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Parochial Vicar's Corner

Parochial Vicar's Corner Father Mark Schoffner

January 2020

“Now the LORD has spoken who formed me as his servant from the womb.” Do we think of ourselves as being formed in the womb by the Lord? To be his servant? That all people, whether they were planned or of a certain race, or a certain time or culture, as being formed to know and love the Lord God through knowledge of Jesus Christ? We hear from the prophet Isaiah today something which, of course, speaks to the moment in history, to Isaiah as being called as a prophet, but looking forward to Christ Jesus as the perfect servant of the Father. But, this has meaning for us too! We are called to be servants of the Father Most High who is our Lord and Creator. We are called to live a life in union with him and in him according to the covenant of life he has set for us.

This coming week several students and parents will travel with me on pilgrimage to Washington, D.C. to visit the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and march in the March for Life. Wednesday, in these here United States, is the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children. We ask you, I ask you, pray for Life. Pray that all human life may be held sacred and protected from the deceptions of darkness which prevent us from seeing the great dignity of people. The poor, the prisoner, the elderly, the handicapped, all are deserving of life. The unborn children in the womb are the most vulnerable. The power of creation is shared with mankind; pray that we protect it.

– Father Mark Schoffner, January 19, 2020

“Holy Mother Church...has provided ceremonial, such as mystical blessings, lights, incense, vestments, and many other rituals of that kind from apostolic order and tradition, by which the majesty of this great sacrifice is enhanced and the minds of the faithful are aroused by those visible signs of religious devotion to contemplation of the high mysteries hidden in this sacrifice” —-Council of Trent Session 22, chp. 5.

Over the Christmas Season you likely noticed some extra things at Mass. Maybe it was a crucifer (cross-bearer) dressed in fancy attire? Maybe it was extra candles being lit or carried? Perhaps it was an unusual chant or blessing of something, or a chime? But it was probably the incense. Right? Something that was used from the earliest times of our faith. Going back to the time of the Israelites when God demanded them to burn incense before him it has been with us since the beginning. He even had a particular recipe he commanded! (Exodus 30:34-37) So, we know God likes incense. Christianity fulfills Judaism, and we kept many things that we use in the liturgy to serve the Lord. Just because we don’t have shepherds and sheep in our normal context doesn’t mean we stop using it as a frame of reference. As it is with incense as well. The Lord came in a cloud to his people in the wilderness. The sight invokes a mystery which cannot be fully grasped. Taking something precious and pricey to offer completely for the worship of God, sacrificing for God—these are the intentions of the Church in using them. As we continue to delve deeper into the mystery of God and continue to grow as a parish, we should seek out the noble and transcendent presence of our beautiful and Holy God.

– Father Mark Schoffner, January 12, 2020

Epiphany chalk? What is that, Father? During the Christmas Season, especially on the Epiphany, is the customary time for homes to be blessed. Over the centuries, it became more difficult for the priest to do all of them because everyone lived further and further from the church, the tradition of chalking became a mainstay. Epiphany (also known as Twelfth Night, Theophany, or Three Kings Day) marks the occasion of a time-honored Christian tradition of “chalking the doors.”

The formula for the ritual — adapted for 2020 — is simple: take chalk of any color and write the following above the entrance of your home: 20 + C + M + B + 20. The letters have two meanings. First, they represent the initials of the Magi — Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar — the wise men of the East who visited Christ. They also stand for the Latin phrase Christus mansionem benedicat: “May Christ bless the house.” The “+” signs represent the cross, and the “20” at the beginning and the “20” at the end mark the year.

Taken together, this inscription is done as a request for Christ to bless the home so marked and that He stay with those who dwell therein throughout the entire year. The chalking of the doors of a home encourages Christians to dedicate their life at home to God and to others. Seeing the symbols over our doors can help to remind us, while passing in and out on our daily routines, that our homes and all those who dwell there belong to Christ. It also serves as a reminder of welcoming the Magi gave to Jesus. We should strive to be as welcoming to all who come to our homes to visit us!

– Father Mark Schoffner, January 5, 2020

November 2019

We can sin against God’s love in various ways: indifference, ingratitude, lukewarmness, acedia, and hatred of God. These are just some of the ways we can deny the obligation to love God with all of our heart and our soul and mind. We can be ignorant of God either voluntarily or involuntary. Neither is good. None of what is above is worth adulation or ascent. “The First Commandment requires us to nourish and protect our faith with prudence and vigilance, and to reject everything that is opposed to it.” (CCC 2087)

Christ, King and Lord of the universe, made himself the servant of all, for he came "not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." For the Christian, "to reign is to serve him," particularly when serving "the poor and the suffering, in whom the Church recognizes the image of her poor and suffering founder. The People of God fulfill its royal dignity by a life in keeping with its vocation to serve with Christ.” (CCC 786)

It is imperative that we be obedient to God and offer on the altar of our heart a pure conscience and the many offerings of our lives. Family, friends, marriages, co-workers, the beggar, our enemies—all of these are to be prayed for on the altar of our hearts. No matter where or how we find ourselves, it is imperative that we proclaim God whether in the troubled quiet of our hearts or in the messiness of the world. We are already at the last hour, the final age of the world. The readings remind us; the upcoming season of Advent prepares us. Let us live and beg and offer prayers from our heart. "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom," and hopefully our Lord will say to us, "Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."

– Father Mark Schoffner, November 24, 2019

“The kingship and empire of Christ have been recognized in the pious custom, practiced by many families, of dedicating themselves to the Sacred Heart of Jesus; not only families have performed this act of dedication, but nations, too, and kingdoms. In fact, the whole of the human race was at the instance of Pope Leo XIII, in the Holy Year 1900, consecrated to the Divine Heart.” - Quas Primas, Encyclical of Pope Pius XI, December 11, 1925.

Coming up on the 24th of November is the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. This feast was implemented by Pope Piux XI in 1925 with Quas primas, in the face of secularism, the spread of materialistic atheistic Communism, and its cousins Fascism and Nazism. We need to rededicate ourselves and our families to the Our King, Jesus Christ, rather than give into the spirit of the world. When we come into His presence, in the Liturgy of the Mass and the other sacraments, His divine attribute of splendor or glory or majesty, whatever you will, has the power to transform us. His majestic glory changes us. Let us then be changed into who we are called to be.

The Handbook of Indulgences says: #27. A plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful, who piously recite the above Act of Dedication of the Human Race to Jesus Christ the King, if it is recited publicly on the feast of our Lord Jesus Christ the King, and piously carry out the precepts in the Norm.

Therefore, we’ll be praying the prayer of consecration after all the Masses next weekend. The requirements for obtaining a Plenary Indulgence on the Feast of Christ the King are: Public recitation of the prayer “Most Sweet Jesus, Redeemer – Act of Dedication of the Human Race to Jesus Christ King.” Say one “Our Father” and one “Hail Mary” for the intentions of the Pope (this is in the bulletin). Make a Sacramental Confession within a week of (before or after) the Feast of Christ the King. Worthily receive Holy Communion (ideally on the Feast of Christ the King) And be free from all attachment to sin, even venial sin.

– Father Mark Schoffner, November 17, 2019

What is needed to say the Mass? The Roman Missal, chalice, bread and wine, what else? A priest, an altar, the chalice veil? The primary question we should ask is, “What are we doing at Mass?” It is the most important moment of Salvation History worked out in front of our eyes! It’s the marriage feast of the Lamb as he weds himself to his bride the Church. Did you get that? The wedding banquet of Jesus to us, his Church. If we understand then that the altar is where all of this is happening, then it can give us a glimpse into what honor we show to the sacred vessels (ie. chalice and paten) and how we treat them. A mysterious moment is happening on the paten and in the chalice. If the nuptial moment is happening between God and man at the altar, it’s being made present in the sacred vessels so that we can see it. So we’ve got terms such as marriage feast, wedding, and nuptial moment.

It’s important that we use these words to help us recover the beautiful mystery. We cover brides with a veil to signify the mystery of what is taking place in a marriage; the groom unveils her in order that the marriage covenant can be enacted and the nuptial union can begin. This is what the priest is doing when he unveils the chalice, the place where the mystery of faith is worked out. The precious bride signified by the chalice is unveiled so that the priest, in the person of Christ, can unite the Divine will of God to the bride, the Church. Many have noticed that we use these new things which are very ancient and part of the liturgy of the Mass, albeit “a praiseworthy practice” according to the General Instruction (GIRM). These things help us as priests in persona Christi to pray the Mass. It’s our hope that by utilizing these treasures of the liturgy, you come to a deeper understanding, appreciation, and active participation in praying the Mass, the great mystery of Salvation.

– Father Mark Schoffner, November 10, 2019

Things that are on the increase are termed as ‘growing.’ The amount of daylight in the day is not increasing, or for that matter is it growing. As the darkness lingers later into the morning and descends upon us earlier in the evening, it’s worth taking a moment to contemplate light, darkness, and faith. Darkness is an absence of light. It doesn’t exist on its own. The sun’s rays dispel the darkness from the strength of the one star which illumines our solar system. It’s the power of one light, not many by which it is banished. It seems though that darkness is beginning to pervade even that which was and should be in the light. The light which guided us all, faith, is being fractured into many smaller lights and distractions. What was our solitary guide in life is being usurped by the lights of tv and the glimmer of cell phones.

The flashing of a sale, the power of a scoreboard, the neon glow of a light in a bar. The light that is the Truth of our Faith is being forsaken for others, and we are paying the prices in our society and families. The immemorial search for the great light of Truth itself is waning due to our distractions. When this happens, we linger on and settle for the lesser lights which illumine fleeting moments but fail to dispel the dark and show us the way. In this absence, everything becomes confused; good and evil are not easily discernible. Which road to take becomes a difficult decision to make. It is urgent then that we pray and work to rekindle the light of faith in our hearts and others. Once we lose the great lantern of faith, even the other flickers of light themselves dim. Faith, the great light, illumines all of human existence and must then be desired and prayed for, it’s source being God. Let us implore him for an increase.

– Father Mark Schoffner, November 3, 2019

September 2019

For the conversion of Russia, for freedom and tranquility for the Church to worship, for defense from satanic forces attacking the faithful— these are several of the reasons why the St. Michael prayer has been prayed. Since the inception of the St. Michael prayer, which was written by Pope St. Leo XIII, it has been prayed fervently to implore the heavenly help we all need. Michael (which means “Who is like God!”) is the angel considered the protector and patron of the universal Church and also the guide of departed souls to paradise. He is a soldier, intercessor, and companion and guide at death.

Fighting the great dragon Satan in the Book of Revelation, he commands the whole of heaven in the fight against Satan. And, since the prince of lies is out to get us and deceive us about ourselves and God’s love for us, we intercede and ask for help from our heavenly helpers, namely St. Michael. Rebellion against God has caused many to sin, namely Satan and his demons, and he seeks to pull us down with him. That heavenly rebellion trickles down and affects us here on earth. There is a cosmic battle in which we all participate. In seeking to conquer the prince of the world and the spirit of the world, we’ve begun again the intercession of this extra help to defend ourselves, our families, and our parish from the attacks of evil.

Good things are happening here at St. Mary, and we know evil will certainly try to undermine the will of God for our lives and parish. St. Michael the Archangel, pray for us! “Whenever some work of heroic proportion is to be performed, Michael is commissioned. Thus from the work and from the name of the Angel we are given to understand that nobody is able to do such things as only God can accomplish.” - St. Gregory.

– Father Mark Schoffner, September 29, 2019

It’s always good to be reminded about important activities or events. In thinking about this week’s blurb, I thought I could touch on a subject which seems to be getting a lot of traction in our parish these days. Fr. Scott and I seem to have made the Sacrament of Confession a point of our homilies and exhortations since we've gotten here not because we like sitting in a little room and listening to people, but because of what Jesus promises to those who partake of the sacrament. The covenant which we entered into with God at our baptism is one of union with God. We are all to be united to him and love him. Sin offends that like a bad odor at the dinner table. But worse, it cuts us off from the life of grace which God is otherwise graciously pouring upon us.

Maybe you haven’t been in a while? We are suppose to go at least once a year, but more frequent is admirable. Pope Francis says he likes to go about every two weeks unless needed otherwise. I myself try to make a good confession about every two weeks as well. I just wanted to give some tips on confession. Examine yourself, not in a mirror to see what you look like, but examine your soul, your conscience. Use the Ten Commandments to see where you have failed to live up to the dignity you’re called to as a beloved son or daughter of God. Take your time and be specific with the kind of sin you have committed and how many times. Confess your sins, not everybody else’s. Listen to the counsel and penance and trust that the words of absolution are what Jesus says they are, final. Sins wiped away. Then go out and live the life of grace God intends for you.

– Father Mark Shoffner, September 22, 2019

Throughout the Christian world, familiar sounds can be found, namely the sounding of a bell. One can think of the many towers and chapels in France and Italy, to the huge bells of the great German cathedrals, or maybe Big Ben in London with its familiar sound and presence. Used originally to rouse monks from praying and to call a community to prayer, their usage has grown and developed along with the rites of the Church. From wooden boards, to gong-looking devices, to ones that look like glorified cowbells (ie. Bell of St. Patrick), the community of believers have used something to make a noise to rouse us to pay attention and worship the living presence of God.

Here in Natchez we have our own notable sound calling us to the hour, the Angelus, and the beginning of Mass. Maria Alexandrina is the name of our big bell in the tower, and this beautiful bell has sounded over Natchez for 169 years as of this year.

Recently, we purchased a small set of bells to aid and alert the congregation and choir that it’s time to begin worship. They’re referred to as sacristy bells, different than the sanctuary bells which are rung during the epiclesis (calling down of the Holy Spirit) and consecration. Sacristy bells are placed either where a procession would begin or from where the priest would leave the sacristy en route to the altar to say Mass. They serve the function of alerting everyone we’re about to begin. We hope that this aids our parish community in a dignified manner to better worship the Lord of Lords. You know, it’s always good to start on a good note! Even the ring of a bell!

– Father Mark Shoffner, September 15, 2019

In the early centuries of the faith, the faithful would gather in the afternoon and evening to chant hymns and songs of praise to God and in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This was a wide-spread practice which brought the faithful to the church to close out their day of work and labor.

In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries there arose in the Mass a special emphasis on the Eucharist and the importance of seeing it during the elevations during Mass. We still have these practices today. It allows for people to make a prayer of thanks, petition, or a spiritual communion if they will not be receiving the Eucharist. When Pope Urban IV instituted the Feast of Corpus Christi in 1246 it called for special hymns, processions, and that the Blessed Sacrament be exposed in a monstrance.

Key to this placing of the Flesh and Blood of Our Lord for veneration was that the people would receive a blessing (latin: benediction) by the minister through him making the sign of the cross with the Blessed Sacrament. The minister himself veiled with a cope and humeral veil beautifully reducing the minister and highlighting the Lord present. The Lord, present there among the faithful, blessing his people. How great is that! Today we still celebrate that feast and we have periods of exposition with benediction, on Mondays at St. Mary’s.

The songs we sing are actually verses of a much longer hymn written by St. Thomas Aquinas for the Feast of Corpus Christi. The Divine Praises recited at the end are affirmations of the faith proclaimed in reparation for heresies and errors taught about dogmas and tenets of the faith. So when you come pray, particularly on days of Eucharistic exposition, you join the centuries old praise of Almighty God!

– Father Mark Shoffner, September 8, 2019

Since the beginning of our faith, the Eucharist has had a special and preeminent place in the life of the Church. From the very earliest days it was taught and reminded that it was no ordinary bread nor was it a symbol, but the real flesh and blood of Jesus. The Eucharist being the most perfect presentation of the Lord’s Sacrifice on the Cross was clearly taught for centuries. In order that the faithful experience the sensation and truth of Jesus Christ’s real presence in the Body and Blood, tabernacles were built, altars became more adorned and devotions arose around the Blessed Sacrament with prayers and processions.

Here at St. Mary’s - Our Lady of Sorrows Parish - we are blessed to have a beautiful temple to the Lord with a beautiful place to adore our Lord resting quietly in the marble altar. On Monday we have the Blessed Sacrament exposed and shown in a manner of adoration and worship, concluding with Benediction, a centuries old devotion with prayers, songs, and blessing.

We are reminded “...while the Eucharist is reserved in churches or oratories—that Christ is truly Emmanuel, which means ‘God with us.’ For He is in the midst of us day and night; He dwells in us with the fullness of grace and of truth. He raises the level of morals, fosters virtue, comforts the sorrowful, strengthens the weak and stirs up all those who draw near to Him to imitate Him, so that they may learn from his example to be meek and humble of heart, and to seek not their own interests but those of God.

Anyone who has a special devotion to the sacred Eucharist and who tries to repay Christ's infinite love for us with an eager and unselfish love of his own, will experience and fully understand—and this will bring great delight and benefit to his soul—just how precious is a life hidden with Christ in God and just how worthwhile it is to carry on a conversation with Christ, for there is nothing more consoling here on earth, nothing more efficacious for progress along the paths of holiness.” (Mysterium Fidei, P. Paul VI 1965)

– Father Mark Shoffner, September 1, 2019


St. Mary Basilica Coat of Arms