December 6–The Feast of Saint Nicholas

Today we remember Saint Nicholas.  He lived in present-day Turkey from 270 to 343.  Nicholas was present at the Council of Nicea where he signed the Nicene Creed in 323.

Saint Nicolas was known for his secret gift-giving, including leaving coins in children’s shoes which led to our modern celebration of Saint Nicholas Day on December 6.  The legend of Nicholas spread northward to Holland and came to New York with the Dutch settlers.  Eventually, the legend morphed into Santa Claus and associated with Christmas.

But gifts and money are still given in some areas on December 6.  So, leave your shoes out tonight.  Who knows?  You might get some gifts.

Advertisements

Bishop Barron on the iGens

On this Tuesday of the first week of Advent, I want to share a video with you by

Bishop Robert Barron on the iGens..  iGens are the generation born since 1995.  The Bishop points out that this is the first generation who has no experience with life without iPhones, and iPads and all the other “i” electronics.

They are in no hurry to grow up, often waiting until their late teens to get their first driver’s license and being perfectly happy to live at home with Mom and Dad.  Where I live, in Church world, our biggest concern with these folks is that they don’t go to church, and often don’t believe in God.

We all know it, but frankly, we don’t know what to do about it.  If you have kids or grandkids. or if you’re concerned about the future of the Church, watching this will be ten minutes and twenty-three seconds well spent.  Enjoy

Monday of the 1st Week of Advent

Yesterday the Pope had this to say:

“Today we begin the journey of Advent, which will culminate in Christmas. Advent is the time that is given to us to welcome the Lord who comes to meet us, to verify our desire for God, to look ahead and prepare ourselves for Christ’s return. He will return to us on the feast of Christmas, when we will remember His historical coming in the humility of the human condition; however, He comes within us every time we are disposed to receive Him, and He will come again at the end of time to “judge the living and the dead.” Therefore, we must always be vigilant and wait for the Lord with the hope of meeting Him.”

As we begin our Advent journey, Jesus reminds us in our Sunday Gospel to watch.  Isn’t that what Advent’s all about?  We watch for Jesus’ coming.  We don’t let external distractions keep us from our Advent mission of preparing for Him to come on Christmas.  In a word, to watch.

1st Sunday of Advent, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

This was the homily for my final mass at my old assignment.  I began my new assignment at Saint Bernadette, my former parsh, on Sunday.  Enjoy

This is my last mass at Saint John Nepomuk. For the last seven years I’ve been blessed to be your director. I told Deacon Joe that this is the best deacon job in the Archdiocese. There have been a few rough patches, but for the most part I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time here. It wasn’t planned this way, but I think it’s entirely appropriate, and a sign of the Holy Spirit at work, that I’m leaving on the last day of the Liturgical year and Deacon Joe is taking over on the first day of the Liturgical year.

 

Tomorrow is the first Sunday of Advent. That makes today the last day of the Church year, New Years Eve. It’s an end and a beginning, so HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

happy new year

One thing you can’t escape during Advent is the song, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. You may love it. You may hate it. But you can’t avoid it during this season. I imagine we’ve all heard it hundreds of times. And I’ll bet most of us have never really paid attention to the words. Take your missalettes and turn to page 278. Take a look at the chorus. “Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.”

 

The time before Jesus coming was dark; very dark. The Israeli people were being held captive in a foreign land. The word “rejoice” might not have been on their lips. They were waiting for a redeemer. The word “redeem” comes from the Latin redemere, which means to buy back. Jesus would buy back the people from their captivity and release them from the darkness of sin.

 

Look at the first verse of the song. “O come, O come, Emmanuel. And ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lowly exile here, Until the Son of God appear.” They were waiting for Jesus (even though they didn’t know who Jesus was yet) to ransom them from their exile. They were mourning in lowly exile waiting for the Son of God. When Jesus did come, many of the Jewish people rejected Him and eventually He would be tortured and crucified by the very people He came to save.

 

“O come, thou Wisdom from on high, and order all things far and nigh: To us the path of knowledge show, And teach us in her ways to go.” As we make our way through these four weeks if prayer and reflection, Lord, give us wisdom. Show us the path of knowledge and teach us to go in wisdom’s ways.

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” They call that the serenity prayer, but it could just as well be called the courage prayer, or the WISDOM PRAYER.

“O come, thou holy Lord of might, who to thy tribes on Sinai’s height In ancient times, did give the Law In cloud and majesty and awe.” Of course, this refers to the Ten Commandments given to Moses on Mount Sinai. Like every verse of the song, it begins “O come”. That’s what Advent is all about. Come, Emmanuel, come wisdom, come holy Lord of might. We’re waiting patiently. (or maybe not so patiently).

 

“O come thou Rod of Jesse’s stem. From every foe deliver them. From death and sin thou people save, And give them victory o’er the grave.” We want Jesus to come. We want our friends, our fellow Christians, to be delivered from their foes. Of course, that also includes us. And we especially want to be saved from sin and death. Lord, give us victory over the grave.

 

Twenty centuries later we know that all of this has come to pass. Jesus came and we no longer fear death because we’ve been given victory over the grave.

 

“Oh come, Thou Key of David, come. And open wide our heavenly home. Make safe the way that leads on high, and close the path to misery.” This one may be a little confusing but notice that Thou Key of David” is capitalized. Jesus is the Key of David and the Key to Heaven. He will open wide our heavenly home. And, as we know from the New Testament, Jesus gave Peter the keys to the kingdom. Here the song implores God to make the path to heaven save and to close the path to misery.

 

“O come, desire of nations. Bind in one the hearts of humankind. Bid every sad division cease. And be thyself our Prince of Peace.” Here we’re asking for peace and unity among all men and all nations. We know that Jesus is the Prince of Peace.

 

And finally, “O come thou day-spring come and cheer our spirits by thine advent here. Disperse the gloomy clouds of night. And death’s dark shadow put to flight.” This song was written in the 12th century. We don’t know who the author was but we do know it was written in Latin and that the music, probably French, was added around 100 years later. The words were translated into English by John Mason Neale in 1851.

 

This final verse is the only time the word “advent” appears in the song. Notice that in the notes before the verse, this 7th one is supposed to be sung on December 24, the last Sunday of Advent. It has a lighter feel than the first six. Cheer our spirits. Disperse the gloomy clouds of night. Death’s dark shadow put to flight. Jesus is coming and He’s almost here! Halleluiah!

 

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, a local boy who’s made good has a book of Advent Reflections cleverly titled Advent Reflections.  He says “The older I get, the more I’m convinced that life is all about advent.” He’s right. We’re all waiting to meet our Savior face to face.

advent reflections

 

We’re living in a time that’s at least as bad as the days of the Old Testament, probably worse. Crime is running rampant. People hate one another for being different. Our national, state, and local leaders are corrupt and pass laws that are detrimental to the poor, to the elderly, and to the unborn. People we trust are turning out to be sexual predators and there seems to be another revelation every day.

 

We don’t need to pray for a Savior. We already have one. No, what we need to pray for is that people will come to Jesus. We need to fill up our churches and to spread the Gospel. It’s a big job, so big it almost seems impossible. But remember, this whole Christianity thing was started by twelve men in the Middle East. There was no Internet. There was no television or radio. There weren’t even newspapers. It would be fifteen centuries before the invention of the printing press. No, they did it by word of mouth. One person talking to another. The twelve Apostles spread the Word throughout the known world, usually traveling by foot. For the first 300 years they didn’t even have Bibles.

 

In more recent times, immigrants from Eastern Europe came to Saint Louis. They built this beautiful church and at one time it served hundreds of families. There’s no reason it can’t return to its former glory. It will be hard work but I know you have the will and a capable new leader and I expect to see big things from Saint John Nepomuk in the years ahead.

 

God bless you all, thank you for putting up with me for the past seven years, and have a blessed and holy Advent and a Merry Christmas.

Thanksgiving

As I sat on the altar this morning I couldn’t help but be impressed by the number of people attending Mass on a Thursday morning that’s not a Holy Day of Obligation, especially with everything else that’s going on in most people’s lives.  For most of us it’s a busy day.

But, obviously, for many of us it’s a special day to give thanks to God for all He’s done for us.  After all, without God we are nothing; We have nothing.  It’s good for us to take a few moments to acknowledge our many gifts.

As Father pointed out in his homily, the word “Eucharist” is from the Greek for “Thanksgiving”.  We give thanks every time we go to mass.

I don’t want to make this long, because, like I said, I know you’re busy.  But I would like to thank you for taking time to read this blog.  I also want to thank my family who put up with me without complaint.  I especially want to thank my wife, Jan, as we begin our 50th year of married life.  We broke all the rules back then.  We were too young.  We hadn’t known each other long enough.  She was Catholic.  I wasn’t.  But somehow we managed to stay together for one year short of half a century.

 

God is good!

The Feast of All Saints

Are you a minimalist Christian?

You’ve heard the expression “It’s the least I can do.”  I wonder how many of us approach our faith with this expression as our “mission statement”.  What’s the least I can do to get into heaven?

The best example I can think of of this attitude is the question priests and deacons hear all the time regarding Saturday wedding masses.  “Does this count?”  Count??  Count for what?  Of course, we know what they’re asking.  “If I go to this wedding, do I have to go to mass on Sunday?  The bride and groom are going to have a great party and I’d really rather not get up on Sunday morning.”  They’re asking if the Saturday wedding fulfills their “Sunday obligation.

First, let me say I hate the term “Sunday obligation.”  Paying your taxes is an obligation.  Going to work every day is an obligation.  Contributing to the support of the Church is an obligation.  Worshipping the Lord IS NOT AN OBLIGATION.  It’s something we do out of love for our Creator.  Were you listening to the Gospel this Sunday.  “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your soul, with all your heart, and with all your mind.”

Loving with all your heart is not a minimalist concept.  We have to give Him everything, including our time.  The short answer to the above question is almost always NO.  God works outside of time.  Your so-called Sunday obligation is judged by the week’s readings, not by the time you showed up.  If you didn’t hear the readings for the Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, you didn’t attend last week’s mass.

Make no mistake, if you love the Lord God, “with all your soul, with all your heart, and with all your mind,” then the concept of a “Sunday obligation” should have no meaning to you.  You should attend mass every Sunday (or Saturday evening) because you want to be there.  What part of the word “all” do you not understand?

Today is All Saints Day, a Holy Day of Obligation.  There’s that word again.  Do you go to mass today out of some sense of obligation, or do you go because you venerate the saints and want to pay tribute to them?  The Church has watered down the concept of Holy Days by moving some of them to Sunday but they are still holy days.  (small h and d)

Advent is coming and Christmas isn’t far behind.  This might be a good time to review your attitude toward the Lord.  The commercials for Christmas stuff have already started.  Let’s not let the commercialism of our Lord’s birthday get in the way of our love for Him.  I’ll say it one more time,

“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your soul, with all your heart, and with all your mind.”  Now, if you haven’t gone to mass today, turn off your computer and get going.

30th Sunday of Ordinary Time

This was the second to last homily at my current assignment.  I will preach one more time before I move on to my new post.  There were a few references to my move, but the main point of the homily was a reflection on the Gospel.  I hope you enjoy it.

We’ve heard this Gospel many times.  “Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”  We’re also to love our neighbors as ourselves.

 

Loving God sounds like a good idea.  After all, God gives us everything.  He created a perfect world for us in the Garden of Eden.  But then He created Adam, and everything got messed up.  Imagine being in Adam’s place.  Everything around him was perfect.  God said to him, “I’ve created all of this just for you.  You have perfect surroundings and perfect knowledge of all of it.  I love you and want you to be happy.  Oh, there’s just one thing.  See that tree over there; the one with the red fruit?  You can’t have that.  Stay away from it.  You don’t need it because you have everything else.”

 

Well, guess what?  Adam, being human like the rest of us, couldn’t resist.  He had to taste the red fruit.  So he did.  And here we are.  See, Adam didn’t trust God, and love and trust are the same thing.  We can’t love someone we don’t trust.  Just like you and me, Adam had free will and he chose to not trust God.  “The creator must be holding back something from me if He says I have to leave that one tree alone.”

adam-and-eve

 

In the twelve step programs, Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon, Narcotics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, and others, Step 3 says “We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God.” That’s a statement of trust and millions of people have been healed of their addictions by taking this step. But we’re independent creatures. The idea of completely turning our will and our lives over to someone else, even God, is hard for us to take. We like to think we can do anything we put our minds to. Down through history, our greatest heroes have been men and women who took the bull by the horns; who made something happen. “The meek shall inherit the earth sounds good, but do we really believe it?

 

Yesterday (Friday) Jan and I were taking care of our grandson, Finnegan. I had just fed him and he fell asleep in my arms. I was watching him sleep and I couldn’t help thinking how small and helpless he is. He has to rely on someone else to do everything for him. How can you not love someone so small and innocent?

 

It occurred to me that God must look at us the same way. Compared to His Majesty, we must seem as small and helpless as Finn does to me. Our problem is that we don’t recognize how helpless we are. We’re not babies anymore (at least most of us aren’t). In our own minds, we’re invincible. We can do anything on our own. But can we really? I don’t think so. We have to depend on God for the things we really need. And we have to depend on one another.

 

I’ve always been one of those people who thinks he can do anything. I’ve always prided myself (and remember what the Bible says about pride) on being self-sufficient. Then a year ago I was in the hospital twice in two months. All of a sudden there were a lot of things I couldn’t do for myself anymore. Having to ask someone to help you go to the bathroom, or just to turn over in bed, is a real wake up call. I HAD to ask for help. Poor Jan has been a saint when it comes to taking care of me. I still can’t put on my own socks and shoes. I’ve gotten so weak and have so little energy that I’ve had to retire from my job at Saint John Nepomuk.

 

In the process, I’ve learned a valuable lesson. People want to help! They love to help! It validates them and makes them feel good about themselves. When someone says to you, “can I help you with that” and you say, “no thanks. I’ve got it.” or something like that, you’re denying that person the satisfaction of being helpful. Your ego is denying them the opportunity to be Jesus for you.

 

One of my two trips to the hospital last year was the first week of November. I wasn’t here for the Goulash Festival. What would happen if I wasn’t here? Well, what happened was everyone worked together and it was the most successful Goulash Festival ever. It turns out I’m not indispensable at all. It’s a community event and the community made it happen. My job is really about staying out of your way. That’s when I seriously started thinking about retirement. I prayed long and hard and I believe my work here is done. God needs me somewhere else now.

 

“Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” That also means to trust Him with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. Turn your life and your will over to Him. When you pray ask for knowledge of His will for you and the power to make it happen. He will take care of you if you just give Him a chance and don’t let your ego get in the way.