Pastor's Page

Pastor's Page

 Lenten Frame of Mind Lent Flyer half rev

Dear Parish Family,

This weekend we are holding a Fat Sunday Supper to express our heartfelt appreciation for all of our volunteers. “It takes a village to raise a child,” and it takes hundreds of dedicated and trained volunteers to make parish life happen. Moreover, these myriad opportunities for service are beautiful ways to live the faith, in our little corner of the world, as I like to say. Some have remarked that they cannot remember the last appreciation dinner. With your help, I would like to make the dinner an annual affair.

The designation “Fat Sunday” means that Lent is quickly approaching. This Wednesday Lent begins with the tradition of ashes (see Jonah 3:6). Ashes are a sign of repentance, an admission of guilt, and the need for mercy. Ashes are the status symbol only of sinners, those who admit they have fallen short of walking in the ways of the Lord. The best way to acknowledge our status as sinners… come to Confession. Seek out Reconciliation and the beautiful Sacrament of God’s Mercy. Lent affords our people an opportunity to be healed sacramentally, which ashes do not. Wednesday evenings from 6pm to 8pm, all throughout the month of March, Confessions will be heard in church!

So what of the rest of Lent? Besides ashes and Confession, how will your Lent draw you closer into the loving arms of God and so help you to grow in more faithful and courageous discipleship? The Gospel on Ash Wednesday reminds us that the standard recipe is prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Lent is not just about giving up but about doing more; and it is not just more is better. But it is more of what matters to God, more of life for others; perhaps that requires a trimming down of time misspent: video games, YouTube, or hours of TV.

Reading a good spiritual book for Lent can make a great difference, but also setting aside time everyday for prayer. Daily prayer with the Lord. Fasting could be from foods we like, or it could include eating foods we do not like. We could fast from negative comments, or always needing to have the last word. We can fast from the snooze button. But prayer and fasting ought to arrive at a more generous charity; that’s what the saints teach us. Prayer and fasting are good, but they should impact the way we live our lives in love, in other words, our charity.

I cannot state enough the value of the Annual Catholic Appeal. If you have not yet made a gift, please prayerfully consider supporting the many good works our diocese carries out. It is a beautiful way for our alms to go further. “God gives where he finds empty hands,” as Saint Augustine taught. We strive to follow his example. And when we make our goal, the parish receives funds to assist us in our mission, to build the kingdom of God in this little corner of the world.

May God bless you for your goodness!

Fr. Joel Wilson  

“God gives where he finds empty hands”

Dear Friends in Christ,

A quote from Saint Augustine guides our 2020 Annual Catholic Appeal, “God gives where he finds empty hands.” This beautiful insight helps us to see that our good Lord responds where He sees a need, where he finds receptivity. If our hands are full or if our doors are closed, the Lord passes by. Consider the beautiful invitation found in Revelation, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.” (Rev 3:20) In knocking, the Lord invites contact and intimacy but he awaits a warm welcome from within. God never forces; he invites.

National Marriage Day

Dear Parish Family,

As we approach Valentine’s Day, the church in America kicks off National Marriage Week. Valentine’s Day can tend to be “romantic” and some may think “we are too _____ for that kind of stuff!” But I hope all married couples will celebrate the gift of their married love next weekend. Our dear Columbiettes and dedicated Knights are hosting a wonderful evening at the Maple Room. So far, there has been a strong response. What a great way to celebrate not only married love, but to gather as a greater community and celebrate the gift of love together. I plan to join in, but don’t ask me to dance.

Presentation Parish Family Series

My Dear Parish Family,

It is 40 days since Christmas! Today, the Feast of the Presentation, Joseph and Mary - after her time of purification - present baby Jesus in the Temple. And those Christmas-loving diehards finally put their decorations away. Rather than a spiritual message, this week I communicate some “nuts and bolts” of parish life.

Last week in the bulletin, we discussed the strength and future of our parish family, and in part, how it can be undermined with rumors. Building on that reality, I want to share with you some of the “new” that you may not be aware of.

Our Parish Family Commemorates Our Catholic School

My Dear Family,

This week is Catholic Schools Week. In the recent past, that has meant a wave of recruiting and tours, plans for next year. Above all, seeking to attract new families to our beloved institution. This year, as we prepare to close our school, a poignant shadow stretches across our doors. These months will be the last months of our little Catholic school on Main Street in Maple Shade. Instead, this week we are commemorating what our Catholic School has been for our students and their families. Look in the bulletin for more details.

Dear Parish Family,

There is nothing quite like the smile or laughter of a child! The fullness of expression, holding nothing back… all out there… full of the radiant joy in the moment. The smile of a child is contagious! Children’s laughter makes even the scrooges among us regain the twinkle in our eye.

We are in the midst of our series of family life and today we pause to focus on the child. Although granted, children can become the central focus of family, sometimes to the detriment of the whole family unit. In the order of love, husband and wife must be devoted first to their union and then to the children. To do otherwise neglects the trunk of the tree to concentrate solely on the blossoms. Only a strong and solid tree bears good fruit, and from solid and devoted couples healthy and mature children emerge.

Dear OLPH Family, IMG 9920

Happy Feast of the Baptism of the Lord! We are hip deep in our Message Series on the Family, focusing on our family life and seeking to learn from the example of the Holy Family as we journey with them over these beautiful weeks of the Christmas season.

This week we find ourselves with Jesus and his cousin John the Baptist at the edge of the Jordan River. Not an overwhelming body of water, although scholars speculate it would have been wider and deeper two millennia ago; our Rancocas Creek is more formidable. Still because its water flowed, the Jordan was a verdant symbol of life in an arid land bereft of excess moisture… unlike Maple Shade ;).

Today begins the public life of Jesus. We designate all that precedes this moment, the hidden life. Mother Mary shared with Saint Luke certain sparse events. We can appreciate the quiet life at Nazareth: work, prayer and fulfillment of the law. But today before many of his cousin’s disciples, Jesus is baptized and commissioned. Those present hear the striking words “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt 3:13). John objects to Jesus being baptized. He recognizes the disorder in the action: he who is clean ought to baptize he who needs cleansing, but we are so grateful for this moment.

Growth, Family and Spiritual Families

Dear OLPH Family,

Did you make any New Year’s Resolutions? Why not consider some spiritual resolutions? Of those presented in the link, two could be accomplished with one fell swoop. Resolve to Read one chapter of Rediscovering the Saints each day. This one promise will meet (#2) more time for spiritual reading, and (#8) make a new saint buddy. In fact, anyone who reads the whole book will likely have made several saint buddies! In Rediscover the Saints, Matthew Kelly brings the saints close to us in short chapters with practical lessons. How beautiful it is to connect with those who share in heavenly glory!

Kicking off Family Message Seriesbb601e

My Dear Parish Family,

Today, the Sunday after Christmas, the Church presents the Feast of the Holy Family. As noted last week, this is the season of feasts! The Solemnity of  Mary, the Holy Mother of God follows on January 1st. A holy day of obligation, Masses will be offered at 5pm on New Year’s Eve and 11am New Years Day. Come and begin the New Year honoring Mary with your parish family.

As we behold the Holy Family, Mary and Joseph with Jesus, we recognize immediately that Jesus was not born into an ideal situation. Although he arrives in the fullness of time, as the Scriptures teach us, our heavenly Father’s perfect timing does not appear to coincide with what a modern family would call a “planned pregnancy”: little savings, no home, no healthcare, no life insurance, no college savings plan.

Today in the Gospel we learn that when the Magi departed, Joseph fled to Egypt with his family. And after a number of years, they finally settled in Galilee. So the Holy Family were immigrants, transients and day laborers. Joseph needed to find work that his family might eat. A tenuous situation for any family, let alone the family chosen and prepared to raise the Son of Man. Jesus even gets lost in the temple at twelve, but that’s another story.

Pause and Wonder at the NewBorn King

My Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This letter carries through the last days of Advent preparation and includes that Silent Night on which Joy was brought to the World! On behalf of the whole faculty and staff of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, I wish you and yours a Blessed and Holy Christmas Season.

As Christmas fast approaches, preparations can draw to a fever pitch. Please set aside some time to pause and ponder during these days.  Look at your creche and stare with great love at the empty crib. Await with wonder the coming of the Christ, that Key of David who unlocks what our first parents locked away.

The last O Antiphon in our series: “O Key of David, opening the gates of God's eternal Kingdom: come and free the prisoners of darkness.” We address Jesus as the Key of David, the one who unlocks heaven for us, who frees the prisoners of darkness… that’s us. Jesus came to set us free from slavery, a slavery to sin, to place us firmly in the light, in His light. First through Baptism, and then continually through our participation in the life of grace, Christ Jesus frees us from that bondage into which our first parents fell, and which clings to us still through concupiscence, that tinder for sin which keeps us from perfect fidelity to the life of grace. 

Christmas, like Advent, is a whole season. Christmas is not limited to one day...hardly! In fact, we celebrate Christmas as an octave, which means that liturgically for eight days we keep Christmas. Think of Christmas as a feast too grand to be contained in one day; rather the joy bursts forth and spreads to incorporate the whole week! 

Next Sunday, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family.  During this time of celebration in our Church’s year, we will be concentrating our themes on the family.  Beginning with the Feast of the Holy Family, and then Mary the Mother of God, Epiphany, Baptism of the Lord, and Presentation of Jesus all in succession, it is fitting to focus on the family.

It is also the time of year when - for better or for worse - we spend more time among family and friends. Those momentous gatherings that bring out the best in us: the warmth and strength of our closest ties; they can also bring out old hurts, divisions and rivalries. Foreknowledge at times remains insufficient to thwart strong reactions. Prayer before and after gatherings is so helpful. Wrap the party in prayer. Imagine Mary, the Queen of Peace, at the heart of the gathering with her loving countenance and motherly gaze. Pray 3 Hail Mary’s on the way over. You will be glad you did! 

We commemorate the arrival of Emmanuel, God-with-us, and like the shepherds on that holy night and the holy magi who follow, we come to adore the beautiful Babe of Bethlehem, who humbles himself to be born: homeless in a cave, a refuge soon to be in flight to Egypt, a king of unusual kind whose ministry becomes plainest by his taking the lowest place: the manger, the cave, the footwashing, the cross.

This Christmas, our parish staff extends to you the gift of a Christmas book: Rediscover the Saints by Matthew Kelly. In an approachable style with short chapters and practical lessons, Kelly presents the saints as very human, very much like us, as people from which we can learn a great deal. Not because they are far above us in heaven, but because they lived what we live. They know us. They share our experience. And in the midst of life, the saints made heroic choices. Each day, we have the opportunity to make heroic choices. Small at first: biting our tongue before an unkind word surfaces, then ever greater.

These are women and men who went before us and who now share in the glory of heaven. These heroic figures love us and they offer for us breadcrumbs of virtue and grace that we can follow on our own pilgrim journey home.

Make a friend of the Saints and you make a friend of Jesus. 

Once again, may your Christmas be full of the light of Christ!

With deep affection and prayers,

Fr. Wilson

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