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Bishop Christopher J. Coyne

Bishop Christopher J. Coyne

Thoughts on Vacations, Virtue and 'Playfulness'

I will soon be heading off for a summer vacation. Those of you who follow me on Facebook have seen my posts over the years from Pine Point, Maine, complete with photos of sun and rain, surf and turf, and long walks at the water’s edge. I’m fortunate enough to be able to spend time with a large number of family and friends, to relax and recharge. I always make sure I use all of my vacation days. After all, that’s what they’re there for. And believe it or not, I even think I am being a bit virtuous in this.
 
“What?” you might say, “Taking a vacation is virtuous? Surely, the bishop jests.” Not at all. I am sitting-on-a-beach-chair-reading-a-good-book-drinking-a-frosty-beer serious and I offer the encouragement of the saints themselves for your consideration.
 
St. Augustine in his treatise “On music” wrote, “I pray thee, spare thyself at times: for it becomes a wise man sometimes to relax the high pressure of his attention to work." 
 
St. Thomas Aquinas draws upon the writing of Aristotle and even promotes relaxation as virtuous, “Just as man needs bodily rest for the body's refreshment, because he cannot always be at work - since his power is finite and equal to a certain fixed amount of labor - so too is it with his soul, whose power is also finite and equal to a fixed amount of work.” The remedy St. Thomas offers is the virtue of eutrapelia, the virtue of “playfulness” or “fun,” intended to refresh the person in both body and soul.  Now, Thomas does place some guidelines on this: the “play” must not be immoral or “wicked,” it must be in moderation, and it is intended toward a good end, namely to renew and refresh. But, it really is intended to be fun and playful as well.
 
So, here is my encouragement: Even if you can’t get away to the coast of Maine or the lakeshore or any place at all for a vacation right now, make sure you try and grab some downtime to relax and refresh body and soul and practice the virtue of eutrapelia, so as to be refreshed to go out and take care of all the other duties of life and faith. A good balance between work and play is good for the soul. 
 

Bishop's Mother's Day message

I won’t be going to visit my mother today for Mother’s Day; she still lives in the family home in a suburb of Boston, and I will be on a parish visitation in Vermont. My brothers and sisters along with her grandchildren will spend time with her for Mother’s Day, and I’ll make sure she gets flowers and her regular Sunday phone call from me.

And I will go to see her next weekend.

Most women of her generation stayed at home and raised their family. She had seven children, and at one point we were all under the age of 11. She somehow managed to take care of us, handing us off to my father when he was free from work and other chores. There were a lot of other large, two-parent families in my neighborhood; we had lots of friends and lots of adult eyes keeping track of all of us.

Mother’s Day usually meant handmade cards and some flowers but not too much else – it was too expensive for all nine of us to have brunch or dinner at a restaurant.

If the weather was nice enough, it was Dad at the grill.

Such was Mother’s Day then.

Things are different now, not so much in the love and care that mothers give their children but more in the circumstances and culture of the family. There are a lot more “blended” families (children of divorced and remarried parents), more unmarried parents with children, more mothers who work a job or two outside the home, more grandparents raising their grandchildren and more single parents – mainly women. These new realities often lead to unintended difficulties and outcomes for children and parents. Even though most are doing the best they can, personal and familial circumstances are often difficult.

Such is Mothers’ Day now.

Though times have changed, what remains the same is a mother's enduring connection with her children. And as women take on not necessarily more responsibilities -- just different ones -- they continue to be mothers, a role that they alone can hold, a role worth celebrating.

So as I offer a prayer in thanksgiving for the gift that my mother has been to me and my family, I offer a prayer of intercession for all our mothers, grandmothers and surrogates that in this time and culture, they may love their children with a mother’s heart and receive the help and support that they need from all of us.

Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us.
 

Easter message from Bishop Coyne

"Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?" (John 20:15)

Early in the morning of the third day after Jesus was crucified and died, his disciples had returned to the tomb where he had been laid to finish the burial rites, cleansing and anointing his body. When they arrived, they found the tomb empty and Jesus’ body missing. Distraught, they began their search but they found they were not alone. In John’s Gospel, Mary Magdalene meets two angels, quickly turns away and sees a man standing in the garden, someone she does not recognize at first — Jesus. “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” He then speaks her name, “Mary.” Now she knows who he is and she rushes and embraces him. Suddenly her grief, her loss, her fear is lost in amazement as she meets her Lord and friend, Jesus, standing alive once more.

How often in our lives when we face moments of grief, of loss, and of confusion do we find ourselves just as adrift as the early disciples on that Easter morning? When a loved one dies, we can wander through the burial rites, feeling numb or overwhelmed, doing what needs to be done as we lay them to rest. But, we can also stand in the hope of the resurrection, occasioned by the truth of the empty tomb, as a person of faith. And there is the rub — a person of faith. For if we are going to seek Jesus in our moments of need and truly possess the hope of salvation, we need to know Jesus as our friend and brother, true God and true man. My encouragement to all of us on this Easter morning is that we all seek to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this life so that we may know Him perfectly in the next. It is a call to mission:

"It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; He is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is He who provoked you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is He who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is He who reads in your heart your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle.

It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be ground down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal" (St. John Paul II).
 

Bishop's statement on St. Albans shooting

On Thursday, Feb. 23, a shooting took place in the parking lot of Holy Angels Church in St. Albans. The victim remains in critical condition in a hospital, and the police have arrested at least one suspect. According to one report, the incident was connected to a drug deal gone bad. The fact that the crime occurred in one of our parking lots appears to be a coincidence.
 
Obviously, the illegal use of drugs as well as any act of violence against any person is condemned by Catholic teaching. Illegal use of drugs is never a good choice. Violent acts, whether they take place in a church parking lot or anywhere else, are rightly to be condemned.
 
Nevertheless, the shooting did take place on church property in a busy and dense neighborhood. People were out walking in the good weather. Children were making their way home from school. Normal parish and Vermont Catholic Charities business was taking place in the parish center when the six shots were fired. Luckily, none of them was struck by a bullet. But anyone in the area has been “struck” by violence, from those who tried to help and comfort the shooting victim, to the parents of the children on the street, to the neighbors whose quiet afternoon was suddenly punctuated by the sound of gunfire. For all of them, their neighborhood does not seem quite as safe as it once did.
 
I ask the Catholic community to stand resolutely against gun violence and illegal drug use and to continue to support our law enforcement officials in carrying out their work as they serve the common good. I urge us all to be watchful in our neighborhoods and families for the signs of illegal drugs while at the same time being supportive of families who are dealing with addiction as well as those who are recovering from addiction.
 
Finally, I offer my prayers for all whose lives have been impacted by the shooting, for the victim himself and for his recovery, yes, but also the other victims -- the neighbors, the workers, the parish staff, for all whose quiet day suddenly became one of turmoil and fear.
 
Mary, Queen of Angels, pray for us. 
 
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