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!’


All of us are deeply conscious of the responsibility which is ours to promote the common good, the good of all in society, first and foremost, by safeguarding human life, at all stages of development.The proposed Amendment 2 to the Constitution of the State of Missouri places the responsibility for the safeguarding of human life, at the embryonic stage of development, directly in our hands as citizens of Missouri.We recognize that the vote of each of us on Amendment 2 will be either a vote for the protection of the right to life of our tiniest brothers and sisters or a vote to subject them to destruction through scientific experimentation.

Closely connected with the responsibility to safeguard and foster embryonic human life is the responsibility to safeguard the integrity of human procreation from the intrinsic evil of human cloning.Somatic cell nuclear transfer, that is, human cloning, is the prideful attempt of man to generate human life by himself, without God and in defiance of God’s plan for us.We recognize that the vote of each of us on Amendment 2 will also be either a vote for the protection of the integrity of human procreation or a vote to permit the artificial generation of human life.

The challenge before us

All of us are also deeply conscious of the influence of those who are the proponents of Amendment 2.The proponents have, in abundance, the financial means to advance their project.What is more, the officials of our government have permitted them to write the proposed amendment in language geared to deceive the voter.I will write more about the language of Amendment 2 in a future column.Also, through the media, the proponents have appealed to our natural empathy before those who are suffering from dread diseases and serious illnesses, depicting moral opposition to Amendment 2 as a form of heartless religious dogmatism and extremism. As I wrote in last week’s column, Christian compassion embraces all human life, both when it is most helpless, at its very beginning, and when it has become seriously burdened through disease or injury.Our empathy for those suffering serious disease or injury can never justify our lack of empathy for another class of human beings, our brothers and sisters.

How can we meet the challenge of speaking the truth about Amendment 2, the challenge of doing all that we can to safeguard embryonic human life and the integrity of human procreation?There can be no question of the need of each and all of us to be thoroughly informed about the proposed constitutional amendment and to be courageously willing to speak the truth to others.But what is even more important is our fervent prayer that God will deliver us from the evil proposed in Amendment 2.

Rosary Crusade

On May 9 of this year, recognizing the gravity of the moral crisis which the proposed Amendment 2 poses for the citizens of our state, I celebrated public exposition of the Blessed Sacrament with benediction at the Old Cathedral, the Basilica of St. Louis King of France, begging God’s mercy and help in our weakness.During the public exposition, I led the praying of the rosary for the safeguarding of embryonic human life, inaugurating an archdiocesan-wide crusade of praying the rosary for the intention of our tiniest brothers and sisters.In praying the rosary, I invoked the intercession of the Mother of God under her title of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America and Star of the New Evangelization.

Since May 9, through the Respect Life Apostolate of the Archdiocese, I have been asking parishioners as individuals and in groups to pray the rosary daily for the safeguarding of embryonic human life.Daily, I hear from individuals about their participation in the Rosary Crusade, whether in their homes, in their parish churches or in our Catholic schools.

Why the Rosary Crusade?

Why the Rosary Crusade?The praying of the rosary has been a most powerful spiritual instrument of the Church in seeking God’s help in times of great crisis.On Oct. 7, 1571, for example, Christians were able to repel the destructive advance of the Moors upon Europe at the Battle of Lepanto.The victory seemed impossible but, with God’s help, obtained through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, it was achieved. Pope St. Pius V had asked the Christians of Europe to pray the rosary for the defeat of the Moors who wished to eradicate the Catholic faith and practice in Europe.The praying of the rosary was instrumental in the saving of Christian Europe.

Closer to home, we recall the Rosary Crusade at St. Joseph Shrine during the cholera epidemic of 1849, which took the lives of so many of the faithful.Christians, down the centuries since our Lord first gave us the rosary, in times of great crisis, have called upon God’s help through this most powerful prayer.Imitating them, we pray with confidence that God will deliver us from the present moral crisis.

Our Lady of Guadalupe

There is a little known fact about the Battle of Lepanto, which highlights the intercession of the Mother of God on behalf of her children in times of great crisis and need.Admiral Giovanni Andrea Doria of the Christian fleet at the Battle of Lepanto had enthroned in his cabin an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which had been touched to the miraculous tilma of St. Juan Diego in Mexico City.In the Battle of Lepanto, Admiral Doria invoked the intercession of the Mother of God under her title, Our Lady of Guadalupe.

For Admiral Doria, the praying of the rosary for victory was united to his devotion to Our Lady as she had appeared on the continent of America, just 40 years earlier, in 1531.In urging the Rosary Crusade, I ask the faithful of the archdiocese to invoke frequently the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe who, some 475 years ago, led her children of America to Christ through a new respect for all human life, when it was gravely threatened by racism and widespread human sacrifice. Our Lady, Mother of America, will not fail to hear our prayers for the end of the attacks upon human life in our nation.

Corporate praying of the rosary in our schools

On this coming Nov. 2, All Souls Day, the students in the Catholic schools within the archdiocese will pray the rosary for the safeguarding of embryonic human life, in their respective schools, at 10 a.m.I will be leading the praying of the rosary at DuBourg High School on that morning.The rosary at DuBourg High School will be broadcast on WRYT (AM-1080) and (KHOJ (AM-1460) Catholic radio, so that you, too, can join directly in the prayer.

I invite you, if it is possible, wherever you are, to unite your praying of the rosary or, at least, some part of the rosary, to the prayer of our children in the Catholic schools at 10 a.m. on this coming Nov. 2.Yes, the challenge of defeating the proposed Amendment 2, the challenge of safeguarding embryonic human life and the integrity of human procreation, is great.But the victory belongs to our Lord Jesus Christ Who gave His life for all of us, from the moment of our conception.Our Lord Jesus, God the Son, Who became a human embryo at the moment of His Mother’s fiat will hear our prayers, offered through His Mother and ours, on behalf of our tiniest brothers and sisters.

‘Be not afraid!’


Opponents of the proposed Amendment 2, which guarantees constitutionally the right to clone human life in order to destroy it at the embryonic stage of development for the harvest of embryonic stem cells, are frequently accused of a lack of compassion.Faithful Catholics, in particular, are accused of adhering rigidly to a religious belief about the beginning of human life, while coldly permitting children and adults with dread diseases or with serious injuries to remain without the cure which supposedly embryonic stem cells would provide for them.

Former Sen. John Danforth, one of the most prominent and active supporters of Amendment 2, referring to the death of his brother Don from Lou Gehrig’s disease, declares:

"No religious doctrine, however earnestly formulated, will ever convince me that cells in a laboratory are so significant that my brother should be denied the benefits of medical research.The very notion goes against both my reason and my deepest feelings" (Faith and Politics, New York: Viking, 2006, p. 94).

All of us who have seen or are seeing a parent, sibling, child or good friend suffer from disease or serious injury can well understand Mr. Danforth’s profound grief at the suffering and eventual death of his dear brother.We can also understand his desire for a cure which would have saved his brother from death.A devout Christian cannot fail to feel compassion for Mr.
Danforth and his family.

Compassion without borders

A most serious question, however, is raised by Mr. Danforth’s declaration: Does compassion for the suffering of one human life justify the lack of compassion for another human life?To be clear, is it truly compassionate to destroy the tiniest of human lives in order to treat an illness in one of us who has developed to a bigger size?And, if the answer to the question is "Yes," then who judges which human life can be sacrificed for the sake of saving another?Mr. Danforth, while arguing that the blastocyst is "pre-embryonic" human life, states that maintaining the legal protection of the right to life of the blastocyst is denying hope to "identifiable people" (Faith and Politics, p. 93).But what makes a human life identifiable?Is not the blastocyst, which is a 5- to 7-day-old human embryo, identifiable as human life?

Human compassion, that is, the compassion taught us by the natural moral law and confirmed by the teaching and life of our Lord, does not permit us to make distinctions of persons in what pertains to their fundamental right to life.Compassion as a human and Christian virtue extends to all human life, without borders.Because the blastocyst, which is truly human life, with its full identity, is, in the words of Mr. Danforth, "a pre-embryonic cluster of cells smaller than the period at the end of this sentence," does not take away its dignity and right to life.

The so-called compassion which excludes certain human lives, according to the criteria of size or age or intelligence or any other criterion, is not compassion at all.In fact, it opens the door to the denial of compassion to any class of persons who, according to those in power, are somehow "not human," even though they have a full human identity and are growing and developing, as we all have done and are doing.
Compassion for the victims of disease and injury

Our Christian concern for embryonic human life does not mean that we are not concerned to work for cures of the diseases and injuries which burden severely our lives or deprive us of life.For that reason, the Church, from the time of our Lord, identifies her mission with the care of the sick.Throughout the Christian centuries, the Church has dedicated her resources, the gifts of the faithful, in a particular way, to the care of the sick and to ethical medical research which leads to cures for those who are severely injured or are afflicted with a severe disease.

In concrete, while the Catholic Church opposes absolutely the cloning of human life and the destruction of human embryos, it strongly supports adult stem-cell research, which is ethical and which has already been effectively used in treating some 72 forms of disease and injury, for example, cancers, autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular diseases, immunodeficiencies, neural degenerative diseases and injury, anemia and other blood disorders, wounds and injuries, metabolic disorders, liver disease and bladder disease. For more information regarding the diseases and injuries treated with adult stem cells, you may consult the website

Some time ago, I was privileged to visit the St. Louis Cord Blood Bank at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, the second-largest independent cord-blood bank in the world.It stores blood collected, in a completely ethical manner, from the umbilical cords of newborn infants, to be used for treating illnesses and injuries.The Church fully supports adult stem-cell research and therapy.As archbishop of St. Louis, I fully support the work of the St. Louis Cord Blood Bank at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital and am deeply grateful for it.It is a wonderful expression of Christian compassion.

Human identity and compassion

All human life, from its inception to the moment of natural death, is the object of our compassion.What constitutes human life is not a matter of religious doctrine.It is a scientific fact that human life begins at conception or fertilization or, in the case of cloning, with the stimulation of the human egg, from which the nucleus has been removed and into which a body cell of an adult has been placed. From the moment of conception or inception, the complete identity of the new human life is given.

Religious faith does not teach us when human life begins.Science does.Religious faith teaches us that once human life has begun it must be safeguarded and fostered.

At a recent gathering of young adults opposed to Amendment 2, a newspaper reporter from another city asked me: Why do you want to protect the human embryo which is "just a clump of cells"?The answer is: Each of us is a clump of cells which, upon scientific examination, is identified as a human being.True compassion demands that we safeguard and foster every "clump of cells" with the identity of human life.

‘Be not afraid!’


In the discussion of the proposed amendment to the Constitution of the State of Missouri, known as Amendment 2, on the ballot for this coming Nov. 7, a most important consideration is the exploitation of women, which it involves.As a shepherd of God’s flock, I am deeply concerned for all involved in the evils of human cloning and the destruction of the human embryo to harvest its stem cells.My first concern, of course, is for the most innocent and defenseless humans involved, namely the human embryos cloned through somatic cell nuclear transfer.

I am also deeply concerned for the women who are necessarily involved in the process of human cloning.In order to perform human cloning or somatic cell nuclear transfer, scientists must first procure human eggs from which to remove the nucleus, in order to replace it with the nucleus of a somatic or body cell of the donor with whom the cloned human will be identical.Human cloning requires the harvesting of eggs from women who are exploited to accomplish the purposes of its proponents.As Christians, we must address the immorality of such exploitation.

Cooperation in grave moral evil

The woman who subjects herself to the harvesting of her eggs for human cloning participates in a grave moral evil, the artificial generation of human life.The many deceptions involved in the language of Amendment 2 — for example, the statement that it bans human cloning when, in fact, it gives the constitutional right to clone human beings — should make us realize that women will be asked to cooperate in the process without the necessary explanation of the moral implications of their cooperation.

The natural moral law prohibits any woman from cooperating in the act of human cloning.It also prohibits her from taking part in a process that results in the killing of a human being at the embryonic stage of development.A woman’s cooperation in the twin evils of human cloning and the destruction of human embryos for the sake of the harvesting of stem cells is never justified.

Inherent danger to women

Another moral question involves the danger to which the woman exposes herself.In order to produce the volume of eggs needed for cloning, women are given strong hormonal treatments to stimulate their ovaries to produce an unnatural number of eggs. The same drugs are administered to women who are undergoing certain treatments for infertility. From their experience, we know that a percentage of women will develop ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, which is most painful and can even result in death.

In order to harvest the eggs, the woman is placed under anesthesia.The harvesting process itself involves serious risks for the woman.After the harvesting of the eggs, some women have remained irreversibly sterile.Another study indicates that hyperstimulation of a woman’s ovaries can lead to stillbirths and defects at birth in her future pregnancies.

It should not surprise us that the artificial stimulation of woman’s ovaries has other serious side effects. The human body is not a machine but a living organism. When we manipulate the organism to do what we want, instead of what nature does, we damage the organism and introduce disease into it.Hyperstimulation for the purpose of obtaining an unnatural production of eggs in a woman can lead to damage of the liver, kidney failure, blood clots and stroke. Some studies have also linked the drugs used for hyperstimulation with ovarian cancer.

Woman becomes a commodity

Apart from the serious danger to which human cloning or somatic cell nuclear transfer subjects a woman, it also makes her a commodity to be used for the purposes of the scientific research of a few and their eventual large financial profits.The great gift of fertility in a woman, the natural production of the human egg for reproduction, now becomes an object for manipulation by those who promote human cloning.The whole process is dehumanizing for the woman. The abuse of women by Woo-suk Hwang, the South Korean researcher whose fraudulent claims to have cloned human embryos were recently uncovered, are eloquent testimony of the grave moral and physical dangers to women, which human cloning involves.

As archbishop, I am deeply concerned for the poor and young women who may be attracted to egg donation, in order to obtain money to pay debts or put food on the table.As Dr. Pia de Solenni of the Family Research Council observed: "In the name of science, the industry will literally have its hands inside the bodies of hundreds of millions of poor, disadvantaged women."Reflecting upon the Golden Rule, we ask: Would we want our mother, our sister, our wife or our daughter to become the object of egg donation?

Further reflection

In considering the grave moral crisis for our state and nation, which Amendment 2 represents, please give reflection to the moral and physical exploitation of women involved in human cloning for embryonic stem-cell research.If you wish further information, I recommend to you the booklet, "Women’s Voices against Cloning: Exploiting Women in the Name of Science," available through the archdiocesan Respect Life Apostolate.The Web site, gives strong voice to the grave implications of human cloning for women.

I also recommend to you the blog of Chelsea Zimmerman of Holts Summit, Mo., reflection is a quadriplegic as a result of a spinal cord injury sustained in an automobile accident when she was a junior in high school.Her reflections are an eloquent testimonial to the Gospel of Life and a true help to anyone who wants to understand the profound moral implications of Amendment 2, especially for women.

I ask you to continue praying the rosary for safeguarding embryonic human life. In your prayer, also ask our Blessed Mother to protect all women from the grave harm of cooperation in human cloning.

‘Be not afraid!’


Faced with the grave moral crisis of Amendment 2, we are called to speak for and fight for our tiniest brothers and sisters who cannot speak for themselves or fight to defend themselves.Ultimately, we are called to vote for the safeguarding of embryonic human life by voting "no" on the ballot for Amendment 2 on this coming Nov. 7.
Fundamental to whatever we do is the prayer which we offer to God, asking for His help and for His blessing on our efforts.Our opposition to Amendment 2 has been characterized as a situation similar to David going against Goliath. The proponents of Amendment 2 have seemingly endless funds with which to use the communications media and other means to advance their deadly project.What is more, they have the strong support of certain influential public figures.Without the guidance and help of God’s grace, we will not succeed in defending the most defenseless human lives.

Prayer: First means of defending human life

As your shepherd, I urge you to pray fervently each day to God for the safeguarding of embryonic human life in our state.In particular, I ask you to pray the rosary, seeking the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary on behalf of her tiniest and youngest children.Please join our Archdiocesan Rosary Crusade for the safeguarding of embryonic human life.A most helpful prayer leaflet of the Rosary Crusade is available in your parish and from the Respect Life Apostolate of the archdiocese.

At other times in the history of the Church, when Christians seemed powerless before the forces of destruction and death, the faithful have prayed the rosary, imploring God’s mercy and strength.I think of the Battle of Lepanto in 1571.All of Christian Europe, at the urging of the Holy Father, prayed the rosary for the victory of the Christian forces against the seemingly invincible Turkish forces.Against all reasonable predictions, the Christian forces won.

Each year, when we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary on Oct. 7, we recall the power of the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary on behalf of her children at the Battle of Lepanto and in so many other desperate situations.Let us not fail to call upon her help in our urgent need.Please pray the rosary or, at least, some part of the rosary every day, asking our Blessed Mother to intercede for the safeguarding of embryonic human life.

Acts of reparation and sacrifices

The gravity of the situation also calls for acts of reparation for the grave sin of the attack on innocent and defenseless human life in our society.When we consider how gravely offensive to God is our lack of respect for human life which He has created in His own image and likeness and has redeemed with the Most Precious Blood of His only-begotten Son, we are inspired to make reparation, to offer prayers and sacrifices to God in sorrow for acts of human cloning and acts of deliberate destruction of human embryos.

By our fasting and other sacrifices, we purify our own consciences of the confusion regarding what is morally right and wrong.At the same time, we are strengthened to give clear and effective witness to the truth about human life.We also win strength for others who may be struggling in fulfilling their call to safeguard all human life, from the moment of inception to the moment of natural death.

Are we religious zealots or fanatics?

There are many aspects to the whole situation of our voting on Amendment 2, which, to be frank, are absurd.It is, first of all, absurd that we should even be asked to consider guaranteeing constitutionally the right to generate human life artificially for the sake of destroying it.

A great absurdity in the whole initiative to convince the citizens of Missouri to vote for Amendment 2 is the accusation that those who oppose the amendment are religious zealots or fanatics.The characterization deflects attention from the scientific truth that the human embryo is a human life.Opposition to Amendment 2 is not a question of religious fanaticism or zealotry.It is a question of responding to the natural law written upon every human heart, which demands that we safeguard and promote human life at all stages of its development, from the moment of inception to the moment of natural death.

Yes, our religious faith gives us divine grace for obeying the dictates of the natural moral law, but it does not alter the law of nature, known by every man or woman of good will.The love of Christ in our hearts helps us immeasurably in our care for all our brothers and sisters, including the tiniest and most defenseless among us, but our defense of their right to life is not a matter of some peculiarly religious doctrine or practice.

It will not surprise you that the opponents of Amendment 2 include scientists, doctors and other medical professionals, philosophers, religious leaders, lawyers and people of various works and professions.They belong to various Christian denominations and religious faiths.What unites them is their obedience to the natural moral law which recognizes the human embryo as human life and is committed to safeguard and defend it.

‘Be not afraid!’


As citizens of Missouri, we find ourselves in the midst of an unimaginably severe moral crisis. On this coming Nov. 7, the citizens of our state will decide whether the constitution of our state should guarantee the right to generate human life artificially in order to destroy it at its very beginning, at the embryonic stage of its development.In short, we, the citizens of Missouri, are being asked to advance the culture of death in our state so that our tiniest brothers and sisters will no longer enjoy the protection of the law but will be made legally the subjects, the slaves, of those who wish to manipulate and destroy their lives for the sake of supposed scientific and technological progress on the way to the cure of certain dread diseases and the treatment of certain severe injuries.

A moral disaster in the making

The passage of Amendment 2 would be a moral disaster for our state.What is more, it would be a moral disaster for our nation.If Amendment 2 succeeds in the State of Missouri, which has the reputation of being pro-life, then the proponents of human cloning and the destruction of embryonic human life will surely be emboldened to undertake the same deadly initiative in other states of our nation.

Surely, the citizens of our state do not support government which denies the right to life, the most fundamental right, to a whole class of human beings, in order to advance the projects of a few. Rather, as truly pro-life, we citizens of Missouri must insist that our government serve the good of all, the common good, without exception or boundary.With Abraham Lincoln, who fought bravely in the battle to overcome another form of slavery in our nation, we must resolve that our nation, "under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth" (Gettysburg Address). Lincoln fought to abolish the enslavement of fellow human beings who, because of the color of their skin, were used to advance the economic well-being of a few.Let us fight to prevent the enslavement of fellow human beings who, because of their size, are proposed for use in the advancement of the well-being of a few.

The shepherd’s care

As shepherd of the entire flock of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, I have in my heart, in a most particular way, those who are innocent and absolutely defenseless.These tiniest, these youngest, of human lives are in my pastoral care.They are depending upon me to speak for them and to defend them, in every way possible, from the imminent threat to their lives.

They are also depending upon you, their brothers and sisters, to give them a voice and strength, which they have not yet developed for themselves but will develop, if they are only permitted to live.They are counting upon you and me to give them a voice and strength against the powerful forces which want to take away their most fundamental human right, the right to life.As your shepherd, I write to you today and will be writing to you in the next weeks, in order that you will do God’s will for the sake of the defense of human life in our state by voting "no" to Amendment 2 on this coming Nov. 7.

The responsibility is ours directly

In the battle to transform the culture of death in our nation into a civilization of divine love, that is a nation in which love extends to every brother and sister without limit or boundary, we often find it difficult to be heard.Our nation’s highest court, for instance, in the decisions Roe vs. Wade and Doe vs. Bolton, handed down on Jan. 22, 1973, made procured abortion legal, for all intents and purposes, up to the moment of birth.In fact, the argumentation of these decisions has been used to justify the patent act of killing violently a baby at the moment of bringing the baby into the world, an abhorrent procedure which is antiseptically called "partial-birth abortion."

For more than 30 years now, we have been working to reverse these decisions of the Supreme Court, without success thus far.We will continue to fight for the right to life of our unborn brothers and sisters, calling our courts to be once again courts of justice for all, without the exclusion of the unborn.

In the present initiative of the agents of the culture of death, we ourselves will decide whether the initiative succeeds or not.We must, therefore, carefully and thoroughly inform ourselves in the matter and, then, exercise our civic duty to vote.By voting, we will be able to act directly in the defense of human life.By failing to vote, we will fail to act to safeguard and protect the most innocent and defenseless among us, whom Amendment 2 places under attack.This is a time when the duty to vote is most serious.When our vote determines the safeguarding of human lives, it is a sacred duty. In the present situation, we can do something to advance the respect for human life. Let us not fail to be there for our brothers and sisters who are depending upon us.

‘Be not afraid!’ Stewardship Awareness Sunday


On this coming Sunday, Sept. 17, we will celebrate Christian stewardship and rededicate ourselves as good stewards of God’s many gifts to us.Why celebrate Stewardship Awareness Sunday? Because stewardship is our way of life as Christians. Stewardship is the way of daily taking up the Cross with our Lord Jesus and giving ourselves in self-sacrificing love to God and to our neighbor.

The theme of this year’s celebration is taken from a passage in the Letter of St. James, which addresses the fundamental nature of stewardship in the Christian life.Some Christians were arguing that it is only faith that matters, that makes us just, while others were arguing that it is only our works which make us just in the eyes of God.

St. James, a true shepherd of the flock, taught the faithful that faith and works are inseparable, that belief in our Lord Jesus Christ means following Him, doing His work in the world.At the same time, our works, done in Christ, are a manifestation of our faith.He wrote to the faithful: "What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works?Can his faith save him?"He then gives an example which shows the absurdity of claiming that faith alone makes us just, and concludes: "So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.But some will say: ‘You have faith and I have works.’Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith" (James 2:14, 17-18).

Stewardship, putting our gifts at the service of God and our neighbor, is the natural manifestation of our faith.In the words of the theme for our annual observance of Stewardship Awareness Sunday, our works demonstrate our faith.Practicing stewardship, we place our complete trust in our Lord Jesus Christ and follow Him without reserve.

Good news of stewardship in the archdiocese

Stewardship Awareness Sunday gives us the occasion to reflect on the many wonderful manifestations of Christian faith through good stewardship in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.Visiting our parishes for the celebrations of anniversaries, the Sacrament of Confirmation, dedications and blessings, and other sacred rites, I am struck by the vitality of the faith of our people.What strikes me?The care and devotion with which the parishioners prepare and take part in the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy, their obvious attitude of prayer; their respect for and cooperation with their parish priests, their fidelity and generosity in providing Catholic education for children, young people, adults and those who coming to the faith; and their charitable and missionary works to bring the love of God to those in most need. These are a just a few of the signs of the good stewardship of God’s gifts, which I observe in our parishes.

The collaboration of parishioners and of all the faithful of the archdiocese in providing a most impressive number of Catholic elementary, middle and high schools is a striking demonstration of faith.The daily service of parents and pastors, administrators and teachers, staff and volunteers in providing a truly Catholic education for our children and young people is Catholic faith in action.

The many works of Catholic Charities and the St. Vincent de Paul conferences throughout the archdiocese also express our deep faith in our Lord Jesus and our commitment to bring His love to all our brothers and sisters.The archdiocese is blessed with a particularly rich program of charitable works, a heritage which we celebrate and to which we recommit ourselves today.

I cannot fail to mention the most generous response to the Annual Catholic Appeal.Through the Appeal, all of the faithful of the archdiocese participate in the Church’s charitable, educational and missionary works.The Appeal also supports parishes and other institutions which are struggling and urgently need the support of their brothers and sisters in the archdiocese.

The call to do more

Stewardship, by its very nature, is never a matter of congratulating ourselves on our good works and becoming complacent.Living in Christ, being co-workers with Christ, means a daily conversion of life to Him.Each day, through our prayer and participation in the sacramental life of the Church, we are inspired to give ourselves more to God and neighbor.Each day, we are invited to put our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and to have confidence that He will supply us all that we need to be His good stewards.At the heart of the Sermon on the Mount, the magna charta of our Christian life, our Lord Jesus exhorts us to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48).The perfection to which our Lord refers is the divine love which is without measure and without cease.

As we celebrate Stewardship Awareness Sunday, let us all ask how we can become even better stewards of God’s gifts.How can I better prepare myself for participation in Sunday Mass and for the regular confession of my sins?How can I make my daily prayers and devotions a true raising of my heart to the Sacred Heart of Jesus?How can I organize my time to give God my best in daily prayer and devotion?

How can I, by my attitudes and words and actions, be a source of inspiration and strength to my family members and fellow parishioners?How can I use the talents which God has given me in serving my parish and archdiocese?

How can I be faithful in giving the "first fruits" of my material goods, the tithe of my belongings, to God and His people?How can I give more from "my substance" and not just from "what I have left over"?How can I remember the Church and her works of charity in my last will and testament?

Let us thank God for the wonderful stewardship of His faithful in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.Let us pray to God that we may grow ever more perfect in our stewardship of His gifts.Jesus, meek and humble of heart.Make our hearts like unto Thine.

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