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.

Year of the Eucharist indulgence

Introduction

During the remainder of the Lenten season and into the Easter season, I wish to reflect on the Holy Eucharist as a help to all the faithful in the archdiocese in observing the Year of the Eucharist, which Pope John Paul II has established from October of last year to October of this year.Our Holy Father, in calling us to carry out the mission of the Church at the beginning of the Third Christian Millennium, has rightly directed our attention to the Mystery of Faith, the Holy Eucharist, from which the Church draws her very life (Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia, "On the Eucharist in Its Relationship to the Church," April 17 [Holy Thursday], 2003, no. 1a).Christ has promised to accompany us always in the Church.He is with us most fully and most perfectly in the Eucharistic Sacrifice and in the Sacred Host reposed in the tabernacle.If we are to be strong witnesses of Christ at the beginning of a new Christian millennium, it is important that we all take some time during the coming weeks to study the truth about the Holy Eucharist and to grow in love of the Holy Eucharist.

The main sources of our reflection will be the recent documents on the Holy Eucharist, issued by our Holy Father or his closest co-workers: the Holy Father’s Encyclical Letter "Ecclesia de Eucharistia (On the Eucharist in Its Relationship to the Church)," (April 17, 2003); the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, "Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum (On Certain Matters To Be Observed or To Be Avoided Regarding the Most Holy Eucharist)," (March 25, 2004); and our Holy Father’s Apostolic Letter "Mane Nobiscum Domine (For the Year of the Eucharist)," (Oct. 7, 2004).By reading carefully our Holy Father’s teaching, we will receive, through the ministry of the successor of St. Peter, a much deeper knowledge of the Holy Eucharist and be inspired to a much deeper love of the Most Blessed Sacrament.
Indulgence during the Year of the Eucharist.

Before beginning the reflection upon our Holy Father’s teaching, I bring to your attention a wonderful gift to us from our Holy Father on the occasion of the observance of the Year of the Eucharist.I refer to the gift of the plenary indulgence.The Holy Father formally granted the indulgence on Dec. 17, 2004, and the gift was made public on Christmas Day, Dec. 25, 2004.

What is the indulgence?Connected with every sin which we have committed is temporal punishment which, in the justice of God, must be remitted by us.At the same time, the Church is rich in the satisfactions of Christ and the saints for our sins. "The treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints" is entrusted into the Church’s hands (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1471).In order that the riches of God’s mercy reach as many faithful as possible, the Church grants the indulgence to properly disposed members of the faithful.By the indulgence, the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven is remitted in part or in whole.

The indulgence is partial if it remits a part of the temporal punishment due to our sins.It is plenary if it remits all temporal punishment due to sin.An indulgence can be gained for one’s self or it can be applied to a deceased person.

In his strong efforts to promote knowledge and love of the Holy Eucharist at the beginning of the Third Christian Millennium and to assist the faithful to obtain an abundance of spiritual gifts through the observance of the Year of the Eucharist, our Holy Father has established the plenary indulgence to be gained through "certain specific acts of worship and devotion to the Most Blessed Sacrament" (Apostolic Penitentiary, "On the Gift of an Indulgence During the ‘Year of the Eucharist,’" Dec. 25, 2004).

Conditions for gaining the plenary indulgence

In order that the satisfactions of Christ and the saints may be applied to the temporal punishment due to our sins, we must be properly disposed.The required disposition is expressed in three conditions for obtaining the indulgence.They are: 1) a good Confession; 2) reception of Holy Communion; and 3) prayers offered for the intentions of the Holy Father.These conditions must necessarily express a total detachment from any inclination to sin.

Our Holy Father, in his desire that as many as possible avail themselves of the strong graces of the Year of the Eucharist, has been very generous in determining the conditions by which the plenary indulgence can be obtained.He has especially desired that those who suffer from any infirmity or are confined to their homes or to an institution be able to obtain the plenary indulgence.

During the Year of the Eucharist, the plenary indulgence can be gained by any member of the faithful each time he or she takes part, with fitting piety, in the Sacred Liturgy or eucharistic devotion, before the Most Blessed Sacrament solemnly exposed or reserved in the tabernacle.

For those who are bound to pray daily the Liturgy of the Hours — clergy, members of Institutes of the Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and laity who are so bound — and for those who pray the Divine Office as a devotion, the plenary indulgence may be obtained by praying Vespers and Compline, at the end of the day, before our Lord present in the tabernacle.This applies both to communal and private recitation of Vespers and Compline.

Those who cannot visit the Blessed Sacrament in a church or chapel because of illness or some other serious reason may obtain the plenary indulgence in their own home or other place of residence, as long as they have detached themselves completely from any inclination to sin and have the intention to fulfill the three conditions as soon as they are able.They will make a spiritual visit to the Blessed Sacrament, renewing their faith in the Real Presence of Jesus in the consecrated bread and wine.They are also to pray the Our Father and the Creed, and invoke the Lord with a eucharistic acclamation, for example, "O Sacrament most holy, O Sacrament divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment thine."

Those who cannot fulfill even the above conditions may still obtain the plenary indulgence by joining their hearts to those who are able to fulfill them and, at the same time, by offering their sufferings to the Divine Mercy, with the intention of fulfilling the three usual conditions at the earliest possible time.

Help of priests

Our Holy Father asks priests to be especially attentive to informing the faithful about the plenary indulgence granted during the Year of the Eucharist.Also, he asks priests to be generous in helping the faithful to meet the conditions, especially by scheduling times for the hearing of confessions and by leading public prayers of praise to our eucharistic Lord.

He also asks the priests to urge "the faithful to give frequent open testimonies of faith and veneration of the Most Blessed Sacrament."The "Enchiridion of Indulgences," the collection of all of the grants of indulgences by the Church, indicates: "A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful who freely give open testimony of faith before others, in the peculiar circumstances of everyday living" (Enchiridion Indulgentiarum, no. IV).

The Holy Father also notes grants of plenary and partial indulgences, which are listed in the "Enchiridion Indulgentiarum," about which priests should remind the faithful.For example, a plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful who make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament, meditating for a half hour, at least.There are a number of other occasions for obtaining a plenary indulgence, for example, the first solemn Mass of thanksgiving of a newly ordained priest and the occasion of the celebration of the anniversary of ordination of a priest or bishop.

Conclusion

Truly, our Holy Father has offered us a wonderful spiritual treasure for the observance of the Year of the Eucharist.The obtaining of the plenary indulgence is a most efficacious way of drawing closer to our eucharistic Lord, setting aside fear and placing all our trust in God and the help of His grace.

I close with the opening words of the Decree of the Apostolic Penitentiary, "On the Gift of an Indulgence During the ‘Year of the Eucharist’":

"The greatest of the miracles (Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, Office of Readings, second reading) and supreme memorial of the redemption which Our Lord Jesus Christ brought about through His Blood, the Eucharist, as sacrifice and sacrament, faultlessly produces the unity of the Church, sustains her with the power of supernatural grace, bathes her in ineffable joy and provides supernatural assistance to nourish the piety of the faithful and impel them to intensify and indeed to perfect their Christian life."

May our observance of the Year of the Eucharist be filled with many graces for us all. May the great gift of the plenary indulgence during the Year of the Eucharist lead us to the purification of our sins and inspire in us an ever more fervent love of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

On the pastoral reorganization of the South City Deanery (continued)

Near Southside parishes

36.St. Agatha Parish, which has been serving as a personal parish for the faithful attached to the celebration of the Mass and other sacred rites, according to the liturgical books in force in 1962, is to become the personal parish of the faithful of Polish language and heritage.

37. St. Francis de Sales Parish is to be suppressed, and its territory and faithful are to be united to St. Pius V Parish.The Archdiocesan Hispanic Ministry, presently located at St. Francis de Sales Parish, is to be transferred to St. Cecilia Parish.St. Francis de Sales Church is to be an oratory for the faithful attached to the celebration of the Mass and other sacred rites, according to the liturgical books in force in 1962.St. Francis de Sales Oratory is to be under the pastoral care and direction of the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest, a society of apostolic life.

38. St. Joseph Parish is to continue as the personal parish for the faithful of Croatian language and heritage.It is to devote special attention to the new immigration from Bosnia.It is to remain under the care of the Franciscan Friars.

39. Sts. Peter and Paul Parish is to be a personal parish dedicated to the apostolate on behalf of the homeless and to the promotion of sacred music through the Young Catholic Musicians.The territory of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish is to be united to St. Vincent de Paul Parish

40.St. Thomas of Aquin Parish is to be a personal parish for the faithful of Vietnamese language and heritage.The territory of St. Thomas of Aquin Parish is to be united to St. Anthony of Padua Parish.Given that the families of St. Thomas of Aquin Parish choose a variety of local Catholic schools for their children, the parish is to provide financial support to the Catholic elementary schools chosen.

41.St. Vincent de Paul Parish is to continue as a territorial parish and is now to include also the territory of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish which has become a personal parish.It is to remain under the care of the Congregation of the Mission or Vincentians.

42. St. Wenceslaus Parish is to be a personal parish for the faithful attached to the spirituality of the Missionaries of the Holy Family, whose provincialate is located in the rectory of the parish.The pastoral care of the parish is to continue to be entrusted to the Missionaries of the Holy Family, who will also serve as chaplains to St. Francis Cabrini Academy.

43. St. Agatha Parish, St. Francis de Sales Oratory, St. Joseph Parish, Sts. Peter and Paul Parish, St. Vincent de Paul Parish and St. Wenceslaus Parish are to be sponsors of St. Frances Cabrini Academy.

Tower Grove South parishes

44.Holy Family Parish and School are to be suppressed.The territory and parishioners of Holy Family Parish are to be united to St. John the Baptist Parish.Holy Family School is to be united to St. John the Baptist School.

45. St. Pius V Parish is now to include the territory of St. Agatha Parish, St. Francis de Sales Parish and St. Wenceslaus Parish.

46.St. Pius V Parish is to support St. Frances Cabrini Academy.

Dutch Town, Carondelet and Bevo parishes

47.Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish and School are to continue at their present site.

48. Resurrection of Our Lord Parish and School are to be suppressed.The territory and parishioners of Resurrection of Our Lord Parish are to be united to St. John the Baptist Parish.Resurrection of Our Lord school is to be united to St. John the Baptist School.

49. St. Anthony of Padua Parish is now to include also the territory of St. Cecilia Parish, St. Hedwig Parish and St. Thomas of Aquin Parish.St. Anthony of Padua Parish is to remain under the care of the Franciscan Friars.

50.St. Boniface Parish is to be suppressed.The territory and parishioners of St. Boniface Parish are to be united to St. Stephen Protomartyr Parish.

51.St. Cecilia Parish is to become a personal parish for the faithful of Hispanic language and heritage.The territory of St. Cecilia Parish is to be united to St. Anthony of Padua Parish.Other faithful in the area may also be members of the parish, engaging fully in the life of the parish and giving particular support to the service of our Hispanic brothers and sisters in the deanery and the archdiocese.St. Cecilia Parish is, moreover, to become the center for the Church’s Hispanic Ministry in the city of St. Louis.St. Cecilia School is to continue.The Nativity Model, employed in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades of St. Cecilia School, is to continue.The parish, with the assistance of the Archdiocesan Curia, is to develop a plan for the financial support of the Hispanic Ministry at St. Cecilia Parish, for the financial support of St. Cecilia School and for the reception of additional students at St. Cecilia School.The students from St. Anthony of Padua School should be directed to St. Cecilia School, except in those instances where parents desire a traditional sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade model and whose children should be directed to St. Frances Cabrini Academy. St. Anthony of Padua Parish should provide financial support to the Catholic elementary schools chosen.

52.St. Hedwig Parish is to be suppressed.The territory and parishioners of St. Hedwig Parish are to be united to St. Anthony of Padua Parish.

53.St. John the Baptist Parish is now to include the territory of Resurrection of Our Lord Parish and Holy Family Parish.

54.Sts. Mary and Joseph Parish, founded in 1821, is to be suppressed.The territory and parishioners of St. Mary and Joseph Parish are to be united to St. Stephen Protomartyr Parish.Because of the historic nature of the parish, the parish church is to be maintained as a chapel for the occasional celebration of the Mass and devotions.St. Stephen Protomartyr Parish is to assume responsibility for the care of Sts. Mary and Joseph Chapel, and for the services to the poor, to which the parishioners of Sts. Mary and Joseph Parish have dedicated themselves.

55.St. Stephen Protomartyr Parish is now to include the territory of St. Boniface Parish and Sts. Mary and Joseph Parish.It will now also have the care of Sts. Mary and Joseph Chapel.

Tower Grove North parishes

56. Immaculate Conception/St. Henry Parish is to be suppressed.The territory and parishioners of Immaculate Conception/St. Henry Parish are to be united to St. Margaret of Scotland Parish.

57.St. Cronan Parish is to be established as a personal parish dedicated to the apostolate of social justice.The territory of St. Cronan Parish is to be united to St. Margaret of Scotland Parish. St. Cronan Parish is to be a sponsoring parish of St. Margaret of Scotland School.

58. St. Margaret of Scotland Parish is now to include also the territory of Immaculate Conception/St. Henry Parish and St. Cronan Parish.

The Hill and Tower Grove West parishes

59. Holy Innocents Parish is to be suppressed.The territory of the parish, which is south of Arsenal Street, is to be united to St. Mary Magdalen Parish.The territory of the parish, which is north of Arsenal Street, is to be united to St. Ambrose Parish.The parishioners are to be united accordingly to St. Mary Magdalen Parish and St. Ambrose Parish.

60.St. Aloysius Gonzaga Parish is to be suppressed.The territory and parishioners of St. Aloysius Gonzaga Parish are to be united to St. Ambrose Parish.

61.St. Ambrose Parish and School are to continue at their present site.St. Ambrose Parish is now to include the territory of Holy Innocents Parish, which is north of Arsenal Street, and of St. Aloysius Gonzaga Parish.
Parishes west of Kingshighway

62.Epiphany of Our Lord Parish and School are to continue at their present site.

63.Our Lady of Sorrows Parish will continue at its present site.Our Lady of Sorrows School will close and form a new school, uniting Our Lady of Sorrows School and St. Mary Magdalen School.The site of the new unified school will be the present Our Lady of Sorrows School.

64.St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish and School are to continue at their present site.

65.St. James the Greater Parish and School are to continue at their present site.St. James the Greater Parish and School are to be part of a strategic planning process which will also involve Little Flower Parish and School, St. Luke the Evangelist Parish and School, and Immaculate Conception Parish.

66.St. Joan of Arc Parish and School are to continue at their present site.

67. St. Mary Magdalen Parish is now to include the territory of Holy Innocents Parish, which is south of Arsenal Street.St. Mary Magdalen School is to close and form a new unified school with Our Lady of Sorrows School, which is to be located at the present Our Lady of Sorrows School.

68. St. Raphael Parish and School are to continue at their present site.

Conclusion

69.As we implement the necessary changes for the pastoral reorganization of the South City Deanery, we follow in a long line of our ancestors in the faith, who, in their place and at their time, accepted difficult changes, in order that the life of the whole Church be strengthened.We pray that we may imitate their faith and sacrifice in doing what is best for the Church in the South City Deanery.

70.I urge all of the faithful of the South City Deanery to accept the decisions with the generous obedience of Christ who does the Father’s will in all things.Our obedient response to the needs of the Church in our time and place, notwithstanding the sometimes painful personal sacrifice which it entails, will bring new life and growth to the Church.As your archbishop, I thank you, in advance, for all that you will do to implement the new organization of the pastoral life in the South City Deanery for the good of all.

71.I urge all of the faithful of the archdiocese to keep in your thoughts and prayers your brothers and sisters in the South City Deanery, especially during the coming time of transition.By your prayers and sacrifices, you will be one with them in carrying out the mission of Christ in our Archdiocese.

72.Before the challenge of carrying out faithfully and generously the mission of Christ, we are all deeply conscious that the mission is His.By ourselves alone, we will accomplish nothing.With Christ, we can do all that God the Father asks of us.Most of all, through our union with Christ in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, we receive the wisdom and the strength to do the Father’s will, especially when it is difficult for us.May our observance of the Year of the Eucharist bring us all closer to Christ and be a source of particular strength for the faithful of the South City Deanery.

73.We carry out Christ’s mission with the help of the love and prayers of all the saint.I confide the pastoral reorganization of the South City Deanery to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Mother of the Church; St. Joseph, patron of the Universal Church; and our archdiocesan patrons, St. Louis of France, St. Vincent de Paul and St. Rose Philippine Duchesne.

Given at St. Louis on the twenty-fifth day of February, Friday of the Second Week of Lent, in the Year of the Lord 2005.

(Most Rev.) Raymond L. Burke

Archbishop of St. Louis

On the pastoral reorganization of the South City Deanery

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ

Introduction

1.The last words of Our Lord Jesus Christ on this earth, that is, before His Ascension, were the promise to remain with us always in the Church, until the day of His Final Coming.Before ascending to the Father, He commissioned the Apostles to establish His Church in every part of the world by teaching, sanctifying and governing, while assuring them that He Himself would be acting in them and through them:

"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Matthew 28:18-20).

The history of the Church is, in fact, the story of Christ's abiding presence with us, most of all in the Holy Eucharist, bringing the grace of salvation to all men and women of every time and place.The Apostles and their successors, the bishops of the Church, have acted in the person of Christ Himself, teaching the faith, leading the faithful in prayer and celebrating the sacraments, and directing them to place themselves and their goods at the service of the Gospel.

2.In every time and in every place, the disciples of Christ are called, with the care and under the direction of their bishop and his co-workers, the priests, to continue the mission of Christ by handing on the doctrine of the faith, by prayer and sacred worship, and by building up the Body of Christ in unity and love.One thinks, for instance, of the local missionary labors of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, Father Pierre Jean De Smet, Bishop Joseph Rosati of the Congregation of the Mission and the Sisters of St. Joseph whom Mother St. John Fontbonne missioned to America at the request of Bishop Rosati. Down the more than two centuries of Catholicism in the territory which is now the Archdiocese of St. Louis, the faithful, with their pastors, have faced the challenge of providing for the life of the Church in new and often changing situations.Thanks to the good stewardship of God’s manifold gifts by those who have gone before us in the archdiocese, we enjoy a strong life of faith in our parishes and other Catholic institutions.While rejoicing in the great heritage of Catholic faith and practice in the archdiocese, we also recognize the challenge to meet the particular needs of the Church in our day.

Archdiocesan Strategic Pastoral Plan

3.Cardinal Justin Rigali, my predecessor, recognized the challenge of planning appropriately the pastoral activity of the archdiocese and carried out his responsibility of directing pastoral planning in an outstanding manner.In 1997, he published the original Archdiocesan Strategic Pastoral Plan which was revised in 1999 and is presently in the process of a further revision.The Strategic Pastoral Plan is intended to inspire and guide the work of organizing the mission of the Church in the archdiocese for a period of approximately 10 years.

4.Goal Five of the Strategic Pastoral Plan reads: "To be responsible stewards of God’s gifts to us."It poses a serious and perennial question for the whole archdiocese and for each part of the archdiocese: How can the human and material resources of the archdiocese best serve all of the faithful in the archdiocese, in order to make Christ better known and more fervently loved?The question has already been addressed in the St. Charles Deanery, which completed its pastoral planning study in May 2003.In June 2003, the South City Deanery and the Northeast County Deanery began a carefully articulated study, in order to answer the question for those portions of the archdiocese.A task force, under the direction of the local dean, was established in each of the deaneries in order to develop the most complete and best possible recommendations for the pastoral reorganization of the deanery. From the time of my arrival as archbishop, I have been fully engaged in the work of the Task Force for the South City Deanery, which, by that time, was already quite advanced.I have received regular and ample communication from the task force and, together with those who assist me in the Archdiocesan Curia, have met formally with the members of the task force to discuss particular and sometimes thorny questions.With regard to the ongoing archdiocesan work of pastoral planning, I further note that study and consultation on the organization of the pastoral life in the North City Deanery is in progress.Similar study and consultation will continue, as needed, in every portion of the archdiocese, in order that the Church may serve more faithfully and completely our Lord Jesus Christ.

5. Given the distinct characteristics of the South City Deanery, the Pastoral Planning Task Force for the deanery faced special challenges.Like the task force for the Northeast County Deanery, it faced a situation of a significant shift of population, resulting in many fewer Catholic living in the area.The aging population of many parishes was a principal concern, centered around the question of how best to care for senior parishioners who have given themselves so generously in love of the Church over the decades and now contribute so much to the life of the Church through their wisdom, love, and their prayers and sacrifices.At the same time, there was the serious concern for the Catholic schools in the deanery, some of which are "at risk" because of ever greater financial shortfalls which the archdiocese does not have the means to cover. Another particular concern of the South City Deanery are the number of churches which are treasures either by reason of their architectural and decorative beauty or their history.A further consideration has been the importance and future of certain parishes which now serve the faithful of a particular national or cultural background or are devoted to the fostering of particular apostolate or apostolates in the Church.

6.The task force for the South City Deanery, under the leadership of Msgr. Dennis E. Doerhoff, completed its work on Dec. 9, 2004, and submitted to me the final recommendations for the pastoral reorganization of the deanery.The final recommendations are the fruit of 18 months of study, including a wide consultation of pastors, parishioners and others actively engaged in the mission of the Church in the South City Deanery.

7.As your archbishop, I write to you now regarding the reorganization of the pastoral care of the South City Deanery.I write to all the faithful of the archdiocese, because, we are all one in Christ. What affects one part of the archdiocese is the concern of us all (1 Corinthians 12:26).The faithful of the South City Deanery are very much in the thoughts and prayers of us all, as they take up the challenge of a new organization of the pastoral life in the deanery.

8.In announcing the final decisions regarding the pastoral reorganization of the South City Deanery, I am deeply conscious of the pain which changes in parish and Catholic school life cause.I have the deepest compassion for the faithful of the South City Deanery and regret sincerely the pain which you are enduring.I assure you that the changes which I announce today are made to further the mission of the Church in the archdiocese. They represent prudential decisions, but they are made on the basis of the thorough work of the task force for the South City Deanery Pastoral Planning.
I ask you to accept the suffering of change in your parishes and schools, asking that God bless the Church in the deanery and the archdiocese.

Importance of the parish

9.The ultimate goal of pastoral planning is always the vital and effective presence of the Church in every local community of the archdiocese. The local parish is "the fundamental unit in the daily life of the Diocese" (Pope John Paul II, post-synodal apostolic exhortation Pastores gregis, "On the Bishop, Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the Hope of the World," Oct. 16, 2003, No. 45b). Through the parish, the archbishop provides for all the families and households in his pastoral care.

10.In organizing and establishing parishes in the archdiocese, the archbishop must see to it that the faithful in each parish become a true community of the Church "which gathers for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, receives the Word of God and exercises charity through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy" (Congregation for Bishops, Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops, Apostolorum successores, Feb. 22, 2004, No. 210d).The worthy celebration of the Sunday Mass is the heart of the parish, its highest activity and the source of its continuing direction and strength.In fact, it is principally for the celebration of the Sunday Mass that the diocesan bishop establishes parishes.The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council underlines the importance of the parish and, within the parish, the celebration of the Holy Eucharist:

"But as it is impossible for the bishop always and everywhere to preside over the whole flock in his Church, he must of necessity establish groupings of the faithful; among these the parishes, set up locally under a pastor who takes the place of the bishop, are the most important: for in some way they represent the visible Church constituted throughout the world.

"Therefore the liturgical life of the parish and its relation to the bishop must be fostered in the spirit and practice of the laity and clergy.Efforts must also be made to encourage a sense of community within the parish, above all in the common celebration of the Sunday Mass" (Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, "Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy," Sacrosanctum Concilium, Dec. 4, 1963, No. 42).

It is always edifying to read the story of the foundation of the individual parishes of the archdiocese.In every case, it is the desire for the regular celebration of Sunday Mass and for the administration of the Sacrament of Penance and the other sacraments, which led the faithful to request from the archbishop the establishment of a proper parish in their area or neighborhood.All of the parish activity of catechesis, prayer and witness derive from communion with Christ in the Holy Eucharist and is directed to union with Christ in the Eucharistic Sacrifice.

11.Parishes are usually territorial, that is, they usually serve the families and households of a certain portion of the archdiocese.The diocesan bishop may also establish personal parishes "for groups of people determined not according to their domicile in the diocese, but by reason of rite, language, nationality or some other particular factor" (Apostolorum successores, No. 210b).The South City Deanery has a long history of parishes established to serve the faithful of a particular ethnic background or language.There are also parishes which are devoted to the carrying out of a particular apostolate or apostolates which are supported by the parishioners.

12.In recommending which parishes should be the territorial parishes in the deanery, the Task Force for Pastoral Planning in the South City Deanery has proposed parishes with sufficient households, so that parishes will have the means to grow and develop with vitality.It has been a special concern that parishes not be located too closely to one another, so that the members of the parishes join strongly at the newly formed parish and the gifts, both personal and material, of parishioners may be joined to serve the good of all, both in the Church and in the neighborhood.The study and consultation have indicated that certain parishes should be closed or united to one another, in order to strengthen the life of the Church in the whole deanery.

13.Ultimately, the parish is at the service of the Christian home.It is Christian households or families which come together to form the parish, in order to carry out Christ’s mission more fully in daily life.The faith is first taught, celebrated and lived in the home, and the parish principally exists to foster a sound and strong Christian life in every parishioner’s household (Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, "Dogmatic Constitution on the Church," Lumen gentium, Nov. 21, 1964, No.11b).At the same time, the parish helps the Christian home and family to be one with brothers and sisters in the neighborhood, in the wider community and throughout the world

14.For the devoted Catholic family, the parish is truly an extension of the home.Families treasure the memories of times of strong grace, which have been lived in the parish.Change in parish life, therefore, is always difficult.Yet, even as the family, from time to time, may have to accept significant change, for example, when all of the children have grown up and left the family home, so also we recognize that significant changes in population or other circumstances may necessitate a change in our parish.We do not like the change, but we recognize that it is part of our life in a world which is passing. What is important is that we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ and on the eternal home toward which we are on pilgrimage (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Senior parishioners

15.Considering the suffering which change in our parish church or school brings to our lives, we must be especially attentive to our senior brothers and sisters, for whom such change presents particular challenges.In his "Message for Lent 2005," our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, has asked us to give special attention to our care for the elderly, those who are "advanced in years."He cautions us about our secularized society’s tendency to forget and disregard the elderly as somehow no longer "productive."Our faith teaches us that the elderly are a great treasure to the whole Church because of the witness of their faith and of the sufferings and prayers which they offer daily on behalf of the whole Church.When the diminishment which comes with age is viewed in the context of the Cross, we are led to embrace the elderly and to make certain that they are a vital part of the activity of the parish.Our meditation upon the Fourth Joyous Mystery, the Presentation of the Lord, helps us to see the great gift which is ours in our brothers and sisters who are "advanced in years," for it is the elderly Simeon who is waiting to die and the 84-year-old Anna who spoke for God, when the Savior was first brought to the Temple (Luke 2:22-39).

16.In the reorganization of the pastoral care in the South City Deanery, I ask that a consistent and careful attention be given to those "advanced in years" in every parish, so that they may participate fully in parish life.I ask especially that each parish consider how it may best assist the elderly in coming to church for the Mass, devotions and parish activities.Some of our elderly will experience the loss of a familiar parish community, perhaps a community which they have known for a lifetime.May they also experience the joy of becoming fully part of a new parish, treasured for the special gifts which God has given them for the good of all in the parish.

The parish school

17.Over the centuries of her life, the Church has come to esteem, in a most special way, the Catholic school as her best means of working with parents for the Catholic upbringing of their children.Our children and young people depend completely upon us for the handing-on of our greatest gift from God, namely, Catholic faith and practice.Given the total secularization of popular culture, the challenge of handing on the faith and practice is especially daunting.Although parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children in the Catholic faith, they look to their parish and the whole archdiocese to assist them, especially in a culture which is so completely secularized.For that reason, the diocesan bishop is obliged, by universal Church law, to provide Catholic schools for the families in his pastoral care (Canon 802, paragraph 1).

18.Through the Catholic school, the Church offers to children and young people a complete education.In the Catholic school, children grow in knowledge and skills, as in other schools, but, what is more, they grow in knowledge and love of God.Subjects are taught and skills are imparted in the Catholic school in the context of faith in God and obedience to His Law, His plan for us and our world. The Holy Father’s Congregation for Catholic Education has reminded us of the extraordinary character and mission of the Catholic school:

"Christ is the foundation of the whole educational enterprise in a Catholic school.His revelation gives new meaning to life and helps man to direct his thought, action and will according to the Gospel, making the beatitudes his norm of life.The fact that in their own individual ways all members of the school community share this Christian vision, makes the school ‘Catholic’ principles of the Gospel in this manner become the educational norms since the school then has them as its internal motivation and final good" (Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, The Catholic School, March 19, 1977, No. 34).

Christ is the First Teacher in the Catholic school.All of the administrators, teachers and staff of the Catholic school have, as their first responsibility, the witness to Christ, so that the students may come to know, love and serve Christ more and more.

19.It is my desire that a Catholic school be available to all the families of the South City Deanery.The reorganization of the pastoral care of the deanery involves the closing of some school buildings and the unification of some Catholic schools.I ask every parish in the deanery to commit itself ever more generously to the Catholic schools.I ask parish priests to work with parents for the enrollment of their children in the Catholic school which serves the families of the parish.

20.For the children who are not enrolled in the Catholic schools, the parish, with the help of parents and catechists, provides the Parish School of Religion.It is essential that all parishes in each part of the deanery work together so that the limited time available to the Parish School of Religion may assist our children and young people to grow in their Catholic faith and its practice.

Parish and local community

21.The Church is not of the world but is in the world.Christ came to save all men and women.Through Baptism and Confirmation, He gives to His disciples the grace to work with Him for the salvation of the world.The Church, therefore, has a most serious responsibility to serve the local community.The reorganization of the pastoral life in the South City Deanery is aimed, in fact, at a continued strong and effective presence of the Church in the South City.

22.The Church recognizes, above all, her responsibility to promote the respect for all human life and to work for the elimination of anything which is contrary to the dignity of human life.With the pastoral changes in the South City Deanery, I ask all the faithful to continue their strong support of Catholic Charities of the archdiocese and the St. Vincent de Paul Society, especially the parish or inter-parochial conferences.The South City Deanery can be rightly proud of the many outstanding works of justice and charity which are carried out in a stable manner throughout the deanery.It is important that all the faithful continue to build upon the strong tradition of active witness to Christ.

23.We are blessed in the archdiocese and in the city to have a population rich in different races.The respect for the dignity of all human life means also the respect for the equal dignity of all our brothers and sisters, no matter what be their racial or social background.In promoting the respect for the equal dignity of all our brothers and sisters, we are guided by the constant teaching of the Church, stated once again at the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council:

"All men are endowed with a rational soul and are created in God’s image; they have the same nature and origin and, being redeemed by Christ, they enjoy the same divine calling and destiny; there is here a basic equality between all men and it must be given ever greater recognition" (Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, "Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World," Gaudium et spes, Dec. 7, 1965, No. 29a).

Racism or unjust discrimination on the basis of a person’s race cannot be tolerated in any aspect of the Church’s life.At the same time, the Church, in her responsibility for the common good, must work to eradicate any form of racism in society.

24.Although today there may be very little open expression of racial discrimination, we must be attentive, in our parishes, to educate all of the faithful regarding racism, an evil which all too easily insinuates itself into our relationships with others.We must be attentive especially to eliminate the "covert ways" in which racism can continue to poison society and the Church.I recall the teaching on racism of the United States Bishops in 1979:

"Crude and blatant expressions of racist sentiment, though they occasionally exist, are today considered bad form.Yet racism itself persists in covert ways.Under the guise of other motives, it is manifest in the tendency to stereotype and marginalize whole segments of the population whose presence is perceived as a threat.It is manifest also in the indifference that replaces open hatred.The minority poor are seen as the dross of a post-industrial society — without skills, without motivation, without incentive.They are expendable.Many times the new face of racism is the computer printout, the graph of profits and losses, the pink slip, the nameless statistic.Today’s racism flourishes in the triumph of private concern over public responsibility, individual success over social commitment and personal fulfillment over authentic compassion.Then too, we recognize that racism also exists in the attitudes and behavior of some who are themselves members of minority groups.Christian ideals of justice must be brought to bear in both the private and the public sector in order that covert racism be eliminated wherever it exists" (National Conference of Catholic Bishops, Brothers and Sister to Us: U.S. Bishops’ Pastoral letter on Racism in Our Day, Nov. 14, 1979, page 6).

The reorganization of pastoral life in the South City Deanery is a providential time to address anew any form of discrimination or prejudice against any brother or sister because of his or her race.May this time of challenge and growth lead us to form ever deeper bonds of unity with all of our brothers and sisters.May it also lead us to a new commitment to our neighborhoods and our beloved city.

25.The reorganization of the pastoral care of the South City Deanery is inspired by a strong commitment to the city of St. Louis in which the parishes of the deanery are located.It is my firm hope that the changes in the pastoral life of the deanery will help us to use our resources to be ever better citizens.For that reason, in making the decisions which I announce by this pastoral letter, I have been in communication with the authorities of the city and have taken to heart their concerns and suggestions.

26.I thank the civic authorities for their keen interest in the pastoral reorganization of the South City Deanery and for their willingness to assist me in every fitting way.I pledge to continue to work with them for the good of St. Louis.

Implementation of the reorganization

27.In announcing the details of the pastoral reorganization of the South City Deanery, I express heartfelt gratitude to Msgr. Dennis E. Doerhoff, the local dean, and the South City Deanery Strategic Planning Task Force.Over more than 18 months, they have studied carefully the pastoral life in the South City Deanery and have consulted widely with the parish priests, the faithful of the parishes, the personnel of the Catholic schools and officials of the Archdiocesan Curia. Msgr. Doerhoff, the task force and those whom they have consulted have given freely countless hours of selfless service for the good of the Church in the archdiocese. May God reward them!

28. On Dec. 9, 2004, the Task Force presented to me "The Strategic Planning Recommendations for the South City Deanery," a 73-page document which reflects the depth of the study and consultation which the members of the task force have undertaken.Having studied thoroughly the recommendations, I have accepted them, with some modifications.Since the time of the presentation of the recommendations, I have taken under consideration pastoral concerns which the task force was not able to address but needed to be part of the final strategic plan of the archdiocese and deanery.For the rest, the decisions which I have made have reference to the ample background material in the recommendations. The study of the recommendations is integral to the implementation of the pastoral reorganization.

Everyone involved, including myself, is aware that the recommendations and my decisions express prudential judgments, carefully studied and weighed but certainly subject to human error. I am deeply conscious of my own limitations and place my trust in the unfailing help of Christ the Good Shepherd, who has called me.

29.Unless otherwise indicated, the changes announced below will take effect on July 1, 2005.During the time until then, the work of implementation of the changes will take place. I ask all of the faithful to be generous in patience and in assistance to your parish priests during the coming months.

30.To provide for the ongoing study of the pastoral care of the South City Deanery, I am establishing a Deanery Pastoral Council to assist the local dean in carrying out his pastoral responsibility for the deanery.In the coming weeks, I will issue Archdiocesan Norms for Deanery Pastoral Councils, so that a consultative body on the deanery level will help me consistently in addressing the pastoral care and direction of all of the faithful in the deanery.

Downtown or near Downtown historic parishes

31.The Parish of the Basilica of St. Louis, King of France, founded in 1770 and the mother church not only of the archdiocese of St. Louis but of a good part of the Midwest, is to remain a personal parish for those who have a special attachment to it, for reason of its history and sacred architecture.It serves as a spiritual oasis to the many visitors to the city for tourism or special events.It is also a place of devotion to the saintly Bishop Joseph Rosati, first bishop of St. Louis, whose mortal remains are interred in the basilica.The territory of the Parish of the Basilica of St. Louis, King of France, is now to be united to the territory of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist Parish.

32.St. John the Apostle and Evangelist Parish is designated the territorial parish of the downtown area.The present parish church, built in 1860, served as the cathedral of the archdiocese for some 20 years.In addition to its service of households in the Downtown area, it provides spiritual services for the Downtown business community and visitors to the Downtown area.It is now to include the territory of the Parish of the Basilica of St. Louis, King of France.

33.St. John Nepomuk Parish, founded more than 150 years ago for the service of the faithful of Czech language and heritage, is to be suppressed.The parish church is to remain as a chapel in which Mass and devotions can be celebrated for special occasions.The chapel is to be under the care of a chaplain appointed by the archbishop.

34.St. Mary of Victories Parish, which has been serving the faithful of Hungarian origin, who emigrated to the United States in the middle of the last century because of political oppression, is to be suppressed.The church building, completed in 1843, is of historic importance. Recently, the church has become a place of devotion to Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, Redemptorist priest and 19th-century missionary to our country.The church building is to remain as a chapel in which Mass and devotions can be celebrated on special occasions.The devotion to Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, CSsR, is especially commended.The chapel is to be under the care of a chaplain appointed by the archbishop.

35.The Parish of the Basilica of St. Louis, King of France, and St. John the Apostle and Evangelist Parish are both to be sponsoring parishes of St. Frances Cabrini Academy, which serves the families of the area.

Death of Sister Lucia of Fatima

Introduction

I had hoped to begin last week a series of reflections on the Holy Father’s most recent teaching on the Holy Eucharist, in order to help us to celebrate more fully and fruitfully the Year of the Eucharist, which began last October and will conclude in October of this year.Last week, I needed to devote my column to my Pastoral Letter "On the Pastoral Reorganization of the Northeast County Deanery." More than likely, next week will be devoted to my Pastoral Letter "On the Pastoral Reorganization of the South City Deanery."

Before beginning the presentation of the Holy Father’s rich teaching on the Holy Eucharist, I cannot fail, this week, to reflect on the death, this past Sunday (Feb. 13) of Sister Maria Lucia of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart, the last living witness of the apparitions of the Mother of God at Fatima, Portugal, in 1917.Since the time when our Blessed Mother appeared to her, Lucia dos Santos has never failed to be the herald of the messages which she received from our Lady.In a message which was read at the Mass of Christian Burial on Tuesday, our Holy Father stated:

"For Lucia, the visit by the Virgin to her and to her cousins Francisco and Jacinta, at Fatima in 1917, was the beginning of a special mission to which she remained faithful to the end of her days.Sister Lucia leaves us an example of great faithfulness to the Lord, and of joyous obedience to His divine will" (May God Reward Sister Lucia for Her Service to the Church, Vatican Information Service, Feb. 16, 2005).

It is important for us, on the historic occasion of her death, to reflect on the messages which our Lord confided to her for the sake of our salvation.
It is my hope, then, to take up the reflections on the Holy Father’s teaching on the Holy Eucharist in the March 4th issue.

Sister Lucia of Fatima

On Sunday, Feb. 13, Sister Maria Lucia of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart died of complications due to her advanced years.She died in the Carmelite Convent at Coimbra in Portugal, of which she had been a member since March 25, 1948.At the age of 18, she had entered the Sisters of St. Dorothy and remained a member, until her desire of a religious life of greater seclusion and solitude led her to request a transfer to the Discalced Carmelite Sisters.On March 22 she would have been 98 years of age.At her dying, she was blessed to be surrounded by her Sisters in religion, the Bishop of Coimbra, her doctors and nurse.

When our Holy Father learned that Sister Lucia’s health was rapidly failing, he sent a message to her which she received on the Sunday she died.The bishop of Coimbra has confirmed that the message was read to her on Sunday, Feb. 13, and that she personally held and examined the text.After she had heard and examined the text, she was greatly comforted in her suffering. In the message, the Holy Father assured Sister Lucia of his prayers for her that she might accept her pain and suffering with the "paschal spirit," that is with strong faith in the Resurrection and trust in God’s all-merciful love.

Our Holy Father had met with Sister Lucia on the occasion of his three visits, as pope,to the Shrine of Our Lady at Fatima, which all have taken place on May 13, the day on which our Blessed Mother first appeared at Fatima in 1917. In 1982, he traveled to Fatima to thank Our Lady for interceding that his life be spared on May 13, 1981, when he was shot by Mehmet Ali Agca.

On the occasion of his visit of thanksgiving to the shrine, he placed the bullet with which Mehmet Ali Agca attempted to kill him in the crown of the image of Our Lady of Fatima. Our Holy Father visited with Sister Lucia again in 1991, and finally on May 13, 2000, when he beatified her two cousins, the brother and sister Francisco and Jacinta Marto, who, with her, received the visions of Our Lady of Fatima.In his message for the Mass of Christian Burial of Sister Lucia, Pope John Paul II referred to "the bonds of spiritual friendship which strengthened over time," and declared: "I felt myself supported by the daily gift of her prayers, especially during difficult moments of trial and suffering. May the Lord give her ample reward for the great and hidden service she offered the Church" (Vatican Information Service, Feb. 16, 2005).

Message of Our Lady of Fatima

On April 27, 2000, just 16 days before the beatification of Francisco and Jacinta, our Holy Father sent Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, then secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and now cardinal archbishop of Genoa, and Bishop Serafim de Sousa Ferreira e Silva, bishop of Leiria-Fatima, to visit with Sister Lucia at the Carmelite Convent in Coimbra.The purpose of the visit was to show Sister Lucia the text of the third part of the "secret" or message of Our Lady at Fatima, which she had written on Jan. 3, 1944, and which had been kept in the Secret Archive of the Holy Office (now the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) since April 4, 1957.

During the meeting, Sister Lucia verified the manuscript as her own and confirmed that the third part of the "secret" or message is prophetic and refers to the attacks on the Church by atheistic communism.It describes the sufferings of those who remain true to the Catholic faith during the time of assault on the Church by those who deny the existence of God.

The first two parts of the "secret" or message of Our Lady of Fatima, are a terrifying vision of hell, and Our Lady’s urging of devotion to her Immaculate Heart as the way to peace.The two parts are related to one another.The little children — Maria dos Santos (Sister Lucia) and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto — are given a frightening vision of hell, in order that they might understand the importance of their work to save souls through the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary means that we strive for her purity of heart, placing our hearts completely, that is without exclusion or reservation, in the Sacred Heart of Jesus and, thereby, disposing ourselves to do God’s will in all things, as Mary did.

Second part of the ‘secret’

In the second part of the message or "secret," our Blessed Mother declares to the three holy children to whom she appeared: "In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me and she shall be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world" ("First and Second Part of the Secret," The Message of Fatima, Vatican City State: Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 2000, page 16).The triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is the triumph of the all-pure Heart of Mary, perfectly united to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, from which alone pours out the grace of our salvation.In the Heart of Jesus alone is found peace for our hearts and for our world.

Regarding these words of the second part of the message, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has commented:
"The Heart open to God, purified by contemplation of God, is stronger than guns and weapons of every kind.The fiat of Mary, the word of her heart, has changed the history of the world, because it brought the Savior into the world — because, thanks to her, yes, God could become man in our world and remains so for all time.The Evil One has power in this world, as we see and experience continually; he has power because our freedom continually lets itself be led away from God.But since God Himself took a human heart and has thus steered human freedom toward what is good, the freedom to choose evil no longer has the last word.From that time forth, the word that prevails is this: ‘In the world you will have tribulation, but take heart; I have overcome the world’ (John 16:33). The message of Fatima invites us to trust in this promise" (Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, "Theological Commentary," in The Message of Fatima, page 43).

The words of the Cardinal explain why devoted love of the Mother of God is inherent to Catholic faith.Mary’s mediation of our salvation through "the word of her heart" at the Annunciation and at the foot of the Cross bind us to her in a relationship of the greatest spiritual affection.

On March 25, 1984, our Holy Father, in spiritual union with all the bishops throughout the world, entrusted all peoples to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. He concluded the solemn act of consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary with the words:

"Accept, O Mother of Christ, this cry laden with the sufferings of all individual human beings, laden with the sufferings of whole societies.Help us with the power of the Holy Spirit to conquer all sin: individual sin and the ‘sin of the world,’ sin in all its manifestations.Let there be revealed, once more, in the history of the world the infinite saving power of the Redemption: the power of merciful Love!May it put a stop to evil!May it transform consciences!May your Immaculate Heart reveal for all the light of Hope!" (quoted in The Message of Fatima, page 8).

In a letter written on Nov. 8, 1989, Sister Lucia confirmed that the solemn and universal act of consecration, which our Holy Father carried out on March 25, 1984, had fulfilled what our Lady had requested, namely the consecration of the world to her Immaculate Heart: "Yes it has been done just as Our Lady asked, on 25 March 1984" (quoted in The Message of Fatima, page 8).

Third part of the ‘secret’

In confiding the third part of the message to the Holy Father, Sister Lucia indicated that she was only the messenger and that Our Lady had confided the interpretation of the text to the Church.Later Sister Lucia strongly confirmed the Church’s interpretation of the three parts of the "secret" or message.For the texts of the three parts of the "secret" or message, the description of the conversation which Archbishop Bertone and Bishop de Sousa Ferreira e Silva had with Sister Lucia on April 27, 2000, the announcement regarding the third part of the "secret," given by Cardinal Angelo Sodano on the occasion of the beatification of Blessed Francisco Marto and Jacinta Marto and a theological commentary on the message of our Blessed Mother at Fatima, I refer you to a small book published by the Holy Father’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2000, titled "The Message of Fatima."It contains a succinct and complete presentation of the great sign of God’s love for us in the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima.

The third part of the message is simply a cry for penance, for the change of heart which comes with repentance for personal sin and the sin in the world.It is rich in imagery and refers very much to events which we have witnessed during the last century, especially the martyrdom of faithful Christians.It has special reference to the suffering of the Holy Fathers of the last century.It reveals for us the light which comes from God in Jesus Christ, Incarnate in the womb of the Virgin Mary, which dispels all darkness.It also confirms for us that repentance does not come except by way of the suffering of purification and of self-outpouring.

Surely, the Holy Father has interpreted his own service as successor St. Peter, in its extraordinary richness in light of the "secret" or message of Our Lady of Fatima.George Weigel, writer of the authoritative biography of Pope John Paul II, comments:

"John Paul II’s personal answer to the question of how his papacy, and indeed his life, should be understood came in Portugal, at the shine of Our Lady of Fatima, on May 12 and 13, 1982.He had gone there on pilgrimage on the first anniversary of Mehmet Ali Agca’s assassination attempt, to give thanks to God and to Mary for his life having been spared.Arriving in Fatima, the pope succinctly summarized his view of life, history, and his own mission in one pregnant phrase: ‘In the designs of Providence there are no mere coincidences.’

"The assassination attempt itself, the fact that it took place on the date of the first Marian apparition at Fatima, the reasons it took place, his survival — none of this was an accident, just as the other incidents of his life, including his election to the papacy, had not been accidents.And this, he believed, was true of everyone.The world, including the world of politics, was caught up in the drama of God’s saving purposes in history.That, to his mind, was the message the Second Vatican Council wanted to take to a modern world frightened by what seemed to be the purposelessness of life.The Church’s primary task was to tell the world the story of its redemption, whose effects were working themselves out, hour by hour, in billions of lives in which there were no "mere coincidences" (George Weigel, Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1999, page 440).

Surely, the "secret" or message of Fatima is the immeasurable mercy of God always at work in the world and our call to share in that saving work. God the Son Incarnate, Son of Mary, is alive for us in the Church, through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, uniting us to the Father, if only we receive Him with a contrite and generous heart, like the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Conclusion

Sister Maria Lucia of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart is a model for living in Christ, doing God’s will in all things.Her example of prayer and penance is particularly inspiring to us as we continue our Lenten observance through prayer, fasting and almsgiving.Our Lenten practices are undertaken with confidence in the strength of God’s grace to transform our lives and our world.It is the Mother of God, who shared in the grace of the Redemption from the moment of her conception, who draws us to her Son, that our hearts may become ever purer, ever more one with the Heart of Jesus.Yes, we live in a world which is practically atheistic, which denies the existence of God and rebels against His plan for us and our world.But the Immaculate Heart of Mary will triumph by drawing all to the Heart of her Divine Son.

Let us have the confidence of Sister Lucia and of our Holy Father.Giving ourselves completely to doing the will of God, let us set aside all fear, for Christ is at work in the world, in our personal lives, accomplishing the salvation of the world.

Lent: spiritual journey of prayer and penance

Introduction

On this coming Wednesday, Feb. 9, we will begin our annual observance of the season of Lent.Lent is a time of strong grace for the purification and strengthening of our love of God and neighbor. On Ash Wednesday, we embark, in imitation of our Lord Jesus, on a 40-day spiritual journey of prayer and penance to fortify our life in Him, which began when we first received the sevenfold gift of the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Baptism.

Our observance of Lent prepares us for the celebration of our salvation by the suffering, dying and rising from the dead of our Lord Jesus.It prepares us to enter as fully as possible into the celebration of the Sacred Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday), the three days in which Christ brought to fulfillment His public ministry by pouring out His life for us, in order that He might live for us forever in the Church.The 40 days of Lent are a journey for us into the more perfect sharing with Christ in the mystery of His suffering and dying, which lead to His victory over sin and everlasting death in our human nature by His rising from the dead.

Message of our Holy Father

Each Lenten season, our Holy Father draws our attention to a particular aspect of our life in Christ.This year, our Holy Father is inspired by a text from the Book of Deuteronomy:

"I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying His voice and cleaving to him; for that means life to you and length of days, that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them" (Deuteronomy 30:19-20).

Our Holy Father asks us to reflect upon the special gift of long life, which God gives to some, "in order to deepen the awareness of the role that the elderly are called to play in society and in the Church, and thus to prepare [our] hearts for the loving welcome that should always be reserved for them" (Pope John Paul II, Message for Lent 2005, Sept. 8, 2004, No. 1c).

Our Holy Father calls to mind that the natural law, written upon our hearts and expressed in the Fifth Commandment of the Decalogue, demands that we respect and foster "human life, from its beginning to its natural end."He reminds us that the law of respect and care for human life "applies even in the presence of illness and when physical weakness reduces the person’s ability to be self-reliant" (No. 2a).The theological virtue of charity, given to us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, strengthens us to respect and foster the life of the elderly, recognizing in their diminishment and approaching death a treasured share in the suffering and dying of Christ.

Ironically, in our society which, through the advances of science and medicine, favors "length of days," there is a growing tendency to view the elderly as no longer useful to society and to isolate them from the life of society, in general.Sadly, family members who should treasure the occasion to care for their elders are easily tempted to discouragement and resentment.As a result, they lose the natural and most important occasion to understand more fully the mystery of our life in Christ, especially as self-reliance diminishes and death approaches.

Our love and care of those who have grown weak under advanced years or illness is a privileged encounter with Christ Who handed over His life for us. Our bond with the elderly helps us to deepen our appreciation of the mystery of suffering and dying in our lives as a share in Christ’s Passion and death.Our Holy Father urges us, through our Lenten observance, to discover anew the great richness of every stage of human life, especially of old age:

"How important it is to rediscover this mutual enrichment between different generations! The Lenten season, with its strong call to conversion and solidarity, leads us this year to focus on these important themes which concern everyone.What would happen if the People of God yielded to a certain current mentality that considers these people, our brothers and sisters, as almost useless when they are reduced in their capacities due to the difficulties of age or sickness?Instead, how different the community would, if, beginning with the family, it tries always to remain open and welcoming towards them" (No. 3c).

Let us all, in our families and our parishes, devote ourselves, throughout the season of Lent, to deepening our bond of love and care with those whom the Lord has blessed with "length of days." In this regard, I commend to your reflection our Holy Father’s "Message for Lent 2005" and his Apostolic Letter "On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering" (Feb. 11, 1984), and the document of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, "The Dignity of Older People and their Mission in the Church and in the World" (Oct. 1, 1998).

Prayer

The strong grace of Lent comes to us through prayer, fasting and almsgiving.Our attention to our communication with God in prayer, to our stewardship of the world by fasting, and to our love of one another through almsgiving leads us to conform our lives more and more to Christ.Journeying with Christ into the desert of prayer and penance, we become more like Christ in His love of God and of all His brothers and sisters.

Through our prayer, we confront our lives with the Word of God and are inspired to the daily conversion of life, by which we follow Christ more faithfully and fully.Lent finds us more attentive to our daily prayer: morning prayer, prayer before meals, examination of conscience and act of contrition, and night prayer.Because of our human weakness, we are prone to distraction when we pray or even to forgetfulness of prayer.We become so taken up with what we are doing, we become so self-important, that we forget the source of our life and every good in our life. Lent is a powerful time to reestablish the rhythm of daily prayer in our lives, keeping company with Christ, in prayer to God the Father, throughout the day.

Lent gives us grace to renew our devotional life, purifying it of any routineness, so that it may express and enhance our communion with Christ in the Holy Eucharist. If you have not already consecrated yourself to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and enthroned the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in your home, I urge you to prepare yourself, during the season of Lent, to do so.Our archdiocesan guide to help you prepare for the consecration and enthronement is available through the Office of Sacred Worship.

Lent is also a wonderful time to establish or strengthen the practice of praying the chaplet of the holy rosary each day.Praying the rosary, we, with our Blessed Mother, reflect upon and pray over the great mystery of God’s love for us, which reached the fullness of its expression in the Incarnation of God the Son, His public ministry and His
Passion-Death-Resurrection-Ascension and sending of the Holy Spirit.Our Holy Father has asked us, through his Apostolic Letter "On the Most Holy Rosary," to pray the rosary "to implore from God the gift of peace" and as "an effective aid to countering the devastating effects" of secularization on family life (Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, "On the Most Holy Rosary," Oct. 16, 2002, No. 6). Please consider dedicating at least some part of your daily rosary to the intention of peace in Iraq and the safety of the people of Iraq and of our military who are serving there.

Eucharistic prayer and worship

Most of all, Lent purifies and strengthens us for a fuller participation in the Mass and a more loving worship of the Most Blessed Sacrament. Through the Sacrament of the Eucharist, Christ unites us to Himself in the outpouring of His life in love of God and all mankind.He makes our communion with Him as perfect as it can be on this earth by feeding us with His own Body and Blood.In holy Communion, we receive Christ: Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.Christ, really present for us under the veils of bread and wine in the Eucharist, remains with us in the Hosts which are reposed in the tabernacle after Communion.His Real Presence inspires in us the desire to visit Him through prayer before the tabernacle, and to worship Him through eucharistic exposition and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

The Sacrament of the Eucharist is the center and highest expression of all our prayer and worship. It is the source of Christ’s life offered for us on Calvary.It is our most perfect means of growing in the likeness of Christ.Our Holy Father, therefore, has decreed October 2004 to October 2005 to be the Year of the Eucharist.The Holy Father, by establishing the observance of the Year of the Eucharist, desires to foster public and private devotion to the Eucharist, encouraging all of the faithful of the world to grow in knowledge and love of the Most Blessed Sacrament, the Mystery of Faith.Recently, the Holy See has published a decree by which our Holy Father has granted special indulgences connected with certain acts of eucharistic prayer and worship.

In order to assist you in the observance of Lent and of the Year of the Eucharist, my regular column in the St. Louis Review during the weeks of Lent will be devoted to reflection on the Sacrament of the Eucharist.In particular, I will reflect upon our Holy Father’s Encyclical Letter "On the Eucharist in the Its Relationship to the Church," and his Apostolic Letter "For the Year of the Eucharist: October 2004-October 2005." In next week’s column, I will begin my reflection by describing the granting of special indulgences during the Year of the Eucharist, to which I referred above.

Penance

Our communion with God in prayer expresses itself in action through our penance, specifically through fasting and almsgiving.In other words, in prayer we look upon the all-loving face of Christ and are inspired to selfless and courageous acts of love of God and one another, especially our suffering brothers and sisters.At the same time, when we fast and give alms, the desire of communion with God in prayer and worship grows more and more fervent.

Fasting and almsgiving are intimately connected, for, through the discipline of our use of food and other material goods by fasting, we place ourselves and our goods more readily and more fully at the service of all our brothers and sisters, especially those in most need.Fasting purifies our minds and hearts of self-absorption and helps us to understand our mission as stewards of God’s many gifts, so that may serve the good of all.

The Church establishes certain penitential practices as a minimum observance of the season of Lent.They set the pattern for our personal plan of prayer.

Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fast and abstinence.All the Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence.Catholics who are 18 but not yet 59, and are not impeded from fasting by a health condition, are obliged to fast, that is take only one full meal and two lesser meals, with nothing to eat in between.All Catholics who are 14 years of age and older are obliged to abstain from eating meat.These practices constitute the minimum of our Lenten penance.They are most serious obligations from which we may not be excused for any light reason.

Regarding almsgiving, I encourage participation in Operation Rice Bowl, which supports the work of Catholic Relief Services and also programs of emergency relief in the archdiocese.Through Operation Rice Bowl, food is provided for the hungry of the world and assistance given to those who are in trouble.

Also, I ask you to keep in mind our Catholic schools in the poor neighborhoods of the archdiocese, which are at risk of closing.The Catholic school is needed, most of all, by families who are striving to provide for their children the formation of character, education and development of skills, which will help them to overcome material poverty and become leaders in the communities of the archdiocese or other communities to which they as adults may move.Please keep in mind the Today and Tomorrow Educational Fund, which provides much needed support to our archdiocesan elementary and secondary schools, as a possible recipient of your Lenten alms.

We should never underestimate the power of Lenten grace to transform our lives. Christ Himself accompanies us on our Lenten journey.It is He who invites us into the desert of prayer and penance, in order to purify and strengthen us in our love.Through our Lenten prayer and penance, Christ overcomes in us interior struggles, struggles with other persons, abuse of food and drink, hoarding of material goods and other addictive behaviors, insensitivity to the needs of others, persistent failures in obeying God’s commandments, and a lukewarm practice of the faith.

During these days before the beginning of Lent, we should lose no time in establishing our plan of prayer and penance in order to draw upon the strong grace of Lent.

In order to be fully disposed to the strong grace of Lent, it is good, at the beginning of Lent, to meet Christ in the Sacrament of Penance.The confession of our sins and the reception of God’s forgiveness open us to conversion of life through our Lenten observance.Throughout the season of Lent, the Sacrament of Penance offers us the grace of God’s mercy and love for the forgiveness of our sins and the transformation of our lives.

Conclusion

May Lent 2005 be a time of strong grace for the transformation of our lives.Through our Lenten prayer, fasting and almsgiving, may we grow especially in our love and care of the elderly, the physically ill and the weak.May Mary, the Mother of the Redeemer, intercede for us, that, through our Lenten observance, those whom God has blessed with "length of days" may know their particular mission in the Church, and we all may deepen our bond of love and care with them.

Praying and marching for life

Introduction

On this past Jan. 22, we marked the 32nd anniversary of two historic and most unjust decisions of the highest court of justice in our nation.On Jan. 22, 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court gave rulings in the cases Roe vs. Wade and Doe vs. Bolton, which, in fact, made legal the taking of the innocent and defenseless life of the unborn human being.Since these rulings of the Supreme Court, more than 40 million unborn human beings, our littlest brothers and sisters, have been killed in their mother’s womb or in the act of delivery through the savage procedure called "partial birth abortion."The legalization of procured abortion has not only cost the lives of so many of our unborn brothers and sisters but it has also caused incalculable suffering to the mothers of the aborted children, sometimes physical suffering but always profound and lasting psychological and moral suffering, because of the betrayal of their deepest nature as a woman, which is to nurture life.In the same way, the fathers also are victims, whether they are conscious of it or not, because of the betrayal of their deepest nature as a man, which is to watch over and protect life.The whole of our society suffers greatly from the continuous taking of the lives of its most defenseless members and from the culture of violence and death which the unfettered practice of procured abortion fosters.

Archdiocesan Pro-Life Committee

Cardinal John J. Carberry, who was Archbishop of St. Louis at the time of the rulings in the cases Roe vs. Wade and Doe vs. Bolton, responded promptly to the threat to innocent and defenseless human life and, therefore, to all of society by calling together a committee, representing the whole archdiocese, to carry out, with new enthusiasm and new energy, the apostolate of the respect for human life. He set forth clearly the four essential aspects of the mission of what became the Archdiocesan Pro-Life Committee: 1) spiritual initiatives; 2) education; 3) pastoral assistance; and 4) public policy advocacy.What started out as a committee is, in fact, an essential office of the archbishop to assist him in fulfilling one of his most fundamental responsibilities, which is to teach and foster the respect for all human life.

As the work of the Archdiocesan Pro-Life Committee has developed, the pastor of each parish of the archdiocese designated parishioners to lead the pro-life apostolate, in order that the archbishop’s pastoral care and direction in the apostolate of the respect for human life might reach, as much as possible, all of the faithful of the archdiocese.Those co-workers with their pastors in the safeguarding and promotion of human life continue their critical work today.

Coming to the archdiocese on Jan. 26, 2004, I was already aware of the excellence with which the pro-life apostolate is carried out in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. For many years, I had heard about it and admired it from a distance.In my first year of service to the archdiocese, I have experienced directly the deep and strong commitment of the faithful of the archdiocese to the work of promoting the respect for all human life from the moment of fertilization to the moment of natural death.

We all owe a tremendous depth of gratitude to those who have given strong leadership to the Archdiocesan Pro-Life Committee.I think of Cardinal Carberry, Bishop Edward O’Donnell, Archbishop Joseph Naumann, and so many staff and volunteers from throughout the archdiocese.Today, we are blessed to have the leadership of Molly Corcoran Kertz and her staff.

The challenge remains always ours to pray and work for the restoration of the respect for all human life in our nation.The gift of our Catholic faith which teaches us the divine natural law carries with it the responsibility to do all, within our power, to uphold, in our personal lives and in society, the most fundamental law of nature, the safeguarding and fostering of all human life.

Throughout the year, the Archdiocesan Pro-Life Committee encourages and helps us to organize our personal engagement in the apostolate.The Annual Pro-Life Convention held in October is an especially powerful event for renewing our commitment and unifying, as fully as possible, our common participation in Christ’s mission of serving others, especially our littlest brothers and sisters. It concentrates on the educational aspect of the committee’s responsibilities.Also, throughout the year, the committee provides educational materials to parish pro-life workers and keeps them posted on important developments regarding the pro-life movement, in general.

Every third Saturday of the month, Mass is celebrated at 8 a.m. at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis for the pro-life apostolate.It is followed by the eucharistic adoration in the basilica and a march to the Planned Parenthood facility, while praying 15 decades of the rosary, and is concluded with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament at the cathedral basilica.On the third Saturday of January, which is always near the anniversary date of the Supreme Court’s decisions legalizing procured abortion throughout the nation, the participation in the Mass, devotion and prayers is especially solemn and intense.

The Archdiocesan Pro-Life Committee faithfully fulfills all four aspects of the mandate it first received from Cardinal Carberry.In addition to its promotion of prayer and education for the restoration of the respect for human life, it supports the various means of pastoral assistance for the multiple victims of procured abortion and advocates for the inviolability of innocent human life with government officials.

Praying and marching for life

Our most effective means of carrying forward the apostolate of respect for human life is prayer.Given the gravity of the attack on innocent and defenseless human life in our nation, we must pray daily for the victims of abortion and for those who promote and provide procured abortion.We must also participate in the public prayer and devotion of the Church — Mass, eucharistic devotion and other devotions like the praying of the rosary — for the intention of the respect for human life.

As I mentioned above, the third Saturday of January — this year, Jan. 15 — was the occasion for me to celebrate Mass at the cathedral basilica, expose the Blessed Sacrament for adoration, lead the procession to the Planned Parenthood facility, praying 15 decades of the rosary and give the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament at the conclusion.Jan. 15 was a very cold day, and the sidewalks were sometimes slippery, but it did not discourage a large congregation from throughout the archdiocese from participating in the Mass and eucharistic devotion, praying of the rosary and marching for life.

On Jan. 24, the annual National March for Life was held in Washington, D.C.Many parishioners from the whole archdiocese took part, making the long journey to Washington by bus and marching in very cold and snowy conditions.For me, as archbishop, it was most heartening to see faithful of all ages enthusiastically giving witness to the Church’s teaching on the respect owed to all human life.Practically all of our seminarians of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, both from the archdiocese and from the other dioceses who send seminarians to our seminary, took part.Also, the young people of the archdiocese were present in great numbers.

On the evening before the March — Sunday, Jan. 23 — a solemn Mass was celebrated in the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, with the participation of several cardinals and bishops, including myself, a great number of priests and so many faithful that they could not all fit in the massive basilica.The fervor of their prayer and witness on behalf of human life was most evident and most encouraging.The following morning, I offered Mass in Holy Rosary Church near the Capitol for the faithful of the archdiocese.All of the seminarians participated and as many of the faithful as could fit in the church.Many, many other faithful participated at a Mass later in the morning at the MCI Center, a major convention center.Some 20,000 faithful, among whom there were a majority of young people, took part in that celebration of the Mass.

At noon, we gathered at the Ellipse and after some greetings, introductions and brief speeches, we began our march to the Supreme Court of our nation.When we were near to the Supreme Court, I was reminded to turn around and to observe that the marchers filled the street for as far as I could see. It was a completely peaceful march, accompanied by the public praying of the rosary, of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, and of other prayers and hymns.What a wonderful testimonial to the respect which is owed to all human life!

Conclusion

There are so many more aspects of the prayer and activity of the apostolate for the respect for human life in the archdiocese, but time will not permit me to recall and describe them all.My attention in these words has focused principally on the crime of procured abortion.There are other grave attacks on human life; for example, the attack on those who have grown weak because of advanced years, serious illness or special needs.Before the march began, I had the occasion to visit with the parents and two siblings of Terri Schiavo.I was most edified by their strong faith and their tireless efforts to provide for their daughter and sister.Our commitment to foster the respect for human life must be total and without apology.

I thank all who, in any way, are "apostles of the Gospel of Life" in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.A special thanks to those who participated in the Mass, adoration and march at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis on Jan. 15, and in the prayers and activities of the National March for Life on Jan. 23-24.

May our prayer and witness on behalf of our brothers and sisters whose lives are threatened in any way win for them the protection and fostering of their lives.May our daily prayer and witness build up in our nation the culture of life and of love.May Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America and Star of the New Evangelization, intercede on behalf of all who carry out the apostolate of the respect for human life.

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