Friday, July 3, 2020

Freedom To Say Something Nice!

Dear Parishioners,

This weekend we celebrate our independence and the many freedoms our ancestors won for us through their courage and persistence in opposing the forces of tyranny. Today, we enjoy freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, and freedom of speech. However, none of these freedoms is absolute. If the press writes something libelous, it can be sued. If a religious sect practiced human sacrifice, the members would be jailed. Freedom of assembly cannot be used to justify treason or mutiny, and freedom of speech cannot be used to maliciously slander a person.

As Catholics, we have several commandments that deal with speech. The second, which deals with the Lord’s name, makes lying under oath not just a crime against the state but a sin against God.
The eighth commandment, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against your neighbor” has for its immediate focus a lie or falsehood that does injury to one’s neighbor. That’s called slander or calumny. However, the Church teaches that the commandment is broader in scope and lists detraction as a sin against the eighth commandment. Detraction is the unjust violation of the good reputation of another by revealing something true about him when there is no need to do so. It’s gossip, and Pope Francis has spoken out against it many times. In other words, if we cannot speak good of another person, we shouldn’t speak about him/her at all.

This summer, as we socialize with our family and friends, let us refrain from any negative gossip, and build up the reputations of the people we know, the schools our children attend, and the parishes to which we belong. Who knows? Maybe we will start a trend towards a more civil discourse in our society and help heal some of the divisions that threaten the tranquility of our United States

Fr. Carl

Friday, June 26, 2020

Together

Dear Parishioners,

One of the things that I have experienced lately is that of being alone. Even if I go out in public to the grocery store or for a pickup at Target, with a mask on, I feel alone and separate from others. The pandemic has also had an insidious effect on my thinking in that I don’t know if the person who is approaching down the aisle or bringing things to my car is infected or not. I like to trust others and expect good to come from our interaction, but the virus has injected a degree of distrust into things. So, my recent experience has included a little bit more alone time and separation for others. Now I make it up with Zoom family meetings where the 5-year-old hams it up for the camera and makes all the faces she can. Also, I have connected with friends from Indiana online, and this can be personal and up close.

I am reminded that we are a communitarian religion guided by a triune God of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a God in relationship, expecting us as well to be in relationship. I do not simply relate to God in my own unique way, having a special exclusionary relationship. No, I am a child of God among many, speaking not as a me but as a we. For me, God is less exclusionary and more inclusive. It is not a special club with a secret handshake. I am a part of creation that God pronounced good in Genesis. In Jesus’ final discourse in John (17:22) he says, “And I have given them the glory you gave me so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one…” so we are to be one in Christ. He also makes the point that He is with us, and we are not alone in Matthew (28:20), “And behold I am with you always until the end of the age.” Let us find comfort in our being church together, having a Savior with whom we are one and Who is with us always. There is great solace in these words. May God help us to persevere through these tough times and remember our connectedness with Him and each other.

Blessings,
Deacon Steve

Friday, June 19, 2020

Mutual Sacrifice

Dear Parishioners,

Life here at St. Jane’s is starting to open up again. Our sinners are returning to confession Saturday afternoon in the Hall. The first weekend of Masses in the church saw an average attendance of 50 at our four Masses. And last weekend, the average was up to 75 per Mass. However, there is plenty of room; with social distancing, we can accommodate 126 individuals and even more if families sit together.

I am particularly pleased with everyone’s support. I have received a number of communications in support of our efforts to bring information and the Mass to you by electronic means. I also appreciate the continued financial support you have given either by online giving or mailing your envelopes to the rectory. Thank you so much.

The month of June is a month when many couples get married. In 1981, Pope St. John Paul II wrote about the connection between married love and the cross. “In the sacrifice which Jesus Christ makes
of himself on the cross for his bride (the church), there is completely revealed that plan which God has imprinted on the humanity of man and woman since creation; the marriage of baptized persons thus becomes a real symbol of the new and eternal covenant sanctioned by the blood of Christ.
” In short, married couples are called upon to reflect on Christ’s sacrificial love and incorporate it into their marriage and rise above petty selfishness. As a reminder of their call to mutual sacrifice, it is essential to have a crucifix prominently located in the home, for whatever loving sacrifices a husband or wife may make pales in comparison to our Lord’s sacrifice on Mount Calvary.

Fr. Carl

Friday, June 12, 2020

Challenging Times

Dear Parishioners,

Isn’t it the case that life will always bring surprises.

Notable for me is the fact that astronauts from the US went up in a US rocket to the Space Station. It takes me back to the moon landing years ago when I was much younger. I can remember the grainy, black and white image of Neil Armstrong with his, “One small step for man, one leap for mankind” statement upon setting foot on the moon. The crisp images of the SpaceX launch and docking with the Space Station are a reminder of how far things have come. But also, we are in the midst of yet another death of an African American at the hands of a policeman caught on video. How much longer will racism show its ugly and vile face in our culture? And finally, it seems that the pandemic numbers are decreasing, slowly yet still with fatal consequences. The lower numbers coupled with the opening up of society, churches included, may slowly bring our world a little closer to normalcy. I don’t think however that things will be as they were, but we shall see!

We have been through a great deal of pain and suffering, and hopefully it will lessen. I reflect on these things because our Christianity, our Catholicism, must inform our reaction to the events in which we find ourselves. I believe that Christ came not only to reconcile us with God but to inform our way of life. We are to create with our lives, the city of God, the kingdom of God. I am reminded of the old adage, “may you live in interesting times,” very pertinent for the year 2020. It is also the case that God continues to be present to us and calls us to live out the wisdom of scripture, the virtues of faith, hope, and love, the community and holiness of church, the precept of service to others, and the embodiment of goodness and truth in the life and being of Jesus Christ.

Let us seek out the Holy Spirit as guide and companion as we live our lives in these interesting and challenging times. The mysteries of the universe are still before us, the challenge of treating all with dignity and respect still exists, and the need to care for each other in the light of sickness and death is still our call. God be with us, strengthen us, and lead us to right choices.

Blessings,
Deacon Steve

Friday, June 5, 2020

Welcoming Back Safely

Dear Parishioners,

We are preparing for your return back to St. Jane Frances. We have been busy ordering cleaning supplies, making sure that we are following the health and safety guidelines, and preparing for your arrival when we are able to gather as a large group. Just over two months ago, we had to close our doors to gatherings. We are very excited to welcome our Parish family back.

Even though we are in the planning phases of opening soon, please remember that the state is still under the “Safer at Home” order. If you are in the age range where you are at higher risk, have underlying health conditions, or are uncomfortable with attending public gatherings, Archbishop Lori extended the dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass. We will still be live-streaming Mass at 5:00 pm on Saturday afternoon.

If you are attending Mass, please know that keeping our community safe is our Number 1 priority. When we fully open, we will be asking for your help. Enclosed in the bulletin are some new procedures that I would ask that you become familiar with before we open for Mass. Again, we look forward to welcoming everyone back safely.

Fr. Carl


Friday, May 29, 2020

Pray For God’s Strength

Dear Parishioners,

I saw an interesting article about how things may change as a result of the pandemic. It also spoke about how things have changed. If we imagine that we are slowly coming out of our houses, what world will we see, what culture will we experience and what reality awaits us? Of course, I hope for all the good things to remain. Although there is still strong divisions in our society, I have felt a sense of strong community as my wife and I walk around the neighborhood. I have had more conversations with people I didn’t know than ever before. There is a picture of a mountain range taken from a nearby city that has not been seen for decades from that location. I have spent more time with my grandchildren with whom I live than I really did prior to this. I have heard from friends and communicated with others much more than before. I feel a certain urgency and a need to connect with others which before would have been put off as, “I'll get to it later.” I have a group of friends from Indiana that I get together with weekly over Zoom. It has become an important part of the week.

Economically, it will be interesting to see what places survive and what places are gone after this. There is for sure great sorrow and tragedy in that loss for the people involved and for the community. We have lost a wonderful little coffee shop nearby for instance. I wonder as well what will be different about church? Certainly, we will have social distancing for a while and changes in how we do Mass. But will we look at church differently? Will we see it differently now that we have been kept away for a while? Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? But as well, has our relationship with God changed? Have we relied on Him to get us through? How is your prayer life? If it is the same as it was, then I wonder. My prayer life has taken on a bit more depth and seriousness. My brother had Covid but got through. My Mom in a nursing home had a roommate who tested positive, but she herself is negative for the virus. These are little skirmishes with death and doubt that call forth the need to pray and ask for God’s protection. They also call for thanksgiving at the little things that show us love and goodness. Of course, God will be the same. He is the same now and forever. He didn’t leave nor abandon us. Remember he doesn’t take away our crosses but helps us to carry them. So let us prepare to return to “normalcy.” I hope for the good and pray for God’s strength to carry us.

Blessings,

Deacon Steve

Friday, May 22, 2020

I Am With You Always

Dear Parishioners,

These last several months have been difficult and challenging to say the least. Closed restaurants, churches, and movie theaters; empty parks, sports arenas, and beaches; not to mention shut down businesses and the economy—this has been the new normal since the middle of March. The times have not been exactly uplifting. So it’s time for a change as life seems to be opening up bit by bit, and we are lifted up with the hope of recovery and better days ahead.

How appropriate it is that we celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension when as we hear in the first reading that on a mountain in Galilee, among his disciples, Jesus was lifted up before their eyes in a cloud which took him from their sight (Acts 1:1–11). While His glorified body ascended into the heavens, so too must the spirits of the disciples be lifted up. And so too should ours be as well, for Jesus is showing us our destiny. But first we have work to do. In the gospel, Jesus gives the disciples and us our marching orders (Mt 28:16–20). He gives us the Great Commission to baptize and teach. In other words, we are to live and practice and share our faith boldly and without compromise. That’s a challenge, but we don’t have to do it alone. For his closing words are: “Know that I am with you always until the end of the world.

Fr. Carl

Friday, May 15, 2020

Everlasting Truth

Dear Parishioners,

It has been a tough week starting with Mother’s day on Sunday. My mom is in a nursing home in Pennsylvania that is locked down. She doesn’t have a phone. My sister visited her through the window a couple of weeks ago. It was difficult not talking with her on the phone or in person. These times have brought unusual sacrifices to us. But as I look back on Easter, there was a part of Lent and Holy Week that was made real by our dealing with this deadly virus. We were not only giving up chocolate or TV. We were making a greater sacrifice for the greater good, for the common good. I was not doing my normal routine for the sake of my vulnerable granddaughter and for those others who are vulnerable. While we were remembering Christ’s passion and death, there were numbers being counted of people who were in fact dying.

The recent events in our country and the world in fact, make this living real and our choices, serious. I am sorry, but I am not one that sees this as a hoax or as, “just like the ordinary flu.” This has been a case of unprecedented sacrifice and restriction with great consequences for families and communities, especially in terms of the healthcare system and the economy. We have been given the example of Christ to carry us along the way. We had the Church with its rituals and deep history as an aid to help us make sense of what was happening. We were accompanied by Christ in a real way as we experienced an emotional reaction to events outside of our control, not knowing where this was going. Easter morning still came with its beautiful and powerful realization of the empty tomb. Even in our difficulties, in our uncertainties, our anxieties and fears, we were reminded that God is still present to us. It was still clear that we are His children, that we still have the Church helping us to work through our sufferings, joining with us, and giving us comfortable and familiar words and actions to hold on to.

The truth is that God still offers us his consolation and love, his care and mercy, no matter what the challenge. The words are different, the events different, the cause different, but Christ has always walked with us in our needs and uplifted us in our darkness. This season of Easter is perhaps a more powerful example of that everlasting truth.

Blessings,
Deacon Steve

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Do Not Let Your Hearts Be Troubled

Dear Parishioners,

Happy Mother’s Day! This weekend we remember and give thanks to our mothers, grandmothers, and other women who have shown us a motherly concern. They have encouraged us when our spirits sagged and corrected us when we needed it. Their sacrifices on our behalf were great blessings which we can never fully repay. At the same time, we are mindful of those married women trying to conceive a child with no success. Let us pray for them.
 
This week’s gospel scene takes place at the Last Supper right after Jesus’ announcement of his betrayal (Jn 14:1-12). So naturally the apostles are upset, worried, and discouraged. To comfort them, lift up their spirits, and give them hope and courage, Jesus says to them, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Have faith in God and faith in me.” Our Lord goes on to assure them that he is leaving to prepare a special place in his kingdom for them.
 
As we continue dealing with this pandemic, a lot of hearts are troubled as many have lost loved ones, employment, or both. And we who have not been touched by these effects are concerned that it could touch our lives as well. So what do we do? Stay busy; practice social distancing; and practice the faith through regular prayer and reading the bible. These are some of the things we can do to keep our hearts untroubled and lift up our faith in God and Jesus.
 
And don’t forget your mothers and wives on this Mother’s Day.

Fr. Carl 

Friday, May 1, 2020

Seek The Comfort of Our Mother


Dear Parishioners,
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

I have been saying those words a lot lately. There is comfort in calling upon the Holy Mother of God to help us. There is a great consolation that comes from praying to Mary, gentle Mother. Her humbleness before God and her openness to God are characteristics that make her easy to approach. 

Reciting the “Hail Mary” brings a comfort, for it is a beautiful statement that conveys so much. In my meditation upon Mary, I am always brought back to the realization that she carries our humanity and gives it as a gift to Jesus. She reaches out to the divine and offers our identity as human beings. As a young woman, she says “yes” to God, giving over her life to a mystery which she scarcely glimpses. She lays down her life, puts it on the line, makes a judgment that will impact and direct her life completely. She is indeed blessed, and brings her love and dedication to Christ over the years to the Cross. She stands there at the Cross in unimaginable pain and sorrow watching her son die. It is only later that she sees him alive in his resurrected life. 

Mary has been remembered and honored over the centuries for her openness, gentleness, humility and persevering the arrow of pain that pierced her heart. She is indeed blessed among women and all humanity for the example she is of how to love and how to use your life in the service of God’s will. I have been thinking as well about the last part of her prayer. Mary pray for us sinners. We continue to need help in our weakness and selfishness. We need God’s intervention in our lives so that we may continue to be in a relationship with Him. But also—and I hope this isn’t too weird—we need to ask Mary to continue to be open to us at the time of our death when we are most alone and most vulnerable. Let us seek the comfort of Mary, especially in the month of May, so that we may take on her beautiful qualities and experience her comforting intercession.
 
Blessings,
Deacon Steve

Friday, April 24, 2020

Lifting The Haze

Dear Parishioners,

One of these days, I want to get back to the Holy Land, which I visited over 40 years go. While I then visited Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth, the Seas of Galilee, and other places, I never got to Emmaus. This weekend we all go to Emmaus to hear the familiar story of the two disciples of Jesus walking from Jerusalem (Lk 24:13-35). Now it doesn’t come right out and say so, but they were discouraged and despairing over the death of Jesus. You know that because Emmaus is 7 miles west of Jerusalem toward the setting sun. And a Christian is someone traveling east to the rising sun symbolic of the risen Jesus because of his/her joy in the Lord’s victory over sin and death and his/her hope in the future.

It was indeed fortunate that Jesus came along to show from the scriptures that his death was all part of God’s plan over the centuries but not the final chapter. It lifted some of the haze around their minds until the breaking of the bread opened their eyes to recognize Jesus. It’s what Mass is supposed to do for us. The Liturgy of the Word (the scriptures) helps us to understand God’s plan and our way of personally incorporating it into our lives. Then the Liturgy of the Eucharist not only helps us recognize his presence under the appearance of bread and wine, but also unites us to Him.

The experience of those two disciples energized them to share their experience with others. May it open our hearts and energize us when we again gather at St. Jane’s for the “breaking of the bread,” the Mass, so that we too can reach out to others.

Fr. Carl

Friday, April 17, 2020

Divine Mercy



Dear Parishioners,

Today is Divine Mercy Sunday. I have on the wall in my small study, a picture of Jesus with the blue and red waves of light emanating from his sacred heart. Written below is “Jesus I Trust in You.” When I consider His great mercy, his Divine Mercy, I am left speechless. How can we understand this divine mercy? How can we understand something that is divine in nature. How is it that Jesus can forgive so much of what we do? We all engage in things that go against God or turn our backs on God in our selfishness and self centered actions.

It goes so far as the understanding that it was our sins that he carried on the cross in his pain and suffering. We contributed to the crucifixion being as terrible as it was. And yet, he can still forgive us and show us mercy. I think it is probably true that there are things which we do not forgive in those people we know and love. We probably all have something, maybe small, that we haven’t forgiven in others. Yet Christ forgives. It isn’t that he doesn’t know our guilt. Christ understands the affront we have made to him by our sins. He knows the depth and breadth of it. He knows what we deserve. And yet, there it is, if we admit our faults and confess our sins, he responds with His forgiveness and His abundant and divine mercy. I cannot fathom how this happens or why it happens. I do not understand the mind of God. I can do okay with human beings. I can track where they are going most of the time, but God, nope. I do not know how it is that He loves us as He does and why He is so willing to give to us His many gifts. I will be the first to say that there are many things I do not clearly understand about God. This is one of them. But, I have learned that regardless of my ability to understand God and all that He is and stands for, I am to accept Him. I say “yes” to God as much as I can. If God says that this is how it will be, I am a fool to put up resistance! I have been shown by God in my life that His will is so far above mine! So thank you Lord for your forgiveness and your mercy. I will continue to seek Your will for me and admit my mistakes. Help me to be your servant!

Blessings, everyone, 
Happy Easter, 
Deacon Steve

Friday, April 10, 2020

Happy Easter!


Dear Parishioners,

HAPPY EASTER! I hope and pray that you and your families are safe and well. May those who are not well have a speedy recovery.
 
Undoubtedly, this is the most unusual Lent and Holy Week any of us have ever experienced. I have
conducted services with the U.S. Marines in an open field; the Coast Guard in a Quonset hut; and the Navy on the ship’s flight deck, but never have I celebrated Mass behind locked doors in an empty church. How I wished you could have been there is person. Fortunately, some of you were able to be there through the streaming of our Masses and other forms of worship.

 
On the plus side, I am gratified by your loyalty and support to the parish and to me. Weekly/monthly envelopes are regularly coming into the parish office and a good number of you have signed up for on line giving. So while our collections are down, they are not as low as I thought they might be. Thanks so much! Furthermore, the cancellation of meetings has allowed time for additional time in prayer, meditation and spiritual reading. Hopefully you have done the same and engaged in some family activities and games as well. By the way, as I was listening to the radio, a doctor gave some advice on fighting the coronavirus. She said it was important to build up our immune system by: 1 getting enough sleep (7–9 hours daily); 2 eating properly; 3 exercising daily (30 minutes); and 4 prayer and meditation.
 
I look forward and pray for an end to this pandemic so that we can soon gather around God’s altar to praise Him and reconnect with one another. In the meantime, may God bless you and your families and may you have a Blessed Easter.
Fr. Carl  

Friday, April 3, 2020

Praying For Our Heroes


Dear Parishioners,

My first story is that I have a good friend in Indiana whose daughter is an ICU nurse in Washington State. She has been a traveling nurse, staying at a location for a number of months, then going somewhere else. She is smart and dedicated. She is good at her profession. She is in the thick of it. Her father has told me that he has been worried to the point of tears that she will contract the virus. Her name is Natalie, and I ask that you keep her and her many colleagues throughout the nation in your prayers. 

A second story I want to share is that of my brother, Tony. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee. He works at a Home Depot. He has the option to take 2 weeks of paid leave. He is not sure that he wants to return to work later this week. He can wear gloves, but he cannot wear a mask. He is uncertain whom he will come in contact with at the store. It is his livelihood but also a tough decision to make. I ask that you pray for my brother but also for all those who need work to pay their bills but are put in some jeopardy because of it. There are many heroes who are working to provide us with food, water, supplies, medication, and electricity. Many who are working to get us our shipments. Pray for them. 

Finally, I have an aunt, Aunt Artie, who recently died, not from the virus; she was in her late 80s. She was my mom’s favorite cousin. She died in a facility. She was buried in Pennsylvania without a service. There will be a memorial later. Please pray for all those who are sick and dying. Pray for their families who grieve without the opportunity to say goodbye appropriately. I share these stories because there is a great deal of sadness and suffering going on. I do not want us to get lost in that suffering, but for us to know that we must pray. Holy Week is upon us. Let us offer up our lives, our gifts, our love, to all who are in need, knowing that Christ hears our prayers and knows our suffering. My faith tells me that God is present in all the lives I have mentioned. Let us thank Him for His gift of mercy.

Deacon Steve

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

God Will Not Abandon Us


Dear Parishioners,
 
We are in extraordinary times. My mother just moved to a nursing home, and the place is not accepting visitors. There is a national emergency. And of course, there is a run on toilet paper! I received the following prayer from the Knights of Columbus national office in my email. Let us remember to keep all in prayer as we get through an unprecedented time in our lives. Let us pray fervently that our faith be strengthened, our courage in the face of difficulty made stronger, and our support for one another be made more constant. God will not abandon us but is reason for hope! Let us turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God for consolation and help:
 
“O Mary, you always brighten our path as a sign of salvation and of hope. We entrust ourselves to you, Health of the Sick, who, at the Cross, took part in Jesus' pain while remaining steadfast in faith. O loving Mother, you know what we need, and we are confident you will provide for us as at Cana in Galilee. Intercede for us with you Son Jesus, the Divine Physician, for those who have fallen ill, for those who are vulnerable, and for those who have died. Intercede also for those charged with protecting the health and safety of others and for those who are tending to the sick and seeking a cure. Help us, O Mother of Divine Love, to conform to the will of the Father and to do as we are told by Jesus, who took upon himself our sufferings and carried our sorrows, so as to lead us, through the Cross, to the glory of the Resurrection. Amen
 
Under thy protection we seek refuge, O Holy Mother of God. In our needs, despise not our petitions, but deliver us always from all dangers, O glorious and blessed Virgin. Amen.”

Blessings in these troubled times, 
Deacon Steve

Download Prayer PDF

Not As Man Sees Does God See


Dear Parishioners,
 
How strange it was to have Sunday with no Masses. However, we had a vigil Mass on Saturday evening attended by 101 parishioners. How much longer our churches will be closed for Mass is unknown. We can however, watch Mass on EWTN, YouTube, and archbalt.org. Furthermore, the week’s scripture readings are included (Sm 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a; Eph 5:8-14 ; Jn 9:1-41) so that we can stay in touch with the Lord.
 
This week the readings are about seeing. In the first reading, Samuel is called by God to anoint a king from among Jesse’s 8 sons of lofty stature. The first seven are rejected because he doesn’t see in them what he wants in a king. “Not as man sees does God see.” Samuel finds the 8th son, David, is the one God wants. The gospel of the man born blind shows Jesus healing the man not only from physical blindness but also spiritual blindness. He alone comes to believe in Jesus and worships Him, whereas the Pharisees who can see remain blind to Jesus being the Messiah, the Son of Man.
 
May God help to enlighten us so as to grow in our faith.

Fr. Carl

Friday, March 13, 2020

Thirsting For Faith


Dear Parishioners,
 
I just signed the papers for the warranty on the new church roof which, along with the chapel roof, sacristy roof, and bell tower roof, is costing the parish approximately $300,000. The Archdiocese suggested we conduct a Capital Campaign to pay for the roofs. When I met with the Archbishop last week, I told him I didn’t think that was necessary as our parishioners are very generous. I said that a monthly second collection over the next three years should pay for the roofs. The Archbishop gave his approval and so far we have collected $6,801.70. Thanks for your generosity.

This week finds Jesus traveling south from the mountain of the Transfiguration in Galilee toward Jerusalem (Jn 4:5-42). Along the way, he stops at Samaria in a town called Sychar, where he goes to Jacob’s well which is still there today. By the way, it’s over 100 feet deep. There he meets a notorious woman who, because of having been married five times before and now living with a man outside of marriage, has become an outcast. However, Jesus treats her with respect and dignity. While Jesus asks her for a drink, he isn’t so much thirsting for water as thirsting for her faith. It’s the same thing he wants from us. Our Lord does not care about our past; he cares for us now; and cares for our future. If we are smart, we will turn away from our earthly thirsts and go to Jesus who alone can quench our deepest thirst. As St. Augustine said, “O God, you have made us for yourself. My heart is restless until it rests in you.”


Fr. Carl

Friday, March 6, 2020

Suffering

Dear Parishioners,

Our household was hit by a stomach virus recently. It took all 7 of us, one by one, starting with Natalie, the middle granddaughter. It was ugly! But of course we all survived as our body defenses did what they do. It came at a good time, right before Lent. It was a good time, because Lent is a time of scaling back, reducing, minimizing, fasting, and sacrificing. I lost 5 pounds in a couple of days!

Getting back to our defenses, our psychological defenses tend to minimize the suffering that is an everyday occurrence in our world. Yes, there are fires and murders and serious accidents and illnesses all the time. The corona virus threat focuses us on a particular illness, but really they are with us constantly. My own stomach illness (pretty minor really!) called my attention to my vulnerability and weakness. My mortal body will fail at some point, and I will die. Isn’t that what Ash Wednesday was about? I have been primed to think about those who are suffering. And ultimately, I am thinking about the suffering of Christ. That is what this is all about.

The person of God who was filled with love for others, whose life reflected an openness to the suffering in others, was himself made to suffer. The suffering of Christ is visible, public, naked, and enduring in the sign of the Cross. The Cross is something we venerate and is commonplace around our homes, our churches, and our necks. It joins us with Christ in his suffering and in the suffering of all our fellow human beings. Let that sink in. That beautiful Cross in your bedroom stands for suffering, that wooden Cross at Church stands for suffering, that silver Cross you can wear stands for suffering. The Cross has been earned by the pain and angst of so many beings over the years. Of course, it stands for the agony and passion of Christ as well. But it goes beyond that. It stands not only for the cost in struggle and death, but it also points to the Resurrection! The Cross stands not alone but with the empty tomb! The Cross means that we fall and fail, but it also means that we are raised by God in his mercy and salvific love. The Cross is the key to the world of Heaven! So let suffering occur, and know that it will be transformed into joy through God’s mysterious love!

Blessings,
Deacon Steve

Friday, February 28, 2020

Resisting Temptation


Dear Parishioners,

Oscar Wilde, the witty British author and speaker, once said, “I can resist anything except temptation.” As we begin Lent, we see Adam and Eve giving into temptation (Gn 2:7-9; 3:1-7), but Jesus, of course, overcomes temptation (Mt 4:1-11). However, it will not be the last time Jesus faces temptation. After he tells the apostles about his upcoming Passion, Death, and Resurrection, Peter tries to discourage Jesus from his intended plan. So Jesus rebukes Peter, calls him a satan, and tells the disciples that following Him requires suffering as well (Mt 16:21-23). And of course, there’s the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus prays that, if possible, he might be spared of the Cross. But he finishes by saying to his Father “Still let it be as you would have it not as I.” On other occasions, the Scribes and Pharisees ask him for a sign to test him which he refuses to do as his miracles and teachings should have been enough. Finally, as he hung upon the cross, the crowd called for him to come down from it to prove he was the Son of God.

Jesus had not one but many temptations in his life, just as you and I. But he prepared and built up his resistance by prayer and fasting. It’s what we need to do if we want to overcome the temptations that will also follow us throughout our earthly lives. Lent is a season that invites us all to engage in a spiritual work out together so that we can follow Jesus. United we can encourage and support one another as we journey toward Easter.

Fr. Carl

Friday, February 21, 2020

Happy Lent!


Dear Parishioners,
 
While we are still in Ordinary time this Sunday, we will soon be in Lent. It is good to begin to think about what this means. Yes, we have Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday to help us. I would like to offer that this not be a somber season but a celebration. Certainly Lent is a time of fasting and sacrifice. It is a time of becoming aware of the long walk that Christ made carrying the weight of his cross, heading toward crucifixion. My call to celebration rests on the fact that Lent opens to the glory of Easter and Easter is the sign that we will be taken care of by God. Our fears of death and pain should resolve to the possibility of heaven and living (yes, living) forever in His friendship and presence. We should celebrate that we aren’t done when our bodies give out. This life of trial and difficulty with the struggles of money and work and relationships are not the end. Our time is not defined by the ups and downs of the economy, the winds of politics, or the vagaries of social expectations and criticism by others. We live in the hope of what we glimpse during Lent and Easter. 

The tragedies of the abuse we hear of, the unjust deaths we become aware of, the persecution and immoral actions we read about, all are mediated by the saving action of Christ on the cross. The raw imbalance of life with its haves vs. have nots, the privileged vs. the suffering, the hungry vs. those who are full and satisfied, is addressed by God in the saving actions of Lent and Easter. Let us open our eyes to what is offered to us in this most powerful season of the Church. Let us thank God for our salvation that lifts us from the sad morass that this life becomes for some. To be with God is our purpose, and Lent and Easter give us a taste of that possibility. The harder life is, the more sweet will be heaven.
 
Happy Lent and glorious Easter, 
Deacon Steve

Friday, February 14, 2020

Attitudes


Dear Parishioners,
 
Ordinarily on the 4th Sunday of the year when Matthew’s gospel is read, we hear the beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. This year we didn’t as the Feast of the Presentation was celebrated with it’s own gospel. So we missed out on the Beatitudes which begin with words “Blest are they… ” Basically Jesus is telling us the “attitudes” his followers should have, ie, poor in spirit, the sorrowing, the lowly, the merciful, the single-hearted, the peacemakers, etc.

In today’s gospel, Jesus continues his Sermon on the Mount as he condemns bad attitudes as well as bad actions. Afterall, thoughts and attitudes always precede whatever actions we undertake. Before murder, usually there is anger. Before adultery there is lust. So Jesus urges us to take strong measures to eliminate these sinful thoughts. He knows that temptation left unchecked will grow stronger and stronger until the sinful thought is acted upon. To verify this all we have to do is look at the violence taking place on city streets in Baltimore and the rest of the country. Also the increased rates of infidelity are affecting more and more families leading to higher divorce rates and destruction of family life everywhere.

The antidote to these problems rests in our relationship with Jesus. The stronger that grows, the holier we become with the grace and power to overcome the capital sins of lust and anger, and enable us to enter the kingdom of God where true happiness awaits us.

Fr. Carl

Friday, February 7, 2020

Kobe, Rest In Peace.


Dear Parishioners,

I was saddened by the recent death of Kobe Bryant. He was a magnificent basketball player. He was a champion in the finest sense of the word. A leader and a charismatic star. I feel a certain degree of commonality with him as both of us grew up in Philly, although he was my son’s age—so a different generation. I played a lot of basketball growing up. There was a playground at Penn and Pratt in the neighborhood. I remember being proud of my Chuck Taylor All Stars basketball shoes, which were my staple foot wear for years. A basketball and a pump to keep air in it were necessities back then. The Lakers, the Boston Celtics, the Detroit Pistons, the Chicago Bulls were all teams that my beloved 76ers lost to more often than not. But Kobe transcended basketball. He was generous, a family man, and a Catholic. It is especially tragic that his daughter and several of her friends were on the fatal flight with him. Kobe was not one who got lost in the fame and fortune. He maintained his values and knew what really mattered. I don’t think that it is surprising to say, but we don’t know what to do with death. Certainly, he was a young man with a great future in front of him. But it was cut short by that thing which we will all face sooner or later. Let us do the most with the time we have. Let us fill our days with meaningful pursuits. Let us thank God for the generous life he has given us. This life is all gift, so let us appreciate it. And know that the author of life doesn’t guarantee any length of time. Whatever station or vocation one lives out, do so thankfully. Spend time in prayer, spend time in church, spend time loving those around you. And thank God for the gift of life! Kobe, rest in peace.
 


Blessings,
Deacon Steve

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Candlemas Day

Dear Parishioners,

Back in the old days, only wax candles were used in church to give light to the sacred space to assist the worship. Now we have electric lights and altar and tabernacle candles fueled by oil. However, we still use wax candles on major feasts (Christmas and Easter) in our candelabras, but not as much as before. When items are used at Mass, they need to be blessed such as chalices, patens, baptismal fonts, tabernacles, bells, organs, stations of the cross, etc. So, too, were the wax candles to be used during Mass. Each year, 40 days after the birth of the Lord, on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, all the candles to be used throughout the year were brought into the church and blessed. Their light would be a symbol of Jesus (the Light of the World) about whom Simeon said in Luke’s gospel (Lk 2:22-40), “A light for revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of your people Israel.” For this reason this day was also known as Candlemas Day.

The gospel presents Jesus not only to his Father but also to Simeon and Anna, two very holy people, who longed to see the Lord. They waited many years and prepared themselves through prayer and fasting. Since we, too, want to see Jesus at the end of our lives, it might be a good idea to incorporate a bit more prayer and fasting into our lives. Although we are no longer obligated to abstain from meat every Friday, we are still to do some form of penance in remembrance of Good Friday.

Fr. Carl

Friday, January 24, 2020

Pray, Pray, Pray

Dear Parishioners,

We Catholic clergy, bishops, priests and deacons, are expected to do the Liturgy of the Hours at least in the morning and in the evening. It consists of the recitation of Psalms, a scripture passage (Old or New testament), Canticles from Luke, Intercessions, the Lord’s prayer, and closing prayers. It begins with a strong statement, “God come to my assistance, Lord make haste to help me,” requesting God’s help as our Master, guide, and Savior. I mention all of this, because this daily exercise leaves me praying a lot. I have a long list of people I know that I pray for. There are those who are facing significant medical issues or those who are going through grief and loss, and those of my family and friends. I pray daily for the Church and for St. Jane Frances parish. I would like to challenge all of you to take some time to pray for those you love and those you know who need prayers. I think that prayer is one important way we affect the world. I know we are busy. I know there is a lot on our plates. I know that money, responsibilities, and expectations—just to name a few—are some of the important factors that impact our lives. But I would like to urge you to pray. Develop a habit of speaking to God in your own words, from your heart, simply and often. As well, being silent in prayer is not a bad thing but opens us up to God speaking to us. Our world needs prayer. Our Church needs prayer. Our families need prayer. Let us pray for each other, and ask God to improve our faith, give us health, support those suffering, and bring us peace. And thank you to those who pray for me. I need all the help I can get!

Blessings,
Deacon Steve

Friday, January 17, 2020

Do you think much about the Holy Spirit?

Dear Parishioners,

At the baptism of Jesus, we hear about the Spirit of God coming upon him, resting on him as a dove. The Holy Spirit is one of those more mysterious aspects of God. The Spirit is the third person of God behind the Father and the Son. But it is not a lesser person of God. In our deacon formation, we were told that the Holy Spirit emanates from the love between God the Father and the Son. Their love is so powerful that from it comes the greatest force of the world, the Holy Spirit. There is gravity and magnetism, but the Spirit is the force of God that has powerful effects upon us. I do not think that I could be a deacon without the Holy Spirit. It is that passage in Matthew, where Jesus sends the disciples out and tells them that the Spirit will tell them what to say in times of trouble. The Spirit was given to us by God so that we may walk in the way of Christ.  

Do you think much about the Holy Spirit? It is an energizing power that opens us up and guides us. We receive it in the Sacraments. It is the echo of God reminding us in our hearts and minds to live in peace with love and mercy toward others. It gives us great gifts. It moves us in the way of God. It is a wise counsel. Maybe take a chance and pray to the Holy Spirit. There is a wonderful prayer to the Holy Spirit that goes like this,
“Come Holy Spirit. Fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created and you shall renew the face of the earth.”
We are certainly in need of renewal.

Blessings,
Deacon Steve

Friday, January 10, 2020

Don’t Overlook Your Blessings

Dear Parishioners,

Sometimes we overlook the blessings we have received from God. We take them for granted. So I thought I would share a beautiful and powerful reflection from Pope Francis on January 7, 2018.

Fr. Carl

Today’s feast of the Baptism of our Lord ends the Christmas season and invites us to think of our Baptism. Jesus willed to receive the baptism preached and administered by John the Baptist in the river Jordan. It was a baptism of penance: all those who approached it expressed the desire to be purified from sin and, with God’s help, committed themselves to begin a new life. We understand then the great humility of Jesus. He who had not sinned put himself in line with the penitents, mixing among them, to be baptized in the waters of the river. What humility Jesus has! And by doing so, He showed what we celebrated at Christmas: Jesus’ willingness to immerse Himself in the river of humanity, to take upon Himself the failures and weaknesses of men, to share their desire for liberation and to overcome all that distances one from God and makes brothers strangers. As at Bethlehem, along the banks of the Jordan, God keeps His promise to take charge of the human beings’ fate, and Jesus is the tangible and definitive sign of it. He took charge of all of us then and now. Today’s gospel says that “when He came up out of the water, immediately He saw the Heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove.” The Holy Spirit is the engine that powers Jesus’ Baptism and our Baptism as well. It’s the Spirit that opens the eyes of our heart to the whole truth. He pushes our life on the path of charity. He is the gift the Father gave to each one of us on the day our Baptism. He, the Spirit, sends to us the tenderness of divine forgiveness. And it is He, the Holy Spirit, that makes the revealing Word of God declare, “Thou are my beloved Son.” — Pope Francis

Friday, January 3, 2020

A Beautiful New Reality

Dear Parishioners,

So the new year has begun, the presents have been opened, the eggnog drunk, the fruit cake consumed, the champagne even is done. It’s 2020, and we are again given the task of taxes, work, traffic, homework, and dinner dishes. Sorry! But let us remember what we have been through. Christ has been born to Mary. Mary and Joseph have protected him, nurtured him, educated him, sustained him so that he may be ready to do his Father’s will. He will spend time in the desert, be tempted, be baptized, find followers, cast out demons and bring people back to life. He will share his divine wisdom, teach and exhort, show us the way, and touch the hearts of many. During a brief public ministry, he will give us a new way to live, challenging us to be generous, to turn the other cheek, to love others, and to pray, to pray always. He will show us the love for the Father leaving us the bread and wine turned into his Body and Blood. He will show us the difficult road of discipleship. He will arouse the anger of the religious authorities and be tried and condemned. They will crucify him on a tree, but he will rise and return to his disciples, giving them the lesson of eternal life. And he will start a Church which shall come through the ages and be a place for us of truth, of peace, of communion. His Body and Blood will remain a constant over the centuries, and all people shall be called to abide by his teachings and follow his Way. There will be a time in January 2020 when his people will look around their lives and ask where they are going and how they should live. Christ will answer as always: love God with your whole heart, mind and strength and love each other as I have loved you. And so this is the reality we are called to, a most beautiful reality!

Happy New Year!
Deacon Steve