Sunday, January 31, 2010

Praying FOR the Saints

Fr. Tony Ricard is one of our New Orleans Arcdiocesan Priests and the chaplain on the New Orleans Saints. He composed the following prayer for the Saints in this wonderful year:

Good and gracious God,

just as the nation of Israel stood on the banks of the river Jordan, we the Who Dat Nation now stand on the banks of the Mississippi, filled with joyful anticipation. We stand on these banks looking back from whence we came. Although we do not share a history of slavery in Egypt, we do share a common history of pain and heartache.

We remember the National Football League Season of 1980 and our downtrodden days of 1-and-15. We repent for our shameful past of wearing bags on our heads, forgetting that you were on our side. We recall the days when instead of looking forward to the playoffs, we could only look at each other and tearfully say, "Wait 'til next year."

Indeed, we have been through a long journey through the desert of athletic despair. But as we stand on these banks today, we know that our days in the desert are over.

Just like the Hebrew children, our 40 years of wandering in the desert have come to an end. With eyes of faith, we can see the promised land! We can taste the Super Bowl! And, yes Lord, we believe.

Lord, it is our time to claim the blessings that you promised our ancestors. In the name of Hap Glaudi, Jim Finks and Buddy Diliberto we now claim our rightful place among the elite teams in the NFL.

Through the prayers and guidance of our elders Tom and Gayle Benson, and the leadership of Rita Benson LeBlanc, we have become the strong nation that you, our God, have always intended us to be.

We, the Who Dat Nation, are ready to do what was often considered impossible. We are ready to march around the city of New Orleans, as Joshua marched around Jericho. We are ready to band together in a spirited dance, as David did in Jerusalem. We are ready to walk together united, as the Israelites walked across the dry bed of the river Jordan. But, we need you to hold back the waters of doubt, just as you held back the waters of the Jordan.

Endowed with Your amazing grace, we formally begin our march to the Super Bowl!

With the faith of our ancestors, we call down the power of God to strengthen our players and coaches.

With the courage of our elders, we call down the protection of the angels to guard them from major injuries.

With four decades of hope, we call down the presence of the heavenly saints to lead the New Orleans Saints onto the battlefield of the gridiron.

We thank you for giving us a taste of what is to come. But, now we are ready for the banquet. We have proven ourselves worthy of your grace.Now, through your providence, may we, the Who Dat Nation, finally reach the Promised Land.


The Rev. R. Tony Ricard

Pastor, Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish

The Permanent Diaconate in the Archdiocese of New Orleans

The Permanent Diaconate of the Archdiocese of New Orleans is looking for a few good men. Sometime this spring an inquiry session will begin for those men who may feel a calling to the diaconate or perhaps have been encouraged to give the diaconate a look by a pastor or ministry leader in the local parish. Ultimately, in the end, a man is ordained a Deacon by the will of God after a long period of formation. The process always starts with an inquiry. Those who participate in this year's inquiry and make application to formation will form the class of 2014.

Our Archdiocese has been very active in forming and ordaining men to the Permanent Diaconate. A class of about 18 men were ordained in the spring of 2006. These servants endured not only the rigors of formation but the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina. Their actual ordination was postponed 6 months while the Archdiocese struggled to get back on her feet. In 2008 we witnessed the ordination of 23 new Deacons, a class that included yours truly. We too were greatly impacted by Katrina as we discontinued formal formation activities for an entire year. We all were involved in various recovery efforts around our parishes and for some, they were busy rebuilding their lives. In 2010, just 10 months from now, we will ordain a class of 10. And a class that began just a year ago with 20 is scheduled for ordination in 2012.

With so many ordinations in the last few years why begin a new inquiry group? The reason is simple: the need is great.

The Permanent Deacon is an ordained ministry distinct from that of the Priest. Permanent deacons are ordained to be ministers of charity and service. While it is true that Deacons are seen in ministries that Priests used to be more visibly involved, the need for more Deacons is not simply a response to any shortage of Priests. Permanent Deacons are fulfilling the three-fold hierarchy of orders that can be traced to Scripture: Bishop - Priest - Deacon.

In New Orleans the Permanent Diaconate ordained it's first class in 1974. From these humble beginnings we currently have 153 men serving the Archdiocese. Currently, 75 parishes in our Archdiocese are served by a Permanent Deacon. In addition to parish ministry, Permanent Deacons in this Archdiocese serve in hospitals, nursing homes, hospice, prisons, youth rehabilitation centers, Stella Maris ministry for seamen at the port of New Orleans, chaplains at high schools, members of the Archdiocesan tribunal, work with the homeless, run alcohol and drug rehab centers and more. They serve as chaplains for the FBI, several sheriff and police departments and other secular associations. Permanent Deacons are often found during the week preparing couples for marriage, parents for the baptism of their baby, counseling those in grief, working on someone's annulment, conducting prayer services and retreats.

The need for an ordained presence in the ministry of service is great. Of the 153 Permanent Deacons in New Orleans only 1 is under the age of 50 and only 18 are under the age of 60. Almost half of our Deacons, 75 to be exact, are in the age group between 65-75. There are currently 37 dedicated servants continuing their ministry beyond the standard retirement age of 75.

Permanent Deacons must learn to carry out their ordained ministry while continuing to balance family concerns as well as careers. Sometimes, job responsibilities or family commitments may cause conflicts with diaconal assignments. In some cases, the Deacon may need a leave of absence or is transferred by the employer. Deacons, like anyone else, get sick and some may die before the age of 75. And then you have those life changing events like Hurricane Katrina that dislocated many Deacons, the number of which still sits at 27 today.

If you, or if you know someone, are interested in the upcoming inquiry process please contact your pastor or the Permanent Deacon at your parish. If there even is the slighest possibility that God is calling you to ordained ministry, come and see.

Even in this Year for Priests, even when we are all called to pray for and support vocations to the Priesthood, the Permanent Diaconate in the Archdiocese of New Orleans is striving to fulfill our vocational call. You just may be an important part of that plan.

More details to follow.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Homily for 4th Sunday/Ordinary Time/January 31, 2010

All you need is love; love is all you need!

Recognize the lyrics from that Beatles classic? All we really need is love.

Who do we love? What do we love? Do we catch ourselves using the word love for almost everything?

The same word we use to express our love to our spouse, our children, our grandchildren and our dear friends we use when talking about many things.

Here is a list of things I know that I have said I love:

The Saints (geaux Saints), sports, politics, all things LSU, food, ice cream, riding my tractor, traveling, the fall, cool weather, a good book, the mountains, writing, watching old shows on TV Land, a great movie, old songs from the 70’s, the Deadliest Catch, Abita Springs. Get the point?

I love my ministry, especially here at St. Jane’s, baptizing babies, helping a couple and ministering at the prison.

What do you love? How would your list look if I asked you to list anything you have said you love?

As people of faith, do we truly love? Do we know what love is and what it is not?

St. Paul has done just that for us in today’s second reading. His letter to the people of Corinth, written around the year 56, just 23 years after the Resurrection, was a response to deep divisions among the Christian faithful of that community. He tells what love is: patient, kind, it rejoices with the truth, it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. And St. Paul tells us what love is not: it is not jealous, pompous, inflated, rude, it is not seeking self interest, quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing. And then he concludes with that beautiful 3 word sentence: Love never fails!

St. Paul knew that the Corinthians needed to hear this message of love to heal the wounds of sin and division, to reestablish a Christian sense of community and to focus their prayer and worship on God. Today, this beautiful reading has become a center piece at many Catholic weddings. It’s a good fit. It’s a beautiful message for the bride and groom to hear. It’s equally important for the greater community to hear as well.

If St. Paul was writing a letter to the community in Abita Springs, would he have to instruct us on love? Would he believe that all of us have made a strong commitment to love?

Do we love the difficult to love? Can we say we love the angry or disinterested spouse, the parent who we believe is too mean, a disobedient child, a boss who places unreasonable demands and expectations on us? And who have we decided is unlovable? Can we love the homeless, the marginalized, the families that stand in line at the food bank, those on welfare, the immigrant, the convicted felon (I know something about this), our national enemies, the separated black sheep of the family, people of different faiths, nationalities or race?

Perhaps we should understand that in the Christian tradition, influenced by the Greek language, love is expressed in different words, three of which I want to explore: eros, philia and agape. Eros is the “I’m in love” kind of love. It’s romantic love. It’s love heavily dependent on feelings. Eros can be fickle, as it requires feelings, emotions and circumstances to be in harmony. Philia we should recognize as the root for Philadelphia. In our country we refer to Philadelphia as the city of brotherly love. Philia is the love of friendship, fellowship, our fellow man. We too can say that sometimes, friendships are subject to feelings, emotions and circumstances. But St. Paul’s exhortation on love is agape love. Agape is love freely given with no expectation, none whatsoever, of anything being given in return. Agape says my love is for you and I expect nothing. Agape love is two arms outstretched on the cross, for you and me, to share eternal life with God in Heaven. Agape love is God sending Jesus in the first place, remember John 3:16. Agape love is Jesus’ command to love our enemies; love them and do not persecute them; Luke 6:35. Agape love is the love that sends us to the poor boxes or to the people of Haiti; it is the love of God within that allows me to take care of the brother in need; 1 John 3:17.

This love; agape love, is why we support the benefit dinner today in St. Joseph Hall, for a family so totally in need of our love today. This love is why we continue to give from our heart to the people of Haiti. This love is why I and others who assist me go to the prison as others go to hospitals and nursing homes as well.

In addition to supporting the benefit today, show your agape this week by reflecting on your love for those you easily love and those you find difficult to love. Love an enemy this week; may I suggest the Indianapolis Colts as an example!

Spend some time this week in reading John’s Gospel, called by many the Gospel of love or John’s 1st letter, especially verse 4:8 where we read, Deus Caritas Est: God is Love. Reread this passage in the week ahead. And when you do, see if you can change the word “love” to your name. (Mike is patient, Mike is kind…).

The Beatles were right; all you need is love; eros, philia and agape.

Agape love: loving unconditionally expecting nothing in return.

I love it!!!

St. John Bosco

I first heard the name of this Saint when I became a student at Archbishop Shaw High School. This all male high school was, and still is, run by the Salesians of St. John Bosco. Other than his odd sounding name, I knew little of St. John Bosco.

My personal journey in the Salesian tradition comes full circle as I moved to Abita Springs and became a parishioner at St. Jane de Chantal Catholic Church. St. Jane's personal spiritual adviser was none other than St. Francis de Sales, whom Bosco named his religious order for. In fact, new stain glass windows are being prepared for installation at our beautiful church, one of which will be dedicated to St. John Bosco.

Bosco was ordained a Priest in the first half of the 19th century and soon became a chaplain for an all boys refuge. By 1856 he was in charge of over 150 boys with another 500 being cared for by other priests. Bosco was well regarded for his care of the boys and encouraged them in educational pursuits and religious studies. He paid for the care of the boys by preaching, writing books and soliciting donations.

He soon founded the Salesians, the Society of St. Francis de Sales, which received approval from Pope Pius IX in 1859. St. John Bosco also founded the Daughters of Our Lady, Help of Christians, to care for poor and neglected girls.

St. John Bosco died in 1888 and was canonized on January 31, 1934.

To this day, the Salesians have a strong presence in the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

St. John Bosco, pray for us.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

More on the Saints; but I bet not what you think...

What an awesome week for the Saints; tonight, I'm talking about Saints in Heaven. Today is the Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, a doctor of the church. He was born in the 13th century to a wealthy family in Italy. Thomas studied at the Benedictine Monte Cassino Monastery from the age of 5. He joined the Dominicans in 1244, a move that so shocked his familt they actually kidnapped him holding him captive in a castle. He persisted and rejoined the order and was ordained in 1250 or 1251. He went to Paris and excelled at writing, teaching and preaching. His most famous writings are contained in the Summa Theologiae. He is considered the greatest theological master of all Christianity. He did experience visions and revelations during his priesthood. He died in 1274, was canonized in 1323 and made a doctor of the church in 1567.

Just yesterday we celebrated the Memorial of St. Angela Merici. She was born in 1470 and became a third order Fransiscan. She began her ministry of educating young girls in charitable works under the patronage of St. Ursula. This gave rise to the Ursuline nuns who are well known for Christian education of young girls. They were established in 1535, just 5 years before her death in 1540. We in New Orleans benefit greatly from her memory as the Ursulines are prominent here and we have a first class church parish and blue ribbon Catholic school named for St. Angela in the Metairie community.

And on Tuesday we remembered Sts. Timothy and Titus. Both were devoted disciples and assistants to St. Paul. Timothy actually replaced Barnabas, the trusted companion of Paul on many of his well documented journeys. Timothy led the church at Ephesus and was named a bishop. He died around the year 97. Titus was a convert to Christianity at the urging of St. Paul. He was present at the Council of Jerusalem, the first church counil documented in Acts of the Apostles. He too was ordained bishop for the faithful of Crete. St. Paul wrote letters to both of them which make up part of the inspire canon of the New Testament.

So, in many ways, this has been a great week for Saints.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Is it fair to criticize those euphoric over the Saints; especially Christians?

OK, let's get this out of the way early before the Super Bowl hype gets to be too crazy.

A couple of folks have commented to me, and in other circles, that there is too much of a love affair with the Saints championship and subsequent Super Bowl appearance among devout Christians, including members of the clergy. I believe, from what I can ascertain, that the theory being promoted is that all this excitement over the Saints is such a waste of time. After all, should we not be more excited over all things God?

Why are churches playing "When the Saints Go Marching In" at the end of Mass? Why do certain Catholic priests wear Saints jerseys under their vestments? How about the Bishop in New Orleans calling the Body of Christ the Who Dat Nation?

The complaint continues; this is all too much.

Here is my measured Catholic, ordained ministers response: GET REAL; PLEASE GET REAL.

If we can forgive and overlook so much in our faithful Christian tradition you mean to tell me we can't understand the excitement of long suffering Saints fans in this most historic time. And please don't sell short the love Saints fans have for God or His Church, just because they love a team that is as much of their local culture as, well, as their catholicism.

I'm not comparing the Saints or the Super Bowl to our faith life. You see excited Saints fans that are Christian, particularly faithful Catholics, know the difference. For those of you who, for whatever unexplicable reason, don't care about the Saints in the Super Bowl; it's o.k. for God still loves you. And He loves those faithful who are nuts over the Saints.

Another piece of advice: DO NOT use the love for the Saints as some sort of litmus test to gauge faithful Christians' love for God.

This is a fun, exciting thing that a sports fan can enjoy. Get over yourself if you can't understand.

And remember; for everything there is a season under the Heavens; which includes a time to laugh, a time to dance, a time to embrace, and apparently; a time for the Saints to be in the Super Bowl.

Geaux Saints and Saints fan: enjoy every minute of this!!!

Monday, January 25, 2010

The conversion of St. Paul; with God all things are possible...

Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? With this question, Jesus confronts Saul, a tentmaker from Tarsus who spent much of his spare time persecuting the new believers of Jesus Christ. A devout Jew, Saul was convinced that the devotion to Jesus was a threat to his religion. In Acts of the Apostles, he is mentioned as the one who orchestrated the stoning death of St. Stephen, the first reported Christian martyr.

Saul was on his way to Damascus when he had a personal encounter with Jesus. With a flash of light and the above referenced question, Saul was talking to the Messiah he denied. Interesting choice of words by Jesus; by using "me" he forever linked Himself to the "church".

Most of you reading this know the story. He was taken into town, blinded by the encounter, and stayed there for three days until the Lord sent Ananias to him to lay hands on him. Ananias was obedient, laid hands and told Saul you will regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit. And he was; his sight was restored and he immediately was baptized.

Scripture says that at once, he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.

His name was changed to Paul and the rest is history. St. Paul became a pillar of the church; his wonderful writings and letters make up such a rich body of work in the New Testament.

So today let us all celebrate the conversion of St. Paul; transformed by the power of God's love, the healing power of Christ and the infusion of the Holy Spirit, from a persecutor of the Christian faith to a vessel of His grace!

St. Francis de Sales and the SuperBowl.

Yesterday was the feast day of St. Francis de Sales and he is one of my favorite Saints; the Saints in Heaven that is!! One of the reasons I have a devotion to Francis de Sales is the order that bears his name; Salesians. I was taught by the Salesians during High School when I attended Archbishop Shaw High in Marrero, La. I have stayed in touch with Salesian spirituality since then. The other major reason is that St. Francis de Sales was the spiritual advisor to another Saint, St. Jane de Chantal, for whom my home parish is named. In fact, together, they started an order of nuns called the Visitation sisters.

Francis was a powerful Christian witness exhorting the faithful and restoring Catholicism as the faith of the people of France. He became the Bishop of Geneva and continued to help spread the faith by being a faithful pastor and through many spiritual writings. Among his most important works was the Devout Life, regarded today as a spiritual classic.

St. Francis de Sales was very close to St. Jane and by his example she was able to endure being a widow with several children, a difficult life lived with her in-laws and the amazing conversion to be not only a nun, but the founder of a religious order.

Now the connection to the New Orleans Saints. It's early in the morning so this is a cursory check. To my knowledge, every game day that was listed as an official feastday of a Catholic Saint resulted in a victory. I should have realized that yesterday was not only a big feastday, but the feastday of a French Catholic Saint, in the tradition of all those many French Catholic Saints that are patrons of the New Orleans area.

So St. Francis de Sales, thanks and may we humbly still beg your prayerful intercession.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

My Saints in the Super Bowl; and New Orleans is joyful!

I can't believe my eyes but then again I can. On the one hand I never thought I'd ever say Saints are in the SuperBowl yet on the other hand I've always hoped; always dreamed!

The set up for this historic night in New Orleans begins with a team that made a comittment to a great coach and a great QB. They almost pulled it off in year 1 with a first time ever trip to the NFC championship in Chicago. Not to be that year. Then we endured two confusing lackluster years until this season. Some strong pickups on the defensive side of the ball and the Saints began the regular season. We noticed at 3-0, then back to back wins against New York teams and a few weeks later we are 8-0. Everyone focused on the New England game and the Saints produced a flat out butt whipping. Now the nation took pause to say what about these Saints. They reached 13-0 and all were ready for the Dallas game. The team looked like they lost focus temporarily and lost to Dallas and then Tampa too. That one hurt. After the Tampa game, in my frustration, I wrote that they were overrated at 13-2. Man, I was wrong.

After finishing 13-3 they secured home field advantage by being the #1 seed in the NFC. And they destroyed the Cardinals and arrived at tonight. From a sports standpoint it was a weird game. The Saints could not get a first down on almost all there 3rd down situations, Drew got less accurate as the game wore on but the Vikings, who dominated in yardage and time of possession. Ah, but turnovers. The Vikings made big ones; clutch ones especially that miracle one at the end of regulation.

The Saints won the toss for overtime and never gave the Vikes the ball. And then the most unlikeliest of Saint heroes; Garret Hartley splits a perfect kick thru the uprights and now we say:


Right now I'm watching TV and listening to the radio as Saints fans, heck all New Orleanians, are running in the street, hugging and crying and celebrating. The French Quarter looks like it's Mardi Gras squared; people are shooting off fireworks, and out here in the country; live ammo.

No other community in the nation, and dare I say the world, will ever have the relationship this place has with it's Saints. This has galvanized a community; healed the wounds of Katrina; brought people of different races, religions, etc. together. A community is in sheer ecstasy tonight.

Church bells are being rung; Catholics are invoking the litany of the Saints; many are still on their knees in prayer.

And yes, we understand this is football. We still have work and school in the morning and some of our cares and concerns are still there. We still are reaching out to the Haitians and for us, have a huge election in New Orleans proper in two weeks.

But tonight; it's all Saints.

43 years is longer than it took Moses to get the people to the promised land. In football vernacular; the Super Bowl is the promised land. Thank you Saints, the Benson family, coach Peyton and his staff, all the players and all who had anything to do with this magical moment.

And congratulations to all the fans; the one's who believe when some of us seem like we don't. Many people really give a lot to support this team.

My final word. So many unbelievable people have gone on to be with the real Saints in Heaven and are smiling tonight. I especially remember sports personalities Buddy Diliberto and Hap Glaudi. But tonight, I have two very special people who I know loved the Saints; my Uncle Jimmy, who made sure as a young boy, I attended NFL games in old Tulane Stadium. By the grace of God I was there when Tom Dempsey kicked that great 63 yard FG. And my Uncle Tiny, who faithfully listened to every Saints game on a small transistor radio, during the lean years, always hoping for just a winning season. Tonight, this win and the Saints trip to the SuperBowl is for you and all the Uncle Jimmy's and Tiny's who ever loved the Saints.

Laissez Le Bon Temps Rouler New Orleans; Geaux Saints Geaux!!!

Homily for 3rd Sunday Ordinary Time/ Jan. 24, 2010

One of my favorite episodes of the classic television series MASH involved the main character, Hawkeye Pierce. Called to help light a fire in the old heater in the nurse’s tent, the heater unexpectedly explodes and Hawkeye is blinded. At first, Hawkeye is bitter; after all he is a skilled surgeon and blindness threatened his career. He then encounters a soldier in the recovery tent who has also been blinded. Incidentally, the soldier was played by a blind real-life actor named Tom Sullivan.

Through his example, Hawkeye begins to feel less sorry for himself. Later on, in one amazing scene he describes with such beauty the noises and sounds he has experienced while blind.

We have heard this through countless studies of how the blind, many times, are gifted with a superior sense of hearing. We all can recall the amazing talents of blind entertainers like Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder. Their unique sense of hearing, coupled with their talent, has made them among the best singers of our lifetime.

Hearing is, unfortunately for many of us, our most under utilized sense. WE may need to be reminded over and over; God gave us a mouth to speak but two ears to hear.

As people of faith, do we hear Jesus? Do we hear His words? And possibly, do we hear Him personally calling us?

Today’s readings are all about hearing. The first reading from Nehemiah finds the prophet Ezra reading from the Old Testament and we hear that the people listened to him for 6 hours. 6 hours!! And some of you think my homilies are long?!? Nehemiah comes into the picture tells the people that today is holy to the Lord because the people HEARD the words of the law. Hearing is important to the Lord.

St. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Corinthians that all parts of the body are needed to make the body work. He asks what good would the body be without the ear. Again, St. Paul values HEARING.

And our Gospel gives us Jesus reading in the temple from a scroll upon which are the prophetic words about Him; from the prophet Isaiah. Notice how this encounter in the synagogue happens on the Sabbath. This is a lesson for all Christians. God the Son, Jesus himself, believed in going to church and obeying God’s will. This is the model we are called to follow. Another model in that synagogue was that Jesus read and the people HEARD. How many times are the words of Scripture proclaimed in our church yet we fail to hear? Proclaiming and hearing is the rhythm that God designed for his Word.

The Gospel we have just HEARD is in effect the first homily of Jesus. He must have read the passage from Isaiah with great skill or passion as we notice the eyes of all His hearers looked intently at Him. And then here comes the homily:

Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing!

When we HEARD this Gospel proclaimed right here right now, did we HEAR Jesus say: I am your Messiah, I am your Savior. Jesus’ words were clear: He is who He says He is!

So what are we called to do as we leave Mass today and enter into another week of the real world where our hearing is challenged by the noise of everyday life? We are called to reexamine our faith life and take stock if we are, first, hearers of the Word and then doers of the Word. Who among us can even recall the Gospel or the homily as we leave church? One day after Mass, I was thanked for my profound words of wisdom in my homily. One problem: I did not preach the homily that Sunday.

We can reflect once or twice this week on this very Gospel passage. And our question should be, is Jesus fulfilled in my HEARING.

Also, we can take time this week to pick out just one person and truly make ourselves present to them by listening and hearing what they say and hearing what is truly on their heart.

And we can also learn to HEAR Christ in our lives by listening to His Church. We can HEAR the teachings from our Holy Father or our Bishop for they represent Christ here on earth.

And finally, if you are hearing a call from the Lord that may be inviting you to consider a religious vocation, listen intently. Perhaps God is asking you in a very personal way to serve Him and His people as a Priest, Deacon or religious.

Hawkeye Pierce, despite that accidental blindness, was given a great gift of enhanced hearing. May we also hear with our senses heightened.

After all, maybe Stevie Wonder was hearing God’s very words when he sang: I just called to say I love you!!

Friday, January 22, 2010

How Haiti has changed me

I don't claim to know anyone from Haiti; not even sure if I've personally met a Haitian. All I know about Haiti comes from news accounts and maybe a book or two. Yet the tragedy in Haiti has been very real to me. I have been moved many times over the past 10 days of the stories of the death and destruction, the rescue efforts, the volunteer efforts of the international community, the hope, the disappointment, the totality of the disaster.

Through it all, I have been most moved by the expressions of faith as demonstrated by so many Haitians on TV. Spontaneous songs of praise and hands raised in the air in prayer. Pleas for God's mercy being sent heavenward have been replayed over and over again. Worshippers gathered in front of the great Cathedral in Port-au-Prince, so heavily damaged, and prayed.

Many Haitians, despite great obstacles and the odds greatly stacked against them, have demonstrated resilience, charity, humility, joy, hope and patience. Sure, patience sometimes grows short and difficulties remain in ways we cannot understand.

Listening today to stories of gratefulness over a meal, some bottled water, a tent to sleep in, the news of a loved one or friend who survived gave me pause to wonder about all those things that I whine and cry about. First, am I grateful for life, for the everyday pleasures I take for granted? Am I grateful for a job and great co-workers to spend my day with? And am I truly grateful for my family; a wife who has loved and supported me for so many years and two children who make me proud everyday?

Then why do little things grieve me so? I would like more month at the end of my money. I would like to sleep in later or not work so hard. I would like the Saints to win the SuperBowl. I would like the weather to be warmer when it is cold and colder when it is hot? I wish I looked like I did when I was 30 years old. Get the picture?

It's tough when you realize that by nature you really can come across as depressed, ungrateful, downright complaining.

Haiti has opened my eyes to this reality. I need to be more joyful about each and every new day. I need to be more faithful as I realize God loves me and sent His Son to save me. I need to be more satisfied with what I have and distance myself from anxiety over what I want. I need to see the beauty in everyone I meet. I need to experience joy at the little things; the everyday things. I need to not give in to despair or disappointment so easily. I need to love more, laugh more, smile more and give comfort more.

God brings great hope from even the most evil events we witness in our lives. May this devastating event give hope to not only the Haitian people, who so richly deserve it, but to the entire world.

So tonight I lift my mind, heart and soul in prayer to God who loves me, loves you and loves the Hatian people.

Continue your prayers, continue your solidarity with our brothers and sisters from Haiti and continue giving what you can.

March for Life Friday

Another powerful witness for life is about to take place in our nation's capitol city, Washington D.C. Based on the amazing crowds that have packed the national basillica for masses last night and this morning, it should be a great turnout of pro-life activists. If you have a chance to view TV during the day today, tune in to EWTN and watch the events. Any observer will take note of the great witness to life by the Catholic Church in the presence of priests, religious, faithful laity, Catholic youth, Knights of Columbus and others. Make no mistake though, the crowd will include many of our brothers and sisters from various faith traditions who stand for life.

The March for Life comes on the 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade; that day in American history when Satan donned judicial robes and set into action the death of nearly 50 million pre-born children.

The presence this year in Washington D.C. is so needed as Roe v. Wade remains the law of the land and we witness the most politically active pro-death administration in a long time. Unfortunately, despite the rhetoric, we have a President who seems very friendly to advancing abortions, supporting groups like Planned Parenthood and working behind the scenes in placing federal funding for abortion in the health care fiasco.

There is much to do but for now, we stand in prayerful solidarity with all those who can be our voice today as they March for Life. Pro-life marches and other activities are planned across the nation, not just in washington D.C.

Before we leave this subject this morning can I invite you to link to another website today from this blog. Scroll down and looking on the left side of my page, find the link to Deacons Bench. Deacon Greg has reposted an amazing article about what the fullness of our Catholic pro-life stance should be. I hope you find it and can read it today.

So on this Friday, January 22, March for Life Friday, pray for those contemplating abortions, for those who see no wrong in this horrible act and for all of us, that we may respond more fully in a truly pro-life manner.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Another powerful witness: St. Agnes

Today the church celebrates the memory of St. Agnes, a powerful Christian martyr of the very early 4th century. Agnes was a young girl when she suffered martyrdom, reported to be about the age of 12. It is reported that even as a very young child, her faith was strong. The faith of this little girl was an inspiration to many.

Understanding God's love for her, Agnes, despite her youthfulness, declared that she would remain a virgin, consecrated to God, forever. This only encouraged the son of the Roman governor to attempt to seduce her. Agnes remained strong and refused the overtures of the young man. She must have known that the son had the power to accuse her of simply being a Christian, a crime in Rome at the time.

The governor himself was taken by the faith and beauty of Agnes and gave her a chance to save her life. He offered her great gifts if she would only renounce God, renounce Christianity and pledge her faith to the Emperor. She refused. Instead, she persevered in prayer and overcame the hardship of arrest and torture.

She was finally condemned to die, and praying and praising God, bravely endured her martyrdom at the hands of a sword weilding executioner.

It is said that there was no fear in the eyes of young Agnes but great fear in the eyes of her executioner.

In our current day world, we can draw great hope and courage from St. Agnes. We too can pledge our lives to be pure, devoted to God and willing to give our all to Him.

St Agnes, pray for us!

A Stormy night behind bars with an Archbishop

Last night I was able, with the support of many, to have retired Archbishop of New Orleans Alfred Hughes make a pastoral visit to Rayburn Correctional Facility. As many of you know from following this blog, Rayburn is the facility where I serve as the Catholic Chaplain.

Archbishop Hughes made several visits to Rayburn during his episcopacy. Both the inmates and the administration greatly admire Archbishop Hughes and are greatful for his support. The men asked me months ago if he could return and I was thrilled when he said yes.

I picked up the Archbishop, along with Fr. Joseph Krafft, at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans and we headed north. The drive from New Orleans to the prison facility is about 2 hours long. It was a little longer last night as we encountered inclement weather. Not to worry, we said our evening prayers en route and ate homemade sandwiches, prepared by the Archbishop, so we did not have to stop along the way.

Upon our arrival, the administration was there to greet the Archbishop and immediately asked if he would visit the prison infirmary. On this night, there are several inmates who may be living there last weeks in a prison infirmary. The Archbishop was generous with his time and compassion for these men, offering blessings and prayers. The Archbishop was then escorted to a private office where he was able to hear confessions from about 10 inmates.

Then the storm hit with a venegance. Power was knocked out to most of the facility, jeopardizing for a time our ability to celebrate mass. Taking it all in stride, the Archbishop met with more of the administration and a volunteer who runs a halfway house near the prison.

By 7 p.m. we got the all clear, power was restored and the men came pouring in. Almost 70 inmates, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, were eager to meet the Archbishop and be present for the celebration of the Mass. To assist Archbishop Hughes as the Deacon was a thrill as I always will be able to call him my ordaining bishop. I read the Gospel from the Book of the Gospels Archbishop Hughes inscribed for me just 13 months ago. And he delivered a message of great hope to the men in his homily. Recalling the story of a once hardened inmate that reformed and developed a deeper relationship with God on the inside of a prison, he told them that today he is free and ministering to others in prison. All because of what he did with his time on the inside. And all he did was fall in love with God.

As Mass ended, the Archbishop stationed himself in the one spot in the room that ensured he would shake every man's hand. And he did. As time came for us to leave, the weather had cleared some and we were on our way south, back to New Orleans.

His visit brings great joy and hope to those who many wish to lock up and throw away. These men are children of God too and have an opportunity to reform their lives. By involving themselves in faith based activities on the inside, they have a 75% chance that they won't return to prison. Archbishop Hughes appreciates that and has been a great example in word AND action in supporting prison ministry.

Despite heavy fog on the road home, I experienced an opportunity to listen to his wisdom and love for Christ and His Church, prayed together and reflect on a very fulfilling evening.

I dropped the Archbishop and Fr. Joseph off back at the seminary around 10:30 and prepared to head back north; exhausted but so blessed. In fact the final act Archbishop Hughes did before entering into the residence was to bless me for my journey home.

Last night I had the most peaceful and restful sleep in years.

May God continue to bless the ministry of Archbishop Alfred Hughes and watch over and guide the men at Rayburn Correctional.

And I'll be back next week to pray and minister again!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Political Upset for the Ages

In this very week, America has paused to remember the historic swearing in of President Barack Obama. Historic because the fact remains, America elected for the first time an African-American to the highest office in the land.

Now just one year to the week later, the very "blue" state; the Democratic bastion known as the People's Republic of Massachussets, has elected a Republican named Scott Brown to the seat held forever by Ted Kennedy. This is huge.

Without trying to come down on a political side; something all ordained ministers should refrain from doing, I must say that I have heard a more pro-life message tonight coming from this guy than I've heard from all Massachussets politicians in the last 40 years. Let's be clear; Brown is far from being 100% pro-life. But he has pledged to fight against federal funding and against partial birth abortion and that's a big pro-life gain coming from heavily pro-death Massachussets.

And I will admit, on a personal level, it will be nice to have one less Catholic politician promoting their anti-Catholic agenda; like Ted Kennedy and like Martha Coakley demonstrated on the campaign trail.

Scott Brown's election proves that the power of our system still can lie with the people. In this state, Republicans make up only 15% of the electorate. Independents voting today overwhelmingly voted for Brown. The sheer votes still being counted also shows that a surprising number of Democrats voted for Brown too! Yes, we the people hold the power when we choose to use it.

Make no mistake; both the Republicans and the Democrats leave much to be desired. But almost anyone with a sincere faith life and deep love for this nation, if being honest with themselves, will admit that this particular adminstration and this particular congressional leadership is the most openly hostile to life, liberty and freedom.

So now it will be interesting to see how quickly the leadership allows Senator-elect Brown to be seated and how sincere he will be to his campaign promises.

To my many friend, the vast numerous amount of you who happen to be Republican, remember that the GOP had many golden opportunities to turn this nation to one that honors and protects life and promotes liberty and freedom. After the 1994 election, the Repubs did nothing to challenge a damaged President Bill Clinton, deciding instead to honor a long time favorite son, Bob Dole, with their nomination, knowing in their hearts and minds that he had zero chance of victory. And soon after President Bush, #43, was elected, while owning majorities in both houses, no major proactive pro-life effort beyond a few executive orders. And who can claim that the effort to run McCain-Palin against Obama was a strong effort to win.

You see my friends, when you openly declare yourself on a "side" it becomes easier to count wins and losses than it does to hold the feet of your own to the fire.

I came to realize that in forming myself for ministry that God, to be true to his own word, which he cannot contradict, is neither Republican or Democrat; no more than God is Jew or Greek, slave or free, etc.

I do believe that tonight's election is historic, newsworthy and decidedly pro-life. I hope and will pray that Senator-elect Brown and those who relish in his victory will promote life, from conception to natural death.

And let this election, just like that one a little over a year ago, give us all the desire to pray for our nation, to pray for each other, and be doers of the word, not just hearers.

Monday, January 18, 2010

A most rewarding MLK day!

I made up my mind a few weeks ago that this was not going to be an ordinary day off for the annual holiday remembering Martin Luther King. The Archdiocese of New Orleans was promoting several projects as part of a day of service to commemorate this important holiday. As the Catholic chaplain for a state prison I thought what better way to spend the day. And so I did.

Before I traveled north to Rayburn Prison I began my day at mass and was given the unexpected opportunity to preach this morning. With nothing prepared I related the story of my daughter insisting that we visit the National Civil Rights Musuem on our summer trip to Memphis. To be able to state that I literally stood on the very spot Dr. King was slain and the spot where his assassin fired the shot was overwhelming. I remember this morning relating the need to elimate all forms of prejudice from our lives as being that new wine skin that accepts new wine; from today's Gospel from Mark.

After some nice time spent with several parishioners over coffee I took off for Rayburn Prison. Little did I know that I would spend nearly 4 hours here, visiting every dorm including the lockdown. This would be my first experience at the lockdown and I will admit it was a little more intimidating than my other visits. There were plenty of men in lockdown who were respectable and several asked for prayer. But many seemed at first to resent my visit and a few had nothing to do with me passing through. That's o.k. as it is part of the total prison experience.

I did meet with many of the men who come to our Catholic evening services and masses and others who attend other faith based events. All I know is that I walked constantly for hours and must have shook hundreds of hands today. It is so peaceful to realize you don't have to visit with long-winded sermons and prayers; your presence among the inmates speaks volumes to them and your presence reflects Christ presence to them. For me, their presence does the same.

I truly had a most wonderful day today. The MLK holiday was both an opportunity to serve and an opportunity to reflect on the miles I have traveled in overcoming generational prejuidice.

I hope this dayis meaningful to you and I look forward to the day when King's dream will be fully realized and all can have this day off as a national day of service in honor of Dr. King's vision.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Reflections on racism on the eve of MLK day

Listed below in its' entirety is a story about the pastoral letter released some 3 years ago by the now retired Archbishop of New Orleans, Alfrd Hughes. It is thought provoking and challenging read for those who have strong beliefs about racism.

I offer it tonight as we are poised to celebrate the memory of Martin Luther King, whose holiday we celebrate tomorrow.

I encourage you to read this and then visit my post from June 16th of the past year when my family visited the National Civil Rights Musuem.

Racism is present in church, U.S. archbishop says, offering apology, committing to action

Catholic Online

NEW ORLEANS, La. (Catholic Online) – Racism is present in the hearts of some Catholics and institutionally in the Catholic Church which the faithful must work to purge in thought and in action, said a U.S. archbishop in a comprehensive pastoral letter.
In the document, “’Made in the Image and Likeness of God’: A Pastoral Letter on Racial Harmony,” released Dec. 15, New Orleans Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes begged forgiveness for acts the church committed that were racially insensitive or did not promote racial harmony, and committed the church to action.

The pastoral was made available in its entirety in the Dec. 16 issue of the Clarion Herald (

“I want to express an apology for the way in which I or other members of the church have acted or failed to act,” he said. “I want to acknowledge the past in truth, seek forgiveness and recommit myself and our church in New Orleans to realizing the gospel message in our relations with one another.”

It was released on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the issuance by New Orleans Archbishop Joseph Rummel of the landmark and controversial pastoral, “The Morality of Racial Segregation.”

“In this 1956 ground-breaking message,” Archbishop Hughes said of his predecessor, “he announced that racial segregation was to be gradually dismantled in all Catholic schools in the Archdiocese. He stated unequivocally: ‘Racial segregation as such is morally wrong and sinful because it is a denial of the unity-solidarity of the human race as conceived by God in the creation of Adam and Eve.’”

The archdiocese celebrates “this courageous pioneer of racial integration,” Archbishop Hughes said, “even as we try to make a realistic assessment of the progress and the challenges that are ours today.”

About a quarter of the 41,000 students in archdiocesan Catholic schools represent ethnic minorities, with more than 7,000 are African-Americans, almost 1,500 are Hispanic, more than 1,000 are Asian-American and about 200 are multi-racial, he noted.

He cited the Ursuline Sisters welcoming of children of different races and religious backgrounds going back to 1727 and St. Katharine Drexel’s establishing of 40 schools for African-Americans in south Louisiana, including the formation of Xavier University in New Orleans, as examples of the church’s role in the city’s three centuries of “multi-racial and multi-cultural” history.

But he pointed to the presence of racism in the church in the past and its existence today that it must work to purge.

While acknowledging his own reluctance to use “the emotionally charged” term “racism,” Archbishop Hughes said that the Catholic Church “is not of hesitant to define racism as both a personal sin and a social disorder rooted in the belief that one race is superior to another.”

“Racism can be both personal and institutional,” he stressed. “Hence, it involves not only individual prejudice but also the use of religious, social, political, economic or historical power to keep one race privileged.”

Institutions, he noted, can “foster attitudes or practices that leads to unjust discrimination” in political life, in education, in housing and in establishing blockages to equal economic opportunities.

Institutional racism is also present in the Catholic Church, he said.

“When members, whether in leadership or not, treat other racial or cultural expressions as inferior or unwelcome, they contribute to an institutional form of racism within the church – for which we must continually repent and ask forgiveness,” the archbishop said.

“Unfortunately, today as in the past,” he added, “we in the church have been slow to appreciate the full depth and breadth of the meaning of divine revelation that each human person is made in the image and likeness of God.”

The archbishop admitted that the church’s response “to this unjust situation has been uneven and often half-hearted.” He pointed to the church not working hard enough to make its teaching against racism known to the Catholic community and the public at large, in not giving racism “a high priority,” and not reacting quickly enough to deal with the issue of “white flight” from parishes.

He pointed to the painful suffering in post-Katrina New Orleans, noting that “the devastating flood water has brought home the still unaddressed issues which weigh heavily upon us: the unacceptably high rate of poverty among African Americans; the limited choices in education because of the failing public schools; the disproportionate percentages without health insurance; the difficulty in finding adequate affordable housing.”

He offered the hope that “the waters of Katrina (which means cleansing) were not only to wreak devastation, but also to wash away the stain of racial prejudice and division, and enable us to rise to a new life of racial justice and harmony.”

The impact of Hurricane Katrina, the archbishop said, reinforced for him the need to address “the racial undercurrent to so many issues we face in our community.”

“The housing crunch, economic barriers, the failures in public education, the two-tier health-care delivery system in New Orleans, the shortcomings of civic, governmental and church leadership have impacted us all, but the poor to a disproportionate extent,” he said.

He pointed to difficulties faced in returning from Katrina by African-Americans, the experience of prejudice and unjust treatment by Latinos working in recovery jobs and the “community resolve of the Vietnamese community to rebuild despite finding itself “outside the civic decision-making structure.”

“If Katrina should enable us to develop public schools which truly teach the mind and form children in virtue; if Katrina should make it possible for us to provide health care for all our citizens including the most vulnerable; if Katrina should goad us into truly working together for flood protection, public transportation, economic development and housing communities which are mixed-income, interracial and culturally uplifting; if Katrina should give rise to more citizens and public officials who truly want to serve the common good, then God will have enabled us to transform tragedy into victory,” the archbishop said.

The archbishop addressed candidly “white privilege,” which he defined as “those with lighter skin color have certain advantages, privileges and benefits that persons of darker color do not enjoy.”

Noting that an African-American family in Louisiana is more than three times as likely than a white family to live in poverty (36 percent to 11 percent), Archbishop Hughes said that “white people often do not see the advantages that are inherent simply in being born into society with physical characteristics valued by that society.”

“People of color,” he said, “have certain systemic disadvantages, burdens and stigmas that they have to overcome.”

He said that, while a white person may not espouse racial superiority, “anyone who has accepted social privilege at the expense of people of another race is complicit in the fostering of attitudes and behavior that unfortunately can feed racial disharmony.”

The archbishop outlined an “action plan” outlining “a strategy for moving forward as a church and as a post-Katrina community.”

The church needs to examine and respond to the “significance of white exodus from the inner city and the toleration of poverty resulting in inferior schools, housing and healthcare for those who are racially and culturally different,” the bishop said, as well as encouraging and finding ways to support “responsible marriages, good parenting and wholesome family life.”

Immigration reform is another area which requires the church to speak out, he said. The archbishop noted that, while “every country has a responsibility to defend its citizens, to protect its borders and to develop responsible control over immigration,” policies should not penalize legitimate refugees or workers needed in the United States or prevent reunification between spouses and families.

He further pledged the archdiocese to work to strengthen interfaith ties with the Jewish community. “Moreover, our efforts to address racial justice today should also have a significant impact on the way we, in this age of increased terrorism, address ethnic and religious prejudice against Muslims.”

The archbishop offered 27 specific pastoral “commitments of the archdiocese” to meet the challenge of racism. Included in them are:

- Promotion of liturgies that reflect the religious and cultural diversity of the archdiocese.

- Development of programs of racial and cultural education for clergy, staff, teachers and catechists.

- Creation of policies promoting minority vendor consideration in the archdiocese, especially having to do with the post-Katrina rebuilding effort.

- Development of initiatives to promote “strengthening of marriages and families in the lives of the poor.”

- Advocacy of initiatives in the state and nation on immigration reform, fair wages, housing, education and employment practices.

- Promotion of Christian and non-Christian collaborative efforts to fight racial and cultural discrimination.

- Development of parish efforts to nurture vocations to the priesthood, dioconate and religious life from African- , Asian- and Native-American and Hispanic peoples.

The archbishop, in a section of seven “recommendations for all Catholics,” urged “that we confront and reject any racial stereotypes, remarks and prejudices,” “refrain from membership in clubs or organizations which are not open to a racially or culturally diverse membership” and “vote for public officials who are committed to human life, human dignity and racial, cultural and systemic justice.”

“It is important for us to be able to say,” the archbishop stressed, “there is only one community in our new New Orleans.”

He offered a prayer that the Catholic community “become a place welcoming to linguistically, racially and culturally diverse people, a place of beauty, a place of safety, a place of peace, a place for spiritual enrichment and renewal. God grant us the grace, the wisdom and the courage to realize this vision.”

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Homily for 2nd Sunday Ordinary Time/January 17,2010

My wife and I have been married for almost 33 years and we will never forget our wedding day. Not just because it was our wedding day; we will remember the hottest June 4th on record in New Orleans. The official high temperature hit 99 on this early June afternoon which turned out to be the same day the central air conditioning at St. Julian Eymard Church decided to quit working. By 2:30 in the afternoon the inside temperature was near 85 degrees. Despite one incident or two where my new bride looked like she was going down for the count; we made it and happily took off for the reception. Here, the air conditioning was working but everyone was extremely thirsty. You guessed it, we ran out of some of the liquid refreshment. Thanks to a little intervention by my new in-laws, all was restored and everything went off without a hitch.

We all have been involved in one way or the other with wedding preparations. My wife and I again find ourselves in this position as our oldest child, our son James, is getting married in May. As a Deacon I find myself often before soon to be married couples and I hate to say it; it often seems that more preparation goes into the wedding day, the reception and the honeymoon than the marriage.

As people of faith, are we prepared for the Wedding Supper of the Lamb and do we intend to stay wedded to whatever He tells us?

Today we read from John’s Gospel of the Wedding Feast at Cana. This is the third consecutive Gospel of the manifestation or the revelation of Jesus as the Christ, as the Savior of the world. It could be said that this concludes the “epiphany” season of the Church. Beginning with the manifestation of the Christ-child to the whole world, through the three kings, to the encounter between Jesus and John the Baptist in the river Jordan to today’s Gospel revealing the miraculous power of Jesus, He is revealed as the one who is sent to convert; to change hearts and to lead to eternal life.

Why in God’s divine plan is Jesus revealed in such a way at this wedding in Cana? We know little about the wedding, only that it is in Cana, Jesus and Mary are there and Jesus brought along a few wedding crashers, some of his disciples. We do know that wedding receptions in this day were very long events, often lasting days. The sign of the successful wedding reception was that the wine flowed freely. Not so in this Gospel reading. As the wine runs out, it is Mary who takes notice and immediately goes to her Son. At first read, the response by Jesus seems almost uncaring and downright rude. Not so. From Mary’s response we all can be assured that Jesus understands and realizes his saving plan is about to be put into action. He knows that his three year life of public ministry that will culminate on Calvary and then the Resurrection is at hand.

And what was Mary’s response? Simply she said, “do whatever he tells you”.

And Jesus immediately instructs that six stone water jars, empty, be filled with water. And he next asks that the water be drawn and brought to the headwaiter. And we all know the result; the water has changed to wine. Not just wine; but new wine, the choicest wine.

For us gathered here this morning we must answer the question; how do we do whatever He tells us? Do we know what Jesus is asking of us? We must first start out like those six stone water jars. We must become empty. That’s right, we must be empty; empty of our pettiness and sin, empty of our over worldliness, empty of our selfish thoughts and opinions. Then we must allow Jesus to fill us and we must ask; Jesus, fill us to the brim. It may seem like plain ordinary water at first; but then we ask Jesus to convert us; change us to new wine, to the choicest of wine.

And then, when we surrender to this self-emptying and allow ourselves to be filled with the saving power of Jesus, we can be like those disciples in today’s Gospel and we believe in Him!

This week we all have been presented with the tragedy in Haiti. When we reflect on Mary’s words: “do whatever he tells you” we must ask ourselves what is He asking me concerning our broken devastated brothers and sisters in Haiti? We are called to respond. We are called to prayer; yes, deep, intimate prayer uniting ourselves with the suffering that is real and all-consuming among the Haitian people. And we are called to give. Through our efforts here this morning during this Mass, through ongoing relief efforts of the Catholic Relief Services and numerous other ways, Jesus is telling us to give and be generous.

The Haitian people are the broken bloody Body of Christ; just as Jesus lay broken and bloody at the foot of the cross in the arms of the same Mary who says, do whatever he tells you.

When we respond in love and solidarity, the Haitian people will be changed and can look from that scene at the foot of the cross to the Resurrection, which is both their and our hope!

From even this most unspeakable tragedy, those in Haiti and those among us who will pray and give and pray some more, we can turn to Him, empty ourselves and ask Jesus to fill us with that which will become the new wine; the choicest of wines.

The wedding feast is prepared before us right now; the temperature is fine and there is plenty of wine; the wine that will be the Blood of Christ. As we approach the banquet table at this very Mass, may our prayer be: fill me Lord Jesus, fill me to the brim and we will do whatever you tell us.

A Joyful New Orleans Night!

By now most of you know the outcome of the Saints playoff game against the Arizona Cardinals. It was an all out dominant performance as the Saints won handily 45-14. I doubt if you will find any professional football analyst that called for a 31 point victory over the talented Cardinals.

I realize it is not my area of expertise to explain why everything that did not work these last few weeks worked tonight. I have no real expert explanation why Reggie Bush looked like he was all-world tonight. I have no real explanation for why our defense looked stout, especially after giving up a long TD run on the first play from scrimmage. What I do know is the Saints won; victory # 14 in this year of team records. And I know for only the 2nd time in team history the Saints go to the NFC Championship game and they don't have to travel. For the 1st time ever, New Orleans will host the game against either the Dallas Cowboys or the Minnesota Vikings.

My earlier post explains why this is so important to us. So tonight, my advice would be enjoy the victory, bask in the aftermath of such a solid athletic performance and then shift focus tomorrow afternoon to the opponent that comes to us.

I called this the Catholic Bowl as Saints should indeed have priority over Cardinals. And I did notice again we had an Archbishop cheering the Saints on in the owners box.

So for the time being, Geaux Saints; thanks for such an awesome victory and a season to be remembered. Can we do this again next week? I sure hope so!

Exciting Saturday afternnon in New Orleans

Yes, its NFL playoff Saturday and the City of New Orleans is hosting a game. For only the 6th time in Saint's history the great Crescent City is hosting a big playoff game. Today the Saints are playing the Arizona Cardinals making this a truly "Catholic" sounding encounter. Of course we all know that Saints enjoy a higher ranking than Cardinals.

I really won't use this column to talk about the x's and o's of the game or predict the final score or explain how the Saints will win because I live here. I'll leave it to watching the game because ultimately, the game is won or lost on the field. In the end, at this stage of the year, it's all about who executes better, who blocks and tackles better, which coaching staff designed the best plan. Oh we can cheer and scream and wish and pray, but it is left up to our guys beating their guys.

What is significant about today is that a little more hope and excitement prevails in New Orleans and the surrounding area. The Saints, as I have explained earlier, bring our area together. In many ways they define us. For years, like our city and area, the lovable underdogs learned how to have fun and party with the best whether in good or bad times. Like our city, despite being loved by the masses, they just can't get out of their own way. Like our city and area, dealt one of the most devastating blows ever with Hurricane Katrina. The early reports were New Orleans would never rebuild and the Saints would stay in San Antonio or Los Angeles.

Not so, not so. The people of New Orleans are rebuilding. And they continue to bring New Orleans back every day through their great efforts despite unbelievable ineptness by city, local, state and national government. And the Saints are here in New Orleans, complete with a new long term deal that keeps them here and playing in the miracle that is the Louisiana Superdome.

The amazing season of 2006, the Monday night miracle, the big win over Philly and the trip to a NFC championship game in January 2007 revitalized a city and an area given up for dead just one short year earlier. And here we are, 3 years later, witnessing the amazing 13 game winning streak and another divisional championship. We suffered for 3 weeks but arrive this afternoon at another game that potentially places the Saints in the NFC championship again. And if that be the case, the NFC championship is in New Orleans.

Knowing how many who read this may not be a Saints fan, or even a football fan, or even wondering why a Catholic Deacon is blogging about the Saints; well, I can't do anything in my power to help you understand.

If the Saints happen to not prevail, Iwill be disappointed but not devastated. I understand where NFL football ranks in the priorities of life; especially eternal life. If they win, and win I want them to do, I will be ecstatic but again, in context. I will be excited for the win, for the chance to move closer to the Super Bowl and for a city and region that needs to feel good about who they are and what they have accomplished.

So Geaux Saints and celebrate mightily people of New Orleans and the area; we all deserve something that brings us together and gives us great joy and happiness. Bring home a win guys!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Appropriate prayers

In the light of this week's tragic earthquake in Haiti how appropriate these are among the evening prayers from the liturgy of the hours:

From Psalm 41: Happy the man who considers the poor and the weak.

From the 1st prayer: Blessed are the merciful, they will obtain mercy. Teach us to come to the aid of the needy in a spirit of brotherly love.

From Psalm 46: God is for us a refuge and strength, a helper close at hand, in time of distress; so we shall not fear though the earth should rock...The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold.

From the evening reading from the 15th chapter of St. Paul's letter to the Romans: we must not be selfish.

And from the evening antiphon before the Magnificat: The Lord has come to the help of his servants, for he has remembered his promise of mercy.

And tonight's intercession: we pray now for all the suffering members of his church.

All of these appropriate prayers from Friday evening prayer, week 1 in the psalter. Amazing.

Even in tragedy; God is with us.

Keep praying and giving!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Life goes on; we all must persevere

I, like many of you, have been somewhat distracted as I watch the updates from Haiti. It is certainly a very dramatic and heart-wrenching event. I have blogged about it twice already and am uplifted by the response of my Catholic Church across the world and here locally in New Orleans. I'm also thrilled to see that my employer, Capital One Bank, has also launched an effort for all associates to contribute to the relief efforts. I just watched a beautiful news account about two churches, one evangelical; the other Baptist, right here in my Northshore community that has mobilized efforts to assist the people of Haiti. I thank God for all these proper, Christ-like responses.

But as the title of this post indicates, life goes on. For me, I have been immersed in a hectic schedule as the new year equals new opportunities at work and my ministry as a Deacon continues to grow. I have been involved again in the wonderful work of prison ministry and have rejoined the spring Kairos team that should result in a life-changing, God awakening weekend for 40 or so inmates that currently have little or no relationship with Christ. I'm very much looking forward to my MLK day off this Monday when I will give back several hours of that day to the men at Rayburn prison. And Wednesday night, it appears we will have our recently retired Archbishop with us to visit and pray with the men.

We again start the diaconate formation season for both our 2010 and 2012 classes. Our brothers of the 2010 group have begun the 11 month countdown to ordination. Classes in canon law and homiletics, among many others, will help prepare them for that special moment when God's grace marks them with that indelible mark. Of course all of this according to God's will and not that of our own. Our 2012 brothers began the first full year of candidacy and take yet another step down the long road to continuing formation. As mentioned before, one of my great joys is the blessed opportunity to mentor three of our candidates. I ask all of you to join me in praying for the continuing formation of our 10 acolytes and 20 candidates and their wives, family and friends.

I am also very happy to assist a brother Deacon from my neighboring parish as I assist at and preach at two masses this weekend. I pray that God use me as an instrument of His Word as we hear the powerful Gospel of the wedding feast in Cana.

Along the way we try to return to normal family life. We are so proud of our daughter as she returns to LSU and her goal to pursue her degree and advance her studies in history. Ever since the incident of her armed robbery ordeal, she has handled the stress and difficulty of such a situation far better than I or her mother has. And we continue to prepare for the wedding of our son which will happen before you know it this May.

Finally, we are happy to experience a little warm up as tonight brings a low of only 33 degrees or so. As mentioned in a previous post, we have endured a long extended period of very cold weather; something like 9 consecutive days with lows in the 25 and below range. This is very unusual for us deep Southerners.

Yes, I remember the Saints are playing the divisional playoff game Saturday but more on that later.

For now, I continue to pray for Haiti and go about my everyday business that demands life goes on. With the grace of God, we all will persevere.

This is why my favorite Scripture verse is from Hebrews 13:8; "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever."

How do we respond? Take no pointers from Pat Robertson

I'm sure most of us by now have heard the hideous explanation by television evangelist Pat Robertson that Haiti is cursed because they made a pact with the devil. While not blaming the earthquale directly on the innocent people of Haiti, he certainly implied it, along with all the other ills that have befallen this impoverished Caribbean nation.

Oh our brother Pat has done this before. We here in the New Orleans area deserved Katrina because we have the French Quarter and Mardi Gras and other things that would justify our destruction. He claimed former Israeli Prime Minister Sharon deserved his stroke. And I believe he has made numerous other stupid statements; all in the name of God.

Kind of reminds me how there are other world leaders who have said horrible things and launched horrible actions all in the name of God.

Perhaps Pat Robertson should look up "earthquake" on google or look at the scientific data about the particular type of fault that led to a shallow quake on the island of Hispanola. These are the contributing factors to this tragedy Pat, not some 200 year old pact some Haitian slaves may or may not have made with the devil. Of course Pat Robertson specifically said how the devil responded to this so-called pact, begging the question does Pat have regular conversations with Satan? Just asking.

Here's the deal. What about some sensitivity, what about some compassion, what about steering clear of hurtful, harmful statements, at least for the time being and immediate future. As for me, the focus is on prayer for the people of Haiti and supporting those efforts that I can support. And I bet for the vast majority of you the response is the same.

Why does evil exist? Why do these types of tragedies occur? We will never fully be able to answer these questions or understand the meaning behind them. I do know this; these tragedies give all of us an opportunity to demonstrate our love and our Christian presence to all peoples across the globe in every day and age.

So please continue your prayers, respond as you can to fundraising efforts and other support activities and spread the word asking others to pray and respond. And join me in a measured Christian response, in all charity and humility to Pat Robertson and his kind; for the love of God; please shut up.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Haiti will reduce us all to tears...

This is one of the many comments made by an official on the ground in earthquake ravished Haiti. The 7.0 quake has devastated the poor island nation and left us all praying and wondering aloud what more can we do. The tragedy seems so overwhelming. The need to continue search and rescue is great; not to mention caring for the injured and addressing what to do with the souls who died and are continuing to die among the rubble.

Even at my visit tonight in the prison, the men asked me if I had been watching the reports about Haiti. Seems these men who have several choices when the get to view TV have been glued to news reports from the epicenter.

I watched with great respect the comments of New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan who called the country of Haiti and her people the broken, bloody body of Christ as he laid in the arms of the Blessed Mother. This truly calls to mind the Scripture reference about when one among the body of Christ is hurting, we all hurt.

We are called to prayer. Sincerley and devoutly we must pray. The people of Haiti must hear our prayers storming heavenward over the cries of pain, suffering and despair. And we should give what we can. May I recommend to you the wonderfully generous organization, the Catholic Relief Service. They can be accessed on the internet at

Also, here in our Archdiocese of New Orleans we are planning second collection efforts at all masses across the community. We must realize that here in the crescent city we have a large population of Haitians; many of whom worship locally at St. Katherine Drexel Parish in the city of New Orleans.

All of us from this area still recoil at the tragedy that Hurricane Katrina became and continues to be for so many. We were saddened by the death toll that reached nearly 3,000. Imagine this tragedy in this poor tiny nation that most estimate will hit 100,000 on the low side and possibly 350,000 on the high side. This is tragedy in epic proportion.

In this weekend's Gospel we will hear the words of Mary concerning her son Jesus; do whatever he tells you. Pray and listen tonight and this week and hear; what is Jesus telling you and me to do concerning these children of God.

As Archbishop Dolan said so beautifully; we can't quit praying and we can't quit responding.

Pray for the people of Haiti, make a donation, ask someone you know to do so as well, then go ahead and pray some more.

May God bless the recovery and rescue effort and may the people of Haiti feel His loving presence.

Monday, January 11, 2010

How precious is water?

With all the freezing weather lately many people have been doing without water. Pipes are freezing and subsequently breaking, water pressure is low and sometimes it's just a good old power outage that prevents pumps from working. I got to experience the frustration of no water this morning personally. For us, power outages allowed a small line from my water pump to freeze and the pump went bye-bye. Fortunately, the pump is smart and shut itself down only requiring a reset. Unfortunately, neither my wife or I knew that so we did indeed pay for a service call. All things considered, not that big of a deal.

For the 5 hours or so we lived without water, I had an opportunity to think about this precious commodity. We all know the many physical reasons we need water, both good clean drinking water and an adequate supply to keep things clean. Water is the lifeblood of our everyday existence.

Water was a pretty serious subject of discussion yesterday as we celebrated the Baptism of the Lord at churches throughout the world yesterday. John the Baptist was baptizing with water and explained that one mightier than he, namely Jesus Christ, would come baptizing with more than just water but also the Holy Spirit and fire.

The discussion of the Lord's Baptism gave rise to an opportunity to reflect on the Sacrament of Baptism. I have mentioned previously that among the many varied things that I am allowed to do as ordained clergy, Baptism is among one of my favorites. This is a poorly worded way to describe things but I am left with only human words.

In the rite of Baptism, we encounter water throughout the rite. In one of the Gospels we read for a Baptism we hear of water. "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless one is born of water and Spirit he cannot enter the Kingdom of God." These words of Jesus to Nicodemus in the beginning of the third chapter of John puts strong emphasis on water.

When children are brought forward to the font, the celebrant prays, "my dear brothers and sisters, we now ask God to give these children new life in abundance through water and the Holy Spirit."

Next comes the beautiful and wonderful prayer when the water is actually blessed before it is poured on the children. Here is that prayer:

"Father, you give us grace through sacramental signs, which tell us of the wonders of your unseen power. In Baptism we use your gift of water, which you have made a rich symbol of the grace you give us in this sacrament. At the very dawn of creation your Spirit breathed on the waters, making them the wellspring of all holiness. The waters of the great flood you made a sign of the waters of baptism, that make an end of sin and a new beginning of goodness. Through the waters of the Red Sea you led Israel out of slavery, to be an image of God's holy people, set free from sin by Baptism.
In the waters of the Jordan your Son was baptized by John and anointed with the Spirit.
Your Son willed that water and blood should flow from his side as he hung upon the cross.
After his resurrection he told the disciples: 'go out and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit'.
Father, look now with love upon your Church, and unseal for her the fountain of baptism. By the power of the Spirit give to the water of this font the grace of your Son.
You created man in your own likeness: cleanse him from sin in a new birth to innocence by water and the Spirit.
We ask you, Father, with your Son to send the Holy Spirit upon the water of this font. May all who are buried with Christ in the death of baptism rise also wit him to newness of life. We ask this through Christ our Lord."

What a beautiful prayer.

And as the celebrant pours water over the newly baptized three times, he says I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

This use of water and its' powerful symbol of washing clean is why we continue to use water in liturgy and in the simple act of entering the church. We first go to the holy water and dipping our hand in the water we make the sign of the cross. At many of the Sunday Masses we have what is called a sprinkling rite. We used one yesterday at all Masses in my parish. Again the rite begins with a beautiful prayer: "God our Father, your gift of water brings life and freshness to the earth; it washes away our sins and brings us eternal life." In another form of the prayer we ask: "give us living water, always springing up as a fountain of salvation."

So water is the essential sign and symbol of Baptism.

One last reference to water; we must recall the words of Jesus when he encounters the woman at the well. In the fourth chapter of John's Gospel Jesus refers to himself as living water. He proclaims, "whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

Next time water disappoints, like it did me this morning or even can be a very real threat, like the vivid memories from 2005 and Hurricane Katrina remember the powerful effect of water in God's divine plan for our eternal happiness.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Homily for January 10, 2010 Baptism of the Lord

If I were king of the forest!!! Remember this song from the Wizard of Oz? The cowardly lion really desired to be a king. Of course we all remember, he lacked a certain something to be a king; courage. The cowardly lion simply had no courage.

We all remember the three traveling companions of Dorothy, the scarecrow, the tin man and the cowardly lion. Each lacked something to be completely whole. The scarecrow lacked a brain and the tin man lacked a heart. But the cowardly lion just needed some courage to be king.

We all have been enamored with kings in our lives. Yes even us Americans think about kings although we fought a war to kick one out. Think about it; what if we all could be a king; not just for a day, but a lifetime.

As people of faith, do we realize that we are indeed a king; and a priest and prophet too?

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord and we bring to a close our Christmas season. We read today in Luke’s Gospel the story of Jesus being baptized by John. John, who admits he baptizes with water but one will come who baptizes with the Holy Spirit and fire, is placed in a position to baptize the One of whom he speaks. Yes, John the Baptist is asked to baptize God the Son. And His public ministry is revealed and more; the Blessed Trinity is revealed to as God the Son hears the bold proclamation of God the Father and experiences the dscent upon Him of God the Holy Spirit.

The Baptism of the Lord, coming one week after the Epiphany and one week before we read of the wedding feast in Cana are the manifestations of Jesus. This is part of the divine plan where the Christ makes known a little of who He is. Perhaps Isaiah says it better in today’s first reading: “the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all the people shall see it together”.

Jesus allows Himself to be baptized at the hands of John so He may be revealed as the “beloved Son”. And Jesus, who again submits Himself completely to the Father’s will shows us what we must do.

Jesus asks us to be baptized too, not just with water but with the Holy Spirit and fire. This baptism reveals us as the ones who are saved; those who share eternal life with Him as we read in our second reading: “he saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit”. Why? “So that we might be justified by His grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life”.

So it all begins with our Baptism. This is our first sacrament; the gateway to all the sacraments. Among the many wonderful things that happen at our Baptism is the moment when we were anointed with the holy chrism. This special perfumed oil, blessed by a Bishop, is applied to the newly baptized to mark that moment when we all are consecrated as Priest, Prophet and King. Yes, we all are made a King. Not just any king. This anointing makes us sharers with Christ in His three-fold mission of Priest, Prophet and King.

Listen to the beautiful prayer from the Rite of Baptism at that moment when the anointing with the chrism actually occurs:

“God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has freed you from sin, given you a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and welcomed you into his holy people. He now anoints you with the chrism of salvation. As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet and King, so may you live always as members of his body sharing everlasting life.”

There it is; we all are anointed and share with Christ the responsibility of being Priest, Prophet and King!

How can we put this into action during this upcoming first week of ordinary time in the New Year? Certainly, this is an extraordinary responsibility. As providence would have it, we are presented with at least three profound opportunities to exercise our shared mission with Christ.

Today, after both of our morning Masses, we are conducting our annual parish ministry fair. Please stop by in the parish hall and witness the many different ministries here in our own parish. Learn about these ministries, pray for their efforts and be open to joining one of these ministries. This is a tangible way to exercise our baptismal anointing as a Priest, Prophet and King.

Also today, across our own nation, the Catholic Church kicks off national vocation awareness week. In this special week ahead, please prayer in a special way for vocations to the ministerial Priesthood, and the diaconate and consecrated life. We have begun doing this as a parish family at every Mass. Among your many intentions this week, include those of increased vocations and ask specifically for vocations to be fostered right here at St. Jane’s and St. Michael’s. Again, this is another tangible way to be Priest, Prophet and King.

Finally, our Bishops have called all of us to action to contact our United States Representatives and Senators concerning health care. We are to insist that no bill that does not protect human life, eliminate federal funding for abortion or protect conscience clauses for health care workers should be passed. The bishops oppose the Senate version of the bill and favor the House bill that does eliminate federal funds for abortion. Act on their request! Again, this is another tangible way to be Priest, Prophet and King.

I love the Wizard of Oz and have always claimed the Cowardly Lion as my favorite character. You remember in the end, he gets the courage he so desperately needed to be a king. And the scarecrow and tin man join him in leading the people of Oz.

For us, we have more than characters in a movie; we have Jesus Christ. He is no coward and exhibits the greatest act of courage the world will ever know. We don’t need to share in the mission of the lion, scarecrow and tin man; we have the shared mission of Jesus Christ; Priest, Prophet and King.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Our Catholic Bishops latest on health care

With action heating up between the House and Senate on reconciling the health care bill, the USCCB has issued a statement that they hope will be read in every Catholic Church at every Mass throughout the land this weekend.

Here it is:

"As long-time advocates of health care reform, the U.S. Catholic bishops continue to make the moral case that genuine health care reform must protect the life, dignity, consciences and health of all, especially the poor and vulnerable. Health care reform should not advance a pro abortion agenda in our country.

On November 7, the U.S. House of Representatives passed major health care reform that reaffirms the essential, longstanding and widely supported policy against using federal funds for elective abortions and includes positive measures on affordability and immigrants.

On December 24, the U.S. Senate rejected this policy and passed health care reform that requires federal funds to help subsidize and promote health plans that cover elective abortions. ALL purchasers of such plans will be required to pay for other people's abortion through a seperate payment solely to pay for abortion.

Outside the abortion context, neither bill has adequate conscience protection for health care providers, plans or employers.

These two bills now must be combined into one bill that both the House and Senate will vote on in final form. Provisions against abortion funding and in favor of conscience protection, affordability and immigrants' access to health care must be part of a fair and just health care reform bill, or the final bill must be opposed.

ACTION: Contact your Representatives and Senators today by email, phone or fax.
To send a pre-written, instant e-mail to Congress go to
Call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121, or call your Member's local offices.
Contact information can be found on Member's websites at &

"I am pleased that the House health care bill maintains the longstanding policy against federal funding of abortion. I urge you to work to uphold essential provisions against abortion funding, to include full conscience protection and to assure that health care is accessible and affordable for all. Until and unless these criteria are met, I urge you to oppose the final bill."

"I am deeply disappointed that the Senate health care bill fails to maintain the longstanding policy against federal funding of abortion and does not include adequate protection for conscience. I urge you to support the essential provisions against abortion funding, similar to those in the House bill. Include full conscience protection and assure that health care is accessible and affordable for all. Until and unless these criteria are met, I urge you to oppose the final bill."

WHEN: The House and the Senate are expected to vote on the final bill during the month of January.

Act today and thank you."

So this my friends is your only OFFICIAL position of our ordained teachers and leaders; the Catholic Bishops of the United States. Do you know the totality of the Catholic message on health care or do you rally to whichever political side you support?

The Best Half of the Year; an update!

I realize that this is not a commonly shared belief among my closest family and friends but, for me, we are smack in the middle of the best half of the year. Now even I will admit that I did not expect such intense winter weather in the greater New Orleans area. We are preparing tonight for our 5th straight freeze with the overnight low predicted to be around 18 above. Of course if you are reading this in Minnesota or northern Maine or perhaps near Yellowstone, you would probably love 18 above. For us southern folk; this is cold.

Again, for me, I'll take the cold over those 99 degree; 100 percent humidity days upon days from like May til October. That is why I declare Oct 1st thru March 31st as the best half of the year with December my favorite month and January a close second!

In these neck of the woods the cold weather will cause some havoc for those of us prone to an overall tropical climate. Our homeless shelters are splitting at the seems and unfortunately not all make it off the streets. So many organizations and just good hearted people are trying to provide for these folks who are God's children. The threat of extreme cold has caused the cancellation of school in some areas and big events that were planned long ago. This is unfortunate.

But I will continue to declare boldly; we are living in the best half of the year. Heck, we have some great football games this weekend and then the Saints reappear in the playoffs next Saturday. And the cold weather is not going to stop the amazing ministry opportunities that come this time of year. We just celebrated the great New Orleans feast of Our Lady of Prompt Succor and we have the amazing Feast of the Baptism of the Lord this weekend. And later this month we will have the great effort to proclaim our Pro-Life gospel to the world with the March for Life.

So for those of you reading this locally, bundle up, wrap those pipes, take care of your tender vegetation and thank God it's not a 100 degrees in the shade.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A truly New Orleans feast in honor of Our Lady of Prompt Succor

Tomorrow, Friday January 8th is the feast of Mary under the title of Our Lady of Prompt Succor. This is such a huge feast in New Orleans. Under this title Mary is the official patroness of the state of Louisiana, the City of New Olreans and the Archdiocese of New Orleans. And the reasons are plenty.

Ursuline nuns began making their way to New Orleans in the early 1700's to spread the faith and establish a school to educate young ladies. One of the nuns, Sr. Michel was compelled to leave France and become a missionary in New Orleans. Her bishop would not let her go unless she personally could convince the Pope to send her. She sent a letter but all knew the Pope was under great duress from the emperor Napolean. Sr. Michel prayed before a statue of Mary asking her intercession to let her desire happen. She promised if this request be granted promptly, she would honor Mary in New Orleans under the title Our Lady of Prompt Succor. Her letter with a favorable response from the Pope was recieved.

And Sr. Michel made her way to New Orleans, in the Vieux Carre at the Ursuline Convent with a beautiful statue of Our Lady of Prompt Succor in tow. Not long after her arrival a horrible fire broke out in the French Quarter that threatened the convent. Sr. Michel led the nuns in prayer asking for Mary's intercession and the fire was swept away with a sudden change in the direction of the wind.

And even more famously is the story of the War of 1812 and the Battle of New Orleans. In 1815 as General Andrew Jackson and his brave troops were fighting a seemingly loosing battle against the well trained British forces the nuns and Our Lady of Prompt Succor were at it again. It appeared as if all of New Orleans descended on the Ursuline convent in all night prayer invoking the help of Our Lady. During morning Mass, news made its' way to the convent that indeed the Americans prevailed. A pledge was made that every January 8th Mass would be celebrated in New Orleans in honor of Our Lady of Prompt Succor.

Now, Catholics from around the great state of Louisiana and in the Archdiocese of New Orleans particularly continue this great feast every January 8th. We also are quick to invoke her assistance every hurricane season that we be sparred all harm from storms. It would not surprise me in the least if many a faithful New Orleanian Catholic is not praying for her intercession right now, for warmer weather and perhaps some favorable results on that battlefield covered by the New Orleans Superdome!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Bring on the King Cake

Tomorrow is the traditional Feast of the Epiphany. In most of the world the celebration of the wise men coming to the child Jesus is observed on January 6th. This marks the unofficial end of the Christmas season and in many traditions the day is referred to as "little Christmas". This too used to be the traditional day of gift giving in many cultures.

Being a New Orleanian we too have a pretty amazing tradition centered on the Epiphany. January 6th is celebrated as 12th night. Depending on how you count the days the belief is that January 6th is the 12th and final day of Christmas. For Catholics, we understand that the Church has deemed the end of the Christmas season to be the Sunday when we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. That will be this Sunday.

But let's get back to 12th night and tradition. January 6th not only marks the end of the Christmas season but the official start to Mardi Gras. This French celebration of those carefree days before Lent begins actually runs from January 6th until the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday.

One of the ways we celebrate the arrival of Mardi Gras is with the king cake. This awesome tasting cake is usually decorated in the colors of the Carnival season, purple, green and old and comes plain, iced and filled with a variety of flavors. Baked into the dough and hidden away is a plastic figure of a baby. This baby represents the baby Jesus. Just as the wise men found the baby Jesus in Bethlehem on the Epiphany, one lucky person will find the tiny figurine in the king cake. Tradition further holds that the one who finds the baby is responsible for providing the king cake at the next Mardi Gras event. Pure traditionalist would never eat a slice of the cake before January 6t and certainly never after Mardi Gras day.

So as we in the deep south prepare to usher in another Mardi Gras season may we always be aware that this celebration too carries plenty of rich religious and spiritual significance.

Happy Mardi Gras everyone and get yourself a nice big slice of king cake!!