March 2021

Jesus is stripped of garments, the Tenth Station. This is the station that has stuck with me the most during this Lenten season. Have you had one that particularly strikes you?

Most of us don’t think past the soldiers stripping the Lord of his clothing and then casting lots for his seamless garment. It’s an important historical fact of crucifixion and worth pondering for its spiritual import as Christians. Those crucified by the Romans were stripped bare. Within the faith, we don’t have depictions of a fully naked Christ because the faith has always sought to show reverence and modestly towards the body of our Lord as he offers himself.

Shame is a result of sin. When Adam and Eve sin, they experience shame and cover themselves. It has always persisted then in fallen humanity that if one wants to shame someone, they’d strip them. One can think of the horrors of slavery and their awful treatments, a truly exemplary example of fallen humanity.

Jesus then, having been horribly beaten and bruised, now lay naked as he’s being affixed to the cross. Any of us would recoil at this thought if we were to place ourselves in the event. What if we were the ones being made bare before our friends and loved ones, before a community of those who sought our death? Our Lord, on the other hand, does not experience the shame of sin, but he allows us to see the shame of our sins on and in his body. That we cannot deny. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.

This God-Man Jesus then, by taking upon himself our infirmities both bodily and spiritually, purifies the fallen human condition. This allows a way for each generation, each person to be renewed to live as God intends us. The Lord takes upon himself our sins. Sins wound the body spiritually whether or not we see them on our body. The Lord then lays bare the result and wages of our sins.

As we approach Good Friday, the shame of our sins should make us shudder. I beg you, ask forgiveness of our Merciful God. Pray a Divine Mercy Chaplet for yourself and others. May we be like the repentant thief and make amends before it’s too late.

– Father Mark Schoffner, March 28, 2021

This coming Week, on Thursday, will be 9 months to the day till Christmas! Thursday is the Annunciation of the Lord. This is the day the Church commemorates the angel Gabriel speaking to the young virgin of Nazareth. As the prophet Isaiah proclaims, Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us!”

SO, the sign happens, and a willing and obedient heart receives the gift God made it for. She becomes the Mother of God in her ‘yes’ and points us toward a proper reception of God’s will for ourselves. Now, we’re no Mother Mary; none of us are as admirable as our Blessed Mother, but we are all made for something. And not all of those things are the same. Last week I was overjoyed to be able to see my friend from youth be married, answering his vocation. It’s a great moment to realize one's vocation and answer. His is marriage, like mine, is holy orders.

Our day to day should be one which resonates Psalm 40, Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will. God doesn’t want our stuff, or a sacrifice of things; he desires our hearts. He desires that we seek his will in the large and grand ways and in the many more little ways which occur in the course of our days, to use all of ourselves and then our external resources to give him glory.

Behold, I come to do your will would be an accurate response to God’s inspirations he extends towards us every day. It can be troubling to us to hear God and experience a call, but that is overcome by the doing of the thing asked.

This week, as Mother Mary is recalled in the Church’s worship and she says May it be done to me according to your word, let that resonate within our own hearts. How open am I to do God’s will in general. Do I have everything so mapped out I have no room for God to show me another way? Do I not ever ask God what is his will for me? If we give him these few considerations, we know by faith and revelation that the Holy Spirit will give us the power of the Holy Spirit to bring about God’s will, building up the kingdom, and bringing forth the fruit for which we were made.

– Father Mark Schoffner, March 21, 2021

Lots of things invoke images. They invoke experiences, memories, and the like. This Friday is the upcoming Solemnity of Saint Joseph, spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary—an ancient feast which celebrates the patron of the universal church, the patron of the family, the patron of the dying, and probably some other things as is with most saint patronages. In many places, it will be a simple Mass. But for those communities that have Sicilian heritage, it will evoke much more.

The way in which Saint Joseph is celebrated here in the Gulf South, particularly New Orleans, is due to the acts of thanksgiving and intercession which the Sicilian immigrants poured forth upon their patron Saint Joseph and brought with them as they immigrated to the United States. Within my family lineage, I have Sicilian blood. One of my ancestors came in through Ellis Island at age 10 in the late 1800s, and the other came in through the port of New Orleans around the same time. It’s with the New Orleans Sicilians that this tradition to celebrate Saint Joseph in a extraordinary and extravagant manner came about. Giant altars with images of ancestors, cookies and cakes and breads are constructed in a manner to be symbols of the life of Saint Joseph and to evoke the homeland, prayers of intersession and flowers and liturgical items adorning this makeshift altar. It was all in Thanksgiving for Saint Joseph’s intercession during a great period of trial, fatigue, and drought.

Trial, fatigue, drought, these are all things which many of us have expressed with our hearts and our prayers. National crisis and a pandemic along with maybe a lackluster hunting season or something else have brought us to this point where we feel beat down occasionally. Overwhelmed, one could say. It’s in that which I want to encourage a life of prayer asking for the intercession of Saint Joseph who is there lovingly for you—to take care of the Holy Family and your family as well. Ask for his help in your family, in your work, in your daily difficulties. He’s been there before, and he wants to be with you in them today.

– Father Mark Schoffner, March 14, 2021

Back in November/December, I had the strangest urge to buy a chainsaw. I didn’t particularly need one, but I felt that I needed one. Now, this isn’t a bit on controlling shopping urges, but it is about when we feel inspired or compelled to do a good thing or something that is neutral, neither good or bad. The urge for a chainsaw lasted a few weeks, and I tamped it out and reasoned I didn’t need one.

Well, the ice came, and boy did I kick myself for doubting my feelings about a chainsaw! I texted my mama and told her that I wanted a fine chainsaw for either my birthday or Christmas. I told her about my chainsaw shopping urges a couple months prior; and after a little prompting by limbs needing to be cut, I bought one and my mom paid for it. Birthday present solved. Limbs cut and cleared. All with sore muscles to boot.

Listening to those calls and inspirations that are put on our mind or heart are important. Of course, we don’t or can’t follow all urges; they might lead toward sin. But a neutral choice over whether I needed to purchase a chainsaw sometimes needs to be listened to. Recently though, I was in the chapel at school praying; and in the midst of my prayer, a clear push came into my heart and mind that I needed to go to a certain teacher’s room; someone there had a question. It was a push from the Holy Spirit that I needed to answer. But I finished my prayer first. It’s important not to just receive from God an inspiration and do it but to receive and pray for strength and completion, THEN go do it so that all we attempt can be done with God in mind.

I walked into the classroom, and the teacher said, “God sent you.” I responded, “Actually, he did. I was in the chapel praying and I knew someone needed me in here.” Don’t neglect those urges and inspirations that God puts in your mind and heart. Call that person, reach out to those who pass by, visit the person on your mind, but above all pray that the Holy Spirit sends you where you are supposed to be and that he’ll send you the help you long for.

– Father Mark Schoffner, March 7, 2021