Posted by: frroberts | October 10, 2015

Sunday Sermon Notes: Saint Jude, pray for us

Last Saturday I received an email from Mr. James Baxter informing me that he had left the seminary. That was a tough thing for me to hear, as I have known James since before he first entered the seminary and was close to his family during the two very joyful years that I was assigned to his home parish in Zionsville. I am not in a position to comment on what James said in the email. All that I will say is that I continue to have the highest opinion of his character and wish him the best in whatever the future holds for him.

In the past week, I have been praying a lot about the importance of promoting vocations to the priesthood. This issue is especially important to small parishes on the edge of the diocese like ours because parishes like ours are always the first to feel the negative effects of a shortage of priests. I thought about the last two seminarians, James and Alex McGauley, who came out for summer assignments in Randolph County and how both left the seminary shortly after being here.

I also thought about the history of priests who have lived before me at 425 W. Hickory St. I thought of Father Keane, who never had another assignment in thirty years after being pastor at Saint Mary. I thought of Father Zahn, who went into rehab after being here for eight years. I thought of Father Funk, who retired in his 50s, shortly after departing from being the pastor of Saint Mary and Saint Joseph. I thought of Father McKinley, who can boast of being the only priest to have lived at 425 W. Hickory since 1965 for more than two years who was in good enough mental health to be in an assignment after he left.

Then I wanted to cry.

Today we start a three-part series of homilies on Saint Jude, specifically on what Saint Jude the Apostle and Catholic priest might have to tell us about promoting vocations to the priesthood. I am sure that many of us have turned to this patron saint of hopeless causes at some point in our lives for intercession. I have been lately as I have been pondering how I seem to be living in vocational black hole that consumes priests and seminarians. And I think my prayer has been answered this week, at least in part.

We do not know a great deal about the life on Saint Jude, the Apostle, after Jesus ascended into heaven. The best evidence is that he went east into what was known then as Assyria, and, after planting the Church there, won a martyr’s crown by being bludgeoned to death with a large club. It is quite possible, perhaps even likely, that he wrote the second to the last book of the Bible, the Epistle of Saint Jude.

Saint Jude was an Apostle and priest. Like all the other Apostles, he left the life that he knew behind to follow Christ. Eventually, that would mean saying goodbye to his homeland and laying down his life. Like the other Apostles, he preached, celebrated Mass, baptized, confirmed, heard confessions, anointed the sick and ordained bishops and priests. While it is probable that he did not live long enough to read the Letter to Hebrews, Saint Jude knew very well that the “Word of God is living and active” as we heard in the week’s Epistle, but probably not in the way that we would think today.

To the extent that America is still a religious country, it is a Protestant country. This is especially true in Randolph County where we are lucky if 3% of the population is Catholic. Even in Darke County, Catholics are small minority. Our reflex as Americans, even as Catholic Americans, is to think of the Bible when we hear the phrase, “The Word of God.” But the Word of God fundamentally refers to Jesus Christ, the Word that God the Father has spoken from all eternity. In fact, it is quite clear from this Sunday’s reading that the Word of God refers not to the Bible but to Jesus Himself, our great high priest.

For most of the last two thousand years, the primary way that most Christians encountered the Word of God has been through the apostolic ministry of a priest of the New Testament. In fact, as Catholics, we believe that the primary way that the Word of God, Jesus Christ, is living and active for us is through our very real encounters with Him in the sacraments, through the ministry of His priests. This is the faith “once delivered to the saints” for which Saint Jude urges us to contend in his epistle. And it is impossible to live this One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic faith without the priesthood. Sometimes I think we Catholics are such a small minority in this part of the country that we forget that.

One of the questions that James kept coming back to when we would run together in the evening was how I handled the indifference of some parishioners to the Catholic priesthood, which he found to be somewhat strange, and even a bit scandalous. I always tried to reassure him that I felt like things were improving in both parishes and that ultimately all a priest can do is invite his parishioners to a deeper relationship with Jesus and His Holy Bride, the Church. Not even the best priest can make a person love the Catholic faith more. Each parishioner, I told him, had to make his own decision.

I wonder sometimes how many vocations to the priesthood are ruined by the ill-treatment and abuse that some parishioners dish out on their priests. It takes a tremendously strong man to persevere in a vocation to the priesthood when some of his people treat him like an adversary who is to be opposed rather than a spiritual father. Only a young man blessed with unnatural courage will decide to be ordained when he knows that people will call him a pervert when walks down the street for the rest of his life just because he is wearing a roman collar.

Next week we will talk about practical ways to promote vocations. This week we will end with a prayer to Saint Jude:

O most holy apostle, Saint Jude, faithful servant and friend of Jesus, the Church honoureth and invoketh thee universally, as the patron of hopeless cases, and of things almost despaired of.
Pray for us, who are so miserable. Make use, we implore thee, of that particular privilege accorded to thee, to bring visible and speedy help where help was almost despaired of.
Come to our assistance in this great need, that we may receive the consolation and succor of Heaven in all our necessities, tribulations, and sufferings, particularly by making these parishes places where vocations to the priesthood are loved and honored.


  1. Thank you, Father, for your honesty. We should all love, respect and pray for our priests who sacrifice so much for us. Praying for you and all priests.


  2. There are also faithful lay Catholics who fight against acedia and despair for feeling alone and very lonely for their position of believing what the Church teaches 100 percent. Sometimes the worst times involve being among a congregation who seem happily ignorant of or even indifferent to their faith, knowing in modern America, this is as good as community gets without joining up with the fringe traddies and trading for a new kind of excess. To be lonely in a sea of fellow Catholics on Sunday is a unique discomfort.


  3. Great sermon. Giving you and all shepards to the counsel, guidance, consolation, protection and love of the Blessed Mother.


  4. Many prayers for you and for priests everywhere. I can’t wait to have you for ELM class. I still need to earn that A.


  5. Fr. Christopher
    It touched my heart deeply to read about your feelings after you tought of the priests that have had your assignment before you.
    Know that you are in my prayers every day because and that I too pray for more vocations. I know that all is possible for God. I even pray that if it is his will, He please call my two unwed children. You are a GREAT preast. Please don’t ever doubt it. And you are also in my thoughts when there is talk of good homilies.
    Parishoners don’t know how hard the job of the priests is until they get to have a closer relationship. I speak out of experience.
    Be very happy knowing that you have helped many people to come closer to Jesus and to the Church. I am one of them. I am sure that your time at OLMC was very fruitful.
    Remember that I know you are a priest who will move up.


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