Archive for October, 2013

October 26, 2013 – Thanking Our Priests

October 26, 2013

Just wanted to start out with some positive health news – my heart is fine and pumping like it should.  No, I didn’t have an EKG or a stress test.  I know my heart is fine because I have made it through all of these Cardinal games without incident, so I know my heart must still be able to take an enormous amount of stress.  What a ride it has been so far.  To have played so poorly in Game 1 of the World Series and then to bounce back in Game 2.  Whew!  I can’t wait until tonight for Game 3 and the rest of the weekend.  GO CARDS!

OK, that business aside, time to move on to other matters.  Besides all of the other happenings the month of October brings, it is also typically set aside for Christian churches to, in some way, show appreciation for their pastor.  The USA Council of Serra International sponsors this Sunday, the fourth Sunday in October, as Priesthood Sunday in our country.  If you receive the Messenger newspaper or read it online, you saw the extra section dedicated in appreciation of our Diocesan clergy.

Anytime I talk about the history of our parish, the first thing I try to mention is not the buildings, or organizations, but how fortunate we have been to have had the leadership of dedicated, caring pastors.  I have mentioned it before, but I say it again because I think it is an incredible number.  Since 1892, a 121 year period, we have had just six pastors!  We have truly been spoiled.  So to maintain the previous average, Fr. Gene will have to stay another 13 years.  No problem, right Father?!  Anyway, to say the least, we have seen some wonderful examples of ministry and witness over these many years.  And of course, the role of priest at St. Mary’s has changed over these many years.  From traveling on horseback to many locations, to overseeing a thriving parish with the help of an assistant pastor, to the present day with the number of clergy declining, and once again assessing the need to minister in multiple locations.

It is with this last point that I express my appreciation for Fr. Gene.  At a point in his life when most folks are thinking about retirement, Fr. Gene has willingly taken on more responsibility.  In addition to being our pastor and serving as director of the Deacon Formation program in our Diocese, he has now taken on the responsibility of being Vicar Forane for the West Vicariate, and serving as a member of the Diocesan Finance Council.  These are, of course, just a listing of official duties.  As we know, there are many unofficial duties that a priest performs as well, whether it be as a spiritual mentor, guide, psychologist, mediator, friend, the priest is an intimate part of all of our lives.  The priest is truly selfless.  The question is asked so often why priests cannot be married.  I think a simple answer to this is that he is already married in a way to everyone he ministers to.  When there is an illness, a death, a hardship, etc., the priest is there.  How would we feel if a priest would not be available during these times because he had an obligation to his wife and children.  Would we be understanding of this?  I’m not so sure.

Despite all of the duties occupying Fr. Gene’s time, I admire him because he is always finding ways to show folks how appreciative he is of them.  I found this out again this past week when after our Parish Council meeting there was a Cardinal goodie bag waiting for me in celebration of my birthday.  From the oldest to the youngest, from the most active parishioner to the lukewarm Catholic, Fr. Gene has a way of making everyone feel appreciated and special.  We cannot repay you for all you do for us, Fr. Gene.  All we can offer you is our sincere, heartfelt thanks for everything you have done and for the sacrifices you continue to make.  May God grant you continued good health and happiness.

If you did read the Messenger this past week, you saw many other stories about what our priests mean to their parishioners.  All of our Diocesan priests are dealing with more and more duties being thrown on their laps as the number of priests continues to dwindle.  We certainly need to pray for all of our priests.  Here is a prayer that I found which we can pray for all of our priests:

Thank you Jesus for sending us our wonderful Priests. You called each one of them as you did with the Apostles ” Come follow Me.” May the power of your mercy, O lord, shatter all that might tarnish the sanctity of Priests, for You can do all things.. O Divine and Great High Priest, may the power of Your mercy accompany them everywhere and protect them from the devils, traps and snares which are continually being set for the soul of Priests.
Oh Jesus we pray for all Priests, those on the missions, those of your persecuted Church, those who feel isolated and lonely, those who are now suffering at this time.
Oh Mother Queen of Heaven who walked with the Apostles chosen by your Son, who the Holy Spirit inspired to pray for the Apostles and the first Christians pray with great love in this time for our Priests, and His Church. AMEN. 

We of course must continue to pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and to encourage those whom we feel may make a good priest.  We also pray for Fr. Nick Junker, our new Diocesan Vocation Director, as he begins to work to encourage vocations in our area.

All right, Cardinal fans, are you ready?  Drinks and snacks in place?  Let’s wrap this thing up in St. Louis!  Have a great week.  Peace.

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October 19, 2013 – More Social Media Lessons

October 19, 2013

My apologies for the late blog this week, but I’ve been fighting a bug for about 3 weeks now.  I’ve had a severe case of Cardinal fever.  It really kicked in about 10:30 last night.  I have a feeling it will be another 2 weeks or so before I can shake it, so bear with me until that time.  Of course, I’m not really sick – I’m just distracted like most Cardinal fans by the outstanding baseball we have seen here in the month of October.  This season has been particularly fun because so much of the Cardinals’ success has been because of the performance of so many rookies and second year players.  It makes it fun not only for now, but it makes you look forward to what the future will bring as well.  And as for the other projects I should be working on – there is always November.  GO CARDS!

I didn’t really come across any other earth-shattering topics to write about this week, so I’ll just hit on a few random things.  In an effort to educate myself and others on the latest trends in social media, I wanted to share with you a few new abbreviations.  These coincide with a particular day of the week, and have popped up on Facebook and Instagram.  One is MCM, which I have determined means “man crush Monday.”  On Mondays, people (teens in particular) will post a photo of a guy that they have a “man crush” on.  Girls may put their boyfriend, or some hot dude, or even their dad.  It’s not Monday, but I thought in an effort to set an example, I would post a photo of my “man crush.”  It was a difficult decision, as there are many individuals that I am fond of.  There is this gentleman:

Dolan

This of course is Cardinal Dolan of New York, a native of St. Louis, drinking a toast to the Cardinals after last night’s game.  There is also this gentleman:

Pope-Francis

 

Pope Francis of course, whom so many of us Catholics have gotten to know and love over the last 6 months.  But after last night, I think I have to make this my official man crush:

wacha

 

Yes, Michael Wacha.  A little young, but’s that’s OK.  The way he has been pitching, he deserves this accolade (oh, and that little MVP trophy as well).

Another abbreviation that is used is WCW.  If you are astute, you may have guessed that this is used to signal “woman crush Wednesday.”  So as on Monday, on Wednesdays people will post a photo of a lady that they have a crush on, whether it be a girlfriend, a desirable looking lady, a mom or grandma, etc.  Again, there were a lot of candidates I could have chosen for this particular photo, such as Giada from the Food Network.  But I came to the decision to go with this person:

colleen-carroll-campbell

 

As you see in photo, this is Colleen Carroll Campbell from EWTN.  She is a television host, author, former speechwriter for George W. Bush, wife, mother of 3, and of course a strong Catholic.  If you are not familiar with her background and work, here is a link to her bio:

http://colleen-campbell.com/about-colleen/

All right, there is one more abbreviation to mention, and that is TBT.  I have actually seen a couple of different meanings on this one.  It can mean “truth be told.”  Someone will put the name of a person they know on Facebook, then put “TBT,” then they will say how they feel about the person or what qualities that person has.  However, recently this abbreviation has come to mean something else.  It now also means “throwback Thursday.”  So on Thursday, someone will put a photo of something on social media from the past and label it “TBT.”  It may be a photo of themselves from a year or two ago or a photo of family from years past.  This one was pretty easy to pick.  See if you can determine from the photo who the person is that we all know and love:

wojcik

 

If you have trouble seeing it, the second from the left is the now Very Rev. Eugene H. Wojcik, V.F., circa 1966.  I know I will pay dearly for this, but it was too good to pass up.  I will do my best to continue to keep you updated on the latest social media trends.

I mentioned Cardinal Dolan earlier.  There is an intriguing friendship forming between him and Stephen Colbert, a comedian who has a show on Comedy Central which pokes fun at, well, basically everything.  However, he is a practicing Catholic and is viewed by the Cardinal as a fresh and charismatic ambassador for the Catholic faith in the U.S.  The other night at the Al Smith dinner in New York, Colbert was the keynote speaker.  Here is a sampling of his remarks.  To Cardinal Dolan:

“I have great respect for Cardinal Dolan, though I do have to say, sir, it is not easy when you are wearing that outfit … In that cape and red sash, you look like a matador who’s really let himself go.”  Cardinal Dolan could have made Pope, “but he blew it in the swimsuit competition.”

And on to Pope Francis, he said that if the new pope had planned the event, “we wouldn’t be in white-tie at the Waldorf — we’d be in sweat pants at the corner booth of the IHOP.”  And that if Pope Francis had attended on Thursday, “His Humbleness would be out washing the feet of the coat-check guy or something … We get it, you’re modest.”  If you would like to view a full article on Colbert’s speech, here is the link for you:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/18/nyregion/at-al-smith-dinner-colbert-doesnt-spare-politicians.html?_r=1&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1382215198-0MtODbPzUzkj5Upjs7s1/w

Well I’ll admit this was kind of a sketchy blog.  As I said earlier I’m still a little under the weather.  Thanks again for continuing to read this week after week.  Have a great (World Series) week ahead!  Peace.

 

October 12, 2013 – Using Our Talents

October 12, 2013

You know, maybe being a Cubs fan isn’t as bad as it seems.  While us Cardinal fans are suffering from the effects of sleep deprivation, Cubs fans are once again able to hibernate, get a good night’s sleep, and forget about baseball until February.  On second thought who am I kidding!  I love my Cardinals!  What a game last night!  I certainly hope my Redbirds can keep it up (and keep the games to 9 innings – I’m getting too old for these 13 inning marathons).

Part of the reason that I love sports so much is that I really admire the talents of these pro athletes.  Yes, we can argue about how much they get paid, but I really marvel in seeing a pitcher throw a ball 100 miles per hour, and actually throwing it to the spot he intended.  I marvel in seeing a hitter actually make contact with one of these pitches and hit it over 400 feet away.  I marvel in watching these people do things I can only dream of.

Watching these games and observing other things this week got me to thinking about our talents and how we use them.  God certainly knew what he was doing when He decided that not everyone would be talented at everything, but that everyone would be talented at some things.  Even seemingly simple things.  The other night I sat in on a meeting to plan Fr. Gene’s 40th jubilee celebration in January.  I was listening intently as they talked about color coordination between the tablecloths and napkins, table decorations, trim for the head table, etc.  My initial thoughts in hearing all of this discussion was that I really won’t care if I have a blue or red or polka-dot napkin.  I just want something to wipe my mouth with.  And I really won’t care if there are frilly things on the table or not – just so there is room to set my plate.

However, I then got to thinking.  I may not have an eye for color coordination or decorating, but thank goodness there are some people who do.  If it were left in the hands of people like me, our whole world would probably be beige and white, which would be pretty drab.  On the other hand, I get asked on occasion how I come up with my ideas for my blogs, or how I come up with other things to write.  I did have good teachers who taught me valuable information in school.  But it’s something that just kind of comes to me.  So I guess you could say that maybe that is one of the talents I was able to grab from the pool.

One of the deep questions of life is how a person defines success.  What makes a person successful?  Money, possessions, prestige?  No.  There’s much more to it, but I think a big part of success is discovering what one’s talents are and utilizing them to the fullest.  I think it is shameful when I see what our government wastes money on, but then is willing to cut money from our schools for things such as music, art, building trades, home economics, agriculture, etc.  Don’t we have an obligation to our children to help them discover what their talents are and how to use them?

Jesus gave us a lesson on this very subject.  He tells the parable of the master who goes on a long journey and gives talents to three servants (talents in this case representing money, but following the same idea).  Upon his return, two had invested their talents and provided an enhanced return while the other does not and is condemned as “wicked and slothful.”  Pope Benedict XVI in one of his messages told us that “God calls all men to life and bestows him with talents, while entrusting him with a mission to accomplish.  It would be foolish to think that these gifts are due to us, just as our failing to use them would be a dereliction of the goal of our very existence.”  The third servant “behaved as if his master would not to return, as if there was not a day when he would ask him to account for his activities.”  To refuse to use our gifts or from embarking on our mission “would be a dereliction of the purpose of their (our talents’) existence.”

Our parish and our nation has a wonderful example of an organization that uses its talents for the common good.  Our Knights of Columbus work very hard not only to spread the message of Jesus, but in doing so much to raise funds for different charities (Catholic and non-Catholic).  This past Thursday Pope Francis met with the K of C’s Board of Directors.  He encouraged the Knights of Columbus to continue working towards the renewal of society through their charitable efforts, prayer and the witness of their lives.  He also thanked the Knights for their prayers on his behalf, saying that “on this occasion I also wish to express my gratitude for the unfailing support which your Order has always given to the works of the Holy See.  This support finds particular expression in the Vicarius Christi Fund, which is an eloquent sign of your solidarity with the Successor of Peter in his concern for the universal Church, but it is also seen in the daily prayers, sacrifices and apostolic works of so many Knights in their local Councils, their parishes and their communities.”

The Vicarius Christi Fund is an initiative that supports the Pope’s personal charities.  It is one of many charitable endeavors run by the Knights of Columbus, the world’s largest lay Catholic organization which has more than 1.8 million members throughout the world.  On this Columbus Day weekend, we offer our gratitude to our local Council #3790 for all that they do for our parish and community at large, and to the K of C organization throughout the U.S. for being such a marvelous Catholic presence.

Have a great week.  Go Cardinals!  Peace.

October 4, 2013 – October Happenings

October 4, 2013

I had good intentions to write this much earlier this evening, but I needed some recovery time to lick my wounds from the Cardinal game earlier today.  Certainly wasn’t pretty, but we have been in this situation many times before and bounced back.  Gotta keep the faith!

Besides the baseball playoffs and the transition into autumn, the church puts special emphasis on a couple of things during the month of October.  This month is first of all dedicated to the Holy Rosary,  I was curious as to why October was chosen as the month for this commemoration, so I did a little research.  In the traditional church calendar, many of the feasts between mid-September and the First Sunday of Advent refer to conflicts between Christianity and Islam, and great victories in battles in which the Church was threatened.  The memory of these events turns our thoughts to the end of times, when the Church will undergo trials and tribulations before the return of Christ the King.

So where does the rosary fit into this?  The rosary – more specifically, Our Lady of the Rosary, is credited with victory in many of the battles that these feasts celebrate.  The one of most note is the Battle of Lepanto, which occurred on October 7, 1571.   In this battle, a Christian fleet defeated a superior Ottoman Muslim fleet, and halted the westward expansion of Islam in the Mediterranean.  To mark this victory, Pope Pius V instituted the Feast of Our Lady of Victory on October 7.  We still celebrate this today as Our Lady of the Rosary.  In 1883, Pope Leo XIII officially dedicated the month of October to the Holy Rosary.  In doing so, he referenced this battle and feast.

Of course, any time is appropriate to pray the rosary, but we should make a special effort to do so during this month.  We will once again have our Rosary Rally in the church yard on Saturday, October 12 at 4:30PM.  What a great way to publicly show our spirituality and our dedication to our Blessed Mother.

Also, in the United States, the month of October is designated as Respect Life Month, with this Sunday, October 6 marked as Respect Life Sunday.  We of course have already hashed through the comments made by Pope Francis that we should not feel that it is necessary to talk about issues such as abortion and use of contraception all of the time.  It should be made clear that the doors of the church are open to anyone, and we all can be redeemed if we accept God into our life and follow His teachings.  However, in the same interview, he says that the teaching of the church on issues of respecting life is clear.  We as Catholics still have an obligation to spread the message that Jesus wants our culture to be a culture that respects all forms of life.

I think we also tend to get caught in the trap of thinking that respecting life only deals with the issues of abortion and contraception, when the truth is that it involves so much more.  Life matters include things such as our obligation to protect our religious freedom, dealing with domestic violence, the importance of marriage as the best environment to raise children, neglecting the needs of those with disabilities, the death penalty, euthanasia, and so much more.  I have a couple of links to share with you from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that explain much about our obligation to defend life.  The first is a statement from Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston on Respect Life Sunday:

http://www.usccb.org/about/pro-life-activities/respect-life-program/2013/omalley-respect-life-sunday-statement-2013.cfm

The other is the link to the USCCB Respect Life Program which includes prayers, pamphlets, flyers, articles, posters, and much more.  Here is that link:

http://www.usccb.org/about/pro-life-activities/respect-life-program/

OK, I also wanted to touch on a couple of happenings around the Vatican this past week.  Earlier in the week Pope Francis met for the first time with a council of 8 Cardinals (which included Sean O’Malley) he appointed to advise him on reforming the Roman Curia and governance of the church.  The spokesman for Pope Francis said the cardinals’ meetings began Tuesday morning with the pope and cardinals conducting a short review on the structure of the church since the Second Vatican Council, held in Rome from 1962-65.  Other topics discussed were: communion, participation and collegiality in the church; the preferential option for the poor; and the different responsibilities of all members of the church.

The reform of the Synod of Bishops was also a “major theme” of the first day of the meeting.  The Synod of Bishops is an advisory body of bishops from around the world, set up after the Second Vatican Council and meant to advise the pope in his governing of the church.  The pope has said several times he would like to reform the body, which has a permanent secretariat at the Vatican but is not part of the central bureaucracy.  The pope said he and his advisory cardinals need to “find a path for coordination between synodality and the bishop of Rome.”  The spokesman said another theme being taken up by the cardinals group is the reform of the Vatican bureaucracy. Included in that discussion, he said, is the relationship of the Vatican’s various offices with the pope and the role of the Vatican’s secretary of state, who in the last few decades has traditionally acted as a sort of prime minister for the pontiff.  There are “ample suggestions” for ideas of reform, the spokesman said, adding that people should not expect conclusions on any of the matters to come quickly.  The Council of Cardinals will meet again in December and February.

Finally, Pope Francis, in observance of the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, visited the town of Assisi for Mass and other events, including visiting the tomb of Sr. Francis.  In one of the more light-hearted yet memorable moments of the day, a woman asked him if he could give her some advice for his son, who is in his 30’s and has a longtime girlfriend but is leery of marriage and leaving home.  The Pope’s advice: “Stop ironing his shirts.”  Yes ladies, I think you got a good one.

Have a great week.  Say a rosary for the Cardinals.  Peace.