Monthly Archives: March 2016

Second Collections: Catholic Home Missions Appeal

Collection Dates:  April 23rd & 24th  
Announcement Dates: April 10th & 17th

Our second collection for the month of April is the Catholic Home Missions Appeal. I hope you are STILL filled with Easter renewal and rejoicing as we near the half way point in the Easter Season and the approaching Feast of Pentecost. May the out-poured gift of the Holy Spirit inflame us anew with passion, enthusiasm and love for Christ Jesus and the spreading of the Gospel. Through your support, the Catholic Home Missions Appeal helps ease the struggle of mission dioceses like our own and helps them form vibrant communities.

Bishop Duca’s “Embracing the Mission Gatherings” of last fall, and his soon to be presented Vision Statement for the diocese are fruits of a vibrant community guided by the Holy Spirit. Each parish’s and diocesan offices’ goals resulting from this Vision will be tangible Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy in this Jubilee Year of Mercy.

The theme of this year’s Catholic Home Mission Appeal is “Strengthening the Church at Home.” Please help strengthen the Church at home by giving generously to this appeal. “The Catholic Home Missions Appeal is an opportunity to help strengthen the Church in the United States, and we need your help. Over 40% of dioceses in the Unites States are considered mission territories, affecting over nine million Catholics. Through annual grants Catholic Home Missions provides funding for seminary formation, lay leadership training, catechetical programs, Hispanic ministries and other pastoral programs. This appeal is an opportunity to support and strengthen the Church’s mission here in the United States.”

Your sacrifice not only helps other mission dioceses, but also assures the funding of ministries and pastoral services essential to the good health of our own diocese. “In some regions, the number of Catholics is so low that building community can be a challenge, and in others, the sheer lack of priests means that Catholics do not always have access to the sacraments.  Despite these difficulties, the faith of people in home mission territories is strong, and there is a spirit of joy and gratitude for the ministries that are present.”  This quote aptly describes the ethos of our diocese.  We are a small percentage of the over-all population of our diocese, but strong in our faith, joyful and grateful.  We are struggling to acquire more home-grown vocations to the priesthood and religious life, yet grateful for the priests and religious who devoutly serve us.

Your donation is vital to the success of this appeal.  Please help strengthen the Church at home by giving generously to this appeal.
The Embracing the Mission Gatherings strongly highlighted everyone’s desire for more catechesis so that individuals would be better equipped and more confident in responding to questions (sometimes hostile and unrelenting) about our faith in Jesus Christ and the unique way we live out the Gospel.  The seminarian and lay leader training made possible by help from the Catholic Home Missions Appeal makes it possible for every one of us to be better evangelizers.  “… but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.  Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence…” 1 Peter 3: 15.  Strengthen the Church here in our mission diocese and others by giving generously to the Catholic Home Missions Appeal.  Thank you.

by Fr. Rothell Price, Vicar General, is the Director of Second & Special Collections

Navigating the Faith: Voting: Faithful Citizenship

0416vote

The election for the U.S. president has begun a vibrant national debate concerning the direction of our country. An aspect of our faith includes being involved in the political process. The Bishops of the United States assist us in this process through publishing, every four years, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. This resource presents Catholic teaching concerning current political issues. The following article summarizes Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.

The laity is to build a just and faithful society through being active in the political process and bishops have the role of helping the laity form their consciences.  Formation of one’s conscience means making reasoned judgments based on what one knows to be just and right. This process begins with openness to the truth and continues with the study of Scripture and Church teaching. The following are important principles related to politics.

THE RIGHT TO LIFE AND THE DIGNITY OF THE HUMAN PERSON
Human life is sacred. Direct attacks on innocent persons are never morally acceptable, whatever the stage of life or condition of the person. Human life is under direct threat from abortion, euthanasia, human cloning, the death penalty and the destruction of human embryos for research. Threats to innocent life also include torture, the targeting of innocent civilians in war and the treating workers as mere means to an end. The bishops state that while Catholics do not vote based on one issue, we are called to not vote for candidates who support an intrinsic moral evil such as abortion or racism. Catholics are not to merely support one area of Catholic teaching while disregarding other areas of teaching.

CALL TO FAMILY, COMMUNITY AND PARTICIPATION
The human person is not only sacred but also social.  Full human development takes place in relationship with others.  The family – based on marriage between a man and a woman – is the first and fundamental unit within society and is a sanctuary for the creation and nurturing of children. Respect for the family should be reflected in every policy and program. Every person and association has the right and duty to participate actively in shaping society.

RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES
Human dignity is respected and the common good is fostered only if human rights are protected and basic responsibilities are met. The common good is that which makes society thrive. Every human being has a right to life and a right to those things required for living a decent human life, such as food, water, shelter, health care, housing, freedom of religion and family life. Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities – to one another, our families and to society.

OPTION FOR THE POOR AND VULNERABLE
While the common good embraces all, the Church has a preferential love for those who are weak, vulnerable and most in need. A basic moral test for our society is, “How do we treat the most vulnerable in our midst?” This treatment includes offering affordable and accessible health care.

DIGNITY OF WORK AND RIGHTS OR WORKERS
The economy must serve people, not the other way around. Employers contribute to the common good through the products or goods they provide and by creating jobs that uphold the dignity and rights of workers—to productive work, to decent and just wages, to adequate benefits and security in their old age and to the choice of whether to organize and join unions.  “Wages should allow workers to support their families, and public assistance should be available to help poor families live in dignity.”

SOLIDARITY
We are one human family, whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic and ideological differences. Loving our neighbor has global dimensions and requires us to eradicate racism and address the extreme poverty and disease plaguing so much of the world. A more just world will likely be a more peaceful world, a world less vulnerable to terrorism and other violence. The United States should welcome the stranger among us – including immigrants seeking work – by ensuring that they have opportunities for a safe home, education for their children and a decent life for their families. Catholics must work to avoid war and to promote peace throughout the world.

CARING FOR GOD’S CREATION
We show respect for the Creator by our stewardship of God’s creation. Care for the earth is a duty of our faith and a sign of our concern for all people.  This is especially true since the degradation of the environment most often hurts those who are most poor.  In his Encyclical Laudato Si, Pope Francis has recently lifted up pollution, climate change, lack of access to clean water and the loss of biodiversity as particular challenges.

I encourage you to form your conscience and vote in the upcoming general election. Faithful Citizenship can be found on the USCCB website (www.usccb.org).

by Fr. Mark Watson

Domestic Church: Live and Lead By Example

“Your example, even more than your words, will be an eloquent lesson to the world.” – St. Madeleine Sophie Barat

It was just a few weeks ago that I found this quotation. And to be honest, it stung. Not a good sign.

I say so much more to my family with my life and how I spend it – my reactions, my goals, the little things that occupy my time – than my speech could touch. And I suppose St. Madeleine’s wisdom here is a perfect examination of conscience. What am I saying, not just to the world at large because I doubt anyone would hear me on such a huge scale, but to my own world; the husband who married me, the children under my loving care, my friends on the journey to Eternal Life, and the people I work with?

My six-year-old called me out the other day. He was trying to get my attention, but I was online and halfway oblivious dishing out, “I’ll be there in a minute”s and “not now”s. He stood by me and declared matter-of-factly, “Mama, you spend too much time on your computer.” Oooo, that hurt.  Because the truth does. There’s no source of truth quite like the mouths of babes.

I snapped my computer shut, looked into his baby blues, and said, “You’re so right.” I got up and walked away from the table, leaving my computer behind. Pulling my biggest boy into my lap, I apologized and told him that he and his siblings are more important. Then we read stories. It wasn’t enough to say he was better than a crummy old computer, I had to show him. And I had to show myself, too.

It’s a distraction, my computer, and all of my devices really. My work is online. I have a full plate. But the center of my work is the domestic church – the family, the marriage, the graces; if I’m losing focus on the particular family God bestowed upon me, then it’s time for a behavior change. I want my actions to speak eloquence to my family – I love you above all else. Nothing is more important than you. I want my husband to feel my support for him in addition to me telling him. “People need to feel that they are loved,” Pope Francis once said.

We get so hooked on our devices to the point of panicking if we can’t find them. We hold them close and stare into the glow of our screens for email, news updates, Facebook, texting; so much communication through a hand-held box, but we’re losing heart-to-heart contact with the people literally right in front of us – our spouses, our children, our friends.

Easter is a season of LIFE and joy. When I put my screens down and look up, I’m surrounded by both. Let St. Madeleine’s wisdom be an examen for your screen time as well as your general behavior. Consider what example you set, what “eloquent lesson” you teach to your own little world.

Lord Jesus, show me what you desire of me and give me the courage to follow through. I want my actions to speak eloquently of your love, especially your love for the souls you’ve placed in my care. Change me so your life is revealed in mine. Amen.

Katie Sciba is the author of thecatholicwife.net. She lives in Shreveport with her husband, Andrew, and four children.

Faithful Food: Lessons Learned

by Kim Long

The opening phrase “Things I have learned this Lent” sounds a bit like a parochial school student’s report, but if you will stick with me I’ll do my best to explain.

This Lent has been so busy, so much so that at times I forgot I was standing in a sandy dry place, with my eyes squinted toward the horizon of Holy Week and Eastertide. I longed for “the good ol’ days” of hard kneelers (not that I had ever known one, but nostalgia, real or imagined is powerful!) and the special somber atmosphere in my kitchen when just a few years ago I prepared the inevitable tuna casserole to bring forth to my family  with an innocent piety, if not celebratory flare.

I missed going through Lent with my family who are all “grown and gone.” I can’t change that and in truth I wouldn’t; it is their time to find out who they are at this time in their lives, slightly distanced from hearth and home and that is a good thing.

I learned I am content to spend some time at home in silence, especially welcomed when this year’s early Easter has brought each weekend filled with activity in the parish. I found that my best prayer time was in my overgrown garden on my knees pulling weeds. Especially rewarding was the instant progress visible after only a half hour. In the world of pastoral ministry we are told that we are planting seeds and in our lifetime we may never see what was realized in that planting, so the clear empty rich dirt awaiting a different type of seed was wonderful.

Another lesson learned was listening. In the silence that currently permeates my home I decided to take another listen to a series of lectures by the late John O’Donohue, an Irish theologian and poet. I have listened to them several times in the past, but always with a busy mind. On a particular Saturday I played the CD. As I washed dishes, folded clothes and swept, his words began to fill my head and spill out into my entire house.

I was listening on a different level, the words becoming clearer. That led me to a different type of prayer, the prayer of “being” with God in the silence. Maybe this is obvious and simple, but to me this was unbroken ground. I moved into Holy Week with a renewed sense of the sacred, hard kneelers notwithstanding.

Now looking forward to Eastertide and how to shift gears from contemplation to celebration, I thumbed through several trusted cookbooks. I hit upon a recipe my grandmother used to make: dried fruit compote. As children we resented being told fruit was dessert. However, after years of making haroset for our annual Seder meal and fig cookies for St. Joseph’s Altar, I have a very different take on all things sweet.
Consider making this at some point during the Easter season. With 50 days of unbridled joy, I think it a great accompaniment. So put some fruit on to simmer, open the windows wide and rejoice in the glory of the Lord! Here endeth the lesson.

Dried Fruit Compote

Ingredients:
• 1 ½ pounds mixed dried fruits
• 1 ½ cups dry white wine  (my grandmother omitted this, she never drank any alcohol, so she substituted a mixture of water and apple juice ratio half and half)
• 1 ½ cups water
• 4 whole cloves
• ¾ cup orange juice
• 2 tbsps lemon juice
• 3 tbsps honey
• 1 tbsp grated lemon peel
• 1 tbsp grated orange peel
• ½ teaspoon cinnamon
• ¼ teaspoon ginger, ground

Directions:
1) In a large stainless steel or enameled saucepan combine the fruits, wine and water and bring to a boil.
2) Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until fruit is tender. Transfer the fruit with a slotted spoon to a serving bowl.
3) Add remaining ingredients to the cooking liquid, and boil the mixture over moderately high heat until reduced to 1 cup.
4) Let it cool and strain over the fruit. Serve cold or at room temperature.

In Review: Beautiful Mercy

Faith informs us that our all-powerful God can, at any time, overtake our problems, our pain and our imperfect lives and replace those troubles with His peace, love and joy. But it has been my experience that God finds great joy when He can move into His people’s lives individually through each one of us. He seems to relish the moments when we bring His peace, love and joy into the everyday experiences of our own brothers and sisters.

In the book, Beautiful Mercy, 27 Catholic authors share short stories and messages that give us a glimpse of God’s plan to shower us first with His mercy, and then use us as a conduit to spread that same divine mercy to others. Divided into the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy, the book leads the reader to quickly ask: “Am I doing my part?” Early on, Matthew Kelly reminds us that making ourselves available to God’s work is a prerequisite for our Catholic mission. He begs us to imagine the world where everyone experiences and then shares God’s mercy on a daily basis.

The introduction, written by Pope Francis, invites us to contemplate that Jesus is the face of mercy. God cordially invites us to receive the Father in the visible and living Jesus Christ. And because His Holy Spirit dwells within us, mercy – God’s divine mercy – dwells deep within each of our hearts as well. As you might imagine, reading the Holy Father’s comments will challenge us.

Filled with Sacred Scripture, the book begins with a meandering through the Corporal Works of Mercy as the authors share stories and their own understanding of the reality of God’s mercy. The Bible tells us His mercies come to us new every morning to equip us with forgiveness and compassion so we can find ways to spread the same into the lives of others.

The Corporal Works of Mercy are the real life ways we can physically touch people with food, clothing and shelter. In addition, we are reminded there are others ways to spread compassion and love. Some are indeed hungry for food to eat. Still many are hungry for love and companionship. Some are starving for a word of hope in their stressful lives, others are craving to know Jesus but we’ve failed to introduce him to them. Answers to that question: “Am I doing my part?” come quickly and often while reading this book. It caused me to reflect on the encounters with Jesus I experience in the sacraments and how easy it is to hold him within myself and not share him with others.

Part two offers examples of how we can live the Spiritual Works of Mercy each day. These are the activities where we give comfort, counsel, prayer and forgiveness to all we meet. Sometimes, in our broken humanity, it is much easier to buy someone a meal than it is to forgive his or her sins. Our own ugly sin of being judgmental seems to lurk within each of us and shows its hideous presence at the most inopportune times.
As the authors share their stories, we find that mercy is freeing, hopeful, personal, affirming, comforting, triumphant, sharing, enduring, empowering, humble, faithful, tireless, emphatic, infinite and even scandalous. You will smile, tear up, meditate, pray and talk to Jesus as you read the pages of this book. And throughout, the overall theme is filled with God’s enormous, unconditional and merciful love for each one of us. He cares for you. He wants you to be in constant reconciliation and communion with Him. When we move toward Him, He finds so many ways to comfort us, give us hope and fill us with His peace and joy.

As we approach the mid-point of our Year of Mercy, this book is an excellent resource to begin the second half.

by Mike Van Vranken

Mike’s Meditations: Teach Me, Show Me, Coach Me

About 20 years ago, American businesses began developing employees by using several versions of a process known as “Teach Me, Show Me and Coach Me.”  It is based on the assumption that we must be taught and trained something before we can ever understand its importance in our lives. Then, for greater results, humans are better equipped to execute and accomplish when a leader actually shows us how. I’ve mused many times that the Catholic Church has used this method through its own leadership for centuries.

In 2000 and 2001, Pope John Paul II “taught” us to begin an understanding of God’s Divine Mercy. Using Sister Faustina’s written explanations of her encounter with Jesus, as well as countless scripture passages, he directed us to a deeper perception of how God’s mercy has sustained humanity since the beginning of creation.

As millions of Catholics have responded and participated in Divine Mercy Sundays over the last 15 years, because of Pope John Paul’s “teaching,” we have come to recognize God’s mercy on a personal level that penetrates our souls to such an extent that we too have found a deeper encounter with our Savior.

And now, Pope Francis follows his predecessor’s lead by “showing us” how to live God’s mercy in our modern world. The images are permanently impressed in our minds; he shows us how by caressing the sick and cherishing the children. He washes the feet of prisoners and installs a program in the Vatican to provide free showers and haircuts for the homeless. He encourages us to accept those fleeing from persecution and to actively bring those who are vulnerable into our everyday lives. We had a wonderful leader who “taught” us. Now we have an equally wonderful leader who “coaches” us.

As we approach the halfway mark in our Jubilee Year of Mercy, we must ask ourselves: How am I doing?

•  Have I found specific ways to harbor the homeless?
•  Have I activated effective methods to feed those who are hungry?
•  How have I provided clothing for the needy?
•  Do I consistently find time to visit the sick?
•  Do I pray for those who visit prisoners?
•  Do I continue to totally forgive those who do wrong?
•  Am I patient with others because God is so patient with me?
•  Do I comfort those who are hurting?
•  Do I pray for those who are persecuting and the persecuted?
•  Do I forgive all who injure me?

One of the many blessings of being a Roman Catholic is the leadership of our popes. We are called to study, understand and follow their teaching. Answering that call also includes following their example.

It is a remarkable scripture when we think about it. We can memorize the Bible. We can know the Catechism by heart. We can spend a lifetime knowing every rule of the Church. We can become a Canon Lawyer or a great Theologian. But Paul is emphatic: without love, it is all useless; worthless; it has no meaning at all.

Pope Francis has asked us to “be the face of mercy.”  He is guiding us to do what we know to do. We have the knowledge. We’ve had it for years. St. Paul, Saint John Paul II, Pope Francis and, of course, Jesus himself, are now inviting us to follow their example: Show love. Show mercy.

Monthly Reflection

Find a quiet place with no distractions. With a pen and paper, ask the Holy Spirit to show you exactly what he wants you to do for the remainder of our Jubilee Year of Mercy. Don’t be afraid. He is not going to ask you to do more than you can do. But, be sure, He does have a plan for each of us.

As He speaks to your heart, write down what He tells you. Then, spend some time in prayer for the grace to do what He’s asking you to do.

by Mike Van Vranken

Bishop’s Reflection: Updates, Changes and Opportunities for Spring

0416bishop

by Bishop Michael G. Duca

We recently made the change to daylight savings time. Even though I hate to lose an hour of sleep, I love the extra daylight in the evening. For me, winter is over and spring has arrived, but the change is more than just seasonal. This new light reminds me each day that we are in the Easter season, our spiritual springtime of new light and life in Christ Jesus. Even though this is my busiest and often most stressful time of the year, I am supported and inspired by the hope of the Easter mysteries and the extra light at the end of the day.

In this time of springtime and Easter, I want to simply share a few random thoughts, changes, updates and opportunities in our diocese for directing those new enthusiasms that arise in this spiritual springtime in our churches.

This spring I am still working to finish my pastoral letter to the diocese about the spiritual themes that will guide our diocese in the future. This has taken longer than I expected, but I will finish soon after Easter. This will not be a finished plan, but will create guidelines to incorporate a new vision into our parishes and the diocese and set the spiritual foundation for meeting the practical needs of the future. I imagine every parish will be invited to gather around these themes and create a future plan for the parish or find ways to incorporate new spiritual dimensions in existing programs. Some parishes are already beginning this process. At every parish I was told how much you enjoyed those gatherings where you not only expressed your thoughts and hopes, but also found a deep connection with other parishioners as they opened their hearts. Your pastor will guide this process as it fits your parish needs along with the help of other parish leaders. I hope this will allow your pastor to express the fullness of his ministry as has been described by Pope Francis who said, “a pastor at times must lead his flock from in front, at time he needs to walk among them to know their needs and at other times he must lag behind the group to urge on the ones struggling and to gather the lost.”

I also hope that each parishioner will deepen his or her relationship with Christ, find a deeper connection with the life of the Church and become more aware that the relationship with Christ and with the Church are different reflections one reality.

Secondly, we should not forget that this is still the Year of Mercy. Be sure you plan a pilgrimage with your parish or with a group of friends to pass through the Holy Door of Mercy at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans.  Already many parish groups, led by their pastor, have visited the Cathedral and walked through the Door of Mercy.

As part of my diocesan actions I have made two decisions in order to remove what may be obstacles to receive God’s mercy. In this Year of Mercy, I have suspended all administrative charges associated with the marriage annulment process. I hope this will remove an obstacle for anyone who may have been reluctant to seek an annulment because of the cost.

Also, during this Year of Mercy until January 1, 2017, I am delegating to pastors to confirm older parishioners who have not received the Sacrament of Confirmation, for whatever reason. Normally, the bishop is the ordinary minister of the Sacrament of Confirmation. I will still make my yearly visits for young parishioners that are preparing for Confirmation. This delegation to pastors is only for those older parishioners who have not yet been confirmed. I will ask that the pastor and those who are seeking Confirmation meet for a few classes to explain and understand the meaning of the sacrament. Then the pastor can confirm when it is convenient for all involved. This will hopefully remove any fear of long preparation and allow a parishioner to more easily receive the sacrament.

One last thing: If you have a deacon in your parish, you may have noticed that some have been wearing gray clergy shirts in the exercise of their diaconal ministry. I have given permission for deacons serving in the Diocese of Shreveport, if the deacon and pastor agree it is helpful, to wear the collar because it more readily identifies them as a deacon. This visible sign can be helpful, for example, in hospital ministry when visiting patients and it also provides a fitting dress when a deacon leads a rosary or performs rites for burial at a cemetery.  They will also have a name tag identifying them as a deacon with their name and parish.

Springtime brings new life. I hope these few small examples will be a sign of the life in our diocese and remind us that our true hope is in Jesus Christ, the LIGHT of the world and the source of New Life, Eternal Life for us all.

April From the Chancellor

• Effective February 22, 2016, Bishop Michael G. Duca issued the “Decree Relegating St. Joseph Chapel at CHRISTUS Schumpert Hospital, St. Mary Place, Shreveport, Louisiana, to Profane but not Sordid Use,” in accordance with CIC cc. 51, 1212, and 1224 § 2.  For a copy of this decree, please contact the Chancery.

• By order of Bishop Michael G. Duca, the Reverend Francis Kamau, FMH, is appointed to serve as Confessor to the Congregation of Our Lady of Sorrows in the Diocese of Shreveport, effective February 26, 2016 and for a term of two years or as long as needed by the Sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows Convent. Fr. Kamau continues his assignment serving parishioners of St. Mary of the Pines Parish, Shreveport, and Sacred Heart of Jesus Church, Shreveport.

• Fr. James Moran, C.O., a member of the Oratory of St Phillip Neri in Rock Hill, South Carolina, has been given leave to work in our diocese for three years and has been assigned as Parochial Vicar of Jesus Good Shepherd Parish in Monroe.

• Fr. John Pardue has canonically excardinated from the Diocese of Shreveport and has been incardinated into the Diocese of Alexandria.

• The Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord is transferred to the Seventh Sunday of Easter in our diocese, which is May 8, 2016 this year.

• The Diocese of Shreveport has set up an anonymous and completely confidential phone line for you to report instances of known or suspected misuse of parish, school or diocesan assets including fraud, excessive waste or abuse. The number is 318-219-7222. This line goes directly to a voicemail that is addressed only to Bishop Duca. Should you need to call this number to report incidents, be assured that Bishop Duca will act on the information in a confidential manner to make positive changes.

USCCB Honors ‘Martyrs of Charity’

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Administrative Committee issued a statement, March 8, honoring the work and the lives of the four religious sisters of the Missionaries of Charity, who along with 12 other people were murdered in Yemen, March 4.

“Wherever people of good will, of any faith, face death because they reject violence and extremism, we must be their witness,” the statement reads. “We give particular thanks to God for the ‘martyrs of charity.’”

The Committee also renewed their call for an increase in the international response to violence in the Middle East.
The full statement follows.

Honoring the “Martyrs of Charity”
A Statement from the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
March 8, 2016

Caring for the aging and dying is an act of love and mercy. Giving totally of oneself to serve the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters is an act of courageous faith. Thus, it is always a great sorrow when such acts of mercy lead to martyrdom. On March 4, four sisters from the Missionaries of Charity, along with 12 people for whom they cared, were murdered in Yemen. Acknowledging they “gave their blood for the Church,” Pope Francis described these sisters as “martyrs of charity.”

In the words of the Holy Father, they were “victims not only of those who have murdered them, but also of the globalization of indifference.” As the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops convenes this week in Washington, DC, we pause to make our own the words and prayer of Pope Francis. We invite the faithful and all people of good will to join in solidarity with people of faith – all faiths – who see their lives threatened by evil, indifference, hatred, and terrorism.

We renew our call for an increased international response. Addressing the full body of bishops in November, USCCB President Archbishop Joseph Kurtz described the atrocities faced by Christians in the Middle East as “nothing short of genocide.” The United States Department of State is considering an official finding of probable cause that genocide is occurring against Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities. It would be an important step toward a declaration of genocide. That declaration would be a life-saving aid in the defense of those facing the extremists’ violence. The Christian community along with others is working to help gather the necessary evidence to urge State Department action.

Wherever people of good will, of any faith, face death because they reject violence and extremism, we must be their witness. We give particular thanks to God for the “martyrs of charity.” Through their sacrifice, they were transformed into signs of Christ’s victory over sin, violence and death.

Jubilee Audience: Mercy & Service

Vatican City – “Be merciful like the Father means following Jesus on the path of service,” said Pope Francis to the more than 20,000 people who attended the Saturday Jubilee audience in St. Peter’s Square on March 12, commenting in his catechesis on the passage from the Gospel of St. John, which narrates how Jesus, the night before He went to die, washed His disciples’ feet.

“Jesus performed a gesture that is engraved in the memory of the disciples: the washing of the feet,” explained the Pope. “An unexpected and surprising gesture, to the extent that Peter did not wish to accept it. I would like look more closely at Jesus’ final words: ‘Do you understand what I have done for you? … Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.’ In this way, Jesus shows his disciples that service is the path to follow if they wish to live their faith in him and to give witness to his love. Jesus applies to himself the image of the ‘Servant of God’ used by the prophet Isaiah. He, Who is the Lord, makes Himself a servant.”

Washing the feet of the apostles, Jesus “wished to reveal God’s way of acting towards us, and to give an example of his ‘new commandment’ to love one another as He has loved us, that is giving His life for us. John too writes in his first letter, ‘This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. … Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.’”

Love, then, is “the concrete service we lend to each other. Love is not words, it is work and service. A humble service, performed in silence and concealed, as Jesus Himself said: ‘When you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.’” And this service is shown also when “we make available to the community the gifts the Holy Spirit has granted us, so that it may grow,” and when “we share material goods so that no-one may be in need. This sharing and dedication to those in need is a style of life that God suggests also to many non-Christians, as a way of authentic humanity.”

“Finally, we must not forget that in washing the feet of His disciples and asking them to do the same, Jesus also invites us to confess our shortcomings to one another and to pray for each other to know how to forgive from the heart,” emphasized Francis. “In this respect, let us remember the words of the bishop St. Augustine, who wrote that ‘Nor should the Christian think it beneath him to do what was done by Christ. For when the body is bent at a brother’s feet, the feeling of such humility is either awakened in the heart itself, or is strengthened if already present. … Let us therefore forgive one another his faults, and pray for one another’s faults, and thus in a manner be washing one another’s feet.’”

“Love and charity, are service, helping others, serving others. There are many people who spend their lives in this way, in the service of others. … When you forget yourself and think of others, this is love! And with the washing of the feet the Lord teaches us to be servants, and above all, servants as He was a servant to us, for every one of us,” concluded the pope.

from Vatican Information Services