WATCH: Bishop Rodriguez to celebrate special Mass for World Day of Migrants and Refugees

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In celebration of the 105th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, the Archdiocese of Denver will join Pope Francis and our brothers and sisters from around the world in this international celebration, hosting a special holy mass. The intent of this mass is to express concern, increase awareness, and pray for the many different vulnerable people on the move, making sure no one remains excluded from society.

The celebration will take place Sept. 29 at the Queen of Vietnamese Martyrs Catholic Parish at 3 p.m. with a Holy Mass celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Jorge Rodriguez. The bilingual Mass will incorporate elements from various Catholic Cultures around the world. Mass will be followed by a festival with cultural dances, music, and food. Click here to view the official Facebook event page.

The Catholic Church has been celebrating the World Day of Migrants and Refugees since 1914, the first being held shortly before the outbreak of WWI. This year, with the theme “It is not just about migrants,” the Pope tells us that this celebration is not limited to migrants and refugees, it is about all of us, humanity, and our common desire to build a better world.

“It’s an opportunity to pray for our brothers and sisters that are going through this situation, migrants and refugees, and to raise awareness of the problem, said Bishop Jorge Rodriguez, who will be celebrating the Mass “We are a migrant community, Hispanics, Africans, Asians, and we want to pray for this reality, we want to ask the Lord for his blessing in this situation we’re living and pray for the United States that is our host country. We all want to join the holy father on September 29.”

Bishop Rodriguez also took the opportunity to invite everyone to this Eucharistic celebration, emphasizing the importance of praying together as one community.

“The invitation is for everyone. We will have the participation of the Hispanic, African, Vietnamese, the Pakistan-Catholic, Burmese communities, etc. and also the American community that must and will be present,” he said.

As far as the political side of the migrants and refugee issue, Bishop Rodriguez made it clear that this celebration is about the human side of the problem and coming together as one.

“For us Catholics, when we talk about migration, migrants, or refugees, we are not talking about the sociological phenomenal of politics. For us, and this is the theme for this year’s celebration, ‘it’s not only about migrants’ it’s about our fears, not only about migrants it’s also about humanity and charity,” the bishop explained. “I know there is a political side of the issue, but our perspective is the Christian and the human side. People migrate because of different circumstances looking for a better future for them and their children, or they’re fleeing war, we see it all over the world, not just in the United States, and we want to be aware of it, pray for it, and approach it as humans, as Christians.”

Migrants and Refugees Mass

Sunday, Sept. 29, 3 p.m.
Queen of Vietnamese Martyrs,
4695 N. Harlan St., Wheat Ridge, CO

Interview with Bishop Jorge Rodriguez in Spanish. 

COMING UP: A time to reflect on death

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November is a month when the Church asks us to pray for the dead. After celebrating those in heaven on Nov. 1, we pray for all the faithful departed who await heaven while undergoing purgation on Nov. 2, All Souls Day. The Church encourages us to pray for the dead by granting special indulgences in November to assist the souls in purgatory. A plenary (or full) indulgence can be received November 1-8 and then a partial indulgence the rest of the month when we “devoutly visit a cemetery and at least mentally pray for the dead” or “devoutly recite lauds or vespers from the Office of the Dead or the prayer Requiem aeternam”: “Eternal rest grant unto him/her (them), O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him/her/them. May he/she/they rest in peace. Amen.”

November, therefore, provides an opportunity to reflect upon death. Even the readings at the end of the liturgical year and the beginning of Advent point us to the coming judgment and end of the world. We may not relish contemplating death but doing so constitutes an essential element of a life well lived, realizing that our life on earth will decide how we spend eternity. Socrates described philosophy as a preparation for death and the same has been made for monasticism.  “Remember to keep death before your eyes daily,” the great Patriarch of monks, St. Benedict, directed in his Rule (ch. 4). A French writer, Nicholas Diat, put this maxim to the test in his new book, A Time to Die: Monks on the Threshold of Eternal Life (Ignatius, 2019). Diat, known for his three interview books with Cardinal Robert Sarah, visited eight monasteries in France — Norbertines, Benedictines, Cistercians, and Carthusians — to talk to the monks about their experience of death.

He describes why he wrote the book: “The West has worked hard to bury death more deeply in the vaults of its history. Today, the liturgy of death no longer exists. Yet fear and anxiety have never been as strong. Men no longer know how to die. In this desolate world, I had the idea to take the path of the great monasteries in order to discover what the monks might have to teach us about death. Behind cloister walls, they pass their existence in prayer and reflection of the last things. I thought their testimonies could help people understand suffering, sickness, pain, and the final moments of life. They have known complicated deaths, quick deaths, simple deaths. They have confronted death more often, and more intimately, than most who live outside monastery walls” (13).

I found that Diat achieved his objective. Although the monks live very different lives, they still face similar human struggles, sometimes magnified by lack of distractions, including the dominance of technology in sickness and the last stages of life. The Benedictine Monastery of En-Calcat experienced many difficult deaths and the superior, Dom David, related how sedation can make it hard to die: “We no longer feel life. We no longer feel humanity. We no longer feel God approaching” (55). When death approaches more naturally (or should we say supernaturally), the monks can die the “most beautiful death.” Such was the death of Father Henri Rousselot, who died at 96: “His face in death was magnificent. He was supernaturally radiant. The monks had the impression that his features had been drawn by God. Everyone who entered this room was struck by his beauty. Each found the child that Father Henri had always been” (72).

Some monasteries experienced difficult deaths — young monks whose lives were cut short by cancer, or, in the case of the canon Brother Vincent, multiple sclerosis, sudden deaths, even in chapel, or cases of dementia or mental illness. It did seem, however, in my own assessment, that the more a monastery was withdrawn from the world and its cares the more peaceful the deaths of its monks. This was true especially of the Grand Chartreuse (see the film Into Great Silence), where the monks live like hermits in the silent seclusion of prayer. Here the monks, already anticipating heaven, seem to die miraculously by slipping away peacefully. “The beauty of Carthusian deaths, sweet and simple, seems to bear witness to the fact that the spiritual combat of the sons of Bruno is so powerful that, in the final hour, fears are abolished. In the last moments, the peace that dwells in them is so profound that the majority of them are not afraid to die alone. They have spent their lives in the silence of an austere cell that sees them leave this earth” (165).

The book does not treat simply the experience of monks, but a central question for us all: “No one knows how he will live his death. Will we be courageous, fearful, happy? Will we be cowards or heroes?” (114). It’s time to start preparing now!