Archbishop's column

Before the Cross - Archbishop Robert J. Carlson's Column

'Before The Cross' by Archbishop Robert J. Carlson. Archbishop Carlson is the ninth Archbishop of Saint Louis. Listed below are the most recent columns written by Archbishop Carlson; click on the title to read the column. The Archdiocesan website has more information about Archbishop Robert J. Carlson.

Heroic Native American holiness


On this past July 14, the Church in the United States had its annual celebration of the memory of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha. The celebration of the memory of Blessed Kateri is the occasion to reflect with wonder and gratitude at the work of God’s grace among the Native American peoples. The example of her life is an inspiration to us all and especially to young people, for she attained heroic holiness of life by the age of 24.

Blessed Kateri was born in 1656. Her father was a Mohawk chief in the village of Ossernenon on the banks of the Mohawk River in upstate New York.

Tekakwitha is her Native American name; Kateri or Catherine is the name she received at her baptism. Her mother, of the Algonquin tribe, was baptized a Catholic, but her father was not. When Kateri was 4, an epidemic of smallpox struck her village. She lost both of her parents and a baby brother to the dread disease. The disease left her physically weak, with impaired eyesight and a scarred body.

After her parents’ death, Kateri was raised by an aunt and uncle, who were not Christian. Also, there was hostility to the Christian faith among many of her people. Nevertheless, she received the gift of faith and baptism, made her First Holy Communion, and a year before her death made a private vow of chastity, giving her life completely to Christ. She died on April 17, 1680, at the age of 24.

Blessed Kateri and Our Lady of Guadalupe

I begin my reflection upon the life of Blessed Kateri by relating her heroic holiness, as a Native American, to the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe in 1531 to the Native American St. Juan Diego on Tepeyac Hill, now part of Mexico City. The Mother of God showed her great love for the Native American peoples by her apparitions to St. Juan Diego.

On July 31, 2003, I gave a presentation on Our Lady of Guadalupe to the annual meeting of the Tekakwitha Conference. The Tekakwitha Conference, named after Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, was founded for the evangelization of Native Americans, especially through the promotion of the cause of sainthood of Blessed Kateri. The conference requested my presentation because of the most special relationship which Our Lady of Guadalupe has with Native Americans.

Recall that our Blessed Mother appeared on our continent, from Dec. 9-12, 1531, when there was great danger of a bloody conflict between the Native Americans and the Spanish explorers and settlers in what is today Mexico City. The Mother of God appeared to a devout Native American, St. Juan Diego. As a result of the apparitions of the Mother of God, more than 8 million Native Americans were baptized in nine years; the Spanish were led to respect fully the human dignity of the Native Americans; a remarkable harmony of life between the Native Americans and the Spanish was achieved; and the practice of human sacrifice among the Native Americans of that place was ended.

Recall also that Our Lady of Guadalupe miraculously left her image on the tilma or mantle of St. Juan Diego as a sign of her abiding presence with all the nations of the one continent of America. Her features are both Palestinian and mestizo, that is the features of a person of both Native American and European ancestry. Our Lady of Guadalupe is truly an image of the communion of life between Native Americans and the Spanish, which has its origin in Christ, the Son of God and her Son. The remarkable harmony between Native Americans and the Europeans in Mexico, foreshadowed in the face of the Mother of God, continues today. All Mexicans refer to Our Lady of Guadalupe as their mother, and she, as their common mother, draws them together in unity and peace. The harmony in Mexico is an example for all nations, in which peoples of different race and national background live.

The special interest of Native Americans in Our Lady of Guadalupe is most natural and understandable. She reveals in a most striking way the love of God for all the peoples of America, but especially for the Native American peoples. St. Juan Diego, her messenger, is the great sign of God’s love for Native Americans.
In my presentation, I observed that Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, who lived just a century after the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe and more than likely did not know about the apparitions, had a deep sense of the special love of the Mother of God for the Native American peoples. Blessed Kateri was known for her love of praying the holy rosary. Throughout the profound suffering which she experienced in her brief life, she trusted always in the intercession of the Mother of God. There can be no doubt that Our Lady of
Guadalupe, even if she was not known to Blessed Kateri by that title, led her to a deep love of Christ, which was manifested in an extraordinarily holy life.

The early life of Blessed Kateri

As I mentioned above, Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha was born in 1656 in the village of Ossernenon, present-day Auriesville in New York, along the Mohawk River. Just 10 years earlier, from 1642-1646, Ossernenon, or Auriesville, was the site of the martyrdom of the Jesuit missionary Fathers Jean de Brebeuf and Isaac Jogues and their companions, popularly known as the North American Martyrs. Blessed Kateri’s father,

Kenhoronkwa, was a Mohawk chief of the Tortoise Clan. Her mother, Kahenta, was of the Algonquin tribe and had been baptized Catholic, but, after her capture by the Mohawks, was not allowed to practice her Catholic faith. Although she could not practice her Catholic faith, Kahenta sang the hymns, taught the prayers and told the stories, which she had learned from the missionaries, to her daughter Tekakwitha.

When Blessed Kateri was 4 years old, there was an outbreak of smallpox in her village, which took the lives of her parents and of her only sibling, a younger brother. Tekakwitha survived the epidemic but her face remained pockmarked and her eyesight was greatly impaired. After her parents’ death, she was given into the care of her uncle, her father’s brother, who succeeded her father as chief in the village. As she was growing up, she loved to spend time alone in prayer, seeking the solitude of the surrounding wilderness.

As Kateri reached adulthood, the women of the village sought to arrange her marriage. Even though she was disfigured by the smallpox, she was the daughter of a chief and, therefore, desired for marriage. She adamantly refused marriage and, thereafter, was scorned by the women of the village, who assigned the most demeaning chores to her.

Kateri’s baptism and holiness of life

In 1667, three Jesuit priests came to her village and, because of a peace treaty signed by the Mohawk chiefs, were received into the very lodge of the chief,
Tekakwitha’s home. Blessed Kateri had heard about the missionaries from her mother. She had a certain knowledge of the Catholic faith and was in the habit of saying prayers and singing hymns which she had learned from her mother. But she lacked a full instruction in the faith and, most of all, she lacked baptism, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit into her life.

Eventually, Father Jacques de Lamberville came to her village, learned of Blessed Kateri’s background, and, at her request, gave her full instructions in the Catholic faith.

Tekakwitha was baptized on Easter Sunday of 1676 at the age of 20, and was given the Christian name, Catherine or Kateri. Her patron saint was Catherine of Siena, whom she strove to imitate with all her might.

She enjoyed a spotless reputation and was known especially for spending long hours in prayer. She would go into the woods, make a cross from the branches she found and then kneel down to pray. One of her favorite prayers was the rosary. In her devotion, she showed the strong connection between meditating upon the Passion of our Lord before the cross and praying the rosary, calling to mind the mysteries of God’s love for us in the life of our Lord and His Blessed Mother, which mysteries have their fullness in our Lord’s passion, death and resurrection.

Kateri became the Lily of the Mohawks and the Mystic of the Wilderness, as she is popularly known by us.

Because of her fidelity, she suffered greatly at the hands of her fellow villagers who mocked her and called her cruel names. Because of her observance of the Sundays and holy days of obligation, her own family even refused her food.

Through the care of Father de Lamberville, Blessed Kateri was taken to the St. Francis Xavier Mission at Sault St. Louis. One day, when an Oneida chief who had converted to Catholicism and a relative of Blessed Kateri’s mother were visiting her village, the good priest convinced them to take her back with them to the mission where she could live her Catholic faith in peace and grow in the holiness of life, which she had already so strongly manifested.

It is not difficult to imagine how happy Kateri was at the mission. She lived with a devout Catholic woman, Anastasia Tegonhatsiongo, who had known her mother before her capture by the Mohawks. Kateri participated in daily Mass, spent long hours in prayer, and carried out many acts of penance in reparation for her sins and the sins of her people. On Christmas Day of 1677, she made her First Holy Communion.

Blessed Kateri came to know about the life of women religious and, when her request to join or form a religious community was refused, she asked to make a vow of perpetual virginity. On the Feast of the Annunciation in 1679, Blessed Kateri consecrated her virginity to Christ and the Church.

By 1680, Blessed Kateri, always of delicate health, had become critically ill. Having received the Anointing of the Sick and Viaticum, she died on April 17, 1680, with the names of our Lord Jesus and His Mother on her lips. Her last words were: "Jesus, I love You." She was only 24 years of age.

Signs of heroic holiness

After the body of Blessed Kateri was placed on a pallet in preparation for burial, her fellow Christians witnessed an extraordinary sign of her holiness of life. The pockmarks from smallpox disappeared from her face, and her skin became radiant and white, that of a beautiful young maiden.

Another sign followed soon thereafter. Her spiritual mother, Anastasia Tegonhatsiongo, was absent from the village at her death and mourned very much the loss of her beloved Kateri. Just one week after her death, Blessed Kateri appeared to Anastasia. Blessed Kateri was radiant and was holding an even more radiant cross. Kateri spoke these words: "Mother, behold this cross. How beautiful it is! It was the source of all my happiness during my life, and I counsel you to make it yours, too." Her apparition to her spiritual mother is a striking example of the importance of our devotional life to our eternal happiness. It is precisely the devotion of Blessed Kateri to the passion of our Lord, manifested in her early and simple practice of praying in the wilderness before a cross of her own making, which led her to an ever deeper love of Christ and service of Christ through prayer and many good works. There are many more stories of favors granted through the intercession of Blessed Kateri.

Kateri was declared venerable on Jan. 3, 1943, by Pope Pius XII. Pope John Paul II beatified her on June 22, 1980. Please, pray that she will soon be canonized.

Conclusion: Kateri Circle

The Tekakwitha Conference carries out its work of evangelization in our nation through the formation of Kateri Circles. The Kateri Circles meet regularly, promote knowledge of the life of Blessed Kateri and the imitation of her holiness of life. The Kateri Circles pray especially for the canonization of Blessed Kateri. The highlight of each year’s activities is the solemn celebration of the Mass of Blessed Kateri on her feast day, July 14.

I invite all Native American Catholics of the archdiocese to become members of a Kateri Circle. Catholics who are not Native American also may join the Kateri Circle as a means of growing in imitation of her virtues. If you would like to become part of a Kateri Circle, please contact me, and I will send you information.

I invite all the faithful of the archdiocese to come to know the life of Blessed Kateri and to imitate her virtues, especially her devotion to the passion of our Lord and her faithful praying of the rosary. In a special way, I present Blessed Kateri to the youth of our archdiocese. In her life, we see how God calls young people to heroic holiness of life. Sharing with young people all of their doubts and struggles, she is a powerful example and intercessor for them.

Please write to me, and I will be happy to send you the prayer for the canonization of Blessed Kateri. If you have special intentions to confide to the intercession of Blessed Kateri, the prayer card will help you in doing so.

If you would like to read more about the life of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, a fine biography by Margaret R. Bunson was published in 1992. The biography is titled: "Kateri Tekakwitha: Mystic of the Wilderness." It is available through the publications office of Our Sunday Visitor.

Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha is a sterling example for us in the work of the new evangelization. She, with Our Lady of Guadalupe, prays for us in carrying out the new evangelization of our society and culture.

O God, who, among the many marvels of Your Grace in the New World, did cause to blossom on the banks of the Mohawk and of the St. Lawrence, the pure and tender Lily, Kateri Tekakwitha, grant we beseech You, the favor we beg through her intercession: that this Young Lover of Jesus and of His Cross may soon be counted among the saints by Holy Mother Church, and that our hearts may be enkindled with a stronger desire to imitate her innocence and faith. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

Of the pallium, Pando and the Archdiocesan Development Appeal

The Pallium

On Tuesday, June 29, the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles, His Holiness Pope John Paul II imposed the pallium upon me.The pallium is the official vestment of the metropolitan archbishop. A metropolitan archbishop has the pastoral care of an archdiocese or metropolitan see. In the universal Church, the individual dioceses in a geographical area are gathered into provinces.In each province, one of the dioceses is the archdiocese or metropolitan see.While each bishop cares for his diocese in a direct relationship to our Holy Father, the archbishop fosters the unity and mutual care among the bishops within the province and leads the appropriate coordination of pastoral activities in the dioceses of the province.

In his Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Gregis, "On the Bishop, Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the Hope of the World," our Holy Father observes the following about the organization of the Church into provinces:

"One concrete way of fostering communion between the bishops and solidarity between Churches is to restore vitality to the ancient institution of ecclesiastical provinces, in which the metropolitan is an instrument and sign both of fraternity between the bishops of the province and of their communion with the Roman Pontiff.Given the similarity of the problems encountered by individual bishops and the fact that their limited number can enable greater understanding, common pastoral undertakings will certainly be better planned in meetings of bishops from the same province and especially in provincial councils" (No. 62a).

Meeting as a province, bishops are able to encourage one another, and cooperate with each other in addressing common pastoral challenges.

The Archdiocese of St. Louis is the metropolitan see for the Province of St. Louis, which encompasses the geographical territory of the state of Missouri.The other dioceses within the province, which are called suffragan sees, are the Diocese of Jefferson City, the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau.

The pallium, the proper vestment of the metropolitan archbishop, is a kind of collar or yoke which rests upon the shoulders.It is a circular band, about two inches wide and is made of white wool.It is worn over the chasuble. It has two pendants, one which hangs in front and one which hangs in back.It is adorned with six black crosses: a cross on the front and the back, one each of the sides and one on each of the pendants.

The pallium is made from the wool of two lambs which are given each year to the Holy Father on Jan. 21, the feast of St. Agnes. They are presented at the celebration of the Mass in the Basilica of St. Agnes on the Via Nomentana in Rome.After the Mass, religious sisters care for them.Eventually, the sisters have them shorn and make the palliums from their wool.The Holy Father blesses the palliums on the eve of the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, and they are kept in a silver case, enclosed in a cabinet near the tomb of St. Peter in St. Peter’s Basilica.During the Mass on the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, the palliums are brought from the tomb of St. Peter to be conferred upon the new metropolitan archbishops.If an archbishop is unable to travel to Rome for the Mass on the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, the Holy Father may grant permission for the pallium to be conferred in the archbishop’s see.

The pallium is a symbol of the close union of all the bishops in each province throughout the world with the See of St. Peter.The pallium signifies the special responsibility of the metropolitan archbishop to foster the communion with the Roman Pontiff among all of the bishops in the province. Once the pallium has been received, it is worn over the chasuble within the territory of the archbishop’s jurisdiction or province, whenever he is celebrating a stational or, at least, a Mass with special solemnity and when he carries out ordinations, blessings of abbots and abbesses, the consecrations of virgins and the dedication of a church and altar.Connected with the pallium is the archepiscopal cross which is used when the archbishops arrives at a church for the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy.

The pallium may not be lent to another archbishop.It is to be buried with the archbishop. If he has been archbishop of more than one metropolitan see, like our former archbishop, Cardinal Justin Rigali, then the pallium of the see of which he is archbishop at death is placed over his shoulders in the usual manner and the other pallium or palliums are folded and placed under his head in the coffin.

The prayer which is said, when the pallium is conferred by a delegate of the Holy Father, expresses all of the beauty of the symbolism of the vestment:

"To the glory of almighty God
and to the praise of blessed Mary every Virgin
and the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul,
in the name of the Roman Pontiff, Pope John
Paul II, and of the Holy Roman Church,
for the honor of the See of St. Louis, confided
to you,
in the sign of the metropolitan power,
we hand over to you the pallium taken from
tomb of St. Peter,
in order that you may use it within the limits of
your ecclesiastical province.

May this pallium be for you the symbol of
and the sign of communion with the Apostolic
may it be a bond of charity and an incentive to
so that, on the day of the coming and revelation
of the great God,
and Prince of Shepherds, Jesus Christ,
you, with the flock entrusted to you, may attain
the stole of immortality and glory.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son and
of the Holy Spirit.
Amen" (Ceremonial of Bishops, n. 1154).

Please pray for me that the pallium I receive may always rest on shoulders which are worthy and that I may faithfully be a servant of the unity of the Church in the Province of St. Louis with the See of St. Peter.

Be assured that all of the faithful of the Archdiocese of St. Louis will be in my prayers throughout the days of pilgrimage to Rome and Assisi and, most especially, during the Mass for the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, celebrated by our Holy Father Pope John Paul II, the Successor of St. Peter.The whole of the archdiocese will be represented by the pilgrims who will be accompanying me to receive the pallium.

The Apostolic Vicariate of Pando

On June 24, the solemnity of the birth of St. John the Baptist, I had the pleasure of a visit from Bishop Luis Morgan Casey, Titular Bishop of Mibiarca and the Vicar Apostolic of Pando in Bolivia.Bishop Casey is a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Louis who grew up in St. James Parish at Potosi.He was ordained a priest in 1962. After three years of parish ministry in the archdiocese, he was sent to our archdiocesan mission in Bolivia.Since that time, he has remained a missionary priest and bishop in Bolivia. He was consecrated a bishop on Jan. 28, 1984.

Bishop Casey has the jurisdiction of an apostolic vicariate, a certain territory of the Church which is on the way to becoming a diocese. His apostolic vicariate of Pando is in the jungle area of Bolivia and comprises 86,261 square kilometers. The Code of Canon Law describes an apostolic vicariate with these words:
"An apostolic vicariate or apostolic prefecture is a certain portion of the people of God which has not yet been erected as a diocese by the Supreme Pontiff due to special circumstances and which, to be shepherded, is entrusted to an apostolic vicar or apostolic prefect who governs it in the name of the Supreme Pontiff" (Canon 371, No. 1).

Bishop Casey has some 142,000 faithful in his care, and is assisted by 15 priests: nine diocesan priests and six religious order priests.Given the immense territory of the Apostolic Vicariate of Pando and the very difficult traveling conditions, you can imagine some of the hardships which the Bishop faces in serving the faithful entrusted to his care.

Bishop Casey has many active members of the lay faithful, who help to build up the various communities throughout the Apostolic Vicariatae. He was also pleased to tell me about their very fruitful program for the promotion of vocations.

Notwithstanding the difficult circumstances of his episcopal ministry, Bishop Casey is filled with hope and confidence. It is most edifying to visit with him speak about his pastoral care.He is a true shepherd to the flock in Pando.

Clearly, there are many needs in the carrying out of the pastoral ministry in the Apostolic Vicariate of Pando.I am pleased that the Archdiocese of St. Louis, through its missionary works, provides for Bishop Casey’s compensation and health care.Also, the faithful of the archdiocese are able to help him in his work by making contributions to the Apostolic Vicariate of Pando through the Archdiocesan Office of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith.Certainly, I encourage the faithful of the archdiocese to support Bishop Casey with your prayers and financial offerings.

Bishop Casey and I were discussing the need of more priests to help him in his extensive and challenging pastoral responsibilities.At present, the Archdiocese of St. Louis finds itself ever more constrained in the appointments of priests because of the fewer number of priests ordained in recent years. In order that our younger priests may get to know better the work of our missions in Bolivia, I want to arrange a meeting for them with Bishop Casey when he next visits St. Louis.It is important that our younger priests who do not know Bishop Casey from his time in the archdiocese have the opportunity to meet him and speak with him.I am confident that one or another young priest will be inspired to ask to serve in the missions.

My visit with Bishop Casey filled me with special pride in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, which has given such a fine priest and bishop in the service of the missions and has faithfully supported.Once again, I urge you to pray for Bishop Casey and his flock of the Apostolic Vicariate of Pando, and to support his work financially through the Archdiocesan Office of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith.

Archdiocesan Development Appeal

In April, I wrote to every Catholic home in the archdiocese to ask for a sacrificial gift to the Archdiocesan Development Appeal which supports the many charitable, educational and missionary works carried out by the Church in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.In these coming weeks, we will bring to a conclusion this year’s Appeal.

In order to meet the needs of the Church in the Archdiocese, the goal of this year’s appeal was set at $11.6 million.At the present, we have raised $10.7 million.It is key that we reach the goal of the Appeal, so that our programs of education of children, of care of the homeless and the many other programs supported by the Appeal are able to continue and to serve our brothers and sisters in the Church, who are most in need.

As we approach the closing weeks of this year’s Appeal, I need your help.I ask that, if you have not yet given a sacrificial gift to the Appeal, you do so now. I am happy to report to you that many faithful, who have not given in the past, have made a generous gift this year.

Also, be assured that many of our young families, with children in our Catholic schools, have joined the ranks of the generous stewards of the archdiocese. Because of the generosity of so many over the years, I am confident that we will reach our goal.

If you have not given to the Archdiocesan Development Appeal for this year, please make a gift now.By your gift, you will strengthen our schools, our charitable works and social service agencies, and our parishes.Your pledge will insure that our seminarians, our future priests, have an adequate education and formation to equip them to meet the challenges in the priestly ministry in our times.Your gift will also help provide for the retirement needs of our priests, and equip us to care for immigrants and refugees, so that they find a welcoming home in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.Your sacrificial gift will help to protect the unborn from the attack of procured abortion and it will provide much needed funds for programs for couples preparing for marriage and are seeking the grace needed to build a happy and healthy home life.

During the coming time, I will be sending reminders to those who have not yet made a pledge.If you have not made a pledge, I ask you please to respond generously to my letter.Please join the thousands of faithful in the archdiocese who have already made a sacrificial gift to the appeal.Please be one with the whole Catholic community in our archdiocese as we seek to serve, in the name of Christ, both our brothers and sisters within the Church and persons of other faiths, who need our assistance.

We do not want to be like the rich man in the parable of Lazarus and Dives, who ignored the hunger of the poor Lazarus.Nor do we want to be like the priest and Levite in the Parable of the Good Shepherd, who saw a brother in desperate need and passed by him without giving him help.Let us, rather, follow the example of the Good Samaritan who provided care for his brother in need, even though he was from a different and even enemy nation. Let us give from our substance to love our brothers and sisters as Christ loves them.

Please be one with me and all the faithful in the archdiocese in meeting the goal of our Archdiocesan Development Appeal.I thank you for your faithful and generous practice of Christian stewardship.I thank you, in particular, for your help in meeting the needs of the Church in the archdiocese through a sacrificial gift to the Appeal.


The above reflections fill me with gratitude to God for the many, truly incalculable, ways in which He blesses us each day.They fill me with new enthusiasm and new energy to carry out the mission which He has entrusted to me and which is symbolized by the pallium. They also remind me of how much we depend upon one another in the Church, in order that the universal Church respond faithfully to the call of Christ Who dwells within us through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

I thank God for calling me to St. Louis to serve as your Archbishop.I thank God for all you do to assist me in carrying out my responsibilities as the shepherd of the flock here, after the Heart of Christ. Finally, I pray for you and I ask your prayers for me, that the Church in the Archdiocese of St. Louis will be always a faithful bride of our beloved Bridegroom, Christ, generous in love of Him and of the members of His mystical Body, both near to us and in every place in the world.May our generous love of Christ and our service of Him obtain for us "the stole of immortality and glory."

Finally, do not forget to pray for our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, who expresses his love for us all in the Archdiocese of St. Louis through the imposition of the pallium upon me, your new Archbishop.May God conserve him in wisdom and strength for his pastoral care of the Church throughout the world.

O Sacred Heart of Jesus, of whose fullness we have all received, have mercy on us.

Amendment No. 2 and safeguarding the sanctity of marriage

On June 28, the Missouri Catholic Conference published a letter written by the bishops of the Province of St. Louis, which is made up of the state of Missouri. The letter is addressed to all of the faithful of the province regarding an action of the legislature of Missouri.The action in question has profound implications for the future of marriage and family life.

The legislative branch of the state government has decided to place before the citizens of Missouri a serious question about the requirements for a "valid and recognized marriage."On Tuesday, Aug. 3, the citizens of Missouri will decide whether to amend the Missouri Constitution, in what pertains to marriage.The question posed to us on the ballot will be: "Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended so that to be valid and recognized in this state, a marriage shall exist only between a man and a woman?"So serious a matter demands the attention of us all.For that reason, the bishops of the Province have deemed it important to write to you in the matter.

The letter of the bishops of the St. Louis Province, together with a helpful document prepared by the Missouri Catholic Conference, "Questions and Answers on Proposed Marriage Amendment" (see page 1) will be distributed in the parishes of the archdiocese on this coming weekend, July 17-18, in order that you have sufficient time to consider both documents. If you have need of a copy of these documents, please do not hesitate to request a copy from my office.

Duty to vote

Before addressing the substance of the question, I urge you to exercise your right and fulfill your duty to vote on Aug. 3.We can have various reasons for excusing ourselves from voting.We need to consider carefully the validity of these excuses, in the light of our moral duty to serve the good of our brothers and sisters through responsible citizenship.

Some think that their individual vote does not matter within so large a voting population.The truth, however, is that every vote counts.Failing to vote means failing to do my part in promoting the common good.How many elections and referenda have been decided as much by those who have failed to vote as by those who have voted?The responsibility for the outcome of elections and referenda falls upon all of the citizens of a democratic republic.We cannot excuse ourselves for failing to fulfill our responsibility because we are falsely convinced that our vote does not count.

Regarding the question at hand, some say that the right response to the question is clear and, therefore, will surely be sustained by those who do vote, thereby excusing themselves from the bother of going to the polls. The right response should be clear to us as Catholics, but we must realize that the question would be not be presented to us, if there were not some, including Catholics, who are confused in the matter.It is our responsibility as Catholics to fulfill our responsibility to vote, in accord with the moral law.In other words, if we do not exercise our right to vote for an amendment to the Constitution, which upholds the moral law, then we fail to safeguard the good of the individuals and families of the state of Missouri.

I urge you to make every effort to vote on Aug. 3.Also, please encourage family, friends, neighbors and co-workers to exercise their right to vote on so important a question for us all.If you know of persons who find difficulty in getting to the polls, for whatever reason, I ask you to offer them assistance, so that they, too, can exercise fully their civic responsibility.

Sanctity of marriage

The truth regarding marriage is written in human nature as it issued from the hand of God at Creation.From the study of human nature, it is clear that God has made man and woman for each other, in order to provide for them a faithful and lasting relationship of love and to provide for the procreation, that is creation with Him, of offspring.By marriage, a man and a woman promise faithful and enduring love, giving to each other, exclusively and for life, the right to the conjugal act by which married love is blessed with its highest fruit, the conception of a child.

Marriage is not an institution which was established by society or culture.Rather, it is inherent to our human nature and is found in all societies and cultures.Down the centuries, marriage has undergone changes in certain societies and cultures.The goodness of these changes depends upon the fidelity of the society or culture to the natural moral law, which reveals to us the essential requirements of marriage.The "Catechism of the Catholic Church," in setting forth the Church’s teaching on marriage, first acknowledges the teaching on marriage, which human nature itself provides:

The vocation to marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as they came from the hand of the Creator.Marriage is not a purely human institution despite the many variations it may have undergone through the centuries in different cultures, social structures and spiritual attitudes.These differences should not cause us to forget its common and permanent characteristics. Although the dignity of this institution is not transparent everywhere with the same clarity, some sense of the greatness of the matrimonial union exists in all cultures (No. 1603).

The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council provides a most helpful presentation of natural law regarding marriage (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, Nos. 47-52).It articulates more fully what the "Catechism of the Catholic Church" states in summary form.

The natural law regarding marriage is also revealed in the Sacred Scriptures.In the two accounts of Creation, given in the Book of Genesis, the essential characteristics of marriage, revealed in the natural order, are presented (Genesis 1:1-2:4a; and Genesis 2:4b-25).God creates man in His own image and likeness as male and female.He creates man and woman to be suitable partners for one another.So intimate is the relationship of male and female in the creation of man, that woman is formed from the very rib of man. Male and female are so created that a man and a woman leave their own families, in order to form a new family, to become "one body" with each other. God gives to the union of male and female in marriage, to the "one body," the grace of fruitfulness. The fruitfulness of the new home, the new family, formed by marriage is expressed either in the procreation of offspring through the conjugal act or in the adoption of children into the family.

The good of the whole of society depends upon fidelity to nature’s requirements for marriage.The teaching of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council aptly reminds us:

"The well-being of the individual person and of both human and Christian society is closely bound up with the healthy state of conjugal and family life" (Gaudium et Spes, No. 47a).

Reflecting upon our own experience, we know the critical importance of the relationship of father and mother to the growth and development of the child.At the same time, we recognize how much the state of society depends upon the soundness of life in individual families.The most important lessons of life are learned in the relationship of the child to father and mother, in the child’s experience of their relationship as husband and wife.Lack of harmony and violence in the marital relationship lie at the root of so many ills in society.

For us, as Catholics, the sanctity of marriage is seen, above all, in the teaching of our Lord, recorded for us in the Gospel and handed down to us in the Magisterium of the Church.Christ taught the original plan for marriage and, with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Easter and Pentecost — the great fruit of His Passion, Death and Resurrection — He gave to married persons the gift to live in relationship to one another, as God intends.Christ instituted the Sacrament of Marriage, making Himself the source of the grace of the Holy Spirit for the married, so that they may live in faithful, enduring and procreative love of each other, and so attain eternal life (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1642).

Respect for the sanctity of marriage requires that we do all within our power to safeguard its essential elements, so that marriage can serve the good of all in society, as it alone can. Respect for the sanctity of marriage means the recognition of God’s plan for marriage and the rejection of any intervention by ourselves which violates God’s plan.

Marriage and same-sex attraction

The present need to define clearly the nature of marriage arises from the efforts of persons with same-sex attraction and others, who wish to have same-sex relationships recognized as marital.In other words, they wish civil authority to recognize as marriage the relationship of a man and a man, or a woman and a woman.To do so would be to treat marriage as an institution created by man, instead of God, and to violate what nature itself teaches us about the marital relationship.

Same-sex attraction, that is "an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex" may have various causes, but it cannot be attributed to God’s plan for man and woman, as it is clearly revealed in their bodies and in the Sacred Scriptures (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2357). Persons suffering from same-sex attraction are endowed with the same dignity as every man and woman, and, therefore, "must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2358).But, accepting each other with respect does not mean failing to recognize our disordered tendencies and defects.

Respecting individuals who suffer same-sex attraction means honoring their call to lead a chaste life, a call which is inherent in our dignity as sons and daughters of God.It would be wrong, on our part as individuals and on the part of society, to give institutional recognition to same-sex relationships by giving them the status of the marital relationship.Rather, we, as individuals, and society, in general, should assist persons with same-sex attraction to lead a good and chaste life by recognizing their same-sex attraction as disordered and disciplining it, so that the inclination does not express itself in immoral actions and the affections of the individual are purified and express themselves in good and chaste friendships.

The protection of the institution of marriage by means of a constitutional amendment is not discriminatory toward persons with same-sex attraction. It does not offend their dignity or foster any unjust attitude or action toward them.It simply provides assurance that all in society will respect the true nature of marriage as the foundation of the life of the family, of society and of the Church.As Catholics, we must respect the moral law in all of its dictates, opposing homosexual acts and opposing any unjust attitude, word or action directed toward persons suffering with same-sex attraction.

There is a tendency to accept same-sex relationships because we do not want to deal with the embarrassment and hurt of recognizing same-sex attraction as disordered.We find various excuses for failing to address a matter which lies at the foundation of our nature as man and woman.As with any anomaly or affliction in life, our human weakness leads us to pretend that it does not exist or to act as if it were other than a difficulty.By giving in to the tendency or temptation to treat same-sex attraction as equivalent to the attraction of man to woman and woman to man, we serve neither the good of persons who struggle with same-sex attraction nor the good of the family and of society.The fact that our American culture more and more fails to make any distinction between same-sex attraction and heterosexual attraction does not justify our failure to make the distinction, respecting God’s gift of human life in its integrity and helping others to attain the perfection to which we are called as true children of God.

Necessity of constitutional amendment

The Missouri General Assembly has already safeguarded the nature of marriage by the state law which declares that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.Some have asked why, then, is it necessary to have a constitutional amendment treating the exact same matter.

Constitutional Amendment No. 2 is needed in order to provide the fullest legal safeguard of the sanctity of marriage. The constitutional amendment safeguards marriage against the action of the courts which could declare the current state law to be unconstitutional, as has happened already in Massachusetts.

The extent of the confusion in society regarding the nature of marriage is reflected in court decisions which have given way to the celebration of so-called marriage between persons of the same sex.It behooves society to safeguard marriage from such court actions.

In a similar vein, some hold the constitutional amendment as unnecessary and oppose it on the grounds that permitting others to have their same-sex relationships recognized as marriage by the civil law does no harm to their marriages between a man and a woman.To reason thus is to refuse to deal with the need to safeguard the integrity of marriage, which most certainly is violated by giving the name of marriage to non-marital unions.The detrimental effects upon individuals and society, in general, of the institutional violation of the nature of marriage are clear.


Once again, I urge you to fulfill your civic responsibility on Aug. 3. Please vote in favor of Constitutional Amendment No. 2, so the institution of marriage may be safeguarded in its integrity. Also, please encourage and assist others to vote.The good of individuals and of society depends upon our safeguarding the sanctity of marriage as it has been given to us by God.

Please pray, especially through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, her most chaste spouse, that the citizens of Missouri will provide for the greatest possible safeguard of the sanctity of marriage.

I close with words from the teaching of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, which, I hope, will inspire us all to work for the good of marriage and the family, also by voting on Aug. 3:

"The family is the place where different generations come together and help one another to grow wiser and harmonize the rights of individuals with other demands of social life; as such it constitutes the basis of society. Everyone, therefore, who exercises an influence in the community and in social groups should devote himself effectively to the welfare of marriage and the family.Civil authority should consider it a sacred duty to acknowledge the true nature of marriage and the family, to protect and foster them, to safeguard public morality and promote domestic prosperity.The rights of parents to procreate and educate children in the family must be safeguarded.There should also be welfare legislation and provision of various kinds made for the protection and assistance of those who unfortunately have been deprived of the benefits of family life" (Gaudium et Spes, No. 52b).

May this solemn teaching of the Church inspire us with new hope in our every effort to promote marriage and family life in our society.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, wellspring of all virtues, have mercy on us.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, mother of America and star of the new evangelization, pray for us.

St. Joseph, husband of Mary and guardian of the Holy Family, pray for us.

To the See of Peter


On Friday, June 25, I will depart from St. Louis on pilgrimage to Rome for the reception of the pallium. Several priests and some 115 other faithful of the archdiocese will accompany me on the pilgrimage. Also, a pilgrim group of about 45 priests and faithful from the Diocese of La Crosse, in which I formally served as bishop, will be journeying to Rome. Our pilgrimage will include the celebration of the holy Mass at the four patriarchal basilicas in Rome — the Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican; the Basilica of St. Mary Major; the Basilica of St. John Lateran, which is the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome; and the Basilica of St. Paul-outside-the-Walls; and at the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi. It will also include a visit, with prayer, to the Catacombs of St. Callixtus on the Ancient Appian Way.

The high point of our pilgrimage will be participation in the Mass celebrated by our Holy Father on Tuesday, June 29, the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, during which His Holiness will confer the pallium upon me as Archbishop of St. Louis. Some 44 other metropolitan archbishops from around the world also will be receiving the pallium.

It is always a singular privilege to assist at the Mass of the Holy Father on the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, for he is the Successor of St. Peter in an unbroken line from Christ’s choice of Peter to be head of the Apostles. It is a special gift from God to celebrate the memory of St. Peter, head of the Apostles, by participating in the Holy Mass offered by St. Peter’s successor.

The conferral of the pallium, worn only by metropolitan archbishops, fittingly takes place during the celebration of the Mass for the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, for it is the Holy Father alone who confers the pallium as a sign of the close union of the Holy Father with all the metropolitan archbishops from throughout the world.

Once a metropolitan archbishop has been named, he travels to Rome on pilgrimage for the celebration of the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, to receive the vestment which is the sign of his office in the Church.
In preparation for the celebration of the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul and for the reception of the pallium, let us take time this week to reflect on the service of our Holy Father as Successor of St. Peter. Then, in my column for next week, we will reflect upon the significance of the pallium and the particular service of the metropolitan archbishop in communion with the Roman pontiff, the successor of St. Peter.

To understand deeply the office and service of St. Peter within the group or college of the Apostles, it is important to study three texts from the Gospels. They uncover for us the intention of our Lord in constituting the Church under the universal pastoral care and governance of St. Peter, His Vicar on earth.

‘You are Peter’

The first text is from the Gospel according to Matthew and recounts the clear and striking profession of faith in our Lord, which St. Peter made at Caesarea Philippi (Matthew 16:13-20). It is a text which reflects very much the Aramaic language and the manner of speaking employed at the time of Christ. Therefore, it is held to be a text which the Apostles and disciples who were with our Lord had repeated from memory from the first days of the Church.

In the text, our Lord asked His disciples about the people’s opinion concerning His identity. The disciples began to report various opinions: "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets" (Matthew 16:14). Our Lord, then, inquired about the disciples’ own opinion regarding His identity. Without hesitation, Simon Peter replied: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16).

Christ replies to Peter’s clear profession of faith with words which indicate Peter’s distinct mission in the Church:

"And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:18-19).

First of all, our Lord changes Simon’s name to Peter or "Rock," a name attributed only to God by the people at the time. Peter is the only apostle to have his name changed, and it is changed to reflect a particular mission of stable and sure leadership within the college of the 12, given to Peter by Christ.

Because of Peter’s profession of faith, Christ established him as the solid foundation upon which to build up His Church. How is Peter the solid foundation? By his leadership, his teaching, his celebration of the sacraments and promotion of the life of prayer, and by his governance of the Body of Christ. St. Peter was given the task of providing for the whole community, throughout the world. He was called to be the principle of unity and steadfastness of faith among all of the disciples.

Christ gave Peter "the keys of the kingdom of heaven," a sign that he is the Vicar of Christ on earth, the faithful steward of the manifold gifts of Christ to the Church. Since "the keys" were confided to Peter alone, we understand that our Lord conferred upon Peter a particular authority within the whole company of the Apostles. Christ gave Peter the office of determining what the faithful were to believe and how they were to comport themselves as members of the Mystical Body.

Closely connected to the power of the keys is the authority to bind and loose. In one aspect, the power of binding and loosing, distinct from the power of the keys, is shared by all of the Apostles. By God’s grace, through the instrumentality of St. Peter and all of the Apostles, God forgives our sins. In another aspect, the power belongs to Peter alone as head of the Apostles. Only Peter and his successors can give disciplinary rules which bind all and can make authoritative decisions regarding the deposit of faith. It is through Peter and his successors that bishops, successors of the Apostles, receive the jurisdiction over the many portions of the flock of Christ throughout the world.

The story of St. Peter’s profession of faith in Christ as the Messiah, the Savior of the world, uncovers for us the distinct dignity and responsibility of St. Peter as Vicar of Christ on earth. As keeper of the keys of the kingdom of heaven, St. Peter and his successors bind and loose in a proper sense; the successor of St. Peter proclaims the doctrine of faith and provides the rules of discipline for the universal Church.

‘Strengthen your brethren’

The second text is from the Gospel according to Luke and recalls words of our Lord to St. Peter at the Last Supper. At the conclusion of the Last Supper, a dispute arose among the Apostles about "which of them was to be regarded as the greatest" (Luke 22:24). In response, our Lord teaches them that greatness is measured by humble service; the leader, He tells them, is the one who serves.

Facing His cruel Passion and death, our Lord confided to His Apostles that they would suffer greatly in carrying out the apostolic mission. Referring to all of the Apostles, He tells Peter: "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat" (Luke 22:31). The image of sifting like wheat portrays the confusion and testing which Satan was to work on the Apostles, to discourage them from trust in Divine Providence and, therefore, from carrying out their apostolic charge. One has only to recall the response of the Apostles to Christ’s arrest, His trial and condemnation, and His Passion and death to understand the full force of what our Lord was saying.

In the context of speaking about the severe trials faced in carrying out the apostolic mission, our Lord speaks tender and encouraging words to St. Peter: "[B]ut I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren" (Luke 22:32). We know, especially from the wonderful extended prayer of Christ before His Passion and death, recorded in the Gospel according to John (John 17), that Christ prayed for all of the Apostles that they might be one with the Father and Him, and one, therefore, with each other. But, these words directed to St. Peter alone, much like the words directed to him when he made his profession of faith at Caesarea Philippi, indicate his particular mission. Our Lord prayed that Peter, in the midst of all the trials and temptations, would remain confident in God’s grace, in Christ’s victory, in which he had been given a share.

The particular grace of St. Peter, for which our Lord prayed, was given to him for a particular mission. Peter, by his office, is to strengthen his brothers. When the teaching, sanctifying and governing of the flock by the Apostles and their successors is threatened by Satan’s "sifting," then Peter and his successors support them, in virtue of a special grace given to the office of Peter.

The grace of his office was experienced by Peter in a most powerful way through his own conversion, his "turning again" (Luke 22:32). We recall Peter’s weakness during the time of our Lord’s Passion. He denied three times that he knew our Lord (Luke 22:56-60). Unlike Judas the betrayer who was unrepentant, Peter, as soon as he recognized his sin, at the crowing of the cock, "went out and wept bitterly" (Luke 22:62). With the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Peter became courageous and steadfast in carrying out the apostolic office.

‘Feed my sheep’

The third text is taken from the Gospel according to John. It recalls an appearance of the risen Lord to the Apostles at the Sea of Tiberias. The Apostles, at Peter’s invitation, had spent a night fishing without any success. Our risen Lord appeared on the shore and instructed them to cast their nets to the starboard side of the boat (cf. John 21:6). The scene recalls an earlier and most important encounter with our Lord, involving a miraculous catch of fish at the time of the calling of the first Apostles and confirming the apostolic mission to which the Apostles are called (cf. Luke 5:1-11).

After the miraculous catch, our risen Lord invited the Apostles to have some breakfast with Him. After they had finished the breakfast, our Lord engaged in a most striking conversation with Peter. Three times He asked Peter: "[D]o you love me more than these? ... [D]o you love me? ... [D]o you love me?" To each question and with increasing fervor, Peter professed his love of Christ. To each expression of love, our Lord responded with words which indicated Peter’s special office and mission in the Church: "Feed my lambs ... Tend my sheep ... Feed my sheep" (John 21:15-17). The threefold question of Peter underlines very much that the foundation of his service in the Church is Christ and his love of Christ. The threefold question reminds Peter of his frailty, manifested most of all in his threefold denial of Christ. It is the grace of Christ which enables Peter to overcome his human frailty and to serve as chief shepherd of the flock.

The threefold question also mirrored a practice of the great teachers of the people in handing over authority. In His conversation with Peter, our Lord signified the handing over of the care of the flock. Peter is indeed to be the Vicar of Christ on earth. From His glorious seat at the right hand of the Father, our risen Lord gives to Peter and to his successors the grace of shepherding the flock throughout the world. The whole language of feeding and tending the lambs and sheep reflect the participation of Peter in the office of Christ the Good Shepherd.

After the threefold questioning, our risen Lord speaks words to Peter, which indicate the full import of shepherding the flock, after the Heart of the Good Shepherd. Peter’s shepherding, no less than that of our Lord Himself, means laying down his life for the sheep. Our Lord tells Peter:

"Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go" (John 21:18-19).

The Gospel comments that our Lord’s words refer to the manner of Peter’s martyrdom for love of Christ and Christ’s flock.

The Basilica of St. Peter at the Vatican is built over the tomb of Peter, which was very close to the arena in which he was put to death for the faith by crucifixion. Peter, who considered himself unworthy to die the same death as our Lord, insisted that he be crucified upside down. Christ’s words were fulfilled in Peter’s arrest, suffering and dying.

Successor of St. Peter

The texts from the Gospels help us to understand the reality of the grace given to the successor of St. Peter for the pastoral care and governance of the universal Church. They make clear Christ’s intention, in constituting His Church, that one among the Apostles should be His Vicar, defining for the brethren the doctrine and discipline of the faith, holding them together in unity during the inevitable times of trial and temptation, and giving his life for them.

In celebrating the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, these texts from the Gospels help us to enter more fully and deeply into the celebration, the mystery of our life in the Church, the mystery of God’s immeasurable love for us in the Church, as we see it reflected in the mission of Peter and of his successors. The teaching of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, found in the Dogmatic Constitution "Lumen Gentium," or "On the Church," expresses the profound truth of Christ’s abiding presence with us in the Church through the service of the Roman pontiff or Holy Father:

"The Roman Pontiff, as the successor of Peter, is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful. The individual bishops are the visible source and foundation of unity in their own particular Churches, which are constituted after the model of the universal Church; it is in these and formed out of them that the one and unique Catholic Church exists. And for that reason precisely each bishop represents his own Church, whereas all, together with the Pope, represent the whole Church in a bond of peace, love and unity" (n. 23a).

Reflecting upon this teaching, we recognize the great gift which is ours as Catholics to receive the pastoral care of St. Peter through his successor, Pope John Paul II.

In the service of Pope John Paul II, we see his response to the call of Christ, first given to Peter. Our Holy Father teaches us the doctrine of the faith in all of its riches, visits us in every part of the world to celebrate the sacraments and lead us in prayer, and he guides us in following Church discipline. Especially in this last period, his giving up of his life for the flock is so visible and the source of so much inspiration to us all in living our faith with the enthusiasm and energy of the first disciples of our Lord.


I ask you to keep in your prayers me and all the pilgrims to Rome for the celebration of the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul. Please pray that, through our pilgrimage, we will grow in our knowledge and love of Christ, and of His holy Church. May our pilgrimage bring special blessings to the Church in the Archdiocese of St. Louis and throughout the whole world.

As I receive the pallium, I will express your gratitude and deepest love to our Holy Father. Please join me in these days in special prayer for the intentions of our Holy Father.

Let us pray for our Sovereign Pontiff Pope John Paul II.
The Lord preserve him and give him life, and make him blessed upon the earth, and deliver him not up to the will of his enemies ("Enchiridion of Indulgences").

Editor’s note: Archbishop Burke will return from Rome after the trip concludes July 3. The Review through Catholic News Service will have coverage of the bestowing of the pallium in its Friday, July 2, edition.

Enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus: Sacred Scripture

A Matter of Deep Concern

Before returning to the discussion of the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, I ask your help on behalf of the poor of Haiti. Last Friday, Bishop Yves-Marie Pan, CSC, of Les Gonaves in Haiti, was in St. Louis to visit friends and seek help for the poor of his diocese. I was happy to meet him for the first time and to visit with him.

He explained to me the extreme poverty in his diocese, with many not having even safe drinking water. The faithful of his diocese, already suffering from very poor living conditions, have now been further devastated by most destructive flooding. There is need to do so much to provide for the health and safety of the people. There is a desperate need of clean water, medicine, food and shelter. Bishop Pan asked me to make a plea for help among the faithful of the archdiocese, and I assured him that I would be happy to do so.

Bishop Pan suggested that the best way to help is through Catholic Relief Services. He praised the extensive and effective work of Catholic Relief Services, carried out without any fanfare or self-reference, in assisting the victims of the recent flooding. Catholic Relief Services needs financial support in order to provide the breadth of emergency help needed.

If you are able to help our poor brothers and sisters in Haiti, please send me your gift for them, marked clearly: Catholic Relief Services — Haiti. After I have received all of your gifts, I will forward them to Catholic Relief Services for the care of the Haitian people. Thank you for any consideration you may give to Bishop Pan’s plea, which I make my own, for your help on behalf the faithful of his diocese, who are suffering so much at the present time.


To prepare well for the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and for the Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, it is essential to reflect upon the Heart of Jesus in the divinely inspired texts of the Sacred Scriptures and the official teaching of the Church.

Through His inspired Word in the Sacred Scriptures, God Himself opens up for the depth of His love for us in Jesus Christ, love symbolized most fully in the Sacred Heart. The official teaching of the Church guides us in applying the Word of God to our daily living, helping us to return a response of love to God for the immeasurable gifts of His love to us. Our attention to the Word of God and the Church’s teaching, and the obedience of our response makes our devotional life true and strong, fruitful in love of God and our neighbor.
The Pierced Heart of Jesus

The principal text from the Holy Bible which inspires devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the account of our Lord’s Passion and Death. After our Lord Jesus had died on the cross, the soldiers wanted to use the customary means of ensuring that crucified criminals had truly died, namely the breaking of the legs. In fact, the Scriptures tell us that the soldiers broke the legs of the other two criminals crucified with Jesus (Mt 19:32).
When they came to Jesus, however, it was clear to them that there was no need to break His legs, for He was already dead. As a result, one of the Roman soldiers thrust his spear into the side of our Lord, from which there immediately flowed blood and water (Jn 19:34). The soldier pierced the Heart of Jesus with his lance. The blood and water which flowed from the Pierced Heart of Jesus is the sign of His life with us in the Church. Once risen from the dead and seated in glory at the right hand of the Father, Christ has never ceased to pour out, from His glorious Pierced Heart, the grace of the Holy Spirit upon His disciples. The Preface for the Mass of the Sacred Heart of Jesus expresses the ancient symbolism of the water and the blood:

"Lifted high on the cross,

Christ gave His life for us,

So much did He love us.

From His wounded side flowed blood and water,
The fountain of sacramental life in the Church.

To His open side the Savior invites all men,

To draw water in joy from the springs of salvation" (The Roman Missal).

The flow of water and blood from the Pierced Heart of Jesus also reminds us of our Lord’s words regarding the source of salvation in His Heart:

"If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me,

Let him drink who believes in Me."

Scripture has it:

"From within Him rivers of living water shall flow" (Jn 7:37).

Our devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus leads us to remember always the many ways in which Christ has poured out and continues to pour out His love for us in the Church from the moment of His death on the cross.

Meaning of Heart in the Scriptures

In understanding the meaning of the Scriptural passage referring to the piercing of the Heart of Jesus, it is important to remember the significance of the heart in the Holy Scriptures. In the Bible, the heart is the center of man, wherein is found his fullest being. It is in the heart, in the words of the Holy Scriptures, that all our thoughts and desires have their origin. When God speaks to us, He speaks to our heart. In the Gospel according to St. Mark, our Lord quotes the Prophet Isaiah to describe our hypocrisy when we claim to love God and, at the same time, disobey His commands:
"How accurately Isaiah prophesied about you hypocrites when he wrote, ‘This people pays Me lip service but their heart is far from Me’" (Mk 7:6).

Later on, in the same passage, our Lord reminds us that our evil thoughts and deeds have their origin in the heart:

"Wicked designs come from the deep recesses of the heart: acts of fornication, theft, murder, adulterous conduct, greed, maliciousness, deceit, sensuality, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, an obtuse spirit" (Mk 7:21-22).

Uniting our heart to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, our heart is at once purified of all wrong thoughts, desires and inclinations and inflamed with love of God and our neighbor. The revelation of the Heart of Jesus to St. Margaret Mary showed the mark of the piercing and the purifying flame of love with the cross within it, which crowns the Divine Heart. The Sacred Heart of Jesus is surrounded by the crown of thorns to signify the entire Passion by which He poured out His life for us.
Heart of Jesus

What the Holy Scriptures understand about the heart of man applies also to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, for His heart is the heart of a man. Through the mystery of the Incarnation, God the Son, by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, took a human heart under the Immaculate Heart of the Virgin Mary. In the Litany of the Sacred Heart, there is a most beautiful invocation which is inspired by our reflection upon the Incarnation: "Heart of Jesus formed by Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, have mercy on us." The invocation which follows reminds us again that the human heart of Jesus was made one with His divine nature: "Heart of Jesus, substantially united to the Word of God." It is to His own Heart that Christ refers in the Gospels: "My heart goes out to My people" (Mt 15:31); and "Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart. Your souls will find rest, for my yoke is easy and my burden light" (Mt 11:28-29).

The outpouring of Christ’s Life for us, represented in the blood and water which flowed from His pierced Heart, continues in the Church, especially through the sacraments. The Church has always seen in the water and blood which flowed from the Pierced Heart of Jesus a sign of the Sacraments of Baptism and the Holy Eucharist, by which we come to life in the Church through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit into our souls, and by which the life of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us is nourished by the Heavenly Food which is the true Body of Christ.

Heart of God

The Sacred Heart of Jesus, the forming of the human heart of God the Son in the womb of the Virgin Mary, is the fulfillment of the Word of God spoken through the Prophet Ezekiel. Speaking through Ezekiel, God described His work of Redemption with these words:
"I will give them a new heart and put a new spirit within them; I will remove the stony heart from their bodies, and replace it with a natural heart, so that they will live according to My statutes, and observe and carry out My ordinances; thus they shall be My people, and I will be their God" (Ez 11:19-20).

The "new heart" and the "new spirit" is nothing less than a heart animated by God the Holy Spirit because the Heart of God the Son was pierced and welcomes now every contrite heart into the deep and peaceful recesses of its joy and peace.

The prophet Jeremiah provides a profound and ample reflection upon the heart of the people whom God is coming to save. In speaking about His saving work, through the Prophet Jeremiah, God the Father refers to His own Heart, His deepest being:
"I will appoint over you shepherds after my own heart, who will shepherd you wisely and prudently" (Jer 3:15).
We see the fulfillment of God’s promise to send shepherds to care for us, who are animated by His own divine love, by the grace of the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Through the sacramental consecration God transforms a man’s heart, in order that he may act in the very person of Christ for the salvation of the people.

It is through the Sacrament of Holy Orders that Christ the Good Shepherd continues to lay down His life for the sheep (Jn 10:11-18), faithfully fulfilling the promise of God the Father.

When Christ appeared to St. Thomas the Apostle after the Resurrection, He showed him His wounded hands and feet, and His open side, beneath which lay His pierced Heart. He said to Thomas:
"Take your finger and examine My hands. Put your hand into My side. Do not persist in your unbelief, but believe!" (Jn 20:27).

The response of St. Thomas at seeing the wounds of Christ, and especially His open side, has become for us a favorite prayer when the Host and chalice are elevated after the consecration: "My Lord and my God!" (Jn 20:28). In the apparition to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, our Lord Jesus invites us, who may have grown weak or cold in faith or who may have abandoned the faith, to examine his Pierced Heart and to believe in Him, the Incarnation of God’s
immeasurable and unending love of us.

St. Paul reflects upon the Incarnation of the love of God in the Heart of Jesus in his Letter to the Ephesians (Eph 3:8-19). He writes of the "inscrutable riches of Christ," which open up to us God’s plan for our salvation. He, then, prays that "Christ may dwell in (our) hearts through faith," and that "(we) will be able to grasp fully, with all the holy ones, the breadth and length and height and depth of Christ’s love and experience this love which surpasses all knowledge, so that (we) may attain to the fullness of God himself" (Eph 3:18-19). Christ dwells in our hearts through the gift of His life for us, most perfectly in the Holy Eucharist. Christ dwells in our hearts when we respond to His invitation to place our hearts completely in His Sacred Heart, to open our hearts completely to Him in the celebration of the Holy Mass and throughout each day of our lives.

In a wonderful reflection on the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, expresses the profound significance of the references to the Heart of God and the Heart of Jesus in the Holy Scriptures. He writes:
"The pierced Heart of the Crucified is the literal fulfillment of the prophecy concerning the Heart of God, which overturns His justice with compassion and precisely in this way remains just. Only in this concordance between the Old and New Testament can we behold the full extent of the biblical message concerning the Heart of God, the Heart of the divine Redeemer (‘The Paschal Mystery as Core and Foundation of Devotion to the Sacred Heart’ in Towards a Civilization of Love [San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1985], p.159).

Heeding the Cardinal’s wise words, we should frequently return to the Word of God, in order that the Word of God may inflame in us a sorrow for our sins, a desire to make reparation and a new generosity in returning love to God for His immeasurable love for us.


There are many more texts from the Holy Scriptures which refer to the human heart, to the Heart of God and the Heart of Jesus. It is recommended that the Holy Bible be kept on the small table or shelf beneath the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, enthroned in the home. In our devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we should take up the Word of God daily, so that God can speak to us from His Heart, so that our Lord Jesus can open up to us all the riches of His Sacred Heart. It will be good to mark the passages which refer to the human heart and the Divine Heart, so that we can easily meditate upon them.

Now, it is important that we look at the Church’s teaching regarding the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Next week, I will examine briefly the teaching of the Word of God about the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

O Sacred Heart of Jesus, formed by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, have mercy on us.

Enthronement of Sacred Heart


Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a most effective means of living always in the company of our Lord Jesus whom we receive in Holy Communion. In other words, our devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is an extended act of love for Him who shows us the greatest possible love by offering His Body and Blood for us in the Eucharistic Sacrifice.In His fourth apparition to St. Margaret Mary, our Lord revealed His Sacred Heart, declaring:

"Behold this Heart which has so loved men that It spared nothing, even going so far as to exhaust and consume Itself, to prove to them Its love.And in return I receive from the greater part of men nothing but ingratitude, by the contempt, irreverence, sacrileges and coldness with which they treat Me in this Sacrament of Love.But what is still more painful to Me is that even souls consecrated to Me are acting in this way" (Louis Verheylezoon, SJ, Devotion to the Sacred Heart, Westminster, Maryland: The Newman Press, 1955, pp. xxvii).

When the devotional life is neglected, then there is a loss of gratitude and reverence, and a coldness before our Lord in the Eucharist.Our Lord asks St. Margaret Mary to make known His desire for a renewed devotion to His Sacred Heart, so that He might give His love ever more abundantly and we might respond with gratitude and return love for His divine love.

The center of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the Enthronement of the image of the Sacred Heart in the home. By the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart, we link the tabernacle of our parish church to our home, inviting our Lord to be our constant and most intimate companion. The Enthronement is a way of life.It means that Christ is King of our hearts, and we desire Him to be present with us always.

In other words, by the Enthronement we signify our desire to make our hearts and our homes holy, to sanctify our lives in every aspect.Father Mateo Crawley-Boevey, SSCC (1875-1961), great apostle of the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, insisted on Its official and social characteristics.The Enthronement is the outward expression of an interior commitment to submit one’s whole life in obedience to Christ.It is social because it involves every member of the household in which we live and all our relationships with others, in and outside the home.Those who carry out the Enthronement always comment on the difference it makes in the relationships of family members with each other, and in work, business, recreation and other relationships.

Here it should be noted that the Enthronement can be made in every home.Often, in speaking of the Enthronement, I refer to the family, but it is understood that the home may be of a single person.The person living alone, no less than a family household, rightly desires that Christ be his or her constant companion.Also, there is always a relationship with others, with family and friends, which is expressed in the Enthronement, even by the person who lives alone.

Enthronement and Consecration

The Enthronement includes with It the Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.The Enthronement without the Consecration would simply amount to the placing of a sacred image in a prominent place in the home.It would be a good and pious practice, but it would not transform lives in the way that the Enthronement does.The Act of Consecration gives expression to the profound meaning of enthroning the image of the Sacred Heart in our home.

By the words of the Consecration, we articulate the meaning of the Enthronement.We place our hearts totally into the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and we beg Him to be the source of our healing and strength, the medicine and nourishment by which our poor and wounded hearts are made strong and whole. The enthroned image of the Sacred Heart gives us the occasion to renew frequently, throughout the day, our act of consecration.

The words of the Act of Consecration of the Family proclaim the reign of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the heart of each member of the household and in the home itself.They express the commitment of the family members to return love to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in response to the constant and immeasurable love which He shows to us in the Church.In short, the Act of Consecration is a full response to the promises made by our Lord to St. Margaret Mary. It pledges frequent reception of Holy Communion, penance for sins committed and acceptance of the divine will at death.

The form of consecration calls upon the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Mother of Christ and our mother, and St. Joseph, our protector, to intercede on our behalf.In truth, it asks our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph to present our Act of Consecration to Christ, in order that it may be as fitting and worthy as possible.

The Act of Consecration takes place after the image of the Sacred Heart has been enthroned.It expresses in words what the Act of Enthronement expresses in action. Enthronement and Consecration go together inseparably.

Necessity of Preparation

When we are about to undertake any important action, we always give ourselves ample time to prepare.Certainly, when we desire to consecrate ourselves and our home to Christ, we want to prepare well.It would be a mockery of the worst sort to enthrone the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus thoughtlessly, without regard for the profound meaning of our action. It would be a demonstration of the lack of reverence and of the coldness toward our Lord, to which He referred in His fourth apparition to St. Margaret Mary.

Since the Enthronement is a way of life for us, demanding our daily conversion of heart, we do not undertake it without considering carefully what it means for us.Our preparation should deepen in us our understanding and desire of the Enthronement and

The preparation has three principal parts: study, prayer and practical arrangements.Each part is important to the proper disposition of the family members and the home itself.The goal of the preparation is hearts aflame with love of Christ.Only a careful preparation and thoughtful Act of Enthronement and Consecration will dispose minds and hearts to follow Christ the King, to trust in His never-failing love and to place our hearts in His.

Preparing by Study and Prayer

An important means of preparation is study which deepens our knowledge of the Enthronement and its meaning for our daily living.Father Mateo Crawley-Boevey has provided a complete presentation on the Enthronement and Consecration in his book, Jesus King of Love.Father Francis Larkin, of the same religious community as Father Crawley-Boevey, has also written an excellent book on the various aspects of the Enthronement.It is titled Enthronement of the Sacred Heart.As I noted in my last column, the Archdiocese of St. Louis will be publishing a small guide to the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the home in the coming weeks.It will be available to all families who request it and will contain all of the prayers for the preparation of the Enthronement and the Rite of Enthronement.

The second means of preparation is prayer. Father Crawley-Boevey has suggested special prayers in the home on the three days which immediately precede the day of the Enthronement.The prayer directs the attention of the whole family to our Lord and His desire to dwell with us always.The prayer begins each day with a decade of the rosary: on the first day, the Third Joyful Mystery; on the second day, the Fifth Joyful Mystery; and, on the third day, the Fifth Glorious Mystery.After announcing the mystery, one of the family members reads a passage from the Gospels, which refers to the mystery.The reading from the Gospels is followed by the praying of the decade of the rosary, which is followed by the Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and a prayer expressing the desire for the Enthronement and calling upon the help of our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph.The prayer each day concludes with an indulgenced prayer to the Divine Heart of Jesus; the invocation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, St. Joseph, St. Michael the Archangel and the Holy Guardian Angels; and a hymn to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The Third Joyful Mystery, the Birth of our Lord, is chosen for the first day to underline the truth of the Incarnation and our response of worship before our Lord who is indeed God made man.In the adoration of the Infant Jesus by His Mother Mary, His guardian Joseph, the shepherds and the three kings, we find the inspiration for our desire to enthrone the image of the Incarnate Redeemer in our home to inspire constant adoration of Him.

The Fifth Joyful Mystery is chosen for the second day to inspire us to model the life of our home upon the pattern of life of the Holy Family at Nazareth.The care of Mary and Joseph for Jesus and His obedience to them are models for our relationships within the family and in other social settings.

The First Glorious Mystery leads us to reflect upon Jesus’ Rising from the Dead, Ascension and Sending of the Holy Spirit. Our meditation on the three great moments of the mystery of the Redemptive Incarnation helps us to recognize the living presence of our Lord with us in the Church. Reflection upon the encounters of our Risen Lord with the Apostles and disciples increases in us the desire to be with the Lord always.

It would be good that the whole family or, at least, one member of the family participate in Holy Mass and receive Holy Communion during the triduum of preparation for the Enthronement.It would be especially fitting that the whole family participate in Mass and receive Holy Communion on the day of the Enthronement.

Preparing the Throne

The place of the Enthronement in the home must be fitting. In other words, it should be a central place, a place in which family members spend time each day.The living room is usually the best place for the Enthronement.The image may be enthroned on a small table upon which flowers, candles, a Bible, pictures of absent family members or of family members and friends in need of prayers, and prayer intentions can be placed.If the image is hung on the wall, a small shelf should be placed under it for the placement of the same objects. In any case, the place of the Enthronement should reflect the great reverence and love which we have for our Lord.It should be the most dignified and beautiful place in the room.

Regarding the image of the Sacred Heart, there are different possibilities.It can be a statue or a print of a painting or icon. A print of a beautiful icon of the Sacred Heart will be available through the Office of Sacred Worship.It is the same print which was given to each of the Catholic schools during the Mass at the Cathedral Basilica on the Solemnity of the Annunciation.In choosing an image, care should be taken that it reflect the great mystery of the Redemptive Incarnation and inspire prayer.

For the day of the Enthronement, a separate table for the image and Holy Water should be set in a different part of the room. The image will be carried from this table to its place of permanent Enthronement.

Inviting Family and Friends

Because of the official and social nature of the Enthronement, it is most appropriate to invite family and friends to join in the Rite of Enthronement.The invitation gives a strong witness to the Catholic faith and its practice, and has the potential of inspiring others to learn about the Enthronement and enthrone the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in their homes. Copies of the Rite of Enthronement should be available for all who are invited, so that they may participate as fully as possible.

A certificate of the Enthronement will be available through the Office of Sacred Worship.It should be signed at the conclusion of the Rite of Enthronement and placed in a frame near the enthroned image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Also, it would be good to have some social time with refreshments after the Enthronement, so that all present can continue to express their joy at the special grace of the Enthronement and Consecration.The social time gives an excellent opportunity for family members to explain to others all that the Enthronement means for them.It is a most natural time to give witness to love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The Enthronement

The Enthronement is fittingly led by a priest, if possible, but also can be led by the head of the household. It begins at the table on which the image and holy water have been placed.If a priest is leading the Enthronement, he begins by blessing the image. If a priest is unable to be present, the family should have a priest bless the image beforehand.

The head of the household, accompanied by all the members of the household, then carries the image to the place of the Enthronement and enthrones the image.All pray together the Apostles’ Creed as an act of faith and reparation. A passage from the Gospel, for example, the account of the Annunciation (Luke 1:26-33) or the account of our Lord’s meeting Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10) or the account of our Lord’s visit to the home of Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-41) is then proclaimed, after which the priest or head of the household offers a reflection on the meaning of the Rite of Enthronement. After the reflection, all kneel and make together the Act of Consecration.

The rite concludes with prayers for absent members of the family, living and deceased; with general intercessions; a prayer of thanksgiving, and the praying of the Hail Holy Queen in honor of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. If a priest is present, he concludes the Rite of Enthronement with a blessing.Otherwise, it is concluded by all making the Sign of the Cross.


Next week, I will reflect upon certain texts from the Sacred Scriptures, which inspire devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.Also, I will provide a summary of the private revelation of the Sacred Heart to St. Margaret Mary and its relationship to the Sacred Scriptures and the teaching of the Church.Finally, I will reflect further upon the Enthronement as a way of life or, as Father Crawley-Boevey put it, keeping the Enthronement alive.

O Sacred Heart of Jesus, formed by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, have mercy on us.

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