Sunday, March 29, 2009

From our Parish retreat

This was a presentation at Saturday's retreat; from our host Jeanne Burmaster, a spiritual director in the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Enjoy:

2009 Lenten Retreat
Presenter: Jeanne Burmaster

Have you noticed how often we hear the L word these days? While shopping at Walmart, I may hear it ten times from people talking on their cell phones. When I was growing up, the L word was rarely mentioned at my house. My momma always told us kids, “Don’t tell me that you love me, SHOW me that you love me.” For momma that meant, showing affection and respect by being obedient, by helping out around the house, doing my best in school, being nice to my little brother – and most importantly to mom, was doing it ALL with a good heart, not resentfully. She was always quick to say, “don’t you roll your eyes at me” and then she would launch into a long sermon about how grateful I should be about this or that. Believe me, in order to avoid those sermons; I put a smile on my face (but sometimes, when momma wasn’t looking.) But, even more than that, mom showed us by her example that to love someone meant to be willing to sacrifice for that person, to put their needs above my own. No, the L word wasn’t used very much in my house when I was growing up, but there was never any doubt that I was loved.
In today’s world however, the word love is tossed around like a football. I’m always a little taken aback when people I hardly know tell me they “love me”. “LuvYa” is sort of the new word for “Goodbye”. I was at the nursing home a few weeks ago visiting my mom who was in rehab for a broken hip when one of her nurses, walking out of her room, said, “I LuvYa, Miss Gerri”. My mom looked up at her and said, “Would you die for me?” Stopped in her tracks, the nurse said, “What did you say?” Mom said, “Would you die for me? That’s what loving someone really means, that you are willing to die for them.” Rolling her eyes at mom, the nurse said, “Oh, okay, see ya later,” as she hurried out the door. You see, for my mother, saying I love you, means I put you first above ALL things, even my own life.
Now, I think telling someone you love them is a good thing, but like my mom, hearing it said often and in a casual way, sort of waters down the meaning for me. As I hear people saying it, I wonder sometimes do they think about what they are saying it really mean it. I’d like to believe they do. Unfortunately the human side of love frequently has limits that are often left unspoken. What they really mean may be, “I’ll love you as long as you make me happy, I’ll love you as long as we are financially stable, I’ll love you as long as life is going smoothly. I’ll love you for 6 months, for 5 years, for 10 years.” Human love is not always a lasting thing. That may be why it is so difficult for us to believe in God’s kind of love.
I learned at a young age that I had to prove my love. Love had to be worked at and nurtured. It was just a WORD, without the action.
How does God prove his love for us? In John 3:16 we hear that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him may not die but may have eternal life.”
The Catechism tells us that God, by taking on human flesh, reveals the dignity of every human person. Each of us is precious in his site. He loves us. He sent his son to reveal to us how great that love is.
It is like no other love the world has ever known. Over the centuries, it has inspired an answering love in the hearts of mankind. There are two great truths that are clear to anyone who has looked on Jesus Christ. He was MORE than man and when we imitate him, we can be MORE than human. Love was the measure of Christ’s greatness and it must also be the measure of ours. Love is tested in the crucible of suffering; and no human heart ever passed through such agonizing torment as our Savior was subjected too. The love that survived that test had to be supernatural and divine.
No one who has meditated on Christ’s Passion could ever forget it. Who could forget Jesus’ despair and depression in the garden when, foreseeing the coming events, those thoughts wrung blood from every pore in his body. Have most of you seen the movie the “Passion of the Christ”? It was so hard for me to watch those scenes of Christ being beaten and scourged (I had no idea how horrific a scourging was, until I saw that movie). I will never be able to erase those images from my mind. Jesus, the most loving, the kindest, the best, and the most wonderful friend and son, bowed his head in death upon the Cross, after hours of indescribable anguish and torment. All of that blood that poured out of his body; that was for us, for you and for me. We shrink at the thought of Christ’s Passion and yet we are thankful for it because his agony prevented ours. Like the scripture says, “by his stripes, we have been healed”. We can’t contemplate the dying figure on the cross without being reminded that we’ve been redeemed because of that cross. Jesus and the Father’s, supernatural love for us, saved us from inevitable and eternal misery, and obtained for us our one chance at Heaven.
We all know what love is on a human level; it is, more often than not a love of the senses. A young man and woman meet, fall in love and marry because she was sweet and easygoing and he liked that about her and she just loved his great sense of humor. A year later he sees her as boring - and for her, his stupid jokes have become very annoying. (Hum, I can relate to that) Unfortunately, it is often the case that human love does not endure.
It thrives on joy; it is eager for pleasure and satisfaction; but when life becomes a struggle and is filled with disappointment and stresses, it is chilled and numbed. Add a little suffering into the mix and it’s over, Hasta La Vista, Baby.

Jesus came to teach us about Supernatural love, to save us from ourselves, to call us to a whole new way of being. He was willing to go to the cross, take all the humiliation, the pain and suffering, and most of all, the sins of the entire human race -- past, present and future -- upon Himself. He was willing to die for the very people who put him up on that cross. How many of us would be willing to take a bullet for someone who persecuted us. Like my mother, most of us would probably be willing to die for someone we loved, but would we do it for a murderer, or a child molester, or a rapist. Jesus did. He did it because He loves ALL of us, in spite of our shortcomings, sins, our failures and ourselves.
That Divine, supernatural love, that Jesus came to teach us about, inspires a love within us that can transform our lives. Throughout the Gospels are stories of the way Christ’s love transformed those who knew him – Mary Magdalene went from being a prostitute to one of Jesus’ most devoted followers. Peter went from denying Jesus to being the rock upon which he built His church, Paul from a persecutor of the Christians to their staunchest ally.
We, like the people in Jesus’ day are drawn by this outpouring of love that Jesus has for us. His love has a magic power than makes weak men and women into heroes. It can transform us, even us, into holy men and women, capable of loving God and one another with the heroic love of Saints.
It is a love that enables you to keep loving your spouse or your children or your best friend even when you can’t seem to find anything lovable about them. It’s what makes us able to forgive and to keep forgiving, when what we really want to do is to STAY angry with the person who keeps hurting us. When Jesus commanded us to love our enemies, He knew that we’d have to possess the kind of love that He had for us when he so willingly hung on that cross in our place.
He told his disciples in John 15:13, “There is no greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”. Jesus didn’t just talk the talk. He walked the walk. He proved his love for us.
How do we prove our love for Jesus? By, like the disciples – saying “Yes” to his invitation to “follow him”. Following Jesus means following God’s commandments as Jesus himself did, not because we fear eternal damnation but because our love for God makes us desire to please him and serve him above all things and to do it joyfully. When I was young I didn’t really understand why my mother wanted us to do everything she told us with a Good Heart. It wasn’t until I was a wife and a mother myself that I finally “Got It”. It’s not a good feeling when you know that the person who is helping you is doing it reluctantly and resentfully. They might be doing it because they know you will be angry if they don’t do it, or maybe just to shut you up. (I get that a lot) I don’t knot about you but, I would rather do something myself than have someone do it unwillingly and unkindly. It hurts my feelings. And, so it is with God. How much more pleasing it is to Him when we can be so changed that we joyfully and enthusiastically do his will and follow his commands, not out of fear or because we have to but out of love and respect. Not just meeting his expectations of us, but exceeding them,
Just like the disciples - spending time with Jesus will transform us. We all could use a little transforming right? (My husband would say I need a lot of transforming – that’s okay, I know I am a work in progress – aren’t we all?) I often take one step forward and two steps back on my spiritual journey. Heck sometimes it seems that I take one step forward and 10 steps back. At those times, I keep reminding myself that I’m still in the process of chipping away at all that STUFF that needs to go and it’s not easy. Making spiritual progress is hard work. The world pulls us in one direction and Jesus in another. It’s a constant tug of war within ourselves and we need help to overcome the world. The most significant step in my spiritual journey was when I came to understand that God was not some distant being that I prayed to but that he was my constant companion.
Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of Heaven is within us because the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit dwell in us. In John 14:23 he says, “If anyone loves me, he will keep My Word and my father will love him and we shall come to him and make our home with him”. God doesn’t meet up with us only when we kneel down to pray. We don’t leave him at church when we get up from our pews and walk out the doors on Sunday. He resides within us.
Knowing that God is present, operating in your life every moment of every day is the first step in being transformed.
Let’s use our imaginations for a moment. Imagine yourself as you were at mass last week. You can close your eyes if you want to. Do you remember what you wore to church, what pew you sat in? Now imagine Mass is over and you are walking out of church, but now Jesus walks out with you, and he stays with you all week (never leaving your side for a moment). Think about the past week. With Jesus visibly at your side, is there anything you would have done or said differently? You would have cleaned up your act, big time, right? No cursing, no yelling. Maybe you would have been more patient and understanding with your spouse or your children. You might have gone out of your way to help someone in need; definitely you would have put a little more money in the collection basket, if Jesus were looking over your shoulder. Well, he WAS! And He IS! He is always with us. He’s available for consultations and guidance and eager to assist us if we just ask. It’s sort of like he’s on retainer, isn’t it? With Jesus on retainer, why in the world would anyone EVER make a step without checking in with him first? When I communicate with God in this way, it helps me to be more aware of that inner voice within myself that voice that encourages me toward good thoughts and good deeds and it is also a voice that disturbs my spirit and tweaks my conscience when I am not on the right track.
A few months ago I went to Home Depot for my mom to get some supplies for the new craft room my husband was building for her. I was pleasantly surprised when the cashier totaled up my bill and I saw what cost was. On the way home, I started thinking, no; she must have made a mistake. Then I didn’t want to look at the receipt because I knew if I found something wrong I would have go back to rectify it. Well, then I started thinking, maybe I just won’t look at the receipt and momma will have saved a lot of money. If I don’t actually KNOW for sure of the mistake then it wouldn’t be a sin, right? No sooner had THAT thought been formed when I thought to myself, “Oh no, Devil, you are not going to trick me so easily”. Well, I did look at the receipt and there was a mistake and back to Home Depot I went. There I was again faced with another dilemma. The cashier didn’t want to believe that I had NOT been charged for 13 rolls of insulation. Was I sure, why didn’t I just forget about it? I actually had to argue with her to get her to take my money. I could easily have said, “Oh well, I tried.” Instead, I became an example to the people standing behind me in line that got in on the act of trying to help me explain the situation to the ditsy cashier. I could hear them talking amongst themselves about how “they didn’t know anyone who would have given a couple hundred dollars back without being forced to.” I was almost a celebrity by the time I left. We are constantly faced with moral dilemmas and difficult choices.
Being in “tune” to God, to that inner voice, helps us to choose rightly. Just like the Apostles, spending time with Jesus or the Father transforms US, changes US. The only way you are going to be transformed is to be more aware of his presence in your everyday life and by spending time in ordinary conversation with him.
How do we see that transformation in ourselves, how do we know if we are really connecting to God? Well, perhaps a few of us may experience a life changing moment in a flash, like St. Paul being knocked off his horse, but for most of us, the change happens slowly. Our priorities change, we become more patient, more forgiving, and more generous. We don’t hang on to our possessions with a death grip – we learn that, “like our mother’s always told us” it IS better to give than to receive. We loose our self-absorption and our desires of worldly pursuits and honors and concentrate on the things that are lasting. None of us want to admit that our lives, up to this moment, have not been very fruitful. But, in this whole wide world, there is no sinner that can’t be transformed into a saint by the Supernatural love of God
The Cross of Jesus Christ tells us not only of his love, but also of the possibilities within ourselves. When we have Christ at the center of our heart, there is nothing that can separate us from him or his love. St. Paul said it so expressively in Romans 8:35-39, “What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:35-39). (15 minutes) That’s my favorite scripture. When I read it I can almost hear my mother saying, “Now that’s the kind of love I’m talking about!”
Do any of you remember that movie “The Dead Poet’s Society”? It expounded to the philosophy “Carpe Diem”. Seize the day! Eat, drink and be merry! This is the way the world thinks. We see it in every man with his riches and his accomplishments, and his possessions. They are “living for today” and not really worried about the future. They think they already have everything they need for perfect joy. They forget the unseen, the unattained. Possessions don’t last, success can turn to failure in an instant and love- well we’ve already discussed the woes of human love. Earthly pursuits are fleeting and they don’t last. If we are living in the present with no concern for the future, the spirit within us begins to dim and grow blind to the possibilities of the ideal, a life with Christ. We are so concerned with the here and now that we forget about tomorrow.
This is a time when we are in dire need of divine influence - to lift us up out of the mire of this spiritual desolation.
The lesson that seems hardest for us to learn is that our present life compared with eternal life is - for want of a better word – inadequate. Why do we find the inadequacy of the present the hardest lesson to learn? What is the matter with us? We are petty and short sighted and small minded. We fail to view things with eternal eyes. Christ came in human form so that we would understand that this world is not our real home. He wanted to show us that only in the life beyond do we ARRIVE at the real goal of our existence. But, we still have some work to do. Jesus saved us from eternal damnation but he didn’t give us a free ticket to enter those Pearly Gates. Heaven is the fruit of a lifetime of struggle. We must work at being holy.
Belief in Christ means facing toward the future. Looking at the BIG PICTURE. Gazing on Christ rising into heaven the disciples could never be satisfied with the things of earth, ever again. They wanted to go where he went. He gave them divine ambition. He taught them that the meanest of human creatures could have the opportunity of one day sharing in the life of God.
Even in our human weaknesses and failings, hope still burns in our hearts. Because we know that Christ, raised from the dead, goes before us to a place where the Book of Revelation says, “, “He shall dwell with them and they shall be his people and he shall be their God who is always with them. He shall wipe every tear from their eyes and there shall be no more death or mourning, crying out or pain, for the former world has passed away.”

*****Before Jesus ascended into heaven, he spoke to the disciples, to prepare them for his going.
In John 14:26, Jesus says, “the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name will instruct you in everything and remind you of all that I told you.” He goes on to say in John 16:2-4 “They will put you out of synagogues. Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God. And they will do this because they have not known the Father or me. But, I have said these things to you so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you about them.”
What he said was far from reassuring for the Disciples. He foretells of a time of persecution and suffering, when their faith will be tested, they will be expelled from the synagogues and hunted down like wild beasts, they will be destroyed as enemies of God. Insult, banishment, suffering, even death – this was his bequest to them. Nothing could be clearer then, that Christ did not promise his disciples freedom from suffering or protection against bodily pain.
What was it he said? “I have said these things to you so that when their hour comes you may REMEMBER that I told you about them.” According to Jesus all that would be necessary would be for the disciples to recall His word and to be faithful to the ever-present grace of the Holy Spirit.
Almost from the moment the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost the persecutions began. Generation after generation witnessed the attempt to drown the Christian Faith in the blood of the Martyrs. Rack and scourge, sword and fire, burning at the stake and crucifixion – every diabolical means they could imagine or devise were used against Christ’s followers. But they were strong in the strength of the Spirit sent by their master. They sang as the lions were unleashed upon them in the arena, they praised God as they were crucified, stoned and persecuted. Weak men, frail women and even little children were able to defy the torturers. They weren’t delivered from suffering but they were able to overcome it.
To us also, the Paraclete was promised, and in our lives too, Jesus’ prediction has come true. The advent of the Spirit has been followed by times of trial and often by great suffering.
For some people, it is hard to believe in God’s goodness when disaster strikes. If someone they love dies or becomes disabled, or is the victim of a violent crime. These things happen every day around us and to people we know. At such times life can seem cruel and unjust. Even people of faith question God when things like this happen to them. They want to know WHY? Is God punishing them? There was a time in my life when I thought that way, too. Whenever something bad happened to me, I would think to myself, maybe God is still angry with me for something or other that I had done in the past. It was my distorted image of God. I was still thinking of Him as harsh and judgmental and also it was my own inability to forgive myself that had me thinking that way. At that time, I still hadn’t fully understood God’s mercy and forgiveness and his perfect love for me, for Jeanne.
NOW I know that God would NEVER intentionally harm me to teach me a lesson or to exact some revenge for a past sin. Would any of you intentionally cause someone you love to be sick or to have an accident or to die? Of course not! And, neither does God. The God who knew us before we were born, and knit us in our mother’s womb the God who wrote your name in the palm of his hand and he knows the number of hairs on your head. How could anyone think that that God would vindictively and vengefully cause them harm? Has Jesus taught us nothing? If we are fearful or afraid of what God might do to us, it shows that we are not yet fully convinced that he REALLY loves us.
Some people find it easier to bear things if they think it IS God’s will. Remembers Job’s lament, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away”. Job could live with the tragedies of his life if he thought it was God’s will. Other people find it harder to bear a loss if they think it is just a ghastly mistake and NOT the will of God.
We should never tell someone who is grieving that the loss of his or her loved one is the Will of God. Calling a tragic loss the will of God can have a devastating effect on our own faith and the faith of others, for it distorts the image of God.
You and I have to face facts. There is sadness in this life; there is suffering all around us. Sooner or later, we are all going to experience pain and loss. In his humanness Jesus, too, suffered sadness, fear, terror, anguish, abandonment and depression.
God does not cause our misfortunes. Some are caused by unfortunate circumstances, some by bad people and some are simply an inevitable consequence of our being human and being mortal. The painful things that happen to us are not punishments for our misbehavior; they are just part of the human experience.
We can turn to God for help in overcoming our pain precisely because we can tell ourselves that God is just as outraged by it as we are.
God may not have caused the misfortune, but he uses it. In Romans 8:28 Paul tells us, “We know that God makes all things work together for the good of those who love him.”
Looking back at my own life experiences, each time I suffered, emotionally or physically, it was a time of spiritual growth for me. After my hysterectomy when I learned I had cancer, God was the source of my strength. I spoke to him of my concerns, my fears, and about the decisions I would have to make. Placing my trust in his guidance I found a profound sense of peace during that difficult time.
So to us, just as to the disciples on the eve of our Lord’s departure into heaven, there comes the assurance, not that we shall have uninterrupted comfort, but that we shall have the assistance of the Holy Spirit to carry us through these trials. And that when he has come to the soul and dwells there, no enemy can vanquish us, no evil can really hurt us, but all things, big and little, pleasant and unpleasant, good and bad, will work together for our lasting and perfect joy that we will find one day, in our real home - in another time and another place.
For to everyone who follows this God who loves us with a Supernatural love, Jesus promises a good that is above anything our minds could imagine or our heart’s desire. “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard what God has ready for those who love him.”

Friday, March 27, 2009

Retreat talk for March 28th

Every year the Bible Study group from my parish and our mission, St. Michael's in Bush, LA holds a one day retreat during Lent. This year I have been invited to talk about forgiveness and miracles based on two chapters from the book Be of Good Heart by Joseph McSorley.

Below is my presentation and I hope to publish others from the retreat in the next few days:

Retreat presentation March 28, 2009

Please stand and join me as we pray, Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Please be seated.

Quite a bit of pressure wouldn’t you say; letting the rookie deacon bring the retreat full circle? Yet, here I am; right where God wants me to be at this moment, in this place. And the same is true for each of us here today.

I still have a hard time saying Deacon Mike. Since December 13, 2008, that is who I am. Most of you know that I serve at St. Jane’s/ St. Michael’s but you may not know that I also have been assigned to Rayburn Prison, up the road in Angie. I love my assignments and thank God for the trust placed in me to minister to my home parish and the men at Rayburn.

My talk this afternoon is in two parts; forgiveness and miracles. What a graced moment to discuss forgiveness as we approach the 5th week of Lent.

Forgiveness calls to mind some names; Debbie Morris, Immaculee Ilibagiza, Norma McCorvey, Pope John Paul II.

Debbie Morris was a teenager spending a quiet night on the riverfront in Madisonville with her boyfriend. In one fleeting moment, her life would change forever. A gun placed to her head, she and her boyfriend came face to face with Robert Willie, a convicted killer, better known as the real “dead man walking”. Debbie and her boyfriend were kidnapped, he was shot, she was brutally raped. After quite some time, she was freed near her home with Mark left for dead in Alabama. Eventually, Willie was captured and would be convicted again of a horrible crime. He eventually had a date with death row. Enter Sister Helen Prejean, who ministered to him, to help him try to forgive himself and ask for God’s mercy.

Meanwhile, Debbie continues to deal with her emotions, raw, angry and now confused at the attention Willie and Sr. Helen are getting. In her desire to find peace, she confronted Sr. Helen and to her amazement found compassion, understanding and peace. Soon, Debbie was on the way to internal peace, because she learned to forgive the dead man walking; the title of her book released in 1998.

Immaculee Ilibagiza is a beautiful young college student in Rwanda when a horrible civil war broke out. Simply because she was a Tutsi and not a Hutu, her life was in danger. Forced to take refuge in a pastor’s tiny bathroom with seven other women for 91 days, her family was brutally murdered, five victims among the more than one million murdered in a war of hate. Throughout her long ordeal, Immaculee often prayed for her enemies and is convinced that she was spared, in part, because she offered forgiveness and asked God to soften the hearts of crazed killers. Her book, Left to Tell, is a riveting story of her nightmare but also of great forgiveness and mercy.

Norma McCorvey is now, one of the most pro-life advocates in America. She works tirelessly for crisis pregnancy centers. Her ministry is called Roe No More. She used to be known as Jane Roe, the famous Roe in Roe v. Wade. For Norma, forgiveness was all about forgiving herself. She had to make peace with herself, with God. She asked for forgiveness for all those innocent babies who died under the title of Roe v. Wade. Her total conversion is testimony to the depth and breadth of God’s mercy.

In 1981, Pope John Paul II was shot while preparing for his weekly papal audience. We all know the story and thank God that his life was sparred and we experienced the guidance of a saint who served for nearly 27 years. In a remarkable example of forgiveness, John Paul went to the prison where his would be assassin was serving time. John Paul met with, prayed with and forgave Mehmet Al Agca.

We all have within us the power to forgive because we all have been forgiven. From the very cross on which he hung, Our Lord said, “forgive them Father, they no not what they are doing.” Luke 23:34. And these words of forgiveness would be repeated by St. Stephen, the first deacon of the church, as he was being stoned for his public testimony, his witness for Christ. He said, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” Acts 7:60.
Forgiveness is at the core of the Gospel message. It is taught to us in parables and stories throughout Scripture. It usually is a two part process: we must ask for forgiveness from God; we must forgive others. That is why we started this presentation with the Our Father. Jesus clearly teaches that we must forgive to receive forgiveness.

Let’s visit the story of the unforgiving servant from the Gospel of Matthew 18: 21-35. Here we have Jesus telling Peter not to forgive seven times but seventy-seven times; a number in that day that really means as often as always. Then he tells the story of two servants, one who receives forgiveness then fails to forgive another.

In my homily last week, I quoted several Scripture scholars when I said Christ died for us; a debt he did not owe because we owe a debt we can not repay. But God does indeed offer forgiveness. Likewise, we too must forgive. Remember, in the 7th chapter of Matthew we hear, “for as you judge so will you be judged, for the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you”. Matthew 7:2. We all can acknowlwedge that this is a hard lesson to learn. And a hard lesson to put into practice, especially with those we are around most often; our spouse, children, neighbors, co-workers. The key is formation; the formation of a loving, patient heart; the heart of Jesus.

What a great gift then we have in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Just last Saturday, I had the opportunity to serve at Mass with Archbishop Philip Hannan; soon to turn 96 years young. In his homily, Archbishop spoke about the blessing, the grace we have in our Catholic faith in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Every time we go to confession, sincerely confess our sins, embrace the penance we are asked to do and then we hear these words: “may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” we have assurance from God that our sins have been forgiven. We are clean, we are whole. These are words of hope, of love and of mercy; sweet to the ear and life-saving to the soul.

For it is God who forgives sin and it is Jesus who left us the formula; who sacramentalized reconciliation. On the evening of His resurrection, Jesus breathed on the Apostles and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them; whose sins you retain are retained.” John 20:22. Surely, Jesus did not mean for this sacrament of forgiveness to die with these 11 men who he breathed on. The act of forgiveness continues with bishops, the successors of the Apostles and their help mates, priests. For we read in James, “is anyone among you sick? They should summon the presbyters (priests) of the church and they should pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person and the Lord will raise him up.” James 5:13-15. Now we may recognize more the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick here. And true that is. But listen to the next few lines, “if he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven.” This is why both reconciliation and anointing of the sick is reserved to a priest; scripture says so. In James it goes on to say, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another.” James 5:16.

Confession is so necessary; so vital to our eternal health; our eternal life. It is a Sacrament misunderstood and sadly, falling into disuse even among practicing Catholics. Properly understood and aware of the grace, the mercy dispensed in Reconciliation, it is beautiful; awesome! Recently, we had a parish retreat with Deacon Glenn Harmon. On the night with Reconciliation, dozens and dozens of people went to confession. Some of the priests were blown away as Catholics returned to the sacrament that night after 5, 10, 20 years. Just this past Wednesday, Fr. Robert went with me to Rayburn and heard the confession of a man who had not been in 10 years.

I still never forget my first Ash Wednesday inside Rayburn, still in formation to be a deacon; my assignment was to bring ashes to anyone in the infirmary. I spoke of this incident in my very first homily a few months ago. There was an inmate, an older man, in a wheelchair, recovering from some type of surgery that scarred him across the length of his stomach. Beside that, he was rock solid, hardened, tough, tattooed. He definitely wanted ashes and I applied them using the formula, “turn and away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.” At the words, turn away from sin, he heaved forward, let out a sigh and began to cry huge tears. No words were necessary; he experienced God’s mercy.

Perhaps we here today need reconciliation with the Father, with others, maybe even with ourselves. Avail yourself of this awesome Sacrament; to the mercy and loving forgiveness of God. If you are not reconciled to someone; reach out this Lent and ask for forgiveness. Say “I’m sorry” to someone who needs to hear that. Perhaps you may hear that yourself. And forgive yourself as well. Rest in the peace of God’s mercy and know that He wants you to be healed; in body, mind and spirit.

Forgiveness; it saved a Debbie Morris, Imaculee Ilibagiza, Norma McCorvey; it played a vital role in the spiritual life of Karol Woytila; who forgave time and time again and canonized Sr. Faustina, the apostle of Divine Mercy. And forgiveness is ours for the asking; if we ask for it and give it; generously, freely.

God so desires to show us his mercy. And he reveals his mercy in many ways. One way is through miracles.

We hear many different things described as a miracle. The fact that we had such a strong snow event a few months ago was called a miracle. The victory of the USA Olympic hockey team against the formidable Soviet squad was called the miracle on ice. And we all know that if the Saints ever win the Superbowl, well, that truly would be a miracle!

But these miracles are not what I am talking about. Throughout the history of this life, we have marveled at all of God’s miracles. From the story of Abraham and Sarah, to the parting of the Red Sea, the Jordan River turning back on its’ course, and many, many more, God guided his people wit great miracles. In part, this was to show his great power, but more so, it was to demonstrate his great love. Even at that most important moment in salvation history, when Gabriel announced that Mary would be the mother of Jesus, he told her of the pregnancy of her cousin Elizabeth. Believed to be barren, this was considered a miracle by Elizabeth and Zechariah kinsmen. But what does the angel tell Mary? He says, “for nothing will be impossible for God.” Luke 1:37.

When Jesus begins his public ministry, he does so with the miracle of the wine at the wedding feast of Cana. We all know the story and perhaps because of our familiarity of this miracle, we miss the true miracle. Yes, Jesus did change water into wine after Mary is heard saying, “do whatever he tells you”. John 2:5. The real miracle for all of us is the depth of Christ love for us, the gift of his presence, the choice to do his will, not our own. Embraced properly, this, and all of his miracles lead us to joy, truth and eternal life.

Most of the physical healing miracles in the Gospels, on first read, seem to focus on the temporal, the external. We read and rejoice with the man born blind, the woman with a hemorrhage, the deaf mute, the centurion’s servant, Jarius’ daughter, Peter’s mother-in-law, even Lazarus raised from the dead. Indeed, a physical healing takes place, a temporal result is achieved. Is that all there is to the miracles of Jesus? Is that what Jesus wanted to accomplish in performing such powerful and merciful healings?

Before we explore this answer, let me share a personal story; one I have shared before; the story of Angela Boudreaux and Fr. Francis Xavier Seelos. For it is a story I know well, one that I recall from my youth; one that, as I grew older, continued to have a profound impact on my life. Angela was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer in 1968, a mother of four young children, told she had weeks to live. Go home Angela and get your affairs in order. She already had a devotion to Fr. Seelos and she asked her husband Melvin to take her to his grave at St. Mary’s Assumption Church in New Orleans. Angela asked Seelos to intercede and she prayed for a miracle. Yes, if it be God’s will, heal me physically so I may raise my four children, but heal me spiritually, completely so I may share eternal life with you.

Angela lived more than two weeks, more than two years and continued to feel better until her gall bladder required removal. Doctors were looking forward to an opportunity to look at her liver while she was under anesthesia. To their amazement, the liver was healthy, free from all disease, all cancer. Her cause became the approved miracle that allowed Rome, under Pope John Paul II, to declare Seelos a blessed.

But as I came to know personally, Angela’s real healing was her 30 + year commitment to God’s work, to spreading the Gospel, to being a shining, happy example for all to emulate, for doing God’s will.

Yes, we know that God uses his dear friends, the saints, sometimes as intercessors for miracles. And I’m not just talking about miracles that allow the lame to walk, the blind to see or someone like Angela Boudreaux to be cured of cancer. I’m talking about the powerful miracle of spiritual illumination.

The greatness of God’s miracles is that they touch and heal the soul. Any physical healing, any temporal blessing is good, and serves as a powerful witness to those who need reassurance or strength. But we realize that these physical healings are minor compared to the spiritual gifts that come from miracles. But what if we never have experienced a physical miracle, does that mean a spiritual miracle perhaps has past us by? Of course not! When we examine the effects of following Christ in our lives and we realize the many gift’s Christ as bestowed on us, we come to understand the gracious dealings God as with us daily from our soul that our Savior redeemed.

We forget the miracle of the seemingly ordinary, the everyday, all that we may take for granted. The fact that we “live and move and have our being”; Acts 17:28, is in itself a miracle. We breathe in and we breathe out; every breath we take is a miracle. Every beat of our heart is a miracle. Our friends are a miracle. To grow old with someone is a miracle. To overcome difficulty is a miracle. To wake up everyday is a miracle. We are a miracle; life is a miracle.

Maybe that is why God challenges us to protect life, to defend life, to choose life.

I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live. Exodus 30:19.

So today, ask for God’s mercy and forgiveness; and forgive others; seek reconciliation with each other and the Father. Rest in His Divine Mercy.

And learn to appreciate all of God’s miracles; big and small; for they are a gift from God; a gift he bestows on each of us.

Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever! Heb 13:8.

Presented by Deacon Mike
March 28, 2009 at Bush, LA

Friday, March 20, 2009

Homily for 4th Sunday of Lent, March 21-22

Deacon Mike’s Homily 4th Sunday of Lent, cycle B

2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23
Ephesians 2: 4-10
John 3:14-21

Everyone loves a good action movie. Everyone can name some of the heroes of these movies: Harrison Ford, Pierce Bronson, Tom Cruise, and Bruce Willis, to name a few.

But what about Vic Armstrong? Who? Vic Armstrong. After all, he has appeared in more action movies then all these other guys combined. Vic is considered the most prolific stuntman in the world. Among his hundreds of film credits are Patriot Games, the Indiana Jones films, several Star Wars movies, plenty of James Bond features and Charlie’s Angels.

A stuntman is defined as one who substitutes or takes the place of. They are often referred to as a stand in. Usually, the stunts are physically challenging, risky and dangerous.

Less dramatic than stuntmen, we all are familiar with stand ins, with substitutes. Maybe a colleague or co-worker stands in for us at a business meeting. Perhaps a friend or family member takes our place at a family event. And all of us have been taught by a substitute teacher.

As people of faith, do we rejoice that Jesus stands in for us, that He took our place, that he died on the cross for our sins, so we all may have eternal life?

This is not a Hollywood movie and certainly no stunt. This is the greatest act of love, the greatest act of self-sacrifice. This is John 3:16; “for God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish, but might have eternal life”.

Growing up as a teenager, John 3:16 was associated with football games. I always remembered that rainbow wig wearing fan holding up a sign at televised football games that simply said, “John 3:16”. Little did I know that this guy was spreading the Good News of the love of the Father and the Son; the love for all men; the love for you and me. Right there in the middle of touchdowns, tackles and timeouts was the essence of the Gospel. God loves me, so much so that he sent his Son to die on a cross for me. Amazing love!

In our Gospel today, Jesus is met by Nicodemus in the night. He was a wealthy Pharisee who did not want to be noticed approaching Jesus. And Jesus explains to him how He must die, lifted up on a cross. To make it easy for Nicodemus to understand, Jesus relates the story from the Book of Numbers, of Moses and the bronze serpent. Do you remember the story? The Israelites are wandering in the desert, freed from Egypt, yet they were grumbling against God. To refocus them, God sends serpents that would bite the Israelites and cause pain. The people repented and God in His mercy allowed Moses to make an image of a serpent, mounted on a pole. As Moses lifted the serpent and the people gazed upon it, their pain was relieved and they were saved.

Now, the Son of Man must be lifted up. And when we gaze upon Christ crucified our pain, not caused by serpents but by our sinfulness, is eased, we believe in Him, we turn to Him and we “might have eternal life.” Jesus stands in for us, He substitutes Himself for us. No, we are not relieved of our moral responsibilities. We must continue to work out our salvation in fear and trembling, but Jesus bore the brunt of our sins. He suffered for us. By His stripes, we are healed.

This is His great gift for us. St. Paul, in our 2nd reading, tells us it is a gift that is freely given; one we can not earn. But the gift is not truly free, for it was bought with a great cost; the suffering and death of Jesus our Lord. Why did He give us this gift? Quite simply, the Father and the Son desire eternal communion with all of us. They want all to turn from sin and be saved. And Jesus knew that He must pay the debt He did not owe, because we owed a debt we could not pay.

As we continue the Mass, we will come to the consecration. Simple gifts of bread and wine will be lifted up for all to see. They become for us, His body, broken for us and His blood, poured out for us. To our physical eyesight, we see bread and wine. With eyes of faith, we see Jesus lifted high, we see the light of Christ, the light that leads us to the truth.

And what is the truth? The truth is this: “for God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.” This week, read John 3:16 at least once a day. Pick the time and place, but do this everyday this week. And if you have not already done so, before Lent is over, commit to one Friday night spent with Christ at the Stations of the Cross.

John 3:16; not a fancy sign about football. It’s about love for us; love that bore the weight of our sins so we might have eternal life.

Vic Armstrong; prolific stuntman!

Jesus Christ lifted high on the cross. Great love, our light, the truth! No stunt.

Deacon Mike Talbot
4th Sunday of Lent, March 22, 2009

Another update, halfway thru Lent

March 20th Update from Deacon Mike

In my last update I began a series on the Sacraments. We covered Baptism, now I would like to review Reconciliation, also known as Penance or Confession.

Just a few weeks ago, our 2nd grade children in our school of religion experienced their first confession. When I visited them two nights later at class, they were still excited and explained to me that they felt good, refreshed, one even said like being reborn. Out of the mouths of babes!

So what about this Catholic confession? Is this really necessary? Can’t I just talk to God without going to a Priest? Is that really a sin? These are just some of the questions I hear when the subject of Reconciliation comes up. So let’s take a closer look.

Reconciliation is one of the two sacraments of healing (the other being the anointing of the sick). Reconciliation is called the sacrament of conversion because it makes sacramentally present Jesus’ call to conversion, the first step in returning to the Father. See Mk. 1:15 and Luke 15:18. It is also called the sacrament of confession, since the disclosure or confession of sins to a priest is essential. It is also called sacrament of Reconciliation because it imparts to the sinner the love of God who reconciles. See 2 Cor5:20 and Mt 5:24.

Jesus himself instituted the Sacrament on the evening of His Resurrection. Jesus breathed on the Apostles as he said “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained. John 20:19, 22-23. Jesus is conferring on the Apostles the power to forgive sin. Before they could do this, they needed to hear the sins confessed out loud, in order to know what to forgive. See Mt. 18:18.

Necessary for a sacramental confession is the act of the penitent, coming to confession seeking repentance and the absolution of a priest, who in the name of Christ grants forgiveness. See Jn. 8:11.

What must be confessed? First, we must distinguish between mortal and venial sin. Are their distinctions in sin? See 1 Jn. 5:16-17. Therefore, all sin that rises to mortal must be confessed. Confession of venial sin is also recommended and encouraged.

Frequent confession is encouraged, of course full knowledge or awareness of a mortal sin requires confession if one wishes to receive the Eucharist. In all cases, Catholics are required to confess their sins once a year.

Penance is given to the penitent. We do penance to provide restitution and repair the damage of sin. This helps configure us to Christ. This allows us to become coheirs with Christ. See Rom. 8:17. And is St. Paul referring to penance in rejoicing in suffering and completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions? See Col. 1:24.

Why the priest? Let’s be clear. Forgiveness rests with God alone. God empowers others to forgive, in HIS NAME, as in Lk. 7:48 and Mt. 9:2. Through the priest, Christ forgives sin. The priest assigns the penance. The priest says the words of absolution. The power remains God’s alone. Christ is the priest behind the priest. Confession to others is scriptural. First look at 1 Jn. 1:9. Then look carefully at Jas. 5:14-16. In using the term presbuterous, literally meaning elders, in English the root is priest. St. James is telling his followers to confess to others, specifically presbyters and out loud. Wow!

Again, the Church is clear in teaching who it is that takes away the sins of the world: it is the Lamb of God. See Jn. 1:29.

The practice of sacramental confession, reconciliation, is not only scriptural, but documented in the earliest generations of Christians, the disciples of the Apostles. It is found in the Didache and almost every writing of the 2nd century church fathers.

What a loving and merciful God to give us the gift of the grace found in this sacrament of healing, Reconciliation.

Catechism references are in Article 4, paragraphs 1422 thru 1498 and in the Compendium, paragraphs 296 thru 312.

So, in these last several weeks of Lent, pledge to make a good confession, and like our 2nd grade students, feel good, feel refreshed, feel reborn.

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, His mercy endures forever!!! Psalm 118:1

Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever. Hebrews 13:8.

Deacon Mike

Saturday, March 14, 2009

I was in prison and you visited me

As a recently ordained Permanent Deacon I am assigned two ministries. I already have mentioned that I serve at my home parish, St. Jane de Chantal, in Abita Springs but my primary assignment is in prison. Yes, I minister to inmates at a state facility in Angie, La. known as Rayburn Correctional Center.

Prior to discerning my vocational call, I could not have ever imagined serving in a prison. In fact, I had typical views about prisoners and prison; you know, lock 'em up and throw away the key. As formation went on and I became aware of prison ministry for Deacons, I prayed that I would not be assigned to prison. In my initial interviews for my clinicals, I must have conveyed my reluctance to go to prison. So naturally, they sent me to prison.

I began a 6-month training at Rayburn; a very intimidating proposition. I still recall the sound of the gate slamming behind me once inside for the first time. I decided to embrace the ministry and suppress my fears and preconceived notions. I quickly became comfortable meeting the men, talking with them, even one-on-one, observing them at prayer, Mass, sharing their spirituality. I was always moved. I remember missing one of my assigned nights due to the passing away of my mom. Several days later, a classmate informed me of the inmates offering prayers for my mom and for me. Again, I was moved.

One of my fondest memories at Rayburn was Ash Wednesday and my visit to the infirmary. An older inmate, sitting in a wheelchair, recovering from serious surgery, still tough looking and intimidating called out. He wanted ashes. I obliged, applied the ashes to his forehead and said the words: "turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel." Immediately, he shook and began to cry. No words were necessary. He was sorry for his sins and turned to Jesus. It was beautiful.

Two years later, I have returned to Rayburn, now as their Deacon, to minister and pray with them. They have welcomed me back with open arms. I have loved bringing them Jesus in both Word and the Eucharist. I have been able to bring a Priest twice and we celebrate Mass together. Soon, I will be allowed by the state to visit the inmates in their dorms and cells. This is most important for Jesus must be brought to the men where they are. I hope to visit with many more men and share with them the love Christ has for all of them.

Let me be clear. These men are in prison, somewhere along the way they have broken the law. They must do the time their sentence calls for. To date, I have never heard them deny wrongdoing, claim they were framed, make excuses for bad choices. Quite the contrary. They focus on rehabilitation, education and spirituality. They work to grow in faith, to turn to Jesus and to reform their lives.

Today, I embrace fully the Church's mission to bring liberty to captives, to free those imprisoned by sin, to visit those in prison, to preach the Good News to all corners of the world, even on the inside.

"For I was in prison and you visited me." Matthew 25:35

Monday, March 9, 2009

Could Obama be the most pro-death President?

Our Archbishop has responded to President Obama's executive order today. This after several policy reversals already aimed at promoting the culture of death. We must continue to pray for a change of heart of all political leaders who are blinded to God's will. Be strong, promote life and pray for the conversion of those who promote death:

From Most Reverend Alfred C. Hughes, Archbishop of New OrleansMarch 9, 2009It is with great disappointment that we learn of President Obama's executiveorder that will now allow federal funding to go towards embryonic stem cell research. It is especially discouraging that this action has been taken at this time since research using adult and umbilical cord stem cells has proven more effective in providing advancements and medical treatments and cures. Moreover, a new procedure called reprogramming makes pluripotent stem cells available without the destruction of human embryos.The Catholic Church is clear in its position that life in all its forms is sacred and deserving of respect. Embryonic stem cell research calls for thedestruction of human embryos, which is blatantly anti-life. The Catholic Church favors stem cell research using adult stem cells, stem cells from umbilical cord blood, or stem cells procured through reprogramming, research that not only respects life but has been shown to be life-giving and life-saving. When a life-affirming alternative is available, it is unfortunate that the federal government should allow tax payer dollars to gotowards research that is void of respect for life and objectionable to tax payers themselves.###For more information contact the Archdiocese of New Orleans Respect Life Office at (504) 834-5433.Sarah ComiskeyOffice of CommunicationsArchdiocese of New Orleans(504)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

It's all about community

One of the great things about being a deacon is the bonds established with all the deacons in the Archdiocese. This is especially true among classmates. Not since our ordination on December 13, 2008 have we all been together, until last night that is. Spearheaded by Deacon Wayne Lobell, almost our entire class attended a Lenten fish fry and shared stories of our first few months of ordained life. We were able to compare notes on homilies, baptisms, weddings, ministries, parish life, etc. Of course it's just nice to catch up on families, comings and goings and seeing everyone happy & healthy.

Our classs totals 23 deacons from New Orleans, 1 deacon from Houma-Thibodaux (that is way down the bayou) and 1 acolyte who is a big part of our family. Unfortunately, 3 classmates could not attend as deacon duties called. As a class, we hope to have a gathering soon with 100% participation; but that's all I'm going to say about that.

Again, for those of you reading this, please remember that deacons, and their families, come from the laity; they come from your parish, the pews, your communities. Always, always encourage your deacons and those you may know of that have a vocational call to the diaconate.

In solidarity, the deacons of the Class of 2008 in New Orleans & Houma-Thibodaux are COMMUNITY.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Just a personal reflection

It is a joy to serve the church as a Permanent Deacon. Of course, I’ve not been a deacon a lot longer than I have been one. For so long, as a Catholic in the pews, I always assumed the deacon would just “be there”. I never really gave much thought to his comings and goings, his life, his family, his health, his hopes, his concerns.

For to many of us, we tend to think of our deacons, and our priests too, as always being there, not struggling with day to day anxieties of family and work. I also believed that these ordained men must surely have some pipeline to 24/7 holiness.

For permanent deacons, we are always reminded of our priorities: God, family, career, serving as a deacon. As a new guy, I try to manage these according to the formula. Many times I am successful at this, sometimes not so successful. While deacons handle many different ministries and requests, I already find it challenging to balance prison ministry, parish ministry, family, career and countless other requests. The real challenge results in trying to manage all of this on my own and not relying and trusting in guidance, from the Holy Spirit and from others who have been there, done that.

Now that I personally know so many deacons, all good, dedicated servants, I too come to know that many experience joy as well as sadness, hope as well as times of despair, good health and bad health, peace and times of turmoil, thriving careers and stress at work. As our 401k goes down so does the 401k of a permanent deacon. Just as we have arguments or disagreements with family and friends, so too does this happen to a permanent deacon. But to the ordained “man of God” times of hurt, stress, difficulty can bring the added pressure of “how can this happen to me?”

Certainly we can take our cue from Job of the Old Testament, or Peter and the apostles who were hurt by the explanation of Jesus that he had to suffer and die. We can take refuge in the knowledge that God intends good from bad for all that hope in Him. And we can be fortified and supported by the friendship, help, support and prayers of so many people like you.

If you know a Permanent Deacon, whether he is your parish deacon, or you work with him or live by him or you are related to him, or you love him be mindful that he too needs you. For he too, from time to time, will sin and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) but like all of us takes comfort in that we all can receive one another as Christ received us, for the glory of God (Romans 15:7).

And if you do not know a Permanent Deacon, that’s o.k. as well. Offer prayers for all of our deacons, priests, bishops, and religious, those who devote part of their day to ministering to others. Pray for their perseverance, for their well being and for their spirituality. One thing you can be assured of, these dedicated servants of God will be praying for you.

I get much peace from the Scripture verse I have used often in these last few months and do so today, for in our good times and bad, in our coming in and going out…

Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever. Heb 13:8

Deacon Mike

Monday, March 2, 2009

New Orleans Bishop to lead Biloxi Catholics

The following from the Times Picayune. I have had the honor to not only meet Bishop Morin but to serve with him several times as an acolyte and he attended the ordination of my deacon class this past December. God speed Bishop Morin:

Bishop Roger Morin of New Orleans has been named bishop of Biloxi, the Vatican announced this morning.
Morin, who turns 68 on Saturday, currently serves as vicar general, or second-in-command to Archbishop Alfred Hughes. He will be installed in Biloxi on April 27, that diocese said in a statement this morning.
A bishop since 2003, Morin served his entire 38-year career in New Orleans, much of that time supervising anti-poverty programs. A native of Dracut, Massachusetts, Morin came to New Orleans as a seminarian in the summer of 1967 to work with the city's poor at the invitation of Archbishop Philip Hannan.
He returned the following year, was ordained here and began a career in anti-poverty work. From 1978 to 1981 the Archdiocese of New Orleans loaned him to City Hall to do community development work in Mayor Dutch Morial's administration.
Before becoming a bishop in 2003, Morin ran the department in the Archdiocese of New Orleans responsible for the church's sprawling housing, counseling, food-assistance and other anti-poverty programs. He holds a masters degree in urban studies at Tulane University
Morin was the key archdiocesan planner behind Pope John Paul II's 1987 visit to New Orleans and the archdiocese's bicentennial in 1993.
More recently, he was an important figure in the development and execution of Hughes' controversial plan to close or realign almost three dozen Catholic parishes after Hurricane Katrina.
Morin will become the third bishop of Biloxi, a diocese created in 1977. Like New Orleans, it has been dedicated to rebuilding after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The diocese consists of 17 counties in Southern Mississippi. In a region where only about 8 percent of the population is Catholic, its 58,000 Catholics make it about sixth the size of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.
In Biloxi, Morin will replace another New Orleanian, Bishop Thomas Rodi, who was named Archbishop of Mobile last spring.
Bruce Nolan can be reached at 504.826.3344, or

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Serving at the Cathedral

One of the responsibilities of deacons in New Orleans is to assist the Archbishop at Sunday Mass at the Cathedral of St. Louis, King of France. This morning I, along with fellow classmate Deacon Ricky Suprean, served for our first time, along with Deacon David Warriner. When Archbishop Hughes greeted us this morning, he looked at Ricky and me and said, "maiden voyage!", welcome. Immediately, I relaxed.

The Mass this morning, the first Sunday of Lent, was a beautiful liturgy with Deacon Ricky proclaiming the Gospel. After Mass, the Archbishop greets everyone and patiently takes pictures, etc. We met a large group of young folks from Xavier University in Ohio who came to New Orleans to help work on the ongoing recovery post Katrina. Archbishop Hughes always makes a point to welcome those assisting with the recovery.

For those of you who live in or near the Archdiocese of New Orleans, do yourself a favor and celebrate Mass at your Cathedral sometime this year. If you can do so before June 29th this year, you can gain a plenary indulgence related to the Year of St. Paul.

For more information about St. Louis Catedral please visit their official website at