Category Archives: Columns

In Review: Feeding Your Family’s Soul by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle

reviewed by Jessica Rinaudo

Click here to download a sample chapter!

As Lent approached this year, I struggled not with what I would give up, but with what I could do to bring my faith more fully into my daily life. It’s easy to mutter a prayer at bedtime, half asleep, after surviving another day of work and taking care of four children. It’s much harder to carve out a time in my busy life to actively learn more about my faith and share it with my family.

As I prayed about it, a review copy of Feeding Your Family’s Soul by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle found its way onto my desk. After a quick flip-through, I knew this book was my answer.

Feeding Your Family’s Soul is meant to be a tool for re-claiming your dinnertime and your spiritual life with your family. Broken into 52 chapters, one for each week of the year, O’Boyle asks that you bring this book to the dinner table. Each chapter contains a prayer to be read aloud by a family member; a “Dinner Table Teaching;” reflection questions that invite response from the whole family; a closing prayer to pray together and a prayer to pray throughout the week during dinner. There is also a Theme Extension option, which includes a tangible way for family members to live their faith during the week. And as a fun bonus, this book is chock full of delicious recipes!

Armed with Feeding Your Family’s Soul, I went home and prepared to engage my four young children and husband in faith discussion. Although the book says you can mix up the chapters as you see fit, we started at the beginning with the discussion on “Loving Your Neighbor.” After saying the prayer, I let everyone start eating while I read the teaching and asked reflection questions. My six-year-old immediately and enthusiastically jumped into the discussion, bringing to the table some surprising and thoughtful wisdom. Even my three-year-old had suggestions for ways to be kind to others.  And while my two-year-old twins didn’t have much to bring to the conversation, I was pleased that they could witness our prayers and listen to all of us joyfully talk about God, Jesus, the saints and being kind to others.

My six-year-old was only disappointed that there weren’t more questions to discuss, so we decided to take on the extra credit assignment of learning more about St. Teresa of Calcutta and discuss her life over the course of the week, and even make the soda bread listed in the chapter.

Topics covered in the book range from saintly wisdom to Gospel lessons and practical ways to live your faith everyday to explanations of sometimes confusing aspects of the Catholic Church like the Communion of Saints, for example. Recipes too range from pizza and cookies, to salmon and side dishes – most with an eye to picky eaters.

And lest you think this book is just meant for young children, be assured that the prayers and discussions are applicable for toddlers to teenagers and yes, even we parents who sometimes think we already know it all.

In her introduction to the book, O’Boyle says that she and Mother Teresa formed a 10-year long friendship and their discussions gave her fresh insight into some things many of us take for granted.

“Mother Teresa told me that my children were very fortunate to live in a family. She was accustomed to picking up abandoned children out of dustbins and taking care of them,” said O’Boyle. “She often spoke about the importance of being present to one’s family and of being sure that all of the needs are met there in the heart of the home before going off to serve God someplace else – whether it be on a committee, in a mission, or wherever.”

Feeding Your Family’s Soul is a fantastic tool for helping to meet the spiritual needs of all the hearts in your home.

Kids’ Connection: Saint Maximilian Kolbe

Click the image below to download and print this month’s Kids’ Connection on Saint Maximilian Kolbe.

Embrace Life and Age with Joy

by Sr. Martinette Rivers, OLS

We all know that some people enjoy life more than others, but why can’t we all enjoy the journey? Fully alive human beings see a beautiful world and smile as they taste the deliciousness of every moment. Their laughter helps them to be open to the whole human experience, wonder, awe, tenderness and compassion. There’s color and joy in their lives, and the sounds of laughter and celebration. They are fully open to pain and pleasure. They dream, love, hope, cry and laugh. Others ask, “What’s in it for me?” Abraham Lincoln said, “People are about as happy as they decide they want to be.” You get what you put in it.

If you have no joy in your religion, there’s a leak in your Christianity somewhere. My joy and experience of God as a Catholic nun has been deepened as the years pass me by. I like living with people who I can laugh with as I grow older. These good laughs keep me very human. Laughter is so infectious and helps me discover the unknown. Not only do I enhance my life with prayer and laughter, but it reminds me of a Roman candle exploding and bursting with sparkling lights and spreading its light in all directions. Pretty good image don’t you think? It relieves our lives of stressful moments and enriches others so much.

I tend to agree with Frank Loyd Wright, “The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes.” Our aging should motivate the world and those around us because we continually look for the joy that keeps us motivated. Each moment of our day is shaping us for heaven tomorrow.

Pope Francis said, “The joyful heart always grows in freedom.” Keep the channels of your heart open and let it laugh, let it cry. Don’t bottle them up; let them flow freely.

What is it like to wake up each morning thanking God for another day and being filled with joy? Certainly it’s not just about having more fun, but a “turning towards others” and being totally engaged with the world.

“The more we turn towards others, the more joy we experience, and the more joy we experience, the more we can bring joy to others. The goal is not just to create joy for ourselves but, as the Archbishop [Desmond Tutu] poetically phrased it, ‘to be a reservoir of joy, an oasis of peace, a pool of serenity that can ripple out to all those around you,’” The Book of Joy.

Aging is the one thing that happens to everyone. We are here today and gone tomorrow. That does not mean we can’t be fruitful or productive. We are walking on God’s sacred, aging ground. There is nothing we have that He hasn’t given us. We must dazzle the Lord moment after moment by planting spiritual seeds of love, laughter, joy, peace, kindness, gratitude, prayer, helpfulness, service of any kind and positive thinking.

As we age, time flies. Let’s make haste while we have time left! I can almost see God smiling at us as we age day by day.

Vocations View: Seminarian Encounters Christ’s Mercy at Prison

Advent dinner for prisoners sponsored by St. Jude Parish.

by Raney Johnson

During my summer assignment at St. Jude Church in Benton, I was encouraged by Fr. Jerry Daigle to go to David Wade Correctional Center in Homer, LA. Initially, going to David Wade intimidated me because I did not know anything about prison ministry. However, the first trip I made to David Wade put me at ease. I discovered a group of men just as eager to learn about their faith as my brother seminarians and me, so I shared with them my faith and the theology I learned in my first year of seminary. After the first visit, I returned to David Wade each Wednesday with Van Sanders and Deacon Burt Ainsworth. These two men teach a class at David Wade every Wednesday along with other volunteers, and I learned much of what I know about ministering to those in prison from the two of them.

During the summer, the classes at the prison focused on the Year of Mercy. Many of the discussions dealt with learning about how God’s mercy comes to all despite the sins of humanity, and through the mercy of God, we return to Him by acknowledging our sin and asking for forgiveness in the way of the prodigal son in Luke’s gospel.

After my trip to Poland for World Youth Day, I had the opportunity to visit David Wade one last time before the start of my second year of seminary and share with the men in the class my experiences in Poland and the connection between my experiences there and the Year of Mercy.

Seminarian Raney Johnson visited David Wade Correctional Center during his summer assignment at St. Jude Parish.

During my Christmas break, I again visited David Wade and shared with the men how my summer experiences with them influenced me during the first semester of my second year in seminary.

As I reflect on the time I spent at David Wade, I realize the importance of prison ministry, not just in bringing Christ to the prisoners by visiting them, but also by bringing Christ to them in his Sacraments and sharing in those sacraments with them.

One of my favorite moments of visiting David Wade involved attending the celebration of the Mass with prisoners who are isolated from the rest of the prison community for various reasons. Here I saw God’s work of mercy in action. Despite the isolation of these men from others, they still longed to be in communion with God and the universal Church. The men at David Wade have the chance to receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist at Mass once a month on the first Wednesday of the month, and knowing this fact, my desire to attend daily Mass for frequent communion increased. In the same way, my desire to one day bring Jesus Christ, especially in his most Blessed Sacrament, to those in prison in my future priestly ministry greatly increased.

Pope Francis constantly encourages us to go out to those on the edges of the Church, and one of those important edges is going to those who are in prison. Prison ministry is also important because visiting those in prison is one of the corporal works of mercy. I would encourage any person interested to try out prison ministry, and I thank the men and women who are already sharing Christ by visiting, offering classes, bringing the Sacraments or providing music ministry to those in prison. Similarly, I want to thank the men in prison who allowed me to serve them throughout last year with each visit I made to David Wade, because through them I was able to encounter Christ and the love he has for everyone.

 

Second Collections for April

by Fr. Rothell Price, Vicar General

As we approach Holy Week and the great event of Our Lord’s Resurrection at Easter, I hope you are remembering your CRS Rice Bowl. I thank those of you who started and are finishing strong. I encourage those of you who have faltered, please re-start.  I invite those of you who never began to start today.  It’s not too late to unite yourself to the Lord and His people in need. To all of you, please joyfully present your Rice Bowl to the Lord on Easter Sunday knowing in your heart that He takes kindly and personally whatever you did for the least of His brothers and sisters.

PONTIFICAL GOOD FRIDAY COLLECTION FOR THE HOLY LAND
Announcement Dates:  April 2nd & 9th   
Participation Dates:  Good Friday, April 14th

The Pontifical Good Friday Collection supports the people of the Holy Land and the pilgrims who visit. A portion of the funds are directly allocated to educational and ecclesial projects in the Middle East. The rest of the funds support ministries and programs entrusted by the Holy See to the Holy Land Franciscans who have been serving there for 800 years.  Your contribution to the Pontifical Good Friday Collection makes you an instrument of peace in a troubled land. Thank you for your sacrificial offering on Good Friday, the day of our Savior’s redeeming sacrifice.

DIOCESE OF SHREVEPORT CHURCH VOCATIONS COLLECTION
Announcement Dates:  April 2nd & 9th   
Participation Dates:  April 15th & 16th Easter

The Diocese of Shreveport Church Vocations Collection is one of the visible manifestations of our prayers for vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and vowed life of men and women religious. In two months the Master of the Harvest will bless us with two more laborers for His harvest. In June, Deacon Fidel Mondragón will be ordained to the Priesthood of Jesus Christ, and Duane Trombetta will be ordained to the Transitional Diaconate. Additionally, Kevin, Raney, Nicholas, Kelby, Omar, Jeb and our future seminarians are counting on our help. Please continue to generously support our Diocese of Shreveport Church Vocations Collection.

CATHOLIC HOME MISSIONS APPEAL
Announcement Dates:  April 9th & 16th   
Participation Dates:  April 22nd & 23rd

The Catholic Home Missions Appeal is the work of the Bishops of the United States to provide pastoral ministries which our faithful need.  More than 40 percent of the United States has been designated by our bishops as mission territory. In these mission territories, dioceses and parishes are struggling to provide basic spiritual and pastoral care to the Christian faithful. Your sacrificial giving to the Catholic Home Missions Appeal makes living and receiving the Catholic faith possible for those in our mission dioceses.

Our own Diocese of Shreveport is one of these mission dioceses. We work diligently with the resources available to us to provide for the pastoral needs of those in and especially outside our two major urban centers, Shreveport/Bossier City and West Monroe/Monroe. Thank you for contributing to the Catholic Home Missions Appeal that makes Mass, the sacraments, religious education, ministry training for priests, deacons, religious sisters and the laity available to the majority of our country.

Navigating the Faith: The Origin of Palm Sunday

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by Dianne Rachal, Director of Worship

They took palm branches and went out to meet him, and cried out: ‘Hosanna!’” (Jn 12:13).

The Sixth Sunday of Lent is “Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord.”  This liturgy will unite two commemorations: that of the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem and that of his passion. All four gospels recount Jesus’ messianic entry into Jerusalem in triumph as the people wave palm branches and shout, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the king of Israel.”  Palm branches were used to welcome great conquerors. The Hebrew word “Hosanna” means: “(O Lord), grant salvation.”  Within days, the crowd will shout, “Crucify him, crucify him!”

The diary of Egeria, pilgrim to the Holy Land, tells us that at the beginning of the fifth century the Christians of Jerusalem used to gather in the early afternoon on the Mount of Olives for a lengthy liturgy of the word. Then, toward evening, they would go in procession into Jerusalem, carrying palm branches or olive branches. This rite was soon esteemed and imitated in other Churches of the East. As for its spread in the West, the name Palm Sunday occurs in Spain and Gaul around 600, but there is no procession with the palms. In these countries, the sixth Sunday of Lent was devoted to the giving of the symbol (the Creed) and the anointing of catechumens.  Because of this the gospel for the Mass of the day was taken from John 12, which tells of the anointing at Bethany.  But the passage continued on to the story of the entrance into Jerusalem.  For this reason the Sunday soon acquired the name Palm Sunday, although there was as yet no special ceremony in commemoration of the event.

The custom of blessing the “palm branches” is attested around the middle of the eighth century in the Bobbio Sacramentary.  Since palm and olive branches were obtainable only in southern countries the custom was early introduced of blessing the green and blossoming branches of other trees.

People fastened the branches to crucifixes in their homes in order to protect the residents from any adversity.  They saw palms and the Church’s blessing as a form of intercession for God’s salvation and help against many threats.

At the end of the eighth century there was an increasing number of witnesses to a procession with the palms. The hymn Gloria, laus et honor (“All glory, laud and honor”), which Bishop Theodulf of Orleans composed for the purpose, soon became a fixed part of the ceremony.  In the Middle Ages the procession became increasingly dramatic and theatrical. The presence of Christ in the procession was symbolized either by a cross or by the Book of the Gospels.  In Germany the so-called Palmesel was often used. This was a wooden donkey on wheels, bearing on its back a figure of the Savior. The medieval custom was to gather at a church outside the city walls for the blessing of the palms and then go in procession to the principal church of the city.  This procession has been revived in a sense in the new Holy Week Order of 1955.

Today’s procession on Palm Sunday is not intended to be a historically faithful representation of the entrance of Jesus, but is rather a public profession of a discipleship inspired by faith and grateful love. The congregation assembles at a secondary church or in some other suitable place. The priest greets the community and gives an introduction to the meaning of the procession with palms, and then blesses the branches.  After the branches have been sprinkled with holy water, the passage of the entrance of Jesus is read from one of the four gospels. The procession forms and songs and antiphons are sung as the people process to the church.

The Mass of Palm Sunday receives its stamp from the gospel pericope. It consists of the passion narrative from Matthew, Mark or Luke, depending on the three-year cycle. The theme of the redemptive suffering of Jesus also dominates the other parts of the Propers, except for the entrance antiphon, which voices the jubilation felt at the messianic entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem.

Because the palms are blessed, they are now sacramentals, which “are sacred signs instituted by the Church. They prepare [us] to receive the fruit of the sacraments and sanctify different circumstances of life” (CCC 1667). Sacramentals should be treated with respect and never be thrown away. Palms may only be burned or buried.

Domestic Church: Offer Christ Our Deepest Ruts


by Katie Sciba

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20)”

The Holy Spirit has been hitting me over the head with this verse for a while. I was giving a talk and took a sharp turn off my outline to quote it without thought. Then it appeared in a book I’m reading. A priest drove it home in his homily. The heavenly hint was coming in loud and clear. Speak, Lord. Your servant is listening.

Andrew and I hit a rut in our marriage a while back. It was as if we didn’t know how to interact anymore. Our emotional intimacy was zapped and what was usually a truly great connection better resembled a legal partnership: matter-of-fact with zero warmth. The awkwardness was frustrating and bled over into how I related to our kids. I was short and emotionally distant.

It’s not a unique situation. When we’re in pain or maybe just routine, keeping loved ones at arm’s length feels easier.  Marriage and family – they’re blessings in themselves, yet it takes no effort for us to succumb to ruts. The open-heart vulnerability characteristic to a new relationship tends to fade after years together. We can even lose a bit of zeal for our children over time. It’s natural to grow accustomed to what is common in our lives, but we don’t have to shrug and adapt ourselves to relational ruts. When I consider the above verse in light of family, I’m sure the Lord has other desires for us.

“If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him…”

Jesus will come in. And when he does, he’ll transform and make new that which seems impossible and hackneyed. It reminds me of Zacchaeus in the Gospel – the tax collector skeptical yet curious about Christ and when he opened his door to allow Jesus in, his old vices were transformed into selfless virtue.

What if we could open ourselves to Christ and offer him the deepest ruts, the hardest wounds we have and let him make us vibrant again? It’s a little spiritually daunting – most of us would like to stick with what we know, even if it’s painful; but we need conversion.

Andrew and I were able to overcome our walls by sheer grace. We prayed together longer and with more intention than before. We went to confession regularly. We needed change in how we related to each other, to our kids and most of all, how we connected with Jesus. We needed trust that Jesus will do what he says he will do. But we needed to open the door.

Praise the Lord for this period of Lent and Easter, nearly a hundred days designated to fasting from the world and rejoicing on what God himself has given and deemed valuable.

Change from the norm can be uncomfortable, but the bliss and peace on the other side of that transformation is certain. Pray for the grace to open your heart – even just a crack – to the change Jesus will bring.

Katie Sciba is married to Andrew and together they have four children (with another one on the way). She is the author of thecatholicwife.net.

Faithful Food: Time to Close My Eyes and Leap

by Kim Long

I recently stumbled upon a young 12-year-old contestant on a talent show singing “Defying Gravity.” Initially she was shy, grasping her hands together as one of the panelists asked if she was nervous. Then she opened her mouth and it was absolutely otherworldly, a transformation.

Let’s face it, Lent is easy: do this, don’t do this, think about not doing this. We have a three-fold guide of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Easter, on the other hand, is harder for me: joy, bliss, rejoicing, trust, transformation. With 50 days of less directed joy, sometimes I find myself counting down the days until we get back to Ordinary Time.

Back to the song. A bit of the lyric is, “Something has changed within me, something is not the same, I’m through with playing by the rules of someone else’s game. Too late for second guessing, too late to go back to sleep… time to close my eyes and leap.”

I realized this is what we do at Easter, we defy spiritual gravity and suddenly, we are free. Peter, Thomas and Judas are no longer directing our steps; we trust, we lean forward and gravity is no longer our province.

Life is a gradation – that’s what this young girl showed me when I heard her sing, when I heard her give me a message from the God who created our voices and music and celebrates when we use them!

Now to the kitchen. Tradition reigns supreme with holiday menus, but lately I have felt restless. The old recipes no longer call my name, I wanted to walk down a new road. So, I have foregone my chocolate cake made only for Easter Sunday. This year I tried a Pavlova.

Meringue has never been my first choice, but I wanted to try this dish which illustrates transformation beautifully: egg whites, sugar and trust. While this is baking, you cannot open the oven door. When cook time is over and you turn off oven, you still cannot open it. Let it cool overnight; close your eyes and walk away, trusting that the recipe will work. It did. When I brought this dish, resplendent on a gold platter and basking in trust and Easter dinner glory, the skepticism plastered on the faces gathered round the table melted when they sank their teeth into the first bite. They were transformed.

Trust has never come easily to me, but now I am beginning to believe. I have leaned forward and am flying this Easter season. I know I will land. I know I cannot stay “up on the mountain of transfiguration,” but for now I am defying spiritual gravity. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding.”

Pavlova

Ingredients:
• parchment paper
• 4 extra large egg whites (not a single amount of yolk can filter through)
• pinch of salt
• 1 cup sugar, sifted
• 2 teaspoons cornstarch
• 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
• Your choice of fillings: fresh fruit, whipped cream, pudding

Directions:
1) On a parchment sheet, trace a nine inch circle, turn over and place on a baking sheet (circle is visible but pencil marks not in contact with food).

2) Place egg white and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until firm. SLOWLY add the sugar and beat until peaks are firm and shiny.

3) Remove bowl from mixer and sift cornstarch onto the whites. Add vinegar and extracts and fold in with a rubber spatula.

4) Pile the meringue into the middle of the circle on the parchment paper, making a basic disc shape and mound the sides up to form a bowl shape.

5)  Bake at 250 degrees for 1 and 1/2 hours. DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR NO MATTER HOW MUCH YOU ARE TEMPTED. Turn oven off after time has elapsed. KEEP THE DOOR CLOSED to allow the pavlova to cool completely in the oven an hour minimum or even overnight!

6) The outside will be crisp and even cracked in some spots, but that is the desired consistency. Carefully invert on a platter and gently peel off parchment paper.

7)  Turn over and fill with any of the following: fresh fruit, whipped cream, pudding or your favorite combination! Slice as if you are slicing a pie!

Mike’s Meditations: Who is Life? Jesus.

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Seeing Life, Seeing Jesus, in the Incarcerated

by Mike Van Vranken

Very early in the Bible, God tells us he has set before us life and death, and to choose life (Deuteronomy 30:19). Our human instincts force us to ask the question: “What is life?”  Consequently, for the last several thousand years, we have argued the answer to that query; in our country even taking it to the Supreme Court for a resolution.

I am convinced after all these millennia of warring over this debate, we’ve been asking the wrong question. It’s not “What is life?”  The proper question is “Who is life?”  Life is not a thing; it’s a being. But, it’s not just any being. Much later in the Bible, Jesus tells us: “I am the way, and the truth and the life” (John 14:6).  The question is “Who is life?”, and the answer is “Jesus!”  And if Jesus is life, then life includes all who Jesus is: his compassion, his mercy, his love, his peace, his infinite nature, and his mystery. To choose life is to choose Jesus.

Now, take a deep breath and let’s gaze on one issue where our perspective on life (Jesus) might need a little refocusing. With your eyes closed, imagine the Holy Trinity looking down on the earth, paying particular attention to the United States. As they gaze on us scurrying around in our busyness, they notice that about 2.2 million adults are in American jails or prisons, and another 4.8 million are on probation or parole. That’s about 7 million human lives (Jesus) they see in our correctional system. As they look closer at those incarcerated, they see solitary confinement, hard labor, abuse and even some on “death row.”

Our impulse now is to move on, but let’s sit in this reality for a while. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are surveying how we rehabilitate criminals. How we integrate their lives (Jesus) back into ours. In this meditation, we don’t forget, Jesus is life. Our God is surveying how we treat life (Jesus) in our prison system and how we reconcile life (Jesus) back into our communities.

As I experience this image, I hear God whisper to me: “How does the life (Jesus) in you treat the life (Jesus) in the prisoner?”  I hear Jesus say: “Whatever you do to the least of my people, you do to me.” That passage makes a little more sense to me now that I realize Jesus is the very essence of life.  I continue to think about all who Jesus is.

Jesus (life) is reconciliation. Just how important was reconciliation to Jesus? It was “to die for.”  Am I willing to die a little to reconcile the life (Jesus) of a prisoner back to society?  Am I eager to reach out in some way to help rehabilitate the life (Jesus) of someone who is incarcerated right now? Am I encouraged to share Jesus (life) with a woman or man who is confined to a small cell in a prison right now?

Engaging in this meditation might make us a little uncomfortable. Picturing the Triune God observing how we treat life (Jesus) in jail could cause us to squirm a little. But, if we choose life, we choose Jesus. And, equally true, if we choose Jesus, we choose life.

As we continue our Christian journey of transformation, it would be good to come back to this meditation again and again to see how God might be calling us to transform by showing how we choose life (Jesus) or don’t choose life (Jesus) in our correctional system.

And, as we revisit this image of Jesus as life, he may ask us to contemplate other ways we choose life (Jesus) in our society. Such issues as: war, genocide, euthanasia, physical and mental torture, subhuman living conditions, poverty, immigrants and refugees, prostitution, human trafficking, health care, and many other concerns, including abortion. When we do anything to harm a life – and especially to end life, we are indeed harming Jesus – and even ending Jesus.

So, the next time you say: “I’m pro-life,” remember, God has set before us life and death.  He asks us, in every situation, to choose life, to choose Jesus.

Kids’ Connection: St. Brigid of Kildare

Click to download and print out this month’s Kids’ Connection on St. Brigid of Kildare.