Monthly Archives: November 2016

In Review: Pray Like a Gourmet: Creative Ways to Feed the Soul

Pray Like a Gourmet: Creative Ways to Feed the Soul
by David Brazzeal

Review by Kim Long

As a woman who loves to cook I  admit from time to time I find myself in a rut, stuck you might say. My menu rotates and the same meals show up like clockwork. It feels a bit boring, unsatisfying, even unsavory. When this happens  I branch out and try a new recipe which may or may not eventually find its way onto the menu rotation.

Prayer can be a lot like my rotating menu. Certain times of the year I have “go to prayers,” certain situations have their own “recipe”and after a time these prayers can seem a bit stale, unsatisfying. These are the times I cannot taste my desire for communication with God.

I have always been told that books come to us when we are ready. Enter Pray Like a Gourmet: Creative Ways to Feed the Soul. This is a sort of cookbook for feeding the spirit. Using the format of a cookbook, the author takes us through several categories of spiritual nourishment. As a cookbook offers suggestions for table settings, menu planning and troubleshooting this book does for prayer.  Brazzeal contends that prayer can be just as nourishing as a multi-course dinner.

An early quote states “Maybe your most intimate moments with God are akin to grabbing a cheap frozen dinner and tossing it in the microwave: bland, monotonous, predictable and uninteresting.” That may sound a bit drastic, but would one really serve God a microwave dinner?
Brazzeal reminds us that an intimate meal can become an encounter with the Divine.

I really enjoyed the section on lamenting. Here he says, “There are times when you need to allow yourself to be sad, when it is appropriate to lament. Instead of fighting that urge, encourage it, and not only encourage it but decide to do it well – intentionally create a time and space to lament. Keep in mind though lament is healthier when propped up by prayers of Praise and Thanksgiving.”

In another section on intersession, Brazzeal says, “Intercession provides a natural way to add just a smidgen of spiritual salt in just about any secular environment, even hostile ones. By offering to pray for a difficult situation, you let the other person know who to turn to when they really need prayer.” He continues “It gives us a chance to have a long-term impact on somebody’s life by interceding for them on a regular basis.”

Not every meal we eat will be a gourmet meal. Not every prayer we pray will be all encompassing. Sometimes we just need a “bite” of something. Brazzeal addresses that in the third section. He leads off with a quote from Origen, “He prays unceasingly who combines prayer with necessary duties and duties with prayer. Only in this way can we find it practicable to fulfill the commandment to pray always.”

Some possibilities include to set an intention before exercise, to offer short thank yous throughout the day, and I really like this one, “as I pause with my hand on the doorknob, ‘Your Spirit will remain with me throughout the day.’”

This book was fun to read since I enjoy preparing and eating food, but if you have never fried an egg or baked a pie, don’t despair, this book is for you too. This is not a book for women only! It is a fun and thought provoking journey through various types of prayer and its nourishment for the soul. In Corinthians 10:31 we are reminded that whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

Mike’s Meditations: God in Our Everyday Lives

by Mike Van Vranken

Our seasons of Advent and Christmas run together as if they are one experience. As hard as we try to keep them separate; trying to live them as two independent occasions, we end up engaging them as one season of hope and joy. Lasting around 45 days, a little longer than Lent, we find ourselves mostly preparing for the Christ child by buying gifts, attending parties and trying to cram more activities in each day than is actually possible. We eventually slump with fatigue and ask: “How did such a spiritual time become so secular?”

But why are we so surprised?  This spiritual event is actually very historical – very human.  Oh yes, it all began when the God of the universe chose to burst into our earthly realm in the form of a man – a human being.  We call this the Incarnation; God made man. We’ve spent 2,000 years trying to explain it. But it’s a mystery.  It’s supernatural. We believe it by faith. But then, it happened in the physical. It is very real – very earthy. So, it’s no wonder we get caught up in the worldliness of it all. After all, it is where we live: in the world.

Yet, we still try to keep it spiritual.  We want to remember the reason for it all. That God promised to send us an anointed savior. He pledged that this savior would free us from sin and offer us the gift of living with Him forever. We know this in faith. But for now, we experience this savior – the one we call Jesus – in our everyday lives. And in our busyness, it is very difficult to be aware of the Jesus within us – and within those around us. So how do we participate in this spiritual/physical miracle we call Advent and Christmas?

Fr. Karl Rahner once wrote that “the great experiences in life” are “gifts of God and God’s mercy, yet they tend to be mostly given to those who are prepared to receive them.”  We ask ourselves at this time of year: “Am I prepared for this grace, this gift of God to celebrate Jesus with all of the awe and purpose that he deserves?”  “Have I taken the time to slow down, anticipate his coming, receive him as the Christ child, and encounter him in both a human and spiritual way?”  “Have I ever taken the time and effort to even know what that means?”

It can begin when we become silent. Again, quoting Father Rahner, “Take courage to be alone.” Alone with God.  This, of course, is the reality we are talking about. Our physical body in our physical world being alone with our spiritual God. It may be difficult at first, but we know we must maintain our silence and remain with it.  We use our memories, understanding and imagination.  We stay silent. And eventually, in the darkness of our silence, in the depths of our hearts, we understand the Advent/Christmas message: God is near – God is here!  He came to us. He is with us – Emmanuel.

Fr. Rahner concludes: “Only the experience of the heart allows one to truly grasp the faith message of Christmas: God has become human.”  And for us, it means He understands our daily lives. He understands our heartaches and frustrations, our joys and our hopes, our trials and our sorrows. He doesn’t just try to imagine them. He loved us so much that He came and experienced them just like we do. He knows your feelings, so in the silence, you can talk to Him because He is really present. The Jesus we long for in Advent becomes eternally present within us at Christmas. It’s not a mirage or a dream. It is real and true and it is the manifestation of God’s indescribable love for us.

Monthly Reflection:

Offer God the gift of your silent attention every day this Advent and Christmas. Sit with him in preparation of His coming during the Advent season. Thank Him for the promise of a savior. Thank Him for the promise of eternity with Him.

Clean out the clutter in your heart wherever it is needed. It may be forgiving someone, feeding a hungry person, visiting with someone who is lonely. Sit silently with God and He will show you what to do.

Bishop’s Reflection: Create a Spiritual Center for Christmas


by Bishop Michael G. Duca

Every year as Christmas draws near, I call to mind good memories of family celebrations, Christmas feasts, the gathering of relatives, the lighting of the final candle of our family Advent wreath and midnight Mass.  I am sure that many of us have these same kind of memories of family gatherings and rituals that create a deep spiritual joy that is uniquely connected to the Advent and Christmas season.  Yet as strong as these memories are, it may seem that the connection with the deep spiritual meaning of Christmas seems to fade each year and all the busyness of our Christmas celebration seems to be more disconnected from the wonder and joy we should feel as we celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

When I was growing up there was never any doubt for me that everything my family did for Christmas was centered on our faith.  Before the Christmas tree was decorated, we put up the manger scene. At every dinner meal for the four weeks before Christmas we lit a family Advent wreath and all our celebrations and dinners were scheduled around going to Mass and any other religious event at the church.

It is so easy to lose the heart of our spiritual joy at Christmas by losing the spiritual center of the season.  Slowly, without realizing, we make our Christmas Day family schedule THEN we decide when or whether we have time for Mass.  We may have long ago stopped planning to make time to attend an Advent penance service to prepare spiritually for Christmas.  As the activities of Christmas become more separated from a spiritual center we become more frantic, demanding and less willing to make time for prayer, quiet and for anything that will complicate the schedule.  For example, we may decide out of our stress, that there is no room for any one else for dinner especially for  “you-know-who” because they will mess things up. At this point we might be accused of sounding like the innkeeper who told the Holy Family there was no room at the inn. Our Christmas celebration becomes so self-centered that we squeeze out a space for our Savior.

We can change.  A few years ago my family decided we were buying too many presents and the frantic rush to give everyone a gift was taking the joy out of Christmas.  So we decided to choose names and only buy one gift for the one person whose name we chose. The next Christmas we were able to approach Christmas day with calm and more time to reflect upon the wonder of God’s love.

If you feel you are losing it, or you are becoming a Christmas grouch, then take time to prayerfully consider where your faith in Christ is in all this activity.  The first step is not to change what you do, it is to discover why you are doing it. When you have re-discovered Christ at the center then not only will everything find its place, but you will be free to make room for the unexpected.

You might even open your door to the unexpected or difficult guest and discover they are not in your way, but they may be THE WAY to act in a loving manner and truly celebrate the meaning of Christmas, something the innkeeper never discovered in Bethlehem.  By grounding ourselves in the deeper spiritual meaning of Christmas you are able to find hope and joy even when it is hard.

For some there are no warm memories of Christmas celebrations with their family.  For others, the easy joy of this year’s celebration has been broken by the death or illness of a loved one.  For someone who has lost their job it is difficult to create the memories that come with Christmas dinners and gifts for the family.  Especially in these moments the truest meaning of the love of God is revealed:  that our Savior came to be with us and give us hope even in these darkest moments. When we are poor and in need we discover our deepest faith and the most profound gifts that Jesus offers.

So in the end think of it this way:  If on Christmas Eve you took away every decoration, light, Christmas tree and evidence of Christmas and cancelled every gathering and dinner, on Christmas morning, when you awoke, would your heart still be filled with the joy of celebrating the birth of our Savior?  When the answer to this is honestly YES, then everything else you do will find its proper place.
I pray your Advent and Christmas will be a time of grace and blessing.

Fidel Mondragón to be Ordained to Transitional Diaconate


On December 10, 2016, seminarian Fidel Mondragón will be ordained to the transitional diaconate, one of the final steps a seminarian takes before being ordained a priest. After this ordination, he will serve as a deacon until his priestly ordination in 2017.

A native of Mexico, Fidel has been a welcome addition to our seminarian pool, especially as the Diocese of Shreveport experiences a rise in our number of Hispanic Catholics. Meeting their needs is key to helping them sustain their Catholic faith.

Raised the son of a farming family in Mexico, Fidel’s parents put great stock in their family’s Catholic faith, saying the Rosary together every night. Just making it to Mass was difficult for the family who owned no car, so together they would make the one hour trek to the nearest church, either on horse or on foot. Fidel would sit on the floor of the church, directly in front of the priest with the other children.

“Since I was a little child, I felt I wanted to be a priest, since I was 11 or 12 years old, before I finished my elementary school,” said Fidel. “When I went to Mass with my mom, I saw the priest celebrating the Mass and I said, ‘When I grow up and get older, I want to be a priest.’”

Fidel’s path to the priesthood has been a long and winding one. When he first approached the seminary at age 17, he realized he wasn’t prepared to leave home or his father’s farm yet. A year later he moved to the United States with his brother, where he worked in the Dallas area for nine years. At one point, Fidel thought his vocation might be to marriage and family, but after a retreat with the Piarist Fathers, he applied to pursue priesthood through their religious order and was accepted. Over the next two years, Fidel attended seminary in Miami, Mexico and Puerto Rico.
The Piarist Fathers primarily worked in the classrooms teaching, a worthy vocation, but not one that spoke to Fidel. “When I was in the classrooms, I wanted to be a diocesan seminarian. I talked to my spiritual director… I said, Father, it is very good the work that you do, that you all do, but I want to be a diocesan priest.”

Despite wanting to return to his home diocese in Mexico, a priest from the Diocese of Dallas convinced Fidel that priests were needed in the United States to assist the growing Catholic Mexican population.

“Don’t be in the place that you want to be,” the priest told him, “You be in the place that the people need you.” The Diocese of Dallas supported Fidel for four years while he attended seminary in Mexico. After completing his fourth year, Dallas made many changes in their vocational program and decided to no longer support seminarians in other countries.

With the help of the seminary rector in Mexico, Fidel began to seek another diocese to join. They looked at several dioceses, but Fidel knew Fr. Rogelio Alcantara who teaches at the seminary and often visits the Diocese of Shreveport. Fr. Rogelio made introductions for Fidel with the Diocese of Shreveport. Vocations Director Fr. Matthew Long traveled to visit the seminary in Mexico to meet Fidel. Together, and with permission from Bishop Duca, they agreed that Fidel would become a seminarian for the Diocese of Shreveport.

by Jessica Rinaudo

Free Course on the Gospel of Matthew on Diocesan Website


by Fr. Patrick Madden

What would our Christmas season be without the story of the Magi and the Star?  These narratives, along with the annunciation to Joseph of our Savior’s birth, are found only in Matthew.  Only in Matthew do we learn of the plans of the wicked King Herod to kill the infant Jesus, and of the flight of the Holy Family to Egypt until the danger was over. For the past year, most of the Sunday Gospel readings have been from St. Luke. Beginning on November 27th, most of the Gospel passages for the next year will be from the Gospel of St. Matthew.

It is impossible to calculate the effect of the Gospel of Matthew on our Catholic spirituality.  The Lord’s Prayer is found in both Matthew and Luke.  However, while even priests and bishops have a hard time reciting Luke’s version from memory, most Catholics who are 5-years-old can say Matthew’s version!  Luke’s Gospel has four Beatitudes; Matthew’s has eight Beatitudes.  I’ll bet the catechism you learned from was based on Matthew!

We Catholics have a special love for St. Peter, whose ministry continues to be exercised through Pope Francis.  Matthew has stories about Peter that are especially beloved to Catholics.  Only in Matthew do we have the story of Peter walking on the water to go to Jesus, and the story of Peter finding a coin the fish’s mouth to pay the Temple tax for Jesus and for himself. The words of Jesus, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church,” are found only in Matthew.

Other stories unique to Matthew include the Sermon on the Mount and the apparition of Jesus to his disciples on a mountain in Galilee after he rose from the dead. The great Parable of the Last Judgment, where the glorious Son of Man separates the sheep from the goats is found only in this Gospel.

The Office of Catechesis and Greco Institutes has prepared a four-week overview of the Gospel of Matthew.  This series of lectures by Fr. Pat Madden is available on our diocesan website ( and Facebook page (Diocese of Shreveport). It is designed for catechists, for lectors and other liturgical ministers, for deacons, and for any Catholic who wants to learn a little bit more about this great spiritual treasure of our faith. Why not spend the four weeks of Advent becoming more familiar with the Gospel of Matthew?

2016 Annual Appeal Report

by John Mark Willcox, Director of Development

Our Annual Diocesan Stewardship Appeal has fought hard during the 2016 campaign and despite a ragged economy, the faithful donors of our diocese have still managed to pledge nearly $1.3 million dollars in support of Appeal ministries, programs and outreach. Check out this year’s Appeal statistics below and take special note of those worship locations that achieved their pledge goal for this year and those that came very close to doing so.

DIOCESAN GOAL: $1,500,000
Pledge Amount: $1,291,397  (86%)    
Amount Paid: $1,218,684  (94%)    

Total Number of Donors:  2,979    (27%)          Average Gift:    $433.50


St. John Berchmans Cathedral    $154,305            103%       28%
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish    $132,079            100%        28%
St. Mary of the Pines Parish    $62,506            114%        36%
St. Pius X Parish    $53,105            109%        33%
St. Clement Parish    $11,801            103%        38%
St. Margaret Church    $6,810            105%        44%

Jesus the Good Shepherd    $90,430        100%        26%
St. Paschal Parish    $43,052        127%        27%
St. Theresa Church    $7,300        104%        20%

St. Joseph Parish, Zwolle    $65,690        109%        22%
St. John the Baptist Parish    $20,679        118%        35%


PARISH    PLEDGED        % OF GOAL          DONOR %
St. Patrick Parish       $10,285        98%      60%
Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church       $8,686        97%      49%
St. Ann Church, Ebarb       $14,260        92%      34%
St. Lawrence Parish       $6,839        91%      33%
Sacred Heart Parish, Oak Grove       $6,360        91%       33%

Congratulations to these 16 places of worship for their efforts on behalf of our Annual Appeal and may God bless all of the faithful donors to our 2016 Annual Diocesan Stewardship Appeal. Our 2017 Appeal begins on Sunday, February 26, 2017, so take time to mark your calendars now and begin considering your pledge to our upcoming Annual Appeal campaign.

Coming Together as Faithful Citizens for the Common Good


from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

WASHINGTON—Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has issued the following statement regarding the election of Donald Trump as President-Elect.

Full statement follows.

The American people have made their decision on the next President of the United States, members of Congress as well as state and local officials. I congratulate Mr. Trump and everyone elected. Now is the moment to move toward the responsibility of governing for the common good of all citizens. Let us not see each other in the divisive light of Democrat or Republican or any other political party, but rather, let us see the face of Christ in our neighbors, especially the suffering or those with whom we may disagree.

We, as citizens and our elected representatives, would do well to remember the words of Pope Francis when he addressed the United States Congress last year, “all political activity must serve and promote the good of the human person and be based on respect for his or her dignity.” On November 8, millions of Americans who are struggling to find economic opportunity for their families voted to be heard. Our response should be simple: we hear you. The responsibility to help strengthen families belongs to each of us.

The Bishops Conference looks forward to working with President-elect Trump to protect human life from its most vulnerable beginning to its natural end. We will advocate for policies that offer opportunity to all people, of all faiths, in all walks of life. We are firm in our resolve that our brothers and sisters who are migrants and refugees can be humanely welcomed without sacrificing our security. We will call attention to the violent persecution threatening our fellow Christians and people of other faiths around the world, especially in the Middle East. And we will look for the new administration’s commitment to domestic religious liberty, ensuring people of faith remain free to proclaim and shape our lives around the truth about man and woman, and the unique bond of marriage that they can form.

Every election brings a new beginning. Some may wonder whether the country can reconcile, work together and fulfill the promise of a more perfect union. Through the hope Christ offers, I believe God will give us the strength to heal and unite.

Let us pray for leaders in public life that they may rise to the responsibilities entrusted to them with grace and courage. And may all of us as Catholics help each other be faithful and joyful witnesses to the healing love of Jesus.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville
President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Cardinal DiNardo Elected USCCB President, Archbishop Gomez Elected Vice President

BALTIMORE—Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, was elected president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) during the annual fall General Assembly in Baltimore. Cardinal DiNardo has served as vice president of the USCCB since 2013. Archbishop Jose Gomez was elected as USCCB vice president.

Cardinal DiNardo and Archbishop Gomez are elected to three-year terms and succeed Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, and Cardinal DiNardo, respectively. The new president and vice president terms begin at the conclusion of the General Assembly on November 15.

Cardinal DiNardo was elected president on the first ballot with 113 votes. Archbishop Gomez was elected vice president on the third ballot by 131-84 in a runoff vote against Archbishop  Gregory Aymond of New Orleans.

The president and vice president are elected by a simple majority from a slate of 10 nominees. If no president or vice president is chosen after the second round of voting, a third ballot is a run-off between the two bishops who received the most votes on the second ballot.

Cardinal DiNardo was born May 23, 1949, and ordained a priest of Pittsburgh on June 16, 1977. He previously served as bishop of Sioux City, Iowa, from 1998-2004 before being appointed to coadjutor bishop, then archbishop, of Galveston-Houston. Pope Benedict XVI named him a cardinal in 2007, making him the first cardinal from Texas. Archbishop Gomez was born December 26, 1951, in Monterrey, Mexico. He was ordained a priest on August 15, 1978. He was appointed auxiliary bishop of Denver in 2001, and in 2004, he was appointed archbishop of San Antonio. He was appointed coadjutor archbishop of Los Angeles in 2010, and was installed as archbishop of Los Angeles in 2011.

Bishops Call Officials & Americans to Welcome Refugees & Immigrants Without Sacrificing Core Values, Security

from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

BALTIMORE—On the first day of the Fall General Assembly, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, asked his brother bishops to support a post-election statement given by Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle, Washington, and chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, repeating the words to our brothers and sisters who come to the country seeking a better life: “We are with you.”

Below is the original statement issued November 11, and now supported by the body of bishops.

We would first like to congratulate President-elect Donald J. Trump and give our support for all efforts to work together to promote the common good, especially those to protect the most vulnerable among us. I personally pledge my prayers for Mr. Trump, all elected officials, and those who will work in the new administration. I offer a special word to migrant and refugee families living in the United States: be assured of our solidarity and continued accompaniment as you work for a better life.

We believe the family unit is the cornerstone of society, so it is vital to protect the integrity of the family. For this reason, we are reminded that behind every “statistic” is a person who is a mother, father, son, daughter, sister or brother and has dignity as a child of God. We pray that as the new administration begins its role leading our country,  it will recognize the contributions of refugees and immigrants to the overall prosperity and well-being of our nation. We will work to promote humane policies that protect refugees and immigrants’ inherent dignity, keep families together, and honor and respect the laws of this nation.

Serving and welcoming people fleeing violence and conflict in various regions of the world is part of our identity as Catholics. The Church will continue this life-saving tradition. Today, with more than 65 million people forcibly displaced from their homes, the need to welcome refugees and provide freedom from persecution is more acute than ever and 80 of our dioceses across the country are eager to continue this wonderful act of accompaniment born of our Christian faith. We stand ready to work with a new administration to continue to ensure that refugees are humanely welcomed without sacrificing our security or our core values as Americans. A duty to welcome and protect newcomers, particularly refugees, is an integral part of our mission to help our neighbors in need.

We pray for President -elect Trump and all leaders in public life, that they may rise to the responsibilities entrusted to them with grace and courage. And may all of us as Catholics and Americans remain a people of solidarity with others in need and a nation of hospitality which treats others as we would like to be treated.

Jubilee Audience: Mercy is Inclusive

from Vatican Information Services

The final Saturday Jubilee audience, which took place on November 12, 2016,  was dedicated to an important aspect of mercy: inclusion, which reflects the action of God, Who does not exclude anyone from His loving plan of salvation, but instead wishes to include all people. “We Christians are invited to use the same criterion,” said Pope Francis. “Mercy is that way of acting, that style, with which we seek to include others in our life, to avoid becoming wrapped up in ourselves and our selfish insecurities.”

It is the invitation Jesus made in the Gospel of Matthew, read that morning before thousands of faithful in St. Peter’s Square: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.’ No-one is excluded from this appeal, because Jesus’ mission is that of revealing the Father’s love to every person. It is up to us to open our heart, to trust in Jesus and to welcome this message of love that has enabled us to enter into the mystery of salvation.”

Francis explained that this aspect of mercy is expressed by opening our arms to welcome all without exclusion, “without classifying others on the basis of social condition, language, race, culture, religion: before us there is only a person to love as God does. The person I find in the workplace, in my neighborhood, is a person to love, as God loves him or her. ‘But he is from that country, that other country, this religion, another one… He is a person who God loves, and I must love him.’ This is including, and this is inclusion.”

“How many weary and oppressed people we meet today, too! On the street, in public offices, in medical clinics. Jesus’ gaze falls on every one of these faces, also through our eyes. And our heart, what is it like? Is it merciful? And our way of acting, is it inclusive? The Gospel calls on us to recognize in the history of humanity the plan of a great work of inclusion, that fully respecting the freedom of every person, of every community, every people, calls on all of us to form a family of brothers and sisters, in justice, solidarity and peace, and to form part of the Church, which is the body of Christ.”

“How true Jesus’ words are, when He invites those who are weary and burdened to go to him to find rest! His open arms on the cross show that no-one is excluded from his love and his mercy, not even the greatest sinner: no-one! We are all included in his love and mercy. The most immediate expression by which we feel welcomed and integrated in him is his forgiveness. We all need to be forgiven by God, and we all need to meet brothers and sisters who help us to go to Jesus, to open ourselves to the gift he made to us on the cross. Let us not obstruct each other! Let us exclude no-one! On the contrary, with humility and simplicity, let us be an instrument of the inclusive mercy of the Father. The Holy Mother Church extends in the world the great embrace of the dead and risen Christ. This square too, with its colonnade, expresses this embrace. Let us take part in this movement of the inclusion of others, to be witnesses to the mercy with which God welcomed and welcomes each one of us.” •