Advent | A Season of Hope
Article Published in the Bayou Catholic, December 2016
by Bishop Shelton Fabre
December 1, 2016
In the season of Advent, the church invites us to prepare for the coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ at Christmas. In so many ways we see the preparation for Christmas all around us; the trees are put up and decorations hung, friends and loved ones are gathered together. It is easy to see the external preparations. During Advent, the church invites us also to an interior preparation. In other words, we are invited to take time to consider “who” it is that will be coming to us at Christmas and what that means to us in our lives, in our real life situations with all of our joys and struggles.
I am very aware in my own life how easily the hurried activity that accompanies the external preparation can crowd out the opportunity for my interior preparation, if I am not careful. Perhaps more than any other season of the year, I have learned how important it is that I try to slow down interiorly as things seem to speed up exteriorly. For me, this takes ongoing effort. It takes a daily decision to pray, reflect and ask God for the grace to be a bit more still on the inside. It takes perseverance to try again tomorrow when I haven’t done as well as I hoped today.
During a time of quiet reflection a while back, my desire to gift you with a Pastoral Letter was realized. The Pastoral Letter, entitled A Reason to Hope, can be found in this issue of Bayou Catholic. As I have shared before, the strategic planning process has opened my ears to the thoughts, concerns and dreams of the people of the diocese. I have held all of this deeply in my heart. As I’ve watched the process unfold, I have been most grateful for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who has been leading us each step of the way. And, as I write today, I have great hope for our future.
In writing the Pastoral Letter, I have reflected deeply upon the reality of hope in my own life. And I would like to share with you three reasons why I can say I am a man of hope.
First, I believe in God. I believe he is who he says he is and he always fulfills what he has promised. Sometimes it can appear as though God is not answering my prayer or is not intervening in the ways I want him to. But, I believe in Jesus and I believe what he has said, and I can trust that he is often laboring for my good in ways I may not see.
Second, I am a man of hope because of the many people in my life that have helped me. People have witnessed hope to me in the midst of their trials. They have shown to me that hope is not just an abstract concept but, that it is real. I have seen in people a hope that does not make sense by mere human effort; I have seen in them something which is transcendent. People have helped me to be a man of hope because I have experienced the goodness of others and their goodness has been the revelation of God’s fidelity to me.
Third, I am a man of hope because I have learned that I must remember God’s goodness and fidelity. Sometimes it is difficult to see God, especially when we are in the midst of a difficult situation. When that is our experience, our memory becomes our greatest ally. God is the same today as he was then, even if we can’t see him at the moment. I believe that God will be faithful even if I don’t see what he is doing at the moment. My memory can help me recall the reality of who he is and that he is unchanging.
My desire is that this Pastoral Letter will be a true gift to you and that you will be able to use it as a resource in your preparation for Christmas this year. My prayer is that in journeying with it, God will strengthen you in your own hope. •
Labor Day | We are More than What We Do
Article Published in the Bayou Catholic, September 2016
by Bishop Shelton Fabre
September 1, 2016
There is a tendency today to define ourselves by that which we do rather than by who we are. In the business of our lives today, we move from task to task, from demand to demand, from one job responsibility to another. In such situations of life today, we understandably focus on what we have to do, but very often do not have the time or even the desire or energy to deal with and reflect upon the more complete picture of who we are. Without this necessary reflection on who we are, we live fragmented lives that are held together only by the mere fact that we move disjointedly from one responsibility to the next. While responding to life in this way can be a necessity at times, eventually something occurs in our lives, some form of crisis, which drives and demands that we assess things from a more complete picture of the totality of our existence, and not simply from the perspective of moving from one responsibility to the next. When faced with such a question of who we are, we search for some common element upon which we can found the totality of our lives, and thereby gain perspective and meaning for our total existence and the tasks that we undertake.
For those of us who bear the name Christian, our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ must at some point be acknowledged and embraced as this foundational element of our lives. Being a true disciple of Jesus means to allow this relationship to be the universal perspective that permeates into every single aspect of what we say, what we believe and what we do. To be a true disciple of Jesus is a total life commitment, and no aspect of our lives stands apart from this foundation that is Jesus Christ. When we stand on the firm foundation of our discipleship in Christ, then the responsibilities and storms of life do not shake us to our core because we stand of the rock foundation of Jesus Christ.
During the month of September, which begins with our annual celebration of Labor Day, we give thanks to God for the gift of human labor. The dignity of human work assists us in providing for ourselves and for our families, and also experiencing and exercising that portion of our human nature that reflects the creativity and productivity of God, who created all things and placed us as caretakers over all creation. Labor Day bids that we pause and give thanks to God for the necessity and gift of human labor, which assists us in so many ways. However, as stated above, there can be a strong temptation to be solely defined by and to see our value rooted only in what we do, in our employment, our jobs. While human work is an important part of our lives, it is not to be equated with the totality of who we are. We will always be so much more than what we do for employment. We need to be reminded of this reality in ongoing ways, especially in difficult economic times, such as the present economy that continues to struggle here in our area. When we search for employment, we can also struggle with our own value and worth. What is needed at such times is a correct perspective on who we are apart from the employment that we have or that we seek. Each one of us is of inestimable value before God and one another. Each one of us, while recognizing the value, necessity and dignity of human work, is so much more than what we do. We are children of a Father in heaven who loves us and draws close to us in times of challenge to assure us of his presence and fill us with his peace. Each of us has a human dignity before God and before all humanity that ultimately finds its origin and value not in what we do, but in the gift of life that God himself has granted to each and every one of us.
During the beginning of September, we mark Labor Day, and we also continue into what has traditionally been the most active part of the Gulf’s hurricane season. Through the intercession of Our Lady of Prompt Succor, may God spare us all loss of life and property during the totality of hurricane season, especially during this most active part of the season. Let us also pray for all of those who labor, for all who are seeking employment in these difficult economic times, for a successful school year, and for one another. Blessings and peace to all! •
Mary is the First and Most Perfect Disciple of Jesus Christ
Article Published in the Bayou Catholic, August 2016
by Bishop Shelton Fabre
August 1, 2016
There is a hierarchy given to the liturgical celebrations of the church that take place throughout each year. In the liturgical life of the church, we celebrate memorials, feasts and solemnities. The rank of solemnity is the highest rank for a liturgical celebration in the church’s liturgical year. A partial listing of the church’s solemnities would include: Every day of Easter Week, Christmas Day, All Saints’ Day, St. Joseph’s Day, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul; the Immaculate Conception of Mary; Mary, Mother of God; and the Assumption of Mary.
These are important celebrations in the life of the faith family that is the church. When something significant in the life of a family is being recalled and celebrated, it is hoped and expected that the family members will joyfully be present for the celebration. In a similar manner, all of these solemnities are important and some of them are so important to our life and understanding of faith and the church that we are “obligated” to attend Mass on that day. These celebrations are known as “holy days of obligation” since they celebrate something so important that we are expected and have an obligation to gather with the family of the church at Mass on that day to celebrate and recall the mystery that is the focus of our prayer and faith on that day.
With the exception of Christmas Day and the Immaculate Conception (under which title Mary serves as patroness of the United States), when a solemnity that is a holy day of obligation falls on a Saturday or a Monday, the normative obligation to attend Mass on that day is rescinded. However, the church nonetheless invites all of the faithful to the Eucharist on all of these solemnities as we recall and celebrate these mysteries of our salvation. Something significant is being celebrated, and so we should long to gather at Mass with our faith family every Sunday and on these special holy days of obligation throughout the year.
We welcome again the month of August and the ongoing heat of the summer months. Looking at August from the perspective of our faith, the celebration of the Assumption of Mary each year on August 15 is the solemnity that clearly dominates the month of August. The Assumption of Mary celebrates our belief as Roman Catholics that when Mary’s earthly life was finished, because of the special role she had played in bringing the Messiah to birth, she was assumed, or taken up, body and soul into heaven.
Notice that the language used in speaking of this event with regard to Mary is passive. Whereas Jesus ascended into heaven of his own power (the solemnity of the Ascension of Jesus), in contrast Mary was assumed into heaven, or was taken into heaven by God (the solemnity of the Assumption of Mary). The passive language used with regard to Mary conveys the fact that this is not something that Mary accomplished of her own power, but is something accomplished for her by the power of Jesus Christ, her divine son.
Because of the special relationship that existed between Mary and Jesus, through the power of Jesus Christ’s resurrection Mary was given at the end of her life that which God has promised to each one of us who is faithful to him: to enter body and soul into heaven. Mary is the first and most perfect disciple of Jesus Christ. She remained close to Jesus during his life and near to him at the time of his death. As we turn to her and ask her intercession for us before Jesus her Son, may her words to the stewards at the wedding feast at Cana always be before us: “Do whatever he (Jesus) tells you.”
So in celebrating this solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, we are ultimately celebrating how the love of God and the power of Jesus Christ’s resurrection were reflected in the life of Mary, and how we too are called to live our lives in such a manner that God’s promises to us of a similar assumption into heaven will also be fulfilled for each one of us.
August also ushers in the beginning of a new academic school year and a new year for catechetical formation for our children, youth, young adults and adults. Let us pray that this will be a good school year and a good catechetical year for all who teach and receive the faith. I hope and pray that as this year unfolds, all of us through our faith practices and prayer will find our relationship with the Lord Jesus deepen with the passing of each day. In her glorious Assumption, may Mary, the Mother of God, intercede for us and assist us in our efforts to be true to her Son! •
Comfort My People
Statement Issued by the Office of the Bishop in response to the recent violence
by Bishop Shelton Fabre
July 17, 2016
In light of the violence that has occurred in our country in recent weeks, especially in Baton Rouge, Bishop Shelton J. Fabre issued the following statement on Sunday, July 17, 2016:
Even though our tears are still falling and our fresh and fervent prayers are still ascending to God for the victims and families of the recent violence and loss of life that has gripped our state, our nation and our world, we again today stand before more violence and loss of life in Baton Rouge, which is very close to home for us.
As a native of New Roads and a priest of the Diocese of Baton Rouge for 17 years, I feel a deep ache in my heart because of recent violence that has happened there. My sincere condolences to those who have lost loved ones today or in the past weeks in the violence that has occurred in Baton Rouge, Dallas, Minneapolis, Istanbul and Nice. Unfortunately, I fear that we as a nation and a world are becoming too accustomed to the tragic events of violence and loss of human life such as has occurred over the past few weeks.
It is in times like these that I am drawn to the words of the Lord to the prophet Isaiah: “Comfort my people.” I chose these words as my episcopal motto because I feel that deep within the heart of God is a desire to comfort us in our pain. Each of us reacts differently to violent tragedy. Some of us may be angry. Violence pierces our hearts and leaves us in pain. Anger flows from pain. For those of us who are angry I simply remind everyone that underneath the anger, in the pain, there is God wanting to “comfort his people.” Some of us may have questions like, “Will the violence and killing stop? When will this end?” Those are great questions. There, in the questions and together genuinely seeking to find answers constructively, we will find God listening to us wanting to “comfort his people.”
I am calling all people of Houma-Thibodaux to prayer. Regardless of our religion, regardless of our history, I call all of us to pray. Whether in the smallest privacy of our home or in the largest gatherings in our churches, I ask all of us to pray. Specifically, I am asking each of us to consider the following:
First, to each personally pray daily for an end to violence. Violence is a complex evil; however, violence is often propelled by selfishness and self-centeredness. We as people must look “outside of ourselves,” we must turn to God, for it is in him that our true peace lies.
Secondly, come together in prayer. Therefore, I am asking that over the course of the next two weeks every Catholic Church in the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux offer a “Holy Hour” to pray for an end to violence.
Thirdly, let us continue to work together for justice and peace. Where there is justice, there is peace. Where there is injustice there will always be the temptation to violence. God calls us all to “see” others as he “sees” them. As Pope Francis has indicated, we must truly seek to “encounter” those who are racially or ethnically different from us in a real effort to appreciate the countless gifts that unite us, and to seek to address and to solve the problems that challenge and seek to divide us, complicating our lives together. When we learn to “see” people with the eyes of the Lord, we will then move forward in justice and peace.
In these troubling times, I think that the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi places before us what we are called to as people of faith: Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life. •