Re-birthday, Father’s Day, and Pew Missal

Bulletin Letter, Ordinary Time Sunday 12A

I am grateful to all those who remembered me, prayed for me, sent cards or others gifts for my birthday. Really, it’s my mom who should get most of the credit for what happened that day. For a long time now, I’ve tried to make it more of a point to observe and celebrate the anniversary of my Baptism, my Re-birthday as a child of God. All the more so after 2015, when my Ordination to the Priesthood happened to fall on the same day. Friday of this next week, June 26, will mark the completion of 5 years of priesthood for me and 32 years as a member of God’s Catholic Church. Please pray for me, especially as this will be my first time observing it as the pastor of parishes (two of the finest parishes in the diocese, I might add).

This Sunday is of course Father’s Day, so be sure to remember, call, and make an effort to show your appreciation for your dad and grandpas. As I get older, I appreciate more and more how similar I am to my dad and how much I’ve learned from him. It’s also a bit strange now to see him in his role as a grandfather, now to 18 grandkids. As I was growing up, I never remember him keeping so many tootsie rolls in his pockets to hand out to us. I never really knew my own grandfathers, but my dad makes a great one.

Father’s Day can also be a difficult time for those who lost their dads during this past year. There have been many in our parishes, and two in particular that were very unexpected and young. Please remember to pray for those who have buried their fathers, and pray for the repose of the departed. “For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom every family in the heavens and on earth is named, that He might strengthen you with His Spirit…” (Ephesians 3:14-16).

Believe it or not, now’s around the time to be looking at hymnals/books for the pews for this next year. I’ve been considering the Ignatius Pew Missal. It’s published in collaboration with the Augustine Institute. It’s a higher quality printing, a fraction of the cost, one volume for the year (so no changing books every few months) and quite a bit slimmer than the one-volume from Oregon Catholic Press. You can check it out at pewmissal.com.

Present to the Presence

Homily, Corpus Christi A

When was it that you gave your life to God? When were you saved? As Catholics, we don’t often ask these questions. They’re much more common among other Christians, but it’s helpful for us to reflect on what our answers would be. Have you given your life to God? Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior? One answer would be: at our baptism. At least that’s where it began for most of us. Even if we were infants, at our baptism, we began to participate, to take part in the life, death, and Resurrection, in the whole saving mystery of Jesus Christ. We were washed clean in His Most Precious Blood. But as we grow and develop as human beings, our faith and our response of faith need to grow and mature as well. When we’re able to think for ourselves and to make free choices and our own decisions, do we use that freedom to recommit ourselves to Christ, or do we stop following Jesus in any tangible way?

A few years ago, I attended a Catholic youth conference in St. Paul, Minnesota, with 43 young people from Sioux Falls. During one of the talks, the speaker led those of us who were willing, in a prayer and pledge, to stand and commit our lives to Jesus Christ. He warned us not to do this lightly, not to just do it because of the people around us, and not to feel pressured into it, but he invited us to freely commit our lives to Christ, if God had prepared us to do so at that time. Now this was a great thing, and a powerful moment for many who felt they had never really done something like that before, and we need to renew our commitment to Christ time and again in our own words or in words that we find fitting for the occasion.

But, as I listened to the speaker emphasize the seriousness of making this commitment to Christ, I couldn’t help but to find myself asking: Don’t we realize, as Catholics, that this is exactly what we’re doing, every time we go to Mass, recommitting our lives to Jesus Christ in an even more real way? Granted, it’s a serious thing to stand and speak your commitment to Christ at a youth conference, but I would say, it’s a more serious thing to become witnesses and participants in the eternal, saving sacrifice of the Son of God, renewed for us at every Mass upon this altar. And much more serious still is to come forward for Communion, to say “Amen, I believe,” to the very Body of Christ, and to receive Jesus Himself, the Holy One of God, into our own bodies.

Whether we realize it or not, in coming to Mass and in receiving Holy Communion, our actions and words make the proclamation that we belong to Jesus Christ, that we have been purchased at a price, ransomed for God by the Blood of His Son. We no longer belong to ourselves but to Him who died and rose again for our salvation. That’s what our words and actions proclaim at every Holy Communion, whether we realize it or not. Do we realize it? Is Jesus in the Eucharist truly the source and summit of our entire lives, or are we just mouthing the words, going through the motions?

Do we realize that when we stand together and profess the Creed on Sundays, when we stand and say together, “I believe in one God,” when we profess the faith of the Universal Church, the same faith for which thousands of martyrs gave up their property, freedom, and life, do we realize that we recommit ourselves to God in that moment and are meant to cling to that faith with the same fidelity as the countless martyrs who shed their blood for it? Do we realize that when we offer the bread and wine at Mass—and it’s not just the priest who offers the bread and wine, but the priest together with and on behalf of everyone here and of all the Church—that when we offer the bread and wine, we also offer our work, our joys, our sufferings, all our cares from throughout the week, and our very lives to be placed upon this altar, to be united to the one sacrifice of Christ, signified and made present here?

Do we realize what we do at each and every Mass? Do we say what we mean and mean what we say at Mass? Or do we just go through the motions? When we’re young or new at it, it’s important that we learn what to do and what to say during the Mass, the right responses and the postures and everything else, but as we grow and develop and are able to think and act intelligently, do we become more aware of what it is we’re actually saying and doing, or are we still infants in our faith? Most of us here graduated high school, maybe even had several more years of schooling after that, but how many of us are still around a 3rd or 5th grade level when it comes to our understanding of the catholic faith? Do we pay attention to the words and prayers of the Mass, so that we can understand what we’re doing, and pray intentionally, or are we just waiting for it to be over?

All of us here, decided to be at this Mass today. We each decided more or less freely, and perhaps for various reasons, but we’re here now, so let’s be here. Be present to what we’re doing here, to the prayers and actions and what it is that they mean. At every Mass, Jesus makes Himself really present to us. The question for us is: How much are we really present to Him?

Summer Sun

Bulletin Letter, Corpus Christi A

With the pandemic restrictions, it’s been harder for me to notice the weeks going by. The other day, I had a rude awaking to the fact that summer is almost here. I went for a long bike ride during the middle of the day without really thinking about the angle of the sun. By the time I realized, it was already too late. It’s nothing too serious, but the back of my right hand has definitely seen better days. I’m grateful for the time away at my parents’. There’s even a good stretch of Highway 20 that I find quite pleasant. On the way down, the heavy rain near Sioux Falls and Beresford also gave me a free car wash.

  1. Why when Adam and Eve sinned did he choose to kick the rest of us out of the Garden of Eden?

The Fall or Original Sin had consequences not just for our first parents but for everyone who would come after them and for all creation. They would pass on to their children a weakened human nature, less able to understand truth and to choose good, and with our affections and desires drawn towards evil rather than good by concupiscence. Likewise, disharmony and strife entered into the rest of the world as well. In that sense, the garden of Paradise could no longer be found on this earth.

St. Ambrose says that death was introduced as a remedy and that the Angel guarded the way to the tree of immortality to protect us. Now that sin and suffering had entered into the world and we had lost the grace of Original Justice, to live forever on earth would be unbearable.

  1. Why did Adam just stand there and not help Eve? He was supposed to protect EVERYTHING in the garden, right?

Most likely, he was deceived in the same way Eve was and did not recognize the serpent as a threat but allowed distrust of God to enter his own heart. It’s difficult for us to grasp how either of our first parents could have been deceived in such a way or induced towards envy and pride, seeing as they were much smarter and stronger than we are now, but even on our best days, we still find ourselves choosing to do what we know is wrong.

From Competition to Cooperation

Homily, Holy Trinity A

The Catholic tradition is rich in having lots of prayers with set words that can be committed to memory or read from a prayer book or from the Psalms or other parts of Scripture, or those composed by many marvelous Saints in the Church’s history. Of course, we can also pray to God in our own words or even without words at times, but it’s often helpful for us to use the same prayers that have nourished the faith of countless Catholics throughout the centuries, especially the Rosary, while meditating on its mysteries.

Now of all the set prayers that we have in the Catholic tradition, there is one that tends to stand out among the rest. This one single prayer has probably been said more often than any other, in the history of the world. This prayer is so powerful, that it has been the occasion of countless healings of mind and body. It has the power to cast out demons and to overcome all the false power of Satan, in the Church’s exorcisms. In Baptism and in the Sacrament of Confession, this prayer transforms sinners destined for the everlasting flames of hell, into sons and daughters of God, to become joint heirs with Christ and the Saints in the kingdom that has no end. This prayer is also so simple, that it’s probably the very first prayer that we learn as Catholics.

“In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” As I say the words of this prayer, your hand probably moves without thinking, because most often we pray this, as the Sign of the Cross. We might not even think of the Sign of the Cross as being a real prayer, because it’s just something we do before and after saying other prayers, or as we come into church, but the Sign of the Cross in the Name of the Most Holy Triune God is really one of the most powerful prayers that we ever say.

A good practice that some of us might have is to pray the Sign of the Cross before and after almost everything we do, when we wake up in the morning and before we go to sleep, as we begin driving in our cars and in thanksgiving for safe travels when we arrive at our destinations, when we begin our work or any particular task and once we bring it to completion. Have you ever considered how our lives might change if everything we did, and everything we thought or said would be done in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit?

What does it mean to do something in the name of someone or something else? Even in popular culture, we use this phrase: To “stop/ in the name of love,” to experiment in the name of science, or to command in the name of the law. The phrase usually means to do something on someone else’s behalf or by their authority. Now it should seem incredible to us that we would be able to do anything on behalf of God or by His own authority. But this is the dignity that is given to us as His sons and daughters, to work more and more according to God’s will for our lives, to become His coworkers and cooperate with God in a real sense, as He works within us and around us, according to His power, wisdom, and love.

The theology of the Trinity can seem difficult to understand. We proclaim one God in three Persons. As a mystery, it always goes beyond what our minds can fully comprehend. But by revealing Himself to us as three Persons always in mutual relationship with one another—even from all eternity—by revealing Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, God invites us to share in that relationship, in that love and fellowship, so that we all might be united in Him. The doctrine of the Trinity teaches us that genuine cooperation is possible. Distinct persons can work together as one, without rivalry and without ceasing to be who each one is, without the destruction of any one of them in favor of the others.

The unity that we see in God is the model for unity in all creation and especially within the Catholic Church and within the human family. No matter how different we are from one another—and some of us are really different—as a Christian able to act in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I am called to love my neighbor as myself, to love my neighbor as another self, to know that we’re all on the same team. That your good and health and happiness are bound up with my own. That we are ultimately not rivals or enemies, but we are in relationship with one another, whether we acknowledge it or not, and whether we like it or not.

When Jesus is asked in the Gospels to specify, “Who is my neighbor?” He replies with the parable of the Good Samaritan. Now at that time in history, for the Jews, the Samaritans were their sworn enemies, those who had interfered with their return from the Babylonian Exile and the rebuilding of the holy city Jerusalem and its temple. In the parable, Jesus holds up this Samaritan, this enemy of the Jews, as the example of what it means to be a loving neighbor, to help anyone in need. So no matter who it is or what group of people we just can’t stand, whoever we see as rivals or competitors, or inferiors or superiors, we are called to love them, to love them “in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” because it is only by the power of God that we can overcome the divisions that exist within our Church and within our human family, the divisions that even now threaten to tear our country and its communities apart.

During this upcoming week, I encourage all of us to pray more often—and with greater attention—the Sign of the Cross, this most powerful prayer. When we are in the midst of temptation, it reminds us of God’s presence and the power that He gives us to overcome sin in our lives. When our mind is racing with anxiety or anger, the Sign of the Cross calms our thoughts and bring upon us the peace of God which surpasses understanding. When we become cynical and focused only on the negative aspects of life or the news, this prayer can lift our eyes to see the countless blessings around us, and the enduring faithfulness of God. At all times and in every place, may we strive with all the saints to think, say, and do everything “in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Amen.

Travels and Corpus Christi

Bulletin Letter, Trinity Sunday A

Next weekend, my parents will celebrate their 50th Wedding Anniversary. We had planned a big gathering of the whole family, but that’s been postponed due to the pandemic. I’ll still be heading down to Elk Point this week to spend some time with them, though. I’m glad I’ll be back for the Feast of Corpus Christi and Eucharistic Processions.

It’s a great time to be begging our Blessed Savior for peace in the world, blessings upon our land and communities, and for intelligent reform wherever it is needed to law enforcement, the justice system, and the general dysfunction of our federal government and many major cities. I’ve always liked the Rabbi’s “blessing for the tsar” in Fiddler on the Roof. For us, the ‘tsar’ might represent any number of people in D.C. “May God bless and keep the tsar—far away from us!”

  1. If God was there forever, why did he stay in the dark for sooooo long?

God exists outside time because in Him “there is no variation or shadow of change” (James 1:17). In His divinity, God already was what He is and always will be. He is infinite Being and perfect Act. Before God created time, there was no time, so no succession of moments to make it seem like a long time. Even to speak of something being ‘before’ time existed is to try to use a temporal relation that ultimately doesn’t make much sense ‘before’ the existence of time.

In eternity, God was already doing what He continues to do and always will do, in the eternal relations between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: as God knows Himself perfectly, the Father gives all of His divinity to the Son, His eternal Word, and the Son receives all from the Father. And as God loves what He knows (Himself and all that He could create), the Holy Spirit proceeds in full divinity from the Father and the Son. But these “events,” too, are eternal, always occurring in God’s eternal “now” in a great dynamism, with no beginning and no end. A mystery that slips from our comprehension, as all that we have directly experienced is bound in time and space.

As for His being in the dark, just because material light did not exist yet, we do not normally understand God as existing in darkness. “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). He is light because He sees and knows all, and in eternity, God sees and knows Himself perfectly with perfect clarity, perfect light. Again, the spiritual, intellectual light of the mind of God is different and far greater than the material light that we’re more familiar with, visible to our physical eyes.

Use Your Words

Homily, Pentecost A

You may not know this about me yet, but I often like to joke about not liking Franciscans, those countless religious orders that look to St. Francis of Assisi as their spiritual father, but in many ways I actually do admire them. I even imitate their aesthetic by keeping a beard, often untrimmed, and by wearing sandals most of the time. I think it’s more just the popular misconceptions that many people have about St. Francis that I find particularly annoying. When we think of St. Francis, for example, many of us just have an idea that, well, he liked animals. Okay. That’s not untrue. St. Francis did have a great appreciation for all members of God’s creation, and we can learn from that. Statues of Him often include birds or other animals. But the great love of Francis’ life was poverty, the poverty of Christ that he strove to imitate in concrete ways. To be free of worldly attachments and possessions that so often come to possess us. That’s why he appreciated birds so much. Birds don’t store up food in barns and silos for themselves. They live day to day, depending on the providence of God.  

St. Francis was especially devoted to the Passion of Jesus, His Way of the Cross, when the poverty of Christ was at its height. As He was hanging from the Cross, naked, stripped of everything, Jesus was even abandoned by most of His closest friends and disciples. He was left with nothing and no one on this earth but the Cross and His trust in God the Father. St. Francis was so devoted to the Passion of Christ upon the Cross, he meditated upon this mystery for so many hours and years that God gave Francis what’s called the stigmata, the wounds of Christ manifested in his flesh, the nail marks and some of the pain along with them in his hands and feet, and a wound in his side. 

Now you’re probably wondering why I’m talking to you so much about St. Francis on this Feast of Pentecost. I would venture to say that St. Francis is one of the most widely misunderstood saints in the history of the Catholic Church, while at the same time, he was one of the saints that strove most fully to imitate the virtues of Jesus and to become a living image of Christ, and Francis was only able to do that through the grace of the Holy Spirit that he received in his Baptism, in Confirmation, that he also exercised in his ministry as a deacon.  

Now we still haven’t come to the most obnoxious misuse of the memory and legacy of St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis is frequently quoted as saying, “Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.” The only problem with this quote is of course that St. Francis definitely never said it. And it goes against much of how Francis himself lived. St. Francis was not the type of person to pass up any opportunity to tell the people around him about Jesus Christ, explicitly, with his words and his actions, even at the risk of his own life. There was a time during the life of St. Francis that the Muslim king of Egypt was offering a gold piece to any of his subjects for every head of a Christian that they would bring to him. So what did Francis decide to do when he heard about this? He wanted an audience with that ruthless king. So he traveled with a companion to Egypt. They were captured. They were beaten. They were imprisoned, but finally, Francis got his audience with the king. And to this Muslim king, St. Francis proclaimed the Good News of Jesus Christ. He told him to repent of his sins, to be baptized, and to believe in Jesus, the one and only Savior of the world. 

When the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost to the Apostles in the upper room, these men who were once frightened and cowardly were emboldened and strengthened to proclaim Jesus Christ to the crowds gathered from throughout the world. Throughout the Acts of the Apostles, we continually hear how they were even able to rejoice in the sufferings, persecutions, and dishonor that came to them in response to their bold, explicit preaching of Jesus Christ, using words and actions. The Holy Spirit who appeared to them as tongues of fire… if you’ve ever wondered why St. Luke calls them tongues of fire instead of flames. Maybe he calls them tongues of fire because we’re actually supposed to talk about Jesus and use our words to proclaim the Gospel. 

I think many of us like the saying, “Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary use words” because we’re lazy and cowardly, because we’re looking for any excuse to not have to proclaim Jesus Christ explicitly, in both word and deed, because we don’t want to risk upsetting anyone, really, because we don’t want to risk anything in our following of Christ. We’ve discovered a better way, a safer way, to live as Christians in a world that wants to go its own way, in a world that rebels against the One Way of Jesus Christ. We’ve found a way to stifle the fire of the Holy Spirit, the one who so animated all the Apostles, St. Francis, and every missionary in the history of the Catholic Church. 

The Good News for us is that the Spirit of God is ever ancient and ever new. His strength has not weakened at all over the course of the past 2000 years. He is still able to do marvelous things in those who are willing to risk, in those willing to put themselves out there for the sake of Christ. You have not received any other spirit than the one received by the Apostles, Prophets, and Martyrs. By your Baptism and Confirmation, you have been strengthened with the infinite strength of God. So cast off all fear and go. Proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person under heaven. Risk something. Use your words and your actions. 

In a few moments, I’ll invite the Confirmation candidates to stand and renew their baptismal promises. I’ll pray over them and then anoint them with Sacred Chrism, sealing them with the Gift of the Holy Spirit. They will be anointed on the forehead, which for most of us—unless you have a lot of hair covering it up—is one of the most public parts of the body, a reminder that those who are confirmed are to take a more active and public role in the world in bearing witness to the catholic faith.  

In both Baptism and Confirmation we are given the grace of the Holy Spirit. The main difference is that while Baptism disposes us to receive God’s grace, to assist at Mass, to receive the wisdom and guidance that comes from God’s Word and the nourishment that comes from the Body and Blood of Christ, the grace of Confirmation is directed more towards being able to convey God’s grace to those around you, not just to receive grace for yourself, but to become an instrument that shares the Gospel with everyone you meet. The grace of Confirmation is the grace of the Apostles at Pentecost, not just to be huddled together in the upper room but to go out with boldness to proclaim Christ in the world today.  

After anointing the forehead, I’ll also say to each of the newly confirmed, “Peace be with you,” as I give them a slight slap on the cheek. This gesture has long been associated with Confirmations as a reminder that the peace of Christ—which the world cannot give—is not incompatible with adversity and persecution. That if you actually share the Gospel as you are called to do, if you actually live your Catholic faith fully in the world today, you’ll likely be hated for it. But God gives us the grace as He gave the first Apostles after Pentecost even to rejoice in our sufferings, in our sharing in the saving Cross of Jesus Christ. “Preach the Gospel at all times,” and remember that words are necessary. The grace you receive today is not just for you. It’s for everyone you will meet, everyone who will witness your words and your actions. May they always speak of Jesus our Savior. 

Summer Ember Days

Bulletin Letter, Pentecost A

This Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday (June 3, 5, and 6) are the summer Ember Days, observed with fasting, abstinence from meat, and prayer for vocations and for the fields and herds. Ordinations were traditionally held on these days as well. During this past week, Bishop DeGrood ordained three men to the transitional diaconate: Jacob Doty, Jeffrey Schulte, and Scott Miller. Please pray that they serve well as deacons this summer and finish well their preparations for the priesthood during this next year. On Friday, two were ordained to the priesthood: Fr. Michael Kapperman and Fr. Tony Klein. Please join in observing Ember Days this week to pray for blessings upon our land and for the holiness of these new ministers of God’s love.

  1. Can God talk to you if you have a mortal sin on your soul?

Yes. We distinguish between sanctifying (habitual) grace and actual graces. Now the name ‘actual’ grace might make it sound like we’re implying other graces are not ‘real’ graces, but they are named ‘actual’ because they refer to particular and passing actions, whereas sanctifying grace refers to the state of being, the habit of holiness that persists after baptism as long as we do not sin mortally. It’s the difference between doing things, performing certain actions, and being human or, with sanctifying grace, being a child of God.

Mortal sin takes us out of the state of grace. We lose sanctifying grace and the theological virtue of divine charity, but God could still speak to us because those would be actual graces, passing actions that God can grant even to someone who is not in the state of grace. And He might grant them precisely to spur us to repentance, to Confession, and a return to sanctifying grace.

  1. Why does God know that bad things will happen and He doesn’t try to stop them?

God gives us free will and understanding into the natural processes of the world. Responsible action depends on both of these things. Imagine how difficult it would be to act responsibly if we really couldn’t depend on the consequences of the law of gravity, for example. Bad things happen due to gravity all the time. You can fall down, scrape your knees, or much worse. And if God were constantly intervening and suspending the laws of gravity just to make sure we’d never get hurt, we wouldn’t really be able to rely on the normal process of gravity and make adjustments to our own behavior as responsible and reasonable people. The same would hold true with diet, health, medicine, weather, etc. God directs the natural processes of the world according to patterns that can be relied upon so that we can respond accordingly and act responsibly.

 

Looking Forward to Heaven

Homily, Ascension A

If I were to ask you, When did Jesus save us? What was the precise moment when the work of redemption was accomplished? we might have various answers. Certainly the Incarnation, when the Son of God became man and took to Himself our human nature in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, that moment changed us and changed the world forever. Most would probably point to His suffering and death on the Cross, His perfect obedience even to the point of death making up for the disobedience and infidelity of our sins. We would also point, of course, to His Resurrection, rising from the grave never to die again. These events have consequences for all of us.

We could even point to His ordinary life, the many years that we don’t actually hear much about. Of course, His being born from a human Mother, His growth and development from infancy to adolescence to adulthood. The fact that God experienced all these things in the Person of Christ changes them for us, consecrates them, allows them to be holy events even in our own lives. To know that God worked and sweat as a carpenter changes work for us. That He ate and drank, that He wept at the death of His friend Lazarus, all that He did and suffered and accomplished was part of the work of salvation and consecrating our humanity to God.

One event that we might not often think about as being for our redemption is what we celebrate today, the Ascension, that our own human nature in Christ is now glorified at the right hand of God. That man has finally entered fully into heaven, body and soul, for the very first time. Jesus didn’t just die on the Cross and rise from the dead so that He could walk around on earth some more. He ascended into heaven to lead us there and to show us that we are meant for much more than anything this world has to offer us. Even if we could live forever, this world and the things of this world, even the relationships that we form in this world can never truly satisfy us. We were made for more. We are destined to see God face to face and to become like Him, to share in the communion of all the Saints, or to be eternally frustrated. The Ascension of Jesus saves us from the lie that we could ever be fully satisfied with anything less than God Himself. And in Christ, our human nature comes to its final rest and already enjoys the reward of its labors.

How often do we really think about heaven and what it will be like? To look upon and enter into union with the One who is more beautiful than anything we have ever experienced, more glorious and satisfying than anything we ever could experience in this life. Do we exercise our desire for heaven and allow it to be our strength as we endure the trials, frustrations, and restlessness of this life? If you’re anything like me, we don’t think about heaven nearly often enough. It’s always easier to plan a trip and to deal with obstacles we meet along the way when we have and keep a specific destination and goal in mind for ourselves.

There’s a verse in Sirach that says, “In all that you do, be mindful of the end of your life, and you will never sin” (7:36). We often think of the end of our life referring to our death and the judgment we will then render to God for what we have done or not done during life, but the end of our life can also refer to our goal, what we’re aiming for: heaven. In all that we do, if we are mindful not only of our death and judgment but also of the superabundant joys and everlasting satisfactions of heaven, the false pleasures of sin will lose their attraction for us, all the easy ways out and the overindulgence of the paltry pleasures of this passing world will seem to be “like so much garbage,” as St. Paul puts it, in comparison to the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ and being found in Him.

All that Jesus accomplished, every part of our life on earth that He redeemed and consecrated, even His victory over sin and death was incomplete until He finally opened the gates of heaven and entered into the lasting rest and exceeding joy that He has promised to those who love Him. “In all that you do, be mindful of the end of your life,” be mindful of the joys of heaven, that you may have the strength to persevere through any temptation without sin, so that where Christ our Good Shepherd has gone before, we might follow and share in His unending glory.

Getting Warmer

Bulletin Letter, Sunday of Ascension A

It’s great to see the return of so much that is green around us, on the trees and in lawns and pastures. Next Sunday is already the Feast of Pentecost. Please pray especially for the Gift of the Holy Spirit upon those of our parishes who will be confirmed and those recently confirmed. Here are more questions from our 5th and 6th graders:

  1. Do the sacraments always give grace?

Yes, although we may not always be in the proper state to receive that grace. One of the purposes of the sacraments is to give us certitude that these are moments of God’s definite action and grace. Whenever the sacraments are celebrated by the properly authorized minister (usually a priest) according to the will of Christ and His Church, we can know for certain that God Himself is present and giving His grace in and through those sacraments.

But there are times when we are not properly receptive to God’s grace. Someone in a state of mortal sin who attempts to receive the Eucharist in Holy Communion, for example, receives the Body and Blood of Christ but sins against them, as St. Paul describes in 1 Cor. 11, eating and drinking judgment upon himself. These are called sacrilegious or unworthy Communions that are grave sins in themselves. Anyone aware of serious sins on one’s soul must confess those and be absolved to become receptive once more to grace of the Eucharist.

  1. What is a Nuptial Mass?

This usually just refers to a Wedding Mass or the Ritual Mass for the Celebration of Matrimony that includes many special prayers for the couple or couples being married at that Mass. Catholic weddings can also take place in church apart from the celebration of the Eucharist or as part of the Mass of a major Feast, even though the prayers of the Mass on certain Feast days would need to pertain more to the Feast rather than the wedding, and these would not normally be called Nuptial Masses.

  1. What is meant by divine Tradition?

Usually called Sacred or Apostolic Tradition, this refers to everything that is publicly revealed by God and handed down from the Apostles for our salvation apart from what has been committed to writing in Sacred Scripture. There were many things Jesus taught his disciples which they observed and handed on even before any of the New Testament had been written. The New Testament is also not very detailed when it comes to certain aspects of Christian life or liturgy.

Rogation Days and the Original Novena

Bulletin Letter, Easter Sunday 6A

If you missed the Major Rogation on April 25, you’ll have a few more chances this week on the Minor Rogation Days, which are observed on the three days before Ascension Thursday (which is transferred to the following Sunday in most places). Rogation Days are named for the Latin verb rogare, “to ask,” and are observed with solemn procession while singing the Litany of Saints, the Penitential Psalms, and several other prayers for God’s blessings and deliverance from evil. Fasting, abstaining from meat, and other forms of penance are also encouraged on these days.

The Major Rogation, on April 25 each year, is likely the earliest one observed, probably to counteract and replace the pagan Roman festival of Robigalia, held on the same date with public games and the sacrifice of a dog to the false god Robigus for the protection of grain fields from disease. Rogation Days retain this agricultural connection, and besides the Litany and procession, the blessing of fields and flocks became customary in many places on these days. The Minor Rogations (held on the three days leading up to Ascension Thursday) were introduced around the year 470 in France by St. Mamertus, bishop of Vienne, and observance spread out from there, eventually extending to the whole Church. Both the Major and Minor Rogations came to be observed in the same ways.

We’ll plan to have processions like we did on April 25, from the church to the cemetery and back. In Hoven on Monday and Tuesday (May 18 and 19), just after the Mass at 5:15 pm, the procession should start close to 5:50 pm. In Bowdle on Wednesday, May 20, we’ll start the procession at 7:00 pm. Hopefully, the weather will cooperate. Since May is the month of Mary, we’ll also be asking for her intercession in a special way.

This week also includes the start of the Original Novena. A novena is a prayer said on nine consecutive days, often concluding on the Vigil of a particular feast day. The Original Novena refers to the nine days between Ascension Thursday and the great Solemnity of Pentecost, during which the Apostles and disciples were gathered together in prayer with the Blessed Mother in the upper room, preparing and beseeching God for the great Gift of the Holy Spirit. Starting on Friday and concluding on the Saturday Vigil of Pentecost, a novena for the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit is fittingly prayed. Using a keyword search, it’s easy enough to find this novena online, including on the EWTN website. Come, Holy Spirit!