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Parochial Vicar's Corner

Parochial Vicar's Corner Father Mark Schoffner

July 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

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

March 2020

When you read the readings this week, they’ve clearly got an overarching theme of life overcoming death. Ezekiel prophesies that the Lord would have the people rising from their graves and that his Spirit will give them life. Paul, in addressing the Romans, speaks of being alive in the Spirit of God, that is if the Spirit is dwelling in our life. And then there is the familiar story of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. The plea of the sisters begging for life for their brother and Jesus reiterating that he is ‘life’ itself, and that if they trust, and believe, that Jesus will overcome death.

A lot of us feel like we’re being hemmed in and that our way of life has taken a turn for the worse, so to say. And yes, we have had to experience many little deaths this Lent. No public Masses, no gatherings, no school in person, no friendly gatherings, shops shuttered, work curtailed, all little deaths. In them though is the seed of life. There is the promise in our faith that life overcomes death, and there is too within our spirit the promise that things will come back alive. Christ Jesus calls all to life, and he comes that we have it more abundantly. A life that is focused and examined, one that is full and intentional. Intent on doing the will of God, and avoiding sin so as to live as we’ve been called to by God. That’s the Gospel summed up.

And, for all it’s stresses and difficulties, this virus is serving a purpose too. When we gather once again without the threat of disease, will we go back to the old normal? Will it just be a tireless run of school assignments, social gathers, and sporting events? If we don’t cherish every moment, and every hug and handshake, every Sunday Mass, and those little league games, then have we really grown or did we waste this opportunity for grace? Pray as we continue through this struggle that we can all come out on the other side of this more grateful, more loving of life, and converted to not only enjoy the daily things of life, but converted in our hearts and minds of God.

– Father Mark Schoffner, March 29, 2020

This week is the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord and a great day to celebrate and ponder what it means to say ‘yes’ even amidst uncertainty. With the whole shutdown/postponement/quarantine and such, we are faced with many new situations to say ‘yes’ to. Many of you may be uneasy with what is being advised by the government and health officials. And too, many of you may be saddened or disheartened by the restrictions put on the daily life of the Church by the bishops. Those are valid feelings, but they are not a reason to lose hope. Amidst being asked to do the seemingly impossible, or the extremely difficult, we are equipped as Christians to respond. Mother Mary, ever virgin, said ‘yes’ to the Angel Gabriel when presented with the Divine plan laid out for her. To conceive and bear God in the flesh, the Son of God, this was a daunting prospect that even though astonishing to us, she was able to say “yes.”

We are able because of our growth in the life of holiness to say yes. To give to The Lord our ‘yes’ even when challenged by situations of the world. No need to fear. This feast day is a great one to look forward to this week and visit frequently in our personal prayer. The Good Lord wouldn’t give us anything that we’re not capable of handling, We simply need to conceive within ourselves the desire to fulfill the will of God even if we don’t know or see what that will lead to around the corner. Many blessings to y’all, and you’re in my prayers!

– Father Mark Schoffner, March 22, 2020

This coming up week, on Thursday, is the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the Eastern rites of the Church, he’s called St. Joseph the Betrothed. This break from our Lenten Fasting is traditionally still a meatless day, so you can celebrate it with fish dishes and sweets and whatever. You can come to Assumption Church to see a Sicilian tradition which was brought to Natchez through the immigrant communities that founded Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Saturday, March 21, from 9am till noon, Assumption will have its St. Joseph Altar.

St. Joseph isn’t all about eating and revelry though; he is a powerful intercessor who on earth was closer than anyone else to Our Blessed Lord and his Immaculate Mother. This exalted position was surely continued in death. In life he prepared a place for Jesus; and in his going before him in death, he in a way continued his fatherhood to prepare a place before him to join his Father. I bring up St. Joseph and hold him up to everyone as a model for our life in striving for holiness. St. Joseph worked and worked at living a virtuous life as he cared for the Blessed Mother and Our Lord. Worthy of emulation and a frequent go to for intercession, we would all be better to have him as a friend to call on in matters of faith and life.

In this time of sickness, I recall how in St. Joseph’s Litany he is referred to as “Solace of the Afflicted, Hope of the Sick, Patron of the Dying.” This would be a good time amidst the the Covid-19 sickness to pray for healing and consolation for those suffering and protection for everyone who is in danger of sickness. From plague, famine, and war, deliver us, O Lord.

– Father Mark Schoffner, March 15, 2020

When in the Holy Land, there is a familiar sound to my ears, Abouna, ,أبونا literally ‘Our Father.’ When my friends would address me, guides speak to me, sacristans help me, and locals offer me something, the term Abouna would be used. ‘Our Father Mark,’ the form of address for a priest. The people there have a living sense of the Holy as they live in a place so steeped with ‘holiness’ and respectful of the traditions. The term also recognizes something communal about the priesthood, that the priest is ordained by Jesus Christ for all people, hence the ‘Our.’

When I arrived back and walked into the school, into a loud multipurpose room of several classes of kids, one saw and cried out, “Everybody! Father Mark is here!” and almost all of them quit their play and came running to me, to hug me and say hello. Their actions proclaimed “Abouna!” Fatherhood is more than a biological function; it is an honorable life called to virtue, sacrifice, and offering in service for the other. And it’s for all. When it comes to priesthood, it is a spiritual fatherhood in which we as priests are something other than biological fathers and not temporal, of this world. It is a timeless and placeless fatherhood. One that is united and fostered with a person, the Eternal Word Jesus Christ crucified. There has been a struggle in being newly ordained, or a young person in general as it pertains to priesthood. People discount us, call me ‘baby priest’ or won’t call us ‘Father’ because “we’re too young.” At community events is where we’re hounded the most by people. It’s disrespectful of Fr. Scott and me, but too, disrespectful of you and the faith. Jesus didn’t seek special treatment, and I didn’t give my life for accolades. A priest voluntarily gives up the goods of marriage for greater goods to the Kingdom and God’s holy people, to be in the person of Christ to others. To disregard this is to disregard Christ.

– Father Mark Schoffner, March 8, 2020

When all is good in the world, we don’t tend to see the evil one tempting us. When everything is going to plan with the family, work, school, life in general. He sits over on the way side and plots and waits like a lion stalking his prey. The devil doesn’t assault Jesus while he’s in the Jordan River being baptized, or even when the Father’s voice is clearly heard from the skies. It’s when the Spirit prompts him to move forward with the Father’s plan that the devil takes on a full assault. Tempting Jesus with food, power, and worship. We too are tempted with the same things, and in the same ways. This is just another sign to us that Jesus was fully human as well as fully divine. We share in his temptations. Food, power, and worship.

The failures and sins of our lives come when we fall to the temptations which the evil spirit lays before us. To desire to feed ourselves with what we think we need, to take power where it may not need be taken, and to give inappropriate worship to creatures rather than the Creator. Idolatry ensues and we find ourselves in sin. This is the plight of what happens when we listen to the ‘great deceiver’.

This Lent, make yourself on guard and attentive to the evil spirit’s temptations of food, power, and worship. Frequently re-read this weekend’s Gospel, Matthew 4:1-11. In hearing Jesus overcome evil and temptation, you gain his power in the fight and seize upon the graces given to you at your baptism. Fight the good fight and pray that you may not undergo the temptation!

– Father Mark Schoffner, March 1, 2020

January 2020

Sin is no laughing matter. And, even though we may say at this time of year, Laissez les bons temps rouler, we must not let the enjoyment of life and fun impede our due worship of God. It is not worth the pain and separation from God. It’s not worth pleading ignorance before the Lord. It is of high importance to fellow parishioners and to all who know us to give witness to the primacy of Sunday and our Christian witness by keeping the Sabbath, by attending Mass.

“For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: "Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent." Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God's law. It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice. Feigned ignorance and hardness of heart do not diminish, but rather increase, the voluntary character of a sin. Sin committed through malice, by deliberate choice of evil, is the gravest.

Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself. It results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God's forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ's kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back. The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example: illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor. Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin.” Catechism of the Catholic Church nos. 1857, 1859-61, 2181

– Father Mark Schoffner, January 26, 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