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2017 Annual Diocesan Stewardship Appeal: Our Vision, Our Mission

by John Mark Willcox The coming months will see our community of faith again striving to enable the work of Christ within our diocese by supporting our Annual Stewardship Appeal.  A new More »

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Catholic Youth Day Coming March 11!

by Nicky Prevou Middle school and high school youth and their adult leaders are eagerly looking forward to Saturday, March 11. Catholic Youth Day (CYD) 2017 will be held at St. Paschal More »

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God is Calling – Diocese in Search of New Deacon Class

by Deacon Mike Whitehead It has been a little over 11 years since the first Permanent Diaconate formation for the Diocese of Shreveport ordained 18 men in 2005, and three years since More »

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Community Volunteers Give Back to Catholic Charities

by Lucy Medvec As with any non-profit agency, the work and support from volunteers are important to the success of the organization. This is no different with Catholic Charities of North Louisiana. More »

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Bishop Friend’s Book Collection in Slattery Library

by Jessica Rinaudo The Catholic Center’s Slattery Library has recently had a huge boost to its book collection. Upon his passing, Bishop William B. Friend bequeathed his vast collection of literature to More »

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Vocations View: Want to Change a Life? Support Catholic Education

by Lisa Cooper Catholic vocations in all forms, from religious and priestly to living and working faithfully as a layperson all have to start somewhere. Oftentimes that place is in Catholic schools. More »

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Navigating the Faith: St. Blaise & the Blessing of Throats

by Dianne Rachal, Director of Worship The feast day of St. Blaise is celebrated on February 3 with the unique ritual of blessing the throats of those with throat disorders and anyone More »

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Domestic Church: Prayer Turns Burdens to Blessings

by Katie Sciba Andrew has been waking me early every morning. A little nudge and a “Were you going to pray?” I croak “Mm hmm.” He goes to a corner of our More »

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Mike’s Meditations: Who Do You See?

by Mike Van Vranken If the man in this picture came to our country claiming to be a displaced refugee fleeing persecution, would you vote to allow him to stay?  I read More »

Navigating the Faith: St. Blaise & the Blessing of Throats

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by Dianne Rachal, Director of Worship

The feast day of St. Blaise is celebrated on February 3 with the unique ritual of blessing the throats of those with throat disorders and anyone who wishes to avoid getting such a malady.

The blessing of throats is usually done by priests, though deacons may also serve, and it is considered a sacramental of the Church.
Unfortunately, very few facts are known about St. Blaise, and much of what is known about the life of St. Blaise comes from various traditions through the ages.  All sources agree that St. Blaise was the Bishop of Sebaste in Armenia who suffered martyrdom under Licinius about A.D. 316.  Even though the Emperor Constantine had granted freedom of worship in the Roman Empire with the Edict of Toleration in A.D. 311 five years earlier, persecution of Christians still raged in Armenia.

The legendary Acts of St. Blaise were written 400 years after his death.  According to the Acts, St. Blaise was a good bishop, working hard to encourage the spiritual and physical health of his people.

Legends
From here on, we rely on the traditions which have been associated with our liturgical celebrations over the centuries.  In accord with various traditions, St. Blaise was born to rich and noble parents, and received a Christian education.  He was a physician before being consecrated a bishop at a young age.

Due to the persecution of Licinius, St. Blaise received a divine command to move from the town and live as a hermit in a cave.  There he lived in solitude and prayer, and he made friends with the wild animals, healing any that were sick or wounded.  One day a group of hunters seeking wild animals for the game in the amphitheater stumbled upon St. Blaise’s cave.  They were surprised to find the bishop kneeling in prayer surrounded by wolves, lions and bears.

Legend has it that hunters hauled St. Blaise off to Agricolaus, the governor of Cappadocia, who imprisoned him. On his way there, St. Blaise encountered a woman whose pig was being seized by a wolf.  He commanded the wolf to release the pig, and the pig was freed unhurt. The woman brought St. Blaise candles in prison so that his cell would have light and he could read the sacred Scriptures.

While St. Blaise was in prison, a mother came with her young son who was choking to death on a fish bone lodged in his throat. St. Blaise miraculously cured the small boy by commanding him to cough up the bone.

Agricolaus tried to persuade St. Blaise to sacrifice to pagan idols. The first time Blaise refused, he was beaten. Eventually Agricolaus condemned St. Blaise for upholding his Christian faith rather than apostatizing (denying the faith). St. Blaise was suspended from a tree and his flesh torn with an iron comb (an instrument designed for combing wool, but used here for shredding the skin).  Finally, St. Blaise was beheaded.

Intercession of St. Blaise
By the sixth century, St. Blaise’s intercession was invoked for diseases of the throat in the East. As early as the eighth century records attest to the veneration of St. Blaise in Europe, and he became one of the most popular saints in the spiritual life of the Middle Ages. One reason for St. Blaise’s popularity arose from the fact he was a physician who cured, even performing miraculous cures.  Thereby, those who were sick, especially with throat ailments, invoked his intercession.  Eventually the custom of the blessing of throats arose, whereby the priest held two crossed candles over the heads of the faithful or touched their throats with the candles while he invoked the prayer of the saint and imparted God’s blessing.

The Blessing of the Throat
The feast of St. Blaise is celebrated on February 3.  The blessing of the throat is carried out using two white taper candles that were blessed on the previous day, February 2, Candlemas Day, the Feast of the Presentation.  The white color of the candles symbolizes purity.  Often a red ribbon will be draped over the base of the candles, the red symbolizing the martyrdom of St. Blaise.  The candles are grasped in an X-shape and held up to the throat of the person receiving the blessing:

“Through the intercession of St. Blaise, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from every disease of the throat and from every other illness, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

St. Blaise is the patron of physicians, sick cattle, wax-chandlers, wool combers, wild animals and those with throat maladies.

From an article by Fr. William Saunders in the Arlington Catholic Herald, 1/3/2013.

From the Pope: Pope’s Letter to Young People

Pope’s Letter to Young People
on the Occasion of the Presentation of the Preparatory Document
of the 15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops

My Dear Young People,

I am pleased to announce that in October 2018 a Synod of Bishops will take place to treat the topic: “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.” I wanted you to be the center of attention, because you are in my heart. Today, the Preparatory Document is being presented, a document which I am also entrusting to you as your “compass” on this synodal journey.

I am reminded of the words which God spoke to Abraham: “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” (Gen 12.1). These words are now also addressed to you. They are words of a Father who invites you to “go,” to set out towards a future which is unknown but one which will surely lead to fulfillment, a future towards which He Himself accompanies you. I invite you to hear God’s voice resounding in your heart through the breath of the Holy Spirit.

When God said to Abraham, “Go!,” what did He want to say? He certainly did not say to distance himself from his family or withdraw from the world. Abraham received a compelling invitation, a challenge, to leave everything and go to a new land. What is this “new land” for us today, if not a more just and friendly society which you, young people, deeply desire and wish to build to the very ends of the earth?
But unfortunately, today, “Go!” also has a different meaning, namely, that of abuse of power, injustice and war. Many among you are subjected to the real threat of violence and forced to flee your native land. Your cry goes up to God, like that of Israel, when the people were enslaved and oppressed by Pharaoh (cf. Ex 2:23).

I would also remind you of the words that Jesus once said to the disciples who asked Him: “Teacher [...] where are you staying?” He replied, “Come and see” (Jn 1:38). Jesus looks at you and invites you to go with him. Dear young people, have you noticed this look towards you? Have you heard this voice? Have you felt this urge to undertake this journey? I am sure that, despite the noise and confusion seemingly prevalent in the world, this call continues to resonate in the depths of your heart so as to open it to joy in its fullness. This will be possible to the extent that, even with professional guides, you will learn how to undertake a journey of discernment to discover God’s plan in your life. Even when the journey is uncertain and you fall, God, rich in mercy, will extend His hand to pick you up.

In Krakow, at the opening of the last World Youth Day, I asked you several times: “Can we change things?” And you shouted: “Yes!” That shout came from your young and youthful hearts, which do not tolerate injustice and cannot bow to a “throwaway culture,” nor give in to the globalization of indifference. Listen to the cry arising from your inner selves! Even when you feel, like the prophet Jeremiah, the inexperience of youth, God encourages you to go where He sends you: “Do not be afraid, [...], because I am with you to deliver you” (Jer 1:8).

A better world can be built also as a result of your efforts, your desire to change and your generosity. Do not be afraid to listen to the Spirit who proposes bold choices; do not delay when your conscience asks you to take risks in following the Master. The Church also wishes to listen to your voice, your sensitivities and your faith; even your doubts and your criticism. Make your voice heard, let it resonate in communities and let it be heard by your shepherds of souls. St. Benedict urged the abbots to consult, even the young, before any important decision, because “the Lord often reveals to the younger what is best” (Rule of St. Benedict, III, 3).

Such is the case, even in the journey of this Synod. My brother bishops and I want even more to “work with you for your joy” (2 Cor 1:24). I entrust you to Mary of Nazareth, a young person like yourselves, whom God beheld lovingly, so she might take your hand and guide you to the joy of fully and generously responding to God’s call with the words: “Here I am” (cf. Lk 1:38).

With paternal affection,
FRANCIS
Vatican City, January 13, 2017

Domestic Church: Prayer Turns Burdens to Blessings

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by Katie Sciba

Andrew has been waking me early every morning. A little nudge and a “Were you going to pray?” I croak “Mm hmm.” He goes to a corner of our room and spends time with the Lord before the kids get up.

We’ve been talking about this – how we should “parallel pray” before we start the day.And because there’s zero pretense here, I’ll tell you my response has been underwhelming. I mumble half a Hail Mary before I convince myself that what Jesus really wants for me is sleep, right? I’m tired, in-demand and pregnant.

Twenty minutes of dozing later, there’s a stampede of small feet headed for our bedroom door. Jesushelpme. Amen. I’m up!

“Mooooooom! Where are my undies?”

“Mama I need bweakfast. Do we have cookies?”

“Can we watch a show?!”

Spills. Tears. Tantrums. And the kids are worse.

After a blur of daytime hours, we get the kids down and I’m ready to cry from the emotional exhaustion.

“You know,” Andrew prodded me, “Jesus told me to sit up when I pray in the morning because I kept going back to sleep.”

So I really fought for it, the peaceful start I’ve been dreaming of. The alarm went off. Andrew prompted, “Do you want to pray?” but unlike mornings prior, I bolted up and reached for my prayer books. I rested in Jesus, who I knew at once had been waiting for me. I went over the forthcoming hours in my head, asking God to help me be generous to my children, encouraging to Andrew and charitable in all circumstances.

I have been finding all of the above challenging. Downright impossible in some cases. But the effects of this one morning of prayer were transformative. Throughout the day I was sweeter with the kids. I surprised Andrew with a cinnamon roll and coffee, leaving them next to a jotted note of encouragement. I was productive and cheerful around the house.

I felt unburdened by life. Unburdened. Most of the time I feel dry, taxed, weighed upon. But I see clearly that juggling the stress, to-dos, babies and marriage without solid time with the Lord greys the brightness of each blessing. It turns them into burdens and makes us feel like they suck our life away instead of us joyfully giving ourselves to them.

Jesus had been waiting to relieve me of this – I just had to draw near. And if, as sons and daughters made in the Image and Likeness, we’re supposed to imitate the Lord in His responses to life and people, then being intentional and vulnerable in conversation with Him will sharpen that imitation. In prayer, I give my burdens and ask for the grace to see blessings.

So here’s to the start of something new – the start of being made new. I have every intention of keeping up with Andrew’s prompting, which is absolutely the Holy Spirit working through my husband; and I can’t wait for how a build-up of days of Jesus in the morning will change our world.

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.

Faithful Food: Letting Go and Letting God

by Kim Long

Growing up in northeast Louisiana, Mardi Gras was something a few of our classmates went to every year. Dutifully their mothers made sure there were enough beads for each of their children’s classmates. This was followed by Ash Wednesday when the same select few came in late to class with smudges proudly displayed on their foreheads. This was some club I thought, beads, a leisurely school schedule and a secret shared with a select few.

My worldview has widened beyond the borders of good ol’ Tensas parish, and in our area, Carnival season has something to offer for just about everyone. For several years I have hosted a Twelfth Night party for my godchildren, an event with lots of food and ceremony.

This year I awoke early on the Saturday of Twelfth Night and drove to St. Pius X Church for my first ever Mardi Gras Mass. I was mesmerized by the Krewes and their regalia, each with their own symbols. The bling was amazing and I felt as though I was being let in on a secret, no longer the third grade outsider, but part of the Catholic family. Bishop Duca spoke of letting go of what prevents us from embracing even more of God’s goodness.

By this time of the season, many of us are on Christmas overload, already having jettisoned the tree and the decorations, and excitedly looking forward to life returning to normal. Not me. Instead this beautiful Mass helped me transition into the season of Carnival. The homily gave me food for thought on ways to carry the message of love incarnate forward, to enlarge the possibilities of that love in the world around me, whether in the kitchen, at a parade, working, or raking the endless pine straw the February winds are busy redistributing.

Now my kitchen is humming. Crawfish, beignets, jambalaya, and bell pepper dressing are in various stages of readiness. This year I tried some new things including Galette de Rois, a puff pastry king cake from France.

Everyone arrived and, after much food and music, we bid Father Christmas farewell, chalked the doorways and asked God to bless us in our comings and goings and to keep us strong as a family.

As Christmas gives way to Carnival I hope we are able to find some time to relax, enjoy a season of fun and let go of anything that gets in the way of embracing God’s love for us.

I hope you enjoy this easy recipe for Carnival that looks fantastic!

Galette des Rois

Ingredients:
• 1 box frozen puff pastry dough, thawed according to directions
• 1/3 roll of almond paste (marzipan)
• 1/4 cup sugar
• 1/4 to 1/3 cup cream cheese, softened
• 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
•1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Directions:
1) When pastry is thawed, place on top of a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Use a plate as a template to trace a circle, then with a sharp paring knife cut away the excess.
2) In a food processor combine almond paste, sugar, cream cheese and flavorings. Process until smooth.
3) Place filling in the center of your circle keeping the filling toward the middle.
4) Make another circle of second sheet of puff pastry dough and place on top of almond filling. Pinch the two circles closed.
5)  Using a sharp knife cut a criss cross design on top and use knife to make slits in top of dough (about six).
6) Brush with beaten egg and bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes and DO NOT OPEN OVEN as this will cause pastry not to puff!
7)  Check pastry and if needed bake for another 10 to 12 minutes.
8) Cool on wire rack and when cool enough to handle insert baby through bottom.

NOTE: We insert cake pulls (charms tied to ribbons)  in the side of cake and each person pulls one to see what their fortune will be in the New Year.

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

In Review: Who’s Your Mama, Are You Catholic, and Can You Make a Roux?

Who’s Your Mama, Are You Catholic, and Can You Make a Roux? by Marcelle Bienvenu
reviewed by Kim Long

I hate to admit it but it took me a long time to embrace my Louisiana roots and I was terrified of Cajun cooking. A lot of that fear was brought on because none of the women in my family cooked Cajun dishes. Our across-the-street neighbors, however, were from South Louisiana. On many a Saturday afternoon I would knock on their screen door and Miss Myrtle would tell me to, “Come on in,” as the heavenly aroma of crawfish, onions, butter and spices wafted to greet me.

Years later I prayed and battled the roux dragon, and while mine won’t ever be the same as someone whose first language includes words like gumbo, etoufee, cha’ and roux, it was more than passable.

My mother bragged on the cookbook Are You Catholic, Who’s Your Mama, and Can You Make a Roux? She called it a must read. “This food is wonderful,” she said, “Oh yeah, and it’s all about being Catholic.” My mom got full marks; this book is about all of those things and more.
This book begins with spring and continues on its way to winter. Marcelle chronicles her childhood as well as some of her adult memories, all of which center around her Catholic faith, her family and good cooking.

We are brought into her life with a vivid description of spring’s arrival, “Spring arrives quickly in Louisiana. One day the landscape along the highways and country roads is pale and lonely. Limp strands of Spanish moss hang on barren tree limbs. Then suddenly, in March, the purple, pink and lavender of Japanese magnolias and redbud trees burst into the leafless countryside.” I for one could follow Marcelle into the kitchen without hesitation after that description.

The recipes are coupled with descriptions of her family adventures in and out of the kitchen, all of it revolving around the Catholic year. Here is another description found between recipes for Lois’ Vegetable Casserole and Crawfish Stew-Fay, “Once Lent is over and we are into Eastertide it is like being released from bindings. With winter behind us I look forward to outdoor activities and all the food treats that go with it.”

Along with these jaunty memories are wonderful family photographs of times gone by. Ladies in cocktail and evening dresses and men in suits jostle for position along with photos of children in their Sunday best and everyone fishing.

The recipes are great and offer something for everyone and every cooking skill level. From pound cake and seafood dishes to Mardi Gras Pasta Salad (which is very good and very easy), you will find something to your taste.

Marcelle Bienvenu was born and raised in St. Martinville. Among her many hats in life she wrote a regular feature for the Times-Picayune, was a researcher and consultant for Time-Life books, and owned and operated her own restaurant near Lafayette. She has worked for several restaurants including Commander’s Palace and K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen in New Orleans.

Reading this book is like chatting with a good friend. Using this book is like cooking with a trusted companion. The memories are thought provoking, the pictures evocative of earlier times, the recipes are tasty and the overall feel of her (and our) Catholic faith is comforting and familiar.

This book is a dream, a trinity, part memoir, part catechism and part cookbook! With these universal themes there is something for everyone. On a Sunday afternoon when the parade from the day before has exhausted you, curl up with a piece of king cake, a cup of café au lait, and Marcelle’s wonderful book.

St. Thomas Parish Celebrated 75 Year Anniversary

Bishop Michael Duca visited Ruston to celebrate Mass for St. Thomas Aquinas Parish’s 75th anniversary on December 10. Bishop Duca is pictured at the reception following the Mass, talking to a group from the Association of Catholic Tech Students, who are an integral part of the parish’s life.

Hospital Held New Year Prayer Service

St. Francis Medical Center held a special prayer service for the New Year on January 13 in its hospital chapel. The service was led by Fr. James Dominic.

ULM Catholic Campus Ministry Gives Thanks

Fr. Job Edathinatt Scaria opened the doors to the University of Louisiana’s Catholic Campus Ministry on Thanksgiving Day to students, faculty and staff who were not able to go home for the holidays.

The event started off with a Mass giving thanks to all God has given us. Fr. Joseph Puthuppally assisted in the celebration. Afterwards, a full traditional Thanksgiving meal was served complete with ham, turkey and all the fixings. To many of the international students, this was their first time celebrating the American tradition. Many volunteers helped Fr. Job make the event a successful one.

Catholic Tech Students Spread Christmas Joy

Members of the Association of Catholic Tech Students (ACTS) brought Christmas joy to the elderly this Christmas season by caroling at The Arbor and Terrace of Ruston and “partying” with St. Thomas resident parishioner, Anna Bleich.

It was in Anna’s home that the first Catholic Campus Ministry meeting of  St. Thomas Church was held 75 years ago!  This year, some of the college students decorated Anna’s home while making cookies and singing carols.

Other activities of ACTS this year included collecting food and supplies for five local families and filling up shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child, an international organization that provides gifts for needy children around the world.

The Association of Catholic Tech Students prides itself on being a volunteer organization that is “Christ-Centered and Student-Led.”  ACTS relies on the goodness and generosity of its donors. Thank you and God bless to all who support our Catholic campus ministry program!
If you would like to support the faith formation of our college students at Louisiana Tech, please send your donation to the E. Donn Piatt Catholic Student Center, 600 Thornton St., Ruston, LA 71270.

New Many Altar Servers

New St. John the Baptist Altar servers were commissioned during weekend Masses. This ministry has grown considerably in the parish in recent months.