We are almost at the end of the journey to Easter. The most holy days of the church year are before us. Going to church on all these holy days has been a family tradition since I was a young child. I remember hearing the Gospel describing the Lord’s passion and death and wondering, “What would I have done if I had lived at the time of Jesus?” Simon of Cyrene always stood out to me. That poor man was in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover—maybe it was trip of a lifetime—found himself at the wrong place at the wrong time and was pulled in by the Roman soldiers to help Jesus carry the cross. What would I have done?
Today, you do not have to look far to see people carrying heavy crosses. One of the highlights of this Lenten season for me has been a DVD from Catholic Relief Services that was shipped with our Rice Bowls. The DVD was appropriate for children, so several of our Religious Education classes have viewed it. It tells the story of people who have heavy crosses to bear and explains how CRS is helping them.
One of the people highlighted on the video is an eight year old boy from Iraq. His name is Majd and he and his family had to flee their home when they were attacked by ISIS. Before the attack, Majd’s family had a stable life with a large home and luxuries. Now they have been displaced, without even the certainty of a bed or food. CRS stepped in and found an apartment for Majd’s family and many others. They started a school for Majd and other refugee children. Majd’s mother said, “Majd is so motivated to go to school. He just wants it to be morning so he can go.” The school provides Majd and the other children more than education; it means a normal life now and hope for the future.
Pope Francis says, “Jesus teaches us a different path. Do not classify others in order to see who is a neighbor and who is not. You can become neighbor to whomever you meet in need, and you will do so if you have compassion in your heart. That is to say, if you have that capacity to suffer with someone else. You must become a Samaritan.” During this Holy Week, when we are concentrating on the cross of salvation, think about how you can help others with the burdens they carry. Fill up your Rice Bowl with coins and return it on Holy Thursday. Help Catholic Relief Services give the gift of hope and joy.
~ Sherry Watts, K-6 Coordinator
How is your Lenten transformation going? What has God done in your life during this Lenten journey? Has it been easy or difficult to keep up with your efforts with your prayer life, fasting, and almsgiving? However your journey has been so far, finish well.
On Wed. night, about 30 to 40 STM parishioners bought tickets to a presentation in Wamego by Catholic speaker, Chris Stefanick. What a wonderful opportunity it was to “REBOOT” our faith and our lives! I’m sure every one of us is grateful to St. Bernard’s Parish for bringing him to the Catholic community in this area.
Chris reminded us to claim, celebrate, and share the Good News, the beauty of the Gospel. Each of us is an important part of God’s love story! And it’s simple. Our Creator, who gave us life and made each of us unique, gave us his Son, so that we can live life to the fullest. God wants to have the most intimate relationship with each one of us. He wants every part of us – the good, the bad, the ugly. And each day, even each moment, we get to start over and become a better version of ourselves.
So to help us become the people we were made to be, Chris emphasized our need for good, intimate friendships. We need people who will walk with us and grow with us. And, as Fr. Coady wrote in his musing last week, it’s also important that we pray and worship as a community together. We encounter God when we connect with one another.
The Good News should not be taken for granted. God’s love story and our place in it is so exciting! Let’s get rid of the distractions in our everyday lives. Let’s love ourselves well, love each other well, and live the lives we were made for… in Jesus Christ.
~ Kelley Smith, Music Liturgist
Surveys reveal that a high percentage of Americans believe in God, but many prefer not to belong to a specific religion. This is an unfortunate result of the American penchant for individualism. People don’t think they need to worship with others. Who needs a church when one can go directly to God? Who needs to go to confession when one can get forgiveness directly from God?
The Catholic Church provides an antidote to this by celebrating community in a sacramental way. At Mass, the whole body of Christ celebrates: head and members. We are not performing empty ritual for our own satisfaction. We are actually joining with God: joining our sacrifices to Christ’s, communing with him by the power of the Holy Spirit, and eating and drinking of divine life so that we become sharers in it.
While our private, personal prayer build our relationship with God, it must also be built by praying communally. The community transforms us by pulling us out of our self-centered world and joining us to the body of Christ. There is no communion with Christ without communing with his body.
Sin alienates us from God and from one another. Sacramental reconciliation heals both. We confess to both and we get forgiveness from both. It is a sacramental recognition that there is no such thing as a private sin that does not affect others. It also acknowledges that both God and the community desire reconciliation. Jesus claimed the power to forgive sin (Matthew 9:6) and he gave that power to the Church (Matthew 16:19).
Love and forgiveness come from God and participate in God. By telling the story of the unjust steward who gives away his master’s money as if it were his own (Luke 16:1-8), Jesus is telling us that God wants us to give away divine love and mercy as if they were our own. The forgiveness that we extend to one another is God’s own forgiveness.
~ Fr. Frank Coady
For the next three Sundays, the catechumens (those needing baptism) will be experiencing a ritual in the RCIA process called the scrutinies. Normally, we do these rituals during the 10:30 Mass and so many of our people do not get a chance to witness them. The journey of the catechumens is nearing a climax as they prepare for the Easter Vigil service and their full participation in the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and eucharist. The scrutinies help prepare them for this living encounter with Christ.
Just a couple of weeks ago, the catechumens and candidates (those already baptized) shared in the Rite of Election at the cathedral in Salina. This experience helped them see the larger Church as other parishes from this end of the diocese sent their RCIA participants as well.
The word “scrutiny” means “to examine.” The prayers of the scrutinies ask them, and us as well, to acknowledge the reality of evil in our lives. We are asked to rid ourselves of all that inhibits our full relationship with our loving God. That takes grace and strength from God each and every day. God is willing to protect us from the power of evil and demonstrate the ultimate victory of Christ on the cross.
The scrutinies usually use the Gospel readings from Year A, which come from John. Each Sunday, they grow in intensity as the Lord asks us to really root out all the blockages to faith. From the woman at the well to the man born blind to the raising of Lazarus, the stories are wellsprings of discernment and profound encounter with Christ. These Gospel stories, and the scrutinies, are great ways to delve deeper into the Lenten journey of preparing for Easter. If you have a chance to look at the scriptures and hear the prayers of these scrutinies, it is worth the time.
Let us continue to pray for the catechumens and candidates as they draw closer to being one with our Catholic community. May their journey inspire us to reflect deeper on our own relationship with Jesus.
~ Dcn Wayne Talbot