December 25, 2015
Merry Christmas! Since this week is pretty busy week around here, just like it is in your own home, this means that we all should make, first of all, a deliberate effort to slow down!
How? Make time for prayer, including personal, private contemplation of the mystery of God’s only-begotten Son taking on our humanity to save us. Sure, participation at holy Mass is a wonderful and necessary way to join yourself to the Lord properly at this special time, but in all honesty, going to church isn’t enough. Jesus saves us personally as well as communally: each of us needs to spend prayer-time alone with Him to express fully our gratitude to Him for what He has done.
Next, convey your love and appreciation for all of the special people in your life. Includes family and friends, of course, but also the others who mean a great deal to us but whom we tend to overlook when we get too busy. Remember, too, that Christmas presents are not enough! Be sure to say “thank you” to convey how you really feel. Also, a visit, a shared meal, an actual conversation, a handwritten card or note, or at least a phone call are other ways to show love and appreciation, and are often the best ways.
Lastly, think about how you intend to change for the better as a result of your deepened faith. Don’t make unrealistic “New Year’s resolutions” for 2016. Rather, become more active in practicing the faith, truly virtuous as well as more prayerful and generously charitable. If we’re not better for it once it’s over, Christmas would be pretty much a waste of time, don’t you think?
his Bulletin covers a two-week period of time, so there won’t be another until the one dated January 10, 2016, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. This year on that day we’re gonna celebrate the universal call to holiness begun in Holy Baptism: the 10 am Mass that Sunday we will be an “International Mass,” highlighting the many cultures and languages of our parishioners and society. We’ll try to welcome everyone in English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Korean, Vietnamese, and so forth. We’ll do our best, also, to make the music and presentation of some of the Scriptures and Prayers of the Faithful multilingual as well. Make a point of circling the occasion on your calendar: it should be inspiring, and even a bit fun!
December 20, 2015
Dearest Parishioners and Friends,
The picture on page 2 of our Bulletin this week shows a happy group of pilgrims from the Cathedral parish last Sunday. The group of us bussed over to St. Joseph Abbey in St. Benedict, Louisiana (just north of Covington), to enjoy the wonderful monastic liturgy, the breathtaking murals in their church painted by Father Gregory de Wit some 70 years ago, a wonderful luncheon at Annadele’s Plantation, the wonderful warm sunny weather, and lots of conversation and laughs all the while!
Since parishioners and friends of our Cathedral Parish come from all over the Baton Rouge diocese, we honestly don’t get a chance to just spend time together as much as we should. We “build community” not only by worshiping and praying together, but also by socializing together. I’m hopeful we can enjoy more of this kind of simple and fun, but also so very important, parish activity from time to time!
December 13, 2015
Dear Parishioners and Friends,
This weekend finds us marking a very special celebration. 150 years ago that the pastor of St. Joseph Parish, Father Cyril Delacroix, founded the local Society of St. Vincent de Paul. At our noon Mass many special prayers of thanksgiving will be prayed, for through the Vincentians’ generous service – aided by your generosity now, for a century-and-a-half! – countless numbers of needy persons have been assisted.
I was surprised to learn (from the marvelous little book, A History of the Catholic Church in Baton Rouge, which Father Frank Uter completed in 1992), that Father Delacroix actually founded the St. Vincent de Paul Society twice! It happened first in 1847, before the Civil War, while he was pastor of St. Patrick Parish in New Orleans. He met Mr. William Blair Lancaster, a recent convert to Catholicism who had just returned to Louisiana from France. Mr. Lancaster’s godfather was Mr. Jean Frederick Ozanam, who himself was founded in 1833 the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Paris!
When Mr. Lancaster shared with Father Delacroix the manual of the Society, and described in glowing terms how much good it was accomplishing in Paris, Father Delacroix was impressed. Knowing of the great needs in the area, the priest asked him to found a branch of the Society in New Orleans. Thus the first local Conference of the St. Vincent de Paul Society in Louisiana was born, out of the collaborative interest and good will of these two men, who became fast friends in this ministry. (Mr. Lancaster continued to work with the St. Vincent de Paul Society there, and served as editor of The Morning Star, which was then the Archdiocese of New Orleans’ official newspaper, until his death in 1897.)
When Father Delacroix was transferred up the River, becoming the 19th pastor of St. Joseph Church in Baton Rouge on December 27, 1865, he immediately resolved to found a local Conference of the Society here as well. This is why the sesquicentennial of the St. Vincent de Paul Society is dated from the beginning of his pastorate.
The St. Joseph Conference began immediately to organize and direct charitable work for the poor, and especially for orphans and homeless persons. In those years immediately following the Civil War, Baton Rouge like the rest of the South was particularly hard hit economically. Many, including disabled veterans, could not find work and were particularly susceptible to disease. Vincentians reached out to do their best: then as now, no one in need was turned away or left alone in despair. More and more parishioners – and over time indeed other citizens of Baton Rouge – became involved in their efforts. Finally, seeing its good work, on November 21, 1867, the Society’s General Council in Paris accepted and associated our local Conference with their growing international organization.
Of course, none of us have personal memories that go back 150 years! Still, if you wish to know of the charitable efforts of the St. Vincent de Paul Society in the past, just notice what they do nowadays! They still house the homeless, and on the coldest days of winter still never turn anyone away. Their dining room serves hundreds daily. Their thrift stores make “gently used” clothing, housewares, appliances and other necessities available to those on limited budgets. Their free pharmacy provides medications to those who can’t otherwise keep themselves healthy. They provide free uniforms for public school students. And when disasters happen – from natural events like hurricanes to more common ones like house fires – those who find themselves without other resources can always turn to the Society for assistance.
Please join me in praising the St. Vincent de Paul Society and in celebrating them! Of course, you are also invited to join me in supporting their good work by your donations and volunteer assistance as well. In this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy that Pope Francis has called there is perhaps no better way to live out one’s faith than by practicing the corporal Works of Mercy in league with them!
My last word concerns that Jubilee: with the opening of the special Holy Door in the Cathedral this past week, the Year of Mercy is underway. A special brochure available in the church offers information on obtaining the special Holy Year Indulgence available to those who visit our venerable sacred space. Please make it a point to visit many times during the year and so obtain these blessings for yourself and your loved ones, and even for those who have gone before us in faith.
December 6, 2015
Dearest Parishioners and Friends,
This coming week, the holy day on Tuesday, December 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, is a special one. On it begins the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy which Pope Francis has called. At our 12 noon Mass that day, our Cathedral Holy Door will be opened by Bishop Muench. I look forward to seeing you here for that special liturgy.
In last week’s Bulletin I mentioned that all who enter the Cathedral via the Holy Door during the special Year of Mercy have the opportunity to gain special graces. I hope that you make a point to visit many times during the year and so obtain these blessings for yourself and your loved ones, and even for those who have gone before us in faith.
In last week’s homily I hinted at another “project” which we are being encouraged to undertake during Lent in the special Year of Mercy. Our diocesan Office of Christian Formation is encouraging everyone to join together in a diocesan-wide reading program they’re calling One Book, One Church.
During Lent 2016 we’ll all try together to read Father Henri Nouwen’s well-known book, The Return of the Prodigal Son. Every parish is being asked to urge their parishioners to read this book, whether in small groups, in large groups, or individually. By doing it together, Catholics throughout the diocese will be able to share their insights with others.
In addition to the book itself, a Study Guide has been put together to guide the reflection and discussions, especially when this takes place in small study groups, prayer groups, Adult Ed classes, over coffee with a friend, or over dinner with family. It’s an exciting undertaking, for it’s the first time ever in the history of our diocese that we ventured to undertake a shared reading project of this scope.
Efforts are being made at the diocesan level to order copies of the book in bulk for as little as $7.00 each.
The goal of the program is merely to encourage people to read this book and then to let it guide our thoughts and prayer. Father Nouwen was an immensely gifted and eloquent spiritual writer, and he frequently pointed to his experiences of forgiveness and mercy as being central to his life of prayer. This book of his uses the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Lk 15:11-32) as the basis of his reflections as he thought to be both competent and inspired. I’ve read it: it truly is a touching, magnificent reflection, and well within the grasp of the average reader.
Again, you and your fellow parishioners are encouraged to purchase this book, and then take the time to read it, either on your own or as part of the large and small discussion groups which will be organized during Lent this coming spring. Easter is early in 2016, so the months of February and March will be the “prime time” for this project of ours.
Finally, be sure to mark your calendar for next weekend’s special 12 noon Mass and reception following on Sunday, December 13. It was 150 years ago that the pastor of St. Joseph Parish, Father Cyril Delacroix, founded the local Society of St. Vincent de Paul. We shall celebrate this with special prayers of thanksgiving, and in solidarity with the thousands – actually by now it’s more like millions! – of needy persons helped through their service by the generosity of the Catholic faithful and other citizens of the metropolitan Baton Rouge area. I hope you can be part of the party!