Friday, August 18, 2017

Where Are We Going?

Dear Parishioners,

For her graduation gift, our daughter took a trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. She received a degree in marine biology from the College of Charleston. She had a great time and brought back lots of cool pictures of the wild life, the blue birds, the bright red and blue crabs, and the old tortoises. She enlarged some photos and gave them as gifts. We got a picture she took of the Amazon river. Now it is a 2' by 3' framed picture of the front bow of a boat in dense fog. It is all grey except for the red and brown bow of the boat pointing forward. There is a simple beauty to it. It is also intriguing. You cannot see where you are going. In front of you are only vague shapes and shadows. For me, this is a great metaphor of life. We don’t know where we are going. We have our ideas and our desires and needs. But do we really know where or how we will live tomorrow? Did my wife and I expect to be at St. Jane’s, living in Maryland ten years ago? Was this our master plan? Well, no. But here we are. This is where God has planted us. And it is here where we will grow. A deacon friend of mine says that the best way to get a laugh out of God is to tell him your plans! I believe that God has plans for us, plans of goodness and love and salvation. “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) Let us take our boat into the fogginess of life, but with the reassurance that we go, not alone, but with hope in God, directing us.

Blessings,
Deacon Steve

“Let us live as the Blessed Virgin lived: loving God only, desiring God only, trying to please God only in all that we do.”
~ Thoughts of the Cure D’Ars

Friday, August 11, 2017

Lord, Save Me!

Dear Parishioners,

Our God is one of surprises. He tells Elijah that he should stand outside a cave on Mount Horeb and that he would be passing by (1 Kings 19:9a,11-13a). After all the might and power God has displayed in liberating and leading his people, his passing-by logically would be a great and momentous event like a hurricane, earthquake, or blazing fire. But God surprises us by passing by in a tiny, whispering sound. In a way, it prefigures Jesus, the Son of God, entering Jerusalem on a colt, the foal of an ass, instead of on a beautiful, white horse. It shows, as we read in the Bible, God’s ways are not our ways—nor are God’s ways the ways of the world. In short humility is the virtue that most completely unites us to Jesus and enables us to enter into communion with the Holy Trinity.

In the gospel, God again surprises us with Jesus walking on the water to save the disciples (Matthew 14:22-33). The apostles are so surprised that they don’t even recognize Jesus and think he is a ghost. Of course, he saves them after Peter’s surprising walking on the water as well. But the most important message is that Jesus comes to save us when we need him in the storms of our voyage on the seas of life, if only we call out like Peter, “Lord, save me!”

Fr. Carl

“We can only receive God once a day; a soul enkindled with divine love makes up for this by the desire of receiving him every moment of the day.”
~ Thoughts of the Cure D’Ars

Friday, August 4, 2017

Holy Matrimony Is A Beautiful Thing!

Dear Parishioners,

The sacramental view that the Catholic Church has on marriage or Holy Matrimony is stunning. The Church sees marriage not as a secular contract but as a covenant between two people and God. As the Church is Christ’s bridegroom, so spouses are to imitate this relationship. With a life-giving attitude toward each other involving dignity and respect, seeking goodness for one’s spouse, with an openness toward life, and the hope for growth in the love of God, we who are married seek out the best for our spouse. When we turn to our spouse in this way, the union is a beautiful thing.

However, this dance is not an easy one to do. In my past professional experience, I have seen it turn sour and become a tragedy, filled with criticism, blame, and anger. Personally, my parents’ relationship was fraught at times with argument and ill will. There are no easy and simple answers to these conflicts. John Gottman, a noted marriage authority, says that how one deals with conflict is an important sign of the vitality of a marriage. He sees four characteristics that impair a positive regard for one’s spouse. Focusing on the other’s faults (criticism), quickly putting up one’s defenses (defensiveness), having a strong negative evaluation of the other (contempt) and being unwilling to talk about things (stonewalling) are like a cancer that eats away at the good fabric of a relationship. On the other hand, actively listening to the other, not allowing the negative to overcome the positive, and being willing to talk and share are things to do that facilitate health in a relationship. Making the first move to come together after an argument and asking for forgiveness are also needed correctives. Being married is a beautiful thing, but it requires practice in showing respect and appreciating the dignity of the other.

Blessings,
Deacon Steve

“A soul in which the Holy Spirit dwells is never weary
in the presence of God; it gives forth a breath of love.”
~ Thoughts of the Cure D’Ars

Friday, July 28, 2017

High Hopes

Dear Parishioners,

I am sure that you have heard about the lowly mustard seed, the smallest of seeds which when grown becomes the largest of shrubs (Matthew 13:31–32). What is going on with this seed? Doesn't it know that it is small? Where did it get that attitude that it could grow tall and big? What strikes me here is that this little seed has a great attitude of hope! It is not deterred by its size or the difficult prospects of growing tall and large. Jesus said that with faith the size of a mustard seed, you could move a mountain. Our Judeo-Christian tradition is like such a seed. The Israelites being pursued by the army of the Egyptians, leave slavery in Egypt for the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Israel. What a divinely inspired hope! It is like the hope of the four friends who lower the crippled man through the roof to see Jesus (Luke 5:17-39). Or the Virgin Mary to tell the servants at the wedding at Cana, “Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:1–12) Or the actions of Simon Peter and his brother Andrew when Jesus says to them to follow him, they drop their nets and follow (Matthew 4:18–22). Aren’t we all followers of Christ because of such a hopeful word or thought or action? Aren’t we all mustard seeds with an attitude of hope? Hope for joy, hope for an end to war, hope for the solution to our difficulties, hope for the best diagnosis, hope for reconciliation, hope for our loved one turning back to God. I say let us continue to hope! Let us pour our energy into hope for those good things our God promises. The Israelites found the promised land. The man walked out of the house with the hole in the roof. The wine at the wedding was the best. Let us hope in God and see what good things can come of it!

Blessings,
Deacon Steve

“People will go three or four leagues to earn thirty pence, while they will not take thirty steps to hear Mass on a week -day.”
~ Thoughts of the Cure D’Ars

Friday, July 21, 2017

Sorry, Thanks, Help and Wow

Dear Parishioners,

I once heard a priest give a homily about the four important words to say. I don't know where he got it, but this isn't original with me. The words are Sorry, Thanks, Help and Wow. They cover a wide range of emotions and situations. Perhaps if we can say all these, if these are in our vocabulary, if they are a part of our common experience and expression, we may become a more genuine and healthy human being.  

Sorry is perhaps the hardest of these words. To say you are sorry is to admit fault and to acknowledge a personal wrong that you committed. It means to admit that you need to repair a broken situation that you made happen. It puts us at the mercy of another who can accept or deny our apology.

Thanks is a wonderful word that conveys gratitude and appreciation. Do you still have the capacity to appreciate? It also acknowledges the gift that others have done for us. It takes us outside ourselves. Thanks is wonderful to say and to hear. It is the necessary oil that makes our relationships work. The frosting on the cupcake of life?

Help is a serious word. To ask for help acknowledges our need for others, our dependence. It says that I can't do it all myself. I need others. I am a part of something bigger than I, and I am not in control of it. I need you.

Finally, wow demonstrates our ability to be impressed, maybe more, to be amazed, to be stunned, to be taken outside of ourselves by something we encounter. It's like seeing the Milky Way for the first time or truly understanding what Christ did for us or appreciating the sacrifice of our parents. It is being taken aback and having your breath taken away. These four simple words, if put into practice, can bring about the presence of love and respect to those we encounter and maybe make us better people.

Blessings,
Deacon Steve

“I often think that the life of some poor employee who knows no will but that of others may be—if only she knows how to pro it by it—quite as agreeable to God as that of a religious who is always with her rule. ”
~Thoughts of the Cure D’Ars

Friday, July 14, 2017

Counting Our Blessings

Dear Parishioners,

Those of you who were not here last weekend missed a vivid and inspiring testimony about the faith in Nigeria. Fr. Joseph described the frequency of violence against Catholics practicing their faith. Churches were burned, people were killed during Mass, the Cardinal of the diocese was kidnapped and assaulted, Fr. Joseph escaped from prison the night before he was scheduled to be beheaded. Yet the faith is strong and vibrant; the churches are packed; Mass lasts 3 hours; the people are joyful and hopeful; and they have so many priestly and religious vocation they send them to other countries including the United States.

He was also very appreciative that the United States had done so much for his country and reminded us about the material blessings we have, often take for granted, and are lacking in his country. It was a long homily, but most people were captivated and very generous in the collection.

In the final analysis, it made one see how blessed and fortunate we are to live in the USA. After all, we could have been born anywhere else in the world. May we never stop thanking God and praying for those less fortunate around the globe.

Fr. Carl

“One day, our Lord said to St. Catherine of Siena: ‘I want you to make a Retreat in your heart, and to come there to be alone with me and keep me company.’ Well let us do the same…”
~ Thoughts of the Cure D’Ars

Friday, July 7, 2017

Catholic Marriage

Dear Parishioners,

The month of June has been, for many years, a popular time for weddings. The weather usually becomes warm and sunny before the oppressive heat of July and August. I had intended to write about the sacrament of matrimony, but every weekend there seemed to be a major feast such as Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, Corpus Christi, and the Sacred Heart of Jesus that called for special attention.

Now that we have reentered into the Sundays of Ordinary time, so named because they have an ordinal number (the 14th this weekend) I would like to offer a few thoughts. First of all, the fact that Jesus performed his first public miracle at Cana (John 2:1-12) shows that God has the highest regard for this communion between a man and a women. This relationship God established between Adam and Eve at the dawn of creation (Genesis 2) is now a sacrament, that is a sign of Jesus’ sacrificial, faithful, and fruitful love for his spouse, the church. It’s a noble adventure in which the couple collaborates for two purposes: 1) the bringing of children into the world and raising them in the faith; and 2) helping one another grow in holiness so as to enter heaven.

Because the Church believes in the sanctity of marriage, she insists any marriage with a Catholic take place in a church. The Church would prefer the marriage to take place in a Catholic church but allows Catholics to get married in other churches. In either case, it is necessary to contact a catholic priest 6 months in advance for the necessary counseling and preparations.

These days more couples are opting for destination weddings in exotic locations. The Church is fine with that as long as the wedding takes place in a church. Those weddings are more complicated to arrange with extra paperwork and special permission. You also have to find a priest or deacon willing to go away for a few days. But it can be done, just not on a beach, field, or mountain top. I even did one for my niece in Florida a few years ago.

The Church wants only the best for her sons and daughters. She wants Jesus there to bless the marriage for he lives in his Father’s house, the church.

Fr. Carl