Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Happy New Year...but

We now prepare for the coming of a new year, which will be the 2010th of the Christian Era. This advent fills us with positive goals; fills us with happiness and the hope that we will reach the projects that were not possible before, or remained incomplete during the year which comes to an end.

Hispanics and Catholics in the United States, especially hope for 2010 to be the year of the Immigration Reform. That it will be the year when a law: humane, generous and as just as possible allows the total and full social and legal integration of millions of immigrants, who in this nation (the same as in Europe) do not enjoy the constitutional guaranties, nor the full access to social benefits because of their lack of documentation, to accredit them as welcomed citizens, documented and legal in the Unites States or Europe. Nevertheless, these same people who are ostracized and rejected become the people who, with their sacrifice and hard work --even though never valued enough-- now sustain the difficult economic panorama, in this nation and in the world.

During the last few years we have witnessed a social phenomenon that moves completely in the opposite direction from this social and legal aspiration. The communication media and social phenomenon now present the private and public aggressions which are evident in the growing racism, dangerous and expanding discrimination, exploitation, and social marginalization of undocumented immigrants, wrongly labeled “illegals”.

These inhumane and unjust attitudes, these discriminatory speeches --racist and anti-immigrant-- hide dark and sinister interests: the wish to perpetuate the ostracism of a great mass of people which, because of their lack of documentation, are being exploited. This population --because it is marginalized and not recognized-- continues to be mistreated, stepped over, used and abused socially and in their labor. It is a speech which hides this great truth: the immigrants, as much in the United States as in Europe are not loved, desired, accepted nor recognized in their rights; but are indeed recognized for what they do; which makes them cheap labor, a population which drives and grows the economy of the conglomerates, the same who wish to maintain the social marginalization and deceit of its “undocumented workers”.

In our religious Judeo-Christian tradition the dignity, the well being and the service to human beings should always be above governments, interests and laws. The year 2010 needs to be, among us and with the help and participation of all, the year in which the highest and best values are restored: people-in-society. We are not to continue with the double standard in which, in one hand human and Christian values are exalted, and in the other –and simultaneously– we step on, affront, disdain human dignity and the right of millions of immigrants to live in just and humane conditions. These rights have been earned by the value of their labor and their economic and social contribution. It is dishonest, hypocritical, and unworthy of our society ---North American and European-- which proclaim to be the founders and defenders of the highest standards in humanity and democracy .

May globalization reach not only the geostrategic, economic and political goals of this Nation, in the year 2010; but that it be present in an ecumenical spirit, where men and women may feel, wherever they live, citizens of the world, with a fitting place on this earth, which belongs to all. May the globalization be felt in a fraternal and universal spirit, which reaches all; so that --finally-- the full and total insertion of immigrants to this Nation, which gives us so much but also receives a lot from all of us, who have reached its shores looking for a better life through huge effort, work, renunciation and sacrifice be a reality.

Traditionally, at the beginning of each year we wish each other “a Happy and Prosperous New Year!” The year 2010 will be a happy and prosperous year for all, in the measure which, above the selfishness and hypocrisy of a few is placed the social interest which shouts for an immigration law for the benefit of many. To this goal we should all commit ourselves, because it benefits us all. HAPPY AND BLESSED 2010!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas and God’s Logic

In the Catholic liturgy, Christmas is a time when each year, we commemorate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, who we confess to be our Lord and Savior. Christmas, the memory of that first nativity is, therefore, a past which becomes real in our present and commits us to the construction of a “Christian” future.

Two Gospels (Matthew and Luke), in the New Testament give a glimpse of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ; both have as the theological intention of the authors, the confession of Jesus as Messiah. This was experienced in the living, the teaching, the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus; and later verbally confessed and put into writing.

The historical data concerning the birth of Jesus, distant in time for the authors of these two Gospels and with less theological importance --when we consider the public ministry, the passion, the death and resurrection of Christ-- should be read, as all the Good News and especially the four Gospels, under the light of the “Birth celebration”. It should be told, based on the life transforming experience which the first disciples lived right after the death of Jesus. This experience caused that group of men and women to confess that “Christ is alive”, “is resurrected from the dead”, and “is the Messiah”; the one waited for, and in whom were fulfilled --in a new context-- all the messianic promises of the Old Testament.

But, what about real historical data in the so called “infancy accounts”? The oral tradition goes all the way up to the time when Luke writes these accounts (gospel writer of this new liturgical cycle, which just began with the first Sunday of Advent), and who assures that Jesus was born a boy, in conditions of poverty; the only son of Joseph and Mary; born during the time of the census ordered by Cesar Augustus, while Cyrenius was the governor of Syria.

This historical data, —as happens with all human stories and with all the historical data which appears in the Gospels about Jesus— is wrapped in the theological intention of the authors, and is in the confessions of faith of the primitive Christian community: of David’s lineage (which is in the hereditary line from which the Messiah was suppose to come; and because of this, the ancestry of Joseph and the mention of Bethlehem); the participation of the angel (whose intervention tells of a happening /birth where the main character is God himself, as it should have been according to the prophesies of the Old Testament in reference to the Messiah).

In this manner the shepherds, Simeon, Hanna, the Temple erudites, the neighbors in Nazareth, the first Christians and Christians of all times, recognize “the child wrapped in swaddling clothes and laying in a manger” as the Lord and Savior of all times: beginning of, central to, and culmination of our happiness and eternal life.

This confession, as later taught and written by Paul of Tarsus, shatters Greek and Jewish logic and breaks all the wisdom molds in the world. It breaks the power schemes in the Roman Empire and establishes a new logic, new wisdom –the wisdom of God-- according to which “anyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted”, “he has filled the hungry with good things” . . ., and the “rich he has sent away empty”. By this logic God “chooses what is not, to confuse what is”.

That is why Christmas is a commemoration, but it is also protest. During Christmas, from the manger (as much as from the foolishness and craziness of the cross) Christians protest against the logic by which the world and relations among humans are constructed. During Christmas, from the humble manger, Christians protest against the ostentation which leaves so many hungry; against the consumerism which leaves so many in inhumane situations; and against the luxury, the waste and the squandering which insults so many who have nothing.

Christmas is, because of this, an event and confession of solidarity from God to those who need him and place in him all their trust, confidence and hope. Also because of it, in Baby Jesus and in his manger is reborn the hope of the majority: which are the rejected and marginalized by the present social systems.

It is this hope, which gives meaning to the joy manifested throughout the world during Christmas time. But it is God’s act and his wisdom which makes, in the present, that Christians construct a world according the will of God and the logic of the manger (and the cross), and not according the logic of the world. Because we, the disciples “are in the world, but do not belong to the world.”

Friends, I rejoice together with you during this 2009 Christmas; and ask the God Child to bless us all, to illumine us and to give us the strength to construct our lives, our families, our work and labors, and all our personal and social projects, following the logic which had its beginnings during Jesus’ birth in the manger in Bethlehem. MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A “River of Light” in New York

To the right of the Main Altar in St. Patrick’s Cathedral –that is, in a privileged place— during the last 18 years and for the veneration of believers, is placed a painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

How did the image make it there? Who was the main person responsible for this incredible act? What happened so that the image of Our Lady of Tepeyac would reach a place of veneration today in New York City is a story that should be told and written. I intend, through these lines, to make known the incredible story that established this landmark.

The painting was done by an unknown artist in the XVIII Century. It is believed that it was the work of a successful painter, student of the great Mexican painter Miguel Cabrera. It is a present from the Archdiocese of Mexico to Catholics of the metropolitan Cathedral in New York. It was acquired in the Art Gallery of Enrique Romero in Mexico City and brought to New York, personally, by the then Archbishop of Mexico His Eminence Ernesto Cardinal Corripio Ahumada.

On the 8th of December of 1991, in the solemn Mass of the Immaculate Conception, Cardinal Corripio presented to his brother, the then Cardinal of New York, Archbishop John Cardinal O’Connor, during the solemn liturgical celebration, the painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
During that liturgical act were present the Consul General of Mexico, Mr. Manuel Alonzo and Mrs. Rosa María Quijano, protagonist and principal donor so that this historical event would take place.

The miraculous impression of Our Lady of Guadalupe, among roses, on the poncho of the Indian San Juan Diego, in the apparition of December 12, 1531, is permanently on display in the new Basilica, built in her honor and for her veneration in Mexico City.

The word “Guadalupe” means “river of light.” Today we can say that there is a constant “river of believers” who go daily to honor Our Mother and Mother of God, under the invocation of the Mexican, Latin-American, American, and Amerindian “Virgen Morena,” in the beautiful painting now in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. For the visit of his Holiness Pope John Paul II to New York, the painting of the Guadalupana was moved to the main altar to preside over the visit of His Holiness to the Cathedral, and for the prayer of the Holy Rosary directed by the Universal Pastor before the venerated image.

It is worth stating that the prominent placement that the painting has today, within the context of the Cathedral, in the place where the Tabernacle of the Cathedral was, to the right of the main altar, has its own history. All of it is intertwined with signs and miracles, which point to the fact that after a series of difficulties encountered in the placement of the painting --due to the construction and style of the Cathedral--, the Virgin has found a prominent place where to be revered and where she can accompany the life of its children.

Mrs. Margarita Perusquia has a primary placement in this story. As a founder of the organization “Mensajeros de María de Guadalupe” (Messengers of Maria Guadalupe), she has dedicated herself and the Institution to spread in New York and throughout the world the devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe. This Marian devotion embodies the Latin-American spirit and puts together, in the best symbiosis, the most valuable of our origins, our history, our faith and our culture.

The request of Margarita Perusquia to the then Archbishop of New York: Terence Cardinal Cook was to allow her to build an altar in the Cathedral for the veneration of the “Guadalupana.” This act began this story which today inspires and brings so many devotees, not only from New York, but from the whole continent and across the seas.

The same request, with the best show of Christian patience and perseverance, was made by Margarita several times to Cardinal Cook and Cardinal O’Connor. Each, in their moment, referred her to the Cathedral’s rector, who –in turn—denied the request, usually for the reasons mentioned previously: the lack of consonance between the style of the painting, the construction and architectural style, and the art within the Cathedral.

As it was stated on the 8th of December, 1991, the Cardinal of Mexico: Ernesto Cardinal Corripio Ahumada, while celebrating the Eucharist in the Cathedral gave the painting of the Virgin to John Cardinal O’Connor, who –full of emotion— asks the multitudes where they would want the painting: his house, his office or in the Cathedral. To that the crowd of believers answered, at one voice: “Here, in the Cathedral.”

For one-and-a-half years the painting of the Guadalupe was stored in inadequate corners of the Cathedral. But soon, the daily crowd of pilgrims, the offerings, the candles, and flowers pressured the authorities in the Cathedral to find a better and more adequate place for the veneration of the image of the “Virgen Morena.” May these lines become written evidence of that story; and may they help to honor and give thanks to those who made this religious gesture possible. I would like to congratulate all my Mexican and Latin-American brothers and sisters on this day, in which Catholics happily celebrate the solemnity of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of Mexico and Mother of the Americas.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Advent: The Hoping for Hope

With the Advent Season begins another year in the liturgical life of Catholics. Adviento is a latin word which means “to wait for what is coming, expectation of something that is waited for, something expected which will come and shape the present.”

What would human life be without hope? We would sink in a sea of uncertainty, of suffering, of pain and of evil without something to encourage us to continue trusting, trying, working, projecting, loving, believing and hoping . . .

We, Christians, are essentially and fundamentally men and women of hope. In other words, men and women who live in a permanent advent: waiting that the birth of God comes at Christmas; waiting for the daily encounter with God through his creation, through our brothers and sisters (especially the poorest in society), through liturgy, through the sacraments; through the many signs and circumstances by which God comes near to us and meets us each day. Christians live waiting for God’s promises to be fulfilled; that God’s Kingdom overcomes the kingdoms of the world; that God’s mercy overcomes the lack of love; and that God’s power triumphs over the mean power of man.

But the fulfillment of this hope –as the Advent Psalm says-- for “justice to flourish and peace to be abundant” it requires that we Christians construct, with our acts and our words, with our announcements and denunciations, and with our behaviors, attitudes, and works, a time and space in which Christian hope is possible; in other words a time and space in which God’s Kingdom becomes evident through us.

In this way, the hope we are waiting for takes us out of a passive attitude of resignation, and brings us to construct the hoping attitude we are wishing for --the new heaven and the new earth we wish for! Even more so, Christians know that the daily wish for happiness becomes true only in the real hope: which is Christ and his life in us. Christian hope is not a hope that can be reduced to ephemeral and temporary satisfactions; but one that pushes all our present lives towards a full and total future in God.

Advent, this liturgical time, just before the anticipation of Christmas is –more than just a liturgical time-- a life attitude and a personal and communitarian commitment of the believers and those from the Church who believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Also the belief in a world in which the divine starts, shows, and stays in the most humane and every day aspects of our present history.

Liturgy, in this time of Advent, speaks to us of a hope which does not die in the day to day; a hope that lightens up each moment of our lives; a hope that is infinite and without conditions; a hope which has no limits and is eternal; a hope that opens up for us the beyond of our limited intra-history; and a hope which overcomes all forms of evil, pain and death.

Circumstances today, more than ever, urge us to live in the spirit of Advent. All around us there are manifestations of crisis: crisis of the human spirit; crisis of goals which humanity dreamed of; crisis of trust and confidence in men and institutions; crisis of trust in governments, regimes, political and economic models; lack of trust between peoples and nations; lack of trust and belief in spiritual leaders. There is disillusion and mistrust because there is a hunger and a thousand forms of inequity, injustice, violence and death. There is a collective feeling that our present has no future. There is uncertainty, a loss of the sense of life and much anguish. We live in difficult times for all spheres of life. Nevertheless, Catholic liturgy, in this time of Advent, once more invites us to the wait for Hope, the commitment and construction of better times . . .

I wish for all of us that this Advent 2009 fills us with hope; fills us with an always renewed strength to make possible our hope: which is that the Gospel of Jesus Christ be among us. That the Gospel be lived and announced by us for the construction of a better world; a world which is more just, more humane and more according to God’s wish.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Heart’s Memory

Each year, as Thanksgiving Day arrives, I remember the Gospel story in which only one out of ten cured lepers --a foreigner-- returned to Jesus to express his gratitude and to give glory to God for being cured.

This nation’s historical tradition invites us to give thanks during one day each year. Without doubt, it is the date which gets the most people together. It is the most familiar and nationally recognized of all celebrations in the United States. The tradition of this celebration goes way back to a historical gesture of which not all know the story but the majority celebrates. It is all due to the fact that the attitude and action of being grateful and giving thanks is a profoundly human tendency, and because of it, profoundly divine.

In the Eucharist, we Christians have the fountain, the base, and the beginning and end of the Christian life. The Greek word “eucaristía” means precisely, “to give thanks”. That is to say that the most authentic and genuine Christian posture is to live giving thanks to God who gives us all we are and all we have.

In the present “consumer driven society”, the importance we give to money, the importance we give to having instead of to being, impedes us from remembering that always and in all circumstances we are not self-sufficient; that we do not auto-provide ourselves. We do not remember the fact that others work to give us things and services which we enjoy; that to live, we all need each other; that we are, beyond rational animals, beings which are solidary in good and evil; social beings that, as human beings and believers are part of the creative work of God, and that the main dynamic is to serve.

When we become conscious of our social nature and our importance in a creation in which everything created serves to help us live each day in the spirit of service and gratitude.
What allows our hearts to be thankful is the capacity for opening our senses and being conscious of everything we have and everything we are. The consequences of this thankful understanding come without delay: the grateful human being is a joyful man or woman, confident, humble and hopeful . . . and waiting on that loving presence which surrounds us, and which Christians call Holy Trinity.

When Jesus teaches us to see all good things as gifts from God, he at the same time teaches us to give all things as gifts. In other words, every good gift received from God commits us to place all at the service of our brothers and sisters, following a lifestyle that does not hoard life selfishly but favors all, especially the needy. Therefore, gratitude and gratefulness are attitudes which require of each of us a time and space in which all human beings can have the capacity, the possibility and the joy of being grateful.

Gratitude is an attitude, but because it is an attitude it is also an obligation. Therefore on Thanksgiving Day we are grateful but also give away . . . May it be that, more than things we give our time, our presence, our lives –and not only one day a year—but each day of our lives.

May you all have a Happy Thanksgiving Day! May we all be able to always be grateful and to aid others in having a reason to always be grateful!!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Buliding a Hispanic Heritage

Between September and October of each year and coinciding with the holiday of Mexican Independence and ending with the celebration of the “Encounter of Two Worlds”, in the United States, we celebrate “NATIONAL HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH” a nationally recognized observance which has been enacted into law.

Today, to speak of the significant Hispanic presence in this country is to speak of something obvious. The National Census Bureau indicated that there are close to forty seven million Hispanics residing in this Nation in addition to the three million people residing on the Island of Puerto Rico.

Hispanic presence in the life of this Nation is not a recent phenomenon. In fact, Hispanics have been here even before the arrival of the pilgrims. Since 1550, men like Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, together with other explorers, travelled and explored the width and length of the territories which today constitutes the American Union. Hispanics had established themselves in what today is called “Florida”, many years before the British founded Jamestown. Without a doubt, Hispanics have made a mark in the history of this Nation. We have participated in many of the heroic deeds during its formation and have greatly contributed to the overall development of the United States.

Because of our substantial and growing numbers, subjects such as immigration or the legalization of undocumented immigrants are today on the front pages of the media; and rank amongst the principal preoccupations of the institutions which have in their hands the destiny of this Nation.

It is important to note that there is one U.S. Senator and thirty two House representatives of Hispanic origin in Congress. This speaks loudly to the undeniable Hispanic contribution in today’s North American society.

Our presence here is a reality, but the mere simple existence of a large population does not give authority. Authority comes from authorship of our own destiny; we must be protagonists and not simply spectators of our own historical and social destiny within this Nation. Only then would we have gained respect and recognition from others.

It is not enough that we are many, big numbers give not true rights; what is needed and urgent is for us to shape the quality of our contributions.

We must define our existence as Hispanics in this Nation in a meaningful way by integrating the Hispanic Community into the greater American Life and to have social, religious, political, economic, cultural and academic influence in the life of this Nation.

During the celebration of HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH, we allow ourselves the opportunity to reflect and truly understand our present situation and its challenges; and to be on the alert about the best way we can develop a future as a Hispanic Community and be of influence and contribute to the everyday life of the American Union.

Some of the questions we must ask of ourselves are as follows:
  • Why can’t we have a well lead, organized, reasonable and respectful debate on immigration?

  • What relationship (and recognition) is there between our enormous purchasing power (nine hundred billion dollars a year) and our competent and competitive presence in the economy and the commercial life of the United States?

  • Knowing that the future is formed in the years of childhood, what can be done about the high percentage of drop-outs amongst the children and youth of Hispanic origin? At the same time, what can be done to address the many Hispanic youth also plunge into the world of gangs, the use of drugs and alcohol, and other forms of vices and violence in very large numbers?

  • While academic preparedness amongst Hispanics born and raised in our country is on the increase, great numbers of us still have very low standards of living and live in poverty. How can this be addressed?

  • How do we integrate into the working world of this Nation the massive influx of illiterate youth who are in the possession of little formal education in Spanish, let alone English? These youths have arrived from extreme poverty in their home countries and become easy prey to the culture of consumerism and materialism and can easily cast aside their altruistic or transcendent values resulting in truncated ideals. How do we keep our youth from becoming perfect targets for those who traffic in human misery?

  • It is important today to raise the question of where are the Christian values that have inherited. Such as humanism, integral development, solidarity, spirituality.
The work that is in front of us is difficult and requires conscious, responsible and generous participation of all Hispanics. Hispanics need to develop internally the required leadership to thrust ourselves as a voice in the building of the present and future of this Nation.

This effort implies a focus on encouraging our youth to obtain a higher degree of education; to develop skills in organization and respect for one another and the ability to develop a higher degree of communication with the dominant culture, so that together we can make this society more viable and humane.

In a Nation which proclaims freedom, there are still many situations of slavery and licentiousness. In a Nation which claims to be the empire of rights and law, there are many situations of injustice and abuse to the most elemental rights of man. We can still verify many inhumane situations, all within a society which preaches respect for the human being.

We Hispanics must take the lead in the rebirth of a new American society, truly tolerant and fraternal. We should be proactive protagonists in the emergence of a new society which will finally discover the integrated and harmonious values of the whole American Continent.
Such a society that discovers the true value of American Union --that is “Pan-Americanisn” will become a Society that is richer as a result of the diversity of nations, with its diverse ethnicities, histories, languages and cultures but also become united in one territory. We become a society with the same aim to be happy, with the common goal to be prosperous people, more humane and humanized, with fewer borders and divisions and more solidarity.

For the Hispanic community to be able to reach adulthood in this society, it needs to engage in a deep reflection of its history. The celebration of HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH should not pass as a simple “fiesta”; but should be a call for a serious commitment from all Hispanics with the aim of constructing a true, great and noble “hispanicity” in the life and development of this Nation. If we do this, we will no longer be drifting at the mercy of those who do not accept us, who exploit us, or in the worse case scenario, want us to be without identity or completely assimilated to the culture of this great Nation that still needs to discover the beauty of Hispanics.

How great it is that HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH exists! For while there is much we have accomplished there is still much more left to be done!!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

To my Friend Cardinal Sean O’Malley On the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of His Episcopal Ordination

On August 2nd of 1984, Cardinal Sean O’Malley was named Coadjutor Bishop of Saint Thomas in the Virgin Islands.
I am thankful to God and to the Church for the gift of life and for the blessing that the priestly and Episcopal ministry of Cardinal Sean O’Malley is for all. I desire that these words not be a simple and cold chronology and account of biographical facts; but that, above all, they be a
testimony of the life of Sean O’Malley given by a friend who has been blessed with his friendship over the last four decades.

My close relationship with Cardinal O’Malley goes back to the early 70’s, when he had the position of Director of the Hispanic Apostolate in the Washington, D.C. Archdiocese whose pastor at the time was, the well remembered William Cardinal Baum.
Since then the pastoral work of the priest, later on Bishop Sean O’Malley, has never slowed down in his aim to open evangelical spaces of compassion and mercy in the Catholic Church in the United States. This always with the poorest among the poor in mind: The immigrants and, among them, with special care, attention and dedication, the men and women arrived from the Latin-American countries.

His evangelical and pastoral desire was that immigrants –and I repeat— especially Hispanic immigrants, would find in the Catholic Church a mother that would welcome, protect, defend and represent them in North American soil. At the same time, that the Hispanic Catholic immigrants could be recognized and could identify themselves as children and members, in equality of condition, of the Catholic Church which journeys in the United States. Father Sean O’Malley gave his best efforts founding the Hispanic Catholic Center in Washington, D.C., with its Headquarters in an ancient building where I remember his intervention organizing and trying to secure the basic services and better living conditions for the residents, who in its majority were very poor immigrants.

With this same spirit, authentically missionary and evangelical, I remember Father O’Malley coming closer to the domestic workers --most of them from Central-America— who worked in the accredited embassies before the White House and the OAS in Washington; or worked in the most diverse national and international organizations established in the city. He would come near to assist them and accompany them in the promotion and attainment of human dignity as they found their proper places in society as worthy laborers.

The living conditions of those domestic workers: mistreated and subject to conditions and practices of slavery, gave the opportunity to Father Sean O’Malley, with the help of Hispanic nuns, to organize and claim the right and needed protection for those women in the face of the exploitation, the abuse, and the injustice of their employers.

These original incursions into the world of the Hispanic immigrants allowed Father O’Malley to discover innumerable situations, conditions, circumstances and realities which, because of its inhumanity were, and still are today, completely incompatible with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Anointed by the spirit of the founder of his religious community, the poverello de Asís; and moved by the same compassion as the one from Nazareth, who is moved to pity by those who live like sheep without a shepherd, Father O’Malley laboured, and still toils today, so that immigrants can know –and be better integrated to-- the lifestyle of the society in the United States and the way in which what we can call its “system” functions.

In an almost anecdotal way, I am trying to underline here two true and prominent characteristics in the life of the man and the Christian Sean O’Malley:
  • His capacity for compassion and mercy which –like the Teacher of Nazareth-- have always moved him to act and resolve the urgent needs of his brothers or sisters in Christ, and
  • His evangelical and Franciscan option to live in poverty and pastoral dedication to the poorest, smaller, marginalized and rejected by society.

It seems to me that these two characteristics --compassion and poverty-- define and sufficiently explain what has been the vital and existential trajectory of this man, this friend, this brother, this priest, and this Bishop for whom we today cheer and give thanks to God for his abundant life.

In order to give direction to the Hispanic immigrants in the process of adaptation and integration to the life and Church in the United States –and in general-- to the North American society, Father Sean O’Malley established in the Washington Archdiocese, a radio program and a written communication tool El Pregonero (The Proclaimer). These foundations, which would later extend to the Virgin Islands, etc. show us the permanent and growing interest of Father O’Malley for the communication media as instruments for Evangelization. He then became the first Archbishop in the United States, who maintains communication with his flock through a personal internet “blog”.

The difficult and agitated situation lived by the peoples of Latin America during the 70’s and 80’s: revolts, coup d’état, revolutions, etc. was followed by the special interest of Father O’Malley who, in his preaching and celebrations with the Hispanics in the Archdiocese of Washington, did not neglect to mention the abuses to the human rights which, at that time, were happening in the southern part of the American continent. This brought mistrust on the side of the Latin American governments and organisms against the person and pastoral work of Father O’Malley.

During these “hot years” in Central America (Sandinista government, civil war in El Salvador, etc.), Father O’Malley travels to Central America and establishes relationships with leaders such as Cardinal Obando y Bravo, in Nicaragua; Rivera y Damas in El Salvador; and Oscar Rodriguez in Honduras, and created a program of Pastoral cooperation with specific churches in Latin America, looking to get more and better attention to the problems and required need for solutions for the immigrants originating in those nations.

Cardinal William Baum is succeeded by the good and unforgettable Cardinal James Hickey who, just as his predecessor, encourages the pastoral and missionary work of Father O’Malley, and recommended him --twenty-five years ago-- for the office of Bishop to the Holy See.
In the year 1974, Father O’Malley takes part in the First Regional Pastoral Encounter of Hispanics for the North East Region of the United States, which is formed by thirty-six Dioceses. During that occasion, and in the presence of Cardinals Baum of Washington, Kroll of Philadelphia, Cooke of New York; Medeiros of Boston, Aponte Martinez of Puerto Rico (invited as an observer) and the Apostolic Delegate of the Holy See Archbishop Jadot, Father O’Malley proposes the creation of a Regional Office for Hispanic Catholics, with its central offices in New York. This Pastoral Center opens its doors in 1976, offices and pastoral center which I founded and directed for more than twenty-five years. Beginning with the above mentioned encounter, Father Sean O’Malley was elected as President of the Board of Directors of the North-East Regional Office, while at the same time, President of the Directors Association for the Diocesan Apostolate to Hispanics in the North-East Region of the United States.

Under the Leadership of Father O’Malley, in his positions in the Hispanic Apostolate, is established a permanent line of cooperation between the different dioceses in Latin America and the Hispanic Apostolate Offices in the North-East. All with an important interchange of agents for evangelization (priests and nuns), programs for intercultural formation, abundant production of materials for the cathequesis, liturgy and the evangelization and missionary work among Hispanics. Also from this time are the creation of the School of Languages with the cooperation of the Diocese of Brooklyn and the publication of the first official lectionary in Spanish for liturgical use in the United States. Also, the first sociological studies on the Hispanic integration to the Church in the United States took effect, directed by Father Joseph Fitzpatrick, S.J., and a national study by Father Roberto Gonzalez, today Archbishop in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

To the pastoral and priestly work of Cardinal O’Malley we must add his virtues and intellectual accomplishments. In this area, allow me to point out his doctorate in the Portuguese and Spanish languages from the Catholic University of Washington. This doctorate was accomplished through the acquired and profound knowledge of the great works of the most prominent artist in the world of the arts and the literature in Latin America.

From the Christian authenticity of Cardinal O’Malley, of his intellectual and spiritual richness, of his friendship, his generous and fruitful ministerial, and episcopal work, have benefited, been blessed, and can give grateful testimony the recipients of his pastoral work in the Diocese which he, through the years, have headed: Virgin Islands, Fall River, Palm Beach, and Boston.
In essence Cardinal O’Malley is a true Christian humanist, of great intellect and a great love for the Church. A definitive characteristic of the Cardinal is his great love and loyalty for his friends, among whom I consider myself grateful and blessed.

Ad multos annos Cardinal O’Malley!! May God continue blessing us with the certainty of your friendship, with the joy of your presence, with the generosity of your humanity, with the light of your wisdom, and the mercy and presence of God in our midst, manifested in your Priesthood!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Through Various Paths…

This June 29, 2009, with the celebration of the solemnity of the Apostles Peter and Paul, ends the named PAULINE YEAR, called for by Pope Benedict XVI. Its aim was to deepen our knowledge of the life and works of the man, the convert, the Christian, the theologian and the writer, the missionary Saul/Paul of Tarsus.

Christians owe an immense gratitude to the life and works of these two pillars of Christianity who illumined with their being and example the first dawn of the Church; and who marked, with their style and vision, the diverse but always Christian work of evangelization. Those were the first paths where the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ would follow, starting in Jerusalem and making it to all the ends of the earth.

PAUL, in his insistence to tell the world about the Good News of the Gospel which marked his own life as a saving happening, opens the first doors to the work of evangelization in the known world, and for that is more than worthy to receive the title of Apostle to the Gentiles. In contrast with Peter, Paul brings out the Christian experience from its regular Jewish vetero-testamentary mold, and dedicates himself to the adventure of making known the Good News, which for his own life, was the happening of the coming of the Christ.

If something is clear and evident in the life, preaching, writings and journeys of Paul, it is his deep experience of the absolute gratuitousness of faith. According to Paul, it is Christ who takes the initiative of making the encounter and the new Christian religious experience completely “free.” That is why all reflection about faith, in the preaching and writings of Paul, is of personal nature, experiential, free and for the salvation/happiness of all men. This is in contrast to what later (and up to this day) were and are certain types of theology, excessively rational and ethereal.

In our day, and especially in our social and cultural context, it is very meaningful what could be called the “Pauline multi-culturalism”; in other words, the capacity which Paul had to know well, to live, and to reconcile with the prevailing and preponderant cultures of his day: the Semitic or Jewish, the veterotestamentary, the Hellenistic and the roman cultures. This capacity is evident and best shown in his preaching and in his writings, but most of all in his apostolic and missionary fervor.

Paul understood well that the point of the “catholicity” or “universality” of the Church indeed includes the real possibility that all men and women, recognizing each other as brothers and sisters --children of the same Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ—will construct the world as a single table around the only Bread of Life, who is Christ.

This catholicity/universality of the Church, because of its nature, doesn’t know of discriminations, of differences, of stratifications, of frontiers, of barriers, of color, of lifestyles, or of social levels or conditions etc. Today, this catholicity is of outmost importance for the Catholic Church itself, in relation to other Christian churches and in relation to the culture of the United States itself, where so many men and women –for the betterment of the Nation— come seeking better living conditions while originating in the four corners of the earth.

Therefore, this note on catholicity/universality, essential for the Christian life when lived according to Peter’s or Paul’s ideals contains, in itself, the seed and the fruits of an authentic ecumenism which fulfills the wish of Christ himself: That all be as one.”

PETER, on the other hand, head of the Ecclesial Community, starting during those days of fishing and walking the roads of Galilee with Jesus and the other eleven, was ahead in announcing the life transforming act of the first Christians through confessing the crucified as living and resurrected. He is the head of the first Christian communities, as we can see in the neotestamentary testimonies; and he teaches us –among other things—that the responsibility and authority of the heads of the Christian communities are directly related with their capacity of: recognizing their own sin, sincerely repenting, authentic conversion, true love, and the power gotten through service and complete surrender to Christ and his Gospel, up to giving their own lives for their communities.

The Eucharistic Preface in the Solemnity in which we give tribute to the memory and sanctity of Peter and Paul, in fact, sings well to the unity in the diversity which should compose the Church of Jesus Christ:

“Peter, the first in confessing the faith,
Paul, the distinguished teacher who interpret it,
Peter, founder of the primitive Church with the rest of Israel,
Paul, who extended it to all peoples.
Through different paths
both put together the only Church of Christ
and to both, who were crowned by martyrdom
your people celebrate today with the same veneration.”

Today we can say that the work and lives of PETER AND PAUL summarize well the promise, the yearning for renovation and the recovery of the authentic being, vision and mission of the Church of Jesus Christ as expressed in the Ecumenical Council Vatican II: “That the Church be evangelical inside and prophetic to the outside, that is to the world.”

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Our Joy, Our Hope!

Two thousand years ago, the first Christians, a group of men and women who followed and accompanied Jesus of Nazareth throughout his public ministry, happily confessed that the Crucified, “the one killed by hanging him on a cross,” had changed their lives. He had taken them out of an old human condition and transformed them into new men and women: with new mentality, a new way of being and acting in the world. From that point on they believed, confessed, proclaimed and celebrated that Jesus was alive; that the Christ was resurrected; that the last word from God “the Father” about his Son’s life was not death; that the resurrection of Jesus meant triumph of life over death, triumph of good over the manifestation and experience of evil in the world. These facts bring to human history the view of a new horizon and a possibility to see the hope that does not die.

Transformed by the once dead whom they now confess is alive, they can so confess precisely because of the change which he brought to their lives. The first Christians go out to the world to share and to preach with words and actions the good news of the Resurrection. At the same time they consign in writing their confessions of faith, together with historical facts which occurred in their small, new, fraternal and Eucharistic community of believers.

All this shows that the Resurrection is, more than a doctrinal body, the foundation of Christianity. It is a new life experience of transformed life, abundant life; and a manifestation against evil, sin and death. The resurrection which we celebrate is a conviction which is manifested and sustained with a new lifestyle. Through it, Christians devote themselves and hope for the construction of a better world; that is to say, a more divine world in its profound humanity.

Through Christ’s Resurrection, Christiany as well as each Christian, rises to propose a more equitable world: more just, more solidarious, more visible, more fraternal, more human. They would be against all manifestation of evil, against all inhuman and dehumanizing experiences, against all aggression to human and humanity, against anything which damages the image and likeness of God in his creatures.

The Resurrection, therefore, is a confession of faith. It is the liturgical feast, but --above all-- it is the personal and ecclesial commitment to be in and for the world daily; a space/time of hope among hopelessness; a sign of joy among sadness; a space of mercy among so many forms of selfishness, division and violence; an opportunity for peace in the middle of war, pain and death. This is the evangelistic task of the Church. In it resides the reason to be and to exist of the Christian Community, and gives it its identity and its mission in the world.

Never before has it been more opportune, never more convenient, but also never more compromising to have the celebration of the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ --our celebration with him and in him-- in a world in crisis, in a society urged with men and with new and transformed structures. Never before has there been the present urgency to live and to share what it means to confess that Christ lives!

“Easter” (Greek: Pascha) comes from the Hebrew word which means “to pass”: “to pass” through the Red Sea, “to pass” from death to life, from sin to grace, from life without Christ to a life in Him; from hate to love, from indifference to a solidary commitment; from a world without God to a world constructed for humanization which is deification

May these days of “Passover” celebration mean the renovation of our most important Christian commitment in a personal and ecclesial manner: to be (for a world in crisis) a sign of the new and abundant life which Christ offers to us. Happy Easter! Blessed Pascha!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

HOLY WEEK “He who gives his life . . .”

Holy Week is the most important week for Christians. In it, especially in the “Paschal Triduum”, Christians celebrate and commemorate in synthesis the happenings in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. Those three days are the pillars in which our Christian faith is founded: his passion, his death and his resurrection. As the Apostle Paul says: “If Christ wasn’t raised to life, our message is worthless, and so is our faith.” (1 Co. 15.14)

The portal to Holy Week is Palm Sunday: the commemoration of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. The dramatic reading of the passion and death of Jesus becomes a foretaste of the days we celebrate after the “Paschal Triduum.” The passion, the conviction of an innocent and his death endorse a lifestyle that He himself lives and preaches as a synonym of happiness --to give one’s live for the ones we love without thinking of ourselves, because: “If you try to save your life, you will loose it. But if you give it up for the Gospel, you will surely find it.” The resurrection, through which God-Father validates all in the life and work of Jesus of Nazareth as “the way, the truth and the life” is what God wants and suggests, in Jesus, for every man and woman of goodwill.

All of Jesus’ life, especially in the Catholic liturgy of Holy Week, is presented as a model of humaneness, as the first vocation to which should aspire all who recognize themselves as creatures and children of God-Father in Jesus Christ; since “the mystery which is man becomes clear in the word made flesh: Jesus Christ”. (GS22)

Therefore, today as yesterday, the hope, the pain, the sufferings and the evil which all humans experience in the daily task of being man or woman, become clear --especially during Holy Week and specifically on Holy Thursday and Holy Friday-- through the pain and suffering of the one from Nazareth who, confidently, puts his life and destiny in the hands of the Father (“…not my will, but thine be done”). At the same time the Paschal Vigil lightens our thirst for infinitude, our hope, our longing for the transcendental, our dreams for a full life, our projections of the future which does not end in the here and now of temporal history.

Because the Resurrection --a confession of faith about the triumph of life over death in Jesus-- is a confession that in the final and definitive destiny of man’s life, is victorious over death, hope triumphs over hopelessness, and the kindness and mercy of God triumphs over evil. This confession of faith urges and commits us to build through our acts and our words, and through our attitudes and behavior an abundant life in the here and now of our existence.

Holy Week depicts, like no other liturgical period, the paradox and mystery of human life in the specific life of Jesus of Nazareth; and through it the paradox of the Christian mystery –which is power from weakness and salvation from the insanity of the wooden cross. Because we, as Paul says, preach of Christ crucified, which is a scandal for the world, but is for us “power and strength.”

May we, from this Holy Week, (while commemorating what Jesus went through and what happened to him two thousand years ago), draw power and strength to lighten up our personal and communitarian story; and open our hopes to the celebration of the liturgical Pascua and the final Pascua which we await and are constructing in the now but not yet of our present story.

Monday, March 30, 2009

So that the Fresh Air of the Gospel Come In . . .

This year we commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the incredible convocation made by Pope John XXIII for the celebration of the Ecumenical Council in the Catholic Church, which is known as “Vatican II.” During the twenty centuries of its existence, the Catholic Church has only held twenty plus Councils. The last one, the Ecumenical Council Vatican II, was called for with a very clear purpose: to motivate and bring to conscience an “up-dating” (aggiornamiento) of the Church in the World. The outcome was the renewed work which such purpose required of the being, of the purpose and of the mission of the Church. In other words, it motivated a renewed lifestyle for all of God’s people (hierarchy and laity), and a change in liturgy and in the pastoral and evangelistic work of the Church in the world.

This purpose implied a serious and profound self-examination of the faithfulness and indefectibility of the Church to the Gospel and its Founder; a sincere repentance when facing the past mistakes; and the need for the abandonment of old practices and models –practices and models which are more in accord with the “perfect societies” of the World than with the Community of believers in Christ. Beyond all that, it also implied a sincere wish for conversion and a spiritual and material renovation by God’s people, who go to all four corners of the world, and all levels of the structures which make up the ecclesiastic Catholic Institution in the world.

We do not ignore that during twenty centuries of history and of the Catholic Institution, the Church has been exposed to the contamination which entails a service to the world ideologies and philosophies more than to the Gospel of Jesus of Nazareth. To serve more the money than God; more the Old than the New Testament; more the Canon than the Gospel principles; and more the power and pomp of the world than the needs of the poor to whose service the Church is privileged and particularly destined to serve. Therefore, the Second Vatican Council represented, in its moment, a unique opportunity for the Church to adapt itself to the new era, to the new urgencies, to the new challenges which today’s world presents for its work of evangelization.

From the first day of its announcement (January 25, 1959) until the day of its closing (December 8, 1965), Vatican II proved to be the most important event of the Church in its 450 years of history. The majority of the previous Councils caused ruptures and divisions within the Church. This was the only Council which, without provoking division or serious dissentions (except for the small group of lefevristas who rejected the innovative proposals of the Council; and, on the other hand, the representatives of intellectual currents who looked for an acceleration of the radical teachings and doctrinal interpretations of Vatican II) motivated and started great and important transformations within the Church itself, in true consonance with the contemporary world. The Second Vatican Council, without harming the established basis of the faith, and in historical continuity with the Teachings of the Church --which are based in the Holy Scriptures and in Church Tradition-- recovered important themes that had been put aside during the last centuries, themes such as: the collegiality of the Bishops, the priesthood of all who have been baptized, the theology of the local church, and the centrality and importance of the Holy Scriptures and the Eucharist in what the Church is and does.

The Second Vatican Council distanced itself from the dogmatic methods and language of other Ecumenical Councils --like the Council of Trent and the First Vatican Council--and abstained from pronouncing condemnation. It was all the result of the renovation movements which took place in the 20th Century in the fields of biblical study, patristic understanding, medieval studies, liturgical theology, and ecumenical conversations. Besides that, Vatican II was the result of the meeting and dialog of new philosophical and scientific trends; of the restating of new relations between the Church and the world; and of the new role which the laity is to play in the work of evangelization of the Church.

Like all realities of the World and of the Church, the changes and renovations proposed by the Second Vatican Council also touched the Hispanic Catholic World in the United States. Because of it, in 1972, the Hispanic Catholics met and called for the First National Pastoral Encounter; with the Second taking place in 1977 and a Third Encounter in 1985 --all in Washington D.C. These encounters were praiseworthy since they seeked to find the communion, the participation and the integration of the Spanish speaking community to the Catholic Church in the United States.
The Second Vatican Council meant a new Pentecost for the Church and, in the last 50 years, the Catholic Church has experienced incredible changes within the community of believers, and in the historical course of the world. Without doubt, the result of the Council, as much in the hierarchy as in the laity, was the unique experience of enrichment and vitality in the story of Catholicism.

Today’s Pontificate of Benedict XVI directs Catholicism to re-discover a personal and new inner life through closeness to the Scriptures; and to seek a dialog and coming together with the other Churches in the Christian world. Nevertheless, in this fifty year commemoration it would be good to ask ourselves if the Church of today (which includes all of us) continues to be faithful to the renewing spirit of the “good” Pope John XXIII, when he called for Vatican II. In other words, are we being faithful to the responsibility which we have, as a Church, to respond and make known, at all times and circumstance, the urgencies of mankind and of the world, in the light of the Gospel, without getting anchored in the assurance and comfort which the known past gives? Moreover, we should ask ourselves if today’s Church continues to have its doors and windows open so that through them, and for the benefit of all humanity, the always new and fresh air of the Gospel of Jesus Christ can circulate.

“Woe is me if I do not preach the Gospel!”

Saul (Hebrew name), Paul (Roman family name) are the names by which we know the great apostle and foundation of the Catholicity. The little we know about Paul of Tarsus comes to us through two sources: his own letters, and the book of Acts of the Apostles. The exact date of his birth is not known but --according to some of the most important Pauline theologians, like Joseph A. Fitzmyer-- it is reasonable to place his birth in the first decade of the Christian era.

Paul was born in the Hellenistic city of Tarsus and, from birth, enjoyed the privileges of a Roman citizen. Because of this, we can say that in his mind all three cultures of the time fit brilliantly: the Semitic-Jewish of his parents (Hebrew, Jewish, Pharisee); the Hellenistic (dominant culture); and the Roman (the culture of the Empire in which the apostle lived). This triple vision of the world, this triple cultural dimension constantly shows in his writings; and allows the apostle great versatility to adapt himself to each distinct audience, to preach adequately, and to try to reach all people of the known world by preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ.

This cosmopolitan personality, this cultural versatility in Paul explains more than enough the title which we give him with honor: “The Apostle to the Gentiles.” Thanks to this cultural opening in his character, and this “globalized” vision of the world, Paul would become the most important missionary and preacher in the beginnings of the Church. Also, thanks to his work of evangelization we can say, without doubt, that the Good News of Jesus Christ came out of the local roads and paths of Galilee to reach, up until today, every man and woman of good will born in the four corners of the earth.

What pushed Paul to unconditionally dedicate himself to this mission from the moment of his conversion until the end of his life? What was the motor to his apostolic work? What gave him “strength” and motivation? The certainty of having found in the Gospel the happiness that every man and woman seeks and longs for, and --in its Theology-- the person of Jesus Christ himself. From the moment when he had that personal encounter with Jesus, whom he persecuted by persecuting the Christians, a fact told by the symbolism used in biblical texts, Paul dedicated himself completely to tell that marvelous works were done in him by Christ. Paul understood these marvelous “works” as part of the work of the “Crucified Christ”: to bring salvation to mankind. A salvation/happiness which, according to him, will reach all throughout the world without distinction of race, condition, nationality, age, etc.

Therefore, the fundamental affirmation of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is born in Paul from an indescribable and very personal experience: The crucified Christ changed his life, and if he changed his life sheathing it with a new mentality, it is because the Crucified “Lives”! This confession by Paul of his fundamental faith in the “gospel” is not born from intellectual works, but from a daily experience guaranteed and reconfirmed by the testimony of the first believers; those first Christians (men and women, martyrs of the first hours of Christianity) whom Paul vehemently persecuted, impelled and in perfect alignment with the enthusiasm of his previous pharisaic convictions.

Because, if anything is clear in Paul’s personality, it is his authenticity: first, he lived authentically as the “most” Pharisee of all Pharisees; and –after his encounter with Christ-- he lived authentically as a “Christian.”

Many aspects of Paul’s life need to be rescued so that our present historical and ecclesial perspective can be enlightened. Among others:

· His cosmopolitan vision of man and of the world; his openness and embrace of all cultures and all men and women recognizing them as brothers and sisters in Christ (this completely opposite to the “petrine” vision which pretended to imprison the Gospel within the boarders of Israel); and even today, his vision goes against the xenophobic, discriminatory, and divisionist vision which, disguised by “globalism”, allows the accumulation of riches in the hands of a few while the price is payed by marginalization, impoverishment and misery of a great majority.

· His missionary fervor for the work of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

· His great generosity in the work of saving/making all peoples happy with the Good News of
Jesus Christ, even with great personal sacrifices (persecution and imprisonment not told).

· His Christian beliefs came from experience not from notion.

· His preaching and later theological reflections (put into writing in his letters) come out of the daily experiences of feeling himself loved/happy, thanks to the daily intervention of the “Crucified/Resurrected” in his life.

· To have been able to establish among the biblical theological terms (vetero and neo testamentary), words to designate God’s saving works such as salvation, redemption, expiation, liberation, justification etc. which describe the basic wish of all people: to be happy in Christ. Because for Paul, the life-in-Christ has one clear function: The “Christ-happening” was to make us happy, in other words, to save us, to give us eternal life, abundant life; that life which Paul himself found on the road to Damascus.

May these lines encourage us to know and to imitate the Apostle Paul, in a more authentic manner, for the mission which we all have as baptized believers: to live and to preach with words and actions, the Gospel of Jesus Christ which is (as it was for Paul) our power, our strength, our salvation; our happiness, our eternal life, and the plenitude of our existence and of human history.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

2009: but let it be “new”

2009: It is a “new” year . . . a “new” beginning. We are all refreshed and renewed by the beginning of a new year. A new year means that we have a possibility to forget and to start anew; to erase and to renew; to forget, to forgive and to find again the way . . . The beginning of a new year places us at a juncture where we can learn from the past and project to a better future.

However, the promise of a better future does not stop us from recognizing our present reality, which is marked by a profound crisis. This crisis is manifested in all types of conflicts of a personal nature: family, labor, economic, political, social, cultural, religious, etc.

The lives of men and women, seeming senseless, lacking direction and purpose is reflected in the high index of suicides, drug consumption, alcoholism…families destroyed by all types of circumstances; and a deep economic crisis which no one seems to be responsible for, while the poorest among the poor are the most affected. There seems to be two nations at war in one, with bad relations in the rest of the world, and a conflicting coexistence among the groups that form the North-American society. . .etc. All these circumstances require that a New Year for this Nation be truly new and novel.

To preside over this urgent NEW time in the Unites States –while facing the immediate past and present failures— the Senator for Illinois, Mr. Barack Hussein Obama was elected to lead the government of this great nation.

The election of the first president of African-American descent is, in itself, a historical milestone for this nation. It is even more of a milestone if we keep in mind that this election took place in a society which still has traces of discrimination and racial segregation, where minorities still live as second class citizens.

Even when we Christians have placed our hope in God as revealed in His Son Our Lord Jesus Christ, the God of Abundant Life, the earthly nations have placed their hopes in the Leaders of their nations for the sound and correct handling of their governments.

So, for the immediate future of the North-American society, we have our hopes and trust placed in the government that, starting on January 20th, President-elect Barack H. Obama will head. In him our hope is placed, so that, according to his promises during the electoral campaign, he will put an end to the irrational, unjust and inhumane wars which not only drain the economy and the social well-being of the nation, but also shed the blood of our young soldiers. We trust that the President, surrounded by his trusted staff will do right in his management of the national and international economy, so that, in the short term, we can go back to the prosperity which this nation has represented for its citizens and for the rest of the world.

Beyond that, we have our trust placed in that the government of Mr. Obama will have a “new” way of handling the immigration issue; that so many immigrants, especially the undocumented Hispanics who live in this nation, will received a more dignified, more solidary, more just and more humane treatment. This is befitting of a population that has given its strength and its best effort to contribute to the greatness of which the entire North-American society boasts to the world.

Also, the Hispanic residents in this Nation, and in all their countries of origin, hope that the new government improves and forms better international relations with the Latin American Countries. This should be expected among nations that share the same continent and the same destiny calling out to humanity: to make of the world a more livable, more fraternal and therefore, more humane place.

At the initiation of this new year let us leave behind the bad news; and in solidarity let us begin to work in the creation of good news. All this with the certainty that, if the small or big crisis which at the present moment affects us, is caused by a crisis in humanity, it is worth saying that a deep spiritual crisis for humanity would create a process of “humanizing” growth of the inner soul of each human being; and that the beginning of new and more honest relationship among men and nations will afford us a new year and a better future.

The happiness we feel for the new year and the hopes we place on a new Government have their foundation in the Christian faith which invites us always to renew ourselves, to leave behind the old man and to re-construct in each one of us the new man who is Christ himself, made in the image and likeness of the Father.

This New Year will be new in the same measure that all: those who participate directly in the mission of government, as well as the citizens, can construct with our behavior, words, attitudes and works, the newness that we need so much. Let us toast, then, for a new year, a new society, a new Government for the creation of a better Nation and a new world. I wish that all of you have, together with your loved ones, a new, a happy and a blessed 2009.