By Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz
In September of 2015, Pope Francis visited the United States on pilgrimage. At the time, as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I had the privilege to accompany him on most of the visits he made. This included a visit to the office of the United Nations’ Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as Pope Francis was on his way to address the General Assembly of the UN that morning.
I recall that prominent in the large office on the top floor of the skyscraper headquarters was a familiar poster of the famous Norman Rockwell depiction entitled “Do Unto Others.” Also known as “The Golden Rule,” this 1961 “Saturday Evening Post” cover features people of all ages, cultures and religions. It captures the famous words of Jesus, echoed in so many other faiths. Here are Jesus’ words found in the Gospel according to St. Matthew, chapter 7, verse 12:
“Treat others the way you would have them treat you: this sums up the law and the prophets.”
Lent is just two weeks away, and this year we can make the Golden Rule central. Thank you, Catholic Charities of Louisville, for bringing “Be Golden” to the archdiocese. I took part in the launching of “Be Golden” along with Mayor Greg Fischer and representatives from other organizations and faiths displaying the goodness of so many citizens of Louisville. This effort began with Catholic Charities of Dallas, and our executive director, Lisa DeJaco Crutcher, brought the idea back from a national Catholic Charities USA gathering.
“Be Golden” is an adventure limited only by our creativity and openness to God’s grace alive. Resources have been sent to each parish to guide our vision to see the person in our midst with the dignity that each person deserves as a child of God made in His own image and likeness.
“Be Golden” will have us treat that person the way we want others to treat us.
It is so timely. At the press conference, we highlighted the presence of immigrant families in our midst. I recalled that my first work in Catholic Charities in the 1970s as a young priest and social worker was to welcome immigrants from Vietnam. I also recalled that my own grandparents, who came to the United States in the 1880s and 1905 turned first to the Church for help. Wisely, Lisa DeJaco Crutcher mentioned that this welcome crosses over partisan considerations as we seek to reform our immigration system. Instead, the words of Jesus and His grace moves our hearts here and now to seek out and welcome our neighbors.
Last week, I had a chance to highlight this theme with the CRS Rice Bowl luncheon, hosted this year at Assumption High School. Important in our prayer and action is that our efforts to “Be Golden” occur not just with individual efforts but also together — as church.
Our archdiocesan worship office highlighted this reality with the prayer opportunities in the “Journey to Be Gold” resource packet. The Church reminds us that our journey is not merely personal but also communal.
“During Lent penance should not be only internal and individual, but also external and social. The practice of penance should be fostered in ways that are possible in our own times and in different regions, and according to the circumstances of the faithful” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy #110).
Among the nationwide challenges to “Be Golden” are the extreme abortion laws recently passed in New York and debated in Virginia that assault our most vulnerable neighbors, the child in the womb. In December, I was privileged to impart the “Blessing of a Child in the Womb” on mothers and families at a Mass at the Cathedral. To my surprise, when I invited mothers to come forward, about 10 pregnant mothers emerged with their families. This blessing highlights well the gift of a child. As we welcome the birth of a child, being golden calls us to stand with every child in the womb and her mother threatened by so many circumstances. We seek just laws to protect the child in the womb.
As Lent nears, get ready to “Be Golden.” We will journey to be gold best through the care we take with the person in front of us and through our active engagement in advocating for just laws and sound policies to guide how our nation cares for the least of our brothers and sisters.