Continued blessings this Easter season!
Today, I want to write about a few matters:
First, renewed congratulations to our new Catholics who entered the Church on Holy Saturday! Alleluia! Estimates are that, throughout the United States, about thirty-five thousand received the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and the Holy Eucharist, or professed their faith as new Catholics, at the Easter Vigil. We had about 1,000 here in the archdiocese.
What a gift they are! Their humble and grateful acceptance of the invitation from the Lord to become a Catholic is an inspiration to us all, and they worked hard at study, discernment, and prayer. So did our devoted catechists who prepared them, and their godparents and sponsors who accompanied them.
When I meet them, I am moved by their enthusiasm for the faith. They embrace our beliefs and morality exuberantly: they are eager for the sacraments, especially Holy Communion at Sunday Mass, and the sacrament of Penance. They introduce themselves to me with a smile on their face and a sparkle in their eyes. No whining, coasting, or half-hearted Catholics here!
Welcome! We need you!
Second, this “paschal season” is a time of explosive grace, as the victory of Jesus at Easter, His grace, mercy, and life, is imparted in the Sacraments of His Church.
We’ll have first Communions, Confirmations, Ordinations to the diaconate and priesthood, weddings and jubilees. We’re joyful this season, yes, because Jesus rose from the dead, but also because He shares His new life with us!
You want His mercy for your sins? You want Him to crush the power of Satan and selfishness? You want your weak faith in Him revived? Me too! Well— that’s what the sacraments are for! They are channels of His life to our souls.
His Resurrection is not just something that happened 1,985 years ago; it is happening now in and through our faith and His Sacraments! Alleluia!
Third, remember me, please, as this week I visit Lebanon, a country beautiful naturally and spiritually, a country unique in the tortured Middle East for its religious pluralism, peace—fragile though it may be—and amity among creeds.
We know of their deep spiritual roots because we cherish our Maronite, Melkite, Armenian and Syrian Catholics who live as neighbors with us, and who call Lebanon their country of origin.
As Archbishop of New York, I chair a superb organization called the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), which, for ninety years has generously assisted the ancient Christian minorities, especially in the Middle East.
Lebanon has heroically welcomed hundreds of thousands of refugees from the horrors in neighboring Syria, and my brother bishops there have invited me to come. I do so gratefully and willingly, to bring your encouragement and assistance as well. I’ll let you know how it went next week when I get back.
Last October, we placed in our cathedral, thanks to a benefactor of Lebanese origin, a chapel to the renowned Maronite Catholic holy man and miracle worker of Lebanon, St. Charbel. Would you ask his intercession for his beloved Lebanon...and whisper to him that I could use his guidance and wisdom while in his home country? Thanks.