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from fathers desk

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From Fathers Desk web

Dear Parish Family,

From our earliest days we have learned to “follow the directions.” Whether a recipe or changing a tire or a final exam, often we bend our ears and minds to the instructions of another. This is Week Three of our Message Series and we are in Part Three of the book, I Heard God Laugh, where we will spend two weeks. Our task this week is to put into practice the Prayer Process. We might think of it as a recipe for prayer.

For most of us, prayer is not new. We may have prayed our whole lives. As a boy, my mother taught me to pray. The instructions were basic: fold your hands, bow your head, talk to God as a father, don’t forget to thank Him. In high school, I learned that lifting our mind and heart to God can be a prayer, no words, just the acknowledgement of presence, more of a connection than a conversation. In college, Mother Mary helped me to make the rosary my own and some friends showed me the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Later, I took up the Breviary or the Liturgy of the Hours that priests and religious commit themselves to pray daily for the whole Church. In seminary, the prayer tool kit expanded with the Daily Examen, Lectio Divina, the Jesus Prayer, and a host of other techniques. All of these forms of prayer are not for everyone. We have to find what works for us, but I confess that having many tools and techniques at our disposal helps us to keep that connection with God.

Dear Parish Family,

We are underway with our first message series of 2021. Last week we began to read, I Heard God Laugh, by Matthew Kelly. Not many of you were present for Mass last week with the bad weather. I hope you were able to participate remotely, but it is not too late to join us on this journey to nourish our spiritual lives, to feed our souls, and to develop a beautiful friendship with God. We still have some books available in church or at the rectory, or you can download it to your favorite e-reader.

A word about remote worship. Currently, it is possible to participate in all our Masses via three ways: (1) the StreamSpot portal from our website (ww.olphparish.com), (2) from our parish Facebook page, or (3) by my YouTube channel.

Dear Family in Christ,

For three years now, I have elected to provide a small Christmas gift to our parish family. Nothing fancy, just a book we buy for a buck or two, but it's the story that matters. As we know from the greatest reads of our lives, the contents of the pages can be a treasure beyond price, like that great pearl the merchant discovered.

I admit that I am a bit of a bookworm. A full decade of post-baccalaureate education will do that to anyone. Have you ever bought a book but never read it, only to discover its rich and meaningful content years later? I have even scanned my shelves and said, “I didn't even know that I owned this one!” A friend of mine in seminary used to say in jest, “Having things is better than knowing things!” He would often buy books with the best of intentions yet ended up reading only a percentage of his purchases. Amazon Prime in graduate school can do that to anyone.

My Dear Spiritual Family,

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you! My heart swells with gratitude for us being able to worship together. Easter was such a hole for me, so I look forward to us gathering together, exercising our freedom of religion guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, and paying our homage to the one true God who deigned to take flesh and be born of the Virgin. We who are under her protection, as members of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, acknowledge the need to be close to our Mother and to her Son in the holy Eucharist, especially during these days. These are our high holy days. In a normal year between Christmas and Epiphany, we would be coming to church twice a week. Our parish, bustling with activity, shows forth our desire to draw close to the Lord, to love Him and to cherish all Jesus has done for us.

During this season, my prayers are with you and all our families. For those who have discerned to worship remotely, I hope ardently for the chance to gather together soon around the altar. The Mass is the center of our existence; we cannot flourish when the most essential is excluded from our lives. On-line is not a substitute for being in-line to receive the little humble hidden one (who is also the all-powerful one) in the holy Eucharist.

Dear Parish Family,

If you are anything like me, your “to do” list is much longer than your “can do” list this week. We are in the final week of Advent and the fourth week of our “Are You Prepared?” Message Series. No matter how many lists I make, they keep getting longer. Yet in these final days of Advent, it is good to be reminded that the most important preparation is of the heart.

“Preparation is the key to success,” as my 6th grade teacher Mrs. Landy would always say. She tried to stress that homework and study dovetailed with the work of the classroom. Another teacher taught us, “daily study, leisurely review, excellent results.” His message was that cramming doesn’t work, but regular daily work is a better recipe for success. We cannot make up for lost time with one “all-nighter!” (Tell that to those who leave all the wrapping to the final evening!) ?

My Dear Family,

This Sunday is Gaudete (Rejoice!) Sunday, when rose colored vestments are preferred. When the Church assigns violet, the liturgical spirit is more intense and preparatory, even penitential. But both intense seasons (Lent and Advent) have a light-hearted Sunday - the rose-colored one, when violet is mixed with white.

The Church is an adept student of humanity. She knows well our human condition and that we need to coast, to have a “cheat day,” to relax before we once again apply pressure. So, today in our Message Series “Are You Prepared?” we focus on having patience and perseverance in our preparation. (That’s a lot of p’s!)

Dear Friends in Christ,

Last week I concluded with the wisdom of Saint John Henry Newman: “To live is to change, to be perfect is to have changed often.” We might ask ourselves how we have changed over the course of these months. In some ways, for better and in other ways, could be for worse. No neutral ground exists in the spiritual life. Either we are advancing in the ways of holiness or retreating, progress or regression. In the language of cycling: no coasting, a track bike.

We are in week two of our Message Series, Are You Prepared?” “For what?” you might ask. It is time to dedicate ourselves to advance in the spiritual life, in the words of Newman: to change often (and for the better). Saint John the Baptist is the great change agent of the New Testament. He fearlessly announces the coming of the Messiah while at the same time, proclaiming repentance for the forgiveness of sins. His baptism was not the same one we experienced in the font; it was a particular baptism of repentance which foreshadowed and prepared the people for Trinitarian Baptism.

Friends in Christ,

In September, God blessed me with a labradoodle puppy. I named her Gracie Mae, since she is a gift to me. Gracie is spunky and sweet, and likes to make grunting noises as she gnaws her bones. Quickly I realized the unforeseen ways she altered my solo existence. Leaving the house for a walk now requires a list of items, including poop bags! Over these past two months, together we have made adjustments and have now formed a life together.

Since March we have all endured a host of alterations to our routines brought on by an invisible virus. Have you gotten all the way to the store without a mask yet? (Now I keep one in the car, with a bottle of hand sanitizer too!) Handwashing, mask-wearing, social-distancing, quarantining - and a host of other compound verbs that were not in our vocabularies last Advent. We have learned a new watchfulness, a new vigilance. While personally, I am beyond words like “crisis” and “unprecedented,” we cannot deny that our lives have changed. Hopefully, we have adapted to the temporary “new normal.” Now is the time to maintain our vigilance despite “pandemic fatigue.” Collectively, we have released much more stress hormones, like adrenaline and cortisol, than in many “normal” years.

Dear Parish Family,

Our Saint this week is Padre Pio, a beautiful example of the priesthood as we honor Christ the King of the Universe. Padre Pio is a saint for our times. He endured so much and never lost hope. We may have asked ourselves if God is punishing us with the pandemic. This crisis seems not so much a direct castigation, as an opportunity for reform and renewal. We are surely being shaken up, or resisting that turmoil. But resistance to the restrictive social guidelines only serves to prolong their duration.

Regarding trials, Padre Pio was an expert. He once said, “Thank and sweetly kiss the hand of God that strikes you, because it is always the hand of a Father who strikes you because he loves you.” These words from a man who bore the wounds of Christ in his body for 50 years! He was deeply united to Christ, making his advice uniquely powerful. Pio invites us to receive this world-wide contagion as from the hand of God who is Love.

My Dear Spiritual Family,

This week we encounter not one Saint but a family of Saints. Thérèse of Lisieux, that powerful Doctor of the Church who reframed our spirituality by her doctrine of humble confidence and comes from a family of holy folk. Her parents, Louie and Zelie Martin were canonized in 2015 by Pope Francis. The same year the process began to discern the canonization of one of her elder sisters, Léonie Martin, now a Servant of God.

Pauline was the first sister to enter the Carmel of Lisieux. Three sisters followed: Louise, Thérèse and Celine. By contrast, Leonie sought out religious life several times but never remained in the convent. She finally gained the confidence to enter with the Visitation Sisters in 1899, two years after Therese had passed. She took the name Françoise-Thérèse, in memory of her baby sister Therese, who had taught her through letters the way of confidence and love. Léonie is sometimes known as the “difficult sister” but does not mean that folks with challenging personalities are not called to be saints.