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I am well into my fourth year at Saint Paul the Apostle Parish and, although my official title is "pastor", I will be the first to admit that Jesus Christ must be our true shepherd, our pastor. 

Since my arrival in July of 2012 I have been focusing my efforts at forming intentional disciples as an essential part of my ministry. This task of following Christ is no new mission rather a re commitment to the essential mission of the Church to be the presence of Jesus Christ to one another and our community. 


 Our staff at Saint Paul's works together to fulfill this mission and we hope you will find a hospitable, welcoming community where the love of Jesus Christ and healthy relationship are celebrated. Join us as we gather to hear the Word of God, share in the Eucharist, and encounter God's love through events, ministries, and services our parish offers. I invite you to explore our St. Paul the Apostle Catholic School, our religious education programs, adult faith formation, bible studies, CEW retreat programs, our new IGNITE gathering, Altar and Rosary Society, Knights of Columbus, and our outreach in the community by collecting food for our food banks and serving the needy. 


 Please contact me or any member of our staff if you have questions or want more information about our parish community.
 

Recent Posts

The type of freedom that we all need

This weekend I will be away from the parish.  I am taking advantage of Deacon Bob’s preaching and the close proximity of my good friend, Fr. Tom Doyle who will be celebrating Mass here this weekend.  I do hope all of you have a blessed, safe and happy Fourth of July weekend!

     Last weekend our second reading from the Apostle Paul spoke about a peculiar type of freedom that Christians enjoy.  He wrote:

     “Brothers and sisters:
     “For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.

     “For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters.
But do not use this freedom
as an opportunity for the flesh;
rather, serve one another through love.

     “For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

     Paul is talking about the type of freedom that allows us to cooperate with God in order to become the Saints we are called to be.  The freedom that speaks of our dignity as children of God and liberates us from slavery to feelings, passions, hurts, fears, and selfishness.  For Paul, freedom is not doing anything we want to do, but the ability to freely do what God has created us to do and to embrace the will of God. 

     This is the type of freedom that we all need and it is a freedom worth pondering on this Fourth of July weekend. 

     Commenting on Jesus’ healing of the leper (Luke 5:12-16) at the June 22nd Wednesday general audience, his final audience before taking a summer pause, Pope Francis spoke about the leper’s plea to Jesus: “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.”

     “I will confide something personal to you,” Pope Francis told the faithful and pilgrims gathered in a sunny St. Peter’s Square. “In the evening, before going to bed, I pray this short prayer: ‘Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.’ (Luke 5:12). And I pray five ‘Our Fathers,’ one for each of Jesus’ wounds, because Jesus has cleansed us by his wounds.”

     “If I do this, you can too, at your home, and say: ‘Lord, if you will, you can make me clean’ and think of Jesus’ wounds and say one ‘Our Father’ for each of them. Jesus always hears us,” he said.

     I recommend that we try this, each of us, in our homes.

 

 

Questions to ponder this week:

 

     *How does the freedom that Saint Paul talks about (see my letter above) different from our American understanding of freedom? 

 

     *For “freedom Christ set us free” … Have you experienced this?  What areas of your life do you need/wish to allow Christ to set you free?

 

 

Who do I say that you are, Lord?

Last week in my Sunday homily, I quoted a reflection by a priest in the Northeast who pens a blog called The Concorde Pastor.  As we continue to reflect on the implications of discipleship, I will share a portion of that reflection with you:

Who do I say that you are, Lord?

That’s a great question!  It might be the most important, the most critical question anyone has ever put to me.

     Of course, I say that you are God.  I say that every week here in church. But who do I say you are outside of church, in my daily life, on all the days between the times I come here to pray?

  • When confronted with the tragedy in Orlando –when I ponder the slaughter of innocent life,

when I pray for those who died: who do I say that you are, Lord?

  • When those 21 young men were beheaded in Libya,- because they said you were their God –

when I think of them: who do I say that you are, Lord?

  • When I look at all I have and think of all I want to have - and then consider the needs of the poor: who do I say that you are, Lord?
  • When I’m making important choices and decisions and I know my faith has a part to play:

who do I say you are, L

  • When bias and prejudice shape my thinking and how I see the world: who do I say you are, Lord?
  • When I watch the political scene and hear the candidates speak, when I listen to what they promise and pledge: who do I say you are, Lord?
  • When I’m struggling and facing a crisis and the easy way out sure looks good:  who do I say you are, Lord?
  • When I’m really at odds with family or friends and stubbornly digging my heels in: who do I say you are, Lord?
  • • When I’m choosing my entertainment (G, PG, PG-13, R or X): who do I say that you are, Lord?
  • When I stand before you (who know well who I am:) who do I say that you are, Lord?

     Jesus, I want to say you’re the Lord of my life, God of my soul, the Spirit of all my hopes and desires.

     But to say all that is to carry the cross of sacrifice and to follow you: to deny what I often think is life and to seek and find my true life in you.

     ****************

Great food for thought!

 

Questions to ponder this week:

     *Are there any areas in your life where is it difficult for you to manifest your faith due to embarrassment or fear?  What should you do about this? 

     *Who do you say Jesus is? 

 

Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

    It is so central, that not to participate in this event, is to turn our back on who we are.  It should be the center of our week, so that everything we do during the week leads up to it and everything we anticipate the following week draws life from it. 

     If you are reading my letter, you probably know what I’m talking about … the Eucharist or Mass.  Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.  When we gather as a community around the Table of the Lord we do so not for the sake of entertainment. We come here with the awareness that we need Jesus Christ in our lives.  It was Jesus who said that we must “do this” in memory of Him.  So we better get the “do this” right. 

     The Body and Blood of Christ is not an object that we manipulate.  It shouldn’t be seen merely as a “totem” or “sacred object” that is magical.  It is so much more than that.  The Body and Blood of Christ is our strength, our life, the very presence of God who challenges us to be the person we are called to be. 

     I often like to think of this ritual we enter into each week as an  opportunity we are given to fully embrace our identity and to unmask the truth of how well we have lived that identity. 

     Today’s gospel is the familiar account of Jesus multiplying the loaves and fishes in Luke, chapter 9.  This event has all kinds of overtones for the Mass we participate in each week.  In this account Jesus does four things as he feeds the crowds.  He takes the loaves and fish.  He blesses them, breaks them and gives them to those who are hungry. 

     I would suggest that Jesus desires to do the same thing to us each week as we gather for the Mass and worship in this most important and unique Christian act. 

     It is not easy to be taken by Jesus.  We like our comfortable life surrounded by easy going friends.  It is not easy to be blessed and set apart for some unique service.  Certainly it is not easy to be broken and given when we want to do things our way and to be served rather than to serve others.  However, love does this.  It takes, blesses, breaks and gives. 

     Often we are reminded that God is love.  Today’s Feast is a reminder of how this love is lived: taken, blessed, broken and shared. 

 

The Holy Trinity

       I do get some good ideas every now and then from the internet.  Here are some ideas on the complex reality of the blessed Trinity.

      There are ways to explain the Trinity and ways to explain it away.  Here is one that “limps” a little:  An apple is like the Trinity: The peel, the flesh, and the seeds- 3 parts to 1 apple. We have 3 parts to 1 God as well: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

     *The peel is like God the Father, because He protects us.

     *The flesh is like God the Son, because Jesus is God made flesh.

     *The seeds are like the Holy Spirit because He  helps us grow.

     But  here is a better way:

     Jesus tells us there’s something about a child’s way of believing that ought to be true of all of us. We must, he tells us, become like them if we’re going to enter the kingdom of God at all. In one sense, it’s true, children are often hyper-literal.  All I need mention is the Easter bunny and you get the picture.

     But, in the more important ways, children are open to mystery and paradox in ways adults often aren’t. Children explore the world around them with a wide-eyed sense of wonder. They don’t comprehend it all, and they know they don’t comprehend it all.

    That’s the kind of blessed ignorance I believe Jesus commends. In order to believe, you must trust everything God has said to you.  However, to see at all we must know that we “see through a glass darkly” (1 Cor. 13:12).

     With that the case, we ought to boldly say to our children, “God is One and God is three. I can’t fully explain all of that because that’s how big and mysterious God and his ways are. Isn’t that wonderful?” When your child says, “That boggles my mind,” don’t respond with a worried handwringing but with a twinkle in your eye. “I know!” you say. “Me too! Isn’t that wild, and great!”

     That doesn’t end the conversation, of course. It only begins it. But we’ve got several trillion years and beyond to explore the depths of the Trinitarian reality. A start is what we need.

     And learning of God’s oneness and three-ness in terms of wonder and awe is a good place, I think, to start vaccinating our children from the kind of sterile rationalism, Christian or atheist, that can lead to a boring, despairing, tragically normal sort of life.

 

What does Mass mean to you?

This weekend is our celebration of First Holy Communion with our children.  So, I thought it might be nice to ask: What does it mean to you? There are a variety of responses to that question, here are some:

     * Mass is the time when I get peace and quiet. It’s the only peace I have all week. I really value the space and the time to pray.

     * I just come, it’s been a habit since childhood. I don’t really know why, but Mass helps me to make sense of the rest of my life.

     * I find Mass very difficult. It’s hard to get the kids to settle down. Sometimes we fight all the way to Mass in the car, but I keep persevering as I know that God’s in the mess.

     * I get great strength from praying with others. I feel part of a bigger community when I come to Mass. My kids need that sense of knowing that they are part of something bigger than our wee family.

    * I feel a bond with the parish community when I come to Sunday Mass. The Mass also connects us as a family.

    * As a family it helps us to remember God’s love for us. We all need more love in our lives. ·

     * Since my dad died it all makes more sense for me. Now I have a real sense of what it means each week that we remember the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. He’s with us.

    * It’s very difficult in our world to keep following Jesus. I need to be fed spiritually. At Mass this happens every week when we listen to the words of Scripture and receive Jesus in Communion.

     Here are some basic principles which can help children feel that they are part of the bigger gathering. These came from a mother who was trying to encourage families to be more conscious of how they encourage children to participate:

     1) Expect good behavior and encourage an older child to do what everyone else is doing, standing, sitting kneeling, singing etc. Mass is great because there are things to do.

     2) Allow children to see the statues and paintings- these are the tools for explaining the Mass after all.

     3) Sit near the front so they can see what is happening.

     4) Have quiet things for younger ones-books that should be Christ focused not secular, and possibly coloring.

     5) Go to Mass every week. Children like and need routine and they get used to going and taking part.

     6) Teach children some of the basic prayers. Being able to join in with the basic Mass parts and the Our Father helps.

     7) Be good role models.  

 

Baselines

  Over a year ago we introduced the image of a baseball diamond as a blueprint for discipleship in our parish.  In this image the first baseline around the diamond represents “loving Jesus.”  The second baseline represents learning to be a disciple.  We are on the third baseline when we begin to live into our calling.  The final baseline represents a readiness to launch into the world actively sharing our faith. 

     As disciples we continue to go through these baselines all the time.  They are dynamic and fluid.  Everything we do in the parish must relate to one of these baselines.  So let’s review them: 

     The first baseline is the love Jesus.  This is where we begin to hear the voice of Jesus.  We hear him speak to us words of love, mercy and compassion.  This baseline often calls us to conversion as we turn from evil and sin to embrace a new way of life.  Here we see Christianity and discipleship not as a set of rules and doctrines .  Rather we see the heart and focus of our faith as a response to a person.  That person, of course, is Jesus Christ.  He never shames us but invites us to trust in him. 

     Only by going through this first baseline can we proceed to the next baseline which is to learn more deeply the ways of the Lord.  As intentional disciples we never stop loving or learning. 

     Loving and learning leads to the third baselines which is living into our calling and beginning to discern the deeper vocation God has for us.  Every call is unique to our person but it ultimate results in holiness.  On the “third” baseline Christ is more present to us and we are more present to Christ and aligned to his will.

     The final baseline of this “discipleship” diamond invites us to mission as we launch out with courage to share the love we have received. 

     Every week we gather together as a community of disciples around the Table of the Word of God (Scripture) and the Eucharist (communion with Jesus and union with Christ’s sacrificial love offered on the cross). 

     At this gathering we hear the voice of the Shepherd, instructed by his love and nourished by his presence.    We also are given our marching orders in this holy assembly.  Nourished by Word and Sacrament we are sent forth by the community to bring God’s grace and love to others. 

     This weekend we hear a powerful Word that challenges us to be steadfast in this mission:

“I give you a new commandment: love one another.  As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.      This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love one another.”

The Redemption of Peter

    As we revisit our call to intentional discipleship this Easter season, we are given a beautiful reading this Sunday from the twenty-first chapter of John’s Gospel. I call this reading the “redemption of Peter.” 

     In this reading we hear Peter once again fishing without success when the resurrected Jesus appears and tells him to cast his net into the sea.  He catches a huge number of fish—just as he did when Jesus first called him. This time Peter runs towards the Lord instead of asking him to “leave, for I am a sinner.”  Peter reverses his earlier hesitancy. 

     Secondly, Peter affirms his love for Jesus three times around a charcoal fire reversing his denial of Jesus three times around another charcoal fire in the courtyard of the high priest. 

     Both these instances show a Peter who is now transformed by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

     There is another feature of this Gospel that has always intrigued me.  The number of fish that the disciples caught in response to Jesus’ command comes to 153.

     Scripture scholars and saints have long pondered the deeper significance of this number. 

     Many have suggested that 153 is the Power of 17. Early church father St. Augustine described the significance of 153 as the sum of 1+2+3+4+…..+16+17. That then leads to the question what is the significance of 17?  Augustine says 17 means 10 + 7 and represents the ten commandments plus the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Gregory the Great agreed with Augustine’s 17 but he comes to 153 by multiplying 17 by the number of heavenly hierarchies (angels), 9.

     These speculations can be interesting to ponder but the real issue continues to be our response to divine initiative.  We are nothing without God.  As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are weak, powerless and impotent unless we learn to hear and respond to Jesus’ call. 

I invite you to read the reflection this week in our parish Easter Bible study program on Discipleship Revisited. You can find it on our new parish app: to download the app, go to the app store or Google store and search for “St Paul Davenport” or you may find the material on our parish website: www.stpaulcatholicparish.org.

     There is no doubt that we are called to make Jesus Christ the center of our lives and relationships.  Like Peter, let’s learn to respond to the divine initiative.

 

Our Call to Intentional Discipleship

    These next few weeks as we journey through the Easter Season we will be revisiting our call to intentional discipleship.

     One of the vehicles we are using these next four weeks will be movies that reflect themes centered around discipleship.  This Thursday in Denning Hall, we begin our very own St. Paul the Apostle film festival.

     Our first move will be The Human Experience.  I have never seen it, so I am looking forward to viewing this film and reflecting on its message. Below is a brief synopsis of the film:

    The Human Experience (2008) is a 90-minute documentary produced by Grassroots Films and directed by Charles Kinnane. The film tells the story of brothers Clifford and Jeffrey Azize and their travels as they search for answers to the question, "What does it mean to be human?". Their friends Michael Campo and Matthew Sanchez participate in some of the travels. The film is divided into three sections, covering the experiences of Jeffrey and his friends in New York, Peru, and Ghana. The Human Experience is rated PG-13.

     The first experience follows  the Azize brothers to the streets of New York City, where the boys live with the homeless for a week in one of the coldest winters on record.  The Azize brothers look for hope among their homeless companions, while learning how to survive on the streets.

     During their second experience, the brothers join a group of surfers from Surf For The Cause traveling to Peru. There, they visit a hospital for abandoned children in the foothills of the Andes Mountains. The boys are surprised to find joy among the children and their caretakers despite serious medical problems.

    In their final experience, the brothers, along with their friends Michael Campo and Matthew Sanchez, go to Africa. Michael is on his way to visit a leper colony in rural Ghana. On their way to the colony, the boys meet victims of AIDS and their families. Once they reach the leper colony, they befriend lepers who are disfigured from the disease and have been exiled from their villages.

     At the end of the film, the boys return to their life in New York with a deeper insight into the human condition.

      We hope this film and those that follow will spur discussion on our own call of discipleship.

Alleluia! Jesus Christ is risen from the dead!

Alleluia!  Jesus Christ is risen from the dead!  Oh, how we need Easter!  We were dead in so many ways:  gossip, bickering, distrust, fear, hopelessness, anger, suspicion, shame, pettiness, and violence.  These are only a few areas where death invades our life.  During the season of Lent we pondered this reality.

     Jesus raised from the dead proclaims life:  freedom, hope, peace, trust, grace, love, encouragement, forgiveness and mercy.  We do not need to be shackled to death any longer! 

     To experience resurrection we must be honest about the affects of death on our lives.  Now, after our Lenten journey we embark on this fifty day season we call Easter.  Life overcomes death! Let joy abound!

     This Easter season our parish will begin a journey we call “discipleship revisited.”  If you will recall, last year we used the season of Easter as a time to reflect intently on the call of discipleship.  We spoke about the four aspects of every disciple’s journey:  Love Jesus, Learn to be a disciple, Live your calling, and Launch into the world. 

 This Easter we will revisit this call to discipleship as we reflect on the gospel stories during these next several weeks.  We will explore this call to discipleship in some unique and interesting ways. 

     For the next four weeks we invite you to our own St. Paul Film Festival.  Every Thursday for the four weeks of April (7, 14, 21, and 28) we will be screening a film in Denning Hall that highlights some aspect of discipleship.  You will be able to read more about this elsewhere in the bulletin. 

     During the four Mondays of April, the children in our school will be treated to a unique lunch experience as a mystery guest joins them with some wisdom to share and ideas that will bring the gospel message to life for our children. 

      My own preaching during this time will reflect the theme of discipleship revisited.  My hope is that these weeks will be a time of renewal as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ and live this joyous faith in our world today. 

      Once we were dead.  Now we live.  Each disciple understands this movement from death to life.  In all honesty, we go through this movement from death to life many times … and each time we rejoice.  Death has no more power.  He is risen!

God’s mercy knows no boundaries!

     In this Sunday’s Gospel from Luke (cycle C) we hear the story of the woman caught in adultery.  Once again, the mercy of Jesus is showcased for all to see.  During the Saturday evening Mass we will hear the familiar gospel of Lazarus being raised from the dead (cycle A readings) as we prepare those not baptized for entering the church in a few weeks. 

     God’s mercy knows no boundaries!  His love is everlasting! 

     The Maryknoll Missionaries have a nice little publication by the same name that included a reflection in the recent issue called The Stations of Mercy. The author is Joseph Veneroso, M.M. I was inspired by them and hope you will be too. I encourage you to look at this little periodical as well. Simply go online at www.maryknollmagazine.com to find out more information.

      “Mercy spares Barabbas from certain and humiliating death

     “Mercy receives the cross to prove God’s love and forgiveness.

     “Mercy struggles to rise and inspire all who repeatedly fail.

     “Mercy holds broken hearts as Mother and Son exchange silent glances.

     “Mercy forces Simon to pick up and bear another’s shame.

    “Mercy risks public ridicule to wipe the face of one doomed to die.

    “Mercy bids women to weep for their children in a heartless world. 

     “Mercy stands naked before judgmental and accusing eyes.

     “Mercy comforts the thief with the promise of paradise.

     “Mercy offers bitter wine to quench soon-to-be silent lips.

     “Mercy pours out grace upon an indifferent and uncaring world. 

     “Mercy prepares a proper tomb for him whom others despised. 

     “Mercy rises at dawn to anoint the body of the dead but finds nothing but an empty tomb. 

**********

     The annual Chrism Mass will be celebrated this Monday evening, March 14 at 5 PM at Sacred Heart Cathedral.  I encourage you to attend.  At this Mass Bishop Amos will bless the holy oils used for the Sacraments of the Church.  The priests also will renew their ordination promises.  It is an inspiring liturgy! 

 

Our sin is like a jewel...

     In our Lenten Journey with Pope Francis, a study for small groups written by our own Michael Havercamp, he has included the following story: 

     “After serving for several years as the Bishop of Vittorio Veneto, Albino Luciani (later Pope John Paul I) held some training exercises for parish priests, and when commenting on the parable of the Prodigal Son once said this about the Father: ‘He waits. Always. And it is never too late. That’s what he’s like, that’s how he is . . . he’s a father. A father waiting at the doorway, who sees us when we are still far off, who is moved, and who comes running toward us, embraces us, and kisses us tenderly. . . . Our sin is like a jewel that we present to him to obtain the consolation of forgiveness. . . . Giving a gift of jewels is a noble thing to do, and it is not a defeat but a joyous victory to let God win!’”

     When I read that our sin is “like a jewel” I stopped to ponder that image.  My sins are generally nothing that I would consider to be “jewel-like.”  As I thought about this image, another came to mind.  I think my sins are more  like the irritating sand that when engulfed by the oyster becomes a pearl. The “oyster” in this instance is the incredible grace and mercy of God. 

    Nothing can keep us from the love of God … except, perhaps, our own personal stubbornness and hard heartedness.  Don’t run away from this mercy!  Let us imitate the Father in his generosity and compassion and not the older son in his stubbornness and anger.

    About a year or so ago the parish staff had a retreat day and we were asked to express in six words the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  This is a great exercise.  I hope you will try it some time. 

     The six words I chose were:  Infinite Mercy, Patient Love, Abiding Grace

     I wish I could live these words more and put them into action in my life and ministry.  

     When I think about the story of the prodigal father … prodigal in his reckless and extravagant love… I think of my six words.  I guess they readily come to my mind because I have experienced such extravagance from our Heavenly Father.  My prayer is that all of us have that experience and that our parish will learn the depth, height, and breadth of that love.  A prodigal love from a prodigal God!

 

Ponder the following from Fr. Rolheiser

    Pardon me, but I am going to “cheat” this weekend and let Fr. Ron Rolheiser give us some insight and inspiration about a subject that we don’t like to talk about:  Hell. 

    Ponder the following from Fr. Rolheiser.  It is worth the read: 

   “There’s a question about God’s goodness as old as religion itself: How can an all-good God send someone to hell for all eternity? How can God be all-merciful and all-loving if there is eternal punishment?

     “It’s a false question. God doesn’t send anyone to hell and God doesn’t deal out eternal punishment. God offers us life and the choice is ours as to whether we accept that or not.

    “God, Jesus tells us, doesn’t judge anyone. We judge ourselves. God doesn’t create hell and God doesn’t send anyone to hell. But that doesn’t mean that hell doesn’t exist and that it isn’t a possibility for us. Here, in essence, is how Jesus explains this:

     “God sends his life into the world and we can choose that life or reject it. We judge ourselves in making that choice. If we choose life, we are ultimately choosing heaven. If we reject life, we end up living outside of life and that ultimately is hell. But we make that choice, God doesn’t send us anywhere. Moreover, hell is not a positive punishment created by God to make us suffer. Hell is the absence of something, namely, living inside of the life that’s offered to us.

   “To say all of this is not to say that hell isn’t real or that it isn’t a real possibility for every person. Hell is real, but it isn’t a positive punishment created by God to deal out justice or vengeance or to prove to the hard-hearted and unrepentant that they made a mistake. Hell is the absence of life, of love, of forgiveness, of community, and God doesn’t send anyone there. We can end up there, outside of love and community, but that’s a choice we make if we, culpably, reject these as they are offered to us during our lifetime. Hell, as John Shea once said, is never a surprise waiting for a happy person, it’s the full-flowering of a life that rejects love, forgiveness, and community.

    “Sartre once famously stated that hell is the other person. The reverse is true. Hell is what we experience when we choose ourselves over a community of life with others. Human life is meant to be shared life, shared existence, participation inside of a community of life that includes the Trinity itself.

   “God is love, scripture tells us, and those who abide in love, abide in God, and God abides in them. In this context, love should not be understood primarily as romantic love. The text doesn’t say that ‘those who fall in love’ abide in God (though that too can be true). In essence, the text might be reworded to say: ‘God is shared existence, and those who share life with others, already live inside of God’s life.’

    “But the reverse is also true: When we don’t share our lives, we end up outside of life. That, in essence, is hell.”

- Fr. Ron Rolheiser

 

I love Lent

Lent is early!

     I am not sure if you are ready for this annual journey of renewal and conversion, but ready or not, this Wednesday is Ash Wednesday.  

     During this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, Lent takes on particular significance.  A few priests from our Diocese have traveled to Rome this week to join several hundred priests who will be sent out by Pope Francis as Missionaries of Mercy proclaiming God’s forgiveness and grace in their dioceses. 

     This Ash Wednesday, I hope you will join us for one of three Ash Wednesday Masses to begin this sacred journey.  Although we will not be commissioned in the same way as the priests in Rome, we all have a call to be missionaries of mercy to our communities and families.  As the blessed ashes are placed on our forehead this Wednesday and as we hear the words:  “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel” may we feel the call sending us as envoys of God’s mercy this Lent and beyond. 

     The word Lent comes from the old English word “Lencten” which is roughly translated as “Spring.”  We get the word “lengthen” from this same word.  This makes sense since the days during this time of year are lengthening. 

    I love Lent.  It can be a time of frenzied activity as we engage in all kinds of programs and opportunities for spiritual growth and development.  We desire a true spiritual Spring to happen as we approach the renewal of our baptismal promises on Easter Sunday. There are so many things that we can do:  Stations of the Cross, soup suppers, works of mercy, small groups, daily Mass, rosaries … not to mention fasting!

     I would suggest that we approach this Lent not in a flurry of frenzied activity but with a more conscious, deliberate and peaceful manner. May I suggest that we look at all the options before us—many of them listed in this bulletin– and choose maybe one or two disciplines or activities that we can do consistently and with greater depth?  Maybe we need to be still and become more aware of the intentions that inform our actions.  Maybe we can take shorter breaks more often and pause with gratitude as we make this journey. 

     God desires more of us, not more things from us.  Jesus comes to lift burdens not to add more burdens to our day.

 

 

Catholic Schools Week

     When Bishop Amos appointed me as Vicar General for the Diocese the Catholic Messenger asked me for a quote which some of you might have read when the  announcement was made.  I mentioned that I was pleased to work in whatever way I was called, because “I love this Diocese that has nurtured me from the font of baptism through ordination and beyond.”

     This nurturing of my faith was not done in a vacuum.  I was blessed with wonderful parents, an environment that manifested faith and the support needed to cultivate that faith.  Catholic schools were an important part of that environment. 

     This week we celebrate Catholic Schools Week with many activities to highlight the part that our Catholic schools play in our community.  We believe in Catholic schools and Saint Paul the Apostle School and Assumption High School are an integral and important part of who we are as a parish community.  

    Education in a Catholic school, however, does not guarantee growth in the  Faith nor does it assure us of an easy path to sanctity.  All of us know that many other factors support or hinder the faith life of an individual.  However, Catholic schools do provide a good foundation for exploring the faith and growing as disciples of Christ.  There is no doubt that students in our Catholic schools have more opportunities to understand  and know our faith.

     Parents are indispensible as the primary educators of their children in the ways of faith.  A Catholic school’s role is to support the parent.  There is no way we can substitute for the parent, especially in handing on the faith to the next generation.  What a parent does to foster the faith of their child has far more weight than anything we  do. 

     Catholic schools at their best do much more than feed the mind and foster academic understanding of the faith.  At our best, we model faith through the environment we create for our students.  Every faculty and staff person in our school has an important part to play in the formation of our students in faith. 

     I am pleased to see our school excelling in the task at hand.  In this Jubilee Year of Mercy we have much to be grateful for.  Let us celebrate Catholic Schools Week!

    Please pray for the success of our Catholic schools and thank you for the support you give to our teachers, students and staff. 

 

We have one mission in our parish.

I have been away from the parish this week and will be returning next Thursday in time to celebrate with our second grade students their first reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  I am traveling with a good friend of mine, Fr. Tom Doyle, a retired priest from our diocese.  During our time away, we pray together and celebrate Mass as well as relax, unwind, and see new sights.  I hope to return refreshed and renewed as we have so many good adventures ahead of us as a parish community. 

     Please join us on January 25 and 26 for an important meeting that will lead to the renovation and remodeling of our worship space to better serve the people of the parish.  In February, we will be gathering for a similar process  as we look at the needs in the school.  I would ask that you look upon these projects as one project—not two.  We are not doing “something for the parish and another thing for the school.” 

     We have one mission in our parish—to form intentional disciples that know, love and serve God, following closely in the footsteps of Jesus Christ.  The parish and school have one mission.   We cannot have a vibrant parish without good worship and cannot form good, healthy disciples without providing quality education and formation.  I have mentioned many times that the most important classroom for our students is the church.  If we don’t preserve, maintain, and enhance our worship, we are sending a  poor message to our children and neglecting our obligations. 

     You should have received a newsletter concerning these upcoming meetings.  This is the time to give us your input.  

     One of our parishioners mentioned to me that they thought the schemes were well thought out and a good direction to pursue, however he voiced a caution about our duty to reach out to the poor and take up the charge before us to be “merciful like the Father.”  I agree totally with this.  Our Service and Justice Commission is working on establishing a relationship with  Serve Haiti and the possibility of twinning with a parish in that poor country. 

     We always need to ensure that all our endeavors are strengthening our parish and reaching out in service to others.  There are many opportunities before us. 

     Please join us as we continue our discussions.