• The following is an excerpt from a talk given by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades on Feb. 7 at St. Louis Besancon Parish.

    Individual copies or a subscription to the Magnificat periodical can be obtained through local Catholic bookstores, magnificat.com and us.magnificat.net.

    A central component of living as a disciple of Jesus, of pursuing the call to holiness in our everyday life, is prayer. Many people already have a good daily regimen of prayer. Some attend daily Mass. Others struggle to maintain a daily routine of prayer. I would like to describe some practices of prayer for your consideration, wherever you might be in your prayer life.

    Of course, every Catholic should have a discipline of daily prayer. One size does not fit all when it comes to how we pray. The wonderful thing is that the Catholic Church has such a rich treasury of prayers, devotions, and spiritual practices. The most important thing is not “how” we pray, but “that” we pray, that we converse with God as the Lord of our life, with God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

    Prayer when we get up in the morning, when we go to bed at night, and when we eat are staples of a daily regimen of prayer.

    Prayer upon rising in the morning  

    Priests, deacons and religious are required every morning to pray Lauds, the Morning Prayer of the Church, from the Liturgy of the Hours. Some lay people also pray Lauds. It is a beautiful prayer with psalms, a reading, and intercessions. It takes about 10 to 15 minutes to pray. Some lay people use the wonderful little book “Magnificat,” which includes a shorter version of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, as well as the readings and prayers of daily Mass. It is a great resource that I highly recommend. I know many Catholics who have grown in their prayer life by using the monthly published Magnificat booklets.

    Morning Prayer is a great way to sanctify one’s day, all one’s activities and works of the day. Whether or not one uses the Liturgy of the Hours or Magnificat, what is most important is that one begins his or her day giving praise and thanks to God and offering one’s day to Him.

    For many Catholics, a great and simple way to begin the day is to pray the Morning Offering. I have it taped to the mirror in my bathroom!  It reminds us of the common priesthood of all the baptized because it is an offering, an act of sacrifice, which is a priestly act. There are different versions of the Morning Offering, but each one is basically a prayer offering everything that day to God, including our works, joys, and sufferings. We are giving our day to God.

    It is also good when we make our Morning Offering to offer some specific prayers for spouses and children, for coworkers perhaps, and for the needy, the sick, and the dying, including those individuals who have asked for our prayers or whom we have promised to pray for. If we anticipate a difficult situation that day, like a challenging meeting or encounter, it is good to ask the Lord in advance for wisdom and patience.

    Beginning our day with prayer should be a daily habit. I read a story about the actor Denzel Washington giving advice to a group of young actors. He said something surprising. He said to them: “Put your shoes way under the bed at night so that you gotta get on your knees in the morning to find them. And while you’re down there thank God for grace and mercy and understanding.” Great advice — if we put our shoes way under our bed, getting down on our knees to get them may remind us to stay on our knees for a few minutes to pray in the morning!

    Night Prayer  

    Like prayer in the morning, prayer at night before going to bed should be part of our daily routine. As with Morning Prayer, priests, deacons and religious are required to pray Night Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours. The monthly Magnificat booklet also includes this Night Prayer. Night prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours only takes about five minutes. Whether or not we use this official prayer of the Church, the important thing is that we end our day with prayer.

    As I recommended the Morning Offering upon rising, I recommend the Act of Contrition when going to bed. Many of us learned this custom as children. Before saying the Act of Contrition, I was taught to think back over the day and to give thanks to God for specific blessings: and then to think back over the day and ask God pardon for my sins that day.

    Prayer of thanksgiving is very important before we go to bed. It is a reminder of God’s goodness and love. The examination of conscience and Act of Contrition are also important. It takes humility and is good for our souls to express sorrow for our sins and to express the desire to change and to live in God’s grace. Of course, we can offer the Act of Contrition any time during the day, but it is good to do so at the end of a day — to review our day, trying to see it as God saw it. The Holy Spirit’s gift of wisdom enables us to see things as God sees things.

    We should look not only at any moral failure in our actions, but also in our words and our thoughts, as well as our sins of omission, what we have failed to do. This shouldn’t be a scrupulous scrutiny — it only takes a few minutes. St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are holding to your faith.”  This daily examen helps us to have a healthy self-knowledge. This is good for the spiritual life. With that knowledge, we can more consciously be resolved to fight against particular temptations and sins.

    The end of our day, like the beginning of our day, can be an act of prayer. That’s what is key. The hinges of our day are focused on the Lord.

    Grace before meals  

    This should be a regular habit in our lives. It is good to be aware that the food we eat is a gift from God and that our companions at a meal are also a gift. We are acknowledging God’s presence and goodness every time we say grace. We can pray before meals in spontaneous words or with the traditional “Bless us, O Lord,” prayer. It is a small thing, but if done attentively and deliberately, it helps us to cultivate an awareness of God at mealtime. Grace at meals reminds us that God is with us as He was with His people when Jesus shared meals with the disciples and others.

    Posted on February 14, 2017, to:

  • A family attends Mass at El Cristo Rey Chapel in Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona Aug. 21. In addition to attending Mass, keeping the Lord’s day holy also means using the day to relax, reach out to others and enrich our families.

    How do we observe the Lord’s Day?  Do we keep Sunday holy? In reflecting on these questions, it is good to recall why we observe Sunday as the Day of the Lord to begin with.

    Saint John Paul II wrote that “Sunday is a day which is at the very heart of the Christian life” (Dies Domini 7). Do we think of Sunday that way, or as just a day off from work or a day when we have to go to Mass?  Sunday is, as John Paul wrote, “the festival of the new creation” (DD 8). It is the day of Christ’s resurrection. It is a weekly celebration of Easter. Every week, on Sunday, we celebrate Christ’s victory over sin and death. We celebrate the dawn of the new creation.

    Our whole Christian faith rests on this fundamental event, absolutely unique in human history: the Resurrection of Jesus. It is good for parents to remind their children every Sunday that today we are celebrating Jesus’ Resurrection. We can say with the psalmist every Sunday: “This is the day which the Lord has made: let us rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24).” Sunday is the day of the Risen Lord. That’s why Saint Basil the Great spoke of Sunday as “holy Sunday.”

    It is also significant that Pentecost took place on Sunday. Pentecost, the day of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, promised by Jesus, fell on a Sunday. This was the day of the first proclamation of the Gospel and the first baptisms were celebrated on the day of Pentecost. Therefore, Sunday is the Church’s preferred day for the celebration of the sacrament of Baptism.

    So I invite you to ask yourselves: how do you and your family observe Sunday? Do you live it consciously as the day of the Risen Christ and the day of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit? At it is a day not only to remember the past events of Easter and Pentecost, but to celebrate the living presence of the Risen Lord and of the Holy Spirit in our lives today.

    Of course, the heart of the observance, the celebration, of Sunday, should be Sunday Mass. We gather to do what Jesus commanded us to do in remembrance of Him. We gather to profess faith in His resurrection. It is important that parents teach their children why we go to Mass on Sunday. It is important to share with them the importance of gathering to listen to the Word of God, to be nourished by the Table of His Word. And then to share with them the vital necessity of being nourished by the greatest gift: His Body broken and given up for us and His Blood poured out for us. This is what gives us the strength we need to live our faith the rest of the week.

    At Mass, we unite our lives, our prayers and works, our sufferings and joys, with Jesus. At the end of Mass, we are sent to glorify the Lord by our lives, to announce the Gospel of the Lord in the world. On Sunday, we receive the grace of the Eucharist to help us to live our faith throughout the week, to bear witness to Christ in the community, in our family, and at work. We return to our everyday lives with a renewed commitment to serve God and our neighbor. We are sent forth to evangelize.

    Besides Sunday Mass, Saint John Paul II wrote about Sunday as “a day of joy, rest, and solidarity.” It’s good for us to think about this: is Sunday a day of joy, rest and solidarity in my life and in the life of my family?

    Why is Sunday supposed to be celebrated as a day of joy? The answer is obvious: it is the day of the Resurrection. On Easter Sunday, the disciples rejoiced to see the risen Lord. Pope Francis wrote a whole apostolic exhortation at the beginning of his pontificate entitled: “The Joy of the Gospel.”  Christian joy should characterize our life every day. Sunday is the day of joy in a very special way, not a day of mere superficial pleasures, but something more enduring and consoling. It is day given to us by God for our human and spiritual growth. We can think about how practically we can make Sunday a day of joy — for example, family activities that foster unity and love within the family, perhaps a walk in the woods, a visit to a lake, or a special meal together.

    Connected to Sunday being a day of joy is its being a day of rest. Rest is something sacred, as we know from the book of Genesis and God’s establishment of the Sabbath. Human dignity requires rest and relaxation. It is good to enjoy the beauties of nature – they give rest and peace to the soul. Taking time to relax with family and friends brings depth to our relationships. Sunday shouldn’t be a day of emptiness and boredom, but a day to enjoy one another. It also can be day of spiritual enrichment — e.g. a family rosary together, a pilgrimage to a shrine, attendance at a concert, etc.

    Besides being a day of joy and rest, Sunday is a day of solidarity. Where do we find joy? In giving of ourselves in love! It doesn’t violate the precept of rest to do an act of charity or mercy on Sunday. Remember how Jesus was criticized for healing people on the Sabbath. Sunday does not absolve us of the duties of charity. In fact, what a great day to share with the poor, to visit someone in the hospital or nursing home, to visit grandparents or elderly relatives! Sunday is a day of solidarity, a day to reach out to those who are in need.

    I invite everyone to reflect on how they spend Sunday. It is not a day of escape — it is to be a day of worship, joy, rest and solidarity. And let us remember in our prayers those who have to work on Sunday in service professions and jobs that require it, such as health care workers, police, emergency responders and firefighters.

     

    Posted on February 7, 2017, to:

  • “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” — The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The nation honors the legacy of Rev. King, the slain civil rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, with a national holiday, observed Jan. 16 this year.

    By Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades

    I am about to leave for a weeklong visit to Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. As a member of the board of directors of Catholic Relief Services, each year I travel to visit CRS projects in different countries. You may recall that last year I visited Haiti and shared with you my experience there. I am looking forward now to meeting our CRS staff and the poor whom they serve in another part of the world, the Holy Land. CRS works in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza implementing programs focused on emergency preparedness and response, livelihoods, peace building and youth development. Please remember us and those we visit in your prayers, especially praying for peace and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians, an end to violence in the region and a just resolution of conflicts.

    During the week I am away, our nation will celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 16 and the inauguration of Donald Trump as president on Jan. 20. I was thinking how providential it is that the presidential inauguration will take place during the same week that our nation celebrates Dr. King. And then, in the following week, we will have the March for Life in Washington, which I look forward to attending with our diocesan delegation.

    During the week when I will be visiting a region that is deeply divided and polarized, where violence and terrorism is not uncommon, our nation will hopefully be brought together after a polarizing presidential election. It was sad to see the divisiveness that spilled over into families, workplaces, groups of friends and even church communities. Opposing viewpoints are common in election seasons. Political debate is healthy when people engage one another with respect and constructive dialogue. Unfortunately, this past election season revealed a dark side in politics today that, if we are not careful, can harm the common good which should be the aim of politics.

    I think of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and what he can teach us at this time in our nation’s history. At a time of deep racial divisions in our country, this Baptist preacher called people to stand together for racial justice and an end to racial discrimination and segregation. His witness inspired millions. He opted for non-violence as the Christian approach, and the only truly effective approach, for ensuring and safeguarding human dignity.

    In the public square and in politics, it is important that we bear witness to the Gospel, stand firm in the faith, and uphold the values we cherish as disciples of Jesus. This includes loving and respecting those who do not share our faith and values. We should be passionate about the protection of human life and dignity from the moment of conception until natural death, about justice for all people, including our immigrant brothers and sisters, about defending religious liberty, about protecting and caring for creation, and many other issues of importance. At the same time, we are called to work together constructively, to dialogue respectfully, and not to adopt a mindset of hostility towards those who disagree with us. We must strive to work for unity in pursuing the common good, despite differences, without falling into moral relativism.

    One of my favorite writings of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is his famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” When he was imprisoned for participation in a civil rights demonstration, he wrote about Christian discipleship and why he could not obey unjust laws. He was not a moral relativist. This Baptist preacher quoted two Catholic Doctors of the Church. “I would agree with Saint Augustine,” he wrote, “that an unjust law is no law at all;” and with Saint Thomas Aquinas “that an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law.” Interestingly, that very same week in April 1963, Pope Saint John XXIII, in his encyclical on peace, “Pacem in terris,” quoted the very same passage from Saint Thomas Aquinas. He wrote: “laws and decrees enacted in contravention of the moral order, and hence of the divine will, can have no binding form in conscience.”

    The words of Dr. King and Pope John remind us of important truths as we prepare for the presidential inauguration and the March for Life. They remind us that permissive abortion laws, like laws that promoted racial segregation, violate the higher law, are unjust and must be opposed in a non-violent way. They remind us of our Christian obligation always to defend the truth about the dignity of the human person, born or unborn, black or white, young or old, healthy or sick, and documented or undocumented. They remind us that the Church can never remain silent in the face of injustice. At the same time, the way of Jesus teaches us that we are to love those who oppose us in fulfilling our Christian obligation. In fact, love of enemies is part of living the Gospel, perhaps the most difficult part.

    As we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day and approach Inauguration Day, it is good to remember the courageous struggle for civil rights led by Dr. King. The struggle for justice goes on today. It includes the defense of the right to life of the innocent unborn and of the sick and aged. It includes efforts to combat poverty and to ensure the availability of jobs that lift people out of poverty by providing just compensation. It includes efforts to provide affordable health care for all while protecting the rights of conscience. It includes a quality education for all our children and the fundamental right of parents to choose a school for their children. It includes the protection of the stability of the marriage bond and the institution of the family. It includes the protection of the security and health of our communities from violence and the dangers of drugs and pornography. Let us pray that President Trump and his administration, together with Congress and the Supreme Court, will pursue true justice in their service of our nation!

    When he spoke to the U.S. Congress in 2015, Pope Francis recalled the march that Martin Luther King led from Selma to Montgomery “as part of the campaign to fulfill his ‘dream’ of full civil and political rights for African Americans.” The Holy Father said: “That dream continues to inspire us all. I am happy that America continues to be, for many, a land of ‘dreams.’  Dreams which lead to action, to participation, to commitment. Dreams which awaken what is deepest and truest in the life of a people.” Pope Francis encouraged Americans to resolve “to live as nobly and as justly as possible, as we educate new generations not to turn their back on our ‘neighbors’ and everything around us. Building a nation calls us to recognize that we must constantly relate to others, rejecting a mindset of hostility in order to adopt one of reciprocal subsidiarity, in a constant effort to do our best.”

    Inspired by the witness of Dr. Martin Luther King, may we heed these words of our Holy Father. Let us pray for our government and for unity in our nation in the tireless and demanding pursuit of justice and the common good!

    Posted on January 10, 2017, to:

  • The following is the text of the homily of Bishop Rhoades at Mass on the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, at Saint Mary Church in Huntington on December 31, 2016:

    Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades and several altar servers from the parish of St. Mary, Huntington, make the sign of the cross before the parish crèche following a vigil Mass on the evening of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, Dec. 31.

    Every year on January 1st, on this Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, we hear in the first reading the ancient priestly blessing from the Old Testament book of Numbers: “The Lord bless you and keep you!  The Lord let His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!”

    This ancient blessing was entrusted by God, through Moses, to Aaron and his sons, that is, to the priests of Israel. It was entrusted to them as they led the people on the journey of the Exodus through the Sinai desert. Later, this blessing was used in the temple liturgy in Jerusalem. The Church carries on the tradition of this blessing, not only today, but often throughout the year since it is one of the options the priest can use for the blessing at the end of Mass. It is a prayer for God’s protection and for grace and peace — three gifts that sum up our aspirations as human beings. In our journey through life, and especially at the beginning of a new year, we ask the Lord for these blessings.

    We ask the Lord to let His face shine upon us. What does this mean? God’s face, which we see in the face of the Child Jesus in the manger, is a face of mercy and love. To ask God to shine His face upon us is to ask Him to bless us with His mercy and love. We ask the Lord to be gracious to us: to bestow upon us His saving grace, His divine life. And we ask Him to look upon us with kindness and to give us His peace.

    The Catholic Church observes January 1st as the World Day of Peace. Today, at the beginning of a new year, we pray for peace in the world, the peace that begins in our own families. We remember in prayer all who are suffering the ravages of violence, war, and terrorism, in the Holy Land and the Middle East and in so many other places where there is conflict and discord. We also pray for peace in our own country, especially in cities like Chicago where the murder rate continues to climb. We ask for God’s gift of peace in this new year 2017.

    The great priestly blessing from the book of Numbers, “The Lord let His face shine upon you,” fell upon Mary and Joseph in the most unique way, for they had the experience of beholding the true face of God. In gazing upon the face of the little infant Jesus, they were gazing upon the face of God. From the face of Jesus, a new light issued forth upon the world, the light of salvation, the greatest blessing for humanity.

    In today’s Gospel, we heard that “the shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph and the infant lying in the manger.” The grace and peace invoked in that ancient Jewish blessing descended upon the shepherds as they adored the child in the manger. And it descends upon us when we adore the Lord Jesus, especially in the Blessed Sacrament.

    The first person to be swept up by this great blessing from God was Mary. She was the first to see the face of God made man in the small fruit of her womb. Elizabeth rightly called her “blessed among women.” We honor her today as the “Mother of God.” She is the first of the blessed, the one who bore the blessing, the woman who received Jesus into herself and brought Him forth for the whole human family.

    Today’s Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, is the oldest feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Church’s calendar. We honor her who played such a great role in the mystery of the Incarnation, in the accomplishment of God’s plan of salvation. Her “yes” to God’s invitation to be the mother of His Incarnate Son teaches us to say “yes” to God’s will and to be open to His grace.

    Thanks to Mary’s “yes,” Our Savior was born. As Saint Paul wrote to the Galatians: “God sent His Son, born of a woman, … so that we might receive adoption as sons. As proof that you are sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’  So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then also an heir, through God.”

    We cannot foresee what this New Year 2017 will bring, but we can live each day knowing that God is our loving Father, that His Son has saved us, and that He has given us His Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts. We can live each day also knowing that Mary, the Mother of God, is also our mother, the Mother of the Church, who intercedes for us with her Son.

    As we begin this New Year, I invoke upon you and all your families and loved ones the ancient priestly blessing: “The Lord bless you and keep you! The Lord let His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!”

    Posted on January 3, 2017, to:

  • By Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades

    The adoration of the Magi is depicted in a 14th century painting by Giotto di Bondone. The feast of the Nativity of Christ, a holy day of obligation, is celebrated Dec. 25.

    “Let us all rejoice in the Lord, for our Savior has been born in the world. Today true peace has come down to us from heaven” (Entrance Antiphon from Christmas Mass during the Night).

    The message of the angel to the shepherds on the first Christmas remains ever new: “Today in the city of David a Savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.” The message of the birth of Jesus our Savior was spoken over 2,000 years ago, but it is a message that the Church still proclaims and will always proclaim, the message of Christmas, the message that “the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” is the Savior, not only for people long ago, but our Savior, the Savior of people today.

    Given all the advances in science and technology, especially in recent years, some may feel that we don’t really need a savior. There are those who consider man to be a self-sufficient master of his own destiny. Yet, in the depths of our being, we know otherwise. Despite humanity’s many advances, we still have poverty, injustice, hatred, violence, loneliness, addictions and other ills. In a word, there is still sin and there is death, from which no one can escape. Yes, we do need a Savior. So the message of Christmas has relevance and gives hope: “our Savior has been born in the world.”

    The Church’s task, our task, is to receive the Savior into our hearts and lives and to witness to the Savior in our words and deeds. “The Church in this world is the sacrament of salvation, the sign and the instrument of the communion of God and men” (Catechism 780). We are a community saved by Christ. We draw our strength and nourishment from His Word and His Eucharistic Body. And then we bear witness to Christ our Savior in the world. We share in His saving mission to overcome evil with good, to bring light to those in darkness, healing to those who are suffering, in sum: to bear witness to the truth and beauty and joy of the Gospel of our Savior.

    Christ does not save us from the world. He came into the world, so that through Him the world might be saved. In order to save us, the Son of God became one of us. He assumed our human nature in order to accomplish our salvation in it. He came in the flesh. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). He became truly man while remaining truly God. This is the mystery we celebrate at Christmas, the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God. It is the distinctive sign of Christian faith, a mystery unheard of in other religions. The Church confesses that “Jesus is inseparably true God and true man. He is truly the Son of God who, without ceasing to be God and Lord, became a man and our brother” (CCC 469). Why? Precisely: to save us! As we profess in the Nicene Creed: “For us men and for our salvation, He came down from heaven.”

    God revealed to Mary and Joseph that they were to name their child, conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, “Jesus,” a name which means “God saves.” This is Jesus’ mission. Pope Benedict XVI once said that Jesus is “the face of the God who saves.” He gives life and this life is grace. God sent His Son into the world to fill the world with His grace. When we gaze upon the infant Jesus in the Christmas manger, we see the face of God. We see the immortal Life which became mortal. In the face of the baby Jesus, we see God’s love and humility. In Jesus, we receive the power of God’s saving grace, the grace that sanctifies us.

    God shows us His face, full of grace and mercy, in Jesus. When we open ourselves in faith to receive His grace and mercy, we receive a share in His own divine life. This is why God became man: in order to give us a share in His own divinity. At Christmas, we celebrate the amazing grace which the Lord’s mercy bestows on us. This is the message of Christmas: the good news of salvation. And that is why we sing with the angels: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.” This peace is the fruit of God’s love which is grace, mercy, and truth. And together with this peace, we have hope, the hope which has its foundation in the gift of salvation, of being set free from the darkness of sin and death. Christmas is truly a feast of hope.

    The grace, peace and joy of Christmas is for all people. Jesus was born as the Savior of the world. In the Child Jesus in the manger, we behold the Truth that sets us free and the Love that transforms our lives. We adore Him at our Christmas liturgies. Like the shepherds who adored Jesus in the manger, we are also called to spread the good news of the birth of our Savior. The Gospel of Luke tells us that the shepherds “made known the message that had been told them about this child.” We should not be afraid to share the joy of our faith with others. In fact, we have an obligation to do so: to bear witness to Jesus the Savior so that others may encounter His love, grace, and peace. As Saint Paul wrote: “God desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). The Church, as the universal sacrament of salvation, has been entrusted with this truth and must go out and bring this truth to the world. Let us not be afraid to share with others the truth of the Gospel and the joy of our encounter with Christ our Savior!

    It was through the fruitful virginity of Mary that God bestowed on the human race the grace of eternal salvation. May the Mother of the Savior help us to bear witness in our world to the truth and love of her Son! May God bless you and your loved ones with joy and peace during this Christmas season! Merry Christmas to all!

     

    Posted on December 20, 2016, to: