The Aroma of Hope: Weekly Message for 12-12-17

December 12, 2017 by  
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Dear Fellow Digital Pilgrims, pax Christi:

Even before I became a Christian, I enjoyed the Advent season. The Christmas spirit of hope-filled anticipation touched everything during those cold, snowy weeks leading up to December 5th. And I think that’s still the case, even in our more and more secularized culture. Many of us keep trying to promote the real “reason for the Season”, but even folks who haven’t met Jesus can smell and savor the aroma of Christian hope around this time of year.

That’s the power of hope. And when our own hope in God’s omnipotence, faithfulness, and providence is strong, we become like the season of Advent. We spread the aroma of encouragement, even joy, in everything that we do and wherever we go.

Here at RCSpirituality.org, we are working hard to keep giving you resources that can nourish your hope. Many of you have already taken up our 22-Day Advent challenge, and I am sure you are already feeling some of its benefits. (There is still time to sign up, even if it won’t be the full 22 days for you.) Many of you have gone back to rewatch some of our Advent and Christmas Retreat Guides (and if you haven’t seen our newest, The Christmas Apostle: An Advent Retreat Guide on St John the Apostle, I highly recommend it). I would encourage you to share some of these resources with folks you know who may be missing out on the special graces God wants to give us during this season.

And today, when we commemorate Our Lady of Guadalupe, named Empress of the Americas, we can renew our hope with special vigor. Back in 1531, Mary appeared to a humble native American in Mexico, St. Juan Diego. She asked him for a favor or two, but she also reassured him amidst the sufferings and uncertainties of his own journey. Her words to him are just as applicable to us, and can give a powerful boost to our hope in the Lord. I leave you with them, assuring you of my prayers for a fruitful and grace-filled Advent and Christmas:

…Listen, put it into your heart, my youngest and dearest son, that the thing that frightens you, the thing that afflicts you, is nothing: do not let it disturb you. Am I not here, I who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Do you need something more? Let nothing else worry you or disturb you…

God bless you and keep you!
In Him,
Fr John Bartunek, LC
contact@rcspirituality.org


PREFACE I OF HOLY MARTYRS

December 9, 2017 by  
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Preface I of Holy Martyrs

For more information on prefaces in general, seeThe Eucharistic Prayer (2) and The Eucharistic Prayer (3)

This preface is used for commemorating the saints who’ve sacrificed their lives for Christ.

The sign and example of martyrdom

The word martyr comes from the Greek verb μαρτῠρέω (“to bear witness” or “to give evidence”). In the case of the martyrs they died giving witness to the love of Christ, both on the giving end and on the receiving end. They laid down their life for him as a sign of love. A holy life presents its challenges and rewards, but a martyr’s life bundles up an entire life and places it on the altar of sacrifice alongside Christ himself to die with him.

St. Paul taught us how hard it is to lay down your life for someone, especially if that someone doesn’t appreciate it: “While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Why, one will hardly die for a righteous man—though perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die. But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8). St. Stephen, the first martyr (and many martyrs after him) prayed for his killers even as they stoned him to death (“Lord, do not hold this sin against them” Acts 7:60), and St. Paul, who had attended his murder approvingly, later recalled that witness when he converted to Christianity (cf. Acts 22:20). We can only wonder how much St. Paul was thinking of St. Stephen when he saw his own martyrdom near. Witnessing a radical love for Christ has a great transformative power.

“For the blood of your blessed Martyr … poured out like Christ’s to glorify your name, shows forth your marvelous works, by which in our weakness you perfect your power and on the feeble bestow strength to bear you witness, through Christ our Lord.”

A holy life is lived in imitation of Christ, and the martyrs achieve the greatest degree of imitation. A holy life is simply loving God and loving others out of love for him. Our Lord taught us at the Last Supper that we should love each another (cf. John 13:34,35; 15:12,17), imitating his example of love (“…even as I have loved you…”). This love was not simple reciprocity; it was the way to show the world that the disciples learned to love from him (“By this all men will know that you are my disciples”).

A good friend undeniably is one who would lay down his life for you, and the only way to match that would be to have the same dispositions. Our Lord teaches that this willingness is the greatest degree of love: “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Our Lord showed this degree of love by laying down his life for us (cf. John 10:11, 15, 17). The martyrs not only learned that from him, but were strengthened by him to give witness in this way. Peter thought he was ready to lay down his life for Our Lord, but failed when the moment of truth came on the night of Our Lord’s Passion (cf. John 13:37,38). Later, when the dark night of the Passion was over, Our Lord reminded Peter that martyrdom still awaited him (“…when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go…”—John 21:18). It was only after asking Peter how much he loved him (John 21:15-18) that Our Lord told Peter his own martyrdom still awaited him. Our Lord said the act, not just the disposition, to lay down your life was the greatest love. Peter teaches us that we don’t really know until the moment comes. In the end Peter did lay down his life for love.

We’re not all called to the heroic sanctity of martyrdom, but we have many opportunities to spiritually lay down our lives for the Lord and for others. Let’s all give witness to the love of Christ, strengthened by him, however we can.


Light of Life: Weekly Message for 12-05-17

December 4, 2017 by  
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Dear Friends in Christ,

The Northern Hemisphere sees its shortest glimpses of sunlight in December.

How fitting it is then, in this dim month, that the Church celebrates three feasts that point to the light of new life.

First there is the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, marking the start of the life of the sinless Mary who would carry Jesus in her womb.

Next comes the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe and its image of a pregnant Mary, a miraculous reminder of her privilege as a living tabernacle.

Later we celebrate the Fruit of that tabernacle who is born in Bethlehem.

The arrival of Mary in the world; the gestation and birth of Jesus – how humbly God begins his noblest works. In silence and obscurity does the Almighty prefer to work to renew the face of the earth.

That same kind of silent renewal continues today: in the millions of homes that quietly raise children, in the countless prayers and sacrifices that are directed heavenward.

This is all a reminder that God wants to do great work in each of us, too, quietly
and humbly.

This is where our prayer life, our sacrifices, our Masses, our little acts of charity all make a difference to help bring about the world Our Lord desires to see.

As we prepare for Christmas, this might be a good moment to add a little something extra to our day. Making time for listening to one of the meditations or reading one of the postings at rcspirituality.org could give the Holy Spirit the five loaves and two fish he desires in order to work his miracles of grace in us. Tis is the season for new life, including that of our souls.

May Advent prepare you well to welcome the light that the Babe brings at Christmas.

In Christ,
Father Edward McIlmail, LC
Ask a Priest contributor
contact@rcspirituality.org


PREFACE II OF THE SAINTS

December 2, 2017 by  
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Preface II of Saints

For more information on the Preface in general, see The Eucharistic Prayer (2) and The Eucharistic Prayer (3)

This preface is used for All Saints, Masses for Patron Saints, and for any Masses for saints that don’t have a proper or more proper preface.

The action of the Saints

It’s said, sarcastically, that when someone passes away they’ve gone on a “permanent vacation.” When we consider the example of the saints the label fits, but it’s more accurate to say that they’ve gone on a “permanent working vacation.” Since charity toward God is linked to charity toward others, even in the “permanent vacation” of Heaven the saints are at work in various ways, and they don’t mind. In this life they took satisfaction in a holy life lived for God and for others, so it’s no burden for them to continue to love God through loving those whom he loves on Heaven and on earth.

“For in the marvelous confession of your Saints, you make your Church fruitful with strength ever new and offer us sure signs of your love. …”

Sometimes the glossy holy cards and porcelain statues might distract us from the fact that the saints were real-life people who lived an extraordinary life of faith, trust in God, and charity. Whatever their walk of life, married or single, young or old, martyred in a blaze of Heavenly glory or welcomed into the Lord’s embrace at the end of a long and holy life, they testify to the wonders of God in their lives, wonders done out of love. In the Gospels Our Lord often told the beneficiaries of his miracles that it was thanks to their faith; sometimes he almost had to squeeze it out of them. The faith of the Saints not only made miracles happen in their own lives, but in the lives of others as well. Their faith continues to help make miracles happen, even from Heaven, purely for our benefit and God’s glory.

“… And that your saving mysteries may be fulfilled, their great example lends us courage, …”

The saints throughout history have shown us faith in action in a multitude of circumstances, whether in persecution, evangelization, or contemplation. Who they are has a positive impact on the life of each believer striving and struggling to be holy. They are real people who lived real lives in a holy way. Their lives have many points in common with our own; they show us holiness is a possibility in our own lives. Mankind’s history is full of the seemingly impossible being revealed as possible by someone who believed an “impossibility” could be a reality. The saints show us that holiness is not only possible, but possible for us.

“… their fervent prayers sustain us in all we do.”

In Heaven, we have a cloud of witnesses on “permanent working vacation” who know their loved ones still need some help to reach the pearly gates. We attract their attention whenever we ask them to intercede for us before the Lord, but they don’t just wait for us to invoke them. They are spiritually proactive: in spiritual solidarity, with those of us still on earthly pilgrimage they are always putting in a good word for us to help us in the long journey to Heaven.

Let’s thank them for everything they do to help “close the gap” between this life and an eternity with Our Lord and them in Heaven.


Going Dark: Weekly Message for 11-28-17

November 27, 2017 by  
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Dear Friends in Christ,

Advent and a new liturgical year begin this Sunday, and the Advent season is a good time to contemplate the moment when God “went dark.” Advent is filled with beautiful traditions representing joyous expectation: Advent calendars, wreaths, etc., but that joy flows from a darkness being overcome.

Have you ever wondered why Advent’s liturgical colors are the same as those of Lent? Advent is also a penitential time, a time remembering when mankind was lost in sin and God had “gone dark”: the last prophets of the Old Testament promised something to come, but then their voices ceased. Malachi was the last of the twelve minor prophets of the Old Testament, and the book of Malachi was probably written in the fifth century B.C. (Before Christ).

In the last of his prophecies he said to look toward the future for a “pure offering” that would rise to Heaven among the nations (Malachi 1:11), and the coming of a messenger like Elijah (3:1) would announce the Day of the Lord (4:5). Then the prophecies “went dark.” For the Israelites they settled in for the long haul, seeing the Day of the Lord as in a far, far future.

Little did they know that just five hundred years later (a bargain, considering their original estimates were the end of history) an angel would be sent to Zachariah and Mary and the rest is salvation history. Our Lord became that pure offering that we present in every celebration of the Eucharist, announced by his cousin John, a messenger like Elijah, and the Day of the Lord would never be seen the same way again.

Advent is a time for conversion, a time to ask ourselves if we, in our relationship with God, have “gone dark.” This time of year reminds us that with some of our loved ones the only contact we may have is one lonely little Christmas card. It’s time to change that. The light of Christ is not just meant to be one little light in a dark world, but the crack of dawn that blazes into a new and brighter day. With the coming of Christ the Lord will never “go dark” again, and neither should we.

Let’s all come out of the darkness this Advent season. We have a veritable cornucopia of Retreat Guides to help do that: The Christmas Apostle (just in time for this Advent), Do I Need a Savior?, The Hidden Treasures of Christmas, The Art of Waiting, Starlight, and You Matter.

May the light of Christ shine brighter and brighter for you this holiday season
and beyond.

Father Nikola Derpich, L.C.
author, Finding the Plug
contact@rcspirituality.org


PREFACE I OF SAINTS

November 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Finding the Plug

Preface I of Saints

For more information on prefaces in general, see The Eucharistic Prayer (2) and The Eucharistic Prayer (3)

This preface is used for All Saints, Masses for Patron Saints, and for any Masses for saints that don’t have a proper or more proper preface.

The glory of the Saints

Everyone envisions going out of this life in a “blaze of glory,” but the brightness of glory can actually go supernova just one step beyond it, when, after our physical death, Our Lord judges us and says “Well done, good and faithful servant … enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:21 and 23). A saint doesn’t seek vainglory, the fleeting honors, and successes of this world, but the Heavenly glory Our Lord promises to those who are faithful to him. In John’s Gospel Our Lord taught that in glorifying him his Father would be glorified (see John 13:31-32, 14:13) and that as disciples we glorify him and the Father through bearing fruit that lasts (see John 15:8, 17:10, 21:19).

“For you are praised in the company of your Saints and, in crowning their merits, you crown your own gifts.”

The Catechism teaches us that no one has merited the grace that starts us on the path of holiness (see n. 2027); it was a gift made to us for no other reason than the goodness and mercy of God. The Catechism also defines merit as “The reward which God promises and gives to those who love him and by his grace perform good works” (see “Merit” in the glossary). We could do nothing meritorious in this way if Our Lord had withheld that initial grace of conversion or any other grace, which is why when we do make those graces bear fruit our merits are jewels on the crown of glory that Our Lord has already promised and fashioned for us.

“By their way of life you offer us an example, by communion with them you give us companionship, by their intercession, sure support, …”

If we are in a state of grace we are not only in communion with God and our fellow believers on earth but also those who have gone before us into Heaven and now enjoy eternity with God: that is the communion of saints. Every loved one, or even stranger, who has been redeemed and entered into glory is a brother or sister who wants us to arrive too, and intercedes for us to help us join them one day, just as we intercede for those who have died and are being purified (in Purgatory) so that they may reach Heaven.

The Church also beatifies and canonizes certain members of the Church to present them to us as models of the holiness of life for us to imitate. There’s no such thing as a cookie-cutter saint; the paths to God are as many and varied as the people who seek him. With a little homework, we can find a saint who speaks to us, our situation, our obstacles to holiness, and not only draw inspiration from his or her life but ask him or her to pray for us as well and receive spiritual support.

“…so that, encouraged by so great a cloud of witnesses, we may run as victors in the race before us and win with them the imperishable crown of glory, through Christ our Lord.”

The saints in Heaven, and the holy people in our midst, are the “cloud of witnesses” (see Hebrews 12:1) that encourage us to keep running the race of this life to win the glory of Heaven. This image of running the race and winning the crown comes from none other than Saint Paul as his martyrdom drew near: “For I am already on the point of being sacrificed; the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6-8).

In the same letter St. Paul reminds St. Timothy that “An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules” (2 Timothy 2:5). Every athlete must learn the game, practice, and discipline himself and compete well. Through good spiritual reading, prayer, sacrifice, and charity we too can crown the gifts of Our Lord in us. Let’s get running.


5 Ways to be a Christmas Apostle: Weekly Message for 11-21-17

November 20, 2017 by  
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Dear Friends in Christ,

Thanksgiving is almost upon us (at least here in the United States) and what a perfect opportunity to reflect on all of the Lord’s blessings in order to help us either fortify or regain an attitude of gratitude and get ready to start Advent.

Gratitude shapes the way we see and face everything. For us here at RCSpirituality we rely entirely on the prayerful and generous support of so many who make our ministry possible. It is to you we are most grateful and encouraged. Our way of saying thanks is to continue our commitment to serve your need for spiritually enriching content that helps you to grow, persevere, and share in your faith and friendship with the Lord.

The Advent season too is such a wonderful, fascinating, and amazing time to marvel with gratitude at the extraordinary event of God becoming man and living among us.

During the Thanksgiving and Advent season, many of us will gather with family members who at various stages along their journey of faith. At times we might feel powerless and wonder what we can do to light a spark within the one who has checked out and at other times be consoled to find deep connection with those who share in a relationship with Christ.

With numerous family gatherings trips to the store, and Christmas parties over the next several weeks it is worth asking “What does God want me to do? How does he want me to witness to preparing for his coming this Christmas?

Here are 5 simple ways to announce his coming as a ‘Christmas Apostle’ to ‘love others as Christ has loved us’:

1. Be grateful and accept the people and circumstances that God’s providence permits in our lives. Love others with our patience, gentleness, and understanding. (1 Cor 13:4-8) Do not judge others but rather offer mercy and compassion just as the Lord has extended to us!

2. Take an interest in others—their interests, their joys, their sorrows. With the many opportunities, we will have to catch up and share with family and friends imagine how enriched we can be by the lives of others! Be open to learning and discovering how to see the world differently outside of the comfort and limit of our own perspective. Try to find out what motivates others. It is an invitation to ask more and speak less!

3. Be joyful! Let joy radiate from you. We can be joyful even in the midst of sorrow since we have a God who lives within and who walks with us in the challenges of life. Do not hesitate to share that joy with everyone with whom you come in contact.

4. Share your faith and speak about Christ and how he is present and at work in your life. Give witness to the impact, importance, and influence of Christ in your life. Look for those God moments and share your story. Don’t be afraid to share your experience of pain, frustration, joy or sorrow to prompt a conversation about the action of God and how you are growing and drawing closer to him.

5. Pray, pray, and pray some more! Commit time every day to pray for those we love to know and deepen in their own relationship with the Lord this Advent. Ask God to lead you or lead someone else to reach out and put the loving hand of God into the hand of those we love who may be lost, misguided, or searching for meaning in their lives.

Advent is a great invitation for us to be renewed in understanding Christ’s incarnation; that is, his immersion into man’s mortal nature to transform it into his divinity. St. John the Evangelist, more than any other of the Eleven Apostles understood deeply this act of profound love and what it meant to ‘love others’ in the same way. Our upcoming Retreat Guide, The Christmas Apostle: An Advent Retreat Guide on St. John the Evangelist takes advantage of Advent to renew our awareness of the Lord’s true purpose for our lives and discover more how we are called to witness and make present the infinite love of God for each one of us.

Wishing you a very blessed and happy Thanksgiving! Please keep counting on our prayers for you. May Christ, who came to bring lasting peace and everlasting joy to the world, find a home in every heart this Advent!

With the assurance of our prayers,

God bless

In Christ,

Lucy Honner
Director, RCSpirituality Center
lucy@rcspirituality.org


PREFACE II OF THE APOSTLES

November 18, 2017 by  
Filed under Finding the Plug

Preface II of the Apostles

For more information on the Preface in general, see The Eucharistic Prayer (2) and The Eucharistic Prayer (3)

This preface is used in Masses for Apostles and Evangelists.

The apostolic foundation and witness

One of the reasons we say the Church is Apostolic is because she is built on the foundation of the apostles, with Our Lord as the cornerstone (see Ephesians 2:20). When you lay the foundation for a building it is not something you remove upon the completion of construction; it supports the whole structure for as long as the structure endures, and can even exist well beyond it.

Our Lord said Peter was the rock on which he would build his Church (see Matthew 16:16-19). “Peter” (Πέτρος, Petros) is literally derived from the Greek word for “rock” that Our Lord used in this passage: (τῇ πέτρᾳ, petra), and Paul at times refers to him as “Cephas,” which is Aramaic for “rock.”

The Apostles are an irreplaceable, structural part of the Church because they are faithful witnesses giving testimony about Our Lord. This preface is also used in Masses for Evangelists because each Gospel is a written testimony by either an Apostle (St. Matthew, St. John “the Evangelist”) or someone who worked closely with one (St. Mark was thought to be a secretary of St. Peter, and St. Luke was close to St. Paul and probably travelled with him).

An apostle, yesterday, today, and forever, is a witness to Our Lord. Throughout salvation history, the witnesses to faith have multiplied. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews, addressing a tired Christian community, encouraged them to consider the “cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) whose faith had kept them on track, recalling all the Old Testament’s heroic believers in Hebrews 11 and the example of Christ himself. The witness of our apostolic forefathers is what must encourage us as well to be faithful witnesses to Christ.

“For you have built your Church to stand firm on apostolic foundations, to be a lasting sign of your holiness on earth and offer all humanity your heavenly teaching.”

Our Lord was clear about the need to build a structure on a firm foundation and withstand whatever storms may come (see Matthew 7:24-27). Peter was, and is, that rock, as well as the Apostles and Christ himself (see Ephesians 2:20). The endurance of the Church through history, despite the storms that have afflicting her, shows she is built on a firm foundation. The Church has not endured due to her size, material resources, or any other simply human criteria. She has endured because she has striven to be faithful to what the Lord taught his apostles and to what the Lord taught us through them.

What unites her throughout the world and history, whether in a small mountain chapel in rural Mexico or a magnificent Roman basilica, whether loved by believers and people of good will or persecuted by her (and Christ’s) enemies, is being a community and communion of disciples, learning from Our Lord through the Apostles and Evangelists. Let’s continue to follow Our Lord’s teaching and share it, and him, with the world, just as the Apostles did.


A Harmonious Holiday: Weekly Message for 11-14-17

November 13, 2017 by  
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Dear Friends in Christ,

Autumn is in full swing here in Michigan. As nature continues to shed its summer vibrancy, our wise Catholic liturgy invites us – gently but surely – to consider that we too will one day have to leave behind these earthly shores and take our final journey into eternity. The feasts of All Saints and All Souls, and the liturgical readings about our Lord’s Second Coming are God’s way of reminding us that we are just pilgrims here. Our true home awaits us.

Here in the United States, God’s Providence has added another consideration for these pensive weeks of transition towards another Advent and another winter: the national holiday of Thanksgiving. Even though so much in our secularized culture is off kilter (to put it mildly), this beautiful tradition still stands.  And what powerful tradition it is!  Families getting together simply to be together. Having a feast in order to celebrate all the gifts that God has given us.

This earthly tradition of Thanksgiving Day is very much in tune with the November liturgical impetus to consider eternity. Think about it. What is eternity, for those who die in friendship with Christ?  It is, according to the Lord’s own revelation, a feast, a feast in which the whole family of God – all the saints and angels – will gather to celebrate and enjoy the gift of everlasting life and blessedness.

In a sense, our lives here on earth are like the journey that my family used to take to grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. Our real destination awaits us, and it will be glorious.  And we should be looking forward to it!  We should be living our life here on earth with our final destination in mind.  If only we could do that more intentionally, just think how our day-to- day worries and stresses
would be reconfigured.

Our hope is to help that happen, more and more, in your life. Our upcoming Retreat Guide, The Christmas Apostle: An Advent Retreat Guide on St. John the Evangelist takes advantage of Advent to renew our awareness of the Lord’s true purpose for our lives. St John the Evangelist’s Feast Day always takes place two days after Christmas.  So he is worthy companion for our Advent journey, which is meant to prepare us to celebrate Christmas in deep consonance with the real “reason for the season.”

Wherever you find yourself along this amazing pilgrimage of faith, please keep counting on our prayers for you. And don’t forget to send us your feedback and ideas about how we can serve you better.

Yours sincerely in Christ,
John Bartunek, LC, SThD
contact@rcspirituality.org


Preface I of the Apostles

November 11, 2017 by  
Filed under Finding the Plug

Preface I of the Apostles

For more information on the Preface in general, see The Eucharistic Prayer (2) and The Eucharistic Prayer (3)

This preface it used on feast days celebrating the Apostles, especially Saints Peter and Paul.

The Apostles, shepherds of God’s people

When we profess our faith every Sunday and Solemnity we express our faith that the Church is “apostolic.” One of the reasons we say the Church is Apostolic is because she is built on the foundation of the apostles, with Our Lord as the cornerstone (see Ephesians 2:20). When you lay the foundation for a building it is not something you remove upon the completion of construction; it supports the whole structure for as long as the structure endures, and can even exist well beyond it.

It’s no coincidence that when Our Lord entrusted the “keys” to Peter (see Matthew 16:16-19) he also said that Peter was the rock on which he would build his Church. “Peter” (Πέτρος, Petros) is literally derived from the Greek word for “rock” that Our Lord used in this passage: (τῇ πέτρᾳ, petra), and Paul at times refers to him as “Cephas,” which is Aramaic for “rock.”

The Apostles are an irreplaceable, structural part of the Church, but in this preface we don’t remember them as the “rocks” of the Church (even though they are), but, rather, as the “shepherds” of the Church. Among the prophecies of the Messiah Ezekiel described the Lord coming as a “shepherd” for the people of God since their “shepherds” (their kings) had let them down, neglected them, and abused them (see Ezekiel 34:1-16). Our Lord described his care and concern for us in John’s Gospel as the shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep (John 10:11–16): he is the Good Shepherd. He is our Good Shepherd.

“For you, eternal Shepherd, do not desert your flock, but through the blessed Apostles watch over it and protect it always, so that it may be governed by those you have appointed shepherds to lead it in the name of your Son.”

After the Resurrection Our Lord entrusted his flock, the Church, to the pastoral care of Peter and, by extension, to the Apostles. Our Lord remains shepherd-in-chief; he tells Peter to tend and care for his sheep, and so the apostles became our shepherds too. Our Lord has always envisioned his care for us as pastoral, and that’s why we too see it that way: our bishops caring for dioceses and priests caring for parishes are called “pastors.”

Our Lord entrusted the Apostles with a great responsibility that would extend beyond their lifetime. So the apostles passed on the “crook” (shepherd’s staff, also known as a crosier), so to speak, to their successors, whom today we call bishops. Their mitres (hats used in the liturgy) represent the flame of the Holy Spirit that descended on the Apostles’ heads at Pentecost, and their crosiers represent that pastoral authority they hold for the good of the flock entrusted to them by Christ and the apostles and bishops who came before them.

As successors of the Apostles the bishops, aided by priests and deacons, continue to teach us, to sanctify us, and to guide us, just as the original Apostles did. The ministry they all have in common is the one ministry and mission of Christ, a single ministry and mission in which they all participate: the care and feeding of souls.

Even today we are shepherded thanks to the Apostles. They laid down their lives for Christ’s sheep, and our bishops, aided by our priests and deacons, continue to do so. Let’s thank Our Lord today for the gift of all our pastors, be they bishops or priests, and pray for them and their ministry.

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