A Visit With our Bishop
Planting and reaping
The spring confirmation tour will come to an end this year on Thursday, June 6, with our celebration of this Sacrament of the Holy Spirit at St. Mary parish in Shelbina for their candidates and those from neighboring St. Patrick in Clarence.
As I tell those who are being confirmed, the Church has been in existence since that first Pentecost day, almost 2,000 years ago, and is totally the work of the Holy Spirit. If there were no Holy Spirit, the Church would have ceased to exist long ago. But the fact is that the Church now reaches into every corner of the globe and continues to grow. All of this is a compelling demonstration of the power of the Holy Spirit. No undertaking of merely human origin has ever lasted this long.
On the other hand, the Church has kept the essential truths of our faith intact over these centuries and has continually responded in every way imaginable to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to bear fruit in some of the most desperate and hopeless situations. From the beginning, as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, St. Paul’s arrival in Rome became the pattern for the Holy Spirit sending Jesus’ disciples into the center of human activity. Human communities have waxed and waned over the millennia. At one time, the Church was extremely vibrant in what is now present-day Turkey and Syria, as well as in North Africa. In our time, great hopes are pinned on Sub-Sahara Africa and the lands of South America.
As the Third Millennium of Christianity was beginning, Blessed Pope John Paul II proclaimed that the Orient would be the new seed-bed of the faith in the coming centuries. And the Holy Spirit, poured into the hearts of all believers, wants to energize all of God’s people in the New Evangelization that continues to pulse through the Church.
Traveling from place to place for the springtime confirmations, one sees all of the activity in the rolling mid-Missouri fields that is necessary to plant the rows upon rows of corn and beans. Just as that process wraps up, the farmers have to turn around and harvest the winter wheat. People generally look on spring as the time to plant and fall as the time to harvest, but it is necessary to carry on both activities at both ends of the growing season.
Wherever I go to celebrate confirmation, I always try to point out the connection of this sacrament to the other sacraments of initiation. And since our young men and women are generally juniors or seniors in high school when they are confirmed, they also reflect the two dynamics of planting and harvesting. They have already spent years and years in elementary and high school classes. They have spent months and months in the confirmation preparation program prescribed for all of our candidates. So in one sense, they are benefiting from the fruits of their labor. But since confirmation is the sacrament of Christian discipleship, they are really just beginning.
This time of the year we also salute all who are completing their academic work and graduating from high school and from undergraduate and graduate programs in our colleges and universities. I pray that the skills they have acquired and the habits of study and inquiry that they have cultivated will not so much represent an end product as a set of skills to help them in their service of God and neighbor.
While the season of summer doesn’t really begin until June 21, this weekend we also mark the beginning the official season of the “good ol’ summertime” that will be with us until the Labor Day weekend. This weekend brings back many fond memories for me. Memorial Day for our family was “Decoration Day.” We would descend on our yard and our grandparents’ yard and gather up the iris blooms and roses, the peonies and mock orange and whatever else we could scavenge and head off to our cemeteries with glass containers saved up for the occasion. It was a day to visit the graves of our relatives, to offer prayers of gratitude and remembrance and to decorate their graves with the flowers of late spring.
Whether or not you and your family continue the custom of “Decoration Day,” it is good for us to take some time during this holiday weekend to remember those who have gone before us, particularly those who lost their lives in defense of our country in military service. It is important to pray for all of these mostly young people cut down at the beginning of their lives. I know you join me in remembering them and all victims of war, violence and natural disasters.