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Today’s readings are a marvelous combination of Scriptures that have provided much guidance to me over the years, particularly when I was discerning my vocation to the priesthood.
The first time the passage from Sirach came to my attention I was a seminarian at the North American College in Rome. I was visiting another student, and this passage was framed and hanging on his wall. I remember we had quite a discussion about the significance of this biblical wisdom.
My son, when you come to serve the LORD,
stand in justice and fear,
prepare yourself for trials.
Be sincere of heart and steadfast,
incline your ear and receive the word of understanding,
undisturbed in time of adversity.
Wait on God, with patience, cling to him, forsake him not;
thus will you be wise in all your ways. (Sirach 2:1-11)
I believe we all need to be realistic that our affiliation with the Lord will entail its share of difficulties. Simply believing in God and living by faith does not mean that life will be easy. It does not take much time reading Scripture to see the trials that God’s servants endure. We can use all the grace and scriptural reminders we can get to help us patiently endure the trials that are a part of our service of God and the Gospel.
Jesus in Mark’s Gospel gives us the same, no-nonsense reality therapy:
“If anyone wishes to be first,
he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” (Mark 9: 35)
This is not too far from the other serious teaching Jesus gives regarding discipleship: “Whoever wishes to be my disciple must take up his cross and follow me.” Of course, there is no stronger teaching in this regard than Jesus’ own passion, crucifixion and death. Love does have a cost. We must be realistic about this as we intentionally commit ourselves daily to Christ and His Gospel.
Today’s Psalm has the same gentle invitation, from a slightly different approach: Commit your life to the Lord, and he will help you. (Psalm 37) In other words, the Lord lovingly receives our “Yes” to his invitation to follow Him, and gives us all we need to grow in love.
I remember very specifically the first time this passage caught my attention. I was once again in the seminary, wrestling with God’s plan for me. I was greatly lacking in my trust in God! This line was a direct voice of God to me in those days telling me: “Hand yourself over to me, and I will take care of you and all that you need to accomplish my will.”
So, Church, keep ‘giving’ all you’ve got to the Lord. Don’t be surprised at the cost. How can God act if we do not give him a chance? And don’t forget the great reward awaiting in the friendship with Christ we are promised in this life, and the rewards of eternal life in God’s presence!
Some weeks ago, I knew it was time to relax. As with any healthy lifestyle, we all need at times to disengage from the day-t0-day demands to rejuvenate. Everyone needs to find ways to do just that. Given the time of year, I figured it would be a great opportunity to visit my friend Bob Krumm and make another float trip on the Bighorn River in Montana. Just having that trip on the books was a great carrot at the end of the stick.
Even though the day turned out to be quite hot, (90 degrees) it still easily met the days only requirement; take it easy! The cool temperature of the water (40 degrees) easily provided relief from the warm sun. Bob has been guiding on the Bighorn since 1985, so he knew of places most of the other guides had not yet discovered. Besides Bob’s countless stories and his easy manner, Mother Nature provided all the other ingredients for a delightful day. Even the fish cooperated, allowing me to have some great fun, and make Bob look good!
One of the added benefits this time of year is slipping out of the boat and onto the riverbanks to hunt for wild asparagus. We found enough to provide a heaping serving for today’s lunch. Quite tasty! The other entertaining element of the day was the sound of the rooster pheasant all up and down the river. These birds are in the height of mating season, and their cackles were heard all day long. It is a rare sound of nature, everyone of which I enjoyed.
So, even though I had the good fortune of catching several fish, a couple dandies, the real beauty of the day was God’s good creation. The real blessing of the day was a chance to relax and soak up sun, sounds and sights of nature, and conversation and company with a good man. The final blessing of the day was exhaustion, and a great night’s sleep!
Wednesday evening in Kemmerer concluded this year’s Confirmation season. Pentecost Sunday I will Confirm a group of adults here in Cheyenne, but this year’s travel season is now complete. Eight young people were confirmed at St. Patrick’s Wednesday evening.
A special thanks goes to my good friend, Mark Seabrook, who was a tremendous help to me during this final eight day visit around the state. It was a tremendous relief to have someone do the driving, as well as make sure nothing was left behind from one stop after another.
I am particularly grateful to all the men and women, mostly volunteers, who serve as catechists. One of the greatest responsibilities of the Church is to pass on the faith from one generation to the next, and without such dedicated catechists, this would not happen. A special thanks also to all the parents who fulfill their responsibility to raise their children in the faith. I pray all of our families rededicate themselves to an active participation in the sacramental life of the Church.
I will close this entry, which closes this Confirmation Season with a quote from Pope Leo XIII. This is from his 1890 encyclical Sapientiae Christianae, On the Duties of Christians as Citizens, and captures well the challenge that is ours today to promote and live the faith:
Monday morning, Mark and I had some free time and decided to visit the Mountain Man Museum in Pinedale. I was quite surprised and impressed with this out-of-the-way museum. They have a very good book selection on the mountain man era and history. The displays are very well done, and quite informative. I highly recommend if you ever pass through Pinedale to pay a visit to this museum. It is time well spent.
From Pinedale we made our way to Green River. We were joined by priests from Rock Springs as well as Kemmerer for the evening’s Confirmation. I believe 33 received the sacrament Monday evening, including some from Rock Springs who were unable to make their earlier scheduled Mass due to weather.
Last night, Tuesday, we were in Fort Bridger for confirmation with the St. Helen community joined also by the St. Mary Magdalen community from Evanston. Twenty seven young people received Confirmation last night.
I thought today’s reading from the Morning Prayer spoke beautifully to the reality of how God is at work in and through us. Here is the selection from St. Paul to the Romans 6:8-11:
If we have died with Christ, we believe that we are also to live with him. We know that Christ, once raised from the dead, will never die again; death has no more power over him. His death was death to sin, once for all; his life was life for God. In the same way you must consider yourselves dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus.
When we left Jackson Sunday morning, the skys were clear, and the Tetons were visible once again in all their beauty. I believe the analogy here is that just as it is impossible to never tire of the beauty of these mountains, so we will neve tire of gazing upon the Beauty of God for all of eternity.
The first stop on Sunday was Alpine, a small town in Star Valley, just north of Thayne where we dedicated a new church last June. I had the opportunity to visit with one of our permanent deacons and his wife.
From Alpine, we made our way to Pinedale for the evening celebration. The people were flowing out the doors of the church it was so full. Between the group from St. Anne in Big Piney and from Our Lady of Peace in Pinedale, we had more than a full house. Thank goodness it was a lovely evening weather wise.
There were three Baptisms, two received into Full Communion, and thirty one Confirmations. As the picture reveals, many Hispanics are finding a home in Wyoming. Most of this group came from St. Anne in Big Piney.
More and more, I preach in these celebrations about how much our Church needs our youth. We need their energy, their faith, their witness to their peers. I pray they are courageous in their relationship with Jesus Christ. I pray they are strong in holding to the truths of the Gospel in the face of so many false messages and ways of life in our world today. I pray they faithfully and regularly receive the sacraments of the Church and are generous in sharing their gifts in ministry to the Church.
After yesterday’s graduation ceremony in Lander, we made our way over Togwotee Pass down into Jackson for an evening celebration of Confirmation. The flats coming into Jackson were full of elk and buffalo, while the Tetons were humbly veiled in heavy cloud cover. No matter the weather, this is always a beautiful drive!
I believe 44 students received the sacrament of Confirmation last night. It was a full church! Probably half of the class were from our Hispanic family, which certainly seems to keep growing in this part of the Church. More and more, it seems I never get to the reception following Confirmations because of the amount of time visiting and taking pictures after the ceremony. This crowd last night seemed most interested in getting their picture taken with the bishop. The two most dreaded words of that time of day are always: “One more!”
As this Easter season continues, I am continually drawn in prayer to reflect upon the Life of the Risen Christ and the mysterious way He is always at work drawing us deeper into this Life of God. As the Christian journey is meant to be a full giving of self in love, it can and does become wearisome at times.
It is precisely this Life of the Risen Christ within us that we are to ‘tap into’ for the strength to continue our work and ministry. I believe this is what St. Paul meant when he said in one of his epistles: “I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me.”
With this in mind, Christians also must bear in mind the vigilance required to nurture and protect this Divine Life shared with us. It is as a flame within us that can be extinguished through sin. Just as easily, through our free will cooperation with God, the flame can be fanned into a fire that consumes any and all things within us that resist the Lord and His will.
Today’s office of readings from the First Letter of St. John speaks to the reality of sin and its serious consequence. “If we say, ‘We have fellowship with him,’ while continuing to walk in darkness, we are liars and do not act in truth. But if we walk in light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with on another, and the blood of his Son Jesus cleanses us from all sin.”
So, my dear friends, let us walk in true fellowship with Christ. Seek Sacramental Reconciliation when falling into sin. Strive to live always in Christ’s light, cooperating with His grace. Pray for a profound knowledge of God’s will and the grace to accomplish it fully in your life. Keep pursuit of holiness as a daily priority, and in due time, we shall know the fullness of God in His presence!
Today, the third class will graduate from the Wyoming Catholic College. Family and friends gathered with the College community yesterday evening for a Baccalaureate Mass and dinner. Bishop Edward Slattery, Bishop of Tulsa, was the homilist last night, and will give the commencement address at the graduation ceremony later today.
In the short life of this fledgling College, the tradition is that the graduates gather with parents for the President’s Dinner. A few awards are given and the President address those in attendance. This was the final year for outgoing President, Fr. Robert Cook.
Fr. Cook has been a dedicated servant and founder of the Wyoming Catholic College. He has labored faithfully on behalf of the College and those associated with it. Fr. Cook has promised to work with the incoming president to guarantee a smooth transition. I was pleased to recognize Fr. Cook at the end of the dinner last night with a few brief comments. The student-body’s love for Fr. Cook is obvious.
Towards the end of the dinner, two young and very talented graduates came forward to sing a song they had written that captured their four year experience at Wyoming Catholic College. These two young women could probably make a decent living as entertainers, but something tells me they have even greater gifts and more urgent contributions to make. The name of their song was Long Days, Short Years. The blend of their voices was beautiful enough, complimented by the melody of their tune and witty lyrics. Well done, Sadie and Margie!
You may enjoy reading a recent article on the unique nature of the Wyoming Catholic College in the National Catholic Register.
In-climate weather (translate another heavy snow) has forced moving the graduation ceremonies from Sinks Canyon to Holy Rosary Church. The ceremony is scheduled for 10:30 this morning.
The bishops in my support group have been emailing and texting me recently asking if I am tired of the snow yet. Yes, Southeastern Wyoming received another foot of snow earlier this week. The snow began Tuesday evening and continued pretty much till mid-afternoon Wednesday. When I awoke on Wednesday morning, there was already 10″ of fresh, wet, heavy snow on the ground. I could hear limbs breaking and falling under the weight of the pretty white stuff.
The early week was heavy on the administration side of things. It is good for the people of the Church to know that a bishop really does have to consult quite a bit in the decision he makes. This week, the Diocesan Finance Council met to review the results of the fiscal year quickly drawing to a close and to approve the budget for the upcoming year. Lay men and women with varying expertise give me great guidance and advice regarding our finances. I’m glad to report that we will end our fourth year running in the black.
The board who manages the investments for our retired priests, the St. Joseph Society, also met this week. This board is made up of priests from the diocese who are also very thoughtful regarding both investments and the benefits for our retired priests.
A good friend, Mark Seabrook, arrived Wednesday night to accompany me on this week’s tour of six more parishes for conferral of the sacrament of Confirmation. We were in Riverton last night to celebrate with a group who were unable to make an earlier date due to snow. Two students from St. Stephen’s Indian Mission and six students from St. Margaret’s in Riverton received the Sacrament of Confirmation.
Today and tomorrow, I will be in Lander for the graduation ceremonies of the third graduating class of Wyoming Catholic College.
Today the Church celebrates a feast of St. Joseph the Worker. This day gives us pause to reflect upon the dignity of work. Through our labors, we are co-creators in a sense, laboring with the elements of God’s good creation, to produce the goods for the world’s population. Labor is also a means of continuing to discover the secrets of God’s creation in order to better sustain the human person and community with the dignity they deserve. The more obvious beauty of human labor is the means it provides to support those we love, namely, the human family.
May is also dedicated to the Blessed Mother. Mary is the Mother of Jesus and through Jesus, the Mother of the Church. This month we are all invited to seek Mary’s intercession on behalf of all families, especially the family of God that is the Church. This Year of Faith is a call to all of us to grow in our relationship with Jesus, and Mary desires nothing more than to draw us close to her Son.
Of course, when we think of Joseph and Mary together, we think of the Holy Family. And, today, there are many families that are in need of our practical assistance, namely, the many families that are separated because of our nation’s immigration laws.
When I was in Gillette a few weeks ago, I met briefly with three individuals from our Hispanic community. They made a strong plea on behalf of all the Latinos that I as their bishop do all that I can to encourage immigration reform. There are numerous reasons for their plea, but one of the most urgent is that our present immigration laws are keeping families apart, or threatening to take parents from children.
Many of the individuals that came here years ago have had families. Their children are now legal citizens of the US because they were born here. Their parents have worked here and have made great contributions to the communities where they live, often taking jobs that no one else wants. They live with a fear that one day, they could be deported, possibly never seeing their spouse or children again.
Our current immigration laws would require that illegal immigrants to return to their native homeland prior to applying for permission to enter the country. The present law also requires that these persons ‘get at the end of the line’ to make application, sometimes waiting up to ten years. As you can imagine, this would be an intolerable burden on a husband, father, wife or mother, families to make.
So, as we honor St. Joseph today along with the Blessed Mother this month, let us keep in our prayers the immigrants. Let us pray for just legislation. Let us pray for the strengthening of all families. Let us pray for the many unemployed. Let us pray for the peace and harmony of all God’s family. May we learn to live in peace. May we strive to work for justice for all.
I wish to begin today’s entry with a salute to my classmates (1992) from the North American College. Twenty one years ago today, we entered St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome for our deacon ordinations. There, laying prostrate on the floor in the chapel of the Chair of St. Peter we gave our lives to the Lord for the service of His Church and people. What a blessed walk of life and faith these twenty one years have been! Please, God, may many more young men follow us as such ‘gentle, but ardent servants of the altar.’
Last night found me at Holy Trinity parish in Cheyenne for yet another Confirmation ceremony. Twentynine young people were sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit. They were reminded that we are not our own. We belong to Christ! They were also encouraged to be bold in faith, passionate in their love for Christ, and generous in their service to the Church and God’s people.
Now, to the quirky title of this blog. As some of this readership knows, there was a time when country music was about all I listened to. Sunday, during my last leg of driving back home, I turned once again to a country channel. Merle was singing one of his old hits. I’ve always felt that the many songs of love in country music (as in our own lives) are a mere reflection of God”s love for us.
As I listened to this particular song of Merle’s, I found another basic of Christian life being spelled out symbolically. These are the lyrics:
Here I am again, mixing misery and gin, sitting with all my friends and talking to myself. I look like I’m having a good time, but any fool can tell, that this honky-tonk heaven, really makes me feel like hell.
How often do we follow the ways of the world only to experience the emptiness it offers. Sure, there is a temporary ‘high’ that for the moment drowns our sorrows or takes our minds off what ails us, but when reality dawns once again, we are left empty, and sometimes worse off. We may on the outside appear to be ‘having fun,’ but on the inside, if we are honest with ourselves, we are adrift, in desperate need of an anchor.
Christ has taught us that He is the Anchor. He tells us that the things of this world are fleeting. Obviously, the world is a part of God’s creation, and thus good. We are to live in proper harmony with the world and the people of this world, but not seek to possess them, nor live for these things alone. We belong to Christ. He has grafted us to Himself.
Through the Holy Spirit, Christ has poured His Divine Life into our hearts and souls. This indwelling of Christ is what makes us holy; makes us sons and daughters of God. It is this Divine Presence, this ‘Sonship of God’ within us that is our ticket to heaven. Thus, let us be grateful for this tremendous gift. Let us fully employ our freedom to embrace Christ and always cooperate with His desire to fully nourish His life within us, doing nothing to offend the Holy Spirit.
This is the life of holiness to which all are called.