Critical Moment in the Church in Southern Missouri

Once again, I am able to thank all of you for your generosity – this time for the annual Pontifical Good Friday Collection to assist Christians in the Middle East. This year the collection totaled $40,042.95.  The funds collected provide for schools, housing, refugee assistance and services to the vulnerable young and elderly.  Those funds also support the sacred places throughout the Holy Land.  The persecution of Christians has been on the rise, and with the pandemic, tourism has declined.  Your financial gift will directly assist those in need.  

Feasts in October

Some of the most beautiful feasts are in the month of October – The Little Flower, Oct. 1; Guardian Angels, Oct. 2; St. Francis of Assisi, Oct. 4; St. Bruno, Oct. 6, and Our Lady of the Rosary, Oct. 7.  And these are just within the first week!   As the month progresses, we also have the North American Martyrs, St. Luke, Ss. Simon and Jude and St. John Paul II, plus others. 

 Why do we have these annual celebrations?  

The saints come from every age and every background.   No matter what their situation, they remind us that holiness is possible.  Under the best circumstances and under the worst circumstances, it is possible to be a faithful follower of Christ.  It will not always be easy, especially when we are going against the prevailing attitudes of the dominant culture, but holiness is worth the effort.  Looking ahead to November, we begin that month with the Feast of All Saints, Nov. 1 and the Feast of All Souls, Nov. 2. 

So, what does holiness look like for you?  Typically, it will be reflected in those around us: family, friends, and co-workers.  We gain a great insight into holiness from St. Mother Teresa: “Holiness does not consist in doing extraordinary things.  It consists in accepting, with a smile, what Jesus sends us. It consists in accepting and following the will of God.” From her insight, we can begin to grow in holiness by accepting the circumstances of life as part of the will of God, all with a smile on your face!

For some, the concept of holiness might seem boring, but a deliberate look at the saints indicates just the opposite.  It is fascinating to see what God has done in the lives of saints once they gave their lives over to the will of God.  It brought St. Damian to care for the lepers in Hawaii.  Holiness brought Mother Cabrini from Italy to America to work with the Italian immigrants.  Holiness in the life of Frederick Ozanam helped establish the St. Vincent de Paul Society throughout the world to help the poor.  The examples are countless and exciting.  Maybe that is why St. Augustine would disagree with the idea that holiness is boring.  Rather, he wrote, “To fall in love with God is the greatest romance, to seek Him the greatest adventure, to find Him, the greatest human achievement.”  

Diocesan Summit

Bishop with the Knights at a Year of St. Joseph Mass/Joplin

Of all the things we spend time doing, an honest assessment of how much time we spend on the “things of God” indicates our desire.  People make time for the things that are important to them.  Our Lord said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” Mt 6:21.  With that in mind, I encourage everyone to participate in the Evangelization and Discipleship Summit to be held Sat., Oct. 9 at Holy Trinity Parish, Springfield, and Sun., Oct. 10, St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Cape Girardeau.  

The call of Pope Francis, to bring the “Joy of the Gospel” to ordinary pastoral work, to those who have fallen away, and to those who have never heard of Christ, is the call to move from “maintenance to mission.”  All the statistics show that current practices in parish life are not producing the desired goal – “intentional disciples.”  Across the board, Sacramental practice is slipping. As I wrote in promotional materials for the Summit, “We are at a critical moment in the Church of southern Missouri and now is the time to move the parishes of our diocese from ‘Maintenance to Mission.’ There is no greater task before us. Let us discover together new ways to bring people into an encounter with Christ, especially through the Eucharist.” 

I hope to see you at the Evangelization and Discipleship Summit!