Abiding presence of the Holy Spirit

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
“Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be recreated, and you shall renew the face of the earth.”

Our lives are imbued in the mystery of God’s Holy Spirit whose graced presence is always at work. We can never fully comprehend the gift and the grandeur of God’s manifestation in our lives, an unfathomable mystery, but the Spirit gradually reveals what we need when we remain open in faith.

Of primary importance is our relationship with the Most Holy Trinity because the Holy Spirit enlightens our hearts and minds to know that Jesus is Lord, and God is our Father. (1Corinthians 12) God who is love has poured the gift of self into creation and salvation and in Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, shows us how to live and to love in all circumstances. But like the Blessed Mother and the saints, we must be willing partners.

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

The biblical narrative recounts the primordial and temporal work of the Spirit of God. In the beginning, the Holy Spirit hovered over the original chaos and darkness and created light and order. The Spirit of God spoke through the prophets and created meaning and hope in the nation of Israel preparing the way for the long-awaited Messiah. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” because Mary was alive in faith and in her openness allowed the Holy Spirit to act. (John 1:14) The Spirit of God accompanied the Lord Jesus in every step of his earthly ministry (Luke 10:21) and from the throes of death, raised him to eternal life. (Romans 8:11) At the Ascension the disciples were instructed to remain vigilant waiting to be clothed with “power from on high.” (Luke 24:49) The miracle of Pentecost with the great outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit and the birth of the church fulfilled all their yearnings.

There is a pattern to this lavish generosity of Divine Providence that we see in the outpouring of God’s Spirit in creation, the blood and water that poured forth from the crucified Lord and the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost. As Jesus declared in the Good Shepherd narrative, “I came so that they may have life and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

Two-thousand years later Pope Francis has invited the church throughout the world in the Synod on Synodality to hear “what the Holy Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 3:22) in an ever-deepening experience of communion, participation, and mission. The Holy Father’s invitation is anchored in the unflinching belief that the Spirit of God is always at hand to renew the church with Pentecost fervor, evidence of the more abundant life that Jesus promised. In our diocesan Pastoral Reimagining from Pentecost 2023 through Pentecost 2024, building upon the earlier gatherings with Synodality, we have relied on the Holy Spirit to lead us in fruitful prayer and conversations in order to stir into flame the gift of God’s grace that we all received at Baptism.

Of course, during this time of Eucharist Revival the Holy Spirit is summoning the church to a renewed experience of worship as the Body of Christ who offers sacrifice and praise to God. Once gathered it is the Holy Spirit who opens our hearts and minds to hear God’s word with the capacity to put it into practice. It is the invocation of the Holy Spirit, “the power from on high” at the words of institution who transforms the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

Ultimately, it is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9) who awakens us to the promise of eternal life. In the indwelling of the Holy Spirit consider the seven gifts, the 12 fruits, the three theological virtues of faith, hope and love, and the four cardinal virtues of prudence, temperance, justice and fortitude. In this light we begin to understand the abundance of which Jesus spoke.

Where would we be if not for the abiding presence and action of the Holy Spirit? Come Holy Spirit and fill the hearts of the faithful so that we can worthily celebrate the Solemnities of the Most Holy Trinity, and the Body and Blood of the Lord in the days ahead.

Presencia Permanente del Espíritu Santo

Por Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
“Ven, Espíritu Santo, llena los corazones de tus fieles y enciende en ellos el fuego de tu amor. Envía tu Espíritu y serán recreados y renovarás la faz de la tierra”.

Nuestras vidas están imbuidas del misterio del Espíritu Santo de Dios, cuya presencia llena de gracia está siempre obrando. Nunca podremos comprender plenamente el don y la grandeza de la manifestación de Dios en nuestras vidas, un misterio insondable, pero el Espíritu revela gradualmente lo que necesitamos cuando permanecemos abiertos en la fe.

Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz

De primordial importancia es nuestra relación con la Santísima Trinidad porque el Espíritu Santo ilumina nuestros corazones y mentes para saber que Jesús es el Señor y Dios es nuestro Padre. (1 Corintios 12) Dios que es amor ha derramado el don de sí mismo en la creación y la salvación y en Jesucristo, el Camino, la Verdad y la Vida, nos muestra cómo vivir y amar en todas las circunstancias. Pero al igual que la Santísima Madre y los santos, debemos ser socios dispuestos.

La narración bíblica relata la obra primordial y temporal del Espíritu de Dios. Al principio, el Espíritu Santo se cernía sobre el caos y la oscuridad originales y creó luz y orden. El Espíritu de Dios habló a través de los profetas y creó significado y esperanza en la nación de Israel, preparando el camino para el tan esperado Mesías. “El Verbo se hizo carne y habitó entre nosotros” porque María estaba viva en la fe y en su apertura dejó actuar al Espíritu Santo. (Juan 1:14) El Espíritu de Dios acompañó al Señor Jesús en cada paso de su ministerio terrenal (Lucas 10:21) y de la agonía de la muerte, lo resucitó a la vida eterna. (Romanos 8:11) En la Ascensión, los discípulos recibieron instrucciones de permanecer vigilantes esperando ser revestidos de “poder de lo alto”. (Lucas 24:49) El milagro de Pentecostés con el gran derramamiento del Espíritu Santo de Dios y el nacimiento de la iglesia cumplió todos sus anhelos.
Hay un patrón en esta generosa generosidad de la Divina Providencia que vemos en el derramamiento del Espíritu de Dios en la creación, la sangre y el agua que brotaron del Señor crucificado y el derramamiento del Espíritu en Pentecostés. Como Jesús declaró en la narración del Buen Pastor: “Yo vine para que tengan vida y la tengan en abundancia”. (Juan 10:10)

Dos mil años después, el Papa Francisco ha invitado a la iglesia de todo el mundo en el Sínodo sobre la sinodalidad a escuchar “lo que el Espíritu Santo dice a las iglesias” (Apocalipsis 3:22) en una experiencia cada vez más profunda de comunión, participación y misión. La invitación del Santo Padre se basa en la creencia inquebrantable de que el Espíritu de Dios está siempre disponible para renovar la iglesia con el fervor de Pentecostés, evidencia de la vida más abundante que Jesús prometió. En nuestra Reimaginación Pastoral diocesana desde Pentecostés 2023 hasta Pentecostés 2024, basándose en las reuniones anteriores con la Sinodalidad, hemos confiado en el Espíritu Santo para que nos guíe en oraciones y conversaciones fructíferas para encender el don de la gracia de Dios que todos recibimos. en el bautismo.

Por supuesto, durante este tiempo de Avivamiento Eucarístico, el Espíritu Santo está convocando a la iglesia a una experiencia renovada de adoración como Cuerpo de Cristo que ofrece sacrificio y alabanza a Dios. Una vez reunidos es el Espíritu Santo quien abre nuestro corazón y nuestra mente para escuchar la palabra de Dios con la capacidad de ponerla en práctica. Es la invocación del Espíritu Santo, “el poder de lo alto” ante las palabras de institución que transforma el pan y el vino en el cuerpo y la sangre de Jesucristo.

En última instancia, es la morada del Espíritu Santo (Romanos 8:9) quien nos despierta a la promesa de la vida eterna. En la morada del Espíritu Santo, considere los siete dones, los 12 frutos, las tres virtudes teologales de la fe, la esperanza y el amor, y las cuatro virtudes cardinales de la prudencia, la templanza, la justicia y la fortaleza. Desde esta perspectiva comenzamos a comprender la abundancia de la que habló Jesús.

¿Dónde estaríamos si no fuera por la presencia y acción permanente del Espíritu Santo? Ven Espíritu Santo y llena los corazones de los fieles para que podamos celebrar dignamente las Solemnidades de la Santísima Trinidad, y el Cuerpo y la Sangre del Señor en los días venideros.

Ascension to Pentecost: Clothed with power from on High

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
Before ascending from this world to his God and our God Jesus instructed his disciples to return to the Upper Room to await “to be clothed with power from on High.” (Luke 24: 49) To be outfitted with the Holy Spirit is a wonderful image of our intimacy with God and by wearing it well we remain in style to bear the message of salvation to every corner of the planet till the end of time.

The feast of the Ascension is the bridge between the Resurrection and Pentecost that completes God’s plan of salvation begun specifically in the Incarnation when “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

Throughout the Gospel of John, it is uppermost in Jesus’ mind that he is to return to God the Father from where he came. “No one has ascended to heaven except the One who descended from heaven.” (John 3:13)

At the outset of the Last Supper before the washing of the disciples’ feet, his divine destiny was set in motion. “Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in this world and loved them to the end.” (John 13:1)

On course, the link between the Cross, the resurrection and the ascension is established. “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15)

The Lord’s resurrection appearances in the four Gospels are remarkable, and yet shrouded in mystery. These encounters reveal the risen Lord in his glorified body, capable of eating (Luke 24:43) and of being touched (John 20:27) and of conversing in varied settings, on the road, at the beach, in the garden, in barricaded rooms and on mountaintops.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church in the first of its four major sections (Can we name the other three sections?) reflects upon the Ascension in the context of the Creed. (CCC 659-667) The transition of the risen Lord in his glorified body after the resurrection to his exalted body with his Ascension to the right hand of the Father forever (CCC 660) clears the way for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in daily life and prepares a place for us in eternity.

“Only Christ could have opened this door for the human race, he who wished to go before us as our head so that we as members of his body may live with the burning hope of following him in His Kingdom.” (CCC 661)

St. Paul in his pastoral letter to Timothy elaborates upon our understanding of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit from on High. “For the Spirit God gives us is not one of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” (2Tim 1:7)

Power, directed by loving discipline has the capacity to transform lives and to carry out the Lord’s Great Commission to bear the Gospel to all the nations. This is the power of God that forms the Church as One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, that all receive at Baptism, that is invoked upon our numerous young people who have been confirmed, that transforms the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of the Lord, and that we will call down upon Deacon Tristan Stovall and all who will be ordained in sacred orders.

As we heard in last Sunday’s first reading, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon Cornelius and his household, the first Gentile converts, truly a second Pentecost, came about through ardent prayer and joyful hope. Likewise, the Holy Spirit is at work in our homes and in our churches.

May we be vigilant in prayer and joyful in hope as we prepare to be clothed with power from on High this Pentecost for the promises of the Lord are fulfilled in every generation.

Reimagining process advances toward season of refreshment and renewal

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
“Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away, and that the Lord may grant you a season of refreshment.” (Acts of the Apostles 3:19-20)

During this Easter season there will be additional opportunities in each of our six deaneries to further the conversations in our undertaking of Pastoral Reimagining process. To apply the phrase from the Scriptures by St. Peter in the passage above, another way of expressing the goal of our process is to advance toward a season of refreshment and renewal under the gaze of One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic.

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

Although the process was organized from the diocesan center, the handiwork has taken place on the local level with conversations for the sake of reimagining of what could be, building upon the diocesan and world-wide undertaking of Synodality in the Catholic Church.

It must be a grassroots process in order for the diocesan center to engage in authentic listening and conversation with all points on the compass. In other words, “whoever has ears ought to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.” (Acts 3:22) The Lord himself expressed spiritual and pastoral potential “…they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.” (Matthew 13:15)

Not surprisingly, healing and greater unity were a repeated theme during our diocesan synodal process, both for our church and society. Another expressed desire was for a more meaningful understanding and application of the Bible, the sacred word of God. All this is seen and heard on Divine Mercy Sunday from the scriptures, in the Eucharist, and in the recitation of the Chaplet.

In the classic resurrection appearance, the Lord was suddenly in the midst of his scattered and fearful apostles and immediately blessed them with peace, in fact, three times over two encounters. He proceeded to breathe upon them the power of the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins, theirs and all who would hear the Gospel and come to faith. With God’s grace in abundance, he sent them into the world so that “all may have life in his name.” (John 20:19-31) This is a Gospel account of healing and hope in the aftermath of the trauma of the violent crucifixion, and the division and conflict that come from such events. Many in our society and church are reeling from similar turmoil.

From Divine Mercy Sunday in the tradition of the beloved disciple John we heard in the second reading that this is the power, “that came through water and blood, Jesus Christ. The Spirit is the one that testifies, and the Spirit is truth.” (1John 5:6) Water and the blood, the blue and the red rays from the side of the crucified and resurrected One, Divine Mercy. The good fruit of all of this is heard and imagined from the first reading on Divine Mercy Sunday.

“The community of believers was of one heart and one mind … With great power the apostles bore witness to the power of the resurrection, and there was no needy person among them.” (1Acts 4:33-35)
This is the paradigm Christian community, strong in faith, hope and love, an ideal for sure, but also real on many levels. Although not formally expressed until the year 325 in the Nicene Creed, it is clear that One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic were unfolding at the beginning.

The process of Reimagining in our diocese is a hope that is ever ancient and ever new. “Late have I loved you, O Beauty every ancient, ever new…” (Saint Augustine, Confessions)

We want to see, hear, and understand the power of the Lord’s resurrection, his peace, his mercy, his call and mission for our lives, in our parishes, schools and ministries. Overall, the new life of Eastertide, a season of refreshment, by God’s grace, is producing the good fruit from the efforts of reimagining in our diocese. Let us continue to fight the good fight of faith, “the power that conquers the world.” (1John 5:4)

May the Holy Spirit guide us through Holy Week and beyond

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

Lent arrives at its final stage with Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week. It is an intensive time of accompanying the Lord Jesus in his passion and suffering, through his death, to the glory of the resurrection.

The uniqueness of the Palm Sunday Mass is found in the entrance rite with palm in hand, the procession, and the proclamation of the passion narrative. This year, the passion from the Gospel of Mark will resound throughout the Catholic world, and in a profoundly stark cry of forsakenness the Lord speaks for all of humanity. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” (Mark 15:34) Between Palm Sunday and the Easter Vigil, the great majority of the faithful will be gathered at the outset of Holy Week to allow the Lord’s final hours and words to wash over them in the blood and water flowing from his side.

Chiara Lubich, the founder of the Focolare Movement expresses the great mystery of our forsaken Lord in this manner: “We contemplated in him the height of his love because it was the height of his suffering. What more could a God give us, that it seems that he forgets that he is God … Jesus converted the world with his words, with his example, with his preaching, but he transformed it when he provided the proof of his love, the Cross.”

Lubich and all who see the Lord with the eyes of faith are building upon the unshakeable foundation of St. Paul on the power of the Cross. “Indeed, the message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God … Jews demand signs, and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified. This is a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God … For I resolved that while I was with you, I would know nothing except Jesus Christ, and him crucified … so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.” (1Corinthians 1:18, 22-24; 2:2-5)

With his blood and with his cry, Jesus crucified and forsaken opened up all possibilities for this life including forgiveness, unity, justice, and peace, and eternal life to follow. It is true that all of humanity is in exile, but there are those whose forsakenness is extreme. During these most sacred days of faith, we are mindful of those in the Holy Land especially, but not exclusively, who are crucified and forsaken in war, destruction, death and displacement. These abandoned are more closely configured to our crucified Lord in their suffering.

Lubich offers this vision and hope: “Jesus forsaken is the most greatly pruned, whom neither heaven nor earth seemed to want … Because he had been uprooted from both earth and heaven, he brought into unity those who were cut off, those who were uprooted from God.”

Therefore, he and he alone is the way to reach beyond the barriers of hatred and violence toward the unity for which he prayed at the Last Supper, “that all may be one.” (John 17:22)

Again, from the wisdom of Lubich and the Focolare Movement we read: “This is everything, to love as he loved us, to the extent of his experiencing for our sake the sensation of being forsaken by his Father. Through Jesus, in fact, we gain by losing, we live by dying. The grain of wheat has to die in order to produce the ear of grain; we need to be pruned in order to bear good fruit. This is Jesus’ law, his paradox. The Holy Spirit is making us understand that in order to bring about Jesus’ prayer ‘may they all be one’ it is necessary to welcome Jesus forsaken in our disunity. Jesus forsaken is the road, the key, the secret.”

These are words of wisdom for us during Holy Week in the line of St. Paul. The Holy Spirit has inspired many in the Synodal and Reimagining processes in our diocese to address the need for greater healing and unity in our communities of faith.

The Holy Spirit is guiding us during Holy Week to look to Christ crucified and forsaken as the power and wisdom of God in whom all things are possible. The Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead and who dwells within us through faith and baptism, will inspire to proclaim Alleluia on Easter Sunday because he is risen. But before we arrive at the empty tomb let the crucified and forsaken Lord wash us clean in his blood.

“Cabrini”

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
The American Catholic experience has been blessed far and wide from the outset by the sacrifice and dedication of religious women and men who arrived with their immigrant communities or came soon after to live and serve among them. At times, God had to raise up these dedicated servants from within to respond to the glaring needs of marginalized and persecuted populations in our country.

In our southern and western regions Sister Katherine Drexel, a native-born Philadelphian, (PA) and the sisters of the Blessed Sacrament come to mind who served Black and Indigenous Americans since their founding in 1891. Our own Sister Amelia Breton who serves as the coordinator of Intercultural Ministry, is a member of this religious community.

Cristiana Dell’Anna stars in a scene from the movie “Cabrini.” The OSV News classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. (OSV News photo/Angel Studios)

At the beginning of the 19th century Elizabeth Ann Seton founded the Sisters of Charity in 1809, the first American Religious Sisters congregation. She was deeply committed to education and is recognized as the foundress of Catholic school education in the United States. Members of her community came to Natchez in 1847 at the behest of Bishop John Joseph Chanche, S.S. to begin the legacy of Catholic education in our diocese. This religious community maintained a presence in Natchez until the early 2000s. Furthermore, God raised up our own Sister Thea Bowman from among the African American population in Canton to become a prophetic messenger of hope for Black Catholics and for all who are marginalized. Her cause for canonization is underway.

In theaters on March 8 across our nation, “Cabrini” is scheduled for release. It is the story of Frances Xavier Cabrini who founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Italy in the second half of the 19th century. The name of her community and her chosen middle name in honor of St. Francis Xavier, co-patron of the Missions, declare the purpose of her life and the charism of her community to bring the Gospel in its fulness to the nations. It is a compelling production, exceptional in its content and acting.

In one of the decisive scenes, Mother Cabrini and Pope Leo XIII are having tea and discussing possibilities. She is trying to convince him to give her order permission to venture east to China as she explains, “my mission is bigger than this world.” He calmly and clearly responds: “In that case it doesn’t matter where you begin.” He directed her to go west to New York to serve among the Italian immigrants who came in large numbers to the east coast between 1850 and 1910. The movie proceeds to realistically portray the harsh conditions for immigrants in the church and in society in the late 19th and early 20th century in New York.

On a personal note, it was around 1910 that my maternal grandparents who were from southern Italy passed through Ellis Island and began a new life with the clothes on their backs and a dream in their hearts. The movie is a gem that illustrates the plight, the vulnerability and determination of the immigrant population in ways that are true from one generation to the next. Against all odds Mother Cabrini succeeded in gaining a foothold in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, and from there fulfilled her mission around the globe, a mission that was “bigger than this world.”

The movie never missed a beat in capturing her heroic virtue and perseverance. This story of religious life that passed from the margins of church and society to the mainstream of both, will be a catechetical and evangelizing tool for generations to come. Kudos to all who had a hand in its development and production.

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

Moreover, the story of Mother Cabrini can challenge our Catholic communities and all people of good will to respond to the challenges, and at times crises, of immigration through the lens of the Gospel imperative to “welcome the stranger” and the ideals that are forever inscribed on the Statue of Liberty in the poem The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus. The following is from the second of two stanzas: “Give me your tired your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shores, send these the homeless, tempest tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

In our times, many religious are serving the immigrant population at our borders and in many corners of our nation. Often, they are as heroic as Mother Cabrini because some are pressuring to shut them down, and extremists are even advocating that they be shot. The current reality of immigration with its blessings and its burdens challenges us to go beyond the political posturing and invective that too often dominate the public narrative. In the time ahead we will add our voice to the public domain.

Ambassadors of Jesus Christ

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
God of all ages,
You always work to save us, and now we rejoice in the great love You give to your chosen people.
Bless and protect all who are about to become Your children through baptism, and all who seek full communion with us.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God forever and ever. Amen.


This opening prayer is proclaimed at the Rite of Election for Catechumens, the elect who are preparing for Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist; and Candidates, those preparing for Confirmation and Eucharist, all who are seeking to enter into full communion in the Catholic Church through their parish communities.

This is the Order of Christian Initiation of Adults, the process through which adults, primarily but also those above the age of reason, like Sister Thea Bowman at age nine, discern if the Holy Spirit is directing them to the bosom of the Catholic Church. This year the Rite of Election in the Diocese of Jackson took place at St. Francis in Madison, and St. John in Oxford. The OCIA is a hope-filled and joyful process for individuals, families, parish communities, and dioceses. It can also assist the traditional Catholic in their Lenten journey to hear the Lord’s call to repentance to live in a manner worthy of our calling and for the renewal of our Baptism promises at Easter.

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

You are always at work to save, O God, is the initial verse of the above prayer, and Pope Francis in his Lenten address recounts God’s words to Moses at the Burning Bush to bring forth the active presence of God in our world and in our lives.

“When the Lord calls out to Moses from the burning bush, he immediately shows that he is a God who sees and, above all, hears: ‘I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry…. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them.’ (Exodus 3:7-8)” In the fullness of time God’s personal encounter with all humanity reaches its fulfillment in Jesus Christ who is “with us always until the end of time.” (Matthew 28:20)

In his Lenten address Pope Francis often speaks of the journey from slavery in its many forms to freedom through faith in Jesus Christ. “In the Exodus account, there is a significant detail: it is God who sees, is moved and brings freedom; Israel does not ask for this. Pharaoh stifles dreams, blocks the view of heaven, makes it appear that this world, in which human dignity is trampled upon and authentic bonds are denied, can never change. He put everything in bondage to himself. Let us ask: Do I want a new world? Am I ready to leave behind my compromises with the old?” Pharoah, who easily stands for the evil one, in league with any of the idols we construct, wants us to be subjects; the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ wants beloved children. What a difference!

An essential part of the Liturgy of Baptism is a series of questions addressed to the parents and godparents, as well as to adult catechumens. They place us in the desert with Jesus who rebuffed the devil’s allures and temptations.

“Do you reject Satan, and all his works, and all his empty promises?”

“Do you reject the glamor of evil and refuse to be mastered by sin?”

Our affirmative responses express our commitment to the spiritual warfare against sin and evil that prayer, fasting and almsgiving effectively counter.

At the end of his Lenten message Pope Francis endeavors to rally the faithful. “To the extent that this Lent becomes a time of conversion, an anxious humanity will notice a burst of creativity, a flash of new hope. Allow me to repeat what I told the young people whom I met in Lisbon last summer: Keep seeking and be ready to take risks. At this moment in time, we face enormous risks; we hear the painful plea of so many people. Indeed, we are experiencing a third world war fought piecemeal. Yet let us find the courage to see our world, not as being in its death throes but in a process of giving birth, not at the end but at the beginning of a great new chapter of history. We need courage to think like this.”

By putting on the armor of God we claim our dignity as God’s children, as ambassadors of Jesus Christ, ministers of reconciliation, in effect, new creations. (2Corinthians 5:20) Indeed, the Kingdom of God is at hand for our receiving.

“Our affirmative responses express our commitment to the spiritual warfare against sin and evil that prayer, fasting and almsgiving effectively counter.”

Let the new decade begin

JACKSON – Archbishop Thomas Rodi of Mobile lays hands on Bishop Joseph Kopacz during his ordination as Bishop of Jackson on Feb. 6, 2014. (Photo from archives)

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
Just shy of 47 years a priest and now 10 years as the 11th Bishop of Jackson, I give thanks to the great High Priest, Jesus Christ for the gift of serving Him, His body the church, and the Kingdom of God in this world.

The Lord pronounced that “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10) This promise has been fulfilled ten-fold in my life. Indeed, abundance is the stamp of priesthood and episcopal ministry. Whether blessings or burdens, for me iIt has been a life of purpose especially over the unanticipated bends in the road.

A few days following my consecration and installation on Feb. 6, 2014, I treasured the opportunity to fly from Madison to St. Mary’s Basilica in Natchez, to St. Joseph in Greenville, to St. James in Tupelo, and to St. Joseph in Starkville, and in the process to have my first encounters with the faithful. During those 12 hours, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., from an ariel view of 3,000 feet a large swath of the Diocese of Jackson stretched out before me, a grand view that remains vivid to this day. Play it forward, and 10 years and 300,000 miles later, via modern day horsepower, have given me boots on the ground experience forming a deep bond with the Diocese of Jackson and the State of Mississippi. Of course, it’s not a matter of miles, but of mission and ministries and the Catholic people who make up the communities of faith throughout 65 counties.

As my anniversary approached there were two events a week ago that afforded me the opportunity to deepen the understanding that the gift I have received can only be graciously lived in turn. Unexpectedly, Bishop Mario Dorsonville died from health complications after serving only 10 months as the Ordinary of Houma-Thibodaux. At his Mass of Christian burial, the shock and sadness of those in the congregation were plain to see, and at moments I could not help but be self-referential considering the timeframe of his ten months and my ten years. If he were blessed to serve ten years, he would have been my age looking back in gratitude over a decade of service in the Bayou of Louisiana. We know not the day nor the hour, only that each day is the moment at hand, and the weeks, months and years follow rhythmically under the wings of Divine Providence.

The following day, on Friday of last week I had a visitor from Northeastern Pennsylvania, who was on his way to begin a new chapter of active duty in the Army Corps Band at Fort Hood, Texas. Liam and his brother Luke, my godson, served at my Mass of consecration and installation as early adolescents. Now they are 23 and their adult lives are unfolding with energy and enthusiasm.

Over breakfast at Broad Street Bakery, he just happened to mention that he could retire after 20 years at age 42, and then floated the question – “by the way, how old will you be at retirement?” That’s a number he couldn’t even compute. As he savored his grits it struck me that over ten years a number of folks in my life have left this world, and others have come of age. And yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus and yes, someday I will retire. But meanwhile I am still on active duty and grateful for the energy and motivation that propel me forward each day. Another way of naming this is God’s grace in varied and splendid ways, especially implored in the Eucharistic prayer at each Mass when I am lifted up by name.

Finally, I give thanks for the countless collaborators in the ministry – ordained, religious, and lay – whose love for the Lord Jesus and the church, whose generosity and Gospel commitment are a fountain of inspiration every day. Let the new decade begin and may the bends in the road ahead continue the adventure in that sacred space between time and eternity. Ad multos anos!

Statement from Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz and the Diocese of Jackson on the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith’s declaration”Fiducia Supplicans” – on the pastoral meaning of blessings

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz
JACKSON – “Fiducia Supplicans,” the declaration issued by the Holy See’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) and approved by Pope Francis reminds us that each one of us is in need of God’s blessings, healing, compassion and mercy. To seek a blessing from a priest is to acknowledge the need for God in one’s life and the desire to grow stronger in a relationship with God.
The declaration does not change the church’s teaching on marriage as a union of one man and one woman in lifelong fidelity and openness to children; nor is it a step toward the ratification of same-sex unions nor a compromise of the church’s teaching on these irregular relationships.
It is a document on the nature of blessings and the pastoral use of giving informal, spontaneous blessings to individuals seeking to experience God’s healing love and grace in their lives.
To quote the document directly, the DDF sums up its declaration thusly:
“ … following the authoritative teaching of Pope Francis, this Dicastery finally wishes to recall that ‘the root of Christian meekness’ is ‘the ability to feel blessed and the ability to bless. This world needs blessings, and we can give blessings and receive blessings. The Father loves us, and the only thing that remains for us is the joy of blessing him, and the joy of thanking him, and of learning from him to bless.’ [Catechesis on Prayer: The Blessing (2 December 2020)] In this way, every brother and every sister will be able to feel that, in the church, they are always pilgrims, always beggars, always loved, and, despite everything, always blessed.” (FS #45)
The full text of the document may be found on line at: https://bit.ly/FiduciaSupplicansDeclaration
I encourage all the faithful to read the actual document in its entirety.

Celebrating the legacy of MLK, Jr. and Sister Thea Bowman

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
Coming out of the splendor of the Christmas season with the culminating feasts of the Epiphany and the Baptism of the Lord, we now return to ordinary time to remain steadfast in the work of the Lord to announce the Good News of Salvation, and the presence of the Kingdom of God, the work of conversion, and of justice, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:17)
The feast of the Epiphany, the manifestation of Jesus Christ to all nations, inspired us to follow the radiance of the Gospel while circumventing the power and pull of evil in our world, as did the Magi in eluding King Herod. The Baptism of the Lord inspires us as God’s children, baptized into the life-giving death and resurrection of God’s beloved Son, to hear the call of the Lord and to put it into practice as his disciples. With the Holy Spirit as out guide we pray and dedicate ourselves to the will of God “on earth as it is in heaven.” The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the foretaste and promise of glory (2Corinthians 5:5), raising us beyond the horizon of this world to the vision of eternal life.

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

The national holiday this weekend offers us the bonus of an additional day away from many of our offices and workplaces and much more in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. At our Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle, we are going to mark this occasion in an extra special way with an additional Mass on Sunday afternoon honoring the legacy and witness of King and of our own Sister Thea Bowman, Servant of God. They were not exactly contemporaries of one another, yet they breathed the same air with the same passion for civil rights, for freedom, justice and equality for all of God’s children.
When Martin Luther King Jr. was slain in Memphis in April 1968, Sister Thea was pursuing an advanced degree at Catholic University in Washington DC. She would take up the torch for the next 20 years until her untimely death. They were committed disciples of the Lord Jesus, MLK, Jr. a Baptist, and Bowman, a Catholic, who like the Magi were inspired to live by the light of faith and the power of the Gospel.
When Pope Francis spoke to the United States Congress in 2015, he honored King as a prophetic voice for our nation’s conscience, along with Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day and Abraham Lincoln. As a national icon, Martin Luther King Jr. is a Christian prophet whose life and violent death challenge us to resist the many-sided faces of evil nonviolently. His witness still confronts us today to turn away from the sins of racism, and unbridled materialism and militarism.
On the other hand, Sister Thea is not as well known nationally but her life, cut short by cancer, also rises to the distinction of prophetic witness. She labored untiringly in the vineyard of the Lord for greater justice and peace with a passion securely anchored in the joy of the Holy Spirit. Her cause for canonization continues to gain traction in our Catholic world around our nation, while the Diocese of Jackson works behind the scenes to fulfill the requirements to move the cause forward. For example, in the recent past the diocese sponsored a documentary on her amazing life, entitled “Going Home Like a Shooting Star.” (https://bit.ly/SisterTheaFilm) Later this spring we will unveil a life-size bronze statue of Sister Thea to be nestled in the cathedral until a shrine is built in a permanent location in the diocese.
In conclusion, allow the words of these two spiritual giants to capture our imagination and vision for living.

“Everyone does not have access. When I say that, I mean that Martin Luther King Jr. was demonstrating for the rights of the poor, he was demonstrating for fair and decent housing, he was demonstrating for opportunities for adequate education. And not just adequate educational opportunity for blacks, but for all children. He was demonstrating for a land where we could love another as brothers and sisters and work together for a solution to our common problems.” (Sister Thea Bowman)
“Love yourself, if that means rational, healthy, and moral self-interest. You are commanded to do that. That is the length of life. Love your neighbor as yourself. You are commanded to do that. This is the breath of life. But never forget that there is even a greater and first commandment, ‘Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and all thy soul and all thy mind.’ This is the height of life. And when you do this, you live the complete life.” (MLK, Jr.)