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May we live our faith with vigor

By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

November 27, 2013

Bishop LaValley’s homily for Holy Hour on Nov. 24 closing Year of Faith

In 1925, Pope Pius XI instituted today’s Feast of Christ the King, wishing to address the creeping materialism, secularism, and anti-clericalism that were beginning to arise in many places in our world at that time.  For instance, only two years later, in 1927, the Jesuit priest Blessed Miguel Pro was executed for being a Catholic priest by the anti-Catholic government of Mexico.  Facing his executioners, Father Miguel forgave those in the firing squad, stretched out his arms in the form of a crucifix and proclaimed, “Viva, Cristo Rey!”  (Long live Christ the King!)

This year’s Feast of Christ the King falls at the end of a special year of celebration.  Much has happened in the Diocese of Ogdensburg and in the world during this Year of Faith, most notably, and surprisingly, the election of Pope Francis.  And since his election, Francis has made much news by his call for reform, simplicity of life and radical evangelization.   His message has consistently focused on the dignity of every human life.

This Year of Faith was called so that we might rediscover, cultivate, celebrate, and bear witness to our faith.  And, hasn’t the Diocese of Ogdensburg done that from the “get-go,” beginning with our beautiful celebration here at St. Mary’s Cathedral last October when we celebrated the recent canonization of three saints who walked these very lands of our North Country:  St. Brother Andre Bessette, St. Marianne Cope and St. Kateri Tekakwitha? 

Their lives reflect their own profound respect for the human person in their outreach to the hurting and by their own suffering and persecution as they entered through the narrow gate, following Jesus, the Lord of their lives.
When Pope Pius XI first established the Feast of Christ the King back in the 1920’s, he called upon our grandparents and great grandparents to boldly proclaim the truth of the Gospel to their contemporaries and to promote and defend the rights of the Church against those who were usurping Divine prerogatives and ignoring basic human rights. 

He wrote that this state of things may perhaps be attributed to a certain timidity in good people.  But if the faithful were to understand that it behooves them to fight courageously under the banner of Christ their King, then, fired with apostolic zeal, they would strive to win over to their Lord those hearts that are estranged from Him. (Quas Primas, no.24)

Today, almost a century later, you and I are also called to ensure that basic human rights, such as life and religious freedom are valiantly defended against those who would deny them, whether in our own nation or anywhere in the world.  “Choose life!” we hear Moses tell the people.  Walk in God’s ways, keeping His commandments.  Heed God’s voice.  Hold fast to God.

We stand in solidarity with persecuted Christians the world over:  Sudan, Egypt, Syria, Libya, Palestine, India, Iran, Iraq, Myanmar, Pakistan, Nigeria and China.  In these countries and elsewhere, we see the parishes and property, the lives and livelihoods of our sisters and brothers in Christ threatened just for practicing their faith.

That’s why we cannot relax in our resolve nor compromise in our commitments to the dignity of all human persons, the born and the pre-born-- defending our right and duty to live our faith in service to the poor, the sick, and the marginalized, and our God-given right and obligation to educate our children in the faith.

As citizens of the United States, we have no king.  We are members of a democratic republic, with a constitution that was written to defend basic human rights, define a limited government, and proscribe any laws prohibiting the free exercise of religion.

As Catholics exercising our religious liberty, we proudly proclaim that Christ is our King not just at Mass but wherever we are—at home, at work, at school or at play, in government or in business, in our charities and our hospitals. 

All of us are called to carry on the mission of Jesus to reveal the merciful love of the Father. 

As Pope Francis has been consistently reminding us, God never tires of bestowing His mercy upon us.  Compelled by this mission, we carry on works of mercy in the world.  We evangelize and teach, heal and serve, and pray for those who mourn. We do all of this and more so that the Kingdom of Christ, by His grace, may be made more and more real in our midst.

We do all of this and more because, we hear and believe the Psalmist who assures us that our dignity can never be taken from us because indeed our God has formed and knit us in our mother’s womb.  He knows us through and through.

My friends, as we mark the formal closing of this Year of Faith and the end of the liturgical year, we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving in just a few days.  We have every reason to be a people of profound gratitude for our faith and for the gifts of our land.  May we never take either for granted, but continue to live our faith with a vigor and determination to share who we are and what we have been given. 

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