In My Weakness is My Strength: Answering the Call to Prison Ministry

by Jessica Rinaudo God often calls us to serve in unexpected ways. We resist, shrug it off, tell God that it’s too hard, but the Lord can be persistent and surprising. It More »


The Harm of Pornography and Hope Beyond Addiction: Spouses

Series written by Katie Sciba under guidance of Fr. Sean Kilcawley, STL This is the third article in a four-piece series on pornography; the first two can be found in the January More »


Volunteers Care for Orphans Through Pick It Forward

by Jamie Jett Pick It Forward (PIF) for Orphans is a small nonprofit organization that has accepted the challenge to do what they can for orphaned and foster children on behalf of More »


Catholic Community Volunteers Resources to Help Flood Victim

by Bonny Van On Tuesday, March 8, 2016, the skies opened up on North Louisiana.  “It rained a long time,” says 89-year-old Shreveport resident Lizzie Harris. “And, I heard it in my More »


Jo Cazes Retires, Leaves Legacy at SJB School

by Kelly Phelan Powell After 44 years spent changing the lives of students, Jo Cazes’ own life will take a happy turn when, at the end of the school year, she retires More »


Navigating the Faith: The Origin of Palm Sunday

by Dianne Rachal, Director of Worship They took palm branches and went out to meet him, and cried out: ‘Hosanna!’” (Jn 12:13). The Sixth Sunday of Lent is “Palm Sunday of the More »


Mike’s Meditations: Who is Life? Jesus.

Seeing Life, Seeing Jesus, in the Incarcerated by Mike Van Vranken Very early in the Bible, God tells us he has set before us life and death, and to choose life (Deuteronomy More »


Bishop’s Reflection: Speak Charitably, Confidently & Joyfully

by Bishop Michael G. Duca “CHRIST IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN INDEED! I have always been at a loss for how to greet people at Easter. I suppose the default common greeting More »

Dr. Celso Palmieri (far right), talks with the Braga family. Palmieri was instrumental in bringing the family from San Paolo, Brazil to Shreveport, Louisiana to treat 3-year-old Melyssa's myxoma tumor. (Photo Courtesy of LSU Health Shreveport)

Medical Miracle: Shreveport Catholic Doctor Reaches Out to Brazilian Family Seeking Help for Their Daughter

by Lisa Cooper When Loyola parent and St. Joseph parishioner Dr. Celso Palmieri saw the face of Melyssa Delgado Braga while looking through online publications from his native country, Brazil, he felt More »

Divine Mercy Sunday Activies

by Julia Doolin

The first Sunday after Easter is the Feast of Divine Mercy.  This year, that date falls on April 23.  The devotion to the Divine Mercy began spreading throughout the world in the 1930’s and is based upon private revelations to a young Polish nun, now known as St. Faustina.  The message is not a new one, but is instead a reminder of what the Church has always taught through Scripture and tradition:  That God is merciful and forgiving and that we, too, must show mercy and forgiveness.  But the message of the Divine Mercy devotion calls people to a deeper understanding that God’s love is unlimited and available to everyone – especially the greatest sinners.   In a decree dated May 23, 2000, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments stated that “throughout the world the Second Sunday of Easter will receive the name Divine Mercy Sunday, a perennial invitation to the Christian world to face, with confidence in divine benevolence, the difficulties and trials that mankind will experience in the years to come.”  Taking the declaration of the feast day a step further, the Apostolic Penitentiary announced on August 3, 2002, that in order “to ensure that the faithful would observe Divine Mercy Sunday with intense devotion, the Supreme Pontiff himself established that this Sunday be enriched by a plenary indulgence…so that the faithful might receive in great abundance the gift of the consolation of the Holy Spirit.”

With regard to the plenary indulgence associated with Divine Mercy Sunday, the usual conditions apply: sacramental confession (typically several days before or after the indulgenced act), Eucharistic communion, and prayer for the intentions of Supreme Pontiff. The faithful are asked to gather in any church or chapel, in a spirit that is completely detached from the affection for a sin, even a venial sin, take part in the prayers and devotions held in honor of Divine Mercy, or who, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed or reserved in the tabernacle, recite the Our Father and the Creed, adding a devout prayer to the merciful Lord Jesus (e.g. “Merciful Jesus, I trust in you!”)

This year, two parishes in the Diocese of Shreveport are providing an entire weekend of Divine Mercy events. On Saturday, April 22, 2017, Fr. Michael Gaitley of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, will present a Divine Mercy Retreat at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans. Doors open at 8:00 a.m. Register for the retreat at www.marian.org.  The Sacrament of Reconciliation will be offered at the end of the retreat.  In preparation for the retreat, it is recommended that participants read the book 33 Days to Merciful Love by Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC.

On Sunday, April 23, St. Joseph Church, located at 211 Atlantic Avenue in Shreveport, will host a holy hour in honor of Divine Mercy Sunday.  The holy hour will begin promptly at 2:30 p.m. and will include the Chaplet of Divine Mercy as well as veneration of the Divine Mercy image.  The Sacrament of Reconciliation will be available immediately following the holy hour.  •

Desire to Serve Brings New Employee to Catholic Charities

by Lucy Medvec

Catholic Charities of North Louisiana welcomes a new member to its staff with the hiring of Joe Bulger as case manager. Joe will be working with Carl Piehl, CCNLA Financial Education and Emergency Assistance Director, to assist clients in the areas of financial education and coaching, emergency assistance, enrollment of state benefits and share teaching duties of the weekly Money School financial education class.

A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, Joe first came to Shreveport on a youth mission trip with the People of Praise organization. He spent two weeks building houses and working a summer camp in the Allendale-Lakeside neighborhood. The People of Praise is a community where Christians from diverse church backgrounds can share life, work, prayer and mission while still maintaining active membership in their local congregations. After graduation, he took two years off to do missionary work in Indianapolis and Evansville, IN, while returning to Shreveport in the summer to help with the camps and assist with renovating houses.

In 2014, Joe moved to Shreveport for good and currently lives in Allendale-Lakeside with other People of Praise members. He worked alongside other missionaries to consult and interview residents of the Lakeside community regarding the formation of a neighborhood school. After knocking on almost 300 doors and speaking with residents of 223 homes, it was determined that the support was there to open Praise Academy in 2015, with an initial enrollment of eight students. Currently there are 13 students in grades Pre-Kindergarten, Kindergarten, 1st, 2nd and 6th.  The school will eventually serve students through the 8th grade.

When asked why he moved to Shreveport in 2014, Joe explains “It was the people I encountered here during previous trips and the good friends I made on the mission team that made me want to live in Shreveport.”

He enjoys living in the Allendale-Lakeside area because he feels a sense of community there where people know and help each other.
As case manager for Catholic Charities, Joe looks forward to helping people, especially when it comes to bringing a sense of order to their lives. Through the Money School and financial education coaching sessions, he wants to help clients navigate the systems that are in place in order to take control of their lives. Overall, he wants to bring hope and confidence to the people who come to Catholic Charities for assistance.

Joe is a member of the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans where he also sings in the choir every Sunday. Catholic Charities is blessed to welcome him as a member of the team!

Volunteers Care for Orphans Through Pick It Forward


by Jamie Jett

Pick It Forward (PIF) for Orphans is a small nonprofit organization that has accepted the challenge to do what they can for orphaned and foster children on behalf of the service of Christ. The support of many has allowed them to be the heart, hands, feet and voice for God’s children at multiple orphanages and many in the Louisiana foster care system.  In particular, God called them to put significant time, effort and love into Trisker Orphanage – an orphanage out in the middle of a field in Boquete, Panama. Last year, after resources became available through a variety of fundraising events, Pick It Forward hired Kathy Gaitan to serve as their sponsored missionary.

In spring 2016, the PIF leadership felt led to plan for its first mission team to travel to Panama. Over the years, several board members went on trips to Panama with other church groups, helping out where needed. However, in March 2016, the group felt it was time to go!  In June, a few board members traveled to Boquete, Panama to begin the plans for the first PIF mission trip, scheduled for February 2017.

PIF members had some ideas of what they might do during our first official mission trip in 2017, but quickly, within two days of their arrival in June 2016, the Holy Spirit changed their vision for the trip. He aligned the leadership at Trisker Orphanage, Youth With a Mission (YWAM) and Pick It Forward with the shared vision to build and equip a classroom at Trisker!  That is a tall order for a board of 10 women, but each of them knows God is capable of making it happen if they step out in faith!

The classroom will give hope to these young girls. It will provide space for sewing machines, a kitchen, a small library and a small area with computers. Christ wants a way to touch these girls so that they can provide for themselves when they leave Trisker Orphanage. If they can learn to read and write, sew, cook, speak English or learn computer skills, they will be better prepared to find work and not be just released from Trisker Orphanage at 18 years of age, unprepared with no hope of a future.

So, God through the Body of Christ raised enough money in five months to build and equip the classroom!  Pick It Forward set off on February 4, 2017 with a three ring binder, 20 missionaries and suitcases full of supplies on its first ecumenical mission trip to Boquete, Panama. The team was made up of missionaries from St. Jude Catholic Church, Word of Life, Word of God, First Baptist in Haughton and the Simple Church.

There were three goals for the team to accomplish in five days:

1. Build a classroom at Trisker Orphanage. 2. Provide a summer Vacation Bible School camp for the children as the classroom was being built, and 3. Take blankets, hats, gloves, stuffed animals and dental hygiene items to the Ngobe people.

This team was unique. There were members from all age groups – teens to 60’s – with a multitude of gifts to share, including two Spanish-speaking members!  The team worked hard and met every goal God assigned to them.

“He supplied us with outcomes above and beyond what we could have imagined,” said founder Jamie Jett.  “A special thank you to Father Pike Thomas, who was the team member who participated in every way despite being unable to attend. His prayers and support helped make the team effort the best it could be.”

Catholic Community Volunteers Resources to Help Flood Victim


by Bonny Van

On Tuesday, March 8, 2016, the skies opened up on North Louisiana.  “It rained a long time,” says 89-year-old Shreveport resident Lizzie Harris. “And, I heard it in my back bedroom when all the sheet rock had come down.” That’s when she knew her aging roof was no match for the deluge.

By the weekend, the National Weather Service in Shreveport reported over 20 inches of rain in some areas.

“It started to leak in the bedroom and in the kitchen and then in another bedroom,” Harris says. “Every time it rained, I put out buckets and pans to catch the water.”

Harris and her husband moved into her small bungalow when it was built in 1959. “We had a new roof put on in 1983, but after my husband passed, I couldn’t afford a new one.”

Like many residents who suffered damages from the flooding, Mrs. Harris qualified for disaster assistance from FEMA.  Jean Woods, Disaster Case Manager for St. Vincent de Paul, was assigned Mrs. Harris’ case. “The wind and rain had caused a lot of damage to the shingles on her roof,” says Woods.

Harris outside her home

So, Woods began calling roofers to get a bid on the work. “The cost, with labor and materials, was $3,600 and it was more money than they could come up with,” says Jay Murrell, owner of Pintail Roofing in Shreveport.  “So, I sent two workers to lay tarps on the roof to keep the rain out, but that only lasted for two-and-a-half months.”  But, Murrell could not stop thinking about Mrs. Harris and her situation.

“I’ve been broke before and had a leaky roof.  Every time it rained I was scared, so I empathized with her,” says Murrell.  “Sometimes, the Holy Spirit comes to me in different places and I just felt moved to do something for Mrs. Harris.”

Murrell contacted a fellow roofer, who was able to get the shingles donated.  Together, they shared the cost of labor and other materials to get the job done.   “Now, Mrs. Harris has the best roof in the neighborhood!”  However, there was still more work to be done.

“When Jay repaired the roof, we went into the backyard to take pictures and saw a tree had fallen in the yard,” says Woods.  That’s when the wrestling team from Loyola College Prep jumped in to help.

The team practices at St. Catherine Community Center, where the office of the SVDP Disaster Services Division is located.  I asked Ms. Woods if we could help them in any way so she told us about Mrs. Harris,” says Loyola wrestling coach Darrick Roberson.  “Wherever we can get involved in the community, we do.”

It took one Saturday afternoon for students Reese Ebarb, Eli Poole, Alan Hedrick and Jonathan Durel and Coach Roberson to cut up the tree and remove other debris from the backyard. “There were also leaves piling up, so the kids raked and bagged up the leaves and hauled it out,” says Roberson.

Roofer Jay Murrell volunteered his services to give Mrs. Harris a new roof.

Still, the work continues for Mrs. Harris.  “I just helped her fill out an application with FEMA to get funds to repair a leak under her house,” says Woods.  “She needs foundation work and more work inside to clean up the damage from the flooding.”

For many residents, the aftermath and the cleanup of the March 2016 flood has been a life changing experience; and, for some, in very unexpected ways.  Coach Darrick Roberson also plans to continue his team building with more community service projects.  “They loved it!  We’ll definitely do more activities like that in the future.  And, we’ll try to open it up to the rest of the school to get others involved.”
For Jay Murrell, communication is underway with area roofers and contractors to help other needy residents through SVDP’s Disaster Relief Program.  “I hope to work on other projects like this one. You know, from a seed a giant oak will grow,” said Murrell.  “There are a lot of needs out there.  Jesus said, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  And, he really means that.”

Jo Cazes Retires, Leaves Legacy at SJB School


by Kelly Phelan Powell

After 44 years spent changing the lives of students, Jo Cazes’ own life will take a happy turn when, at the end of the school year, she retires from her distinguished career as an educator and school administrator. The Principal of St. John Berchmans Catholic School in Shreveport for the last 12 years, Cazes will leave SJB a much better place than when she found it. The school’s many lofty achievements during her tenure (just one example: SJB has won the Science Olympiad State Championship for eight years running) are due to many factors and tremendous effort on the part of teachers and staff, but one of the most profound and lasting changes Cazes made was asking students to step up and take ownership in every aspect of their school. The results have been consistent academic excellence, improved facilities and a better organized place to learn, teach and work.

When Cazes’ career began at Alexandria Senior High School in Rapides Parish, she never imagined that she would spend the majority of her career in Catholic schools. The Lord, however, decided that Catholic schools were exactly where she needed to be. Looking back, she marvels at how perfectly all the pieces fit together that led her to St. John Berchmans. “I’ve often thought of writing a book,” she said, “and I’d call it, Connect the Dots.” The past Louisiana Environmental Science Teacher of the Year and Regional Teacher of the Year moved from Alexandria to New Orleans with her husband Geoffrey’s career, and the family landed in Birmingham, AL in 1984. Throughout each move, she made a point to continue her education with graduate courses and professional development. “Every time we moved, I went to school,” she said.

During her time in Birmingham, Cazes was Principal of Our Lady of the Valley Catholic School. It was at OLV that she first became involved with Science Olympiad, the organization that would become one of her finest legacies at St. John Berchmans. In 1995, she became Assistant Principal of Curriculum at John Carroll Catholic High School, a position she accepted on one condition: she wanted to teach a class. She remained at John Carroll for a decade. After her son settled in Shreveport, she and her husband decided to keep the family close and moved.

Upon arriving in Shreveport, she met with Frank Israel, former Principal of Loyola College Prep, who connected her with Sister Carol Shively, Superintendent of Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Shreveport. Shively hired her as a consultant for St. John Berchmans, doing professional development and teacher observations. “I fell in love with the teachers,” she said. She accepted the Principal position in 2005, and she’s been leading the school forward ever since.

One of Cazes’ greatest accomplishments for the school has been its total physical renovation. Together with Fr. Peter Mangum, Rector of the Cathedral, the school has had a major facelift with summer projects every year since 2006. Some of those projects include new floors, walls and lighting in the multi-room and cafeteria, a renovated office area and computer lab, a new playground, an elevator and, most recently, a brand new parish hall and library and technology center.

Assistant Principal Jennifer Deason, will succeed Cazes, and Trey Woodham, recently awarded Regional Coach of the Year, will be the new Assistant Principal.  Together they will continue to build a lasting legacy and quality education at St. John Berchmans.

In retirement, Cazes hopes to spend more time with her three grandchildren, and there’s no doubt she’ll continue her lifelong love of learning. “I continue learning from everyone I meet,” she said.

There will be a retirement reception in her honor after the 11:00 a.m. Mass on Sunday, April 30 in the Parish Hall at St. John Berchmans. All are invited to attend and say farewell to the Principal whom the school will miss nearly as much as she will miss it. “I love this school,” she said, and it shows.

Vocations View: Seminarian Encounters Christ’s Mercy at Prison

Advent dinner for prisoners sponsored by St. Jude Parish.

by Raney Johnson

During my summer assignment at St. Jude Church in Benton, I was encouraged by Fr. Jerry Daigle to go to David Wade Correctional Center in Homer, LA. Initially, going to David Wade intimidated me because I did not know anything about prison ministry. However, the first trip I made to David Wade put me at ease. I discovered a group of men just as eager to learn about their faith as my brother seminarians and me, so I shared with them my faith and the theology I learned in my first year of seminary. After the first visit, I returned to David Wade each Wednesday with Van Sanders and Deacon Burt Ainsworth. These two men teach a class at David Wade every Wednesday along with other volunteers, and I learned much of what I know about ministering to those in prison from the two of them.

During the summer, the classes at the prison focused on the Year of Mercy. Many of the discussions dealt with learning about how God’s mercy comes to all despite the sins of humanity, and through the mercy of God, we return to Him by acknowledging our sin and asking for forgiveness in the way of the prodigal son in Luke’s gospel.

After my trip to Poland for World Youth Day, I had the opportunity to visit David Wade one last time before the start of my second year of seminary and share with the men in the class my experiences in Poland and the connection between my experiences there and the Year of Mercy.

Seminarian Raney Johnson visited David Wade Correctional Center during his summer assignment at St. Jude Parish.

During my Christmas break, I again visited David Wade and shared with the men how my summer experiences with them influenced me during the first semester of my second year in seminary.

As I reflect on the time I spent at David Wade, I realize the importance of prison ministry, not just in bringing Christ to the prisoners by visiting them, but also by bringing Christ to them in his Sacraments and sharing in those sacraments with them.

One of my favorite moments of visiting David Wade involved attending the celebration of the Mass with prisoners who are isolated from the rest of the prison community for various reasons. Here I saw God’s work of mercy in action. Despite the isolation of these men from others, they still longed to be in communion with God and the universal Church. The men at David Wade have the chance to receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist at Mass once a month on the first Wednesday of the month, and knowing this fact, my desire to attend daily Mass for frequent communion increased. In the same way, my desire to one day bring Jesus Christ, especially in his most Blessed Sacrament, to those in prison in my future priestly ministry greatly increased.

Pope Francis constantly encourages us to go out to those on the edges of the Church, and one of those important edges is going to those who are in prison. Prison ministry is also important because visiting those in prison is one of the corporal works of mercy. I would encourage any person interested to try out prison ministry, and I thank the men and women who are already sharing Christ by visiting, offering classes, bringing the Sacraments or providing music ministry to those in prison. Similarly, I want to thank the men in prison who allowed me to serve them throughout last year with each visit I made to David Wade, because through them I was able to encounter Christ and the love he has for everyone.


Second Collections for April

by Fr. Rothell Price, Vicar General

As we approach Holy Week and the great event of Our Lord’s Resurrection at Easter, I hope you are remembering your CRS Rice Bowl. I thank those of you who started and are finishing strong. I encourage those of you who have faltered, please re-start.  I invite those of you who never began to start today.  It’s not too late to unite yourself to the Lord and His people in need. To all of you, please joyfully present your Rice Bowl to the Lord on Easter Sunday knowing in your heart that He takes kindly and personally whatever you did for the least of His brothers and sisters.

Announcement Dates:  April 2nd & 9th   
Participation Dates:  Good Friday, April 14th

The Pontifical Good Friday Collection supports the people of the Holy Land and the pilgrims who visit. A portion of the funds are directly allocated to educational and ecclesial projects in the Middle East. The rest of the funds support ministries and programs entrusted by the Holy See to the Holy Land Franciscans who have been serving there for 800 years.  Your contribution to the Pontifical Good Friday Collection makes you an instrument of peace in a troubled land. Thank you for your sacrificial offering on Good Friday, the day of our Savior’s redeeming sacrifice.

Announcement Dates:  April 2nd & 9th   
Participation Dates:  April 15th & 16th Easter

The Diocese of Shreveport Church Vocations Collection is one of the visible manifestations of our prayers for vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and vowed life of men and women religious. In two months the Master of the Harvest will bless us with two more laborers for His harvest. In June, Deacon Fidel Mondragón will be ordained to the Priesthood of Jesus Christ, and Duane Trombetta will be ordained to the Transitional Diaconate. Additionally, Kevin, Raney, Nicholas, Kelby, Omar, Jeb and our future seminarians are counting on our help. Please continue to generously support our Diocese of Shreveport Church Vocations Collection.

Announcement Dates:  April 9th & 16th   
Participation Dates:  April 22nd & 23rd

The Catholic Home Missions Appeal is the work of the Bishops of the United States to provide pastoral ministries which our faithful need.  More than 40 percent of the United States has been designated by our bishops as mission territory. In these mission territories, dioceses and parishes are struggling to provide basic spiritual and pastoral care to the Christian faithful. Your sacrificial giving to the Catholic Home Missions Appeal makes living and receiving the Catholic faith possible for those in our mission dioceses.

Our own Diocese of Shreveport is one of these mission dioceses. We work diligently with the resources available to us to provide for the pastoral needs of those in and especially outside our two major urban centers, Shreveport/Bossier City and West Monroe/Monroe. Thank you for contributing to the Catholic Home Missions Appeal that makes Mass, the sacraments, religious education, ministry training for priests, deacons, religious sisters and the laity available to the majority of our country.

Navigating the Faith: The Origin of Palm Sunday


by Dianne Rachal, Director of Worship

They took palm branches and went out to meet him, and cried out: ‘Hosanna!’” (Jn 12:13).

The Sixth Sunday of Lent is “Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord.”  This liturgy will unite two commemorations: that of the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem and that of his passion. All four gospels recount Jesus’ messianic entry into Jerusalem in triumph as the people wave palm branches and shout, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the king of Israel.”  Palm branches were used to welcome great conquerors. The Hebrew word “Hosanna” means: “(O Lord), grant salvation.”  Within days, the crowd will shout, “Crucify him, crucify him!”

The diary of Egeria, pilgrim to the Holy Land, tells us that at the beginning of the fifth century the Christians of Jerusalem used to gather in the early afternoon on the Mount of Olives for a lengthy liturgy of the word. Then, toward evening, they would go in procession into Jerusalem, carrying palm branches or olive branches. This rite was soon esteemed and imitated in other Churches of the East. As for its spread in the West, the name Palm Sunday occurs in Spain and Gaul around 600, but there is no procession with the palms. In these countries, the sixth Sunday of Lent was devoted to the giving of the symbol (the Creed) and the anointing of catechumens.  Because of this the gospel for the Mass of the day was taken from John 12, which tells of the anointing at Bethany.  But the passage continued on to the story of the entrance into Jerusalem.  For this reason the Sunday soon acquired the name Palm Sunday, although there was as yet no special ceremony in commemoration of the event.

The custom of blessing the “palm branches” is attested around the middle of the eighth century in the Bobbio Sacramentary.  Since palm and olive branches were obtainable only in southern countries the custom was early introduced of blessing the green and blossoming branches of other trees.

People fastened the branches to crucifixes in their homes in order to protect the residents from any adversity.  They saw palms and the Church’s blessing as a form of intercession for God’s salvation and help against many threats.

At the end of the eighth century there was an increasing number of witnesses to a procession with the palms. The hymn Gloria, laus et honor (“All glory, laud and honor”), which Bishop Theodulf of Orleans composed for the purpose, soon became a fixed part of the ceremony.  In the Middle Ages the procession became increasingly dramatic and theatrical. The presence of Christ in the procession was symbolized either by a cross or by the Book of the Gospels.  In Germany the so-called Palmesel was often used. This was a wooden donkey on wheels, bearing on its back a figure of the Savior. The medieval custom was to gather at a church outside the city walls for the blessing of the palms and then go in procession to the principal church of the city.  This procession has been revived in a sense in the new Holy Week Order of 1955.

Today’s procession on Palm Sunday is not intended to be a historically faithful representation of the entrance of Jesus, but is rather a public profession of a discipleship inspired by faith and grateful love. The congregation assembles at a secondary church or in some other suitable place. The priest greets the community and gives an introduction to the meaning of the procession with palms, and then blesses the branches.  After the branches have been sprinkled with holy water, the passage of the entrance of Jesus is read from one of the four gospels. The procession forms and songs and antiphons are sung as the people process to the church.

The Mass of Palm Sunday receives its stamp from the gospel pericope. It consists of the passion narrative from Matthew, Mark or Luke, depending on the three-year cycle. The theme of the redemptive suffering of Jesus also dominates the other parts of the Propers, except for the entrance antiphon, which voices the jubilation felt at the messianic entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem.

Because the palms are blessed, they are now sacramentals, which “are sacred signs instituted by the Church. They prepare [us] to receive the fruit of the sacraments and sanctify different circumstances of life” (CCC 1667). Sacramentals should be treated with respect and never be thrown away. Palms may only be burned or buried.

From the Pope: Rise, Victorious, Above Temptation

from Vatican Information Services

The temptations of Jesus during his 40 days in the desert were the theme of the Holy Father’s meditation before praying the Angelus with the faithful and pilgrims present in St. Peter’s Square on March 5.

The episode, narrated by St. Matthew, takes place in a precise moment in Jesus’ life: immediately after his baptism in the river Jordan and before his public ministry, and he confronts his declared enemy, Satan, face to face.

“The devil appeals to his title of ‘Son of God’ to dissuade Jesus from fulfilling his mission … and suggests that he perform miraculous gestures – that he be a ‘magician’- such as transforming stones into bread to satisfy his hunger, and throwing himself from the walls of the temple to be saved by the angels. These two temptations are followed by a third: to adore him, the devil, to have dominion over the world.”

With these three temptations, Satan seeks to divert Jesus from the way of obedience and humiliation, “because he knows that on this way evil will be defeated – and lead him on the false shortcut of success and glory. However, the devil’s poisonous arrows are all deflected with the shield of the Word of God, which expresses the will of the Father. Jesus does not say a word of his own: he responds only with the Word of God. And thus the Son, filled with the strength of the Holy Spirit, emerges victorious from the desert.”

“During the 40 days of Lent, follow in Jesus steps and face the spiritual combat against the Evil One with the strength of the Word of God. Not with our word, which is useless, but with the Word of God: that which has the strength to defeat Satan. Therefore, it is necessary to draw confidence from the Bible: to read it often, meditate on it and assimilate it. The Bible contains the World of God, which is always current and effective.”

“It has been said,” continued the bishop of Rome, “What would happen if we treated the Bible as we treat our mobile phone? If we always carried it with us, or at least a small pocket Bible, what would happen? If we went back to look for it when we forgot it, if we opened it several times a day; what would happen if we read God’s messages contained in the Bible as we read our phone messages? The comparison is clearly paradoxical, but it makes us reflect. If we had the Word of God always in our heart, no temptation would be able to estrange us from God and no obstacle would be capable of making us deviate from the path of goodness; we would be able to overcome the daily suggestions of evil that are in us and outside us; we would be more capable of living a resurrected life according to the Spirit, receiving and loving our brothers, especially the weakest and most in need, and also our enemies.”

“May the Virgin Mary, perfect icon of obedience to God and of unconditional trust in His will, sustain us on our Lenten journey, so to listen in docility to the Word of God, to undertake a true conversion of the heart.”

Domestic Church: Offer Christ Our Deepest Ruts

by Katie Sciba

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20)”

The Holy Spirit has been hitting me over the head with this verse for a while. I was giving a talk and took a sharp turn off my outline to quote it without thought. Then it appeared in a book I’m reading. A priest drove it home in his homily. The heavenly hint was coming in loud and clear. Speak, Lord. Your servant is listening.

Andrew and I hit a rut in our marriage a while back. It was as if we didn’t know how to interact anymore. Our emotional intimacy was zapped and what was usually a truly great connection better resembled a legal partnership: matter-of-fact with zero warmth. The awkwardness was frustrating and bled over into how I related to our kids. I was short and emotionally distant.

It’s not a unique situation. When we’re in pain or maybe just routine, keeping loved ones at arm’s length feels easier.  Marriage and family – they’re blessings in themselves, yet it takes no effort for us to succumb to ruts. The open-heart vulnerability characteristic to a new relationship tends to fade after years together. We can even lose a bit of zeal for our children over time. It’s natural to grow accustomed to what is common in our lives, but we don’t have to shrug and adapt ourselves to relational ruts. When I consider the above verse in light of family, I’m sure the Lord has other desires for us.

“If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him…”

Jesus will come in. And when he does, he’ll transform and make new that which seems impossible and hackneyed. It reminds me of Zacchaeus in the Gospel – the tax collector skeptical yet curious about Christ and when he opened his door to allow Jesus in, his old vices were transformed into selfless virtue.

What if we could open ourselves to Christ and offer him the deepest ruts, the hardest wounds we have and let him make us vibrant again? It’s a little spiritually daunting – most of us would like to stick with what we know, even if it’s painful; but we need conversion.

Andrew and I were able to overcome our walls by sheer grace. We prayed together longer and with more intention than before. We went to confession regularly. We needed change in how we related to each other, to our kids and most of all, how we connected with Jesus. We needed trust that Jesus will do what he says he will do. But we needed to open the door.

Praise the Lord for this period of Lent and Easter, nearly a hundred days designated to fasting from the world and rejoicing on what God himself has given and deemed valuable.

Change from the norm can be uncomfortable, but the bliss and peace on the other side of that transformation is certain. Pray for the grace to open your heart – even just a crack – to the change Jesus will bring.

Katie Sciba is married to Andrew and together they have four children (with another one on the way). She is the author of thecatholicwife.net.