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.
In the past, many churches had bell towers and the bells would ring every day before mass as well as at 6am, noon and 6pm. The ringing of the bells at these specific times was a reminder to all the people in the town to stop and pray the prayer called “The Angelus.” It is a short prayer that people could pray together, one leading and the others responding or it could be prayed all together.
The purpose of this action was to pause three times a day to remember the Incarnation which recalls when God became incarnate. This helps us to remember that God is very close to us throughout our lives, so much so, that he became one of us. It also would force us to pause as a family, as a group, as a Church and focus our minds on the greatest of goods that we have, namely, God.
The Angelus prayer can be prayed anytime throughout the day and so I would encourage all of you to pray this simple prayer three times throughout the day as a family to sanctify your day.
LEADER: The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary,
GROUP: And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.
ALL: Hail Mary, full of grace...
LEADER: Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
GROUP: Be it done unto me according to Your Word.
ALL: Hail Mary, full of grace...
LEADER (all genuflect or bow at this verse): And the Word was made flesh,
GROUP: And dwelt among us. (all stand up)
ALL: Hail Mary, full of grace...
LEADER: Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
GROUP: That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
LEADER: Let us pray,
ALL: Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts; that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection, through the same Christ Our Lord.
You may have heard of the term “Examination of Conscience” as a preparation for going to confession. There is another form of the Examination of Conscience that can help our spiritual life. That is to do a shorter form of the examination of conscience at the end of each day. This becomes a spiritual tool to help us all review our day and do better the next. You can follow a simple formula before you say your night prays.
First, recall all of the blessings you received that day. We all have good days and bad days, but regardless of how the day went, God has always been giving us his love and blessings. It is important to recall how God was present and working in our lives each day.
Second, recall all of our sins from that day. None of us are perfect, and we should want to be better. As a result, we should recall our sins from the day and then create a plan as to how we will avoid those sins the next day. If we recall any mortal sins, we should make preparation to attend the sacrament of Confession.
Third, pick one way you will live out God’s call to love God and neighbor tomorrow. Make a resolution with the Holy Spirit to love better the next day. We can always do better and God wants us to be better. So with the grace of God, we can always get better: make that resolution.
By a daily examination of conscience that only takes a few minutes, we can continue to grow in holiness as Catholics. God bless you all.
In our Catholic faith, we are required to attend mass every weekend. However, these are not the only days that we are obliged to attend mass. We also have various days that are not on a weekend which we call “Holy Days of Obligation.” These are days of such great importance in our Catholic faith, that all of the faithful gather together in the greatest celebration: The celebration of the Eucharist (AKA holy mass).
A Holy Day of Obligation does not take the place of a Sunday mass, but rather, we attend mass on weekends AND the Holy Day of Obligation.
On these Holy Days of Obligation, we remember those events that are of the utmost importance in the history of our salvation. The most notable Holy Day of Obligation is Christmas (December 25) where we remember the birth of Jesus. No matter what day of the week that Christmas falls, Catholics are required to attend mass on Christmas.
In rare occurrences, the local bishop may give an exception to the obligation for a one-time occurrence. For example, it is common practice for the bishop to move the feast of Ascension (formerly called “Ascension Thursday”) to Monday, thus eliminating the obligation to attend on the sixth Thursday after Easter.
The following are a list of the Holy Days of Obligation in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis:
Come this September and October, Nativity of Mary will be hosting two delegates from Kitui, Kenya. I am going to write a three part series to get all of you, our parishioners, informed about the mission, why we partner with Africa, introduce you to our two delegates and our leadership team as well as inform you how you can get involved with building a relationship with our Kenyan delegates. Yes, that means some volunteer opportunities will be available too for you to take an active part in welcoming and supporting our two visiting delegates.
Back in 2001 the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB) developed a mission (and document) titled Called to Solidarity with Africa. Catholic Relief Services (CRS) invited the Archdiocese of St. Paul & Minneapolis to partner in Africa and the Office for the Center for Mission was established in 2003.
2003 – Southeast Deanery invited to begin
2004 – Father Nicholas Maanzo and Bishop Lele visited here; agreement to formalize partnership was made
2005 – Minnesota delegation went to Kitui; partnership formalized; Mission and Vision Statements written
2006 – Kitui, Kenyan delegation visited Minnesota
2007 – Food Security Project in Nuu Parish began
2008 – Minnesota delegation went to Kitui, Kenya
2009 – School-to-School partnership began
2010 – Bishop Anthony Muheria visited in February; Antony Mbandi, Director of Kitui-Caritas visited too
2011 – Bishop Piche` and Minnesota delegation went to Kitui; Bishop Piche` Ordained Deacon Jefferson Mutina and Confirmed hundreds of souls.
2012 – By this year, 5 earthen dams completed
2013 – Living Water program launched
2014 - Minnesota delegation of 23 people went to Kitui, Kenya to celebrate our 10 year partnership anniversary
2015 – Father Robert Mitui from Kitui, Kenya arrived for two years stay serving within the Archdiocese
2016 – 67 Water tanks built for schools and one more earthen dam completed
2017 – Father Charlie Lachowitzer represented Archbishop Hebda along with Minnesota delegation to Kitui
2018 – Kitui, Kenyan delegation to arrive in September for 10 day visit
Global Solidarity Partnership
Diocese of Kitui, Kenya &
Archdiocese of St. Paul & Minneapolis
To make Jesus Christ known and loved by choosing to live the Gospel in every moment of our lives.
The Global Partnership between the Catholic Diocese of Kitui and the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis exists in recognition of our communion in the Body of Christ for the mutual sharing of our faith, our experience, our culture and our resources – gifts to us from God.
St. Stephen is considered to be the first person called to serve as a Deacon. St. Stephen was a man of great faith who met his martyrdom by being stoned to death as he prayed for those who stoned him.
I certainly didn’t hope for that same fate as St. Steven but I prayed for that devout faith. Historically, we know that from the time of St. Stephen through the next 1000 years or so the diaconate grew to be a vital part of the church with three distinct levels of clergy; Bishop, Priest, and Deacon, but after that the office of deacon disappeared except as a step towards the priesthood. The Second Vatican Council restored the Permanent Diaconate to men only, who were over 35 years of age.
There are presently over 10,000 deacons in the U.S. alone. And the Diaconate is continuing to evolve by expanding the curriculum and broadening the requirements to better prepare each candidate.
As a Deacon, the question I am asked most often is, “What can you do compared to a priest?” It is the wrong question, because we are not in competition, through we both receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders, allowing deacons to administer the sacraments of Baptism and Matrimony, officiate at funerals, and proclaim and preach the Gospel. Presently, deacons cannot anoint the sick, hear confessions, or consecrate the Eucharist.
I think the greatest gift the diaconate brings to the church community is their many different life experiences. The deacons of our diocese come from all different backgrounds, teachers, police officers, business men, Doctors, social workers, engineers, accountants, military and laborers; we are black, Hispanic and white serving in parishes, yes, but also in a wide variety of ministries. We minister first in the work place, hospitals, prisons, soup kitchens, convalescent homes, help with drug and alcoholic rehabilitation, and many other unique ministries.
The needs of our communities are many and varied, many yet to be identified. Besides my involvement at Nativity which consisted of assisting at Mass, weddings, baptisms, and funerals when I was asked. My wife has worked with me in marriage preparation and assisted with baptisms and weddings.
I have become aware of another important aspect of the diaconate. We Deacons all make our living, like you do, in the workplace; wearing clothing appropriate for the job.
Is serving as a Deacon always a bed of roses? No, like anything in life it has its ups and downs, with conflicts at times. With my wife and family, a full time job, and my ministry setting priorities was often difficult. As a husband and father of three children, my family was always my number one priority; without their love and support I could never have served as Deacon.
Many have said to me, “It’s wonderful of you to make so many sacrifices to serve others,” That is not true; the greatest gift of the diaconate to me has been the discovery that life has its deepest meaning when we share, it’s in giving that we receive, those I have served truly helped me to come out of myself and live life to the fullest, yes, so that when serving as a Deacon because difficult I was able to think of the positives.
Thank you Nativity of Mary and May God Bless You and Yours,
Deacon Jim McLaughlin
A few weeks ago, I mentioned in the homily that I saw the documentary about Fred Rogers, AKA Mr. Rogers. It was entitled “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” I grew up watching Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood on PBS. It was a staple of my television viewing experience throughout my youth. I knew there was something attractive about Mr. Rogers’ approach to his show, but I did not understand the depth of his wisdom or his love for people.
Upon watching the documentary, I awakened to the great lessons he was trying to teach me, now on a more mature level. And these lessons are still needed for adults today.
One of the profound lessons that Mr. Rogers taught was about feelings. Many times, people will respond to feelings in one of two ways: Either, they try to suppress a feeling, or they believe they must act upon that emotion. We often allow ourselves only these two options. However, Mr. Rogers offers a third way to respond to emotions, which is much more profound and helpful. In 1969, Mr. Rogers testified before congress to defend the budget for public television. The congressman asked Mr. Rogers about his show (which the congressman had not seen). And Mr. Rogers said that he taught children about many human experiences, including feelings. And here is what Mr. Rogers said, “I feel that if we in public television can only make it clear that feelings are mentionable and manageable, we will have done a great service for mental health.”
Mr. Rogers teaches that feelings are “mentionable and manageable.” We all experience feelings and they are found throughout the Bible: Happiness (Isaiah 12:3), Sadness (John 11:35), Anger (Ephesians 4:26), etc. Feelings are very mentionable. But not only are they mentionable (and here is the genius of Mr. Rogers), they are manageable. We can control what we do when we experience a feeling that we know is not leading us to a good choice. We are not robots who must act out every feeling that we experience. Rather, God has given us the ability to choose our actions and we must choose to respond to our feelings in ways that are good.
To drive home his point, Mr. Rogers wrote a song to help children (and adults) remember this truth: “What do you do with the mad that you feel? When you feel so mad you could bite. When the whole wide world seems oh so wrong, and nothing you do seems very right. What do you do? Do you punch a bag? Do you pound some clay or some dough? Do you round up friends for a game of tag or see how fast you go?”
“It’s great to be able to stop when you’ve planned the thing that’s wrong. And be able to do something else instead ― and think this song ― “I can stop when I want to. Can stop when I wish. Can stop, stop, stop anytime ... And what a good feeling to feel like this! And know that the feeling is really mine. Know that there’s something deep inside that helps us become what we can. For a girl can be someday a lady, and a boy can be someday a man.”
Found in this simple song is a very powerful tool for living our lives as Jesus calls us to act. We all experience feelings, and we can be the ones to choose how to respond to those feelings. That is the genius of Mr. Rogers who knew the love of God in his own life, for he was an ordained Presbyterian minister. So the next time we experience a feeling, let us remember this lesson from Mr. Rogers, acknowledge the feeling to Jesus, and allow Jesus to guide us in how we should react to this feeling. Then we will have that very good feeling knowing we have chosen to do what God would want us to do...and that feels very good.
NB: “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” is rated PG-13, so parents, please view the movie first and then discern if your children are of an appropriate age to watch this documentary.