March 10, 2017
In the fall of 2015, when I was visiting with Msgr. Richter about the possibility of his coming to our diocese to speak on “Lively Faith” for Pastoral Ministry Days, he was very enthusiastic about our topic, and was very interested in speaking on it. We had a wonderful conversation about what lively faith is, how one “catches” lively faith and then finally, how one lives lively faith.
In the course of this conversation, Msgr. Richter asked me if I had ever read a book called I Believe in Love by Fr. Jean C.J. d’Elbee. I told him I had never even heard of the book. To which he replied, “Shame on you Fr. Mark!” I am glad Msgr. Richter shamed me into buying this wonderful book. I am about three quarters of the way through it am really enjoying it. At the same time, though, I find the insights of Fr. d’Elbee very challenging. The book is based on the teachings of St. Therese of Lisieux.
This past week, I finished reading the seventh chapter entitled, “The Apostolate”. It plunged me headlong into the season of Lent, in which we all seek a conversion and change of heart, in particular through the penitential practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Fr. d’Elbee speaks of prayer as a great apostolic work. “Pray to obtain mercy for souls… Jesus could have saved man without us. He did not will to do it that way.” St. Therese writes, “The Creator of the Universe, listens to the prayer of a very little soul to save others who are ransomed, as she is, by the price of his blood.” Both remind us that the power of our prayer and intercession for others truly helps to set hearts held captive by the habit of sin be set free in Christ.
As we continue to live this Lenten journey, let us be mindful that it is not only about our own change and conversion of heart, but the conversion of the hearts of others; our family, our friends, our parishioners and even the strangers and acquaintances which cross our path.
Fr. d’Elbee challenges us further when he says, “Do not ask only for the return of sinners, but that good people will become very good, and that the very good will become saints. Do not ask only for the conversion of souls, but for the perfection of souls, because Jesus not only thirsts to see sinners convert, but perhaps He thirsts even more to see the souls which He has chosen rise higher and grow in love, and unite themselves more intimately with Him. He needs loving souls, true hosts, truly transformed into Him by love. He needs such souls in order to save men.”
May our Lenten journey be a time for growing in “lively faith” and may we truly become saints in Christ seeking to save other souls in his name! What an incredible journey that lies ahead of us. Be not afraid to give your heart to Christ and to let Him in, not only for your own salvation, but also for the sake of your brothers and sisters
March 3, 2017
As I was preparing for the men’s retreat several weekends ago in Timberlake, I came across this phrase: “no Bible, no breakfast; no Bible, no bed” by Fr. Larry Richards. Fr. Richards has breathed and lived this saying for over 25 years.
He tells this story of making his priest retreat before his ordination and Msgr. Peterson (then Fr. Peterson) asked him to sit before the Blessed Sacrament. He told him, “Just go before the Blessed Sacrament, ask God to reveal His Word to you. Open the Word of God and whatever comes is God’s Word to you.” Since this time, Father Richards has made this practice a part of his life. Every morning he opens the Bible and reads and when a word, phrase or verse tugs at his heart, he stops and prays with it. He writes it down and puts it in his pocket and throughout the day he pulls it out and re-reads it. Pondering and reflecting in his heart and connecting the Word of God to his life.
Father Richard encourages others to pray this way as well. He suggests that before one picks up their Bible, they should pray a fervent prayer to the Holy Spirit asking the Holy Spirit to reveal God’s word to them. Then open the Bible randomly, letting your finger point to a passage. Then simply read the Scriptures until the word of God tugs at your heart. When something grabs you, stop and pray with God’s word. Realize that one might read a few verses before the Lord tugs at your heart or perhaps even several chapters. The key is to read until the Lord tugs at your heart with a word, words or phrase from the Scripture.
Since the men’s retreat several weeks ago in Timberlake, I have been using this prayer method outlined by Fr. Larry when I wake up in the morning and before I go to bed, remembering — “no Bible, no breakfast; no Bible no bed.” Sometimes a word tugs at my heart right away and sometimes I read three or four chapters before the Lord really tugs at my heart revealing his word of mercy, love, forgiveness and truth to me. To be honest, it has been a lot of fun reading and praying the Scriptures this way.
If you are looking for another Lenten practice, I encourage you to try praying the Scriptures this Lenten season this way because God indeed wants to reveal his life-giving word to you, to your heart, and to your life.
Pope Francis says about the Bible, “Take it, carry it with you, and read it every day: it is Jesus Himself who is speaking to you… The important thing is to read the Word of God, by any means, but read the Word of God. It is Jesus who speaks to us there. And welcome it with an open heart. Then the good seed will bear fruit!”
February 23, 2017
Last weekend I was in the parishes in Timberlake, Isabel and Trail City preaching on stewardship through the lens of lively faith. I also did a parish men’s retreat for them in the afternoon.
I was preaching on prayer using the prayer card Msgr. Richter gave out at last year’s Pastoral Ministry Days, “If I want to spend time with Jesus what would it look like?” As part of my homily, I assigned them some homework which was to use the prayer card with the reading from the gospel for next Sunday (Matthew 6:24–34).
During the men’s retreat, one of the ranchers came up to me and said, “Fr. Mark, I am not sure I have ever heard God speak to me. I did my homework assignment last night but nothing really happened.”
I said to him, “When you were reading and praying through Matthew 6:24-34, what word, words or phrases tugged at your hear?”
Without hesitation and very boldly he said, “Worrying!”
I said, “What does worrying have to do with your life?”
He responded, “I am a worrywart, Father. I worry all the time.”
I said to him, “What is Jesus trying to tell you about all that worry?”
He responded with a smile, “I guess if Jesus takes care of the flowers and the grass of the fields, he will take care of me too.”
And I said with a smile back, “You just heard the voice of Jesus in your heart.”
Shortly after that he said, “Father, when I was sharing with you, this memory came to mind, but it happened 20 years ago.”
I said, “Tell me about it.”
“In the winter of 1997, Timberlake had one of the worst winters that I could ever remember. I remember one evening going out to check on my cattle during the blizzard. I got lost two or three times and finally stumbled on some of my cattle and five of them were dead. I was visibly shaken; thinking that I was going to lose my whole herd. I got lost again, but finally made it back to my home shaking, struggling and shattered. I was not sure what else to do so I ended up sitting down and reading the Bible for 20-25 minutes surrendering it all to the Lord. I thought, ‘Lord I’m not in charge, you are.’ I just felt that I should go to bed because I had turned it over to the Lord. That night I rested as I had never rested before. I slept so well. I got up early the next morning and, to my surprise, no more cattle had died.”
I asked him if he remembered that Scripture passage he read some 20 years earlier. He said he wished he had. I encouraged him to pray to Jesus and the Holy Spirit to reveal that Scripture passage again to him. I reminded him, “Jesus does speak to you and you do hear his voice. Today has been a great grace for you to hear his voice once again. Give thanks to the Lord for he is good. Give him your worries.”
The Collect from last Sunday’s celebration of the Eucharist states:
“Grant we pray, Almighty God,
that, always pondering spiritual things,
we may carry out in both word and deed
that which is pleasing to you.”
This Collect came to life for me because it was in visiting with this rancher, pondering and sharing spiritual things, that our hearts were renewed in Christ and faith came alive again.
February 17, 2017
Several weeks ago, I stopped by the Cathedral office for a moment to see if Fr. Steve was in. The next thing I knew I was surrounded by three of the Cathedral staff who were so excited to share with me the new app for smartphones for their parish. They had me download the app right there on the spot. I think it took me less than a minute or so to download the app for their parish and it’s pretty cool. There is lot of good information regarding the life of the Cathedral parish now available at our fingertips.
Technology is simply amazing. It can be a great tool to stay connected with the parish community as well as a tool for evangelization. More and more parishes around the country are embracing technology such as apps for smart phones as way to stay connected with their parishioners
Give the Cathedral app a try. It’s free! It is available for Apple and Android products. Just go to the App Store or Google Play Store and search for: Cathedral OLPH Rapid City.
The Cathedral app helps parishioners to stay connected with all Cathedral events, announcements, alerts, and much more! You can join a parish group which allows one to stay connected with a ministry such as Liturgy, Music, Formation, GOF, First Communion, Health Care, and Confirmation. The Cathedral app also connects one with links to the Daily Readings, Family Living, prayers, and even a daily reflection by Pope Francis.
I encourage you to download the Cathedral app on your smart phone today and give it a test drive, perhaps it will inspire an app for your own parish. For more information about how the Cathedral parish created an app for smart phones, contact Shari Dahlke – Youth and Young Adult Faith Formation Director at: email@example.com or phone 605-716-8532
February 9, 2017
Last fall at the International Stewardship Conference, Fr. Andrew Kemberling, author of the book Making Stewardship A Way of Life, reminded attendees that building a culture of vocations in the parish is part of being a “Stewardship parish”. He shared how, at his parish in Denver, there was a planned and intentional effort to regularly affirm marriage, priesthood and religious life, actively teach about vocations at every age level and intentionally invite young people to consider a vocation to priesthood or consecrated life. They have a wall in their parish with pictures of all those who have discerned a call to priesthood or consecrated life from the parish and there are A LOT of pictures on it. Clearly, their efforts have been successful at nurturing the calls God has planted in the hearts of young people.
In some ways, it is providential, then, that in our Diocese the Offices of Stewardship and Vocations are together. Last spring, our office sponsored two workshops designed to help parishes begin a vocation ministry. Those who attended left with many practical suggestions for ways they, like Fr. Andrew, can build a culture of vocations. I have been so encouraged to hear about the creative ways they are taking up this work and I wanted to share this Good News with you. Here are some highlights:
We want to continue to support and encourage these efforts as well as continue to invite those who don’t yet have a committee to form one in their parish. We are excited to be welcoming, Fr. Brett Brannen, author of the books To Save a Thousand Souls and A Priest in the Family to our Diocese in late April. He will be offering workshops and sharing his wisdom about building a culture of vocations. I invite you to mark your calendars and make plans to join us!
Here are the details:
How To Build a Culture of Vocations in our Parishes/Homes
Please join the Office of Vocations in welcoming Fr. Brett Brannen, acclaimed author and speaker, to our Diocese. Fr. Brannen will present a workshop on Thursday, April 27th @ 5:30 pm at St. John the Evangelist in Ft. Pierre and repeat the same workshop on Friday, April 28th @ 5:30 at Terra Sancta Retreat Center in Rapid City. The evening begins with dinner and includes a presentation by Fr. Brannen and time for prayer. Fr. Brannen will share insights from his own vocation journey as well as his extensive experience and wisdom on how to inspire a culture of vocations. This workshop is open to all. If you are interested in starting a vocations ministry in your parish, this workshop will be helpful to you. If you are already helping with a flourishing vocation ministry, this workshop will encourage and inspire you to continue! If you are a parent or grandparent who would like to learn how to better encourage and support vocations, you will appreciate what Fr. Brannen has to say. There is no charge for this event, but registration is required.
Fort Pierre – Thursday, April 27th – 5:30pm CST
Terra Sancta Retreat Center, Rapid City – Friday, April 28th – 5:30pm MST
From Father to Son: Helping Boys Embrace Authentic Masculinity
Join Fr. Mark McCormick on Wednesday, April 26th at 5:30 at Terra Sancta for a very special Father/Son event. The evening will begin with dinner (think sports bar food) and be followed by a talk by Fr. Brett Brannen, acclaimed author and speaker, titled: From Father to Son: Helping Boys Embrace Authentic Masculinity. There is no charge for this event, but registration is required. Registration deadline is: April 18th. This event is open to middle and high school young men and their fathers, grandfathers, older brothers, godfathers and mentors. There are a lot of voices out there and many conflicting and confusing messages about what it means to be a man in the 21st century. How many of us take the time to listen to what God has to say about the matter? Note: Young men must be accompanied by an adult.
Registration deadline is: April 18th
Guest Speaker: Fr. Brannen
Fr. Brett Brannen was ordained a priest in 1991 for the Diocese of Savannah, Ga. He graduated from Mount St. Mary’s Seminary with an M.Div and an MA-Theology; Sacred Scripture. He has served as pastor of five different parishes and was diocesan vocation director for 10 years. From 2005-2011, he was the vice rector of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, MD. Fr. Brannen has preached nearly 50 diocesan priest retreats around the U.S., as well as numerous retreats for seminaries, discernment retreats for men and parish missions. He has taught a course on the Identity of the Diocesan Priest at The Institute for Priestly Formation in Omaha, NE for the last 11 years and he preaches an annual retreat for priests with The Theology of the Body Institute. He is the author of two books: To Save a Thousand Souls: A Guide for Discerning a Vocation to Diocesan Priesthood (2010) and A Priest in the Family: A Guide for Parents Whose Sons are Considering Priesthood (2014). Fr. Brannen is currently the pastor of Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Savannah, Ga
February 3, 2017
Last week I was blessed to be part of the pilgrimage to Washington, DC for the March for Life 2017: The Power of One. It was an amazing five days, filled with so much hope and promise. I was especially inspired by being surrounded with so many high school and young adults so fired up about protecting the dignity of human life from conception to natural death. It seemed that the majority of those marching for life where youth and young adults with many of them carrying signs saying “I Am the Pro-Life Generation.”
We had six high school kids and two young adults from our diocese that joined up with the Diocese of Sioux Falls, who had about 60 plus high school and young adults with them. The University of St. Mary’s, together with the Diocese in Bismarck took 11 buses with over 500 young people to participate in the March, and several of them were from our diocese, so the Diocese of Rapid City was well represented.
At the Thursday night youth rally before the March on Friday, Mark Hart, the Executive Director of Life Teen, gave the keynote addressing the mediocrity of our own lives. He said often we are simply breathing rather than truly living the message of the Gospel. When one truly begins to live the message of the gospel, then we are willing to make sacrifices to lift up the sacredness of human life; especially those, like the unborn, who cannot defend themselves.
I was struck by the two freshmen boys who went with us: Liam Yantes and Isaac Rangel. When Isaac and Liam heard on the evening before we were to leave that I-90 was closed because of weather and that we might not be able to get to Sioux Falls in time to meet up with the Sioux Falls bus, they decided to sleep on the floor rather than on their beds as a way to make a little sacrifice and offer it up in prayer to the Lord.
We decided to leave later on Wednesday morning hoping to make it to Sioux Falls in time to catch the buses for Washington DC. We ended up making it to Sioux Falls, partly I think because of the sacrifice that Liam and Isaac made the night before. I found that many of our youth and young adults Marching for Life are willing to make little sacrifices to stand up and proclaim with great joy and great peace the sanctity and dignity of human life. They truly are The Pro-Life generation in the making.
When it comes to being pro-life, are we simply breathing or living? Are we willing to make the sacrifices needed to live the pro-life message with great courage, strength and hope? Throughout our pilgrimage we prayed this prayer to end abortion and I would like to share it with you:
Prayer to End Abortion
Lord God, I thank you today for the gift of my life,
and for the lives of all my brothers and sisters.
I know there is nothing that destroys more life than abortion,
Yet I rejoice that you have conquered death
by the Resurrection of Your Son.
I am ready to do my part in ending abortion.
Today I commit myself
Never to be silent,
Never to be passive,
Never to be forgetful of the unborn.
I commit myself to be active in the pro-life movement,
And never to stop defending life
until all my brothers and sisters are protected.
And our nation once again becomes
A nation with liberty and justice
Not just for some, but for all.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen!
January 24, 2017
This past weekend I was blest to be part of the Refuel: Diocesan Religious Educators Conference at Terra Sancta. The theme this year was Desire: Catechesis in the Heart of Jesus. The speaker was Jessi Karry, AO, who is a member of the Pontifical Secular Institute of the Apostolic Oblates and has taught at the Institute of Priestly formation and the Archdiocese of Omaha Diaconate program.
Several years ago when my faith was pretty lukewarm as a priest, I returned to spiritual direction after taking sabbatical from it for a number of years. My spiritual director would say to me: “Fr. Mark, just pray that the Lord Jesus will make everything clear, simple, and easy for you.” I have been praying that prayer ever since.
Because of this, one of the conferences on Saturday was truly an affirmation for me. It was entitled Clear, Simple, and Easy: Letting Jesus do the Heavy Lifting. As part of this conference Jesse handed out a tool for Apostolic Review, which is basically a series of questions.
- What is the most prominent way I encountered Christ this week/month/season?
- How did I stay with that encounter; how was I docile to receiving more?
- In what way(s) did I resist or pull back from a deepening of that encounter?
- Where did I experience Jesus doing the heavy lifting? What part of my missionary experience was clear, simple, and easy?
- What things in my life help me to allow Jesus to continue to do the hefty lifting?
- What things took me out of that?
- Where in my missionary experience did I experience difficulty, stress, being overwhelmed, tiredness, a lack of desire or initiative, lack of expectation, frustration, or annoyance?
- What fueled that? Have I brought it to God? How have I prayed with that experience?
- What do I want to have happen? Have I asked for that explicitly and persistently?
- Where is Jesus inviting me to live in the next week/month/season? What is his plan? What do I want him to accomplish in me and through me and for me?
This week I encourage you to use this Tool for Apostolic Review in your life and then to share your reflections with a family member or friend.
January 20, 2017
This past week I was having lunch at St. Thomas More High School, practicing some relational ministry. While in the lunch line, I said a quick prayer asking the Lord to guide me to a spot where he wanted me to sit today. As I went through the lunch line, I knew it was going to be was going one of those Lipitor lunches — chicken fingers with curly fries.
With tray in hand, I glanced around the cafeteria to find an empty seat. I ended up sitting with two high school seniors, one who played on the boys’ basketball team and the other played on the girls’ basketball team. I shared with them that I was able to see part of both their games the night before and I was impressed with the level of their play. I also gave them a hard time, saying that the real reason I went to their games was to pick up a few basketball pointers for the Men In Black basketball game, coming up on Monday January 30. We had a few good laughs over that one. The Men In Black basketball game is where the priests of the diocese play the high school seniors. In the past, the priests have always won, with some “divine” intervention coming to us by way of the referees and scoreboard official. However, last year we ended up in a tie.
It was a great lunch, in which we talked mostly about sports. I found out that one of them is going to play football at Northern State College in Aberdeen and the other one, is going to play basketball at the University of Utah. Both these seniors were very welcoming, hospitable and easy to visit with. So welcoming that they sat with me through the whole lunch hour even though had they had already finished eating themselves. They waited patiently for me to finish my food. It was only when I picked up my tray that I realized that they had waited for me for me to finish my lunch before they left. As I picked up my tray they picked up theirs and said, “See you later Fr. Mark!” It was at that moment that I realized how generous they were being to me by sitting patiently with me without ever giving me the impression that they wished I would hurry up.
Even though our focus is on lively faith this year, we never leave generous hospitality behind.
January 12, 2017
One of my favorite ways to pray is using what some have called, “the Pirate Prayer: ARRR!” These four letters stand for: Acknowledge Relate, Receive and Respond. We acknowledge the Lord’s presence in our lives, we relate our feelings, thoughts and desires to the Lord, we receive from the Lord what he wants to give us and then we respond to what we have received from the Lord in action. It is important that we acknowledge the Lord’s presence in our lives. What he is doing in and through us.
I thought about this acknowledge piece of the prayer often this Christmas season, especially when I would receive a gift. Perhaps it was a check, a free trip to the car wash, or a trip the bookstore or the movie theater. Whatever gift might be, it is important that I acknowledge that gift and in doing so, I acknowledge the person who sent it to me. I acknowledge them with a grateful heart for simply taking the time to think of me. However, I find this easier said than done.
This is one of my New Year’s resolutions once again! As a matter of fact, I think it has been one of my New Year’s resolutions for several years now — To acknowledge the gift and the giver, which again should spring from a grateful heart within us. I am grateful that someone has taken the time to simply think about me.
Several years ago when I went to the Diocese of Wichita to learn more about stewardship, the director said, “The heart of stewardship is having a grateful heart.” He said something like this to me, “Every Tuesday afternoon I exercise that grateful heart by blocking out time in my schedule to simply write thank you notes. It has brought me so much freedom.” His discipline shows that fostering a grateful heart takes intentionality and discipline.
I have heard it once said that the two main reasons why people do not write thank you notes are: one, they do not have thank you notes on hand and secondly, they simply do not take the time. For all of us it is easier said than done. I know I have the best intentions but sometimes I simply do not follow through. I am fearful that this perhaps gives the impression that I do not have a grateful heart.
I need to get in the habit of writing thank you notes on a regular basis. Perhaps the best way to start by putting it on my schedule.
Sometimes we need help as well. This past year, Shawna Hanson, the Administrative Assistant for the Office of Stewardship and Vocations has helped me in this regard. I let her know the list of those I want to write a thank you note or a follow-up note to and she addresses the envelopes and sets the notecards on my desk.
Do you have any thoughts on writing or receiving thank you cards? What is your secret to getting them out?
January 5, 2017
Yesterday, we celebrated the Feast of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the founder of the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph. As I pondered her life, I thought of our stewardship initiative right away — generous hospitality and lively faith. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton received two invitations and she accepted them both. In doing so, the fundamental direction of her life changed forever.
The first invitation came in the form of generous hospitality from Italian friends, who invited her and her daughter to stay with them in their home after the death of her husband William Seton, who died of tuberculosis. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton grew up Episcopalian, but was moved and consoled by her friend’s Catholic faith, especially the witness they gave her in the certain faith they had about the Real Presence of the Eucharist. It was this invitation from her Italian friends and their clear witness of faith that gave her the impetus to convert to the Catholic faith.
However, living her Catholic faith was not easy for her because of the anti-Catholic prejudices and attitudes she experienced after returning to America, especially among her family and friends. Despite these difficulties she was encountering, she did not abandon her new found faith, but lived her faith with greater fervor and zeal.
Finding herself isolated and penniless, she accepted her second invitation from a Sulpician priest in Baltimore. He asked her to open a school for girls. This school, and the community of teachers that later came to work with St. Elizabeth led to the founding of the congregation that became the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph. It was this invitation and acceptance that the American parochial school system came to be through the faith and prayer of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.
In this New Year, take the time to reflect on the invitations that you have received that have changed the direction of your life of faith. Who might Jesus be calling you to extend an invitation to? How is He calling you to witness the Catholic faith as St. Elizabeth’s Italian friends did? You might be surprised by what that one simple invitation can do.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, pray for us.