In today’s Gospel Jesus employs the image of a Good Shepherd to describe his relationship to us, his flock. He speaks there of his willingness to lay down his life for us, a sacrifice and mystery which we are celebrating in this Lent/Easter season. The image of the Good Shepherd is one of self-sacrificing love and care for the flock: Christ’s love and care for us.
In the Church Jesus calls men to shepherd his flock as bishops, priests and deacons. Furthermore, he calls men and women to consecrate themselves in religious life to guide the flock to the kingdom by their example of vowed poverty, chastity and obedience. Today the Church throughout the world observes a day of prayer for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Pope Francis’ message for the 58th annual World Day of Prayer for Vocations is posted on the Vatican web site: <w2.vatican.va> and click on “Messages.” In the left-hand column click on “World Day of Prayer for Vocations.” During this Year of Saint Joseph Pope Francis reflects upon three characteristics of Saint Joseph that are helpful for all called to a church vocation: dreams, service and fidelity. He concludes:
I pray that you will experience this same joy, dear brothers and sisters who have generously made God the dream of your lives, serving him in your brothers and sisters through a fidelity that is a powerful testimony in an age of ephemeral choices and emotions that bring no lasting joy. May Saint Joseph, protector of vocations, accompany you with his fatherly heart!
Like the Easter mystery itself, the Easter season is full of grace, especially the grace of the sacraments of initiation. Second graders from St. Charles will receive their First Holy Communion this Sunday, April 25, during a special 12:30 PM Mass; and those from St. Peter on Sunday, May 9, during the 9:00 Mass. Confirmation will be conferred upon young people from both parishes next Sunday afternoon, May 2, at St. Charles Church, at 1:00. The Church is enriched and renewed by the grace of these sacraments effective in the lives of her members.
Not only that, but this coming Saturday, May1, is the Feast of Saint Joseph the Worker, the patronal feast day of our diocese. Pope Pius XII established this feast day in 1955 to Christianize May Day, which in communist countries was supposed to be a holiday for the workers, the proletariat. In 1960, while building the new St. Joseph Cathedral in La Crosse, Bishop John P. Treacy decided it would be appropriate to name the new cathedral after this new feast of Saint Joseph and to observe the patronal feast day on this date, because ours is a workingman’s diocese. We will celebrate the day with Mass at 8:30 AM Saturday at St. Charles. The diocese will celebrate the ordination of two deacons at the Cathedral on Saturday at 10:00 AM: Matthew Bowe, from St. Paul Parish in Bloomer, and a relative of some members of both our parishes; and Steven Weller, from St. Florian Parish in Hatley. God willing, they will be ordained priests next year. Keep them and St. Charles’ parishioner Timothy Reither, who is to be ordained a priest on June 26, in your prayers.
Pray the rosary this week for good weather for a productive planting and growing season. Pray for the needs of the Church in our diocese and for all who are discerning a vocation to the priesthood or consecrated life. Pray for our young parishioners preparing for first communion or confirmation and, as always, pray for peace.
May God bless his people with peace.