By Mary DeTurris Poust
At the annual Public Policy Day sponsored by the New York State Catholic Conference in Albany today, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York told Catholics from around the state that "America is at her best" when citizens are willing to "bring the light of their religious faith into the public square."
The archbishop, who is also president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, was principal celebrant of the opening Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. He was joined by his fellow bishops from around the state as well as 1,000 Catholics. Following Mass, the bishops were heading to the Governor's Mansion to meet with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a last minute addition to the schedule after the governor originally said he wouldn't have time for the traditional meeting.
Reflecting on the Gospel reading from Matthew 25 -- "For I was hungry and you gave me food..." -- Archbishop Dolan said that Jesus gives us the questions he's going to ask when we get to the "ultimate final exam," the last judgment. What did we do for the homeless, the hungry, the stranger?
In response to someone who asked him just the day before why Catholics don't seem to have the same "clout" as other lobbyists and special interest groups in Albany and elsewhere, the archbishop said he thinks it is because Catholics are "always on the side of those without a voice."
"In fact, we are often on the side of people who don't even vote -- the unborn baby, children in school, people on death row, immigrants, the homeless, people who may not not have a voice in society," he said. "These people look to us to give them a voice."
On the cusp of Lent, the reflection seemed particularly fitting. As Catholics head into the spiritual desert for the next 40 days, we focus our attention on fasting, prayer and almsgiving, aligning ourselves with those who have less in an attempt to make real the words of the Gospel.