Our Better Angels

No question about it: 2020 has been a tough year so far. So many deaths, so much suffering. It took a lot of tears, hard work and prayer to get through the “first wave” of the coronavirus pandemic in New York – and health experts say, there may be more to come.

As a people of faith, we will keep working to help those in our own region still suffering the direct and indirect effects of the pandemic: the sick, the unemployed, the hungry, the displaced. Then there are the people in the regions where Covid-19 is still raging; they, too, need our help and our prayers.

Even as we endure this health crisis, the country struggles to come to terms with centuries of racial injustice in the aftermath of the senseless, sickening death of George Floyd and other incidents of discrimination and bigotry directed toward Black Americans because of the color of their skin. We pray that, at last, significant changes will be made to address this issue – and we know we need to do our part in creating those changes.

As Catholics, of course, we try not to be focused on doom and gloom. We know that our travails on this Earth are a prelude to eternal happiness in heaven with our God. We have a responsibility to do what we can to help our fellow humans, but that’s not a burden. At the end of the day, it’s an occasion for joy.

For me and my brother priests, it has also been a joy to welcome you back to Sunday Mass. St. Patrick’s Cathedral, glorious though it may be, is incomplete without the presence of the faithful. As difficult as it was to suspend public Masses, it was the right thing to do to protect the congregation and the community. And now it’s the right thing to reopen – carefully, with a slew of precautions to keep ourselves and our neighbors healthy.

How do we move forward in these challenging days?

We can take our lead from some of our saints. New York has been blessed to be home to more than our share. “Saints of New York” begins with St. Isaac Jogues, one of the North American Martyrs, who lost his life carrying the message of Christ to the Indians of upstate New York and Canada, and St. Kateri Tekakwitha, a young woman of the Mohawk whose intense devotion to Christ and the Blessed Mother still inspires us. Mother Seton. Bishop Neumann. Mother Cabrini. They’re all here, along with lists of venerables and blesseds and servants of God. There’s been a lot of sanctity in this neck of the woods.

In “Heroes of New York”, we recognize a few of the many selfless Catholics who have stepped up to help us through the Covid-19 crisis. Those profiled here would be quick to point out that they are not alone; had we listed every deserving person, ordained and lay, Catholic and non-Catholic, we could have filled the entire issue in tiny print like a telephone book. (Remember telephone books?) I’m pretty sure we would have needed extra pages, too.

I can’t overstate how proud – and thankful! – I am for the priests, deacons, religious women and men, and laypeople who have made such sacrifices, not just caring for the sick but also feeding the hungry, helping the poor and homeless, teaching our students, and finding exciting new ways to deliver the love of Christ at a time when our tried-and-true practices became too risky to continue. Our News and Notes section is full of their work. I thank you all warmly. I also thank the archdiocesan students who shared their thoughtful and beautiful work with us through the CYO Art and Essay Contest.

Elsewhere in the issue, we speak with Fr. Thomas Berg of St. Joseph’s Seminary about the ethics of end-of-life medical choices. We learn why sacraments can’t be received remotely and consult with some contemplative sisters whose cloistered life of prayer offers the ultimate lesson in how to find joy in social distancing.

As we return to our new everyday routines, then, let us try to embody the lessons we have learned. Let us emulate our saints and heroes, be kind to our neighbors, tolerant of those who disagree with us, and loving toward all, especially those who are different from us.

The days to come will bring new challenges. Let us rise to them with joyful goodwill and humility.

Yours in Christ,

Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan

Archbishop of New York

To full this full issue of Archways, visit: http://archny.org/news-events/archways-magazine/