Thursday, December 23, 2010

Words from Fr Ed (From Christmas Bulletin 2010)

The Good News
Glory to God in the highest and on earth to those on whom his favor rests.

I’d like to wish each and every one who comes through our doors this Christmas Season a very Merry Christmas and a New Year that is filled with the Presence of Christ. We have cause for rejoicing here! God, who sent His only Son, intends for us to have a great year, no matter what circumstances are occurring in our lives, even the things that we may not be able to control. We do, however, have control over how we respond to situations in our lives, and can do so with love in the name of Christ. He who is called ‘Emmanuel’, God-with-us, does not just come at Christmas, but desires to ‘remain with us’. As Jesus says in the Gospel of John, “Remain in me, as I remain in you.”

Have you been able to ‘remain in’ Christ this Christmas Season? It is easy to make resolutions about Advent and see them broken one-by-one. Our desire for prayer, silence, and quality time with loved ones, can all be lost in the hustle and bustle of the ‘season’. But who is in charge of the ‘season’? Is it Hallmark? Or Wal-Mart? Or Wall Street? We Catholics are called to a different kind of season. We celebrate a liturgical season that extends beyond the gift exchange and the parties. For us, Christmas Day is just the beginning of a Christmas Season that lasts until the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord on January 9th.

One of my favorite Christmas stories is Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I have especially enjoyed the more recent movie with Jim Carrey as the Grinch. His humorous portrayal brings the character into real time and lends insight into the things that can steal Christmas for us today. As the innocence of little Cindy Lou Who conquers his heart, which is ‘two sizes too small’, the Grinch begins to realize that Christmas is not really about material gifts.

We can learn from this in the face of the deluge of consumerism that hits us at Christmas time. Sales surround the Feast Day as if it was the only reason it exists. Time is marked by pre-Christmas and post-Christmas sales. They orient us in an almost ‘liturgical’ way attempting to get us into a procession to their outlets for the ritual of shopping. But, as Catholics, our liturgical rituals restore a right order in the soul. The Three Wise Men of Epiphany give us a procession of adoration and thanks to the newborn King. The Flight into Egypt of the Holy Family gives us a model for protecting human life. The procession of sinners to John the Baptist gives us a vision for repentance and renewal. All these processions can lead us into a new direction in our lives.

When the presents have been unwrapped, the eggnog is consumed, and the family is dispersed, what remains in our hearts? Have they grown three times larger like the Grinch’s? Have we discovered the fullness of joy that lay in a manger two thousand years ago? This present should not be ignored or discarded with the Monday morning recycle. It is worth our every effort to remain in Him, even as He remains in us. May each of you take the time with Jesus that we need this Christmas Season to give new birth to our souls. We owe it to ourselves, we owe it to God. May all of you have a joyous Christmas Season.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Words from Fr Ed (From Dec 19th, 2010 Bulletin)

Emmanuel – God is with us

Jesus’ prophetic name, ‘Emmanuel’, is our testimony as Catholic Christians. “God is with us” is a statement that we ought to believe, experience, and profess as Catholics. As Christians we believe that Jesus is God. Some have believed that He was a holy man who pointed to God; that He was teaching us by example to call God our Father. Our faith goes far beyond this. We believe that His name, Emmanuel, speaks of the literal Divinity of Christ. Do you believe this?
Pope Leo the Great wrote in a letter to Bishop Flavian in 449 AD:

Without detriment therefore to the properties of either nature and substance which then came together in one person, majesty took on humility, strength weakness, eternity mortality; and for the paying off of the debt belonging to our condition inviolable nature was united with possible nature, so that, as suited the needs of our case, one and the same Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, could both die with the one and not die with the other.

Faith tells us this is both possible and true. Reason alone cannot fathom this. What about the Christmas story do you find incredible? Does it not touch your heart? Pope Leo goes on to say:

The nativity of the flesh was the manifestation of human nature: the childbearing of a virgin is the proof of Divine power. The infancy of a babe is shown in the humbleness of its cradle: the greatness of the Most High is proclaimed by the angels' voices. He whom Herod treacherously endeavours to destroy is like ourselves in our earliest stage: but He whom the Magi delight to worship on their knees is the Lord of all.

Above Image Used with permission of John Brandi Co., Inc.


My apologies to all who have tried to contact me or have left messages and not heard back from me. As much as I continue to reorganize my schedule to accommodate phone calls, mail, emails, drop-in visitors, emergencies and texts, it seems impossible to get back to everyone. Please be patient as well with our administrative staff as they do a great job of managing an enormous quantity of work.

The reality of the priest shortage continues to manifest itself, though I am happy to say a growing number of young people are seeking spiritual direction for vocational discernment, which the Archdiocese has asked me to assist with. This is an investment for the future which cuts into my time available for St. Stephen’s but as a Church I believe we have to make this sacrifice today for a better tomorrow. I do pray for all of you daily and hope you do the same for me during this beautiful Advent Season.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Words from Fr Ed (From Dec 5th, 2010 Bulletin)

Produce good fruit as evidence…
            Our gospel today calls us to “Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance” and not to “…presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’” John the Baptist is speaking to Jews, but the same spiritual principle applies today. People, even ‘good Catholics’, can presume that they are fine the way they are, that as long as they go to Mass regularly they are secure in the Lord. Mass is certainly crucial, but the repentance that John is speaking about goes further. It means taking the gift that we have been given during the Mass, namely, Christ the Lord, and sharing Him with the world.

            As Paul VI wrote in his encyclical, Evangelii Nuntiandi (On Proclaiming the Gospel), “The Church exists in order to evangelize."  “Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity.” (14)  If this is so, then our gift of faith as Catholics needs to be shared in various ways, beginning with the example of our lives.  Paul VI writes,
“Take a Christian or a handful of Christians who, in the midst of their own community, show their capacity for understanding and acceptance, their sharing of life and destiny with other people, their solidarity with the efforts of all for whatever is noble and good. Let us suppose that, in addition, they radiate in an altogether simple and unaffected way their faith in values that go beyond current values, and their hope in something that is not seen and that one would not dare to imagine. Through this wordless witness these Christians stir up irresistible questions in the hearts of those who see how they live: Why are they like this? Why do they live in this way? What or who is it that inspires them? Why are they in our midst? Such a witness is already a silent proclamation of the Good News and a very powerful and effective one."
For this kind of witness, we simply need to be ourselves in the world, caring for those around us in thought, word, and deed.

            I’ve seen this witness lived at St. Stephen's in a variety of ways, through the sharing of food (Food Bank, Terrific Tuesdays, Men’s Shelter Meals, Thanksgiving Dinner, Orion Youth Center, etc.), the sharing of housing (Direct Aid, St. Stephens Housing, and parishioners opening their own homes), and the sharing of goods (Direct Aid, Giving Tree, Knights of Columbus, and Pregnancy Aid). We have loving support offered through Grief Support, MOMS, Prison Ministry, St. Stephens Ministers, Nursing Home Services, Project Rachel, Visitation Guild and Gabriel Project. So many ways are offered here at St. Stephen’s by which one can serve others. I’ve probably missed some who do service without anyone knowing. Thank you for your gift of self. These ministries stand as evidence of our faith, what Christ has done within us.

            These works of mercy are just part of what we can do to share our faith. We have liturgical ministries, faith formation, facilities, parish life, administration, and so much more. How is God calling you to ‘produce good fruit’? Beyond the parish, evangelization begins at home. How is your family preparing for Christmas? Are you praying daily? What a beautiful time to gather for the Rosary, or even a decade to start. It only takes a few minutes. Understanding Mary better will lead us more deeply into the mystery of Christ. Your children will grasp it easily. Mary loves children!

            Beyond the home, there is the workplace and the marketplace, the ‘public square’. Here a great witness is needed to Christian values. Does your work contribute to the well-being of others? Does it help promote order or build it up? Does your business practice ethical guidelines, not simply to avoid litigation, but to promote goodness in creation? There are ways of doing things that reflect trust in God and the possibility of a just society. God desires this and we are His instruments. May this Advent season bring light into our world, beginning with ourselves.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Words from Fr Ed (From Nov 28th 2010 Bulletin)

Latin, ad + venio = to come to

…stay awake…for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.
- Matthew 24:42

The Lord is coming. St. Paul tells us that “…our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand.” This is true even in a literal sense. As Dr. Tom Curran shared with us last Saturday, Advent is a time when days are getting darker and colder as the winter solstice approaches. (‘Solstice’ “is derived from the Latin sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still), because at the solstices, the Sun stands still in declination; that is, the apparent movement of the Sun's path north or south comes to a stop before reversing direction.” From Wikipedia) The Church chose this time, the winter solstice, the turning of the tide, to celebrate the Birth of Christ, the birth of the One who called Himself the Light of the World.

There is a beautiful history of the dating of Christmas at: The best evidence that points to late December as the timing of Christ’s birth is related to the annunciation of John the Baptist’s conception to Zachariah, which occurred on the Day of Atonement, which falls in September. According to Scripture (Luke 1:36), the Annunciation of Christ’s conception comes 6 months later, which would be in March (celebrated March 25). Add nine months to this date and we have the date of Christmas. This does not mean that the Church depends on historical accuracy. The Church depends on mystical accuracy. In other words, when the Church enters into a mystery of Christ, such as His Nativity, it enters into a mystery that is primarily outside of time. The physical manifestation of a Divine reality is the tip of the iceberg, transcended by an infinitely large mystery under the surface.

In preparation for such Light coming into the world, the Church gradually developed a time of penance and prayer that helps one to appreciate the Incarnation. The goals of Advent for the faithful are:
 to prepare themselves worthily to celebrate the anniversary of the Lord's coming into the world as the incarnate God of love,
 thus to make their souls fitting abodes for the Redeemer coming in Holy Communion and through grace, and
 thereby to make themselves ready for His final coming as judge, at death and at the end of the world.
Let us prepare our souls today, even in this moment, to receive all the love that God has for us.

Preparing for Mass
There is no better way to grow in the grace of God than to worthily prepare for and pray the Mass. Here is a short prayer, written by Blessed Dom Marmion for priests, but adaptable for the laity who are called to exercise the priesthood of all believers by offering the Holy Sacrifice of Jesus Christ to the Father for the sins of the whole world. Let us all become worthy worshipers, in spirit and in truth.

Lord, you have declared that sine me nihil potestis facere (Jn 15:5). I realize it; without You I can do nothing, and especially in this divine action of the Holy Sacrifice. I am quite incapable of being a worthy minister for You in this act of incomparable grandeur. Were I to pass my whole life in preparation I would not be fit for such a ministry. But as I have received, through Your Holy Spirit, a participation in Your priesthood, I ask in all humility, that You communicate to  me Your disposition as Pontiff and as Victim; the dispositions which were Yours at the Last Supper and those which You had on the Cross; graciously supply in Your mercy all that is wanting in me.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Words from Fr Ed (From Nov 21st, 2010 Bulletin)

…today you will be with me in Paradise.

Lk 23:43

Our Feast today exalts the supremacy of Christ, not just over a nation, nor even our Church, but over all creation, from the beginning to the end. As Christ said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega.” If this is the case, why does our world not follow the ways of Christ? One would expect a people to obey their king, or a king to enforce his will on the people. With God there is freedom, freedom to obey or disobey. This is displayed on the cross where we see two thieves, one who blasphemes Christ and another who recognizes Him and repenting, proclaims His kingship by saying, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

We call this good thief St. Dismas. In three sentences, in the last minute of his life, Dismas is saved from the punishment due to sin. What mercy, what grace! A simple act of humility, honesty really, makes an eternal difference. Have we the same honesty? Are we able to admit our sinfulness? Do we have the knowledge of self necessary to be saved? Jacques Philippe writes in his book, Interior Freedom that “The person God loves with the tenderness of a Father, the person he wants to touch and to transform with His love, is not the person we’d have liked to be or ought to be. It’s the person we are. God doesn’t love ‘ideal persons’ or ‘virtual beings.’ He loves actual, real people.”

Let us follow Dismas by making a true confession of our own inadequacies and proclaim the authority of Christ over our lives. He will not coerce us. His dominion depends on our cooperation and acceptance of His reign. Our age tends to say “Question Authority”, but this is one authority we should never question. If we can accept Christ’s Kingship in our lives, all else will follow. As Jesus said in Matthew, “But seek first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.” (Mt 6:33)

Parish Expectations
What does it mean to be a member of St. Stephen the Martyr Catholic Church?

I will continue to elaborate on some basics that should be a part of every parishioner’s life here at St. Stephen’s. While respecting a just diversity in gifts and graces amongst God’s people, we ought to strive to be “…of one heart and mind” like our first apostles and the early Christians. These include some of the basics found in that first community following Pentecost. The Scriptures say that “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.” (Acts 2:42) I’ve already mentioned the ‘breaking of the bread’ as the first of our priorities.

John Paul II said in Ecclesia de Eucharistia that “The Church draws her life from the Eucharist.” Parishioners should participate in the Eucharist weekly, and more often than not, at St. Stephen’s. Some float from parish to parish based on Mass times and the length of homilies, etc., never committing to a particular community, never contributing gifts of time and talent beyond their 55 minutes of bodily presence in the building. This is a sad and selfish Christian life. Of course there are exceptions for health concerns, but in general, for those who can, Mass connects us in a way that includes an obligation to ‘the communal life’ mentioned in Acts. Gifts are given for the sake of the Body, the Church. Each believer has been given gifts for the building up of the community. When one receives the Precious Body of Our Lord, eternal life itself, yet refuses to become involved in the parish, what spiritual constipation has occurred?!

Real reception of gifts depends on a giving of gifts as well. A vessel never emptied stagnates and pours out the excess as waste. So what does this ‘communal life’ entail? It entails going beyond ourselves and our natural families to connect outside of Mass in the ministries that help the parish function and fulfill her mission. We have about 88 ministries here at St. Stephen’s. They all contribute to the mission of Christ that we have been given, a mission to make His Kingship known. Together we can make this happen. More than I depend on you, Christ depends on you, to make Him known to ‘the Dismases’ in our own area who do not know the way of Christ: to youths, mothers at risk, to homebound and homeless. The harvest is ripe, grab a sickle and join us.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Words from Fr Ed (From Nov 14th, 2010 Bulletin)

“By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”
- Lk 21:19

As we enter the last two weeks of the Church year and begin Advent on November 28th
our readings speak of the end of time and the coming of Christ. In today’s Gospel (Lk 21:5-19) Jesus
speaks of trials that will come at the end of the world as we know it, including war, famine,
earthquakes, and plagues. There will also be signs and wonders that “will come from the sky.”
This would be enough to distract just about anyone from the daily duty that we have as Christians,
that is, to keep our eyes fixed on Christ in all that we do. But as it says in the ritual for
Anointing of the Sick, “Our weakness lays claim to Your strength.”
We must be deeply grounded as Christians to endure the challenges of our day. I believe it was Fulton
Sheen who said that in the last part of the 20th century Catholics would either become saints or fall away. Though
that time has passed, it seems to be more relevant each day and touches on our call to become saints. How do we do
that? Isn’t that for heroic people? Don’t I need to be in a convent to achieve that? No, sainthood is meant in a special
way for the kitchen table, the workplace, and the narthex. While we are transformed in the holy actions of the
Church, real sanctity is worked out in our daily lives fulfilling our daily duties in a simple and loving way.
Someone remarked, “But I don’t want to be a saint!” Do you want to love? Do you want to love fully, increasing
your joy and happiness to the greatest extent possible? If ‘yes’, then you want to be a saint. Maybe what
needs to change is our conception of what ‘saint’ means. Many saints live and die without a statue being erected in
their honor; the simple people in our constellation of friends who humbly walk by faith. What do they do that’s different?
Let’s look at some of these characteristics, which make for sainthood that anyone of us can attain, beginning
with a basic attitude.

Thomas Aquinas was asked how one could become a saint. He said, “Will it.” Simple, an act that we are capable
of; using our will to cooperate with the action of the Holy Spirit. The will, according to St. John of the Cross, is
the seat (home) of the supernatural virtue of love. More simply said, love is in the will. This contradicts the modern
association of love being in the emotions or in the libido. Remember ‘Love Story’s sentimental journey? While genuine
love can certainly stir the emotions, true love always includes an act of the will whereby we voluntarily assent,
say ‘yes’ to, the movement of the Holy Spirit within us. We have been sealed and filled with this Spirit of love.
The willingness, the desire, to become a saint, is equivalent to the willingness to love. If we want to become
a saint, all we have to do is love. It is likewise the one thing we have control of. Many things can happen around us
that are evil, yet we can always, if we are willing, respond in a loving way. This of course takes a strong union with
that love which resides in our hearts and minds. As Jesus said in today’s Gospel, there will be challenges that shake
our foundations and can distract us from the gift of love.

As I begin my first term as Pastor (six years), it is a good time to continue developing a list of ‘parish precepts’,
principles and duties to live by, here at St. Stephens. These will help us ‘live in love’. They include, but aren’t
exhausted by, prayer, study, fellowship, and service. I wrote earlier about the Eucharist, the ‘Sacrament of Charity’.
It remains as the primary font of love at the heart of our Church. In many parts of the world the water well or fountain
is at the heart of a village or building. The well is a source of life, essential for a healthy life. One of the first
things we do in developing property is to check on the availability of water. So, as Catholics, we have to check on
the availability of Mass and Holy Communion, the Bread of Life and the Cup of Eternal Salvation. An attitude of
love is possible with the Eucharist, Infinite Love consecrated and received. May we continue to be transformed by
the loving will of God who makes Himself Incarnate through the Eucharist.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Words from Fr Ed (From Nov 7th, 2010 Bulletin)

…he is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.
Lk 20:38

Our Gospel this week reveals God’s vision of humanity, and that this humanity, whether deceased in body or not, is alive in spirit. During this month of All Souls, where we remember, in a special way, those who have died, it’s good to recall the three branches of our Church, the ‘Triumphant’, the ‘Suffering’ (from Latin passio = to suffer, to endure) , and the ‘Militant’. We on earth are the Church Militant (= ‘one engaged in fighting, war or strife’) and we often forget the other two because our vision can be so focused on this particular world in time and space. But we have great friends in the other two branches, especially if we take time to pray for the Church that exists in Purgatory, where souls ‘suffer’ a transition, from some punishment or purgation due to sin, to the pure loving state of Heaven with the saints and angels.
“I thought Vatican II got rid of Purgatory” you might be thinking. Not at all. We did change some details of the Indulgences for prayers said to relieve the sufferings of Purgatory, but nothing the Church could say or do would eliminate Purgatory itself. It exists and there is plenty of evidence that reveals it. First off, how many of us are saints this precious moment? How many of us are pure, ready to worship and praise Our Lord for all eternity? It’s hard to get some people to sing on a given Sunday, much less for all eternity. Our disposition in this given moment is a sample of the state of mind and heart that we could die in. One seminary professor used to say, “As we die, so shall we live for all eternity.” If that is in an imperfect state, then we shall need a transformation to become perfect, ‘…as our heavenly Father is perfect.”
Here are some excellent scriptures that point to the existence of Purgatory:

Some soldiers had sinned and died, so Judas Maccabeus took up a collection and “… sent twelve thousand drachmas of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection (For if he had not hoped that they that were slain should rise again, it would have seemed superfluous and vain to pray for the dead). And because he considered that they who had fallen asleep with godliness, had great grace laid up for them. It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.” (2 Maccabees 12:43-46)

St. Paul also writes about a person and their works being tested: "For other foundation no man can lay, but that which is laid; which is Christ Jesus. Now if any man build upon this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay stubble: Every man's work shall be manifest; for the day of the Lord shall declare it, because it shall be revealed in fire; and the fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is. If any man's work abide, which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work burn, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire." (1 Corinthians 3:11-15)

Jesus Himself said, “And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but he that shall speak against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in the world to come." (Matthew 12:32) This suggests, obviously, that some words (that are not sins against the Holy Spirit) can be forgiven in the world to come, after one’s death. For more information on the teaching of the Church on Purgatory, see the Catechism, Articles 1030 – 1032 at or the Catholic Encyclopedia at

Next week, I hope to continue my discussion of what is expected of a parishioner at St. Stephen’s and my new role as pastor. Thank you for your prayers.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Words from Fr Ed (From October 31st, 2010 Bulletin)

All Saints and Sunday Matters
(and Precepts continued)

There are several days of the Church year that are holy days of obligation, but when they fall on a Saturday or a Monday we are dispensed from attending Mass. Thus All Saints Day this year is not an obligation. The next two Solemnities that are obligatory are the Immaculate Conception on December 8th and Christmas on, well, Christmas. Christmas falls on a Saturday this year which creates a double obligation, one for Christmas and one for Sunday.

Why the obligation? I wonder that, too. As a convert I’ve enjoyed going to Mass almost every day for the last 30 years. For me it is a privilege and a gift to attend to the sacrifice and banquet of Our Lord Jesus Christ. How come we have to force people under the pain of sin to attend Mass on Sunday and Holy Days of Obligation? We are fallen creatures who don’t always know what is best for ourselves. What?! Does the Church know better than I what is best for my soul? Yes, I believe so. When we say we believe in the Holy Catholic Church, aren’t we saying that we also trust her with the well-being of our souls?

Jesus said to Peter, “Feed my sheep.” This commission to feed the sheep comes from the Lord Himself. It includes sheep that don’t know the value of eating. I’m sure some of you have dealt with eating disorders, either in a child or yourself. One thing that is essential for anorexia is a healthy eating plan. Too many Catholics are starving themselves by missing Sunday Mass and Holy Days of Obligation. Their salvation, as we understand it, is in jeopardy. As the Catechism states, “The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor. Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin.”(2181)

Rather than threaten with hellfire, I’d rather focus on the great good that is lost. People should know the Church’s teaching on missing obligatory Mass. It did not change at Vatican II; what changed was that priests stopped talking about it. While a shift towards mercy is fantastic (Pope John XXIII wanted Vatican II to be a ‘medicine of mercy’), we can’t abandon the reality of sin and its consequences. There is a hell. As St. Pio would say, “If you don’t believe in hell now, you will when you get there!” But hell is a negative motivator. It is called imperfect contrition, which means we are sorry because we fear punishment. Justifiable at the beginning of a conversion, the Lord desires so much more for us. He would not leave us in this state of fear. “Perfect love casts out all fear.”

That’s why I would rather people come to Mass out of love for the One they are receiving. Jesus said in John 6:53, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” So, if St. Peter, who was told that whatever is bound on earth is bound in heaven, asks if one has eaten the flesh of the Son of Man, what will you say if you have missed Mass? Will you say, “Yes, two weeks ago.” Or “Yes, at Christmas.” What if he asks about this past Sunday or Holy Day? How will you answer him? You will have to tell the truth, “No I didn’t receive His Body and Blood this week. Is that important?”

Let me tell you how important it is before you reach the pearly gates so you will be better prepared. I can see I need more bulletins to continue this essential topic, which is the First Precept of the Church, but I’ll close for now with this quote from Blessed Dom Marmion,

“We must realize that, at the consecration, the whole drama of Calvary, with all the consequence of suffer ings and humiliations which it involved for Jesus, is present before God. It may be said in all truth that we are displaying before the eyes of the Eternal One all this divine past; that is why the Apostle says so aptly that at every Mass “we announce to the Father the death of His Son.” (p. 209, Christ: the Ideal of the Priest)

Do you want to be present at Calvary, offering Jesus to the Father? Do you want to be present, for all Eternity, at the Supper of the Lamb, receiving His Infinite Love? Come to Mass, Eternal Life awaits you.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Words from Fr Ed (From October 24th, 2010 Bulletin)

O God, be merciful to me a sinner - Lk 18:13

Today’s Gospel gives us part of the beautiful ‘Jesus Prayer’. The Jesus Prayer is said typically like this, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner.” It is the most common prayer amongst Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholics. The best book to learn about this prayer is the “Way of A Pilgrim” by an anonymous Russian author. This is on my list of top ten books. I always enjoy another tour through one man’s journey to find the answer to the command to ‘pray always’.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 reads: “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” St. Paul, teach us how to pray! How we need these words. So often we get caught in a whirlwind of problems and seek solutions without beseeching God for answers. Then when we suffer trials we interpret them as a curse, even from God. But Paul knows that God has authority over every detail of our lives, even the evil that may occur, not because He positively wills it, but by allowance - He foresees a greater good that will come of it.

Our Catholic Catechism reminds us of this truth in Article 412:

St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, "There is nothing to prevent human nature's being raised up to something greater, even after sin; God permits evil in order to draw forth some greater good. Thus St. Paul says, 'Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more'; and the Exultet sings, 'O happy fault, . . . which gained for us so great a Redeemer!'"

As far as injustice goes, the greatest injustice to occur in human history was that the Son of God should be condemned and put to a cruel death. And yet we say that is the greatest thing that ever happened to humanity. We call the day ‘Good Friday’ for that reason.

As our Gospel last week emphasized, let us not give up on prayer, especially when times are difficult. The Jesus Prayer is a perfect one for every occasion. St. Symeon the New Theologian, a Byzantine monk (circa 1000AD), advises us to visualize our heart as we pray - to realize Jesus’ Divine Presence there. Then we add the advice of St. Gregory of Sinai, that the Pilgrim writes about, “…while looking into the heart and inhaling I said, ‘Lord Jesus Christ,’ and while exhaling, ‘have mercy on me.’ ” The Pilgrim begins with reciting the prayer for an hour or two, but then expands the recitation throughout the day. We who are busy have to start small. Can you begin with 10 Jesus Prayers? Or one minute? Or five minutes? I preached on this once and a friend came up to me after the homily and said the Jesus Prayer gave him great peace during my homily! Jesus spoke to him better than I could. Try the Jesus Prayer, you won’t be disappointed.

Parish Precepts

Our venture into Gallup’s Strengths Finder and Engaged Church has led us to the question, “What is expected of me as a parishioner at St. Stephen the Martyr?” I thought of the Catholic Precepts, the minimal things that are expected of us as Catholics as a model to begin with. You may have learned these years ago, but we haven’t heard them mentioned so often. They remain obligations for us, so they are worth repeating and plumbing the depth of each one. Briefly, I will name the first, and start a series that will develop what it means to be a parishioner at St. Stephens, along with our goal to be an ‘Engaged Church’. Our recent Gallup survey found that we were 26% engaged, which is better than the national average (18%), but not yet at the threshold where engagement becomes the cultural determinant (37%). Hopefully we can continue to grow more involved, participating in the very life of the Trinity through the parish.

First Precept of the Church: To attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, and to rest from servile works.

Mass is at the heart of Christian life. The Vatican II document Sacrosanctum Concilium said that, “…the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows.” The summit is the pinnacle that we strive for, which for Christians is a life that lasts forever in communion with Christ. Jesus said in John 6:54 that “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.” Notice he says ‘has’, not ‘will have’, but ‘has’, already now when we receive the loving host on our tongue.

Daria Spezzano gave a beautiful retreat for our liturgical ministers last week and quoted St. John Chrysostom as saying, “For as when gold is being molten if one should (were it possible) dip in it his hand or his tongue, he would immediately render them golden; thus, but in much greater degree, does what here is set forth work upon the soul.” Eternal life is imparted through Holy Communion to the soul, transforming it into a union with the Divine Presence. How can we forsake this gift on Sunday, and for what? A football game? A picnic? To wash my car? Sad. This is known to be the primary way Catholics fall away from the faith. It begins with one Sunday missed. Let us make Sunday the summit of our week; God has.
(St. John Chrysostom: Homily 46 on the Gospel of John #4)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Words from Fr Ed (From October 17th, 2010 Bulletin)

African Children

Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him
day and night? - Luke 18:7

Children can make the best pray-ers. They are innocent and unencumbered, unafraid to ask for what they really need. They are also precious in God’s sight. The scripture for the Guardian Angel Mass which we celebrated recently goes like this:

"See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven.” - Mt. 18:10

Our own parishioner, Diane Cooper, will be carrying goods to Uganda in November, for Emily B. and the Daughters of Mary and all the children they serve. Please help them if you can by providing:

Black Leather Shoes (see description in bulletin)
Children’s Books (Grade 1, 2, 3), Sheets and Towels

There is a nice display and deposit box for these gifts in the narthex through October. Financial contributions are also welcome. If you are interested in sponsoring a child, this is also possible through Diane. See the display for more information.

As for what concerns our relations with our fellow men,
the anguish in our neighbor’s soul must break all precept.
All that we do is a means to an end, but love is an end in itself,
because God is love. – Edith Stein

Saint Romuald’s Brief Rule

Sit in your cell as in paradise. Put the whole world behind you and forget it. Watch your thoughts like a good fisherman watching for fish. The path you must follow is in the Psalms — never leave it.

If you have just come to the monastery, and in spite of your good will you cannot accomplish what you want, take every opportunity you can to sing the Psalms in your heart and to understand them with your mind.

And if your mind wanders as you read, do not give up; hurry back and apply your mind to the words once more.

Realize above all that you are in God's presence, and stand there with the attitude of one who stands before the emperor.

Empty yourself completely and sit waiting, content with the grace of God, like the chick who tastes nothing and eats nothing but what his mother brings him.

St. Romuald founded the Hermits of Camaldolese in Camaldoli, Italy in 1023. We were able to visit his Holy Hermitage a few weeks ago and concelebrate the community Mass. As a monk with a beard down to his knee played the harpsichord, the Presider prayed Mass as if it was his only Mass this decade; heaven and earth met and we came away divinized by the Exchange.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Words from Fr Ed (From October 10th, 2010 Bulletin)

It was on the ninth day of the ninth month of the ninety-ninth year (9/9/99) that I gave up a relationship to pursue the priesthood more definitively. I didn’t plan it that way, but it was noteworthy, or at least easy to remember. This Sunday is the tenth day of the tenth month of the tenth year. Noteworthy, and yet not so different than any other Sunday in our lives. But isn’t each Sunday unique? There will never be another Sunday quite like this one. Just as with every other day of our lives, we have to ask ourselves how we will use it, what sort of attitude do we take towards it, and what is God asking of us in particular. Excessive attention to numbers can lead to superstition, but Christians inherited the Jewish use of numbers as symbols of spiritual realities. It is the realities that we place our trust in: God’s presence, His mercy and His justice. May we use this day well, 10/10/10, for the glory of God in preparation for His Coming.

Naaman and Numbers
In our first reading, Naaman, was healed by plunging himself seven times in the Jordan River. At first he complained about this act of participation that Elisha asked of him. Naaman said “Don’t we have better rivers in Syria!” One could ask, why seven times and not eight or six? It is a mystery, but seven is used as a symbol of perfection in the Jewish scriptures. The root in Hebrew (Shin - Bet - Ayin) has three meanings:
1) Seven 2) Full/Complete 3) Oath/Swear

For Naaman, he is asked to participate in his own healing, or rather, his wholeness, being made complete. In response he makes an oath, a covenant regarding sacrificing only to the Lord God of Israel in the future. The reading begs the question for us, “What has God asked of me in participation for my own healing?” What will make me whole?
Jesus and Numbers

One Biblical scholar writes that, “…ten is one of the perfect numbers, and signifies the perfection of Divine order, commencing, as it does, an altogether new series of numbers. The first decade is the representative of the whole numeral system, and originates the system of calculation called "decimals," because the whole system of numeration consists of so many tens, of which the first is a type of the whole. Completeness of order, marking the entire round of anything, is, therefore, the ever-present signification of the number ten. It implies that nothing is wanting; that the number and order are perfect; that the whole cycle is complete.”

In our Gospel, Jesus heals ten lepers, presumably of a mixed religious group in Samaria, otherwise it might not be noted that the one who returned to give thanks was a Samaritan. All are in need of healing and Jesus’ healing is for the whole world. He desires that all men (and women) be saved. His sacrifice and resurrection is sufficient grace for the whole world to be saved. Yet how many recognize and appreciate that? Is it ten percent of the world? We say that 20% of the world is Christian, at least in name. But how many of those practice their faith in a vibrant way, living to the fullness that God desires for us? An urgent task for us as Catholics is to be renewed in the Holy Spirit, to ‘fan into flame’ the gift that has been given to us in Confirmation. We are called to evangelize the world, beginning with ourselves.

I can recall preaching in Italy at St. Mary Major in Rome on the Feast of St. Jerome the great Biblical scholar, with his tomb a few meters down the nave from us, speculating about what would happen if every Catholic read the Scriptures for ten minutes a day, or even one chapter a day, which takes about five minutes. I am sure we would be living in a different world. St. Jerome said that “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” Let us pray for our own renewal and consider what kind of resolution we can make to become instruments of God’s Word, which brings salvation and true peace to the world.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Words from Fr Ed (From Oct 3rd, 2010 Bulletin)

Blessed John Cardinal Newman
(1801 – 1890)

On Sunday, September 19th, Pope Benedict XVI beatified John Cardinal Newman, who was a great priest, writer and thinker during the 19th century. Originally an evangelical Oxford academic and priest in the Church of England (1820’s), Newman was a leader in the Oxford Movement. This influential grouping of Anglicans wished to return the Church of England to many Catholic beliefs and forms of worship. He eventually converted to Roman Catholicism (1845) and rose to become a cardinal. During the time of his confusion and personal struggle to reconcile his status as a renowned Anglican preacher at the Oxford parish church, he wrote the poem Lead Kindly Light which has since become a beautiful hymn:
Lead, kindly Light, amid th’encircling gloom, lead Thou me on!The night is dark, and I am far from home; lead Thou me on!Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to seeThe distant scene; one step enough for me.
I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou shouldst lead me on;I loved to choose and see my path; but now lead Thou me on!I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,Pride ruled my will. Remember not past years!
So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still will lead me on.O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till the night is gone,And with the morn those angel faces smile, which IHave loved long since, and lost awhile!
Here is an excerpt from Pope Benedict’s homily at the beatification ceremony:

‘Cardinal Newman’s motto, Cor ad cor loquitur, or "Heart speaks unto heart", gives us an insight into his understanding of the Christian life as a call to holiness, experienced as the profound desire of the human heart to enter into intimate communion with the Heart of God. He reminds us that faithfulness to prayer gradually transforms us into the divine likeness. As he wrote in one of his many fine sermons, "a habit of prayer, the practice of turning to God and the unseen world in every season, in every place, in every emergency – prayer, I say, has what may be called a natural effect in spiritualizing and elevating the soul. A man is no longer what he was before; gradually … he has imbibed a new set of ideas, and become imbued with fresh principles" (Parochial and Plain Sermons, iv, 230-231). Today’s Gospel tells us that no one can be the servant of two masters (cf. Lk 16:13), and Blessed John Henry’s teaching on prayer explains how the faithful Christian is definitively taken into the service of the one true Master, who alone has a claim to our unconditional devotion (cf. Mt 23:10). Newman helps us to understand what this means for our daily lives: he tells us that our divine Master has assigned a specific task to each one of us, a "definite service", committed uniquely to every single person: "I have my mission", he wrote, "I am a link in a chain, a bond of connexion between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do his work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place … if I do but keep his commandments and serve him in my calling" (Meditations and Devotions, 301-2).’

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Words from Fr Ed (From Sept 26th, 2010 Bulletin)

Father Dunstan Epaalat Speaking on “Preferential Option for the Poor”
Thursday, Sept. 30th, 7 P.M.

You will have two great opportunities over the coming week to hear Fr. Dunstan, a faculty member from the national seminary in Kenya. His training and background in a developing country has made him a dynamic powerhouse for God. The first chance to hear him is this Thursday as advertised in the bulletin. The second chance will be Saturday, October 2nd, when he will preach at the 5pm Mass before our Mission Oktoberfest. This is a rare opportunity to hear the inspirational message of an African priest. As some of you know, Africa has become a ‘missioning’ country. It is sending missionaries back to the countries that initially evangelized Africa. Thank God for African priests who have been saving our own Archdioceses in many places where there are no American priests. Please come and enjoy the gifts that God has given Fr. Dunstan.

In the Footsteps of Francis & Clare

“But I came to learn that God never shows us something we aren’t ready to understand. Instead, he lets us see what we need to see, when we need to see it. He’ll wait until our eyes and hearts are open to Him, and then when we are ready, He will plant our feet on the path that’s best for us…but it’s up to us to do the walking.” Immaculee Ilibagiza

I will have already left on pilgrimage (Sept 20 – Oct 1) by the time you read this, but since God is outside of time I thought I’d share this itinerary with you if you would like to catch up with us in spirit and join in praying with Sts. Francis and Clare.

21 Sept – Arrive in Rome; travel to Greccio for Mass. Greccio is where St. Francis instituted the first Christmas crèche using real animals from this village. We’ll proceed from here to Poccio Bustone (Mountain of Forgiveness) where Francis experienced a revelation that all his sins were forgiven. We are trying to allow for at least 3 miles of hiking each day in these beautiful hills that Francis would have walked with his brothers.

22 Sept – Travel up the Spoleto Valley to Assisi (Mountain of Peace), stopping for Mass with a hermit outside of Assisi. I was able to join Fr. Giovanni last year in his hermitage (a church built in 1100 AD!) for Mass. We hope to hear a few words of eremitical wisdom from him as well.

23 Sept – Morning Prayer at St. Clare’s Basilica. This is perhaps my favorite place in Italy so far. One can attend morning and evening prayer in the chapel which contains the Cross of San Damiano which spoke to Francis saying, “Go rebuild my temple.” The cloistered nuns chant in Italian as the notes echo throughout this 14th century church. We’ll have Mass at St. Francis’ Basilica today.

24 Sept – We’ll have Mass at the Portiuncola, a small chapel that Francis repaired and was the first community house for his friars. It is now surrounded by the Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels. Later in the day we will hike to the Hermitage above Assisi where Francis spent time in solitude.

25 Sept – Travel to Sansepolcro and LaVerna. We’ll visit another hermitage monastery given to St. Francis on the way to La Verna. La Verna was perhaps Francis’ favorite place. He would say that no one goes to La Verna and remains unchanged. It is here while on a 40 day retreat in honor of St. Michael that St. Francis received the stigmata.

26 Sept – Rest and prayer in La Verna. La Verna is called the mountain of Joy, deep in the heart of the Tuscan Apennine mountains. It is here that Francis experienced the joy of complete surrender to the love of God. Why does it come with suffering? This is a mystery of human life that is difficult to understand, especially when one is suffering. The saints were able to see the value of suffering. One thing it surely did with Francis is that it identified him with his Beloved Lord. He literally took on the wounds of Christ, which express how much God the Father loved us.

27 Sept – Since we are so close to the Camaldoli where the Hermits of Camaldoli were founded, we are going to find our way through the mountains to this extraordinary retreat. It was founded in 1023 by St. Romuald. We’ll have Mass in the Sacro Eremo, the Sacred Hermitage.

28 Sept – Today we travel back to Rome, stopping at Lake Trasimeno, another one of Francis’ retreats. We also hope to say Mass at St. John Lateran, where Francis met the Pope and had his Rule of Life approved by him. Providence intervened on behalf of Francis when the Pope, at first not disposed to help Francis, had a dream about a poor little man holding up the Church on his shoulders. He recognized Francis and gave him his Rule.

29 Sept – At this point we have Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in Latin! Trouble is I don’t know how to concelebrate in Latin. May the Lord infuse some special grace between now and then. We may seek the option to say it in English early in the morning, but then what about adventure? We also hope to attend the Wednesday audience with Pope Benedict if he is in town.

30 Sept – Today is a free day, but we will have Mass at St. Mary Majors. I’ll encourage a few of my favorite spots in Rome: Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, St. Egidio Community, and Santa Maria Trastevere.

1 October – Travel to the States. Arriva derci Roma!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Words from Fr Ed (From September 2010 Bulletin)

What Catholics Believe:
Religious Education (Faith Formation) at St. Stephens

"My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me."
John 7:16

Jesus brings to us the truth of the Father. He is the revelation of the Father, drawing us into the life of the Holy Trinity. Jesus said, “When you see me you see the Father.” John Paul II points to John 7:16, for the words that the catechist - the one imparting the faith - must be able to say. The faith formation that we offer as Catholics is not something novel, it is the eternal truth revealed by Jesus Christ. Certainly we need to continually update the methods, expressions and media that we use to teach the faith, but the essence remains the same “yesterday, today, and forever.”

Our registration for Faith Formation began last week and I want to encourage all parishioners to consider your educational needs and what we are offering this coming year. The pulpit announcement read from ages 2 to 92. That’s not to discriminate against 1 yr. olds and 93 yr. olds. I think you are welcome too. The age range suggests that learning our Catholic Faith is a lifelong process and journey. There is always more to learn. I have personally studied the Catholic Faith for many years and yet I have barely scratched the surface. It is like an inexhaustible goldmine. Each ounce of this gold is satisfying, however, and priceless.

You may have noticed that we have been recovering, due to popular demand and our own concerns, the weekly catechesis - oral instruction (from Greek katechesis/from katechein = to teach) for children. The reality is that children need repetition. Once a month, as we were doing with the GIFT program, was insufficient. Repetitio mater est studiorum (repetition is the mother of learning). That does not mean we will simply return to memorization of Church teaching, as beneficial as that can be. Verbal memorization of formulas does not mean understanding, acceptance, belief, or conversion.

The ultimate purpose of catechesis “is to put people not only in touch but in communion, in intimacy, with Jesus Christ: only He can lead us to the love of the Father in the Spirit and make us share in the life of the Holy Trinity.” (from John Paul II’s Catechesi Tradendae, or On Catechesis in Our Time). Given this goal of relationship, the means used have to be laden with methods that promote relationship with God and neighbor. This includes fellowship with friends and family, Scripture, prayer, and service. The intention of GIFT was to provide this well-rounded approach to Faith Formation. Unfortunately, it hasn’t achieved all these goals, so we are retooling with a balance between weekly programming, and a quarterly event that captures some of the successes of our GIFT program.

The responsibility for the success of this transition still remains with adults committing themselves to learning and handing on their faith. Parents are the first and primary catechists in their children’s lives. We can’t do for your children, even at the frequency of once a week, what you can do for them by your daily example. Children are observant sponges who learn from their parents even in silence. What are they learning from you? Is Jesus at the heart of your home? Is prayer an essential element in your time together? Is study and discussion part of your exchange and learning together what makes for love and life everlasting? All these are responsibilities of parents to develop in the home.

Adults without children in formation have a responsibility to continue to grow in your knowledge and practice of the faith. There is no status quo which we can rely on as Catholics. St. Paul says, “…work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” (Phil 2:12) This means that we need to be attentive to the state of our soul and do all we can to grow in the knowledge and love of God. We are responsible for what we don’t know if we have not taken the time and effort to learn our faith. Study of some kind ought to be a part of every Catholic life. This begins with Scripture. We have a wonderful Scripture study class on Tuesdays that is available. Catechism will be offered twice a month on Wednesdays. Returning Catholics will also be offered on Wednesdays. RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) has begun on Thursdays. Sponsoring someone in the RCIA program is a great way to grow in your own faith. All these and more are available to you at the parish. I hope you will be able to take time with Christ our Teacher who longs to reveal Himself to us.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Words from Fr Ed (From September 12th, 2010 Bulletin)

Blue Mass
The Ordo (Liturgical Calendar of the Church) for Catholic liturgies recommends a ‘Blue Mass’ for 9/11, given the number of police and firefighters who gave their lives on 9/11 in the service of others. A Blue Mass is not new, however; it has been celebrated since 1934. It gets its name from the uniformed officers who attended the first Mass in Washington, D.C. Here is a short history:
In 1934, a Catholic Priest by the name of Thomas Dade from Baltimore, Maryland Archdiocese initiated the Catholic Police and Firemen's Society while stationed at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Washington, D.C. About 1,100 police and firemen dressed in blue uniforms marched into St. Patrick's Catholic Church for the celebration of the First Blue Mass on September 29th, 1934.

Notice the date September 29th, the Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. St. Michael is the patron saint of police. The patron saint of firefighters is Saint Florian, who is said to have “saved an entire village from flames by dousing it with a single bucket of water.” He is also the Patron of Brewers, and Soap Makers, which is not to say that Firefighters like beer and need a shower, though that might often be the case.

We will be dedicating a Redwood cedar recently planted near the Memorial Garden as a memorial to those in civil service who have given their lives for our safety. Thanks to Cynde Bosshart and all who helped plan and coordinate our first Blue Mass at St. Stephens.

The Lost Sheep
Our story as Christians is one of mercy. We have all gone astray and the bottom line fact in our relationship with God is that He loves us so much that He is willing and desiring to forgive us all of our sins. His desire for our happiness surpasses any offense we may have given in our rejection of His goodness in a moment of sin. Our Gospel of Luke 15 includes three parables of forgiveness; the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost prodigal son. We should consider how God’s mercy has saved us in the past and how much we need it today.

St. Faustina (1905 – 1938), whom the Lord called ‘the secretary of my Mercy’, heard Our Lord say, “Both the sinner and the righteous person have need of My mercy. Conversion, as well as perseverance, is a grace of My mercy” (Diary, 1577). If we are not conscious of sin, we at least are depending on God’s mercy for our stability in Christ. Without this mercy we would surely stumble. St. Philip Neri (1515 – 1595) remarked when an inebriated man walked past, “There, except for the grace of God, go I.” St. Catherine of Sienna (1347 – 1380), Doctor of the Church, was plagued by impure thoughts for a time. She was distressed and begged God for help. Finally, Jesus appeared to her and she complained about why He had abandoned her. He responded that she had not consented to the thoughts so she had not sinned, and secondly, that He was carrying her through this trial and if he hadn’t been, she would have fallen. If this is how it goes with saints, how much more do we need God’s mercy for our day – to –day lives. The lost sheep was pursued and so are we.

“The graces of My mercy are drawn by means of one vessel only, and that is - trust.
The more a soul trusts, the more it will receive”
(Diary, 1578)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Words from Fr Ed (From Sept. 5th, 2010 Bulletin)

“Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple”

This could cost you, discipleship that is. Yes, it will cost you, because as Christians we must be ready, willing, and actively giving of ourselves. Jesus’ love is known in Greek as kenosis, which means ‘an "emptying", from the root word kenos, which means "empty". Philippians 2:7 says that Jesus "...emptied himself...." Jesus as the Son of God, Word of the Father, is in Himself a kenosis of the Father, both in and outside of, created time. Before the world was created, the Father generated a perfect image of Himself, perfect love, for love alone. “God is love.” Through Jesus, by the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, we enter into this heavenly relationship of the Trinity.

This comes as a free gift. God freely gives this relationship of adoption to us as His beloved children. We can do nothing to earn this. We simply say ‘yes’ to the invitation. If the Pope invited you to dinner at the Vatican, one might wonder what you did to deserve such a privilege. What if the Pope said, “I invited you because I wanted to. You did nothing to deserve it. I simply want to pour out God’s love to you as a follower of Christ.”? We might still be suspicious in our consumer society. Is anything really free? I would say ‘Yes’, yet in the case of God’s invitation and gift, we need to continuously reassert our ‘yes’ to Him and His grace.

Once we say ‘yes’ to faith in Christ’s saving action in our lives, we are called to affirm this ‘yes’ through acts of love, carrying our cross as disciples. We make choices every day as to how we think, speak and act. Even as I write this article there is a lovely cookie waiting near my computer within reach. A delicious cookie I can either eat or not eat. Before I eat this cookie, my conscience, if it is awake, is prepared to offer a moral assessment of the situation, asking questions like, “Is it a fast day? How many cookies have you already eaten? Will this affect your health in some way? Or what is God’s will for you at this particular moment?” My conscience may approve, saying “Eat and give thanks to God”, or disapprove, saying, “Aren’t you supposed to be focused on your bulletin article right now?” So far, the cookie has survived the paragraph.

As disciples we are called to pick up our cross and follow Him, which usually deals with matter that is more difficult than whether or not to eat a cookie. This picking up of our cross is an act of the will, a free reciprocation of love. It is one more ‘yes’ on top of our original ‘yes’. The grace to pick up our cross is again freely given by God. We simply need to say ‘yes’. What is the cost of this ‘yes’? It is humility, affirming that God’s way is better than my way; it is honesty, which says that it was true and good to say ‘yes’ in the first place; and it is also wise, because by our ‘yes’s we remain in Him, Who is perfect love, both in this life and the next.

(And thank you Lord for good cookies!)

The House
Many parishioners have asked about the plan for a new rectory to be built on our property. At this point, with the interim residence providing great access to the parish and enough room for two clerics, the urgency of building something new is not as great as it used to be. We are also finishing a five year plan that should include some vision for the near future and how it affects our facilities. The economy too has been rather unpredictable, which makes it a little more precarious to borrow money for more construction. The current residence, however, lacks a ground floor bedroom for an elderly or ailing priest. The bedrooms are also small and not suites, which would allow for a life more conducive to study and correspondence. So our rectory plan remains on the stove, but on a back burner until it becomes more obvious that this is our highest priority.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Words from Fr Ed (From August 29th, 2010 Bulletin)

…take the lowest place.

Our readings this week point to the humility that is needed in God’s kingdom. Jesus advises us, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor…Rather…go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, ‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’” This movement is the opposite of our ego-driven world. We can easily fall into the trap of seeking recognition, praise and honor. We have to go against this ancient wound that came with the fall of Adam and Eve.
One of the most powerful litanies that I’ve seen is the Litany of Humility. Its petitions may seem odd to you, or even impossible. But we are secure in the dignity that God desires to give us, if only we will humble ourselves.

Litany of Humility
O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved...
From the desire of being extolled ...
From the desire of being honored ...
From the desire of being praised ...
From the desire of being preferred to others...
From the desire of being consulted ...
From the desire of being approved ...
From the fear of being humiliated ...
From the fear of being despised...
From the fear of suffering rebukes ...
From the fear of being calumniated ...
From the fear of being forgotten ...
From the fear of being ridiculed ...
From the fear of being wronged ...
From the fear of being suspected ...
That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I ...
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease ...
That others may be chosen and I set aside ...
That others may be praised and I unnoticed ...
That others may be preferred to me in everything...
That others may become holier than I,
provided that I may become as holy as I should…

Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930),
Secretary of State for Pope Saint Pius X

St. Benedict’s Twelve Steps of Humility
From a Homily by St. Benedict of Nursia (480-547 AD)
Holy Scripture proclaims to us brothers: "Everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted" (Lk 14:11). It tells us that all self-exaltation is a form of pride, against which, the prophet tells us, he guarded: "Lord, my heart is not exalted, nor are my eyes lifted up; neither have I walked in great things nor in wonders above myself. But to what purpose if I did not think humbly but exalted my soul? As a child weaned from his mother, so will you reward my soul" (Ps 131:1-2).
Therefore, brothers, if we wish to reach the highest peak of humility and soon arrive at the heavenly heights, we must, by our good deeds, set up a ladder like Jacob’s, upon which he saw angels climbing up and down. Without doubt, we should understand that climbing as showing us that we go up by humbling ourselves and down by praising ourselves. The ladder represents our life in the temporal world; the Lord has erected it for those of us possessing humility. We may think of the sides of the ladder as our body and soul, the rungs as the steps of humility and discipline we must climb in our religious vocation.
The first step of humility is taken when a man obeys all of God’s commandments–never ignoring them, and fearing God in his heart.
(For the rest of this homily see:>

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Words from Fr Ed (From August 22nd 2010 Bulletin)

Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?
Lk 12:51

While we work for peace in the world, we have to wonder what Jesus, who said, “Blessed are the peace-makers”, meant by this radical statement. When we think of peace, we tend to think of an absence of war. The 20th century was full of wars, even what we call World Wars. Now we continue a ‘war on terror’ in the Middle East while drug cartel violence begins to permeate our borders. All the while, since 1973, an average of 4000 children per day are killed by abortion in America. How much control do we actually have over world peace, whether traditional war between nations or the domestic violence that has destroyed (50 million killed in 37 years) more lives than all the wars in the history of the world put together?

Genuine peace is only possible through an adherence to the truth. But truth, Jesus says, will bring division as some may accept it and some don’t. Look at the division in our own country over various moral issues, sometimes driving a line straight through a family. This can test our Christian allegiance to God above people. Thomas à Kempis says in the Imitation of Christ, “Better to anger another human rather than our God.” We must be determined to serve the Lord regardless of what others think. This takes detachment from human opinion and personal ego. It also takes the kind of relationship with Christ that can detect His will over and against what may be popular.

Our Gospel calls us today to that kind of fidelity. St. Ambrose says, “It is necessary that we should esteem the human less than the divine. If honor is to be paid to parents, how much more to your parents’ Creator, to whom you owe gratitude for your parents! If they by no means recognize their Father, how do you recognize them?” He does not say children should reject a father but that God is to be set before all. You are not forbidden to love your parents, but you are forbidden to prefer them to God.

Real peace does begin with me. After me, I have little control over other’s responses. They may or may not reject any peace offered. The world will fall out accordingly. Christians must do their best to work for peace, but realize that it can only spread through hearts dedicated to truth and love. Our Pope Benedict writes in his encyclical Caritas in Veritatis,

“Only in truth does charity shine forth, only in truth can charity be authentically lived. Truth is the light that gives meaning and value to charity. That light is both the light of reason and the light of faith, through which the intellect attains to the natural and supernatural truth of charity: it grasps its meaning as gift, acceptance, and communion. Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality. Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way. In a culture without truth, this is the fatal risk facing love.”

Let us pray for this gift of love which “casts out all fear” and the truth which “sets us free.”

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Words from Fr Ed (From August 15th, 2010 Bulletin)

My soul magnifies the Lord…
The Solemnity of the Assumption falls on a Sunday this year. It draws our attention to Mary and the mystery of the end of her earthly life. I don’t say her ‘death’ because we believe that she did not die. Death came into the world as a punishment for sin, or perhaps better said, a consequence of sin. Mary didn’t sin. She was quite human, more fully human than anyone except her own Divine son, but she was spared from the stain of original sin, the concupiscence that the rest of us have. Fortunate woman, yet she still had to courageously say ‘yes’ each step of the way and suffer the way that Simeon foretold, “and a sword shall pierce your own soul.”

It was the ‘yes’, an answer every human can freely give, that gained for her a full cooperation with God’s will for humanity. She permitted herself to be this chosen vessel. Finishing her life free from sin, free from any corruption of the body and its relationship with the soul, we believe that she immediately was ‘assumed’ into heaven. The eastern Christians call this a ‘dormition’, or ‘falling asleep’. There are several sites that claim this occurrence, two in Jerusalem and one in Ephesus, so we are not sure where it happened, only that it did. We have no tomb for her like we have for many of our other saints.

Pope Pius XII, wrote, in his Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus (The Most Bountiful God), “She, by an entirely unique privilege, completely overcame sin by her Immaculate Conception, and as a result she was not subject to the law of remaining in the corruption of the grave, and she did not have to wait until the end of time for the redemption of her body.” We see some remnant of this in the ‘incorruptibles’, those saints whose bodies have not decayed significantly since their death.
"You will not allow your holy one to see corruption" - Ps 15.

(See )

Truths that apply to Mary are meant as well for the Church and the individual Christian. Church Fathers had a phrase, “Maria, vel Ecclesia, vel anima” (Mary, or rather the Church, or rather the soul). In relation to the Assumption it means that God desires to raise the Church to Himself as a spotless bride. The Church is being purified for this union. This may help explain the recent scandals that have rocked the Church. While courts and news media have been instrumental in pushing the issue, it is God Himself who is purifying the Church of abhorrent behavior on the part of priests and others entrusted with sacred ministry.

What is true for Mary and the Church is true as well for each of us individually. God desires each one of us to be prepared in holiness to meet Him some day. Life’s difficulties are painful, yet they can also serve to help us surrender to the transforming power of the cross, realizing our total dependency on God. Jesus said we must be perfect, even as our heavenly Father is perfect. This would be impossible relying on our own power. We must allow God to perfect us with His own perfection. One disciple who can help us the most is Mary. May we do something special in prayer with Mary this week?

The Church’s Oldest Prayer to Our Lady
O Mother of God, we take refuge in your loving care.
Let not our plea to you pass unheeded in the trials that beset us,
but deliver us from danger, for you alone are truly pure, you alone are truly blessed.

We pray for Brian Thompson …
as he heads back to school. Here is a prayer for him and all our seminarians.
Lord Jesus, we ask your special blessing on those preparing for the priesthood in our seminaries.
We pray that they will grow in faith, hope and love.
May their hearts overflow with your compassion, understanding and generosity,
and may their desire to serve you inspire others to answer your call.
Give them courage and perseverance and be their constant companion
as they prepare to serve you and your people with faithfulness.
Lord, give our seminarians the grace to continue to answer the call to follow you on their journey. When they are lonely or discouraged, comfort them with your peace.
Jesus, meek and humble of heart, fill the hearts of our seminarians with the fire of your love.
Make them holy as you are holy.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Words from Fr Ed (From August 8th, 2010 Bulletin)

Going Away for Brian Thompson
It was a great grace for us to host our first seminarian in a long time here at St. Stephens. Brian is returning to seminary at Theological College at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. for his second year of Theology. He was both a great help to us this summer along with sharing his gift of humor and good will. Thank you Brian for your presence here with us. We will pray for you, Brian, and for your vocation to prosper. Know that you have a home here with us. The gift of a seminarian, a young man willing to serve the Lord, even at the cost of family, friends, and possessions, is a great inspiration to our community. He represents Christ in a special way. The sacrifice is apparent in their challenges, the reward is apparent in their joy. Love is at the heart of every vocation, and we pray that Brian always grow in his.

God our Father,
You will that all people be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. Send workers into your great harvest,
that the Gospel may be preached to every creature and your people, gathered together by the Word of life and
strengthened by the power of the sacraments, may advance in the way of salvation and love. Bless Brian with discernment
and strength to live his vocation with great love. Grant this through Christ Our Lord.

Please join me in thanking Brian at a going-away reception between the morning Masses on August 14th, from 9:45am to 10:45am in the parish hall.

Ashes to Ashes
One of the invocations on Ash Wednesday expresses this physical reality in store for our bodies here on earth. It is natural. But
more and more I receive good-willed people preparing for funerals who don’t realize the Church’s teaching on how to care for the remains of
their loved ones. I include here a short extract from the New York Bishops’ Conference on cremated remains:

Does the Church have a preference for either cremation or burial of the body of the deceased?
Although cremation is permitted, Catholic teaching continues to stress the preference for burial or entombment of the body of the deceased.
This is done in imitation of the burial of Jesus’ body.
“This is the Body once washed in baptism, anointed with the oil of salvation, and fed with the bread of life. Our identity and self –consciousness as a human person are expressed in and through the body...Thus, the Church’s reverence and care for the body grows out of a reverence and concern for the person whom the Church now commends to the care of God.”

A second question is important as well:
What should become of the cremated remains following the funeral?
Church teaching insists that cremated remains must be given the same respect as the body, including the manner in which they are carried and the attention given to their appropriate transport and placement. The cremated remains of a body are to be buried or entombed,
preferably in a Catholic cemetery, and using the rites provided by the Order of Christian Funerals. The Church does not consider reverent, the following dispositions: scattering cremated remains, dividing cremated remains and keeping cremated remains in the home.
(For the full brochure on Cremated Remains see: )

It may be attractive to scatter ashes on Mt. Rainier or some other special place, or place them in an ornament that one wears as a remembrance, but the body deserves burial in preparation for the Resurrection. Burial also assists the grieving process which is a letting go of
the body. I was able to keep my grandmother’s ashes during the month that lapsed between her death and memorial service. It was a special time to pray with her remains, but when the memorial came it was time to let go and I had the privilege of pouring her remains into the burial
ground at her Episcopal Church. Another advantage is for future generations to have a site where they can go and honor their deceased relatives, to orient themselves in time and meditate on the meaning of life. I’ve been fortunate to be able to visit many of my relative’s graves in the Seattle area and consider the gift of life that they have given me and the urgency to use it wisely. The Fathers of the Church affirmed the power of a cemetery to increase our faith. If you have any questions about preparing for the Resurrection, please speak to Deacon Marshall or Marijean Heutmaker for more information.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Words from Fr Ed (From August 1st, 2010 Bulletin)

Young Parishioner Gives Two Years as Missionary
St. Stephen’s parishioner, Kyle Senn, is giving two years of his life to minister to college students through the outreach called FOCUS, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students. He will be here this weekend (July 31/August 1) to share his experience of FOCUS and his call to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. FOCUS‘s mission statement is “To know Christ Jesus, and to fulfill His great commission by first living and then communicating the fullness of life within the family of God, the Church.”

As you know, college students are at a crucial crossroads as they weigh the values given to them by their families against the marketplace of ideas and religions that they are exposed in the university atmosphere. It is an important place for the Catholic Church to be present to young people and their desire to grow in truth and charity. Please consider supporting Kyle through your prayer especially, as well as financial resources if God so moves you and you are able.

Who appointed me as your judge…?
Typical Jesus question. In our gospel this weekend, someone asks Jesus to intervene in an inheritance dispute. Typical humans! But Jesus, as was his custom, responded with a question about the source of this person’s confidence in Jesus. Why turn to Him for such trivial matters? We know, especially from family experience, that these can be very contentious matters. Sadly, inheritance questions can divide (and conquer) a family as it processes the death of a loved one.

If we go back to Jesus’ question, “Who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?” the answer is simple - His Father in heaven. We believe as Catholic Christians that Jesus will “come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.” He will be our judge. That might frighten us if we are not in touch with His infinite mercy for our failings. A relationship with His mercy restores us to friendship with the God and Father of us all. That’s why confession is such a gift, giving us assurance that we are forgiven.

Deacon Bill & Barb Eckert
Please see Deacon Bill and Barb Eckert’s letter inserted into this bulletin. After 25 years in the parish it is hard to see such a wonderful couple and two servants of God leave our community. We will miss them dearly, but pray for God to continue to bless their path in Tacoma. We will be planning a going-away celebration for them as soon as possible. We also offer our condolences to both of them for the loss of Barb’s father, Harold Williams. May he rest in the peace of Christ.

Doctor of Philosophy Coming to St. Stephens
Dr. Douglas Fortner, professor of philosophy at the Josephinum Seminary in Ohio will be here the next two Wednesdays to offer us a philosophical foundation for faith. Say what? The Greek word ‘philo-sophia’ means literally, ‘lover of wisdom’. Wisdom means ‘knowledge of the first causes of things’. Which means that wisdom leads us to God, or one could say, given these definitions, that philosophy, rightly understood, leads us to God. Sadly, modern philosophy has often done the opposite, leading to skepticism rather than certitude. One of my philosophy Profs at a local Catholic university once said, “Philosophy asks questions, it doesn’t give answers.” Socrates would disagree with that professor.

Thomas Aquinas would say, “Faith builds on reason just as grace builds on nature.” Faith and reason are not opposed. They complement one another. Dr. Fortner will offer a condensed overview of philosophy and lay a foundation for how our reason supports our life of faith. Please come on the next two Wednesdays (August 4 and 11) for Mass at 6:30pm, followed by snacks and then a wonderful presentation by Dr. Fortner beginning at 7:30pm in the church.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Words from Fr Ed (From July 25th 2010 Bulletin)

“Lord, teach us to pray…”

Such a simple request, would that it was so easy to learn. Not that it is hard for the Lord to teach. For some reason it can be hard for us to learn how to truly pray. Maybe it is too simple. The simplicity of this request from the disciples is true prayer. To be honest with the Lord is true prayer. Honesty is also open to an answer. If I am honest I will realize my deeper desire to be in communion with God. As Augustine said, “Our hearts were made for Thee, O Lord, and my heart is restless until it rests in Thee.” Our hearts long to rest in the love of Our Lord. They find this through sincere prayer.
St. Teresa of Avila, a true master of prayer, wrote this in regards to praying the “Our Father”:

And it is good for us to consider that he taught this prayer to each of us and that he is showing it to us; the teacher is never so far from his pupil that he has to shout, but he is very close. I want you to understand that it is good for you, if you are to recite the Our Father well, to remain at the side of the Master who taught this prayer to you. (Way of Perfection, 24:5)

She encourages her sisters, and us as well, to imagine that the Lord Jesus is next to you when you pray. She says that:

If you grow accustomed to having him present at your side, and he sees that you do so with love and that you go about striving to please him, you will not able --- as they say --- to get away from him; he will never fail you; he will help you in all your trials; you will find him everywhere. Do you think it’s some small matter to have a friend like this at your side? (26:1)

Here, the essence of prayer, communication with God, takes place. This is not just a trading of words, but also a union of the soul with God’s Spirit. God’s desire is not just to have a friendly conversation and exchange information. No, His greatest desire is the eternal union of each of our souls with His Divine Presence in a spiritual marriage. It is available to all through this prayer.

Nuptial Meaning of the Body
God’s desire for spiritual marriage is reflected analogously in our sexuality. We long as humans for a union of love. That is in fact who God is, a Trinitarian communion of persons who we call Love. Who God is, is expressed in how He made us in His image (Imago Dei). The Book of Genesis, reveals this to us from the very beginning, “God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them.”(Gen 1:27) Christopher West, in his classic text “Good News about Sex & Marriage”, notes that the Bible begins and ends with marriage. The book of Revelation climaxes with the Bridegroom Christ coming to unite Himself with His Bride, the Church. “I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (Rev 21:2)
Thus God has made our sexuality an expression of His own holiness. This is why the Church may seem preoccupied with sex. It is trying to protect the dignity of sex. One comparison that I make is the care that my chalice deserves. It has a sacred purpose during the Mass. It can only be used in that context and with all the reverence that a sacred vessel deserves. I’m trained in how to use it properly and not just externally. I need the interior intentions that make my ministry during the Mass effective.

Unfortunately the Church has come across at times in an oppressive or repressive way. The teaching of the Church on sex is meant to capture the sacred value of how we relate with others through our gendered persons. The beauty and goodness of men and women includes in an intimate way their gendered-ness and the complimentary nature of their sexuality. Our gendered body is oriented towards a fruitful, free, full and faithful union with another. John Paul II calls this the ‘nuptial meaning of the body’. He would say that this “spousal love … [is] the fundamental component of human existence in the world.”
As you can imagine, I am just scratching the surface here of a profound teaching. Over two thirds of the Church’s writings on sexuality come from John Paul II. It is a revolution in human relations begun. For a good basic interpretation of this teaching I recommend “Good News about Sex & Marriage” by Christopher West.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Words from Fr Ed (From July 18th Bulletin)

Man cannot live without love.
-John Paul II

I had hoped to have time to write more about the Theology of the Body, but as I write this I need to get on the road to Yakima for our Youth on Mission. So instead of TOB, I include here a passage of Seneca (a Roman philosopher) gleaned from Dr. Fortner’s ‘on vacation’ out-of-office response. Dr. Fortner is a Professor of Philosophy at the Pontifical College Josephinum, in Columbus, Ohio. ~Fr. Ed

Seneca, *Epistulae Morales*, XXVIII - "On Travel as a Cure for Discontent"
Do you suppose that you alone have had this experience? Are you surprised, as if it were a novelty, that after such long travel and so many changes of scene you have not been able to shake off the gloom and heaviness of your mind? You need a change of soul rather than a change of climate. Though you may cross vast spaces of sea, and though, as our Vergil remarks:

"Lands and cities are left astern, / your faults will follow you whithersoever you travel."

Socrates made the same remark to one who complained; he said: "Why do you wonder that globe-trotting does not help you, seeing that you always take yourself with you?  The reason which set you wandering is ever at your heels." What pleasure is there in seeing new lands? Or in surveying cities and spots of interest? All your bustle is useless. Do you ask why such flight does not help you? It is because you flee along with yourself. You must lay aside the burdens of the mind; until you do this, no place will satisfy you. Reflect that your present behavior is like that of the prophetess whom Vergil describes: she is excited and goaded into fury, and contains within herself much inspiration that is not her own: The priestess raves, if haply she may shake, the great god from her heart.

You wander hither and yon, to rid yourself of the burden that rests upon you, though it becomes more troublesome by reason of your very restlessness, just as in a ship the cargo when stationary makes no trouble, but when it shifts to this side or that, it causes the vessel to heel more quickly in the direction where it has settled. Anything you do tells against you, and you hurt yourself by your very unrest; for you are shaking up a sick man.

That trouble once removed, all change of scene will become pleasant; though you may be driven to the uttermost ends of the earth, in whatever corner of a savage land you may find yourself, that place, however forbidding, will be to you a hospitable abode. The person you are matters more than the place to which you go; for that reason we should not make the mind a bondsman to any one place. Live in this belief: "I am not born for any one corner of the universe; this whole world is my country." If you saw this fact clearly, you would not be surprised at getting no benefit from the fresh scenes to which you roam each time through weariness of the old scenes.

For the first would have pleased you in each case, had you believed it wholly yours. As it is, however, you are not journeying; you are drifting and being driven, only exchanging one place for another, although that which you seek --- to live well --- is found everywhere.

Can there be any spot so full of confusion as the Forum? Yet you can live quietly even there, if necessary. Of course, if one were allowed to make one's own arrangements, I should flee far from the very sight and neighborhood of the Forum. For just as pestilential places assail even the strongest constitution, so there are some places which are also unwholesome for a healthy mind which is not yet quite sound, though recovering from its ailment. I disagree with those who strike out into the midst of the billows and, welcoming a stormy existence, wrestle daily in hardihood of soul with life's problems. The wise man will endure all that, but will not choose it; he will prefer to be at peace rather than at war.

It helps little to have cast out your own faults if you must quarrel with those of others. Says one: "There were thirty tyrants surrounding Socrates, and yet they could not break his spirit"; but what does it matter how many masters a man has? "Slavery" has no plural; and he who has scorned it is free --- no matter amid how large a mob of over-lords he stands.

It is time to stop, but not before I have paid duty. "The knowledge of sin is the beginning of salvation." This saying of Epicurus seems to me to be a noble one. For he who does not know that he has sinned does not desire correction; you must discover yourself in the wrong before you can reform yourself. Some boast of their faults. Do you think that the man has any thought of mending his ways who counts over his vices as if they were virtues? Therefore, as far as possible, prove yourself guilty, hunt up charges against yourself; play the part, first of accuser, then of judge, last of intercessor. At times be harsh with yourself.
- Farewell.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Words from Fr Ed (From July 11th, 2010 Bulletin)

You shall love…your neighbor as yourself

Jesus often emphasizes this command as a centerpiece of His New Covenant. It is not something that he was unwilling to do. As we repeat the words of Christ in the Mass,

“Take this all of you and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of me.”

Jesus’ example of self-giving love stands forever as the ultimate love of neighbor. When we try to imitate Him, we realize that we are incapable of it. Only God can give us such grace and love. He gives us the same strength in the Mass when we receive Him worthily. The same love with which he loved us, even in his death, is the love he gives us in the Eucharist. It is there that we are restored and filled for another week of loving. The world, the flesh, and the devil can drain us, but Christ fills us to overflowing.

Mission 2010
One great way in which our teens express Christ’s love is by serving those most in need in the Yakima area each summer. We send two 20+ member teams each, in the next two weeks, to work in the mission that Young Neighbors in Action operates. Our youth join up with a hundred youth from around the United States in learning the Social Doctrine of the Church. According to the U.S. Bishops, the basic themes of this Doctrine are:

Sanctity of human life and dignity of the person
Call to family, community, and participation
Rights and responsibilities
Preferential Option for the poor and vulnerable
Dignity of work and the rights of workers
Care for God's creation

These principles call us to a radical love of neighbor that Jesus taught us. Please pray that our youth learn these well and are able to help renew God’s Church with these life-giving teachings.

What is Chastity?

I had hoped to continue on the subject of chastity, but am running out of space. I will come back to it as I feel it is so crucial in our day. Impurity is rampant and we Christians need to arm ourselves. Our youth are especially vulnerable. For the time being I will leave you with a good website where one can learn more about John Paul II’s Theology of the Body,

Welcome to Fr. Kokol!
Fr. Juan Carlos (‘Kokol’) should be arriving before this weekend from Honduras. Fr. Kokol served as pastor for the local church that includes Nuevo Paraiso, where we normally stay when on mission there. While he does not speak much English yet, I hope you have the chance to meet him and welcome him during his visit of several weeks.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Words from Fr Ed (From July 4th 2010 Bulletin)

The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few;
so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.”
- Luke 10:2

I just returned last night from Quo Vadis Days, which is a vocation discernment camp for boys 13-18. ‘Quo Vadis’ means ‘where are you going?’. This phrase comes from the legend of Peter’s escape from Rome during persecution. It is said that he ran into Our Lord walking into the city. Peter said, “Domine, quo vadis?” (Where are you going, Lord?) And Jesus responded, “I go to Rome to be crucified anew.” Peter, ashamed, turned back to what he knew was his duty. There is a small church in Rome at the traditional sight of this encounter on the Appian Way near the San Sebastian Gate.

The great news about Quo Vadis Days is that it has grown to over 130 boys interested in the priesthood. 20 seminarians who have begun their journey assist, along with 25 priests who give talks, hear confessions, and like last night, concelebrate Mass with the Archbishop. I was able to give a talk on prayer and meditation. Leonardo DiFillipi was also there to perform his one-man act of “Cure of Ars”. Overall it was a very encouraging atmosphere.

As the number of vocations in the U.S. continues to recover, following a world-wide downward trend since 1989, the question of age and maturity enters in. On the one hand, the common age of vocational certitude of those ordained is the sixth grade. Many priests claim to have known their vocation at an early age. Holy examples exist, too, such as Padre Pio, who knew quite early (10 yrs old) that he wanted to be a Franciscan friar “with a beard”. The American Church, however, has had a mixed experience of younger priests along with a generally positive experience of ‘late vocations’, men who decided later in life, after another avocation, to become priests.

I think the answer lies in real scrutiny of a man’s maturity in Christ. Thomas Merton once commented half-humorously, “It would be a good idea for a man to become a Christian before he becomes a priest.” So there are different levels of scrutiny: the human, the Christian, and the vocational. A man must pass 9 different psychological exams to enter the seminary program. He must also be of a certain physical health and mental aptitude. Then he should have basic Christian virtue and exhibit the conversion from sin necessary to grow in the grace of God.

The recent sex scandal should awaken the Church to the need for heroic chastity in all walks of life inclusive of the priesthood. Priests are obviously not immune from the temptations of the flesh. Neither are they necessarily more vulnerable because of their celibacy. Recent statistics in Illinois which examined the probable abuse in the two thousand cases reported to the state that year (2003?) found that only one of those was a priest. What were the avocations of the other two thousand abusers? How many were teachers, counselors, engineers or whatever other occupation you want to pick.

The true vulnerability of the priest lies in his spiritual prominence in people’s lives. He can do great good or failing that, great harm. Satan knows that. As our society and culture continues to steep itself in an ever-increasing love for sin, the priest remains a special target of spiritual warfare. As Sirach warns, “My son, if you come forward to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for temptation.” (Sir. 2:1) To assist in the discovery of a vocation, and I would say any vocation, we must promote chastity. To the extent that we promote and model chastity in our relationships we will reap the fruit of committed relationships, either in marriage or a celibate’s commitment to the Church.

So what is chastity? I will try to offer some thoughts on this with the help of John Paul II’s Theology of the Body in a future bulletin. Stay tuned in to God’s love. I include here a saying of John of the Cross, which I read last Sunday in relation to the Gospel as well as the death of a good friend and Catholic, Lenny Lombardi. For more information and photos of Quo Vadis Church, see:

Suffering and Love

And I saw a river over which every soul must pass to reach the kingdom of heaven
and the name of that river was “suffering”.
And then I saw a boat which carries souls across the river
and the name of that boat was “love.”

-St. John Of The Cross

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