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Mary leads us to her son Jesus

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

May is the month of Mary. Mary is the Mother of God, and the mother of the Church. As our mother, Mary teaches us to love her Son, and to follow Him. She also helps us to do this by her constant example, by her care for the Church, and by her powerful prayers. Just as Jesus was perfectly obedient to His Father, so too is He obedient to His holy mother, and grants whatever she asks for on our behalf. We are most grateful to have such a reminder, in this beautiful time of the year, of how much we can count on our Blessed Mother’s intercession.

Rosary is spiritual weapon

Mary’s concern for the Church is tangible even in our own day. In her apparitions to St. Juan Diego, our Lady of Guadalupe promised her protection to the Church in the new world. By her prayers, so many millions of people have come to her Son, and continue to do so. Our Lady of Guadalupe is also the patroness of our diocese. Her prayers have saved marriages from the scourge of divorce, and saved the unborn from the scourge of abortion. Her prayers also help our guardian angels remain close to us, even when we do not call on them as we should. We should pray to her, especially in our devoted use of the Rosary, for her help to know and love her Son more deeply, and to be more faithful and obedient to Him. The Rosary is a very powerful spiritual weapon. I encourage you to learn to use it well and frequently. I try and pray it myself everyday for the intentions of our priests, deacons, consecrated persons and our laity.

We can also learn so much from Mary’s faith. Mary gave herself to God with perfect trust and without hesitation. She responded to St. Gabriel, “Let it be done unto me according to thy word.” We have the word of God for us in Scripture and Tradition, and in the precepts of the Church. We can strive to imitate Mary’s faithful obedience as we offer ourselves to God in the same way. We can learn to trust God and His providence more fully, and to withhold less of our lives from His plan. Mary also leads everyone to her Son. She told the servants at the Wedding Feast in Cana, “Do whatever he tells you.” We know what He desires from us, though we struggle to do what He tells us. We can strive to imitate her obedience more fully in embracing Christ’s commandments and beatitudes more deeply.

It is fitting, then, that May is also a busy time in the sacramental life of the Church. Many of our parishes are celebrating First Communions and Confirmations. It is a great joy to me to be with so many of our young parishioners at these times, to see their faith alive and flourishing, and to pray with them and their families. It is also a joy to share the gratitude and the hope of so many young men and women who are graduating in May. Each year, it seems, more and more of these young people are intent on living their faith with Christ-like purpose and dedication as they look ahead to college, to marriage, to careers in the world and maybe even some vocations for the Church. Their joyful witness is the leaven Christ calls us to be, for the conversion of hearts and the salvation of souls.

Ordination to priesthood

It is also a very special and joyful occasion, for me as a bishop, to be able to ordain men to the priesthood and diaconate. On June 2, I will be ordaining one of our seminarians as a priest. On June 9, I will be ordaining four good men as permanent deacons. Please pray for these men, and for all our seminarians and deacons in formation. Vocations to the priesthood, especially, are encouraged by parents who are not afraid to teach their boys the faith, to expect them to live it well, and to teach them and pray for them to be open to God’s will in their life. May Jesus our High Priest, and Mary the mother of priests, be pleased to call many more men to serve in Holy Orders.

As Mary’s own life shows, the vocation to marriage and the vocation to the priesthood are directly related to each other. Young men willing to hear and answer God’s call to the priesthood come from healthy and holy families. There, they learn to see sacrifice as necessary for holiness, in every vocation. They learn to embrace sacrifice as a divine gift of joy and freedom, just as others must do to flourish in married life. And healthy and holy families, in turn, are nurtured and supported by the sanctifying ministry of priests, especially in Confession and the Holy Eucharist, and in consistent and solid preaching about God’s will for husbands and wives, for children, and for the virtue of chastity. If one vocation suffers, both will show the effects.

Same-sex marriage

Last week, both Vice-President Biden and President Obama declared public support for so-called same-sex “marriage.” As I and my brother bishops have explained many times, two people of the same sex cannot be “married,” for the simple reason that this is not what marriage is. By nature, marriage just is the total, permanent, exclusive, and fruitful union of one man and one woman. A sexual union between two persons of the same sex can be, at best, permanent and exclusive, but never total nor fruitful. They cannot give the whole of each person to the other, because every homosexual act is closed to the gift of life; they cannot conceive new life for the same reason. The promotion of same-sex “marriage,” then, is an attack on what marriage really is, and therefore an attack on every vocation to married life.

Too many of us in the Church already accept the world’s contraceptive mentality, which also denies the totality and fruitfulness of marriage. Clearly, the contraceptive mentality justifies same-sex “marriage,” because, if marriage between husband and wife, by including contraception, can be less than total and less than fruitful, it is difficult to see how this is different from a sexual relationship between two persons of the same sex.

If, therefore, we are to defend both the sanctity of marriage and the vocation to the priesthood, we must reject the world’s contraceptive mentality. Pope Paul VI, in his prophetic encyclical “Humanae Vitae,” called the Church to do precisely this. By God’s grace, let us repent of seeming to condone contraception by the actions of so many Catholics, and by the silence of so many clergy. Let us turn back to the Lord, embracing anew our vocations to married life and the priesthood according to His will. Mary is our mother and example in this, also, and we can trust fully in her protection and intercession.

May God continue to bless each of you with every good thing and every spiritual blessing. Please continue to pray for me, that I may lead you well as your shepherd, and for your priests. Through Mary, to Jesus!

Your brother in Christ,

Most Reverend Walker Nickless
Bishop of Sioux City

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