A time for joy

Amid all the strife that we have necessarily given attention to in recent weeks — primarily over escalating government attacks on religious freedom and the sanctity of human life — we are filled this week with the kind of joy and hope that should really permeate everything we do as members of the Body of Christ.

Three new priests, ordained last Saturday, shared with us in last week’s TLIC their varied journeys, undertaken from very different starting points, that led each of them to commit themselves to a lifetime of service, to our Lord and to us, the people of God on Long Island. As they told us of the love and support they received from family members, the caring guidance of priests, teachers and other mentors, and the warmth and welcome they have already experienced from Catholics in our various parishes, they exuded that joy and hope that they will bring to the challenges ahead.

Last Friday came the joyous announcement that Pope Benedict XVI had appointed two new bishops to serve as auxiliaries in our diocese: our own much beloved Msgr. Robert Brennan, well known to Catholics throughout Long Island for his 23 years of faithful service in so many varied and challenging roles; and Bishop Nelson Perez, who comes to us from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, bringing with him an obvious personal warmth, and a still burning desire, after more than two decades as a priest, to share the Gospel with the faithful and the wider culture.

To be sure, we face difficult challenges — within our Church, as Bishop-elect Brennan noted, as we strive to reinvigorate the many Catholics on Long Island who have drifted away from regular practice of the faith; and in the wider culture which, as Bishop-elect Perez observed, is often hostile to our Catholic Christian values.

And yet, even in meeting these challenges, we should find, as our bishops-elect do, great joy and hope — in the universality of our Church, reflected so well by the many Catholics, of diverse backgrounds, working together here on Long Island to invite others to belong more deeply to our faith, and to offer to the world the joy of the Gospel. As Bishop-elect Brennan told TLIC, our diocese is blessed with “so many talented people,” clergy and lay alike, who are “deeply, deeply committed” to the faith and filled with joy at the opportunity to share that faith with others.

And we should also find joy and hope as we struggle to influence that often-hostile wider culture, knowing that — whether our focus be on protecting life, helping those in need, or defending religious freedom — we are doing God’s work, and we should rejoice that we have been given the opportunity to do so.

Indeed, there can be no greater tool — for inviting Catholics to greater participation in the life of the Church, or for evangelizing the faith to an often hostile world — than for others to see the joy and hope to which we should always give witness, as we practice our faith and strive to do the work of the Lord.