Dec. 11, 2013
Bishop Terry R. LaValley’s homily for the Papal Honors Vespers Service Dec. 8
You remember that back on November 18 of last year we had a beautiful celebration welcoming the Year of Faith. It was such a festive occasion when the Diocese of Ogdensburg celebrated the faith life of three individuals who walked the lands of our beloved North Country and had been canonized recently by Pope Benedict XVI.
We filled this cathedral and praised God in song, dance and prayer as we honored the new saints: St. Brother Andre Bessette, St. Marianne Cope, and St. Kateri Tekakwitha. At the time, we reflected on their witness of faith heroically lived.
This afternoon we gather for another festive occasion--to celebrate the faith lives of some of our parishioners who will receive very special Papal Honors.
While there are so very many faith-filled individuals in our diocese who are worthy of this special recognition, it is with great pride and much gratitude, that I am pleased to confer the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Cross to these recipients in recognition of their outstanding service to the Church. In the North Country Catholic, we read just a bit about their deep faith and humble, remarkable service to the Church. This well-deserved award is the highest honor that is given to a member of the laity by the Holy Father.
As we have recently marked the closure of the formal Year of Faith, we know that the journey of faith continues in a re-invigorated manner here in the Diocese of Ogdensburg. This is a perfect way to launch the Church from the Year of Faith into the Life of Faith by recognizing individuals whose very lives inspire us all to live what we believe. They challenge you and me to reflect on the depth of our own faith and how we give expression to it in our local parishes.
In his recent exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis said that “everyone can share in some way in the life of the Church.” Certainly, today’s honorees have done just that. The Holy Father said that “people of faith are needed who, by the example of their lives, point out the way to the Promised Land and keep hope alive.”
Sisters and brothers, the medals you shall soon receive, attest to the hope you instill in others. You help to keep hope alive.
We are most grateful and thank God for the many opportunities we have had this Year of Faith to deepen our relationship with Jesus and strengthen His Body, the Church. Yes, we journey into the future with great hope, particularly as we will soon, as part of our Diocesan Envisioning Process, articulate the priorities and goals that will guide our faith life here in the Diocese of Ogdensburg in the years ahead. These are exciting, Spirit-filled times for the local Church. We know well the challenges that lay ahead, but we know, too, the wonderful possibilities we have to grow as Church, energized by the events of our Year of Faith and inspired by the faith lives of our Papal honorees today.
Today’s liturgy reminds us that we do not and cannot leave the Year of Faith behind in the dust. No, we are impelled, with these honorees as remarkable examples, to continue to follow Him, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
In his homily at the Year of Faith closing Mass, Pope Francis reminded us that our journey “has as its ultimate end our full encounter with God, and throughout which the Holy Spirit purifies us, lifts us up and sanctifies us, so that we may enter into the happiness for which our hearts long.” The Holy Father went on to speak of the centrality of Jesus Christ in our lives.
My friends, you and I have had a broad array of opportunities throughout the Year of Faith to help us on our faith journeys, to focus on Jesus: from virtual pilgrimages with stamped passports; a pastoral letter on the Year of Faith; a special Corpus Christi Holy Hour; the Beauty of Belief Event; and the awe–filled Eucharist for the Year of Faith held in Lake Placid, where thousands of our sisters and brothers joined our Papal Nuncio and me at the altar.
Soon thereafter, Matthew Kelly inspired people of all ages who packed this Cathedral when he challenged us to be engaged disciples. We had a Photograph of Faith contest, a workshop on the Vatican II documents and, finally, a Holy Hour for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty to close out the Year of Faith.
I am so grateful to Father Garry Giroux and the Year of Faith Committee who have worked so hard to make our Year of Faith, truly an inspiring year of faith for all the folks of our beloved North Country.
But, these were not isolated events of the past, but powerful moments to connect as Church, to celebrate our faith and to be energized to give witness to it in the public square. From the Year of Faith, we have stepped into a renewed Life of Faith.
With the Church of Ogdensburg, I want to congratulate our honorees and their families. Thank you for your faithfulness and support of the parish family. Let us all now enter into this new liturgical year with renewed determination and fortified faith to heed Jesus’ call: “Follow Me.”