From Father's Desk

From Father's Desk

From Fathers Desk web

Dear Friends in Christ,

“Consider it all joy, my brothers & sisters, when you encounter various trials,” (James 1:2) - such is the initial salvo of Saint James after the greeting. That is quite a way to begin a letter! And quite an association - joy with trial. James may have said, embrace your crosses, meaning to carry through with a distasteful thing that we know is good for us. In the same way Mom used to say, “Eat your vegetables!” or the dentist tells us to floss. As Christians we “know” that we need to embrace our crosses. But those words “all joy” are a shot across the bow. How many times have we failed to be joyful in the midst of trials over the course of these past 18 months? That might be a good matter to bring to the Sacrament of Confession.

For the next five weeks, our second reading centers on the Letter of Saint James. Five simple chapters, a wealth of wisdom, more of a long sermon than a letter dealing with specific and nuanced concerns. Something new strikes me, convicts me more to the point, every time I take up James’ Letter, so I encourage you to spend time with it over the next five weeks. Over this same period our Message Series stretches. Called “Heart Matters,” it was a challenge to choose a title. “Gotta Have Heart!” and “Heart Engagement” were among the finalists. The main thrust of this beautiful letter is to live out our faith from a deep resonance and harmony of our lives.

Dear Friends,

We began this message series five weeks ago, the concept of invitation taking focus. Several episodes in the Gospel express Jesus’ invitation. “Come and follow me,” serves as the core Gospel invitation. Jesus restates it time and again. For example: “Come and you will see,” (Jn 1:39) and so they stayed with him. Or to Simon and Andrew in the boat, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men,” (Mt 4:19). Even the invitation to the wedding feast that arose in our first week (Mt 22:1-14), which concludes “many are invited but few are chosen.” In a certain sense the invitation to follow, to become a disciple, is the heart of the Gospel message. Everything else, our life in Christ, our personal holiness, our christian vocation, follows as a consequence of responding to his initial invitation.

Over these five weeks we have highlighted five aspects of invitation: communion, fulfillment, transformation, glory and (lastly this week) mission. Those aspects might be rearranged or reconfigured. Surely,  they are not mutually exclusive, nor exhaustive. They are deeply connected yet bring before us some key realities of the Christian life. One question to consider: are these many invitations or one? If these elements are connected, can we not see them as a chain, one element connected to another. Or perhaps as dominoes, once the first tile falls the others are not far behind. But the assortment is not linear. The Lord can invite us to conversion in order to invite us into deeper communion, which in turn brings about greater fulfillment. You get the idea…

Dear Siblings in Christ,

Although we take a hiatus from the Bread of Life Discourse this week, we remain focused on God’s invitation. We are invited in so many ways by our good and loving God. Throughout the discourse (John 6), Jesus has been leading, coaxing and teaching the crowds what it means to encounter him, to meet him and come into communion with him, our Savior, our Lord, our Bread of Life.

So far, we have focused first on the invitation to Communion, then to Fulfillment, by way of Transformation, and now in week four we attend to the destiny of our pilgrim journey as we spend time pondering how we are, “Invited to Glory!”

Today we center on the end of Christian life. That word “end” has multiple meanings. First, consider “the end” written on the screen as the credits roll, signifying the conclusion. Or, “dead end” meaning a boundary or limit to the road. But in our case, “the end” can also mean the finality, the telos, the direction and destination. It is the arrow plunged into the bullseye. After a long car ride, when we pull up to the log cabin, get out and stretch, having arrived at our end, our destination with gratitude for the journey but greater satisfaction at its conclusion. See how these meanings can overlap somewhat?

Dear Friends in Christ,

We are in the middle of our Message Series, INVITED! Yes, as Catholic Christians each of us is invited, and even beckoned, into a deep and intimate relationship with Christ. In the first week we explored what it means to be “Invited to Communion,” to oneness with Christ and his Church. We saw how intimate and close that invitation is, but also how the invitation requires a response, something of us, what we might call the demands of the Gospel. If we want to be one with the Lord, we first must keep his commandments (See Jn 14:15).

In the second week, “Invited to Fulfillment!” followed. We have witnessed in myriad ways how Jesus’ is the fulfillment of the promises extended to the chosen people in the Old Testament and through former covenants. In the new and eternal covenant the promises coalesce and are brought up to a new level of understanding and fulfillment. Jesus himself truly is the Bread of Life. He does not provide the bread; the bread is not merely his gift to us. Rather, Jesus himself is the very gift, the very life, the very same divine nourishment. It is not something He has and shares, but it is who He is.

Dear Parish Family,

We find ourselves in week two of our message series: “Invited!” Please spend some time praying through John 6, the Bread of Life  Discourse, as we journey together over these weeks (July 25 to Aug 22). If you miss a message, they are available on our website (www.olphparish.com) in the video archives.

How do you feel after a big meal? Ready to sit for a long and important teaching? Probably not. For my part, I struggled to focus most in the classes directly before and after lunch. Before lunch, gnawing hunger and after lunch, heavy eyelids kept me from paying close attention.

This week we are on the other side of the sea. Jesus and the disciples have crossed in the night after Jesus fed the 5000. Now the night has passed and while he would like to move on to deeper teaching, the crowds goad him for more signs, and full bellies. They even call to mind the miraculous bread from the desert, manna, eaten by the chosen people as they journeyed from slavery to freedom. The manna was quite mysterious. It arrived with the dew in the morning. When the moisture evaporated thin flakes could be harvested from the ground. God provided for his people on their journey.

My Dear Friends,

We begin a series of weeks with the Bread of Life Discourse. We kick off a corresponding Message Series called “Invited!” If I could encourage one thing, it would be to spend the next five weeks praying with the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel. In some ways it is the heart of our Catholic Life.

Our Church teaches that the Eucharist is the Source  and  the  Summit of our Christian Life. Sometimes we call it the Sacrament of Sacraments. Saint John Paul also taught that the Eucharist makes the Church (n.26), in that it is and also that it brings about our Communion. We are united with Christ and we are united with one another in the Body of Christ, above all by our reception of holy Communion.

My Dear Spiritual Family,

In our Gospel today, Jesus invites the twelve apostles: “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while,” (Mk 6:31). They had just returned from their first mission. Last week, Jesus sent them out two-by-two to proclaim repentance. For a full sense of the sequence, first pray over Mark’s Gospel 6:7-13 and then move to 6:30-34. In other words, begin with  last week’s  Gospel and then skip to  this week’s.

An ebb and flow exists between work and rest. Constant work leads to burn out; continual rest can lead to restlessness and depression. We have names for those on the extremes: work-a-holics and couch potatoes. During the pandemic many struggled to adjust to a new work-life balance based on new expectations. More time at home led people to recognize what they had been missing, some space to reflect on true priorities. A contingent of the workforce decided to change their form of employment. Some folks are calling it “The Great Resignation” as employers struggle to fill open positions by seeking to attract talent in new ways.

Dear Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold I am with you until the end of time” Mt 28:19-20

Kabgayi Diocese is one of nine Catholic Dioceses in Rwanda. It is situated in the central region of Rwanda. It is comprised of 29 parishes served by 123 priests and a population of more than 708 000 Catholics from a total population of 1 065 078 in the region. The Diocese of Trenton in collaboration with Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, invited us this year to come and share the mission story of our Diocese and appeal for support both spiritual and material to help in the missionary efforts of the Church in Rwanda and specifically the pastoral programs of Kabgayi Diocese in particular. A few years ago, our country went through very hard times of genocide and violence that claimed over a million people in just 90 days. This situation left very severe consequences on the livelihood of our people: countless orphans left and the destruction of the churches and schools. It is with this background that from 1998 to 2000, the Catholic Diocese of Kabgayi conducted a Diocesan Synod to reflect on ways to reconcile Rwandans and to contribute to the country’s renewal through building stronger communities especially caring for the most vulnerable. The Diocese needs help to care for the poor and support the peace and reconciliation efforts. It is with the aim to participate in the reconstruction and reconciliation of Rwanda that the Diocese continues her apostolic mission to contribute to the transformation, reconciliation and the sustainable development of Rwandan society through Catholic education; with particular emphasis on helping the poor students to have access to higher education at a low cost and taking care of orphans, widows and the sick.

Dear Parish Family,

Loads of positive feedback from our parish feast day celebration keeps coming. So many who participated in the event were uplifted and joyful. We really enjoyed each other’s company, and being able to celebrate Mass in our gardens was a special treat. Once again, I extend deepest gratitude to everyone who made the day possible but especially to our Chairperson, Coni Tartaglia, for her dedication and hard work.

Mark your calendars for next year. Based on all the support and energy behind the event, we hope to make it an annual celebration of our parish life. Some folks are even interested in a fall event. If you are interested in joining the “party planning team” please reach out. We do need volunteers and I would love to have a team of people who would host 3 or 4 big events each year. Many hands make light work.

Dear Children of Mary,

This weekend we celebrate Our Lady of Perpetual Help, sometimes called Mother of Perpetual Help. When we think of perpetual, words like constant, ceaseless, nonstop, and even timeless come to mind. Antonyms include spotty, erratic, periodic, or occasional. The sun shines constantly while clouds pass periodically. Similarly, the word help calls to mind aid, guidance, support, assistance, in opposition to hinder, block, prevent and even hurt. Over one hundred years ago, the people of Maple Shade and surrounding areas placed themselves under the patronage of Mary with this title. So designated, the constant aid of our Mother Mary is highlighted. We place ourselves under  the  care  and aid of our patroness this weekend, seeking her constant solicitude.

Mary has many titles and is known by many names. To gain a deeper appreciation, see the Litany of  LoretoGood  Counsel and  Help of Christians are two related titles for our Mother. Even Mary Untier of Knots  shares a kinship, as do all titles that suggest Mary offering assistance. In the grand scheme, our many names and titles for Mary stem from two great branches: (a) Mary as Mother of God, in Greek Theotokos which means God-bearer, (b) and Mary as Auxiliadora (Helper), one who grants aid.