Required Financial Practices in Diocese of Jackson

(Editors note: The following is an excerpt from the “Diocese of Jackson, Parish Finance Council, Decree and Guidelines” of the Required Financial Practices section, that details how financial donations are to be handled and accounted for in the Diocese of Jackson.)

Financial Reporting
a) Record financial transactions and prepare financial statements: Financial transactions are recorded and monthly financial statements are prepared using ParishSoft ConnectNow Accounting software.

b) Financial records: All financial records documenting transactions should be available to the parish as needed. Records should not be kept offsite at the residences of employees or volunteers where access to the financial records may be limited. Financial records are the property of the parish and must be kept on the parish premises.

c) Regular financial report preparation: Financial reporting is made regularly and timely to facilitate control and corrective action. The financial reports should be presented in detail capturing bank accounts held at local financial institutions and Diocese accounts (not just operating accounts) and debt obligations. Financial statements should contain all activity of the Parish.

d) Communication of financial results: Parish financial results are reported each month to the pastor and finance council. In addition, results should be shared with parishioners on at least an annual basis including sources and amounts of income, parish debt obligations, unpaid bills and parish savings.

Sunday and Holy Day Collections
a) Count teams: Collection bags should be maintained in the safe until the next business day when the count team is assembled and ready to begin counting. At least two (preferably three) unrelated people, not employees, should be present when collections are counted. No one should ever sort and organize money prior to the arrival of the count team.

b) Proper rotation of count team duties and members: Multiple count teams that are periodically rotated should count collections. If there is only a single count team, then count duties should be rotated.

c) Collections are handled properly: All checks are restrictively endorsed during counting procedures, and a cash collection report is compiled and signed by each of the count team members. It is helpful to establish written cash handling guidelines indicating names and duties of team members.

d) Adequate physical safeguards: All cash receipts should be deposited intact daily or locked in a safe and deposited the next day. Limit entry to the safe to two people requiring such access, each should have the safe combination and/or key. The safe combination and/or key should be adequately safeguarded. Use your bank’s drop bag process whenever possible to ensure safe/timely deposit of funds.

e) Segregating collection duties: Ideally, different individuals complete the receiving, processing, recording and bank reconciliation functions. This option is not always possible especially if there are only one or two individuals available to perform these duties. Separate and rotate these duties among the available people as much as possible. Perhaps the pastor, or a volunteer parishioner with the proper background, can perform or review one of these functions monthly.

f) Parishioner contribution statements: Someone who is independent of the counting, depositing and recording of collections prepares and distributes year-end parishioner statements whenever possible. Reported variances between the donation and collection are investigated and resolved.

g) Tracking parishioner contributions: Do not back date envelopes to the Sunday date printed on the envelope; use the date of the collection. For instance, families submitting multiple envelopes (for previous Sundays on one Sunday) should be entered with the Sunday date on which the multiple envelopes were received, not the date printed on the envelopes.

h) Reviewing parishioner donor contribution summary report: Periodically (quarterly) print the donor contribution summary report and compare it to the Sunday collection worksheets for accuracy. Make corrections as needed.

(If you suspect proper procedure is not being followed with regard to church donations, call Nancy Meyers (601) 960-8458, Cathy Pendelton (601) 969-2135 or Carolyn Callahan (601) 346-6038)

Celebration of great life of Greenville priest

GREENVILLE – Paul bearers carry Father Frank Corcoran at his funeral on Friday, Oct. 25 at St. Francis church. (Photo by Sandra Cirilli)

By Jordan Nettles
GREENVILLE – On Friday, Oct. 25, loved ones gathered at St. Joseph Church in Greenville, Miss. for the funeral Mass of Rev. Jeremiah Francis Corcoran, known lovingly as Father Frank. Father Frank passed away on Oct. 17 at Delta Regional Medical Center at the age of 88.
Born in Nenagh Co. Tipperary, Ireland to a devout Catholic family, Father Frank answered a call from God to bring the Gospel to Mississippi, where he served for 65 years as a priest. In answering that initial call, he offered a resounding “yes” to God, which he continued to offer throughout his many years of ceaseless prayer and service.
The sanctuary in Greenville was packed with fellow priests, former parishioners, and friends and family members of Father Frank. Among the congregation were two of Father Frank’s nieces from Ireland, Michael Shalloe and Eimear O’Farrell. The service began with loving words from both of them.
“Today is a celebration of a great life,” said Shalloe, setting a tone for a Mass that would remember and honor the life of Father Frank. She recalled her uncle’s great love for family saying, “Family, to Father Frank, was everything.” O’Farrell spoke in Gaelic for several minutes, with a nod to loved ones watching the live-stream from Ireland.
Bishop Joseph Kopacz presided over the Mass and led concelebrants to the altar to the processional hymn, “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore You.” Father Mark Shoffner, Parochial Vicar at St. Mary Basilica and Assumption of The Blessed Virgin Mary in Natchez, gave the Homily.
Father Shoffner, who grew up in Greenville, spoke with love and humor about Father Frank. “Today we gather for Father Frank, one who golfed, and ate, and prayed, and ate some more,” he began. Father Shoffner then spoke in detail about the example Father Frank set for the many people whose lives he touched, often in a deeply personal way through the holy sacraments.
“It is important for us to live a life ordered towards God,” Father Shoffner said. “That is the great end in all of us, is to be ordered towards Him whom created us, who willed us forward from Himself. And [Father Frank] was showing that, and we know in his story has lived that, as an example.”
Father Shoffner highlighted Father Frank’s devotion to prayer and his acceptance of God’s plan, which led him to bring the word of God to communities thousands of miles away from his own in Ireland. “We’re blessed by that example,” Father Shoffner said. “He gave us a picture of fidelity, and that is what the Lord asks of us. A life of fidelity.”
Father Frank began his priesthood in Pascagoula, Miss. in 1954. He served across the state, also taking assignments in Jackson, Vicksburg, Meridian, Greenville, Crystal Springs and Hazlehurst. He retired to Greenville, Miss. in 2004.
Father Frank planned his own funeral, down to the hymns that should be sung and the priest who should give the Homily. This included informing Father Shoffner that he wanted him to preach at the funeral, before Father Shoffner was even in seminary.
Of course in the midst of sadness, there was great joy at the Mass, as well. As Father Shoffner pointed out, “He’s able to behold God [in] a way he has never been able to see Him before.”

(Jordan Nettles is the Marketing Assistant and Digital Publishing Coordinator at University Press of Mississippi. She graduated from the The University of Southern Mississippi and attends St. Richard Church.)

Youth news

St. Patrick students get creative

MERIDIAN – St. Patrick Catholic School students in fourth through sixth grades participated in the annual Knights of Columbus – Council 802 Creative Contraption contest. Each student was given identical bags with various items to create functioning contraptions. First place winners were fourth grader, Anthony Hopson; fifth grader, Elizabeth Crudup; and sixth grader, Stephen Wilson. They each received a $10 movie gift card from the Knights of Columbus. (Left) Freeda Ramirez, a sixth grade student at St. Patrick School, demonstrates her Creative Contraption to KC member John Harwell, on left and KC Grand Knight David Viger.(Below) Fourth grader, Tytan Duong demonstrates his Creative Contraption to KC Grand Knight David Viger. (Photos by Celeste Saucier)

Apple bobbing time

GREENVILLE – Sacred Heart church held a picnic for the youth of the Catholic children of the city to bring about support and fellowship of the future leaders. Featured activities included bobbing for applies. (Photo by Maurice Mosley)

Recess time fun

COLUMBUS – On Oct. 16, Father Jeffrey Waldrep stopped by the Annunciation school playground to visit with students. (Photo by Katie Fenstermacher)

Little leaders

NATCHEZ – Cathedral School fourth grade students, Jordan Stubbs, Grant Carlton, Adeline Burget and Leah Tillman, led a Natchez Board of Supervisors meeting with the pledge of allegiance. (Photo by Cara Serio)

Learning is better together

MADISON – St. Anthony fifth graders Katie Venable and Murphy Moorehead explain the properties of Uranus to second graders Ben Schenk and Ava Archer. (Photo by Michele Warnock)

November 7, 2018 One year later

JACKSON – Over the last year, federal authorities have conducted an investigation into events at our parishes in Starkville and Macon that involved Father Lenin Vargas.
One year ago those federal authorities executed search warrants at those parishes and at the offices of the Diocese of Jackson.
The Diocese remains steadfast in stating that neither Bishop Joseph Kopacz, nor any Diocesan Official, committed, condoned or covered up fraudulent activity. In late 2017, when the Diocese learned there might be problems with parish finances at St. Joseph Starkville, Bishop Kopacz ordered an audit be conducted and based on those audit findings, took actions to bring the parish back into compliance with Diocesan policy. No Diocese official had any knowledge that Father Vargas was asking individuals for money until the affidavit was unsealed in November 2018.
During the course of the investigation the Diocese has worked to bring forth the truth that will lead to a just resolution and reconciliation throughout our Catholic community. To wit:
• The Diocese has cooperated fully with federal investigators.

• The Diocese has reached out to those who donated to Father Vargas and returned parishioners’ contributions. If you gave directly to Father Vargas but have not spoken with the Diocese, please do so. We want to hear from you.

• Father Vargas was stripped of his priestly facilities and authorities in the Catholic Church in Mexico were notified of his standing.

• Diocese-wide protocols were implemented for “special collections.”

Yet there is still work to be done. The Diocese will continue to seek reconciliation and restorative justice for the communities impacted by this investigation. The Diocese will also continue to reach out to those who donated, but feel betrayed, to seek a just resolution with them and continue to support those communities to rebuild trust and confidence. Additionally, the Diocese will continue to be transparent in our dealings with all Diocesan leadership and ministries.
Finally, continue to pray for our St. Joseph and Corpus Christi parishes and all those in the Starkville and Macon communities who have been hurt by this investigation. We hope in Christ for new life and peace.

Lead us “Kindly Light”

The Pillar of the Cloud

The Pillar of the CloudLead, Kindly Light, amid the circling gloom. Lead thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home. Lead thou me on! Keep thou my feet.
I do not ask to see the distant scene, one step enough for me.
I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou shouldest lead me on.
I loved to choose and see my own path, but now, Lead thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and spite of fears, pride ruled my will; remember not past years!
So long thy power hath blest me, sure it still will lead me on,
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, until the night is gone;
And with the morn those angel faces smile which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.
Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz

By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
As we go deeper into the month of All Saints and All Souls in our Catholic faith and tradition, powered by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are able to cherish the “Cloud of Witnesses” who have passed over the threshold into eternal life. These faithful disciples are from our own families and from the family of the Church. In the case of the latter we don’t need to unearth the story; there is ample testimony in the archives of nearly 2000 years. The most recent canonization in Rome raised up John Henry Newman to the community of the white robed ones who stand around the throne of God’s majesty. At mid-life the “Kindly Light“ steered Cardinal John Henry Newman into the fold of the Catholic Church, away from his Anglican roots. It is a remarkable story! His brilliant mind, loving heart and insatiable hunger and thirst for Truth could no longer tolerate a life lived in shadows and illusions.
“On October 9, 1845 he gave up his lifelong security as an Anglican professor at Oxford and became a Catholic, joining the ranks of the despised losers in British society, persecuted and subject to harassment. Despite his own anti-Catholic prejudices, he was convinced by honest study of the Scriptures and the early Christian writers that the catholic faith was true. Losing most of his friends and his security he set out at the age of 45 into an uncertain future. Newman could see plenty of corruption and incompetence in the Catholic Church. In fact, he was opposed by many in the Church after his conversion. But despite all this, he never regretted becoming a Catholic, a decision which was made not because he admired Catholics, but because he realized that the Catholic Church is true. We depend upon Jesus Christ, and the church which he established, in which he comes to us in word and sacrament, and the faith which it professes which leads us home to the heavenly Jerusalem.” (Excerpts from a talk by Cardinal Thomas C. Collins, Archbishop of Toronto)
It would take considerable effort and thought to plumb the depths of Cardinal Newman’s legacy, but in this month of All Saints and Souls, it is noteworthy to reflect in his own words upon his conversion and the abiding sense of eternity in his daily life. After recovering from a serious bout of illness near Rome, he penned the poem The Pillar of the Cloud, a reference to Exodus 13: 21-22 to the cloud that guided the Israelites in the desert by day and the pillar of fire that guided them at night. This masterpiece is the journey of his soul.

Melissa Villalobos of Chicago lights a candle during a vigil in advance of the canonization of St. John Henry Newman, at the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome Oct. 12, 2019. Villalobos’ healing through the intercession of St. John Henry Newman was accepted as the miracle needed for the British cardinal’s canonization. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

As the second half of his life swirled around in the face of such dramatic earthly changes, Cardinal Newman’s personal relationship with the crucified and risen Lord continued to grow. His motto as bishop was Cor ad cor loquitur, or Heart speaks to heart. Indeed his daily prayer and communion with God deepened his sense of immortality which is the heart of the month of All Saints and Souls.
“Under God’s blessing we come to have a glimpse of our independence from the meaning of things temporal and our immortality. And if it should so happen that misfortunes come upon us as they often do then still more are we led to understand the nothingness of this world; then still more we learn to distrust it, and we are weaned from the love of it, til at length it merely floats before our eyes as some idle veil, which, notwithstanding, its many tints, cannot hide the view of what is behind it, and we begin by degrees to perceive, that there are two beings in the whole universe, our own soul, and the God who made it … These are the great truths which are wrapped up indeed even in a child’s mind, and which God’s grace can unfold there in spite of the influence of the external world.”
Cardinal John Henry Newman inspires us to see more clearly that there is a cost to discipleship in every age, but the “Kindly Light” reveals the essence of truth, love and peace in this life, with the vision of eternal life behind the veil.

Guíanos “Amable Luz”

El pilar de la nube

“Guíame amable luz, entre las tinieblas que me rodean, ¡guíame! La noche es oscura y estoy lejos de casa, ¡guíame!
Cuida mis pasos; no pido ver la escena distante; un paso es suficiente para mí.
No fui siempre así, ni pedí que me guiaras; amaba elegir y ver mi camino; pero ahora ¡guíame!
Amaba el día brillante, y, a pesar de los miedos, el orgullo regía mi voluntad. ¡No recuerdes los años pasados!
Tu poder me bendijo tanto tiempo, ciertamente seguirá guiándome.
Entre páramos y pantanos, entre precipicios y correntadas, hasta que se vaya la noche, y con el alba sonreirán los rostros de los ángeles, los que yo amé hace mucho tiempo, ¡y perdí hace ya tanto!”
Obispo Joseph Kopacz

Por Obispo Joseph Kopacz
A medida que profundizamos en el mes de Todos los Santos y Todas las Almas en nuestra fe y tradición católicas, impulsadas por la muerte y resurrección de Jesucristo, podemos apreciar “la Nube de Testigos” que han pasado el umbral hacia la vida eterna. Estos fieles discípulos son de nuestras propias familias y de la familia de la Iglesia. En el caso de este último, no necesitamos para desenterrar la historia; Hay un amplio testimonio en los archivos de casi 2000 años. La canonización más reciente en Roma levantó a John Henry Newman a la comunidad de los de túnica blanca que se encuentran alrededor del trono de la majestad de Dios. A mitad de la vida, “Kindly Light” condujo al cardenal John Henry Newman al redil de la Iglesia Católica, lejos de sus raíces anglicanas. ¡Es una historia notable! Su mente brillante, corazón amoroso y hambre insaciable y sed de verdad ya no podían tolerar una vida vivida en sombras e ilusiones.
“El 9 de octubre de 1845, renunció a su seguridad de por vida como profesor anglicano en Oxford y se convirtió en católico, uniéndose a las filas de los perdedores despreciados en la sociedad británica, perseguido y sujeto a hostigamiento. A pesar de sus propios prejuicios anticatólicos, un estudio honesto de las Escrituras y los primeros escritores cristianos lo convenció de que la fe católica era verdadera. Perdiendo a la mayoría de sus amigos y su seguridad, se embarcó a la edad de 45 años en un futuro incierto. Newman pudo ver mucha corrupción e incompetencia en la Iglesia Católica. De hecho, fue rechazado por muchos en la Iglesia después de su conversión. Pero a pesar de todo esto, nunca se arrepintió de ser católico, una decisión que tomó no porque admiraba a los católicos, sino porque se dio cuenta de que la Iglesia Católica es verdadera. Dependemos de Jesucristo, y de la iglesia que él estableció, en la cual viene a nosotros en palabra y sacramento, y la fe que profesa que nos lleva a casa a la Jerusalén celestial.“ (Extractos de una charla del cardenal Thomas C. Collins, arzobispo de Toronto)
Se necesitaría un esfuerzo considerable y se pensaría sondear las profundidades del legado del cardenal Newman, pero en este mes de Todos los Santos y Fieles Difuntos, es notable reflexionar en sus propias palabras sobre su conversión y el sentido permanente de la eternidad en su vida diaria. Después de recuperarse de una grave enfermedad cerca de Roma, escribió el poema El pilar de la nube, una referencia a Exodus 13: 21-22 a la nube que guiaba a los israelitas en el desierto durante el día y el pilar de fuego que los guiaba ellos en la noche Esta obra maestra es el viaje de su alma.

CIUDAD DEL VATICANO – Melissa Villalobos de Chicago enciende una vela durante una vigilia antes de la canonización de San Juan Enrique Newman, en la Basílica de Santa María la Mayor en Roma el 12 de octubre de 2019. La curación de Villalobos, a través de la intercesión de San John Henry Newman fue aceptada como el milagro necesario para la canonización del cardenal británico. (Foto del CNS/Paul Haring)

A medida que la segunda mitad de su vida giraba frente a cambios terrenales tan dramáticos, la relación personal del Cardenal Newman con el Señor crucificado y resucitado continuó creciendo. Su lema como obispo era Cor ad cor loquitur, o Corazón le habla al corazón. De hecho, su oración diaria y su comunión con Dios profundizaron su sentido de inmortalidad, que es el corazón del mes de Todos los Santos y Almas.
“Bajo la bendición de Dios, llegamos a vislumbrar nuestra independencia del significado de las cosas temporales y nuestra inmortalidad. Y si sucede que las desgracias nos sobrevienen como lo hacen a menudo, entonces aún más se nos lleva a comprender la nada de este mundo; entonces aprendemos aún más a desconfiar de él, y estamos destetados del amor por él, hasta que por fin simplemente flota ante nuestros ojos como un velo ocioso, que, a pesar de sus muchos matices, no puede ocultar la visión de lo que hay detrás, y comenzamos gradualmente a percibir que hay dos seres en todo el universo, nuestra propia alma y el Dios que la creó … Estas son las grandes verdades que están envueltas incluso en la mente de un niño, y que la gracia de Dios puede desarrollarse allí a pesar de la influencia del mundo externo.“
El cardenal John Henry Newman nos inspira a ver más claramente que hay un costo para el discipulado en todas las épocas, pero la “Luz amable” revela la esencia de la verdad, el amor y la paz en esta vida, con la visión de la vida eterna detrás del velo.

Holy Spirit guides church efforts to evangelize

Holy Spirit guides church efforts to evangelize

By Carol Glatz
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The Holy Spirit guides the Catholic Church’s mission, pointing the way to evangelize new lands and opening people’s hearts to be transformed by Christ, Pope Francis said.
Pray to the Holy Spirit “for a heart that is open, sensitive to God and welcoming” toward others, the pope encouraged Catholics Oct. 30 during his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.
The pope continued his series of talks on the Acts of the Apostles by looking at the Apostle Paul’s journey to Macedonia, which was inspired by a vision, guided by the Holy Spirit.
“The apostle does not hesitate, he leaves for Macedonia, sure that it is God who is inviting him,” the pope said.
There, Paul preaches to a group of women, he said, and Lydia, whose heart has been opened by God, listens, receives baptism with her family and offers Paul hospitality.
It marks the start of evangelizing Europe, “a process of inculturation that continues still today,” the pope said.
However, Paul and Silas are eventually thrown into prison on charges of public disorder.
But something surprising happens, the pope said. Instead of complaining about their circumstances, they praise God, which “unleashes a power that frees them”: An earthquake shakes the foundations of the prison, throwing open the doors and loosening the prisoners’ chains.
Their jailer, who asks how he may be saved, also listens to the word of God, receives baptism with his family and offers his evangelizers hospitality.
“In the dead of night for this unnamed jailer, the light of Christ radiates and conquers the darkness, the chains of the heart fall and a joy never felt before opens up in him and his family,” he said.

Pope Francis looks at statues held by Bishop Santiago Olivera of the Military Ordinariate in Argentina, and Bishop Paul Mason of the Military Ordinariate of Great Britain, during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Oct. 30, 2019. The two bishops exchanged a replica of the statue of Our Lady of Lujan, which was taken to the United Kingdom by British troops during the Falkland War in 1982, Vatican News reported. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

This shows how the Holy Spirit is guiding the church’s mission, Pope Francis said. “He leads us onward, he wants us to be faithful to our vocation” and helps the people of God bring the Gospel to others.
At the end of the general audience, Pope Francis met with Bishop Paul Mason of the United Kingdom armed forces and Bishop Santiago Olivera of Argentina’s military.
According to Vatican News, the two bishops exchanged a replica of the statue of Our Lady of Lujan, which was taken to the United Kingdom by British troops during the Falkland War in 1982.
The statue of the Mary, patroness of Argentina, was to be returned to its native country and a replica, blessed by the pope, was to be presented to the Catholic Military Cathedral of St. Michael and St. George in Aldershot, England.

The grace within passivity

Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI

By Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI
A friend of mine shares this story. She grew up with five siblings and an alcoholic father. The effect of her father’s alcoholism was devastating on her family. Here’s how she tells the story: By the time my father died his alcoholism had destroyed our family. None of us kids could talk to each other anymore. We’d drifted apart to different parts of the country and had nothing to do with each other. My mother was a saint and kept trying through the years to have us reconcile with each other, inviting us to gather for Thanksgiving and Christmas and the like, but it never worked. All her efforts were for nothing. We hated each other. Then as my mother lay dying of cancer, in hospice, bedridden and eventually in a coma, we gathered by her bedside, watching her die and she, helpless and unable to speak, was able to accomplish what she couldn’t achieve through all those years when she could speak. Watching her die, we reconciled.
We all know similar stories of someone in their dying, when they were too helpless to speak or act, powerfully impacting, more powerfully than they ever did in word or action, those around them, pouring out a grace that blessed their loved ones. Sometimes, of course, this isn’t a question of reconciling a family but of powerfully strengthening their existing unity. Such was the case in a family history shared by Carla Marie Carlson, in her book, Everyday Grace. Her family was already closely-knit, but Carlson shares how her mother’s dying strengthened those family bonds and graced all the others who witnessed her dying: “Those who took the opportunity to be with my Mom during that journey have told me that their lives were forever changed. It was a remarkable time which I will always treasure. Lessons of acceptance and courage were abundant as she struggled with the realities of a dying body. It was dramatic and intense, but yet filled with peace and gratitude.” Most anyone who has ever sat in vigil around a loved one who was dying can share a similar story.
There’s a lesson here and a mystery. The lesson is that we don’t just do important things for each other and impact each other’s lives by what we actively do for each other; we also do life-changing things for each other in what we passively absorb in helplessness. This is the mystery of passivity which we see, paradigmatically, played out in what Jesus did for us.
As Christians, we say that Jesus gave his life for us and that he gave his death for us, but we tend to think of this as one and the same thing. It’s not. Jesus gave his life for us through his activity; he gave his death for us through his passivity. These were two separate movements. Like the woman described earlier who tried for years to have her children reconcile with each through her activity, through her words and actions, and then eventually accomplished that through the helplessness and passivity of her deathbed, so too with Jesus. For three years he tried in every way to make us understand love, reconciliation and faith, without full effect. Then, in less than 24 hours, in his helplessness, when he couldn’t speak, in his dying, we got the lesson. Both Jesus and his mother were able, in their helplessness and passivity, to give the world something that they were unable to give as effectively in their power and activity.
Unfortunately, this is not something our present culture, with its emphasis on health, productivity, achievement and power very much understands. We no longer much understand or value the powerful grace that is given off by someone dying of a terminal illness; nor the powerful grace present in a person with a disability, or indeed the grace that’s present in our own physical and personal disabilities. Nor do we much understand what we are giving to our families, friends and colleagues when we, in powerlessness, have to absorb neglect, slights, and misunderstanding. When a culture begins to talk about euthanasia it’s an infallible indication that we no longer understand the grace within passivity.
In his writings, Henri Nouwen makes a distinction between what he terms our “achievements” and our “fruitfulness.” Achievements stem more directly from our activities: What have we positively accomplished? What have we actively done for others? And our achievements stop when we are no longer active. Fruitfulness, on the other hand, goes far beyond what we have actively accomplished and is sourced as much by what we have passively absorbed as by what we actively produced. The family described above reconciled not because of their mother’s achievements, but because of her fruitfulness. Such is the mystery of passivity.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in his spiritual classic The Divine Milieu, tells us that we are meant to help the world through both our activities and our passivities, through both what we actively give and through what we passively absorb.

(Oblate Father Ron Rolheiser, theologian, teacher and award-winning author, is President of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, TX. He can be contacted through his website Now on Facebook

What Vatican II wanted and didn’t get

Father Aaron Williams

By Father Aaron Williams
The first four years of my seminary career I lived at St. Joseph Seminary College in St. Benedict, Louisiana, which is also home to a Benedictine Monastery. This allowed me a handful of years to experience the daily recitation of the Divine Office, or the Liturgy of the Hours in its choral form. Every day, several times during the day, the monks at St. Ben’s—like monks and nuns do every day across the world—gather in their church and chant the offices of the Church’s daily prayer which consist of patterns of psalms, hymns and readings. Most Catholics haven’t experienced this, but the daily witness of this chanted office had a great impact on my spirituality as a Catholic and now as a priest. This, especially, since every priest is bound to recite the hours of the Divine Office himself every day under pain of mortal sin. It is actually one of the main promises made at ordination—that the priest will pray all of these offices during the day, every day, for the rest of their lives.
As I continued through seminary, I began reading the documents of Vatican II (something all of us should do since so many people today claim to know what Vatican II said and yet so few have actually read the documents). What surprised me in the Council’s document on the liturgy was that the Council Fathers requested very directly and clearly that the experience I had in seminary of the chanted or common Divine Office be put into the hands of everyone. The Council teaches, “Pastors of souls should see to it that the chief hours, especially Vespers, are celebrated in common in church on Sundays and the more solemn feasts. And the laity, too, are encouraged to recite the divine office, either with the priests, or among themselves, or even individually” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 100).
Many years ago, around the time of the Council of Trent and before then, it is far more common to find lay people in Church when the offices were being sung. This was probably because there was less to do back then. Even in some countries today, especially in Europe, it is not uncommon to find a parish which offers some offices at least on special feast days. Many of the ancient Cathedrals such as Notre Dame, Westminster Cathedral or St. Peter’s Basilica have resident priests who every day sing all the offices in public.
But, this wasn’t a tradition which caught on that much in the United States. Of all the American Cathedrals, only St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans ever consistently had a public sung office—and this was probably because of its French roots and, sadly, is not a tradition which continues today. Still, the Second Vatican Council set it out as a goal that lay people experience this side of the worship of the Church. The daily offices of the Liturgy of the Hours make up the larger portion of the daily liturgy of the Church. Though the Mass is of course the most important, when you add all the other daily offices together you see how the Church intends to move the individual in prayer through all the various moments of the day—gently guiding us through the liturgical year.
I always enjoy when we get to Advent in the Divine Office. If you are just attending Mass, even daily, you might not get that feeling of anticipation the Church wants of us. But, the office makes it very clear. Very early on, texts start popping up such as, “Come Lord, and do not delay.” One of my favorite texts of Advent in the Divine Office says, “The Lord is coming soon, and will not be late. If he seems to delay, wait for him, for he will surely come and will not be late.”
St. Philip Neri, a favorite saint of mine, has been dubbed by Pope Francis the “patron saint of the New Evangelization.” One of the reasons he is deserving of this title is his ability to find ways to merge the daily experience of Catholics with the rhythm of the Church’s prayer. St. Philip noticed that Catholics in his day enjoyed good music and food. But, he wanted them to enjoy good preaching, too. So, Philip decided that on some nights of the week, he and some other priests would gather in the Church for the office of Vespers and would invite the faithful. But, not only that, he commissioned all the greatest composers he could find to write the best choral settings of the office. Then, once people were there for the music, albeit not the best reason, he would take the opportunity to capitalize on their presence and present a sermon which was relevant to the needs of the day—often taking a theme or an issue and expounding upon it over several weeks. Finally, everyone would go into the church square and share meal together.
The point is that St. Philip knew that the Church could find a way to weave the daily experience of the faithful with the prayer of the Church and a place that meets is in the Divine Office. How might parishes help fulfill this dream of the Council?

Time to come up with game plan

Kneading Faith
By Fran Lavelle
Albert Einstein is quoted to having said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” It is easy to fall victim to this kind of behavior especially when we do not constantly evaluate goals, processes and outcomes. Without proper reflection, it easy to blame everyone else for failure. This kind of blame game perpetuates the cycle. We are, however, creatures of habit, even when those habits do not deliver the best results. I get it. We like knowing what we know, what is familiar, comfortable and what feels safe. It’s hard to do things differently when what we are doing seems to be OK, right? It is easy to get caught up in an “our way of doing things” mentality. We protest, “it’s the way we’ve always done it” when questioned about a process or method. Afterall, we have a game plan. It’s decades old, but we have a plan. We are right in saying we need a plan; after all, we need a road map to get us where we want to be. But, just like the GPS on our cell phones, often there is more than one route. The fastest route may not be the shortest route. The software of our GPS might be outdated. We might lose cell service. Despite our best efforts we can end up somewhere we had no intention of going. Or, worse yet, never leave for the journey in the first place.
It is understandable when big institutions like the Church fall into this conundrum. Especially when it comes to being creatures of habit. I mean who doesn’t want to work smarter and not harder? But is expedience and limited effort what we are really talking about? Look, I love being Catholic. I love the cadence of liturgy, the predictability of the liturgical seasons, the changes of art, environment and music. I love the universality of the Church! However, the consistency and predictability I so love can easily become a crutch. It is easy to pull out a template for catechesis, liturgy, preaching, RCIA, campus ministry or any of the activities of the Church. When we pull out the same template year after year, it can feel a little like the movie Groundhog’s Day with Bill Murray. What becomes of the “now” when we are re-living the same experience over and over again? What becomes of those moments ripe for discipleship if we are leaning on the crutch of “this is how we do it?”
For example, if someone asked you, “What do I need to do to become Catholic?” how would you respond? How many of us would refer that person to the pastor or the director of the RCIA program? Would we take the time to ask questions about the person’s interest in the faith? Would we offer to go to an RCIA session with them and introduce them to folks we know in the parish? Would we include them in our prayers for their discernment? Or would we tell them to call the Church office? They can look the number up.
In my last column I wrote about the response to WWJD? HWLF, He Would Love First. What does “loving first” look like in this example? I looked to the wisdom of Pope Francis, “In catechesis too, we have rediscovered the fundamental role of the first announcement or kerygma, which needs to be the center of all evangelizing activity and all efforts at Church renewal … On the lips of the catechist the first proclamation must ring out over and over: “Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you.” (Evangelii Gaudium, 164)
Pope Francis often reminds us that we are loved by Jesus Christ. Not simply in a 1970’s smiley face bumper sticker way, but in an intimate, unceasing, unconditional love that is beyond our imagining. What would the world look like if we understood the love of Jesus and behaved like we are worthy of such love? How would our response to the inquiry in the above example change if all we cared about was inviting people into a relationship with Christ? Would our words convey his love for them?
`If you feel like you are stuck on the hamster wheel of “this is what we do,” you are not alone. If what I’ve described looks like faith formation in your parish, you are not alone. This is not a Jackson Diocese problem. This is an issue that catechists, pastors and bishops face all over the country. If we are to change the narrative of Einstein’s quote, the mind set for what we are doing must change. Our faith journey is not about finding the right program, DVD series, youth ministry hacks or religious education book series. Yes, we need tools to support our catechesis. But it is crazy making behavior to present the same material year after year if we are not engaging in our own relationship with Jesus and walking with those we serve as they discover Christ and his love for them. I encourage everyone to look at the ministries of your parish and ask how can we invite people to greater intimacy with Jesus?