“Today we celebrate the fiftieth Earth Day. This is an occasion for renewing our commitment to love and care for our common home and for the weaker members of our human family. As the tragic coronavirus pandemic has taught us, we can overcome global challenges only by showing solidarity with one another and embracing the most vulnerable in our midst…We must grow in awareness of caring for our common home…We are fashioned from the earth, and fruit of the earth sustains our life…Thus we live in this common home as one human family in biodiversity with God’s other creatures…we have no future if we destroy the very environment that sustains us…How can we restore a harmonious relationship with the earth and with the rest of humanity? A harmonious relationship…harmony is a work of the Holy Spirit…In today’s celebration of Earth Day, we are called to renew our sense of sacred respect for the earth, for it is not just our home but also God’s home.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          — Pope Francis

 

FROM YOUR PASTOR

Last month, the Holy Father commemorated the 5th Anniversary of his Encyclical Laudato Si and the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day.

As he commemorates these milestones, it is important to remember that the respect for the Created Environment is part of Catholic Social Doctrine.  “The ecological question must not be faced solely because of the frightening prospects that environmental destruction represents; rather it must above all become a strong motivation for an authentic solidarity of worldwide dimensions (No. 486). Care for the environment represents a challenge for all of humanity. It is a matter of a common and universal duty, that of respecting a common good, destined for all (No. 466).”

The comments and actions of Pope Francis have been part of the Fabric of the Papacy since Earth Day 1970…

Saint Pope Paul VI.  “Man is suddenly becoming aware that by an ill-considered exploitation of nature he risks destroying it and becoming in his turn the victim of this degradation. Not only is the material environment becoming a permanent menace – pollution and refuse, new illness and absolute destructive capacity – but the human framework is no longer under man’s control, thus creating an environment for tomorrow which may well be intolerable. This is a wide-ranging social problem which concerns the entire human family.” (Octogesima Adveniens, No. 21)

Saint Pope John Paul II. “The most profound and serious indication of the moral implications underlying the ecological problem is the lack of respect for life evident in many of the patterns of environmental pollution. Often, the interests of production prevail over concern for the dignity of workers, while economic interests take priority over the good of individuals and even entire peoples. In these cases, pollution or environmental destruction is the result of an unnatural and reductionist vision which at times leads to a genuine contempt for man.” (World Day of Peace 1990, No.7)

Pope Benedict XVI.  “In 1990 John Paul II had spoken of an ‘ecological crisis’ and, in highlighting its primarily ethical character, pointed to the ‘urgent moral need for a new solidarity.’ His appeal is all the more pressing today, in the face of signs of a growing crisis which it would be irresponsible not to take seriously. Can we remain indifferent before the problems associated with such realities as climate change, desertification, the deterioration and loss of productivity in vast agricultural areas, the pollution of rivers and aquifers, the loss of biodiversity, the increase of natural catastrophes and the deforestation of equatorial and tropical regions? Can we disregard the growing phenomenon of ‘environmental refugees?’ Can we remain impassive in the face of actual and potential conflicts involving access to natural resources?” (World Day of Peace 2010, No. 4)

Pope Francis. The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all. At the global level, it is a complex system linked to many of the essential conditions for human life. A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon. Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it. It is true that there are other factors (such as volcanic activity, variations in the earth’s orbit and axis, the solar cycle), yet a number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and others) released mainly as a result of human activity. As these gases build up in the atmosphere, they hamper the escape of heat produced by sunlight at the earth’s surface. The problem is aggravated by a model of development based on the intensive use of fossil fuels, which is at the heart of the worldwide energy system. Another determining factor has been an increase in changed uses of the soil, principally deforestation for agricultural purposes.” (Laudato Si, No 23)

US Conference of Bishops. “At its core, global climate change is not about economic theory or political platforms, nor about partisan advantage or interest group pressures. It is about the future of God’s creation and the one human family. It is about protecting both ‘the human environment’ and the natural environment. It is about our human stewardship of God’s creation and our responsibility to those who come after us. In that spirit of praise and thanksgiving to God for the wonders of creation, we Catholic bishops call for a civil dialogue and prudent and constructive action to protect God’s precious gift of the earth’s atmosphere with a sense of genuine solidarity and justice for all God’s children.” (Global Climate Change A Plea for Dialogue Prudence and the Common Good 2001)

Respect for the Created Environment IS ESSENTIAL to the Human Dignityof everyone…in 1970…in 2015…and in 2020…

+May God Bless You and Keep You+

“The problem is not that we have doubts and fears. The problem is when they condition our way of thinking and acting to the point of making us intolerant, closed and perhaps even — without realizing it — racist. In this way, fear deprives us of the desire and the ability to encounter the other, the person different from myself; it deprives me of an opportunity to encounter the Lord.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             — Pope Francis 

 

FROM YOUR PASTOR

Two weeks ago, I offered a Reflection on a General Confession On The Sin of Racism. My Focus was the Five Chapters of my personal life – – – Chapter One: Schools, Chapter Two: Professional Life, Chapter Three: Community and Social Life, Chapter Four: Seminary and Catholic Priest, Chapter Five: Use of My Time, Talent, and Treasure to Build and Not Divide.

That Reflection is on the social media of both of our Churches if you would like to look at it. It will  help frame today’s Five Chapters.

Why did I write it? I wrote it because of a song that we used to sing at Presentation of Our Lady Grade School during the racial unrest of the late 60s —  ‘Let there be peace on Earth and let it  begin with me.’

Since that time, we had a very informative discussion in the Julia Greeley Guild Zoom Meeting last week. In that meeting, Mary Leisring — the Coordinator of the Guild, an employee of the Cathedral, and former Director of the Archdiocese Black Catholics Office — made the comment that her phrase is — Black Lives Have Not Always Mattered.

Mary reflected on that concept as it related to her life and career. As a Priest, she has been a great ground for me in Pastoral Counseling through her patience, wisdom, and love. And it was she, and the other Guild members last year, who told me about the reality of The Negro Motorist Green-Book —  Victor Hugo Green’s guide to services and places relatively friendly to African-Americans produced annually from 1936 to 1966. I never thought that my Beloved Denver would need such a guide!

At that meeting, Dustin Caldwell, a member of the Guild and an Altar Server here at the Cathedral Basilica, said that when he was interviewed by the Denver Catholic, he chose to focus on his faith and his devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus who will ultimately resolve these racial divides. But what he shared with us was HIS BACKSTORY. As a Young Black Man, he would get pulled over by the police for no apparent reason. When he would show them his Pilot’s License, it changed the story! That affected me deeply because Dustin is one of the finest Young Catholic Men that I have met in my life.

Mary and Dustin’s conversations made a difference to me in how I look at the current situation…how I process everyone’s Backstory…and that their Black Lives Matter in my life today.

Their thoughts and those of many others are in this week’s issue of Denver Catholic. I encourage you to read it.

After reading the Issue myself, it brought me to the NEXT QUESTION FOR ME: WHAT BLACK LIVES MATTER IN MY LIFE?  And five more Chapters unfolded…

>Chapter 6: Presentation of Our Lady Church. For 88 of its 108 years, a member of my family has been a Parishioner at Presentation Church in West Denver. It was the Church of my Baptism, First Confession, First Holy Communion, and Confirmation. And for 50 years in the 20th Century, my Dad, Ted, and my Uncle Frank were members of the Improved Order of Redmen founded at the time of the Revolutionary War. Ironically, in November 1912, the First Mass for the newly formed Presentation of Our Lady Church was celebrated at Redmond Hall near 8th in Knox Court. The Lodge was an organization of white men and a women’s auxiliary until that restriction was dropped the 1970. Its foundation is Liberty, the Flag, Community, and Fraternity. It’s an irony that a Catholic Church in Denver celebrated its First Mass in the Lodge Hall of such an organization. But my Dad and my Uncle (and the many parishioners who were members) were not racists, but two of the finest men I have ever met in my life. They joined the Redmen because there was a Hall in every mining town in Colorado where they lived growing up. They supported their community work serving the developmentally disabled and physically and mentally challenged communities in Denver. What shaped them, Presentation Parish, and me was not ancient membership criteria, but the spirit of service and the knowledge that Black Lives Matter in their service.

>Chapter 7: Newlon and Perry Schools in Barnum. I attended Preschool at Newlon Elementary School and Kindergarten – 3rd Grade at Perry School. (Yes, my classmate at Perry School was Duane Chapman – – Dog the Bounty Hunter!) In Preschool I met a woman by the name of Mrs Marie Greenwood. She was maybe one of the first Black women I met at four years old. My Mom, Gladys, and her best friend Pat Kreps, were the leadership of the PTA. Mrs. Greenwood was the first black teacher to receive tenure in Denver Public Schools. She was Called Home last November at age 106. She was a pioneer of integration in Denver, going to work in all-white Newlon School in 1955. She made an impression on me because of her kindness, her ever present smile, and her desire for me to be a good learner…she loved kids! Now here, once again, is the culture irony. In 3rd Grade I was the Student Body President at Newlon’s affiliate school, Perry School — the last red brick two room schoolhouse in Denver. It was the 50th Anniversary of Perry School in 1961. I accepted the Colorado State Flag from the Daughters of Colorado. They were originally affiliated with the Sons of Colorado organization (which 100 years ago was racially restricted to white men). It is ironic that the first tenured Black Woman in the Denver Public School System and a restricted pioneer heritage organization were both present in this school campus.  The Black Life that Mattered in shaping my early years was Mrs. Greenwood.

>Chapter 8: Big Sisters of Colorado. As you can guess by now, I grew up in a lower middle-class neighborhood in West Denver.  Of the 18 houses in my block on Quitman Street in Barnum, we had 11 Anglo, 5 Hispanic, one Native American, and one Austrian family. This diversity was important to my culturalization in the late 60s. After being in the Denver Chamber of Commerce Leadership Denver Program in 1980, I was asked to be on the Board of Big Sisters of Colorado in 1985. My old neighborhood helped me to understand the importance of the mentoring work of Big Sisters. Over time I chaired the Board and three of their major fundraisers. There were many Denver Angels who introduced this Kid from Barnum to the Denver funding community. One such couple was Dr Reginald and Faye Washington. Reggie is a prominent Black heart surgeon, and Faye is the consummate volunteer community leader. I still see his picture regularly and fondly at PSL Hospital. They, along with some other wonderful women leaders who are well connected in Denver, taught me how to conduct myself and move through the funding community in Denver. These Black Lives Mattered in shaping me as a compassionate member of a Diverse Denver Community.

>Chapter 9: The Salvation Army. I have been a member of The Salvation Army board since 1985 and was an officer for 11 years. During that time, I met well-known Denver Boxer Ron Lyle. He coached kids in the Cox-Lyle Boxing Program at the Salvation Army Red Shield Center in the Whittier-Five Points neighborhood, near where he grew up, and where the Senior Center at Red Shield is named after my parents, Gladys and Ted. Ron taught me something about how to work with young people…a key to my ministry to Young Adults as a priest 15 years later! This Black Life showed me that his rich, sometimes good and sometimes bad, life history, a compassionate heart, physical and mental discipline, and basic Christian Hope can change someone’s life.

The other iconic stalwart for me at that time was Mayor Wellington Webb. While we had been professional colleagues during the Lamm Administration, it was as Mayor that he responded EVERY YEAR to my call to assist The Salvation Army Annual Kettle Kickoff. He attended the Red Shield Center growing up — and he never forgot! When I lead the Prayer in the House of Representatives for the Memorial Service of my friend Ruben Valdez in January, the Mayor was there. It gave me the opportunity to thank him once again. This Black Life taught me the importance of loyalty and community service by witnessing that value to me.

>Chapter 10: Broadway. Over 20 years ago I met a Black Actor, Russ Costen, at Mother of God Church. Here in Denver, he was a playwright and a Broadway and Denver Actor. When I arrived at the Cathedral he attended here periodically. I asked THE VOICE as I called him at Mother of God, to be a Lector. Eventually as a regular attendee of the Sunday Concerts and Friday Night at the Movies, he would relate the stories of many of the actors in those movies who he knew and with whom he performed. (And, yes, Russ was in the movie HAIR!) Russ had a voice that was magnificent, and he mesmerized the Congregation. We were trusted friends. Russ was inducted into the Chappell Players Hall of Fame, his Alma Mater, in 2016 for his Commitment and Achievement. He often focused on the Road Not Taken and what that life might have been versus the life he developed in Denver. As he grew older, he realized the fleeting relationships of one world and the enduring values of another. He was Called Home two years ago last October. I was the last person to visit him…I miss him greatly…we had great fun! What he taught me was that life has its up’s and down’s… but what matters are the friends you make along the way. This Black Life Mattered in adding perspective to my priestly life.

Relationships in our life are a Gift From God…a Gift for which we should always say THANK YOU! And through Him the right people come into our life at the right time for the Virtue we Need to Learn, the Job we Need to Do, or the Person we Need to Become.

For me these eight BLACK LIVES MATTERED in my life and have helped me to this place and to this moment. More importantly, it was members of an often-Undervalued Denver Community who taught me how to Embrace A Total Community…

For those who have been Called Home, may God Bless Them in Abundance for their impact on my life. And for those who may become aware of this Reflection someday, thank you for all the Good YOU DID IN MY LIFE.

What Black Lives Matter in Your Life? You just may not have to look too far…if you open your eyes and your heart…

Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me…

Servant of God, Julia Greeley, pray for us!

+May God Bless You and Keep You+

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Every family needs a father. The first need is this: that a father be present in a family. That he be close to his wife, sharing everything—joy and sorrow, hope and hardship. And that he be close to his children as they grow—when they play and when they strive, when they are carefree and when they are distressed, when they are talkative and when they are silent, when they are daring and when they are afraid, when they take a wrong step, and when they find their path again: a father who is always present. To say ‘present’ is not to say ‘controlling.’ Fathers who are too controlling stifle the spirit of their children; they don’t let them develop. Fathers must be patient. A good father knows how to wait, and he knows how to forgive from the depths of his heart. Certainly, he also knows how to correct with firmness: he is not a weak father, submissive and sentimental. The father who knows how to correct without humiliating is the one who knows how to protect without sparing himself…All of this is, of course, not easy, so Fathers need God. Without the grace that comes from the Father who is in Heaven, fathers lose courage and give up. Children need to find a father waiting for them when they come home after failing. They will do everything not to admit it, not to show it, but they need it. And not to find it opens wounds in them that are difficult to heal. Fathers are the irreplaceable guardians and mediators of faith through their goodness, justice, and protection.”

                                                                                                                                                 — Pope Francis

FROM YOUR PASTOR 

What Makes Families Work?

Pope Francis gives us good advice…based in the Virtues of Fatherhood.

Today’s Fathers are as varied as the Families they lead — biological, adopted, foster care, relatives raising grandchildren or siblings, as well as the single parent family.

And some of us are Spiritual Fathers…

Father Coomes SJ provides some complementary advice to Pope Francis on Fatherhood, Family, and Our Church…

The parent, or head of the household or Family, is called upon to be a good provider. The successful Family, regardless of its configuration, should be grounded in Harmony, Mutual Respect, Peace, and Unconditional Love.

The Father figure, again in any of the above configurations, is to Lead that Family with a Humility and Trust emanating from a God-centered Life. To make the monumental challenges of Family life livable, the need for Security, for True Love, and for Faithfulness within the Family is essential to making Families work. 

That’s the HUMAN DIMENSION…

But there is a DIVINE DIMENSION…

Father Coomes solemnly reminds us that Parents will be held Accountable to God for the Souls of their Children, and that a Family CENTERED IN GOD endures their trials through HIS GRACE. That is why a Sacramental Marriage has JESUS AT ITS CENTER.

So, on this FATHER’S DAY, the father figure of YOUR FAMILY or YOUR HOUSEHOLD should Dedicate their Fatherhood to Saint Joseph, and Dedicate Their Children to the Blessed Mother as Their Protectress.

This DIVINE INTERVENTION IS ESSENTIAL TO THE HUMAN REALITY OF THIS CULTURE AND THESE UNCERTAIN TIMES. 

Fatherhood is a two way street…it brings with it the enormous Challenges of Endurance and Prudence…and an Obligation to Children.

Fathers must Deserve the Honor of their Children…through the Correction, Companionship, and Guidance they provide. The Virtues of Courage, Temperance, Honesty, Dependability, and Dedication are essential to carry out the responsibilities of Fatherhood in FAITH AND LOVE. The Silence of Disinterest can wound your child. And Words Said in Anger can NEVER be taken back.

As a Spiritual Father, sometimes I see something different…

Not every child experiences a Grace-filled Family, or the Idyllic Father of Saint Joseph or Pope Francis or Father Coomes.

Addictions, Career, Infidelity, Neglect, and Emotional Absenteeism can destroy a Marriage and Family…and emotionally, spiritually, physically, or psychologically Devastate a Child. Physical Abuse, Sexual Abuse, or Domestic Violence is REAL in these uncertain times. And the ISOLATION of COVID-19 is leading some Young Adults, some in these domestic circumstances as well, to contemplate SUICIDE.

Or maybe YOU WERE THE FATHER FIGURE to your younger brothers and sisters because of a Dysfunctional Family, a Refugee Family, or a Family Divided by Immigration.

On weekends such as this,  WE PRAY FOR YOU in three ways.

First, we pray for your earthly Father for their healing, for the repose of their soul, or for the others who may have experienced the same hurt as You.

Second, we pray for You as an  Abused Child, for your healing, and for your deliverance from what you experienced so you do not pass it on in the Fatherhood of Your Life.

Third, we pray in Thanksgiving to God for your LOVE to intervene in the life of your siblings or grandchildren and raise them with the TRUE LOVE of a Father.

God’s Providence in the Challenges of Parenthood may be difficult to comprehend. But His Providence is always a PROVIDENCE OF LOVE. When God Entrusts a Child to their Parents or someone in that Role, He bestows a DIVINE TRUST that is Very Dear to Him as they undertake a Special Work of Love in His Name.

Fathers, or Those in This Role, please entrust YOUR FAMILY AS IT IS EXPRESSED IN YOUR LIFE to the HOLY FAMILY and to the HOLY TRINITY.

May the Love of Mary, the Responsibility of Joseph, and the Inspiration of the Holy Spirit Place in Your Heart the Love, Guidance and Endurance to be the Light of Christ to THOSE WHO CALL YOU FATHER…

+MAY GOD BLESS YOU AND KEEP YOU+