June 2020

Tomorrow, June 29, marks a big day in our liturgical calendar for both the universal Church as well as for us here at St Mary Basilica. It is the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles. These men are two giants in the building up of Christ’s Church. Both were called by Jesus Himself, after which they received new names signifying their new way of life in Christ. And both were great evangelists, bringing many into Christ’s flock and starting many new local churches, appointing newly ordained bishops as their successors to run those new local churches. And both ended up in Rome and were martyred for the faith. Today, a Major Basilica sits where St Paul was martyred and another where St Peter was buried.

Why do we celebrate these two together? They rarely worked together. And when they did, they tended to argue a bit as neither one of them was perfect. Yet, St Peter was chosen by Jesus as the first Pope and leader of the Apostles. St Paul, though, wrote far more that is contained in the Bible. But all along they were working for the same goal and ended their ministry in the same city, both being martyred for the faith.

Proof of celebrating these two on the same day can be found in the early Church. St Augustine is attributed with a homily for this Solemnity dated in the year 395. He said: “Both apostles share the same feast day, for these two were one; and even though they suffered on different days, they were as one. Peter went first, and Paul followed. And so we celebrate this day made holy for us by the apostles' blood. Let us embrace what they believed, their life, their labors, their sufferings, their preaching, and their confession of faith.”

A tradition for this solemnity is for the Holy Father to bestow the Pallium upon newly appointed Archbishops during his Mass at St Peter’s Basilica. The pallium is a circular band made of lamb’s wool and is worn around the neck of an archbishop during the Holy Mass. It is a sign of the Archbishop’s authority as a metropolitan and head of a province of bishops.

Perhaps this is why the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul is of such great importance to a basilica like us, as well as a cathedral church (which is the seat of a bishop and successor to the Apostles). Being named a basilica is a papal honor and gives that church a special tie to the Holy Father. Therefore, the feast of the first Holy Father, St Peter, is of greatest importance to us. Another day like this is the Feast of the Chair of St Peter, which celebrates in a special way the primacy of the office of the Holy Father.

– Father Scott Thomas, June 28, 2020

When is the last time you went to Confession? When is the last time you took your children to confession? This is a good and very important question to be asking considering the effects the COVID quarantine had on our parish and school schedules. We did manage to offer a Confessathon (as I’m now calling them) to the Cathedral elementary students and I thought it went really well with numerous priests available. But everything shut down before we could offer the same for grades 6 and older as well as for our parishes. So since we did not offer the opportunity for outside confessors to those groups during the season of Lent, the question must be asked, “When was the last time you went to Confession?”

I know many people use Lent and Advent as their gage on when to go to Confession. But since we weren’t able to bring in other priests during Lent (due to COVID), many of us are lagging behind schedule for a good confession. Besides that, in all honesty, simply using Advent and Lent as the only time to Confess does not fit in with what we profess and believe as Catholics. Would you do the same in your marriage? Would you only reconcile with your spouse every 4 to 6 months? Can a marriage last in such a fashion? Our personal relationship with God is the same way. It is a marriage of sorts, as shown by the personal wedding together of God and humanity that is the worthy reception of Holy Communion.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches in paragraph 1440: “Sin is before all else an offence against God, a rupture of communion with Him. At the same time it damages communion with the Church. For this reason conversion entails both God’s forgiveness and reconciliation with the Church, which are expressed and accomplished liturgically by the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.” We must first accept the fact that sin cuts us off from God. And accepting this truth should push us to want to find out what sins we are committing in our life. Sin also ruptures our communion with the Church. So in order to worthily receive Holy Communion at Holy Mass, we must first make a worthy confession, reconciling ourselves with God and His Church. Again, can a husband and wife truly live in communion with each other if they do not seek reconciliation as often as they need it? In the same way, can you truly live in communion with God and His Church if you do not seek reconciliation as often as you need it?

Confession shouldn’t be a scary thing. But if we make it scary then please let us know. And it really shouldn’t matter who the priest confessor is when we go. Every priest is a priest and bound to the seal of confession as he absolves your sins in the name of Jesus Christ. Notice that we have added times for confessions. In addition to the regular weekend times, we now offer the Sacrament of Reconciliation at St Mary every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday beginning at 11:30am. And if both of us priests are available, then as one offers Holy Mass then other can continue hearing confessions well into Mass time until everyone has been cared for.

So when was the last time you went to confession? Chances are you need to again. We’ll be waiting anxiously to give you God’s merciful love through this great Sacrament of Healing.

– Father Scott Thomas, June 21, 2020

This weekend we celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi. This is a feast day that was proposed by St Thomas Aquinas and eventually approved by Pope Urban IV in 1264. St Thomas wrote most of the prayers used on this day, including the O Salutaris Hostia and the Tantum Ergo (which is actually the last two verses of the Pange Lingua, which is sung on Holy Thursday). Holy Thursday is actually the institution of the Holy Eucharist. But since it is so quickly overcome by a sadder tone in the Agony of the Garden and betrayal by Judas, St Thomas proposed a separate feast to really celebrate the gift that the Holy Eucharist is as the perpetual presence of Jesus Christ in our midst. And so we have the Feast of Corpus Christi.

Probably the greatest gift that we are given as Christians is the real presence of Jesus Christ our Savior in the Holy Eucharist. And yet it is so sad to consider how many Christians, including Catholic priests, deny the reality that it is. We must remember that the Holy Eucharist is not a mere symbol of Jesus among us. Rather, it truly is His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity physically presence in our midst, in every Tabernacle in every Catholic church around the world. When you see the Sacred Host, you see the face of Jesus and the face of Love Himself. You see the total gift of self that we are called to imitate and put into action in our own lives. That is because in the Holy Eucharist, even in the smallest crumb, Jesus gives His whole Self to us. Not a portion but His entire Self.

This feast should be of special importance to us at St Mary Basilica. On September 1, 1862, the Union gunboat Essex arrived in Natchez. The next day some of its crew came to shore for some supplies. According to Bishop Gerow, “An encounter ensued with a group of Natchez citizens, in which the officer in command of the party was wounded, one of his men killed, and five others were wounded.” The gunboat then proceeded to retaliate by shelling Natchez for somewhere between 60 and 180 minutes. While damage was done to the city, thankfully only one person was killed. In thanksgiving for being spared from further loss of life, Bishop Elder proposed to the parish a special vow to keep the Feast of Corpus Christi as a holy day of obligation, which Blessed Pope Pius IX accepted and approved. This vow stood until Bishop Gunn asked for it to be dispensed in 1913.

The first time the vow was observed was on the Feast of Corpus Christi in 1863. There was also a solemn Eucharistic Procession at some point in the day. According to Charles Nolan in his St Mary’s of Natchez, Bishop Elder explained the “procession was a public testimonial of ‘the faith, love and gratitude of the true children of God’ and a celebration of the triumph of Christ and His Church ‘over the obstinate enemies of this adorable mystery of our faith’” (that is, the Most Holy Eucharist). Perhaps our celebrations of Benediction at the end of all our weekend Masses between St. Mary and Assumption Parishes will help us recognize all the more the beauty of “this adorable mystery of our faith” and give thanks that our community has not been harder hit by the current pandemic. May it also bring more grace to our town through our own prayers and worship of our Savior Jesus Christ Who so lovingly makes Himself fully present in our midst in the Most Holy Eucharist.

– Father Scott Thomas, June 14, 2020

You will notice changes to the daily Mass schedule. Holy Mass for Monday through Friday will be at 12:05pm at St. Mary Basilica. I hope this will allow for more working folks to attend Mass during the week. Fr Shoffner and I will also hear confessions every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 11:30am until Mass starts or even during Mass if both of us are available (yes, you can actually do that).

Saturday’s daily Mass will remain at 8am every week but it will be quite different. Ever since arriving I have had requests for the traditional Mass. So now every Saturday the daily Mass will be according to the 1962 Missal of St John XXIII. It will be completely in Latin, except for the readings which will be in English. Handouts and booklets will be available, though it is preferred that you bring your own Missal (from 1962 or earlier) if you have one. But our booklets should be safe considering that they will only be used once a week— ample time for any germs to die.

In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI allowed for the 1962 Missal to be used more widespread as a valid form of the Holy Mass. In doing so, it was dubbed the “Extraordinary Form” and the new Mass is dubbed the “Ordinary Form.” The use of the word “extraordinary” does not mean that it is any better but rather points out that it is not the ordinary or principal form of the Holy Mass in the Roman Rite. But it is still valid and to be made available for those who prefer it. Those seeking the first Saturday devotion will still be able to fulfill those desires with this Mass.

As always I am open to questions and constructive feedback. But please keep in mind that this is simply an effort to reach out to those who still struggle with the Ordinary Form of the Mass (the Mass that came out of the Second Vatican Council), and who find more spiritual benefits from the way the Holy Mass was offered before the Council.

– Father Scott Thomas, June 7, 2020

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