We can become instruments of God’s grace


How did you do last month with my challenge? If you remember, I encouraged you to invite your neighbor over for dinner and dessert, to strike up a conversation with someone you do not know and to introduce yourself to a stranger or a visitor in your parish. Hospitality is all about invitation, and a simple invitation has the potential to have far reaching ramifications.

At our diocesan hospitality meeting, “The Summit,” in June, Bishop Robert Gruss shared about an invitation he received to participate in a Bible study. His response was: “I’m not sure this is for me, I don’t even own a Bible.” The Holy Spirit moved Bishop Gruss’ heart that day as he said, “yes” to a simple invitation to participate in a Bible study. His participation transformed his life forever.

This past I year I have heard from a number of parishioners throughout the diocese how the Holy Spirit and hospitality are truly moving and changing the hearts of the individuals and parishes of our diocese — one invitation at a time. I wanted to share one such story with all of you from a parishioner at Our Lady of the Black Hills Church in Piedmont:

“During a recent Saturday afternoon while I was preparing to serve at Our Lady of the Black Hills, I learned firsthand the workings of the Holy Spirit in the area of hospitality.

“As I parked my car, I noticed someone sitting in their vehicle by the side of the church, and I thought, ‘This woman must be waiting for someone.’ While I organized, the lady eventually came into the building.

“I stepped out to greet her, and she inquired ‘Is this a Catholic Church?’ I answered that it was and asked her if she would like to be shown around. She replied that she would, and we began a conversation. I introduced myself, and I could see she was starting to experience the restful atmosphere of our church. She said she had a relative that shared my name. I told her that I was the church librarian, and she again replied that her sister was also a librarian.

“She told me her own name, and we started to walk around. During our tour, I stopped to tell her about the baptismal font and the beautiful stained-glass windows above it. She said she was Catholic, but hadn’t been to church in a long while. We stopped to talk at the main altar and then at the side area where the tabernacle is located. Another parishioner was in the church and greeted her with a smile and a hug.

“The visitor was impressed with our church and seemed to enjoy walking through the building. Later we stopped at the side alcove with the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and then walked over to the confessional, and stepped inside. I explained that people could sit and pray with the priest now, face-to-face. Then I told her about the Returning Catholics program, which would be starting soon, but she replied that she still considered herself to be a Catholic who never left the church. Then I asked her if she had time to tour the rest of the building.

“Upon walking back up the stairs, I noticed that Father Steve Biegler was in his office, so I asked her if she would like to meet him. I was praying he wouldn’t be involved in a conference call and could greet her. When we entered his office, I introduced her and told Father Steve she might be interested in visiting our parish. He smiled and stood to greet her. The Holy Spirit may have whispered in her ear because she asked him if she could visit with him right then. He replied that she could, so I closed the door and left. They spent time together conversing.

“Later, she walked past the library where I was working, and she was smiling. I gave her a hug and a copy of the parish bulletin that included the Mass times for the upcoming weekend. I had the great pleasure of seeing her at Mass that next Sunday, as well as several more that followed.

“Looking back over the last year, I’ve realized that my awareness of ‘hospitality’ has increased greatly because of the emphasis the diocese and our parish has placed upon its importance. Notes in the bulletin on the topic and Father Steve’s sermons have made me realize that hospitality isn’t meant only for one designated committee in the parish, nor is it only the responsibility of the priest. When we are open to the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we can become instruments of his grace. I was blessed to participate in the work of the Holy Spirit at OLBH with this new parishioner. The incident has encouraged me to continue offering hospitality to the stranger.”

What a beautiful story of the power of an invitation! When one offers hospitality to another, in and through the promptings of the Holy Spirit, so much good can be done. The summer months offer us many opportunities to reach out to the many visitors and guests coming through our parish doors. Do not be afraid to extend an invitation and to make room for the visitor, the guest and the stranger in your midst. Your invitation could change the direction of a life.


Court decision troubling for traditional values

As we all know, on June 26 a deeply divided United States Supreme Court issued a morally tragic ruling for our country and its future by redefining marriage. This ruling will force all states to license and recognize marriages between two persons of the same sex.

As I have had time to reflect upon this ruling redefining marriage in our country, and the media coverage of many who are still rejoicing, I was not too surprised in the action of the Court nor in the accepting reactions portrayed in the press, given the current trend of our culture. It is very troubling for those of us who hold to the traditional view of marriage. This includes not only the faithful of the Catholic Church but also the many faithful of other religious groups — Protestant communities, the Orthodox Church, Mormon community, Orthodox Judaism and Islam.

Redefining marriage in the law is gravely unjust. It affects everyone. I am frightened to anticipate how this short-sighted decision will determine the future course of our nation. The first effect of the Court’s decision is to invalidate marriage laws in the State of South Dakota and other states, thereby ordering the transformation of the social institution that is now the building block of every society and culture and has been since the beginning of time. The court has brought this social experiment into the forefront of modern American society. Time will reveal the extent of the destruction that this decision will have on society, but it is unavoidable that it will negatively impact the stability of family life and most especially the moral formation and psychological development of our children.

Marriage is the one institution that connects children to their mothers and fathers. Mothers and fathers are irreplaceable; this ruling does not respect the rights of children to be raised, where possible, by their own married mother and father in a stable home. While circumstances do not always permit every child the benefit of a traditional family, this ruling threatens to unseat the ideal of a family headed by a father and mother, which creates balance and stability in our society.

This decision will not stop public dialogue; the debate will and must continue. This ruling does not and cannot change the true definition of marriage as defined by God from the beginning of time. No one and no court can make what is false true. Marriage by its nature remains the union of one man and one woman. This is a matter of reason, not just faith. Man and woman were designed by God for each other, and only a man and a woman can form a union that brings forth children.

While the sweeping ramifications of the Court’s decision and its impact on people of faith are still unclear, as the church we will continue to strive to ensure that all of our pastoral practices are consistent with the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church.

In his opinion Justice Kennedy wrote: “It must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered.” He said both sides should engage in “an open and searching debate.”

I would hope and pray that an open and honest debate could happen, but I am not confident that those who oppose the Christian viewpoint really want to enter into such a debate. I would tend to agree more with Justice Alito’s viewpoint in his dissent, “It will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy.” We have seen this so often already prior to this decision.

Moving forward, this decision raises many serious questions about religious liberty and personal conscience for millions of Americans and their faith communities. How will this decision impact our own Catholic Social Services if they fail to place an adopted child with a same-sex couple? We have already seen Catholic adoption agencies in other states forced to close their doors because they would not violate their Catholic conscience.

It is presently ensured in Justice Kennedy’s opinion that we are given proper protection to continue to teach the principles that are foundational and central to our lives and faith. However, the ultimate effects of this decision on the non-profit status of Catholic institutions is yet undetermined. By redefining the very nature of marriage, this decision has implications for hundreds, if not thousands of laws at all levels and will impact society in ways the U.S. Supreme Court has clearly not given sufficient forethought. But we can be assured that the path moving forward will be treacherous for people of faith and religious institutions.

In our continued defense of religious freedoms, I also ask that we pray for family life and for all people to strengthen marriage. As time goes on, the media will portray this false narrative about marriage in many different venues as something “normal.” With renewed purpose, therefore, I call upon all people of good will to promote and defend the unique meaning of marriage: one man, one woman, for life.

Civil law teaches, and this ruling will make it more difficult for future generations to know the truth about marriage and for children to understand their origins. It is more important than ever that parents take the time to speak with their children about the true meaning of marriage as God has intended and why same-sex marriage is immoral and in violation of the natural law.

It is important that we increase our efforts to strengthen marriages and families and rebuild a marriage culture that is beautiful, holy and pleasing to God. Let us pray for all the future victims of this ruling, particularly the children who will be affected.

We must also seek to uphold the dignity of every human person, reaching out with love and support to all people, including those who experience same-sex attraction. All people are loved by God and are called to love him.

Finally, I ask that we diligently pray for all in positions of power and authority to respect our God-given freedoms so that we may live by and bear witness to the truth.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help, pray for us.

West River Catholic: July 2015

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edition of the West River Catholic

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