Monday, May 31, 2010

The Father of the Groom

Well tonight I have a chance to catch my breath and reflect on the exciting events of the last few days which culminated with the wedding of my son Jimmy and his new bride Sara. The wedding was very nice and the bride stunning. My son was not too bad looking himself. And before we knew it; he was a married man, passing through another milestone moment in his life.

I'm a pretty proud father. Now all you dad's out there; I hope you feel the same way. But tonight, on this blog, I will allow myself to be the proud father who wants to brag a little. Jimmy has been amazingly successful in his school days and then his career. He is a large animal veterinarian in North Carolina. As I mentioned in an earlier post, it is always amazing to his mom and me to hear him referred to as Dr. Talbot. And now we have another Dr. Talbot in the family as his wife Sara is also a veterinarian, having just graduated from N.C. State School of Veterinary Medicine.

Jimmy and Sara had such a fun filled week; parties thrown by good friends who started out as his clients and family events and rehersal parties and then the wedding and reception. I really enjoyed getting an up close and personal look at his life; lived some 12 hours from home. Meeting his friends, business partners, family members of the bride and others was so revealing. Jimmy has made good friends and apparently a great professional reputation. So exciting for me, as a parent, to witness.

And now he has his new little family, he and Sara, and my wife, daughter and I return home to reflect on the events of the past few days, pray for my son and daughter-in-law and get back to all the many things that await in the days and weeks ahead.

Feast of the Visitation of Mary

Today is the Feast of the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth; often recalled by many Catholics in the joyful mysteries of the Rosary.

Below is a nice article on today's feast.

Feast of the Visitation: May 31
Page 36 in "Marian Devotions in the Domestic Church"

Catherine Fournier and Peter Fournier

After the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, she traveled to the village of her kinswoman Elizabeth. Elizabeth's words of greeting to her are included in the prayer we now say as the "Hail Mary".

Luke 1:41-43, The Magnificat
And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?" (See also CCC nos. 495, 2676-2677)

Mary responded to her cousin with the words we now know as the Magnificat, recorded in Luke 1 :46-55:

And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.

"For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

"And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away.

"He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity for ever."

Why is the story of the Visitation included in Luke's Gospel and in the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary? Is it not because it gives us a glimpse into Mary's character and allows us to know her more clearly? She demonstrates kindness and charity toward her cousin by going at once to help Elizabeth prepare for the birth of her long-awaited child. This episode shows us her fearless acceptance of God's mission for her.

These are both good reasons. But the Visitation also presents us with a striking preview of what is to come. In this mystery, we see that Elizabeth, who is pregnant with John the Baptist, the last Messianic prophet, greets and rejoices in the presence of Mary, who carries within her Jesus, the Messiah. The Visitation shows us the Old Testament meeting, being fulfilled by, and giving way to the New Testament.

The earliest record of observance of the feast is by the Franciscans in 1263, recommended to them (perhaps as an example of hospitality?) by Saint Bonaventure.

The feast was extended to the entire Church by Pope Urban VI in 1389, near the end of his papacy. The Pope hoped that the intercession of Christ and His Mother would put an end to what is known as the Great (or Western) Schism. This period, which began with Urban VI's election in 1378, saw turmoil and argument over who of two (later three) men was really the Pope and where he should reside. After forty years—and many Church councils, negotiations, and outright conversion of princes, kings, and one "anti-pope"—peace and unity in the Church were finally restored in 1429, with the worldwide recognition of Clement VIII as Pope, and of Rome as his proper residence.

Memorial Day 2010

On this day set aside to honor those who died defending our country it is wholly right and appropriate to lift in prayer all the brave men and women who serve our nation both now and those throughout the history of our nation.

Memorial Day remains an important day of rememberance , but like so many holidays, the emphasis all too often drifts to the 3-day weekend, the sales at various retail outlets and in this case, the unofficial kickoff to summer vacation. While all these things are good, they should never be allowed to detract from the significance of this day.

So today, remember all our heroes, those who gave their lives in defense of a grateful nation and thank a veteran or a member of our active armed forces. And always, always pray for them. Every week at mass we offer a special intention for our armed forces members, we recall in a special way those currently called to active duty and we pray for everyone who takes seriously the responsibility to keep us all safe!

Thank you members of the armed forces and thank God for your service!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Holy Trinity Sunday

Today is Holy Trinity Sunday and while I'm on vacation I have no homily to post today. However this is such a significant feast I have some reflections to share. A little over a week ago I listened to several practice homilies from aspriring deacons in formation. After each presentation the instructor always returned to the theme of the difficulty of expalining a "mystery". The Trinity is a mystery, an expression of our faith.

Even in the opening prayer for today's feast we hear the word mystery as the prayer continues that we worship one God in three Persons. Notice the capitalization of both God and Persons.

In one of today's antiphons we again emphasize our desire in worshiping God equals worship of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

So today may we all give fitting worship to God, the Holy Trinity as we proclaim: Glory Be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Letting God be God and wedding eve stuff

My family has arrived at the evening before our son's wedding; the 1st wedding for my wife and I. Today is the day of the rehersal and the rehersal dinner this evening that my wife and I will host. It's been a hectic day but everything is building for tomorrow.

Since our son lives 12 + hours from home any opportunity to visit with him is nice. As a father, what has been really nice on this trip is to see the outpouring of support for him, and his bride-to-be, from friends, clients and Sara's family. On most of our visits we do not get a chance to visit with his friends so this has been very nice.

What made today very poignant for me was a visit to the local Catholic Church right here in downtown Greensboro. It's a lunch time Mass and the crowd was more than respectable. I walked in early as parishioners prayed the Rosary and the Angelus as Fr. heard confessions. My prayer today is, of course, for my son Jimmy and my soon daughter-in-law Sara. As a Catholic Deacon I naturally want a Catholic wedding but it is not. I received some great advice from those who have been here, done this, and the bottom line is let God be God. My job is to love and support and to ask for God to be in control of all this. You never know how or when or why a reawakening of faith happens. I for one could never play the role of hypocrite as I too was far away from practicing faith in my life.

And as a father, I must say that I have every reason to be remarkably proud of my son, as I am too of my daughter, and the man he has become. Without a doubt, I believe that both he and Sara were created by God for each other and that they will nuture and foster each other all the days of their lives!

We always have a moral obligation to remain steadfast in sharing our faith, in our actions and words and in our own example. For now, I'm thrilled for both of them, looking forward to tonight and tomorrow and praying earnestly that they, like all of us, continue to find our way and find our faith.

To God be all the glory!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

On the road ramblings

This week takes me traveling as my family readies for the wedding of our son Jimmy and his fiance Sara. We traveled through back roads in southwest Mississippi before hitting the big interstate that runs thru Meridian and then east into Alabama. Monday night we stayed in the town of Hoover, Alabama which is most famous for a high school football program that MTV did a series on for a few years. Yesterday we rolled through Georgia, driving right through downtown Atlanta near the lunch hour and on to South Carolina and eventually our North Carolina destination.

The wedding is Saturday and all of my family will be there with an exception or two. This is the 1st such experience for my wife and I so I'll report on wedding events later this weekend.

One interesting thing to watch on TV is the reporting of the BP oil disaster not with a local spin. Although some of the national media are doing a good job and have reporters on the ground, for loacal stations it's just another story. I really wonder why the rest of the nation fails to understand the national impact if this thing lingers.

I have noticed that for a traditional non-Catholic area, there is no shortage of Catholic Churches to attend. I found one right in downtown Greensboro, right by my hotel and there are others all around. Keeping up with the breviary, especially with all the saint days this week helps keep me grounded to routine.

So enjoy the rest of your week. I'll be busy but getting ready for a big event. Let's make a deal to pray for each other and all will be fine!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A busy weekend and more...

I had plenty of opportunity this weekend for ministry and plenty of time to reflect as I look back on a strage incident last week and a family changing event in the week ahead.

As a Deacon I never know what I may be called to do beyond the planned events. This weekend I was blessed to serve as Deacon of the Cup Friday night at the Holy Spirit Novena Mass at Our Lady of the Lake. After Mass I visited with a family who we grew close to from our neighborhood and now lives near the Mandeville church. It is always a blessing to see a young Catholic family (they have 7 children) living a faith-filled life as Catholics.

On Saturday I spent the afternoon assisting with the homiletics class for the men scheduled to be ordained this December. It is always exciting to watch the growth in formation of those called to serve. And I wish many Catholics could see the process in forming Deacons especially within the context of preaching a homily. Overall, the 10 men in our current class are doing well but they, like those before them, have room to grow. And it is always special to spend any time around the diaconate community.

Today, Pentecost Sunday, brought the opportunity to assist at Mass and then make a special call to the home of a faithful parishioner recovering from surgery. I brought him communion and had a nice visit.

Throughout the entire weekend I reflected often on the events of the past week when my car was struck by lightning while driving the 24 mile bridge that crosses Lake Pontchartrain. The more I share the story with others and hear their response the more I realize that this situation could have been so much worse. While I have been worried about my car and wondering about why this happened, I've been learning to be more thankful that I'm o.k. and the situation was not worse.

And tonight I'm preparing (including packing, yuck) for our family trip to North Carolina where our oldest, James, will be getting married. It is an amazing time in any parents life when thier children do well and experience these watershed moments in life.

So I'll be off routine for the next week or so but praying for my miracle and for the new life my son and future daughter-in-law are about to embark on. And praying too in a spirit of thanksgiving for this ministry to serve Him and His church as a Permanent Deacon.

Our 97 year old Archbishop; still going strong!

Peter Finney, Sports »
Archbishop Hannan has seen it all with the New Orleans Saints
By Peter Finney, Times-Picayune
May 23, 2010, 9:57AM
"The Archbishop Wore Combat Boots."

It's a new book, the life story of Philip Hannan, who went from serving as the parachute-jumping chaplain of the 82nd Airborne Division in World War II, to the "say-a-prayer-for-us" chaplain of the New Orleans Saints during their journey from pro football's laughingstock to Super Bowl champions.

Archbishop Hannan has seen the New Orleans Saints rise to the top of pro football, and is the subject of a new book.
It's the story of someone who grew up an avid baseball fan of the Washington Senators, who gave the eulogy at the funeral of his friend, President John Kennedy, before arriving here in 1965, on the winds of Hurricane Betsy, then later found himself, wearing overalls and his old combat boots, offering help and comfort to hundreds following visits by Hurricanes Camille and Katrina.

At 97, Archbishop Hannan is still with us, perhaps the only living member of a fan club that rooted for Hall of Fame pitcher Walter Johnson.

"They called him 'The Big Train' because he was so fast and overpowering," Archbishop Hannan recalled. "One sports writer wrote he could throw three strikes at a time. He was my hero. When I was 11, I wrote him a letter, praising his pitching and sportsmanship. When he sent back a quick response, I couldn't believe it. He wrote: 'Dear Philip, I'm very grateful for your kind letter and appreciate your support.'"

In the seventh game of the 1924 World Series against the New York Giants, Hannan was in the stands at Griffith Stadium, watching Johnson come in to pitch four scoreless innings in relief to close out the championship.

"It was one of the greatest days of my young life," he said. "I remember my dad say batters, hampered by nightfall, saw only his release, not delivery. They knew they struck out only after hearing the ball pop into the catcher's mitt."

It didn't take baseball fanatic Philip Hannan long to realize, when it came to sports, New Orleans was a different cup of tea.

"As a religion," he said, "I found out football ranked just behind Catholicism."

On Nov. 1, 1966, All Saints Day, he was looking at the size of the headline in The Times-Picayune on page one - "N.O. GOES PRO'' - wondering if World War III had been declared.

Soon after, he was receiving a call from Gov. John McKeithen, who told him they wanted to name the team "Saints" because of the song, "When the Saints Go Marching In."

"Would that be sacrilegious?"

"I told the governor I'd have no objection. But I quickly added, from the viewpoint of the Church, most of the Saints were martyrs."

Considering what was to come, it was highly appropriate.

So was the archbishop's prayer for the expansion Saints of 1967, preparing to face the Los Angeles Rams in the opening game before a sellout crowd of 80,879 in Tulane Stadium:

"God, we ask your blessing upon all who participate in this event, and all who have supported our Saints. Our Heavenly Father, who has instructed us that the saints by faith conquered kingdoms and overcame lions, grant our Saints an increase of faith and strength so that they will not only overcome the Lions, but also the Bears, the Rams, the Giants, and even those awesome people in Green Bay.

"May they continue to tame the Redskins and fetter the Falcons as well as the Eagles. Give our owners and coaches the continued ability to be as wise as serpents and simple as doves, so that no good talent will dodge our draft. Grant to our fans perseverance in their devotion and unlimited lungpower, tempered with a sense of charity to all, including the referees.

"May our beloved Bedlam Bowl be a source of good fellowship and may the 'Saints Come Marching In' be a victory march for all, now and in eternity."

Well, as we all know, John Gilliam would return the opening kickoff 94 yards, something the archbishop compared to "Charlton Heston parting the Red Sea."

But did you know this? Because the archbishop had to meet a class later in the day, he was not around to see his Saints lose the first of many games.

Let the record show, thanks to owner Tom Benson, Archbishop Hannan would be around, 43 years later, for every moment of the closest thing to a football miracle the Big Easy ever experienced.

At a game-day Mass, as the football world prepared to witness a 31-17 victory against the Colts, Benson was reminded what the word was in Las Vegas: Never bet against the prayers of a 96-year-old archbishop.

"Archbishop Hannan," Benson said, "was heaven sent. He had more impact on our city than any individual I could name. He was front and center post-Katrina. He did so much to help lift and repair the spirits of everyone in our community."

His time as head of the archdiocese was highlighted by a 1987 visit by Pope John Paul II, no doubt the finest athlete to ever hold that position. He grew up playing soccer. He skied, jogged, hiked, played tennis, paddled a kayak.

The archbishop was awed by the pope's energy, by the way he "created an intimacy" at a youth rally that drew a crowd of 80,000 to the Superdome. "Pope John Paul," Hannan said, "drew on his strengths as an actor and communicator."

And then there was Edwin Edwards, someone the archbishop described as gifted, intelligent, flawed, with a great sense of humor. This was a governor elected to his fourth term with the bumper-sticker message, "Vote for the Crook, It's Important," in his campaign against Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke.

"We would have meetings with Edwards at the governor's mansion and he would bring up some question about Scripture to prove he knew something about it," Hannan said. "Usually, it was a complete misuse of Scripture.''

The archbishop tells a story suggesting it's a shame the pope never got to meet the governor.
In preparing for the historic visit by John Paul II, security concerns were vital, the total budget for the trip estimated at close to $2 million that included pay for state police and city police.

"This was in the midst of the oil collapse and the state's massive fiscal woes," Hannan said. "But, ever the showman, Edwards insisted he wasn't worried in the least.

"If we have to," the governor promised, "we'll just rob Peter to pay for John Paul."

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Some more disturbing news about the oil spill

>>>This is some of a transcript from a local radio show about our shared frustration about the BP Oil disaster, it's mounting catastrophic impact on Louisiana while the federal government does nothing more than use words and we wake up every day to another excuse for why the leak continues to kill our coast.

I really want to commend Garland Robinette on this segment although I want to be clear that I often disagree with this guy and have previously protested some of his rants and bias against the Catholic Church.

In this case; he is spot on!

Friday on the Think Tank, Garland Robinette issued a stern warning to Americans that their security is at risk as oil washes into fragile ecosystems all over South Louisiana and the leak develops into a full blown ecological calamity.

14 Scary Truths about the BP Oil Leak

1. After Katrina, President Bush promised the Federal Government would not rest until all the wrongs had been made right. After the oil spill in the Gulf President Obama promised the same thing, using almost the exact same words. (But they promised, and the President of the United States is the most powerful position on the planet, right?)

2. BP may have purposely chosen not to do a final test that might have averted this catastrophe. (Minerals Management Service would’ve protected us from that, right?)

3. Halliburton might have left out a seal in the pipe that would’ve avoided the catastrophe. (Again, MMS protects us from that, right?)

4. The test BP chose NOT to conduct might have revealed the missing seal. (If BP made that pathetic choice – MMS still would’ve protected us from harm, right?)

5. BP said they are liable, but increasingly you can hear them now point responsibility to the contractor and rig owners. (But, MMS knows the truth, right?)

6. BP knowingly used dispersants banned in England with the blessing of the EPA. (But the Environmental Protection Agency protects us from harm, right?)

7. Some news agencies are reporting that BP has financial connections to the company that sells the dispersant. The claims are that the dispersant company’s leadership includes executives from BP and Exxon. (No conflict there, right? Nobody could have their suspicions aroused by that, right?)

8. BP didn’t reveal all the videos of the spewing oil. (But Secretary of the Interior makes sure there’s transparency, right?)

9. BP refused to allow scientists to measure the amount of oil flowing into the Gulf, all the while saying it was about 5,000 barrels a day. Yesterday (5/20/10) they finally admitted that was wrong. Yesterday a Purdue University scientist told a Congressional committee that his estimates are between 75,000 to 115,000 barrels a day. If he’s right, this spill would be the second largest in the world. (But National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has us covered there, right?)

10. Representatives from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration say…”Now is a time for awareness and preparation, not overreaction.” (They’re telling us not to overreact, when they don’t know how much is spilling into the Gulf?)

11. Some suggest there’s a conflict of interest in oil-slick testing. L.A.B.’s clients include BP. (But, the Energy Department has our backs there, right?)

12. The Coast Guard and BP representatives threatened to jail a CBS-TV crew if they filmed the oil spill. That report went nationwide…and worldwide on you tube. (But the justice department insures freedom of the press, right?)

13. We’re begging Congress to give us 37.5% of our oil reserves now, while for decades five other states get 50%. Incidentally, we’re not scheduled to get that 37% until 2017. After the blood and tears of Katrina they gave us the 37% handout, but will tease us with it for 7 years. (But, Mr. President “equal representation,” right? You know…they’re “Cinderella”…we’re the ugly sister.)

14. Governor Jindal (a Republican’t) who’s worked so hard throughout this oil crisis, is reduced to begging President Obama (the Demodon’t) to please allow us to dredge sand barriers to avoid more destruction of our wetlands. We want to use our own sand…OUR sand… did you get that, Washington? We can’t even use OUR sand? Oh, that’s right! the Army Corp of Engineers is here to protect us. They’ve just been “thinking” about it for WEEKS…as black crude lands on our shores and eats up our wetlands. (That whole Demodon’t/Republican’t thing – how’s that working for ya now? Are your parties coming through, when we need them most?!?)

Homily for Pentecost Sunday May 23, 2010

I’ve celebrated many birthdays in my life; in the interest of full disclosure 53 of them in fact. Not too may years ago for my 50th, my wife and daughter threw me a party I’ll never forget. It was an incredible evening.

We all recall with some fondness our birthdays and those of our children, other family members and dear friends. We experience a certain level of excitement when we wish “Happy Birthday” to our relatives and friends.

As people of faith, have we come today to wish Happy Birthday to the Church, on this 50th day of Easter, Pentecost Sunday?

The Feast we celebrate today is among the oldest in the history of our faith. We hear the events of that first Christian Pentecost in the 1st reading today from Acts of the Apostles and it is mentioned in Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians which was written only a few decades after Jesus rose from the dead.

In our 1st reading today we get the play by play of the events of that Pentecost event. Just 10 days after Jesus ascends to the Father, we find his followers still locked in the upper room. Scripture tells us that Mary is with them. And then it happens; the Holy Spirit, promised in last week’s Ascension Gospel, descends upon the Apostles and appears as the brightest of birthday candles ever; tongues as of fire. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit.

This event is the Church birthday and the moment of profound transformative change. The Apostles, timid and still afraid, are all of a sudden bold and are speaking the Word of God in languages that all could understand. The arrival of the Holy Spirit, as promised by Jesus, fulfills His earthly mission and inaugurates the New Covenant. And this being God’s perfect plan, the Church, celebrating her birthday already has its’ 1st Pope, the prevalent spokesman in the events as recorded in Acts and that of course is Saint Peter.

We celebrate this important Feast Day every year. We emphasize the events of Pentecost and the powerful role of the Holy Spirit in our lives with each and every Confirmation class. Perhaps many of us can recall that even to this day. And for our young students who were just confirmed or those preparing for the Confirmation this year, this should be fresh in your mind and hearts.

The Holy Spirit that empowered those gathered in the upper room is the same Holy Spirit who intends His gifts, and there are 7 of them and His power for all of us here today. Are we open to the spirit? Are we bold about our faith? Are we energetic about our faith? Do our words and actions let others know that we are members of the Church established by Jesus Christ and fortified by the descent of the Holy Spirit?

What can we do this week to answer these questions in the affirmative and fully celebrate our Church birthday? We can look to the renewal of the fathers of Vatican II who placed new emphasis on the Holy Spirit and the Pentecost fervor of the early church. In the rich documents of Vatican II we are called to the vocation of service. Service can take on many roles but in the week ahead can we challenge ourselves to enlist or volunteer for a significant role of service? At this time of year, we begin the process of looking for new catechists for our parish school of religion. That new catechist is one of us, sitting here in church right now. Please call the parish office, this week, and explore the possibility of bringing the Word of God to our young students. Next month, we begin our summer programs. People of all ages are still needed to assist with the day to day operations of our camp and vacation bible school. Make a call this week. And all of us can participate in the current fundraiser to help us with the expenses of these two programs. Finally, all of us, in the quiet of our homes can pray with and reflect on this powerful reading from Acts of the Apostles in the week ahead. Can we place ourselves in that scene of the upper room, as described in chapter 2 of Acts, and pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on us, just as experienced by the Apostles on that 1st Church birthday?

It was a resounding 50th birthday I celebrated a few years ago but an even more resounding birthday party 2,000 years ago for a young Church and it’s hundreds of members and a few thousand onlookers. Imagine the birthday party we should be throwing for Her now, 2,000 years older, a billion members strong and able to share the teachings of Her founder, Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Happy Birthday Holy Mother Church; your not getting older; only better!

Discussion about Deacons

Just today I caught a segment of a radio program on the Catholic Channel which airs on Sirius Radio. The name of the show is the Catholic Guy and its host is Lino Rulli. For a couple of months he has discussed vocation, as it relates to him, and whether he wants to pursue the seminary or the married life.

On the show I listened to today, a rerun of a show from earlier in the week, he was being encouraged by listeners to his show to have the "best of both worlds" by getting married and then just become a deacon. Lino went on to say that he did not think this was a good idea for him because if ordained he wants to celebrate the Eucharist and hear confessions, both things Deacons can't do. And he went on to say he did not think he would enjoy baptizing little babies or officiating weddings on a Saturday afternoon.

Realizing some of this is probably tongue-in-cheek, and a small part of his ongoing routine about him, I hesitate to be overly critical. However, many of the statements made by the host, even his Priest friend and some callers point out the still weak appreciation of most Catholics about the Permanent Deacon.

First and foremost, no one just picks up a phone, makes a call and becomes a Deacon. The diaconate is not something you join, like the men's club or the team of ushers at the church. The diaconate is a religious vocation; a calling. If it be God's will that you will be a Deacon, you will be a Deacon. The responsibility of those of us called to the diaconate is to hear the call, discern with some direction, inquire and determine your readiness and fitness to even apply to the diaconate office. Once you apply, after prayerful consideration, you may be selected to aspire to the diaconate. This is one full year of classroom study, spiritual direction and personal reflection before you even become a candidate. Overall, you will spend about 5 years in discernment and formation.

Second, the majority of the callers, and the host himself, seemed to believe the Deacon is a "to do list" with many functions at the local parish, in the sacristy and on the altar. While the Deacon serves as the minister of the Word and the Cup, and performs certain duties at Mass, this should be only a part, a huge part, but only a part of his ministry. I fully understand that most Catholics encounter a Deacon at Mass, see him proclaim the Gospel and administer the Sacred Blood at Communion. But if he truly is a Deacon, he is called to a ministry of service and charity; the true charisms of the order. What does this mean? Quite simply, the Deacon is the sacramental sign of Christ the servant all the time, during the week, at work, around the community and in fulfilling his ministry of charity. A Deacon without a ministry of charity is either in a diocese who does not utilize Deacons as envisioned by Vatican Council II or has become soft in his service to the People of God.

Ministry of charity looks like many things; I for one am a chaplain in a men's state prison. Many of my brother Deacons minister at food banks, soup kitchens, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, hospitals, hospice care, AIDS centers, rehabilitation centers, youth facilities, airports, ports on rivers and seas, work training programs. This is the charism of the Deacon.

In no way shape or form is the Permanent Diaconate an answer to any perceived priest shortage, or is a Deacon a mini-Priest. Many may get comfortable with becoming Father's side kick but this is not the case at all. The Deacon is answerable to his Bishop. He fulfills the wishes and request of his Bishop. While a Deacon is assigned to a parish and cooperates with his Pastor, in the end, he reports to his Bishop.

I rehash all this again as it is evident, from my experience with this Catholic Guy show, that even after nearly 40 years of restored service in America, Catholics seem to form their own opinion about the diaconate. We may share some of the blame, and to that point, we must become more vigilant in being that sign of service sacramentalized.

And one other point: this outfit called Real Catholic TV has recently done a huge diservice to the diaconate in America by pointing out two stories about a Deacon's wife and a letter received from another wife of a Deacon. The content of the reports is indeed disturbing. If in fact a wife delivered a homily and formation for the other wife, and her husband, was that weak, that is a problem. The broad brush with which the host of Real Catholic TV paints would have everyone believing that this is the norn, not the extreme exception to the rule. I have NEVER seen a Deacon's wife deliver a homily, and my formation was solid. And yes, by the way, if we hear something heretical or scandalous in formation, it is our rock solid responsibility to stand for the Church and the Truth, right there, on the spot; consequences be damned.

The restoration of the Permanent Diaconate HAS been a major reason for a return to the Catholic faith by many, HAS been a major reason that the Church is back ministering in all those places I mentioned earlier, HAS been a major reason for the growth of the Church since Vatican Council II, HAS been a major reason that the Church has ordained evidence in the work place and the greater community in general and HAS been the major reason that more Catholics than ever before understand that they too must play a role of preaching the Gospel always, and when necessary use words.

For the Permanent Deacon, it is not just about what we do; but more importantly who we are! And as I learned time and time again when in formation, ultimately; all formation is self formation.

And the gift of Holy Orders comes from God alone. Deacons would do well to recall their words of ordination: May God who has begun the good work in you bring it to fulfillment. And never forget our marching orders: Recieve the Gospel of Christ whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe and practice what you teach.

St. Rita, pray for us

>>>Today is the optional memorial in honor of St. Rita. My mom, who passed about 3 years ago, was named Rita.

St. Rita was born into a peasant family in Italy where she lived a very difficult and painful life. Yet through her sufferings she grew in union with God and became a saint. As a child she wanted to become a nun but her parents told her that she must marry and she submitted to their demands, feeling that in obeying them she was fulfilling God’s will. The man she married was violent, abusive, and unfaithful. For eighteen years she suffered and prayed for his conversion. He asked for her forgiveness shortly before he died from wounds he received in a brawl. Her two sons, however, dedicated themselves to exacting revenge for their father’s death, and so Rita once again dedicated herself to prayer for their conversions. Before they could carry out their plan they became sick and as they lay dying, forgave the men who killed their father. With no more family responsibilities, Rita tried to follow her original call to consecrated life. She applied three times to the Augustinian Sisters who rejected her because she had been married. In the end God rewarded her persistence and she received the religious habit in 1413. She lived a life of prayer, penance, and charity, and was blessed with numerous mystical graces. One of these was a wound that miraculously appeared on her forehead after she heard and reflected upon a sermon about the crown of thorns with which Jesus was mocked. Because of her sufferings and the miracles that followed upon her prayer and sacrifice, St. Rita has been given the title “The Saint of the Impossible” and “The Advocate of Desperate Cases.” Let us ask her to pray with us now for victims of human trafficking and for the conversion of those who are behind this “shameful and monstrous” practice.

O God, You gave St. Rita the grace to imitate the redemptive sufferings of Your Son. Through patient love, that bore all sufferings in union with our Savior Jesus Christ, You brought about the seemingly impossible conversion of hopeless sinners. Help us to follow her example. By meditating on the Passion of Your dearly Beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, help us to bear all wrongs patiently, offering our sacrifices to You for the conversion of our sinful world. We ask this through the intercession of St. Rita and in the all-powerful Name of Your Son Jesus. Amen.

Friday, May 21, 2010

More bad news from the BP oil disaster; not Grand Isle!

>>>Grand Isle is iconic to most of us in southeast Louisiana. The pain keeps on coming and the end is no where in sight. Continue to pray for us:

Oil spill closes Grand Isle beach at key time for tourism
By Paul Rioux, The Times-Picayune
May 21, 2010, 7:33PM

Curiosity seekers check out the clumps of oil that have closed Grand Isle's beaches.As oil washed ashore on Grand Isle from the incessant Gulf of Mexico well leak, town officials closed the beaches indefinitely Friday, just when the first big waves of vacationers would normally descend on the tourism-dependent barrier island.

The seven-mile-long beach was coated with a band of slick brown residue and almost deserted, and officials feared thicker oil offshore could reach the coastline in the coming days.

"It's really heartbreaking. It makes me sick to see it," said Russell Trapp, a Baton Rouge resident who owns a fishing camp on the island. "The worst part is that there's a lot more oil out there and a lot more coming unless they get that leak shut off."

Oil fouls the beach.A month after the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig sent crude oil gushing into the gulf, oil began washing ashore in the Grand Isle area Thursday and spread Friday.

"This is absolutely the worst-case scenario for Grand Isle to lose tourism revenue for May and June and possibly beyond," Jefferson Parish Councilman Chris Roberts said. "This is the time of year they rely on to make their living."

Roberts said town officials are seeking to lease barges to seal off passes to protect the vital Caminada Bay fishery. The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Department has closed the state waters off Grand Isle, including Elmer's Island, but for now the back bays north of Grand Isle and the Caminada Bay fishing pier remain open.

The leak threatens the island's biggest annual event, the International Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo, first held in 1928. It's still scheduled July 22, 23 and 24, but officials are considering whether to go forward with it and in what form.

The beach closure went into effect at noon and will remain in place until further notice, said Nora Combel of the mayor's office. She said trespassers will be asked to leave.

But no one disturbed Lisa Lopez reading a book Friday afternoon in a beach chair about 10 feet from the oily shoreline.

"I'm just happy to sit in the sun and listen to the sound of the waves," said Lopez, a New Iberia resident vacationing with her family. "I don't usually go in the water anyway."

It was a different story for her children, who were growing bored of playing in the sand and prompted Lopez to cut the vacation short.

Camp rental businesses reported a high number of cancellations as the usual end-of-the-work-week wave of tourists was replaced by a trickle of curiosity seekers. Alabama resident Sandy Files, who was visiting New Orleans, decided to take a day trip to Grand Isle after seeing news reports of oil coming ashore.

"I was scared I was going to see a black beach," she said. "This isn't that bad yet, but everyone says it could just be the prelude to something that's going to be a lot worse."

"I know you're not supposed to go in the water, but I had to see for myself," she said. "My feet feel like I just put Wesson oil on them."

While scouring the beaches, scientists with the Wildlife and Fisheries Department discovered a dead northern gannet, a large migratory sea bird. They are typically white. This one was covered in oil and emulsified tar. Scientists will run tests on the bird to determine whether it died from oil exposure or other causes, officials said.

Throughout the day, locals remarked about the light traffic on the thoroughfare that runs the length of the island.

At Sarah's Restaurant late in the afternoon, the only customers were two news reporters and a photographer who were covering the leak and needed a place to plug in their portable computers.

"I've never seen a Friday as bad as this," co-owner Annette Rigaud said. "Business is down 80 percent since the spill. It's worrying me to death."

Rigaud's family has owned the restaurant for 40 years and refurbished it several times after hurricanes, most recently in 2008 after Gustav.

"After a storm, you start over the next day, clean it up and reopen as soon as they will let you," Rigaud said. "This is not like that at all. We don't know how long this oil will be here and how long before the tourists come back."

Preparing for the Holy Spirit

This Sunday is the Feast of Pentecost; the day the Church commemorates the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles some 50 days after the Resurrection. The Holy Spirit appears as tongues of fire and fills the Apostles with power beyond human description.

In our present day world the Holy Spirit is the most misunderstood Person of the Holy Trinity. Most faithful spend little time trying to understand the Holy Spirit and praying to the Holy Spirit. This week, my personal experience was to the contrary. I was able to attend on two seperate evenings part of the 9 day long parish novena to the Holy Spirit at a local parish. For many years now Our Lady of the Lake Parish in Mandeville, La has celebrated this novena. For those in attendance there is a longing for the coming of the Spirit and an awareness of the movement of the Spirit in their lives.

On both of my visits I was able to assist as one of the Deacons at the evening Mass. One night I was Deacon of the Gospel; tonight Deacon of the Cup. The liturgies were beautifully celebrated, reverant and open to Spirit. On Wednesday evening the celebrant was Fr. Apostoli, of EWTN and promoter of the casue for sainthood for Bishop Fulton Sheen fame. It was awesome to be with him in person. He is a very holy and faithful Priest. Tonight, our celeberant was a fairly new Priest who was ordained less than a year ago and presided at an intergenerational healing Mass. Awesome event; again celebrated faithfully and beautifully.

Tomorrow night, one of the highlights of the Holy Spirit Novena will be Exalt Fest, an event I wrote about last year. This is geared toward the young faithful and in a real and tangible way allows our youngsters to rejoice in their faith.

You may not be preparing for the coming of the Holy Spirit with the same fervor of the folks at Our Lady of the Lake parish; and then again, maybe you are! In any event, beging preparing in earnest; Come Holy Spirit Come! Fill the hearts of your faithful.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Pro-life breakthrough in Louisiana

>>>this is big news from the Louisiana Senate. Let's celebrate this bit of good news coming from the Pelican state!

Thursday May 20, 2010

Louisiana Senate Overwhelmingly Advances Ultrasound Mandate for Abortion

By Peter J. Smith

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana, May 20, 2010 ( – Senators in Louisiana overwhelmingly approved legislation on Tuesday that seeks to expand the requirements of informed consent by mandating abortionists perform an ultrasound on a mother seeking an abortion. The bill is similar to one that was recently passed in Oklahoma.

The Senate voted 33-4 for the bill (SB 528), which was sponsored by Sen. Sharon Broome (D-Baton Rouge), and developed with the aid of the Louisiana Right to Life Federation and the Bioethics Defense Fund. The law requires abortionists to perform an ultrasound on a woman at least two hours before she undergoes the induced abortion of her child, and before she is put under any kind of anesthesia.

The legislation that senators approved on Tuesday was a weakened version of the original bill developed by pro-life groups, which would have required abortionists to put the ultrasound screen in view of the woman, describe the ultrasound, and then hand her a copy of the ultrasound in a sealed envelope.

The Senate Health and Welfare Committee amended the bill so that the abortionist has to do the ultrasound, but only has to offer the women the opportunity to view the ultrasound, hear the explanation, and view the printout.

Benjamin Clapper, Director of Louisiana Right to Life, told (LSN) that they had some initial concerns about the changes that were happening in the committee’s version.

“We were worried that the fox is in charge of the henhouse, the abortionist has no interest in the woman seeing the ultrasound because that could hurt his business,” Clapper said.

However, a compromise was struck so that the bill defined the exact language that an abortionist has to say to the mother before performing the ultrasound.

Abortionists who break the law will be liable to civil penalties and disciplinary action by the state medical board.

The law also states that women should be given materials informing them of hospitals and other places that will offer them ultrasounds free of charge.

“So we consider this to be a double or a triple instead of a grand slam,” emphasized Clapper. “This is certainly a good bill, a good pro-life success, and it gives women in Louisiana considering an abortion the opportunity to have an ultrasound done, and see the ultrasound image of their child. But it is not everything we’d like it to be.”

Clapper said he expected the House to pass the bill.

“Hopefully many of the women will choose to view the ultrasound,” added Clapper, “be blown away by what’s inside of them, and turn towards life in this situation.”

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The damage is well underway

>>>Tonight we in southeast Louisiana are watching the heart wrenching scene of thick oil penetrating our marshlands now. This was the worst case scenario we had hoped to avoid. As BP let's day after day go by without stopping the leak, the coast, the fisheries and the fragile wetlands of southeast Louisiana are being killed. Here is a story by one of our local news stations. Once again, notice the foolish delay by the Army Corps of Engineers as we continue to be attacked while our government and perhaps a majority of our nation yawns.

Worst nightmare realized for Plaquemines president as oil reaches marshes

by Doug Mouton / Eyewitness News

Posted on May 19, 2010 at 6:53 PM

Updated today at 7:30 PM

PASS A LOUTRE, La. -- Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser calls it his worst nightmare: thick black oil has now reached his marshes.

Nungesser and Gov. Bobby Jindal got a first hand look at where the oil has washed up in the Pass a Loutre marsh.

Wednesday afternoon at the Pass a Loutre marsh, the black oil arrived.

“I’m sick to my stomach,” Nungesser said. “It’s our worst fear. As this moves inland, it’ll destroy everything.”

This marsh grass area roughly half mile long is filled with oil. Nungesser said there are six to eight other areas nearby just like it.

“As you can see, there’s nowhere to stop it,” Nungesser said. “We’ve got crews right around the corner here booming the entrances to the marsh, that tide comes up, it just drops it as a blanket. And that’s what happened here.”

This is not the sheen that we’ve been seeing the past few days. It’s the thick, black oil in the marsh grass in Pass a Loutre. Getting it out of the marsh won’t be easy.

“You might take some of the big part out, but the harm is already done. And if you try going in the marsh, you’re just going to mush it into the mud and into the ground to make it longer in effect,” Nungesser said.

“Biologists are saying in five to seven days, you’ll see the impact on all the greenery out here. It will become discolored or it will become yellow,” Jindal said.

That means it’ll all be dead in about a week.

“You look back behind you, it would be virtually impossible to get that oil out of that cane, and you look at the impact that this is going to have on the marine life that calls this home,” Jindal said.

Bottom line is both Jindal and Nungesser say this is why the Army Corps of Engineers need to approve their dredging plan now.

“Two weeks ago, we would have pumped the barrier island out there. There’s a good chance this would have been on that beach out there today. Instead it’s in the marsh,” Nungesser said. “Shame on them for not approving this. Shame on them for not doing everything possible.

“And that’s the real crime behind this. We have an opportunity to stop it, and we’re not doing it.

In response to the local leaders' push to have barrier islands built, the Corps sent out a statement: "That request is being processed under emergency permit procedures. We are currently evaluating all of this information for potential environmental impacts, as required under (the National Environmental Police Act)."

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Archdiocese of New Orleans working hard for those affected by oil spill

>>> This is a great example of the efforts of Catholic Charities, Second Harvest Food Bank and the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Steps like this are huge. And I'm glad the media is reporting this. What will never be added to the story are all the many behind the scene things our Catholic Church is doing to minister to the despair and unknown inflicted on the people of southeast Louisiana by this disaster and those who continue to not solve the problem.

Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans and Second Harvest Food Bank Receive Donation to Support Emergency Food Assistance, Direct Financial Aid and Counseling for Fishermen and Families in Affected Coastal Parishes
Tuesday May 18th 2010
BP America Support Totals $1 Million
Today, BP America announced a combined $1 million donation to Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans and Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana. The donation will support emergency food assistance, direct financial aid and counseling for fishermen and their families in the affected coastal parishes.

The Catholic Church, through Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans and Second Harvest Food Bank has been on the ground since April 29 providing emergency food assistance, case management, counseling services and vouchers to fishermen and their families. In the past two weeks, they have served more than 1000 individuals and families and are experiencing a growth in need among the people. Second Harvest Food Bank Member agencies have already experienced a 15 to 25 percent increase in the number of new people seeking emergency food assistance since May 1.

“Our first priority in this disaster is the people who are directly impacted and unable to work right now,” said Archbishop Gregory Aymond. “Their livelihood and their way of life are endangered and it is our responsibility as church and as human beings to provide for them in their time of need. This gift from BP America is a blessing for us as it will allow us to continue our mission of service to those directly affected.”

“Catholic Charities’ role has always been that of an early responder and a forever responder. Our expertise is in identifying the needs of the people impacted by a disaster and remaining with them until their needs are served, no matter how long that takes,” added Catholic Charities Co-President Gordon Wadge.

Throughout the month of May, Second Harvest Food Bank has distributed nearly 730 emergency food boxes at disaster relief sites located in St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes and New Orleans East. More than 31,700 totals meals have been distributed at disaster relief sites and by Second Harvest Food Bank member agencies in these areas in May.

“Our response teams were on the ground doing an assessment of human needs on April 29. We knew immediately that the impact would be enormous and we would need to respond quickly. We initially committed a minimum of $300,000 in resources for this initiative, before BP approached us with their offer of help,” said Catholic Charities Co-President Jim Kelly.

“We are so grateful for all of the assistance from Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans and the Second Harvest Food Bank to help our fishermen and their families through this difficult time, and we know this BP donation will go a long way to helping these wonderful agencies continue their support to our community,” Parish President Craig Taffaro said.

The timing of BP America’s donation to Second Harvest Food Bank is critical. Earlier this month, BP America provided an initial $100,000 donation to help Second Harvest Food Bank replace the inventory that the Food Bank was already distributing and to increase food assistance in St. Bernard and Plaquemines.

“This is the time of year we already see significant increases in need for food assistance,” said Alan Allgood, Chief Operations Officer of Second Harvest Food Bank. “BP America’s donation will help ensure that Second Harvest can meet the increased need of the affected fishermen and their families during these uncertain times in addition to the existing need for food assistance across south Louisiana.”

The Louisiana Department of Social Services (DSS) is working to ensure that all impacted families apply for available aid, including the regular Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP outreach teams are working at 13 temporary registration sites in Plaquemines, St. Bernard, Jefferson, St. Tammany, Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes. Since May 3, the DSS teams have accepted nearly 800 applications for SNAP, formerly known as food stamps.

In addition, DSS issued an emergency rule last week revising what income and assets can be counted to determine eligibility for SNAP and other federally-funded cash-based aid. The rule, which applies statewide, is designed to target the needs of coastal residents who may have recently lost income, but have assets that put them over the limit to receive aid. The rule also applies to the Family Independence Temporary Assistance Program (FITAP), the Kinship Care Subsidy Payment (KCSP) and the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP).

“DSS is working through every avenue to ensure that no family that is financially impacted by this disaster goes hungry,” said DSS Secretary Kristy Nichols. “From working with the federal government to make as many people as possible eligible for SNAP benefits, to making our own requests to BP for aid for families, DSS is committed to the fishermen, shrimpers and others whose livelihoods are in the balance.”

DSS estimates that approximately 47,000 households across coastal Louisiana may experience a need for food assistance due to the oil spill.

Individuals in need of ongoing assistance are encouraged to call Catholic Charities Care Line at 1-866-891-2210 or Second Harvest Food Bank at 504-734-1322. Visit for help locating a Second Harvest Food Bank member agency in their local community.

Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans is home to approximately 470,000 Catholics in the eight civil parishes of Orleans, Jefferson, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. John the Baptist, St. Tammany, and Washington. Established as a Catholic diocese in 1793, it is one of the oldest Catholic dioceses in the country and has been one of the shaping influences of New Orleans’ culture. Today, the archdiocese continues Jesus Christ’s work of evangelization and care for the poor through its 108 church parishes, 85 Catholic schools and numerous social apostolate ministries that provide food, clothing, housing, counseling and much more to the most vulnerable of our society. Lead by Most Reverend Gregory M. Aymond, 14th Archbishop of New Orleans, the Catholic Church in New Orleans has been a vital part of New Orleans’ post-Katrina rebirth from reopening schools to rebuilding homes to responding to crisis in the New Orleans community.

Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans

Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans is an umbrella agency with 45 programs delivering health and human services to the poor and vulnerable in the 8 civil parishes of the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Catholic Charities serves the homeless, hungry, the elderly, at-risk youth, pregnant women, individuals with developmental delays, and many more. For more information, please visit or follow us on Twitter at

Second Harvest Food Bank

Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana is leading the fight against hunger in south Louisiana through food distribution, education, advocacy and disaster response. Annually, Second Harvest serves approximately 263,000 people, including 82,000 children and 40,000 seniors, through 235 nonprofit and faith-based agencies across 23 south Louisiana parishes. In any given week, nearly 42,000 people access emergency food services through Second Harvest Food Bank member agencies.

Second Harvest Food Bank is an affiliated corporation of Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans and a member of Feeding America. To learn more or donate food, money or time, please visit

Lightning does strike twice

In an post from last year I shared the story of how lightning struck my house and fried over $ 15K in appliances. It was a very scary event especially when my daughter emerged from the bedroom complaining of tingling feelings in her hand and arm. It took us weeks to replace everything and even 7 months later, when our water heater stopped working, the plumber discovered additional damage from the lightning.

I figured that would be my one brush with the deadly electricity. Oh no, fast forward to today. Some background for you non-locals who read this blog: the Causeway is a 24 mile bridge which connects the New Orleans side of Lake Pontchartrain from the more suburban northshore communities. I live on the northshore and often have to commute to New Orleans. Today would be one such day.

Everything was fine although our meeting ran long but I was excited about headed back home around 2:30 this afternoon. A strong thunderstorm blew up from the north and east and travel on the Causeway was difficult. I've experienced this many times before so I'm still feeling o.k. Fierce lightning was striking ominously close by but again, I have been through this before. And then it hit; a bright flash of orange to the passenger front side of my 2008 GMC Acadia. After I recovered from the flash of bright light, I realized my vehicle was in trouble. All my dash was dead, the interior lights came on, the radio was fried and so was the A/C. I managed to drive the car off the Causeway bridge but once I stopped for the red light, she was done.

She was towed to the dealer and now awaits an insurance adjustors visit and the painful decision to repair or replace.

Of course I am grateful for not being hurt but can't believe I have been struck by lightning twice.

May I humbly and respectfully say; You have my attention!

Wisdom from Mother Teresa

“People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”

– from Blessed Mother Teresa’s wall

Monday, May 17, 2010

Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos; another update

Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos Shrine
Thursday, 13 May 2010 from the Gulf Pine Catholic (Diocese of Biloxi )
Story By: Terry Dickson

NEW ORLEANS – Joyce Bourgeois sees miracles all the time at the National Shrine of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos where she serves as administrator.

“People come from all over. Some of them come here and, if they’re ill, they feel like their case is hopeless and they come here with total despair. Then, first thing you know, we pray with them and they come back and they keep coming back,” she said.

“It’s a spiritual healing that a lot get, although we see a lot of physical and psychological healings. I just love being a part of this. It has been an experience and I can tell you that I’m a better person and a stronger person because of Father Seelos.”

Bourgeois’ connection to the German-born priest who was beatified, or proclaimed to be “Blessed”, in 2000 by Pope John Paul II, which is the last step before canonization, stretches back nearly half a century.

Bourgeois recently shared her story and the story of her daughter with a group of pilgrims from Blessed Francis Xavier Parish in Biloxi who traveled to the shrine, which is located in the Redemptorist Church of St. Mary’s Assumption, where Father Seelos, who died of Yellow Fever in October of 1867 at the age of 48, served as pastor and is now buried.

“Back in 1961, my daughter, Christine, was diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis. She was born deaf and crippled (Christine was not born deaf and crippled - that part is incorrect) and the doctors transferred her from the old Algiers General Hospital to Charity Hospital and, when we got there, the doctors were waiting for her,” said Bourgeois. “Meanwhile, my husband’s cousin called the convent and asked the nuns if they would please pray for the baby cousin who was dying. The nuns said that, ‘if someone can pick up a relic of Father Seelos, we can’t promise you a miracle but it won’t hurt to pray.’”

It certainly didn’t

“My daughter stayed in the hospital for almost three months. She had major brain surgery,” Bourgeois said.

“The last time the doctors went in, they removed a bone flap from the skull because she had developed bacteriema and septicemia, either of which could have killed her, and, the day before she was discharged after being there for almost three months, the doctor said he didn’t if I was going to have her for a week, month or a year, but, for however long I was going to have her, she was going to be totally dependent upon me.”

Christine, who said a special prayer of blessing over the visitors from Biloxi
during their visit and sang a song about Blessed Seelos, will turn 50 in October, defying the odds and surprising the doctors who gave Joyce the grim diagnosis. Along the way, she has had other close calls.

“The ball of her hip had deteriorated and the doctors thought that it was going to get even worse and she would have to have surgery,” said Bourgeois.

However, after many prayers for the intercession of Father Seelos, further x-rays revealed that Christine’s hip was healed.

“She walks with a limp but that’s because of the meningococcal meningitis,” said Joyce Bourgeois.

Joyce was 21 when she had Christine.

“My walk with God wasn’t quite where it was then and it where it is today,” she said.

“It was through this wonderful blessing that I have grown so close to my Lord. I just think we’re all so blessed as Catholics because we have the Eucharist and that’s why we have to pray for our priests because, without our priests, we can’t have Jesus come alive on the altar. Father Seelos is such a holy, holy, humble, humble priest and you just get to know him and he becomes a very dear friend, a family member.”

After Christine’s healing in 1961, Joyce Bourgeois drifted apart from the priest, whose intercession she so desperately sought, but that would soon change.

“One day, I was in a religious bookstore and they had the old Seelos Sanctity newsletters and I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is the priest that I had asked for to intercede on our behalf that Christine would live a long life,’” she said. “So, when that happened, I was with a bunch of nurses and we came and we found St. Mary’s.”

That was almost 22 years ago and Joyce has essentially never left.

“We see prayers answered every day,” she said. “It’s just amazing how we see God work in all of this. Father Seelos was truly a very holy man. When you get to hear the stories and how all the priests, seminarians and people in general looked up to him, they knew they were dealing with a saint before he ever became a saint, before he ever died. He just stood out.”

Canonization process

Redemptorist Father Byron Miller, who is the vice-postulator of the Seelos Cause, said just one miracle separates this holy priest from sainthood.

“To be declared “Beatified,” is to belong to an elite group – many holy men & women don’t progress to that penultimate step if their canonization wasn’t imminent; nevertheless, the issue is more of timing, so that some of the Beatified can remain “in waiting” for an indefinite period of time until a miracle is declared,” Father Miller said.

“We hope and pray that Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos’ time will be relatively short, even according to Vatican standards! There is a case currently in the official Process, but it has not yet reached the Vatican . It is at the Inquiry stage, in this case, under the guidance of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.”

The Archdiocese of Baltimore is involved in Blessed Seelos’ canonization efforts because of the case of Mary Ellen Heibel, who was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2004.

According to Father Miller, Heibel sought Blessed Seelos’ intercession and asked her surgeon to wear a Seelos relic at the time of her surgery.

“With her local pastor’s permission, a weekly Novena to Blessed Seelos was started by the faithful after the weekday Mass once a week; she and her husband were daily communicants, and parishioners prayed for Blessed Seelos’ intercession on her behalf,” he said.

“Long story short, no cancer remained in her body.”

Father Miller said The Official Inquiry began on May 19, 2009 at an opening Mass in the Baltimore Cathedral (the oldest in the United States , and where Seelos himself was ordained a subdeacon).

“The Panel took their oaths, witnessed by Archbishop Edwin O’Brien of Baltimore and Cardinal William Keeler and all those in attendance. Then, it was the task of the Panel members to follow stringent Vatican guidelines in taking the testimonies of those key witnesses to Mary Ellen’s case, including the star witness herself, Mary Ellen,” he said. “Over the last year, this has been done and the transcribing is in the final stages. When the Inquiry is wrapped up, the ACTA (all those sworn testimonials, and pages of medical records, and other key documents) will be sent to the Vatican for scrutiny and investigation by the Congregation of the Causes of Saints. So, now it is not a foregone conclusion. It is their evaluation and recommendation that determines if it is declared a miracle. Nevertheless, the Redemptorists and the Baltimore Archdiocese would not have proceeded this far, if we did not feel that there was some merit to the case.”

Father Seelos – loved by all

Adele (Sis) Pertuit, who was born and raised in St. Mary’s Assumption Parish and leads tours of the church, one of three served by the Redemptorists during the time of Blessed Seelos. In addition to St. Mary’s, which dates back to 1858 and was built by German immigrants, St. Alphonsus, which was built by the Irish, is located across the street and a French Church, Notre Dame Bon Secours, was torn down in 1925.

“Father Seelos ministered to all these immigrants of this area,” Pertuit said. “He spoke German so he could do a Mass in German at St. Mary’s. He spoke English. He had a very heavy German accent, but he could celebrate Mass at the Irish church across the street. And, with his educational background in Europe , he also spoke French, so he could celebrate Mass at Bon Secours,” she said.

“He was multitalented and multi-loved,” she said. “Everybody was so put at ease because he was doing the Mass in their own language.”

It should be noted that Father Seelos’ remains were moved to St. Alphonsus after St. Mary sustained heavy damage from Hurricane Betsy in 1965, but was returned to the St. Mary 12 years later after the church was renovated.

Father Seelos’ body was exhumed once again in 1999 to be prepared for beatification.

“A beautiful reliquary was built in Rome- Italian walnut with silver panels depicting his life – and there was a beautiful ceremony at St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans and the reliquary, which contained his body, was brought here to St. Mary’s and people walked 28 blocks to see it placed in the Shrine,” she said. “It’s here now and we hope it never moves again.”

To learn more about the St. Mary’s Assumption Church , Seelos Shrine & Museum, located at 919 Josephine Street , visit or call 1-504-525-2495 or 1-504-525-2499.

Update from Vatican on US sex abuse case

AP: Vatican details US sex abuse defense

By NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press Writer Nicole Winfield, Associated Press Writer – Sun May 16, 7:09 pm ET

VATICAN CITY – The Vatican on Monday will make its most detailed defense yet against claims that it is liable for U.S. bishops who allowed priests to molest children, saying bishops are not its employees and that a 1962 Vatican document did not require them to keep quiet, The Associated Press has learned.

The Vatican will make the arguments in a motion to dismiss a federal lawsuit on jurisdictional grounds filed in Louisville, Ky., but it could affect other efforts to sue the Holy See.

The Vatican's U.S. attorney, Jeffrey Lena, said it will include a response to claims that the 1962 document "Crimen Sollicitationis" — Latin for "crimes of solicitation" — barred bishops from reporting abuse to police.

Lena said Sunday there is no evidence the document was even known to the archdiocese in question — much less used — and that regardless it didn't mandate that bishops not report abusive priests.

Lena said the confidentiality imposed by Crimen did not trump civil law and was applied only in formal canonical processes, which bishops had the discretion to suspend if there was a conflict with reporting laws.

"It is important that people — particularly people who have suffered abuse — know that, contrary to what some plaintiffs' lawyers have consistently told the media, the canon law did not bar reporting of these crimes to the civil authorities," Lena told the AP.

The document describes how church authorities should deal procedurally with cases of abuse of children by priests, cases where sex is solicited in the confessional — a particularly heinous crime under canon law — and cases of homosexuality and bestiality.

The attorney behind the Kentucky case, William McMurry, said in a recent e-mail that the document is "a smoking gun."

"It's evidence of a 'written' policy that demands no mention be made by a bishop of priest sex abuse," he said. "Since our case, and no other, is about holding the Vatican accountable for the bishops' failure to report to civil authorities, any policy that gags the bishop is relevant and material."

The Holy See is trying to fend off the first U.S. case to reach the stage of determining whether victims actually have a claim against the Vatican itself for negligence for the failure of bishops to alert police or the public about Roman Catholic priests who molested children.

The case was filed in 2004 by three men who claim they were abused by priests decades ago and claim negligence by the Vatican. McMurry is seeking class-action status for the case, saying there are thousands of victims across the country. McMurry also represented 243 sex abuse victims who settled with the Archdiocese of Louisville in 2003 for $25.3 million.

The Vatican is seeking to dismiss the suit before Pope Benedict XVI can be questioned or documents subpoenaed.

Its motion is being closely watched as the clerical abuse scandal swirls around the Holy See, since the court's eventual decision could have implications for a lawsuit naming top Vatican officials that was recently filed in Wisconsin and another one in Oregon is pending before the Supreme Court.

The Vatican is expected to assert that bishops aren't its employees because they aren't paid by Rome, don't act on Rome's behalf and aren't controlled day-to-day by the pope — factors courts use to determine whether employers are liable for the actions of their employees, Lena told the AP.

He said he would suggest to the court that it should avoid using the religious nature of the relationship between bishops and the pope as a basis for civil liability because it entangles the court in an analysis of religious doctrine that dates back to the apostles.

"He (McMurry) wishes to invoke religious authority to construct a civil employment relationship, and our view is that it's an inappropriate invitation to the court to consider religious doctrine," Lena said. "Courts tend to avoid constructing civil relationships out of religious materials."

McMurry has alleged that the Vatican had clear and direct control over bishops, mandated a policy of secrecy, and is therefore liable for the bishops' failure to report abuse. He is seeking unspecified damages.

McMurry has said that based on district and appellate court rulings, he doesn't need to prove bishops were employees of the Vatican but merely "officials." He noted that they take an oath of office. The pope appoints, disciplines and removes bishops.

If a bishop wants to spend more than $5 million he must ask permission from Rome, and if he wants to take a three-month sabbatical, he needs the Holy See's OK, said McMurry's main expert witness, the Rev. Thomas P. Doyle, a canon lawyer who worked at the Vatican's U.S. nunziature.

"For the defense to claim that what's necessary is to show day-to-day monitoring is unrealistic," Doyle said. "That is not a viable argument to show the Vatican has direct control over the bishops."

The AP in March reported on an outline of the Holy See's strategy in Kentucky that was contained in a litigation plan filed with the court. On Monday, the Holy See is expected to flesh out that outline by filing a motion to dismiss the case on the grounds that the court doesn't have jurisdiction under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which protects sovereign states from being sued in U.S. courts except under certain circumstances.

Lena provided some details of the Vatican's approach to the AP ahead of the court filing. The motion also seeks to dismiss the case on the grounds that plaintiffs haven't stated a claim and attacks the factual basis for jurisdiction, including whether the 1962 document ever appeared in the diocese.

Lena has said even Doyle has rejected theories that the document was proof of a Vatican-mandated policy of cover-up. Doyle has said it was evidence of a culture of secrecy that the Catholic Church has perpetuated for centuries.

The Holy See has in previous court filings noted Doyle's own writings and depositions in U.S. court cases against archdioceses, including in Louisville, where Doyle said he hadn't found "any written evidence that the procedures outlined in Crimen were used in a prosecution in the archdiocese of Louisville."

On Sunday, Doyle said his words had been misconstrued.

"He's clearly misunderstood, misconstrued or twisted the things I've said and radically changed their meaning," Doyle said. "I made that statement as an expert witness to indicate the intended negligence on the part of the bishops, not the lack of existence of the law."

He said bishops around the country were all informed about Crimen, and the fact that it remained confidential didn't mean they didn't know about it. He noted that several bishops have said in depositions that they knew of Crimen's existence or had been taught it in seminary.

"The fact that the document was not publicly known is not any way evidence that it was not a viable piece of ecclesial legislation, because it was," he said.

Pentecost Novena for Life

As we prepare for Pentecost Sunday I have been praying the following prayer provided by Priests for Life and Fr. Frank Pavone:

Holy Spirit, at the dawn of creation, You brought order out of chaos,
Light out of darkness, Life out of nothingness.

Breathe on us once again, and change this culture of death into a culture of Life.

Inspire in Your people a spirit of generous welcome for each and every life,
no matter how unexpected or dependent that life may be.

Holy Spirit, You are the Advocate, as You fill us with Yourself, make us advocates for the unborn and all the vulnerable, until we are all united in the endless life and joy of
The Father, Son and Holy Spirit, One God forever and ever.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Homily for Ascension 2010

When will I see you again?
Is this the beginning or is this the end?
When will I see you again?

The words to this popular 1974 song I have heard over and over again but they took on a profound significance about 7 years ago. On a warm summer morning, my wife, daughter and I rose early to help move our son to his new life, his new home and new career in Greensboro North Carolina. It was that moment in our lives of profound pride and satisfaction at the accomplishments and opportunities of our son mixed with a bit of emotion of his going away. On the ride home I wondered, selfishly, is this a beginning or an end?

Many here today know what I am talking about. Loved ones move away to pursue educational or career opportunities; others may follow a spouse to his/her hometown and others, with great pride, have watched loved ones go off to defend us and a grateful nation.

None of these examples really fully capture the Ascension which we celebrate today. But as people of faith, do we understand what Christ did for us by ascending to the Father?

We are given basically two accounts of Jesus ascending to Heaven today; both from St. Luke, who authored both the Acts of the Apostles (our 1st reading) and the Gospel that bears his name. For me, several profound things leap out in that 1st reading. Before He ascends, Jesus again reveals the promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit with power. And then He reminds His followers of their new job description: you will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth!

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus instructs his followers to remain in the city and prepare for the Holy Spirit. And as He prepares to ascend, Jesus blessed them. And the Gospel tells us they returned to Jerusalem after Jesus goes to Heaven with great joy.

This is very telling. This Jesus that they spent 3 years with, night and day, the same Jesus who, they believed, was taken from them by His crucifixion, this same Jesus who returned to them in His resurrection is now taken to Heaven and they are full of joy.

Are they starting to get it? Remember, we are still 10 days away from the events of Pentecost, yet they seem to be getting the message.

What is the message? What does all of this mean for you and me? Why did the Resurrected Jesus have to go to Heaven?

Well, remember that song…is it a beginning or is it an end? For the Ascension, it is both.

The faith of those first followers was faith in someone they saw; who looked like them; who took on flesh and blood. This presence ends. And the Jesus they walked with and shared everything seemed to them to be restrained by time and space; just like them, just like us.

But this Ascension is equally a beginning; Jesus ascends to the Father and completes His Paschal Mystery; He fulfills the will of the Father. From now on, in the divine plan of salvation, Christ reigns at the right hand of the Father. And He intercedes with the Father on our behalf; He judges the living and the dead.

By ascending Jesus also gives us yet another model to follow. When our journey in this world has ended, we can follow Jesus to where He is; our journey in this world should prepare us to live with Him in total joy in the world to come.

And we can not forget that as Jesus returns to the Father, He has promised the Holy Spirit. In last weeks Gospel, Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will remind us of all that I have taught you. And in today’s readings, Jesus tells us that the power of the Holy Spirit will make us his workers in the field; his ambassadors that will spread His Word to the far corners of the world.

Without His Ascension, we would not have taken on this awesome task. We would not be open to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

How can we participate fully in this mission and how can we be more aware of the Holy Spirit in our life? Week after week, we are reminded of opportunities to serve and spread His word. Today, it may be supporting the CYO benefit dinner. This week, it may be attending the Holy Spirit Novena in Mandeville. This week, it may be praying for our high school and college seniors who are graduating and taking that next great step in their lives. This week, it may be praying two mysteries of the Rosary that place us in the scene of the Ascension and Pentecost. This week, it may finally be the time I sign up for one of the many parish ministries that needs you and I to participate in.

My son remains in North Carolina 7 years later. In just a few weeks, we will return to celebrate his marriage to a young lady he met there. And we return with joy as he has met with great success in his practice and his personal development. And now he is starting his new family.

When will I see you again? Is this the beginning or is this the end?

With Jesus; we can see Him again and again; in this life and the life to come. It is always a new beginning.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Knights of Columbus gets this one wrong...

K of C Cancels Pro-Abort NARAL Event after Priests Resign in Protest


By Kathleen Gilbert

PORTSMOUTH, New Hampshire, May 12, 2010 ( - A fundraiser for abortion lobby giant NARAL, slated to occur at a New Hampshire function center jointly owned by the Knights of Columbus, has been cancelled after two priests resigned from the local chapter of the Catholic fraternity in protest, reports the Portsmouth Herald.

Local Catholics reacted in shock after it was discovered that NARAL Pro-Choice New Hampshire was scheduled to hold the event, titled "Choice Chocolate 2010: Celebrating Your Choice for 25 Years," at the Casey Function Center, which is a Knights of Columbus Council 00140 entity.

After the news broke, Rev. Michael Kerper, pastor of Portsmouth's Corpus Christi Parish, issued a statement saying that he would immediately resign from the local chapter of the Knights, together with parochial vicar Rev. Marcos Gonzalez.

"Some faithful Catholics may assume that the decision to rent the hall to NARAL means that members of the Knights of Columbus, including us, are indifferent to NARAL's stated purposes," said Kerper in a statement cited by the Herald. "As a result, we find ourselves compelled to resign immediately from Council 140."

National officers had learned of the event over the weekend, and it has since been cancelled, said Patrick Korten, vice president of communications for the Knights, to the local news service. Korten acknowledged that the Knights urge chapters with function halls to protect against arrangements with organizations in conflict with the Catholic faith, and that "this event was very much at odds with that."

Korten blamed the decision on the facility manager's status as "relatively new on the job." But Richard Spead, the president of the Casey Home Association, said he has been at his post nine months and insisted that the function hall had been consistently used "without regard to any political or religious beliefs or otherwise."

Saying that he would rent to any group because "that's what it means to be a good Christian," Spead told the Herald that steps were being taken to sever the function hall from the Knights of Columbus - and that he, a Knight himself, intends on withdrawing from the organization and possibly the Catholic Church.

Spead called it "hypocrisy" that the Catholic church concerned itself over the issue of hosting a pro-abortion group while, in the words of the Herald, "it continually pays little to no consideration to problems with pedophilia within the church."

NARAL interim executive director Pilar Olivo told the Herald that the group was disappointed over the cancellation, but would not fight the decision.

In remarks to (LSN) Korten bashed Spead's accusation of hypocrisy as an "outrageous statement." "We have a very clearly stated policy that he chose to ignore," he said.

Korten also clarified to LSN that the division between the function hall and the Knights was not "a matter that was settled or resolved." The bylaws operating such facilities, he said, "cannot be changed just because one guy says we're going to change it."

Regarding the priests who resigned, Korten said that "we certainly hope that there will be" reconciliation - although he added that he was unsure whether the priests withdrew from the entire organization, or the local council only.

According to C.J. Doyle, the executive director of Massachusetts' Catholic Action League, the near-scandal was far from an isolated case with the Knights.

"The Knights of Columbus has to have a pro-life position that is more than academic and rhetorical," Doyle told LSN, noting that the organization has previously caused scandal by allowing pro-abortion public figures to join their ranks, and offering venues to pro-abortion entities, in conflict with their own policies.

"When somebody reports it or exposes it, then retroactively they will enforce the policy," said Doyle. "How can you have a Catholic, allegedly pro-life organization when the members themselves seem so willing to make these compromises?"

"This policy ought to be pre-emptive and preventative, and instead it's reactive and retrospective."

He urged both the national and local levels of the Knights become "thoroughly and authentically pro-life." "They need to have a policy that is really enforced vigorously, and doesn't require somebody to dime them out," Doyle added.

>>>my take: this is totally unacceptable. I have been a Knight for 11 years, served as a Grand Knight, and remain active long after my ordination to the diaconate. The Knights that I know about are men of faith and are staunchly pro-life and defend the Church. We have been called the strong right arm of the Church. Unfortunatley, the Knights are run locally by men. And men can mess things up. Many local KC councils that own halls fall into the trap of forming seperate home corporations or other legal entities. Most of the time there is no evil intended. Often, however, the motive is money and sometimes an arrogrant thumb in the eye of the church. The comments by the "manager" are so anti-Catholic I wonder what the heck this guy is doing being affiliated with the Knights.

I urge all my brother members of the Knights of Columbus to be strong faithful Catholics, in word and deed, and stand in all things KC related, including our precious home corporations, to never cause scandal to the Church.

All I can add to this is, Fr. Michael J. McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus, pray for us!

A glimpse at the Permanent Diaconate in America

I received an email from one of our local pastors with an attachment from the USCCB. It is the 2009-2010 report titled A Portrait of the Permanent Diaconate. The report is lengthy but I'll share some highlights:

21 dioceses have 200 or more Permanent Deacons. Chicago has 646.
The estimate of all Permanent Deacons in the United States is 17,000 with 16,350 active.
92% of the Permanent Deacons are currently married.
60% of active Permanent Deacons are older than 60.
81% of active Permanent Deacons are white, 14% Hispanic, 2% African American and 2% Asian.
Only 18% of Permanent Deacons receive some financial compensation. (these are usually employed in a job by a diocese or parish).
90% of all dioceses have a Director of the Permanent Diaconate; 33% are full time in the position.
90% of all dioceses have a minimum age requirement and 47% have a mandatory retirement age.
The only diocese who responded to the Bishop's survey stating they have no Permanent Deacons is Salina.
On average, 200 Permanent Deacons retire from active ministry every year and another 150 die.
84% of all dioceses require post-ordination formation. Average number of hours required is 24.
95% of all dioceses require an annual retreat of all Permanent Deacons.

This is but a snapshot of the demographics of the Permanent Diaconate. I continue to remind myself everyday of what I learned in formation: it's not what we do but who we are and all formation is self formation.

This snapshot will never fully tell the story of how the Permanent Deacon, representing Christ the Servant and sacramentalizing service, serves at the parish and community level. That is why I have a prison ministry and a parish assignment. I am also, as are all my brother Deacons, faithful and subject to my Bishop.

In just a few short weeks, here in New Orleans, we will began yet another inquiry with the goal to form a formation group for 2014 ordination. 10 new Permanent Deacons will be ordained in December 2010 and another 20 are in classes now for 2012. The Archdiocese of New Orleans continues to aggresively add additional Permanent Deacons, if it be God's will, in our post Katrina recovery.

Our Lady of Fatima

Well, I earlier opined on the Feast of the Ascension (Ascension Thursday) being transferred by most dioceses to this coming Sunday. That left today, May 13th, opened to fully celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima. This feast day was formally declared just about 10 years ago by Pope John Paul II.

Mary began appearing to three young children in the small village of Fatima, Portugal from May 13th thru October 17, 1917. The children, Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco were shepherd children and Mary visited with them and revealed certain secrets to them. All three are now deceased with Lucia the last to die just a few years ago. The casue for their sainthood is in varying stages of development.

Much of what was revealed to the children centered on the World War II, the conversion of Russia and even the assasination attempt of a Pope, believed to be the 1981 incident with Pope John Paul II. The visions of Mary at Fatima culminated with the miraculous sighting by hundreds of witnesses of the spinning sun.

Today, on this joyful feast, Pope Benedict XVI is in Fatima. He used his historic visit here this week to give some of his most poignant and sincere comments on the clergy sex abuse scandal.

So we may not have celebrated the Ascension today but this is a beautiful feast day worthy of our attention. And don't worry, Ascension Thursday still happens; only on Sunday!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Looking for Ascension Thursday; try Sunday

We have once again arrived at the beautiful celebration of the Ascension; the feast of the resurrected Lord ascending to Heaven. This rich feast has traditionally been celebrated 40 days after Easter. It has been assigned to a Thursday and is one of the Church's Holy Days of Obligation.

However, many years ago, in a desire to expose a greater number of the Catholic faithful to the beauty of the Ascension, many Bishops agreed to move the obligation to a Sunday. In my Archdiocese of New Orleans we have done just that. So in these deep south neck of the woods, come to Mass Sunday and we will celebrate Ascension Thursday. Confused?

Well, don't get so hung up on the Thursday part. The official celebration is the Ascension of the Lord. Our diocese, along with most of the dioceses in America have ok'd the move to Sunday. In other parts of the world and even in America, the feast remains Thursday - May 13th - tomorrow to be exact.

The only part, for me, that disappoints concerning our moving of the feast is that the beautiful liturgy and scripture readings for the 7th Sunday of Easter are lost. If you have a missal or book of readings, spend some time looking them over. But this Sunday, here in the New Orleans area, it's Ascension Thursday.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Could you confirm that for me?

Every fall, our parish family confirms our 11th graders. This very important sacrament has seen many changes down through the years centered around when to administer it. Our diocese has settled on the junior year of high school.

As part of the process, interviews are conducted with each of the young adults who will be confirmed. Tonight, I had the opportunity to conduct about 7 such interviews. I must admit, it was a blessing to listen to these young people and share their thoughts about being confirmed. For the most part, they demonstrated a solid concept of the sacrament and fully understood that they indeed are making the decision to go forward as a confirmed Catholic. More importantly, in the discussions tonight, I found a stronger desire of these students to grow closer to God. There were several discussions tonight about developing a strong personal relationship with God, of praying to God by having a meaningful conversation with Him while affirming their faith. We discussed some of the peer pressure they face as most of the group attend public school every day. They all were able to demonstrate a solid understanding of the Eucharist and how they would explain this to their non-Catholic friends. And most of the group was all about understanding the role of the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of confirmation.

I had many interesting Saint names selected by the students; some of which I have had little familiarity. There was St. Mary Frances of the Five Wounds, St. Catherine of Bologna and St. Hermione, who was the daughter of St. Philip the Deacon, among the more known St. Michael, St. Teresa of Avila and St. Therese.

I fully realize, both as a parent and a Catholic Deacon, that our soon to be confirmed Catholics will face mounting peer pressure and bouts of doubt and disbelief. But I take great solace tonight in the depth of their understanding and the enthusiasm they displayed for Christ and His Church by sincerely asking for the grace of the Sacrament of Confirmation.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Homily for 6th Sunday in Easter May 9, 2010

When Hurricane Betsy hit New Orleans in 1965 I was all of 8 years old and quite frightened. And I had every reason to be afraid; at one point in the evening the roof peeled off the front of the house and my family was forced to evacuate to the school house 1 block away, in the middle of the storm. All throughout the ordeal, I remember my grandmother telling me to be calm and don't be afraid. Everything will be o.k.

All through our lives we remember when we were afraid and scared but someone would always reassure us. Maybe it was our mom or dad, a sister or brother, our spouse or perhaps a very good friend; whoever it was, they had the ability to help us focus on being not afraid.

As people of faith, do we believe Jesus when he tells us: do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid?

This is the core message of Jesus to his disciples in today's Gospel from St. John. Jesus is carefully giving them the play by play of everything that is about to happen. And he is clearly preparing them for the day when He will not be with them any longer in a physically present way. As Jesus prepares them for His return to the Father, He shares with them the promise of a helper; the Holy Spirit.

This is God's divine plan. Jesus must return to the Father. If not, then Jesus remains limited by time and space, and nothing can limit God. Now that Jesus dwells with the Father in Heaven, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, He is present to us, each one of us, at all times. And by returning to the Father, Jesus knows that it is the Holy Spirit, the 3rd person of the Blessed Trinity, that will continue to polish and refine our love, our holiness and our very hearts. And they can be, with complete trust in God's divine plan, hearts not troubled or afraid.

Before Jesus left the disciples, He explained the how to part; the part that requires our cooperation. His instructions to them are His instructions to us today. We are to love Him by keeping His word. And His word, as we remember from another place in St. John's Gospel, is to love one another as He has loved us. And when we do this, look at the promise Jesus makes in today's Gospel: my Father and I will come and dwell in us; dwell deep within our heart. And with the Father and the Son dwelling within our hearts, how can that heart be troubled?

What should we do this week to make sure our hearts are prepared to receive the Father and the Son fully? How can we become more aware of their presence in our lives? Follow the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and rely more completely on His Church. What can that mean for us this week? How can we rid ourselves of that human fear that all too often invades our very being?

In the week ahead, prepare more fully for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Pray the prayer dedicated to the Holy Spirit and ask Him to prepare our hearts more fully for that indwelling promised by the Father and the Son. Prepare our hearts by making a sincere confession in the week ahead; before we attend Mass again next Sunday. And love one another. Love someone this week who truly needs our love. And love as Jesus loves us.

We will always have things in our life that scare us, like Hurricane Betsy scared me some 45 years ago. But there is truly nothing that can truly make our hearts afraid if we remember the promise Jesus made us. And we will truly experience His peace; the peace only He can leave with each of us.