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  • Writer's pictureFr. Daniel Gifford


“O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” We hear this simple act of contrition from the lips of a man who would be a saint if we knew him as a real person, rather than merely a character in a parable. That man is the tax collector. If you find it startling that I refer to him as one who would be a saint, then you are in a good position to understand the shock and confusion of those to whom Our Lord first addressed this parable. We fail to understand what a saint truly is: it is one who humbles oneself before God, in order to open oneself to the Mercy of God to transform our lives. As the utterly simple saying rightly says, “every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.” Consider the Twelfth Station of the Cross: the Crucifixion of Our Lord (front cover). Does not Saint John resemble the tax collector from the parable, with

his head bowed in humility and sorrow before Our Lord? This is how we must approach the cross, whether in personal prayer, in the Holy Mass or in Reconciliation. We encounter God, not only mindful of our own sinfulness, but also of His own immeasurable Love, as He pours Himself out for our salvation. What is it that hangs the head of Saint John or of the tax collector or yours or mine? It is not merely shame, but genuine contrition. The difference between the genuine sorrow for sin, which we see exemplified in the Gospel, and the lie of the accuser, is that the former brings tears that heal and cleanse as they are offered to the Lord, while the latter does not believe that healing and cleansing are possible. John is now called a saint simply because Christ has saved him. Consider Mary, who stands with John at the foot of the cross. She is not a sinner, but still she hangs her head in sorrow. She cannot “identify with” John’s experience directly, yet she stands with him in need of the salvation Christ offers. She told her cousin Elizabeth: “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” The unique gift of the Immaculate Conception does not mean she is not saved by Christ’s sacrifice; it simply means that by a miraculous and unique grace, she was given the opportunity to share in that salvation before the act occurred. Indeed, the salvation she received was unique in that God saved her from sin, before she ever sinned. At the moment of the crucifixion, after enduring a lifetime of witnessing and likely suffering from the sins of others, she comes face to face with the cost of the great gift given to her at her conception. She did not simply see what “these sinners have done to my Son;” she saw what love has done, as she saw clearly the price of being saved from sin - the price paid for her soul as much as for John’s. And so, she too stands with John, in need of being saved by Christ, even though she received that salvation in a different way. That is how we must relate to those whose sin is different than our own. We do not stand with them as the Pharisee with the tax collector, but as Mary with John at the foot of the cross. We stand with them in need of being saved by Christ. In our case, unlike Mary, we too stand with the knowledge that our sins, just as much as the person whose sin is something different than our own, have nailed Christ to that cross. This is the meaning of the old saying, “there but for the grace of God go I.” Yet, we also stand with them in the knowledge that Christ freely chose to offer His life for each of us out of love. As He said, “No one takes my life from me. I lay it down freely.” Thus, the tears of true contrition, which lead us to our Savior, cleanse and heal. And so, if we just hang our heads in shame, how will we ever lift them up again? But, if we hang them in true contrition, they will not hang forever. In the words of St. Faustina: “I am going forward through life amidst rainbows and storms, but with my head held high with pride, for I am a royal child. I feel that the blood of Jesus is circulating in my veins, and I have put my trust in the great Mercy of the Lord.” Friends, as we offer prayers for all of those participating in the Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat this weekend, seeking hope, healing and reconciliation after the pain of an abortion experience, let us strive to stand with Mary and Saint John at the foot of the cross, and to stand with our sisters and brothers on that retreat. Let us pray that they may know the healing and cleansing power of the Mercy of God and begin to walk in newness of life. For it is by the Mercy of God healing and transforming all of our lives, that we whose sins have nailed our Lord to the cross can one day be known as saints.

TEC WEEKENDS: In other retreat news, we are nearing the next season of our region’s TEC (Teens Encounter Christ) retreats for youth ages 16+. The upcoming weekend for guys is next weekend (November 2-4). The next girls weekend will be December 7-9. I strongly encourage any teens in this age range who have not yet experienced a TEC to consider joining us for one of these weekends. If you need information for someone else you know, please feel free to reach out to me or just visit This upcoming November weekend marks the first retreat since I have taken on my new duties as Spiritual Advisor for the Peterstown TEC community. As I take on this new responsibility, I have decided to devote as much time as I can for this retreat, and will be in Peterstown learning more about all that goes on behind the scenes. So, you will likely not see me at Saint Louis next weekend. In my place, …

ANOTHER VISIT: We will be blessed to welcome Msgr. Ramer back again next weekend to cover our four weekend Masses. I am grateful that he is still interested in coming all the way back to Princeton from time to time to help us out and to visit you all. 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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