A bishop pour oil into a large container.

Bishop Salvatore R. Matano pours balsam into the oil for Sacred Chrism at the 2024 Chrism Mass. (EMC file photo)

Spirit’s gifts aid youths facing complex issues

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus:

Have you heard this prayer?

Almighty God, father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

who brought these your servants to new birth

by water and the Holy Spirit,

freeing them from sin:

send upon them, O Lord, the Holy Spirit,

the Paraclete;

give them the spirit of

wisdom and understanding,

the spirit of counsel and fortitude,

the spirit of knowledge and piety;

fill them with the spirit of the fear of the Lord.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

This is the prayer the Bishop prays calling down the Holy Spirit upon those being confirmed, which is followed by the anointing with chrism: the Bishop makes the sign of the cross with chrism on the forehead of the one to be confirmed, while saying, “(Name), be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.”

I have just recently completed the conferral of the Sacrament of Confirmation upon our young people who were properly prepared throughout our Diocese. It is always an uplifting and encouraging occasion to be with our young women and men, and to rejoice with them and their families as they accept the challenge to continue their journey of faith in union with Christ Jesus under the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Those powerful words “be sealed” mean that a bond has been created with the Holy Spirit that cannot be broken. Regardless of the sad instances when others turn away from our heavenly Father, reject the wisdom of the Holy Spirit and the accompaniment of Jesus, God never turns away from anyone; Jesus is always the Good Shepherd who seeks out the lost sheep and welcomes them back into the fold.

We also continue to pray for our youths during this time of graduations and baccalaureate Masses, which again give me the privileged opportunity to congratulate and pray for our young people at this impressive milestone in their lives. But the joy of these graduation days does not remove the challenges our young people will encounter as they go forward along the path to the adult world while continuing their future vocational choices. Quite sadly, some institutions of higher learning have become fields of discord and disunity, where the peace of Easter is no longer visible and the hallowed halls of learning are overcome by hostility and violence, where dialogue is no longer a factor in the equation for seeking the dignity and rights of every person, especially the right to learn, to do research, to enter into respectful debate, always in an atmosphere that is safe and where opinions and beliefs can be expressed without fear of retaliation, intimidation or recrimination. The constant needed in the equation of human interaction is Jesus Christ, but His presence, His voice, is neither felt nor acknowledged in some places where true Wisdom and Truth should be accorded their privileged place in authentic scholarship.

The recent Declaration “Dignitas Infinita” (“Infinite Dignity”), presented by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith and approved by the Supreme Pontiff, Pope Francis, begins with these words: “Every human person possesses an infinite dignity, inalienably grounded in his or her very being, which prevails in and beyond every circumstance, state, or situation the person may ever encounter. This principle, which is fully recognizable even by reason alone, underlies the primacy of the human person and the protection of human rights. In the light of Revelation, the Church resolutely reiterates and confirms the ontological dignity of the human person, created in the image and likeness of God and redeemed in Jesus Christ. From this truth, the Church draws the reasons for her commitment to the weak and those less endowed with power, always insisting on ‘the primacy of the human person and the defense of his or her dignity beyond every circumstance’” (No.1).

This same Declaration quotes Pope St. Paul VI, who affirmed that “no anthropology equals that of the Church regarding the human person — particularly concerning the person’s originality, dignity, the intangibility and richness of the person’s fundamental rights, sacredness, capacity for education, aspiration to a complete development, and immortality” (No. 3).

This clarity about the human person as God’s noblest creation must be communicated again and again to our young people in a world that has become so conflicted and without a moral compass. The teachings of Jesus Christ and the Church’s Magisterium, once considered so very basic to the Christian life, are now treated in some instances as detrimental to the rights of persons.

It once would have been unthinkable to consider the beauty of that precious new life in the womb of the mother as “something” foreign to the mother and be able to have this human life terminated. Somewhere along the way, our catechesis became lost and, with this loss, there has come the loss of countless innocent lives. And once the most innocent of lives becomes vulnerable — evidencing, as Pope Francis says, a “throwaway culture” — all life at every stage becomes vulnerable, and the human person is objectified and becomes a subject for medical or scientific experimentation no loner guided by the natural law and Christian moral teaching. What becomes most frightening is that a world is being created without regard or respect for the Creator and, thus, so unworthy of our children.

Reverence for all human life as the foundation for the positive development of every life is stated unequivocally in the Declaration: “It must, therefore, be stated with all force and clarity, even in our time, that ‘this defense of unborn life is closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right. It involves the conviction that a human being is always sacred and inviolable, in any situation and at every stage of development. Human beings are ends in themselves and never a means of resolving other problems. Once this conviction disappears, so do solid and lasting foundations for the defense of human rights, which would always be subject to the passing whims of the powers that be. Reason alone is sufficient to recognize the inviolable value of each single human life, but if we also look at the issue from the standpoint of faith, ‘every violation of the personal dignity of the human being cries out in vengeance to God and is an offense against the Creator of the individual’” (No. 47). Without this understanding of who is the human person, and that “Our dignity is bestowed upon us by God; it is neither claimed nor deserved” (ibid., no. 11), other offenses against life take root, such as those described in the Declaration: euthanasia, the death penalty, war, poverty, human trafficking, surrogacy, sexual abuse, violence against women, the marginalization of people with disabilities. (see ibid., no. 34).

In recognizing that all human life is a gift from God, the Declaration enters into the critical issues present in “gender theory.” “Regarding gender theory, whose scientific coherence is the subject of considerable debate among experts, the Church recalls that human life in all its dimensions, both physical and spiritual, is a gift from God. This gift is to be accepted with gratitude and placed at the service of the good. Desiring a personal self-determination, as gender theory prescribes, apart from this fundamental truth that human life is a gift, amounts to a concession to the age-old temptation to make oneself God, entering into competition with the true God of love revealed to us in the Gospel” (ibid., no. 57).

These are the very serious and complex issues that confront our young people today as they make important moral decisions in their lives. How very much our young people need those gifts of the Holy Spirit called down upon them by the Bishop at Confirmation as he prays:

Send upon them, O Lord, the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete,

Give them the spirit of wisdom and understanding,

the spirit of counsel and fortitude, the spirit of knowledge

and piety; fill them with the spirit of the fear [wonder and awe] of the Lord.

These are not accidentals in the lives of our young people, but rather they are most essential gifts to help them make prudent, wise, holy and wholesome decisions throughout their human development.

Recently, the Diocese of Rochester gave special acknowledgement to couples celebrating anniversaries of marriage. Here again, the success of married life depends upon the respect that spouses have for each other, a respect that was developed in their youth and has prepared them for the solemn commitment husbands and wives make to each other in the Holy Sacrament of Matrimony. Such a mature decision cannot be made in an instant; it is not the result of romantic impulse or a passing phase. Rather, it rests upon the pillars of faith, hope and charity that have been nurtured from childhood to adulthood and, hopefully, with the strong support of families, our parishes, our Catholic schools and religious education programs. In offering our congratulations to our married couples, we give thanks to God for their witness to the faith and for the families created by the mutual love, respect and support of the spouses.

We cannot escape the challenges of today’s world, but we can deal with them by inviting Christ into our lives and professing that the Risen Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life (see John 14:6). In Him we have hope and find the courage to build our lives upon the incorruptible truths He taught us. In this month of June dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we unite our hearts to His heart, knowing He loves us in every circumstance of our lives and even in our human weakness He is there to pick us up and heal our broken hearts. God has bestowed upon us a dignity that is infinite and immeasurable, the possibility of life that is eternal and the hope that one day our restless hearts will rest in Him, as St. Augustine writes in his Confessions. Let us never forget and let us ponder constantly the words of the Good Shepherd:

“My sheep hear my voice. I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life and they will never perish” (John 10:27-28).

Invoking God’s blessings upon you through the intercession of Our Mother Mary and St. John Fisher, our Diocesan Patron whose feast we celebrate on June 22, 2024, I remain

Devotedly yours in Christ,

The Most Reverend

Salvatore R. Matano

Bishop of Rochester

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