Bishop Joseph E. Strickland has issued a pastoral exhortation to the clergy, religious and faithful of the Diocese of Tyler regarding the Church’s teaching on participation at Holy Mass on Sundays.

The exhortation was mailed to all families in the diocese in August and will be printed in the bulletins at all parishes and missions during the month as well.



Sunday, The Lord’s Day and Our Day

As we continue in the liturgical season of Ordinary Time, a large portion of which falls during the summer months, it is appropriate for us to briefly reflect on our participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on Sundays, and the Christian duty that each of us has to offer praise to God on this day.

Having instituted the Sabbath Day at the creation of the world, the Lord commanded the people of the Old Covenant to keep the day holy by resting from labor.[1] The chosen people rested in him, on his day – the Lord’s day – as a sign of the covenant he had made with them. This was a day to remember and praise the Lord for the many blessings he had given to the Israelites, from creation through the exodus from slavery in Egypt.

When Jesus Christ, the long-awaited Messiah and God incarnate, dwelling among us, rose from the dead and appeared to his disciples on Easter Sunday, the day after the Sabbath and the first day of the week, this became the day for his followers to mark the new beginning, the New Covenant formed by Christ’s victory over sin, darkness and death. Christ fulfilled the promises of the Old Covenant, thus Jesus became the true place of rest, the true Sabbath.[2] In time, and by the authority of the Church, the followers of Christ began to celebrate the day of the Resurrection as the preeminent day while continuing to honor the moral and spiritual command of the Sabbath. [3]

Sunday distinguishes Christians from the world around us and is an indispensable element of our Christian identity.[4] In the words of St. Jerome, “Sunday is the day of the Resurrection, it is the day of Christians, it is our day.”[5] It is “our day” because it is when we participate in Jesus’ saving action, by celebrating and living his passion, resurrection and ascension.[6]

How then do we participate in this work of Christ and offer God worship in the manner most pleasing to him? We do so by following the command of our Lord who, on the night before he died, divinely instituted the Holy Eucharist as a living memorial of his sacrifice and instructed those present to “do this in memory of me” (Lk. 22:19). When the priest, acting as Christ by virtue of his ordination, does as the Lord commanded, the once-for-all sacrifice on Calvary is made present; through our participation in it, we are filled with “every grace and heavenly blessing.”[7] This re-presentation, which we call the Mass, is the true and perfect means of worship established by Christ, given to the Apostles and handed down to us today through their successors, the bishops, so that we can abide in Christ, and him in us (Jn 6:56). The Mass is the only worship a Christian can offer that is truly worthy of God, because it is a participation in the Son’s worship of the Father, in the Holy Spirit. All other worship flows from this.

Out of justice for all that he has given us, we have the privilege and responsibility to worship our Creator. Because there is no other way to adequately give thanks and praise to the Father than by joining our worship to Christ’s, and because the Sacraments, most especially the Eucharist, are the source of the grace we need for our salvation[8], the Church obliges us in conscience to participate in the Eucharistic Sacrifice on Sundays and other holy days.[9] The obligation is fulfilled by assisting at (attending) Mass offered any time after 4 p.m. on the preceding evening, or anytime on the Sunday or holy day.[10] This also necessitates that we avoid any activities that would prevent the worship that is due to God or the rest of mind and body that is proper to Sunday.

While attending Mass should always be seen as a great privilege, the Church knows that in our human weakness, we may be tempted to put other things before God. In light of this, the Church has established that Catholics who willfully miss Mass on a Sunday or holy day without being excused for a serious reason (like illness, the care of infants or the sick, or obligatory work to support one’s family) commit a grave sin.[11] By divine law, anyone who is conscious of grave sin may not receive the Body of the Lord without having previously been to sacramental confession.[12] It should be noted that even though an individual may be in a situation which prevents them from worthily receiving the Eucharist, the obligation to attend Mass remains.

Despite the pressures which can make our Sunday obligation difficult, none of us should be “deprived of the rich outpouring of grace with the celebration of the Lord’s Day brings.”[13]  It is important for us to understand that Sunday worship is not merely a matter of discipline, but an expression of our relationship with God which is inscribed on the human heart (Ex 20:8).[14] While this relationship calls us to praise and thanksgiving at all times, it demands of us a special time of renewal and detachment when our prayers become explicit. [15]

Many who profess faith in Jesus reject the idea that formal, communal worship of God is necessary. They would offer that the Sunday can be honored and God can be worshiped in nature, or in private prayer or by reading Scripture from the comfort of one’s home. In part, this is true: God can and should be given worship at all times and from all places.

But we worship “in spirit and truth” most perfectly in the way that Christ handed on to us through the Apostles. Further, we do not worship alone because we are not saved alone, but as members of the body of Christ – the Church. We are one in Christ and we share at the one table (Gal 3:28), so that we can strengthen one another under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

I will conclude this reflection with two requests of great significance. To the pastors and priest-administrators of the Diocese of Tyler, I exhort you to ensure that the faithful, reverent and beautiful celebration of the Sunday Eucharist is and remains the central and most important activity of your parishes and missions! Never must the Mass be treated casually or as anything less than the moment when heaven and earth meet. Every liturgy we celebrate must be given the very best we have to offer. Everything in the life of your parish or mission must be ordered to it, and all of your other important works should flow from it. In the liturgy, God’s grace is poured on us so that he can be glorified and we can be made holy.[16] As an alter Christus, may the Holy Mass also be your source of strength and constant renewal as you bring God’s loving mercy to his holy people.

To the mothers and fathers, commitment to weekly participation at Holy Mass, especially in our world today, is the most important thing you can do for your family. You must teach your children to understand and participate in the Sunday Mass. By your example, Mass should not be presented as a burden or something to be done before the fun can begin, but rather as a true source of joy and unity for your family. Further, flowing from your encounter with Christ as a family at Holy Mass, I encourage you to use Sundays as an opportunity for true recreation to build up your family relationships; perhaps this can be done by taking the opportunity to practice the Works of Mercy as a family.

For all of us, may Sunday – the Lord’s Day and Our Day – always be a time when we celebrate the work of the Creator, remember our baptism, enter into the rest of God, renew our relationship with him, profess our faith, and offer back in sacrifice what God has given to us by celebrating the Paschal Mystery of Christ and receiving him in the Eucharist that feeds us.

Given at the Diocesan Chancery on June 29, 2016, the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul.

+Joseph Edward Strickland
Bishop of Tyler

[1] Exodus 20:8-11
[2] Apostolic Letter Dies Domini, 18
[3] Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), 2175
[4] Ibid., 30
[5] In Die Dominica Paschae II, 52: CCL 78, 550
[6] Dies Domini, 19
[7] Roman Missal, Eucharistic Prayer 1: The Roman Cannon
[8] CCC, 1129
[9] Code of Canon Law (CIC), 1247
[10] Ibid., 1248
[11] CCC, 2181
[12] CIC, 916
[13]Dies Domini, 30
[14] Ibid., 13
[15] Ibid., 15
[16] Apostolic Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, 10

TYLER – Bishop Joseph E. Strickland has changed the time of the Chrism Mass, celebrated during Holy Week.

The Chrism Mass will be celebrated March 22 at 11 a.m. in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, rather than in the evening as in past years.

During the Mass, Bishop Strickland will bless and distribute the sacramental oils to be used in the coming liturgical year: the oil of catechumens, used at baptism; sacred chrism, used at baptism and ordinations; and the oil of the sick, used in anointing of the sick.

“I have made the decision to change the format of the Chrism Mass day in order to help our priests with their responsibilities during the very busy days of Holy Week,” Bishop Strickland said. “The most significant change is that I have moved the mass to midday rather than in the evening.”

The change, Bishop Strickland said, was to ease the schedules of priests, who celebrate a number of evening Masses during Holy Week, and to accommodate those priests who must drive long distances from their parishes to Tyler.

“I realize this change may make it impossible for some of the laity to attend, but I want them to know they are very much welcome if they can attend,” the bishop said. “The blessing of the Holy Oils and renewal of priestly commitment which are highlighted at the Chrism Mass are beautiful moments for the faithful of the diocese to witness. I ask that all of the faithful remember their beloved priests on this special day even if they are not able to attend.”

TYLER – Msgr. Samuel S. Metzger, a priest of the Diocese of Tyler since its founding in 1986, has died.

He had been living in a retirement residence for priests in Plano since his retirement from active ministry in 2009. He was 83.

Bishop Joseph E. Strickland will celebrate Mass of Christian Burial Feb. 20 at 10:30 a.m. in St. Mark the Evangelist Church in Plano. The graveside service will be at Calvary Hill Cemetery in Dallas at 1 p.m.

Rosary will be Thursday, Feb. 18, 6-7 p.m., in St. Mark the Evangelist Church in Plano.

He was born in Dallas on May 29, 1932, and ordained a priest of the Diocese of Dallas on May 9, 1959, by his uncle, Bishop Sydney Metzger.

He spent the early years of his ministry as parochial vicar at St. Patrick Church in Dallas; Christ the King Church, Dallas; St. Alice Church, Fort Worth; St. Cecilia Church, Dallas; and St. Elizabeth Church, Dallas.

He was pastor of Our Lady of Victory Church in Paris; St. Michael Church, McKinney; St. Edward Church, Athens; and St. Bernard of Clairvaux Church, Fairfield.

Msgr. Metzger served his longest tenure in East Texas as pastor of St. Edward Church in Athens, from 1984-1998, as well as its missions of St. Therese in Canton and St. Jude in Gun Barrel City.

He was serving in Athens when the Diocese of Tyler was created from the Dioceses of Dallas, Beaumont, and Galveston-Houston, and thus became one of the original 39 priests serving some 30,000 Catholics in 41 parishes and missions spread out over 32 counties.

“We were a real close-knit group, I guess maybe because there were so few of us,” he recalled of that founding cadre of priests in a 2009 interview with Catholic East Texas. “There were only 30-something of us at the time, and we were spread over a pretty big area. Of course, we also had to get to know each other, because we’d come from three different dioceses. Those of us who’d come from Dallas already knew each other, but we had to get to know the men from Beaumont and Houston.”

As one of those “original men,” Msgr. Metzger served the fledgling diocese on a number of councils and boards, including the Presbyteral Council and the Priests’ Personnel Board. He was dean of the West Central Deanery, director of the Apostleship of Prayer, and a diocesan consultor, helping to elect a diocesan administrator when the sitting bishop died or was moved.

Under his pastorate in Athens, St. Edward purchased a lot and house adjacent to the church and remodeled it into CCD classrooms. He oversaw the construction of an education building for St. Therese, and, ultimately, the construction of a new church in 1997.

He also saw St. Therese and St. Jude in Gun Barrel City, another mission of St. Edward, elevated to parishes.

In 1996, he was named monsignor and designated a prelate of honor by Pope John Paul II, one of five priests from the diocese so honored at the time.

For all his work in building parishes and missions, Msgr. Metzger said his two primary loves as a priest were working with converts and anointing the sick.

“I love working with converts,” he said. “Any time you can bring anyone into the faith, it’s always fulfilling. There’s a hunger for faith in this area, and we have to meet it. People need the Church.”

Anointing the sick, he said, gave another kind of satisfaction.

“I like being able to be with people in that situation,” he said, “people who are sick or dying, who are facing their mortality. As a minister of that sacrament, I can bring them peace. It’s satisfying knowing I’ve helped people prepare for whatever comes, whether that’s recovery or death.”

In more than a half century of priesthood, Msgr. Metzger saw many changes, both in the Church as a whole, and in the Diocese of Tyler.

“It’s been a good life,” he said in that 2008 interview. “It’s really been something else.”

TYLER – More than 160 couples celebrating anniversaries in 2016 marked World Marriage Day and National Marriage Week with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Joseph E. Strickland at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Saturday.

This is the third year-in-a-row- that the Diocese of Tyler has held the special Mass which normally takes place around St. Valentine’s Day. Collectively, those present for the Mass and reception represented more than 7,000 years of marriage.

See our full photo gallery from this event>>>

Sixty-nine couples present for the Mass were celebrating more than 50 years of marriage, and received a special certificate from Bishop Strickland.

All the couples who attended received a copy of the book, Not Just Good, But Beautiful in which Pope Francis and four hundred religious leaders and scholars from around the world explore marriage and “the complementarity of man and woman.”

National Marriage Week is a collaborative campaign to strengthen individual marriages, reduce the divorce rate, and build a stronger marriage culture, which in turn helps curtail poverty and benefits children.

HAVANA (CNA/EWTN News) – Christian brotherhood and unity were the focus of Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill when they met on Friday afternoon in Havana.

“We spoke as brothers,” Pope Francis said. “We have the same baptism. We are bishops. We spoke of our Churches.”

“We agreed that unity is created by journeying together,” he told a gathering of Catholic and Orthodox clergy and reporters after his meeting with the patriarch.

He characterized the Feb. 12 conversation as open and authentic. It focused on “a series of initiatives that I believe are viable and can be realized.”

The Pope praised the patriarch’s humility, brotherhood, and deep desire for unity.

The first-ever meeting between a Pope and a Patriarch of Moscow was held privately. Afterwards they signed a joint declaration that focused on several topics.

The declaration focused at length on anti-Christian persecution, especially in in the Middle East and North Africa. It lamented the hostilities in Ukraine. The declaration also voiced concern about the threat of secularism to religious freedom and the Christian roots of Europe.

Other topics of discussion included poverty, the crisis in the family, abortion and euthanasia. The Pope and the patriarch exhorted young Christians to live their faith in the world.

Patriarch Kirill characterized the private meeting as an open discussion “with full awareness of the responsibility of our Churches, for the future of Christianity, and for the future of human civilization.”

He said the conversation “gave us the opportunity to understand and hear the positions of the other.”

“The results of this allow me to assure you that the two Churches will continue to work closely together with Christians in all the world, and with full responsibility to work together against war, so that human life can develop in the entire world.”

Their conversation also aimed to strengthen “the bases of personal and family morality” through “the participation of the Church in the life of modern human society, that glorifies the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The Pope told Patriarch Kirill before their private meeting “we’re brothers. It’s clear that this is the will of God.”

At the close of their remarks, Pope Francis thanked Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, Cardinal Kurt Koch and their teams who had worked to organize the meeting. Metropolitan Hilarion heads the Russian Orthodox Church’s external church relations department, while Cardinal Koch heads the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

“I do not wish to go forth from here without expressing my sense of gratitude for Cuba and for the Cuban people and for their president Raul Castro,” the Pope added. “I thank him for his acts of openness and readiness to give space for this, these talks of unity.”

He prayed: “Let all of this be done for the glory of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and for the good of the holy people of God, under the protection of the Holy Mother of God.”