May 2020

Make Confession Great Again! Did I get your attention??? This isn’t a political statement, just a way of grabbing your attention.

I do want to talk about confession though. If it’s been a while, consider coming for a little sanctifying grace. Our parish evening of reconciliation during Advent was dampered by the rain, and we didn’t get to have our Lenten one like normal. That being the case, as we finish the Easter season and are returning to a more active parish life, there may be some things that you’d like to get off your chest. The stresses of being locked up with oneself or with family constantly can be difficult mentally and physically. And, we can’t all chock it all up to mere feeling down. Thoughts come from the heart. They are interior to us before we act on them. Even if one does not act on a sinful thought, we still can choose to persist in it. That can be dangerous. And, sometimes sinful.

It might be giving into despair, or gluttony, or greed with time or toilet paper. It could be persisting in a lie or not keeping Sunday a holy day while watching Mass on the internet? Uncharitable to someone on social media? These are the mostly little, but weighty thoughts and actions which don’t help a life of holiness. We can’t be good Christians while we hold on to unrepentant sin. It’s a tough pill to swallow and hear, but the Christian life is one that lives in the promise of the Resurrection. The promise that sin and death can be defeated happens only if we place it on the cross.

I’ve had many tell me that they’ve never thought of going to confession or the need for reconciliation until Fr. Scott and myself have talked about it so much. It really is a strong and robust way of uniting yourself to God and abundantly receiving the grace we need to live the life God created us for. It’s never a burden to ask a priest to hear a confession. If it was, then anointing the dying would be a burden, or saying Mass, or baptizing a child. All of the sacraments would be a burden. We know them not to be as they are our necessary avenues of grace from God. In other words, to nourish, reconcile, feed the faithful for a life of holiness. All Christians are called to a life of holiness. That is why I hope you’ll consider coming to a regularly scheduled confession or setting up an appointment. When you go, remember: kind of sin and number of times it was committed. Keep it as simple as it is and let those good graces from God flow.

– Father Mark Schoffner, May 31, 2020


I had such a fun time riding out on farms this week, blessing fields and seedlings. The joy that is being outside, with others, listening to their stories, and helping bring God more robustly into their lives is just grand. It’s hard to replicate as it utterly cannot be replaced. I long for these moments. The Lord desires that his faithful sanctify the day and their lives by bringing Him into their day to day. That’s what begins at the moment someone is baptized. We are called to holiness; and by being made into a temple of the Lord, everything they do and experience, the Lord is with them. “Fortified by so many and such powerful means of salvation, all the faithful, whatever their condition or state, are called by the Lord, each in his own way, to that perfect holiness whereby the Father Himself is perfect” (Lumen gentium, no. 11).

The ordinary means of receiving these graces are found namely in the sacraments of the Church and aided by the sacramental which helps dispose us, to dispose our souls to a greater reception of God in our day to day. That’s why when you call your priest out to the house or to the farm, there may be some fumbling around in his book for a moment. There’s not a situation that hasn’t been thought of or planned for by the Church. Boy is there a blessing for everything! It would almost be futile to search for a blessing which the faith does not have in her treasury.

But to have all this, you have to know your resources. There is the Book of Household Blessings for families to pray for and ask God’s blessings in various situations, or you could make up your own special prayers written by the family. There’s many ways. There too is the standard, which is to have the priest come to bless or pray. This may be for an important project, the building of some structure, or some spiritual feast to be celebrated.

Just like you would call in the good times, it’s advantageous to call in the tough times, the unsure times. In particular, I’m talking about going to the hospital. If you or someone you know goes into the hospital, whether for an emergency or a scheduled procedure, let us know. If you tell enough people, it’ll get to us. Or, tell the hospital to call. It is of the utmost importance for the sick and those in danger of death to receive God’s blessing and presence in the sacraments and blessings. The blessing of God’s grace is abundant and made for every situation. Call on the Lord and ask; beseech the Father in the name of the Son, and it will be given to you.

– Father Mark Schoffner, May 24, 2020


Rogare, in Latin, to ask, that is the basis of the longstanding Christian tradition of Rogation liturgies. They always take place on the Feast of St. Mark, March 25th, and on the three days preceding the celebration of the Ascension of the Lord. The Ascension biblically happened forty days after Easter, which would put it on a Thursday. Then, nine days later we celebrate Pentecost. Did you catch the nine days reference? See there is the first novena! Most dioceses in the United States have opted to move that celebration to the Sunday after because asking people to go to Mass more than once a week would be an undue burden I suppose.

Because I like the history and development of things, I thought we could take a look at the formation and usage of Rogation Days and how they still play an importance. They aren’t solely for a bygone era, nor are they the purview of only Anglican minded traditions. They are Roman. We are Roman. So, let’s do what we Romans do and process!

As with several things, the early Christians as their communities were forming came into contact with the pagan ways that preceded them. They inherited a Jewish liturgical mind which many of them didn’t have the knowledge and in depth understanding of us today. The Christians in Rome were aware of the Robigalia procession, offering entrails of a dog and sheep to the Roman god Robigus. They did this to protect their crops from rust. They would counter this procession with one which went to the relics of St. Peter in the basilica and asked for intercession to the One True God. They wanted to show who should be believed. It’s easy to imagine them hearing the story of Elijah mocking the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:16-40) and getting excited to do the same.

The minor litanies which are celebrated this Sunday and this week began around 470 by Mamertus, Bishop of Vienne, France. There had been terrible calamity in his territory, and he did this as a way of calling believers to prayer and penance. With the cooperation of civil authorities, he decreed that the faithful abstain from servile work and that this triduum be held as a time of penance, with prayer and fasting. He also prescribed penitential processions (litanies) for each one of the three days. Thus the name "litanies" was given to the whole celebration. These were later termed ‘Minor Rogations’ and were later ordered by the Fifth Council of Orléans, which was held in 511, and then approved by Leo III (795-816).

This is not something foreign to today. In many communities, those who call on the richness of our Christian faith will find prayers such as these and the faithful imploring God. Fr. Scott and I have already been to bless some fields and seedlings in Concordia Parish. If you know anyone who would like their lands or crops blessed and prayed over, just call the office. So, I already have my prayers readied for the procession. If you see me out walking, fully vested in cope and praying at different spots, stop and pray. Pray for those who labor, for the fruitfulness of the earth, for those that have died, for our government, for our community, and for all of us who live and desire to love the One True God.

– Father Mark Schoffner, May 17, 2020

 


Well, due to the massive increase of writing space in the Pastor’s/PV’s Corner because of the modified bulletin, I was going to write about vestments. Their shape, culture, time, where and what they symbolize, but that wasn’t writing very well. Then I thought about writing about cooking. I felt like putting the recipe/instructions for cooking something that I’ve been cooking probably too often. But, that just felt mean. Especially if you can’t cook or you don’t have the ingredients. So, what I’m going to do instead is talk about how you fly a kite and how you start a new assignment at St. Mary’s in Natchez.

To fly a kite, you first have to have a kite. A shape that flys, and the necessary stuff to fly it: wind & string. To start a new assignment at St. Mary’s, you have to have a priest, who can be obtained from your nearest bishop. With that you’ll have to have a need, and a place to store said priest. You’ll also need money for food or be willing to feed him as priests tend to like to eat.

So, now that you’ve got your necessary parts, you take it outside and let it catch the breeze and take off. You’ll want the kite to have sufficient freedom to move and dance in the wind. But, you’ll need to make sure you keep a good hold on the spool of string. Otherwise the kite will fly off or get stuck in a tree, or possibly lost. With a good environment available, the kite can stay up indefinitely.

With the priest, you’ll want to take him to the place for the need that you obtained him for. There, with some coaxing to get him going, and with the help of a more experienced guide, he should take off and be flying high in no time. It is, for all intents and purposes, the reason he exists. Just like a kite in the wind.

This Monday, the 11th, is my one year anniversary of my priestly ordination. I’m so glad that the need existed for me here in Natchez. It’s good to feel desired and wanted. I’ve been very wholeheartedly welcomed into this parish community, your families, and homes. I’ve been blessed to have helpful and encouraging people around me between the church and school. It has been a joy-filled year of being stretched, pulled, and formed into the person that the people of God need me to be. I have been celebrating the sacraments, offering the eternal Sacrifice of the Mass for us and the world, and teaching and being taught by you. I want to thank you all for the warm welcome and sure support, the guidance of your and my pastor, Fr. Scott, and the many blessings this past year has been. There are more good times to be had. There are good things going on in our parish. May the winds be full, that our kites may fly, and may the winds of the Holy Spirit always blow strong and constant in the lives of those who call St. Mary and Cathedral home. God love you.

– Father Mark Schoffner, May 10, 2020

 


In the ancient Church, the image most often set forth before Christians of Christ, is The Good Shepherd. In the catacombs, on tombs, ossuaries, ancient basilicas, it was everywhere. It could be likened to the images of the Sacred Heart we have today, or the way the fish symbol is used by many people in the last couple of decades. It’s a beautiful image and one that is worth taking an in-depth look.

This Sunday is Good Shepherd Sunday and the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. A day set to reflect on the ways in which God has provided not just himself as Shepherd of our souls, but also how he created structure in which there would be men taken from the flock and appointed stewards of the flock to shepherd it for the days. To help think about the image of a Good Shepherd, I want to summarize and paraphrase a few thoughts of Fr. Pius Parsch in ‘The Church’s Year of Grace’ back from 1959. It’s always resonated with me.

  1. The image of a shepherd with a sheep on its shoulders, what does it symbolize? A sheep has strayed from the flock and gotten lost, stuck, separated. Christ is sent to fetch mankind which is lost in sin and not just see it, but pursue it, to rescue it. Even to go as far as fighting off the lion trying to kill it. Christ the cut and bruised who searches after us.

  2. St. Peter, the first vicar of the Good Shepherd reminds us in his letter “You were as sheep going astray, but you are now converted to the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.” A spiritual odyssey where we undergo Holy Baptism and are ‘found’ by the Shepherd and placed upon his shoulders. Carried about and reconciled.

  3. On the shoulders and intimately united with our Creator, we maintain our childlike dependency on the Lord. A child of God, carried about. Anyone who has desired to hold onto a child a few moments more can feel God’s desire for us to be with him as we with a beloved child. Our greatest ambition must be to retain this divine life, to cherish it, and bring it to an ever more perfect oneness.

  4. By what means can we and are necessary to retain this union with our shepherd? The ever present memorial of his Passion, Death, and Resurrection. The Holy Mass and the Most Holy Eucharist. The Lord shows us his being the Good Shepherd in the Eucharist and in how to abide in him. To eat His Flesh and drink His Blood.

  5. Baptism, mystical union with God, the holy Eucharist, and our return home to heaven. The Shepherd finds us amidst the trials and tribulations, afflictions of Earthly life, and brings us back to him. Unites us to him. Modern society lives solely for the present, for the earthly. The Good Shepherd picture encourages us to contemplate how we belong to God, strayed from our shepherd, but he searches and finds us. He leads us to safety and good pasture.

    – Father Mark Schoffner, May 3, 2020

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