By Mary Woodward
JACKSON – As part of the Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA), the Diocese of Jackson has entered with the Federal Government, a Compliance Board has been established to guide the diocese through next August. The Board consists of financial and legal experts along with pastoral and diocesan curia consisting of Rev. Lincoln Dall, vicar general, Carolyn Callahan, diocesan finance officer, and Mary Woodward, diocesan chancellor.
The board, which will gather quarterly, met for its initial meeting on Oct. 13, 2020, to discuss ideas and ways to move forward in implementing the steps listed in the DPA to ensure greater transparency and better communication between the diocese and parishes.
The second meeting of the Board was Jan. 12. The following items were addressed for follow up and implementation:
Improved Communication with parishes – The Flocknote communication system is being implemented in parishes. This is an email and text system that allows the diocese to communicate directly and expeditiously with parish leadership and parishioners. Parishes also can communicate to their parishioners through Flocknote with bulletins, notification of events, Mass reservations during the pandemic, etc.
Lighthouse Hotline – Complaints through this system (see sidebar for more information) may be made anonymously by individuals who have witnessed violations of financial policies and/or ethical conduct by church personnel, including parish or diocesan staff and clergy. For each complaint there are three site administrators who receive notification of that complaint. If one of these site administrators is mentioned in a complaint, the complaint goes to other two administrators.
The board asked that the diocesan Ethical Conduct Review Board, which was established by Bishop Joseph Kopacz in July 2019 to address abuse of vulnerable adults by church personnel, add a member with a finance background. The Board then asked that members of the Ethical Review Board serve as administrators on the Lighthouse System so they can receive all reports made in the system.
The board further recommended the Ethical Review Board develop protocols for consistent handling of reports made to Lighthouse that would encompass response, investigations, and actions. The Ethical Review Board will be meeting in mid-March to develop these protocols for implementation with Lighthouse. The protocols will be presented at the next Compliance Board meeting on April 20.
Annual Audit – The Board was given draft copies of the annual diocesan finance audit ending fiscal year June 30, 2020. The final copy is now posted on the diocesan web site at: https://jacksondiocese.org/offices/administration-finance/
The diocesan department of Temporal Affairs is developing training sessions for parish leadership, including pastors, bookkeepers, finance councils and pastoral councils to educate these entities in best practices and sound policy regarding stewardship of parishioners’ donations.
The Compliance Board will continue to collaborate with and make solid recommendations to the diocese for several more months. These meetings have been beneficial to the ongoing improvements and adjustments in diocesan structures and policies.
From the Archives
By Mary Woodward
JACKSON – When I was in the eighth grade at Bailey Junior High in Jackson, this is what I was taught in American History class about the cause of the Civil War: The people of the South enjoyed importing shoes from France as they liked nice shoes. Massachusetts was home to a large shoe-making industry and wanted to sell shoes in the southern market. To force southerners to buy Massachusetts-made shoes, the government imposed high tariffs on imports from France. This angered southerners; so southern states seceded from the United States and formed the Confederacy.
There was never any mention that slavery was the cause of the Civil War. Even though all the key leaders in the South continually based their secession on maintaining the way of life in the South with slavery at the forefront, our eighth-grade class was taught that it was about shoes.
At the same time (1978-80), we were being taught this “white-washed” version of history, a controversial new textbook was being written and proposed for use as a textbook for ninth grade Mississippi History curriculum. “Mississippi: Conflict and Change,” edited by James Loewen of Tougaloo College and Charles Sallis of Millsaps College, gave a clear history of the state, especially in addressing difficult subjects such as slavery and lynchings. The textbook was not accepted for use in Mississippi school curriculum due largely in part to a graphic photograph of the lynching of a black man.
This reflects how history can be manipulated systemically to make it more palatable, especially considering at that time 97% of Bailey’s students were black. By rejecting the tough history in Conflict and Change, the board of education continued to present softened history to students throughout the state.
Having prefaced with 20th century education, let us journey back to 19th century Natchez education. Last issue we discussed early efforts by Bishop John Joseph Chanche and Bishop William Henry Elder to educate slave children in the afternoons in the rectory in Natchez. We continue that theme this week as we journey through the Civil War and into post war education efforts and the establishment of a school.
The custom of having slave children attend catechism classes in buildings on the church grounds continued throughout the Civil War. After the Emancipation Proclamation was given by President Lincoln in 1863 at Gettysburg, several thousand slaves, now emancipated by the proclamation, gathered in and around Natchez since it was occupied by Union troops.
We find the following letter from Bishop Elder to the Propagation of the Faith Society from early 1864 addressing the conditions in Natchez:
The proclamation of liberty caused several thousands of Negroes to gather in and around Natchez. And, although the military authorities provided them as well they could with shelter and food, yet great numbers of them sickened and died – and they are still dying every day. Almost all that we could get an opportunity to see were well disposed to receive the teachings of the Church and glad to be baptized, and we have been occupied, sometimes one and sometimes three of us, a part of almost every day, preparing them for death. Personally, I had the happiness of baptizing more than five hundred during the sickly period last fall.
After the war in 1868, Msgr. Mathurin Grignon, who had arrived in Natchez from France at the end of Bishop Chanche’s tenure as bishop, and was now Vicar General of the diocese, began a school in the church basement for Catholic children who were former slaves. According to “Cradle Days of St.
Mary’s,” Msgr. Grignon taught catechism to the children and hired teachers for other subjects. In 1868, he established the Society of the Holy Family to help support the poor among the Black Catholic community in Natchez.
Hoping to fortify the school with Sisters as teachers, Bishop Elder wrote to the Oblate Sisters of Providence in 1873 promising a house for the Sisters and a playground close by for the children to play. The Oblates were unable to fulfill Bishop Elder’s request however and the school enrollment dwindled.
A description of the school in 1878 is included in “Cradle Days” as: The basement of the Cathedral was divided into two large rooms. The one nearer Union street was vacant; the other was used as the schoolroom. The teacher in 1878 was a Mrs. Sarah Daigle, whose piety made quite a profound impression upon the children. … When Mrs. Daigle fell into ill health, the account continues: the school was moved from the basement of the church to the brick building just south of the Bishop’s Residence. This school was taught by Miss Beauvais and then for a short time by Miss Hammond.
When Bishop Elder was named Archbishop of Cincinnati in 1880, Bishop Francis Janssens was appointed the new bishop for Natchez. He, too, was committed to providing a school for Natchez’s Black Catholic community. Enrollment in the early 1880s was 25 students.
Bishop Janssens arranged for the Sisters of Charity, who were staffing St. Joseph School for white girls, to teach in the school. Here is a quote from his diary dated Oct. 4, 1886: Today, the Colored School was opened by the Sisters of Charity in the lower room of the house next to our residence. The number of pupils the first day was 24. Sister Mary Elizabeth and Sister Louise were the teachers.
By the end of 1886, the enrollment was up to 15 boys and 35 girls. The school was named St. Francis. In 1887, the school was flourishing with 65 students. The building had to be adjusted to fit all the students. A room on the second floor of the building became a classroom for the older girls.
The evolution of education for Black Catholics in Natchez from the establishment of the diocese, through the Civil War and into the 1880s does reflect a dedication on the part of the early bishops and pastors to evangelize in this community. As we move forward in exploring this ministry, we will see it evolve even further as a parish is established in Natchez for African Americans in 1890 under Bishop Thomas Heslin.
(Mary Woodward is Chancellor and Archivist for the Diocese of Jackson)
By Charlene Bearden
JACKSON – Traditionally, the Diocese celebrates the anniversaries of married couples with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Joseph Kopacz, and a reception on the second Sunday of February at the Cathedral of Saint Peter the Apostle. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the annual diocesan World Marriage Day 2021 celebration was cancelled. The diocese hopes to resume the annual celebration in 2022.
According to World Marriage Day history, the idea of celebrating marriage began in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 1981 (40 years ago), when couples encouraged the Mayor, the Governor and the Bishop to proclaim St. Valentine’s Day as “We Believe in Marriage Day.” The event was so successful, the idea was presented to and was adopted by Worldwide Marriage Encounter’s National Leadership.
By 1982, 43 Governors officially proclaimed the day, and celebrations spread to U.S. military bases in several foreign countries. In 1983, the name was changed to “World Marriage Day,” designated to be celebrated each year in February. In 1993, his Holiness, Saint Pope John Paul the II imparted his Apostolic Blessings on World Marriage Day. World Marriage Day celebrations continue to grow and spread to more countries and faith expressions every year.
To honor couples in 2021, the Diocese of Jackson on behalf of the Office of Family Ministry asked parishes to submit the names of couples celebrating their 60th, 50th, 25th or any significant anniversary to the Office of Family Ministry, 82 couples from throughout our diocese submitted their names.
Additionally, each couple will receive by mail at a future date, an anniversary certificate that has been blessed and signed by Bishop Kopacz.
Please join us in celebrating the anniversaries of the following couples:
Marie and Irvin Baugh, St. Joseph, Greenville
Dorothy and James Bright, St. Mary Basilica, Natchez
Renate and Sario Caravalho, St. John, Oxford
Marilyn and Ray Hansen, St. Francis, Madison
Carol and Herman Cooper, Holy Savior, Clinton
Iris and Cecil Harrison, St. Richard, Jackson
Shirley and Bert Haydel, St. Alphonsus, McComb
Louise and Duke Mallory, St. Mary Basilica, Natchez
Rose Marie and Joe Portera, St. Joseph, Greenville
JoAnne and Tom Zettler. St. Patrick, Meridian
Lynne and Raymond Abraham, St. Paul, Vicksburg
Socorro and Charlie Benn, St. Francis, Madison
Rebecca and Tony Bombich, Holy Savior, Clinton
Teresa and Emmett Burns, St. Mary Basilica, Natchez
Rosie and Bob Conner, St. Patrick, Meridian
Evelyngayle and George Cricenti, St. Francis, Madison
Delanie and Hanson Dardar, St. Alphonsus, McComb
Donna and Lucien Finn, St. Mary Basilica, Natchez
Sheila and Sam Franco, St. John, Oxford
Beth and John Hinkle, St. Joseph, Greenville
Val and Jerry Hosemann, St. Paul, Vicksburg
Doris and Jack Kerwin, St. Mary Basilica, Natchez
Pam and Bill Lawhead, St. John, Oxford
Kathy and Johnny Martin, St. John, Oxford
Debbie and Fred Miller, St. Alphonsus, McComb
Lydia and David Smith, St. John the Baptist, Sardis
Laura and John Valentine, St. John, Oxford
Wendy and Alan Blue, St. Alphonsus, McComb
Libby and Chris Callegan, Holy Savior, Clinton
Michelle and Mark Chmielewski, St. Francis, Madison
Sandra and Michael Cirilli, St. Joseph, Greenville
Kelley and Drew Clinton, St. John, Oxford
Joy and Mike Crown, St. Joseph, Greenville
Julie and Stephen Hornaday, St. Francis, Madison
Melodie and Lawrence Deese, St. Mary, Batesville
Schrie and Jack Duthu, St. Joseph, Greenville
Susannah and Wade Heatherly, St. Mary Basilica, Natchez
Michelle and Hayden Kaiser, St. Mary Basilica, Natchez
Christie and Robert Loper, St. Joseph, Greenville
Tara and Kurre Luber, St. John, Oxford
Jennifer and Jerry Myrick, St. Francis, Madison
Octavia and Byron Poindexter, Christ the King, Jackson
Connie and Andy Reynolds, St. John, Oxford
Mirna and Alex Robles, St. Mary, Batesville
Ashley and Donald Roesch, St. Paul, Vicksburg
Rachel and Sean Simmons, St. Mary Basilica, Natchez
Beth and Lonnie Stinnett, St. John, Oxford
Paige and Robert Suares, St. Joseph, Greenville
Amy and Brett Tisdale, St. Alphonsus, McComb
Jennifer and Chris Tonos, St. Joseph, Greenville
Heather and Chuck Trost, St. John, Oxford
Katie and Brewer Vaught, St. Joseph, Greenville
VeSheler and Pertis Watts, Christ the King, Jackson
Mary and Alex Balducci, St. John, Oxford, 67 Years
Linda and Joe Boisse, St. John, Oxford, 55 Years
Sierra and Blake Cannon, St. John, Oxford, 10 Years
Carol and James Cooper, St. Francis, Madison
Rosalie and Jack Garner, St. John, Oxford, 55 Years
Debbie and John Gibson, St. Joseph, Gluckstadt, 40 Years
Julia and Tom Graham, St. John, Oxford, 55 Years
Betty and Tom Griffith, St. Patrick, Meridian, 70 Years
Kathleen and Adam Hamilton, St. John, Oxford, 10 Years
Julie and Mike Harkins, Holy Savior, Clinton, 40 Years
Kimmy and Chad Hill, St. John, Oxford, 10 Years
Renee and Robert Hoover, St. John, Oxford, 10 Years
Sallie Ann and Will Inman, St. Francis of Assisi, Madison
Anna and Blake Jeffries, St. John, Oxford, 10 Years
Faye and George Jones, Christ the King, Jackson, 55 Years
Janet and Richard Karsten, St. John, Oxford, 61 Years
Antinette and Fred McFadden, Christ the King, Jackson, 56 Years
Margaret and Dave Moody, St. Francis, Madison
Lacey and Matt Nalker, Holy Savior, Clinton, 30 Years
Carrie and Dennis Ott, St. John, Oxford, 67 Years
Ling and Mathias Romkens, St. John, Oxford, 55 Years
Susan and John Schenk, St. Francis, Madison
Darlene and William Smith, St. Francis, Madison
Vance and Parks Smith, St. John, Oxford, 10 Years
Maria and John Bryant Stewart, Sr., Sacred Heart, 26 years
Ana and Jorge Vidal, St. Francis, Madison, 20 years
Kristen and Jacob Whelan, St. John, Oxford, 10 Years
Selena and Steve Wies, Our Lady of Victories, Cleveland, 30 Years
Sheila and Gary Yeck, St. Joseph, Gluckstadt, 51 years
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Some say the world will end in fire;– “Fire and Ice” by Robert Frost (American Poet 1874-1963)
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if I had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction,
Ice is great and will suffice.
By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
Emerging out of an extraordinary ice storm event we would not disagree with Robert Frost that “for destruction ice is great and will suffice.” We are accustomed to naming hurricanes; can we ascribe a name to the silent merciless grip of ice? Lacking the equipment and materials, most of us in the region were powerless to fight back against the devastation of the storm. This was true city wide and on my neighborhood block.
An eerie silence endured day after day, a silence that is natural on frozen tundra, and in desert environments. The pandemic for nearly a year has restricted; the ice for most of the week prohibited our comings and goings. Those who lost power and/or water suffered doubly, and those who lost their lives payed the ultimate price. In our churches, we went from live streaming in the early stages of the pandemic, to limited congregations in recent memory, and back to live streaming on Ash Wednesday. It’s like the twilight zone. But, is there a way that this weather event can draw us deeper into the Kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed on the First Sunday of Lent?
He is the Way and the Truth for us who foiled the temptations of the ancient adversary in the desert for forty days. Our season of conversion is now underway and we prayed in last Sunday’s opening oration that “we may grow in understanding of the riches hidden in Christ.”
Back to Frost, who in his poem shifts to the spiritual realm when he links the consuming power of fire with desire burning out of control, and the destructive power of ice with rampant hate. From the Preface of the First Sunday of Lent, the priest proclaimed that Jesus “by overturning all of the snares of the ancient serpent, taught us to cast out the leaven of malice.” This is the destructive hate of a frozen heart and mind, hardened by sin and powerless to move in any direction. But, water is also life-giving, both in the countless ways as we manage our daily activities, and likewise in the realm of the spiritual where we endeavor to follow the Lord faithfully.
In fact, the Perseverance Rover that recently landed on Mars will scour the planet’s surface in the search for traces of water, past or present, as the indicator of life. St. Paul wrote incisively to his congregation in Rome. “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Romans 6:4)
The waters of Baptism call upon the power of God through faith to give us a new way of seeing, We are not powerless and moribund in the assault of sin and destructive behavior; rather, in the waters of baptism we can be washed clean time and again to see the Lord always beckoning us forward on the path of new life.
Last Sunday’s first reading recalled the events in the time of Noe (Noah) who, quarantined in the arc for more than 40 days, floated upon the waters until they receded. From a floating zoo into the light of day had to be genuine liberation. St. Peter in last Sunday’s second reading reflected upon those whom the arc sheltered from the flood waters. “This prefigures Baptism, which saves you now. It is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (1Pt 3:21)
The first covenant in the Old Testament was an unbreakable bond between God and all of creation, especially humanity, and the rainbow was its forever sign. Throughout Israel’s history the covenant revealed God’s loving faithfulness, (hesed). Abraham and Sarah and their family were given the promise. God formed a people with Moses and the Israelites on Mount Horeb and the Ten Commandments solidified the covenant. The promise came to David that his lineage will never end, and it now comes full circle in the life-giving death and resurrection of the Lord.
The new covenant in his blood is an unbreakable bond that neither fire nor ice, nor a pandemic, are capable of destroying. Through faith and baptism we belong to Jesus Christ and may this Lent be a time when we turn away from sin and embrace the gospel of forgiveness and reconciliation with renewed faith, hope and love.
Por Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
Algunos dicen que el mundo terminará en fuego;– “Fire and Ice” (Hielo y Fuego) de Robert Frost (poeta estadounidense 1874-1963)
Algunos dicen en hielo.
Por lo que he probado de deseo
Sostengo con los que favorecen el fuego.
Pero si tuviera que morir dos veces
Creo que sé lo suficiente sobre el odio
Para decir eso por destrucción
El hielo es genial y será suficiente.
Al salir de una tormenta de hielo extraordinaria, no estaríamos en desacuerdo con Robert Frost en que “para la destrucción, el hielo es genial y será suficiente”. Estamos acostumbrados a nombrar a los huracanes; ¿Podemos atribuir un nombre al silencioso y despiadado agarre del hielo? Al carecer del equipo y los materiales, la mayoría de nosotros en la región fuimos impotentes para luchar contra la devastación de la tormenta. Esto fue cierto en toda la ciudad y en la cuadra de mi vecindario.
Un silencio inquietante soportado día tras día, un silencio que es natural en la tundra helada y en los entornos desérticos. La pandemia nos ha restringido durante casi un año; el hielo, durante la mayor parte de la semana, prohibió nuestras idas y venidas. Aquellos que perdieron la energía y / o el agua sufrieron el doble, y los que perdieron la vida pagaron el precio más alto. En nuestras iglesias, pasamos de la transmisión en vivo, en las primeras etapas de la pandemia, a congregaciones limitadas, en la reciente memoria y de nuevo a la transmisión en vivo del Miércoles de Ceniza. Es como la zona del crepúsculo.
Pero ¿hay alguna manera en que este evento meteorológico pueda llevarnos más profundamente al Reino de Dios que Jesús proclamó el primer domingo de Cuaresma?
Él es el Camino y la Verdad para nosotros que frustramos las tentaciones del antiguo adversario en el desierto durante cuarenta días. Nuestra temporada de conversión ya está en marcha y oramos en la oración de apertura del domingo pasado para que “podamos crecer en la comprensión de las riquezas escondidas en Cristo”.
Volvamos a Frost, quien en su poema cambia al reino espiritual cuando vincula el poder consumidor del fuego con el deseo quemando fuera de control y el poder destructivo del hielo con un odio desenfrenado. En el prefacio del primer domingo de Cuaresma, el sacerdote proclama que Jesús “al derribar todos los lazos de la serpiente antigua, nos enseñó a echar fuera la levadura de la malicia”. Este es el odio destructivo de un corazón y una mente congelados, endurecidos por el pecado e impotentes para moverse en cualquier dirección. Pero el agua también da vida, tanto en las innumerables formas en que administramos nuestras actividades diarias, como en el ámbito de lo espiritual, en el que nos esforzamos por seguir al Señor fielmente.
De hecho, el Perseverance Rover (Robot Perseverancia) que aterrizó recientemente en Marte recorrerá la superficie del planeta en busca de rastros de agua, pasados o presentes, como indicador de vida. San Pablo escribió incisivamente a su congregación en Roma. “Pues por el bautismo fuimos sepultados con Cristo, y morimos para ser resucitados y vivir una vida nueva, así como Cristo fue resucitado por el glorioso poder del Padre.” (Romanos 6:4)
Las aguas del Bautismo invocan el poder de Dios a través de la fe para darnos una nueva forma de ver. No somos impotentes y moribundos en el asalto del pecado y la conducta destructiva; más bien, en las aguas del bautismo, podemos ser lavados una y otra vez para ver al Señor siempre llamándonos hacia adelante en el camino de la nueva vida.
La primera lectura del domingo pasado recordó los eventos en la época de Noé, quien, en el Arca durante más de 40 días, flotó sobre las aguas hasta que éstas retrocedieron. De un zoológico flotante a la luz del día tuvo que haber una auténtica liberación. San Pedro, en la segunda lectura del domingo pasado, reflexionó sobre aquellos a quienes el Arca protegió de las inundaciones. “Y aquella agua representaba el agua del bautismo, por medio del cual somos ahora salvados. El bautismo no consiste en limpiar el cuerpo, sino en pedirle a Dios una conciencia limpia; y nos salva por la resurrección de Jesucristo. (1Pe 3:21)
El primer pacto en el Antiguo Testamento fue un vínculo inquebrantable entre Dios y toda la creación, especialmente la humanidad, y el arco iris fue su signo para siempre. A lo largo de la historia de Israel, el pacto reveló la fidelidad amorosa de Dios, (hesed). Abraham, Sara y su familia recibieron la promesa. Dios formó un pueblo con Moisés y los israelitas en el monte Horeb y los Diez Mandamientos solidificaron el pacto. David recibió la promesa de que su linaje nunca terminará, y ahora se completa el círculo en la muerte vivificante y la resurrección del Señor.
El nuevo pacto en su sangre es un vínculo inquebrantable que ni el fuego, ni el hielo, ni una pandemia son capaces de destruir. A través de la fe y el bautismo, pertenecemos a Jesucristo, y que esta Cuaresma sea un momento en el que nos alejemos del pecado y abracemos el evangelio del perdón y la reconciliación con fe, esperanza y amor renovados.
By Carol Glatz
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – As Christians pray, fast and give alms during Lent, they also should consider giving a smile and offering a kind word to people feeling alone or frightened because of the coronavirus pandemic, Pope Francis said.
“Love rejoices in seeing others grow. Hence it suffers when others are anguished, lonely, sick, homeless, despised or in need,” the pope wrote in his message for Lent 2021.
The message, released by the Vatican Feb. 12, focuses on Lent as “a time for renewing faith, hope and love” through the traditional practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. And, by going to confession.
Throughout the message, Pope Francis emphasized how the Lenten practices not only promote individual conversion, but also should have an impact on others.
“By receiving forgiveness in the sacrament that lies at the heart of our process of conversion, we in turn can spread forgiveness to others,” he said. “Having received forgiveness ourselves, we can offer it through our willingness to enter into attentive dialogue with others and to give comfort to those experiencing sorrow and pain.”
The pope’s message contained several references to his encyclical “Fratelli Tutti, on Fraternity and Social Friendship.”
For example, he prayed that during Lent Catholics would be “increasingly concerned with ‘speaking words of comfort, strength, consolation and encouragement, and not words that demean, sadden, anger or show scorn,’” a quote from the encyclical.
“In order to give hope to others, it is sometimes enough simply to be kind, to be ‘willing to set everything else aside in order to show interest, to give the gift of a smile, to speak a word of encouragement, to listen amid general indifference,’” he said, again quoting the document.
The Lenten practices of fasting, almsgiving and prayer were preached by Jesus and continue to help believers experience and express conversion, the pope wrote.
“The path of poverty and self-denial” through fasting, “concern and loving care for the poor” through almsgiving and “childlike dialogue with the Father” through prayer, he said, “make it possible for us to live lives of sincere faith, living hope and effective charity.”
Pope Francis emphasized the importance of fasting “as a form of self-denial” to rediscover one’s total dependence on God and to open one’s heart to the poor.
“Fasting involves being freed from all that weighs us down – like consumerism or an excess of information, whether true or false – in order to open the doors of our hearts to the one who comes to us, poor in all things, yet full of grace and truth: the son of God our savior.”
Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, presenting the message at a news conference, also insisted on the importance of “fasting and all forms of abstinence,” for example, by giving up “time watching TV so we can go to church, pray or say a rosary. It is only through self-denial that we discipline ourselves to be able to take the gaze off ourselves and to recognize the other, reckon with his needs and thus create access to benefits and goods for people,” ensuring respect for their dignity and rights.
Msgr. Bruno-Marie Duffe, secretary of the dicastery, said that at a time of “anxiety, doubt and sometimes even despair” because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lent is a time for Christians “to walk the way with Christ toward a new life and a new world, toward a new trust in God and in the future.”
A colleague once challenged Pierre Teilhard de Chardin with this question. You believe that good will ultimately triumph over evil; well, what if we blow up the world with an atomic bomb, what happens to goodness then? Teilhard answered this way. If we blow up the world with an atomic bomb, that would be a two-million-year setback; but goodness will triumph over evil, not because I wish it, but because God promised it and, in the resurrection, God showed that God has the power to deliver on that promise. He is right. Except for the resurrection, we have no guarantees about anything. Lies, injustice, and violence may well triumph in the end. That is certainly how it looked the day Jesus died.
Jesus was a great moral teacher and his teachings, if followed, would transform the world. Simply put, if we all lived the Sermon on the Mount, our world would be loving, peaceful, and just; but self-interest is often resistant to moral teaching. From the Gospels, we see that it was not Jesus’ teaching that swayed the powers of evil and ultimately revealed the power of God. Not that. The triumph of goodness and the final power of God were revealed instead through his death, by a grain of wheat falling in the ground and dying and so bearing lots of fruit. Jesus won victory over the powers of the world in a way that seems antithetical to all power. He did not overpower anyone with some intellectually superior muscle or by some worldly persuasion. No, he revealed God’s superior power simply by holding fast to truth and love even as lies, hatred, and self-serving power were crucifying him. The powers of the world put him to death, but he trusted that somehow God would vindicate him, that God would have the last word. God did. God raised him from the dead as a testimony that he was right and the powers of the world were wrong, and that truth and love will always have the last word.
That is the lesson. We too must trust that God will give truth and love the last word, irrespective of what things look like in the world. God’s judgment on the powers of this world does not play out like a Hollywood film where the bad guys get shot in the end by a morally superior muscle and we get to enjoy a catharsis. It works this way: everyone gets judged by the Sermon on the Mount, albeit self-interest generally rejects that judgment and seems to get away with it. However, there is a second judgment that everyone will submit to, the resurrection. At the end of the day, which is not exactly like the end of the day in a Hollywood movie, God raises truth and love from their grave and gives them the final word. Ultimately, the powers of the world will all submit to that definitive judgment.
Without the resurrection, there are no guarantees for anything. That is why St. Paul says that if Jesus was not resurrected then we are the most deluded of all people. He is right. The belief that the forces of untruth, self-interest, injustice, and violence will eventually convert and give up their worldly dominance can sometimes look like a possibility on a given night when the world news looks better. However, as happened with Jesus, there is no guarantee that these powers will not eventually turn and crucify most everything that is honest, loving, just, and peaceful in our world. The history of Jesus and the history of the world testify to the fact that we cannot put our trust in worldly powers even when for a time they can look trustworthy. The powers of self-interest and violence crucified Jesus. They were doing it long before and have continued doing it long after. These powers will not be vanquished by some superior moral violence, but by living the Sermon on the Mount and trusting that God will roll back the stone from any tomb in which they bury us.
Many people, perhaps most people, believe there is a moral arc to reality, that reality is bent towards goodness over evil, love over hate, truth over lies, and justice over injustice, and they point to history to show that, while evil may triumph for a while, eventually reality rectifies itself and goodness wins out in the end, always. Some call this the law of karma. There is a lot of truth in that belief, not just because history seems to bear it out, but because when God made the universe, God made a love-oriented universe and so God wrote the Sermon on the Mount both into the human heart and into the very DNA of the universe itself. Physical creation knows how to heal itself, so too does moral creation. Thus, good should always triumph over evil – but, but, given human freedom, there are no guarantees – except for the promise given us in the resurrection.
(Oblate Father Ron Rolheiser is a theologian, teacher, and award-winning author. He can be contacted through his website www.ronrolheiser.com.
Now on Facebook www.facebook.com/ronrolheiser)
Even though I was “frozen in” for a nearly a full work week the work of promoting vocations is going strong. Prediscernment Prayer Nights are off and running across the diocese. Bishop Kopacz and I teamed up for our opening night at St. Richard and I have since presided at adoration and benediction in Vicksburg and Gluckstadt. I have enjoyed getting to see young people and supporters of vocations from across the diocese and this is just the beginning. In the next few weeks, I’ll be in McComb, Natchez, Greenville, Greenwood, Cleveland, Southaven and beyond. These prayer nights are doing the job of helping me identify young men and women who need the diocese’s support in going a little deeper in their discernment. As I get to know men and women dedicated to following God’s call, I can help plug them into experiences that will help them come closer to making a decision which can often be intimidating.
I have also launched a new podcast project called “The Discerning Catholic Podcast.” It is available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts. The podcast is not a “vocations project” per se, but I do hope that it attracts the ears of men and women who are actively discerning. Podcasts are very popular with millennials, at least they are popular with this millennial, and I believe that I can provide content that is helpful for any Catholic looking to apply the faith to their life. The show is geared toward analyzing our culture through the lens of the church. I do not seek to give my opinion, but rather I try to give the public the church’s view on various issues. “The Discerning Catholic” is released on Sunday and Wednesday nights. The Sunday podcast includes my homily from the weekend with a commentary attached in which I go deeper into the topic that I preached about. The Wednesday podcast deals with an “uncomfortable” issue and I seek to apply church teaching to said issue. In between these segments are more fun things where I do give my take on pop culture, sports and other topics. The broadcasting bug has never left me I suppose, and again I hope that this is a life-giving source of information. Tell your friends!
So, lots of great things in the works, please keep our seminarians in your prayers! I was able to check in with all of them while I was snowed-under and I continue to be grateful for the quality men that are studying for our diocese!
Prediscernment Prayer Night Schedule
Tuesday, March 2, 6-7 PM – St. Joseph Greenville
Thursday, March 4, 6-7 PM – Immaculate Heart of Mary Greenwood
Tuesday, March 16, 6-7 PM – Our Lady of Victories Cleveland
Wednesday, March 17, 6-7 PM – Christ the King Southaven