Thursday, May 31, 2012

5/31/2012 - Fourth anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood -

It is very hard for me to believe, but today, on the Visitation of the Virgin Mary to her Cousin Elizabeth, I celebrate four years as a priest.  My ordination to the priesthood in the Diocese of Jackson, Mississippi was on May 31, 2012.  I remember all of my family and friends who travel here to Mississippi for my ordination, including friends from Canada, my sister Kimberley from California, my brother Cameron from Illinois, and friends from North Carolina and Sacred Heart School of Theology in Wisconsin.  I give thanks to the people of the parishes where I served since that time - All Saints Catholic Church in Belzoni; St Richard and Holy Family in Jackson; and St Mary and St Francis of Assisi in Yazoo City.  I gave thanks to the correctional institutions where I have served as a priest: Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Pearl,  and the Yazoo County Regional Correctional Facility and the Yazoo City Federal Correctional Facility in Yazoo City.  And I would not be here if it were not for the many people who nurtured me along the way, including my home parish of Sacred Heart in Greenville, Mississippi.  I give thanks to the Lord, and hope to serve him and his Church for many years to come. 

Picture of the Visitation that hangs in my office, 
given to me by St Richard Catholic School in Jackson, MS. 

Metal cross that hangs in my office, given to me by parishioners
Beth and Paul Alleman of All Saints parish in Belzoni, MS. 

3 de junio de 2012 – La Santísima Trinidad – Mateo 28:16-20 -

        Hoy, con mucho gozo en nuestros corazones, celebramos la Solemnidad de la Santísima Trinidad.  Antes de enviar sus discípulos al mundo para ser misioneros del Evangelio, Jesucristo explicó: “Vayan, y hagan que todos los pueblos sean mis discípulos, bautizándolos en el nombre del Padre y del Hijo y del Espíritu Santo.”  Y hoy día, este mandato es muy claro para nosotros también.   El Padre nos dio su Hijo para nuestra salvación, y ellos nos dan el Espíritu Santo como la presencia de Dios con nosotros.  La Trinidad vive en nosotros como una realidad muy concreta. San Gregorio de Nisa, quien escribió mucho sobre la Trinidad en el siglo cuatro, nos dice que “el santo Bautismo se nos imparte la gracia de la
inmortalidad por la fe en el Padre y en el Hijo
y en el Espíritu Santo.”  Conocemos mucho sobre Dios & sobre la Santísima Trinidad, pero, en su realidad, la Trinidad es un misterio de nuestra fe.  El misterio de la Santísima Trinidad es el punto de partida de toda la verdad revelada de nuestra fe cristiana.   El misterio de la Santísima Trinidad es la base de donde procede la vida divina en nuestro mundo con nosotros.  En verdad, podemos declarar sin duda que somos hijos del Padre.  Podemos decir que somos hermanos y seguidores de su Hijo, que estamos caminando continuamente en nuestra fe con el Espíritu Santo en cada momento de nuestra vida.  En nuestra celebración de la Trinidad este domingo, podemos celebrar también la filiación divina que tenemos en la Trinidad.   En esta filiación, nos hacemos templos vivos de esta misma Trinidad.
       Para mi, como sacerdote en la Iglesia católica, es mi responsabilidad para llevar el mensaje al pueblo que Dios es amor, que Dios es al ejemplificación de amor y compasión y misericordia en nuestro mundo.   Para empezar una comprensión de este amor de Dios, necesitamos reconocer el amor que existe en las tres personas de la Santísima Trinidad.  Necesitamos reconocer la manera que las personas de la Trinidad se interrelacionan con ellas mismas, y reconocer la manera amorosa y compasiva que ellas tienen esta conexión. Como creyentes en la Trinidad, y como seres en la imagen de Dios, es importante para tener esta experiencia del amor de Dios en nuestra relaciones con los miembros de la Santísima Trinidad.   Los miembros de la Trinidad tienen una relación con ellos mismos como el Dios único.  Nosotros, también, tenemos la llamada para descubrir mas sobre nosotros mismos como seguidores de Cristo en el proceso de reconocer y aprender sobre la naturaleza relacional de Dios.   
        Con las gracias de la Santísima Trinidad como un don de nuestra fe,  podemos ser partícipes de la fuerza vivificante que tenemos en ella.  Por la fe  y la vida que tenemos en la Trinidad, somos seres dignos de la gracia que tenemos en la vida eterna.   Somos imperfectos en la manera que vivimos en el mundo, pero en el bautismo de salvación en la Santísima Trinidad, somos seres nuevos, somos hijos verdaderos del Padre.  En el misterio de este segundo nacimiento en las aguas de nuestro bautismo,  podemos obtener la plenitud en el nombre del Padre y del Hijo solo con la presencia del Espíritu Santo en nuestras vidas y en nuestro mundo.  Por eso, tenemos nuestra esperanza y nuestra confianza en la salvación de nuestras almas en las tres personas de la Santísima Trinidad, que conocemos en los nombres del Padre, del Hijo, y del Espíritu Santo.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Anniversary of Lucy Goldsmith with Pax Christi Franciscans

The Pax Christi Franciscans is a group that organized in Greenwood, Mississippi in the Civil Rights movement by Father Nathaniel Machesky, a Franciscan priest who is a legend and an icon in the Civil Rights movement.  The Franciscans still run St Francis of Assisi parish and school in the city of Greenwood.  Lucy Goldsmith, a member of our parish, celebrated her 50th anniversary with that group.  We had a mass and luncheon in our parish hall to celebrate this event.  Natalie Gibbs and Marion Brown and their crew put together a very elegant luncheon.  At least 25 members of the Pax Christi Franciscan group from across the state attended.  Lucy had a wonderful celebration and a wonderful day.

6/3/2012 – The Holy Trinity – Matthew 28:16-20, Romans 8:14-17

          Every year, on the Sunday after Pentecost, after the end of our Easter season, we celebrate the Holy Trinity in a very special way.  In fact, we have been celebrating the Holy Trinity on the Sunday after Pentecost since the early 14th century, as declared in an edict by Pope John XXII.  We try to use human concepts and human words in order to understand God and in order to describe God as a Trinity. Ultimately these concepts and words do the best job they can, but they are far from perfect. 
         Last weekend, I had four Baptisms: three in Belzoni with two Hispanic family, and one at St Mary’s with the baptism of Katherine McKay Choate, the daughter of Will and Elise Choate.  All of the little babies were dressed up in beautiful gowns or little white suits, and family members and friends came from near and far in order to celebrate this wonderful day.  We hear the command from Jesus in our Gospel today to go and baptize new believers in the name of the Trinity, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  In fact, baptism is recognized as valid by most Christian churches, including the Catholic Church, only if it is done with water and in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  There is no getting around this, and it shows how important and essential our belief in the Trinity is to our faith.  In fact, I remember when I first arrived in Milwaukee as a seminarian, I had heard a story that the new Archbishop there had heard about a parish in his archdiocese that wanted to use inclusive language in all its forms in its expressions of worship and in the sacraments, so much so that it was baptizing in the name of Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier, not the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  One of the first things the new Archbishop did was to alert this parish that it was going back to the correct wording of the Trinity in the baptismal formula, and that it would have to re-baptize all of the children in which the Trinitarian formula was not used, because those baptism had not been valid. 
Gregory of Nyssa, one of the early Church fathers from the 4th century, wrote that when we are baptized, we do not receive this sacrament of the Church in silence, but while the names of the three sacred persons are spoken over us, for we believe in the three persons of God, in whom we place our hope, from whom comes both our present and our future existence.  
The Trinity is so important to our faith in God that it has been the focus of much theological discussion in our Church, from the early days right after Christ’s death and resurrection.  In fact, new vocabulary words developed in to describe the Trinity.  As you know, in the new translation of the Nicene Creed, we now say that Jesus is “consubstancial” with the Father, meaning that they are of the same substance.  The Greek word “hypostasis” was used to describe the Trinity as persons that make up the God we believe in, that each of these three members of the Trinity is an individual, non-interchangeable subject in itself. 
For me as a priest, it is so important for me to bring out the message that God is love for us, that our God exemplifies love, mercy, and compassion.  To even begin to understand what the love of God is all about, we need to see the mutual love that exists in the three persons of the Trinity, the loving way in which they interact with each other, the way those three persons are bonded together in love. As believers in the Trinity, and as beings made in the image of God, it is most important that we experience God’s love in our relationship with the members of the Trinity.  The members of the Trinity are in relationship with themselves as the one God, and as such, we are all called to discover more about ourselves as followers of Christ by recognizing and learning about the relational nature of God.
And perhaps Paul gives us a glimpse of our relationship with the Trinity in our second reading from the letter to the Romans.   Paul tells us that the Spirit leads us to identify ourselves as sons and daughters of God, but children of God through adoption and not through slavery.  As such we are able to call God “Our Father,” “Our Dad.”   This makes us heirs of the Father just as Christ was an heir, and so we go through sufferings here on earth, we unite our sufferings with the sufferings that Christ endured, and so are able to be united with God’s glory as well.
When I was recently on pilgrimage in Spain, there were certain “saints” that I prayed to for help, including some of you parishioners here.  I prayed with you on that pilgrimage, I prayed for you.  I thought of Father Jeffery, the rectory of St Peter’s cathedral, of Sister Paulinus Oakes, my feisty Sister of Mercy friend in Jackson, of Suzan Cox, the liturgist at St Richard, and of Martha Ueltshey, one of the parishioners of St Richard who is very good friends with two of the ladies who went with me.  My pilgrimage was made so much richer by the relationships of those whose spirit I felt with me as I walked across Spain each day on my way to the cathedral in Santiago.  In a similar way, as we interact with the different persons of the Trinity in our lives of faith, we will grow more and more in our faith, and our faith life will seem so much more richer.
I want to close with a blessing that comes at the end of the sacrament of the anointing of the sick, that asks the blessing of the Trinity in our lives:
May God the Father bless you.
May God the Son heal you.
And may God the Holy Spirit enlighten you.
May almighty God bless all of us – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – Amen.  

Monday, May 28, 2012

6/5/2012 – St Boniface – Tuesday of 9th week of ordinary time – 2 Peter 3:12-15a, 17-18

        We hear from Second Peter today, a letter which encourages believers to wait for the second coming with patience, all the while studying and growing in their faith.  We are to be aware of the false teachers and false prophets who will come in our midst and lead us astray from the truths of our faith.
         We celebrate St Boniface today, who traveled from his native England in the 8th century and is known to be the Apostle of God’s Word to Germany.  Boniface succeeded in bringing God’s word to Germany when so many before him had failed.  He spent 36 years as a missionary there and died a martyr’s death, but he is remembered for the faith that took root there.  Boniface is a very popular saint all throughout Europe, with many churches and schools named after him.  This is a quote attributed to St Boniface that I really like: “In her voyage across the ocean of this world, the Church is like a great ship being pounded by the waves of life's different stresses.  Our duty is not to abandon ship but to keep her on her course.”  May we pray for the courage, the patience, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit to continue on our journey of faith, to grow in that faith that has been passed down to us.  

Sunday, May 27, 2012

5/29/2012 – Tuesday of 8th week of ordinary time – Mark 10:28-30 –

          Today, we hear the famous saying:  Many who were first will be last, and many who were last will be first.  There was a lovely lady at St Richard who used to drive all of the way from the Carthage area to attend the mass at St Richard in Jackson every Sunday morning at 8:00 am.  She used to sit in the very last row in the church, and would be there at least a half an hour before mass to pray and to prepare.  She quoted this “last will be first” saying from the Bible to back up why she liked to sit at the back of the church. 
            We live in a society today where everyone wants to be number one in the world.  The college I went to gives out way more “A’s” now as grades in classes than when I attended school there.  Everyone wants to be the best, and wants the best in life.  There is nothing wrong in wanting to be the best, but not everyone can be number 1.  Jesus tells us that we need to make sacrifices, and that those sacrifices will be noticed by the Lord.  May we not be afraid to make sacrifices for our faith, may we put our faith in the ways of the Lord and not in the accolades of the world.  It goes against out desire to be number 1, but it will help us to gain grace and wisdom. 

5/30/2012 – Wednesday of 8th week of ordinary time – St Joan of Arc – 1 Peter 1:18-25

       Today we hear from the first letter of Peter.  This very wise reading tells us that our salvation was paid for us not by things of the world such as gold or silver, but rather by the blood of Christ that was shed for us.  We have our new life in Christ not in perishable things from this world, but from the eternal, from the divine.  And while we see things in this world that are beautiful and that catch our eye, it is the word of God that endures forever. That is where we must trust our faith and our trust.       

        I think of the saint that we celebrate today, Joan of Arc, who died on this day way back in 1431 at the age of 19.  She is remembered for her faith in the Lord, a faith that allowed her to lead the troops from France to victory over the English.  Through her courage in leading the French troops she is able to say: "I place trust in God, my creator, in all things; I love Him with all my heart.”  Joan was burned at the stack as a heretic, the victim of the political circumstance of this period, yet the courage in which she lived out her faith has inspired generations of the faithful.  Although she died way back in the early 15th century and was not canonized until the year 1920, she remained a saint in the eyes of believers for centuries even before she was officially named a saint by the Church.  One of my favorite novels, Black Robe by Brian Moore, shows a Jesuit priest praying at the site where Joan of Arc was burned at the stack before he leaves from his mission work in 17th century Canada.  Her example of faith still speaks to us throughout the centuries.  Joan of Arc was able to take risks of faith based upon the enduring word of God that allowed her to rise above those transitory things of our world.  May we also have the strength and courage to stand by the word of God, to have it inspire us and guide us. 

5/26/2012 – Mariana de Jesus de Paredes – Saint of the Day --

        You know, I really love learning about the saints.  May 26 is the feast day of St. Mariana de Jesus de Paredes, who was born into an aristocratic family in Quito, Ecuador in the early 17th century.  I remember that when I was a missionary in Ecuador, there was a trolley stop that I used to pass by named Mariana de Jesus in her honor.  What I love about the saints is how their witness to speak so strongly to us many centuries later in our own modern era & still have so much to teach us. Mariana was not accepted as a religious sister, so she lived out her life as a Third Order Franciscan, serving the poor through a school & a clinic that she found to help the poor African Americans & indigenous people who lived in Quito.  When a terrible plague affected the city, she nursed the sick, did penance, & offered her life up to God in hopes that the plague be lifted.  She died shortly afterwards at the age of 31.  Mariana de Jesus, who was denied entrance into a religious community as a nun, is now a beloved saint in Latin America, & is one of the patron saint of the country of Ecuador.  Mariana de Jesus is venerated at the La Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús in the historic center of Quito, a beautiful church where I used to attend mass as a missionary that is considered one of the finest examples of Spanish baroque architecture in all of South America.  May we lift up our sufferings & use them for the glory of God just as Mariana de Jesus did so long ago.