Many people, including Catholics, think that Easter is simply one day on the calendar. And while this may be how we often celebrate Easter, we ought to remember that Easter is both an octave as well as an entire season.
First, it is an octave. Because this celebration is of such high importance (it is the very heart of our faith), the Catholic Church sees that it deserves not just a 24-hour moment, but eight full days where we celebrate. That is why if you attended mass on any of the days from Easter Sunday to Divine Sunday, the priest even used the term “on this day” in reference to the Easter resurrection. It is even such a day of celebration that when meat was typically prohibited for eating on all Fridays during the year, people would be able to eat meat on Easter Friday.
However, we do not only celebrate the octave, but Easter is of such great importance that it becomes an entire season. It lasts 50 days (whereas Lent is only 40), and it ends on Pentecost, which is June 9th this year. Many times for Christmas, people speak of it being an entire season, and we ought to do the same for Easter. So here are a few suggestions on how to celebrate the entire Easter season:
Decorate your house: I know that growing up, my mom enjoyed decorating the house for the different seasons of the year and different holidays. In the fall, we had a scarecrow and corn stalks on the lamp post in front of the house. For St. Patrick’s Day, there were green decorations. We ought to do this same for our liturgical church seasons. Decorating our house with signs of the resurrection, with “Alleluia!” and religious symbols is a great way to remind ourselves that we are still in the Easter season.
Plant an Easter garden: The Easter season coincides with spring every year and many people enjoy planting. A garden is a natural representation of new life. So selecting plants that can be a reminder of the Easter resurrection.
Pray the Alleluia: During the 50 days of Easter, it is a great practice to end your usual prayers with “Alleluia”. When you gather as a family and pray the “Bless us O, Lord…” feel free to add “Alleluia” at the end. Or even sing the Alleluia to celebrate the Easter season.
Make your own Easter candle: In the Church, we have the large Easter candle prominently displayed in the sanctuary as a reminder of the light of the Resurrection shining in the darkness. People can make a personal easter candle or even simply designate a special candle that is only lit during Easter. It can be on the dinner table, it can be lit for night time prayers or morning prayers. It becomes a personal reminder of the light of the resurrection.
Catholics have an entire season of Easter where we celebrate the most important moment in human history, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Let us celebrate this not for a day or a week, but for an entire season so that we are transformed into a people who live in the resurrection of Jesus on a daily basis.
When I was ordained a priest in 2007, I thought I knew what my future would be. I had it all planned out and designed in my head. However, what I discovered when cooperating with God is that rarely are His plans the same as my plans. Earlier this month, it was mutually decided with the Archbishop that I would receive a new assignment. I made this decision with much thought, prayer, and with acknowledgement and humility that my charisms and skills can be put to best use in the high school as a chaplain and teacher. I have learned a lot, and am so grateful for the patience, prayers and love you all have shown me. I am sorry for any feelings I have hurt or any missteps I have made along the way. Please know of my love for you, this parish and our Catholic faith. I know this is difficult for the parish to go through another transition of pastors, as this parish has been through several in a relatively short amount of time, but I believe this is the best decision for this parish and me.
Beginning July 1st of this summer I will be assigned to Holy Family Catholic High School in Victoria, MN. The school has been seeking a full-time chaplain for several years and the Archbishop has asked me to fill that role. I will be serving as chaplain and teacher at the high school.
I am encouraged with the priest who is coming as the next pastor. His name is Fr. Nathan Laliberte. He is a young priest with experience as a pastor of a parish with a school. He comes from St. Maximilian in Delano, Minnesota. He is part of a group called the Companions of Christ, who are a fraternity of diocesan priests who make a commitment to prayer and common life together. To this end, Fr. Nathan will be living at St. John the Baptist in Savage, MN, just as I have been, where it happens that the associate is also a member of the Companions of Christ.
At this time of transition, I think it is very fitting that we are in the season of Easter. In the first few days of the Resurrection, the disciples were confused, questioning, and disoriented by what was happening about the unexpected changes that had occurred in their lives. They thought they knew what Jesus would do, but it didn’t happen as they planned. However, as we now know, God’s plan for the Easter Resurrection was so far better than all the designs they had created for themselves and it became a moment of great peace, and so too it will be for us at Nativity of Mary.
I will continue to hold the entirety of Nativity of Mary parish in my prayers as this has become a powerful part of my priesthood. May God bless you all with the peace that can only be found in Jesus Christ.
P.S. Please keep my standing reservation at White Castle.
Today, we celebrate the most important day for Catholicism, and, in fact, for all of humanity...the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is on Easter where all of the preaching of Jesus, all of his teaching, all of his miracles actually find their meaning. Because without the resurrection, our faith is merely an idea with a positive message. Without the resurrection, nothing has changed for humanity.
St. Paul writes, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ.” (1 Cor 15:14-15). Without the resurrection of Jesus Christ, his preaching is merely an early version of a TED talk that inspires a nice idea that is repeated, but nothing has substantially changed in the life of each human being. If Jesus is not raised from the dead, then I cannot have a relationship with him...but that is the beauty of this day, because in fact, Jesus Christ is risen!
When Jesus rose from the dead, he was not merely resuscitated, but is alive in a whole new way. He is alive in the fullness of living. The great theologian Romano Guardini wrote, “Christ rose again; therefore resurrection is possible, and his Resurrection is the foundation of the true world.” (Guardini, The Lord). It is a living that is not encumbered by death, nor affected by sin. It is a living in the fullness of the love that is alive in every sense of the word: physically, psychologically, socially, and spiritually. This is the great victory!
And as if that is not enough, by his resurrection, Jesus Christ not only accomplished his own victory over death, but also offers to all people the same hope in the fullness of life. It is now, on this day, where we celebrate and open our hearts to receive his love into our lives all the more. Through the gift of the sacrament of baptism, we were all “buried” with Christ and rise with him. So that by his resurrection, we now have the real hope of that same resurrection to the fullness of life in the true world. We are invited to experience and live in the life-giving love of the Trinity; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are beloved children of God as well.
So this day, let us rejoice with all the Saints in heaven that Jesus Christ is fully alive and let us rejoice because he is the way, the truth and the life for us today and every day.
This weekend we celebrate Passion Sunday, or Palm Sunday. I have many memories of this day from my childhood. I certainly remember learning to braid the palms with my mom. I remember the unique procession into the church. And I remember the reading of the Passion of our Lord...but not because it was so long, but because it was so different. While it was like the other Gospel readings on a typical Sunday, this one was different because it was read with even more emotion than one would often encounter.
The Passion of our Lord is read in its entirety because this is the central act of love by God for us. It is in the Passion where we see God put into action his great words: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down his life for his friends.”No one has greater love than
this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13). When Jesus said these words, he knew that he was going to practice what he was preaching. Though, it would not be laying down his life for only his friends in front of him, but for all humanity, from the beginning of time to his return in glory. And in the Passion, we become witnesses again to the reality
of his love.
In preparation for the Easter Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Vigil), I encourage you to read this Gospel again during the week. We read the account from the Gospel of Luke (Luke 22:14—23:56). As you read it, see the love of that Jesus has for you as he is preparing to give his life. See in his face the decision that he is making with you in
mind, out of love. See that he is not doing this for gain or for glory, but only out of a loving action. Pay attention to the feelings that arise in your heart as you “see” just how loved you are by God, that he would do this if you were the only person in the world. This is the full expression of Jesus’ love for you.
As we prepare for the Easter Triduum, certainly learn from mom how to braid your palm, be sure to sing “Hosanna!”, and especially pay attention to just how much God loves you as we read the Passion of Jesus.
I feel so excited and blessed to be at Nativity of Mary. So far, I have had such a warm and genuine welcome from everybody and I'm really looking forward to getting to know everyone. I was born and raised in Saint Louis Park, so after a few years up in North Saint Paul at the Church of Saint Peter, I'm really pleased to be on the west side of town again— much closer to my parents and extended family! I grew up attending Holy Family Church, and it was there that I began my path with church music. I started out playing flute for the adult choir there along with my two older siblings, who are also musicians (horn and violin). We are all pianists as well since my mother is a piano teacher, so eventually, we also began to play organ for the liturgies. My primary instrument then was the flute, and the orchestra was my first great love. I pursued a career in an orchestra, first in an undergraduate degree at Boston University, then a Masters from Boston Conservatory.
After graduation, I was auditioning for orchestral jobs, but continued to play at Holy Family...and the organ grew on me. I fell in love with the relationship the organ has with the congregation in the prayer of the Mass. Eventually, I had to acknowledge the path God was laying out before me, and I began to formally study the organ and also to develop my singing abilities. My pursuits lead me to study liturgy at St. John’s University at the School of Theology. The more I learn about theology and the relationship between how we pray and what we believe, the deeper I fall in love with the beauty and wisdom of our Holy Mother Church.
Outside of the church, I’m blessed to have a wonderful family, both near and far. I’m a proud “Auntie” to my godson, niece, and another nephew in Denver. Thus far, I’ve been lucky enough to get out to Denver to make many elaborate birthday cakes for my godson (he gets to pick the theme!). I love to bake, and tend to do so for important people in my life—generally the more extravagant or experimental, the better! (I may or may not have a photo album dedicated exclusively to my baking creations….) This coming year is very special because my niece Kate will be confirmed in May, and my godson Timothy will be confirmed in November—and he has asked me to be his confirmation sponsor! I also have two nephews in Innsbruck, Austria. My father is actually from Austria, so half of my family lives there. Having grown up with lots of exposure to my Austrian heritage, I developed a strong interest in languages and all things linguistic. I speak German fluently (preferably in the Austrian dialect of my father!), but have also dabbled in a number of other languages. When I get the chance, I love to travel and have spent quite a bit of time in Europe. I also have two birds--Indian ring neck parakeets--whom I find to be pretty hilarious. They are both named after French Catholic organists and composers: "Marcel" after Marcel Dupré and "Ollie" after Olivier Messiaen. Alas, they haven't learned to whistle any works by their namesakes just yet, but there is still time...!
So far at Nativity, I've really enjoyed how well you all sing! It’s so wonderful to hear a congregation lift up their voices together with full voice in song, and it’s such a beautiful expression of our unity as a Church. I mentioned earlier that the orchestra was my first love, but the organ has surpassed that in many ways: I have a veritable orchestra at my fingertips, and the best part is when all of your voices join in with the organ. Pope Emeritus Benedict spoke about the theology of the pipe organ and how it so beautifully reflects the Body of Christ: the organ has many pipes that make many different types of sounds, and yet together it can create this majestic sound. And so it is with the voices of all the people of God: we are all unique and have our own voices, but united in mind and heart in song, we offer our glorious sacrifice of praise to our Lord.
Please feel free to come up and introduce yourself after Mass! I look forward to getting you know all of you!
We often hear the term “conversion” in the Catholic life. It is a term that comes from the Latin mean, “turn about.” It is a term that seems simple at face value. When I am driving, to change direction, I simply turn the steering wheel and I am now driving in a new direction, toward a new destination. If I am going to change directions in my studies at college, I simply fill out the forms and enroll in new classes, then I am directed toward a new career.
At the beginning of Lent, we often take a similar approach. Often, when we begin our season of Lent, we make beautiful resolutions and intentions with the Lord to eliminate certain vices and practice certain virtues. We intend to sin less and love more. It’s as simple as turning the steering wheel...right? Unfortunately, it is not. For to have a conversion of heart and soul, it is more than a singular moment like driving or enrolling. Spiritual conversion happens not in a moment, but over a lifetime. It is much more like the constant course corrections that are needed by a sailing ship at sea. When a ship is at sea, it may begin by having a certain trajectory, however, as it sails along, winds blow swells in the sea rise and fall, sometimes the horizon disappears. If the captain of the ship is not attentive to the instruments or the visual cues, the ship can easily fall off course, or even be headed toward dangerous rocks. This is why course corrections or conversion is continually necessary for ships...and so too with our spiritual lives.
It is very easy for us to forget to pay attention to the trajectory of our spiritual lives. We have many events in our lives that can cause us to drift off course. Some by our own making, some by forces outside our control. Regardless of their source, they cause our souls to go adrift from the direction that is needed for our fulfillment, for our salvation. It is in this moment where we reach out to the true guide, the real “captain” of our lives, Jesus Christ, and seek that course correction that is needed. Jesus is the one who will tell us which direction we need to go, what we need to remove from our lives, what we need to embrace, and he will even give us the grace to make these changes. We need only be open and seeking his love and mercy on a daily basis, because that is the ultimate conversion: Allowing myself to be loved by Jesus and loving him all the more.
As we continue to sail through our Lenten journey, let us not simply pass by the buoys that are there to guide us, but heed their direction and embrace the conversion of our souls so that we might be open to the love of Jesus more than ever before and love him in return.
If you are like me, I often fail at my new year's resolutions. I have tried to change my diet, I have tried to exercise more, I’ve tried to give up watching Star Trek (actually, I’ve never done something as silly as that). I have failed at all of these. And then, typically, I resign myself to my old habits and wait for the next new year’s to make another attempt.
Unfortunately, Catholics will often approach Lent in the same manner. We attempt to change our ways, to pray more, to sin less, to take on a penance. And if we have failed once at these spiritual endeavors, we then resign ourselves to not even trying and often then indulge in our sacrifices.
I would propose a different tactic. Remember that our Lord is forgiving and merciful. He wants us to be holy. He also knows that we are a work in progress and thus we will regularly fail. What God does expect of us is to keep trying to pursue holiness, even if we have failed. That is the beauty of our God. He does not expect us to be born perfect, nor is God’s policy a “one strike and you're out” approach. Rather, like a loving Father, he accepts his children's’ failings, but also will not let them cease trying to improve and grow.
So if you have failed in your Lenten practices, or have come up short, do not believe the lie that now you should give up. Do not give into the temptation to despair that it is pointless to try again because you don’t have a perfect record. Rather, ask forgiveness from God, receive his grace and pursue the good changes you have already attempted.
God wants you to grow in holiness and Lent is the grace-filled season where this is our goal. Let us not focus on our failings in this noble pursuit, but move forward with God’s grace, mercy and love.
During the season of Lent, many Catholics make sacrifices. We sacrifice meat on Fridays, we sacrifice entire meals on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. We even take on other sacrifices of pleasurable things that we “give up.” As we make these sacrifices, it is very tempting to focus on the sacrifice itself. We can be tempted to notice only that which I’m giving up and then it will encourage bitterness and frustration. However, what we ought to be doing is paying attention to not what we are giving up, but we ought to pay attention to the one for whom we are making these sacrifices, namely God!
When a couple is in love, they will make sacrifices for each other on a daily basis and it brings them joy. From where does this joy come? It is not from the sacrifices they make, but rather the joy comes from seeing the other whom they love while they make their sacrifices. And so it should be for us this Lent. As we make our sacrifices, great or small, let us not focus on what we are giving up, but focus on the one for whom we are making our sacrifices. When we choose this focus in our hearts, we will see that not only are we sacrificing out of love for God, but He is sacrificing out of love for us.
This Wednesday, Catholics throughout the world will begin our great period of penance, prayer, fasting and almsgiving. It is modeled after Jesus Christ’s 40 days in the desert. The Gospel of Matthew relates, “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil and he fasted forty days and forty nights" (Matthew 4:1-2). During this time, Jesus prepared himself through these actions to embrace his mission as savior. And so too, we enter into our own 40 days in the desert with the intention of removing that which is an obstacle to our relationship with God and embracing that which makes us more Christ-like in our lives.
As Catholics, there are certain requirements as well as suggested practices that we observe during Lent. First, the requirements: Fasting and abstinence from eating meat. Catholics who are over the age of 14 are required to abstain from eating meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all Fridays during Lent.
All Catholics between the ages of 18 and 59 are required to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Fasting, in this case is defined by the United State Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) as “When fasting, a person is permitted to eat one full meal, as well as two smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal.” If a person has a medical condition that necessitates eating, such as diabetes, that would be permitted along with medications. These are the minimum requirements for all of us Catholics during the season of Lent. There are, also, areas of recommendations to engage Lent in deeper spiritual way. This would be the common practice of making an extra penance and extra prayers during the season of Lent. For example, it is recommended that Catholics “give up” something that is pleasurable for Lent. This helps the person enter into the spiritual desert with Jesus as well as helps us to order that pleasure. For example, a person may enjoy eating White Castle and while White Castle is very tasty, by sacrificing White Castle for Lent, the person is reminded that all we truly need for ultimate happiness is the love of God, just as Jesus relied only on the love of God during his time in the desert. So it is highly encouraged for Catholics to make an additional sacrifice during Lent.
It is also recommended to add more prayer to the season of Lent. While Catholics should respond to the statement from St. Paul that says we ought to “pray without ceasing” (1 Theselonians 5:17, which I will write about in a later article), we ought to increase our prayer life in some way so that we deepen our relationship with God who is are beginning and our end.
As you prepare for Lent, I pray that you make it a spiritual journey with our Lord that deepens your love for Him who is our savior and our life.
This weekend we begin our 2019 Catholic Services Appeal. While it is tempting to simply hear that it is the “usual request” and either simply give out a sense of routine or to perhaps even pass it off as the usual “ask” that occurs annually. I encourage you to resist this temptation and prayerfully examine the request.
This appeal, as they often state, is designed to assist in the areas of ministry that are not able to be supported by one parish. For example, this annual appeal supports the Archdiocesan mission parish located in Venezuela. Since 1970, the Archdiocese has assisted in this poor region of Venezuela with at least one priest as well as building connections to our Archdiocese. No single parish is able to support this mission, though collectively, we are able to reach out to assist Venezuelans during this significant time of crisis with their spiritual and physical needs.
Also, this mission appeal assists the two seminaries that we have in the Twin Cities. These seminaries are not attached to any single parish and thus do not have the typical consistent donations to aid them. The Catholic Services Appeal aids them in their mission to prepare young men to become priests.
A third, but not final ministry is that of the hospital chaplaincy. In the Twin Cities area, we are blessed with many quality hospitals. It is during those times of illness that we can often feel alone and disconnected from our parish communities. While most of the parishes work to meet the spiritual needs of parishioners who are in hospitals, sometimes the priest or other ministers are unable to be there immediately in a moment of crisis. As a result, we have hospital chaplains who work to meet the spiritual needs. These priests and lay people give of their efforts to help those suffering to be united to Jesus Christ.
There are a total of twenty different ministries that are supported through this annual appeal. It is important for us to approach this request with prayer to the Lord. He will be the one to guide us in our use of our resources for the continuing mission of our parish, our Archdiocese, and the entire Church. May God bless you for your generosity to all.
Click here to watch the 2019 Catholic Services Appeal Video
Click here to help the poor.
Fr Nathan LaLiberte