Season of the Holy Spirit
We are bringing to a close the Easter Season, the Season of our Lord's Resurrection. It is the Season of the Holy Spirit, for our Lord suffered, died, rose from the dead, and ascended to the right hand of the Father, in order that He might send forth the Holy Spirit into the hearts of His disciples. Pentecost Sunday, the Sunday of the Sending of the Holy Spirit, marks the culmination of the Easter Season. On Pentecost Sunday, our Lord brought to fulfillment His vocation and mission as He had announced them at the beginning of His public ministry. He set free those enslaved by sin and death, and poured forth upon them the sevenfold gift of the Holy Spirit (Lk 4:16-21).
In the past weeks, we have had many occasions to witness the living presence of our Lord in the Church through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon our children and young people in the Sacrament of Confirmation. Christ Who promised to His disciples the sevenfold gift of the Holy Spirit, so that they might be his faithful and courageous witnesses to the "ends of the earth," always keeps His promise. In an unbroken line, through the Apostles and their successors, the Bishops, He pours forth the Holy Spirit upon the Church. We have witnessed the faithful love of Christ in the outpouring of the Pentecost gift of the Holy Spirit upon those who have been confirmed during the Easter Season.
On Saturday, May 26, we will witness another striking sign of the presence of the Risen Christ in the Church through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Holy Orders upon four men of the Archdiocese who will be ordained to the holy priesthood. The special gift of the Holy Spirit to them will conform them to Christ the Priest, Head and Shepherd, for the care of God the Father's flock in our Archdiocese, especially through the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Their vocation, ordination and mission is a most special sign of God's love for us, providing for us shepherds after His own Heart. On the following Saturday, June 2, we will witness yet another striking sign of the presence of the Risen Christ in our midst through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the ordination of new permanent deacons for the Archdiocese. Through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, our Risen Lord will conform the men who are ordained to the image of Christ the Servant. After ordination, they will serve throughout the Archdiocese by assisting me as Archbishop and the priests of the Archdiocese in proclaiming the Word of God, in teaching the faith, and in carrying out the Church's charitable works. Please pray for them as they make their final preparation for ordination to the permanent diaconate.
Our Grateful Hearts and the Annual Catholic Appeal
Before the great mystery of God's love for us in Jesus Christ, which we celebrate most intensely during the Easter Season, our hearts are filled with the deepest gratitude. In the many signs of the Risen Christ in our midst, we contemplate our own call to share with Him in His saving work. In our time, the Servant of God Pope John Paul II has called us to share in Christ's saving work by embracing the New Evangelization, that is, by teaching, celebrating and living our Catholic faith with the enthusiasm and energy of the first disciples and of the first missionaries to our area.
All of us experience directly the greatest sign of our Risen Lord's living presence with us in the Church, to the end of time, in the Holy Eucharist. Through the offering of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, our Risen Lord makes ever new for us the outpouring of His life for us on Calvary. He pours out, from His glorious pierced Heart, the gift of His Body and Blood to nourish and sustain the life of the Holy Spirit within us all. The Holy Eucharist is the source of the enthusiasm and energy of the New Evangelization. For several weeks now, I have been reflecting with you on Pope Benedict XVI's Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum caritatis, "On the Eucharist as the Source and Summit of the Church's Life and Mission." Thus far, I have completed the reflection on the first part of Sacramentum caritatis, which treats Eucharistic faith. Next week, I will begin the reflection on second part which treats the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. The third part of Sacramentum caritatis treats the Holy Eucharist as the way of our life. Receiving the gift of Christ's Body and Blood in the Most Blessed Sacrament, we are sent to bring the gift of Christ's love to all our brothers and sisters, especially those who are in most need. Our Holy Father reminds us: "The Eucharist, since it embraces the concrete, everyday existence of the believer, makes possible, day by day, the progressive transfiguration of all those called by grace to reflect the image of the Son of God (cf. Rom 8:29ff)" (Sacramentum caritatis, n. 71). Each time that we are privileged to participate in the Eucharistic Sacrifice or to pray in the presence of our Lord reposed in the tabernacles of our churches and chapels, our hearts are filled with the deepest gratitude. How much God loves us! How wonderfully He calls us to share in His love for all, without boundary!
Fittingly, the Annual Catholic Appeal comes during the Easter Season, the Season of the Holy Spirit. The Annual Catholic Appeal is the privileged means by which all of us in the Archdiocese, in a single and concerted effort, respond to our vocation of love, expressed most fully in the Holy Eucharist. Each year, through the work of our Office of Stewardship and Development and of countless volunteers, we are invited to join our act of sacrificial love for our brothers and sisters, especially those in most need, to the sacrificial acts of the faithful throughout the Archdiocese, so that the many charitable, educational and missionary works of the Church in the parishes of the Archdiocese and in the Archdiocese as a whole may continue and grow. To put it plainly, the Church in the Archdiocese of Saint Louis depends upon the Annual Catholic Appeal for the carrying out of her mission. At the same time, the activity of the Annual Catholic Appeal is an outstanding means for all to share directly in every aspect of the Church's mission.
This Year's Annual Catholic Appeal
The pledge weekends of the 2007 Annual Catholic Appeal have been completed. Presently, our pastors and the volunteers who work with them are contacting the faithful who have not yet made a sacrificial gift to this year's Appeal. I ask every Catholic household to respond to the Appeal in the coming days. The work of the Church in the Archdiocese can only approach the perfection to which our Lord calls us by the active participation of all the faithful in the life of the Church, of which the Annual Catholic Appeal is a fundamental and irreplaceable aspect.
To the parish priests and volunteers who are now contacting those who have not yet participated in this year's Annual Catholic Appeal, I offer my heartfelt encouragement. Yours is truly a spiritual mission. You assist the New Evangelization not only by collecting the necessary funds for the mission of the Church, but also and more importantly by drawing others more fully into the life and mission of the Church, the life and mission to which our Risen Lord Himself calls us. By helping them to take part in the work of the Annual Catholic Appeal, you lead them to be one with Christ in loving every brother and sister. I think of all whose lives are transformed by the Church's mission supported by the Annual Catholic Appeal. Participating in the Annual Catholic Appeal is, indeed, bringing Christ's love to the world.
I think of the Respect Life Apostolate by which we safeguard and protect the inviolable dignity of every human life, especially those lives under threat in our culture of death. I think of the children and young people who are served through our Catholic schools, parish schools of religion, youth ministry programs, the campus ministry at our local universities, and the family and children services of Catholic Charities. I think of the frail and poor elderly who are able to have a fitting and secure place to live through Cardinal Ritter Senior Services of Catholic Charities. I think of our seminarians, the future shepherds of the flock in the Archdiocese, who are prepared for the challenging mission of priestly service in our day at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, our Archdiocesan seminary. I also think of our retired priests who continue to give themselves totally in priestly prayer and charity to the care of the flock.
The Annual Catholic Appeal provides the necessary financial support of the work of the Church in the just mentioned ways and many more. Each of us, through his or her contribution to the Annual Catholic Appeal, in a real way, responds to Christ's invitation to be one with Him in His Eucharistic Sacrifice. Through our sacrificial offering, we live the reality of God's love which we know most fully in the Most Blessed Sacrament.
Conclusion of Thanksgiving
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, heroic lover of the Holy Eucharist and of "the poorest of the poor," declared: "I am a little pencil in the hand of God writing a love letter to the world." With these words, the saintly Mother Teresa reminds us all of our vocation and mission in the Church, the vocation and mission to love as Christ loves. As we celebrate the tenth anniversary of the death of Blessed Teresa, we embrace her example of Christlike charity, without boundary.
I thank the Associates of the Archbishop who have given dynamic leadership to the Appeal. Their generous gifts inspire the sacrificial gifts of all the faithful in the Archdiocese. In thanking the Associates of the Archbishop, I thank also those who have contributed to the Perpetual Light Endowment. Gifts to the Perpetual Life Endowment literally continue to support the mission of the Church after we have died and, in fact, as the name of the Endowment states, perpetually.
With a grateful heart, I thank all who have contributed, in any way, to the Annual Catholic Appeal. To those who have not yet contributed to this year's Appeal, I invite you to consider, with a grateful heart, the great mystery of God's love for you in Jesus Christ and to bring that love to all your brothers and sisters through a generous gift to the Annual Catholic Appeal. Following the example of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, let us all make our lives "a small pencil" by which God daily writes "a love letter to the world."