Friday, February 24, 2017

Ordinary Miracles

Dear Parishioners,

I was baptized Greek Orthodox. My father was Catholic, but we went to the Greek church, St. George, in downtown Philly. It was very ornate with large, beautiful icons across the front of the church with the altar behind. There was always an abundance of incense and chanting. Unfortunately, it was Greek to me! St. Bartholomew was the Catholic church in our neighborhood, and I and my brothers went there often. I gave up my childhood faith and became Catholic after I was married for several years. I was touched by the Mass as well as the love I saw among my wife’s large family. I was something of a hippie in college, and yet they accepted me, long hair and all. It was a much different environment than my unstable home with an alcoholic father. It seemed to me that the Catholic faith was something to hold on to, stability in an uncertain world.

The faith also upheld marriage in a strong and unifying manner. My parents separated several times; that was tough on us kids. I guess I was ripe for conversion. The Church was a place to belong and to connect with God and others. The priest who married us, Fr. Bob in Ypsilanti, Michigan, was a robust and jovial character. He was also warm and accepting. I think that I have come to believe in miracles, miracles of an ordinary variety. The miracle of a young man finding his place amid the noise and changing scenes of early adulthood. The miracle of finding a loving person while carrying the baggage of a turbulent family upbringing. The miracle of having a family, raising kids without the disruptive shadow of addiction. For me, God’s voice was a beautiful call, a flower among weeds, the true light breaking through the darkness. It was a place of peace in an uncertain desert. This is the saving grace of God. He takes us where he finds us and gives us hope, love and mercy. And what results is a life transformed, a life saved from ruin, a life brought closer to perfection. He does this in millions and millions of lives. He is the good shepherd, carrying us strays on his shoulders.

Blessings,
Deacon Steve

“The life of a saint is just an imitation of Jesus Christ.”
~ Thoughts of the Cure D’Ars

Friday, February 17, 2017

God Is Everlasting

Dear Parishioners,

Do you remember those couple of days recently when the weather went from 70 one day to 35 and snow flurries the next? Now in Indiana, I was used to weather that could change quickly, but this has to be a record! I don’t trust the weather much. In fact, I have little faith in the weather. A nice day becomes blustery and cold, a rainy day opens into a sunny, beautiful afternoon. But with God, I trust and have my faith. God is consistent and dependable. I cannot see God nor touch him, but I know that he is there. My faith gives me trust and belief in his goodness and in his love. I can retreat to his caring consolation without fear, without doubt, without pause. When I pray, I know that my prayer is heard. I know that God is present in the Mass, in the sacraments, in scripture, and in that long history of people we call saints. I know that he walks with me and my family. He is ever present to us. It is easy to forget this and to view God like all the other things in our lives that falter and change. But that is not true and is dangerous, in fact. It is in God where our full faith should reside. Not in our powers, they fade as we get old. Not in our money, how stable is the economy? Not in our possessions, my things will wear out, break, and go bad. But God, in his word and in his deeds, is everlasting. Let us have faith and trust in God. Let us ask him for the grace to grow in our faith. This is the one thing that overcomes all that the world offers, God’s eternal presence. So springtime in February will come and go. Faith in the eternal God will not disappoint.

Blessings,
Deacon Steve

“We may well be astonished that God was obliged to make
a commandment to forbid us to take his Name in vain.”
~ Thoughts of the Cure D’Ars

Friday, February 10, 2017

Purifying Our Hearts

Dear Parishioners,

Jesus was opposed to the legalistic approach with which the Pharisees interpreted and used the law and commandments. But he had great respect for the law as he says at the beginning of today’s gospel (Matthew 5:17-35). He didn’t come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. He comes to bring it to a deeper level. He tells us not just to avoid evil actions but to eliminate the evil thoughts in our hearts as well. We are to root deep down inside and get rid of thoughts of hatred, lust, and lying. For only clean hearts truly make it possible for the Holy Trinity to dwell within us. Of course, the best way to purify our hearts is the Sacrament of Reconciliation as Pope Francis does every 2 weeks and we priests once a month. As St. Augustine wrote, “The beginning of good work is the confession of bad work.”

God bless,
Fr. Carl

“To him who seeks only to please God and to save
his soul, the necessities will never be lacking.”
~ Thoughts of the Cure D’Ars

Friday, February 3, 2017

Shining Lights For Our Country

Dear Parishioners,

If you watched the Inauguration several weeks ago, you might have caught a glimpse of Statuary Hall in the Capital Building. Then you find statues of prominent people who have made an important contribution to each of the fifty United States. Each state chooses two. Among the 100 statues, there are 13 Catholics. Maryland has one in Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence. He died in 1832 as the last surviving signer. Five of the other Catholics were priests or nuns: St. Junipero Serra, a Franciscan missionary, represented California; St. Damien de Veuster represents Hawaii; Servant of God Eusebius Kino, a Jesuit, represents Arizona; Rev. Jacques Marquette, another Jesuit, represents Wisconsin; and Mother Mary Margaret Pariseau, a Mother Superior of the Sisters of Charity of Providence, represents the state of Washington. If you want a very short list of their accomplishments, log on to Catholics in Statuary Hall. They were shining lights for our country. While we will never do as much, Jesus still calls us to bring the light of our faith to the world. Isaiah gives us some little ways we can do that—“share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless, clothe the naked when you see them and do not turn your back on your own.” (Isaiah 58:7-10)

Fr. Carl

“With God’s help we shall always have power over our emotions.”
~ Thoughts of the Cure D’Ars

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Best Bargain In All Of Education

Dear Parishioners,

As we begin Catholic Schools Week, we celebrate the many contributions our graduates have made to our country and society. But it’s also the best bargain in all of education. In comparing one of the best private schools in the state, I found the following statistics:

Student to Faculty Ratio
Private School = 7:1
St. Jane Frances = 9.1

Average Class Size
Private School = 15
St. Jane Frances = 16.5 
Faculty Average Years of Teaching
Private School = 18
St. Jane Frances = 19
Faculty Average Years of Teaching at That School
Private School = 12
St. Jane Frances = 13
Average Tuition
Private School = $26,000
St. Jane Frances = $7,000

As you can see, the only major difference is the tuition. Of course, the private school has some advantages St. Jane’s lacks such as extensive playing fields, auditoriums, and indoor sports facilities for it’s high school. But who can afford $26,000 a year? St. Jane’s is a bargain even at twice the price. Besides, it has a weekly Mass for the students, regular confession, and the teaching of Christian values. If I had a child, I would choose St. Jane.

God Bless,
Fr. Carl

“There is nothing easier than to pray to God
and nothing more comforting.”
~ Thoughts of the Cure D’Ars

Friday, January 20, 2017

Let Our Mother Be Our Guide

Dear Parishioners,

I have been walking regularly at a local gym, mainly while my wife does a zumba class. But it gives me time to reflect and to pray. While I briskly walk around the track, I will do evening prayer and then a rosary on my phone. I often contemplate the immeasurable influence that Mary has had on our world and especially on Catholicism. I am reminded how, while visiting prisoners, they would often ask if we Catholics thought that Mary was God and worshipped her. It was always important to indicate that she was a mere human being, but what a human being! It is her humanity that contributed to the fully human person of Christ. It was her “yes” that opened the door to God’s incarnation on earth. It was her gentleness that became a part of Christ’s gentle nature. It was her trust and openness that allowed her to give her will for God’s good purpose. It was her honesty that caused her to wonder about the greeting of the Angel. Imagine the depth and breadth of her heart to include all those things she experienced and felt, from the Angel’s visit to the pain at the foot of the cross. The beauty of the Pieta by Michelangelo is partly because you forget that it is carved from stone. But also because the depiction of Christ after the crucifixion is with his tender and distraught mother.

Then as we move forward, Mary’s apparitions given to Juan Diego, at Fatima, Lourdes and others remind us of the preeminent place this woman, this sweet, caring open and blessed woman has in our relationship with God. It is here that her impact is most strongly felt. Mary is our model, our ideal, our view of how one is to respond to God’s calling. She said “yes,” and that yes echoes still today in every person who opens up their Bible to read a verse, in every person who prays, in every person who receives the Eucharist during Mass. That yes is present in all that we do when we desire God. Mary’s yes lives within us as we try to find God in our difficult lives. When we think about what to say to our children that will enlarge their faith, Mary’s is present. When we visit our sick relative and say a quick prayer for healing, we are invoking the Yes that Mary felt. When we face fear of loss or anxiety about what may happen, our resolution to have faith in God and to trust in his presence invokes Mary’s trust and knowledge of God’s good presence in her life. She is the first who experienced the new covenant of God in Christ. She was present at that moment when God touched humanity with his incarnation. Her life and love surrounded the Christ child, and we are the beneficiaries of that protection and nurturance. Let us seek to be better disciples of Christ in all that we do. Let us turn to Mary for support as we struggle with how to best live out our faith. The questions that she faced, the circumstances that she experienced, the pain she endured, the joy she felt, all these are what we ourselves go through from time to time. Let Mary be our guide and reassure us that saying yes is the manner in which to live our faith. Yes to God is the mantra that can lead us to greater faith and greater witness to God.

Blessings,
Deacon Steve

“It is God’s will that on Sundays we should occupy ourselves
only with what has to do with his service and salvation of our
soul. By doing so, we draw down blessing on our work
during the week.”
~ Thoughts of the Cure D’Ar
s

Friday, January 13, 2017

I am a Disciple of Christ

Dear Parishioners,

Well, Christmas has passed, and we now look forward to getting through winter and on to spring and Easter. As I reflect back on it, Christmas was a special time, made more poignant with little Natalie, my granddaughter, being in the hospital for a couple of weeks. When life is threatened, we come to treasure it more. On the other hand, when we have an abundance of something, we also can take it for granted. However, it is hard to take this little life for granted! It is like the priest shortage that affects the Church all over the US. We took for granted that there would be enough priests to support our parishes and be there for Mass and Baptisms, etc. It hasn't become a crisis, but it is a problem. In Indiana, there was a reorganization movement to streamline parishes and make alignments to more efficiently use the priestly resources that are available. The shortage is due to the general aging and retirement of those priests who are now active in ministry. This is also happening here. I think that what this means to all in the pews is that we all have to step up, become more active in our parish, and not take the Church for granted. Fr. Carl and the staff have an essential and important role to play in our parish. But so do we all. We have to abandon the mindset that it is up to the priest to carry the life of the church. I am sure that you have heard of the New Evangelization. It has been around since Vatican II and was advocated for by St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict. It is a scary word that strikes fear in people’s hearts, well maybe that is an exaggeration! But it is misunderstood. What it means to me is that by virtue of our baptism, we are all children of God asked to be disciples. Perhaps it would be good to say to yourself several times, “I am a disciple of Christ. I am a disciple of Christ.” Let that gently sit with you. The bottom line is that we are all missionaries by being Catholic Christians. This means that our lives are to be used to spread the Good News that Christ’s resurrection saved our lives. Our Christianity is not to be taken for granted but to be actively nurtured. Now, I realize that we do not all make good salesmen and saleswomen. Most of us are uncomfortable standing on a street corner quoting scripture! But if we live out our Catholic values at home, at work, and in the community so that others may see our faith in action, then we are carrying out the New Evangelization!

Simply, our Catholic vocation is to love others. This means that we respect life from womb to tomb. We are life giving and life respecting people, because we ourselves have been given life by Christ. Where there is pain and injustice, we are called to love, to be a soothing balm healing the hurts. If we love, then we are that balm. Where life is diminished, where any person is shown less than respect, where the aged, the unborn, the young, the disabled, the poor are treated as invisible and expendable, we have to speak. Our guiding principle is that we are called to love. Christ showed his divine love by asking for God to forgive his tormentors on the cross. We must live our lives guided by our Christian values. In looking to scripture for guidance, in seeing the Eucharist as God’s presence in our lives, in daily prayer, in respecting marriage, the poor, the imprisoned, the stranger, we are called to a different set of values. We are the Catholic community of St. Jane Frances, set apart by our faith and our church, planted in this part of Maryland to share God’s presence. This is the mission of all of us! If we live this out so that other people, “know we are Christians by our love,” our priest shortage will be short-lived, and our parish will become an even stronger sign to all!

Blessings,
Deacon Steve

“If you really love God, you will not be content with
avoiding big sins. You will regard as hateful anything
which could be even a little displeasing to him.”
~ Thoughts of the Cure D’Ars