The Cathedral of St. Mary in Cheyenne, Wyoming has been recording a weekly message during Lent. After I returned from Wheatland, I was asked to record the video for the 5th week of Lent. I was a little reluctant because of the shortage of time to prepare, but I hope the message encourages you to finish out the Lenten journey well.
Our Faith In Stained Glass Windows
At the close of the parish mission in Wheatland a couple of second graders shared their thoughts about receiving the Holy Eucharist for the first time in a couple of weeks. The young people preparing for the Sacrament of Confirmation came to the mission as part of their class. It was good to see them with the rest of the parishioners in attendance.
As I spent some time admiring the stained glass windows in the church, I realized that both of those sacraments were featured in the windows. Many of our Catholic churches tell the story of our faith in the artwork and windows. I invite you to take a good look at the windows, statues, artwork, and other symbols and signs in your local church. Many people have sacrificed through the centuries to provide us with beautiful worship spaces. Take some time to appreciate the beauty of your local church.
It is generally a good sign when the closing night of a parish mission generates the largest crowd. It was wonderful to see a good number of young people in attendance as well. I especially appreciated having the opportunity to visit with many of you after the evening was over. Please know of my gratitude for your kindness and hospitality.
A special word of thanks to the eight year old who invited me to her first coommunion in a few weeks. You touched my heart with your kindness and vibrant spirit. While I will be unable to attend, please know of my prayers for you as you prepare for this beautiful sacrament. May God bless you abundantly!
My thanks to the pastor and the parishioners for a beautiful experience! Finish your Lenten pilgrimage well. May the grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the communion, fellowship, and power of the Holy Spirit be with you all!
The fourth and final parish mission of the Lenten season is on the horizon. It has been a fantastic Lenten journey thus far, and I am looking forward to joining the parishioners at Our Lady of Fatima again this year for food, fellowship, and prayer. I really enjoyed my time at the parish last year when we had the mission. This will be a phenomenal way to approach Holy Week. If you live in the Casper area I hope to see you in the days ahead.
My daughter sent me this photo from California and provided no context at all. Thus, I can let my imagination run wild in regard to what was being addressed. Do you get half credit if you use the trash cans but do it loudly?
As we draw near to the Fifth Sunday of Lent, how have you responded to the Ash Wednesday invitation to "Repent, and believe in the Gospel"? Were those ashes placed on your forehead a clear enough sign that you are dust and unto dust you shall return? Be a faithful follower of Christ. Your neighbors will apreciate it whether they realize it or not.
It was another wonderful evening in Wheatland last night. I have especially enjoyed getting to know some of the parishioners on a more personal level since my initial arrival on Saturday afternoon. That is a component that I truly appreciate each time I lead a parish mission. Spending five consecutive days in one location allows for more personal interaction than what I typically get when I just come to a parish to do a one day retreat or workshop.
The drive home last night was a little slower due to the rain and snow. There was a fifteen mile stretch in which the snow was fairly intense for a while. I was grateful for the transition back to rain by the time I reached Cheyenne city limits. Traveling in the spring seems to always be a little on the exciting side. Quite frankly, I am okay without the added excitement.
We will wrap things up tonight with a focus on healing. In most cases I draw parish missions to a close with this same focus. It is extremely important that we truly know of God's forgiveness, mercy, and compassion in our lives. When we open ourselves to God's healing grace we are then more fully equipped to go out into the world to bring that same healing and peace to others.
The rug at the entrance of St. Patrick Church in Wheatland gives a powerful message in regard to our purpose and mission. We enter to worship and are sent forth at the end to serve. May we live that well in our own lives!
To whom do you bring healing, joy, and peace?
I arrived in Wheatland yesterday with enough time to get in a brief walk before the start of the parish mission. Rain and/or snow may prohibit that this evening. Hopefully, the weather does not create any treacherous driving conditions for my trip there and back.
Last night I focused on the theological virtue of faith. How do we nurture that gift? Each week when we proclaim the Creed at Mass, or when we renew our baptismal promises during the Easter season, what are we expressing? How do these commitments impact the way we live our day-to-day lives?
Tonight I am going to focus our attention on the theological virtue of hope. How does our faith in Jesus Christ fill us with hope? Do we live our lives with joy? Does gratitude fill our hearts? Does a grateful heart prompt us to be generous in the way we love God with our whole heart, mind, soul, and strength? Does it prompt us to be generous in the way we love our neighbors as ourself? The virtue of hope will play a key role in whether or not we are able to answer these questions in a positive manner.
The focus tomorrow night will be on healing, forgiveness, mercy, and compassion. How do we embrace God's forgiveness and healing in our own lives, and how do we extend that same forgiveness and healing to others?
A thought from St. Faustina: Will you enter through the door of God's mercy or through the door of God's justice?
I enjoyed seeing the sights while spending time in Wheatland, Wyoming.
My daughter sent me this picture a couple of days ago while she was visiting someone in California. She knows my appreciation for signs located in interesting places that communicate fascinating messages. For instance, which set of lights (left or right) does the sign address? Typically, we go when the light turns green. Why is it telling me to wait?
As I prepare to hit the road again this afternoon, the weather forecast of rain turning to snow does not excite me too much. I am more impressed with the lush green vegetation in the picture above that has me yearning for warm summer days. Living in a milder climate is certainly appealing at times, but I digress.
Back to following directions:
1. Love your enemies.
2. Bless those who persecute you.
3. "Be merciful as your Heavenly Father is merciful." (Luke 6:36)
4. "Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:48)
These are all pretty simple directions. How are we doing at following them?
In recent years I have conducted a few retreats for parish staff personnel. Pastors recognize the need to keep their employees spiritually healthy and energized. This is especially true in larger parishes where the staff is typically greater in number and have more opportunity for inner-office conflict and challenges. I had the false impression that when one begins to work at a church facility all human dynamics are heavenly. Realistically, we are still human and the group dynamics play out in a multitude of ways. Even if a parish staff is functioning in a healthy manner, it is good to reinforce that positive behavior and keep pastoral sensitivity at the front and center of our minds.
I have led several retreats for parish staff members here in Wyoming, a couple in Colorado, and now I will be leading my first retreat in South Dakota near the end of the summer. I have never been to the Terra Sancta Retreat Center in Rapid City, and I am looking forward to this new experience. I especially appreciate the theme of the retreat chosen by the pastor, and I am grateful that he has entrusted me with this sacred duty of sharing this time with him and his staff. Details of the retreat were completed today, and I appreciate that advance planning which makes my study, research, and proximate preparations less stressful.
There is still plenty to accomplish this spring. I am in the midst of a parish mission in Wheatland, Wyoming. This coming weekend begins a parish mission in Casper, Wyoming. Then we move into Holy Week. After that I have a men's retreat in Thayne, Wyoming at the beginning of May. (I am hoping that much of the snow on the western side of the state melts before then.) Planning for the ordination and installation of our new bishop on June 5 also adds a little flavor to things in the office in the midst of everything else.
My life is not dull during these days of Lent. I hope you are finding God in the details of your own life. The man born blind showed us the power of Jesus as he washed in the pool of Siloam. How is the power of Jesus manifesting itself in your life?
The parish mission at St. Patrick Parish in Wheatland, Wyoming is off and running. This was my first time preaching in both Wheatland and Chugwater. It is a wonderful privilege to be invited into parish communities to share some time for prayer, fellowship, and learning. I am looking forward to the next three evenings.
On Saturday evening I was also treated to a magnificent concert presented by American Legion Post #10 and VFW Post #3558. The BAR J WRANGLERS put on a magnificent show. If you get a chance to join them during their summer shows in Jackson Hole, I would highly recommend it. They were amazing.
After the concert on Saturday night it was time for some rest. This morning we celebrated the Eucharist in Wheatland first and then headed to Chugwater. After Mass in Chugwater I had an invitation to join a few parishioners for lunch. I did not take the opportunity to sample the town's signature Chugwater Chili, but I certainly intend to try that at some point.
May these remaining weeks of Lent bring you abundant blessings!
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