When I was attending NDSU, I became involved at the Newman Center near campus. A Newman Center is a Catholic parish that is specifies its ministries around college-age students. It was at the Newman Center where my faith came alive and I truly built a living relationship with Jesus Christ. One of the ways that my faith grew was through adoration of the Eucharist.
I recall one evening at about 9:30pm, I went over to St. Paul’s Newman Center to pray the rosary. Normally, the Newman Center would have been dimly lit. However, this time, the entire church was illuminated. As I walked in, my nose immediately caught the smell of incense. And there, on the altar, was a large round vessel made of brass and in the center was one of the larger hosts used at mass. Immediately, my engineering brain began the logical sequence: Catholics believe that the host at mass becomes truly Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is God. Catholics worship God. We should logically have time to worship the Eucharist!
I climbed into the first pew available and spent the next hour in front of the Eucharist realizing that it is a beautiful thing to spend time with Jesus in the Eucharist. Jesus gave himself in the Eucharist to fulfill his promise from the very last sentence of the Gospel of Matthew: “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matt 28:20) So it makes sense that not only would we keep the Eucharist in the tabernacle, but that Catholics throughout the world would have times to bring out the Eucharist to adore our Lord and Savior.
Our parish has had Eucharistic adoration on Fridays from 8:30am until noon for some time now. People from our parish take time out of their Friday mornings to spend time with Jesus. We have also, recently begun having an hour of adoration before daily mass on Tuesday through Friday from 7am until 7:55am. At the end of the time of adoration, the priest picks up the Monstrance with the Eucharist and blesses the people with the Eucharist itself.
I encourage all of you to make time to attend adoration at our parish or at any of the perpetual adoration chapels across the Twin Cities (yes, perpetual, meaning that there is someone at every hour of the day and night praying). In this time of adoration, you can pray in any way you choose: rosary, reading Sacred Scripture, Divine Office, spiritual reading, quiet meditation, even just sitting with Jesus as two good friends. A friend of mine once said, “I go to adoration, I look at Jesus and He looks at me...and we smile at each other.”
The Lord Jesus Christ gave us the Eucharist so that he can be with all of us for eternity. And now, in our Church, we have these great opportunities to adore him in the Eucharist.
May the Lord bless all of you through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
“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.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
These are the last words of Jesus Christ in the Gospel of Matthew. They are, if you will, the mission of the entire Church. It is the very nature of the Catholic Church to evangelize, which means to spread the Good News of the mercy and love of God, extending an invitation to become a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Very often, however, Catholics will think that it is a the duty of programs within the Church to share the faith. Or perhaps the mission of the priests who preach and the nuns who teach. While these programs or “professionals” are important, who can best share the faith with your friends whom you know personally? It is you!
When we think of faith, too often, we think of it as a list of moral teachings. While the teachings are important, the fullness of the faith is found in a living relationship with Jesus Christ. We all have friends and people whom we know well. We keep these friendships alive through our regular interaction with these people. Then, if we want to introduce someone to our friends, what do we do? First we tell the new person about our friend, but rarely does this help them become friends. The best thing is to do is to introduce the new person and your friend. Convince the new person to spend time with your friend and they will get to know each other...and the same applies for Jesus.
Faith is a living relationship that you have with Jesus and we want to introduce people to Jesus, not just tell people facts about Jesus. So how do we introduce people to Jesus? The same way we were introduced to Jesus...through the life of the Church. We got to know Jesus through the Sacraments, through the prayers, through the community gathered, through the Holy Scriptures with the guidance of Holy Tradition. And if that is not enough, there are so many writings from Saints and people alive today that help us to introduce Jesus to others. But the greatest tool to help faith come alive in the heart of others is you. You have the privilege and you are the most effective means of sharing the faith of Jesus with others...to share not just “the faith” but to share “your faith.”
This Wednesday is Halloween. It has been reported by ABC News as being the “second largest holiday” behind Christmas. This determination is with regard to the amount of money that people spend. While this is either interesting or shocking, it can also be an opportunity for Catholics to recall core beliefs in our faith. Because the celebration of Halloween only has relevance to our society today because of its relationship to two important holy days in our Catholic faith: All Saints Day (November 1st) and All Souls Day (November 2nd).
The English term “Halloween” is derived from a contraction of the phrase “All Hallows’ Eve” which is a reference to the evening before the day to reverence all the holy ones (i.e. the Saints). So even the term “Halloween” would not exist without All Saints Day.
All Saints Day is the day in our Catholic faith when we remember and reverence all of the Saints in our Catholic faith: Those who we know are in heaven (the officially canonized, such as St. Thomas Aquinas, St. John Paul II, etc), as well as those who are in heaven whom we don’t know (such as some of our relatives and friends who God knows are in heaven). It is a very special time for us on earth to recall that God’s mercy and love is already having an affect and bringing people to the eternal life that Jesus himself promised. It is a day of great joy for the entire Church! That is also why it is a holy day of obligation for Catholics around the world. A holy day of obligation means that all Catholics are required to attend mass on that day (or on the evening before, where available). The Church makes this requirement because it is a day of great importance and celebration for our entire Church family, for we celebrate all of these saints in heaven and are reminded of our great calling to become saints, ourselves. All Souls Day is also a day of great importance, but its focus is a different group of people. All Souls Day is the day that we pray for all of the souls in Purgatory. We believe, in our Catholic faith, that when we pass away from this earth, that we are judged by God and we go to our eternal reward or punishment. For those souls who are on their way to heaven, they pass through Purgatory, which the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “purgatory is a ‘final purification’ (CCC 1031) which is afforded to ‘all who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified’ so that they might ‘achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven’ (CCC 1030).” Essentially, we recognize that even if we are judged to go to heaven, we still have some sense of sin in our hearts that needs to be cleaned (or purged) out of us to enter the absolute perfect love that is heaven. So truly, purgatory is a gift to prepare our souls for the immense perfection that is heaven.
With all that in mind, All Souls Day is the day that we do not simply “remember” our loved ones who have passed away, but rather, we pray for them to assist them through purgatory. Our prayers actually have an effect, and so it is ultimately an act of love to pray for our relatives and friends who have passed away, and All Souls Day is devoted explicitly to that effort (though you can pray for the souls of the deceased on any day and at any time). All Souls Day (November 2nd) is not a holy day of obligation, though it is a good practice to attend mass and pray at a cemetery for all of those who have passed away.
Halloween can be a fun event, but let us not forget the true origins of that day, for it is deeply connected to our Catholic faith that have more spiritual importance for our entire Catholic Church. May God bless you during these upcoming holy days.
P.S. My favorite costume that I have worn is as Captain Jean Luc Picard of Star Trek.
The central Mystery of our Catholic faith is the Holy Trinity. One God, three persons. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. For all time, God has been a community. And so, when God made human beings in His image and likeness, God imbued within each person the necessity of community life. Human beings not only survive by living in community life, but we actually thrive. Think about all the ways that living as a community allows us to flourish: In community, we are able to play games such as football, baseball and, of course the great sport of hockey. In community we are able to share ideas which allow us to accomplish incredible feats like putting a man on the moon. In community we are able to comfort one another in times of sorrow or distress. In community we are able to inspire one another to be better and become great. Human beings have been made for community. The life of a priest, while it is rarely lonely, can cause a priest to become more isolated and separated from his fellow priests. It is easy for priests to lose the important support that we gather from each other in our times together, in our shared priesthood.
Recognizing this importance of community, I realized that upon becoming pastor of Nativity of Mary, this was the first time that I was truly living alone. While I was certainly comfortable, I was still feeling this draw to maintaining community life. As a result, I began looking for a way to live in community. I reached out to Fr. Don DeGrood about living in the rectory (priest residence) in Savage.
Fr. DeGrood was welcoming of the idea, and so I made the decision to move into the rectory in Savage. I am still the pastor of Nativity of Mary parish and I have no obligations to the parish in Savage. It is the place where I rest and find community time with my fellow priests. It is also a great benefit that I am still only a ten minute drive away from our parish, because the rectory is only two blocks off of highway 13.
I am in consultation with the finance council as to what would be the best options for our current rectory, and nothing has yet been decided. We are still maintaining the property and will make an informed decision as to the future of that property.
In just a few weeks, I have discovered the benefits of community life. The three of us priests living there have times of prayer together, we attempt to have one meal together a week and Fr. DeGrood has watched more hockey games and eaten more White Castle in the past five years! Good things are happening.
We all must find community in our lives, because that is who we have been made to be. It is in community where we inspire virtue and we tamper vice. So let us seek out Christ-centered community so that we may flourish as people made in the image and likeness of God.
Thank you for your prayers.
There is a story back in the 1600s about when a group of early settlers had the first meeting with the Native Americans, there was an exchange of gifts made. The settlers gave their goods to the Native Americans and the Native Americans gave a peace pipe to the settlers. The two groups agreed to meet again some time later and both went their separate ways. Some months later, the two groups met again. To show their gratitude, the settlers made sure that they brought along the peace pipe. The Native Americans, noticing the peace pipe, were dismayed and requested that the peace pipe be returned. Certainly confused, the settlers returned the peace pipe, the two groups departed and never met again. What the settlers did not know, was that in the Native American culture, they lived by an understanding that gifts were only given to with the understanding that they would continue to be given. In their words, a gift must be kept in motion. The gift was not to pass “to” you, but rather, all gifts should pass “through” you. And this is very much in union with the Catholic understanding of stewardship.
As we continue our stewardship campaign, we are called to look at our very lives in a different way. We are reminded to look at all that exists with a different vision, the vision of faith. For when God looks at all that he created, he did not give it to us to so that we could simply hold on to the gifts. Rather, he gave us the gift of all creation so that it could be handed on. Look in Genesis: “God also said: See, I give you every seed-bearing plant on all the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food...” (Gen 1:29). Notice that God gave to the humans the “seed-bearing” plants. While certainly, God gave all creation, the seed-bearing plants are emphasized. By highlighting the seeds, God is pointing out the importance of those seeds being planted, those seed being “handed on” to the future generations, those seed being given to the ground so that so much more can grow! Those seeds are not meant to be held onto, but meant to keep on being given. If Adam and Eve hold on to those seeds, there will be no more growth, no future plants, no future sustenance...and what happens? The end.
When we look at stewardship of all that we have, including our treasure, we must see it with the eyes of God. When we contemplate our treasure, our financial means, we must work to view it as God does. God sees them as a part of the great gift of creation. A gift that was not meant to end with us, but a gift that was meant to pass through us for the good of us as well as others.
May God bless all of you!
In the beginning, was God. There was nothing other than God, and then God chose to create. God created everything; from the physical universe to the science that governs it. God created the animals that wander the planet, the plants that grow and the humans who reap the harvest. All has been created by God. And it is in recognizing this truth where we find the origins of stewardship.
Stewardship begins by acknowledging the fact that everything we have, our resources, our talents, our very life itself has been given to us without our earning it. Yes, we apply many of the gifts, but at their origins, everything is a gift. Think back to your upbringing: You were given life and consciousness without having earned it. You were then given a family who took care of you without any labor on your part. You were clothed and fed, you were educated and loved, simply because you existed. It was all gift. If we see this for what it is, we discover that everything is a gift. And when we have this recognition, we change how we use the gifts. We are merely stewards (or caretakers) of all that is given to us. It becomes our duty to turn to the source of all these gifts, namely God, to discover how we ought to use the gifts.
This is how we, as Catholics, approach the stewardship of all of our gifts. We first acknowledge that everything is a gift and then we turn to God in prayer to gain the wisdom to know how we should steward these many gifts. It is an ongoing conversation with God.
An analogy might be a teenager who receives his driver’s license. The use of the car is a gift to him and initially, his parents will allow him to use the car only a short distance; avoiding the freeway (especially 494 and 35W!). Then, he consults with his parents after successful driving and he is allowed to use the car on the freeway. He consults with his parents again and now he is required to go to the store to purchase food before he uses the car to visit his friends. Then later, he may be required to fill the car with gasoline (using his own money!). But it is always an ongoing conversation with his parents as to what is the proper way to use the gift of the car. And we should do this in prayer with our Father in heaven as we discern how we are to be good stewards of the gifts God has given us: Our time, our talent and our treasure.
This weekend, we begin our stewardship campaign. In consultation with the Stewardship Council of Nativity of Mary, we are approaching our stewardship campaign in a different way, but with the similar intent: To help all of us live out stewardship as a part of our Catholic faith. We will be separating the “treasure” portion from our “time and talent” portion, which will take place in January. Over the next few weeks, we will be hearing about the importance of stewardship of our treasure, the blessings that come from being a good steward of our finances, and how we can contribute to the financial health of our parish.
I invite you to be open and prayerful to a life of stewardship. First, recognize that all is a gift from God and then recognize that God is a loving Father who desires to help you use his gifts well for your good, the good of our parish and the good of the whole world. May God bless you all.
If you could ask God just one question, what would it be? (Yes, I am quoting Joan Osbourn). However, this lyrical line came to mind as I read the Gospel for this week. We see the Apostles following Jesus for three years. They must have had many opportunities to ask questions of him. Even a few of those questions are recorded in the Gospels. However, today, we hear that they were afraid to question him. Why would this be? What would cause them to be afraid to inquire? Certainly, it would be beneficial to understand what the Messiah is saying, so why be afraid.
What is important to note, is what Jesus said, right before the comment about their fear. Mark writes, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.” (Mark 9:30-31). Their fear arises from the demands of being a follower of Jesus. They were not afraid to ask the question...they were afraid of the response that they would receive, namely that to follow Jesus would require sacrifice.
They had been following Jesus and had seen some miraculous cures; they heard some beautiful teachings of mercy, which are all very comfortable and pleasant. They liked that, but then Jesus speaks about suffering and death. Now, all of the sudden, there was a part of Jesus’ mission and work that made them uncomfortable. As a result, they were inclined to “hide” from that portion of Jesus, desiring not to speak about it or understand it further. They may have been hoping that it would even go away if they never inquired...and how many times do we choose the same approach to Jesus.
We do enjoy the statements about mercy. We delight in the offer of an eternal happiness. We delight in the resurrection, though we often desire to hide from the crucifixion. We try to have Jesus without the cross. Though, as Jesus stated today in the Gospel, this is his whole mission and if we desire to follow him, we must accept the entire Jesus. We must seek to know and embrace Jesus in his life, his death and his resurrection. We need not fear, as the disciples did, to go deeper into the mystery of his suffering, for it is in his suffering where we find the mercy and the love that God truly has for each of us. And even, we will be called to follow Jesus through our own trials, our own sufferings. Though, if we choose to follow Jesus through the sufferings, it is there where we discover the glory of the resurrection. It is in the resurrection that we discover the meaning of the suffering, and even our own sufferings.
In your prayer, do not be afraid to speak to Jesus and ask him the questions that are longing in your heart. Be ready to listen to his response, to what he shares with you. I know that in my own personal prayer, I rarely receive the message that I desired. I am often tempted to go into prayer with a list of demands that he must meet, with results that I am convinced (at the time) would be best and must occur. And all that I discover, is that his response to my prayer is one that is different...and better for me, than what I originally expected. Because Jesus knows what is truly good, even though it is not the easy response...but that is why he is God and we can trust him. In your prayer, do not be afraid to question God about any of your trails or his teachings. And then be open to the totality of his response because his response will always be a response of love for us. In your prayer, do not be afraid to question God about any of your trials or his teachings. And then be open to the totality of his response because his response will always be a response of love for us.
A few years back I had the opportunity to go on a retreat that was a silent retreat. We had been on silent retreats in seminary before, and I expected this silent retreat to be similar. In seminary, our retreats allowed us time to read novels for fun, to listen to some talks and even a little social time while eating by making faces at each other. This silent retreat, however, was different.
When I arrived at the retreat house, my spiritual director met me there and informed me that I would be the only person staying there for the entire week. Even he would be returning to his parish and would stop out once a day for spiritual direction. He also informed me that I would not be allowed to listen to any music or recordings, that I was not to have any literature other than the Bible, my brieverary and one spiritual book (that he assigned). He informed me that this was to be a full-silent retreat.
I confess that my first reaction was to panic. As you have probably already noticed, I am an extrovert and I perceived this approach to a silent retreat as being a form of torture. However, I was convinced that God wanted me on this retreat, and as a consequence I decided that I would try to embrace this new form of silence...and what I discovered, was that it was just what I needed. It was a silence of my very person: mouth, mind, body, and most especially, my soul.
“Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10) says the Psalmist, and that is exactly what I needed in my heart. Too often, I am one who enters into prayer and even without intention, I begin reviewing all of the things that are on my mind. I will begin by trying to pay attention to God and his love for me, but my mind will be so filled with ideas and activities, that I will begin planning or reviewing, rather than entering in a place of “stillness.” It is in that stillness of the mind and soul, where we are able to discover one of the greatest truths about our God, that God simply wants to love us. We need to create that time for silence where God can simply love us.
The first place we need to seek out this stillness and silence is at the beginning of prayer. Before you pray at any time, pause for a moment and realize that you are looking to God, but He has always been looking at you first. Take some time at the beginning of the morning or at the end of the day when the children are asleep to find the time of silence to realize God’s love for you. If you are able, make a silent retreat, even if it is just for a day at one of the retreat centers here in the Twin Cities.
We are active creatures and our minds and hearts are filled with many worries, thoughts and ideas. Let us not allow these to keep us from the stillness that we also need to allow ourselves to be loved by God.
The beginning of the new school year was always exciting for me as a child. Yes, there were the usual concerns about having the correct supplies for class, concerns that my clothing was not the “cool” clothing for the school year (see the Bugs and Taz shirts dressed as Kriss Kross from the 90s), and wondering if I would get lost in the hallways on my way to class. But underneath all of those concerns was always an excitement. I would not admit this to my friends, but my excitement was really centered around the fact that I would be learning something new! I enjoyed my science classes where we learned about the world around us. I delighted in history where we discovered amazing events in human history and learned from them. I enjoyed English and creative writing. I really enjoyed all of it! And I see that happening again and again every year as the students return to school. And this should the be attitude that we have as adults with our entire lives, especially with our life of faith.
I will often hear people make the comment, “They never taught me about that when I was in Catholic schools or in Religious Education!” when they discover a long held belief of the Church or some other teaching that they did not know. The assumption is that everything should have been taught to us by the time that we received the sacrament of Confirmation. While it is true that our Catholic school teachers and our religious education catechists worked hard to teach us about our Catholic faith, it is possible that they missed some particulars or (dare I say), we were not paying close attention. As a result, we did not retain some of the truths taught about our faith. It is when we discover this reality that we must embrace that desire to learn and seek out to discover the truths of our faith on our own.
Thankfully, we live in the 21st century where there are more resources to learn about our faith than any prior generation of Catholics. Some of the great resources that we have at our fingertips are the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the writings and teachings of the Church as found at www.vatican.va, the books from quality Catholic publishing companies, the good Catholic book stores that we have in the Twin Cities, the Lightous Catholic Media CDs that can be ordered, and the different programs and offerings that we have right here in our very own parish! We have been hardwired from God to learn and discover the world that God created and ultimately to discover God himself. As we see the children returning to school this week with the desire to learn, let us reignite that same desire in our hearts to learn more about our Catholic faith so that we might love God and our neighbor all the more. May God bless you and your pursuit of learning his truth this week.
In my life, there were many people who played a role in handing on the Catholic faith to me. I had catechists on Wednesday evenings, I had college friends who lived their faith well, I met some good and holy priests. All of these had a role to play in my faith life, however, none were greater than my very own parents.
It was their work as parents that planted the seed of the faith in my heart that were of such importance. One way they shared the faith was through their witness of the faith through attending mass faithfully every weekend (and staying until the final verse, thus preventing me from getting the “good” donuts with the sprinkles). However, it was also through the conversations that we had as a family. I recall after mass that my parents would often “review” the homily with us in the car ride home. Also, my mother would teach me how to pray the rosary. My dad, raised Lutheran, would help me memorize Bible verses for religious education classes or review my homework from class. All of this has helped me to realize what the Church has taught from the very beginning: Parents are the primary teachers of the faith.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church quotes Blessed Pope Paul VI about parents and their role as saying, “The role of parents in education is of such importance that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute.” and that the right and the duty of parents to educate their children are primordial and inalienable. (CCC 2221).
It is with this experience and teaching in mind that we will be implementing a new style of faith formation at Nativity of Mary. It will be called Family Catechesis. The idea behind this new way will be to help the family learn together as well as equip the parents to share the faith with their children. Often, parents can feel intimidated by the idea of sharing their faith with their children and this style of program works to not only alleviate that fear but to also equip the parents to plant seeds in the hearts of their children, and what we discover is that when we share with others, we inevitably learn as well...and this is the heart of catechesis.
But what do we mean by catechesis? Catechesis is a Greek word that means "echoing." The practical application of this word tells us that not only do we grow in faith by receiving information to one another, we do so by sharing our faith with one another.
Family catechesis refers to a program which involves children from preschool through those in eighth grade, with at least one parent or grandparent attending religious education sessions together with the children.
Intergenerational means mixing generations, including preschool children, elementary and intermediate-age children, preteens and teens, parents and/or grandparents; other adults in the parish can participate as well.
As we announced in last week's bulletin, we will be running a new religious education program this fall using this model. Families will meet twice a month. One meeting will take place on Wednesday night from 6:30 - 8:00 PM, the other from 9:00 - 10:20 AM before 10:30 Mass. Each meeting has a different purpose.
On Wednesday night, families start together. After prayer and an introduction into the evening's topic, the children will go with a trained catechist for their lesson while the parents learn more about the topic at an adult level as well as receive support to pass this knowledge on to their children and more deeply live out their faith life at home.
Special Sundays are program days where the family works together as a unit along with other families on some service project or social activity with the intent to serve our community or build deeper relationships with Christ in our families and community.