"A renewal of joy is essential for a deepening of Catholic vitality and confidence at this moment.”
The Convocation of Catholic Leaders opened yesterday in Orlando with a Mass celebrated by Timothy Cardinal Dolan, the archbishop of New York. Joined by bishops and priests from around the country, the cardinal led nearly 3,000 convocation participants in praying for the convocation’s success. He exhorted the participants to use the weekend as a time to “acknowledge, welcome, and get to know Jesus.”
In his homily, Cardinal Dolan focused on the chosen theme of the convocation—the joy of the gospel. He explained that joy lies at the heart of Christian mission, for Jesus himself gives joy to the believer as he sends the believer out to preach. By Christ’s design, then, joy becomes a sign of Christian mission. Mary was the first manifest this mystery, the cardinal explained, as in haste and joy she went to visit her cousin Elizabeth after the annunciation.
To underscore the connection between joy and mission, Cardinal Dolan recalled the teaching of Pope Francis in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel). He explained that, for the pope, “discipleship united for mission will be characterized and effective only with joy.” Then pointing to the other bishops present, the cardinal continued: “We, your pastors, believe with Pope Francis that a renewal of joy is essential for a deepening of Catholic vitality and confidence at this moment.”
As illustrations of the power of joy, Cardinal Dolan highlighted the examples of Jacques Maritain, Leon Bloy, and St. Junipero Sera, on whose feast yesterday’s Mass took place. In pointing to Maritain, Dolan recalled how the French philosopher’s conversion was sparked in part through the joyful witness of a Christian family, “a family”—Maritain remembered—“who smiled.” Dolan noted that it was Bloy’s family whose smiles inspired Maritain. Bloy himself know the power of Christian joy, calling it “the infallible sign of God’s presence.” Finally, Dolan recalled the California missions established by St. Junipero, which were renowned as places not only of evangelization, security, and education but also of laughing, dancing, and feasting.
Cardinal Dolan defined Christian joy as follows: “Joy isn’t pleasure; it’s not giddiness; it isn’t syrupy superficial feel-good-ism. Joy, St. Paul teaches, is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, a gift of God. St. Thomas Aquinas adds that joy flows from hope, because if we trust that all is in God’s hands—that everything works for the good of those who believe—then no trial, no adversity, no setback (even though God knows we’ve got a bumper crop of all of them) can crush us.”
At the beginning of the Mass, Bishop John Noonan of Orlando welcomed everyone to the Sunshine State, and the papal nuncio Archbishop Christophe Pierre read greetings to the convocation participants from the Holy See. Music for the liturgy was provided under the direction of Fr. Lukasz Misko, O.P., and Christopher Mueller. The choir from St. Peter Claver Church in Tampa also sang before and during the Mass.
To round out the first day of the convocation, which was largely a day of greeting and prayer, an evening of Marian devotion was led by Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio and Bishop Martin Holley of Memphis. They presided over a Rosary prayed in the many languages represented at the convocation. Tony Melendez, John Andotti, and VaLimar Jansen led the music for the evening devotion.
For more information on the convocation, visit the convocation website. To follow the weekend’s events on social media, use the hashtag #CatholicConvo.