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.

Just a bit from Fr Schmidt – January 8, 2023

God in Man Made Manifest

A number of years ago, I first came across the custom of blessing chalk on the Solemnity of the Epiphany. I had never seen or heard of it in my first decade of life. For those not familiar, the custom is for each family to gather at the entrance of their home and pray for God’s blessings upon them and upon all who enter under their roof during the new year. The head of the household takes chalk blessed on the Day of Epiphany and writes on the lintel over the main entrance to the house and perhaps over other entrances or doorways, “2 0 + C + M + B + 2 3” while pronouncing (if possible) in his best Latin, “Christus Mansiónem Benedícat,” meaning, “May Christ bless the house.” The letters “CMB” also stand for the traditional names of the three wise men: Sts. Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. The digits at each end are for the current year.

In many Eastern churches, the Feast of the Epiphany is celebrated with even more festivity than Christmas. The Epiphany, from the Greek word for “unveiling, revelation, manifestation,” recalls the visit of the three magi and the first revelation of the Christ Child to non-Jewish nations, whom the magi represent. Many Christians still exchange gifts on the Feast of the Epiphany since that’s when the magi brought their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Besides the visit of the magi, there are two other moments from the life of Jesus connected to this Great Feast: the Baptism of the Lord and the Wedding Feast at Cana. Jesus being baptized by John in the River Jordan is often considered the first clear revelation of God as a Trinity of Persons: the Father manifested in the voice from heaven, the Son Jesus standing in the river, and the Holy Spirit descending upon Him bodily like a dove. Unlike most other baptisms where the water is used by God to make the one being baptized holy, when Jesus was baptized, He actually made the waters holy. Some Christians still practice the Epiphany tradition of taking a dip in a freezing lake to recall the Lord’s Baptism and one’s own baptism. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend trying it around here.

The changing of water into wine at Cana is regarded as Christ’s first public miracle, the manifestation of His divine power. By the grace of the Lord’s Epiphany, may we always make Christ more manifest, better known throughout the world by our own words and actions.

This entry was posted on January 6, 2023.

Just a bit from Fr Schmidt – January 1, 2023

Top 10 of 2022

Not sure if I’ll get individual thank-yous written this time, but please know of my gratitude to you for all the great Christmas cards, gifts, and prayers. As we reach the end of the year and the start of another, it’s important to also give thanks to God for His countless blessings. I hope this has been a blessed and memorable year for all of you, even if there have been trials. Here are some of the highlights for me, in Fr. Schmidt’s Top 10 of ’22:

10. Replacing the awning over the front door of the Hoven rectory, although it might still drip in a couple places.

9. Attending a priest retreat in June at the Abbey of the Hills for the first time. It was good, although it seemed to be mostly attended by older or retired priests.

8. Having an archbishop serve Mass for me. Following the Chrism Mass this year, Archbishop Thomas Gullickson let me celebrate Mass in Sioux Falls and was kind enough to serve at the altar.

7. The ceiling restoration in the church in Hoven, completed much more quickly than expected. Very grateful to members of the altar society cleaning afterwards to have Mass back in the church so soon.

6. Fr. Timothy Smith becoming a resident student priest inBowdle for canon law. We had served together at the cathedral in Sioux Falls, and he knew this part of the diocese from his time in Ipswich.

5. Hosting the Leaven of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (LIHM) Sisters for a Confirmation retreat and later in the year, Fr. Brian Eckrich who helped with a wedding.

4. St. Augustine T-shirts for the religious education students in Bowdle. Hopefully, they’ll wear them around and continue to learn about this patron saint.

3. Having Fr. Michael Griffin provide the narration at the Christmas on the Prairie concert this year along with having Governor Kristi Noem and some of her family as special guests.

2. Attending the Wake of Bishop Paul J. Swain and reflecting on his many years of ministry in the diocese and as the bishop who ordained and assigned me.

1. Continuing as pastor of two of the greatest parishes in the Diocese of Sioux Falls.

This entry was posted on December 30, 2022.