Monthly Archives: October 2014

Evaluation and Suggestions Based on Synod’s Post-Discussion Report

Vatican City, October 16, 2014 – The twelfth General Congregation included the presentation, in the Assembly, of the Reports of the 10 Small Groups. In general, the Small Groups presented both an evaluation of the “Relatio post disceptationem” (RPD), a provisional document published at the midway point during the Synod, as well as proposals to incorporate in the “Relatio Synodi” (RS), the definitive and conclusive document of the Assembly.
Firstly, some perplexity was voiced regarding to the publication, although legitimate, of the RPD since, it was said, this is a working document that does not express a univocal opinion shared by all the Synod Fathers. Therefore, after expressing their appreciation of the work involved in drawing up the text and regarding its structure, the Small Groups presented their suggestions.

It was first underlined that in the RPD there is a focus on the concerns of families in crisis, without broader reference to the positive message of the Gospel of the family or to the fact that marriage as a sacrament, an indissoluble union between man and woman, retains a very current value in which many couples believe. Therefore, the hope was expressed that the RS may contain a strong message of encouragement and support for the Church and for faithful married couples.

Furthermore, it was remarked that it is essential to underline more clearly the doctrine on marriage, emphasising that it is a gift from God. It was further proposed that elements not contained in the RPD be integrated in the RS, such as the theme of adoption, expressing the hope that bureaucratic procedures be streamlined, both at national and international levels, and also the themes of biotechnology and the spread of culture via the internet, which may condition family life, as well as a note regarding the importance of policies in favor of the family.

In addition, it was said that greater attention should be paid to the presence of the elderly within families, and to families who live in conditions of extreme poverty. The grave problems of prostitution, female genital mutilation and the exploitation of minors for sexual purposes and for labor were denounced. It is important, it was said, to underline the essential role of families in evangelization and in the transmission of faith, highlighting their missionary vocation. Overall, the aim is to offer a balanced and global idea of the “family” in a Christian sense.

With regard to difficult family situations, the Small Groups highlighted that the Church should be a welcoming home for all, in order that no-one feel refused. However, greater clarity was advocated, to avoid confusion, hesitation and euphemisms in language, regarding for example the law of gradualness, so that it does not become gradualness of the law. Various Groups, furthermore, expressed perplexity regarding the analogy made with paragraph 8 of “Lumen Gentium,” inasmuch as this could give the impression of a willingness on the part of the Church to legitimize irregular family situations, even though these may represent a phase in the itinerary towards the sacrament of marriage. Other Groups expressed their hope for a more in-depth focus on the concept of “spiritual communion”, so that it may be evaluated and eventually promoted and disseminated.

With regard to possibility of divorced and remarried persons partaking in the sacrament of the Eucharist, two main perspectives emerged: on the one hand, it was suggested that the doctrine not be modified and to remain as it is at present; on the other, to open up the possibility of communication, with an approach based on compassion and mercy, but only under certain conditions. In other cases, furthermore, it was suggested that the matter be studied by a specific interdisciplinary Commission. Greater care was suggested in relation to divorced persons who have not remarried, and who are often heroic witnesses of conjugal fidelity. At the same time, an acceleration of the procedures for acknowledging matrimonial nullity and the confirmation of validity was advocated; furthermore, it was emphasized that children are not a burden but rather a gift from God, the fruit of love between spouses.

A more “Christ-centric” orientation was required, as well as clearer emphasis of the link between the sacraments of marriage and baptism. The vision of the world must be one which passes through the lens of the Gospel, to encourage men and women to the conversion of the heart.

Furthermore, it was emphasized that, despite the impossibility of equating marriage between a man and a woman with homosexual unions, persons of this orientation must receive pastoral accompaniment and their dignity must be protected, without however implying that this may indicate a form of approval, on the part of the Church, of their orientation and way of life. With regard to the issue of polygamy, especially polygamists who convert to Catholicism and wish to partake in the sacraments, thorough study was suggested.

The Small Groups advocated broader reflection on the figure of Mary and the Holy Family, to be better promoted as a model for reference for all family units. Finally, it was asked that it be highlighted that the RS will in any case be a preparatory document for the Ordinary Synod scheduled for October 2015.

Reflection: Embrace Your Aging with Gratefulness This Thanksgiving

In September “The Blessings of a Long Life” were celebrated by Pope Francis at the Vatican with thousands of people from all over the world in attendance. Since many of us have crossed the threshold of old age, including Pope Francis, he said, “…because of our experience, faith and wisdom, we deserve respect.” He reminded us that communities who don’t care for and respect their elders, don’t have a future because they will be rootless without their memories. We must keep our memories alive. Pope Francis encourages us to embrace our lives with confidence, day by day and to recommit ourselves to see the good in our lives, even when our hearts are heavy. Of course the question always remains: Can I see the blessing in my old age infirmities as they continue to grow on me? I think he’s telling us to fire up those engines (old as they may be), or simply to get up and look for the blessings that come with our elder years.

God is our secret to full joy, that which truly warms the heart. Gratitude is a greater part of this secret to full joy and isn’t the month of November our time to be thankful for all God’s gifts?

We can’t change the process of aging one bit, so what is there left for us to do? Be grateful! God considers us treasures and because of this we are a source of joy for him. Perhaps as this Thanksgiving Day draws near we can cultivate a list of blessings and show our gratitude to God. One must find his love for us in everything because if we are full of ourselves, not even God will be able to fill us up with love and gratitude.

Living a spirited life is what it’s all about as we grow older. It’s grateful living that makes every thankful moment spirited. Gratitude often refers to another person because we invest so much in their lives. Prepare a joyful meal for Thanksgiving with them and truly let your spirits soar. Is joy not at the basis of this kind of spirited gratitude needed by all? It’s living rather than dying, harvesting our wisdom and values and not only passing them on to future generations, but continuing to shine like stars ourselves.

In a religious context, God is always the “Giver” and we humans are the “Thanks – Givers,” and thus Thanksgiving can be sacred for us. It’s possible that our whole lives could be full of thanksgiving, all made possible by God, himself.

Our gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a new vision for tomorrow. Gratitude during the time of Thanksgiving is our door to many heavenly gifts. If we do not have gratitude we do not appreciate the greatest gift God gave us: the gift of Life.

Amazing things can happen if we permit them to come our way. At this time of Thanksgiving, we can develop a new point of view about this season of harvest. Has it taught us anything about our aging? We can only reap what we have sown. I see my aging as a blessing and a grace and not something to be feared.

Our gratitude this Thanksgiving is something of which none of us can give too much. It’s not the holiday we celebrate so much, or the weekend off, the food and friends, as much as it is our reflection on the person we have become with our experiences, our love of God, family and friends. How do they see us today? With or without turkey, our aches and pains remain with age, but one should have an overwhelming, joyful feeling of gratitude and thanksgiving. If your feelings are not of this nature, then you do not reflect enough on your blessings.

Fr. Murray Clayton once told me, “There’s a place in us where God sees himself and loves us there as we are and that we must find the ‘pearl of great price’ in ourselves and others and be grateful.” Be at peace and turn everything you do into a blessing. Happy Thanksgiving from Italy! No turkey for me for the fifth Thanksgiving away from home, but I am still grateful for all God’s blessings.

by Sr. Martinette Rivers, OLS

Cathedral Celebrates New High Altar Relief

On Aug. 17, the Diocese of Shreveport celebrated the blessing and dedication of a new high altar relief at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans. When the Cathedral underwent renovations earlier this year, the cathedra (bishop’s chair) was relocated, per Bishop Duca’s request to be closer to the people, from its place behind the altar to its current position on the left side of the sanctuary, which left an undecorated area behind the altar. An anonymous benefactor generously donated funds for the creation and installation of a new high altar relief, and the chosen design is stunningly beautiful. It depicts the Last Holy Communion of the patron saint of the cathedral parish, St. John Berchmans.

Established in 1902, the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans is the only Cathedral with him as its patron saint. In attendance was Fr. Felix van Meerbergen, pastor of the Church of Saint-Sulpice in Diest, Belgium, where St. John Berchmans was baptized and home of the original high altar relief on which the one in Shreveport is based.

St. John Berchmans’ piety was truly extraordinary. He served at Mass each morning and sometimes two Masses in a row. In all that he did, he sought perfection, but he manifested a profound humility, charity and interior peace that caused him to advance unceasingly on the road of virtue that leads directly to heaven. During his three years as a Jesuit novice in Rome, he gave continual proof of his perfect sanctity. He left nothing to chance but entrusted everything to the intercession of his Heavenly Mother, to whom his devotion increased day by day.

The story of St. John Berchmans’ last days is a touching one. He was overcome with a fever, and in a residence of several hundred priests and students, every single one followed the progress of his illness with anxious compassion. When it became clear that he would not recover, the infirmarian told his patient that he would likely receive Holy Communion as viaticum the following morning, an exception to the rule at the time that prescribed it only for Sundays.

Fr. Cepari, who gave St. John Berchmans his last Holy Communion, gave the following account:

A mattress was then laid on the floor, and he was stretched upon it, in the habit he loved so well. The room began rapidly to fill, and none could restrain their tears when they saw the wasted frame of him they loved so well on that lowly bed, and heard the burning words of love which, as if unconscious of their presence, he addressed, now to Jesus, and now to Mary…Berchmans lay motionless, absorbed in prayer; but the moment the Father drew near to place the Sacred Host on his tongue, then, he bounded up and threw himself on his knees, but his love was greater than his strength, and he would have fallen had not two who were at his side supported him under each arm. And kneeling thus…he broke forth into a magnificent Latin act of faith, unstudied and unprepared, his voice vibrating with love, which gave it a power and clearness far beyond its natural strength. “I declare that there is here really present the Son of God the Father Almighty, and of the most Blessed Mary, ever a Virgin…” …As soon as John had received his Lord, he bowed down his head, placed his arms cross wise on his breast, and remained completely taken up with the fervent reception he offered his Heavenly Guest. Nearby were his little crucifix and his rule-book, with the rosary entwined around them.

A seminarian from Diest, Jens Incognito, accompanied Fr. Felix to Shreveport, and on Aug. 13, the anniversary of the death of St. John Berchmans, the two along with Fr. Peter Mangum made a pilgrimage to Grand Coteau, LA, the site of a miracle that led to St. John’s canonization in 1888. At the Convent at the Academy of the Sacred Heart, he appeared to Mary Wilson, who, the day before she was to become a novice, fell gravely ill. After several months of weakening condition, it became clear she would die. She was offered what was thought to be the last Holy Communion. On the ninth day of a novena to Blessed John Berchmans, the saint appeared to her during prayers, and she was immediately healed.

Bishop Duca presided at the beautiful liturgy. Present also were Fr. Mangum and seven sisters from the Academy of the Sacred Heart, the project coordinator, Jeff Slusher, and the sculptor of the new high altar relief, Carolann Haggard. Sculpted in a studio outside of Rome from marble from Macedonia, the relief is truly breathtaking and will be a religious and creative inspiration to all who enter the Cathedral for generations to come.

by Kelly Phelan Powell

Carmelite Founder Elevated to Sainthood

Blessed Kuriakose Elias Chavara, the founder of the first Indian religious Order for men, the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (CMI), will be canonized in Rome as a saint on November 23 by Pope Francis.

Chavara was born in Kerala, India in 1805. He joined the seminary at an early age and was ordained a priest at the age of 24. Soon he was noted as an ardent and exemplary priest in the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in India. On January 3, 1871, at the age of 66, he was called to his eternal reward and his mortal remains are venerated in the monastery church in Mannanam, the Mother House of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate.

St. Chavara had three great devotions in his life. The first was to the Holy Eucharist. He spent many hours before the Blessed Sacrament in adoration and is known for introducing and spreading the 40-hour Eucharistic adoration in Kerala. The second was his devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, which he inherited from his pious parents, Mary and Kuriakose. He was instrumental in the spread of the rosary and the special May devotion to Mary. Third was his special devotion to the Holy Family.

He saw a great need for spiritual renewal of the local Church. That gave him the vision to establish two religious orders: one for men and the other for women. The Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (CMI) was founded in 1831 and was officially formed as a religious order in 1855 – the largest to start in India. The order ministers in 30 different countries of the world with more than 3,000 professed members including 1,800 priests. Many of those priests currently serve in the Diocese of Shreveport. In 1866 he founded the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel (CMC), which has now more than 7000 nuns serving in numerous countries of the world.

Chavara took pioneering steps in 1864 to establish schools as an integral part of every parish church, which paved the way for the widespread literacy in the state. He also started the first Catholic printing press in Kerala and made available to the people religious and devotional books on faith and morals. A major accomplishment of his was the establishment of a charitable institute for the sick and destitute. The institute also offered the sick and destitute a peaceful place to die.

The miracle needed for his canonization was the cure of a young girl named Mary Jose. She was born with a very serious squint and it was cured without any surgery through the intercession of Chavara.

Kuriakose Elias Chavara inspires us to be genuine disciples of the Lord, to be a people nurtured by the Lord in the Eucharist, and to have a childlike devotion to Mother Mary. He was always a man of God who led a simple life and had a great vision beyond his times. So let us ask for his intercession: BLESSED CHAVARA, PRAY FOR US.

by Fr, Philip Pazhayakari, CMI Provincial Coordinator

World Meeting of Families Publishes Catechesis

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The World Meeting of Families, in anticipation of the event to be held September 22-27, 2015, in Philadelphia, has published “Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive.”  This 127-page book serves as a preparatory catechesis for the meeting. It was prepared by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Pontifical Council for the Family, and offers a narrative that “explains how all of Catholic teaching about sex, marriage and the family flows from our basic beliefs about Jesus.”  This catechesis explores the meaning of the statement by the Second Vatican Council that the family is “a domestic church.”  The publication includes 10 chapters of about 10 pages each and closes with a special prayer written specifically for the World Meeting of Families 2015.  It is available from the publisher, Our Sunday Visitor, for under $10, exclusive of shipping costs.

The Diocese of Shreveport is in contact with a reputable pilgrimage company to obtain a proposal for interested persons from our area to attend the World Meeting of Families.  Information is in the preliminary stage; however, it is hoped that a pilgrimage package for the six days and five nights of the meeting will be priced under $2,000 per person.

The Canterbury Pilgrimages and Tours, Inc. company is basing their pricing information on a group of about 25 people.  It does include roundtrip airfare from Shreveport Regional Airport including airport taxes and fuel charges.  It does not include baggage fees. Of course, airfares are subject to change. The hotel stay is for five nights at the Wingate Hotel in Vineland, NJ, across the river from Philadelphia. Package will include daily breakfast at the hotel, two dinners at restaurants in the greater Philadelphia area, luxury motor coach transportation for the six days, sight-seeing opportunities in historic Philadelphia, as well as visits to the Shrines of St. John Neumann and St. Katherine Drexel and other places of interest. Registration information has not been posted at this point, therefore the package DOES NOT include Families Conference Registration Fees.

If you are interested in making the pilgrimage, please contact the Family Life representative in your parish or your parish secretary for more information.  They will in turn give your name to the Diocesan Family Life Committee.
This conference is a wonderful opportunity for you to become involved in Family Life Ministry in your parish.  It is also hoped that Pope Francis will be traveling to Philadelphia and have Mass on September 27, 2015.  Look for more information as it becomes available in the Catholic Connection and on the diocesan website (www.dioshpt.org).

by Christine Rivers and Randy Tiller

Catholic CHarities Hosts Successful ESL Program

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Photo: Volunteer Carl Piehl, student Gerardo Rico and Catholic Charities of North Louisiana employee Guiel Hausen.

It’s Thursday, October 2 and it’s the heaviest rain of the year, water pouring down in torrents. Yet in the midst of the downpour they file into the classroom, drenched but determined to learn English. The ESL classes (English as a Second Language) are sponsored by Catholic Charities of North Louisiana and are held twice weekly at Christ the King Parish in Bossier City. Three levels of classes, basic, intermediate and advanced, are taught by dedicated volunteers to approximately 50 Hispanic immigrants.

Who are these people braving the storm to come and attend the evening classes? They are your cleaning lady, your painter, your landscaper, your roofer, your waitress. They are your neighbors! They are valiant people who have endured unimaginable hardships to come here. Their stories will break your heart and need to be told. Why? Because they are our neighbors and fellow worshipers. Their children are the classmates of our children and since all of us are children of God, they are our brothers and sisters. They bring with them a rich cultural heritage, strong family and spiritual values and an unsurpassed work ethic. They add enormously to that diverse amalgam that is the strength of American society.

Our mission at Catholic Charities is to share Christ’s love with the poor and vulnerable and to offer quality social services without discrimination and in accordance with Catholic social teachings. Our credo comes from Matthew 25 which instructs us to welcome the stranger. In this case “the stranger” is the immigrant who has risked so much and in many cases suffered hardship, deprivation and indignity. The legal services our immigration program provides coupled with teaching English are two of the best ways for us to serve the immigrant community and to ensure their success.

In addition to offering ESL and legal services, Catholic Charities also offers a Citizenship Preparation Course for those who have the opportunity to become American citizens. We have had eight graduates of this course who have passed their Citizenship Exams and an additional four who are working towards citizenship.  One client, Gerardo Rico, has worked diligently to accomplish his goal of becoming a citizen. When he arrived in the U.S. he was working 80 hours a week just to take care of his wife and two sons. He purchased self-study programs and taught himself as much as he could. Finally he was able to take the time to attend classes and slowly but surely his English improved.  Earlier this year he started studying for the Citizenship Test with the help of the Citizenship Preparation Course at Catholic Charities. He passed with flying colors!

by Carl Piehl

Vocations Corner: Seminary is a Time of Discernment

by Fr. Matthew Long

Many people think that once a young man begins seminary formation or a young woman begins formation with a religious community that they will become a priest or a religious sister. The reality is that formation is primarily a time of discernment.  It is a place either in a seminary or a house of formation where they can truly discern the will of God.  It is here as they go about their work and prayer that they can determine whether or not God is calling them to priesthood or religious life. This is not an easy process and it often requires more courage for a young man or woman to discern that they do not have a call than it does for them to remain in formation.

Brandon Rice, one of our seminarians, after prayer, discussion with the formation staff at the seminary and with me has decided that he should step out of formation. It has not been an easy decision for him and it has required great courage on his part. He has the full support of his diocesan brothers, the formation staff, the vocations office and the bishop in making this decision.  I ask that you continue to pray for Brandon as he begins a new chapter in his life and that you offer him your support as well. Brandon will no longer be a seminarian of the diocese effective November 1, 2014.

The men and women who discern that they do not have a vocation to priesthood and religious life should be recognized for their courage. They are important to the formation process because they prove that it works. It is an encouragement to those who continue to discern in the seminary and houses of formation. It is an assurance that all of us should be listening intently to the voice of God to follow where He leads. Please continue to pray for our seminarians and for other young men and women of courage to step forth to discern God’s will in their lives.

Vocations Corner: Seminary: A Fall Reflection

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As I age, I frequently find that when the fall season blows in, mistral and earnest, I get to thinking on my life. The first things I recall are childhood related: rowdy front yard football games with my neighborhood buddies, leaf forts and leaf fights, the tremendous Gingko in my front yard turning from green to yellow-gold (often in the span of a week if fall comes late). All these memories strike me as immensely good, and I would love to sit with these memories for as long as I am able, let my life glide by in lazy reverie, like the leaves parting from fall-season trees. These days, however, fall finds me thinking on more than childhood good-times.

Life here in the seminary is decidedly busy. An average week demands of me and my brother seminarians that we carry an extremely heavy academic workload. We pray in community three times a day, go to Mass daily, share our meals together, exercise together, recreate together, etc. We at St. Joseph Seminary College (SJSC) are an active community with many outlets for socializing, for building relationships with one another. However, community involvement, just like in our parish churches, is not absolutely compulsory. A seminarian could easily drift through community life, show up to everything, fulfill the dutiful requirement to be present at events, participate in the bare minimum and retire each day to his own concerns and pleasures (namely, his laptop, social media, the friends he keeps up with who are miles away, the life he lives that is far away from his present place). In the past, and frequently in the present, because it is not wrong to have a private life, I have resorted to such behavior in the extreme. I can be a recluse.

This year, as my final year at SJSC, I entered with a determination in mind: I am not going to continue through life like a spider spinning my own web. I want to be a part of something in a complete and total way. I want to live my life outside my precisely arranged box. So, what did I do to facilitate this wish? Many simple things, I just used the gifts I have. I’m helping to build our tremendous bonfire, tutoring students for English Lit, training for a half-marathon, working out with my friends and whoever needs help getting in shape; in short, I’m getting to know my neighbor by doing what I enjoy doing.

I’ve discovered a few things in the process of living my determined life. You wouldn’t believe how refreshing life is beyond our solitary brains. There is a whole network of people in this world who just want to feel a little less alone, and we are the only ones who can do a happy thing about it. As of late, fall has me thinking in different terms than before. I’m not just thinking on my own memories; I’m thinking of others. I want to live with the understanding that I will die and be judged on the standard of not how often I showed up, not of how many times I stepped over the line, but on how often and to what intensity I loved my neighbor, the manifestation of the image and likeness of the God I am supposed to love with all my heart, all my being, and all my strength. It is a great responsibility, living this life of loving God in our neighbors. We rationalize: “That’s too much, I can’t love that much, I can’t get to know everybody, the world’s too big, I’m too small, I have nothing to offer, etc.” To which I reply to you, “Sure, sure, but you don’t have to love all of them at once. You love one person at a time. Just try that, loving one person at a time. You’ll be ok. Don’t worry.”

John Parker is a seminarian for the Diocese of Shreveport in his fourth year college at St. Joseph Seminary in St. Benedict, LA.

All Saints and All Souls: Remembering the Faithfully Departed

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November is the month of remembrance, and as part of that month the Catholic Church celebrates All Saints Day on November 1 and All Souls Day on November 2. Because the two days fall one after another and both commemorate the faithful departed, they are often confused or lumped together. Each day, however, has its own significance within the history and practices of the Catholic Church.

The first, All Saints Day, falls on November 1. This feast day is a commemoration of all the saints canonized by the Roman Catholic Church.

“Because we have so many saints in the course of the year we can’t honor them all,” said Fr. Rothell Price, Vicar General of the Diocese of Shreveport.  “We only have 365 days in the year. It’s usually only one saint we commemorate on a particular day and sometimes there’s a grouping, like a group of martyrs…. Because we have thousands of saints, we can’t honor all of them on every calendar, every year. So once a year the Church has a special Mass during which we remember all the saints. All Saints Day is the Church’s commemoration of that whole body of saints who number in the thousands.”

While the origins of All Saints Day are not specific, in the 300’s, various countries had their own celebrations of the saints.  “For instance in the East, the city of Edessa celebrated this feast on May 13; the Syrians, on the Friday after Easter; and the city of Antioch, on the first Sunday after Pentecost. Both St. Ephrem (373) and St. John Chrysostom (407) attest to this feast day in their preaching,” said Fr. William Saunders in his article on “All Saints and All Souls.”

On May 13, 610 the “Feast of all Holy Martyrs” was introduced in Rome by Pope Boniface IV on the occasion of Emperor Phocas giving him the Pantheon in Rome. It was later transferred to November 1 during the pontificate of Pope Gregory VII in 1085, and by then it included all the saints. Why the change in date? There are several theories on the topic. The date was already popular in the Irish and English churches and it also fell during harvest time, when food would be plentiful for those traveling to celebrate the feast day.

Today the feast of All Saints Day remains on the Catholic calendar as a holy day of obligation, on which we are to attend Mass.

“All Saints Day is a solemnity, so we treat it with the dignity that we treat a Sunday,” said Fr. Price. “We sing the Gloria, a hymn of praise to God. On Sundays we stand for the profession of faith, so on All Saints Day we do that as well, followed by intercessory prayer or the prayers of the faithful.”

November 2 holds another important feast day in the life of the Church: All Souls Day.

“On All Souls Day we are commending our dearly departed to the love and care of God,” said Fr. Price. “And throughout the month of November, we remember our dearly departed with gratitude to God for the gift of them in our lives and we pray that through our prayers, they be admitted to the eternal banquet feast of heaven. If any sins have clung to their souls, that they be fully pardoned of their sins to enter into the fullness of the life of Heaven.”
Praying for the dead has always been a part of Catholic tradition. As early as the seventh century, monks would offer Mass for their deceased community members on the day after Pentecost, and in 998, the Benedictine monastery of Cluny celebrated all their dead on November 2. The practice slowly began to spread throughout the monasteries, and eventually to parishes. In the thirteenth century, November 2 was marked officially as All Souls Day on the calendar of the Catholic Church.

Many traditions have sprung up around the Feast of All Souls Day. Locally, we celebrate the feast day on the weekends surrounding November 2 by blessing local cemeteries.

“The scriptures tell us our prayers are efficacious for the faithful departed,” said Fr. Price. “Our prayers help them, as well as their prayers assist us. So annually on the feast day of All Souls, or close to the feast of All Souls, we will have an annual commemoration of the dead and that’s often marked by a visit to cemeteries and a blessing of graves.”

Local parishes also have individual ways of celebrating and praying for loved ones who have passed. Many will place tables in their sanctuary where parishioners can display photos of deceased loved ones, sometimes accompanied by candles that burn throughout the month of November.

In other parts of the world, namely Portugal, Spain and Latin America, priests have a custom of celebrating three Masses on November 2, a practice extended to all priests by Pope Benedict XV in 1915.

While these two feast days are distinct celebrations in the life of the Church, they share a common desire to pray for the faithfully departed.

“Those two feast days are related because the destination of the saints is Heaven, the destination of the faithful departed is Heaven and in the communion of saints we certainly remember them,” said Fr. Price. “In the Nicene Creed and in the Apostles Creed we pray for the resurrection of the dead and the life in the world to come.”

The month of November holds the Church’s “Memorial Days.” It is also sometimes dubbed the month of saints, the month of holy souls or memorial month. It is a time to pray for both the saints who have gone before us in death, and for the souls of our loved ones. Take time this month to pray for them all.

Ways to  Remember

How can we celebrate All Saints Day and All Souls Day? Try a few of these suggestions to keep the faithful departed in your mind and prayers throughout the month. Some of these suggestions are also great ways to teach your family about these two special feast days on the Church’s calendar!

1. Pick a saint, any saint. All Saints Day is a great time to become familiar with a saint you may not know much about. Maybe you need to find prayers and blessings for patron saints who help with something you’re troubled with in your life. Traveling? Motherhood? Addiction? Healing? Nurses? There’s a saint for that!

2. Ever heard of Happy Saints? This website is a great resource for ebooks for children (and adults) that include relatable stories of the lives of the saints with illustrations. www.happysaints.com

3. Mark your calendar! The whole month of November is a month of remembrance. Write the  name of a saint on each day of the month and ask for their prayers that day.

4. Find a tradition. For All Souls Day, find out if your parish has a tradition for the day. If so, join in by bringing a photo of a deceased loved one, attending Mass or attending a Blessing of the Graves.

5. Share Memories! Many times our children will never know those whom we have loved dearly and who passed away before their time. Share memories of those loved ones throughout the month, then say a prayer for their soul after you share the memory.

6. Prayer. On All Souls Day, remember your loved ones with prayer, family and food. Soul cakes and other breads are a traditional treat for this day.

Navigating the Faith: Blessings

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by Dianne Rachal, Director of the Office of Worship

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens.” Ephesians 1:3

The source from whom every good gift comes is God. He made all things good, and continues his blessings as a sign of his merciful love. Christ is the Father’s supreme blessing upon us.  The power of the Holy Spirit enables us to offer the Father praise, adoration and thanksgiving, and, through works of charity, to be numbered among the blessed in the Father’s kingdom.

Blessings fall within the category of sacramentals. Sacramentals are instituted for the sanctification of certain ministries of the Church, certain states of life, a great variety of circumstances in Christian life and the use of many things helpful to people.  Among sacramentals, blessings (of persons, meals, objects and places) come first. Every blessing praises God and prays for his gifts.  In Christ, Christians are blessed by God the Father “with every spiritual blessing.” This is why the Church imparts blessings by invoking the name of Jesus, usually while making the holy sign of the cross of Christ.

Blessings are signs to the faithful of the spiritual benefits achieved through the Church’s intercession. Blessings always include a prayer, often accompanied by a specific sign, such as the laying on of hands, the sign of the cross, the sprinkling of holy water and incensation. When we make the sign of the cross with holy water when entering a church, we are reminded of our baptism, awakened to the presence of God, and disposed to receiving God’s grace.  Unlike a sacrament, a sacramental does not itself confer the grace of the Holy Spirit.

Scripture recounts how God blessed all living creatures, especially Adam and Eve, Noah and his sons, and the people of Israel.  Jesus blessed little children, loaves and fishes, the bread and wine at the Last Supper. The Church has instituted various blessings for people as well as objects to prompt the faithful to implore God’s protection, divine assistance, faithfulness and favor.

Who can give blessings?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Every baptized person is called to be a ‘blessing’ and to bless. (No. 1669)  Lay people may bless their children, food at mealtime, Christmas trees or make the sign of the cross for example. The blessings given by lay people do not confer a sacred character on the person or thing, but merely invoke God’s protection and blessing.The more a blessing concerns ecclesial and sacramental life, the more its administration is reserved to the ordained ministry of bishops, priests and deacons.

Consecrations are the solemn rites by which persons or things are permanently made over to the service of God.  Consecrations and dedications are reserved for bishops, such as the consecrations of priests, virgins and sacred chrism, and the dedication of churches and altars. Priests can impart all other blessings apart from blessings reserved to bishops.  A deacon “can impart only those blessings which are expressly permitted to him by law.”  Deacons can give blessings at all the rites at which they preside, including Liturgy of the Hours, Baptism, marriage, Holy Communion outside Mass and Eucharistic Benediction, and may bless objects like rosaries and holy water outside of Mass.

Blessings are categorized into two types: invocative and constitutive.  In an invocative blessing, the minister implores the divine favor of God to grant some spiritual or temporal good without any change of condition, such as when a parent blesses a child.  An invocative blessing is a recognition of God’s goodness in bestowing this blessing upon us, such as when we offer a blessing for our food at meal time.

A constitutive blessing, invoked by a bishop, priest or deacon, signifies the permanent sanctification and dedication of a person or thing for some sacred purpose.  Here the person or object takes on a sacred character and would not be returned to non-sacred or profane use.  For example, when religious Sisters or Brothers profess final vows, they are blessed, indicating a permanent change in their lives.  When a chalice is blessed, it becomes a sacred vessel dedicated solely to sacred usage. Likewise holy water once blessed cannot return to ordinary water.

Blessing of Graves
Each November 2nd as the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls Day) is celebrated, we turn our attention to commemorating the departed who are buried in a cemetery.  The Book of Blessings has a rite for the Order for Visiting a Cemetery on All Souls Day, commonly known as the blessing of the graves. This rite may be celebrated on November 2 or on another day during the month of November. It may be used at a public celebration or by family members when they visit the cemetery. This practice reminds the faithful that our departed brothers and sisters in Christ are in need of our prayers, especially those who are still in Purgatory. In our diocese priests and deacons visit most of the cemeteries to bless the graves on weekends close to All Souls Day.

The notion of blessing is bound up with praising God and giving thanks to God; bound up with our way of seeing, understanding and being in this world and in the human community.  Whether we say simply, “God bless you,” when someone sneezes, or join in a formal rite of blessing with song and prayer and Scripture, we are proclaiming the good news of God’s love and reign. The Preface for Eucharistic Prayer IV captures this understanding of a blessing: “Father in Heaven… source of life and goodness, you have created all things, to fill your creatures with every blessing and lead all men to the joyful vision of your light.”