Youth news


CLINTON – Holy Savior Parish, Confirmation, Sept. 9. Bottom row, l-r: Chenoa Dillon, Dawson Dubra, Cecelia Ballentine, Katherine McCombs, Bishop Joseph Kopacz, Katrina Sanchez, Matthew Weiss, Kaitlyn Hamilton and Joseph Thaggard.
Middle row, l-r: Father Nick Adam, Levi Tripp, Tristan Ballard, Lily Nalker, Payton Galloway and Abigail Vargheese.
Back row, l-r: Max Thornhill, Evan LaMarca, Raegan Jones, Belle West, Ashton Senger, Father Thomas McGing, Father Noel Prendergast. (Photo by Charlie O’Clair)
LELAND – Allye Franklin and Rick Smythe, II received the sacrament of first communion on Sept. 20 at St. James Parish on Sept. 20 from Father Sleeva Mekala. (Photo courtesy of Deborah Ruggeri)


COLUMBUS – (Above) Miller Graham says a blessing with his class over the canned food they collected for Helping Hands. (Photo by Katie Fenstermacher)
MERIDIAN – (Above) Rush Health Systems recently donated 140 reusable cloth masks to St. Patrick School. Pictured is Emily Thompson giving a mask to St. Patrick PreK student Jehrrod Johnson. (Photo by Montse Frias)
JACKSON – (Right) On the first Friday of the month, Saint Richard students pray the rosary together. Pictured, Fourth grader Emma Williams prays silently as she waits for her teacher’s next instruction. (Photo by Emily Garner)
GREENVILLE – St. Joseph had visitors for Mass! Father Nick Adam from Jackson and Father Stephen Hart from Lake Village both celebrated Mass with students in the school gym. (Photo by Nikki Thompson)
MADISON – (Below) St. Anthony pre-K3 student Claudia Castilleja-Montalvo enjoyed observing nature close-up. Students held a baby lizard, dug for worms and watched march flies. Then, they released all of God’s little creatures back into the wild. (Photo by Amy D’Alfonso)

A special friendship – St. Joe’s Father Williams helps Kansas City Kicker Harrison Butker grown in his Catholic faith

By David Healy (Delta Democrat-Times)
GREENVILLE – Father Aaron Williams of St. Joseph Catholic Church said he was not nervous at all as he watched his good friend, Harrison Butker, line up to kick a 58-yard field goal in overtime on Sept. 20 against the San Diego Chargers.
“I know Harrison’s range, and I know that it is a lot farther than that,” Father Williams said. “And each of those do-over kicks were good practice for him.
Father Williams was right not to worry. Butker’s kick, his second made 58 yarder in the game, sailed right through the uprights to give the defending Super Champion Kansas City Chiefs their second win to open the season.
After the game, the two texted each other.
Father Williams — “Can’t get over it. Charger coaches trying to throw you off with those time outs. You were just getting started. Haha”
Butker — “Don’t play with me! Lol, just added fuel to the fire.”
Father Williams — “I wasn’t even worried.”
Father Williams’s friendship with Butker began when Father Williams was a seminary student in New Orleans. Butker was the place kicker for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at the time and was in New Orleans to visit their mutual friend, Grant Aasen, who was the Georgia Tech punter.
Butker and Williams struck up a quick friendship, based largely on Butker’s hunger to learn more about the Catholic faith.
“We immediately hit it off with our shared interest in liturgy,” Butker said. “From there he has grown close with my family and me. We are able to discuss difficult subjects pertaining to the faith. He has helped me understand the faith more fully, including stuff like Canon Law, Church Tradition, Doctrine, and Scripture. “It is important to use our priests as resources to be better husbands and fathers, and ultimately challenge us to be saints.”

Harrison Butker and Father Aaron Williams pose for a photo after serving Mass on New Year’s Day 2020.

Said Father Williams, “Harrison is very Catholic, and we had a lot of conversations about the church. We had many great conversations over the phone, and then his wife, Isabelle, invited me to come up to a game. And we hit it off. They are both my age, and they are a great couple.”
Butker is an altar server at his local parish in Kansas City and is in charge of the younger altar servers.
“A lot of our early conversations were about Mass and how you serve Mass, and I would get videos from him showing his feet walking, and he would ask me, ‘Am I walking at the right angle here?’,” Father Williams recalled. “It was very exact, and I would joke with him that ‘You don’t have to watch film after mass to see if you played well.”
Father Williams has visited Butker many times once he became a member of the Kansas City Chiefs. Last season, he was in attendance for five games.
“The coolest experience was I was at the AFC Championship this past year, and we all went out to the field because I was with the family group,” Father Williams said. “When I am at the games, I always dress as a priest. Harrison likes me to dress as a priest when I go to games, and there were like random players who would come up and grab me and pick me up and say, ‘Father, I am so happy that you came to our game. So that was a cool experience for me.’”
While Father Williams was not a football fan before meeting Butker, he said he now loves watching the sport, especially at the high school level. Father Williams is on the sidelines of every St. Joseph football game, donning his No. 33 St. Joseph jersey. He chose No. 33 because that is the number of years Jesus Christ lived on the earth.
“I did not know anything about football, but when you sit next to Harrison’s dad at the games, he teaches you everything that you need to know in football. Now, I can sit there and watch his form and know what is going on. And during football practice everyday (at St. Joseph), after stretching I will go off and watch the kickers. I have never kicked myself, and I can look at them and know when they are doing something wrong. I may not be able to communicate that effectively, but I can tell.”
The relationship between Father Williams and Butker continues to be one of mutual admiration.
“I admire Harrison because he is an extremely sucessful and talented athlete, and he is probably one of the best kickers out there. And the priority for him is his faith first, and then his family and then football,” Father Williams said.
Said Butker, “My faith is the most important thing in my life, followed by my vocation as a husband and father. Football is my job, it’s what I love to do.
But at the end of the day, my main concern is not on how good of a football player I am, but on how well I followed God’s will for my life.”

St. James Tupelo parishioners pray for end to abortion on national Remembrance Day

By Berta Mexidor
TUPELO – Every September since 2008, the community of St. James Tupelo has gathered to pay respects to the souls of aborted babies, and to pray for the end of the abortion and mercy for the mothers. This year, on Sept. 12 at St. James parish, the National Day of Remembrance for the Unborn, began with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz and Father Tim Murphy.
Father Tim said this day is “to acknowledge all the unborn children whose lives were ended by abortion and to provide the opportunity to those in need the embrace of Christ for healing and forgiveness.”

TUPELO – Pictured left to right, David Friloux, Tanya Britton and Bishop Joseph Kopacz visit the Memorial to the Unborn on the campus of St. James parish on the National Day of Rememberance for the Unborn on Saturday, Sept. 12. (Photo courtesy of Father Tim Murphy)

After the annual Mass, it has become a tradition to walk to the northwest side of the parish’s campus to view the Memorial for the Unborn, donated by the Robert Reitmeier Knights of Columbus Council #8848 in May of 2008.
The overcast, drizzly day did not stop the group of more 125 people from spending “some quiet private time [in] prayer,” and to share a moment of reflection at the memorial site, said Father Tim.
This moment of remembrance is prepared each year by the committee for the memorial Mass, consisting of Father Tim Murphy; Michelle Harkins, director of parish life; David Friloux, chair for pro-life with the Knights of Columbus Council #8848; Erin Bristow, director of youth choir and music minister; and Tanya Britton, St. James parishioner.
During the vigil Mass, Britton, past president and board member of Pro-Life Mississippi, delivered a speech on why this day is so important.
“This is a day to remind us that the fight continues to save lives,” said Britton. “And to invite people to come and pray together at our Memorial to the Unborn, which is, as far as I know, the only permanent memorial in our state.”
Britton told Mississippi Catholic that she began her work for the defense of the unborn in July of 1987 after she was “delivered” from a four-year battle with drug addiction due to her personal experience with abortion.
“I spent three years praying the Miserere, for no other prayer seemed to quell my great sadness and suffering,” said Britton. “During this time my confessor and spiritual director, Father Richard Somers, spent countless hours binding my wounds and I thought my wounds were mortal. I found healing and peace in the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. St. Augustine’s Confessions was a constant companion.”
In 1990, Britton was attending Mass at St. Richard Jackson and was invited to pray the Rosary at the abortion facility, at the time, which was one of 10 in the state. “So, began my pro-life missionary work,” stated Britton.
“The Lord has led me for 30 years, to witness for life from Mississippi to Montana, Arkansas to Alabama, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, D.C., Rhode Island, Cairo, and Rome.”
Britton invites all to pray at the Memorial to the Unborn at St. James Tupelo.
”There are mass gravesites throughout the country where babies, who have been rescued from dumpsters or storage containers, have given a decent burial. We believe [that] Corporal works do Mercy and if we can’t bury these babies, we can at least remember them.”

‘Live the Gospel of Life’ is theme for Respect Life Month this October

By Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON (CNS) – The U.S. Catholic Church’s observance of October as Respect Life Month “is a time to focus on God’s precious gift of human life and our responsibility to care for, protect and defend the lives of our brothers and sisters,” said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee.
“Live the Gospel of Life” is this year’s theme for the month, prompted by commemorations of the 25th anniversary of St. John Paul II’s encyclical “The Gospel of Life” (“Evangelium Vitae”), which was issued March 25, 1995.
“Pope John Paul’s masterfully articulated defense of the right to life for children in their mothers’ wombs, the elderly, persons with disabilities and the marginalized is more relevant today than ever before,” said Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities.
Respect Life Sunday fell on Oct. 4. New parish resources for the month’s observance have been developed around the theme of “Living the Gospel of Life” and are available at
“‘The Gospel of Life’ provides a blueprint for building a culture of life and civilization of love,” the archbishop said in a Sept. 24 statement. “The important work of transforming our culture begins by allowing the Gospel of Christ to touch and transform our own hearts and the decisions we make.”
Archbishop Naumann noted that during their fall general assembly last November, “the U.S. bishops reaffirmed that ‘the threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself, because it takes place within the sanctuary of the family, and because of the number of lives destroyed.'”
“While we noted not to ‘dismiss or ignore other serious threats to human life and dignity such as racism, the environmental crisis, poverty and the death penalty,’ we renewed our commitment to protect the most fundamental of all human rights – the right to live,” he said.
Archbishop Naumann also recalled how in January of this year he “shared with Pope Francis that the bishops of the United States had been criticized by some for identifying the protection of the unborn as a preeminent priority.”
Their conversation came during the “ad limina” meeting of the bishops from Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska at the Vatican.
“The Holy Father expressed his support for our efforts observing that if we fail to protect life, no other rights matter. Pope Francis also said that abortion is not primarily a Catholic or even a religious issue, it is first and foremost a human rights issue,” the Kansas archbishop said in his Sept. 24 statement.
Later this January, the archbishop relayed that story to pro-lifers gathered for the Jan. 23 opening Mass of the National Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. Pope Francis “has our backs” in the pro-life cause, he said in his homily.
“May we strive to imitate Christ and follow in his footsteps, caring for the most vulnerable among us,” he said Sept. 24. “Through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, may Our Lord grant us the grace to live courageously and faithfully his Gospel of life.

JACKSON – A partnership between St. James parish Gulfport in the Diocese of Biloxi and the Office of Family Ministry for the Diocese of Jackson have brought billboards asking all to “Choose Life” throughout the state. The billboards are located in Jackson, Batesville, Natchez, Gulfport, Biloxi, Bay St. Louis, Long Beach, Ocean Springs, and Hattiesburg. The initiative has even reached Mobile, Alabama; Lafayette, New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Dallas, Texas; Destin, Florida; and Columbia, South Carolina. Pictured is the billboard in Jackson .3 miles south of Briarwood Drive on the east side of I-55 North. The U.S. Catholic Church observes October as Respect Life Month. If you would like to learn more about this initiative contact (Photo courtesy of Charlene Bearden)

Faithful guardians of human life

Whenever darkness overshadows the goodness of God’s creation, it is tragic, because each day we are to be guardians of the world entrusted to us, especially on behalf of human life.

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
JACKSON – During the month of October we celebrate Respect for Life, a reality that we foster as Catholics and disciples of the Lord Jesus every day of the year but with greater focus this month.

At the outset of this month we celebrate the lives of two remarkable saints, Therese and Francis, and positioned deftly between them is the commemoration of the Guardian Angels. Without a doubt, Therese of Lisieux and Francis of Assisi upheld the integrity of our tradition of faith as guardians of the Gospel and guiding lights for an encounter with Jesus of Nazareth, the Lord of history.

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz

The Guardian Angels provide a wonderful lens through which we can deepen our commitment to life and the mystery of God’s glory, everywhere present. On an occasion when Jesus was teaching he embraced the opportunity to welcome children and to reveal the ministry of guardian angels in God’s plan of salvation. “See that you do not look down on any of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 18:10)

Immediately before this marvelous revelation Jesus ardently stated that “unless you become like little children you shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” (18:3) In other words, our vision will be stunted, we will be unable to see the glory of God on the face of Jesus Christ, and our capacity to embrace and respect life will be diminished. Whenever darkness overshadows the goodness of God’s creation, it is tragic, because each day we are to be guardians of the world entrusted to us, especially on behalf of human life.

The church remains ardent guardians of unborn life, a commitment that can be traced to the earliest sources in our Catholic tradition. It is the fullness of understanding of the Lord’s words and gestures to embrace and welcome the little one, because in doing so we see the glory of God on the face of newborn life. In our prayer and teaching, in our advocacy and loving service we have been faithful guardians of life in the womb with the most profound respect. This is the foundation of life and it is to be set upon the rock of God’s plan, not the sand of a throwaway culture.

Upon this foundation the Catholic church throughout the world, in our nation, and in our diocese labors unceasingly for greater justice and decency across the life span and in all social contexts, again through prayer and teaching, advocacy and loving service. We embrace community, solidarity and the common good. We strive to be faithful guardians to assure that a solid structure of justice and peace sits upon a firm foundation of life.

Throughout this month we will highlight and celebrate much of what is done on behalf of life, evidence that we are members of the household of God. “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:19-22)

A key component of our respect for life these days is our ongoing vigilance during the pandemic. Although the dispensation for Sunday Mass is still in effect, the commandment to keep the Lord’s Day holy is never dispensed from. Whether at home or in church be faithful guardians of your faith. Know that our churches are maintaining the strict protocol of sanitizing, distancing and mask wearing. This is respect for one another’s lives. In closing, I encourage you to remain holy, vigilant, and respectful, and to be guardians of all that is sacred and precious, especially the gift of life.

Fieles guardianes de la vida humana

Por Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
Durante el mes de octubre celebramos el Respeto por la Vida, una realidad que fomentamos como católicos y discípulos del Señor Jesús todos los días del año, pero con un mayor enfoque en este mes.

A principios de este mes, celebramos la vida de dos santos notables, Teresa y Francisco, y entre ellos se encuentra la conmemoración de los Ángeles de la Guarda. Sin duda, Teresa de Lisieux y Francisco de Asís mantuvieron la integridad de nuestra tradición de fe como guardianes del Evangelio y luces orientadoras para un encuentro con Jesús de Nazaret, el Señor de la historia.

Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz

Los Ángeles de la Guarda proporcionan una lente maravillosa a través de la cual podemos profundizar nuestro compromiso con la vida y el misterio de la gloria de Dios, presente en todas partes. En una ocasión en que Jesús estaba enseñando, aprovechó la oportunidad de dar la bienvenida a los niños y de revelar el ministerio de los ángeles de la guarda en el plan de salvación de Dios. “No desprecien a ninguno de estos pequeños. Pues les digo que en el cielo los ángeles de ellos están mirando siempre el rostro de mi Padre celestial.” (Mateo 18:10)

Inmediatamente antes de esta maravillosa revelación, Jesús declaró con ardor que “ si ustedes no cambian y se vuelven como niños, no entrarán en el reino de los cielos.” (Mateo 18:3) En otras palabras, nuestra visión se atrofiará, seremos incapaces de ver la gloria de Dios en el rostro de Jesucristo y nuestra capacidad para abrazar y respetar la vida disminuirá. Siempre que la oscuridad eclipsa la bondad de la creación de Dios, es trágico, porque cada día debemos ser guardianes del mundo que se nos ha confiado, especialmente en nombre de la vida humana.

La iglesia sigue siendo guardiana ferviente de la vida por nacer, un compromiso que se remonta a las fuentes más antiguas de nuestra tradición católica. Es la plenitud del entendimiento de las palabras y los gestos del Señor para abrazar y acoger al pequeño porque al hacerlo vemos la gloria de Dios en el rostro de la vida del recién nacido. En nuestra oración y enseñanza, en nuestra defensa y amoroso servicio, hemos sido fieles guardianes de la vida en el útero con el más profundo respeto. Este es el fundamento de la vida y debe asentarse sobre la roca del plan de Dios, no sobre la arena de una cultura de usar y tirar.

Sobre esta base, la iglesia católica en todo el mundo, en nuestra nación y en nuestra diócesis trabaja incesantemente por una mayor justicia y decencia a lo largo de la vida y en todos los contextos sociales, nuevamente a través de la oración y la enseñanza, la defensa y el servicio amoroso. Abrazamos la comunidad, la solidaridad y el bien común. Nos esforzamos por ser fieles guardianes para asegurar que una estructura sólida de justicia y paz se asiente sobre una base firme de vida.

A lo largo de este mes destacaremos y celebraremos mucho de lo que se hace a favor de la vida, evidencia de que somos miembros de la familia de Dios. “Por eso, ustedes ya no son extranjeros, ya no están fuera de su tierra, sino que ahora comparten con el pueblo santo los mismos derechos, y son miembros de la familia de Dios. Ustedes son como un edificio levantado sobre los fundamentos que son los apóstoles y los profetas, y Jesucristo mismo es la piedra principal. En Cristo, todo el edificio va levantándose en todas y cada una de sus partes, hasta llegar a ser, en el Señor, un templo santo. En él también ustedes se unen todos entre sí para llegar a ser un templo en el cual Dios vive por medio de su Espíritu.” (Efesios 2:19-22)

Un componente clave de nuestro respeto por la vida en estos días es nuestra vigilancia constante durante la pandemia. Aunque la dispensa de la Misa dominical todavía está en vigor, el mandamiento de santificar el día del Señor nunca se dispensa. Ya sea en casa o en la iglesia, sean fieles guardianes de su fe. Sepa que nuestras iglesias mantienen el estricto protocolo de desinfección, distanciamiento y uso de máscaras. Esto también es respeto por la vida de los demás. Para terminar, los animo a permanecer santos, vigilantes y respetuosos, y a ser guardianes de todo lo sagrado y precioso, especialmente el don de la vida.

Creation must be protected, not exploited, pope says at audience

By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Human beings must change their relationship with nature and view it not as an “object for unscrupulous use and abuse” but as a gift they are charged by God to care for and protect, Pope Francis said.
People are called to contemplate creation as a reflection of “God’s infinite wisdom and goodness” and not act as if people are the “center of everything” and the “absolute rulers of all other creatures,” the pope said Sept. 16 during his weekly general audience. “Exploiting creation – this is sin,” he said. “We believe that we are at the center, claiming to occupy God’s place and thus we ruin the harmony of creation, the harmony of God’s design. We become predators, forgetting our vocation as guardians of life.”
The audience was held in the San Damaso courtyard of the Apostolic Palace. While the pope maintained his distance when greeting most of the faithful, he approached several pilgrims to sign autographs, speak directly to them or briefly swap his signature zucchetto for one brought as a gift.
Continuing his series of talks on “healing the world,” the pope reflected on the theme of “caring for the common home and contemplative attitude.”
Contemplation, he said, is the best “antidote against the disease of not taking care of the common home” and falling “into an unbalanced and arrogant anthropocentrism,” in which humans place themselves and their needs “at the center of everything.”

Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives for his general audience in the San Damaso courtyard at the Vatican Sept. 16, 2020. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

“It is important to recover the contemplative dimension, that is, to look at the earth, at creation as a gift, not as something to be exploited for profit,” the pope said. “When we contemplate, we discover in others and in nature something much greater than their usefulness.”
Departing from his prepared remarks, the pope warned that those who are incapable of contemplating nature and creation, are often incapable of contemplating their fellow human beings.
“Those who live to exploit nature, end up exploiting people and treating them like slaves,” the pope said. “This is a universal law: if you do not know how to contemplate nature, it will be very difficult for you to contemplate people, the beauty of people, your brother, your sister.”
Recalling a Spanish proverb, the pope also cautioned that exploiting creation brings costly consequences because “God always forgives; we forgive sometimes; (but) nature never forgives.”
Citing a recent report that the Pine Island and Thwates glaciers in Antarctica are collapsing due to global warming, Pope Francis said the consequential rising sea levels “will be terrible,” and he called on people to “guard the inheritance God has entrusted to us so that future generations can enjoy it.”
“Each one of us can and must become a guardian of the common home, capable of praising God for his creatures (by) contemplating them and protecting them,” the pope said.

(Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju)

Called by Name

I would like to offer my greatest thanks to all the generous sponsors and attendees of our first ever Homegrown Harvest Gala and Fundraiser. The Lord continues to call forth workers for the harvest, and we are seeking to respond from all sides here in the Diocese of Jackson. The incredible support of so many, both spiritually and financially, is a great encouragement to me and to all of our seminarians. This year’s gala was held virtually on Oct. 9 and you can watch a replay of it on our Vocations Facebook page ( I look forward to sharing with you the results of our gala in the next issue of the Mississippi Catholic.

Earlier this month, I took three young men on a tour of the grounds of the seminaries that we currently use for formation, Notre Dame in New Orleans and St. Joseph Seminary College in Covington.

Father Nick Adam

These trips are invaluable to a young man who is beginning to consider that he may have a call to the priesthood. I remember the first time I visited the seminary: Father Frank Cosgrove drove me down on Super Bowl weekend 2012 to Covington and we arrived just as the bells were tolling for monastic evening prayer. Of course, I had no idea what monastic Evening Prayer was, all I saw was a line of monks clad in all black processing two by two into the Church while we tried to figure out where the heck to go! This was just what I thought seminary would be like: intense and intimidating.

I quickly realized, however, that this was not the measure of seminary life. As I sheepishly entered the seminarian refectory (cafeteria), I was shocked to see that there was a Super Bowl party going on. There was a huge pot of gumbo on and the guys were settling in to watch the game together. They were having fun! They were normal people! And even the monks, who run the seminary, quickly revealed the great joy that they have in their vocation as I met with the rector of the seminary and some the other priests on staff.
This experience has driven me ever since to try to get guys who are open to priesthood to “come and see” what seminary life is all about. I was especially grateful on this trip for our six men who are in formation, all of whom stepped up and gave great witness to our guests. It is these trips, these conversations, these interactions, and these moments for prayer that allow many men to take the final plunge and start the application process. The money that we raise for tuition gives us flexibility in offering experiences for men who are not yet in seminary formation. I am trying to run this department with a view of the whole, and the money raised to offset our largest budget item is a great gift to all of the men who are benefitting from a top notch seminary formation, as well as the men and women who are taking part in other programs that are being offered to foster vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

Moving beyond mistakes and weaknesses

By Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI
The excusable doesn’t need to be excused and the inexcusable cannot be excused.
Michael Buckley wrote those words and they contain an important challenge. We’re forever trying to make excuses for things we need not make excuses for and are forever trying to excuse the inexcusable. Neither is necessary. Or helpful.

Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI

We can learn a lesson from how Jesus dealt with those who betrayed him. A prime example is the apostle Peter, specially chosen and named the very rock of the apostolic community. Peter was an honest man with a childlike sincerity, a deep faith, and he, more than most others, grasped the deeper meaning of who Jesus was and what his teaching meant. Indeed, it was he who in response to Jesus’ question (Who do you say I am?) replied, “You are the Christ, the son of the Living God.” Yet minutes after that confession Jesus had to correct Peter’s false conception of what that meant and then rebuke him for trying to deflect him from his very mission. More seriously, it was Peter who, within hours of an arrogant boast that though all others would betray Jesus, he alone would remain faithful, betrayed Jesus three times, and this in Jesus’ most needy hour.
Later we are privy to the conversation Jesus has with Peter vis-à-vis those betrayals. What’s significant is that he doesn’t ask Peter to explain himself, doesn’t excuse Peter, and doesn’t say things like: “You weren’t really yourself! I can understand how anyone might be very frightened in that situation! I can empathize, I know what fear can do to you!” None of that. The excusable doesn’t need to be excused and the inexcusable cannot be excused. In Peter’s betrayal, as in our own betrayals, there’s invariably some of both, the excusable and the inexcusable.
So what does Jesus do with Peter? He doesn’t ask for an explanation, doesn’t ask for an apology, doesn’t tell Peter that it is okay, doesn’t offer excuses for Peter, and doesn’t even tell Peter that he loves him. Instead he asks Peter: “Do you love me?” Peter answers yes – and everything moves forward from there.
Everything moves forward from there. Everything can move forward following a confession of love, not least an honest confession of love in the wake of a betrayal. Apologies are necessary (because that’s taking ownership of the fault and the weakness so as to lift it completely off the soul of the one who was betrayed) but excuses are not helpful. If the action was not a betrayal, no excuse is necessary; if it was, no excuse absolves it. An excuse or an attempt at one serves two purposes, neither of them good. First, it serves to rationalize and justify, none of which is helpful to the betrayed or the betrayer. Second, it weakens the apology and makes it less than clean and full, thus not lifting the betrayal completely off the soul of the one who has been betrayed; and, because of that, is not as helpful an expression of love as is a clear, honest acknowledgement of our betrayal and an apology which attempts no excuse for its weakness and betrayal.
What love asks of us when we are weak is an honest, non-rationalized, admission of our weakness along with a statement from the heart: “I love you!” Things can move forward from there. The past and our betrayal are not expunged, nor excused; but, in love, we can live beyond them. To expunge, excuse, or rationalize is to not live in the truth; it is unfair to the one betrayed since he or she bears the consequences and scars.
Only love can move us beyond weakness and betrayal and this is an important principle not just for those instances in life when we betray and hurt a loved one, but for our understanding of life in general. We’re human, not divine, and as such are beset, congenitally, body and mind, with weaknesses and inadequacies of every sort. None of us, as St. Paul graphically says in his Epistle to the Romans, ever quite measure up. The good we want to do, we end up not doing, and the evil we want to avoid, we habitually end up doing. Some of this, of course, is understandable, excusable, just as some of it is inexcusable, save for the fact that we’re humans and partially a mystery to ourselves. Either way, at the end of the day, no justification or excuses are asked for (or helpful).
We don’t move forward in relationship by telling either God or someone we have hurt: “You have to understand! In that situation, what else was I to do too? I didn’t mean to hurt you, I was just too weak to resist!” That’s neither helpful, nor called for. Things move forward when we, without excuses, admit weakness, and apologize for betrayal. Like Peter when asked three times by Jesus: “Do you love me?” from our hearts we need to say: “You know everything, you know that I love you.”

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