Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Gotta have a Saint of the Day for the 1st of September

St. Giles, Abbot

Feastday: September 1

St. Giles, Abbot (Patron of Physically Disabled) Feast day - September 1

St. Giles is said to have been a seventh century Athenian of noble birth. His piety and learning made him so conspicuous and an object of such admiration in his own country that, dreading praise and longing for a hidden life, he left his home and sailed for France. At first he took up his abode in a wilderness near the mouth of the Rhone river, afterward near the river Gard, and, finally, in the diocese of Nimes.

He spend many years in solitude conversing only with God. The fame of his miracles became so great that his reputation spread throughout France. He was highly esteemed by the French king, but he could not be prevailed upon to forsake his solitude. He admitted several disciples, however, to share it with him. He founded a monastery, and established an excellent discipline therein. In succeeding ages it embraced the rule of St. Benedict. St. Giles died probably in the beginning of the eighth century, about the year 724.

Goodbye August; September is here

So we survived the most difficult month of the year in these parts.  Traditionally August is the hottest and it did not disappoint.  August also is fairly wet; not so this year.  In fact, the driest August on record.  We always worry about storms in August with Katrina a constant reminder.  All of our kids get back to school here in August, from the youngest to the college crew.  Our daughter began her new adventure a state away.  But August is done; what does September hold?

Well tonight, we in southeast Louisiana are waiting to see.  Weather predictions tonight range from lots of weekend rain to the possibility of a close to coast developing tropical storm.  These pesky Gulf tropical storms, no Katrina or even Irene, are somewhat deceiving because they lack strong winds and push little tidal flooding towards the coast but man can they dump rain.  The problem stems from the fact that these things are slow moving and they tend to linger along the coast.  Folks down here will remember Allison and Juan, tame as far as storms go, devastating in rain and subsequent flooding.

As we progress through our Labor Day weekend we will certainly update on what's going on.  I sure would feel a little better if my generator was running; hopefully I'll have some time to work on it in case we lose power.

September does give us a glimpse into the coming fall season.  I'm ready to say goodbye to summer.  Football is certainly upon us; LSU plays Saturday and the Saints kick-off the NFL season in 8 days on national TV vs. the Packers.

September this year brings the 10th anniversary of that tragic day we all call 9-11.  Who could forget?  As this anniversary draws closer we will have plenty to say about that day and how it has changed us forever.

The Church will welcome all CCD students back in the fold, some RCIA programs kick-off in September and we draw one month closer to the implementation of the Roman Missal.  Some parishes will actually start singing the Gloria, in it's new format, now since we don't sing the Gloria during Advent.

I'm looking forward to a little vacation time this month and plenty of wonderful ministry opportunities; weddings, classes, and orison ministry.

Hello September; please be kind.  And please let's all pray for an insignificant weather event over the weekend.

We are Catholic

I saw this awesome video today and immediately wanted to post this to my blog.  This video message says what we preach in the diaocnate and what has become one of my constant mantra's:

It's not what we do; it is who we are.

And we are Catholic.  Please enjoy this video.

It is pretty amazing:

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A brave saint who offered himself for others

St. Raymond Nonnatus

Feastday: August 31

Raymond was born at Portella, Catalonia, Spain. He was delivered by caesarean operation when his mother died in childbirth. Hence his name non natus (not born). He joined the Mercedarians under St. Peter Nolasco at Barcelona. He succeeded Peter as chief ransomer and went to Algeria to ransom slaves. He remained as hostage for several slaves when his money ran out and was sentenced to be impaled when the governor learned that he had converted several Mohammedans. He escaped the death sentence because of the ransom he would bring, but was forced to run the gauntlet. He was then tortured for continuing his evangelizing activities but was ransomed eight months later by Peter Nolasco. On his return to Barcelona in 1239, he was appointed Cardinal by Pope Gregory IX, but died at Cardona a short distance from Barcelona the next year while on the way to Rome. He was canonized in 1657. He is the patron saint of expectant mothers and midwives because of the nature of his own birth. Although his mother died in labor, Raymond miraculously survived the ordeal. His feast day is August 31.

Pope Benedict calls it like he sees it

Pope asks forgiveness for 'cradle Catholics' who did not evangelize

By David Kerr

Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Aug 30, 2011 / 07:09 pm (CNA).- Pope Benedict XVI has asked forgiveness on behalf of generations of “cradle Catholics” who have failed to transmit the faith to others.

“We who have known God since we were young, must ask forgiveness,” said Pope Benedict to a gathering of his former students at the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome, on Aug. 28.

The Pope said an apology is due because “we bring people so little of the light of His face, because from us comes so little certainty that He exists, that He is there, and that He is the Great One that everyone is waiting for.”

The Pope’s comments were made at a Mass to conclude the annual meeting of his “Schülerkreis” or “Study Group.”

The gathering has taken place every summer since 1977 and draws together those who defended their doctoral theses in front of Pope Benedict during his years teaching theology at various universities in Germany.

This year they were joined, for the first time, by those who have more recently written their doctrinal theses on works of the Pope. Together, the 40 invitees had spent four days exploring the issue of the “new evangelization.”

The Pope based his brief introductory comments upon the words of the psalm of the day, Psalm 62, which describes the human soul that thirsts for God “like a dry and weary land.”

Pope Benedict said that believers should ask Christ—who is the living water—to send them “those who seek the living water elsewhere.” Just days after the success of World Youth Day in Madrid, he also asked for particular prayers for young people.

The homily for the Mass was delivered by another former student of the Pope – Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna - who spoke of the need for complete renunciation of self required by radical Christian discipleship.

“Only by not conforming ourselves to this world, can we recognize the will of God and make it the foundation of our lives,” he said.

Pope Benedict’s academic career spanned 26 years and saw him teach at universities in Bonn, Munster, Tubingen and Regensburg, prior to his appointment as Archbishop of Munich and Freising in 1977. Despite his increasing responsibilities, he has always attended the annual gathering of his alumni, even after becoming Pope in 2005.

>>>How absolutely correct is this.  For many years now Catholics have been bewailing the fact that they can't keep sons & daughters, brothers & sisters, friends and neighbors Catholic.  So we play the blame game.  We take sides.  The Church is too liberal; no, it's too conservative.  We should go back to pre-Vatican II.  Wait a minute, the Church should become more progressive.  The Priests never told me that; the nuns didn't really mean this.  As Catholics we should not read the Bible(say what?).

Nope, Pope Benedict is putting some of the blame dear friends on us; the cradle Catholic.  And how right he is.  When I think about the relatives and friends in my own life who have skipped down the road to the flavor of the month church, or those who remain Catholic but would rather be hit by lightning then darken the doorway of a church; partly, it's on us!

As a cradle Catholic I lapsed.  I spent many years ignorant by not learnig and discerning what the Catholic faith truly really is.  The Catholic Church that my relatives left is nothing close to what they thought she was.  And that, unfortunately, is partially on us.  How we have let Holy Mother Church down.  And Him!  But I have asked for forgiveness and wisdom and peace and understanding.  If it be His holy will, I will see loved ones and friends returning; I pray this!

Bishops suing the state of Alabama!

Mobile Archbishop Thomas Rodi, formerly of New Orleans, sues to block Alabama immigration law

Published: Tuesday, August 30, 2011, 5:25 PM     Updated: Tuesday, August 30, 2011, 5:28 PM
Mobile Archbishop Thomas Rodi, a New Orleans native who served here until 2001, is one of four Alabama bishops who sued to temporarily block that state's tough new immigration law. U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Blackburn on Monday blocked enforcement of the law until Sept. 29 at the latest.
thomas-rodi.jpgMobile Archbishop Thomas Rodi
Rodi, with Birmingham Catholic Bishop Robert J. Baker, Episcopal Alabama Bishop Henry N. Parsley Jr. and United Methodist Bishop William Willimon, all sued to block enforcement of the new law.
Supporters and opponents agree the new law seeks to be the toughest in the nation
Among other things, it requires schools to report the status of students, makes it illegal to give a ride to an illegal immigrant, rent to an illegal immigrant, or "encourage" an illegal immigrant to live in Alabama.
Rodi and the other bishops sued on grounds the law interferes with the practice of their religion and criminalizes charitable behavior.
Rodi told Mobile Catholics on their archdiocesan web site that, broadly interpreted, the "law prohibits almost everything which would assist an undocumented immigrant or encourage an undocumented immigrant to live in Alabama."
He said that would include providing counseling, food for the poor, administering sacraments, teaching English and providing other ministries.
In addition to the bishops, the Department of Justice, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center also sued to block enforcement of the law.
Rodi, a graduate of De La Salle, Georgetown, and Tulane University Law school, served as a priest in New Orleans until 2001, when he was named bishop of Biloxi.
He became archbishop of Mobile in 2008.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Little Sisters of the Poor founder; Saint of the day for Tuesday

Saint of the Day
Catholic saints are holy people and human people who lived extraordinary lives. Each saint the Church honors responded to God's invitation to use his or her unique gifts. God calls each one of us to be a saint. Click here to receive Saint of the Day in your email.

August 30
St. Jeanne Jugan

Born in northern France during the French Revolution—a time when congregations of women and men religious were being suppressed by the national government, Jeanne would eventually be highly praised in the French academy for her community's compassionate care of elderly poor people.

When Jeanne was three and a half years old, her father, a fisherman, was lost at sea. Her widowed mother was hard pressed to raise her eight children (four died young) alone. At the age of 15 or 16, Jeanne became a kitchen maid for a family that not only cared for its own members, but also served poor, elderly people nearby. Ten years later, Jeanne became a nurse at the hospital in Le Rosais. Soon thereafter she joined a third order group founded by St. John Eudes (August 19).

After six years she became a servant and friend of a woman she met through the third order. They prayed, visited the poor and taught catechism to children. After her friend's death, Jeanne and two other women continued a similar life in the city of Saint-Sevran. In 1839, they brought in their first permanent guest. They began an association, received more members and more guests. Mother Marie of the Cross, as Jeanne was now known, founded six more houses for the elderly by the end of 1849, all staffed by members of her association—the Little Sisters of the Poor. By 1853 the association numbered 500 and had houses as far away as England.

Abbé Le Pailleur, a chaplain, had prevented Jeanne's reelection as superior in 1843; nine year later, he had her assigned to duties within the congregation, but would not allow her to be recognized as its founder. He was removed from office by the Holy See in 1890.

By the time Pope Leo XIII gave her final approval to the community's constitutions in 1879, there were 2,400 Little Sisters of the Poor. Jeanne died later that same year, on August 30. Her cause was introduced in Rome in 1970, and she was beatified in 1982 and canonized in 2009.


Jeanne Jugan saw Christ in what Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta would describe as his "distressing disguises." With great confidence in God's providence and the intercession of St. Joseph, she begged willingly for the many homes that she opened, relying on the good example of the Sisters and the generosity of benefactors who knew the good that the Sisters were doing. They now work in 30 countries. "With the eye of faith, we must see Jesus in our old people—for they are God's mouthpiece," Jeanne once said. No matter what the difficulties, she was always able to praise God and move ahead.


In his homily at the beatification Mass, Pope John Paul II praised "the quiet but eloquent radiance of her life." He continued: "In our day, pride, the pursuit of efficacy, the temptation to use power all run rampant in the world, and sometimes, unfortunately, even in the Church. They become an obstacle to the coming of the Kingdom of God. This is why the spirituality of Jeanne Jugan can attract the followers of Christ and fill their hearts with simplicity and humility, with hope and evangelical joy, having their source in God and in self-forgetfulness."

More Katrina memories

Evacuees return home six years after Katrina .
Posted on August 29, 2011 at 5:44 PM

Katie Moore / Eyewitness News

NEW ORLEANS -- Six years ago Monday, Hurricane Katrina changed the New Orleans metro area forever.

For six years, many have struggled to return, and for some, six years is the tipping point, while others are still working to get back into their homes.

“Wherever my mother is, we've always considered home,” said Jason Hurst.

Life in the Big Easy was never easy for him, even before Hurricane Katrina flooded his Pontchartrain Park home in 2005.

In 1993, a stray bullet that flew through a door during a drive-by struck Hurst in the neck while he was sitting on a friend’s sofa. It left the then-college student in a wheelchair.

Twelve years later, Katrina hit.

“It made evacuating that much more difficult. Having gone to Dallas, looking for a quote accessible shelter, being told by Red Cross that there was no such thing,” Hurst said about his experience evacuating before the storm.

He was forced to leave behind his dog, Candy, and his motorized wheelchair. Hurst rode out of town in his uncle’s van. Pure luck let him re-unite with his dog several months later after a good Samaritan saw her veterinary tags and called his former veterinarian.

For six years, Hurst and his mother lived in a Dallas suburb, trying to fix up their Pontchartrain Park home from a distance.

Just before they were finally able to return in 2010, copper thieves tore it up again.

“Initially, I missed New Orleans. I felt like I had a hole in my heart. I came back in, back to a city but it's not the same city. It's not the same as it was before. I don’t know if it ever will be,” Hurst said.

It also took contractor a fraud victim, Joyce Jackson, six years to get back into her home.

“Heaven. I don't know how to describe it because it's been six years,” she said, standing in her brand new living room.

Jackson and her disabled husband moved back into their New Orleans East home in July. The couple, in their '60s and ‘70s, has bounce around from apartment to apartment in south Louisiana since Katrina.

This time last year, her house was simply a misshapen foundation and a badly formed frame.

“Katrina was devastating enough. And for him to do that to me, but not just to me, to everyone he did that to, it was wrong.

Who did he think he was?” Jackson said about the shady contractor she initially hired to repair her home.

Christopher Neil Joseph and his wife took tens of thousands of dollars in insurance and Road Home proceeds from her, and then not only didn’t finish the work, but didn’t pay his subcontractors, leaving Jackson with a number of liens on her property.

Last year, a Criminal District Court Judge sentenced Joseph to 10 years in prison for stealing the rebuilding money from Jackson and six other homeowners.

She spent five years battling it, and finally, in 2011, a new contractor rebuilt her home in just a few months time.

“Guess we can finish growing old again,” Jackson said.

Jackson isn't alone. Contractor fraud has been one of the biggest obstacles in the city's recovery.

“We're trying to get the message out that there's still need here,” said Emilie Tenenbaum, development director for the St. Bernard Project.

The group formed in 2006 to help fill the gap between insurance money and the reality of rebuilding costs with volunteer labor. This year, they rebuilt two homes in 24 hours to commemorate the Katrina anniversary.

One of those homes is also owned by a victim of contractor fraud.

“Six years later, these are the ones who have tried to get it done themselves and have worked hard for the past six years. These are American families who have done everything right and are just struggling,” Tenenbaum said.

The St. Bernard Project alone still has a waiting list of 130 people who are looking for help rebuilding, six years after Hurricane Katrina.

The group is building its first home from the ground up in the Lower 9th Ward this year. They will soon have rebuilt 400 homes.

“I think the estimates are that 10,000 families, a little over that are still, own homes and can't afford to rebuild. So, it's a huge number,” Tenenbaum said.

The St. Bernard Project alone has brought 34,000 volunteers to New Orleans to help rebuild, and if it weren't for non-profits, many more would still be waiting to come back.

Hurst said Catholic Charities helped make his homecoming possible.

“You know you're home. You don't have to repeat yourself because your accent isn't getting in the way,” he said.

The struggle to return isn’t their only recovery hurdle. Both residents and the city are dealing with the neighbors who will never return. The St. Bernard Project’s new home in the 9th Ward, Jackson’s and Hurst’s all have properties around them with overgrown grass, properties that look abandoned.

“The grass is tall as me,” Jackson said.

It’s a constant reminder that their neighborhoods are not the same as they once were, and that they may never be, for that matter.

But either way, after a three-day evacuation turned into a six-year exile from their houses, both Hurst and Jackson said it’s good to be home.

>>>Today is the 6th anniversary of Katrina and during the afternoon/evening of this day the 17th street canal floodwall failed and the epic flooding began.  In the east, the floodwaters already were doing their damage from the Industrial Canal and the now closed MRGO waterway.

Today is the day that New Orleanians and southeast Louisiana residents, along with our neighbors in Mississippi will never forget!

Saints QB Drew Brees reflects on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees reflects on today's Katrina anniversary

Published: Monday, August 29, 2011, 12:06 PM
Today marks the sixth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the most profound disaster to hit New Orleans and much of the Gulf South since the Civil War. It also marks the event that helped quarterback Drew Brees think perhaps there was a larger meaning to him becoming the Saints signal caller.
drew-brees2006.jpgNew Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees receives his jersey from General Manger Mickey Loomis at his introductory press conference in 2006.
Brees reflected on that date Sunday night following the New Orleans Saints 40-20 preseason victory over the Raiders in Oakland.
"Six years post-Katrina," he said. "I think it's that day you really as a New Orleanian take time to recognize how far the city's come."
Not the least of those recovery indicators has been the Saints, for decades arguably the sorriest professional sports franchise in the United States that under Brees on-field leadership have gone to two NFC Championships and won Super Bowl XLIV in the last five years.
The story has been told often enough to ingrain it in Big Easy folklore: how the coach, seeking to impress the free agent quarterback, wound up taking a wrong turn and leading Brees and his wife, Brittany, into a storm ravaged neighborhood that Payton thought for sure would ruin any chance Brees would come to New Orleans. And how, instead, the Brees surveyed the catastrophe and saw a chance to accomplish something more - more lasting, more important - than just success on the gridiron.
Brees and the Saints' fairy-tale championship run burnished the city's and the team's place in the pantheon of American heroism. But the ruinous wake of a storm that killed nearly 2,000 people and caused at least $80 billion in damages isn't fixed in a mere six years, Brees reflected. Aug. 29, then, is a day whose significane lies as much in the future as the past, in his opinion.
"Obviously in so many ways New Orleans has come back better - while in one moment you say, 'look how far we've come,' you also have to say, 'what's still left to do?,'" Brees said. "And I think that's definitely motivation for all of us just to continue on. It's gone by fast. That's where you just have to say, 'life does go by fast. And so let's take advantage of every opportunity we have and improve our place to live.'"

The feast of John the Baptist martyrdom

The Feast of the Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist - God's Call to the New Evangelization

St. John's life and death is a reminder of our true vocation as Christ's followers
As we anticipate this feast of the Church, we recognize that our life should be consumed for the sake of the Gospel. We don't even have to lose our heads, only join our hearts to His and live out our lives as devoted men and women to our Lord Jesus Christ.

WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - Today we  celebrate the Memorial of the Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist. Seen as the last prophet of the Old Testament and the first prophet of the New, St. John has always been an icon of one who not only spoke the truth but also challenged his hearers with a call to action. He knew that truth always demanded a decision.

Like his successor, St. Paul, who described his own vocation in Galatians 1:15, John the Baptist was set apart by God from his mother's womb and called by His grace. Even before his birth, he leaped for joy as he came into the presence of the Son of God within Mary's womb.

Truly he was, as Isaiah said, one crying in the wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord. His burden was to awaken the people to this incredible good news, letting them know that the one for whom they had been waiting - the Messiah - would be coming soon.

St. John the Baptist also wanted to be sure that the way was prepared for His coming - recognizing the way that had to be prepared was not a road of stones and dirt, but a highway of the heart. He called for people to repent and be baptized, washed of the burdens of this life that they could hear the Words of the Master when He came.

This baptism was only a foreshadowing of the one to come in Christ's Church. While his prepared the way, the sacrament would be a conveyor of grace.

On this feast day, however, we are focused on martyrdom, his beheading. He died for the faith for which he lived. The consequences of his heralding the good news and a call to righteousness cost him his life.

He was condemned by the decree of King Herod, who himself was caught in the clutches of a vengeful wife, Herodias, formerly the wife of his brother, Philip. He was also held captive by the throws of lust toward the daughter of Herodias. The account of Herod's treachery contains more drama than a modern day soap opera.

St. John's martyrdom reminds us that the most important vocation for all Christians, Catholic and Protestant alike, is living out the Gospel. We are called to proclaim the Good News of Christ both in word and deed, which sometimes can put us in some tense situations.

Let's face it, the Gospel can become inflammatory and even more so as a culture moves farther and farther away from core values of moral living. For this reason we are reminded by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 4 that we must speak the truth in love.

For several decades both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have been calling upon Catholic Christians be become involved in the New Evangelization. In fact, Pope Benedict has made this the theme for World Youth Day 2013 in Brazil.

Over the years, evangelization has been stereotyped as an attempt by self-righteous individuals to impose their values on others. Nothing could be further from the truth!

Evangelization is a movement that begins in the heart, where a Christian, whose life has been given over to Jesus Christ, eagerly shares that good news of the coming of Christ and His Kingdom into the world.

The believer also wants to let all know of Christ's passion, death and resurrection which has overcome the world, the flesh and the devil. More than anything, he or she wants others to be able to participate in this glorious and wondrous relationship with the living God, the fullness of which is found in the Catholic faith.

Such a testimony doesn't come from self-righteous individuals, but those who have encountered the living Christ through His Word and Sacraments.

From the Gospel reading appointed for the Memorial in Mark 6:17-29, we read "Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him in custody. When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him."

The King, although living a life of debauchery, felt something kindle in his heart when John preached. The truth was making an impact. As with any move of grace, the devil is quick to distract by re-ignited the fires of passion that the soul might be once again consumed with lust.

How like today, where the people who are hearing the Gospel and also being bombarded by messages laced with sensuality and images that inflame. It's no wonder they condemn the messenger as self-righteous as everything in them is being drawn away from the righteousness of God.

However we find the world, giving up on sharing the gospel is not an option. I'm an example of one who was touched by God's grace as my life was moving in the opposite direction.

Bill Bright was a Protestant minister who gave rise to the largest college movement for Christ in America as well as other parts of the world - Campus Crusade for Christ. He used to say, "success in witnessing [Ed - evangelization] is simply sharing Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results to God."

While we may not be able to control the recipient, we can prepare ourselves for the work of evangelization. The keys are found in Herod's assessment of St. John the Baptist. He was holy and righteous.

By living our faith on a daily basis, through such disciplines as prayer, reading Scripture, attending daily Mass, praying the Offices of the Church and the Rosary, we can become equipped with His love and grace for this work. Our sharing of His Gospel can come through the power of His Spirit.

Many have described the results of evangelization as being a new birth - as men and women of all ages are "born again" by water and the Spirit. How does this new birth begin? By those in the womb of life encountering the One in Mary's womb and leaping for joy.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Monday's Saint of the Day

St. Sabina

Feastday: August 29

St. Sabina's feast day is August 29th. We know St. Sabina only through legend, and there is some question as to it's trustworthiness. Even the century in which she lived is unknown. Supposedly Sabina was converted to Christianity by her Syrian servant Serapia. During the persecution of Emperor Hadrian, Serapia suffered martyrdom for her Christian Faith. It is believed that St. Sabina was murdered for the Faith about a month later. The reknowned basilica on the Aventine in Rome is dedicated to and named after her. Some sources hold that Sabina herself had it constructed in the third or fourth century. In an age when our Faith is ridiculed as being outmoded, we take heart in the lives of so many martyrs, like St. Sabina, who gave their lives under terrible conditions to defend and sustain their Faith. This confers on us a strong desire to persevere in God's love.

Katrina memories in full recall mode

It is so ironic that this weekend, when we remember the 6th anniversary of Katrina, we were treated to so much national news coverage of Irene.  As hurricanes go, Irene was not that intense.  But if you are the victim, dealing with a flooded basement, or related to any of the 18 deaths from Irene, even one of the millions without power tonight, it is very intense!  Like so many storms, Irene will be more about the subsequent water events from now into the week ahead than the wind.  And so it was with Katrina.

Six years ago on a Sunday night with the same date as this year, we were arriving in the north Alabama town of Cullman.  We settled into a hotel room that we thought would be home for maybe 24 hours and took the family to dinner.  That was after we settled 3 dogs and 2 cats into a hotel room.

I shared our epic week on the road in last night's post.  Tonight I want to share that despite how much we have come back post Katrina, six years later it's still way too easy to find evidence of her terror.  Because of the space my bank owns in Chalmette, I find myself working in that community about a day a month.  The fact that Chalmette is a working community in any capacity is a tribute to the people.  Chalmette is the largest community in the civil parish of St. Bernard.  This is a coastal area and every structure except 5 flooded.  And most flooded past the roof line.  The community was devastated.  Many people died there.  So many buildings are still vacant and a quick drive into the residential area reveals empty lots or cleared slabs.  The population of St. Bernard Parish, over 65 thousand before Katrina is still in the upper 30 thousand range today. 

Driving north out of St. Bernard brings you through the iconic and well known lower 9th ward and the adjacent upper 9th.  This is in New Orleans city proper.  Here, many homes, right on the main highway, remain shuttered, falling apart and bearing that tell tale spray paint of the result of the search and rescue from the weeks after Katrina struck.  Now there are a few signs of life and renewal.  But the scars are right in front of you.

This story would not be complete without sharing the good news of recovery and the hope that comes from rebuilding.  New Orleans is better in some ways and the surrounding communities and parishes, to be frank, have picked up any slack.  New Orleans seems to be an even more intense tourist destination now.  Ironically, we have more restaraunts today than we did on August 28, 2005.  Some businesses have returned, others moved their corporate offices to Baton Rouge, Jefferson Parish or across the lake in Mandeville or Covington.  The school system in New Orleans is much better today that before Katrina and the private/parochial school system is booming.

Neighboring parishes like St. Tammany, St. Charles and Tangipahoa now are home to many relocated New Orleanians and St. Bernard natives.  The overall population of the Greater New Orleans area is almost 100% of pre-Katrina levels six years down the road.

So part of me recalls this Sunday night the memories of that Sunday night and the days that followed in 2005.  But I won't dwell on it because we look forward with great hope to a wonderful future for New Orleans and southeast Louisiana.

And I cling to my Scriptural prayer: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever!

Cafe Hope: another good news story from Catholic Charities

Restaurant training ground gets new chef, new ideas

Published: Sunday, August 28, 2011, 1:00 PM
Expect a few changes in the coming months to the menu at Cafe Hope, which which offers restaurant training and mentoring to at-risk youths.
05wbhope9.jpg                           Susan Poag, The Times-Picayune
Apprentice Johnny R. Byrd makes sure he has filled a an order correctly during the opening of Cafe Hope in Marrero in May, 2010.
But new restaurant chef Melissa Martin, who moved to Lafitte nearly a year ago, won't get rid of all the traditional Louisiana and Southern favorites. After all, she's a Cajun girl from Terrebonne Parish, and she chose to make Lafitte her home to get back some of that bayou feeling.
"It will be a more modern menu," said Luis Arocha, executive director of Cafe Hope. The restaurant is located in the Madonna Manor building on the iconic Hope Haven campus, 1101 Barataria Blvd. in Marrero.
Martin, who has recently worked at Three Muses and also has worked at other restaurants in New Orleans, including Satsuma in the Bywater, is excited about teaching the students about healthy, seasonal cooking.
There aren't many restaurants in the area where a diner can enjoy such a meal for $12 to $15, but that's what she's aiming for, she said.
A Loyola graduate with a degree in English literature and writing, Martin said she learned a lot of her healthy cooking skills while working in California after graduation. She moved to New Orleans, and continued her culinary training on the job.
A brush with crime prompted her to seek out the slower lifestyle of Lafitte for herself and her 11-year-old daughter, a place "where you can leave the windows down if it's nice out."
She started seeing signs for Cafe Hope while driving down Barataria Boulevard after work and was intrigued. And when she saw the job opening posted for a chef, she decided, "It's a good fit for me."
She's looking forward to teaching the students about their cultural heritage, about canning and food preservation, and working with them in the Cafe Hope garden, which she'd like to expand into a little farm to include chickens. She'd like the students to be able to graduate from the program and go to work in any type of restaurant they choose.
She praised Cafe Hope's culinary director, Don Boyd, for what he's done with the program, which just celebrated one year in operation.
"What Don has done in a year is incredible." One of his projects is a booming catering business operated out of Cafe Hope.
Arocha said that in the first year of operation, the program served 67 students, ranging in age from about 17 to 21. Seventy-six percent graduated from the program, and 56 percent are employed. A few also have chosen to go to college.
Martin and Boyd will sit down after her arrival Sept. 12 to reconfigure a streamlined menu, she said.
Martin said she's hoping more folks will dine at Cafe Hope. The restaurant will attract more attention with a big new sign it has ordered, and she hopes word-of-mouth will spread and that "the food will speak for itself."
Cafe Hope is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. I recently enjoyed crawfish enchiladas and one of the best bread puddings I've ever eaten. Every time I've been there, I cleaned my plate and had excellent service.
Arocha said the program is always looking for more volunteers to serve as mentors, academic tutors and counselors to the youths. If you have a couple of hours to give up each week for a worthy cause, contact him at 504.756.HOPE or by email at
For more information about Cafe Hope visit

Pro Life initiaitve announced by USCCB

U.S. Bishops Reinforce that Life Matters in Pro-life Emphasis for 2011-2012

Conference unveils pamphlets and other resources for Respect for Life Sunday and beyond.
The U.S. bishops are arming the faithful offering the "Life Matters" theme addressing Abortion, Contraception, Death Penalty, Persons with Disabilities, Embryo Research, End-of-Life issues, Reproductive Technologies and Love and Marriage.

WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - While Respect for Life Sunday doesn't occur until October 2, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops unveiled the resources and materials they are making available to promote the Culture of Life.

This year's theme is from St. John's Gospel - "I came so that all might have life and have it to the full" (John 10:10).

They have produced eight pamphlets in the "Life Matters" theme, addressing Abortion, Contraception, Death Penalty, Persons with Disabilities, Embryo Research, End-of-Life issues, Reproductive Technologies and Love and Marriage.

Pamphlets are available for downloading at no cost, as are the same materials formatted as two-sided bulletin inserts. Printed versions of the pamphlets, posters, flyers and other materials are also available for sale.

This year's liturgy guide offers preaching resources and Intercessions for Life to be used for Respect for Life Sunday; Sunday, January 22 and a Day of Prayer and Penance for Life on January 23, 2012.

The guide also contains a rosary intercessions for husbands and wives based on the Nuptial Blessing in the Rite of Marriage, and a Holy Hour for Life based on Blessed Pope John Paul II's reflections on the elderly.

All materials are being made available in English and Spanish.

A new webpage - - not only offers all of this years resources but includes a link to resources going back to 1972. The page also offers links for ordering printed materials from USCCB Publishing.

Begun in 1972, the USCCB says that the Respect Life Program brings Church teaching on the value and dignity of human life to the Catholic community and the wider public. The program combines all four aspects of the bishops' Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities: education, prayer, service and advocacy. It begins anew each year on Respect Life Sunday, the first Sunday in October, which is observed in virtually all of the 195 Catholic dioceses in the United States.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Another great vocation story

August 26th, 2011 by California Catholic Daily  
“This is one of the ‘untold stories’ of the blessings of the Holy Spirit upon the Church and those faithful fervently seeking to respond to the voice of God,” says Father Kerry Abbott, OFM Conv., Director of Vocations for the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA.
“Catholic seminaries in the United States, and the Pontifical North American College in Rome, are straining to accommodate the influx of seminarians entering formation programs leading to presbyteral ordination and military chaplaincy. Many seminaries have found it necessary to convert guest rooms to seminarian quarters.”
When the 2011-2012 academic year rolls around later this month, the number of co-sponsored and military-affiliated seminarians will stand at 31, up sharply from just three in 2008-2009; twelve in 2009-2010; and twenty-three in 2010-2011.
Co-sponsorship means that a diocesan bishop agrees to accept the young man as a seminarian, and that the seminarian will participate in the Chaplain Candidacy Program of one of the branches of the U.S. armed forces. The bishop agrees to release him for service as a military chaplain after three years of pastoral experience as a priest in his diocese. When the priest leaves military service, he returns to the diocese.
The outlook for future vocations is just as bright. The archdiocese is currently processing hundreds of inquiries from prospective military chaplains. Father Abbott expects anywhere from five to 10 more to enter seminaries next year, with still more to come.
The timing could not be better. The U.S. armed forces have seen a steady decline in Catholic military chaplains over the past 10 years as priests reach the military retirement age of 62. Their numbers are down from more than 400 active in 2001 to 274 this year.
Father Abbott says the increase in vocations is due mainly to the support of Catholic bishops, “for which this archdiocese is most grateful,” and successful recruiting over the past three years. The recruiting, which began under his predecessor, Father John McLaughlin, is taking place largely among a pool of candidates that has contributed substantial numbers to the priesthood in recent years — the U.S. military.
According to a study by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University, nearly 10 percent of men ordained as U.S. Catholic priests over the past two years had previously served in the military. Another 10 percent came from military families.
“When you think about it, this makes complete sense,” Father Abbott said. “Both the military and the priesthood rely on a largely common set of foundational values, including a commitment to service, self-discipline and a higher calling. So it should come as no surprise that so many of our seminarians come from a military background and a growing number are looking to go back to the life they know after ordination.”
For the archdiocese, the growing influx of new co-sponsored seminarians poses a dilemma — that is, how to pay for its 50 percent share of their five-year education. The archdiocese splits tuition and related costs evenly with each diocese where the co-sponsored seminarian is educated and ordained. In just three years, the archdiocese’s annual seminary bill has climbed from less than $40,000 to more than $350,000. The Knights of Columbus recently announced a new “Venerable Father McGivney Military Chaplain Scholarship” that will provide $200,000 a year over the next five years. The archdiocese is now in search of additional funding sources to make up the difference.
Father Abbott remarked, “What a delightful dilemma to have!”
For more information about Catholic priestly vocations in the U.S. military, Click Here.

A powerful Saint's feast day

St. Augustine of Hippo

St. Augustine of Hippo
Feastday: August 28
Patron of brewers

St. Augustine of Hippo is the patron of brewers because of his conversion from a former life of loose living, which included parties, entertainment, and worldly ambitions. His complete turnaround and conversion has been an inspiration to many who struggle with a particular vice or habit they long to break.

This famous son of St. Monica was born in Africa and spent many years of his life in wicked living and in false beliefs. Though he was one of the most intelligent men who ever lived and though he had been brought up a Christian, his sins of impurity and his pride darkened his mind so much, that he could not see or understand the Divine Truth anymore. Through the prayers of his holy mother and the marvelous preaching of St. Ambrose, Augustine finally became convinced that Christianity was the one true religion. Yet he did not become a Christian then, because he thought he could never live a pure life. One day, however, he heard about two men who had suddenly been converted on reading the life of St. Antony, and he felt terrible ashamed of himself. "What are we doing?" he cried to his friend Alipius. "Unlearned people are taking Heaven by force, while we, with all our knowledge, are so cowardly that we keep rolling around in the mud of our sins!"
Full of bitter sorrow, Augustine flung himself out into the garden and cried out to God, "How long more, O Lord? Why does not this hour put an end to my sins?" Just then he heard a child singing, "Take up and read!" Thinking that God intended him to hear those words, he picked up the book of the Letters of St. Paul, and read the first passage his gaze fell on. It was just what Augustine needed, for in it, St. Paul says to put away all impurity and to live in imitation of Jesus. That did it! From then on, Augustine began a new life.
He was baptized, became a priest, a bishop, a famous Catholic writer, Founder of religious priests, and one of the greatest saints that ever lived. He became very devout and charitable, too. On the wall of his room he had the following sentence written in large letters: "Here we do not speak evil of anyone." St. Augustine overcame strong heresies, practiced great poverty and supported the poor, preached very often and prayed with great fervor right up until his death. "Too late have I loved You!" he once cried to God, but with his holy life he certainly made up for the sins he committed before his conversion. His feast day is August 28th.

>>>Reminder: August 28th this year is a Sunday which takes precedence over this feast day!

Katrina memories as I watch Irene coverage

This Saturday night I find myself drawn to the various television coverage of Hurricane Irene.  Such a large and populated area being affected; I am happy that Irene is not more intense.

On a Saturday night six years ago my family and I were still hunkered down as Katrina drew closer.  By this time six years ago the New Orleans city area, along with many of the parishes south of Lake Pontchartrain, were in full evacuation mode.  In this neck of the woods it was a 50/50 split.  We hoped to hang in there and probably would have until the reports broke early Sunday morning that Katrina could be a category 5.

We did wake early Sunday and decided we would go.  Preparations not done since we had planned to stay were required so it would be past noon on Sunday, August 29th before we left.  Arrogantly, I packed one very casual change of clothes.  We pulled in a caravan of three cars headed for northern Alabama where I managed a room reservation in Cullman, not far from EWTN country.  And we heard from friends in the area as we traveled and convinced them to come and stay in Cullman, and they did.

As we settled in the hotel it was clear; almost 100% of those renting a room had fled the storm.  As we awoke on Monday morning and began watching the reports on TV, it was evident that I would need more clothes.  And by Monday evening, as we moved on toward North Carolina to stay with our son, we learned of the devastating flooding from the floodwall breach in New Orleans.  I was able to find out that our area was hign and dry, but moving around St. Tammany parish would be impossible for about a week because of the massive amount of downed trees.

In fact, it would not be until Friday, September 2nd before we starting back south and late Saturday afternoon before we arrived home.  The landscape was changed forever, although we have bounced back nicely.  The most amazing part was how my wife, daughter and I managed to live in our home until about September 25th without electricity.

So as I watch coverage of what the good people of N.Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and all of New England are enduring tonight, I pray and I remember.

May God watch over us always, in all times and all weather. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

St Monica; mother of St. Augustine

Feastday: August 27
Patron of Wives and Abuse Victims

St. Monica was married by arrangement to a pagan official in North Africa, who was much older than she, and although generous, was also violent tempered. His mother Lived with them and was equally difficult, which proved a constant challenge to St. Monica. She had three children; Augustine, Navigius, and Perpetua. Through her patience and prayers, she was able to convert her husband and his mother to the Catholic faith in 370· He died a year later. Perpetua and Navigius entered the religious Life. St. Augustine was much more difficult, as she had to pray for him for 17 years, begging the prayers of priests who, for a while, tried to avoid her because of her persistence at this seemingly hopeless endeavor. One priest did console her by saying, "it is not possible that the son of so many tears should perish." This thought, coupled with a vision that she had received strengthened her. St. Augustine was baptized by St. Ambrose in 387. St. Monica died later that same year, on the way back to Africa from Rome in the Italian town of Ostia.

Going to Church in a hurricane

Huricane Irene is bearing down on millions of Americans tonight from North Carolina clean all the way up to Maine by the end of Sunday.  First and foremost our prayers for all who will be impacted and that all will be safe.  This storm promises to be a bit of a tough one, primarily because of the twin water events of rain and wind driven ocean water moving east to west toward the coast of almost a dozen states.

Over at the Deacon's Bench, which is linked to my website, Deacon Greg asks the question: should Catholics attend Mass during a hurricane.  He posted statements from the three dioceses of New York state that are in the cone of possible impact.  Obviously safety is the first consideration with a storm approaching.  The Church surely does not want anyone to be placed in harm's way in their sincere desire to celebrate the Mass and receive the Holy Euchaist.  Here is the statement issued by Archbishop Timothy Dolan:

Archbishop Dolan Urges Caution in Face of Hurricane
August 26, 2011



Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New York, released the following statement today regarding Hurricane Irene:

“With all of our friends and neighbors here in the community we love, we in the Catholic family are united in prayer for protection from the impending storm, and eager to offer refuge and help to those who may be endangered or harmed.

Catholics take Sunday mass very seriously, but the Church never asks us to risk our health or safety to get to church on the Lord’s Day. Please be careful! Do not take any chance with your safety and health if things get dangerous.

Our extensive network of parishes, schools, Catholic Charities, health care institutions, and residential facilities are cooperating fully with our public safety officials, and stand ready to assist in all efforts of outreach and help.”

+Most Reverend Timothy M. Dolan
Archbishop of New York

I remember the morning of Sunday, August 28th 2005 as Katrina was rapidly approaching.  It was mid morning before we made the call to leave.  As I drove past our Church while running errands it dawned on me it was close to Mass time.  I saw Father outside and he decided to have a quick Mass because about 50 of us showed up; many dressed in clothes soiled during hurricane preps.

So whether the folks in New York or Boston or Philadelphia get to go to Mass or not, may we not forget to pray for all impacted by Hurricane Irene.

May God bless and protect everyone in the path of the storm!

A sad day for LSU. LSU football and indeed Louisiana

LSU football: Police Chief Dewayne White says it's a sad day for Baton Rouge, LSU, BRPD

Published: Friday, August 26, 2011, 4:31 PM     Updated: Friday, August 26, 2011, 4:40 PM
Baton Rouge - Baton Rouge Police Department Chief Dewayne White called a brief press conference to read a statement regarding the arrest of LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson and linebacker Josh Johns.
jordan_jefferson_josh_johns.jpgJordan Jefferson, left, Josh Johns
The press conference lasted 2 minutes, 30 seconds and is as follows:

"Today is a sad day for the city of Baton Rouge. Today is a sad day for Louisiana State University, the LSU alumni and the countless fans who follow the Tiger football program. It's also a sad day for the Baton Rouge Police Department.
"The Baton Rouge Police Department based on numerous interviews of witnesses, including victims, and the players implicated in the incident that occurred on Aug. 19, 2011 at 1:30 a.m. in the parking lot of Shady's bar on East Boyd, as well as video evidence of certain individuals, all of which were present at the scene and all of whom provided statements which corroborated the culmination of sufficient probable cause to issue warrants for the arrest of Mr. Jordan Jefferson and Mr. Joshua Johns for the crime of second-degree battery.
"These two individuals cooperated fully with investigators. They turned themselves into authorities today around noon at the East Baton Rouge Parish prison and were subsequently booked and released on a $5,000 bond.
"For the next several days the Baton Rouge Police Department will forward its report relative to these arrests to the District Attorney's office for review and final disposition. For this reason and for the purposes of protecting the integrity of an ongoing and continuing investigation into this matter, the deptartment will not comment any further on the merits or facts of this case."

LSU football viudeo: BRPD Chief Dewayne White says its a sad day for Baton Rouge LSU football video: BRPD Chief Dewayne White says it's a sad day for Baton Rouge Baton ROuge Police Department Chief Dewayne White read a short statement at a press conference Friday regarding the arrest of LSU football players Jordan Jefferson and Josh Johns. Watch video

>>>I love LSU.  As a young boy, I grew up listening to LSU football on a transistor radio in my bedroom.  It seemed that LSU and Tiger Stadium must indeed be a magical place on those wonderful autumn Saturday nights in Baton Rouge.  It would be many years later, probably when I reached the ripe old age of 30, before I would witness the magic firsthand.  And it never, ever disappointed.  Imagine my sheer joy and delight as both my children, Jimmy & Elizabeth went to LSU and attended the games.  After a nearly 50 year drought, LSU won 2 national football championships while the Talbot offspring attended LSU; Jimmy in 2003 and Elizabeth in 2007. 

This story is big because it's a personal tragedy for all involved.  None of us really know what was going on in the minds and heads of all involved.  I personally don't understand fighting.  But a fight indeed occurred.  And now the LSU starting QB is charged and suspended, along with, for now, at least one other player.  It is a tragedy for Tiger nation.  After great teams year after year, even one that frustrating us so in 2010, despite winning 11 of 13 games, this one appeared special.  Many an expert declared: legitimate national champ material.  Now we lose a QB, we deal with a huge distraction, and all of this comes after several weeks of bad news after bad news; the illness of a respected coach and the suspension of a great player.

I will pray for all involved.  Selfishly, I want to pray because I had hoped for great excitement from my LSU Tigers.  That, now, will play itself out between the sidelines for the 12 games of 2011.  But I pray for those involved in the fight, that hearts can change, that real metanoia take place.  I pray for those who were hurt, that all will heal, including emotional and spiritual healing.  And I pray for the players arrested, that they too may be dealt with in justice and fairness and be healed as well.

All I can say for now is Geaux Tigers!

Preparing homilies and homilists

Our 2012 class of diaconate candidates will embark on several new adventures over the next several months but tomorrow it is the 1st class for homiletics.  Here, the candidates will be exposed to all things Catholic homilies!  I remember like it was yesterday those first few weeks and months of homiletics.  And now, here I am, less than 3 years later with many, many homilies under my belt.

As we begin these classes we are aware that the overall subject of preaching has been kind of a hot topic lately.  And with the coming of the new Roman Missal in November, much has been made of the homily in the context of it's proper place in the celebration of the Mass.

The preacher, be he a Deacon or the Presider, would do well to recall these words from Scripture:  But how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard?  And how can they hear without someone to preach?  And how can people preach unless they are sent?  Romans 10:14-15.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that a homily is the preaching of an ordained minister to explain the Scriptures proclaimed in the liturgy and to exhort the people to accept them as the Word of God.  In the Constitution of the Sacred Liturgy we read: the sermon should draw it's content mainly from scriptural and liturgical sources.

Pope John Paul II declared that the purpose of the homily is to explain the Word of God to the faithful as proclaimed in the readings, and to apply it's message to the present!

Basically we could summarize thusly: preach from the Scripture readings, share your faith(including your joy and enthusiasm for your beliefs) with the congregation, relate the homily to life's realities, use words that are understandable to the entire congregation, have a distinct beginning, middle and end.

The homilist is charged with communicating faith and moving people to action.

Preaching is not a performance, not a seperate action from the rest of the Mass and should never be a sounding board or a soap box.

And preaching, like the example we should set at all times, should be more powerful and visible by our "who we are." 

The homily you deliver may be very fine and true, but I would rather get my lesson by observing what you do!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Bishops of Florida on current death penalty event

The bishops of the state of Florida have written to the Governor to ask that the death penalty not be used against a man who killed a police officer.  The killing took place in 1978.  The letter speaks for itself but certainly echoes the teachings of the Church as enunciated by Blessed John Paul II.

The bottom line is the taking of a life by the state can only be reserved for those instances where the state would be unable to protect society from the convicted killer.  Truly, this can be accomplished by the penal system.  As Blessed John Paul II said when writing of the death penalty: in countries like the USA, the use of the death penalty should be rare, if at all.

And please note: those who oppose the death penalty based on current Church teaching and as a pro-life affirmation do not condone the actions of the guilty party.  And in no way do these same folks, me included, mean in anyway to diminish the tragedy of the innocent life lost and those who mourn.

The letter is below:

Thanks to Deacon's Bench!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

St. Louis King of France; a patron saint of New Orleans

Feast: August 25

In Louis IX of France were united the qualities of a just and upright sovereign, a fearless warrior, and a saint. This crusading king was a living embodiment of the Christianity of the time: he lived for the welfare of his subjects and the glory of God. His father was Louis VIII, of the Capet line, and his mother was the redoubtable Queen Blanche, daughter of King Alfonso of Castile and Eleanor of England. Louis, the oldest son,* was born at Poissy on the Seine, a little below Paris, on April 25,1214, and there was christened. Much of his virtue is attributed to his mother's care, for the Queen devoted herself to her children's education. Louis had tutors who made him a master of Latin, taught him to speak easily in public and write with dignity and grace. He was instructed in the arts of war and government and all other kingly accomplishments. But Blanche's primary concern was to implant in him a deep regard and awe for everything related to religion. She used often to say to him as he was growing up, "I love you my dear son, as much as a mother can love her child; but I would rather see you dead at my feet than that you should commit a mortal sin."
Louis never forgot his upbringing. His friend and biographer, the Sieur de Joinville,[1] who accompanied him on his first crusade to the Holy Land, relates that the King once asked him, "What is God?" Joinville replied, "Sire, it is that which is so good that there can be nothing better." "Well," said the King, "now tell me, would You rather be a leper or commit a mortal sin?" The spectacle of the wretched lepers who wandered along the highways of medieval Europe might well have prompted a sensitive conscience to ask such a question. "I would rather commit thirty mortal sins," answered Joinville, in all candor, "than be a leper." Louis expostulated with him earnestly for making such a reply. "When a man dies," he said, "he is healed of leprosy in his body; but when a man who has committed a mortal sin dies he cannot know of a certainty that he has in his lifetime repented in such sort that God has forgiven him; wherefore he must stand in great fear lest that leprosy of sin last as long as God is in Paradise."

After a reign of only three years, Louis VIII died, and Queen Blanche was declared regent for her eleven-year-old son. To forestall an uprising of restless nobles, she hastened the ceremony of Louis' coronation, which took place at Rheims on the first Sunday of Advent, 1226. The boy was tall, and mature for his age, yet he trembled as he took the solemn oath; he asked of God courage, light, and strength to use his authority well, to uphold the divine honor, defend the Church, and serve the good of his people. The ambitious barons, who were not present at the coronation, were soon making extravagant demands for more privileges and lands, thinking to take advantage of the King's youth. But they reckoned without the Queen; by making clever alliances, she succeeded in overcoming them on the battlefield, so that when Louis assumed control some years later, his position was strong.

In May, 1234, Louis, then twenty, married Margaret, the oldest daughter of Raymond Beranger, Count of Provence. They had eleven children, five sons and six daughters. This line continued in power in France for five hundred years. In 1793, as the guillotine fell on Louis XVI, it will be recalled that the Abbe Edgeworth murmured: "Son of St. Louis, ascend to Heaven!"

After taking the government of the realm into his hands, one of the young King's first acts was to build the famous monastery of Royaumont, with funds left for the purpose by his father. Louis gave encouragement to the religious orders, installing the Carthusians in the palace of Vauvert in Paris, and assisting his mother in founding the convent of Maubuisson. Ambitious to make France foremost among Christian nations, Louis was overjoyed at the opportunity to buy the Crown of Thorns and other holy relics from the Eastern Emperor at Constantinople. He sent two Dominican friars to bring these sacred objects to France, and, attended by an impressive train, he met them at Sens on their return. To house the relics, he built on the island in the Seine named for him, the shrine of Sainte-Chapelle, one of the most beautiful examples of Gothic architecture in existence. Since the French Revolution it stands empty of its treasure.

Louis loved sermons, heard two Masses daily, and was surrounded, even while traveling, with priests chanting the hours. Though he was happy in the company of priests and other men of wisdom and experience, he did not hesitate to oppose churchmen when they proved unworthy. The usual tourneys and festivities at the creation of new knights were magnificently celebrated, but Louis forbade at his court any diversion dangerous to morals. He allowed no obscenity or profanity. "I was a good twenty-two years in the King's company," writes Joinville, "and never once did I hear him swear, either by God, or His Mother, or His saints. I did not even hear him name the Devil, except if he met the word when reading aloud, or when discussing what had been read." A Dominican who knew Louis well declared that he had never heard him speak ill of anyone. When urged to put to death the rebel son of Hugh de la Marche, he would not do so, saying, "A son cannot refuse to obey his father's orders."

In 1230 the King forbade all forms of usury, in accordance with the teachings of the Christian religion. Where the profits of the Jewish and Lombard money-lenders had been exorbitant, and the original borrowers could not be found, Louis exacted from the usurers a contribution towards the crusade which Pope Gregory was then trying to launch. He issued an edict that any man guilty of blasphemy should be branded. Even the clergy objected to the harshness of this penalty, and later, on the advice of Pope Clement IV, it was reduced to a fine, or flogging, or imprisonment, depending on circumstances. Louis protected vassals and tenants from cruel lords. When a Flemish count hanged three children for hunting rabbits in his woods, he had the man imprisoned, and tried, not by his peers, as was the custom, but by ordinary civil judges, who condemned him to death. Louis spared the count's life, but fined him heavily and ordered the money spent on religious and charitable works. He forbade private wars between his feudal vassals. In his dealings with other great princes, he was careful not to be drawn into their quarrels. If, when putting down a rebellion, he heard of damage inflicted on innocent people, by his or the enemy's forces, he invariably had the matter examined and full restitution paid. Barons, prelates, and foreign princes often chose him to arbitrate their disputes. A rising of the nobles in the southwest occurred in 1242, but the King's armies quickly put it down, although Henry III of England had come to their aid.

After recovering from a violent fever in 1244, Louis announced his long-cherished intention of undertaking a crusade to the East. Although his advisers urged him to abandon the idea, he was not to be moved from his decision. Elaborate preparations for the journey and settling certain disturbances in the kingdom caused him to postpone his departure for three and a half years. All benefices in Christendom were ordered taxed a twentieth of their income for three years for the relief of the Holy Land. Blanche was to be regent during the King's absence. On June 12, 1248, Louis left Paris, accompanied by his wife and three brothers. Their immediate objective was Egypt, whose Sultan, Melek Selah, had been overrunning Palestine. Damietta, at the mouth of one of the branches of the Nile, was easily taken. Louis and the Queen, accompanied by his brothers, the nobles, and prelates, made a solemn entry into the city, singing . The King issued orders that all acts of violence committed by his soldiers should be punished and restitution made to the persons injured. He forbade the killing of any infidel taken prisoner, and gave directions that all who might desire to embrace the Christian faith should be given instruction, and, if they wished it, baptized. Yet as long as the army was quartered around Damietta, many of his soldiers fell into debauchery and lawlessness. The rising of the Nile and the summer heat made it impossible for them to advance and follow up their success. After six months they moved forward to attack the Saracens on the opposite side of the river, in Mansourah. The ranks of the crusaders were thinned more by disease than by combat. In April, 1250, Louis himself, weakened by dysentery, was taken prisoner, and his army was routed.

During his captivity. the King recited the Divine Office every day with two chaplains and had the prayers of the Mass read to him. He met insults with an air of majesty which awed his guards. In the course of negotiations for his liberation, the Sultan was murdered by his emirs. The King and his fellow prisoners were released, though the sick and wounded crusaders left in Damietta were slain. With the remnant of his army Louis then sailed to the Syrian coast and remained in that region until 1254, fortifying the cities of Acre, Jaffa, Caesarea, and Tyre, which as yet remained in Christian hands. He visited the Holy Places that were in the possession of Christians, encouraging their garrisons, and doing what he could to strengthen their defenses. Not until news was brought him of the death of his mother did he feel that he must return to France. He had now been away almost six years, and even after his return, he continued to wear the cross on his shoulder to show his intention of going back to succor the Eastern Christians. Their position worsened, and within a few years Nazareth, Caesarea, Jaffa, and Antioch had been captured.

The foundations for the famous college of theology which was later known as the Sorbonne were laid in Paris about the year 1257 Its head, Master Robert de Sorbon, a learned canon and doctor, was the King's friend and sometimes his confessor. Louis helped to endow the college and obtained for it the approval of Pope Clement IV. It was perhaps the most famous theological school of Europe. The King himself founded in Paris the hospital of Quinze-vingt, so named because it had beds for three hundred patients. He also received indigent persons daily and saw that they were fed; in Lent and Advent he cared for all who came, often waiting on them in person. He had, as we have said, a passion for justice, and changed the "King's court" of his ancestors into a popular court, where, seated in his palace or under a spreading oak in the forest of Vincennes, he listened to any of his subjects who came with grievances and gave what seemed to them wise and impartial judgments. The feudal method of settling disputes by combat he tried to replace by peaceful arbitration or the judicial process of trial, with the presentation of testimony. In later times, whenever the French complained of oppression, their cry was for justice to be meted out impartially, as it had been in the reign of St. Louis.

In I258 Louis concluded the Peace of Paris with his old enemy Henry III of England. Though Louis had been victorious in most of the battles, he now voluntarily surrendered to England the provinces of Limousin, Quercy, and Perigord, while Henry renounced all claim to recover Normandy, Anjou, Maine, Touraine, and Poitou. The French nobility were outraged by their King's concessions, but Louis explained that he hoped thus to cement a lasting friendship between the two nations. Unfortunately, peace did not ensue; the Hundred Years' War was still to come. A similar compromise was made with the King of-Aragon, by which France secured Provence and most of Languedoc, and gave up claims to Roussillon and Barcelona.

One day, after standing godfather to a Jewish convert who had been baptized at St. Denis, Louis remarked to an ambassador from the emir of Tunis that to see the emir baptized he would himself joyfully spend the rest of his life in Saracen chains. The King was determined to go on another crusade, and in 1267 he announced his intention. His people objected, fearing they would lose their excellent and revered ruler, who, though only fifty-two years old, was worn with toil, illness, and austerities. The Pope supported the crusade, and granted Louis one-tenth of all Church revenues to help meet the expense. A toll-tax was also levied on the French people. Louis appointed the abbot of St. Denis and Simon de Clermont as regents. His three eldest sons, Philip, John, and Peter, accompanied him. The worthy Joinville disapproved the enterprise and stayed at home.

Louis sailed with his forces from Aigues-Mortes, at the mouth of the Rhone, on July 1, 1270, heading for Tunis, where, he had been told, the emir was ready to be converted and join the expedition to win back the Holy Places. The crusade was a dismal failure. On landing at Carthage, Louis learned to his dismay that the information about the emir was false. He decided to wait there for reinforcements from the King of Sicily. Dysentery and other diseases broke out among the crusaders, and Louis' second son, who had been born at Damietta during the earlier crusade, died. That same day the King and his eldest son, Philip, sickened, and it was soon apparent that Louis would not recover. He was speechless all the next morning, but at three in the afternoon he said, "Into Thy hands I commend my spirit," and quickly breathed his last. His bones and heart were taken back to France and kept enshrined in the abbey-church of St. Denis, until they were scattered at the time of the Revolution. Louis was strong, idealistic, austere, just; his charities and foundations were notable, and he went on two crusades. Little wonder that a quarter of a century after his death the process of canonization was started and quickly completed the man who was "every inch a king" became a saint of the Church in 1297, twenty-seven years after his death.

Archdiocese of New Orleans: seminarians on the grow!

36 seminarians, including 11 new, a great blessing

Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond    How did the gathering of seminarians go a couple of weeks ago in Rosaryville?
    It went very well. It was an opportunity for the present seminarians to spend time in fellowship and prayer and to reflect upon their discernment process. Then, with much thanks to God, we were able to welcome 11 new seminarians, who were able to get to know the current seminarians. I say this with incredible gratitude to God and also in a spirit of humility that we will have 36 seminarians this year – 29 at Notre Dame Seminary and seven at St. Joseph Seminary College. I believe it’s certainly the good work of Father Steve Bruno as vocation director and also the good work of our priests, deacons, religious and lay people who encourage vocations. I’m also very much aware that, ultimately, it is God who calls. We are there to help people hear the call and to respond. I’m incredibly humbled at God’s fidelity and generosity that we have 36 seminarians. This is very exciting. Historically, I don’t know the last time we’ve had this many, but I think it’s been about 20 years.
     Can you give a profile of the 11 new seminarians?
    They run the gamut. Four young men just finished Catholic high schools and will be going to St. Joseph Seminary College. One man is leaving his law practice to join Notre Dame Seminary and begin his discernment. It’s quite a wide spectrum of people.
    Is there anything common among their stories?
    I’ve been in vocation ministry for a long time, and I believe each story of how God works is unique to the individual. There’s usually not a great deal of common denominators among the stories. You have some people who come back to the seminary after having been there previously. Others come to the seminary out of high school, others from college and others who say their job was fine and they really enjoyed it, but they knew God was calling them to do something else.
    How are vocations among women to the religious life going?
    We feel like there’s been a very positive response in terms of vocations to the priesthood, and one of the things I have talked about with Father Bruno and Sister Sylvia Thibodeaux, the executive director for religious, is fostering vocations to the consecrated life for women. We’re working on some exciting plans that we may be able to announce soon.
    How would you characterize the work of the two seminaries in our archdiocese?
    I think both St. Joseph Seminary College and Notre Dame Seminary are excellent seminaries. They provide good education as well as priestly formation, and I’m very pleased that we have two quality seminaries. There’s no doubt in my mind that men will be given very good formation that will not only affirm them but also challenge them and help them to grow.
    What can lay Catholics do to foster vocations?
    I put out this challenge just about every time I talk in a parish: we need people to pray for vocations, and not just for vocations in general. We need to pray specifically for someone who is in the seminary or for someone we know in the parish who we think has the attributes to become a good priest or religious sister. I really do believe with every bit of my being that the Spirit is moving and helping us create a culture that will be responsive to vocations.
    Questions for Archbishop Aymond may be sent to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

>>>Thanks to Opinionated Catholic for posting this today and another excellent Q & A session in the Clarion Herald with our Archbishop.

Archbishop Aymond and Fr. Steve Bruno are working tirelessly to foster a vocation friendly environment.  Let's redouble our own prayer efforts and support for increased seminarians in and for the Archdiocese of New Orleans!