Monthly Newspaper • DIOCESE OF BRIDGEPORT

Uniting Behind Mercy

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy”(Mt 5:7)

As a child of God living in the 21st Century, I am a witness of difference: in race, skin color, sex, gender, politics, and religion.  All these differences unfortunately have led to conflict, have led many ultimately to question whether a merciful God exists, and if He does, how can He be merciful and just at the same time. Some may ask, “Why should I show mercy to someone who has caused great pain? What is God doing to prevent this pain? Where is the justice in this world?”

These differences lead many to these questions and have led many away from the Church.  They may even bring about ideas that the young church is dying.  But I think all my fellow pilgrims from World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow can assure you the young church is very much alive! Mercy teaches you to be more united with your brothers and sisters in the world. Trusting in God’s mercy helps you be more patient and understanding of those around you, making the world a much better place.

I walked amongst the millions of “differences” this past summer as I walked through the streets of Krakow. While there were many differences present, we all stood together as children of God, united as brothers and sisters. We all came together peacefully in celebration of God’s love, hearing more about God’s promise of incredible mercy to St. Faustina. Through this pilgrimage, we learned that mercy and justice go hand in hand, as they both result from God’s love. God voluntarily died on the cross as an act of justice for our sins, but also showed us the greatest mercy by forgiving us and opening the gates of Heaven.

So I challenge you, my brothers and sisters of the Diocese of Bridgeport. Through practice of the sacrament of mercy, may we all teach others to stand with us, together, in good faith and say, “Jesus, I trust in you.”  May we all choose to be merciful, and “forgive those who have trespassed against us,” for only then will we too receive mercy.

By: Angela Finn

An Encounter with Christ

I am often amazed at what Hollywood can do with some of the special effects in the movies created these days. While sitting in the theatre, it is easy to feel as if we are transported to a place that doesn’t truly exist while speaking to people that have been created out of someone’s imagination.  What is equally amazing is how, after the movie is over, people will stand around and discuss what they just saw and speak about the images as if the people and places were quite real.

During a family gathering at Easter a few years back, some of my family members were having a similar discussion about a movie that had just been released.  After listening to the discussion for few moments, one of my aunts interrupted the conversation and asked, “Why is it that so many of you find it so easy to believe what you see in the movies but have such a tough time believing what happened to Jesus during his passion and after his resurrection?”

Of course, she got a few wise remarks and no one really gave her a direct answer to her question, but I remember that the question struck me as if it needed to be answered; it has stuck with me over the years. Every year since that Easter Sunday, this conversation comes back to me, especially during the octave of Easter, as we hear scripture readings each day from the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospels, relaying to us those events that occurred after the Resurrection of Our Lord.  We hear the detail of the witnesses that first met Jesus:  Mary Magdalene, who was seen by soldiers having a conversation with Christ and was told not to fear and to tell the disciples to go to Galilee where he would meet them; the disciples he met on the way from Jerusalem to Emmaus, who conversed with Him and broke bread with Him before He left their presence; and when Jesus stood in the midst of the apostles and said, “Peace be with you” and showed them the wounds in His hands and feet and asked them for something to eat.  These were not comments from someone recounting a show with special effects but rather someone reliving a conversation and sharing details after being an eyewitness to meeting someone very real!  I can only imagine what it would have been like actually to have been in His presence and how I would have responded if He had said to me, “Do not be afraid!”

I often wonder how many times I may have encountered Jesus in someone else and not realized it was Him until much later, thinking that the person I was with was “too good to be true” only to later realize that this person may have changed my life – an encounter with Christ?

So, I thank my aunt for asking that random question that Easter Sunday a few years back – or was it really a random question? Perhaps, it was another encounter with Jesus, who opened my eyes to confirm my belief that what I have heard during the Easter Octave was no special effect, but that He is truly risen!

By: Deacon John DiTaranto

Easter Reflection: Share the Good News!

In the Gospel for today, it is said that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were “fearful, yet overjoyed” (Mt 28:8) upon realizing that Christ had risen from the dead, and went to go tell his disciples.

In light of the Resurrection, which we celebrated yesterday on Easter Sunday – that great feast which we continue to celebrate for eight more days, during this Octave of Easter – Christ calls each of us deeper and deeper to Himself. By rising to new life, Jesus proves that not even death itself can overcome the power of God.

The Resurrection, therefore, is not something just to think about on Easter Sunday or during the next eight days, but rather, this wonderful event should give us cause for joy every single day of our lives.

Because of this, we too, like Mary Magdalene and Mary, are called to go and share the Good News, not just one day a year, but all the time, with each person we encounter. Perhaps like Mary and Mary in the Gospel today, we may be fearful. However, the Resurrection of Christ gives us the confidence to follow Him in all that we do and to share His Love with others. When we do this, we too will be overjoyed, just as they were in the Gospel today.

Easter Reflection: Peer into the Empty Tomb

A few years ago, when I was in seminary, I was fortunate enough to be able to go on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  It’s one of the most extraordinary places I’ve ever been. During our visit to Jerusalem I got up very early one morning to attend Mass with one of the priests in our group at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which is a church that contains the sites of Calvary and the tomb of Christ. I was very excited because the priest had made a reservation to say Mass in the tomb itself. The chapel in the tomb is very small, so if you attend Mass in there, you can’t help but be pressed up right up against the altar.  During the Eucharistic Prayer, as I was kneeling, I could see into the space where the body of Jesus had been laid to rest.  And it was empty.

 

Now, I knew it would be empty.  I believe in the resurrection of Christ.  But still, there is something strange about peering into an empty tomb, since death is a fundamental part of the human experience, hanging over everything. The spirit of the world tries to convince us that the tomb is the end, that there is nothing on the other side of death.  But the empty grave of Christ testifies against that.  His appearance to the disciples testifies against that.  He came to them, not as a ghost, but in the flesh.  He spoke to them, breathed upon them, touched them, and ate with them.  Such things, the world tells us, are not supposed to happen.

 

But the truth is that death was not supposed to happen.  Adam and Eve were not supposed to die.  With their sin came death – both for them and for us.  It is with the death and resurrection of Christ that we are freed from slavery to sin and offered eternal life.  Jesus was supposed to be in the tomb Easter morning, but He wasn’t.  We live in a world in which a man rose from the dead.

 

That morning in Jerusalem when I attended Mass and peered into the empty tomb of Jesus – it was a remarkable feeling.  Because there, just above the grave that held the dead Jesus, the priest made present the living Jesus.  The Eucharist is the Body of Jesus crucified, Jesus resurrected, Jesus glorified.  And He was there with us, alive in His empty tomb.

Holy Week Reflection: Now We Wait

It’s Holy Saturday and our Lenten pilgrimage is coming to a close. If you have not been able to live out all your aspirations for a deeper spiritual connection with Jesus it’s still not too late. Holy Mother Church gives us one more opportunity to enter more intensely into this Season of Lent. No Mass is offered today and we should use this time to reflect on Christ’s Passion. This Holy Saturday is unlike Holy Saturday some 2,000 years ago when the Apostles were agonizing over the death of their friend and teacher, when they were unsure of what the future would hold for them. We, unlike them 2,000 years ago, have the benefit of living in 2017 and knowing that Good Friday is not the end of the story. We can draw upon the knowledge of the Resurrection and that the incarnate Son of God came into this world to redeem us and offer us salvation. In 1 Peter 2:24, we read: “In his own body (he) brought your sins to the cross, so that all of us, dead to sin, could live in accord with God’s will. By his wounds you were healed.” Jesus surrendered himself to the will of his Father. Are you now willing to surrender yourself to Jesus, pick up your cross, and follow his teachings?

Holy Week Reflection: The Paradox of the Cross

What a paradoxical phrase “Good Friday” can be for some of us, considering what we commemorate today: the brutal, bloody death of Jesus Christ.  But today isn’t just a day of somber remembrance; it’s also an occasion of hopeful anticipation and deep gratitude.

 

As Christians, we find ourselves looking up from the foot of the cross at Jesus as he hangs there in agony, as the blood and sweat drip from his body, and he utters, “It is finished,” bows his head and hands over his spirit. (John 19:30).  Taking in this horrific scene, we don’t see a conquered and defeated man, but we see the fullness of love itself, the most perfect expression of deep love there ever was.  The Word made flesh offering himself completely, sinless though he was, for us!  Today, we don’t mourn the death of Jesus; we mourn the fact that our sins led him to the cross.  Christ willingly took on our sinfulness; he suffered and died for you and me.  Without this sacrifice, we would still be unfit for the promise of eternal life.

 

We are called daily to imitate his act of sacrificial love with those around us.  We must, in love, place the legitimate needs and wants of others before our own.  This love is an extension of the cross.  To love another in this way is to embrace the cross with the fullness of its splinters, thorns, and nails.

 

What a Good Friday it truly is!  Today as we reverence the crucifix with a kiss, may it be a true expression of the love and gratitude we have for the sacrifice that was made for us and a reminder that we too are called to embody that same self-sacrificial love.

Holy Week Reflection: The Gift of the Eucharist

We’ve finally made it. It’s the Triduum! These next three days are some of the most powerful, sacred days in our calendar. These are the days when our salvation was accomplished by Our Lord and Savior on the Cross! “But before his arms were outstretched between heaven and earth, to become the lasting sign of your covenant, [Jesus] desired to celebrate the Passover with his disciples” (Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation I). Before winning for us our salvation, Christ celebrated the Last Supper with his disciples.

Knowing full well what he was going to do the following day, Jesus sat down with the disciples to eat with them and, indeed, to feed them, for he truly is “the bread of life” and whoever comes to him “will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (Jn 6:35). Even those that ate of the bread from heaven, the Israelites in the desert, experience death; through the body and blood of Christ, however, we have the promise of eternal life (Jn 6:41-51).

This is the great gift of the Last Supper, which we celebrate today on Holy Thursday: the Eucharist. Jesus Christ, knowing what was to come, gave us a way in which we could have him with us forever, a way in which he could nourish us, heal us, and sanctify us. Before ascending to Heaven after his Resurrection, Jesus promises his apostles – and, indeed, each of us too – that he will be with us always, even to the end of the age (Mt 28:20). The Eucharist, instituted on this holy day, is Jesus’ way of keeping that promise to each of us.

So, tonight, when we celebrate our receiving this amazing gift of the Eucharist, let’s grow in our love for Christ, present in the Eucharist. Let’s remind ourselves of His great love for us, shown us on the Cross as well as in the Eucharist. And, after assuring that our souls are ready to receive him, let’s run to receive this incredible gift of love!

Holy Week Reflection: The Triumph of Love

Consider Jesus in the Agony in the Garden. Weighed down with fear and anxiety, crippled with weariness and pain, He puts Himself in the one place where He can find true rest: the embrace of the Father in prayer. And Jesus cries out to the heart of His Father, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me.” Could it be that Jesus no longer accepts the will of the Father? No, this is not the divine heart that cries out for relief. It is the human heart, trapped in the crucible of sin, so full of sorrow that Jesus’ sweat turns to drops of blood.

But immediately, the Sacred Heart of Jesus erupts, “Yet, not as I will; but as you will.” This is the triumph of love! The love that flows from Jesus’ Sacred Heart is the only thing strong enough to overcome our human resistance to suffering – even suffering for the sake of redemption.

More often than not in the Gospels, we are told that Jesus prayed – but not the exact words of His prayer. When those words are given to us, we must pay close attention. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus is showing us that when our hearts are laden with pain and suffering, we can cry out to Him and He will hear us. More importantly, Jesus proves that His love is the only thing strong enough to transform our weakness: “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Holy Week Reflection: Only in the Cross

In today’s Gospel, we hear Saint John’s account of Judas’s early departure from the Last Supper. Saint John remarks that, “After Judas took the morsel, Satan entered him.” Judas was tempted by the devil to derail the plan for salvation. In Blessed John Henry Newman’s Mediations on the Stations of Cross, at the Ninth Station (Jesus falls a third time), Cardinal Newman mentions the three falls of Satan: the first, being the great battle between the Archangel Michael and the devil; the second, when the Gospel and the Kingdom of Heaven are preached to world; and the third fall, at the end of time. These three falls of Satan led him to tempt Judas into betraying Jesus. As Cardinal Newman notes, “Satan knew his time was short, and thought he might use it to good effect. But little dreaming that he would be acting in behalf of the world’s redemption…”

In these final days before Easter, we need to remind ourselves of the paradox of Holy Week: only through the darkness of the Cross do we reach the light of the Resurrection. We must also remember the very thing that Judas forgot: the saving power of our Lord. Through an act of betrayal, humanity’s salvation is won. No matter what our Cross may be, what our sins against the Lord are, we should not imitate Judas with a lack of remorse, but rather be like Peter after his denial of Christ. In these final days of Lent, we should try our hardest to make a good confession to free ourselves from the bonds of death, so we can join the angels and saints in the Triumph of Easter.

 

Holy Week Reflection: Turn to Jesus

And so we enter into Holy Week.  Yesterday, we celebrated Our Lord’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem, greeting Him with palms, excitement, and joy!  But today, we hear of the Lord’s servant who, like a “lamb led to the slaughter” (Is 53:7), did not cry out, who did not make His voice heard in the street.  We hear of the servant coming to establish justice on the earth who will not break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick (Is 42:2-4).  We hear of Christ’s burial, that Christ will not always be with us (Jn 12:7-8).  What a shift, from the triumphant entry to predictions of the Passion!

Today, we begin to shift towards Holy Week, towards the mysteries of our salvation!  And as we look forward to what is coming later this week, we should begin to prepare our hearts for these sacred mysteries.  In just a few days, we will be celebrating the institution of the priesthood and of the Eucharist.  In no time at all, our Lord’s Passion and Death will have been celebrated and we will have been reconciled to the Father.  And only three days after that, we will celebrate Our Lord’s rising from the tomb.  What a packed week!

As we transition in this week to these solemn, sacred mysteries, let’s begin to prepare our hearts.  Let’s begin to open them up to the Lord, who suffered and died for our sake, out of an incredible love.  Let’s let Jesus into our hearts in a special way this week, as we let Him into Jerusalem.  And let’s prepare to walk the Way of the Cross with Him.

Holy Week Reflection: “I do as the Father has commanded me”

Each day, two desires contest with each other within us.  The first is a desire for satisfaction, in a selfish way.  The second is a desire for purification, in a humble way.

Every instinct of our fallen human nature rebels against the idea of purification.  To the “old man,” as St Paul calls him (Eph 4:22; Col 3:9), the world seems made for enjoyment and that is why we are put into it.  I have the desire to enjoy, to be satisfied (selfishly), as Cardinal Newman wrote, and world supplies the means. The pull in this direction is strong, and it can be especially so when we are hurt, alone, or confused.

Then comes the encouragement and clarity of Christ:  “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Mt 5:8)  This is a divine promise:  a pure heart, a Christ-like heart will see—will possess—God…and so will be joyful.  This Beatitude summarizes the entire Gospel.  Joy follows purity of heart…a heart purified in a particular way:  by the Cross of Christ.

The faithful disciple of the Master knows that the Passion fulfills perfectly the life of the God-Man…that it is in perfect harmony with everything Jesus said and did.  That disciple knows that the Cross is Our Lord’s most vigorous expression of His philosophy of life, as Fr Edward Leen said.  Jesus did not live to please Himself.  He lived to please the Father and to give Himself to others; if we are to do the will of God as Jesus did, we should desire to please the Father by giving ourselves to others as well.

The Cross rests in the loving and good hands of Our Father in Heaven as an instrument—His chosen instrument—for the purification of the human heart.  Our joy depends not in overcoming the disorder outside of ourselves in the world—and even in the Church—but by conquering, through the grace of the Cross, the disorder inside our hearts, the disorder brought on by selfishness. (cf. Rom 7:19)

“I do as the Father has commanded me,” Jesus said.  “Rise, let us go hence.” (Jn 14:31)

 

Preparing for Holy Week- Don’t Give Up!

Somehow we find ourselves in the fifth week of Lent, just days away from the start of Holy Week. At this point in the season, some of us are feeling worn down by our Lenten sacrifices and commitments, while others are regretting the resolutions we didn’t keep and spiritual revelations we haven’t quite reached. Nevertheless, Holy Week is beginning and in spite of the temptation to give up, slack off, or try again next year, our Lord Jesus is still patiently waiting for us to accept His invitation to go deeper in our relationship with Him. Now is the time to pray a little more each day, even if we haven’t been faithful to the standards that we set for ourselves on Ash Wednesday. We still have opportunities to die to self, to choose the good, and to unite ourselves to Christ as He journeys to Calvary.


So as we begin Holy Week, let’s renew our commitment to Christ in both the large and the small things and meet Him as He begins his journey to Calvary for our salvation.
Jess Nayden

Special Reflection: “And Jesus Wept”

“and Jesus wept…”

Jesus, upon finding that his friend Lazarus died, wept.  He didn’t just feel a solitary tear roll down his cheek; he didn’t just feel sad; he didn’t just cry.  Jesus wept.  The Son of God, the second person of the Blessed Trinity wept over the death of his friend, Lazarus.

Perfectly human, Jesus experienced the emotions that you and I deal with every day.  Remember his experience with the money changers in the temple?  I’d say he got pretty angry there, though he was justified, but that’s another reflection.  And here, in today’s Gospel, Jesus experiences a level of sorrow that far too many of us experience in our fallen world.

But here’s the good news in all this: we as Catholic Christians have a God who knows all too well what it means to be human.  Our God can relate to us when we experience that level of sorrow.  Jesus Christ knows what we mean when we tell Him of our heartbreak, sorrow, and all the other trials that we face in this life.

And not only does He know and understand all of these things, but He sanctifies them in Himself.  The Church Fathers very often would use the phrase, “that which is not assumed is not saved,” when speaking of Christ.  Because Jesus assumed our human nature, He has saved it; He sanctifies it.  Rather than shy away from humanity or the emotions that come with it, He took them on, experienced them in their intensity, and perfected them in Himself.

So, my friends, we have hope.  We have hope in the One who wept at the tomb for His friend.  We can trust in His incredible love for us that led Him to take on our human nature, even with all the emotions that come with it.  We can hope in Him who takes our human condition and elevates it with His grace.

So the next time you find yourself in a less-than-ideal spot, experiencing the sorrows of a fallen world, turn to the One who assumed our humanity so as to perfect and sanctify it.  Turn to Jesus.

André Escaleira, Jr.

Seminarian, Diocese of Bridgeport

Social Media Associate

Are we there yet?

As with any journey we may be on, whether a holiday trip, a much-needed vacation with family and friends, or a shopping excursion that promises to give us the best deal, we may tend to ask the question, “Are we there yet?”  The same can be true as we journey through Lent.  We start out with our final destination in mind: being in a different place than we are now by passing through Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection and utilizing the much-needed road maps of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  And we know exactly what the final outcome will be…or do we?

What we think the outcome will be and what actually happens is truly the opportunity for conversion in us, not necessarily the final destination.  Let’s take a great example from 1 Chronicles 28:11-19, where David thought he was tasked with making arrangements to build the first temple in Jerusalem.  So he began his journey…so he thought.  God, however, had other plans and actually desired David’s son, Solomon, to build the temple.  Although this was not what David thought the final outcome of his journey would be, he accepted the role that God had assigned to him with a grateful heart and supported all those in their efforts to complete this great feat!

As our Lenten journey slowly comes to a close, are we still asking ourselves the question, “Are we there yet?” or are we allowing God to amaze us with His wonderful detours to our road map, making our final destination better than we ever could have imagined?

Rose Talbot-Babey, Coordinator of Childhood Faith Formation

Meeting Jesus: One Post at a Time

“So you just…sit in your office and tweet all day?”

I have worked for the Diocese of Bridgeport for more than two wonderful years, serving an incredible Bishop, and reporting on events with enormous spiritual significance, yet I must hear this quote once a day. I don’t hold it against people. Social media is so new, so dynamic, and so immersive that many people choose either to ignore it, or to view it with outright hostility. And who can blame them? There have been times when I myself can’t stand social media – even my personal accounts are updated infrequently, because the last thing I want to do when I get home is more social media.

Though there is a lot “wrong” with social media, I believe this ministry is vital to the Catholic Church. I can sit here and cite our statistics, or examples of how social media has succeeded in our Diocese, but that still wouldn’t capture the main reason social media is so important to the Church.

In the cesspool that can be one’s Facebook or Twitter feed, there is a lot that can cause one to be anxious. Through the barrage of constant negativity, we the Church need to get our voice out there too. Yes, there are innumerable people suffering. Yes, people seem to be quick to judge these days. Yes, it seems we are divided more than ever. But there is a remedy to all of that. There is a person upon whom we can place all our sufferings, all our wants, and all our cares. His name is Jesus. His love is beyond description. And our goal is to re-introduce you to Him, one Facebook post at a time.

So yes, it is nice to sit in my office and Tweet/Facebook/Instagram/Snapchat all day for Jesus. In fact, it is the best job in the world. I have the incredible privilege to wake up every morning and speak to thousands of people about how amazing the Catholic Church is and how fortunate we are to have this fantastic Diocesan community. Every day begins with new opportunities to bring people closer to Jesus and His Church. How amazing is that?

By John Grosso
Social Media Leader, Diocese of Bridgeport