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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.

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.

Devotional life: Enthronement of the Sacred Heart


One of the important duties of the bishop is to foster the devotional life of the faithful entrusted to his pastoral care.In his post-synodal apostolic exhortation "On the Bishop, Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the Hope of the World," Pastores Gregis (Oct. 16, 2003), Pope John Paul II reminded all bishops:

"The Synod Fathers reaffirmed the importance of popular piety in the handing on and the growth of faith.As my predecessor of venerable memory Pope Paul VI once said, popular piety is rich in values both in reference to God and to our brothers and sisters, and thus constitutes an authentic treasury of spirituality in the life of the Christian community" (n. 40a).

The bishop’s concern for the devotional life of his people is an integral part of his care for their prayer life and their participation in the worship of the Church.Most of all, it is a part of his care that the faithful participate fully in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, for the devotional life is the way in which we extend our communion with Christ in the Holy Eucharist to every aspect of our lives.At the same time, our devotional life stirs up in us the desire for participation in the Holy Eucharist and prepares us to take part in the Eucharistic Sacrifice.

It is important to recall that true devotional life also leads to a desire both to know the faith more fully and to communicate the faith to others, according to our call to be missionary and to be promoters of Christian unity and interfaith understanding and cooperation.The devotional life very much inspires and sustains the witness of justice and charity in our lives.Our Holy Father has given an excellent summary of the richness of meaning of devotions in the Christian life:
"The faithful, through popular piety, should be led to a personal encounter with Christ and to fellowship with the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints, especially through hearing the word of God, recourse to prayer, participation in the Church’s sacramental life, and the witness of charity and the works of mercy" (Pastores Gregis, n. 40d).

Popular piety gives concrete expression to our communion with all the saints, the communion which has its source in Christ’s love for us and our love for Christ.

Second Vatican Ecumenical Council

In teaching about devotions, the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council reminded us, in the words of St. Paul, that we are to pray without ceasing, so that we may live always in the company of Christ and bring Christ to others at all times and in all places.We pray at Mass that Christ, Who gives Himself totally to us in the Holy Eucharist, may make of us a total gift of love to God and our neighbor.Our devotional life helps us to be reminded throughout the day and in the various places of our daily activity that we are called to offer our lives, with Christ, to God and one another (cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium [Dec. 4, 1963], nn. 12-13).

It is important that the bishop give direction to the devotional life, so that popular piety attain its noble purpose, namely a fuller participation in the Holy Mass and other sacraments and, thereby, a fuller life in Christ. The Church carefully guides our life of prayer and worship, lest it any way fail to draw us to a greater love of Christ and His Church.The care of the devotional life belongs in a special way to the bishop.Referring to documents of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Pope John Paul II recalls "that all manifestations of popular piety fall under the responsibility of the bishop in his diocese" (Pastores Gregis, n. 40e).Regarding devotions, he states clearly:

"It is the bishop’s duty to regulate them, to encourage them as an aid to the faithful for Christian living, to purify them where necessary and to evangelize them" (Pastores Gregis, n.40e).

Down the Christian centuries, false devotions have been introduced, which have led the faithful away from Christ.The Church studies the various popular devotions which arise, in order to be sure that they are fully coherent with the doctrine of the faith and her discipline.At the same time, the Church commends certain devotions to us.The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council tells us: "Popular devotions of the Christian people, provided they conform to the laws and norms of the Church, are to be highly recommended, especially where they are ordered by the Apostolic See" (Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 13a).

The more closely we grow in the likeness of Christ, we desire to be in His company throughout the day, especially through prayer and devotions. One thinks, for instance, of morning prayer and evening prayer, prayers before and after meals, the Angelus, visits to the Blessed Sacrament and making the Sign of the Cross when passing before a church, the rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet, the Stations of the Cross, prayers said when hearing a siren or seeing an ambulance, lighting a blessed candle during a storm, and a host of other devotional practices which help us to keep company with Christ.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

In the homily at the Mass during which I was installed as Archbishop of St. Louis, on this past Jan. 26, I recalled the homily which Pope John Paul II gave at the Solemn Pontifical Mass on the second day of his historic pastoral visit to our archdiocese in 1999.In particular, I recalled how our Holy Father drew us, through his homily, to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, "the door through which the eternal love of the Father is poured out on the world" (Pope John Paul II, Homily, Solemn Eucharistic Celebration, America’s Center, St. Louis, Jan. 27, 1999, n. 1c).Our Holy Father reminded us that our fullest union with the Heart of Jesus in this life is through the Holy Eucharist, participation in Holy Mass and Eucharistic devotion.Truly, Christ seated at the right hand of the Father never ceases to pour out, from His glorious Heart, the riches of God’s grace upon the Church and us, her members, especially through the celebration of the Holy Mass.

Having called to mind the Holy Father’s words about the Sacred Heart of Jesus, I urged the practice of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus as an expression of Christ’s Kingship in our hearts and in our world.I urged the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart in homes and other institutions of which we are a part:
"Placing our hearts within the Sacred Heart of Jesus through participation in the Holy Eucharist and Eucharistic devotion, let us enthrone the image of His Sacred Heart in our homes and places of work and recreation, consecrating ourselves and all that we do to His service.The Sacred Heart devotion is a most fitting and efficacious way of extending Eucharistic worship and devotion into every moment of our lives and every aspect of our lives" (n. IVb).

The Enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a true way of living always in the company of Christ Who gives us His Body and Blood in Holy Communion. The image of the Sacred Heart reminds us that Christ is alive for us always in the Church.We need only to approach Him Whose glorious Heart never ceases to beat with deepest love of us.

Since the time of my installation, a number of families have enthroned the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.On this past March 25, the Solemnity of the Annunciation of our Lord, representatives of all of our Catholic schools came to the Cathedral Basilica for a Solemn Pontifical Mass, during which I blessed the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus for each school.The students took the icon to their schools for the Enthronement.When I am visiting the schools, I am pleased to see the image of the Sacred Heart enthroned in a prominent place for the devotion of the students, faculty and others who visit the Catholic school.

It is my hope that every home in the archdiocese will enthrone the Sacred Heart of Jesus, if it has not already done so.To that end, I write about the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Enthronement.The reflection is particularly timely as we celebrate Christ’s Ascension to the right hand of the Father and prepare to celebrate, on Pentecost, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and, through the Apostles, on all of the disciples.Following Pentecost Sunday, we celebrate a number of solemnities which express the richness of Christ’s living presence with us in the Church: the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, and the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.It is my hope that the reflection which I offer on the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus will help us in celebrating these important solemnities and in living faithfully in the company of our Risen Lord in our homes.

What is the Enthronement?

Our Lord Himself has provided us with a most wonderful way to welcome Him into our homes. From 1673 to 1675, He appeared to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, a nun of the Visitation Convent at Paray-le-Monial in France. He revealed to St. Margaret Mary the great mystery of His infinite love for us, represented by His Sacred Heart.He asked that homes be consecrated to His Sacred Heart as a sign of His living presence with us in the Church, especially through the Holy Eucharist.

The practice of the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the home was begun by Father Mateo Crawley-Boevey of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. His work was first confirmed and blessed by Pope St. Pius X and then by every Pope since.When Pope St. Pius X heard of the Enthronement, he told Father Crawley-Boevey directly: "To save the family is to save society.The work you are undertaking is a work of social salvation.Consecrate your life to it." Father Crawley-Boevey could not mistake the importance which the Holy Father gave to his apostolate of the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.What the saintly Roman Pontiff declared to Father Crawley-Boevey in 1907 remains true in our time.If the company of Christ is cultivated in our homes, His company will be cultivated in every sector of life for the transformation of our society and of our world into a civilization of love.

The Enthronement is bound essentially to the Holy Eucharist, for it aims to bring Christ, truly present on the altar of sacrifice and in the tabernacles of our parish churches, into our homes. It aims to unite the altar and tabernacle of the parish church with the altar and tabernacle of devotion in our hearts and in our homes.

The whole meaning of the devotion is to extend the grace of the Eucharist into the Christian home and from the Christian home to the whole world.

The image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus expresses the true Kingship of Christ who rules over us by giving up His life for us.It daily reminds each member of the family to follow in Christ’s royal way by making reparation for sins committed and by striving to serve God and neighbor more lovingly.Father Crawley-Boevey spoke of the Enthronement as the "official and social recognition of the rule of Jesus over the Christian family" (Mateo Crawley-Boevey, SS.CC., Jesus King of Love, Fairhaven, MA: National Enthronement Center, 1997, p. 125). Once the Enthronement has taken place in the home, each family member has the occasion daily and, perhaps, many times daily to gaze upon the Face of Christ and to have Christ gaze upon his or her face. Looking into the Face of Christ, all of the various moments of daily living are seen in their lasting importance, are seen in the perspective of the eternal life which is to be ours.

Living the Enthronement

The Enthronement is not merely the placing of a sacred object in the home. It is not only an act of veneration of the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.The Enthronement is a way of life, the acceptance of Christ as King of my heart, as my constant Companion, as my Friend, helping me and guiding me in the small and big matters of daily life.As Bishop of La Crosse, I urged very much the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, especially on the occasion of the celebration of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. As families began to enthrone the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus for the first time or to renew the Enthronement which had taken place years ago in the home, I received reports, both directly and by letter, recounting special graces received by the family members. The reports testified to the grace which comes to a home which makes the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus a way of life for every member of the family.I offer two examples.

One man whom I will call Joseph told me personally about the situation of his neighbor, a devout Catholic who was dying of a painful form of cancer. The neighbor was suffering physically and was also psychologically very agitated. His wife was most concerned, especially as he was nearing death.

Joseph suggested to the man and his wife the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the bedroom in which the man was undergoing his agony.After some days of preparation, the Enthronement took place. After the Enthronement, the neighbor suffering from the cancer received a wonderful grace of peace, which he enjoyed until his death some days later.

A father and mother wrote to me after the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart in the home.They had two teenage children, a young man and a young woman, who were often disagreeable with each other and with their parents. The family prepared for the Enthronement which they carried out on Good Friday.The parents wrote to tell about the new attitude of respect for each other and for the parents, which the teenage children were manifesting after the Enthronement.Surely, the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart had helped the young people to draw upon the grace of the Holy Eucharist to live more fully in the company of Christ.


Next week, I will continue to reflect upon the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the home, also giving the practical details about how to prepare for the Enthronement and how to celebrate properly the Rite of the Enthronement.The Office of Sacred Worship of the Archdiocese is helping me to prepare a booklet for families to use in preparing for and carrying out the Enthronement.It will be available in the coming weeks.

Let us pray for an ever more perfect union of our hearts with the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Let us with Mary, place our hearts, with all of their joys and burdens, in the Heart of Jesus, the only source of our healing and peace.

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

St. Gianna Beretta Molla: Wife, mother and physician


On this past Sunday, our Holy Father declared Gianna Beretta Molla a saint of the Church.St. Gianna was a wife and mother, and a physician, who died on Easter Saturday (April 28) of 1962, following the birth of her fourth child. Gianna is a contraction for Giovanna in Italian — Jeanne in French or Joan in English. On April 24, 1994, Pope John Paul II had declared her blessed.I was working in the Roman Curia at the time, was deeply impressed by the story of her life and holiness, and developed a certain devotion to her, confiding to her prayers, in a special way, the intentions of young couples.

After I was installed as Bishop of La Crosse on Feb. 22, 1995, I met a number of young couples who desired so much to have a baby but were experiencing serious difficulties in conceiving a child.A number of couples had experienced repeated miscarriages or even stillbirth.They approached me, on the occasion of a visit to their parish, to ask for my blessing and my prayers.One can understand readily the deep concern of these couples who were without child, for children are the "crowning glory" of marriage (cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes [Dec. 7, 1965], n. 48a.St. Gianna is a saint of our time, who is an especially powerful intercessor regarding all matters of human life and the family.I write to you about her this week in the hope that you, too, may find inspiration in her life and seek the help of her prayers.

Intercession of Blessed Gianna

Frequently, in addition to giving a blessing and adding their intention to my daily prayers, I recommended to young couples that they pray through the intercession of Blessed Gianna.In my daily prayers, I was commending their intentions to Blessed Gianna.In the meantime, I discovered the Society of Blessed Gianna Beretta Molla, headed by Joseph W. Cunningham, an attorney in Philadelphia. The Society provided me with prayer cards and medals for the couples who were invoking the help of Blessed Gianna.

Through my correspondence with the Society of Blessed Gianna Beretta Molla, I also began to correspond with Pietro Molla, the husband of Blessed Gianna.Mr. Molla is a most devout and humble man who is totally dedicated to bringing the spiritual help of St. Gianna to as many as are in need, especially couples who are experiencing any difficulties with childbirth.Profound love of his saintly wife is transparent in the way he writes about her.If you wish to have a glimpse of the deep love of husband and wife in the life of Pietro and Gianna, I recommend the reading of Love Letters to My Husband by Blessed Gianna Beretta Molla, published in 2002 by Pauline Books & Media in Boston. It is a fitting book of spiritual reading for married couples and for anyone who desires to deepen his or her appreciation of the vocation to the married life.

After Pietro learned of my devotion to Blessed Gianna, he kindly sent me a relic of Gianna, a small piece of her wedding dress, which I lent to couples who were praying to conceive a child or had conceived a child and were praying for the healthy delivery of their baby.It was most edifying to witness the effects of prayer, through the intercession of Blessed Gianna, in the lives of these young couples.She proved to be a most powerful intercessor.In several cases, a couple who previously seemed unable to conceive a child were blessed with the conception and birth of a healthy child.Some couples have had a second baby and hope to have more. They very much credit the prayers of Blessed, now St., Gianna for the great gift of the conception and birth of their child. Some have give their children the name of Gianna in recognition of the help of the saint.

Her early life

Blessed Gianna was born in northern Italy to Alberto and Maria Beretta on Oct. 4, 1922.She was the second youngest of 13 children.Eight of the 13 children survived to adulthood.

The Berettas were a most devout family.They never failed to express their faith in God and their gratitude to Him.The rosary was prayed daily in the home, and the father and mother, together with the children, strove to participate in daily Mass as often as possible.The parents had enthroned the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in their home and, every evening after praying the rosary, the family members renewed their consecration to the Sacred Heart. After prayers, there was time for parents and children to visit and to deepen their understanding of the faith and its practice.

Gianna loved nature and the outdoors, and struggled very much with her studies in the first years of her schooling.When she reached 15 years of age, she experienced a conversion of life.Her oldest sister, Amalia, whom she loved very much, died suddenly at the age of 26.Some time after the death of Amalia, Gianna made a spiritual retreat which had a profound effect on her life.After that time, she began to live more intensely the consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.Sheshowed the greatest possible dedication in studying her Catholic faith and living the virtues, especially modesty and purity.She found great help in an association of young Catholics called Catholic Action, which stressed three essential aspects of our life in Christ: Eucharistic devotion, apostolic action and heroic purity (cf. Ann Brown, No Greater Love: Bl. Gianna: Physician, Mother, Martyr: The Story of a Mother of Our Time Who Offered Her Life That Her Child Might Live, Kentucky: New Hope Publications, 1999, pp. 11-13).The canonization of St. Maria Goretti in 1954 greatly inspired Gianna.Inspired by the life and death of the saint, she urged the young women whom she was guiding in Catholic Action to imitate the purity of Maria Goretti:

"Purity is a virtue which is the result of much effort ... Purity becomes beauty, and then strength and freedom. The one who is able to struggle and to stand firm is free" (No Greater Love, p. 12).
Gianna herself was a source of inspiration and strength for her peers and the younger members of Catholic Action, who looked to her for an example.


Coming into her adult years and having completed her medical studies, Gianna struggled to know her vocation in life. Her brother Enrico had become a Capuchin friar and was a missionary in Brazil.Her younger sister Virginia became a doctor and a religious sister, serving as a missionary in India. Her brother Giuseppe studied engineering then responded to the call to the diocesan priesthood.

Gianna was a beloved physician who cared especially for the poor.As a physician, she had a profound reverence for the gift of human life, and she urged priests to preach and teach about the respect for human life, and the evil of abortion and the abandonment of the seriously ill and elderly.

Her life, however, remained incomplete.As a devout young Catholic, she prayed to God about her vocation.She seriously considered the call to the dedicated single life, hoping to serve at the side of her priest brother in the missions of Brazil.With the help of her spiritual director, she came to understand that God was calling her to the married life.Thanks to the life of faith in her home and the religious education and formation which she received, she had a deep appreciation of the vocation to the married life.About her vocation, she wrote:

"Everything has a specific end; everything obeys a law.God has shown each one of us the way, the vocation, and the life of grace that lies beyond physical life.Our earthly and eternal happiness depends on following our vocation without faltering.What is a vocation?It is a gift from God — it comes from God himself!Our concern, then, should be to know the will of God.We should enter onto the path that God wills for us, not by ‘forcing the door,’ but when God wills and as God wills ..." (Giuliana Pelucchi, Blessed Gianna Beretta Molla: A Woman’s Life, Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 2002, pp. 71-72).

Gianna knew that God has a special plan for each of us — our way to give our life completely in love of Him and of our neighbor in the married life, the dedicated single life, the consecrated life or the priesthood.Through prayer and with the help of her spiritual director, she heard God’s call to marriage.

Through Catholic Action, Gianna met Pietro Molla, a devout young Catholic gentleman who was an engineer.She was impressed by his courage and dedication in living the Catholic faith. He knew that God was calling him to the married life and believed that Gianna was to be his bride.Pietro and Gianna were engaged on April 11, 1955, and were united in marriage before the altar of God on Sept. 24 of the same year.When Gianna walked down the aisle of the church at the beginning of the Wedding Mass, the congregation applauded.They loved her very much because of the exemplary manner of her practice of the Catholic faith, especially as a physician, and they rejoiced that she had heard God’s call to the married life. Reflecting upon her vocation to marriage and preparing for her wedding day, Gianna wrote to Pietro on Sept. 13, 1955:

"With God’s help and blessing, we will do all we can to make our new family a little cenacle where Jesus will reign over all our affections, desires and actions.

"My dear Pietro, our wedding is just a few days away now, and I feel very moved to be so near receiving the sacrament of love. We will be working with God in his creation; in this way we can give Him children who will love Him and serve Him" (Love Letters to My Husband, pp. 40-41).

Her consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus had grown ever deeper.She prayed that Christ might reign from His glorious Sacred Heart in Pietro’s and her heart, and in their home.Because of her deep love of Christ and her communion with Him, she recognized the special grace of the married life: the grace of total and lifelong love, and of cooperation with God in the generation of new human life.

Their treasures

On Nov. 9, 1956, Gianna gave birth to their first child, Pierluigi.Gianna suffered severe physical pain after the birth and Pierluigi had certain medical difficulties.The couple, however, were overjoyed to have received the gift of their first child and loved him very much.

In December 1957, Maria Zita, their second child, was born.The time immediately following the birth of Maria Zita, who was nicknamed Mariolina, was difficult.Pierluigi had further health difficulties, and Mariolina was not sleeping at night.These trials did not take away any of the joy from the Molla home, rather Pietro and Gianna grew in their love of each other and their children.

Gianna gave birth to their third child, Laura Enrica Maria, on July 15, 1959.Gianna experienced serious difficulties during the pregnancy and worried that she might lose the child.The child was born healthy, and her sister, Mariolina, was overjoyed to have a playmate.

Gianna and Pietro desired to have another child.She suffered two miscarriages, but in July 1961 found out that she was pregnant with their fourth child.

Gianna and Pietro refer to their children as their "treasures."One of the especially edifying aspects of studying the life of St. Gianna and reading her love letters to her husband is to see how integral having children and raising them is to their married life and love.

The final test

Early in her pregnancy with their fourth child, it was discovered that Gianna had developed a fibroma, a kind of cyst, on the wall of her uterus. The doctors recommended removal of the fibroma and the abortion of the child or a total hysterectomy which would also mean abortion.Any option which included abortion was unacceptable to Gianna and Pietro.She chose instead to have the fibroma removed and to bring her child to term.Being a physician, Gianna understood well the danger involved for her.She declared: "This time it will be a difficult delivery, and they may have to save one or the other — I want them to save my baby" (Love Letter to My Husband, p. 14).

On April 21, 1962, Gianna delivered their fourth child, Giovanna (Gianna) Emmanuela, by Caesarean section.The child was beautiful and healthy, but her birth marked the beginning of a weeklong agony for Gianna, which ended in her death on April 28.

Immediately upon her death, there developed a devotion to Gianna, for the faithful who knew her saw in her life a heroic wife and mother.Many graces were obtained by those who sought her intercession.

Maria Zita (Mariolina) died two years after Gianna, after a brief illness.Pierluigi studied engineering and eventually married.Laura and Gianna Emanuela remain at home with their father.Laura is a doctor of political science, and Gianna Emanuela followed in the footsteps of her saintly mother and became a doctor.She has dedicated her medical practice to the care of patients suffering with Alzheimer’s disease. At the Second World Day of the Family, in October 1997, Dr. Gianna Emanuela Molla offered the following prayer through the intercession of her mother:

"Dear Mama, thank you for having given me life two times: when you conceived me and when you permitted me to be born. ... My life seems to be the natural continuation of your life, of your joy of living, of your enthusiasm; I discover my life’s full meaning in dedicating myself to whoever lives in suffering.

"Dear Mama, intercede always for all mothers and all families who turn to you and entrust themselves to you" (A Woman’s Life, p. 140).

Indeed, many mothers and families have gone to St. Gianna in prayer, and have received the help of God’s grace through her intercession.


The life and death of St. Gianna is a powerful witness to the vocation and mission of the married.In a society which has so little respect for marriage and family life, St. Gianna is a beacon of inspiration and a powerful intercessor for conversion.I hope that you and many will come to know St. Gianna and, through your devotion to her, be strong witnesses to the truth about marriage and the family.

In any trial of the family, especially in the desire to conceive and give birth to children, I urge you to pray through the intercession of St. Gianna.Having lived so fully the life of wife and mother and having known so many trials in remaining faithful to her vocation, she will not fail to hear your prayers.

A new bishop and a new editor


On Monday, May 3, I traveled to Kansas City in our state to ordain Msgr. Robert W. Finn, up to now the editor of the St. Louis Review, to the episcopate. Now Bishop Finn is the Coadjutor Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph, one of the four dioceses in Missouri. As Coadjutor Bishop, Bishop Finn will share with Bishop Raymond J. Boland, the Diocesan Bishop, in the pastoral care and governance of the Diocese, in preparation for his assumption of the office of Diocesan Bishop, when Bishop Boland resigns the office. Bishop Boland, anticipating his resignation of the office of Diocesan Bishop, had asked our Holy Father for a coadjutor bishop, so that his successor could be better prepared for his service.

It is a great honor for the Archdiocese of St. Louis to have one of its priests chosen by our Holy Father for episcopal ordination. Bishop Finn celebrates the 25th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood this year. He has been a most faithful and devoted priest who has served the faithful of the Archdiocese well, fulfilling a variety of responsibilities with a priestly mind and heart. Although we will miss him very much in the archdiocese, I am deeply happy for the faithful of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. They have received a new bishop who will shepherd them after the Heart of Christ.

With Bishop Finn’s departure from the Archdiocese of St. Louis to be ordained to the episcopate and to take up his new duties, I have appointed James J. Rygelski, up to now managing editor of the St. Louis Review, to the office of editor. At the same time, I have named Msgr. Joseph D. Pins, new rector of the Parish of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, to the office of episcopal vicar for the archdiocesan newspaper. Mr. Rygelski has already given excellent service to the apostolate of the Catholic press in the archdiocese, during his years of working with Father and then Monsignor Finn. He is a devout Catholic and a highly qualified journalist. I am most grateful for his willingness to take on greater responsibility for the life of the Church in St. Louis.

Msgr. Pins, distinguished priest of the archdiocese, will serve as my representative in the weekly editing of the St. Louis Review. Through Msgr. Pins, I will remain very close to the apostolate of the Catholic press in the archdiocese.

I now reflect a bit on the significance, for us all, of the appointment of a new bishop and of a new editor of the St. Louis Review.

Episcopal Ordination

Through the ordination to the episcopate, Christ, seated at the right hand of God the Father, continues to pour forth the special gift of the Holy Spirit, which He first poured forth upon the Apostles. It is the grace to act in His person as shepherd and head of the flock in each particular Church of the one universal Church. By way of note, "particular Church" usually means a diocese. It also refers to territorial prelatures, territorial abbeys, apostolic vicariates and apostolic prefectures. The "one and only Catholic exists" in each particular Church and from all the particular Churches (can. 368). The Holy Father, successor of St. Peter, is "the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity" of all the particular Churches, and the Bishops, successors to the Apostles, in communion with the Holy Father, "are the visible source and foundation of unity in their own particular Churches, which are constituted after the model of the universal Church" (Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium [21 November 1964], n. 23a). The occasion of the ordination of a bishop is a time for us to reflect on the great gift of the unity and catholicity of the Church, coming to life from and living from the open glorious Heart of Christ.

By ordination to the episcopate, Christ makes a priest a high priest, providing true shepherds for His flock in an unbroken line of succession to the Apostles whom He ordained at the Last Supper. By the grace of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, the whole being of the priest is placed at the disposition of Christ, so that Christ may act in the Bishop for the instruction, sanctification and discipline of the Church in every place and at every time.

Three Orders

Here it should be noted that the Apostles understood that the Sacrament of Holy Orders, which they had received in its fullness, was to be handed on in three grades or orders to different persons. The three grades are the episcopate or Order of Bishops, the priesthood or Order of Priests, and the diaconate or Order of Deacons. Here, the word "order" is used in a different sense from its use to refer to a religious congregation, for example the Order of St. Benedict or Benedictines. Holy Orders is conferred in all three grades by the laying on of hands, the matter of the Sacrament of Holy Orders from the very beginning of the Church, and the ancient prayer of ordination, a specific portion of which constitutes the form of the sacrament, by which the bishop gives praise to God and calls down the special gift of the Holy Spirit upon the person to be ordained bishop, priest or deacon.

The bishop receives the Holy Spirit for the fullness of Holy Orders. Through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, bishops are made "true and authentic teachers of the faith, high priests, and shepherds" (Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church [28 October 1965], Christus Dominus, n. 2b). As a symbol of the fullness of Holy Orders, which the bishop has received, he customarily wears both the dalmatic, the vestment of the deacon, and the chasuble, the vestment of the priest, when carrying out the more solemn liturgical rites, especially when conferring the Sacrament of Holy Orders, which belongs to the bishop alone.

Priests are co-workers of the bishops, sharing with them the priestly dignity, although they do not possess the fullness of the priesthood. They are ordained "to preach the Gospel, to shepherd the faithful, and to celebrate divine worship as true priests of the New Testament" (Lumen Gentium, n. 28a). The priests depend upon the bishop for the exercise of their priestly ministry. The priests, together with their bishop, constitute the presbyterate of a particular Church or Diocese, so that the ministry of Christ, Head and Shepherd of the flock, is present in every part of the Church entrusted to the Bishop’s pastoral care.

The deacons are ordained "not for the priesthood but for the ministry" (Lumen Gentium, n. 29a). They serve the Church by assisting the Bishop and priests at the altar, by proclaiming and preaching the Gospel, and by carrying out works of charity in the name of the Bishop and priests. They always act in communion with the bishop and priests; their particular service is entrusted to them by the Bishop or their parish priest.

Metropolitan and Suffragan Sees

As I have already indicated, it is a great honor for the Archdiocese of St. Louis to have one of its priests called to the office of bishop. It was the source of deepest joy for me to ordain Bishop Finn for the service of the faithful of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. It is the norm for the metropolitan archbishop to ordain the bishops to serve the Church in the other dioceses of the province, which are called suffragan sees.

The universal Church is divided into territories. A bishop is sent by the Holy Father to each territory to act as a true shepherd of the flock. The territories are usually called dioceses for the Latin Church or eparchies for the Eastern Catholic Churches. In turn, the dioceses are united into groups called provinces. One of the dioceses in the group is designated as the Metropolitan See and the bishop of the see has the title of archbishop. The Code of Canon Law describes the nature of an ecclesiastical province:

"To promote the common pastoral action of different neighboring dioceses according to the circumstances of persons and places, and to foster more suitably the relations of the diocesan bishops among themselves, neighboring particular churches are to be brought together into ecclesiastical provinces limited to a certain territory" (can. 431, 1)."

St. Louis is the metropolitan see for the Province of St. Louis, which encompasses the dioceses in the state of Missouri. There are three suffragan sees: the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, the Diocese of Jefferson City and the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau. The bishops of the province meet two or three times each year, in order to discuss the means of promoting common pastoral action and to foster their fraternity. The term suffragan expresses the relationship of Bishops to the archbishop. It does not share a common root with the word "suffering." Rather, it refers to the full vote or suffrage which a diocesan bishop has in a provincial synod or council.

The pallium is the distinctive vestment of the metropolitan archbishop. It is given to him by the Holy Father as a sign of the unity of each metropolitan archbishop with the Bishop of Rome, who is the Bishop of the Universal Church. I will lead a pilgrimage from the archdiocese to the See of Rome in late June, where, God willing, I will receive the pallium from Pope John Paul II on June 29, the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul.

Catholic Press

The Archdiocesan Catholic press is my means of communicating weekly with all of the households of the archdiocese. Through the means of a weekly newspaper, I am able to carry out my responsibility of teaching the faith, especially as it applies to current questions, and to communicate regarding Church teaching and discipline, in general. The archdiocesan newspaper also provides the means of informing all of the faithful of the archdiocese about the news of the parishes and institutions which make up our particular Church. The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council reminded us all about the importance of the Catholic press, when the Bishops at the Council wrote:

"The faithful should be reminded of the need to read and circulate the Catholic press if they are to judge all events from a Christian standpoint (Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on the Means of Social Communication, Inter Mirifica [4 December 1963], n. 14a)."

Given the confusion of our culture about the most basic questions and the strong influence of the culture upon us through the media, it is most important for a bishop today to have a regular means of communicating the news of the Church to the whole flock under his care.

Some may question whether the weekly newspaper is the best means for such regular communication. I am a strong believer that it is. A weekly newspaper becomes a familiar part of the home. Family members and company regularly pick up the newspaper and read some part of it. For my part, I read parts of the archdiocesan newspaper and other Catholic weeklies which I receive each day. In my years as a bishop, I have frequently been told by individuals that they happened to read an article in the Catholic newspaper which gave them a new understanding of something about which they were confused or had serious questions. For some, reading an article in the archdiocesan newspaper will be the occasion to begin a return to the practice of the Catholic faith or to seek help from the parish priest in addressing a serious personal matter.

There is a familiarity about the weekly Archdiocesan newspaper, by which everyone understands that it is his or her newspaper. It is a strong symbol of our common life in the Church, seeking to live more intensely in Christ in every aspect of our lives. For that reason, it is my firm desire that every Catholic home in the Archdiocese receive the St. Louis Review, unless, for whatever reason, a household insists that it not receive it.

The fact that the newspaper is weekly is important. There is so much richness to our Catholic faith and life, and there is so much happening daily in the archdiocese, that the Church needs a weekly means of fostering communication among her members. Apart from the Sunday homily, which is a most important form of teaching the faith and its practice — especially in the context of the highest expression of our life in Christ, participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice — the archdiocesan weekly newspaper provides an irreplaceable means of a bishop, and his priests, communicating with the faithful. It will come as no surprise, therefore, that the Holy Father has a daily newspaper which is published in Italian and a weekly newspaper published in several languages.

New Editor and Episcopal Vicar

Having worked closely with our new editor, James J. Rygelski, from the time of the announcement of my appointment as archbishop of St. Louis, I have come to trust his knowledge, judgment and skills. I am confident that he will give excellent leadership to the St. Louis Review.

Because the weekly newspaper is such an important means of teaching the faith and its practice, it requires the collaboration of clergy and the laity. Clearly, Mr. Rygelski will be working with me to assist me in carrying out my fundamental responsibility of chief teacher of the faith in the archdiocese. Because of the scope of my responsibilities, I wanted him to have the assistance of a priest who represents me directly and has from me the authority to give direction to the apostolate of the Catholic press. For that reason, I have named Msgr. Pins the Episcopal Vicar for the St. Louis Review. Msgr. Pins will be meeting with Mr. Rygelski weekly, and I will meet with both Msgr. Pins and Mr. Rygelski on a regular basis.

It should be noted that Msgr. Pins will be devoted principally to the responsibilities of the office of rector of the Cathedral Basilica Parish. His duties at the St. Louis Review will not diminish in any way his ability to carry out those responsibilities.


I hope that the above reflections are helpful in understanding the importance of two recent historic events in the archdiocese and in the Province of St. Louis. In closing, I ask your prayers for Bishop Finn, who has taken on a weighty office for the sake of Christ the Good Shepherd and His flock. Pray, too, for Mr. Rygelski, our new editor, and for Msgr. Pins, that they may assist me well in carrying out the apostolate of the Catholic press, so that, through it, the faithful of the archdiocese may grow in knowledge of faith and may increase in the fervor of their practice of the faith. As always, I ask your prayers for me, that I may be a worthy shepherd of the flock in our beloved Archdiocese of St. Louis.

'Am I not here, I who am your mother?'


From Dec. 9 to 12, 1531, the Mother of God appeared five times in what is present-day Mexico City.Three of the apparitions were to St. Juan Diego, a native American of the Chichimeca tribe of the Aztecs; one was to his elderly and infirm uncle Juan Bernardino, with whom he lived; and the final apparition was to St. Juan Diego, the Bishop and his attendants.In her final apparition, our Blessed Mother left her image permanently on the tilma or mantle of St. Juan Diego, which remains miraculously preserved today, even though the cactus cloth of which the tilma is made should have disintegrated long ago.

Within a matter of a few days, the Bishop of Mexico, Bishop Juan de Zumarraga, had a chapel built to the honor of the Mother of God and enthroned the miraculous tilma there.St. Juan Diego, for his part, took up his home at the chapel and recounted the story of Our Lady’s apparitions to all of the pilgrims who came there to pray.His good friend, Antonio Valeriano, a well-educated and esteemed fellow Native American, wrote down the account which he had heard many times directly from the mouth of St. Juan Diego.The text is titled Nican Mopohua, written in Nahuatl, the native tongue of St. Juan Diego.We are blessed to have an English version of the most reliable account of the apparitions by St. Juan Diego, as recorded by Antonio Valeriano.It is available in two books: A Handbook on Guadalupe (pp. 193-204), edited by Brother Francis Mary of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate and distributed by Ignatius Press; and Our Lady of Guadalupe: History and Meaning of the Apparitions (pp. 88-100) by Manuela Testoni, published by Alba House.

Mary’s Month

I recall the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe as we begin May, a month of special devotion to the Mother of God.As inhabitants of the American continent, the Mother of God has made known her great care and love for us through her extraordinary apparitions in 1531.Because her image remains on the enthroned tilma of St. Juan Diego, the Mother of God continues, in a certain sense,to appear to all who go to her on pilgrimage.Her words spoken to St. Juan Diego are words intended for all of her children of America and, thanks to Antonio Valeriano, continue to reach us today.In urging all of the faithful of the archdiocese to renew their devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary during the month of May, I recall the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which invite a response of loving devotion.

From her very first apparition, on Dec. 9, 1531, our Blessed Mother identified herself as the Mother of God and made clear that her apparitions and the message conveyed through them are for all the children of America and of the world.In other words, they are timeless and are directed as much to us today as they were directed to God’s children of America in the 16th century. Her message is of God’s all-merciful love toward us.Through her apparitions, many human lives were saved and millions of Native Americans sought baptism.

In her last conversation with St. Juan Diego, on Dec. 12, our Blessed Mother assured him of her maternal care for him.St. Juan Diego was deeply worried about his uncle, Juan Bernardino, who was dying at home. He was hurrying to ask the priest to come to his uncle and to pray for him and anoint him. For that reason, he had failed to carry out the request of the Mother of God, although he planned to do what she asked of him afterward.Our Lady of Guadalupe met him on his way to find the priest.Recognizing his worry, she said to him:

"Am I not here, I who am your mother?Are you not in my shadow, under my protection? Am I not the fountain of your joy?Are you not in the fold of my mantle, in my crossed arms?Is there anything else you need?" (Nican Mopohua, n. 119)

Her words reassured St. Juan Diego and renewed his trust in God’s mercy.

With that, she invited him to go to the top of the stony Tepeyac Hill to pick flowers in the middle of winter, which were to be the sign of the truth of her apparitions and of her desire that a chapel be built to her honor, so that she might show God’s merciful love to those who would come to the chapel on pilgrimage.She desired that her children of America and of the world would hear always the loving words assuring us of her maternal care.

After St. Juan Diego had picked the flowers, he brought them to our Blessed Mother who arranged them in his tilma and then spoke the most wonderful words to him:
"Juan, you are my messenger, in you is placed absolutely all my confidence" (Nican Mopohua, n. 139).

Can you imagine how wonderful it would be to have the Mother of God speak these words to you personally?Through her messenger, St. Juan Diego, Our Lady of Guadalupe invites us to come to her, to open our hearts to her, and, with her, to bring the message of God’s merciful love to the portion of the world in which He has called us to live.She also places her confidence in us.

The Rosary

I urge you to take time during the month of May to go to Mary, Mother of God and our Mother. Go to her to express your love for her and to ask for her help.There are many ways to show devoted love of Mary during the month of May, devoted love which will continue throughout the year in many forms.

Praying the rosary is the most powerful Marian devotion.At the beginning of the 25th year of his service as our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II wrote a wonderful letter to all the faithful of the world on the importance of praying the rosary.It is his apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, "On the Most Holy Rosary," which he signed on Oct. 16, 2002, the beginning of the 25th year of his service as Holy Father. The apostolic letter would be a wonderful text for spiritual reading during the month of May.

In the apostolic letter, Pope John Paul II tells us that the rosary is his favorite prayer (n. 2a). He uses the words which he spoke on Oct. 29, 1978, shortly after his election as Pope, to describe for us why the rosary is his favorite prayer and why it is so important to our prayer life:

"Against the background of the words Ave Maria, the principal events of the life of Jesus Christ pass before the eyes of the soul.They take shape in the complete series of the joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries, and they put us in living communion with Jesus through — we might say — the heart of his Mother.At the same time our heart can embrace in the decades of the rosary all the events that make up the lives of individuals, families, nations, the Church, and all mankind — our personal concerns and those of our neighbor, especially those who are closest to us, who are dearest to us.Thus the simple prayer of the rosary marks the rhythm of human life" (n. 2a).

When we pray the rosary, our Blessed Mother helps us to draw near to her Son. Through the praying of the rosary, we make our hearts one with her Immaculate Heart, placing our hearts completely in the Sacred Heart of Jesus. As our Holy Father states so strikingly, we not only come to know our Lord more fully and lovingly, but we also come to know more fully and lovingly all of those for whom we pray.

In the apostolic letter, our Holy Father, reflecting upon the situation of our day, asked that we pray the rosary especially for peace and for the family (n. 6).Uniting ourselves to Christ, in the mystery of the redemptive Incarnation, we find the only source of our peace and of the peace of the world. Over the centuries since the rosary was first given to the Church, the successors of St. Peter have frequently urged the praying of the rosary to obtain God’s help and mercy.In our time, marked so tragically by violence at home, in our communities and between nations, let us pray the rosary to know peace in our own lives, to beg peace for the world, and to obtain the grace to be peacemakers.

I am certain that there is not one of us who has not experienced the deep wounds which have been inflicted upon the family in our time. To address the great harm which has come to the family, let us pray the rosary for families and encourage families to make the praying of the rosary a stable part of their home life. Countless graces have come to families, strengthening them to meet challenges and protecting them from harm, through the praying of the rosary.

May Altar

Another popular devotion to Mary during the month of May is making a May Altar in our home.I recall with so much gratitude the practice in my home of dedicating a special place of honor to our Blessed Mother during the month of May.As children, my siblings and I found great joy in gathering wild flowers to adorn the little table set aside to honor our Blessed Mother.We looked forward to spending time before her image there, expressing our deep love of her and asking her intercession for various needs.

It would be good to have the May Altar become a permanent part of our home.A good friend of mine, Eduard Dietmaier, a woodcarver who grew up in Oberammergau in Bavaria and now lives outside of La Crescent, Minn., often told me about the tradition of the Gotteswinkel in the homes of devout Bavarian Catholics.His wife, children and he always maintained the Gotteswinkel in their home.The Gotteswinkel, or God’s Corner in the home, is a place of devotion.It can be a table or shelf on which we place sacred objects which evoke our prayer and devotion.It reminds us that our homes are consecrated to Christ, that Christ desires to be the permanent guest in our home and should be part of everything that happens in the home.Family members stop by the Gotteswinkel during the day to offer special prayers and even to leave a written petition or place there the photograph of a family member or friend in need of prayers. The whole family gathers there to pray, especially the rosary.

It would be most fitting to create the Gotteswinkel around the enthroned image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, by which we consecrate our homes to Christ and proclaim Him the King of our hearts and homes.During the month of May, it can also serve as our May Altar, our place of special devotion to the Mother of God.Throughout the year, the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, especially of the Immaculate Heart of Mary or Our Lady of Guadalupe, should have a prominent place in the little altar which we set up in our home to remind us that our home is a little church, the first place in which Christ comes to dwell with us.


Another way to show our devotion to the Mother of God is to go on pilgrimage to a sacred place dedicated to her honor.On pilgrimage, we leave the ordinary circumstances of our lives, to discover their truly extraordinary character, because Christ dwells with us always. I suggest a visit to the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in Perryville.Special graces come to us when we make the effort to visit Our Lady in one of her shrines.

In this regard, I ask your prayers for the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Diocese of LaCrosse, the diocese which I served before coming to St. Louis.The building of the Shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe has been very close to my heart, for I see it as a singular way in which to express our devoted love of Mary, increase our devotion, and seek the help of her prayers which we and our nation and world so much need.Until the new bishop of La Crosse is appointed by our Holy Father, I remain the president of the board of directors of the shrine, a duty which I carry out with great joy.

On this coming May 12, I will travel to La Crosse for the groundbreaking for the shrine church, the heart of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, on the following day. It marks a key moment in the history of this important spiritual work, for it is in the shrine church that the pilgrims will reach their goal and find so many graces for their daily living.In the shrine church, Our Lady of Guadalupe will speak to the hearts of her children, assuring them of God’s merciful love and inviting them, with St. Juan Diego, to be the messengers of God’s merciful love in the world. In a world which has become so forgetful of God and His plan for us, the message of the Virgin of Guadalupe is ever more timely.Going on pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, we will hear her words, spoken first to St. Juan Diego and now to us: "Am I not here, I who am your mother?"In other words, we will come to understand how the Mother of God is also our mother who assists us to live daily in Christ, to bring Christ, God’s merciful love incarnate, to our world.

If you wish more information about the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Diocese of LaCrosse, the address of the Web site of the shrine is: The regular address of the shrine is P.O. Box 1237, La Crosse, Wis., 54601; the telephone number is (608) 782-5440.Also, I will be happy to provide more information about the shrine to anyone who is interested. I hope to lead a pilgrimage from the Archdiocese of St. Louis to the shrine in the fall.

Please pray for the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.Your financial support also will be most welcome, for significant funds must yet be raised to complete this important spiritual work of our time.


May the month of May be a time of special Marian devotion for you and in your home. May Mary draw you close to herself and, in turn, lead you to her Son.Through her intercession, may many graces come to you and those for whom you pray.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America and Star of the New Evangelization, pray for us.

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