Just a bit from Fr Schmidt – March 19, 2023

Oil of Gladness

Ever since living in Italy, I’ve had a greater appreciation for olive oil. It’s a big part of Italian cuisine, along with most of the Mediterranean. As the fat and richness of the olive, even in the ancient world it was associated with health, strength, cleansing, and salvation. Many kings, priests, and prophets of Israel had oil poured on their heads as a sign of God’s favor and guidance as His anointed ones, as “christs” of God. Jesus was anointed more directly with the Holy Spirit, whom the Scriptures liken to “the oil of gladness” (Psalm 45:7).

Since the time of Jesus, olive oil has been used in the sacraments that He entrusted to His Church, as an efficacious sign of the Holy Spirit and God’s own strength, healing, and power to save. The Oil of Catechumens is used during a minor exorcism of those approaching the Sacrament of Baptism. Historically, it was also used in the Rite of Ordination to anoint the hands of a newly ordained priest. The Oil of the Sick is mentioned already even in the Epistle of St. James in the New Testament. “Is anyone sick among you? Let him summon the priests of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord” (5:14).

Sacred Chrism is made from olive oil mixed with a certain perfume to signify to an even greater degree the Holy Spirit, the “fragrance that brings life” (2 Cor. 2:16). Used for the newly baptized and in the Sacrament of Confirmation, and now also in the consecration of bishops and priests, Sacred Chrism signifies our participation in Jesus’ own identity as Christ, the Anointed One, and in His powers and duties as priest, prophet, and king, according to our vocation in life.

This week, I’ll be taking a few days off on my way to Sioux Falls for the Chrism Mass where all the oils used for the next year in our diocese and in our parishes will be blessed and consecrated by the Bishop. It’s also a good opportunity to see the other priests as we renew together our priestly promises of celibacy, obedience, and prayer for the Church and for all the world. Traditionally, the Chrism Mass is held on the morning of Holy Thursday, the anniversary of Christ’s institution of the Eucharist and of the holy priesthood, but this is less feasible in a diocese our size. Please continue to pray for our Bishop, priests, and deacons as we gather for this great celebration and as we prepare for what lies ahead.

This entry was posted on March 15, 2023.

Just a bit from Fr Schmidt – March 12, 2023

The Day of Salvation

Aside from the extra snow this week, just in time for the 3rd Sunday of Lent, this weekend brings everyone’s favorite self-inflicted penance: the changing of the clocks for daylight saving. I still hold out hope that one day our legislators will actually do something somewhat useful and bring an end to this madness, but in the meantime, you can look forward to maybe getting that hour back in November, along with several days or weeks of more difficult sleep and increased risk of heart attack or stroke in the near future. But at least we’ll have an extra hour of daylight in the evening.

It’s strange how different our perception of time can be, both in terms of what different people consider to be late or on time, and how long or short the same unit of time can seem at different points of our life. One theory I have about why time seemed to move so much more slowly when I was younger is that one year is a far greater portion of one’s life when you’re five years old than when you turn 50. Since then, I’ve also been told that part of the reason is that our brain also loses processing power as we age, so there’s just less that we pick up on and remember as time goes by, leading to same sensation of time moving “faster.” Whatever the reason, it’s fairly consistent that time seems to move faster later in life.

We’ve had quite a few funerals in the area lately. We never know when this might be our last Lent on earth. And we can let that overwhelm us or cause us anxiety, or we can let it motivate us to make full use of the opportunities that each day brings, knowing that all goes far too quickly. At the end of life, you’re not going to regret giving more of yourself to God during these next weeks of Lent, or taking opportunities to show the people around you how much you care about them.

We’re each given this one life. And today, we have today. “Behold, now is the acceptable time. Today is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2). Whatever you’ve done before and regardless of how many days you may have left, let’s not let this opportunity pass us by, to be reconciled with God and neighbor, to repent and believe in the Gospel, to begin to live the more abundant life.

This entry was posted on March 8, 2023.

Just a bit from Fr Schmidt – March 5, 2023

Oases in the Desert

We often use the image of the desert for the season of Lent, recalling Christ’s 40 days there or the 40 years of Moses and the Israelites on their way to the Promised Land. Along the way, Israel experienced not only a harsh and barren wilderness with venomous snakes but also the daily providence of God. Each morning (except on the sabbath), they collected manna for each household as their “daily bread.” God would also send them quail for meat. And for water, there were several times that God, through Moses, would bring them water from a rock to quench their thirst and replenish their supply. St. Paul sees the rock as a symbol of Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 10:4).

A place of water and vegetation on an otherwise scorched and barren landscape is known as an oasis. If you’ve ever been to Al’s Oasis along Interstate 90, that’s also the idea behind its name. Building on the analogy of the season of Lent being like a trip through the desert, what might we then see as the oases along the way? Usually Sundays and Solemnities are treated as times of refreshment and rest along the journey. The main Solemnities or high feasts that often occur during Lent include the Feast of St. Joseph, usually on March 19, and the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25).

This year, with March 19 occurring on a Sunday, the Feast of St. Joseph is transferred to the following day. St. Joseph, the Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Foster Father of Christ, is the patron saint of the Cathedral and the entire Diocese of Sioux Falls. My home parish was also St. Joseph in Elk Point. Though he had probably died before the events of Christ’s public ministry, St. Joseph was privileged beyond almost everyone else to witness the more ordinary miracles of Christ’s hidden life in Nazareth, at home with Mary and in the carpenter’s shop. The Novena to St. Joseph runs from March 11 (Saturday) to March 19 this year, so please join in praying and interceding for our parishes and diocese, especially as we approach restructuring this July. EWTN has a nice St. Joseph novena on their website.

Bishop DeGrood has also dispensed from Friday abstinence from meat on March 17 this year for anyone attending a St. Patrick’s Day celebration at which meat is served. Some other form of penance must be observed in its place, if you do eat meat that day.

This entry was posted on March 3, 2023.

Just a bit from Fr Schmidt – February 26, 2023

Counting the Days

     Every year around this time I hear discussions about how many days are really part of Lent or if Sundays are included, so I did the math to try and set the record straight, but it is not exactly clear-cut.

     The first oddity we encounter is the first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday. Now why would a season of the liturgical year start in the middle of the week? Most likely, this happened back when every day of Lent was a day of fasting—fasting not in the loose sense of giving something up for Lent, but in the strict sense of eating just one meal each day. The exception was always Sundays because in honor of the Resurrection, it was never thought appropriate to fast on Sundays or Solemnities. The six weeks of six days of fasting came out to 36 days, so they added the four days leading up to the First Sunday of Lent to make it an even 40 days of fasting (46 days of Lent, including the six Sundays).

     The current Universal Norms on the Liturgical Year and the Calendar (1969) give us yet another way of counting the days, which excludes the Easter Triduum. In paragraph 28, it says, “The forty days of Lent run from Ash Wednesday up to but excluding the Mass of the Lord’s Supper” on Holy Thursday, which actually comes out to just shy of 44 days of Lent. So the four days that were originally added to make for 40 total days of fasting now give us four extra days of Lent.

     Regardless, we still talk about Lent having 40 days because this symbolically harkens back to the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert—after His baptism in the Jordan by John and before His public ministry—and the 40 years Moses spent leading the Israelites through the desert out of slavery in Egypt.

     Today, Catholics ages 18 to 58 are still required to fast in the strict sense on just two days, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Fasting on these days means limiting oneself to one full meal. If necessary to maintain strength, something small can be taken up to a couple other times during the day. Eating between meals is not allowed.

     Ash Wednesday and every Friday of Lent are still days of abstinence from meat for all Catholics aged 14 and older, but on these days the Church allows us fish, eggs, milk products, and condiments of any kind, even when these are made from animal fat.

     As for our own Lenten practices, giving something up or doing something extra in the areas of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, the Church does not legislate how we do these. You can decide to maintain them throughout the season of Lent, even on Sundays and Solemnities—as long as they are not in conflict with giving thanks for the Resurrection—or you can decide to take a break from them on the Sundays of Lent. May the Holy Spirit lead you throughout the season of Lent, as He led our Lord Jesus in the desert.

This entry was posted on February 24, 2023.

Just a bit from Fr Schmidt – February 19, 2023

The Father of Mercies

For over 20 years now, the Catholic Church of the English-speaking world has been updating our translation of the various ritual books from the Latin typical editions. It actually started in 2002 with the publication of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (3rd edition), both because of new editions in Latin that had never fully been translated into English and to bring translation into conformity with the new instruction Liturgiam authenticam (2001) from Rome. Most Catholics at least noticed when the Missal itself was updated, leading into 2011. Otherwise, they are still responding with, “And also with you.”

The latest is an updating of the Order of Penance or the sacrament of Confession and Reconciliation. Among those that remain to be updated still in the near future include the Pastoral Care of the Sick (mainly the Anointing of the Sick) and a second edition of The Liturgy of the Hours, which is still tentatively expected around 2025. The new Order of Penance can be used beginning on Ash Wednesday of this year and must be used on and after Divine Mercy Sunday.

There are only a couple small changes to the hopefully familiar words of absolution and a few other minor tweaks here and there. I’ve put the changes in italics:

“God, the Father of mercies, through the Death and Resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and poured out the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins;
through the ministry of the Church may God grant you pardon and peace.
And I absolve you from your sins, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit.” R. Amen.

“Sent forth… among us” was changed to “poured out,” and “give” to “grant.” These changes are both a more faithful rendering into English of the Latin prayer and more reminiscent of the expressions found in Scripture. Isaiah 44:3, Joel 2:28, and Romans 5:5 all mention the Holy Spirit being “poured out” upon God’s chosen ones. Jesus uses the image of “living water” (John 4:10; 7:38). As we enter into the holy season of Lent, may our parishes, families, and each of our hearts and minds receive a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit to know and follow God’s will, to the praise of His great glory.

This entry was posted on February 17, 2023.

Just a bit from Fr Schmidt – February 12, 2023

By the Light of the Son

One great relief after a cold, dark winter is to see the gradual return of longer daylight hours, even if the cold sticks around for a while longer. We’re back up to around 10 hours and 15 minutes of daylight, gaining around three minutes with each passing day. At the winter solstice, December 21, the shortest day of the year, we were down to around 8 hours and 40 minutes of daylight in this part of the country.

With relative ease of access to electricity now, at least apart from periodic power failures, and other technological means of lighting our homes and buildings, there’s still nothing else quite like the sun’s own rays to brighten not only our eyes but our moods as well. They say that almost all energy present on earth today ultimately originates from the sun, either directly in heat and light or through the food chain of green plants or other organisms that can harness its power. Even the fossil fuels we use are thought to have come from creatures that lived on earth and received their energy from the sun thousands of years ago.

In much the same way, we confess that every good and perfect gift of God’s grace comes to us through the Son, Jesus, our brother according to the flesh and our Lord and Savior according to the Spirit. Indeed, all gifts of nature and creation are also made and sustained in existence through God’s eternal Word, by whom God speaks, “Let there be light,” to give us light, the same Word who became Incarnate in Christ for our salvation. The third Eucharistic Prayer confesses that it is through Christ that God bestows “on the world all that is good.”

And no alternative, no artificial imitation or substitute light could ever fill us and sustain us the way that the true Son desires to brighten and warm our days. As the light of the sun continues to return to our part of the earth with longer hours, and as we approach that great season of Lent, a time of retreat and spiritual renewal for the whole Church, may the Light of Christ also increase more and more in our minds, in our hearts and in all our actions. Only the Light of the Son, the Sun of Justice, has power to cast out the darkness of sin and vice to bring new life, love, and energy to our souls and bodies unto eternal life.

This entry was posted on February 17, 2023.

Just a bit from Fr Schmidt – February 5, 2023

Warming Up

We had pretty nice weather for the Tolstoy Windchiller this year, but I still didn’t win. And my legs were pretty sore for a while afterwards because I hadn’t gone on many runs lately this winter. After last year’s race, I wasn’t nearly as sore because I had gone on a few longer runs during the week leading up to the race. You’d think I’d eventually learn my lesson from past experience, but it’s easier to be sore than it is to be consistent.

The importance of warming up and practice reminds me of another season that’s part of the Church’s traditional calendar. From at least the 8th century in many places, this Sunday—the third Sunday before Ash Wednesday—was known as Septuagesima Sunday. The name comes from the Latin word for 70, being about 70 days from the Octave of Easter, even as the Latin word for Lent, Quadragesima, is named for 40 days. Septuagesima Sunday served as the start of a sort of warm-up period in preparation for Lent.

This Pre-Lent is observed in various ways. It’s a great opportunity to begin considering what we plan to give up or to do as extra prayer, fasting, and almsgiving when we reach Ash Wednesday—now less than 3 weeks away—instead of scrambling to decide only a few days or hours before. You might even try out some of your penances in advance, to ease yourself into it. On the other hand, perhaps more common is to observe the next few weeks as the season of carnival, culminating with Mardi Gras, French for “Fat Tuesday.” Anticipating the long days of penance that Lent would bring, people made sure to get their feasting in beforehand, also an occasion in many places for parades, dancing, and music.

However we decide to spend these final weeks before Lent, it goes quickly. Don’t let Ash Wednesday catch you off guard this year. Spend some time in prayer, really asking God what He would like you to do, so that you and our parishes and the Catholic Church throughout our diocese and the world can experience a real renewal this year, as we look forward to the matchless gift of our salvation, the victory of Life over death, the Resurrection of Jesus, our Easter Joy. Renewal in the Church and in our state and country begins with your relationship with Jesus Christ.

This entry was posted on February 3, 2023.

Just a bit from Fr Schmidt – January 29, 2023

Prognosticator of Prognosticators

You’re no doubt familiar with Groundhog Day on February 2. If the groundhog comes out and sees its shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter, otherwise, an early spring. What you may not realize is that this actually has roots in a much older Christian tradition. At least since the 4th century in Jerusalem, Christians have celebrated Candlemas on February 2, forty days after Christmas. St. Luke reports that in accordance with Jewish law, St. Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to Jerusalem forty days after his birth, to present Him in the Temple and to offer a pair of turtledoves or pigeons for Mary’s purification.

Over the centuries, as more and more of Europe became Christian, February 2 and Candlemas—being close to the midpoint between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox (the first day of spring)—soon became associated with many mid-winter festivities. A common mid-winter practice was to try and predict how mild or harsh the rest of the season’s weather would be. Eventually, these predictions became standardized and repeated as short poems. The one that comes down to us in English goes like this:

If Candlemas Day be fair and bright,
Winter will have another flight;
But if it be dark with clouds and rain,
Winter is gone, and will not come again.

I remember something similar being said about the month of March, “in like a lion, out like a lamb,” or vise versa: that if it starts mild, it will end harshly. A lot of these folk sayings don’t exactly come true, or they’re vague enough to fit lots of different weather, but they give people something to do or even look forward to. Groundhog Day, then, was started by German immigrants in Pennsylvania in 1887, reminiscent of the Candlemas traditions they brought with them from Europe to the United States.

The name Candlemas comes from the custom of lighting and blessing candles in celebration of the Lord’s Presentation in the Temple, when the old man St. Simeon takes the Infant Jesus in his arms and calls Him “a Light for revelation to the Gentiles and the Glory of Thy people Israel.” If you have any candles you want blessed, bring them by this week. We’ll be sure bless throats as well—through the intercession of St. Blaise, Bishop and Martyr—as we hope for an early spring.

This entry was posted on January 27, 2023.

Just a bit from Fr Schmidt – January 22, 2023

In the Line of Melchizedek

In these first weeks after Epiphany, on weekdays we’ve had readings from the Letter to the Hebrews. If you’re unfamiliar with it, it is basically a transcript of an early Christian homily given by St. Paul or someone of similar rhetorical skill to answer the question of how Jesus can be a high priest, even though He was reckoned a Son of David, of the tribe of Judah, rather than being a son of Aaron of the Levites, the tribe associated with the Jewish priesthood.

Hebrews is probably the most explicit and systematic treatment of the priesthood of Christ and of certain liturgical elements of Christian worship, although the Gospel, other New Testament epistles, and the Book of Revelation address these topics as well, to a lesser extent. Another concern of the author of Hebrews is to show that Christian worship is in no way inferior but in every way superior to the Jewish worship that preceded it, which was merely “a shadow of the things to come” (Col. 2:17). This was at a time when the ceremonies carried out in the grand Jerusalem Temple—with its animal sacrifices, priestly vestments, and strict precepts—looked much more impressive (from an earthly standpoint) than those early celebrations of the Eucharist, often carried out in one of their homes.

A central figure to the argument in Hebrews is the mysterious Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He shows up for three verses in the Book of Genesis to bring out bread and wine and to bless Abraham after his victory over five kings of Canaan to rescue his nephew Lot and their possessions. Hebrews takes for granted that his blessing Abraham and receiving tithes (a tenth of the spoils of victory) means that Melchizedek was greater than Abraham, and by extension greater than Levi and Aaron, descendants of Abraham. Melchizedek and his priesthood is mentioned again in Psalm 110, which was probably used for the coronation of the sons of David and was understood to speak of the Messiah as well.

As kings of Jerusalem, the sons of David were perhaps seen as successors to Melchizedek, king of Salem (which was likely a precursor to the same city of a lengthened name) and so also sharers in Melchizedek’s priesthood. With no beginning of days or end of life recounted in Scripture, Melchizedek images the eternity of Christ, the Son of God, having “a life that cannot be destroyed” (Heb. 7:16). With his offering of bread and wine and king of Salem being translated as “king of peace,” the parallels continue to grow. May Christ, our eternal High Priest, faithful and compassionate, bring us one day with His Saints to share in His heavenly glory.

This entry was posted on January 20, 2023.

Just a bit from Fr Schmidt – January 15, 2023

Maps & Merry Mary Melodies

This week, I’ll be headed to another diocesan clergy meeting, this time in Brookings. I plan to leave on Wednesday and return Friday. I’m told that the maps and groupings of the new pastorates will be finalized and released shortly afterward. Please continue to pray for God’s will to be accomplished through this Set Ablaze process.

We’ve returned to Ordinary Time and green vestments, but I usually point out that there’s still one more Christmas mystery celebrated on February 2 at Candlemas, the Feast of the Lord’s Presentation in the Temple, 40 days after His birth. It’s nice to have a few more weeks to view the Nativity scene. Connected with that date are the Marian antiphons typically sung at the end of Compline each night, which I often use at one of the Masses during the week as well. These antiphons have been around since the 13th century or even earlier.

Probably the most familiar is the one used during the Time after Pentecost: the Hail Holy Queen (Salve Regina), which concludes the Rosary as well. The Regina Coeli is also familiar to many, often used in place of the Angelus prayers during the Easter season. The other two are probably not as familiar to most. From the beginning of Advent until February 1, the Alma Redemptoris Mater is used, and from February 2 to the end of Lent it’s the Ave Regina Caelorum. Each is a beautiful prayer to our Blessed Mother.

Alma Redemptoris Mater in translation:
Nourishing Mother of the Redeemer,
who remain the open gate of heaven and the star of the sea,
help your falling people who strive to rise:
You who gave birth to your holy Sire while nature marveled, a Virgin before and after,
receiving that “Ave” from Gabriel’s mouth, have pity on us sinners.

Ave Regina Caelorum in translation:
Hail, Queen of the heavens, hail Lady of Angels:
Hail root, hail gate, from which Light has risen for the world:
Rejoice, glorious Virgin, splendid above all:
Farewell, O exceedingly elegant one, and beseech Christ for us.

This entry was posted on January 13, 2023.