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Path to holiness is simple and clear

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
May the intercession of all the saints bring you grace, joy, and conversion of heart! Today, Thursday, is the Solemnity of All Saints, a Holy Day of obligation. Today, in this Year of Faith, I share with you a special joy, as I commend each of you to the care and protection of some of my favorite saints: Mary, our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of our diocese, and also our Lady of the Rosary; St. Joseph, that chaste spouse and guardian, dedicated worker, and simple man of deep faith (also a patron of our Diocese); St. James the Apostle, fisher of men, “Son of Thunder,” that fearless preacher, so in love with the truth, and beautiful martyr for Christ; St. John Vianney, patron of parish priests; and so many more who inspire me in my love for you.

On this feast, we rejoice to celebrate the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ in their lives, over sin and evil, and over all the worldly temptations we too face every day. We rejoice in the knowledge that these holy men and women have been rewarded with the beatific vision of God in Heaven, just as Christ promised. And we rejoice that the saints still work for our salvation, too, by their example and intercession, so that we too may one day share the same final victory in Christ.

The path to holiness is simple and clear, if not easy to walk. Christ Himself has blazed the path for us, and we have only to follow Him. As He lived, so must we; as He died, so must we. We imitate Him best by following His commandments and beatitudes, by remaining in the shelter of the holy Church which He established, and by practicing every day for others the good works of charity, faith, and hope. We also live with Him in our personal vocation, whether as husband or wife, parent, priest or deacon, or consecrated person. We die with Him every time we receive the holy sacraments, especially the sacrament of Confession, when we die to our pride and all our personal sins, and the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, when we die to our worldly ambitions and aspire to be one with Jesus on the Cross. We also die with Him every time we say “No” to the evils of the world, and conquer sin directly by Christ’s power in us.

Our perseverance on this path isn’t easy. We can’t simply drift into Heaven. We have to work hard every day to be good and holy. But nothing worth doing is easy, and nothing, indeed, is more worthy of us as children of God than that we should love and obey our Heavenly Father in all these things He desires for us.

The celebration of this solemnity, then, is not just about the glory of the saints already known to the Church militant. It is just as much about our own calling to be saints, to be sharers in the victory of Christ over sin and death, and to attain with Him to Heaven, where He already longs for us to abide. The saints inspire us to want this same glory, and to renew our determination to live and die with our Lord and Savior, so that we may truly live forever.

Feast of All Souls

In this way, this great solemnity connects so perfectly with tomorrow’s Feast of All Souls. Having received the intercession of the saints in Heaven (the “Church Triumphant”), we (the “Church Militant”) now join them in praying for the salvation of all the dead (the “Church Suffering”). Our prayers for the dead are powerful, and we can ask for no greater good than that all those who have died might receive the gift of salvation. We pray that our brothers and sisters in faith, as they received sacramental grace and struggled to be faithful to our Lord, so they may be cleansed of any remaining sins and be united to our Lord in Heaven. For those unbelievers who have died outside the Communion of the Church, we pray that they may have the gift of final penitence at the moment of their death, so that they too may be cleansed in Purgatory and one day be united with our Lord in Heaven. And even for those who have never been baptized, we pray that they may have so desired God in this life, that they may share implicitly by their own death in Christ’s saving Passion, death, and Resurrection.

No one is beyond God’s infinite mercy. But God’s mercy and judgment are perfect, and no one who refuses to love God in this life will be able to love God eternally in Heaven. Those who die with unrepented sins burdening their souls have chosen their own damnation. This is why we must pray devoutly for them, and go to Confession regularly for ourselves. With the help of our prayers, it is possible that even the worst of sinners may repent at the last moment, and by the power of Christ’s saving Cross, be able to accept divine mercy. Jesus, we trust in You!

This Year’s Election

In a similar way, we must make our faith the foundation of our political life. The Gospel implies clear priorities for the social order, and identifies clear evils that cannot be supported or condoned by our silence or imprudent choices. And because there can be no separation between faith and life, voting for something contrary to the tenets of faith in the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ may be a serious sin.

The gravest, most urgent, and most destructive evil of our time is abortion. As Catholics, this is our most important issue. The scale of abortion’s evil is unprecedented: 55 million American babies murdered since 1973, along with tens of millions more in other countries, and uncountable lives of mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters twisted or broken by guilt and grief. The scope of abortion’s consequences on society and the economy is also vast: laws and the rule of law corrupted, justice denied, politics twisted and embittered, an unbridgeable gulf dividing our nation, marriages and families destroyed, productive workers eliminated, and on and on. As long as abortion is legal, the slaughter and the injustice will continue. It is imperative for our faith, that we as Catholics witness boldly against both the appalling fact of abortions, and the corrosive legality of abortion.

The second most urgent evil is the erosion of religious freedom, both at home and abroad. Just as the right to life is the foundation of all other rights, so religious freedom is the foundation of all other freedoms. The state must protect the rights of citizens to live according to their own conscience (within the limits of order and justice; one’s conscience cannot justify one in theft or murder, for example). The state must protect the freedom of religious groups and institutions to practice, and even of individuals to live the requirements of their own faith at all times (again within the limits of order and justice; human sacrifice, for example, is not something that can be tolerated as “freedom of religion”).

In addition to these two priorities, there are four other “non-negotiable” issues of the first order for Catholics. We cannot be complicit in or condone euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning, or so-called same-sex “marriage.”

How we choose to vote as Catholics must respect these six highest priorities, and must clearly oppose the corresponding evils. I encourage everyone who is eligible to vote, if you have not already done so by an early or absentee ballot, to vote according to a well-formed and devout Catholic conscience this coming Tuesday. Above all, pray for our country and our elected and appointed leaders, whoever they may be.

Youth Rally

Finally, I would like to offer my gratitude to Karmen Bower and Sean Martin and all who helped them plan and execute a wonderful Youth Rally this past Sunday. Bishop Heelan High School’s gymnasium was filled with over 400 students from all over the Diocese. Deacons Ricker Roder and Dick Billings and Fathers Shane Deman and David Hemann inspired our youth with thought provoking presentations. Thank you to all the priests who joined me in hearing the confessions of so many of our young people. Let’s hope next year’s event will be an even greater success.

Your brother in Christ,

Most Reverend Walker Nickless
Bishop of Sioux City

PS: You can now see that the Denver Broncos have reached their stride. Thanks for your support even here in Iowa!



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