Link to photos from Midnight Mass.

Bishop’s Note
The very short pre-Lent season of Septuagesima-tide begins today. Interestingly, the feast of Candlemas, which normally marks the official end of the Christmas season, falls at the end of this week. The Church has given us this short period of three Sundays to begin preparing ourselves for Lent. This is very wise and shows that she takes into consideration our human nature—after all, it would be difficult to go directly from a time of joyful festivity to a time of severe fasting and penance. As with so much in life, we need time to process things, to shift our focus, and to plan. We have three Sundays, but only two and a half weeks to plan out our Lent. This year we are dedicating the season to the Angels, so if you are looking for reading material and devotions that fit in with the Lenten theme, you will have much to choose from!

Fr. Valerii wrote to me the other day to thank everyone for their generosity to him. Sadly, he does not have any parishioners due to some old controversies in Ireland, where he resides. Even his own people, the Ukranians, will not approach him since the local Ukrainian bishop to Ireland forbids them from approaching Father for the traditional sacraments. Do pray for Father and for a growth in his apostolate. If ever there was a time when the Ukranian people needed the true Faith and a true priest, that time is now when they are persecuted from all sides.

I promised you that I would give you more information on the recent ordinations done by Bishop Nkamuke in Nigeria. Here is a snippet from the letter he wrote to me shortly after they occurred:

“I am pleased to tell you that we had a successful Ordination ceremony in the 6th of this month. It was a remarkable event, not only because it was unique to everyone involved. There were visitors from near and far. Some Novus Ordo priests even came to witness the event. I learnt yesterday that a particular Novus Ordo parish priest within the locality even told his faithful to come witness a pre-Vatican II Ordination.

“Next day, 7th, Fr. Benjamin Ikhiaemoh said his first Mass in the same location. It went well generally speaking. And then we had to travel to the native place of Fr. Jonathan Okafor for his own First Mass which took place two days later, on the 9th. Mass was said in the open. It was a success, although the sun was scorching so much that I was glad I was not among the ministers. Next day, 10th I said Mass in my own home and blessed our compound. Now I am in Owerri, Imo State, trying to recover from the stress.”

Fr. Thomas Zapp, one of “the Nine,” was recently in the ICU with heart problems, but Fr. Larrabee kindly let us know that he should be okay and was to be released from the hospital. Fr. Zapp is a very down-to-earth priest, of whom I have very good memories. He used to attend some of the retreats when I was still just a young seminarian and would often ask about my father. When I told him that my father wasn’t even a Catholic, he told me, “Storm heaven with prayers for his conversion.” Those words, and the fact that he had also promised to pray for my father were a great consolation. In the end, Dad converted, and I am sure it was partly due to Fr. Zapp’s prayers.

Fr. Lehtoranta and the rest of the teachers have been busy giving exams to the students this past week. It must be a long week for them, preparing, monitoring, and then grading the tests. Each and every one of the teachers is doing an excellent job this year. I have noticed that they really know their students, not just superficially, but as Catholic educators should know them. They assist them not only in academics, but in forming their characters, making corrections when necessary and giving encouragement whenever possible. We do have a lot of new families here at St. Gertrude’s—all with young children—and I hope to see the school grow one day. Homeschooling certainly has its advantages, but a Catholic school is the ideal. The parent and the priest must work together in the education of youth. In order to form dedicated Catholics out of the children, the priest must count on the fact that parents will provide a Catholic environment in the home; but the parent must realize, too, that a wholesome homelife, no matter how good, cannot replace what only a priest can give the children—the true Mass, the true sacraments. A Catholic school ensures that the children receive all this on a daily basis.

Well, I think I’ve said enough now. May the Holy Angels help you to prepare for a good Lent!

– Bishop McGuire