Pastor's Column 

Fr. Sean Donnelly Father Sean Donnelly

Immaculate Conception Church


May 9, 2021

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From the Pastor …

     May is Mary's month! And during May, throughout the Catholic world, special devotions honor the Virgin Mary. "May Crowning" is a traditional Catholic ritual that occurs in the month of May and it recognizes Mary as Queen of heaven and earth. Since medieval times, there has been a correlation between Mary and the month of May. May is considered the season of the beginning of new life. "May Crowning" marks a new spiritual season. Our Mary, Queen of heaven and earth, lifted us right out of the last long, cold days of winter and firmly planted our hearts in the warm and promising soil of spring.
Blessed Virgin Mary      During the Holy Mass on May Crowning day, a crown/flowers is placed on the statue of Mary. The act of crowning is rooted in the view of Mary as the Queen of Heaven. The event is of particular significance as it relates to the Champion Shrine history because, when Our Lady appeared to the young Belgian immigrant woman, Adele Brise, in 1859, she identified herself as the "Queen of Heaven."
     A cherished age-old tradition of reverence, the crowning of Mary at the Champion Shrine is in keeping with the "Order of Crowning" which attributed the queen symbol to Mary because she was a perfect follower of Christ, who is the absolute "crown" of creation. "She is the Mother of the Son of God, who is the messianic King. Mary is the Mother of Christ, the Word Incarnate... " he will be great and will be called Son of the Most High; the Lord will give him the throne of his father David; and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there will be no end" (Lk 1:32-33).
      Elizabeth greeted the Blessed Virgin, pregnant with Jesus, as 'the mother of my Lord' (Lk 1:41-43). Mary is the perfect follower of Christ. The maid of Nazareth consented to God's plan; she journeyed on the pilgrimage of faith; she listened to God's Word and kept it in her heart; she remained steadfast in close union with her Son, all the way to the foot of the Cross; she persevered in prayer with the Church. Thus, in an eminent way she won the "crown of righteousness" (2 Tim 4:8), the "crown of life" (Jas 1:12; Rev 2:10), the "crown of glory" (1 Pet 5:4) that is promised to those who follow Christ ("Order of Crowning," NCCB, 1987).
    May Crowning Mass This Sunday, May 9th at the 12 noon Mass [Immaculate Conception Church].


May is Mary's month! What happens in Confirmation?
Pray for Vocations Death, where is your victory? Alleluia: He is Risen Bishop Malesic: regarding the 'Equality Act'
What things most upset Jesus? What shall I do for Lent? Lead us not into Temptation Year of St. Joseph
I start my 40th year Three Wisemen Were Astrologers? What is the Source of Joy? Who is the Immaculate Conception?
Don't Forget Advent What to make of scandal? Want heaven? Put talents to good use Why is Hope Important?
How Powerful is the Rosary? How generous is God? Are you converted? ever walked on water?
Real Presence Enter into your Master's joy Power of God's Word Pray for Leaders
mystery - three Persons in One God relationship with Jesus? Lead us not into Temptation For Lent
free to serve Epiphany Blessing learn from the Holy Family? Gift of Jesus
Rescuing Advent Remember those who .. died All Saints' Day important to be humble
Objections to Prayer Rosary Victories Mysteries of the Rosary October -Month of the Rosary
How free are you? How many are going to heaven? How is your hearing? The Smoke of Satan
Teach us how to pray Passing on the faith This is my body From EWTN on the Holy Trinity
Promises of the Sacred Heart What is heaven like Jesus's new commandment Pray for Vocations
Death, where is your victory? ministry of the confessional Lent begins this week Are we allowed to "judge"?
Unwanted Babies Polling & the resurrection Are you a prophet? Save the children
.. learn from the magi? What is a parish? An Examination of Conscience Prepare the Way for the Lord
The Disappearance of Advent The "end of the world" Why pray for the dead? Litany of the Saints
How can you spot a saint? no salvation without the cross What difference does Jesus make...? An Endangered Species
The Ongoing Mess Saving Marriage The Glory of Mary our daily Bread
artificial contraception consequences ... a restoration of sanity be an Apostle why marriage is in crisis
We need the Holy Spirit Questions about God Pray for vocations Witness to Jesus' resurrection
Divine Mercy Devotion How we know Jesus is risen... The question... disciples of Jesus
temptation turn away from sin, make amends .. don't be fooled Presentation of the Lord
take part: prayer & action for Christian Unity ... for Christian Unity ... "Who is Jesus Christ..?"
How to be "joyful"? Behold Your Mother Join the Revolution A Steward's Way
pray for the dead Pray for Priests Who are the saints? faith and common sense
the Rosary ..has power Respect for Life Litany of humility God can do marvelous things
What we live for.. Cannon Law Rights Catholic Precepts Rosary for Life- Glorious
Rosary for Life- Sorrowful Rosary for Life- Joyful Immaculate Heart... Chaplet - Precious Blood
Children - our future Most Precious Blood of Jesus Christ's twelve promises... ..the most precious...
Body and Blood of Christ Stewards of God's gifts feast of Pentecost Baptize ..teach all nations
Holy Spirit come ... need to personalize faith Prayer for Vocations Read the Bible
Divine Mercy living a resurrected life Easter came with a price death..not the last word
a man born blind sees interior conversion Be a model of faith pray, fast, give alms
2017 Lenten Season Catholic Teaching protect unborn children Christian Unity
to grow in grace Jesus: God enfleshed Jesus comes to us end of the world
Purgatory Priesthood Sunday need authentic Catholics .. have to think, pray
Power of Rosary Life is a gift God is Present Catechetical
Controlled Demolition Mother Teresa Humility Prayer Needed
Rosary is more.. On Human Life Injustice Cohabitation
Gift of mercy Works of mercy Compassion Pilgrimage
Our Father Intercession Real Presence Same God?
Pray and Work Wise men Good Shepherd Religious Freedom
9-11 Family Glad Tidings
Globalism King of hearts All Souls' Day Canonization
Synod on Family Marriage Respect Life The Rosary
Cohabitation Iraqi Christians Excommunication Real Presence
Baptism Wise men Pray the Rosary
 

May 2, 2021

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From the Pastor … What happens in Confirmation?

     In Confirmation the soul of a baptized Christian is imprinted with a permanent seal that can be received only once and marks this individual forever as a Christian. The gift of the Holy Spirit is the strength from above in which this individual puts the grace of his Baptism into practice through his life and acts as a "witness" for Christ.
     To be confirmed means to make a "covenant" with God. The confirmand says, "Yes, I believe in you, my God; give me your Holy Spirit, so that I might belong entirely to you and never be separated from you and may witness to you throughout my whole life, body and soul, in my words and deeds, on good days and bad." And God says, "Yes, I believe in you, too, my child and I will give you my Spirit, my very self. I will belong entirely to you. I will never separate myself from you, in this life or eternally in the next. I will be in your body and your soul, in your words and deeds. Even if you forget me, I will still be there on good days and bad."

April 24, 2021

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From the Pastor … Pray for Vocations

     It is fitting that Good Shepherd Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Easter, is the Sunday that is also designated as World Day of Prayer for Vocations, with a special emphasis on priestly and religious vocations. Having said this, it is necessary to realize that everyone has a vocation (a baptismal vocation). It is not only priests and religious who are called by God to service. The lay vocation is a legitimate and necessary vocation. It is the vocation to be a committed Catholic, bringing Jesus into family life, and to the world of work, culture, business, etc.
     The Church is 98% lay. The priests are not the Church. However, without priests there is no Church. Without the Church there is no salvation. What do priests offer that brings about the Church? Most of the sacraments necessitate the involvement of a priest. One cannot have Mass without a priest. There is no absolution from sin without a priest.
     The priest is to be a teacher and preacher of the gospel of Jesus. He brings to the world Jesus Christ. He is even a sacrament of Jesus himself (even though the priest is a mortal man with sins and defects). Do not let this fool you. Jesus was criticized for being a man whom everyone knew (at least they thought they knew: "Isn't this the carpenter, the son of Mary? How is it that such miraculous deeds are accomplished by hands….? They found Him too much for them." ) He was even criticized for forgiving people of their sins. No mere man can do such a thing. This is true enough, but Jesus is different. What about the priest, isn't he a mere man? Yes, he is, but he has the power to absolve because of the sacrament of Holy Orders, which he has received.
     How do we understand the phenomenon of the wayward priest? If you ever hear about a priest who goes astray, the defect is not in Holy Orders. He (like everyone else) has to deal with the effects of original sin. A priest needs to pray, to go to confession, to profess his faith, to do penance, etc. We are all needy people. We need Jesus. The priest needs Him, too. (Satan knows what a priest is. If he had his way completely, he would destroy them all.)

April 18, 2021

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From the Pastor … Death, where is your victory?

      It is in regard to death that man's condition is most shrouded in doubt" (Vatican II). No one wants to die. The human person recoils at the prospect of bodily decay and the end of earthly existence. Leo Tolstoy, in The Death of Ivan Ilyich, tells the story of a man who coped with his death by simply not thinking about it. He was able to do this until he had a fatal accident. The looming specter of death terrified him. Today, there are, likewise, many successful, worldly people, whose horizon is limited to what they can see and touch.
     Faith in Christ is urgent because it is the only thing that is able to address, adequately, human mortality. Jesus, who rose from the dead bodily, promises a like resurrection to all who embrace Him in faith. What amazes me is that there are many Catholics who do not make any connection between Jesus's resurrection and the hope that is in store for those who love Him. For them, the resurrection of Jesus is limited to Him and has nothing to do with us on a practical level. We must get the word out that we believe in the resurrection of the body, not only Jesus's body, but also our own (provided that we persevere in the faith).
     Jesus set up His Church to provide the means for people to live the life of resurrection, starting with baptism. The sacrament of penance ("confession") allows people to maintain their baptismal purity. (Jesus founded this sacrament on the evening of Easter. See John 20). In the sacrament of the Eucharist, Jesus fills people with the seeds of eternity: He who feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has life eternal, and I will raise him up on the last day" (John 6.54).
     What can we do, then, about death? Live the faith. Live a sacramental life. Pray. Make the Sunday Mass the high point of the week. Keep the teachings of the Church. Strive to be Christ-like in thought, word and deed. With Jesus, we will not perish after death. We will rise to a new and glorious life.
     Alleluia! Alleluia!

April 4, 2021

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From the Pastor … Alleluia: He is Risen
                                The Seven-Week Easter Season Begins

     Arguably, the most famous person who ever lived was Jesus. Ironically, He lived an obscure life in a remote backwater in the Middle East. He only lived to be 33. He had never visited a big city. He was poor. He had no influential friends in positions of power. He wrote no books. Why is He so widely known today? The answer is that Jesus is the only person in history ever to have risen from the dead bodily. Since then, only His mother has shared in a similar destiny. The point is, without the Resurrection, it is unlikely that anyone, today, would even have heard of Jesus, much less committed their lives to Him.
     How do we know that Jesus is risen? We have the existence of the empty tomb, in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, in Jerusalem. There are also the purported burial wrappings, known as the Shroud of Turin. More to the point, though, is the existence of the Church, which traces its roots back to the first Christian community who were the original followers of Christ, e.g., the Blessed Virgin, the Apostles, Mary Magdalene, the "500 brothers" of whom St. Paul speaks, who saw the risen Christ, etc.
     The Church continues to make the risen Jesus present in the Eucharist. She obeys His Great Commission to "baptize and teach all nations" (two adults were scheduled to be baptized at our parish's Easter Vigil this year, and there will be many infants in the coming months). The Church continues Jesus' work of reconciling sinners in the confessional. (Jesus authorized this ministry on the night He rose from the dead: "Whose sins you forgive are forgiven".) In short, Jesus is very much alive.
     Finally (but not least), Jesus promises resurrection from the dead to all who believe in Him and follow Him. Our world is troubled by many things. We have had a year's worth of pandemic. Many have died. There are wars raging around the globe. Many people live as if there is no God or He is not important. We must get the word out: Jesus is real. He is our Savior. Give Him a chance. This world is passing away. It was never meant to be our permanent home. As Jesus said, "You will have trouble in the world, but take courage, I have overcome the world". Alleluia.

March 14, 2021

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From the Pastor … A statement from Bishop Malesic regarding the bill known as the Equality Act that was recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives

 •    The Book of Genesis in the Bible reminds us that we are all made in the image of God. As such, we all deserve to be treated with respect, dignity and compassion. Our diocese and our Church have a long history of providing charitable service without regard to race, religion, or any other characteristic precisely because as Catholics we believe in the inherent dignity of each and every person. That we are all made in God's image is also basic to the belief that we need to honor every person's right to worthwhile work free of unjust discrimination or harassment and to the basic goods that people need to live and thrive. However, it also means that people of differing religious beliefs should be respected and allowed to live and act in accord with those beliefs.
 •    Considering its name, one would think that the Equality Act, which will be soon be voted on in the United States Senate, would promote respect and dignity for all. Ironically, the act in many ways would do the opposite of what its name suggests and needs to be opposed. Instead of respecting differences in beliefs about marriage, sexuality, and the nature of the human person, the Equality Act would discriminate against and punish people of faith. The Equality Act would:
 •    Exempt itself from the bipartisan Religious Freedom Restoration Act, in an explicit and unprecedented departure from one of America's founding principles, thereby infringing on religious freedom and making it more difficult for individuals to live out their faith.
 •    Force religiously operated spaces and establishments, such as church halls, to either host functions that violate their beliefs or close their doors to their communities.
 •    Require women to compete against men and boys in sports and to share locker rooms and shower facilities with men and boys.
 •    Force faith-based charities that serve all people to violate their religious beliefs and threaten the welfare of thousands of beneficiaries of charitable services, such as shelters and foster care agencies, by forcing a multitude of them to be shut down.
 •    Jeopardize existing prohibitions on the use of federal taxpayer funds for abortion, likely pressuring or even man-dating the performance of abortions by health care providers in violation of their consciences and ultimately ending more human lives.
 •    Hinder quality health care by forcing health care professionals, against their best medical judgment, to support treatments and surgical procedures associated with "gender transition." I urge you to contact your elected officials today to oppose this bill. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has made this simple and easy to do. Simply go to:
https://www.votervoice.net/USCCB/Campaigns/80967/Respond    fill in the blanks, and click "send message."

March 7, 2021

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From the Pastor …. What things most upset Jesus?

     The most classic example is from the gospel for this Sunday which concerns what is called "The Cleansing of the Temple". El Greco, and many other artists, have depicted this scene. We see Jesus in the foreground holding a whip of cords. We see the moneychangers recoiling. We see tipped over tables. People are running away. (Etc.) Why did Jesus do this? It was a prophetic gesture aimed at purifying the religion and making a statement about the future of the Jewish cult. Ultimately the Temple would be destroyed by the Roman armies (in 70 A.D.). The sacrifice that would replace the Jewish animal sacrifices, would be Jesus' own sacrifice on the cross. It is this sacrifice that is re-presented in the Mass, in an unbloody form. The priest has the power to make present Jesus' Body and Blood, which were offered (in their natural state) on the cross.
     Other things that caused Jesus to become quite upset include hypocrisy and lip-service. Matthew 23 is an entire chapter of Jesus' vituperations against supposedly "religious" people who were not living according to God's commandments, but also loved to present themselves as examples of faith for others. Hypocrisy means "acting": saying one thing and doing another. For example, someone who says that he is a "good Catholic", yet, at the same time, does everything he can to promote the massive baby-killing industry (i.e., abortion industry), is a classic example of what Jesus was talking about. To say, "I am a good Catholic because I go to church and have a rosary in my pocket" means nothing if it is only lip-service. Jesus said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments".
     People who pretend to be Catholics, but work against God and His requirements for living, give scandal and should be censured by the competent Church authorities. Unfortunately, there is not much censuring taking place. As a result, certain people in high positions become bolder and bolder in their wicked designs. Failure to stand up to bullies brings about more bullying. And so, we have the upcoming "Equality Act", which means "equality" for people who traffic in evil lifestyles/practices and who want to attack the Church and her many charitable institutions for not being "on the same page". Women will be especially victimized, should the Senate sign the act into law. For more about the so-called "Equality Act", please go www.crisismagazine.com, and see Ann Hendershott's article, "The Equality Act: Anti-Woman, Anti-Catholic". Please write to our Ohio senators to express disapproval [Senator Rob Portman, Senator Sherrod Brown] and pray for active shepherds who guard the flock against thieves and marauders (See John 10).

February 28, 2021

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From the Pastor …. What shall I do for Lent?

Try something different.   For example, if you are not used to praying the rosary, give it a try.   The rosary has a long history and has proven effective for individuals and nations. For example, the Panama Canal is considered a wonder of the world, yet its construction was in jeopardy because the workmen kept getting malaria. Dr. Carlos Finlay came up with the solution as to what the cause of this disease was. The solution came to him while he was praying the rosary. He kept noticing mosquitoes flying around. He made the connection that they might be carriers of the disease. He was proven right. Construction on the canal was able to continue once the cause of the disease was discovered.

A priest I know was upset about his brother going into an armed conflict in the Middle East. The brother was in the service. The priest prayed the rosary and was inspired t o call a Lebanese priest, in the Cleveland area, to inquire about what he knew. (The Lebanese priest had relatives in Beirut, where the military action was taking place.) The Lebanese priest told the priest from Cleveland, "Your brother is fine." This was based on reliable information. It was Our Lady, though, who was the inspiration to call the priest from Lebanon. The moral of the story is that prayerful people are more open to inspirations from God, this is because it is the Holy Spirit who prays in us when we pray (see Romans 5).

There are many examples of the successful use of the rosary on behalf of nations. The Austrians were inspired to pray the rosary so that Soviet troops would leave their country. One out of ten Austrians participated in the campaign of prayer, suggested by a Fr. Peter. After a brief time, suddenly (without a shot being fired) the Soviets left Austria. The year was 1956. This was a miracle indeed.

Our nation could certainly use the influence of Our Lady, on many fronts. Our families need her influence. The Church needs to get back to the basics of the faith. Our shepherds need to rely on the Blessed Mother's advocacy in the battle against evil spirits, sin, the culture of death, a corrupt media, corruption in our government, etc. (fill in the blank).

Let us do our part and be prayer-warriors. The rosary is both a source of inspiration and a weapon against the forces of evil. The devil hates the rosary. Jesus gave us His mother to be our mother: "Behold your Mother", He said (see John 19.27). Praying and meditating on one set of rosary- mysteries takes 15 minutes. Can you give at least 15 minutes a day paying attention to Our Lord and His Mother? You will be doing more good than you realize.

February 21, 2021

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From the Pastor …. "Lead us not into Temptation

What is temptation? A temptation is a suggestion that directs us to commit sin.
  •Is temptation the same thing as sin? No. It is possible to be tempted and remain free of sin.
      Jesus did not sin, although He was tempted.
  •Are there different levels of temptation? Yes, there are three:
      •External temptation: It does not enter the heart. There is no consent.
      This is the level at which Jesus was tempted.
      •Taking a certain delight in the temptation, though without clear consent (consent makes for sin).
      There is some sinfulness at this level.
      •Internal temptation: One allows the temptation to enter the deepest part of his soul.
      He gives his consent to it. Here we have a definite commission of sin.
What is the meaning of "and lead us not into temptation?" The petition means both: "Do not allow us to enter into temptation," and "do not let us yield to temptation."
      •Why should we be concerned about temptation? Because our sins result from our consent to temptation.
(We must distinguish between being tempted and consenting to temptation.)
      •What are the sources of temptation for us? The world, the flesh, and the devil. The world means the anti-Christian influences that saturate the air we breathe (e.g., the influence of peers, writers, television shows, entertainment, etc.). The world tends to be full of itself. The flesh is not limited to sexuality, but includes anger, gluttony, covetousness, etc. The devil is often the most difficult one to detect because he generally hides himself. A directly diabolical temptation is strong (scary or seductive), and often out of character for the person subjected to it.
      •Why would the Lord allow us to be tempted? (Note, God tempts no one.)
We can learn where our weaknesses are. Also, it gives us a chance to demonstrate that we want Him and we will not allow anything or anyone to take His place. "No one can serve two masters." Besides, earthly life is a time of trial. Heaven is something that must be chosen.
Jesus teaches us
  •He allowed Himself to be tempted to show us how to handle temptation via prayer, obedience and fasting.
Note that Jesus defeated the devil in the desert without resorting to any of His supernatural powers.
  •Jesus teaches us that the temptations of the devil assail principally the sanctified).
No one, however holy, should consider himself free from temptation.
  •We should not be afraid of temptation, but we should never dally with it. We must stand firm. We must be careful about what we do with our mind: the intellect, memory, imagination. Immoral thoughts of any kind need to be gently repelled (idleness can bring them on). As long as one repels them and takes no delight in them he does not sin. We must maintain custody of the heart (which includes the feelings). Don't let evil desires take root.
"Where your heart is there your treasure is."

January 24, 2021

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From the Pastor... The Year of St. Joseph

     Because of his special role as foster-father of the Child Jesus, St. Joseph has merited singular privileges in heaven unmatched by any saint excepting the Blessed Virgin Mary. Certain saints have received special insight into his holiness and the wonderful power of his heavenly intercession.
     The Catholic Church has always fostered a tender to St. Joseph as the Head of the Holy Family; yet he has become increasingly prominent in the spiritual life of the Church over the last 150 years, as Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, lists in his new book, Consecration to St. Joseph: The Wonders of Our Spiritual Father:
   • 1870 - Blessed Pope Pius IX declares St. Joseph the "Universal Patron of the Church."
   • 1879 - Apparitions at Knock, Ireland. St. Joseph appears with the Blessed Virgin Mary,
      St. John the Apostle, and Jesus (appearing as the Lamb of God).
   • 1889 - Pope Leo XIII writes Quamquam Pluries, an encyclical letter on St. Joseph.
   • 1908 - St. Luigi Guanella begins constructing a church dedicated to St. Joseph in Rome.
      It is completed and consecrated as a basilica in 1912.
   • 1917 - Apparitions at Fatima, Portugal. During the last apparition on October 13,
      St. Joseph appears holding the Child Jesus and blessing the world.
   • 1921 - Pope Benedict XV inserts the phrase "Blessed be St. Joseph, her most chaste spouse" into the Divine Praises.
   • 1955 - Venerable Pope Pius XII establishes the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, to be celebrated on May 1.
   • 1962 - Pope St. John XXIII inserts St. Joseph's name into the Canon of the Mass (Eucharistic Prayer I).
   • 1989 - Pope St. John Paul II writes Redemptoris Custos, an encyclical letter on St. Joseph.
   • 2013 - Pope Francis, echoing and fulfilling the intentions of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, inserts the name
      of St. Joseph into all Eucharistic Prayers. He also consecrates Vatican City State to St. Joseph.
     Through this providential sequence of events, it's clear that the Holy Spirit is at work teaching us the importance of devotion to St. Joseph at this moment in salvation history. "Now is the time of St. Joseph!" writes Father Calloway, "In our day, Jesus wants the Church to know, love, honor, and seek refuge in the spiritual fatherhood of St. Joseph."

January 17, 2021

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From the Pastor... I start my 40th year

From the Pastor...
     On Jan. 17th I start my 40th year as a priest. I well remember ordination day. It was 16 below zero. Up until that time it was the coldest day of the century in Cleveland. I was ordained at the cathedral on Saturday morning. I had my first Mass of thanksgiving, on the following day, at St. Rose Church (my family's parish) in Cleveland. The parish was closed many years ago. I was able to obtain the beautiful candle holders and place them on our altar, where they have remained ever since.
     I am grateful to all whose example and prayers inspired me to receive the priestly vocation, especially my parents and grandparents. Had my parents been different (e.g., non-practicing or lax Catholics), I probably would not be a priest or even a practicing Catholic layman. This goes to show the importance of parental influence on the children. Parents, do not be discouraged. If you are living the faith, much good will come out of this. You may inspire some vocations.
     Since my ordination I have celebrated over 18,000 Masses, some under less-than-ideal conditions (e.g., during the Gulf War in Saudi Arabia), some in beautiful shrines in Europe, and most in parish churches. The center of the priest's life is the Eucharist. The Eucharist is Jesus continuing His work of saving the world by making present His body and blood through the hands of priests (there are now 400,000 priests in the world). Likewise, I have heard countless confessions: in parish churches, shrines and at the beds of the sick and the dying. Jesus works through His priests absolving people of their sins.
     I thank everyone for your support of the Church and vocations. Keep praying and being strong in the faith. The world needs God. The world needs Jesus. The world needs the Mass. The world needs priests. The world needs vocations. The world needs practicing members of the Catholic faith.
     When St. John Vianney was going to his first parish, after ordination, he asked a young man for directions. "If you show me the way there," said the priest, "I will show you the way to heaven." Priests are instrumental not only in helping people live the faith, but in getting them to heaven. To this end, let us pray for each other....

December 27 2020

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From the Pastor... Were the Three Wisemen "Astrologers"?

From the Pastor...
     The older New American Bible translation refers to the wisemen as "astrologers from the east". This translation is not accurate and has been changed. The correct word is "magi". (The word "magi" is the root of our word "magician".) The "magi" were more like scientists and philosophers. They studied planetary tables but were apparently familiar with the Jewish religious traditions about a Messiah. To their credit they sought Him out, using all the means at their disposal, including the use of planetary tables. (Remember, they were not Jews. They were foreigners. They did not have the training in the true religion of the day.)
     But isn't it true that they followed the "wandering star" which took them to Bethlehem? The "star" (probably a conjunction of two planets) only took them so far. It took them to King Herod, who was greatly disturbed at the news of a newborn king. Herod's counselors informed the king of the precise whereabouts of the infant- Messiah. The counselors used the Bible to pin point Bethlehem as the place. The Book of the prophet Micah contains the famous prophecy of our Lord's birth in Bethlehem. Once arrived at Bethlehem, the Magi discarded the tools of their trade: gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and returned to their country changed men (we would suppose).
     With the revelation of Jesus as the Son of God and the Locus of all true worship, we must reject all forms of false religion. For example, divination, which seeks to learn hidden knowledge about the future via mean such as: horoscopy, palm-reading, tarot card reading, recourse to mediums and "psychics". Divination is an offense against God. The fortunes of men are not determined by the stars.
     The Magi teach us something about the place of Jesus Christ in true worship: "they prostrated themselves (before Jesus) and did Him homage." The verb used connotes recognizing Jesus as divine. And so He is. Even today, all true worship goes through Jesus (the Eucharist, liturgical prayers, Our Father).
The Magi's gifts:
Gold (for Jesus's Kingship). We must acknowledge Him as our King and remain detached from the material wealth that we have. To what use do we put our resources in the service of God's kingdom?
Frankincense: a life of prayer (represented by the smoke going up to heaven) and goodness (the aroma of Christ).
Myrrh: He was offered wine mingled with myrrh, on the cross. His body was also anointed with this substance in death. It represents sacrifice and renunciation (mortification) and reminds us of the place of penance in the Christian life...

December 13, 2020

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From the Pastor... What is the Source of Joy?

     "Rejoice always!" These words were written by a man who was beaten numerous times, put in jail, faced angry mobs, had gone without eating or sleeping for protracted periods, was shipwrecked, came close to death, and faced treachery from others. Who am I speaking about? St. Paul. How could Paul even speak about joy under these circumstances? He was not speaking about any kind of joy, but the deepest and most enduring kind: the joy that comes from having a relationship with God. It is a joy that the world cannot give, nor is it dependent on external circumstances. It is even possible to be sustained by this joy in time of pain or sorrow. (I can think of St. Therese, smiling through her tears.)
     In another place (Gal 5), Paul tells us that this kind of joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit: "Love, joy, peace, patience, etc." Here, he advises people, "Pray constantly, in all circumstances give thanks.... Do not quench the Spirit." Prayer opens people up to the Holy Spirit. Joy is an indicator that one is living a "spiritual life".
     And what would you think a young woman's attitude would be if her husband were considering separating from her, just at the time she had conceived a child? The responsorial "psalm" contains her sentiments. It is a hymn of praise to God amid difficult circumstances. Who is the woman? The Blessed Virgin Mary.
     The world has its share of counterfeits and substitutes for joy. Do not be misled. Recreational drug use, alcohol dependency, and various forms of escaping from the demands and challenges of life do not make anyone joyful. What is St. Pauls' solution? It is a spiritual one. He says, "Pray always." In another place (Galatians 5"), he says that joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. The point is, only God can make us happy. It begins in this life when a person cultivates the practice of the faith, forgives others, seeks forgiveness for himself, is prayerful and exercises detachment from the world.

December 6, 2020

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From the Pastor... Who is the Immaculate Conception?

     If you were asked to paint a picture of the Immaculate Conception, what would you paint? Many great artists have already done so. One such artist is Bartolomeo Estaban Murillo. Murillo produced several such paintings. Fr. Mulholland, the pastor who erected this church in 1953, saw to it that a prominent spot would be given to Murillo's painting. The painting is a handmade copy of the original. Looking at the painting, what does the artist depict? He painted the Blessed Mother (not Jesus). And he painted her in glory. What does this have to do with the Immaculate Conception? The answer is that the Immaculate Conception is not Jesus (He is the Son of God). The Immaculate Conception is Mary.
     Everyone (certainly every Catholic) should have a special place in his heart for the Blessed Mother. She gave the world Jesus. Without her there would be no Christmas. There would be no Church. We would have no hope. Do not fall for the claim that Mary somehow competes with Jesus. The two go together very well. This is certainly fitting, because sin entered the world due to the fall of a man and a woman. The world is redeemed because of a man and a woman: The new Adam and new Eve: Jesus and Mary.
     In calling Mary the Immaculate Conception or "full of grace", she reminds us that our vocation is to be holy. This is not to suggest that we will be as holy as she is, or that we are conceived in a state of holiness, but only that we have access to grace and should maintain ourselves accordingly: through prayer, use of the sacraments, acts of charity, penance, etc. When someone commits a mortal sin, he has lost his holiness (which he received through baptism). A Catholic in this position must go to confession to recover the life of God that he lost through sin.
     How many Catholics are there who are not concerned about maintaining their baptismal holiness. This is Our Lady's specialty. She helps us to stay on the right path. We need to rely on her as our Advocate before the Lord. Pray the rosary each day. Be a saint, now and in the life to come.

November 29, 2020

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From the Pastor... Don't Forget Advent

     Today, the Catholic Church begins another year with the season of Advent. The liturgical trappings of the season still contain vestiges of what had once been observed as a season of penance (something like a little Lent). There is no Gloria and the priest wears purple. Advent has, unfortunately, become eclipsed by a secular season which is called by many "the holidays". It used to be called "Christmas", but our society has embraced secularism. Instead of preparing for Christ, we have excessive busyness, consumerism on a grand scale, and (for some) an endless round of parties, etc. Don't be fooled into thinking that these things, by themselves, prepare anyone for Christ. Also, this year, because of COVID 19, it is wise to limit celebratory activities to one's home with members of one's household.
     We must rediscover Advent, and not let the world take it away from us. Remember, the world is not interested in preparing for the coming of its Savior. We, on the other hand, should be. What can we do?
     Take time to pray each day. Break new ground. Do something that you have not done before: family-prayer, spousal-prayer. Utilize the rosary (give ita try). Read the daily Mass readings. Make use of an Advent wreath. Light a candle before dinner and add an appropriate prayer to the usual grace before supper. There are four candles. Light an additional candle each week. Go to Mass during the week, whenever possible.
     Take time to read the scriptures. We meet Christ through His word. Consider reading the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, about three chapters a day. Use a Catholic Bible (e.g., the New American) so as to benefit from the explanatory footnotes.
     Take time to abstain. We don't have to allow the secular season to inundate us with its message of excess consumption. Use times (e.g., Fridays) to do some fasting. And don't overlook abstinence from television or Intemet. Parents don't have to allow their children to be exposed to excessive "screen time". Be careful about marketers. The message of advertisers a can undermine a person's state of recollection, to say the least.
     Utilize the opportunity to make a good confession. After all, Jesus came the first time, to save us from our sins. The next time He comes will be as Judge of the living and the dead. Be ready for Him.

November 22, 2020

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From the Pastor... What to make of scandal?

     Jesus said that scandals are inevitable, but "woe to him through whom they come. It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin" (Luke 17.1,2). Jesus' words are prophetic. Many people have given scandal, not only in the world, but in the Church, down through the ages. The solution that Jesus gives is that such people must be rebuked so that others do not fall into sin and, also, to elicit the perpetrator's repentance.
     Even in Biblical times there was scandal among the people of God. The documents of the New Testament are replete with examples. The betrayal of Christ by Judas is in all four gospels. 1 Corinthians 5 addresses the case of the "incestuous man". 1 Corinthians 11 addresses the scandal given by those who participated in the Eucharist after becoming intoxicated at the meal that used to precede it. St. Paul admonishes the people of the danger in receiving the Body and Blood of Christ unworthily (ie., in mortal sin). In Acts 5 there is the story of Ananias and Sapphira, who deceived the Church community. The list goes on...
     Recently, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a press release congratulating Joe Biden on winning the presidential election and lauding him for his "profession of the Catholic faith". As I write this column, the election has not yet been finalized. Also, Mr. Biden uses the Catholic faith more as "prop". A good Catholic would never support the abortion industry or the re-definition of marriage (among other things). To add insult to injury, the competent Church authority never censured Mr. Biden, and when confronted about this, the bishop in question hid himself. Jesus had choice words for shepherds who run away from their responsibilities (John 10).
     Finally, but not least, the Holy See published the "McCarrick Report". The Report attempts to address the scandal caused by former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was morally depraved. McCarrick should never have been ordained, much less promoted to one episcopal see after another. The scandal was exacerbated and enabled by too many confreres of his who covered for him. Some refused to believe what they heard. Others were paid off. McCarrick was a master manipulator and deceiver. He was finally removed from any ecclesiastical position. Unfortunately, he has done great damage to many people and to the Church. Pray for his conversion and that of those who abetted his career, and for all his victims.

November 15, 2020

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From the Pastor... If you want heaven, put talents to good use

     Today's parable speaks of three servants who were each entrusted with a certain sum of money (so many "talents") by the king who expected a return on his investment. Two made a return. The third did nothing with what had been given to him.
     In real life, each person is given certain natural gifts: time, resources, intelligence, abilities, opportunities, etc., and some supernatural gifts (gifts of grace): faith, hope, charity, humility, etc. What we do with these things has eternal ramifications. To squander what God has provided, on self-centered living, for example, is wrong. Conversely, to use well what God has given us, for his glory (not ours) and the service of others, is what He is looking for.
     Sometimes people have many worldly advantages but squander the opportunities to put them at the use of the Lord's service. For example, Cardinal Wolsey, who lived during the reign of King Henry VIII of England had wealth, connections, a position of power, etc. The cardinal lived for himself and the good graces of the king. He celebrated Mass only once a year. He never went to Rome (though he was supposed to be the Pope's representative). He lived like a secular prince. He did not exemplify holiness or defend the rights of the Church. He squandered his talents.
     There are people with few natural gifts who let God shine through them. Blessed Margaret of Castello (d. 1320) was born blind, lame, deformed and was quite small. When she was six, her proud, noble parents walled her up in a room beside the chapel. She did have access to the Mass and to the sacraments. She was released after 14 years. Her parents prayed that she be cured. When this failed, they abandoned her. At this point she became a lay Dominican and spent the rest of her life in prayer and works of mercy. At her funeral (at age 33) a crippled girl was miraculously cured. The miracle reminds us of Jesus saying to such people (at their judgment): "Come, share your Master's joy... I will give you great responsibilities" (their ministry does not stop with death).
     And there are people among us who do give their gifts for the service of God, amid a secular environment that often does not encourage people to do so. For example, I remember visiting a young, Catholic couple. They had been married about 16 years. They were expecting their ninth child. At times, the young man had to put up with negative remarks from certain colleagues because they could not understand why any couple would want more than a couple of children. Marriage, rightly lived, is a great service to society and to the Church.

November 8, 2020

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From the Pastor... Why is Hope Important?

     In Dante's classic Inferno, which is a lengthy poem about hell (he also has one on heaven), he writes that the sign above hell says, "Abandon hope, all ye who enter here". What exactly does this mean? It means that God is the fulfillment of our hope. As long as we are yet to complete our pilgrimage on earth, we need to practice the virtue of hope, which is trusting that, through His grace, we can reach the right destination, after death, which is heaven. St. Paul says, "If we believe that Jesus died and rose, God will bring forth with Him from the dead those also who have fallen asleep believing in Him" (v. 14).
     The substance of hope is our faith. And faith is far more than wishful thinking. (Wishful thinking is often not correct thinking.) Faith is concemed with the solid stuff of reality. (God is reality.) Years ago Catholic churches were built with marble sanctuaries. There were always three steps leading up to the high altar. Each step stood for one of the three theological virtues: the bottom one for faith, the middle for hope, and the top one for love (for it is the one that defines life in heaven). We must climb each of these steps to ascend to the top. To be people of hope, we cannot skip the bottom step. We must know and understand our faith and live it. Pay attention to all the articles of the creed, including the last part of it that concems the last things.)
     What is life without hope? It is existing with despair or sadness. We can see why prayer is so precious. Maryknoll Bishop James E. Walsh survived for many years confined to prison by the Chinese communists by applying himself accordingly. "My great support during twelve years of imprisonment was the rosary. I had no religious books and could not obtain any, so it was impossible for me to celebrate Mass or recite the Breviary." He did not have the beads, so he used his fingers.
     Hope is the middle road between despair and presumption. A despairing person believes that he cannot be saved and get into heaven. A presumptuous person has effectively canonized himself, long before death. He takes his salvation for granted. Hope prevents us from falling into either of these traps.
     Finally, an anonymous complaint was directed at a previous bulletin column that I wrote. The complainer did not appreciate my editorializing on the Pope's position on "civil-unions". I apologize for giving the wrong impression as to respect due to the Holy Father. I do respect the Pope and ask everyone to pray for him and our bishops, as they navigate the Church through these troubled times.
     •  Pray the rosary daily. Get your family involved.

October 11, 2020

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From the Pastor... How Powerful is the Rosary?

     • Catholic Europe was threatened by the invading Muslim armies from Turkey, in 1571. The European navy was outmanned by the Turks, 3 to 1. Yet the Christian forces prevailed at the Battle of Lepanto, on Oct. 7th. It was not by force of arms, alone, that the victory was won. Pope Pius V had called for a rosary crusade against the Turks. Christian Europe was spared, thanks to Our Lady's intercession.
     • At Fatima, Portugal (1917), Our Lady appeared, and called for praying the rosary daily. Few heeded her request. As a result, World War II followed. (Although Portugal was spared because enough of its people heeded Our Lady's request.)
     • A half a million people were wiped out, in Japan, because of the atom bombs. A church within eight blocks of the explosion was left intact, along with the four priests inside. The church was dedicated to Our Lady's Assumption. Nine days later, on August 15th, the war ended. It was the feast of the Assumption, 1945.
     • The miraculous pull-out of Russian troops from Austria, in 1956, came because of a rosary campaign. 700,000 Austrians pledged to say the rosary daily. The Russians (communists) pulled out, without a shot being fired, on May 13, 1955, the anniversary of Our Lady's first appearance at Fatima.
     • Imagine what can be done today, if our religious leaders united Catholics throughout the country to pray the rosary daily! Wars would come to an end (e.g., the war in Afghanistan that has been raging for 22 years with no end in sight). The war against the unborn (over 60 million are dead) can only be defeated by God's intervention. Prayer-warriors are needed.

September 20, 2020

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From the Pastor... How generous is God?

     Today's parable is not telling us that bosses should pay people the same daily wage, no matter how many hours they have worked. A parable, rather, speaks to us about the ways of God.
     Who is the eleventh hour worker who gets the same pay as the one who came early in the morning (much to the dismay of the early bird)? The first application is that Jesus was referring to the gentiles and the Jews. The Jews were first, but they became last because most of them did not accept Jesus as the Messiah. The gentiles were originally pagans. Jesus built His Church on the foundation of the apostles, and opened it up to all peoples. (Imagine, our ancestors were pagans: worshippers of the sun, the moon, the stars, rocks, trees; practitioners of false cult. They weren't worthy to be called, but they were.) The last became first.
     Another way of reading it is that as members of the Church, this parable can be applied in this way. There are people who serve God from their earliest years. (St. Therese is one example.) Others come along later. (St. Augustine, St. Mary Magdalene; I have met many such.) Others wait even to the last hour (i.e., death-bed conversions).
     Many years ago I was called by a Catholic woman to have a funeral Mass for her husband who was dying. She informed me that her husband had never been baptized. I asked the woman whether the man had ever considered receiving the sacrament and becoming Catholic. In fact, he had taken instructions years prior to this, but had never taken the final step. I then went to the house and baptized the man, after testing him to see whether he was disposed to the faith and sorry for his sins. The man was.
     Theoretically, the man (who died shortly thereafter) was forgiven all of his sins and all punishment due to sin (including the temporal punishment of purgatory) was remitted. Now, keep in mind that the man had not lived his life as a Catholic. I suppose, it would seem, that he got off easy.... Is this fair?
     Remember, God's ways are not our ways. The Lord tends to be extravagant with His love. The New Testament constantly puts this idea before us; e.g., in the parable of the prodigal son, in the parable of the lost sheep, and the story of the good thief (who stole heaven in the eleventh hour). We must be grateful that God is the way He is. What about people who have spent their whole lives serving God, conscientiously? Anyone who lives a holy life and dies a holy death will spend his eternity with God. No one is being short-changed because of the Lord's generosity.

converted

September 13, 2020

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From the Pastor... ... Are you converted?

     To be converted, fundamentally means to change one's way of looking at things, from our viewpoint to the point of view of God. St. Paul uses the expression: "to put on the mind of Christ". In today's lesson from St. Matthew, it is clear that Peter had not completely converted. He recognized Jesus as the Messiah, but he was still thinking according to his old ways of looking at the world, i.e., "God forbid that anyone (in this case, Jesus) should suffer". Jesus' response was definitive and clear, "Get behind me, Satan. You are not thinking as God does, but as men do."
     Conversion requires a new way of thinking and perhaps, new habits to support the thinking. If the person tends to drink too much, for example, the drinking will probably continue until the individual opens his heart and mind to God. Perhaps he starts reading the Bible, attends church a few times a week, visits the Blessed Sacrament, becomes involved in some type of Christian service, and does whatever he can to avoid occasions of sin (e.g., certain persons, places, or things). He must convert to seeing himself as a child of God and that it is beneath his dignity as such to live a life of self-satisfaction.
     St. Augustine reminds us that if we keep all of the Ten Commandments (which we should be doing) that we are only beginning to live the Christian life of discipleship.. The Christian life is a great adventure. Are we willing to embark?
     St. Paul gives us some examples of discipleship in Romans 12, 13 and 14: blessing one's persecutors, putting away ambitious thoughts, striving to live at peace with everyone, not being wise in our own estimation, never repaying injury with injury, etc. In short, putting on the mind of Christ. Living such a life is an ongoing task. If you don't believe this, pick up the New Testament (e.g., the Sermon on the Mount).
     Trying to be like Jesus (even in our thoughts) is the great challenge. Anything less that that is not really Christianity (it is watered down). And, isn't it true that we are called to be saints? Jesus promises us a blessed life here (John 10.10) and glory in the next life if we take Him seriously and "put on his mind".

walkonwater

August 9, 2020

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From the Pastor...

     How many people have ever walked on water? Two come to mind immediately: Jesus is one. The other one is St. Peter (Mt 14:28-31). Although, ironically, he is remembered more for sinking in the water, but he did take a few steps, it seems. Peter is chastised for not trusting in Jesus enough, but you must give him some credit. Peter had enough initial faith to ask Jesus to help him to walk on the water. How many of us would do this?
     I can think of several examples of people who boldly ventured forth into unknown territory, putting their trust in God. Eternal Word Television Network is the largest religious broadcasting network in the world. EWTN is a case of someone venturing forth out of a boat, so to speak, and walking on water. The woman who started it had no background in the industry. She had only a garage full of equipment (40 years ago). Besides, she was a cloistered nun, not a worker in the field of radio or television. We know her as Mother Angelica. (Watch her station / listen to local radio affiliates/website.)
     The thing that holds many people back from venturing forth into unknown territory is fear. It could also be complacency. The desire to live a comfortable life can limit a person's horizons. Another thing that can get in the way is people do not always hear God calling them. We must allow ourselves to hear what God wants of us. To this end, silence, prayer, and spiritual reading are indispensable.
     Sometimes, people are challenged by the Lord to go beyond what they are used to. Samuel Leonard, a former parishioner of mine, became a priest in his 70's. He was a widower and a devoted Catholic. He could have spent the rest of his life living comfortably. He heard God's call and responded with trust.
     Sometimes it comes in the form of welcoming another child into one's family. Why not let God plan one's family size? Every child is an unrepeatable gift. I remember a young man who had had himself surgically sterilized. He was more of a cultural Catholic than anything. Over time, he became more involved in the Church (he was in the parish's men's group). Through exposure to the truth he was moved to have the operation reversed. His wife conceived another child (a child who would never have come into existence had her father persisted in the limitation he had placed on himself). He may very well have fathered more children since then.
     Listen to God. He has plans for you.

realpresence2

August 2, 2020

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From the Pastor...

     There are many misconceptions about the Mass that we should be careful about accepting. One is that the Mass is merely a symbolic reminder of Jesus and His sacrifice. Jesus actually makes His sacrifice present through the hands of a validly ordained priest. Why? Because He knew that most people would not be able to be present on the Hill of Calvary 2,000 years ago. So, He makes Himself present in an unbloody way. It is the same Jesus who offers Himself to atone for the sins of mankind. To this end, it is necessary to remember that we are dealing with the Real Presence. If Jesus is actually present, in His body and blood (not just "spiritually"), there is much more substance to the Mass than mere symbolism. Be sure to worship of the Eucharist, during Mass and outside of Mass. What do we do at the elevation of the host and the chalice? "My Lord and my God".
     A second misconception (and you will hear it from some "fundamentalists" is that Catholics believe that Jesus is crucified at each Mass. This has never been Catholic teaching. Jesus' one perfect sacrifice is re-presented in the Mass. He is not crucified again.
     On Tuesday, the Church remembers a man who, as a boy, received his First Communion under the cover of darkness from a priest disguised as an itinerant craftsman because priests who did not foreswear their allegiance to the Pope had been outlawed by the government (it was the time of the French Revolution). The boy grew up to become a priest himself. His name was John Vianney. He is now a canonized saint. The Eucharist makes the Church; the Church produces saints. Love the Eucharist, love the Mass. It is a sign of divine election, if we persevere in our love.
     A woman who had attended a birthday party for George Washington, in her younger days, from a devout Episcopalian family started attending Catholic Mass. (She and her family had to travel to Italy because her husband was dying). At the elevation, someone told her that that is what Catholics call the Real Presence. She investigated, took instructions, and joined the Catholic Church. We know her today as St. Elizabeth Seton, the foundress of the Catholic school system in our country.

July 26, 2020

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From the Pastor...
The kingdom of God is like a treasure buried in a field..." (Mt, 13.44)

     Many have the kingdom close at hand but do not discover it for a long time. A case in point is Rob D. He was baptized in the Catholic faith as an infant, He received all the sacraments, He was even married in the Church. But he was not much of a Catholic. As a young man, he lived a rather amoral fife. He did not go to confession regularly. The Catholic faith did not mean that much to him. It seems that he had gone to work for the Knights of Columbus and was reintroduced to the Catholic faith. He started praying the rosary. One day, he was standing in the back of the church, during Mass, and something moved him to pray that he could become part of what was going on. Today he is a family man and something of a lay apostle for Christ (he even helped a woman in his office to reclaim a life of chastity, by advising her to stop using the birth control pill).
Some do not value the kingdom as much as it deserves. What is the kingdom? It has many forms.
   A. Faith: Do you value your faith? How much?
       (Would you defend it if put on the spot to do so?
       Do you not only keep it but also try to spread it?)
   B. Friendship with God? Do you consider the Lord your friend?
   C. Grace: How much does being holy mean to you?
       (Some will go for months in a state of serious sin before they go to confession.)
   D. Vocation: If the Lord called you to do something unplanned/unexpected, would you do it?
     "The kingdom in its purest form is Jesus Himself? How important is Jesus to you? Does He bring you joy just to think about Him? Do you think about Him? Do you speak with Him? Do you let Him in on life's decisions? What part does He play in your daily affairs? If you stopped believing in Him how different would your life be? (Do not say, "I would stop keeping the Ten Commandments." The Commandments were around before Jesus. Do not say, "I would stop going to Church." Of course you would, but what else?)
     In the parable of the treasure in the field, the great point is the joy of the discovery that made the man willing to give up everything to make the treasure indubitably his own. To follow Christ is to begin to share in his joy. He tells us so Himself: "You will live in my love if you keep my commandments.... All this I tell you that my joy may be yours and your joy may be complete" (Jn 15.101). St. Paul tells us that one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is joy ("love, joy, peace, patience, ete."). Never confuse pleasure with joy. Pleasure is fleeting. Joy abides. Ultimately, this is what heaven is about: "Enter into your Master's joy."

July 19, 2020

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From the Pastor...
The Power of the Word of God

     Isaiah: "Just as from the heavens the rain and the snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to him who sows and bread to him who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth. It will not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it" (55.10f). The word of God is effective. Everyone may not receive it fruitfully, but some will.
Here are some examples:
     Conversion of pagans:
A young man finally faced up to the fact that he was living a sinful life and had to do something about it. He started going to church and listening to the homilist. who was a holy man and a solid preacher of the Catholic faith. The young man was inspired to seek baptism (he was already in his 30's at the time). He became an exceptionally good Catholic. He sought ordination. We know him as St. Augustine.
     Conversion of unchurched/non-Christians:
A young Jewish boy was supposed to be practicing his piano lessons. When his parents weren't watching he would use the time to read from the forbidden bookshelf, the New Testament. He learned about Jesus (the long-awaited Messiah, the fulfillment of Jewish hopes). Eventually he was brought into the Church. He became a priest. He went on to become the Catholic Archbishop of Paris: Archbishop Lustigier.
     Conversion of the lapsed/non-practicing:
A woman was a medical doctor, a practicing abortionist, and a lapsed Catholic (Dr. Beverly McMillan). Something was missing in her life. She started reading Norman Vincent Peale's The Power of Positive Thinking. She was not looking for God (so she thought). She started reciting a line that Dr. Peale reiterates in his book: "I can do all things in Him who strengthens me." (At first she was apprehensive about saying this because she knew it was from the Bible.) She was also befriended by a practicing Christian (someone active in the Church). Today Dr. McMillan no longer practices abortion or gives out the birth control pill. She is a solid, pro-life Catholic.
     Millions of people from all walks of life have received Jesus's teaching and put their lives in His hands, over the past 2000 years...

July 19, 2020

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From the Pastor...
The Power of the Word of God

     Isaiah: "Just as from the heavens the rain and the snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to him who sows and bread to him who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth. It will not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it" (55.10f). The word of God is effective. Everyone may not receive it fruitfully, but some will.
Here are some examples:
     Conversion of pagans:
A young man finally faced up to the fact that he was living a sinful life and had to do something about it. He started going to church and listening to the homilist. who was a holy man and a solid preacher of the Catholic faith. The young man was inspired to seek baptism (he was already in his 30's at the time). He became an exceptionally good Catholic. He sought ordination. We know him as St. Augustine.
     Conversion of unchurched/non-Christians:
A young Jewish boy was supposed to be practicing his piano lessons. When his parents weren't watching he would use the time to read from the forbidden bookshelf, the New Testament. He learned about Jesus (the long-awaited Messiah, the fulfillment of Jewish hopes). Eventually he was brought into the Church. He became a priest. He went on to become the Catholic Archbishop of Paris: Archbishop Lustigier.
     Conversion of the lapsed/non-practicing:
A woman was a medical doctor, a practicing abortionist, and a lapsed Catholic (Dr. Beverly McMillan). Something was missing in her life. She started reading Norman Vincent Peale's The Power of Positive Thinking. She was not looking for God (so she thought). She started reciting a line that Dr. Peale reiterates in his book: "I can do all things in Him who strengthens me." (At first she was apprehensive about saying this because she knew it was from the Bible.) She was also befriended by a practicing Christian (someone active in the Church). Today Dr. McMillan no longer practices abortion or gives out the birth control pill. She is a solid, pro-life Catholic.
     Millions of people from all walks of life have received Jesus's teaching and put their lives in His hands, over the past 2000 years...

July 5, 2020

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Pastoral Column....

     There are many malefactors that are working to destroy our country, culture, and civilization. Besides the people who are looting and engaging in mob violence, we have forces within the system that are effectively dismantling our culture and society. One such culprit is (of all things) the U.S. Supreme Court. Throughout its history, the Supreme Court has made many decisions that are deleterious to a properly functioning society. The famous Dred Scott case (which was eventually overturned) comes to mind. This opened the door to the Civil War and the institution of slavery.
     The Court threw prayer out of public schools 60 years ago and has done its best to further secularize our culture since then. In 1961, the Court opened the door to the wide use and accessibility of contraceptives. This has wreaked havoc on the morals of our land and has served to undermine marriage and objectify women. In 1973, the Court issued its infamous rulings Roe V. Wade and Doe V. Bolton. These rulings opened the door to the slaughter of 60 million children in the womb. Recently, the Court redefined marriage, attacking the institution as God designed it, as a union of a man and woman until death do them part. Then, the court redefined “gender” and opened the door to a new classification of people who cannot be discriminated against. There will be countless lawsuits over this, to be sure.
     The Court is playing God, in its own way (a false god, to be sure). The real God would never make changes to the natural moral law or “redefine” marriage, sexuality, or personhood. Four of the justices are Catholics. Another was raised Catholic. Yet, two of these “Catholics” always seem to take the wrong side on these issues. Please pray for sanity among our leaders, especially the Catholics (who should know better).

June 7, 2020

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Pastor's Column   ....

     This Sunday we celebrate the mystery of God as three Persons in One. We call this the Holy Trinity. Even though the word "Trinity" does not occur in the Bible, the teaching that God is one and three is clearly and consistently revealed in the New Testament.
     Who revealed this to us? Jesus. He called Himself the Son of God. He spoke of God as His Father. He spoke of His equality with God: "I and the Father are one". He spoke about sending the Holy Spirit. Jesus even died as a martyr for the Trinity. " This man is making Himself equal to God", was the charge against Him.
     Lest anyone think that the Trinity is some odd fact that has no practical meaning, we must think again. Jesus wants us to share in the life of the Trinity. What does this mean? It means, ultimately, entering into heaven. It also means living a life of grace (holiness) here. It all begins with the sacrament of Baptism. (We are baptized into the Trinity.)
     Andrei Rublev painted a famous icon in which the Trinity is depicted as three spirits ("angels") seated around a table. The point is not to suggest that there are three gods or that angels make up the Godhead, but that the Trinity is a communion of Persons. God is eminently "personal". He is not merely a "higher power", prime mover or infinite intellect. He is "love". We can and should relate to Him. (Prayer facilitates this.)
     Everything we do, as Catholics, is somehow connected with the Trinity. The priest calls upon the Father to send down the Holy Spirit upon the bread and wine so that they may become the Body and Blood of Jesus. The priest invokes the Trinity when he imparts absolution in the confessional. The one true God (Father-Son-Holy Spirit) created everything and reached out to save the world ravaged by sin. Thanks be to God.
     Knowing and loving the one true God (Father-Son-Holy Spirit) is the key to living a blessed life. We all need protection from the evils of the world, the flesh, and the devil .

March 8, 2020

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From the Pastor...   .... How is your relationship with Jesus?

     God the Father's only comment about Jesus is: " This is my beloved Son.... Listen to Him." We can't listen to Jesus very well if we live a "noisy" life. We should not always need to have the radio or the television or other electronic devices cluttering up minds and hearts with noise. How do we do this? We need silence. I remember a seminarian (of all people) who was so upset that he was unable to sleep. It turns out that he could not calm down because he never allowed himself to experience quiet. He always had to be listening to music. His life was inundated with noise. This would also have affected his prayer-life.
     If we are to relate to Jesus, we need to pray. Prayer is intimacy with the One we love. How can we be friends with anyone if we do not spend regular periods of time paying attention to him? Spending time before the Blessed Sacrament is a privilege that we, as Catholics have. We can also have a "prayer-comer" at home. Jesus tells us to " go into your room and pray to your Father in private" (Mt. 6.6).
     If we are to relate to Jesus, we need not let anything get in the way, such as our sins. As Catholics, we have the sacrament of penance ("reconciliation"). People risk damaging or severing their relationship with the Lord because they stop going to confession. Imagine what would happen between a husband and a wife, if one party doesn't care about reconciling with the other, when it is necessary to do so, and goes on his merry way pretending that everything is fine. What kind of a relationship would this be?
     Finally, don't forget the Church. We need each other for support in maintaining a relationship with Jesus. Sunday Mass must be a priority. If you can be active in the parish, outside of Sunday Mass, this is encouraged. We need all the help we can get in a world that is thoroughly secularized and, if we're not careful, will convert us to its ways of thinking and acting. As confirmed, (or soon to be confirmed) Catholic people, aren't we supposed to be converting the world to Jesus?

February 23, 2020

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From the Pastor...   .... Lead us not into Temptation

     A temptation is a test. It is not a sin. A temptation is a suggestion to sin. As long as one takes no pleasure in it, he will not consent to it. It is consent that makes for sin. Nevertheless, we must take temptations seriously, lest we fall into sin.
     Make the sign of the cross. It strengthens us to face temptations and difficulties. Do penance: pray, fast, read the Scripture, make use of the sacraments (be honest with your confessor; be honest about your feelings, tendencies and affections.) When the devil wants to seduce a soul he urges it to keep silent, whether from pride or shame.
     Avoid occasions of sin. If you know that certain persons, places, things are sources of temptation, stay away from them as much as you are able. People bring much on themselves sometimes. If friends are occasions of sin, you have the wrong friends. St. Paul reminds us, "Bad company corrupts morals." Maybe it's the internet or cable television, which (for some) are occasions of sin. Maybe it's alcohol.
     Take small temptations seriously (otherwise, how can we face big ones?). It may be easy enough to refrain from murder, but it can be extremely difficult to restrain all the angry feelings for which occasions are offered at every moment. It may be easier to refrain from adultery than to guard one's glance or speaking or listening to flattering words It is easy enough not to steal our neighbor's property, but it may be difficult not to covet or desire it. It is easy enough not to bear false witness in court, but can be difficult not to lie in conversations, The supreme antidote against vice of every kind is the love of God. Worship Him, adore Him.

February 23, 2020

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From the Pastor...   .... What are you doing for Lent?

     This Wednesday begins the penitential season of Lent. Ash Wednesday, all the Fridays of Lent, and Good Friday, are days of abstinence from meat (for everyone 14 years of age and older). Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are also days of fasting (for everyone ages 18-59). Ash Wednesday is not a holy day of obligation, but people are encouraged to come to Mass on that day. What about the other days of Lent? Everyone is encouraged to practice various forms of penance (e.g., different types of fasting), prayer, and the giving of alms (i.e., charity). The bishops of the U.S., in their 1966 document, state: "we strongly recommend participation in daily Mass and a self-imposed observance of fasting. In the light of grave human needs which weigh on the Christian conscience in all seasons, we urge, particularly during Lent, generosity to local, national, and world programs of sharing of all things needed to translate our duty to penance into a means of implementing the right of the poor to their part in our abundance. We also recommend spiritual studies, beginning with the Scriptures as well as the traditional Lenten devotions (sermons, Stations of the Cross, and the rosary), and all the self-denial summed up in the Christian concept of 'mortification'."
     The parish will be providing opportunities for spiritual studies. These include Bible study on Monday nights, a Divine Mercy Retreat video series on Mondays and Thursdays, and a 5-week video series on the transforming power of confession ("Forgiven") on Wednesdays. There are also various devotional activities: Eucharistic exposition until 9:00 p.m. on Wednesdays, communal rosary before Masses, Stations of the Cross on Fridays after weekday morning Masses and at 7:00 p.m.. And, of course, we have daily Masses, and confessions. As usual, the church will be opened for many hours during each day. Come and visit the Blessed Sacrament. Pray the rosary or the Divine Mercy chaplet. Take a pamphlet from the literature rack for spiritual reading...
     The purpose of Lent is to prepare ourselves to renew our baptismal promises on Easter: to reject sin and Satan; to profess and live the Catholic faith, so as to live the mystery of resurrection, now and in the life to come.

February 16, 2020

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From the Pastor...  

     We live in a culture that tends to reject laws, rules, and anything seen as restrictions on human behavior. This distrust of laws also extends to the laws of God. I remember a woman who left her parish because she did not like what the priest had presented in his homily one weekend.
     "We didn't need to hear this," she said. What had the priest been talking about? His subject was the Ten Commandments. He presented each commandment and asked the people to examine themselves, accordingly. (Isn't this what a conscientious Catholic does to prepare for confession?) It is amazing the strange ideas that some people get. Another woman was upset that a priest would talk about something she believed had been thrown out by the Second Vatican Council. Not even Jesus Himself threw out the commandments: I have come not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it", He said.
     The commandments of God must be taken seriously if we are to even begin to be Christian disciples (note, I said, "begin"). The commandments free people from the slavery of sin. I can prove that sin can enslave people. Have you ever known someone with a vice?...someone who is compelled to engage in seriously immoral behavior on a regular basis? This person is a slave.
     The commandments, then, do not infringe upon our freedoms. They actually help us to be free: free to serve God and others; free to be disciples. A person who is wallowing in the mire of sin is not free to do these things. The commandments, for the "free person" are like guard rails for the good driver. The good driver is free from the guard rails in that he knows how to stay on the road, but, the rails are there just in case. We need to know what is right and what is wrong: Actions lead to habits. Habits form character. Good habits form good character. Bad habits form bad character.

January 5, 2019

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From the Pastor...     The Epiphany Blessing of Incenses, Water and Chalk

      At home, the current year and the initials of the Legendary names of the Magi are marked above the doorway with blessed chalk:
               20+C+M+B+20
While the presiding member of the household prays: May all who come to our home this year rejoice to find Christ living among us; and may we seek and serve, in everyone we meet, that same Jesus who is Lord forever and ever.      The C-M-B are initials of the legendary names of the Magi- Caspar, Melchoir, and Balthasar. Another explanation of C-M-B is: Christusmansionem benedicat, “May Christ bless this dwelling place.” Incense is burned during a festive meal after the blessing, and the rooms of the home may be sprinkled with water, a sign of the River Jordon.      The song "We Three Kings" details the gifts of the Magi, but do you know what you're singing? "Born a king on Bethlehem's plan, gold I bring to crown Him again." This one is the most straightforward - gold symbolizes the Kingship of Christ. "Myrrh is mine: its bitter perfume breathes a life of gathering gloom." Myrrh is an embalming spice. Already at Christ's birth, we have the symbolic reminder of his death. "Frankincense to offer have I. Incense owns a deity nigh." In many religious traditions, incense symbolizes prayers rising to heaven. The gift of frankincense symbolizes Jesus' role as the Great High Priest, sanctifying the world through his sacrifice.
     Chalk will be in the Gathering Space, please take a piece home to bless your home.

December 29, 2019

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From the Pastor...    What can we learn from the Holy Family?

     There are many facets to the Christmas story. An important one has to do with God sending Jesus to be born and raised within a family unit. The Holy Family was not a "traditional" family, as we might understand it. Joseph adopted Jesus and lived in a marriage that was never consummated. This was because of Mary's special vocation which necessitated perpetual virginity. Her virginity was to be an abiding sign of Jesus' divine origin.
     To all appearances, Jesus' family was "normal". Most people, at the time, had no understanding of the extraordinary nature of the family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. When Jesus started His public ministry, people were critical of Him as being merely, "the carpenter's son". Little did they realize that He was the Son of God.
     The Holy Family, although singular and unique, was not removed from the challenges of life. The gospel today, for example, speaks of their first big adventure: eluding the murderous designs of King Herod. The Divine Infant could have been killed in His infancy, were it not for the prompt action taken by St. Joseph to take the family into Egypt. I can't imagine the dread that must have fallen upon them.
     The Holy Family can teach us things about what is truly important for the Christian home. Jesus should be at the center. Each family member should strive to live a holy life. It makes things simpler that way. When God is first, people follow His commandments and strive to be virtuous. They will have a great advantage in relating to one another respectfully and in maintaining a spirit of service, rather than selfishness.

December 22, 2019

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From the Pastor...     The Gift of Jesus

     A popular gospel reading for a wedding is the story of Jesus' first public miracle at Cana (John 2). The opening line reads:
" There was a wedding at Cana and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had likewise been invited." Once, after I had read this line, a child's voice called out (as clear as a bell), "who is Jesus?" This was a bit of an interruption, but it is an excellent question, which more people need to ask: Who is Jesus?
     Jesus is God with a human nature. He is the invisible God in the flesh. As the Letter to the Hebrews tells us, He is the perfect image of the Father. And so, it is now possible for the merest child of five or six, who comes from a Catholic home environment to draw a picture of God. All he has to do is draw a baby in a manger or a man on the cross, for example.
     God commanded all of creation to come into being, by His very word. Yet, He makes Himself helpless and unable to speak, which is what the word "infant" means. He created the sun and the stars to give light and heat, yet He exposes Himself to the cold and dark night in Bethlehem. He has to be warmed by the breath of animals. The all-powerful One becomes weak and helpless. The impassible One opens His tiny mouth and cries. He who made laws regulating the entire universe, willingly subjects Himself to obeying two of His own creatures: Mary and Joseph. Why would the infinite, all-knowing God do such a thing?
     Why did God become man?
    a.   That we might know God's love. What is more lovable than a baby?
" God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son...." (Jn 3.16).
    b.   In order to reconcile us to God.
" God rest ye merry gentlemen... to save us all from Satan's power when we were gone astray."
    c.   To show us that life is good, even with its difficulties.
It's illustrative to consider that God chose to be born into a poor family. How many of us, if we had had such a choice, would choose something like that?
    d.  To show us humility: the Infinite One becomes tiny and helpless.
    e.  To make it possible for us to be holy.

December 1, 2019

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From the Pastor...     Rescuing Advent

     The world has a way of cheapening our religion. For example, what ever happened to Advent? Weeks before the first candle of the Advent wreath is illuminated, display windows, restaurants, television and print advertisements (and even some homes) begin displaying Christmas decorations. Further, the concern about the “disappearance” of Advent pales in comparison to what our society has done to Christmas. Many seasonal displays and programs give the impression that we are merely celebrating a winter holiday, rather than the birth of Jesus. It seems, in short, that the very things Jesus warned about (using the example of how things were in Noah’s time) are back with a vengeance. What can we do about a world that has lost sight of the Lord, and prefers that people live with this false sense of security, as if this world were to be our permanent home for all eternity?
     Let’s start with our home. Even in a family whose celebrations have evolved to the point where little of the Christ-Child matters any more, the gentle suggestion to add an Advent wreath to the home’s décor for the preceding weeks can deliver a subtle invitation to prepare inwardly.
     When the subject of Christmas parties (during the season of Advent) comes up among the neighbors, it’s true that one can take a hard line and say, “it’s too early, and we are only in the season of Advent”. A more fruitful response might be, “thanks for the invitation. I love Christmas gatherings! In our home we add to the joy by calling in friends for quieter and smaller gatherings that begin with some Advent prayers and lighting of the Advent wreath in the days before the actual arrival of Christmas. Do you know about this custom?”
     The introduction (and sometimes re-introduction) of very subtle activities can begin to draw family, friends, and neighbors to Christ at Christmas, when the culture exercises its influence to distract attention away from Him.
     Why not return to the habit of sending only religious Christmas cards? A secular card is not going to impress people. It will not inspire them to ask questions or think about the important things, the way that a conspicuously beautiful Madonna and Child will do. Remember, a picture paints a thousand words....

November 10, 2019

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From the Pastor...     Remembering those who have died

     It is an ancient custom to pray for the dead. The Book of Maccabees tells us that the Jews were already doing it 200 years before the coming of Jesus. The general, Judas Maccabeus, prayed for his fallen comrades who had all died in battle. It was discovered that they were wearing pagan amulets. Judas arranged for an expiatory sacrifice to be made on their behalf in the temple.
     It is clear from early inscriptions in the catacombs that the first Christians (Catholics) did the same. St. Augustine writes of his mother St. Monica. It seems that he and his brother were discussing, at her bedside, where she should be buried (she was near the end of her life). She interrupted her sons and said, "Never mind where you bury me. Remember me at the altar." St. Monica was a very devout Catholic who understood the power of the Mass for the living and the dead. (She lived in the fourth century.) To this day, the Catholic Church offers Masses for the dead. Any parish bulletin will list daily Masses along with the intention of the Mass. The intention is usually for someone who has died.
     The Church teaches that those who have died in God’s grace and friendship, but who are yet perfectly purified, are indeed assured of their salvation, but after death they undergo purification in order to achieve the holiness necessary to enter heaven. Purified of what? Selfishness, defects in devotion, faults, attachments to venial sin, laziness, etc. (I recall the vision of the priest who appeared to a village girl who didn’t recognize him. He said that he was in purgatory for celebrating many Masses perfunctorily.) The name for this state or process of purification is "purgatory". Purgatory is like a "finishing school" which gets people ready for heaven.
     November is a special time for remembering those who have died. Please pray for them with renewed ardor. When we die, we may very well need the prayers ourselves.

November 3, 2019

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From the Pastor...    

All Saints' Day is a solemn holy day of the Catholic Church celebrated annually on November 1. The day is dedicated to the saints of the Church, that is, all those who have attained heaven.

It should not be confused with All Souls' Day, which is observed on November 2, and is dedicated to those who have died and not yet reached heaven.

Although millions, or even billions of people may already be saints, All Saints' Day observances tend to focus on known saints that is those recognized in the canon of the saints by the Catholic Church.

All Saints' Day is also commemorated by members of the Eastern Orthodox Church as well as some protestant churches, such as Lutheran and Anglican churches.

Generally, All Saints' Day is a Catholic Holy Day of Obligation, meaning all Catholics are required to attend Mass on that day, unless they have an excellent excuse, such as serious illness.

Other countries have different rules according to their national bishop's conferences. The bishops of each conference have the authority to amend the rules surrounding the obligation of the day.

All Saints' Day was formally started by Pope Boniface IV, who consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Virgin Mary and all the Martyrs on May 13 in 609 AD. Boniface IV also established All Souls' Day, which follows All Saints.

Holy day customs vary around the world. In the United States, the day before is Halloween and is usually celebrated by dressing in costumes with themes of death commonly associated. Children go door to door in costume, trick-or-treating, that is soliciting candy from their neighbors. The holiday has lost much of its connection to its religious origins.

Although nearly everyone celebrates Halloween for the fun of the secular holiday, the following religious solemnity, is not widely practiced or acknowledged by most Americans unless they are Catholic.

Across much of Europe, the day is commemorated with offerings of flowers left on the graves of the dead. In Eastern Europe, candles are lit on graves instead of offerings of flowers.  USCCB

October 27, 2019

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From the Pastor...    Help us to be humble, O Lord

Why is it important to be humble?

  1. One cannot count on any favors from the Lord. The Scripture tells us that the Lord resists the proud but bestows favor on the humble (Prov. 3.34).
  2. One cannot expect to have his prayers answered unless he is humble enough to acknowledge that he needs forgiveness and works at it.
  3. One cannot expect to be forgiven without humility. The Scripture tells us repeatedly that God shows His mercy to the humble. Job 22.29: " For God abases the proud but He saves the lowly."
  4. Pride goes before disaster and a haughty spirit before a fall (Prov. 16).
  5. " Humble yourself before the Lord and He will exalt you" (James 4.10). Humility is not the most important virtue, charity is. But, without humility, there is no foundation on which to build a spiritual life. Humility is not thinking less of oneself but thinking of oneself less. Humility is not pretending to be no good or worthless. In fact, pride can masquerade in such disguises. So, how humble is a person?

Note the following signs of a lack of humility:
  1. Thinking that what one says or does is automatically better than what someone else thinks or does
  2. Always wanting to get one's way
  3. Arguing with stubbornness and bad manners whether one is right or wrong
  4. Giving an opinion when it has not been asked of us, or when charity does not demand it
  5. Looking down on another's point of view
  6. Seeking to stand out and be noticed
  7. Not looking at one's talents and abilities as gifts that have been given by God
  8. Using oneself as an example in conversations
  9. Not admitting one's own faults or taking correction
  10. Not taking criticism gracefully
  11. Bragging
  12. Having an inflated sense of self-importance
  13. Etc.

October 20, 2019

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From the Pastor...

       Objections to Prayer
       A common objection is: God doesn't hear my prayers. (Interestingly, this objection is only raised regarding petitionary prayer, and not with prayers of praise or thanksgiving.) God hears all prayers, but maybe we do not like the answer He might be giving us. Maybe we do not even understand that He has answered the prayer, but in a way we did not expect. Sometimes, people have such a limited view of God they say things such as, "I don't want to bother Him by asking Him for things, He has enough to do." This objection sounds humble, but it really isn't. Simply put, it is bad theology. God is not limited in what He can do. He isn't like a man answering a telephone or a letter, who can only do one thing at a time!
     Jesus explains what is at the root of failure to pray: lack of faith. Prayer is an expression of faith. It also feeds faith. To be sure, there are difficulties. Don't be put off by them. One such difficulty in prayer is distraction. Find a suitable place with a supportive environment (this will help with external distractions). Be sure to prepare for prayer (take 15 or 20 minutes if you have to: take a walk, calm down, do whatever you need to do to put yourself at ease and to calm the mind; then you are ready to pray). Prayer can also be difficult because of temptations which may creep in. Again, lack of faith is a common one that militates against prayer. People can forget their dependency on God. In their minds, they do not need to pray. Prayer for them is a luxury, not a vital necessity. Don't give into this temptation. We need God. We need His love. We are completely dependent upon Him. Sometimes prayer is difficult because it can be dry: without any sensible consolations. Don't worry about this. Think of prayer as a function of our relationship with God. Even earthly relationships (e.g., marriage) are not always marked by having "good feelings". One should be able to love another person without experiencing consolation. Otherwise, we are talking about being self-absorbed: I will open myself up to you as a long as it makes me feel good.
     Be persistent and faithful. Even if one doesn't "feel like praying", pray anyway. Don't be put off by apparent "lack of results". Prayer isn't merely about "results". It is about having a real relationship with a real God. Prayer can work wonders for people, for families, for parishes and nations. It isn't because it changes God. It's because prayer changes us. And through us, it can change the world, at least our little corner of it. Whenever we pray, it is not just what we are doing, but what God does within us and through us.

October 13, 2019

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From the Pastor...

     October is dedicated to the Rosary. The reason is that the Catholic naval forces, outnumbered by their opponents three to one, defeated the Turks in the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. What was the secret to the victory? Pope Pius V had called for a rosary crusade throughout Europe to help the Christian forces. The date of the victory was October 7th. Originally known as Our Lady of Victory, October 7th is now the feast of the Holy Rosary.
     In his book, The Power of the Rosary, Fr. Albert Shaman recounts similar Marian interventions in recent history. The Russian troops, who occupied Austria for several years, mysteriously returned to their own country in 1956, without a shot being fired. It seems that a priest named Fr. Peter had called for a rosary crusade. He believed that if ten percent of the Austrians pledged to pray a rosary daily for the Soviets to leave, that Austria would be free. 700,000 pledged. Seven years later the Russians left Austria. If enough people prayed the rosary, today, imagine what spiritual power would be unleashed against our society’s culture of death.
     There are other examples of the power of the rosary for nations and for individuals. Bishop James E. Walsh maintained his sanity during years of confinement in a Chinese prison through the daily rosary, which he prayed on his fingers. Then there is the case of Dr. Carlos Finlay. It was while praying his daily rosary and batting away mosquitoes, that he discovered the cause of malaria. As a result of his discovery, construction on the Panama Canal would be completed.
     The Blessed Mother is called Our Lady of the Rosary. In her recent appearances (e.g. at Lourdes and Fatima), she has encouraged regular use of this prayer chaplet. Many popes have recommended it. The rosary was Pope John Paul II’s favorite prayer. Treasure the opportunity to spend time with our Lord and his mother each day.

October 6, 2019

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From the Pastor... October is dedicated to the Rosary

     After the publication of Pope St. John Paul II's apostolic letter "Rosarium Virginis Mariae,"
the weekly cycle of meditations on the mysteries of the rosary are as follows:

  • The joyful mysteries: Monday and Saturday
  • The luminous mysteries: Thursday
  • The sorrowfill mysteries: Tuesday and Friday
  • The glorious mysteries: Wednesday and Sunday.

     This distribution is customary and not set in any legal code, and there is fairly wide leeway left for personal devotion. It is also customary to pray those mysteries that are most appropriate on the respective feasts. For example, if the Annunciation falls on a Friday, it would usually be considered as more appropriate to pray the joyful rather than the sorrowful mysteries.
     Likewise, there may be other good reasons for not following the customary cycle. During retreats and spiritual exercises, for instance, the mysteries are sometimes prayed according to the themes of the day. There may also be personal reasons that lead individuals to choose to vary the cycle. Needless to say, it is also possible to pray more than one set of mysteries on a given day and even the full rosary. St. John Paul II, in spite of all his duties, frequently prayed the full daily rosary.

September 29, 2019

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From the Pastor... October is the Month of the Rosary

     After the publication of Pope St. John Paul II's apostolic letter "Rosarium Virginis Mariae,"
the weekly cycle of meditations on the mysteries of the rosary are as follows:

  • The joyful mysteries: Monday and Saturday
  • The luminous mysteries: Thursday
  • The sorrowfill mysteries: Tuesday and Friday
  • The glorious mysteries: Wednesday and Sunday.

     This distribution is customary and not set in any legal code, and there is fairly wide leeway left for personal devotion. It is also customary to pray those mysteries that are most appropriate on the respective feasts. For example, if the Annunciation falls on a Friday, it would usually be considered as more appropriate to pray the joyful rather than the sorrowful mysteries.
     Likewise, there may be other good reasons for not following the customary cycle. During retreats and spiritual exercises, for instance, the mysteries are sometimes prayed according to the themes of the day. There may also be personal reasons that lead individuals to choose to vary the cycle. Needless to say, it is also possible to pray more than one set of mysteries on a given day and even the full rosary. St. John Paul II, in spite of all his duties, frequently prayed the full daily rosary.

September 22, 2019

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From the Pastor... October is the Month of the Rosary

"Since the prayers of the Rosary come from such excellent sources - from Our Lord Himself, from inspired Scripture, and from the Church - it is not surprising that the Rosary is so dear to our Blessed Mother and so powerful with heaven.
     "If we consider the power of the Rosary as seen in its effects, we find a great abundance of proofs of its wonderful value. Many are the favors granted to private individuals through its devout recitation: there are few devoted users of the Rosary who cannot testify to experiencing its power in their own lives. If we turn to history, we see many great triumphs of the Rosary. Early tradition attributes the defeat of the Albigensians at the Battle of Muret in 1213 to the Rosary. But even those who do not accept this tradition will admit that St. Pius V attributed the great defeat of the Turkish fleet on the first Sunday of October, 1571, to the fact that at the same time the Rosary confraternities at Rome and elsewhere were holding their processions. Accordingly, he ordered a commemoration of the Rosary to be made on that day. Two years later, Gregory XIII allowed the celebration of a feast of the Rosary in churches having an altar dedicated to the Rosary. In 1671, Clement X extended the feast to all Spain. A second great victory over the Turks, who once, like the Russians, threatened the ruin of Christian civilization, occurred on August 5, 1716, when Prince Eugene defeated them at Peterwardein in Hungary. Thereupon Clement XI extended the feast of the Rosary to the whole Church. "Today, when dangers far greater than those of the ancient Turks threaten not only Christianity but all civilization, we are urged by our Blessed Mother to turn again to the Rosary for help. If men in sufficient numbers do this, and at the same time carry out the other conditions that she has laid down, we have the greater reason for confidence that we will be delivered from our dangers.

September 8, 2019

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From the Pastor.......... How free are you?   Downloadable - How free are you?

     There are several steps to becoming free and living accordingly. Freedom, here, does not mean freedom of movement or being able to do what one wants when he wants to do it. (This can be merely superficial freedom.) Remember the old adage: "Iron bars do not a jail make." The point is that a person can be superficially "free", but, at the same time, impeded by the effects of sins, lies and evil spirits. This is where Jesus comes in. The Lord wants us to be free to be the people that we are supposed to be. He wants us to be free from psychological "hang-ups". He wants us to be free from the effects of immorality: sins we may have committed, and the effects of other people's sin. What to do?
• Step 1. Repent of all sin. For Catholics, confession is ideal in this regard.
• Step 2. Forgive everyone who has offended you in any way.
      I recommend the use of the Forgiveness Prayer (use the Internet).
      [Perhaps Forgiveness Prayer by Fr Robert DeGrandis S.S.J. L]
      The prayer is a template (so, make it you own. Make any changes to the prayer that you need to make.)
      Pray it every day for a week or 30 days (for deep-seated unforgiveness issues.) Pray the prayer out loud.
• Step 3. Renounce any lies that you may be clinging to.
      Say: "In the name of Jesus, I renounce the lie that _____"
      (Fill in the blank with whatever is appropriate: e.g., the lie that I'm a failure, I'm a bad person,
      God doesn't care about me, God wanted this (bad thing) to happen, I am unworthy, I am in control and can fix everybody, etc.
• Step 4. Renounce evil spirits. Actually, this is not an "exorcism"
      This is a renunciation of common "spirits" that may be affecting you.
      For example: "In the name of Jesus, I renounce the spirit of ____"
      (Fill in the blank with whatever pertains to you: fear, rejection, resentment, anxiety, worry, shame, loneliness, guilt, etc.)
      Again, make these renunciations out loud, and "In the name of Jesus".
• Step 5. "In the name of Jesus I command every spirit that I have renounced.
      Every spirit behind the lies and sins that I have confessed, to leave me now, never to return again!"

August 25, 2019

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From the Pastor.......... How many are going to heaven?

     This is another question that Jesus does not answer. Why not? Because He was not one for indulging people's curiosity. Today, I'm afraid, while many people are interested in this question: "are there many who will be saved?" Many people, seemingly, assume that salvation is nothing to be that concerned about. I mean, after all, isn't God good? Why would He send people to hell? Etc. God is certainly good. And He has never sent anyone to hell. People do it to themselves. Hell is not like being sentenced to prison. It is, rather, the result of a person's own choice to live without God. Even heaven would be hellish for people who want nothing to do with God or His kingdom. Well, someone might say, perhaps there is a hell, but isn't it reserved only for the worst perpetrators of evil the world has ever known? The problem with that interpretation is that a person gets himself off the hook. This is why Jesus tells His questioner not to be seeking information about how many are in heaven. Rather, make sure that you get there, yourself. "Strive to enter the narrow gate." The only people in heaven are saints (holy people).
     The Scripture never says that everyone is going to heaven automatically. This would make a sham out of Christ's death on the cross. St. Paul has a number of lists of the kind of people who are excluded from the kingdom of God: including, thieves, adulterers, misers, drunkards, sodomites, etc. Jesus actually talked about hell more than He did about heaven. This was not because He was preoccupied with hell, but because He loves us and doesn't want anyone to perish. Jesus challenges us to enter through the narrow gate. This means that if we want to live in heaven, after we have spent our time on earth, we have to make the effort to live holy lives. Even the great St. Paul said, "I continue to buffet my body, lest after having preached to others, I myself may be found wanting." Prayer, penance, dying to selfishness, humility, detachment from material goods, obedience to God and to our rightful superiors, the keeping of the commandments, reconciling with God and with others, etc.
     The road to heaven is not laxity. Laxity is the "wide road" that many choose to take.

August 11, 2019

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From the Pastor.......... How is your hearing?

     Clergy must always strive to preach well. At the same time, it is necessary for lay people to be better hearers of the gospel. In his book, The Crisis of Bad Preaching, Fr. Joshua Whitfield deals with the subject of rectifying poor homiletics. At the end of the book he writes about improving one's hearing. Even a good homily will only be as effective as there are good hearers to receive it. As St. Paul says, "Faith comes through hearing."      

How can we improve our hearing?
      1. Read the Sunday readings in advance.
      2. Pray for your preachers.
      3. Expect the Holy Spirit to speak through the preachers.
      4. Strive to listen.
      5. Don't be overly concerned about the length of the homily.
      6. Listen for what inspires you.
      7. Listen to what might upset you.
     Provocative preaching belongs to the prophetic character of the Church.
     Jesus' first homily, given in His home town, enraged His listeners.
      He was speaking prophetically.
      8. After a homily, ask the question,
      "What am I to do to put this message into effect?"
      9. Talk about the homily afterward.
      Talking with family and friends after Mass
      can be a spiritual exercise.
      Not only can we gather something we may have missed,
      but also, we can grow closer to our fellow-disciples.
      Journaling and taking the homily to prayer, can also help.
     10. Remember the homily later in the week.

August 4, 2019

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From the Pastor.......... The Smoke of Satan

     Philip Lawler has written another book: The Smoke of Satan. The subtitle of this book says it all: "How Corrupt and Cowardly Bishops Betrayed Christ, His Church, and the Faithful... And What to do About it." The publisher cites three factors contributing to the failure of American bishops to deal with the current crises that plague the Church: they have failed in their duties to teach, to rule and to sanctify. Lawler's book presents the sad story.
     The inspiration for the title of the book comes from Pope Paul VI's famous quip: "Through some fissure, the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God." The context for the quote is the tumult that followed the second Vatican Council. Lawler suggests that the "smoke of Satan" is not only a thing of the past, but also an ongoing factor in the life of the Church. Current examples include the way that certain bishops have handled clerical sexual misconduct.
     The book is not only about the sexual abuse crisis. The crisis simply fits into a context that has been with us for many decades. "Despite the grave losses that Catholicism has suffered during the past fifty years -- the thousands who have left the Church, the families that have broken apart, the priests and religious who have forsaken their vows, the parishes and schools that have been closed, -- bishops remain reluctant to calculate the total damages and identify the root causes of the disaster". He continues: "An honest appraisal of the past fifty years should brace us for the conclusion that there are many diocesan programs that should never have been launched, liturgical innovations that should never have been suggested, hymns that should never have been sung. There are also priests who should not have been ordained, religious who should never have taken vows, and couples who should never have married". The implicit question is, "Who's minding the store?" It should have been the bishops.
     The Smoke of Satan is well written and persuasive. Not only does it analyze the crisis in Church leadership, but also, it encourages everyone in the Church to make a difference. Fulton Sheen once said that it is the laity who will save the Church, not the clergy. To that end, Philip Lawler has compiled several lists of do's and don'ts for laity. He ends on a positive note: "Then stand back, keep praying, and prepare for the Catholic revival".

July 28, 2019

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From the Pastor.......... Teach us how to pray

     Every now and then, someone claims that he does not prefer to pray "formula" prayers. He would rather compose his own, We can compose our own prayers. Even children, with prompting, can pray spontaneously and in their own words. I would suggest, that although we can (and sometimes should) compose our own things to say to God, we should not neglect to pray the way Jesus taught us to pray. Music written by the great composers is better than anything we can compose. The same is true with prayer, and the Lord's Prayer in particular. Who is more qualified to teach us how to pray than Jesus Himself?
     The context for the prayer is given in the opening address: "Father". Calling Him "Father" should inspire within us two attitudes: the desire to be like Him and confidence in Him. How many Christians today have forgotten that they are children of God? (Sin, serious sin in particular, is compatible with our dignity as God's children.) "Father" also reminds us that prayer is a relational thing. We're not just saying words. We are talking to the Lord, in the language he gave us.
     "Give us this day our daily bread." "Here, we recognize the Lord as the source of all that is good. We entrust to Him our daily needs (while not shirking our responsibilities).
     "Forgive us our trespasses." This is the only petition with a condition attached to it: "as we forgive those who trespass against us." In other words, we make a pledge of our ongoing responsibility to forgive all who have hurt us (and anticipate doing so for anyone who will hurt us in the future).
     "Lead us not into temptation," does not mean to suggest that God leads us into temptation. "God tempts no one" (as St. James reminds us). It means only that He spare us from being tempted. Failing that, we are praying that we not succumb to temptation. We must be vigilant, lest we fall into sin. The Lord's Prayer helps us with this challenge.
     "Deliver us from evil" was originally, "deliver us from the evil one. This includes all evils (past, present and future) of which the devil is the author or instigator. We do not know why the Lord permits evil spirits to have a certain freedom in the world. We must not be naive to think that we can stand up against them without God. Ultimately, the devil has one aim, to subvert us so that we will never go to heaven. We are praying for deliverance from such a terrible fate.

July 7, 2019

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From the Pastor.......... Passing on the faith

     Everyone who believes in Jesus Christ and strives to live out his baptismal commitment is the beneficiary of a gift given to Him by God, through others. Without the Christian influence, witness and proclamation of the Gospel by others, none of us would have the faith. With this in mind, we have to be ready to do our part to make it possible for others to accept the gift of salvation in Christ. How do we do that?
     Evangelization means bringing the Good News of Jesus into every human situation and seeking to convert individuals and society by the divine power of the gospel itself.
     What is so important about knowing Jesus Christ? St. John tells us that it is a matter of life and death. "This is eternal life, that they may know you the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent" (17.3). St. Peter said: There is no salvation in anyone else, for there is no other name in the whole world given to men by which we are to be saved" (Acts. 4.12). Jesus Himself said (Mk 16.16): "The man who believes in the (Gospel) and accepts baptism will be saved; the man who refuses to believe in it will be condemned." If we take these words seriously, there is no room for indifferentism. There is no salvation without Jesus Christ, for anyone. We must not be an elite group: "We are saved and others are not."
     Be a witness yourself. Remember, no one will listen to what you have to say unless you're living the faith yourself, (And sometimes you won't need to say anything; your witness will be enough. St. Francis told his friars: Preach and if need be, use words.) Be kind to people. Be understanding. Be forgiving. Be patient. Serve others. Use the sacrament of penance wisely. Ask yourself, what kind of Christian example have I given to others who do not have the faith? (Christians who do not practice the faith impede evangelization.)
     Pray. Be devoted to the Lord. Remember unbelievers in your prayers. Look to the example of St. Monica (it took thirty years). Have Masses offered for "special intentions" (i-e., particular unbelievers). The Mass is a very powerful means of intercession because it is Jesus praying to His Father. Remember, conversion is a function of grace.

June 23, 2019

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"This is my body" (Mt 26:26)

     We believe in the true presence of the actual glorified body of Jesus Christ in this sacrament:      "The greatest mystery of the Christian faith is that God came to us in the body, suffered with us in the body, rose in the body, and gave us his body as food. No religion takes the body as seriously as the Christian religion."
     "The body is not seen as the enemy or as prison of the spirit, but celebrated as the Spirit's temple. Through Jesus' birth, life, death, and Resurrection, the human body has become part of the life of God. By eating the body of Christ, our own fragile bodies are becoming intimately connected with the risen Christ and thus prepared to be lifted up with him into the divine life. Jesus says, 'I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world'. (Jn 6:51)
     "It is in union with the body of Christ that we come to know the full significance of our own body. Our own body is much more than a mortal instrument of pleasure and pain. It is a home where God wants to manifest the fullness of the divine glory. This truth is the most profound basis for the moral life. The abuse of the body - whether it be psychological (e.g., instilling fear), physical (e.g., torture), economic (e.g., exploita- tion), or sexual (e.g., hedonistic pleasure seeking) - is a distortion of true human destiny: to live in the body eternally with God. The loving care given to our bodies and the bodies of others is therefore a truly spiritual act, since it leads the body closer towards its glorious existence.
     "The feast of the body of Christ is given to us to fully recognize the mystery of the body and to help us find ways to live reverently and joyfully in the body in expectation of the risen life with God" EWTN

June 16, 2019

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From EWTN on the Holy Trinity

     Perhaps the deepest, the most profound of all mysteries is the mystery of the Trinity. The Church teaches us that although there is only one God, yet, somehow, there are three Persons in God. The Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God, yet we do not speak of three Gods, but only one God. They have the same nature, substance, and being.
     We came to know this immense mystery because Christ revealed it to us. Just before ascending He told them:
"Go teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19).
We know that these Three are not just different ways of looking at one person. For at the Last Supper, Jesus told us: "I came forth from the Father." So He is different from the Father. But He also promised: " If go, I will send Him [the Paraclete] to you. . . . He will guide you to all truth" (John 16:28, 7, 13). So the Holy Spirit is also different.
      Even though the Three Persons are One God, yet they are distinct: for the Father has no origin, He came from no one. But the Son is begotten, He comes from the Father alone. The Holy Spirit comes or proceeds from both the Father and the Son. These different relations of origin tell us there are three distinct Persons, who have one and the same divine nature.
     Even though everything the Three Persons do outside the Divine nature is done by all Three, yet it is suitable that we attribute some works specially to one or the other Person. So we speak of the Father especially as the power of creation, of the Son as the wisdom of the Father, of the Holy Spirit as goodness and sanctification.      EWTN

The Twelve Promises of the Sacred Heart

The Sacred Heart of Jesus
      As given by Our Lord to Saint Margaret Mary
- I will give them all the graces necessary for their state of life.
- I will give peace in their families.
- I will console them in all their troubles.
- They shall find in My Heart an assured refuge during life and especially at the hour of death.
- I will pour abundant blessings on all their undertakings.
- Sinners shall find in My Heart the source and infinite ocean of mercy.
- Tepid souls shall become fervent.
- Fervent souls shall speedily rise to great perfection.
- I will bless the homes in which the image of My Sacred Heart shall be exposed and honored.
- I will give to priests the power to touch the most hardened hearts.
- Those who propagate this devotion shall have their name written in My Heart, and it shall never be effaced.
- | promise thee in the excess of the mercy of My Heart,
that its all-powerful Love will grant to all those who shall receive Communion
on the First Friday of Nine consecutive months the grace of final repentance;
they shall not die under My displeasure, nor without receiving the Sacraments;
My Heart shall be their assured refuge at that last hour.

June 2, 2019

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From the Pastor ... What is heaven like

     Jesus talks more about hell than He does about heaven. This was not because He was obsessed with the netherworld, but because He wants to save as many people as possible from eternal perdition. There is no happiness without God. Therefore, anyone who does not get to heaven will be in misery for all eternity. We need God. We need toshare in His life and love. This is ultimately fulfilled in heaven. So, what makes heaven heaven?
     Some funeral homilists, today, speak of heaven in very earthly terms (e.g., playing golf or having a good time forever), implying, I suppose, that heaven is a permanent "vacation" of some sort. Clearly, speaking of heaven in this way does not do justice to it (to say the least). It is not difficult to demonstrate that an abundance of earthly goods and pleasures do not in and of themselves make anyone happy. Heaven is eternal happiness (not eternal pleasure or amusement).
     True happiness must therefore be based on something spiritual. The Bible connects happiness with holiness. The beatitudes speak of the spiritual qualities that make for happiness, a happiness which the world cannot give. (I can recall a television documentary about a community of monks. The television crew was amazed that there was so much joy in the monastery, even with their poverty, chastity and obedience.)
     What makes heaven heaven is the presence of God, who is all holy, and sharing in the life of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in a way that far surpasses our share in His life on earth (which begins in baptism and is forfeited by serious sin). Heaven, then, is not so much a place, as it is a life (a life that begins here with grace). Heaven is "abundant life". A house is a building; a home has a heart. Heaven is more of a home.
     St. Paul speaks of heaven as being with Jesus. Heaven is personal. He said this when he was on death row: "I long to be freed from this life and to be with Christ?" (Phil 1.23).
     Heaven also includes the friends of God: the saints and angels. Our dearest friend, among this group, will be the Blessed Virgin Mary. Heaven is perfect communion with the Lord and all who are in communion with Him. Everybody in heaven will be friends with the saints, by definition.

May 19, 2019

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From the Pastor ... Jesus's new commandment

Jesus said that His commandment to love others is "new". Why? It is new because it is revolutionary. The scope goes beyond anything that Moses (or anyone else) ever said. What do I mean? Love your enemies; pray for your persecutors (Mt 5.44).  Many of us remember when Pope John Paul II met with his would-be killer and forgave him in his jail cell. What about the many people who don't have enemies or persecutors?. Whether or not we have "enemies", we all need to bear wrongs patiently and readily forgive others.
      The commandment is new because it applies in every day and age. For example, the Catholic Church is the greatest purveyor of social services the world has ever known:
a) the first hospital in Cleveland by Bishop Rappe for returning Civil War veterans, The hospital still exists, it is St. Vincent Charity Hospital. Bishop Rappe also sponsored orphanages (he was called "father of orphans") and many parochial schools;
b) countless religious orders have been founded to take care of the needs of the infirm and the needy (e.g., the Hawthorn Dominicans, the Missionary Sisters of Charity),
c) "personal charity": the saints provide the best example of the extension of charity received from the Lord, to others: St. Thomas More and his ministry to expectant mothers. Needless to say, there are many opportunities to assist the needy today.
     The commandment is new because it is not merely a prohibition. It tells us what we should do. This will apply up to the Last Judgment where Jesus mentions the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned. "Whatever you did to one of these least ones, you did unto me." Sins of omission offend charity. It can be rather sobering to think that we will also be judged on what we failed to do.
     The commandment is new because it demands many applications. St. Gianna Beretta Molla died in 1962 due to complications from the birth of her fourth child. Gianna was the last saint to be canonized by Pope John Paul II. She could have had an operation that would have saved her life, but not the baby's. She wanted, more than anything, that the baby's life be saved. The baby is now 57 years-old. Didn't Jesus say, there is no greater love than to lay down your life for your friends? And "let the little children come unto me?" Gianna did not have to do what she did. It was'a heroic act. St. Gianna's great love indicts a contraceptive and abortive culture in which children are often unwelcome.

May 12, 2019

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From the Pastor ... Pray for Vocations

     One of the most endearing images of Jesus, found even on the walls of the catacombs, is that of the Good Shepherd. He is pictured holding a lamb over His shoulder or close to His heart. This image is right out of the Bible. King David started out as a shepherd of sheep. Later he became a shepherd of people. When Jesus looked out at the vast crowd, it reminded Him of a large flock of sheep. He lamented that they looked like sheep without a shepherd. And in John 10, Jesus says, "I am the Good Shepherd". Why did Jesus use this image? People are not sheep, of course. But there are certain things that we have in common with sheep: we need care, we need protection, we need direction.
     The fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday, is fittingly "world day of prayer for vocations". This is because the Lord employs some people to be shepherds of His flock as priests or religious. Most of the sacraments require a priest's involvement. Certainly, there would be no Mass (Eucharist) without priests. And without the Eucharist, there would be no Church. Our diocese is fortunate to have two seminaries (Borromeo and St. Mary's). These institutions provide for the formation of candidates to the priesthood. I went through four years of formation at St. Mary's (when it was located on Ansel Road in Cleveland). My ordination class is a total of 19. In those days (I was ordained in 1982), the numbers of ordinations were always in double digits. In recent years (since the 1990s), while we manage to have ordinations each year, the numbers are much lower (three to five, perhaps). Some people speak of a shortage of priests. Certainly, every priest is valuable. It is always a sad thing to lose a priest, or to lose a prospective vocation.
     We have to remember that priests generally come from solid, Catholic home environments. When we consider that the second largest "religious group" in the U.S. consists of inactive Catholics, it puts things into perspective. If there is a vocations crisis, it begins in the home.
     Please pray for the young men who will be ordained at our cathedral on May 18th. Also, remember our seminarians, especially our own Christopher Stein, in your prayers. Please pray for all priests and religious, for their continued fidelity.

April 21, 2019

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From the Pastor ... Death, where is your victory?

     "It is in regard to death that man's condition is most shrouded in doubt" (Vatican II). No one wants to die. The human person recoils at the prospect of bodily decay and the end of earthly existence. Leo Tolstoy, in The Death of Ivan Ilyich, tells the story of a man who coped with his death by simply not thinking about it. He was able to do this until he had a fatal accident. The looming specter of death terrified him. Today, there are, likewise, many successful, worldly people, whose horizon is limited to what they can see and touch.
     Faith in Christ is urgent because it is the only thing that is able to address, adequately, human mortality. Jesus, who rose from the dead bodily, promises a like resurrection to all who embrace Him in faith. What amazes me is that there are many Catholics who do not make any connection between Jesus's resurrection and the hope that is in store for those who love Him. For them, the resurrection of Jesus is limited to Him and has nothing to do with us on a practical level. We must get the word out that we believe in the resurrection of the body, not only Jesus's body, but also our own (provided that we persevere in the faith).
     Jesus set up His Church to provide the means for people to live the life of resurrection, starting with baptism. The sacrament of penance ("confession") allows people to maintain their baptismal purity. (Jesus founded this sacrament on the evening of Easter. See John 20). In the sacrament of the Eucharist, Jesus fills people with the seeds of eternity: "He who feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has life eternal, and I will raise him up on the last day" (John 6.54).
     What can we do, then, about death? Live the faith. Live a sacramental life. Pray. Make the Sunday Mass the high point of the week. Keep the teachings of the Church. Strive to be Christ-like in thought, word and deed. With Jesus, we will not perish after death. We will rise to a new and glorious life.
     Alleluia! Alleluia!

March 24th, 2019

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From the Pastor ... The ministry of the confessional

     Last Wednesday evening, the diocese of Cleveland's "Evening of Confession" took place. This special evening started several years ago. Each parish is asked to make available, once a year, several hours of confessions. More people are catching on to it. This year I heard 37 confessions. {The first year I heard only 4: although the weather was quite inclement). Last year, there were 50 confessions at Immaculate Conception.
     As a follow up to the evening of confession, the diocese sent out surveys asking for priests' input. The comment I made was to the effect that whereas I believe that much good comes out of the evening of confession, there is much more that can be done to promote the sacrament. For example, what about the rest of the year? In many parishes, the amount of time offered for confession, in a typical week, is hardly adequate. For example, 30 minutes each week, or confessions by appointment only. I am happy that many people take advantage of the confessional opportunities at this parish, both at the regular Saturday times, and on Sunday mornings. Last weekend I was in the confessional for two and a half hours, total. I was not merely "sitting in the box". I was quite busy. Many people received the benefits of the sacrament. I often hear the confessions of people who have been away from the sacraments for years. And then, there are the "regulars". But, every Catholic should partake of the sacrament regularly, who is not otherwise impeded. I use the sacrament myself (as every priest should; most do, I am sure). It helps people to maintain the life of grace (or to regain it, if they have lost it through mortal sin), which is so necessary for life here and in the world to come.
     If you have not been to confession in a while, why not make it a point to do so during this Lenten season? If you are hesitant because you are not sure of what to say {because it has been so long since your last confession), pick up a good examination of conscience flyer. Check our literature rack, see me, or look for one on the Internet. There are plenty of good guides for confession available.

March 3rd, 2019

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From the Pastor ... Lent begins this week

     This Wednesday begins the penitential season of Lent. Ash Wednesday, all the Fridays of Lent, and Good Friday, are days of abstinence from meat. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are also days of fasting. (The age requirements are indicated in another part of this bulletin.) Ash Wednesday is not a holy day of obligation, but people are encouraged to come to Mass on that day. What about the other days of Lent? Everyone is encouraged to practice various forms of penance (e.g., different types of fasting), prayer, and the giving of alms (i.e., charity). The bishops of the U.S., in their 1966 document, state: "we strongly recommend participation in daily Mass and a self-imposed observance of fasting. In the light of grave human needs which weigh on the Christian conscience in all seasons, we urge, particularly during lent, generosity to local, national, and world programs of sharing of all things needed to translate our duty to penance into a means of implementing the right of the poor to their part in our abundance. We also recommend spiritual studies, beginning with the Scriptures as well as the traditional Lenten devotions (sermons, Stations of the Cross, and the rosary), and all the self denial summed up in the Christian concept of "mortification."
     The parish will be providing opportunities for spiritual studies. These include Bible study on Monday nights, contemplative prayer class on Tuesday evenings, and another Bible study on Tuesday evenings. There are also various devotional activities: Eucharistic exposition until 9:00 p.m. on Wednesdays, communal rosary before Masses, Stations of the Cross on Fridays after weekday morning Masses and at 7:00 p.m. And, of course, we have daily Masses, and confessions. As usual, the church will be opened for many hours during each day. Come and visit the Blessed Sacrament. Pray the rosary or the Divine Mercy chaplet. Take a pamphlet from the literature rack for spiritual reading....
     The purpose of Lent is to prepare ourselves to renew our baptismal promises on Easter: to reject sin and Satan; to profess and live the Catholic faith, so as to live the mystery of resurrection, now and in the life to come.

February 24th, 2019

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From the Pastor ... Are we allowed to "judge"?

     Which verse in the Bible is most misunderstood in today's culture? "Do not judge and you will not be judged."
     Many people seem to think that Jesus is telling us not to evaluate behavior. Everyone has an obligation to judge people's behavior, especially when one has certain responsibilities. For example, a parent who refuses to judge his children's behavior is not a good parent. A supervisor who turns a blind eye to his subordinates' behavior is malfeasant.
     Judging behavior is not wrong. Rash judging people is another story. Rash judging means to believe the worst about someone without sufficient evidence. I should not assume that a particular person is guilty of some moral fault, if I don't even know him, for example. And if someone repeats something about a third party, which is derogatory, challenge him. "Where did you get this information?" "Why are you telling me this." lf the information seems to be true, let us at least pray for the person.
     It is a work of mercy to admonish sinners or to instruct the ignorant. Don't fall for the ploy: "You're being judgrnental". Often, a person will hide behind this, whose moral faults have been brought to light. lt is important for everyone to be open to correction and criticism. Otherwise, we will never grow. The virtue needed here, is humility.
     Humility, though, is a "two-way street". The one doing the correcting must not be hypocritical. Jesus said to take the "plank" from one's own eye ?rst. before correcting one's neighbor about the speck in his eye. In telling us not to judge, Jesus explains Himself: "Do not condemn and you will not be condemned." Condemning someone doesn't mean correcting him when he needs to be corrected, it means, for example, assuming that someone is in a state of mortal sin. or that a person is going to hell (as some "fundamentalists" assume about all Catholics).
     Jesus did not avoid contact with sinners: prostitutes. extortionists ("tax-collectors"), people who failed to honor their parents (certain scribes and pharisees). He showed them good will in an effort to open them up to the truth. He told the woman at the well that He knew that she was living with a man who was not her husband, in order to open her tip to changing her life ( see John 4). And, remember how he handled the woman caught in adultery. He did not condemn her. He forgave her, but also told her to avoid the sin in the future (see John 8).

February 17th, 2019

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From the Pastor ... Unwanted Babies

     What can we do about the plethora of unwantedfabandoned infants? In 2000, a the body of an abandoned newbom was found in a vacant lot on St. Clair Avenue in Cleveland. With the help of the authorities I was able to retrieve the body, give the baby a name ("John Raymond"), and offer a funeral Mass and burial services. With the help of a good friend, we established the Babies' F uneraf F zmd, to help defray the cost of burying unwanted infants.
     Since that time, there have been IS more such children. One baby's body was found in a construction site near Akron. (We named him "Benjamin John"). This baby was found on March 30, 2005 at 24 weeks from conception. In 2009, three abandoned stillborn infants were found, named, and given a respectful burial. In 2013, three more children's bodies were retrieved, from 18 weeks gestation, to 24 weeks. One of these abandoned bodies was found in an attic in Ashtabula County, another at a waste-water treatment plant in Solon. Again, they were named and given a ?tting burial.
     This past January 26th, I buried our first aborted child. We named the child "Chris". Chris would have graduated high school last year, but was aborted on June 8, 2000. The child's remains had been in the freezer for 19 years. We are grateful to the Brecksville Police Department and detective Brian Scabbo, for his resolve that baby Christ be given a digni?ed burial.
     Presently, certain public officials in our country are doing everything in their power to promote the extermination of pre-born children, and even celebrating it, such as demonstrated by the governor of New York. Once you allow for the taking of pre-born children's lives, it opens the door to taking the lives of children even after birth. The governor of Virginia, for example, is trying to legitimize this a ghastly practice. Where will this end?

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      February 10th, 2019       
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From the Pastor ... Polling and the resurrection

     I'll give you an example of an apostolic teaching that too many Catholics have relegated to the categories of either being only "somewhat important" or "not important at all". The teaching is that of the resurrection. The findings from one such survey indicate that 16% of the Catholics polled considered the resurrection to be only "somewhat important to me" or "not important at all". One might suggest that since 16% is a minority, we should not be concerned. After all, it seems that over 30% of the people say that the resurrection is "very important" to them, and there are other elements of the survey that show greater discrepancy with Catholic faith or practice. I would answer, 16% is a rather large minority. Second, where to these people derive their hope? Apparently, not in the resunection. Why do I say this? Because these people indicate in the survey that it is not "very important" to them.
     Without the resurrection, our faith is in vain. This is what St. Paul says in 1 Cor:15. In other words, without resurrection, the Catholic faith becomes something like an empty package. There is no substance to it. How can we be sure that the resurrection happened? The Church tells us so, going back to the very beginning. St. Paul tells us in today's second reading that many people saw the risen Jesus. In fact, 500 members of the Church saw the resurrected Christ at one time. He specifically mentions Peter ("Cephas"). Also Paul himself saw the risen Christ in a wholly unique way, after His ascension into heaven.
     The Church's very existence is premised upon the reality of the resurrection. Our faith is not a matter of religious opinions. It is a response to the truth. We must be thankful that there is a Church, or we wouldn't know Jesus. We wouldn't know anything about the resurrection, and we would have no hope. Why would we have no hope? Because the resurrection of Jesus is the principle and source of the resurrection of the faithful Christian. We begin the resurrected life at baptism. Along with faith (and perseverance in the faith), we live a new life which death cannot overcome.

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      February 3rd, 2019       
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From the Pastor ... Are you a prophet?

     The answer is given in the Rite of Baptism: "As Christ was anointed priest, prophet and king, may you live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life." We are called to be prophets. What does this mean
     A prophet is not someone who predicts the future. Few of us would quality A prophet, instead, is a witness to the truth. In general, a prophet is someone who professes the truth of God publicly. We exercise our baptismal consecration as prophets every time we make the sign of the cross in public {e.g., in a restaurant), enter a church, or genuflect to the tabernacle. We live up to our commitment as prophets when we speak up in defense of the truth or live out the teachings of Jesus. Any act of Christian witness is an act of prophecy.      A prophet is not satisfied with merely observing the law; he is concerned with bearing witness to Jesus (remember, Jesus fulfills the law). He looks at every element and expression of his lifestyle and asks: "How does this bear witness to the teaching of Jesus Christ?" He looks at the way he spends his time, how he spends his money, what he eats and drinks, how he speaks to people at home and at work. how he dresses, how he drives, how he uses the media, etc.
     A prophet courageously denounces evil. We remember John the Baptist who died because he defended the bond of marriage before a king who was living in an illicit relationship. Today, we have politicians who are promoting the culture of death. and even celebrating it {e.g.. the governor of New York). People who promote evil. in any form are anti-prophets.
     A prophet takes the opportunity to spread the gospel to others {"evangelization"}. The last thing Jesus told us to do, before He ascended in heaven, "baptize and teach all nations." The priest exercises this responsibility" liturgically, sacramentally, and through teaching the faith. Lay people should be available to assist the priest, when needed. Primarily, though, the laity must take their place in the world and perform their mission there. {Jesus said, "Go into the whole world....") The world means the family {Christian parents are the primary and irreplaceable catechists oftheir children) and the world outside the home. We all know people who have stopped practicing the faith, as well as many who are unhaptized. They need Jesus, too.

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      January 20th, 2019       
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From the Pastor ... Save the children

     Tuesday, Jan. 22nd is a special day of prayer and penance for the legal protection of unbom children. The day is the anniversary of the Supreme Court's disastrous decision of 1973, Roe V. Wade. Since then, there have been 60 million surgical abortions in our country alone. There are 4,000 each day. Abortion is the leading cause of death in America.
     When you look at a class photograph of anyone born after January 22, 1973, you can add (mentally) unfilled silhouettes, totaling, perhaps, 30 % ofthe class, representing children of youths who were not allowed to make the journey through the birth canal. The number of missing people vastly increases when we consider that all of the descendants of these children will never come into existence.
     The effect of such a large scale loss of life is incalculable. Each child is a unique creation of God and cannot be replaced. For example, I am reminded of the story of the woman who sought an abortion (in the year 1770). She had a number of children. The father had syphilis and there was deafness in the family. Apparently, she was talked out of taking her child's life. He was born. Later in life he would become deaf. He grew up to become very famous. His name was Ludwig von Beethoven. Sarah Smith was born in 1970 to a woman who thought she had aborted her. Instead, the abortion only took the life of her twin brother. Gianna Jensen survived a saline-solution abortion, while in the womb of her mother. Today Gianna is a young woman afflicted with cerebral palsy (because of the abortion attempt). She is grateful for the gift of life and has inspired audiences worldwide with her singing and personal testimony.
     Roe v. Wade has contributed to an erosion in our society's valuation of life. The major media, certain international organizations (the U.N. included), certain departments of the government, and even some of the "mainline" churches have been seduced into thinking that human life is disposable. And, even worse, there are organizations and individuals who pro?t from the grisly abortion industry (e.g., Planned Parenthood cashes in on 1,000 abortions each day). Killing children in the womb is a big business.

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      January 6th, 2019       
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From the Pastor.... What can we learn from the magi?

    In Biblical times, it was thought that the Jews had a "monopoly" on salvation. The three wise men were non-Jews who came to worship Jesus. During Jesus ministry 2,000 years ago, he directed Himself primarily to Jews, but there were times when he helped "Gentiles" or "pagans": e.g., He healed the Roman soldier's serving-boy. He healed the daughter of the Syro-Phoenician woman....
    After His ascension into heaven, Jesus made it clear that He wanted His salvation to apply to all. He said to His apostles (the Church): "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit...." The visit of the magi tells us that God opened the doors of salvation to all people, unfortunately, though, not everyone puts in the time or the effort to find God and enter into eternal life.
    Case in point: the magi traveled quite a distance to find Jesus. They kept searching. Contrast this with King Herod and his (apathetic) Jewish advisors, who knew where Jesus was to be born, but they were not interested in finding Him themselves. God's kingdom is for everyone, but not everyone looks for it. Jesus says that a person who hears His words but does not act on them is like a man who builds his house on sand. The house will end up in ruins. This message is repeated over and over again in various parables.
    God's word is contradicted by our modern culture which tells us that everyone is going to heaven. The Bible never says this. The story of the magi tells us about people who sincerely searched for Christ and found him. Unfortunately, today, not everyone is interested in searching for Him sincerely. The moral of the story is: live the faith. Never take it for granted. And let other people know about Jesus.

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