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.

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops


From Monday, Nov. 15, to Thursday, Nov. 18, Bishop Robert J. Hermann and I participated in the General Meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C.You may have viewed some part of the meeting on Eternal Word Television Network, which broadcasts all of the proceedings.

The Conference of Bishops is, according to Church discipline, the full body of bishops of a certain nation or territory, exercising jointly some of their pastoral responsibilities for the faithful in their pastoral care.The conference is to pursue the greater good which the Church offers to all, above all "through forms and programs of the apostolate fittingly adapted to the circumstances of time and place" (cf. can. 447).In other words, in the case of the United States, the Conference of Bishops provides a vehicle for all of the bishops to take pastoral action together. For example, the bishops work together in questions regarding the sacred liturgy or moral questions facing the entire nation.

The apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, was present for the meeting, representing our Holy Father. Archbishop Montalvo addressed the assembled bishops, giving an inspiring synthesis of the discourses which our Holy Father has been giving to the groups of bishops of the United States, making their ad limina apostolorum visit this year.As I mentioned in my column of last week, the bishops of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska will be making our visit this week (Nov. 21-28).Of the 14 regions of bishops, only Region IX, our region, and one other region has yet to make the ad limina visit.Archbishop Montalvo’s presentation helped us to reflect more deeply on our Holy Father’s Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Gregis, "On the Bishop, Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the Hope of the World" (Oct. 16, 2003), and the Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops of the Congregation for Bishops (Feb. 22, 2004), which the Holy Father has been discussing with each region of bishops as they meet with him during their ad limina visit.

Election of officers

At the annual meeting, the bishops elected the leadership in the Conference of Bishops for the next three years.Bishop William Skylstad of Spokane was elected president of the Conference of Bishops and Cardinal Francis E. George, OMI, Archbishop of Chicago, was elected to the office of vice-president.Please pray for them.

Bishop Wilton D. Gregory of our neighboring Diocese of Belleville completed his three years of service as president of the Conference of Bishops.Bishop Gregory has led the bishops’ conference during three of the most difficult years of the Church’s history in the United States, especially due to the terrible scandal of sexual abuse of children by the clergy.The bishops expressed heartfelt gratitude to Bishop Gregory after his final presidential address.

The bishops also elected a number of bishops to give leadership in the conference’s various committees.The committees are important, for they do the groundwork in the matters which are presented to the full body of bishops.

Plenary Council

As you may know, two years ago, several bishops, including myself, asked the Conference of Bishops to request from the Apostolic See approval to hold a Plenary Council of the Church in the United States for the purpose of addressing the serious doctrinal and moral confusion in the Church in our nation.While the preparation and execution of the Plenary Council would have required a tremendous amount of work and resources, the bishops proposing it believed that the gravity of the situation required such an extraordinary measure.The Plenary Council is an ancient institution of the Church to help her to present with new enthusiasm and energy the Church’s teaching and discipline.As a solemn form of consultation, it enjoys the special assistance of the Holy Spirit.Prayer and liturgical celebrations — especially the holy Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours — are at the heart of the activities of the Plenary Council.

After almost two years of discussion, the proposal of the Plenary Council did not win the support of the majority of the bishops.The bishops, however, indicated the desire for days of reflection to be included in the regular meetings of the conference to address especially the Holy Eucharist and the other sacraments; evangelization and catechesis; and vocations to the consecrated life and the priesthood.
New Spanish-language liturgical books
The bishops approved three new liturgical books in Spanish: the Rite for the Baptism of Children; the Blessing of Young Women on their Fifteen Birthday to be included in the Book of Blessings; and the Rite of Marriage.The translations from the original text in Latin were prepared in the Spanish spoken by the many Hispanic faithful in our archdiocese.The new liturgical books should make the celebration of the sacraments and sacramentals fuller and more fruitful for our Hispanic brothers and sisters.

Catholic Catechism for Adults

The bishops approved the text of the U.S. Catholic Catechism for Adults, an adaptation of the "Catechism of the Catholic Church" for members of the Church in our nation.The text follows the structure of the "Catechism of the Catholic Church." A story or lesson of faith is provided at the beginning of each chapter.Each chapter also includes a section relating Church teaching to our culture. Finally, the chapters conclude with a meditation and prayer.Once the U.S. Catholic Catechism for Adults is published, the St. Louis Review will be informing you about the publication and about its availability in the archdiocese.

Protection of children
and youth

The bishops continued the work begun at our meeting in Dallas in June of 2002 to address the grave evil of sexual abuse of children by the clergy. The central concern in all of the discussions is the prevention of any further commission of this crime, which violates a most sacred trust and causes grave and enduring harm to the victim.

At the same time, through a thorough review of the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" and the accompanying "Essential Norms for Diocesan/Eparchial Policies Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests and Deacons," care is being given to ensure that the processes in place respect the dignity and human rights of all involved.Consultation will take place in the archdiocese through the Presbyteral Council and the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council.Also those who have been assisting the archdiocese in the implementation of the "Charter and Essential Norms" will be consulted. A workbook has been prepared by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, so that all who are consulted may comment on the two documents in their entirety.
Please pray for the work of the review of the charter and essential norms.Please continue to pray for the victims of child sexual abuse by the clergy and for the clergy who have perpetrated such reprehensible actions.

Task Force on Catholic bishops and Catholic

The bishops continued the discussion on how best to address the grave scandal of Catholic politicians who publicly and persistently espouse anti-life legislation. There is a diversity in approach regarding the application of canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law, which requires that a Catholic who persists in a manifest and gravely sinful act not be admitted to receive Holy Communion.The Task Force, headed by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, D.C., will continue its work, especially concentrating on education regarding the moral law and on dialogue with Catholic politicians.No new statement was made by the Conference of Bishops.


I have given you a summary of some of the matters discussed at the annual meeting of our Conference of Bishops. A number of other matters, both relating to the internal operation of the Conference of Bishops and to pastoral questions also were addressed.I am certain that I speak for Bishop Hermann, when I thank you for your prayers for us during the time of the meeting.
My very best wishes for a good beginning of the Advent season on this coming Sunday, Nov. 28. May the season of Advent open our minds and hearts to understand more fully the mystery of God’s love for us, expressed most perfectly in the Incarnation. May the strong grace of the Advent season inspire in us a more perfect love of God in return for His immeasurable love of us. As we prepare for the celebration of the birth of our Lord, may He bless us with joy and peace.

Thanksgiving and the care of the poor


As we prepare for the celebration of Thanksgiving, our thoughts turn to the many blessings with which God has showered upon us throughout the year, beginning with gift of life itself and our Catholic faith.I hope that you will be able to participate in Mass on Thanksgiving Day. Holy Eucharist means literally "Holy Thanksgiving"; participation in the Eucharist is our most perfect way of expressing gratitude to God.If you are not able to participate in Mass on Thanksgiving Day, please take time in your home to reflect upon God’s abundant blessings and to offer Him thankful prayers.

My prayers, especially the celebration of the Eucharist on Thanksgiving Day, will center very much on you, the faithful of the archdiocese, whom God has blessed me to serve since Jan. 26 of this year and who have welcomed me so warmly and generously.My first 10 months of service as archbishop of St. Louis have shown me the strong life of the Church in the archdiocese and have afforded me the occasion to meet so many devout and dedicated Catholic faithful in all parts of the archdiocese. I thank God for you and pray for you daily.

Thanksgiving Day will find me, together with Bishop Robert Hermann, in Rome, making my five-year visit to the Holy Father to report to him on the status and activities of the Church in the archdiocese.Together with the other bishops of Missouri and the bishops of Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska, I will travel to Rome on this coming Saturday, Nov. 20, and will return to the archdiocese on Sunday, Nov. 28.The five-year visit, formally known as the visit "ad limina Apostolorum (to the thresholds [of the tombs] of the Apostles [Peter and Paul])," includes not only a private visit with the Holy Father but also a visit with the various offices of the Holy Father in order to receive assistance and direction.The heart of the visit is the celebration of the Holy Eucharist at the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul in the Patriarchal Basilicas of St. Peter in the Vatican and St. Paul outside the Walls, and at the Patriarchal Basilicas of St. John Lateran — the Cathedral of the Diocese of Rome — and of St. Mary Major.After my return, I will give you a report of my visit through this weekly column.

You may wonder why I am making the visit during the week of Thanksgiving.The reason is our Holy Father’s extremely busy schedule, which requires that one group of U.S. Bishops make the visit at Thanksgiving time.Thanksgiving Day is not a holiday in Rome, and the Holy Father needs to use the week during which it falls for visits with bishops.

I will be praying for you throughout my time in Rome, especially as I, with the other bishops, celebrate Mass and pray at the tombs of St. Peter and St. Paul, and at the other holy places.Please pray for Bishop Hermann and me, that we have a safe journey and that, through the ad limina visit, we receive many graces for our pastoral care and direction of the archdiocese.

Care of the poor

As we reflect upon the many blessings for which we are thankful to God, we are also deeply conscious of our brothers and sisters in need. At Thanksgiving, we naturally desire to show to others a sign of God’s care for them. Thanking God for His many gifts, we are reminded that the gifts which He gives to us are not only for our good but for the good of all.God gives His gifts into our hands in order that we may be His good stewards, serving Him and our neighbor in self-sacrificing love.

Since 1970, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has asked every parish to take up a collection, on the weekend before Thanksgiving Day, for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, formerly known as the Campaign for Human Development.The Catholic Campaign for Human Development was established by the U.S. bishops to help us all to respond, in a Christlike manner, to the most serious situation of domestic poverty in our nation.The campaign addresses the root causes of poverty and provides funding to groups working to break the cycle of poverty.

Historically, the campaign was established in connection with the civil rights movement in our nation in the 1960s, which addressed the evil of racism by working for the elimination of the practice of segregation.By the late 1960s, the practice of segregation had been mostly eliminated, and it was time to address, as a second phase of the civil rights movement, other questions of justice, including solidarity with the poor.

The aim of the campaign is to help the poor to help themselves.It, therefore, funds groups which have been organized and are working to improve their local communities.Such groups, for example, provide affordable housing, offer job training, promote worker-owned cooperative businesses and give support to working parents with children.

A key part of the campaign is education of all the faithful in the Church’s teachings on economic justice.Through the materials produced in conjunction with the annual collection and, especially, through the homily on the Sunday before Thanksgiving Day, Catholics grow in their understanding of the requirements of social justice, especially as our Lord taught them to us in the Parable of the Last Judgment (Matthew 25:31-46).

The annual collection for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development and the works funded by the campaign strengthen the solidarity among all economic classes in the archdiocese.A generous response to the collection draws us closer to our brothers and sisters in most need, as the Good Samaritan was drawn to care for the man who had been robbed, beaten and left to die along the roadside (Luke 10:30-37).Helping those in need to help themselves is a powerful sign of respect for them and for their God-given gifts.Knowing our deep respect and love for them, they grow in respect and love for us.

The campaign in the archdiocese

During the 34 years of the existence of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the faithful of the Archdiocese of St. Louis have contributed $5,466,993.29.

During the same period of time, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development funded a total of 56 projects in the Archdiocese of St. Louis with a total of $1,806,600.This year, the campaign has funded two projects: Paraquad Inc. (the Missouri Disability Vote Project) and the Economic Development Program of Metropolitan Congregations United.

Paraquad Inc. is a center for independent living.Established in 1970, it was the first of its kind in Missouri.The center helps persons with special needs to live as equals with us and as productive members of society, especially through employment and political participation.

The Missouri Disability Vote Project, as part of Paraquad Inc., began in 2001 as a statewide, nonpartisan grassroots effort.It seeks to bridge the gap in political participation between people with special needs and the general population.It has brought together a coalition of nonpartisan organizations to achieve its noble end.This year it will receive $25,000 in funding from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

Metropolitan Congregations United is a faith-based organization representing 70 diverse congregations in the region.Formed from three neighborhood clusters in 1999, it advocates for city policies and state laws which expand health care for the poor, promote transportation equity, protect economic development incentives for distressed communities, generate funding for education and create affordable housing.Over the years it has received a total of seven grants worth $272,500.This year it will receive $30,000 as a grant from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.


The need for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development is greater than ever.According to reports received, nearly 35 million Americans live below the government-established poverty line.By joining together, we can change the situation of domestic poverty.Let us be one with all our brothers and sisters throughout the nation in striving to break the cycle of poverty.Our generous participation in the Catholic Campaign for Human Development will help our low-income fellow citizens as they work together to solve community difficulties, increase educational opportunities and create jobs.

May you have a joyous celebration of Thanksgiving Day with those whom you love.May our celebration of Thanksgiving Day be the occasion for us to express our solidarity with all our brothers and sisters in need through the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

The Church and rural life


On Nov. 6 I had the pleasure of speaking to the 81st annual meeting of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference, which was held in St. Louis.It was an occasion of special joy for me because I had served on the board of directors of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference from 1996 to 2002.Also, coming from a rural background, I have always had a strong interest in the work of the conference on behalf of farmers who serve us all.

My brief time with members of the NCRLC provided me with the opportunity to express my gratitude for the work of the conference and to encourage its members in addressing the complex and often controversial questions of rural life in our time. The work of the conference has always been challenging.The dedication of the leaders and members is truly edifying.

Bishop David L. Ricken of Cheyenne, Wyo., is the president of the conference’s board of directors.Brother David Andrews, CSC, is its executive director.There is also a small staff of experts on rural questions who do research and travel extensively throughout our nation to promote rural life.Robert Gronski, rural life policy coordinator, is a native of St. Louis and maintains a deep affection for the city and the archdiocese.

Historical background

The first meeting of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference took place in St. Louis in November 1923.It was the organizational meeting of the conference, at which the constitution and bylaws were adopted, and the first officers and members of the board of directors elected.Then-Father George Hildner, pastor at Villa Ridge, was recognized as a leader in the conference and was elected to the board of directors.I have come to learn that Msgr. Hildner, affectionately called "Alfalfa George," is legendary in the archdiocese for his promotion of rural life.I was pleased in the spring to confer the Sacrament of Confirmation at St. John the Baptist Church in Villa Ridge (Gildehaus) and, on that occasion, to visit his grave and the fine memorial to him on the parish grounds.At a future time, I hope to pay tribute to the work of Msgr. Hildner.

The founding of the NCRLC was owed in good part to the work of Father Edwin V. O’Hara, later bishop of Great Falls and then Kansas City, Mo.Because of his outstanding contributions to the life of the Church, he was given the personal title of archbishop on June 29, 1954, by Pope Pius XII.He died on Sept. 11, 1956.Archbishop Edwin V. O’Hara not only founded the National Catholic Rural Life Conference but also was instrumental in the founding and promotion of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine and of the Catholic Biblical Association.He also was known for his work in the liturgical renewal, in the promotion of cooperation between North and South Americas, and in the combating of racism.Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of Milwaukee, native son of the St. Louis Archdiocese, produced a definitive biography of Archbishop O’Hara as his doctoral dissertation at The Catholic University of America.It is titled "Some Seed Fell on Good Ground: The Life of Edwin V. O’Hara" and is published by The Catholic University of America Press.

Returning to the first meeting of the Conference in St. Louis, it is important to note that the organization enjoyed the full support of then-Archbishop John J. Glennon. The meeting was most serious, including 29 presentations and the consideration of various resolutions, not to mention the hard work of drafting and gaining approval of the Constitution and bylaws.The resolutions stressed very much religious education in the rural areas and cooperation with other Catholic associations which were concerned with questions of rural life. Among those associations was the Catholic Central Union, founded in 1855 and headquartered in St. Louis since 1908, which continues its work of social assistance and advancement of the mission of the Church, especially through the publication of the Social Justice Review, edited by Father John H. Miller, CSC.

Brother Raymond P. Witte, SM, in his history of the first 25 years of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference, expressed well the significance of the first meeting of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference:

"The real Crusade had now started.The NCRLC was established, its campaign was outlined, its leaders were chosen and the battlefield had been awaiting the offensive for almost a hundred years.But a quick victory was not in the offing" (Raymond Philip Witte, SM,
Twenty-Five Years of Crusading: A History of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference, Des Moines: The National Catholic Rural Life Conference, 1948, p. 70).

Certainly, from my own following of the work of the conference and from my conversations with its officers and members on Nov. 6, it is clear that the campaign of promoting the pastoral care of rural America continues and must continue for the sake of farmers and the sake of us all.

Catholic faith and rural life

What is the particular concern of the Church for rural life?At the heart of rural life is a truth of faith, which the NCRLC has striven to serve since its foundation 81 years ago: God our Father has placed into our care the soil, the plants and the animals, for which farmers, as individuals and families, have responsibility for their own good and for the good of all their brothers and sisters.In other words, in the work of agriculture, farmers are called to be faithful stewards of God’s gifts of food and fiber for all His children.

The truth is taught by our Lord in the parable of the rich man with the good harvest (Luke 12:5-21).

The rich man in the parable failed to understand the full destiny of the "good harvest" with which God had blessed him as a farmer.Yes, the harvest was meant to provide for his needs, but, what is more, the surplus was meant to provide for the needs of others.St. Paul teaches the same truth to the Christians at Corinth, reminding them that God "multiplies his favors" among us so that we "have enough of everything and even a surplus for good works" (2 Corinthians 9:8-11).The rich man in the parable, forgetting the full destiny of the "good harvest," falls into greed, believing himself to be the master of the harvest, instead of the master’s faithful steward.

How easy it is for us to forget this truth which is at the foundation of agriculture upon which all life depends!The Church’s moral teaching in our time, particularly since the time of Pope Leo XIII, has reminded us repeatedly that the care of the land and plants and animals should be in the hands of God-fearing individuals and families, called to faithful stewardship, so that God’s good gifts of food and fiber may serve all His children.Pope Leo XIII, in his Encyclical Letter Rerum Novarum, "On the Condition of the Working Classes," reminded us that private ownership of the land has as its end the care of all, when he wrote:

"Yet, however the earth may be apportioned among private owners, it does not cease to serve the common interest of all, inasmuch as no living being is sustained except by what the fields bring forth" (No. 14).

Inspired by the Church’s teaching, the National Catholic Rural Life Conference has served the pastoral needs of farmers, of those who care for the soil and plants and animals for the health and nourishment of us all.

If you wish to have more information about the National Rural Life Conference, the headquarters are located at 4625 Beaver Ave., Des Moines, IA 50310-2199.The telephone number is (515) 270-2634, and the fax number is (515) 270-9447.The Web site is

Rural life today

Reflecting upon the work of the NCRLC,we also must be conscious that the pastoral needs of farmers have perhaps never been greater.For decades already, we have been witnessing the greed of the rich man in the Gospel parable to which I referred earlier.It has driven and continues to drive individuals and families from the farm in favor of a form of agriculture which is fittingly called agribusiness, for it more and more places the control of farming into the hands of a few international economic interests.It is a form of agriculture which aims at an ever greater volume of produce for the profit of a few, without respect for the nature of the soil, plants and animals, employing large animal confinements, administering heavily chemicals, antibiotics and hormonal treatments without sufficient regard for their effect on the creatures themselves and the soundness of the produce.The large volume makes possible more and more cheap food which is wasted in a scandalous manner, while an ever greater part of the world’s population is starving.

A report of the National Commission on Small Farms of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, published in January of 1998, contained the following stark assertion and warning for us:

"The dominant trend is a few, large, vertically integrated firms controlling the majority of the food and fiber products in an increasingly global processing and distribution system.If we do not act now, we will no longer have a choice about the kind of agriculture we desire as a nation" (U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Commission on Small Farms, A Time To Act: A Report of the USDA National Commission on Small Farms, Washington, DC, January 1998, p. 9).

The greed which drives this relentless trend in farming has lost sight of the nature of agriculture as stewardship and of the finality of agriculture, to provide sound food and fiber for all our brothers and sisters.

Before the challenge to serve the truth about farming which is at the foundation of life, we turn to prayer and, most of all, to the Holy Eucharist.Participating in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, we receive the grace of "poverty of spirit," the nourishment of the Spirit’s gift of "awe and reverence in God’s presence," which we need to serve the truth about rural life and to hold up that truth before our nation and our world.Sacramentally united to Jesus Christ, the Faithful Steward, we find the inspiration and strength to be, in our turn, faithful stewards of God’s abundant gifts.

We must pray for our farmers, that they may exercise the faithful stewardship to which they are called.Let us pray also for the National Catholic Rural Life Conference, that it may continue to serve the truth about rural life in our nation, to address the pastoral needs of farmers with the truth and love of the Gospel and of the Church’s teaching.


Our city and archdiocese have played a key part in the history of our nation and of the Church in our nation.We should take special pride in the role which the Archdiocese of St. Louis played in the organization and early years of history of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference.Recalling the history of the first meeting of the conference and hosting the 81st annual meeting, let us take up the work of the new evangelization regarding our stewardship of the land, the plants and the animals.

November: month of prayer for the dead


The month of November is set aside in the Church as a special time of prayer for the dead, beginning with the celebration of All Souls Day on Nov. 2.During November, we should develop a habit daily prayer for the dead, if we are not already doing so.Prayer for the dead is a spiritual work of mercy (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1032).

In other words, it is an essential part of our witness to God’s love and mercy. Prayer for the dead both honors the memory of the dead and expresses our continuing love of them by assisting them to be freed of any temporal punishment due to sin and to reach their lasting home with God.

Prayer for the dying

When I was growing up, it was commonplace to wear a religious medal which bore the message:I am a Catholic; please call a priest.The medal was intended to secure the ministry of a priest at the time of serious illness or accident.The practice of wearing such a medal reminded us of our duty, when assisting a dying person, to call for the priest to pray for the dying person and to administer the sacraments, especially Confession and the holy Eucharist as viaticum.The "Roman Ritual" contains a special section, "Pastoral Care of the Dying," to direct the priest and other faithful in giving spiritual assistance to the dying.The prayers and rites are all directed to asking forgiveness of sins and confirming trust in the Lord’s infinite mercy and promise of eternal life.

We should take care to call upon the ministry of the priest in a timely manner.We should not wait until the last moment of life.The prayer of the Church and, most of all, reception of holy Communion is the spiritual food which the dying person needs for the journey from this life to the life which is to come. When the person has died, the priest is also to be called to offer the Church’s prayers for the dead and to bless the body in preparation for burial.

The Church’s tradition

Since the time of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, a strong practice of emphasizing the victory of the resurrection at the time of funerals has certainly grown up.While we know that Christ indeed has won the victory over sin and everlasting death in our human nature, we also know that we must be purified of our sins in order to come before the presence of God.Whatever purification has not taken place before we die, God provides for us in Purgatory. Our prayers for the dead assist them in the purification which they seek.

The Second Book of Maccabees provides for us a striking example of prayer for the dead.Some soldiers who were fighting under the leadership of Judas Maccabeus were killed.In preparing them for burial, it was discovered that they were wearing pagan amulets which was strictly forbidden by the Law of Moses.The Scriptures tell us that Judas Maccabeus and his soldiers, out of loving concern for their deceased brothers, "turned to prayer, beseeching that the sin which had been committed might be wholly blotted out" (2 Maccabees 12:42).We are also told that Judas Maccabeus took up a collection to provide for a sacrifice to be offered for the same intention.The sacred text comments:

"In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection.For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead.But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall sleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought.Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin" (2 Maccabees 12:43b-45).

It is clear from the text that the dead can be purified of their sins after death through the help of our prayers.
St. Paul, in the Second Letter to Timothy, makes it clear that it was the practice to pray for the dead, asking God to forgive them their sins and admit them to everlasting joy. Referring to the deceased Onesiphorus, Paul recalling the service which the deceased had given to the Church, asks God’s mercy for any sins which he may have committed (2 Timothy 1:18).

The story of the death of St. Monica, recalled in the "Confessions" of her son, St. Augustine, confirms the practice of the Church to pray for the dead.Augustine and his brother were with their mother near Rome at the time of her last illness.Augustine’s brother had expressed the hope that his mother could die close to her home. Monica, overhearing the conversation of the two brothers, rebuked them and later instructed them:
"Lay this body anywhere, and take no trouble over it.

One thing only do I ask of you, that you remember me at the altar of the Lord wherever you may be" (St. Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, translated by Maria Boulding, OSB, Book IX, No. 27).

There are many other early examples of prayer for the dead in the Church.For example, the tombs of the early Christians in the catacombs at Rome often are inscribed with a request, made in the name of the dead member of the faithful, to pray for his or her eternal rest and peace.

Prayer and Masses for the dead

We are to pray for all the dead.Even though a person may seem to have lead an exemplary life, no one knows fully the soul of the deceased person or the temptations with which the deceased person may have battled.It is a grave injustice to the dead to say that they do not need our prayers.Rather, we are to pray for the faithful departed as a faithful expression of our love for them.

Because the dead who are in Purgatory cannot pray for themselves, they depend upon the help of our prayers.For that reason, we have the custom of calling them poor souls, and we are urged to remember them daily in our prayers, at Mass, after meals and so forth.The souls undergoing purification after death depend completely upon the charitable remembrances of their fellow members in the Mystical Body.At the same time, they continue to love us and can pray for us.

It is revered practice of the Church to receive from the faithful an offering, so that the Mass may be offered for the eternal rest of a person who has died.There is no more fitting and efficacious way to express our love for the dead and to provide spiritual help for them than to have the Holy Mass offered for their eternal rest.

It may not be possible for the local priest to offer all of the Masses requested for a deceased person.In that case, the Mass offerings beyond what can be fulfilled in the parish are sent to priests who have need of Mass offerings, both in the archdiocese and in the missions.

For example, the retired or senior priests of the archdiocese, our priests teaching in the Catholic schools and priests serving in other Church institutions often have need of Mass offerings.The need of Mass offerings in the missions is truly great.I frequently receive letters from bishops and priests, requesting Mass offerings, which make it clear that the missionary priests depend upon the Mass offerings for their very livelihood.

The time of the wake is appropriate for the giving of Mass offerings, but they may be given to the priest at any time.Mass offerings given for the dead may not be used for any other purpose and, therefore, should be given directly to the parish priest by the funeral director or the family.The Mass offerings should be given to the priest as soon as possible, so that arrangements can be made for the offering of the Masses.I encourage you, during the month of November and regularly throughout the year, to make offerings so that the Mass may be celebrated for the eternal rest of the deceased with whom you have a special bond.


Prayers for the dead should be part of our daily prayer.The custom of praying for the dead after the prayer of thanksgiving at the end of each meal is a most effective way of fulfilling our duty to pray for the dead.Prayer for the dead should be included in our morning and night prayers.They are always part of the Eucharistic Prayer at Mass. Finally, visits to the graves or tombs of the dead to pray for their eternal rest should be a regular part of our Christian life.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.
And may perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace.Amen.

Pilgrimage to the Holy Land


Since the time of my theological studies in preparation for ordination to the priesthood, I have wanted to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, to the places made sacred by our Lord’s conception, birth, public ministry, passion, death, resurrection, ascension and sending of the Holy Spirit. Studying the Holy Scriptures and the Church’s teaching inspired in me a deep desire to travel to the holy places of the redemptive incarnation. On three different occasions, I was scheduled to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and had to cancel my plans.

The last occasion was during the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. As bishop of La Crosse, Wis., I was to lead a pilgrimage of some 225 faithful to the Holy Land and Rome in October of the Jubilee Year.As you may remember, in September 2000 there was an outbreak of violence between Israelis and Palestinians, the second intifada, which made it unsafe to travel to the Holy Land. Although I was able to lead the pilgrimage to Rome and some other sacred places in Italy, the others pilgrims and I were greatly disappointed not to be able to go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land.The Great Jubilee of the Incarnation inspired so much the desire to make the pilgrimage to the places in which our redemption was accomplished, but it was not to be.

My longstanding desire to go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land was finally fulfilled two weeks ago.From this past Oct. 11 to 18, I joined a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, organized by the Northern Lieutenancy of the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre. The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre is an association of Catholic men and women, under the protection of our Holy Father, which is devoted to the preservation and care of the sacred places of the Holy Land.

After my appointment as archbishop of St. Louis, I was named grand prior of the Northern Lieutenancy of the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre — which includes Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.As grand prior, I serve as spiritual director for the work of the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre, which supports the maintenance of the shrines in the Holy Land and provides assistance for the mission of the Church in the Holy Land, especially the care of the poor and the education of children and young people.The Equestrian Order has the closest bonds with the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Michel Sabbah, who participated in the annual meeting of the Northern Lieutenancy in September.I am deeply grateful to be a member of the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre, and to assist the order in any way to carry out its noble service.


The spiritual practice of going on pilgrimage is found throughout the Scriptures.Our Lord Himself went on annual pilgrimage with His parents to Jerusalem.His final pilgrimage to Jerusalem on the occasion of the Passover is the image of our life in Him, our journey, during our days on earth, home to God the Father, home to the heavenly Jerusalem.

In the life of our Lord, as in the life of every pilgrim, leaving one’s ordinary surroundings to travel to a sacred place manifests the extraordinary character of our ordinary surroundings because God dwells with us.From the time of Christ, that manifestation has centered around the abiding presence of the Risen Christ with us in the Church, by the sending of the Holy Spirit, especially in the forgiveness of our sins through the Sacrament of Penance and, most especially, through the gift of Christ’s Body and Blood, as the spiritual food for our journey, in the Eucharistic Sacrifice.Reaching the destination of the pilgrimage, the pilgrim desires to make a good confession and to participate daily in the Holy Eucharist, while also spending time every day in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament reserved in the tabernacle or exposed in the monstrance for worship outside of the Mass.

Christians go on pilgrimage to places made sacred by our Lord, by His Blessed Mother or by one of the saints.The places are sacred either because of the historical presence of our Lord, the Blessed Virgin Mary or one of the saints at the place or because the place has been set aside for devotion and pilgrimage.For example, in our nation’s capital, the Order of Friars Minor, the Franciscans who have the custody of the sacred places in the Holy Land, maintain a place of pilgrimage, which calls to mind the various sites of pilgrimage in the Holy Land.It makes possible a pilgrimage to honor the mystery of our Lord’s Redemptive Incarnation for those who are not able, at least for a time, to make pilgrimage to the Holy Land.Another more local example is the Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, under the care of the Vincentian Brothers and Fathers, in Perryville, which makes possible a pilgrimage to honor our Blessed Mother, under her title of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, when one is not able to travel to the Rue du Bac in Paris, where our Blessed Mother appeared to St. Catherine Labour in 1830, revealing the image of the Miraculous Medal.

The Holy Land and Jerusalem, above all, is the place of pilgrimage to which all other pilgrimages relate, for all pilgrimages lead to a deeper knowledge and love of Christ. Jerusalem represents, in a pre-eminent manner, the destiny of our life pilgrimage, the heavenly Jerusalem. It brings us into direct contact with the places in which God the Son came to dwell with us and in which He saved us from our sins and won for us eternal life.

Tensions in the Holy Land

When I mentioned to various people that I was going on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, they expressed fear regarding my safety.Because of the ongoing and still unresolved tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, many Christians have been afraid to go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land.In fact, the effect of the fear has been disastrous for those whose life work is to welcome and care for pilgrims, clearly a major work in the Holy Land, and those who carve religious articles from olive wood or make them from other local materials for the purchase of pilgrims.

Yes, there continues to be serious tension between the two ancient inhabitants of the land of our Lord.It is perhaps best and most horribly represented by the 18-foot-high wall which the Israeli government is building to separate Palestinians from Israelis.It is called a "security wall" and is said to prevent acts of terrorism. Certainly, there is no justification for acts of terrorism on the part of either people.The wall, however, is not an effective means to prevent terrorism and to promote harmony, for it destroys land, homes and crops of Palestinians, and makes it difficult for them to travel to the other side for work, education and health care and other needs.The wall only increases the level of frustration and alienation in the relationship between the two peoples.Let us pray that the Israelis and Palestinians will find the way to live in peace, sharing the distinct gifts of each people for the good of all.

There is something which we can do to help the peoples of the Holy Land to restore peace.We can pray every day that Christ, the Prince of Peace, will bring His lasting peace to the land which was His home on earth.We can also go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land.The Catholic officials who spoke with me and the other pilgrims were emphatic that the coming of pilgrims draws Israelis and Palestinians closer to one another.It makes sense that our prayer for peace, offered in the very places of our salvation, would bring strong graces of reconciliation to the peoples of the Holy Land.

Regarding safety, I found that great care was shown to pilgrims. If one exercises prudence, there is no need to fear.Our presence brought joy to both Israelis and Palestinians. I do not hesitate to encourage pilgrimages to the Holy Land.It is my intention to return there on pilgrimage next year, if possible.

The Holy See continues to promote very much pilgrimages to the Holy Land. It maintains an excellent pilgrim center, the Pontifical Institute of Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center.Located in the heart of Jerusalem, it provides excellent hospitality for pilgrims.Our pilgrim group enjoyed our stay there and were helped very much by the staff.

The Holy Places

Space does not permit me to comment on all of the sacred places which I visited on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, but I underline a few.The highlight of the entire pilgrimage was the making of the Way of the Cross alone the Via Dolorosa, culminating in the entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in which the last stations are made.There, I was able to pray at the place in which our Lord was crucified, actually touching the ground in which the cross was planted; at the place in which His body was anointed for burial, and at the empty tomb — the place of His burial and His resurrection.It was most inspiring, too, to see the place where our Blessed Mother and St. John the Evangelist faithfully stayed by our Lord as He was dying on the cross.

The greatest source of joy for me, and all the pilgrims, was to offer Mass on the altar of the Holy Sepulchre.The Eucharist makes ever present the suffering and dying of Christ for our salvation. Pilgrimage to the Holy Land gives a strong sense to eucharistic realism. It helps us to recognize and honor the truth of the Eucharistic Sacrifice.

Our pilgrim group was also blessed to visit the Upper Room or Cenacle, in which our Lord Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist, giving to the Apostles, in anticipation, the great fruit of His passion, death and resurrection: His glorious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity as the spiritual food for our life pilgrimage.Although we were not permitted to celebrate Mass in the Cenacle, we were able to celebrate Mass in a chapel of the Franciscan Friars, which is next door to it.

In Jerusalem we also prayed at the church built at the spot where our Lord wept over Jerusalem after His triumphal Palm Sunday interest; at the church marking the spot of Peter’s betrayal; at the church of Saint Ann; the church where our Lord taught the Apostles the "Our Father"; the Garden of Gethsemane; and the Church of Mary’s Falling Asleep in the Lord to be assumed into Heaven.Our guide was careful to give us the historical background of each place, indicating how oral history gives us every assurance that these are the historical places of our Lord.

The pilgrimage to Bethlehem, praying in the Church of the Nativity and touching the place of our Lord’s Birth, and visiting the Shepherds’ Field, all gave new meaning to the mystery of the Incarnation.Also, at Bethlehem, I visited a most important educational institution, Bethlehem University which is under the care of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, who operate Christian Brothers College High School in the archdiocese.In the future, I will write in more detail about Bethlehem University. It needs and merits very much our interest and generous support.

Franciscan Friars and the custody of the Holy Land

Inspired by St. Francis of Assisi, their founder, the Friars Minor have cared for the sacred places of the Holy Land since 1333. Over the years, the Roman Pontiffs, beginning in 1342, have confided the care of the various sacred places to the Franciscans.The guide on our pilgrimage was Father David Wathen, OFM, from Owensboro, Ky.He helped us to appreciate the history and the spiritual significance of each sacred place we visited.Father Wathen belongs to a special province of the Friars Minor, which has, at its work, the custody of the Holy Land.All along the way of the pilgrimage in Bethlehem and Jerusalem, the Franciscan Friars maintained excellently the sites and were most helpful to all pilgrims.

The Franciscan Friars also provide the pastoral care of the parishes near to the places of pilgrimage and have built schools and hospitals to care for all of the people.

We owe a deep debt of gratitude to the Franciscan Friars for their unfailing dedication to the care of the sacred places of the Holy Land.

Conclusion: With Mary

I conclude with one final reflection.Throughout the pilgrimage, I had a profound sense of the presence of the Mother of God, drawing me to her Divine Son.In each holy place, I was led to reflect upon the irreplaceable role of Mary in our salvation, a role which she continues to carry out by her intercession on our behalf before God the Father.The Virgin Mary, who is our model in going on pilgrimage, intercedes for pilgrims, in a special way, that they may find Christ more fully in their lives.She accompanies pilgrims with the maternal counsel which best expresses her vocation and mission.The counsel is her last recorded words in the Gospels, her words to the wine stewards at the Wedding Feast of Cana: "Do whatever He tells you" (John 2:5).

Paul VI Pontifical Institute and adult catechesis


Recently, I met with a group of concerned adult Catholics who raised a number of serious questions about the life of the Church in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.Their questions covered many aspects of the Church’s life.In summary, they wanted to know how the archdiocese was continuing to be faithful to the teaching and discipline set forth at the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council.

One of their questions had to do with opportunities for adults to deepen their understanding of the faith and to grow in the spiritual life through formal programs.In response, I mentioned immediately the various programs offered by the archdiocese’s Paul VI Catechetical and Pastoral Institute.To my surprise, they had little awareness of the significant work of the institute.Since the meeting, I have been thinking that, perhaps, there are others in the archdiocese, who do not know well the Paul VI Pontifical Institute.Because of the significant help which the Pontifical Institute offers for growth in the faith and in the life of the faith, I present it to you briefly and, at the same time, urge the faithful of the archdiocese to make use of its services, some of which are also available online.

Nature of Paul VI Institute

The Paul VI Catechetical and Pastoral Institute has been offering adult education in Catholic doctrine, the sacred Scriptures, the sacred liturgy, the spiritual life and methods of catechesis for more than 25 years.It was founded precisely to foster the renewal of Church life, which the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council mandated.It was named after Pope Paul VI, who served as successor of St. Peter during the years of the first implementation of the council’s decrees.He was elected to the See of Peter in June 1963, after the first session of the council and before the second session.Once the council concluded its sessions in December 1965, it was Pope Paul VI who oversaw the implementation of the directives of the council, until his death on Aug. 6, 1978.

In the beginning, the Pontifical Institute was directed principally to catechists in the Catholic schools and the parish schools of religion.It is, in fact, accredited to give college-level courses by the Holy Father’s Congregation of the Clergy, which assists the Holy Father in all questions having to do with catechesis.Because of its accreditation by the Holy See, it has the title, pontifical.

Over the years, the Pontifical Institute has expanded its programs to serve those who are engaged in adult catechesis and those who assist in the pastoral ministry.It also serves youth ministers, those who assist with the sacred liturgy and candidates for the permanent diaconate.Its programs are open to anyone who seeks a deeper knowledge and expression of their Catholic faith.

The Paul VI Catechetical and Pastoral Institute is dedicated to preserving the Catholic faith as it has been handed down in its integrity from the time of the Apostles.As such, it is most closely united to me in the fulfillment of my responsibilities as chief teacher of the faith in the archdiocese.

The Administration of the institute

Father Edward M. Richard, a member of the LaSalette Missionaries and a doctor of sacred theology, with a specialization in moral theology, is the director of the institute.Father Richard also is the vice-rector and dean of students of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, at which he teaches moral theology.He is assisted by Father Donald E. Henke, a priest of the archdiocese and a doctor of sacred theology, with a specialization in moral theology, who has the title of associate director.Father Henke also teaches moral theology and assists with the spiritual direction of the college seminarians.

Shawn McCauley-Welch is the associate academic dean and John L. Gresham, professor of systematic theology at the seminary, is the curriculum and technology coordinator.Mary L. Beier is the registrar and business manager.Marisol Pfaff is administrative assistant and administrates the online courses.

Sister Catherine Marie Stewart, a member of the Sisters of the Society Devoted to the Sacred Heart, is in charge of the sacramental/catechetical retreats.She is assisted by two other sisters of her community.The archdiocese is blessed to have this community of sisters to assist in the apostolate of catechesis.They teach catechetical methods and present spiritual retreats for children, young people and adults.

The other faculty are drawn from the Catholic academic institutions in the archdiocese and make it possible for the Pontifical Institute to present ever wider offerings of adult catechesis and spiritual formation.The faculty includes professors from Kenrick Theological Seminary, the major seminary of the archdiocese, priests, religious sisters, and lay men and women.What is most important is that each member of the faculty embraces Jesus Christ in the fullness of truth expressed in the magisterium of the Church.They all share a common goal of leading their students to a greater understanding and appreciation of the truth, fullness and beauty of Catholic teaching and practice.As archbishop, I am deeply grateful to all who teach in the programs of the Paul VI Pontifical Institute.

Courses and programs of certification

Courses are offered during the spring, summer and fall terms and are scheduled at various times and places around the archdiocese, in order that they be accessible to as many of the faithful as possible.Each semester, Paul VI Institute offers 20-25 classes to 300-500 students. Fall and spring term courses usually meet for two hours one evening a week. Intensive two-week courses are offered during the summer term.

A number of the courses are offered online over the Internet, expanding significantly the availability of the courses.Through the online discussion groups, those who take the online courses also become part of a learning community.

The Pontifical Institute offers several certification programs including a 20-credit certificate of religious studies, a 12-credit religious education certification for school and parish religion teachers, and more advanced certification for coordinators and directors of religious education programs.

The newest program is the Online Catechism Certificate Program, a two-year program to help the student study the entire "Catechism of the Catholic Church."Each semester has a 20-week online course, presenting in sequence the basic beliefs, sacraments, moral teachings of the Church and the life of prayer.The program is designed for catechists, parents, young Catholics, retirees and anyone who wants to discover more fully the riches of our Catholic faith and practice, as they are authoritatively presented in the "Catechism of the Catholic Church."It is a college-level course and is suited to the participation of working adults.

Through a new arrangement, parishes can pay a set annual fee for participation of parishioners in the courses of the Pontifical Institute.With the parish rate, as many parishioners as desire may take part in courses.If you are interested, please check with your parish priest.

Catechetical retreat program

The Sisters of the Society Devoted to the Sacred Heart on staff at Paul VI Institute are offering a new retreat program for children of all ages, including days of prayer for children, days of vocational discernment for older children, children’s retreats in preparation for the reception of the sacraments, retreats for faculty of Catholic schools and staff of parish schools of religion, retreats for those who assist in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). They also carry out other apostolates in the parish as well as for members of associations of the faithful and other Church organizations.For information about the rich offering of retreats, please call Sister Catherine Marie or Sister Michelle at (314) 633-2661.


Paul VI Catechetical and Pastoral Institute has its headquarters in the Blessed John XXIII Center at 6300 Morganford Road.The telephone number is (314) 633-2550.The email address is website of the Pontifical Institute is found at The website of the Online Catechism Certificate Program is

As archbishop of St. Louis, I have many reasons to be grateful.I am deeply grateful for the Paul VI Pontifical Institute, which gives me faithful and generous assistance in carrying out my weighty responsibilities as the chief teacher of the faith in the archdiocese. It is making a significant contribution to the ongoing response of the faithful of the archdiocese to the directives of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council.I hope that you will take the occasion to enroll in one or another of the courses offered at the Paul VI Pontifical Institute.You will not be disappointed.Your faith life will be enriched for your sake and for the sake of the whole Church.

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