April 2020

The coming week is packed with a list of rock star saints. Not to take away from other saints in Heaven (and not that those humble servants care), but these are some big names to consider. Tuesday is the Memorials of St Gianna Beretta Molla and St Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort. Wednesday offers the Memorial of St Catherine of Sienna. Then Friday gives us the Memorial of St Joseph the Worker.

St Gianna Beretta Molla was an Italian pediatrician who lived from 1922-1962. As a married mother of four who lived in the 20th century, certainly she stands a model who can appeal to many Catholics today. During her fourth pregnancy, though, she was diagnosed with a large ovarian cyst. Her doctor recommended an abortion to care for the cyst and save her life, but St Gianna would not agree. She put the life of her child before her own. A week after giving birth to her child, St Gianna died of septic peritonitis. St Gianna was canonized in 1994 by Pope St John Paul II.

St Louis-Marie Grignon de Monfort is one who should appeal to us in Natchez as he is one of the foremost preachers on devotion to Mary. Probably one of his greatest contributions to the Church is his Total Consecration to Mary, which is still used in various ways to this day. He lived from 1673 to 1716 and was canonized in 1947 by Pope Pius XII.

St Catherine of Sienna is probably one of the most powerful women to have lived and contributed to the Church, and even during a time when women did not have much to their name at all. She lived from 1347-1380 in Italy and was the youngest of 24 children. Her writings are still used and read by many today. She was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1970 by Pope St Paul VI. In 1347 she received the Stigmata from Jesus. She was instrumental in influencing Pope Gregory XI to move the papacy back to Rome from Avignon.

Finally on Friday we celebrate St Joseph under the title of St Joseph the Worker. This memorial was established by Pope Pius XII in 1955 to combat communist propaganda on work. The Church has always pointed out the dignity of work as found throughout Sacred Scripture. In 1981, Pope St. John Paul II stated: “the Church considers it her task always to call attention to the dignity and rights of those who work, to condemn situations in which that dignity and those rights are violated, and to help to guide [social] changes so as to ensure authentic progress by man and society.” We must remember that work exists for the sake of the person, not that the person exists for the sake of work. Work is a way of showing our creativity and our participation with God in the creating and sustaining of the world. This is important to remember as our economy struggles to restart after all this quarantining. But even now as some continue to work locally, how can we help support them and their livelihood?

– Father Scott Thomas, April 26, 2020

I missed one of my favorite saints during the Triduum. April 11 is the feast day of St Gemma Galgani. St Gemma was born on March 12, 1878, in Italy. Since a young age, she was drawn to Jesus with a deep love for Him. She longed to enter religious life but struggled to find a community that would accept her on account of her poor health. But she accepted this and the many other setbacks in her life as God’s plan for her. She simply learned to love Him more deeply. In 1903, Gemma was diagnosed with tuberculosis, the same disease that took her mother and others in her family. She died on April 11 of that year at the age of 25 years old. St Gemma never did formally join a religious order. But she is accepted by the Passionist Order as one of their own. Gemma is the patron saint of pharmacists and against the death of parents.

At the age of 21, on June 8, 1899, Gemma received the Stigmata for the first time. As she was praying, she was joined by her Guardian Angel and the Blessed Virgin Mary. Suddenly, as she felt a deep sorrow for all of her sins, Jesus appeared to her and gave her the Stigmata. When she awoke, she found blood flowing from the very spots that Jesus touched. Nevertheless, she got up the next morning to walk to Holy Mass and receive Holy Communion, with holes in her feet. This would occur every week, from about 11 pm every Thursday until 3 pm the following Friday.

To the modern mind, these sufferings may appear to be horrible and tragic, holding her back from a fulfilling life. But to Gemma, they were a blessing. Ever since a young age, she felt a strong desire to make atonement for her own sins in union with the sufferings of Jesus. And as she grew, she would pray daily and fervently for the conversion of all sinners. Numerous conversions would come about through her intercession, including one particular sinner she would meet one day on the street. While walking past this particular stranger, all of his sins were revealed to her in her mind. Struck with sadness, she rushed home to pray for the sinner’s conversion. Not long after, the gentleman would knock on the door of her home asking to see the priest visiting her family.

This Sunday, the Second Sunday of Easter, is commonly known as Divine Mercy Sunday. In St Gemma, we see a great model of living the message of our God’s Divine Mercy for us all. That is what He desires for us and nothing less—to forgive us of our sins and convert us to a virtuous and loving union with Him. Remember that when Jesus appears in this Sunday’s Gospel (John 20:27), He still has the wounds of His Passion even though His body is glorified. Those wounds are a part of who He is. And they are a part of who we are as Christians. St Gemma was gifted with a special participation in our Savior’s redemptive work for us. We are called to the same (maybe not with the Stigmata though) by having a deep hatred for our own sins, along with a deep desire to make atonement for them. Do you? What sins do you need to confess and what sins do you need to make up for by acts of love? May St Gemma Galgani intercede for us all, that we may immerse ourselves and our loved ones in God’s merciful love.

– Father Scott Thomas, April 19, 2020

Something amazing is going on and we must not lose sight of it! After 40 days of fasting in the season of Lent, which was exacerbated by this whole Coronavirus pandemic, we now begin a season of 50 days of feasting and rejoicing in the Season of Easter. Just like Christmas, Easter is more than just one day. Rather, it is 50 days long, and we must not let the pandemic distract us from that! The celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the oldest celebration in Christendom and the most important. It is times like these that we find hope in the Resurrection. And by embracing this truth we can trudge through the awfulness of social distancing and illness with great hope and trust that this, too, shall pass.

For forty days we have gone without singing “Alleluia” but now we bring it back and with great joy. Plaster the word all over your house! Put it on your mirrors, the refrigerator, your phones and computers and everywhere else! Sing the praises of the angels for the Savior has defeated death and offers us eternal life! Another feature is that the first eight days of the season of Easter are basically eight Sundays in a row. In other words, Monday is Easter Sunday. Tuesday is Easter Sunday. And so on. This forms what we call the Easter Octave. We celebrate Octaves to emphasize important days like Christmas and Easter. An Octave is eight straight days referencing that the world was created in seven and recreated on the “eighth day” through the Resurrection of Jesus. To borrow a phrase from a few months ago, Easter ain’t over yet!

Take note of the great Paschal Candle in our sanctuary at St Mary. Its massive size. Its burning flame. Its simplicity without noticeable decoration other than the five incense nails sticking out of it. Even when Jesus rose from the dead, the wounds of His Passion were still visible as reminders of the suffering that comes before the joy. “By His holy and glorious wounds,” prays the priest at the Easter Vigil, “may Christ the Lord guard us and protect us.”

Finally, join in reciting the Regina Caeli in place of the Angelus through the season of Easter until the Solemnity of Pentecost has passed.

The Regina Caeli is as follows: V. Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia. R. For He whom you did merit to bear, alleluia. V. Has risen, as he said, alleluia. R. Pray for us to God, alleluia. V. Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia. R. For the Lord has truly risen, alleluia.

Let us pray. O God, who gave joy to the world through the resurrection of Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, grant we beseech Thee, that through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, His Mother, we may obtain the joys of everlasting life. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen

– Father Scott Thomas, April 12, 2020

This week we venture into the holiest week of the year. Usually it is one of my favorite weeks to enjoy. Even though some of the stuff has been straight-up canceled and the rest will have to be done in private, I am still looking forward to this week and the spiritual benefits that it offers. In particular, the Sacred Triduum is probably the most important group of days for us as Christians. Even though you cannot physically attend the liturgies this year, you will be able to view them online. But even more, strive to allow these days to influence your daily life from Thursday afternoon until Sunday morning. Everything that we do during the Triduum dates back to the earliest days of the Church. In fact, most of it is attested to in the travel journal of a woman named Egeria who made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in the 4th century and recorded all that the Christians did. In other words, we didn’t just make this stuff up 50 years ago.

It all begins Thursday evening with the celebration of Jesus Christ instituting two very important Sacraments—the Holy Eucharist and the Priesthood. As a result, we can also say that it was the birthday of the Church. In that Upper Room at the Last Supper, Jesus did not just share a final meal with His friends. No, He did something so much more. He offered the first Holy Sacrifice of the Mass ordaining His first priests, the 12 Apostles, and giving them in the Mass what would be His perpetual presence among us and our perpetual participation in our Redemption. And that continues on today fulfilling the command, “Do this in memory of me.”

On Good Friday we are all still obligated to abstain from meat and fast. It is a day of penance for us. Altars across the world are stripped, showing the Altar as the image of Christ that it is. Our Lord has been arrested and is enduring His Passion for our sake. Therefore, Good Friday is the only day of the year that not a single Holy Mass is offered. Let us strive to let our personal lives mirror this—stripping it of anything unnecessary and simplifying the day so as to meditate even more of the sufferings and love of your Savior.

Did you know that it is actually recommended to extend the fast of Good Friday into Holy Saturday? Of course, do it according to your ability and your state in life. Holy Saturday is also a penitential day for us as Christians similar to Good Friday. Jesus is dead and in the tomb. The world is still and awaits its Savior. There is no Holy Mass prescribed for the day. No Sacraments are allowed outside of the Last Rites. Ultimately nothing is done by the Church outside of the Liturgy of the Hours. Plan your day, dear Christian, to mirror that. Holy Saturday is not a day for partying and egg hunting but rather a day of penance and anticipation. That is, until sundown and the beginning of the Easter Vigil when the Paschal Candles enters as the Light of the Risen Christ! Then the 50-day season of Easter begins!

– Father Scott Thomas, April 5, 2020

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