Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Words from Fr Ed (From March 4th, 2012 Bulletin)

"This is my beloved Son. Listen to him."

As we enter the second week of Lent, it is good to examine how we are doing on our Lenten resolutions. Have we written them down? It is good to choose one thing from each area of traditional penance: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Is there a prayer that I can add to my normal daily prayers? Am I cutting back on food, comforts, or entertainment? Have I considered a gift to the poor or a ministry that has been beneficial to me? St. Paul tells us to "Be anxious for nothing, but by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving in everything, make your needs known to God, then the peace which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." Don’t we want this peace? If we don’t have it yet, this formula given by St. Paul is a perfect remedy. I celebrated the wedding of my nephew this past week in Florida. The night before, one of the bridesmaids believed she was having a miscarriage. She was in incredible pain and anxiety, so I invited her to join me in saying the Jesus Prayer, breathing in "Lord Jesus Christ", and breathing out, "have mercy on me, a sinner". This prayer alone is powerful in bringing the peace which we need to grow closer to Christ. Even reciting this slowly ten times a day will increase your desire for prayer.As the Father says in our Gospel, we are called to listen to His Son, Jesus Christ. Placing His name on our lips and in our hearts is a beautiful way to overcome the challenges of this world. May Jesus bless your Lenten resolutions and give you the courage and discipline to carry them out.

Book Review: The Father’s Tale

I recently finished a wonderful book, The Father’s Tale, by Michael D. O’Brien. I’ve read other works of his and enjoyed them, especially Father Elijah. This latest addition to O’Brien’s list of works may well surpass the others in quality of writing and realistically portraying with great insight the human condition. This Tale is about the journey of a father to find his son who has fallen in with a cult. The ventures of this father, Alexander, take him around the world, finding providencial aid in conflict with very real evil forces. I found it hard to put down. As much as I tried to mortify the amount of time I spent reading, I couldn’t keep my poor resolutions because the book is so engaging.

It is one of the longest books I’ve read, on a par with Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and Tolstoy’s War and Peace. One of the encounters he has reveals an ultimate source of joy, once accepted. Alexander is being held in China on suspicion of espionage, but meets two Christians who are trying to assist him. His fate looks bleak as explained by Xia, a Chinese psychiatrist, "Officially, you would become ill and ide, or you would be convicted of an imaginary crime and executed rather thanbe returned to Canada. As for the other two options all factors will be weighted in the balance: what the final decision shall be is difficult to predict. One thing is certain: for you, all paths lead to the cross. I am sorry. I do not want to tell you this…"

"All paths lead to the cross", a harsh truth of Christian life, but a liberating one as well. Why do we avoid what gives joy? Have we traded joy for pleasure? Let us embrace the cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ and experience true intimacy with Him who promises to be with us in every battle and challenge.

Texting in Church
I’ve heard of people using their phones in Church during Mass lately. It’s a sad reality for those who don’t want to "Listen to Him". Instead their minds are elsewhere on other relationships that will suffer for a lack of focus on the one thing necessary. When we are distracted from prayer, the very relationship that is distracting us will suffer a loss of love. If we say we care for our friends, the best thing we can do is leave our phones at home during Mass.

Not only does God deserve our attention, He created it! Our intellects were made by Him and for Him. If we cannot give God a few moments during the day, I guarantee that what we bring to others will be selfishness and harm. Without the grace of God, we cannot love one another as Christ has loved us. Parents, please make sure your children are respecting this time as totally dedicated to God. They will appreciate it some day, maybe sooner than you expect.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Words from Fr Ed (From February 26th, 2012 Bulletin)

…new wine is poured into new wineskins
Jesus said elsewhere, “Behold, I make all things new.” He came to restore us to His likeness, to reconnect us to the Father of all. Our physical creator is also the One who redeems our spiritual nature. This happens through prayer, penance and good works. Our Lenten journey invites us to a deeper walk with Our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the savior of all and can show us the way.
We may not know how we can grow in the spiritual life. Jesus does. He calls His disciples to renewal and fasting in today’s Gospel. Fasting responds to His apparent absence. Jesus says, “…the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day.” When we have Jesus we have everything. When we experience this fulfillment of all desires, it doesn’t matter whether we eat or fast. As the Psalm goes, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”
Lent is a time of renewal, when we assess our spiritual life and make real effort to improve our relationship with Christ, our neighbors and ourselves. The three common forms of penance are fasting, prayer and almsgiving. Have you made any resolutions in these areas? It is good to make one in each area. They are perfect ways to restore our wineskins to be ready for the new wine of Jesus Christ.

Parish Mission
One great way to start your Lent is to attend our Parish Mission this week with Brian Casey. He is a lay evangelist who left all to follow Jesus in this mission of sharing the Good News. He will offer us several messages a day in both a morning session and an evening one. Come be refreshed by the grace of Christ in His Word to you.

Lenten Collatio
“Collatio (coh lah' tsee oh) is a Latin word for a shared meal to which everyone contributes and in which we all share.” (http://www.worship.ca/docs/vis_06.html) It is also the name given to a style of prayer and sharing of the Scriptures. It involves choosing a passage, especially from the life of Christ in the Gospels. The Sunday Lectionary is perfect for this exercise. One also is better prepared for Sunday Mass when the readings have been reflected on in this way.

The atmosphere should be prayerful. This is not a Bible study. We are trying to let the Word inebriate our souls. The passage is read once, slowly. All are invited to share a word or a phrase that struck them our stood out. After this, the passage is read again. Now the listener is invited to share an image or analogy that relates to the passage. Take your time with this. It might not be so easy. No one has to share. Then the passage is read for a third time. Now we consider and share what this reading means to me today. How will it affect my life? How must I respond to the truths that I heard? The Word does not return to the Lord void. After sharing, it is good to take a moment of quiet and share silently with the Lord some word of thanks. Close with an Our Father.

I repeat here these questions:
(1)    What word or phrase stood out for me?
(2)    What image or analogy comes to mind as I hear this?
(3)    What does this Word mean for me today?

I am encouraging all groups that meet in the parish during the Lenten Season to use this as an opening prayer. Try not to rush. The business of the parish can wait. In fact, sharing our faith with one another in the Collatio is important business. Thanks for taking time with Jesus and one another during this Lenten Season. (Drawn in part from John Veltri, SJ, Directed Retreat Goes to Parish: A Manual About the Use of the Directed Retreat in a Parish Setting, http://www.jesuits.ca/orientations/bob/retreat.htm).

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Words from Fr Ed (From February 19th, 2012 Bulletin)

“…that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth.” - Mk 2:10

Jesus’ Authority
Jesus came with authority, the power to do things, especially to forgive sins. Notice that his main intention in relation to this paralytic is not to heal his body, but rather his soul. This is reminiscent of St. Jean Vianney, the great confessor who spent upwards of 12-15 hours a day in the confessional, and was known to encourage people to not come to his parish for healing of the body. Many occurred there in Ars, but Vianney would credit St. Philomena and tell people to go to other parishes for healing of the body. He considered the sacrament of reconciliation, the confession of one’s sins and reception of absolution, as the great gift that he could offer people.

As we begin our Lenten season in a few days, consider coming to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Every time you receive this sacrament you start your life anew, your will is strengthened and your mind is purified. Do not neglect this encounter with the authority of Christ, passed on to the apostles when, “…He breathed on them, and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgive; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.' ” (John 20:22-23) At times too, there is a healing of the body, given the close relationship between the soul and the body. When the soul is healed, the body is liberated from the oppression of guilt and anxiety.

There are several opportunities throughout the week here at St. Stephen. Scheduled confessions are on Friday morning from 7:30am before Mass and then at 9am after Mass until all are heard. Usually Fr. Yu is able to join me for these so lines decrease quickly. We also have confessions on Saturday from 3pm until 4pm. Feel free to schedule confessions as well, especially if it has been awhile and you may have questions to discuss. It is a joy for priests to hear confessions. Do not feel like you are bothering them if you catch them outside of confession times. Usually we can make time so that God may be glorified and His children may know the freedom that forgiveness brings.

Lenten Mission with Brian Casey

Our parish mission is coming next week when Brian Casey of Good News Ministries of Seattle will be with us for the weekend Masses, Sunday evening, and then two sessions a day Monday through Wednesday. Do not be deceived by his meek and mild photo. I’ve known Brian for many years since I worked at Holy Rosary in West Seattle where he is a parishioner. He is so calm normally that I didn’t expect the passion and inspiration that flows through him when he is teaching on the faith. I hope you can make some quality time for your family to come and hear him speak. Be prepared to improve your life and your relationship with Christ. God desires it so let it happen!

Deacon Harold Burkes-Sivers for 40 Days Kick-Off Tuesday
Get a jump start on your Lenten transformation with Deacon Harold Burkes-Sivers from Portland. You may have heard him preach nationally on EWTN. Hold on to your pew, because I know he is going to try to move you out of it! Our faith is called into action. Our profession of faith at Baptism asks, “Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth?” If God is our maker, what right do we have to extinguish life? We have the extraordinary privilege to participate in procreating new human persons, precious in God’s sight. When this is unplanned, what is needed is courage and love. Our 40 Days Vigil for Life prays for this kind of love. Please come and kick off this campaign of prayer and love for women and children in unplanned pregnancies. Come pray for a change of heart on the part of fathers, friends, abortion clinic personnel and our legislators. God can change hearts.

No Drive-Thru for Ashes
I fielded a phone call one Ash Wednesday where the caller was asking when ashes would be distributed. I said “During Mass”. He said he knew that, but wanted to know exactly when during the Mass they would be distributed. At the moment I told him to come to the whole Mass and he would find out, but in my sarcastic mind the retort came, “Just come to the drive-thru window anytime and we will give you your ashes.” I don’t know this person’s mind or motive, but I hope he wasn’t skimping on the time it takes to build a relationship with God. In parenting theory, I’ve heard that ,“love = time”. We must spend time with one another to convey love. Same with God. He knows our hearts, but do we?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Words from Fr Ed (From February 12th, 2012 Bulletin)

"…do everything for the glory of God."
- 1 Cor 10:31

St. Paul calls his readers to make the glory of God their focus and goal. What is God’s glory? St. Irenaeus says that "The glory of God is a man (or woman) come fully alive." God is glorified as we become fully human, which testifies to His goodness, His design, His power, and His guidance. It is God that gets the credit for any good that we might do. Even Jesus said, "Why do you call me good? God alone is good."

This may sound strange from Jesus’ lips, but He is either testing his listener, or speaking from His humanity, or perhaps both. He may be testing to see why his listener called him ‘good’. Is it because he believes that Jesus is God? Or is Jesus leading him to that conclusion? Jesus often, or shall I say always, teaches through questions. (Like the Socratic method).

Jesus may simply be speaking as a human being. We can see him speak from both His Divinity at times, as well as His humanity. In this case He refers to God as if God were a separate being, someone other than Himself. Our faith tells us otherwise, as do Jesus’ own words when He says things like, "The Father and I are One", or "Before Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, I AM." But we see His humanity throughout the Gospels when we read of His hunger, stress, sadness, and joy. These are human emotions and states that indicate that Jesus was no mirage, but fully human in every aspect except sin.
As we become more fully human, we also are ‘divinized’, we become more integrated with the Godhead, our souls and bodies being animated by a Divine Principle. The word for soul in Latin is ‘anima’, from which we get the word ‘animation’. Our souls animate our bodies, but what animates our souls? Is it not God Himself? God calls us to return to worship and to praise him if we, as baptized Christians, replace this Principle with another god (i.e. money, pleasure, power, control, anger, etc.). God is the One who motivates us. Let us adore the One who is within, Who loves us into being, Who desires our happiness.
Deacon Harold Burkes-Sivers
Deacon Harold will be with us February 21, Mardi Gras, to kick off our 40 Days campaign of prayer and vigil to protect the unborn. He is a nationally recognized evangelist and preacher who comes to us from Portland, Oregon. Please join us for Mass, refreshments and a rousing exhortation to protect human life. You can learn more about Deacon Burkes-Sivers at


Boycotting Starbucks

Sad to say, but Starbucks has joined Microsoft, Group Health, Nike, Google and other companies in supporting homosexual ‘marriage’ in Washington State. Whatever rights one may desire for significant friendships is one thing. All of us desire love and companionship. But marriage involves an exchange of body and soul. As Jesus said, quoting Genesis, "…a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh." (Gen 2:24) To distort this is contrary to nature and destructive to the human body.

I’ve written to Starbucks expressing my dismay. I used to enjoy their coffee. Many of you have graciously supported my habit with generous gift cards. I will have to turn them down in the future. Now I join other Christians around the country in refusing to support a company that violates both natural and Divine Law. If you would like to write to Starbucks, you can do so at: Starbucks Customer Relations, PO Box 3717, Seattle, WA 98124-3717.

"…policies which undermine the family threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself." - Pope Benedict

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Words from Fr Ed (From February 5th, 2012 Bulletin)

Thanks to Confirmation Team+Thanks to our confirmation team that sacrifices their time and talent to prepare the youth for confirmation, the third sacrament of Initiation. A Christian is not fully initiated into the Catholic Church until they have received the precious gift of Confirmation. In the ceremony on Saturday evening, February 4th, Archbishop Sartain prays over each candidate, anointing them with Chrism oil, saying, “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

While the candidate may already be using the gifts of the Holy Spirit, this Sacrament seals these gifts of Wisdom, Understanding, Fortitude, Piety, Counsel, Fear of the Lord, and Knowledge. Bless the Lord for such powerful gifts. Unfortunately, these can often lay fallow until a crisis in one’s life where there is a particular turning towards God for assistance. He wants us to use these gifts all the time. Do we not need Wisdom to make it through the day?

Let’s pray for all the youth who have completed their course of confirmation and stand ready to witness to Christ in a brand new way. Let us pray for their Courage. There will also be some adults confirmed who have humbly realized the need for this great gift. What beautiful signs of God’s grace. I thank their team as well for taking the care and time to fulfill God’s word among us. John the Baptist said of Jesus, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” May our whole parish community here at St. Stephen be filled with the Holy Spirit, even as St. Stephen the Martyr was.

Pray for Honduras Teams
While a few of our parishioners will already have returned from their Medical Mission with the St. Charles Borromeo group from Tacoma, several more will arrive in Honduras on Saturday the 4th, and several others the following week. They will be working primarily with Pedro Attala Home for children in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. Their day consists of prayer, time with the children, and laboring to renovate the facilities there. May Our Lady of Suyapa, the patroness of Honduras, bless and guide these missionaries of God’s love.

Praise the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted
Our readings take us from the depths of Job’s misery (Remember that my life is like the wind; I shall not see happiness again), to the radical recovery of Peter’s mother-in-law (He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them.) What can we take from this? I think in the first place, when we are in misery of some kind, not to panic. Yes, we must first accept that misery is truly occurring. Too often we live in denial of the pain of a difficult situation. We rebel against it, seeking to medicate the pain through false cures.

No, we must accept that what is is. God has allowed it for some great reason. While He does not positively will sin, He does will our freedom and gives us all the tools necessary to use it wisely. We don’t always do that. We also live in a world of other free human beings who don’t always use their freedom correctly and are capable of sinning against us. God can allow this if He knows that a greater good can come out of it. While we may not see this, nor understand it, faith tells us that this is so. Even while blind to the answer, resignation and acceptance of what is, is the first step of healing.
He “heals the brokenhearted”.  Jesus meets us in the depths of our misery. Like Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, He visits us on our sick-bed and reaches out a hand, a hand to the heart. He says, “Son, daughter, give me your heart.” If we are willing, He can heal any injury that we or another have caused us. This means we have to be a patient patient. Many times I have visited a person in the hospital who is eager to leave and is waiting for the doctor to give them release. They have to be patient.

There is a saying, “All good things come to those who wait.” May I qualify this by adding, “…even those things that we need to do while waiting, that may better dispose us for the Divine Physician’s visit.”  Yes, He is coming. Allow Him to come and be with you. Jesus’ presence is healing. If you cannot visit the Blessed Sacrament reserved here in our chapel for your benefit, ask Him to come, to lift you up, to give strength to your bones and life to your limbs.