From Father's Desk

From Father's Desk

From Fathers Desk web

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.

My Dear Spiritual Family,

In the midst of a violent squall on the sea, the disciples panic, seek out the Lord, and find that “Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion!” Mark adds the lovely detail of the cushion, a simple word that reveals comfort and planning in a chaotic situation. Christ Jesus is also at the stern, in the position of leadership, where the one who steers the boat from the rudder would sit.

At times life can feel like a storm, wind blowing and rain coming in sideways, little to no visibility. We can even lose our sense of direction. And at times in our lives, it can feel very much like Jesus is asleep at the rudder. Yet Jesus challenges us with the question, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” He may even command our hearts and anxieties to be still just as He commands the storm.

My Dear Family in Christ,

People tell me I have a green thumb. I love to garden but really can’t take much credit. I merely read the directions on the seed packs and do my best to pay attention. Watching and getting in tune with the plants is the most important; they don’t talk but we can learn how they communicate. Still, almost all the credit belongs to the seed itself. Inherent in the seed, is what God put there for fruitfulness whether tomatoes or spinach or peas, as you please.

Jesus uses many agricultural parables to describe the Kingdom of God. Alongside the parable of the sower, in which the focus rests squarely on the farmer, today we focus on the seed itself, in what is often called “seed growing secretly.” Credit belongs to the seed, not the sower. The farmer merely sows and reaps; all the important steps in between are beyond his control. That is how I feel as a gardener! Sure, I water and weed and pay attention, but in essence my effort just cultivates what is already inherent in the plant. If bad seeds or weeds are mixed into the seeds, I am powerless. So much of life is like that. And as Jesus teaches through the parable, so much of the Kingdom of God is beyond the designs of the sower.

My dear spiritual family,

A full year has passed since we returned to public Masses. June 8th, 2020 public Mass returned to OLPH and to most of the parishes in the Trenton Diocese. In a rare use of ecclesial law, the Catholic Bishops of New Jersey gave a special dispensation. Now almost a year to the day later, they are removing that dispensation. This unique occasion offers a rich backdrop for understanding better the nature of sin and our motivation.

Henceforth, missing Mass on Sunday without serious reason (grave illness, homebound, unavoidable work as essential medical, police and fire personnel) is a grave matter. All grave matter should be confessed and absolution sought in the Sacrament of Confession before returning to the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist. Furthermore, should one commit a grave sin, with full knowledge and full consent of the will, then the conditions are met for mortal sin, meaning one has cut oneself off spiritually from God. See here in our Catechism for further explanation.

Dear Parish Family,

First, my heart swells with gratitude towards everyone who came out to assist with the School Clean Up Day. We had about 50 people buzzing around. We moved a ton of items and even vacuumed many classrooms to leave them ready for religious education or meetings. I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to all who helped. Our school building is moving toward its next life as a more versatile space.

Some people have asked, “What will happen to our school building?” In truth, we do not yet know. We discussed the possibility of leasing it to the Maple Shade Board of Education. We have been seeking out other educational institutions to see if they might want to lease it. We have received advice from numerous experts on what it might become. Nothing is certain. During the pandemic businesses are rarely expanding and many aspects of life we thought we understood became tenuous and uncertain. So, we do not yet know. If you have any suggestions or expertise in these matters, please reach out. We would welcome your input.

My Dear Parish Family,

Happy Birthday! Today, Pentecost, is often considered the birthday of the Church. On birthdays, we celebrate the gift of life, we give thanks, and often we look ahead and ask ourselves what we want the next year to be about. Birthdays are a way to mark time but can also help us to identify God’s hand at work in our lives.

The hand of God, the Holy Spirit, is evident in the Apostles at Pentecost. The dramatic difference between the cowardly disciples huddled in the upper room and the courageous disciples proclaiming the Good News in every language amazes me. Filled with the Holy Spirit, these are different men! Hence the “birth” of the Church through the presence of the Spirit and the preaching of the apostles. For those of us who have already heard the Good News and belong to the Church, I feel that Pentecost is more about renewal, giving thanks, taking stock, and looking forward to what God seeks to accomplish in and through us.

Dear Parish Family,

Father Wilson is taking a much needed vacation from writing Bulletin articles. For this month of May, please pray the Rosary to ask for Mary’s intercession for the desires of your heart.

fwb051321



My Dear Family in Christ,

First, allow me to wish all our mothers, grandmothers, godmothers and maternal figures, a blessed and joyful Mother’s Day. Today is a beautiful day to celebrate the moms in our lives, be they biological, adopted, spiritual or a combination! No replacement exists for the embrace or advice of our dear mother figures. We give thanks to God for the gift they are to us!

All mothers share a desire for the happiness of their children. Our moms want us to live happy, healthy and holy lives. Holiness is the real root of our happiness. Jesus shares this desire with our parents for he tells us in the Gospel, “I told you this that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” But what is the this? “Remain in my love” and “keep my commandments.” The path to the abundant life follows the way Jesus marks out with his own life of sacrificial love. For this reason it is so pivotal for Catholics to raise our children to imitate Jesus and follow the ways of the faith, so that they may walk the narrow road to true joy in Christ. It is not the easy life, but the abundant life we seek.

My Dear Family,

Is it just a euphemism to speak about us like a family? During liturgy, when we say “friends in Christ” or “sisters and brothers,” are we just being nice? No, not exactly. But the question helps us to ask just how we are connected. Through Baptism, we have become children of God and members of the Body of Christ, the Church. This week in the Gospel Jesus uses a beautiful analogy to help us see how we are connected. He teaches: “I am the vine, you are the branches.”

Connection is so important these days. We learned long ago (in the pandemic) that screens are a poor alternative to real face-to-face communication. Granted, 20 years ago, the best we could manage was dial-up internet on the phone line. Remember  that sound? The cool noises the modem would make and then you were probably connected via AOL and the phrase “You’ve Got Mail!” The Instant Messenger program could be considered, I guess, the first version of WhatsApp or another messenger platform. Now, all this and more, even video conferencing, is available on our phones. Yet, for all the blessings of technology, we acknowledge that nothing takes the place of real human connection. Maybe with the advent of VR we might move in the direction of Ready Player  One , but I doubt that anything will ever feel like the sun on our faces or the smile of a friend.

My Dear Family in Christ,

This weekend we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday. On the fourth Sunday of  Easter, we move away from the hours and weeks after the Resurrection of our Lord and more deeply into what new life in Christ looks like. This weekend every year we hear a part of John chapter 10, which contains very memorable lines, such as: “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep,” and, “I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me,” and, “he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”

For me Good Shepherd Sunday speaks strongly of the reality of the priesthood. Pope Francis reminded us that the shepherd must have the “smell of the flock,” a rustic image about being among and close to those entrusted to our care. It reminds me of the obligation to be close to the flock but more importantly of the love needed to serve as a shepherd (not a hireling).