Pastor's Page
By Fr. George Welzbacher
March 31, 2013

This is the day the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be glad!" (Psalm 118). These words, incorporated into the liturgy of Easter Sunday, remind us that joy ranks high among the gifts that God lavishes on those who have surrendered their lives to Him and to His Son, Christ Jesus Our Lord, crucified once and for all to atone for our sins and risen now to everlasting glory. Those who "have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires" "and thus belong to Christ (Galatians 5:24), those who "live by the Spirit" and thus "walk by the Spirit" (Galatians 5:25), have come to know at first hand that wonderful newness of life whose fruit in the Holy Spirit is "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness,  self-control" (Galatians 5:22). They have come to know the true "freedom with which Christ has set us free", even as they humbly pray for the grace "to stand fast .... and not again submit to a yoke of slavery," the slavery of habitual mortal sin (Galatians 5:1). So different from that dismal state is the quiet and abiding joy that comes only from surrender to Christ, whose yoke, one discovers, is easy and whose burden, to one's surprise, is light (Matthew 11: 29-30).

For sadness, not joy, is the companion of mortal sin-sadness, weariness of spirit, anger, isolation, and, at the end of the road, despair. Yet just short of despair, the very sadness that is the INESCAPABLE consequence of rebellion against God can be used by God to drive the rebel to seek relief. The sadness and heaviness of soul that come in the wake of deadly sin can impel the sinner, wretched in his hunger and loneliness, to abandon the pigsty and, like the prodigal Son, to return to the Father. Such is the strategy, so St. Augustine assures us, by which God makes use "(even of our sins" to call us back to him. St. Paul describes the process as one who knew it well, having himself "kicked against the goad" in his resistance to Christ for far too long. He writes (II Corinthians 7: 9-10): "I rejoice....because you were grieved into repenting, for you felt a Godly grief .. for Godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation ... whereas worldly grief [the grief of a sinner who stubbornly refuses to surrender to God] produces death." On this feast of Christ's victory over Satan and sin, let us pray humbly that He may confirm in us the continuing resolve to take His sweet yoke upon ourselves and thus to find joy and rest for our souls.  In which resolve we  have reason indeed to "rejoice and be glad". I wish all of you a blessed Easter!

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Next Sunday we will be celebrating Divine Mercy Sunday here at St. John's, beginning at 2:00 p.m. A homily will address the meaning of Divine Mercy Sunday; confessions will be heard throughout the service; the Divine Mercy Chaplet will be recited; and many graces will be poured out on those who participate.

Christ's GREAT PROMISE to those who participate in the Divine Mercy service is a COMPLETE PARDON OF SIN with REMISSION OF PUNISHMENT FOR SIN on the FEAST OF DIVINE MERCY.

In preparing for this feast of Mercy we are to make a novena of Chaplets to the Divine Mercy (beginning on Good Friday), and to be PURIFIED BY THE SACRAMENT OF RECONCILIATION with genuine sorrow for ALL of our sins. Priests are to proclaim the mercy of God. And we are to RENEW, RATIFY AND SEAL THE COVENANT OF MERCY BY A DEVOUT RECEPTION OF HOLY COMMUNION. Confessions will be heard before the morning Mass and throughout the afternoon service. Attending a Mass anywhere on the feast of Divine Mercy and receiving Holy Communion will satisfy the requirement for the indulgence. Our Lord has provided this Feast of His Mercy to bring attention to the outpouring of His abounding graces.

What a gift we have received. All are welcome to attend the DIVINE MERCY service here at the Church of St. John and thus to take advantage of this great gift. God truly does pour out His grace when it's gratefully received.

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Pope Francis and the Jesuits
The Wall Street Journal, March 15, 2013
Thomas Hibbs

Amid the many firsts represented in the election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Catholic pontiff - the first pope from South America and the first to take the name Francis - he is also the first Jesuit.

From its founding in the 16th century to contemporary times, the Jesuit order has had a remarkable and tumultuous history. Alone among religious orders, the Jesuits take a fourth vow: Over and above the standard vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, they also take a vow of obedience to the pope. Yet, in the post-Vatican II era since the mid-1960s, Jesuits have developed more of a reputation as rebels, even as direct critics of the papacy and of official Catholic teaching. Having one of their own as pope must be slightly disorienting.

I recall attending a retreat for new faculty during my first semester in the fall of 1990 at Boston College, a Jesuit university that has risen from near bankruptcy in the early 1970s to national academic prominence. The elderly Jesuit who led the session on Boston College's Jesuit identity spent most of his allotted time railing against Pope John Paul II. Bewildered non-Catholics in the group - by my recollection they outnumbered the Catholics - wondered what it all meant. A lay female member of the retreat team told them not to worry about it. All they needed to know was that faith would not get in the way of their work at Boston College.

Even as their numbers dwindle, the Jesuits retain a reputation as Catholic rebels. Founded in Spain nearly five centuries ago by Ignatius of Loyola, the order was established for the "propagation and defense of the faith and the progress of souls in Christian life and doctrine."

Those are not words that fall trippingly from the tongue of most Jesuits in positions of leadership at major universities. One suspects in some cases that hostility to church teaching is not so much a sip of brave independence as it is a shift from obedience to Catholic teaching, to obedience to a party line of left-leaning opinions on church and society.

But the reputation of the Jesuits as rebels is by now an old story. While many Jesuit institutions of learning may sadly be lost to the church as well as to the Jesuit order, the younger generation seems less interested in alternative ways of being Catholic than in recovering Ignatius's fidelity to the church.

When considering what part the Jesuit Pope Francis might play in all this, it helps to look at the influence of his namesake, St. Francis, whose example was an inspiration for Ignatius as he lay in a hospital bed recuperating from a wound he received in war.

Enamored of tales of soldiers and chivalry, Ignatius began reading books about the saints, and that helped refashion in his imagination the ideals of nobility, courage and devotion to a lady. As he read about the impact of Francis of Assisi, he began to wonder whether he might not pursue a life akin to that of the great 13th-century saint. Ignatius, too, would become a saint and found the order we know today as the Jesuits. The new pope echoes the founder of his order in his devotion to St. Francis and to the church.

Pope Francis represents a combination of traits that are not often found together in our world. His selection of the name Francis illuminates his profound humility. His role as a Jesuit reflects his intellectual rigor.

What will his selection as pope mean for the order and for the priesthood? The impact of John Paul II on young Catholic men electing to enter the priesthood has been profound; his combination of vibrant orthodoxy and personal charisma, of intelligence and wit, moved many to consider a vocation.

Who knows, perhaps one of the many unexpected results of this week's conclave will be a new generation of Jesuits, inspired by Pope Francis to combine simplicity of life with erudition, generous hospitality and gracious wit and holiness of life. That too was and is present among some Jesuits at Boston College and elsewhere. The combination of virtues is rare in any age but especially in ours, in which crass ignorance seems equally suited to believers and unbelievers alike.

Mr. Hibbs, a former philosophy professor at Boston College, is currently dean of the Honors College at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.
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