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Year of Faith brings many blessings for diocese

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

May our Lord Jesus Christ be King of our hearts! This Sunday, Nov. 24, is the great feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. Each year, we use the last Sunday of the year to glorify the sovereignty of Jesus Christ over His whole creation, and especially over us, the children who bear His holy name. This year, this feast also marks the close of the Year of Faith.

This Year of Faith has been full of blessings for our diocese. We have done many things to renew and increase our faith over the past year: our Rosary Crusade, special Holy Hours, different programs in parishes and schools, processions, indulgences and pilgrimages, and so on. But even more important has been the general increase in willingness and desire to know and live our Catholic faith which I have seen across the diocese in the past months. Especially in some of my recent Confirmation Masses, I have noticed a marked zeal and hunger for the faith. These fruits have been even more than I hoped for a year ago. I’m so thankful to both of our Holy Fathers, Pope Benedict Emeritus who gave us the Year of Faith, and Pope Francis, who has continued joyfully the same gift and intentions. I trust in the graces of the Holy Spirit to continue to encourage us, and to deepen our faith as we press on to our eternal destination.

As our faith grows, so too does our urgency for living the faith. As Pope Benedict and Pope Francis have both repeatedly reminded us, living the faith always shows itself in two dimensions: interiorly, in our prayers, devotions, and desire to receive the holy Sacraments; and exteriorly, in our obedience to our individual vocation and in our charity. In other words, we live the faith by loving God and loving our neighbor, both with abandon. Mary, our holy mother, is the greatest example of this living faith, and all the saints reveal something special about how to do this. By their example and by their intercession, they continue to help us both understand and be committed to living the faith fully.

And we must have this commitment! No one can drift into Heaven; you don’t get there by accident. When we celebrate the great feast of Christ the King, we are celebrating all that happens after the Resurrection: “He ascended into Heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.” The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the greatest moment of history, the point that changes everything and shatters every power of darkness. Without Easter, we could not be baptized and begin the journey back to Heaven. But the Resurrection by itself is not our end. We hope and believe that we will be raised with Him, yes; and then also judged, judged precisely on our love (which is simply the living out of our faith), so that we can reign with Him. Did we, in this life, dare to love God and others more than we loved ourselves? Did we act on the hope that sacrifice, the way of the Cross, brings true rewards? Or did we instead cling fearfully to self-love, drifting in the shallows and not daring to “put out into the deep” with Christ?

When we claim that Christ is our King, we are not making a political statement, but a moral and an eschatological one (a view towards the end times). We are admitting that Christ must rule in our hearts; that because we love God and neighbor, we are committed to certain unchanging truths and actions, to “doing good and avoiding evil” in every part of our life. We are also submitting ourselves to Christ’s judgment. No part of our life, no dark corner of our heart, no private reservations about the faith and how to live it escape His sight. Already in this life, His judgment pricks our conscience (for we are all sinners), and sends us back to the Sacraments, especially the Sacrament of Penance, the font of mercy. In this life, we always have the possibility of repentance, which is also the fruit of His mercy.

Indeed, in claiming Christ as King, we are proclaiming Him as King of Mercy: “Jesus, we trust in you!” We do not approach our king with fear as terrified subjects, but a loving Father who “desires not the death of the sinner,” and who arranges everything to make His overwhelming mercy flow freely in the world. Christ is indeed our judge, but He is on our side! We have only to ask for His mercy, and to desire freedom from our sins, and He will “guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Please feel free to join me in Le Mars at St. Joseph Church for a holy hour and inauguration of Perpetual Adoration in the parish as we conclude this Year of Faith. It will be held on Sunday, Nov. 24 at 1 p.m. I also invite all of you to join me Sunday evening at the Cathedral for the closing Mass for the Year of Faith. Mass will be celebrated at 5 p.m. followed by a Holy Hour and Benediction.

Questionnaire on Marriage and Family

As many of you have heard, bishops throughout the world have been asked to consult their people regarding marriage and the family in preparation for special meetings in Rome to be held in October 2014 and again in the year 2015. A questionnaire has been developed to seek the input of clergy, consecrated persons and laity.

You can respond to the questionnaire by following this link on our diocesan website: www.scdiocese.org/vaticansurvey. I invite all who are interested to take time to respond to all the questions in the survey or to the questions that you feel comfortable answering (some questions are very complicated and require a certain theological background). Please complete and return the survey as soon as possible, but no later than Wednesday, Dec. 18, so that I have time to process the answers and send them to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. From there they will be forwarded on to the Holy Father.

I would just like all of us to understand that despite secular media claims that Church teaching might change regarding marriage, the whole point of this exchange is to help us better appreciate the beauty and reasoning behind the Church’s understanding of marriage and family life. We all know that marriage and the family are under extreme pressure these days, so please continue to pray for married couples, those preparing for marriage and for the strengthening of our families.

Please pray for me, and for all the needs of our diocese, just as I pray for all of you. Please continue to pray also for the victims of the terrible storm in the Philippines and Vietnam, for the repose of the souls of the dead and for the ease of suffering of the living; and that help from the rest of the world will continue to arrive quickly. We have so much to be thankful for in our own corner of the world. May our experience of Christ’s gentle mercy increase our compassion and charity.

Your brother in Christ,

Most Reverend R. Walker Nickless
Bishop of Sioux City

PS: The Denver Broncos are forging ahead (sorry Kansas City Chiefs fans)!

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