Archive for November, 2011

November 26, 2011 – Patience Is Indeed A Virtue

November 26, 2011

I hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving holiday.  It was certainly a good day – the weather was great, the food was good, and the football games were awesome.  God is certainly good.

But I don’t know if any experience can compare to what happened yesterday.  I have expressed my desire before that I needed an excuse to take the plunge and purchase a flat-screen TV.  There were of course some good deals as part of the “Black Friday” specials, but my desire was not so strong that I was going to get in line at 9:00 on the evening of Thanksgiving just to snag a buy.  In other words, my life may not be the most exciting, but I do still have a life.  Anyway, on a whim I thought I would swing in to the local Wal-Mart on my lunch break yesterday just to see if there was anything left.  I didn’t think there would be, but I wouldn’t be out of anything to go and check.  Well, lo and behold, I walk through the automatic sliding door and it was like walking through the pearly gates (OK, it wasn’t that dramatic, but I’m going for effect here).  There were still TV’s galore that were advertised in the Black Friday ad.  So my reasons for getting this blog out a day late are that number 1, I was still feeling the effects of the tryptophan yesterday (and whatever chemicals are in sweet potatoes, cranberries, etc.), and number 2, I spent the evening mesmerized by the clear picture and sound of my new TV.  In this case, patience certainly did pay off.

We of course now live in a society that seeks instant gratification.  We don’t want to have to wait for things.  We call our prescriptions in to the drugstore so we don’t have to wait for the pharmacist to get them ready.  We become upset when there are more than 2 people ahead of us in line at the grocery store.  We want a computer that will perform our functions even faster than the one we have (guilty).  As I’m typing this I also have the Today show on, and they were talking about second marriages.  Not only do about half of first-time marriages fail, but about two-thirds of all second time marriages fail.  Again, if we don’t get that instant gratification, we move on instead of waiting to see if there is a payoff down the road.   And of course we want God to instantly provide us everything we ask and pray for.

This philosophy goes against what the season of  Advent is really all about.  When I was a kid it seemed that the fun part of Christmas was the anticipation – what is in the box under the tree?  Was I good enough for Santa Claus to come again this year (well of course I was, lol).  Now it seems that the decorations are up for so long and the carols have been sung for so long before Christmas even comes, that what should be a day of rejoicing and renewal has become an anti-climax in a way. 

I think the season of Advent is a reminder to us that the best things we experience are those that involve anticipation, those things that involve preparation, those things that involve reflection.  This weekend we of course will begin saying the Mass of the revised 3rd edition of the Roman Missal.  I still am hearing rumblings of people who are wondering why there has to be a change, and wouldn’t it be better to just leave things the way they are.  Well, it would certainly be easier to leave things as is, but would it be as meaningful?  This 3rd revision has allowed me to attend workshops and study sessions about the Missal and the Mass itself, and I have learned a great deal about why we do the things we do during Mass and how what we pray at Mass is so heavily based on Scripture.  

I’m not saying that the secular influence of doing so many Christmas activities before Christmas even arrives has taken our Christmas away, but I think you could make the argument that it has taken some of our Advent experience away.  Our observance of Advent is a preparation not only for our celebration of Jesus’ coming to earth at Christmas, but is also a time to remember that we need to prepare for Jesus’ second coming, a time in which we do not know the day or the hour.  As the people in the Old Testament who were waiting for the coming of the Messiah, we need to be on constant watch for the coming of our Savior, and realize that the greatest reward it still yet to come.

There are many good Advent resources on the internet, but a couple of the better ones I have found are on a site called www.bustedhalo.com.  It is geared toward younger adults, but there are interesting things for everyone.  First of all, they produced a two-minute video which shows the meaning of Advent   You can view that video below:

Also, they provide a “surprise” Advent calendar which you can view by clicking this link:  http://bustedhalo.com/features/advent-calendar-2011.

There have been many headlines and instances this past year in which our culture and our policy makers have tried to influence our ability to worship as we see fit and to not allow us to practice our faith in the workplace and in social settings.  It is up to us to let others know the real meaning of Advent, and not to let our season of preparation be taken away.

Finally, as Pope John Paul II reminded us on many occasions, “do not be afraid” as we begin the new translation of the Mass this weekend.  If you blurt out “And Also With You” instead of “And With Your Spirit”, you won’t be alone.  Follow the cards in the pews as best you can and it will become easier as the weeks and months go by.  Have a meaningful Advent, and have a great week.  Peace.

 

 

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November 18, 2011 – Truly Thankful

November 19, 2011

Getting to the blog a little late this evening .  Had a ton of errands to run after work today – drugstore, shopping, etc., etc.  While scurrying up and down the aisles at Wal-Mart I was thinking about what I was going to write about this week.  My thoughts kept turning toward the news this past week, and how it seemed that every day there was some type of tragedy or event that broke your heart.  From the child abuse scandal at Penn State, to the tragedy of the mother in St. Louis County taking her 13 month old son’s life, to this morning when I heard that the women’s basketball coach at Oklahoma State University and one of his assistants died in a plane crash while on a recruiting trip.  This is the same school that lost part of its men’s basketball team about 10 years ago in a plane crash. 

When you hear these kinds of stories every day, lots of thoughts go through your head.  You wonder how a seemingly well-respected former coach could be performing these horrible acts with children in very public places.  You wonder how a mother could turn against a child whom she brought into the world and nurtured for over a year.  You wonder what the next day could possibly bring after all of this.  And also, for at least a moment, life in your little corner of the world doesn’t seem so bad after all.

We all have those days like I did today that we kind of dread.  We know that it’s going to be a long day.  Work, then running here and there after work.  Just a day that there is nothing in particular to look forward to.  However, after processing all of these tragic events this past week, and as we approach Thanksgiving, I realize that on top of my list of things to be thankful for this year is for those days that the unexpected does not happen.  There are many people that I’m sure would like to be experiencing life as I know it, even though it may seem mundane at times.  To be able to wake up in the morning with a roof over my head.  To know that I don’t have to worry about where my next meal is going to come from.  To know that I have a steady job to go to every morning.  To know that I have a nice vehicle that will get me where I need to go.  I am thankful that this past year I didn’t have to experience the “unexpected”.  Life stayed on a steady course, and for this I am truly thankful, as mundane as it may seem at times.

I am also thankful that my health has been good this past year.  I certainly could not say this a couple of years ago at this time.  I am thankful that I have been able to do the things I truly enjoy.  I am thankful that my Cardinals showed the resolve to hang in the pennant race and make an incredible run to the championship, even though it did leave me sleep deprived during the month of October.  I am again thankful to you for reading this blog each week and for continuing to use our website.  Little did I know four years ago that our website would not only still be in existence, but would be flourishing.  The number of visitors continues to increase little by little.  To sum it all up, I  am thankful that as I look at things with my eyes, I am content with the hand God dealt me this past year, and I pray that things continue on course in the coming year.  And I pray for those whose lives were turned upside down by unexpected events this past year, that they may experience God’s healing and comfort in the coming year.

A few other things that caught my eye this pat week.  Under the “another good reason to be a Cardinal fan”, Archbishop Robert Carlson of the Archdiocese of St. Louis and Bishop Vann of the Diocese of Fort orth made a little wager on the World Series.  Of course Archbishop Carlson won, so Bishop Vann presented the Archbishop with a Stetson hat and a check for $680 to donate to Catholic Charities ($10 for each run scored in the Series).  Below is a photo of this “blessed” moment:

Also, this past week at the fall meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, a memorial for Blessed John Paul II in the U.S. liturgical calendar was approved.  Certainly well deserved, and certainly a figure that all Catholics, older and younger, can emulate. 

You are probably familiar with the “Hour of Power” telecast that was filmed at the Crystal Cathedral in California, and its long time pastor, Robert Schuller.  The ministry has fallen upon hard financial times, and was forced to declare bankruptcy.  The Crystal Cathedral was then put up for sale, and in an interesting twist, is being purchased by the Catholic diocese of Orange County, California.  The Diocese is in need of a cathedral, and it is estimated that they can purchase this property for about one-fourth of the cost of building a new cathedral.  Here is a link to the story:

www.npr.org/2011/11/18/142518963/future-of-ministry-uncertain-after-cathedrals-sale?ps=cprs

Well in about a week, we will begin using the 3rd edition of the Roman Missal for our responses during Mass.  I have heard concern from some people saying that they are afraid that they will still blurt out the old responses, even though we will have pew cards with the new translation.  My piece of advice is not to be concerned.  it will take all of us some time to get used to the new translation.  And if during the first few weeks, some of us still say “The Lord be with you” instead of “And with your Spirit”, well that’s just part of the process.  Christmas Masses will probably be challenging when the “poinsettias”, or those who only appear at Christmas and Easter, pop in and have no idea that changes have taken place.  Again, so it be part of the process.  We will get used to it in due time.  If you have not heard a lot about the changes, or just feel you need a last minute refresher course, the USCCB website has some great short videos on the new translation.  Go to this link, www.usccb.org/media/video/index.cfm, and click on the “Roman Missal” tab.

I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving, and I hope you have a wonderful celebration with your family and friends.  And if you are going to Wal-Mart or one of the other Black Friday sales at midnight after Thanksgiving, well, what can I say, you are on your own!  You are beyond help!  Enjoy your $300 TV, and I’ll be enjoying my tryptophan-induced sleep.  Have a great week.  Peace.

November 11, 2011 – There’s No Place Like Home

November 12, 2011

First and foremost, on this Veterans Day I extend my heartfelt gratitude to all of those who have loyally served our country in the armed forces, and I pray for those who are currently in harm’s way defending our freedom.  As you probably know we have a page on our website which is dedicated to those who have served or are currently serving in the military.  If you or someone you know is a veteran or is currently serving in the armed forces, let me know their information and I would be honored to include them on the web page.  E-mail me at webmaster@maryhoc.org.  You can view our military page at www.maryhoc.org/Military.

Well, whether we are prepared for it or not, the holiday season is quickly approaching.  Though it is a couple of weeks away stores are already publishing their ads for the day after Thanksgiving sales.  There are radio stations who have already switched their format to all Christmas music.  Our school kids are working on their Christmas program.  The signs of the holidays are everywhere.  When we do think of the holidays one of the things we think about is being home.  The holidays are not the same unless we are able to be with our families in familiar surroundings.  In keeping with this theme, some Catholic churches have tried programs in the past such as “Come Home for Christmas” in hopes of bringing back into the fold those who have not attended Mass for some time.

It is no secret that one of the great challenges we face as a church is keeping people in the pews, and when they do leave for whatever reason, tying to bring at least some of those people back.  As has been said before in this forum, the largest religious group in our nation is Roman Catholic, and the second largest is ex-Roman Catholic.  During our evaluations for the Parish Renewal and Restructuring process, one of the concerns that was cited was the need for some type of program to try to persuade people who consider themselves former Catholics to return to church.

In theory this sounds great.  Put a committee together, make up a couple of pamphlets, put an ad in the paper and watch them come rolling back in.  Of course we know that this is not how it works.  We know that the process is much more challenging.  Those that leave the church have various reasons for doing so.  They may feel that God has short-changed them in some way, or they may disagree with what the church teaches regarding social issues.  Whatever the reason, when someone feels that the church has not provided them with what they expected, it is difficult to get that person to push those feelings aside and return to that place.  it definitely takes more than a letter in the mail or an ad in the paper.

It would seem to me that in order to persuade someone to come back to the church, they have to be reminded that they are not just returning to a building with pews in it.  When they return, they are truly returning to a home.  When I talk about the Catholic faith with my PSR class, I tell them that we should not think of ourselves as being “superior” to other forms of religion.  However, when Catholics attend Mass they gain an experience that they cannot get anywhere else.  What we do now as Catholics is based on what Jesus commissioned us to do 2000 years ago – to bring His message to others through words and action, and to remember Him through the celebration of the Eucharist.  No other religion can claim our history and our sacraments, which of course were established by Jesus himself.  Some will tell us that the church should chuck tradition out the window and “get with the times”, but in my mind our tradition and our ability to pass the faith on to future generations is something to be celebrated and to be proud of.  Also, no other religion can claim our presence and togetherness worldwide.  One of the positive aspects of the revised third edition of the Roman Missal which will guide our Mass in a couple of weeks is that all churches worldwide will be saying Mass based on the original Latin text that has been in place for about 1600 years.  We have a unique bond with our fellow Catholics that no other religion can claim.

In this vain, there are two things I would like to direct you to that celebrate our faith and our traditions.  One is a video produced by CatholicsComeHome.org.  this video does a great job in a short 2 minute time period explaining what our catholic religion is all about.  Here is the video below for you to view:

Also, you may have heard of the miniseries “Catholicism” produced by Fr. Robert Barron which is currently being aired on various media outlets.  Fr. Barron is a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago and founder of “Word on Fire” ministry.  He has written 10 books and is a professor at Mundelein Seminary.  His goal with this miniseries is to hopefully reach fallen-away Catholics to remind them of the truth and beauty of the Catholic faith, and to restore respect for a church still reeling from the sexual abuse crisis and suffers from an increasing secular culture.  Parts of the series are airing on PBS (Channel 9 KETC in St. Louis has not yet picked up the series) and parts will be on EWTN.  The link to the program schedule on EWTN is: www.ewtn.com/series/shows/catholicism/episodes.asp.  You can also go to www.catholicismseries.com for more information.

Of course, our continued personal invitations to wayward Catholics is so important.  Direct them to these videos and programs and let them know that they are always welcome back to experience what we know is a tradition-filled, satisfying faith experience.

Have a great week.  Peace.

November 4, 2011 – More Randomness

November 4, 2011

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of my “random” blogs where I just touch on a few different subjects and observations.  Today feels like a good day for it.  This has been a week of mostly highs but at least one low for St. Louis sports fans.  I had not had a greater high for a while than I did this past Monday.  I was still giddy from the Cardinals’ World Series win, then the Rams came out of nowhere and beat one of the better teams in the league.  And to top it off, Tony LaRussa, whom I have given my fair share of criticism to over the years, decided to step down as the Cardinals’ manager.  I must say that I do not consider him a bad manager.  His teams played hard and were well-prepared.  But there were many moves made during games that left people scratching their heads, and on top of that I was turned off by his general attitude.  He gave the perception that he knew more than anyone else, and that no one should even think about questioning him.  He would bite reporters’ heads off for asking simple questions.  However, over the last couple of months you could see a change in his demeanor.  He seemed to be enjoying himself more and was actually showing a humorous side when interviewed.  I think he decided to savor the moments after he decided to step down, and I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the team played much better after his overall attitude changed.

Anyway, this past week I was living the dream.  Then today I learned of the death of Bob Forsch, who pitched for the Cardinals from 1974-1988.  He was one of the players I really admired growing up.  He did not have the most natural athletic talent, but he worked hard and ended up with the 3rd most wins for a Cardinal pitcher.  He had a 20-win season and pitched 2 no-hitters.  He was a key part of the 3 World Series teams in the 1980’s.  But what I admired the most was what a good person he was, and how devoted he was to family.  When his playing days were over, many thought he would be a good coach, but he stayed at home until his family was grown up.  He would get up early in the morning, even after a late night game, so he could have breakfast with his kids and take them to school.  Here is a link to the news story:

www.stltoday.com/sports/baseball/professional/cardinal-beat/cardinals-pitcher-forsch-dies-at-age/article_bdfb18cc-06f5-11e1-a7f4-001a4bcf6878.html

Switching gears, one of the next tasks for my Confirmation class is to start researching saints for their Confirmation name.  Many students will probably choose a saint that we are familiar with – John the Baptist, Mary, Rose of Lima, Francis of Assisi, etc.  However, there are hundreds of thousands of saints, all with inspiring stories.  Did you know that Pope Benedict canonized 3 saints two weeks ago?  You can go to the Vatican website, www.va.com, to learn more about all of these saints.  Here also is a link to an article about the 3 recent canonizations:

www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/pope-benedict-canonizes-three-new-saints/

OK, time to get a little more light-hearted.  One of the issues that has gotten a lot of publicity inCcatholic circles this year has been the sanctity of marriage.  With the state of New York passing a gay marriage law, and with the Obama administration refusing to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, which is a federal law that defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman, the heavy hitters of the church have been lobbying to lawmakers that marriage is something that cannot be “re-defined”, that marriage is a loving bond between a man and woman witnessed by God.  These two stories I found this past week place more credence to that argument.  First, I thought I was a technology nut, but I don’t feel so bad now that I read an article about a bride-to-be who was walking down the aisle to get married.  Talk about a major faux pas, first of all she had her cell phone with her in her wedding dress.  Secondly, she had her phone turned on.  Finally, she received a text as she was coming down the aisle AND ANSWERED THE TEXT!  Let’s see how long this marriage lasts, eh?  Here’s a link to the story:

www.kmov.com/entertainment/Bride-caught-texting-while-walking-down-the-aisle-133143393.html

And here is a case of why it is best to have a wedding in a church.  This couple was having an outdoor wedding in Arizona.  Sounds beautiful, but is was around the time of the dust storms, and, well, watch the video below and you’ll see what happened:

 

Just wanted to quickly update you on a couple of things.  First of all, we are in the process of wrapping up the first stage of the Parish Restructuring and Renewal process.  We have gathered about 80 evaluations all together which will be sent to the diocese along with a written summary.  We are also planning to meet with our cluster parishes, and the school staff and school board have begun work on the school portion of the report.  Again, we will not have these results right away.  There will be a time of discernment by the diocese which will go well into next year, if not the year after.  We will share with you our final results when they are completed, but for the most part people feel good about what is going on in our parish.

Also, in the near future we will be sharing information about the “Fanning the Flame” program which we will be participating in next year as part of the 125th anniversary of the founding of the Diocese.  The program is based on the United States catholic Catechism for Adults.  You can participate n this in several ways.  There will be reflections in the bulletin and in the Messenger.  There will be material online, including videos for each chapter of the catechism.  We are also encouraged to form study groups to discuss the material in the catechism.  There will be a group that will meet on Tuesday evenings at the parish house starting in January, or you can certainly form your own group among your friends and neighbors.  However you participate, you are encouraged to obtain a copy of the Catholic Catechism for Adults.  If we order them as a church congregation, we can get them for a discount.  The price will probably be about $15.00, which is a large discount over the regular price.  We will be letting you know how you can reserve your copy in the next week or two.

OK, I think I covered everything for now.  Have a great week.  Peace.