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)