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Catholic Charities: North Louisiana’s Good Samaritan

by Lucy Medvec Who will you help today? In the parable of the Good Samaritan, we are called by Jesus to go forth and treat our neighbors with mercy, even those we More »

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Bishop’s Reflection: Live in a Way That Embraces Eternal Life

by Bishop Michael G. Duca For I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the More »

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26th Annual Red Mass Set for May 4 at Holy Trinity

by Jessica Rinaudo & Richard Hiller The Red Mass, which takes place annually at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in May of each year, has become a fixture in the Diocese of Shreveport. More »

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Author and EWTN TV Show Host to Give “Feeding Your Family’s Soul” Workshop in Shreveport

I sat down with Donna-Marie Cooper-O’Boyle, author of Feeding Your Family’s Soul, to talk to her about her book and upcoming workshop in Shreveport on April 28.  Q: What inspired this idea More »

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Loyola Students Memorialize Florida School Shooting Victims

by Lisa Cooper In the wake of the Parkland, FL, school shooting on Ash Wednesday, Loyola students found themselves hurting and desired a way to honor those who were killed. The art More »

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Domestic Church: Facing Fear and Difficulty

by Katie Sciba I had over 20 tabs open online, all of them for rentals within a 50 mile radius. We needed a three-bedroom house for the seven of us, that would More »

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Mike’s Meditations: Good Catholic, Bad Catholic

by Mike Van Vranken There is an interesting story where an official asked Jesus: “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Luke 18:18. Jesus peculiarly responds: “Why do you More »

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The Shroud of Turin: Cathedral to Host Nationally Known Shroud Speaker, Replica Display & Shroud of Turin Podcast Series

by Jessica Rinaudo The Shroud of Turin has long been a source of fascination. The burial shroud of a man who many believe was Jesus Christ has both inspired the faithful around More »

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Fr. David T. Richter’s Legacy to Continue Through Memorial Fund

by Diane Libro Fr. David T. Richter served the Diocese of Shreveport for 29 years with a quiet but fierce passion for God and the Church. Three years after his unexpected death More »

Vocation Visits

Fr. Matthew Long and Seminarian John Parker visited students at Catholic Schools

Seminarian John Parker answers questions at St. Joseph School.

During the month of January, Fr. Matthew Long, Director of Church Vocations, and John Parker, Seminarian of the diocese, had the opportunity to visit the Catholic Schools of the Diocese of Shreveport. They shared their vocation stories and urged the students to pray to God for guidance in their lives. They also entertained any questions the students had about the Church, the priesthood or religious life.
John Parker said of the visits: “What struck me most about my vocations visits is best summed up by a single, simple word, a word which we so often take for granted: hope! There is great hope for the future of the Church! This hope is most evident in the eyes of the youth. One can unmistakably see in these youthful eyes a great desire for the fullness of life. All they need is more young men and women to step forward and provide an honest example, an example of the fullness of life that exists in a vocation discerned and lived out. These kids give me hope that there will be more who step forward and make this courageous decision to joyfully live their lives for Christ. In the mean time, I will continue to pray for them that they do so with hope-filled hearts.”

Fr. Matthew Long, Director of Church Vocations, visits with students at Our Lady of Fatima School in Monroe.

by Fr. Matthew Long, Director of Church Vocations

Navigating the Faith: Sacraments of Initiation

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by Rev. Mark Watson

One of the greatest gifts which resulted from the Second Vatican Council has been the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). This gift continues to shape the lives of church communities and the candidates and catechumens they welcome.

RCIA has certainly helped to shape my spiritual life. After Graduate School I moved to Shreveport to work at the LSU-Medical Center. Soon after arriving I became a sponsor in the RCIA process at my new parish, the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans. I was a sponsor for four years. Being a part of the RCIA process brought a sense of acceptance and a new understanding of my faith. Now as pastor I enjoy working with candidates who wish to explore living their faith in the Catholic Church.

In my first two years as pastor of St. Patrick Church and Sacred Heart Church, I have enjoyed working with RCIA groups in both parishes. I have also felt great fulfillment in assisting in the initiation of those on the margins of society. This has included Hispanic children and adults who had not yet received their initiation sacraments and inmates with a desire to become Catholic. RCIA has helped these individuals find deeper fulfillment in their faith lives.

Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist
The Sacraments of Initiation are Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. Baptism incorporates us into Christ and forms us into God’s People. In Baptism our sins are forgiven and we become adopted children of God. Confirmation is the bridge between the waters of Baptism and the reception of the Lord’s Presence in the Eucharist.  Confirmation makes us more complete in the image of our Lord and fills us with the Holy Spirit so we may bear witness to Christ before the world. We receive the True Presence of Our Lord at the table of the Eucharist so that we may have eternal life and show forth the unity of God’s People.

History of RCIA
In the first two centuries of the Church there was no formal process of initiation.  Faith in Jesus Christ and in God as Father of Jesus Christ, conversion of lifestyle, and signs of concern for the needy were the only requirements for Baptism. By the third century the process of initiation was formalized. In the Apostolic Tradition (ca. 215) Hippolytus defines two stages of preparation: those being introduced to God’s word for the first time, catecumeni (catechumens) or audientes (hearers) and those who have been chosen by the community for initiation.

While the rites of initiation developed and fluctuated depending on the local church, a highly structured and unified rite of initiation evolved. Catechumens could spend three years in spiritual catechetical and liturgical formation. (CCC, 1230)

Catechumens entered a more intense period of preparation, usually coinciding with the Season of Lent. Lent took the form of a lengthy retreat before Baptism for the whole community. The period was one of intense prayer, fasting and continued study.  The Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer were handed over to the chosen. The Gospel stories of the Samaritan woman (John 4:16-42), the man born blind (John 9:1-41) and the resurrection of Lazarus (John 11:1-45) were read during Lenten Masses for the catechumens.

Tertullian and Hippolytus both identified the great Vigil of Easter as the most appropriate time for Baptism. There were various ways of celebrating Baptism among early churches but the common elements were the renunciation of Satan, the proclamation of the Apostles’ Creed, pre-baptismal anointings, Baptism with a Trinitarian formula, bestowal of a white garment and anointing and imposition of hands. After these rites the newly baptized were welcomed to the Eucharistic table.

The fourth and fifth centuries saw an increase in the numbers of converts after Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. This resulted in a shortened initiation process, relaxed requirements and unverified conversions.  With the universal acceptance of infant Baptism during the fifth century and indiscriminate Baptisms of conquered “barbarians,” the adult catechumenate became nearly defunct. Once infant Baptism became the norm, the church focused on post-baptismal catechesis rather than the various stages which had previously led to full initiation in the Catholic Church. (CCC 1231)

By the beginning of the twentieth century, only in North Africa was a catechumenal model kept alive. From North Africa, European countries like France revived the catechumenate. From this model, RCIA was revised and restored in 1972 in accordance with the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council. The Rite of Christian Initiation was mandated for use in the United States beginning on September 1, 1988. (CCC 1232)  

Central to the meaning of RCIA is that conversion is a gradual process of formation.  This process assists the baptized (candidates) and the non-baptized (catechumens) to live the Christian life and to be joined to Christ. The RCIA process happens within a community. The initiation of adults is the responsibility of all the baptized, not only the pastor and the RCIA team. The community should welcome the catechumens and candidates and should offer their lives as examples of renewal, especially during Lent.

The RCIA process is understood to be paschal in that the candidates and catechumens are joined to Christ’s death, burial and resurrection through the initiation sacraments. The Season of Lent and the Triduum are to assist the catechumens in celebrating the Paschal Mystery through their Baptism at the Easter Vigil.

As we approach the celebration of the Easter Vigil please pray that the candidates and catechumens within our parishes will grow closer to Christ this Lent and throughout their lives.

(Information about the history of RCIA was gathered from the Encyclopedia of Catholicism, Richard P. McBrien, General Editor.)

Photo: (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz, Long Island Catholic)

Documents of Vatican II: Presbyterorum Ordinis & Optatam Totius

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Decree on Ministry and Life of Priests & Decree on Priestly Training

by Christie Weeks

The final year of the Second Vatican Council (1965) saw the promulgation of two decrees specifically addressing the priesthood.
Presbyterorum Ordinis, Vatican II’s Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests focuses on the pastoral mission of  priests. Through its “aim of giving more effective support to the ministry of priests and making better provision for their life,” the decree reminds us that our priests are drawn from the people and called to service.

Three major functions of priests are described in the first chapter:
• To announce the Gospel of God through preaching, by their example and behavior, teaching and by inviting all to conversion.
• With the Eucharist central to their ministry they are to teach people how to fully participate in the Liturgy.
• To build up the Church by encouraging people to seek increased Christian maturity and by promoting communities that are charitable, missionary, prayerful and faithful.

Chapter II of the decree discusses the priest’s relations with their bishops, other priests and lay people. They are to be helpers and advisors to their bishop. Hospitality and fostering community life with brother priests are critical. Experienced priests should be helpful to newly ordained men. Priests should promote the dignity of lay people and accept and nurture their competence. The faithful are reminded of their obligations to their priests—respect, help and filial love.

The final chapter addresses the life of priests. Prayer, spiritual direction and care of their own spiritual health are vital. They should strive to set an example for the faithful and commit to their own formation and education. They should be paid fair salaries, allowed vacation time and be given proper support in ill health and old age.

The introduction to Optatam Totius, the Decree on the Training of Priests, opens with the Vatican Councils admission that “the desired renewal of the whole Church depends in great part upon a priestly ministry animated by the spirit of Christ and it solemnly affirms the critical importance of priestly training.” It reminds us that we all have the responsibility of fostering vocations to the priesthood.

The decree emphasizes that every aspect of a seminarian’s formation should be developed with a pastoral view. Candidates should be thoroughly screened, provided sound scriptural and theological education, deeper spiritual training and a realistic understanding of priestly life. The decree envisions seminary programs that are “an initiation to the students’ future lives as priests.”

Especially important in a formation program are the principal areas of ministry including catechetics, preaching, liturgical worship and administration of the sacraments, works of charity and pastoral duties. Training and opportunities for practical experience should be provided to seminarians.

Finally the decree explains that ongoing priestly training in the spiritual, intellectual and pastoral arenas is crucial for the renewal and progress of our clergy.  We can see then, that the sound implementation of Optatam Totius provides foundational support for Presbyterorum Ordinis.

St. Katharine Drexel, S.B.S.

When Katharine’s family took a trip to the Western part of the United States, she saw the plight and destitution of the native Indian-Americans. This experience aroused her desire to do something specific to help alleviate their condition. This was the beginning of her lifelong personal and financial support of numerous missions and missionaries in the United States. When she asked Pope Leo XIII to send more missionaries to Wyoming, he asked her, “Why don’t you become a missionary?” As a young, wealthy, educated girl from Philadelphia, this was hardly the expected lifestyle for young Katharine Drexel. But raised in a devout family with a deep sympathy for the poor, Katharine gave up everything to become a missionary to the Indians and African Americans. She founded schools in 13 states for African Americans, 40 mission centers and 23 rural schools. She also established 50 missions for Indians in 16 different states. She died at the age of 96 and was canonized in the year 2000.

from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops & vatican.va

Saints in the Kitchen

by Kim Long

Our parish recently hosted a  women’s retreat day. The focus was the life, ministry and mission of St. Brigid of Ireland. Our presenter told us St. Brigid was the keeper of the hearth fire. While we may not have actual fires to tend to, there are many ways to incorporate this concept into our own lives.

Two parishioners recently passed away and I brought food for their funeral meals.Many times I have almost thoughtlessly thrown together a salad or casserole, or stirred up a cake for these occasions; not really thinking much about it. After hearing the remark of St. Brigid’s tending of the hearth fire and her ministry of hospitality I did a mental double take. I thought of how many people do just that, the simple yet powerful act of cooking for a funeral meal, bringing a meal to someone in need, someone who is ill, someone who is hungry. How can my awareness grow so that simple actions become more meaningful in my own life? Mindfulness is the key. As a need is made known, as recipes are chosen, ingredients gathered and blended, and the final product delivered I can pray for the needs of that individual, that family, our community. Such a simple thing but I had for years focused mainly on the practical side: Should the recipe be doubled? How many will this feed? Will it keep or have to be served quickly? Now it seems that even my kitchen has taken on a different purpose.

St.Patrick’s Day is one of our family’s “high holy days,” but unlike the revelry that is often associated with the day, for us it’s a family time. We go to Mass, pray the Breastplate of St. Patrick, and enjoy an Irish dinner. My brother usually edges out one of my sons, just barely though, for eating the most corned beef. Our meal would be incomplete without soda bread.

There are as many recipes for this classic Irish dish as there are cooks who bake it. As you are stirring up the flour, soda and buttermilk say prayers for your family and ask “holy Patrick and Brigid” to pray for those you love.

I have been blessed to visit Kildare Ireland, St. Brigid’s hometown, and to walk the Brigid pilgrimage. To this day it’s still a bit hard to believe I was actually there. I thought I had only walked “with Brigid” once, but now I realize as a spiritual companion she walks with me everyday!  Bain taitnermh as do bhe’ile!  May your appetite be good!

Irish Soda Bread

Ingredients:
• 4 cups all purpose flour
• ¼ cup sugar
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 2 large eggs (room temp)
• 1 ¼ cups buttermilk
• ¼  cup corn oil
• 2 teaspoons carraway seeds
• 1 cup golden raisins (you can use regular but the taste will be different)

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet. In a large bowl, stir the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt together. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, buttermilk and oil together. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the buttermilk mixture. Add seeds and raisins. Stir until a soft dough is formed. Shape the dough into a large ball on a lightly floured board or pan (flour hands to make handling the dough easier as it is a bit sticky). Take a large and sharp knife and make a cross on top (do not cut all the way through, only partly). Place on the prepared pan. Brush the top with milk. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 to 40 minutes. Enjoy with lashings of butter and a good cup of tea!

Recipe from Irish Heritage Cookbook by Margaret M. Johnson

Appeal Ministries: Hispanic Ministries

In the fall of 2012, the Office of Hispanic Ministry for our diocese celebrated a very active twenty-fifth anniversary as the Latino culture in our diocese continues its dramatic growth. A new emphasis on Hispanic Youth has become a special concentration in this “Year of Faith,” as a full-time Hispanic Youth Coordinator has been added with help of Catholic Extension Society.

Appeal donations over the past two-and-a-half decades have helped fund special outreach to these important members of our faith community including our Hispanic youth. Outreach via retreats, Spanish radio, sports outreach through soccer clubs, Masses celebrated in Spanish and the preparation of those seeking Confirmation continue to benefit from Appeal donations.

As our diocese seeks to more fully incorporate these critical Catholic members of our region, your Appeal donations will continue to assist our Hispanic Ministry efforts in a number of locations throughout our diocese.

John Mark Willcox is the Director of Stewardship & Development. To give to the annual Diocesan Stewardship Appeal that supports ministries like these, visit www.dioshpt.org/stewardship/stewardship.html.

Discerning Your Call: Differentiating Between Diocesan and Religious Service

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Photo: From left to right: Fr. James McLelland and Fr. Richard Norsworthy are priests of the diocese of Shreveport. Fr. James Thekkemury is a diocesan priest for the Roman Catholic Syro Malabar Diocese of Kanjirapally, Kerala, India. Fr. Al Jost and Fr. Adrian Fischer are both Franciscan order priests.

In his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul taught that every person is a member of the Body of Christ, and that every person is called to serve God in a unique way.  Priestly vocation discernment is the process by which a young man prayerfully considers a path of service through the ministry of priesthood. An important part of this process is learning about the responsibilities and rewards of priesthood, and noting the distinctions between diocesan priesthood and religious life.

My formal vocation journey began with Seminary and formation with the Congregation of the Mission (the “Vincentians”). After two academic terms, I began to draw two important conclusions. The first was a feeling of reassurance about my call to priesthood, and the second was a feeling that I could better thrive in a model of diocesan – rather than religious order – service.  Now that I am studying for the Diocese of Shreveport, I feel even more reassured in those feelings.  Having experienced formation from both religious and diocesan perspectives, I am always pleased to share insights that may be helpful to others in discernment.

Diocesan priests undertake a life of religious service to the Bishop and the parishioners of their diocese. Their ministry is prominently focused on the vital work of administering the sacraments: Baptism, Holy Eucharist, Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick and Matrimony. While diocesan priests do not swear solemn vows, they do promise obedience to their Bishop and his successors, and they commit to a life of celibate chastity.  Diocesan priests most often work in parish assignments, but sometimes also teach in Catholic schools, minister as hospital chaplains and operate in diocesan administration. Diocesan priests earn a salary and receive health and retirement support from their diocese.

Religious priests are those committed to a life in religious community and follow a common charism, mission and defining spirituality. They swear the solemn vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Some well-known religious communities include the previously-mentioned Congregation of the Mission (“Vincentians”), the Society of Jesus (“Jesuits”) and the Order of Friars Minor (“Franciscans”).  Religious priests pursue a wide range of ministries such as mission work, teaching, counseling and parish assignments.  Their daily lives vary from strict monasticism to active outreach to the world. Religious priests’ financial matters and retirement are generally administered by their community.

The common elements outnumber the differences between diocesan and religious priesthood. Even their formation requirements are similar: both specify a program of religious study, an undergraduate degree (or 30 credit hours) in Philosophy and a graduate degree in Divinity.  Both must dedicate their lives to the work of Christ and be faithful to daily prayer.  It is certain that diocesan and religious priests serve vital roles in the church – the Body of Christ.

by Duane Trombetta, Seminarian

Rejoice for Laetare Sunday

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Pope Benedict urged the Church in a letter to youth, “You need to know what you believe!” I’m a cradle Catholic with a Theology major, but because my textbook knowledge isn’t tested often, it gets pretty rusty. I find myself faced with the same, seemingly elementary questions that I did before beginning my studies at Benedictine: Why does God love me? What is “joy in suffering?” Recently my husband brought up Lent’s Laetare Sunday (pronounced “Lay-TAR-ay”) and, slightly embarrassed because we share the same education from the same college, I hesitated to ask, “What’s that?” Thus began my most recent faith-educational excursion focusing on the Sunday strangely marked with rejoicing amid a more solemn and somber observation. It is the mid-point of the season that carries a multitude of Catholic liturgical traditions with it. As with every other aspect of Catholicism that I’ve learned about, I was fascinated and in awe at the depth of Church tradition.

Laetare is Latin for “rejoice”; the day itself is named for the Mass Introit that reads “Rejoice Jerusalem…you who have been in sorrow…” (Isaiah 66:10) It’s on this particular Sunday, falling on March 10th this year, that the austerity of Lent is set aside to celebrate and encourage the faithful in an otherwise solemn and penitential season. Amid times of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, Laetare Sunday is a sign of hope for Easter – almost there! Keep it up!

Something not commonly known about the liturgy is that each Mass has a theme set by the first reading and the Gospel, and the theme for Laetare Sunday definitely holds cause for rejoicing. The Liturgy of the Word starts with Joshua 5: the end of the Israelites’ 40 years in the dessert draws near and they no longer eat manna, but food from Canaan, the Promised Land from God. The Gospel reading is the beloved story of the Prodigal Son; similar to Joshua, it speaks joyfully to the fulfilled promises of God the Father’s mercy and forgiveness.

You’ll notice at Mass that the church will be adorned with flowers, usually forgone during the season of Lent, and the priest will wear rose vestments instead of purple to celebrate the happy half-way point. Some parishes silence their organs and other instruments during Lent to accentuate the seriousness of the season. If that’s the case for your church, instrumental music might resume for the day as well. During Mass at the Vatican, the pope will follow a tradition of his predecessors – he will carry and bless a golden rose to symbolize Christ as the “flower sprung from the root of Jesse,” then present the flower to a church or shrine.

Being Catholic is a lifelong blessing and in order to reap its abundant fruits, we need to investigate it. To learn the Faith is to love it! The mere mention of Laetare Sunday from my husband peaked my curiosity to see what this day was all about. After reading the planned Liturgy of the Word and researching the Sunday itself, my eagerness for Lent and its holy mid-point increased. There is an exciting sense of life and anticipation within Laetare Sunday that is certain to revitalize your Lenten efforts and heighten your anticipation for Easter.

Katie Sciba is the author of thecatholicwife.net. She lives in Shreveport with her husband, Andrew, and two sons, Liam and Thomas.

Photo: Fr. Peter Mangum in rose vestments. (Photo Megan Funk)

Second Collections: Holy Land & Vocations

Pontifical Good Friday Holy Land Collection
Announcement Dates: March 17th & 24th
Collection Date:  Good Friday, March 29th

The Pontifical Good Friday Collection for the Holy Land not only preserves our revered holy sites, but also makes possible those pastoral, charitable, educational and social works which are so urgently needed by the rapidly dwindling Christian communities in the Holy Land. The proceeds from this collection fund the spiritual, physical and material well-being of our Christian brothers and sisters. They are heavily burdened by war, famine and ever decreasing resources and opportunities to live peacefully and securely in the cradle of the world’s salvation.

Please join me on Good Friday. Together let us make an outpouring of gratitude to the Lord. We recall Pope Benedict’s expressed concerned “for the people of those countries where hostilities and acts of violence continue, particularly Syria and the Holy Land.” As we faithfully recall our Lord’s passion, let us follow the prompting of the Spirit and our hearts to give as abundantly to him, as he gave to us.  Give devoutly and generously to the Pontifical Good Friday Collection for the Holy land.

Diocese of Shreveport Church Vocations Collection
Announcement Dates: March 17th & 24th
Collection Date:    Easter Sunday, March 30th & 31st

The Diocese of Shreveport Church Vocations Collection allows you to help Bishop Duca fund the education of our diocesan candidates for the priesthood. Your generosity makes it possible for Fr. Matthew Long to meet, counsel, recruit, discern with and form men and women in our diocese who sense that the Lord is reaching out to them.

As we approach the last three weeks of Lent in this unique Year of Faith, we are evangelizing ourselves so we can more effectively evangelize others. Our five diocesan seminarians are experiencing this in a truly unique way. The Lord is keeping company with them, and they with Him. Their names are John Bosco Nyirenda, Jerry Daigle, Keith Garvin, Duane Trombetta and John Parker. Through your gift to the Church Vocations Collection, they are walking with the Lord to get to know Him better, and see if they are called to work shoulder to shoulder with him for the salvation of the world.

Help them in their walk of discernment. Give generously to the second collection for Church Vocations at Easter. Participate so more men in our diocese can also answer the Master’s call and other women and men can walk with Jesus in the incubator of a religious house to discern their vocation to the consecrated life.

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

How Often Do I Encourage?

Recently, a friend of mine was working through a very painful experience. In the midst of his tribulation, one of his colleagues suggested that the outcome of this trial would be very negative. And, while the colleague meant well in preparing for a possible worst-case scenario, it resulted in confusion, alarm, dismay and a pierced heart. Do you ever find yourself on the receiving end of a discouraging word?  And sometimes, that disheartening message comes from someone who loves us dearly. Or worse, are we ever the bearer of negative thoughts?

In his first letter to the Thessalonians, St. Paul said:  “Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up …” Paul understood how the enemy loves to choke off our hope and circumvent our faith with messages that obstruct our relationship with God. The author of Hebrews wrote: “Encourage yourselves daily while it is still today…” (Hebrews 3:13 NAB) One definition of the word encouragement is “to stimulate spiritually.”  In other words, when we encourage each other, we inspire each other. We bring comfort, we bring cheer, we bring consolation. We spiritually stimulate a fellow believer when we offer words of encouragement, which result in a restoration and strengthening of their hope and their faith. Our offerings of spiritual stimulation bring joy to the recipient – which reminds us that the “joy of the Lord is our strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)

Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. When we offer words or advice or thoughts that discourage others, we instill fear that hinders and retards the very faith and joy that another person may need at that very fragile moment.

The New Testament is a message of good news. It is a message that offers the fruit of walking in the Spirit, such as love, peace, patience, kindness and more. The presence of Jesus is reassuring, energizing and spirit lifting. The next time someone speaks forth a disheartening word, forgive him or her and replace that word with encouragement. You just may be the force that enables someone to remain in complete faith in Jesus.

Mike started a teaching ministry after graduating from the University of Dallas’ School of Ministry in 2006 (www.mikevanvrankenministries.org). He also serves as an adjunct professor for the Diocese of Shreveport’s Greco Institute.