From Father's Desk

From Father's Desk

From Fathers Desk web

My Parish Family,

Last week we began a Message Series focused on Discipleship and the Kingdom. And although we pray “Thy Kingdom Come!” it seems we do not often think about our Christian reality as the advancing of a kingdom. Likewise, we are less likely to think of ourselves as disciples. Sure, we are Christians; we are Catholics...but disciples? It sounds so intense.

A new era unfolds in our parish life together, characterized by the question of discipleship. Our central question over the course of the next few years will be: how are we growing as disciples? Our whole community will be encouraged to answer that question. The follow up question is: how can I help others to grow as disciples?

A disciple is one who follows. The pharisees, John the Baptist and Jesus all had disciples - those who strove to follow their teachings and to imitate their way of life. Paul challenges boldly, “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ!” (1 Cor 11:1). Discipleship is a whole way of life rather than a casual thing. During the COVID19 pandemic we may be able to “see” this more lucidly.

Dear Friends in Christ,

Last month, Corpus Christi - the Feast of the Body and the Blood of our Lord - marked the beginning of public Masses and of our Message Series on the Sacraments. Having been without the Sacraments for a long stretch, it was fitting to dwell on the beauty and power of the Sacraments as we began to journey together again. Reception not only of the holy Eucharist, but reconciliation, baptisms, confirmation and anointings had almost completely ceased. Knowing how powerful the Sacraments are in the life of the Church, for a spiritual father it was torture to deprive our people of these divine aids.

For the next five weeks, our readings center around the  Gospel of Matthew chapters 13 & 14, as well as Paul to the  Romans 8 & 9. It would be valuable to make those texts part of our spiritual reading and meditation. This section of Matthew unfolds 8 parables about the Kingdom. So for the next five weeks, our Message Series will focus on the Kingdom and our role as disciples in it. We might ask the question: how are we making fruitful use of the beauty and graces of the Sacraments?

Dear OLPH,

Last week, we celebrated our patroness, Mother Mary, 101 years under her title as Our Lady of Perpetual Help. This weekend we celebrate our Independence Day, 244 years ago, liberated from foreign rule and then committed to rule ourselves… which has not proven an easy task. Just across the river in Philadelphia, delegates from the thirteen original colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” I have always loved the sound of that trifecta; it just rolls off the tongue.

And these first representatives agreed, or at least acquiesced, that as far as allocating representation by population in this new republic, a black man would be counted as ⅗ of a white man. Black men could only vote when the 15th amendment finally passed in 1870, although in practice some regions discouraged it. Worse still, the cause for women’s suffrage arced along a much longer trajectory and would not arrive nation-wide until the 19th amendment in 1920. It has been a long road fighting for that liberty Jefferson penned so eloquently. These past months offer clear evidence that we’ve got room for improvement when it comes to race, but also when it comes to freedoms.

Dear Parish Family,

Happy Feast Day! There are many titles for our Lady. 101 years ago the Catholics of this parish chose to place themselves under Mary’s loving protection with her title as: Our Lady of Perpetual Help, also sometimes called Mother of Perpetual Help. The image depicts Mary cradling baby Jesus while one sandal falls from his foot. On either side of the pair, a pair of angels show the young Lord the instruments of torture and crucifixion by which He shall make his end, and for all of us, a new beginning in grace. The original can be found in Rome in the Church of Saint Alphonsus Liguori.

I have shared with you about my first encounter with the image. As a deacon in 2008, Fr. Sig and I travelled to Rome. He had been there more than 15 times and took me around. We visited church after church absorbing a bit of the magic and the mystery that makes Rome such a special place. I didn't know she was going to be there before going in. After praying before the sacred image, I bought a poster and had it framed. Presently, she hangs in my dining room, inspiring and comforting me. Over these past two years, I have been happy and privileged to be your pastor.

Dear Parish Family,

Last week we celebrated Mass together for Corpus Christi, the Feast Day of the Body and Blood of Jesus; we also began a Message Series on the Sacraments. We have long been without the Most Blessed Sacrament as a parish family and so it seems important to name and deepen the object of our yearning. We hunger for the Sacraments because they are the powerful ways that our heavenly Father bestows his grace upon us.

Last week Tertullian taught us that “the flesh is the hinge of salvation.” It sounds even better in Latin: caro salutis  cardo. Now we can appreciate the play on words: caro, carnis (flesh) and cardo, cardinis (hinge, pivot, axis). The Latin shows Tertullian as a clever teacher developing a phrase that sticks in the brain. From caro we get carnivore or carne in Spanish. From cardo we get cardinal, as in cardinal virtues - the “pivotal” virtues.

My Dear Family,

I am delighted to welcome you back to church this weekend. Today we celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi, or the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus, so it is a perfect weekend to gather again and celebrate the Sacrament of Sacraments, to gather around the altar and be fed by the beautiful gift our Lord left us, Himself.

This week we are unfolding a new Message Series. Remember, a message series strives to link homilies one to another by a common theme. Over the next four weeks we shall center on the Sacraments - those beautiful gifts of grace Jesus left His Bride the Church as super channels of his gifts, graces and blessings.

Dear Parish Family,

My heart soars & yet is broken. We are underway to reopen for Masses beginning Monday, June 8th and Sunday Masses next weekend for Corpus Christi! Yet throughout our nation great unrest surges. I have had to turn away with disgust at the news & video of George Floyd’s violent and abusive death, and then again a week later at rioting, pillaging and violence afflicting some of our nation’s cities.

In both cases, the saying “might makes right” comes to mind. Not that it is true but only that in both instances we see those acting who appear to espouse the dictum. The officer appears to believe that the might (violence) he is using is right (justified), and now the rioters, pillagers and thieves also appear to think that their violence is justified. Neither is true.

Dear Parish Family,

Remember where you were this time last year? I do! Eating lamb chops and running around the parking lot making sure everyone was having a good time. It was our 100th Anniversary Parish Celebration. Bishop O’Connell presided over a glorious Mass. The church was full and the party afterwards was a tremendous sign of the love that knits our parish family together.

I also celebrated 10 years of priesthood. I offered my first Mass, by God’s grace, on the Solemnity of Pentecost, which perfectly corresponds with this year’s calendar. So, the same date -- May 31st - in 2009 and in 2020 occurs on the same day on both secular and liturgical calendars. Today is Pentecost, the day to focus on the Holy Spirit and the Birthday of the Church.

Dear Parish Family,

This weekend we observe Memorial Day, a time when we remember those who have sacrificed for the greater good of the nation. During this time of pandemic our realization of the true breadth of that number grows. We can see more clearly now - during these days - the nurses & doctors in the fields of our bloodiest war, the Civil War, amputating grizzly limbs from soldiers with little anesthetic. Scars remain on the bodies of young men sent to war against their brothers, but also etched in the minds of those who cared for the wounded and the dead. The sacrifice of war permeated our whole society. It is not merely the sacrifice of the soldier, as heroic as that is, but really the cost paid by the nation. Memorial Day began to recall the great cost of fighting a war.

Dear sisters and brothers,

Experts say it takes 40 days to make a habit. We have been in lock down, since - more or less - March 15th. So, we have passed the 40 day mark. Who’s counting?! In the first few days and weeks of our new temporary reality, things were topsy-turvy like those tea-cup rides down the shore that make me mildly seasick. Do not get on one of those rides having recently consumed a bag of popcorn and a snowcone. Interesting memory!

We are also approaching the holy Ascension, 40 days after the Resurrection, Jesus ascends to our Father to take his seat at the right hand in glory. Normally, we keep the Ascension on Thursday. Many dioceses around the country have transferred the Solemnity to the following Sunday. This year, in the light of the pandemic, we are doing the same. So next Sunday, May 24th will be Ascension Thursday. A Sunday becomes a Thursday…. Ha! Only in liturgical time.