Wednesday, May 31, 2017

May 31, 2017 Wednesday: Feast of Visitation

May 31, 2017 Wednesday: Feast of Visitation

Our Lady Shares Her Gift

Our Lady is, in the language of tradition, “Spouse of the Holy Spirit.” And yet, as St. Maximilian Kolbe and Pope John Paul II observed, to say “spouse,” though it is the deepest of human relationships, is still far from describing the degree of union between Our Lady and the Holy Spirit. Pope John Paul, in his apostolic letter on the Rosary, defines Our Lady as the “Sanctuary of the Holy Spirit,” precisely in referring to the Visitation. This union between Our Lady and the Holy Spirit is something for which we have no analogy. Here on this holy ground, the language of human experience fails us. Language can only point beyond what we can fathom, toward the full gift of Our Lady.

But Our Lady’s relationship with the Holy Spirit is not something she keeps for herself. It is entirely for her children, and as Scripture shows us, she is more than able to dispense these gifts abundantly.

Let us return to Luke’s account of the Visitation (see Lk 1:39-56). Elizabeth has conceived in her old age, and is to give birth to a son who will be the forerunner of the Messiah. Even though she has miraculously conceived, she is still in need of help. She has been feeling the weight of her own fragility for some months already when Mary unexpectedly arrives at her door, calling out Elizabeth’s name. Elizabeth hears Mary’s voice, and she discovers a spiritual revolution taking place within her:

Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.” (Lk 1:41-44 NIV)

What does this tell us? First of all, that there is an extraordinary anointing of the Holy Spirit on Our Lady’s person, even on her voice. What Elizabeth discovered, and Mother Teresa after her, is that this anointing on Our Lady’s presence is transmitted even when it is not sought or consciously attended to. For Our Lady’s presence to be effective in our lives, even as for Mother Teresa or Elizabeth or the saints, she needs only to be welcomed and wanted, whether or not we are consistently conscious of her presence.

The Visitation demonstrates Our Lady’s role not only in the life of Elizabeth, and of Mother Teresa, but of every disciple. At Mary’s approach, Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit. Not because she lacked the Holy Spirit until then: the Spirit was already working miraculously in her life in the conception of John. But with the coming of Our Lady, there was a new and fuller outpouring of the Spirit, giving Elizabeth new energy and new hope for her task. The unborn life within her and her responsibility for it, a burden and source of worry until now, has suddenly become full of joy. What had caused her fatigue is now giving energy. The child in my womb leaped for joy : She is no longer carrying him; he is carrying her.

Beyond that, Elizabeth is given new gifts. Elizabeth was not a prophetess; yet once Our Lady enters her life, she is given the spirit of prophecy. She is the first to proclaim not only that the Messiah is present, but that he is the Son of God: Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me? Who told her that her young cousin was to be mother of the Lord, something of which even Joseph was ignorant? All of this happened through Mary’s presence. So we are on scripturally sound terrain when we attest to the gifts of the Spirit that Our Lady poured into Mother Teresa, and when we declare these miracles of grace her reason for giving Our Lady “all her confidence.”

by Fr. Joseph Langford, Mother Teresa: In the Shadow of Our Lady

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

May 30, 2017 Tuesday: St. Joan of Arc

May 30, 2017 Tuesday: St. Joan of Arc

“Every man gives his life for what he believes. Every woman gives her life for what she believes. Sometimes people believe in little or nothing, and so they give their lives to little or nothing. One life is all we have, and we live it as we believe in living it…and then it’s gone.
But to surrender who you are and to live without belief is more terrible than dying – even more terrible than dying young.”
― Jeanne d'Arc (St. Joan of Arc)


Saint Joan of Arc, 1412-1431

The church officially remembers Joan of Arc not as a martyr but as a virgin—the Maid of Orleans. Of course, Joan was a martyr, but not in the technical sense. Yes, she died because she did what she thought God wanted her to do. But she was killed for her politics, not for her faith. Pagans did not execute her for refusing to worship their gods. Infidels did not slay her for defying them. Political enemies burned her at the stake for defeating them at war.

Paradoxically, Christian people, good and bad alike, cheered at her demise. Other Christians wept. This incongruity may trouble us, but Joan would have expected it. The war she fought embroiled French Christians against English Christians. We too have waged wars like that, pitting Christian against Christian. Just as we may have felt that God was on our side, Joan believed that God was with the French. When the judges who condemned her asked if the heavenly voices she followed to war spoke in English, she replied tartly, “Why should they speak English when they were not on the English side?”

Joan of Arc was born into the violent times of the fifteenth century. During her childhood, King Henry V of England invaded France and seized Normandy. He laid claim to the crown of the French king, Charles VI, who was mentally ill. Paralyzed by civil war between the duke of Burgundy and the duke of Orleans, the French could not put up much of a defense. Things worsened when agents of the duke of Orleans murdered the duke of Burgundy. The Burgundians reacted by becoming England’s allies.

Eventually, Burgundian mercenaries brought the war home to Joan’s family. The raiders sacked the little village of Domrémy-la-Pucelle, forcing them to flee. Thus, the indiscriminate brutality of war disrupted Joan of Arc’s pleasant childhood to acquaint her with fear.

In 1424, when Joan was only twelve years old, the great miracle of her life unfolded. One summer day in her father’s garden, she heard a mysterious voice, which was accompanied by a bright light. “At first I was very much frightened,” she said later. “The voice came toward the hour of noon. I had fasted the preceding day. I heard the voice on my right hand, in the direction of the church. I seldom hear it without seeing a light. The light always appears on the side from which I hear the voice.”

She identified the speaker as Michael the Archangel. Subsequently, he spoke to her many times, gradually revealing a preposterous mission. “You have been chosen to restore the kingdom of France,” said the voice, “and to protect King Charles.” She was to accomplish these things as the head of the army! Imagine the terror and confusion the archangel’s messages must have caused young Joan.

Joan found the visions comforting, but they also put her under great stress. Fear of her strict father compelled her to keep them secret; she confided only in her parish priest. The messages must have both thrilled and troubled her. The revelations conflicted with reality. How would a simple peasant girl accomplish such imposing, if not impossible, tasks?

By May 1428, Joan’s voices had become relentless and specific. They directed her to go at once to a town nearby and to offer her services to Robert de Baudricourt, the commander of the royal forces. Reluctantly, she obeyed. De Baudricourt, however, greeted her with laughter, telling her that her father should give her a good spanking.

At that time, conditions were deteriorating for the French. The English had put Orleans under siege, and the stronghold was in grave danger. Joan's voices became more insistent. “But I am merely a girl! I cannot ride a horse or wield a weapon!” she protested.

“It is God who commands it!” came the reply.

Unable to resist any longer, Joan secretly made her way back to de Baudricourt. When she arrived she told the commander a fact she could have known only by revelation. She said the French army—on that very day—had suffered a defeat near Orleans. Joan urged him to send her to Orleans so that she might fulfill her mission. When official reports confirmed Joan’s word, de Baudricourt finally took her seriously and sent her to Charles VII.

She was outfitted with white armor and provided a special standard bearing the names Jesus and Mary. The banner depicted two kneeling angels offering a fleur-de-lis to God. On April 29, 1429, Joan led her army into Orleans. Miraculously, she rallied the town. By May 8, the French had captured the English forts and had lifted the siege. An arrow had penetrated the armor over Joan’s breast, but the injury was not serious enough to keep her out of the battle. Everything, including the wound, occurred exactly as Joan had prophesied before the campaign. A peasant maiden had defeated the army of a mighty kingdom, a humiliation that demanded revenge.

The way to Reims was now open. Joan urged the immediate coronation of the king, but the French leaders dragged their feet. Finally, however, at Reims on July 17, 1429, Charles VII was anointed king of France. The Maid of Orleans stood triumphantly at his side. Joan had accomplished her mission.

During the battles at Orleans, the voices had told Joan she had only a little time left. Her shameful end lurked ominously in the shadows. Later, she sustained a serious arrow wound in the thigh during an unsuccessful attack on Paris. In May 1430, after spending the winter in court, she led a force to relieve Compiègne, which the Burgundians had under siege. Her effort failed, and the Burgundians captured her.

Through the summer and fall, the duke of Burgundy held Joan captive. The French, apparently ungrateful, made no effort to rescue her or obtain her release. On November 21, 1430, the Burgundians sold Joan to the English for a large sum. The English were quite eager to punish the maiden who had bested them.

They could not execute Joan for winning, but they could impose capital punishment for sorcery or heresy. For several months she was chained in a cell in the castle at Rouen, where five coarse guards constantly taunted her. In February 1431, Joan appeared before a tribunal headed by Peter Cauchon, the avaricious and wicked bishop of Beauvais.

Joan had no chance for a fair trial. She stood alone before devious judges, an uneducated girl conducting her own defense. The panel interrogated her six times in public, nine times in private. They questioned her closely about her visions, voices, male dress, faith, and submissiveness to the church. Giving good, sometimes even unexpectedly clever answers, Joan handled herself courageously. However, the judges took advantage of her lack of education and tripped her up on a few slippery theological points. The panel packed its summary with her damaging replies and condemned her with that unfair report. They declared that demons inspired her revelations.

The tribunal decided that unless Joan recanted, she was to die as a heretic. At first she refused. But later, when she was taken before a huge throng, she seems to have made some sort of retraction.

Cauchon visited her, observed her dress, and determined that she had fallen back into error. Joan, her strength renewed, then repudiated her earlier retraction. She declared that God had truly commissioned her and that her voices had come from him. Having condemned Joan of Arc as a relapsed heretic, the judges remanded her to the state for execution. The next morning she was taken into Rouen’s public square and burned at the stake.

Like Jesus’ life, Joan of Arc’s life seemed to end in failure.

Twenty-three years later, however, Joan’s mother and brothers asked that her case be reopened. Pope Callistus III appointed a commission to review the matter. In 1456, the new panel repudiated the trial and verdict and completely restored Joan’s reputation. Once again her piety and exemplary conduct had triumphed.

Few Christians hear heaven-sent voices. I know I don’t. Joan was one of those rare exceptions who did. She obeyed what she perceived to be God’s directions, and against all odds she achieved the purpose she was given. Though I’ve never heard a heaven-sent voice, now and then I sense something God wants of me. Doesn’t that also happen to you? Perhaps Joan’s example will reach down through the centuries to encourage us to listen closely for and to obey God’s message to us.

- by Bert Ghezzi, Mystics and Miracles

Saturday, May 27, 2017

May 28, 2017: Ascension of the Lord A

May 28, 2017: Ascension of the Lord A

Click to hear Audio Homily
Do you know of someone who has a child with autism? One couple noticed that their seemingly normal 22-month old toddler began to regress, losing eye contact, speech, and play skills. After four months of tests, doctors told them that their son, Josiah, had autism for which there is no known cure. Until the age of seven, no amount of therapies and treatments helped their son communicate. It was after the parents saw a documentary about a woman who taught nonverbal children to communicate by pointing at letters, that they decided to teach Josiah through using an iPad. To their surprise, he immediately began to type words, and the first word that Josiah typed on his own was, “godisagoodgiftgiver.” The parents were shocked. The next sets of words that Josiah typed were equally shocking, “God is very capable.” Their 7-year old son began to reveal through the iPad that God was showing him visions of Heaven. His parents were convinced that the complex and profound proclamations about God and Heaven from their son were beyond natural.

There is a tendency in our culture to do away with things that are slightly damaged. Instead of repairing them we say, “Well, I don’t have time to fix it, and it is just as cheap to throw it away and buy a new one.” Sometimes we treat people in the same way. We say, “Well, he has a problem with drinking; well, that person has disability, or she has emotional issues...we’d better not spend too much time with them.” Newly pregnant mothers have come to me very upset because they were told that the baby “has issues” and that they should consider ending the pregnancy--i.e. abort their child.

God’s approach with us, however, is very different. Even before Adam and Eve were tempted by Satan and lost their place in Paradise, God had an eternal plan to rescue humanity, ultimately sending His own Son to assume our lowly and fragile human nature and elevate it to a divine level. As St. Paul said, God raised Jesus from the dead and through ascension, seated him at his right hand in the heavens, far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion. And God put all things beneath his Son’s feet and gave him as the head over all things to us, the church, which is his body. Jesus’ ascension into heaven is hope for all of us, that through divine mercy, our nature is with God in Christ. As man, Our Lord Jesus lives forever to intercede for us with the Father. At the same time, from his throne of glory, Jesus sends out to the whole Church a message of hope and a call to holiness.

The power and efficacy of Our Lord’s Ascension touches all of us in the concrete reality of our daily lives. We may experience difficulties in life as we try to live out the Gospel, but because Jesus is at the right-hand of the Father and interceding for us, his power and grace will sustain each of us and give us the strength to remain steadfast in our dedication to God’s kingdom.

Going back to the child with autism.. One day, Josiah began to type on the  iPad, “Just as reality faces you with the might of a wrestler, you face reality with the joy of a Lord. He fights with joy inside of justice. He hits with the pipes of musicians. He fires with the hoping hearers marching to his ways...Worship the king, sing loud to the prized pardon who requires praise...Please him, all you hail the king of majesty forever. Make a noise to the king on the throne." (Josiah's Fire: Autism Stole His Words, God Gave Him a Voice written by Tahni Cullen)

This little autistic child is teaching us about the transforming power of divine love. We need to be be deeply conscious of Christ’s victory and triumph over sin and death. Realize that the strength that Our Lord gives us is greater than our weakness, greater than the weakness of the whole world. As Our Lord told his disciples, the power of the Holy Spirit is available to us, for us to be his witnesses.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

May 25, 2017 Thursday: 6th Week of Easter

May 25, 2017 Thursday: 6th Week of Easter

The light shining in darkness, part 2

Satan’s ploy with humanity, which has not changed from the Garden until today, is to bring us to question God’s intentions. He suggests that in dealing with us, God acts as self–interestedly as we do; that his commandments exist only to keep us under the divine thumb, subdued and servile. If he tells Adam not to eat of the tree, it is for the basest of reasons: God is afraid that you “will be like God …” (Gen 3:5). The God of Satan’s packaging is a miserly giver, changeable and untrustworthy, a master who gives only in order to get, only looking to exact our worship and servitude.

Once we start to question God’s intentions, though, once we doubt that he cares for our needs or listens to our prayer, what source of provision and protection is left to us beyond our own self-reliance? We are left with no other option than taking for ourselves whatever we lack, since God, or so we are convinced, is not looking out for anyone but himself.

Satan persuades us that we have no other choice but to take whatever we want, and by whatever means, regardless of the moral implications. The enemy leads us to sin, not so much because he enjoys its perversion, but in order to distance us from the Almighty. By separating Creator from creature, he keeps God’s love for us at bay, impeded from reaching us in the only way possible through our own free choice, and by our own hand. Satan’s appeal plays to the basest of our ego-drives. By stimulating our selfish and superficial desires, he hopes to drown out our deepest God-given and God-fulfilled longing. He offers us, in exchange for the deeper gifts God has promised, only excitation and distraction: fool’s gold, pacifiers, surrogates dangled before us like baubles. These are poor substitutes for the gift of divine love, impostors that deprive us of our true and lasting happiness in God.

By making an idol of the self, and by ego run amok through sin, we pay a steep price in loss of relationship with God, with others, and ultimately with ourselves. Rather than climbing the heights to rival the Creator, to “be like God” (Gen 3:5), as we have attempted from Eden to Babel and down through history, we end up not only not like God, but unlike ourselves living more basely than the animals beneath us. These are the new lows humanity has reached; this is the new poverty; these are the depths we have carved out for ourselves alone.

- Fr. Joseph Langford, MC
Mother Teresa’s SECRET FIRE
The Encounter that Changed Her Life, and How It Can Transform Your Own

May 24, 2017 Wednesday: 6th Week of Easter

The light shining in darkness, Part 1

By shining with God’s light before the world, Mother Teresa has indirectly pointed out the darkness that is its opposite; she has helped us to name the darkness , to unmask the great lie.

Each time she spoke in public, after making the Sign of the Cross over her lips, Mother Teresa would repeat this line from St. John’s gospel: “For God so loved the world …” (Jn 3:16). She would remind her audience that each of us is precious to God, chosen out of countless others who could have existed in our place. She would go on to say that each of us is cherished, prized as “the apple of his eye” (Dt 32:10), and that as long as we have breath, this love will never leave us. This was the light she held up before the world, reflected in her words and works. This is the truth that frees us to get up when we fall, to hope in a love we cannot earn, and to become what we were made to be.

While those who heard Mother Teresa speak might have forgotten or ignored this truth, or even doubted it, Satan knows it all too well, “and trembles” before its implications (cf. Jas 2:19). God’s faithful love, his undying thirst for us, represents the undoing of Satan’s kingdom. It buckles the very foundations and shakes the underpinnings of Satan’s empire. Since Satan cannot bring God to stop loving us though he tries, accusing us “day and night before our God” (Rev 12:10) he resorts to the next best thing. Since this “enemy of our human nature” 126 cannot change the heart of God, he does all in his power to change the heart of man the focus of his strategy since the Garden. Because he cannot stop God from loving, he tries to stop man from believing. In the end, the result is the same. As far as we are concerned, by our unbelief in his love, it becomes as if God did not love us and either way, we are equally lost.

Using every twist of logic, every un-redressed injustice unearthed from our past, every broken dream and unhealed wound in a pantheon of hurt, Satan gnaws away at our belief in God’s love and care. While there is a “blessed night,” a sacred darkness that hides a light too bright to behold, there is also an unholy night, a darkness that is the absence of all light and worse, the opposite of all light, a kind of demonic anti-light. If all true light is the breath of the Holy Spirit, there is, on the other hand, a toxic darkness that is the breath of the evil one. His one desire is to nullify the light and power of God’s love, to distance us from that love, to neutralize its impact on our conscious lives. He knows that the less we are aware of God’s love, the less we are in touch with it, the more likely it is that we will forget or doubt it and all the easier it will be to entice us to sin, to live instead for ego.

- Fr. Joseph Langford, MC
Mother Teresa’s SECRET FIRE The Encounter that Changed Her Life, and How It Can Transform Your Own

Saturday, May 20, 2017

May 21, 2017: 6th Sunday Easter A

May 21, 2017: 6th Sunday Easter A

Click to hear Audio Homily
On one Sunday morning, Kirk, a 10-yr. old boy woke up with a bad attitude. His mother was urging him to wash up and dress for church, but Kirk was not being cooperative. He was disgruntled because he couldn’t stay home and watch TV with Dad. Hearing all the commotion, his dad got up from the couch and intervened. “Son, you need to go to mass. I went every Sunday when I was your age.” Little Kirk turned around with his shoulder slumped and headed to the car but not before his dad heard him grumble, “Yeah, and I’ll bet it won’t do me any good either.” When Kirk returned to his pew from receiving communion, he was surprised to see his dad in the communion line.

What prompted that dad to go to mass? Was it simply guilt? Was he feeling the emptiness of not having been nourished by Jesus in the Eucharist for a long while? Or was he prompted by the Holy Spirit? St. Paul reminds us in the Second Reading, “Beloved: Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.” As the spiritual leader of the house, that dad recalled his baptismal promise to witness his faith. He felt convicted in someway, like most of us at times, the lack of our fervor in our love for God.

Our Lord stated plainly to his disciples, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Jesus wasn’t trying to twist our arms to get us to comply to do certain things. Knowing our human weakness, Jesus asked his Father to send the Holy Spirit, our Divine Advocate, to dwell in us so that we are not left as orphans and left to our devices. This Spirit of truth is within each one of us, defending us from all that can separate us from Jesus.

This Spirit of truth invites us to live in the truth of Jesus in the midst of a culture where all too often selfish motives and double-speak masquerade as the truth. Have you noticed how these days a lie is justified as strategy, exploitation is called business, irresponsibility is called tolerance, injustice is called status quo, arbitrariness is called freedom, lack of respect is called sincerity?

Holy Spirit led Our Lord to unveil the hypocrisy in the lives of the people and call them to conversion while seeking the loveless, the unloving, and the unloveable. Are we going to allow this Spirit of truth to be diminished by our inaction? Or are we going to announce the Good New of Jesus through our daily reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit in a culture that is so in need of encouragement and hope? The Holy Spirit gathers our scattered desires and re-focus them on God. Desire for God integrates us, as our life becomes focused on the only One who can fill us. This Spirit is encouragement, power, light, love… that reaches us from God’s ultimate mystery. As the father of the little boy responded to the prompting of the Holy Spirit with humility, we must welcome this Spirit with a trusting heart and humbly respond with generosity.

Friday, May 19, 2017

May 19, 2017 Friday: 5th Week of Easter A

May 19, 2017 Friday: 5th Week of Easter A

Friendship with God

Jesus calls his disciples his personal friends. Jesus not only showed his disciples that he personally cared for them and sought their welfare. He personally enjoyed their company and wanted to be with them in a close and intimate relationship. He ate with them, shared everything he had with them - even his innermost heart and thoughts. And he spent himself in doing as much good for them as he could. To know Jesus personally is to know God and the love and friendship he offers to each one of us.
One of the special marks of favor shown in the Scriptures is to be called the friend of God. Abraham is called the friend of God (Isaiah 41:8, James 2:23). God spoke with Moses as a man speaks with his friend (Exodus 33:11). Jesus, the Lord and Master, calls the disciples his friends rather than his servants.

What does it mean to be a friend of God? Friendship with God who is our everlasting Father and with his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ entails a personal, close, and loving relationship and a union of heart, mind, and spirit with the One who created us in love for love. Such a relationship with our Father, Creator, and Redeemer involves loyalty, respect, and obedience. But it is even more than these because God has chosen to love us in the same way in which the Father and the Son love and serve each other - a total giving of oneself to the other in a bond of affection, esteem, and joy in each others company.
Jesus' discourse on friendship and brotherly love echoes the words of Proverbs: A friend loves at all times; and a brother is born for adversity (Proverbs 17:17). The distinctive feature of Jesus' relationship with his disciples was his personal, loyal, and sacrificial love for each one of them. He loved his own to the end (John 13:1). His love was unconditional and wholly directed to the good of others. His love was costly and sacrificial. He gave the best he had and all that he had. He gave his very own life for those he loved in order to secure for them an everlasting life of union and love with the Father in heaven.

www.dailyscripture.net

Monday, May 15, 2017

May 14, 2017: 5th Sunday of Easter A

May 14, 2017: 5th Sunday A

Click to hear Audio Homily
Around this time of the year many of us receive invitations to high school or college graduations, and we are challenged to find a meaningful graduation gift. Cash, gift cards, a laptop, or a travel voucher come to mind as typical gifts. However, I venture to say there is one gift that you could give that the graduate may not appreciate initially, but will appreciate later. My mom gave such a gift to me when I graduated from high school. Her gift to me was a rosary. The rosary was not just any rosary; the rosary was not even a brand new one. The rosary that she gave me was one that she had prayed with for at least a year. She picked the rosary up early each morning when she woke up and again late at night before she went to bed. Through the contemplative prayer of the rosary she encountered Our Lord through the gentle guiding hands of Blessed Mother. My mother wanted me to experience the deep abiding peace that came with encountering Jesus, the Prince of Peace, in prayer. She knew that I was going to face uncertainties and trying times as I embarked on a new beginning as a college student. One thing she knew in her own experience was that praying the rosary helped her imitate Blessed Mother who trusted in God even when the future was uncertain.

The Gospel we heard today is a discourse from the Last Supper, right before Jesus’ arrest, Passion, and crucifixion. The atmosphere was one of gloom and anxiety as the enemies of Jesus closed in around him. Our Lord said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.” He spoke those words to assure his disciples during such time of anxiety. Jesus called his disciples to trust in His Father and to trust in Him. These words were not only for the disciples but are so necessary for our graduates and for each of us. There comes a time when we have to believe where we cannot prove, and to accept where we cannot understand. If, in the darkest hour, we believe that somehow there is a purpose in life and that the purpose is love, even the unbearable becomes bearable and even in the darkness there is a glimmer of light. Trusting in Jesus means that even in the worst-case scenarios in our lives, God will not allow us to be crushed and lost. In those times we try our best and trust that God will take care of the rest.

Jesus also said, speaking to Thomas, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Ever since Adam and Eve fled the Garden of Eden after their fall, we too struggle with conflicting desires within us--a part of us desires to be close to God, while the other part of us desires to flee from him. There is a sacred space that God created deep within our soul, what spiritual writers call “the heart,” that we are called to journey to every moment. However, original sin pulls us away from making that journey, leaving us to feel empty and unsatisfied. We restlessly seek for something or someone else to fill this empty feeling, but are never satisfied because only our communion with Heavenly Father fully satisfies us.

Jesus said that only through him, with him, and in him, we find our way back to the Heavenly Father, the One who awaits in that sacred space within us to heal and fill our deepest desires. How do we accomplish this daily, to find our way back to the Father? The way back to the Father is to turn our hearts and minds to Him through prayer. A very effective prayer is Blessed Mother’s rosary, which allows us a way to have an intimate encounter with Her Son who is the merciful face of the Father. Most of us have difficulty praying because the distractions within and outside of our soul pull us away from encountering Him. We are frequently on the surface of our soul, like a styrofoam cup tossed about on the surface of an ocean. The commotion of our selfishness, jealousy, anger, lust, and greed pulls us toward the surface and the superficial. We need a way to go deeper into the sacred space within our soul where God and his love can be found and experienced.

When we thumb through the beads of a rosary in our hands and recite the words of the Our Father and Hail Mary, our conscious attention begins to dive deeper into the depths of our soul. We achieve interior silence as our body and mind are quieted down. Our often busy imagination then focuses on the mystery of Our Lord’s life, and we are transported beyond time and space to the very presence of Our Lord who is the way, the truth, and the life. A storm of thoughts and distractions may go on above us, but as we provide a minimal inner movement of our fingers, our lips, and our imagination, we remain in the depths of our soul in union with God who loves us.

What a gift it is give to someone who is experiencing uncertainty or turbulence in their lives when we give them the gift of prayer--for example, to hand them a rosary that we prayed with personally! It’s like giving someone scuba gear to help them dive deep to harvest pearls of their soul. My own mother wanted to share with me the grace of encountering Jesus in the depths of her soul by giving me her personal rosary. Sometimes we don’t realize how powerful the gift of prayer is for someone. Do you have a rosary that’s been gathering dust? I encourage you to begin to pray with that rosary and make it a gift for someone in your life. Heavenly Father awaits patiently within us, calling for us to be with Him. We sense this as a longing, hunger, or thirst. Are we prepared to make that choice to leave the distraction behind and begin our daily pilgrimage to Him?

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The 6 Fatima apparitions of 1917

The 6 Fatima apparitions of 1917


There were six Marian apparitions to the shepherd children from May 13 to Oct. 13, 1917. All of these apparitions took place on the 13th of the month except for the August apparition.

May 13, 1917
The children were tending their sheep near the Cova da Iria in Fatima, a few miles from their home. A beautiful young woman dressed in white appeared to them over the holm oak. The Lady said she was from heaven and wanted the children to return to the same place at the same hour on the 13th of each month for six months. She asked the children to pray the Rosary every day.

June 13, 1917

Our Lady again asked the children to pray the Rosary every day, and she asked Lucia to learn to read and write. She revealed that Jacinta and Francisco would die soon, but Lucia would live longer. She then revealed that God wished to establish in the world devotion to her Immaculate Heart, and her heart would be a refuge and a way to lead people to God.

July 13, 1917

The Lady disclosed a three-part secret to the children. (See “The secrets of Fatima” on Page 12.)

Aug. 19, 1917
The children missed their scheduled meeting with the Lady at the Cova da Iria on Aug. 13 because they were detained by the anti-clerical civil authorities. The children resisted efforts to have them deny the apparitions. They were put in prison and released on Aug. 15, the feast of the Assumption. The Lady then appeared to the children a few days later, on Aug. 19 at Valinhos near their home in Aljustrel. The Lady asked the children to continue to come to the Cova da Iria on the 13th of each month and to pray the Rosary every day. She told them that she would perform a miracle the last month (October).

Sept. 13, 1917
The Lady asked the children to continue to pray the Rosary for the end of the war. She told them that Jesus as well as St. Joseph would appear in October.

Oct. 13, 1917
The most dramatic of the apparitions. Some 55,000 people gathered on a rainy day near Cova da Iria in Fatima and witnessed the “miracle of the sun.” Some 20,000 other people witnessed the miracle from as far away as 25 miles. The sun started spinning and grew larger. It looked like it was going to fall on the earth. People fell to their knees in fear. The people then noticed that their clothes were completely dry even though they had been standing in the rain for some time. Even unbelievers and skeptics witnessed the phenomenon. The secular newspaper, O Século, had a front page story on “How the sun danced at midday in Fatima.”

While the people were looking at the miracle of the sun, the three children saw a sequence of apparitions. St. Joseph was seen with the Christ Child, and they appeared to bless the world. The Blessed Mother was seen robed in white with a blue mantel; then she appeared as Our Lady of Sorrows and then as Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. The Lady revealed her identity to the children as “Our Lady of the Rosary.” She asked them to pray the Rosary every day and to have a chapel built at Cova da Iria, the site of the apparitions.

May 13, 2017: Our Lady of Fatima, Pope Francis in Fatima

May 13, 2017: Our Lady of Fatima

Homily of Pope Francis
Holy Mass, Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima 13 May 2017


            “[There] appeared in heaven a woman clothed with the sun”.  So the seer of Patmos tells us in the Book of Revelation (12:1), adding that she was about to give birth to a son.  Then, in the Gospel, we hear Jesus say to his disciple, “Here is your mother” (Jn 19:27).  We have a Mother!  “So beautiful a Lady”, as the seers of Fatima said to one another as they returned home on that blessed day of 13 March a hundred years ago.  That evening, Jacinta could not restrain herself and told the secret to her mother: “Today I saw Our Lady”.  They had seen the Mother of Heaven.  Many others sought to share that vision, but… they did not see her.  The Virgin Mother did not come here so that we could see her.  We will have all eternity for that, provided, of course, that we go to heaven.

            Our Lady foretold, and warned us about, a way of life that is godless and indeed profanes God in his creatures.  Such a life – frequently proposed and imposed – risks leading to hell.  Mary came to remind us that God’s light dwells within us and protects us, for, as we heard in the first reading, “the child [of the woman] was snatched away and taken to God” (Rev 12:5).  In Lucia’s account, the three chosen children found themselves surrounded by God’s light as it radiated from Our Lady.  She enveloped them in the mantle of Light that God had given her.  According to the belief and experience of many pilgrims, if not of all, Fatima is more than anything this mantle of Light that protects us, here as in almost no other place on earth.  We need but take refuge under the protection of the Virgin Mary and to ask her, as the Salve Regina teaches: “show unto us… Jesus”.

            Dear pilgrims, we have a Mother. Clinging to her like children, we live in the hope that rests on Jesus.  As we heard in the second reading, “those who receive the abundance of the grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:17).  When Jesus ascended to heaven, he brought to the Heavenly Father our humanity, which he assumed in the womb of the Virgin Mary and will never forsake.  Like an anchor, let us fix our hope on that humanity, seated in heaven at the right hand of the Father (cf. Eph 2:6).  May this hope guide our lives!  It is a hope that sustains us always, to our dying breath.

            Confirmed in this hope, we have gathered here to give thanks for the countless graces bestowed over these past hundred years.  All of them passed beneath the mantle of light that Our Lady has spread over the four corners of the earth, beginning with this land of Portugal, so rich in hope.  We can take as our examples Saint Francisco and Saint Jacinta, whom the Virgin Mary introduced into the immense ocean of God’s light and taught to adore him.  That was the source of their strength in overcoming opposition and suffering.  God’s presence became constant in their lives, as is evident from their insistent prayers for sinners and their desire to remain ever near “the hidden Jesus” in the tabernacle.

            In her Memoirs (III, 6), Sister Lucia quotes Jacinta who had just been granted a vision: “Do you not see all those streets, all those paths and fields full of people crying out for food, yet have nothing to eat?  And the Holy Father in a church, praying before the Immaculate Heart of Mary?  And all those people praying with him?”  Thank you, brothers and sisters, for being here with me!  I could not fail to come here to venerate the Virgin Mary and to entrust to her all her sons and daughters. Under her mantle they are not lost; from her embrace will come the hope and the peace that they require, and that I implore for all my brothers and sisters in baptism and in our human family, especially the sick and the disabled, prisoners and the unemployed, the poor and the abandoned.  Dear brothers and sisters, let us pray to God with the hope that others will hear us; and let us speak to others with the certainty that God will help us.

            Indeed, God created us to be a source of hope for others, a true and attainable hope, in accordance with each person’s state of life.  In “asking” and “demanding” of each of us the fulfillment of the duties of our proper state (Letters of Sister Lucia, 28 February 1943), God effects a general mobilization against the indifference that chills the heart and worsens our myopia.  We do not want to be a stillborn hope!  Life can survive only because of the generosity of other lives.  “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (Jn 12:24).  The Lord, who always goes before us, said this and did this.  Whenever we experience the cross, he has already experienced it before us.  We do not mount the cross to find Jesus.  Instead it was he who, in his self-abasement, descended even to the cross, in order to find us, to dispel the darkness of evil within us, and to bring us back to the light.

            With Mary’s protection, may we be for our world sentinels of the dawn, contemplating the true face of Jesus the Saviour, resplendent at Easter.  Thus may we rediscover the young and beautiful face of the Church, which shines forth when she is missionary, welcoming, free, faithful, poor in means and rich in love.

Monday, May 8, 2017

100th Anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima Saturday, May 13, 2017, 8AM at Ascension Catholic Church, Donaldsonville

100th Anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima
Saturday, May 13, 2017, 8AM
Rosary and Mass
at Ascension Catholic Church

716 Mississippi St.
Donaldsonville LA 70346

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The meaning of Fatima: 100 years later

https://www.osv.com/OSVNewsweekly/Article/TabId/535/ArtMID/13567/ArticleID/21367/The-meaning-of-Fatima-100-years-later.aspx

The year 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady to the three shepherd children at Fatima, Portugal, where the Blessed Mother appeared once each month from May 13 until Oct. 13, 1917.

The message of Fatima highlights many central truths and devotions of the Catholic faith: the Trinity, the Eucharist, penance, the Rosary and sacrifices for the conversion of sinners. There is special emphasis on the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which is a refuge of maternal love for us all and a sure path that leads us to God. In the end, Mary’s Immaculate Heart will triumph because Mary is full of God’s grace and is all pure. She has the heart of a mother who cares for her children and wishes them to be saved by her divine Son, Jesus.

Although 2017 marks the centenary year, the Fatima apparitions began with the three apparitions of the Angel of Peace (also called the Angel of Portugal) in 1916 and extended beyond 1917 with subsequent apparitions given to Sister Lucia dos Santos in Pontevedra, Spain (1925-1927) and Tuy, Spain (1929).

Fatima is one of the most significant of all Marian apparitions. Along with Guadalupe (Dec. 12) and Lourdes (Feb. 11), it is one of three Marian apparitions honored with a feast day. In 2002, Pope St. John Paul II added the May 13 feast of Our Lady of Fatima to the general Roman calendar. May 13 was the day of the first Fatima apparition of 1917, and May 13, 1981, was the day when St. John Paul II survived an attempt on his life in St. Peter’s Square. John Paul II credited his survival to the intervention of Our Lady of Fatima. The assassin’s bullet that narrowly missed killing the pope now is inserted in a crown of Our Lady housed at the Fatima shrine. Fatima is also linked with the collapse of Russian communism more than 25 years ago.

It is estimated that some 4-5 million people visit Fatima each year, and more are expected for the centennial year, including a visit by Pope Francis, who plans to travel to Portugal to celebrate the 100-year anniversary.

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!

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The 6 apparitions of 1917

There were six Marian apparitions to the shepherd children from May 13 to Oct. 13, 1917. All of these apparitions took place on the 13th of the month except for the August apparition.

May 13, 1917
The children were tending their sheep near the Cova da Iria in Fatima, a few miles from their home. A beautiful young woman dressed in white appeared to them over the holm oak. The Lady said she was from heaven and wanted the children to return to the same place at the same hour on the 13th of each month for six months. She asked the children to pray the Rosary every day.

June 13, 1917
Our Lady again asked the children to pray the Rosary every day, and she asked Lucia to learn to read and write. She revealed that Jacinta and Francisco would die soon, but Lucia would live longer. She then revealed that God wished to establish in the world devotion to her Immaculate Heart, and her heart would be a refuge and a way to lead people to God.

July 13, 1917
The Lady disclosed a three-part secret to the children. (See “The secrets of Fatima” on Page 12.)

Aug. 19, 1917
The children missed their scheduled meeting with the Lady at the Cova da Iria on Aug. 13 because they were detained by the anti-clerical civil authorities. The children resisted efforts to have them deny the apparitions. They were put in prison and released on Aug. 15, the feast of the Assumption. The Lady then appeared to the children a few days later, on Aug. 19 at Valinhos near their home in Aljustrel. The Lady asked the children to continue to come to the Cova da Iria on the 13th of each month and to pray the Rosary every day. She told them that she would perform a miracle the last month (October).

Sept. 13, 1917
The Lady asked the children to continue to pray the Rosary for the end of the war. She told them that Jesus as well as St. Joseph would appear in October.

Oct. 13, 1917
The most dramatic of the apparitions. Some 55,000 people gathered on a rainy day near Cova da Iria in Fatima and witnessed the “miracle of the sun.” Some 20,000 other people witnessed the miracle from as far away as 25 miles. The sun started spinning and grew larger. It looked like it was going to fall on the earth. People fell to their knees in fear. The people then noticed that their clothes were completely dry even though they had been standing in the rain for some time. Even unbelievers and skeptics witnessed the phenomenon. The secular newspaper, O Século, had a front page story on “How the sun danced at midday in Fatima.”

While the people were looking at the miracle of the sun, the three children saw a sequence of apparitions. St. Joseph was seen with the Christ Child, and they appeared to bless the world. The Blessed Mother was seen robed in white with a blue mantel; then she appeared as Our Lady of Sorrows and then as Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. The Lady revealed her identity to the children as “Our Lady of the Rosary.” She asked them to pray the Rosary every day and to have a chapel built at Cova da Iria, the site of the apparitions.

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THE CONSECRATION OF RUSSIA

On June 13, 1929, when Sister Lucia was in residence at the Dorothean convent in Tuy, Spain, she had a remarkable vision of the Most Holy Trinity with Jesus on the cross and the Blessed Virgin at his side. After this vision, Our Lady spoke to Sister Lucia, telling her: “The moment has come in which God asks the Holy Father, in union with all the bishops of the world, to make the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, promising to save it by this means.”

For a variety of reasons, the consecration of Russia as requested by Our Lady did not occur until March 25, 1984. Pope Pius XII consecrated the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on Oct. 31, 1942, following the requests of Sister Lucia, the bishops of Portugal and Blessed Alexandrina da Costa (1904-1955). On July 7, 1952, he also consecrated the Russian people to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

These consecrations, however, were not done in communion with all the bishops of the world. After the assassination attempt of 1981, Pope St. John Paul II decided to carry out the consecration as Our Lady of Fatima had requested. On Dec. 8, 1983, he sent out letters inviting all Catholic and Orthodox bishops to join him in prayer for the act of consecration, which took place at St. Peter’s Square on the feast of the Annunciation, March 25, 1984, before a statue of Our Lady of Fatima. In this act, St. John Paul II said: “In a special way we entrust and consecrate to you those individuals and nations which particularly need to be thus entrusted and consecrated.”

Although some have argued that St. John Paul II did not consecrate Russia properly, Sister Lucia herself confirmed that the 1984 consecration corresponded to what Our Lady requested. In a letter of Nov. 8, 1989, she wrote: “Yes it has been done just as Our Lady asked, on 25 March, 1984.” She confirmed this again in 2001.

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The Visionaries

Lucia dos Santos
Born: March 28, 1907
Died: Feb. 13, 2005

Bio: The oldest of the three visionaries of Fatima, Lucia was the youngest of seven brothers and sisters. She received harsh criticism after telling family and friends about the visitations, so much so that she was reluctant to return to the Cova da Iria on July 13, 1917. The other seers convinced her to go back. Following the deaths of her cousins, at 14 years old, she was sent to the Dorothean Sisters of Villar and in 1928 became a sister of St. Dorothy. In 1946, she entered the convent of the Carmelite Sisters of Coimbra and was known as Sister Maria Lucia of the Immaculate Heart. She was visited by Mary on several more occasions. Following her death in 2005 at the age of 97, Pope Benedict XVI in 2008 waived the normal five-year waiting period before the start of a canonization cause.

Blessed Francisco Marto
Born: June 11, 1908
Died: April 4, 1919

Bio: Francisco was 9 years old at the time of the apparitions, during which he saw the Blessed Mother but could not hear what she was saying. Described in Lucia’s memoirs as a musically gifted boy, pensive and easygoing, Francisco chose to “console Jesus for the sins of the world” in private prayer following the apparitions. He fell ill during an influenza outbreak just one year after the apparitions at Fatima, and he embraced his suffering, reciting the Rosary daily as instructed by Our Lady. He received his first holy Communion on his deathbed. In her memoirs, Sister Lucia wrote, “He flew away to heaven in the arms of our Heavenly Mother.” He was beatified by Pope St. John Paul II in Fatima on May 13, 2000.

Blessed Jacinta Marto
Born: March 11, 1910
Died: Feb. 20, 1920

Bio: Jacinta was just 7 at the time of the apparitions. After seeing the vision of hell, the young girl dedicated herself to praying for the salvation of souls. She refused water during the hot summer. Like her brother, Francisco, Jacinta fell ill with influenza, but her suffering was even greater than his. She underwent surgery and several other minor procedures in order to try to save her life. Her pain was offered for the conversion of sinners. She suffered from pneumonia and tuberculosis, which forced her hospitalization, during which she was visited by the Blessed Mother three more times. The hospital chaplain refused to give her Communion, saying he would return the following day, but she died shortly after. She was beatified on the same day as her brother, May 13, 2000, by Pope St. John Paul II.

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THE SECRETS OF FATIMA

During the apparition on July 13, 1917, Our Lady revealed to the shepherd children a three-part secret. There is concern by some that the third part of the secret has yet to be fully revealed, but Sister Lucia before her death testified that “no secret remains.”

The first secret
The first part of the secret shared by Our Lady was a vision of hell, after which she taught the children a prayer to be recited after each decade of the Rosary: “O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those most in need of thy mercy.”

The second secret
The second part of the secret concerned the end of World War I and the warning of a worse war during the pontificate of Pope Pius XI if people did not cease offending God. (Pius XI was not elected until 1922). There was also the warning that if people did not convert, Russia would “spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecution of the Church.” Moreover, “the good will be martyred; the Holy Father will have much to suffer; various nations will be annihilated.” The Lady, though, told the shepherd children: “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.”

The third secret
The third part of the secret was kept hidden by Sister Lucia until she was ordered by the bishop of Leiria, Spain, on Jan. 3, 1944, to write it down. This letter was placed in the secret archives of the Holy Office in 1957.

Pope St. John XXIII in 1959 and Blessed Pope Paul VI in 1965 read the letter but declined to publish it. After the May 13, 1981, attempt on his life, Pope St. John Paul II asked for the letter. He later authorized the disclosure of the secret in conjunction with the May 13, 2000, beatification ceremony for Francisco and Jacinta Marto.

The secret describes an angel with a flaming sword in his left hand crying out: “Penance, penance, penance.” Then a bishop dressed in white (thought to be the Holy Father) joins other bishops, priests and men and women religious in ascending a steep mountain with a big cross on top. On the way to the mountain, the Holy Father goes through a city half in ruins, and “he prays for the souls of the corpses” he sees. At the top of the mountain, he kneels before the cross and is killed by a group of soldiers who fire bullets and arrows at him. Other bishops, priests, men and women religious and laypeople are also killed. Then two angels gather up the blood of these martyrs into a crystal aspersorium and sprinkle the souls on their way to God.

First Saturdays
On Dec. 10, 1925, the Holy Virgin, together with the Christ Child, appeared to Sister Lucia in the convent of the Dorothean Sisters in Pontevedra, Spain. The Christ Child asked Sister Lucia to “have compassion on the heart of your most holy Mother, covered with thorns, with which ungrateful men pierce at every moment, and there is no one to make an act of reparation to remove them.”
Then the Blessed Mother spoke to Lucia, and she promised “to assist at the hour of death, with the graces necessary for salvation, all those who, on the first Saturday of five consecutive months, shall confess [their sins], receive holy Communion, recite five decades of the Rosary, and keep me company for 15 minutes while meditating on the 15 mysteries of the Rosary, with the intention of making reparation to me.”

Some have claimed that the full third secret of Fatima has not been revealed. Sister Lucia, however, has confirmed the full text of the secret in two meetings with the secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the bishop of Leiria-Fatima. In the second meeting, Sister Lucia made it clear that “everything has been published; no secret remains.”

O most pure and loving Heart of My Mother

"O most pure and loving Heart of my Mother and my Queen, Grant that I may love thee, love thee daily more and more. Grant that I may love thee, love thee daily more and more."

-Hymn of thanksgiving after mass sung by all the Missionaries of Charity sisters around the world

(Photo: Missionaries of Charity Convent Chapel, St. Agnes, Baton Rouge)

Saturday, May 6, 2017

May 7, 2017: 4th Sunday of Easter A


May 7, 2017: 4th Sunday of Easter A
Many parishes throughout our diocese are celebrating First Communion during this month (and Donaldsonville is celebrating it this weekend). It’s so precious to see little children all dressed up in white dresses and suits, surrounded by family, receiving Eucharist for the first time. I’m always tickled by children not quite the age to receive their First Communion stand before me in the communion line waiting for me to give them communion. Some little ones wink at me and lift their hands up expecting me to hand them communion. Other little ones are more direct and tell me outright, “I want one.” Written on their disappointed faces after I simply bless them is their desire and hunger to receive. I wish that all of us who come to receive communion have that kind of fervent desire to be fed by Jesus our Shepherd. 

On this 4th Sunday of Easter, which is also known as the Good Shepherd Sunday, Our Lord desires us to entrust our lives unto him, for he is the shepherd of our soul who knows each one of us, our needs, our merits, and our faults. He never tires of seeking us out and forgiving us. He gives eternal life to us by receiving us into his sheepfold through Baptism. He strengthens our faith by giving us his Holy Spirit in Confirmation. He supplies food for our souls by Holy Eucharist and by the divine words of the holy Scriptures. 

God’s thirst for us is unconditional and unchanging, even when we find ourselves lost in the struggle with sin. Far from diminishing God’s yearning for us, our brokenness unleashes in him yet deeper wellsprings of tenderness and mercy. In each moment of our wandering, God is already there awaiting us, along the very path of our betrayal. Knocking at the door of our heart, God calls us back in a refrain that has echoed down the ages since the Garden: “Where are you?” (Gen 3: 9).  He heals the wounds of our souls by the sacrament of Reconciliation and strengthens us in our illness and old age by the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. From the beginning of our lives to the end of our earthly pilgrimage, God loves us as we are, and with all our limitations. 

In response to His abiding love, we too are called to become good shepherds towards those entrusted to us, praying for them, spending our time and talents for their welfare, and guarding them from physical and spiritual dangers.

Take for example what happened in battlefield during the Korean War.  A soldier dying on a battlefield asked a medic to find him a priest. The Medic could not find one. A wounded man lying nearby heard the request and said, “I am a priest.” The Medic turned to the wounded man and saw his condition, which was as bad as that of the other. “You won’t survive if you move,” he warned. But the wounded chaplain replied, “The life of a man’s soul is worth more than a few hours of my life.” He then crawled to the dying soldier, heard his confession, gave him absolution and the two died hand in hand.

We as parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles, teachers, doctors, nurses, civil servants are all shepherds. When we respond to our baptismal promises, nurtured by the Eucharist, we open ourselves to the power of God’s transforming love. Only then will our hearts become like His, and we will not ignore human suffering and injustice. Only then will we follow the Good Shepherd and truly feed others with the Bread of Life.