Archbishop's column

Before the Cross - Archbishop Robert J. Carlson's Column

'Before The Cross' by Archbishop Robert J. Carlson. Archbishop Carlson is the ninth Archbishop of Saint Louis. Listed below are the most recent columns written by Archbishop Carlson; click on the title to read the column. The Archdiocesan website has more information about Archbishop Robert J. Carlson.

‘Be not afraid!’

Introduction

On this coming Sunday, Oct. 28, we will celebrate our annual Archdiocesan Respect Life Convention at the Adam’s Mark Hotel in Downtown St. Louis.It is an important time for all of us to gather new enthusiasm and new energy for our service of the Gospel of Life.The keynote speakers, the workshop presenters and the exhibitors will all provide excellent and timely inspiration and resources for our carrying out of the respect life apostolate in our homes, in our parishes and in the entire Archdiocese of St. Louis. The convention will conclude with the celebration of the Holy Mass at 5 p.m., at the Basilica of St. Louis, King of France (the Old Cathedral).The Respect Life Convention provides an exceptional opportunity to come to know better the apostolate on behalf of human life in the archdiocese and to be directly involved in the most fundamental and essential work of the Church, which is the protection and fostering of all human life from the moment of its inception to natural death.

Please plan to take part in the Respect Life Convention.The sacrifice which you will make to do so will be more than repaid in the enthusiasm and energy for living of the Gospel of Life, which you will find through your participation.I hope that you will be able to join me for the closing Mass at the Old Cathedral.
Cardinal Carberry’s plan for the apostolate
When the Supreme Court of our nation handed down its most gravely unjust decisions in the cases Roe vs. Wade and Doe vs. Bolton, on Jan. 22, 1973, Cardinal John Carberry organized immediately the Archdiocesan Pro-Life Committee to unite the faithful of the archdiocese in working to eliminate a terrible evil from our society.With wisdom, he outlined a fourfold approach in the apostolate to restore the respect for the inviolable dignity of human life in our nation.

Msgr., now Bishop, Edward J. O’Donnell was the first head of the Pro-Life Committee and set it upon good and solid foundations.Msgr., now Archbishop, Joseph F. Naumann succeeded him and gave outstanding leadership.Molly Corcoran Kertz succeeded Archbishop Naumann, giving dynamic and effective leadership to the Pro-Life Committee, until her recent retirement.During Kertz’s service, the name of the Pro-Life Committee was changed to Respect Life Apostolate. Christina Heddell is the new director of the Respect Life Apostolate.She is a most capable young woman with ample experience in the apostolate, notwithstanding her youth.

The story of the Respect Life Apostolate is one of the most outstanding chapters in the history of the Archdiocese of St. Louis.The manner in which the Respect Life Apostolate is organized in each parish and the dedication to the apostolate among the faithful of the archdiocese is well known and deeply respected in the whole nation.Serving the archdiocese for almost four full years already, I continue to be amazed and profoundly grateful for the continued and strong commitment to the work begun almost 35 years ago by Cardinal Carberry.

Spiritual initiatives

The first part of Cardinal Carberry’s fourfold plan for the Respect Life Apostolate is spiritual initiatives.From the beginning, the Pro-Life Committee, now known as the Respect Life Apostolate, was commissioned to undertake spiritual initiatives, that is, to promote prayer and sacrifice for the restoration of the respect for innocent and defenseless human life in our nation.Recognizing the intensity of the battle to be waged for life, an unabated intensity to which we are certainly witnesses, some 34 years later, Cardinal Carberry knew that the first and most important element of the apostolate must be prayer and penance, offered in love of the victims of procured abortion.

Last year, in the face of the fierce battle to prevent the approval of a proposed constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to clone human life for the purposes of scientific experiment, the archdiocese launched the Rosary Crusade for the Protection of Embryonic Human Life.As you know, now the battleground has shifted.Now, we must work
steadfastly and tirelessly to repeal the constitutional amendment which was passed.I urge you to continue to pray the Rosary daily for the work of the Respect Life Apostolate, for the reversal of the decisions in Roe vs. Wade and Doe vs. Bolton, and the reversal of Amendment 2.

The Rosary is one of the most effective prayers in the Church.Many victories of the Church are connected to a crusade of praying the Rosary, for example, the Battle of Lepanto in 1571.It is my desire to renew publicly the Rosary Crusade in the archdiocese, during the next months.If you have remained faithful in praying the Rosary for the Protection of Embryonic Human Life, please continue the same.If you have not yet begun or have discontinued the praying of the Rosary, I ask you to begin praying, at least some decades of the Rosary, from today forward.Our Blessed Mother never fails to hear the pleas of her children, especially when they are on behalf of innocent and defenseless unborn human lives or the lives of those who are heavily burdened by advanced years, special needs or serious illness.

Education

The second approach of the program to restore respect for the dignity of all human life is education.In 1973, there was the need to help the citizenry to understand that human life begins at the moment of conception and that, therefore, it is always and everywhere evil to destroy human life in the womb.

Now more than ever there is need of education regarding human life.

Through word games and through highly emotional appeals, the agents of the culture of death work to deceive the general public regarding the nature of procured abortion, human cloning, embryonic stem-cell research, assisted suicide and all of the other means of destroying innocent human life. Through the Respect Life Apostolate, may we all be renewed in our efforts to be accurately informed about the moral issues involved in safeguarding and promoting human life.Let us take the time to discover the truth and not blindly accept the deceptive presentations of much of the media and of the agents of the culture of death.

Pastoral assistance

Pastoral assistance is the concrete help that we give to anyone who is in a situation which tempts them to violate the inviolable dignity of innocent human life.I think, for instance, of the young woman facing a difficult pregnancy and being urged to procure an abortion to solve her difficulties.I think, too, of the profound guilt of those who have been involved in the procurement of an abortion.

The Church’s strong commitment to the Respect Life Apostolate would seem hypocritical if she did not, at the same time, extend a helping hand to all who are in difficulty.Thank God for the many reliable centers to help women and men who may be considering an abortion, so that they may make the decision for life.I think, for instance, of Birthright of St. Louis, Our Lady’s Inn and Catholic Charities, to name a few.

Public policy advocacy

The fourth and last element of the program is our call to public officials to seek the common good, first and foremost, by safeguarding innocent and defenseless human life.At the same time, we must not be timid, when we are in discussions with others, to speak the truth about human life and its inviolable dignity.

At present, the biggest challenge in the arena of public policy is to curtail the implementation of Amendment 2 and to promote new legislation to correct the most harmful deceptions that it contains.As you are well aware, the task is not easy.The Church continues to work with all persons of good will to see how best to carry forward the work of repealing Amendment 2.

What is most important now is to take part in the sessions to prepare those who will gather the signatures for a new constitutional amendment.It is not certain when the gathering of the signatures will be able to take place, but, when it is time, we need to have an army of volunteers ready to carry out the task of obtaining the requisite number of signatures to support a ballot initiative in support of human life.

Conclusion

Once again, I invite you to take part in the annual Archdiocesan Respect Life Convention on Sunday, Oct. 28. I ask you, above all, to pray for God’s blessing upon all of our work to restore the protection and promotion of human life in our day.Let us all be renewed in the fourfold approach to the Respect Life Apostolate, which was given to us by Cardinal Carberry: prayer, education, assistance and public advocacy.

‘Be not afraid!’

Introduction

On this coming weekend, Oct. 20-21, the Church throughout the world will observe Mission Sunday.World Mission Sunday is one of the most important annual observances of the Church, for it permits the Church to renew herself in a most fundamental aspect of her life, the mission to all the peoples of the world.At the same time, the observance gives impetus to the participation of all of the faithful in the Church’s worldwide missionary works.

Please be as generous as you can in responding to the Church’s direct and insistent appeal to take up your responsibility for her missionary efforts.Please unite yourself daily to the Church’s missions through your prayer.Please make a generous sacrifice to support the Church’s missions by contributing from your means to the collection on World Mission Sunday.

Patron saints of the missions

The patron saints of the Church’s missions are St. Francis Xavier, who as a young Jesuit priest traveled to the Far East to preach the Gospel, and St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower, who devoted herself to prayer and sacrifice for the missions though she never left her Carmelite Monastery in Lisieux, France.St. Francis Xavier consumed himself in preaching the Gospel and bringing the Sacraments to those who had not yet heard of Christ.He died in 1552, at age 46 and is buried in Goa, India, where he had labored so effectively for our Lord and His Church.His feast day is Dec. 3.

St. Therese prayed ceaselessly for the missions and for missionaries.She also wrote letters to missionaries, encouraging them with the assurance of her prayers.She died in 1897 at age 24.Her feast day is Oct. 1.St. Therese had wanted to be assigned to a Carmel in the missions in Vietnam.When she could not go directly to serve the missions, she set about supporting the Church’s missions through prayer and penance.

In urging you to support generously the Church’s missions, I invite you to pray through the intercession of St. Francis Xavier and St. Therese of Lisieux, so that Christ may reach all people of every nation through His Church.To the degree that we recognize the great gift of faith, which is ours, to that degree we will want to teach the faith to others, especially to those who have never had the faith taught to them and those who were once taught the faith but then have abandoned the faith and its practice.

Archdiocesan missions

The celebration of World Mission Sunday turns our thoughts to our own archdiocesan missions in the Archdiocese of La Paz, Bolivia, and in the Diocese of Belize City-Belmopan in Central America.Father Patrick Hayden, Father James Michler, Msgr. David Ratermann, Father Robert Menner and Father Brian Fischer serve Mary Queen Parish in La Paz.Father Fischer, who is the most recent priest of the archdiocese to offer himself in service to the missions, is completing a course of studies of the Spanish language and the Bolivian culture in preparation for his missionary work in the parish. Msgr. Ratermann has served in the Archdiocese of La Paz since the beginning of the archdiocesan mission in Bolivia, that is, for more than 50 years.

Father Kevin Hederman serves Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in the Diocese of Belize City-Belmopan.Father Anthony Siebert, who was serving with Father Hederman in Central America, died this past April 29.I have not yet been able to assign a second priest to our mission in Central America.The need of priests in Belize is great.In your prayers for the missions, please pray for those whom God is calling to the priesthood and consecrated life for the service of the missions.

May the annual observance of World Mission Sunday renew in us the practice of praying every day for missionaries throughout the world and especially for our archdiocesan missions. If you are not already a member, I invite you to join the Daily World Missionaries, who pray three times each day for the world missions, offering an Our Father, a Hail Mary and the invocation of the two patrons of the missions: St. Francis Xavier, pray for us, and St. Therese, pray for us.They also sacrifice some luxury each day, so that they can set aside daily 25 cents, at least, in material support of the missions. You may join the Daily World Missionaries by telephoning the archdiocesan Mission Office: (314) 792-7660.

The Holy Eucharist and the missions

In his post-synodal apostolic exhortation after the World Synod of the Bishops on the Holy Eucharist, held during October 2005, Pope Benedict XVI taught us about the meaning of our participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice for the Church’s missions. He quoted the words of the bishops at the world synod, which I have chosen for the headline of this reflection.

Our Holy Father reminded us:

"The love that we celebrate in the sacrament is not something we can keep to ourselves.By its very nature it demands to be shared with all.What the world needs is God’s love; it needs to encounter Christ and to believe in Him" (Pope Benedict XVI, post-synodal apostolic exhortation Sacramentum caritatis [On the Eucharist as the Source and Summit of the Church’s Life and Mission], Feb. 22, 2007, n. 84).

Our encounter with the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist stirs up in us the desire to make Him known to others, especially to those who have not heard of Him or who, for whatever reason, have forgotten and abandoned Him Whom once they knew and loved.

The institution of the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper, the fifth of the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary, is missionary by its very nature.Our Lord instituted the Holy Mass on the night before He died so that the saving grace of His death might reach to all men of all times and places. Our Holy Father declares:
"At the Last Supper, Jesus entrusts to His disciples the sacrament which makes present His self-sacrifice for the salvation of us all, in obedience to the Father’s will.We cannot approach the eucharistic table without being drawn into the mission which, beginning in the very heart of God, is meant to teach all people.Missionary outreach is thus an essential part of the eucharistic form of the Christian life" (Sacramentum caritatis, n. 84).

May our participation in the Holy Mass lead us to pray frequently each day for our brothers and sisters in the missions, in imitation of the love of Christ in which we have communion through the Holy Eucharist.

Conclusion

On Sunday, Oct. 21, I will celebrate the Solemn Pontifical Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis at 10 a.m. for World Mission Sunday.You are invited to participate in the Holy Mass, praying for the needs of the Church’s missions throughout the world.If you cannot be present for the Mass at the cathedral basilica, please unite yourself to the Holy Sacrifice through your prayer and sacrifice on behalf of the Church’s missions.

‘Be not afraid!’

Introduction

The month of October has traditionally been dedicated to renewing our Rosary devotion.On Oct. 7, we observe the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, recalling the many times in history and in our own lives when we have prayed through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary using the Rosary and have witnessed God’s grace coming to our rescue.

In a special way, we recall the victory of the Christian world at the Battle of Lepanto. Faced with the threat of the destruction of Christian Europe by the Turks, Pope St. Pius V called upon the Confraternities of the Holy Rosary in Rome to pray the Rosary and have Rosary processions, asking God to give His strength to the Christian fleet.Our Lord worked a miraculous victory, on Oct. 7, 1571, to save His Church.In gratitude for our Blessed Mother’s intercession, the Holy Father, during the following year, instituted the Feast of Our Lady of Victory to be celebrated on Oct. 7.In 1573, Pope Gregory XIII, the successor of Pope St. Pius V, changed the title of the feast to Our Lady of the Rosary.

In our own time and place, we have been praying the Rosary for more than a year now, asking God to restore the respect for innocent and defenseless human life in the State of Missouri.We are praying especially for the protection and fostering of embryonic human life. Since the passage of Amendment 2 on Nov. 7, 2006, we must pray the Rosary, with even greater fervor, that our laws may once again protect the good of all by prohibiting the grave evils of human cloning and embryonic stem-cell research.

To encourage the Rosary devotion, I reflect upon the Rosary itself and the method of praying the Rosary.My reflection is based upon Chapter III of the Servant of God Pope John Paul II’s apostolic letter on the Holy Rosary, which he published on the day marking the beginning of the 25th year of his service as Successor of St. Peter.

The rosary beads

By way of introduction, I share briefly Pope John Paul’s reflection upon the significance of the Rosary beads.He suggests four meanings: 1) the centering of the beads upon the crucifix as an expression of the center of our life in Christ crucified; 2) the use of the beads as a counting mechanism evoking "the unending path of contemplation and Christian perfection"; 3) the beads as a chain linking us to God in love; and 4) the extension of the symbolism of the beads to include our many relationships in the one bond of love of God in Christ (Pope John Paul II, apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae [On the Most Holy Rosary,] Oct. 16, 2002, n. 36).

When we take our rosary beads in hand, it will be helpful for us to reflect upon the four meanings suggested by Pope John Paul II, who declared the Rosary to be his favorite prayer (n. 2).In that way, the beads themselves can become a help to us in meditating upon the mysteries of God’s unconditional and immeasurable love of us.

Method of prayer

The method of prayer of the Rosary is the repetition of words that express our deep love of God. It is not a tedious exercise but rather the repeated expression of deep love.We never tire of the words, and we never tire of repeating them, because through them we draw closer to God Whom we love with all our heart. The goal of the method is an ever deeper appreciation of the mystery of God’s love for us, as we meditate on the moments of the unfolding of that great mystery.

The very form of the prayer underlines the mystery of the Incarnation.God has taken a human heart, now the glorious Heart of Jesus seated at the right hand of the Father.Our Risen Lord receives our hearts, our repeated expressions of love, into His Sacred Heart with the greatest affection.The Holy Father recalls to our mind how Christ asked Peter three times: "Do you love me?"Christ’s repeated question and St. Peter’s repeated response help us to understand the beauty of praying the Rosary as a repeated response of love of God.

The repetition is centered principally upon the Hail Mary, addressed to Mary.But the prayer is directed, with Mary and through her intercession, to her divine Son, our Lord Jesus.It expresses our desire to be ever more fully united to Christ, that is, to become ever more Christlike.Ultimately, the Rosary is a most wonderful expression of the daily conversion of life by which we grow in holiness.

The method of the Rosary respects our human nature and engages our whole being in prayer.The Rosary expresses our perseverance in seeking Christ above all. As the Holy Father observes, it "embodies the desire for Christ to become the breath, the soul and the ‘all’ of one’s life" (n. 27).

Our Holy Father notes that the Rosary responds very well to a contemporary interest in meditative prayer, which frequently seeks satisfaction in the practices of other religions, practices that may be based on beliefs contrary to our faith.The Rosary helps us to achieve the meditation desired in a manner which corresponds perfectly to our Catholic faith (n. 28).

The method of the Rosary, effective as it has been over the centuries and continues to be, certainly can be renewed and enriched.For instance, Pope John Paul II added the Luminous Mysteries to enrich further our meditation upon the mystery of Christ’s life in us. He also made a number of other suggestions in order to help us to pray the Rosary more effectively.

Suggestions for praying the Rosary

The first suggestion is the use of a sacred image to announce each mystery.Through an icon or other sacred image, our mind and heart is directed more fully to the "particular episode or moment in the life of Christ" (n. 29).Once again, the care to engage the imagination in announcing each mystery respects the truth of the Incarnation: God has come to us in our human nature.

Regarding the announcement of each mystery, the Holy Father reminds us that the Rosary does not replace the meditative reading of the Holy Scriptures (lectio divina) but rather stirs up the desire for meditation upon the Word of God and flows from such meditation.The Rosary is a continuing meditation upon the Holy Scriptures throughout the day (n. 29).

The second suggestion of the Holy Father, therefore, is to follow the announcement of each mystery with "the proclamation of a related Biblical passage," which can be shorter or longer, depending upon the situation.The proclamation of familiar texts of the Word of God greatly assists in the assimilation of the mysteries of our faith through the Rosary."It is not a matter of recalling information but of allowing God to speak" (n. 30).

The third suggestion is to observe a period of silence after the announcement of each mystery and the proclamation of the relevant passage from the Bible.Silence helps us to focus upon the mystery about which we are about to meditate.Silence helps us to put out the distractions which keep us from praying fervently (n. 31).

The Hail Mary is, as the Holy Father states, "the most substantial element in the Rosary" (n. 33).It is a prayer to Mary, through which Mary leads us to Christ.The "center of gravity" or "the hinge" of the Hail Mary is the name of Jesus. The whole purpose of the Rosary is to have Mary help us to speak the name of Jesus with love, to welcome Christ ever more fully into our lives.Pope John Paul II reminds us of a method used in some places to highlight the "center of gravity," that is, adding after the name of Jesus some words referring to the mystery (n. 33).

Conclusion

The Servant of God Pope John Paul II concludes his apostolic letter on the Rosary by entrusting once again two intentions to our daily praying of the Rosary: "the cause of peace in the world and the cause of the family" (n. 6 and 39). The Rosary is by its nature a prayer for peace, for it aims at an ever closer union with Christ the Prince of Peace.What is more, we experience Christ’s peace in our lives through the praying of the Rosary.One cannot sincerely pray the Rosary without hoping for the lasting peace that Christ came into the world to establish (n. 40).Surely, the way of peace begins with the respect for the inviolable dignity of every human life, from the moment of its inception to the moment of natural death.

Pope John Paul II urges us to return to the practice of praying the Rosary in the family. He rightly points out: "Individual family members, in turning their eyes toward Jesus, also regain the ability to look one another in the eye, to communicate, to show solidarity, to forgive one another and to see their covenant of love renewed in the Spirit of God" (n. 41).It is especially important that we hand on to our children this powerful prayer, so that it will be theirs when they need it most.The Family Rosary is surely a great help in the new evangelization of the family in which new human life is given and develops "in age and grace."

With our most beloved Pope John Paul II, I conclude by urging you to pray the Rosary daily: "Rediscover the Rosary in the light of Scripture, in harmony with the Liturgy, and in the context of your daily lives" (n. 43).

‘Be not afraid!’

Introduction

The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council teaches clearly that our Lord fulfills His mission of teaching not only through the work of the pastors of souls but also through the work of the lay faithful.Referring to the characteristic responsibility of the lay faithful for the right ordering of the affairs of the world, the Council declares that "the whole laity must cooperate in spreading and building up the Kingdom of Christ."The Council goes on to remind us that, if the lay faithful are to carry out their responsibility for teaching the faith, they must "diligently apply themselves to a more profound knowledge of revealed truth and earnestly beg of God the gift of wisdom" (Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, dogmatic constitution Lumen gentium [On the Church], Nov. 21, 1964, n. 35).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (nos. 904-907), in treating the responsibility of the lay faithful to teach the faith, quotes another passage from the Council, which reminds us that the laity are not only responsible to give a strong "witness of life," but also, as true apostles, are to be "on the lookout for occasions of announcing Christ by word, either to unbelievers to draw them toward the faith, or to the faithful to instruct them, strengthen them, incite them to a more fervent life" (Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, decree Apostolicam Actuositatem [On the Apostolate of Lay Faithful], Nov. 18, 1965, n. 6). The conciliar text quotes two texts of St. Paul regarding the lay apostolate of teaching the faith.The first indicates the inspiration of the apostolate: "For the love of Christ urges us on" (2 Corinthians 5:14); the second is an admonition: "Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel" (1 Corinthians 9:16).

The challenge of teaching the faith today

If teaching clearly the faith in the many theaters of human activity has always been a challenge for the laity, the challenge is considerably increased in our society, which has grown so forgetful of God and even hostile to His truth and discipline.The often totally secular thinking of our culture is most effectively propagated by the communications media.It is, in fact, difficult to escape, unless we make concerted efforts to discipline the presence of the media in our lives.We have, of course, a particular responsibility to assist our children and youth in exercising such discipline.

The situation is also complicated by the failure of catechesis, over the past three decades, to provide a sufficiently solid and integral presentation of the doctrine and practice of the Catholic faith.Often enough, members of the faithful in the Archdiocese, who are young adults and older, will observe that the catechesis they received while growing up in the 1970s and 1980s has not prepared them for the difficult challenges in teaching and living the Catholic faith in our time.

Effective tools to meet the challenge

Thanks be to God, there are many effective tools available for adults who wish to deepen their knowledge of the faith, so that they can more effectively carry out their teaching mission. I comment on just four.

First of all, I highly recommend the Paul VI Pontifical Institute of Catechetical and Pastoral Studies.The Paul VI Pontifical Institute has served the faithful of the Archdiocese of St. Louis for some 35 years by educating adults in the Catholic faith, in all of its aspects.Although it was originally founded to prepare teachers and catechists for the Catholic schools and parish schools of religion, it now serves a wide variety of adults, including those who simply want to grow in their knowledge of the faith.The courses are offered in both a classroom setting and online.For more information, I urge you to consult the website of the Paul VI Pontifical Institute, www.archstl.org/paul6, or to write: Paul VI Institute, 8300 Morganford Road, St. Louis, MO 63123.

For those who desire to pursue a graduate degree in theological studies, Ave Maria University offers, in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, an excellent three-year program to obtain the master of theological studies.It is called the Institute for Pastoral Studies and is designed for the nontraditional student.The courses are taught on one weekend per month, from August through May, beginning Friday evening and concluding Sunday afternoon.For more information, the website address is www.ipt.avemaria.edu, and the regular address is: Institute for Pastoral Studies, Ave Maria University, 1025 Commons Circle, Naples, FL 34119-9956.

Catholic home study service

Thanks to the Missouri State Council of the Knights of Columbus, eight free correspondence courses are available to all who desire to learn about the Catholic faith or to deepen their knowledge of the faith. The courses have been developed by Father Oscar Lukefahr, CM, a native of Perryville, who has worked for years in developing good tools of adult catechesis.The courses cover the following subjects: basics of Catholic belief, the teaching on prayer and guidance in developing one’s prayer life, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Holy Scriptures, the search for happiness, a handbook of Catholic beliefs and practices, the devotion to the Mother of God, and a handbook on the Catechism of the Catholic Church.I highly recommend them.

Your parish priest recently has received a complete set of the course books and workbooks, together with the form for requesting individual study courses.If you are interested in one or more of Father Lukefahr’s courses, please contact your pastor to obtain a request form.You also may consult the website of Catholic Home Study Service, www.amm.org/chss.htm, or you may write to Father Lukefahr at: Knights of Columbus Religious Information Bureau, PO Box 363, Perryville, MO 63775-0363.

‘Full of Grace’: Women and the abundant life

At a recent conference on the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, I met Johnette Benkovic, who told me about a study program she has developed for women.It is a 10-week course with lessons to be done at home.To complement the home study, the course calls for a two-hour weekly group meeting.It is designed for women who wish to grow in their Catholic faith with a view to sharing their faith with others.The course could be especially helpful to busy young mothers who have very few other opportunities for studying their faith and speaking about their faith with other women.

The course materials include the Study Guide and the book, "Full of Grace." There is also a facilitator’s guide, which provides all of the practical helps for conducting the group meetings.A woman who is searching for a study group is invited to contact Joanne Kane, the outreach coordinator, at (800) 558-5452, ext. 239; or at jkane@womenofgrace.com.The website of Women of Grace is: www.womenofgrace.com.

Conclusion

Although the lay faithful face many challenges in carrying out Christ’s mission of teaching the truth with love, there are many excellent resources to help us in fulfilling our responsibility to teach the faith in every arena of our human activity. I hope that the resources which I have described may be of direct assistance to you or to a relative or friend who may seek a deeper knowledge of the Catholic faith.

As St. Paul reminds us, it is the love of Christ within us through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that inspires and strengthens us to teach the faith to others, so that they may come to know Christ more fully and to love Him more ardently (2 Corinthians 5:14).St. Paul also reminds us that teaching the faith is a sacred responsibility for which we must give an account to God (1 Corinthians 9:16).May our love of Christ inspire us to enrich our knowledge of the faith, so that we may communicate the faith ever more effectively to others.

‘Be not afraid!’

Introduction

Last week, I reflected upon the fulfillment of God the Father’s promise to send us shepherds after His own heart (Jeremiah 3:15).Our Lord Jesus Christ, God the Son Incarnate, fulfilled the promise at the Last Supper, when He consecrated the Apostles to celebrate the Holy Eucharist in His own person. The celebration of the Holy Eucharist is the highest and greatest service which flows from their consecration.Closely connected to it is their service as authentic teachers of the faith and guardians of the unity of the fold.

I also reflected upon the men from the Archdiocese of St. Louis who are responding to the call to be shepherds of the flock, after the Heart of Jesus, by entering the seminary.As I noted, the greater part of our seminarians are studying at our archdiocesan seminary, Kenrick-Glennon Seminary.

I conclude my reflection today by commenting on the other bishops and superiors of religious communities who send seminarians to Kenrick-Glennon Seminary and on the importance of having an archdiocesan seminary.

The seminarians at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary

There are 113 seminarians receiving priestly formation at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary; 83 are enrolled in Kenrick School of Theology, and 30 are enrolled in Cardinal Glennon College Seminary.As I noted last week, 33 of the men in the School of Theology and 25 of the men in the College Seminary are studying for the Archdiocese of St. Louis.Who are the other seminarians?

They are from the archdioceses of Kansas City, Kan.; Oklahoma City; and Omaha, Neb.; and the dioceses of Belize City-Belmopan, Belize; Bismarck, S.D.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Des Moines, Iowa; Jefferson City, Kansas City-St. Joseph and Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Mo.; Memphis, Tenn.; Belleville, Peoria, Rockford and Springfield, Ill.; and Wichita, Kan. Some dioceses have only one seminarian studying at our seminary; others have from three to five.The dioceses of Kansas City-St. Joseph and Wichita, and the Archdiocese of Omaha each have seven seminarians at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary.

In addition, the Intercessors of the Lamb, a public association of the faithful headquartered in the Archdiocese of Omaha whose members lead a consecrated religious life, has two members receiving priestly formation at our seminary.In the past, the Sons of Our Mother of Peace, a religious community of men that has its motherhouse in Marionville, Mo., has sent its members to Kenrick-Glennon Seminary. At the present, the community has no members in priestly formation at our seminary.

The Church is universal

The number of seminarians coming from a variety of dioceses gives our seminarians and all of the seminarians a lived experience of the universality of the Church.The seminarians enrich one another with the special gifts of Catholic faith and practice, which they bring to the seminary from their respective dioceses or religious communities.On Alumni Day at the Seminary, I am always pleased to witness the lasting friendships between our priests and priests from other dioceses and religious communities who have studied with them at Cardinal Glennon College Seminary or Kenrick School of Theology.

I make special mention of the longstanding relationship of the Archdiocese of St. Louis with the missionary Diocese of Belize City-Belmopan.The seminarians from the country of Belize in Central America have brought a special richness to the whole seminary community, especially regarding the Church’s essentially missionary nature.

From what our seminarians tell me in my regular visits with them and from what I have observed at the seminary, we are truly blessed that such a good number of men from other dioceses and religious communities are sent to our seminary by their bishops or superiors to prepare for priestly ordination. Clearly, their presence also represents a sacred trust.For me, as archbishop, and for the seminary faculty, the seminarians from outside the archdiocese are received and educated as our own.

The great blessing of an archdiocesan seminary

The Church has understood that the best possible place for a man to be prepared for the priesthood is the place in which he will one day serve.For that reason, in the reform after the Council of Trent in the 16th century, every diocese was urged to have its own seminary. It is not possible for every diocese to do so, as was the case with my home diocese.Also, it is good, when possible, to have a few seminarians benefit from the Basselin Scholarship in philosophy at The Catholic University of America or from theological studies undertaken in Rome.

Studying in their own diocesan seminary, seminarians are inspired by frequent contact and communication with the very faithful whom they hope to serve one day.At the same time, the faithful come to know them and participate, in a certain way, in their priestly formation, especially through the program of pastoral formation which entails the seminarians giving some hours every week to service in our parishes, Catholic schools or other Catholic institutions.Our seminarians appreciate greatly every opportunity which they have to visit and serve our parishes. They look forward to giving talks in the parishes during Advent to promote the support of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in the whole archdiocese.

Studying in their own diocese, seminarians also have more possibilities to get to know the priests whom they one day hope to join in the priestly ministry.In this way, the unity of priests is greatly fostered.The Archdiocese of St. Louis is noted for the unity which exists among its priests.The fraternal unity and care of the priests of the archdiocese has made a particularly strong impression upon me from the time I began my service as archbishop.The sharing of a common seminary experience at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary has a lot to do with the fact that our priests enjoy working together in service of the faithful of the archdiocese and care so much for each other.

Conclusion

I hope that what I have written has helped you to understand more how God the Father continues to keep His promise of giving us shepherds after His own heart.I hope also that it inspires you to pray more fervently for our seminarians and all of the seminarians who are preparing for priestly ordination at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary.

Finally, I ask you to pray for seminary faculty and for me as we strive to make our seminary the best possible place of formation of future priests. As the number of our seminarians and the seminarians from other dioceses and religious communities continues to grow, we also must provide additional and better facilities for Kenrick-Glennon Seminary.I ask your prayers and support as we plan carefully for the further development of our seminary facilities.

‘Be not afraid!’

Introduction

Our Lord Jesus Christ frequently used the image of the shepherd to describe His vocation and mission in the world.The shepherd is an ancient image for the king who governs his people by caring for all of his subjects, especially the frail.Christ, Who is indeed King of Heaven and Earth, fulfills His royal mission by becoming man, to offer His life on the Cross for theeternal salvation of all men, without exception or boundary.He is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep (John 10:11).Pope Benedict XVI writes, in a most striking way, about the mission of Christ the Good Shepherd in his recently published book, "Jesus of Nazareth":

"The Shepherd who sets off to seek the lost sheep is the eternal Word himself, and the sheep that he lovingly carries home on his shoulders is humanity, the human existence that he took upon himself.In his Incarnation and Cross he brings home the stray sheep, humanity; he brings me home, too.The incarnate Logos is the true "sheep-bearer" — the Shepherd who follows after us through the thorns and deserts of our life.Carried on his shoulders, we come home.He gave his life for us.He himself is life" (Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, translated by Adrian J. Walker, New York: Doubleday, 2007, p. 286).

In Christ, through our daily life in Christ, we come home to God the Father; we share in God’s own life.

Christ, the Good Shepherd, consecrates shepherds

God the Father promised, through the Prophet Jeremiah, to send "shepherds after (His) own heart" to instruct His people and gather them into the one fold, so that they might conform their hearts to His Divine Heart.The shepherds promised by God are, in fact, to be the images of God Who comes to His people, through the Incarnation, to set them free from their sins and to win for them the lasting freedom to love as He loves.The shepherds, after the Heart of God, lead the people to Him, in Whom alone is their salvation.

At the Last Supper, God the Son Incarnate fulfilled the promise of God the Father, made through the Prophet Jeremiah. Christ the Good Shepherd, truly the Shepherd after the Heart of God, consecrated the Apostles as shepherds after the Heart of God, to teach the flock and gather them into the one fold, above all, through the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice.He consecrated the Apostles to act in His own person as Head and Shepherd of the flock.Notwithstanding their faults and weaknesses, He poured out the grace of the Holy Spirit upon them for the apostolic ministry of shepherd and head of the flock, in every time and place.In an unbroken line, from the consecration of the first priests at the Last Supper, Christ has never failed to call and consecrate shepherds, after His own Heart, to care for the flock of God the Father.

Those responding to God’s call today

In the Archdiocese of St. Louis, we witness, with deepest gratitude, God calling men, in Christ, to be shepherds "after His own heart."Presently, 61 men are responding daily to God’s call, preparing to present themselves, one day, God willing, for consecration as true shepherds of the flock.Twenty-eight are in the college seminary; 25 at Cardinal Glennon College Seminary and three as Basselin Scholars at The Catholic University of America.Thirty-three are in the theological seminary, that is, the last four years of preparation for priestly ordination: 32 are at Kenrick School of Theology, and one is at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.

We know the needs of priestly ministry in the archdiocese are great.We must also be conscious of the needs of the foreign missions and of the armed forces of our nation.We, therefore, thank God that a good number of men are responding to His call to the priesthood. We pray for them, that they will persevere in responding to God’s call and not give way to discouragement before the sometimes arduous challenges, along the way of priestly formation.

Those whom God is calling

In August, Kenrick-Glennon Seminary admitted 18 new seminarians for the Archdiocese of St. Louis.I am happy to say that there are a number of men who are hearing the call of God and are preparing to enter our seminary in August 2008.It is not easy to make the decision to enter the seminary, but, when a man is hearing God’s call in a discernible way, the best place for him to respond is in the seminary. I ask you to continue to pray, each day, that more young men will hear the call of God to the priesthood and will respond with a totally generous heart.

In writing to you about both our seminarians and those who are preparing to enter the seminary, I hasten to say that my gratitude to God is not for the number of our seminarians, although it is certainly important that we have a sufficient number of future priests, but for their goodness and dedication in responding to God’s call.

It is my hope that you will have the occasion to visit Kenrick-Glennon Seminary or to meet our seminarians who go out to the parishes each week for pastoral formation. God is sending us outstanding young men, and some a little older, who truly have only one desire, that is, to be shepherds of the flock after the Heart of Christ the Good Shepherd.

Conclusion

Next week, I will continue my reflection on the fulfillment of God’s promise through the Prophet Jeremiah in our archdiocese and, specifically, through the work of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary.I will tell you more about the seminarians from other dioceses and communities of consecrated life who make one community with our seminarians.Also, I want to reflect upon the importance of preparing seminarians for ordination in their home diocese.

Please continue to pray for our seminarians, that they will persevere in responding to God’s call, and to pray for those whom God is calling, that they will soon enter the seminary.

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