Sunday, May 29, 2016

Homily For the Solemnity of Corpus Christi and the Jubilee for Deacons

A couple of weeks ago I had the incredible privilege of preaching at my daughter's wedding.  In my homily I referred to a beautiful song that the children's choir sings at Most Holy Trinity Parish: Love, Love, Jesus is Love, God's greatest gift is the gift of Love.  All creation sings together praising God for Love.  Today we celebrate anew that Love.  In this Solemnity of the Most Precious Body and Blood of Christ, we celebrate Love.  So much Love for us that God sent us a Savior in the person of His Son.  Becoming flesh and dwelling among us; Jesus is love!  Teaching, preaching and healing; Jesus is love!  Emptying Himself on dying for us on the Cross, stretching out His arms between Heaven & Earth; Jesus is Love!  Rising from the dead and opening for us the gates of Heaven; Jesus is Love!  And today, in the Eucharist, the Real Presence of His Body & Blood, Jesus is Love!

Today we hear St. Paul telling us that he received what was handed on to him, the celebration of the Eucharist as 1st occurred at the Last Super on that Holy Thursday night.  And that same Eucharist is handed on to us today.  At every Mass, we have the consecration of those simple gifts of bread and wine as they become the real Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.  We understand that this is not a new sacrifice or re-crucifying Jesus; no!  By the grace of God, time and space is suspended and every Mass is a celebration of that one Sacrifice on the Cross, re-presented in an un-bloody manner.  All of us, in the proper state of grace, can participate in the worthy reception of Jesus, really present, really His Body and Blood!

We must recall that worthy reception means being free of mortal sin, therefore it is expected that we will make a good confession before receiving Jesus if mortal sin exists.  We also want to participate fully in the celebration of the Mass in which we are to receive Jesus an we also remember before Communion to forgive those who have hurt us.  When we go to Communion we should remember that we receive, not take, therefore we should receive the Sacred Host reverently in a true spirit of thanksgiving.  And the same from the Chalice, if the Chalice is available to us.  Now that we have received Jesus in Holy Communion, now what?  Do we leave Mass and become what we believe; do we become what we received?  For us, nourished by the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, we must be ambassadors of Christ in the community, the workplace, out there, among those who perhaps do not believe or simply do not know what they are missing.  And we must witnesses of great joy because, as the song tells us, I received the living God and my heart is full of Joy! 

Today is also a day of great joy for the Permanent Deacons around the world and the four of us who serve you in this wonderful parish of St. Jane de Chantal and St. Michael's Mission.  This weekend is the celebration of the Jubilee for Deacons.  Just this morning, Permanent Deacons from across the world gathered with Pope Francis for Holy Mass in St. Peter's Square.  In this Jubilee Year of Mercy our Holy Father wished to remind the faithful that the Deacon is the minister of mercy, the minister of charity, the minister of service.  Deacons are indeed ordained ministers of Holy Mother Church and receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders upon ordination.  While they assist at Mass, where most of the faithful see us in action, it is the Deacon's charge to minister all week long in nursing homes, hospice care, food banks, jails and prisons, juvenile detention facilities, hospitals, in the streets, among the poor and broken-hearted and in so many other ways.  Our presence here on Sundays at the altar of the Lord sacramentalizes the service shared with the people of God all week long.  Here in the parish, in addition to seeing us at Mass, your Deacons prepare couples for marriage, assist those seeking annulments, help families prepare for baptism, lead prayer groups, Bible studies and offer spiritual direction.  The Deacon serves as an icon of Christ the Servant, who came to serve and not be served.  We honor the service of Deacon Frans LaBranche, ordained in 1981, Deacon Don Bourgeois, ordained in 1989, Deacon Mark Coudrain, ordained in 2006 and yours truly, ordained in 2008.  We also remember those Deacons who, as members of this parish, went on to service elsewhere, Deacons Ed Kelly, Steve Ferran, Norbert Billiot and Kenny Uhlich.

It is a joy for all of us to serve each of you as Permanent Deacons and our prayer that perhaps someone listening to this today may be called to the Diaconate.  Please feel free to contact any one of us for answers, prayers, encouragement and support.  May we also remember to serve and never be served and in the Eucharist, receive Him who we give back to you in our charity, mercy and service!

Pope Francis delivers Angelus Address entrusting the life of all Deacons to our mother Mary

ANGELUS ADDRESS: May Mary Support World Youth Day in Krakow
Recalling Upcoming International Children’s Day, Francis Also Encourages Faithful to Join Syrian Christian Children in Praying for Peace
Papa giubileo diaconi
CTV Screenshot - Pope at Mass for Jubilee of Deacons
Below is a ZENIT translation of Pope Francis’ Angelus address today at the end of the Holy Mass celebrated in St. Peter’s Square on the occasion of the Jubilee of Deacons in St. Peter’s Square. Before reciting the midday prayer, the Pope said the following words:
***
Before the Angelus:
At the end of this celebration, I wish to extend a special greeting to you, dear deacons, who have come from Italy and other countries. Thanks for your presence here today, but most of all, your presence in the Church!
I greet all the pilgrims, in particular those from the European Association of Schützen historians; participants in the “Way of Forgiveness” promoted by the Celestiniano Movement; and the National Association for the Protection of Renewable Energy, committed to educating others to care for creation.
I also remember that today marks the National Day of Relief, aimed at helping people to live the final stage of their earthly existence well. I also remember the traditional pilgrimage to the Marian Shrine of Piekary in Poland, that is brought to completion today: May the Mother of Mercy support families and young people on their way to the World Youth Day in Krakow.
Next Wednesday, June 1st, on the occasion of International Children’s Day, the Christian communities of Syria, both Catholic and Orthodox, will together make a special prayer for peace, which will have children themselves as its protagonists. The Syrian children invite children from around the world to join their prayer for peace.
For these intentions, let us invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary, as we entrust to her the life and ministry of all the deacons in the world.
Angelus Domini …
[Original text: Italian] [Translation by Deborah Castellano Lubov]

Hot off the Vatican Press: The Holy Father's Homily for the Jubilee for Deacons

Pope’s Homily at Jubilee for Deacons
‘Available in life, meek of heart and in constant dialogue with Jesus, you will not be afraid to be servants of Christ, and to encounter and caress the flesh of the Lord in the poor of our time’
Papa giubileo diaconi
CTV Screenshot - Pope at Mass for Jubilee of Deacons
Below is the Vatican-provided translation of the Pope’s prepared homily during the Holy Mass concluding the Jubilee for Deacons this morning in St. Peter’s Square. Deacons and their families from all around the world were invited to make a pilgrimage to Rome in order to participate in this major gathering on the occasion of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. This Jubilee for Deacons, May 27-29 in Rome, was a celebration for deacons, along with their wives and children:
***
“A servant of Jesus Christ” (Gal 1:10). We have listened to these words that the Apostle Paul, writing to the Galatians, uses to describe himself. At the beginning of his Letter, he had presented himself as “an apostle” by the will of the Lord Jesus (cf. Gal 1:1). These two terms – apostle and servant – go together. They can never be separated. They are like the two sides of a medal. Those who proclaim Jesus are called to serve, and those who serve proclaim Jesus.
The Lord was the first to show us this. He, the Word of the Father, who brought us the good news (Is 61:1), indeed, who is the good news (cf. Lk 4:18), became our servant (Phil 2:7). He came “not to be served, but to serve” (Mk 10:45). “He became the servant (diakonos) of all”, wrote one of the Church Fathers (Saint Polycarp, Ad Phil. V, 2). We who proclaim him are called to act as he did. A disciple of Jesus cannot take a road other than that of the Master. If he wants to proclaim him, he must imitate him. Like Paul, he must strive to become a servant. In other words, if evangelizing is the mission entrusted at baptism to each Christian, serving is the way that mission is carried out. It is the only way to be a disciple of Jesus. His witnesses are those who do as he did: those who serve their brothers and sisters, never tiring of following Christ in his humility, never wearing of the Christian life, which is a life of service.
How do we become “good and faithful servants” (cf. Mt 25:21)? As a first step, we are asked to be available. A servant daily learns detachment from doing everything his own way and living his life as he would. Each morning he trains himself to be generous with his life and to realize that the rest of the day will not be his own, but given over to others. One who serves cannot hoard his free time; he has to give up the idea of being the master of his day. He knows that his time is not his own, but a gift from God which is then offered back to him. Only in this way will it bear fruit. One who serves is not a slave to his own agenda, but ever ready to deal with the unexpected, ever available to his brothers and sisters and ever open to God’s constant surprises. A servant knows how to open the doors of his time and inner space for those around him, including those who knock on those doors at odd hours, even if that entails setting aside something he likes to do or giving up some well-deserved rest. Dear deacons, if you show that you are available to others, your ministry will not be self-serving, but evangelically fruitful.
Today’s Gospel also speaks to us of service. It shows us two servants who have much to teach us: the servant of the centurion whom Jesus cures and the centurion himself, who serves the Emperor. The words used by the centurion to dissuade Jesus from coming to his house are remarkable, and often the very opposite of our own: “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof” (7:6); I did not presume to come to you” (7:7); “I also am a man set under authority” (7:8). Jesus marvels at these words. He is struck by the centurion’s great humility, by his meekness. Given his troubles, the centurion might have been anxious and could have demanded to be heard, making his authority felt. He could have insisted and even forced Jesus to come to his house. Instead, he was modest and unassuming; he did not raise his voice or make a fuss. He acted, perhaps without even being aware of it, like God himself, who is “meek and humble of heart” (Mt 11:29). For God, who is love, out of love is ever ready to serve us. He is patient, kind and always there for us; he suffers for our mistakes and seeks the way to help us improve. These are the characteristics of Christian service; meek and humble, it imitates God by serving others: by welcoming them with patient love and unflagging sympathy, by making them feel welcome and at home in the ecclesial community, where the greatest are not those who command but those who serve (cf. Lk 22:26). This, dear deacons, is how your vocation as ministers of charity will mature: in meekness.
After the Apostle Paul and the centurion, today’s readings show us a third servant, the one whom Jesus heals. The Gospel tells us that he was dear to his master and was sick, without naming his grave illness (v. 2). In a certain sense, we can see ourselves in that servant. Each of us is very dear to God, who loves us, chooses us and calls us to serve. Yet each of us needs first to be healed inwardly. To be ready to serve, we need a healthy heart: a heart healed by God, one which knows forgiveness and is neither closed nor hardened. We would do well each day to pray trustingly for this, asking to be healed by Jesus, to grow more like him who “no longer calls us servants but friends” (cf. Jn 15:15). Dear deacons, this is a grace you can implore daily in prayer. You can offer the Lord your work, your little inconveniences, your weariness and your hopes in an authentic prayer that brings your life to the Lord and the Lord to your life. When you serve at the table of the Eucharist, there you will find the presence of Jesus, who gives himself to you so that you can give yourselves to others.
In this way, available in life, meek of heart and in constant dialogue with Jesus, you will not be afraid to be servants of Christ, and to encounter and caress the flesh of the Lord in the poor of our time.
[Original text: Italian] [Vatican-provided translation]

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Cared for orpahns and war refugees, beatified and canonized by St. Pope JPII

St. Julia Maria Ledóchowska


Image of St. Julia Maria Ledóchowska

Facts

Feastday: May 29
Birth: 1865
Death: 1939


Julia Maria Ledóchowska was born in Austria in 1865, the daughter of a Polish count and a Swiss noblewoman. Her large family was a school of saints. Her uncle, Cardinal Mieczyslaw Ledóchowski, the Primate of Poland, was persecuted and imprisoned for his opposition to the policies of the Prussian Kulturkampf ["culture war"]. Her older sister, Blessed Maria Teresa Ledóchowska, founded the Missionary Sisters of S. Peter Claver and is affectionately known as the "Mother of Black Africa".
Julia Maria moved with her family to Poland when her father became ill in 1883. He died soon after, having given his blessing to her plans to enter the Convent of the Ursuline Sisters in Krakow. Julia took the religious name of "Maria Ursula of Jesus" and devoted herself to the care and education of youth. She organized the first residence in Poland for female university students.
As prioress of the convent after the turn of the century, she received a request to found a boarding school for Polish girls in St. Petersburg, Russia, then a cosmopolitan, industrial city. The pastor of St. Catherine's Church, Msgr. Constantine Budkiewicz (a Polish nobleman), extended the invitation, and Pope St. Pius X gave his approval. So in 1907 Mother Ursula went with another sister to Russia to found a new convent and work among the Catholic immigrants. Although the nuns wore lay clothing, they were under constant surveillance by the secret police.
At the beginning of World War I, Mother Ursula was expelled from Russia as an Austrian national. The Monsignor would be martyred by the Bolsheviks, and St. Petersburg would eventually be renamed "Leningrad".
Mother Ursula fled to neutral Sweden. She organized relief efforts for war victims and charitable programs for Polish people living in exile, founded a monthly Catholic newspaper, and made extensive ecumenical contacts with Lutherans in Scandinavia.
In 1920 M. Ursula, her sisters, and dozens of orphans (the children of immigrants) made their way back to Poland. During the tumultuous years that they had spent abroad, the growing Ursuline community had developed a distinctive charism and apostolate. Therefore Mother Ursula founded her own Congregation, the Ursuline Sisters of the Heart of Jesus in Agony. Her brother Vladimir, who had become Superior General of the Jesuits, helped to obtain Vatican approval of the new institute, which was to be devoted to "the education and training of children and youth, and service to the poorest and the oppressed among our brethren" (from the Constitutions).
Between the two world wars, M. Ursula and her nuns taught catechism in the enormous factory town of Lodz. She organized a "Eucharistic Crusade" among the working-class children, encouraging those little "Knights of the Crusade" to write to Pope Pius XI in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of his priestly ordination. Some children wrote that they loved the Holy Father as much as their own parents. Others spoke of receiving Our Lord in their First Holy Communion, of wanting to be His apostles and missionaries. One child wrote: "How beautiful it would be if the Holy Father were to come to Poland." Mother Ursula Ledóchowska died on May 29, 1939 at the general house of her community in Rome.
Pope John Paul II beatified her during his second pastoral visit to Poland, in 1983, the Holy Year of Redemption and the sixth centenary of Our Lady of Jasna Gora, in the city of Poznan, with schoolchildren from Lodz in attendance.
While visiting his homeland in June 1983, the Holy Father spoke the following words: "It is the Saints and the Blessed who show us the path to the victory that God achieves in human history. Every individual is called to a similar victory. Every son and daughter of Poland who follows the example of her saints and beati. Their elevation to the altars in their homeland is the sign of that strength which is more powerful than any human weakness and more powerful than any situation, even the most difficult, not excluding the arrogant use of power."
Less than a decade later, in 1991, when Pope John Paul II returned to Poland to beatify Bishop Pelczar, Solidarity had prevailed, the Berlin Wall had fallen, and the Catholic hierarchy had been restored in most Eastern European nations.

A Vatican Radio interview with two American Deacons in Rome for the Jubilee for Deacons

Jubilee of Deacons: ordered to serve the joy of the Gospel


Deacons attend the Blessed Sacrament in solemn procession on the Feast of Corpus Christi in Rome, May 26th, 2016 - RV
Deacons attend the Blessed Sacrament in solemn procession on the Feast of Corpus Christi in Rome, May 26th, 2016 - RV

28/05/2016 16:14

(Vatican Radio) This weekend here in Rome, the Church is marking the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy in a special way with the Jubilee of Deacons. As their very title suggests – taken as it is from the Greek word for “servant”, diakonos – Deacons are ordained to a ministry of service in the Church: they proclaim the Good News liturgically, they assist priests at the Altar, and they preach to the faithful on matters pertaining to authentic Christian living. Deacons also bring the Blessed Sacrament to the sick in hospital and to the housebound: they visit prisoners, offering them both companionship and counsel; they baptize, receive the marriage vows of couples entering Holy Matrimony, and they pray for the dead.
Two Deacons from the United States, the Rev. Messrs. Doug Breckenridge and Greg Kandra, visited Vatican Radio during the course of their pilgrimage to celebrate the Jubilee of Deacons, and spoke with us about the joys and challenges of their vocation, especially in the present generation of the Church in the West, which recovered the Permanent Diaconate as a distinct ministry during and after the II Vatican Ecumenical Council.
Click below to hear our extended conversation Deacon Greg Kandra and Deacon Doug Breckenridge

“I think – and I think many people would agree with this – it is one of the great success stories of Vatican II,” said Deacon Kandra (of the Diocese of Brooklyn, NY, who, in “civilian” life, was a producer for CBS News, and who now works closely with the Catholic Near East Welfare Association and blogs at Aleteia). “In my diocese in particular,” added Deacon Breckenridge  (of the Diocese of Dallas, Tx., who made his career in the banking and finance industry, and who has been committed for several years to working with the Children's Medical Center), “there are three [Diaconate formation] classes going at once: so, every two years, they start a new class of thirty to forty men,” who undertake the roughly six-year program of formation for the Diaconate, which often takes place on nights and weekends over that six-year period.
Both Deacon Kandra and Deacon Breckenridge are married – and while there is no requirement that men in the Permanent Diaconate be married, the vast majority of men who pursue their studies to the end and accept Ordination are married when they do. “My wife was very supportive,” explained Deacon Kandra, “she and I prayed together when I was discerning this – in early 2002 – and she said, ‘I just feel this is something you are supposed to do,’ and I said, ‘I do too.’.”
Deacon Breckenridge explained that Deacons’ wives do not only play a central role in discernment, but also in ministry. “A wife can choose to have her husband taken out of formation at any time, without him knowing that his wife has asked,” said Deacon Breckenridge. He went on to say that his ministry has informed his married life. “It has deepened our relationship,” he said, “we both are more active in the Church,” since he was ordained, and Mrs. Breckenridge also contributes to her husband’s service specifically as a Deacon. “She is my best editor for my homilies,” he explained.
“We also help in all areas of marriage ministry,” Deacon Breckenridge continued, “I think it is one thing that, as a married couple, we bring,” i.e. their experience of married life, which they are happy to share with couples seeking the Sacrament of Matrimony from the Church.
“Being the wife of a Deacon is almost a vocation unto itself,” offered Deacon Kandra. “My wife is a great collaborator – a great prayer warrior,” he continued, “she makes it possible for me to do what I do.”
Deacon Kandra concluded the conversation with high praise for the Diaconate as a calling of service that is one of constant surprise and discovery. “I always say it was the second-best decision I ever made: the first one being to marry my wife,” he said. “It is such an adventure, and it is such a joy: I wake up some days and I can’t believe I get to do what I do.”

The Jubilee for Deacons big day is here!

It's Sunday in Rome as I write this so today is the 3rd and final day of the Jubilee for Deacons!  Permanent Deacons worldwide who traveled to Rome for the Jubilee are about 6 hours away from vesting and thereby assisting Pope Francis at Mass.  Among them are approximately 20 of my brother Deacons from the Archdiocese of New Orleans.  Thanks to them and Deacon Greg Kendra, a nationally known blogging Deacon, I have been able to experience this Jubilee for Deacons through their pictures and their words.  What a special grace that the Holy Father included Permanent Deacons in his year-long celebration of the Jubilee of Mercy!

I've been thinking and reflecting all things Deacon over these past few days in anticipation of the Jubilee for Deacons.  Locally, at my parish of St. Jane's we will have a brief recognition of the four Permanent Deacons who assist and serve the parish at 10 AM Mass tomorrow.  In addition to yours truly, our parish is served by Deacon Frans Labranche, ordained 1981, Deacon Don Bourgeois, ordained 1989, Deacon Mark Coudrain, ordained 2006.  I was ordained in 2008.  Together the four of us have some 80+ years of service as Deacons!

When the Permanent Diaconate was restored in 1968 by Pope Paul VI it was just a few years later that Archbishop Philip Hannan in New Orleans agreed to begin a program of formation for Permanent Deacons.  The first class was ordained in 1974, followed by 1976 and 1981.  Since then, a new group of Deacons are ordained every 3-4 years.  Currently the Archdiocese is served by 165 active Permanent Deacons and we have an additional 50 retired Deacons.  Remember, once a Deacon always a Deacon!

Permanent Deacons, who are most noticed by the faithful at Mass, actually serve throughout the community all week long.  Sometimes that service includes just "being" Deacon at work and in the community.  Other times we are ministering at hospitals, nursing homes, hospice, homeless shelters, prisons, food banks and so much more.  Deacons are ministers of charity and imitate Christ the Servant who came to serve and not be served.  At the parish, besides duties at Mass, Deacons prepare couples for marriages, handle annulments, prepare families for baptism, conduct prayer services, Bible study programs, work with RCIA and provide other services as needed by the Pastor.

I am so thankful for the ministry of Deacon entrusted to me by the Church and to be serving in this capacity now at St. Jane Church as well as Rayburn Prison.  I am also thankful for serving alongside Deacons Frans, Don and Mark. 

And who knows, maybe that next Permanent Deacon is out there somewhere.  Feel free to ask us about the Diaconate; God may be calling you too!


Preparing for the Feast Day of Corpus Christi; now called the Body & Blood of Christ

Corpus Christi and the Mystical Body of Christ


Christ promised to be with us always, even unto “the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) Each time we walk into a Catholic Church and see a flickering red light we are reminded of how he continues to keep this promise, through his Eucharistic presence.
Growing up Catholic, attending a Catholic school, and very much immersed in Catholic culture, I didn’t have much opportunity to visit non-Catholic churches. I remember one of my first ecumenical experiences, visiting an Assembly of God church as an eleven year old. The diocese of Gary (the diocese I grew up in) was participating in ecumenical outreach and activities that year, and part of the program consisted in different denominations coming together to pray at different churches.
The congregation was kind and very welcoming, but I remember being struck by a strong sense of emptiness. Although Jesus was there spiritually, in the midst of these prayerful people, something was missing. With no tabernacle, I felt unsettled, lost for a direction to turn to.
Christ’s sacramental presence – under the appearance of bread and wine, but truly the Body and Blood, soul and divinity of the living God – is a compass with which to orient our lives.
However, there is another layer to this teaching on the Eucharist. Christ is really and truly present in the Eucharist. However, so is his mystical body.
The teaching on the mystical body of Christ is a beautiful one that isn’t discussed nearly enough outside of theological circles. I remember not really coming into contact with this teaching, in all of its fullness, until studying theology in college.
We are all familiar with Paul’s description of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-31). (Likely, my fellow children of the 1980s and 90s are also familiar with the Marty Haugen song about the mystical body, “We Are Many Parts.” I apologize in advance if that tune is now stuck in your head.) The body of Christ is made up of many parts, and each of us have a role to play in that body. Since, through baptism, we are all parts of that “mystical” body, we are all united in a unique, complementary way. (Just as body parts are.)
That bond is far stronger than we may realize, however. Through the mystical body, we are uniquely connected to all people in the Church. To use the classic terminology, we are bonded to the Church militant (those of us still fighting the good fight on earth), the Church suffering (those in purgatory, undergoing the final stages of purification before heaven), and the Church triumphant (those in heaven). Not only are we all united through the bond of baptism (including those who did not have the opportunity to receive the traditional Sacrament in this lifetime and were admitted to the Church via a “baptism of desire” or a “baptism by fire/martyrdom”) but we are all united through the Eucharist.
The Catholic musical artist, Danielle Rose, has a beautiful song that illustrates this reality, “See You in the Eucharist.” She wrote this song before briefly entering an extremely cloistered religious order, and it was meant to be a reassurance to her loved ones that they would never be truly separated, because they would always be united, in every liturgy, through the Eucharist. It’s been nearly a decade since I first heard those lyrics, but they have stuck with me.
When we gather at the table, we are closer than our breath.Even nearer than the angels, when we touch his very flesh.Dwelling in each other’s presence, I will hold you close inside.Every soul in heaven and earth now is present in the Body of Christ.
The teaching sounds radical but is rock solid. Often, when receiving the Eucharist, we are focused on our intimate union with Christ in the Eucharist. However, the other aspect of Eucharistic teaching is just as important. In the Eucharist, all are made one in Christ. (This is where the other name for the Eucharist, “Communion”, comes from.) And when we receive Christ in the Eucharist, when we stand before the altar at each Mass, we are not only in Christ’s presence, but in the presence of all the angels and saints. Through the Eucharist, we experience perfect, beautiful union with all of Christ’s body – everyone from canonized saints to our fellow sinners in the pew.
What many may not realize, however, is that this is also another way in which God allows us to never be separated from our loved ones, especially our loved ones who have died. The great feast of Corpus Christi falls on Memorial Day weekend this year, and so those loved ones we have lost are on our minds in a particular way this weekend, and many of you may visit the grave of a loved one in the days to come.
In this life, we can delight in our closeness with loved ones – but the union we can know with them is nothing compared to the union we can experience with them in the Eucharist. This is the great desire of Christ – that all may be one (John 17:21). The oneness he longs for is not a superficial one, but rather the deep, intimate union only possible in the Eucharist, with Christ as our head.
This teaching has been especially on my heart in the past month. Recently, our family lost our third child, our sweet Gabriel, to miscarriage. Anyone who has ever lost a child, at any age, knows how devastating a loss it is. Because the Church has no official teaching on what happens to unbaptized babies who die (the theories range from that of “limbo” to heaven without qualifications and everything in between) we can hope in the mercy of God and the possibility of heaven for our child. We can hope in the goodness of God, and trust that the Masses, blessings in utero, prayers, and conditional Baptism offered our child, mean that he may very well be in heaven. Although we cannot know this with certainty in this life, we can trust in the merciful love of God.
The burial of our baby was one of the hardest things our family has ever undergone. It was absolutely heartbreaking, saying farewell to a tiny body that was, only a week earlier, still tucked safely in my womb. However, the funeral Mass that followed was one of the greatest comforts we have known. Although we could no longer be in Gabriel’s physical presence, we possessed the hope of possibly being in his spiritual presence at Mass. If Gabriel is in heaven, then that would mean that, at every Mass, our family is once again united. We are united in adoration of Christ, in the Eucharist.
I am sure that everyone who is reading this article has lost someone in their lives. Most of you reading this article have experienced the heartache of standing at the grave of a loved one, and know the perpetual ache of that separation and grief.
The power of the resurrection extends to the Eucharist. Through our hope in heaven and the resurrection, we can hope that we will never be truly separated from those we love. We can pray for the repose of their souls, and in doing so can continue to offer them our unconditional love via prayer. In return, once in heaven, they can pray for us. It is an exchange of love that goes deeper than any we can experience in this life.
The union of the Church in the Eucharist is a powerful reminder that love is stronger than death. This weekend, as we celebrate both Corpus Christi and Memorial Day, take hope in the depth of the doctrine of the Eucharist. Through Christ, we may all be one, in a union that will never truly end because of the love of Christ, stronger than death.
Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever.

Friday, May 27, 2016

He ministered to skiers and mountain climbers

St. Bernard of Montjoux


Image of St. Bernard of Montjoux

Facts

Feastday: May 28
Patron of mountaineers, skiers, the Alps
Birth: 923
Death: 1008


Bernard of Montjoux was probably born in Italy. He became a priest, was made Vicar General of Aosta, and spent more than four decades doing missionary work in the Alps. He built schools and churches in the diocese but is especially remembered for two Alpine hospices he built to aid lost travelers in the mountain passes named Great and Little Bernard, after him. The men who ran them in time became Augustinian canons regular and built a monastery. The Order continued into the twentieth century. He was proclaimed the patron saint of Alpinists and mountain climbers by Pope Pius XI in 1923. He is sometimes fallaciously referred to as Bernard of Menthon and the son of Count Richard of Menthon, which he was not. His feast day is May 28th.
Bernard became patron and protector of skiers because of his four decades spent in missionary work throughout the Alps.

1st official day in Rome of the Jubilee for Deacons; some of the highlights

Permanent deacons and their wives attend a conference at the Basilica of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva in Rome May 27. Attendees were participating in the Jubilee of Deacons, a celebration of the Holy Year of Mercy. Permanent deacons and their wives attend a conference at the Basilica of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva in Rome May 27. Attendees were participating in the Jubilee of Deacons, a celebration of the Holy Year of Mercy. CNS photo/Paul Haring

Deacons gather in Rome, share reflections on ministry, challenges

By 

  • May 27, 2016
ROME – Thousands of permanent deacons and their wives began their Year of Mercy celebration by cutting straight to the heart of what it means to be a deacon, how the ministry impacts their families and the challenge of explaining their vocation to others, including bishops and priests.
The pilgrims divided into language groups and hundreds of English-, German- and Portuguese-speaking deacons and their families gathered May 27 at Rome's Basilica of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva.
Whether alone or with their wives, dressed in clerical collars or T-shirts because of the afternoon heat, they began sharing experiences of formation, homiletics training and ministry assignments even before the formal program began.
The Jubilee of Deacons was to conclude May 29 with a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square.
In the informal conversations and the sharing afterward, the women were active participants. Many of them had accompanied their husbands to formation classes, and all of them are directly impacted by their husbands' ministries.
Deacon James Keating, director of theological formation at the Institute for Priestly Formation in Omaha, Nebraska, said deacons are born in families, most of them fall in love and start families before discerning a vocation to the diaconate, and they often are called upon to minister to other families.
Deacon Keating insisted that a deacon who has had proper formation in prayer, theology and the sacraments "will become a better husband," his wife "will actually fall more in love" because he will be converted to a closer relationship with Jesus and a greater availability to others.
However, he said, that availability is not so much about time and activity, as it is about "being" a deacon. It's about "relationships, not ministries," Deacon Keating insisted.
Kimberly Norman, whose husband, James, is a deacon at Our Lady of Sorrows Basilica in Chicago, said Deacon Keating was right. Speaking of her husband, she said: "Yes, he is a better man. Yes, he is a better husband." The preparation and ministry "has strengthened our marriage."
Deacon Norman said his wife has changed, too, and is a particularly good example and reminder to him to make more time for prayer.

Deacon Anthony Gooley of the Archdiocese of Brisbane, Australia, and a lecturer in theology at the Broken Bay Institute, told the crowd that deacons were instituted in the early Christian community to minister to people whose particular needs were not being met by the disciples.
They have the same mission today to reach unserved or underserved populations, he said. In fact, their potential contribution to the new evangelization "is limited only by imagination and by the will of those who engage in placements and pastoral planning in the dioceses."
"Too often a deacon is left to work out the details of his own pastoral ministry," Deacon Gooley said, and arrangements are made with "a handshake deal with the parish priest."
His remarks led to a ripple of agreement around the basilica.
Deacon Greg Kandra of the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York, a popular blogger and multimedia editor for the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, focused on the ministry of deacons in the workplace. Many of the almost 45,000 permanent deacons in the world continue to work in secular jobs in to support their families even after ordination.
But a deacon is a deacon no matter where he is, Deacon Kandra said. He is called by the church to be on the "front line," wherever he is.
"The deacon is called to be a witness to compassion," helping those who are hungry or poor, whether materially or spiritually. "They might work in the cubicle next to yours," he said.
As a witness to the dignity of work, Deacon Kandra said, the deacon is called to stand up for just wages and decent working conditions, but also to improve the workplace environment by "quieting gossip," listening to grievances, speaking up for those without a voice.
"Some of the most important missionary activity in the world today may begin in unlikely places, not in a jungle or desert of some far-off country, but around the water cooler, or on a bus, or over coffee in the company cafeteria," he said.
"What began on the altar on Sunday," Deacon Kandra said, "continues in the world and in the workplace on Monday."