August 30, 2014 – It’s God’s Will

August 30, 2014

I’m back from my little summer hiatus away from the blog.  Actually, I had contemplated giving this up all together.  When I get the statistics of how many folks actually read my drivel, normally its about 8, maybe 10 people.  However, my last entry was read by over 100!  One of my favorite episodes of Seinfeld involved George entering the room with a group of people at a meeting or whatever the situation was.  George would then tell a funny joke that people laughed at.  Instead of sticking around for the meeting, George would leave on a “high note” before he screwed something up or said something stupid.  I kind of felt the same way – maybe it was time to leave on a “high note.”  Actually, I knew I would return at some point, but it just seemed like a good time to take a break and let the creative juices get flowing again.  Besides, if the President can take a hiatus, I figured I could too.

There certainly has been no lack of happenings in our world in the last month or so.  The crisis in Iraq and Syria with ISIS continues to worsen.  There was of course the ugly situation in Ferguson with the rioting and protesting.  And Brad and Angelina finally tied the knot.  Turning on the news has been enough to make your head spin.  It causes a person to feel helpless at times, I think.  It makes you ask questions such as why it seems that the evil intentions of a few people can overcome the good intentions of many.  Or what can I do to somehow reverse this trend?  Or to bottom line it – what is God’s will for me?

We can spend our entire life trying to find an answer that question.  A few years ago Pope Benedict asked a gathering of priests to pray for a special intention of the pope.  One of the priests asked him what that intention was.  And Benedict replied: “Pray that I never get in the way of Jesus.”  There is one answer to the question “What is God’s will?”  Never get in the way of Jesus. That should be our prayer all of the time.  When Jesus told Peter, “Get behind me,” he wasn’t just telling him where to stand.  He was telling him that Peter was blocking the view. Peter was keeping Jesus from seeing where he needed to go—to Calvary.  And, at the same time, Peter was keeping others from seeing Jesus.  We can’t let that happen to us. Pray that others see Jesus in us, and through us, and that we never block what he is trying to do.

In a blog I read this past week, it summarized a report about Down syndrome. Couples who were expecting a baby were asked what they would think if their unborn child was diagnosed with Down syndrome. The answers were shocking.  “I want the best for my child,” one mother said. “I went to Cornell University. I’d want that for my child…I wouldn’t want to continue the pregnancy.”  Another said:  “If he can’t grow up and have a shot at becoming president, I don’t want him.”  Others complained about the expense, the difficulties, the inconveniences, etc.  And yet: a study by Boston’s Children’s Hospital found that parents who actually have Down syndrome children feel differently.

79% said their outlook on life was more positive because of their child. Among adults who had Down syndrome, 99% said they were happy.

96% said they liked how they looked.

But the world today lives with this sobering reality of evil – we don’t see these people very much anymore, and for a good reason. By one estimate, 90% of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted.  Too many of us want what is “good and pleasing and perfect” to us—but not to God.  Too many of us get in the way of God’s work in the world—thwarting his creation, disrupting his plans.  Too many of us put down the cross, his will for us, and just go our own way.  However, to do that is to miss out on the great adventure that is living— which we know can be wild, unpredictable, painful, and wonderful all at the same time.  And, quite frankly, doing our own will just makes it that much harder to fulfill our true destiny, God’s true will for us, which is to become saints.  We don’t become saints by writing our own rules, or by throwing God’s plans in the trash.  We become saints by denying ourselves, and taking up our cross.

Several years ago, a Franciscan friar preached a simple homily to a group of firemen in the Bronx, people who live with the painful reality of life and death every day. This was part of what he said to them:

“That’s the way it is,” he said.  “Good days.  And bad days.  Up days.  Down days.  Sad days.  Happy days.  But never a boring day on this job.  You do what God has called you to do.  You show up.  You put one foot in front of another.  You get on the rig and you go out and you do the job – which is a mystery.  And a surprise.  You have no idea when you get on that rig.  No matter how big the call.  No matter how small.  You have no idea what God is calling you to.  But he needs you.  He needs me.  He needs all of us.”  The man who spoke those words was Fr. Mychal Judge, the first casualty of 9/11. That was his last homily, delivered on September 10th, 2001.  Our prayer should be that we are able to embrace God’s will for our lives the way he did—the way Jesus did, the way all of us are called to do.  To embrace the uncertainty and the wonder and the mystery of it all is, in fact, to embrace the cross.  It is to embrace Christ—and follow where he leads.

Have a great rest of your Labor Day weekend and a great week ahead.  Pray that the unemployed may find meaningful work at a just wage.  Peace.

July 27, 2014 – The Story You May Not Have Heard

July 27, 2014

Sitting here on a Sunday afternoon it’s tempting to block out the happenings of the world outside.  The Cardinal game is on TV, the trees are blowing in the breeze outside the window, and the trends on Facebook include the Tour de France and a new Godzilla movie.  However, we know that much chaos and tragedy reigns.  Locally, the community is still reeling from the loss of the young Chandler couple in a traffic accident.  And worldwide, the news is still dominated by a war in Gaza which still rages on despite  pledges of a truce, and continued tensions between Russia and the Ukraine.  To say that I understand all of the details of what is going on with these conflicts would be a lie, because I don’t.  I only know that continued strife in these areas threatens a peaceful way of life.

There is something that I do know, however, that you won’t here much of on the news – what I would say is the most important, most harrowing story of the week—quite possibly, the most historically significant story of this year.  That is: the obliteration of Christianity from Iraq.  The world is only now seeming to pay attention to a horror that is unfolding before our eyes. It wasn’t until Thursday that the New York Times editorial page finally weighed in and condemned what is happening there. Other media coverage has been scant. Our government has been largely silent.

But attention must be paid.  In the city of Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, the church bells have fallen silent. For the first time in 1600 years, there are no Christian church services, no Masses, no liturgies. Crosses have been ripped from churches. The cathedral has been turned in to a mosque. A monastery has been raided, looted, overtaken; the monks have been expelled, taking only the clothes on their backs. In a video that is, frankly, incredible, the ancient tomb of the prophet Jonah—one of the holiest sites in the region—was bombed and destroyed.  Here is a link to that video:

Men, women and children are literally running for their lives, fleeing to safer places to the north. In some towns, ISIS – the Islamist extremist group now dominating the country—has cut off water supplies and electricity. They have confiscated medicine. If they catch people trying to flee, they take everything they have – passports, medicine, wedding rings. The edict has gone forth: convert to Islam, or pay an outrageous tax that no one can afford. If you do not pay, you will be killed. It’s not an idle threat. Some people are being crucified.  And it is happening for one reason only: because they are Christian.

Seventy years ago our country fought in a war to stop genocide.  Now it has returned, in another place, targeting another group, going by another name. One Catholic archbishop has called it, bluntly, “religious cleansing.”  This time, the ones being cleansed are us. Christians. The first Christians were baptized in Iraq nearly 20 centuries ago. Some speak the same language that Christ himself spoke, Aramaic. Now they are being crushed under the heel of evil.

Some are trying to stop it—including Muslims. Last week, professor Mahmoud Al Asali at the University of Mosul spoke out against the reign of terror being inflicted on Christians, saying he believes it goes against the Muslim commandments.  For his courage, he was killed.  Other voices are continuing to be raised.  Friday, Jordan’s Prince El Hassan – himself a descendent of Muhammad – called for an end to violence in the name of religion in a statement that was signed by several religious and secular leaders. He wrote: “We cannot stand idly by and watch as the lives of the most vulnerable, our women and our children, are destroyed in the name of religion.”  Last Sunday, in Baghdad, both Muslims and Christians gathered in the St. George Chaldean Church to pray together—and to weep together. Some Muslims carried signs: “I’m Iraqi, I’m Christian” – a powerful show of solidarity.



You may have seen this symbol popping up on social media recently.  In Mosul, members of ISIS have been marking Christian homes with this Arabic letter “N,” which stands for “Nazarene” – meaning Christian. It is reminiscent of the Star of David that marked Jews in Nazi Germany. But now, that “N” has swept social media and is even being seen on tee shirts. The message: no matter what our belief or our nationality, we are all Christians. We are all Iraqis. We stand together in defiance of genocide, of persecution, of hate.  If there is any consolation here, it is this: Our brothers and sisters in the Middle East are not facing this alone.  Neither are we.  Many in the media may be ignoring this onslaught. We cannot.  At this moment of despair, we turn to God in prayer with love and trust. We pray, above all, for peace for all our suffering brothers and sisters in Iraq, and around the world.

I don’t want to make this entire blog gloom and doom, especially since we mark a nice anniversary tomorrow (July 28).  On July 28, 2004, 10 years ago, Fr. Gene became our pastor.  Boy, it sure seems like 20 (LOL).  Seriously, we cannot thank Fr. Gene enough for his leadership and care of our parish and our people.  As I have mentioned before, we have been so fortunate as a parish regarding our pastors.  Since 1892, a span of 122 years, we have had only six pastors, an average tenure of a little over 20 years each.  So Fr. Gene, you’re only halfway done with us (LOL).  Again, we have been so fortunate to have been able to benefit from his guidance, and we pray for his continued well-being.

Hopefully the coming week will bring better news to us.  Have a great week.  Peace to all of us.

July 19, 2014 – Lots to Share

July 19, 2014

Yes, the webmaster dropped the ball again and didn’t stick with his weekly blogging schedule.  However, that doesn’t mean that I have been away from the keyboard and the mouse.  On the contrary, as you probably know we have now made available the means to give donations to the parish online through electronic giving.  Jan and Bonnie did most of the groundwork for this, but I have also put in some time to it as we have gotten it off of the ground.  If you were at Mass last weekend, then you heard my pitch for it, why I think it is a good idea, and why I think it will be beneficial to both parishioners and the parish.  If you were not at Mass last weekend, I also made available a handout which basically has all of the information that I talked about.  This handout is also available on our website.  Here is the link to access it:

Click to access onlinegive0001.pdf

As I said last weekend, this program is not replacing the traditional way that giving has been done in the past.  I know that some folks do not have internet access, and others are still not comfortable doing their financial business electronically.  So if you continue to receive your contribution envelopes and give in that fashion, then by all means do so.  However, we also have an obligation to continue to try to stay in tune with technology and with how many people’s lifestyles have changed because of it.  One of these changes is that people are having their bills paid automatically through electronic means.  How convenient would it have been last winter, for example, to have your contributions taken care of even though the weather did not allow you to attend Mass, and you wouldn’t have had to worry about making up your offering the following week.  How convenient will it be when at the end of the year you can print out your own reports for tax purposes, etc.

As you can tell I am excited about this and what the potential of it is.  I also know that venturing into something new like this can be scary, especially at first when people aren’t sure if it will work and if it will be everything that is advertised.  I think as time goes along, more people will utilize it and it will be a worthwhile venture.  Again, as I said at Mass, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me if you have questions or need help in setting up your online account.  I was serious when I said that I am willing to even go to people’s houses to help with the process.  This is how excited and confident I am in this program (and how pitiful my lifestyle is … LOL).

As I looked at the calendar, I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t blogged since late June, which means that I hadn’t blogged since Independence Day has come and gone.  I spent part of my Independence Day watching the Mass from Washington, D.C. which concluded the Fortnight for Freedom.  The homily at the Mass was given by Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, the current President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.  He gave a thoughtful reflection on how important our right to religious liberty is to our ability to serve those in need.  As you know, no organization devotes more resources to helping those in need than the Catholic Church, and as Archbishop Kurtz observed, “We need a robust and healthy religious freedom in our nation. We need laws like the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act to protect people of deep faith convictions when their practice is threatened. This act rightly holds our government to high standards. It ensures that, when government authorities would impose a practice that conflicts with the deeply held religious beliefs of some, the government must make a special showing to justify both the ends and the means. The government’s ends must be compelling, and it must choose the means, among all those available, that is the least restrictive of religious exercise.”  To read his homily in its entirety, here is the link to go to:

Speaking of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, just this past week the Senate took up a vote on considering a bill which would have empowered the federal government to override this act and other federal conscience laws when it mandates including any “item or service” in health plans.  This legislation was supported by 56 Senators but failed to achieve the 60 votes needed to proceed. Commenting on the vote, USCCB Director of Government Relations Jayd Henricks said: “While the outcome of today’s vote is a relief, it is sobering to think that more than half the members of the U.S. Senate, sworn to uphold the laws and Constitution of the United States, would vote for a bill whose purpose is to reduce the religious freedom of their fellow Americans. We need more respect for religious freedom in our nation, not less.”  An information sheet which talks about what the impact of this bill would have been if it had passed has been published by the USCCB, and can be viewed at the link below:

Click to access S-2578-Backgrounder.pdf

Finally, can you believe that the start of school is only about a month away (I ‘m sure parents are counting the days – LOL).  I mention this because the safety of our children, particularly as it pertains to those who entrust their kids to employees and volunteers of Catholic ministries, continues to be a hot-button issue.  I would like to share some statistics from the 2013 Annual Report on the Implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People:

The Catholic Church in the United States has:

  • Trained 98% of our nearly two million volunteers, employees, educators, clergy, and candidates in parishes in how to create safe environments and prevent child sexual abuse.
  • Prepared more than 4.6 million children to recognize abuse and protect themselves.
  • Ran background checks on more than 97% of our 2 million volunteers and employees, 168,000 educators, 52,970 clerics and 6,400 candidates for ordination.

Does this guarantee that an incident of abuse will not occur in the future?  No.  However, it is safe to say that no organization is doing more to eliminate the abuse of children than the Catholic Church.

Whew!  A lot of information to share with you this go around!  Thanks again for reading.  Have a great week ahead!  Peace.


June 28, 2014 – Taking Care of Business

June 28, 2014

First things first – we need to continue to pray for Pope Francis, who cancelled another appointment yesterday because of what the Vatican termed a “sudden indisposition.”  However, he did keep his appointments today, so hopefully again it is just a matter of tiring out from a very busy schedule.  The Pope has a light schedule in July, so hopefully he will take the opportunity to rest and rejuvenate.

Today (June 28) we wish a Happy 70th Birthday to Bishop Braxton.  In his 9 years as our Bishop, I certainly have had disagreements with his demeanor and his approach to some things.  However, he has also faced many challenges in his time here, such as continuing to deal with the past claims of clergy sexual abuse, and also having to make many difficult decisions dealing with the fate of our non-viable parishes and a dwindling pool of clergy.  Let us pray for Bishop Braxton’s health and well being in the years ahead.

You may have read in last week’s bulletin that we have decided to make some changes to the structure of our Parish Council.  Just to recap, our Council will now meet every other month instead of on a monthly basis.  Also, we are eliminating 2 positions from the Council which will leave us with a membership of 11 people.  On the surface, it would appear that we are downplaying the importance of the Council.  However, the structure of the Council has been basically the same for over 25 years, and these changes really are just a reflection of the present day situation.  Our parish membership is less, people’s schedules are fuller, and communication is easier with the advent of cell phones, e-mail, etc.  So really this is a move to maintain a strong Council.  We have 2 positions to fill at our next meeting on July 30.  If you have never served on the Council, maybe you would like to consider it.  We discuss many issues, and we have a fun social time at the end of our meetings (with FOOD).

As Father mentioned at Mass this weekend, we have received the final tally for the replacement of the boiler system.  The exact figures are: Asbestos removal … $11,840.00, replacement of boiler and pipes, etc…$83,250.00…grand total…$95,090.00.  This does not include the need to replace the heaters in the gym, to repair the roof over the sacristy, and to seal the bricks on the back side of the church.  Yes this is a lot of money, especially considering that we had a major donation campaign just a couple of years ago to repair the steeple.  However, our parish family has shown its generosity in the past, and I am confident it will again.

We are fortunate to have many parishioners who realize the importance of maintaining our gathering space and being able to worship as a family.  Pope Francis has talked on numerous occasions about worshiping as a community in order to maintain true Christianity.  In his Wednesday audience this past week, he spoke on how God formed the church to unify humanity.  He said that “Our identity is one of belonging. To say ‘I am Christian’ means to say: ‘I belong to the Church. I belong to this People with whom God established an ancient alliance that is always faithful … We are Christians not only because of others, but together with others” he pointed out, describing the Church as “a large family that welcomes us and teaches us to live as believers and disciples of the Lord.”

Observing how our relationship with God “is personal but not private,” Pope Francis stated that our journey of faith “is born of and enriched by the communion of the Church … Whoever says they believe in God but not in the Church, has a direct relation with Christ outside of her, falls into an absurd dichotomy … God has confided his saving message to human persons, to witnesses, and it is known to us through our brothers and sisters.”

However, to walk our path in the Church is not always easy, because “at times we encounter human weakness, limitations and even scandal in the life of the Church,” the Pope continued.  But despite these difficulties, “God has called us to know him and to love him precisely by loving our brothers and sisters, by persevering in the fellowship of the Church and by seeking in all things to grow in faith and holiness as members of the one body of Christ.”  If we make preserving the fellowship of our church a priority, the guidance of the Holy Spirit will give us the means to maintain our physical presence.

OK, we have dealt with a lot of heavy-duty church business, so let’s go to the lighter side.  Last time I gave some words that might have a different meaning to Catholics than to other people.  This time, I present some things that you’ll probably never hear a Catholic say.  ” Man, I wish this confession line were longer” … “Good thing we got to Mass with so much time to spare” … “I never people-watch during the communion line” … “There are too many people in the front pews at Mass” … “My priest seems to have a lot of spare time on his hands” … “No, I don’t want a beer. I’m Catholic” … “I’m not at all self-conscious after Ash Wednesday Mass.  Let’s go to the bar.” … “The Catechism? Yeah, it’s a pretty quick read. Totally beach material” … “I don’t have any worries about the future of our medical system conflicting with my personal beliefs” … and finally, “All that exorcism stuff doesn’t freak me out at all!”

Finally, we wrap up the “Fortnight for Freedom” this Friday on Independence Day (by the way, am I the only one who still calls it Independence Day instead of the 4th of July?).  Most of us I’m sure will have plans on Friday, but just a programming note that EWTN will televise the closing Mass of the Fortnight on Independence Day at 11:00AM from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

Have a great week and a happy, safe Independence Day.  Peace.


June 14, 2014 – Oh, Where to Begin ….

June 14, 2014

One of my all time favorite teachers, Sr. Elaine Freund, who was my high school composition and literature teacher, when asked how long a paper should be, always replied that we should be more concerned about the quality of our work than the quantity.  I could throw this out as an excuse as to why I missed the last couple of weeks of blogging.  I didn’t want to put out an inferior product.  Of course, that hasn’t stopped me the last 286 times, so forget that.  I could say I have been busy figuring out how to get the Cardinals to score more runs,but that really hasn’t taken hold either.  I guess my real excuse is that the lazy, hazy days of summer have set in, and the creative juices just weren’t flowing as much as usual.  I have, however, continued my daily postings to our Facebook group page concerning Catholic news items, obituaries, etc., so if you are not a Facebooker, you may want to consider signing up for it.

There is no way I can touch on everything that has transpired over the last few weeks, so I’ll just hit on what I can.  Back on June 3, our parish website,, celebrated 7 years of being on the world wide web.  I want to thank everyone who has supported our web ministry over this time, and for all of the compliments I continue to receive.  The Holy Spirit truly has been at work in this branch of our parish mission.  Who would have thought that we would have our Parish Directory online, or that we would have a Facebook page, or so many other online tools.  I’m excited to see what the next 7 years will bring.

Since I have written last, Pope Francis not only completed his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, but was successful in bringing together Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for a prayer meeting on Pentecost Sunday.  People who write headlines have the chore of trying to grab people’s attention with just a few words, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when I saw a headline that suggested Pope Francis and Bartholomew not only were forging a close relationship, but had a “budding bromance.”  Um, I don’t think I would put it in those terms, but the two have established a strong personal connection based on mutual respect and a humble and yet determined approach to confronting global issues like peace and climate change.  They are said to communicate easily in Italian and share a genuine desire to work for the reunification of their respective churches, which have been split since 1054.  Francis and Bartholomew met several times during the trip and kindled reports that they want to hold a high-level “ecumenical synod” in 2025 to mark the 1700th anniversary of the Council of Nicea that produced the Nicene Creed. Different Orthodox and Catholic versions of the creed are one of the stumbling blocks toward unity between the two churches.  Let us pray that the efforts for peace continue between the Israelis and Palestinians, and for an end to violence in other parts of the world such as Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.

For the third year in a row, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is sponsoring a “Fortnight for Freedom.”  The theme of this year’s Fortnight is “Freedom to Serve.”  It will take place from June 21 to July 4, 2014, a time when our liturgical calendar celebrates a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power—St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, St. John the Baptist, SS. Peter and Paul, and the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome. The theme of this year’s Fortnight will focus on the freedom to serve the poor and vulnerable in accord with human dignity and the Church’s teaching.  Be on the lookout on our website and on our Facebook page for prayer resources and other information.  You can also go to

Last Sunday on Pentecost we celebrated the birthday of the church.  We Catholics should be proud of our faith, even though we may look at things a little differently than others.  Some words have a little different meaning for us Catholics.  For example, the word “Mass” to others is a scientific measurement of the amount of space something takes up, whereas for Catholics it is where you should spend at least one hour of your week.  The word “Lent” to others is past  tense for the word “lend,” as in “I lent him some money,” whereas for Catholics it is the time of the year when you determine what addictions you still have some control over.  The word “elbow” to others is the main hinge joint in an arm, whereas for Catholics it is what your mom throws into your ribs when you fall asleep during homily.  The word “collection” to others is a group of objects kept or stored together, whereas for Catholics it means trying to scrounge up a crumpled one-dollar bill to put it the collection basket so you won’t feel like a heathen.  Finally, the word “father” to others is a more formal term for “dad,” whereas for Catholics it means a spiritual mentor whom you wouldn’t dare swear in front of.

Speaking of fathers, I wish all of our fathers, grandfathers, godfathers, foster fathers, and any other fathers I failed to mention a very Happy Father’s Day!  We of course also remember our fathers who are deceased, that the Lord welcome them into the kingdom of heaven.  I also wish our spiritual fathers – our priests – a Happy Father’s Day!  All of our fathers have made sacrifices for us that we can never repay.  We especially pray for the current Father of our Catholic Church, Pope Francis, who showed that his 77 year old body may actually be human as he needed a couple of days of rest on Monday and Tuesday to recover from a recent brutal schedule.  Thankfully, he was back at it on Wednesday.

I think that covers at least some of it.  Have a great week.  Peace.

May 24, 2014 – Two Focuses of the Weekend

May 24, 2014

This weekend we focus on two important observances.  As Americans we of course celebrate Memorial Day.  We remember all those who have given their lives in the defense of our nation, in the cause of freedom, in the pursuit of justice which leads to true peace. We remember all of the men and women who have fought in wars and other armed conflict throughout the history of this nation, from the very beginning to the current times. For most of us, the more recent memories include the Second World War and the wars in Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan.  However, we remember all who have fallen and pray for them, asking the Lord to give them eternal life and peace.

We also remember those who have suffered the ravages of war, not just with the loss of life, but with bodily injury, like the loss of limbs or illnesses – scars that they must endure for the rest of their lives. We remember too those who are enduring emotional or psychological suffering because of what they experienced on the battleground. We must not forget the families of those men and women who were killed in action or who may be still missing in action, or who have been severely injured, bodily or emotionally. These families’ members grieve; they suffer. We remember.

As we remember, we express our gratitude: gratitude for the unselfish sacrifices these men and women have made to God, to country, and to us; gratitude for those who support and assist our veterans and their families; gratitude for the lessons they teach us about generosity, even to the giving of one’s life, about love of God and country, about securing justice which leads to peace.

As we remember and express gratitude, we also honor both those who have died and our veterans who are still with us. This is honor we express not only by erecting monuments and memorials, by placing flags on their graves, and by visiting cemeteries, but also by the respect and support we give to their loved ones who remain, and to our veterans and their families who live among us; by a sincere word of thank you, by our ongoing prayers, and by our own commitment to seek justice which leads to true and lasting peace.

As we enjoy our long weekend and the celebrations that go with it, let us remember the sacrifices of those who allow us to enjoy our celebrations and our time with our family and friends.

The other focus for us as Catholics is Pope Francis’ pilgrimage to the Holy Land, which is occurring today, tomorrow and Monday.  I watched bits and pieces of him landing in Jordan, celebrating Mass and holding a media event with the King of Jordan.  EWTN will be covering the papal events all weekend long, but they warn that schedules can run early or late, so the easiest thing to do is to go to, and check the updated schedules.  There are encore presentations of events if you miss the live ones.

Fifty years ago, in January 1964, soon-to-be Blessed Paul VI became a pilgrim, making an historic visit – the first by any pontiff since the earliest centuries of the Church – to Jerusalem and the Holy Land – or, as he put it, “This land where down through the centuries there resounded the voice of the prophets speaking in the name of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” A little more than a year later, the decree Nostra Aetate was decreed by the Second Vatican Council, in which the Catholic Church condemned anti-Semitism and pledged to work with love and respect in dialogue with Jews. These were groundbreaking events, crucial moments that transformed the Church and its relation to the Jewish people.

Now, 50 years later, Pope Francis becomes a pilgrim as he journeys to Israel, Jordan and Palestine. The relationship between Catholics and Jews has changed dramatically, thanks not only to the efforts of Paul VI, but also those of Saint John XXIII, Saint John Paul II and Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI. John Paul and Benedict both visited Israel and worked hard to continue to forge better relations with the Jews.  Saint John Paul’s 1986 visit to the Synagogue of the Chief Rabbi of Rome, and the moving image of him praying before the Western Wall in 2000 are indelible moments.

Pope Benedict’s 2009 pilgrimage to Israel, and his visits to synagogues in Rome, Cologne and New York, deepened the relationship we have established and nurtured during the past half-century. The work of these popes has further affirmed the principle that God’s covenant with the Jews was irrevocable, and that Judaism was essential to Christianity.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan had a great perspective on the purpose of Pope Francis’ pilgrimage, saying that “It is within this context, I believe, that Pope Francis’ trip must be viewed. He will travel as a pilgrim, whose actions, as much as his words, will demonstrate his desire to continue the path of dialogue and friendship that has been established. As his friend, Rabbi Abraham Skorka of Argentina, puts it, “I am convinced that this trip will usher in a new era in Jewish-Christian dialogue: the era of empathy.” What an uplifting thought, and so appropriate for this Holy Father, whose entire papacy has emphasized the need for the entire Church – including the pope – to be one with others. ”

Our prayer always, especially for this weekend, is that the witness of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, as well as our Pope, will lead us to a better appreciation of our freedom and will lead to more cooperative relations between warring factions.  Have a blessed and safe weekend, and a great week ahead.  Peace.




May 17, 2014 – The Rite of Passage

May 17, 2014

Well we are smack in the middle of the “rite of passage” season as students are graduating and are either moving on to their next level of education or are moving out into the “real world.”  Along with all of the celebrations and gift-giving that go with graduation, there is also a healthy dose of advice being given to our graduates by teachers, commencement speakers, parents, grandparents, guardians, etc.  I was just reading about a commencement address given in 1971 by Bob Hope at Santa Clara University.  At the time, our country was in the middle of the Vietnam War, racial tensions were intense, and with the Cold War still very much alive, we were in danger of blowing up ourselves and the rest of the world.  So what was Bob Hope’s advice to those who were so anxious to go out into the world?  Simply, “Don’t go!”

Of course, this is not a realistic option.  As I was thinking about all of the advice and tips that our graduates will receive, particularly our Catholic graduates, I wondered how much of that advice would focus on their religion – about keeping the faith with them as they moved on to their next challenge.  I, of course, am not a parent, and I’m not speaking at a graduation.  But I still had on my mind what I would tell a graduate about keeping their faith with them as they moved on in their journey.  So here is my 2 cents worth.

You need to move on with an open mind and be willing to learn and try new things, but do it without compromising your ethics, morals, or your dignity.  If you aren’t shaping the world, then the world is shaping you.  Make friends that have the same values as you do, even if that means not settling for the first group of friends you meet.  In new situations, we often rush to the first group of people that notice us – don’t. Get to know people that are different than you, but make sure the people you build friendships with are people who share your values and will make you a better person – not who tempt you to compromise your morals or make you do things you are not comfortable with.

You can’t party ALL the time and get good grades. And you especially can’t do so and keep your spiritual life in good shape. It may seem like there are people that can stay out late every night of the week partying and still get good grades – they can’t.  It will catch up to them sooner or later.  Don’t fall for that trap.  People around you are looking for a leader – be one, and be a good one. A lot of people around you are looking for somebody to follow, and not necessarily in big ways, but mainly in little ways. When they aren’t sure if they should study or party, they will look to a leader to see what the popular choice will be. When they aren’t sure about whether or not they should pray before a meal, they will look at everybody else. When they aren’t sure about whether or not they should get up early on Sunday and go to Mass, they will look at what everyone else is doing. Don’t be one of the followers. The “right” thing to do is not determined by “what everyone else is doing.”  Be a leader, and do the right thing despite what everyone else is doing. You’ll be surprised how many people will follow you – and thank you for it later.

Don’t forget to appreciate the beauty of the world around you every single day.  And don’t forget to close the laptop, put down the iPod, and turn off the TV so you can fully appreciate the real live human beings sitting right next to you (a lesson that I definitely need to work on).  Go to confession regularly.  Even if you are living a very holy life, we are usually surrounded by many temptations, and confession is a unique way to flush out our systems and get special graces to deal with a lot of it.  Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Start your day with the sign of the cross and end it the same way.  Pray a rosary while walking to class. Pray for the people that walk by you on the sidewalk. Pray for your instructors, your classmates, for anything you are struggling with. And then – and this is important – listen. Too often when we pray we do all the talking and none of the listening. This is one reason why meditative prayer like the rosary is so powerful. It gives us a chance to listen to God and what he might be saying to us.

Finally, go to mass every Sunday, no matter what.  As Catholics, we are required to go.  Second, we should want to go! I know it’s hard sometimes when you are tired and you were out late and you just don’t feel like getting up and going. As Christians, there is nothing more vital and important than the mass. It is the highest form of prayer we can do. We actually receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ himself. Nowhere else can we experience this unique, special encounter with Jesus Christ as we do in the Eucharist. There is no better way to “be fed.” You will always be glad you went and it’s the most powerful way to experience and receive God’s grace. And as a bonus, go to daily mass if you are able. Once we get out of college, get a full-time job, begin a family, etc. it becomes harder to go to daily mass. Take advantage while you can!

Again, this is just my 2 cents worth (I’m sure no more than that).  But I know that staying true to my faith has helped me in many situations, and I hope that the up-and-coming generations will realize the same thing.

Have a great week!  Peace.

May 10, 2014 – Sacrifices

May 10, 2014

Well I’m going to have to reach into my bag of excuses again to explain why I missed yet another weekend of blogging last week.  I really didn’t do anything exciting or creative, nor was I nauseated over the Cubs winning 2 games over the Cardinals – I just didn’t get to it.  I did spend part of last Sunday evening with the ladies.  No, it’s not what you think!  I attended the Ladies’ Appreciation Dinner last Sunday that the K of C puts on annually for the ladies of the parish.  I showed the slideshow I prepared for Fr. Gene’s 40th Jubilee and also a slideshow of photos from the Jubilee Mass itself.  Our parish certainly owes a huge debt of gratitude to all of the ladies who graciously give of their time and talent for various purposes.  And to those who had other thoughts when I mentioned spending the evening with the “ladies”, it is said that everyone has a period in their life when they sew their “wild oats.”  Well, I fear my oats have become caked and moldy.

Speaking of appreciating the ladies, we of course take the opportunity this weekend to honor our mothers for all of their sacrifices.  We know that the vocation of being a mother is fulfilling, but certainly not easy.  It takes a toll physically, mentally and emotionally.  But a mother is willing to endure all of this for the sake of her children.  A good role model for all of us is St. Gianna Beretta Molla, who made the ultimate sacrifice for her child.  Gianna Beretta was born in Magenta (near Milan) in Italy, on October 4, 1922, the 10th of 13 children born to Alberto and Maria Beretta. Her parents instilled in their children a deep faith. In fact, two of Gianna’s brothers became priests and one of her sisters became a nun. And while Gianna was a very pious child and considered a religious vocation, her holiness would be found as a working mom.

Gianna found her life’s calling in medicine. She earned degrees in medicine and surgery from the University of Pavia in 1949, and opened a medical clinic in Mesero a year later.  In 1955, Gianna married Peter Molla. They subsequently had three children.  During her pregnancy with her fourth child, however, Gianna’s doctors discovered she had a tumor in her uterus. They encouraged her to terminate the pregnancy and undergo a complete hysterectomy. Gianna refused, but did allow surgery to remove the growth—fully aware of the danger that continuing the pregnancy presented.

Prior to the surgery, Gianna told a priest, “I have entrusted myself to the Lord in faith and hope, against the terrible advice of medical science, ‘Either mother or child.’ I trust in God, yes, but now I must fulfill my duty as a mother. I renew the offer of my life to the Lord. I am ready for everything, provided the life of my child is saved.”  In the final weeks of her pregnancy, she reiterated that if a decision had to be made between her and her child’s life, they should save the child. On April 21, Gianna gave birth to her fourth child—daughter Gianna Emanuela. Seven days later the mother died of complications from the birth.  We again thank our Moms for giving us life.

Changing topics now, it has been a little while since I have addressed the Diocesan Plan for Restructuring and Renewal.  It is still an ongoing process, and in the near future when the assignments for clergy are decided, I’m sure we will see more shake-ups.  We are certainly not the only ones going through such a process.  Cardinal Timothy Dolan wrote this past week about the planning process in the Archdiocese of New York called “Making All Things New.”  He made the point that Pastoral Planning is something that has been going on since the very beginnings of the Catholic Church.  We are reminded of this in the Easter readings.  His viewpoint sounds much like the attitude we need to have as we go through this time of change.  He states that  “we’ve stressed from the start of our present round of planning that it’s more than a question about buildings, addresses, closings or merging.  Yes, some of this will be called for, and the sound recommendations from our pastors, clergy, religious, and people are now “on the table,” to be further prayed over, refined, and finalized.

But, driving all of this is the same set of values we sense in our Easter readings: is the invitation of Jesus, and the truth of His message, being extended effectively in our preaching, religious education of the young, faith formation of adults, and our schools? Are the poor and rich being served?  Are the “fallen away” being welcomed back?  Do God’s people have available to them the spiritual sustenance of prayer and the sacraments? Are the offerings of God’s People being spent well, or squandered?  Some are tempted to observe (and the press readily reports it!) that this strategic pastoral planning is all the result of a new, unprecedented crisis in today’s Church, caused by such things as mismanagement and stupidity by bishops and priests; the stubbornness of the Church to change settled teaching (woman’s ordination) or discipline (priestly celibacy) to correct the shortage of vocations; the loss of money paid to victims and attorneys due to the sex abuse nausea; or the mistakes of past bishops and pastors in overbuilding and over-expansion.  Baloney!  There’s not much radical, dramatic, or crisis driven in sound, patient, prayerful pastoral planning.  It’s been going on since Pentecost.”

Some of you may have received a letter from a group that is attempting to raise funds to maintain the buildings and property of St. Leo’s in Modoc, which is now a suppressed parish.  I do not want to tell you that you should or should not contribute toward this – that is a personal decision on your part.  I personally have decided not to make a contribution toward this.  I can’t justify pouring tens of thousands of dollars into property that 99.9% of the time would be sitting idle.  Yes, we certainly become attached to our home parishes, but our duty as Catholic Christians is also to leave something for the future for our children so they can experience church in the best possible way, which is why I would rather donate to something such as the Seminarian Education Fund.

That’s all I have for now.  Have a great week!  Peace.

April 26, 2014 – The Last Two Weeks

April 26, 2014

Yep, I dropped the ball again. With all of the activity last weekend surrounding Easter, Confirmation, etc., the blog had to take a back seat. But I am back this week with a refreshed mind and renewed inspiration (well, not really, but it sounded good). Of course, as any good Catholic knows, Easter is not just a one day celebration, but is a 50 day observance of the most important event in history. So it is not too late to wish you a Happy Easter! I hope you had a great Easter celebration with your family and friends, and I hope that the spirit of Easter joy continues to inspire you!

So let’s chronicle the events of the last couple of weeks, shall we? The week before last was of course Holy Week, which began with Palm Sunday. This day sets the tone for the events to come. Jesus enters triumphantly into Jerusalem as the Jewish people think they are welcoming a leader who will lead a violent revolution against Roman rule. However, as we see, the triumphant entrance quickly makes a 180 degree turn as Jesus is put on trial under false pretenses and eventually is put to death. The Paschal Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday takes us through the meal Jesus had with his apostles, a seemingly simple meal in which Jesus established the priesthood and the basis for our faith – the Eucharist. It then takes us through the betrayal and arrest of Jesus, denial by one of His closest friends, a corrupt trial, seemingly endless suffering, and then the cruelest of deaths. Then, the Triduum makes another 180 degree turn as Jesus fulfills the promise He and the prophets made by rising from the dead. Our last couple of Confirmation classes have been asked to attend all of the services during the Triduum, which I think if very beneficial for them. It allows them to live out the story of how their Christian faith came to be as they enter into full membership in the Catholic Church.

I thank everyone who made our Masses and services during Holy Week very special and prayerful. All who worked in decorating and un-decorating church, those who participated in the liturgies, all who came to the services, and of course Fr. Gene who hung in there and delivered very reverent and thoughtful liturgies.  Fr. Gene didn’t know it, but I caught a photo of him following Easter Sunday Mass that I wanted to share with you:


I must also recognize our junior high and high school students who once again made our Good Friday service a very moving one. This has become such a wonderful tradition in our parish that hopefully will continue for years to come.

Easter Sunday brought mixed emotions for our family. We were able to bask in the glory of the resurrection as God provided us a beautiful day. However, late in the morning we learned of the passing of my sister-in-law’s Mother. She was 90 years old and had lived a long, full life. She had been back and forth between nursing care and the hospital the last couple of months with heart and other issues, so it was a blessing for her to be relieved of her suffering. However, it is still difficult of course to lose someone who is an integral part of your life. It is still hard to put into words, but it was somewhat surreal to learn of the passing of someone on Easter Sunday. It somehow seemed “appropriate” for it to happen on this day when Jesus showed us that there is life and hope after death. It became even more surreal when I learned that she had recently made the comment that she hoped to die on Easter Sunday. From now on, I’m sure Easter Sunday will hold even more meaning for me than ever before, as we not only celebrate the fact that Jesus rose to new life, but that we know He offers us the same opportunity.

Many of us barely had a chance to catch our breath as we then celebrated the Sacrament of Confirmation at the Cathedral in Belleville with our 22 now Confirmed Catholics, along with the parishes form Ellis Grove, Evansville, and St. Nicholas in O’Fallon. I continue to be asked on occasion why we are going to the Cathedral for our Confirmations. There are certainly practical reasons. There is the fact that we can work with other parishes on preparations and can spread the duties out a bit. There is also less worry in setting up as the Cathedral staff does much of this. It also saves the Bishop from having to make even more trips during this very busy time for him. However, most importantly, I think it gives our Confirmandi another opportunity to see that we are not just a local church. We are indeed a universal church, which is an important fact to realize as we restructure our local church, and more parishes will have to come together in order to stay viable.

I am happy to say that our Confirmandi were prayerful and reverent during the Mass. It was a wonderful Mass with inspiring music and a full Cathedral. We as a parish have one more opportunity to recognize our group tomorrow (April 27) during the 9:00AM Mass and at a reception after Mass at the KC Hall. I am going to miss working with my group of 7 in PSR. They have been dedicated in their preparation and they are flat out just a good group of kids. I am truly blessed to have now helped prepare 8 Confirmation classes, and God willing there will be more in my future.

Well I have spent so much time talking about myself that I have left little opportunity to talk about the big event of the weekend, which is of course the canonizations of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II.  I’m sure I will be posting like a madman on our Facebook page about the events of the weekend.  I’d also like to direct you to a couple of links for coverage of this historic time in the church.  Fr. Robert Barron will be posting videos throughout the weekend.  Here is a link to his page:

Also, EWTN is providing mega coverage all weekend.  Here is a link to their programming guide:

What an exciting time to be a member of the Catholic Church!  Enjoy it and be proud of it!  Have a great week!  Peace.

April 12, 2014 – Saying We Are Sorry (A Lot)

April 12, 2014

Well we have made it to Holy Week!  For priests and others involved in liturgy you could say that we have come to “crunch time.”  The many plans that have been made are now put into motion.  The palms are out, servers will be put through their paces, and the scent of incense will linger throughout the week.  It is the most activity the church will see compared to any other week of the year.  With all the busyness and distractions, it can be easy to forget what this coming week is really about.  We have so much activity this coming week because of the “week that was.”

The liturgies of this coming week are powerful and primal. We are a part of something both ancient and new, and what we do this week reminds us of that. The altar will be stripped. The cross will be venerated. The tabernacle will be emptied. The Blessed Sacrament will be moved. Bells will be stilled.  It is unlike any other time in our Catholic calendar.  For close to two thousand years, we have gathered like this, to light candles and chant prayers and read again the ancient stories of our redemption. But are we aware of what we are doing? Do we understand what it means? Do we realize the price that was paid?

In the midst of all of the activity of this coming week, perhaps we can take a moment each day to think about what Jesus was doing on that particular day all those centuries ago. What was on his mind on Monday, on Tuesday, on Wednesday? What sort of anguish? What kind of dread? Has anything we have ever worried about, or lost sleep over, or agonized about, even come close to what was weighing on the mind and heart of Jesus?

Jesus, of course, was a man like us in all things but sin.  He must have been terrified. Long after the others had drifted off to sleep, did he stay awake and worry? Maybe he sat up alone, late at night, deep in thought or silent prayer, wondering how intense the pain of His death would become? How long would it last? How much humiliation would he be forced to endure, stripped and bleeding? And what about his mother? Is there anything he could do to spare her from this? And perhaps more than once he thought, somehow, of the endless generations to come—all the others who would follow him because of this one week.

Of all the calendars in all of human history, this is the one week that changed everything. This is the week that saw the institution of the Eucharist. It is a week that witnessed breathtaking betrayal, and denial, and torture, and heartbreak, and suffering, and death.  And then, incredibly, resurrection.  Think of all that has happened because of this week. All the martyrs and missionaries, saints and servants of God who gave everything—all because of what we are about to celebrate, and remember.

Because of this week, the world has ever been the same.  This is “the week that was.” Seven days that shook the world.  And the tremors haven’t stopped.

Part of why we put so much emphasis on this week is to allow us the opportunity to express our sorrow for our sins – which is why Jesus endured His terrible ordeal.  I remember in 2004, now Archbishop Wilton Gregory was interviewed by ABC News about the progress being made concerning sexual abuse by clergy.  At the end of the interview, he said that one of the pieces of advice he received was that part of making up for wrongdoing meant having to say you are sorry a lot.  This past week Pope Francis, even though we would seem to be past the “height” of the sexual abuse crisis, once again apologized on behalf of the church.

“I feel compelled to personally take on all the evil which some priests — quite a few in number, obviously not compared to the number of all the priests — to personally ask for forgiveness for the damage they have done for having sexually abused children,” the Pope said in remarks quoted  by Vatican Radio.  “The church is aware of this damage, it is personal, moral damage carried out by men of the church, and we will not take one step backward with regards to how we will deal with this problem, and the sanctions that must be imposed,” Francis continued.  “On the contrary, we have to be even stronger. Because you cannot interfere with children.”

 This was Pope Francis’ clear message to members of BICE [International Catholic Child Bureau] whom he received Friday in audience at the Vatican.   BICE works to protect the rights and dignity of the child worldwide. Speaking to them, Pope Francis also spoke about the need to reaffirm the rights of parents to decide “the moral and religious education of their children” and reject all forms of “educational experimentation with children and young people”.  He said that it is every child’s right to grow up in a family “with a father and a mother” capable of creating “a suitable environment for the child’s development and emotional maturity”. The Pope also called for an end to what he termed as “educational experiments” with children and young people, pushing a “dictatorship of one form of thinking” on them in the name of a pretended “modernity”.

This week, if someone asks you why you are going to be spending so much time in church, you may want to tell them that it is our time to say that we are sorry a lot.  Have a blessed Holy Week.  Peace.