Category Archives: Columns

Kids’ Connection: O Antiphons

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Vocations View: Serving in a Parish

by Jeb Key, Seminarian 

What an incredible year it has been for me. I am now beginning my fourth year as a seminarian for the great Diocese of Shreveport and I cannot believe how fast the time has flown by. It seems like only yesterday that Bishop Michael Duca accepted me as a seminarian. I have learned and grown a great deal in the past three years as your seminarian, and I continue to grow in the love of God each and every day.

Since beginning this journey, I have felt the desire to serve the people of our diocese grow in my heart. I am happy to say that this year, I have been following this desire a little more immediately by serving as a seminarian in the parish of St. Joseph in Shreveport. For this entire school year, I will remain at St. Joseph’s in lieu of returning for theological studies at Notre Dame Seminary.

During this period of time, I will be serving Masses and assisting our priests in providing the Sacraments to the people of Shreveport. I will also be able to take a more active part of the liturgical year of our diocese. My close proximity to St. Joseph School, as well as our other Catholic schools, will allow me to hopefully assist and be a part of these communities in any way that I can.

Most importantly however, this experience allows me to really think and pray more deeply with my vocation. In almost every job, you spend a certain period of time studying and learning under a more experienced person. This apprenticeship for me is teaching me the in’s and out’s of priesthood and parish life. So far I have been working with RCIA, high-school and middle-school youth groups, the parish school of religion, as well as learning from the wonderful staff at St. Joseph’s.

I’ve even spent several class periods with the middle-school religion classes answering questions and sharing my story. These experiences have given me a fresh outlook on what it means to be a part of the parish. The things that I have learned so far are things which you simply cannot learn out of a book in a school; but things which are learned by doing and being with the people of the diocese.

It is lucky that St. Joseph is one of our busiest parishes and I have many opportunities to learn about parish life. I know that my time at St. Joseph will change not only my life, but my future priesthood forever. •

The Immaculate Conception

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by Fr. Matthew Long

There are countless images of the Blessed Virgin Mary. No Catholic Church, hospital, school or home is complete without at least one. Her role in our redemption and salvation has always been recognized by the faithful. The Blessed Virgin Mary bears many titles, but the title of Immaculate Conception is the one that was bestowed upon her not by man, but by God.

The Immaculate Conception as a Dogma of the Church was not formally pronounced as an infallible teaching by the Pontiff until December 8, 1854. On this date the Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus (ID) was issued by Pope Pius IX. A reading of this encyclical indicates that although it was the first formal pronouncement supporting this dogma, the Church’s tradition has always held the Immaculate Conception to be a doctrine of the Church handed down by the Fathers and professed by the faithful in every generation.

The importance of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception can never be underestimated: it is the foundation upon which our belief in the Divinity of Christ  rests. Christ is God and he was with the Father from the beginning. As the Creed states, he is “consubstantial with the Father,” which means that Christ is of the same substance as the Father.

We believe that sin or anything unholy cannot be in God’s presence; God cannot be contained in a sinful place. Therefore, in order for Mary to be the Bearer of the Christ, it was necessary that she not be tainted by any sin. Since, all of humanity bore the taint of Original Sin passed down to us by our first parents, Adam and Eve, “before time began, the eternal Father chose and prepared for His only-begotten Son a mother in whom the Son of God would become incarnate and from whom, in the blessed fullness of time, he would be born into this world.” (ID).

At her conception in the womb of St. Anne, God endowed “her with the abundance of all heavenly gifts poured from the treasury of His divinity that this mother, ever absolutely free of all stain of sin, all fair and perfect, would possess that fullness of holy innocence and sanctity.” (ID). This free gift of grace and privilege granted by God was only possible because of the merits of Jesus Christ.

Under the title of Immaculate Conception, Mary, our mother, is the patroness of our country and of our diocese.

I once visited the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Natchitoches, within it lies the remains of the first Bishop of Natchitoches, Augustus Marie Martin. Upon the marble slab marking his tomb is his Episcopal Coat of Arms, and at the center of his shield is the symbol of the Immaculate Conception. As I began to read about the Immaculate Conception, I discovered that this same symbol was on the back of the Miraculous Medal. I then obtained some Miraculous Medals for each of our seminarians and the bishop blessed them. I sent them to each of our seminarians and asked them to pray each morning with me:

“O, Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.” Therefore all of us were united in our prayer to our patroness to foster a culture of vocations and to be faithful sons of the Church.

I encourage all of you to place your own lives under the Immaculate Conception’s patronage and join me in this prayer for the Church in the Diocese of Shreveport and our nation as all of us work together to re-evangelize our world.  •

*This is an edited version of an article that was originally printed in the December 2012 edition of  The Catholic Connection.


December Second Collections

by Fr. Rothell Price

RETIREMENT FUND FOR RELIGIOUS

Announcement Dates:
November 25 & December 2 

Collection Dates:
December 8 & 9 

Please give to those who have given a lifetime.” Your gift provides vital support to our senior Catholic sisters, brothers and religious order priests who have given their all to nourish the faith of Catholics throughout our nation. They have been devoted and vigorous laborers in the Lord’s vineyard alongside diocesan priests and lay leaders.  Your generous and joyful participation in the Retirement Fund for Religious Collection is a fitting expression of our gratitude to the Lord, who called these men and women to their religious vocations. Reach out and touch them in their senior years when their need for assistance is at its height.

While many senior religious, weakened by advanced age and illness need our assistance, others continue to serve in a wide range of volunteer and prayer ministries. You can reward the dedication and hard work they gave in our Catholic Schools, hospitals, numerous social service organizations and advocacy positions. Please give to those who have given a lifetime. Through the Retirement Fund for Religious Collection, you will free them from worry by ensuring that they will have appropriate medications, medical and nursing care, and more. Your gift assures that their religious communities are able to make long-term plans for their quality eldercare. Thank you for your participation in the Retirement Fund for Religious Collection on December 8 and 9. May our Lady of Guadalupe, in her Immaculate Conception, intercede for you as you lovingly give to those who have given a lifetime. •

 

DIOCESAN INFIRM PRIESTS’ FUND

Announcement Dates:
December 16 & 23

Collection Dates:
December 24 & 25

Love. Hope. Joy. Peace. These are the four joyful virtues of the Advent season leading to the great celebration of the Incarnation of our God at Christmas. The name lodged in our hearts is “Emmanuel,” meaning, “God is with us.” The Diocesan Infirm Priests’ Fund Collection is a beautiful spiritual opportunity to tangibly shower love, hope, joy and peace upon our infirm priests. What we do for them, we do in honor of Him who called and graced them for His service. Your joyful participation in this collection is a beautiful Christmas present to the holy Christ child, his Church, and his priest brothers and servants.

Our infirm diocesan priests need us. This collection for their physical and spiritual well-being lasts throughout the new year. The Diocesan Infirm Priests’ Fund collection makes a dignified life possible for these men of God, even within whatever restraints their diminished health imposes on them. Please think of them generously at the Masses on Christmas Eve and Day, December 24 and 25. Make their days merry and bright through your gift to the Diocesan Infirm Priests’ Fund Collection.

I wish you Advent and Christmas blessings.  •

 

 

Keep Christ at the Center of Your Celebrations

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by Katie Sciba

I sauntered through the Christmas section of a department store last year, beaming because my heart equates decorations and ornaments with bliss and glee. Ribbons, tiny pine trees and clunky wood signs were everywhere donned with reindeer and messages of “Merry & Bright.” Aisle after aisle overflowed, but it was only on a single, small rack where I found decor relevant to Jesus. Christmas has been secularized for years, I know, but more than any other year, I felt deeply bothered. The reality of God coming into the world He created is a more enormous and profound idea than our minds can comprehend. Christmas is the Lord’s birthday, yes, and also the dawn of man’s salvation. I know I’m preaching to the choir when I say we should keep Christ in Christmas, and in case you’re pragmatic like me, here’s a list of ways to do it.

1. Learn Salvation History During Advent

A fantastic way to recognize Jesus in the Christmas season is to spend Advent learning salvation history, and it doesn’t have to be as daunting as it sounds. Get your tree set up for Advent and decorate it with Jesse Tree ornaments. These special ornaments are hung one day at a time leading up to Christmas, and each has a corresponding scriptural passage about the ancestry of Jesus. Complete kits are available online, or you can sort through your own decorations to find ornaments relevant to this time-honoring tradition.

2. Give Catholic Presents

Maybe our kids are weird, but they get all giddy opening clothes as well as toys Christmas morning. We typically get them fun graphic tees featuring superheroes or fairies; but it occurred to me that our kids would relish showcasing their favorite saints on their clothes; they are, after all, real-life superheroes. Other meaningful Catholic gifts are saint medals, holy water, a blessed crucifix, art for bedrooms or living areas or a rope rosary. Or call your parish and ask for a Mass to be offered for your loved ones – the Mass card will make a perfect stocking stuffer, with out of this world perks!

3. Decorate for Advent

When it comes to big decor trends, the writing’s literally on the wall. We eat up signs with gorgeous lettering, so this year put up “Oh Holy Night” or “Glory to the Newborn King.” Display your nativity scene, heirloom or Fisher Price, and save the baby Jesus for Christmas Day. LSU fans know purple goes with everything, and it’s conveniently the same liturgical color for Advent! Deck your halls with all the purple and gold you have and you’ll see that your parish will feature the very same colors before Christmas. Trade them in for whites, reds and greens just before the Big Day to give yourself and your family a visual hint that the season has changed.

It’s time to actively underscore Christ in Christmas. Prepping our hearts with a Jesse Tree and short Bible readings, adding a touch of faith to our gifts and decorating our homes with words joyfully proclaiming Christ’s coming and birth will stir a change within us. Making exterior room for Jesus in our homes will in turn make interior room for Him within our souls. Our experience of Christmas will be happier than ever when we immerse ourselves in the “Reason for the Season.” •

 

Faithful Food: It’s Fruitcake Weather

by Kim Long

I don’t know many words, which just by their utterance, can take aim at the “Christmas spirit” quite like the word “fruitcake” does. A word which offers no middle ground, it elicits either love or hate. Over time I admit that I grew from hate and disgust at the unidentifiable and unnaturally colored fruit to a genuine fondness for it.

Today my ingredients have been assembled, my recipe smudged with eggs and batter from other years on the kitchen table, and the Saturday after Thanksgiving I ready the scene: Medieval Christmas music, a pre-heated oven, and a large bowl to hold all the elements for this traditional fare. Once mixed and in the oven, I will have a moment to read a little of A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote, one of my favorite stories of all time, and so appropriate since “it’s fruitcake weather” here, too.

I decided a better way to introduce this Christmas staple to my own branch of the family was to put only the ingredients we actually liked. The only fruit are candied cherries, red only, and I add chopped pecans. That was my starter recipe. Over time I have added “just a schoonch” of candied peel and pineapple. And today, gentle reader, I confess I follow her recipe to the letter.

A few years ago, I decided to enlarge on tradition by making the Irish Christmas cake. I read recipes like people read novels. It sounded, gulp, a lot like fruitcake. In all my research I came across some recipes for a steamed Christmas pudding. It sounded so Dickensian!  I followed the recipe to the letter and low and behold it worked. If only my grandmother could see it.

This year, however, I have plans to celebrate my southern roots and my mother. I return to her Orange Slice Cake recipe. My mother played the piano for the Christmas cantata at our church, sewed like a professional, spoke southern and she was good at anything she put her hand to, including this cake. It has the texture of fruitcake with a surprise: it is delicious with no provisos or age distinctions – it is just plain good.

So I shall forgo Dickens for family, and candied peel for candy orange slices.

May your Christmas season be merry and bright and may you find time for a cup of coffee or tea and a slice of your favorite Christmas cake!

Mama’s Orange Slice Cake

Ingredients:

• 1 cup butter (softened real good)*

•  2 cups granulated sugar

•  4 eggs

•  ½ cup buttermilk  (don’t use sour milk, here splurge on the real thing)

• 1 teaspoon baking soda, dissolved in the buttermilk

• 3 ½ cups flour, sifted, reserving ½ cup (cake flour is better but if not using it, sift three times)

• 1 box dates (buy the chopped ones, just as good)

• 1 lb. orange candy slices

•  2 cups pecans, chopped (walnuts if you prefer or omit if nuts are disagreeable)

• 1 cup frozen coconut, grated, fully thawed (I prefer the canned)

1 cup of orange juice

• 2 cups confectioner’s sugar

Directions:

1) Chop the orange slices, dates and pecans. Place in large mixing bowl.

2) Add the ½ cup reserved flour. Toss together until pieces are coated. Add the coconut, toss again to coat. Set aside.

3) In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar, until smooth. (Don’t rush this step, Kim).

4) Add eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition just until incorporated.

5) Mix the baking soda into the buttermilk. Stir until dissolved.

6) Add flour, alternating with milk, adding portion of flour first, and ending with flour. Mix after each addition, just until incorporated together.

7) Use a large spoon to fold the orange pieces mixture into the batter just until combined.

8) Place batter into a lightly greased and floured tube pan. Place in oven preheated 250F degrees, on center rack.

9) Bake from 2 to 2 ½ hours, or until done. Insert wooden toothpick, if it pulls out clean, cake is done.

10) Remove from oven, set on wire cooling rack.

11) Place the orange juice and confectioners’ sugar in a small mixing bowl. Stir until well mixed.

12) Pour the orange juice and sugar mixture over the cake as soon as you remove cake from oven.

13) Let stand in pan overnight then unmold cake.

 

* The notes in parenthesis are her’s to me!

Do You Allow Incarnation?

by Mike Van Vranken

Unfortunately, December is sometimes the only month we talk about Incarnation. I say unfortunately, because as Christians, we have no visible representation of God without Incarnation. “He is the image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation” Col 1:15. The author of Colossians is attesting that the Son of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity is the image of the invisible God.

“For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and invisible, . . . all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things and in him all things hold together” Col 1:16-17.  Again, it is very clear these verses are about Christ since the beginning, not just about the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.

But my purpose with this article is not to determine if Incarnation happened 2,000 years ago at the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ become man, or 13.7 billion years ago with the creation of the universe. Instead, I want to propose the image and reality that Incarnation is present today; present in our lives; present when we allow it.

Meister Eckhart, the 14th century Dominican, taught that Incarnation is always continuing as the “Word” of God (another name for the “Son” of God) and is always seeking to be birthed and expressed in creation – especially birthed in you and me. “In one sermon, Eckhart wondered, Why do we pray? Why do we fast? Why do we do all our works? Why are we baptized? Why (most important of all) did God become man? I would answer, in order that God may be born in the soul . . .” Mysticism and Prophecy by Richard Woods, OP.

Can you spend time each day this month reflecting on Incarnation in this sense:  That the Son is waiting to be born, made visible and manifested in you on a daily basis, each and every day? Just as the Word was made flesh in Jesus of Nazareth in Bethlehem, and was the physical manifestation of God, are you willing to allow the Word to be made flesh in you as the physical manifestation of God every day of your life? Not that you become God, but that you allow Him to be birthed and represented and manifested within you? More from Meister Eckhart on “Christ Continuing to be Incarnated in Us:”

“What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly but does not take place within myself?

And, what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace and if I am not also full of grace?

What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to His Son if I do not also give birth to him in my time and in my culture?

This, then, is the fullness of time; When the Son of God is begotten in us.”

(Meditations with Meister Eckhart,
Matthew Fox)

My recommendation is to reverently, and with trust in Him, ask God for the grace to open your mind and heart for the desire to give birth to His eternal Son over and over again (a new understanding of being “born again).”

Once you experience that desire, sit with God in the quiet and ask Him to show you ways this Incarnation can take place in you. Maybe it manifests as a newfound love of those who frustrate you. Maybe it is the birth of extravagant forgiveness for someone in your past – maybe even yourself. It could be a new creation of love for refugees or the poor. Perhaps it evolves as compassion for a family member who has disappointed you. And, like many Christmas surprises, it may be some new way that you can be the physical image of God that you have never dreamed of.

This may all be a very new way to view Incarnation for you. Be gentle with yourself and remember, new perspectives take weeks and even months before they become our normal reality. But when you begin to see Incarnation as part of your daily discipleship, the infant Christ within you will leap “for joy,” and Incarnation will be something you proclaim and experience all year long.  •

From the Editor

by Jessica Rinaudo

You may have noticed that the cover of this issue of The Catholic Connection magazine looks a little different this month – it is an illustration of the five priests who died in serving the sick in the Shreveport Yellow Fever epidemic of 1873. These are the same priests who are depicted in the stained glass windows inside Holy Trinity Church in downtown Shreveport.

This cover is the first of many illustrations you will see in The Catholic Connection in the coming months. The Cathedral of St. John Berchmans, most notably Fr. Peter Mangum, Dr. Cheryl White and Ryan Smith, have embarked on a project to commemorate the 145th anniversary of the Shreveport Yellow Fever epidemic, and help make the faithful of our diocese more aware of the importance of these five martyrs, as well as the three Daughters of the Cross who died in the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1873. As part of their project, they have commissioned comic book artist and illustrator, Deacon Andrew Thomas, to draw a comic book of the events surrounding the lives of these priests in 1873, including their faith, service and deaths. One to two of those pages will be released each month in The Catholic Connection magazine as a serial, telling this important piece of Shreveport Catholic history. This project is sponsored by the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans, and we are grateful to be able to share it with all the people of the Diocese of Shreveport.

With that in mind, there are several other articles in this issue that relate to this topic: an interview with the illustrator, Deacon Andrew Thomas; a story on St. Joseph Cemetery, where two of these priests are buried; information on martyrs in the Catholic church; and, of course, the main feature, which details the stories of these priests and how they shared their lives with the faithful of Shreveport in 1873. And don’t forget our Kids’ Connection this month ! There is also information about an upcoming podcast series on these priests that will debut the first weekend in November.

We hope you enjoy this special issue of The Catholic Connection, timed to print in conjunction with All Saints and All Souls days, and that you remember these martyrs in your prayers, especially during the month of November. •

Kids’ Connection: Shreveport Yellow Fever Martyrs

Click to download and print this month’s Kids’ Connection on the priests who died in the Shreveport Yellow Fever epidemic of 1873.

Vocations View: Overcoming Obstacles to Seminary

by Chris Dixon

Have you ever planned for a big event, and in the end felt something was still missing? I’m all too familiar with this process – it’s been the story of my life! I’m happy now to have found what I’ve been missing for almost 30 years. After growing up Baptist and finding my way to the Catholic Church, I now feel that God is calling me to be a priest!

That definitely wasn’t my initial plan. I had the dreams many young people do after college: a career, family, friends, success. I was brought up well and had the foundation I needed to make it in life. I achieved much of what I set out to do, but something was still missing.

I will never forget finding the missing piece to my life on Christmas Eve at a midnight Mass at St. Joseph Parish in Mansfield. As a Southern Baptist, when I was invited to the midnight service, I didn’t know what I was walking in to. I heard the rumors and was certainly skeptical of the Catholic faith. Something nudged me on. I’ll be forever grateful to my friend for inviting me, because that night my life changed forever when I experienced the “True Presence of God.”

After that experience I did lots of research and began learning about the Catholic Church and her teachings. Over the course of a few years, I reached out to RCIA directors at a few churches. I found just the place to begin my journey of faith at St. Matthew Parish in Monroe. Deacon Scott Brandle and the entire parish were so very welcoming. Towards the end of my RCIA journey, a seminarian spoke to our class about vocations. It was during this conversation that I first experienced God’s call in my life. At first I told God, “Not me! I have plans I’m living out!” But God continued to call, and I reluctantly began to listen.

After I was welcomed into the Church, I began to seriously consider what my vocation was and what God was asking of me. During prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament, God again tugged my heart and I felt He was calling me to the priesthood. I spoke with several of my new friends about this experience and they encouraged me to speak with the Vocations Director.
Vocations Director Fr. Matthew Long told me I needed to practice my faith for a few years to be considered for the priesthood. I was eager to do just that. I moved to Shreveport and joined Holy Trinity Parish. A new job, a new faith, I was ready! I couldn’t have asked for a better guide to this faith than my pastor, Msgr. Earl Provenza. We quickly became very good friends and he showed me the gift and sacrifice of the priesthood. I became more and more in love with the Church and service to others. I was active in the church inside and out, especially with service to those in need through the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

I found a routine and was becoming comfortable with my new Catholic way of life when I was invited to attend an ACTS retreat. I had never been on retreat before and didn’t know what to expect. I went in with an open mind and heart and with an intention to understand what God’s plans were for me and for my life. It was there the Holy Spirit moved and spoke to me in such a real way. I was kneeling at the foot of the bed, praying while looking at the crucifix, I heard Jesus ask me three times, “Chris, do you love me?” I knew without a doubt that God was calling me to His priesthood. I couldn’t wait to get back and speak with Fr. Long again.
I completed my application and turned it into the diocese. I met with Fr. Jerry Daigle, current Vocations Director, to discuss my application and fill him in on my journey up to this point. Upon review of my application, there appeared to be one thing that hindered me taking my next steps: my educational debt. I wasn’t sure what the next steps were or how I would overcome this hurdle.

Many hours of prayer and adoration were answered with an introduction to the Labouré Society. The Labouré Society has answered the call of assisting men and women in their journey of discerning a vocation by helping them overcome educational debt. I’m now part of a class of 16 other men and women who are raising money for church vocations. Any donation made in my honor gets me and my classmates closer to our vocation. Approved by the Catholic Church, this organization has helped over 300 people enter formation.

I’ve learned to consult with God through prayer and active listening now before making changes and decisions in my life. I know that Christ and the Blessed Mother are watching over each of us and I truly feel the Holy Spirit is guiding and encouraging me in this journey. We all must follow our vocations, and even when they seem impossible, God is ready to show us nothing is impossible when He is directing the way.

It is good for us all to pray for each other. I appreciate your prayers for me as I continue to discern God’s call in my life, and rest assured of my prayers for you as you similarly try to discern God’s call in yours.

If you have questions about my vocation story, my work with the Labouré Society, or would simply like to visit, please feel free to contact me. May God continue to bless each of us!

chrisd@laboureaspirant.org
https://labouresociety.org/christopher-dixon