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

As we approach the holiest days of the Church year, I am deeply conscious of the war in Iraq and of the suffering and death which it has brought to so many.I know, too, that the war and the most just way in which to bring it to conclusion is on our minds and in our hearts. As we prepare to celebrate the Passion and Death of our Lord Jesus for our eternal salvation, let us unite the suffering and death of our Iraqi brothers and sisters and of our armed forces serving in Iraq and their families to those of our Lord, asking Him to grant peace in Iraq.

Frequently, I am asked about the Church’s teaching on peace and war, and about our response as Catholics to the war in Iraq.I respond now to those questions, especially in the context of the strong grace of reconciliation, which God the Father gives us through our annual commemoration of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of His only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.At the same time, I offer words of hope, securely rooted in Christ Who alone is our peace.

Our first response is prayer and penance

What must be our response to the war in Iraq?It must, first of all, be prayer and penance, so that the war will end soon and peace be restored.Both our late and most beloved Pope John Paul II and our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI have urged us repeatedly to intensify our commitment to prayer and penance, asking from Christ the gift of His peace.As we enter into the holiest days of our salvation, I ask all of the faithful in the archdiocese to pray the rosary daily for peace, and to make visits to the Blessed Sacrament and to participate in hours of eucharistic adoration, in order to plead, in the Real Presence of our Lord, for peace in the world.

Our prayer and penance for peace is deeply personal.The state of our own soul is never a private matter.Christ’s peace in our hearts is the source of peace for the world.The horror of war is the strongest possible call to us to examine more honestly our own consciences and to make peace with God and our neighbor, especially through the sacrament of Penance.The grace of our reconciliation with God and one another will bring untold blessings to our homes, our local communities and the world.

The intentions of our prayer and penance

The specific intentions of our prayer and penance for peace must include our political leaders whose responsibility it is to make decisions regarding war and the end of war.President George Bush and the leaders of the other nations involved bear a most weighty responsibility for the good of the people of the nations which they govern, the Iraqi people and the people of the world.They urgently need the help of our daily prayers and penance.We ask that they will never tire of seeking peace among all nations.

In the same way, we pray for the leaders of the Iraqi people, that God will direct them in the way of peace.We daily beg God to watch over and protect the homes of the Iraqi people, their children and all who are most harmed by the devastating effects of war.

We pray, too, for the soldiers of our nation and all of the military personnel involved in the war.We pray that God will protect them and guide them, so that in all of their actions they will do what is right and good.Our prayer embraces also their families and friends who suffer so much their absence and, even more so, any harm which may come to them.Already, a number of our armed forces have given their lives in the war.Let us not fail to pray daily for their eternal rest, asking God to give them the reward of their selfless service of our nation and of the common good.

Our second response is reflection

Our response to the war must also be reflection.We need to reflect upon the Church’s teaching about peace and war and then act accordingly.The Church’s teaching is presented in the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council’s "Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World," known familiarly by its first words in Latin, "Gaudium et spes" (nn. 77-82), and in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (nn. 2302-2317).

The Church must always work for peace and do all within her power to promote peace.Certainly, we have witnessed the peacemaking of the Church in all of the efforts of our Holy Father and his representatives to prevent and bring to a peaceful conclusion the war in Iraq.As Catholics and citizens of the United States, we must be deeply moved by all that both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have said about the conflict between our nation (and other nations) and Iraq.Also, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued statements which are most helpful to us in reflecting upon the war in Iraq.

The Church understands that peace will never be definitively achieved, until Christ’s Final Coming, because of the deadly effects of original sin, leading us to acts of aggression and violence. Peace must be constantly sought and fostered among us by the practice of the virtues of justice and charity.Therefore, it is the responsibility of the shepherds of the flock, especially the Successor of St. Peter, to teach about peace and the evils of war, and to urge the works of justice and charity, which bring about peace.

Conditions of just war

The Church teaches that nations have "the right of lawful self-defense, once all peace efforts have failed" (Gaudium et spes, n. 79d). The Church sets forth conditions for the exercise of "lawful self-defense" through the declaration of war (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2309).First of all, the damage threatened by the nation against which war is declared "must be lasting, grave and certain."Second, "all other means" of eliminating the danger "must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective."Third, there must be a reasonable hope of success in eliminating the danger through war. Lastly, engaging in war "must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated."

Regarding the last condition, acts of war cannot be directed at destroying entire cities or large areas, together with the people living there. "Gaudium et spes" describes such acts as "a crime against God and man" (n. 80c).

Blessed Pope John XXIII, in his encyclical letter "Pacem in terris (Peace on earth)," taught that certain means of warfare, namely atomic warfare, can never be legitimately employed because of the gravity of the harm inflicted. He observed: "Therefore in this age of ours, which prides itself on its atomic power, it is irrational to think that war is a proper way to obtain justice for violated rights."The same can be observed about the use of chemical and bacterial instruments of war. Earlier, Pope Pius XII had declared the immorality of "total warfare" (cf. Gaudium et spes, n. 80b).

Some of the faithful have asked me: Why have the Holy Father or I not declared the war in Iraq to be unjust?Neither the Holy Father nor I have made such a declaration because the Church’s teaching recognizes that it belongs to "those who have responsibility for the common good" to make the prudential judgment regarding the justice of going to war (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2309).Both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have been tireless in indicating to the leaders of governments the requirements of a just war and the grave consequences of going to war. They have made clear the immorality of certain positions and practices, but they respect the office of those who govern to decide whether war is necessary to protect the common good.You and I may disagree with the prudential judgment of those who govern us, but we must respect the fact that it is a prudential judgment and that those who govern us have the responsibility to make the judgment.

Conclusion

Let us continue to pray with all our might for an end to the war in Iraq and for peace throughout the world. Let us also, with the help of our Holy Father and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, continue to reflect upon the ways to promote peace and to bring an end to war.

‘Be not afraid!’

Introduction

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a most fitting way to respond to Pope Benedict XVI’s invitation to center our Lenten observance upon the text from the Gospel according to St. John: "They shall look on Him Whom they have pierced" (John 19:37).Our Holy Father, by inviting us to look upon the pierced side of our Lord Jesus, invites us to contemplate the glorious pierced Heart of Jesus, the pre-eminent sign of God’s immeasurable and ever faithful love of us.From the Heart of Jesus flow all graces in the Church. Looking upon Him Whom we have pierced by our sins, we come to understand ever more fully the great mystery of His response of love to our indifference and even our hostility in sinning.

In a particular way, we are drawn to the Heart of Jesus, which is open for us in the Sacrament of Penance to receive the confession of our sins and to pour out upon us the healing grace of forgiveness.Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus draws us, above all, to communion with our Lord Jesus in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. From the glorious pierced Heart of Jesus flows the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ for our spiritual nourishment during the days of our earthly pilgrimage home to God the Father.

Enthronement, Consecration and the Apostleship of Prayer

The Enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in our homes and the consecration of ourselves and our homes to the Sacred Heart of Jesus are at the heart of loving contemplation of Him Whom we have pierced.The Enthronement and Consecration represent our way of living each day, in the company of our Lord, resting in His Heart and drawing from His Heart the gift of selfless and pure love of our neighbor.

Through the Apostolate of Prayer, that is the daily Morning Offering, we unite our hearts anew to the Heart of Jesus, as we do most perfectly through the Eucharistic Sacrifice.Each morning, we place all our "prayers, works, joys and suffering" of the day into the Heart of Jesus.There, we find rest and strength.We offer our prayers for the intentions of our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, of our bishops, and of all of the members of the Apostolate of Prayer.The Servant of God Father Walter Ciszek, who was confined for some 23 years in the prisons of Soviet Russia and its labor camps in Siberia, recounts how he taught the Morning Offering to fellow prisons during little spiritual retreats for them and how it united them to Christ in the outpouring of His love.He recalls to our minds the profound significance of the Morning Offering:

"In that way, no matter how harsh the conditions in the camps might be, how cruel and useless the work might seem, it took on new meaning and added value.It was something of which a man could be proud each day, because it was his to offer back to God.Each day of labor and hardship, like the grains of wheat ground up to make the host at Mass, could be consecrated to God and be transformed into something of great value in God’s sight; it was a sacrifice each man could offer back to God through the long, hard days.The grinding routine of daily labor, even here in Siberia, could have a meaning, did have a value, even as the lives of all men everywhere — no matter how dull or routine or insignificant they might seem to the eyes of men — have a value and a meaning in God’s providence" (Father Walter J. Ciszek, SJ, He Leadeth Me, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1995, pp. 141-142).

Our hearts placed in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, through the Morning Offering, become truly great with love of God and our neighbor.No matter what our condition, our hearts can bring the divine love, found in the Heart of Jesus, to others, especially those in most need.

First Friday Communion of Reparation

During Lent, we become especially conscious of the significance of every Friday of the week, since the Good Friday of our Lord’s Passion and Death.Every Friday is for us a special time to reflect upon Christ’s Suffering and Dying, and to unite ourselves to the outpouring of His life, especially through participation in the Holy Eucharist.That is why we are asked to abstain from eating meet on Friday, a small act of penance which keeps the Suffering and Dying of Christ before our eyes.In the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, participation in the Holy Mass on the First Friday of each month, with reception of Holy Communion, is the way of offering reparation to our Lord for our coldness and indifference before the gift of His love.

Essentially connected to the reception of Holy Communion on the First Friday of the month is the practice of a holy hour on the Thursday before the First Friday.The holy hour is spent meditating on the Passion and Death of our Lord.Through the holy hour, we strive to watch and pray with Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane.

The final promise of our Lord to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque reads:

"I promise you in the excessive mercy of my Heart that my all powerful love will grant to all those who receive Holy Communion on the First Fridays in nine consecutive months the grace of final perseverance; they shall not die in any disgrace, nor without receiving their sacraments.My Divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment" (Timothy T. O’Donnell, Heart of the Redeemer, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992, p. 140).

Some have objected that the practice of the First Friday Mass and Communion of Reparation is an attempt to manipulate God’s mercy, in a mechanical way.What must be remembered is that participation in the Holy Mass, on the First Friday of each month, is a sign of deep, interior conversion. Timothy O’Donnell, a contemporary writer about the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and president of Christendom College, has commented on the 12th and final Promise:

"This promise was made to the person who completely surrenders himself in a deep and unconditional act of faith.It is a beautiful expression of the Lord’s desire to share Himself with us in His sacrament of love.This is essentially the same promise which our Lord made in the Gospel to those who would each His flesh and drink His blood" (John 6:65) (Timothy T. O’Donnell, Heart of the Redeemer, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992, p. 260).

Those who observe the First Friday are not trying to buy God’s love but are responding to His love with the most perfect expression of love possible for us on this earth.They do not stop the devotion after nine months but continue the devotion as a way of keeping alive in their hearts the mystery of Christ’s Suffering and Dying.

Beginning or renewing the practice of the First Friday Communion of Reparation and of the Thursday Holy Hour in preparation for it is an excellent way to make our Lenten observance rich in grace for us throughout the year.The First Friday and the Thursday which precede it become privileged times for our looking upon Him Whom we have pierced and lifting up our hearts to His glorious pierced Heart with ever greater love and devotion.

'Be not afraid!’

Introduction

Pope Benedict XVI has invited us to live the Season of Lent "as a ‘Eucharistic’ time in which, welcoming the love of Jesus, we learn to spread it around us with every word and deed." Surely, the source of our Lenten observance is our communion with Christ in His true Body and Blood, through participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice and through the various forms ofEucharistic devotion.Our prayer, fasting and almsgiving are empty of their true meaning, unless they are inspired by the love of God, which is given to us, most fully and perfectly, in the Most Blessed Sacrament. If our Lenten penance is to bear fruit, it must, as our Holy Father has reminded us, flow from the Holy Eucharist, the great Mystery of Faith.

To assist us in making Lent a truly Eucharistic time, the Church provides us with various devotions which prepare us for participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice and worship of the Most Blessed Sacrament.These devotions also extend our privileged communion with our Eucharistic Lord to the circumstances of our daily living.

The praying of the Rosary, for example, deepens our appreciation of the mysteries of our Redemption, which are all contained in the Eucharistic mystery.Through the praying of the Rosary, our Blessed Mother leads us to a deeper knowledge and love of her Son, our Redeemer, Who gives Himself — Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity — to us in the Most Blessed Sacrament.

Making the Stations of the Cross is also an excellent way to meditate upon the mystery of the Suffering and Dying of Christ for our salvation.Walking mystically with Christ on the sorrowful way to Calvary and His Crucifixion helps us to keep before our eyes the tremendous reality, the truly incomprehensible reality, of the Holy Eucharist, in which the Passion and Death of Christ on Calvary are made present for us in our time and place.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart, enthronement and consecration

The devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is at the heart of our Lenten observance, for it draws us near to Christ in the Holy Eucharist and helps us to remain in His company throughout the day.Our Holy Father, in fact, has proposed as the theme for our Lenten observance the text from the Gospel according to St. John: "They shall look on Him Whom they have pierced" (John 19:37). During Lent, as we look upon the image of Christ crucified, we especially gaze upon His pierced Heart, which He permitted to be opened by the soldier’s spear, pouring out every ounce of His being for our salvation.The glorious pierced Heart of Jesus is the source of all the graces we receive in the Church.

Lent would be a good time to enthrone the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in your home or your places of work and recreation. The image of the Sacred Heart reminds us, throughout the day, that our Lord Jesus accompanies us all along the way of our earthly pilgrimage.It also invites us to pause and reflect upon the mystery of our life in Christ, letting Christ look into our hearts.

When we enthrone the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we also make our prayer of consecration, giving our hearts completely to our Lord Jesus, placing our hearts totally into His open Heart.If you have already enthroned the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and made the consecration of your life to the Sacred Heart, Lent is a good time to renew your consecration.

If you have not enthroned the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in your home, make the enthronement a central part of your Lenten observance.The archdiocese has published a very practical handbook to help you to prepare for the enthronement and to celebrate the enthronement once you have prepared properly.It is available through Father Thomas G. Keller, archdiocesan promoter of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.Also, Father Keller is happy to answer any questions which you may have regarding the enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the act of consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The Morning Offering and the apostleship of prayer
Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is expressed daily by the praying of the Morning Offering, upon rising.Through the Morning Offering, we unite our hearts to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.With Mary, we spiritually unite ourselves to the Eucharistic Sacrifice, offering to the Heart of Jesus our "prayers, works joys and suffering" of the day.The Morning Offering is an excellent way to make all of our time "Eucharistic," as Pope Benedict XVI urges us to do during the Season of Lent.

We offer our lives for the love of our Lord Jesus, for the intentions which have been placed into His Heart.Each month, our Holy Father gives us two intentions which he asks us to remember especially.Through the apostleship of prayer, we offer our hearts to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, calling to mind the intentions of our bishops and of all members of the apostleship, especially the intentions of the Holy Father.Three intentions are mentioned specifically in the Morning Offering: the salvation of souls, reparation for sins and the reunion of all Christians.

Conclusion

Next week, I will continue to reflect upon the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, especially the holy hour on the Thursday before First Friday, commemorating the Passion of our Lord, and the First Friday participation in Holy Mass and reception of Holy Communion in reparation for sins committed against the love of God, poured out upon us from the Heart of Jesus.

‘Be not afraid!’

Introduction

During two recent events, I experienced strongly the action of the Holy Spirit animating and directing the Church in our archdiocese.We know that the Holy Spirit is always dwelling within the Church, inspiring and strengthening every holy purpose and action, but there are times when the activity of the indwelling Holy Spirit is especially evident to us.

The first event was the Archbishop’s Retreat for men who are hearing the call to the priesthood.The Retreat was held at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary from Friday evening, Feb. 16, through Sunday afternoon, Feb. 18.The second event was the Rite of Election for our catechumens and the Call to Continuing Conversion for our candidates for reception into the full communion of the Catholic Church.It took place at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis on this past Feb. 24 and 25.

Archbishop’s Retreat

Each year, around President’s Day, I offer a retreat at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary for men who are hearing the call to the priesthood.For some, the call is quite clear to them, and they are, in fact, in the process of applying for admission to Kenrick-Glennon Seminary. Others are looking for the assistance of their archbishop in knowing whether the call is sufficiently clear for them to begin seminary studies.

This year, 31 men participated in the Archbishop’s Retreat.Of those who participated in the Archbishop’s Retreat, it seems that some 18 to 20 men will be entering Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in August of this year, either in the college seminary or the pre-theology program (for men who have a university degree but need to take additional courses in philosophy to prepare them for the study of theology) or the theologate (the final four years of study, during which a candidate is ordained to the transitional diaconate and, then, to the priesthood).
Others, I am sure, will enter the seminary at a later time.

The chief components of the weekend are four spiritual conferences on the priesthood, which I give, and participation in daily Mass, eucharistic adoration and the public praying of the rosary.Priests are also available for Confession.Also, I meet with each participant individually for 10 to 15 minutes to discuss his possible call and to give him the occasion to ask questions of me.

An important aspect of the retreat is the setting which is our archdiocesan seminary.The men have an initial experience of seminary life and are able to visit with our seminarians who welcome them with great hospitality.I was deeply impressed by how quickly the men formed a friendly and fraternal bond with each other and with the seminarians.The Holy Spirit draws the men together in their desire to respond to Christ’s call with a pure and undivided heart.

The work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of so many young men who are hearing, in some way, the call to serve us as priests is a cause for great thanksgiving in the whole archdiocese.I ask you to pray for these men, that they will know God’s will and will have the courage to do whatever God is asking of them.

Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion

Our archdiocesan catechumens (the unbaptized who are seeking to be baptized and confirmed, and to make their First Holy Communion) and candidates (the baptized who are seeking to be confirmed and to make their First Holy Communion) came to the cathedral basilica on this past Saturday and Sunday to take part in a special liturgical rite.The great number of catechumens and candidates necessitated three services, one on Saturday afternoon, one on Sunday afternoon and one on Sunday evening.During the liturgical celebration, the names of the catechumens were inscribed in the Book of the Elect, preparing them for the reception of the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirma-tion and the Holy Eucharist) at the Easter Vigil. The candidates were called to continue their preparation, so that they may be confirmed and receive Holy Communion, for the first time, at the Easter Vigil.

Both before and after the liturgical celebration, Bishop Robert Hermann and I had the opportunity to meet the catechumens, the candidates and their sponsors.Their joy in preparing to welcome Christ into their lives or to deepen their baptismal relationship with Christ was most inspiring.Their family members and their sponsors shared their joy.The Holy Spirit is clearly at work in the archdiocese, drawing many to faith in Christ and to life in Him through the sacraments.Please pray for our catechumens and candidates that they will persevere in responding to God’s love for them in Jesus Christ.

Conclusion

It is my hope that the above reflections will lead you to consider the ways in which the Holy Spirit is at work in your personal life, in your home and in your parish.I hope also that they will lead you to pray for an ever greater obedience to all that the Holy Spirit inspires in you for the salvation of the world.

Once again, please pray for those who are hearing the call to be our future priests, and for those whom God is calling to receive the Easter Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist at the Easter Vigil.God willing, they will soon be fully our brothers and sisters in the Church.

‘Be not afraid!’

Introduction

On July 16, 2006, I approved the statutes of a new association of the faithful in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.The name of the association is Ecclesia Domestica, Latin words which signify "Domestic Church" or "the Church in the home," referring to the Christian family, the first cell of the life of the universal Church.The members of Ecclesia Domestica are home-schooling parents who wish to work together to promote home schooling and to assist one another in the Catholic education of their children at home.

In approving the statutes of Ecclesia Domestica, I also issued the decree making it a public association of the faithful.Since the establishment of Ecclesia Domestica as a public association of the faithful, there have been questions regarding what being a public association of the faithful means for the members themselves and for the whole archdiocese.

Associations of the faithful

The Church recognizes the work of the Holy Spirit among the faithful, inspiring various joint efforts to promote the Christian life, in general, and to promote specific aspects of our life in Christ, for example, the Sacred Liturgy, Catholic education, works of charity and Christian witness in the various fields of human activity and endeavor. Included are associations of Catholic doctors, lawyers or businessmen.The faithful are, in fact, encouraged to form associations among themselves for the sake of living the faith more deeply and spreading the faith to others more effectively.

The faithful may form associations on their own without any intervention of Church authority.At the same time, an association of the faithful, by definition, always shows respect for Church authority and works to promote the unity and strength of Church life.The use of the name, Catholic, by an association is governed by the competent Church authority (canon 300).If the association uses the name Catholic, it means that the members and the whole association are obedient to the magisterium.It also means that the members of the association respect those who are members of other Church associations and seek the harmony among all those working for the Church.

By definition, the members of an association of the faithful join the association freely.In other words, the Church does not compel all home-schooling families to join Ecclesia Domestica, but they are free to join and to leave the association, according to their own desires.

Private or public association

What is the difference between a private association of the faithful and a public association of the faith? A private association exists in virtue of a private agreement among its members.A private association may or may not be recognized by the local Church authority, according to the wishes of the members.If the association wishes to be recognized as a private association of the faithful, then it must submit its statutes for review by the competent Church authority (canon 299, 1-3).

A public association of the faithful is established by the competent Church authority.Some associations of the faithful must be public because of the nature of their apostolate, namely the handing on of Christian doctrine "in the name of the Church" or the promotion of the Sacred Liturgy or "purposes whose pursuit is of its nature reserved" to Church authority (canon 301, 1).Because the association of home-schooling families exists primarily for the handing on of the faith and its practice to the children, including prayer and worship, it is most fittingly a public association of the faithful.

Who is the competent Church authority? For associations which are universal and international, it is the Holy See. If the association is national in scope, it is the conference of bishops of the nation.If the association is diocesan, it is the diocesan bishop (canon 312, 1-3). Ecclesia Domestica, which exists to serve home-schooling families in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, who freely choose to belong, therefore, rightly approached me to be erected as a public association of the faithful.

Rights and responsibilities

All associations of the faithful, public and private, must have "their own statutes which define the purpose or social objective of the association, its seat, government, and conditions required for membership and which determine the manner of its acting" (canon 304, 1).The statutes protect both the nature of the association and the rights of those who join.Without statutes, the association can be wrongly used for purposes other than those for which it was erected or can be operated without respect for all the members.

Because they are in the Church, associations of the faithful are "subject to the vigilance of competent ecclesiastical authority that is to take care that the integrity of faith and morals is preserved in them and is to watch so that abuse does not creep into ecclesiastical discipline" (canons 305, 1; and 323, 1-2).The vigilance of Church authority over associations of the faithful does not, in any way, diminish their freedom to pursue their stated purposes but guarantees that their activities are carried out in the communion of the Church.

A public association of the faithful becomes a juridic person in the Church and receives a mission from the Church to achieve "the purposes it proposes to pursue in the name of the Church" (canon 313).As a result, the competent Church authority approves the statutes and any revision of the statutes of a public association (canon 315), confirms the moderator elected by the members or appoints the moderator, if the statutes so provide, and appoints the chaplain after consultation with the principal leaders of the association (canon 317). By contrast, a private association of the faithful names its moderator without the confirmation of Church authority and chooses its spiritual adviser with "the confirmation of the local ordinary" (canon 324, 1-2).The complete Church discipline regarding associations of the faithful, private and public, is found in canons 298-329 of the Code of Canon Law.

Conclusion

I hope that the above gives some clearer idea of the esteem in which the Church holds associations of the faithful.I hope that it also helps you to understand why I was pleased to erect a public association of the faithful for Catholic home schoolers in the archdiocese on July 26 last year.

I conclude by drawing your attention to three norms of Church law, which pertain to associations of the faithful formed by the laity.First of all, the Church urges all of the faithful to esteem such associations, "especially those which propose to animate the temporal order with the Christian spirit and in this way greatly foster an intimate union between faith and life" (canon 327).Secondly, the Church urges the leaders of associations of the faithful "to take care that their associations cooperate with other associations of the faithful where it is expedient and willingly assist various Christian works, especially those in the same territory" (canon 328).Finally, the Church reminds the moderators of associations of the faithful "to take care that the members of the association are duly formed to exercise the apostolate proper to the laity" (canon 329).

‘Be not afraid!’

Introduction

On this coming Wednesday, Feb. 21, we, together with the Church throughout the world, will begin the observance of the Season of Lent.On Ash Wednesday, we receive blessed ashes on our forehead as a sign of the prayer and penance which are the heart of our Lenten observance.The blessed ashes remind us that the earthly realities to which we cling so tightly and anxiously are passing and invite us to fix our eyes on our Lord Jesus Christ, on our life in Him, which is eternal.

In his Lenten Message for this year, Pope Benedict XVI invites us to live the Season of Lent "as a ‘Eucharistic’ time in which, welcoming the love of Jesus, we learn to spread it around us with every word and deed." Our Holy Father invites us to find the pattern of our Lenten observance in our participation in the Holy Mass,
identifying ourselves with Christ in the mystery of His Suffering and Dying.Christ pours out His life for our eternal salvation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, so that we, in turn, nourished by the heavenly Bread of His true Body and Blood will pour out our lives in love of our brothers and sisters, especially those in most need.

During Lent, in a special way, we are asked to look upon the Body of Christ Who was crucified and died because of our sins and to recognize the pre-eminent sign of God’s unceasing love of us, that is, the pierced Heart of Jesus, opened to receive us all with deepest love.Our Holy Father has asked us to reflect, throughout the Lenten Season, on the text from the Gospel according to St. John: "They shall look on Him Whom they have pierced" (John 19:37).The text from the Prophet Zechariah points to the profound meaning of the action of the Roman soldier who, when Christ had died upon the Cross, pierced His Heart with a spear.Christ, after giving His very last energies for our salvation, permitted the Roman soldier to pierce His Heart.His open Heart, from which flowed the water and blood of His life, has, by His Resurrection, become the fountain, from which we receive His life, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, cleansing us of our sins and filling us with divine love.

The Divine Heart and the Christian heart

Our Lenten observance uncovers for us, once again, the unfathomable love of God for us. The Holy Father expresses the truth of God’s love, received and shared through Lenten prayer and penance, with these words: "On the Cross, it is God Himself Who begs the love of His creature: He is thirsty for the love of every one of us."The glorious pierced Heart of Jesus remains always open to receive us, even when we have wandered far from Him and permitted our heart to become cold and hardened through sin.Our Lord permitted His Heart to be pierced so that He might pour out His life, to the very last ounce, for love of us.He waits patiently for our response of love.In the words of our Holy Father, "Christ ‘draws me to Himself’ in order to unite Himself to me, so that I learn to love the brothers with His own love."

Our Lenten prayer and penance is, therefore, in no way, a kind of withdrawal from the world and from others.It is not a question of some kind of strictly private activity in our relationship with God.No, by its very nature, it draws us outward to Christ, to a fuller participation in His Eucharistic sacrifice, and, in Christ and through the Holy Eucharist, to all our brothers and sisters.When our hearts rest in the pierced Heart of Jesus, they are purified of all selfishness and set on fire with love of others. With reference to our Lenten theme, Pope Benedict XVI underlines the fruit of the union of our heart with the Heart of Jesus: "Contemplating ‘Him whom they have pierced’ moves us, in particular, to fight every form of contempt for life and human exploitation and to alleviate the tragedies of loneliness and abandonment of so many people."Our Lenten prayer and penance, if it is true, becomes a source of great blessing for all suffer and long for a sign of God’s merciful love in their lives.

Prayer and penance lead to almsgiving

In responding to our Lord’s call to enter with Him into the desert of Lenten prayer and penance, I urge you to make the Holy Eucharist the center of your observance. Participation in daily Mass, an act of spiritual Communion on the days when you are unable to participate in Mass, a daily visit to the Blessed Sacrament, prayer before the Blessed Sacrament in of one of our many churches and chapels with continuous or extended periods of Eucharistic exposition, and participation in the Archdiocesan Lay Eucharistic Conference, presented by Father Benedict Groeschel, on Saturday, March 24, at Saint Raymond’s Cathedral are all excellent ways to live Lent as "a ‘Eucharistic’ time."

Closely connected to the union of our hearts with the Heart of Christ in the Holy Eucharist is the regular confession of our sins in the Sacrament of Penance.Through the Sacrament of Penance, we receive the forgiveness of our sins and the grace of peace, which dispose us to place our hearts more fully into the Heart of Jesus.The penance or act of satisfaction, assigned to us by the priest in Confession, is the premier form of our Lenten penance, drawing us to Christ and, in Christ, to our neighbor. If you would like a concise and practical help in preparing for the Sacrament of Penance, I recommend to you the pamphlet, "A Primer for Confession with an Examination of Conscience," by Father Frederick L. Miller, available from the Faith Guild of the St. Martin de Porres Lay Community at New Hope, KY. 40052 (call [270] 325-3061).

Living Lent as a "Eucharistic" time strengthens us to live always in Christ, in the mystery of the Eucharistic Sacrifice.Lent is an excellent time to prepare your home for the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, as a sign that you belong completely to Christ, at all times and in every place.Lent is also a good time to become part of the Apostleship of Prayer by making the Morning Offering each day, and to begin the observance of the First Friday of the month.Information regarding the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is available through the archdiocesan Office of Sacred Worship.

Two other devotions, which are, by nature, Eucharistic, also help us to live Lent in deepest union of heart with Christ.The daily praying of the Rosary, meditating, with the Blessed Virgin Mary, upon the mysteries of our salvation in Jesus Christ, is both an excellent preparation for Eucharistic worship and, at the same time, a proven means of drawing upon the grace of Eucharistic communion throughout the day. The praying of the Stations of the Cross, in a similar way, helps us to recognize more clearly the great Mystery of Faith, which is the Holy Eucharist, and to enter more deeply into the mystery of our life in Christ.

Finally, as Pope Benedict XVI has reminded us so strikingly in his Lenten Message, our prayer and penance bear their fruit in acts of selfless love toward our neighbor, especially those who suffer in any way.Our suffering brothers and sisters are in our families, in our parishes, in our local communities and in our world.May our prayer, our looking upon Him Whom we have pierced, help us to look with love upon every suffering brother and sister, especially those whom our culture hides from our eyes.May our penance free us to be ever more generous in giving of our time, our personal gifts and our treasures, so that all men may know the mercy and love of God in their lives.

May God grant to you and your home an abundance of strong Lenten grace!

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