Mexican American Catholic College students and faculty met with Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, MSpS, in Our Lady’s Chapel at Assumption Seminary March 16 for Mass and to hear the archbishop convey his thoughts and feeling on the contents of his recent pastoral letter, Transformed by Hope, Let Us Rebuild Our Tomorrow!
Archbishop Gustavo explained that his first motivation that inspired it deals with the crisis of faith. “It obviously did not originate with COVID, but the pandemic made it more evident. Therefore, it also made it easier to address and to find an opportunity during this time to further our mission to proclaim Christ crucified and risen,” he said. “The crisis of faith leaves a vacuum in the heart that is filled with false gods, which provide a false sense of security. I believe that — at least in part — God allowed all this to happen to shake people’s consciences about their knowledge of Him.”
The archbishop referred to this bewilderment in people’s minds and hearts as the existential crisis. “Worship of false gods leads to a downward spiral of frustration and distress that breeds sin, which creates social issues,” he lamented. “These have been exacerbated during the pandemic and — as usual — those who are already disadvantaged are falling deeper into the vicious cycle of neglect from the rest of society.”
The San Antonio prelate quoted from the Holy Father’s address to the General Assembly of the United Nations: “This crisis is changing our way of life, calling into question our economic, health and social systems, and exposing our human fragility. … We never emerge from a crisis just as we were. We come out either better or worse. This is why, at this critical juncture, it is our duty to rethink the future of our common home and our common project.”
As Christians, we can only face crises with hope, Archbishop Gustavo emphasized, saying that the solution — as we know — is simple: Jesus Christ on the Cross.
Talking about the pandemic on Good Friday, Father Raniero Cantalamessa said: “The cross of Christ has changed the meaning of pain and human suffering… It is no longer punishment, a curse. It was redeemed at its root when the Son of God took it upon himself. What is the surest proof that the drink someone offers you is not poisoned? It is if that person drinks from the same cup before you do. This is what God has done: on the cross he drank, in front of the whole world, the cup of pain down to its dregs. This is how he showed us it is not poisoned, but that there is a pearl at the bottom of it.”
These words of Pope Emeritus Benedict also seem to take on a new meaning during this time: Being a Christian is the result of an “encounter with an event, a person, who gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”
In the pastoral letter, the archbishop offered guidance through the path of discipleship towards a greater hope as a community. “I tried to invite people to have a less arbitrary understanding of the sacraments, the liturgy, prayer and almsgiving, simply because it is in our human condition to subconsciously feel that we can control God. It is a good time to let go of that illusion of control,” he stressed. “I hope for this approach during this time to provide an opportunity for growth in humility. Humility allows for more meaningful encounters and for an enhancement of our trust towards others and God.”
The Missionary of the Holy Spirit listed the signs of present hope represented in the witness of love provided by many people who are behaving as God’s children, brothers and sisters of Jesus: workers, business and civic leaders, immigrants, parents, workers at healthcare facilities; staff at Catholic schools, the Pastoral Center, Catholic Charities, parishes and other agencies of the Church, and so on. He gave examples of simple, thoughtful acts that can be connected back to the catechesis about the means of grace, specifically as a form of acts of self-mortification accepted and practiced with love: wearing a mask, keeping physical distance, staying at home, and adapting well to remote communication and telework.
In Fratelli Tutti, the Holy Father says that “The development of a global community of fraternity based on the practice of social friendship on the part of peoples and nations calls for a better kind of politics, one truly at the service of the common good. Sadly, politics today often takes forms that hinder progress towards a different world.”
Despite the fact that political options are complex moral options that not even we would completely agree about, acknowledged Archbishop Gustavo, he urged listeners to not allow the voting dilemma to become a question about social love. “The only way for the level of our politics to raise is by raising the level of our discussions at the kitchen table, relearning to listen, understand and serve each other; caring about the dignity of every person and the common good.”
Social interaction is the school of virtue, but virtue is the work of the Holy Spirit. Inspired by the writings of Blessed Conchita, foundress of the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit, the archbishop’s religious community, Archbishop Gustavo renewed his call to open the heart to the gifts of the Holy Spirit and to connect the development of virtues, stringing them together all the way to the fruits of the Holy Spirt through the defeat of opposed vices.
He explained that hope is not utopian optimism, but rather enjoying already God’s fulfilling presence in the midst of any circumstances, which in turn actually does bring this world closer to His kingdom beginning in hearts.
In that sense, COVID-19 is already a turning point that is transforming the world into something better. “The uncertainty and death brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic can be an opportunity for humanity to reflect on how to build a better world,” Pope Francis said in a new book.
“The world will never be the same again. But it is precisely within this calamity that we must grasp those signs that can prove to be the cornerstones of reconstruction,” the pope added.
The archbishop closed by saying, “I hope you, yourselves, find consolation, hope and encouragement in the pastoral letter.” The document can be found on the archdiocesan website at: https://www.archsa.org/images/uploads/Pastoral-Oct2020-Eng-Span.pdf.