“Christ’s name creates communion and unity”

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During a general audience in 2014, Pope Francis said, “Christ’s name creates communion and unity, not division. He came to create communion among us, not to divide us.” He says this to the world in general, but more importantly to us. He reminds his Church that we have a great responsibility to put this into action. Our local Catholic Church today seeks opportunities to commit ourselves to Encountering Jesus, Witnessing with Joy!

One opportunity that has come our way is The Passion Live, an event where our whole NOLA community will come together in Woldenberg park and surrounding areas to watch a modern day reenactment of Christ’s Passion. But the question of “what next?” has been on the hearts of many faith leaders and has sparked the idea to create an “After the Passion” initiative to carry on the sense of community and provide opportunities for prayer, reflection and evangelization after the exciting live event. Several #NOLACatholic leaders have joined together with other area faith leaders to create gathering spots for prayer “After the Passion” and one of those many spots that will be open is St. Louis Cathedral. Join us as we gather and reflect on the incredible witness of faith on Palm Sunday!

After the Passion Social Media

Read more about “After the Passion” efforts here: http://passionnola.com/. We pray for a true spirit of welcome among the whole Christian community!

Behind the Scenes of Fox’s The Passion

Recently, local New Orleans faith leaders united together in support of Fox’s The Passion Live, which will be a live modern-day depiction of Christ’s passion shot from Woldenberg Park in New Orleans. It will live broadcast on Palm Sunday, March 20th from 7pm-9pm and will include a procession of a 20ft illuminated cross through the French Quarter to Woldenberg Park. There has been a soft rumble about this event that is currently peaking everyone’s interest, including us #NOLACatholics. So how did this event come to be? And more importantly, out of any city in the US to choose from, why did the producers pick New Orleans?

We, along with other local faith leaders, visited the set of The Passion last week and spoke with Michael W. Smith, Shane Harper (actor from “God’s Not Dead”), Prince Royce, and Adam Anders (music producer known for “Glee”), among others. It was incredible to come together and share our thoughts, ask questions and most importantly get to hear the “makers” side of the story. Surprisingly, the passion for this project is undeniable in all of the actors and producers involved. Originally a project out of the Netherlands that began 5 years ago, The Passion Live gained ample viewership overseas. Adam Anders actually attended the event in Holland and knew immediately that it would be a great fit for a US audience.

One aspect that stuck out to us was how much this project is focused on the hope of uniting a city. Why did they choose New Orleans? They saw that our city needed unity. The Passion is a story for all, played out in a way we can all be touched by no matter your background, religion or beliefs. At the end of our visit, Adam expressed the need for prayer in the following areas:

  • Pray that everything runs smoothly on March 20th and that The Passion will not suffer from any technical glitches. Pray also for the weather to cooperate!
  • Pray for the actors. Beautiful things have happened on set with unbelieving actors as they play out particular parts of Jesus’ story.

Everyone is invited to view and participate and there are several ways to do so! You can simply head on out to watch the procession, or you can grab a free ticket to watch the live stage in Woldenberg Park. And if you want to be even more involved, you can participate in the procession and carry the cross through the streets.

To participate in the procession and to register for free tickets to Woldenberg Park, please go to: http://thepassion.com/participate/

25 things to do instead of social media

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“Human traffickers and criminal networks are taking advantage of technology to reach larger audiences and to do their illicit business more quickly across greater distances,” says Debbie Shinskie, director of the Respect Life Office. She added that because traffickers recruit, advertise and organize their “business” through social communications, while fasting from social media could be a challenge and even a sacrifice for some it is an ideal way to “remember to pray for those who are victims of human trafficking, those who have escaped and those who are working to rebuild their lives.”

We’ve compiled a list of 25 things to do INSTEAD of social media or texting. We hope this list will help you remember that the day is a sacrifice for the victims of human trafficking and in our sacrifice we remember to pray each time we want to check our phone.

To start, it might be wise to temporarily delete all of your social media apps (you can add them back the next day) or put them into a folder on your phone and move that folder to a different page where you can’t see the notifications. This way you aren’t tempted by seeing the apps if you need to be on your phone.

25 things to do instead of social media and texting:

  1. Pray for an end to Human Trafficking.
  2. Write a note to a friend with words of encouragement.
  3. Ask a co-worker or friend how their day is going
  4. Look up, water the plant on your desk or tidy your space
  5. Get up and walk around the room.
  6. At lunch, read a few pages of a book or magazine
  7. Drink a glass of water.
  8. Stretch or do a few pushups
  9. Doodle
  10. Make a list
  11. Go to daily Mass or spend a few minutes in Adoration. To find a church near you head to nolacatholic.org/parishes/search
  12. Think of something fun to do this weekend and plan it.
  13. Write down a task you might forget (home or work related)
  14. Check for upcoming events on your calendar.
  15. Take five deep breaths.
  16. Clean or help out in tidying the break room at your office.
  17. Thank God for another day.
  18. Write down three things you’re grateful for.
  19. Plan an evening with the family where everyone helps to cook, clean and play games afterward.
  20. Think of a habit you want to start
  21. Listen to your favorite song.
  22. Try this 3-minute retreat here.
  23. Call your parents or a relative you’ve been meaning to call.
  24. Memorize your favorite quote.
  25. Read the daily readings for today.

More information and resources, including how individuals can take action against human trafficking, are available through the US Conference of Catholic Bishops website here.

When the blizzard chose to march with us

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Debbie Shinskie (Respect Life Director), Andy and Gaby

In typical mid-Atlantic weather fashion, the 2016 national March for Life had an extra participant this year — a blizzard. Yet, in spite of ominous early week forecasts before the Friday March, optimistic pro-life advocates set out on their journeys by bus and plane to be a voice for the voiceless, to be a presence that the President, Congress and the Supreme Court need to see. Traveling with Catholic Community Radio’s Wake Up personality, Gaby Smith, and my videographer, Andy, our flight left midday Wednesday, two full days before the March in order to join up with the already-departed #NOLACatholic students at our hotel that evening. This year we were armed with the blessing of technology to keep everyone who would remain in the Archdiocese a part of the pilgrimage with the use of periscope for live posts via Twitter. Upon our landing at Reagan National Airport we were greeted with the news that our airline had posted official travel advisories and that an unexpected snowfall was about to dust Washington. Knowing how winter weather air travel can become tricky, before grabbing our shuttle, we visited the ticket agent (a native of Algiers whose brother owns a coffee shop on Magazine Street!) who suggested rebooking our Saturday return to New Orleans to Monday rather than Sunday as we had hoped. Grateful for his advice about his airport’s handling of winter weather, we did so.  This also prompted even more prayer for our bus pilgrims, for their anticipated snowy arrival that evening and for wisdom that their journey would be safely planned in light of the weather’s urgency.

Settling into our hotel that evening involved more than the usual unpacking. There was much to consider with how plans had been made and how the forecast might affect those plans. There were many texts flying back and forth as we prayerfully awaited the waves of bus pilgrims who were now slowed due to the unexpected road conditions. Rumors began to circulate on social media indicating that the March would be cancelled. Emails regarding previously scheduled appointments began rolling into my inbox. Confident that God sees the effort even if the work does not come to fruition, we responded to the texts from the buses with reminders of prayers offered and encouragement to trust in God. We re-tweeted the March for Life’s official announcement that the March would go on no matter what the weather, just as it always has for the last 43 years. We emailed and rescheduled meetings to account for the likely state of emergency that would be declared for Friday.

Finally, almost three hours behind schedule the first of the buses began rolling in. After the standard very long ride, an unexpected flat tire and a treacherous last few miles of terrible road conditions, the students bounded off the buses with such joy! They had made it and were ready to tell the world “Why we march!” There was not one face that was tired. Not one student or chaperone was without a glow of anticipation to be a voice and a presence for the nation, and even the world, to see. Optimism flowed freely, and at their gathering later that evening to prepare for the next morning’s Geaux Forth Rally, the room thundered with hope. This is the pro-life generation!

Day two in Washington found us gathering with pilgrims from Lake Charles Diocese at the Geaux Forth Rally. It was here that the weather really began to make an impact as we found out that Baton Rouge Diocese students were returning to Louisiana that day and that Lafayette and Houma-Thibodeaux students were also not coming. This was also the day that it became hard to ignore the blizzard forecast. Secretly, I’m sure many of us were hoping that the forecast would calm down to another light dusting of snow for the day of the March, but the opposite was true. Government agencies were speaking of things like states of emergency and airport closures and public transit shutdowns. Whether the students at Geaux Forth were fully aware of these plans or not, the spirit of standing up for life won the morning. Louisiana Right to Life Co-Youth Directors, Alex Seghers and Krista Corbello, along with Transform DJs wound up the crowd with words and music.  Louisiana Lieutenant Governor, Billy Nungesser, and Louisiana Attorney General, Jeff Landry, not only gave words of inspiration, but undoubtedly received some of their own from the students’ enthusiastic reception of them. David Scotton, Louisiana State University senior and adoption speaker who survived his birth mother’s visit to an abortion clinic, told his story and shared the trailer plus some clips of the documentary about his life, “I Lived on Parker Avenue”. Not only did they hear David’s amazing experience, but they were told of the chance awaiting them on the bus ride home to preview the entire documentary. Sarah Mary Toce equipped the students with words of wisdom when responding to those who are skeptical of pro-life wisdom.

As Geaux Forth was nearing the end, I left early to join the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Mass and reception for pro-life leadership. We were blessed to be able to go to Mass with Cardinal Dolan, the new chairman of the USCCB Pro-Life Secretariat. His homily captured perfectly what I had witnessed in previous Marches and in the faces of our students the night before — this work we do for life is a work of joy!  No doubt, the reason why there is a March for Life is one of the most gruesome reasons imaginable, we go forth in the work we do with joy because we share in Christ’s work upon earth. This knowledge of doing the necessary work of being the presence of Christ for those who most need to see it can only win when it is done in joy and in love. We do the work desiring to see life, life to the fullest, for all our brothers and sisters, born and unborn, those who are fearful of the unexpected pregnancy and those who work in the abortion industry. Only the face of love, of joy will show those who need it the most the face of Christ.

Doing Christ’s work, however, is not without unexpected twists and turns. This year’s March for Life was no exception. At the USCCB reception my phone lit up with texts and calls. Those back in Louisiana were wondering, given the gravity of the weather forecast, what would happen? The storm that was being called a blizzard was only one day away from hitting Washington. How would the busses fare? Archbishop Aymond, in consultation with staff and even a meteorologist, shepherded his students to safety, calling them home to Louisiana that afternoon. As one would expect this was difficult for the students, yet what a perfect sacrifice to offer for the sin of abortion and the conversion of hearts to life.

God chose a different way to witness for life this year for many pilgrims. Some of us stayed and sent live broadcasts back, finding shelter in our hotels just as the blizzard roared into the city. Others left two full days early, not even spending a full 24 hours in Washington, making it back to New Orleans in time to send a very tired remnant of students to the Louisiana Life March the very next day in Baton Rouge. Others from parts west of Washington were stranded in their buses for over 24 hours on roadways, offering shelter, food, water, and even the holy sacrifice of Mass on an altar of snow to weary road warriors. Many years it seems as if the March for Life, which brings hundreds (yes, hundreds!) of thousands to Washington DC as a witness for life, is barely a blip on the radar of national news, but not this year. It is hard to ignore the tens (yes, tens!) of thousands of us who stayed in spite of the historic forecast. It is hard to ignore the arduous journeys of the countless who came to Washington from very far on buses and left almost immediately. It is hard to ignore those who were stranded on their returns, and in spite of the great hardships of that, still were the hands and feet and joy of Christ. I must question, would this annual shout for life have been heard so far and wide without the aid of a blizzard?  Quite possibly when the blizzard chose to march with us, it was the best thing for our voice.

Three Kings Cake

king-cake (1)It’s a celebratory day for Nola as we kick off Mardi Gras season. I would think most people picture beads and king cakes upon hearing the name “New Orleans” and it seems fitting since the tradition of this cake has been around for roughly 300 years! What’s amazing for us as #NOLACatholics is that the King Cake is enriched in Catholic meaning. It’s a wonderful thing that a city gets to celebrate it’s Catholic and cultural traditions together especially when it comes in the form of a delicious pastry and family gatherings.

The name “King Cake” refers to the biblical three kings of the Epiphany. “Epiphany” is the revelation of God the son as a human being in Jesus Christ. The visit of the Magi (Three kings) is emphasized on this day and they are represented in the three colors on top of the cake. Purple symbolizes justice, green symbolizes faith, and gold symbolizes power. The traditional king cake baby symbolizes the infant Jesus. It’s a simple meaning still strong in tradition today.

Many families here begin parties to celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany or Twelfth night. Share your Twelfth night traditions with us! Does your family exchange gifts, read scripture or have a special dinner? Let us know how you celebrate your faith via #NOLACatholic!

Try, Show, Live God’s Mercy

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By Very Rev. David G. Caron, O.P.

An extraordinary and hopefully transformative year will begin for the Church on December 8th. With the opening of the Cathedral Holy Year Door, the Jubilee Year of Mercy will begin, fittingly so on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. The model of this spiritual disposition of mercy is the Virgin Mary. She carries in her heart and in her womb the fullness of God’s hope and mercy.

How appropriate as the entire Christian world hears the invitation of Pope Francis to rediscover the common horizon towards which we are all journeying. He stressed this as he met with both evangelical and Muslim leaders in Africa. He stresses it with us too. This horizon is the horizon of hope and mercy!

The liturgical season of Advent restores this horizon of hope and mercy, which does not disappoint for it is founded on God’s Incarnate Word, Jesus the Christ.

In this year of jubilee having passed through the threshold of the Holy Year Door at The Cathedral of St. Louis King of France, we are reminded, from the scriptures, that Jesus is the way, the gate and the door. To journey through this door is a reminder to all that we too need to be both purveyors and recipients of God’s hope and mercy…hence the Archdiocesan logo: Try-Show-Live God’s Mercy!

May this Jubilee Year of Mercy remind us that the hallmark of Christians should be joy, peace, and mercy even in the midst of difficult times. When we become discouraged by the state of the world, the squabbling in families, economic difficulties, and even scandals in the church and the world may we never stop seeking the the mercy of God and sharing that mercy with others.

https://nolacatholic.com/year-of-mercy

With Gratitude in Your Hearts

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.

                                                                       Colossians 3:16

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It’s that time of year again!  How quickly it seems to have come upon us!  The older I get, the faster time seems to fly.  I think it is the ever-increasing awareness of the flight of time that has given me motivation to count my blessings not just during this month of Thanksgiving, but every day of every month of the year!

In most recent months, my family seems to have been bitten by the “homesteading bug” – a desire to move a bit farther out in order to plant food crops, keep bees and maybe raise some livestock.  This is interesting because my husband and I were both raised in the suburbs of New Orleans, and know nothing about farm life – other that what we’ve seen in movies!

Part of the goal of homesteading is to become self-sufficient – less dependent on others for the basic necessities of life.   This is not our goal, however.  We feel a longing for a more simple life – a life of total dependence on God – a life of added freedom from all the noise and hustle that constantly tries to pull us away from communion with our Creator.  Instead of going to the gym for fitness, we’d prefer to work the land.

In driving around looking at property, we’ve traveled to many different kinds of places.  Last weekend, when we returned home from our search, we realized how good we already have it.  Though our dreams and yearnings led us to think that there is something greener out there for us, what we already do have is pretty incredible.  God has provided amazingly for our family every step of the way – even (and especially) when the outlook was most bleak.  Trust in Him is never misplaced!  His love for all of His children is so great that we can completely abandon ourselves to His care.  God is Father, and God is faithful! We still may become farmers someday, but in the meantime, we are appreciating each and every day that the Lord has given us together where we dwell right now, remembering that tomorrow is not promised.

When I get up in the morning, before I even get out of bed, I say, “Thank you God for this day – another opportunity to know, love and serve you better.”  That’s what today is for each of us – another opportunity to get it right!

While it is easy to thank God in the most joyous times in our lives – the births, the weddings, the graduations – but a time of trial brings gratitude to a whole new level.  Do we thank God for the crosses in our lives that make us sharers in His cross?  Do we offer up our sufferings for the salvation of other souls?  Are we worried about the souls of others outside of our family circle, or are we just concerned with our own?  Do we look upon Jesus’ body on the crucifix with a flood of gratitude for what His death and resurrection mean for us?  Are we living focused on the things of this world – all we can do and acquire – or are we keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus and eternal life?

I am very grateful for having grown up in and around the city of New Orleans.  Here, there are Catholic churches on nearly every corner.  Here, we have many wonderful priests who sacrifice their lives to administer the sacraments and lead us to Jesus.  Here, we can receive The Blessed Sacrament everyday of the week if we so desire.  There are still places in the world where people have to wait months for a priest to come through town in order for them receive Holy Communion.  How blessed we truly are to live in a city pervaded with Catholicity!  May we never take that for granted!

During this Thanksgiving season, please think of paying a visit to Jesus in one of New Orleans’ beautiful churches or adoration chapels. Sit in the stillness and silence and rest awhile before the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping begins. “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”  (Matthew 11:28)  There in the tabernacle Jesus waits for us to approach Him with thankful hearts.  There He waits to fill us with His grace and blessing!  May God bless you and yours with a happy and holy Thanksgiving!

 

For a list of adoration chapels in New Orleans, please visit:

https://nolacatholic.com/parishes/search