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.

Natural Family Planning Awareness Week


The Catholic bishops of the United States have designated July 24-30 for our annual Natural Family Planning Awareness Week. As in the past, the celebration takes place during the time of the anniversary of the publication of Pope Paul VI’s prophetic encyclical letter "Human Vit (On the Rightly Ordered Propagation of Human Offspring)," of July 25, 1968.The annual observance is a time for all of us to grow in understanding and appreciation of the great treasure which is the Church’s teaching on marriage and the family, especially in what pertains to the procreation of new human life.

Thirty-seven years have passed since Pope Paul VI addressed the teaching of Christ to what must be called a universal crisis of marriage life and love, namely the widespread acceptance of the use of artificial contraception within the conjugal union.Faithful to the perennial teaching of the Church, the Holy Father called married couples to respect the inseparable life-giving and love-giving dimensions of the conjugal union.He rightly observed that their adherence to the moral norm determines the future of married life and, therefore, of the life of the Church and all of society.

At the same time, the Holy Father cautioned about the breakdown of respect between a man and woman in marriage which is caused by the use of artificial contraception.He expressed especially his fear about the loss of the due respect for women which would result.He also noted the negative effect of the breakdown of observance of the moral law, especially among the young who are more easily tempted in such matters.What is more, he cautioned about the use of artificial contraception by political powers as a solution to what they view as national or international difficulties (n. 17).

We are the witnesses today of the truth of the concerns of Pope Paul VI and of the wisdom of the Church’s constant teaching regarding the regulation of the propagation of offspring.Promiscuity, especially among the young, is encouraged by the widespread acceptance of artificial contraception.Sadly, parents sometimes provide artificial contraceptives to their teenage children, presuming that they will be engaging in the marital act outside of marriage.

Divorce is commonplace in our society and is often traced to the loss of communication and mutual respect among couples who have regularly employed artificial contraception.The use of artificial contraception, which is predicated upon a failure in communication, is often associated with domestic violence and the neglect of children.Some governments have required citizens to employ artificial contraception in order to receive social benefits, and some nations have required other nations to enforce a program of artificial contraception upon their citizens in order to receive international aid.

There can be no question of the importance of our annual observance of Natural Family Planning
Awareness Week for the Church and for society, in general.The teaching of the Catholic Church on family planning is prophetic.It provides an irreplaceable help to society in addressing the persistent and most frightening erosion of marriage and family life.

Discipline and the married life

All of us know that discipline is required in every aspect of our life.When we discipline ourselves, we respect God’s plan for us and our world, and we attain profound joy and peace.Popular culture, with its roots in the philosophy of the Enlightenment Era, has the pretense of defining for itself the reality of human life and marital love.It has grown indifferent to the Word of God and hostile to the teaching of the Church.To speak about obedience to God’s law for us is certainly not politically correct.For that reason, it is more important than ever that the Church offer insistently and in a variety of forms the treasure of her teaching on marriage and the conjugal union.

Regarding the essential part of discipline and self-mastery in marriage, especially in what pertains to the conjugal union, Pope Paul VI wrote:

"Truly, discipline of this sort — from which conjugal chastity shines forth — cannot be an obstacle to love.Rather, discipline imbues love with a deeper human meaning.Although (such control) requires continuous effort, it also helps the spouses become strong in virtue and makes them rich with spiritual goods.And this (virtue) fosters the fruits of tranquility and peace in the home and helps in the solving of difficulties of other kinds.It aids spouses in becoming more tender with each other and more attentive to each other.It assists them in dispelling that inordinate self-love that is opposed to true charity.It strengthens in them an awareness of their responsibilities to be fulfilled.And finally it provides parents with a sure and efficacious authority for educating their children.As (their) children advance through life they will come to a correct appreciation of the true goods of man and employ peacefully and properly the powers of their mind and senses" (n. 21).

The discipline required by the moral law in the exercise of the conjugal act helps a couple to express, in all aspects of their life, the meaning of the conjugal act: their communion with one another and their inherent cooperation with God in the procreation and education of new human life.

‘Theology of the Body’

Our late and most beloved Pope John Paul II reflected, with great depth, upon the Church’s constant teaching as expressed in Pope Paul VI’s encyclical letter "Human Vit."During the first years of his pontificate, he dedicated his addresses at his weekly Wednesday audience to what has become popularly known as the "Theology of the Body" (129 addresses given at the Wednesday audiences from Sept. 5, 1979, to Nov. 28, 1984).There can be no doubt about the importance which Pope John Paul II gave to the Church’s teaching on marital love and the procreation of new human life.

Pope John Paul II set forth the natural law which is written in our human nature and its implications for the marital union and the procreation of offspring.He invited all Christians and all people of good will to respect the conjugal meaning of the human body, understanding that the body of a man and the body of a woman, in their sexual dimension, are created for union in marriage and that any other sexual activity betrays the truth about the human body and leads to unhappiness and harm.On the other hand, when we look upon our own body and the body of the other with respect for the conjugal meaning of the body, we grow in the virtues of purity and chastity.

A number of contemporary Catholic authors have been inspired by Pope John Paul II’s presentation of the Church’s teaching on the human body and human sexuality, including our local authors, Heather Gallagher and Peter Vlahutin, in their book "A Case for Chastity: The Way to Real Love and True Freedom for Catholic Teens," published by Liguori in 2003.The lay theologian Christopher West has spoken and published widely on the subject.I recommend his book, "Good News about Sex and Marriage: Answers to Your Honest Questions about Catholic Teaching,"
published by Servant Publications in 2000.

"Open Embrace: A Protestant Couple Rethinks Contraception," by Sam and Bethany Torode, published by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. in 2002, is a testimonial to the universal nature of the Church’s teaching.For an in-depth understanding of the universal nature of the teaching which Pope Paul VI presented in his encyclical letter, I refer you to two books by Janet E. Smith, a professor at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit: "Human Vit: A Generation Later," published by The Catholic University of America Press in 1991, and "Why Human Vit Was Right: A Reader," published by Ignatius Press in 1993.

Summary of the Church’s teaching

According to God’s plan, the conjugal union has two inseparable meanings.On the one hand, through the conjugal union, the married couple express the full gift of themselves to each other for the good of the other.Engagement in the conjugal union while not giving oneself completely to the spouse betrays the meaning of the act and leads to the breakdown of mutual respect and trust.On the other hand, through the conjugal act, the couple share with God Himself in the procreation of offspring made in God’s own image and likeness and redeemed by the outpouring of Christ’s life on Calvary.Even though every conjugal act does not, in fact, result in the procreation of new human life, the act contains in itself the expression of the procreativity or fertility of both spouses.To deny or to frustrate the life-giving dimension of the conjugal act is to distort the act, at its foundation,leading to the breakdown of mutual respect and trust between the couple.

One of the great gifts of Natural Family Planning is the help it provides couples in coming to understand the means which God has placed in nature to space the generation of new human life in the family.Such understanding brings great joy and peace to both husband and wife, for it helps them to appreciate how they cooperate with God, in a most wonderful way, in the procreation of new human life.They also appreciate how God, in His all-providential love, has provided in their very nature the means of exercising parenthood responsibly.What is more, if for some reason a couple has been unable to conceive a child, Natural Family Planning helps them in their efforts to conceive a child and, in the case that conception does not occur, to express their procreativity through adoption or other means of care for the unborn and babies, and, in particular, children with special needs.

A concise summary of the Church’s teaching on the love of marriage and responsible parenthood is found in the "Catechism of the Catholic Church," nos. 2360-2379.

Natural Family Planning in the archdiocese

We are blessed in the Archdiocese of St. Louis to have a rich program of teaching of Natural Family Planning and of help to couples who are experiencing any difficulty regarding the conjugal union and the procreation of offspring.The archdiocesan program of Natural Family Planning is offered in 13 different locations.The program draws upon all of the most recent developments in Natural Family Planning,
offering help in following the Billings Ovulation Method (Web site:, the Creighton Model Fertility Care Services (Web site:, the Sympto Thermal Method of the Couple to Couple League (Web site: the Marquette Model (Web site:

For all information regarding Natural Family Planning in the archdiocese please contact K. Diane Daly, RN, CFCE, the director of the Archdiocesan Office of Natural Family Planning, 11700 Studt Road, Suite C, St. Louis, MO 63141; telephone: (314) 997-7576; fax: (314) 692-8097; e-mail:; Web site:

You may also contact the Diocesan Development Program for Natural Family Planning of the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, 3211 Fourth St., NE, Washington, DC, 20017; telephone: (202) 541-3240/3070; fax: (202) 541-3054; e-mail:; Web site:

I take the occasion to express my heartfelt gratitude to Diane Daly for her outstanding leadership in a most critical service to families, to the Church and to all of society.In thanking her, I thank also all of the teaching couples who are working in the various areas of the archdiocese to introduce couples to Natural Family Planning, in accord with the Church’s teaching on human life and love, on marriage and the family, and to assist them to grow in marital love which finds its crown in the procreation of new human life.


Please take the occasion of our annual observance of Natural Family Planning Awareness Week to learn more about the Church’s teaching on the procreation of new human life and to share that teaching with others, especially young couples who seek the truth in the matter.Let us pray that through our observance of Natural Family Planning Awareness Week we will all grow in our understanding of God’s plan for the generation and education of new human life through the love of a man and woman in marriage.Let us all pray daily for those whom God has called to the married life, that they will be good, faithful and generous in carrying out the high mission of their vocation of life and love.

The instruction ‘Redemptionis Sacramentum’


The conclusion of the pontificate of our late and most beloved Pope John Paul II was marked by a singular attention to the Holy Eucharist.His last encyclical letter was on the Holy Eucharist: "Ecclesia de Eucharistia (On the Eucharist in Its Relationship to the Church)," issued on April 17, Holy Thursday, 2003.In my columns during March, April and May of this year, I reflected upon the Holy Father’s teaching in "Ecclesia de Eucharistia," which he viewed as critical to the life of the Church in a totally secularized society and to her mission of the transformation of individual lives and of society through the new evangelization.

In the encyclical letter "Ecclesia de Eucharistia," Pope John Paul II announced a complementary document which would provide the disciplinary norms necessary for the proper care and respect for the Most Blessed Sacrament.That document was published by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments on March 25, 2004, and is titled "Redemptionis Sacramentum (On Certain Matters To Be Observed or To Be Avoided Regarding the Most Holy Eucharist)."The instruction "Redemptionis Sacramentum" is most important for us to study, so that we may show the proper care and reverence before the greatest gift which God gives to us in the Church, the Body and Blood of Christ in the Holy Eucharist.

Later in 2004, on Oct. 7, Pope John Paul II published his apostolic letter "Mane Nobiscum Domine (For the Year of the Eucharist)," in which he announced the Church’s dedication of the entire year from October 2004 to October 2005 to growth in knowledge and love of the Most Holy Eucharist. Behind all of the attention of Pope John Paul II to the Holy Eucharist, at the conclusion of his service as Vicar of Christ,is the truth that the Blessed Sacrament is the source and summit of our life in Christ.The instruction "Redemptionis Sacramentum" reminds us, at its very beginning, that, in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, the Church "with steadfast faith acknowledges the sacrament of redemption, joyfully takes it to herself, celebrates it and reveres it in adoration, proclaiming the death of Christ Jesus and confessing His resurrection until He comes in glory to hand over, as unconquered Lord and Ruler, eternal Priest and King of the Universe, a kingdom of truth and life to the immense majesty of the Almighty Father" (n. 1).In her teaching regarding the Holy Eucharist, "the whole spiritual wealth of the Church is contained — namely Christ, our Paschal Lamb" (n. 2).

Purpose of ‘Redemptionis Sacramentum’

Our late and most beloved Pope John Paul II, with concern to foster and safeguard in our time the great mystery of the faith, the Holy Eucharist, commissioned the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments to work together with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in preparing an instruction "treating of certain matters pertaining to the discipline of the Sacrament of the Eucharist" (n. 2b).

The instruction does not provide a compendium of all the norms regarding the Holy Eucharist.The instruction notes that it should be read together with the encyclical letter "Ecclesia de Eucharistia" and must be used in conjunction with the General Instruction of the Roman Missal and other documents containing liturgical law.

The purpose of the instruction is: 1) to "assure a deeper appreciation" of liturgical norms which are already in force; 2) to "establish certain norms by which those earlier ones are explained and complemented"; and 3) to "set forth for bishops, as well as for priests, deacons and all the lay Christian faithful, how each should carry them out in accordance with his own responsibilities and the means at his disposal" (n. 2c).The norms given in the instruction pertain to the liturgy of the Roman Rite and also, as applicable, to the liturgy of the other rites of the Latin Church (n. 3).

Reality of liturgical abuses

While the instruction repeats the words of the encyclical letter "Ecclesia de Eucharistia" regarding the great contribution of the liturgical reforms following the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council "to a more conscious, active and fruitful participation" in the Mass by all the faithful, it also acknowledges the reality of abuses "against the nature of the liturgy and the sacraments as well as the tradition and authority of the Church."It notes that such abuses "plague liturgical celebrations" in some parts of the Church and have, in some cases, become "almost habitual" (n. 4).

Acknowledging the reality of liturgical abuses, the instruction points out that the observance of liturgical norms "requires conformity of thought and of word, of external action and of the application of the heart" (n. 5).Our attention to liturgical norms is not just some legalism or empty formalism, but, rather, an expression of our Catholic faith and of divine charity.

Through the Sacred Liturgy, Christ desires to gather all of His faithful into one.To make liturgical rites a cause of division is, therefore, to contradict their very nature.That is why the careful attention of all in observing liturgical discipline is essential to the unity of the Church and integral to the life of charity.To the degree that we understand the nature of the liturgical norms, to that degree we will observe those norms assiduously as an expression of the depth of our Catholic faith, of our love of God and neighbor.The instruction reminds us that our obedience to liturgical norms lifts our minds and hearts in obedience to God’s will in our lives: "The liturgical words and rites, moreover, are a faithful expression, matured over the centuries, of the understanding of Christ, and they teach us to think as He Himself does; by conforming our minds to these words, we raise our hearts to the Lord" (n. 5).

Abuses, on the other hand, cause confusion and error.As the instruction states, they hinder the experience which the disciples on the road to Emmaus enjoyed and which should be ours at every celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice: the opening of our eyes to the presence of the glorious Christ in our midst (n. 6).What must always be kept in mind is that the Sacred Liturgy, above all the Eucharistic Sacrifice, is not our action but, by God’s gift, the action of Christ in our midst.Only by the discipline of our mind and will, through respect for the integrity of the liturgical rites, are our eyes opened to see Christ alive and at work in our midst.

Source of liturgical abuses

The instruction examines the various sources of liturgical abuses.The first source is a false notion of freedom, which infects our culture and leads us to treat the Holy Eucharist in a familiar way, as if it were our possession, and blinds our eyes to its transcendent reality.The instruction correctly reminds us that freedom is not for doing what we want but for doing what is right and proper, and, therefore, all of us "should conform to the ordinances set forth by legitimate ecclesiastical authority" (n. 7).

Sometimes, too, liturgical abuses develop through misguided ecumenical initiatives. It is misguided to think that camouflaging or altering the reality of the Sacred Liturgy could ever produce the unity for which our Lord prayed, gathered with His disciples for the First Eucharist, before His Passion and Death (John 17:21).Here it must always be kept in mind that the Holy Eucharist is God’s greatest gift to us in the Church.It is the source of our life in Christ and our oneness in Christ.For that reason, Church discipline does not permit the individual diocesan bishop or parish priest to introduce changes in the sacred rites, on his own authority.The instruction quotes the words of Pope John Paul II in "Ecclesia de Eucharistia": "The Eucharist is too great a gift to tolerate ambiguity and depreciation."In commissioning the writing of the instruction, Pope John Paul II had the intention of purifying the Church of the shadows created by liturgical abuses, so that "the Eucharist will continue to shine forth in all its radiant mystery" (n. 8).Only when our respect for and care of the Holy Eucharist permits its "radiant mystery" to be somehow visible will it be able to accomplish more fully the unity of all in the life of the Trinity.

The source of liturgical abuses often seems to be the lack of an understanding of the deeper meaning of elements which are altered or rejected.The instruction points out that the prayers and songs of the liturgical rites are inspired by the Sacred Scriptures, reminding us that is from the inspiration of the Word of God that "the actions and signs receive their meaning."The instruction further calls to mind that the signs used in the sacred liturgy "have been chosen by Christ or the Church," in order "to signify the invisible divine realities."In that regard, we are reminded that "the structures and forms of the sacred celebrations according to each of the rites of both East and West are in harmony with the practice of the universal Church also as regards practices received universally from apostolic and unbroken tradition, which it is the Church’s task to transmit faithfully and carefully to future generations" (n. 9).Reflecting on the rich tradition of the actions and forms of the Sacred Liturgy, having their source in the time of the Apostles and developing organically down the Christian centuries, we understand the wisdom of the liturgical norms which safeguard it.

Authority over the Sacred Liturgy

Given the origin of the liturgical rites in apostolic times and the most sacred realities which they signify and contain, the "Church herself has not power over those things which were established by Christ himself and which constitute an unchangeable part of the liturgy."It is important to recall a fundamental principle of the life of faith, which declares the strict connection between the "law of praying (lex orandi)" and the "law of believing (lex credendi)."The words and actions of the Sacred Liturgy as they have come to us from the time of Christ and the Apostles express the faith which saves us. When we, on our own, change or eliminate or make up the words and actions of the Sacred Liturgy, we also weaken or confuse our understanding of the doctrine of the faith.The instruction reminds us: "For the sacred liturgy is quite intimately connected with principles of doctrine, so that the use of unapproved texts and rites necessarily leads either to the attenuation or to the disappearance of that necessary link between the lex orandi and the lex credendi" (n. 10).

Sometimes, it is said that experimentation with the celebration of the Holy Mass or the breach of the norms for the celebration are inspired by pastoral care.The instruction rightly points out that liturgical abuses can never serve the pastoral good of the people or the renewal of participation in the Sacred Liturgy, for "they deprive Christ’s faithful of their patrimony and heritage."In truth, when we engage in liturgical abuses, we inflict a wound upon "the substantial unity of the Roman Rite, which ought to be vigorously preserved," and we are "responsible for actions that are in no way consistent with the hunger and thirst for the living God that is experienced by the people today."True pastoral practice and faithful liturgical renewal strive always to honor "the right of Christ’s faithful to a liturgical celebration that is an expression of the Church’s life in accordance with her tradition and discipline" (n. 11).

The lack of respect for the integrity of the liturgical rites is the source of scandal and division in the community of the faithful.The instruction points out, in a particularly sensitive way, how such confusion and error sadden the Christian faithful who already face the "hard test" of living the Catholic faith in a completely secularized society ( n. 11).When a casual or inattentive approach is taken toward the Sacred Liturgy in our time, secular elements hostile to the Catholic faith and discipline are easily introduced into liturgical celebrations.

Liturgical rights of the faithful

The preamble of the instruction concludes by indicating the rights of individual members of the faithful and of the whole community of the faithful in what pertains to the Sacred Liturgy.The first right demands that the Sacred Liturgy, especially the Holy Mass, be celebrated "as the Church wishes, according to her stipulations as prescribed in the liturgical books and in the other laws and norms."In other words, the rites of the Sacred Liturgy are to be conducted in communion with the whole Church and not as local or idiosyncratic rites.

The faithful also have the right "that the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass should be celebrated for them in an integral manner, according to the entire doctrine of the Church’s Magisterium." The Holy Eucharist contains the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely the Body and Blood of Christ, and, therefore, must be celebrated with the greatest possible attention to the prescribed words and actions.

Lastly, the whole community of the faithful has a right to the celebration of the Holy Mass in a such a way "that it truly stands out as a sacrament of unity, to the exclusion of all blemishes and actions that might engender divisions and factions in the Church" (n. 11).No one, not even the bishop or priest, therefore, is, on his own authority, to add, eliminate or change anything in the Sacred Liturgy (Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, "Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy [Sacrosanctum Concilium]," Dec. 4, 1963, n. 22, paragraph 3).


The preamble of the instruction concludes by noting that the various liturgical laws and practices which it is setting forth "are connected, albeit in various ways, with the mission of the Church, whose task it is to be vigilant concerning the correct and worthy celebration of so great a mystery."The instruction further notes that its final chapter takes up the question of "the varying degrees to which the individual norms are bound up with the supreme norm of all ecclesiastical law, namely concern for the salvation of souls" (n. 13).

In the coming weeks, except for occasional interruptions to address other timely matters, I will present the entire content of the instruction, in order that the celebration of the Year of the Eucharist may reap the greatest possible spiritual fruits in our daily lives, according to the mind of our late and most beloved Pope John Paul II and our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI.Also, after the completion of my commentary on the instruction, I will provide a brief analysis of the apostolic letter "Mane Nobiscum Domine, (For the Year of the Eucharist)."

Let us pray that our reflection upon the instruction "Redemptionis Sacramentum" will inspire in us an ever greater knowledge and love of our Eucharistic Lord.May it help us to be instruments of the universal love of God, which we receive in abundance in the Eucharistic Sacrifice.

Sts. Peter and Paul, Archbishop Naumann and Bishop Casey


On this past Wednesday, June 29, the Church throughout the world solemnly celebrated the memory of Sts. Peter and Paul.St. Peter is the Prince of the Apostles, the one chosen by our Lord to be the head and source of unity of all the Apostles.St. Paul, in strictest communion with St. Peter, brought the Church to all the nations. Both suffered a martyr’s death in Rome.A magnificent basilica has been built over the grave of each of these greatest of the Apostles: the Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican and the Basilica of St. Paul-outside-the-Walls.

This year’s celebration of the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul was especially blessed for me.I traveled to Rome to be present for the reception of the pallium by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, beloved native son of the Archdiocese of St. Louis and now the archbishop of Kansas City, Kan.The Solemn Mass in the Basilica of St. Peter, at which Archbishop Naumann received the pallium, was celebrated by our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI.It was the first time that I was blessed to be in presence of our new Holy Father since his election to the papacy.

The celebration of the Solemnity also had special meaning for me because on the Friday before, June 24, I had the pleasure of a visit from Bishop Luis Morgan Casey, another beloved native son of the Archdiocese of St. Louis and the vicar apostolic of Pando in Bolivia since Jan. 18, 1988.Bishop Casey follows St. Paul in the long line of missionaries down the Christian centuries.My visit with Bishop Casey brought me great joy as I witnessed the vitality of the grace given to missionaries since our glorious Lord first appeared to St. Paul on the way to Damascus.

St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles

It is always a singular privilege to assist at the Mass of the Holy Father on the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, for he is the successor of St. Peter in an unbroken line from the time when our Lord chose St. Peter to be the head of the Apostles. It is always a special grace to celebrate the memory of St. Peter by participating in the Holy Mass offered by his successor.

Three Gospel texts help us to understand the service which our Lord intended St. Peter and his successors to give in the Church.They reveal the desire of our Lord that His Mystical Body, the Church, be under the pastoral care and governance of His vicar, the bishop of the universal Church.

The first text is from the Gospel according to Matthew and recounts the profession of faith in our Lord as Messiah, true God and true man, by St. Peter at Caesarea Philippi (Matthew 16:13-20).Christ’s reply to Peter’s profession of faith indicates the particular mission which He gave Peter in the Church:
"And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:18-19).

Our Lord changes Simon’s name to Peter or "Rock."Peter is the only Apostle to have his name changed, and it is changed to reflect his particular mission of leadership within the college of the Apostles.Christ established him as the solid foundation upon which to build up His Church.He was called to be the principle of unity and steadfastness of faith among all members of the Church.

As keeper of the keys of the kingdom of heaven, St. Peter and his successors proclaim the doctrine of faith and provide the rules of discipline for the universal Church.

The second text is from the Gospel according to Luke and recalls words of our Lord to St. Peter at the Last Supper.Facing His cruel Passion and death, our Lord confided to His Apostles that they would suffer greatly in carrying out the apostolic mission.Referring to all of the Apostles, He tells Peter, in specific: "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat" (Luke 22:31). The image of sifting like wheat portrays the confusion and testing which Satan was to work on the Apostles, in order to discourage them from trust in Divine Providence and, therefore, from carrying out their apostolic charge.Our Lord speaks encouraging words to St. Peter: "[B]ut I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren" (Luke 22:32). Our Lord’s words to St. Peter, much like the words directed to him when he made his profession of faith at Caesarea Philippi, indicate his particular mission.Peter, by his office, is to strengthen his brothers.When the teaching, sanctifying and governing of the flock by the Apostles and their successors is threatened by Satan’s "sifting," then Peter and his successors support the Apostles and their successors, the bishops, in virtue of a special grace given to the office of Peter.

The third text is taken from the Gospel according to John.Our risen Lord appeared to the Apostles on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias and instructed them to cast their nets to the starboard side of the boat (John 21:6).After a miraculous catch of fish and breakfast, our Lord asked Peter three times: "[D]o you love me more than these? ... [D]o you love me? ... [D]o you love me?"To each question and with increasing fervor, Peter professed his love of Christ.To each expression of love, our Lord responded with words which indicated Peter’s special office and mission in the Church: "Feed my lambs ... Tend my sheep ... Feed my sheep" (John 21:15-17).The threefold questioning of Peter underlines very much that the foundation of his service in the Church is Christ and his love of Christ.From His glorious seat at the right hand of the Father, our risen Lord gives to Peter and to his successors the grace of shepherding the flock throughout the world.After the threefold questioning, our risen Lord indicates the full import of shepherding the flock, after the Heart of the Good Shepherd.Peter’s shepherding means laying down his life for the sheep.Our Lord tells Peter:

"Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go" (John 21:18-19).

The Gospel comments that our Lord’s words refer to the manner of Peter’s martyrdom for love of Christ and Christ’s flock.

Successor of St. Peter

The texts from the Gospels help us to understand the reality of the grace given to the successor of St. Peter for the pastoral care and governance of the universal Church.They make clear Christ’s intention, in constituting His Church, that one among the Apostles should be His vicar, defining for the brethren the doctrine and discipline of the faith, holding them together in unity during the inevitable times of trial and temptation, and giving his life for them.

At the Solemn Mass in the Basilica of St. Peter, I gave special thanks to God for our new Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, for the grace given to him to shepherd the universal Church.At the same time, I prayed for him, as I do everyday, because of the "sifting" which Satan does in our day to discourage the chief shepherd of the flock.I gratefully recalled the words of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, found in the dogmatic constitution "Lumen Gentium (On the Church)":

"The Roman pontiff, as the successor of Peter, is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful.The individual bishops are the visible source and foundation of unity in their own particular Churches, which are constituted after the model of the universal Church; it is in these and formed out of them that the one and unique Catholic Church exists.And for that reason precisely each bishop represents his own Church, whereas all, together with the pope, represent the whole Church in a bond of peace, love and unity" (n. 23a).

Reflecting upon the reality of the service of Pope Benedict XVI, I renewed my loyalty to him and my obedience to his magisterium.

Archbishop Naumann

After the homily, our Holy Father conferred the pallium upon Archbishop Naumann, archbishop of Kansas City, Kan., since March 19.It was a time of special gratitude and joy for the pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Kansas City and the Archdiocese of St. Louis who were present.For my part, having known Archbishop Naumann since his appointment as auxiliary bishop of St. Louis and having experienced in a direct way his assistance from the time of my appointment as archbishop of St. Louis, I thanked God for the gift of the archbishop to his archdiocese and to the universal Church.

The pallium is a symbol of the close union of all bishops in each province of the Church with the successor of St. Peter.It signifies the specific responsibility of the metropolitan archbishop to foster communion with the Holy Father among all of the bishops of the province.Archbishop Naumann has four dioceses in his province: the Archdiocese of Kansas City and the Dioceses of Dodge City, Salina and Wichita.

Archbishop Naumann is well known and respected in our beloved archdiocese.He gave exceptional service to the people of God in the archdiocese, both as priest, as auxiliary bishop and as archdiocesan administrator between the departure of Cardinal Justin Rigali and my arrival.He has been especially eloquent and strong in presenting the Church’s teaching on the respect for human life in a culture which condones the attack on the life of the innocent and defenseless unborn and on the life of those who have grown weak because of serious illness, special needs or advanced years.Let us continue to pray for Archbishop Naumann, thanking God for his service to the Church and asking God to bless him in fulfilling his weighty responsibilities.

St. Paul, Apostle of the Nations

St. Paul represents the essentially missionary nature of the Church.Our Lord prayed that all might be one with God the Father in Him through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.St. Paul, called by our Risen Lord in a vision, turned from a life of fierce persecution of the Church to a life dedicated totally to Christ and His Mystical Body.In short, he gave his life to fulfilling the saving desire of our Lord that all men and women of all times and places might be one with God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Notwithstanding many difficulties and trials, St. Paul traveled throughout the inhabited world of the time, establishing the Church and leaving the particular Churches, once established, in the care of a bishop whom he consecrated. Two of the most famous bishops whom he consecrated were Sts. Timothy and Titus.We have a striking testimony to his relationship with these bishops in the inspired letters which he wrote to them.

St. Paul was eventually arrested and taken a prisoner to Rome for his preaching of the faith.Even in his imprisonment, he continued to teach the faith and to exhort the members of the Churches which he had founded to remain steadfast.His Letters in the New Testament have been a source of inspiration and direction for the Church from the time when he wrote them.Eventually, St. Paul was beheaded in Rome at a place called Tre Fontane because, it is said, that three fountains sprang up there at the moment of his martyrdom.

In his Second Letter to St. Timothy, St. Paul reflected upon the meaning of his apostolic ministry received directly from the Lord.He referred to the outpouring of his entire life in the service of Christ and His Mystical Body.He concluded:

"For I am already on the point of being sacrificed; the time of my departure has come.I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:6-7).

Truly, Paul was sacramentally and spiritually united to our Lord with all his being.Every priest and, in a special way, every missionary priest prays for the tireless dedication of St. Paul.

Bishop Casey

Bishop Casey, vicar apostolic of Pando in Bolivia, recently completed a visit to the archdiocese, his home.He is a native of St. James Parish in Potosi.Ordained in 1962, he accepted an assignment to the archdiocesan missions in Bolivia in 1965.From that time, he has continued to serve in the missions with the zeal of St. Paul.Our archdiocese has a strong bond with Bishop Casey.It is a great honor for the archdiocese to have a native son serving as a successor to the Apostles in the missions.Please keep Bishop Casey in your prayers and please be generous in responding to his requests of financial support.

Bishop Casey related to me the great hope which is his in his missionary work.The faith of the people has shown its vitality in new vocations to the priesthood.The need of priests is great indeed and, thanks be to God, natives of the Apostolic Vicariate are responding to God’s call to the priesthood.Please pray for vocations to the priesthood from the families of the Apostolic Vicariate of Pando.

There is need for additional missionary priests from the Archdiocese of St. Louis, but I am unable at the present to send another priest from the archdiocese.Please pray, too, that the young men whom God is calling to the priesthood from the Archdiocese of St. Louis will respond with a generous and undivided heart, so that there may be sufficient shepherds for the Church in the archdiocese and in the missions.

In speaking about Bishop Casey, I am happy to have the occasion to salute the entire archdiocese for the missionary spirit among the faithful. The Archdiocese of St. Louis is outstanding among all of the dioceses in the United States for its generosity to the missions.Thank you for your generous support of our missionaries throughout the world.By your generosity, you are one with St. Paul in bringing Christ and the Church to all the nations.

Also, I thank Msgr. Francis X. Blood who has just completed his first year of service as director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.Msgr. Blood is doing outstanding work in sustaining and developing the missionary work among us.I am pleased that I was able recently to permit him to give his full time to the mission office.I thank also his outstanding staff.Please feel free to be in contact with Msgr. Blood with any questions which you may have about the missions.


Through the intercession of Sts. Peter and Paul, may God bless our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop Naumann and Bishop Casey.May the holy Apostles intercede for us all, that we may grow in the unity of faith and in the missionary zeal to spread the faith to all the nations.

Let us pray for our Sovereign Pontiff Pope Benedict XVI.
The Lord preserve him and give him life, and make him blessed upon the earth, and deliver him not up to the will of his enemies (Enchiridion of Indulgences).

To Christ’s Faithful of the Archdiocese of St. Louis:

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,


In urging us to the holiness of life which is the way of the new evangelization, Pope John Paul II, of blessed memory, called us to look to the example and to seek the intercession of the blesseds and saints, our brothers and sisters in the Communion of Saints, who have shown an heroic degree of holiness during their life on earth.One of his most outstanding contributions to the Church was his work to advance the study of the lives of many servants of God and blesseds who lived in recent times, in order that they might be beatified and canonized.In his apostolic letter "Novo millennio ineunte," which is a kind of magna charta for the new evangelization, Pope John Paul II reflected upon the importance of our familiarity with the lives of heroes of God in responding to the universal call to holiness. He wrote:

"As the (Second Vatican Ecumenical) Council itself explained, this ideal of perfection must not be understood as if it involved some kind of extraordinary existence, possible only for a few "uncommon heroes" of holiness.The ways of holiness are many, according to the vocation of each individual.I thank the Lord that in these years he has enabled me to beatify and canonize a large number of Christians, and among them many lay people who attained holiness in the most ordinary circumstances of life.The time has come to repropose wholeheartedly to everyone this high standard of ordinary Christian living: The whole life of the Christian community and of Christian families must lead in this direction" (Pope John Paul, apostolic letter Novo millennio ineunte [At the Close of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000], Jan. 6, 2001, n. 31c).

The lives of the blesseds and saints, which are ordinary as our lives are ordinary, help us to understand the extraordinary quality of every Christian life, namely, living in Christ through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit who dwells within the Church and within the soul of every member of the Church.Our individual lives and the life in our homes will grow in holiness by our looking to the example and invoking the intercession of those whom the Church has declared heroes of God.

One of the servants of God whom Pope John Paul II beatified in the early time of his pontificate is especially dear to us in the United States.On June 22, 1980, Pope John Paul II declared Kateri Tekakwitha, a Native American of the Mohawk tribe, to be blessed.Blessed Kateri was born near what is today Auriesville in New York around 1656 and died at the Sault Mission near La Prairie de Madeleine in Canada on Wednesday of Holy Week in 1680.By the time of her death at age 24, she had already attained the reputation of heroic sanctity.Her holiness expressed itself, above all, in a love of prayer and of penance, in devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and the Holy Eucharist and in purity of life.She is a wonderful inspiration to us who are called to carry out the new evangelization, that is, to live our Catholic faith with the zeal of the first disciples.

The feast day for Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha is July 14.I write some weeks before her feast day to ask that special preparations be made, in order that greater attention be given to her feast day, this year and every year, in the homes, churches and chapels of the faithful of the Archdiocese of St. Louis.I write also to ask you to pray for her canonization, so that she may become better known among us and throughout the world.

Early life

Blessed Kateri was born to a Mohawk chief of the Turtle Clan named Kenhoronkwa and a Christian Algonquin mother, Kahenta.Her parents gave her the name Ioragode which means "Little Sunshine."Kenhoronkwa and Kahenta later gave birth to a son whom they named Otsikta, which means "Sugar."

Kahenta, Kateri’s mother, as a young maiden, had been taken captive by the Mohawks, one of the five nations which formed the Iroquois Confederation.The other four nations were the Oneidas, the Onondagas, the Cayugas and the Senecas.Although Kahenta had been shown a high honor in being chosen by Kenhoronkwa, a Mohawk chief, as his bride, she suffered the sadness of being denied the practice of her Catholic faith, for the Mohawks were quite hostile to the Christian faith.Some 10 years earlier, the Iroquois had martyred St. Isaac Jogues and St. John de Brbeuf, Jesuit missionaries to the Native Americans, and their companions.These martyrs, known popularly as the North American Martyrs, were remembered for the clear and courageous proclamation of the Catholic faith, which they made even as they were being tortured cruelly and put to death.Kahenta, having always in mind the example of the North American Martyrs, quietly taught Christian prayers to her daughter Ioragode and sang Christian hymns for her.

When Kateri was just 4 years old, an epidemic of smallpox struck her people.Her parents and her little brother all died from the dread disease, leaving Kateri an orphan.Kateri was adopted by her uncle Iowerano, and the family moved from the camp which had been devastated by the smallpox epidemic to another camp which soon was flourishing as a Mohawk village.Women of the Mohawk nation, friends of her dear mother, took care of Kateri.She survived the epidemic but her eyesight remained gravely impaired and her skin bore the pockmarks of the dread disease.She was given the name, Tekakwitha, which means "She pushes with her hands," by her uncle and stepfather Iowerano who became chief in place of her deceased father.The name is very honorable for it means a woman who is prudent, hardworking and loving.Notwithstanding her impaired vision, Tekakwitha was a diligent worker and was respected for the carefulness and joy with which she carried out even the most menial of her tasks.


The early influence of her deceased mother and the virtues which she developed under the influence of her Native American relatives received a confirmation from Jesuit missionaries who arrived at her village in 1670. Although Iowerano was skeptical of the missionaries, he permitted them to teach the people and work among them.Of course, he would not permit that any member of his family become Christian.Many of the Mohawk people were baptized and then moved to the St. Francis Xavier de Sault Mission (La Prairie la Madeleine) on the St. Lawrence River, which had become a true center for Native American converts to live their faith with serenity.
Eventually, Father Jacques de Lamberville, also a Jesuit, arrived at the village.He had extraordinary human and spiritual gifts.It was to him that Tekakwitha first openly spoke of the Catholic faith of her mother and of what she had been gleaning from observing the Jesuit missionaries celebrate the Sacred Liturgy and listening to their teaching.She asked to receive the Sacrament of Baptism.

Father de Lamberville proceeded with great prudence and caution, for he understood the persecution of Tekakwitha which would follow, for she was the daughter of a deceased chief and the adopted daughter of the present chief.Father de Lamberville had her attend catechism classes and discovered that she had a solid knowledge of the faith and had developed remarkable habits of prayer and contemplation.Father de Lamberville was astonished to find a person of such spiritual depth in the middle of the wilderness, for Kateri manifested a mature spiritual life like that of a contemplative nun or monk.

On Easter Sunday, 1676, Tekakwitha was baptized by Father de Lamberville and received the Christian name Kateri or Catherine.Her patron saint was St. Catherine of Siena, whom she imitated by her love of prayer and meditation.Kateri became so devoted to prayer and acts of penance that her family and friends in the village turned upon her.She was harassed by many and even threatened with death by a Mohawk warrior.Father de Lamberville saw the need to transport Kateri to the Sault Mission, where she could practice her faith with tranquility. With the help of an Oneida chief by the name of Garonhiague, Father de Lamberville was able to have Kateri taken to the Sault.Although her stepfather pursued her, she was able to reach the Mission of St. Francis Xavier de Sault in safety.

It was the practice of the missionaries to delay First Holy Communion for some months, in order to be certain that the newly baptized was firm in faith and practice.Kateri received her First Holy Communion on the Christmas following her baptism. It was for her the happiest day of her life, the day which gave the direction for the rest of her days and assured her of her final destiny with God in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Kateri flourished in the community of Native American Catholics at the Sault Mission.The missionaries deeply admired the faithful of the mission.The Jesuit missionaries had not required the Native Americans to take on the way of life of the Europeans but led them to receive the Catholic faith and practice with integrity, while expressing the natural goodness found in their own culture.In this way, the Native Americans were able to purify their culture of any pagan element without denying the goodness of many elements of their culture.The heroic virtues of Blessed Kateri are an excellent example of how the Catholic faith and practice were received with integrity into the life of an exemplary Native American.The purity of faith and life of Blessed Kateri earned her the title, Lily of the Mohawks.

Hero of God

In the company of other devout Catholics, especially her dear friend and second mother, Anastasia Tegonhatsiongo, the profound spiritual life of Blessed Kateri developed and inspired her brothers and sisters of the Sault Mission.Her life at the Sault Mission, brief as it was to be, brought to fullness her communion with Christ through prayer and the sacramental life, and through the daily fulfillment of her duties and tasks with Christlike love.

As Kateri was growing up among her relatives, she was encouraged to consider marriage.Even though she bore certain physical deformities caused by smallpox, she was the daughter of a chief and recognized for her outstanding virtue.She was prized as a future bride.Kateri, however, remained always reserved on the subject and, in her deep love of Christ, resolved to give her life completely to Him.She desired to be a bride of Christ.

She had visited Montreal, observed the life of the consecrated religious women there and was deeply attracted to their consecrated life.When she asked one of the priests about entering the convent, he discouraged very much the idea, thinking that it would be difficult for a Native American to live in the convent.Kateri, not to be deterred in the expression of her total dedication to Christ, asked to make a vow of perpetual virginity.The priest assisted her and on March 25, 1679, the Solemnity of the Annunciation, Kateri Tekakwitha vowed publicly in the Church to remain a virgin for ever for the sake of espousing Christ. The profession of her vow and the living of the consecrated life brought Kateri the greatest joy, a joy which, in a little over a year, would reach its fullness in handing over her earthly life completely to God in Christ.

Lover of the Cross and of the Holy Eucharist

Although Kateri always carried out faithfully her daily duties in the mission, she led a disciplined life of prayer and took every occasion to receive further instruction in the faith.Daily Mass, eucharistic visits and Vespers, and private prayer, especially the rosary, marked the pattern of her daily living.During the hunt, she would spend time in the woods before a cross which she carved into the bark of a tree or made with the sticks she found there.In the life of Blessed Kateri, we see the central place of devotion, inspired by communion with Christ through the Holy Eucharist and preparing for communion with Christ in the Holy Eucharist.

In the final years of his pontificate, our late and most beloved Pope John Paul II proposed what he called a pastoral plan for the Church at the close of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 and the dawn of the Third Christian Millennium.The pastoral plan is life in Christ, lived as if for the first time, lived with the enthusiasm of the first disciples and the first missionaries on our continent.It is life in Christ, lived with the enthusiasm of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha.The pastoral plan is set forth in Pope John Paul’s apostolic letter "Novo millennio ineunte (At the Close of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000)," published on Jan. 6, 2001.It is completed and crowned with his apostolic letter "Rosarium Virginis Mariae (On the Most Holy Rosary)," published on Oct. 16, 2002 (the beginning of his 25th year of service as successor of St. Peter), and his encyclical letter "Ecclesia de Eucharistia (On the Eucharist and Its Relationship to the Church)," published on April 17, Holy Thursday, in 2003. Pope John Paul II wrote the three documents in strictest relationship to one another.In short, the pastoral plan which is life in Christ ("Novo millennio ineunte"), relying upon the example and constant intercession of the Mother of God, who leads us to Christ and helps us to come to know Him and love Him ("Rosarium Virginis Mariae"), reaches its fullness in the Eucharistic Sacrifice ("Ecclesia de Eucharistia").The Holy Eucharist is the source and the highest expression of our life in Christ.To the degree that our faith is true, we are in constant wonder and gratitude before the mystery of the Holy Eucharist, rightly called the Mystery of Faith.

Studying the life of Blessed Kateri, we come to understand the pastoral plan of Pope John Paul II.More importantly, we are inspired to put his pastoral plan in action, through the study of the mystery of the Redemptive Incarnation (the mystery of the Cross), through prayer and participation in the sacramental life of the Church, and through the careful and loving fulfillment of the duties of our daily life.Pondering the life of Blessed Kateri, we discover the extraordinary nature of our ordinary Christian living and are filled with new enthusiasm and energy to transform our personal life and our world with the love of Christ.

Death and eternal life

During the year after making her vow of perpetual virginity, Kateri grew weaker and weaker.Eventually, she was confined to her quarters, in which she was lovingly attended by her brothers and sisters in the faith, and the priests.She was prepared for death by the reception of Holy Viaticum.Her last words were a profession of love of our Lord: "Jesus, I love you."Kateri Tekakwitha died on April 17, Wednesday of Holy Week, in 1680.

At the moment of her death, our Lord granted miraculous signs of her birth, through death, into eternal life.Her eyes and her body were restored to radiant beauty.Truly, her body shown with the radiance of Christ, her Bridegroom.Immediately, there were various expressions of devotion to Kateri who was called "the saint."

A special favor was granted to her second mother, Anastasia, who was absent on the hunt when Kateri died.A week after her death, on Wednesday of Easter Week, Kateri, holding a radiant cross, appeared to the sleepless Anastasia and declared: "Mother, behold this cross.How beautiful it is!It was the source of all my happiness during my life, and I counsel you to make it yours, too" (Henri Bchard, SJ, The Original Caughnawaga Indians, Montreal: International Publishers, 1976, p. 73).

By her life and by her prayers for us, Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha bids us, with the Virgin Mary, to look upon Christ on the Cross and to find in Him all our happiness.She bids us to be one with Christ on Calvary through our participation in the Holy Eucharist, to be one with Christ — Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity — in the outpouring of His life in love of God and neighbor.

Devotion to Blessed Kateri

Kateri Tekakwitha was the first Native American to be beatified.Since her beatification, Juan Diego, the messenger of Our Lady of Guadalupe, has been beatified and canonized.Recognizing the heroic sanctity of Blessed Kateri, I urge you to pray daily for her canonization.Confide to Blessed Kateri your special intentions.

In particular, I ask that the annual observance of her feast be marked by a triduum of prayers on July 11, 12 and 13, and by participation in Holy Mass, if possible, on her feast day, July 14. I am sending to every priest in the archdiocese two booklets published by the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions in Washington, D.C.: "Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha: Lily of the Mohawks" and "Triduum in honor of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha" to seek her intercession and pray for her canonization.I ask the priests to assist all of the faithful in the archdiocese to come to know better Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, to ask her intercession and to pray for her canonization.You may request directly copies of both booklets from my office or from the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions at 2021 H Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20006.The telephone number of the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions is (202) 331-8542.

There is so much more which I wish to write about the heroic holiness of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, but time and space prevent me.I commend to you three books about the life of Blessed Kateri: Francis X. Weiser, SJ, "Kateri Tekakwitha," Montreal: Kateri Center, 1971; Henri Bchard, SJ, "The Original Caughnawaga Indians," Montreal: International Publishers, 1976; and Margaret Bunson, "Kateri Tekakwitha, Mystic of the Wilderness," Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor.


Devotion to Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha is especially promoted in our country through the formation of local Kateri Circles.The members of the Kateri Circles throughout the nation foster a deeper knowledge of the heroic sanctity of Blessed Kateri, offer prayers through her intercession, and pray and work for her canonization.The Archdiocese of St. Louis does not yet have a Kateri Circle.If you would like to help form a Kateri Circle in our archdiocese, please be in communication with me.

Once again, I commend the life of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha to you.At the same time, I confide the work of the new evangelization in the Archdiocese of St. Louis to her intercession.May Blessed Kateri assist us by her example and prayers to love the Cross of Christ and to receive the grace of salvation from the Cross through the Holy Eucharist.

Given at St.. Louis this 22nd day of June, memorial of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, religious, in the year of Our Lord, 2005.

Archbishop Raymond L. Burke

Devotion to the Sacred Heart through the Apostleship of Prayer


Our Lord Jesus Christ invites us to place our hearts in His Sacred Heart.In the Gospel according to Matthew, He speaks to us with so much understanding and tender love, bidding us to find our spiritual rest in Him, in His gentle and humble Heart:

"Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30).

Our Lord invites us to place our poor and often troubled hearts into His Heart, all rich in divine love, pierced for us immediately after He had died on the Cross.The pierced Heart of Jesus, now in glory at the right hand of the Father, is the inexhaustible font of God’s mercy and love toward us all.Placing our hearts into His Sacred Heart, Christ assures us that we will find rest and peace for our souls.

In the Gospel according to John, our Lord issues the same invitation, using the image of water.Christ invites us to drink the water of life, which flows from His open side, so that we may become a source of life-giving water for others:

"On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and proclaimed, ‘If anyone thirst, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, "Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water" (John 7:37-38).

Christ draws us to His Heart for our own rest but also so that we may bring His rest and peace to others.The devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is never solely a matter of our deeply personal relationship with Christ.It is always also a matter of our relationship, in Christ, with all our brothers and sisters.Placing our hearts in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we receive inspiration and strength to open our hearts in ever greater love of others, especially our brothers and sisters who are in most need.

The piercing of the Heart of Jesus by the spear of the Roman soldier is our Lord’s most eloquent invitation to bring our hearts to Him and to find in His Heart divine mercy and love. Christ permitted His Heart to be pierced as an open invitation to all to find in His Heart the purifying and life-giving waters of Baptism and the Heavenly Food of the Holy Eucharist, together with all of the graces which come to us in the Church.Lanspergius (1489-1539), a Carthusian monk of Cologne in Germany, in a meditation on the piercing of the side of Jesus and the opening of His Heart by the Roman soldier’s spear, placed these striking words in the mouth of the crucified Christ:

"‘Having given up My Body to torments and My Soul to death, there is nothing more that I can do, unless it be to open My Heart which has loved you so much, so that you may not only draw near to Me by coming to the Cross, but may also enter, through this Wound, into My Heart’" (Carthusian Monks of the XIV-XVII centuries, Ancient Devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, 3rd ed., London: Burns Oates and Washbourne Ltd., 1926, p. 47).

The Heart of Jesus is pierced that we may have the most intimate communion with God the Father in Christ through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.In fulfillment of the ancient prophecy, Christ offers us a new heart, a transformed heart, in His Sacred Heart (Ezechiel 36:26).His Sacred Heart is the sign of the intimacy and fullness of communion with God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — which He won for us on the Cross.

The Apostleship of Prayer

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque was a most privileged instrument by which our Lord communicated to the Church His immeasurable love for us, symbolized in His Sacred Heart.Christ appeared to St. Margaret Mary several times.He showed His pierced Heart to her.Through His appearances, He instructed her to foster devotion to His Sacred Heart through an annual Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the First Friday Holy Communion of Reparation, together with the Holy Hour on the Thursday prior. In my column of last week, I reflected upon the First Friday devotion and its importance.

St. Margaret Mary was very much helped in carrying out her mission by St. Claude de la Colombire (1641-1682) of the Society of Jesus, who became her spiritual director.In a vision to St. Margaret Mary, our Lord referred to the saintly Jesuit as "My faithful servant and perfect friend" (Timothy T. O’Donnell, Heart of the Redeemer, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992, p. 135).

After St. Claude died, St. Margaret Mary had a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in which our Blessed Mother indicated how our Lord would provide for the continued fostering of the devotion to His Sacred Heart.In the vision, our Blessed Mother declared the Sisters of the Visitation to be the guardians of the Sacred Heart devotion and the Jesuit Fathers to be responsible for making the great good of the devotion known throughout the world (mile Bougaud, The Life of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, translated by A. Visitandine of Baltimore, Md.; Rockford, Ill.: Tan Books and Publishers Inc., 1990, pp. 215-216).

The Apostleship of Prayer, an integral part of the Sacred Heart devotion, has steadily developed through the work of the Jesuit Fathers and Brothers.On Dec. 3, 1844, the Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Father Franois X. Gautrelet, SJ, spiritual director of the Jesuit seminarians at Vals in France, directed the young Jesuits to offer each day everything in their lives to God the Father by the union of their hearts with the Heart of Jesus.His direction was wholeheartedly and generously received by the seminarians and, thus, the Apostleship of Prayer had its beginning.

After the association of the Apostolate of Prayer had been flourishing for some years, Father Gautrelet handed over its direction to Father Henri Ramire, SJ.Father Ramire had been among those first seminarians with whom Father Gautrelet had founded the Apostolate of Prayer.Through the work of Father Ramire, the Apostleship of Prayer experienced a great increase in interest and membership.Father Ramire’s book, "The Apostleship of Prayer," is a classic which expounds the deep spiritual and theological foundations of the Apostleship (Herbert F. Smith, SJ, Homilies on the Heart of Jesus and the Apostleship of Prayer: The Apostleship of Prayer for the World’s Salvation, New York: Alba House, 2000, pp. xviii-xix).

The superior general of the Society of Jesus remains the general director of the Apostleship of Prayer.He enjoys the assistance of national and diocesan directors whom he appoints.The national office for the United States is headquartered at Milwaukee and is under the direction of Father James Kubicki, SJ.The address is: Apostleship of Prayer, National Office, 3211 South Lake Drive, Milwaukee, WI 53235. The Web site address is

Through the work of the Apostleship of Prayer, untold graces daily reach millions of souls throughout the world.The Apostleship is a great gift to the Church.I pray that there will be a new enrollment of members among the faithful of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, so that the great good of the Apostleship will strengthen the Church throughout the world.If you wish information about enrollment in the Apostleship of Prayer, please contact the Archdiocesan Office of Sacred Worship.

Work of the Apostleship

The Apostleship of Prayer is a most fitting way to carry out our fundamental responsibility to assist one another through prayer and holiness of life, drawing the grace for our daily living in Christ from His pierced Heart.At the conclusion of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, our late and most beloved Pope John Paul II reminded us of the essence of our way to salvation and the salvation of the world.It is the way of Christ, the way of holiness of life and heartfelt prayer (Pope John Paul II, apostolic letter Novo millennio ineunte, "At the Close of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000," Jan. 6, 2001, nn. 29-34).

Father Ramire found in a passage of St. Paul the key to understanding the importance of the Apostleship of Prayer.St. Paul urged prayer of petition and the example of a holy life as our way of sharing in Christ’s saving mission:

"First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way.This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony to which was borne at the proper time" (1 Timothy 2:1-6).

Through the Apostleship of Prayer, we unite ourselves to Christ, the one mediator, praying for the salvation of the world and striving to conform our every thought, word and action, after His Heart, for the sake of our salvation and the salvation of the world.

Clearly, the Apostleship of Prayer encourages very much the consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Enthronement, the First Friday Holy Communion of Reparation and other practices of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. At the same time, it gives full expression to the profound meaning of the consecration and other acts of devoted love of the Heart of Jesus.

The Apostleship and the Vicar of Christ

Pope Blessed Pius IX approved the first statutes of the Apostleship of Prayer in 1866.All of the subsequent successors to St. Peter as Vicar of Christ have given strong encouragement and support to the Apostleship.Pope Leo XIII repeatedly urged membership in the Apostleship and granted special spiritual privileges to the members of the association.Pope St. Pius X considered it one of the most fruitful associations established by the faithful.Pope Benedict XV, Pope Pius XI and Pope Pius XII declared that every Catholic should belong to the Apostleship. Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II urged very much the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and, in particular, participation in the Apostleship of Prayer.In an address to the members of the Apostleship of Prayer, on April 13, 1985, Pope John Paul II declared:

"The Apostleship of Prayer can bring a meaningful and concrete contribution to the diffusion, at all levels, of the great and consoling truth that all Christians can be intimately united to Christ the Redeemer by offering their own life to the Heart of Christ" (L’Osservatore Romano, Weekly Edition in English, April 29, 1985, p. 5).

Reference to the Heart of Jesus is frequently found in the teaching of our late and most beloved Pope John Paul II.

Pope Benedict XVI has written extensively on the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.A good compendium of his writing on the Sacred Heart is found in his book, "Behold the Pierced One: An Approach to a Spiritual Christology," published by Ignatius Press.A recent article on the place of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the theology of Pope Benedict XVI expresses well the deepest meaning of the Apostleship of Prayer and its necessary appeal to all Catholics:

The call to be an adorer and an apostle of the Sacred Heart is addressed to every Christian.The apostle is, in essence, the bearer of a word, one sent forth and entrusted with a message.The message that the apostle carries into the world is the one he has learned by looking long with the eyes of adoration at the pierced Heart of the Crucified (Father Mark D. Kirby, OCist, The Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Theology of Benedict XVI: We see who Jesus is if we see him at prayer, L’Osservatore Romano, Weekly Edition in English, May 25, 2005, p. 10).

In the writing of our Holy Father on the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we are steadfastly reminded that the gift of merciful love which we receive in the Heart of Jesus is, at the same time, to be given to others.The adorer of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is, by definition, also an apostle of the Sacred Heart.

Father Walter J. Ciszek, SJ

A most eloquent testimonial to the sublime spiritual good of the Apostleship of Prayer is found in the life of Father Walter J. Ciszek, SJ (1904-1984), who was condemned as a spy of the Vatican by the Soviet government in 1940.For some 23 years, he was interned in Soviet prisons, including 10 years in a penal camp north of the Arctic Circle, in which he carried out the most arduous forced labor.He returned to the United States in October of 1963.If you wish to learn more of the heroic sanctity of Father Ciszek, I recommend two of his books, both published by Ignatius Press.They are titled "He Leadeth Me" and "With God in Russia."

Father Ciszek found in the Apostleship of Prayer the way to understand and to accept God’s will in his life and to help fellow prisoners to do the same.Regarding a retreat which he gave to fellow prisoners, he stated:

"So we taught them the Morning Offering to dedicate to God all the prayers, works, joys and sufferings of each day in conformity to His will — as a means of winning grace for others, especially for their families and friends" (quoted in Homilies on the Heart of Jesus and the Apostleship of Prayer, p. xxvi).

Father Ciszek, whose cause for canonization is before the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, found in the simple practice of the Morning Offering the way to understand God’s will in his life and to accept it with heroic love.Through the Morning Offering, he entered into the Heart of Jesus and there found the meaning of his sufferings, with Christ, for the sake of his own salvation and the salvation of others.

Through the Apostleship of Prayer, what could easily have become a source of profound discouragement became, instead, a source of hope. Surely, the injustices and the hardships of life in the various Soviet prisons and camps, like Lubianka, in which Father Ciszek was detained, could have led him to profound discouragement and to serious doubts regarding God’s love for him.Instead, through the union of his heart with the Heart of Jesus and, through the Sacred Heart, with his brothers and sisters throughout the world, he accepted his long and hard imprisonment as his way to love God and neighbor.

Practice of the Apostleship

The practice of the Apostleship of Prayer is quite simple.It consists of making the Morning Offering at the beginning of each day.As much as possible, members also participate in daily Mass.A prayer card with the text of the Morning Offering is available through the Archdiocesan Office of Worship.By the prayer, the member unites his "prayers, works, joys and suffering" of the day to the Sacrifice of Christ on Calvary through the Eucharistic Sacrifice, in which Calvary is always present to the Church.The union of the individual life, symbolized by the heart, with the Heart of Jesus is also union with the hearts of all who are one with Christ in the Holy Eucharist.

The union of heart with the Sacred Heart is made through the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.In making the Morning Offering, we join Mary in placing our heart totally into the Heart of Jesus.We seek to imitate the Virgin Mary whose heart was indeed immaculate, that is, perfectly united to the Sacred Heart of her Son.

Through the Morning Offering, the member makes his own the intentions of the Heart of Jesus, namely, "the salvation of souls, reparation for sins, the reunion of all Christians."He also makes his own the intentions of the Holy Father, Christ’s Vicar on earth; of his bishop and of all the members of the Apostleship of Prayer.Each month, the Holy Father publishes a general intention and a special missionary intention, which he asks the members of the Apostleship to include in the Morning Offering.


The Apostleship of Prayer is a most effective way to grow in prayer and holiness of life through the union of our hearts with the Heart of Jesus.It is an authentic daily manifestation of the consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart.Through the Morning Offering, we daily draw upon the fruits of the First Friday Holy Communion of Reparation and the Holy Hour on the Thursday before First Friday.

I close with words of our late and most beloved Pope John Paul II, which express the truth which inspires the members of the Apostleship of Prayer:

"Yes, dear brothers and sisters, our Christian communities must become genuine ‘schools’ of prayer, where the meeting with Christ is expressed not just in imploring help, but also in thanksgiving, praise, adoration, contemplation, listening and ardent devotion until the heart truly ‘falls in love.’ Intense prayer, yes, but it does not distract us from our commitment to history: By opening our heart to the love of God it also opens it to the love of our brothers and sisters, and makes us capable of shaping history according to God’s plan" (Novo millennio ineunte, n. 33c).

By our daily praying of the Morning Offering, may our hearts be placed into the Sacred Heart of Jesus and draw from the Divine Heart the grace to transform our lives and our world.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart through First Friday Communion


Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which the Church fosters, in a special way, during the month of June, is rich in its forms.There are four principal forms of the devotion, all of which are strictly related to each other: 1) the First Friday Mass and Communion of Reparation; 2) the Holy Hour on the Thursday before First Friday to commemorate the Agony in the Garden; 3) the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus celebrated annually on the Friday after the Second Sunday after Pentecost or the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, if it is celebrated on Sunday; and 4) the Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Enthronement of the image of the Sacred Heart.

The forms of the devotion have been very much influenced by the visions of our Lord Jesus Christ, received by St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, nun of the Visitation Monastery at Paray-le-Monial in France, from Dec. 27, 1673, to June of 1675.All of the visions were directed to instructing St. Margaret Mary for her service in spreading the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus to the Church throughout the world.The visions received by St. Margaret Mary were, in a true sense, for the universal Church.The image of the Sacred Heart, revealed to St. Margaret Mary, symbolizes the message of the ever-faithful and total love of God for us in Jesus Christ, God the Son Incarnate.The image was given to the universal Church through St. Margaret Mary Alacoque.

Twelve promises of our Lord have been drawn from the writings of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, in which she describes the visions which she received from our Lord.Pope Leo XIII gave his blessing to the list of the promises in 1899.Although some have expressed surprise at the promises, they are, in fact, a true reflection of the Word of God, contained in the Holy Scriptures, in which our heavenly Father makes certain promises connected with our salvation.One thinks, for instance, of the promises made by God, through the Archangel Gabriel, to the Virgin Mary at the Annunciation.Our whole Christian life, in fact, is founded upon trust in God’s promises to us.It is our trust in God’s promises which gives us enthusiasm and energy to live in Christ.The theological virtue of hope, a special gift of God’s grace to us, is directed to strengthening our trust that God will do what He has promised us.

The Blessed Virgin Mary is our model of hope, of trust in God’s promises.When the Archangel Gabriel announced to her that she was to become the Mother of God, Mary trusted, even though it was difficult for her to imagine how what the Angel said could come to pass.

She responded with complete trust: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me [fiat] according to your word" (Luke 1:38).At the Visitation, St. Elizabeth, referring to Mary, proclaimed: "And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord" (Luke 1:45).

The last promise

The 12th and last promise made to St. Margaret Mary and, through the saint to all the faithful, reads: "I promise you in the excessive mercy of My Heart that My all-powerful love will grant to all those who receive Holy Communion on the First Fridays in nine consecutive months the grace of final penitence; they shall not die in My disgrace, nor without receiving their sacraments.My divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment" (Timothy T. O’Donnell, Heart of the Redeemer, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992, p. 140).The promise inspires the observance of a novena of First Fridays.

The novena is an especially efficacious way for us to seek God’s grace in our lives.It has its origin in the first novena in the Church, which was made by the Apostles after our Lord’s Ascension.When our Lord had ascended to the right hand of the Father, the Apostles, faithful to our Lord’s instruction, prayed for nine days to God the Father, asking for a second outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church.At the completion of their novena, on the 10th day or Pentecost Sunday, God the Father poured forth a second gift of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and, through the Apostles, upon the whole Church.The novena of prayer between Ascension
Thursday and Pentecost Sunday has inspired in the Church the practice of making a novena of prayer when we are in need of a special grace.

The novena of First Fridays is integral to devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which is centered upon the total outpouring of Christ’s life for us on Calvary, on Good Friday, which He makes always present for us through the Eucharistic Sacrifice.Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is centered upon the Cross and the Holy Eucharist, is centered upon the events of Holy Thursday and Good Friday, that is, the Last Supper and the Crucifixion.

Every Friday reminds us that God has loved us so much that His only-begotten Son died on the Cross for us.By keeping a novena of First Fridays, we accompany our Lord in His suffering and dying.In a particular way, we offer reparation for the indifference and coldness with which the gift of His total love in the Holy Eucharist is received by many.Our novena of First Fridays is, in fact, a prayer to know more fully the mystery of God’s love for us and to return our love for His love. In other words, our novena is approaching the Heart of Jesus, pierced at His death on the cross, from which there flows unending grace for us, and placing our poor and often anxious hearts within His glorious pierced Heart to find there our lasting joy and peace.

First Friday Communion

The observance of the First Fridays, our response of love to the immeasurable love of God for us, consists principally in participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice and the reception of Holy Communion.The more we grow in knowledge and love of Christ, through His Sacred Heart, the more we are conscious of our sinfulness and seek God’s forgiveness through the Sacrament of Penance.To prepare ourselves for the fullest possible union of our hearts with the Heart of Jesus on the First Fridays, we confess our sins and receive God’s forgiveness in the Sacrament of Penance.It would be a total contradiction to approach the Holy Eucharist in reparation of sins committed against the Blessed Sacrament without reflecting sufficiently on the great mystery of Christ’s Body and Blood given up for us, without seeking the purification of anything in us, which is unworthy of Christ who comes to dwell within us through the Holy Eucharist.

There is for us no more fitting or complete way to make reparation than to prepare ourselves to express our love of Christ by participating in the Eucharistic Sacrifice and receiving Holy Communion.There is no better way for us to express sorrow for sins and make reparation for any indifference or coldness shown to Christ, really present in the Blessed Sacrament.Participation in the Holy Mass and the reception of Holy Communion in reparation fulfill, at one and the same time, the twofold dimension of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.Communion of reparation is an expression of deepest love of God in response to His immeasurable love of us.It is also reparation for any neglect or contempt, on our part, before the great mystery of faith.

For many the practice of the novena of First Fridays leads to the devout observance of every First Friday, a continuous novena. The continuous observance of the First Friday helps the faithful to establish the mystery of the Cross as the pattern of our daily living, striving daily to pour out our lives, with Christ, in love of God and our neighbor.When we observe how much the life of Christ with us in the Church is treated with indifference or even hostility, we are led to make a Communion of Reparation on all of the First Fridays of the year, asking God to pardon those who so offend Him and expressing, on their behalf, sorrow for sin and an ardent love of Christ.

Holy Hour on Thursday

In order to accompany our Lord as faithfully as possible in His Suffering and Dying, the evening before the First Friday is kept as a time to be mystically united with our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane.Calling to mind how our Lord was betrayed and handed over to the torturers in the Garden, we come to a deeper understanding of His love for us.At the same time, we are inspired to express our grateful love of Him.On the Thursday before the First Friday, it is the practice to make what we call a Holy Hour.It is an hour of time spent before our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, contemplating the Eucharistic Presence, giving thanks to God for His many favors and seeking from God the grace we need to meet the great challenge of everyday Christian living.

It is best to make the Holy Hour in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, that is, in prayer, before the tabernacle in the church or, even better, before the Sacred Host exposed in the monstrance.If obligations at home or other justifiable reasons keep a person from making the Holy Hour before the tabernacle in the parish church or local chapel, the Holy Hour may be made at home.The Holy Hour on the Thursday before First Friday is the model for the practice of making a daily or weekly holy hour.Through the Holy Hour, the faithful have time alone with our Lord to look upon His Holy Face and to seek His grace, the fuller union of our hearts with His Heart. Sacramentally present in the Sacred Host, our Lord speaks to the hearts of those making the Holy Hour, granting to them His joy and peace.

We are blessed in the Archdiocese of St. Louis to have many parishes with extended periods of eucharistic adoration or continuous adoration of the Holy Eucharist exposed in the monstrance.I ask that every parish in the archdiocese, if possible, have an extended time of eucharistic adoration on the Thursday before the First Friday, so that many of the faithful will be able to make the Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament.

God’s promise

Some have questioned the 12 promises, especially the last promise, saying that they are an attempt to control God, to wrest from Him the gift of salvation, instead of receiving the gift freely from Him.The promises and especially the last promise contain nothing more than is found in our Lord’s own word to us.He showers His love upon those who are sorry for their sins and love Him sincerely.

The practice of observing the First Friday of each month by receiving Holy Communion in reparation for sins committed against the love of God, especially the Blessed Sacrament, is not some mechanical way of guaranteeing one’s eternal salvation.Rather, it is a response of ardent love to Him Who has first loved us and gave up His life for us. The faithful who seek to place their hearts in the all-merciful and all-loving Heart of Jesus are, first and foremost, deeply conscious of their own unworthiness of God’s love.They approach the Heart of Jesus not out of some pretense of manipulating God’s love for them but at the invitation of Jesus Who invites us who are poor and burdened to find in His Heart rest and refreshment (Matthew 11:28).

Christ invites the spiritually thirsty to come to His Heart from which there never cease to flow the cleansing and life-giving water and blood, which first flowed from His pierced Heart on Calvary (John 7:35).

Consecration and First Fridays

As I mentioned at the beginning, the forms of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus are essentially related to each other.I have written, first, about the Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart in the home and other important places in our lives.The heart consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, that is, devoted to the mystery of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ who died on the Cross for us and gives us His Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist, will keep the observance of the First Friday and of the Holy Hour on the Thursday before the First Friday.

In writing about the consecration and enthronement, I noted that the Act of Consecration and the enthronement are not just single acts, that is an isolated prayer or the appending of a sacred image on the wall.Rather, they symbolize a way of life.They represent a way of living which seeks to keep company with Christ at all times, which seeks to extend communion with Christ in the Holy Eucharist into every dimension of one’s life.The First Friday Communion of Reparation is an essential part of a life consecrated to the Sacred Heart, of a heart in which Christ the King is enthroned.If Christ is our constant companion, if our way of life is the Way of Christ, the Way of the Cross, then we will not fail to observe the Thursday of His Agony in the Garden and the Friday of His death with special prayer and with participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice.

Teaching the devotion

During the past several decades, there has been a general failure to teach our children the great richness of the devotional life, especially the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. How much the observance of the First Friday of the month forms our children and young people in love of our Lord Jesus who died for us on the Cross and gives us His true Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist!Teaching our children to make the novena of First Fridays is not to form them in some magical approach to receiving a grace from God but to help them respond, in a concrete and constant way, to Christ’s invitation to come to Him and to draw from His Heart, in abundance, the grace which we need for our daily living.Children and young people who are taught to observe the First Friday and the Thursday before the First Friday will pattern their lives more completely upon the mystery of Christ’s suffering, dying and rising from the dead. They will be formed in the love of the Holy Eucharist.

Last year, on March 25, 2004, the Feast of the Annunciation, I blessed images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus for every Catholic school and parish school of religion during the solemn celebration of the Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis.As I travel throughout the archdiocese, I see the image of the Sacred Heart enthroned in our churches and schools.In order that the enthronement and consecration remain for our children and young people a way of life, it is important that we teach them to observe the novena of First Fridays and the Holy Hour on the Thursday before the First Friday.How wonderful it would be, if all of our children would have the opportunity to make the Communion of Reparation on the First Friday of each month!

I am asking our Office of Sacred Worship to put together a simple guide on the First Friday Communion of Reparation and the Holy Hour on the Thursday before the First Friday for our children and young people.The guide will explain the devotion and the spiritual fruit which it bears in our daily living.The guide will also provide prayers to help the children to accompany the Lord in His suffering and dying, and so one day to share in His Resurrection.


Christ invites us to draw from His pierced Heart, in abundance, the grace of the Father’s all-merciful love.Through the First Friday Communion of Reparation and the Thursday Holy Hour, may we come to a deeper knowledge and love of Christ and of the Sacrament of His Real Presence, the Holy Eucharist.May we respond wholeheartedly to Christ’s invitation to come to Him to find rest and refreshment for our weary hearts by observing the novena of First Fridays as an expression of our ardent love and of reparation for sins committed by us and others, especially sins of disrespect toward the Blessed Sacrament.

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