Category Archives: Columns

Kids Connection: Saint Florian

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St. Joseph Seminary Youth Events

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by Kelby Tingle, Diocese of Shreveport Seminarian

Throughout the course of the academic year, there are many exciting events that take place within the seminary community at St. Joseph Seminary College. The spring semester, in particular, is extremely busy with many events that we joyfully look forward to. In March, the seminary hosted Abbey Youth Festival and the Come & See Retreat which has become very special to me throughout my time in formation.

Abbey Youth Festival is planned and organized by the seminarians. The festival is blessed to welcome approximately 3,000 youth and young adults to the seminary campus. During the festival, there are many well-known speakers who tell their personal stories as well as offer ways for those in attendance to deepen their faith. Throughout the festival, there are also bands and musicians who play. The climax of the event is the beautiful Vigil Mass celebrated by Archbishop Gregory Aymond of the Archdiocese of New Orleans. A candle-lit adoration and benediction, which many participants often refer to as the most powerful spiritual moment of the day, is the conclusion of the event. Ultimately, this festival is a special day in which we all gather in Christian stewardship to express our love and longing to live lives dedicated to our Savior.

One week later, the seminary hosted the Come & See Retreat which is a discernment retreat. Over 150 young men from various dioceses of the south, including 13 men from our diocese, came to the seminary in order to see the life of the seminarians. This weekend offers the opportunity for young men to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, attend Mass, interact with the seminarians and priests, listen to mock philosophy lectures, and bond with other men who are also striving to listen to God’s voice in their lives. It is awe inspiring to see the bright future and dedication that these young men have for the Church.

Attendees at the annual Come & See discernment retreat at St. Joseph Seminary College.

One of the best parts of these events was having the opportunity to see many youth groups and parishioners from my home, the Diocese of Shreveport. I always enjoy the opportunity to welcome those from my home diocese to my place of formation. I was thankful to be able to talk with and get to know all of them during these events.

The Abbey Youth Festival and the Come & See events are important to the seminary community as they assist in forming us pastorally. These events generate a great amount of excitement at the seminary as we anticipate them. They revitalize and inspire the community in the months that follow. At the same time, it is our belief that these events assist the youth and young adults of the Church in deepening their authentic relationship with Christ. I thank all of those from the Diocese of Shreveport who supported the seminary by attending the Abbey Youth Festival and Come & See Retreat. In addition, I invite all of the youth from our diocese to consider coming to these events in the coming years. Please continue to pray for all of those discerning God’s call in their lives, especially the seminarians of our diocese and the seminarians at St. Joseph Seminary!

Second Collections for May

by Fr. Rothell Price, Vicar General

DIOCESAN RETIRED PRIESTS’ FUND
Collection Dates: May 5th & 6th

Thank you for your thoughtful and generous support of our Diocesan Retired Priests’ Fund. I am grateful to have this opportunity to express gratitude for your past and on-going support of our retired diocesan priests. With the passing of Fr. Walter Ebarb last All Saints Day, and the retiring of Frs. James McLelland, Phil Michiels and Pike Thomas last year, we now have eight faithful servants of God in their jubilee years. Frs. John Kennedy, Richard Lombard, Joseph Puthuppally, Patrick Scully and Kenneth Williams are lovingly housed and cared for because of your tender kindness. These men of God and sons of the Church have labored long and fruitfully for the Lord Jesus and his people. Fr. Patrick Madden plans to join that esteemed company of men this summer.

Our Diocesan Retired Priests’ Fund is supported solely by you, the faithful of our diocese. Your gift funds our retirement plan for the exclusive pension benefit of the priests of our diocese. Thank you for helping us take care of our own. Thank you for assuring their peace of mind, joy of heart and transition to a new phase of Christian witness. You are supporting them when they need it the most. Please be generous in giving to our Diocesan Retired Priests’ Fund. (from April 2017 Catholic Connection)

Thank for your contribution to last year’s Trinity Dome – National Shrine Collection. In May of 2017, the Bishops of the United States approved a special one-time second collection to take place in the parishes across the nation to support the mosaic ornamentation of the Trinity Dome, the crowning jewel of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Thank you for your donation which has brought that project to a joyful conclusion.

CATHOLIC COMMUNICATION CAMPAIGN
Collection Dates: May 12th & 13th

Our second collection for the Catholic Communication Campaign falls on Mother’s Day weekend this year. I find this so appropriate because our mothers were our first and enduring communicators. Our mothers communicated love, encouragement, challenge, correction, sympathy, support, faith and inspiration to us throughout our lives. Through the Catholic Communication Campaign collection, our Holy Mother – the Roman Catholic Church, communicates with her children at home and worldwide. Our Holy Bible, says, “But how can they call on him who they have not believed? And 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? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!” Romans 10: 14 – 15. This campaign connects people with Jesus Christ and his Holy Catholic Church.

The Catholic Communication Campaign gives you and your parish family the opportunity to spread the Gospel message. Half the funds collected in this collection remain here in the Diocese of Shreveport so that we can reach souls through the internet and print media. Our Catholic Connection is a prime example of the fruit of this collection. Your support helps spread the gospel message. “Thus faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.” Romans 10:17.

Be a part of this campaign to spread the gospel message. Please generously support the Catholic Communication Campaign.

Navigating the Faith: Memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church New Feast Day

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by Dianne Rachal, Director of Worship

The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments issued a decree signed by Robert Cardinal Sarah, Prefect, on March 3, 2018, announcing that Pope Francis has added the Memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church, to the universal calendar of the Church. The memorial will be celebrated on the Monday following Pentecost Sunday, which is May 21 this year.

The decree begins:

“The joyous veneration given to the Mother of God by the contemporary Church, in light of reflection on the mystery of Christ and on his nature, cannot ignore the figure of a woman (cf. Gal 4:4), the Virgin Mary, who is both the Mother of Christ and Mother of the Church.”

The decree goes on to reference St. Augustine and St. Leo the Great who taught that Mary is the mother of the members of Christ, and mother of the members of his Mystical Body, which is the Church. Mary stood at the foot of her Son’s cross as he founded the Church and entrusted its members to her tender care.

The Magisterium of Popes Benedict XIV and Leo XIII honor Mary with the title “Mother of the Church. At the conclusion of the Third Session of the Second Vatican Council, Blessed Pope Paul VI declared the Blessed Virgin Mary as “Mother of the Church” on November 21, 1964. A votive Mass in honor of Beata Maria Ecclesiae Matre was added to the Roman Missal in 1975, the Holy Year of Reconciliation. Some countries, dioceses and religious orders already had a memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church on their particular calendars.

In adding this memorial to the Roman calendar, Pope Francis hopes this celebration will promote a growth of genuine Marian piety:

“This celebration will help us to remember that growth in the Christian life must be anchored to the Mystery of the Cross, to the oblation of Christ in the Eucharistic Banquet and to the Mother of the Redeemer and Mother of the Redeemed, the Virgin who makes her offering to God.

From the Congregation for Divine Worship
and the Discipline of the Sacraments:
“Decree on the Celebration of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Mother of the Church in the General Roman Calendar”
2-11-2018

Domestic Church: Finding the Divine Plan in Grief

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by Katie Sciba

I lost my dad in the fall of 2013. After dodging more adventurous deaths in his youth, he met his match in cancer. He fought for two-and-a-half years before passing away the day our oldest started preschool. He was 60, much too young to die.

My dad’s illness, decline and passing of course took a toll on my mom. She wore herself to the bone wearing hats of caregiver, wife and mom to three adult children, not to mention her career in parish ministry. In the time after losing her husband, her voice seemed lifeless and her heart was heavy. My mom, who was typically quick-witted and up for anything, was bereaved and weary.

My world and faith came crashing down. I was furious with God for allowing my personal Superman to be defeated and for my mom to be left alone. I was 27 when my dad died, and I felt too young to lose a parent. I wanted him to be around to know my kids personally and be part of my adult life. I still ached for his approval and pride.

This wasn’t supposed to happen, according to me at least, and there was no sense to it that I could perceive. I couldn’t imagine how so much pain could be part of the divine plan, much less divine mercy.

Then my mom met someone – a good, true, holy man who in time vowed to love, honor and cherish her unto death. The spark returned to my mom’s voice; and, in the light of their new life together, any confusion that surrounded my dad’s death was lifted. I realized that just as it was the Lord’s will for my parents to marry, it was also His will for my step-dad’s life that he would marry my mom. It’s my step-dad who will be present in my adult life and who will be grandfather to my kids. The life my family gained through the addition of my dear stepfather brought meaning to the sorrow we experienced before; and not just that, but it opened my eyes to a much bigger picture.

In the middle of suffering any kind of loss, there’s little that makes sense. Grief brings on anger, confusion and sorrow strong enough to blind us to hope. It’s in new life, in change and in seeing a bigger plan, that our joy is made new.

Here we are, the beginning of May, and it is still the Easter season. Jesus’ intense suffering and crucifixion at the time seemed only unfair in the eyes of his followers, and rightly so. How could death be part of the divine plan? But it was from his death that Jesus rose, achieving a more glorious life for not only himself, but also making that same glory available to every soul.

Faithful Food: Summer Recipes for Life

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by Kim Long

Birthdays when I was a child were a Real. Big. Deal.

What exactly do I mean when I say that? My birthday, which falls in the later part of June is hot – no way around that meteorologic certainty. Sweat, mosquitoes, school break, and my birthday all shared a particular season.

On most all other days, life was pretty ordinary, but on our birthdays all bets were off.

Our backyard was green, cool and lush. The thick carpet of St. Augustine grass cushioned our bare feet. In the evening it became our outdoor living room as my birthday celebration drew nigh. The picnic table, longish with a “redwood” stain, was covered with a paper tablecloth which caught wind better than any ready sail, and a huge cake – truly a baker’s creation topped always with a ballerina, though dance lessons had long since ceased. All my closest school mates gathered with me as candles and barbecue pit were simultaneously ignited. Everyone was on their best behavior and it showed. I went to bed thinking how wonderful the day had been, reveling in my gifts and the joy this day always delivered. I was home. I was safe. I belonged. I felt cherished. These are things, in my opinion, we should all be able to feel at least once a year.

Pentecost approaches and we prepare for this celebration of God’s outpouring by wearing red, eating special foods and giving serious consideration to a different kind of birthday gift: those gifts of the Spirit, freely given with the desire that we make use of them as often as we are able. And while we may or may not eat cake to commemorate this day, which has become known as the birthday of the Church, we certainly acknowledge that we still long for a place to fit, a place to belong. In short, this birthday, like all those which have gone before it, can be seen as a type of homecoming, a return to what holds us together as a family, a community of faith and a time to celebrate and revel in the uniqueness within each of us.

However just as when I was a child and the birthday revelry came to a close, so it is with our celebratory “season” of Easter and it’s grand finale, Pentecost.

As we drift back into Ordinary Time and tasks, how do we maintain some of that joy when ordinary things bombard us? How do we recall and remember the love of God we saw so clearly in the empty tomb on any given Thursday when there just isn’t enough of anything to go around? Well, I have been giving that some thought and here is what I came up with – not a recipe exactly, but some food for thought.

If you want to feel you belong in a family, do family things! Go visit your relatives rather than just send an odd text. Be interested, genuinely interested, in what is happening with your own relatives: praying for them, communicating with them, being there for them. Bake a batch of cookies for a relative who isn’t expecting it; make a calendar with birthdays; keep stamps on hand and send a card. No matter how tech savvy we are, most people love mail in their box.

If you want to feel Catholic, do Catholic things! Many of my teacher friends look forward to attending daily Mass during the summer break. Follow their lead! Pray a rosary as you walk in the good weather summer brings. Help an elderly neighbor by purchasing a fan; better still do it quietly and offer prayers for them. Consider helping in an outreach group in your parish. Pray a novena. Start a study group to learn more about the faith.

And above all, know that there will be challenges and ask God to help you meet them with grace and peace.
There will be loss – know that up front. Know that in the ensuing sorrow there will be, as the Psalmist says, “Joy in the morning.” Laugh, pray, love and forgive one another in imitation of God’s example! It is in these moments that we feel that wonderful sense of belonging, purpose and oneness.

Faith in Action: The Light of Christ

by Donna Frasier

I love the Easter Vigil Mass. It is very beautiful, and like many, one of my favorite Masses of the year. There is so much validated over the course of the evening, but the “light of Christ” has an especially significant meaning.

The service begins in darkness, which represents all darkness, void of light in our lives. A “new” sacred fire is built and serves as an image of the Resurrection; usually outside the sanctuary, from which the Paschal candle is lit first and all other candles from its flame. This candle will be used over the course of the year for every Baptism and special liturgical ceremonies. The Paschal candle is brought into the church. Everyone holds a candle as the light of Christ is passed from person to person. We are reminded throughout the Easter Vigil Mass, as Catechumens are welcomed into the fold and our baptismal vows renewed, how important it is to reject evil and remain focused on the light that brings us together. Imagine what it would be like if only one person had a candle, or just a few people; the light would be dim. I can’t help but think when things were not going well among Jesus’ flock; he gave his disciples what was needed at the Last Supper (the Eucharist) to share and spread his Spirit (at Pentecost) to others.

During Jesus’ Passion when his light seemed the bleakest, as he was denied and abandoned by many of those he loved and was inevitably crucified; through it all he prayed with great fortitude (Luke 22:24), showing mercy and forgiveness to everyone (Luke 23: 34). He kept the light alive through the hardest of times and gave his followers the means needed to allow His light to shine brighter. He knew that in the end, it would mean salvation for all of mankind. He remained steadfast and resilient in carrying out God’s divine plan.

There may be times when we feel that Christ is not with us in the darkness, but he is always there. The beloved Psalm 23 is often noted during times of death and despair; and through Christ’s death and resurrection we are one with all who have lived and died through Him. No matter what we face, by rejoicing together and enabling God’s will to be done, we can be united in the Light of Christ. No amount of hopelessness can extinguish His wondrous love. The love of Christ heals us, and we should never let go of that which brings us together.

Jesus did not turn away from those who abandoned him. He showed his love conquers all. It is as simple, and as complex as that. We are called to show love, forgiveness and mercy in order for his light to shine bright; and in doing so, we are able, through the Church and our God, to be prepared for anything.

However, we are not asked to stand alone, we should be joined in the love and light of our Risen Lord. As Jesus, we too must remain steadfast and resilient in God’s plan for us by living through the Holy Spirit; enabling Him to strengthen, protect and guide us.

Mike’s Meditations: Process of Discernment

by Mike Van Vranken

If you have begun your study of Pope Francis’ new papal teaching on God’s universal invitation calling each of us to be holy, Gaudete et Exsultate, you have certainly noticed the pope’s frequent mention of the process of discernment. Surely, he is referring to the ways God respects our diversity and so calls each of us to respond in a unique and personal manner. Discerning how we must answer the calling becomes a necessary part of our daily prayer life.

Even in a more magnified way, however, Pope Francis reminds us that once we believe we know how God wants us to respond, we must ask ourselves: “How do we know it’s God who has given us this information?” In very clear terms, he reminds us that what we “hear” might be from God, but it could also be something from our own consciousness (ego), or our message may have come from the spirit that is not of God; in other words, the devil, Satan, the enemy – whatever name we use. Francis is teaching us of our obligation to always be discerning to discover the origin of the movements going on within us.

How do we accomplish this discernment? One of the best ways I know is through the help of a trained and experienced Spiritual Director. Your Spiritual Director will assist you in recognizing when you are being internally moved by something or someone, and then point you back to God to determine if those movements are His or are they coming from something or someone else. The Director will help you develop a real and continuous union with God in prayer.

What might this process look like? It could take various forms, but would always include a consistent 20 to 30 minutes each day dialoguing with God about what’s happening within you. I use the word dialogue, because it implies an intense listening by both parties. Yes, we must spend a good portion of our prayer period sitting still, being quiet and listening to God’s communication back to us. This may sound foreign to you, but again, your Spiritual Director will gently and patiently work with you until this becomes part of your daily prayer practice.

St. Ignatius of Loyola left us two different guides for what he called “Discernment of Spirits.” These 22 rules, as he calls them, are extremely helpful ways of identifying where our thoughts and especially our feelings might be coming from. As you may have guessed, your Spiritual Director knows how to help you apply these rules to your specific situation.

Pope Francis reminds us in his new teaching, we must be open and “allow ourselves to be confronted by the freedom of the Spirit, who acts as he wills.” He also wants us to know that “an essential condition for progress in discernment is a growing understanding of God’s patience and His timetable, which are never our own.” In other words, we won’t always get answers as quickly as we would like.

Each day this month, read the following excerpt from our pope’s most recent teaching and pay attention to how God might be moving within you as you prayerfully absorb each word and make it a part of who you are. Then, take whatever you notice within yourself to dialogue with the God of the universe who loves you more than you can think or imagine.

From Pope Francis in Gaudete et Exsultate: “When, in God’s presence, we examine our life’s journey, no areas can be off limits. In all aspects of life we can continue to grow and offer something greater to God, even in those areas we find most difficult. We need, though, to ask the Holy Spirit to liberate us and to expel the fear that makes us ban Him from certain parts of our lives. God asks everything of us, yet He also gives everything to us. He does not want to enter our lives to cripple or diminish them, but to bring them to fulfillment. Discernment, then, is not a solipsistic self-analysis or a form of egotistical introspection, but an authentic process of leaving ourselves behind in order to approach the mystery of God, who helps us to carry out the mission to which He has called us, for the good of our brothers and sisters.”

Bishop’s Reflection: Live in a Way That Embraces Eternal Life

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by Bishop Michael G. Duca

For I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance.” 2Tim. 4:6-8

Do you remember the movie, The Bucket List? The movie is about two terminally ill men who meet in a hospital room and decide to try and empty their “bucket lists” – their lists of all the things they want to do before they die, before they “kick the bucket.” Luckily, one of the men is a millionaire and they set out to do as much as they can before they die.

And while we might all have these kinds of lists and hopes, I am certain that a bucket list is not a big enough goal for us as Christians who believe in and stand in the light of the Resurrection of Christ. Just a few days ago, on the first day of this month (no foolin’), we celebrated Easter Sunday and proclaimed with faith-filled voices, “The Lord is Risen.” With this proclamation, we confessed our faith: that our lives do not end with the death of our physical bodies, but rather are reborn to an eternal life. So if this is our faith, then the motivating principle of our lives should not be “to do as much as we can before we die,” but rather we should say, “I want to do as much as I can to be ready for Eternal Life, to be ready to enter the heavenly kingdom where every tear is wiped away and I will never die again.”

This is actually a more positive and freeing way to look at life. First, we avoid the constant feeling of frustration because of the things we never got to do. We also avoid the constant sadness resulting from death approaching and robbing us of opportunity and freedom. We stop looking at death as this inevitable thief and see it though the eyes of faith as the path to our own Resurrection.

When we are focused on getting ready for our Resurrection, we do not stop living but we may live differently and live, in fact, more intentionally and integrally. Here are two attitudes that may be changed by seeing the ending of this life as the beginning of eternal life.

Sacrificial love takes on a new, positive meaning in our lives. To love sacrificially means that we need to give our limited time, energy, and maybe even treasure, to help someone we love or live up to the demands of our commitments of love. This can be hard to do if we see our time as “running out,” or that we are losing time before we die to do what we want. But if we see our life with an eternal plan, we are able to see that love is the way we get ready for eternal life, that there will be a reward for this act of love maybe in this life (and there often is), but certainly we will be rewarded in the joy of eternal life.

Living more simply, we know, allows us time and energy to be freer to concentrate on relationships of love with family, spouse, children and friends. It allows us to deepen our relationship with God and to make time for those who need our help. If we are preparing for the next life, we will tend to live more simply, choosing to lighten our load as we age instead of accumulating as though we will live forever. We will put our time and effort into the heavenly treasure we can take with us, and this lasting treasure is always gifted to us through love.

I do not want to sound like we should be happy to die, but rather I am suggesting a deeper spiritual orientation. If we are living to only empty our bucket list, then it seems like we are always running from death, even to the point of desperately trying to hold on to our youth, our stuff and our money in order to stave off death and live like we will never die. We should not live our lives as though we are running from the pursuing Death, but rather let us always be running toward Eternal Life. If we run this “good race,” as Saint Paul calls our life of faith, then we know we will pass through death, but that is not our goal and it will not slow us down. This allows us to live not in fear, but rather in HOPE. Death is not the end, but the portal, the gate to our salvation. That is the positive goal that should motivate our lives and be animated by our faith in Jesus Christ, who showed us the way when He arose from the dead. The more we believe in the Resurrection of Jesus, the more we are free to live in the freedom and joy that comes from hope in Life Eternal.

Kids’ Connection: Divine Mercy Sunday

Click to download and print this month’s Kids’ Connection on Divine Mercy Sunday.