Pastor's Page

Pastor's Page

A Father Who Keeps His Promises

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the first reading today, we hear a promise from the Lord God: “On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD, and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD,” (Isaiah 11:1-2).

From these two simple verses we receive not only the allusion to the Stump of Jesse, but also the gifts we associate with the Holy Spirit and the Sacrament of Confirmation. Officially the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are: Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge, Counsel, Fortitude, Piety, Fear of the Lord (W U K C F P F… mnemonic device: "We Forgot Keys Under Frank's Cactus Plant")

O Antiphons and Advent!

Dear OLPH,

“Oh my darling, oh my darling Clementine!” Crying out “Oh” is an older form of direct address. Today we might say: “Hey Clementine!” Although my sixth grade grammar teacher would chime in, “Hay is for horses and grass is for cows!” Oh my! How far we have strayed from good grammar!

Today we seize upon “O” - that powerful letter which communicates in English that we would like to address someone. We find it in some short prayers: “Oh dear Jesus!” or “Oh my God!” Sometimes those words slip out, not as prayers but as an exclamation(!) in which case we are not giving God’s holy name the dignity it reserves.

During Advent, we have a beautiful tradition of O Antiphons during evening prayer as we approach the arrival of the Christ-child. Four of these antiphons will frame our message series for Advent. They embrace themes from the great prophet Isaiah which are sprinkled through all of Advent, especially this year.  Here are our four:

A Deeper Thanksgiving

My Dear Families,

A dear friend of mine was traveling through the south one time. At an airport he encountered some evangelical preachers. One saw the crucifix about his neck, pointed to it and said: “You believe in a dead God! We believe in the God of resurrection and life!” My buddy, taken aback, asked the young man if he had a Bible handy. Thankfully, he was able to turn quickly to the words of Saint Paul.

Tribulation and the Battle Cry

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Jesus never promised to keep his followers from suffering. Jesus promises to accompany us in our sorrows and to sustain us with his grace, even when all seems lost. An important lesson for every Christian is that the journey for us, just as for Jesus, leads to the cross of Calvary. We place our hope in our Lord who has gone before us, given meaning to life’s travails, and has been raised on the other side of death.

Dear Family in Christ,

Today we receive a teaching from Jesus on the institution of marriage. Students can ask very unusual questions of their teachers. Today the Sadduccees, who are experts in Jewish Law, pose a quizzical question to our Lord. Jesus uses the question to instruct everyone about one of the beauties of marriage. For those already in heaven, marriage is not a covenant they enter into. Angels do not get married and neither do those in heaven (see Luke 20:27-38).

Now marriage is a sacrament: an outward sign instituted by Christ that communicates grace. Marriage has been given to humanity for the unity of husband and wife, the procreation and education of children, and the strengthening of the community of believers. When a woman and man come together in marriage, they enter into a covenant that binds them “all the days of our life” or “until death do us part” - depending on the wording of the vows. Hence the reason why widows and widowers are free to enter again into marriage. The bonds of marriage do not endure into the next life. We cannot conclude that spouses are strangers in heaven - hardly! The bonds of love which knit us together in this life endure unto the next, but not the particular covenant of marriage.

Dear OLPH Family,

It’s November already, the month to remember and to pray for all of our family and friends who have gone before us. We usher in the month with the glorious commemoration of All Saints: the day to recall all of those sharing in the glory of Heaven whose names have not been officially recognized or canonized. While it may not be obvious at first, if one is in heaven, one is a saint. Heaven is full of saints, angels and the glory of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit! 

On November 2nd, we commend all our faithful departed to the mercy of God. This year at OLPH, we are renewing the ancient tradition of a Novena (nine days of Masses) dedicated to all the departed carefully noted on the envelopes with accompanying sacrificial offering. It is not too late to fill out an envelope to commend those who have gone before us to the mercy of God. 

Dear Parish Family,

Today we wrap up our message series, Mercy and Our Response, which began in mid-September. For six weeks now, Saint Luke has shared with us various accounts of Jesus’ teaching and healing. We began with the epicenter of mercy, Luke 15: an exhibition of what is lost, but on deeper inspection a beautiful illustration of “the nature of God, as that of a Father who never gives up, until he has forgiven the wrong and overcomes rejection with compassion and mercy,” in the words of Pope Francis. Two weeks ago, we recognized that despite a universal personal need for the mercy of God, only sometimes do our hearts swell with deep gratitude for the mercy and blessing that God showers upon us.

Dear Parish Family,

Today we wrap up our message series, Mercy and Our Response, which began in mid-September. For six weeks now, Saint Luke has shared with us various accounts of Jesus’ teaching and healing. We began with the epicenter of mercy, Luke 15: an exhibition of what is lost, but on deeper inspection a beautiful illustration of “the nature of God, as that of a Father who never gives up, until he has forgiven the wrong and overcomes rejection with compassion and mercy,” in the words of Pope Francis. Two weeks ago, we recognized that despite a universal personal need for the mercy of God, only sometimes do our hearts swell with deep gratitude for the mercy and blessing that God showers upon us.

Prayer from the Hilltop

Dear OLPH,

Today (Sunday 10/20) my annual retreat begins with the monks of St. Vincent’s Archabbey in Latrobe, PA. Every year priests are expected to spend a week in prayer with our Lord. I look forward to the time to be present with the Divine Presence. Please pray for me - that I will return refreshed and strengthened for the journey ahead.

Dear OLPH,
We are in week 4 of our message series, Mercy and Our Response - one of the themes woven through these weeks with the Gospel of Luke. If you ever miss a letter, or want to revisit something, head to our website: www.olphparish.com. Look for “From Father’s Desk” or “Pastor’s Page”. All my letters are there. I would love your feedback. Sometimes as I labor, I wonder if anyone is reading. Each one takes hours!

One of the refrains within this series, is the question of the Psalmist: “How can I make a return to the Lord for all of his goodness to me?” (Ps 116). We have all been invited to wrestle with that question in prayer with Jesus. We admit that our goal is to place our whole lives at the service of the Gospel, which includes financial resources, but crucially offering our talents and time for the greater glory of God as well!

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