Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Words from Fr Ed (From May 30, 2010 Bulletin)

Welcome to Brian Thompson
Brian Thompson, First Year Theologian for the Archdiocese of Seattle, arrived last week and has begun his three month summer stay with us. I asked him to say a few words about himself and why he has said ‘yes’ to this path. Here are a few words from Brian on “Why Be a Seminarian”.

Why Be a Seminarian?
By Brian Thompson

First, I wanted to thank everyone at St Stephen’s for such a warm welcome. I am very happy to be ministering in your parish for the summer.

Father White asked me to give a little introduction of myself and talk about what I am doing and why. As you are all aware, I am a seminarian for the Archdiocese entering my fifth year of formation for the priesthood. I started the seminary process after one year of college at UW so the process for me is, overall, 8 years (3 years of philosophy studies at Gonzaga, 4 years of theology studies in a graduate program at Catholic University in D.C., and 1 year of parish internship). So, I just finished my first year of Theology studies at Catholic U. I have really enjoyed the entire journey thus far, and even during the times when there have been doubts and trials, I have always had a deep abiding feeling of being in the right place.

This brings me to the question everyone wants to know about: why? As I have gone through this process I have thought about various ways to explain why I am discerning priesthood. Before I entered formally, it was a sense of call in my heart. Soon after I entered, it was a sense of mission and purpose and hunger to be Christ to others. Now, though the previous expressions are still there, the best and most accurate way to describe it is that I fell in love. I presume those of you who are married have a similar experience, of viewing your relationship with your spouse in varying ways, but at the core of it all is a love that hungers to grow and which has, by the grace of God, the strength to persevere despite the ups and downs of life. One’s vocation is ultimately the manner in which God invites us to share His love with the world.

People often ask me about the sacrifices a priest makes for the sake of his ministry—usually people mean celibacy when they ask that, and at times they have seemed daunting to me. However, as I have grown in my vocation, I have also grown into embracing the sacrifices and duties that come along with a calling to the priesthood. Indeed, the sacrifices are generally life-giving and many of the duties are deep privileges for me. I can only imagine that this feeling will only expand once I am ordained (4 years to go) and am actually doing priestly ministry for real.

Each and every one of us is called to grow in love for our Lord, and each of us has a duty to determine how He is or has called us to love our neighbor. We were all made for a purpose, and though the world is good and can bring many joys, we will only ever be as happy as we can be in this life—and the next—if we discern and do what God made us to do.

Matrimony Part II with Fr. Tom Vandenburg
Please join Fr. Tom Vandenburg for Mass this coming Wednesday evening, June 2nd at 6:30pm, followed by a presentation on the Surprising Sacrament of Matrimony. Fr. Tom served for many years on the National Board of Marriage Encounter and is currently writing a book on matrimony. He has great practical wisdom that can help all of us learn more about relationships. One of his favorite sayings is, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. And in marriage that is the relationship.” You will not have had to be at Part I to benefit from Part II. The class will meet in the Chapel depending on class size.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Words from Fr Ed (From May 23rd 2010 Bulletin)

Pentecost: The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit
Thanks be to God for our parish and the many gifts each of you brings to our community. I am grateful for the many ways in which people are serving Christ here. I hope you are finding your gifts that have been given by the Holy Spirit. Several years ago, we had the ‘Called and Gifted Workshop’ to help us discern our spiritual gifts; this year we are launching ‘Strengths Finders’ to help us discover our natural God-given strengths. This program is helpful in building up the Body of Christ as each of us lives from our strengths. I am impressed at how accurate the Strengths Finder test has been, both for myself and others. It was very affirming. I hope you will join me in discovering your strengths and using them for the Glory of God.

The following is a section from the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of the Second Vatican Council. These insights can help us grow in the vision of ‘who we are called to be’ by the Holy Spirit for our good and the good of all Church.

The Mission of the Holy Spirit in the Church
When the Son completed the work with which the Father had entrusted him on earth, the Holy Spirit was sent on the day of Pentecost to sanctify the Church unceasingly, and thus enable believers to have access to the Father through Christ in the one Spirit. He is the Spirit of Life, the fountain of water welling up to give eternal life. Through him the Father gives life to men, dead because of sin, until he raises up their mortal bodies in Christ.

     The Spirit dwells in the Church and in the hearts of the faithful as in a temple. He prays in them and bears witness in them to their adoption as sons. He leads the Church into all truth and gives it unity in communion and in service. He endows it with different hierarchical and charismatic gifts, directs it by their means, and enriches it with his fruits.

   By the power of the Gospel he enables the Church to grow young, perpetually renews it, and leads it to complete union with its Bridegroom. For the Spirit and the Bride say to the Lord Jesus: "Come!"

 In this way the Church reveals itself as a people whose unity has its source in the unity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

     The whole company of the faithful, who have an anointing by the Holy Spirit, cannot err in faith. They manifest this distinctive characteristic of theirs in the supernatural instinct of faith (sensus fidei) of the whole people when, from the bishops to the most ordinary lay person among the faithful, they display a universal agreement on matters of faith and morals.

     This instinct of faith is awakened and kept in being by the Spirit of Truth. Through it the people of God hold indefectibly to the faith once delivered to the saints, penetrate it more deeply by means of right judgment, and apply it more perfectly in their lives. They do all this under the guidance of the sacred teaching office: by faithful obedience to it they receive, not the word of men but in truth the word of God.

     Moreover, the Holy Spirit not only sanctifies and guides God's people by the sacraments and the ministries, and enriches it with virtues; he also distributes special graces among the faithful of every state of life, assigning his gifts to each as he chooses. By means of these special gifts he equips them and makes them eager for various activities and responsibilities that benefit the Church in its renewal or its increase, in accordance with the text: To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for a good purpose.

     These charisms, the simpler and more widespread as well as the most outstanding, should be accepted with a sense of gratitude and consolation, since in a very special way they answer and serve the needs of the Church.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Words from Fr. Ed (From May 16th, 2010 Bulletin)

…stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.

The Ascension of the Lord
Our Easter Season is vanishing from sight as Our Lord ascends into heaven and we prepare for Pentecost. Imagine the disciples who had lost Jesus once at Calvary and now again at Bethany, one would think they would have been distraught or disillusioned and scattered. But no; after a brief exhortation from two angels, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven”, they return to the city ‘with great joy’! (Acts 1:11) How is this possible? The experience of the resurrected Christ and His promises must have given them confidence when he said, “I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Mt 28:20) And He is with us, as is evident from our own experience of the Risen Christ. Have not our hearts burned within us during this Easter Season? Has not Christ walked in our midst? I’ve seen many graces here at St. Stephens and I hope you have been able to receive them. As we prepare for Pentecost, let us pray for the Holy Spirit to come upon us, to remain with us, and to make us faithful to the Gospel.

Prayer to the Holy Spirit
Breathe into me, Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy.
Move in me, Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy.
Attract my heart, Holy Spirit, that I may love only what is holy.
Strengthen me, Holy Spirit, that I may defend all that is holy.
Protect me, Holy Spirit, that I may always be holy.
~St. Augustine~

This would be a good prayer to say in preparation for Pentecost. The traditional novena to the Holy Spirit would begin on May 14th and continue nine days. If you are getting a late start, don’t despair, the Lord will hear your prayers. Other novenas are available at:

Follow the Cross
It is disturbing to me and many others how many people leave Mass both after Communion and immediately after the final blessing. I ask you to wait for the processional cross to pass by. If you rush ahead of Jesus on the way out of Mass, than you may face the same difficulties of the Israelites who wanted to fight their enemies whether the Lord was with them or not. They were slaughtered for not putting God first. Waiting for the cross is also a sign of communion with the rest of the assembly. It is a waiting for the presence of Christ in all of us in addition
to the priest. As Saint Paul said in relation to the Body of Christ, “The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you, “nor again the head to the feet, “I do not need you.” We need each other. Rushing out of Mass offends the integrity of the Body of Christ.

No one may share the Eucharist with us unless he believes that what we teach is true, unless he is washed in the regenerating waters of baptism for the remission of his sins, and unless he lives in accordance with the principles given us by Christ.
We do not consume the Eucharistic bread and wine as if it were ordinary food and drink, for we have been taught that as Jesus Christ our Savior became a man of flesh and blood by the power of the Word of God, so also the food that our flesh and blood assimilates for its nourishment becomes the flesh and blood of the incarnate Jesus by the power of his own words contained in the prayer of thanksgiving.
- St. Justin Martyr, 150 AD

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Words from Fr Ed (From May 9th, 2010 Bulletin)

Happy Mother’s Day!
Thank you to all our mothers who gave us natural life and nurtured us in so many ways. May God reward them
for their sacrifices. We know from Jesus’ own mother how generous a mother can be. May Mary watch over every mother
and give her the joy of seeing their children grow in grace.

Seminarian Coming Soon!
Brian Thompson, 1st year Theologian, currently studying at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., will be with
us from May 21st until August 15th this summer. He will be the first seminarian to stay at St. Stephen the Martyr in recent
memory (25 yrs?), so I hope we can provide a great experience for him. He will be staying here at the interim rectory
and assisting in several areas of parish life. Brian has a special interest in education and liturgy. As the 5th child in a family of 10, he also
knows a bit about family life! We will be welcoming Brian at the liturgies on the weekend of the 22nd and 23rd. Please help make this a wonderful
stay for our first seminarian in a long time.

ME 25
As you may have read elsewhere, we will be doing the Gallup ME25 in-pew survey next weekend (15th/16th). This is an essential
part of the Engaged Church program which we have subscribed to. The ME25 measures the ‘engagement’ level of a parish. Through 25
carefully crafted questions, we will be given an idea of just how ‘engaged’ we are as a parish. The results divide the respondents into three
categories, ‘engaged’, ‘actively disengaged’, and ‘not engaged’. Catholic parishes tend to average 15% engagement levels. This is typical in
any organization, but it leaves 85% of the assembly not using their gifts for the Body of Christ.

Remember that “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.” (1 Cor 12:7) One thing that Gallup Poll
has found that ‘engagement’ in an organization goes up when a person is able to use their strengths. That’s why the Engaged Church program
comes with the StrengthFinders tool that we have started to make available to the parish. You should see sign-ups for this test and
small group processing this weekend. The StrengthFinders identifies your top five ‘signature themes’. Knowing these can help you invest in
your strengths and become more engaged.

There at least four outcomes when a person becomes more engaged, they:
- are nearly three times as likely to be extremely satisfied with their lives
- are more than ten times as likely to invite friends to their faith community events
- volunteer more than two hours per week in their communities
- give up to three times more money to their faith communities
. . . as members who are either Not Engaged or Actively Disengaged.

These are significant outcomes. A Catholic parish back east has incorporated the Engaged Church program and has risen to about 45% engagement.
Each year they see an increase in that percentage. Gallup claims that any organization that sees a 38% engagement level creates
a climate of participation. A guest walking through the door will feel that 100% of the people are engaged. The culture has shifted to one
of engagement.

I’d like to see St. Stephens progress in this direction. We don’t know our engagement level. It could be 10% or 20%. We will find out
with the ME25 and make prudent decisions based on the results. The results will also be helpful as the Pastoral Plan nears its completion. I
hope you enjoy the survey. There are interesting questions that can, of themselves, make one consider becoming more engaged. It has me.

Eye Report
Thanks for all your prayers. My eye has improved since getting an Avastin shot two weeks ago. The glaucoma was causing severe
bloodshot eye and sensitivity to light. Please pray it continues to heal.