Many special events slated for coming weeks
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
May the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ fill your minds and hearts with His divine light and hope! As some of you know, I celebrated the seventh anniversary of my ordination as Bishop and installation here in Sioux City this past Sunday, January 20th. I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you - priests, deacons, consecrated persons, seminarians and laity for your support, encouragement and especially for your prayers. Your kindness to me is greatly appreciated. It is my honor and privilege to serve you as Bishop. I count on your prayers that together we can continue to grow in holiness, especially during this Year of Faith.
We have already concluded the liturgical season of Christmas with the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Now we are in “Ordinary Time,” the time of Christ’s ministry leading to His Passion, death, and Resurrection. Just as He was baptized so that we would be able to be baptized, so also He preached, taught, and worked His miracles and healings, so that we would know the patterns of our own ministry and vocations. In all things, we strive to imitate Jesus Christ, living entirely for Him in this life, so that we might live together with Him in the next.
MARCH FOR LIFE
One of the highlights of my anniversary day was to be able to participate in a short “Walk for Life” to the Planned Parenthood of Siouxland facility and to pray for the end of abortion in our city. This event was planned by a young man, Jake Dagel, an alumnus of Spalding Catholic High School in Granville. Jake has founded a group called “Teen Defenders” that is comprised of many young people in our Diocese who care passionately about the right to life. They seek to defend life from natural conception to natural death by prayer and action. After the prayer, we processed to the nearby Bethel Baptist Church, where we were warmly welcomed by the Pastor, Rev. Mark McGlohon. Not only did Jake and I have a chance to speak, but so too did two staunch defenders of life: State Senator Bill Anderson and Bob Vander Plaats. It was a wonderful event and despite the bitter cold, all of us were encouraged by the many people who joined us, both Catholic and non-Catholic, in this important witness.
This Friday thousands of young people and others from around the country will march for life in Washington, DC to protest the horrible Supreme Court decision known as Roe v. Wade that has resulted in over 55 million babies whose lives have been taken in our country these last 40 years. Please pray for all those who support and defend life. One day we shall overcome!
FATHERS AND MOTHERS
One of the most important vocations is parenthood. The ministry of parents is especially for their own children: not only to keep them safe and healthy, and to provide for their needs and their future, but also to teach them who our Savior is, to hand on the Faith, and to be models of holiness. God chooses to make use of us as parents in this way, to bring new life into the world and into the Church; what a blessing and a noble vocation! Parents, then, need powerful graces to live up to this high calling. The Church offers these special graces to parents, not only in the sacraments of Penance and the Holy Eucharist, but especially in the sacrament of Holy Matrimony, which binds a man and a woman together as “one flesh,” uniting heart to heart in Christ’s most Sacred Heart. Like the couple whose wedding was celebrated at Cana when Jesus worked His first public miracle, parents united in marriage have Christ as their daily guest, transforming the water of each day’s hard work of parenting, into the wine of sanctifying grace. I hope and pray that parents always recognize Christ’s presence in their family life, and seek His blessings with daily prayer and the sacraments.
CATHOLIC SCHOOLS WEEK
The Church also strives to support the duty of parents to educate their children in knowledge and in the Faith, by sustaining our Catholic schools, where our faith is taught, not as one subject among many, but as the light of every kind of human knowledge. This coming week is “Catholic Schools Week.” We’re quite right to be proud of, and to celebrate, the tradition of great Catholic schools in this diocese, and to recognize with thanks the hard work of priests, teachers, administrators, and staff in all those schools. But we must remember that our schools don’t exist for their own sake; Catholic schools exist only to serve the needs of Catholic parents and their children. Therefore, while it’s certainly one of the goals of our Catholic schools to prepare students for college, the main goals are the same as those of their parents: to prepare them for their vocation (especially to the priesthood, consecrated life, or marriage), and to get them into Heaven. Thank you to all who support our Catholic schools. I look forward to my upcoming visits during Catholic Schools Week.
PRESENTATION OF THE LORD
According to the Jewish law of the time, Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem forty days after His birth, to offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving and purification. St. Luke’s Gospel tells of this visit to the Temple, and the prophets Simeon and Anna who greeted them, speaking of the sword of sorrow which would pierce the Blessed Mother’s heart at the Crucifixion. We’ve had this feast in the Church calendar since at least the fourth century. This feast reminds us that the whole of Christ’s life, and therefore of our life too, since we share in His because of our Baptism, is oriented to the Cross, and the defeat of sin and death.
As members of the Church, we’re called to witness the power of the Cross in our life every day. We have, in a sense, been presented to God the Father along with the infant Christ. With Him, and committed to imitate Him, we have been dedicated to holiness for the salvation of the world. In whatever corner of the world is ours – our home, our work, our family and friends, our public actions – we have the opportunity to show others the joy, hope, and peace we have received through His victory on the Cross. Through both what we embrace (forgiveness, patience, respect for the dignity of all human life, prayer) and what we reject (foul language, gossip and slander, worldly vices of all kinds), we show clearly what a difference it makes to know and love Jesus Christ. People can always tell by our behavior whether we love some worldly pursuit, just as you all know I’m a Broncos fan. Shouldn’t they be able to tell even more clearly that we love God above all?
And by the way, you can take down your Christmas decorations on this feast day. Before some of the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council, this Feast of the Presentation on February 2nd was the end of the Christmas season. I will finally take down my Christmas tree! I usually leave it up to get the most out of the beautiful Christmas season. Lent will be here soon enough!
GETTING READY FOR LENT
In the extra-ordinary form of our Roman Rite, which is observed every Sunday at the Cathedral, this Sunday, January 27, is called “Septuagesima,” and marks the beginning of a short period of “pre-Lent.” Ash Wednesday is two and a half weeks away, and it’s not too early to being preparing for Lent. Especially in this Year of Faith, the season of Lent will be a rich opportunity for unity with Christ our Lord, and for growing in faith by both our negative sacrifices (giving up something good for the sake of God) and our positive sacrifices (taking on something new, as prayer or service or both). I’ll have more to say about Lent in the next issue of The Catholic Globe, but for now, be open to God’s suggestions for your Lenten plans, which you might hear, for example, through the Mass readings or through the advice of another person.
I continue to urge all of you to keep praying and working for justice in our country, especially in the areas of abortion and religious freedom. These are the most urgent injustices of our day. These are the daily crimes that form consciences to tolerate evil. This is where our witness for Christ, our presence as His disciples with a clear difference from those who do not know Him, makes such an impact, moving the hearts and minds of others to consider the powerful salvation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Pray for me, and for our priests, and that our faith will continue to grow and become bold in this Year of Faith. I pray also for all of you in your daily struggles and joys.
Your brother in Christ,
Most Reverend R. Walker Nickless,
Bishop of Sioux City
P.S. My Broncos comments have come to an end for this season, but more will come in the fall! I was proud of them and hope springs eternal!