Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Blessings and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to all of you! Please join me in thanking God for the good weather we’ve been having lately and in praying for all those affected by storms and flooding elsewhere. God, in his mercy, does not desire us to suffer, but bad weather is simply a part of the natural order. Pray, then, that bad weather, such as the current flooding on the Gulf coast, will not be severe or prolonged, and that God will save both lives and souls. We should also pray for the safety of those working to assist people so affected.
Many of us employ these months of summer for vacations. Praise God that such things are possible! We have freedom and leisure to travel, and we can do so for the most part in safety. These good things are not accidents that merely happened to us, but are the fruits of all that is good in our country and culture, built on the foundation of centuries of Christian civilization. We should value these foundations as much as we value their fruits.
One of the most important ways we can do this is to renew our commitment to attend Mass every Sunday and holy day of obligation – even during the summer, and even when we are on vacation. For a Catholic to miss Mass on Sunday or a holy day of obligation, deliberately, when one had the chance to go, is a grave sin. It’s like saying to God, “It’s nice that you died for me, but no thanks to your grace and mercy.” It is presumption and ingratitude. Being on vacation is no excuse.
There are, of course, valid reasons to miss Mass, such as old age, sickness, or the obligation to care for young children or elderly parents, which are not sinful. But far too many people simply skip Mass, as if the choice to go or not were of little consequence. But the stakes are, in fact, great.
We go to Mass to worship God as our father, creator, redeemer. We go to Mass to thank God for all his many gifts and graces, which we receive from him every day. We go to be fed with the word and the Eucharist, with mercy and grace that strengthens and sustains us in our lives. We go to offer prayers for ourselves and others in need. We go because we know that in Mass we will encounter God face to face and be transformed.
If we do not choose to worship and thank God, and receive his mercy and grace now, when it’s easy, how will we have the courage to do so later, when it becomes difficult? And it will become more difficult – both because our culture is slowly becoming less and less accepting of public expressions of Christian faith, and because we are increasingly facing the bad fruit of two generations of the culture of death – fewer priests, fewer parishes, fewer Masses, fewer believing Catholics.
So this commitment to attend Mass, to be present to God in this most fundamental and enlivening way, is essential to our shared faith and our presence in the world.
Moreover, our culture is very lax in respect and modesty – two virtues that we want very much to cultivate in our relationship with God. So, when we go to Mass, we should be sure we are dressing respectfully and modestly. It can be difficult, especially in the summer’s heat, to make this choice. I’m not saying we have to dress up in the most formal way, but do be aware of how you dress for Mass.
It should be possible for everyone – with a little care – to dress appropriately both to the weather and to the context of divine worship. Our attention to these seemingly little details says much about how we value our faith, and each other, in such a communal activity. Being respectful and modest in our dress is a gift we can quite easily give to God and to others, and thereby participate that much more fully in the worship of the Mass.
I ask you also to pray in a special way for those preparing for marriage this summer and those newly-married. Pray for me, that I may better lead you to Christ and sustain your faith. Pray for continued discernment and openness in the development of our Ministry 2025 Pastoral Plan, and for success and good fruits in its implementation in the coming years.
Pray for all our clergy and sisters and for increased vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and the consecrated life. Pray for all those – families and individuals – suffering and in need of consolation. May our Lord Jesus Christ, giver of all good things and heavenly graces, be most kind to them and to us.
God bless you! Enjoy these beautiful summer days!
Your brother in Christ,
Most Reverend R. Walker Nickless
Bishop of Sioux City