This weekend we celebrate World Mission Sunday as a universal Church. In 1926, Pope Pius XI declared the second-to-last Sunday in October to be World Mission Sunday as a day to remind us that preaching and spreading the Gospel is the work of all of us. And even though we cannot go to the Missions, we can still support them through prayer and financial support.
Of the multiple Pontifical Mission Societies, one of the more famous is the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. It was founded in Lyon, France, in 1822, by the Venerable Pauline-Marie Jaricot. She started the society with the help of a priest from New Orleans. Their first collection was sent to the huge Diocese of Louisiana and the Two Floridas, which at the time included the state of Mississippi. In 1840, Pope Gregory XVI would raise the society of more notoriety. It would go on to support on multiple occasions the fledgling Diocese of Natchez, which had been created by the same Pope Gregory, in 1837.
So it is to the great work of the Venerable Pauline-Marie Jaricot that we owe many thanks as her Society for the Propagation of the Faith helped fund the beginnings of our diocese and the building of our beautiful St Mary Basilica. While there was a lot of money here in Natchez, not much of it was Catholic. The diocese and the Cathedral of Our Lady of Sorrows struggled financially for a long time, especially during and after the Civil War. But thanks to Venerable Jaricot’s work, we were able to do what all we did.
So now we must ask how we can “return the favor.” How can we give thanks to God for the generosity of so many in France and elsewhere that helped fund the beginnings of the spread of Catholicism in Mississippi? After all, that is what World Mission Sunday is all about—spreading the fullness of the Truth through the growth of the Catholic Church, the Church founded by Jesus Christ Himself.
It is my understanding that today’s second collection is distributed to the Pontifical Mission Societies. But if you don’t feel comfortable giving, then perhaps you could find a specific Catholic mission to give to directly or just offer your prayers in communion with those of St Thérèse of Lisieux, patroness of missionaries.
– Father Scott Thomas, October 18, 2020
Are you still placing your hand in the empty Holy Water font out of habit? Hopefully you miss having Holy Water at the doors. Never worry, though, because we’ve got your back. While the diocese still wants the fonts to be empty for fear of spreading COVID-19, we have two other ways of getting you this great and necessary sacramental.
Method 1—the Sprinkling Rite during Mass. A few weeks ago we walked around at the beginning of Mass throwing holy water on y’all. I love doing that, as long as the aspergillum (that metal stick in my hand) doesn’t go flying from my hand to your face. So far I’ve been successful in avoiding that. This rite takes the place of the Penitential Rite as it recalls our dying and rising with Christ in Baptism. The water for the rite is blessed right then and there at the beginning of Mass, and includes blessed salt being mixed in with it. Placing salt in the water is a reference to 2 Samuel 2:19-22, where Elisha puts salt in water to purify it. Salt is also a biblical symbol of incorruptibility.
Method 2—the Holy Water “tank” by the St Joseph Altar. This silver tank is always filled with Holy Water. If you find it empty, let us know, and we will make some more. This water, too, has exorcised salt mixed in since I personally use the older form of blessing. This water also receives a prayer of exorcism so that, as the prayer begs, it may “put to flight all the power of the enemy” whenever it is used. Water is a symbol of life. So when it is blessed, it is used to ward off the enemy, Satan, and his minions who prowl around striving to take eternal life away from us. So keep some of this water in your home. It’s not for drinking, but it is for keeping you safe. Bring your own bottles to fill, and mark those bottles as Holy Water so that they will be treated accordingly.
A good practice for parents is to take some holy water and bless their children before bedtime. Maybe take a drop on your finger and use it to make the Sign of the Cross on your child just like you did at their Baptism. You can also purchase a small Holy Water font to mount in your home by the doors. Then you can remind yourself of your baptism every time you leave and when you return home.
– Father Scott Thomas, October 11, 2020
Throughout the world the traditional devotion for October is the Holy Rosary. Pope Saint John Paul II called the Rosary a compendium to the life of Christ and our redemption. Through the 20 mysteries it offers us for meditation, one cannot help but grow in his or her devotion to Jesus since the mysteries are all about His life and the gifts He will offer us at the end of time. When you look at the Rosary this way, you’ll see that the main focus is actually Jesus and not the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary is celebrated on October 7. Beginning that day we will have a special statue out in the sanctuary at St Mary with free Rosaries nearby. We hope this will inspire many to learn the Rosary and, as a result, learn the life of Jesus. Because of its focus on Jesus and the grace He so freely offers us, the Rosary truly is one of the most powerful weapons we have against evil. That is why I always keep one in my pocket and I hope you will, too. You never know when you will need it.
In addition to the focus on the Rosary, the dioceses of the United States celebrate October as Pro-Life Month. During this month we are asked to spend some time reflecting on the gift of human life. In his 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), Pope Saint John Paul II said, “Truly great must be the value of human life if the Son of God has taken it up and made it the instrument of salvation of all humanity!” God could have redeemed us in any way He wanted. But He chose to send His Son incarnate as one of us, taking on our human flesh and lifting it up to a new reality. By being born fully human then dying and resurrecting in human flesh, Jesus Christ has sanctified all human life. The Rosary reminds us of this with the Glorious Mysteries of the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus as well as the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In all of those, we are taught the destiny of our flesh—to be glorified in Heaven for all eternity after the Second Coming and completion of all time.
Thus, we must respect that sanctity and defend it at all costs. If we don’t defend the defenseless, then who will? It is up to us—Jesus’ soldiers on Earth—to defend the gift of life that He has given to every person born into this world. And the Holy Rosary is the best place to start.
– Father Scott Thomas, October 4, 2020