Wuerl Record Webpage

For those looking for the “Wuerl Record” webpage, we have taken it down.  Our effort in posting it was not to minimize the information from the grand jury report, but to ensure that Cardinal Wuerl’s full record was treated fairly.  I can certainly understand the criticism, so we have taken it down.  Our taking down the site, similarly, isn’t an effort at not being transparent. We made a mistake; we’re acknowledging it. Moving forward, some of that information will be housed on our Media page.

Thanks and God Bless,

Ed McFadden
Secretary of Communications

Thanksgiving 2017

Earlier today, Cardinal Wuerl joined with other faith leaders of the Washington area to share a thoughts on the meaning of Thanksgiving. Read the message below or here.


Thanksgiving 2017

The American Holiday

Across our nation, people of every background and tradition celebrate Thanksgiving as a distinctly American holiday, rooted in gratitude. In the great diversity of faith traditions, we gather at table to give thanks for our many blessings. We pause to thank our Creator and, at the same time, celebrate our freedom. Thanksgiving is not only an historical celebration, but a present reality in which even the most recent arrival in our nation rejoices. Among the blessings Americans share is the gift of freedom. We celebrate its many expressions, including the freedom to practice one’s faith. Another is our freedom of speech and the liberty to express ourselves. We recognize, however, that freedom of expression carries the responsibility to do so with mutual respect and civility. As Americans, we are all free to speak what we believe to be the truth, but we are also challenged to do so in love, in the spirit of universal kinship recognizing the dignity of every person. For both the freedom and the challenge we give thanks. And we wish a peaceful, happy Thanksgiving to all.

The Solidarity Table

Imam Talib Shareef
Masjid Muhammad – The Nation’s Mosque

Bishop Mariann Budde
Episcopal Diocese of Washington

Rabbi Bruce Lustig
Washington Hebrew Congregation

Cardinal Donald Wuerl
Archdiocese of Washington

Red Mass Homily: Most Reverend José H. Gomez

Photo credit: Jaclyn Lippelmann, Catholic Standard

Red Mass Homily
Most Reverend José H. Gomez
Archbishop of Los Angeles

Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle
Washington, D.C.
October 1, 2017


My dear brothers and sisters,

I am so honored to be with you this morning. I bring you greetings from the family of God in Los Angeles, the City of the Angels.

The Church in Los Angeles is the largest Catholic community in the country. We are a global church, an immigrant church, made up of people who come from all over the world. We have about 5 million Catholics in L.A. and every day, we pray and worship and we serve in more than 40 different languages.

The Franciscan missionaries who founded Los Angeles named our city for the Mother of God, the Queen of the Angels.

One of those missionaries was St. Junípero Serra, our newest American saint. St. Junípero was Hispanic, a migrant from Spain, and he entered this country after living for more than a decade in Mexico.

In his time, there were many in the California colonial government who denied the full humanity of the indigenous peoples living in this land. St. Junípero became their champion. He even wrote a “bill of rights” to protect them. And by the way — he wrote that bill of rights — three years before America’s Declaration of Independence.

Most Americans do not know this history. But Pope Francis does.

That is why, when the Holy Father came to this country in 2015, his first act was to hold a solemn Mass where he canonized St. Junípero. He held that Mass — not in Los Angeles, but right here in the nation’s capital.

Pope Francis was making a point. He believes we should honor St. Junípero as “one of the founding fathers of the United States.”

I agree. I think we should, too. Because remembering St. Junípero and the first missionaries changes how we remember our national story. It reminds us that America’s first beginnings were not political. America’s first beginnings were spiritual.

The missionaries came here first — long before the Pilgrims, long before George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Long before this country even had a name.

These missionaries — together with the colonists and the statesmen who came later — they laid the spiritual and intellectual groundwork for a nation that remains unique in human history. A nation conceived under God and committed to promoting human dignity, freedom and the flourishing of a diversity of peoples, races, ideas and beliefs.

That is why this national Red Mass is so important each year. There is a time for politics and a time for prayer. This is a day for prayer.

We acknowledge today, as America’s founders did — that this is still one nation under God; that his laws still govern the world we live in; and that we go forward still “with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence.”

We ask the Holy Spirit today to open our hearts and help us to see our duties — in the light of God’s Word, in the light of his plans for creation.

The first reading we heard this morning, the story of that first Pentecost — reveals the Creator’s beautiful dream for the human race.

As we heard, there were men and women there in Jerusalem — from “every nation under heaven.” And the Spirit of God spoke to all of them in their own “native tongues.”

Pentecost is the “birthday” of the Church and the first day of her mission. And the mission that Jesus gave her is the beautiful mission of gathering all the peoples of the earth into one family of God.

In God’s eyes, there are no foreigners, there are no strangers! All of us are family. When God looks at us, he sees beyond the color of our skin, or the countries where we come from, or the language that we speak. God sees only his children — sons and daughters made in his image.

My brothers and sisters, the truth is this: Before God made the sun and the moon, before he placed the first star in the sky or started to fill the oceans with water — before the foundation of the world — God knew your name and my name. And he had a plan of love for our lives.

Every life is sacred and every life has a purpose in God’s creation! Every one of us is born for greater things. This is not just a beautiful-sounding idea. This is what Jesus Christ came to teach us! And we are still trying to learn it.

The people who wrote this country’s laws and formed our institutions — they understood this teaching. They understood it so well that they called these truths “self-evident.”

America’s founders believed that the only justification for government is to serve the human person — who is created in God’s image; who is endowed with God-given dignity, rights and responsibilities; and who is called by God to a transcendent destiny.

My brothers and sisters, you all share in the responsibility for this great government. Public service is a noble vocation. It takes honesty and courage. It takes prudence and humility. And it takes prayer and sacrifice.

So today, let us ask the Holy Spirit for his gifts and renew our commitment to this vision of a government that serves the human person.

Let us commit ourselves to an America that cares for the young and the elderly, for the poor and the sick; an America where the hungry find bread and the homeless a place to live; an America that welcomes the immigrant and refugee and offers the prisoner a second chance.

Of course, we can always talk about the ways our nation has failed to live up to its founding vision. From the start, Americans have engaged in passionate arguments about these things, and these conversations are vital to our democracy.

From the original sins of slavery and the cruel mistreatment of native peoples, to our struggles today with racism and nativism — the American dream is still a work in progress.

We have come a long way. But we have not come nearly far enough. That should not make us give in to cynicism or despair. For all our weakness and failure: America is still a beacon of hope for peoples of every nation, who look to this country for refuge, for freedom and equality under God.

Throughout our history, men and women of faith have always led movements for justice and social change.

I am thinking of the efforts to abolish slavery and to give women the right to vote. I am thinking of the civil rights movement, the farmworkers movement, the peace movement and the right-to-life movement. It was a book by a Catholic Worker that helped launch the “war on poverty” in the 1960s.

This is why religious freedom is so essential to who we are as Americans. We should never silence the voices of believers. They connect us to our founders’ vision. Today more than ever, we need their spirit of peacemaking and searching for nonviolent solutions.

In the Gospel passage that we heard this morning, Jesus comes to his disciples, he shows them his wounds, and then he “breathes” on them.

What we are witnessing in this scene — is a new creation.

In the beginning, the Creator formed man and woman in his own image. And then, the Book of Genesis tells us, God “blew into his nostrils the breath of life.”

In this passage we heard this morning, Jesus comes to create a new humanity — a new people formed in the image of his forgiveness and made alive by the power of his Spirit.

This scene is rich in meaning. When Jesus breathes on his disciples and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” — yes, he is giving his Church the power to forgive sins in his name.

But more than that, he is giving every one of us — the power to forgive those who trespass against us.

And that power to forgive — it is the greatest power that men and women possess under heaven. If only we could understand that! Because when we forgive, we are imitating Jesus Christ.

The power to grant forgiveness and show mercy is the image of God. In many ways, to forgive is what makes us fully human.

My brothers and sisters, let me conclude by suggesting that forgiveness is part of the unfinished revolution in American society.

Forgiveness does not mean forgetting what has happened or excusing what is wrong; it does not mean ignoring what divides us.

True forgiveness sets us free from the cycles of resistance and retaliation; it sets us free to seek reconciliation and healing.

And this is what we need in America today — a new spirit of compassion and cooperation, a new sense of our common humanity.

We need to treat “others” as our brothers and our sisters. Even those who oppose or disagree with us. The mercy and love that we desire — this is the mercy and love that we must show to our neighbors.

May God bless you all for your service to this great country! And may God bless America!

And may Our Blessed Mother Mary, help us all to renew the promise of America. To commit ourselves once again to the truths that our founders entrusted to us.

Georgetown Sacred Lecture Series: Pope Francis, Synodality and Amoris Laetitia

The Catholic Church has a unique process for confirming Church teaching and setting pastoral guidance. “Synodality” is the process that has been used by Catholic bishops for centuries. But on Tuesday, September 12, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, in Georgetown University’s inaugural 2017-18 Sacred Lecture, explains how Pope Francis has taken this ancient Church ritual and, building on the efforts of his predecessors, expanded synodality to help answer the call to evangelization and pastoral accompaniment laid out in the Papal exhortation, Amoris Laetitia. In this lecture, Cardinal Wuerl reflects on how the collegial approach of Pope Francis with the College of Bishops not only builds on the 50-year tradition of synodality after the Second Vatican Council, but opens the door for new and greater opportunities for pastoral care in the Catholic Church today and in the future. Read the transcript of Cardinal Wuerl’s lecture below.

Sacred Lecture Series: Pope Francis, Synodality and Amoris Laetitia

In these reflections, I touch on three points: synodality, an ecclesial experience; Pope Francis’ expansion of the application of this ecclesial reality, and the post-synodal apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, as an expression of the fruit of synodality.

The word synodality refers to “coming together” or, more technically, “journeying together.” It has historically been used to denote gatherings of bishops describing their pastoral walking together to confirm already expressed teaching and pastoral practice, and to explore and apply Church teaching and practice in terms of the circumstances of the day.

The word takes on new emphasis today as Pope Francis applies it in order to express the concept of the whole Church, pastors and flock, walking and working together to explore the needed pastoral responses to the challenges of today.


To start, it might be helpful to make some very brief observations on the ecclesial reality that we call the College of Bishops.  Just as the 12 Apostles constituted a unique and identifiable group with its own nature and function, so, too, today do their successors.  The bishops today throughout the world constitute the College of Bishops.

The coming together of bishops, in its most formal and authoritative form, is an ecumenical council, a gathering of all the bishops worldwide. Other less inclusive and therefore, less authoritative gatherings, at least as they exist today in the Latin/Western Church, are called synods. Pope Francis uses the term “synod” to reflect the structure, and “synodality” to refer to the process whereby bishops play a more active role in discussing significant issues of the day.

The 1998 Motu Proprio Apostolos Suos of Pope John Paul II on the theological and juridical nature of episcopal conferences goes on to point out that the communion of the College of Bishops has found an outstanding and typical expression in the holding of councils, this includes ecumenical and particular councils, both plenary and provincial (3).  Other gatherings of bishops to exercise certain pastoral functions are a concrete expression of collegial spirit (affectus collegialis) which however “never takes on the collegial nature proper to the action of the Order of Bishops as such…” (12).

Episcopal conferences, for example, meet so that “by sharing their wisdom and experience and exchanging views, they may jointly formulate a program for the common good of the Church” (Motu Proprio citing the Second Vatican Council Degree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church, Christus dominus, 37 and the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, 23) (13).

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is not an intermediary ecclesial structure that directs or orders the dioceses in the United States. Rather, the bishops come together to find ways to identify and agree on a common exercise of their own proper pastoral ministry.

My observations however will be primarily about the ecclesial structure identified as the Synod of Bishops.  It is not a council of all of the bishops.  Rather, it is a gathering of a number of bishops who are intended to be reflective of the episcopate around the world.  The assembled bishops of the synod do not exercise an authority as if they were the College of Bishops.  However, they do reflect an effort at pastoral solidarity usually directed at specific pastoral issues or aspects of Church structure, mission and ministry.  The synod in the Western or Latin Church, unlike synods in the Eastern Churches, does not govern but it does offer counsel and advice.

Then, in light of Pope Francis’ emphasis on synodality and its place in the process of expressing Church teaching and pastoral practice, I will make some observations on the new perspectives offered by the post-synodal apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia.


Even though our purpose is to investigate synodality as a means of expression of the collegial nature of the episcopate our starting point must include a brief consideration on the theological nature of collegiality, as this is significant in the understanding of synodality. We must begin, therefore, by recognizing that the Church Universal is made up of many and varied local Churches.

Granted, the one holy, catholic and apostolic Church is more than just a federation of individual churches. It is, nonetheless, made up of local Churches throughout the world. These local Churches are essentially the same today as they were in the days of Saint Paul – the communities of believers centered in a specific area around one bishop, their bond and symbol of unity in faith and charity (cf. CCC 832-835).

Each local Bishop, therefore, has a relationship not only to his local Church but also to the Church Universal. Each bishop by that title bears some responsibility for the whole Church.

The rediscovery or renewed emphasis on this ecclesiological landscape, which found a clear presentation in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, of the Second Vatican Council was also reflected in the 1983 revision of the Code of Canon Law.

In the Acts of the Apostles, we find an example of apostolic leadership gathering to resolve a serious issue.  Clearly the coming together or walking together – the root meaning of the word synod – was a somewhat regular experience of Christian leaders – bishops – in the early centuries.

However, in 325, we find the first effort at an ecumenical or general council of bishops.  This meeting was held in Nicaea.  When the Second Vatican Council convened in Rome, from October 1962 to December 1965, it marked the 21st Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church.  Seven of these councils are shared with the Orthodox Church.  By contrast, the Orthodox have neither summoned nor sanctioned an ecumenical council since the seventh one in 787.

Other gatherings of bishops in the Catholic Church have been a regular part of the life of the Church.  In our country, for example, we had for a number of years the experience of plenary councils held in Baltimore.  In fact, it is one of these, the third plenary council, that gave rise to the well-known and much used Baltimore Catechism.


However, the ecclesiastical structure that we now call the Synod of Bishops has its own identifiable origin and a specific purpose.

The idea of having a synod grew out of the experience of Pope Paul VI and the bishops at the time of the Second Vatican Council.  Then some 2,200 bishops from all over the world, from October 1962 to December 1965, came to Rome to reflect on how well the Church was carrying out her mission to be the continuing presence of Christ and his Gospel in the world.  As the Council drew to a conclusion in 1965, there was the hope that some mechanism might be found to keep alive the collaborative experience of the Council.  Thus was born, at the directive of the Pope, what we now call the Synod of Bishops.

Pope Paul VI’s Motu Proprio Apostolica Sollicitudo, re-established the Synod of Bishops as an ecclesial institution and gave it what was, in effect, its constitution.  The document notes that the aims of the Synod are: to promote a closer union and greater cooperation between the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops of the whole world; to see to it that accurate and direct information is supplied on matters and situations that bear upon the internal life of the Church and upon the kind of action that should be carrying on in today’s world; to facilitate agreement, at least on essential matters of doctrine and on the course of action to be taken in the life of the Church.

Saint John Paul II is perhaps the pope that more than any other has underlined the connection between the Synods of Bishops and episcopal collegiality. In his first encyclical, Redemptor Hominis, he referred to the Synod of Bishops as “a permanent organ of collegiality” (51).  In his view, “the Synod constitutes a realization and an illustration of the collegial nature of the order of bishops, of which the Second Vatican Council has, so to speak, come to a renewed awareness” (Address to the Synod of Bishops, October 27, 1990, 7).

In the post-synodal apostolic exhortation, Ecclesia in Africa (1995) he elaborated on this very aspect. “The Synod of Bishops is an extremely beneficial instrument for fostering ecclesial communion… the more the communion of the bishops among themselves is strengthened, the more the communion of the Church as a whole is enriched” (15).  “It is my conviction”, the pope continued, “that a Synodal Assembly cannot be reduced to a consultation on practical matters. Its true raison d’être is the fact that the Church can move forward only by strengthening communion among her members, beginning with her Pastors” (17).   It is this sentiment, articulated over 22 years ago, that Pope Francis is now re-emphasizing.

Pope Francis, elected as the 266th Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Christ, and Head of the Church Universal, now stands on all of the foundation work of his predecessors and begins to pick up, once again, the threads of the energizing focus of the Second Vatican Council.

I do not want to pass over, however, the very significant role of Pope Benedict XVI especially in the 2012 Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization.  Up to that time, most of the synods and certainly those presided over by Saint Pope John Paul II addressed in significant part the documents of the Second Vatican Council providing a magisterial appreciation of them. In a certain sense, much of the work of the Synod of Bishops was focused on the life of the Church and her structures. It was Pope Benedict who called for, initiated and presided over the Synod that called the entire Church to turn its attention outward and, once again, to invite people to the experience of Jesus Christ. The 13th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops gathered from October 7-28, 2012 to discuss the theme, The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith. Pope Francis makes his own the work of that Synod and presents it in the apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel.

The Synod of Bishops “has been one of the fruits of the Second Vatican Council,” Pope Francis has said. “Thanks to God that, in these almost fifty years, we have been able to feel the benefits of this institution that, in a permanent way, is at the service of the Church’s mission and communion as an expression of collegiality” (Pope Francis, June 2013, preparation for 2014 Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod on the Family).


Ecclesiologically what Pope Francis has done is to refocus, once again, on the ministry of the College of Bishops as was the case in the Second Vatican Council in the document, Lumen Gentium.

We can see the Pope’s perspective on synodality with the post-synodal apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia.  It follows on the Synods of Bishops that met, one in October of 2014 and the other in 2015, to discuss the challenges to marriage and family today, and reflects the consensus of those meetings and many voices.  In the work of the synod, in the preparation of its documents, and the final exhortation we can see Pope Francis’ appreciation and engagement of synodality.

The Holy Father has highlighted, once again, the role of bishops in collaboration with him in the overall responsibilities for leadership, teaching and pastoral ministry of the Church. In February of 2014, the Holy Father, at a consistory of the cardinals, asked us to begin to reflect on the challenges to marriage today.  He then called for a Synod in 2014 that addressed the difficulties that marriage faces.  It reminded us of the heavily secular culture we live in, of the materialism that is a part of the mentality of many people, the individualism that dominates our culture, particularly in the Western world and in the United States.

It was clear that the overwhelming majority of bishops shared the Holy Father’s vision that there has to be a way to present the Church’s teaching new in ardor, method and expression rather than simply come together to repeat and restate what is already known.  As was quoted later, one bishop indicated that if the purpose of the 2014 Synod was simply to repeat, doctrinally and pastorally, the Church’s teaching it could have ended by the second day and there would have been no need at all for the 2015 Synod.

The open discussion within the synod is clearly a hallmark of Pope Francis’ view of synodality.  At no time was there disagreement on the Church’s doctrine.  But there was lively engagement on how that teaching is received, understood, appropriated and lived in our modern culture, and how in the circumstances of our time do we effectively and pastorally respond.

Pope Francis’ decision to allow free discussion, respect for divergence of opinion, transparency in the process and the publication of the results of the voting by the bishops at each stage of both synods created a refreshing openness that resulted in a new appreciation of a synod.

I have been present in some capacity for eleven synods and as a bishop member for seven.  The last two, the 2014 and the 2015 gatherings were, in my opinion, the most open, engaging and reflective of episcopal collaboration and consultation.

A sign of the growing and expanding nature of synodality can be seen in Pope Francis’ request that there would be a very wide consultation at the level of the local Churches. Invited into this discussion were the faithful of the parishes as well as the voices of Church Institutions such as universities and organizations with a specific expertise in the topic under discussion.

Examples of Pope Francis’ new perspective include his innovative use of the synod structure by calling for two back-to-back assemblies.  In this way, he engaged a very large number of bishops in the one process since the membership of both synods was elected by conferences of bishops and during the interval each conference of bishops was asked to be actively engaged in responding the first synod, 2014, and preparing the material for the second synod, 2015.

I would add that his invitation to openness among the bishops in these discussions reflects his perspective on the significance of dialogue.  We can recall his advice at the beginning of the synod 2014-2015 process to the bishops to speak with openness and clarity, to listen with humility and to be open to the Holy Spirit.

Another very evident element in Pope Francis’ understanding of synodality is the recognition that while the bishops are the official teachers and guardians of the faith, the faith is also expressed and voiced among all of the faithful.  While it is a synod of bishops, it does not mean that the bishops are somehow detached from or not engaged with and immersed in the life of the local Church that the individual bishop serves.  Synodality for Pope Francis carries with it the notion of journeying together – all the members of the Church, clergy, religious and laity.

At the end of all of the discussions and all of the reflections carried out over two full years, there emerged the 2016 apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia that I would call a “consensus exhortation.”


This apostolic exhortation confirms for us the Second Vatican Council’s call for collegial reflection, that is, the bishops coming together and working together, always with and never without Peter (cf. Lumen Gentium, 22).

In Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis draws deeply and richly on the teaching of his predecessors and from the heart of the Catholic theological tradition.  This engagement is evident in the reaffirmation of the doctrine of the Church in regard to marriage and the moral life—a point which the Holy Father makes repeatedly (Amoris Laetitia, 307). The teaching on marriage and human love of Blessed Paul VI, Saint John Paul II, and Benedict XVI is featured prominently in the document.

Now Pope Francis picks up the threads of the energizing focus of the Council while standing on the foundational work of his predecessors. But this is more than mere repetition of certain points of doctrine.

There is a sense in which one can see in this exhortation a renewed call to recognize our Catholic identity, our connectedness to the Church and how our ministry is validated precisely in our participation in and adherence to the articulated Magisterium of the Church.  This articulation includes that of all of the popes, not just the ones some might deem more Catholic than others.

In Amoris Laetitia specifically, we find long-held, theologically sound teaching that displays the reality of practical, pastoral guidance that is offered to someone who, like all of us, is struggling to live up to the fullness of the norm, but within the circumstances and situations in which they find themselves.

In many ways the document’s teaching is a further response to the Second Vatican Council’s call for a renewal of Catholic moral teaching and practice and the response to this call by the subsequent papal magisterium.

The assertion of the primacy of love does not in any way diminish the role of law.  What the exhortation is calling us to is a recognition that the starting point or principle from which our pastoral actions flow must be the revelation of God’s love and mercy.  Church law certainly has great importance but it is not the only point of reference in pastoral ministry.

The document clearly sounds important notes of its own, and significantly contributes to and applies these hallmarks of post-conciliar renewal.  The focus on the person and his or her dignity is carried forward in the Holy Father’s critique of what he calls “a culture of the ephemeral” (cf. AL, 39) — a culture which views and treats others as sources of affective or sexual pleasure to be discarded when this pleasure runs dry.  This pursuit of a shallow happiness falls short of the joy of which the Exhortation speaks.  As was true for the Council, the dignity of the human person is fully disclosed in Christ but in this case especially in Christ’s embrace of families with their struggles, in children and other vulnerable persons, and in sinners.


One can say that Amoris Laetitia is itself the fruit of very intensive LISTENING on the part of Pope Francis.  The two synods on family called by the Holy Father were themselves preceded by consultation of local churches throughout the world on the lived situation of families, their challenges, and their experience.

This worldwide consultation involving the clergy, religious and laity touches on a significant aspect of Pope Francis’ vision of synodality.  It includes the experience, faith and voice of all the members of the Church, not just the bishops.

Pope Francis understands the process of listening to the faithful and to his brother bishops to be a key part of his own teaching and pastoral ministry.  It is part of the “synodality” or “journeying together” which he sees as essential to the Church at every level.    The fruit of this listening is reflected in the generous citation and engagement of the reports of the two synods in this exhortation.


Another activity on which the document focuses is ACCOMPANYING, the pastoral accompaniment of all who seek to find a way closer to God.  In many ways this is an extension of listening and of the synodality to which it gives rise.  The journeying together of all of the members of the Church implies this accompaniment.  But it also calls for a change in pastoral style and intensity.

Pope Francis calls pastors to do more than teach the Church’s doctrine—though they clearly must do that.   Pastors must “take on the ‘smell of the sheep’” whom they serve so that “the sheep are willing to hear their voice” (EG, 24).  This requires a more careful and intensive formation of all who minister – all who invite people to renew their faith.

Yet it is precisely in this closeness, the proximity to the faithful that another level of experiencing and living the faith develops. It is this challenging and struggling experience of the lived faith that Pope Francis welcomes as that “walking together” that is synodality.

Pope Francis in Amoris Laetitia and the bishops in the 2014 and 2015 synods renew the understanding that the Church’s pastoral mission and ministry must include not only the presentation of Church teaching (her doctrine), but also take into consideration how that teaching can be and is actually received or grasped by individuals, particularly given their situation and circumstances, and also how pastors of souls can engage in the company of the faithful in the journey towards embracing more fully the Church’s life-giving message.


The Church’s pastoral ministry is intended to help the faithful to grow in the art of DISCERNING.  A key part of discernment is the formation of conscience.  The Holy Father insists that the Church’s pastors must “make room for the consciences of the faithful, who very often respond as best they can to the Gospel amid their limitations, and are capable of carrying out their own discernment in complex situations.  We have been called to form consciences, not to replace them” (AL, 37).

Admittedly, this individual process of discernment may not be easy.  A person may know full well Church teaching, Pope Francis notes, yet have great difficulty in either understanding its inherent positive value, or in being able to fully embrace it right away because of circumstances (AL, 301).  Yet, the underlying moral principle which should inform both that personal discernment and the priest’s ministry is that a person whose situation in life is objectively contrary to moral teaching can still love and grow in the faith, he or she can still take steps in the right direction and benefit from God’s mercy and grace while receiving the assistance of the Church (AL, 305).


Amoris Laetitia is not a list of answers to each individual human issue.  Rather, it is a call to compassionate accompaniment in helping all to experience Christ’s love and mercy.  To the extent that our ministry does this, it is also an EVANGELIZING action.  As we recall the challenge to go out, to encounter, and to accompany, we also recognize that this is at its heart an act of the evangelizing disciple.

The 2014 and 2015 Synods on marriage and family and the process they represent of sharing, listening, discerning and receiving are beginnings of a fuller and richer concept of synodality. We see in the post-synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, a magisterial expression of the fruit of synodality.  It is now seen as a manifestation of the fruit of the whole Church under the guidance of bishops with Peter walking and discerning together.


We began these reflections with an understanding that the word synodality means coming together – journeying together. This concept seems to be central to Pope Francis’ understanding of the nature of the Church, how the Church carries out her mission and who all is engaged in the understanding and articulation of that mission.

Just as Jesus said to his disciples as he prepared to return to his Father in glory: “You will be my witnesses” so Pope Francis is calling the whole body of disciples together in a process of discerning the richness of the proclamation of the faith, accompanying one another as we try: to embrace and appropriate the faith, and to announce it to the world today as much by our actions as by our words.

What Pope Francis is doing is helping us all understand that to be true witnesses to Jesus we have to walk together in witnessing and supporting one another. Only in this way can we truly accept the challenge: “You will be my witnesses.”

Watch the Facebook Live Stream of the Cardinal’s Lecture

Daily Reflections on Faith

Archdiocese of Washington: Year of Faith series

Written by:

Dominican Brothers of the Province of St. Joseph

The Archdiocese of Washington, DC is hosting daily reflections on its Facebook page for the Year of Faith.  Have you missed them?  Today we are starting the next weekly series on hope.  Please visit our page and “like” us, so you can follow along with the rest of the series.  Here is the roundup of the previous week’s reflections.

Theme: Faith.

1.  What is faith?

When God comes in power and reveals Himself to us—we listen. Faith means putting our entire selves at God’s disposal, our minds and hearts. But faith isn’t an exercise of our ordinary human powers. Grace comes before faith and prompts it. Grace runs along with our minds and hearts, elevating them from within to reach up to Him. Grace makes our faith perfect. Faith is a gift. “What do you have that you have not received?” We are saved by grace through faith. Faith makes us pleasing to God.

Do you want to grow in faith? Ask for it.

2. What does it mean to have a crisis of faith?

It is common to talk about crises within the Church. One crisis that pervades our times is a crisis of faith. Faith reminds us that it takes more than our eyes to see. Faith teaches us to look for the cause, rather than the effect – the source rather than the solution. By faith we can know the Truth. By faith we can truly see.

Does your faith make you see the world differently?

3. How are faith and understanding related?

The relationship between faith and understanding reminds us that faith is neither blind nor ignorant. How does this work? Through faith, the mind is wed to God. Although faith is shrouded in darkness, God gives us real understanding in faith. The gift of understanding is a gift of the Holy Spirit and helps us to know the Truth more deeply than our eyes can see. God gives us this ability to “see within.” He allows us to have an intuitive understanding.

Which divine mysteries does the Lord want you to understand more deeply?

4. How can we help those who do not have faith?

Ultimately, faith is God’s grace working in us to understand and believe things far beyond our natural abilities. We cannot simply argue someone into believing unless God works in their heart. Still, God can work through us to present the truths of the faith to others and remove confusion or misunderstandings about them. We should try our best to present the truths of the faith clearly to others, but even more we should lift up those who do not believe in our prayers, asking God to give them the grace of faith.

Take a moment and pray for someone who doesn’t have the Catholic faith.

5. How can we grow in faith?

Faith lifts us beyond our human nature to believe in supernatural truths, but it does not contradict that human nature. We see this clearly in the Virgin Mary. By faith she believed that “nothing was impossible for God” as was able to assent with her whole will to His plan. But her faith did not simply replace her reason, as we read how she “pondered all these things in her heart.” Following her example we can seek to more perfectly understand the truths of our faith and assent to them, even when it seems beyond our natural understanding.

Having trouble with something? Pray a “Hail Mary.” Ask for our Mother’s intercession.

Please don’t forget to visit our Facebook page and “like” it to follow this week’s daily reflections on the theme “hope.”

Daily Reflections on Friendship

Archdiocese of Washington: Year of Faith series

Written by:

Dominican Brothers of the Province of St. Joseph

013013-pope-2The Archdiocese of Washington, DC is hosting daily reflections on its Facebook page for the Year of Faith.  Have you missed them?  Today we are starting the next weekly series on faith.  Please visit our page and “like” us, so you can follow along with the rest of the series.

Theme: Friendship.

1.  Can we be friends with God?

Friendship is the very basis of our relationship with God in Jesus Christ: “I no longer call you slaves…I have called you friends.” (Jn 15:15) One quality of friendship is an exchange of personal knowledge and openness. As St. Thomas Aquinas says, “It is proper to friendship that a man reveal his secrets to his friend: because friendship unites their affections, and of two hearts makes one.” Couldn’t you use a good friend right about now? Friends talk to one another; friends listen to one another. When was the last time you spoke to Jesus as a true friend and from your heart? He is listening.

2.  Why is it good to share things with our friends?

Another mark of friendship is that we share our belongings with our friends. “A friend is another self,” so we help a friend as we would ourselves–which is part of willing and doing good for our friend. St. John asks, “But if any one has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” (1 Jn 3:17) Think too of the great love God has for us. When we were His enemies, He cleansed and sanctified our hearts by the gift of the Holy Spirit, and thus made us His friends.

3.  Do you find delight in the presence of God?

“It also belongs to friendship that a man delight in the presence of his friend, and rejoice in his words and deeds: also that he find in him consolation in all his troubles: hence it is especially to our friends that we have recourse in time of sorrow.” How true this is of our friendship with Jesus! When we look upon God in prayer with a loving gaze true delight arises in our hearts, and we are able to admire His goodness. This type of prayer is called contemplation. It makes us lovers of God, and it brings us amazing joy. Do you find delight in the presence of God? Does your friendship with Jesus bring you joy?

4. What if our friends hurt us?

At their best, friends are always trying to build one another up and seeking the others good. But we are not always at our best, and all too often we end up offending those we truly care about. Still, the bond of friendship can overcome even serious human failings because “love covers all offenses.” (Pr 10:21) Of course God’s love for us is the ultimate friendship, and likewise the ultimate example of forgiveness. Despite our countless offenses against Him, by His love we are pardoned and we can be restored to our undeserved status as friends of God. What is more, by our love for God we are called to love all who are His–all people, both our friends and our enemies.

5.  Does friendship mean agreeing with my friend?

Another part of friendship is harmony with your friend. Friends often and easily unite their wills, even in the smallest things, and even if they are very different personalities. We are also friends with God. Jesus says, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (Jn 14:15). Friendship with God means aligning our wills to His. But there is nothing burdensome or weary about agreeing with friends. In friendship, we aren’t oppressed by obligation, but moved by the weight of love. The Holy Spirit moves us to follow God’s commandments from the heart, with love. St. Paul says, “Whosoever are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Rom. 8:14).

Please don’t forget to visit our Facebook page and “like” it to follow this week’s daily reflections on the theme “faith.”

Daily Reflections for the Year of Faith

Archdiocese of Washington: Year of Faith series

Written by:

Dominican Brothers of the Province of St. Joseph

011813-pope-2The Archdiocese of Washington, DC is hosting daily reflections on its Facebook page for the Year of Faith.  Have you missed them?  Here they are.  And please visit our page and “like” us, so you can follow along with the rest of the series.

Theme: Happiness.

1.  Why did God create me?

Above all, we must recognize that God created every one of us – out of nothing. God’s love holds us in being. The Dominican tradition recognizes that God created us to be happy. This hardly sounds like the dour Catholicism that some people imagine. In fact, God wants us to use the gifts He has given us. Human beings delight in the good. The tradition teaches: do good and avoid evil. The challenge is: we have to know the true good, which is what the Church teaches. God helps us to accomplish the good, even in difficult situations, so that we can know Him and so that we can be truly happy in this life and in the next.

2.  How can I be happy?

God created us to be happy. It’s not a matter of simply following rules. It means rejoicing in and possessing what is truly good. The Psalmist asks, “Who will show us the good?” (Ps 4:6). If only we knew what was true and good– and then we could walk in it. The Psalmist answers the question with a prayer. “Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!” God teaches us a way of life that will make us happy, by revealing the face of His Son, Jesus. Aren’t we tired of walking in unhappiness and darkness? The Psalmist continues, “Thou hast put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.” Let us turn to Jesus and the Church He gave us, and there find joy.

3.  What will truly make me happy?

According to the TV, the answer is the latest car, gadget or drink. As silly as we know that answer is, we still find ourselves trying to secure our happiness with created things: the right school; the right career; the respect of our peers. While these details have a major impact on our lives, they are not the goal. For “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.”(1 Cor 2:9) Achieving that true happiness, which ultimately means the beatitude of heaven, begins by letting the grace of God work in us, and to orient all the details of our life to the place he has prepared.

4.  How can I grow in happiness?

Habits shape human conduct. Habits make us act in a reliable and consistent way. Without them, we’d find it difficult to have a stable pattern of life. But are habits mere routine? The soldier tirelessly trains in the art of warfare, so he can act properly on the battlefield. Without such intense training, he wouldn’t be free to fight well in extreme and real life circumstances. Unless fighting is “second nature” he will make mistakes in the clutch. It is the same with the virtues, the good habits of the moral life. They form us so we can freely and happily act in the moral life. They make us free to grasp the good things that make us happy.

5.  Why do the saints seem so free and so happy?

Some people seem to think that a good person is someone who grits his teeth and does the right thing, constantly fighting off the desire to sin. While the moral life can feel like this for many of us sometimes, we know that there is a more perfect way. We see it in the lives of the saints. The saints do not spend all their day on the lookout for sin and avoiding it; they turn their face towards God and walk boldly towards Him, confident that their steps will not falter. This is the life of virtue. By God’s grace we can build up the habits and virtues that lead to a joyful life now and in the life to come.

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