Sunday, December 28, 2014


As we celebrate once again the graces of the Incarnation of Jesus into our lives, we are always reminded with the fact that so many outcasts are the first to hear the good news of salvation.

It is the shepherds--the outcasts of that era--were the first ones to whom the angels proclaimed the good news.  And they responded with joy and disbelief.  They were the first ones to come to behold the new-born Jesus.

Down through the ages, the poorest and the outcasts have been the ones to whom God has spoken first.

In our own time, I am convinced that the immigrants, migrants, and refugees of our time are the ones to whom the new-born Jesus Christ is being revealed even now.

Blessings upon all during the coming New Year!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


On Sunday, November 2, Monsignor Felix Diomartich celebrated his 100th Birthday and the 77th Anniversary of his Priesthood Ordination with a special Mass at St. Anthony's Croatian Parish in Los Angeles.

I could find no other Archdiocesan priest in the history of our Archdiocese who reached the age of 100 years.

Monsignor Diomartich is a native of Croatia where he studied theology and was ordained a priest.  He subsequently was sent to Rome where he obtained doctorates in both theology and in canon law.  Because of World War II he was impeded from returning to Croatia, and found himself in New York city where he worked as a young priest.

Then then Archbishop James Francis McIntyre was transferred to Los Angeles, he invited then Father Diomartich to come to Los Angeles to serve the Croatian Catholics living there.  He became an official member of the presbyterate of Los Angeles in 1963.

Over the years he served the Croatian community both in Los Angeles and in San Pedro.  He was pastor of St. Anthony's Parish for several decades, and greatly loved by all the people.

He also helped begin the ethnic ministry of the Archdiocese under Cardinal Timothy Manning, and served in the Tribunal and in other leadership roles.

He is retired at Nazareth House where he enjoys his sunset years with many brother priests.

In 2015, Monsignor Richard Murray, pastor emeritus of St. Bernardine of Siena Parish in Woodland Hills, will celebrate his 100th birthday.  Then a year later in 2016, Monsignor John Fosselman, pastor emeritus of Assumption Parish in East Los Angeles, will celebrate his 100th birthday.

Incredible:  three priest centenarians in the space of three years!

May the spirit and example of these wonderful priests inspire us all, and especially, young men who are listening carefully to the call of Jesus Christ to serve as a priest.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Across California prayers are being raised up to God seeking adequate rains and snows for the State and for all of the Western States experiencing significant drought.

Even with a normal rain year, the drought has created such a water deficit that it would take years to make up for that deficit.

On the November 4 election ballot in California we have Proposition 1--a measure crated with full bipartisan efforts in Sacramento and sanctioned by Governor Jerry Brown.  Prop. 1 places before the voters a bond measure in the amount of $7.5 billion dollars.  The measure will provide for:

*     projects that improve water quality or help provide clean, safe, and reliable drinking water

*     grants for multi-benefit ecosystem and watershed protection and restoration projects

*     integrated regional water management plan projects that respond to climate change and contribute to regional water security

*     new water storage projects to capture melting snow and other runoff

*     water recycling and advanced treatment technology projects

*     projects to prevent or clean up the contamination of groundwater that serves as a source of drinking water

*     statewide flood management projects and activities.

An obvious example of what can help for the future:  almost all of the rainfall in southern California flows out to the Pacific Ocean.  Very few measures in effect to capture this water and to divert it to underground storage and to replenish water tables.

Personally, I intend to vote YES on Proposition 1 since it is an important broad-based effort to assist our State deal with water needs for decades to come.

As always, we continue to life up our prayers:

Let us pray:

Our loving God, we are in need of rain and snow.  We realize now, looking up into the clear, blue sky what a marvel even the least drop of rain really is.  To think that so much water can really fall out of the sky, which now is empty and clear!  We place our trust in you.  We are sure that you know our needs.  But you want us to ask you anyway to show that you that we know we are dependent on you.

Look to our dry hills and fields, loving God, and bless them with the living blessing of soft rain and abundant snows.  Then the land will rejoice and rivers will sing your praises, and the hearts of all will be made glad.  Amen.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014


Here in the Western States we are experiencing one of the worse cycles of drought in our history.

However, our West has always seen periods of drought.  What is new is the population:  many years ago, there were 10 million people in California; today, there are 40 million.

The need for water for such a great number has increased dramatically, creating a real crisis across the State.

And who suffers the most?  As always, the poorest of our people and families.  A family in the San Joaquin Valley gets its water from a backyard well.  However, the water table has dropped tremendously, and the well is not producing any water.  To sink the well deeper would cost at least $10,000 and the well company cannot get to this assignment for at least two years!  Their backlog is tremendous.

The same is true of small towns in the Valley with water systems.  All of their wells are dry.

And so, let us pray:

Our loving God, we are in need of rain and snow.  We realize now, looking up into the clear, blue sky what a marvel even the least drop of rain really is.  To think that so much water can really fall out of the sky, which now is empty and clear!  We place our trust in you.  We are sure that you know our needs.  But you want us to ask you anyway to show that you that we know we are dependent on you.

Look to our dry hills and fields, loving God, and bless them with the living blessing of soft rain and abundant snows.  Then the land will rejoice and rivers will sing your praises, and the hearts of all will be made glad.  Amen.

May our daily prayers reach up into the heavens, and may our loving God pour out rain and snow upon us!!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


It is tragic that once again our immigrant brothers and sisters are being held hostage by purely political motives in Washington, DC.

The President and the leadership of the Democrats and Republicans share equally in the blame and for the total inaction in Congress.

For over 25 years we have been attempting update and fix our broken immigration system.  Many fine proposals have been made, good legislative efforts have been debated and discussed, and even a comprehensive immigration effort has been passed in the U.S. Senate.

But that's where everything grinds to a halt.

Our unauthorized immigrants are the ones suffering daily with this inaction.  Many millions live in fear that somewhere during the day they will be stopped and identified as being here without proper documents.  Their children, mostly USA citizens, fear the abrupt apprehension of their parents and their sudden deportation--leaving them all alone in our country without mother or father.

Now the political leaders in Washington acknowledge that nothing will happen during September or October.  Why?  Because of the national elections on November 4th.  One-third of the Senators and all of the House members are up for election, and winning re-election is their only focus and goal. 

The nation's business, and especially bringing justice, respect, and dignity to our immigrants, is all put on hold--once again.

But we, as disciples of Jesus, never give up.  We intensify our prayers, we voice our care and concern for our immigrant brothers and sisters, and we continue to advocate on their behalf.  Like the prophets of Old Testament times, our voices may seem weak and futile.  But they are not.  We remain fully committed to this work of justice, and we will never rest until the rights of all are secured.

May St. Toribio Romo intercede for us before our loving God!

Sunday, August 3, 2014


Yet once again, House of Representative members have abandoned "the least among us," and have refused to offer even basic humanitarian assistance to children fleeing impossible living conditions.  Just before leaving Washington for a five-week recess, they failed to pass any meaningful legislation to lift ever so slightly the burdens upon the unauthorized immigrants in our midst.

I am reminded of Jesus' frustration with the Pharisees who were very good at imposing burdens on people, but would never lift a finger to lighten those burdens:

They tie up burdens that are heavy and unbearable and lay them on people's shoulders, but they refuse to lift a finger to remove them.  [Matthew 23:4]

The vast majority of immigrants who come to our country do so out of desperation.  They are not able to feed their families back home, jobs are few and far between, health and education services are often non-existent, and new violence and terrorism by drug cartels and gangs threaten everyone.

They certainly don't come here to take jobs that other Americans are doing.  If low-skill, low-paying jobs were being snapped up by legal residents, then there would be no incentive for others to come to our country to fill those jobs.

Any mother or father would think seriously about fleeing such pitiful circumstances, and seeking new opportunities for their family.  During the Great Recession I recall hearing so many stories about fellow Americans who had been fired caught in similar desperation.  Many took daring steps to try to provide for their families.  Great suffering ensued across the land.

The slowly growing economy continues the agony for so many--jobs are not available at their previous salaries; many workers have had their hours shortened; far too many have lost benefits such as health care and pensions.

What is so sad is to listen to the hateful rhetoric directed towards these brothers and sisters.  Talk show programs vie with one another to see who can hurl the most hurtful accusations at our immigrant brothers and sisters.

And yet, a very hopeful sign is that a majority of Americans still state in most polls that they believe some kind of earned pathway to legal residence should be offered to these brothers and sisters.

Prayer continues to be an essential component in our Christian approach to all who are carrying heavy burdens.  We turn to Jesus to help us lift the burdens that weary and suffocate so many in our midst.

Santo Toribio Romo, pray for us!!

Monday, July 7, 2014


I was embarrassed for us as Americans to watch throngs of angry and venomous people yelling and screaming at the three buses bringing women and children who had arrived at our southern border to a safe haven in Murrieta, CA.

The jeers and taunts were the kind normally hurled at those convicted of heinous crimes, such as homicide and assault.  But not at innocent children, and some frightened mothers.

Over many months approximately 52,000 unaccompanied children and youth have reached the border with Mexico.  Most came from the three most difficult countries in our hemisphere:  Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.  Desperate parents paid large sums of money to get "coyotes" to bring their children from Central America, through Mexico, and to the USA border.  In these countries the only future for the children would be gangs, lack of work, meager education, no health care, and constant fear.  Any parent would want better for their children.

Sadly, these children have become political pawns in the unending national debate over immigrants and immigration reform.  The unwillingness of Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation is a scandal creating waves of emotional and physical devastation across the country, and especially, at the southern border.  New levels of fear and fright have afflicted our immigrant brothers and sisters.

We desperately need the national debate on our broken immigration system, and the inadequate laws and regulations now on the books.  But don't put helpless children in the middle of it, and don't blame the children for the larger mess.

We must accept these children with the compassion of disciples of Jesus Christ, and we must offer them whatever assistance we can.  Many are seriously ill after having traveled long distances over weeks deprived of adequate food and drink.  We need to accept them as they are, help them restore their health, and treat them with respect as human beings--as helpless children.

Then, we can look at their legal status to determine what would be in their best interests:  uniting some with parents in this country, treating some as victims seeking political asylum, and possibly returning some back to their countries of origin.

Today Pope Francis marked the first anniversary of his trip to the island of Lampedusa in southern Italy to speak out in favor of desperate immigrants trying to reach Europe:  "I encourage the Christian communities and all people of good will to continue to reach out and lend a helping hand to all those who are in need, without counting the cost, without fear, with tenderness and understanding.  At the same time, I hope that the competent institutions .... might be most courageous and generous in refugee relief."

Great advice for all of us as disciples of Jesus and as Americans.


[On Monday, July 7, 2014 Pope Francis celebrated Mass with six victims of clergy sexual abuse.  His homily follows:]
The scene where Peter sees Jesus emerge after a terrible interrogation…  Peter whose eyes meet the gaze of Jesus and weeps…  This scene comes to my mind as I look at you, and think of so many men and women, boys and girls.  I feel the gaze of Jesus and I ask for the grace to weep, the grace for the Church to weep and make reparation for her sons and daughters who betrayed their mission, who abused innocent persons.  Today, I am very grateful to you for having travelled so far to come here.

            For some time now I have felt in my heart deep pain and suffering.   So much time hidden, camouflaged with a complicity that cannot be explained until someone realized that Jesus was looking and others the same… and they set about to sustain that gaze.

And those few who began to weep have touched our conscience for this crime and grave sin.  This is what causes me distress and pain at the fact that some priests and bishops, by sexually abusing minors, violated their innocence and their own priestly vocation.  It is something more than despicable actions.  It is like a sacrilegious cult, because these boys and girls had been entrusted to the priestly charism in order to be brought to God. And those people sacrificed them to the idol of their own concupiscence.  They profane the very image of God in whose likeness we were created.  Childhood, as we all know, young hearts, so open and trusting, have their own way of understanding the mysteries of God’s love and are eager to grow in the faith.  Today the heart of the Church looks into the eyes of Jesus in these boys and girls and wants to weep; she asks the grace to weep before the execrable acts of abuse which have left life long scars.

           I know that these wounds are a source of deep and often unrelenting emotional and spiritual pain, and even despair.  Many of those who have suffered in this way have also sought relief in the path of addiction.  Others have experienced difficulties in significant relationships, with parents, spouses and children.  Suffering in families has been especially grave, since the damage provoked by abuse affects these vital family relationships.

Some have even had to deal with the terrible tragedy of the death of a loved one by suicide.  The deaths of these so beloved children of God weigh upon the heart and my conscience and that of the whole Church.  To these families I express my heartfelt love and sorrow.  Jesus, tortured and interrogated with passionate hatred, is taken to another place and he looks out.  He looks out upon one of his own, the one who denied him, and he makes him weep.  Let us implore this grace together with that of making amends.

            Sins of clerical sexual abuse against minors have a toxic effect on faith and hope in God.  Some of you have held fast to faith, while for others the experience of betrayal and abandonment has led to a weakening of faith in God.  Your presence here speaks of the miracle of hope, which prevails against the deepest darkness.  Surely it is a sign of God’s mercy that today we have this opportunity to encounter one another, to adore God, to look in one another’s eyes and seek the grace of reconciliation.

            Before God and his people I express my sorrow for the sins and grave crimes of clerical sexual abuse committed against you.  And I humbly ask forgiveness.
I beg your forgiveness, too, for the sins of omission on the part of Church leaders who did not respond adequately to reports of abuse made by family members, as well as by abuse victims themselves.  This led to even greater suffering on the part of those who were abused and it endangered other minors who were at risk.

            On the other hand, the courage that you and others have shown by speaking up, by telling the truth, was a service of love, since for us it shed light on a terrible darkness in the life of the Church.  There is no place in the Church’s ministry for those who commit these abuses, and I commit myself not to tolerate harm done to a minor by any individual, whether a cleric or not.  All bishops must carry out their pastoral ministry with the utmost care in order to help foster the protection of minors, and they will be held accountable.

What Jesus says about those who cause scandal applies to all of us: the millstone and the sea (cf. Mt 18:6).

By the same token we will continue to exercise vigilance in priestly formation.  I am counting on the members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, all minors, whatever religion they belong to, they are little flowers which God looks lovingly upon.

I ask this support so as to help me ensure that we develop better policies and procedures in the universal Church for the protection of minors and for the training of church personnel in implementing those policies and procedures.  We need to do everything in our power to ensure that these sins have no place in the Church.

            Dear brothers and sisters, because we are all members of God’s family, we are called to live lives shaped by mercy.  The Lord Jesus, our Savior, is the supreme example of this; though innocent, he took our sins upon himself on the cross.  To be reconciled is the very essence of our shared identity as followers of Jesus Christ.  By turning back to him, accompanied by our most holy Mother, who stood sorrowing at the foot of the cross, let us seek the grace of reconciliation with the entire people of God.  The loving intercession of Our Lady of Tender Mercy is an unfailing source of help in the process of our healing.

            You and all those who were abused by clergy are loved by God.  I pray that the remnants of the darkness which touched you may be healed by the embrace of the Child Jesus and that the harm which was done to you will give way to renewed faith and joy.

            I am grateful for this meeting.  And please pray for me, so that the eyes of my heart will always clearly see the path of merciful love, and that God will grant me the courage to persevere on this path for the good of all children and young people. Jesus comes forth from an unjust trial, from a cruel interrogation and he looks in the eyes of Peter, and Peter weeps. We ask that he look at us and that we allow ourselves to be looked upon and to weep and that he give us the grace to be ashamed, so that, like Peter, forty days later, we can reply: “You know that I love you”; and hear him say: “go back and feed my sheep” – and I would add – “let no wolf enter the sheepfold”. 

(From archive of Vatican Radio)

Thursday, July 3, 2014


Recently I was privileged to visit the new Santuario de Santo Toribio Romo, one of the 25 Mexican Martyrs killed by soldiers during the persecution of the Church in the mid-1920s.

click to enlarge
Exterior of new Santuario in honor of Santa Toribio Romo
in Mexico
I was privileged to spend three days there at the Santuario, which is located in a small town called Santa Ana de Guadalupe--in the State of Jalisco, and in the Diocese of San Juan de Los Lagos.

The new Santuario draws huge numbers of pilgrims, especially on Saturdays and Sundays.  It is not unusual to have 50,000 people on a Sunday.

St. Toribio's Remains are in a special urn which is located above the main Altar, and is visible both from the Santuario and from a small Chapel behind it.  Pilgrims are welcome to honor him from either vantage point.

I was deeply moved praying before the Remains of Santo Toribio, and reflected upon the various murals depicting his life, ministry, and murder during the Mexican persecution.  He was ordained at age 22, and suffered martyrdom at age 27.

He is revered in this hemisphere as the Patron of Migrants.  Although during his life-time he was not involved with helping migrants and immigrants, nonetheless, after his death he was seen by many people along the border to Mexico assisting migrants who had run out of food and water.  One of the murals portrays that ministry.
Santo Toribio continues to be invoked constantly in our own time by todays' migrants, immigrants, and refugees.

In a nearby small town the Remains of San Pedro Esqueda are buried, and a new Chapel has been built over the site.  The soldiers had attempted to tie him to a large mesquite tree and burn him alive, but the tree would not catch fire.  Then, they shot him.

There is great devotion to Our Lady of San Juan de Los Lagos, and I visited her Basilica in that city.  There is a magnificent wooden image above the main Altar, and I was able to celebrate Mass there.  Various photos will show the interior of the Basilica.

Near Leon, Guanajuato, there is a large bronze statue of Cristo Rey on top of a high mountain overlooking Leon and that vast valley.  It is the largest bronze statue in the world, and truly inspiring to all.

click to enlarge
plaza in front of Santuario; future Bell Tower location
interior view of Santuario
chapel where Remains of Romo are preserved
mural showing the murder of Romo by soldiers

close-up of urn with Romo Remains
mural of Romo assisting immigrants along the border after his death
burial place of Fr. Pedro Esqueda, another Mexican martyr

Our Lady of San Juan de Los Lagos Basilica--Mass

Mass in the Basilica

Image of Our Lady above Altar

Image of Our Lady above Altar

celebrating Mass in the Basilica

Bronze Statue of Cristo Rey overlooking Leon, Guanajuato


Monday, June 16, 2014


For at least three years, the number of unaccompanied minors trying to cross the border into the United States has increased dramatically.

But why?

Some contend that the policies of the current Administration are sending a "message" throughout Mexico and Central America that minors coming to this country on their own can be given a special asylum or sent to relatives living in this country.

But that's not what is driving this new surge of unaccompanied minors.  These minors are fleeing horrific conditions in their countries of origin--especially El Salvador and Honduras.  These minors are not coming because they want to leave their homes.  Rather, they are leaving because of two very real problems facing them:  incredible threats against their lives, and hopeless living and working conditions.

These young people tell us clearly that the reach of gangs and the drug cartels has reached deeply into their countries, and that they are faced with incredible decisions:  either join a gang and get shot by a rival gang, or refuse to join a gang and get shot by that gang; or do nothing, and get swept up into the quagmire of the drug cartels.  No hope, no future.  This is what is propelling the departure of these minors across Central America towards the United States.  Sheer desperation.

These problems are not of our making, and their home countries have the primary responsibility for their safety, education, and employment.  However, the political and economic chaos in these countries means that none of these possibilities is available to them.

They feel they have nothing to lose, and set out on a perilous journey in which death and injury are so real.  They pay exorbitant fees to "coyotes" to escort them to the USA.  But most of the time, the coyotes dump them along the way, pocket thousands of dollars, and leave the minors at the mercy of many criminal elements.

Our government needs to prod the Central America countries to take primary responsibility for their citizens, especially the youth, and to find ways for them to remain home, get an education, and find gainful employment.  Sadly, the corruption and instability of these countries makes it virtually impossible for any change in the near future.

So, these children and youth set out on perilous journeys seeking a new life and a new future.

Is this "our problem"?  In the strict sense, no.  But we are a country which offers opportunity for the poor and the deprived, so we should not be surprised that they are coming to us.

The best response would be for our country to pass a comprehensive immigration reform package which will  bring some new order to our antiquated and chaotic immigration system.  Because we have so many jobs available in the low-skill and low-income categories, we have become a magnet for such desperate young people.  Especially since other Americans will not take these jobs, regardless of the salary.

The numbers of unaccompanied minors is a sad commentary on the sending countries.  But as a nation of immigrants, we are compelled to find a way to reunite these minors with parents living in this country.

Sadly, our country's response has been with platitudes and inaction.  We are now reaping the harvest of this inaction.

Jesus told us very clearly:  "I was a stranger, and you welcomed me."  May that continue to be our call and challenge.

Friday, June 6, 2014


It was good news for some 500,000 young immigrants when Homeland Security announced that they were extending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals [DACA] for another two years.  When DACA was implemented in 2012 it was our collective hope that Congress would pass a comprehensive immigration reform law that would negate the need for any further extensions since these young people would be included in the comprehensive approach.

Sadly, the House in Washington still refuses to bring to the floor for vote the U.S. Senate passed Bill.  That Bill would obviate the need for any further piecemeal immigration reform efforts.

These young people were brought to our country by others as small children.  They did not decide and plan to come here on their own.  These youth are attending our schools, and they are getting an education in order to become legal members of our society, get jobs, pay taxes, and support the economic growth of our nation.  DACA has given them permits in order to work, and it would have been tragic to allow those permits to terminate--throwing these youth back into the shadows without any legal protections.

It is imperative that the House take up and pass the Senate Bill as soon as possible.  What is ironic is that there are enough votes in the House to pass the Senate Bill--votes from both Republicans and Democrats.  But Speaker Boehner will not bring the Bill to the floor because he does not have a majority of his Republican members willing to vote for the Bill.

That refusal to bring the Bill to the House floor for a vote is a moral and ethical outrage.  Some 11 million people are being denied the opportunity to start down a difficult, earned path leading to legal status.  They remain in the shadows of our society, most working low-skill and low-pay jobs in order to provide for their families.

I urge Speaker Boehner to end his delay, and to schedule the Senate Bill for a vote in the House as quickly as possible.

Monday, April 28, 2014


What was so amazing about the Canonization of Popes Saint John XXIII and John Paul II was the complete absence of any triumphalism.  The entire Liturgy was a prayerful experience for all who were gathered as disciples of Jesus.

Pope Francis set the tone immediately by allowing the Liturgy to convey the depth of the moment.  Nothing was added to focus upon the person of the two new saints; rather, we were all invited to enter deeply into their love for God, their devotion to Jesus Christ, and their untiring efforts to bring Jesus to the world in new and fresh ways.

Even though hundreds of thousands of people were gathered near and far to St. Peter's, not once did I hear the refrain, "Viva il Papa."  And why?  Because this celebration was about their incredible discipleship with Jesus and their carrying on the tradition of Peter and his successors down through the ages.

Their sanctity was shown to be within the grasp of every single one of us--not for a few chosen ones with lofty titles and positions in the Church.  Pope Francis made it clear that as the Sunday Gospel pointed out so well, each of us is invited to see and touch the wounds of Jesus--his wounded and risen Body serving as the entry point for our own spiritual journey.  And that invitation from our Risen Jesus is for each one of us--what a grace, what a gift!

I was struck by the large numbers of young people present all over Rome for this important milestone in the history of the Church.  All came because of their own yearning to draw closer to Jesus, to allow Jesus to impact their own lives, and to follow the great virtues of two astounding disciples and shepherds of Jesus.

Never before were two Popes canonized at the same time; and never before were two living Popes present at that Liturgy of Canonization.  I doubt that anyone in the future will ever witness what unfolded yesterday in the Piazza of St. Peter's.

May each one of us draw closer to our Risen Savior, Jesus, and be inspired to live out the heroic discipleship that Pope St. John XXIII and Pope St. John Paul II exemplified.  It's notable that both Popes were led into significant suffering--following the example of Jesus.  What a great witness for us!  So many of us suffer from illness, abandonment, hardships, personal and family tragedies, and various reversals.  The "good news" is that bearing those with faith and constancy brings us ever more deeply into the life of Jesus!

[As a convenience, a previous blog posting gives the entire Homily delivered by Pope Francis at the Canonization]

Sunday, April 27, 2014


[Below is the homily given by Pope Francis at the Mass in which Pope St. John XXIII and Pope St. John Paul II were declared Saints of the Church]

"At the heart of this Sunday, which concludes the Octave of Easter and which John Paul II wished to dedicate to Divine Mercy, are the glorious wounds of the risen Jesus.

He had already shown those wounds when he first appeared to the Apostles on the very evening of that day following the Sabbath, the day of the resurrection. But, as we heard, Thomas was not there that evening, and when the others told him that they had seen the Lord, he replied that unless he himself saw and touched those wounds, he would not believe. 

A week later, Jesus appeared once more to the disciples gathered in the Upper Room, and Thomas was present; Jesus turned to him and told him to touch his wounds. Whereupon that man, so straightforward and accustomed to testing everything personally, knelt before Jesus with the words: “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28).

The wounds of Jesus are a scandal, a stumbling block for faith, yet they are also the test of faith. That is why on the body of the risen Christ the wounds never pass away: they remain, for those wounds are the enduring sign of God’s love for us. They are essential for believing in God. Not for believing that God exists, but for believing that God is love, mercy and faithfulness. Saint Peter, quoting Isaiah, writes to Christians: “by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Pet 2:24, cf. Is 53:5).

Saint John XXIII and Saint John Paul II were not afraid to look upon the wounds of Jesus, to touch his torn hands and his pierced side. They were not ashamed of the flesh of Christ, they were not scandalized by him, by his cross; they did not despise the flesh of their brother (cf. Is 58:7), because they saw Jesus in every person who suffers and struggles. These were two men of courage, filled with the parrousia of the Holy Spirit, and they bore witness before the Church and the world to God’s goodness and mercy.

They were priests, bishops and popes of the twentieth century. 

They lived through the tragic events of that century, but they were not overwhelmed by them. For them, God was more powerful; faith was more powerful – faith in Jesus Christ the Redeemer of man and the Lord of history; the mercy of God, shown by those five wounds, was more powerful; and more powerful too was the closeness of Mary our Mother.

In these two men, who looked upon the wounds of Christ and bore witness to his mercy, there dwelt a living hope and an indescribable and glorious joy (1 Pet 1:3,8). The hope and the joy which the risen Christ bestows on his disciples, the hope and the joy which nothing and no one can take from them. The hope and joy of Easter, forged in the crucible of self-denial, self-emptying, utter identification with sinners, even to the point of disgust at the bitterness of that chalice. Such were the hope and the joy which these two holy popes had received as a gift from the risen Lord and which they in turn bestowed in abundance upon the People of God, meriting our eternal gratitude.

This hope and this joy were palpable in the earliest community of believers, in Jerusalem, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles (cf. 2:42-47), as we heard in the second reading. It was a community which lived the heart of the Gospel, love and mercy, in simplicity and fraternity.

This is also the image of the Church which the Second Vatican Council set before us. John XXIII and John Paul II cooperated with the Holy Spirit in renewing and updating the Church in keeping with her pristine features, those features which the saints have given her throughout the centuries. Let us not forget that it is the saints who give direction and growth to the Church. In convening the Council, John XXIII showed an exquisite openness to the Holy Spirit. He let himself be led and he was for the Church a pastor, a servant-leader, led by the Spirit. This was his great service to the Church; he was the pope of openness to the Spirit.

In his own service to the People of God, John Paul II was the pope of the family. He himself once said that he wanted to be remembered as the pope of the family. I am particularly happy to point this out as we are in the process of journeying with families towards the Synod on the family. It is surely a journey which, from his place in heaven, he guides and sustains.

May these two new saints and shepherds of God’s people intercede for the Church, so that during this two-year journey toward the Synod she may be open to the Holy Spirit in pastoral service to the family. May both of them teach us not to be scandalized by the wounds of Christ and to enter ever more deeply into the mystery of divine mercy, which always hopes and always forgives, because it always loves."

[Second Sunday of Easter, April 27, 2014]

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


An unprecedented event will take place on Sunday, April 27, when Popes John XXIII and John Paul II will both be canonized by Pope Francis at St. Peter's Basilica.

I am not aware of any other canonization when two contemporary Popes were canonized at the same Liturgy.

The canonization of Pope's in recent centuries is rare.  The two last Popes to be canonized were Pope Pius
V and Pope Pius X:

*  Pope Pius V was in office 1566 to 1572.  He was canonized May 22, 1712.

*  Pope Pius X was in office 1903 to 1914.  He was canonized May 29, 1954--40 years after he died.

It will be a privilege to be at St. Peter's on April 27 to share in the canonization of two contemporary Popes, both of whom had an incredible influence upon the Church in our modern times.  It was Pope John XXIII who called for the Second Vatican Council, and who launched an opening of the doors and windows of the Church in order to allow the Gospel of Jesus to be brought more fully and readily into modern society and culture.

Pope John Paul II became a personal envoy of Jesus Christ as he circled the earth, visiting countries near and far, bringing the Good News of the Gospel to many lands.  Here in Los Angeles, we were privileged to have John Paul II with us a full 48 hours, and 12 major events--including a Mass in the Coliseum, and a second in Dodger Stadium.

May the deep faith and pastoral charity of our two new Pope Saints encourage all of us to a closer discipleship with Jesus!

Sunday, March 30, 2014


On March 31, 1927 Cesar Chavez was born.  And each year, March 31 is marked across California as a State holiday in his memory.

It was my privilege to know Cesar Chavez when I was a priest of the Diocese of Fresno, and to work with him over many years as the secretary to the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Farm Labor, headed by Bishop Joseph Donnelly, then Auxiliary Bishop of Hartford, Connecticut.  Cesar died on April 23, 1993, it was a grace to be able to celebrate his Funeral Mass at Delano, CA where the farm worker union got its real start.

To mark this year's anniversary of his death, two films and a new book have been issued:

     Documentary Film:   Cesar's Last Fast      This documentary shows many clips of footage from the days and years of Cesar's work in the fields, along with various portions of interviews with the major close collaborators of Cesar over the years.  The documentary offers helpful insights into the incredible effort by Cesar Chavez to bring dignity to farm workers, and to have them receive a just wage, employee benefits, and the right to bargain collectively with the farmers.

 In my opinion, the documentary would have been far more powerful and successful if there were fewer scenes of "talking heads."  Various old film footage could have been interwoven with several vignettes from a broader base of collaborators--especially more farm workers themselves.

      Major Motion Picture:   Cesar Chavez      This motion picture opened across the country in many theaters, and captures the beginning of Cesar's efforts up to the signing of a large number of contracts with the growers of table grapes in the greater Delano area.  The end of the film indicates that this event would be followed five years later by the enactment in California the the Agricultural Labor Relations Act, the first genuine effort to extend many of the rights of the National Labor Relations Act [1935] to agricultural workers.  Sadly, until this day, both agricultural workers and domestic employees remain excluded from coverage under the NLRA.

          Governor Jerry Brown appointed me to serve as the first Chairman of the State's new Act to give the right to secret ballot elections to farm workers, and to conduct those elections, certify the results of the elections, and to handle all complaints of unfair labor practices.

Major New Book:      The Crusades of Cesar Chavez  by Miriam Pawel  (2014:  Bloomsbury Press, New York).  In my opinion, this is probably the most comprehensive and accurate book on the life and work of Cesar Chavez.  It is extremely factual, and Pawel lets those facts speak for themselves.  She has no agenda or desired outcome in the book.  The book highlights the complexity of Cesar Chavez as a person, and does not hesitate to point out all of the virtues and shortcomings of Cesar's work in trying to organize California's farm workers.

          If you are interested in obtaining one of the best books on Cesar Chavez, this is the one.

While the life and work of Cesar Chavez is indeed complex, in the long view, he followed God's plan for him and gave his entire life and energies on behalf of farm workers.  Could he have done some things differently? Of course.  But that is true of every single one of us when we look back on our lives and our work.

Some 21 years after the death of Cesar Chavez, these two films and one book serve to capture the totality of a man motivated by his deep faith in God and his trust that God's grace would help bring about lasting justice for the millions of people who produce the food that we all consume day after day.



Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Catholic Bishops Call for Lenten Prayer and Fasting During Time of Drought
SACRAMENTOBishop Jaime Soto, President of the California Catholic Conference of Bishops, released the following statement:
During this Season of Lent, we, the Catholic Bishops of California, invite the Catholic community and other Californians of good will to exercise restraint in the use of water as an expression of solidarity with those whose livelihood and welfare are at risk due to extreme drought conditions. 
Lent is a holy, penitential season in the Catholic Church's liturgical year, reflecting the forty days Jesus spent in the desert in fasting and prayer.   In this time, Catholics unite themselves with the Lord Jesus in the struggle to overcome the power of evil and the slavery of sin.  We do so with prayer, fasting, abstinence, as well as other penitential sacrifices, and charitable works.
This year, Californians are in an actual desert as an historic drought looms over us.  Farmers cannot access sufficient water to raise their crops. Fields will remain fallow.  Men and women will be left standing without work.  Access for children and families to clean, drinkable water is uncertain.  Legislators struggle to craft an equitable public policy ensuring the State’s present and future water needs.
We are starkly reminded in this time of drought of our dependence on the Creator. The fragile relationship between ourselves and the creation that God has made to sustain us is threatened.  Our human dignity relies on access to water.  That same human dignity is diminished when we let this precious resource slip carelessly through our hands.  The creation entrusted to us is a common heritage and requires us to work together as responsible stewards for the common good, especially mindful of the weak and vulnerable.  As the economic and health impact of the drought grows those with limited resources will be the first to suffer.  Wise conservation practices will mitigate those effects.  They also serve as concrete acts of solidarity giving life and hope to other fellow Californians.
During this Lent, we pray that God opens the heavens and lets His mercy rain down upon our fields and mountains.  May we receive the grace to better conserve our natural resources and expend our energies in works of charity so that justice and mutual respect may flow like a river through the cities, towns and fields of our State.  Looking towards the sacred days of Easter, we hope that God’s wisdom and joy may rise like a fountain of living water in the hearts and minds of all Californians.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014


The prophet Isaiah sets forth a good road map for the type of fast which is pleasing to God as we begin our annual Lenten Journey:

"Lo, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits, and drive all your laborers.  Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting, striking with wicked claw.  Would that today you might fast so as to make your voice heard on high!

Is this the manner of fasting I wish, of keeping a day of penance:  That a man bow his head like a reed, and lie in sackcloth and ashes?  Do you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?

This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:  

     releasing those bound unjustly,
     untying the thongs of the yoke;
     setting free the oppressed,
     breaking every yoke;
     sharing your bread with the hungry,
     sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
     clothing the naked when you see them,
     and not turning your back on your own.

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed; your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.  

Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer, you shall cry for help, and he will say:  Here I am!

If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech; if you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday;

Then the Lord will guide you always and give you plenty even on the parched land.  He will renew your strength, and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring who water never fails.  The ancient ruins shall be rebuilt for your sake, and the foundations from ages past you shall raise up;  'Repairer of the breach,' they shall call you, 'Restorer of ruined homesteads.'"  [Isaiah 58: 1--12]

Saturday, February 22, 2014


It was in early 1988—some 26 years ago—that the Archdiocese of Los Angeles became aware of the terrible sexual abuse which the Rev. Nicolas Aguilar-Rivera had been inflicting upon young people in Los Angeles. This case highlighted errors made by us in the Archdiocese in those early years, and for those errors I apologize once again. But this case also led to several major changes in procedures used by the Archdiocese, and these were improved upon over the years.

The evolution of the Archdiocese’s manner of dealing with allegations of the sexual abuse of minors by clergy and others in the Church was recounted ten years ago in The Report to the People of God. This Report can be found at this location:

Everything contained in this blog is available in the release of thousands of pages of clergy files in January of 2013. All of the documents involving Aguilar-Rivera can be found at:,%20Nicolas.pdf

It is key to understand that the first report about Aguilar-Rivera to one of our Catholic schools and to the Archdiocese took place late on a Friday afternoon, January 8, 1988. That late Friday alert, unfortunately, led to delays which should not have occurred.

The following are the more serious errors which several of us in the Archdiocese made, along with the steps taken to eliminate them in the future:
  1. Letters of Recommendation for Priests from Other Dioceses.
    Aguilar-Rivera arrived in Los Angeles with a letter from his Bishop in Mexico stating that he was coming to Los Angeles for “family and health reasons” [“por motivos familiares y por motivos de salud”] because he had family here. The Bishop asked that we consider giving him a priestly assignment here in the Archdiocese. Based on that positive recommendation, Aguilar-Rivera was given a temporary assignment. Throughout 1987 there were no reports of improper conduct by Aguilar-Rivera. It was not until early 1988 that such reports emerged from families of children abused.

    After further investigation, the Bishop in Mexico claimed that he had sent a second letter about Aguilar-Rivera some two months after his original letter. No one in the Archdiocese recalls ever receiving such a letter in which the Bishop refers to unfounded allegations of homosexual problems that led to physical aggression against him in Mexico. Had that letter been received, Aguilar-Rivera’s assignment would have been revoked or suspended pending a full investigation.

    Change in Procedures: Because of this case, from this time forward a letter of recommendation from a Bishop on behalf of a visiting priest was insufficient. A new format was developed requiring the sending Bishop, especially from a Diocese outside the USA, to respond to very specific questions about any possible misconduct in the history of the priest. This change in procedure was enhanced over the years and has served to make sure that priest from other places with any misconduct issues is not admitted to this Archdiocese.
  2. Priest Removed from Ministry.
    Early on Saturday morning, the Vicar for Clergy went to the parish where Aguilar-Rivera was assigned, revoked his Faculties to function as a priest in Los Angeles, and ordered him to leave the parish in order not to endanger any other children. Aguilar-Rivera stated that he was going to stay with his sister, and without a priestly assignment in Los Angeles, he would return to Mexico. Since the police were not informed until Monday morning about Aguilar-Rivera, he in fact stayed briefly at his sister’s, and then fled the country. That was a serious mistake.

    Change in Procedures: Since the new danger of fleeing from the civil authorities had emerged, beginning procedures were put into place to deal more quickly with priests from other countries who had been accused of the abuse of minors in the Archdiocese. Unfortunately, in a few other cases allegations of abuse emerged only after the priest had left the Archdiocese, and he was out of reach by both the civil and Church authorities.
  3. Attempts to Reach Child Protective Services.
    On Saturday and Sunday, January 9 and 10, the Catholic School teacher who learned of the abuse tried to contact the appropriate reporting agency, Child Protective Services. No one answered the phone all weekend. Early on Monday morning the teacher instead called the Los Angeles Police Department [LAPD] and quickly an officer responded.

    Changes in Procedure: Following the case of Aguilar-Rivera, and the futile attempts to reach the staff of Child Protective Services at night and on weekends, that agency instituted a new “800” number which would be answered 24/7. That change has been in effect ever since, and a staff person is always available to take a report of suspected child abuse, and to begin at once processes to investigate the report.
  4. Communication with Police Agencies.
    Had officials of the Archdiocese been in immediate contact with the LAPD, Aguilar-Rivera could have been held pending a full civil investigation. That delay was a serious error. In addition, when the police requested a list of the altar servers in the parish where Aguilar-Rivera was last assigned, that request was denied because the recent allegations were from families from another parish, and the allegations were that Aguilar-River had molested the minors at the home of the families, not on Church property. That refusal was also a mistake.

    Changes in Procedure: On March 4th I met Lt. Steven Day of the LAPD at a conference, and we discussed the mistakes made in the Aguilar-Rivera case. As a result, a special meeting took place on March 9th with Capt. Mayes and Lt. Day, and officials of the Archdiocese. The result of that meeting led to new lines of open communication with the LAPD, and the assurance that all future allegations of the abuse of minors would be made directly to that police agency—regardless of who was the mandated reporter. 
  5. Communication with Parishioners.
    It also emerged that efforts to protect children and their families from any negative impact a police investigation might have upon them was a serious mistake. As subsequent years would show, the sooner that the victims of abuse are identified, the sooner the threat to them can be removed, and the sooner counseling services can be made available to the victims.

    Changes in Procedure: It became clear over the years that a firm plan to inform all parishioners of allegations of the sexual abuse of minors within that parish must be implemented. Announcements by an Archdiocesan official were to be made at all Masses on a given weekend, and parishioners were asked to come forward if they were aware of any victims or other useful information. If particular groups of minors, e.g., students or youth group members, were victims, then special outreach efforts to those groups would also be taken.
  6. Counseling for Victims:
    Once the young victims were identified, they were referred to an experienced counselor to assist them with the trauma of their awful ordeal. All of these victims remained in counseling until the counselor felt that no further services were required.

    Changes in Procedure: In the years following the abuse of these young victims, a more intensive and protracted program of counseling was put in place, and other family members were actively involved in those sessions so that the young victims could be assisted even more fully.
  7. Pursuit of Aguilar-Rivera in Mexico:
    The Bishop of Aguilar-Rivera was informed at once of the moral and criminal conduct of the priest, and the Bishop was urged to assist in returning him to Los Angeles to face the legal consequences of his actions. The Bishop reported that he never returned to his home Diocese, but that he would keep alert to see if he could be located. Whenever word was received that Aguilar-Rivera was spotted in this or that location, we sent letters immediately to those Bishops to make sure that he was not allowed to function as a priest, and to assist us in locating him for return to Los Angeles.

    Changes in Procedure: The Archdiocese continued to send letters across Mexico in the hope of locating Aguilar-Rivera, and having the LAPD work with local civic authorities to have him returned to Los Angeles since felonies had been committed. However, no credible sighting of him ever occurred. The new procedures required the immediate notification of law enforcement, but especially if a foreign national were involved.
  8. Conclusion:  
    The case of Aguilar-Rivera was the first one with sexual misconduct allegations involving a priest from a foreign country who was an extern, or visitor, to the Archdiocese. This early case would be part of an ever more stringent set of procedures to respond to such cases, to protect all children and young people, and to make certain that the Church was safe for all people. The evolution of procedures would continue into the 1990s and beyond.

Friday, February 14, 2014


We keep hearing conflicting reports from Congress on whether they will proceed with any kind of needed immigration reform.  The Senate-passed Bill is in the House, and many predict that if that Bill were brought to the floor of the House today, it would pass.  But apparently, the Republicans won't move a Bill to the floor unless a majority of their party would vote for it.  That is really tragic.

The inability of Congress to fix the broken immigration system is not only a major public scandal for our country, but a moral and ethical failure.  We continue to leave countless millions of people living in the shadows, living in fear, and living in families torn asunder by deportations.  This situation is morally unacceptable to a country founded with, and enhanced by, countless waves of immigrants.

I am saddened to hear people on talk radio programs decrying the presence of so many new immigrants in our midst.  However, we forget that these people are here for one reason:  we have offered the magnet of low-skill and low-paid jobs which no one else in our country will take.  And so, they have come and they have taken those jobs.

During the dark days of the Great Recession, when farmers could not get enough farm workers to harvest the crops, did you see other unemployed Americans lining up to pick strawberries, peaces, and apples?  No, because they can't and won't do that type of work--for any salary.

The Senate Bill is not perfect, but it is the most comprehensive proposal on Capitol hill.

We all need to urge our House Representative to insist on a vote on the Senate Bill before them; and to halt these delaying tactics which are taking such a terrible burden upon our immigrant brothers and sisters.

St. Toribio Romo, pray for us!!

Thursday, January 16, 2014


Today, Thursday, January 16, it was a great grace to concelebrate Mass with Pope Francis in the Chapel at Domus Sanctae Martae, and then later in the morning, to have a private Audience with him.

The MASS          Each weekday morning Pope Francis celebrates Mass at 7:00 AM in the Chapel of his residence, Domus Sanctae Martae.  Today, Cardinal Carlos Amigo Vallejo, OFM, the Archbishop Emeritus of Seville in Spain, also concelebrated, together with a group of Italian priests.

Photo: Servizio Fotografico of the L'Osservatore Romano Publications, 00120 Vatican City
It is so evident that Pope Francis is a man of prayer, a holy Successor to St. Peter.  It is remarkable how he is able to reflect on the Scriptures of the day without any notes or text--but flowing directly from his prayer life and from his heart. Vatican Radio provided this synthesis of the Pope's homily:

"Scandals in the Church happen because there is no living relationship with God and His Word.  Thus, corrupt priests, instead of giving the Bread of Life, give a poisoned meal to the holy people of God.

Commenting on the day's reading and responsorial Psalm which recount the crushing defeat of the Israelites by the Philistines, the Pope notes that the people of God at that time had forsaken the Lord.  It was said that the Word of God was 'uncommon' at that time.  The old priest Eli was 'lukewarm' and his sons 'corrupt; they frightened the people and beat them with sticks.'  In their battle against the Philistines, the Israelites brought with them the Ark of the Covenant, but as something 'magical,' 'something external.'  And they are defeated: the Ark is taken from them by their enemies.  There is no true faith in God, in His real presence in life.

Cardinal Mahony concelebrates Mass with Pope Francis at Domus Sanctae Martae on January 16, 2014
"This passage of Scripture," the Pope says, "makes us think about what sort of relationship we have with God, with the Word of God:  is it a formal relationship?  Is it a distant relationship?  The Word of God enters into our hearts, changes our hearts.  Does it have this power or not?  Is it a formal relationship?  But the heart is closed to that Word!  It leads us to think of the so many defeats of the Church, so many defeats of God's people simply because they do not hear the Lord, do not seek the Lord, do not allow themselves to be sought by the Lord!  And then after a tragedy, the prayer, this one:  'But, Lord, what happened?  You have made us the scorn of our neighbors.  The scorn and derision of those around us.  You have made us the laughing stock among nations!  All the nations shake their heads about us.'

And of the scandals in the Church, Pope Francis said:

"But are we ashamed?  So many scandals that I do not want to mention individually, but all of us know....We know where they are!  Scandals, some who charged a lot of money....The shame of the Church!  But are we all ashamed of those scandals, of those failings of priests, bishops, laity?  Where was the Word of God in those scandals; where was the Word of God in those men and in those women?  They did not have a relationship with God!  They had a position in the Church, a position of power, even of comfort.  But the Word of God, no!  'But I wear a medal, I carry the Cross.'  Yes, just as those bore the Ark!  Without the living relationship with God and the Word of God!  I am reminded of the words of Jesus about those for whom scandals come ... And here the scandal hit:  bringing decay to the people of God, including the weakness and corruption of priests."

Pope Francis concluded his homily, turning his thoughts to the people of God, saying:

"Poor people!  We do not give the Bread of Life to eat; we do give--in those cases--the bread of Truth!  And many times, we even offer a poisoned meal!  Awaken!  Why do you sleep, Lord?  Let this be our prayer!  Awaken!  Do not reject us forever!  Why do you hide your face?  Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?  We ask the Lord never to forget the Word of God, which is alive, so that it enters into our hearts and to never forget the holy people faithful to God who ask us to nourish and strengthen them."

After Mass, the Holy Father greeted the priests and the lay people who had attended the Mass.

The AUDIENCE          Later in the morning I had the great privilege of a private Audience with Pope Francis.  Since my Italian is not fluent, we spoke in Spanish.  Most of our conversation focused on the plight of migrants, immigrants, and refugees around the world.  I recounted for the Pope that in 2012, during our last Ad Limina visit, Pope Benedict had requested a proposal on how to address the plight of these many peoples on the move.  I had told Pope Benedict that the last Papal document on the pastoral care of peoples on the move was some 60 years ago--it was entitled Exsul Familia issued by Pope Pius XII.  The Bishops of our Region had requested a possible updated pronouncement from the Holy Father.

I gave Pope Francis some materials about the reality of migrants, immigrants, and refugees in our day.  Back in 1952 when Pope Pius XII issued his document there were about 50 million people on the move--many as a result of the Second World War.  Today, there are some 425 million people on the move, suffering from so many human problems--many related to wars, terrorism, political instability, and the search for economic stability for their families.

Pope Francis expressed an interest in this entire matter, and pointed out that in Evangelii Gaudium he had made reference to some of these issues.  He also saw the need for a possible new document dealing with today's vast numbers of peoples on the move.

Pope Francis also emphasized the need for all of us, disciples of Jesus, to be ever more attentive to the needs of the poor and disadvantaged in our midst.

He made it clear that he intends to keep bringing the dreadful plight of so many millions of people to the attention of the world and to all of us in the Church.

[Photos courtesy of Servizio Fotografico of the L'Osservatore Romano Publications, 00120 Vatican City]

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


We are just concluding our annual Bishops' Retreat, and I have finished praying with Pope Francis' incredible Apostolic Exhortation, The Gospel of Joy.

But this important document on the new evangelization is written like no other Vatican document.  Rather, it reads more like a warm letter from our Pastor to each one of us, members of the flock.  Pope Francis sets us  on a course to do two things: first, to have us deepen our friendship and relationship with Jesus, then secondly, to share that relationship with Jesus with everyone we know and meet.

His many personal experiences with Jesus and the Church are everywhere throughout the letter, and his practical call to have all of us open our lives more fully to God's love and forgiveness in our lives resonates so deeply.

He does not hesitate to remind us that it is impossible to love God without loving all our brothers and sisters. He makes it clear that preeminent in Jesus' life was the proclamation of the Gospel, along with frequent and humble acts of service to those most in need--the sick, the lepers, the blind, those on the margins of society.  Pope Francis makes it clear that through our Baptism we have received a special mandate to move outside ourselves and to embrace the face of Jesus in the lives of those most in need.

My own ministry has been profoundly affected by this letter, and I am already looking forward eagerly to adopting some new ministry outreach actions starting right away.

I encourage all of you to this incredible letter, and to allow it to permeate your own life and soul!  I pray that many small groups in the Church will take it up as a prayer and study guide during 2014, and help re-shape our parish communities to reflect what Pope Francis is proclaiming with such urgency.

May we all become more fervent messengers of the joyful proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!!

The Gospel of Joy can be purchased through the Publications Office of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: