Enjoy the March edition of the West River Catholic
At the end of February, Adam Johnson, a first-year theologian at St. Paul Seminary, was
installed as a lector. As reader and bearer of God’s Word, Adam will proclaim God’s Word in the liturgical assembly, instruct children and adults in the faith, and bring the message of salvation to those who have not yet received it. (From the Rite of Institution of Lector)
Andrew Sullivan, who also is a first-year theologian, at Kenrick Glennon Seminary in St. Louis, will be installed as a lector in April with our Bishop Robert Gruss presiding.
Adam’s pastor, Father Brian Lane from Blessed Sacrament Church in Rapid City, along with Adam’s parents, Mike and Kathy, were
able to attend this celebration of the Ministry of Lector. After the celebration, I sent a text to Adam, his parents and Father Lane congratulating Adam and asking them to send pictures from the installation, which they did.
Father Lane also texted a picture of the seminarian poster for the Archdiocese of Minneapolis-St. Paul — 59 in all! A true vocation boom. I smiled as I read Father Lane’s text: “Why is our poster so small?”
“More work to be done. More invitations to be extended,” I replied.
One of the goals in our diocesan Priority Plan calls for the formation of a vocation committee in each parish or parish grouping to encourage and promote a culture of vocations.
Father Varghese Srambickal, a Vincentian priest from Kerala, India, describes a culture of vocation in this way: “God’s first call for every person is to simply follow him. You were created to be in relationship with God, and that is his greatest desire for you. As your relationship with God grows, he will continue to draw you deeper into this relationship, and call you to become more like Christ, to love him more, and to love others through service. In all these things, you will experience God calling you to a particular vocation.”
Building a culture of vocations, as we hear and pray our diocesan vocation prayer every Sunday in our parishes, begins by creating an environment where all disciples will seek the will of Christ. This is what the church means by the universal call to holiness. Fostering a culture of vocations in our lives, families and parishes begins with the call to holiness — a deep, personal and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ as our Lord, Savior, and friend.
Father Brett Brennan, author of “Save a Thousand Souls,” echoes this as well when he says that our primary vocation in life is holiness, and holiness is simply doing the will of God. When we live a life of holiness, we truly live a life of happiness. He goes on to say that “the primary and universal vocation of every person in the world is to be holy — to become like Jesus Christ. Christ-likeness is the only success recognized by God.”
As Pope Francis said: “to be a saint is not a privilege for the few, but a vocation for everyone.” He continued: “We must remember that holiness is a gift from God — it is not something we can achieve on our own.” Holiness, he continued, is living with love and offering Christian witness in our daily tasks that we are called to become saints… “Always and everywhere you can become a saint, that is, by being receptive to the grace that is working in us and leads us to holiness” (General Audience, September 2014).
The key to encouraging and promoting a culture of vocations begins in the family and is nourished and supported in our parish communities. We know the family is the primary community for the transmission of the Christian faith.
Our primary vocation, and the heart of building a culture of vocations in the parishes of our diocese is by living our faith with courage and joy. St. John Paul II said, “Our Christian communities must become genuine schools of prayer where the meeting with Christ is expressed not just as an imploring help but also in thanksgiving, praise, adoration, contemplation, listening and ardent devotion until the heart truly falls in love” (Novo Millennio Ineunte).
Our first step in encouraging and promoting a culture of vocations in our lives, families, parishes and diocese is helping our people to fall in love with Jesus. We must live our faith with courage and joy and be willing to share with others our personal friendship with Christ.
Many people have very special days or periods of time in their lives that are not only significant, but because of their meaning, are celebrated each and every year with great intention and anticipation. Those could be birthdays, anniversaries or other events that are meaningful in the sense that they bring deep joy, happiness and fulfillment. These celebrations help us recall in a special way something personal, something life-giving or perhaps something life-changing.
For the Christian, a disciple of Jesus Christ, those special days are Holy Week — Palm Sunday through Holy Saturday. For the Christian, Holy Week is the most important and the most significant week in the church’s liturgical year. And the summit of the week is the Easter Triduum — the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, the celebration of the Lord’s passion on Good Friday, and the great liturgy of the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night. Though celebrated over three days, they are liturgically for us one day unfolding the unity of Christ’s Paschal Mystery.
About five weeks ago we began a season of grace. Our Holy Father has encouraged us to “once again turn our eyes to (the Father’s) mercy. Lent is a path: it leads to the triumph of mercy over all that would crush us or reduce us to something unworthy of our dignity as God’s children.”
So now we find ourselves on the cusp of Holy Week and the Sacred Triduum. It is a week like no other in the church. From the very beginning of time, God has desired to share his love for humanity, to share the fullness of his Trinitarian life with us — that deep love between the Father and the Son through the Holy Spirit. And he wants this even more so after the fall of Adam and Eve, where sin entered into the world. He wants fallen humanity to come to know the depth of his love. Because of this desire, he sent Jesus to show this love for us and to save us from sin, reconciling us to the Father so that we could be partakers of this divine life shared between the Father and Son, not just when we die, but here and now, in this current age. Holy Week, and in particular, the Sacred Triduum, not only expresses this reality, but makes this love real for us once again.
In the Passion narrative from St. Mark, we read, “Peter followed at a distance …” We also read that when Jesus returned from prayer, he found his apostles asleep. We can be like Peter sometimes, following Jesus at a distance. We don’t want to get too close to him. Is it because we are afraid of what he may ask? Is it because we fear getting too close? Is it because he doesn’t excite us too much? Is it because we are not convinced of what he offers to us? Is our faith asleep, like the disciples who were asleep in the garden? Will we remain close to Jesus all week?
Pope Francis, in his Apostolic Letter, The Joy of the Gospel, extended to us a challenging invitation: “I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her since no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord” (The Joy of the Gospel, #2).
The celebration of Holy Week is all about accepting this invitation. I hear people often say that they wish they had a deeper relationship with the Lord. But often they do not make use of the opportunities available to them. No amount of casual contact with God will draw us into this mystery of love. No amount of routine contact with the Lord can bring about this deeper encounter.
During the first Holy Week, 2000 years ago, Jesus achieved victory over sin and evil. During this Holy Week, he wants to extend that victory into our lives, into the parts of our lives that still need it, that still haven’t learned how to live the paradox of Palm Sunday. Jesus knows what he wants to say to each one of us this week, uniquely and individually. So we cannot follow at a distance, like Peter.
In drawing us close to him, Jesus wants to share with each of us the benefits of the cross, personally and intimately. In doing so, we will come to experience that the crosses we carry are not empty burdens with little value, but that every cross we carry can be an opportunity to bring God’s redeeming love into the world and to embrace the grace of suffering for which we see new meaning and hope.
We can never come to fully understand or grasp the depth of Christ’s love for us, but each time we enter into this sacred week as a response to his saving love, we experience more deeply the benefits of this mystery — a love that transforms the suffering and sin in our own lives, allowing us to participate in his Paschal Mystery. This is precisely why each year Holy Week is a gift to us, to be unwrapped and opened.
It is my hope and prayer that all of us will make this Holy Week the greatest priority of our lives, entering into the mystery of Christ’s love. It is my hope and prayer that our churches will be filled to capacity during this Sacred Triduum — a faith community gathered, celebrating and giving thanks for this profound love. We will discover anew the joy of Christ’s unlimited love amidst the most profound sorrow and deepest joy in our lives.
My friends, let us not watch at a distance, but give Jesus the time and attention he deserves. Let Jesus speak to you in the quiet of your hearts as he unfolds the mystery of his love for you — because whatever he shares will be exactly what you most need.
Have a blessed Holy Week and a joy-filled Easter.