McIntosh parishioners to celebrate 100 years of parish life

St. Bonaventure, McIntosh, 100th Celebration, Sunday, July15, 2018, 10:30 a.m. Mass, followed by potluck lunch. Please bring a salad or dessert.

The Catholic church in McIntosh began as a mission of the Lemmon parish in 1908. Parish records show the first Masses were said December 22, 1908, and December 15, 1909.  Masses  were held in the courthouse or other available buildings. Baptisms were done in family homes.

In 1911, the parish was served by the Benedictine priests and attended by Ft. Yates, N.D, with a mission at McLaughlin and other Indian missions of the Dakotas. The first diocesan priest was assigned to the area in 1916.

The Benedictines purchased land for a church and a home at the end of the block was bought for a rectory. The lots between the home and parish were gifted to the church by a parishioner. Around this time, land for the cemetery was donated.

Construction began on the orignal St. Bonaventure Church  in the spring of 1918 and was completed that summer. The final debt of $1,556.87, was paid in 1924. The first resident pastor was also assigned to the church that year.

From 1930-1943 many improvements were made to the church and a home was purchased and moved across the street for the rectory.

In 1962, Frank Lang, a long-time parishioner, was the first to put a shovel into the ground for the new church. Lang, a trustee in 1918, participated in ground-breaking of the original parish 45 years prior and was one of six surviving charter members of the parish.

The first services were held in the new building, March 3, 1963. The church, described as the, “the most beautiful Catholic church in western South Dakota,” in the Lemmon Leader was “dedicated with impressive ceremonies Sunday (July 14). Hundreds of parishioners and friends attended.”

In a parish history, written by Teresa Glines, the new church was described as 40 x 70 feet with two wings at the rear for a “winter chapel and sacristy. The old church was not deserted in the new building plans, for the stained-glass windows were incorporated into the new building and the bell now rests on the grounds of the new church.”

In the years following Vatican II, a renovation project was completed which included the addition of a smaller chapel for daily Mass. A Catechetical Center was built in 1970. The building housed the living quarters for the parish priests and classrooms for religious education and church activities. The old rectory was sold and moved to another part of town.

According to a West River Catholic article, remodeling the interior of the parish was discussed as early as 1988 and again in 1994. In 2000, a parish-wide appeal was launched to help pay for the renovations and after a grant from the Extension Society work began on the church. The building was made handicap accessible, a gathering area was added, and the sanctuary was opened up allowing for all the stained glass windows to be viewed. The church rededicated on November 4, 2001.

New director continues ‘creating a culture of stewardship’

“My favorite part of the job is going into the parishes and meeting with the people,” said Shawna Hanson, recently appointed director of the Office of Stewardship. “You get to know so many wonderful people and see the good things they are doing. It’s a great grace to see how hard they work and how much they love Jesus.”

Effective July 1, the combined Offices of Vocations and Stewardship will be separated, with Fr. Mark McCormick retaining the Vocation Director duties, and his administrative assistant, Hanson, becoming the Director of Stewardship. “My role is to be of service to the churches,” said Hanson.

The Diocese of Rapid City is currently advertising for an assistant to work with both offices.

Hanson has worked in the Vocations and Stewardship Office for the past three years. She is a graduate of the University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyo., with a degree in personnel administration (human resources). Her prior work has included a number of part-time positions. In addition to working in personnel administration, she has done bookkeeping for homebased businesses, medical billing and tutoring of students in reading and spelling. She also ran a child care business. “Most of my energy and my primary focus have been on my family,” she said.

During her work in the Stewardship Office she has assisted with the Summit, an annual workshop to inspire people in applying the stewardship ideals to all aspects of their lives so it becomes “a Catholic Way of Life.”

The second part of the department’s agenda according to Hanson is a component of Bishop Robert Gruss’ Diocesan Priority Plan, Through Him, With Him and In Him. It calls for identifying Stewardship Parishes. To do that the Stewardship Office members assembled a group of parishioners from urban and rural churches to define “Characteristics of a Stewardship Parish.” The ideas became a booklet which outlines the attributes of a Stewardship Parish as well as self-assessment tools for parishes to use to help ascertain their strengths and weaknesses in the area of stewardship. Churches are enlivened beginning with the first phase — Foundational Parishes. “It means looking through our three lenses of stewardship — Hospitality, Faith and Discipleship,” she said.

Currently, Our Lady of the Black Hills Church, Piedmont, has been designated a Foundational Parish. It is now working through the second phase, looking at Generous Hospitality. Council members are finding their strengths in this area and the ways they would like to grow. St. Patrick Church, Lead, and St. Ambrose Church, Deadwood, as well as St. John Church, Ft. Pierre, are close to becoming Foundational Parishes and three others are looking in to it.

Foundational Parishes have active Finance, Pastoral and Stewardship Councils. They have clear mission and vision statements with goals for all areas of parish life; and they have an up-to-date census. These parishes follow the norms outlined by the diocese for financial record keeping and reporting. They have effective means of communication and parishioners take responsibility for parish programs.

Once Parish Finance and Stewardship Councils review the assessments and determine their church’s strengths and weakness, they talk to the Diocesan Stewardship Office staff. “We help them set goals,” she said.

At the diocesan-wide level, “our next step will be going deeper into the three lenses. This is not a program you go through, get your degree and move on,” she said. “If you listened to the speakers at last year’s Summit, Chris Stewart and Tony Brandt, their lives are peppered with stewardship — it’s the lens they look at life through, raise their children by, do their work, and interact with the church. Its everything.”

She will be continuing the goal of creating a culture of stewardship. “It’s a long journey to develop that,” said Hanson. In June the office sponsored “Ambassadors for Christ, A Stewardship Leadership Training.”

Prayer focuses on gratitude of individuals, families

At the end of May, the Office of Vocations was busy preparing for another summer of Duc In Altum — “put out into the deep” (Lk 5:4). We trained two teams of four and one team of five young adults, sending them out as missionary disciples, to crisscross the diocese evangelizing and catechizing our children, youth and families in the tradition, beauty and the richness of our Catholic faith.

The teams will focus on the Apostles Creed and Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary this year. In addition to giving them information on the topics they will teach, we spent time with our young adults cultivating their interior life through the heart of St. Ignatius Loyola by teaching and accompanying them in some of his prayer practices; meditation and contemplation of the Scriptures and the Examen prayer.

The Examen is a method of prayer that Ignatius of Loyola taught in his “Spiritual Exercises.” It is a method of prayerful reflection on the events of one’s day in order to take notice of God’s presence and how one responded in generosity or held back on the movements of the Lord in one’s heart throughout the day. This prayer also offers us the opportunity to look at those choices one has made that are not of God.

There are a number of adaptions to the way one prays the Examen prayer, but traditionally there are five steps. In Father Timothy Gallagher’s book, “The Examen Prayer: Ignatian Wisdom for our Lives Today,” he gives this outline as a guide in praying the Examen:

Transition: I become aware of the love with which God looks upon me as I begin this Examen.

Step One: Gratitude. I note the gifts that God’s love has given me this day, and I give thanks to God for them.

Step Two: Petition. I ask God for an insight and a strength that will make this Examen the work of grace, fruitful beyond my human capacity alone.

Step Three: Review. With my God, I review the day. I look for the stirrings in my heart and the thoughts that God has given me this day. I look also at those that have not been of God. I review my choices in response to both, and throughout the day in general.

Step Four: Forgiveness. I ask for the healing touch of the forgiving God who, with love and respect for me, removes my heart’s burdens.

Step Five: Renewal. I look to the following day and, with God, plan concretely how to live it in accord with God’s loving desire for my life.

Transition: Aware of God’s presence with me, I peacefully conclude my Examen.

In the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius teaches that the practice of the Examen begins when the foundational desire of our hearts is to “seek and find the divine will in the disposition of our lives” (Spiritual Exercise, 1). “The root of the practice of Examen will always be desire: a desire that is an awareness of the immense love of the God who is ever close to us, a desire enkindled within us when we wish to respond daily, moment by moment, to God’s love, and the desire that is, finally, a gift to be sought in humble and trusting prayer to the God who promises that searching hearts will find their desire.” (Gallagher)

In Luke 11:9 we read, “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.”

St. Ignatius says he becomes aware of the love with which God looks upon him as he begins the Examen. I love this part of the prayer, in which we allow God the Father not only to look upon us, but to gaze upon us.

I don’t even like to look at myself in the mirror, however, this is not so with God. God looks upon me with love. John of the Cross says: “The look of God is love and pouring out of gifts.” Ignatius says before beginning the Examen prayer we should pause for the time it takes to pray an Our Father, allowing God to gaze upon us (Spiritual Exercise, 75).

If you have never prayed the Examen, or have been lukewarm in its practice, I encourage you to give it a try this week. It is right in line with the lens of lively faith: prayer, study, and formation in our stewardship initiative. The Examen prayer also roots our lives in gratitude, which is the foundation of living Stewardship as a Way of Life.

Father Gallagher shares that this prayer can be prayed individually and together as a family. He recounts how a father and mother, with their four young children, pray a family Examen together.

The mother describes it this way: “For the last several years, my husband and I have introduced Examen as part of our evening meal with our four children (ages 13, 10, seven, and four). Using a very simple adaptation of the Examen, we propose these two questions: What have you been most grateful for today? What have you been least grateful for today?”

The mother goes on to say the sharing of their responses to these two questions become the material for their dinner table discussion. Each member is given a turn to respond to the questions with other members of the family listening respectively (on this point we try!). In the end the mother says, “It encourages us to listen to each other, and at times to be challenged to listen more than superficially. It helps our children to learn to get in touch with their inner experience, and to learn to share that with others.”

I would be curious to hear your experience in praying the Examen prayer — individually or with your family.

St. Ignatius, pray for us!

 

Please keep the canonization cause in your prayers

Last October 21st was an important day in the history of the Diocese of Rapid City. On this day, during the celebration of the Mass at Holy Rosary Church in Pine Ridge, a decree was read formally opening the cause for beatification and canonization of Nicholas Black Elk, Sr. I would like to update you on what has happened since that momentous day.

At the November 2017 USCCB meeting, as required by canonical procedures, I made a presentation to the American bishops seeking their prayerful support to move forward the process for beatification and canonization of Nicholas Black Elk. Following that procedure, their unanimous approval was made public and since then I have been amazed and inspired by the interest in this cause from all across the country and throughout Europe.

Since the opening of the cause, I have received a number of letters and phone calls from people in various parts of the country sharing with me the impact or influence that Black Elk has had in their lives as they have studied his life or through intercessory prayer. In addition, numerous film producers have contacted me expressing interest in creating a film or documentary on his life.

In recent months, we have secured a postulator in Rome, Fr. Luis Escalante, who is experienced in working with the process and procedures and the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, bringing an expertise that is not available locally. Bill White of Christ the King Parish in Porcupine will assume the role of Vice Postulator. Part of the process is to formally appoint the Officials of the Inquiry. Fr. Joseph Daoust, SJ, has been appointed Episcopal Delegate, Fr. Dan Juelfs as Promoter of Justice, and Teresa Spiess as Notary.

To assist in searching out and gathering all the published writings of the Servant of God Nicholas Black Elk, those not yet published, as well as all historical documents, a Historical Commission is appointed. Members of this commission are Mark Thiel, Archivist at Marquette University where many records about Nicholas Black Elk are kept; Fr. Michael Steltenkamp, SJ, author of two books about Black Elk — “Black Elk: Holy Man of the Oglala,” and “Nicholas Black Elk: Medicine Man, Missionary, Mystic;” and Ken Stewart, Archives Research Administrator for the South Dakota State Archives/South Dakota State Historical Society.

Two Theological Censors must also be appointed. Their role is to examine the published writings of the Servant of God — his own works or by others — to verify that there is nothing contained in them contrary to faith and good morals. The names of the Theological Censors must remain secret.

An important aspect of the cause is to verify the heroic virtues and the reputation of holiness and intercessory power of the person being considered for beatification and canonization. This takes place through the testimony of witnesses. These include eyewitnesses, that is, those who have had direct and immediate knowledge of the Servant of God, i.e., blood relatives and other relations as well as others who have received information about Nicholas Black Elk from those who have had direct and immediate knowledge. The witnesses are bound by an oath to tell the truth and to keep secret their role in this process.

There are other particulars that are a part of the process, but because of limited space here I have outlined the basic process. In the coming months the Officials of the Inquiry will be completing their work, bringing together all of the required documentation — Acta (Acts) — necessary to move this cause forward. Upon completion, the Acta are then sent to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. Then the diocesan phase of the process is completed.

An important aspect of this whole process on a local level is cultivating an interest in the life of the individual being promoted for the cause of beatification and canonization. This has begun in our diocese with the prayer cards and the posters of Nicholas Black Elk highlighting some aspects of his life. A website is being developed to promote his cause as well as provide historical information on his life. A Facebook page promoting the cause will also be up and running in the near future.

This is an important opportunity for the Diocese of Rapid City. I would ask that you keep this cause in your prayers. If you have not already begun to do so, please use Servant of God Nicholas Black Elk as an intercessor in your lives. We never know how the Lord will use those prayers of intercession. On this page is the prayer that has been created for this process. Hopefully it is found on prayer cards in your parishes. Let it find its way into your daily prayer life.

I believe that the church’s special recognition of Black Elk’s saintly life will provide the Native American  faith-community and peoples everywhere the example of a very special person whose presence to others is worthy of imitation. As a model, he showed how the Native American culture could enrich the Body of Christ, integrating the two traditions, thereby bringing a richness to both.

This Catholic missionary and mystic holy-man of the Oglala Sioux would be a welcome symbol to all Native Americans, leaving a legacy of someone who sought the Sacred, who lived the Gospel in everyday life, and who inspired others (Native and non-Native) to do the same.

Servant of God Nicholas Black Elk, pray for us.

 

Heavenly Father, Great Spirit! Behold us, who stand before you singing our song of thanksgiving for Servant of God, Nicholas Black Elk. Faithfully he walked the Sacred Red Road and generously witnessed the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ among the Native American people. We humbly ask you to hear the prayers we plead through his intercession. We ask Holy Mother Church to recognize his sanctity by acknowledging his presence among the company of Saints and as one to imitate in his zeal for the Gospel. Open our hearts to also recognize the Risen Christ in other cultures and peoples, to your glory and honor through Christ our Lord. Amen.

St. Joseph Parish, Cherry Creek: 125 years of parish life on the Cheyenne River

In 1891, a Benedictine missionary living on Standing Rock Reservation would travel to Cherry Creek to say Mass but due to the long distance it was not very often. Records show the first Mass in Cherry Creek was at the Little Bear Cabin. The first priests to attend to St. Joseph Church came from the Cheyenne Agency. In 1892, a new priest to the Cheyenne Agency arranged for a church to be built. Lumber was hauled from Pierre. The church was completed in 1893 and served as the location for the Indian Congress that year. Mass was said monthly or as often as a priest could travel to the town.

It was during this time, Indian Catechists were introduced to the parishioners. The catechists would gather people for prayer and religious instruction on Sundays when no priest were available. I

n 1911, Father John Vogel, a diocesan priest, was assigned to Eagle Butte and its missions. He never drove a car, instead, he used saddle horses (Specky and Spotty) and a buggy to travel around to communities saying Mass and giving religious instruction.

Father Vogel was beloved by the Cheyenne River people. He was given the Indian name Zintcala (Bird). Later, in the early 1980s, a church hall was built at Cherry Creek. It was name “Zintcala Hall.”

When Father Vogel left the area in 1937 the Priests of the Sacred Heart (SCJ) were asked by the Diocese of Rapid City to serve Cherry Creek and the other missions since they had already taken on the rest of the reservation. Since the early 1980s, sisters from several religious orders provided religious studies for children and served as part of the reservation ministries. In 1990, a “Team Ministry” approach was set up between the priests, deacons and sisters that lasted until the early 2000s. In 2004, due to a lack of vocations, the SCJ priests could no longer minister to the reservation and the diocese again began ministering to the missions of Eagle Butte. In 2017, after accepting an invitation by Bishop Robert Gruss, the Holy Spirit Priests from India came to minster to the Cheyenne River Parishes joining current pastor Father Dan Juelfs.

(Historical information courtesy of Marquette University, Diocese of Rapid City, Crusading Along Sioux Trails, letters and other resources.)

The road to priesthood: ‘You are exactly where God wants you to be’

Zane Pekron

Age: 25
Home Parish: St. Mary, Milesville
Parents: Steve and Nina Pekron
Education: Minor seminary Immaculate Heart of Mary, Winona, Minn.; major seminary St. Paul School of Divinity, St. Paul, Minn.
Pastoral Learning: Duc in Altum, Institute for Priestly formation, worked on the Pine Ridge Reservation with Jesuits, and hospital ministry program through the seminary
Summer Learning Experience: St. Joseph, Spearfish; St. Paul, Belle Fourche
Hobbies: I grew up on a cattle ranch so I like working with horses — roping and riding. I also enjoy playing different sports.
Favorite Book: Lone Cowboy by Will James

 

On May 24, Zane Pekron will be ordained a transitional deacon at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Rapid City, at 7 p.m. All are welcome to attend. He recently spoke to the West River Catholic about his experiences.

WRC: When was the first time you thought about the priesthood?
The first time the priesthood was brought up to me was around my sophomore year in high school. Our parish priest at the time, Father Ron Garry, encouraged me to attend the Totus Tuus Boys Camp put on by the diocese. I remember being at camp and around the seminarians who kept saying, ‘You are not here by chance. You are where God wants you to be.’ That stuck with me, but I shelved it until I was a senior in high school. After camp, I noticed that the priesthood was something that came up, but I didn’t want to think about it a lot. In the time between camp and my senior year in high school, people mentioned in passing that I would make a really good priest. This kept the thought in the back of my mind. I started thinking about it more seriously the summer before my senior year in high school. Our new parish priest, Father Kevin Achbach, started visiting with me. My mom had brought up the priesthood too. That’s what got the ball rolling. They convinced me to go on a seminary visit in November. I went and had a good experience. So much so, I went back in March for the second visit of the academic year. I was debating either priesthood or taking over the family ranch — there were some challenges with that. It was towards the end of the senior year that I really felt the Lord working in my life. I wasn’t sure what I was going to study, but I thought I would go to seminary for a year, and see where the Lord would lead me. Each year I felt the Lord calling me back.

WRC: What has been your seminary experience?
Being in seminary in both Winona and St. Paul have been some of the best years of my life — coming to know the Lord and drawing closer to him, the lifelong friendships I have made — I wouldn’t do it differently. It was by far the best decision I could have made.

WRC: How would you describe your prayer life?
Consistent and slow growing. There have been some really high moments, but a lot of times there is a steady consistency of coming to greater knowledge and trust in the Lord and how he’s leading me and where he’s asking me to go.

WRC: What are you most excited for during your last year of formation?
I’m really just excited to be drawing closer to becoming a priest. I want to live that life of service that the Lord is calling me to. I have a joy and excitement to be in that ministry of sharing the love of Christ and the Gospel with those that I meet.

Help in answering important Catholic questions

In a January article in the West River Catholic, Father Michel Mulloy described how the Diocesan Priority Plan and Stewardship Initiative are actually two sides of same coin.

“The Diocesan Priority Plan and the Stewardship Initiative  are two ways of expressing the same mission. First of all both are grounded in a relationship with Jesus. A relationship with Jesus is what drives us and shapes the rest of our life,” he wrote. “At the heart of being a disciple is meeting Jesus. Once this happens, everything in life flows from and leads to that relationship. We encounter Jesus in prayer, in the sacraments and in those who have already encountered him.”

The important questions we must constantly ask ourselves are these:

  • How are we encountering the person of Christ and what difference is our relationship with Jesus making in our lives?
  • Are we more loving, more forgiving, more joyful, more truthful, in our actions and in our words?
  • Do people see Jesus in us?
  • Are they attracted to Jesus because of the way we live out our lives in love?
  • Have we truly trusted our lives to Christ?

These are the questions that the Stewardship Initiative and the Diocesan Priority Plan continue to lay before our eyes and our hearts. Do we know Jesus and have we given our total life to him?

There are some alarming statistics that say we do not know Jesus as we should personally know him as our Lord, Savior and friend. For instance, Sherry Weddell in her book “Forming Intentional

Disciples” writes: “The majority of adult Catholics are not even certain that a personal relationship with God is possible.”

Pope St. John Paul II in “Catechesi Treadendae” (On Catechesis in Our Time) writes: “It is possible for baptized Catholics to be still without any explicit personal attachment to Jesus Christ; they only have the capacity to believe placed within them by baptism and the presence of the Holy Spirit.”

Brandon Vogt in his book, “Return: How to Draw Your Child Back to the Church,” reports that 79 percent of former Catholics leave the church before age 23 (Pew Research) and 50 percent of millennials raised Catholic no longer identify as Catholic today, i.e., half of the babies you’ve seen baptized in the last 30 years, half of the kids you’ve seen confirmed, half of the Catholic young people you’ve seen get married.

The Office of Stewardship is fighting back against these alarming statistics that hinder and plague our families, our parishes and our diocese when it comes to knowing and living Christ in our lives. By lifting up the Diocesan Priority Plan and the Stewardship Initiative, the Office of Stewardship is working to help form the Catholic imagination in Western South Dakota.

Bishop Robert Morneau, auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay, remarked: “Whoever forms the imagination forms a culture.” At this point, it seems that the secular media is doing a much more effective job of forming our imagination than Christ and his Church are doing. This seriously impedes people’s ability to develop a personal relationship with Jesus.

As a way to support families, parishioners and parishes in our diocese living Christ more intentionally, we will be

hosting a Stewardship Leadership Training, Friday and Saturday, June 15 and 16, at Terra Sancta with Chris Stewart and Tony Brandt of Casting Nets Ministries.  You might recall that Chris and Tony were here for last year’s Summit and their presentations were very well received.

Chris and Tony have generously agreed to develop this training specifically for us as a way to help all of us understand and implement the Stewardship Initiative and the Bishop’s Priority Plan, and through them help our parishes become more vibrant and meet more fully the needs of the people in our communities.

In addition to giving participants practical tools to help them in their role as parish leaders, this training will be directly tied to the Summit Conference to be held Friday and Saturday, Sept. 21-22. Participants will be asked — and trained — to personally invite other parishioners to the Summit.

The Summit is being re-designed to focus on encouraging a personal encounter with Christ. It will include inspirational talks, adoration, Mass and generous times for confession, as well as a healing service.

Those leaders who participate in the training in June will be encouraged to accompany parishioners to the Summit and also to provide follow-up afterward by inviting participants to become more involved in the parish — to attend a Bible study, prayer group or class in the parish which will help them to deepen their discipleship.

Seize every occasion to act in a loving, holy way

At the State Knights of Columbus Convention a couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of preaching at the Mass celebrated on Friday evening at St. Joseph Church in Spearfish. During the homily I asked the congregation the question, “How many think you are holy?” I have asked this question before in other settings and the response is always the same — not more than a very few people raise their hands. The reason for this is either they are very humble, or they do not understand what holiness really looks like. Isn’t this the call of all Christians?

Seeking holiness is first and foremost the call of a disciple of Jesus. Chapter Five of the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium (the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church) takes up this idea that all who believe in Jesus Christ regardless of their vocation in life are called to holiness. The Core Values outlined in the Diocesan Priority Plan stem from this very call — the call we must accept if we are to be living witnesses of Jesus Christ in the world.

I bring this up as a way to encourage people of God across the diocese to read Pope Francis’ recent Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate – The Call to Holiness in Today’s World. This short document was released on March 19, the Solemnity of St. Joseph. It was not meant to be a treatise on holiness, defining it in some way. Instead, the Holy Father is re-proposing for all of us “the call to holiness in a practical way for our own time. For the Lord has chosen each one of us ‘to be holy and blameless before him in love.’ (Eph 1:4).” (#2)

It is easy, with all of the distractions and noise in our world today, to forget or even dismiss this call as unattainable. So often people relate holiness as perfection, thinking that this is the reality of the saints and not the average Christian. How far from the truth!  Pope Francis relates, “We should not grow discouraged before examples of holiness that appear unattainable … We are all called to be witnesses, but there are many actual ways of bearing witness.” (#11)

In this apostolic exhortation, Pope Francis relates a story about Cardinal Francois-Xavier Nguyên van Thuân’s witness to holiness during his 9 ½ years of imprisonment in North Vietnam, which began in 1976. If you are interested in his story, read “The Road of Hope: A Gospel from Prison.” I would also recommend a short spiritual memoir entitled “Five Loaves and Two Fish.” that shares a bit about his life during his time under house arrest.

During his imprisonment, Cardinal Nguyên van Thuân refused to waste time waiting for the day he would be released. Instead, he chose “to live the present moment, filling it to the brim with love.” He decided to live his life in prison in this way: “I will seize the occasions that present themselves every day; I will accomplish ordinary actions in an extraordinary way.” (#17)

If we do this, led by God’s grace, then the holiness of God becomes the heart of our every action. There are a couple of other points that I would like to highlight from Gaudete et Exsultate in reference to the call of every disciple of Jesus. The first regards our mission. In my Confirmation homily this year I share with the students who are being confirmed that the Spirit defines our life and leads us to our own personal mission for Christ. This is at the heart of this Sacrament of Confirmation.

Pope Francis reiterates this, “A Christian cannot think of his or her mission on earth without seeing it as a path of holiness, for ‘this is the will of God, your sanctification’ (1 Thes 4:3). Each saint (each of us) is a mission, planned by the Father to reflect and embody, at a specific moment in history, a certain aspect of the Gospel.” (#19) I wonder how often we see ourselves as a mission in our moment in history.

The second point that caught my attention is the call of each of us to be a message to the world. “Every saint (every one of us who seeks to live a life of holiness) is a message which the Holy Spirit takes from the riches of Jesus Christ and gives to his people.” (#21) Since this is the case, what is the message of our life that is being given to his people?

Yes, holiness is for each of us. We must not be afraid of holiness. “It will take away none of your energy, vitality or joy. On the contrary, you will become what the Father had in mind when he created you, and you will be faithful to your deepest self.” (#32)

The Holy Father expounds on two enemies which present false paths to holiness that are present in our culture today — Gnosticism and Pelagianism. These will be countered by a genuine understanding of holiness, which he presents through an interpretation of the Beatitudes. These instruct us in how to be holy and are at the heart of this exhortation.

Seeking holiness is not easy. Pope Francis describes how holiness comes through the daily struggles each disciple of Jesus faces. He notes that this spiritual combat is not only with worldly values and our own weaknesses, but is also with a very real enemy, the devil. To aid in that fight, the Holy Father concludes his exhortation by addressing discernment and “recognizing how we can better accomplish the mission entrusted to us at our baptism.” (#174) And this mission, of course, is to be holy. And, yes, this mission is attainable.

“In the end, it is Christ who loves in us, for holiness is nothing other than charity lived to the full. As a result, the measure of our holiness stems from the stature that Christ achieves in us, to the extent that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we model our whole life on his.” (#21)

 

 

To access the document: http://w2.vat ican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhor tations/documents/papa-francesco_esor tazione-ap_20180319_gaudete-et-exsul tate.html.