From Father's Desk

From Father's Desk

From Fathers Desk web

Dear Family in Christ,

It is Superbowl Sunday! Whoot… Whoot!! Doesn’t feel the same when our team has had such a tough year. Not much has felt “the same” this year, and I have been hearing people say variations of “I am not in the mood” for months now. Often when walking Gracie, we will greet someone. It goes like this: “Hey, how ya doin’?” “Oh, hanging in there...that’s all we can do.” Not a lot of roses and sunbeams lately but more grit and determination. Generally, folks are trying to “hang in there,” whether or NOT they are “in the mood.”

Our reality of the unfolding pandemic, the grind of it, is a great analogy for the Sixth Seismic Shift: Just Keep Showing Up (I Heard God Laugh, 83). Much of life can fall into a dull routine. Our work, our relationships, our workouts… all aspects of our life can use some freshening up from time-to-time. In our life of prayer, some days and months will be drab or uneventful, even draining. This phase usually occurs after several of the first stages and would be akin to those years of marriage that can seem to drag on. While in marriage, husband and wife have committed to each other and share a common house and life, with God we can choose at any moment to stop praying, to stop showing up, to no longer give ourselves over in prayer, although it feels dry and quiet. In the spiritual life, these are times of desolation. Saint Ignatius of Loyola teaches us that during these times we are to keep to our prayer routines, even to spend just 2 or 3 extra minutes in prayer each day, and be patient, consistent and dedicated. In other words, “Don’t give up!”

Dear Family in Christ,

On Monday, we commemorated the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, an event that reshaped his life and also the trajectory of Christianity, even the world. That one event caused a seismic shift of epic proportions (!) to borrow some language from Matthew Kelly, and our message series book: I Heard God Laugh . Indeed, over the course of these past two weekends, we haven encountered the Lord recruiting disciples, inviting those who would follow him to leave one life behind and take up another. Last week, we prayed with Mark’s account of Jesus calling Simon, Andrew, James and John. Two weeks ago, we prayed with John’s account of John the Baptist’s involvement in the encouragement of Simon and Andrew. Each of these moments, retold in a few words, reshaped the lives of these men and affected the whole world.

Would you say that you have a calling from the Lord? Do we experience ourselves as being called and invited to follow Jesus?

Conceptions are rich realities that defy easy description. If I asked you to imagine a sunset and then said “describe it,” the mental picture would be far richer than the words. During Inauguration Week, we might reexamine how we conceive of our nation. I fear it seems some recent conceptions may be mutually exclusive of others… not a recipe for common ground. Yet to be a nation “united under God with liberty and justice for all, born and unborn” we need to build a common vision. Many of us have hopes and dreams for ourselves, for our families, for our community, for our nation and for our whole world! How can we build those dreams together? In Matthew Kelly lingo there is a “best version” of each of these realities; we move forward seeking to grow in God’s grace.

There is a lot to pray for these days. Our hearts are heavy with concern. Amidst the global pandemic, economic uncertainty, and transition in the White House, many concerns weigh on us. In the news churn we can become awash is the latest data on the Corona-virus but lose sight of an even more virulent epidemic: abortion. I hope the many matters that weigh on us do not overshadow this perennial assault on a wholesome society.

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.