April 25, 2008

Reflection / Dan Conway

More than 600 from Louisville Archdiocese celebrate the ‘Sacrament of Charity’ with pope in New York

The Church in America gathered on Sunday, April 20, in the house that Babe Ruth built, New York’s Yankee Stadium, to celebrate “the sacrament of charity” with Pope Benedict XVI.

Five archdioceses had special reasons to celebrate. This month—on April 8—marked the 200th anniversary of the establishment of the dioceses of Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Bardstown (now Louisville), Ky., and the elevation of Baltimore to our nation’s first archdiocese.

But the day belonged to the whole Church—represented in the person of Pope Benedict XVI, the successor of St. Peter and pastor of the universal Church.

The pope’s first trip to the United States, with its theme “Christ our Hope,” was the occasion for the Mass at Yankee Stadium, and the enthusiasm, joy and fervent devotion of the crowd, representing all 195 dioceses in the United States, reflected a profound sense of unity and solidarity with people of faith everywhere.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore is the grandmother of all U.S. dioceses. Baltimore is the see of our first bishop, John Carroll, and the spiritual home of Catholic Americans who have built up the Church in the U.S. during the past 200-plus years.

But if Baltimore is our spiritual grandmother, Bardstown—the first diocese west of the Allegheny Mountains and the original diocesan see of Catholic settlers in Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois—can perhaps be called the mother of Midwestern dioceses and an elder sister to most other Catholic dioceses in our country.

More than 600 Catholics from the Archdiocese of Louisville traveled to New York to celebrate Mass with the Holy Father and Louisville Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz.

According to Father Charles Thompson, newly appointed vicar general of the Louisville Archdiocese, “We came to New York to celebrate with the universal Church, but this is also a very special day for our archdiocese. More than 200 years of faith and devotion have taken root in Central Kentucky and have produced a fruitful harvest of spiritual vitality. We welcome the chance to celebrate this rich tradition of American Catholicism with our sister dioceses throughout the United States.”

Pope Benedict is a man of prayer whose presence communicates warmth, serenity and complete confidence in the truth that is revealed in the person of Jesus Christ.

Referring to the Lord’s words in the Gospel for the day (Jn 14:1-12), the Holy Father reminded the 58,000 people gathered in Yankee Stadium that while there are many options available to us today, and many roads that each of us may travel, only one way leads directly to the God who is our loving Father. That way is Jesus Christ, who calls each one of us to follow him on the way of truth and freedom.

In his apostolic exhortation “The Sacrament of Charity,” the Holy Father describes the Eucharist as the living and active presence of Jesus, who continues to work in the world through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Receiving the body and blood of Christ alongside 58,000 other faithful disciples was a powerful reminder to all that we are called to be one in Christ, “who becomes food for us to satisfy our hunger for truth and freedom.”

Pope Benedict says that the Church is “reborn ever anew” through the mystery of the Eucharist, the saving action of Jesus’ Passion, death and resurrection.

The Church of Christ was alive in Easter hope during the Mass at Yankee Stadium on April 20. Catholics from every diocese in the U.S. joined the faithful from Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Louisville in affirming the vibrant faith, hope and love of the Church in America. Together, they celebrated the “Sacrament of Charity” with immense joy.

As Indianapolis Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein said recently, Pope Benedict is a man who knows how to speak the truth with love.

Great love was spoken in Yankee Stadium during the pope’s visit. And 200 years of American Catholicism were celebrated and reborn anew.

(Dan Conway is a member of The Criterion’s editorial board, and president and chief executive officer of Mission Advancement Services for O’Meara, Ferguson, Whelan and Conway, formerly RSI Catholic Services.) †

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