Archive for December, 2011

December 29, 2011 – And Another Year In The Books

December 30, 2011

Once again the holidays have forced me to alter my blogging schedule.  Because of a family gathering tomorrow evening, we’re posting a day early.  I hope first of all that you had a great Christmas celebration.  Mine went according to plan – Mass and then my World Series DVD’s to relive the excitement of the fall.  Good stuff.  Evidently, some other folks had some free time over the holidays.  There were 32 pages viewed on our website on Christmas Eve and 17 on Christmas Day.  Don’t you people have anything better to do? (Ha, ha).  Of course, this comment comes from someone who actually has a “blogging” schedule.

Anyway, now we have reached the end of the year – a time when many of us do a little reflection on what we have accomplished in the past year (short list for me) and what we need to improve on in the coming year (long list for me).  This is also the time when you see a lot of “top ten” lists about the past year.  A couple of these caught my eye this past week.  One list focused on things that came to an end in 2011.  The list included the Harry Potter series of books and movies, the Space Shuttle program, and the 2nd edition of the Roman Missal.  Here is the link to the full article and list:

http://bustedhalo.com/features/11-notable-endings-in-2011

The other list was compiled by the Religion Newswriters Association and it is the top ten religion stories of 2011.  The Catholic faith is mentioned several times in both a favorable and unfavorable light.  Again the new translation of the Roman Missal was mentioned, as well as the beatification of Pope John Paul II.  However, placed above these was the story of Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City being charged with failure to report the suspected abuse of a child.  This, along with the story locally of the diocese losing its appeal of a $5 million lawsuit in a sexual abuse case are both reminders that the church continues to wear a huge scar from these cases and that we must continue to be diligent in caring for those who have been abused and doing everything in our power to make sure that it does not happen again.  Here is the link to this article and list:

www.rna.org/news/79176/

In my personal reflection on the year that has passed, I would have to consider it relatively successful.  It was a fairly uneventful year, which as I get older I have come to appreciate more and more.  But I certainly know that there are things I need to work on in the coming year, so even though I know that eventually at least some of them will go by the wayside, like millions of Americans I have my list of resolutions for the coming year.  My health was reasonably good the past year, but I know that I have dropped the ball somewhat on watching what I eat, etc., which my expanding waistline is reminding me of.  So in the next year I need to get back to a little more healthier regimen.

Also, even though I spend a lot of time on the computer, I have not really taken enough opportunities to just read books or other resources.  So this coming year I hope to do some more real reading than I have in the past, including the U.S. Catholic Catechism for Adults which will be part of the “Fanning the Flame” program in 2012. 

As always, our parish will be a busy place in 2012.  We will be continuing to work on the Parish Renewal and Restructuring process which we began this past year, including meeting with our neighboring parishes.  As mentioned, we will be participating in the “Fanning the Flame” faith enrichment program, as well as other activities which will be a part of the 125th anniversary of the founding of the Diocese of Belleville.  We hope to continue needed work on our church building, in particular the renovation of the steeple.  We will be continuing to prepare our candidates for Confirmation for reception of the sacrament in April.  This is in addition to all of the other usual stuff – fundraisers, school activities, liturgies, funerals, more funerals, etc., etc.  But the busyness throughout the parish beats the alternative of having a moribund, dying community.

So how will you celebrate the coming of the New Year?  As with Christmas, I intend to have a quiet, relaxing New Year’s, which will probably include watching the ball drop in Times Square, unless I travel somewhere where they drop more unusual things at midnight.  These include a 35-foot orange in Miami, a sardine in Eastport, Maine, a possum in Brasstown, NC, a 100 pound stick of bologna in Lebanon, PA, a 600 pound electric “Moon Pie” in Mobile, AL, and an 80 pound decorated cheese wedge in Plymouth, WI.  On second thought, I think I’ll just stay in good old Southern Illinois.  Whatever you will be doing, I hope you stay safe and have an enjoyable beginning to 2012.  I also hope that the coming year brings you good health, happiness and prosperity.  God Bless all of us as we turn another page and put another chapter behind us.

To end my last blog of 2011, I simply want to say thank you.  Thank you for coming here to read my comments and allowing me to have a voice and an avenue to express my thoughts.  Thank you for visiting our church website and for your compliments on what we continue to include as a part of it.  Thank you to those who joined our group on our Facebook page this past year.  We are up to 55 members now, and we share good information and comments as well as prayers.  And above all thank you for your support of our parish this past year as we continue our mission of making available the sacraments and spreading the gospel message of Christ.  Have a great week as well as a great year ahead.  Here’s to a 2012 filled with – Peace.

Advertisements

December 23, 2011 – Are You Ready?

December 23, 2011

Are you ready for Christmas?  If I had a dollar for each time I have been asked that question over the last couple of weeks, I would be a semi-wealthy man (before taxes, of course).  I being my polite self say “yes” or “as ready as I’ll ever be”, but the sarcastic side of me would like to say “Why, did they change the date from last year?”, or “yes, I went to confession, how about you?”.  Nonetheless, ready or not, Christmas is upon us, and we will see the payoff to all of our preparations and running around as we gather with our families and friends and watch the excitement of the kids (and adults too) as they open their presents.  And of course, amidst all of the activity, we as Christians will hopefully take time to mark the birthday of Christ.

Someone who is not familiar with Christianity and sees all that goes into our celebrations for Christmas would probably think that this must be the most important and significant event on our Christian calendar.  However, I read an article this past week called “5 myths of Christmas”, and the author, who is a Jesuit priest, points out the fact that in terms of religious significance, Easter actually tops Christmas.  The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is what gives us hope for eternal life with God.  The author makes a comparison to a football season in that we could consider Christmas our “opening day” of the season, but that Easter is our Super Bowl.  So as we celebrate Christmas and the birth of our Savior, we keep in mind that this leads to something even greater to come.

Of course, even in the midst of the Christmas season other news still takes place, and any article that defends the right of the Catholic Church to proclaim its teachings catches my eye.  Last Friday the Bishops of Illinois met with Gov. Quinn because they were concerned that he was using his Catholic upbringing to justify positions on issues such as abortion and gay couples’ right to adopt children that go against the teachings of the church.  Again, people on the outside looking in will perceive this as the church trying to force its moral beliefs on citizens, when in fact they were simply exercising their rights within a democracy to point out the discrepancies in Gov. Quinn statements as compared to the teachings of the church.  Even though we may live in a growing culture that dispels the beliefs of the church, our right to practice our faith and to defend what we believe is the morally acceptable way to live should never be taken away.  Here is the link to the editorial article about the Bishops’ meeting with the governor:

www.chicagonow.com/dennis-byrnes-barbershop/2011/12/do-catholics-want-to-impose-their-morals-on-america/ 

OK, now for what you really have been waiting for.  I know its not the presents, or the cookies or candies, or the spiked eggnog.  It’s time for Brian’s 3rd annual “If I had the power to give any present to anyone I desire, this is what I would give” list.  Perhaps next year I’ll come up with a better title, but nonetheless here we go:

To those who wait on us at the K of C Monday lunches: a conveyor belt that leads from the dining area to the kitchen that everyone can put their trays and dishes on when they are finished eating.

To Fr. Gene: a Kindle or Nook that would be approved for use during Mass by the Vatican that would contain the new Roman Missal in the order that it is presented at Mass.

To new Cardinal manager Mike Matheny: a successful first year so those who criticized me for being so elated at Tony LaRussa’s departure can put a sock in it.

For Albert Pujols: I truly do wish him happiness in his new home in California, and I also wish his team success.  How cool would it be if the Cardinals and the Angels would meet in the World Series and the Cardinals would drill them in 4 or 5 games!  Booya!

For Cubs fans: I have wished for these people to see the light in the past, and my wish doesn’t come true.  Oh well, you can’t mess with free will I suppose.  Here’s to 103 years and counting.

For Rams fans: the acquisition of football players who can actually play football (what a concept).

For our parish: That the Diocese doesn’t come up with yet another program that we must occupy our energies toward and we can focus more on the needs of our parish.

For our troops: that our departure from Iraq and the beginning of our departure from Afghanistan is the beginning of a trend and our troops can spend more time with their loved ones, and that the casualties that we have become so used to seeing come to an end.

For our community of Chester: that the governor realizes the error of his ways and ceases using needed jobs and the lives of families as political collateral for manipulating the budget as he wants it.

For my mother: as always, anything she wants.

For me: I’ll take a year similar to this one – no health problems, no unexpected happenings and more and more electronic gadgets to go gaga over.

For our country: that our elected representatives work for the good of those in need – those in poverty, those who are jobless, etc. instead of being concerned with their ability to be re-elected.

And for all of us: that the spirit of the Christmas season touch everyone in a special way, and that the newborn King bestow abundant blessings upon us, particularly on those most in need: that He provide resources to those in poverty, healing to those who are ill, and comfort to those who have recently lost loved ones.

Next week I’ll give a little review of the year past and a look at the year ahead (yet another original idea from the creative vault of the webmaster).

My family gatherings are occurring on days other than Christmas, so my plans for Christmas Day are 9:00AM Mass, then breaking open my set of World Series DVD’s and becoming more acquainted with my recliner.  Is that a great Christmas or what?  Have a great celebration with your family and a great week.  Peace.

 

 

 

 

December 17, 2011 – It’s Almost Here! … Or Over!

December 17, 2011

Well once again this week the holidays have altered my blogging schedule.  I’m running later this week because last night was dedicated to putting up our Christmas tree and decorations, so my apologies to my 3 or 4 fans out there.  I think all of us can claim that even though for the most part we look forward to the holiday season and the good feelings it can bring, that there is also a part of us that is glad when the holidays are over.  It may be because there was a tragedy that happened around this time of year and those bad memories come rushing back, such as unfortunately this past week when 18 year old Rebecca Young of Chester was killed in an auto accident returning from SWIC.  It may be because for one reason or another we won’t be able to be with our family for the holidays.  And for many of us the holiday season may seem to be becoming more of an inconvenience and a reason to get stressed out rather than what it should be – a celebration of one of the great events in history and a time to enjoy each other’s company.  In fact just the other day in Wal-Mart I overheard a conversation where someone was saying how they used to enjoy the holidays so much but with the shopping and all the other hustle and bustle they have gotten to the point where they are glad when the holidays are over.

The fact that you can go all over the internet and find tips for easing the stress of the holidays is proof that the enjoyment and focus of the holidays has somehow become lost.  So what can we, especially us Christians do to reverse this trend and to reclaim our Christmas spirit?  One article I read suggested that we put away our electronic devices for a while, our i-pods, computers, video games, and spend that time in quiet reflection.  OK, moving on then.  Actually, I think we can achieve what the author intends by just getting away from the business of everything for a few minutes and spend time in prayer or reflection.  In fact, on the homepage of our website there is a link to daily reflections for Advent.

Secondly, I think we need to re-emphasize to ourselves and to others that this is the CHRISTMAS season that is at our doorstep, not just the holiday season.  And when Christmas Day is over, the holiday celebration does not end there.  We actually celebrate the Christmas season as a church until the Baptism of the Lord.  In this fashion we don’t have to feel like that we wore the soles off our shoes trying to get everything done just to see it come and pass by in a single day.  We can celebrate Christmas past December 25th even though the radio stations will stop playing Christmas music and people will start taking their decorations down.  The entire Christmas season is a time to rejoice and celebrate.

Finally, we need to remember that the slogan “Jesus is the reason for the season” is not just a nice slogan to remember.  It should tell us where the true focus of our energies should be during the holidays, despite all of the other distractions that come with this time of the year.  It should tell us that in all of our preparations for our celebrations – the shopping, the baking, the eating and drinking, etc., that our preparations should include getting ready to mark the Incarnation – the event when the “word became flesh”, when God appeared in our world in human form as someone “fully divine and fully human”.  We have already mentioned some ways in which we can do this.  Another way is by attending our penance service on Monday evening.  It give us a chance to not only participate in the sacrament of “cleansing”, but allows us to think about what we can try to improve on in the coming year.

As Christians, we have a duty to spread God’s message to others, and to invite those back who for one reason or another may have strayed away from their religion.  Many parishes and other Catholic organizations use this time of year to encourage those people to “Come Home for Christmas”.  There may be questions that those who have not practiced their Catholic faith for some time  have that we are unable to answer, or we may have our own questions.  The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has put a nice resource on their website called “Rediscovering the Faith” that provides some answers to these questions.  Here is the link to te webpage:

www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/how-we-teach/new-evangelization/outreach-and-ministry/rediscovering-the-faith.cfm

We also have the “fanning the flame” program starting next month which will give us the opportunity to study many aspects of the Catholic faith using the U.S. Catechism for Adults as a guide.  You can go to our homepage on the website and get the link to the diocesan website for “fanning the flame”.  I will also be putting more information on our website in the next week. 

We have heard a lot through the media about different organizations removing the word “Christmas” and replacing it with the word “holiday” when it comes to referring to trees and other public displays of the season.  Should we as Christians be offended by this?  Is our identity being stripped away somehow?  Cardinal George comments on the subject in the following video:

I also want to pass along my compliments to our school children and faculty on a job well done at their Christmas program this past Tuesday night.  I will be working the next few days on putting all of the video on our website.  In the meantime, you can enjoy the always entertaining pre-school portion of the program in the video below:

Well next week I will continue a long-standing Christmas tradition (OK, it will be the third year, humor me here).  I will reveal my Christmas wish list – what I would give if i had the power to give anything I wanted to whoever I wanated.  In the meantime, let us enjoy what the season brings.  Have a great week.  Peace.

December 8, 2011 – Rejoice In Waiting

December 9, 2011

I’m putting out my blog a little earlier this week.  I have a family Christmas party to go to Friday night and who knows what Saturday brings.  I have to begin by putting out a public statement:  Ever since I declared myself a free agent, I have had many offers to move my website and my blog to other organizations – other parishes, other Catholic websites, social media and others have been clamoring for my services.  The offers have been tempting to say the least.  Long-term contracts, millions of dollars, cars, homes, small islands, etc.  But I am announcing today that I intend to stay writing and posting for St. Mary’s, unless of course I am offered a 10-year contract elsewhere.

As I’m sure you guessed I am making light of the announcement made today that Albert Pujols is leaving the Cardinals for a more lucrative offer from the Anaheim Angels.  In following the news throughout the day, some Cardinal fans are very upset about today’s happenings.  They are selling their Pujols collectibles on Ebay, and one fan was even burning their Pujols jersey.  I as a dedicated Cardinal fan certainly hoped that he would stay with the club.  He is obviously one of the best, if not the best player in the game, and for the past 11 years he has given us fans many moments of excitement.  But he was a free agent, and had the right to sign with whomever he wished, and I’m not going to begrudge him for that. 

Of course part of me thinks “what is the difference between $210 million and $250 million?  Either way he should make more money than his grandkids’ kids can spend.”  But $40 million is $40 million, and he is a charitable guy.  Another $40 million could certainly make a huge difference to the people in the Dominican Republic whom he supports, and to the Down’s Syndrome foundation that bears his name.  So I hope he and his family are happy, and the Cardinals will find a way to continue to destroy the Cubs. 

Whatever track we choose to take in life, whatever field we pursue, whether we have a family or are single, we ultimately in the end want to be happy.  We want to look back at what we have accomplished and speak of it with pride.  What makes us happy?  Well of course that’s up to each individual.  For some it is money and material things.  For some it is the enjoyment that comes with raising a family.  And for some it is the ability to serve God in various ways.  I think though it is safe to say that we want happiness and we don’t want to have to wait a long time for it – we want to take the shortest path to get there.

This philosophy, however, would seem to go against what we celebrate this weekend.  This Sunday, the 3rd Sunday of Advent, is referred to as Gaudete Sunday.  Gaudete refers to the first word of the entrance antiphon, “Rejoice.”  Rose colored vestments are worn by the priest and the rose colored candle is lit on the Advent wreath to remind us of the joy we feel as Christmas nears.  So essentially what we are being told is that we rejoice because we have to wait a little longer?  We have to find happiness not in the present but in the future which we are unsure of?

Well, not exactly.  We rejoice this weekend because we as Christians know what is coming, or in this case who is coming – the coming of a Savior, the coming of the long-awaited Messiah.  As John the Baptist tells us in this weekend’s gospel, “there is one among you whom you do not recognize,  the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” 

No matter what path our life takes us on, no matter what trials and tribulations we have to endure, the true Christian finds happiness in what is to come, that ultimately Christ will come again, and if we live by His message, we will have eternal life in heaven.  Those who do not make religion a part of their life and do not believe that there is a better place that awaits, how can they attain true happiness?  Even if they find what would appear to be happiness in money or material things, ultimately where is the satisfaction in thinking that what we accomplish here on earth will come to an abrupt end at our death?  Where else is there to turn to find hope in the future?  So there can be happiness found in the waiting and anticipation, particularly for those who have faith in what is to come.

This past week we lost a member of our parish who lived his life in the belief of what was to come and with the desire to spread that message to others, particularly to young people.  Carl Gardiner demonstrated every day his devotion to God and what it meant to be a true Christian, whether it was in attending daily Mass, or in reading the Bible, or in his work in scouting, or serving on the Parish Council, or as a member of the choir, or in extending a friendly greeting to those he knew at Hardee’s as he worked on his crossword puzzle.  He found happiness here on earth because he knew there was reason to rejoice in what was to come, and though his passing came as a shock, I know that he had been dealing with health issues, and he is now enjoying the true happiness that he knew was to come – eternal life with God.  Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.  May he rest in peace.

Well I’ll be waiting by the phone and checking my e-mail for those offers to come rolling in (not).  Besides, how can I disappoint my legions of fans, all 6 or 7 of them?  Seriously, I appreciate you continuing to read my blog and using the website.  We have been averaging about 25-30 hits a day the last few weeks.  Fantastic!  Have a great week.  Peace.

 

December 2, 2011 – Is Religious Freedom Really In Jeopardy?

December 3, 2011

Well, Catholics this week took a big sigh of relief as we made it through the first weekend of using the 3rd translation of the Roman Missal.  I personally thought, at least at the Saturday evening Mass which I attended, that things went pretty smoothly.  It is hard to change when these prayers have become so ingrained in us, but I think in a relatively short time the new translation will become part of us.  I admit, I did OK when I had the book in front of me, but when I went to the altar to distribute the Eucharist, I caught myself saying “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you … DOH!”.  It will continue to be a learning process for all of us.

Stephen Colbert, who is host of his own show on Comedy Central and is a Catholic, gave his own reaction to the new translation as well as to a couple other issues.  Some may find it unhumorous, even offensive, but I think many Catholics will see it as an opportunity to laugh at ourselves.  Here is the link to the video below (about 6 minutes long):

yahweh-or-no-way—altered-catholic-mass–papal-seat-belt—offensive-vodka-ad

Well way back when as the idea came to mind to begin a blog, I wasn’t sure what I would write about each week, but I knew that I wanted to keep things light-hearted and that I didn’t always want to get into topics that were really “deep”.  But sometimes as a Catholic you can’t help but see what is going on around you and defend the basis of your faith.  Many of the items I have been seeing on Catholic information sites have dealt with the erosion of our religious freedom.  So before I give humble opinion about whether or not I think this is a true concern for us, I thought I would refresh my 7th grade lessons and see what the first amendment of our Constitution actually says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Seems pretty clear cut, doesn’t it?  We are all free to exercise our religion as we see fit without fear of consequences.  So if this is so clear cut, and if this has been the law of the land for well over 200 years, then why did the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops feel compelled to make the loss of religious liberty a part of their agenda at their fall meeting?  Why are a group of nurses in New Jersey suing the hospital where they work claiming their religious freedom is being violated for being forced to assist for abortions?  Why is Belmont Abbey College suing the federal government for being forced to provide a mandated health plan that includes coverage for contraceptives, claiming that it is a violation of religious freedom?

The million dollar question then is whether there truly is a religious freedom crisis in this country.  Or is this just a knee-jerk reaction to the fact that the pews in many of our churches are becoming emptier?  In all fairness, I can see both sides.  I think the basic rights that the first amendment allots us are still in tact.  The fact that I can write this blog and post it on the web for the entire world to see is proof of that.  The fact that we can have a rosary rally, that we can pray at meals, that we can pray at a gravesite are all proof of this. 

However, we see those seemingly subtle things that weaken our ability as Christians to make our message seen and heard.  We see policy decisions being made that force us to go against our beliefs in order to comply with them.  We see our kids being unable to express their religious beliefs in public schools.  We even see references to “Christmas” disappearing from public places.  So is this just the evolution of our society and our culture, or is this a true “crisis” situation?

As with many things, there is not an easy, clear-cut answer.  However, in my opinion, if we continue to allow this trend to continue, we could see our religious freedom not necessarily eliminated, but it could slide down the priority list.  We could find ourselves in a situation where the slow erosion of religious freedom is tolerates by our society.

So this observation brings about another obvious question.  What can we as Catholics do to reverse this trend?  Well there are many things we can do.  We can of course petition our representatives to re-consider their positions that are contrary to our beliefs and to the Gospel message.  We can bring our religion to the public by displaying religious articles and bringing religion into our everyday conversations.

We also need to make the effort to continue to increase the knowledge of our faith by whatever means we can in order to better understand why the church takes the positions that it does.  An excellent opportunity to do this is coming right around the corner.  Next month we along with other parishes in the Diocese will begin the “Fanning the Flame” program.  This is a year-long program developed as part of the observance of the 125th anniversary of the founding of the Diocese of Belleville.  The program is based on the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults.  Participants are asked to read a chapter each week and then either do individual reflection or join a group to discuss and reflect on the material.  In this week’s bulletin will be an insert describing the program and also an order form for obtaining the book.  Please consider being a part of this program and join your fellow Catholics in a faith-based “refresher” course.  You can also go to www.ftfdiobelle.org for more information.

Have a great week.  Stay warm this coming week!  Peace.