Category Archives: Columns

Mike’s Meditations: Stop, Be Still and Breathe

1018mvv

by Mike Van Vranken

In my June article, I explained the difference between reactions and responses. I had no idea how much I would depend on my own words just a couple of months later. Seething with the news of abuse, cover-ups, demands for heads to roll and the like, I became furious that, as a Church, we were not reaching out to victims; asking them to come tell us their stories so we could listen and minister to them. Yes, we began praying for them, and I hope we have communal prayers for them for many years to come. But they are hurting and alone and we were not begging them to come to us so we can say we are sorry; that God loves them; and so do we. We seem to be, like Pilate, washing our hands of any responsibilities here. My training finally kicked in and I took my very deep feelings and emotions to God, rather than to the public. There is a reason why Matthew 11:28 is never translated: “Come to Facebook, all of you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”

The Pharisees asked Jesus about Moses’ law requiring a woman caught in adultery to be stoned to death. Instead of answering, he bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger (John 8:6). I’m confident he stopped, got quiet, and took his feelings and emotions to his Father in heaven. These people were trying to trick him. He was probably mad, offended and even self-righteous. But, he didn’t defend himself or even the woman right away. He stopped, got quiet, and took it all to God. Only when he heard from his Father could he respond. And, not with a “yes” or a “no.” He replied with words that made them examine themselves.

Another time, in a life or death situation, “the high priest rose and addressed him, ‘Have you no answer? What are these men testifying against you?’ But he was silent” (Matthew 26:62-63). He could have explained himself, but he waited. He would let his humiliating death and glorious resurrection be his explanation. Again, I’m certain he went to his Father, as he often did, and quietly discussed what was going on within him, and who his Father wanted him to be in this situation. To be a good leader, to be Christ-like, I knew this is also what I needed to do before responding to any of this.

As I took my pain, hurts and brokenness to God, I explained to Him how the Church needed to change so we could minister to the direct victims of this abuse. See, I once knew a priest who victimized young boys; around 25 of them. I am very close to people who were shattered when it was all made public. And their pain is passed on to friends, family, children, grandchildren and more. While I was letting God know what needs to be done, He gently and lovingly spoke to my heart in very specific words: “If you want to change the Church, remember two things: 1) you are the Church, and 2) the only person you can change, with my help, is yourself.” Ouch! This is not what I wanted to hear. But with His patience, and the grace of openness, my blindness was removed to see that it is true. If I want the Church to change, it begins with me.

We wonder how a change in one person can change the entire Church. He reminded me of the time when a whole lot of people were hungry, he took two fish and some bread and fed thousands (Luke 9:10-17). One other time He taught that if we plant good seed in good ground, the seeds would grow into fruit that was as much as 30, 60 and 100 fold (Mark 4:1-20).

A lot of energy has been used pointing fingers and lashing out. May I suggest that we take a very deep breath, be quiet, sit still and know that God is God (Psalm 46:10). Like Jesus did, like St. Ignatius Loyola taught, let’s spend time each and every day taking our feelings, hurts, shame, outrage and all we are experiencing to God. Ask Him where these movements within you are coming from. Are they coming from the enemy who wants us to hurt the Church and our relationship with God? Are they coming from our own inner self who loves to focus on others’ deeds rather than our own. Or, finally, are they coming from God who wants to reverently and lovingly help us change into new men and women in Christ; to be born again each day so we can continue to evolve into the saints He made us to be?

Please, spend 20 minutes a day taking all of this to God asking Him who he wants you to become. If you want to change the Church, remember two things: 1) you are the Church, and 2) the only person you can change, with God’s help, is yourself.

Review: God Isn’t Finished with Me Yet

God Isn’t Finished with Me Yet
by Barbara Lee

Reviewed by Marie Rinaudo

When you turn 80, it seems nobody listens to you any more and no one cares about your opinion. At least this is the sentiment that author Barbara Lee heard from an 86-year-old woman in a retirement home. In God Isn’t Finished with Me Yet, Lee, who is well over 80 herself and capable of attracting a lot of attention, wants to enable those who have reached, or are near reaching their eighth decade, not to despair; she is convinced there is still time for them to learn and still time to speak out.

When Lee retired from her career as an attorney and judge, still full of the energy that had kept her active for nearly 40 years, she set out on another path. First, she volunteered with the Ignatian ministry to the poor in New York, and shortly afterwards she began the natural next step –Ignatian Spirituality.

For three summers she, along with graduate students much younger than herself, studied Loyola’s spiritual exercises at Creighton University, the center for Jesuit Spirituality. At 86, she is now a practicing spiritual director.

Her book is a memoir on her retirement years as a volunteer and her experience as a director. But it is also a self-help book on understanding the aging process and how St. Ignatius’ spiritual exercises can be a great aid in coping with the frequently frustrating experience of growing old. Having found success and consolation in retirement, Lee hopes to offer assistance to others in doing the same.

In each chapter she applies the spiritual exercises to daily life in an effort to move the aging from a sense of loss and sadness for the past to a life filled with grace and a vision for the future.

Lee offers strategies in deciding what to do with the new-found free hours after retirement, how to change self-perception by asking “Who am I ?” rather than “What do I do?” She accomplishes her goal of leading the reader to spiritual maturity with multiple references to Ignatius Loyola’s exercises, providing practical guides to prayer and reflection.

She reflects on one of St. Ignatius’ methods, the process of discernment, and explores how listening for God’s voice can ultimately lead to making wise decisions on any action from decluttering to taking on new ventures. One of the most informative explanations she gives is on imaginative prayer and lectio divina, a method on how to pray with scripture – not just read it. As Lee completes each chapter, she closes with a prayer and relevant scripture passages.

Having recently completed a course of study on the spiritual exercises, I can testify to the significance of Lee’s work. She manages to put the 16th century language of the original work in readable and accessible modern prose. By clearly presenting the methods for prayer used by St. Ignatius, she reveals the mystery of the spiritual journey that set the souls of the early Jesuits on fire.

Today those who want to invigorate their senior years will find much to explore in this short but appealing volume. Each day they may be rewarded with the possibility of experiencing a close encounter with God.

Navigating the Faith: Gaudete et Exultate: Living Out Our Faith

by Fr. Mark Watson

As a young adult I spent much time figuring out the meaning of holiness. My understanding of this virtue has evolved over the years. Thus, I enjoyed reading the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis, Gaudete et Exultate, (Rejoice and Be Glad), which has helped me better understand this central virtue of our Christian faith.

Universal Call to Holiness: The pope states that all Christians are called to be saints. “We are all called to be holy by living our lives with love and by bearing witness in everything we do, wherever we find ourselves (GE, 14).” People live out this holiness in small ways, as when they decide to not gossip, when parents listen to their children, when families pray the rosary and when we say a nice word to the poor.

Holiness is experiencing, in union with Christ, the mysteries of his life, death and resurrection. It comes in constantly dying and rising with Christ. We are to identify with Christ and his will. Identifying with Christ in this way involves a commitment to build with him the kingdom of love, justice and universal peace. (GE, 25)

Enemies of Holiness: The pope discusses two subtle enemies of holiness. The first enemy is called Contemporary Gnosticism. By Contemporary Gnosticism he refers to those whose faith is focused on the understanding of knowledge. A person’s spiritual perfection is measured not by the information or knowledge they possess, but by the depth of their charity. “Gnostics do not understand this because they judge others based on their ability to understand the complexity of certain doctrines (GE, 37).” These Christians try to control God through their intellect.

A second enemy of holiness is Contemporary Pelagianism. In the history of the Church, the Pelagianists believed that Christians could earn salvation through their own efforts rather than through relying on the mercy of God. Contemporary Pelagianists “ultimately trust only in their own powers and feel superior to others because they observe certain rules or remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style.” (Evangelii Gaudium, 94) Instead we should understand that none of us are perfect and we all need God’s grace to live faithfully. Our focus in life should be to live in love and to passionately communicate “the beauty and joy of the Gospel and seek out the lost among the immense crowds that thirst for Christ.” (Cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 95)

The pope states that in the beatitudes, Jesus explained with great simplicity what it means to be holy. In the beatitudes we are given a portrait of Jesus and our daily lives are to reflect his life. Each beatitude teaches us who is truly happy and holy.

The Beatitudes and Matthew: The beatitudes call us to a “radiant interior freedom” (GE, 69) in which we accept God’s will for us. Holiness is characterized in the beatitudes in the following ways: Holiness is dealing with others with a sense of meekness and humility. Holiness is suffering with others and reaching out to them in their suffering. Holiness is working for justice even if we do not see the fruit of our labor. Holiness is giving, helping and serving others as well as forgiving and understanding them. Holiness is freely living out love with our whole heart. Holiness is building peace in our relationships, our communities and in our world. And finally, holiness is accepting “daily the path of the Gospel even though it may cause us problems…” (GE, 94).

The pope then offers Matthew 25:31-46 as a second Gospel passage that is central to the meaning of holiness. Matthew 25:31-46 expands on the beatitude which calls one to be merciful. This scene calls us to care for those who are most in need. We are to not separate caring for those in need from our personal spiritual lives. We are to recognize, protect and cherish the dignity of all human beings. In short mercy is central to holiness.

Signs of Holiness: My favorite chapter is that in which the pope discusses the Signs of Holiness in today’s world. He sees these signs of holiness as being important given certain dangers and limitations present in today’s culture. The pope invites us to live out the following Signs of Holiness: 1) Perseverance, Patience and Meekness; 2) Joy and a Sense of Humor; 3) Boldness and Passion; 4) Living Holiness in Community; and 5) Living in Constant Prayer.

Discernment: The pope ends the document by calling us to prayerful discernment. Discernment refers to figuring out God’s will for us. We are called to listen to the Lord through Scripture, the Magisterium of the Church, others and reality itself. This discernment is to help us recognize and “better accomplish the mission entrusted to us in our baptism (GE, 174).”

May Gaudete et Exultate assist us in better living out the holiness to which God has called us. •

Second Collection for September

by Fr. Rothell Price

Collection Dates: September 1st & 2nd 

he second collection in the parishes and churches of our diocese this month is for The Catholic University of America. We ask the Catholic faithful of our diocese to join with the Catholic faithful across our country to make Catholic higher education possible. You may not have a child, grandchild or great grandchild at Catholic University, but every student at CUA is your son, daughter, grandchild, brother and sister in the family of our Catholic faith. When you make a gift to the students and faculty, academic and service programs, and foundation and operations at CUA, you empower The Catholic University of America community to grow and strengthen its capacity to offer a world class education unlike any other.

The Catholic University of America collection prepares and strengthens the current and next generation of apologists who explain the Catholic faith and social teaching to the rest of the world. Your gift supports scholarships for students who need financial assistance. Please support the next generation of Catholic leaders for our Church and nation – including those studying to become our future priests and religious men and women.

Since 1903, The Catholic University of America has been greatly blessed by the generosity of parishioners around the country through the National Collection. James Cardinal Gibbons, the first chancellor of CUA and ninth Archbishop of Baltimore, once called this collection, “the people’s endowment.” I ask you to take his words into your heart. Join your contribution to that of faithful parishioners across our country to spiritually and academically prepare this and future generations of students, particularly those who have financial need.

More than 12,000 priests and religious are proudly identified as alumni of CUA. Hundreds of priests and religious attend CUA each year, furthering their charge to engage in ongoing religious formation. The Catholic University of America’s mission centers on the discovery of knowledge and truth through excellence in teaching and research, all in service to the Church – a service that is greatly needed today. University faculty and scholars promote Catholic Social teaching and through their research and discourse, help form the Church’s response to challenging social issues of our time.

Please give generously to The Catholic University of America collection. Your heartfelt participation in the second collection is joined to the generosity of CUA alumni, friends, faculty and staff. Your donation strengthens the Catholic University’s mission and extends its reach. Your contribution helps our national university move forward, ensuring that current students and future graduates can continue to be God’s light in our world.

Learn more at collection.cua.edu. •

Domestic Church: Finding Treasure in Monotony

0918katie

by Katie Sciba

If you have a family, you have monotony; there’s no way around it. Work, school, errands, activities – there is so much “same ol’” on repeat. Quite simply, all the repetition can be physically, or at least mentally, exhausting. Life in the domestic church demands time and energy to raise kids, work hard, make it through today so we can get ready for tomorrow. Work and sleep happen without much in between, and I tell you what, I have been really feeling this reality lately.

We have five small children, a small business, and a small house. The demands and routines our family have are necessary and integral to the life I’ve chosen; yet it’s so easy for me feel restless for the chance to do something fresh and new. Caught up in myself and my unfulfilled desires, conditions are ripe for ennui.

This isn’t exclusive to the life at home. I remember countless days of this feeling at the office; no matter how much I loved my job (and I did!), there were days when I would glance at the clock once and then again five minutes later, feeling like an eternity had passed between. In elementary school, I would gaze out the window, pining to break out of my desk to go have an adventure.

But in all circumstances, I’ve stayed.

On one of my hardest mornings, I waved goodbye to Andrew from the porch and, seeing a plane soar overhead, I cried because I wished so painfully that I were on it. I didn’t care where it was going, I ached for something, anything different.

Life is repetitious and stuck in the rut, we trudge through hoping for a thrill or some bit of excitement to whisk us away to a land where we’re not subject to obligation or bound by duties to vocation.

I’m diving into the Diary of St. Faustina and came upon this blessed passage that at once I knew applied to those of us who endure that love/hate relationship with the daily grind:

O life so dull and monotonous, how many treasures you contain! When I look at everything with the eyes of faith, no two hours are alike, and the dullness and monotony disappear. The grace which is given me in this hour will not be repeated in the next. It may be given me again, but it will not be the same grace. (St. Faustina, paragraph 62)

We fall into the habit of dealing with hardship without even mentioning it to Jesus, who above anyone else, has a ready ear. Praying a simple “Lord, I’m bored” can open our souls to peer through the monotony. When we seek God in our drudge, it’s no longer a drudge. He offers us countless graces to not just get through life but to fully experience it within our respective vocations. God has a plan for each particular soul for this very day; and if we respond to His offering of changing graces, dull will be the last word we’ll use to define our lives. The Life in Christ is never inwardly dull, though routine and monotony may remain, God is certainly not the author of boredom.

Faithful Food: Legacies

by Kim Long 

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)

It is the time of year when I am on the prowl to rid myself of anything that has been unnecessarily taking up mental and physical space. In my carport are no less than a dozen plastic totes. They have been emptied, contents inspected and sorted, with some items making the cut and others culled. The satisfaction of seeing the totes with all the contents “present and correct” is a feeling like no other. This exercise offered both balance and a sense of perspective. It also created a time for me to really consider what was worth keeping, and what is still serving my highest and greatest good. I am learning what I require.

As the last matriarch standing in my extended family, I also have a sense of immediacy when I think of what to pass on and what is better left behind. When it came to the folders of inherited family recipes, I felt determinations were needed: many were hand written, others were torn from women’s magazines and even newspapers.

One weekend, many years ago, I decided to copy these recipes into a blank cookbook, intending to fill it with all the family recipes that sustain us. I was interrupted about halfway through my task, and months later when I finally got “back to it,” I was relieved to find that many of the original copies remained intact. The realization dawned anew that these busy women paused in the midst of the course of their day to preserve something in that tight cursive script and there I felt their enduring presence. I no longer desired to “tidy up.” I realized I was being served by these women in my lineage by their dedication to passing on a piece of themselves and their daily lives.

Things I learned about cooking from my family members include the following:

• My daddy was a really good cook but my mother was an alchemist, taking odd things and bringing forth a really delicious meal.

• Aunt Jewel told me that any fool can read a recipe, but not everyone has the patience to follow one.

• Mamaw taught me that even if you only cook one or two things, do them better than anyone you know – make them your signature dishes.

• It could not be a real Christmas if Grandmother didn’t make the black cherry cream cheese topped jello “salad,” but what Grandmother never taught me was how in the world adding pineapple tidbits to anything made it salad.

• There is no substitute for an open and inviting heart when sharing food.

• Grandmother’s recipe for Buckeye Balls still has no rival and I return to the stained scrap of paper its written on each December.

• Daddy’s bread pudding recipe is something I treasure more than gold. While he was a patient in Baton Rouge General, he dictated it to me while I sat on his bed and wrote down every syllable.

• Some recipes just cannot be doubled or halved.

These things still serve me and hopefully I have begun to pass these on to my children and grandchildren. I tell them about the food, the past and how it shapes us, that not all legacies have a monetary value and I hope for the grace to bring the best of it forward: the love of family.

Here is one of my favorite pie recipes given to me by my sister-in-love, Nancy Jo.

Apple Pie

Ingredients:

• 6-7 cups sliced, peeled apples

• 1 tsp. salt

• 1 tsp. cinnamon

• ⅛ tsp. nutmeg

• ½ cup all purpose flour

• 1 cup sugar (this can be adjusted up to 2 cups depending on sweetness of apples)

• ½ cup butter, sliced

• Enough pie crust for a two crust pie (your own recipe or the prepared crusts which are rolled up, sold in refrigerated section)

Directions:

1) Mix dry ingredients and set aside.

2) In bowl with tight fitting lid, place apples and pour dry ingredients over apples. Replace lid and shake until apples are coated.

3) Place one pie crust on bottom of pie pan and prick with fork.

4) Pour apple mixture over bottom crust.

5) Dot with ½ stick butter pieces.

6) Add top crust and cut vent.

7) Bake 50 to 60 minutes.

 

In Review: Loyola Kids Book of Heroes by Amy Welborn

reviewed by Jessica Rinaudo

The Loyola Kids Book of Heroes is a collection of lessons and stories about the saints. In each chapter, author Amy Welborn begins by talking about a real life situation or dilemma a child might face. Some examples include, when friendships are tested, or big changes that happen in your life (like moving or parents’ divorce), or even physical injury. She then takes those real life situations and uses the life of a saint to illustrate how similar their lives were to our own, and how they worked to better those situations with the help of God.

Broken into seven sections, Book of Heroes illustrates saints who represent faith, hope, charity, temperance, prudence, fortitude and justice. And for each saint, she explains what virtue they had that made them a hero. Some examples include “heroes love their neighbors no matter what,” and “a hero stays strong in faith.”

Additionally, at the beginning of each section, Welborn has an introduction that tells one of the many stories of Jesus, showing how he is the ultimate hero and explaining how his life continues to be interconnected with our own lives.

“That’s why many of us have crucifixes in our homes and around our necks,” Welborn writes. “The sight of Jesus on the cross is a sign of love and a sign of strength. It doesn’t take any strength to give into evil, does it? In fact, that is the very definition of weakness.”

Book of Heroes is a great tool for children to help them relate and remember the saints. Each chapter is short enough to hold their attention span, but long enough to convey an important lesson and share the saint’s life story and faith. It brings both the saints and history to life, making it enjoyable for both children and parents alike.

Mike’s Meditations: Pro-Life, Stewardship and the Call to Holiness

by Mike Van Vranken

Sometimes we are taught specific ways to live the Christian life. Other times, we are given general teachings that require us to apply those learnings to different areas of our lives. We hear spiritual words like “pro-life” or “stewardship,” and unless we spend time discerning how they shape and form us as disciples of Christ, we risk reducing them to limited activities and causes which may rob us of experiencing them to their fullest significance. As we seek daily transformation of our lives, let’s look at how the specific teachings of Jesus can lead us to the fullness of being pro-life, good stewards and living a holy lifestyle.

Jesus said: “Stop judging… Stop condemning… Forgive…” (Luke 6:37). What do these commands have to do with pro-life, stewardship and holiness?

In his 1995 letter to the church, The Gospel of Life, St. Pope John Paul II declared: “Society as a whole must respect, defend and promote the dignity of every human person, at every moment and in every condition of that person’s life.” If I am pro-life, it means my sacred respect for one segment of life is the same sacred respect for every other segment of life. For Jesus, and for us, to be pro-life includes our commitment to stop judging, stop condemning and start forgiving.

In his parable of the talents found in Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus explained that all of God’s valuable creation is to be taken care of, nurtured, allowed to grow and subsequently be shared with others. When we stop judging, stop condemning and always forgive, we not only live a pro-life attitude, we also become good stewards. If it is important to be good stewards of all God’s valuable gifts, what could be more valuable than all human life? The way we treat others is a direct result of our stewardship practices. If I am to be a good steward, it is necessary that I stop judging, stop condemning and always forgive.

Jesus calls us to be perfect as our heavenly father is perfect (Matthew 5:48). Many Church leaders have interpreted this as Jesus’ calling us to be holy. The 1964 document, The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, discusses the call of all people to holiness. And it’s been repeated by many, including the last four popes. To live holiness would have to include a life that doesn’t judge others, that doesn’t condemn others, and always forgives everyone. This call to holiness is a call to live the gospel of Jesus. If I am to be holy, I will stop judging, stop condemning and always forgive.

Reflection Time: In your next prayer session, begin by reverently standing, if you can, and with eyes closed, imagine God right in front of you looking at you as one of His beloved children. Don’t say anything, but just allow Him to cover you with his unimaginable love and mercy.

Now sit down, if you would like, and ask Him to grant you the grace to show you all of the ways you can be pro-life, including never judging, never condemning and always forgiving. Spend some time here, and allow Him to gently and gracefully open your heart and mind to all the opportunities you have to not judge, not condemn and to forgive.

Next, pray for the grace that He shows you all of the ways you can be a good steward of everything He has given you, including those people He puts in your path each day. Again, just enjoy the silence as He blesses you with the vision of stewardship opportunities honoring and dignifying those around you.

Finally, beg God for the grace to help you recognize how refraining from judging, condemning and offering forgiveness leads to a holiness that is Christ-like and gives God glory. Spend time with God and allow Him to show you all you can be for Him. End your prayer thanking God for anything He has shown or taught you. Promise to come back and ask if there is more about this He wants to share. Find joy in the new ways God has revealed to help you be pro-life, a good steward and a human example of holiness.

As you live each day being non-judgmental, non-condemning and unceasingly forgiving, remember these are not virtues we can pick and choose where to apply in our lives. Instead, they are three distinct characteristics of who we are in Christ Jesus. •

Shared Glimpses

Bishop Michael Duca (center), with the Daughters of St. Brigid at St. Mary of the Pines Parish in Shreveport. Kim Long is pictured far right.

by Kim Long, DRE, St. Mary of the Pines Parish

Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you, and considering the result of their conduct imitate their faith.” Hebrews 13:7

I had no idea what to expect when my friend Vonny met me at my home and we drove together to Bishop Duca’s ordination and installation. I certainly did not expect to feel so wonderfully Catholic, like the whole world at that moment was Catholic (or at least wanted to be!). The occasion was definitely a glimpse into a very different world, in video game speak (a fluent tongue in our home), I had “leveled up.”

As a convert to the Catholic faith and its ensuing way of life the Apostolic Succession was something that really only came to mind at the Chrism Mass during Holy Week. Seeing this ordination, participating in it, was a new experience for me. As newly ordained Bishop Duca walked through the makeshift aisles laid out in an enormous space within the convention center, blessing the crowd with holy water, I wondered if he were as self-conscious as I suddenly felt. He was newly a bishop and I was renewing my own set of promises. As the liquid fell on my face, I felt suddenly old and new, refreshed and sustained by all that had gone before me in our tradition.

As with many such liminal moments the impact lessened as time and ordinary days seeped into the foreground. That event, that sharing began to take on legendary status almost as if I were recalling an event on television where I had been an observer rather than a participant.

Then something happened.

Here’s the scene: Late one Friday night, there wasn’t much going on. I was gabbing with a friend on the phone and Jessica, the editor of The Catholic Connection, kept ringing in, but I (for a still unknown reason) kept putting her to voicemail and talking with Cindy. Finally, she and I finished up and by this time Jess was texting me, “Call me!!!” So, of course, I did. “We won! You won!” and she began to explain that I won an award from the Catholic Press Association for my column. What??? “I didn’t even know you entered my column,” and so the excited sharing went. But that’s not the something I’m telling you about. I received a text message from Bishop Duca, congratulating me and thanking me for sharing my gifts and talents with God’s people. Larger than life seemed to come into a smaller focus.

Later at a luncheon: Members of the Diocesan Liturgical Commission were gathered at Dianne Rachal’s home for our annual Christmas luncheon. Everything was breathtakingly beautiful, like Home and Garden beautiful, and where did I find myself seated – you know it – beside Bishop. There is a time when I like silence and don’t feel the need to fill the air with chatter, but this was not one of those moments. Instead, I turned to Bishop and asked him what he wanted for Christmas. Startled he answered and then asked me. I said, “Well let me tell you a funny story. I’ve wanted a meat grinder for the last three years. My children know this – and what do I get? Fancy coffee, DVDs, candles, a laptop, – all great stuff but sadly, no meat grinder.”

“Why do you want a meat grinder?” he asked. Laughing, I told him that I enjoyed eating sausage, but I like to know what is in it. He got a nostalgic look and told me how his cousin’s grandfather made sausage and at Christmas, he put an orange through the grinder with the meat and called it his Christmas sausage.

The rest of the dinner remains a blur. Smaller focus still.

Later still: I am at one of the many Christmas parties of the season and my phone rings. It was Bishop Duca asking me if I was busy and apologizing for calling last minute, but he was making sausage and wondered if I’d like to come help. I couldn’t believe circumstances prevented it. What a chance of a lifetime! But as Maureen O’Hara said to John Wayne in the movie The Quiet Man, all I could say was, “I thank you for the asking.”

And then there were the macaroons… St. Mary’s (my parish) was chosen to host the annual Holocaust Memorial Service. I was put in charge of the reception and wanted to be extremely cautious in my choice of menu items, aware of dietary restrictions of the Jewish faith community. And while St. Mary’s does not boast a kosher kitchen, I knew to keep the dairy and the meat worlds away. In fact, there was no meat at all, but there were macaroons, French macaroons, about 1,000 assorted macaroons that Annette, Kristen and I labored over for several days.

During the reception, Janice came into the kitchen and said, “The bishop is out there and he wants to know where you are.”

I hoped this was not going in a bad direction. When I found him, he was enjoying those macaroons. He asked me where I bought them and I said, (I confess my reply was tinged with pride) that I made them. He looked at me somewhat intently and then said, “I always wondered if you walked the walk with food.” I replied, “With cooking, oh yeah.” We laughed and I asked if he was pleased with the reception and he said that I had raised the bar. He left with his pockets stuffed with macaroons.

Then there was the appointment. I had never in my life “gone to see the bishop,” but I had some things on my mind. So I made an appointment and had a meeting with “the boss.” He made me feel as though he had all the time in the world and my questions about religious education (my real job) were worth discussing. I left feeling that I had been heard and listened to, I left feeling great about being Catholic…again, which in the “God business” or paid ministry work is not always so easy.

I tell you all these stories to say this: what began as a huge event evolved into a series of personal exchanges where a knowing of one another, a sharing of a handful of stories and exchanges, opened up the definition of the word “Catholic” in a direction I never could have imagined on that morning when Vonny and I drove to the convention center all those years ago.

I pray that his new assignment is all that God intends, that he not change too much, and that he can still talk food to someone who shares that interest and that he walk in the light for all his days. •

Second Collections for August and September

Diocese of Shreveport Hispanic Ministry Collection

Bulletin Dates: August 5th & 12th 
Collection Dates: August 18th & 19th

The Diocese of Shreveport Hispanic Ministry Collection helps the priests and laity of our diocese strengthen the faith of our vibrant Spanish-speaking Catholics and keeps them in the fold of the Holy Roman Catholic Church. Your participation in the Diocese of Shreveport Hispanic Ministry Collection helps Hispanic Catholics grow in their faith and dynamically share their devotion to Jesus and his Saints with us, especially their phenomenal devotion to the Holy Mother of God under her title, Our Lady of Guadalupe.

While our priests who speak Spanish in varying degrees from fluently to haltingly, are a great gift to us, more Spanish-speaking priests, deacons and catechists are needed to effectively attend to our ever-growing and dynamic Hispanic communities throughout the diocese. Fathers Betancurt, Garcia, Mondragón, Jost, Watson, Howard, Kamau, Crispin, Kallookalam, Madden and I, are happy stewards of God’s graces to them. Your participation in the Diocese of Shreveport Hispanic Ministry Collection helps us attend them with a shepherd’s care.

Your participation in this collection makes it possible for our Office of Hispanic Ministry to provide leadership training, minister to youth and young adults and married couples, provide whole family retreats, days of reflection, and liturgical ministry training for our devout Hispanic Catholics. The services of our Office of Hispanic Ministry provide spiritual formation which equips individuals, families and communities to give themselves ever more joyfully in service to the Lord Jesus and his people. The Diocese of Shreveport Hispanic Ministry Collection is our concrete way of helping our Hispanic Catholics serve English and Spanish speakers alike.

A hallmark of the Hispanic culture is the amazingly powerful family bond. Your participation in the Diocese of Shreveport Hispanic Ministry Collection ensures that those familial and ecclesiastical bonds do not break. Whatever you can give will help the Church serve our Hispanic brothers and sisters, they will bless us in return. Your donation, no matter what the size, makes a difference. Please participate as generously as you are able.

 

The Catholic University of America

Bulletin Dates: August 12th & 19th 
Collection Dates: September 1st & 2nd 

The second collection in our diocese for September is for the Catholic University of America. We ask you, the Catholic faithful of our diocese, to join with Catholics across our country to make Catholic higher education possible. Catholic education on any level is expensive. But many things we have that are of value are expensive. Catholic education is expensive, but no one ever complains that they did not receive their money’s worth. Those who were blessed with a Catholic education have excelled in life because of it. You may not know anyone who attends Catholic University, but every student at CUA is your brother or sister within the family of our Catholic faith. Please give for the strength of our Church family.

The Catholic University of America collection prepares and strengthens the current and next generation of Catholics who will explain our faith and social teaching to the rest of the world. Your gift supports scholarships for students who need financial assistance. Please support the next generation of Catholic leaders for our Church and nation – including those studying to become our future priests and religious men and women. Join your contribution to that of faithful parishioners across our country to spiritually and academically prepare this and future generations of Catholic students, particularly those who have financial need. Please give generously to The Catholic University of America collection. Strengthen the Catholic University’s mission with your contribution which will help our national university move forward, ensuring that current students and future graduates can continue to be God’s light in our world. Learn more at collection.cua.edu. •