Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
In the United States today, numerous Catholic sisters, brothers, and religious order priests past age 70 benefit from the Retirement Fund for Religious collection. Donations to this special collection provide funding that helps religious communities care for senior members and plan for long-term retirement needs. On the weekend of November 1, all parishes in the Archdiocese of St. Louis will take up the annual collection for the Retirement Fund for Religious, an opportunity for you to acknowledge the thousands of senior Catholic sisters, brothers, and religious order priests for their faithful service.
Whether or not we realize it, we are all beneficiaries of the tremendous contributions these women and men have made to the Church in the United States. Through hard work, prayer, and sacrifice, they built Catholic schools and hospitals, initiated programs to promote social justice, and ministered to the neediest among us.
Today, many religious communities struggle to care for their elderly members. Elder sisters, brothers, and religious order priests dedicated their lives to service and prayer, and some lack adequate retirement savings. Increasing healthcare costs and decreased income make it difficult to provide necessary medical care, costly medications and basic services.
Would you please consider making a contribution to the Retirement Fund for Religious? In addition, let us join together in grateful prayer for the generous religious who have served the Church in the United States.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Robert J. Carlson
Archbishop of St. Louis
In addition, the Archbishop issued a statement on Immigration. In a letter to his brother priests he stated: It is in the spirit of prayerful conversion and pastoral mercy to our global and local reality that reaffirm my own commitment to accompany our immigrant and refugee communities. I also call upon you, my brother priests, and the faithful of the Archdiocese of St. Louis and people of good will to join me in expressing our solidarity and hope.
Go to: http://archstl.org/archstl/page/most-reverend-robert-j-carlson, there to find the link for his pastoral letter on Immigration, in both English and Spanish
Jesus certainly has the best lines of all the words recorded in the gospels. And it is great to hear them, to listen to them, to let them soak in. “Be not afraid” – are the words that come most often from his lips. “Come to me, all you who are weary.” Who hasn’t drawn comfort from that? “I am going to prepare a place for you, so that where I am, you also may be” gives us hope about our eternal destiny.
But every so often, the words that the crowd speaks also can be important for us. In Mark’s narrative of the Gospel, ‘the crowd’ usually functions in two ways – it either helps people to Jesus or it hinders their approach to Jesus. In today’s gospel, it actually does both. Scholars have noted in this regard that the role of the crowd parallels the role of the church. The church is meant to help people get to Jesus. Sometimes it does that well. Other times, not so much. Yet they tell us, it is important to hear the words of the ‘crowd’ as words that are addressed to us as believers.
So, what does it mean to hear the crowd say to us, today: “Take courage; Get up, Jesus is calling you.”
Take Courage. Sometimes courage looks like trusting in the fact that God made you good and made you for a purpose. It is my favorite line in any catechism – Why did God make you? Because He thought you would like it. And he thought your friends would like it too. And yet, too often we don’t trust that, don’t lean into that truth. “Take Courage” – the deepest truth about who you are is that you are loved beyond measure. In my college and grad school years, my good friend Mary Morton would, when I was struggling with that belief, tell me to ‘repeat after me.” “I” (I) “am” (am) “Loved” (urrgh! – loved) “Unconditionally” (Do I have to say it…. Unconditionally.) It was never easy, but through her patient loving of me, I learned to trust the Good News of God’s love for me.
Sometimes courage means to stand up in a relationship and speak the truth in love, even when it is difficult. Or to seek/offer forgiveness. Or to leave behind a mask that once protected you, but now keeps you back. Or to learn to trust that love is real, even when you haven’t seen much in your own family. Take courage – you are loved unconditionally
Get up. I think of those words as ‘morning words’. As in ‘time to get up.’ Yet, it is easy to sleep walk through life. To not make a stand. To follow willy-nilly the currents of life and society. Get up invites us to do life differently. To make a commitment to change this world that you and I walk in. Get up, there is work to do.
Jesus is calling you. “Gulp!” “Really? Me, Lord? Can’t someone else volunteer Lord? Isn’t that what campus ministers are for? Or priests? Besides, it’s someone else’ turn.” Maybe. But what if the Lord is calling you? How can you turn him down?
Bartimaeus, the man to whom these words were first addressed by the crowd, is in my opinion the most courageous man in the gospels aside from Jesus, because at that threefold command, he tosses aside his cloak, (pardon the pun, but he’ll never see it again. He doesn’t even know what it looks like) comes to Jesus and asks for the grace to see. We are told that he follows Jesus ‘en te hodos’ – On the Way – which is Marcan shorthand for being a disciple. May we follow his example and do the same.
This week, write those words on your mirror – let them be the screen saver on your computer; put them in your planner. Hear those words addressed to the crowds as words addressed to YOU…
Take courage; get up. Jesus is calling YOU…
A joint press release…
It would be easier to forget what we have seen, to erase from our memories and our minds what we have heard. But the statements and actions of Planned Parenthood medical directors and technicians, captured on film and released by the Center for Medical Progress, are the kind we will not forget, the kind that cannot be unseen and unheard.
Like millions of Americans, including those in the Roman Catholic Church and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, we have been shaken to the core by what we have witnessed: intact babies, at times still alive, having their body parts harvested as acommodity. We are shocked at the image of tiny hands and feet seen in a glass pie plate. We are horrified at what we have seen and heard. Such actions and attitudes have no place in our society.
While offensive, the degradation of the bodies of these infant human beings is unfortunately just the tip of the iceberg. Those fetal tissue and organs are only available for sale because they are being killed through abortion. Over 57 million unborn children have been lost to abortion in our nation since 1973.
The toll of these lives lost is enormous. We are missing sons and daughters, siblings, spouses, coaches, scholars, mentors and friends. This loss is symptomatic of a loss of respect for human life in our society today. In so many ways, our culture seeks to deny the humanity of the unborn, of the elderly or of someone with a disability. Together, we stand firm and repeat that every human life is worthy of dignity and respect. We affirm our continued commitment to offer resources to help parents of any faith background who are in need of medical, financial or social service assistance both during pregnancy and after. We stand ready to assist any parent who wishes to make an adoption plan for their child.
Our commitment is to all life in all its stages from conception to natural death. For those men and women who participated in an abortion, we extend to you the words of Jesus: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden …” (Matt. 11:28), and we invite you to experience hope and healing from your experience.
Let us continue to pray for all life, born and unborn.
Most Rev Robert J. Carlson Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison,
Archbishop of St. Louis President Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod
It was pretty bold of James and John. “Jesus, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” “Really?” would have been my response! Can you give me a clue as to what category the ‘ask’ is going to be made in? Nope. WE just hear their variation of: We want you to do whatever we have in mind, only we’re not going to tell you what it is until you say yes. I don’t think I know a single parent who would take their child up on that one. I am pretty sure I would not. But that is exactly what the disciples were asking for, wasn’t it? For Jesus to write them a blank check. It’s a pretty gutsy move on their part.
Yet to his credit, Jesus doesn’t roll his eyes. Patiently, Jesus “goes there”, doesn’t he? “Boys, what do you have in mind?” So they name their price. Here is the check that we want – places of honor in your kingdom. We’ve been with you from the beginning. You know us. You know how we have been there for you. So what is in it for us?”
Here is what I love in Jesus’ response, because it tells me something about how he responds to my prayers and my sometime off balance requests. He asks James and John to do exactly what they asked of him: Can you write me YOUR blank check first? “Can you drink the cup I drink and be baptized into my baptism?” Will you be willing to follow me, come what may, regardless of what comes back to you?”
And to their credit, James and John don’t flinch. Yep! We’re right with you, boss. It is then, that Jesus grants, not their ask of him – not their request for a blank check – but his ask of them. “The cup that I drink you will drink, and the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized.” And my suspicion is that Jesus smiles inwardly, because he has just ‘beaten them at their own game.’ They came asking to receive a blank check, and they left having given one away. And then, to make sure that not just James and John ‘get it’ – but that the rest of the disciples do as well, Jesus reminds them of his mission: “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
For what it is worth, I don’t like to think of myself as being like James and John. In my mind, I have never asked God to ‘grant me whatever I am going to ask him before I tell him what it is.’ I like to think that I have never asked God for a blank check. But I think the truth is not quite that convenient. I sometimes am disappointed ‘when I don’t get anything out of mass.’ Sometimes I get disgruntled when my prayer is dry. I complain and moan when the diocese comes out with another ‘demand on my time’, even though it might be a great thing. And in each of those little frustrations, I am guilty of wanting exactly what James and John were after – assurances that “I will have my reward in heaven.”
What Jesus would have me know is a much more immediate truth. There is a LIFE that wells up within you when you give yourself away. There is a goodness to living that comes from sacrificial love. “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” THAT is where Jesus found his life. In his blank check to His Father, in his choice to not let it be about him, but to be about giving his life away in service.
So, if you come here this day, hoping that God will be loving you into life, hoping that he will reward your time with him with a blessing – that is okay. But don’t miss the Jesus-James-and-John moment we are offered – the chance to write our blank check before God. TODAY and every mass – when the gifts are brought up, put your heart and love into that basket. And when those gifts are raised above the altar in our song of thanksgiving, offer to the Lord YOUR BLANK check for the day. Hear the invitation from Jesus to you: Can you drink the cup? Can you be baptized as I am to be baptized? At that moment, write the Lord your blank check…
It seems a hunter was trying to capture a type of monkey for a local zoo, but the monkey was too quick for him to get his nets thrown over him, no matter how he tried. So he went to plan B. He took a gourd, sliced it in half, hollowed it out and then put a ripe mango fruit inside of it. He then cut a hole in one end, just big enough for a monkey to slip his hand inside. He tied the gourd back together and hung it from a tree, close to the ground. Attracted by the fruit, the monkey put his hand inside the gourd and closed his fist around the mango fruit. But now his fist was too large to withdraw from the opening, and even though the monkey saw the hunter approaching with his nets, he would not let go of the fruit. He could not pull free and so was captured…
I wonder how often, I, like the monkey, like the rich man in today’s gospel, live EXACTLY like that – my fist clenched around something that I just know I NEED to have, when the truth is, God may want greater things for me than what I have in my fist? I found that out sooner than I had hoped.
The yearly “Priests’ Profile” showed up in my inbox, and needed to be returned by this past Friday. It asks about your will and if your funeral plans are made out; who is your durable power of attorney and the like. It also asks whether you would like to stay or are seeking to move on in your current assignment. So I filled out the section entitled: At this time I:.. I quickly found and checked the box that finishes: “would like to stay in my current assignment.” Check. (Can I boldface that check mark? TWO check marks, if I could!) That part was easy. But then the next section asked: “My Dream for my next assignment.” (Wait, didn’t I just say, I would like to stay in my current assignment?) And you had several options to check: Be pastor of a single parish/pastor of a twinned parish. Pursue studies. Do a Specialized Ministry – eg High school, missionary, or campus ministry. And then, there is the ever dangerous “Here I am send me – no strings attached” box. I have to tell you, I wrestled a long time with that section. I had made it clear in the section above that I want to stay. But what was difficult was precisely how tightly I wanted to close my fist around the option of remaining the pastor of St. Ann and Director of the Newman Center.
(look up to heaven) “Lord, like the man in the gospel, is that what I am clinging to, so tightly, that I am missing the life that you want to call me?” (pause, look back at congregation) I don’t know. But at that moment, I completely understood that rich young man who went away sad – because it was so hard for him to vision life without his wealth to rely upon. He was clinging too tightly to what he thought he needed. Just as it is so hard for me to vision a life away from here and from the Newman center. I become, like that monkey, trapped by my own closed fist.
To be honest, I did eventually check that box. – Here I am, send me – no strings attached” should there be another assignment. I was not volunteering, nor asking to leave at anytime in the near or far distant future. I hope the diocese does NOT take me up on that offer. But it was important for me to make that ‘stance’ known – less to the personnel board and more to God. I wanted God to know that my heart is where it always has been, since the day I chose ordination to the priesthood 31 years ago this week. “I will go, Lord, if you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart.”
It is so easy to become comfortable with the known, isn’t it? I know this parish, this neighborhood, this routine, this group of friends. I know what is expected of me. Yet, if we want to find an inheritance in the Kingdom of God, Jesus tells us that is not enough. Merely keeping the commandments was not enough for that rich young man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Jesus wanted him to know a freedom he would never have if he clung so tightly to his wealth. And like the rich young man, we have to be willing to leave behind all that would encumber us, all that we cling to too tightly…
I hope there will be a moment for you this week, when YOU will have the same choice – to let go of whatever you cling to so tightly. Mine came in the annual priests profile. Perhaps it will be the beggar who accosts you outside of Walgreens. Maybe it will be the story of the temporarily halted executions in Oklahoma that God will use to stir you to action to stop the death penalty. Perhaps it will be the struggling co-worker/dorm student who is always asking for a listening ear, and then goes on and on, while you have other responsibilities to attend to. Recognize, in whatever the situation that arises this week, the invitation of which the Lord gave to the rich young man. See the Lord looking upon YOU in love, yet demanding of you a choice – to let go of what you cling to so tightly that it traps you, not where God wants you to be, but where you are. And then pray for the grace to check the box in your heart that says: “Here I am Lord, send me – no strings attached…”
As we prepare to celebrate World Mission Sunday on October 18– the one day of the year in which all Catholics worldwide pray and sacrifice for the missionary work of the Church – we reflect on the message of Pope Francis:
“Being a missionary is not about proselytizing or merestrategy; mission is part of the ‘grammar’ of faith, something essential for those who listen to the voice of the Spirit who whispers ‘Come’ and ‘Go forth.’ When we pray before Jesus crucified, we see the depth of his love which gives us dignity and sustains us. At the same time, we realize that the love flowing from Jesus’ pierced heart expands to embrace the People of God and all humanity … In Jesus’ command to ‘go forth’, we see the scenarios and ever-present new challenges of the Church’s evangelizing mission.” In his message for World Mission Sunday, Pope Francis also invites us to reflect on Ad Gentes, the Church’s Decree on the Missionary Activity of the Church. The 50th anniversary of Ad Gentes will take place on December 7, 2015. In preparation for this great milestone, Pope Francis reminds us that we are all called to be missionary. He wrote: “As Ad Gentes says: ‘The laity should cooperate in the Church’s work of evangelization; as witnesses and at the same time as living instruments, they share in her saving mission.’”
On October 18, please prayerfully consider making a generous sacrificial offering for World Mission Sunday. Your prayers and financial offerings for World Mission Sunday through the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, the Pope’s network of missionary support, will enable missionaries in 1,150 mission territories of the world – including Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Pacific Islands – to proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Robert J. Carlson
Recent tragic stories of violence and death among refugees fleeing Syria have stirred outcries across the world, including in our Archdiocese. We are concerned about all these desperate and terrified people, including Christians who have fled their homes to escape religious persecution.
As Pope John Paul II said in a message for World Migration Day in 2000: “In many regions of the world today people live in tragic situations of instability and uncertainty. It does not come as a surprise that in such contexts the poor and the destitute make plans to escape, to seek a new land that can offer them bread, dignity and peace. This is the migration of the desperate.”
How can we help? I ask you to consider a second offertory collection the weekend of October 25. These funds will, in part, assist Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), the Pontifical humanitarian agency working in the Middle East to help Christian refugees, especially in Jordan. Part of the funds will stay here as we look to assist in resettlement efforts in the St. Louis area.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Robert J. Carlson