As we embark on the month of May, not only do we celebrate these parish sacramental moments, but we also, as a universal Church, enter Mary’s month. The month of May traditionally calls us to reflect on our Blessed Mother in a deeper way. I urge you to please try to honor our Blessed Mother in a special way during this month. You may wish to pray the Rosary each day, either privately or as a family. There are many Litanies of Mary which are part of our Catholic tradition. You may wish to include one of these litanies in your personal prayer. You may wish to pick up a book on Mary and use it to learn more about her and the tradition of honoring Mary, the Mother of God. There are also great recourses you can find on the internet. Google: Devotions and prayers Mary Mother of God. There are some great sites to help. (But, watch out for the bizarre sites out there too. Hey, that is why I have the Adult Education classes in Tuesday and Thursdays to discuss issues that are out in the world.) You may even place a statue or picture of Our Blessed Mother prominently in your home. Our parish store has many books, pictures and statues if you need one. (Yes, we do have a parish store in the office).
Of course, anytime we honor Mary, she points us directly back to her Son, our Risen Savior Jesus Christ. A great way to honor Mary is to spend an hour making a visit to the church each week. (If an hour just isn’t possible – maybe a half-hour or even 15 minutes.) I assure you, you will benefit greatly from your time spent in visiting Jesus in the Eucharist…present in the tabernacle. One of the first benefits is just a sense of peace and calm. I am sure many…if not all of us…run, run and run in our daily lives. The time spent in prayer in God’s home will bring you a peace and calm that you did not know possible. This month of May, try to do one thing each day to honor our Blessed Mother and strengthen your relationship with her.
May God bless you, our Mother Mary watch over You. Continue to have a Happy Easter!
We have moved into the Easter Season a few weeks ago. Just like Christmas, the Church celebrates Easter for an entire season, unlike the larger culture that has already moved beyond the Light and Joy of Easter back to the “normal” way of life.
This Sunday it is important to still remember all of our Lenten promises, especially those we took on to improve our personal or spiritual life. The real goal of Lent is to make some characteristic change in our way of living. The Evil One is now working hard to have us forget Lenten experience…and put them away with the Christmas and Easter decorations. This Sunday it is important to remember that we still focus on the Resurrection of Jesus and walk with the Apostles and early disciples as they experience our Risen Savior and try to understand.
I pray that your image of God is that of a loving, forgiving, instructing for a better life, merciful and abundantly generous God. I fear that some have a vengeful or wrath-filled image of God. I also am concerned that many cannot describe their image of God beyond the word “love.”
I believe, as St. Paul reminds us, that we understand what we cannot see by understanding what we can see. We understand the Creator by understanding the created. In understanding the meaning of “Father” and “Mother” we understand the relationship with “God our Father.” In the heart of the relationship of our parents and the true meaning of parenthood, we will also understand many of the facets of God. Continue in your experience of God in your life. Continue to have a Blessed and Happy Easter Season. Don’t let it go by or pass away.
As we continue to live in the light of Easter, we can easily be reminded that our faith life is very different from our secular culture. One simple example: in the Church we are still decorated for Easter, celebrate Easter (and actually should greet one another with “Happy Easter”).
In the secular world, we would be minimally looked at as “crazy” if we greeted people that way. The left-over Easter candy is not only severely discounted in the stores; it is probably altogether off of the shelves. The readings on Sundays, as well as at the weekday Masses during the Easter Season, call us to reflect on the importance of community.
What does it really mean to be parish community, and, more specifically, why are you here in the various parish communities (with the merged and linkings having been completed)? Being from Denver (Boston, New York, etc.), I often have the image of the old-city ethnic neighborhood communities in mind. Interestingly enough, being in the Dakotas there are great similarities. These communities seemed to simply form. As immigrants settled in the” big city” or came over the prairie, they tended to settle with people from the same “old country” who spoke the same language and shared the same culture, values, traditions and customs. They formed a community, and every neighborhood or town seemed self-sufficient as different members of the community opened different businesses and contributed in different ways for the whole to work together.
The Roman Catholic Church as a whole, and each parish in particular, is a community. We tend to settle with each other, speak the same language of faith, and share our Catholic Christian culture, values, traditions, and customs. This began with the Apostles and early disciples. They stayed together in the Upper Room, and with Pentecost went out to live the words of John’s Gospel: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (cf. John 20) The Apostles and early disciples did this as did every generation of the Church until now. This is our turn to carry out this mandate! Why are we here in this little part of the world? It is to be a disciple of Jesus Christ and to call others to the same. We do not build a community … we live as a community that God Himself builds. By our lived example, we are faithful disciples who inspire others to be the same. The relevant point of our community is to inspire committed Discipleship. I urge you to reflect on this meaning this Easter Season. May God continue to bless you and Our Mother Mary watch over you. Oh yeah, by the way, Happy Easter!
Mercy is difficult for us to understand and live in our contemporary society. Often we are focused on “getting even,” “entitlement” or being “made whole” … more than we are focused on mercy and forgiveness. Mercy indicates that someone in authority is treating someone in a lower capacity with generosity, compassion and kindness. This higher authority is affording something to the lower person and there is no real way for this person to be able to repay. (Think, for example, the creditor who showed mercy and waived the late fee, or the judge who showed mercy and either dismissed the fine or reduced the sentence.)
How do we approach and view God? Do we treat God with an entitlement attitude? Are we owed His forgiveness?
Do we presume it instead of humbly asking for it and humbly receiving it? We are called to understand that we are completely indebted to God for the great gift of His Son, Jesus, and His suffering, death and resurrection. We do need to recognize the authority of God in our lives. It is important to see the authority of God to judge us and the authority of His mercy to forgive. Perhaps we cannot truly understand God’s authority of Mercy because we do not fully understand, practice or acknowledge His authority over our lives to give us guidance and direction.
Do you recognize God’s authority to define human life? Do you defend the fact that God has the authority to determine that life begins at conception and ends at natural death? Do you see the authority of God to define the meaning of Marriage; or, do we rely on attorneys and the Supreme Court to make a ruling? Do we understand that God has the authority to be really present in Bread and Wine and not just a symbol? Do we realize that God has the authority to be the all-powerful Creator of all things including our own life? If so, do you realize that God then has the authority to tell us how to best live our lives in a wholesome and holy manner? I believe we need to first understand the authority of God; not in some totalitarian regime (God is not a dictator); but, instead believe in His full and supreme power simply because He is God and we are not. After we understand that, then we will be able to understand the great and awesome authority of God’s gift of Mercy. Mercy cannot be understood and lived if we feel that we are equal to God. Mercy really has little meaning to us if we do not accept God’s authority over our lives because He is the Author of life.
When we realize the true authority of God, then we also realize our own unworthiness. When we realize our own unworthiness, then we realize our worthiness to receive the great free gift of His Mercy. When we realize God’s Mercy, then we realize we are really His son or daughter in the world and fully depend upon Him. When we realize we are truly His son and daughter, then we realize we are truly princes and princesses in the Kingdom of God.
This week, please take some time to truly reflect on the authority of God to give order and direction to your life; and when you discover that … then you will also discover the real meaning of this weekend’s celebration of Divine Mercy. May God bless you, our Mother Mary continue to watch over you and your families.
As we celebrate this highest solemnity of our church, please accept my prayers, my gratitude for all that you do (especially those who were there this past week to preparing the parishes and liturgies), and my continued commitment to serve you and the needs of our parishes’ family to the best of my ability.
We live during challenging times. One gift that we all need this Easter is the gift of Hope. With so many REAL LIFE changes have happened to so many of our communities and families in the past year. We need hope especially when we feel we are tired, overburdened or near despair.
As we look at our local situation, national economy and world issues (ISIS, martyrdom of Christians in the Middle East, etc…), we pause and remind ourselves of St. Paul’s letter which tells us that true hope will never disappoint. True hope is derived only in a relationship with Jesus. Hope is not rooted in politics, economics, technology or scientific advancement. True hope does not come from a casual encounter with the Lord God, or in just turning to the Lord in “crisis management” moments. True hope is the product of a daily renewed decision to follow Jesus Christ and to be intimate with Him in personal prayer, sacraments and works of service and charity. We always look to what is above us as Jesus plans a world without end. This basic element of our faith seems so simple to understand, but very difficult to truly live.
We have great signs of hope in our parish family. We great hope in the diocese as we will ordain new Deacons and Priest at St. Joseph Cathedral on Thursday, May 24th and 25th. Don’t forget…starting soon…our young people who will be preparing for their Confirmation next year. No longer will they be seen as children of the parish, but our young adults. These are all a great sign of hope for our parish and church. The signs of hope within our Faith are very present if we have the eyes to see them.
This Easter – may we make the collective commitment to simply pray more intensely. To simply sit and reflect on God’s Word speaking to us daily in the scripture and to meditate on His Will for 15 minutes a day (maybe before we go to sleep) is a simple practice too. May we also commit ourselves to acting in the same manner that Christ acted on this earth. As we act in this fashion we will endure some suffering because Christ’s values are often not the values that we see reflected in civil law and business practices and policies.
Finally, continue to look upon the Cross of Christ and His gift of redemption for us. We do not redeem ourselves. New political bandwagons cannot save us, nor can quick fixes to economic or social issues fix our problems. If we join our decisions to Christ and join our lives to Him completely, then we can begin to remedy the many problems that our society faces at this time. Knowing that we are redeemed by Christ and knowing that we are simply to live knowing that He will judge us by His teaching should bring us great Hope as we celebrate this Easter.
On behalf of the entire parish staffs and myself, we wish you a very blessed and Happy Easter! May God bless you and your families; and, our greatest human model – Mother Mary watch over you.
As we celebrate Palm Sunday this weekend, and especially this Sunday morning, I want to be the first to remind you that it is exactly nine (9) months until Christmas! Yes, Jesus was like us in every way except for the stain of sin. And, if you do the math, nine months we will celebrate new Life … though this week we recall His Passion and Death.
This Sunday is a great time to reflect on the connection we have to other Christian faiths and to people of non-Christian traditions. As I began our Lenten reflections on the subject of Baptism, I remind you again … to be baptized a Catholic means we live a certain way of life that has similarities and differences from other Christian traditions. Even though there are theological, moral, sacramental and liturgical differences between the faiths, this week we need to focus on uniting in our common beliefs and see that some of the primary issues of human life, morality and marriage are more commonly held than opposed. This coming Holy Week calls us to unite and work together in the name of our common belief in one God.
To integrate our Catholic values and theology into every facet of formation for our youth is a challenge for all of us (especially since we no longer have a Catholic School system near us to have as a resource). Today more than ever, such integration is needed, as we live in a compartmentalized and secularized society. Often we see individuals who have their “work” persona which may be different from their “neighborhood” persona and different still from their “social” or “community” personae. Integration of the person to have a common set of core values by which they live their entire life is vital. I bring this up … because … our Confirmation classes will be forming again. I, of course, take over the teaching and forming of our students who seek to be confirmed in the faith. I will see how the CCD program has been preparing our young people … then … fill in the blanks.
The value of a true Catholic Education by way of our school and Family Faith Formation programs is to form young men and women of the Gospel who are willing to stand for the truth of our Faith within a culture of relativism. The goal of Catholic Education is to produce, if you will, the next generation of the Church, who will be willing to stand for the truth of the Gospel of Life within a culture of death. The true success of a Catholic Education is seen in those who embrace the Church as a way of life and not as an obstacle to secular happiness. No, it is not enough to come together this weekend with palms in our hand to hail Jesus as King and Messiah … then … leave it to Him to take it from there.
The challenges of Catholic Education are many. The initial thought of these challenges often goes to money and affording our schools and religious education programs. This concern, although it exists, is minor in comparison to insuring that each family truly desires to be formed to live by the Gospel within a secular world. We need to meet the challenge of our Faith being the foundation for life, and not a social component or “persona” of life. In the “old days” we had the religious orders who completely administered our schools (as the Benedictines did in Hoven). Today the challenge is to find men and women of faith who are willing to dedicate their lives to forming the next generation rooted in their own conviction of the Gospel. The challenge of Catholic Education today is being relevant in culture and not succumbing to that culture. The challenge of Catholic Education today is to foster the truth that parents are the first teachers of their children in the way of faith, and that Catholic Schools and Family Faith Formation programs are to supplement and assist in that process and not replace the Baptismal commitment of each parent. The challenge of Catholic Education is to remain faithful to the Church universal, and not pick and choose elements of faith to accept and reject as we teach.
This week we thank all those who have sacrificed, who walk with Jesus to Calvary in so many similar ways, to offer themselves so greatly to build our Catholic catechetical and education programs. We also reflect on our own support (time, talent and treasure) for Catholic education and Catholic schools.
Some Greeks who had come to worship at the
Passover Feast came to Philip, who was from
Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we
would like to see Jesus.”
I would like to reflect on this quote this week as a backdrop to better appreciate the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I am sure the Greeks were both excited and anxious to finally coming to see Jesus (person to person). One of our important practices during Lent is the Sacrament of Penance. I hope your experience of Confession is not limited to Lent, but that it is a regular practice within your spiritual life. The CCD students are sometimes surprised when I tell them I myself regularly go to confession and I love the experience of preparing by way of reflection, and the renewal I experience through the grace of the Sacrament. Regular confession affords us a small block of time to truly see how we have either progressed in grace or maybe regressed further into sin. Regular confession allows the person (and the soul) to really grow in an understanding of God’s mercy and forgiveness and be able to imitate it in our own lives.
The practical celebration time of the sacrament has changed within the last 50 years or so. Prior to the changes of Vatican II, confessions were heard on Saturday afternoons for hours until every confession was heard. There was no Saturday evening Mass at that time. Mass was only on Sunday. With the changes from Vatican II and the introduction of the Saturday evening Mass, confessions remained on Saturday afternoon prior to the Anticipated (Vigil) Mass. This is the system we have today. One unfortunate occurrence is that confession just prior to Mass may be rushed, given time constraints (and may also not allow the priest the proper time needed to spiritually prepare and focus to preside at Mass). Often confessions can go right up to the time Mass begins.
It has also become acceptable to make a private request to see a priest to go to confession. Requesting a time gives opportunities to take as much time as is needed to prepare and celebrate the sacrament. Now, it is that time of year where I will be available more at the convenience of those who have a working schedule (or having completed the home work) and would like to come for confession. Please, take a moment and look at the scheduled times for confession this week. Before our celebration of the Holy Triduum, plan time to come celebrate the sacrament.