In Jerusalem, in the Northwest area of the Old City, near the healing pools of Bethesda (John 5), stands the Church of St. Anne. This church stands over earlier Byzantine ruins which were built over and around the site believed to be the childhood home of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Before Mary lived in Nazareth and was betrothed to Joseph, she was born in the holy city.
According to a Coptic (Egyptian) Christian tradition, Mary’s parents, Joachim and Anne, had come to Jerusalem to live and offer sacrifice. Because they were old and childless, their offering at the Temple was not accepted, and they were ridiculed. This weighed greatly upon them, and they went to pray. Anne stayed in Jerusalem while Joachim went out into the desert to pray. After some time, they reunited in their home in Jerusalem and were blessed with the unexpected and overjoyous arrival of a baby girl. It is with this girl that God had first definitely acted in bringing about the salvation of the world. She who is ‘full of grace’ was present to the world; and in a few years, the Savior would be born.
When we look at the window of St. Anne and her daughter Mary above the altar, we can see a tired and aged woman who looks astounded at what she sees before her eyes—one who didn’t think she would be blessed in her wise years yet played one of the greatest parts, giving form and formation to our Blessed Mother.
In our own lives, we would do good to go to Sts. Anne and Joachim (July 26) when we can’t see past what we perceive as the end, when we feel we have no more to give and nothing more could be asked of us. Sts. Anne and Joachim, parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary, pray for us.
– Father Mark Schoffner, July 26, 2020
I don’t know about you, but lately I feel like Clark Griswold. The goofball dad in the movie National Lampoon’s Vacation. Particularly when the car breaks down out in the desert and he has to hoof it to get help. He says to his wife, “I'll be fine, you’ll be fine, I’m sure this sort of thing happens all the time.” When he’s walking outside in the oppressive heat and he’s talking to himself! That’s been me. Or sailing, and getting stuck in the lake when the wind stops, I feel like a steamed vegetable. A steamed vegetable that’s talking to itself. It’s definitely warm outside, folks.
But thanks to our long length of summer and our two planting seasons, I picked up a few tomato and pepper plants to let them grow and start fruiting. In this part of the South, namely Mississippi, we get two full growing seasons in the summer, so people who like fresh vegetables can have their fill. Fr. Scott and myself have appreciated all of the garden bounty that’s been given to us.
Speaking of crops, we have a new crop of Confirmed in the Church. Last Tuesday we had the Sacrament of Confirmation in the Church, and it was a beautiful evening of prayer and sacraments. As Fr. Scott said in his homily, “You are now soldiers for Christ, sealed not with something that can be wiped off, but with a brand. You can’t peel that off.” Confirmation is that anointing, outwardly with chrism and inwardly with the Holy Spirit.
Catechism 1285 states, “It must be explained to the faithful that the reception of the sacrament of Confirmation is necessary for the completion of baptismal grace. For "by the sacrament of Confirmation, [the baptized] are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed."(cf Lumen gentium)
For all of us confirmed, St. Ambrose in On the Mysteries tells us, “Guard what you have received. God the Father has marked you with his sign. Christ the Lord has confirmed you and has placed his pledge, the Spirit, in your hearts.”
So, let us pray for those newly confirmed and for ourselves. Oh, and Happy 80th to Fr. Dave!
– Father Mark Schoffner, July 19, 2020
“On the huge summit S. E. of this church, the lower Mississippi Valley first received the gospel of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, through a celebrated Mass by F. Membre, a chaplain of LaSalle, on Easter, March 29, 1682. Mississippi’s first church was erected there c 1698 – 1700 by Fr. du Ru among Houma Indians. Mississippi’s first baptism occurred there in 1700 by Fr. Gravuer.”
This inscription on a marker at Fort Adams is just a small piece of the picture of the Catholic faith in the Americas as it concerns the native peoples of varying tribes and cultures with which it would interact. One hundred and forty five years earlier in 1537, Pope Paul III issued a revolutionary document—he first of it’s kind in the world, and inspired by the Gospel the Church so tries to preach. Sublimus Dei, stated very clearly that all in the human race, by virtue of their endowed capacity, were able to “attain to the inaccessible and invisible Supreme Good and behold it face to face.” That all are “created to enjoy eternal life and happiness...through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
This denunciation of Satan and his satellites that sought to enslave brutish newly discovered people was revolutionary. The Church, proclaiming “that the Indians are truly men and that they are not only capable of understanding the Catholic Faith but, according to our information, they desire exceedingly to receive it,” sought to protect and give rights to those not under any jurisdiction, flag, or laws. It was the Church who stood up then for these people.
“The said Indians and all other people who may later be discovered by Christians, are by no means to be deprived of their liberty or the possession of their property, even though they be outside the faith of Jesus Christ; and that they may and should, freely and legitimately, enjoy their liberty and the possession of their property; nor should they be in any way enslaved; should the contrary happen, it shall be null and have no effect . . . The said Indians and other peoples should be converted to the faith of Jesus Christ by preaching the word of God and by the example of good and holy living.”
Even though the Church gave this example so long ago, it still takes the conversion of the hearts of Christians time to change their ways. Whether it was the 16th century or the 21st century we live in, our hearts have to be converted each day to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
St. Kateri Tekakwitha, pray for us. (Feast Day July 14th)
– Father Mark Schoffner, July 12, 2020
Well, it’s been a year since Fr. Scott and I got here. Nothing has changed in the world. No discernible difference. Everything is fine. Business as normal. Well, I suppose something has changed, the Mass times have.
It’s definitely different in the world. I wonder what I’ve woken up into some mornings. We can see the world confronting changes and decay. All creation is groaning for redemption. It’s always good to look at ourselves and see how we’ve made either progress or regress. For me, it’s coming here to Natchez and beginning a new time in my life. For most of us, it's our birthday or New Year’s; and for some I know it's Advent, the beginning of the Liturgical Year.
I can look to the increased emphasis on the liturgical celebrations and their beautiful right- worship of God. This is the most important action we can do and participate. As the Mass re-presents to those assembled the moment of the Crucifixion, prayers are offered up to God and graces are bountifully bestowed upon all present and upon the world. Before we do anything as a parish, the Lord must be adored and glorified. Jesus gave us the best example of how to glorify The Father.
Like water flowing from a stream, the graces from God refresh us and reinvigorate us to live in the world as sons and daughters of God. We need that grace. We need that time spent before the Lord in prayer every day and, too, to make frequent visits to the Lord in the Church. I want to encourage you to do so. Pray more, seek to listen to Him more, live as Jesus told us. No picking and choosing what we want to believe and what we want to follow. Rather, living wholeheartedly for God. Let the light of God illuminate the dark. “If you will it, Lord,” we must pray.
– Father Mark Schoffner, July 5, 2020
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