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.

Days of Divine Mercy

Introduction

With the celebration of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, we conclude the 40 days of our Lenten observance and enter into the sacred Triduum — Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday — for which our whole Lenten observance has been preparing us.On Good Friday, a day of fast and abstinence, we begin the paschal fast which extends until after the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday.It is our way of watching at the tomb of Christ, remembering His burial and His descent into hell (not hell, the place of eternal punishment,but the dwelling place of the souls of the just who were awaiting Christ’s coming and His saving death and Resurrection). With the first Mass of Easter, the fourth and last part of the Easter Vigil, we begin the Easter season, 50 days during which we celebrate Christ’s resurrection from the dead, by which He won for us the victory over sin and sin’s most evil fruit, everlasting death.

In a certain sense, our Lenten observance never ends.Lent is an annual training by which we strengthen ourselves in daily ways of thinking, speaking and acting, which are true to the mind and heart of Christ.The virtues which we have developed through Lenten prayer, fasting and almsgiving are to remain habits of life. In other words, the Risen Christ, to whom we have been drawing ever closer through Lenten penance, is the source of our lasting joy as we celebrate His resurrection.By our Lenten observance, we have welcomed Christ more fully into our lives, we have permitted the grace of Christ to penetrate ever more deeply every aspect of our lives.And now we celebrate His resurrection, which has made it possible for Christ to dwell with us always through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Easter, Ascension and Pentecost

The celebration of the Lord’s resurrection comprises three events: His resurrection from the dead on Easter Sunday; His ascension to the right hand of the Father 40 days after Easter; and the sending of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, on the 10th day after the Ascension or the 50th day after Easter.The three events are distinct, but they are all integral to the one work of our redemption because they mark the actions by which Christ brought the Church, His mystical Body, to life.They are the events by which Christ has continued and continues to give His life for us, the Church.

At the resurrection of Christ, God the Father poured forth a first gift of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of His only-begotten Son. We see the work of the Holy Spirit in the disciples who encounter the Risen Lord in that privileged 40 days of His appearances to them in His glorious body after the Resurrection.But the first outpouring of the Holy Spirit looked for completion, a second gift of the Holy Spirit, enabling the disciples to bring Christ to the whole world. Once Christ had ascended to the right hand of the Father and the disciples had completed a novena (nine days) of prayer for the new gift of the Holy Spirit, God the Father poured out the second gift of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples.The Pentecost gift of the Holy Spirit transformed the disciples.With the Easter gift of the Holy Spirit, they had come to faith in the Risen Christ and to life in the Church, but they were timid and fearful about proclaiming faith in Christ to others and bringing the life of the Church to others.

Once they had received the second gift of the Holy Spirit, they were bold and courageous in announcing the faith to all.By the grace of the Pentecost outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the first disciples went out into the whole world to preach the truth of Christ and to bring the love of Christ to all the world, especially through the sacraments.It is clear how the Resurrection, the Ascension and the Descent of the Holy Spirit are inextricably related to one another, as three moments in Christ’s one work of redemption.

Baptism, Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist

Reflection on the three events of the Resurrection helps us to understand our own life in Christ.Christ, seated at the right hand of the Father, has, with God the Father, poured out the Holy Spirit upon us for the first time at our baptism.Baptism is our personal Easter.The first outpouring of the Holy Spirit, through the cleansing and life-giving waters of Baptism, washed away the stain of original sin from our souls and brought our souls to life in Christ, in the Church, His Mystical Body.Through baptism, God the Father has chosen us as His true sons and daughters in Christ, His only Son.

The first outpouring of the Holy Spirit into our lives at baptism is completed by a second outpouring at confirmation, strengthening and increasing God’s life within us, so that we may not only have faith in Christ but also proclaim faith in Christ to the whole world.Confirmation is our personal Pentecost.From the moment of our confirmation, we are to witness to Christ before others.We draw upon the grace of the Holy Spirit each day to be faithful to Christ, to the promptings of the Holy Spirit within us, so that in everything we think and say and do we will be true to our identity as sons and daughters of God.

The life of the Holy Spirit within us, through Baptism and Confirmation, is healed and nourished through the holy Eucharist, Christ’s true Body and Blood given to us as heavenly medicine and food.

With our First Holy Communion, we enjoy the greatest gift which God gives to us in the Church, the gift of His Son’s very life, first given up for us on the cross at Calvary.So essential is the holy Eucharist to our life in Christ that Christ instituted this sacrament on the night before He died, so that the gift of eternal life which He was to win for us by dying on the cross and rising from the dead would be ours always in the Church.Those who have come alive in Christ through baptism and are Christ’s witnesses in the world through confirmation desire to be in Christ’s company and to have full communion with Christ. Christ comes to us in holy Communion to be received into our inmost being. Christ accompanies and leads us on our life-pilgrimage, especially through participation in the holy Eucharist.That is why participation in Sunday Mass is a solemn obligation for us, under pain of mortal sin. That is also why many in the Church participate in Mass daily or several times a week in addition to Sunday Mass. By an act of spiritual communion, we express our desire for Christ, even when we are unable to receive Him in holy
Communion.

During the Easter season, let us return often in prayer to our baptism, confirmation and First Holy Communion, remembering their source in Christ risen from the dead, ascended to the right hand of the Father, and sending forth the Holy Spirit. Let us recognize how Christ lives within us through the sacraments. Let us thank God and ask God for the grace to live ever more fully in Christ, faithful to the grace given to us in the sacraments.

Vocation and Vocations

Called to life in Christ, we are sent to bring Christ to the world.By baptism and confirmation, we all share the same vocation and mission.Christ’s life within us, first given through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at baptism and then increased and strengthened through the second outpouring of the Holy Spirit at confirmation, develops even as we develop physically. When we come to adulthood, physically and spiritually, God asks us to give definitive and stable form to our Christian vocation in what we also call our vocation, in a second sense.Christ alive within us leads us to respond to God’s call to make the gift of our whole life, in love of Him and of neighbor, in the married life, the dedicated single life, the consecrated life or the priesthood.These are the different vocations of those who share the one Christian vocation.

As we grow spiritually, we begin already to hear God’s call, which He makes clear to us through prayer and through various everyday signs, for instance our attraction to the vocation and our natural gifts for meeting the demands of the vocation, and the counsel of our parents and parish priest regarding God’s plan for us. The grace of baptism and confirmation, by which we have received our Christian vocation, most of all, enlightens and strengthens us to know God’s special plan, our vocation, and to respond to God’s call with all our heart.

We are baptized and confirmed for our salvation, and our salvation is found ultimately in living out our vocation in life. There is nothing in the world which can substitute for the giving of our whole life, in response to God’s call, either in the married life, the dedicated single life, the consecrated life or the priesthood.Christ’s life within us is destined for the full and selfless gift of love which is the fruit of accepting our vocation in life. We will never be truly happy in life until we have come to know and embrace fully our vocation.

The Easter Season, therefore, is a most fitting time to speak with our children and young people about our Christian vocation and their vocation, God’s special plan for them.It is especially important to remind them to be ready to hear God’s call to the consecrated life or priesthood.In our highly secularized society which places so much emphasis on personal comfort, convenience and satisfaction, it is difficult for young men and women to hear God’s call to give their lives completely to God and the service of us all in the Church.Yet, we know that God is calling a sufficient number of young men and women to the consecrated life and the priesthood for the sake of His holy people.

The Easter season would be a wonderful time to visit Kenrick-Glennon Seminary or a convent. Also, encourage young men and women to take part in the various programs of the archdiocese and of religious communities which assist them in knowing God’s plan for them.Through these programs, young men and women are helped to consider God’s call in their lives and to speak about their vocation with young priests and seminarians, and young religious sisters and young aspirants to the religious life.

Conclusion

God is indeed infinitely rich in His mercy toward us.The events of our salvation which we recall and celebrate during the sacred Triduum and the Easter season manifest God’s immeasurable love for us, pardoning our sins and pouring forth the gift of His life for us.His call to us, our vocation, is a singular manifestation of His all-merciful love in each of our lives.

Our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, has designated the Sunday after Easter Sunday (the conclusion of the Easter Octave) Divine Mercy Sunday.We begin a novena in preparation for Divine Mercy Sunday on Good Friday, the day on which God showed the depth of His love for us by dying for us upon the cross.Divine Mercy Sunday is inspired by the life and devotion of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, a member of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Poland.The record of the messages which she received from our Lord is her diary, published by the Marians of the Immaculate Conception at Stockbridge, Mass., the site of the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy.The diary recounts revelations from our Lord to St. Faustina, all directed to increasing faith in the Divine Mercy and fostering worship of God in the mystery of His Divine Mercy.From the very beginning of the revelations, Christ asks that the words "Jesus, I trust in You" be inscribed on His image as the revelation of Divine Mercy.He also asked for the praying of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy at 3 p.m., the hour of His death on Calvary, each day.

May our celebration of the sacred Triduum and the Easter season lead us to know more deeply the mystery of the Divine Mercy in our lives and to pray with ever greater fervor: "Jesus, I trust in You."

Abp. Burke’s Schedule

The following are among Archbishop Burke’s commitments for the next week:

Friday, April 9

Passion Liturgy

Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis 3 p.m.

Saturday, April 10

Easter Vigil

Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis 9 p.m.

Sunday, April 11

Easter Morning Mass

Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis 10 a.m.

Tuesday, April 13

Annual Mass for Catholic Charities

followed by lunch

St. Alphonsus Ligouri (Rock) Parish 11 a.m.

Talk to pro-life groups

St. Louis University 7 p.m.

Wednesday, April 14

Board of Trustees Meeting

Kenrick-Glennon Seminary 3 p.m.

Thursday, April 15

13th Annual Police Memorial Prayer Breakfast

Renaissance St. Louis Airport Hotel 8 a.m.

Confirmation

St. John the Baptist Parish, Gildehaus 7:30 p.m.

Make room in your hearts for Jesus Christ, Archbishop tells faithful

This is the homily of Archbishop Raymond L. Burke at the Mass of Installation on Jan. 26, the Memorial of Sts. Timothy and Titus, at the St. Louis Cathedral Basilica.

Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever. Amen.

I. Saint Paul’s words to Saint Timothy, his disciple, co-worker and indeed his most beloved spiritual son, point to the truth we celebrate today: the grace of the Holy Spirit at work within the Apostles and their successors for the teaching, sanctification and pastoral rule of God’s holy people.Timothy had accompanied and assisted Paul on his apostolic journeys; had undertaken, at Paul’s direction, apostolic missions of his own; and had been consecrated as the First Bishop of Ephesus.Saint Paul, in his letters to him, recalls to Timothy’s mind the power of God’s grace within him by his consecration, so that he might be courageous and faithful in carrying out the apostolic ministry. How wise and how encouraging Paul’s words were for Timothy:

Guard this rich trust with the help of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.

So you, my child, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus (Reading II).

Saint Paul wrote similar words to Saint Titus, who was also a disciple and co-worker, and whom the Apostle of the Nations consecrated as the First Bishop of Crete. In fact, in Saint Paul’s Letter to Titus we find a kind of rule of life for a bishop.

In honoring today the memory of Saints Timothy and Titus, we celebrate the grace of the apostolic office, handed down faithfully, from that first generation in the life of the Church, to our time and place. That grace was given to me through the hands of our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, on Jan. 6, 1995, first for the service of the Church in La Crosse and now for the service of the Church in St. Louis. Having completed my apostolic mission in my beloved home diocese and taking up today the same apostolic mission in my second home diocese, I, with you, thank God for the outpouring of His grace in my life for your sake.Today, deeply conscious of my unworthiness, I hear the words of Saint Paul to Timothy, as if spoken to me by our Holy Father: "Guard this rich trust with the help of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.So you, my child, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus" (Reading II).

The memory of Saints Timothy and Titus leads us also to celebrate the beloved co-workers of the bishops, the priests who share in the priestly office for the shepherding of God’s flock. The teaching of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council reminds us: "Bishops, therefore, because of the gift of the Holy Spirit that has been given to priests at their ordination, will regard them as their indispensable helpers and advisers in the ministry and in the task of teaching, sanctifying and shepherding the people of God" (Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, Presbyterorum Ordinis [Dec. 7, 1965], n. 7a).

Let us thank God today for our priests of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, my co-workers in carrying out the ministry of Christ the Great Shepherd.

Let us also pray for those whom God is calling to the ordained priesthood, especially the seminarians of the archdiocese.Let us pray, too, for Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, that it may be always a worthy school of priestly virtue and pastoral charity.

II. Our celebration of the apostolic office and ministry is truly a celebration of Christ, the Good Shepherd, in whose person the Apostles and their successors have acted on behalf of God’s holy people in every age. God the Father had promised through the Prophet Isaiah that the fullness of the Holy Spirit would be upon His anointed, upon the Christ, for our salvation.By His Redemptive Incarnation, God the Son, in whom the fullness of the Holy Spirit dwells, has freed us from our slavery to sin and won for us a share in the same Holy Spirit (Reading I).

Among the many riches of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church is the consecration of bishops as true shepherds of God’s flock. By the grace of Holy Orders, bishops act in the person of Christ, the Good Shepherd, sharing in His own life and ministry.So it is that Christ, in His final discourse to His disciples, a small portion of which we have heard proclaimed in today’s Gospel, can say:

It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. (Gospel)

At the Lord’s Supper, Christ, who had called the Apostles, consecrated them to carry out His mission of Head and Shepherd in every community of faith, above all by renewing in every time and place the Lord’s Supper, the Holy Eucharist.In the Holy Eucharist, most of all, we witness the outpouring of the Holy Spirit for the ministry of those called and consecrated as bishops and priests.

III. We also celebrate today the fifth anniversary of the arrival of our Holy Father Pope John Paul II on pastoral visit to this historic diocese of our nation.On Jan. 26 and 27 of 1999, the faithful of the Archdiocese of St. Louis and all who joined them in receiving our Holy Father’s visit, among whom I was blessed to be counted, witnessed directly the Holy Spirit at work in the apostolic ministry of the Successor of Saint Peter, "the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful" (cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium [Nov. 21, 1964], n. 23a).Recalling the Holy Father’s visit on this memorial of Saints Timothy and Titus, on the day of my installation as Archbishop of St. Louis, I express my deepest gratitude to Pope John Paul II for confiding to me this new apostolic mission, and I pledge again my steadfast loyalty in fostering, in communion with him, the unity of the Church.Let us thank God, in a special way today, for Pope John Paul II, and pray that God continue to grant him wisdom and strength for the pastoral care of the universal Church.

Our Holy Father, true to his apostolic office, came to St. Louis at the sunset of the Second Christian Millennium and the dawn of the Third Christian Millennium to teach us how to live more fully in Christ, how to cooperate more fully with the gift of the Holy Spirit poured forth into our hearts.He came to guide and help us in carrying out the New Evangelization, the teaching of the faith with the new energy and enthusiasm required in an age forgetful of God and even hostile to His plan for our salvation.His words during the pastoral visit remain so timely, a kind of examination of conscience for us today as we, together, begin a new chapter in the life of the Church in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

IV. In proposing to us the challenge of the New Evangelization, our Holy Father drew us to the Heart of Jesus, in his words, "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).He drew us to the glorious open Heart of Jesus in the celebration of the holy Mass and in eucharistic adoration.The holy Mass is the fullest and most perfect encounter which we have with Christ in this world. Christ made truly present for us on the altar of sacrifice remains with us in the Sacrament of His true Body and Blood reposed in the tabernacles of our churches and chapels. To help us to understand more deeply and love more fully the eucharistic mystery, on Holy Thursday of last year, our Holy Father gave us his Encyclical Letter "On the Eucharist in Its Relationship to the Church" in which he tells us:

The Eucharist is a priceless treasure: By not only celebrating it but also by praying before it outside of Mass we are enabled to make contact with the very wellspring of grace (n. 25c).

Coming to you as your new archbishop, I urge you to draw close to the Heart of Jesus opened wide for you in the holy Eucharist, by your faithful participation in the Sunday Mass and in weekday Mass, when possible, and by your eucharistic devotion, especially visits to the Blessed Sacrament and eucharistic adoration.

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 and every aspect of our lives.Christ must reign in us for the salvation of the world.Sharers in Christ’s own Spirit, we must more and more turn over our lives completely to Him.

In the daily conversion of life, by which our hearts are more perfectly conformed to the Heart of Jesus, we are inspired and aided by our brothers and sisters who have answered the call to the consecrated life.By their closer following of Christ in the Gospel virtues of poverty, chastity and obedience, they assist us all to attain a greater holiness of life.

Let us thank God today for the many consecrated persons in the archdiocese and pray that the young men and women from the archdiocese, whom God is calling to the consecrated life, will respond with an undivided heart.

In urging the enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, I also commend the many associations of the faithful who so strongly contribute to the building up of the life of the Church: the Legion of Mary, the Saint Vincent de Paul Society, the Knights of Columbus, the Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women, the International Serra Club, to name a few. The associations of Christian faithful help their members to extend the reign of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and thus to grow in holiness of life.

V. Drawing us to the Heart of Jesus for the New Evangelization, our Holy Father reminded us that special attention must be given to "the family and the renewal of Christian marriage" (Pope John Paul II, Homily, Jan. 27, 1999, n. 5). It is in the family, in the home formed by the faithful, enduring and procreative love of man and woman in marriage, that the Church first comes to life, that we first come to know, love and serve Christ. Children are indeed "the crowning glory" of marriage (Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes [Dec. 7, 1965], n. 48a), for in the procreation and education of children, husband and wife find the greatest fruit of their married love and build up all of society in unity and peace.

What the Church has always known seems to be a new discovery for the thoroughly secularized society of our time, namely that the state of the family determines very much the state of society.In urging our special attention to the family, our Holy Father declared: "As the family goes, so goes the nation!" (Homily, Jan. 27, 1999, n. 5a). According to the wisdom of God’s plan, the exclusive and lifelong love of a man and a woman, who are united in marriage, is the chosen place in which He gives new human life and provides the solid foundation of the life of all society.

The care of a shepherd for the flock must begin with the family, with attention to the preparation of children and young people for marriage, if it be their vocation, and in the encouragement and support of the married, to strive in their daily living toward the high standard of Christlike love for each other and for their children.It is within the family, first of all, that children and young people come to know God’s special plan for them, their vocation in life, in the language of the Church, their way to salvation.Whether young people are called to the married life or dedicated single life or consecrated life or priesthood, they will first come to know the oblation of love, which their vocation demands, through the love of their parents in the family.

Next to the gift of life itself, there is no more important gift that parents can give to their children than assisting them in knowing their vocation in life, their way of giving glory to God and serving their neighbor.No matter what goods we may provide for our children, also in abundance, they will never know happiness in life until they have discovered God’s plan for them and embraced His plan with all their heart.Repeatedly, we are told that parents and parish priests provide the most critical inspiration and assistance to a young person seeking to know God’s will.Today, we thank God for the families of the archdiocese, and we pray that God will grant them the unity and peace of the Holy Family of Nazareth. May our homes in the Archdiocese of St. Louis be the first and most important place for carrying out the apostolate of vocations.

In speaking about the family, I cannot fail to mention the Catholic schools and parish religious education programs, which provide a fundamental and irreplaceable service to parents in the Catholic education of their children.Through catechesis, children and young people receive a most important help in knowing their vocation in life and preparing to do whatever God asks of them. Saint Paul instructs Timothy to entrust the teaching of the faith "to faithful people who will have the ability to teach others well" (Second Reading).We owe a profound debt of gratitude to our catechists, whether in the Catholic schools or in the programs of religious education, whose apostolate lies at the foundation of the life of the Church.

VI. Finally, in drawing us to the Heart of Jesus, our Holy Father taught us the first and most fundamental principle of the moral life: the inviolability of all human life from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death. Contemplating the Heart of Jesus, opened by the soldier’s spear as Christ died on the cross for us, we cannot doubt the immense love of God for each and every one of us.

Sharers in the gift of the Holy Spirit, we are called to be heralds and instruments of the Gospel of Life.Perhaps no service of the Church to the world is more sorely needed today than the fostering of the reverence for all human life.Sadly, society is characterized by violence in a myriad of forms, but most wrongfully in the attack upon the life of those who have the first title to our care: the innocent and defenseless unborn, and those whose lives have grown burdened under advanced years, special needs or serious illness.Too many lives have already been taken through violence.Let us spare no effort in the apostolate of the respect for all human life.

In the Heart of Jesus we will find the inspiration and strength to be "followers of Christ who are unconditionally pro-life: who will proclaim, celebrate and serve the Gospel of life in every situation" (Homily, Jan. 27, 1999, n. 5b).In Christ, we will also find the way to protect ourselves from crime without violently taking the life of the criminal.May Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne, who desired so strongly to bring the Gospel to her native American brothers and sisters, intercede for us, that we will always find the way to respect and promote the dignity of life of every brother and sister, without boundary of origin or race.

The archdiocese is blessed with so many charitable, educational and missionary institutions.Through their fidelity to their Catholic identity, may they serve all in justice and love.May these institutions, so important to the mission of the Church in the archdiocese, seek the intercession and follow the example of our patrons, Saint Louis IX of France, who daily fed the hungry at his table and served the needy in his own person, and Saint Vincent de Paul who "studied to procure the relief of others under all necessities, whether spiritual or corporal" (Butler’s Lives of the Saints, 1956 edition, Vol. 3, p. 143).

VII. Our celebration of the apostolic office and ministry will now reach its fullness in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, in which Christ, the Good Shepherd, renews the outpouring of His life for us on Calvary.Through this holy Eucharist, may Christ draw us, shepherd and flock, into one, through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God the Father and for the salvation of our world.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America and Star of the New Evangelization, we implore your help and protection, that we may do all that Christ asks of us, and that I may never fail in the mission which Christ has entrusted to me.

Saint Louis IX of France, pray for us.

Saint Vincent de Paul, pray for us.

Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne, pray for us.

The holiest days

Introduction

A week ago, on March 25, the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, we celebrated the beginning of the work of our Redemption, when God the Son became man in the womb of the Virgin Mary through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit.That God Himself would come to live with us is a great and wonderful mystery.We call it the mystery of the Incarnation.
God the Son took our human nature for one only purpose, namely, to save us from our sins and to win for us the freedom to love Him and to love one another.God the Father sent His only-begotten Son to us on a mission, our salvation.On this coming Sunday, Palm Sunday, we enter into the holiest days of the Church Year, the days in which we celebrate the completion of the mission for which our Lord Jesus was sent into the world: His suffering, dying and rising from the dead for our eternal salvation.So singular is this time for us that we call "Holy Week" the days from Palm Sunday to the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday.Of all the weeks of the Church Year, during which God faithfully pours forth His grace upon us, we refer to one week only as Holy Week, because the source of all grace is found in the events which took place during this week.

Even as we call the truth that God became man for us the mystery of the Incarnation, so we call the truth that God Incarnate suffered and died for our salvation the mystery of the Redemption.The two mysteries are inseparably united.For that reason, our Holy Father is fond of referring to the two great mysteries together as one, the mystery of the Redemptive Incarnation.
Our 40 days of Lenten observance have been preparing us for Holy Week, so that we might enter as fully as possible into the celebration of the mystery of our Redemption.Accompanying Christ, through prayer and worship, during these days of His Passion and death, we recognize the mystery of His Life within us. He reveals to us the deepest truth about our life in Him. In the cleansing and life-giving waters of Baptism, we were buried with Christ, dying to sin, and we came to life with Christ in the Church through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.Our life, as we have come to understand more deeply, through our Lenten penance of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, is a pilgrimage in the company of Christ, which reaches its completion at the portal of death.In Christ, the portal of death leads to resurrection and life without end in the presence of God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — in the company of the angels and all the saints. Through our participation in Holy Week, especially the Sacred Triduum — beginning with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper and concluding with the Easter Vigil — we will draw closer to Christ and grow more gratefully conscious of His life within us through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Passion or Palm Sunday

We begin Holy Week by participating in the Mass on Passion or Palm Sunday.The Mass begins with the blessing and distribution of palms, and the procession which recalls Christ’s final entry into Jerusalem, in obedience to the will of the Father, to suffer a most cruel passion and death for love of us and in the desire to win for us both freedom from sin and life without end.At the Gospel, the account of the Passion and death of our Lord is proclaimed to us in its fullness, so that we may understand the significance of the holy time into which we are entering.

We can never comprehend sufficiently the meaning of Christ’s suffering and death.Christ Who entered Jerusalem with the acclaim of the people would soon hear the same people crying out repeatedly for His crucifixion. The words of the verse for the Communion Rite, taken from the Gospel according to St. Matthew, reveal the depth of the love of Christ for us as He enters into His Passion. They are words which Christ prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, as He awaited His arrest and condemnation to the most ignominious form of execution known at the time, crucifixion.Christ, ever obedient in carrying out the mission which the Father had entrusted to Him from the moment of His Incarnation in the womb of the Virgin Mary, turned to His Father and prayed: "Father, if this cup may not pass, but I must drink it, then your will be done" (Mt 26:42).

Throughout Holy Week, it would be good to return to a meditation on these words and on the text of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, in order to enter as deeply as possible into the events of His redeeming work.Participation in Holy Mass on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week would be a wonderful way of accompanying Christ during these days.If participation in Mass is not possible, it would be good to make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament each day.For all, time each day in prayer, meditating upon the Passion of our Lord, will help us to be with our Lord during these holiest of days.I recommend especially the praying of the rosary each day, meditating upon the mysteries of our salvation and keeping in mind the intentions of the family and of world peace.

Chrism Mass

On Holy Thursday at 10 a.m. in the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, I, together with the priests of the archdiocese, will offer the Chrism Mass, during which the sacred chrism will be consecrated and the holy oils will be blessed for use in the celebration of the Sacraments and other sacred rites during the coming year.It is a most beautiful celebration, the last solemn liturgical rite before the Sacred Triduum begins with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper during the evening of Holy Thursday.All of the faithful of the archdiocese are invited to participate in the Chrism Mass. It is one of the most important and beautiful liturgical celebrations of the Church Year.

Holy Thursday is a most special day for priests, for Christ instituted the ordained priesthood on Holy Thursday at the Last Supper.Also, the priests, united around the bishop at the Chrism Mass, are reminded that they, by their ordination, have been constituted the ministers of the sanctifying and healing sacred chrism, oil of the catechumens and oil of the sick.Before the consecration of the sacred chrism and the blessing of the holy oils, the priests of the archdiocese renew their commitment to priestly service.With these words, all of the faithful are invited to pray for their priests:

Ask the Lord to bless them with the fullness of his love,

To help them be faithful ministers of Christ the High Priest,

So that they will be able to lead you to Him,

The Fountain of your salvation. (The Roman Missal)

The consecration of the chrism and the blessing of the oil of catechumens and the oil of the sick remind us of the living presence of Christ, the Anointed of the Lord, with us in the Church, ceaselessly accomplishing the work of our salvation, especially through the sacraments.The word chrism comes from the same root as Christ, the word for anointing.Throughout the Chrism Mass, we recall how Christ was anointed by God the Father with the fullness of the Holy Spirit, so that He might win for us the gift of the Holy Spirit by suffering, dying and rising from the dead.

Mass of the Lord’s Supper

The Sacred Triduum begins with the celebration of the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper.We recall how Christ instituted the Holy Eucharist on the night before He died, in order that the fruits of His suffering and dying, the outpouring of His life for us, might be available to us always in the Church. The Holy Eucharist is the source and the highest expression of our life in Christ, for it is communion in His true Body and Blood.For that reason, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper is central to the celebration of the mysteries of our Redemption.During the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, sufficient hosts are consecrated, so that the faithful may be able to participate in Holy Communion on Good Friday, the day of our Lord’s Passion and death.At the Gloria, all of the bells of the church are rung with exultant joy and then remain silent until they are even more exultantly rung at the Gloria of the first Mass of Easter during the Easter Vigil.

During the Mass, after the Gospel and homily, the priest carries out what is called, in Latin, the mandatum (command) or the Washing of the Feet.This striking rite recalls what our Lord Himself did during the Last Supper, and His command that His disciples do likewise.The love of Christ which we receive in the Holy Eucharist is expressed in our humble service of our brothers and sisters.

At the conclusion of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the Blessed Sacrament is carried in solemn procession throughout the church and is then reposed in a tabernacle in a fittingly decorated chapel.The faithful are invited to make a holy hour in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament during this holy night of its institution.After the Mass, the altar is stripped.Mass will not be celebrated at the altar again until the Easter Vigil.

Celebration of the Lord’s Passion

Around 3 p.m. on Good Friday, good because it is the day when Christ died for us on the cross, we solemnly celebrate our Lord’s Passion and death.We begin with the Liturgy of the Word, the heart of which is the proclamation of the Passion from the Gospels.After the homily, the Liturgy of the Word concludes with the General Intercessions for the needs of the universal Church and of the world.

The second part of the celebration is the Veneration of the Cross.A large crucifix is carried in procession and shown to all the faithful, so that they may worship the Savior who hung on the wood of the cross for our salvation. After the solemn procession with the crucifix, the priest, other clergy and faithful approach the crucifix for veneration.During the Veneration of the Cross, appropriate sacred music, based on texts of the Holy Scriptures, helps us to meditate on the immeasurable love of God for us in Jesus Christ.

The celebration concludes with Holy Communion.The hosts consecrated at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper are brought to the altar and distributed to the faithful.Any hosts remaining are reposed in a place outside the main body of the church, so that the church remains without the Real Presence as the Church waits at the tomb of Christ for the announcement of His glorious Resurrection at the Easter Vigil.

Good Friday is a day of abstinence and fasting.It is day when we should observe periods of silence, remembering the Passion and death of our Lord.

The Easter Vigil

The Sacred Triduum concludes and the Easter Season begins with the celebration of the Easter Vigil.Fittingly, the liturgical rites for the Easter Vigil are the richest in meaning and beauty.The blessing of the fire and the lighting of the Easter Candle signify Christ the Light, dispelling the darkness of our sin and restoring life in us by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.The Easter Proclamation (Exultet) sung before the Easter Candle is a most striking meditation on the mystery of our salvation.

The Liturgy of the Word is very ample.Nine readings, seven from the Old Testament and two from the New Testament, are provided, in order that we may have the fullest divine instruction regarding the saving events we celebrate.After the last reading from the Old Testament has been proclaimed, the candles on the altar are lighted and the Gloria is sung with the joy-filled ringing of all the church bells once again.Then follows the prayer, Epistle, Gospel and homily.

The third part of the Easter Vigil is the Liturgy of Baptism, during which we witness the lasting fruit of Christ’s Passion, death and Resurrection in the baptism of catechumens, and in the conferral of Confirmation and the reception of First Holy Communion for the newly baptized.In many churches, this is also the time for the conferral of Confirmation and the reception of First Holy Communion for those being received into the full communion of the Catholic Church or for those who were baptized Catholic but not catechized.

The final part of the Easter Vigil is the Liturgy of the Eucharist.Christ renews His paschal sacrifice, so that we may be healed and nourished with His true Body and Blood.

Conclusion

Please make plans now to participate in the sacred liturgies of Holy Week, especially of the Sacred Triduum. May these holiest of days bring us all to a deeper knowledge and love of Christ.In the mystery of Christ’s suffering, dying and rising from the dead may we discover the deepest truth about God, about ourselves and about our world.

Going forward gratefully

Introduction

One of the principal responsibilities of the bishop is to teach the faith.During the Rite of Ordination of a bishop, the Book of the Gospels is placed on the head of the bishop-elect and then held over his head by two deacons during the Prayer of Ordination. Our Holy Father Pope John Paul II explains the meaning of this part of the Rite of Ordination:

"The Second Vatican Council, advancing along the path indicated by the Church’s tradition, explains that the mission of teaching proper to bishops consists in reverently safeguarding and courageously proclaiming the faith.

"Here we see all the rich meaning of the gesture found in the Roman rite of episcopal ordination, when the open Book of the Gospels is placed on the head of the bishop-elect.This gesture indicates, on the one hand, that the word embraces and watches over the bishop’s ministry and, on the other, that the bishop’s life is to be completely submitted to the word of God in his daily commitment of preaching the Gospel in patience and sound doctrine" (cf. 2 Tim 4) (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], n. 28a-b).

A bishop must never grow weary of teaching the faith.At the same time, he must always be alert to give sound teaching, lest he lead the flock in a wrong direction.The grace of Holy Orders equips him to be a tireless and reliable teacher of the faith.

The first and most efficacious means of safeguarding and teaching the faith is the homily during the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy.A bishop is also to use other forms of the communications media to communicate as fully as possible with the flock entrusted to his care, including those who have not yet had the faith taught to them and those who, for whatever reason, are wandering from sound doctrine and practice.

I thank God for our archdiocesan newspaper, the St. Louis Review, which provides me the way to visit your home each week to fulfill my responsibility as Chief Teacher of the Faith in the archdiocese, confirming you in the knowledge and practice of our Catholic faith and leading you to deeper knowledge and more fervent practice.Our weekly encounter through the St. Louis Review will keep us in communication between the times when we are able to communicate with one another at the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy or at other archdiocesan celebrations.

Thank you

In my first visit with you, as your new archbishop, I want, most of all, to say thank you for the faith-filled and warm welcome which you have given to me.Thank you, most of all, for all of the prayers which you have offered for me and my intentions, even before I was appointed.

From Dec. 2 of last year, the day of the announcement of my appointment as Archbishop of St.Louis, you have made me feel at home.The Evening Prayer before the Mass of Installation and, above all, the Mass of Installation were most fittingly and beautifully prepared and celebrated.The Archdiocese of St. Louis can be rightfully proud of the full and solemn expression of faith in Christ and love of Christ through the sacred liturgies on this past Jan. 25-26.I thank all who, in any way, contributed to the preparation and celebration of the beginning of my service as your shepherd.I thank all of you who participated, either by your presence at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis or by television and radio.Your prayers and expressions of best wishes fill me with courage in taking up the weighty responsibilities which are now mine.I thank those who have spoken with me personally and those who have written to me to assure me of their prayers.

All of us owe a great debt of gratitude to Archbishop-elect Joseph F. Naumann, diocesan administrator from the day of Cardinal Justin Rigali’s installation as Archbishop of Philadelphia to my Jan. 26 installation. Archbishop-elect Naumann is an outstanding churchman.His service as diocesan administrator is an eloquent testimony to his pastoral charity.I personally am deeply grateful for all of the brotherly assistance which he has given and continues to give to me.May God reward him abundantly.Let us pray for Archbishop-elect Naumann as he prepares in these days to take up his new responsibilities as Coadjutor Archbishop of Kansas City in Kansas on March 19.

My family, the priests and faithful from the Diocese of La Crosse, and other friends who traveled to St. Louis for my installation have asked me to express their deepest esteem and gratitude to Archbishop-elect Naumann, Bishop Robert J. Hermann, the priests and all the faithful of the archdiocese.They were inspired by the strong Catholic faith which they witnessed here and by the many kindnesses shown to them during their time here, a few days for some and a few hours for others.
Many joined us for the Mass of Installation through the coverage provided by our St. Louis television stations and also Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), and have written to say how inspired they were. In the name of all the faithful of the Archdiocese, I express deepest gratitude to our local media and EWTN for making the Mass of Installation available to the greatest possible number of the faithful.

I would also like to express my gratitude to police, fire and street department personnel of the city of St. Louis for their assistance in making the events related to my installation not only safe but also accessible for the many who attended.

The weather since my arrival in St. Louis has presented a bit of a test for us.The Irish say that rain or snow on a day of celebration is a sign of God’s blessing.Coming from Wisconsin, where such weather is all too familiar, I thought that perhaps this was another way to make
me feel at home.Certainly, God has blessed us all abundantly as we begin together a new chapter in the life of the Church in the Archdiocese of St.Louis.We thank Him that no one suffered any injury because of the inclement weather, and we ask for His continued blessing.

Going forward

The days since my installation have been especially given to prayer and visiting with priests, permanent deacons and consecrated persons of the archdiocese, and to a first pastoral visit to each of the 10 deaneries of the archdiocese.In every visit, I have received a wholehearted welcome and the assurance of prayers.For my part, I have seen how richly blessed the archdiocese is.The time of prayer and sacred worship during each visit has been the greatest source of comfort and encouragement for me and, I hope, for all who have shared in these events.

As I have mentioned many times, the coming of a new shepherd for the flock is a time of special grace which we certainly want to receive with a generous heart.Welcoming a new archbishop, we are led to reflect upon God’s greatest gift to us, after life itself, the gift of the Catholic faith and of life in the Church.

The fullness of all that God wishes to reveal to us is found in the Catholic Church.With time, we can begin to take for granted the many blessings of our faith and even grow dull in our knowledge of the faith and tepid in its practice.The culture in which we live, indifferent and even hostile to Christ as it is, makes it all the easier for us to lack attention and care in knowing and practicing our Catholic faith.Now, there is special and strong grace in the Archdiocese of St. Louis for all of us to take up with new energy and enthusiasm the study and teaching of the faith, the life of prayer and the sacraments, and the obedient and generous response to pastoral direction.Reflection upon my responsibilities as teacher, priest and shepherd leads us to embrace anew our responsibility to be one with our shepherd in teaching, celebrating and living the faith.

Our vocation is our path

The grace of the present time in the archdiocese is above all for responding to God’s call in our lives and for helping others, especially our children and young people to hear God’s call and to respond with an undivided heart.From the moment of our conception, God has a special plan for each of us, our vocation, our way to give glory to Him and to build up His holy Church in unity and love.Once we have come to life in Christ through the Sacrament of Baptism, God helps us by His grace to grow in the likeness of Christ.With the help of parents, catechists and teachers, and other family members and members of the Church, we become more Christlike and receive a first intimation of our vocation.

The Sacrament of Confirmation, conferred as we enter the important years between childhood and adulthood, strengthens and increases the life of the Holy Spirit within us, so that we will be strong witnesses to Christ in the world.The grace given in the Sacrament of Confirmation helps and guides young people, above all, in knowing their vocation, God’s plan for them and in having the courage to respond generously. For their part, it is important to cooperate with the grace by praying each day to know their vocation in life and by looking for the signs by which God reveals His will to us.

God usually communicates His will to us in the ordinary circumstances of our daily living, which, in a certain sense, are always extraordinary because Christ is accompanying us. Through our prayer, God leads us to consider a certain vocation. We are attracted to the vocation.Also, God places other faithful Catholics in our lives, who see signs of our vocation and encourage us.Parents and parish priests are especially important in helping us to know our vocation and respond to it.

From the evening of Feb. 13 through the afternoon of Feb. 15, I will be leading a retreat for young men who are completing or have completed high school and are hearing God’s call to the ordained priesthood.Please pray for me, that I may be a worthy instrument of God’s grace in helping these young men to know better God’s will for them.Please pray that the retreatants will be disposed to hear God’s call and to respond generously.

Conclusion

May this time of strong grace for us confirm each of us in our vocation, whether it is to the married life, the dedicated single life, the consecrated life or the priesthood.May it also lead us to encourage one another in responding wholeheartedly to God’s call in our lives.May we be especially attentive to those who are experiencing doubts about their vocation or are struggling to remain faithful in their vocation.

Thanking God for His many blessings and going forward in carrying out His work in the archdiocese, we, with the Mother of God, place our hearts in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, trusting in Christ for all that we need and pledging to Him all our love and devotion.We count upon the intercession of Sts. Louis of France, Vincent de Paul and Rose Philippine Duchesne, our patrons.

Lenten works of mercy

Introduction

Essential to our Lenten penance is almsgiving or doing works of mercy.Too often, almsgiving may seem to be a kind of optional Lenten practice, a good work to do, if we can or if it pleases us.The truth is that all of our Lenten observance remains empty if it does not lead us to do works of mercy.Likewise, there can be no true conversion of heart, no sincere interior penance, which is not marked by almsgiving.The "Catechism of the Catholic Church" reminds us of the necessary relationship between prayer and fasting, and almsgiving in the transformation of our hearts, in the union of our hearts with the Sacred Heart of Jesus.In the catechism, we read:

"The interior penance of the Christian can be expressed in many and various ways. Scripture and the Fathers insist above all on three forms, fasting, prayer and almsgiving, which express conversion in relation to oneself, to God, and to others.Alongside the radical purification brought about by Baptism or martyrdom, they cite as means of obtaining forgiveness of sins: efforts at reconciliation with one’s neighbor, tears of repentance, concern for the salvation of one’s neighbor, the intercession of the saints, and the practice of charity ‘which covers a multitude of sins’"(n. 1434).

It makes good spiritual sense that the more correctly we view ourselves and our relationship with God, the more we will understand the destiny of the earthly goods which God confides to our care.The more we are united with God through prayer and purified of undue attachments to material things through fasting, the more we are inspired and strengthened to imitate God in His love, placing ourselves and our goods at the service of others in selfless love.

St. Gregory the Great

St. Gregory the Great, abbot of St. Andrew’s Monastery in Rome, was elected to succeed Pope Pelagius II in the year 590.In all sincerity, he tried to avoid assuming the office of Roman Pontiff.He declared that he finally accepted the burden of the service of Successor to St. Peter "with a sick heart" (St. Gregory the Great, Pastoral Care [New York: Newman Press, 1950], pp. 3-4).He fulfilled the responsibilities of Roman Pontiff with such holiness that he was given the title "Great," a title conferred upon very few popes.Pope Gregory the Great wrote a lengthy reflection on the responsibilities of a bishop which is titled in Latin, "Regula Pastoralis."In English, it is called "Pastoral Care," although the title literally means a rule or directives for a pastor.It provides excellent meditations for anyone who is called to give pastoral care and direction to God’s flock, especially for a bishop.It was the work which I used for my meditations on the retreat I made before my episcopal ordination on Jan. 6, 1995.After my appointment as Archbishop of St. Louis, I have taken it up once again and found it so helpful in reflecting upon the duties which God has entrusted to me here.

Chapter 20 of St. Gregory’s work takes up the question of how the bishop should admonish the person who is performing a work of mercy.The great Pope Gregory declares in simple terms what must be the attitude of a person who gives from his substance to supply for the needs of others and urges a bishop to instruct his faithful in a way of thinking which may be rightly called Christian stewardship.He writes:

"Therefore, those who in pity bestow what is theirs must be admonished to acknowledge that they have been appointed by the heavenly Lord to be the dispensers of temporal means, and to display their humility the more, inasmuch as they realize that what they dispense belongs to others" (Ibid., p.152).

The virtue of humility lies at the foundation of our works of mercy.It is a virtue which teaches us to recognize that all we are and have is God’s gift to us for our good and the good of all. Works of mercy, done according to the Heart of Christ, never lead us to pride but rather to humble gratitude for the gift to sustain others from our means.

The parable of Lazarus and the rich man, often named for the Latin word for the rich man, Dives, makes clear to us the fundamental importance of humility before our material possessions, so that we become good stewards, sharing from our substance to care for those most in need.The sin of Dives, which merited eternal punishment, was not that he robbed someone or that he gained his wealth dishonestly but that he failed to use his wealth to help others, especially the poor Lazarus (cf.Lk 16:19-31).The parable teaches us how fundamental doing works of mercy or giving alms is to our eternal salvation.If we fail to show the mercy of God in our words and works, we will merit eternal punishment.At the same time, doing the works of mercy is our way to eternal happiness.

Our Lord’s parable of the last judgment teaches us that our service of Christ in the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the ill and the imprisoned — in short, our brothers and sisters in most need — is our way of salvation (cf. Mt 25:31-46).Clearly, our justice is found in God’s self-sacrificing love alone, in emptying ourselves in the service of others.

Corporal and Spiritual Works

Our works of mercy or almsgiving are directed to both the spiritual and bodily good of others.Daily, we encounter the needs of our neighbor, both in body and in soul, and are called to address practically and effectively those needs. The "Catechism of the Catholic Church" succinctly summarizes the principal works of mercy, what we have traditionally called the corporal and spiritual works of mercy:

"The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities.Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently.The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead.Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God" (n.2447).

The simple daily reflection upon our fulfillment of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy helps us very much to see how the goods with which God has blessed each of us belong to others, in the words of St. Gregory, and how we, as good stewards, must bestow them on others in their need.

The truth is that, if everyone in the Church generously gave from his or her substance for the good of the whole Body of Christ, all of our brothers and sisters would know the compassion of Christ in their need. Because so many of us fail to follow Christ in caring for the needs of one another, many suffer and the mission of the Church goes unfulfilled.

There is no one of us who is lacking in riches for the care of our brothers and sisters in need.Even the materially poor person can visit the sick and imprisoned and is rich in spiritual goods to bestow upon brothers and sisters.The comment of our Lord Jesus on the widow’s mite reminds us that God has made all of us rich for carrying out the corporal and spiritual works of mercy (cf. Lk 21:1-4).

Our Lord compassionately teaches about the great temptation which comes to the person who is rich in temporal goods, the temptation to think that the goods belong to him to do with as he pleases.To the rich young man who declared that he had kept all of the commandments, our Lord stated:

"If you seek perfection, go, sell your possessions, and give to the poor.You will then have treasure in heaven" (Mt 19:21).

The Gospel account goes on to say that the rich young man left the company of Jesus with sadness, "for his possessions were many" (Mt 19:22).

Lenten Almsgiving

Our Lenten practice of almsgiving is meant to train our hearts and hands to be always generous in sharing from our substance to sustain our brothers and sisters in need.Even as Lent is a training time in all of the virtues, so, too, it strengthens us in doing works of mercy, spiritual and corporal.

Certainly, if we as parents or teachers have failed to give time to our children to instruct them and discipline them, then Lent is a time to develop a strong habit of spending time with our children.If we are alienated from someone, it is time to seek reconciliation, even if we are only able to accomplish it, for the moment, through prayer for one who needs our forgiveness and will not accept it, or needs our counsel and will not receive it.All of works of mercy begin and end in prayer.It is in prayer that we come to know the immeasurable love of God for us and of our call to share in His mission of love.At the same time, in our daily prayer and through our participation in the Holy Eucharist, we beg for God’s blessing upon all of our works of mercy.

In my first weeks of service as Archbishop of St. Louis, I have come to know about the many works of mercy which the faithful of the Archdiocese are carrying out in their homes, parishes, schools and other institutions.I think, for instance, of the work of the parish St. Vincent de Paul societies, of the Catholic schools in the archdiocese and of our Catholic Charities.A need of which I am becoming increasingly aware is the provision of a Catholic-school education in the areas in which the children of families need so keenly a Catholic education.The only way in which the Church will be able to carry out her mission of Catholic education on behalf of the poorest of the poor is good stewardship, the strong support of her charitable, education and missionary works by all of the faithful of the archdiocese.

Conclusion

Our Lenten almsgiving is at the very heart of our Christian life.It is not some optional extra in a rich variety of spiritual works.May our Lenten prayer, especially our participation in the Holy Eucharist and the regular confession of our sins, lead us to carry out the works of God’s mercy on behalf of all who are in need.May our Lenten fasting dispose us to view all our goods as gifts given to us as stewards, that we may use them to assist the poor.

St. Vincent de Paul, our patron, pray for us, so that we may imitate your Christlike love.

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