The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Solemnity: 2022

The Sacred Heart: Art by: Ronald Raab, CSC

The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Solemnity

Friday June 24, 2022

The devotion of the Sacred Heart of Jesus has formed my life. In high school, an elderly woman handed me a prayer card of the Sacred Heart. She told me to always pray that prayer and I would know my vocation in life. She never spoke to me again after that encounter. I carried that card in my wallet for over forty years, until it completed disintegrated. My love for the Sacred Heart has only grown.

I was ordained a priest at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the campus of the University of Notre Dame. I was ordained a priest in the Congregation of Holy Cross where the priests are dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I also served at Sacred Heart in Colorado from 1984-87.  My life has been formed by the devotion to the Sacred Heart and given great joy knowing that I belong to him.  

I also remember beginning a retreat with the Trappists at New Melleray Abbey in Iowa just before professing final vows. Fr. Sam was my director. I asked him simply, “Sam, would you teach me to pray?” He replied, “That is simple, just ask Jesus for an exchange of hearts.”

That prayer has been in my heart for forty years now. I still find my life growing into such a request. On many days, I feel anxiety circling around my heart. It is then, that I must heed the request not only of a monk, but of the Sacred Heart. I must surrender my life. I must ask for an exchange of hearts.

My devotion to the Sacred Heart has formed my ministry as pastor. I see the connections nearly every day. Just recently, we celebrated First Communion at the parish. The very first person to greet me after Mass was a woman requesting money for gasoline. She extended her rough, filthy hand, and I could not help but receive her hand and her request. I had just told folks at Mass that the Eucharist is to be lived in the world.

These moments challenge me. These kinds of encounters happen with great frequency. I am shaped and formed by the ways prayer and life happen. The Eucharist calls us all into a life of service. Most especially, it forms us into becoming the Heart of Christ. This is an exchange that offers life to me.

Some years ago, just before Sunday Mass began, a woman grabbed my chasuble as I started to walk down the aisle. She and her daughter had just moved to town and the daughter was starting school the next day. She requested a place for the daughter to get a shower and some money to get them through a couple of days. The opening hymn was being sung and I straddled the beginning of prayer and the request for service. Bringing the two together is the mission of the Church. Prayer and service lead us to heaven.

Today’s gospel, Luke 15:3-7, offers us an image of the Good Shepherd that chases the lost. I remember a few years ago when a little boy was left in a hot car in our parking lot during Territory Days on Memorial Day weekend. The lost are ever present.

For nine years, I have served as pastor for a church named for the Sacred Heart. Our church’s mission is to continue to offer the Heart of Jesus Christ. In a holy exchange, we come to know the Heart of Jesus is for us who most need him.  

Take my yoke upon you, says the Lord, and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.

Saint Edward’s University, Austin, Texas: Director of Campus Ministry

My new home! On July 20, 2022, I will arrive at Saint Edward’s University to become the Director of Campus Ministry. Wow! I am really looking forward to this new adventure! I am including this particular campus tour because near the beginning of the video you will see the outside of Our Lady of Peace Chapel and the surrounding gardens. Will post more later. Just yesterday was the official announcement from the Congregation of Holy Cross. I better get packing!

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, June 26, 2022: Reflection on Luke 9: 51-62, Cover Art from Joel Ernster

Dear Followers of the Christ,

We listen to Luke 9:51-62 this Sunday in Ordinary Time. We begin a long series of passages this summer that invites us to follow Jesus. In these past months, we have celebrated the foundations of our faith in his passion, death, and resurrection. Now it is time to leave the comfort of our reflections and offer our faith and service to God and to the world.

In this passage, we hear from some of the followers of Jesus excuses not to follow him. I will follow you, Lord, but first, let me bury my father or say goodbye to my family. Jesus claims an immediacy to the call to follow. He wants us all to pull our hands away from the plow and give our very selves to him, completely and with love. 

Perhaps this summer may be a time to evaluate our faith and our own call to follow Jesus. I invite you to find some time to pray, reflect, and sort through your life in a different way. Perhaps a garden or path in the mountains to walk or stroll or to simply enjoy is a good place for you. Perhaps rising earlier in the morning to hear the whispers of birds, to feel the morning air, or simply enjoy the quiet will bring you to prayer. Listening to soft music in a familiar chair or on a different rock in the backyard may slow you down. Whatever it takes, listen to scriptures this summer and open yourself to the beauty of God’s love for you. Ask God to help you know how to follow him.

What is your life about? What is your mission as a Christian? These are just two questions I ask you to reflect upon in the summer days. Perhaps you can write or journal your way into prayer. Perhaps, even when you are genuinely busy, you can pray with the name of Jesus. There are all kinds of excuses not to pray, not to follow Jesus Christ. However, your heart depends on it. Your relationships depend on it. Your family depends on you knowing who you are in the world, and the purpose God has given you. You are part of God’s plan on earth, so begin to pray and act like it.

Here are some other questions to consider: 

Jesus, how are you calling me into a deeper love of life when I feel so alone?

Jesus, how do I serve when I feel so ill-equipped to do so?

Jesus, I really don’t know how to serve you. Will you show me the way to help others?

Jesus, I feel empty when I pray. Will you show me your love and my purpose?

Jesus, how do I follow you in the center of so much suffering in our world?

Jesus, how do I continue to follow you? What are you asking of me?

To him Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Kingdom of God.”

God give you peace.

Fr. Ron Raab, CSC, Pastor

Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows: Parishioners at Prayer, June 2022

Our new sculpture of Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, begins to draw parishioners as a place of prayer. Here, before Mass, some parishioners gathered to pray the Rosary. I am heartened by the response to this pilgrim place to rest our common needs and sorrows. This is the function of art.

I stumbled upon this quote this morning from John Keats, “Beauty is truth, truth beauty.”

Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows: Sculpture by Joel Ernster, June 2022

Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows. Photo by: John Goddard

On June 14, 2022, we installed a new bronze statue of Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows on an outside wall of Sacred Heart Church. In the bulletin for June 26, I reflect on the image and the devotion.

Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows: Sculpture by Joel Ernster

For nearly fifty years, I have prayed with the image of Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, the Patroness of the Congregation of Holy Cross. This image of Mary speaks tenderly to me amid people’s suffering. I have turned to her in times of personal anguish. Her response to Jesus’ suffering helps me stand alongside the suffering of so many people in our parish. Her life helps me know that I am not alone when people experience the death of a child, or loss of a long-time job, or a devasting divorce, or a new diagnosis of cancer.

I have learned in my years of formation in Holy Cross and in pastoral ministry that I cannot control suffering or the reality of loss in our human condition. In faith, I entrust such experiences to Jesus Christ. Mary, along the way, offers a model to all of us to stand with hope, to pray with courage, and to believe that all suffering brings us closer to the person of Jesus Christ.

I recognize Mary’s role in suffering. I live this daily. She did not control suffering. She did not change it. She did not ignore it or wish it away. She pondered it all in her heart. I must believe this, especially in the constant reality of pain over which I have no control. I cannot change such pain. I am called to pray with the reality of what is, and not how I wish life to be. This devotion to Mary is not pious nonsense. Her place at Jesus’ side helps us all to stay involved in human anguish and to remain believers in God who has created us and will never abandon us. Mary stood next to Jesus’ passion out of love. We do the same among those we love. Love is the force that strengthens faith.

In my nine years as pastor, I have spoken many times about Our Lady of Sorrows. I painted an image of her that hangs in our vestibule of Sacred Heart Church. Her heart is painted in the reredos near the tabernacle. So, now I leave you with one more image of Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows. This new sculpture created by Sacred Heart Parishioner Dr. Joel Ernster, speaks to our life as a parish community. As we enter the church, we see the invitation to stand among the suffering of people in our world. I leave you with this image as a reminder that we are a community formed by the tradition of the Congregation of Holy Cross. This devotion is not reserved for priests only. This devotion is meant to be lived by the People of God.

I invite you to take Mary to heart. I want you to fully understand Mary’s role in the suffering of her son, Jesus. To do so, you must pray for the real needs of people. We are all faced with public grief. There is so much to grieve in our world today:  mass shootings, wars, violence, heartaches of divisions and neglect, poverty, and mental illness. Life can be overwhelming. However, this is where our faith comes to our aid. The person of Jesus Christ is our center, our way of life. To help us heal, we have Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, who walks with us, who shows us we are not alone.  

Why is Our Lady of Sorrows depicted with swords? Well, the image comes from the First Sorrow, the moment of Jesus being presented in the Temple. Simeon suggests to Mary that her life will never be the same. A sword will pierce her heart as she journeys with her son, Jesus. It is a foreshadowing of Jesus’s passion and death.

The Seven Sorrows of Mary are represented in the sculpture by seven swords. These are the seven moments in the gospels that create this devotion. In these seven scenes in the gospel, Mary witnesses the suffering of her son. She holds such suffering in her heart. The Seven Sorrows are: The First Sorrow: The Prophesy of Simeon, Luke 2: 27-35. The Second Sorrow: The Flight into Egypt, Luke 2:27-35. The Third Sorrow: The Loss of the child Jesus in the Temple, Luke 3:41-50. The Fourth Sorrow: Mary meets Jesus on the road to Calvary, Luke 23: 27-30. The Fifth Sorrow: Jesus dies on the cross, John 19:25-30. The Sixth Sorrow: Mary receiving the body of Jesus in her arms, Mark 15: 42-47. The Seventh Sorrow: The body of Jesus is placed in the tomb, John 19: 40-42.

Please learn these moments in scripture and take them to heart. Know the places in the gospels that are there as scenes of grace to console you. It is worth the time, believe me.

I want you to pray with this sculpture. I want you to use this sculpture as a place for public grief in moments of tragedy.  I want you to find this space outside our church as a place to put flowers or notes or cards or prayer requests. This magnificent piece of art demands a response by us who pray. I leave you this idea and desire for you to pray.

As I ponder the new sculpture outside our church door, a couple of things strike me. First, the image reveals itself in our parking lot. Even as we enter the block, the beauty of this piece speaks to us of faith. As we walk down the sidewalk by Saint Andre House, it keeps revealing something new, in different light. When we approach, the plaque offers us an explanation of Mary. Then, when we get close to the sculpture, Mary’s tear is revealed. I believe the essence of this sculpture is Mary’s tear. When we get close to her in prayer, she also sees our tears. She is one with all humanity. She cares for us who seek her son, Jesus. There is only love in her tear.

On the first day the sculpture was installed on June 14, I came back to the parish after dark to see how the lights of the yard would shine on the art. As I approached the sculpture, there was a man sleeping on the sidewalk. I must believe Mary cares for what we care about, the well-being of all humanity. I leave you, the parish community, under the protection of Mary, Mother of Sorrows.

Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, console your people.

The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, June 19, 2022: Column on Luke 9:11-17

Dear Believers in the Christ, 

In Luke 9:11b-17, the disciples seem to be in scarcity. They questioned Jesus about how to feed a hungry crowd. They feared for the people who were in need, “for we are in a deserted place here.” It is in this moment of scarcity and hunger that Jesus invites them to see differently. He invites them to believe in him in a deeper, more profound way. 

Jesus says, “Give them some food yourselves.” The disciples were astonished because all they had to offer were five loaves of bread and two fish. With such hunger among them, this would never fill the bodies of so many that numbered five thousand men alone. Jesus invited them to trust. He began an incredible miracle of feeding the vast crowd with leftovers. 

This passage of human hunger is the foundation of the eternal Eucharist. As we gather on Sundays, we are all hungry for not only food, but for justice, for mercy, for forgiveness, for meaning, and for a sense of belonging. The food we receive is from the action of the Eucharistic celebration that feeds us repeatedly with the eternal Real Presence of Jesus Christ. 

This feast of The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ reflects Holy Thursday. On the night before Jesus died, he reminded his disciples of all the moments of abundance they had experienced in his ministry. The food that we share at Mass is his genuine love for us, God’s beloved. This nourishment is also about abundance. The mercy and forgiveness we all desire is eternally extended to us. The Eucharist becomes our identity as Christians. It forms our hearts in need and shows us how to serve others beyond Sunday Mass. 

We become what we eat. We are the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ on earth, for we belong to him through his death and resurrection. God will never leave us to hunger for love and purpose. He feeds us with the scriptures as well as his Body and Blood. The Mass becomes our way of life, the formation of our souls, our hearts, and our actions. 

We become even more of a family after we celebrate Mass. We grow ever more deeply into the mystery of Jesus Christ. We grow ever more deeply into trusting God and the people with whom we celebrate. 

Our identity is to offer one another the hope, the food, the belief, and the love of eternal life. The Mass continues to be celebrated in our actions in the world, well beyond the church door when we leave. 

This Friday, June 24, 2022, is the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It is the feast day of our parish. In our centennial year, this day is a source of grace. Our celebrations of our centennial are very close, so we have decided not to celebrate this Friday. Please pray for the mission of our three churches as our entire parish is dedicated to the Sacred Heart. We will welcome a new pastor next month, so please pray for Fr. Jarrod Waugh, CSC as we continue the mission of the Mass to offer love, hope, and grace to all. 

The gospel for Friday is Luke 15:3-7, the Good Shepherd who chases down the lost sheep. It is a deep and profound reminder of the love of Jesus Christ for us all. Even in our need, the Shepherd seeks us out. The Heart of Christ is not static. It is not just to be adored. The Heart of Christ is about the mission of forgiveness, gentleness, and love. The broken hearts of people rest assuredly in the Heart of Christ, for we all need God in our lives. God does not abandon us; we are never alone. The Sacred Heart of Jesus is a fountain of hope for us, the Church. 

They all ate and were satisfied. And when the leftover fragments were picked up, they filled twelve wicker baskets. 

God give you peace.

Fr. Ron Raab, CSC, Pastor

Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows: Artist, Dr. Joel Ernster, June 2022

Today, June 14, 2022, the builders, artist, foundry owner, installed the bronze statue of Our Lady of Sorrows on Sacred Heart Church. The statue is stunningly beautiful, various shades of bronze on the granite color stucco. This is part of our 100th Anniversary celebration in July. Our parishioner, Joel Ernster, artist, sculpted the piece for our centennial. I am so delighted by the outcome. The project took one year to complete. Below is the text from the plaque:

Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows

Sculpture by Joel Ernster

Mary, the Sorrowful Mother, witnesses to the redeeming love of Jesus Christ in his suffering, death, and resurrection. The seven swords seen here refer to the seven Scripture stories where Mary stood next to Jesus’ suffering.

Sacred Heart Parish: One Hundred Years 1922-2022

As we celebrate our hundredth anniversary, we honor Mary, who walked with us in compassion and love and hope through each of these one hundred years.

From her own grief and sorrow, Mary stands next to us in our human suffering. She has offered solace and hope in times of great sickness, from the 1918 pandemic through COVID-19. Across the years she has given comfort to parents who sent their children off to war: World War I … World War II … Korea … Viet Nam … Afghanistan … Iraq. She stood next to our ancestors during the Great Depression, and through all the times of economic distress for every generation since. She held back the raging flames of the Waldo Canyon Fire from destroying our faith and conviction, and comforted us in our fear. She knows intimately the pain of grieving parents, and offers consolation when children are lost to violence or cancer or addiction. She provides hope when we face job loss, abuse, anxiety, and anguish, and lovingly holds our suffering. She witnesses to our need for mercy in the sacraments of the Church. She walks with us to hospital beds and gravesites, and challenges us as we serve our poor, our neighbors in need. She is example and inspiration, guiding us to stand with each other as she stands with us, in compassion and love and hope.

Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us.

_________________________________

Our Lady of Sorrows is the Patroness of the Congregation of Holy Cross, which has served the people of Sacred Heart since 1984. The feast of Our Lady of Sorrows is celebrated on September 15.

The Most Holy Trinity, June 12, 2022: Column on John 16:12-15

Dear Followers of Christ,

On this Sunday after Pentecost, the Church celebrates The Solemnity of the Holy Trinity. We name the God of our faith united in the three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are born again in this relationship with God when we are baptized. We even begin every prayer marking on our human bodies the names of the Trinity— Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This gesture bears witness to the world that the mark on our souls reveals itself on our bodies and in every action we perform. We belong to God and God belongs to us. 

The very nature of God is relationship. God is in unity. One name for three persons of the Trinity. We are invited into this very nature. Everything thing we do as Christians is rooted in the Trinity. Our prayer of the Eucharist is an action of the Trinity. We stand along with Christ, offering our lives to the Father, being invited by the Holy Spirit to draw closer to the central mystery of the Trinity.

We also serve in response to God’s longing for unity. We engage in love for the poor and the broken, so to offer the love we experience in faith to those who most need us. The action of the Christian is to bring to the world the unity and harmony of the Holy Trinity. Service is the outcome of our faith. It is the fruit of our prayer. It is the essence of our faith to generate faith, hope, and love in our world. We do not pray by our own will; it is the initiative of the Trinity. We do not serve by our own will; it is the generative action of the Holy Trinity that calls us forth into the world. 

In John 16:12-15, Jesus says to us that there is more to come. The Spirit of Truth will guide us to such a mystery. Even in our lives today, there is more to come in the beauty, harmony, and mystery of God. We are called into such beauty and love. In our prayer as the church, we are called to discern our way in the world. We discern our words and actions, our prayers and service for the common good and the rich harmony of God’s plan in the world. 

In our generation, we rely on God to show us peace, even when we think we are powerless in war. We rely on God to show us the dignity of life, even when abortion and the death penalty are real. We rely on God to show us how to understand one another, even when we live in conflict with our family, our neighbors, and other nations. The common good begins with our reliance on the Holy Trinity. Unity and harmony are revealed on earth only when we truly believe we are God’s beloved. We are caretakers of heavenly love in every action and in every issue on earth. The Holy Trinity forms our lives, our faith, our worship, and our ability to live with others. 

Jesus said to his disciples; “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of Truth, he will guide you to all truth.”

God give you peace,

Fr. Ron Raab, CSC, Pastor

Pentecost Sunday, June 5, 2022: Art, Column on John 20:19-23

Dear Followers of the Risen Christ,

This gospel, John 20:19-23, is one of two options for Pentecost. It is a familiar scene to us since it was proclaimed on the Second Sunday of Easter. It speaks beautifully today of the gift of peace given to us after Jesus’ resurrection. 

Pentecost is the summation of the Easter season. It boldly proclaims the gift of the Holy Spirit that is with us for all eternity. In many ways, Pentecost pushes us out of the nest and into the world to proclaim our heritage of love, peace, and forgiveness. We have celebrated Lent and Easter, the core of our faith in Jesus Christ. This feast now reveals to us how to live and how to be in our very fragile and difficult world. We confidently bring to the world the Holy Spirit that guides us, heals us, and offers us a path to our eternal home. God has promised to never leave us. We belong to Jesus Christ, and he belongs to us. 

Before the gospel is proclaimed today, we pray and sing the Sequence. It is an ancient hymn that connects us to our heritage, the beginning of the Church in the Holy Spirit. The first line of the Sequence is, “Come, Holy Spirit, come!” I am heartened by this text. It gives me great hope to speak these words again in our common prayer in the Eucharist.

I love this feast. Imagine that for centuries, the Church has proclaimed this short and vital prayer. If these four words are the only prayer you ever speak, it is enough. In fact, it is about our relationship with God and God’s relationship with us. We belong to God and the Holy Spirit resides deep within us. From our baptism, we proclaim the Holy Spirit given to us at the loving font. From the creation of the world, God breathed on the earth and creation came about. We are part of God’s breath. We are part of God’s plan and imagination. 

As we celebrate our 100th year, it is crucial that we rely even more on our relationship with the Holy Spirit. For all these years, our communities have proclaimed in good times and bad, our reliance on the healing grace of God’s care and loving presence. The Holy Spirit has opened our hearts to live lovingly in our world and opened our mouths to proclaim our reliance on God. We can’t forage our path ahead without our reliance on God. We can’t walk a path that is ours alone. We need God and God’s creating presence within us. We need to sing, act, serve, and love in God. We can’t become the People of God, called, the Church, without the gift of the Holy Spirit. So, it is up to each of us to renew our lives in the Holy Spirit on this celebration of Pentecost. 

In the gospel today, we hear the first words Jesus spoke after his resurrection. “Peace be with you.” I invite you to take this to heart. When wars and corruption invade your lives, let Jesus offer you peace. When disappointment in family life makes a home in you, know the peace of Christ. When the failure of the Church invades your space, speak peace as a sign of hope to you and others. When questions arise in you about your purpose and plans, send the prayer again to heaven, “Come, Holy Spirit, come.” This will bring peace in the most unbelievable of circumstances. 

Please, let the Holy Spirit rest in you. Acknowledge your place in God’s love. This prayer makes all the difference. 

Jesus told them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

God give you peace,

Fr. Ron Raab, CSC, Pastor