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

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.

‘Be not afraid!’

Introduction

On this coming weekend, Sept. 15-16, throughout the Archdiocese of St. Louis, we will celebrate Stewardship Awareness Sunday.The theme of our celebration is taken from the Parable of the Prodigal Son.It is taken from the words of the father to his elder son who was bitter about the generous and joyful forgiveness which the father is showing to the prodigal son.When the elder son complained to the father that he had never shown him such favor as he showed to the prodigal son, the father replied: "My son, you are with me always; everything I have is yours" (Luke 15:31).In other words, the elder son who had remained at home with the father was sharing constantly in the blessings of the home and, therefore, had no cause to complain about the joy and festivity of the father at having his lost son back, safe and sound.

The father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son is an image of God the Father in his relationship with us.The Parable of the Prodigal Son is the third of three parables in Chapter 15 of the Gospel according to St. Luke, all of which illustrate the all-merciful and all-forgiving love of God the Father toward us.In fact, the first two parables both conclude with a declaration of our Lord Jesus. After telling the Parable of the Lost Sheep, our Lord concludes: "Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who need no repentance" (Luke 15:7). At the conclusion of the Parable of the Lost Coin, our Lord declares: "Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents" (Luke 15:10).It is the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son who provides the Lord’s commentary in his final words to the older son: "It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found" (Luke 15:32).

The Parable of the Prodigal Son reminds us of how much God loves us.We are the only earthly creature that He created in His own image and likeness, in order that we might enjoy His friendship.He has provided us with blessings beyond our ability to describe in the world that He created and placed in our hands as His stewards.When, through pride, we failed God and sinned, He pursued us unceasingly and with immeasurable love, in order to win back our hearts.When we had sinned, He sent His only-begotten Son to win the victory over sin in our human nature and to win for us life eternal in the Kingdom of Heaven.Like the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, God waits and waits for us, when we wander from Him, so that He may forgive us and restore our communion with Him.

Sacred Heart of Jesus

The Sacred Heart of Jesus is the most eloquent symbol of God’s unceasing and immeasurable love of us. A love which, in the words of Pope Benedict XVI, led God the Father to turn on Himself in order to save us (encyclical letter Deus Caritas Est, n. 10).The pierced Heart of Jesus manifests the love of Christ for us "to the end" (John 13:1).Christ took a human heart under the Immaculate Heart of Mary, He became man, to give up His life for our eternal salvation.When He had died on the Cross, the Roman soldier pierced His Heart with a spear, and blood and water poured forth, symbolizing the unceasing flow of sacramental grace, especially in Baptism and the Holy Eucharist, from the glorious Heart of Jesus into our hearts.

The glorious pierced Heart of Jesus remains always open to receive our hearts.Christ draws our hearts to His Sacred Heart, so that He may give us, in His Heart, rest and strength to love as He loves.Even as the Heart of Jesus represents the total and selfless gift of God’s love to us, at the same time it represents our vocation and mission to be one in heart with Christ and, so, to be the stewards of His ceaseless and immeasurable love in the world.

Our Morning Offering, each day, expresses the stewardship which is inherent in the union of our hearts with the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I offer to Jesus "my prayers, works, joys and suffering" of the day, uniting them all to the Eucharistic Sacrifice, "for the intentions of (His) Sacred Heart, most of all the salvation of souls and the reparation for sins."

On June 17, I consecrated our archdiocese to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, pledging our fervent response of love to God’s never-failing and all-merciful love toward us.The Act of Consecration was that used by St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, which concludes: "I beseech Thee, through Thine infinite Goodness, grant that my name be engraved upon Thy Heart, for in this I place all my happiness and my glory, to live and to die as one of Thy devoted servants." Our eternal joy and peace are anticipated already on earth, to the degree that we place all that we have and are at the service of Christ, to the degree that we give our hearts completely to Him.

Stewardship

Stewardship of God’s manifold blessings is the way of life for us.It flows from the poverty of spirit by which we recognize that all we are and have is God’s gift to us. As good stewards, we employ His gifts to give glory to Him and to serve our neighbor in love. Gazing upon the Sacred Heart of Jesus and having the Sacred Heart of Jesus gaze upon us, we come to understand the great vocation and mission which is ours, to receive love from His Sacred Heart and to bring love from His Sacred Heart to all of our brothers and sisters. Indeed, God has given us a share in His very life for the sake of our salvation and the salvation of the world.God says to us, in the Parable of the Prodigal Son: "Everything I have is yours."

As good stewards, we live in gratitude to God for all His blessings.The Servant of God, Father Solanus Casey, OFM Cap., had a most profound appreciation of our stewardship and of the gratitude which should mark our lives as stewards.Deeply conscious of God’s countless blessings, Father Casey taught us to "thank God ahead of time."In other words, as we understand the countless blessings with which God blesses us, we anticipate the blessings to come and we thank him, with all our heart.

When our hearts are grateful, we never give way to discouragement.Rather, we have the humility and confidence of which St. Paul wrote, when he declared: "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 9:8).When we are challenged and situations are difficult for us, we do not concentrate our attention on the difficulty of meeting the challenge but on the abundant grace of God with which we know that we can meet the challenge with love.

Educating our children in stewardship

It is especially important that we educate our children to see themselves as stewards and the world as the field of their stewardship. Sadly, in a consumerist society, children receive countless messages, especially through advertising and the media, in general, which teach them to gather all that they can for themselves. In the view of consumerism, all that we have is ours for our use and we never have enough of anything.Our eyes are, therefore, blinded to the truth that what we have is God’s gift to be used for His works of love, and that, therefore, we always can give more.

I remember my father insisting with me that I should give something every Sunday at the Offertory collection of the Mass.How often he repeated to us children that our little sacrifices would be repaid by God a hundredfold. He believed in God’s never-failing love and mercy, and he taught us to believe.

I urge families and parishes to have our children and young people make their sacrifice part of the Offertory collection, each Sunday.The drawing from their savings to help others will form them in the way of life of a true steward of God’s manifold blessings.By not teaching our children to make sacrifices for the sake of others, we deny them a great and lasting joy in life, and we fail to teach them one of the most fundamental truths about ourselves and our world.

Conclusion

Let us all take time on Stewardship Sunday to pause before the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in our parish church and in our homes.Gazing upon the Heart of Jesus, let us let His gaze penetrate our hearts.Our contemplation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus will fill us with joy at the superabundance of God’s love of us and will fill us with enthusiasm and energy to share God’s love with one another and, especially, with our brothers and sisters in most need.

Let us thank God for all His many blessings. Let us return an ever more generous love to Him for all of the love with which He has first loved us.

‘Be not afraid!’

Introduction

I write to thank you for your generous response to the 2007 Annual Catholic Appeal. Thanks to you, the faithful of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, the Annual Catholic Appeal has well surpassed the goal set for financial gifts. I am particularly grateful to our parish priests, our parish volunteers and the members of more than 60,000 households who made pledges to the Appeal.The Annual Catholic Appeal is the single most important work of the Church in the archdiocese in providing essential support for the carrying out of her mission, especially through our parishes, Catholic schools and other apostolic services.I invite you to read about the happy results of the 2007 Annual Catholic Appeal in this week’s edition of the Review.

In his encyclical letter "Deus Caritas Est (On Christian Love)," Pope Benedict XVI reminded us that "there will always be situations of material need where help in the form of concrete love of neighbor is indispensable" (n. 28).Recognizing so many of our brothers and sisters in material need, we provide them with essential help through the Appeal.We do more than provide material help.The help we offer is inspired by the Holy Spirit dwelling within each of us and, therefore, brings with it the love of our Lord Jesus Christ.The Appeal is, in short, an archdiocesanwide act of love, which "does not simply offer people material help, but refreshment and care for their souls, something which is even more necessary than material support" (n. 28).

Stewardship of God’s manifold gifts

When we consider how much God has blessed us in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, we are humbled by the many signs of His love.Recognizing that our many gifts are all from the hand of God Who loves us, we understand their destiny.They are the means which He provides to us, as His partners in carrying out His mission of pure and selfless love, especially on behalf of those who are most in need.We recognize our great dignity as His stewards, the beneficiaries of His gifts, who, by our stewardship, see those gifts multiply for the good of all.God’s gifts given in love are for the works of His love in the world.

Our stewardship is not a sectarian activity; it is not directed solely to the members of the household of the Catholic faith, although we certainly are united by special bonds of love to those who, with us, are members of the Body of Christ.I recall the words of St. Paul to the first Christians in Galatia: "So, then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith" (Galatians 6:10).

The mission of the Church, which depends upon the Annual Catholic Appeal, brings "good news to the poor" and sets free "those who are oppressed" (Luke 4:18).Through her charitable, educational and missionary works, the Church serves the common good, the good of all without boundary or discrimination.The logo of the Annual Catholic Appeal, depicting a dove framed by the Gateway Arch, reminds us that our stewardship of God’s many gifts brings "good news" and freedom from poverty, both material and spiritual, to the entire community of which we are members.

Additional help to parishes

As you will read in the report of the 2007 Annual Catholic Appeal, you have given gifts which significantly surpass our goal.How will your additional gifts be used?

After prayer and consultation, I have decided that the bulk of the funds which have been raised over the goal should be employed to give additional help to our parishes through which the mission of the Church is carried out in all of the communities of the archdiocese.It is in the parish that families gather to carry out the Church’s mission.The archdiocese exists to serve parishes and maintain them in the unity of the Church’s mission.By giving additional support to parishes, I believe that the mission of the Church throughout the archdiocese and far beyond will be best served.

Concretely, the bulk of the funds raised over the goal will be dispersed in three ways which serve our parishes.Some of the additional money will go to the Parish Assistance Fund, which is used to help parishes struggling with financial difficulties.Some will go to the Parish Emergency Fund, which comes to the aid of a parish facing an unexpected and expensive need which must be addressed immediately.And some will go to the Ensuring Parish Viability Fund, which helps both parishes experiencing rapid growth and parishes experiencing demographic change.Through all three distributions, the presence of the Church will be more effectively guaranteed in every part of the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

Grateful thanks to our leaders

My heart is filled with gratitude for the excellent leadership of the 2007 Annual Catholic Appeal. Niall Gannon, the general chairman, devoted himself tirelessly to increasing the participation in the Appeal and has helped us significantly to address the chronic issue of decreasing participation. In thanking him, I thank also his wife, Gretchen, and their daughters.

The members of the Council of the Annual Catholic Appeal are most talented and, more importantly, most generous in serving the work of the Church.As you can well imagine, the attention to detail is critical to such a major work of charity.The members of the council devote themselves to the many details of the Appeal with great competence and with joy in serving our Lord and His Church.I thank them most sincerely.

It is our parish priests and lay leaders who ultimately make the Appeal work for the Church. It is they who bring the message of the Appeal to all of the faithful of the archdiocese.I thank them for all of their work and especially for the extra effort made to invite more of the faithful to participate in the work of the Annual Catholic Appeal.

Finally, I offer heartfelt thanks to Frank Cognata, director of the Archdiocesan Office of Stewardship, and Brian Niebrugge, director of the Annual Catholic Appeal, and their staffs. Their excellence in administration is key to the Annual Catholic Appeal.They are excellent in their professional skills, but, even more importantly, they are excellent in their love of Christ and His flock in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

Conclusion

We thank God Who has blessed us, His stewards, in carrying out the 2007 Annual Catholic Appeal.In thanking God, let us also rededicate ourselves to the work of the Appeal to His honor and glory, and for the sake of His children in the archdiocese and far beyond, especially those who suffer from material and spiritual poverty.

The new evangelization calls us to teach and live our Catholic faith with new enthusiasm and new energy, with the enthusiasm and energy of the first disciples of our Lord, and of the first missionaries to our territory.God the Father sent His only-begotten Son "to preach good news to the poor ... and to set at liberty those who are oppressed" (Luke 4:18).The Sacrament of Baptism has made us one with Christ in carrying out God the Father’s mission of universal love.Through the Annual Catholic Appeal 2008, let us rededicate ourselves to our mission in Christ and with Christ in the Church.

Through the intercession of St. Louis of France, St. Vincent de Paul and St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, our patrons, I ask God to bless all who have generously participated in the Annual Catholic Appeal 2007, and I ask God to grant us an ever fuller participation as we go forward with the Annual Catholic Appeal 2008.

Once again, thank you. God bless and reward you.

Syndicate content