The Blessed Virgin Mary invites
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
As you know, I celebrated my 40th anniversary of priestly ordination on August 4, 2013, the feast of St. John Vianney, patron of parish priests. These forty years have truly been a blessing for me. God is so good in the vocation that he has given all of us. Thank you to all the priests, deacons, religious and laity who wished me congratulations and who pray for me. I am grateful and humbled by your prayerful support.
The beginning of this month, I had the pleasure of spending several days with our seminarians in our annual summer gathering. What a wonderful group of young men we have in seminary formation for our Diocese. In a special way, I want to thank Father Brad Pelzel, our Vocation Director, for his outstanding work and ministry with our present and future seminarians. Please pray for the process of his work and for our 17 seminarians who attend Conception Seminary in Missouri, St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana and St. John Vianney Seminary in Colorado.
Today, August 22, is the feast of the Queenship of Mary. We celebrate today another aspect of the unique and very special place Mary, our blessed Mother, has in salvation history, and in our hearts. Because she is the Immaculate Mother of God, shining model of faith and obedience throughout her life, Mary receives from her Son the gift of a heavenly throne. She is crowned in heaven as our queen, sharing in the rule of Christ our King over heaven and earth, like the shared radiance of two lamps placed close together: “Finally, the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all guilt of original sin, on the completion of her earthly sojourn, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen of the universe, that she might be more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and the conqueror of sin and death” (Lumen Gentium, 59).
And it is very fitting that this feast should be celebrated on the octave of the great solemnity of Mary’s Assumption (August 15) into heaven. Mary is the first member of the Church, after her Son, Jesus Christ, to enter heaven bodily. She joins the great prophet Elijah in showing us our true home and destiny. We are called to imitate her faith and obedience, trusting that everything God sends us is for our true good and salvation, even when it seems difficult in this life, and giving our whole lives freely up to Him, so that He can make of us great saints and constant witnesses to His infinite mercy and love.
As our Queen, Mary also intercedes for us most powerfully. Her Son hears and grants all her prayers. Each time I pray the Glorious Mysteries of the holy Rosary, mediating like this on Mary’s Assumption and coronation, and entrusting all my daily concerns to Mary’s sure care, I am amazed at our Lord’s generosity. He chose her to be the mother of the Incarnate Word, not because of any special merit on her part, but simply out of His perfect and infinite love. He gave her every spiritual gift, including the gift of being conceived without original sin, so that she could give it all back to Him in devoting herself entirely to her Son. And when she had to watch her Son suffer and die a most cruel death on the Cross, He consoled her with the gift of the Church in the person of John, the beloved disciple. Then He took her home to be with Him in glory, and crowned her queen of heaven and earth.
He gives each of us wonderful gifts as well, starting with the gift of life, which we must respect and urge others also to respect. He gives us the Holy Eucharist and all the sacraments, and our vocations to married, consecrated, or ordained service. He wants us to use all these gifts in the same way as Mary, in the Church, with prayer and devotion and unswerving fidelity. It is true that our vocations are not always easy. Following Christ exacts a price, the price of the Cross. No one’s life is free of suffering and sacrifice, as we all know; but this makes our fidelity all the more pleasing to God. Therefore, if we do God’s will the best we can, devoting ourselves every day to His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and to His holy Church, and repenting continually of our sins, God has promised us the same reward.
In this Year of Faith, I have urged you to pray the Rosary more diligently. We still have several months remaining in the Year of Faith, still time to take up this or another spiritual challenge to grow in our faith. Love for Jesus Christ always brings with it veneration for His blessed mother, Mary, whose obedience to her own special vocation as the Mother of God still brings such rich fruits to the whole Church. As we begin again another school year, another year of parish programs, religious education, adult formation, and so on, please remember to offer to Mary both your ministry and your needs, in the Church, your homes, and your other work. In her tender care for us, her spiritual children, she brings all that we ask to the feet of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will grant those prayers and enrich us with every grace and blessing for doing His perfect will. Under Mary’s rule and protection, our efforts this year on behalf of our children, of the unborn and the elderly, of the poor and the immigrant, and of all those who do not know or trust God’s mercy and grace will be strengthened and made more fruitful.
Please continue to pray for me, too, and for your priests, for more vocations to the consecrated life, the diaconate and priestly life in our diocese, for Christian families, and for all those returning to school at every level. Your prayers do make a difference! May God bless you with every grace and good thing in obedience to His will.
Your brother in Christ,
Most Reverend R. Walker Nickless,
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