Program #0196 for Thursday, December 8, 2011: Immaculate Conception, pastoral plan, Holy Father’s address to US bishops, Rhode Island’s “holiday tree”

December 8, 2011

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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Susan Abbott

Today’s guest(s): Fr. Roger Landry, executive editor of The Anchor, the newspaper of the Fall River diocese; and Gregory Tracy, managing editor of The Pilot, the newspaper of the Boston archdiocese

Links from today’s show:

  • The Anchor
  • The Pilot
  • Some of the stories discussed on this show will be available on The Pilot’s and The Anchor’s websites on Friday morning. Please check those sites for the latest links.

Today’s topics: Immaculate Conception, pastoral plan, Holy Father’s address to US bishops, Rhode Island’s “holiday tree”

Summary of today’s show: Scot Landry and Susan Abbott gathered with Fr. Roger Landry and Gregory Tracy on this Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception to discuss the news of the week, including the meaning of the feast day; a follow-up on the priests’ convocation Monday on pastoral planning in the archdiocese; the Holy Father’s ad limina address to US bishops on the need to preach with new freshness about our faith; the importance of good Catholic families to evangelization; a kerfuffle over a “holiday tree” in Rhode Island; and mourning two dear colleagues who have passed away.

1st segment: Scot welcomed Susan, Gregory, and Fr. Roger to the show. Today is the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and a holy day of obligation. Fr. Roger preached on various depictions of the Blessed Mother in his parish, St. Anthony in New Bedford and what they teach about Our Lady. The Immaculate Conception has been celebrated in the parish for 100 years because the parish was dedicated in 1912. He said Bishop Dooher came from Boston to give an Advent reflection to priests in the Diocese of Fall River. The grace of God shines through Mary to radiate upon us and to defeat Satan as prophesied in the book of Genesis.

Scot said the Immaculate Conception is the patronal feast of the United States and on Monday is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Scot said it’s often confused that we’re celebrating today the conception of Jesus, but we’re really celebrating the conception of Mary. In 9 months, on September 8, we will celebrate Mary’s birth.

2nd segment: Scot said the front-page headline in the Pilot discusses the Pastoral planning that has begun in the archdiocese. Greg said since we already discussed some of the details of the pastoral plan last week. On Monday, the cardinal brought it before the priests of the archdiocese to get their feedback. He said they chose to have the reporter not be in the room in order to respect the cardinal’s desire to have an open discussion with the priests.

Greg said the priests were able to give their instant feedback en masse through electronic voting. The important message was that this is the beginning of a conversation and if any priest wants to make any more comments in private, they will be welcome.

Scot noted that the trial question for the priests, in order to teach them how to use the electronic voting, asked them their favorite sports teams. Number one was Red Sox at 32% and number 2 was the Patriots at 30% and the third choice was none of the above at 17%. The rest of the voting will be made public in the future as data is compiled by the Office for Pastoral Planning.

Susan said the prospect of the pastoral plan is exciting and scary. She’s been asking people to pray that whatever God wills for the archdiocese, we will cooperate with. She noted that the proposal for Pastoral Service Teams, includes lay ecclesial ministers which includes all kinds of roles within the parish.

Fr. Roger said in the diocese of Fall River at the day of recollection for priests, they looked to Boston and were blown away by the scope of the proposal and the response to what is coming down the road, being proactive instead of reactive. It creates a new circumstance where the Church will not just maintain at a barebones level, but create structures to allow us to do it as well as we possibly can in the midst of a decade or two when we will have far fewer priests than we need. It’s incredibly bold and inspires them in Fall River. They believe it will become a model for dioceses across the country.

Scot said the Pastoral Planning Commission has asked every Catholic in the Archdiocese to read the proposal documents and listen to three videos of addresses by Cardinal Seán, Msgr. Bill Fay, and Fr. Jack Ahern at

3rd segment: Scot said last week the Holy Father met with the US bishops from Region 2, which is mostly New York. The Pope will meet with 15 different groups of US bishops over the next year and he will give five addresses that apply to all the bishops of the US. Fr. Roger said the Holy Father indicated that he will preach about the New Evangelization, preaching with a new freshness about our faith. But first we need interior renewal before we can renew the world. This talk was about the interior renewal, starting with the clergy sex abuse scandal. This has brought us to recognize our profound need for conversion and our response to that may bring our entire society to conversion because this kid of abuse is not isolated to the Church.

Scot said the key message was that in the Church we need to walk what we preach. Susan said on retreat last weekend she studied the program for the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization. If we’re evangelizing ourselves, then outward evangelization will be a natural flow.

Fr. Roger said believers are best by troubling questions and cynicism every day that comes from a society that seems to have lost its roots. This leads to a quiet attrition and people just drift away from the faith. We need to start to put the connection back together between faith and life. Marriage needs to be reconnected to God. We can’t pretend God is absent from the way we legislate. All Catholic institutions need to help make this connection, from universities down to nurseries. He implies that teaching of the full Gospel has occurred in past decades.

Scot said there’s an article in the Pilot this week about Fr. Benedict Groeschel’s address to a dinner at St. Thomas More College. He said he never experienced hostility to the faith at any secular school, but at some Catholic colleges and institutions he found more hostility to the faith. Greg said that some institutions have chosen to go the path of least resistance.

Fr. Roger said the Holy Father talked about the new translation of the Roman Missal and how the Mass is the source and summit of the Christian life. The Catechism describe that faith and life go together, that we pray as we live and live as we pray. Once we lose the sense of the sacredness of the Mass, then we lose the sense of the sacredness of all human life. Once the Mass is marginalized, then Christ and his salvation is marginalized.

Pope Benedict said a weakened sense of the meaning of Christian worship inevitably leads to a weakened witness of the faith. Scot said one of the main efforts of the Holy Father has been to reinvigorate our celebration of the Mass. Susan said the new translation has focused us so much on the liturgy and how we pray.

Scot said the Holy Father has said the new evangelization depends on the domestic church, the Catholic household.

“In our time, as in times past, the eclipse of God, the spread of ideologies contrary to the family and the degradation of sexual ethics are intertwined,” he added. “And just as the eclipse of God and the crisis of the family are linked, so the New Evangelization is inseparable from the Christian family.” … “The family founded on the Sacrament of Matrimony is a particular realization of the Church, saved and saving, evangelized and evangelizing community,” the Pope said. He explained that just like the Church, the Catholic family is also called to “welcome, radiate and show the world the love and the presence of Christ.”

Scot said that’s one of the reasons Cardinal Seán in his pastoral letter encouraged families to come to Mass together and pray together. Greg said for the majority of people, the seed of faith grows in the home. Even if the kids are sent to Catholic school, but there is no living the faith at home, it’s much more difficult for them to grow in their faith. If they live it at home, then they see what they learn in Catholic school or religious education being lived out.

Scot said we should never outsource the teaching of the faith of our children. Susan said when the children experience it at home, they recognize what the catechist is teaching them because they’ve lived it.

Scot said the Holy Father suggests that a week for the family could be added to the Catholic calendar like we celebrate Catholic schools week. Fr. Roger said it’s good we have Mother’s Day and Father’s Day to focus on these vocations in our society, but we don’t have a similar focus on the family. We could have a week to pray for the family, celebrate it, and beg God’s mercy for those families in need.

4th segment: Scot said about a week ago there was a story about criticism of the Rhode Island governor’s decision to call the 17-foot tree in the statehouse a holiday tree, making a big deal over it. The governor made pointed remarks about the critics and both Bishop Tobin and those who gave the tree to the state had some very good responses.

Fr. Roger said that Gov. Chaffee, in trying not to offend people by saying Christmas, is then offending Christians by being insensitive to Christian concerns.

“Governor Chafee’s decision to avoid the word Christmas at the statehouse ceremony is most disheartening and divisive,” Bishop Tobin said in a statement Nov. 29. “It is sad that such a secular spirit has swept over our state. The governor’s decision ignores long-held American traditions and is an affront to the faith of many citizens,” the bishop said. “For the sake of peace and harmony in our state at this special time of the year, I respectfully encourage the governor to reconsider his decision to use the word Christmas in the state observance.”

The son of the donor of the statehouse blue spruce said he was disappointed that the governor has “removed the word Christmas” in describing the tree. “We provide him with a Christmas tree,” said Timothy Leyden. “It came from Big John Leyden’s Christmas Tree Farm. It is not a holiday tree. We don’t sell holiday trees.”

Scot said that it seems like a basic affront to faith. He said we should just celebrate all of the holidays in December. No Christian is offended by Jews celebrating Hannukah. Hopefully, the people of Rhode Island will let Gov. Chaffee know they will not stand for this trampling of Christmas. Scot and Susan noted that Christmas is a federal holiday and even the secularists take the day off.

Moving on, Scot said we mourn the passing of two people close to those on the show. In this week’s Pilot is the obituary for Joan McAllister who worked for the Pilot for more than 30 years. Greg said she was the institutional memory of the Pilot and the Archdiocese.

We also mourn the passing of Fr. James McCune last night. He served in many parishes, including 17 years at St. John the Evangelist in Canton, as cardinal’s secretary and master of ceremonies during the visit of Pope John Paul II to Boston in 1978. Later, he was Director of the Office of Senior Priests. Scot and Susan and Fr. Roger shared memories of Fr. McCune.

They also congratulated Bishop Peter Libasci who was installed as Bishop of Manchester, NH, today. Our colleague George Martell took photos and posted them on our Flickr page.

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