National Catholic Register

Culture of Life

The Good Shepherd and the Pope

User’s Guide to Sunday

BY Tom & April Hoopes

April 6-12, 2008 Issue | Posted 4/1/08 at 2:24 PM


Sunday, April 13, is the Fourth Sunday of Easter (Year A, Cycle II); it’s Good Shepherd Sunday.

Parish shares “Best Practices” submitted by parishes.

Good Shepherd Sunday is also a day of prayer for vocations. Father Greg Paffel, pastor of the Church of St. John in the Diocese of St. Cloud, Minn., explains on EPriest a “Simple, easy-to-implement program stirs spontaneous interest in vocations among both boys and girls.”

To get families praying and young people thinking about the priesthood and religious life, this program provides physical objects to focus on in family prayer:

For the boys, a chalice from the sacristy, including a printed prayer for vocations to the priesthood. For the girls, a beautiful statue of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, along with a prayer written by the Little Flower. Families sign up to host one of the items for a week.

He said he has already seen many fruits from the practice. He offers a step-by-step guide at the EPriest website. Click on the “Best Practices” and page through to “Traveling Chalice and Statue Spur Vocations.”

Family offers Next Sunday Ideas.

For Good Shepherd Sunday, Familia suggests: Make a list of ‘voices’ one might hear. Label one column ‘The Master’s Voice.’ Label the other ‘The Stranger’s Voice.’ List whose voice we hear in each of the following different situations. Add or subtract any that don’t work for your family 1.) You are tempted to take a package of gum. 2.) You offer to help your elderly neighbor weed her garden. 3.) You agree to watch the baby when Mom asks. 4.) You tease the new kid in the class because you and your friends think he talks funny. 5.) You complain about having to go to Mass. 6.) You decide to clean your room without being told. 7.) You don’t want to divide the last brownie on the plate with your sister. As you go about your day, listen for the shepherd’s voice. Refuse to listen to any other.”


The classic contemporary story of a good shepherd is, of course, the 1995 movie Babe. The movie is a lovely parable about how kindness and gentleness are stronger than fear. It also helps children who have never observed sheep in a farm setting to understand what the Gospel compares us to: Animals that are not always pleasant, not very bright, and are so apt to become prey or to go astray, that they need constant attention.

Readings for Mass

Acts 2:14, 36-41; Psalms 23:1-6; 1 Peter 2:20-25; John 10:1-10 offers free homily packs for priests

Our Take

This week’s Scriptural meditations on the Good Shepherd come a few days before Pope Benedict XVI comes with his shepherd’s staff to visit America.

Bishops and archbishops carry crosiers — shepherd staffs with a crooked top. But Popes have traditionally instead carried a staff with a crucifix at the top. Today’s readings explain a few reasons why.

God’s shepherding of his people is an Old Testament concept — as today’s Psalm, a favorite to many, reminds us: “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.”

So, when Christ gave the Church authority to act in his place, the Church remained very much aware that Christ is the Good Shepherd.

In the first reading, Peter’s first act as “shepherd” of the apostles was to stand up and proclaim Christ crucified. In the second reading, from the First Letter of Peter, he describes Christ’s sufferings and then identifies him as the true Shepherd. “For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.”

Finally, in the Gospel, Christ describes himself as not just the Shepherd whose sheep know him, but the Gate the keeps the sheep safe. When Pope Benedict XVI appears on television holding the crucifix this weekend, remember what that crucifix is meant to proclaim.

The new Peter is once again putting Christ crucified at the center of our faith — and of his ministry. Christ the Good Shepherd who dies for his sheep is once again placed before us to remind us that this is a voice we can follow to the place of safety.

The Hoopeses are editorial directors of Faith & Family magazine (