JACKSON – Last edition I wrote about May being the month for ordinations. This week for the digital edition I thought I would share several photos of our three most recent bishops at their ordinations. It is very enriching to look back on lives well-lived in the service of the Lord.
Keep all of our priests in your prayers as they strive to be humble servants of the Lord.
(Mary Woodward is Chancellor and Archivist for the Diocese of Jackson.)
If you enter a church and find the sanctuary decked out in red flowers, chances are that, unless it is Christmas, the parish has just celebrated Confirmation. This is particularly true in spring when so many such celebrations take place in the wake of Easter.
I wonder, though, if this Sacrament is in danger of being deeply underappreciated.
Unlike Communion and Reconciliation, Confirmation is celebrated only once in a lifetime. Thus, it is not repeatedly recalled in such a tangible way.
Unlike Holy Matrimony and Ordination, Confirmation does not bring forth an obvious reorientation of daily life and the organization of that life to meet the demands that come with a new state of life. Unlike Baptism, it does not come with such constant reminders as the Baptismal candle prominently placed in every church or the annual renewal of Baptismal vows at Easter or the reminder of Baptism at every Christian funeral.
Unlike the Anointing of the Sick, it is often celebrated amidst the myriad distractions and angsts of teenage life rather than in those days when the mind and heart are intensely oriented toward the spiritual. It is also centered on the Holy Spirit, perhaps the most intangible member of the Holy Trinity.
Yet, when considering the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the fruits of that Spirit, and the great promise of strength that comes with it, there may be more that can be done to emphasize the importance of this Sacrament for those receiving it this year, those for whom Confirmation was a long-ago celebration, and for the life of a parish as a whole. So, perhaps:
• If space allows, all parishioners should be invited to and urged to attend the parish’s celebration of Confirmation to remember their own celebration, hear the beautiful prayers of Confirmation, and support the newly confirmed with their presence and their prayers. Attend if you can and recall the graces you received that special day of your own life.
• Consider hosting a parish wide celebration each year for those who are confirmed – perhaps on the Feast of Pentecost or on a Sunday close to the Confirmation celebration. This can be an occasion for all to rejoice in the gracious gifts of the Holy Spirit.
• Occasionally the beautiful words of the Confirmation rite might be printed in the parish bulletin or website so that those who last heard these words long ago can have a chance to reflect on them once again.
• Confirmation sponsors may consider all the ways they can help the one they sponsored grow in wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord. Often, godparents are chosen for their critical role because of their relationships with the parents of the infant to be baptized. Typically, however, when a teenager or adult is being confirmed, he or she chooses the sponsor. Hopefully, those special relationships will inspire sponsors to play active roles in the lives of faith of those they presented for Confirmation. Perhaps the anniversary of Confirmation day, or the Feast Day of the Confirmation patron saint can be particular occasions to renew and strengthen that commitment.
• To the extent possible, the years after Confirmation might be given greater attention. All too often, Confirmation can become a day that marks the end of religious education rather than the beginning of a newer and deeper life of faith. Those who lead parish organizations might consider how to reach out to the newly Confirmed to play an active role in parish life. Yes, this may mean a vibrant youth and young adult ministry program. But it should also involve real invitations for the newly confirmed to join every other activity and form of service that is part of parish life.
• Planning for Pentecost Sunday – celebrated on May 28 this year – might include ways to recall the celebration of Confirmation, remember what it meant, and pray for continued openness to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
• If those to be Confirmed are still teenagers or younger, their parents – the first teachers of the faith – have a sacred role to play in helping them to prepare, by sharing with them a strong witness of a faith-filled life and prioritizing their growth in faith above all the other demands on their time.
• Likewise, godparents should accompany their godchildren as they journey toward Confirmation. With the intimate connection between Baptism and Confirmation, this support can be essential.
My own Confirmation was decades ago. I have happy memories and some photographs in which I am wearing a red robe and a white felt stole bearing the name of my patron saint, “Ann.” I wish I remembered more. However, with every passing year, I get a bit more grateful for that long ago day and what happened on it.
Perhaps as individuals and as parish families this can be the year to celebrate Confirmation and its important role in the life of Baptized Christians and in the very life of the church herself. When the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles, these men who had trembled and hidden in fear were strengthened to do great things boldly and bravely for the rest of their days. May we seek ways to more fully embrace the Holy Spirit in our own lives and to rejoice in the way it fills our ordinary times.
(Lucia A. Silecchia is a Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Faculty Research at the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Christian discipleship calls all of us to be prophetic, to be advocates for justice, to help give voice to the poor, and to defend truth. But not all of us, by temperament or by particular vocation, are called to civil disobedience, public demonstrations and the picket lines, as were Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Daniel Berrigan and other such prophetic figures. All are asked to be prophetic, but for some this means more wielding a basin and towel than wielding a placard.
There is a powerful way of being prophetic that, while seemingly quiet and personal, is never private. And its rules are the same as the rules for those who, in the name of Jesus, are wielding placards and risking civil disobedience. What are those rules, rules for a Christian prophecy?
First, a prophet makes a vow of love, not of alienation. There is a critical distinction between stirring up trouble and offering prophecy out of love, a distinction between operating out of egoism and operating out of faith and hope. A prophet risks misunderstanding, but never seeks it, and a prophet seeks always to have a mellow rather than an angry heart.
Second, a prophet draws his or her cause from Jesus and not from an ideology. Ideologies can carry a lot of truth and be genuine advocates for justice. But, people can walk away from an ideology, seeing it precisely as an ideology, as political correctness, and thus justify their rejection of the truth it carries. Sincere people often walk away from Greenpeace, from Feminism, or Liberation Theology, from Critical Race Theory and many other ideologies which in fact carry a lot of truth because those truths are wrapped inside an ideology. Sincere people will not walk away from Jesus. In our struggle for justice and truth, we must be ever vigilant that we are drawing our truth from the Gospels and not from some ideology.
Third, a prophet is committed to non-violence. A prophet is always seeking to personally disarm rather than to arm, to be in the words of Daniel Berrigan, a powerless criminal in a time of criminal power. A prophet takes Jesus seriously when he asks us, in the face of violence, to turn the other cheek. A prophet incarnates in his or her way of living the eschatological truth that in heaven there will be no guns.
Fourth, a prophet articulates God’s voice for the poor and for the earth. Any preaching, teaching, or political action that is not good news for the poor is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus came to bring good news to the poor, to “widows, orphans, and strangers” (biblical code for the most vulnerable groups in society). As Pastor Forbes once famously said: Nobody goes to heaven without a letter of reference from the poor. We are not meant to be the church compatible.
Fifth, a prophet doesn’t foretell the future but properly names the present in terms of God’s vision of things. A prophet reads where the finger of God is within everyday life, in function of naming our fidelity or infidelity to God and in function of pointing to our future in terms of God’s plan for us. This is Jesus’ challenge to read the signs of the times.
Sixth, a prophet speaks out of a horizon of hope. A prophet draws his or her vision and energy not from wishful thinking nor from optimism, but from hope. And Christian hope is not based on whether the world situation is better or worse on a given day. Christian hope is based on God’s promise, a promise that was fulfilled in the resurrection of Jesus, which assures us that we can entrust ourselves to love, truth, and justice, even if the world kills us for it. The stone will always roll back from the tomb.
Seventh, a prophet’s heart and cause are never a ghetto. Jesus assures us that in his Father’s house there are many rooms. Christian prophecy must ensure that no person or group can make God their own tribal or national deity. God is equally solicitous vis-à-vis all people and all nations.
Finally, a prophet doesn’t just speak or write about injustice, a prophet also acts and acts with courage, even at the cost of death. A prophet is a wisdom figure, a Magus or a Sophia, who will act, no matter the cost in lost friends, lost prestige, lost freedom, or danger to his or her own life. A prophet has enough altruistic love, hope, and courage to act, no matter the cost. A prophet never seeks martyrdom but accepts it if it finds him or her.
This last counsel is, I believe, the one most challenging for “quiet” prophets. Wisdom figures are not renowned for being on the picket lines, but in that lies the challenge. A prophet can discern at what time to park the placard and bring out the basin and towel – and at what time to lay aside the basin and towel and pick up the placard.
(Oblate Father Ron Rolheiser is a theologian, teacher and award-winning author. He can be contacted through his website www.ronrolheiser.com.)
As we continue to nurture a culture of vocations in our diocese, we are starting a new initiative to invite more stakeholders to get involved. The Catholic Women’s Burse Club is a ‘meeting-less’ association that invites all Catholic women in the Diocese of Jackson to support our seminarians. We have sent out invitations throughout the diocese, so be on the lookout! A small gift is all it takes to become a member of the Burse Club, and all members will be connected to the Office of Vocations with a monthly report and will be asked to pray for our seminarians. They will also be recognized at our annual Homegrown Harvest Fundraiser each fall.
One of the biggest sources of priestly vocations is parents. If parents encourage and promote priestly life to their sons, then it is a much easier road to the seminary. Unfortunately, the opposite is true as well. It is very challenging for young men when their parents do not support their decision to discover God’s will for them in the seminary. I know that it can be scary as a parent when your children choose to take a “road less traveled,” but God will not be outdone in His generosity. I encourage all parents, and as we are in May, all mothers to please encourage your sons to consider the priesthood. It can be easy to say “we need good priests,” but it is more difficult to proclaim, “…and those good priests can come from our family!”
I am hopeful that the Burse Club will provide helpful information and a wonderful opportunity for women of the diocese to get involved in our quest to bring forth homegrown vocations. We ask for the intercession of the patroness of our diocese, Our Lady of Sorrows, and we are confident that the Lord will bless our efforts. Please consider joining the Catholic Women’s Burse Club. We are rejoicing this month at the ordination to the priesthood of Carlisle Beggerly and the ordination to the transitional diaconate of Tristan Stovall. Kay Beggerly and Ginger Stovall, the mothers of these men, have supported them greatly and have encouraged them every step of the way. This is a great gift and we thank them for giving their sons to the family of the church.
The women of the diocese should be receiving information via mail on the Burse Club in May. If you would like more information on the Burse Club, you can contact the Office of Vocations at (601) 969-4020.
For more info on vocations email: email@example.com.
U.S. author Karen Cushman, in “The Ballad of Lucy Whipple” said: “Look was pa’s favorite word; it meant admire, wonder, goggle at the beauty and excitement all around us.” What ‘word’ does this for you? One of my favorites is delight. Consider poor Owl in A.A. Milne’s “Eeyore Loses a Tail:”
“For Owl wise though he was in many ways … somehow went all to pieces over delicate words like measles and buttered toast.” Oh my, how words vary with each of us!
Spring is well underway though convalescence continues I have been exploring ways to study scripture. Most of you no doubt are reading each day’s readings, preparing for the Eucharist, and finding new ways to deepen your knowledge and wisdom. One way is through the Magnificat that our little parish provides us. I am always on the lookout for a word, a single word that can help me do that. “Delight” has been in my heart. Exploring words and the Word is well worth time and energy! Anais Nin, a French American writer in her diary called my attention to this:
“A trite word is an overused word which has lost its identity like an old coat in a second-hand shop. The familiar grows dull and we no longer see, hear, or taste it. “
So, I have also been exploring ‘the Word’ in “The Message,” by Eugene Peterson … a poetic and modern language edition of the Bible (Catholic books not included). Some of you may well know it and realize that just the changing of a word enlightens the mind. He taught Greek and Hebrew and is a pastor and thought that the words one found sometimes did not express a modern understanding. It is neither a study Bible nor one with footnotes (but the Intros are very worth exploring). It is a reader’s Bible… Here is a simple example from the Gospel of St Luke:
“Gabriel greeted her: Good morning! You’re beautiful with God’s beauty, beautiful inside and out! God be with you … the child you bring to birth will be called Holy, Son of God … nothing is impossible to God… Yes, I see it all now: I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve. Let it be with me just as you say.” (Luke 1)
“The Message” is not an attempt to ‘dumb-down’ the scriptures but to make available words that catch our hearts and minds. The Psalms, for example, are a good place to start in any translation! I love Psalm 62:“God, the One and only – I’ll wait as long as God says. Everything I need comes from God, so why not? God is a solid rock under my feet, breathing room for my soul, an impregnable castle: I’m set for life.” I love that … breathing room for my soul! Delightful.
Psalm 142 anchors the cry of our word in the anguished hope that God will come to our aid: “I cry out loudly to God, loudly I plead with God for mercy. I spill out all my complaints before God, and spell out my troubles in detail.”
Maybe you’ve never read the scriptures. I know that sounds nuts but often people listen at Mass and hope for the best. Indeed, the reading of the scriptures is a pleasure and our source of goodness and promise. How will I know what God has promised me if I do not read His Word? What can I delight in? What can help me when I am ill or fearful, joyful or expectant? Though in our Catholic tradition most of the Bible is read aloud over the 3-year cycle, each day I need the Word for sustenance, I need to hear God tell me who He is, what He has done for us, how I might follow.
Another favorite is Job and his saga with three ‘friends’ who do him no good, and a God who loves him dearly but seems silent at times. Maybe you have had this experience?
“Please, God, I have two requests, grant them so I’ll know I can count on You: First, lay off the affliction; the terror is too much for me. Second, address me directly so I can answer You, or let me speak and then You answer me. … Why do You stay hidden and silent? Why do You treat me like I’m Your enemy? You watch every move I make, and brand me as a dangerous character.” (Job 13)
Exploring the Word and finding delight draws us close to our God who left us all these inspirations and promises that we might live with God forever. The human authors and saints that follow are there to invite us into the Kingdom. In Isaiah 42:1 (referring to Jesus) we are reminded:
“Here is My servant, whom I uphold, My chosen One, in whom My soul delights … I have put My spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations.” In whom does your soul delight? Blessings.
(Sister alies therese is a canonically vowed hermit with days formed around prayer and writing.)
JACKSON – The month of May is traditionally the month dedicated to the Blessed Mother in our church. Countless May crownings, novenas, rosaries, and a myriad of other celebrations occur in parishes throughout the diocese and indeed the world.
May also is the month when many of our ordinations to the priesthood and diaconate occur. This year is no different when in the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle on May 20, Bishop Joseph Kopacz will ordain Tristan Stovall to the transitional diaconate, and on May 27, he will ordain Deacon Carlisle Beggerly to the priesthood. This is definitely an exciting time for our diocese to celebrate Holy Orders being conferred on two young men.
Looking at our current clergy and many of the past, May was the month to get ordained. Bishop Kopacz himself was ordained on May 7; Bishop Joseph Latino was ordained on May 25, and Bishop William Houck was ordained a priest on May 19 and a bishop on May 27.
Noting this, I decided to look in Bishop Richard O. Gerow’s diary back to his early days to possibly find something on his ordination. He narrowly missed being ordained a priest in May as he was ordained June 5; and he was ordained a bishop on Oct. 15. He was born on May 3, so in a way he was ordained into life in May.
But in looking at his entries in May 1927 while doing some research on the Great Flood of that year, I found a unique entry about the ordination of Thomas J. Toolen as the Bishop of Mobile on May 4, of that year. Bishop Toolen would have been the bishop to ordain Bishop Houck to the priesthood in 1951, so we have a definite connection to him.
Bishop Houck often shared many wonderful stories about Bishop Toolen, who uniquely was given the title of Archbishop prior to Mobile becoming an archdiocese. Anyway, I would like to share Bishop Gerow’s warm account of the celebration and his love for his hometown.
“At the time that I received the request of Bishop-Elect [Thomas J.] Toolen to serve as his Junior Co-Consecrator I felt highly honored and elevated. Naturally it made me happy to think that I was to have a very important part in raising to the dignity of the Episcopacy the new Bishop of my own native Mobile for I still love Mobile.
“I had not known personally the new Bishop-Elect, but since he was to be the new Bishop of Mobile where I had been born and which had been my childhood home and where I had spent fifteen happy years of my priestly life, I felt that we belonged together. Accordingly, I immediately accepted the invitation.
“On May 4, the date of the Consecration, I was in Baltimore for the ceremony. Archbishop Curley was the Consecrator, Bishop Keyes was the Senior Co-Consecrator, and I did my part as Junior Co-Consecrator. “The Consecration of a Bishop is a beautiful and impressive ceremony. In order to give it dignity it takes place within the ceremony of the Mass. I still remember the ceremony of my own Consecration – just three years ago – and this ceremony now brings back most vividly to my memory all that took place on that occasion.
“The reading of the Papal document that called him to the Bishop’s office, the Litany of the Saints calling upon the blessed in Heaven to join us in prayer, the imposition of hands by the Consecrator and the two Co-Consecrators, the anointing of the head with chrism, the receiving of the mitre and the blessing of the people, and many other beautiful parts of the ceremony made me live over again the happy occasion of my own Consecration.”
These next few paragraphs are from the 1924 entries to Bishop Gerow’s diary and feature his memories of his own consecration celebration in Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Mobile on Oct. 15, 1924.
“The ceremony was in the Cathedral of Mobile, and this was proper. Within its shadow I had been born; within its walls, baptized; here I had served for many years as an altar boy; here I had been confirmed; and since my ordination to the priesthood, here had been my only appointment; here was the only parish in which I had ever had a domicile.
“The Consecrating Prelate was Bishop Edward Allen, who had always been to me as a father. He had sent me to college to try my vocation; he had kept me near him during my years as a priest; and I feel that his example and training have done much to mold my priestly life.
“The Co-Consecrators were Bishop Jules B. Jeanmard and Bishop James A. Griffin, the latter a close companion during my years of study in Rome. A magnificent sermon was preached by Very Reverend Edward Cummings, S.J. Provincial, with whom I had been closely associated during his years at Spring Hill College.”
I often find myself in Mobile and visit the cathedral. After reading these two entries, I now have an even deeper connection to this sacred space. All are invited to our beautiful cathedral on May 20 and May 27 to celebrate these young men entering into Holy Orders. This May is a fine time for our diocese.
(Mary Woodward is Chancellor and Archivist for the Diocese of Jackson.)
There’s a saying attributed to Attila the Hun, a 5th century ruler infamous for his cruelty, which reads this way: For me to be happy, it’s not just important that I succeed; it’s also important that everyone else fails. I suspect that Atilla the Hun was not the author of that, but, no matter, there’s a lesson here.
The Gospels tell us that God’s mercy is unlimited and unconditional, that God has no favorites, that God is equally solicitous for everyone’s happiness and salvation, and that God does not ration his gift of the Spirit. If that is true, then we need to ask ourselves why we so frequently tend to withhold God’s Spirit from others in our judgments – particularly in our religious judgments. We are blind to the fact that sometimes there’s a little of Attila the Hun in us.
For example, how prone are we to think this way? For my religion to be the true, it’s important to me that other religions are not true! For my Christian denomination to be faithful to Christ, it’s important that all the other denominations be considered less faithful. For the Eucharist in my denomination to be valid, it’s important that the Eucharist in other denominations be invalid or less valid. And, since I’m living a certain sustained fidelity in my faith and moral life, it’s important to me that everyone else who isn’t living as faithfully does not get to heaven or is assigned to a secondary place in heaven.
Well, we aren’t the first disciples of Jesus to think this way and to be challenged by him in our Attila the Hun proclivities. This is in fact a large part of the lesson in Jesus’ parable regarding an over-generous landowner who paid everyone the same generous wage no matter how much or little each had worked.
We are all familiar with this story. A landowner goes out one morning and hires workers to work in his fields. He hires some early in the morning, some at noon, some in mid-afternoon, and some with only an hour left in the workday. Then he pays them all the same wage – a generous one. The people who worked the full day understandably became resentful, upset that (while their wage was in fact a generous one) they felt it was unfair to them that those who had worked a lot less should also receive an equally generous wage. The landowner in response says to the complainant, “Friend, I am not being unjust to you. Didn’t you agree to this wage? Why are you envious because I am generous?” (Matthew 20:1-16) Notice that Jesus addresses the one making the complaint as ‘friend.” That’s a designation for us, we, the ones who are faithfully doing the full day’s work. Note his tone is warm and soft. However, his challenge is less warm and soft: Why are you jealous because God is overly generous? Why is it important to us that because we are doing things right, that God should be hard on those who aren’t?
Full disclosure: sometimes I imagine myself, after having lived a life of celibacy, entering heaven and meeting there the world’s most notorious playboy and asking God, “How did he get in here?” and God answering, “Friend, isn’t heaven a wonderful place! Are you envious because I am generous?” Who knows, we might even meet Attila the Hun there.
One of the core values held by a certain group of Quakers is something they call generous orthodoxy. I like the combination of those two words. Generosity speaks of openness, hospitality, empathy, wide tolerance and of sacrificing some of ourselves for others. Orthodoxy speaks of certain non-negotiable truths, of keeping proper boundaries, of staying true to what you believe and of not compromising truth for the sake of being nice. These two are often pitted against each other as opposites, but they are meant to be together. Holding ground on our truth, keeping proper boundaries and refusing to compromise even at the risk of not being nice is one side of the equation, but the full equation requires us to be also fully respectful and gracious regarding other people’s truth, cherished beliefs and boundaries. And this is not an unhealthy syncretism, if what the other person holds as truth does not contradict what we hold – although it might be very different and may not in our judgment be nearly as full and rich as what we hold.
Hence, you can be a Christian, convinced that Christianity is the truest expression of religion in the world without making the judgment that other religions are false. You can be a Roman Catholic, convinced that Roman Catholicism is the truest and fullest expression of Christianity, and your Eucharist is the real presence of Jesus, without making the judgment that other Christian denominations are not valid expressions of Christ and do not have a valid Eucharist. There’s no contradiction there. You can be right, without that being contingent on everyone else being wrong!
(Oblate Father Ron Rolheiser is a theologian, teacher and award-winning author. He can be contacted through his website www.ronrolheiser.com.)
Back in Spring 2021, I visited the Diocese of Little Rock to discover why they had so many seminarians. For the past several years the diocese had consistently large numbers of seminarians and most of those seminarians came from parishes in the diocese. This was interesting to me since the Diocese of Little Rock has a similar demographic layout to the Diocese of Jackson. The diocese spans the entire state of Arkansas, and other than the parishes in the metro area of the capital, and a couple of university towns, most of the parishes are in rural areas.
When I spoke to Msgr. Scott Friend, then the longtime vocation director of the diocese, he told me that one of the biggest unifying forces for his men was their dedication to learning Spanish and being ready to serve whatever community they needed to upon ordination. Speaking with some of the young priests of the diocese on that trip, they told me how their dedication to learning a second language had galvanized them to see their priesthood through the lens of mission, and this was helpful since they were studying for a mission diocese. They shared with me that learning Spanish created a ‘buy-in’ among the seminarians and helped them to grow in humility and trust of the Lord as they struggled to encounter the People of God in a new way.
As I processed through my visit to Little Rock and I spoke to Bishop Kopacz about the experience, I was sure that language immersion and a dedication to being ready to minister to the growing number of Hispanic Catholics in our diocese needed to be a focus in our formation program.
In Summer 2022, I visited the Benedictine Abbey of Our Lady of the Angels outside of Cuernavaca, Mexico in hopes of finding an immersion program that fit our needs. I visited on Fourth of July weekend as the seminarians in that year’s program in the middle of their studies led by lay teachers and monks from the Abbey. I came away very impressed by the program, and we began to make plans to implement this summer program as a part of our formation plan.
This summer, four of our seminarians and I will depart for Cuernavaca to take part in this program. We will spend two hours each day individually practicing with a teacher, then two hours in small group discussion. We will also be spending regular prayer time and attending Mass with the monastic community in the Abbey. We will also be visiting historical sites around the area, including the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who is the patroness of North America. I am very hopeful that this program will not only equip our seminarians with a much-needed skill in today’s church, but that it will be a great source of fraternal bonding. The Lord meets us whenever we take a risk and trust in Him, and I know that He will be with us in Mexico. Please keep myself, Ryan Stoer, Tristan Stovall, Grayson Foley and Will Foggo in your prayers this summer, and pray to the efforts of these great seminarians will bless them, and our diocese, for many years to come.
Father Nick Adam
For more info on vocations email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
On earth day I planted one seed, a giant sunflower sent to me by a friend in California. If it sprouts and is nourished it might grow to 15’14” across. Oh my. That’s a lot for one seed. While thinking about this one seed (and she sent me seven) I recalled the wonders God has done and was drawn to Psalm 104 where we encounter God as provider and creator.
In this springtime some of our readers are suffering perhaps from illness or accident, aging or loneliness. You might be reading from a prison or a nursing home, from your den or garden. What I learned from this Psalm is how rich and bountiful our God is and no matter where I make this meditation, (34) I can sing (33) praise to God. This is a seed of hope.
What is the one seed you will plant today? Is it an actual seed like mine, or will it be a seed of happiness or healing? Will it be a seed of thanksgiving or peace, or gratitude or friendship? See each day as the opportunity to plant one seed. Maybe it will be a phone call, or kindness to a visitor, or writing an email to someone who is sick. One seed can change things greatly. This God knows and shows God’s graciousness to us. Our favorite ‘one seed’ is Jesus. One seed planted and grown and rescued from permanent danger by being raised from the dead. Not all seeds seem to flourish like Jesus … they pop up and then whither. I do not want to wither, and Psalm 104 shows me how God, our provider wishes the same.
We remember the story about the seeds on the path, the seeds in the thorns, the seeds on rich soil. Maybe only one seed prospered … the rich soil made it possible. The birds and creeping things each come from one seed. Out of all the reproductive possibilities, one seed is available, one seed blossoms, one seed provides nourishment. And what did Jesus say that seed was? The Word of God. Are you reading your Bible? Are you finding new ways to grow in God? Are you praying in thanksgiving for the treasures of God?
In this Psalm, I am happy to read about all of creation and also about how I can respond. I can rejoice, sing and mediate and my love for God is deepened, and I increase my wonder and awe of all that God created. I can also be alert to the ways human beings are not generous with the creation of God. Russell Baker, a US journalist who remarked in an article in the New York Times on Feb. 22, 1968, “We live in an environment whose principal product is garbage.” I dare say we have not become more responsible in all these years. Rachel Carson, environmentalist, and writer, in her work Silent Spring, noted: “For the first time in the history of the world, every human being is now subjected to contact with dangerous chemicals, from the moment of conception until death.”
What is this garbage besides the obvious plastic? Well, when it is a seed of resentment or anger, hatred or regret the ‘garbage’ in our souls grows. When our focus is on the things of this world that keep us from God, chemicals surround us … dangerous and contaminating. What breaks the cycle of negativity? What causes us to be transformed into peacemakers and children of such a gracious Father? Well, plant the seeds, even if only one of charity within and all the others will fall into place. Consider St. James 1:21ff, who sets the seeds of welcome and meekness against those of sordidness and wickedness. They are like smog in the throat keeping one from singing.
“ ‘Once-ler!’ He cried with a cruffulous croak.
‘Once-ler! You’re making such smogulous smoke! My poor Swomee-Swams…why they can’t sing a note! No one can sing who has smog in his throat.” (Dr. Seuss, The Lorax).
That includes the smog in our hearts. Plant something today that will bring joy and healing to hearts and minds. It could be green things that drive out the smog and invite us into the refreshment of God. Blessings.
(Sister alies therese is a canonically vowed hermit with days formed around prayer and writing.)
LIGHT ONE CANDLE By Father Ed Dougherty, M.M., The Christophers’ board of directors
This year, Mother’s Day falls on Sunday, May 14, just one day after the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima. Together, these two days make up a special weekend in this month already dedicated to our Blessed Mother. It is fitting that our celebrations of motherhood and Mary coincide because she is the guardian of mothers in this world. Mary is the model for motherhood in both joy and sorrow, and she shows the way of mercy at all times.
The story of Mary standing at the foot of the cross resonates with mothers in their deepest moments of suffering. When Jesus said to Mary, “Woman, behold, your son!” He was entrusting her to the care of John. He followed that by saying to John, “Behold, your mother!” So, He was entrusting John to her care as well, and by extension, He was entrusting us all to Mary’s care.
The numerous and well-documented Marian apparitions that have occurred over the years confirm Mary’s role as mother to us all and her profound connection to God. Credible Marian apparitions have occurred in many cultures at important moments in history, and the apparitions at Fatima remain among the most astounding.
Mary’s final apparition at Fatima made international news, and it was reported that somewhere between 30,000 and 100,000 people made pilgrimages to the Cova da Iria, a field where Lucia dos Santos and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto pastured their families’ sheep. There, the pilgrims witnessed Mary’s promised sign as the sun broke through dark rain clouds and defied the laws of physics, dancing in the sky and, at one point, appearing to fall to earth before finally returning to its normal position, leaving the ground the people were standing on and their previously wet clothes completely dry.
In her appearances to Lucia, Francesco and Jacinta, Mary asked for prayers, reparations and devotion to her Immaculate Heart, and she made statements about war and peace that proved prophetic throughout the 20th century. At every turn, her intervention at Fatima was marked by a profound care for humanity and the hope that we would follow Christ and discover the Mercy of God.
Mary’s role as the mother of Jesus is the lens through which to understand why she is such a powerful intercessor for us. Consider the story of the Wedding at Cana, when Jesus turned water into wine at His mother’s request. Midway through the gathering, she said to Him, “They have no wine,” and Jesus answered, “O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” At this point, Mary turned to the servants and said, “Do whatever He tells you.”
What amazing confidence Mary had that Jesus would do as she asked even after He expressed displeasure at the request. This is the type of confidence we should have in asking for Mary’s intercession because she will always bring our needs to the foot of the Cross where all good things have been made possible in Christ.
In His actions at the Wedding at Cana, Jesus demonstrates the tremendous loyalty and respect we all owe to our mothers, who walk in the footsteps of Mary in the countless selfless acts they perform on our behalf. We should turn to the intercession of Mary to ask Christ to bless us with the same devotion to our mothers that He showed to His, so we can honor them this Mother’s Day and throughout our lives.
(For a free copy of The Christophers’ LIFT UP YOUR HEARTS, e-mail: email@example.com)