that they could never return. Given the fact that the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Penance for individual penitents was not yet fully developed in the Church, the answer to this question was the difference between returning to the life of the Church or being banished for life.

Pontian was among those who were open to their return. Hippolytus took the firm stand that such return was impossible, even allowing myself to be declared the first anti-pope, putting him in blatant and hostile opposition to the Pope.

In time, they recognized that this controversy caused great harm to the Church. In addition, Hippolytus showed great humility by seeking reconciliation with the Pope. These are lessons that we should reflect upon in our own age. While the differences among us within the Church raise important questions and may even pose great challenges, they must never lead us to division or worse.

St Hippolytus and St. Pontian, pray for us.

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

Shining the Light of Christ

Over the last few months, I have found that my prayer has often turned, in unexpected ways, to reflect upon the work of evil in our midst. More specifically, it has become very clear to me that the father of evil, who is both real and at work, has always been and remains actively trying to undermine the good works and intentions of many people, both in our society and in our Church. He is the master of deceit and the father of all lies, masking his presence in many ways and allowing his insidious power to tempt, cajole and lead astray many people, even ourselves when we freely sin. It is a topic that we do not often discuss. The time has come to do so.

When I was young, the sisters who taught me regularly warned us of the devil and his evil influence as a way to encourage us to remain faithful and true to our faith. Much of that talk ended over the last two generations, seemingly because it appears to many to be medieval, archaic or simply “child’s talk”. This is a terrible spiritual mistake for anyone to make. The father of evil and his influence will always be in our midst until the consummation of all things at the end of time. It is only at that moment when Christ will appear as Judge of the living and the dead, that the devil’s evil influence will be over. Until then, we must be watchful of the signs of his presence and actively work against them.

What are those signs? Among others, they are deception, division, and distraction. Deception or the deliberate destruction or manipulation of the truth is an affront against the Lord who is “the Way, the Truth and the Life.” For this reason, the devil is called the father of all lies. Secondly, any form of division or conflict in our midst leads us away from the desire of the Lord Jesus that we may be all one in Him, as He is one with the Father in Heaven. The reconciliation that Christ offers us in the forgiveness of our sins shows us a path to true unity and lasting peace. Finally, becoming distracted or diverted from what the Lord asks us to do at any given moment denies us the opportunity to do good, witness to faith, reach out to those in need or to pray because we have chosen to do what we desire, which may seem good and important, but leading us away from God’s will. To be faithful to Christ is always and everywhere to allow Him to lead us each day, not for us to lead ourselves.

I share this post with you because the first step to disarm the influence of the evil one upon is to expose his presence wherever it may be. He is most dangerous when he is hidden in the shadows. At such times, let us shine the Light of Christ upon him and watch him flee.

Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel

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

An honest self-examination regarding the growing epidemic of violence

As we continue to mourn and pray for those who lost their lives in the senseless and cruel acts of gun violence in the communities of Gilroy, El Paso, and Dayton, let us pray for the Lord’s mercy on those who died and for their families who are deeply grieving. Let us pray that our nation may undergo an honest self-examination regarding the growing epidemic of violence in our midst and to seek effective ways to recommit ourselves to the value, safety, and respect that is due to every human person in our midst.

As Christians, we are called to value, respect and defend every human life because every person is made in the divine image and likeness and every life is offered salvation in Christ’s Death and Resurrection. Furthermore, our Savior rejected violence, exhorting His followers to turn the other cheek. He even endured a brutal death at the hands of a violent state, despite His divine ability to fight back. Why, at every turn, would Christ reject such violence if not to make clear that peace is the only path to justice? As Christians, we must fearlessly proclaim that every human life is of immeasurable worth. We too are called to reject all senseless violence and every attack on all human life. To do anything less is to betray the Lord of all life.

The senseless violence that we are witnessing in our society – especially at the hands of those who find other humans to be “less than” – flies in the face of the truths of our Catholic faith. It directly contradicts our belief in the sacred dignity of the human person. To advocate any position that holds that some lives are “less than” other lives betrays the Lord of all life.

If our society comes to see the value of every human life, from conception to natural death, more of our fellow citizens will come to recognize the face of Christ in our neighbors, in the vulnerable, in the stranger, in the unborn – and reject any rhetoric which fuels division in our midst. We will also recognize the true horror before our eyes when innocent people die at the hands of attackers who betray the Lord who has come that “they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly (Jn. 10:10).”

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