The Flame: November/December 2017
Dear Readers of The Flame,
From October 1-6 I led a long planned pilgrimage called
Saints and Shrines of America. I conceived this
pilgrimage 18 months ago as our nation approached
the 2016 elections. I desired to help others become
more acquainted with the Catholic heritage of our
nation and to pray for our upcoming elections.
Though things did not work out for 2016, I was able to
pull things together enough to lead a small cadre of 16
tireless pilgrims through five states and Washington DC
to visit a variety of Catholic shrines. I am grateful for the
help of Footprint Tours and the office staff of my own
parish for helping with the details of this trip.
After a Sunday afternoon tour of Fallingwater, Frank
Lloyd Wright’s architectural wonder in Pennsylvania,
our touring of Catholic sites began in earnest on
Monday morning. We visited Emmitsburg, Maryland
where St. Elizabeth Seton established the Sisters of
Charity of St. Joseph and founded the first Catholic
school in the United States. That afternoon we pressed
on to Washington DC where we visited the National
Shrine of St. John Paul II and the Basilica of the
Tuesday we toured the Philadelphia Independence Hall
and the Liberty Bell, as well as the shrines for St. John
Neumann and St. Katharine Drexel. On Wednesday we
were in New York City for the Shrine of St. Frances
Xavier Cabrini and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Two
“Venerables” are currently buried under the altar of St.
Patrick’s: Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen and Pierre
Toussaint, a Catholic layman who came as a slave to
New York and, after gaining his freedom, helped the
poor of the city.
On Thursday we travelled across New York State
visiting the North American Martyrs Shrine where St.
Isaac Jogues, and laymen Rene Goupil and John
LaLande met their martyrdom. It is also the birthplace
of St. Kateri Tekakwitha. We then stopped at the shrine
to St. Marianne Cope in Syracuse (a collaborator with
St. Damian of Molokai who cared for lepers in the late
1800’s) and then pressed on to Our Lady of Victory
Basilica in Lackawanna, New York where the Ven. Fr.
Nelson Baker is buried. We ended on Friday by visiting
St. Mary of the Cataract Church in Niagara Falls, the
National Our Lady of Fatima Shrine and Niagara Falls.
One of our more surprising and providential stops was to
St. Mary of the Cataract Church. (By the way, the word,
Cataract, can mean either a waterfall or an eye disease.
The eye disease results in vision as if one were looking
through a waterfall.) It was founded by St. John Neumann
in 1836 and has a shrine dedicated to him. Along the top
of its main aisle were medallion mosaics of: Sts.
Elizabeth Seton, Frances Xavier Cabrini, Katharine
Drexel, Kateri Tekawitha, John de Brebuef (a North
American Martyr), Ven. Fr. Nelson Baker and Ven. Pierre
Toussaint. In other words, this one church summed up
most of our trip!
This trip truly inspired faith. These saints shed their blood
for Christ, suffered ridicule, labored tirelessly, practiced
the corporal and spiritual works of mercy and gave away
fortunes. They lived for Christ and his Church with
abandon. They are our American family of faith
summoning us to live our faith in a full manner.
Each of these spiritual giants shaped the landscape of
the Catholic Church in the United States. In varied and
different ways they met the challenges of their times in
the power of the Holy Spirit. If I were to pick one unifying
characteristic, I would have to say that each of them had
great faith. The mountain like challenges each faced was
met with a “faith working through love” that did the
seemingly impossible, served people of their time and
proclaimed Jesus Christ.
As we entered this holiday season, with its two pivots of
Thanksgiving and Christmas, let us pray to be Christ’s
faith-filled witnesses to all the people we will encounter.
As Catholics in America we have much to be grateful for.
Let us give thanks. We can yet freely live for and
proclaim Jesus Christ. Let us rejoice as we celebrate his
birth and gladly share him by word, deed and charism
Finally, I want to thank each of you for your support of
Catholic Renewal Ministries in this Jubilee Year of the
charismatic renewal. Pray that our work will elevate the
Church in the Diocese of Cleveland to an ever greater
faith in the power and gifts of the Holy Spirit in 2018.
Sincerely in Christ,
Fr. Bob Franco
Bishop’s Delegate to Catholic Renewal Ministries