Fasting for Healing and Peace, Declaring for Unity and Freedom

Perhaps you have heard via Catholic Radio this week an encouragement to fast during this three day holiday weekend.  I wholeheartedly support the effort: whether through abstaining from meat, abstaining from snacks, reducing the number of meals or through a true bread and water fast from sundown Friday until sundown Sunday.  Fasting is the first form of prayer, a ritual surrender of mind, body, heart, spirit and soul to God’s will, letting God’s Word be our sustenance for the journey.  Inevitably the emptiness which occurs during fasting leaves us ever more vulnerable to God’s grace.

I trust our fasting and our prayer will open us to the true meaning of our Declaration of Independence, first uttered 244 years ago.  Might we understand the Declaration of our independence from England in 1776 as a vision of a much more profound freedom for all God’s children.  Just like the prophet Zechariah in Sunday’s first reading, might our authors of this sacred document might be prophets of a future not even they could have imagined?  There are four clear references to God and the sacred; how can we sustain honest dialogue among all in our community regarding the ultimate purpose of our lives as “children of God?”  

Our experience has already taught us that the authors did not have a grasp of the full import of their words.  When they proclaimed the self-evident truth that “all men are created equal,” they meant all white property owners in the 13 colonies/states.  And we are slowly, but surely, learning that ALL means ALL, including women, Blacks, Native Americans and immigrants from every corner of the earth.  

The people who first heard Zechariah’s prophecy near the end of the sixth century before Christ could not have possibly understood the deeper meaning.  They were returning to Jerusalem after eighty years of exile in Babylon; returning to a holy city which had been destroyed at the beginning of the exile.  When Zechariah says, “Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion, shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem!  See, your king shall come to you, a just savior is he…” the people longed for a return to the time of David, when Israel was a united, and very strong, nation, devouring its neighbors and place other nations at their service through taxes and forced labor.  They wanted a return to earthly power as a sign of God’s blessings.  Come to find out that was NEVER going to happen.  The second part of the prophecy turns out to be most important: “meek and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass.  He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem; the warrior’s bow shall be banished, and he shall proclaim peace to the nations.  His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.”

While Zechariah is offering hope in the short term he is declaring a vision of God’s Kingdom which is actually beyond their imagination in that moment.  When Christ offers his life on the Cross, beginning with his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, “riding on the foal of an ass,” and ending with his victory over death by the power of love to bring about resurrection life, we are all invited into a brand new way of living, perhaps a WAY which is yet beyond our imagination because we have not trusted God’s promise to us in Christ.

Let us embrace the vision of the Declaration of Independence and the vision of Zechariah’s Declaration of Freedom in Christ Jesus.  I believe we can let go of earthly visions of Kings riding in triumph on horses and continue the journey of descent.  William Stafford, a great holder of our vision in the twentieth century teaches us in “Spirit of Place: Great Blue Heron;”

If you keep faith I will exist at the edge, where your vision joins the sunlight and the rain; heads in the light, feet that go down in the mud where the truth is.

We must first trust God’s vision revealed through Zechariah and fully revealed in Jesus Christ.  Then we will know that our life, even now, is eternal.  We will know that truth in the light vanquishes all darkness.  We will know that love is, indeed, more powerful than death.  Then we can turn our hearts to the Declaration of Independence which is, in its own way, a reflection of God’s vision for us, His children. The beautiful vision of freedom for all the citizens of this new nation, still new after 244 years, is yet emerging.  Do we have the courage to pick up the song?  Can we craft a beautiful rendition in our day?  Knowing that our God is with us, trusting that our destiny is secure, let us risk enough to love until “Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done.”  Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  

What Do We Declare?

My dear Friends,

Please find attached our Declaration of Independence.  As we prepare to celebrate our “Independence Day,” let us reflect more deeply on this hallowed document.  Perhaps it can be seen as prophetic on its own terms, much more profound than the authors imagined.  Please pray with it, and for our country, in these turbulent times.  God bless you.

Fr. Mitch

https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/declaration-transcript

Instructions from the Voice of the Poor Committee on Voting by Mail

Dear Fellow Vincentian,
Due to the risk of exposure to COVID-19, the Missouri legislature approved new vote by mail options for 2020. Click here to find the eligibility requirements for absentee and mail-in voting.
Your application for a ballot must be received by your election authority (Board of Elections or county clerk) by July 22 at 5:00 p.m. for the August 4 election. The actual ballot must be received by the election authority at or before 7:00 p.m. on Election Day. Click here for a list of election authorities for all Missouri counties in the St. Louis area.
Even though your individual election authority will have its own application, you can use the attached application (which was obtained from the Secretary of State’s website) to request an absentee or mail-in ballot. If your ballot must be notarized, you can call your financial institution, your election authority or the League of Women Voters for help in finding a notary.
If you are not comfortable voting in-person, the VOP Committee urges you to vote for Medicaid Expansion by mail. Please pass this information along to family, friends, and fellow Vincentians that do not have access to email.
The Voice of the Poor (VOP) Committee urges you to vote YES on Amendment 2. Click here for a fact sheet listing 6 reasons Medicaid Expansion benefits Missouri. 
If you have any questions, please call me at 314-302-0595.
Sincerely,
Dianne Marshak
Voice of the Poor Committee Chairperson

A Voice Is Born

Blessed Feast of the Birth of St. John the Baptist!  I look forward to celebrating this feast with all of you this Sunday.  We are called to follow in the footsteps of St. John the Baptist; from the moment of his miraculous conception the womb of his mother, Elizabeth, John proclaims with every ounce of his being: “Salvation is come!”  His Father, Zechariah, spoke his mission to him at his birth: “You, my child shall be called the prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way, giving his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of sins.” And so he did.  And so do we.  We have come to know our salvation, to trust God’s love for us, to let God’s mercy flow through us and from us to the ends of the earth.

Let this Feast of the anniversary of the Baptist’s birth be a new beginning of the Baptist’s cry in us.  We are now the voice carrying the Word which is Christ.  The voice is vital and necessary, yet the voice is not what is heard; it is the Word which is heard.  If we hold fast to this purpose of ours, we too will become prophets to the nations.  The spirit of St. John the Baptist lives in our bones; his reckless and courageous proclamation reveals joy in the depths of our soul.  We, like all the prophets before us, grow weary holding it in; we will announce God’s saving power at work in us, in Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit.

We congratulate Julian McClellan and Mareli CuCue who are receiving their First Holy Communion on Saturday; and we congratulate Kaitlin Flores and Lazaro Navarro who will be confirmed, also on Saturday.  Becasue of these special sacraments, we will live-stream our 4:00 PM Mass on Saturday instead of the 10:00 on Sunday.

We will continue our procession with the blessed Sacrament this Friday at 6:00 PM, processing south on Adkins, west on Schiller, south on Morgan Ford, west on Bates, north on Gravois, east on Gertrude, north on Morgan Ford and east on Delor back to the Grotto.  God bless you all.

Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

DACA Prayer Vigil

We received a series of messages from Gabriele Eissner, Advocacy and Outreach Coordinator at Saint Francis Community Services, regarding this evening’s DACA Prayer Vigil, which has now been renamed Celebration of Hope Following #DACAdecision. We share them here:

Hi everyone!

This morning (Thursday, June 18, 2020), the Supreme Court ruled against the Trump administration’s attempt to end DACA. This is wonderful news and gives us reason to celebrate! Tomorrow night we are still planning on having an event from 5PM-8PM, but this event will now be a celebration of hope rather than a vigil. We will be in touch with more information by the end of the day.

I am allowing myself time to bask in the hope and joy that I feel right now, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that this ruling comes as the Trump administration is tearing apart our asylum system and our country is confronting our long history of racism. There is still much work to be done. Thank you for joining us on this journey!

UPDATE: After hearing feedback from all of you and in the spirit of celebration, we have decided to shorten the event. It will now take place from 6PM-8PM. See attached for an updated schedule. Please make sure that your message fits within the allotted time frame. Although we expect some deviations from the schedule, we will try to stick as closely to it as possible.

We will be sending out the Zoom link in the morning. Just click this link 15 minutes before you are scheduled to present to enter the presenters’ space. Susan or I will send you a message when it is time for you to unmute yourself and speak. The attached outline has more detailed guidance.

These are extremely simplified instructions, so please reach out if you have any questions. We appreciate all the time and effort you have put into making this possible!

You can also find the link to the the Facebook event here​.

THANK YOU,
Gabby

 


Father’s Love

Today (Thursday), Jesus teaches us how to pray, specifically he provides the words to the most familiar prayer in all the world, “The Our Father,” or the Lord’s Prayer. Everything we need to know about prayer is contained in the Lord’s Prayer. Trusting the Father’s will, asking for daily help, and seeking the forgiveness of sins are all the essentials of prayer.

Before the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus says, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him (Mt. 6:8).” As I began praying with this today, my thoughts immediately went to my own father, my earthly father. With Fathers’ Day around the corner, and knowing I have not purchased a gift, nor a card, I wondered what to do. Then I remembered his love for me, along with a couple of times I have not felt so loved. Did my dad know what I needed? Then it dawned on me: whatever I have thought I needed, or even think now, what I always need is my father’s love. And more to the point, my Father’s love. My earthly father has loved me from the beginning and has done his best to share God’s love with me as well. Yet we all know, there is no way our earthly father can give us all the love we need. Yet our earthly father can prepare us to seek the Father’s love. It is our Father in heaven who knows what we need; and we always need our Father’s love, the Holy Spirit, revealed in the death and resurrection of Jesus.

So let us be grateful to our fathers on this coming Fathers’ Day; and let us forgive our fathers, letting go of any resentments which may be whispering still in our hearts. And let us open our hearts to the love of our heavenly Father who remains faithful in every moment of our life journey.

We will not continue our Eucharistic procession tomorrow due to a scheduling conflict with a wedding rehearsal; we will be back on June 26. God bless you all as we prepare to celebrate the beautiful Feasts of the Sacred heart of Jesus and the Immaculate heart of Mary on Friday and Saturday.

Deepening Requires Descent

Today is Friday…Sunday is the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity.  Normally, we would pray the sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary today and then turn our attention to the abundance of God’s love all around us and within us as we honor the Trinity.  Nothing is normal today.  The truth of the COVID-19 pandemic had just sunk into our consciousness; we had just begun to imagine a little way out of our “stay at home,” including the opportunity for public worship; and now we see streets filled with protesters and other streets marred by rioters, even all around us in our parish.  I suspect in our prayer we have all uttered, “Lord, this is too much.”

Jesus’ proclamation of the Gospel began with the deepest, most profound and always true, “The Kingdom of God is at hand; the Kingdom of God is within you.”  That was true when he calls his first disciples; that is true when he preaches his sermon on the mount; that is true when he carries his cross; that is true when he dies on the cross; and it is true when he is raised from the dead.  It is true whenever we choose to love.

Whether it is federal troops on horseback throwing pepper balls into crowds of protesters or young raging lost men breaking windows in Johnnie’s Market, we are seeing signs of a shattering all around us; indeed the “foundations are shaking…(Is. 6:3-4).”  In our own lives, in our community, in our culture, in our country and, indeed, throughout the world, something is ready to be born; the corollary is also true: something is dying.  We naturally cling to what is no longer able to sustain us because it has sustained us until now.  By God’s grace, however, we find the strength to let go, even to journey more deeply into the heart of darkness, to descend more honestly into the very center of the wound.  Only then can we greet the dawn; only then can we heal the wound.

This moment is a poignant and painful revelation of the Paschal Mystery we celebrate in every Eucharist and the mystery of life and love we are called to trust in every moment.  God is with us; God is for us; God is within us; God is on the cross; God is risen from the dead.  The two or three lost souls who broke into Johnnie’s Market are not more powerful than the love poured out by the community to keep the market open.  

It is impossible for us to know the gravity of a wound which has been inflicted harshly over the centuries.  There is no excuse for anyone to do harm to another.  The buying and selling of millions of African Slaves all over the world for over three hundred years is deep wound which festers in the psyche of every living soul in the world.  Not one of us living now is responsible for slavery.  And we must take responsibility for healing the wound.  The next few steps in that journey of healing, which alone can bring peace and justice, will be further descent.  If we descend with faith, with love, with hope, with courage and together with all our brothers and sisters, we know God will accompany us and raise us up.  

While it seems all around us is collapsing, we know, in the depths of our souls, that God is making all things new.  I commend to you this beautiful interview with Blanca, especially her powerful song, “Shattered.”  And let me just say again, listening to JoyFM can be healing in itself.  God’s word is woven through every song.  

We will continue our Eucharistic Procession this evening, Friday, at 6:00.  And we will continue the procession until Christ’s peace reings in all our hearts and everywhere in our community.

Please know my love for you and my desire to work with you for the healing and peace God is ready to bring into our lives and the lives of all our brothers and sisters.  Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  

Racism, Peace and Justice in the Archdiocese of St. Louis

The Covid-19 Pandemic has left us all vulnerable, perhaps a bit frayed at the edges.  The events flowing from the killing of George Floyd and erupting throughout the country, including in St. Louis are evidence of unhealed wounds.  The two issues have conflated in such a way as to challenge our faith, hope and love.  Please listen to Archbishop Carlson and trust the deeper truth of our love one another.  Christ has conquered sin and death.  Our love for one another is stronger than fear.  Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In this time of great turmoil, I ask you to quiet your hearts and listen with me to the message of the peaceful protests we are seeing across our nation. They are asking for justice with peace as the goal.

As people of faith, we begin with the fact that no matter the color of our skin, we are all made in the image and likeness of God. My friend Jimmy Munford was an African American man who went ashore on the second day of the landing at Normandy. He said to me: “Archbishop, I walked through the blood of white men and black men and red men and yellow men. There was no difference in the color of their blood.”

We have lost our way as a nation because of prejudice and selfishness and jealousy. Recent events and protests are only the latest symptoms of a longstanding and underlying cultural sickness. There is no moral framework for the fact that each of us has Christ in us and with us. Jesus wanted us to open our hearts to His powerful love, and to be His face and voice and arms and ears for every person who crosses the path of our lives.

We give people life when we accompany all in developing to their full human potential—into the people God created them to be.

This means providing quality education that leads to employment and fair wages, pathways to progress for families in need of healing and structure, access to health care for the uninsured, helping people develop skills and find jobs, rehabbing houses in distress to provide affordable housing, support for people experiencing homelessness, and mental health services. Importantly, we must look at why people do not have access to so many of these things. Catholic Charities of St. Louis and Society of St. Vincent de Paul conferences in our parishes of the Archdiocese of St. Louis have done a great deal of work on all of those fronts. But there’s much more to be done, as too many are in despair.

It means listening to our brothers and sisters of color and learning about their experiences—their triumphs, struggles and sorrows—so that we understand how to best walk with them through all of these moments. The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. We must develop all of these gifts in ourselves and in one another as the foundation with which we can move our society forward.

It’s time to come together as a people and take the future of our region as our challenge. Let’s focus on what binds us versus what divides us.

It will take prayer. It will take hard work. It will take the involvement of all of us!

We need to take a knee in prayer, and ask forgiveness, and forgive one another.

We need to see the disparities among us, some of which were pointed out in the Ferguson Commission Report, and ask: have we made sufficient progress? What remains to be done? I know the Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of St. Louis has taken steps forward, but much still needs to be done.

Let’s all work together – government officials, business leaders, social activists, educators, police, fathers and mothers, the young and old – to help in whatever way we can to figure out our way forward. What do we want for our community?

Scripture tells us to turn our swords into plow shares. Let’s turn our guns into metal. And may that metal someday be the statue in our community that stands as reminder that, here in the greater St. Louis region, we chose justice so there would be peace.

Are you willing to join me in this pursuit of justice?

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Robert J. Carlson Archbishop of St. Louis

Mary and the Trinity

Today we celebrate the Feast of Mary, Mother of the Church, most fittingly the day after the birth of the Church at Pentecost. This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity. Mary, as the Mother of God and Mother of the Church, can help us connect to the Trinity, to risk intimacy with the Father, Son and Spirit. In the moment of the Annunciation, when all creation held its breath, Mary is asked by the Father, through the Angel Gabriel, to conceive by the Holy Spirit and to give life to the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Mary is the ark of the new eternal covenant which will be sealed in Jesus’ blood on Calvary. In this way Mary stands at the center of history and at the center of Mystery; her “yes” to becoming Mother of God conjoins with Jesus’ “yes” to death on the Cross, thus becoming the new Eve, the mother all the living. What began in the Garden of Eden is transformed and redeemed through the birth, death and resurrection of Christ and is gloriously revealed in the Garden of the Heavenly Jerusalem. Let us pledge ourselves to follow Mary in her mission of bringing Christ to the world.