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.

 

Come Holy Spirit, Come

Dear Friends,

St. Cyril offers a beautiful reflection regarding the mystery of Pentecost which we celebrate this Sunday.  God’s plan for us is that we participate fully in God’s own life.  Our identity is in Christ; our life is in God.  Enjoy!

We will continue our Eucharistic Procession on Friday evening, beginning at 6:00 pm.  Our summer format will be approximately a 1.5 mile walk.  This week we will pray the sorrowful and the glorious mysteries of the Rosary, gathering up the passion, death, resurrection and ascension of our Lord, together with the descent of the Holy Spirit, all the mysteries we have celebrated these last fifty days.  Our path this week will be north on Adkins, east on Taft, south on Newport, east on Delor, north on Ray, east on Neosho, south on Steffens, west on Itaska and south on Adkins to the Grotto.

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

From a commentary on the Gospel of John by St. Cyril of Alexandria

If I do not go away, the Comforter will not come to you

After Christ had completed his mission on earth, it still remained necessary for us to become sharers in the divine nature of the Word. We had to give up our own life and be so transformed that we would begin to live an entirely new kind of life that would be pleasing to God. This was something we could do only by sharing in the Holy Spirit.

 It was most fitting that the sending of the Spirit and his descent upon us should take place after the departure of Christ our Saviour. As long as Christ was with them in the flesh, it must have seemed to believers that they possessed every blessing in him; but when the time came for him to ascend to his heavenly Father, it was necessary for him to be united through his Spirit to those who worshipped him, and to dwell in our hearts through faith. Only by his own presence within us in this way could he give us confidence to cry out, Abba, Father, make it easy for us to grow in holiness and, through our possession of the all-powerful Spirit, fortify us invincibly against the wiles of the devil and the assaults of men.

It can easily be shown from examples both in the Old Testament and the New that the Spirit changes those in whom he comes to dwell; he so transforms them that they begin to live a completely new kind of life. Saul was told by the prophet Samuel: The Spirit of the Lord will take possession of you, and you shall be changed into another man. Saint Paul writes: As we behold the glory of the Lord with unveiled faces, that glory, which comes from the Lord who is the Spirit, transforms us all into his own likeness, from one degree of glory to another.

Remembering the Fallen

This Monday we celebrate “Memorial Day in our country, honoring the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice, those who have died while serving in our armed forces.  We take this opportunity as well to thank all who have risked their lives in service to our country.  Our deepest prayer on this Memorial Day is that there may yet be an end of war.  In the mean time we pray for peace among all God;s children.

The poet, Langston Hughes, offers an insight into our deepest prayer for our country.  In our 244 years we have embarked on a noble experiment; despite many stumbles along the way, our longing for true freedom for every person is a beautiful witness to the capacity of the human person and our capacity together to create community.  Hughes sums up our aspirations this way: 

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again. 

This national striving, when wedded to our faith in Jesus Christ can be a powerful force for good.  Let our first love for God inspire us in our love for one another and in our love for our country.  Remembering the fallen inspires us to create a world where no more blood is spilled.  Indeed, we know that Christ’s blood poured out on the cross is the only blood that ought to be shed for any purpose under heave.  Christ’s sacrifice for our salvation is enough for us.  Let us lay aside our will, and our power, in order that God’s power to save might be fully known even to the ends of the earth.

 

We will continue our Eucharistic Procession this evening at 6:00.  We will stay close to the church, beginning east on Delor, then south on Ulena, west on Schiller and back to the Grotto, all weather permitting.  If the rain comes, we will pray the Rosary in church, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.

 

We look forward to public worship this weekend as we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension of our Lord.  Please be patient as we begin again.  A reminder to enter through the accessible door near St. Joseph.  Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

What Binds Us Together is Christ

Our second reading from the Office today reflects beautifully our longing for the Eucharist and the promise of Jesus to send the Holy Spirit.  Our full participation in the Eucharist confirms our participation in the very life of God and God’s desire to share life with us, to dwell within us, Father, Son and Spirit.  We who believe are awakened to the truth of God’s love poured out in all of creation and revealed most profoundly in our humanity.  Jesus Christ, God and man, is our way, our truth and our life.

From a commentary on the gospel of John by Saint Cyril of Alexandria, bishop

What binds us together is Christ

Paul bears witness to the fact that we achieve bodily union with Christ to the extent that we partake of his holy flesh. About this great mystery he says: This that has now been revealed through the Spirit to his holy apostles and prophets was unknown to any men in past generations: it means that pagans now share the same inheritance, that they are parts of the same body, and that the same promise has been made to them, in Jesus Christ.

If we are all the same body with one another in Christ – not just with one another, but with him who, through communion with his flesh, is actually within us – are we not then all of us clearly one with one another and one with Christ? For Christ is the bond that unites us, being at once God and Man.

Following the same line of thought, we can say this about spiritual unity: we all receive one and the same Spirit, I mean the Holy Spirit. So in a way we are blended together with one another and with God. Even though we are many individuals and Christ, the Spirit of the Father and his own Spirit, dwells in each one of us individually, still the Spirit is really one and indivisible. And so that one Spirit binds together the separated spirits of each one of us so that we are seen to be one, together in Christ.

Just as the power of Christ’s holy flesh makes into one body everyone in whom it exists, in the same way the Spirit of God, being indivisible, ties together the spirits in which it dwells.

Again, Paul emphasized this point: Bear with one another charitably, in complete selflessness, gentleness and patience. Do all you can to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together. There is one Body, one Spirit, just as you were all called into one and the same hope when you were called. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God who is Father of all, over all, through all and within all. As the one Spirit abides in us, the one God and Father will be with us through the Son, leading those who share the Spirit into unity with each other and with himself.

There is another way to show that we are united through sharing in the Holy Spirit. If we abandon living as mere animals and surrender ourselves wholly to the laws of the Spirit, it is surely beyond question that by effectively denying our own life and taking upon ourselves the transcendent likeness of the Holy Spirit who is joined to us, we are practically transformed into another nature. We are no longer mere men, but sons of God and citizens of Heaven, through becoming partakers of the divine nature.

We are all, therefore, one in the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit; one because we have the same relationship, one because we live the same life of righteousness, and one in receiving the holy flesh of Christ and in sharing the one Holy Spirit.

Rest in Peace: Mary Lewis and Robert Roelke

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Mary Lewis, a lifelong parishioner who has fostered faith in the Lewis family down to the fourth generation.  A Funeral Mass will be celebrated on Monday, May 18, 11:00 am, with one hour of visitation prior to Mass, at St. John the Baptist.

Pray also for the repose of the soul of Robert Roelke, a lifelong parishioner whose roots run deep in our mission as a parish family.  Arrangements for Bob are pending.

May their souls and the souls of all the fiathful departed, through the Mercy of God, rest in peace.

We will pray for Mary and Bob during our Eucharistic procession, weather permitting, today, Friday, at 6:00 pm.  We will journey east on Delor, north on Spring, east on Meramec, south on Grand and west on Delor back to the Grotto.  Let the worship of Christ in the Eucharist nourish us unto eternal life.  

Starting Again

As we gather again for public worship we celebrate the great feasts of the Ascension of our Lord, Pentecost, The Holy Trinity and The Body and Blood of Christ.  It is literally a new beginning.  And we approach it from perhaps the most vulnerable experience our community has known in our lifetimes.  Even as we remain vulnerable to the virus, to growing anxiety, to a fraying of the edges all around us, our soul knows that God is ready to reveal himself in ever more powerful ways.  God will send his Spirit to awaken his spirit already at work within us.  Our love will be more tender, our humility will be more acceptable, our faith will become the fire which descends upon everyone in our community to bring healing and peace to a troubled world.  And as we count on God alone to save us, let us also be patient with one another.  Let us search for creative ways to stay connected.  At the first Pentecost, the disciples, gathered around Mary our mother, moved from fear to courage, from doubt to faith and from despair to hope.  And the world caught fire with their love for one another.  We are being called right now to light a fire on the earth, to become the very body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ, to be life for the world.

Please be mindful of the disciplines we are putting in place to facilitate meaningful and safe public worship, beginning Monday, May 18.  Our Mass schedule is, again, 6:30 am Monday-Friday; 8:00 am Saturday; 4:00 pm Saturday; 7:00 and 10:00 on Sunday morning.  This schedule will be used even on the fifth Sundays; we will not celebrate a “Unity” Mass until further notice…though we are one, just as the Father and Son are one.  

We will add a noon Mass on Sunday, May 24, to make sure everyone who wishes to come to Mass can.  Please call or email us to let us know if you wish to attend at noon; that will help us make preparations.  If we have more than 80 or so at any one Mass we will have to ask some to leave and return for the noon Mass.  I do believe it will work out beautifully; please, though, be patient with us and one another as we begin again this great offering of Praise and Worship to God.

Here are the protocols we have put in place:

  1. All parishioners will wear masks and practice 6′ social distancing while on Church property.
  2. All parishioners will enter church through the accessible door in the southwest corner of church.
  3. All parishioners are encouraged to use sanitizer when entering church.
  4. Breaking Bread Missals will be available as parishioners enter; each person can take one, then keep it, take it home and bring it whenever they come to Mass.
  5. Also, as you enter you will see the collection basket in front of church; please drop your contribution in the basket as you enter.
  6. Twenty pews will be available for seating in the church.
  7. The kneelers will not be used in church; they are not to be touched; we will all stand (or sit) during the Eucharistic prayer.
  8. Communion is to be received in the hand. 
  9. All parishioners will exit through the center east doors of church.

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

Returning Home

We are returning to the public celebration of Mass on Monday May 18.  Alleluia!  We will return to our regular Mass schedule, with 6:30 Mass on Monday-Friday, 8:00 Mass on Saturday morning, 4:00 PM Vigil Mass on Saturday afternoon, 7:00 and 10:00 on Sunday morning.  On Sunday, May 24, we are adding a noon Mass, just in case it is necessary in order to implement all the safety protocols in the midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic.  Please be mindful of the following procedures to facilitate meaningful and safe worship:

  1. All parishioners will wear masks and practice 6′ social distancing while on Church property.
  2. All parishioners will enter church through the accessible door in the southwest corner of church.
  3. All parishioners are encouraged to use sanitizer when entering church.
  4. Breaking Bread Missals will be available as parishioners enter; each person can take one, then keep it, take it home and bring it whenever they come to Mass.
  5. Twenty pews will be available for seating in the church.
  6. The kneelers will not be used in church; they are not to be touched; we will all stand (or sit) during the Eucharistic prayer.
  7. Communion is to be received in the hand. 
  8. All parishioners will exit through the center east doors of church.

Archbishop Carlson has extended indefinitely the dispensation regarding the obligation to attend Sunday Mass.  He has encouraged all persons who are particularly vulnerable to the virus (underlying health condition or and/or above the age of sixty) to stay home. Our 10:00 Sunday Mass will continue to be live streamed on Facebook and on our web page.

Please email or call us to let us know if you are willing to attend the noon Mass on May 24; if we can get fifty or more committed to trying that Mass on that day, we should be able to confidently accommodate all who attend the other Masses. 

This is indeed a new beginning for all of us.  Let us remain open to the good work which God is preparing to accomplish in us.  The first reading in the Office today included,

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth.  The former heaven and the former earth had passed away…I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race.  He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God.  He will wipe every tear from their faces, and there will be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away.  Behold, I make all things new.’  (Rev. 21:1-5)”

This vision from John, first shared at the beginning of the second century, is so important for us today.  It encourages us that we are already, even now, in this very moment, participating in the life of heaven.  Jesus is the lamb upon the throne who makes all things new.  During these days of living in the midst of a pandemic it is difficult to imagine heaven on earth.  Yet it is unfolding, one act of love at a time.  This world is being transformed into the Kingdom of God, a creation which is a returning home for us, a long, sacred journey back to the Garden of Eden, and all God’s children shall see it together.  While our attention is clearly on persevering through to the end of this pandemic, the horizon of God’s love for us poured out in Christ Jesus remains our lasting hope.  Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.