To Be More Fully Alive

During the Civil War 140 years ago people would go out from Washington, D.C. on Sunday afternoon with champagne and sandwiches to watch the progress of battles in Virginia. In the course of World War I, when the war of attrition set in, people would gather at sidewalk cafes in Europe to discuss casually the latest fashions as well as battle prospects.

Here in the United States in recent weeks we have been glued to television sets and radios following the war in Iraq, with time out for the Academy Awards from Hollywood.

It is a broken world.

War is both a symptom and a sign of our brokenness. It does, however, jar us out of the routine of every day. The life-and-death struggle raging before our eyes reproaches us for taking so much in life for granted.

It has long been said that there are no atheists in foxholes. When lives hang in the balance, the experience of God, the encounter with God, becomes much more immediate. Intensive care units in hospitals and gravesides in cemeteries provoke similar stirrings of the soul.

That prompting to prayer quickens us to realize that we will not be paralyzed by the brokenness of the world. We have been praying that the war will be brief, that bloodshed will be kept to the minimum possible, that it will be the occasion for disarmament and liberation, that there will be a victory for peace.

We have been praying for the men and women who are risking their lives in our military services, for their families and loved ones who are living with so much fear and anxiety, for our chaplains in service, for the long suffering people of Iraq, for those who have been delivering humanitarian aid, including various Catholic relief agencies.

We pray for the prisoners of war, for those missing in action, for the wounded, for those who have been killed, who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

We pray for displaced persons, for refugees, for civilians at risk.

We pray that this war will not be perceived as a conflict between, on the one hand, Christians and Jews, and on the other hand, Muslims. We pray that it will not metastasize into increased warfare and terrorism around the world.

We pray for a just and lasting peace: peace in Iraq, peace in the Middle East, with a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, peace in the world, peace in our hearts.

It is a broken world.

But we are not merely onlookers, not only bystanders. The cataclysm we are witnessing moves us to intensify our Lenten exercises of prayer and fasting. The broken nature of the world stirs us to break out in prayer, fasting, and good works.

The people of our Diocese have been much more than spectators in a broken world. You have consistently been more than generous in your contributions to the Appeal for Catholic Relief Services, one of the lead agencies providing humanitarian aid to the people in Iraq.

You don't stand by when you see life fractured and broken here in the eight counties of Western New York. Your increasing fidelity to the Catholic Charities Appeal every year is ample proof that you are not frozen in the face of serious need.

It is fitting that the Catholic Charities Appeal is conducted every year during the sacred season of Lent, the time for expanding our good works. In the rhythm of reflection and action we realize that our efforts are more than individual and singular. To meet the growing demands, and we are talking of more than 175,000 people in genuine need of Catholic Charities services here in Western New York, the work must be organized and mobilized.

Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Buffalo meets those needs with extraordinary results. The financial audits and the quality audits testify emphatically to that fact.

Ninety-three cents of every dollar contributed to Catholic Charities go directly to services in the current year, not to a savings account, not to an endowment, not to any other purposes but those described in the Appeal.

The big week of the Appeal runs from April 6th to April 13th, Palm Sunday, the door to Holy Week. We know about the brokenness of the world. We recognize also that we are called to be healers, and that as healers we will be healed. To heal is to move through death to resurrection.

St. Paul tells us in his Epistle to the Ephesians (2:10):

"We are his handiwork,
created in Christ Jesus
for the good works
that God has prepared in advance,
that we should live in them."

May Easter this year see us closer to peace. May the celebration of Christ's Resurrection see us more fully alive.

Most Rev. Henry J. Mansel
lBishop of Buffalo
March 28, 2003


Categories: Bishop Mansell