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  • Writer's pictureFr. Daniel Gifford

From the Beach...

Dear St. Louis Parishioners,

I write to you all by the oceanside, while sipping a mai tai,

and listening to soft ukulele music... Just kidding. My vacation is nowhere near a beach and I wrote this before I left.

In the front corner of the Western wall, the window which may even be considered “first” (presuming that some kind of order can be discerned by the placement of the center windows, which feature events from the Gospel) contains a striking image. The image (front cover) appears to be a lily, with two leaves on the stem, branching out in opposite

directions, vaguely reminiscent of a cross, and a Chi-Rho in the center. First, let’s consider the Chi-Rho. This is an ancient Christian symbol consisting of the first two Greek letters in the name of Christ (resembling the P and X of our alphabet). This symbol was used by the Roman Emperor Constantine upon a military standard, prompted by a vision he received, and leading to a victory. In addition, largely due to the witness of his holy mother, Saint Helena, Constantine essentially “legalized” Christianity after a period of persecution, through the Edict of Milan and eventually he himself

converted to Christianity. Thus, the Chi-Rho is a symbol of Christ Himself, but also of His Victory, including victory over oneself by the grace of conversion. Meanwhile, the lily itself has often been used in Christian symbolism as a sign of purity, especially as associated with Saint Joseph, for example.

However, there is at least more potential level of symbolism in this window. It also calls to mind the rod of Aaron. Hebrews 9:4 mentions how the rod (or staff) of Aaron was one of three items contained within the Ark of the Covenant. However, for the story of the rod, we have to turn back to Numbers 17. After a revolt from some of the people, during one of many instances in which the people grew restless with their trials in the wilderness, God chose to give a sign which would confirm the authenticity of Aaron’s call to the priesthood. This would imply that the people must trust in the leadership of Moses and Aaron. Trusting the Lord includes trusting the leadership He has chosen. The sign the Lord gave was for the rods of each of the leaders of each of the ancestral houses of each of the twelve tribes to be placed in the tent of meeting, Aaron’s rod representing the tribe of Levi. “The staff of the man whom I choose shall sprout,” the Lord told Moses. The next morning, Aaron’s rod “had put forth sprouts, produced blossoms, and borne ripe almonds!” Thus, the blooming of the staff has been a symbol of the Lord’s gift of the priesthood.

This weekend, in my place, you have the blessing of a visit from one of the directors of

vocations for our diocese, Fr. Tim Hepner. He will also be the guest speaker for our youth ministry Sunday night. This is a striking time to have this subtle sign of the priesthood (Aaron’s rod) to reflect upon. Besides being a time to endure corny jokes (lived with him seven years in seminary - I know), Father Hepner’s visits to parishes are times to focus on what it means to discern one’s vocation and to live it. Each of us should be bold and intentional about praying that the Lord call men, even in our own parish, to the priesthood and give them the courage, humility and generosity to respond

to that call. Furthermore, we should pray that all of us live lives of prayer and discernment, ready to do the Lord’s will in whatever vocation He calls us to.

FIRST COMMUNION: Next weekend will be a very exciting celebration, as our second graders receive their First Holy Communion. I am always moved by the joy and enthusiasm of the children to receive the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord, Jesus Christ for the first time. It is far too easy for us to lose sight of beauty and wonder of this gift and even to take it for granted. We see this in the awe and wonder in

their eyes, and in the love and care with which they have prepared themselves, both in terms of the months of spiritual and educational preparation, including First Reconciliation, and also in the external signs in their outward dress. As we pray for them this next week, may we pray also that we all may be inspired by them to renew

our gratitude, awe, wonder, and humility before the gift of the Eucharist.

In Christ through Mary,

Fr. Gifford

St. Louis, pray for us!

Blessed Mary, Queen Mother of the King of Kings, pray for us!

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