February 21, 2021 – First Sunday of Lent

Thank You, Beni Howell! Just recently, Beni tendered her resignation as Administrative Assistant at Saint Stephen Cathedral. Having held this position for almost 5 years, we appreciate her ability to multitask, to create a wonderful bulletin each week, to manage the front desk volunteers, oversee Mass intentions, and a host of other tasks. On behalf of the entire parish, I wish her all the best in her new venture. We therefore have an opening for a full-time Administrative Assistant. Please refer to this weekend’s bulletin for more information or to the job posting on this website.

I.  Entering Our Own Wilderness:  Genesis 9:8-15 reminds us of the covenant of love God made with all creation through Noah-–a covenant which in our second Scripture reading, 1 Peter 3:18–22, Peter tells us prefigures our baptism and is sealed for all eternity by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. God’s love is both a gift and an invitation. Immediately after receiving his Father’s blessing and promise of steadfast love at his baptism, Jesus was sent into the wilderness. As we enter this Lenten season, we too are called to deepen our covenant with God by entering our own wilderness. Through fasting, prayer, and almsgiving, we deepen our relationship with God and neighbor, which in turn prepares our hearts for the extraordinary joy of Easter. God patiently waits for us to ask, “Your ways, O Lord, make me; teach me your paths.” God’s covenant with us is a promise to be with us always, even in the desert, even in our darkest hours. Like Jesus may we emerge from the desert ready to proclaim the Good News! The season of Lent is to prepare us for the joy of Resurrection, the joy of Easter!

II.  The Chair: More Than a Piece of Furniture: Catholics celebrate the unity of faith that the pope both symbolizes and works to secure in the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter.  This feast has its roots as a Christian substitute for the pagan commemoration of dead relatives and friends (Parentalia), where a chair was left empty for particular deceased persons. The original Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter derives from Antioch, where followers of Jesus were first called Christians and Peter presided. This feast celebrates Peter’s pastoral authority over the Church continued through the ministry of the Bishop of Rome. The chair, or cathedra, symbolizes authority; it is not an actual chair or antique. The issue of authority has vexed Christianity throughout its history and has caused divisions.  So, the bishop’s “chair” or “cathedra” in our Cathedral of Saint Stephen is connected to “the chair” in Saint Peter Basilica used at the present time only by Pope Francis; thus, the authority of the Bishop of Owensboro, Bishop William Medley, is directly connected to and derived from the authority of the present Servant of the Servants of God, Pope Francis. I invite you to celebrate this feast Monday, February 22. 

III. Sunday Holy Hours: Each Sunday during the season of Lent, there will be a HOLY HOUR beginning at 5:00pm. This will offer an opportunity for silence, solitude, and prayer. There will also be an opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation during Adoration, which will conclude with Vespers (official Evening Prayer of the Church), followed by
Benediction. If not the entire hour, perhaps you could spare 20 or 30 minutes!”

IV.  Stations of the Cross will be prayed twice each week, Monday evenings at 6:00pm and Friday immediately following the midday 12:05 pm Mass. This traditional devotion involves walking with Jesus the last hours of his life here on earth, a journey which every one of us must take, and will be made easier if we allow Jesus to walk with us. Each time the Stations of the Cross is offered, the theme or focus will vary.

V.  In honor of Presidents’ Day, which was celebrated Monday, February 15, I this prayer written by Archbishop John Carroll in 1791, still seems applicable and appropriate for today. A Prayer for Government” We pray O God of might, wisdom and justice, through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist with your holy spirit of counsel and fortitude the President of the United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness and be eminently useful to your people over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immortality. 
~ Archbishop John Carroll

VI.  What is Last Rites?  Last weekend, we reviewed the Catechism of the Catholic Church regarding the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. Now let’s review Last Rites. When a person is in their final hours on earth. . . (#1524) In addition to the Anointing of the Sick, the Church offers those who are about to leave this life the Eucharist as viaticum, literally “on your way” [to the next life], food for the journey.  Communion in the Body and Blood of Christ, received near the time of “passing over” to the Father, has a particular significance and importance. It is the seed of eternal life and the power of resurrection, according to the words of the Lord: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (#140). The sacrament of Christ, once dead and now risen, the Eucharist is here the sacrament of passing over from death to life, from this world to the Father (#141).

Thus, just as the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist form a unity called “the sacraments of Christian initiation,” so too it can be said that Penance, the Anointing of the Sick, and the Eucharist as viaticum constitute at the end of Christian life “the sacraments that prepare for our heavenly homeland” or the sacraments that complete the earthly pilgrimage (#1525).