Now is the time to remember your story

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila

When one is close to the events of history, it can be hard to have an objective perspective on their significance, but it does seem that recent events place us at an inflection point for our country and the Church in America, which makes it an important moment to remember our story.

For that reason, I am dedicating three issues of the Denver Catholic and two of El Pueblo Catolico to retelling the story of how we got here, the story of who we are and who we are called to be. This reminder of our story and our identity is crucial for us to navigate the challenges that will confront us. 

I begin this effort by looking at how God created us and why the world is so troubled and broken.

We all know the Creation story of God calling forth the earth, the moon and sun, the plants, and animals, and finally, his creation of Adam and Eve as his greatest masterpiece. But do we remember that God created us out of love, not need, or that we are made to be in communion with each other and God himself? Even more astonishing, do we remember that God made us with eternal souls and desires for us to become like him in glory in Heaven?

These facts can seem distant and abstract from our daily lives that don’t yet partake in that glory and experience of all-encompassing love. Thankfully, we only need to look at the many wonders that fill our planet to get a glimpse of God’s power, creativity and goodness. To look at the beauty of a sunset, the intricacy of the smallest microscopic creature, or to stand on top of a 14,000-foot mountain and gaze at all that surrounds leads us to appreciate God’s beauty, the intricacy of his creation and fills us with wonder. And if you look up to the sky, you can see some of the 70 sextillion stars in the universe that he made. To grasp the magnitude of that number, you can think of the fact that it’s 10 times more than the number of grains of sand on Earth’s deserts and beaches. Think of it – that is only counting the stars, not any planets orbiting those stars. Indeed, our God is awesome and all-powerful, and just like he made the universe, he made YOU.

This naturally begs the question, “If God is so powerful, then why is the world so messed up?” The short answer is that God gave us and the angels free will so that our love for him and the rest of Creation would be genuine, something we chose, mirroring God’s own love. Part of being made in his image and likeness is to love, beginning with receiving his unconditional love for us. The risk of genuinely free love, though, is that it can be corrupted and doubted. And that is what happened with Satan when he tempted Adam and Eve to distrust God’s goodness, and this has been passed on to us.

The events of 2020 should be convincing enough evidence for anyone questioning the effects of this break from God that sin and its effects are real. By believing the lie that we can be happy and better off apart from God, we allow ourselves to become enslaved to our sins. We become tyrants. If you think about it, each appetite and desire claims increasing amounts of control over our lives as we indulge it. If we are honest, we realize that in the end, we are outgunned. None of us can escape the ultimate consequence of man’s separation from God: death. This is our story, but it is not the end of the story.

Thankfully, God’s love for us did not end with the original fall from grace or our ongoing failures to love as he does. As we just celebrated at Christmas, Jesus came in the unassuming form of a child to rescue us. He came, as the early Church Fathers said, to do battle against sin, death and Satan. 

In the next edition of the Denver Catholic magazine and El Pueblo Catolico, we will dive deeper into Jesus’ mission and remember how he rescues us. 

Join me for The Search this Lent

If you want to walk through our story – your story – in a deeper, compelling and beautiful way, I encourage you to watch and participate in The Search with Chris Stefanick. You can participate as an individual or create a small discussion group with family and friends. Additionally, I will appear on Chris’ show The Life You Were Made For on Feb. 18 to discuss The Search with him, and I invite you to tune in.

To learn more, visit archden.org/the-search.

COMING UP: From rare books to online resources, archdiocesan library has long history of service to students

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National Library Week, observed this year from April 4 to April 10, is the perfect occasion to highlight the essential role of libraries and library staff in strengthening our communities – and our very own Cardinal Stafford Library at the Archdiocese of Denver is no exception.  

Since 1932, the library has served as a religious, intellectual, and cultural resource for seminarians and students at St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver.

As the library of the seminary, we are always responsible for the four dimensions of the priestly formation of our seminarians. The library is charged with being responsible to all the divisions of the Seminary: the Lay Division (Catholic Biblical School and Catholic Catechetical School), the Permanent Deacon Formation Division, and the Priestly Formation Division, said Stephen Sweeney, Library Director. 

In addition to being one of the main resources to the seminary, the Cardinal Stafford Library serves the needs of other educational programs in the Archdiocese of Denver, including the St. Francis School for Deacons, the Biblical School, the Catechetical School and the Augustine Institute. While the library is currently closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was previously open to anyone, giving people access to more than 150,000 books, audios, and videos. 

The Cardinal Stafford Library was named after Cardinal J. Francis Stafford, Apostolic Penitentiary at the Vatican and former Archbishop of Denver from 1986 to 1996. He was a dedicated advocate of the library and of Catholic education.

In 1932, the library was established by two seminarians, Maurice Helmann and Barry Wogan. While they were not the first seminarians to conceive the idea of establishing a library, they are considered the founders for undertaking its organization.  

Since its founding, the library has grown and compiled a fine collection of resources on Catholic theology, Church history, biblical studies, liturgy, canon law, religious art, philosophy, and literature. Special collections include over 500 rare books dating back to the early 16th century and many periodicals dating back to the 1800s. The oldest publication in the library is a book on excommunication published in 1510. The Cardinal Stafford Library is also home to various relics and holds bills personally written by some of those saints.  

Over the past few years, the library has undergone a process of beautification through various renovations that include improvements in lighting, flooring, and even furniture restoration. During these difficult times, libraries are doing their best to adapt to our changing world by expanding their digital resources to reach those who don’t have access to them from home. 

The Cardinal Stafford Library provides a community space; we subscribe to about 200 print journals and have access to literally thousands more through online resources available on campus computers, Sweeney added. “I have been the Library Director for almost 11 years. I absolutely love my work, especially participating in the intellectual formation of the faithful from all of the dioceses we serve”.  

For more information on the Cardinal Stafford Library, visit: sjvdenver.edu/library 

Featured photo by Andrew Wright