The Good Shepherd Speaks

The Fourth Sunday of Easter has colloquially come to be known each year as Good Shepherd Sunday. In some dioceses  —including in Rome—it is the occasion of the annual priestly ordinations. Interestingly, the three readings of today’s liturgy all take the form of a good shepherd speaking to the flock: St. Peter in the Acts of the Apostles; St. John in his first epistle; Christ Himself in the tenth chapter of John’s Gospel. The Lord says, “They will hear my voice and there will be one flock, one shepherd”. Perhaps we can redouble our efforts in this season of Easter to listen closely to the voice of the shepherds whom the Lord has given to lead and guide us, and also to pray for them—for their sanctification, their ever-deepening fidelity and perseverance. This includes our Holy Father, our Bishops and priests, our parents, teachers and other figures of authority in our lives.

A true shepherd does not merely indicate the way with a gesture or by brusquely using a shepherd’s staff but rather speaks and teaches: thereby ennobling the flock and acknowledging the humanity of those who are able to learn and willing to be led. The Shepherd always appeals gently to the hearts of the sheep, reminding them of their dignity. We had a beautiful example of this in Bishop Cozzens’ homily this past Tuesday to our young people who were confirmed at the Basilica. One of the simple points he made is that we learn the answer to two of the essential questions of life: who am I? and what is my life for?, only by looking to God. If the shepherd is to speak the truth in love and to reveal the goodness of our Heavenly Father, how important that the flock would learn to listen. I was sitting in a good position to see our young people and their sponsors listening attentively to the Bishop.

I encourage all of us who have been confirmed, whether this past Tuesday or many years ago, to listen to another reflection on the grace of Confirmation from yet another good shepherd, Fr. Thomas J. Meersman, my grandmother’s first cousin. To my knowledge Fr. Meersman who served joyfully as a Catholic priest of the Diocese of Salt Lake City, Utah was the only other priest among my extended family. During World War II, as Captain Meersman, he had served as a navigator and bombardier on bombing missions over Germany. He was shot down on his 33rd mission and spent an extended time as a prisoner of war. In 1986 he wrote a letter to the young people who were being confirmed at the Cathedral parish. This reflection has struck me since I discovered it a few years ago, thanks to one of my seminary classmates from Salt Lake City.

Fr. Meersman wrote:

We need the grace of this great sacrament to be strong in our faith and to lead our lives as Jesus wants us to live them. We all know that it is easy to be bad. We all know that to be good, as Christ taught us, takes strength which this Sacrament will give us, hence the name Confirmation. The supernatural strength comes from the Holy Spirit in a special way...and it will be yours to use. No one knows when they will need the grace of Confirmation. I think back to the days when I was flying airplanes, when we were at war with Nazi Germany. Each morning before we took off, after the bombs were in place, fuel tanks full, guns all loaded, and we were waiting for daybreak to take off, I would walk around the plane saying the rosary. I don’t know why, but it seemed the thing to do. We all knew that some of us would not be returning from the mission. It was easy to pray...I knew how to pray...I had been confirmed. In the days following being shot down, jailed, interrogated, imprisoned, days of solitary confinement, it was easy to think of God and talk to him...I knew how to pray...I had been confirmed. I knew that God was near at all times. Where did I learn all this? I had been confirmed. You know how to pray, you know that God is ever near you when you need Him...You [have been] confirmed. All the knowledge that you have learned about your faith and God, you will never forget…It will return to you when you need it. Do not forget the day of your confirmation. Go forth into life more mature spiritually. Carry with you always the thoughts of God that you have learned in your preparation for this great moment. You can be proud that you have earned the title of being a confirmed Catholic
— Quoted from Intermoutain Catholic

How true and how encouraging are those words, especially for our newly confirmed young people. I turn finally to a few other miscellaneous topics:

  • I am grateful to get away for a week’s vacation to find some refreshment and ‘down time’ in the midst of this busy season of Easter. Is it too much to hope that most of the snow will be melted by the time I return?

  • Due to the unforgettably snowy weekend, attendance was down as were collections. With the unexpected reality of a ‘light weekend’ and with our dependence upon your weekly stewardship and sacrificial giving, I invite you to consider stretching your generosity this weekend as you are able. Thank you! I also invite you to pick up a copy of last week’s bulletin if you missed it to find out more about what is going on throughout our campuses and beyond.

  • I am grateful to Fr. Bob Hazel for his presence this past weekend for the three St. Hedwig Masses. He was practically snowed in after Saturday evening Mass and was able to spend the night. Envelopes for Cross Catholic Outreach are available at all campuses if you feel led to contribute to his mission appeal or learn more about the work they are doing.

  • St. Clement is open for ART-A-WHIRL! We have a number of artists confirmed for already, but if you know any artists who might be interested in displaying their work at St. Clement the weekend of May 18-20, there is still room. Please have them contact Jon Hickman who is helping organize the artists for the weekend: jon@faithful-art.com - there will also be additional needs for volunteers of all ages and talents to help with marketing, set up, hospitality, clean up and more. If you want to help, contact Heidi Burmis who is assisting as volunteer coordinator for the weekend: heidiburmis@yahoo.com Stay tuned for more details on the happenings of that weekend.

 

United with you in the Lord's own flock,

Fr. Howe