Category Archives: Columns

Kids’ Connection: Triduum

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Vocations View: Reflection – Final Year of Seminary

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by Deacon Kevin Mues, Seminarian

Time flies when you’re having fun!” This statement seems particularly accurate to me at this moment in my life. As I approach the end of my final semester of seminary formation, I feel struck by how quickly this period of my life has come and gone. In 2013, I entered seminary formation. When I began, I thought that six years of learning philosophy and then theology would never end, but it has gone by in a flash. I am amazed by how much I have learned and humbled by how much I still have to learn. In the past year, this has been especially clear to me. Three recent experiences have given me greater insight into what it means to be a priest and what my life as a priest may look like after I am ordained in May.

When I was ordained to the diaconate in June, I was given the opportunity to minister at St. Jude Parish in Benton. There, I had the chance to really enter into the life of a Catholic parish. I was able to participate in the daily activities of the church and get to know the families that served and were served by the parish. Through Bible studies, family dinners, summer camps, hospital ministry, choir, and my participation in Mass as a deacon, I was able to experience a foretaste of the life of a priest. I had the opportunity to learn from Fr. Karl Daigle what it means to be a pastor–that real love of the people I am called to serve.

Deacon Kevin Mues at the Garden of Gethsemane.

In January, my classmates and I went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. There, I had the opportunity to stand in the places that Jesus stood. I was at the Church of the Nativity, at the Sea of Galilee, on the bank of the River Jordan. I walked the way of the Cross. Being in the Holy Land was an amazing experience. The Church of the Annunciation was an amazing point of my journey. There, we had the chance to pray the Angelus with the Franciscans that serve the parish. When we pray the Angelus, we say, “Verbo caro factus est,” or “The Word was made flesh.” When they pray the Angelus, they say, “Verbo caro hic factus est” or, “Here, the Word was made flesh.” My experience in the Holy Land did that for me. It gave flesh to the faith that I believe in. By standing in the places that Jesus stood and seeing the locations from the Bible, I was able to understand more fully the ministry of Jesus and the apostles.

The thing that most inspired me this year was the funeral of Fr. Richard Lombard. It was amazing to see a priest who had given his entire life, 65 years of ministry, to the Diocese of Shreveport. I was able to see in his funeral, the only real encounter I had with his life and his ministry, the true goal of a priest: to live a life that is totally devoted to spreading the Gospel and serving the people of God. As I move toward my own ordination, I look forward to the opportunity to give my life to this diocese. I hope to follow that example and give everything to the people of God in our local Church.

Over the next two months, I will complete the formal education that will bring me to the Cathedral for my ordination. I look forward to the even greater lessons that I will learn from the people of God when I become a priest for them.

Holy Week A Quick Guide

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Second Collections for April

by Father Rothell Price

THE PONTIFICAL GOOD FRIDAY COLLECTION FOR THE HOLY LAND
Announcement Dates: April 7th & 14th
Collection Dates: Good Friday, April 19th

The Pontifical Good Friday Collection supports the people of the Holy Land and the pilgrims who visit there. Your Good Friday gift, honoring the passion and death of our Lord, helps preserve the most significant and holiest places of our faith. In our churches, we walk the tortured path of our crucified Lord in the afternoon service of Good Friday. We shoulder His load in the Stations or Way of the Cross. What a privilege it is for us to walk the way of divine love, mercy and sacrifice with Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Your contribution makes it possible for the Franciscan Friars to care for the dwindling Christian community, the throngs of pilgrims and the holy sites themselves. Through the Pontifical Good Friday Collection, you are instruments of peace in a troubled land. Please give generously to the Pontifical Good Friday Collection. Honor Him by caring for the people and places He made holy by His presence there. Thank you for your sacrificial offering on Good Friday.

 

DIOCESE OF SHREVEPORT CHURCH  VOCATIONS COLLECTION
Announcement Dates: April 7th & 14th
Collection Dates: April 20th & 21st Easter

The Diocese of Shreveport Church Vocations Collection is so fitting at Easter. Raising up vocations to the risen and victorious Lord is most fitting. Contributing to the formation of men and women heroically responding to the voice of our Lord is a glad and worthy ALLELUIA in itself.

This year, by the grace of God, Deacon Kevin Mues will become Father Kevin Mues. This is reason enough to give generously to the Diocese of Shreveport Church Vocations Collection. Happily give so that Raney Johnson, Nicholas Duncan, Jeb Key, Kelby Tingle and Francis Genusa can continue to discern the Lord’s call. God willing, we may have two to four men entering the seminary in the fall to begin discernment and preparation for their priestly vocation among the people of God. Your gift also makes it possible for young people to discern their vocations at the Mission Possible Retreat and the Beloved Retreat held each summer.

These young men and women are God’s gift to us. Support their valiant response to Christ’s call. Give generously and joyfully to the Diocese of Shreveport Church Vocations Collection. Thank you for generously participating.

CATHOLIC HOME MISSIONS APPEAL
Announcement Dates: April 14th & 21st
Collection Dates: April 27th & 28th

The Catholic Home Missions Appeal collection exists to help mission dioceses, like ours. In what the Bishops of the United States called, “mission territory,” the number of Catholics is small in comparison to the overall population. In those territories, the Diocese of Shreveport, and many others, need outside support to provide pastoral and material care to the Catholic Christian faithful. Your loving gift to the Catholic Home Missions Appeal sustains and increases Catholicism, which is so vital in these areas. The presence of Jesus Christ and His Holy Catholic Church is only possible because of the Catholic witness there. As our former Bishop Michael Duca sometimes reminded us, “In north Louisiana, nobody is Catholic by accident; people here are Catholic by choice.”

Give strongly to the Catholic Home Mission Appeal collection which helps us help ourselves. Give the Sacraments of Jesus Christ to north Louisiana. Give, so that religious education, ministry training, Catholic outreach and witness remain a vital catalyst in our part of our state. Thank you for “Strengthening the Church at Home” by giving generously to the Catholic Home Mission Appeal.

Domestic Church: An Audience of One

by Katie Sciba

I’ve lately been looking back over my time with The Catholic Connection. It’s been just over eight years since my first piece was published, and since then my work has been shaped and honed by both my supportive and incredible editor, as well as the education only experience can offer. Though I’m sure it never showed through my writing, every deadline made me nervous to the point that I wanted to withdraw entirely; think of it like stage fright for a columnist. The very idea that my thoughts were printed for the eyes of more than 11,000 people across the diocese terrified me. What if someone disagreed with me? What if someone thought my writing was elementary or irrelevant? What if I actually had zero talent for writing? As a recovering people pleaser, I’m nauseated at the idea of tension and conflict born of differing perspectives; it yields a special kind of sickening worry.

Though the experience is my own, the inclination to people-please is near universal. Maybe you’re a fellow worrier when it comes to conflict; or maybe a fight stirs within you when you’re not believed or given credit. It’s easy to equate others’ disapproval or opposing perspective with rejection and criticism, then feel unworthy or defeated.

If I’m speaking your language, then this is your official invitation to let it go, because the real audience we should work for is small in number and infinitely more significant than anyone else.
“…just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please men, but to please God who tests our hearts” (1 Thes. 2:3-4).

We have an audience of One. We might be tempted to make the masses happy, desperately prove ourselves to those who disbelieve, or teach a lesson to the naysayers, yet the only One we need aim to please is the Lord. Of course, it’s admittedly a bit satisfying when all of the above happens and this is not to say that in pleasing God, we’ll certainly displease others; but if our ultimate purpose is to live and work with integrity, giving our best to imitate Christ in how he pleased the Father, we will gain true peace. Not only does the Lord watch us lovingly every waking (and sleeping) moment, but His thoughts of us are the only ones that have bearing.

It’s a great thought – a really lovely idea; but what’s the practical approach to living this way? One way is praying for guidance in doing God’s will, an act that confesses fear of the Lord, or due reverence to Him (Psalm 147:11). Following with the Lord’s desires is a delight to Him as well, and those desires are perfectly laid out in the 10 Commandments, as well as in Christ’s command to love God with all that we are and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Hebrews 13:21). We also know that God the Father was proud of Jesus during his time on earth (Matthew 17:5), so a surefire way to be the apple of the Lord’s eye is to “do whatever [Jesus] tells you” and follow his example.

In this life, there will be confrontation, criticism, differing views and disapproval; but on the world’s stage, perform for the One who matters most in order to live in confidence and peace. •

Faithful Food: Lessons from “The King”

by Kim Long

It is said that some things may only be appreciated with age. It is said that with age comes wisdom.

I confess that, unlike my sister, I have never been an Elvis fan. Oh, I tried but I could not appreciate his musical talents, his showmanship, his ability to connect with his audience regardless of age; still nothing, no resonance.

And then it came to pass that I was in Wal-Mart one November and I literally stopped pushing my shopping cart and stood stock still. It was Elvis singing away and his voice which carried into every corner of that building began to seep into my soul. I casually tossed his Christmas CD in with my purchases. Much later I came to appreciate his gospel offerings of “How Great Thou Art” and “Peace in the Valley,” but only recently have I “fallen” for his singing.

My relationship with the Easter season is not dissimilar. Oh, I tried but in my childhood experience, Easter paled beside the mystery of Christmas, with its story of love born in obscurity, mysterious gifts and givers, and meals to rival Martha or Nigella. For much of my adult life, I shied away from the true message of Easter: that I would eventually die, leave this world and be happy with God in the next world. You see I really liked this world in all its grit and glory, my children were younger and I could not fathom missing a single milestone. Heaven seemed great, a paradise, just not one I wanted yet. As I have aged, my children have reached adulthood, and my body reminds me I have not always treated it with care, I am beginning to appreciate heaven on its own merits and not just something that is better than hell.

Fr. Andrew Greeley first introduced me to seeing God in unexpected places in his book God in Popular Culture where he referenced cultural icons of the time and how whether intentional or not, God was present. Enter Elvis and his cover of the Everly Brothers “Let It Be Me.” As I replayed the song I began to really hear the words and it made me think that if the Song of Solomon were to have a musical theme, this song could fill the bill.

“Each time we meet, love I find complete love, without your sweet love, what would life be? Now and forever, let it be me.”

That’s when I “got it,” Easter takes the Christmas promise and brings it to maturity. Something to consider in these coming 50 days; and since it is a divine promise rather than the human variety with which I am more familiar, it took me a while to see it. So when I cook lunch for my family on the second, third, or fifth Sundays of Easter, I will take Elvis and his music into the kitchen and dance around the stove for joy – joy in this moment, in this life and the next. Fr.Greeley was spot on: God speaks to us in many ways, even through the voice of a boy from Tupelo.My Easter prayer is that I continue to see and hear God when and where He is found.

This Elvis “The King” Cake is a good recipe for any time. Enjoy a slice with coffee and a little Elvis music.

Elvis “The King” Cake

Cake

 Ingredients:
• 1 box hot roll mix (or feel free to use your favorite yeast dough)
• ½ cup of sugar
• ½ teaspoon cinnamon

Directions:
1) Mix according to package directions, adding sugar and cinnamon to the dough.

Filling

 Ingredients:
• 2 ripe bananas, mashed
• 1/3 cup brown sugar
• 1 tablespoon Karo  syrup

Directions:
1) Mix bananas with brown sugar and syrup.

2) Roll dough into a rectangle.

3) Spread a thin layer of filling mixture onto dough. Leave about an inch of space all the way around.

4) Roll up and join ends together, pinching closed. Bake as package directs.

5) When cool, frost with barely sweetened whipped cream and drizzle rest of filling over frosted cake. Top with sprinkles (gold or silver fit for a king).

Mike’s Meditations: Put Jesus in Context

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by Mike Van Vranken

We’ve all done it. You know, take a bit of scripture that we love to remember and use it for our own justification. And, many times, if we had used the entire scripture rather than our out-of-context phrase, the message might convict rather than absolve us. Additionally, it is so much easier to spot this type of misinterpretation when others do it rather than when we choose to do so ourselves.

Recently I read an article and made the mistake of reading the online comments. Over and over I heard their voices shouting: “Jesus said to ‘go and sin no more!’” Of course, it is an impossible command to keep. Have any of us been able to “go and sin no more?” I certainly haven’t. Jesus did say some form of, “go and do not sin any more” in the gospel – twice. On one occasion it was to a man who couldn’t walk and Jesus cured, the other was to a woman caught in adultery. Both are found in John’s gospel where Jesus mentions sin about 16 times. Interestingly, in Matthew’s gospel he only mentions sin four times, once in Mark and not at all in Luke.

Let’s put the “sin no more” comment from Jesus back in the context of John’s gospel and see how it might look a little different. I’ll use John 8:1-11. Jesus is in the Temple area and the Scribes and Pharisees bring a woman caught in adultery. They reminded Jesus of the law where Moses had commanded to stone such a woman. He responded with his famous words: “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7). Of course, Jesus is not only speaking to this woman’s accusers, he is speaking to you and me as well. In this passage, he is not allowing anyone to punish another person. In fact, I cannot remember any passage where Jesus calls on us to punish others. The story continues with the Scribes and the Pharisees walking away and leaving the woman alone with Jesus.

Stop now, take a deep breath and imagine you are in this scene watching and listening to our Savior and this adulterous woman. She is standing by herself with the Son of God. She is looking in his eyes, perhaps suspiciously wondering why he took up for her and what he plans to do next. She may be worried about his intentions. Yet, he tenderly turns to her and says: “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replied, maybe with a scared and shaky voice: “No one, sir.” And then, in the sweetest, most compassionate words that can only come from an all-loving creator, with deep love in his eyes and gushing from his heart, Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more” (John 8:10-11). Watch the tears begin to flow from her eyes. See and experience Jesus’ gracious and generous smile as she slowly backs away from Him and humbly walks off. Can you feel the freedom she is experiencing? Dare to ponder the joy and love that must now be running throughout her entire being. Can you witness the dramatic change that is overcoming her?

Does this surprise you to read this so familiar story this way? Would we expect anything else from Jesus? This is the man who commands His followers, several times in the gospel stories, to forgive over and over again. If He asks this from us, how much more will we experience it from Him? You may have even noticed that Jesus actually did not forgive this woman. Why? Because He never passed judgment on her to begin with. He never condemned her, so there was nothing to forgive. Rather than condemn and judge her, rather than preach to her, instead of reminding her of her sin, He confronted her with his love. He overshadowed her with his deep and abiding love. And, as St. Paul promised us: “love never fails” (1 Cor 13:8).

The entire Bible is the passionate and intimate love story of God and His people. In the four gospels, Jesus, who is God in the flesh, shows us how to live this love as human beings. Yes, He surely called us to follow Him and all that He taught us. He even summed it up for us in these words: “Love one another. As I have loved you so you also should love one another” (John 13:34).
Let’s all pray for the grace to keep God’s story of relationship with his people, especially the gospels, in their proper context. It is the context of God’s unconditional love for us, which is shown over and over again in his mercy, compassion and forgiveness, and not in forms of punishment. Our role is to share this mercy, compassion and forgiveness with each other just as He has shared it with us.

Vocations View: World Youth Day

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by Raney Johnson, Seminarian

I had the opportunity to attend my second World Youth Day (WYD) this past January in Panama. During this trip, I was able to encounter fellow young Catholics from around the world. The theme of World Youth Day was: “He aquí la sierva del Señor, Hágase en mí según tu palabra.” These words translated into English mean: “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to Your Word.” The Blessed Virgin Mary says these words in St. Luke’s gospel. This passage of scripture was specifically chosen for the theme of WYD to emphasize the “Fiat” or “Yes” of Mary to God’s calling.  Throughout my time in Panama, the speakers continually emphasized Mary’s discernment in listening to God’s call and following that call.

One of my favorite parts of my second WYD was encountering the people in my group who were trying to listen to God’s voice in the same way as the Blessed Mother. The group I attended World Youth Day with was a sort of microcosm of the different vocations in the Church. There were religious sisters, a priest and two married men in my group. The group also contained young single Catholics discerning what God was asking them to do with their lives, as well as young men discerning vocations to the priesthood and a young woman discerning a vocation to the religious life. After talking with them about their different discernments, I began to reflect on my own discernment to the priesthood during my week in Panama.

I started to think about how three years earlier I had attended my first World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland after my first year of seminary. Then my mind went from the past into the future. I began to reflect on the next World Youth Day in 2022, and the fact that I might be a priest when it arrives. I began to reflect on my entire discernment of the diocesan priesthood, past, present and future, through the lens of World Youth Day. I imagined attending the next World Youth Day with a group of young Catholics discerning different vocations and celebrating the holy sacrifice of the Mass for them. This is an important part of WYD; it gives young Catholics from around the world the opportunity to reflect on what vocation God might be calling them to in the Church.

The Holy Father emphasized discernment by the youth in the Church when he celebrated Mass for us on the final day of our pilgrimage to Panama. Pope Francis encouraged us not to put off the discernment of our vocations, but to begin thinking about our vocations in the present.

If I could sum up my experience at World Youth Day, I would say that the Church is alive with young Catholics from around the world who seriously want to serve God and spread the Gospel message. So many young people are answering God’s call in the same way Mary did during the Annunciation. After attending World Youth Day twice, I hope that other young Catholics in the Diocese of Shreveport will have the same opportunity to experience this deeply spiritual event. The next World Youth Day will be in 2022 in Portugal, and I hope it will continue to help young Catholics discern their vocations.

Navigating the Faith: Ash Wednesday Quick Guide

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Ash Wednesday officially kicks off the Lenten season in the Church, a season dedicated to prayer, fasting and penance. It takes place 46 days before Easter. This year, that day is Wednesday, March 6th.


Click to download and print your “Quick Guide” to Ash Wednesday!

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Collection

THE CATHOLIC RELIEF SERVICES (CRS) COLLECTION
Announcement Dates: March 17th & 24th   
Collection Dates: March 30th & 31st

Support the Catholic Relief Services (CRS)Collection: HELP JESUS IN DISGUISE.

The Catholic Relief Services Collection is a beautiful and inspiring way to encounter Jesus Christ during the holy season of Lent. I am convinced that you are like me. I have the great desire to do anything and all I can for the Lord Jesus; and so do you. Together, we love him and want to show our devotion and love to him for the love and devotion he has first shown to us. In our compassion for, plus our reaching out to, our brothers and sisters laboring under the various crosses of many kinds of crises, it is actually Jesus himself, we are helping. Our Savior said, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers (and sisters) of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40 a).

The theme of our Catholic Relief Services Collection continues to be Help Jesus in Disguise. As our great nation supports the work and mission of the American Red Cross, so the Catholic faithful support the work and mission of Catholic Relief Services. We support CRS because of our love for Jesus Christ. Giving of ourselves rightly makes us feel good about the kindness we do for others. And, the good we do for the recovery, safety, and well-being of others not only makes us feel good, but when done for Jesus and in his name, it comes with a heavenly reward. “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25: 34b).

Through the Catholic Relief Services Collection, we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, care for the ill, and visit the imprisoned (Matthew 25: 35-36). How uplifting it is to Help Jesus in Disguise! In the spirit of this holy season of renewing our love for Jesus by encountering him through almsgiving, self-sacrifice, and fasting, give generously to the Catholic Relief Services Collection.

Whether Catholic Relief Services is “Helping Jesus in Disguise” through a crisis, man-made or natural, here in the United States of America or abroad, it is an inspiring and uplifting goodness. Victims of persecution, natural disasters, humanitarian crises, draught, famine and any other disasters that may come into your mind, will know comfort and relief that someone, somewhere cares about them and the hardships they are enduring. Jesus cares and you care. Parents are relieved when help comes to alleviate the suffering of their children. Children’s hearts soar when help is given to their parents. People are visibly grateful when you and I care for them – “Jesus in Disguise.” Please give generously to the Catholic Relief Services Collection.

And, don’t forget to continue to draw closer to Jesus in Disguise through the devotion of your Rice Bowl which you will present, in joy, to our risen and victorious Lord at Mass on Easter Sunday. •