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The promise of glory provides hope during Lent

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

The Season of Lent is now here. Please know of my special prayers for the priests, deacons, consecrated persons and laity in our diocese for a special time of continual conversion and growth in holiness. I know that all of you join me in special prayers of support, healing and strength to our brothers and sisters in Japan and elsewhere who have suffered such devastation and loss of life in these past days. How true it is that when one suffers, all suffer.

As you will see in our reporting of the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion in this weeks’ Catholic Globe, I had the joy and privilege of welcoming soon-to-be new members into our Roman Catholic Church. All our pastors and parishes and Briar Cliff University that have been working with those who want to join our Catholic Community are so pleased with the enthusiasm and dedication of those who are drawn to our catholic faith. The two ceremonies, one at St. Mary’s Church in Storm Lake and the other at our Cathedral, were signs that our Church is very much alive and growing. I continue to challenge each of our parish communities to reach out in evangelization and mission to attract others to join us. Never be afraid to ask someone who is not Catholic to come with you to Mass or a parish event. We are all called to be missionaries and we have such a great message of faith and joy and fulfillment to share with others. In some ways, we should feel a sense of sadness if we have no new members to welcome into the Church at our Easter Vigil Masses. To those who are joining us this year: Thank you and Welcome!

How we have longed for this turn in the weather. Suddenly, it seems, spring and daylight savings time is here, and the bitter cold and the snows of winter already fade into memory. The rejuvenation of these warmer and brighter days gives us hope, and the anticipation of summer’s peace and plenty.
The suddenness of our Lord’s Transfiguration struck St. Peter, St. James, and St. John in much the same way. In this Sunday’s Gospel, you will hear St. Matthew’s account of this great event, not long before our Lord went up to Jerusalem to suffer and die for us. His glory shone out from Him unmistakably, and the vision of Moses and Elijah, and the voice of the Father resounding, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased," struck the Apostles with fear. Were they later able to cling to that vision of light and warmth, in the midst of His bitter Passion? Did they remember what they had seen of His glory, when fear of torture and death drove them from His side?

For the Apostles, it was not until after our Lord’s Resurrection, that the glory of the Transfiguration took on its full meaning. The glory of the Lord, the glory fulfilling all the old testament prophets and commandments, is a promise of our true end with Him. However cold and dark our struggles, our disappointments, and our sins may seem to make our lives, this promise of glory holds out to us the hope that this is not all there is. St. Peter knew this clearly, when he spoke his love for Christ three times, after having denied Him three times.
The hope which the Church today tries to preach is the same hope, fruit of the same glory. We see the glory of the Transfiguration reflected in the sacraments: the joy of parents bringing a baby to be baptized; the new peace and sweet relief of making a good confession; the intense longing of Adoration of our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament; and above all, the longing to receive Him into the deepest part of our heart, most sweetly satisfied in the Holy Eucharist of the Mass.

But sometimes, we seem to take this glory, this Transfiguration which is supposed to change us along with Christ, entirely for granted. Is it so familiar to us? It was not to St. Joseph, the patron of our Diocese, and whose solemn feast we celebrate this Saturday. He entrusted himself and his whole life and family to God’s glory, when he took Mary as his wife, and when he fled with her and Jesus into Egypt. What of Mary herself, whose faith was so great, and so clearly shown, at the Annunciation which we celebrate on March 25? Nor was this glory too familiar to St. Patrick, (March 17) who returned as a priest to the people who had beaten and abused him as a slave, in order to bring them the light of Christ. Do we have this kind of courage to reflect His glory in our lives? We need these days of Lenten renewal and conversion to lead us to joy and the Light that Christ is.

When we hold fast to the light, the warmth, and the joy of seeing Christ’s glory at work in our lives and hearts, we will have such courage. Again, the sacrifices we make this Lent are an invitation to loosen the grip of whatever keeps us from reflecting His glory clearly to our family, friends, and neighbors. Keep your Lenten charity burning brightly, so that your hope can be seen by others. Please pray for me, and for all our priests and deacons, and most especially for each other. You and your needs are always in my prayers. Happy Spring and Happy Lent.

One final note of congratulations to both St. Mary's, Storm Lake and Bishop Heelan, Sioux City boys basketball teams. (And to the good effort by St. Edmond's in Fort Dodge!) They have made us all proud by winning their respective State Championship games in recent days. Congratulations to both teams and to all those who worked so hard for the sports programs at all our Catholic Schools. Athletics and the opportunities to share sportsmanship, dedication and Christian values are added advantages to our Catholic schools. Please continue to do all you can to support our Catholic schools. Good things are happening among our young.

Your brother in Christ,

Most Reverend R. Walker Nickless
Bishop of Sioux City


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