Category Archives: Columns

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.

Vocations View: Prayer and Pilgrimage

Duane Trombetta (center) with fellow seminarians in the Holy Land.

by Deacon Duane Trombetta, Diocese of Shreveport Seminarian

During my fourth and final year at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, my fellow transitional deacons and I were blessed with the opportunity to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land: the biblical land of Israel and historical Palestine. And so, in January, we set out for what would become one of the greatest and most blessed experiences of our lives.

After arriving in Israel’s largest metropolitan city, Tel Aviv, we headed north along the Mediterranean coast to Caesarea. Even from our first day, we encountered sites of great importance in Church history, as documented in the New Testament (such as the site where the Romans held St. Paul prisoner in the earliest days of Christianity) and in the Old Testament (such as Mukhraka on Mt. Carmel, where Elijah confronted the false prophets of Baal).

During the first half of our journey, we traced the paths of Christ’s ministry in the region of Galilee. At every stop on our journey, we read biblical passages of the events that occurred on the very ground on which we stood. One of my most spiritually stirring experiences occurred when I read the Sermon on the Mount on the actual Mount of Beatitudes. We also prayed at the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves, and the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter.

What a blessing it was to see the sites of the Annunciation, the Visitation and Christ’s first miracle of changing water into wine in Cana. Our first-hand encounters of the Jordan River, Jericho and the Dead Sea offered new perspectives on the life of John the Baptist and the temptation of Christ in the desert. This part of our trip afforded a little relaxation too, by way of floating on the Dead Sea – one of the saltiest bodies of waters the world.

We spent the second half of our journey in and around the Holy City of Jerusalem, beginning at the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed his last prayer before his arrest. We offered prayers for unity, at the site of the Jewish Temple, where Jesus worshiped and celebrated the religious feasts throughout his life. It was stirring to retrace the steps of Christ along the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrow). I was privileged to serve as deacon at Mass inside the tomb of Christ, in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher – the holiest site in all Christendom.

Any visit to the Holy Land is a wonderful blessing. But I feel all the more blessed to have made this pilgrimage as a seminarian with my fellow deacon classmates. By walking with Christian companions, praying and celebrating Mass every day, and experiencing Sacred Scripture “come to life,” we learned what differentiates a pilgrimage from every other type of travel.

I express my sincere gratitude to Bishop Duca and to all the people of the Diocese of Shreveport, for their support and prayers not only during my pilgrimage to the Holy Land, but throughout my seminary studies and priestly formation. I give my assurance that I included you all in my prayers at the holy sites of Israel. It is because of your witness and generosity that I seek more eagerly now to carrying out the Great Commission set forth by Christ himself. My journey has been challenging but joyful. And now as my final semester at Notre Dame Seminary draws to a close, I look forward with great anticipation to receipt of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, to priestly ordination in June, and to serving the faithful people of Christ in our diocese.

Second Collections for April & May

by Fr. Rothell Price, Vicar General

The great event of our Lord’s resurrection from among the dead has arrived! This EVENT, this GIFT, is so enormous that we need the 50 days of the Easter season to worthily celebrate our being freed from sin, ransomed from death, and being clothed with power from on high. I hope you remembered to present your CRS Rice Bowl at Mass on Easter Sunday. It is not too late to do so if you haven’t. Increase your Easter joy. Present the fruits of your Lenten journey to our Risen Lord and His people in need.

CATHOLIC HOME MISSIONS APPEAL
Collection Dates: April 28th & 29th


The Catholic Home Missions Appeal is the work of the Bishops of the United States to provide pastoral ministries to more than 40 percent of the United States that has been designated by our bishops as mission territory. Dioceses and parishes in these designated mission territories are struggling to provide pastoral and material care to the Christian faithful. These mission dioceses and parishes are vital to Catholicism in the U.S. because they bring the presence of Jesus Christ and his holy Catholic Church to those areas. Your sacrificial giving to the Catholic Home Missions Appeal makes living and receiving the Catholic faith possible for those in our mission dioceses across the land.

The Diocese of Shreveport, along with the dioceses of Alexandria, Lake Charles, and Houma-Thibodaux, are mission dioceses in the state of Louisiana. We work diligently with our available resources to provide for the pastoral needs of those in our diocese, especially our small, vibrant and vital rural churches and communities. Your contribution makes the Eucharist and other sacraments, religious education, ministry training for clergy, religious and the laity, available where it would otherwise be absent. Your gift makes it possible to have Christ and his Church present where it would not exist without your help. Thank you for Strengthening the Church at Home by giving generously to the Catholic Home Mission Appeal.
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.

 

Praying Through God’s Words

by Kim Long

Words are important. We all know this from conversations we have or don’t have each and every day, but some words can really speak to us. Some of us even have a favorite word that can serve as a touchstone, something that steadies us, which helps us know who or even where we are. The Church has a prayer practice that illustrates this: Lectio Divina, Latin for “Divine Reading.”

Vatican II tells us to immerse ourselves in the scriptures by constant spiritual reading and diligent study. Here is the simple description of this multi-layered process of praying with the Word of God. Essentially, one takes a passage of scripture through four steps for an end result of some degree of illumination. Those four steps are: read, meditate, pray and contemplate. Like with many things in life, something which seems simple is not always easy.

When I become still, I often find it difficult to stay awake. Sadly this happens any time I am quiet for more than 20 minutes. It is a family joke: if you want mom to go to sleep, just pop in a movie. For me, the “formal” way of engaging in this prayer practice can be a challenge, but I felt I was being drawn into it in a bit of an informal way. Here is what I mean: There are times when I say, “God gave me a word,” and what I mean is that there is a word in a scripture passage which just pops into my head, a word that God wants me to see, to really hear and to think about. It can happen at the most unexpected times!

Read: One morning this passage from Jeremiah came into my mind so strongly, “For I know well the plans I have for you says the Lord, plans for welfare and not calamity to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11. Later on that same day, I walked into my oldest son’s home and was greeted by these same words emblazoned on a plaque he had hung near the entrance of his house. So if there was any doubt that this passage was something important in my life, I literally left that doubt at the door. When I arrived at home later that day, I made coffee and reached for my Bible looking up the passage and closing my eyes, letting God’s words swirl around me.

PRAY: On February 23 I had to sojourn to Ringgold for the funeral of a young cousin and these were the words I received then, “I lift mine eyes to the hills from whence cometh my help, my help cometh from the Lord.” As I gathered with my father’s first cousins and their children, with “the aunts” who were weighted down by sorrow, those words of scripture took me through the next two hours and lingered on the drive home. Once again, I sat and breathed for just a few moments and with each breath asked God that my extended family feel His love and be open to the healing only He can offer.

MEDITATE: Later that same week my niece celebrated her birthday. As I typed in my text message to her, more scripture came into my head and I passed it to her as a gift. “May your year be filled with every good and gracious gift which is from above.” More inspiration brought this passage to me, “for you are fearfully and wonderfully made.” And she is that. From her birth and all the days of her life I have watched her grow, been present with her during sorrow and joy, accomplishments, seen her mature and become a wife and a mother. As her day swirled around me, I meditated on the lessons she continues to teach me.

CONTEMPLATE: “What does God want me to do?” is an often-repeated question not only by me, but by people who drop by to talk. Almost without fail, I recall one of my favorite passages from Genesis 12: the call of Abraham. God tells Abraham from the beginning that he will go to a place he does not know, but that God has this one if Abraham will trust Him. I love this story and for about the last 18 years, have defaulted to it when a situation arises and I need to let go and really trust God. He will bless me and be with me always. He will always keep His promises.

This is an informal form of this wonderful practice. We can find so much wisdom in the holy scriptures. There is wisdom, inspiration, encouragement, love, mercy, more love and peace. However, God chooses to send you a word, I encourage you to be open to it, to examine it prayerfully, and to put it into action by sharing it through word and deed. Pray when you cook for someone. Meditate in the still true intimacy that God offers to each of us. Be open to the words God has for you. As the Psalmist reminds us in Psalm 105, “Your word O God is a lamp unto my feet, a light unto my path.

Domestic Church: Facing Fear and Difficulty

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by Katie Sciba

I had over 20 tabs open online, all of them for rentals within a 50 mile radius. We needed a three-bedroom house for the seven of us, that would accept a dog and our single, modest, self-employed income – hardly a desirable situation for any landlord. House after house we were turned down, not because of finances or even our four-legged family member, but because of the number of children we had. “Five kids? Sorry, they’ll tear up the property.” At one point our options were whittled down to neighborhoods that were shady at best, places that fit our income but squashed our need for safety. I had spent three months exhaustively combing local real estate to find a home for our odd-shaped family. After coming up empty over and over, I was tired and afraid. Our clock was ticking and our finances were limited.

It was just months before when, expecting our fifth child, Eamon, I was diagnosed with a rare pregnancy disease that had a strong chance of claiming our son’s life without notice. There was no cure and no treatment; the only option we had was to deliver Eamon by C-section at 37 weeks gestation, and not a moment sooner. The symptoms were difficult enough to cope with, but the real agony was the helplessness we felt waiting for our baby’s birth, praying he would survive in my body until we could get him out.

The circumstances were our own, but how many of us can claim similar feelings of hopelessness and fear? In desperate situations, faith feels like a gamble to see if God will pull through or leave us high and dry. Sometimes it seemed as though Heaven had turned a deaf ear and we were left to fend for ourselves. Panic-stricken, sometimes the only prayer I could offer was a tearful “Do you see us?” I was terrified of what would become of our family and whether my husband’s new business would sustain us. I was afraid of life without our fifth child and the profound pain losing him would bring.

One of my favorite verses for times of fear comes from Psalm 143. “I remember the days of old, I meditate on all that thou hast done; I muse on what thy hands have wrought.” Right there in verse 5 is the hope for our present distress. When we recall past trauma, pain or trials, we can see how God pulled us through it and how He carried us when we had no strength. In the face of difficulty, it’s easier to worry than it is to remember God’s past faithfulness, but the fact is hope comes with knowing He has seen us through every adversity leading up to now. My husband told me hundreds of times in those months, “God has never abandoned us and He’s not going to start now,” his own version of the Psalmist’s sentiment.

We’re almost a year past these events and I’m sitting in the living room of our wonderful home with my healthy baby boy asleep down the hall. The Lord provided as He always has and always will. Life turns out problems and pain that to human eyes would seem impossible, yet to God who knows our fears, they are calls to trust in His mercy. •

Faithful Food: The Easter Spirit

by Kim Long

We often speak  in the terms of someone “getting” in the Christmas spirit or remark when we notice someone “doesn’t have the Christmas spirit.” I have often wondered why we never seem to say anything about catching or getting the Easter spirit – perhaps it is because Easter, like the Jewish Passover, has to “be made.”

We make ready for Easter during Lent. Our souls prepare through this spiritual spring cleaning as we work to “get our minds right.” There are often arduous preparations for the Easter feast, another of those big and lovely holiday meals.

When I was a child, Easter seemed mature and almost off limits for us children, as though it was serious and something only adults could understand. A baby in a manger seemed safer, nearer our level. Oh there were Easter baskets overflowing with treats we only saw once a year, along with egg hunts and holiday lunch at my Grandmother’s house. We ate ham, always ham, decked out in its own version of Easter finery complete with canned pineapple rings and bright red cherries secured with frilly toothpicks.

For all her ardent preparations, the day fell flat somehow. Christmas just seemed to overshadow this day. As I grew older and converted to the Catholic faith, I began to make sense of this underwhelming childhood experience. For one thing, as a Baptist child, I recall that the focus on the glory of the resurrection was a common theme and the suffering of Christ was more lightly touched on as if to stare in the face of those wounds and brokenness was somehow impolite.

As I journeyed through the Lenten season, I truly gave up things – certain foods, television and negative thoughts. And in the emptying, I filled the space with more Masses, more trips to the Blessed Sacrament, more rosaries and just more God. How could I not reach Eastertide totally ready to embrace the 50 days of celebration? I have come to know that the amount of readiness to embrace the celebratory nature of Eastertide is directly related to how observant and devout my Lenten time has been. Some years it was great, almost palpable, and other times I almost missed the boat finding myself lingering in the grocery store and department store aisles, shopping for ham and new shoes.

So perhaps we can say that our Easter joy is “made” rather than caught, and to make something takes work. Jesus certainly didn’t have it easy, so perhaps this making of Easter, this readying of ourselves to celebrate a love we cannot understand but are so grateful for, isn’t effortless for us either. Perhaps it shouldn’t be. Perhaps it was not designed that way. Perhaps after 40 days of intentional and directed effort we are ready to really hear and begin to know anew the words in Matthew’s gospel, “for surely I am with you…even unto the end of the age.” To know that we have that love available to us 24/7 should be a comfort; to know that we are not always available to it means work, means we are “making” our way to the cross, the empty tomb, and the shores of the lake where Jesus waits for us. May this Eastertide find us reveling in God’s great and all-encompassing love.

My mother’s love was often shown to us through seasonal treats such as these cupcakes from my childhood. I made them for my children and now I make them with my grandchildren. They are not exactly a recipe, but a technique.

Easter Basket Cupcakes

Ingredients:
• Cupcakes of your choice (box mix or homemade).
• White frosting
• Jelly beans or small Cadbury Eggs with the crispy sugar shell
• Shredded cocount
• Green food coloring
• Pipe cleaners aka chenille stems (these form handles)

Directions:
1) Bake, cool, and frost cupcakes.

2) Using a jar with a lid, place coconut and green food coloring inside. Shake to color the coconut–this becomes your “grass” for the basket. Pour colored coconut onto plate.

3) “Dip” iced cupcake top into the coconut. It will stick to the icing.

4) Place several jellybeans or Cadbury eggs on top on the grass.

6) Add a handle and now you have Easter baskets in miniature.These are especially nice when used at each place setting.

In Review: The Secret of the Shamrock by Lisa M. Hendey

Reviewed by Jessica Rinaudo

My nearly 7-year-old daughter is embracing the joy that comes with learning to read. Suddenly, the world of books is open to her. At any given time, I find her curled up with a library book, occasionally looking up to ask me what a word is, or to ask me to define something.

With this budding curiosity and desire to read, she and I are now faced with finding 1st and 2nd grade reading level books with appropriate and interesting content. A fellow Catholic mom, who also has a bookworm of a daughter, suggested the Chime Travelers series by Lisa M. Hendey to me. Aimed at second to fourth graders, this series features twins – a boy and girl – who are around 3rd grade age. They are part of a Catholic family with an adopted baby sister.

In the first of the series, The Secret of the Shamrock, Patrick (the boy twin), struggles with his faith and being mean to another boy. After he brings a frog (named Francis after our pope), into Mass and it slips into the Baptismal font, Patrick is charged with being on the church cleaning team to make amends. It’s during this cleaning, that he gets swept away by the church bells into the past, where he meets an enslaved shepherd he later learns will one day become a priest, then bishop, then Saint Patrick.

This book tackles a wide variety of Catholic topics, including why Catholics go to a priest for Confession, what to do when we struggle with our faith, and why it’s important to get involved in helping in parish life. There is even a basketball-playing priest who pitches in with church clean up and makes the priesthood feel very accessible.

My daughter absolutely loved the scenes where Patrick meets “Shep” as St. Patrick is referred to in the first part of the story. He leads the two of them by faith and perseverance to safety. Through this book, my daughter became familiar with the saint’s life story (which was especially great as we finished it up just days shy of St. Patrick’s Day).

The back of the book features several age-appropriate discussion questions that help children focus on how aspects of their daily life relate to their faith. My daughter and I took turns reading the book aloud to one another, and when it was finished, she looked at me and said, “Ok, which saint do we get to learn about in the next book?” In case you’re wondering, the next in the series is titled The Sign of the Carved Cross and features Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, and we will most definitely be picking it up.

Mike’s Meditations: Good Catholic, Bad Catholic

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by Mike Van Vranken

There is an interesting story where an official asked Jesus: “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Luke 18:18. Jesus peculiarly responds: “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone” Luke 18:19.

Many times I’ve read that statement and thought, “Yes, Amen, God is good,” and then just moved on. But, I’ve realized Jesus is teaching us here about being human. We can worry too much about being a “good” Catholic/Christian, and forget our goal is to love and serve God. We can fall into idolatry by allowing our desire to “be good” to become our focus – our reason for living. I’ll use the next few verses of this story as an example.

We remember that Jesus lists the 10 commandments to this man as the ways to heaven, and proudly, the man responds that he’s kept them all from his earliest days. In other words, this man is saying: “Hey, I’m a good Jew. I’ve kept all the commandments. I’m saved!” Rather than reviewing how his life has been lived in love and service to God, this man seems only interested in himself; in saving his own soul. Can you see the nuance in this? We are created to praise, love and serve God. In the process, we plan to be in His holy presence for eternity. And surely we want that. But when we make “being good” or keeping the commandments our only purpose, life becomes all about us and not about God. In St. Paul’s words, we become prisoners or slaves to the law.

When we are young, we are sometimes motivated by a reward/punishment system: Clean your room, you get a cookie. Don’t clean your room, no cookie. But when we mature, we realize we clean our room to avoid living in filth – not to get a cookie.

Likewise, when we mature in our faith, we also begin to understand that we keep the commandments, not because they are some rule or law to get us to heaven, but because we praise, love and serve God with our entire being. That’s it. “Being good” does not earn our salvation. God who loves us, who alone is “good,” mercifully grants us our salvation.

Continuing the story may help. Jesus tells the official there is one more thing he can do. Another rule? I don’t think so. Instead, Jesus is saying that when we live a life that is attached to worldly things, we are not free to really love God and our neighbor. The attachment takes all our attention and distracts us from God. Like we can do with the rules themselves, we become prisoners to the worldly attachments. So, Jesus tells the man to give all of his possessions away. Jesus passionately wants this man to experience true freedom. The freedom that results when all of our focus is on loving God and loving everyone else; the freedom to live without the shiny, glittery distractions of all we acquire. Again, I don’t believe Jesus is saying we have to give everything away to “be good.” He’s already told us that God alone is good. In his book: The Good News According to Luke, Fr. Richard Rohr puts it this way: “Live it (the gospel) as best you can and leave the problem of salvation up to God.”

Later on, the apostles ask Jesus, “Then who can be saved?” Luke 18:26. He tells them that even for what is impossible for humans, for God all things are possible. A good reminder that our salvation comes from God through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And ironically, it’s when we fall madly, passionately and intimately in love with God, that keeping the commandments becomes our lifestyle. Not that we will do it perfectly, because we won’t. We will make mistakes. But, when we love God with our whole hearts, whole being and whole strength, and when we love our neighbor as ourselves, keeping the commandments is not something we do. It’s who we are.

Whenever we think thoughts like “Good Catholic/Bad Catholic,” change your language to “Love God/Love Neighbor.” Be free of the reward/punishment mentality and allow God to be good – all the time.

Kids’ Connection: Saint Patrick

Click to download and print this month’s Kids’ Connection about St. Patrick!