St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) once said of the Advent season, “Advent is the season of the seed: Christ loved this symbol of the seed...Advent, the seed of the world's life, was hidden in Our Lady: Advent is the season of the secret, the secret of the growth of Christ, of Divine Love growing in silence. It is the season of humility, silence, and growth. For nine months Christ grew in His Mother's body. By His own will she formed Him from herself, from the simplicity of her daily life. She had nothing to give Him but herself. He asked for nothing else. She gave Him herself. Working, eating, sleeping, she was forming His body from hers. His flesh and blood. From her humanity she gave Him His humanity. Walking in the streets of Nazareth to do her shopping, to visit her friends, she set His feet on the path of Jerusalem. Washing, weaving, kneading, sweeping, her hands prepared His hands for the nails. Every beat of her heart gave Him His heart to love with, His heart to be broken by love.”
When I came across this quote, I was moved to think about the importance of taking time to ensure that Christ grows in our heart. Often, we fall into the fallacy of thinking that becoming a Catholic is an instantaneous moment or a passive event. I just simply receive Baptism, and now I am a full-formed Catholic. However, the lived reality is that we must foster the growth of Jesus in our own soul. Mary was one who centered her entire life around Jesus, from the moment that he was conceived in her womb. As St. Teresa said, “every beat of her heart” was filled with love for her son, Jesus. And so, just as Mary actively centered her life around Jesus, so too, we are called to imitate her example and have Christ grow in our hearts. This season of Advent offers us a perfect time to do just that.
Advent is a season of anticipation, but not only a passive anticipation. Rather, it ought to be an active participation. Just as with the arrival of a child, there is the active anticipation that any parents will do, making the house ready, preparing a room, purchasing the baby clothing, so too we ought to be active in our anticipation of Christ in our lives. We need to “till the soil” of our hearts by more actively seeking Jesus in our lives. Create that “room” where Jesus will reside in our hearts.
This Advent, let us follow the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary and actively anticipate the arrival of Jesus with every beat of our hearts.
ay God bless you this Gaudete Sunday.
I have always enjoyed winter. As a child, I enjoyed the activities outdoor, such as sledding, ice skating, and tackle football without the pain. Into my college and seminary years, I enjoyed winter because of the way the campus would slow down due to the temperatures outside as well as the impulse to study and prepare for finals. And even into my priesthood, winter has remained my favorite season, not only because of the hockey season and Crashed Ice (which is sadly not in St. Paul this year), but because it is a season that seems to impose quiet upon the world.
When I use the term “quiet” in this context, I have several different meanings. First, the audible silence is present. Winter is a quiet time. Yes, we have the drone of snow blowers and plows, but once those have passed, it is much quieter outside, especially when we have a strong snowfall. Sound does not travel nearly as far. There is also the quiet in the visual sense as it becomes darker much earlier and stays darker much later. But there is also a quiet of the soul as well. People remain indoors more, they sit around fires, and they drink tea and hot chocolate.
The quiet of winter is not only in the natural realm, but also in our supernatural faith. It is during the winter when Advent begins anew each year. In Advent, we are called to anticipate and look for the arrival of Jesus Christ into our lives. It is a liturgical and spiritual season that beacons us to be a bit quieter. At mass, we skip the Gloria and we remain in prayer.
In last week’s homily, I mentioned that we ought to ask “What do I need to change in my life to allow the arrival of Jesus into my heart at this very moment?” I have a suggested response to my very own homily! To get the most spiritual grace out of Advent, we ought to become a people who cultivate a quiet in our homes for the purpose of paying attention to God. Do we intentionally change our patterns during Advent to create some time of quiet at the end of the day that is oriented toward receiving God? Or do we continue on our usual schedule of dinner, television, news, and then bed? Do we allow the quiet to be a part of our daily routine, especially in Advent? Do we pray the rosary or another contemplative prayer in a more intentionally slow manner, or do we race to through the prayers as normal? Do we turn down the lights a bit and allow the glow of our home-Advent wreath to brighten the house? Do we change the music in our cars from the hyper-active noise of pop and rock to something that encourages contemplation of God’s presence in our lives? Do I set aside the entertaining novels in exchange for books that will draw me to contemplate the infinite love of the Messiah who will be arriving at Christmas?
There are so many ways that we can use the natural and supernatural gifts of winter and Advent for our spiritual benefit. Let us not miss this great gifts from God and use them to receive the graces He has to give us, especially His mercy and love.
In 1854, Pope Pius IX declared definitively the long held belief that when Mary was conceived by her parents, Sts. Anne and Joachim, that she was without original sin. This is why Mary is called the Immaculate Conception. She was given this singular grace so that she could be the perfect vessel to bring the Savoir into the world.
Interestingly, it was prior to this declaration that the bishops of the United States of America voted to select The Blessed Virgin Mary, Conceived without Sin as the patron for this young country. The selection was approved by Pope Pius IX in February of 1847. And henceforth, the United States of America now has Mary, the Immaculate Conception as the patron of our country.
To honor Mary, the Immaculate Conception as our patron, we even constructed a national shrine in Washington D.C. in her honor. Construction was begun in 1920 with the dedication in 1959. It is located on the campus of Catholic University of America. (If you are traveling to Washington D.C., it is worth a visit.)
This solemnity is of such importance, that all Catholics throughout the world are required to participate in mass on this day, but it has an elevated importance for the people of our nation. Just as St. Patrick is the patron of Ireland, Mary, the Immaculate Conception is our patron and we are under her protection and guidance to bring us to the savior, Jesus Christ.
It is for these reasons that we are required to attend a mass in recognition of Mary, the Immaculate Conception, even when it falls on a Saturday, as is the event this year. To assist in clarification of our obligations, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis sent out this statement:
“In 2018, the Patronal Feast of the United States of America – the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary – and the Second Sunday of Advent occur on back-to-back days, and both days remain obligatory this year. The faithful must attend Mass at 4 p.m. or after on Friday, December 7 or at any time on Saturday, December 8 to fulfill their obligation for the Immaculate Conception. The faithful must attend another Mass at 4 p.m. or after on Saturday, December 8 or at any time on Sunday, December 9 for the Second Sunday of Advent. Attending only one Mass Saturday evening, December 8 does not satisfy both obligations.”
To help us fulfill our obligation, mass times are available as follows:
Immaculate Conception mass:
Friday, December 7th - 6pm (Nativity of Mary)
Friday, December 7th - 7pm (St. Bonaventure)
Saturday, December 8th - 8:45am (St. Bonaventure)
Saturday, December 8th - 9am (Nativity of Mary)
2nd Sunday of Advent mass:
Saturday, December 8th - 4pm (Nativity of Mary)
Sunday, December 9th - 8:30am (Nativity of Mary)
Sunday, December 9th - 10:30am (Nativity of Mary)
As I mentioned last week at mass, I was on a week long silent retreat. And by silence, I don’t mean only of the voice, but of the mind. A true silent retreat is void of talking, music, visuals, electronics, and even reading anything other than the Bible (and occasionally a spiritual book). The purpose of this silence is sometimes misunderstood.
When I was speaking with a friend about my silent retreat, he replied, “That sounds wonderful. It will be a great opportunity to reconnect with yourself and do some selfreflection.” I thought about his response for a moment and I disagreed with him. The silence for a Christian is not about about focusing inward on the self, but is all about focusing outward to God.
My friend did not mean anything bad by his comment, but as we move into an era in our society, where more and more people are distancing themselves from God (as has been reported in the newspaper lately), people miss an essential truth: God loves us!
One of the basic tenants of our faith is that there is a God who is not just observing humanity, but is interacting with human beings on an individual and personal basis. And not merely interacting in the way that the Roman or Greek gods interfered in human lives, but our God is continually loving human beings. It becomes our great task to awaken, see and experience God’s love for us on a daily basis. And this is the purpose of the silence of a retreat. Many times, when God speaks to our hearts, it is in very quiet ways. In the book of First Kings, we see the prophet Elijah preparing to hear God and there was a strong wind, but God was not in the wind. There was an earthquake, but God was not in the earthquake. There was a fire, but God was not in the fire. Then, Elijah hears “a still small voice” and there was God.
It is in that still small voice, where we encounter God actively loving us. It is when we pay attention to God where we discover just how loved we are. When we settle our minds and hearts and clear away the “clutter,” we can choose then to hear God speak to us his words of mercy and love.
We need to choose to reduce the many noises and distractions in our lives so that we can hear God speak. This ought to be done by all of us on a daily basis. Think of the ways that you can bring about silence in your day. Not merely a silence of sound, but a silence of the mind with the purpose of paying attention to God. What adds to the “noise” in our minds and our hearts? Is it the amount of music that I consume? Is it my continual reading of the news? Is it my attention I give to social media? Is it the idol chatter I enter into? Is it my continual consumption with sports? Is it even the novels that I read? What adds to the “noise” in my mind that causes me to fail to see God’s love for me.
Silent retreats appear intimidating, but they are in fact a gift from God. I encourage all of you to attend a silent retreat at some point in your life so that you can receive His love for you. But let us not wait for a retreat opportunity, but let us choose to make periods of silence every day of our lives so that we can hear and connect with the God who loves us.
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.