June 2013

June 30, 2013

Dear Parishioners and Friends,

As you have been able to tell from the “clip out” form in the Parish Bulletin both this week and last week (see pages 3-4), this weekend sees our annual focus on one of our principal responsibilities as faithful followers of Christ: our Stewardship of Prayer. And frankly, a lot of people don’t understand why we need to do this.

I think they’re bothered by the terminology. The word stewardship refers to “the control or handling of something, especially the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.” It’s easy to see how the term “stewardship,” then, applies to finances or to the gifts and talents God has blessed us with. We are called to make good use of our blessings. That’s why we also have Stewardship of Finance and Stewardship of Ministry weekends too each year.

But unlike money, or unique skills or talents like singing or sewing, or cooking or teaching or whatever, prayer seems to be more of a decision of ours, not a gift from God. So is it really appropriate to think of prayer in terms of stewardship?

I think it is. The key to understanding it is to look upon prayer as an opportunity. Each of us has to make the best use of our abilities and occasions to pray. Prayer, fundamentally, is communication with God – or with our Blessed Mother, Saint Joseph or one of the other saints, or those from among our families and friends “who have gone before us with the sign of faith and rest in the sleep of peace.” If we have the opportunity to do this, actually to contact and share dialogue of cares and concerns with them, we ought not miss our chance. We need to make the most of our opportunities!

Plus, prayer is personal. Beyond the Mass (and for clergy and religious, the required Liturgy of the Hours), prayer can and should differ from individual to individual. We seek out the wordings, settings and forms of prayer that most effectively bring about contact with our Lord and those others to whom and through whom we pray. For one person, that might be highly devotional prayer like the rosary; for others, careful reading and meditation with the Bible; for still others, Eucharistic adoration; for yet another, pilgrimage or novenas; and so on. Good Stewardship of Prayer means discovering what’s best for you, at this time and place, at this point in your life. I hope you give some attention to it this week!

Another thing to pay attention to is our Catholicism 101 series of adult religious-education presentations. These have been a refreshing look at the basic teachings of the Catholic Church. This week’s presenter will be Deacon Jodi Moscona. Since we’ve already discussed the Eucharist, he’ll be sharing an introductory look at those Sacraments of the Church that everyone shares in: Baptism, Confirmation, Penance and Anointing of the Sick. His hour-long session will be this Tuesday evening (July 2) in the Parish Hall at 6:30 pm; I hope you can attend!

Sincerely in the Lord,

June 23, 2013

Dear Parishioners and Friends,
This week we welcome back a dynamic young priest of our diocese, Father Matt Dupré to our Catholicism 101 adult religious education series. In the hour-long session on Tuesday, June 25, he’ll be speaking about that most fundamental Catholic sacrament, the Most Holy Eucharist. Last week’s session was an introduction to the Mass, our liturgy of both Bible and Holy Communion, but there’s lots more about the Eucharist to know and appreciate. This week he’ll speak about “The Other Important Stuff About The Eucharist.” It’s maybe not the most catchy title, but it accurately frames the subject! Please try to make it this Tuesday evening in the Parish Hall at 6:30 pm!

Another diocesan priest, Father Miles Walsh, has been appointed pastor of our neighboring Sacred Heart Parish, as of July 1. I thought I’d “pass on” a favorite message of his, recasting it for our Parish family, for it captures not only some essential important truths, but practical helps toward self-improvement:

In a small booklet entitled, Ten Steps to Priestly Holiness: Our Journey Into Joy, its author Msgr. Stephen Rossetti makes the point that for many people the word holiness “conjures up images of a dour, joyless existence.” Yet this is not true. To be holy is to be filled with God’s life. No less an authority than Saint Paul testified that God’s presence in us is evidenced by the following external, positive signs: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22-23). To be holy, then, is to be filled with joy – not just pleasure or emotional happiness, but a spirit of deep and abiding joy and fulfillment.

Msgr. Rossetti then outlines a number of steps to holiness, applicable to any follower of Christ. Here is an abridged, adapted list of these steps which will lead to the kind of holiness that brings deep happiness:

  1. Cease Any Serious Sin. You simply cannot move ahead in a relationship with God and with Christ unless you are willing to remove, with the help of divine grace, the obstacles (that is, all serious sins) that stand in your way. Many people try to avoid this step, but it’s the only way. It is impossible to progress in spirituality by leading a “double life” of serious sin on the one hand and Christian faith on the other.
  2. Renew Yourself through the Sacrament of Penance. This step necessarily follows upon the first. Christ instituted sacramental Reconciliation as the ordinary means for forgiveness of serious sins committed after baptism, and He expects us to use this gift. Confessing one’s sin to God in the heart is not the same – or as good – as asking His forgiveness in the way He established for our benefit.
  3. Pray More. It sounds simple, but fidelity to prayer requires self-discipline and effort, aided by God’s grace. It should be Biblical, and can be devotional (the Rosary is both!), and is best when it’s regular, but it needs to be daily.
  4. Immerse Yourself in the Eucharist. Just as confession is the ordinary means given by Christ to enable forgiveness of our sins, so Holy Communion is the ordinary means Jesus has given us for our spiritual nourishment and spiritual union with Him. The ordinary Catholic makes weekly communion at Sunday Mass a priority, and soon turns into an extraordinary Catholic who values communion with Jesus at daily Mass as well.
  5. Love the Church. No one goes to God alone. The Church is the visible Body of Christ on earth, and as Bride of Christ, the Church is our Mother, too. She deserves our respect and love, and our active participation in her faith community. We should trust her wisdom, and the rightness of her teachings.
  6. Nourish Good Relationships with People of Faith. Again, no one goes to God alone. The people we surround ourselves with have a tremendous impact on our spiritual growth, for good and for ill. If our friends are upright people of integrity and holiness, just being around them will help us be similar.
  7. Practice Gratitude to God. Being grateful is a choice we make in life. We can choose to be grateful for all that God has given us or we can choose to be ungrateful, envious and miserable.
  8. Embrace your Crosses. This is one of the most difficult steps, but when we do so we reassure ourselves of the maturity of our faith. We must strive to embrace our crosses in life as the path to true holiness.
  9. Trust in God. Our ultimate goal in life is to do God’s will. We can only do that by allowing God to work through us, and He can only work in us if we learn to trust Him. In fact, in the end we come to the greatest leap of faith:
  10. Abandon Yourself to God. In the end, true holiness means surrendering yourself – your whole self – to God. A half-hearted or partial regard for God and a faith that holds back will always be frustrated, and prevented from achieving the fullness of Christian joy.

Father Walsh suggests that every once in a while we should review these steps as a kind of “spiritual check-up.” I agree! Frankly, just reflecting on them so far is a good start!

Sincerely in the Lord,

June 16, 2013

Dear Parishioners and Friends,

Most Catholic Parishes hauled out their green vestments and plunged into “Ordinary Time” a few weeks ago, but here at the Cathedral we don’t really begin our summer doldrums until after “Ordination Time” ends. But now we’re finished ordaining a priest and nine deacons, so now we can all say that summertime has officially commenced here! This doesn’t mean that our schedule is very different – the regular rhythm of prayer always continues, of course. For everyone this includes Sunday and daily Mass; for me and all other clerics and religious the responsibility and joy of the Church’s official daily prayer known as the Liturgy of the Hours remains always part of our lives.

But “da rulez” of the Church do indicate that our prayer is best when it exhibits the principle of “progressive solemnity.” So our major feasts and seasons are more intense and full of rich symbolism, décor and music, while the rest of the year is more plain. But while you might notice a more “low key” aura around our worship in the next few months – the Cathedral choir is on vacation, for example, with vesture and floral arrangements more subdued – please don’t make the mistake of thinking that God and religion somehow become less important during the summer months. In many respects the increased recreation of vacation-time demands more attention to our spiritual life, not less, just to avoid increased slothfulness and other near occasions of sin!

Let me mention one definite sin, though: we’ve noticed that a number of our hymnals have been destroyed when parents have allowed their children to draw in them, tear pages out of them, and otherwise deface them. The hymnals are only about a year old, and while only a few have been ruined, I do want to ask everyone to be more watchful. If you see this kind of thing, don’t let it slide: immediately, either charitably speak to them or point out the parents or offending child to an usher or to me. We owe it to the generous souls who contributed our hymnals to the Cathedral not to add to the usual wear-and-tear!

On a more happy note, this weekend we observe Father’s Day in our country. Like Thanksgiving and Mother’s Day, it is a “secular” observance that really reflects a basic truth of God’s natural law. (While the Church rightly criticizes civil society when it errs, we have a duty to praise the world when it gets something right! After all, “the good things wrought by humanity are a sign of God’s grace” [Gaudium et spes, no. 34]). Since the very model of human fatherhood is found in the creativity, love and providence of God the Father, what we see and love in our human fathers, and the response we give to their care, is a religious act on our part. While it’s true that “No one has ever seen God” (Jn 1:18a), in our mind’s eye I’ll bet most of us put our own father’s face on Him!

So, if you are a dad, grandpa, expectant father, stepfather, godfather, or priest – yes, spiritual fatherhood counts! – Happy Father’s Day! You have mirrored for us what it means to be “strong, loving and wise” (2 Tim 1:7) and we are grateful for it!

This week in our Catholicism 101 series of adult religious-education presentations, we welcome back one of those spiritual fathers, Father Matt Lorrain. Now the pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in Brusly, he lived here at the Cathedral year-before-last and was a welcome part of our community. In this week’s session, on Tuesday, June 18, he’ll be Introducing The Mass. Since the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist is the highpoint of Catholic life, understanding the liturgy is one of the basics of Catholicism that we’re trying to highlight. Please come this Tuesday evening if you can!

Finally, please let me say a few words of thanks to all who have wished me well – and to others who gave me grief! – at turning 60 years old this past week. I appreciate your kind sentiments, and also the generosity you’ve shown me by your ready smiles and thoughtful gifts. Once upon a time the age of 60 seemed old to me, but I’ve learned one more lesson along the way of life, and now admit to being wrong about that! I thank God for giving me a good family, good health, good humor, and good friends – and a great Parish! – up ’til this point, and trust that He will continue to bless me with these for quite a while to come!

Sincerely in the Lord,

June 9, 2013

Dear Parishioners and Friends,

This weekend is a particularly busy one here at the Cathedral! First off, on Saturday, June 8, at a special 10 am Mass, Bishop Muench will ordain as deacons eight men of our diocese. Two of them are well-known to us: while Mr. Chauvin Wilkinson resides in Holy Family Parish across the Mississippi River in Port Allen, he is a longtime parishioner here; and Mr. David Dawson, III, of St. Aloysius Parish also has attended church here for years, and served his diaconal internship here over the past year. Congratulations to them, and to their classmates: Tommy Benoit, Mark Berard, Louis McGinnis, Leon Murphy, Stephen Ourso, and Mike Thompson.

These men join almost 70 other “permanent” deacons in our diocese; all are eager to offer service to God’s People in any way they can. In a special way we have to recognize the energetic ministry offered by our own Deacon Jodi Moscona – who by the way is preaching at the 8 am and 12 noon Masses this weekend! Over the coming weeks we’ll invite our “rookies,” Deacon Wilkinson and Deacon Dawson, to preach here at the Cathedral as well. Preaching is one exceptional way in which deacons can share with the wider Church their insights into God’s workings in our world, and we’re happy to offer them the opportunity!

Also, at the conclusion of the 10 am Mass on Sunday, Bishop Muench will offer a Special Missionary Blessing to the young people of our diocese who will be leaving next week on a three-week missionary trip to Honduras in Central America. At the beginning of April these young adults visited us here at the Cathedral, and asked us to pray for and support them. They will be visiting, inspiring and teaching the poor peoples of rural Honduras, taking special care to strengthen them in their Catholic religion. I invite you to join your own prayers of blessing to those of the bishop as they set out.

Another thing happening this weekend is a second collection: for the victims of the recent, devastating tornadoes in Oklahoma. I have to admit that while here in Louisiana we’re more familiar with the destruction that can arise from hurricanes, the suddenness of tornadoes – and their incredibly fierce winds – can be in many ways more frightening. Our hearts go out to those who lost loved ones and property. Please be generous in the special collection – yes, we will “pass the basket” a second time since there are no pre-printed envelopes for this sad occasion – for there is much recovery work yet to be done.

You may recall that at the beginning of March 2013, Miss Chetta Mary Cangelosi, our oldest parishioner at the time at 104 years old, passed from this world to the next. I’m happy to report that we were recently informed that she had remembered her beloved St. Joseph Parish in her will. The monies she bequeathed to us have been placed into the Cathedral Trust Fund invested with the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, so that her gift won’t be just a one-time blessing: it will continue to benefit our Parish in perpetuity.

Her kindness provides me a wonderful opportunity to remind you to do the same. God first blessed you with life and faith, and His holy Church has assisted your family and friends in providing continued blessings in abundance. The natural human response to such giftedness is gratitude, exercised as part of responsible stewardship during life, and as a final measure of generosity at death. In drawing up your own last will and testament, be sure to direct a portion back to God and the Church. It’s actually easy for you to do this, so make sure you get around to doing it. Why not take care of this today?

I’ve been pleased at the attendance and enthusiasm at our Catholicism 101 series of adult religious-education presentations. Have you managed to attend a session yet? This coming week, on Tuesday, June 11, I’ll be the presenter. The title of my little presentation on what Catholics believe is “Is It Really All That Complicated?” I’ll try to put in simple terms the most important things that we Catholics believe, and more importantly why we believe them. You know, one of the hallmarks of Catholic theology is coherence, that is, how it all “hangs together” and builds logically from the basic teachings of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. These teachings haven’t been fabricated or “made up” out of nothing: rather, in ways both direct and poetic, God has taught us what we need to know, love and serve Him in this world, and to attain perfect union with Him in the next. Please give some thought to joining us this coming Tuesday evening!

Sincerely in the Lord,