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.

The Church and rural life


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

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

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

Historical background

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

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

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

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

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

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

Catholic faith and rural life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rural life today

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

November: month of prayer for the dead


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

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

Prayer for the dying

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

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

The Church’s tradition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer and Masses for the dead

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Pilgrimage to the Holy Land


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Tensions in the Holy Land

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

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

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

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

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

The Holy Places

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

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

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

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

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

Franciscan Friars and the custody of the Holy Land

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

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

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

Conclusion: With Mary

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

Paul VI Pontifical Institute and adult catechesis


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

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

Nature of Paul VI Institute

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

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

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

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

The Administration of the institute

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

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

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

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

Courses and programs of certification

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

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

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

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

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

Catechetical retreat program

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


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

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

New evangelization and the Year of the Eucharist


On this past June 10, the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ or, as it is popularly known, Corpus Christi, our Holy Father Pope John Paul II announced "a special Year of the Eucharist" (L’Osservatore Romano, Weekly Edition in English, June 16).The Year of the Eucharist begins on Sunday, Oct. 10, with the opening of the weeklong World Eucharistic Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico.The Year of the Eucharistwill conclude with the next Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, to take place from Oct. 2 to 29, 2005, in Vatican City, addressing the topic, "The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church."The subject of the Synod of Bishops, which is a meeting of representative bishops from throughout the world, is taken from words of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council regarding the holy Eucharist: "Taking part in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, the source and summit of the Christian life, (the faithful) offer the Divine Victim to God and themselves along with It" (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen gentium, No. 11).

Father Joseph M. Simon, pastor of Queen of All Saints Parish and chaplain of the Archbishop’s Committee on Eucharistic Adoration, is representing the archdiocese at the World Eucharistic Congress in Guadalajara.After his return from the World Eucharistic Congress, a special report on the activities of the Congress will be presented in the St. Louis Review. I invite you to watch for it, as I am sure that it will be helpful to us in observing a year dedicated, in a special way, to love of our Lord Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament.

The preparations for the meeting of the Synod of Bishops on the Holy Eucharist are already in progress.A preliminary document for study has been sent to all of the bishops of the world.Each bishop has been invited to submit his observations and to present special concerns.On the basis of my meetings thus far in the archdiocese and of correspondence which I have received, I am able to offer some suggestions of topics for discussion at the synod. Certainly, I welcome any observations which you may have, pertaining to the celebration of the Mass, worship of the Blessed Sacrament outside of Mass and eucharistic devotion.

Why a Year of the Eucharist?

Why has our Holy Father chosen now to announce a Year of the Eucharist? He provides an answer for us in the homily which he gave at the Corpus Christi Mass on June 10:

"Ever since Pentecost, when the Church, the People of the New Covenant, ‘began her pilgrim journey toward her heavenly homeland, the Divine Sacrament has continued to mark the passing of her days, filling them with confident hope.’ Thinking precisely of this, I wanted to dedicate the first encyclical of the new millennium to the Eucharist and I am now pleased to announce a special Year of the Eucharist" (L’Osservatore Romano, Weekly Edition in English, June 16, 2004).

Our Holy Father makes reference to his encyclical letter "Ecclesia de Eucharistia (On the Eucharist in Its Relationship to the Church)," published on Holy Thursday, April 17, 2003. The encyclical letter is directly related to his apostolic letter "Novo Millennio ineunte (At the Close of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000)," which sets forth the Holy Father’s pastoral plan for the Church at the beginning of the Third Christian Millennium.
The encyclical letter on the Eucharist makes it clear that the new evangelization, which is the goal of the pastoral plan for the new millennium, must begin with a rekindling of what our Holy Father calls "eucharistic amazement" (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, No. 6).The new evangelization, which may be simply described as teaching, celebrating and living our faith with the enthusiasm and energy of the first disciples, demands that we contemplate anew the face of Christ alive for us in the Church.There is no more privileged way, through which we have intimate communion with Christ, than the holy Eucharist.If we are to carry out the new evangelization, we must recapture the wonder of the first disciples when they witnessed that Christ had risen from the dead and is alive for us in the Church, especially through the sacraments.Our Holy Father writes:

"To contemplate Christ involves being able to recognize Him wherever He manifests Himself, in His many forms of presence, but above all in the living sacrament of His Body and His Blood.The Church draws her life from Christ in the Eucharist: by Him she is fed and by Him she is enlightened.The Eucharist is both a mystery of faith and a ‘mystery of light.’Whenever the Church celebrates the Eucharist, the faithful can in some way relive the experience of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus: ‘Their eyes were opened and they recognized Him’ (Luke 24:31) (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, No. 6).

Through the observance of the Year of the Eucharist, we will recover the wonder of the first disciples at the gift of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, the wonder which was ours on the day of our First Holy Communion.

Participation in the Mass

The rekindling of "eucharistic amazement" comes first through our attentive and active participation in the celebration of the Mass.Throughout the Year of the Eucharist, let us strive to appreciate more fully the meaning of our share in the Lord’s sacrifice, our sacramental union with Him in the mystery of His suffering, dying and rising from the dead.Our Holy Father has presented us with some wonderful helps in coming to a deeper appreciation of each element of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, inspiring in us a holy wonder at the gift of Christ’s Body given up for us and His Blood poured out for us.I refer to his encyclical letter "Ecclesia de Eucharistia" and the instruction on the Eucharist, "Redemptionis Sacramentum," of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, published on March 25 of this year.The instruction complements the Holy Father’s encyclical letter.In fact, the Holy Father announces the instruction in the encyclical letter (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, No. 52b).

In the encyclical letter, our Holy Father speaks about both "lights" and "shadows" in today’s eucharistic faith and practice.Among the lights, he mentions "a more conscious, active and fruitful participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar on the part of the faithful" (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, No. 10a).He also mentions the increase in eucharistic adoration.The Year of the Holy Eucharist is a time for us to examine our lives, in order to make sure that our participation in the holy Mass is "conscious, active and fruitful."

Among the "shadows" are the abandonment of eucharistic adoration in certain quarters of the Church and the abuses which have entered into the celebration of the Mass, words and actions contrary to what is prescribed in the "Rite of the Mass." The abuses lead to confusion among the faithful and introduce division in the Church.Our Holy Father comments on the situation:

"At times one encounters an extremely reductive understanding of the eucharistic mystery.Stripped of its sacrificial meaning, it is celebrated as if it were simply a fraternal banquet (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, No. 10c).
Our Holy Father also mentions the confusion about "the necessity of the ministerial priesthood, grounded in apostolic succession," for the celebration of the holy Eucharist (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, No. 10c).Studies tell us that many Catholics, sometimes as much as 50 percent of Catholics, have a defective understanding of the holy Eucharist, especially the Real Presence of Christ.

With the help of the encyclical letter and the instruction, we will grow in our eucharistic faith and devotion, and we will dispel any "shadows" in our eucharistic practices.The Year of the Eucharist provides us with a time of grace to purify our celebrations of the Sacred Liturgy, so that they express more fully the mind of Christ. I urge parish priests, catechists in the Catholic schools and parish schools of religion, and all Catholics to draw upon the grace of this special year to grow in knowledge and love of the eucharistic mystery and to give witness, through teaching and example, to the truth of the holy Eucharist, which is at the heart of our Catholic faith.

Here I note two special celebrations during the Year of the Eucharist.On April 7-8, the archdiocese will sponsor the Gateway Liturgical Conference.Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, will give the keynote address. A number of other experts in the Sacred Liturgy will given presentations throughout the conference.On April 9, the Archbishop’s Committee on Eucharistic Adoration will hold its annual conference.More information about these two important events will be forthcoming through the St. Louis Review.

May the Year of the Eucharist also be fruitful for the evangelization of the unbaptized, and the catechesis of the already-baptized who desire to enter the full communion of the Catholic Church and of baptized Catholics who were never catechized.May it inspire us and strengthen us to invite our numerous brothers and sisters of the Catholic faith, who do not regularly participate in Sunday Mass, to return to their spiritual family, the Church, to be nourished once again at the altar of Christ’s sacrifice. It is said that some 50 percent or more of Catholics do not assist at Sunday Mass regularly.Let us help them to rekindle their"eucharistic amazement," to reawaken their desire to be one with the Lord in the mystery of His Passion, Death and Resurrection.

Eucharistic devotion

Eucharistic devotion is our way of expressing faith in the holy Eucharist and love of our eucharistic Lord throughout the day.It keeps before our minds and hearts the truth of the holy Eucharist, before which we kneel in adoration.

An excellent form of eucharistic devotion in the home is the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Consecration to the Sacred Heart.Devotion to the Sacred Heart is inspired by participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, in which we receive from the glorious pierced Heart of Christ the gift of His divine life.Devotion to the Sacred Heart is living in the company of our eucharistic Lord throughout the day.Each time we look upon the image of the Face and Heart of Christ, we are reminded of how much God loves us in Christ, and we are inspired to make reparation for our lack of love and to give ourselves anew to the more fervent love of God and one another.

Visits to the Blessed Sacrament and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, including processions and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, flow naturally from our communion with Christ in the Eucharistic Sacrifice and draw us to "a more conscious, active and fruitful participation" in the holy Mass.Our Holy Father underlines for us the great importance of eucharistic devotion in our lives:

"The worship of the Eucharist outside of the Mass is of inestimable value for the life of the Church.This worship is strictly linked to the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice.The presence of Christ under the sacred species reserved after Mass — a presence which lasts as long as the species of bread and of wine remain — derives from the celebration of the sacrifice and is directed toward communion, both sacramental and spiritual" (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, No. 25a).

Our Holy Father quotes St. Alphonsus Liguori: "Of all devotions, that of adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the greatest after the sacraments, the one dearest to God and the one most helpful to us" (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, No. 25c).We will only meet the challenge of the new evangelization, the attainment of the high standard of everyday living in Christ, if we know Christ intimately, especially in the holy Eucharist.

The promotion of eucharistic devotion in the archdiocese is truly exemplary.We all owe a deep debt of gratitude to Cardinal Justin Rigali who, during his years as archbishop of St. Louis, did so much to promote eucharistic adoration, and to the Archbishop’s Committee on Eucharistic Adoration.Let us draw upon the grace of the Year of the Eucharist to sustain and develop our eucharistic devotion. It is my hope that soon all of our parishes will have regular times of eucharistic worship outside of Mass, and that all of us will enthrone the Sacred Heart of Jesus, His eucharistic Heart, in our homes.


Let us confide our observance of the Year of the Eucharist to the prayers of the Virgin Mary, whom our Holy Father has named "Woman of the Eucharist," especially under her title of Our Lady of Guadalupe.As she did at the wedding feast of Cana, Mary, our loving Mother, draws us to Christ that we may do all that He tells us (John 2:5).In her apparitions at Tepeyac Hill, in present-day Mexico City, our Lady of Guadalupe asked that a chapel be built in which she might lead pilgrims to the mercy of God, God the Son incarnate in her womb for the salvation of the world.Our Lady of Guadalupe, with tender love, will never fail to draw us to her Son in the holy Eucharist, so that we may know Him more fully, love Him more ardently, and serve Him more faithfully.

Stewardship: Putting God first in our lives


On this coming weekend, we will observe the fourth annual Stewardship Awareness Sunday in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.All parishes will recognize and celebrate the great works which have been accomplished in the Church in the archdiocese and far beyond, thanks to the parishioners who have generously shared with the Church God’s gifts of time, talent and treasure for the sake of their brothers and sisters. It also will be the occasion for parishioners throughout the archdiocese to consider the manifold gifts with which God has blessed them and to ask themselves whether they are returning a fair share of those gifts to God for the good of all in the Church.Our observance of Stewardship Awareness Sunday will rightly center around our participation in the holy Mass, in which we offer ourselves, one with Christ, in sacrificial love of God and neighbor.

Stewardship is often misunderstood in contemporary society and culture.It is easily understood superficially and wrongly as a response to the begging of the Church and other charities by giving up something of what is rightly ours.In truth, stewardship is the recognition of God in our lives, who is the source of all that we are and have.Recognizing God, we naturally place Him first in our lives and, therefore, place all of the many good gifts, which He has given us, at His service for the sake of others.Practicing stewardship, we acknowledge that the gifts which we enjoy are not ours to keep but to use in giving glory to God and in working for the salvation of the world.When we put God first in our lives, we consider His plan for us and our world in every decision we make, including budgetary and financial decisions.Putting God first in our lives means an active concern to be a co-worker with God in the care of the world and in the salvation of our fellow man.It means wanting to do God’s will in all things and to please Him by all our thoughts, words and actions.

Stewardship, an act of faith

Certainly, putting God first in our lives is an act of faith.It is the recognition of who we are before God and of our absolute dependence upon His providence.It is the acceptance of His law, especially the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes, as the key to happiness in our lives.When we practice stewardship, we make an act of trust in God who always provides for our needs and for an abundance besides, so that we may share our goods with others.Stewardship is an act of faith, which brings us deepest joy and peace.In a worldly way of thinking, we believe that sacrificing of ourselves and our goods for others is a deprivation and will make us sad.How many people do we know who hoard their material goods and are selfish with their time and talents, thinking it will make them happy, and, as a result, are restless and profoundly unhappy?In fact, it is the generous giving of ourselves to God and others, even when it hurts, that brings us lasting joy and peace.

Stewardship, indeed, is a way of life.It is the way of faith, recognizing the truth about ourselves, which God reveals to us in Christ; the way of hope, trusting in God’s unfailing goodness in providing all that we need for ourselves and for the service of others; and the way oflove, putting ourselves and our goods at the service of God and others.Stewardship permeates every aspect of our lives, for we are called to do God’s will in all things without exception.

Stewardship in the Sacred Scriptures

The inspired Word of God helps us to understand more fully our mission as stewards of God’s manifold gifts.Stewardship is presented throughout the Bible, from the very first chapters, as the response of God’s children to the gift of His all-merciful love.In short, God’s Word reveals to us that we and our world have come from the hand of God and will return, on the Last Day, to His hand. Therefore, our use of material goods should prepare the day of the final accounting of our stewardship, which we will give when our Lord Jesus returns in His glory.Most especially, God will ask us to give an account of how we have placed our gifts at the service of the poor and needy, for whom our Lord has preferential love.

When God made man, He placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden as the stewards of His creation.In the Book of Genesis, we read: "The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it" (Genesis 2:15).The sin of Adam and Eve, original sin, was pride, refusing to recognize God as the source and end of all created goods and pretending to be God, instead of acting as God’s stewards.Pride led to disobedience and the abuse of the goods which God had placed in their care.As a result, the created world which, in the beginning, had been harmonious, suffered disorder and violence, which can only be remedied through humility before God and obedience to Him.

When our Lord led Moses and the chosen People into the Promised Land, he instructed Moses to take up a collection for the service of God, especially for His fitting worship (Exodus 25:1-2).In the Book of Deuteronomy, in which God sets forth His life-giving law for His people, He instructs them:

"Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God at the place which He will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks and at the Feast of Booths.They shall not appear empty-handed; every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God which He has given you" (Deuteronomy 16:16-17).

Gratitude to God flows from a generous heart, a heart after the Sacred Heart of Jesus, God the Son incarnate.
Through the moral law, God teaches us to recognize with humility the destiny of our material goods, namely the service of God and of the common good.Recall the words of Psalm 24:

"The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof/the world and those who dwell therein/for He has founded it upon the seas/and established it upon the rivers" (Psalm 24:1).

We also read in the Book of Sirach: "Let not your hand be extended to receive, but withdrawn when it is time to repay" (Sirach 4:31).When we understand our cooperation with God as His stewards, we also understand that failure to use God’s gifts in accord with His will is a serious sin.

Our Lord Jesus revealed the full truth regarding stewardship through His teaching and, most of all, through His passion and death. He taught His Apostles to be examples of stewardship for all, placing themselves and their goods at the service of anyone in need, without asking for any material return: "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons.You have received without pay, give without pay" (Matthew 10:8).At the conclusion of the Parable of the Farsighted Steward, Christ declared to all: "Everyone to whom much is given, of him will much be required." (Luke 12:48).

At the Last Supper and on Calvary, our Lord revealed most fully the truth about stewardship.At the same time, He won for us the grace to be good stewards, after His own true and generous heart.At the Last Supper, He washed the feet of the Apostles and commanded them to do the same, that is to empty themselves of themselves in order to be and live for God and for their neighbor.He anticipated the outpouring of His own life on the next day (Good Friday) in the Eucharistic Sacrifice which He celebrated for the first time at the Last Supper.By the institution of the Holy Eucharist, He provided that the entire fruit of the Redemption would be sacramentally present for all time in the Church.At the Last Supper, He anticipated the sharing in the fruit of the Redemption both for the Apostles and for all who would come to life in Him through Baptism down the Christian centuries.The following day on Mount Calvary, He gave the lesson of perfect stewardship, handing over Himself, obedience to God the Father, so that the all-merciful love of God, fully present in His Sacred Heart, might reach all hearts.

In the New Testament writings, we see that stewardship was at the heart of the life of the Church and of her individual members.The members of the first community of Christians at Jerusalem laid their goods at the feet of the Apostles, in order to provide for the good of all in the community (Acts 2:44-45).St. Paul took up a collection among the faithful of the Church in her already many locations, in order to provide for the needs of the Church at Jerusalem, which was suffering grave need (1 Corinthians 16:1-4).He remarks at the generosity of the Church in Macedonia, which was experiencing great poverty but, at the same time, desired to be generous in coming to the aid of the brothers and sisters in Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 8:1-14). Reflecting upon the stewardship which is fundamental to our way of life as Christians, St. Paul teaches us:

"The point is this: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work" (2 Corinthians 9:6-8).

The truth is that everyone has something to sacrifice for the good of all, and in making the sacrificefinds himself or herself greatly enriched.

The saints, model stewards

The saints are our great teachers in all things, including stewardship.Responding to God's inspired Word, they gave of themselves, from their substance, for love of God and neighbor.In the lives of the saints — men and women of all times and places, of all vocations and with diverse gifts — we learn what it means to put God first in our lives.

St. Francis of Assisi teaches us to sacrifice our best to give the most fitting worship possible to God and the most fitting care to those in need.In Chapter 6 of the Rule of 1223, he instructed the friars who had come to follow him:

"The friars are to appropriate nothing for themselves, neither a house, nor a place, nor anything else.As strangers and pilgrims (1 Pt 2:11) in this world, who serve God in poverty and humility, they should beg alms trustingly.And there is no reason why they should be ashamed, because God made himself poor for us in this world.This is the pinnacle of the most exalted poverty, and it is this, my dearest brothers, that has made you heirs and kings of the kingdom of heaven, poor in temporal things but rich in virtue.This should be your portion, because it leads to the land of the living" (Fahey, Benen, OFM, The Writings of St. Francis of Assisi, Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1964, p. 61).

The poverty of the Friars Minor of St. Francis is a special gift of God to the Church, for it is an example for all Christians of the detachment which they should have regarding earthly goods, in order to put them at the service of God and the disposal of all.

St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, or Jesuits, was an heroic example of a Christian who gave His whole being in service of the apostolate, of carrying out God’s will as it was revealed to him.He has given us two powerful prayers for the grace to be good stewards of God’s gifts:

"Lord Jesus Christ, take all my freedom, my memory, my understanding and my will.All that I have and cherish You have given me.I surrender it all to be guided by your will.Your grace and love are wealth enough for me.Give me these, Lord Jesus, and I ask for nothing more" (Watkins, James D., ed.Manual of Prayers, Chicago: Midwest Theological Forum, 1996, p. 34).

"Dearest Lord, teach me to be generous. Teach me to serve you as you deserve; to give and not count the cost; to fight and not to heed the wounds; to toil and not to seek for rest; to labor and not to ask for reward, save that of knowing that I am doing Your will. Amen" (ibid., p. 321).

The good steward finds his reward, his joy and peace, in doing God’s will, in being the instrument by which God’s gift of merciful love reaches its proper destination for the good of all.

St. Thrse of Lisieux teaches us what she called her little way of spiritual perfection, the everyday way to draw closer to God and one another.It is the way which led her to heroic holiness of life.There are three steps in the little way.First, we must recognize who we are before God.We must acknowledge that we can do nothing without God’s help.Second, we must have total confidence in God’s merciful love toward us, revealed in the passion and death of our Lord Jesus.We must trust that God will provide all that we need and a surplus that we may come to the help of our brothers and sisters in need. Lastly, we must abandon ourselves to Divine Providence, giving our lives completely to the Lord in His service (Jamart, Francois, OCD, Complete Spiritual Doctrine of St. Thrse of Lisieux, New York: Alba House, 1961, pp. 27-30).So strong was the virtue of stewardship in St. Thrse that she announced, on the July 17 before her death on Sept. 30, 1897, that she would spend her heaven in doing good on earth:

"I feel that I’m about to enter into my rest.But I feel especially that my mission is about to begin, my mission of making God loved as I love Him, of giving my little way to souls.If God answers my desire, my heaven will be spent on earth until the end of the world.Yes, I want to spend my heaven in doing good on earth" (St. Thrse of Lisieux, Her Last Conversations, Washington, D.C.: Institute of Carmelite Studies, 1977, p. 102).

Because of her generous sharing of gifts, St. Thrse of Lisieux, the Little Flower, is a most popular and efficacious intercessor who showers down roses upon us as a sign of God’s blessing.

There are many other saints and blesseds who teach us stewardship in an eloquent and powerful manner.I think of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.In our reading of the lives of the saints, it will help us very much to consider how they placed their gifts into the hands of God, placed their hearts into the Sacred Heart of Jesus, for their love of God and their neighbor.

Stewardship today

So important is stewardship to the life of the individual Catholic and to the whole Church that the bishops of the United States have issued a pastoral letter on the subject, titled: "Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response."The document underlines the importance of stewardship for the continuation of the Church’s mission and for the salvation of the members of the Church.The pastoral letter was first published in 1992.Because of its importance, on the 10th anniversary of its publication, the U.S. bishops reissued it in a new edition.If you wish to read the entire pastoral letter, it can be found at you wish a printed copy of the pastoral letter, I will be happy to provide one for you.

The pastoral letter defines for us the qualities of one who is a true steward of God’s gifts. The steward is one who:

receives God’s gifts gratefully;

cherishes and tends them in a responsible and accountable manner;

shares them in justice and love with others; and

returns them with increase to the Lord (U.S.
Conference of Catholic Bishops, Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2002, p. 42).

Stewardship Awareness Sunday is our time to examine the qualities of stewardship in our lives and to rededicate ourselves to following Christ as good stewards of God’s manifold gifts.In prayer, especially participation in the holy Mass, we will receive the inspiration and strength to return to the Lord generous love for His all-generous love of us.


As we observe Stewardship Awareness Sunday, I encourage all the faithful of the archdiocese to open your hearts to the Gospel truth regarding stewardship.Please take full part in your parish’s activities for the observance of Stewardship Awareness Sunday.Make this coming Sunday a time to consider how you can be more generousin offering your time, your personal gifts and your goods to the Church for the service of all, especially our brothers and sisters in most need.

I take the occasion of Stewardship Awareness Sunday to thank you for the generous love of God and your brothers and sisters, which you manifest by your faithful stewardship of God’s gifts to you.In my Sept. 3 column I had occasion to reflect on the great work of stewardship, on the archdiocesan level, which is the Archdiocesan Development Appeal.I thank you again for your generous response to my appeal for your participation in the Church’s charitable, educational and missionary works.I also thank you for all of the sacrifices you make so that the mission of the Church may be carried out in our parishes with ever greater effectiveness. Through your stewardship, you are truly co-workers with God in the outpouring of His merciful love upon our world.

May we all grow in the practice of putting God first in our lives and so come to know God’s peace and joy in our daily living.Let us pray for the grace to be humble before God and to place all our confidence in His loving care of us.Let us, with complete trust in God, generously give of our substance for the glory of God and the good of all.He will never fail us.

May God bless all of our work of stewardship and make it fruitful for the Church.May it be especially fruitful for those who most depend upon us: the children, the infirm and the needy.May doing God’s will generously be the source of all our joy.

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