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Spring brings Pentecost and school graduations

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Peace be with you! When our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into Heaven, He promised to send all of us, His followers, a “Paraclete.” The word means, literally, one who is “called beside” us – a staunch friend, an advocate and consoler. This is the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Holy Trinity, the very love of God who unites Father and Son. The joy of the Ascension (Lk 24:52) thus gives way to the joy of Pentecost (Acts 2:46), as we welcome anew the Holy Spirit into our hearts. We will celebrate Pentecost on Sunday, May 19th. The fifty days of our joyful celebration of Easter will then come to an end.

Unity is the Holy Spirit’s work in us. He unites us, first, to the Church. He gives us the gift of faith when we are baptized. In all the sacraments, He renews our unity with her. When we have turned away from God in our sins, He gives us the spirit of repentance (Acts 2:37), the desire to be healed and reunited in the sacrament of Penance.

But the Church is not merely a community of believers in this world. In her, the Holy Spirit also unites us to Christ our Head, as the members of the one Body. We express that union with Christ, in a spiritual sense, in all our works of piety, devotion, and charity. In a deeper sense, He unites us to Christ in the daily work of our individual vocations to holy marriage, to the priesthood, or to the consecrated life. And we are admitted to the fullest possible union with Christ in this life, when we receive Him in the Holy Eucharist. The Holy Spirit gives us the longing to receive Him, and the perseverance to do what is necessary to be well prepared for each holy Mass. The Holy Spirit received in Confirmation is truly an extraordinary gift to all of us!

The Holy Spirit also unites us to the Church already present in Heaven. With the saints and angels, we praise God in all our liturgies and personal prayers, as if we were already before His throne! When we ask for their intercession and help, we are using the Holy Spirit’s gift of unity with them. Foremost among the saints is Mary, Mother of God and Queen of Heaven and earth, our holy mother in the Faith. In giving us union in Christ with Mary, the Holy Spirit inspires us to love and honor her as our spiritual mother, and to strive to imitate the perfection of her faithful obedience. And there is no better tool to help us grow in imitating Mary’s virtues than the Rosary. Especially in this month of May, and in the Year of Faith, I encourage you to pray the Rosary diligently.

Finally, the Holy Spirit unites us to our mission as Catholics. We want to go to Heaven. We want to share with our families and neighbors the joy we have in loving Jesus Christ. We want to live the Faith fully in our daily life. As we celebrate the great solemnity of Pentecost this Sunday, we are not merely looking backwards to the Resurrection and the Ascension, but also forwards, to how we live joyfully as Catholics. On Monday, May 20th, we begin what the church calls “Ordinary Time.” This is the way the Church counts our regular Sunday celebrations and weekdays. We pick up with the 7th week in Ordinary Time. “Ordinary Time” is not time for us to be ordinary, as if our faith did not matter. Rather, united as we are by the Holy Spirit to Christ and the Church, to our vocation and our mission, it is time for us truly to live the faith – to do, as St. Thérèse of Lisieux said, “ordinary things with extraordinary love.”

Graduations

These weeks are also the occasion of graduations from high school and college. These are important steps in the lives of our young parishioners, and we rightly celebrate their achievements, and the new opportunities God opens before them. A good education is one of the most dependable means to a measure of stability and security in the “shipwreck of this world.” I know how willingly you parents sacrifice to ensure your children’s future through education, how proud of their years of work you are when they complete these milestones, and how eager for them to continue to flourish. The Church celebrates with you, and offers you, both parents and graduates, all our prayers!

But a “good” education must be good in two ways. It must, of course, be good in the skills and knowledge it imparts. These must be relevant and useful, and broadly adaptable to different jobs, suitable for further development with more school and work experience. But education must also be good in virtue. It must teach wisdom, the love of goodness for its own sake. Every good thing is good because it reflects in some partial way God’s perfect goodness. When we love what is good, we love the Good, and can come thereby to love God.

This is why the Church still insists on the importance of Catholic schools, at all levels. Many things make education “Catholic” –prayer, the sacraments, service, priests and religious on campus, involvement of Catholic families, Catholic values – but these all rest, in some sense, on teaching wisdom, on making God’s Word the very heart of every skill or subject or activity pursued. The Church knows how to do this in her schools. We’ve been teaching wisdom in schools for fifteen centuries, in monastery and cathedral schools, then in universities and seminaries, and now in grammar and high schools.

With all of you, I’m very proud of this year’s graduating classes. I join you graduates in thanking your parents, pastors, teachers, and mentors, who have striven to teach you not only knowledge, but also true wisdom. On this foundation, may our Lord’s gifts of faith, hope, and love always shine brightly in everything you do!

Your brother in Christ,

Most Reverend R. Walker Nickless,
Bishop of Sioux City

 

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