Archive for April, 2012

April 28, 2012 – Confirmation Memories

April 28, 2012

Well I’ve returned after an unplanned one week hiatus.  The masses have been clamoring for the blog to return (actually, one person asked me about not writing last week – you have to pump yourself up once in a while).  I was fighting computer problems all last weekend, beginning with problems updating the website, and then having problems with my DSL internet service.  Technology has a way of bringing out the very best and very worst of me.  When everything is working as it should, I’m as happy as a lark.  However, when I am having problems with my electronics and am unable to pinpoint the trouble, well, let’s just say the sharp and blunt objects need to be kept at a distance.  And this was on top of the Cardinals losing 2 in a row to the hapless Cubs.  Thankfully, things are working again, the Cardinals won the last game of the series against the Cubs, they won 13-1 last night, and all is right with the world again.

Since I wrote last our Confirmation Class was recognized by our parish at the 9:00AM Mass on April 15.  This essentially brought to an end the process of preparation and reception of the Sacrament.  Though I am biased, I think no one can disagree that our class did a magnificent job in doing the many, many things that were asked of them, and it made for a meaningful experience for them.  In going through the process with them I thought back to my own Confirmation experience when I was in 7th grade.  My teacher was Sr. Anastasia Rubenacker, who just recently passed away.  Sr. Anastasia was a serious person – there was not a lot of joking around in her classes, but she was a person of deep faith.  There was a phrase she repeated many times during our religion classes that year.  She said that “the Spirit can do good things for you, if you let it.”  As a 12 year old I really didn’t know what she meant at the time, but now I think I know what she was trying to tell us – that Confirmation, like the other Sacraments, is not “magic”.  And only if we continue to be faithful disciples of God and are witnesses for our Catholic faith will we receive the full benefits of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Admittedly, the preparation process was not as intense for me as it is now.  We were required to do volunteer service hours as they are now, however when we chose our saint name we didn’t really put any effort or research into it.  I chose Mark as my Confirmation name basically because my Mom wanted to name me Mark, but she was overruled by the rest of the family, so I gave her sort of a “consolation” prize.  Over the years I have come to admire Mark the Evangelist more and more.  He traveled with Peter to Rome and served as his interpreter.  He founded the church of Africa and became Bishop of Alexandria.  He is the patron saint of notaries, so we have something in common (OK, it’s a stretch, work with me here).  If I had done some research on Mark prior to my Confirmation, I think it would have been more to me than just a name; he would have been a true role model.  So even though we require the kids to do more in terms of preparation, I think it makes for a more meaningful experience for them, their sponsors and their families.

I also remember my Confirmation Mass.  Bishop Wurm was the celebrant.  He was a very kind and gentle man who unfortunately contracted cancer and passed away shortly thereafter.  During the Mass one of the main fuses in church blew, leaving us with only part of the lights and no organ.  It actually was kind of nice with the candlelight taking over the church and the choir having to sing A cappella.  Though I remember the Mass, I cannot tell you the exact date it occurred or other details.  In retrospect I wish I would have done more to mark this important event in my life.  Sacraments are more than just “steps” or events that automatically occur at a certain age.  They are true milestones.  They are important stops on our journey of faith.  They are worthy of the preparation we are asked to do for them.  Currently we are studying the sacraments in our “Fanning the Flame” discussion group.  Even if you have never been to a session, you are still more than welcome to join us.

Speaking of milestones, did you realize that the next school year marks the 150th year of the existence of a school in our parish?  The school board has already begun to discuss some ideas as to how to mark this important anniversary in the history of our parish.  They are looking for some more ideas and for folks who are willing to serve on a committee to plan these events.  Anyone is welcome – parents, grandparents, alumni, parishioners, etc.  Call the school office or Fr. Gene if you are interested.

Finally, I wanted to share with you an article that popped up on my Facebook page this morning.  Kind of going back to the confirmation theme, I think most of us are more familiar with the saints that lived during biblical times and many centuries ago.  But there are many, many saints who have been canonized in our recent times.  Bishop Braxton reminds us of this when the Confirmandi go to choose their saints.  One of the more recently canonized saints celebrates her feast day today – St. Gianna Beretta Molla.  She was born in Italy in 1922 and sacrificed her own life for the life of her child.  she was canonized in 2004.  You can read her biography by clicking this link:

www.marriageuniqueforareason.org/2012/04/28/married-saint-st-gianna-beretta-molla/

Well between the football draft and the Cardinal game this afternoon, plus the Blues game this evening, my easy chair will be working overtime.  Enjoy whatever you will be doing this weekend and have a great week ahead.  Peace.

 

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April 22, 2012 – Be Back Next Week

April 22, 2012

I’ve been spending much of the weekend dealing with website/internet issues, so I’m putting aside the blog for a week. We’ll see you next week. Go Blues!

April 14, 2012 – A Glimpse Into the Future?

April 14, 2012

Well I have been on an emotional roller coaster the last few days.  We had Confirmation this past Wednesday at the Cathedral, which went very well and which I will talk more about in a minute.  Then Thursday evening I was all jacked up for the Blues hockey playoff game because they have not won a playoff game in nearly 10 years, only to see them lose in double overtime.  Then yesterday I was praising God because the Cardinal game was rain delayed almost 2 hours, which meant that I could get home from work and not miss any of the game.  Of course the game did not turn out well for Cardinal nation as we got thumped by the team with the bad 4-letter word.  So hopefully today things will get back to a higher note.

Of course the most important event in all of this was the Confirmation of our 12 candidates from our parish and the 45 candidates in total from our cluster parishes this past Wednesday evening.  This was the first time we went to the Cathedral for Confirmation so I think most of us were excited but nervous at the same time as to how it would go.  I think it was a rewarding experience and a very nice ceremony.  The Bishop was appreciative of us coming to the Cathedral as a cluster of 5 parishes.  He attempts to perform all of the Confirmation ceremonies during the time of the 50 days of the Easter season, which is the liturgically appropriate time.  So it makes his schedule more tolerable.  He also feels there is meaning to us coming to the Cathedral – the “mother church” of the Diocese, for a Sacrament which truly binds us to the universal church.

I think it was beneficial to us also as a Confirmation Class and as a parish.  As a catechist it gave us an oppportunity to work with catechists from other parishes and to take away experiences that others are having in their own parishes.  Also, working as a cluster allowed us to split up many of the duties which would normally have fallen on a single parish.   I think it was good for the kids because even though it was a long and late evening, it showed them that they are a part of not just one, single church of Mary Help of Christians in Chester, but are a part of a wider, universal Catholic Church.  Also, for many of the candidates and others in attendance, it was their first time attending the Cathedral.  So again, I think the positive aspects far outweighed the negative aspects.

I think it was also an important step for what we may have to do in the future as a cluster and as a church.  At the end of Mass, Bishop Braxton acknowledged Fr. Lawrence who is currently administrator of the Sparta and Walsh parishes.  He is a priest of the Oblate community who has served as a missionary in our Diocese.  His superior is now calling him back to his native India, so there is now an opening in these two parishes.  With the continued dwindling of the number of clergy, the question that now has to be asked is not just who may be coming as a replacement, but is there someone available to be a replacement.  I think it is a realistic assumption that our cluster, which currently has 3 priests serving its 5 parishes, may see a reduction to 2 priests.  Will this happen now?  We don’t know.  What we do know, however, is that at some point the situation will require us to cooperate more as a cluster, particularly if we want to keep all or even most of our parishes open.  We have already seen this on a limited basis.  During months when the Ellis Grove parish does not have Saturday evening Mass, have you noticed some new faces in church?  This is a phenomenon that is going to continue.

Is there apprehension in having to work together more with our neighboring parishes?  Sure.  There always is with any type of change.  However, I couldn’t help but notice at the Cathedral that people from different parishes knew each other, whether it be through family, work, school, etc.  We are a more “moveable” society than we were even 20 years ago.  Also, our ability to cooperate so well together in planning the Confirmation liturgy gives me increased confidence that we can do more things together and utilize each other’s talents.  So for one evening we had a wonderful experience with our cluster, and it just may serve as the impetus for more evenings together in the future.

I wanted to share with you a couple of articles before closing.  The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is continuing to promote the cause of religious freedom.  They have designated a “Fortnight of Freedom”, a two-week period from June 21 – July 4, as a special time of prayer, study and action for the cause of religious freedom.  Here is a link to an article with more information:

www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1201486.htm

Also, the recent yearly audit of the implementation of the Charter for Protection of Children and Young People showed nearly all of the dioceses nationwide in full compliance, and that the majority of reported cases of abuse continue to be from decades ago.  Here is a link to that article:

www.usccb.org/news/2012/12-059.cfm

Finally, are you a Bruce Springsteen fan?  A blog from “Word on Fire” claims that his latest album is filled with influences from his Catholic background.  Here is that link:

www.wordonfire.org/WoF-Blog/WoF-Blog/April-2012/Music-Springsteen-Can-t-Hide-His-Catholic-Past.aspx

As I complete this, the Cardinals have just hit a home run and now lead the Cubs 5-1, and the world is now back on its axis.  Go Cards!  Go Blues!  Have a great week.  Peace.

 

April 8, 2012 – Happy Easter!

April 8, 2012

So what does a webmaster do on Easter morning?  He gets up, says a prayer of thanksgiving, eats a little breakfast, fires up his computer, and thanks God that he went to the Easter Vigil Mass and doesn’t have to fight the crowd at the Easter Sunday Mass.  I looked back to see what I had written about in Easters past, and I typically have not posted a blog on Easter weekend, so this is new territory for me.  Again this week, I was thrown off of my blogging schedule due to various activities, including cake decorating yesterday with my niece, and of course church-related activities, but I’m certainly not complaining.  All of the Masses and services this past week were beautiful.  An added touch to the Holy Triduum was the presence of our Confirmation Class for each of the three days.  I’m sure it was probably more church than they had ever experienced in a three-day period, and I commend them, their teachers and their parents for their guidance.

Though Holy Week has so many wonderful aspects to it, it certainly is a test of one’s stamina, especially for our priests.  Thank you Fr. Gene for your planning and your devout celebrations this past week.  Thank you also to everyone who helped with the different ministries during Masses and services, and of course to those who helped set up things in church.  It made for a memorable and spiritually fulfilling week.

Speaking of a test of stamina, our 85-year old pontiff was certainly busy this past week.  You can go to www.news.va to see the various ceremonies the Pope was celebrant at this past week, including texts of each of his homilies.  In particular, his homily at the Chrism Mass caught my interest.  At all of the Chrism Masses around the world, besides the bishops blessing the oils to be used in the next year, priests also renew their vows of obedience to God and the church.  There is a group of priests in Austria attempting to form an international Priests’ Initiative.  This “initiative” includes a  “Call to Disobedience”, which calls for among other things changes such as removing the required vow of celebacy, allowing priests to marry, ordaining women, sharing the Eucharist with Protestants, etc.  Without naming this group specifically, Pope Benedict denounced this movement in a rare public criticism of a group of priests.  Here is part of the text of his homily:

“Recently a group of priests from a European country issued a summons to disobedience, and at the same time gave concrete examples of the forms this disobedience might take, even to the point of disregarding definitive decisions of the Church’s Magisterium, such as the question of women’s ordination, for which Blessed Pope John Paul II stated irrevocably that the Church has received no authority from the Lord. Is disobedience a path of renewal for the Church? We would like to believe that the authors of this summons are motivated by concern for the Church, that they are convinced that the slow pace of institutions has to be overcome by drastic measures, in order to open up new paths and to bring the Church up to date. But is disobedience really a way to do this? Do we sense here anything of that configuration to Christ which is the precondition for true renewal, or do we merely sense a desperate push to do something to change the Church in accordance with one’s own preferences and ideas?”

As he continued his homily, the Pope acknowledged that Jesus had defied conventions and prompted radical changes. But the Lord did so, he pointed out, in fulfillment of his Father’s will:

“He lived out his task with obedience and humility all the way to the Cross, and so gave credibility to his mission. Not my will, but thine be done: these words reveal to us the Son, in his humility and his divinity, and they show us the true path.

So why is this important to all Catholics, and not just to priests?  Because we all share in a common priesthood, and though we may have differences in what the church teaches and in our own beliefs, we share in the obligation to be witnesses for Christ and to pass our faith on to the future generations.  That is why it was so important for our Confirmation Class to join us in our celebrations this past week – so they could share in the journey that Christ took.

This of course will be an important week for our Confirmation class.  They will receive the Sacrament of Confirmation this Wednesday, April 11 at 7:00PM at St. Peter’s Cathedral in Belleville with our other cluster parishes.  We will also recognize them at the 9:00AM Mass next Sunday, April 15, and we will have a reception for them following Mass at the KC Hall.  You are invited to attend any or all of these activities.  We of course also invite you prayers for them as they receive the Holy Spirit in a special way into their lives.

Well I’m going to end here and go enjoy the rest of the day.  May you have a wonderful Easter celebration with your family and friends, and may the risen Lord provide you with His abundant blessings throughout this season.  If you do not read these wishes on Easter Sunday, remember that the Easter season is 50 days long, so this applies for the next 7 weeks.  Have a great Easter week.  Peace.