Archive for February, 2009

February 28, 2009 – The Tests of Lent

February 28, 2009

These past few days have revealed something I need to work on this Lent and really throughout the year – improving my patience.  I came home from work Thursday evening to find that our landline phones were not working.  They were repaired yesterday afternoon, which in all honesty was very prompt service, but of course in the meantime I was on edge thinking “Why can’t somebody get here and get this stupid thing fixed!”.  Then this morning before I left for work I noticed a problem with our thermostat (which had been installed about 3 weeks ago) which was not allowing the furnace to come on properly, so it was another call to a repairman.  Then when I got home from work I went to pull something up on the computer, and I couldn’t get my internet to come up.  At this point I am near explosion, but then I get myself together and get my computer online again.  I repaired it the way I usually do – not really knowing what the problem is but unplugging and plugging back in enough stuff that it starts working again.  After a few minutes to decompress, I realize that I’m not the only one with problems, and that mine are very minor compared to what other people are facing, so I vow this Lent to try to STOP WHINING!

How have your first few days of Lent been so far?  I have been sticking with the program I laid out for myself – I have done a daily reflection, and after much debate I also decided that I would give up Doritos for Lent.  People who know me well will appreciate what a sacrifice this will be for me,  especially considering that during my last stop at the grocery store, they had my favorite flavor back on the shelf that I hadn’t seen in a couple of months – its a combination of ranch and pizza flavors in one bag, and when the flavors mix together – oooh, divine!  I also made it through lunch at Reid’s yesterday while passing by the chicken, italian beef, BBQ, and even the bacon in the green beans.  So far, so good.

I guess I find it a little odd how big a deal Ash Wednesday is to some Catholics, especially those who are not regular “church-goers”.  It is not a Holy Day of Obligation, yet people flock to church in droves and get their ashes any way they can.  I heard a story on the radio Wednesday that a priest in St. Louis was standing on a street corner distributing “drive-by” ashes.  What’s next – drive-thru communion?  And you see politicians, TV personalities, etc. who never mention their Catholic faith, yet on Ash Wednesday they are sporting the smudge on their forehead.  But when a Holy Day rolls around, well you can pretty much have your own private Mass.  Well, I guess we’ve got them for at least one day.  Let’s keep in our prayers this Lent that the holiness of the season can endure throughout the season and beyond.

The first weekend of Lent brings an important step for our RCIA candidates.  This evening they will participate in the “Rite of Sending” at the 5:00PM Mass, then tomorrow (March 1) they will join other candidates from throughout the diocese at the Cathedral for the “Rite of Election”.  I think this is a sign that our church remains strong and has a message that people are hungry for because despite our problems, we continue to bring adults into our faith as full members.  Please continue to pray for our candidates, sponsors and RCIA team as they continue the journey to the Easter Vigil and reception of the sacraments of initiation.

On a final note, a little more church business to talk about – if you have not already received your letter from the Diocese concerning the Catholic Service and Ministry Appeal, you will be receiving it shortly.  Our parish has always been tremendously generous in giving to this appeal, and I have no doubt we will be again, but with the shape of our economy some folks will be tempted to cut down or eliminate their pledge.  Let me assure you that the monies collected go to the essential services our diocese provides -education, catholic charities, social services, etc.  We have also in the past received funding from this appeal, so please be as generous as you can (as you always have been). 

One more final note (I promise) – we are approaching a milestone on our website – we are near 10,000 total pages viewed.  WOW!  Thanks again for continuing to visit and to spread the word.  God Bless all of you.  Peace.

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February 21, 2009 – It’s Lent Already?

February 21, 2009

Well can you believe that we are beginning the Lenten season this week?  We have just gotten rid of all of the poinsettias in church and boom, here we are.  Time waits for no one, as they say.  As usual, we will have special activities surrounding Lent.  Check out our website, www.maryhoc.org for more information.  I will also be posting links to other websites to log on to for special family activities and Lenten reflections.

I started to think a little bit about what I am going to do as a means of sacrifice during Lent.  Generally in the past I have not done so well when it comes to “giving up” something.  If I give up soda, for example, it seems like I get a few days into Lent and I’m in a situation where I’m dying of thirst and the only thing around is a soda.  Or if I give up sweets, then a day or two into Lent the Girl Scout cookies I ordered arrive.  I know exactly what they mean when they say that the will is strong, but the flesh is weak.

So when I think about extra things to do for Lent, I generally lean more toward the spiritual side of things.  I try to do some type of daily reflection – whether it be a Lenten reflection or just a little time in quiet prayer, or even just grabbing the Bible and randomly opening it up and reading a page or two.  I don’t think there has ever been a time when I have opened the Bible and read a little bit when I haven’t thought to myself “Yeah, I was in that situation today,” or “I was just questioning that the other day.”  Just a few minutes of reflection is a great escape from the hustle and bustle of the real world that we face everyday.  I’m a fan of the TV show Seinfeld.  In one of the episodes George Costanza’s dad Frank started using a technique that whenever he would get angry or if things were not going his way, he would stop and yell “Serenity Now!”  A few minutes of reflection is kind of my own way of using Frank’s strategy.

One of the exciting parts of Lent is that the RCIA process is winding down and that we will soon welcome new folks as full members of our faith.  Our candidates, sponsors and team have worked diligently – giving up their Tuesday evenings for about 5 months now, and are about to see their reward.  Please continue to pray for everyone involved in our RCIA program.  They have an important weekend in store next weekend as they will have a Rite of Sending here in church on Saturday, February 28 during the 5:00 Mass, and the next day they will participate in the Rite of Election ceremony at the Cathedral in Belleville.

Events such as the season of Lent and the RCIA process help bring into focus what the true mission of our church is.  We put so much time and energy into keeping the “physical” part of our parish afloat, and of course this is absolutely essential to what we do.  Maintaining our buildings, fund raising, budgeting – these are all so important in keeping our parish vital, and we have many wonderful people who work very hard in performing these tasks.  These tasks are performed with the ultimate goal of having the means to continue to spread the good news of the Gospel and to offer the Sacraments to all who wish to receive them.  Lent is a time of focusing on “sacrifice,” and our parishioners who work so hard to keep our parish going – church staff, schol teachers and staff, volunteers, all of our commitees, Knights of Columbus and NCCW – cannot be thanked enough for their sacrifices of time and energy, not just during Lent, but year-round.

Our parish faces some challenges – the struggling economy, major roofing projects to be completed, etc., etc.  But if we keep the true mission of parish in mind, I have no doubt that we will continue to be a strong family of faith.

Have a blessed and fulfilling Lenten season.  Peace.

February 14, 2009 – Life’s Little Miracles

February 14, 2009

This week in the news was a week of contrasts.  Earlier in the week many shows featured the crew and passengers from the flight that was forced to land in the Hudson River, and how grateful everyone was that their lives had been spared.  It is a real “feel good” story in the midst of so much negative news.  Then Thursday night another jet experienced distress with the outcome being just the opposite as 50 people are killed.  As you probably heard, one of the victims was a lady by the name of Beverly Eckert.  Her husband was killed in the 9/11 tragedy.  She had been an advocate for the victims of that horrific tragedy, and was doing many things in memory of her husband.  In fact, part of the reason she was commuting to Buffalo was to present a scholarship award in her husband’s memory at Canisius High School in Buffalo, a Jesuit-run school.

So the stories of gratitude and good feelings that were prominent earlier in the week turned to stories of horror and grief.  Instead of seeing passengers telling of their life-saving stories, we saw family members of victims telling of their memories and paying tribute to their loved ones, and trying to make sense of this tragedy.  And we are reminded once again just how fragile our lives are, and how quickly our time here on earth can expire.

I don’t want this blog to become “morbid”, but I think one of the great challenges we have as Christians is to make sense of a tragedy.  People who openly profess their Christianity are ultimately asked questions such as “Why did God allow that plane to crash?”, or “Why did God choose this group of people to live and another group of people to perish?”  These questions are asked to us not just from other people, but these are questions we ask ourselves, too.  “Why did I lose my child in that auto accident?”  “Why did my house have to get hit by the tornado?”  “Why couldn’t God have performed a miracle?”

In my religion class right now we are doing a review of the sacraments.  Last Sunday we discussed Anointing of the Sick, and how some people have the expectation that all of their physical ailments will be healed if they receive it, and how disappointed some people are when the “miracle”  does not occur.  But the truth is that miracles occur all around us every day, many of which we probably do not even realize.  When a child is born, when someone joins a cause for hman rights, when someone who has drifted away from the church has the urge to return – these are all miracles.  They may be much more subtle than walking on water or changing water into wine, but they are miracles nonetheless.

These tragedies such as a plane crash also seem to have a way to help us put things in perspective, even if it is just for a short time.  Many times when my alarm sounds at 5:00AM a feeling of dread comes over me – “Do I have to get up already?  Do I have to go face another day?”  This morning my perspective was a little different – I was thankful to go face another day.  Now come Monday I’ll probably have that same feeling of dread again.  This is something I need to work on.  All of us as Christians probably need to realize that tragedies are inevitable, but they also provide an opportunity for us to keep the legacy of those who lose their lives moving forward, and to spread the message that there are miracles in our midst if we keep our eyes, ears, and hearts open to them.  On this Valentine’s day, cherish the life that we have been given and are so fortunate to share with others.

On to a lighter subject – the middle of February brings the cry that baseball fans have been waiting for for months – “pitchers and catchers report to spring training.”  I must admit that I am concerned about my Cardinals – they didn’t exactly do a whole lot to improve themselves this winter, but this will give some of the young players they have been developing a chance to show what they can do.  As we say, miracles are abound every day!

Until next week, peace.

February 7, 2009 – Mission On!

February 7, 2009

I hope you are enjoying the preview of spring we have had the last couple of days.  This is one sure fire sign that I’m getting older – when I was a kid I would be sad to see it warm up and watch the snow melt.  Now I’m deleriously happy to the point that I could do a jig of glee (in private, of course).

My apologies for not getting to blogging sooner.  I just returned from a Diocesan Pastoral Council meeting in Belleville.  I think I’ve talked about this group before, but just as a refresher this a group that meets several times a year to discuss issues of concern to the Diocese – similar to a parish council but at the Diocesan level.  There are 2 representatives from each of the 6 deaneries, and also representatives from the priests, women religious, etc.  To be frank, what the end result of these meetings is can be debated.  Ultimately, the Bishop will either make his own decision on issues, or will steer these issues to other departments to consider.  However, I always enjoy the discussion and I enjoy hearing other people’s opinions on things.

One item that ended up being talked about the most wasn’t even on the agenda, but just came about through casual conversation, and that is the continued decline in the number of people who attend Sunday Mass on a regular basis.  I think this statistic has been thrown out before, but 10% of all Americans consider themselves “former” Catholics.  This 10% figure would represent the second largest religious denomination in the country.  I know myself I’ll see someone in passing and think “You know, I used to see that person in church.  Wonder why they are not there anymore?”  The million dollar question of course is why this phenomenon is occurring.  I know there are many reasons, but there are a couple that were discussed at length this morning:

One is a lost of trust in the church, whether it be because of the clergy abuse scandal or other issues.  And the cold hard fact is that once you have lost trust, it takes a long time to earn that trust back.  The second thing that was talked about is that people do not fear the concept of “sin” as they once did.  I’m sure those of you who are older remember the nuns and priests warning you that “If you don’t go to church, it is a mortal sin, and straight to hell with you!”  (Well, something to that effect).  For better or worse, we seem to have lost the “fear factor”.  The rules of the church have not changed – it is the culture and attitude that have changed.  One of the members of the group even questioned if there would be a church left for his grandchildren and their children.  This may be extreme, but this is a fear that is starting to prevail.

There is obviously no easy solution to this.  If there was, we would have to put out extra chairs at every Mass.  So what can we do in our little corner of the world?  Well, we can of course extend an invitation to someone who we know that hasn’t been to church for a while.  They may or may not accept – that is their decision, but the worst that they can say is “no.”

We will be having an event in September that would be a good opportunity to extend an invitation for people to come.  We have finalized that we are having a parish mission form September 26 – October 1.  Fr. Peter Schavitz, a Redemptorist priest, will be preaching the mission for us.  You will be getting many more details on the mission in the coming weeks, but it is not too early to get it on your calendar and to start getting the word out.  We will also be asking for folks to give us a hand with things such as refreshments after each service, childcare, participating in the services, etc.  We are asked that no other parish events, meetings, etc. be held during this week so the entire focus can be on the mission.  So something to tuck into your brain as we proceed forward.

Well, time to work on the rest of the website.  If you notice something on the website that I haven’t updated or needs to be changed, shoot me an e-mail at webmaster@maryhoc.org.  One aspect of the website that more people are starting to use is the prayer intentions page, which I am thrilled to see.  We can never get enough prayers! 

Don’t forget about sending a Valentine to your special someone this week!  Peace.