Goodbye 2017

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I know you’re sitting in front of your computer (tablet, smart phone) breathlessly waiting for your favorite blogger to give you some words of wisdom to take you into the new year.  That’s a lot of responsibility you’re putting on me and, frankly, I’m not sure I’m up to it.

There are a lot of places you can go to get inspired but you’ve chosen to come here so I guess I owe it to you to give it my best shot.  After all, I’ve been watching the Hallmark Channel almost nonstop since Thanksgiving.  I should be very inspired.  Let me say something in passing about the folks at Hallmark TV.  Like the Catholic Church, they don’t consider December 25 to be the end of the Christmas season.  They continue to run Christmas movies.  And even though they’re all the same movie, with the same plot, they’re Christmas movies all the same.

So, let me start my end-of-the-year diatribe with a few words about the Christmas season.  Holy Mother Church divides the year into seasons.  The Church year begins with the first Sunday of Advent.  This year that was December 3.  So right away we’re out of sync with the rest of the world.

Advent is always four weeks long so this year the last Sunday of Advent was December 24, which was also Christmas Eve, the BEGINNING of the Christmas season.  Today, Sunday, December 31 is the Feast of the Holy Family.  It’s also secular New Years Eve.

The following Sunday, January 7 is the Feast of the Epiphany and the next day, Monday the 8th wdead christmas treee celebrate the  Baptism of the Lord.  That’s the end of the Christmas season.  You can finally take down that tree that’s been up since the first of November.

But don’t get too comfortable with Ordinary√ Time this year.  We’ll just barely get the green vestments out and it will be time for the purple of Lent.  Ash Wednesday, 2018, is on February 14, Valentines Day.  Six weeks of Lent (and fish fries) and it will be Easter again.

So that’s your lesson on the Church calendar but it’s hardly the words of wisdom you’ve been waiting for so I’m going to borrow something from Father Z’s blog.  (If you don’t follow Father  Z, you should).  Today Father Z reminds us that a plenary indulgence is available to us both today and tomorrow.

You may ask “what is an indulgence?”  And indulgence is the release from temporal punishment for your sins.  Just because you’ve been forgiven in the sacrament of reconciliation you still have to be cleansed from your sins before you can get into heaven.  That’s what we call purgatory and an indulgence (partial) can reduce your time in purgatory while a plenary indulgence wipes your slate clean.  Here’s how you can obtain a plenary indulgence today.

  1.  Go to confession and received communion within a reasonable time (20 days)
  2. Recite or sing the Te Deum..
  3. Pray for the Pope’s intentions.  (One Our Father and one Hail Mary)
  4. Detest and detach yourself from even venial sins.

We can also receive a plenary indulgence tomorrow (January 1) by the singing or recitation of the Veni Creator Spiritus plus the other three things above.

So I guess giving you a way to cut some time off your stay in purgatory, even if it’s not wise, it’s certainly helpful.

Have a safe and blessed January 1.  Be careful out there and stay warm.

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Advent Turns into Christmas

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They say that if you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your long-range plans.  This week has certainly proven that to be true.  Last week at this time I had all kinds of things that  I was going to post for the fourth week of  Advent.  It would have been awesome!  Then, last Saturday I went out with some of my adult kids and some of my grandchildren.  We were watching a Christmas parade and waiting to cross the street to go to lunch.  The next thing I knew, I was laying flat on my back on the sidewalk.  My legs just gave out on me.

As I lay there on the sidewalk I realized that all these people I didn’t know were helping me to get back on my feet (with a lot of help from a light pole that kept me from falling right back where I had been).  Lesson number 1 was that there are a lot of good people in the world.  Total strangers had stopped their celebration to help me.  People are basically good.  And God is great!

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, my adult kids and daughter-in-law insisted (demanded) that I go to the hospital.  All I wanted to do was go to lunch, but it wasn’t to be.  My lovely and talented wife poured me into the car and delivered me to the emergency room.  It would turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

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Let me say here that I have a lot of respect for doctors and the work they do.  Over the last few years, I’ve had to opportunity to meet a lot of them.  See the thing is, specialists specialize.  They each try to frame your illness in terms of their specialty.  That’s what they know and that’s the way it is.  On the other hand, ER docs are more inclined to look at the big picture.  The first thing they did to me in the Emergency Room was order a CAT scan, something none of my “team” of specialists had never done.  It turns out the trouble has been mostly in my head, literally.

Lesson number 2, what looks like a problem may turn out to be a blessing.  I’ll be going in for surgery in January which may solve a lot of my health issues.  I have something called hydrocephalus I never did get lunch.

To make a short story long, I spent three days in the hospital and my week of clever Advent posts went right out the window. Thank God for my daughter who finished my Christmas shopping for me and even wrapped everything.  And thank God for family members who are smarter than I am.  If I’d had my way I would have gone to lunch and gone home not knowing what was going on in my head.  Lesson number 3, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

So, I’ll sum up with this one Advent/Christmas offering.  The weeks of waiting are over.  Tonight our Savior comes.  What an awesome occasion.  I’ve returned to my home parish and I can’t wait for Christmas mass.  This year will be extra special, not that every Christmas isn’t extra special.  We have a God who’s so wonderful, so loving, that He sent His only Son to become one of us!  Thanks to this great gift we can look forward to an eternity in paradise!

We buried a friend of mine yesterday.  Who could ask for a better Christmas gift than to be free from pain and earthly worries and be on our way to heaven?   Prayers go out to his family, but I believe that they understand that death is just a beginning.  Yesterday’s funeral was truly a celebration of life!  We have no idea what God has in store for us.

I’m going to close this with the wish that you and your families have a peaceful and blessed Christmas.  Thank you for reading Deaconcast and I hope you’ll continue to check in.  I have some exciting plans for 2018, but you can see what sometimes happens to plans.  God’s plan is the only one that counts and we have no idea what that may be.  Our job is to continually pray for knowledge of His plan for us and for the power to make it happen.

Joy to the World, the Lord is Come!

Pope Francis: Think ‘being good’ is enough? It’s not. Go to Mass

I’m pretty sure that the followers of this blof don’t NEED this post, but it couldn’t hurt.  Possibly you have adult family and friends who spout the old argument, “I’m good.  I don’t need to go to mass.”  Maybe you can subtly share this with them.

Well, last week our Holy Father attacked that argument head-on and gave all of us something to say to those people in reply.  No, being good isn’t enough.  Yes God is everywhere, but there’s a reason why we all go to a specific building to worship him.

I can’t add anything to the Pope’s words, but I am going to tell you a short story because it’s real and because it just happened a few hours ago.

I conduct a communion service on Thursday and Friday mornings.  Today I woke up with laryngitis.  I couldn’t talk at all.  I prayed to Saint John Chrystosom, patron saint of preachers, when I got to church,  asking him to pray that I could deliver some kind of  short homily.

When it came time for the homily, I started with a very weak voice, but as I continued to speak, my voice got stronger and stronger, and the brief comments I had planned turned into a full-blown homily.  God had restored my voice!  There’s power in all prayer, but the power of prayer said in church is special.

Here are the Holy Father’s remarks, not in English, but with subtitles.  Enjoy!

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.

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!!!

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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.

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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.