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Pastor's Corner

Father Scott Thomas

Pastor's Corner Father Scott Thomas

  • 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

  • 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

  • February 2020

    Please allow me to blow your mind for a moment—Ash Wednesday is NOT a holy day of obligation. Yes, you read that correctly—there is NO obligation to receive ashes on your foreheads this Wednesday. The title “Ash Wednesday” (technically “feria quarta cinerum”) can be traced back to Pope Urban II around the year 1099. So yes, the day is steeped in history and worthy practice. However, it does not celebrate a dogma of the Church, which is the function of actual holy days of obligation. In fact, Ash Wednesday is less about ashes on your head and more about penance in your heart. The real obligation of Ash Wednesday is fasting and abstinence.

    We are called to abstain from meat and fast by eating only one full meal (and two additional meals that, combined, don’t equal the full meal). The ashes on your forehead, should you choose to receive them, simply symbolize the penitential spirit that should be prevailing in your heart for the next 40(ish) days. “But Father, fasting and abstinence are just so hard to do!” Yea, I know. I struggle with it, too. But if Jesus can endure three hours nailed to a cross, after all the other junk He endured before those nails, well then... I think we can easily give up a meal or two. So, no you are not going to Hell if you fail to get that black smudge on your forehead. But you might be heading in that direction if you obstinately refuse to observe the obligation of fasting and abstinence. Have a great week!

    – Father Scott Thomas, February 23, 2020

    Our readings this weekend have much wisdom to challenge our culture. “If you choose you can keep the commandments, they will save you...No one does He command to act unjustly, to none does He give license to sin.” (Sir 15:15,20). God never tells us, “Go and party hard tonight, then, skip Mass in the morning.” Nor does He tell us, “Ignore whatever I teach through My Church, especially if it messes with your life plans.” As Fr. Mark wrote last month, sin is no laughing matter. One sin has the power to send us to eternal damnation. Do you ever consider that fact as you contemplate (or catch yourself in the act of) committing a sin? Have you ever considered how your personal sin, even just one of them, affects Jesus? Have you ever considered how much a single sin saddens your Savior, Jesus Christ?

    Perhaps when we are tempted, we could keep in mind, “What about Jesus, my best friend?” Then remember that there is always hope for the sinner—we have the Sacrament of Reconciliation to draw us back in. But we must first recognize the effects of those sins and feel sorrowful for them. God’s desire is for no one to go to Hell. So, He is always waiting to extend His merciful love through His priest cleansing us of the filth of sin and making us once again shine with His beauty. To no one does God say, “Go ahead and commit that sin” (#ThingsJesusNeverSaid). But to everyone God says, “Come to me all who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28).

    – Father Scott Thomas, February 16, 2020

    When is the last time you thought about how you receive Holy Communion? It is so easy to fall into bad habits with something we do time after time. But receiving Holy Communion is probably one of the most important and beneficial actions we commit in our lives. It also has the possibility of being one of the riskiest things we do in our lives because of how vulnerable our Lord Jesus makes Himself and how trusting He is in our love and care for Him. Do you show enough care for your Savior Jesus Christ in the way you handle the Sacred Species (Sacred Host and/or Precious Blood)? If you receive on the hand, do you open your hands enough to make it easy for the minister to place the Sacred Host safely upon your hand?

    Do you make sure you consume the entire Sacred Host, not dropping any crumbs or fragments that may fall off? Are you careful in handling the chalice, if you choose to receive from it? Parents—are you watching your children to ensure they receive reverently, too? One of the riskiest moves (and scariest for me to watch) is holding a toddler and still receiving on the hand. If one slips, what will happen to the other? In cases like this, receiving on the tongue is most certainly the safest and most reverent route. Now that receiving Holy Communion standing and on the hands is so prevalent, we must raise our awareness of how we receive and if we are doing it correctly and reverently.

    – Father Scott Thomas, February 9, 2020

    On Monday, Februrary 3, we celebrate the optional memorial of St Blaise, bishop and martyr, and the blessing of the throats. St Blaise was the bishop of Sebaste in Armenia during the 4th century. He is believed to have been a physician before being ordained a priest and bishop. He is also believed to have cured a boy choking on a fishbone while praying over the boy with two crossed candles. The practice of invoking St Blaise in defense of illnesses of the throat dates back as far as the 8th century.

    This year (and in the future) we will only offer the blessing of the throats on the memorial of St Blaise (this Monday) at the regular 8:00 am Mass. The Roman Ritual Book of Blessings clearly states that the blessing is given on February 3, and as a lowly priest, I am in no place to go against that or the Liturgical Calendar of the Roman Rite. While there are some concessions that would allow a feast being moved, St Blaise’s memorial does not fall into that category.

    The same goes for Ash Wednesday, which is why there will no longer be a vigil Mass offered for that day at either St. Mary Basilica or Assumption BVM. The Second Vatican Council was clear that no priest should alter the Roman Missal or its calendar to his pleasing, and I must honor that to my best ability. St Blaise, bishop and martyr, pray for us!

    – Father Scott Thomas, February 2, 2020

  • December 2019

    This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Ever since the reform of the Roman Calendar, this feast has been held on the Sunday following Christmas. It was approved by Pope Leo XIII in 1893 and later raised to a higher status by Pope Benedict XV in 1921. Both saw this feast as an excellent way to call the faithful to a deeper meditation on the true value of the family in modern society. We truly can benefit from the example of the Holy Family today in the midst of so much divorce, discord, and anti-Christian sentiment.

    The human family needs to regain its place as the “Domestic Church” and a most important cell of society. It is within the family that we first learn how to love our neighbor and put others before ourselves. It is also within the family that we find our identity through our family history. And it is within the family that we learn what it truly means to be created in the image of God, who Himself is a communion of Persons. We are made for community, not loneliness. We are made for each other, to help each other along out of love. And it all begins within the human family. Let us spend some time today reflecting on the virtues of Mary and Joseph through their home life with their son Jesus. And let us pray for all families, new and old, happy and struggling.

    – Father Scott Thomas, December 29, 2019

    I always feel sorry for the fourth week of Advent. We never really get to enjoy a full week. That poor fourth candle is waiting so long to brighten our time, and then sometimes it only gets a day or two to work. But I doubt the candle minds knowing that it will soon be stepping aside for an even greater light—Jesus Christ. Yes, the Advent Wreath will soon give way and be removed from sight because the season will have run its course and a greater season will take over to celebrate the birth of the Light of the world Himself!

    The Christmas Season begins with the first Vigil Mass on December 24, where we will celebrate in great anticipation the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord. But it won’t end with that. Christmas presents may be opened and society’s decorations may be removed. But the Holy Church founded by Jesus Christ will continue with the Christmas Season through the Epiphany on January 6 and even all the way to January 12 when we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord. You read that right—the Christmas Season does not end until January 12! So keep those trees up and that music playing! Everyone was so anxious to get it started in November, but will they keep it going into January? We at St Mary Basilica and Assumption Parish will! And I hope you will join us in your own homes!

    – Father Scott Thomas, December 22, 2019

    “Gaudéte in Dómino semper: iterum dico, gaudéte. Dóminus enim prope est” (Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed the Lord is near). As we reach the halfway point of the liturgical season of Advent, Mother Church gives us this passage from Philippians 4:4-5 as the Entrance Antiphon for Sunday’s Mass. The Entrance Antiphon is always a scripture passage that sets the tone for the celebration about to take place. We recite it on weekdays at the beginning of Holy Mass. But on weekends, we replace it with a hymn. Looking at this antiphon, you can see where the Third Sunday of Advent gets its name—Gaudete Sunday. It is on this Sunday that we light the rose-colored candle on the Advent Wreathe.

    It is also on this Sunday that the priest has the option to wear rose-colored vestments. The use of the more festive color of rose should inspire us to rejoicing that we are getting closer and closer to the celebration of the Nativity of our Savior Jesus Christ. Surely, we have reason to rejoice because the Light of the World is coming nearer and nearer. Even if we do not know the day we will die or the time at which He will return, we can still say that every day we complete gets us one day closer to meeting our Savior face to face. Perhaps spend a moment and consider the previous two weeks of Advent. How prayerful have you been? What have you done to prepare yourself—body and soul—for meeting your Savior? What more can you do now to prepare through these remaining days? Rejoice and be glad for He truly is near! Let us all go out together to meet Him!

    – Father Scott Thomas, December 15, 2019

    The Sacrament of Marriage is a marvelous Sacrament instituted by God to be an image of His love for us. The way a husband loves his wife should be an image of Jesus’ love for His bride, the Church (all of us). The Church describes marriage as “the one blessing not forfeited by original sin nor washed away by the flood.” Therefore, it is a most important Sacrament for us all as Catholics and Christians. In Matthew 18:18, our Lord Jesus Christ tells the Apostles, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven,” giving them and the Church authority over the Sacrament of Marriage. Therefore, it states in Canon Law that all Catholics are bound to being married by validly ordained Catholic clergy and two witnesses (see Can. 1108)

    It has come to our attention that there are couples in our parishes who, for whatever reason, are not validly married in the Catholic Church. If you are Catholic and not married in the Church, this means you are not living in communion with the Church and, therefore, are not worthy of receiving Holy Communion. But don’t let this discourage you. Fr Mark and I want to help rectify this situation, give you the grace of the Sacrament of Marriage, and bring you back into full communion with Christ’s Church. If you were married outside of the Church, we would like to meet with you.

    We invite you to call the church office 601.445.5616 or email us directly at Father Scott Thomas or Father Mark Shoffner to set up an appointment.

    – Father Scott Thomas, December 8, 2019

    It ain’t Christmas, yet. That’s always my motto for this time of the year. It ain’t Christmas, yet. We have not celebrated the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ yet, nor has He returned in His Second Coming. And that is what Christmas is all about—celebrating the Incarnation and birth of the Son of God as well as preparing for the Second Coming and final judgment at the end of time.

    Of course, society doesn’t care about that because it doesn’t want to be challenged too much. But what happens to a body that is never challenged? It fails to reach its full potential and, in many cases, diminishes. In the liturgical worship of the Church that Christ founded, we begin the Advent Season today. Historically this was a penitential season a lot like Lent. And penance is always a good way to prepare for a great celebration as it removes anything preventing us from fully receiving the grace of the celebratory season.

    It ain’t Christmas, yet. Christmas begins on December 24 and continues (contrary to our Godless society) at least through the Solemnity of the Epiphany on January 6 if not all the way to the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord (this year celebrated on January 12). Society may put everything away on December 26, but our liturgical worship of God will continue. And we must ask, which one will get us to Heaven—society’s calendar or the calendar of our worshipping of God?

    – Father Scott Thomas, December 1, 2019

  • October 2019

    In the past we have celebrated the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick during Mass on a monthly basis at Assumption Parish. As pastor, however, I have decided to limit this to only about four times a year. I am basing this decision on the 1983 Code of Canon Law as well as what the Second Vatican Council taught in its first document, Sacrosanctum Concilium (SC). It is true that the Church began recommending this great Sacrament for more than just those on their deathbed. On this topic the Council stated, “As soon as any one of the faithful begins to be in danger of death from sickness or old age, the fitting time for him to receive this sacrament has certainly already arrived” (SC 73). In 1983, the Code of Canon Law was revised to accommodate this change, stating that, “The anointing of the sick can be administered to a member of the faithful who, having reached the use of reason, begins to be in danger due to sickness or old age” and that the Sacrament “can be repeated if the sick person, having recovered, again becomes gravely ill or if the condition becomes more grave during the same illness” (Can. 1004).

    Note the limitations that are kept in place. Those requesting the Sacrament must be in some sort of “danger” due to sickness or old age, and the situation should be grave. Also, repeating the Sacrament is not necessary if your health improves. Considering this, there really is no need to have a Mass with the Anointing of the Sick every month. Those in need of the Sacrament are welcome to ask for the Sacrament as needed.

    – Father Scott Thomas, October 27, 2019

    If you come to Adoration on Mondays, you’ll notice that we are now placing the Monstrance on the main Altar of Sacrifice (the wooden Altar) as opposed to Mary’s Altar on the side. This was recommended to me, and I love the idea because of what it teaches us about Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Adoration is meant to complement our worship of Jesus in the Holy Mass and build up a greater desire within us to participate in the Holy Mass. Adoring Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament, whether that be during Adoration or while simply praying before a closed Tabernacle, should build up within us a greater desire to receive Him more worthily and more often in Holy Communion.

    Having the Monstrance exposed on the same Altar upon which the Holy Mass is offered shows more clearly that connection between Adoration and the Holy Mass. It also draws more attention to tourists who may enter and not realize something important is going on. This also allows them to light their candles by the side Altars without walking by the Blessed Sacrament irreverently. So come join us for Adoration on Mondays, anytime between 8:30 am and 5:30 pm. Come worship Jesus, thank Him for His perpetual presence in the Holy Eucharist, and build a greater desire for worthily receiving Him in Holy Communion at the next Mass you attend.

    – Father Scott Thomas, October 20, 2019

    Last weekend I preached about finding Jesus in the Holy Eucharist and showing Him proper reverence. Now that we are using the original Tabernacle at the Basilica, how we act when passing the center of the sanctuary needs to change. Surely many of you were taught to bow whenever walking past the Altar of Sacrifice. This teaching is correct when the Tabernacle in use is off to the side. But the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) states that if the Tabernacle is situated in the center of the Sanctuary, then it surpasses the Altar in importance. So now anytime you walk across the sanctuary in the Basilica you should do your best to genuflect to Our Lord in the Tabernacle. The only time where you would bow is during the Holy Mass.

    As the GIRM states, during Mass the focus moves from the Tabernacle to the Altar of Sacrifice with anticipation for the consecration of the bread and wine that will be presented during the Offertory. Therefore, the GIRM states, those entering the sanctuary during the Holy Mass only genuflect to the Tabernacle during the entrance and recessional processions. Otherwise, you merely bow to the Altar of Sacrifice when passing by it. So those who read or assist with Holy Communion will continue to bow when entering the sanctuary during the Holy Mass. Remember that your Savior, Jesus Christ, makes Himself perpetually present in the Eucharist out of love for you. Let us all, together, strive to respond to His love with the proper reverence and respect.

    – Father Scott Thomas, October 13, 2019

    In the dioceses of the United States, October is 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 and then dying and resurrecting in human flesh, Jesus Christ has sanctified all human life. Thus, we must respect that sanctity and defend it at all costs.

    Recall how in Matthew 25:40, Jesus tells us, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” Whatever we do to the least among us, from the moment of conception all the way until death, we do to our Lord Jesus. 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. For whatever it is that we do, whether good or bad, we do unto Him.

    – Father Scott Thomas, October 6, 2019

  • August 2019

    Our readings at Holy Mass this weekend speak of how God will call all people “from the east and the west and from the north and the south and [they] will recline at table in the kingdom of God.” God is not calling just a select few to salvation. Rather, He is calling all of humanity to salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ.

    But our entry to Heaven is not automatic. Notice that in the same passage Jesus says some will be “locked out” of Heaven. Those locked out will be anyone who did not seek a personal relationship with Jesus during their life. Instead they chose sin and, as a result, eternal death. So we must live now in a way that looks forward to Heaven.

    We must strive for a personal relationship with Jesus now so that we may enjoy His fullness in Heaven for all eternity. And the best way to do that is by living in full communion with the Church Jesus founded—the Catholic Church. We must strive to do so ourselves and we must strive to bring others into this great communion.

    We all know people who are not Catholic. Have you invited them to join you for Holy Mass lately? When was the last time you invited someone to RCIA, the process by which non-Catholic adults come into full communion with the Church?

    We will be starting up RCIA soon, and it is up to you to help us fill it up. So who can you ask? Who will you invite? With whom would you like to share the fullness of the truth and God’s call to “recline at table in the kingdom of God?”

    – Father Scott Thomas, August 25, 2019

    You may have recently noticed two differences in the sanctuary at St Mary’s Basilica. First, after years of sitting bare, the “old Altars” now are covered with Altar cloths. I felt it to be fitting that we keep those Altars covered with Altar cloths since they are still consecrated Altars.

    One reason is that Father Mark and I use the St Joseph Altar from time to time to offer the Holy Mass privately, if we don’t have one of the scheduled Masses of the day. For decades, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass took place upon those Altars, meaning that our Lord Jesus Christ rested upon their stones. How sacred of a space and structure those Altars are, then. And I believe they should be treated as such meaning that we should take special care about what we place upon them.

    Which leads to the second difference—have you noticed that the flowers in the sanctuary (behind the presider’s chair) have not been on the mensa (table) of that Altar? There, again, is a stone enclosing a saint’s relic and the spot where many Holy Masses have been offered. I believe it is more reverent to place the flowers on the portion of the Altar that was actually made for them, that is, the shelf just beyond and above the mensa where the candles are.

    While I do not currently plan to begin using these old Altars publicly anytime soon, they are still consecrated Altars and should be treated with reverence. And perhaps through that reverence we will give thanks to God for the many Holy Masses that were offered on them over the years for the salvation of our ancestors and ourselves.

    – Father Scott Thomas, August 18, 2019

    On August 14 the Roman Church celebrates St Maximilian Kolbe. Born in Poland on January 8, 1894, he was given the name Raymond. He was such a troublemaker as a child that one day his mother looked at him and asked, “What is to become of you, Raymond!?” In response, he ran to the local church and prayed hard to the Blessed Mother asking that very question.

    She soon appeared to him offering a choice between virginity and martyrdom. His response was, “I choose both!” He would go on to become a Franciscan, taking the name “Maximilian” and being ordained at age 24. He would travel to China, Japan, and India, until his poor health forced his return to Poland. In February of 1941, he was arrested by the Nazi’s for the crime of being a Catholic priest and was sent to Auschwitz.

    During his imprisonment, he fulfilled his priestly duties as best as he could (in secret, of course). This led to many beatings at the hands of the guards. One day in July someone escaped from the concentration camp. As a result, ten men were picked for execution. When one cried out for his wife and children, Fr Maximilian Kolbe volunteered to replace the gentleman.

    Fr Kolbe was known to have led the other nine in prayer as they were being starved to death. When he was the last one alive, he was given a lethal injection of carbolic acid. St Maximilian Kolbe was canonized in 1982 by Pope St John Paul II, who was also a native of Poland. He is the patron saint of drug addicts, political prisoners, and families.

    – Father Scott Thomas, August 11, 2019

    This Sunday, St Paul tells us, “If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1). Holy Baptism is a participation in the death and Resurrection of Jesus. Therefore, those who pass through the baptismal waters are called to spiritually die with Christ and rise with Him as a new creation.

    We baptized Christians are called to live for Heaven. This world is a passing world while the Heavenly Kingdom is eternal. Holy Mass and our church’s architecture should always remind us of this. That is one reason why we still use Latin and Greek in the Holy Mass instead of regular everyday language. We should also use music that is sacred.

    If we just sing popular music you hear on the radio, what is so special about that? The same goes for why older churches have such high ceilings and ornate decorations made of the best materials. The high ceilings and steeples cause us to look up to higher realities, and the use of the best materials reminds us that we need to give our best to God.

    Again, all of this and more is meant to draw our minds to higher, heavenly realities. After all, that’s the point of worship—to draw us closer to our goal of eternal union with God in heaven. So the next time you go to worship God, seek what is above and not what is below.

    – Father Scott Thomas, August 4, 2019

St. Mary Basilica Coat of Arms