Category Archives: Pastor message

Pastor’s Message August 20th, 2017

I was pleasantly surprised by the positive reception I received from several of our parishioners on the recent letter I wrote defending Blessed Pope Paul VI’s very controversial encyclical, “Humanae Vitae.” It seems as though we have had a few years under our belt to do a deep analysis of that teaching of the Church, more people are seeing the wisdom in the perceptive writing of that learned pope. So, today, I would like to continue developing some of those themes first proclaimed nearly half a century ago.

One of the most difficult teachings for people (Catholics and non-Catholics alike) to understand is the Catholic Church’s position on contraception. In all its many forms, contraception has been promoted by our culture as the cure for a vast array of human problems: divorce, child abuse, unwanted children, overpopulation, STDs (sexually transmitted diseases), abortion pregnancy and many others. Unfortunately, when contraception is applied to these problems, just about all of them (with the possible exception of overpopulation) get worse! What’s going on?

Contraceptive use attacks married and unmarried relationships at their core. Using contraceptives in a relationship outside of marriage promotes the idea that people can have sex without consequences. Reality enters in the form of STDs, undesired pregnancy, broken dreams, and years of dead-end relationships. Using contraceptives within a marriage fosters the idea that sex is a “plaything.”

Actually, sex is one of the strongest tools a couple can use to strengthen their relationship. Any married couple will testify that eventually they need all the relationship strength they can get. Treating sex like a toy leaves both partners feeling used because they are being used! After years of this, many couples divorce. These devastated relationships and broken marriages lead to millions of children being reared by one parent or none. Damaged families rear troubled children – the children whose problems we read about in the news every day.

The social consequences of contraception are millions of badly traumatized adults and millions of children being reared under difficult, and sometimes very harmful conditions. In this very harsh environment, killing becomes an easy solution for human problems – killing unwanted children, killing the useless elderly, killing anyone who is a “problem.” This is the culture of death that was promoted by Hitler  – that did not die when he did – the very culture in which we now live.

The Church is convinced that love within families is the basis of civilization. Strong and loving marriages, open to life, develop the relationships that bind society together. They also form, one by one, the new members who will build a society up instead of tearing it down. Conversely, the breakdown of family love leads to every sort of barbarism. The love of God moves us, therefore, to build up a Culture of Life as best we can, and to weaken the Culture of Death by any means available.

Are there any other types of harm done by contraception? Certainly! Absolutely! The Pill kills around 10,000 women in the U.S. each year through breast cancer, and many thousands of others through other forms of cancer and different diseases. The cultural norm of promiscuity (based on contraception) kills hundreds of people every year and maims countless others by means of STD (sexually transmitted diseases), domestic violence and in many other ways. The horror of abortion marches on, driven by the contraceptive mentality that thinks of children as a curse, and abortion as “backup contraception.”

These evils, however, are just the surface problem. The deeper reality is the destruction of people’s hearts and lives as marriages and families are torn apart, and single people are devastated by promiscuity. We need to teach people to live in love – real love – to be fully alive in the Culture of Love. We need to inform people about the harm of contraception (and sterilization), while directing them to NFP (Natural Family Planning) techniques that meet with the moral standards of our faith and the Church’s teaching. Single people have to be convinced of the necessity to live chaste lives with God’s help, for today’s society seems to be revealing the sadly tragic consequences of a “devil-may-care” attitude regarding matters of human sexuality.

All of this can help promote the Culture of Life and eventually do away with the Culture of Death. Above all, we need to listen to the 2,000 year-old wisdom of our Mother, the Church. Believe it or not, Mother does know best!

Pastor’s Message August 13th, 2017

Is there a ‘battle royal’ brewing between Pope Francis and the Gates Foundation? In a recent BBC interview, Melinda Gates said she is “optimistic” that the Catholic Church will change its teaching on contraception in order to help poor women in developing countries. “I think what this Pope sees is that if you’re going to lift people out of poverty, you have to do the right thing for women,” she said, even though the Pope and she disagree on contraception. Her comments come as her charity, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, recently hosted an international summit in London on the issue of access to contraception in the developing world.

Even though she said she was “optimistic” that the Church would re-examine its teachings on contraception and change them over time, “such change is impossible,” said Dr. John Grabowski, associate professor of Moral Theology and Ethics at Catholic University of America. “The Church’s teaching on opposing contraception isn’t a recent teaching, it’s not something made up by Pope Paul VI in 1968.” Pope Francis cannot change Catholic Church teaching on contraception, despite the hopes or wishes of Melinda Gates.

In 1968, Pope Paul VI wrote “Humanae Vitae,” an encyclical “on the regulation of birth” that spells out Catholic Church teaching on family planning and contraception as it applies to the modern world. This teaching is also articulated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which states in paragraph # 2370 that contraception implies “not giving oneself totally to the other. This leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love, which is called upon to give itself in personal totality…The difference, both anthropological and moral, between contraception and recourse to the rhythm of the cycle…involves in the final analysis two irreconcilable concepts of the human person and of human sexuality.”

But the 1960s was not the first, nor the only time the Church has affirmed that the marital act has inseparable unitive and procreative meaning, Dr. Grabowski said. “This has been the teaching of the Church from its beginning, so the Catholic Church (including Pope Francis) can’t change constant, universal, authoritative teaching.” Furthermore, Grabowski added, “Pope Francis has shown no indication that he even wants to change it. He’s been absolutely emphatic in reaffirming the teaching of the Church in this area.”

In his apostolic exhortation, “Amoris Laetitia,” Pope Francis said that: “From the outset, love refuses every impulse to close in on itself; it is open to a fruitfulness that draws it beyond itself. Hence no genital act of husband and wife can refuse this meaning, even when for various reasons it may not always in fact beget a new life.” “So he’s been absolutely clear,” Grabowski said.

One of his predecessors, Pope St. John Paul II, also taught extensively that contraception is not only a violation of natural law, but of sexuality and marriage as revealed to humanity through Scripture, Dr. Grabowski noted. “So, if this is a revealed truth entrusted to Church Revelation, then the Church has no authority to change it,” he said. Moreover, scientific data does little to prove that contraception is truly what’s “right for women” as Gates claims, Grabowski added.

“I’d start with physical health – even current low-dose oral contraceptives are a Class 1 Carcinogen, as they significantly raise women’s chances of suffering from heart attack, stroke and pulmonary embolism. There are all kinds of health risks associated with most contraceptives,” he said. “So, is it good for women? The data doesn’t support that,” he said.

Instead of contraception, the Church proposes various methods of fertility awareness, or Natural Family Planning, to help families plan their children in such a way that does not separate the procreative and unitive aspects of sex. “While these methods have been effective in developing countries where it is taught and promoted well, the Church could do yet more to support people who want to follow Church teaching,” Grabowski noted.

“Could the Church be doing a better job of talking about these methods of fertility awareness and their benefit? Absolutely,” Grabowski said. “We’ve got a culture that is promoting and empowering contraception and the Church (needs to) articulate a clear enough alternative with a vision and how we can realize it.” This means that we can’t stand idly by while the world drifts away from the reality that lies behind the Church’s teaching. We have to share this teaching with others who are in denial or who are still unaware that it is God’s Spirit that guides His Church in this world.

Pastor’s Message August 6th, 2017

Well, we made it back – safe and sound – from Guatemala, thanks to your prayer for our safe travels. I thank you, too, for your very generous support that made this trip possible. The Knights of Columbus and I are grateful to you and to the parish and state councils of the Knights for financing us again this year. Some of these accompanying pictures will give you just part of the story. The sweltering heat and humidity in the jungle didn’t stop our men volunteers from accomplishing their goals of building and refurbishing many table-bench combinations for the students.

Trip to Village

The celebration of Mass at the school is one of the highlights of the week, and the visit to one of the local villages and offering Mass there is another. There we distributed candy to the youngsters who looked upon our visit the way little children in the U.S. look upon Christmas. The weather was great enough to allow us to do the work set before us. May God bless all of our supporters!

 

Entertaining the Children

Boat Ride

Msgr. Tom hands out goodies.

Village people love sweets

Dinner in Antigua

Pastor’s Message July 30th, 2017

Msgr. Tom was away in Guatemala with the Knights of Columbus, so he didn’t have the opportunity again to write an article in the jungle, but has posted, instead, a timely and important article from Archbishop Chaput to be substituted for his weekly column.

History is full of great quotations that people never said. One of the best lines comes from Vladimir Lenin.  He described Russian progressives, social democrats, and other fellow travelers as “useful idiots” – naïve allies in revolution whom the Bolsheviks promptly crushed when they took power; or so the legend goes. In fact, there’s no evidence Lenin actually spoke those words, at least in public. But no one seems to care. It’s a compelling line, and in its own way, entirely true. The naïve and imprudent can very easily end up as useful tools in a larger conflict; or to frame it more generously, as useful innocents. The result is usually the same: they’re discarded.

History is also full of unfortunate comments that really were said – as found, for example, in a recent Rome-based journal article that many have already rightly criticized. The article in question, La Civiltà Cattolica’s “Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism in the USA: A Surprising Ecumenism,” is an exercise in dumbing down and inadequately presenting the nature of Catholic-evangelical cooperation on religious freedom and other key issues.

Catholics and other Christians who see themselves as progressive tend to be wary of the religious liberty debate. Some distrust it as a smokescreen for conservative politics. Some are made uneasy by the cooperation of many Catholics and evangelicals, as well as Mormons and many Orthodox, to push back against abortion on demand, to defend marriage and the family, and to resist LGBT efforts to weaken religious freedom protections through coercive SOGI (sexual orientation/gender identity) “anti-discrimination” laws.

But the differences among these faith communities run deep. Only real and present danger could draw them together. The cooperation of Catholics and evangelicals was quite rare when I was a young priest. Their current mutual aid, the ecumenism that seems to worry La Civilta Cattolica, is a function of shared concerns and principles, not ambition for political power. As an evangelical friend once said, the whole idea of Baptist faith cuts against the integration of Church and state. Foreign observers who want to criticize the United States – and yes, there’s always plenty to criticize — should note that fact. It’s rather basic.

Dismissing today’s attacks on religious liberty as a “narrative of fear” — as the La Civiltà Cattolica author curiously describes it — might have made sense 25 years ago; now it sounds willfully ignorant. It also ignores the fact that America’s culture wars weren’t wanted and weren’t started by people faithful to constant Christian belief. So, it’s an especially odd kind of surprise when believers are attacked by their co-religionists just for fighting for what their Churches have always held to be true.

Earlier this month, one of the main architects and financiers of today’s LGBT activism said publicly what should have been obvious all along: The goal of at least some gay activism is not simply to assure equality for the same-sex attracted, but to “punish the wicked” – in other words, to punish those who oppose the LGBT cultural agenda. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out whom that might include. Today’s conflicts over sexual freedom and identity involve an almost perfect inversion of what we once meant by right and wrong.

Catholics are called to treat all persons with charity and justice. That includes those who hate what we believe. It demands a conversion of heart. It demands patience, courage and humility. We need to shed any self-righteousness. But, charity and justice can’t be separated from truth. For Christians, Scripture is the Word of God, the revelation of God’s truth – and there’s no way to soften or detour around the substance of Romans 1:18-32, or any of the other biblical calls to sexual integrity and virtuous conduct. Trying to do so demeans what Christians have always claimed to believe. It reduces us to useful tools of those who would smother the faith that so many other Christians have suffered and are now suffering, to fully witness.

This is why groups that fight for religious liberty in our courts, legislatures, and in the public square – distinguished groups like the Alliance Defending Freedom and Becket (formerly the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty) – are heroes, not “haters.” If their efforts draw Catholics, evangelicals and other people of good will together in common cause, we should thank God for the unity it brings.

Pastor’s Message July 23rd, 2017

Msgr. Tom is away in Guatemala this week, so, in place of his usual column, he asks us to read this timely advice from a good friend, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput.

Writing in the mid-1st Century to “all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints,” St. Paul said “I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek, for in it the righteousness of God is revealed . . .” (Rom 1:7, 16-17). Paul’s Letter became a key text of the New Testament. The books of Scripture, even when they’re morally demanding, are not shackles. They’re part of God’s story of love for humanity. They’re guide rails that lead us to real dignity and salvation. That’s a good thing. Much of human history – far too much — is a record of our capacity for self-harm. The Word of God is an expression of his mercy. It helps us to become the people of integrity God created us to be. As Paul reminds us, we’re “called to be saints.” Sometimes Scripture’s lessons toward that end can be hard. But God cannot lie. His Word always speaks the truth. The truth, as Jesus tells us in the Gospel, makes us free. This is why Christians must never be ashamed of God’s Word – even when it’s inconvenient.  Which brings us to the heart of my comments.

In Romans 1:21-27, speaking of the men and women of his time “who by their wickedness suppress the truth,” Paul wrote: “…. for although they knew God they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools . . .Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error.”

If reading that passage makes us uneasy, it should. Many of Paul’s Roman listeners had the same response. Jesus didn’t come to affirm us in our sins and destructive behaviors – whatever they might be — but to redeem us! Paul’s message was as resented in some quarters then as it is now. In an age of sexual confusion and disorder, calls to chastity are not just unwelcome; they’re despised. But that doesn’t diminish the truth of the words Paul wrote, or their urgency for our own time.

What we do with our bodies matters. Sex is linked intimately to human identity and purpose. If our lives have no higher meaning than what we invent for ourselves, then sex is just another kind of modeling clay. We can shape it any way we please. But if our lives do have a higher purpose – and as Christians, we find that purpose in the Word of God — then so does our sexuality. Acting in ways that violate that purpose becomes a form of self-abuse; and not just self-abuse, but a source of confusion and suffering for the wider culture. The fact that an individual’s body might incline him or her to one sort of damaging sexual behavior, or to another very different sort, doesn’t change this.

This can be a difficult teaching. It’s easy to see why so many people try to finesse or soften or ignore Paul’s words. In a culture of conflict, accommodation is always the least painful path. But it leads nowhere. It inspires no one. “Fitting in” to a society of deeply dysfunctional sexuality results in the ruin that we see in so many other dying Christian communities.

In his recent book Building a Bridge, Father James Martin, S.J., calls the Church to a spirit of respect, compassion and sensitivity in dealing with persons with same-sex attraction. This is good advice; it makes obvious sense. He asks the same spirit from persons in the LGBT community when dealing with the Church. Building a Bridge, though brief, is written with skill and good will. But, what the text regrettably lacks is an engagement with the substance of what divides faithful Christians from those who see no sin in active same-sex relationships. The Church is not simply about unity – as valuable as that is – but about unity in God’s love rooted in truth. If the Letter to the Romans is true, then persons in unchaste relationships (whether homosexual or heterosexual) need conversion, not merely affirmation. If the Letter to the Romans is false, then Christian teaching is not only wrong, but a wicked lie. Dealing with this frankly is the only way an honest discussion can be had.

And that honesty is what makes another recent book – Why I Don’t Call Myself Gay by Daniel Mattson (Ignatius) – so extraordinarily moving and powerful. Mattson’s candor about his own homosexuality, his struggles and failures, and his gradual transformation in Jesus Christ “bears witness to the mercy and goodness of God, to the efficacy of his grace, and to the veracity of the teachings of his Church.” In the words of Mattson himself: ‘We cannot remain reluctant to speak about the beauty of the Church’s teaching on sexuality and sexual identity for fear that it will appear ‘unloving,’ ‘irrational,’ or ‘unreal’. We need to love the world enough to speak about the Christian vision of sexual reality, confident that God’s creation of man as male and female is truly part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ we are called to proclaim to a lost and confused world. We need to be a light for the world and speak passionately about the richness of the Church’s understanding of human sexuality. We can’t place the Good News of the Church’s teaching on human sexuality under a bushel any longer, for the world desperately needs the truth we have.”

–Spoken from experience. Spoken from the heart. No one could name the truth more clearly.

Pastor’s Message July 16th, 2017

This weekend’s Gospel reading from St. Matthew is one with which we are familiar. From early childhood, we heard the story about the unlucky seeds that fell on thorny ground and the lucky seeds that fell on fertile ground. For most of us, those early teachings explained the parable by using God as the sower and our hearts as the ground. Sometimes our hearts are open to his word, and the message of God grows in us and is apparent in our thoughts, words and deeds. But, sometimes our hearts are like the scorched earth, and the word of God doesn’t take root and we, too, wither.

Yet, is this the only way to look at this wonderful reading? Maybe we could also consider the role of the sower and visualize ourselves as the one who is casting the seeds into the soil, whether fertile or scorched, for the Word of God is too powerful for us not to want to share by spreading the seeds of the Gospel. So, in addition to our listening with purpose to the Word of God with an open heart, that we might grow in grace and faith, we need to share our seeds of faith with others. This is real stewardship at its finest.

One of the easiest ways to share our seeds of faith is by how we live our lives, for our actions speak louder than our words. We can ask the question whether our daily thoughts are focused on the teachings of the Gospel, or are they focused on what we can get shipped for free from Amazon? Do we speak kindly about those we know and about those we should love but don’t? Are we oblivious to those around us who could use a word of encouragement, because we have our heads down, constantly trolling our cellphone for the latest text or email update? Are we willing to reach out to help those who are in need, by sharing our time and talents, or are our seeds of faith left in the sower’s bag, where they will do no good and most likely rot?

What are we doing in our thoughts, words and deeds that truly demonstrates our deep desire to live our life in alignment with the Gospel? Living our faith is so much more than going to Mass. The personal satisfaction we experience, and the positive impact we have on those with whom we interact, is so much greater when we share with them the importance of our faith and our relationship with God.

As we reflect on the seeds God is sowing each and every day at our feet, we need to ask whether they are falling on fertile soil, ready to sprout and take hold, or are they falling on scorched earth, where they will soon wither and die? For the seeds God is casting are found not only at Mass or while we are reading this reflection, but in each and every step we take on our journey called life. We should not forget to look at ourselves as sowers.

Grateful to so many “sowers of the seed” who are helping to support our annual foray into the jungles of Guatemala by our Knights of Columbus to work at our mission, I thank you who have graciously contributed to this endeavor by your prayers and financial support. Our volunteer Knights and I will leave this coming Saturday and will return on Sunday afternoon, July 30th. Pray, too, that our journey will be safe and that the seeds you and we plant will bear good fruit. We, too, will be praying for you at our Mass each day, grateful for your generosity.

I thank all those who have supported the renovations that have just taken place in Kellaghan Hall. When you next visit it, I believe you will like the new look. Your response to the appeal to redo the floor and the walls has paid off, and I’m grateful to you for it. Now we will save $$$ by not having the rugs shampooed so often!

Pastor’s Message July 9th, 2017

This July, marks another anniversary of the infamous encyclical of Blessed Paul VI called “Humanae Vitae.”  I believe that few recent Catholic documents have been as reviled, yet as perceptive, important and accurate in its warnings as Pope Paul VI’s great encyclical. Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI both firmly reiterated Humanae Vitae in their own teaching. It remains a powerful, prophetic counter-witness to the widespread sexual dysfunction of our age. As other Christian communities, and even many Catholics, have collapsed in their defense of sexual integrity, Humanae Vitae has remained a timeless testimony to the truth.

Subtitled “On the Regulation of Birth,” this eighth and last encyclical letter of Blessed Pope Paul VI was easily the most controversial Church document since the Reformation, and its core teaching probably was the most rejected; and so it remains today.

Pope Paul reiterated what had always been the teaching of the Church, namely, that married couples must be open to life in every act of marital intercourse, and that any act or omission intended to prevent natural conception is morally wrong. This is because the marital act bears within it, by its very nature, the capacity for the couple’s intimate union and the procreation of new human life. These twin aspects ought never to be willfully separated if the gift of marital love is to be respected and lived responsibly.

Blessed Pope Paul presented this teaching in a tone that, while steeped in compassion, was quite realistic toward couples facing difficulties. Yet, he was somewhat pessimistic about the long-term consequences of deliberately separating the unitive and procreative ends of marriage. Sad to say, his heartfelt predictions that moral standards would decline, that infidelity and illegitimacy would increase, that women would be reduced to objects for pleasure and that governments would grow more coercive in the goals of population control, all have proven true. Other damaging consequences can be shown to have resulted as well.

But that mattered little, as Humanae Vitae was countered by a perfect storm. The Anglican-Episcopal Church had permitted contraception more than thirty years earlier, and the decade of the 1960s was marked by selfish individualism (crowned by the invention of the birth control pill), the “free love” movement and liberalized divorce laws. Perhaps most damaging was the fact that the majority of the papal commission studying the issue had voted to permit birth control. The commission report was leaked and became a rallying point for those opposed to the pope’s clear teaching. Those who opposed it included not a small number of influential clergy and academics, who publicly dissented by signing protest ads in major newspapers; and the dissenters soon included a substantial majority of ordinary Catholics. The Church was seriously divided and wounded over a matter of the utmost importance – the truth and meaning of marriage and the sanctity of life.

Today the rift and wounds remain, and only the Holy Spirit can bring healing and wholeness. In the face of almost 50 years of selfishness and disobedience, let’s pray that the Church will zealously continue to teach the truth and beauty of this encyclical, urge repentance for the manifest sins against the sanctity of marriage and life, and call all the faithful to complete openness to the innumerable blessings which flow from the Lord and Giver of Life.

 

Pastor’s Message July 2, 2017

During my silent retreat at a Trappist monastery last week, I was able to reflect on the U.S. Bishops’ annual “Fortnight for Freedom” (begun on June 21st, and running through Independence Day – July 4th). This annual event seeks to highlight America’s “first freedom” – religious liberty. It also seeks to encourage us American Catholics to work together to secure the religious freedom of all, both here and abroad.

This year’s theme is “Freedom for Mission,” and the reason should be quite obvious. Activist groups and public officials today are becoming increasingly aggressive in trying to force Church-related health care institutions and many social ministries to violate their Catholic identity. Catholic beliefs on marriage, family and the sanctity of life are targets in an on-going cultural war against the biblical truths of human sexuality, nature and purpose. The Church did not want this war and did not choose it. But, it cannot, in good conscience, avoid it. The recent administration’s bullying of the Little Sisters of the Poor was only one of many recent examples; and, by the grace of God, the Sisters are winning their appeal.

We seemed to have reached a time in our nation’s history when ideas like the old “Benedict Option” can seem quite attractive. (N.B., St. Benedict of Nursia left the chaos of 6th century Rome, went into the woods to be alone to pray, and wound up founding a community of men dedicated to prayer. It became the Benedictine Order of monks that, over the next several centuries, kept the faith alive in a Europe that was covered in barbarian darkness. They laid the groundwork for the rebirth of Christian society in the former Western Roman Empire). Separating ourselves – in our thoughts, choices and behaviors – from the emptiness and noise of modern consumer life can, in fact, make a lot of sense. But then the question arises: “Can the piety of an authentic Christian life and the patriotism for a secular state coexist in such a conflicted time”?

Scripture tells us to respect and pray for our civic leaders, even when we dislike them, and even when they persecute us.  Jesus himself said that Caesar has a realm of legitimate authority. Yet, that realm is limited in scope. Still, we have a duty to obey civil authority so long as it doesn’t demand a kind of practical idolatry that ruled the Roman Empire. Early Christians were martyred not because they hated Roman power, but because they wouldn’t burn incense to the emperor’s “genius” or sacred spirit. In other words, they wouldn’t treat him as a deity – as divine.

It’s true that in the first three centuries after Jesus, some of the early Church Fathers and scholars rejected military (and even civil) service of the state by the faithful. But, as the empire gradually became Christian (especially after the Emperor Constantine converted from paganism), things radically changed. From the late 4th century on, St. Augustine’s “just war” teaching on the legitimate use of force (in situations related to self-defense) came to dominate Christian thought. He also taught that Christian political engagement and public service can be morally worthy, so long as the expectations of remaking reality are modest. Since human structures are flawed by sin, the “City of Man” can never be over the “City of God.” It’s wise to remember this.

Christianity is not ultimately about our place in this world; it’s about our place in the next world. We have a duty to make the material world – and especially the people around us – better by our efforts. We can’t and shouldn’t try to escape from the challenges and responsibilities of the place where God plants us. We need to be a leaven for true goodness, here and now. But, as St. Paul tells us, our real citizenship  – our real goal – is in heaven. We belong to heaven first!

Maybe, at this particular time, it’s worth analyzing these two words, patriotism and piety. The word “patriotism” comes from the Latin pater (father) and patria (homeland, native soil). As with any human father, the nation-state is not a little god-ling. It can never demand our worship of it. It can never demand that we violate our religious identity and beliefs. But, properly understood, patriotism is a virtue and a form of filial love. We’re sons and daughters of the land of our birth. It’s only natural and deeply human to love our homeland and be faithful to the best qualities of our native land.

The word “piety” comes from the Latin pietas, meaning humility and a devotion to the gods. Pietas was the not only the highest form of Roman virtue, it was a powerful force in shaping early Roman life.

A British Catholic historian of the last century, Christopher Dawson, demonstrated that all great civilizations have started from some form of a religious founding; and as the essence of that founding is lost, the spiritual illness of the soul sets in.

Since humans are addicted to searching for meaning in life, and since we’re also inescapably mortal, we instinctively look for purpose outside and higher than ourselves. So, the “God question” matters because God made us. Our own country, having from its very beginning a biblical language, a belief in God and a thoughtful search for meaning, has provided our moral compass. But, the more we discard these precious things, the more alien we become to ourselves and to what we were meant to be. Therefore, the most fertile witness we can offer as citizens is to speak, to act on, and to organize our lives around, the words, “Jesus Christ is Lord.” To defend our liberty to do this is why a “fortnight for freedom” should matter to all.

Pastor’s Message June 25th, 2017

Long time listeners of public radio broadcasting might recognize the name of Garrison Keillor and his weekly homespun humorous stories around the fictional Lake Woe-be-Gone in Minnesota. Spiced with a whole bunch of humor, his narrative often was built upon reflections of true stories in human life, and his subtle efforts to promote the best of mid-West moral and spiritual values was almost never lost on his audience, albeit with a lot of laughs in between. His delightful Father’s Day specials, always done in front of a live audience, were especially mindful of the men in our lives who are often overlooked and under-loved. Last week, we honored such men – many who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the good of our country and left behind young wives and small children. When we think of our Dads, let’s also think of Our Father in heaven, who sets the tone of real fatherhood and love and concern for his children. I hope we call upon Him daily to bless our fathers and keep them from the ultimate harm – the one that can kill the soul. If your Dad has already gone before God, may he rest in the arms of our loving Father in heaven.

Last week, we were honored to host one of a two-man rowing team that is rowing its way to New York City from Miami along the Intracoastal Waterway, in order to promote true devotion to Our Lady of Fatima. Since our parish was consecrated to Our Lady of Fatima this past May 13th, as part of the worldwide celebration of the centennial observance of the Virgin Mary’s apparitions in Fatima, Portugal, it’s no mere coincidence that Greg Dougherty, a middle-aged athlete from northern Kentucky and part of the team, had stopped here (and at a few of our local parishes along the waterway) to rest and pray. I hope and pray that he and his teammate will have a successful conclusion to their efforts in promoting the daily Rosary and devotion to Our Lady of Fatima so that peace may reign in our world, according to one of Our Lady’s promises a century ago.

It’s hard to believe, but in a month’s time fourteen men will join me in our annual trip to our mission in Guatemala. In preparation for that trip with members of our Knights of Columbus, several teen volunteers from our Life Teen program recently volunteered their time to sort out bags and cartons of donated hotel room-sized soaps, shampoos, lotions and other assorted toiletries and first-aid materials and arrange them in small packets in order to transport them to Guatemala. These teens wanted to help support the work of the Knights of Columbus in our mission in some significant way, even though they are unable to go on the trip with us. What a ray of hope we have for the future of the Catholic Church with teens like these!

Along with several Life Teen members of our parish who also helped in June with our youngsters in the annual Vacation Bible School program, I wish to thank the following leading ladies for their assistance with our weeklong stint. These include the Director, Amy Sexton, and her associates: Carrie Socha, Heather Hackett, Katie Fischer, Tracy Nixon, Lisa Murphy, Emily Roberts, Dawn Transleau, Frances Sharon, Heidi Guevarra, Stephanie Sexton, Jennifer Maymon, Carol Brisson, Tina Badame and Courtney Rowling. These cheerful women and 49 teen additional volunteers set up and conducted a great program that reached out to nearly 100 youngsters in a fun-filled faith experience. We’re sure blessed in this parish with such good souls!

Our Sisters Romana and Maria are enjoying their summer vacations right now – in New Jersey (S. Romana) and Poland (S. Maria). I’ve asked them to remember us in their prayer, and they told me they always do, for you don’t take a vacation from God just because its summer vacation time. I hope you enjoy your summer, too, but always keeping God in the forefront of your mind and heart.

Pastor’s Message June 18th, 2017

This Sunday, we celebrate Father’s Day as well as the Solemn Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. Then on Friday, we honor the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Although not a Holy Day of Obligation in our country, it is a solemn feast of the universal Church – and a beautiful occasion to honor and thank Our Lord for the love and compassion that He pours forth upon those who love Him in return and seek the mercy that He alone can provide. How well these three occasions tie in so closely to one another.

Though a secular observance to honor our earthly father, Father’s Day also reminds us of our heavenly Father and that love He has for His children. He is the example ‘par excellence’ of true fatherhood, faithful to His promises. He has sent us His Son, and promised us the wonderful gift of eternal life and how to attain it if we would just listen to the message His Son spoke. He wants all His children to be truly happy with Him (one day in heaven) and has offered all of them a blueprint for us to get there. Unfortunately, some of those children become ungrateful, and because they, like rebellious teens, think they know so much more about how to become ‘happy,’ they abandon the course of action Jesus prescribes.

Jesus is our model – but the WHOLE Jesus – as He is presented to us in the four Gospels, without selecting just those characteristics that appeal to us. With those who admitted they were sinners, He always showed compassion. But, with others, He could – and did – shoot ‘straight from the hip.’ He was not a namby-pamby wimp, nor a glad-handing politician. With sinners, for whom He performed miracles, He admonished them to go and “sin no more,” lest something worse happen to them. Yet, He was always the same Jesus – meek and humble of heart. All that He did flowed from His Sacred Heart, filled with more love than any of our hearts can be.

Blessed John Cardinal Newman warns us that it is possible to exhibit many of the aspects of love – consideration, delicacy, courtesy, generosity and others – for the wrong reasons. It is not Christian love. He calls this “mere benevolence,” because this is what our culture expects from us, and it only promotes a self-image that we project in order to gain some end that we want. He also says: “one who cultivates only one precept of the Gospel to the exclusion of the rest, in reality, attends to no part at all.” A religion that is pleasant and easy, with everything bright and cheerful, may have benevolence as the chief virtue, and intolerance, bigotry and excessive zeal become the first sins.

If you want to know what love really is, you must look at the totality of what Jesus said and did. Love is sacrificial. Love is obedient. Love does not try to control everything and everybody; rather it serves. It does not seek affirmation or approval from anyone. Love adheres to the truth. Jesus Himself said, “ I am the way, the truth and the life.” Let me share a true story with you exemplifying this kind of love.

There was an American-born nun who served as secretary to the Maryknoll Bishop Francis X. Ford in China, in the early 1950s. Although she was being held prisoner in the mission compound taken over by Chinese communists, each day she would take Holy Communion to the other prisoners, concealed in the one loaf of bread she was allowed to share with them. Fortunately, the bishop was given wine in prison as part of his diet, and he would take some of the bread and his wine and consecrate them in a secret Mass where he had memorized the text. Sister would then distribute the Holy Communion within the day’s rations to the other Catholic prisoners who had been kept apart from the bishop so that he couldn’t console them in their suffering.

On a particular day, the colonel, who now took over the mission compound as his headquarters, and who once had been a student of the sister (even studying the elements of the Faith, but never entering into it), made the passing nun open the door for him as she was carrying the loaf of bread. In order to do so, she had to put down the loaf on the steps in the dirty entrance. The colonel probably thought the loaf was only the daily rations and didn’t know that concealed inside it was the Body and Blood of Jesus. Quietly, the nun picked up the loaf and continued to distribute it for what would become the last time. In less than an hour later, the prisoners were led on a march, with the bishop at the head –a type of Corpus Christi procession, with the members carrying the body and Blood of Jesus in themselves. The colonel a sadistic young man, tried to tie a sack of rice weighing about twenty pounds around the neck of the bishop, who now weighed only about 95 pounds. The sister said to the colonel, “Don’t do that! Look at the man!” – almost reminiscent of the words of Pilate to the crowds jeering at Jesus as He was about to begin his own death march to Calvary. The colonel either was so moved – or so afraid of his former teacher – took the sack off the neck of the bishop and carried the supply by himself.

The bishop died in the march; the colonel died in prison; the sister was later set free and came home to relate this story. Why do you suppose the colonel took it off the bishop’s neck? I think it was because he once carried the Blessed Sacrament. We are really enacting all this in the Mass. If we give ourselves to Christ, we are enriched.