Pastor's Column 

  Fr. Sean Donnelly Father Sean Donnelly
  Immaculate Conception Church

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Pastor's Column      December 25, 2016        From the Pastor...    

    Sometimes, people will be quick to make rather curious statements about religion, for example, "All religions are basically the same.  We all believe in the same God", etc. People who make such statements need to be challenged.  There is only one religion that believes that God so loved the world that He sent His only Son that we might not perish, but have eternal life.  I am speaking, of course, about Christianity.  Many world religions actually have it backward.  They believe that men seek God.  The Christian faith teaches us that God seeks man.  If you do not believe this, look at the Christmas crib and think again.  Who is the baby in the manger?  Jesus, you say.  Who is Jesus?  St. John says, "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us."  Jesus is God in the flesh.
    Sometimes people say, "I believe that God exists, but no one can know much about Him." Again, as Christians, we need not let such statements go unchallenged.  A five or six year old child, who is schooled in the Catholic faith, can draw a fairly accurate picture of God.  How is this so?  If he draws a picture of Jesus, he has effectively done so. Jesus is God in the flesh.
    What kind of a God do we have?  He commanded that creation come into being, by His very word.  Yet, He makes Himself helpless and unable to speak as an infant. 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?  In order to come down to our level and speak to us in human language and empathize with us in our difficulties.  He also wants to share in His holiness and resurrection.  Jesus is God's gift to us.  Merry Christmas.

Pastor's Column      December 18, 2016        From the Pastor...    

   I can think of few things that are as romantically recounted as the story of the Lord's nativity. I say "romantically" to indicate the glamorization of the incident in pageantry and art. There is nothing wrong with this, of course. However, we can lose sight of the difficulties and challenges faced by the Holy Family. To begin with, the conception of Jesus became a cause for crisis. Mary was faced with the real prospect of being left as a single mother. This is because Joseph had thought about quietly leaving her, being that he was not the father of the Child. Various Church fathers suggest that Joseph did not feel worthy enough to be the husband of a woman who had miraculously conceived. Joseph remained her husband because of divine intervention. He listened to God.
   When Mary was near the end of her pregnancy, she and Joseph had to travel to Bethlehem (two hours away by modern transportation) for the required Roman census. This was a hardship. To add insult to injury, once in Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph could not find a place to lodge. They had to settle for a cave or a stable, where Jesus would be born. Jesus was born in poverty, in a place not normally fit for human habitation. Once born, the Holy Family had to flee to a foreign country because King Herod wanted to kill the Child. This was indeed a rocky beginning for the Son of God made man. Today, people can visit Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity, where the purported place of Jesus's birth is marked by a 14-pointed star. Why a 14-pointed star? Because the Child laid in the manger grew into adulthood and died on the cross. The 14 points are the traditional stops for the Stations of the Cross.

Pastor's Column      November 20, 2016        From the Pastor...    

    Just before the American Civil War, there was a great deal of interest in the Second Coming, among many non-Catholic preachers and their followers.  A man by the name of William Miller (a veteran of the War of 1812), searched through his Bible and studied the Books of Daniel and Revelation, in an effort to calculate just exactly when Jesus would return.  He calculated the return to be within his own lifetime: 1843.  He even calculated the month and day. Needless to say, the date came and went without anything happening. He revised the calculation for the following year.  Again, a disappointment.  Eventually it was decided that Jesus did come, but it was invisible (spiritual).  Mr. Miller's religiosity was part of the Adventist movement.  There are Adventists today.  Two major mistakes that Mr. Miller made are as follows.  Jesus said that as to the exact day or hour, no one knows.... Only the Father knows.  The Catholic Church, for that reason, has never pretended to know when the end of the world would take place. It is not for us to know when.  The second mistake made by Mr. Miller is that when the Lord does come, His coming will be quite visible and unmistakable.  It will not be hidden.  (Similar mistakes were made by Charles Taze Russell who began the movement known today as the Jehovah's Witnesses.) "As lightening from the east flashes to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be" (Mt. 24.27).
   We begin the Church's year with the season of Advent.  Advent covers the coming of the Lord:  His Second Coming to His first coming (Christmas), and His "in-between" comings.  Jesus comes to us in many ways:  in the Eucharist, in prayer, in others, in the Scriptures.  Do we notice Him when He comes?  Do we pay attention to Him?  Interior silence is very important, when it comes to receiving His visits.  Advent is an ideal time for evaluating our prayer life and starting anew. 

Pastor's Column      November 13, 2016        From the Pastor...    

    There are few things that inspire more curiosity than the "end of the world". When will it happen? What are the signs? What exactly will take place? (Etc.) As to when it will happen, Jesus gave this answer: "Only the Father knows." This might seem strange. Didn't He know everything? As God, yes. But He also had a human intellect. In this case, He was speaking as a man. (Remember, He had two natures.) What exactly will take place? Here, we can rely on the Creed. Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead. The Catechism also teaches us that there will be a final trial immediately preceding the end. As a result, many people's faith would be shaken. This tumult will also set the stage for the antichrist. (These things precede Jesus' Second Coming.) Finally, what are the signs that the end is imminent? This is what Jesus' disciples asked Him when He spoke about the impending destruction of the temple. Jesus does not answer the question by way of satisfying their curiosity. Instead, he warns them to be ready for whatever may happen in the future (meaning even today).
    Jesus speaks of false prophets: those who will take advantage of the apparent delay of His Second Coming, to teach a message that contradicts, distorts or obscures the truth of Jesus. Needless to say, this prophecy of Jesus is fulfilled many times over. Arguably the three men who have had the greatest influence on modern day thought are three atheists: Darwin, Marx and Freud. Even popular culture is riddled with false prophets. Wasn't it John Lennon who popularized the lyric, "Imagine there's no heaven?" (Many people, it seems, have been seduced by such messages.) Jesus speaks of wars and insurrections. Clearly we have been plagued by such things over the course of the past 2,000 years. Jesus also speaks of natural disasters. Who can forget Hurricane Katrina, the tsunami that took countless lives, the earthquakes in Haiti and Italy? (Just to name a few....) Jesus tells us that the time between the destruction of the Jewish temple and the Second Coming will be a time when His people (the Church) are persecuted. The Church has indeed seen many martyrs over the past 20 centuries.
    What to do? Be vigilant: pray, live the faith, persevere. Always be ready to meet the Lord.   

Pastor's Column      November 6, 2016        From the Pastor...    

    Some people, apparently, think of purgatory as a specific place, let's say, a temporary hell or at least an otherworldly concentration camp.  It is important to base ourselves on the teaching of the Church, not on popular misconceptions. The Church does not teach that purgatory is a "place".  The word means, "purification".  Exactly what the nature of the purification is after death, no one knows.  We can, however, be purified here (and we should be).  Purgatory actually begins here. Any authentic practitioner of the faith allows himself to be purified of egoism, worldly attachments, self-will, impatience, etc., by practicing virtue, praying, doing penance, and bearing suffering with courage.  The more people merely dabble in the faith, the more likely that the bulk of their purification will necessarily have to take place after death. 
    Some object because the word "purgatory" is not found in the Bible. The word isn't, but the teaching is. (Besides, the Church didn't start to use the word until 1100 years of praying for the deceased).  Another objection is that earthly life is sufficient for God's purposes.  If our Lord were to put people in heaven who were selfish, unprepared, and spiritually immature, it would not really be heaven for them.  It is only in full self-giving that one receives the fullness of God's love (which is what heaven is).  Finally, no one has more joy than the souls in purgatory, except for the saints is heaven.  Those in purgatory know that they are on the way to heaven.  We, on earth, have yet to work out our salvation.  

Pastor's Column      October 30, 2016        Priesthood Sunday    

    From the moment of Jesus' conception in the womb of Mary until his Resurrection, he was filled
with the Holy Spirit. In biblical language, he was anointed by the Holy Spirit and thus established by God the Father as our high priest. As Risen Lord, he remains our high priest. . . . While all the baptized share in Christ's priesthood, the ministerial priesthood shares this through the Sacrament of Holy Orders in a special way.
    Ordination to the priesthood is always a call and a gift from God. Christ reminded his Apostles that they needed to ask the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into the harvest. Those who seek priesthood respond generously to God's call using the words of the prophet, "Here I am, send me" (Is 6:8). This call from God can be recognized and understood from the daily signs that disclose his will to those in charge of discerning the vocation of the candidate. 

    Gracious and loving God, we thank your for the gift of our priests.  Through them, we experience your presence in the sacraments.  Help our priests to be strong in their vocation.  Set their souls on fire with love for your people.  Grant them the wisdom, understanding, and strength they need to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.  Inspire them with the vision of your Kingdom.  Give them the words they need to spread the Gospel.  Allow them to experience joy in their ministry.  Help them to become instruments of your divine grace. We ask this through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns as our Eternal Priest.  Amen.

Pastor's Column      October 23, 2016        From the Pastor...    

     Every four years we hear from various politicians about how "Catholic" they are, while promoting things that are inimical to basic morality, e.g., abortion. "Catholics" who pontificate about abortion "rights" are either deluded or dishonest. The Catholic Church has a very clear teaching on the immorality of purposely taking an innocent human life. We need authentic lay Catholics to be involved in political affairs, not phony Catholics. We also need courageous ecclesiastics (e.g., bishops) who will administer proper discipline when a politician gives scandal, in order to protect our Lord's flock and (possibly) to bring the politician to his senses.

Pastor's Column      October 16, 2016        From the Pastor...    

    Lake County Right to Life recently canvassed various Ohio candidates for public office as to whether they agree to the protection of all human life without exception, and support marriage as being necessarily a union of one man and one woman. Only one candidate running for U.S. Senate signed the Marriage and Life Affirmation form. This candidate is not from a major party. The major party candidates either did not agree with the Marriage and Life Affirmation, they did not see it (perhaps staffers threw it in the trash) or they did not want to go on record supporting life and marriage. If the major party candidates do not agree either with the position that human life is sacred from conception until natural death, or that marriage can only be contracted by two members of the opposite sex, how will electing either one support the institution of the family, the welfare of children and the good of society? On the other hand, if these candidates simply do not want to go on record regarding these issues, why not? Although they have become "politicized", the issues included in the Marriage and Life Affirmation are not merely political issues. They are much broader and deeper. 
        What is the solution to the present malaise of our culture? People need to be educated on the importance of the issues affecting marriage and family. They should not be intimidated by those who have other agendas. They need to see through the dubious rhetoric that is often used e.g., "don't be a 'single issue' voter". (At one time being against slavery was a "single issue". Its singularity did not render it irrelevant.) People need to be careful of self-serving ideas, such as, "recognizing same sex 'marriage' won't hurt my marriage". We have to think of the effects that redefining marriage would have on our society, and the many evils that will come about because of it (e.g., what will become of children and families?). And certainly, we must pray for the welfare of our nation. Without prayer, we cannot win the war that is raging against our culture.

Pastor's Column      October 9, 2016        From the Pastor...    

    The month of the Holy Rosary is October and this entire month is dedicated to the Rosary. The feast day of the Holy Rosary in particular is October 7th. The feast of the Rosary is held on October 7th in memory of the glorious and triumphant victory at the battle of Lepanto. That battle was the most convincing military victory that proved without a doubt the great power of the Rosary.     The month of October is a good time to commit to praying the Rosary everyday. The Rosary will bring great peace and holiness to your life. It is a powerful instrument for conversion. The Rosary is the best method of honoring Mary.
    It protects the Church from false teachings and keeps her safe from the attacks from the Enemy.
    There are some great ways to celebrate the month of the Holy Rosary...
   -   Pray the Rosary everyday this month. Pray it especially for priests. Even though the Year For Priests has come and gone, they still need your constant prayers.
   -   Make rosaries, have them blessed and give them away - children love this. You can teach a group of children to make rosaries of their own. They will really be excited about praying with a rosary they made themselves. You can give the rosaries you make to the elderly in nursing homes, take them to Catholic schools or Religious Education classes at your parish, or mail them to prisons. Make sure you have them blessed by a priest first.  

Pastor's Column      October 2, 2016    

    In the 19th century, a woman was advised to have an abortion because she had a good number of children already, and there was hereditary deafness in the family.  Someone, seemingly, talked her out of resorting to such a grisly measure.  She gave birth to a baby boy.  His name was Ludwig Von Beethoven.  Later in his life he did become deaf, but think of how impoverished the world of western culture would be without the likes of the great composer.  Every child has the potential to make a contribution to the world.  As it is, 1.5 million children, in our country, each year, are not allowed passage down the birth canal.  And to think, there are people in public office who promote the practice of abortion. Abortion is heartless and gravely immoral.  We cannot afford to be complacent about it.  Life is a gift.  Thank God for the gift of life.  Thank our parents for being His instruments. 
    October is Respect Life Month.  As such, there are many activities designed to help turn the tide toward respecting all life, from conception until natural death (see the enclosed bulletin insert).  Besides public venues, people can inculcate a love for life beginning at home.  Families can pray together that our society will recover its respect for life, especially that of the weakest and most defenseless.  We can support pregnant women by praying for them and offering to be of assistance, if it is opportune.  We can pray for the conversion of people who are in collusion with the abortion industry.  We can pray for a new found respect for marriage (most of the women who seek abortions, or are pressured to have them, are not married to the fathers of the preborn children).  And we should pray for an end to the "contraceptive mentality".  More contraception always means, on a societal level, more abortions.  "Fighting" abortion with contraception is like pouring gasoline on a fire.  It gets worse. 
    And, finally, don't forget to enlist the support of St. Michael the Archangel.  Because, behind abortion is the activity of evil spirits who love blood-letting in whatever form they can get it. (See Ephesians 6.) 

Pastor's Column      September 25, 2016    

The Second Vatican Council declared that "the future of humanity is in the hands of those men who are capable of providing the generations to come with reasons for life and optimism." (GS, no 31). No one can live without the hope that life has ultimate and lasting meaning beyond the concerns and struggles, the joys and satisfactions of each day. Catholics find that meaning and hope in Jesus Christ, whom God the Father has sent into the world for the salvation of all peoples. 

But the world can be a disturbing place. There is war and anxiety because of terrorism. There is the fierceness of competition and the injustices that come from greed. There are continuous distractions that come from the media, the numerous hours given to television, radio, and Internet. There are the unrelenting demands of work and family life.

Yet in the midst of all this, people are generously loving within their families, with their friends, and for their communities.  Nevertheless, a nagging question remains: Where is all this going? There is a persistent thirst for meaning and hope.

Many people find refuge in various types of spiritual activities and communities that promise serenity in a hectic world and refuge from its pressures. They look to meditation techniques and to well-publicized personalities for ways to find tranquility and some hope for themselves.

In the midst of such a culture, the Catholic Church offers a message that is not its own, but comes from God's self-revelation in Jesus Christ two thousand years ago, yet is ever new and renewing as it is received, celebrated, lived, and contemplated today. The Church offers to all people the possibility of encountering the living God today and finding in Him lasting meaning and hope.

God continues to be present in the Church as the Gospel of his Son, Jesus Christ, is proclaimed and received by her members through the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit.

God continues to be present in his Church as her members are brought together by the Holy Spirit to celebrate the Seven Sacraments, most especially the Eucharist. 

Pastor's Column      September 18, 2016     "Prayer: The Faith Prayed"    

    This year, the Church will celebrate Catechetical Sunday on September 18, and will focus on the theme "Prayer: The Faith Prayed." Those who the Community has designated to serve as catechists will be called forth to be commissioned for their ministry. Catechetical Sunday is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the role that each person plays, by virtue of Baptism, in handing on the faith and being a witness to the Gospel. Catechetical Sunday is an opportunity for all to rededicate themselves to this mission as a community of faith.
    The Catechisms often refer to what the saints have said about prayer. For example, St. Therese of Lisieux, for whom "...prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy." Or St. Francis de Sales, who says that "every one of us needs half an hour of prayer each day except when we're busy - then we need an hour."
Thoughtfully reading a few paragraphs on prayer each week from the Catechism of the Catholic Church or the U.S. Catholic Catechism for Adults can open our minds and hearts to a deeper relationship with God -- Father, Son and Holy Spirit -- present and at work in our lives. Daily prayer shines the light of the Gospel on everything we do, so that all our thoughts, words and actions can be informed and measured by love of God and neighbor. 

Pastor's Column      September 11, 2016     From the Pastor ...    

    Today, Sept.11th, commemorates the "terror attacks" of 2001. Recently, a group of concerned citizens displayed a 14 foot sign at Ground Zero that read: "9/11 was a controlled demolition". It certainly seems to be the case, given the facts that the buildings imploded, dropping perfectly into their own footprints. Tower number seven is particularly conspicuous in that it was not hit by any aircraft. People at the scene (e.g., William Rodriguez, the last man out of the towers) heard the underground explosions. One firefighter who read the sign flashed a "thumbs up" and said, "We can't talk about anything, but we know exactly what happened that day. If we speak out we've been told that our pensions will be taken away." (For more information, see American Free Press.) 
Pray for our country.

Pastor's Column      September 4, 2016    

        Arguably, the greatest woman of the 20th century, was the Albanian nun, Mother Teresa. Not only did she win the Nobel Peace Prize, but also, and much more importantly, she was canonized. The ceremony for her canonization was last Sunday, the day before the 19th anniversary of her death. Mother Teresa leaves behind a rich legacy that includes 4500 sisters who serve in her order, the Missionary Sisters of Charity. The order is found in 133 countries and assists the poor. I recall going to one of the order's convents, which is located outside of St. Peter's Square in the Vatican, and leaving a donation. Mother Teresa was revered throughout the world. She was even invited to speak at one of the national prayer breakfasts attended by many high ranking members of the government. I will never forget the scene. Mother Teresa spoke passionately about the dignity of human life and the evil of abortion, while the president and his wife (Mr. and Mrs. Clinton) sat at the head-table stony faced, being ardent supporters of abortion. Mother Teresa "pulled a fast one" on them.

Pastor's Column      August 28, 2016    

    "Conduct your affairs with humility." These are words from this Sunday's Scripture reading. But what is humility? If you ask people at random, you will probably receive a number of answers along the lines of, humility means having a low opinion of oneself. Actually, having a low opinion of oneself is not humility. Humility is having a realistic self-appraisal. Suppose the person is quite talented and intelligent? If he is humble, he will realize these things without letting them go to his head, so to speak. Conversely, if the person does not have many talents, he will understand this without letting it upset his spirit. Humility is not the most important virtue, nor is it the center of the Christian life, but without it, one is impeded in living as a disciple of Jesus. 
    The opposite of humility is pridefulness. How can one tell if he is prideful? There are many ways of testing for this. Here are some. Thinking that what one says or does is automatically better than what another person says or does, is prideful. Always wanting one's way is prideful. Arguing with bad manners, whether one is right or wrong, is prideful. Not looking at one's talents and abilities as lent is prideful. Refusing to take correction or making excuses when corrected is prideful. Refusing to take "no" for an answer is prideful. Taking undue pleasure in praise and compliments is prideful. To be saddened when others are held in higher esteem is prideful. To be ashamed because one lacks certain goods is prideful. To refuse to admit one's faults is prideful. Etc.
    Jesus practiced humility and taught many lessons about it. The parable of the Pharisee and the tax-collector comes to mind, along with today's parable about taking the lowest place at the table. In the kingdom of God, the exalted will be humbled and the humble will be exalted. 

From the Pastor ...   August 21, 2016    

    Russell Shaw's American Church: The Remarkable Rise, Meteoric Fall and Uncertain Future of Catholicism in America makes the case that a practicing Catholic can no longer be elected to high political office. He traces this phenomenon to the famous speech delivered by John F. Kennedy to a group of Houston ministers, to the effect that, if elected president, he would not let his faith influence him.  JFK was giving in to an anti-Catholic bias.  The anti-Catholics (represented at the time by such a prominent spokesman as Norman Vincent Peale) said that a practicing Catholic was not fit for public office.  Unfortunately, it seems that too many people believe this today. 
    A case in point is our current vice-president who has done his best to act as a spoiled adolescent in the way he comports himself as a Catholic. His latest stunt was to solemnize a "marriage" between two men.  He might have thought he was being cute or "progressive".  (Read Paul's Letter to the Romans, chapter 1 for more information.)  To make matters worse, neither his home bishop nor the archbishop of Washington have called him on the carpet for this.  These men know Canon Law (I think).  Corrupting public morality is a crime in Church law (canon 1369).  Suitable penalties are in order.  Pope Francis addressed a similar incident in Australia that involved a priest and one of these counterfeit "marriages".  He declared that the priest had excommunicated himself. 
    The next time you hear someone suggest that the Church is an "authoritarian" institution, tell him to "think again".  We now live in a day and age when, too often, the legitimate Church authorities don't do anything.  This adds to the scandal and confusion of many innocent people.  Pray that we have the Church leaders we need, men who will defend their flock.

From the Pastor ...     August 14, 2016    

    Unfortunately, this year's feast of the Assumption (Monday, Aug. 15th) is not a holy day of obligation. This is because the bishops of Ohio (and some other states) voted to relax the obligation when the feast falls on Monday or Saturday. Notwithstanding the non-obligatory nature of the day, I think it is still opportune to write about something connected with the Blessed Mother, i.e., the rosary. 
    There are those who claim that the rosary is a "private devotion". Actually, it developed out of the Church's official prayer book known as the Liturgy of the Hours (also known as the Breviary). When many lay people could not read, the practice developed of substituting the Lord's Prayer for the 150 psalms of the prayer book. People would use pebbles or beads to keep track of where they were. After a while, it became common to intersperse the Lord's Prayer with the Angelic Salutation (i.e., "Hail, Mary, full of grace..."). Over time, the Church added another half to the angelic prayer: 
"Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners...." People started meditating on certain mysteries 
of the faith while praying the prayers. 
    The rosary is an indulgenced prayer, when prayed in a church, chapel or prayer-group. Although the Blessed Mother seems to be the subject of most of the prayers, she leads people to her Son: "Blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus". And, furthermore, she leads people to the Father and to the Trinity: "Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit...." Therefore, although the rosary is a form of Marian devotion, it is much more than that. Properly prayed, it opens people up to meditation and contemplation.  

Pastor's Column      August 7, 2016    

    This summer marks the 48th anniversary of Pope Paul VI's famous document Humanae Vitae ("On Human Life"). The document was a response to the chatter about the Catholic Church relaxing its teaching on contraception, in light of the invention of the so-called "birth-control pill". To answer this challenge, the Holy Father commissioned a special panel to look into the matter. The final decision, of course, would not be made by the panel, but by the Pope himself. The panel's advice was dubious. The pope was not taken in by it and was able to see what dangers the pill portended. He listed at least four of them: the level of morality would sink lower in our society, women would be objectified, marriage would suffer, and governments would use these drugs to as tools of coercion. If anything, the pope's predictions were quite conservative. We now have almost 50 years of hindsight.
    The level of morality has sunken to new lows. Our Supreme Court, for example, has worked to overturn laws against sodomy. And, to make matters worse, we have same-sex "marriage". Real marriage has suffered immensely, with the divorce rate around the 50% mark. Abortion, which is often used to back up "failed" contraception, sees the demise of 3500 babies each day. (That's 145 abortions every hour in our nation.) And, of course, the government does all it can to export contraceptive use. For example, it is often a requirement for other countries receiving some sort of American aid. 
    Married couples are supposed to be responsible in planning their families, but the way to do it is not by introducing drugs or devices that block conception, or, even worse, prohibit the tiny human organism from implanting itself in the wall of the womb (an early abortion). Natural Family Planning is moral, medically safe and doesn't harm the marriage. There are several methods of this type. They serve to monitor the wife's fertility and can be used to achieve or postpone a pregnancy. 

From the Pastor ...      July 31, 2016    

    The English have a term they use as a handy reference to the time when politicians go on campaign. They call it the "silly season". I suppose we can take a lesson from our friends across the Atlantic, for too many American campaigners have been known to say silly things. One such expression, which we hear at least every four years is something along these lines: "I am a practicing/traditional Catholic. I am against abortion, but it is the law.  "For one thing, there is no law in our country mandating abortion (in China, there is). The Supreme Court merely restricted states from passing laws prohibiting the grisly procedure. To be "against" something and then dismiss the issue as "the law" is another way of dissembling by trying to have it both ways. In truth, anyone who is an informed Catholic should know better than to support abortion even with this backhanded approach. (There are 3500 abortions performed each day in our nation.) 
    I would love to ask someone who makes such a claim, "why are you against abortion? If you see it as some kind of evil, why are you so complacent about it?" This tactic of "I'm against it, but don't expect me to oppose it if you elect me", serves no constructive purpose except to fool some people into voting for the person. It's a feeble attempt on the part of the campaigner to be for and against something at the same time. 
This is illogical. 
    At one time, it was "legal" to own slaves in certain states. Would the same politicians say, "I am against slavery, but I do not want to impose my religion on other people." ....of course, not. Unfortunately many people fall for doublespeak. Abortion is a grave injustice. "Catholics" in political office, or who are campaigning for such, who hide behind a false cloak of piety ought to be ashamed of themselves. 

From the Pastor ...      July 24, 2016    

Recently I was asked to talk about "cohabitation", as it applies to certain couples. Sometimes a couple legitimately cohabits, outside of marriage, if there are extenuating reasons for not getting married, e.g., the bishop may permit a couple who cannot marry in the Catholic Church due to the impossibility of obtaining a Church annulment from a previous marriage, to live as "brother and sister", provided there is no scandal. And there are older couples whose cohabitation is not a sexual one and whose cohabitation gives no scandal (i.e., it does not give others a bad example). 

Having said these things, the majority of couples who cohabit outside of wedlock fall into one of several categories: serial cohabiters, couples "preparing for marriage", and those who choose to live together as an "alternative" lifestyle. These three categories of people are abusing their sexuality and causing others scandal, not to mention living in a state of manifest serious sin. Cohabitation does not prepare people for marriage. In fact, the divorce rate is higher among such folk. The reason for this is that a marriage that may develop is not entered into with psychological freedom. Instead, the mentality is: "we might as well be married because we have been living together for two years." 

"Alternative lifestyle" people are traveling down a dead end street. The women are being used by the men. The men are irresponsible. They don't have to honor the women because they never took the vow that they would ("I will love you and honor you all the days of my life"). The women fool themselves and grow older without having any children, in many cases. 
Young people, don't cohabit. If you want to live with someone, get married first, and keep the vows. 
The Lord will bless your union.


    Jesus speaks several times of the importance of faith over and above the observance of the law. It is in this sense that we must understand his words when, reclining at table with Matthew and other tax collectors and sinners, he says to the Pharisees raising objections to him, "Go and learn the meaning of 'I desire mercy not sacrifice'. I have come not to call the righteous, but sinners" (Mt 9:13). Faced with a vision of justice as the mere observance of the law that judges people simply by dividing them into two groups " the just and sinners " Jesus is bent on revealing the great gift of mercy that searches out sinners and offers them pardon and salvation. One can see why, on the basis of such a liberating vision of mercy as a source of new life, Jesus was rejected by the Pharisees and the other teachers of the law. In an attempt to remain faithful to the law, they merely placed burdens on the shoulders of others and undermined the Father's mercy. The appeal to a faithful observance of the law must not prevent attention from being given to matters that touch upon the dignity of the person. 

    The appeal Jesus makes to the text from the book of the prophet Hosea "I desire love and not 
sacrifice" (6:6) is important in this regard. Jesus affirms that, from that time onward, the rule of life for his disciples must place mercy at the centre, as Jesus himself demonstrated by sharing meals with sinners. Mercy, once again, is revealed as a fundamental aspect of Jesus' mission. This is truly challenging to his hearers, who would draw the line at a formal respect for the law. Jesus, on the other hand, goes beyond the law; the company he keeps with those the law considers sinners makes us realize the depth of his mercy. 
Pope Francis

July 10, 2016     Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy  Pope Francis    

It is my burning desire that, during this Jubilee, the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.  It will be a way to reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty.  And let us enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel where the poor have a special experience of God's mercy.  Jesus introduces us to these works of mercy in his preaching so that we can know whether or not we are living as his disciples.  Let us rediscover these corporal works of mercy: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead.  And let us not forget the spiritual works of mercy: to counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the afflicted, forgive offences, bear patiently those who do us ill, and pray for the living and the dead. 

We cannot escape the Lord's words to us, and they will serve as the criteria upon which we will be judged: whether we have fed the hungry and given drink to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger and clothed the naked, or spent time with the sick and those in prison (cf. Mt 25:31-45).  Moreover, we will be asked if we have helped others to escape the doubt that causes them to fall into despair and which is often a source of loneliness; if we have helped to overcome the ignorance in which millions of people live, especially children deprived of the necessary means to free them from the bonds of poverty; if we have been close to the lonely and afflicted; if we have forgiven those who have offended us and have rejected all forms of anger and hate that lead to violence; if we have had the kind of patience God shows, who is so patient with us; and if we have commended our brothers and sisters to the Lord in prayer.  In each of these "little ones," Christ himself is present.  His flesh becomes visible in the flesh of the tortured, the rushed, the scourged, the malnourished, and the exiled... to be acknowledged, touched, and cared for by us.  Let us not forget the words of Saint John of the Cross: "as we prepare to leave this life, we will be judged on the basis of love"

July 3, 2016        Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy    

    Merciful like the Father, therefore, is the "motto" of this Holy Year. In mercy, we find proof of how God loves us. He gives his entire self, always, freely, asking nothing in return. He comes to our aid whenever we call upon him. What a beautiful thing that the Church begins her daily prayer with the words, "O God, come to my assistance. O Lord, make haste to help me" (Ps 70:2)! The assistance we ask for is already the first step of God's mercy toward us. He comes to assist us in our weakness. And his help consists in helping us accept his presence and closeness to us. Day after day, touched by his compassion, we also can become compassionate towards others. 
    In this Holy Year, we look forward to the experience of opening our hearts to those living on the outermost fringes of society: fringes which modern society itself creates. How many uncertain and painful situations there are in the world today! How many are the wounds borne by the flesh of those who have no voice because their cry is muffled and drowned out by the indifference of the rich! During this Jubilee, the Church will be called even more to heal these wounds, to assuage them with the oil of consolation, to bind them with mercy and cure them with solidarity and vigilant care. Let us not fall into humiliating indifference or a monotonous routine that prevents us from discovering what is new! Let us ward off destructive cynicism! Let us open our eyes and see the misery of the world, the wounds of our brothers and sisters who are denied their dignity, and let us recognize that we are compelled to heed their cry for help! May we reach out to them and support them so they can feel the warmth of our presence, our friendship, and our fraternity! May their cry become our own, and together may we break down the barriers of indifference that too often reign supreme and mask our hypocrisy and egoism!

June 26, 2016  From the Pastor ...     

    The practice of pilgrimage has a special place in the Holy Year, because it represents the journey each of us makes in this life. Life itself is a pilgrimage, and the human being is a visitor, a pilgrim traveling along the road, making his way to the desired destination. Similarly, to reach the Holy Door in Rome or in any other place in the world, everyone, each according to his or her ability, will have to make a pilgrimage. This will be a sign that mercy is also a goal to reach and requires dedication and sacrifice. May pilgrimage be an impetus to conversion: by crossing the threshold of the Holy Door, we will find the strength to embrace God's mercy and dedicate ourselves to being merciful with others as the Father has been with us.
     The Lord Jesus shows us the steps of the pilgrimage to attain our goal: "Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back" (Lk 6:37-38). The Lord asks us above all not to judge and not to condemn. If anyone wishes to avoid God's judgment, he should not make himself the judge of his brother or sister. Human beings, whenever they judge, look no farther than the surface, whereas the Father looks into the very depths of the soul. How much harm words do when they are motivated by feelings of jealousy and envy! To speak ill of others puts them in a bad light, undermines their reputation and leaves them prey to the whims of gossip. To refrain from judgment and condemnation means, in a positive sense, to know how to accept the good in every person and to spare him any suffering that might be caused by our partial judgment, our presumption to know everything about him. But this is still not sufficient to express mercy. Jesus asks us also to forgive and to give. To be instruments of mercy because it was we who first received mercy from God. To be generous with others, knowing that God showers his goodness upon us with immense generosity.
Fr. Donnelly

June 19, 2016        From the Pastor...    

    Why did Jesus reveal to us the first Person of the Godhead by using the term "Father"? The term was inspired by His life in the family, and the influence of His parents. In His case, His mother, who was a virgin, and His foster-father, St. Joseph. When Jesus was a man, He said (at the Last Supper): "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father." This did not mean that Jesus was claiming to be the Father, but only His perfect image in the flesh, as one might say about a man: you look like your father. His maleness is an important element of His human nature. It does not mean that God is male (He is neither male nor female), but that Jesus's human nature tells us something about the Father whom we cannot see. 
    "Father" speaks to us of God's authority. The word "author" comes from the same root. It means: origin or originator. In the case of God, He is the author or origin of everything that is. "Father" also speaks to us of love. It is a term of endearment, to call someone, "Father". And what does it mean to be a Christian? It means to be adopted by God. You see, fatherhood always involves a choice. In the animal kingdom, there are no fathers, there are only mothers. The male is merely an inseminator. A woman's maternity is hers by nature. If she has conceived a child, she is a mother by definition. A man's paternity, on the other hand, must be the object of a choice. A man must choose to claim his children as his own, and care for them accordingly. In other words, any man can be a father. But how many are Dads? 
    A rejection of fatherhood spells disaster. The first such rejection of God's fatherhood manifested itself in original sin. The sin was committed after the devil suggested that God is not a loving father. The rejection of God's fatherhood is behind the thinking of Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Nietzsche and others. These men opened the door to many evils. Our most pressing social problems today, may very well be, at their root, the widespread acceptance of fatherlessness, which leads to many evils: delinquency, impoverishment, unwed pregnancy, etc. We can say, blessed are those who are not fatherless. Yet, even the best of fathers is not father in the way God is. God is the standard.

June 5, 2016        Pastor's Column      

    The Church has long been about the business of intercession: praying on behalf of others. Every Mass is an act of intercession. We hear prayers spoken by the priest in which he prays for the salvation of the world, peace, for the welfare of the living and for the deceased. When we come to Mass we join ourselves to these prayers, along with the specific prayers that we bring. Prayers offered at Mass are particularly effective because the main Intercessor is Jesus Himself, who acts as High Priest. We join our prayers to His. (For an insight into what Jesus considers important, see John 17.) Padre Pio, who had the wounds of Jesus on his body (the "stigmata") said words to the effect that the world could sooner get by without the sun than it could without the Mass. Somewhere, at every minute of the day, there is a Mass being celebrated. (Thanks be to God.)
    Having said all this, there remains much to pray for. I frequently call to mind St. Paul's admonition to pray especially for those who have authority over us at various levels of government: "I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and all those in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity" (1 Tim. 2.1,2). The implication is that without such prayer, people's lives will be adversely affected. The latest example of this is the federal government's claim that states, schools and other institutions have no right restricting the use of men's rooms to men and women's rooms to women. The federal government is attacking common decency, not to mention common sense. If the government has its way, many evils will come about. Behind this affront is a spiritual battle being waged by the powers of darkness (see Eph. 6). We need prayer-warriors. Are you willing to be one? 
Fr. Donnelly

May 29, 2016        From the Pastor ...    

    The 1995 NY Times/CBS Poll indicated that roughly two adult Catholics out of three in the U.S. think that at Mass, the bread and wine, rather than being changed into the body and blood of Christ, become merely symbolic reminders of Him. (This is classical Protestantism.) 1995 is a while ago. Perhaps things have changed. I wish it were the case. The Gallup Poll of 2005 (which takes place every six years) of Catholic attitudes and practices indicates that 36% of Catholics believe that one can be a good Catholic and not believe in transubstantiation. This means that 36% of the Catholics polled believe that one can be a good Catholic, even though he does not believe that, at Mass, the bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Jesus. Why would anyone think this way? In short, why would anyone be Catholic if we offer to God merely bread and wine? (God doesn't need bread and wine.)
    Jesus Himself taught about the Real Presence. (See John 6.) And to those who say that He was speaking metaphorically, He never corrected Himself (even though He lost followers because of it). Jesus always clarified that He was not speaking literally whenever people misunderstood Him. Not this time. And didn't St. Paul warn us that to eat and drink the Eucharist unworthily (in a state of mortal sin) is a sin against the body and blood of the Lord? The Church has never changed her belief in transubstantiation. After the consecration (which must be done by a validly ordained priest or bishop), the bread and wine are no longer these substances. Only their appearances remain. They have become the body and blood of Jesus. (Certain modern day "hymns" tend to obscure this important truth.)
    The Eucharist is Jesus' gift to us. It perpetuates His saving sacrifice of the cross, without repeating it. The Eucharist is not a mere symbol. Thanks be to God.

May 22, 2016        From the Pastor ...    

     Have you ever heard anyone say that all religions are basically the same because "we all believe in the same God"? This is an example of a statement that many people accept, although what it claims is simply not true. Christians are the only ones who believe that God is a Trinity of Persons: One God in three Persons. Non-Christian faiths run the gamut. Some believe that there are many gods (e.g., Hinduism). There are "religions" that do not believe in a personal God at all (Buddhism). New Age adherents believe that everything is God, including us (we just haven't completely realized it). 
    We may not know any Hindus or Buddhists (personally), but we still encounter other non-Trinitarians (sometimes without knowing it). For instance, when someone comes to the door who is proselytizing on behalf of any one of a number of religious sects (e.g., Jehovah's Witnesses or Mormons) do not take his word that he is Christian. These groups do not believe in the Trinity (Ask the proselytizer about Jesus and the Holy Spirit.) As a result, such groups do not have a valid baptism (which is the entryway for life in the Trinity), because there is no Trinitarian formula or recognition of the atoning death of Jesus. (If Jesus is not equal to the Father in His divinity, then His death did not atone for our sins.) Non-belief in the Trinity is not a minor theological distinction. 
    Finally, Jews and Muslims are in a special category. They do believe in the same God, but do not understand Him the way we do because they are not Trinitarians. This answers the question, "why does God seem to be so different in the Old Testament, as compared with the New?" The Old Testament (the Jewish Bible) is "pre-Christian". In the New Testament we have the fullest revelation of God that the world has ever known.


    This Sunday is Mother's Day. Although not specifically a religious observance, it recognizes the importance of "filial piety", or respect for one's mother. "Honor your father and your mother" is the first commandment in the second table of the Commandments that pertains to love of neighbor. Jesus Himself mentioned such commandments when a rich, young man asked Him about attaining eternal life. For Catholics, honoring one's mother also extends to piety for Our Lady, who is the mother Jesus gave to us: mother of the redeemed, mother of the Church. She deserves our attention, respect and love. In heaven, we hope to meet her with her Son and enter into the full joy of what God has in store for those who love Him. In the meantime, as St. Paul says, we "walk by faith and not by sight". 

    This Sunday is also the feast of the Ascension of the Lord. (It has been permanently transferred from the previous Thursday, in Ohio.) The Ascension is the mystery of Jesus entering into heaven, bodily. He takes His position at the right hand of the Father, meaning that He has certain prerogatives, such as being the judge of the living and the dead. In the meantime, we have work to do. Before ascending, Jesus said, "Baptize and teach all nations." This set the stage for the Church's ongoing evangelistic mission (i.e., preaching the gospel). We all need to be formed and nurtured in the faith. To this end, I am grateful for the presence of the Neo-Catechumenal team that has been leading the twice weekly catechesis (on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings from 8:00 to 9:00 in the Parish Center). Our faith is so important; too important to keep to ourselves. Everyone needs to be exposed to Jesus.

    On May 21st, men will be ordained priests for service to the diocese of Cleveland. Unlike many another diocese, Cleveland has had priestly ordinations every year, going back decades. Part of the reason for this is that we have our own seminary system in the diocese and we have some particularly prolific parishes that produce vocations. I am told that ten (of the over 170 parishes in the diocese), produce the majority of seminarians. I was assigned to one of these parishes 20 years ago. Indeed, there have been approximately ten men being ordained from that parish in the past 20 years, with at least two men in the seminary today. (The parish is St. Francis de Sales, south of Akron.) 

     In recent years ordination classes are anywhere from two to five men. When I was ordained, in 1982, there was a class of 16. In the 60s, 70s and 80s, the ordination classes were usually in the double digits. Although we are holding our own as a diocese, we are suffering a net loss of priests every year, because of death and retirements. As a result, according to a recent study by CARA (the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate), we will have more parishes than active diocesan priests in the next decade. The net loss of priests is particularly reflected in the percentage of priests under 45 years of age. Out of 376 diocesan priests, only 45 are in this age group (12%). Over three times as many (42%) are between the ages of 60 and 74. 24% of priests are 75 and above (many in this age group are no longer on active status). 

     Please pray for vocations to the priesthood. Encourage the youth to pray and develop a love for the Eucharist and the Mass. Inactive Catholics do not inspire or generate vocations. Live the faith and be generous in serving God.  Pray for our seminarian, Christopher Stein, and his family.

January 5, 2016     

    On the feast of the Epiphany, Jesus manifests himself to the gentiles' first representatives at the crib. We call them "wise men" or magi. The word "magi" is the root of our word "magician". The wise men were the scientists and philosophers of the day. To their credit they sought out the newborn King, using all the means at their disposal, including knowledge of Jewish religious traditions and the use of planetary tables. Their stargazing led them to King Herod, who had wicked designs on the Child's life. (This should tell us something about astrology's limits.) Herod's counselors had to seek out the scriptural prophecy in the Book of the prophet Micah, which pinpoints the place of the Messiah's birth. Once arrived at Bethlehem, the magi discarded the tools of their trade: gold, frankincense and myrrh, and by doing so allowed these things to take on a Christian significance. Gold would symbolize Jesus' kingship, frankincense pertains to his priesthood. Myrrh is suggestive of his death. The magi returned to their country changed men (one would suppose).
    The Bible is consistent in its condemnation of all forms of divination, including astrology. (See Is. 47.12-15, Jer. 10.1-3 and Dan 2.27-28). The Catholic Church, likewise, rejects all forms of divination. Divination means trying to ascertain such things as future events and situations by recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead, consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, recourse to mediums or "psychics", or other practices falsely supposed to "unveil" the future. These practices contradict the honor, respect and loving fear that we owe to God alone. (See Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 2110-2117.)
    The wise men show us the importance and necessity of seeking the truth. This includes, especially religious truth. Some seem to think that religion is reserved for people's own personal opinions. This, however, contradicts divine revelation. Our faith is based on what God has revealed to us. God can neither deceive nor be deceived. The Child in the manger was miraculously conceived and is a sign of the one God's true love for the world and everything He made, especially mankind. St. Matthew tells us that the wise men, once arrived, prostrated themselves before the Child. They were brilliant men who had the necessary humility to bow down before the Baby Jesus. Accepting the truth is not merely a matter of intellect. People must be humble. 

April 26, 2015         Pastor's Column     

    The fourth Sunday of Easter presents us with the picture of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Jesus takes the image from the Old Testament. In Ezekiel 34.11, for example, there is the prophecy that the Lord would shepherd His people Himself. Little did anyone realize, at the time, that God would take on a human nature and do precisely that. It is clear that Jesus saw Himself as a shepherd of the people. He used to refer to His followers as "the little flock". On more than one occasion He looked out at the crowd and pitied them because they reminded Him of sheep without a shepherd. Because Jesus realized that His public ministry would be a short one, He commissioned men to continue His work of nurturing and protecting His flock. The first such "pastors" (Latin for "shepherds") were His apostles. To the highest ranking apostle (Peter), Jesus would give a three-fold commission: "Feed my lambs.... Tend my sheep.... Feed my sheep" (see John 21.15-17). 
    Since then, 2,000 years have elapsed. There have been 266 successors to St. Peter, countless bishops (who succeed the apostles) and a vast army of priests, to shepherd the flock of Christ. The flock itself is quite expanded. We usually refer to it as the Church. The Church is composed of people from every nation and from all walks of life. Every one of us is indebted to the ministry of shepherds who watch over us and guide us. Sometimes sheep wander away. They do so at great risk to themselves, for their are many dangers outside the sheepfold and the watchful eye of the shepherd. Indeed, the world is full of false shepherds who will mislead people away from the green pastures of eternity. Jesus's sheep "know His voice" and will not be taken in by false teachers. (See John 10.) 
    Good Shepherd Sunday, fittingly, is designated as "World Day of Prayer for Vocations". In the U.S., there will be 595 men ordained to the priesthood this year. This is an increase from the past couple of years. Every year the Diocese of Cleveland has three to six men ordained. Diocesan ordinations will take place next month. Presently our parish has one seminarian, Christopher Stein. If everything goes according to plan, he will be ordained in about nine years. Six years ago we had our first "native son" ordained: Kevin Estabrook. Please pray and work for vocations. If you know a young man whom you think might be a candidate for a priestly vocation, ask him whether he ever considered it. You could be planting a seed that will germinate later. 

April 12, 2015          Pastor's Column     

    The big media outlets, special interests, and certain corporations have been on the warpath against states, such as Indiana, passing legislation to defend freedom of religion. Adversaries of such legislation try to frame the debate in such a way as to portray practitioners of religion (especially Christianity) as being threats to the welfare of certain people who do not agree with them. Actually, many states have freedom of religion laws. The laws are intended to protect the conscience rights of people who object to immoral practices (e.g., abortion, sodomy). Our country has a history of respecting people's rights to abide by the dictates of their consciences. The status of "conscientious objector" comes to mind. This term refers to a man who will not fight in a war because he is opposed to such a thing, on moral or religious grounds. Likewise, a person (e.g., a doctor or nurse) should not be coerced into assisting in an abortion procedure, who recognizes that such a thing is intrinsically evil. A person should be able to object, legitimately, to a government redefining marriage. 
    But, there is more. In the heat of the debate over religious freedom and the "threat" it poses, there is the bigger picture. The bigger picture has to do with the sanctity of human life and the dignity of the marriage bond. A "marriage" that does not have two opposite-sexed partners, is not a marriage. At "best", it is a sad distortion of what marriage is. It is a counterfeit. Precluding from the religious arguments, we also have common sense questions that many pundits do not even bother asking, such as, "what does the redefinition of marriage mean for the family and for our society?" What does this monstrous thing portend for our youth, our culture, the future? What does it mean for civilization? (Will we even have a civilization?) Etc.
    The U.S. Supreme Court is set to enter into the fray. The court has already done enough damage in overturning the Defense of Marriage Act as "unconstitutional" (the DOMA defined marriage as between a man and a woman). Given the court's track record and the dubious way it seems to operate, its upcoming decision in June does not look hopeful for the future of marriage and the family in this country, not to mention, the future of religious freedom. 
    What to do? Prayer and fasting, as Jesus said, drive out certain demons. Redefining marriage is its ultimate corruption, and certainly diabolical. Be educated on the issue. Act. Politicians need to be people of moral courage. They need to hear from their constituents. Corporations who are pushing the agenda to discredit and punish anyone who stands in the way of corrupting marriage should not be patronized. You can find a list of offending corporations (e.g., those against freedom of religion legislation) on the Internet. 


Columns Before 2015
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