Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Now July will usher in more oil

Just in case you have not been paying attention; the oil disaster now about to touch the 4th month and is well over 70 days and going. Recent weather events from Hurricane Alex have made clean up and recovery almost non-existent. Oil is washing up now fairly regularly in 4 states although Mississippi seems to be the least impacted. It just keeps going on.

Last week we all read with great sadness of the suicide of a Gulf boat captain. I pray this will be the last incident like this. I also watch as this thing gets closer and closer to full scale political armaggedon.

I also watch the countless number of volunteers and others who are providing food, financial assistance, prayer and presence to the people most directly impacted. A stronger ministry of presence is now underway by the Archdiocese of New Orleans and more counselors, prayer partners, etc. are preparing to do what they can. This is in addition to the ongoing charity and support through Catholic Charities, Second Harvest Food Bank and so many others.

So tonight, on the eve of the 4th month in which oil gushes forth; please pray for the people of the Gulf Coast and for a speedy remedy to this historical environmental and financial disaster.

May God have mercy on all of us and Our Lady of Prompt Succor pray for us!

Monday, June 28, 2010

The principle of subsidiarity

>>>This is an awesome post by the amazing Archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan. I doubt that many Catholics who simply want to blame; or view the Church like a country with the Pope as President, will be satisfied by this example. Many of the real problems within the Church lie with Catholics who simply want to sit back, drop a dollar or two in the plate and rail against Bishops, Priests, the Vatican, etc. This is not to excuse those actions by Bishops and Priests that are wrong; but much of the criticism is misguided. Let Archbishop Dolan explain better than I can:

To Whom Shall We Go?
June 23rd, 2010 When it comes to the Catholic Church, so goes the popular logic, if something happens to make you angry, always blame the Pope (or the Vatican), or the archbishop (or that darn archdiocese).

Every problem in the Church, in this view, whether the decline in Sunday Mass attendance, the closing of a school or parish, or the shortage of vocations, is the fault of the Pope or the archbishop.

That’s because the perception is that the Catholic Church is a “top-down” organization — at least according to most newspapers, magazines, and radio/TV news — where decisions are always secretly made way at the top, and the “little guy” is ignored. That’s not only true of the secular media. In a recent edition of a prominent Catholic journal, published in New York, I counted six blasts at bishops and the Pope in the first six pages!

Want some recent examples?

A newspaper on Staten Island blames the recent controversy about the proposed sale of an unused convent to an Islamic group on — guess who? — that autocratic, aloof, mean, clandestine archdiocese!

Sorry, editors, but the Archdiocese does not micromanage. I trust our pastors, religious, and lay administrators to run the day-to-day details of our nearly 400 parishes, hundreds of schools, healthcare institutions, and charitable programs.

A decision to sell any parish property initially rests with the pastor of the parish, who should act in close concert with his parish and finance councils and must act in close concert with the parish trustees. In the current case, the pastor concluded after prayerful reflection that the sale would not be in the best interests of his parish and recommended its withdrawal.

But, never mind all this. The editors know better. It’s the fault of that mean-old “archdiocese.”

You want another example? For years, the pastor and people of St. Michael’s Parish have scraped, saved, and sweated to keep their excellent parish high school open. Even though not one student in the school actually lived in the parish, the pastor and people fought to save their school, giving $400,000 annually to keep it going.

Finally, reluctantly, early in the spring, with only thirty new students enrolled for next school-year, the pastor and parishioners sadly decided they were out of money, and couldn’t do it anymore. They asked “the archdiocese” to confirm their decision and, after being reassured that every girl could be welcomed at nearby St. Jean Baptiste High School, St. Vincent Ferrer High School, and Cathedral High School, at the same tuition, “the archdiocese” agreed that the good pastor had made the proper, albeit sorrowful, decision.

Who’s to blame? The alumnae? The pastor and parish? Those who did not reply to frequent appeals for new students or donations?

Surprise, surprise! The nasty, money-hungry, mean-old “archdiocese” is to blame, according to a source in another, this time, Irish newspaper. See, this source explains, the property of the high school is valuable, so the stingy, money-grabbing, high-handed archdiocese has callously disregarded the kids to get the money.

Had anyone asked, “the archdiocese” would have let him or her know that there were no plans to sell the structure, and that, even if such happened, the money would stay at the parish, not the selfish “archdiocese,” according to Church law.

Experts in leadership style tell us that, as a matter of fact, the Catholic Church is probably the best example around of the principle of subsidiarity; namely, that a decision is best made at the level closest to the people who will have to live with the results.

To be sure, there have been, are, and will be instances where controversial decisions are made by “the archdiocese,” or by me as archbishop. When that is the case, I’m not about to “pass-the-buck” and blame somebody else.

But, that’s not the case in the two tough situations mentioned above.

Who likes criticism? Nobody. But I figure it comes with the job, and have to face it when it’s legitimate. That happens often enough.

But I don’t like seeing “the archdiocese” blamed for something not its fault.

It’s so easy, popular, juicy — and sells papers — to blame the “corrupt Vatican” and “money-hungry archdiocese.”

It’s just that it’s not accurate.

Solemnity of Sts. Peter & Paul

The Feast of Sts Peter and Paul

The Feast of Sts Peter and Paul celebrates the two outstanding apostles of the Church. In many ways these two men were different. Peter was from Galilee, a fisherman, poor and uneducated. Although St Jerome tells us that Paul too was a Galilean, his enforced exile to Tarsus as a child opened other possibilities for him: he was well educated and knew his way around the Roman system, perhaps even being a Roman citizen. He trained in the rigorous code of the Pharisees. He was a lawyer but also a skilled tentmaker. How is it their stories became intertwined? What brought these men to give their best efforts and ultimately their lives for the embryonic Christian faith?

The answer lies in the fact that both these men came face to face with Jesus Christ, who called them to follow him. That encounter and call transformed their lives forever. Peter, impulsive and rash, struggled all through Jesus' ministry to understand and believe in the meaning of Christ. In Matthew 14:22-35 as Jesus walks on the water, Peter impulsively demands proof that it is indeed Jesus by allowing him also to walk on water. As he takes his first few steps, he begins to be beset by doubts and sinks until Jesus reaches out and holds him up. The words “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” seem to be a recurring theme for Peter as he struggles, and often fails, to make sense of this life changing relationship. Yet it is the same Peter who responds to the prompting of the Spirit and declares boldly “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Ultimately Christ draws out the best of Peter to whom he entrusts the leadership of the Apostles and who will go on to preach the first sermon of the Christian Church at Pentecost, while on fire with the Holy Spirit.

We meet Saul in the Acts of the Apostles, full of righteous zeal against these dangerous Christians, approving of the stoning of St Stephen. It is while on a mission to hunt down Christians in Damascus that he has his literally earth shattering encounter with the Risen Christ. He is left blinded, dazed and confused. Stripped of all his certainty, power and assuredness, he must be led by the hand into the city, not knowing where he is going, lost and frightened. Through the power of the Spirit the scales fall from Saul’s eyes so that he can see. But in seeing not only with the eyes of the body but also with the eyes of the soul, Paul is reborn in baptism. In this new life, he goes on the preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ all over the Mediterranean as far as Rome, hoping to travel on to Spain, 'the ends of the earth', and leaving us the precious teaching of his epistles and the wonderful example of his life and ministry. For both men these words seem appropriate. “For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, made his light shine in our hearts to give us the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ” (2 Cor 4:6).

Here is the prayer of the Church for this great solemnity of Sts. Peter & Paul:

God our Father, today you give us the joy of celebrating the feast of the apostles Peter and Paul. Through them your Church first received the faith. Keep us true to their teaching.
Grant this this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Memorial of Saint Irenaeus

Today the church celebrates Saint Irenaeus; a second century Christian who played a prominent role in spreading the Catholic faith. He was born in 130 and became a disciple of Saint Polycarp. It is believed that Polycarp was a follower of the last Apostle, John. In learning from Polycarp, Irenaues received firsthand the wisdom of the Apostles. After studying in Smyrna; Irenaeus went to what is noow known as France, at Lyons. He was ordained a priest in 1977. Not long after he became a Bishop of Lyons.

When the Gnostics began to try and influence the Church, it was Irenaeus that fought bravely against their teachings. A man of great peace, he devoutly defended the faith. He wrote a very famous treatise called Against Heresies.

For his efforts, his enemies killed him around the year 200.

Even to this day, the Church remembers Irenaeus as a true defender of the Church while promoting peace and unity.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Powerful words from Pope Paul VI

Every now and then something catches the eye as if it were the first time you see it. This happens on those days when I spend some quality time in my breviary; dailly prayers. I found this amazingly poignant homily from Pope Paul VI written in 1970:

"Not to preach the Gospel would be my undoing, for Christ himself sent me as his apostle and witness. The more remote, the more difficult the assignment, the more my love of God spurs me on. I am bound to proclaim that Jesus is Christ, the Son of the living God. Because of him we come to know the God we cannot see. He is the firstborn of all creation; in him all things find their being. Man's teacher and redeemer, he was born for us, died for us, and for us he rose from the dead.
All things, all history converges in Christ. A man of sorrow and hope, he knows us and loves us. As our friend he stays by us throughout our lives; at the end of timehe will come to be our judge; but we also know that he will be the complete fulfillment of our lives and our great happiness for all eternity.
I can never cease to speak of Christ for he is our truth and our light; he is the way, the truth and the life. He is our bread, our source of living water who allays our hunger and satisfies our thrist. He is our shephers, our leader, our ideal, our comforter and our brother.
He is like us but more perfectly human, simple, poor, humble, and yet, while burdened with work, he is more patient. He spoke on our behalf; he worked miracles; and he founded a new kingdom: in it the poor are happy; peace is the foundation of a life in common; where the pure of heart and those who mourn are uplifted and comforted; the hungry find justice; sinners are forgiven; and all discover that they are brothers.
The image I present to you is the image of Jesus Christ. As Christians you share his name; he has already made most of you his own. So once again I repeat his name to yoou Christians and I proclaim to all men: Jesus Christ is the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega, Lord of the new universe, the great hidden key to human history and the part we play in it. He is the mediator - the bridge, if you will - between heaven and earth. Above all he is the Son of man, more perfect than any man, being also the Son of God, eternal and infinite. He is the son of Mary his mother on earth, more blessed than any woman. She is also our mother in the spiritual communion of the mystical body.
Remember: it is Jesus Christ I preach day in and day out. His name I would see echo and reecho for all time even to the ends of the earth."

>>>Forty years later; this should be read by every Catholic; every Christian; every body!

Feast of St. Cyril; defender of Mary

This is a reprint from one year ago today. Me thinks it is worthy of a rerun:

Today, Saturday June 27th was the Feast of St. Cyril of Alexandria. Now this saint lived in the late 4th and early 5th century; approximately 1,575 years ago. He is known as the defender of the divine motherhood of the Virgin Mary. Read what he wrote all those many centuries ago:

"That anyone could doubt the right of the holy Virgin to be called the Mother of God fills me with astonishment. Surely she must be the Mother of God if our Lord Jesus Christ is God, and she gave birth to Him! Our Lord's disciples may not have used those exact words, but they delivered to us the belief those words enshrine, and this has also been taught by the holy fathers.
In the third book of his work on the holy and consubstantial Trinity, our father Athanasius, of glorious memory, several times refers to the Holy Virgin as Mother of God. I cannot resist quoting his own words: As I have often told you, the distinctive mark of holy Scripture is that it is written to make a twofold declaration concerning our Savior; namely, that He is and has always been God, since He is the Word, Radiance and Wisdom of the Father; and that for our sake in these latter days He took flesh from the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and became man.
Again further on he says: There have been many holy men. Jeremiah was sanctified in his mother's womb, and John while still in the womb leaped for joy at the voice of Mary, the Mother of God. Athanasius is a man we can trust, one who deserves our complete confidence, for he taught nothing contrary to the sacred books.
The divinely inspired Scriptures affirm that the Word of God was made flesh, that is to say, He was united to a human body endowed with a rational soul. He undertook to help the descendants of Abraham, fashioning a body for himself from a woman and sharing our flesh and blood, to enable us to see in Him not only God, but also, by reason of this union, a man like ourselves.
It is held, therefore, that there are in Emmanuel two entities, divinity and humanity. Yet our Lord Jesus Christ is nontheless one, the one true Son, both God and man; not a deified man on the same footing as those who share the divine nature by grace, but true God who for our sake appeared in human form. We are assured of this by St. Paul's declaration: When the fullness of time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law and to enable us to be adopted as sons."

WOW! Again, written just a few centuries from the end of the Apostolic era and the patristic times. Cyril, as a bishop, played a preeminent role at the Council of Ephesus where some wanted to deny Christ as true God AND true man and Mary could not be mother of God. Of course the Church has always held that Mary is mother of God because she gave birth to Jesus.

Today, I read the following from Dr. Scott Hahn, fast forward some 1,565 years or so: "If you could have created your mother and preserved her from original sin, would you? Would you? Of course you would. But could you? No you couldn't. But Jesus could and so Jesus did!"

Again, powerful! Want to pray a prayer based on Scripture and 2,000 years of consistent teaching, try a Hail Mary.

Pray for Louisiana asks the governor

Louisiana Oil Spill Day Of Prayer: Bobby Jindal Orders June 27 As Day For Religious Perseverance
The Huffington Post Elyse Siegel On Thursday, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) issued an order designating June 27 a "Statewide Day of Prayer" for perseverance through the BP oil spill that continues to devastate the country's Gulf Coast region.

Last week, the Louisiana State Senate unanimously approved a resolution urging people to pray for an end to the environmental crisis. The measure introduced by Republican Sen. Robert Adley asked residents of the state to embrace the religious solution on June 20.

"Thus far the efforts made by mortals to try to solve the crisis have been to no
avail," Adley said in a statement. "It is clearly time for a miracle for us."

In declaring this Sunday a day of prayer statewide, Jindal shared a similar message: "Louisianians all across the world are united in hope for an end to this catastrophic event and pray for the recovery of our coastline, the rehabilitation of our fish and wildlife and the restoration of our extraordinary coastal areas that are unlike any other place in the world."

Here's Governor Bobby Jindal's declaration of June 27th as a "Statewide Day of Prayer":

BATON ROUGE (June 24, 2010) - Today, Governor Bobby Jindal issued a proclamation declaring June 27th as a "Statewide Day of Prayer" for perseverance through the oil spill crises.

Proclamation on Statewide Day of Prayer:

WHEREAS, Louisiana is entering the 66th day of an economic and environmental crisis caused by the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which is the largest oil spill in American history; and,

WHEREAS, The Deepwater Horizon oil spill already has a profound effect on Louisiana, its coastline and its people and our entire Louisiana way of life; and,

WHEREAS, The people of coastal Louisiana are being directly impacted by the closure of our waters for fishing and oyster harvesting and many are struggling to make ends meet or provide for their families; and,

WHEREAS, The continuing BP oil spill disaster follows the damage caused by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike, which impacted many of the same communities now being struck by oil; and,

WHEREAS, Louisiana, known around the world as the Sportsman's Paradise, is blessed with a bounty of natural treasures, including unique wildlife and fisheries and vibrant communities and traditions that are now threatened due to the ongoing catastrophic damage to our wetlands; and,

WHEREAS, The suffering of Louisiana's state bird, the brown pelican, which was only recently removed from the endangered species list, has become symbolic of the continuing damage caused by the BP oil spill to our fragile coastline and the entire ecosystem it supports; and,

WHEREAS, Louisiana's people are coming together to help each other now during this time of crisis just as they have persevered through losses before; and Louisiana fishermen, shrimpers and oyster harvesters are now on the frontlines of the oil spill, fighting to protect our coast; and,

WHEREAS, Hundreds of members of the Louisiana National Guard are working tirelessly to shield our fragile marshland from oil that continues to hit our shores - even as many of them just recently returned from fighting for our country overseas; and Louisiana scientists, biologists, veterinarians and wildlife agents battle against the oil every day to rescue and rehabilitate wildlife that survive being impacted by the oil; and,

WHEREAS, Coastal parish leaders from all along the coast have come together to implement their own ideas to protect our waters and our shores, often fighting to convey the sense of urgency and quick action that this crisis demands; and,

WHEREAS, The American people continue to offer their support through prayers and charitable donations, and business owners and scientists share their ideas for stopping the oil; and,

WHEREAS, Louisianians all across the world are united in hope for an end to this catastrophic event and pray for the recovery of our coastline, the rehabilitation of our fish and wildlife and the restoration of our extraordinary coastal areas that are unlike any other place in the world; and,

WHEREAS, Our collective fight to recover from this crisis and prevent future damage continues today;


I, Bobby Jindal, Governor of the State of Louisiana, do hereby proclaim June 27, 2010 as a Statewide Day of Prayer In the State of Louisiana and in the Gulf of Mexico.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Politics and religion don't mix?

Rep. Anh 'Joseph' Cao apologizes for taking words of praise out of context
Published: Friday, June 25, 2010, 8:15 PM
Bruce Nolan, The Times-Picayune

U.S. Rep Anh "Joseph" Cao, heading into a difficult re-election campaign, has apologized to New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond for sending out a fundraising letter that strongly implies that Aymond and the local Catholic Church have endorsed him for re-election.

In response, Aymond said he will release a clarification through the Clarion Herald, a Catholic newspaper, underscoring the church's neutrality in the November election. At issue is a direct mailer that the Republican congressman recently sent to 10,000 constituents in his largely Democratic 2nd Congressional District. The outer envelope features a prominent, boxed quotation from Aymond praising Cao's courage for "standing solidly for the values espoused by Jesus and the church in spite of personal criticism."

An enclosed letter from Cao solicits campaign donations, largely on the strength of the anti-abortion implications of his "no" vote on health care reform last spring.

Aymond's testimonial is accurate, but it came months ago in a general commentary on the passage of the health care reform bill, although that is not made clear to recipients.

Fenn French, Cao's campaign manager, said in an interview that using Aymond's praise out of context was a mistake.

"We should have been more clear. We do take responsibility for the misunderstanding," French said. "We did not intend that it look like a political endorsement."

Aymond said he was distressed when he saw the mailer because he read it as an implied personal endorsement.

"We support issues, not candidates," he said.

He said he called Cao's office, and Cao later returned the call and apologized.
Aymond's quote dates to late March, when he praised Cao's "no" vote in the Clarion Herald immediately after the health care debate.

Aymond and other Catholic bishops vigorously opposed the Obama administration's plan because they feared it would lead to public financing of abortion.

Some bishops, including Aymond, lobbied their representatives before the vote. Cao, a lawyer and former Jesuit seminarian, said he anguished over the vote because he knew his district wanted health care reform. But he said could not vote yes because of what he believed were the implications for public financing of abortion.

The Catholic Church, like others, is free to urge members to consider moral issues when choosing a candidate. But churches and pastors cannot take partisan positions on behalf of particular candidates without risking their tax-exempt status.

Many, although not all, refrain from partisan politics not only because of the tax implications, but also to protect their integrity and independence of their mission.

In 1996, retired Archbishop Philip Hannan famously announced "that no Catholic should vote for" President Bill Clinton or Mary Landrieu, then running for the Senate, because of their support for abortion rights. But within hours of that announcement, the archdiocese issued a statement asserting that it is neutral regarding candidates in elections and that Hannan, in retirement, was speaking for himself.

Homily for 13th Sunday Ordinary Time June 27, 2010

Lead, follow or get out of the way!

That’s a popular sentiment these days. I still recall those difficult and uncertain first few days after Hurricane Katrina when it seemed no one was in charge. Along came a leader, General Russell Honore’ and things started to happen. Others, inspired by his leadership, began to follow and take action. For those who still were wandering about aimlessly, the good General just got them out of the way. I still remember his famous line; don’t get stuck on stupid!

We all have experienced leaders in our lives; perhaps we have acted in a leadership role. We all have been followers. And if we are completely honest, we all can admit that from time to time we just get in the way.

Sometimes after Mass, as our parking lots empty, it’s fun to watch and see who is a leader, a follower or who just gets in the way.

As people of faith, do we rely on the leadership of Jesus; can we honestly say we long to follow Him and do we, or others in our lives, get in the way of following Him?

Today’s Gospel is about discipleship and a lesson for all of us in following Him. Jesus is asking His disciples, and us today, to accept Him, follow Him and stay with Him. Jesus is exercising his leadership as Scripture tells us He resolutely took the road for Jerusalem. We remember from last week’s Gospel that Jesus has turned to face Jerusalem and his suffering, death and resurrection. He gives us a path to follow for we too must resolutely turn and face our Jerusalem.

St. Luke gives us three examples of leadership, following and getting out of the way. The first is simply a man who says I will follow you wherever you go. Jesus replies with the description of foxes and birds having a place to rest. Here Jesus is clearly explaining to the man, and all of us, that following Him, unreservedly, may require hardship and difficulty. The second man responds to the request to follow by saying yes, but only after I bury my father. And Jesus says; let the dead bury the dead. Seems harsh! Should not this man be allowed to bury his father? Yes, if that is what he meant. This response indicates a man who is living the good life at home with mommy and daddy. He has every physical need met. His response to Jesus means I’ll go back, be comfortable, and later in life I’ll come and follow you. Finally, the third man makes what seems like a simple request; let me go say my goodbyes and I’ll follow you to. Jesus tells him not to look at what is left behind but look to the kingdom of God.

These are all powerful instructions for our leader to us; so that we may become faithful followers. Here is where the get out of the way part comes. Nothing should come between us and our desire to follow Jesus. Nothing should prevent us from being leaders among men and women in helping lead others to Christ.

Jesus is inviting each of us to give up our security, to take risks, to avoid delaying in following Him and to expect difficulties along the way.

The invitation of Jesus to follow Him is unconditional. While He is loving and patient and He never ceases to call us to seek Him, it is ultimately our decision to put obstacles in our way. This week, we are challenged to know these obstacles, to list our limitations to follow Christ. And with total trust in Him, we are challenged to face these obstacles head on and get them out of the way.

One of our greatest challenges is our lack of knowing what He wants from us and our human tendency to diminish the teaching of the Church. This would be the week to dust off a Catechism and began learning what is expected of us. Too many of us are caught in the trap of believing that we follow Him even when we justify or rationalize the difficult choices He asks us to make. We love Him and we seek Him in Holy Communion but we pay lip service to contraception, living together outside of marriage, remarrying without the healing power of the Church, frequent confession, promoting the social teaching of the church, being foursquare against abortion and embryonic stem cell research, understanding the teachings of purgatory and so much more. These are for us, the same things Jesus encounters in today’s Gospel.

This is an important week for Jesus challenges us to follow Him and we must inform ourselves of what He expects. And we can do this with His leadership, our trust in Him and seeking our possibilities rather than living our limitations.

We all still remember the chaos of Katrina and the leadership of General Honore’. The chaos was bad; but it pales in comparison to the chaos of not following Jesus.

He gives us the formula:

Jesus leads
We follow with total surrender to Him
And get rid of all the stuff that gets in the way!

A daughter at the Vatican

I've been following the travels of my daughter this summer and was thrilled at her stop last week at the Vatican. There she was, in pictures and videos sent home at the home of Christianity, at the home of the Catholic Church. As a dad I was excited and proud. As a ordained Deacon, I was a little envious as I wished to be there with her. The pictures, to say the least, were stunning. But it was her email home and her own words that struck me most. This was exactly what I hoped to hear from her as she soaked it all in.

These are some of her thoughts:

So today was completely dedicated to the Vatican. We had to wait three hours but it was well worth it. In the Vatican Museum I got to see the Sistine Chapel by Michaelangelo, various Frescoes by Ralphael, and "The Thinker" statue by Rodin. It's so cool to have learned about those but to actually see them is in a completely new dimension. Then we shopped, yeah I spent alot of money on gifts today but I'm never going to be at the Vatican again so o well! Then we walked to St. Peter's Square (Vatican City) and walked around and took pics. Daddy, you would absolutely love it!! I felt like I conquered the world when I walked in and looked around. Then we went into St. Peter's Bascilla and I swear I didn't breathe for ten minutes. To actually see what Daddy watches on TV was beyond cool. I took tons of pics but they honestly couldn't capture what me and Katie saw. The Church is beautiful and I felt honored to have walked in it. All the statues were amazing and I saw some mummified Popes, like Pope Innocent the 7th I believe. Then there was this room where they only allowed you to pray, no pics allowed and no visiting. If you weren't praying they kicked you out. So me and Katie prayed beside the priests there and some Italian nuns. The room was beautiful and it kind of made you tear up actually. Me and Katie just walked around for about an hour and a half because we couldn't belieave we were actually there.

>>>I think this might be the greatest email I ever have received from my little girl!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Our Lady of Prompt Succor; we need you now more than ever!

Back in January I commented on the Feast of Mary under the title of Our Lady of Prompt Succor. This is a very French tradition carried to the New Orleans area by the Ursuline nuns. In that post, I recount the story of how the nuns prayed for Our Lady to protect New Orleans during the British seige at the end of the war of 1812. After a favorable result, it has been a uniquely New Orleans Catholic tradition to pray with Our Lady to spare us from natural disasters. Prompt Succor is literally translated quick help or hasten to help.

In Catholic Churches across Louisiana, especially in the Archdiocese of New Orleans, we call on her help during hurricane season; which runs from June 1st through November 30th. This year, encouraged by our Archbishop, every church has been invoking Mary's name, under the title Our Lady of Prompt Succor, for assistance with the Gulf oil crisis. We pray for the protection of our coast, the environment, the impacted wildlife and for the thousands of families whose lives have been devastated by the disaster.

And now tonight, we go to bed with a wary eye on the Yucutan penisula as word is spreading that a tropical system will be in the Gulf by Monday evening or Tuesday. No one can really predict the impact of a Gulf storm in light of the oil crisis. And of course, no one can predict the path of the tropical depression beyond a few days.

We have been through much these past few years. I predict we will show our toughness and grit again. But in the meantime, we invite all to join us in southeast Louisiana in prayer for continued protection from both this 1st storm of the season and the ongoing oil disaster.

Our Lady of Prompt Succor: pray for us!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Today's feast: The Nativity of John the Baptist

>>>His such an important story that the Church remembers his nativity, as well as his death later in the church year: John the Baptist. I found this summary on the life of the Baptist from EWTN. I always loved the quote attributed to him: He (Jesus) must increase I must decrease! John 3:30.

Feast: June 24

We are given the story of the ministry of John the Baptist, called the Precursor or Forerunner of the Lord, with some variation of detail, in the three synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, as well as in the Book of John. Luke tells us of the birth of John the Baptist in a town of Judaea, about six months before the birth of the Saviour. The attendant circumstances, which we have already recounted under the headings of and , his parents, suggest the miraculous and wonderful. The New Testament tells us nothing of John's early years, but we know that his pious, virtuous parents must have reared the boy with care, conscious always of the important work to which he was appointed, and imbuing him with a sense of his destiny.
When John began final preparations for his mission, he was probably in his thirty-second year. He withdrew into the harsh, rocky desert beyond the Jordan to fast and pray, as was the ancient custom of holy men. We are told that he kept himself alive by eating locusts and wild honey and wore a rough garment of camel's hair, tied with a leathern girdle. When he came back to start preaching in the villages of Judaea, he was haggard and uncouth, but his eyes burned with zeal and his voice carried deep conviction. The Jews were accustomed to preachers and prophets who gave no thought to outward appearances, and they accepted John at once; the times were troubled, and the people yearned for reassurance and comfort. So transcendant was the power emanating from the holy man that after hearing him many believed he was indeed the long-awaited Messiah. John quickly put them right, saying he had come only to prepare the way, and that he was not worthy to unloose the Master's sandals. Although his preaching and baptizing continued for some months during the Saviour's own ministry, John always made plain that he was merely the Forerunner. His humility remained incorruptible even when his fame spread to Jerusalem and members of the higher priesthood came to make inquiries and to hear him. "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,"-this was John's oft-repeated theme. For the evils of the times his remedy was individual purification. "Every tree," he said, "that is not bringing forth good fruit is to be cut down and thrown into the fire." The reformation of each person's life must be complete—the wheat must be separated from the chaff and the chaff burned "with unquenchable fire."

The rite of baptism, a symbolic act signifying sincere repentance as well as a desire to be spiritually cleansed in order to receive the Christ, was so strongly emphasized by John that people began to call him "the baptizer." The Scriptures tell us of the day when Jesus joined the group of those who wished to receive baptism at John's hands. John knew Jesus for the Messiah they had so long expected, and at first excused himself as unworthy. Then, in obedience to Jesus, he acquiesced and baptized Him. Although sinless, Jesus chose to be baptized in order to identify Himself with the human lot. And when He arose from the waters of the Jordan, where the rite was performed, "the heavens opened and the Spirit as a dove descended. And there came a voice from the heavens, Thou art my beloved Son, in Thee I am well pleased" (Mark i, 11).

John's life now rushes on towards its tragic end. In the fifteenth year of the reign of the Roman emperor, Tiberias Caesar, Herod Antipas was the provincial governor or tetrarch of a subdivision of Palestine which included Galilee and Peraea, a district lying east of the Jordan. In the course of John's preaching, he had denounced in unmeasured terms the immorality of Herod's petty court, and had even boldly upbraided Herod to his face for his defiance of old Jewish law, especially in having taken to himself the wife of his half-brother, Philip. This woman, the dissolute Herodias, was also Herod's niece. Herod feared and reverenced John, knowing him to be a holy man, and he followed his advice in many matters; but he could not endure having his private life castigated. Herodias stimulated his anger by lies and artifices. His resentment at length got the better of his judgment and he had John cast into the fortress of Machaerus, near the Dead Sea. When Jesus heard of this, and knew that some of His disciples had gone to see John, He spoke thus of him: "What went you to see? A prophet? Yea, I say to you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written: Behold I send my angel before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee. For I say to you, amongst those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist" (Matthew xi, 10-12).

Herodias never ceased plotting against the life of John, who was not silenced even by prison walls. His followers now became even more turbulent. To Herodias soon came the opportunity she had long sought to put an end to the trouble-maker. On Herod's birthday he gave a feast for the chief men of that region. In Matthew xiv, Mark vi, and Luke ix, we are given parallel accounts of this infamous occasion which was to culminate in John's death. At the feast, Salome, fourteen-year-old daughter of Herodias by her lawful husband, pleased Herod and his guests so much by her dancing that Herod promised on oath to give her anything that it was in his power to give, even though it should amount to half his kingdom. Salome, acting under the direction and influence of her wicked mother, answered that she wished to have the head of John the Baptist, presented to her on a platter. Such a horrible request shocked and unnerved Herod. Still, he had given his word and was afraid to break it. So, with no legal formalities whatever, he dispatched a soldier to the prison with orders to behead the prisoner and return with it immediately. This was quickly done, and the cruel girl did not hesitate to accept the dish with its dreadful offering and give it to her mother. John's brief ministry was thus terminated by a monstrous crime. There was great sadness among the people who had hearkened to him, and when the disciples of Jesus heard the news of John's death, they came and took the body and laid it reverently in a tomb. Jesus, with some of his disciples, retired "to a desert place apart," to mourn.

The Jewish historian Josephus, giving further testimony of John's holiness, writes: "He was indeed a man endued with all virtue, who exhorted the Jews to the practice of justice towards men and piety towards God; and also to baptism, preaching that they would become acceptable to God if they renounced their sins, and to the cleanness of their bodies added purity of soul." Thus Jews and Christians unite in reverence and love for this prophet-saint whose life is an incomparable example of both humility and courage.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Liberal or Conservative; hogwash

It finally took massive prayer and discernment, as well as stronger reliance on faith; the Catholic faith, to shed my overall belief that we must be identified asd liberal or conservative. In politics, you may come down a certain way or favor a certain political persuasion over another. In faith, religion and all things spiritual, there is no liberal or conservative. There are both and every possibility inbetween. As one who blogs and uses facebook for ministry, I have witnessed some amazing "my way or the highway" belief in faith; even Catholic faith. And what really hurts is how the polarization seems to imply that all others are evil. How can we divide the Body of Christ along these types of lines. I reprinted below an excellent article from one of my featured sites and one of the best Catholic blogs going from St Mary's at Texas A&M:

Wednesday, June 23, 2010Being Catholic: More Than "Liberal" and "Conservative"
Many Catholics use varying terms to label what "kind" of Catholic they are (or they label others). These modern labels include:

liberal Catholic
conservative Catholic
moderate Catholic
progressive Catholic
neo-conservative Catholic
modernist Catholic
traditional Catholic
The problem with every one of these labels is the Church is not a political entity and to use such politically-loaded phrases such as "conservative" or "liberal" is the wrong way in which to describe any person's relationship to the Catholic Church.

Every one of these labels come from the political spectrum and have a lot of baggage associated with them, not to mention that the terms are quite nebulous and their meanings have changed radically through the years.

In the United States, these terms take on particular meaning and "liberal", "conservative", among other labels, have good and bad notions associated with them. Yet, none can define what it means to be Catholic.

The Church is too big to be caught up into political language. We lose the mystery and make it a purely human enterprise. While there are many political issues that Catholics can disagree upon, doctrinal teachings of the Church aren't up for grabs. I can disagree with another Catholic on the governmental role in health care, how to fix immigration, how to best fight poverty, etc. But, I can't deny the right of every human being to live. I can't deny the teaching that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist. I can't deny that marriage can only be between one woman and one man. I can't deny the preferential option for the poor.

Furthermore, you can step outside of the Catholic Church going to the left or the right. Two examples:
*Messing up going left = Catholics For Choice - they advocate abortion, contraception, etc.
*Messing up going right = Society of St. Pius X - they reject much of Vatican II's teachings.

If someone asks me if I am conservative or liberal (or any other label you want to use), I answer with something similar to this response -
"I am Catholic. I believe what the Church believes, teaches, and proclaims." Of course, the saints say it even better:

"There are many other things which most properly can keep me in the Catholic Church’s bosom. The unanimity of peoples and nations keeps me here. Her authority, inaugurated in miracles, nourished by hope, augmented by love, and confirmed by her age, keeps me here. The succession of priests, from the very see of the apostle Peter, to whom the Lord, after his resurrection, gave the charge of feeding his sheep [John 21:15–17], up to the present episcopate, keeps me here. And last, the very name Catholic, which, not without reason, belongs to this Church alone." - St. Augustine
"Do not hold aloof from the Church; for nothing is stronger than the Church. The Church is your hope, your salvation, your refuge. It is higher than the heaven and wider than the earth. It never waxes old, but is always in full vigor. Wherefore as significantof its solidity and stability Holy Scripture calls it a mountain; or of its purity a virgin, or of its magnificence a queen, or of its relationship to God a daughter, and to express its productiveness it calls her barren who has borne seven: in fact it employs countless names to represent its nobleness" - St. John Chrysostom.

Sacraments inside prison

Wednesday night and that means Deacon Mike is headed north, some 45 miles or so to the state correctional facility in Angie, LA. I have written many times about these visits and the amazing things that always seem to occur after an evening with the men, practicing their faith and seeking the Lord.

Tonight was another of those special nights. After many months of preparation and prayer, we finally were able to baptise one of our men and confirm three. Our new Catholic also received Holy Communion for the 1st time. It was an amazing evening. Our most frequent visiting Priest, Fr. Peter, offered Mass and preached about the Sacraments and focused on this Sunday's readings from Paul's letter to the Galatians (5:13-18) and Luke's Gospel (9:51-62). At one point he reminded the men gathered that they, in their present situation, may actually have an advantage over all of us living in the "free" world because of their detachment from so many worldly goods. Interesting point. These men may have lost the battle; due to their crime and sinful behavior; but maybe they can repent and focus, even while on the inside, to win the war!

Our newly baptized joined two of his brothers in the Sacrament of Confirmation. They took the names Luke, Michael and Francis Xavier (the name sake for Francis Xavier Seelos) for their confirmation names. You could sense in a real and tangible way the presence of the Holy Spirit tonight. Even our non-Catholic brothers in adjoining rooms seemed to be worshiping more ferverntly in the Spirit.

And tonight, one of the inmates who was raised in the Jewish faith tradition approached us about accepting Jesus and wanting to pursue the Catholic faith!

Never disappointed when I leave Rayburn.

This ministry has been a blessing to me in more ways than I can ever express!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Bring your gun to church; good grief

>>>Wow; the Louisiana Legislature has this one wrong. Notice the quotes below from Archbishop Aymond!

New Orleans pastors inclined not to let parishioners bring guns to church

Published: Monday, June 21, 2010

Bruce Nolan, The Times-Picayune

The Louisiana Legislature last week may have cleared parishioners to carry guns to church, but the idea seems to sit pretty uncomfortably with clergy, whom legislators thought they were helping by providing homegrown security.

“Unequivocally, no,” said Elder John Pierre, asked whether some members of his Living Witness Church of God in Christ should arm themselves to protect the congregation.

Pierre’s church operates in a gritty Central City neighborhood, ministering to addicts as well as families. Occasionally, disruptive people have wandered in off the street, he said.

“But we’ve been here 29 years, and there’s never been a time that a gun would have solved anything,” Pierre said.

But responding to a plea from a Shreveport church that asked to let it provide more security for its members, both houses of the Legislature easily passed a measure that takes churches, synagogues and mosques off the list of places where concealed weapons are forbidden.

If Gov. Bobby Jindal signs it, ushers, deacons or others may discreetly arm themselves, so long as the worship center is not on school property, the congregation’s leadership authorizes it, the congregation is notified, and the newly armed get eight hours of tactical training.

Dissenters in the legislature protested that carrying concealed weapons seemed antithetical to the spirit of worship in any faith. But support was so self-evident the measure needed hardly any oratory to pass both houses comfortably.

But soon after, lots of New Orleans clergy recoiled at the notion, including those whose churches try to act as stabilizing influences in high-crime neighborhoods.

The Rev. John Raphael, a cop-turned-pastor who shepherds New Hope Baptist church in Central City, knows too well how dangerous his neighborhood can be. Filing out of a service one Sunday, some of his congregation had to duck for cover when gunfire suddenly broke out nearby.

Raphael said he understands measures like parking lot security outdoors. But he said an armed presence in the sanctuary is incompatible with what a church is supposed to be.

He called it a “gut check” for faith.

“Great tragedy would follow if someone (inside) ever felt the need to use a gun,” Raphael said. “That would do more to harm the mission of the church, than to help. It’s a matter of faith that we trust God to protect us more than we trust our own ability.

“We should project the image that we trust in God.”

The Rev. Dan Krutz an Episcopal priest who runs the Louisiana Interchurch Conference, said the guns-in-church bill attracted little attention among his members, probably because they learned that nobody would be armed without pastors’ permission.

Nonetheless, “I personally felt it’s regressive. It’s going back to another era. At a time we’re trying to preach non-violence, here we are resorting to weapons.”

Catholic Archbishop Gregory Aymond, who supervises 104 parishes, and Episcopal Bishop Morris Thompson, whose diocese includes 55 congregations, both said they wanted to consult internally before announcing any decision.

Still, both said they were distinctly put off at of the idea of armed worship.

“The need to carry weapons into worship seems inappropriate,” Morris said.

Added Aymond: “Church is supposed to be a place of sanctuary. The idea of guns there -- I’m pretty skeptical.”

Monday, June 21, 2010

Aloysius Gonzaga

I had heard of St. Aloysius from my youth because it was a big all boys Catholic high school in New Orleans. It was somewhat controversial when the school was merged with another all boy Catholic high school, Cor Jesu, to form Brother Martin High School. As far as the name of Gonzaga, I never connected the last name with that of good St. Aloysius. In fact I'm a bit embarrased to admit that first remember the name Gonzaga when the college named for the Catholic saint began making a name for itself with a pretty impressive men's basketball program.

Saint Aloysius, whose memorial we celebrated today, was born in 1568 in Italy. His family was wealthy and owned lots of land. Aloysius, who was mainly instructed in the faith by his mother, showed an inclination to the religious life very early on. He gave away his inheritance and joined the Jesuits. He served faithfully and wrote beautifully. He attended with great care to the sick and in 1591, at the young age of 23, died of the plague.

He was fond of these words from St. Paul: weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who are glad.

He was canonized in 1726 by Pope Benedict 13th and was named patron saint of young students by Pope Pius 11th in 1926.

St. Aloysius Gonzaga, pray for us! A.M.D.G.

Day after Father's Day thoughts

Yesterday was Father's Day and I had the beautiful opportunity to baptize a beautiful baby girl and preach two homilies at two different churches. I worked all week on my homily and posted it on this blog Saturday afternoon. On Sunday mornng, at the 11 a.m. Mass the Holy Spirit took over. At a critical point in the homily, where I try to make the readings come alive for all of us in the week ahead, I addressed the men; partcularly father's.

After addressing the need to support our spiritual father's with a special collection for retired Priest's, I was compelled to speak about the awesome role of being a father. I remember two main points: fathers, if you love your children then love their mother and fathers, inspire other men in your life to give back to God and return to Church.

Point one: Love your child's mother! Hopefully, that would also be your wife. I do understand and am sympathetic that this is not always the case. However, for those who are husband and wife and are raising children, let your love for one another show to your children. And if possible, try to avoid arguments or disagreements from your child's view. And always remember the command all of us have from Jesus to love one another. For our families sake, that should be paramount between moms and dads. And for those who have seperated or divorced and still have children to raise and care for, you too can follow this command to love. Yes, I understand the love you once had for one another as husband and wife may be over. But for the children, we can agree to demonstrate Christian love; the love of Christ for the Church. And we can jointly share our childrens joy and happiness as well as comfort and console when necessary.

Point two: Despite many men present at Mass and it being Father's Day no less, I was still struck by the number of families present with mom, kids in tow and sans daddy. I asked the men present to be a little more forceful in sharing their faith with those absent fathers or men in general. These men may be their sons, brothers, co-workers and neighbors. But living our faith with joy and sharing that with others; and perhaps inviting them back to Church may plant a seed that one day will bear good fruit.

I am so thankful to the Holy Spirit; when we rely on Him, He never lets us down!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Homily for 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time/June 20, 2010

Don’t you know who I am?

Remember my name – fame…I’m gonna live forever!
I’m gonna make it to Heaven! I’m gonna live forever!
Fame – remember my name!

That is part of the song from the 1980 movie, “Fame”, which was popular enough to launch a hit song, a TV series and a long playing Broadway musical. Seems they were worried about people knowing their name.

We all want people to know our name and we try very hard to remember others’ names too. It is so important where I work that we are trained to use our clients name at least three times in the earliest moments of our interaction.

We take great pains to name our children; looking up names in books and on the internet for some special meaning.

As people of faith, do we turn to the name of Jesus, the Christ? If people asked us who this Jesus is, what would we say?

In today’s Gospel from St. Luke Jesus asks his friends plainly, who do they say that I am? You heard the answers; and perhaps there were more names offered. Jesus then says, but who do YOU say that I am? Peter takes charge and answers spot on: The Christ of God. Notice how Peter answered; he did not say Jesus, but The Christ.

And for this correct answer they hear Jesus tell them that He will suffer, He will be killed and He will rise on the third day.

What is the background for this exchange in Luke’s ninth chapter? This dialogue comes at one of the most crucial moments in the life of Jesus. It is here that Jesus, who has been preaching while traveling away from Jerusalem, turns his face toward Jerusalem to begin the journey to the Cross; His journey to fulfill His Father’s divine plan.

This is a difficult moment for His friends to comprehend. The Christ literally means the anointed one. For the people that encounter Jesus on His mission they believe it means a political and military leader. But no, Jesus tells them to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow me. How does He want those to follow Him? To the point of losing one’s life for His sake.

Today, we ask ourselves what this means for us as we hear this powerful message. It means that Jesus must be the center of our lives. If necessary, we are being asked to sacrifice our dreams, our comfort zone and our plans and stay focused on The Christ. Can we stand tall for Christ when others criticize? Can we be a witness to the love of Christ in our daily lives and weekly activity?

Today, and in the week ahead, we have an opportunity to do just that. In just a few minutes, we will have a second collection for the retired Priests of the Archdiocese of New Orleans. These dedicated men, who served the Church, who served The Christ, and continue to do so even in retirement are dependent, in part, on our generosity. Some are still as active as can be; others face daunting medical and physical challenges. In all cases, these are men whose hands brought us the Body and Blood of Christ, who preached the Gospel, both in word and deed, who absolved our sins, administered the Sacraments, educated our young, comforted the elderly and prayed for us unceasingly. Today, we are challenged to support them in our prayers and with our financial donation. Can you hear the words of Christ: deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me? Today, we follow Jesus by assisting these retired Priests who helped make Jesus a central part of our lives. What a great way to truly celebrate Father’s Day! Please be generous!

And one last thing! In the week ahead, may we all remember that Jesus Christ is not our savior’s full name? Jesus is the name given Him from all eternity and told to Mary by the angel. Scripture tells us it is the name above every other name. And as mentioned earlier, The Christ is the word for anointed; in Hebrew it is translated Messiah.

Unfortunately, whenever we hear the words, Jesus Christ, uttered aloud together, it is not done with love and respect and worship and adoration. Can we, this week, deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him by never taking His most holy name in vain? Jesus is the name that saves; may we always call to Him in our prayers, in our need and in our love.

Remember my name! No, not fame; but the name of Jesus! And relying totally in Him, maybe then, we can live forever; we can make it to Heaven! Remember His name: Jesus; the Messiah, The Christ of God!

Friday, June 18, 2010

An early summer reflection

While a good portion of the country awaits the start of summer I can tell you we are about 6 weeks deep into the hottest season of the year. June has ushered in some August like tempertures and many days of officially declared heat advisories and warnings. We have even had more than our fair share of summer time rain showers. We have July and August still to go! Ouch! The heat wave is mild in comparison to the heat about 75 miles south of my location as the BP Oil disaster grinds on for now more than 60 days. And there appears no end in sight.

Tempers are flaring and patience is wearing thin in our coastal parishes and across the area. Direct and indirect impacts are beginning to make their way north as New Orleans tourism, not to mention the seafood industry, begins to feel some pain. We are prayerful and hopeful that the rest of the nation will not give up on New Orleans, the Gulf Coast and the region in general. We still need your help; much like you helped us post Katrina.

Pardon us in south Louisiana if we feel beseiged and beleaguered. And don't even go there that as a people we are whining and begging the federal government for bailout after bailout. No other area has been under the strain of a catastrophic hurricane, a complete failure of a flood protection system that failed due to governmental and human ineptness and now the most devastating oil related disaster in the history of the United States. For our part; we are dealing with these crisises as best we can. We lean on each other. We turn to prayer. We support some of our local politicos who at least seem to give a darn; unlike a very weak and misguided federal response. For us, we can truly say; been there done that!

In these first few weeks of June I have recovered from the frenzy of a family vacation that was highlighted by the wedding of my son James and his new wife Sara. The Mrs. and I are thrilled that they had a great honeymoon in Belize and are now truly starting those first exciting married days at home, back at work and settling in to the new home. And now we move on to adventure of the summer #2 as just this past week we placed our youngest, Elizabeth, on a plane Europe bound. She will be across the Atlantic long enough to take some college credit for LSU and see some sights. It's certainly a leap of faith to trust one so young to be so far away and so independent. Yet, as parents, we hopefully long for the many years of love and lessons learned producing strong responsible children; frustrations and disappointments along the way. Much like we did when the wedding approached, our prayers are for God to watch over Elizabeth and to trust in faith.

I did get my car back; 30 days after massive damage from a freak lightning strike fried the thing. For some reason, although pleasantly surprised at the overall performance of the reonfigured Acadia, I can't get reception on the AM radio. Now I realize most of you are saying, who cares! But I like AM radio. A battle to fight another day!

Ministry takes no time off in these hot weary months. Gleefully, I am excited about the early stages of another inquiry period for possible new aspirants pursuing the possibility of a vocation to the Permanent Diaconate. This while we all prepare with great joy for an ordination in less than 6 months for our class of 2010. I am currently fully involved with both these activities and am also busy preparing a couple for a wedding in October; the 1st that I will be the officiant. And Father's Day brings another Baptism that I so find beautiful and fulfilling. I have been blessed over the past few months to be more involved in our parishes Baptisms as we have to share this responsibility with several Deacons and Priests; a blessing for our parish that is the envy of many neighboring parishes.

My last visit to the prison reminded me in no uncertain terms how much I love air conditioning. While there is some modest cooling in the gathering rooms, it don't cut it for this spoiled minister. And a visit to the dorms where the men sleep is all but unbearable this time of year. But our Catholic community presses on and grows and soon we will have another Baptism and a Confirmation. God's will is being done at Rayburn.

So as many of us settle in for this Father's Day weekend and the long summer still ahead of us, I'm content to work hard, try to keep up with cutting the grass and minister as best I can always praying that it be God's will that I'm participating with.

Continue to pray for the people of the Gulf Coast and southeast Louisiana as we endure this oil disaster and always pray for one another!

Legislature turns to pray to fight BP Oil disaster

June 17, 2010

Archbishop expresses gratitude to legislators for declaring Day of Prayer for Oil Spill Recovery

We thank the legislators for declaring Sunday a Day of Prayer. This is a public sign of our humble dependence upon God.

Our hearts and prayers go out to those who were killed in the explosion. Likewise we offer prayerful consolation to their families and friends.

The oil spill has very challenging affects on many people in our community, especially the fishing industry, oil industry and related works. We also need to be attentive to the impact on our environment and economy.

We ask God to reassure us and to walk with us in this very challenging time. We pray that:

• we may not lose hope,
• we will persevere in tough times,
• we will see God’s compassion and love in these trying circumstances,
• God will lead scientists and engineers to a permanent solution soon,
• we will bear this cross with trust,
• we will reach out in prayer and with financial resources to those whose livelihood and family life have been affected.

The Catholic Church through Catholic Charities will continue to be present to those affected by offering food, counseling and other emergency services now and in the long-term.

God never abandons us but walks with us during this challenging time in the history of our state and nation.

Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans

A Father's Day rememberance for retired Priests

Father’s Day collection June 19-20 to aid retired priests

By Peter Finney Jr.

To hear them describe their
ministry as retired priests, life
indeed begins at 75.
Freed from the daily concerns
of parish administration,
they are still celebrating
Mass in parishes across the
Archdiocese of New Orleans
when needed, and they relish
the extra time they now have
for prayer and study.
“We may not be as busy as
we were in the active priesthood,
but retirement has
given us more time to pray
for the church and to pray
for other people,” said Msgr.
John Tomasovich, 85, who
retired in 2000 as the longtime
pastor of St. Andrew the
Apostle Parish.
The ministry of retired
diocesan priests will be a
major focus at all Masses on
Father’s Day weekend (June
19-20). That’s when the archdiocese
will take up a special
collection to help defray the
medical and pension costs of
retired diocesan priests.
The collection is critical
because of demographics
that indicate a graying of the
Caring for their elders
Father Rodney Bourg, who
heads the Priestly Life and
Ministry Committee, said the
archdiocese has 67 retired diocesan
priests, and there are
another 28 priests who are
between the ages of 65 and
“We have a total of 143
active priests right now, so
if you take away 28 from
that total, that means we
will soon be looking at 115
active priests,” Father Bourg
said. “We do not have a secured
retirement fund. We’ve
operated like Social Security,
where the active priests help
pay for the retired priests. But
with those numbers, that’s
not going to work.”
Five priests who are 85
or older are still celebrating
Mass at parishes, Father
Bourg said.
“I substitute whenever the
priests in the River Parishes
need somebody for a week
or a day, and I also celebrate
Mass every weekend,” said
Msgr. Robert Vincent, former
pastor of St. Joan of Arc in
LaPlace, who is 80.
He said his life has been enriched
because he has more
time to visit with neighbors
and friends and pray with
and for them.
“I live next door to a chef,
who brings me all his leftovers,”
Msgr. Vincent said.
“My AC man is three minutes
away, and a nurse lives next
to him. The sheriff lives at the
end of my street. Best of all,
the undertaker lives across
the street and has a key to
my house. If the light on my
porch is not off by 10 in the
morning, he can bring the
wagon over for me.”
Msgr. Tomasovich said
he feels priests who retire
“should be doing something
in service, because if you
don’t do that, then you might
feel useless.”
“I’ve come across a way of
life that suits me,” he added.
“I get up between 4 and 4:30,
and that’s a wonderful time
to pray. I don’t rush it. I try
to remember everybody who
touched my life, living or
dead. I also walk the neighborhood
between 6:30 and
7 and bring the paper to the
door for old people.
“I really feel how much in
need I am of God’s love and
forgiveness,” Msgr. Tomasovich

Peter Finney Jr. can be reached

A creole chef wants to be a Priest

>>> Nice, good news story from our local paper about a Catholic vocation. Nice to see in the media! My blogger Deacon friend also picked up on this at the Deacon's Bench. I have links on this site to the paper (thru and the Deacon's Bench too!

Brett Anderson, The Times-Picayune

There are myriad possibilities as to why a meal at the Upperline could leave a person enriched for reasons that transcend food. One is the communal hug diners feel upon entering the converted Uptown residence. Another is the aesthetic rush of being surrounded by the paintings of local artists while eating food that often pays explicit homage to the work of local chefs.

Upperline Chef Ken Smith is leaving the restaurant for the seminary. Smith wedded the culinary styles of his native Avoyelles parish with local cuisine.

"I remember certain parts of Scripture where there is food involved. That's sort of what keeps me interested in what I am doing if I am having a low point, " said the Upperline's longtime chef. "We come into the world needing nourishment to survive and grow and for our existence, to keep us going. It has a purpose, and it has a purpose that can be traced way back to when Jesus was here."

Anyone who has tried Smith's food at the Upperline -- the dark, dense gumbo, the nostril-flaring Gulf shrimp piquant, the duck-andouille etouffee that is filling in more ways than one -- should not be surprised to discover there is a spiritual component to his cooking. Upperline owner JoAnn Clevenger, who has worked with Smith for nearly 20 years, was still shocked late last month when Smith told her he was leaving the kitchen behind to become a priest.

"I was stunned, " she said. "We are very happy and thrilled for him. We are just sad for ourselves."

Smith, who will cook his final meal at Upperline July 31, said his decision to enter the seminary had nothing to do with wanting to get out of the restaurant business. "I just started paying attention to my life, " he said, "to the priests who were around me, to the spiritual type of lifestyle that I saw in them." Becoming a priest, he said, is "something that I've thought about all my life."

As has, Smith would be the first to admit, cooking. He grew up in Natchitoches, where his mother was a private cook for a local attorney. The job somewhat influenced the way Smith's family dined -- "my sister and I were the only kids on the block eating lobster" -- but his culinary heritage is firmly in the traditional Creole cooking of the Cane River Valley in northwestern Louisiana.

Smith's maternal grandfather was a farmer. "What he picked from the garden we had for dinner, and we had dinner at 2 p.m., " he said. He remembers grillades that weren't quite as spicy as what's found elsewhere in Louisiana. When he's feeling homesick, he says he puts on his copy of the documentary, "A Common Pot: Creole Cooking on Cane River."

Smith's interest in cooking manifested at an early age. He became an avid cookbook reader and collector, a hobby that eventually brought him together with Clevenger. The two were introduced 19 years ago by Jan Longone, proprietor of a vintage culinary bookshop in Ann Arbor, Mich. Smith had recently moved to New Orleans to attend Delgado Community College's culinary arts and hospitality program. Clevenger, a fellow child of north Louisiana, hired him to be an intern in Upperline's kitchen.

Tom Cowan was Upperline's chef at the time. When he passed away in 1994, Richard Benz took over. When Benz left to open Dick & Jenny's, Clevenger hired Smith to replace him, making him only the fourth chef in the 27-year-old restaurant's history -- and one of the relatively few African-Americans to head the kitchen of a prominent New Orleans restaurant.

Smith then spent 10 years executing a menu that bears the mark of everyone who's held his position (beginning with Clevenger's son Jason).

"Chef Tom built on what Jason had started, " Clevenger explained. "Richard built on what Tom and Jason had done. And Ken has built on that foundation."

Smith's considerable influence can be tasted in all of Upperline's food, which draws on influences from across Louisiana -- the Cane River Country Shrimp nods specifically to his native part of the state -- and beyond. But it is perhaps a sign of his selfless, priestly nature that the dishes he holds particularly dear are those that pay tribute to others: Drum Anthony, for instance, an updated version of a special trout dish served at the dearly departed Central City restaurant Uglesich's, or Tom Cowan's Famous Roast Duck.

"Chef Tom taught me the roast duck, " Smith said. "I really respect that dish and respect the recipe of that dish. I've always said that if I went to another restaurant or was blessed with my own restaurant that I would carry that dish with me."

While another restaurant job is almost certainly not in Smith's future, he doesn't expect to let his pans or extensive cookbook collection go unused.

"I read this one story about a priest who cooked for other priests, and it became a sort of cooking club for priests, " he said. "If I'm blessed to be ordained, that's something I can do and still cook in a very small and private way."

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Great testimony on Blessed Seelos

>>>This is another beautiful testimony on Blessed Fr. Francis Xavier Seelos, this one from Bob and Penny Lord. We all continue to pray for his eventual canonization!

Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos

Family, we must be the most blessed servants of the Lord on this earth. He allows us to experience the most beautiful and uplifting miracles. We returned to Louisiana last week, where we experienced Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos. I use the term “Experience” because we have never had the gift of seeing the power of the following this Blessed has been given by Our Lord Jesus. His story is fascinating, but even more fascinating is being eyewitnesses to a following of thousands of faithful believers, taking part in a three-times-a-year Mass and Healing Ceremony. You have had to be there to believe how loved this priest is. For the Healing Service, which took place after the Mass ended, there were anywhere from 1500 to 2000 people, waiting on line to be blessed. There were eight priests in four aisles, blessing the people who waited up to an hour to receive this special gift. And this for a priest whose life was snuffed out by Yellow Fever after being on assignment in New Orleans for only 11 months. He has a following the likes of which you have never seen. And hundreds of people give testimony of healings and conversions coming about through the intercession of Blessed Seelos.

But who is this Francis Xavier Seelos, and why is there such a great devotion to him? There are those who had called him a living saint during his lifetime. Very few people could have anything but great admiration and love for him. He was born in Fussen, Germany in 1819. It was obvious to all around him, parents and clergy alike, that this was a special child, destined to do great things for God and for the Church. He always wanted the religious life. He was not always sure how he wanted to serve. As a teenager, he walked for 50 hours from his home town to Einseidlen, Switzerland to ask to join the Benedictines there. He was refused admission, only because he was too young. But the truth is that God had big plans for him in the New World. He had either a vision or a locution from Our Lady, after which he pledged to give his life to evangelizing as a missionary in the New World. He became a member of the Redemptorist Order, and came to the United States. Being a country boy from Bavaria, he was not very happy when he arrived in the United States in 1843, but he wrote to his family that he had made this decision and would live up to it. He spent the next 24 years ministering to the people of the United States.

At first, his ministry was to Catholics in western Pennsylvania. There were only 21 priests for 45,000 Catholics. Eventually, through the direction of St. John Neumann, who was his first pastor in Pittsburgh, he and other German speaking priests ministered to German-speaking immigrants. He went from associate pastor to pastor to the rector of the seminary to the head of the Redemptorists, back to his first love, Missionary work. During the Civil War, years 1862-1865, he and a few other priests went up and down the middle part of our country giving missions and retreats, dodging bullets and the rough behavior of the soldiers on both sides of the conflict. He appealed to President Lincoln to release the priests and seminarians from the draft. He and another priest met with the President, who was very cordial, but could not guarantee that this could be done. However, none of the students were drafted.

For three years prior to his transfer to his last parish in New Orleans, Louisiana, he was in charge of the Redemptorist Mission Band. He and a group of other priests would travel all over the middle states, including Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio;, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. He not only considered mission work to be important, he wrote to his sister in 1863, “It is properly the work in the vineyard of the Lord; it is entirely apostolic work.”

One of his greatest strengths was in the Confessional. He reminds us of Padre Pio and St. Jean Vianney. He would spend hours in the Confessional. He was gentle but firm. He begged the sinners from the pulpit to come to the confessional. He said “O you sinners who have not courage to confess your sins because they are so numerous or so grievous or so shameful. O, come without fear or trembling! I promise to receive you with all mildness; if I do not keep my word, I here publicly give you permission to cast it up to me in the confessional and to charge me with a falsehood.” He chided his fellow priests who did not have compassion for penitents; “The priest who is rough with the people does injury to himself….he sins, at least in ignorance…he scandalizes all who see and hear him…Thousands reject the Church and the Sacraments because they have been badly treated by a priest.”

On September 27, 1866, he began his last journey for the Lord, to New Orleans, Louisiana. As he was traveling on the train to New Orleans, a nun asked him how long he would be stationed in New Orleans. His reply was “I will be there for one year, and then I will die of the Yellow Fever”, which is exactly what happened. He spent just short of 11 months in Louisiana, and on September 17, 1867, he caught the lethal Yellow Fever. He tried to continue with his work, but in short order, he was incapacitated, and on October 4, 1867, he died. But his time in New Orleans and the work he did there was enough for the priests and parishioners of St. Mary’s Church to realize they had a saint among them. The works he did, the kindness towards the people, reaching out to the sick and dying, made them aware they had been given a special gift in Francis Xavier Seelos.\

Work was immediately begun on this Canonization, because they knew he was a Saint. And while it was completed and sent to Rome in 1903, for whatever reason, it was not taken up seriously until the end of the 20th century. His burial place was even lost in the Church. When it was definite that he would be beatified, the officials of the Church wanted to make a shrine for him. And in the construction process, his original tomb in the Church was uncovered. A miracle attributed to his intercession took place in 1967, when a woman, Angela Boudreaux, who was diagnosed with a massive malignancy in her liver, was healed. Her doctor testified that there was no hope for her. However, within a few weeks of praying to Fr. Seelos, she was completely healed. Pope John Paul II beatified Francis Xavier Seelos on April 9, 2000. His is a powerful story, one that you should take seriously. As we said at the opening of this article, we are the most blessed, in that we were able to spend days at his shrine, interviewing Fr. Byron Miller, Joyce Boudreaux, and many other involved in the cause for his Canonization. We are making a program as we speak. We pray it will be ready for our Super Saints series in time for his Feast Day, October 5. Give yourselves a treat. Go to the Shrine of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos in New Orleans. You will be blessed. We love you.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Homily 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time, June 13th

Those of us around in the seventies may remember two famous lines about the word sorry: “sorry seems to be the hardest word” were lyrics from a popular song and “love means never having to say you are sorry” from a popular movie.

Sorry, but neither statement is true!

Let’s go back in time a couple of weeks, to a warm night in Detroit as the Tigers faced the Cleveland Indians. The Detroit pitcher, Armando Galarraga, had the game of his life; in fact with just one batter left he was pitching a perfect game. 26 batters up, 26 batters out! One batter to go and it’s a slow ground ball to the 1st baseman who pitches the ball to Galarraga, covering 1st base. He’s out by a step and the historic perfect game is in the books. Wait a minute. Umpire Jim Joyce calls the runner safe. Safe! How can you call this ump; he is out by a step? Galarraga, for his part, never argues the call. Fans are outraged, sportscasters are outraged, and bloggers all night long called for the umpire to be fired.

Jim Joyce, after the game watches the replay and realizes he was wrong. He could have said, I called it as I saw it or he could say and do nothing. He immediately went to the Detroit locker room, found Galarraga and apologized. He apologized to the Detroit Tiger manager, to the organization and to the fans. So sincere his apology that the very next day he was greeted with a fair amount of applause and respect by the Tigers and the fans.

How many of us can recall sincerely saying I’m sorry or please forgive me when we were wrong; when we offend; when we disappoint?

As people of faith, do we sincerely seek forgiveness from the One who will forgive us; from the One who can even forgive our sins?

Today’s readings give us powerful lessons on forgiveness. They speak to us of laying bare our sinfulness and our brokenness and seeking the love and mercy that God offers to all of us.

In our 1st reading David confronts his sinfulness; he seduces another man’s wife and has that man murdered yet he is allowed to see his sinfulness and proclaims: “I have sinned against the Lord”. And David hears, through the mouth of a prophet: “The Lord has forgiven your sin”. Imagine David, broken and hurt by his own sins, now hearing those words.

David admitted his need for forgiveness and mercy with his words. The Gospel gives us the example of one admitting sinfulness with their actions. And it is not the host in our Gospel; but the woman. And this woman is of ill repute yet she finds a way to make it inside the home of Simon and fall at the feet of Jesus. With her actions; the bathing of His feet with her tears, the drying of His feet with her own hair and the anointing of His feet with the ointment she declares publically, I am a sinner but I want to end my sinfulness, I seek forgiveness and mercy.

Simon, for his part, felt beyond the need to consider his own sinfulness. In fact, his invitation to Jesus was not to learn from Him, or to love Him, but perhaps to expose Him as a fraud, to trap Him in some fashion. He extended no common courtesies of the day to his invited guest. And Simon is indignant that this woman, this sinner has intruded on his plans. Imagine how Simon must feel when he hears Jesus proclaim to the woman, and all gathered together, “Your sins are forgiven” and again, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

These were very important facts for the author, St. Luke, the physician, to include in the Gospel that bears his name. And they are important lessons for all of us gathered here today and preparing to approach the altar to receive the Precious Body & Blood of the same Jesus who forgives the woman in this Gospel.

We are called to seek the Lord and ask for His forgiveness and to seek His mercy. We are called, by His Church, to be able to hear those same words that David and the woman hear; your sins are forgiven. That happens every time we go to reconciliation. The Priest, acting in the name of Jesus, says these words while making the sign of the Cross: “I absolve you of your sins, in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Perhaps this is the week that we return to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, make a sincere confession and seek forgiveness and mercy. But we, like the woman, need to take action. Reconciliation requires we go forth, we seek the Sacrament, we go; just like the woman.

In the week ahead, we all can make a personal commitment in our daily activities and prayer life to pray for forgiveness. Do we need a great example; seek the response from today’s Psalm 32: “Lord, forgive the wrong I have done!” Make this part of our morning prayer, or evening prayer or something we can pray in those most difficult parts of our day.

And if there is someone who needs to hear “I’m sorry” or “please forgive me”; then say it, mean it and reconcile with whoever that person may be.

Jim Joyce, an experienced and proud umpire, went to the one he wronged, and asked for forgiveness and mercy. David did the same; and the woman went directly to the Lord.

As we prepare today to go to Jesus in Holy Communion, seek His forgiveness, seek His mercy, rejoice in His infinite Love.

Sorry seems to be the hardest word; I don’t think so.

Love means never having to say your sorry; well, all I can say to that is what Umpire Jim Joyce should have said two weeks ago: You’re out!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

This Friday, June 11th brings us the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a powerful Catholic devotion given to us directly from the Lord through St. Margaret Mary Alacoque.

While principally a private devotion since the 11th century this Feast began to gain widespread acceptance in the 17th century. Celebrated in liturgy first by St. John Eudes, devotion to the Sacred Heart spread because of the visions of St. Margaret Mary. In a particular vision to St. Margaret Mary on the feast of Corpus Christi, Jesus asked her to spread the devotion to His Sacred Heart and celebrate a feast on the 8th day after Corpus Christi, always a Friday.

It would not be til the 19th century that the feast would become a universal Church feast by order of Pope Pius IX.

I note with great joy that St. Margaret Mary Alacoque was a member of the religious order of the Visitation. This is the same order of the patron saint of my home parish, St. Jane de Chantal and cofounded by St. Francis de Sales. It was while a Visitation nun, in a Visitation convent, that St. Margaret Mary received these visions.

Today, our renovated St. Jane de Chantal Church has a beautiful window dedicated to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque.

Here is the prayer that the Church across the world will pray tomorrow in every liturgy celebrating the Sacred Heart:

Father, we rejoice in the gifts of love we have received from the heart of Jesus your Son. Open our hearts to share his life and continue to bless us with his love.

And another prayer reserved for this special day:

Father, we honor the heart of your Son broken by man's cruelty, yet symbol of love's triumph, pledge of all that man is called to be. Teach us to see Christ in the lives we touch, to offer him living worship by love-filled service to our brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Looking back at Abita and St. Jane's

>>>This article was recently republished on and gives a nice glimpse of both the community in which I live and the Church I worship at and serve as a Deacon. Much has changed since the 1940's but not much about our beloved St. Jane de Chantal Church.

Remembering Abita: Life and Faith in a Southern Town
by Sandra Miesel

Because my parents' marriage failed early, I spent my childhood with my great-aunt Mamie Schlumbrecht and her husband, Albert, on a five-acre chicken farm outside Abita Springs, Louisiana. Abita, which is about 35 miles north of New Orleans in St. Tammany Parish, is now a chic town -- the famous home of an excellent microbrewed beer. But in the 1940s, it was a hamlet of 200 people where all the clocks had stopped after the Crash of 1929.
We didn't actually live in Abita but rather two miles out on Talisheek Road. The flat countryside had been logged clear a generation earlier, leaving swathes of open country dotted with second-growth pine, scrub oak, and gall berry bushes amid grass that was brown all year. We could hear dynamite blasts in the far distance where huge beef cattle farms were clearing pasture. Ours was the only home within sight on our side of the graveled road.
Mamie and Albert had built the house themselves in 1923, a typical bungalow whose rough-sawn clapboards had been stained and weathered to gray. Scattered around it were chicken houses and sheds, vegetable gardens, piles of sand and gravel for construction, and the much smaller house where the black hired couple Rosie and Brown used to live (it was later adapted for raising turkeys). The front of the property was landscaped with neat hedges of box and sweet bay, azaleas, magnolias, a giant gardenia bush, a tall holly that bore no berries, and, right by the front doors, a huge crape myrtle entwined with honeysuckle vines thick as your wrist -- both blooming together in a sweet tangle that drew bees and hummingbirds.
Mamie (née Myra Katherine Klink) was strong and squarely built, with long brown hair braided and coiled around her head and blue eyes behind bifocals. She showed me that a woman should be equally adept with an axe and a needle. I gave up on the axe after one unauthorized attempt left me with a gashed knee at age four. The same year, I learned to crochet and embroider -- skills I've kept for life. Three decades later Mamie would take her crocheting to the hospital lest she fail to keep busy on her deathbed.
Albert was tall, gaunt, and black-haired. He was susceptible to crackpot ideas including eugenics, fruit fasts, and the Lost Books of the Bible. He'd been put out to work after fourth grade and, while still young, lost half his right thumb in a machinery accident. As a result, he had a curl of yellowed bone instead of a first joint (though it sufficed to roll cigarettes from his beloved King Bee tobacco). Albert's many eccentricities didn't impinge on me much as a child, but I eventually realized he'd put Mamie through a very difficult life.

A lapsed Lutheran, Albert didn't believe much in church-going. But Mamie was an intensely devout Catholic. I loved to read about the saints in the onionskin pages of her daily missal, never suspecting that I would one day grow up to write about them myself. Mamie said her prayers on a silvery rosary missing a bead (though her favorite devotion was to the Sacred Heart). To get a precious blessed palm to slide lovingly behind Our Lord's picture, she drove out one Palm Sunday through flood waters pouring over a bridge in three places.
Trying to make a living meant ceaseless toil for Mamie and Albert. From five in the morning until supper, they worked. No one had told Mamie that she could labor without wearing her boned corset, so she did her rounds well-cinched. The electrical generator died during the War and couldn't be fixed, so we depended on kerosene lamps until rural electrification and telephone service arrived by 1948. Happily, we did have indoor plumbing, though we had to boil water in a teakettle for our baths.
Mamie cooked with bottled gas, baked in a woodstove, did laundry on a washboard, and sewed on a treadle machine, often using bright calico that had been cut from feed sacks. The main business of the place was raising chickens: white "broilers" raised indoors in cages and plump Barred Rock or Rhode Island Red laying hens whose airy house had access to the outdoors. I briefly made a pet of one runty Barred Rock and called her "Inquisitor," but she got turned into someone's stewing hen. Chicks were usually chosen from a mail-order catalog and arrived a day old in special cardboard boxes, cheeping at the post office. One year, Albert experimented with breeding his own crosses and incubated a batch of eggs in the house, and I got to watch the hatching process.
While I didn't go out of my way to watch chickens get killed on the chopping block, I can't pretend it disgusted me. The offal went into 500-gallon steel drums until it rotted and was turned out on the garden as compost. Our perfect organic vegetables grew from that graveyard of chicken leg bones and skulls.
Besides chickens, we sold produce -- strawberries, honey, pecans, potatoes, peas, greens, and parsley. I'd go with Mamie as she made deliveries on weekends. So I got to see the full range of Abita's homes, from the rich family whose heavy German furniture was decorated with carved wooden stags' heads to the poor woman who bought chicken feet for soup. At one extreme were the gorgeous summer homes of wealthy New Orleans gentry; at the other, a shotgun house crammed with a family so poor the mother boiled their wash in a cauldron in the yard. But in Abita, respectability was a function of personal behavior, not income.

Abita sprawled over a railroad track, neither side "wrong." The eponymous springs -- which had supposedly restored the Choctaw princess Abita to health in the days of Spanish rule -- were covered by a pavilion in the town park. There was also an artesian well in the park spurting an icy torrent. Because several nearby homes had similar wells, some ditches ran with spring water, making a delightful place to play and catch frogs. Abita boasted four groceries, three barrooms, two drugstores, two gas stations, an icehouse, and a pool hall whose owner doubled as a cabbie. The town hall was used for weekly municipal bingo games and housed a tiny library.
Bingo bored me, so on Friday nights I watched television at the home of family friends while Mamie played. Other forms of gambling held no interest either. I realized early on that neither the spinners at the town summer festival nor the slot machine and punchboard at the drugstore were going to pay off. In other places, I now realize, respectable little girls didn't take a pull at the slot machine while they licked their Sunday ice cream cones. But this was Louisiana.
There were two churches in Abita -- the white clapboard Lutheran parish presided over by Pastor Klamm and our red brick St. Jane de Chantal church. People were scandalized when Baptists attempted to form a church because it complicated allegiances: Their appearance even dissuaded a widow with Catholic children from converting to Catholicism. There was also a black Pentecostal congregation at the edge of town. Years before, my Aunt Hermanie and her teenage friends had tried to spy on their services. When they tried a second time, they found the windows covered with newspaper. Mamie scolded Hermanie -- hard.
St. Jane's had been built in the 1920s and never had the funds afterward to install stained-glass windows. But the big wedding-cake white altar had a life-size statue of the Sacred Heart flanked by kneeling angels holding candelabra. The Madonna was Our Lady of Victory -- resplendent in a turquoise gown and filigreed brass crown (completely outshining poor and plain St. Joseph). Our saints were St. Jane in voluminous habit holding a golden heart, St. Thérèse with her roses, St. Rita with her crown of thorns, and St. Anthony holding the Christ Child. Lost and found objects were left at his feet in the back of the church.
Also in the back was the usher's table presided over by Mr. Peters in his white suit and shoes. My aunt always bought the National Catholic Register, Our Sunday Visitor, and the Messenger of the Sacred Heart. Little did I know that I'd grow up to write for the first two.
Our pastor was Father Thomas (properly, the Rev. Dr. Thomas Schwerigkeit O.C.S.O.), a refugee German Trappist who was attached to nearby St. Joseph's Abbey. He had advanced tastes in liturgy and introduced the Dialogue Mass and another practice of startling impropriety: As he said the Canon in Latin, the ladies of the choir read it aloud in English. No one as far as I know questioned this; Father always knew best. Mamie sewed his monk's habit out of fine white wool, and I used scraps of it to dress my teddy bears. In 1948, our beloved Father Thomas contracted cancer and went back to Germany to die.
While the next pastor was a rather gloomy monk named Father Athanasius, he was soon succeeded by colorful Father Aloysius Fischer -- a secular priest who arrived with Miz Martha, his own housekeeper. Father Aloysius was old enough to be retired, with fingers knobby from arthritis. Nevertheless, he was a fiery preacher who disdained the pulpit to stand in the middle of the sanctuary and pound on the communion rail for emphasis.
Miz Martha joined the choir and the Altar and Rosary Society, which were coextensive. While Miz Lustalot played the pipe organ, Mamie sang second soprano to her friend Miz Mamie Rau. The latter was a Railway Express agent with an obese cocker spaniel named Soda who slept in a laundry basket. Miz Mamie wouldn't let me sing in the choir because I "put her out." So in my early years, I'd sit in the choir loft and try to keep still.
At some point after I vomited during the Tre Ore service on Good Friday of 1947, I was sent downstairs to sit with my friend Connie in the first pew on the St. Joseph side. I carefully followed the Mass in my pocket-sized Fr. Stedman's Sunday Missal, which is easier to use and more comprehensive in coverage than today's miserable "worship aids." Sunday Mass usually ended with the hymn "Holy God, We Praise Thy Name," and Benediction followed.

St. Jane's had a varied congregation. Names like Abadie, Hébert, Privette, Marieuse, Kustermacher, Matranga, O'Brien, McNeeley, Miller, Perez, and Alcantara were common. People ranged from poor Archie who'd been shell-shocked in the War and trembled incessantly to tiny Miz Bébé, the grocery clerk. One regular attendee turned out not to be Catholic at all. When Mamie found her dead in her home, the priest refused to have the church bell tolled because the lady was actually Jewish and had never formally converted.
Black parishioners sat in the back row as the customs of the time required. These were, after all, the days of legal segregation. (Archbishop Rummel's heroic resistance to racism lay some years in the future.) The black population of Abita led almost entirely separate lives. Mamie was remarkably free of prejudice, when she could recognize it. (She didn't while reading me the hopelessly racist pages of a classic Southern children's book, Miss Minerva and William Green Hill.) But she would cheerfully give Annie the housemaid a ride when she saw her walking along the road in broken shoes. And Mamie had no problem accepting a ride to church from our black fellow parishioners when ours was unavailable.
They were a mixed-race clan that kept to itself on several small farms up Talisheek Road. Mamie bought an old Wurlitzer piano from them so that I could take lessons, but its sound board was so damaged (even after we removed the beans, pebbles, and mud dauber nests) that I never learned what the notes were supposed to sound like. It pains me now to describe their poverty: a tiny cabin perched on a sea of cracked mud with chicken wire -- not screens -- in the windows and fat flies swarming over their baby. It horrified me that these unusually beautiful and obviously honest people had to live that way.
There were, of course, no black children in our schools and -- I confess -- I never really wondered where they were educated. But Louisiana allowed parochial school children to ride public buses. That's how Abita's Catholic children got to St. Peter's School in Covington, three miles away. What went on in Abita's own public grade school I never knew, although my best friend, Li'l Harold, went there.
In those days, school buses had no stop signs to swing out. When I was in second grade, a public school girl was killed on the highway by a car speeding around the bus. All I saw was an explosion of papers and a thin line of dark blood across the asphalt. Ever after, I imagined seeing that glossy red line every time we drove across the spot.

St. Peter's School must have run on thin air because it charged two dollars a month for tuition and an extra dollar for lunch. It was staffed by Benedictines whose motherhouse was in the next block where they also operated St. Scholastica Academy for girls. The congregation no longer exists, but I have happy memories of them. Thank you Sisters Philippine, Anthony, Stephen, Agatha, and Anna -- not to mention our lay teachers Miz Edwards and Miz Viola. Yes, there were ruler slaps and the principal once spanked me for swatting another girl with a jump rope, but none of my teachers was ever mean.
The school was funded by St. Peter's Parish, whose unusually contemporary church opened in 1946. Vaguely Norman in style, its interior walls were plain rose brick and its stylized statues were carved from pale wood. By 1950 it acquired some marvelous modern stained glass tracing the life of St. Peter. Around the same time, though, a parishioner donated life-size, glass-eyed plaster statues of the Sacred Heart and Our Lady of Fatima, which rather spoiled the effect.
St. Peter's School, in contrast, was a wooden relic two stories tall, with every classroom's walls and ceiling paneled in dingy beadboard pine. The lower floor (called the basement) housed a stage, foul restrooms, and a cafeteria that served hideous food. The school occupied an entire city block -- plenty of space for 200 pupils -- with trees and grass as well as game courts of packed yellow clay. Spanish moss from the live oaks was a favorite play material. A surprising number of students came from divorced or widowed homes, and families were generally small. Diversity consisted of a single Colombian girl who boarded at St. Scholastica's.
In most respects, St. Peter's offered an average education for its time and place. The state provided our texts in secular subjects, supplemented with the Baltimore Catechism, Bible history, and the magnificent Loyola Voyages in English series, which taught me all the grammar I know. Reading was taught through the worthless "look-say" method, but the nuns zealously encouraged us to read. The best students got the first shot at new books, ceremoniously presented in front of the class. But there was nothing done for the worst student in my class, a boy who was probably retarded and certainly had behavioral problems. The nuns much preferred two angel-perfect cousins who strolled rather than played at recess, lest they muss their crisp uniforms.
A lot of our religious formation came through osmosis. We had plenty of occasions for Mass, including First Fridays when the communicants would get hot cocoa afterward to break their fast. Prayer opened the school day, and we said the Angelus before lunch. May crowning was an elaborate event that featured small girls strewing rose petals down the church aisle ahead of the procession. We fought over the privilege of providing flowers for the Blessed Mother's altar in each classroom, fashioned spiritual bouquets, and collected money to ransom pagan babies.
There were many mansions in the realm of Catholic culture. We read Our Little Messenger and Treasure Chest Catholic comics, although I preferred pretty booklets on the lives of female saints. There was much talk about the evils of Communism, made vivid by the presence of a Hungarian refugee family in the school.
Not only did we troop off to watch religious-themed movies in town (Guilty of Treason and The Next Voice You Hear, for example), the nuns also showed us explicitly Catholic films in the school basement -- Italian lives of St. Benedict and St. Francis and a particularly hokey Mexican account of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The St. Benedict story -- straight out of The Dialogues -- made an unforgettable impression on me in second grade. The prologue ended with a crawler, "The barbarians were at the gates," and faded to show a bunch of howling savages clad in skins menacing a set of wrought-iron gates. For years that was my image of the fall of Rome. I also naively asked Sister Anna why the floating image of a woman's face constituted a temptation for Benedict.
I left Louisiana just before my eleventh birthday. Rickety old St. Peter's School was replaced long ago and then closed, and Abita has been renovated for yuppies. But when Mass at my present parish ends with "Holy God, We Praise Thy Name," I close my eyes and I'm back in the first pew at St. Jane's. And Aunt Mamie is waiting for me by the church door.

Sandra Miesel is a veteran Catholic journalist, and co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax. This article originally appeared in the December 2003 issue of Crisis Magazine.