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!’

God’s greatest gift to us

During these days, we celebrate the greatest gift which God has given to us, that is, our life in Christ, which had its beginning at His conception in the womb of the Virgin Mary and His birth of Mary at Bethlehem.At the start of a new calendar year, we reflect upon how we have lived in Christ during the past year.As a result of our reflection, we also make resolutions to follow Christ more sincerely and faithfully in the new gift of time, which God gives to us.

Whenever we receive a gift, we recognize our responsibility to honor the giver and the gift by the way in which we care for the gift and use it. In the case of our life in Christ, the responsibility to honor the gift and the Giver, who, in fact, are one and the same — God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit — encompasses every aspect of our being and every moment of our lives.

Once we come to know our Lord Jesus Christ and to receive Him into our hearts, then there can be nothing which we wish to keep from Him.There can be no time when we choose to be away from His company.Every day, rather, becomes for us a day to welcome our Lord Jesus more fully into our lives and to remain more faithfully in His company.

Life in Christ as counter-cultural

The gift of life in Christ makes us very different people in our society and culture today.Some of us have grown up at a time when our culture respected the Christian faith — along with other religious faiths — and even encouraged its practice as something good for society as a whole. Today, we live in a culture which is very different, a culture which Pope Paul VI called "dechristianized."In other words, our culture has abandoned any reference to Christ as the fullness of the revelation of God to us.The Christian life is no longer seen as something to be fostered as good for society but, rather, as contrary to the freedom which man as an individual and society as a whole should enjoy.

Faithful Christians today, therefore, lead a necessarily counter-cultural life.We cannot expect that our culture understands what we believe and live.The culture no longer respects Christian faith and morals and, in fact, either ignores them or is hostile to them as somehow a diminishment of human freedom and possibility.

Challenge of the new evangelization

We find ourselves in a situation similar to that of the first disciples of Christ and of the first missionaries to our continent. Like the first disciples and the first missionaries to America, we live in a world which has not heard the Word of Christ, into which we have been sent to speak Christ’s Word and to witness of His life among us in the Church.Our situation is, however, different in that our culture had once heard the Word of Christ but now no longer hears Him.Our culture today may even call itself Christian but, in fact, it has grown forgetful of Christ and the demands of life in Him.

We live a world which needs desperately to hear the Word of Christ again.We are Christ’s ambassadors in the world.The world needs to hear the Word of Christ from us and to witness Christ alive in our lives.

From the beginning of his pontificate, Pope John Paul II, following in the way of Pope Paul VI, called upon Catholics, called upon us, to take up the work of the "new evangelization."In the homily which he gave at the beginning of his heroic service as successor of St. Peter, Pope John Paul II urged us to put aside our fears and to open totally our lives to Christ, so that Christ might be present in every corner of the world, to every brother and sister, and in every form of human endeavor.He spoke to us in words used by our Lord Jesus Christ to inspire and encourage His disciples: "Be not afraid" (Matthew 14:27; Mark 6:50; Luke 5:10; and John 6:20).

For us, treasuring and honoring the gift of life in Christ means living in Christ with the enthusiasm and the energy of the first disciples, of the first missionaries to our nation.It means a willingness to be counter-cultural to bring Christ to our culture.It means living each day anew in Christ — what we call "daily conversion of life" — so that Christ may come to our society and culture — what we call the "transformation of our culture into a civilization of love."

Let us pray, with special fervor in these days, that we may so live in Christ for our salvation and the salvation of the world.Let us hear the words of Christ to us: "Be not afraid!"

Bethlehem: House of Bread

Introduction

The coming Solemnity of the Birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ inspires anew our wonder at the great mystery of the Incarnation. As we kneel at the Christmas crib and gaze upon the figures, we are filled with the deepest sense of how much God loves us.Looking upon the figure of the infant Jesus lying in the manger, we view, as if for the first time, the reality that God has come in our human flesh to live with us, to share our lifein everything, except sin, including our helplessness as a child in the womb and at birth.God who is all-powerful could have come as an adult to save us, but He wanted to redeem our life in its totality, from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death, and to teach us the sanctity of our life from the moment God calls us into being until the moment He beckons us home to Himself at the end of our earthly pilgrimage.

God wanted to love us to the full. He wanted us to know that He loves us, no matter how tiny we may be, no matter whether we are unborn or born, whether we have accomplished anything or can accomplish anything.He wanted us to know ourselves in His Son, to know that we are His true sons and daughters whom He has adopted in His only begotten Son, our Lord Jesus. He wanted us to know that we are His always, at every stage of our development, at every moment of our lives.

To help us prepare for the celebration of the mystery of the Incarnation on Christmas, I reflect upon Bethlehem, the city of our Lord’s Birth.Like our own birthplace, Bethlehem teaches us about her most important native son, our Lord Jesus, and the mystery of His coming in our human flesh, the mystery of the Incarnation.

City of David

Bethlehem’s first prominence comes from the birth of King David there.David is the son of "Jesse the Bethlehemite" (1 Samuel 16:1, 11-12).The Book of Ruth tells the story of the family of Jesse.Ruth was the daughter-in-law of Naomi.Ruth’s husband, the son of Naomi who had lost her husband in death, died young.Ruth, even though she was a Moabite and might have thought of returning to her own people after the death of her husband, instead insisted on staying with and caring for her mother-in-law.Naomi and Ruth settled in Bethlehem, the hometown of Ruth’s husband.Through Naomi, Ruth met Boaz, a wealthy kinsman of Naomi, and eventually they were married.Boaz and Ruth gave birth to a son whom they named Obed.Obed was the father of Jesse and grandfather of David (Ruth 1-4).Ruth merits a particular mention in the genealogy of Jesus, in which normally only the male ancestors are named (Matthew 1:5).
David clearly was fond of his hometown.During one of his military campaigns against the Philistines, he said with longing:

"O that some one would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem which is by the gate" (2 Samuel 23:15).

Over time, Bethlehem became an important city, which was surrounded by a wall built by King Rehoboam, David’s grandson (2 Chronicles 11:5-12).By the time of the birth of our Lord, it had, however, become a relatively insignificant city.Yet, it remained a most important city, the center of hope, for the devout Jews awaiting the coming of the Messiah, for God had spoken these words to them through the Prophet Micah:

"But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days" (Micah 5:2).

The devout Jews expected that the anointed of the Lord, the Messiah, would come to them at Bethlehem.

Mary and Joseph, both natives of Bethlehem, moved from Bethlehem in Judea to Nazareth in Galilee after the birth of Jesus and the flight into Egypt because of the political difficulties of the time (Matthew 2:21-23).As devout Jews, they would have been praying daily for the coming of the Messiah.

Mary and Joseph, both most devout in the their faith, would have shared intensely the longing for our Lord’s coming, knowing the significance of their hometown because of the Word of God, contained in the prophecy of Micah.Our Lord Jesus was born there in a humble cave, and His Mother placed him in the animals’ manger.

Pilgrimage to Bethlehem

Both last year and this year, I have been privileged to go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land in my capacity as grand prior of the Northern Lieutenancy of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.On both pilgrimages, I visited and prayed in the Church of the Nativity at Bethlehem.From inside the Church, one may descend by stairs to visit some caves, one of which is the cave of our Lord’s birth.The actual place of His birth is marked by a beautiful silver star.On both pilgrimages, as I knelt down to reverence the place of our Lord’s birth, that is, to kiss the silver star, I was profoundly moved within to think that I was touching the very ground upon which Mary was lying when she gave birth to Jesus.The place of the manger is also fittingly adorned.

In the cave at Bethlehem, the promise made by our Lord through the Prophet Micah was fulfilled. The son of David, of the Root of Jesse, Christ the Lord, was born of Mary at Bethlehem. At Bethlehem, God-made-man was brought into the world from the womb of Mary.Bethlehem marks the place of the beginning of our salvation with the birth of our Lord.Jerusalem, just 5.6 miles from Bethlehem, marks the place of the completion of our salvation with the death of our Lord on Calvary and His resurrection from the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, and His sending of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and the Virgin Mary, His Mother, gathered in the Cenacle, in which Christ had instituted the Holy Eucharist and the priesthood on the night before His crucifixion.

The name, Bethlehem, means House of Bread.For us, it recalls not only the Birth of our Lord, that is, His coming into the world in our human flesh, but also His abiding presence with us in the world through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, in which He gives us His true Body and Blood under the species of bread and wine.Bethlehem is indeed the house, the place, in which Christ, the Bread of Life, first came into our midst.For us, the celebration of the birth of our Lord is most fittingly the Mass of Christmas, at Midnight and during the day, in which Christ who first came to us at Bethlehem comes to us again, in the most perfect way possible on this earth, in the Sacrament of His Real Presence.For us, too, kneeling before the Christmas crib, filled with wonder, our minds and hearts turn immediately to the altar of sacrifice and the tabernacle: the altar of sacrifice, upon which Christ unfailingly makes new the outpouring of His life for us on Calvary, and the tabernacle, in which His true Body made present on the altar is reposed for us, for our prayer and worship, and for our spiritual food in time of illness and death.

Kneeling before the image of the infant Jesus, we see how God emptied Himself completely to save us.He took our human nature in the womb of Mary and was born as a helpless child.That outpouring reaches its fullness, its ultimate destiny, in His death on Calvary and the piercing of His Divine Heart, the Heart formed by the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary, from which flowed blood and water, signs of the unceasing flow of divine grace from His glorious Heart at the right hand of the Father.It is from the glorious Sacred Heart of Jesus enthroned at the right hand of the Father that the gift of the Holy Eucharist flows, the gift of the Body of Christ, given up for us.

Bethlehem today

One cannot write about Bethlehem today without noting the intense suffering which its citizens are daily undergoing.Entering Bethlehem today, one is immediately struck by an 18-foot tall wall of poured concrete crowned with razor wire.The "security wall," also called the barrier, has been constructed by the government of Israel to separate the land inhabited by Palestinians from the land inhabited by Israelis.It is called a "security wall" because it is meant to address the real danger of terrorist acts committed by Palestinians against Israelis.In addition to the "security wall," Bethlehem is enclosed by nine Israeli settlements, roads restricted to Israelis, numerous checkpoints, earth mounds and road blocks.

The "security wall" was once described to me, in the words of a poem of Robert Frost, as a "good fence" which makes "good neighbors."In reality, it is a barrier which divides, from each other, Israelis and Palestinians, brothers and sisters, both of whose ancestors have inhabited the Holy Land from ancient times.Instead of promoting security, it only exacerbates the tensions between the two peoples.No one should minimize, let alone condone, the evil of terrorism and the terrible destruction, including many deaths, which is its fruit.The "security wall," however, is not the answer, for it only provokes deeper resentment and division.

One is also struck by the difficulty of entering and leaving Bethlehem.To enter or leave Bethlehem one must go through one of the many checkpoints.Israeli soldiers man these checkpoints, controlling the going and coming of everyone.Although the soldiers normally permit pilgrims from other lands to enter and leave more quickly, the local people often have to wait for more than an hour and, sometimes, for several hours to pass the checkpoint.The waiting is humiliating in itself and sadly can become the occasion for direct acts of humiliation.As you can imagine, the manner of operation of the checkpoints only increases the tension between Israeli and Palestinian brothers and sisters.

Loss of Christians in the Holy Land

Because of the difficult life which the "security wall" or barrier generates, many young Palestinians have left Bethlehem for other countries.The "security wall" has cut away parts of their city.They have seen the olive groves of their parents ruined through the construction of the "security wall."They have witnessed the inability of their parents to go to and return from work or the hospital or other important and essential places because of the inordinate amount of time consumed at the checkpoints.For both Christian and Islamic Palestinians living in Bethlehem, the access to the holy places of Jerusalem is severely limited.

What is more, the visitors, pilgrims and tourists, are coming to their city in drastically fewer numbers.Many who depended on hotel and restaurant work for their livelihood, or who made and sold olive-wood carvings, souvenirs and local handicrafts to visitors, are without work.It is not difficult to understand why the young Palestinians see no future for themselves in the Holy Land.

Their departure has most serious implications for all Christians.Nearly all of the Christians are Palestinians.With their departure, the Holy Land loses its Christian population, which has been present since the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and His sending of the Holy Spirit.If the trend continues, the holy places, like the Church of the Nativity, will become museums for visits by pilgrims and tourists without a living Christian community to care for them and to give worship to God in them daily.It is a most sad situation from every point of view.

At Christmas, as we return to Bethlehem in our thoughts and prayers, let us pray especially for peace in the Holy Land.Let us pray that Israeli and Palestinian brothers and sisters will find the way to live in peace with one another, in mutual respect and with mutual care of each other.Let us pray to Christ, the Prince of Peace, who brings peace to all men of good will, for peace in the land of His birth.

Bethlehem University

One of the wonderful signs of hope in Bethlehem is Bethlehem University, founded in 1973 through the work of the apostolic delegate, together with heads of various schools.It is sponsored by the Apostolic See and the Brothers of the Christian Schools, that is the De La Salle Christian Brothers who operate Christian Brothers College High School in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.The Brothers have been operating schools in the Holy Land and in neighboring countries for over 100 years before the foundation of Bethlehem University, and, of course, have a wide experience in administering secondary schools and universities in various parts of the world.

Bethlehem University provides the possibility of higher education for promising young students in the West Bank and Gaza.Without the university, it would be difficult for these students to do post-secondary studies of excellent quality.It is coeducational and accepts students of all faiths.It awards degrees in the arts, education, business administration, science and nursing.It also grants diplomas in midwifery, neonatal nursing and education, and in a series of areas specific to the care of tourists and pilgrims:hotel management and tourism management, including training in the operation of a tourist agency and the work of a tour guide.

I personally can testify to the quality of the program of hotel management.On pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 2004, I was hosted at the Bethlehem University by Brother Vincent Malham, FSC, who was president of Bethlehem University at the time and today is president of Christian Brothers University in Memphis.Brother Vincent gave extraordinary leadership to Bethlehem University. After a visit to the various departments of the university, the other pilgrims and I were treated to a delicious lunch prepared and served by the students in the Institute of Hotel Management.Every detail of the luncheon, including the setting of the table and the presentation of the food, was first class.

In truth, all of the programs of the university are excellent.The proof is that the graduates of Bethlehem University are readily accepted in other universities for further studies.

As you can imagine, all of the difficulties of entering and leaving Bethlehem, which I described above, have made the work of the university very difficult.Also, the university was closed by the military from October 1987 to October 1990, and experiences constant danger and destruction from the Israeli military response to Palestinian terrorism.Thanks to the dedication of the administration and faculty, and the resilience of the students, the classes have always continued, in off-campus locations during the time when the military closed the university, and on the campus itself during military operations which have severely damaged classrooms, administrative offices and the chapel.
Students wait in line at checkpoints for hours in order to register for classes and attend them.One student recounted how a soldier came to his home the night before registration for classes at around 2 o’clock in the morning, "and ransacked his family home, going through his school books and notebooks, tearing out random pages and just leaving the place in a mess" (Bethlehem University News, Spring 2004, p. 16).

Faculty members have had their homes, some of which have been in the family for generations, drastically transformed by the building of the "security wall."Gardens, open landscapes and olive orchards have been destroyed by the bulldozers preparing the foundation of the Barrier. One faculty member commented:

"You can imagine that once your land is confiscated, and there is no view, and you are literally ‘walled in,’ isolated from other people, the future is not a bright one.My daugher is only two months old, and I already wonder about her future, hoping that one day my daughter will be treated with respect and dignity, something not available to me.I would like the Christian world to pray for us.Nowadays the world is unable to do anything about this wall, but if Christians are praying for us, God can change things when people cannot" (Bethlehem University News, Spring 2004, p. 16).

Let us be faithful in our daily prayer for peace in Bethlehem, the birthplace of the Prince of Peace.Let us not fail to apply the best remedy, the imploring of God’s help, to a seemingly hopeless situation.

Catholic education always gives hope of a better future.Bethlehem University gives this hope in a situation which, for some, seems a cause of despair. I encourage you to learn more about this extraordinary work of the Church, to pray for God’s blessing upon it, and to support it.The address of Bethlehem University is: PO Box 11407 Gilo, 92248 Jerusalem, ISRAEL.The website is: http://www.bethlehem.edu.

Conclusion

I hope that my reflection upon Bethlehem at the time of our Lord’s birth and Bethlehem today has been a help in your preparation to celebrate the great mystery of our faith, the mystery of the redemptive Incarnation.Bethlehem is the place of our Lord’s birth, which has brought joy and peace to the whole world.It is the place in which His redemptive work continues today to bring joy and peace to a people who suffer many trials.It continues to be the "House of Bread," the place in which the Bread of Life first came into the world and the symbol of His faithful coming into the world, through the Holy Eucharist, to heal, nourish and strengthen us along life’s pilgrimage.

For every member of the faithful of the Archdiocese of St. Louis and for all our readers, I wish an abundance of the Christmas graces of joy and peace.May your celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, especially through the coming of Christ into your soul in Holy Communion, be your secure anchor of hope amid life’s tests and trials.May it inspire in you daily prayers for our brothers and sisters in the Holy Land, for the peace of Bethlehem, for the peace of Jerusalem.

The deep wound of schism in the archdiocese

Introduction

I write, with heavy heart, about a situation which I, as bishop, had hoped that I would never have to address.I refer to the recent break with the communion of the Roman Catholic Church on the part of the board of directors of the civil corporation of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish in the City of St. Louis, and on the part of the priest from the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, whom they have hired to serve them.

It saddens me, in particular, to address such a deep wound to the Church in our archdiocese in these days of our final preparation for the celebration of the Birth of Our Lord on Christmas.The fact of the schism, however, must be addressed by me now, because it has immediate effects in the whole Church, especially the Archdiocese of St. Louis.The priest in question has informed me that he will begin his service at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church on Christmas Eve.

As archbishop, it is my responsibility to explain the situation to all of the faithful of the archdiocese, who are so deeply affected by what has happened, in order that they not be subjected to further confusion and division, that they not be deceived about the lawfulness and validity of sacraments celebrated by the schismatic priest and that they pray for the reconciliation of those who gone into schism.

Schism

Schism is "the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him" (can. 751).It is the repudiation of the authority which Christ conferred upon St. Peter and the other Apostles in communion with him, and their successors.It, therefore, involves not only a premeditated and most grave act of disobedience to the authority of the Roman Pontiff and the bishops in the communion with him, but also a certain denial of an integral part of the Catholic faith, that is, the apostolic mark of the Church.In other words, those who choose to go into schism believe that they can be the Church without the pastoral teaching, ministration of the sacraments and governance of the Apostles and their successors.

In the case of the board of directors of the civil corporation of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish, the act of disobedience involves directly not only the archbishop of St. Louis but also the Apostolic See.They have rejected both my direction and the direction of the Apostolic See.

At the beginning of my service as archbishop of St. Louis on Jan. 26, 2004, I was obliged to address the structure of the civil corporation of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish, in order that it be in conformity with universal Church law which demands that the form of civil corporation respect the office of the archbishop and pastor of the parish.Because the bylaws of the civil corporation of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish had been altered to eliminate any recognition of the authority of the archbishop and pastor, my predecessor, then-Archbishop Justin Rigali, had taken the proper steps to rectify the matter.In the meantime, he was transferred to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and, therefore, it was my responsibility, as his successor, to complete the necessary work which he had begun for the good of the faithful of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish and of the whole archdiocese.

From the very beginning of my service, the members of the board of directors of the civil corporation have refused to obey my directives and, in fact, made appeal to the Apostolic See against my directives to them.The appeal was made to the Holy Father’s Congregation for the Clergy, which is competent in such matters.The Congregation for the Clergy responded to the board of directors, strongly directing them to comply with my directives.When the board of directors refused to obey either my directives or the directives of the Apostolic See, I was obliged to impose the penalty of interdict, in the hope that the members of the board would recognize the error of their way and repent. I have insisted with the members of the board of directors that the way to unity and, therefore, peace is obedience to our lawful superiors in the Church, that is, the Holy Father’s Congregation for the Clergy.

Conflict with the Roman Catholic Church

Some have understood that the conflict of the members of the board of directors of the civil corporation of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish and of those who follow them is with me personally.Such is clearly not the case, as the decision of the Congregation for the Clergy indicated.Their conflict is with the Roman Catholic Church.It is a conflict which several of my predecessors addressed in their time.The members of the board of directors refuse to accept the governance of the parish by the Roman Catholic Church, insisting that they remain devout Roman Catholics by governing the parish themselves.They have, thereby, broken the bond of communion with the Apostolic See and the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

Some have understood the object of the conflict to be power and money.Such is also clearly not the case.The object of the conflict is obedience, the obedience we all owe to the Apostolic teaching and discipline of the Church.

The power in question belongs to Christ alone, who continues to guide the Church through those who act in His person as shepherd and head of the flock, in virtue of the Sacrament of Holy Orders and the jurisdiction conferred by the Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ on earth, and the bishops in communion with the Holy Father.It is precisely when we place ourselves above Christ and His authority in the Church that we introduce division into the Body of Christ.

Regarding money, there has never been a question that the money and all the other temporal goods of the parish belong to the parish, as is the case with every other parish in the archdiocese.I have no authority to seize the funds of any parish for any purpose, no matter how noble.My interest in the right ordering of parish life at St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish involves money only to the extent that it includes the stewardship of the goods of the parish, according to ecclesiastical and civil law, and the vigilance over the administration of the temporal goods of the parish, so that they are used for the good of the parish.For that reason, from the beginning, I have insisted that a public audit of the parish’s goods be conducted, so that there could be no question of any misappropriation of the parish’s goods.

Act of schism

The act of schism, committed by the board of directors of the civil corporation of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish, was the hiring of a suspended priest, that is a priest who is not in good standing in the Church, for the purpose of attempting to celebrate the sacraments and sacramentals at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church.The priest in question, Father Marek B. Bozek, a priest of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, has left his priestly office of assistant pastor of St. Agnes Cathedral in Springfield against the explicit direction of his bishop, the Most Reverend John J. Leibrecht, and after Bishop Leibrecht had explained to him more than once the gravity of his action and its consequences.

The fact of the matter is that only a priest who is not in good standing would agree to employment by a group of parishioners without the appointment of the diocesan bishop, that is, a group of parishioners who are breaking communion with the Church.All priests serve in communion with the diocesan bishop who serves in communion with the Roman Pontiff.When Father Bozek left his assignment without his bishop’s permission, he was rightly suspended.The penalty of suspension prohibits him from the exercise of his priestly office (cf. can. 1333, 1).

A priest, who knowingly and willingly chooses to attempt to exercise priestly ministry outside of the communion of the Church and, thereby, assists and encourages others in breaking communion with the Church, clearly also commits the ecclesiastical crime of schism.To be clear, it is not only the members of the board of directors of the civil corporation of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish who are in schism, but also the priest whom they have presumed to hire and who has agreed to be hired.

In the secular media, it has been suggested that Bishop Leibrecht, more than once, asked me to accept Father Bozek for assignment to St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish, but that I stubbornly refused.The suggestion is totally false.Bishop Leibrecht informed me immediately when he learned from Father Bozek about his intention to accept employment by the board of directors of the civil corporation of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish.Bishop Leibrecht assured me that he had not given Father Bozek any permission to pursue a position at St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish and that, on the contrary, he was insisting that Father Bozek remain faithful to the exercise of his priestly office at St. Agnes Cathedral.

Father Bozek remains a priest of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau.Bishop Leibrecht as bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau has made it abundantly clear that he desires Father Bozek to return to his diocese immediately, in order to be reconciled.It is my prayer that Father Bozek will respond to Bishop Leibrecht’s direction, in accord with the promise of obedience, which he made, in Bishop Leibrecht’s hands, to Bishop Leibrecht and his successors on the day of his ordination. Please pray for the same intention.

Consequences of schism

Those who commit the ecclesiastical crime of schism incur automatically the penalty of excommunication (cf. can. 1364, 1; and 1314).The excommunicated person is forbidden "to have any ministerial participation in celebrating the Sacrifice of the Eucharist or any other ceremonies of worship whatsoever" (can. 1331, 1, 1); "to celebrate the sacraments or sacramentals, and to receive the sacraments" (can. 1331, 1, 2); and "to exercise any ecclesiastical offices, ministries or functions whatsoever or to place acts of governance" (can. 1331, 1, 3).The various elements of the penalty underline the fact that the party in question has broken communion with the Church.The prohibition of receiving the sacraments or sacramentals is suspended when the party under sanction is in danger of death, given that he is otherwise properly disposed (cf. can. 1352, 1).

Although the excommunication is incurred automatically, it is my duty as the diocesan bishop in whose jurisdiction the act of schism has taken place to declare the excommunication, after I have made certain that the parties in question have understood the gravity of their act and its most serious consequences (cf. cann. 1717-1719).It has been made clear to me for some time that the members of the board of directors of the civil corporation of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish have understood that the action of hiring a priest who is not in good standing in the Church to serve them carried with it the penalty of excommunication.Over the months since the imposition of the penalty of interdict, it has been my hope that the members of the board of directors would seek reconciliation.Also, I have renewed several times my offer to execute civil legal documents to guarantee what is already guaranteed by Church discipline, namely, the ownership of the temporal goods of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish as a personal parish for faithful of Polish language or heritage.The members of the board of directors, however, have insisted on their governance of the parish, even if, at the same time, they have asserted their desire to be part of the Roman Catholic Church.Having attempted to address the situation through fraternal correction and other means of pastoral solicitude, including the pastoral visit of the Most Reverend Ryszard Karpinski, auxiliary bishop of Lublin in Poland and the delegate of the Polish Conference of Bishops for Polish faithful living outside their homeland, now I must declare that the latest action of the members of the board of directors constitutes schism, carrying with it the automatic penalty of excommunication (cf. can. 1341).

The ordained priest who goes into schism, in addition to being bound by the above-listed prohibitions, is also rendered irregular for the exercise of Holy Orders (cf. can. 1044, 1, 2). In other words, he may not exercise the Sacrament of Holy Orders which he has received.Any Mass celebrated by a suspended and excommunicated priest is valid, but illicit.To knowingly and willingly celebrate the Holy Mass, when one is legitimately prohibited from doing so, is a most grave sin.A priest under the penalty of excommunication does not give valid sacramental absolution (cf. can. 966, 1).Neither can he validly officiate at a wedding (cf. can. 1108, 1).

The celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation by a schismatic priest is invalid because he no longer has any faculty to do so, either by universal Church law or the granting of the faculty by the diocesan bishop (cf. can. 882).Baptism and the Anointing of the Sick are conferred validly but not licitly (cf. cann. 862; and 1003, 1-2).

The faithful who approach a schismatic priest for the reception of the sacraments, except in the case of danger of death, commit a mortal sin.All of the faithful of the archdiocese should guard against any participation in the attempt to celebrate the sacraments or sacramentals at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church.Also, they should caution visitors and others who are unaware of the status of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish, lest they unknowingly participate in the schismatic acts.

Finally, since the civil legal control of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish belongs exclusively to the members of the board of directors of the civil corporation and they have chosen to lead the members of the parish into schism, I will be obliged to suppress St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish.It is not possible for St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish to remain a parish of the Archdiocese of St. Louis and, at the same time, to operate completely independently of the Apostolic See and the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

Conclusion

As I wrote at the beginning, my heart is heavy in writing to you about the break of communion with the Church by our brothers and sisters at St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish, most especially at the Holy Seasons of Advent and Christmas. We must not, however, permit Satan to steal our joy at the preparation for Christmas and the celebration of the Birth of Our Lord Jesus. Let, rather, the mystery of the Incarnation, which we will celebrate with deepest joy on Christmas Day and throughout the Christmas Season be the source of our renewed prayers for the reconciliation of the members of the board of directors, of those who support them, and of Father Marek Bozek.

On Dec. 17, we will begin the final days of our preparation for the Solemnity of the Birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ.On each day, from Dec. 17 to Dec. 24, we will salute Christ our Savior by one of the ancient and beautiful titles given to the long-awaited Messiah.The last of the titles is Emmanuel.It contains all the other titles, for it means: God with us.Let us, through the intercession of Our Lady of Czestochowa, implore our Lord Jesus Christ, the Divine Mercy, on behalf of the reconciliation of those who have gone into schism.Christ, Divine Mercy Incarnate, accomplishes all things.Let us place the dolorous situation of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish into all-merciful and loving heart.

These are days of strong grace in the Church.May we keep them with deepest faith and so obtain the grace of being fittingly prepared for the great celebration of the Birth of our Savior.Through the observance of these final days of Advent, may many graces come to our homes and our archdiocese, uniting us in the peace which Christ brought to the world at His Birth.

‘I am truly your merciful Mother’

Introduction

In these days, we celebrate the wonderful events of the apparitions of the Mother of God on our continent in 1531.On Dec. 9, we celebrate the feast day of St. Juan Diego to whom the Mother of God appeared on the hill of Tepeyac, in what is today Mexico City.She chose Juan Diego, a Native American, to be her messenger.

Dec. 9 is the date of the first of her apparitions to Juan Diego, which would conclude on Dec. 12, the day when we celebrate the feast of the Mother of God, under her title of Our Lady of Guadalupe.On Dec. 12, 1531, our Blessed Mother miraculously left her image on the tilma, or mantle, of Juan Diego, as was witnessed by Bishop Juan de Zumrraga, the first bishop of Mexico, and his attendants, and, of course, by Juan Diego.

From Dec. 9 to 12, the Mother of God appeared four times to Juan Diego and once to his dying uncle, Juan Bernardino.She instructed Juan Diego to go to the bishop, communicating to him her desire that a chapel be built in which she might manifest the mercy of God to his sons and daughters.Appearing to Juan Bernardino, she healed him of his illness and revealed the name by which she wished her image to be called, the Perfect Virgin Holy Mary of Guadalupe (Nican Mopohua, n. 208).In a real sense, she continues to appear to us, as she first did to Juan Diego, Juan Bernardino, the bishop and his attendants, for her image miraculously remains on the tilma of St. Juan Diego, enthroned today in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.She remains with us through her image, not made by any human hand.Through her image, she continues to look lovingly upon us and to invite us to know the mercy and love of God in Christ and His Mystical Body, the Church.Every day, hundreds and thousands of pilgrims make their way to her basilica to pray before her image, to ask her help and intercession, and to leave a candle burning as a sign of their constant prayer and trust in God’s mercy.

Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Season of Advent

The celebrations of St. Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe come providentially during the season of Advent.It is helpful to recall that Juan Diego was on his way to participate in the Holy Mass for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, when Our Lady of Guadalupe first appeared to him.At the time, in the Spanish Empire, the Immaculate Conception of our Blessed Mother was celebrated on Dec. 9 instead of Dec. 8.

Our Blessed Mother did not choose the date of her first appearance by chance.She came to our continent to show herself as the Mother of God and our Mother, the vocation and mission for which she was prepared from the moment of her grace-filled conception in the womb of her mother Anne.God preserved her, from the very first moment of her life, that is, from the moment of conception, from all stain of original sin, so that she might be the fitting vessel to conceive God the Son through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit and bring Him to birth at Bethlehem on Christmas.

The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary manifests the purity and totality of her love of Christ, her Son and our Savior, from the first moment of her existence.Her pure and total love of Christ, God’s gift to her and to the whole Church at her Immaculate Conception, would express itself most fully in His conception in her womb at the Annunciation and in His confiding the Church, His Mystical Body, to her maternal care on Calvary, as He died for us on the cross.

The celebration of the feast days of St. Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe helps us very much to enter more deeply into our preparation for the celebration of Christmas, the Birth of our Lord.Our Lady helps us to enter more deeply into the observance of Advent by which we prepare for the celebration of the birth of our Lord by welcoming Him more purely and totally into our hearts as He faithfully comes to us in the Church, especially in the Holy Eucharist.Our Lady helps us, by her example and intercession, to place ourselves anew each day on the Way of Christ, so that we may be ready to greet Him when He returns in glory on the last day.

Source of our knowledge of Our Lady of Guadalupe

How do we know about the apparitions and message of Our Lady of Guadalupe?We are blessed to have a written version of the oral account given by Juan Diego during the 17 years of his life which remained after the apparitions, years which he spent exclusively at the chapel on the hill of Tepeyac.Bishop Juan de Zumrraga had enthroned his miraculous tilma in the chapel on Dec. 26, 1531, just 14 days after the last apparition.Here, it is important to note the diligence with which the bishop had the chapel built for the enthronement.Once he understood, through the miraculous image on the tilma, that the Mother of God had indeed appeared to Juan Diego, he carried out her wishes with all due haste.

The oral account of Juan Diego was committed to writing by Antonio Valeriano, an Aztec nobleman, who wrote in Nahuatl, the native language of Juan Diego and himself.Valeriano, a noted scholar and esteemed civic official, was a close friend of Juan Diego and visited him often at the chapel of Our Lady on the hill of Tepeyac.It is not difficult to imagine the attraction of visiting a good friend and the even greater attraction of praying before the miraculous image of the Mother of God.It is said that Antonio Valeriano loved to repeat the story of the apparitions, quoting the words of the Mother of God, as he heard the story directly from his good friend, Our Lady’s privileged messenger.In this regard, it is important to recall the strength and accuracy of oral tradition in the time before written texts were easily accessible.

Thank God, Antonio Valeriano not only repeated orally but also wrote down all of the details of the apparitions, including the words spoken by Our Lady of Guadalupe, in a text known popularly by the first two words of its lengthy title in Nahuatl, Nican Mopohua.The full title in Nahuatl, translated into English, is: "Herein is related in order and arrangement the manner in which the ever Virgin Mary Mother of God recently and marvelously appeared in Tepeyac, which is called Guadalupe."Studies have ascertained that Valeriano wrote the Nican Mopohua sometime between 1548 and 1560, that is, between 17 and 29 years after the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe.It is reasonable to assume that the death of his beloved friend, Juan Diego, in 1548, inspired him to preserve the account for the succeeding generations by committing it to writing.
There are other sources which refer to the apparitions and message of Our Lady of Guadalupe, that is, written manuscripts, sermons and official acts of recognition and approbation of the devotion by the Roman pontiffs and the bishops of Mexico.All of the sources point to the authenticity and truth of the Nican Mopohua, which is the fullest account of the appearances of the Mother of God on our continent in 1531.

The full text of the Nican Mopohua, translated into English, may be found in A Handbook of Guadalupe, edited by the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate and available through Ignatius Press (pp. 193-204).It is also found in the book, Our Lady of Guadalupe: History and Meaning of the Apparitions, written originally in Italian by Manuela Testoni, and translated in English and adapted by Father Jordan Aumann, OP (pp. 88-100). It is published by Alba House in New York.

Mother of America

Sadly, the story of the apparitions and message of Our Lady of Guadalupe is not well known throughout the continent of America, that is in North America, Central America and South America.Here, I note the insistence with which our late and most beloved Pope John Paul II referred to North America, Central America and South America as one continent.In fact, they are all part of one land mass which has been artificially divided by the Panama Canal, but Pope John Paul II had a deeper reason for his insistence, which he expressed in his post-synodal apostolic exhortation Ecclesia in America, "On the Encounter with the Living Jesus Christ: The Way to Conversion, Communion and Solidarity in America":

"I asked that the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops reflect on America as a single entity, by reason of all that is common to the peoples of the continent, including their shared Christian identity and their genuine attempt to strengthen the bonds of solidarity and communion between the different forms of the continent’s rich cultural heritage.The decision to speak of ‘America’ in the singular was an attempt to express not only the unity which in some way already exists, but also to point to that closer bond which the peoples of the continent seek and which the Church wishes to foster as part of her own mission, as she works to promote the communion of all in the land" (n. 5).

Pope John Paul II saw the diverse cultural heritage of the various peoples of America as mutually enriching.He prayed, through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, that our continent might be united in the work of the new evangelization.Pope John Paul II understood, as did his predecessors, Pope Pius XII, Blessed Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI, that Our Lady of Guadalupe had come to unite all of the peoples who inhabit the American continent.

Because the apparitions took place in what today is Mexico City, some faithful conclude that our Blessed Mother intended to speak only to Mexicans or to Central Americans or to Spanish-speaking Americans.I recall hearing about Our Lady of Guadalupe as I was growing up, but somehow I had the sense that her apparitions pertained principally to another part of America.Devotion to the Mother of God, under her titles of Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Fatima and our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, was more fostered in me.In later years, I came to know better our Blessed Mother under her title of special love of the peoples of our continent.

As I began to read the account of the apparitions and message of Our Lady of Guadalupe, I was especially struck by her words during the first apparition.After she had identified herself as the Mother of God and had declared the purpose of her apparitions, that is, to have a chapel built in which she might manifest the mercy of God, she expressed her purpose again within the context of her vocation and mission of Mother of God:
"I will give Him (God) to the people in all my personal love, in my compassion, in my help, in my protection: because I am truly your merciful Mother, yours and all the people who liveunited in this land and of all the other people of different ancestries, my lovers, those who call upon me, those who seek me, those who trust in me, because here I will hear their weeping, their sadness, in order to heal all their sufferings, hardships and sorrows" (Nican Mopohua, n. 28-32).

The words of the Mother of God make it clear that her apparitions are for all of America, for all who are united in the one continent of America, and, indeed, for all who love her and seek her intercession.

Because of difficulties of communication and, at times, because of persecution, it has taken the Church some centuries to recognize formally the maternal care of Our Lady of Guadalupe for all of America.The devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe had been recognized by the bishops of Mexico, beginning with Bishop Juan de Zumrraga, and, in due time, by the Roman pontiffs, as early as 1575.Pope Benedict XIV, who shepherded the Universal Church from 1740 to 1758, had an especially strong devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, making her feast a holy day of obligation, with a proper octave celebration, in Mexico.He raised the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Guadalupe at Tepeyac in Mexico City to the rank of a basilica.

In a radio message of Oct. 12, 1945, Pope Pius XII proclaimed Our Lady of Guadalupe the "Empress of All the Americas."In the radio message, he offered a prayer which he had composed and which concluded with these words: "For we are certain that as long as you are recognized as Queen and Mother, Mexico and America will be safe."Blessed Pope John XXIII proclaimed a Marian Year from Dec. 12, 1960, to Dec. 12, 1961.At the conclusion of the Marian Year, he dedicated a church in Rome to Our Lady of Guadalupe, on which occasion he prayed: "From the sanctuary of Tepeyac, for more than four centuries you have been the Mother and teacher of the faith to the peoples of the Americas.Be also our protector and save us, O Immaculate Mary" (A Handbook on Guadalupe, p. 176).

Pope John Paul II had a most notable devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe. During the first of his numerous apostolic visits outside of Italy, he visited the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Jan. 27, 1979.He was to return to the sanctuary three more times before his death: on May 6, 1990, he returned to declare Juan Diego to be blessed; on Jan. 22, 1999, her returned to promulgate the post-synodal apostolic exhortation Ecclesia in America, in which he set forth the pastoral program for our continent at the beginning of the Third Christian Millennium and entrusted the program of new evangelization to the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Mother of America; and he returned finally on July 31, 2001, to canonize Juan Diego. Here, I recall to memory that, at the conclusion of his third visit to Our Lady of Guadalupe in 1999, Pope John Paul II made his historic pastoral visit to St. Louis, arriving on Jan. 26 and departing on Jan. 27.

Mother of America and Star of the New Evangelization

In Ecclesia in America, Pope John Paul II presented the program of the Church at the beginning of a new Christian millennium.It is the program of the new evangelization, that is, of teaching and living our Catholic faith, both in worship and in practice, with the enthusiasm and the energy of the first disciples of our Lord, and the enthusiasm and the energy of the first missionaries to our continent.

Noting the maternal care and protection of the Mother of God for the Church from the time of the first evangelization — our Blessed Mother’s presence in the Upper Room at the Sending of the Holy Spirit — Pope John Paul II underlined her particular role in the first evangelization of America and called upon all of America to invoke her intercession and to follow her maternal guidance in carrying out the new evangelization:

"The appearance of Mary to the native Juan Diego on the hill of Tepeyac in 1531 had a decisive effect on evangelization.Its influence greatly overflows the boundaries of Mexico, spreading to the whole continent.America, which historically has been, and still is, a melting pot of peoples, has recognized in the mestiza face of the Virgin of Tepeyac, ‘in Blessed Mary of Guadalupe, an impressive example of a perfectly inculturated evangelization.’Consequently, not only in Central and South America, but in North America as well, the Virgin of Guadalupe is venerated as Queen of all America" (n. 11c).

Because of the particular and special role of the Virgin of Guadalupe in the evangelization of our continent, from the beginning, our Holy Father granted the request of the bishops of America that the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe be observed on Dec. 12 in all of the continent.Our Lady is truly our star in the work of the new evangelization, for, like a star, she faithfully guides us to Christ, the Sun, with the instruction: "Do whatever He tells you" (John 2:5).

Called to mind Our Lady of Guadalupe’s titles, Mother of America and Star of the New Evangelization, Pope John Paul II expressed his fervent desire for us and our continent:

"It is my heartfelt hope that she, whose intercession was responsible for strengthening the faith of the first disciples (cf. John 2:11), will by her maternal intercession guide the Church in America, obtaining the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, as she once did for the early Church (cf. Acts 1:14), so that the new evangelization may yield a splendid flowering of Christian life" (n. 11d).

How much the witness of a strong life in Christ is needed in our time which is marked by so much violence and taking of human life!

The Mother of God, who brought together into one the Spanish and the Native American peoples in the 16th century, will not fail to hear our prayers for unity and peace in our homes, in our local communities, in our nation and among all peoples.She who was the instrument by which our Lord brought an end to the oppressive racism and the cruel practice of human sacrifice at the time of the first evangelization of our continent will also be the instrument by which God brings an end to the many forms of injustice, above all the deliberate killing of the innocent and defenseless unborn, in our time of the new evangelization.In the beautiful mestiza complexion of the Virgin of Guadalupe, uniting the beauty of both the European and Native American races, we find a constant sign of hope that, with the help of God’s grace, all peoples can live in peace with each other, respecting and fostering the life and faith of every citizen, without exception or exclusion.Before the many and most serious challenges which we face in advancing the new evangelization, especially in living the Gospel of Life in the midst of a culture of death, Our Lady of Guadalupe looks upon us with maternal love and invites us to seek, through her intercession, the grace of conversion of life and transformation of our culture.Remember her words at the first apparition to Juan Diego: "I am truly your merciful Mother" (Nican Mopohua, n. 29).

Remember her words to him at the fourth apparition:
"Am I not here, I, who am your Mother?Are you not under my shadow and protection?Am I not the source of your joy?Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms?Do you have need of anything else?Let nothing else afflict you, disturb you" (Nican Mopohua, nn. 119-120).

With the Mother of God, we have all that we need, for she guides us to Christ who alone is our salvation.In every trial and suffering, she will lovingly bring us to Christ, our sure anchor of hope. She will lead us to place all our confidence in Him.

Conclusion

May the reflection upon the apparitions and message of Our Lady of Guadalupe bring you deep joy in your observance of the Advent Season.May you recognize in the Virgin of Guadalupe your merciful Mother who draws you to the font of Divine Mercy, Jesus Christ, her Divine Son.I urge you to come to know better Our Lady of Guadalupe, who desires to keep you under her shadow and protection, to enfold you in her mantle, and to hold you in the crossing of her arms.She will never fail you.She is indeed our loving Mother.

Finally, it is my hope that you will make a pilgrimage to visit Our Lady of Guadalupe at her shrine in Mexico City or at her shrine in La Crosse, Wis.The Web sites of the shrines are: www.ourladyofguadalupe.com.mx (Mexico City) and www.guadalupeshrine.org (LaCrosse).You may also wish to visit the Web site of the Queen of Americas Guild, an association of the faithful dedicated to the work of Our Lady of Guadalupe: www.queenoftheamericasguild.org.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America and Star of the New Evangelization, pray for us.

Discernment of a priestly vocation and the homosexual condition

Introduction

In the Oct. 14 issue of the St. Louis Review, I wrote about Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, our archdiocesan seminary. Toward the end of the article, I addressed the concern regarding the admission to the seminary of men who suffer from same-sex attraction, that is, the homosexual condition. The subject has been discussed in the public media in the context of the apostolic visitation to all the seminaries in the United States. The apostolic visitation, carried out at the direction of our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, in a particular way, given the grave scandal of the sexual abuse of minors by priests, seeks to assure that seminarians are educated to make right judgments regarding sexual morality and, specifically, homosexual acts. In other words, the apostolic visitation wants to make sure that seminarians are leading a serenely pure and chaste life in preparation for making the promise of celibacy and receiving ordination to the diaconate and the priesthood.

On Nov. 29, the Congregation for Catholic Education issued a most important and helpful document to assist diocesan bishops and seminary officials in responding to candidates applying for the seminary or presenting themselves for ordination, who suffer with homosexual tendencies. The document is titled: Instruction Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with Regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies, in View of Their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders. Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, approved the instruction and ordered its publication on Aug. 31. The instruction was signed by Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, and Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, the secretary or second-in-command at the congregation, on Nov. 4, the memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, patron saint of seminaries.

Because of the importance of the instruction and to help dispel the confusion which has surrounded its predicted promulgation, I want to communicate to all the faithful of the archdiocese the substance of the instruction and the norms which it contains.

Context

The instruction is set within the context of the teaching of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council on priestly formation, which is principally found in the decree Optatam totius, "On the Training of Priests," promulgated on Oct. 28, 1965. Since the promulgation of the conciliar decree, the Congre-gation for Catholic Education has published a whole series of documents to promote the fitting and complete formation of future priests. These documents contain "guidelines and precise norms" to be followed and observed in all seminaries. The first and most important document was the basic plan of priestly formation, issued, first, in 1970 and, in a revised edition, in 1985. Other documents have been directed to various aspects of seminary education and formation, for example, philosophical studies (1972), formation in priestly celibacy (1974), the teaching of canon law (1975), theological formation of seminarians (1976), the formation of older or late vocations (1976), liturgical formation (1979), spiritual formation (1980), and many more aspects. A complete list of the documents in question is provided in the second footnote of the instruction (Introduction).

The Synod of Bishops in 1990 devoted itself exclusively to the study of priestly formation in the present time, with a view to completing the teaching in the conciliar decree and to applying it more explicitly and accurately to the present times. After the conclusion of the 1990 Synod of Bishops, our late and most beloved Pope John Paul II published the fruit of the synodal discussions in the post-synodal apostolic exhortation Pastores dabo vobis, "On the Formation of Priests in the Circumstances of the Present Day," on March 25, 1992. The post-synodal apostolic exhortation is the magna charta for seminaries today.

The instruction makes it clear that, given all of the teaching contained in other Church documents, it "does not intend to dwell on all questions in the area of affectivity and sexuality that require an attentive discernment during the entire period of formation" (Introduction).It treats, rather, the specific question of "whether to admit to the seminary and to Holy Orders candidates who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies." The question, as is clear, is most urgent at the present time, given the scandal of the sexual abuse of minors by priests, which has chiefly involved homosexual acts with adolescent boys, and given the ever greater confusion regarding the homosexual condition in society, in general. The instruction provides fitting norms to be followed in the matter (Introduction).

Affective maturity and spiritual fatherhood

The instruction, first, reminds us that, according to the constant tradition of the Church, "only a baptized person of the male sex validly receives sacred ordination."Through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, the Holy Spirit configures the ordained to Jesus Christ by a new and specific title. The ordained priest, in fact, "sacramentally represents Christ, the Head, Shepherd and Bridegroom of the Church." Because of the ontological change in the ordained priest, that is, his sacramental configuration to Christ the High Priest, his life, in every aspect, "must be animated by the gift of his whole person to the Church and by authentic pastoral charity" (n. 1). In other words, there cannot be any part of the life of the ordained priest which is incoherent with or contradicts his sacramental identity with Christ the High Priest.

It is clear, therefore, that the candidate for the ordained ministry must attain a certain affective maturity. "Such maturity will allow him to relate correctly to both men and women, developing in him a true sense of spiritual fatherhood toward the Church community that will be entrusted to him" (n. 1). If the candidate for Holy Orders is troubled or confused regarding his own sexual identity and its correct expression, then he will not be able to carry out the priestly ministry which is a daily expression of spiritual fatherhood.
Homosexuality and the ordained minister

The instruction then calls to mind the consistent confirmation of the Church’s perennial teaching on the homosexual condition since the time of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in nn. 2357-2358, which distinguishes between homosexual acts and homosexual tendencies, expresses the Church’s teaching in the matter (n. 2).

With respect to homosexual acts, the catechism teaches us that, in the Sacred Scriptures, such acts are held to be serious sins. Sacred Tradition has always considered them to be "intrinsically immoral and contrary to the natural law." The instruction, therefore, rightly concludes that "under no circumstance can they be approved" (n. 2).

Deep-seated homosexual tendencies, which are found in a certain number of men and women, are "also objectively disordered and, for those same people, often constitute a trial." The instruction states that these persons are to be received "with respect and sensitivity."

Any trace of unjust discrimination is to be avoided. Those who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies, for their part, "are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter" (n. 2).

In the light of the Church’s teaching, the instruction then provides two concrete norms to be followed in seminaries. The first norm is:
"In the light of such teaching, this congregation, in agreement with the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, finds it necessary to affirm clearly that the Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary or to Holy Orders those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called gay culture" (n. 2).

The instruction continues by providing the reason for the norm and giving an admonition to take to heart the results of admitting to the seminary or to sacred ordination a person with deep-seated homosexual tendencies:

"Such persons, in fact, find themselves in a situation that gravely hinders them from relating correctly to men and women. One must in no way overlook the negative consequences that can derive from the ordination of persons with deep-seated homosexual tendencies" (n. 2).

Here, one must keep in mind the required affective maturity in the ordained priest who, after the Heart of Christ, is to be a spiritual father to the flock.

The second norm is:

"Different, however, would be the case in which one were dealing with homosexual tendencies that were only the expression of a transitory problem — for example, that of an adolescence not yet superseded. Nevertheless, such tendencies must be clearly overcome at least three years before ordination to the diaconate" (n. 2).

In today’s society, our young people are bombarded by the media with every form of sexual activity, both heterosexual and homosexual. Also, sadly, some young men grow up without a strong fatherly presence in their lives. The highly sexualized society and the natural need to identify personally with a father figure can cause a temporary confusion regarding sexual identity, which, with proper spiritual and psychological assistance, can be overcome. In such a case, the candidate remains in an adolescent state regarding affective maturity and must receive help to come to a properly ordered adult affectivity.

The Church’s discernment of the fittingness of candidates

The instruction recalls for us that there are "two inseparable elements in every priestly vocation: the free gift of God and the responsible freedom of the man." God gives the grace of a priestly vocation to a man "through the Church, in the Church and for the service of the Church." The candidate rightly responds to God’s call by offering himself freely to God in love. Given the two inseparable elements, the instruction reminds us that the desire to become a priest is not sufficient in itself and that "there does not exist a right to receive sacred ordination." The instruction declares:

"It belongs to the Church — in her responsibility to define the necessary requirements for the reception of the sacraments instituted by Christ — to discern the suitability of the one who wants to enter the seminary, to accompany him during the years of formation, and to call him to Holy Orders, if he is judged to possess the requisite qualities" (n. 2).

In the Church, we understand that a man has a vocation to the priesthood, if he offers himself and the Church calls him.

Regarding the formation of seminarians, attention must be paid to four dimensions: the human, the spiritual, the intellectual and the pastoral dimensions. In the matter under consideration, particular attention must be given to the human formation of the candidate "as the necessary foundation of all formation." Once again, the instruction turns to the question of the required affective maturity in the candidate for Holy Orders, declaring:

"In order to admit a candidate to ordination to the diaconate, the Church must verify, among other things, that the candidate has reached affective maturity" (n. 3).

The grace of the Sacrament of Holy Orders builds upon the human nature of the candidate. Attention to the human formation of the candidate and, in particular, his affective maturity, is, therefore, essential and fundamental.

Those responsible for the discernment

It is the most serious responsibility of the diocesan bishop or major superior of the institute of consecrated life or society of apostolic life to call a man to Holy Orders. Clearly, in order to give the call, the diocesan bishop or major superior "must arrive at a morally certain judgment on his qualities." The instruction, then, recalls a third norm, contained in can. 1052, para. 3, of the Code of Canon Law, pertaining to the decision to call a man to ordination:

"In the case of a serious doubt in this regard, he must not admit him to ordination" (n. 3).

The diocesan bishop or major superior must have moral certitude, that is, no reasonable doubt to the contrary, in order to give the call to Holy Orders.

As is clear, the rector of the seminary and those who assist him in the work of priestly formation also have a most serious responsibility in the matter, for the diocesan bishop and major superior rely upon their qualified judgment regarding the suitability of the candidate. The instruction recalls a fourth norm, contained in canon 1051 of the Code of Canon Law:

"Before every ordination, the rector must express his own judgment on whether the qualities required by the Church are present in the candidate" (n. 3).

We are blessed in the Archdiocese of St. Louis to have our own seminary. The rector and myself as archbishop work closely together throughout the whole period of formation in order to attain the moral certitude regarding the suitability of each candidate for sacred ordination.

The spiritual director of the candidate also bears a heavy responsibility in the matter. Spiritual direction is completely confidential.The spiritual director may not reveal to third parties what a seminarian has confided to him, unless, of course, the seminarian explicitly asks him to do so. In his conversations with the seminarian, the spiritual director will necessarily give consistent attention to the purity and chastity required in a candidate for ordination. He will help the seminarian to discover whether he has attained the requisite affective maturity, along with all of the other qualities required in a priest. The instruction then provides a fifth norm:

"The spiritual director has the obligation to evaluate all the qualities of the candidate’s personality and to make sure that he does not present disturbances of a sexual nature, which are incompatible with the priesthood. If a candidate practices homosexuality or presents deep-seated homosexual tendencies, his spiritual director, as well as his confessor, have the duty to dissuade him in conscience from proceeding towards ordination" (n. 3).

While the spiritual director and confessor cannot reveal what they know through spiritual direction or the Sacrament of Penance, they have the obligation to urge strenuously the seminarian to do what a rightly formed conscience demands of him.

Finally, the instruction reminds us of "the primary responsibility" of the candidate for his own formation. It is essential that the seminarian "offer himself trustingly to the discernment of the Church, of the bishop who calls him to Orders, of the rector of the seminary, of his spiritual director and of the other seminary educators to whom the bishop or major superior has entrusted the task of forming future priests." An essential part of the trusting offer of self to the Church is honesty regarding anything which may make the candidate unsuitable for priestly ordination and ministry. Hiding deep-seated homosexual tendencies, the practice of homosexuality or the support of the gay culture, on the part of the candidate, is "gravely dishonest." The instruction declares:

"Such a deceitful attitude does not correspond to the spirit of truth, loyalty and openness that must characterize the personality of him who believes he is called to serve Christ and His Church in the ministerial priesthood" (n. 3).

I have customarily said to seminarians that what we both know in these matters we can deal with in a manner which best serves the good of the Church and of the seminarian, and what we both do not know will inevitably be the cause of great harm to the Church and the seminarian.

Conclusion

The instruction concludes by reaffirming "the need for bishops, major superiors and all relevant authorities to carry out an attentive discernment concerning the suitability of candidates for Holy Orders, from the time of admission to the seminary until ordination." It exhorts diocesan bishops, conferences of bishops and major superiors "to see that the constant norms of this instruction be faithfully observed for the good of the candidates themselves, and to guarantee that the Church always has suitable priests who are true shepherds according to the Heart of Christ" (Conclusion).

It pleases me to say that the direction given in the instruction is followed at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary. Now that the instruction has been published, it will be necessary to examine all of the policies and procedures of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary to be certain that they are fully in accord with the norms given in the instruction.

Let us be thankful for this latest authoritative direction in the preparation of our future priests. Let us take the occasion of the promulgation of the instruction to renew our daily prayers for our seminarians and for all who are entrusted with their priestly formation and the discernment of their suitability for ordination.

Thanksgiving

Introduction

Thanksgiving Day is a time to reflect upon our life and to be deeply grateful.As we review the past year, with its joys and sorrows, we become ever more deeply conscious of the truth that everything, all that we are and have,is God’s gift to us.Our reflection ultimately centers on the gift of life itself and the gift of Catholic faith, which reveals the true meaning of our life.We did not call ourselves into being.It was God and our parents, working together with God, who brought us to life.We did not create ourselves or the many goods of nature in our care.We are not the creators of life and of nature.God is.We are His stewards, and we are most grateful to be so.

Too easily, especially in the fast pace of life today, we do not take time to reflect and, as a result, we forget who we are, from whom we came and to whom we will return.When we forget, we are also ungrateful.Thanksgiving Day is our annual time to rest and reflect, to open our minds and hearts to the truth about God, ourselves and our world, and to be filled with deepest gratitude that God has called us to life and has given us the gift of faith, by which we also become His co-workers in the world.

Holy Mass

Participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice is our most perfect way of thanking God.At the Holy Mass, we bring ourselves totally, that is, all that we are and have, to God the Father, offering ourselves — with and in His divine Son — to Him in praise and thanksgiving.The very word, Eucharist, comes from the Greek word for giving thanks.The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that the Holy Eucharist is, first of all, an act of thanksgiving:

"The Eucharist is a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Father, a blessing by which the Church expresses her gratitude to God for all His benefits, for all that He has accomplished through creation, redemption and sanctification. Eucharist means first of all ‘thanksgiving’" (n.1360).

In the Holy Mass, we express the profound truth which is the source of our endless gratitude to God: We bring to God the Father all that we are and have, all His gifts to us, so that He may bless them and transform them by the saving grace of His Son’s sacrifice.By His holy cross, Christ has redeemed the world, as we pray at the beginning of each station as we make the way of the cross.By the Eucharistic Sacrifice, Christ’s saving work on Calvary continues, is always new, transforming us and our world.

When our hearts are full of gratitude, we are drawn to the Holy Eucharist, to participation in the Holy Mass, to visits to the Blessed Sacrament, and to eucharistic devotion and worship.At the same time, when we are united to Christ in His sacrifice and when we are in His real presence, praying before the tabernacle or the exposed Blessed Sacrament, our hearts grow in gratitude to God.We recognize ever more fully the greatness of God’s love for us, to which we can only respond with a heart full of thanks.

One of the principal fruits of the Year of the Eucharist should be a more consistently grateful heart in all of us.The more we come to know our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, the more we come to know ourselves as true sons and daughters of God.We are filled with gratitude to be sharers in God’s work, in Christ’s redemptive sacrifice, and we receive the grace to express our gratitude by the way in which we pour out ourselves and our gifts in the service of God and one another.

All of the above explains why participation in Sunday Mass is the heart and the apex of our life as Christians.Through participation in Sunday Mass, we grow in the knowledge and love of God and, therefore, grow in thanksgiving to Him.

Father Solanus Casey, OFM Cap: Hero of thanksgiving
The servant of God, Father Solanus Casey of the Capuchin Franciscan Friars, is a wonderful teacher of thanksgiving for us.Father Casey was born on Nov. 25, 1870, near Prescott, Wis. (his day of birth must have been close to Thanksgiving Day); was ordained a priest in the Capuchin order on July 24, 1904; and died at St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit on July 31, 1957.Although he was beset by many personal limitations which almost kept him from ordination to the priesthood, he was a more effective spiritual director for many and was tireless in serving the poor.At his death, he had already the reputation of heroic holiness of life.There has been a consistent devotion to Father Solanus since the time of his death. It is centered around his tomb at St. Bonaventure Monastery. If you wish to learn more about Father Solanus, you may write to: the Father Solanus Guild, 1789 Mount Elliott Ave., Detroit, MI 48207.Also, I recommend two biographies of the servant of God: Michael Crosby, OFM Cap, ed. Solanus Casey: The Official Account of a Virtuous American Life (New York: The Crossroad Publishing Co., 2000); and Catherine M. Odell, Father Solanus: The Story of Solanus Casey, OFM Cap (Huntington, Ind.: Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., 1995).

Thanksgiving stands out among all of the many virtues practiced so heroically by Father Solanus.He was filled with gratitude to God and loved to spend hours in the chapel, thanking God, even by playing his fiddle before the tabernacle.His principal instruction to the many who sought his spiritual counsel was to thank God at all times.He also taught them to anticipate God’s blessings with a grateful heart.In a letter to a woman who was experiencing much anxiety and suffering from a sense of failure, he wrote:

"Let us thank [God] at all times and under whatever circumstances.Thank Him for our creation and our existence, thank Him for everything — for His plans in the past that by our sins and our want of appreciation and patience have so often been frustrated and that He so often found necessary to change.Let us thank Him for all His plans for the future — for trials and humiliations as well as great joy and consolations; for sickness and whatever death He may deign to plan.

"Therefore we should thank Him frequently for, not only the blessings of the past and present, but thank Him ahead of time for whatever He foresees is pleasing to Him that we suffer.We should do this not only in general but in each particular case" (Michael H. Crosby, OFM Cap, Thank God Ahead of Time: The Life and Spirituality of Solanus Casey, Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1985, p. 269).

Father Solanus truly imitated our Lord’s attitude of thanksgiving to the Father and readiness to do whatever the Father asks with a grateful heart.

Thanksgiving and stewardship

On Nov. 12, I was blessed to celebrate the Mass for the 15th annual Catholic Family Life Awards.At the awards ceremony following the Mass, Catholic Family Services of our archdiocesan Catholic Charities recognized seven families for their outstanding service of family life.Each couple who received the award spoke briefly to us.Practically every couple stated that receiving the award only reminded them of how much more they are called by God to do.All of the couples expressed deepest gratitude for the privilege of serving God by building up family life.And they all expressed their esteem for many others in their parishes, who are doing so much for families.All of the awardees gave a striking testimonial to stewardship as the way of our Christian life.

It is in the family, most of all, that we achieve our self-identity.The family teaches a child to recognize his or her life as a gift and forms the child in the way of stewardship of the gift of life and of all God’s gifts.One of the lessons which I most remember from my growing up was my father’s insistence that we children make a weekly offering to the Church.Not having very much, I tended to be a bit stingy and wanted to save all that I had.I can still hear my father saying how much God blesses us when we are generous with Him, even if we have very little.

Thanksgiving Day and the days surrounding the celebration are a good time to reflect upon our efforts to teach our children good stewardship.There is a strong tendency today to think that everything is owed to us.Sometimes, in our effort to provide every good thing for our children and young people, we fail them by not teaching them to be grateful.Young people especially can be tempted to believe that they are entitled to God’s many gifts.The sense of entitlement does not inspire gratitude.It discourages stewardship.One of the greatest lessons which my parents taught me was that all is a gift and not to take anything for granted.It was reflected, for instance, in the discipline of always writing a note of thanks to anyone who was especially kind to us or gave us a gift.We do a great disservice to our children by not teaching them to be grateful and to be good stewards.

Let us strive to make our homes schools of thanksgiving and stewardship.Fidelity to Sunday Mass will be the heart of a home which is filled with gratitude.It also will inspire the use of God’s gifts to His glory and for the service of our neighbor.

Thanksgiving for the gift of life

Reflecting upon the habit of thanksgiving which we should always cultivate, I draw your attention once again to the critical challenge which the state of Missouri faces in the coming months.The Missouri Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative will be working diligently to have placed on the ballot for next November a referendum to give citizens of Missouri the right to destroy innocent and defenseless human life at its beginning through embryonic stem-cell research and so-called "therapeutic" cloning.In last week’s edition of the St. Louis Review, I wrote about the matter at length.If you did not take the time to read my column of Nov. 11, I ask you, for the sake of our most tiny and defenseless brothers and sisters, to read it now.None of us can justify remaining ignorant of a matter which means life or death for a brother or sister.

On this coming Sunday, the First Sunday of Advent, your parish priest will be presenting to you the Church’s teaching on the sanctity of human life from the moment of its inception, a most fitting teaching as we prepare to celebrate the Birth of Our Lord, who, in His all-gracious love, took our human nature by His conception in the womb of the Virgin Mary.As we reflect on how the life of our Lord began in the womb of Mary, through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, we recognize that He, like each of us, was once a tiny embryo.Our Lord has redeemed human life in its totality, in every stage of its development.We must, then, do all that we can to stop the Missouri Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative, to protect our brothers and sisters who have no one else to protect them.

Following your parish priest’s homily on the First Sunday of Advent, an educational session will be provided in your parish or, perhaps, through a number of parishes.Please take the time to participate in the educational session.

Also, many helpful educational materials, which are scientifically accurate and easy for us to read, are available through the Respect Life Apostolate.If you have any difficulty in obtaining educational materials, please call my office.Please take the time to acquaint yourself with some of these excellent materials.

Life is God’s first gift to us.We are not the creators of life.We are the stewards of this most treasured gift.Nature herself teaches us that the first precept of the law which God has written in our hearts is the safeguarding and fostering of all human life.As we give thanks to God for His many gifts, let us work with constant vigor to safeguard and promote all human life, from inception to natural death.Let us not fail to do all that we can to transform the culture of death in our society and to create a civilization of life.In a particular way, let us work to stop the latest manifestation of the culture of death in our state of Missouri, the initiative to obtain the constitutional guarantee of the right to attack innocent and defenseless human life.

Conclusion

This year, we, members of Christ’s Mystical Body, give special thanks for the more than 26 years of service of our late and beloved Pope John Paul II, whom our Lord has called to Himself.May God grant to him the reward of his tireless pastoral labors on our behalf.

At the same time, we thank God for providing us a new successor of St. Peter, Pope Benedict XVI.May God bless him with many and happy years of service as shepherd of the universal Church.

Finally, I express my own deepest gratitude to God for all the faithful of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, whom He, in His immeasurable goodness, permits me to serve as archbishop.Thanksgiving Day is a time for me to reflect on all of the many gifts with which God has blessed me.Most of all, I thank him for sending me to you and for all you do to assist me in shepherding His flock in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

May God bless you with a grateful and generous heart always.

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