Don’t let the devil’s lies separate you from God’s love

By Laurie Hallstrom

“You are not alive by chance, God could create you to be alive at any point in history, but he chooses you be alive right now. (You belong) in this moment, in this place, with all that is going on,” said Fr. John Riccardo, from the Archdiocese of Detroit.

Father Riccardo calls his ministry “Acts XXIX” referring to the continuing story of the church from where it ends with the Bible book, Acts 28.

In his first presentation, “Created,” he explained the world is crying. For the first time since 1918 there has been a consistent drop in life expectancy for three years in a row. He attributed that to deaths of despair — rising rates of suicide, cirrhosis of the liver in 20 and 30-year-olds and the opioid crisis.

“The beauty of the Gospel is the message itself can change lives,” said Father Riccardo citing the healing, freedom, wholeness and salvation it brings.

“These are great days to be alive — not boring. God has equipped you with anything you need to be instruments in his hands so as to share the Gospel.

“You want happiness and God has a monopoly on happiness,” he said.

According to Father Riccardo, the two accounts of Genesis, which are not literal, they teach us there is just one God and he created us effortlessly. “We are made in his likeness which means we are made for friendship, to be loved and to love. People are made to be divinized,” he said.

After listening to Father Riccardo and then spending time in prayer, a young adult  participant said, “I became aware of the fact that I have many people that I hang out with, but no one that I would call a close friend. I felt a loneliness that I hadn’t allowed myself to feel and now I feel God encouraging me to seek out more authentic friendships.”

In his second presentation, “Captured,” Father Riccardo explained the origin of the devil and his mission on earth. Satan is a fallen angel cast out of heaven because rebelled against God. The priest explained the “fall of man” in the Garden of Eden and its consequences. Quoting from the book of Wisdom 2:24, he said, “through the devil’s envy death entered the world.”

He said Satan’s tactics include accusing, lying and dividing with the ultimate goal of separating people from God’s love. He went on to name several of the devil’s lies:

“I don’t matter.”

“I’m not loveable.”

“I’m not worth anything.”

“No one cares.”

“God’s not your father —he’s not even

real — be done with him.”

Father Riccardo said, “God wants to expose the lies, expose what Satan is doing in your life.”

Participants were given time for adoration and reconciliation. They were asked to pray and reflect on Satan’s lies in their lives.

More than 50 volunteer ambassadors helped guide people through the day. One of them told Shawna Hanson, director of the Office of Stewardship, as Father Mark McCormick walked past her carrying the monstrance “I felt Jesus say to me ‘I love you so much.’ Those words came into my heart with such tenderness, that tears filled my eyes. It was several minutes before I regained my composure.

“How did that encounter change me? I desire more than ever before to spend time with him in prayer, and to sit before him in the Blessed Sacrament — what a beautiful gift!”

A participant explained how she was touched during the reflection period, “Five years ago, I lost a daughter to suicide. The last conversation we had was an argument. We were both so angry and I have carried so much grief, sorrow, regret and guilt since then. 

“I woke up on Saturday and didn’t want to come to the Summit, but a gentle voice came to me saying, ‘when you don’t want to go, that’s when you really need to go.’ All day the Lord was gently nudging me, ‘don’t take notes, just listen’ and ‘go get in the line for confession.’

“Once in the confessional I shared that I had this grief, this guilt that I just couldn’t shake.

“‘Unnatural death is hard,’ the priest said.  I don’t remember what else he said but it was so peaceful, warm and loving — it was the voice of Jesus.  ‘Your daughter loves you, Momma. She forgives and she is with Jesus.’ I left feeling surrounded in warmth and love as if I were wrapped in a cozy blanket.” She said she intends to share the love she felt from Jesus that day.

In his third presentation, “Rescued,” Father Riccardo asked the question, “What, if anything, has God done about our situation? This is God’s shocking unexpected response to sin. We take for granted maybe, that our situation is not hopeless. Your life would be utterly meaningless, stuck in frustration, if God had not done something.”

Explaining God entered into his creation through the incarnation of Jesus, Father Riccardo said, “God became a man to fight, to go to war, to rescue the creature that means the most to him — you,” he said. He came to destroy the works of devil.

Father Riccardo had an insight into the crucifixion during a time of prayer. He came to understand Christ as an “ambush predator” — a creature that lies still, camouflaged, and pounces on its prey.

According to Father Riccardo, Jesus sweats blood, he is arrested, chained, slapped, judged, stripped, scourged to the point of death, and nailed to a cross — all for the purpose of attracting his prey.

“He is trying to entice death to himself. This is how the early church understood the passion. God wants his creation back, that’s us. The enemy comes close to mock and taunt him,” he said.

Father Riccardo pointed out that through the passion Christ shows us how much he loves us. Jesus absorbed every human sin making the atonement for us. Beaten, scourged and stripped before being nailed to the cross, He paid the price to make us right with God.

“What are the results of the passion?”

asked Father Riccardo. “He has destroyed death, transferred us, recreated us, rendered sin impotent, humiliated the enemy, gave us authority over the enemy and sent us on a mission to get his world back.”

Father Riccardo said, “Whatever hell you’re in, take his hand, he is utterly unconquerable, and he can deliver you.”

A Mass and a healing service followed the presentations. “The Summit  was amazing. I loved the message and healing Mass.  I have never been to that before and it just rocked me. Amazing!” said a participant.

(Shawna Hanson contributed to this story.)

Beata Oszwaldowska, Najeelah Rodriguez and Mary Rahela Pelayic wear little sheep headbands and learn to follow the Good Shepherd. One catechist said, “Thanks so much for letting me help with the Youth Track this weekend. I had so much fun! Those little ones are so funny!” (WRC photo by Laurie Hallstrom)

Deacon John Osnes of Piedmont, led the children in adoration. A catechist explained, “During Adoration with the children we shared the story of the woman who touched Jesus’ cloak and was healed. We asked them to think of someone they knew who needed healing and to ask Jesus to bring healing to them. We also told them that the woman’s illness made her an outsider, no one would be her friend or talk to her. Then they thought of someone they knew who didn’t have friends. After some quiet time, they came up close to the monstrance, one-by-one and prayed for these people. They gently touched the Jewish prayer shawl we had wrapped around the monstrance. The reverence and sincerity that these children showed touched my heart deeply. It brought tears to my eyes.” (Photo by Shawna Hanson)


Curia Corner — Moments in the diocesan archives

St. Anthony, St. Anthony, dear St. Anthony, please come around. Something is lost and needs to be found. Please Grant me the serenity to accept the collections I cannot decline and the courage to decline the collections I can!

Did you know that archivists have their own serenity prayer and that St. Anthony is a major help when it comes to discovering and maintaining an archive and its historical artifacts?! 

Moments in the diocesan archives: Fr. Carlos Casavantes, FSSP, Immaculate Conception Parish, Rapid City, brought in this gem of an unidentified miter cap in a silk casing (right). Who does this belong to? Who wore this and when? Still researching but quietly hoping it is from the early years. St. Anthony …

A tourist couple from North Dakota was visiting Terra Sancta last week, inquiring as to the status of the cause of Nicholas Black Elk. After sharing their interest and collecting our brochures, and prayer cards of Black Elk, they asked for us to pray for them as they are in need of a family miracle. Nicholas Black Elk, pray for all those suffering and grant this couple the miracle they are so eagerly searching for.

Two newsletters have expressed an interest in publishing our accounts of Nicholas Black Elk. Exciting news as we continue to spread the word of this exciting cause and help Nicholas reach sainthood! 

I am assisting Fr. Joh Paul Trask with his hours of research of Eagle Butte and the land property on the Cheyenne Reservation. Eagle Bute has numerous parishes, missions and cemeteries. We are trying to preserve thos stories lost from the elders of family and the history that surrounds them before those parishes become only a memory. 

At the Summit 2019 last weekend, a few approached me and said “the picture you found of Bishop McCarty waving while driving a tractor” (right) that was used for the  Cathedral “Living the Mission Campaign” was fabulous.  They also curiously mentioned, “Are they really sticking you in the basement of the new pastoral center?” … The most infamous question as of yet! Stay tuned!

St. Anthony, St. Anthony pray for our diocesan archives and our daily work. Help us to uncover the treasures of our history and reveal our mission as we walk in HIS path! 

Liturgy of the Word requires whole-hearted attention

By Fr. Michel Mulloy, Director of Liturgy

The Liturgy of the Word is a dialogue. God is speaking to us and we are responding. That dialogue is accomplished through the human persons. This makes the role of the proclaimer very important.

The laity proclaim the first reading, the response and the second reading. Proclaimers are allowing God to speak to the community through their person. This ministry is the right of the baptized. As sons and daughters of God we are all called to read, speak and live the scriptures. Standing before the assembly to proclaim the word of God is a natural extension of this baptismal call.

The gospel in the context of the Mass is reserved for the priest or deacon. The priest is Christ present leading Christ body, the Church gathered. The deacon who shares in the ordained ministry of the bishop, can also proclaim the gospel. The gospels are the words of Christ himself and therefore the gospel is the high point of the Liturgy of the word. God’s plan of salvation unfolds through the first reading, response and second reading, leading to the fullness of his plan revealed in Jesus Christ. It is fitting that the one who stands in the midst of the people speaking in the person of Jesus in his leadership of his people, should proclaim Jesus’ words.

We respond to the proclamation of the word of God in three ways. First, we listen. Listening is responding. It is hard work because it requires not just ears, but hearts and minds. Distraction is easy. Constantly bringing ourselves back to the moment, we are telling the Lord we want to be there and to be in relationship with him. 

The second way the congregation responds to the word of God is by offering thanks. The lector ends the reading with, “The word of the Lord.” This is a proclamation that sums up the experience we have shared. We have been privileged to listen to the Lord speaking to us in the person of the lector. Our response is important. We acknowledge this privilege to know the Lord present. Obviously, our hearts ought to be filled with gratitude. “Thanks be to God.”

The third way we respond to the word of God is silence. The general instruction of the Roman Missal invites the congregation to meditate on the word we have just heard. The silence allows the word of God to sink into our hearts and into our lives.

Silence can be awkward and difficult, but the silence is purposeful. In anticipation of the silence we listen to the reading with an open heart. There might be a phrase or a word, an idea or awareness that catches our attention. When that happens, the silence becomes a moment to allow that touch of God’s word to settle more deeply into our minds and hearts. If we are not moved by some aspect of the reading proclaimed, we can simply be quiet and relax in the goodness of the word we have feasted on. In the practice of silence over time the word of God will penetrate our lives and form us anew. The silence will be cherished and missed when we are in situations where the readings are moved through too quickly. This silence, along with our attentive listening and heartfelt spoken response, will enrich our dialogue with the Lord in his word.

The Liturgy of the Word continues after the readings. The homily opens up the word of God. Preachers are invited to help the faithful understand how the stories of our faith intersect with our own stories. Christ continues to speak to his people through a well-crafted homily.

Following the homily, we all stand and profess the Creed. Having listened to God speak to us, and having reflected on how we are called in response to God’s word, we state our belief.

Finally, having listened, reflected and professed our faith, we are ready to ask God for what we need. We pray confidently for God to help us. Thus, we offer our petitions or Universal Prayer.

The Liturgy of the Word is a rich encounter with God in Jesus. It requires our preparation and whole-hearted attention.

‘I have grown in my appreciation of the people’

Life is not dull in the driver’s seat. For all of you that are wondering or curious, it has been a great ride thus far. The challenge is non-stop. There is something new each day. Thanks for the privilege of serving you as the diocesan administrator. Let me share some observations from this side of […]

Gathering Rite ritual draws faithful together

By Fr. Michel Mulloy

The various ritual actions of the Gathering Rite draw the faithful together and prepare them to listen to the Word of God. Christ is present in his Body the Church when we gather, continuing his saving work. Presence in one building does not necessarily mean togetherness. The community shakes off the concerns of individual lives, opens their hearts and minds to the action of the liturgy and focuses on joining the self-sacrifice of Christ to God the Father. 

The Opening Hymn is the first prayer of the liturgy. Songs are prayers set to melodies. The stated purpose of this song is to begin the celebration, to foster unity with one another, to introduce the feast or mystery that we are celebrating that day and to accompany the procession of the priest, deacon and servers.

The community enters the eternal self-sacrifice of Christ. We must be willing to do this. This means we sing the gathering hymn to the best of our ability. A choice at this moment not to sing, to simply listen to the song or wait for it to finish, is a choice to not to join the self-sacrifice of Jesus. Furthermore, singing draws the community together. It expresses the unity with God in one another that is the hope of the celebration of the Mass. The gathering song also speaks about the feast or season of the liturgical year we are celebrating. Once again, the gathering song is designed to accompany the procession of the priest and servers to the altar. This is a reminder to us that music, although essential to the Mass, is not done for its own sake but rather to accompany the action of the Mass.

The Sign of the Cross is a declaration that we stand in this assembly as the people of God because Jesus died and rose to free us from our sins. We are not here of our own volition but gather because we are drawn here by God in Christ Jesus.

The greeting is an ancient dialogue with  roots in the letters of St. Paul. The three different forms of this greeting all express that we are here to unite our lives to God. The priest states that the community has a relationship with God, through Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit. (“The Lord be with you.”) The assembly’s response indicates that the priest, who is for them Christ present leading his Body the Church, has that relationship with God. (“And with your spirit.”)

The greeting also reminds us that the Eucharist is a dialogue between God and his people. In the same way that the inner life of God is a dialogue between Father and Son and Holy Spirit, so this ritual action affords us the opportunity to share in the dialogue that is the life of God. Thus, when the priest speaking in the person of Christ, reaches out to the assembly with this ancient greeting, the people as the body of Christ are expected to respond. Together we are declaring that we believe God is present to us in his Son Jesus Christ.

The Penitential Rite which comes next is the community’s admission that we are sinners. Yet, we are here because the forgiveness of God has been given to us in the death and resurrection of Jesus. In effect we are declaring that though unworthy, we are made worthy by Christ. The “Lord Have Mercy” is less an appeal for God to be merciful and more a declaration that God IS merciful.

Next we pray the Gloria, a hymn of praise. It is appropriate at this moment in the Gathering Rite, to offer praise to God. We have just acknowledged God’s presence with us in the greeting. We have faced our unworthiness and yet declare that God’s mercy is with us. The community stands forgiven and redeemed. Praising and thanking God at this moment makes sense. Ideally the Gloria is always sung by all praising God in our unified voices.

The Gathering Rite comes to an end with the Opening Prayer. Although the priest vocalizes the prayer, the community is praying. Through the silence that follows the introduction, “Let us pray,” the community members call to mind and heart those things which they want to pray for at this Mass. When the presider speaks aloud a prayer, he is speaking for everyone. The community’s attention to his words and their clear “Amen,” which means in Hebrew, “yes I agree,” is vitally important.

Next month we will begin talking about the Word of God in the context of the Eucharist.

Let ‘Sede Vacante’ be a cry for a new bishop

I was asked last week by the editor of the West River Catholic what we should call this column that I am now writing. I decided to call it Sede Vacante. That is a Latin term which means “vacant seat.” It refers to the fact that as a diocese, we have a vacant seat in our midst. That vacant seat is the bishop’s chair, or cathedra, located in the cathedral. The light over that chair is not lit right now and the coat of arms is missing. More importantly we are missing someone who is very important for any diocese.

The Bishop is the Vicar of Christ for our local (diocesan) church. As a successor to the apostles and a member of the college of bishops, he is a visible connection to Jesus Christ and the church he established on earth. The bishop is also our direct link to the Holy Father and the universal Catholic community.

In the meantime, we are called to continue our mission, the mission of Jesus Christ. The “vacant seat” does not mean that we stop being disciples of Jesus Christ, called to attract and form intentional disciples who joyfully, boldly and lovingly live and proclaim the Gospel.

All these connections are very important to being Catholic. We are a universal church which has a local expression in western South Dakota. We have our own unique experience of church, but our experience is not so unique that we are separate from other expression of the Catholic Church elsewhere. We are not a “congregational” form of governance. We belong to each other. We are brothers and sisters of one another because we are all joined to Jesus Christ who is our brother. We are sons and daughters of one Father, and we are bound together by the Holy Spirit. The bishop is our diocesan father and our family is not complete without our father sitting at the head of the Eucharistic table, leading us into a deeper relationship with our brother Jesus and his Father. We should be praying daily for our new bishop, longing for him to come, through the power of the Holy Spirit and the choice of our Holy Father, to be seated among us.

That is where I come in. Elected, I said yes to assuming this mantle of leadership temporarily. It has been interesting and challenging from the first day. I am learning and growing in ways that I have not been asked to do in the past. Most importantly I have come to appreciate the ministry of a bishop in a much deeper way. I have not prayed enough for our bishops and for all the bishops of our country and the world.

During my short few weeks, I have come to understand the burden of a bishop’s ministry. This was made especially clear when I had the privilege to attend a meeting of the bishops of our province (North and South Dakota and Minnesota). Their responsibilities would be a challenge during any era, but our own time has made their ministry particularly heavy to bear. Gratefully they do not carry this load alone. The Lord is yoked to them on the journey. Our prayers on their behalf, raised to the Father, will lighten that load, for the Father bends down to listen to the cry of his children.

In telling you all this, you should not feel sorry for me or for our bishops. As I often tell people, every appointment on my calendar was put there by me. Likewise, this responsibility of diocesan administrator was something I accepted. I am willing to do this, to serve the Lord and his people as we continue to grow in holiness and prepare for the leadership of a new bishop.

I am finding this new assignment challenging but also so interesting. I am learning and growing. I enjoy the support of the clergy and laity of our diocese. That is a great blessing. As much as I miss having a bishop in our midst, I know the Lord is present. The mission of our local church continues. While there will be no new initiatives while the cathedra is vacant, we will continue to bring to fulfillment the great work that we have already begun. The Lord is calling all of us to do our part so that when a new bishop arrives, he will find us ready and willing.

We are so blessed in our diocese. We have wonderful priests and deacons in roles of leadership. Many talented lay men and women are involved in our parishes, serving the Lord is our ministry together. We have a hard-working and generous chancery staff. There is much to be grateful for, and we are not finished. I know there is much more that the Lord wants to give us. There is a legacy of faith that is waiting to be lived. We have only begun to discover the blessings God wants to pour into our lives through his beloved Son and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Let Sede Vacante be a joyful cry for a new bishop, a cry to spur us on to continue the great work we have been given until we stand together with our new bishop to rejoice in all that will be given to us by our gracious and loving God. 

Speak up and sing out — believe in what you are doing

By Fr. Michel Mulloy

Eucharist — Part III

In the love relationship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Jesus eternally offers himself to the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit. We come to Mass to join our sacrifices to Jesus’ eternal sacrifice. Jesus offers himself to his Father through us. Amazing isn’t it — to realize that at Mass as we join ourselves to Jesus in his sacrifice, we are caught up into the very life of God.

Priest and people are joined to Jesus Christ in baptism. We receive the Holy Spirit. Therefore, when we gather for Mass, we are Jesus Christ present. The priest is Jesus leading his body, the people. He continues his sacrifice in, with and through us, each in our distinctive roles. The simplest way to express how we join the sacrifice of Jesus is with the following phrase. We make room, speak out and believe in what we are doing.

We make room in our lives for each other. That is as literal as it sounds, but it is also attitudinal.  We are asked to slide down in the pew, to look at each other, to smile, to greet one another. We come to the Mass from a variety of dispositions, interests, needs and wants. Being attentive to one another can be self-sacrificing in that we tend to be self-serving. Making room is both physical and internal. We also make room in our lives for one another by wanting to be present and by participating with the community in the action of the Mass.

We speak out. Through the responses and prayers, we give ourselves. We pray in a way that manifests our conviction and belief. We mean what we say. We also speak out to support one another. We encourage others by our enthusiasm to voice their own prayer if they can hear us. Some might prefer to pray quietly. There are moments for silence in the liturgy. However, when we are called to vocalize a prayer, we are self-sacrificing in our willingness to be heard.

We listen up. There are several times when listening attentively can be a real sacrifice. We all know the challenge of being attentive to someone when they are speaking to us. Our mind wanders. We focus on the proclaimer, the presider or the cantor. We must not only hear what they are saying but take it in and let it sink into our lives. The effort put forth to really listen is participation in the self-sacrifice of Christ.

We sing out. Singing is praying. This is an area where many of us need to be challenged. We think of the music as “extra,” something that isn’t necessary to the Mass. Singing and music are essential liturgical action. Our voices joined in song, elevate our spoken prayer and enhance our self-giving.

Some say, “I can’t sing.” They mean they do not have a good singing voice. We also have different speaking voices and different capacities for hearing. If my voice is not as pleasing as another’s, should I not speak the prayers at Mass; if I do not listen as well as another, should I not listen at all? No. Why then do we decide not to sing if our voice is not wonderful? For some self-sacrifice means bending our stubborn wills and accepting that singing is important. Singing, like speaking and listening is essential for joining our sacrifice to Christ’s.

All this activity at Mass is sacrificial not simply by our doing it but more importantly by our belief. It is essential that I believe that Jesus is present, that he is offering himself to God the Father, and that I am participating in his sacrifice through understanding what is happening and consciously engaging in the sacrifice of the Mass. 

With this basic understanding of what we are doing in the Mass, I will, in the subsequent months, look at each part of the Eucharist and explore how we encounter Jesus in his sacrifice during the Mass.