Friday, June 9, 2017

Death and Grief

Dear Parishioners,

I recall having a client whose spouse committed suicide. It was a grueling several months of therapy that eventually resolved the sting of my client's loss and questioning. I don’t think that any of us can get through our lives without loss and grief. It is a part of our common human experience. But a confusing and painful part. It is not easy to adjust your life to a new reality once someone close leaves us. Especially for one we are close to, their death changes our life in our habits, our expectations, our assumptions. The morning sun doesn’t seem to shine in the same way, and our shared experiences lose their zest and attractiveness. This is understandable and to be expected. Our taste for life has changed, and we need to reevaluate who we are in the light of our loss. But we can’t let grief become our master. I knew a woman who cried every evening over the death of her husband, even though he had been gone for 20 years. We need to allow the hope of our faith to enter into our emotional reaction. Christ has said that he has a place for us, he has set aside a room for us in His Father’s house (John 14:2). This is true for us and for our loved one. We need to grieve, but we need not lose hope over death. Christ’s resurrection is a triumph over death itself, which has “lost its sting” (1 Corinthians 15:55).

I would like to offer my services to anyone who feels the need to talk about their grief. Please call the office or email me from the Parish Staff page. We can get together in an informal way and talk about it. As well, in the fall, we are planning some activities on grief, so look for announcements in the Bulletin. Death is one of the great mysteries of life. Our faith gives us tools not to do away with it but to understand it and to live on in the face of it.

Blessings,
Deacon Steve

“When one loves anyone, it is a great happiness to have something of theirs as a souvenir. If we love our Mother, the Blessed Virgin, we should make it both our duty and privilege to have one of her pictures or statues in our home, which from time to time will remind us of her.”
~ Thoughts of the Cure D’Ars

“INSIDE OUR SACRED SPACE”

Week 14: Confessionals

The first Christians confessed their sins face to face to a bishop in his church and in some instances to the congregation. Public confessions were short-lived and stopped by Pope Leo I (r. 440-461), who wrote: “It is sufficient that the guilt which people have on their consciences be made known to the priests alone in secret confession.”

Face-to-face confession, typically kneeling before a priest or sitting in a chair at his side, was the norm until the middle ages when a screen was placed between the confessor and female penitents. This action eventually led to the introduction of the confessional booth in the 16th century, which included the screen separation, and from that time until the Second Vatican Council, confessions were normally anonymous. In 1974, the Church introduced a new formula for confession, which promoted a reconciliation room instead of a confessional booth. Penitents could now go to confession face to face or behind a screen.
  
***This article “Inside Our Sacred Space” was originally published in the OSV Newsweekly, www. OSV.com, on January 8-14, 2017 and is used with permission of the author D.D. Emmons. ***

Friday, June 2, 2017

Great Summer Reads and Audios

Dear Parishioners,

I spend a lot of time in the car driving from Annapolis to St. Jane. I often drive in quiet. Sometimes I will do Morning or Evening Prayer conveniently from my phone. I recently found some interesting podcasts that I can play on my phone while driving. A podcast is an audio file you can access on your phone or computer. For instance, you can access a conversation of a doctor talking about some Alzheimer's issue, an interview with a basketball player, or a chef talking about ravioli. There are millions out there. You have to download a podcast player but there are also many free ones available. What I have recently found is “Pints with Aquinas.” The premise is what would happen if you could sit down with a beer and ask Saint Thomas Aquinas, probably the greatest Catholic theologian, a single question. The podcast asks about grace, sin, angels, the Eucharist, and all sorts of theological questions. Matt Fradd is the presenter, and he quotes often from the Summa Theologia, Aquinas’ masterwork. It is always interesting, and I recommend it.

Laudate, Ignatius Press Bible App, and Pocket Catholic are other phone apps that I use that provide access to the bible, prayers, and lots more information. For summer reading, Pope Benedict Emeritus is a wonderful theologian whose books, Jesus of Nazareth, offer great insights into our faith. My favorite writer is Henri Nouwen whose books are beautiful and articulate. Pope Francis has presented his ideas in a very down-to-earth manner in The Joy of the Gospel, The Name of God is Mercy, and On Care for Our Common Home. Finally, I would recommend, James Martin, Jesus: a Pilgrimage. There are great materials out there to enliven your faith.

Blessings,
Deacon Steve

“We must be like the shepherds in the fields during the winter. They have a fire, but from time to time they search about for sticks to keep it alive. If we knew how to keep up the fire of the love of God in our heart by prayers and good works, it would not go out.”
~ Thoughts of the Cure D’Ars


“INSIDE OUR SACRED SPACE”

Week 13: Ambry for Holy Oils

Each church stores holy oils for use in various ceremonies. New oils are blessed annually during Holy Week by the bishop at the chrism Mass and then distributed to parishes. The oils are: the oil of the catechumens, the oil of the sick and the chrism. They are kept locked in an ambry, a French word meaning wall safe or cupboard. Our Catechism says, “The sacred chrism (Myron), used in anointings as the sacramental sign of the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit, is traditionally reserved and venerated in a secure place in the sanctuary. The oil of catechumens and the oil of the sick may also be placed there” (CCC, No. 1183).
  
***This article “Inside Our Sacred Space” was originally published in the OSV Newsweekly, www. OSV.com, on January 8-14, 2017 and is used with permission of the author D.D. Emmons. ***

Friday, May 26, 2017

We Have Our Mission

Dear Parishioners,

As we approach the end of the Easter season (next Sunday—Pentecost), today we hear the end of Matthew’s gospel and our Lord’s last words before he ascends into heaven (Matthew 28:16-20). Since he will no longer be with his disciples, he commissions them to teach and baptize delegating his divine authority to do so. In short, he is telling them and us to evangelize. This is part of our Lord’s mission along with redemption, and is our mission in life as all our recent popes from Paul VI up to Francis have been telling us. Our Lord didn’t just live for himself; he lived and died for all of us. We, too, are called in a less dramatic way to do the same. May we respond to God’s grace and do what we can for others. Who knows what effects our Christian living will have in this world? But we will surely find out in the next world.

Fr. Carl

“With the Holy Spirit, we see everything in its true proportions; we see the greatness of the least actions done for God, and the greatness of the least faults.”
~ Thoughts of the Cure D’Ars


“INSIDE OUR SACRED SPACE”

Week 12: Stations of the Cross

In nearly every Catholic Church, 14 Stations of the Cross ring the walls of the nave. We can walk along with Jesus as he makes the agonizing journey from Pilate’s house to his crucifixion on Calvary that first Good Friday. We halt at each station meditating on the actual or traditional events that took place at that particular spot. This most popular devotion evolved over several centuries. While many Catholics participate in this devotion every Friday of Lent, the stations are available for us to “walk” anytime. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ document “Built of Living Stones” states: “Traditionally the stations have been arranged around the walls of the nave of the church, or, in some instances around the gathering space of even the exterior of the church making the devotion as a true journey.”

  
***This article “Inside Our Sacred Space” was originally published in the OSV Newsweekly, www. OSV.com, on January 8-14, 2017 and is used with permission of the author D.D. Emmons. ***

Friday, May 19, 2017

Finding True Happiness

Dear Parishioners,

After Mass the other day, I was asked why the Easter (Paschal) Candle was burning. The answer is very simple. We are still in the Easter season. This Sunday is the Sixth Sunday of Easter. The Easter Season will continue up until Pentecost Sunday. After Vespers (Evening Prayer), the candle will be put out and placed near the baptismal font to be lit only for baptisms and funerals. If you look closely at the candle, you will see two Greek letters. At the top is the letter “alpha”; at the bottom is the letter “omega.” They are the first and last letter of the Greek alpha and symbolize Jesus as the beginning and the end. In short, he is to be our all—our everything. So when you think about the use of the Easter Candle at baptisms and funerals, it makes perfectly good sense. At baptisms, we begin a new life here on earth with Jesus. At funerals, we end our earthly life hopefully still connected to Jesus and begin anew our heavenly life. Of course, we have to love Jesus to be with him in heaven. And how we do that Jesus says in today’s gospel: “Whoever has my commandments and observes (keeps) them is the one who loves me.”

May we do our best to always show our love for Father, Son and Holy Spirit so as to find real happiness.

Fr. Carl

“How beautiful it is, my children, to be accompanied by the Holy Spirit!
He is indeed a good guide; and to think that there are some who will not follow him!”
~ Thoughts of the Cure D’Ars

“INSIDE OUR SACRED SPACE”

Week 11: Sacristy

From the Latin word sacristra, meaning a room near the sanctuary or church entrance, this room contains the bread and wine, sacred vessels, the books, the vestments, everything needed in the celebration of the Mass. It is the location where the priests and ministers vest. The sacristy was part of the church since the first places of public worship were built in the fourth century. Here the sacred vessels are cleaned after Mass. In most sacristies there is a sacrarium, a sink that drains directly in the earth where water from cleaning the vessels is poured.
  
***This article “Inside Our Sacred Space” was originally published in the OSV Newsweekly, www. OSV.com, on January 8-14, 2017 and is used with permission of the author D.D. Emmons. ***

Friday, May 12, 2017

100th Anniversary of Fatima

Dear Parishioners,

One hundred years ago, Europe was embroiled in World War I. It was said to be “the war to end all wars,” but it was not, as we have seen in the last century. While the country of Portugal was not involved in the great war, there was a battle for the faith of the Catholic Church in that poor little country. The government was doing whatever it could to stamp out the Catholic faith. Then on May 13, 1917, three young Portuguese children were visited by the Blessed Virgin Mary who delivered a message of hope and a message of warning. She told the children that God was offended by the many sins committed around the world. The daily rosary was to be said in reparation for those sins and for help in preventing more souls from going to Hell. The current war would end, but if significant prayer and reparation were not offered, an even greater war would break out in the future. Unfortunately, the world didn’t do enough praying, and World War II broke out twenty years later.

Today, the world is in even worse shape than it was 100 years ago, and the message is even more relevant. We need to pray the rosary for peace and better family life. We may not generate enough prayer to prevent further wars, but the rosary will certainly help our families to grow in faith, hope, charity, and solidarity. If we have strong, united families, life will become a joy even in the midst of life’s trial and tribulations.

As we celebrate the month of Mary, let us pray the rosary. She will help us with her motherly support.

God bless,
Fr. Carl

“You wonder why God, who is goodness itself, allows us to suffer…
But, what would you think of a doctor who lost his patient because
he was afraid to give him the necessary but unpleasant treatment?”
~ Thoughts of the Cure D’
Ars

“INSIDE OUR SACRED SPACE”

Week 10: Easter Candle

The Easter (or Paschal) candle is located near the baptismal font, the exception being during the Easter season when it is placed next to the ambo. Originating around the fourth century, this large candle represents the light of Christ, and a new Paschal candle is blessed during each Easter Vigil. It is lit for every baptism, and the flame, the light of Christ, is transferred to a candle given to the baptized individual or to an adult family member when an infant is baptized.
  
***This article “Inside Our Sacred Space” was originally published in the OSV Newsweekly, www. OSV.com, on January 8-14, 2017 and is used with permission of the author D.D. Emmons. ***

Friday, May 5, 2017

The Good Shepherd

Dear Parishioners,

The month of May is typically dedicated to Mary, the mother of Jesus and our mother as well. This weekend we have our May Procession as we honor Mary and bring flowers to her as a sign of our love and affection. Praying the rosary on a more frequent basis would be a gift she would appreciate even more as we draw closer to her and “the fruit of her womb, Jesus.”

This week, Mary’s son, Jesus, reminds us of his love for us in referring to himself not only as the good shepherd but also as the sheep gate (John 10:1-10). As the sheep gate, Jesus serves as the entrance into a land of security, peace, and safety. It is a state of being and a relationship that gives life more abundantly than we can imagine.

So, this weekend, we celebrate two blessings: Mary and Jesus. May we strive to enter a deeper relationship with Our Lord and Our Lady.

Fr. Carl

“We must be like the shepherds in the fields during the winter. They have a fire, but from time to time they search about for sticks to keep it alive. If we knew how to keep up the fire of the love of God in our heart by prayers and good works, it would not go out.”
~ Thoughts of the Cure D’Ars


“INSIDE OUR SACRED SPACE”

Week 9: Baptismal Font

Baptism is the door to all the Church’s sacraments. The baptistery or baptismal font is part of every Catholic Church and located so that the congregation can participate in the baptismal ceremony. Some fonts are large pools with free-flowing water and normally found as you enter the nave; others are smaller and placed in different locations. The early converts to Christianity were baptized in rivers, streams, public baths, some in the catacombs. For the most part, it wasn’t until the fourth century with the construction of churches that baptisms were brought indoors.

Over the centuries, even until recently, the receptacle used for baptisms has been continuously reduced in size. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ document “Built on living Stones” says for each parish that, “One font that will accommodate the baptism of both infants and adults symbolizes the one faith and one baptism that Christians share.”
  
***This article “Inside Our Sacred Space” was originally published in the OSV Newsweekly, www. OSV.com, on January 8-14, 2017 and is used with permission of the author D.D. Emmons. ***

Friday, April 28, 2017

Becoming Like Children

Dear Parishioners,

Wouldn’t you just know it? Several weeks ago it was hot outside and inside the church, so we switched the HVAC to the AC mode, and the weather turned colder. Sometimes you just can’t win. However, if you were part of our Flocknote system, you would have been notified and advised to bring a sweater. Flocknote is proving to be a wonderful tool for keeping you up-to-date. If you haven’t signed up yet, it’s easy to do. Just text “stjane” to 84576, and then follow the instructions.

This past weekend, we had a number of our young people make their First Communion. They all looked so nice and were so excited to receive Jesus for the first time. It was very awe inspiring to see their child-like faith and trust in God. Unfortunately, we all lose some of that as we grow older and become distracted by other interests in life. We would be wise to regain the attitudes of those young boys and girls. After all, Jesus said, “Unless you become like little children, you will not enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 18:3)

Fr. Carl

“Do not be afraid of people saying that going to Mass on
a week day is only for those who have nothing to do….
Are you ashamed to serve God for fear of being despised?
~ Thoughts of the Cure D’
Ars

“INSIDE OUR SACRED SPACE”

Week 8: Images, Statues, and Relics

Statues and pictures of Jesus, the Blessed Mother and the saints adorn nearly every church. Catholics don’t pray to or worship statues; rather we venerate, we admire, respect and seek to imitate the individual emulated in the statue. We worship our living Lord, Jesus Christ, not his statue. The saints depicted in our churches lived lives of heroic virtue and are now in heaven, where they can intercede for us before God. The statues, pictures, even the stained-glass windows, tell about Jesus and the Scriptures. These images have long been an important educational tool, especially in the first 1,500 years of Christianity when few people were literate. Relics are treated in a similar way, as best explained by St Jerome (340-420): “We do not worship, we do not adore, for fear that we should bow down to the creature rather than to the Creator, but we venerate the relics of the martyr in order the better to adore him whose martyrs they are.”

  
***This article “Inside Our Sacred Space” was originally published in the OSV Newsweekly, www. OSV.com, on January 8-14, 2017 and is used with permission of the author D.D. Emmons. ***

Friday, April 21, 2017

Divine Mercy

Dear Parishioners,

Before the 2nd Vatican Council in the 1960s, the bible readings at Mass were always the same. Each year on a particular Sunday, you heard the exact same readings from the previous year. After the Council, the Church decided the people should hear more and different readings. Therefore, a three year cycle began with the readings being repeated only once every three years. However, there were some exceptions, and the 2nd Sunday of Easter is one. While the first and second readings are different each year, the gospel is always the same. It is the story of doubting Thomas who serves as a role model when we have some questions about our faith (Jn 20:19-31). But it is preceded by Jesus giving the disciples the power and authority to forgive sins. It is the scriptural basis for our Lord instituting the sacrament of Penance, Confession, or Reconciliation. Also, the Responsorial Psalm is the same each year as it deals with the Lord’s love, mercy and compassion. It is a perfect complement to the Lord’s forgiveness in the sacrament of penance.

If you did not have the opportunity to go to confession before Easter, now is a good time to take advantage of the Lord’s love and mercy which endures for ever. The sacrament is available from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the church. If you are not able to come then, please call the parish office, and I will be happy to make an appointment for you to experience Jesus’ compassion and mercy.

Fr. Carl

“Our Bishop has said that every morning we must offer as a
sacrif ice all we shall have to suffer during the day; and that if
God does not send any suffering, the merit of the sacri fice
well be there all the same.”
~ Thoughts of the Cure D’Ars


“INSIDE OUR SACRED SPACE”

Week 7: Celebrant’s Chair

During the Mass, the priest represents Our Lord Jesus, persona Christi, and thus the priest’s chair is distinguishable from the other seats in the church. The chair is not designed as the place for a king: it is not a royal throne, not palatial, but it is easily differentiated from other chairs in the sanctuary and recognized as the place for the one who leads the congregation. The chair is always placed so to be seen from the nave. “The chair of the priest celebrant must signify his office of presiding over the gathering and directing the prayer” (GIRM, No. 310).
  
***This article “Inside Our Sacred Space” was originally published in the OSV Newsweekly, www. OSV.com, on January 8-14, 2017 and is used with permission of the author D.D. Emmons. ***

Friday, April 14, 2017

Alleluia! Happy Easter!

Dear Parishioners,

Spring is that time of the year when new springs up abundantly. Flowers begin to bloom, trees start to produce leaves, grass comes back to life, and the cold air warms up. But most importantly, we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus on Easter. It is the greatest Solemnity of the Church Year as we rejoice in our Lord’s victory over sin and death. It is the sign that we are no longer slaves to sin and the limitations of this world but destined to rise up with Jesus and share his glory at the end of our journey on earth. That is truly a reason to celebrate. Alleluia!

May you and your families truly have a Happy Easter.

Fr. Carl

“O my God, why have you sent me into the world?”
“To save your soul.”
“And why do you wish me to save my soul?”
“Because I love you.”
~ Thoughts of the Cure D’Ars


“INSIDE OUR SACRED SPACE”

The Ambo at the Basilica of the Assumption in Baltimore, MD.
Week 6: Ambo

During the Mass, the ambo is the focal point for the Liturgy of the Word. From this kind of tall, elevated desk, “only the readings, the responsorial psalm and Easter proclamation (Exsultet) are to be proclaimed; it may be used also for giving the homily and for announcing the intentions of the prayer of the faithful” (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, No. 309). The design and location of the altar and ambo emphasize the close relationship between the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist: from the holy altar we receive the body and blood of Christ, and from the ambo, Christ’s holy doctrine. In this regard the ambo, like the altar, is not just an object but sacred place.
Rev. Msgr. Carl Cummings speaks from the pulpit at St. Jane Frances

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal also explains: “The dignity of the word of God requires that the church have a place that is suitable for the proclamation of the word and toward which the attention of the whole congregation of the faithful naturally turns during the Liturgy of the Word.”

Once the persecution of Christians ended in the fourth century, churches were built and designed with an ambo or raised platform, making it easier for the congregation to hear. Around the ninth century, the pulpit replaced the ambo and was located either in the sanctuary or the nave.

  
***This article “Inside Our Sacred Space” was originally published in the OSV Newsweekly, www. OSV.com, on January 8-14, 2017 and is used with permission of the author D.D. Emmons. ***

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Holy Week

Dear Parishioners,

Once again St. Jane Frances was blessed by the generosity of Atlantic Maintenance Group who spruced up the parish grounds and put mulch in the gardens and around the trees. Thank you Atlantic Maintenance Group for your support.

Today as we kick off Holy Week, we begin with Passion (Palm) Sunday. The Mass celebrates both the joyful entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem and his brutal passion on Good Friday (Matthew 26:14—27:66). How fickle life can be sometimes. Jesus goes from conquering hero to despised criminal in a very short time. The lesson we might learn is to put our faith and hope in God alone, for He alone will not disappoint us. He will always be there to comfort us in our sorrows and support us when fair weather friends desert us. He is the one constant who will never let us down. Thanks be to God.

- Fr. Carl

“You must accept your cross; if you bear it courageously it will carry you to Heaven.”
~ Thoughts of the Cure D’Ars


The Sancutary Lamp in the upper church.

“INSIDE OUR SACRED SPACE”

Week 5: Sanctuary Lamp

In every Catholic Church, we find a readily visible lamp or candle burning before the tabernacle. This is the same light the Magi followed until they found the baby Jesus in a stable. This ever-present light still beckons to each of us. We all look for the flickering flame as soon as we enter the church. Our attitude and demeanor change as we recognize that we are in the house of the living God. The flame signifies his presence and a sign that our love for the Lord is eternal, never to be extinguished.

Called the sanctuary lamp, it was first used in the 13th century, and Canon Law 940 requires the lamp to burn continuously. This perpetual light is mentioned in Leviticus 6:6 in discussing the fire for burnt offerings: “Fire shall be kept burning upon the altar continuously; it shall not go out.”


  
***This article “Inside Our Sacred Space” was originally published in the OSV Newsweekly, www. OSV.com, on January 8-14, 2017 and is used with permission of the author D.D. Emmons. ***

Friday, March 31, 2017

Cardinal William Keeler: May He Rest In Peace

Dear Parishioners,

This week, the church in Baltimore bid a fond farewell to our beloved Cardinal William Keeler. He led our archdiocese for the better part of two decades and was a prominent leader in the ecumenical movement. I first met him when I was a chaplain in the U. S. Navy. Home on leave for a week, I met him in his office where he was very gracious. I was particularly impressed at how good a listener he was. Although I know he was busy man, he gave me his full attention and seemed in no hurry for me to leave.

The second time, I remember, was after being named pastor to St. Agnes in Catonsville. He gave me three valuable pieces of advice: “Don’t make any major changes in your first year; get out and visit the shut-ins regularly; and let people see you praying in church.” I have tried to do that in both parishes I have been privileged to serve. I believe that advice has served me well.

It is poignant that the Cardinal’s funeral Mass take place this week, as we will hear on Sunday the gospel of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-45). While Cardinal Keeler’s body will not be raised from the dead [until Jesus returns on the last day], we have hope and confidence that his soul will be raised up to heaven, if not immediately, then in the very near future. May he rest in peace.

Fr. Carl

“Sometimes, temptations are useful in making us recapture our lost sense of the Presence of God by means of an act of love or aspiration.”
~ Thoughts of the Cure D’Ars



“INSIDE OUR SACRED SPACE”

Week 4: Tabernacle

Since there were no churches during those early centuries, Christians did not have a tabernacle. However, as we do today, they were careful to protect the Blessed Sacrament. There is some evidence that following their divine services, Christians took the consecrated bread home and consumed it during the week. By the fourth century, when construction of churches began, any reserved hosts were kept in various rooms in the church, including an area that became known as the sacristy. Theft, pilferage or worse was a serious threat, especially following the Protestant Reformation, when violence was carried out against the Catholic Church.

The design of the tabernacle slowly evolved, and by the 16th century tabernacles similar to those we have today were in use. Canon Law spells out the rules for the tabernacle location: “The tabernacle in which the Blessed Eucharist is reserved should be sited in a distinguished place in the church or oratory, a place which is conspicuous, suitability adorned and conducive to prayer” (No. 938.2). As authorized by Church law, and approved by the local bishop, some churches use a separate chapel to house the tabernacle. The tendency today is to keep the tabernacle in proximity to the altar.

The tabernacle in the upper church at St. Jane Frances de Chantal, located to the left of the altar.

The tabernacle in the lower church at St. Jane Frances de Chantal, located directly behind the altar.

  
***This article “Inside Our Sacred Space” was originally published in the OSV Newsweekly, www. OSV.com, on January 8-14, 2017 and is used with permission of the author D.D. Emmons. ***

Friday, March 24, 2017

Seeing Clearly

Dear Parishioners,

Last Friday March 17th, the school held its annual St. Patrick’s Day Bazaar. It was a huge success with excellent food, games, music, and fellowship. All had a great time thanks to the hard work of all our volunteers. I was particularly impressed by one group who rarely receive any recognition—the clean-up crew. When I went into the hall Sunday afternoon, the hall was spotless, and the floors looked like they had just been polished. Thank you clean-up volunteers.

Today, the 4th Sunday of Lent is called Laetare Sunday. Laetare in Latin means “rejoice.” Just like Gaudete Sunday which in Latin also means rejoice, it means we are more than half-way to Easter when our Lenten pilgrimage will come to an end. This week’s gospel tells of Jesus’ healing of the man born blind (John 11:1-45). It’s an amazing miracle, but the greater miracle is the man’s seeing who Jesus really is—the Lord! Hopefully, our penances of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving have opened our hearts to more clearly see who Jesus is and enter into a stronger relationship with the Lord.

- Fr. Carl

“The way to destroy bad habits is by watchfulness and
by doing often those things which are opposites to one’s besetting sins.”
~ Thoughts of the Cure D’Ars

“INSIDE OUR SACRED SPACE”

Week 3: Altar

The altar is the centerpiece, the most important part of the church to which everything else is subservient. Every Catholic church is built for the altar. Altars have been part of religious services going back to antiquity, even before churches were built; the name altar is derived from a Hebrew word meaning “place of sacrifice.”


Well into the fourth century, there were no churches nor public worship. Christians held their divine services away from the occupying Romans in places like private homes. Often the altar was a simple wooden table or chest.


The top of the altar, called the mensa, a Latin word for table, traditionally has been made of stone. The altar is consecrated by a bishop and becomes the symbol of Christ: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” (Mt 21:42).


The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines the altar: “On the altar, which is the center of the church, the sacrifice of the cross is made present under sacramental signs. The altar is also the table of the Lord, to which the People of God are invited” (No. 1182). Here for us is Mount Calvary; here too, the bread and wine are turned into the body and blood of Christ.

* In the early Church, altars were built on the sites of martyrs’ graves. As more churches were built, relics were contained in or buried under altars, a practice that still occurs today.

The altar decorated at Christmas, St. Jane Frances de Chantal (Riviera Beach, MD)
  
***This article “Inside Our Sacred Space” was originally published in the OSV Newsweekly, www. OSV.com, on January 8-14, 2017 and is used with permission of the author D.D. Emmons. ***

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Gift of Water

Dear Parishioners,

Here in Maryland, we rarely have a problem with water. Perhaps every so often in the summer, our water supply may get low because of a lack of rain. Then we may have to limit the days we can water our lawns and gardens. But in the Holy Land where Jesus lived, it was a different story. It rained infrequently in the dry countryside, and people had to find a well for their basic human and physical needs. That’s why the Samaritan women went to the well (John 4:5-42). There she met Jesus who offered her a different kind of water—the water of God’s grace. We first received that water at baptism, and we continue to receive more of it every time we receive a sacrament. Let us rejoice at this gift of spiritual water (grace) which alone can satisfy our deepest thirst for which we were created—God.

Fr. Carl

“He that has received the Sacrament of Confirmation is always ready to give his life for God… His only fear is the fear of committing sin…”
~ Thoughts of the Cure D’Ars

“INSIDE OUR SACRED SPACE”

Week 2: Sanctuary

“They shall make a sanctuary for me, that I may dwell in their midst.” (Ex 25:8).

The sanctuary is the area, often raised, in the front of the church where the altar, the ambo, the celebrant’s chair, and, in many churches, the tabernacle are located. Separated from the nave, this is the place reminiscent of the Holy of the Holies, that is, the inner sanctuary of the temple described in the Old Testament. Interestingly, the altar and tabernacle were centuries apart in the introduction into the Church.

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal defines the sanctuary as “the place where the altar stands, where the word of God is proclaimed, and where the priest, the deacon and other ministers exercise their offices.” (No. 295)

The Sanctuary decorated at Christmas, St. Jane Frances de Chantal (Riviera Beach, MD)
  
***This article “Inside Our Sacred Space” was originally published in the OSV Newsweekly, www. OSV.com, on January 8-14, 2017 and is used with permission of the author D.D. Emmons. ***

Friday, March 10, 2017

Persevering

Dear Parishioners,

Last week we found ourselves early in Matthew’s gospel with Jesus in the desert fasting, praying and being tempted by Satan (Matthew 4:1-11). This week, much time has passed as we find Jesus in the middle of the gospel on a mountain (Matthew 17:1-9). There he is transfigured, and Peter, James and John see the glory of the Lord. This is meant to bolster the faith of the apostles during the passion and death of Jesus, give them hope and confidence to continue our Lord’s mission after the Ascension, and be a sign of our destiny if we live our faith. This we can do with the help of our Lenten practices—prayer, fasting and almsgiving, combined with our regular reception of the sacraments. May God give us the strength and grace to persevere.

Fr. Carl

“The way we destroy bad habits is by watchfulness and by doing often those things which are the opposites to one’s besetting sins.”
~ Thoughts of the Cure D’Ars

“INSIDE OUR SACRED SPACE”

Week 1: Nave

The part of a Catholic Church where the laity prays and worships is called the nave. The word “nave” comes from the Latin “navis,” meaning ship. We, the people of God, are regarded as passengers on a ship destined for heaven. The nave is not a meeting place but a place of worship; the congregation is not an audience but participants in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

In most churches today, the nave is filled with pews or chairs. That was not always the case. For over 1,000 years, churches did not have seats for the congregation; the faithful mostly stood or knelt during the Mass. Not only did they stand, but they were separated by gender. Men were normally on the right facing the altar and women were on the left. Not until the 13th century did pews or benches become popular; still today there are Catholic churches without seats, save a few designated for the old and the infirm. Parishes quickly discovered that pews are an expensive addition and the cost of installation was passed on to parishioners. Pew were purchased or rented by the laity and often regarded as the property of a particular person or family. This idea persisted for centuries. Today we may contribute to pew renovation or installation, but we don’t own a particular pew (although many of us seek to sit in the same spot at every Mass).

The nave looking toward the altar in the upper church at St. Jane Frances de Chantal (Riviera Beach, MD)
  
***This article “Inside Our Sacred Space” was originally published in the OSV Newsweekly, www. OSV.com, on January 8-14, 2017 and is used with permission of the author D.D. Emmons. ***

Friday, March 3, 2017

Inside Our Sacred Space

Dear Parishioners,

For those of you who missed my announcement at the end of last week’s Masses, here is basically what I said. “There was a mistake in the bulletin several weeks ago that said I would be assuming the pastorate of Our Lady of the Chesapeake when Fr. Brian Rafferty retired this summer. That was never the plan. When Fr. Brian Rafferty retires, a new priest will be sent to Our Lady of the Chesapeake to serve as pastor. It will not be me.”

I saw an interesting article in Our Sunday Visitor newspaper. This is an introduction of “Inside Our Sacred Space.” We will reprint a section of this article for the next following 14 weeks.

Fr. Carl

“Jesus Christ found a way by which he could ascend into Heaven and yet remain on the earth. He instituted the adorable Sacrament of the Eucharist so that he might stay with us, and be the Food of our soul; that he might console us and be our Companion.”
~ Thoughts of the Cure D’Ars



“INSIDE OUR SACRED SPACE”

Gathering Space (Narthex)

The gathering space, frequently called the narthex, is the place where the faithful greet one another before and after Mass. It is the area between the outside doors of the church and the inner doors leading into the worship space. This is where we are welcomed each Sunday, where baptisms, funerals and weddings begin; here we form lines for processions and receive palms. It is a place for religious literature and for parish notices or displays.

In the early history of the Church, the narthex was a waiting area for unbaptized individuals and penitents not allowed inside the worship space and not allowed to participate in all or part of the Mass. Through the centuries, the restrictions on Mass attendance have been relaxed, but the term “narthex” remains.

In the gathering space we, at least mentally, discard our secular ways, knowing that we are about to enter holy ground and that our attitude, body language and even our attire reflect the sacredness therein.

*The word “narthex” in Greek means “giant funnel.”
 

The Narthex at St. Jane Frances where we enter the church and gather before liturgies.
 
Our narthex is also a location for offering votive candles and prayers to St. Francis Xavier, Sacred Heart of Jesus, St. Jane Frances de Chantal, St. Therese of Lisieux, and St. Anthony of Padua.


***This article “Inside Our Sacred Space” was originally published in the OSV Newsweekly, www. OSV.com, on January 8-14, 2017 and is used with permission of the author D.D. Emmons. ***

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

Friday, January 6, 2017

Searching For Jesus

Dear Parishioners,

Today, we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany which means a manifestation, or a showing, or a revealing. On Christmas, Jesus was shown to the poor Jewish shepherds. Now on the Epiphany, he is shown to the Gentile Magi who are led by a star (Matthew 2:1-12). This event shows that God’s kingdom will be open to all—Jew and Gentile alike. For God’s kingdom is not an exclusive club for just a few but an inclusive family open to all, because he came to save everybody. He even came to save King Herod. Sadly, Herod was so focused on himself, he thought Jesus to be a threat to his kingdom and tried to kill him. Instead, he killed any chance he might have found peace and happiness for himself. It goes to show that too much self-absorption can destroy our lives and any chances we might have for joy, peace, and lasting happiness. Let us, like the Magi, continue searching for Jesus in the world around us. He wants us to come and find him.

- Fr. Carl

“Let us adore Jesus Christ as our God; let us follow him
as our King. Let us offer him all we have and all we are.”
~ Thoughts of the Cure D’Ars