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 »

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Ignatius of Loyola Movie Coming to Diocese of Shreveport

by Randy Tiller Ignatius Press announced the new theatrical release of Ignatius of Loyola, Solider, Sinner, Saint on December 1, 2016. Due to the past relationship our diocese has with Ignatius Press, More »

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The Harm of Pornography and Hope Beyond Addiction: Addicts

Series written by Katie Sciba under guidance of Fr. Sean Kilcawley, STL This is the second article in a four-piece series on pornography; the first can be found in the January 2017 More »

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Shreveport Mom and Daughter March for Life with Love in D.C.

by Katie Aranda Who would have imagined that my daughter and I would be at the March for Life in Washington D.C. this year?  Not me! My best friend from college, who More »

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Irish Heritage Brought to Life with St. Brigid Feast at St. Mary of the Pines

by Kelly Phelan Powell Kim Long, Director of Religious Education (DRE) at St. Mary of the Pines Parish in Shreveport, is one of those rare and wonderful souls who dream big, then More »

Deacon Bill Roche and Deacon Larry Mills carry in the oil for Chrism Mass.

Vocations View: My Blessings in the Diaconate

by Deacon Bill Roche When I was a youngster, I thought about the priesthood, but being a priest was never a serious consideration after I entered high school. I never expected to More »

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Navigating the Faith: Lenten Fasting Through the Ages

by Dr. Cheryl H. White As we enter the season of Lent, it is helpful to pause and reflect on both its purpose, how it is expressed, and to know we are More »

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Mike’s Meditations: An Experience with God

by Mike Van Vranken Ask most Christians why they participate in the season of Lent, and many will respond with some explanation that they want to get closer to God. A holy More »

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Bishop’s Reflection: What Will You Do When Jesus Knocks?

by Bishop Michael G. Duca “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” This is one of the exhortations that can be used for the imposition of ashes and it beautifully sums up the More »

Catholic Youth Day Coming March 11!

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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 Parish, located at 711 North 7th Street in West Monroe.

The schedule will include opportunities for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, Reconciliation, dynamic praise and worship experiences, interactive workshops, fellowship and a Mass celebrated by Bishop Michael Duca. Hundreds of Catholic youth from  across the diocese are planning to attend the event.

Selah Storm and Nikki Tinnerello, who serve as volunteer youth ministry leaders at St. Paschal Parish, said that they are “thrilled” that their parish will be hosting this year’s fun-filled event.

“We at St. Paschal’s often get together with several of the small area parishes for retreats and other events, so we’re especially excited to have other parishes from other parts of the diocese join us for Catholic Youth Day. We are so happy that we are able to invite everyone to share in the strong foundation of faith that we offer to our Catholic youth,” said Selah.

“It’s always valuable for our young people to gather and share their Catholic faith, to enjoy the camaraderie, the prayerfulness and the excitement of the day,” added Nikki.

Both the youth leaders and their own teenage sons are especially looking forward to hearing this year’s keynote presenter, the internationally recognized Catholic liturgical musician and speaker Jesse Manibusan, whom they have previously seen in concert.

“Jesse will most definitely bring so much to our diocese,” Selah reflected. “He is very high-energy and engaging, but he is also so soulful, tender, and multi-faceted in his ability to share his faith with people of all ages.”

Kevin Prevou, Diocesan Director of  Youth and Young Adult Ministry, said all youth, grades six through 12, and their adult leaders are encouraged to register for the all-day event.

“Our team has been prayerfully preparing for March 11, and we have several hoped-for outcomes, based on the theme for the day, ‘iBelieve’,” said Kevin. “We want our young people to grow in their own sense of Catholic identity and belonging to their Catholic parish and diocesan family. We want them to connect their call to discipleship with the challenge to truly live out their faith, and we are offering an opportunity to grow in their sense of excitement and energy around their relationship with Christ.”

Christian recording artist Dave Fitzgerald will lead participants in praise and worship, and ministry leaders will offer break-out sessions on topics such as “Using Social Networks to Evangelize Others: Do’s and Dont’s”; “Catholic Teachings Every Teen Needs to Know by Heart”; and “Diving Into the Catholic Catechism: Be Not Afraid!”

Other sessions will offer opportunities to make rosaries and to create “Blessing Bags.” Dianne Rachal, diocesan Director of Worship, will lead a session on youth leadership in parishes as lectors, greeters, ushers and altar servers.

Kevin noted that members of the Diocesan Youth Council have helped to prepare the plans for the day, which will include “Interactive Faith Games,” the “My Catholic Faith Contest” and “Stump the Bishop!”

Jean Rains, who serves as the Director of Religious Education for St. John the Baptist Parish in Many, said that participation in CYD is “very important” to the youth of her parish.

“We live in an area that is predominantly non-Catholic,” Jean explained. “Our children find themselves in the position of trying to defend their faith, and that can be uncomfortable. I like for them to see that they are not alone, that they can enjoy learning with other youth of their own faith and develop friendships with kids from other parishes.”

Early registration for CYD 2017 is $30 a person through February 24. Regular registration is $35 per person February 25-March 7, and all registrations after March 7, including at-the-door, are $40. Registration includes entry into all CYD events, breakfast, snacks, lunch and a commemorative t-shirt. For more information or to register, go to www.dioshpt.org/ministries/youth-young-adult-ministry/ and click on the Catholic Youth Day icon, or contact Kevin Prevou at 318-219-7258, or kprevou@dioshpt.org, or Gabby Willis at 318-219-7257, or gwillis@dioshpt.org.

God is Calling – Diocese in Search of New Deacon Class

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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 16 more men joined them in 2014. Currently, there are 33 active deacons serving God and the people of this diocese in this ministry.

“Feedback on their service has been very positive and Bishop Duca is asking for more,” said Deacon Clary Nash, Deacon Formation Director.
A third formation for the Permanent Diaconate is scheduled to begin in September and the Diocese of Shreveport is again seeking men who are being called to a life of service. The application and selection process is now under way. If you feel God is calling you to this ministry, now is a great time to formally begin the discernment process, open a dialogue and have your questions and concerns answered.

Deacons can reach out to the Church community in many different ways. They are called to live the Gospel in every way, every day. The function of a deacon is to serve the Church by using their gifts and talents already given them by God for the purpose of service to God in serving God’s people.

Formation is designed to enhance those gifts and prepare these men for a lifetime of service, thereby adding a quality of life for them, our Church and surrounding communities. One of the roles of a deacon is to increase the involvement of the laity by support and guidance.

St. Pope John Paul II said, “The deacon’s tasks include that of promoting and sustaining the apostolic activities of the laity. To the extent he is more present and more involved than the priest in secular environments and structures, in common service to the kingdom of God.”

The deacons of Shreveport have answered the call to service. They help make Christ more relevant, human and understood in the world. They give witness to Christian values in the marketplace as ordained ministers. Deacons are called to leadership, to find ways to promote justice and charity and support Christian values in the world, in the name of the Catholic Church.

“As a deacon for over 30 years for the Diocese of Shreveport, God has blessed me abundantly in every day of my service,” Deacon Nash said. “It has been my honor to be the director of their formations.”

Since the institution of diaconate formation in the Diocese of Shreveport, the people of God have experienced a surge of energy, evangelization, inspiration and outreach to those in need.

“One of my cherished memories is of Deacon Sonny Daigle, who with terminal cancer, had a special ministry and love to those incarcerated,” Deacon Nash said. “His frequent visits included scripture study, personal examples, encouragement and his sincere concern and love for God and all God’s people. As a result, several men had life-changing experiences, converted and were confirmed into the Catholic Church. Their new-found faith upholds, sustains and now inspires others during this period of their life. With Deacon Sonny gone now, who will take his place?  God is calling.”

To learn more about the role of a deacon in your parish, please contact Deacon Clary Nash at 318-868-4441, or by email at cnash@dioshpt.org. The deadline for inquiries into the diaconate program is Monday, April 3, 2017.   •

Community Volunteers Give Back to Catholic Charities

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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. Since its inception in 2010, CCNLA has been blessed with a core of volunteers that assist with many of the organization’s programs on a daily basis.

GABRIEL’S CLOSET
Gabriel’s Closet opened in June 2012 as a volunteer-run “boutique” where low-income new parents could get new and gently-used items needed to care for their infants. Working with these families, our volunteers quickly began identifying other issues that needed to be addressed such as parenting skills and nutrition.  They began including a child’s book with each distribution and encouraging the parents to read out loud to their children. Today, CCNLA offers parenting classes taught by volunteer OB-GYN nurses twice each week. Class topics include well-baby care, infant CPR and first aid, nutrition, dental care and parenting skills. In addition to working one-on-one with parents, Gabriel’s Closet also has volunteers from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church that come once a week to sort the many items that are donated from the community.  Our Gabriel’s Closet volunteers worked extra hard this past fall when their storage space underwent a major renovation and items had to be packed up, stored and then moved back into the former sanctuary.

COMMUNITY GARDEN
The community garden is part of CCNLA’s Healthy Eating on a Budget Initiative in order to provide food and gardening experience to our clients. The garden has been tended to periodically by community volunteers, including those from United Way’s annual “Day of Caring.”  Employees from Edge Office Products weeded the garden last March in order to prepare it for spring planting, but a very rainy season eventually turned the garden into an overgrown jungle.  One day last fall, Earl O’Kee contacted CCNLA looking for an opportunity to give back to his community.  After many weeks of hard work, Mr. O’Kee reclaimed the community garden and planted vegetables to be harvested in the coming months.  His hard work and love of the outdoors revitalized the garden plots and he looks forward to planting even more vegetables and herbs this spring.

MEDICAL SCHOOL PARTNERSHIP
In September 2016, CCNLA entered into a partnership with the LSU Health Shreveport School of Medicine and their FACTTS (Fourth-year Academic Clinical Training and Teaching Selective) program. Every month during the school year, medical students select a community organization in which they will serve eight volunteer hours.  CCNLA is one of the selected organizations and has provided volunteer opportunities in each of its programs to fourth-year students before they move on to residency programs.  This Service Learning Activity program gives students the opportunity to learn more about social agencies in our community and how they are helping the underserved.

Catholic Charities is always looking for volunteers. Hours and opportunities are flexible and there are many ways to get involved.  Other areas include teaching one of our many classes (financial education, nutrition, parenting or English as a Second Language) or providing basic office assistance.  For more information about becoming a volunteer, please contact Lucy Medvec at lmedvec@ccnla.org or (318) 865-0200 ext. 101.

Bishop Friend’s Book Collection in Slattery Library

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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 the diocesan library.

Sue Vernia, who served as Bishop Friend’s first secretary, is now the librarian of Slattery Library. She had the task of sorting through and organizing his vast collection of over 1,800 books, which included identifying and labeling their Dewey Decimal numbers with bright green tags so that they are easily identifiable on the shelves of the library.

“I look out into the library, and I can see those green tags. His books are on every row,” said Sue.

Patrons to the library can browse through Bishop Friend’s collection and quickly see that his reading was broad and varied. “It’s amazing his wide scope of interests. There’s a shelf out there that’s almost full of books on leadership and things on the future society. It’s not just religious tracks. He was into a lot of things,” said Sue. “He was curious.”

“We have some that are just reference books and stay in the library, but most of them can be checked out for two weeks,” said Sue.
Lucky library patrons may even stumble upon one of Bishop Friend’s books that he read heavily. Those volumes are laced with his own notations, underlines and scrawled notes. Most of those heavily read and examined books are from a time before he became bishop, when he had more time to read and study.

It’s these hand written notations that remind Sue of her work with Bishop Friend in 1986. The cyclical nature of working as Bishop Friend’s first secretary, and then on his book collection after his death is not lost on her. With joy and nostalgia she said, “Working on his books, seeing his curiosity and interests, has brought him more into my life.”

A special display is up in the Slattery Library highlighting some of the books in Bishop Friend’s collection.

Stop by, talk to Sue and browse through the bright green tabs and see what Bishop Friend wanted to share with the Catholics of the Diocese of Shreveport.

The checkout process is easy. Any patron to the library can browse, select the books they like, fill out a form and borrow them for two weeks.
The Slattery Library is located in the Catholic Center, located at 3500 Fairfield Avenue. It will re-open, after being closed for construction for several months, on February 1. It will be open from Monday – Wednesday, 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Diocese of Shreveport 2016 Annual Report

Click to download a PDF of the Diocese of Shreveport’s 2016 Annual Report

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

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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. In 2015, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) put together a Catholic Schools Fact Sheet highlighting the numerous benefits of a Catholic education. The results were astounding.  Their findings indicate that a Catholic education impacts the lives of students far beyond graduation, possibly even for a lifetime. Among the many advantages of graduating from a Catholic school, here are a few of the most notable:

• Catholic school students are more likely to pray daily, attend church more often, retain a Catholic identity as an adult and donate more to the Church.

• Catholic schools tend to operate as communities rather than bureaucracies, which links to higher levels of teacher commitment, student engagement and student achievement.

• Students in Catholic schools demonstrate higher academic achievement than their public school peers from similar socioeconomic backgrounds.

• Currently, 5 of the 8 Supreme Court Justices went to Catholic school

• Catholic school graduates enjoy higher earning potential than public school graduates.

Evan Cooper

While it’s exciting to see statistical evidence that favors Catholic education, what’s more telling is a glimpse inside the life of a student who has had experience in both non-Catholic and Catholic school environments. Evan Cooper, a non-Catholic and sophomore at Loyola, transferred from another Shreveport private school. He says being at Loyola has certainly made a difference in his life. When asked about specific differences between his experience at Loyola compared to that of his previous school, Cooper says, “The faith aspect has been a big difference. Learning about Catholicism has taught me things I have never heard before. It has given me a real sense of truth.”  When asked about how being part of a Catholic school has affected his faith, he says, “[Learning about the Catholic faith] has made me look more deeply into it.  There are lots of things that are in the Catholic Bible that aren’t in my Bible, and it makes me wonder what else is out there that I’ve never been taught.”

Changing schools has certainly come with its share of challenges. Cooper echoes this statement as he points out, “I was not used to the effort I had to make academically.  It has taken a while to get used to the time I have to put into completing homework and learning material.”  He also notes that the faculty at Loyola has played an important part in making the transition easier. “The faculty seems like they are doing more than trying to get you through high school. They really care about you, so they’re trying to make you better for life and stronger in your faith.”
He continues with advice he would give any other student making that transfer, “Loyola may not push you as hard physically, but they will definitely push you harder both in academics and in your character.”

How often do we drive by our Catholic schools without stopping to think about what’s happening inside?  We have something very special in our backyards. We have parents, faculty, students and partners working together to make something spectacular happen. We have our Catholic schools, which not only provide our children with a fantastic education, but also which sow in our children the seeds of outstanding character and strong faith that will bear fruit they need to carry them for a lifetime.

Interested in learning more about our diocesan Catholic Schools? Visit www.dioshpt.org/catholic-schools for resources.

Second Collections: Second Collections for February & March

COLLECTION FOR AID TO THE CHURCH IN CENTRAL & EASTERN EUROPE
Announcement Dates:  February 19 & 26   
Collection Date:  Ash Wednesday, March 1  

The poster for the Collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe once again features an image dear to people of every race, language and culture. The sight of a mother sharing a tender moment and nurturing faith in her child resonates at the core of our being.  This image brings into sharp focus the call of St. Pope John Paul II, our Pope Emeritus Benedict, XVI, and our current Holy Father Francis to “Restore the Church, Build the Future.” This collection supports the Church in over 20 countries, many of which are still struggling to recover in the aftermath of Soviet rule.  Since the collapse of the former Soviet Union in 1991, Central and Eastern European countries have been working to rebuild political structures, social welfare and their economies. The funds collected are used to support seminaries, youth ministry, social service programs, pastoral centers, church construction and renovation, and Catholic communications projects. Please be generous in your sacrificial gift to “Restore the Church, Build the Future” in Central and Eastern Europe.  Thank you for participating in this work of mercy.

 

OPERATION RICE BOWL: A Program of Corporal & Spiritual Mercy
Announcement Dates:  February 19th & 26th   
Participation Dates:  March 1st – April 16th 

Operation Rice Bowl is a project of Catholic Relief Services (CRS).  This is not the CRS collection which will be taken up on the fourth Sunday of Lent. This is a Lenten devotion of each day intentionally pausing in this season of spiritual renewal to re-connect with our crucified and risen Lord.  Catholic Relief Services is our uniquely Catholic local, national and international disaster relief agency.  The Rice Bowl program extends from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday, each day praying, fasting and offering alms to the Lord for the good of the least of His people. This year’s Rice Bowl program is titled, “A Time to Encounter Lent: Encounter ourselves, Encounter our neighbor, Encounter our God.”
Our daily sacrifice placed in the Rice Bowl during Lent helps us to consciously connect with our God, our neighbor and our very self.  Look for the Rice Bowl in our Catholic schools and parishes prior to Ash Wednesday.  Enhance your Easter joy; present your CRS Rice Bowl to our Risen Lord on Easter Sunday.  Check out the downloadable CRS Bowl Apps on the bottom of the Rice Bowl.  Thank you for participating in the program of corporal and spiritual mercy.

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.