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Increase our faith

Stir into flame our faith, O Lord! Inspire us to avoid that which is not of you or your life. Help us to avoid the traps of this world, such as greed, avarice, lust, and reckless ambition. Keep us, Lord, from being judgmental and gossips. In humility, Lord, we ask..... Increase our faith!

Stir into flame our faith, O Lord! Inspire us to embrace your heavenly Father who created us, who has redeemed us, and who continually sustains us. Inspire us to know in the depths of our hearts that his life and his will are what will make us happy and give us meaning and purpose in life. In humility, Lord, we ask..... Increase our faith!

Stir into flame our faith, O Lord! Inspire us to accept your teachings, Lord Jesus Christ. You taught us to love one another and to find you in all people and in all situations. Take our hands, Lord, and walk us to the cross of your Son, Jesus, and to the empty tomb, in which we will find hope. In humility, Lord, we ask.... Increase our faith!

Stir into flame our faith, O Lord! Inspire us to live our Catholic faith with determination and devotion. Remind us of the importance of the Eucharist in our lives, your presence in this bread and wine, coursing through our minds, hearts, hands and souls. Help us feel your Eucharistic presence in our decisions, thoughts, and actions. In humility, Lord, we ask... Increase our faith!

Stir into flame our faith, O Lord! Inspire us to be gentle, loving, forgiving, patient, and compassionate among your sons and daughters. Keep us mindful Lord that you love all of us equally, even those people we might dislike or not get along with. We especially pray for those people in our lives with whom we have a difficult history. In humility, Lord, we ask... Increase our faith!

Stir into flame our faith, O Lord! Inspire us as a parish and as your body, the Church, collectively to witness to your love and life for ourselves and our wider community of Rutland and Wallingford. Help our parish to be a beacon of light and hope, a community in whom others feel love, acceptance, kindness, and generosity. In humility, Lord, we ask... Increase our faith!

Please, Lord, stir our faith into a flame of love for you and others. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen. 

Prayer by Msgr. Bernard W. Bourgeois, ​October 2, 2016 
Submitted by a parishioner of Christ the King Parish (Rutland, VT)

If you encounter a prayer, quote, homily, or other sentiment that inspires your faith, submit it to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for publication consideration.

  • Published in Parish

Living the Word: The Epiphany of the Lord, Jan. 3, 2016

Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72; Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5,6; Matthew 2 1-12

They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. (Mt 2:11)

While the world has quickly moved away from Christmas to the next holiday, the Church only began its celebration at sundown Dec. 24 and will conclude the Christmas season next Sunday, Jan. 10, with the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. The Catholic faith is truly countercultural, and these Christmas season feasts in January prove that assertion. Today's feast, the Epiphany, follows the Magi from the East as they come to adore the newborn child. Having escaped the clutches of Herod, the Magi enter the home of Mary to bring their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the newborn savior of the world.

The beauty of these feasts after Christmas Day is that the faithful can take a step back and really feel the meaning of the birth of Jesus Christ. The gift giving is done, the Christmas trees are either put away or added to the mulch pile, and all are lamenting that they ate far too much during the Christmas season. So with all of the commercial festivities of Christmas now complete, the faithful can now follow the example of the Magi of today's feast. They can make the journey to the newborn child. They adore the Word made flesh. Finally, they offer him the very gift of self. Ah, the true meaning of Christmas!

Throughout Advent Christians journeyed to the newborn child of Christmas. Time was spent in prayer. The candles of the Advent wreath were slowly and patiently lit. Christians sought meaning, purpose, and salvation in the word of God made flesh in Jesus. On Christmas day, the faithful symbolically arrived at the manger scene. In the life of Jesus, there are four important stops that are crucial to the faith of the Christian: the manger scene, the upper room where the Last Supper was shared by Jesus and his companions, the foot of the cross, and the empty tomb of the Resurrection. The place of Jesus' birth, the first Eucharist, the death of Jesus, and his Resurrection remind the faithful that Jesus came to guide God's people to eternal life.

Today, with the Magi, the faithful stand in awe and wonder at what God has done. Unlike the words of this column that will disappear, God's Word became flesh and will live forever. God has been born in time and space, to real parents and in a real community. Living among humanity, God took on human flesh to bring hope and salvation to all. That's what we see lying in that manger! Born humble, homeless, and poor, this newborn will be the salvation of all. With the Magi we stop at the spot of the birth of the son of God to adore this Christ child. Our journey will not stop there; it must continue to the other important stops along Jesus' journey. But today, in silence the faithful kneel in adoration at the crib of Jesus, this infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, who is the Way, Truth, and Life.

The Magi offer the newborn child and his mother Mary gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. They made that long journey across the desert to adore the child, and then to offer all they had. Beware stopping at the manger! When the faithful come to adore the Christ child, he demands a response, and not a halfhearted assent to some obscure theological truth. No, this infant demands the total giving of self to his and our Father. He demands commitment to faith and obedience to the will of God the Father. Once the faithful have stopped at the manger, there is no going back! One's life will be changed forever at the realization that this child is the Word made flesh, as God has joined the human family in the person of Jesus, so now the human person is swept up into the life of God through Jesus' divinity. Redemption is now at hand. Come let us adore, that we, too, are redeemed and saved. Come let us give of ourselves to him, that in him we will know God. Thus is the true meaning and mystery of Christmas!

Questions for private reflection . . .

What do you see when you look into that manger? What affect does Jesus, the newborn child have on your life?

Say a prayer at the manger asking God to help and inspire you to live the Christian life fully in following this infant in swaddling clothes through his Last Supper, cross, and Resurrection.

Msgr. Bernard Bourgeois is the principal of Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington. Msgr. Bourgeois may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Living the Word

Living the Word
Ash Wednesday, February 10, 2016

By Msgr. Bernard Bourgeois

Joel 2:12-18; Psalm 51; 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2;

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

"Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God." (Jl 2:13)

For the task-oriented personality, Lent is a relatively easy season. The rules are simple. The faithful are asked to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. On the Fridays of Lent, one is to abstain from eating meat. Otherwise, the practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are pretty much left up to the individual to decide how in his life he can live these important Lenten traditions. Overall, there is very little in Lent that requires any real work, if the person so interprets Church practices in that way. Today's reading from Joel moves the person away from a checklist of Lenten rules, and more toward the conversion of one's heart.

Lent is the season of internal preparation for that great event of the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the most important moment of human history in which God definitively handed the human race salvation through his son, Jesus Christ. He suffered and died that he might identify fully with the suffering and death of humanity. To his cross, the person takes all of his sin and suffering in the search for redemption, forgiveness, and salvation. Jesus breaks the bonds of sin, suffering, and death in his resurrection. While not eliminated from the human race, sin, suffering, and death will not have the final say. Light, peace, and eternal life will be the final chapter! That is the power and glory of the death and resurrection of Jesus, a mystery which should bring tears to the eyes of those who believe. This is what Jesus has done for you. Is there anything more important than salvation? To the foot of the cross, the faithful bring their sin, suffering, and death. To the cross Jesus takes it all. The faithful go there as there is no where else to go. Only in Jesus will they find salvation and hope. The motto of the Holy Cross Fathers says it all: "Hail the Cross, Our Only Hope."

On this Ash Wednesday, the prophet Joel advises his people to "rend [their] hearts…" Change them, make them new, start fresh. These are all possible interpretations of "rending" one's heart. The faithful are asked to do so specifically in prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, or generosity. Rending one's heart is real work. A true Lenten journey is not for the faint of heart. In other words, let's make it real!

Prayer is the chief activity of Lent. It is accompanied by fasting and generosity. In fasting, one goes without food or activities in order to realize that it is only Christ who can fill the human person. In giving away time, talent, and treasure, one realizes that Christ and service to his people supersedes everything else. It all leads back to prayer. Fasting and almsgiving will open up time and space for Christ in prayer, if done wholeheartedly.

In conclusion, here are two suggestions for your Lenten prayer. First, spend some time in prayer, very quietly, simply gazing upon a crucifix. See your savior and your Lord on that cross. Know he did this for you. It is for your sin, suffering, and death that he suffered, died, and rose that you might have life. With eyes of faith, see through the cross to the empty tomb. Second, pray over and read the passion and death of Jesus as recounted in the Gospels of Palm Sunday (Lk 22:14- 23:56) and Good Friday (Jn 18:1-19:42). Keep looking at that crucifix while you read the story of the death of Jesus. Read it over and over, slowly and deliberately. In doing so, you will "rend" your heart, and be one with your Lord as he suffered, died, and rose from the dead for you. You will be ready to celebrate the joy of Easter, because you have understood and felt the death of Jesus, which leads up to that great feast. So, let's make this Lent real!

For private reflection …

In addition to the prayer activities mentioned in the column, think of ways your fasting and almsgiving can go beyond the minimum standard so as to aid in your life of Lenten prayer.

Msgr. Bernard Bourgeois is the principal of Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington. Msgr. Bourgeois may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Rice H.S. Principal preparing for new assignment

Father–now Msgr.–Bernard Bourgeois had been teaching part time at Rice Memorial High School for eight years, beginning in 1998. During the last six he also had been pastor of St. Andrew Parish in Waterbury. On the first Sunday of Lent 2006, he received a phone call that changed his life.

The caller had been tasked with asking him if he were interested in being principal of Rice, the South Burlington Catholic high school. "I thought I was being called to be on the search committee! I knew instinctively that I should say yes. So I did," Msgr. Bourgeois recalled. "Before I knew it, (then Burlington) Bishop (Salvatore R.) Matano was announcing to this community that I was to be their next principal."

Since July 1, 2006, Msgr. Bourgeois has served as principal, instituting a voluntary daily Mass at the school, overseeing the revamping of academic departments and spearheading an $8.5 million capital campaign and school renovation.

But now he is preparing for a new assignment.

Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne has appointed Msgr. Bourgeois pastor of Christ the King and Immaculate Heart of Mary parishes in Rutland and St. Patrick's in Wallingford. "I am truly excited about this and look forward to parish ministry once again," he said.

His successor, Sister of Mercy Laura Della Santa, will become principal of Rice on July 1.

When he first became principal, Msgr. Bourgeois took time to observe the community of teachers and students. "It took me time to understand the daily operations of the school. While I knew the teaching staff of the school, I only knew the students whom I had taught," he said. "It was important they know me as principal, a much different role than teacher or chaplain. It was much like starting in a parish. I spent time at games, in classrooms and at meetings observing and learning to understand the community."

Msgr. Bourgeois was accustomed to spending long days at the school; in the winter he often got there in the dark and left in the dark. Arriving by 6:45 a.m. and leaving most days around 6:30 p.m. he'd stay longer if there was a night sporting event.

The greatest hurdles that the principal faced related to finances and enrollment. "Except for its athletic successes, Rice was one of the best kept secrets around here! So I immediately tackled enrollment and marketing," he said.

The school had about 390 students his first year; enrollment for the next school year is expected to be 440 (450 is the identified goal and maximum).

In addition to increasing enrollment, Rice has made "great strides" in the last 10 years, raising the Annual Fund "significantly," Msgr. Bourgeois noted.

Asked about his three greatest accomplishments as principal of Rice, Msgr. Bourgeois pointed to these:

1) He instituted voluntary daily Mass his first year, and it continues. "It goes to the heart and mission of who we are as a Catholic school," he said. While attendance varies, "it is a great way to start the day." The first official words of Rice Memorial High School every day are: "In the name of the Father."

"We begin our day in the Eucharist," he said. "Following that, the Catholic culture imbues the school and all of its life, from academics to athletics and beyond. Faith formation and community service are equal to the traditional academic pursuits of high school."

2) In the last 10 years, every academic department has revamped its programming to be consistent with a Catholic high school of 2016. Rice offers more electives, and technology is at the heart of the teaching and learning process. More than 90 percent of graduates attend college, prepared for college-level work. "We challenge our students to find their full, God-given potential," Msgr. Bourgeois said.

3) In the last few years, Rice raised $8.5 million in a capital campaign, and the school has been extensively upgraded for the first time since it was built in 1959. Updates included work on heating, ventilation and air conditioning; electrical; technology infrastructure; Americans with Disabilities Act compliance; and windows. "The building now has the look and feel of a 2016 high school and will serve many future generations of Rice students," Msgr. Bourgeois said.

His greatest joy as principal has been watching Rice students grow and mature. "It makes me feel good that I have some small part in the human and spiritual formation of these students," he said. "I watch them come in as insecure freshmen and see them snatch up their diplomas as confident young adults four years later. I feel very satisfied in my work when I see students be successful in whatever they're doing. It makes the hours and hours of meetings and whatever else worth it. It's a great place that I believe God has blessed with a marvelous teaching staff dedicated to our mission and other administrators who are deeply committed to their work and our students."

Msgr. Bourgeois experiences awe and wonder at what God is doing in the lives of these students: "As administrators and teachers, we are privileged that God has called us to do this work–which is His work. These are His students, not mine."

Msgr. Bourgeois grew up in Bennington and attended Sacred Heart Parish and School.

"I believe Catholic education is more relevant than ever," he enthused. "Catholic schools provide a base for morals and a relationship with God, both badly needed in life. It provides a foundation from which they will draw strength and inspiration in living out their lives. In a world that has turned to relativism as its approach to almost everything, the Church offers another way that is refreshing and steeped in His plan for the world. I believe Catholic schools are the most important ministry of evangelization we have today, second only to parishes themselves."

He encourages families to seek a Catholic education for their children: "Where else will they be introduced to the faith in such an intense manner? Where else will they be held to high standards of behavior and learning? Catholic schools are indeed a treasure."

As he concludes his assignment as principal of Rice Memorial High School, Msgr. Bourgeois is realizing how meaningful things are that he thought were just part of the job: Standing in the lobby every morning welcoming everyone to school for the day, attending games and drama events to cheer on the students, giving brief "homilies" on the intercom every morning, just smiling and saying "good morning" or "hello."

"The fact that I have raised lots of money, renovated a building or done anything pales in comparison to the simple fact of being present to the students and thus encouraging them at the key moments of their lives," he said. "While it is often unspoken, they know I care about them. For sure, this has been God's work. It has been a wonderful experience. I will miss it dearly, and Rice will always hold a special place in my heart and soul."

Article written by Cori Fugere Urban, Vermont Catholic staff writer.

  • Published in Schools
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