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.

‘Be not afraid!’

Love and the Image of Man

In presenting the Scriptural teaching on love, Pope Benedict XVI first reflected upon the new and distinct image of God in the Holy Scriptures.He then reflects upon the Biblical image of man, which is also new and distinct.

The two accounts of creation in the Book of Genesis make it clear that man alone is incomplete.Nature provides woman to the solitary man, in whom he finds the communion which makes him whole.

The Second Account of Creation tells us that God created Eve after Adam, in order that the two might help one another. Even though Adam had named all of the creatures and "thus made them fully a part of his life," no other creature proved to be his fitting companion and helper.God created Eve from the side of Adam; she is one with him in the most intimate sense of the word. Seeing Eve, Adam declares: "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh" (Gn 2:23). The story of the creation of Adam and Eve in the Second Account concludes with words which describe the truth about man and woman, and their essential relationship to one another: "Therefore a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh" (Gn 2:24).

Having reflected upon the image of man in the Bible, the Holy Father concludes that nature teaches man "to seek in another the part that can make him whole." It is "communion with the opposite sex" which makes him "complete" (n. 11a). The traditional use of the common noun, man, to refer to man and woman underlines the unity and complementarity of the human male and female. The creation of man in the First Account of Creation states succinctly the truth of the unity and complementarity of the sexes: "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" (Gn 1:27).

Man and Woman

Pope Benedict XVI underlines two parts of the teaching on man in the Sacred Scriptures.The first part is man’s natural pursuit of union with woman and woman’s natural pursuit of union with man. Eros or human love is part of man’s very nature.Man and woman together, united in love, "represent complete humanity."They become "one flesh."

Secondly, eros or human love leads man to marriage, that is, to the faithful and enduring relationship of love between one man and one woman.In marriage, human love achieves "its deepest purpose." The fidelity and indissolubility of the marital relationship is a reflection of its participation in the love of God.The union of "one flesh," the conjugal union, therefore, is an expression of the marital bond and relationship. The sexual union of man and woman outside of marriage is a betrayal of human love.It is not true to the relationship of the man and the woman which is not marital. It is not an expression of chaste love but the use of another as an object of sexual gratification.

Even as there is one only God in the Jewish faith, so one man and one woman give themselves totally to each other for a lifetime in marriage."Corresponding to the image of a monotheistic God is monogamous marriage" (n. 11b). In married love, we find the sign of God’s love of us: exclusive and enduring. Man cannot give himself and woman cannot give herself in exclusive and enduring love to more than one partner. Marriage is called a natural sacrament, for it is a participation in the very love with which God loves us.

Marriage, Consecrated Life and Priesthood

The love of the consecrated person and the priest, who give up the good of marriage for the sake of Kingdom of Heaven, is also conjugal or nuptial, in the sense that the consecrated person and the priest embrace perpetual continence as an expression of faithful and enduring love of Christ the Bride and of the Church, His Bridegroom.

In the Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Pastores dabo vobis (On the Formation of Priests in the Circumstances of the Present Day)," our late and most beloved Pope John Paul II reminded us of the profoundly conjugal meaning of virginity and celibacy:
In virginity and celibacy, chastity retains its original meaning, that is, of human sexuality lived as a genuine sign of and precious service to the love of communion and gift of self to others.This meaning is fully found in virginity which makes evident, even in the renunciation of marriage, the "nuptial meaning" of the body through a communion and a personal gift to Jesus Christ and His Church which prefigures and anticipates the perfect and final communion and self-giving of the world come (n. 29a).

The married couple, the consecrated person and the priest are united by bonds of the same chaste love of Christ. The married couple treasure the perpetual continence of the consecrated person and the priest as a sign of the faithful and enduring love to which they are vowed. The consecrated person and the priest treasure in the married couple the good which they have freely given up, in order to serve families and the Church.

The love of the consecrated person and of the priest is not only faithful and enduring. It is also life-giving.The fruitfulness of celibate love is found in spiritual maternity and paternity exercised on behalf of countless brothers and sisters.

‘Be not afraid!’

Biblical faith and love

The reflection on human love thus far leads Pope Benedict XVI to conclude that love "is a single reality, but with different dimensions" (Deus Caritas Est [God is love] n. 8).The two dimensions of love, human love or eros and divine love or agape, are both real.At times, one or another dimension may appear more strongly. They are, however, dimensions of one and the same reality.If they are not related to each other, love becomes distorted.

The Holy Father reminds us that biblical faith does not oppose human love to divine love.Biblical faith recognizes us as we are and, therefore, recognizes the reality of human love, while, at the same time, it recognizes the reality of divine love, which purifies human love of anything that betrays who we are and impoverishes the reality of our love.

To help us in understanding the biblical teaching on love, the Holy Father first reflects upon the image of God and the image of man in the Sacred Scriptures.The teaching on God and man, discovered in the Sacred Scriptures, is, in fact, new and distinct in relationship to the understanding of God and man, found in other cultures and religions.

Love and the image of God

To help us in understanding the biblical teaching on love, the Holy Father first reflects upon the image of God in the Holy Scriptures. The image of God, which is presented in the Bible, is distinct from the image of God and of the gods in other ancient cultures, in two principal ways.The first way is seen in one of the most basic prayers offered daily by the people of Israel.The prayer, called the Shema, declares: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord" (Deuteronomy 6:4).The prayer is a clear expression of monotheism, that is, the belief that there is one God alone, Who is God of heaven and earth, "the God of all."The prayer is brief but rich in doctrinal content, for it excludes completely the existence of other gods and acknowledges the one God as the source of all creation, of which He is the Creator.Implicit in the prayer is the truth that the created order came into being because of God’s will or desire, and is, therefore, "dear to Him"(n. 9a).

The second way in which the image of God in the Sacred Scriptures is distinct derives from the first way.God, for Whom all of creation is dear, "loves man."In other cultures and philosophies, the divinity is the object of desire and love on the part of man but does not love man.God, in the Bible, however, personally loves man.What is more, He chooses one nation, Israel, as the special object of His love, so that, through Israel, His love may reach to all nations.The love of God for us reveals the perfect union of eros and agape.

To delve more deeply into the fundamental vocation of Israel in the work of salvation, I recommend reading the book, "Salvation Is from the Jews: The Role of Judaism in Salvation History from Abraham to the Second Coming," by Roy H. Schoeman (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2003).Schoeman presents, in a striking way, the particular relationship of love between God and the Jewish people, and its critical role in the relationship of love between God and all the nations.

God’s love in the prophets

Pope Benedict XVI recalls to our minds the use of the "metaphors of betrothal and marriage" by the prophets to describe God’s deep love of His people.Most significant in the message of the prophets is God’s gift of the Torah or Law to man.The books of the prophets Hosea and Ezekiel are especially rich in the imagery of the spousal love of God for man.

Through the Law, essentially the Ten Commandments, God reveals to us our true nature and the path or discipline to follow, that we may mature, in accord with our nature.The Law defines the way of faithful love of God in response to His love.It shows the way of truth and justice, by which man loves God and neighbor (n.9b).

The Law shows God’s love of man to be the perfect union of eros and agape.God first loves us, even though we do not merit His love.What is more, He forgives our repeated betrayals of His love, which are described with the metaphors of adultery and prostitution.God’s love for us is so deep that it leads Him to forgive us when He should condemn us because of our sins.The fullest expression of God’s all-merciful love is the Crucifixion.Referring to the description of God’s love in the prophet Hosea, Pope Benedict declares:

"Here Christians can see a dim prefigurement of the mystery of the Cross: so great is God’s love for man that by becoming man He follows him even into death, and so reconciles justice and love" (n. 10a).

God, creator and lover

The Holy Father concludes his treatment of the biblical image of God as a new element of biblical faith by pointing out the philosophical aspect of the image, which also constitutes something new and distinct.The biblical image of God is philosophical or metaphysical, to be more precise."God is the absolute and ultimate source of all being."At the same time, however, He is "a lover with all the passion of a true love."The passion in God, the eros, is real, but it is also "so purified as to become one with agape"(n. 10b).In God, the passion of love is totally disciplined by the pursuit of the good of the beloved, His holy people.

Pope Benedict XVI makes reference to The Song of Songs, a divinely-inspired collection of "love songs," in which biblical faith finds a wonderful reflection of the relationship of love between God and man.This book of the Bible is also called The Song of Solomon or The Canticle of Canticles.

The faith which we are taught by the Sacred Scriptures and in The Song of Songs, in particular, at its very foundation, assures us that we can indeed have communion with God, the deepest desire in our souls.It also teaches us that the communion of love with God, which is God’s gift to us, does not destroy man as His most beloved creature but enables man to be fully who he is. Regarding our communion with God, the Holy Father writes:

"But this union is no mere fusion, a sinking in the nameless ocean of the Divine; it is a unity which creates love, a unity in which both God and man remain themselves and yet become fully one" (n. 10b).

The Song of Songs leads us to an ever deeper appreciation of divine love, God’s relationship with us and our relationship with Him, which is the source and the energy of our Catholic faith. For meditation on the love of God for us and our love of Him, using The Song of Songs, I recommend a book of spiritual reading, which I have found very helpful: "The Cantata of Love: A Verse by Verse Reading of The Song of Songs," by Father Blaise Arminjon, SJ (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988).

‘Be not afraid!’

Unity of body and soul in love

Discussing the purification of human love through our participation in divine love, Pope Benedict XVI in his encyclical "God is Love" addresses a seeming tension between the body and the soul.We are easily and superficially tempted to view the body and the soul as opposed to one another.In such a view, human love is falsely seen in one of two ways.It is either viewed as unworthy of our spiritual nature, a kind of concession to our bodily nature, or it is viewed as an end in itself as if the pleasure associated with human love had nothing at all to do with the soul.

The Holy Father alludes to the promotion of the false dichotomy of human love and divine love by a certain school of philosophy called Rationalism, which views the body as a kind of machine in which the soul resides as an alien (n. 5b). He also alludes to certain defective expressions of the Christian faith, which oppose body and soul as if God placed them together in the human being to be at constant war with each other.He further alludes to a contemporary tendency to view our body as a merely material object for our pleasure, "to be used and exploited at will" (n. 5c).

In response, Pope Benedict recalls the Church’s perennial teaching on the unity of the body and soul:
"Christian faith, on the other hand, has always considered man a unity in duality, a reality in which spirit and matter compenetrate, and in which each is brought to a new nobility.True, eros tends to rise ‘in ecstasy’ towards the Divine, to lead us beyond ourselves; yet for this very reason it calls for a path of ascent, renunciation, purification and healing" (n. 5c).

The unity of body and soul in man is, in fact, most perfectly expressed in love.The soul, in union with the body, purifies and perfects the desire of union with the other, so that it is ever more pure and selfless.In other words, there can be no true human love which is not the expression of unity of body and soul.In love, we see the inherent dignity of the body and the soul in the individual person.It is seen in the conjugal union of man and woman in marriage.It is seen in the celibate love of the priest who hands over all his faculties to Christ in service of the Church. It is also seen in the chaste love of the consecrated person who gives his or her life completely to Christ for the sake of us all.

Exclusive and enduring love

Drawing upon the Song of Songs, Pope Benedict helps us to understand more concretely what the purification and perfection of human love entails.In the Song of Songs, a collection of songs to celebrate the love of marriage, two kinds of love are distinguished.The first, called "dodim" in Hebrew, is "insecure, indeterminate and searching."It is self-centered and tends to be caught up with good feelings.The second, called "ahab" in Hebrew, is secure and definite, for it is directed to the other faithfully and enduringly.The second kind of love replaces the first, for it purifies and perfects it.The Holy Father comments:

"Love now becomes concern and care for the other.No longer is it self-seeking, a sinking in the intoxication of happiness; instead it seeks the good of the beloved: it becomes renunciation and it is ready, and even willing, for sacrifice" (n. 6a).

The second kind of love is the purification of eros by agape.It is a participation in divine love.

True love is total in two senses.I love by giving myself totally to the other for the totality of my life. Human love is, therefore, truly a participation in divine love which is eternal.By love, we are freed from the slavery of selfishness and are freed for "self-discovery and indeed the discovery of God" (n. 6b).Pope Benedict XVI recalls the teaching of our Lord Jesus, namely, that the offering of self in love is the true discovery of self and preserves the self for eternity (cf. Matthew 10:39, 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24; 17:33; and John 12:25).It is a teaching which is best understood in the light of Christ’s own life, death and resurrection.

Receiving and giving love

The Holy Father summarizes his teaching thus far by underlining that the love taught to us by the Word of God is a love which is both received and given (n. 7a). In other words, the love which we give to others we have first received as a gift from God.We cannot love the other, unless we have first been loved.The love of eros is purified, not destroyed, by the love of agape.Pope Benedict XVI describes the purification in these words:

"Even if eros is at first mainly covetous and ascending, a fascination for the great promise of happiness, in drawing near to the other, it is less and less concerned with itself, increasingly seeks the happiness of the other, is concerned more and more with the beloved, bestows itself and wants to ‘be there for’ the other" (n. 7b).

The Holy Father reminds us that it is only when we have received love from the glorious pierced Heart of Jesus that we can truly give love to others.

Pope Benedict XVI recalls the story of Jacob’s Ladder (Genesis 28:10-22) as a help to us in understanding the truth that true love is both received and given.The angels who ascend the ladder, expressing our pursuit of God’s love, our need to be loved, also descend the ladder, expressing the giving of the divine love to others.In other words, our search for love, when it reaches its object, the Divine Heart or Heart of Jesus, is at one and the same time a pouring out of self in love of others (n. 7c).

We see this truth in our prayer which could be seen as selfish, time spent in pursuit of God, which, in truth, is the font of selfless love.Our Lord Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane before entering upon the Passion and Death by which He loved us to the end (Matthew 26:36-36; Mark 14:32-42; and Luke 22:40-46).Our share in His Eucharistic Sacrifice, our seeking of Christ’s love in the gift of His Body and Blood, is, at once, the source and strength of our mission of selfless love of others.

‘Be not afraid!’

The many senses of love

The first of the two parts of Pope Benedict XVI’s first encyclical letter, "God is Love," is titled "The Unity of Love in Creation and in Salvation History."The Holy Father begins the first part of his teaching by reminding us that the meaning of the word love tells us who God is and who we are.It is the love of God that created us in His own image, and, when we had fallen through sin, it is the love of God that restored us to His image by the Sacrifice of His only-begotten Son.

Pope Benedict XVI also notes that the word love "has become one of the most frequently used and misused of words" (n. 1a).He then indicates the many legitimate senses in which we speak of love: love of friends for each other, love of our homeland, love of work, love between parents and children, and love of God and of our neighbor.His Holiness asks whether all of these different uses of the same word are related to each other. In specific, he asks whether they are all related to what he calls "the very epitome of love," namely, conjugal love or the love of husband and wife in marriage, "love between man and woman, where body and soul are inseparably joined and human beings glimpse an apparently irresistible promise of happiness" (n. 2b).

We readily think, for instance, of how God speaks of His love of us, through the Prophet Hosea, using the image of the Bridegroom and the Bride (cf. Hosea 2:19-20).Our Lord Jesus used the same image to speak about His relationship with us in the Church (cf. Matthew 9:14-15; 25:1-13).We recall St. Paul’s teaching that marriage, the becoming "one flesh," is a sign of the "great mystery" of the love of Christ, the Bridegroom, for His Bride, the Church (Ephesians 5:31-32).The Word of God describes our final glory as the "marriage supper of the Lamb" (Revelation 19:9). Catholic teaching tells us that married love is, by nature, a sign of the love of God: faithful, enduring and procreative (Catechism of the Catholic Church, nn. 1602-1605). Christ has made Holy Matrimony one of the Sacraments.

Eros and agape

The Holy Father takes up the question of a supposed conflict between the love within us as creatures of God and love as it is taught in the Sacred Scriptures and the Magisterium.In order to resolve the question, he presents a brief description of two senses of the word love from the time of the Old Testament.

The ancient Greeks called eros the "love between man and woman which is neither planned nor willed, but somehow imposes itself upon human beings" (n. 3).The Greek word is the origin of our word erotic.Pope Benedict XVI points out that the Greek Old Testament uses the word eros for love only two times, and the New Testament never uses it.In the Holy Scriptures, the preferred word for love is agape, a term infrequently used by the ancient Greeks.

His Holiness concludes that the avoidance of the use of the term eros and the preference of the term agape for love "clearly point to something new and distinct about the Christian understanding of love" (n. 3).Pope Benedict then alludes to the criticism of Christianity, on the part of the philosophers of the Enlightenment, alleging that the distinctive Christian teaching on love,

in fact, destroys natural love, robbing it of its joy.When I use the words Christian and Christianity, I include the teaching of the entire Christian Scriptures, that is, the Word of God, which we share in common with our Jewish brothers and sisters, and the New Testament.
Agape purifies and perfects eros

The love, eros, to which Christian love, agape, is opposed is, in fact, a corruption of true love. The understanding of love as eros, which Christianity opposes, betrays love by viewing it as a kind of "divine intoxication" which overpowers human reason and puts man into contact with "supreme happiness."It led, in certain ancient cultures, to practices of so-called "sacred" prostitution in what were to be temples of the divine (n. 4a). One can see how the notion of true love was corrupted by a false religious notion, and religion was used as a means to obtain disordered sexual gratification.

The Word of God clearly rejects such a notion of love and the religious practice that surrounded it.The love that it sought was not, in fact, divine love but a reduction of others, the temple prostitutes, for instance, to objects for sexual gratification.His Holiness observes that such a notion of love as "counterfeit divinization" robs love "of its dignity and dehumanizes it." Pope Benedict XVI concludes:

"Evidently, eros needs to be disciplined and purified if it is to provide not just fleeting pleasure, but a certain foretaste of the pinnacle of our existence, of that beatitude for which our whole being yearns" (n. 4b).

Love is surely God’s gift to us by which we know and love Him in return.It contains the sure hope of eternal life with God.Divine love, however, purifies and perfects our natural attraction to love, which, because of our fallen nature, is easily corrupted.Self-deceit, fueled by lust, leads us to call love what, in fact, is the use and abuse of others for our own gratification.

Postscript

In reflecting with you about the Christian teaching on love, so wonderfully presented in the Encyclical Letter "Deus caritas est (God Is Love)," of Pope Benedict XVI, I ask you to mark Tuesday, May 9,on your calendar.Please join me, with the faithful of the archdiocese, at 7 p.m. May 9 at the Old Cathedral, the Basilica of St. Louis King of France, to inaugurate the Rosary Crusade for the protection of our tiniest brothers and sisters, human lives at the embryonic stage of development.Before the clear and present threat to the most innocent and defenseless among us, the Rosary Crusade is a fundamental and most eloquent expression of the life of God, who is Love, within us.

‘Be not afraid!’

Pope Benedict XVI’s First Encyclical Letter

On Christmas Day 2005, Pope Benedict XVI signed his first encyclical letter, his first pastoral letter to all the faithful of the world.The title of the encyclical letter, according to the Church’s long practice, is its opening words, "Deus caritas est (God Is Love)," taken from the First Letter of John.Its subject matter is Christian love.
At the beginning of his service as shepherd of the universal Church, Pope Benedict XVI has desired "to speak of the love which God lavishes upon us and which we in turn must share with others" (Pope Benedict XVI, encyclical letter Deus caritas est, "On Christian Love," Dec. 25, 2005, n. 1c).The subject matter of the first pastoral letter of the successor of St. Peter to his flock is most fitting, for the love of God is the source of our life in the Church.Pope Benedict also observes that the message is "both timely and significant" in our time, when "the name of God is sometimes associated with vengeance or even a duty of hatred and violence" (n. 1c).

"Deus caritas est" is divided into two parts.The first treats the reality of God’s love of us and how it intrinsically relates to all truly human love.The second part makes a concrete application of the teaching in the first part, discussing how the Church embodies the love of God in practice.As the Holy Father observes, the subject matter of Christian love is extensive and not able to be treated in a single encyclical letter.He, therefore, limits his treatment of the subject.His stated goal is "to emphasize some basic elements, so as to call forth in the world renewed energy and commitment in the human response to God’s love" (n. 1c).

The encyclical and the new evangelization

In the goal which Pope Benedict XVI sets for his first encyclical letter, we see his desire to continue the work of the new evangelization, set forth so clearly for us by our late and most beloved Pope John Paul II.In response to the secularization of our time and the resulting culture of death, Pope John Paul II urged us to teach, celebrate and live our Catholic faith with new enthusiasm and new energy.He invited us to imitate the example of the first Christians and of the heroes of God down the centuries, including our own time; that is, the saints and blesseds of every age of the Church.

Pope Benedict XVI, at the beginning of his pontificate, calls us to reflect upon the only source of such enthusiasm and energy, namely, the love of God for us, incarnate in our Lord Jesus Christ.He makes clear that our invoking of the name of God, by its nature, expresses the commitment to love as He loves.The name of God, therefore, can never be invoked to justify vengeance, hatred and violence.

In the very first lines of "Deus caritas est," Pope Benedict XVI points out to us that the inspired words of the First Letter of John describe the essence of our faith and life as Christians: the "image of God" and "the resulting image of mankind," created by God in His own image (cf. Genesis 1:27); and our life founded on the knowledge and belief in God’s love of us.The words are:

"So we know and believe the love God has for us.God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him" (1 John 4:16).

Our faith is the fruit of our encounter with the love of God in our Lord Jesus Christ.It is the "fundamental decision" to love God in return.

Pope Benedict XVI rightly reminds us:

"Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but of the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and decisive direction" (n. 1b).

Once we have met Christ in the Church and received the gift of His life, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit into our souls, we are filled with the enthusiasm and energy to live in Christ always, to love as God loves. Christ is the "new horizon" of our lives; Christ gives the "decisive direction" to our lives.

Fulfillment of the commandment of love

From the very beginning of his encyclical letter, Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that "the centrality of love" in our Christian faith and practice "has retained the core of Israel’s faith, while at the same time giving it new depth and breadth" (n. 1b).Our Holy Father recalls the Jewish practice of praying daily the words of the Book of Deuteronomy, which contain the great commandment of love: "[Y]ou shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your might" (Deuteronomy 6:5).By faith in the one and only God, the devout Jew finds life in loving God with his whole being.

Our Lord Jesus, God the Son made man, taught the great commandment of love of God, uniting to it, in an inseparable manner, the commandment of love of neighbor, found in the Book of Leviticus: "[Y]ou shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18).When one of the Scribes questioned our Lord about the first commandment, our Lord quoted the text from the Book of Deuteronomy, regarding love of God and, then, added to it the text from the Book of Leviticus, regarding love of neighbor.Our Lord then declared: "There is no other commandment greater than these" (Mark 12:31).When the Scribe responded with enthusiasm, acknowledging the truth of the teaching, our Lord declared to him: "You are not far from the kingdom of God" (Mark 12:34).When we receive our Lord’s teaching on love of God and neighbor with enthusiasm and live it with energy, we, too, "are not far from the kingdom of God."

With the coming of our Lord Jesus into the world, God has come to dwell in our midst. As a result, as our Holy Father reminds us, "Love is now no longer a mere ‘command’ it is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us" (n. 1b).

‘Be not afraid!’

Dynamism of Our Life in Christ

Throughout the 50 days of the Easter Season, we hear the accounts of the appearances of our Risen Lord to the Apostles and other disciples. In all of the accounts, there is a single message: By His Dying and Rising, Christ has gone ahead of us and, by His outpouring of the Holy Spirit, He meets us in the Church.He is our faithful companion along the pilgrimage of our passing earthly life and He waits to welcome us at our destination, our lasting heavenly home.

By His Rising from the Dead and Sending of the Holy Spirit, Christ fills the Church, fills us, with the dynamism of His own divine love. He did not permit the Apostles and disciples to cling to His glorious Body, when He appeared to them.Rather, He taught them that He must ascend to the right hand of the Father, to remain with them always and to be with all who would become His disciples in every time and place.

When our Lord had ascended to the right hand of the Father and sent forth the Holy Spirit, the Apostles and first disciples were filled with a remarkable enthusiasm and the energy.They indeed put aside the doubts and fears which assailed them during our Lord’s Passion and Death.By the grace of the Holy Spirit, they finally understood what our Lord meant when He said that He must rise from the dead.They understood that Christ had made them heirs of His divine life.

The Holy Spirit, dwelling within them, inspired them to live in Christ in a world which had rejected Him or did not even know His name.Filled with love of Christ, they desired to know ever more deeply the truth of the faith, which He teaches in the Church.They were faithful in prayer and worship, especially participation in the Holy Eucharist.They were obedient to the Apostles whom Christ had consecrated to be their shepherds.Under the pastoral guidance of the Apostles, they placed their gifts at the service of all, so that the love of Christ might reach all, without boundary.

New evangelization and stewardship

Celebrating the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, we, like the first disciples, hear Christ’s call to meet Him in the Church.Hearing His call, we are filled with enthusiasm and energy to accompany our Lord as He continues His saving work in the world.Although the challenges of living in Christ today are formidable, as they certainly were formidable for the first disciples, the Holy Spirit helps us to put aside our doubts and fears. Through His sevenfold gift, the Holy Spirit leads us to a deeper knowledge of Christ.He inspires in us a more ardent love of Christ, especially through daily prayer and devotion, participation in Holy Mass, especially on Sunday, and regular Confession.Finally, He disciplines us to put our gifts at the service of all.

Stewardship, that is the wise and courageous use of our gifts to the glory of God and for the service of others, is a principal work of the Holy Spirit within us.Through our stewardship, the dynamism of the Resurrection manifests itself through committed participation in the works of the Church, in accord with the particular talents and means God gives us.Alive in Christ through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, we cannot do otherwise.When we are tempted to hoard or to squander our gifts, the Holy Spirit disciplines us to understand that, even as our final destiny is to be with Christ in the Heavenly Kingdom, so the destiny of our earthly goods is to help others to know Christ and His love of them.

Annual Catholic Appeal

Fittingly, the Annual Catholic Appeal, the premier expression of stewardship in the whole Archdiocese of St. Louis, takes place during the Easter Season, from April 22 to May 7.Through the Annual Catholic Appeal, the love of Christ is reaching countless individuals and families, as I am privileged to witness daily in my service as archbishop.Recently, I wrote to all of the faithful of the archdiocese, inviting everyone to participate in the Appeal which is truly the work of our Risen Lord meeting us in the Church, healing and strengthening His brothers and sisters, for whom He gives His life.In my letter, I recounted the story of three persons whom Christ has met in the Church, thanks to your participation in the Annual Catholic Appeal.The stories could be multiplied over and over again.What do the stories have in common?You, that is, your following of Christ by sharing your gifts for the good of all those in need.

This year, the goal of the Annual Catholic Appeal is $11.25 million.Every dollar of the Appeal is designated for the charitable, educational and missionary works of the Church, for example, the promotion of the respect owed to every human life; the care of the homeless and the immigrant, and the aid of those in difficulty of any kind; the Christian formation of our youth; the Catholic education of our children; the evangelization of those who do not yet know Christ; assistance to parishes with emergency needs; and the preparation of our future priests and the care of our priests who are infirm or retired.Through all of the works supported by the Annual Catholic Appeal, Christ meets us in the Church to serve brothers and sisters in need.

Invitation and gratitude

I invite every member of the faithful of the archdiocese to be part of the Annual Catholic Appeal.Our Risen Lord is calling you to meet Him in the Church and to join Him in His work of caring for every brother and sister.It is the sacrifice of each household of the archdiocese which makes possible all of the charitable, educational and missionary works of Christ in the Church.May the 2006 Annual Catholic Appeal be marked by the highest participation ever.

Thank you for your support of the Annual Catholic Appeal in the past.Your sacrifices have brought the love of Christ to countless individuals.It has given them hope.It has led them to faith. My special thanks goes to all of the volunteers who invite fellow parishioners to participate in the Appeal, to the guest speakers who make the work of the Appeal better known, and to our good priests, true shepherds of the flock, leading us in the Christian witness of stewardship.

Finally, I thank Bishop Robert Hermann, vicar general for the Annual Catholic Appeal; Jerry Kent, the general chairman, and his good wife Judy, who give outstanding leadership in stewardship for the whole archdiocese; and all of the members of the Annual Catholic Appeal Council, who dedicate themselves most creatively and tirelessly to the work of the Appeal.

Please pray for God’s blessing upon the Annual Catholic Appeal.May the enthusiasm and energy, which are the gift of our Risen Lord to His disciples, lead us to serve others through the Annual Catholic Appeal.

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