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Walking with Philippians: Reflecting on Paul’s Words in Our Daily Lives

by Kim Long Okay, I admit it, I was never really a big fan of the “apostle Paul.” Chalk it up to that often quoted verse reminding wives to obey their husbands More »

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Evangelists Remind Us of Our Precious Gift of Faith

by Deacon Mike Whitehead Bunny Austin, Gerald Govin, Bobbie Harlan, John Munger, Terry Byrnes, Josephine Pupillo, Norma Lenard, Joycelyn Majeste, James Tuma, Sam DeFatta, Cambize Schardar, Maria Steele, Judy Landry, Maudie Baranowski, More »

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A Call to Diaconate Service

by Deacon Mike Whitehead It’s not too late to respond to a continuing call of service in the Diocese of Shreveport, but the clock is ticking. Bishop Michael Duca is looking for More »

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Flyers Make Hurricane Relief a Personal Mission

by Lisa Cooper Loyola Flyers strive each year to fulfill the charge to be men and women for others.  One of the most significant efforts toward this end is the hurricane relief More »

CCNLA Employee Carl Piehl volunteers in Houston.

Catholic Charities Employees Share Stories of Assisting in Houston

by Lucy Medvec One month after Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas, over 500 employees and volunteers attended the Catholic Charities USA Annual Gathering in Houston. Even though the area was still More »

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St. Francis Medical Center Hosts Memorial Service for Infants Born Before 20 Weeks

by Bonny Van Emotions were high at a special memorial service for infants born before 20 weeks. Parents and family members gathered at St. Matthew Parish Cemetery in downtown Monroe on Saturday, More »

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Bishop’s November Reflection: “The Shepherd Cannot Run”

by Bishop Michael G. Duca On September 23, I attended the Beatification of Father Stanley Rother. I was deeply moved by Fr. Rother and how this Oklahoma farm boy became the first More »

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Embrace Grace: A Pro-LOVE Movement for Single and Pregnant Women

by Kelly Phelan Powell Amy Ford grew up in a happy, loving, church-going, Christian home. She knew abortion was wrong; she had even prayed with other believers outside abortion clinics. But when More »

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Embrace Grace & Mary’s House: Sylvia’s Story

by L’Anne Sciba hen I first met Sylvia* she came to Mary’s House for a free pregnancy test. She’d already been to the abortion clinic and received the abortion pill. Now two More »

From the Pope: “Vigilant Expectation” General Audience 10.11.17

from Vatican Information Services

Today I would like to focus on that dimension of hope that is vigilant expectation. The theme of vigilance is recurrent in the New Testament. Jesus preaches to his disciples, “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks” (Lk 12: 35-36).

In this time that follows the resurrection of Jesus, in which serene and distressing moments alternate continually, Christians never give up. The gospel recommends being like servants who never go to sleep until their master has returned. This world demands our responsibility, and we assume all of it, and with love. Jesus wants our existence to be laborious, for us never to let down our guard, to welcome with gratitude and wonder every new day given to us by God. Every morning is a clean page on which the Christian begins to write with good works. We are already saved by Jesus’ redemption, but now we await the full manifestation of his lordship: when finally God will be all in all (cf. 1 Cor 15: 28). Nothing is more certain, in the faith of Christians, than this “appointment,” this appointment with the Lord, when He will come. And when this day arrives, we Christians will want to be like those servants who have spent the night dressed for action and with their lamps burning: we need to be ready for salvation when it arrives, ready for the encounter. Have you thought about how this encounter with Jesus will be, when he comes? But, it will be an embrace, an enormous joy, a great joy! We must live in expectation of this encounter!

The Christian is not made for boredom, but rather for patience. He or she knows that even in the monotony of certain days that are always the same, the mystery of grace is hidden. There are people who with the perseverance of their love become like wells that irrigate the desert. Nothing happens in vain, and no situation in which a Christian finds himself immersed is entirely refractory to love. No night is so long that it makes us forget the joy of the dawn. And the darker the night is, the closer we are to the dawn. If we remain united to Jesus, the cold or difficult moments do not paralyze us; and if even the whole world were to preach against hope, if it said that the future will bring only dark clouds, the Christian knows that in that same future there is the return of Christ. When this will happen, no-one knows, but the thought that at the end of our history there is the merciful Jesus is enough to have confidence and not to curse life. Everything will be saved. Everything. We will suffer, there will be moments that cause anger and indignation, but the gentle and potent memory of Christ will eliminate the temptation to think that this life is a mistake.

After knowing Christ, we cannot do other than scrutinize history with trust and hope. Jesus is like a house, and we are inside, and from the windows of this house we look upon the world. Therefore, let us not be wrapped up in ourselves, let us not regret with melancholy a past that we assume to be golden, but let us always look ahead, to a future that is not only the work of our own hands, but first of all a constant concern of God’s providence. Everything that is opaque will one day become light.

And let us think that God does not contradict Himself. Never. God never disappoints. His will with regard to us is not nebulous, but rather a well-defined project of salvation. “God the Savior … desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tm 2: 4). Therefore, let us not abandon ourselves to the flow of events with pessimism, as if history were a runaway train. Resignation is not a Christian virtue. Just as it is not for Christians to shrug their shoulders or hang their head in the face of a destiny that appears ineluctable.

Those who give hope to the world are never submissive. Jesus tells us to wait for him without standing idly: “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes” (Lk 12: 37). There is no builder of peace who in the final analysis has not compromised his personal peace, taking on the problems of others. The submissive person is not a builder of peace, but lazy, one who wants to be comfortable. Whereas the Christian is a builder of peace when he risks, when he has the courage to risk to bring good, the good that Jesus gave to us, that he gave to us like a treasure.
Every day of our life, let us repeat that invocation that the first disciples, in their Aramaic language, expressed with the words Marana tha, and which we find in the last verse of the Bible: “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev 22: 20).

Domestic Church: St. Elizabeth’s Devotion of Love

by Katie Sciba

This month I’ve focused my thoughts on my favorite feast, and I’m not talking Thanksgiving. Consider this my personal invitation to celebrate, at least prayerfully, November 17th – the Feast of St. Elizabeth of Hungary.

Most know St. Elizabeth of Hungary, a queen made widow, as a benefactress who shared the food and resources of her palace with the poor in her kingdom. The Lord also called her to a devotion to the sick, and she worked closely with lepers and others with disease. While her compassion and work were certainly saintly and worth emulating, what I find captivating about St. Elizabeth is her lesser-known devotion to her husband, King Ludwig of Thuringia. Friends from childhood, the two were practically raised together from their early betrothal, and were eventually married. Elizabeth made it clear she was lovestruck. The young majesty dressed in her best and brightest when her husband was home, but clad herself in black mourning attire when he was away. She often lay awake at night, praying for the grace to withstand her love for her husband. She loved Ludwig so much that she almost couldn’t handle it.

I first “met” St. Elizabeth when I was newly-engaged, and it’s still her active devotion to Ludwig that shoots enthusiasm for my own husband in my heart. Her example is a sort of examination of conscience and it gives me pause – do I hold anything back from him? Am I squeezing every drop of loving effort out for Andrew and our kids? Elizabeth wore her finest dresses for Ludwig; how do I wear my devotion?

It reminds me of Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages – acts of service, gift giving, quality time, words of affirmation and physical touch – and how we’re each inclined to one or two of them as the main ways we give and receive love. Before he took an extended trip, Andrew got his will in order (just in case) and placed it on my dresser next to a new tube of my favorite Chapstick. I gave his will a glance, but delighted at the sight of a new, tiny gift. We still laugh knowing it points to my gift giving love language.

Like St. Elizabeth, we all take on ways of showing our spouses we love them. The most prized way Andrew and I take care of each other is by making coffee. The action itself is barely worth mentioning, but the message is loud and clear when stress peaks and we’re wiped out. We team up as parents, one of us often carrying the whole family through bedtime. We learn over and over that we have to support each other, with a willingness to abandon our own wills, for our marriage to thrive and for peace to reign.

History notes that King Ludwig totally backed his queen’s attention to the poor and other religious endeavors, encouraging her to be who she was made to be; and I’m willing to bet this fanned the flame of Elizabeth’s love for him.

Such a marriage is possible. Let’s make a point to study the hearts of our sweethearts with the intention of loving them with everything we have, and supporting the Lord’s call for their lives.

Faithful Food: Keeping Our Memories Alive

by Kim Long

John O’Donohue has a quote that is priceless, “memory is to the individual what tradition is to the community.”

That seems to fit right in during the month of November which is heavily laden with both memory and tradition. From All Saints and All Souls to Thanksgiving to Christ the King, we revel in, bask in and absorb lots of memory and tradition in many ways, especially through prayer, ritual and food!

When my oldest son was a youngster, he did not like turkey and dressing, instead begging me to fix his “favorite” chicken and dumplings. So of course, I did. Now that his palate has grown up, preparing that dish is not a part of the tradition I keep – although the story continues to circulate at our family Thanksgiving table, always tweaked a little to emphasize our love for one another and the care and concern I pray that is always with us as we go through our days and nights.

My birthstone is a pearl and long ago my aunt told me if you keep pearls locked away in a vault then they crumble because they need the oil from our skin to stay alive, beautiful and relevant. Our memories are precious, but like a pearl the stories should be passed down, the recipes cooked, the knowledge shared, and all passed to the next generation so that they are truly a living thing.

But back to the kitchen and all the leftover food Thanksgiving generates.Even after I have sent food home with everyone and taken a plate to my neighbor, there is still turkey. There may be 12 days of Christmas, but Thanksgiving leftovers never end!

All those years ago when I made dumplings, I cheated by using flour tortillas because I knew they would not fail. These days I am braver in my cooking endeavors and decided one afternoon to make noodles. With only two or three ingredients I got right down to business. I have a manual pasta roller and it reminds me of the play dough fun factory my brother had as a child. I place a “blob” of dough on the roller, turn the handle a few times and then, presto! – a long sheet of dough appears, I then cut it into strips and hung them on plastic hangers to dry.

I whisked butter and flour together and had cream and milk nearby to make a white sauce, to which I added turkey and peas and carrots and a pinch of poultry seasoning for that dusty autumnal taste only thyme imparts. I like my noodles thick, so when they are cooked they are really dumplings.

If you have leftover turkey this is one possibility! As for memories here is a scripture verse which sums things up quite nicely, “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.” Thessalonians 5:21

Turkey and Dumplings

Ingredients for Soup:
• Leftover Turkey from Thanksgiving, chopped or shredded (as much as you have or like, but at least 1½ cups)
• Frozen peas and carrots, about ⅓ package
• ½ tsp. poultry seasoning
• 1 oz. butter
• 1 oz. flour
• 1 pint milk or heavy cream
• 2 large eggs
• ½ tsp. salt
• 1 bag of egg noodles (or make your own noodles).

Directions:
1)  Melt butter and whisk in 1 oz. flour, cook for 2 minutes.

2) Add a pint of milk slowly whisking all the time. Once blended turn flame/burner on low heat.

3) Add to this mixture poultry seasoning and salt and pepper to taste and mix well.

4) Add frozen peas or peas and carrots and the chopped turkey. Let everything cook for a few moments and add more milk if too thick.

5) Stir in cooked and drained egg noodles (if you are using store bought), or if you are making your own drop uncooked noodles into the pot and adjust liquids by adding water and/or milk until noodles are covered.

6) Put a lid on pot and let cook, checking moisture level frequently.

In Review: Finding True Happiness

reviewed by Mary Wimberly-Simpson

Finding True Happiness
by Archbishop Fulton Sheen

“Are you perfectly happy?” This is the first line of Finding True Happiness by Archbishop Fulton Sheen. This one question sets the tone for a whole book on happiness.

And who doesn’t want to be happy? There are so many books written on the topic. Some take a long and drawn out approach. Some recommend fulfillment in activities or other avenues. Archbishop Sheen figured out the answer to this question long ago. In his book, he provides a simple guide on happiness through our relationship with God. It tackles how to be happy in a short, easily readable form, providing the reader with a guide to follow and refer to as needed. I have started to think of this book as my handbook on happiness.

While Archbishop Sheen is best remembered for his television show, The Catholic Hour, he also authored many books during his life. In fact, Finding True Happiness, published 35 years after his death, is a compilation of four of his works. And while he died in 1979, his guide to happiness is applicable to all generations. Perhaps this is why many of Archbishop Sheen’s books remain in print today and his television shows and various recordings are still available.

A brief background on Archbishop Sheen gave me an even better appreciation of this book. He was born in 1895 in Illinois and suffered from tuberculosis as an infant. He went on to become a  priest and earn an “agrege en philosophie,” later becoming an Archbishop. After all of  his accomplishments, he still practiced humility. He often wrote of not taking oneself too seriously.

The four books used to compile this amazing guide are, Way to Happiness, Way to Inner Peace, Walk With God, and You. At the end of each chapter is a reference from the book in which the segment was originally written. As the reader, you have the option to pursue the topic further through the book referenced.

The 16 chapters each tackle a different topic, which can be treated as an individual lesson, or which can be read straight through. Archbishop Sheen’s writing is straightforward and accessible.

I was truly amazed at the timeliness of the topics in this book. We live in a fast-paced, always-connected world. Cell phones were not around during the time he wrote his books, nor was the immense onslaught of information, yet chapter three focuses on “silence.” Archbishop Sheen used the term “wise passivity” in which he states, “…the ear is more important than the tongue.”

Throughout the book, Sheen takes on the obstacles of happiness such as: self-inflation, egotism, desire and loneliness, and guides the reader through ways of overcoming them.  Other topics of truth, patience, contentment and joy direct the reader on defining and utilizing these principles through life.
While Archbishop Fulton Sheen left this earth many years ago, it seems his words endure and stand true in the current world. I pondered, as I read the book, if he would have changed any of his words if he lived today – but I think not, because truth endures no matter the time period. The overarching message of Finding True Happiness is that true happiness will not come in things, but from our loving relationship with God.

Mike’s Meditations: Let Scripture Guide Your Life

by Mike Van Vranken

Someone was telling me recently that using scripture passages to help them pray has been a real breakthrough in their relationship with God. They realized the Bible is God’s written expression of His own love story between Him and His creation. He communicates that love to us in our own language to help us better understand who He is and how much He cares for us. God has divulged Himself in His written word, just as He has in Jesus, His Word made flesh. Using scriptures to help us pray is a sure and holy way to converse with God.

On November 18, we will celebrate the 52nd anniversary of a Church document that specifically encourages us to read and study the Bible. The Latin name of the document is Dei Verbum, which means “The Word of God.” The official name for this Church teaching is: “The Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation.” Divine Revelation! That’s what the Bible is. And this teaching goes on to say that we are to frequently read and study the Bible so that God and man may talk together. In doing so, some are called to preach the Word, while others are called to reveal Christ by the way they live and interact in the world.

This teaching, of course, is for you and me. Many thousands have responded over the last half-century as members of Bible study groups around the world. Through these groups, we intimately know God in new and deeper ways which inspire us to return God’s perfect love back to Him by sharing it in our own everyday lives. In other words, as good and holy as Bible study is, if it doesn’t transform us into missionary disciples who are spreading Christ into the world around us, we aren’t fulfilling the calling that the Divine Revelation is always giving us.

How do I know what being a missionary disciple is for me? That’s where praying with scripture can help. I suggest starting with the Gospel stories. They are mostly familiar to us and usually have a meaning we can at least partially understand. An easy way to begin is with the daily gospel reading at Mass. It’s easy to go online and search for daily Mass readings. When you find the Gospel reading for that day, read it from your Bible rather than your computer or phone. Sit in your favorite prayer chair and read the passage. Read it a few times and pay attention to any word, phrase or idea that catches your attention.

Now, think about these words or phrases and pay attention to how they make you feel. Do they give you inspiration, or hope? Do they make you uncomfortable or confused? Are you feeling joy or freedom or love or happiness?  Whatever the feelings are, take those feelings to God. Tell Him exactly how you are responding to these words or phrases.

Next comes the hard part: be still and know that God is listening. Maybe He will speak back to you through images or thoughts. Many times He won’t,  but you’ll find that just resting with Him in silence can bring peace over you.

Whether He is silent or not, your attention is focused solely on God. Allow that focus to help you be close and present with Him. Doing this on a daily basis will allow us to better know and understand how much God loves us and what He may be calling us to do as missionary disciples. You’ll probably find that transformation in you will take place over a period of time and your desire to spread His word, His Divine Revelation, is overwhelming. Before you know it, missionary discipleship will be your way of life.

You don’t have to use the daily Gospel reading – any scripture will do. If you make praying with scripture your daily practice, you will eventually use the entire Bible.

Use November as a month to have conversations with God by using the Bible. It may seem awkward at first, but keep practicing. Anything new takes time to master. And of course, if you need help, just ask God for that too. He’s always with you and He’s always listening. Finally be prepared for it to make a difference in your relationship with Him, because using the scripture to pray is nothing less than allowing his Divine Revelation to get the conversation started.

Bishop’s November Reflection: “The Shepherd Cannot Run”

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by Bishop Michael G. Duca

On September 23, I attended the Beatification of Father Stanley Rother. I was deeply moved by Fr. Rother and how this Oklahoma farm boy became the first U.S. born martyr to be proclaimed Blessed.

Stanley Francis Rother was born March 27, 1935, in Okarche, OK. He was the oldest of four children and attended Holy Trinity Catholic Church and School in Okarche. Being a normal farm boy, he did his chores, attended school, played sports, was an altar server and lived the small town life. While in high school, he began to discern the possibility of a vocation to the priesthood. He first entered Assumption Seminary in San Antonio, TX, but his journey to ordination was halted when Stanley’s struggles with Latin led to inadequate grades and he was asked to leave the seminary.

But Stanley was allowed a second chance, and enrolled at Mount Saint Mary Seminary in Emmitsburg, MD. He was ordained a priest on May 25, 1963. Following his ordination, Fr. Rother served as an associate pastor for five years in Oklahoma. Heeding the call of Pope John XXIII, he sought and received permission to join the staff at the diocese’s mission in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala.

Fr. Rother’s connection with the people of Santiago Atitlan was immediate. He served the native tribe of the Tz’utujil, who are decedents of the Mayans. In order to serve his people, Fr. Rother had to speak Spanish and the Tz’utujil language. He not only learned both languages, but his working knowledge of Tz’utujil enabled him to celebrate Mass and assist in translating the New Testament into their language. Tz’utujil was not a written language until the Oklahoma mission team arrived. What he accomplished was remarkable.

As the years passed, Fr. Rother tried to live a simpler life to be in communion with his people, who were extremely poor. He ministered to his parishioners in their one-room homes, eating with them, visiting the sick and aiding them with medical problems. He even put his farming skills to use by helping them in the fields, bringing in different crops, and building an irrigation system.

While he served in Guatemala, a civil war raged between the militarist government forces and the guerrillas. The Catholic Church was caught in the middle due to its insistence on catechizing and educating the people.  Catechists began to disappear. People slept in the church for protection and death lists began to circulate in the towns. During this conflict, thousands of Catholics were killed.

Fr. Rother’s name eventually appeared on the death list after a parishioner made the false accusation that he was advocating for the overthrow of the government by preaching the gospel. For his safety and that of his associate, Fr. Rother returned home to Oklahoma, but he didn’t stay long. He was determined to give his life completely to his people, stating that “the shepherd cannot run.” He returned to Santiago Atitlan out of love for his parishioners.

Within a few months of his return, three men entered the rectory around 1 a.m. on July 28, 1981, fought with Fr. Rother and then executed him. His death shocked the Catholic world. No one was ever held responsible.

The people of Santiago Atitlan mourned the loss of their leader and friend.  Because of the affection and veneration the people of Santiago Atitlan displayed for the priest, they requested that Fr. Rother’s heart be kept in Guatemala where it remains enshrined today.

Father Stanley Rother is now Blessed Stanley Rother.  When someone is declared “Blessed,” public veneration in the Church is permitted by the pope, but only in the diocese or country, or religious community to which the Blessed belonged. A person who is named Blessed becomes a saint for the whole Church with one verified miracle attributed to his intercession.

Blessed Rother is the first official martyr of the Church from the United States, and he reminds us we are all called to be saints!  Not by doing the same things Blessed Stanley Rother did, but by living our lives with the same dedication to loving God and our neighbor as ourselves. Fr. Rother revealed his love for his people when he proclaimed “the shepherd cannot run,” knowing he might be killed when he returned to Guatemala.

It was this act of love that makes Fr. Rother blessed in our eyes.  You may think your life is not as dramatic or holy as his, but it depends on how you consider the acts of love in your life. Fr. Rother’s act of love is really not any different than that of the father or mother who faithfully gets up early for work every day to provide for their family when they would rather be doing a thousand other things, or the adult child choosing to give more of their free time to care for their aging parents, or the pastor who gets up at night for a call to the hospital, or a student who gives service hours to those in need.  As we choose to love as Christ has loved us, let us call on the intercession of Blessed Stanley Rother to make us strong, faithful and loving, and to give witness to Christ in the world by our saintly lives.

2017-18 Vocations Poster

Click to download the 2017-18 Diocese of Shreveport Vocations poster.

Kids Connection: Saint Elizabeth of Hungary

Click to download and print this month’s Kids Connection on St. Elizabeth of Hungary.

National Vocations Awareness Week Set for November 5-11

WASHINGTON—The Catholic Church in the U.S. will celebrate National Vocations Awareness Week, November 5-11. This annual event is a special time for parishes to actively foster and pray for a culture of vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life.

Cardinal Joseph Tobin, the Chair of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations, reminds us that each of us in the Church has a key role to play in the witness of our vocation in ordinary circumstances, “As we go about our everyday life and most especially this week, we must keep vocations in our prayers, while, at the same time, being a mindful witness with our own vocation. We may never know how our lives may have an impact on someone else’s story. Simply living out our call as disciples of Jesus Christ fully and joyfully in the world bears witness to the love of Christ as He generously bestows on each of us our own personal call.”

National Vocations Awareness Week, sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations, is designed to help promote vocation awareness and to encourage young people to ask the question: “To what vocation in life is God calling me?” Parish and school communities across the nation are encouraged to include, during the first full week in November, prayer and special activities that focus on vocation awareness.

Observance of Vocation Awareness Week began in 1976 when the U.S. bishops designated the 28th Sunday of the year for the celebration. It was later moved to Feast of the Baptism of the Lord in January. The USCCB Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations moved the observance of National Vocation Awareness Week to November to engage Catholic schools and colleges more effectively in this effort.

More information and resources for National Vocations Awareness Week, including a prayer card, homily aids, suggested prayers of the faithful and bulletin-ready quotes are available online at: http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/vocations/national-vocation-awareness-week.cfm.

Bishops Call for Prayer for Those Impacted by Wildfires

WASHINGTON—Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, FL, asked for prayers for favorable weather and assistance for those impacted by devastating fires raging through Northern California.

Bishop Dewane’s full statement follows: “Do not fear: I am with you; do not be anxious: I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10

Today we ask for the intercession of Almighty God as wildfires rage in Northern California. Already, these blazes have killed over 20 people, destroyed hundreds of houses and other buildings, and forced thousands of individuals to leave their homes and livelihoods behind in uncertainty. High winds and dry conditions have greatly increased the danger for the people in this region.

As brave men and women respond to these disasters, battling the fires and helping people to safety, we call upon God for improved weather, for the blessing of rain and favorable winds, to assist them. We pray that those who are missing or are still in harm’s way will be found and protected. May God grant eternal rest to those who have died, and bring them into glory with him forever.

We pray, too, for generosity, care, and concern from neighbors and surrounding communities for those who are grieving and displaced. Though we may be weary from all that has taken place around the country in recent days, we know that God cannot be outdone in generosity and charity. May he provide us with new wellsprings of love to meet the needs of our brothers and sisters who are hurting so deeply today.