Dear St. Catherine Parish Family,
On Christmas day of 2005, Pope Benedict XVI published his first encyclical (letter to the whole church) which was called Deus Caritas Est. In the first part of this beautiful letter, Pope Benedict speaks about the nature of love in general, and the different ways of understanding God’s love, in particular. In the second part, he speaks about some of the practical consequences for love in the life of the Church and in the lives of individual Christians. He also gives what is, in my opinion, one of the clearest and most concise descriptions of what it means to live the Christian life. He states, “The Church’s deepest nature is expressed in her threefold responsibility: of proclaiming the Word of God, celebrating the sacraments, and exercising the ministry of charity. These duties presuppose each other and are inseparable” (Deus Caritas Est, 25).
As we reflect today on all of the wonderful gifts that the Lord has entrusted to us, first and foremost the very gift of Himself, I think this description of the mission of the Church should remind us of the responsibility that we have as Christians to use these gifts for God’s purposes. As Pope Benedict reminds us, we have a responsibility, firstly, to proclaim God’s Word, which presumes that we ourselves have allowed God’s Word to penetrate our lives. And so, as we begin this new year, I would encourage you to make the study of God’s Word in the Scriptures and in the teaching of the Church a priority so that you might truly be able to be effective in proclaiming these truths that are so desperately needed in our society and culture. Maybe a practical resolution you might make is to take up a systematic study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which is probably the most useful tool that we have for learning and sharing the faith in a comprehensive way.
Pope Benedict also reminds us of the importance of celebrating the sacraments and the liturgy of the Church. And so once again, as we begin this new year, I would encourage you to make the sacramental life of the Church a priority in your lives. The graces that we have available to us, particularly in the sacraments of confession and the Eucharist, are immeasurable. I cannot understate the importance of regular confession and attendance at Mass on all Sundays and holy days. Additionally, you may want to try to strengthen your devotion to the Eucharist this year by attending daily Mass or becoming a Eucharistic guardian for our Adoration chapel.
Finally, Pope Benedict reminds us of the importance of living a life of charity. In the end, we could say that the proclamation of the Word of God and the sacramental life of the Church find their fulfillment in this ministry of charity. If God’s Word and His grace given to us in the sacraments are not truly transforming us to become more faithful witnesses to His love, then they are simply meaningless words and empty rituals. This exercise of charity obviously takes many forms, and it certainly begins at home with one’s family. However, the Lord also calls us to live this ministry of charity out in the world and in the parish. As a resolution for the new year, you might consider joining one of our various outreach ministries, such as Thanks for Giving and St. Vincent de Paul, or consider serving in our ministries to the sick and homebound.
As a final note, I would like to thank all of you who have been so generous with your time and resources this past year to our parish and to me personally. I ask for your prayers as we begin this new year together. Please be assured of my daily prayers for you all. May the Christ Child continue to bless our parish and give us the grace to live out the great mission He has entrusted to us.