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

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