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April 22, 2018: 4th Sunday of Easter B

4-22-18 4th Sunday Easter Good Shepherd
Where do you turn to when you’re looking for answers to perplexing questions about your life? Although Google is helpful in looking up about facts, data, and information, the search comes up empty when we are looking for answers to deeper personal questions about our purpose in life, why we suffer, why we need forgiveness, and our call to love.

A little boy named Emanuele made the headlines in Catholic news this past week when he was looking for an answer to a question that saddened him. Pope Francis was visiting a local Italian parish and allowed children to ask questions. When Emanuele approached the microphone to ask his question, he froze and burst into tears and said, “I can’t.” The Pope encouraged him, “Come, come to me, Emanuele. Come and whisper it in my ear.” The little boy approached the Pope and whispered his question into his ear. Little Emanuele was in tears, and the Pope embraced him and consoled him. The Pope asked his permission to tell others what he asked him and revealed that Emanuele’s dad had recently died. He was the father of four children and despite being a non-believer, he had all his children baptized as Catholics. Emanuele’s question for the Pope was, “My dad was a good man. Is dad in heaven?”

In preparing to answer the little boy’s question, Pope Francis asked everyone to ponder what God is like and what kind of heart God has. He said, “God has a dad’s heart. And with a dad who was not a believer, but who baptized his children...do you think God would be able to leave him far from himself?...Does God abandon his children when they are good?” The children responded a resounding, “No!” The Pope told the boy, “There, Emanuele, that is the answer. God surely was proud of your father, because it is easier as a believer to baptize your children than to baptize them when you are not a believer. Surely this pleased God very much.” Pope Francis encouraged Emanuel to “talk to your dad; pray to your dad.”
 
Pope Francis was a good shepherd to little Emanuele, leading this lost and dejected sheep back to the safety of the sheepfold. The interaction between little Emanuele and Pope Francis reminds me of the lyrics of the hymn:
I heard the voice of Jesus say, “Come unto Me and rest; Lay down, thou weary one, lay down, Thy head upon My breast.” I came to Jesus as I was, Weary and worn and sad; I found in Him a resting-place, And He has made me glad.

In today’s Gospel passage,  Our Lord said, "I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” A shepherd is someone who grows up knowing, caring, and protecting a flock of sheep. He was born for that noble, lonely, and dangerous role; and the shepherd is committed to his sheep. We call Jesus the Good Shepherd because he not only took many risks for his flock, but he also died defending it. One of the earliest paintings in the Roman catacombs represents Jesus as carrying an injured sheep on his shoulders.

Our Lord is a shepherd who understands us and whose patience and love are infinite. He is always ready to go out and search after us. When we face difficult times, illness, and crosses, his consoling voice is constantly reaching out to us. Yet there are men and women in our lives who either through no fault of their own or through their own fault do not hear his voice and do not know or follow him. Our Lord desires for us to be his co-workers in the vineyard to bring lost and non-believing souls to him. The best way for us to teach about Jesus is by the way we live our lives. When others see in us the compassion we have for others and  the joy in our lives because of our relationship with Jesus, then they will want to know the root of our joy.  We also need to pray for those who do not know Jesus and ask the Holy Spirit to open their hearts and minds. We pray that we will know the right time and have the courage to invite a person to enter a relationship with the Lord.

Jesus said in the scriptures that all of heaven rejoices over one sinner who repents. We need not be surprised or discouraged if we are rejected in our efforts, for even Our Lord was rejected. Was there a time when you were far away from the Lord and someone helped you come back to the Lord by their patient and persistent kindness? Let us ask Our Lord to help us become a good shepherd -- someone who is patient, kind, compassionate, selfless, and on fire with the Lord.  What a joy would it be for that thirsty soul who finally finds rest and peace in Our Lord, just as the hymn explains,

I heard the voice of Jesus say, "Behold, I freely give the living water; thirsty one,
Stoop down and drink and live." I came to Jesus, and I drank of that life-giving stream.
My thirst was quenched, my soul revived, and now I live in Him.

April 17, 2018: Tuesday of 3rd Week of Easter

April 17, 2018: Tuesday of 3rd Week of Easter

“whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” (John 6:35)

Do you hunger for God and for the food which produces everlasting life?

The bread which Jesus offers his disciples sustains us not only on our journey to the heavenly paradise, it gives us the abundant supernatural life of God which sustains us both now and for all eternity. When we receive from the Lord's table we unite ourselves to Jesus Christ, who makes us sharers in his body and blood and partakers of his divine life. Ignatius of Antioch (35-107 A.D.) calls it the "one bread that provides the medicine of immortality, the antidote for death, and the food that makes us live for ever in Jesus Christ" (Ad Eph. 20,2). This supernatural food is healing for both body and soul and strength for our journey heavenward. -By Don Schwager

April 15, 2018: 3rd Sunday Easter B

April 15, 2018: 3rd Sunday Easter B

I would like for us to ponder a question with which the disciples in the Upper Room grappled. If we were aware that Jesus is risen, would we lead a different life? Would it change how we spend our time, how we work, what we buy, what we watch, and whom we love? The disciples who barricaded themselves in a room for the fear of persecution had to grapple with that question. When Jesus appeared in their midst in a locked room, the disciples believed that Jesus was a ghost. He reassured them that he was not a ghost by inviting them to touch his body, allowing them to see the very marks of nails on his hands and feet. He also ate cooked fish.  He reminded them that the scriptures prophesied about him, and the scriptures had been fulfilled in him. Jesus then commissioned them to go out to all the world, beyond their fears and anxiety, to proclaim his life and preach repentance and forgiveness of sins in his name.

Have we at times barricaded ourselves behind our fears which robbed us of the joy in our risen Lord? Easter challenges us to alter our mindset to embrace the living presence of the risen Lord. The resurrection of Jesus is more than just an event that happened once a long time ago. Because of the desires and temptations of the secular world, we tend to look at the events of the resurrection and even Jesus’ birth as distant, static history that enamors us. I’m here to tell you that Jesus is here now waiting for us to follow him. We come to know more deeply the risen Christ by allowing him to grow closer to us through prayer.  We must take the time to pray and allow God to speak to us. If we are faithful to prayer each day, we will then grow more aware of God’s living presence within us, and this awareness will strengthen our hope in His promises, confident in His mercy for us despite our failures.

At every Mass, we relive the experience of the apostles who witnessed risen Jesus in the midst of them. The Eucharist we receive is not a symbol or simple flour wafer but truly the living Jesus who comes into the depths of our hearts, to empower us to witness with our lives that Jesus lives. With God on our side, we can be confident in His love, and need not be afraid of what the future holds for us. Even when we encounter trouble in this world, trust God to lead us through it and accomplish His purpose for us.

April 12, 2018: International Holocaust Remembrance Day

April 12, 2018: International Holocaust Remembrance Day

This day in 2018 is designated as Yom Hashoah--Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day--a day of commemoration for the approximately six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust and for the Jewish resistance in that period. In Israel at 10AM, an air raid siren sounds throughout the country and everyone stops what they are doing, including motorists who stop their cars in the middle of the road, standing beside their vehicles in silence as the siren is sounded. Thousands in Jerusalem visit Yad Vashem--Israel’s official memorial to the victims of Holocaust. Meanwhile in Auschwitz, Poland, people march the 3-kilometer path leading from concentration camps of Auschwitz to Birkenau as a tribute to all victims of the Holocaust.

I have visited both Yad Vashem in Jerusalem and Auschwitz/Birkenau in Poland. As I walked through the gate of Auschwitz and throughout the Birkenau camp, I realized I was standing on hallowed ground where the innocent lives of so many Jewish people were lost at the hands of evil men. There are no words to describe the emotions that arose in me.
On his visit to Auschwitz, Pope Benedict XVI said, “To speak in this place of horror, in this place where unprecedented mass crimes were committed against God and man, is almost impossible - and it is particularly difficult and troubling for a Christian, for a Pope from Germany. In a place like this, words fail; in the end, there can only be a dread silence - a silence which is itself a heartfelt cry to God: Why, Lord, did you remain silent? How could you tolerate all this? In silence, then, we bow our heads before the endless line of those who suffered and were put to death here; yet our silence becomes in turn a plea for forgiveness and reconciliation, a plea to the living God never to let this happen again.”
Yad Vashem: memorial to Holocaust victims - Jerusalem

Even though it is a place of unspeakable, evil crimes, evil did not triumph. As the visits by tens of millions visitors to this hallowed ground since the Holocaust attest, the sacrifice of so many have awakened the conscience and compassion in the hearts of modern men and women. On this Holocaust Remembrance Day, we implore our Heavenly Father to have mercy on us and on the whole world. -Fr. Paul Yi

April 12, 2018: St. Teresa of the Andes

April 12, 2018: St. Teresa of Jesus “of the Andes”

“Oh, my Jesus and my Mother, may I belong to Him forever.  May nothing on earth claim my attention but the tabernacle.  Preserve me pure for Yourself so that when I die I can say: how happy I am now that at last I can lose myself in the infinite Ocean of the Heart of Jesus, my adored Spouse.”

(excerpt from Drink of the Stream: Prayers of Carmelites compiled by Penny Hickey)

Juana Enriqueta Josafina de los Sacrados Corazones was born in Santiago, Chile, July 13, 1900.  Her parents were wealthy and aristocratic and has six children.  Juana was the fourth and was affectionately called Juanita by her family.  From the age of five, Juana never tired of listening to people talk about God or other religious subjects.  She loved and excelled in horseback riding and was a real beauty.  This led to vanity, which she worked very hard to overcome, along with other faults.

From the time she was six she attended daily Mass and said that “Jesus took her heart to be His own.”  She yearned to receive Holy Communion, but was restricted because of her age.  This was a time of purification for her.  The night before her First Communion she went to the members of her family and begged forgiveness for any time she might have hurt them.  She says that her First Communion was “truly a fusion between Jesus and her soul...”  This was at the age of ten.  Each time she received Communion Juana records that “Jesus spoke with her for a long time.” 

She had a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother and daily prayed the Rosary.  Juana kept an intimate diary from the age of fifteen until she died.  She suffered frequent and serious illnesses, but joyfully lived her faith even more seriously.  Her diary reveals that Juanita saw her life as a composed of suffering and love.  Her scholastic achievements were very notable, but she was most proud of being a “Child of Mary.”  This gifted one was also a musician, playing the piano and harmonium and singing beautifully. 

She made a vow of virginity at the age of fifteen and determined to enter Carmel.  She loved parties and dancing, but she also had the desire to care for the poor.  She prepared for her entrance to Carmel by corresponding with the prioress, opening her soul for guidance.  The big day arrived on May 7, 1919, at Los Andes.  She wrote to her family eight days later, “It is eight days since I have been in Carmel, eight days of heaven.” 

This heaven was marked with serious illness, and during Holy Week of 1920 it reached its peak.  Juanita, now Sister Teresa of Jesus, had contracted typhus.  After receiving the last sacraments, she was permitted to make her religious vows in the Carmelite Order.  On April 12, 1920, she went to sleep in the arms of her Lord.  She had recorded earlier, “To die is to be eternally immersed in Love.”  

————
From the Spiritual writings of Saint Teresa of Jesus

“Jesus alone is beautiful; he is my only joy.  I call for him, I cry after him, I search for him within my heart.  I long for Jesus to grind me interiorly so that I may become a pure host where he can find his rest.  I want to be athirst with love so that other souls may possess this love.  I would die to creatures and to myself, so that he may live in me.

Is there anything good, beautiful or true that we can think of that would not be in Jesus? Wisdom, from which nothing would be secret.  Power, for which nothing would be impossible.  Justice, which made him take on flesh in order to make satisfaction for sin. Providence, which always watches over and sustains us.  Mercy, which never ceases to pardon.  Goodness, which forgets the offenses of his creatures.  Love, which unites all the tendernesses of a mother, of a brother, of a spouse, and which, drawing him out of the abyss of his greatness, binds him closely to his creatures.   Beauty which enraptures what can you think of that would not be found in this Man-God?

Are you perhaps afraid that the abyss of the greatness of God and that of your nothingness cannot be united?  There is love in him.  His passionate love made him take flesh in order that by seeing a Man-God, we would not be afraid to draw near him.  This passionate love made him become bread in order to assimilate our nothingness and make it disappear into his infinite being.  This passionate love made him give his life by dying on the cross.

Are you perhaps afraid to draw near him?  Look at him, surrounded by little children.  He caresses them, he presses them to his heart.  Look at him in the midst of his faithful flock, bearing the faithless lamb on his shoulders.  Look at him at the tomb of Lazarus.  And listen to what he says of the Magdalene:  “Much has been forgiven her, because she has loved much.”  What do you discover in these flashes from the Gospel except a heart that is good, gentle, tender, compassionate; in other words, the heart of a God?

He is my unending wealth, my bliss, my heaven.” 


-St. Teresa of the Andes

April 9, 2018: Solemnity of Annunciation

April 9, 2018: Solemnity of Annunciation

Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)

“those who—like Mary—open themselves totally to God come to accept the divine will, even though it is mysterious [and] often does not correspond with their own wishes. . .It is exactly the same on the journey of faith of each one of us: we encounter patches of light, but we also encounter stretches in which God seems absent, when his silence weighs on our hearts and his will does not correspond with ours, with our inclination to do as we like. However, the more we open ourselves to God, welcome the gift of faith and put our whole trust in him—like Abraham, like Mary—the more capable he will make us, with his presence, of living every situation of life in peace and assured of his faithfulness and his love. However, this means coming out of ourselves and our own projects so that the word of God may be the lamp that guides our thoughts and actions.” (Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, December 19, 2012)

"May today there be peace within. May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content knowing you are a child of God. Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us." (St. Teresa of Avila)


We sometimes lose sight of our own purpose and how we are meant to play a part in bringing peace to the world. So often it starts here: with internal peace--a peace with Our Lord and a deep sense of rest in the creation He has made us. Such a peace radiates out into our families and our communities. Cultivated in each of us, it could bring about great change in our world. And yet, suffering and death, pain and loss, will all continue to be part of our experience. Let us pray to be instruments of peace even in moments when it seems the battle is lost. Let us never submit to the lie that violence is victorious. (By Cora Evans)

April 8, 2018: Divine Mercy Sunday B

April 8, 2018: 4-8-18 Divine Mercy Sunday B
How many of us here at one point in our lives struggled with doubt in our faith journey? I think that would be most of us. At one point or another, we have had trying moments like “Doubting Thomas” who lost hope and desire to believe in the Resurrection  after he experienced the trauma of losing Jesus.

An example of a modern “Doubting Thomas” is Ugo Festa, an Italian man who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in his youth and then with muscular dystrophy on his 30th birthday. As a result of the two medical conditions, he was confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. In his anger and despair, he rebelled against God, but still prayed hoping for a miracle. In 1990, he made a pilgrimage to Rome to attend a beatification. In St. Peter’s Square, he was seated among a group of sick and handicapped people. Ugo caught the attention of Mother Teresa who was also in Rome at that time for the ceremony. She approached him, to console and encourage him. He was given an image of Divine Mercy and a medal of Divine Mercy to wear and encouraged to go to the Sanctuary of Divine Mercy in the city of Trent.  At the time Ugo knew nothing of Divine Mercy and about Sr. Faustina, whose Divine Mercy revelations Pope John Paul II promoted. When Pope John Paul II approached the area where Ugo was sitting, Ugo held out the medal and the image of Divine Mercy for the Holy Father to bless. The Pope obliged. He made the Sign of the Cross and then asked Ugo, "How do you feel?" Ugo responded that he felt terrible and was going through a deep moral and spiritual crisis. Pope John Paul II asked, "How is it possible that you're in a crisis when you have the Merciful Jesus with you? Go to [the Shrine of Divine Mercy in] Trent and entrust yourself to His Merciful Heart and to my Sister Faustina." Even though he didn’t want to go, Ugo went to the Shrine out of obedience. I’ll let you know what happened to him at the Shrine a little later.

St. John writes, “Who indeed is the victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is the one who came through water and blood, Jesus Christ, not by water alone, but by water and blood.” These words of John are very important to us, for we face fear and anxiety in our everyday lives.  As Pope John Paul II pointed out to Ugo, Merciful Jesus is with us always and will bring us safely through everything in our lives, including death. As humans we allow discouragement and anxiety to become obstacles to our holiness and deprive us of the ability to practice virtue. Our journey in life is sometimes very difficult, but Our Lord promised us the Holy Spirit who gives us strength to endure the struggles and sufferings of life. We also have holy saints to emulate and to turn to during difficult times. Jesus told St. Faustina,  “And when it seems to you that your suffering exceeds your strength, contemplate My Wounds and you will rise above human scorn and judgment. Meditation on My Passion will help you rise above all things.” (Diary, 1184) I wonder if the image of Jesus in the Divine Mercy image — with one hand raised and the other hand pointed to his heart and the wounds of crucifixion visible -- is what the disciples saw in the Upper Room when he appeared to them. While the encounter was frightening at first, they all came to believe in his victory over death. In the image of Divine Mercy, white and red rays extend from Jesus’ heart signifying water and blood, meaning Baptism and Holy Communion. These two Sacraments provide a way for us to be intimately united to Jesus, constantly nourished and nurtured by him. The image beckons us to consider, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him?” (Rom 8:31-32)

Going back to the story of Ugo Festa. Grudgingly Ugo arrived at the Shrine of Divine Mercy, upon the urgings of both Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II. Ugo was initially turned off by people’s fervor and piety at the shrine. He parked his wheelchair where he could see the icon of Divine Mercy and prayed for several days. It was during his prayer that he began to understand the source of his true bitterness--his mother, who abandoned him when he was only a little child. Praying before the Merciful Jesus, his heart began to soften and forgive. But the real surprise came when Ugo saw the Lord come out from the image and walk toward him with His hands outstretched. Ugo didn't want to believe it — a modern day “Doubting Thomas” who didn’t want to believe Jesus was standing right in front of him. Ugo turned away, and so Jesus returned to the image. His encounter with Jesus happened five times, and after the fifth time, Ugo asked, “If it’s really You, lift me up, because I can’t move.” He then heard Jesus say in a clear voice, “Rise up and walk.” Ugo felt himself being raised from the wheelchair. His atrophied legs were suddenly of normal size, and he began to walk. He ran out of the chapel and then came back and sat down to pray and ponder. There he had a vision of a nun who was smiling at him. He didn’t recognize her, but later when he saw a picture of St. Faustina, he identified her as the nun he saw in his vision. Subsequently, Ugo dedicated the rest of his life to spreading Divine Mercy, serving the poor and infirm in hospitals and on the streets in Italy and Africa. He handed out Divine Mercy prayer cards and encouraged people to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet and venerate the Divine Mercy Image, as Christ Himself encouraged through St. Faustina in her visions in the 1930s. Christ promises many graces to those who venerate the image, and Ugo, who was a  firm believer of that promise, desired others to receive that same grace.

We are told by St. Luke that after the Resurrection of Jesus, “With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all.” (Acts 4:32-35) We, like the apostles, received all the necessary graces to be able to witness to the grace and power of Our Lord’s resurrection. Although trials of life plunge us to doubt, Our Lord encourages us to trust his mercy and not dwell on our weakness and failures. We take heed of the message that Jesus gave to St. Faustina: “My child, life on earth is a struggle indeed; a great struggle for my kingdom. But fear not, because you are not alone. I am always supporting you, so lean on Me as you struggle, fearing nothing.” (Diary, No. 1488)

April 6, 2018 Mass with Padre Pio Relics at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Baton Rouge

April 6, 2018 Mass with Padre Pio Relics at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Baton Rouge

A few weeks ago (March 17, 2018), Pope Francis traveled to the two cities most associated with Padre Pio’s life to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Padre Pio’s death and the 100th anniversary of his receiving the stigmata. At his birth city of Pietrelcina, the Pope visited the Chapel of Stigmata where the saint received the wounds of Jesus’ passion. At the monastery in San Giovanni Rotondo where Padre Pio spent 52 years of his religious life, the Pope celebrated mass at the saint’s grave and left a gift of a purple confessional stole on top the glass reliquary holding the saint’s body. At the mass, Pope Francis said, “Saint Pio offered his life and innumerable sufferings to enable his brothers to meet the Lord. And the decisive way of meeting Him was Confession, the sacrament of Reconciliation. There, a wise life begins and starts over, loved and forgiven; there begins the healing of the heart. Father Pio was an apostle of the confessional.” In the confessional Padre Pio lifted up the spirit of those dejected by their weakness and failures. Padre Pio said, “You must not be discouraged or let yourself become dejected if your actions have not succeeded as perfectly as you intended. What do you expect? We are made of clay, and not every soil yields the fruits expected by the one who tills it. But let us always humble ourselves and acknowledge that we are nothing if we lack the divine assistance.”

In the Gospel today, we find Peter and apostles fishing by the Sea of Galilee. Peter’s heart was heavy after Jesus’ death. Peter, the rock on which Jesus promised to build his church, denied him three times. He also didn’t have the courage to be at Calvary with Blessed Mother, Mary Magdalene, and John. Shame and guilt were lingering in his heart even after Jesus’ resurrection. I wonder if Peter heard in his mind over and over, ‘I’m weak, cowardly, and unreliable. I can’t be trusted. I can’t even keep a promise.’ Peter decided to leave Jerusalem and return to his home district of Galilee, very likely so he could resume his fishing career. Peter was discouraged, and he went back to his previous career out of despair and uncertainty. Some of the other apostles followed him back to Galilee.Yet Jesus did not write off Peter. He didn’t even demote him. Instead, Jesus was waiting for him in Galilee. After the miraculous catch of fish, Jesus spent personal time with Peter. Jesus said to Simon Peter..."Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter felt hurt because Jesus said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" ...he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep." Jesus knew how to lift the spirit of Peter from guilt and self-pity and to make him a fisher of men. This gospel speaks of God’s generosity and the future work the apostles will accomplish as fishers of people. With their trust in Jesus, the apostles will be able to accomplish far more than what they imagined.

Why is the confessional a place, as Pope Francis said, where ‘a wise life begins and starts over’? Jesus told the apostles, "‘As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; Christ gave power to forgive sins to other men so the Church, which is the continuation of his presence throughout time, would be able to offer forgiveness to future generations. He gave his power to the apostles, and it was a power that could be passed on to their successors and priests. Padre Pio received a special gift as a confessor. It is said that people would flock to Padre Pio’s confessional because he was able to read people’s souls. To confess to Padre Pio was not an easy task for most because as one said, “he looked right inside your soul.” As a confessor, he was strict and demanding. He sometimes withheld absolution and even told them to get out of the confessional until they have properly prepared. He had great moral strength in directing souls and he did not hesitate to tell the penitents what they needed to do in order to change their lives. Padre Pio warned other priests not to copy him in this practice. He said: “You cannot do what I do!” In today’s climate, such behavior by a priest would prompt the penitent to write an angry letter or call the Bishop’s office to complain. But people continued to flock to his confessional because there they encountered Jesus, who was merciful. Although some people perceived Padre Pio to be gruff , most of them came to see him as a compassionate father.

A young lady whose fiance broke off the relationship only weeks from wedding day went see Padre Pio for confession. She had been suffering from a deep depression since the break up. Even before she had a chance to introduce herself, he knew her name and what she was suffering from. In a fatherly way, he counseled her, “You must try to stop thinking about your fiancé and how he betrayed you. He was not worthy of you.” The young lady felt at peace for the first time in a very long time. Pio spoke to her with great tenderness, almost making light of the sins that she confessed. He then gave her a picture of Jesus. On the back of the picture, he had written the words, “Let Jesus be the center of all your aspirations.” After making her confession to Padre Pio, the young lady was able to put the past behind her and move forward in life.

Each time we come to the confessional, Jesus is waiting for us, just as he waited for Peter and just as Padre Pio waited for that young lady suffering from depression. Jesus already knows the challenges and personal failures that we experienced. He doesn’t fuss at us for failure. Rather, he says to us, “Where are you going? To God or to your sadness? Are you going to turn to Heavenly Father who saves you or, turn to your defeats, your regrets, your sins?” Padre Pio said, "Oh the souls! if you knew how much they cost!...God runs after the most stubborn souls. They cost him too much to abandon them." So come, come the Lord is waiting for you. Take courage, there is no reason so grave as to exclude you from His mercy. Take Padre Pio’s invitation and go to confession which is available to you throughout today in this very special occasion of his visit to Baton Rouge.



Padre Pio Mass & Veneration of His Relics, Baton Rouge, Friday, April 6, 2018


Padre Pio Mass & Veneration of His Relics, Baton Rouge
Friday, April 6, 2018 12PM (Mass)
Veneration of Relics 11AM-8PM
Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Baton Rouge

Relics of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina to visit the Diocese of Baton Rouge

April 6, 2018, 11AM - 8PM
Special Mass at 12PM (Noon)

Sacred Heart Catholic Church
2250 Main St, Baton Rouge, LA 70802
Phone: (225) 387-6671

Following the historic tour of the United States in 2017, relics of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina – better known as Padre Pio – will resume touring several Archdioceses and Dioceses in the United States of America from February 6th to May 11th (first part), and from September 6th to November 11th 2018 (second part). The relics will also be touring for the first time in Mexico and Canada. The 2018 tour follows last year's sensational and headline-making tour that attracted an estimated 250,000 faithful. In addition, some of the most important secular media covered this event, including FOX NEWS, NBC, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times, to mention just a few.

The relics will be at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church of the Diocese of Baton Rouge, on Friday, April 6, 2018, from 11 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

The relics of Saint Pio available for public veneration will be the following (here on the picture): Saint Pio's glove; Saint Pio's crusts of the wounds; Cotton-gauze with Saint Pio's blood stains; A lock of Saint Pio's hair; Saint Pio's mantle; Saint Pio's handkerchief soaked with his sweat hours before he died;

A Mass in honor of Saint Pio will be celebrated at 12:00 p.m (NOON). The Saint Pio Foundation, which is sponsoring the tour on the occasion of the 50th commemoration anniversary of his passing, will sell books and items related to Padre Pio in the entryway of Sacred Heart Church.

St. Pio was born on May 25, 1887 in Pietrelcina, Italy, and baptized Francesco Forgione. He first expressed his desire for priesthood at age 10. In order to pay for the preparatory education, his father, Grazio Forgione, emigrated in the United States on 1899, where he worked for several years.

The future saint entered the Capuchin order at age 15, taking the name Pio. He was ordained a priest in 1910 at the age of 23. During his lifetime, Padre Pio was known as a mystic with miraculous powers of healing and knowledge, who bore the stigmata. Stigmata is the term the Catholic Church uses to speak about the wounds an individual receives that correspond to the crucifixion wounds of Jesus Christ. They can appear on the forehead, hands, wrists, and feet.

His stigmata emerged during World War I, after Pope Benedict XV asked Christians to pray for an end to the conflict. Padre Pio had a vision in which Christ pierced his side. A few weeks later, on September 20, 1918, Jesus again appeared to him, and he received the full stigmata. It remained with him until his death on September 23, 1968.

Pope John Paul II canonized him in 2002.

ABOUT THE RELICS

In the Catholic Church, relics are physical objects associated with a saint or candidate for sainthood – part of the person’s body or something with which he or she was in contact. Relics are not worshiped, but treated with religious respect. Touching or praying in the presence of such an object helps a faithful individual focus on the saint’s life and virtues, so that through the saint’s prayer or intercession before God, the individual will be drawn closer to God.

ABOUT THE SAINT PIO FOUNDATION

The Saint Pio Foundation is a premier national charitable organization that promotes awareness of Saint Pio and his mission by working with institutions and individuals who share the same vision to serve “those in need of relief of suffering.” Funds raised by the Saint Pio Foundation are used to provide grants to American Catholic healthcare, educational, social, religious, and cultural partner organizations. More information about Saint Pio Foundation can be found at http://www.saintpiofoundation.org.

Divine Mercy Sunday In Donaldsonville, April 8, 2018


Divine Mercy Sunday In Donaldsonville
Sunday, April 8, 2018

1:30PM Confession
2:30PM Praise Music by Grace Notes
3:00PM Chaplet of Divine Mercy
3:30PM Sunday Mass

Ascension Catholic Church
716 Mississippi St.
Donaldsonville LA 70346

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Insights about Divine Mercy Sunday:
The Truth about Easter and Divine Mercy Sunday
https://www.catholic.org/lent/story.php?id=35968
By Robert R. Allard

There has been so much confusion and discussion about Divine Mercy Sunday and how it all relates to Easter and it is about time that all of the misunderstandings get cleared up quickly. Though it started out from a revelation that was made by Jesus to Saint Faustina, it is now an official feast in the Catholic Church.

Divine Mercy Sunday is not to be considered part of a private devotion. There are still some things that are considered devotional that are associated with "Divine Mercy", like the Chaplet and the Novena, but these devotionals should not be confused with what the Church has set in place for the observance of Divine Mercy Sunday. Many have added to the confusion by suggesting that priests must provide special devotional services for Divine Mercy Sunday.

This had caused many priests to shy away. Mercy Sunday is not a "party for devotees", but it is in all truthfulness an astonishing "refuge for sinners." It is an outstanding, timely gift from God. Make no doubt about it, the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit has fulfilled every request that Jesus made, but only because it had seen the hand of God. The Church has not added anything new by naming this new feast, but just sort of re-energized what was always celebrated as a great feast in the early Church. Over the years, the Church had lost some of the fervor for the Octave of Easter.

Octaves have always been associated with the celebration of great feasts. Some of the Jewish feasts in the Old Testament, such as the Feast of Tabernacles, were celebrated for a full 8 days and the very last day was always the greatest one. The Gospel of John recalls the observance of the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles in the 7th chapter (John 7:37-39) and Saint John calls it the greatest day: "On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood up and cried out, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me; let him drink who believes in Me. Scripture has it: ´From within him rivers of living water shall flow´".

It is important that every word in these passages is taken to heart and analyzed very thoroughly. The first day of an octave and the last day are considered as the same day, in fact, every day in between the first and last are part of the feast. Just look at the days of the week between Easter and the Octave of Easter: from Monday thru Saturday, they are all called "Easter" and each and every one of these days is the highest form of celebration called a solemnity. On each of those days, the Gloria and the Creed are recited, just like on Sundays. Each is considered a Sunday.

Don´t forget that the Gospel that has always been read on that Octave Sunday after Easter (John 20:19-31) covers the time from the evening of the Resurrection up until the following Sunday, an eight day octave. The first part of that Gospel narrates Jesus bestowing on the Apostles the power to forgive sins by breathing on them and saying, "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained." The second part of that Gospel is what happens on the very next Sunday, the octave, when Thomas finally sees Jesus in that same Upper Room as the rest of the Apostles had seen Him, just that very Sunday before.

Now recall the words of Jesus on the last and greatest (octave) day of that Feast of Tabernacles, "let him drink who (believes) in Me...." Now what did Jesus say to St. Thomas? "Blessed are those who have not seen and have (believed)". Souls must believe to be blessed. The complete scenario of these two events has very great meaning. The Lord is showing us the importance of (believing) and trusting in Him in order to receive His (blessings) or, in other words, His grace. He is also showing us the great importance of octaves.

It was no accident that Saint Thomas wasn´t present on that first Easter. That scenario was ordained by God to get us to understand the importance of trusting (believing) in Jesus in order to obtain grace. It was also ordained by God that the very first act that Jesus performed after His Resurrection was none other than the institution of the sacrament of Confession. These two events play a crucial role in salvation. On Easter Sunday, and all throughout the week, we celebrate the creation of grace that Jesus has obtained for us by His Passion, Death, and Resurrection. On the following Sunday, the Octave of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday) we celebrate the fulfillment of what Easter is all about and we receive a big outpouring of a whole ocean of graces. The obtainment of these graces is brought about by trusting in Jesus and by approaching His ministers and going to Confession.

Mercy Sunday is really designed to get souls back to the practice of their faith. That is why the Catholic Church has attached a special plenary indulgence to this Sunday and has decreed that it remain "perpetually" in place. It has also, in that decree, issued a specific directive to priests entitled "Duties of Priests: Inform Parishioners, Hear Confessions, Lead Prayers". These duties are the guidelines for the correct celebration of the octave and the Holy See has left no options.

The specific duties, which can be seen on the Vatican website, were originally issued in August of 2002 and presented to all bishops. They are all clearly presented in the last paragraph of that special plenary indulgence and include the proclamation of that indulgence by all "priests who exercise pastoral ministry, especially parish priests". It also asserts that they "should promptly and generously hear their confessions" and also "lead the prayers after the masses" on that day. It is very clear that the Church, moved by the Holy Spirit, has acted compellingly to insure that everyone has the opportunity to obtain these incredible graces that are offered on this octave.

It has set in place a renewed enthusiasm for Easter. It is imperative that Easter be celebrated for a full eight days and in a solemn way. No longer can we let the Easter-only Catholics walk out of Church on Easter Sunday without an invitation to come back and to celebrate the Easter Octave. Although the Easter season extends for a full fifty days until Pentecost, the Easter feast itself is only 8 days long, from the Easter Vigil until the evening of that octave, Divine Mercy Sunday.

It is very important that we celebrate Easter correctly and that includes celebrating the octave. St. John Paul II, had stated that he had fulfilled the will of Christ by instituting this Feast of Divine Mercy. This statement by a Saint of the stature and holiness of Pope John Paul II, must be taken seriously. Jesus requested this Feast of Mercy to be placed on that Octave Sunday of Easter and He made a very special promise to forgive all sins and all punishment to any soul that would go to Confession and receive Holy Communion on that day. The Church made it an official feast on the Octave Sunday of Easter (Second Sunday of Easter) in the year 2000 and by God´s providence, Pope John Paul II died on the Vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday just five years later. JPII´s last written words that were read on Mercy Sunday, the day after he died, called for a greater acceptance and understanding of Divine Mercy. This must be viewed as a great sign and a mandate for everyone to follow, especially all bishops and priests.

There have also been many inquiries as to using the Divine Mercy image on Mercy Sunday and its permanent installations in churches. Pope Benedict, in his book, "The Spirit of the Liturgy", wrote of the importance of having such an image to assist in every liturgy and as a sign of hope to lead people to the Second Coming of Christ. He wrote of the "void" that was caused by the removal of icons and sacred art from our sanctuaries and the importance of having the images.

Jesus also insisted that the Divine Mercy image be venerated and solemnly blessed on Mercy Sunday. And why not? The image perfectly represents everything that happens in that Gospel. It even supports the other readings including the reference to the washing away of sins in water, redeeming us in the blood, and the new birth in the Spirit, found in the Opening Prayer. It also represents that it is through "trust" that we receive grace, with the words "Jesus, I trust in You". The Divine Mercy image portrays, in the two rays, the sacraments of Baptism, Confession, and the Eucharist. The focus on that Sunday has always been on the institution of confession and the need to trust and believe in Jesus to receive grace (blessings).

Jesus promised an outpouring of a whole ocean of graces on that Feast of Mercy and Jesus said that the repentant sinners that would receive them would not be able to contain them, but would radiate them to other souls. Recall again what Jesus said on the "last and greatest (octave) day" of the Feast of Tabernacles, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me; let him drink who believes in Me. Scripture has it: ´From within him rivers of living water shall flow´". (John 7:37-39) Every word that Jesus spoke has great meaning and St. John recorded that it was specifically on that last and greatest day that Jesus shows us that believing and trusting in Him will yield great graces on the octave.

Three of the greatest Doctors of the Church, St. Gregory of Nazianzen, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Augustine support the celebration of octaves and they clearly indicate and uphold that the octave Sunday of Easter is the fulfillment of, the perfection of, and most important Sunday without taking anything from the greatness of the Day of the Resurrection itself. Easter is the greatest feast and it is "on the last and greatest day" that we receive an outpouring of graces. Correctly celebrating Easter involves correctly celebrating the Octave of Easter.