Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Words from Fr Ed (From December4th, 2011 Bulletin)

“Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths”
So much of our part in the spiritual life is about preparation. It is our ‘Yes’ to grace that opens the door to God’s action in our life. He sends something called prevenient grace, the grace that comes before a grace. Or as St. Thérèse loved to say, “All is grace.” The Scripture also says, “It is by your light that we see your light.” We are dependent on God’s grace to receive more grace, more life from our God who is love.
The time of Advent is meant as a preparation for the Incarnation of the Christ. Of course He has already come, so what does it mean today in 2011? Last week our readings pointed to Jesus’ Second Coming, the Parousia, at the end of time. He says, “Watch” four times it that Gospel. There is something more proximate, however, that we ought to consider. He comes again each Sunday when we attend Mass. Have we prepared by reading the readings, and as I suggested in last week’s column, to read the new texts of the Mass?

This would be a beautiful practice for Advent: Take Sunday’s readings, but read them each day as a meditation. It may be best to choose just one of the readings (Old Testament, Psalm, New Testament, or Gospel). Putting Sunday at the middle of the week, we can prepare for Sunday Mass by reading the passage of our choice Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Then to follow up, to put the Word into action, read it again Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I believe it will come alive in a brand new way. Don’t forget to speak to the Lord about what you are reading, and a great dialogue of love will take place.

Oldest Parishioner Dies Fraser MacDonell died a week ago at the age of 101 years old. We had thought he had just turned 100 this summer, but after checking his birth certificate, his grandchildren found that he was born in 1910, in Canada. I believe that would have made him our oldest parishioner. (Jay Hyatt’s father is turning 101 shortly). If you know of someone older, please let me know. Fraser was a parishioner for many years with his wife, who preceded him in death by a few years. He used to come to Saturday evening Mass, sitting on the choir side. His grandsons drove him once they had wrestled his driver’s license away from him.

He worked in real estate, including doing assessments for houses purchased by the government when I-5 was built. He met Richard Nixon and other dignitaries during his lifetime. Fraser was wounded in the stomach by machine gun fire during WWII while serving in the Philippines. He survived an auto accident, where after the crash, the steering wheel remained firmly in his hands, but had broken off from the column! (He was a strong man.) He was related by marriage to Simon Fraser (1776-1862), explorer and fur trader of Canadian fame, who married into the MacDonell clan. Born in 1910, Fraser was not far removed from them and gained the explorer’s name. May God bless Fraser’s soul and all the souls of the faithful departed. Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.

A Prayer for Advent
O Lord, our early fathers in the faith waited for you as for the dawn. You will come at the end of time, when it pleases you, and when all will be in readiness for the last judgment. What have you still to give me, and what will be my eternal destiny? …
You will give me pardon and also perseverance, that sublime gift which is hidden like a pearl beneath the bitterness of death and is the seal of liberation for your elect. I wait for it, I should prepare myself better for it and live in this blessed anticipation.

My God, on account of your definite coming, suppress in me the sin which hinders your work, destroy all that impedes it, triumph over every weakness and come, at the hour you choose, like a long-desired master.

Words from Fr Ed (From November 27th 2011 Bulletin)

…what I say to you I say to all: Watch.
Our new liturgical year, along with the New Roman Missal translation, has arrived. We have been watching and preparing for this for over a year.  The process of translating the texts has taken over 10 years. It is a great opportunity to reexamine our disposition towards the Mass and our preparedness for the graces God has for each one of us at every Mass we attend.

Normally, I would say that the best way to prepare for Sunday Mass is to read the readings beforehand. That is probably still the case, but this year, as we implement the New Roman Missal, perhaps it would be good to spend time reading the new translations, prayers and texts of the Mass. Even the opening greeting deserves meditation, as the assembly response changes from “And also with you” to “And with your spirit”.

Do we come to Mass with the intention of blessing one another?  Do we recognize the Divine character, the Divine Spirit at work in the Mass?  Do we recognize the Spirit of Christ present in the priest, the assembly, the Scriptures, and especially Holy Communion? Edward Sri writes on this new response:

By responding, "And with your spirit," we acknowledge the Spirit's activity through the priest during the sacred Liturgy. We are referring to the "spirit" of the priest, the very core of his being, where he has been ordained to offer the sacrifice of the Mass. Indeed, we are acknowledging that since God works through the priest who is offering the Mass, ultimately it is

Jesus Christ who is the head of the community gathered for the Liturgy, and it is his Spirit who is the primary actor in the Liturgy, regardless who the particular priest celebrating Mass may be.
May we come to know the Holy Spirit, gift of the Father and His Son, at work in the Mass, the Holy Liturgy of our God.

Ecclesiastes 9:9+
I wanted to include the full account of Travis Wood and his encounter with Scripture and the Spirit we believe inspired it:

Here is an account of what happened days after my brother-in-law, David Strong, and nephew, Bridger Strong, were killed in a horrible car accident.

I had barely opened a Bible in the last 20 plus years.  Although I am a Christian, I haven't been one in the practice I need to be. I woke early in the morning at the hotel we were staying at a day after we buried both bodies.  As I awoke, I immediately had names of Books from the Bible running through my head.  It felt as if someone was communicating with me.  (I felt silly. I thought maybe I was trying to contrive something after the horrible accident.)  Finally, a book settled in my mind - Ecclesiastes; then a chapter presented itself - chapter 9.  Things then became a little fuzzy, and verse 12 came to mind, but it was not as clear.

I was curious at this point and opened the drawer next to me from the night stand. I pulled out the Bible and wanted to check the verse out.  I searched the Bible and couldn't find the book in the Bible.  I just decided that Ecclesiastes must not even be a book in the Bible, and that I'd contrived the entire thing to somehow make myself feel better.  I went back to bed. 

I awoke again around 8 a.m. and couldn't stop thinking about "The Message" I had received. My wife was in the bathroom getting ready for the day, and I yelled into her to see if Ecclesiastes was a book in the Bible.  She responded with a chuckle and some concern that I wasn't sure if it was a Book in the Bible.  She told me that of course it was a Book in the Bible and told me the correct pronunciation.  Consequently, I went back to the Bible and searched for it. 

After several minutes I located the Book in the Bible and went to chapter 9, verse 12.  Chapter 9, verse 12 read:  Moreover, man does not know his time;  etc.  I thought, ‘Wow, how fitting. David was just 45 years old and Bridger was just 9 years old."

Later that day, we arrived at my sister's home.  I couldn't wait to tell her the odd thing that had happened that morning.  After explaining to her what happened, but not really knowing the entire verse, Parrish (my sister) was intrigued and wanted to read the entire verse.  She walked me over to David's Bible.  I'd never been in her house or seen David's Bible in my life.  The string David used to mark his Bible had a spot marked in the Bible - Ecclesiastes, Chapter 9. He had several rows of verse underlined, however, not verse 12. One row was underlined twice.  It was verse 9 and read, "Enjoy life with the woman whom you love all the days of your fleeting life which He has given to you under the sun."

We were both amazed that, "The Message", I received was the exact same spot that David had marked and last read in his Bible.  What are the odds? Well, they were 100% that day. It impacted us on several levels. It reinforced our belief in the Holy Spirit; comforted us; and gave both of us several messages to what this really meant.  As I tell this story to others, I realize that this story has had different meanings to them as well. Sometimes, you can chalk things up to the coincidences of life. For me, this was more than a coincidence.  It was a Message from the Lord that has multiple meanings in Parrish's life, my life, and the lives of the others who hear it. - Travis Wood

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Words from Fr Ed (From November 20th, 2011 Bulletin)

…you did it to me.
We conclude our liturgical year today with the Solemnity of Christ the King. It might seem strange that the Church would choose this Gospel of Christ’s radical identification with the poor, the prisoner, and the stranger. Wouldn’t we expect something more glorious, more triumphant? Wouldn’t we recognize his kingship better in a different package? Who is this starving, naked, imprisoned king?

The Bible quotes God saying, “Your ways are not my ways, your understanding is not my understanding.” We can, in dealing with God, expect the unexpected. His Kingship, while supreme, is not like any other kingship. It is bound to exhibit values that far transcend earthly kings and leaders that we have experienced in the past. His Kingship is based on values that last forever.

No matter what our level of faith in God, He asks us to respond to that faith with love. True faith lives itself out in good works that care for our neighbor’s well being. We cannot, by calling ourselves Catholic Christian believers, remain an island unto ourselves. Charity must be born in us, and like the Blessed Virgin in generosity, be given to the world. Otherwise, it dies within us, and we will be counted among the

Changes in the Liturgy Next Week!
Next weekend, November 26 and 27, we begin to use the new English translation of the Roman Missal. We have been using the same translation for practically 40 years, so it is a significant event in our lives as English-speaking Catholics. We plan to have cards in the pews detailing the specific changes this weekend (November 19 and 20). For the congregational responses, there aren’t many major changes in
my opinion. If you can change “And also with you” to “And with your spirit”, you already have three of the 12 parts that are changing. We’ve already been singing several of the new translations, including the Gloria, the Sanctus (Holy), and the Mystery of Faith (Memorial Acclamation). That leaves only six new parts for you to learn, and one of them is simply adding the word “O” to our Gospel dialogue after the
Priest or Deacon says, “A reading from the Holy Gospel according to John”. You will now say, “Glory to You, O Lord.”

Though these changes may be simple, they are profound in their ability to form us as Christians. As I said a few weeks ago in this column, ‘lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi’, which means, how we pray ,affects how we believe, which, in turn, affects how we live. While it may be a little unsettling to have to change our words, I believe that these new words will help us grow closer to the God we are worshiping.
It is also an opportunity to realize that how we pray is also affected by our disposition and attitude when we pray. May all of us be prepared with open hearts and minds to receive God’s constant gift of love, especially through our Holy Liturgy.

It’s About Time
Time has many names such as the name given for the time planet earth circles the sun, another by a single rotation. There are many more names for shorter periods of time; we have also given time numbers. Although we cannot see or feel time, we have learned how to measure it. There are many types of time - a good time; a bad time; a short time; and a long time. We have a daytime, and we have a nighttime. We have free time, and we have jail time. We are given time, and it is taken away. Sometimes we are short of time, other times, we have time to waste. We have a time to laugh; we have a time to cry. We have a time to live and a time to die. When time has no importance, we call it anytime. We have much knowledge about old times and present times, but we know very little about time that has yet to arrive. Through it all, time still passes on at its own speed, unhampered by humans. Remember, when we are born, we are given a
number in time, and whether it be a long time or a short time, make the best of it. - Harry Gores, parishioner

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Words from Fr Ed (From November 13th, 2011 Bulletin)

“Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

These are the words we hope to hear when we must give an account for how we have governed our lives.  Have we invested in the things of God?  Have we sought first the kingdom?  The parable of the talents gives us an analogy of the final judgment as we approach the end of the liturgical year.  We must give an account some day.  Why not start today?

Mahatma Gandhi was a disciplined man.  He rose at 3:30am for prayerful reading, then at 4:30 went for a one-hour walk.  His day proceeded from one discipline to another until finally, before he retired he would take account of his finan-cial transactions that day; what he had taken in and what he had spent.  He required this of every organization that he was in charge of.  He noted in his autobiography, “The Story of My Experiments with Truth”, that he never knew anyone who practiced this habit of daily financial accountability who was in debt.

Perhaps we can apply this to the spiritual life.  Do we take account of our exchange with God today; what we have given and what we have received?  If we are honest we will see how abundantly we have received.  It can make our small contributions and anxieties seem paltry and insignificant.  And yet we have a responsibility for little things.  As our Gospel says, “Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities.”

One of the earthly realities that we all face is financial responsibility.  Sure, it would be easier to return to Eden and lounge in the garden for all eternity. But the garden is closed to us since the fall of Adam and Eve.  Now we can only reenter through the wounds of Christ. He restores our lost innocence and brings an interior freedom that helps put creature concerns in order.  Through Christ we are now asked to consider what we are called to give to our parish over the coming year.

I look forward to the challenge of pushing myself beyond where I may have been before, exercising those muscles of faith and trust in God.  Of course, I don’t have natural children that depend on me.  Families must be prudent and prayerfully ask the Lord what is possible given your financial demands.  As our Old Testament reading said last week, ask for wisdom, for “…she is readily perceived by those who love her, and found by those who seek her.”  I thank you for taking time to ask the Lord what you can give to His work through St. Stephen the Martyr Church.  He will reward you accordingly.

“Courageous” Movie Review, Pt. II
Be ready to take a remarkable journey into the lives of five men and their families.  It is an incredible tapestry of God’s hand connecting them all in extraordinary circumstances.  If you want to hear profanity, view sex, or see violence, stay home. 

What you will see and experience is a story of beautiful miracles unfolding amidst a raw aching tragedy that becomes the catalyst for God’s grace and love to pour over all involved.  Deep sadness and grief soon find company with many unexpected outcomes - redemption of choices made in the past; forgiveness that has taken a lifetime; trust and integrity upheld; accountability to oneself; and sadly, even betrayal all come together in this powerful fraternity of brotherhood.  As many tears flowed from me, I was happy to experience well-timed and clever humor that is sprinkled throughout this rich opus.

“Courageous" made me think of a recent homily- God’s loving invitation to us, “Are you all in?”  This is a MUST SEE movie. To all wise and spirit filled women, young and old alike, take heart.  The movie does focus on this unique brotherhood, but the role of each female character plays a crucial part in the symphony that plays out.  Evangelization of our faith must begin in our own homes.  “Courageous” is God’s sweet invitation to examine, sharpen and embrace what we each call family, with Jesus Christ as the glorious centerpiece of it all.
Gift yourself and your family.  Make time to experience “Courageous”.

Why do Catholics pray to Mary?
Episode Four of Fr. Barron’s Catholicism Series will focus on the Blessed Virgin.  Her role and prominence in the Catholic Church is a challenge for some.  We consider her a blessing and as the Holy Spirit put on the lips of Mary herself, “All generations will call me blessed.”  For good reason, not so much because of her physical motherhood of Christ, but because her heart and mind were in total communion with Him and in service of His mission.  Please come and witness the rich teaching of the Church on the Mother of God.  Alternate showings will occur on Wednesdays during the day.  Please see the bulletin and narthex advertising for more details.

Reasons for the Changes in the Liturgy
Unity and continuity – that our sacrifice today may be an extension of the ancient foundations of our faith – has continued to be of utmost importance to the Church. The unity of Christians was a primary concern of Pope John Paul II and also of Pope Benedict XVI. While we don’t all worship in one language as we did prior to Vatican II, we continually strive for the language we do use to faithfully echo the prayers our ancestors passed on as a foundation of the Mass. The Vatican’s instruction on the translation of the liturgy states, “Certain expressions that belong to the heritage of the whole or of a great part of the ancient Church... are to be respected by a translation that is as literal as possible.”  In previous translations, some of our expressions did not accurately represent the meaning of the Latin. The new English translation of the Roman Missal aims to recover that meaning – to unite more closely the words we use during the celebration of the liturgy with those that are, and have been, spoken in faith throughout all the world. Thus, we can envision one glorious and universal chorus, offering a united prayer to God our almighty Father.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Words from Fr Ed (From November 6th, 2011 Bulletin)

…the wise (virgins) brought flasks of oil with their lamps.

Flasks of oil were critical for these virgins to make it into the wedding, a symbol of the heavenly banquet. St. Augustine speaks of charity as the oil that endures forever.  We can compare the lamps to the light of faith, but ‘faith alone’ is insufficient for salvation.  As St. James says, “…faith without works is dead.” (James 2:26) We must act on the faith that we profess.  We must take the love of God, poured into our hearts through the Eucharist, and invest in real works of charity during the week.  This is what these prudent virgins have done. They planned ahead for the banquet.  We too must plan ahead by being alert today to the opportunity to love.

New Roman Missal
On the First Sunday of Advent, November 27th, we will be using the new translation of the Roman Missal. This is the third edition since the mandate of Vatican II (1962 – 1965) to renew the liturgy.  As we explained last week, the core beliefs and substance of the Mass will not change. The new translation, however, has changed some of the language in order to be more faithful to the universal Latin translation.  Typically, these changes are much closer to the Scriptures connected to the Mass. They also are closer to the Spanish, Italian, and French translations that have always been closer to the Latin. This should help foster a greater sense of unity in the Church.

There is a Latin phrase, lex orandi, lex credendi, which translate to “How we pray is how we believe”.  This means that the structure, which includes the language, of our prayer is formative.  How we pray affects the formation of our faith.  St. Paul put this truth as “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.”  When we worship, we are immersed in the Words of God as we attempt to worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.  The truth of lex orandi, lex credendi is sometimes expanded to include lex vivendi, "how we live".  How we pray affects how we believe; how we believe affects how we live. Therefore, completing the equation, how we pray affects how we live. The new translation is meant to bring our lives into a greater conformity with the Word of God.

As our New Testament reading said this past week, “And for this reason we too give thanks to God unceasingly, that, in receiving the word of God from hearing us, you received not a human word but, as it truly is, the word of God, which is now at work in you who believe.” (1 Thess 2)  I’m grateful for all the ways that God is powerfully at work here at St. Stephens.  Receiving this new translation will increase the life of grace within us.  I hope to take quality time during the Mass itself in order to more deeply explain why we do certain things during the Mass and why the changes make good sense.  Please join me in praying for a successful implementation of the New Roman Missal.

Here is a parishioner’s experience of the movie “Courageous”, which I recommend especially to men, but here is a woman’s perspective.  This is a brief summary of Beth’s comments.  If possible, I’ll include the full review next week:

"I received a powerful call last weekend. A “wake up” call that is. The movie is called “Courageous”.  This is a MUST SEE movie. To  all wise and spirit filled women, young and old alike…take heart.
Evangelization of our faith must begin in our own homes. “Courageous” is God’s sweet invitation to examine… sharpen…  and embrace what we each call family, with Jesus Christ as the glorious centerpiece of it all. 

Gift yourself and your family.  Make time to experience “Courageous”.  Take a hanky (or two!), and if this movie does not move your  heart and mind… the buttered popcorn is on me.” ~ Beth Motola