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Mass – March 29, 2020

From the Pastor – March 29, 2020

very short prayers“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.”
Martha said to him, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life;  whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,  and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.” (Jn. 11:21-27)

At a recent school Mass, I spoke to the students about fear.  I mentioned that I had been afraid of the dark when I was younger, and that I was still scared of snakes now that I am older.  And I asked them about things that might frighten them.  As usual, I got some great answers.  Children were afraid of spiders, snakes, bears, guns and cockroaches.  Boy, that brought back some memories of the first time I tried to swat a roach off a wall only to have it fly right into my face!

After a brief discussion of these “lesser” fears, I asked what was the scariest thing ever.  And the first raised hand gave me the answer I was looking for: “dying.”

Death is frightening. We fear dying, and we fear that our loved ones might die, especially when we hear so many news reports about the spread of the Coronavirus.  The fear of death fills us with terror and doubt. And that is precisely why Jesus came into the world. He came to die for us, and in doing so to not only conquer death but to calm our fears about dying.  Easier said than done isn’t it? No matter how much of a brave face we might put on, death is still frightening.

And death is something about which should be meditating about over these next few weeks.  Before we get to Easter, we have to go through Good Friday.  Since we know the end of the story, we might be able to draw strength from Easter as we meditate upon the Cross, but that shouldn’t give us a pass to ignore it.  The Cross is the means of our salvation.  The Cross is our weapon against evil.  The Cross is spes nostra – our only hope. Jesus’ raising Lazarus from the dead, as we hear in this week’s Gospel, prepared the disciples for witnessing the death of Jesus.  They saw in this miracle that Jesus had command over death. But that didn’t stop them from being afraid and running away when Jesus was arrested.  They still feared for their lives.

We might still be filled with the terror of death, and that’s why we identify our fear and confront it.  But we confront it in the person of Jesus.  Look up at the crucifix.    Be not afraid.  Our Lord faced the fear of death once and for all. And He overcame it. And we will, too!

(Rev. Msgr.) Christopher H. Nalty

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Sunday Mass will be Live Streamed

Due to the decision of the Archbishop to close our churches, we are going to live-stream the 10:30 am Mass this weekend. You can watch it here on our parish website or visit our Facebook page, which is @GoodShepherdNOLA.

Lent Schedule

Fridays in Lent: There will be Stations of the Cross at St. Stephen Church with Confession at 5:30pm and the Stations at 6:00pm.  Remember that Msgr. Nalty is also in the Confessional from 3:00-3:45pm on Saturdays and 9:00-10:15am on Sundays.

Lenten Fish Fry Cancelled

Due to the issues with the COVID-19 virus, the Knights of Columbus have cancelled the fish fry this Friday.

Solemnity of the Annunciation

If Jesus was born on December 25, then he was conceived nine months earlier. And that’s why the Church singles out March 25 as the Solemnity of the Annunciation – the day when Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel.  As any mother can tell you, although a child’s birthday is the day that the world gets to see him in person for the first time, her baby was alive in her womb long before he was born!

Palm Branches Needed!

If any parishioner has access to sago palms (the kind pictured here), we would love to get some for decorations in the church, and also to give bless in two weeks on Palm Sunday (April 5, 2020). Please don’t cut your palms until a few days before Palm Sunday so they won’t dry out! Please call the parish office if you can help.

We’re so sorry about cancelling our St. Joseph Altar!

St. Joseph Altar

The parish is very grateful to all who have donated food and food ingredients for our annual St. Joseph celebration. I have spoke to those involved, and we are hoping for an alternative date, perhaps May 1, 2020, which is the Feast of St. Joseph, the Worker. Please pray for an end to the COVID-19 epidemic and the fear and uncertainty that it is causing around the world!

Online Giving

As you might understand our parish is under tremendous financial pressure during the time when our church is closed, and we cannot take up the Sunday collection. I don’t want to seem like I’m making a “money grab,” and you know how infrequently I talk about money, except for the appeal I made for our Restoration, but I am now compelled to ask. Even though the church is closed, we still have to pay for all of our utilities, and I have not stopped paying the salaries of our wonderful and dedicated staff. If you could set up an online giving account on our parish website and donate, it would be greatly appreciated. If you receive envelopes, it would be extremely generous of you to mail them into the office so that we can continue to pay our bills. And if you’re feeling extra generous, since you’re not going out to dinner or social events, a little extra support is what we really need.

Thank you in advance for your generosity,
Msgr. Nalty

Tradition of the St. Joseph Altar

The tradition of a St. Joseph Day altar came to New Orleans from the Italian people of Sicily.  During the middle ages, Sicily faced a severe drought, and the people were reduced to eating fava beans, which were usually given to the animals. They prayed for the intercession of St. Joseph, and their prayers were answered: the rains came! In thanksgiving, the people of Sicily developed a tradition to decorate the St. Joseph Altar on the right side of most of their churches (or to make a small private altar at home) with flowers, fruit, candles, wine, fava beans, specially prepared cakes, breads, fish and cookies. Since the Feast of Joseph (March 19) almost always occurs during Lent, no meat is allowed on the altar.

The custom of preparing an altar as a symbol of devotion to St. Joseph is rooted in the thanksgiving for his intercession years ago, but it also points to thanksgiving for a personal favor granted, for healing of the sick, or for success in business. Further, it’s an opportunity for the prosperous to share with those who are less fortunate.

As you will see in our church next Friday, the altar is in the shape of a cross, and has three tiers, to represent the Holy Trinity. Breads and cakes on the altar take the form of common Catholic symbols. There is the Monstrance which holds the Holy Eucharist during Adoration (every Tuesday from 4:45pm 5:45pm in St Stephen, and Thursday from 7:00am 8:00am in St Henry).  There is a Chalice which holds the Precious Blood. And you can also note the Holy Cross, the dove (Holy Spirit), lamb (Jesus as the Lamb of God), hearts (Sacred Heart of Jesus, Immaculate Heart of Mary) and fish (“I will make you fishers of men”).  A crown of thorns and a ladder refer to the crucifixion of Christ, and the palms testify to His victory over sin and death.

Besides the bread images, there are wine bottles representing the miracle of Cana, and whole fish representing the miracle of the loaves and the fishes.  Other items specific to Sicily include grapes, olives and figs reminiscent of the orchards and vineyards one finds there. Another food is the pignolatti: fried pastry balls joined together by caramel in the shape of a pine cone representing the pine cones Jesus played with as a child.

Probably the best known of the customs associated with the St. Joseph’s Day altar is the fava bean.  Since it thrived while other crops failed, it became the sustaining food of farmers and their families. The dried bean is commonly called a “lucky bean,” and legend has it that the person who carries a “lucky bean” will never be without coins.

The food to be served on Thursday will be wonderful Italian food, including pasta with red gravy, eggplant, artichokes, fried vegetables, fried fish and wonderful salads.  Additionally, foods will be served with a garnish of breadcrumbs to represent saw dust – since St. Joseph was a carpenter.  Last year more than 2000 plates were served over the course of the afternoon!

Easter Baskets for the Needy

Our parish and the St. Vincent De Paul Society are sponsoring Food Baskets for the needy for Easter. Please visit the “Lenten Tree/Cross” by the St. Anthony statue in the back of church fill out a card! We hope to put the baskets together by Palm Sunday. May God bless your generosity! You can donate to this online.

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