COME,AND YOU WILL SEE  By Bishop Edward M. Rice
Jan. 20, 2023


I ’d like to go back prior to the Synod, prior to the Eucharistic Revival, and prior to the pandemic, to that time when I shared with everyone the statistics for our diocese regarding the decline in sacramental practice. Although there were some bright spots, one of my major concerns was the decline in baptisms and the consequences that would have down the road for the diocese. The other major concern was the drastic decline in couples entering into the sacrament of Marriage. In the midst of the Eucharistic Revival and discerning the local parish concerns we learned from the Synod results, we must continue to discover how we, as a diocese, can reverse these trends.

In one sense, we are fighting the culture. More and more people are disaffiliating with organizations, whether it be the Church, the government, or educational institutions. At the same time, we still combat the rise of the “none generation,” those who claim no religious affiliation at all. Add to that the scandal and other factors and you can see how these issues have all come together to create the perfect storm. In the meantime, we have continued our day-to-day life in the parish and the diocese without seeing the larger picture. Amid all this change and in large part, we remain “business as usual,” which is not moving us from “maintenance to mission.”


I came across a little 90-page paperback book, From Christendom to Apostolic Mission, Pastoral Strategies for an Apostolic Age, University of Mary Press, 2020, by Msgr. James P. Shea. In my mind, this is the best articulation of what has transpired in our culture over the last couple of decades, and I recommend everyone to read it. The basic premise of his writing is that the Church that we grew up in and what the Church stood for and wanted to accomplish was often complemented and supported by the culture or governments. That is what Monsignor Shea refers to as “Christendom.” The culture of today has pretty much rejected Christianity and the Church now finds herself alone, without support, and oftentimes directly attacked as she tries to proclaim the Gospel. In a sense, we find ourselves in a situation similar to the early Church. And if the Church is going to grow, it must be fully, actively embracing its “Apostolic Mission.”
Some quotes for your consideration:

“In an age of change, the Church needs to pay attention to the modes by which she carries on her graced battle to be sure that she is not ‘fighting yesterday’s war,’ using strategies that for whatever reason are outmoded and have become ineffective.”

“We are dealing with the first culture and history that was once deeply Christian but that, by a slow and thorough process, has been consciously ridding itself of its Christian basis.”

These two quotes highlight the call of Pope St. John Paul II when he wrote in his document on evangelization, “The mission of evangelization today calls for a new program which can be defined overall as a new evangelization.” I think it is our task, in our day, to discover what new modes and new programs are needed in light of our current culture. In one sense it can be overwhelming. However, in another sense: it can be very exciting, which brings me to another point. Our priests are hard workers! But, we should also ask ourselves if what we are doing is effective for the local church and her apostolic mission? This also applies to those involved in our PSR programs, our Catholic schools, RCIA, adult faith formation, youth ministry, and sacramental preparation. Are there best practices that we could incorporate? Can religious formation be more effective? How enriching are our small group gatherings?

To that end, some 20 of the clergy of our diocese will be attending a conference Jan. 24-26 entitled, “Priests for an Apostolic Age,” with the keynote speaker being the author I mentioned above, Msgr. Shea. Please pray that the Holy Spirit will show us the way to move forward in our ministry! In future columns, I will continue to highlight some of the principles outlined in the book so that all of us can be pondering how our diocese can grow in the years to come.

What are Your Spiritual Non-Negotiables?

What are Your Spiritual Non-Negotiables?

Catholic Campus Ministry-Springfield at SEEK 23

COME,AND YOU WILL SEE  By Bishop Edward M. Rice
Jan. 06, 2023

I participated in the SEEK23 Conference in St. Louis, MO, for the first time on Jan. 3-6, 2023, and I found it quite rewarding. What is SEEK? It’s an opportunity for university students from throughout the world to come together to pray, encourage one another, and learn more about the work of FOCUS missionaries on university campuses. In 1998, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) began with two missionaries at Benedictine College. Today, more than 861 FOCUS missionaries serve on more than 185 locations across the US, Mexico, and Europe. FOCUS missionaries continue to help our young people go out to all the world and share the good news.

Along with myself there were some 70 students from across our diocese, mostly from Southeast Missouri State University and Missouri State University, but others as well. I was able to meet up with our young people from the diocese as well as celebrate Mass daily with 17,000 other college students. Yes, that is not a typo: there were some 17,000 college students who gave up a week of their Christmas vacation to attend this conference. And on Wednesday evening of the conference, open to anyone, an additional 2,000 came for a night of adoration and confessions.

On Tue., Jan. 3, I was able to meet with all our students and give them a little talk to encourage them in their spiritual growth. What did I tell them? First, it’s important to know what you don’t know. Each one of us might know the basics of the faith, but there is so much more that we could know. And during this three-year Eucharistic Revival maybe one could learn something more about the Eucharist, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Maybe you could learn more about devotion to the Blessed Mother and the doctrines related to her. Maybe for others, they could learn more about the beauty of the Sacrament of Reconciliation or take time to read from the Catechism. For as much as each one of us might know about the faith, there is so much more we could learn.


The next point offered to our young people was the importance of knowing one’s primary fault. What is the sin that you fall into most often? Hopefully each one of us can answer that, because when we know our primary fault, then the Holy Spirit enlightens us to know the corresponding virtue that needs to be developed in order to overcome that fault. This highlights the major battles that we fight in the spiritual life– the battle with one’s self! Socrates once said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” I think it was Saint Anthony of the Desert who said “The greatest battle is with self.” If we cannot identify our primary fault, we are hindered in the process of holiness and growth in the spiritual life.

Finally, I challenged our young people to define their “spiritual non-negotiables.” The spiritual non-negotiables for the clergy are laid out for us by the Church. Those non-negotiables include daily Mass, praying the Divine Office as we promised, obedience to the bishop, daily rosary, regular confession, spiritual reading, and spiritual direction. What are the spiritual non-negotiables of a college student? Hopefully a commitment to never miss Mass on a Sunday or holy day along with regular celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. These two sacraments accompany us throughout the pilgrimage of faith that we call life. And, as we are called to love God we are also called to love our neighbor through some type of outreach or assistance. Then, as vocations are discerned and defined, other spiritual obligations such as the rosary, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and family time become part of who we are.

With these three thoughts I challenged our young people at the SEEK23 Conference to grow in their faith. And, as I bring this column to an end, I ask all who will read this column to answer the same question, “What are your spiritual non-negotiables?”

As a final note, I want to say thank you to all those who contributed to the Diocesan Capital Campaign. You may recall that a third of the funds raised was for youth and young adult formation programs. Every college student from our diocese that went to the SEEK23 Conference received financial assistance from the Youth Endowment Fund. And next year, we hope to send more! By the way, next year, the SEEK24 Conference will again be in St. Louis!




HISTORY FULFILLED—On Christmas Day, what began nine months ago has been fulfilled: what began on the day of Annunciation is made visible to the world in the person of the newborn babe of Bethlehem, who is both Son of God and Son of Mary. (Getty Images)

The Catholic Difference  By George Weigel
Dec. 23, 2022

Now, on Christmas Day, the nine months have been fulfilled. What began on the day of Annunciation is made visible to the world in the person of the newborn babe of Bethlehem, who is both Son of God and Son of Mary. History is forever changed.

The “little flock” of whom Jesus will speak in Luke 12:32 (“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”) is already here: in Mary and Joseph, humble servants of God; in the shepherds who leave the manger rejoicing; in the Magi who will come bearing gifts; in the slaughtered innocents and their grieving parents, precursors of the white-robed army of martyrs who will follow down the centuries. In a formal sense, the Church of Christ begins with the Paschal Mystery of the Lord’s passion, death, resurrection and ascension, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at the first Christian Pentecost. Yet the Church is also present in Bethlehem in an anticipatory way.

Which is how it should be, since this axial moment in the human story, the birth of the incarnate Son of God, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, began with the fiat, the answer of a trusting and obedient young woman to the angelic salutation and summons to motherhood. As St. John Paul II never tired of teaching, Mary’s fiat — “Be it done unto me according to your word” (Luke 1:38) — made her the first of disciples and established the paradigm of all discipleship: joyful obedience to the divine call. Everything else in the Church — evangelism, contemplation, authority, service — only makes sense in light of that Marian “yes” and the discipleship it uniquely expressed. Mary is the beginning of the Church. And Mary remains the model of the Church forever, because her Assumption reveals the destiny that God intended for humanity “in the beginning” — eternal life with the Thrice-Holy God.

At this Catholic moment, when so many — perhaps too many — are singularly focused on and disturbed by ecclesiastical dysfunction at every level of Catholic life, from the local parish to the Vatican, it is good, at Christmastide, to reflect on Mary and the Church — and on what Mary’s initial act of discipleship, that fiat which came to fruition “when Quirinius was governor of Syria” (Luke 2:2), means for us today. Hans Urs von Balthasar, pondering the First and Third Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary, points that meditation in the proper direction:

“From the Mother’s disposition grows the disposition of the Church. The Church is not an external assembly of people brought together by a common religious purpose, but rather a reality that exists before we do and to which we owe what we are, through God and by the grace of God. No one helps himself to the sacraments; they are bestowed on a person as graces…The Church is responsible for us before God; she is to rear us in her pure and holy spirit and not in our own…[which is how we become] ‘ecclesial souls.’”

One of the great debates in the Catholic Church today touches this issue: Does the Church, created by God in Christ and formed in the image of Mary, create us? Or do we create the Church? To even hint at the latter is to empty the Church of its supernatural character and reduce Catholicism to an international non-governmental organization. Yet is not some part of that going on when it is suggested, in certain exercises of “synodality,” “listening,” “accompaniment,” and “discernment,” that the Church of the 21st century has the authority to modify or even correct the word of God? Or to refashion the Christ-given constitution of the Church? Or to bless in an uncritical way the spirit of the age?

Some months ago, my friend Jimmy Lai, the Catholic convert and prisoner of conscience in Hong Kong (about whose unjust persecution and imprisonment the Holy See has not managed to speak a single public word of protest) sent me from his cell in Stanley Prison a beautiful pencil-and-crayon depiction of the Annunciation entitled, simply, “Yes!” This courageous man with a truly “ecclesial soul” knows that the Church created him in baptism. And that grace has empowered him to live the virtue of fortitude and be a fearless defender of justice, truth and freedom.

Jimmy Lai will spend Christmas in prison, but he will be free in the deepest meaning of the word. For he is free in the truth of Christ, born for us that happy morning in Bethlehem of Judea.

George Weigel is a Distinguished Senior Fellow and William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. George Weigel’s column “The Catholic Difference” is syndicated by the Denver Catholic, the official publication of the Archdiocese of Denver.

Be Mindful in Receiving Our Lord in the Eucharist

Be Mindful in Receiving Our Lord in the Eucharist

Getty Images

COME,AND YOU WILL SEE  By Bishop Edward M. Rice
Dec. 23, 2022

The Church celebrates the Feast of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton on Jan. 4. Located in Springfield, we are blessed to have a parish in the diocese under her patronage. As we enter into the new year and a new semester of school—as we continue our Eucharistic Revival throughout the Church in the United States—let us turn to her as the patron of the Eucharist.
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton was born and raised in the Anglican faith but converted to Catholicism after her husband died. For this decision, she was scorned by her family and friends but dedicated the remainder of her life to the service of the Church. She founded the first parochial school and the first woman’s religious congregation in America. What many people do not know is that she also had a great love for the Eucharist. From her writings we hear “O, Food of Heaven, how my soul longs for you with desire! Seed of Heaven, pledge of immortality and that eternity it pants for: Come, come, my Jesus, bury yourself within this heart. It shall do its best to preserve that warmth which will bring forth the fruits of eternity. Oh, amen. Our Jesus.”
While the imagery and wording may sound a little archaic to us, her points are well made. Does my soul long to receive Jesus? I was recently at a Mass where the priest, prior to the distribution of Holy Communion, explained that those not of the Catholic faith were welcome to come forward with their arms crossed for a blessing. That, in and of itself, is nothing new – it’s fairly common. But then he also said that for those Catholics that were not in a state of grace, who have examined their conscience and should not be receiving communion, then they, too, should come forward with arms crossed and receive a blessing. He said it in such a tender and thoughtful way that I hope no one took offense. But he makes a good point—we should not receive the Eucharist unworthily. If someone is aware of mortal sin, if someone has scrutinized his or her actions, examined their conscience, and concluded that they should not receive Communion, then they should come forward with their arms crossed to indicate a blessing (and take advantage of the sacrament of penance and reconciliation so as to get back to the Eucharist!).


Prior to the reception of Holy Communion, the priest offers one of two prayers, said quietly with his hands folded, just before the reception of Holy Communion. The prayer reminds the priest that he himself must be in a state of grace in order to receive Holy Communion and avoid condemnation by receiving the Eucharist unworthily. The first prayer includes the following words: “Free me by this, your most holy Body and Blood, from all my sins and from every evil; keep me always faithful to your commandments, and never let me be parted from you.” The second prayer, shorter, has the same theme: “May the receiving of your Body and Blood, Lord Jesus Christ, not bring me to judgment and condemnation, but through Your loving mercy be for me protection in mind and body and a healing remedy.” Only after reciting one of those prayers does the priest then cry out, “Behold the Lamb of God…” followed by the response of the people “Lord, I am not worthy… But only say the words and my soul shall be healed.”

It is significant that these prayers are offered just before the reception of Holy Communion. The Church wants the priest himself and then the entire congregation to ponder the significance of this moment. And if someone comes to the conclusion that they are not in a state of grace, that they should not receive unworthily.

Is this harsh? Well, is stopping a child from touching a hot stove harsh? Is stopping a child from walking into traffic harsh? Is stopping a child from running with a scissors or a knife harsh? In all these cases there is the possibility of physical harm. And how much more so would there be harm to the soul for one who receives the Eucharist unworthily.

In her little prayer, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton desired, (even!) panted for the Eucharist. In her little prayer, she invited the Eucharist to be buried in her heart. And although the wording and imagery might be a little old-fashioned, the point is well made – let us long for the Eucharist, let us desire the Eucharist, let us invite the Eucharist— Our very Lord—to take root in our hearts. But, most importantly, let us always receive the Eucharist worthily, with intentionality and thoughtfulness, and with a clear conscience.

Three Christmas Gospels Highlight Invisible God Made Visible

Three Christmas Gospels Highlight Invisible God Made Visible

Photo by Getty Images

December 09, 2022, The Most Rev. John J. Leibrecht

The joys of past Christmases will again inspire my Christmas this year. For instance, I recall aunts and uncles joining my family for Midnight Mass at our parish church. Afterward, we enjoyed a freshly-prepared hot breakfast at home. Then, we went to the living room for an exchange of gifts.

Next to the Christmas tree, with its multicolored lights, was the crib scene. Mary and Joseph on either side of the new-born child lying in a manger. Looking on were two shepherds, one standing and the other kneeling. Off to the side was a donkey and cow at rest.

Christmas celebrates the birth of a child unique in all human history. The Church tells us about this child in three different Gospels proclaimed at the various Christmas Masses.


At Midnight Mass, the Gospel relates the familiar story of the pregnant Mary journeying with Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem to register in a census ordered by the Roman emperor. Then, Mary’s child is born. An angel of God appears to shepherds in the area: “A savior has been born for you who is Christ the Lord.” The shepherds hurry, the Gospel of the early Mass tells us to see for themselves, “… this thing that has taken place.” Amazed at all they saw and heard, they proceeded to share with others what had been told to them about the child, wondering if he could be the long-awaited messiah.


John’s Gospel at the late-morning Mass reveals more about who this child is: “In the beginning was the Word … and the Word was God … and the Word became flesh.” This son of Mary, named Jesus, is indeed the Son of God. The heavenly Father has sent his Son to make his dwelling among us. During the years of his life on earth, Jesus would serve in his Father’s name as the “true light which enlightens everyone.”

For Catholics and all Christians around the world, Christmas makes us grateful for the faith we have in Jesus Christ. Faith allows us to see in him the invisible God made visible. It makes possible our acceptance of Jesus as humanity’s Savior announced by the angel of God.

Jesus came to save us, the Scriptures say, from two things: sin and death. Our human weakness does not keep us from sinning, but through Jesus, our sins can be forgiven and, by means of our personal efforts, we are able to live a life based on love of God and love of others. While we are not kept from dying, death does not have the final word. Himself raised from the dead, Jesus promises his faithful followers a whole new life after life on this earth.


Therefore, for Christians, Christmas is more than a Happy Holiday. Christmas focuses our attention on the remarkable presence Jesus wants to have in our lives. One way we can maintain our focus on him—in our lives and certainly in this season—is by participating in Mass each weekend. At Mass the Christ born at Bethlehem becomes present on the altar when the priest prays the Lord’s own words over the bread and wine: This is my Body, This is my Blood. As the priest elevates the host and chalice, the Lord offers himself to the Father, inviting us to offer ourselves with him and to the Father.

Offering ourselves with Christ to the Father involves a willingness to die to one’s Self, to make an effort to be less Self-centered, more Other-centered so we can live in conformity with God’s ways and do good for others. In coming to us in Holy Communion, the Lord becomes the spiritual strength we need to act in accord with our offering of Self to the Father.

Mass is all-important to us Catholics. It deepens and transforms the relationship we have with God, who loves us beyond measure.

May you have a blessed and joyful Christmas, enhanced by good memories of past Christmases. And may Jesus Christ, who is our way and truth and life, be a lamp to your feet in order to light your path in the weeks and months ahead in 2023.