Pastor’s Pen – July 25, 2010

Published on 25. Jul, 2010 by in Pastor's Pen

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In good hands…

The busy stretch of summer began for me this week. It is busy good, but still busy. It started with a few days at the Kempf lake house, paying off a Dinner Dance item – a day on the water, skiing, tubing, etc. Repeat the same the next two days, except this time with the Newman Center students for “Fun in the Son.” I’ll be home long enough for weekend masses, and then off for a two day golf outing. I return long enough for some laundry and then off to Christian Family Camp for a few days. Return to change clothes and fly to Maine for a baptism of the second born for a couple I introduced, did their marriage and then first born’s baptism. Come back for a day and a half of work. And then back to Christian Family camp for the last three days of Week Two. They will be full days, but wonderful ones – the kind that make me realize how richly I have been blessed in this priesthood I share with our Lord.

What is tremendously satisfying to know is that I leave you all in very good, capable hands. I know I don’t acknowledge or thank them enough, but Pat Marstall and Eileen Engelmeyer do an amazing job running this parish. And make no mistake, run it they do. They are the glue to the day to day demands that keep it all together. Their dedication, enthusiasm for the parish and its parishioners; their patience (you need that too, in this job) and concern for each phone call, each visitor, each person who drops by is a wonderful thing to behold. They simply find a way to get it all done, with a grace that is exemplary. In your name, THANK YOU both for all you do…

It is also assuring to know that you are in good hands “sacramentally.” Fr. Emmanuel is a wonderful priest, and is very insightful when he speaks. It does take a bit to get used to English spoken with a French accent, but his inflection and intonation are delightful to listen to. He so makes me appreciate the complexities of our native tongue, and in wonderful usages of the English language makes me think about scripture in a different way.

And when he shares with me about life in the Congo, I am so grateful for the blessings of the simple things. Electricity. Running Water. Indoor toilets. Windows. Screens. Air – Conditioning. The things that you can overlook because they are so constant and reliable.

As YOU count your blessings these days, take a moment to thank God for all those simple gifts in your life that make a life such a gift…

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Pastor’s Pen – July 18, 2010

Published on 18. Jul, 2010 by in Pastor's Pen

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Summer reading…

I am reading a small little book this summer, by a man named Brennan Manning. The book is entitled: The Furious Longing of God. Like much of Manning’s writing, it is not ‘new’ stuff that he puts forth. It is simply the gospel as it is meant to be lived. The following passage caught my reflection this week.

“The apostle Paul may have understood the mind of Jesus better than anyone who ever lived. He sums up his whole understanding of the message of Jesus in Galatians 5:6, when he writes, “the only thing that matters is faith that expresses itself in love.” According to Paul’s criterion for greatness in the New Israel of God, the person who is the most Christ-like, closest to the heart of Abba, is not the one who spends the most time in prayer. It’s not the one who has the most PhD’s. It’s not the one who has the most responsibility entrusted to his care. It’s not the pastor of the biggest mega-church. No, it’s the one who loves the most. That’s not my opinion. Those are the words in Galatians 5 that will judge us….

…How have we gotten it so screwed up? I was speaking to the Navigators (editor’s. note – Navigators = a Christian discipleship group with emphasis on study of the Scriptures) and they asked: “Do you have a word for us?” I said: “Yes, I do.”

“Instead of being identified as a community that memorizes Scripture, why not be identified as a community of professional lovers that causes people to say: “How they love one another!” Jesus said the world is going to recognize you as His by only one sign: the way you are with one another on the street every day. You are going to leave people feeling a little better or a little worse. You’re going to affirm them or deprive them, but there’ll be no neutral exchange. If we as a Christian community took seriously that the sign of our love for Jesus is our love for one another, I am convinced it would change the world. We’re denying to the world the one witness Jesus asked for: Love one another as I’ve loved you. (John 15:12)

Let me repeat that, again in his words. “You’re going to be identified as His disciples by one sign only: the deep and delicate respect you have, the cordial love impregnated with reverence for the sacred dimension of the human personality you find in your brothers and sisters…”

This is enough to pray into for a lifetime, I think…

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There are a variety of possible answers to that gospel question. You might say love, friendship, shelter, money, employment(especially these days), meaning, purpose, direction, and the list could go on.

In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus visits his dear friends Martha and Mary and each one gives him what she believes is best. Martha welcomes Jesus to her home and immediately runs into the kitchen to prepare a meal. A warm greeting and a hot meal is what Martha believes is the best she can offer Jesus. Mary, her sister, sits down at the feet of Jesus and listens to what he has to say. Mary believes the best she can offer Jesus is her time and her undivided attention.

Had the story stopped there, all would have been fine. It would have been two examples of love: Mary loving Jesus by her conversation and Martha loving Jesus with her hospitality and cooking. But in a twist that has most people defending Martha against Mary, Martha complains that Mary is not in the kitchen. What are we to take from this?

There are a few lines of thought around what this passage means. I will speak about two of those. We get clues in the passage itself. First, the descriptor is of Martha – complaining. “Burdened with much serving…” the passage tells us. That should be our first hint. And when Jesus responds, he highlights the ‘problem’ that Martha has. You are ‘anxious and worried about many things… Mary has chosen the ‘better portion” we hear translated. But literally, in Latin, the words are “Unum Necessiarum” – the necessary thing. “Mary has chosen the necessary thing” –that around which it all falls into place. It is not that Mary’s gift of listening is necessarily better than Martha’s gift of serving. Had Martha been content with the gift of hospitality she was offering, her cooking would have been the “necessary thing” she was giving to Jesus, and it all would have fallen into place for her. But because she was distracted and disturbed and burdened with that, her gift to Jesus came from a divided heart. And there was no peace within her. There was no ‘necessary thing’ in what she was doing that brought it all together for her. That is the first line of thought around this passage.

I think in the course of our lives that ‘the necessary thing’ changes for each of us. And because there is much that needs to be done in our world, most of us jump into Martha’s role of service. We think that Martha got a bad rap. But here is where Jesus’ response taps into this other river of understanding, this other current that has been going on since Adam and Eve in terms of people’s response to God.

Throughout the bible, LISTENING has to come before ACTING. Too often we act without listening. Too often, people presume that they know what God wants of them and what they are supposed to be doing. A whole life of listening without action never gets the kingdom built. A whole life of action without listening builds our own kingdoms. Once we have listened and heard – then we can act with God’s will. A prime example is David’s desire to build temple. He’s ready to go. But Nathan says: “Listen to God – there is something else for YOU to do now. Leave the temple to Solomon. Do what YOU must do at this time.” And David gets it right. Like Mary, he listens – and leaves it for his son.

In our story, Mary SITS at the feet of Jesus. That was a posture that indicated you were willing to be a disciple. And it was decided not a cultural role for a woman to play in the time of Jesus. But Jesus was not bothered by that cultural conditioning. In praising Mary’s attitude of listening, he is inviting EVERYONE, not just the men, into the role of a disciple. Now, hear again what Jesus says to Martha in that light: “Martha, you are worried and preoccupied. And that worry keeps you from what is necessary – to be a disciple. Mary, in her listening has it right at this moment. Sitting at my feet, she is learning what it is to be a disciple. And though you can love me in many ways, I need you to love me now by your becoming a disciple, by your listening. Once you have listened for what I have put in YOUR heart – that one necessary thing, then you’ll act with the same freedom that Mary knows in her listening. Then you’ll be free to be who I called you to be.”

For you and I – that is the invitation, isn’t it? To discover the ONE THING God has put into our hearts to do at this stage of our life. So it comes back to that Gospel question for all of us. This day, July 17/18, 2010, what is the best gift you can give to our Lord? Bring that gift to the altar…

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Pastor’s Pen – July 11, 2010

Published on 11. Jul, 2010 by in Pastor's Pen

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Did you know…

It is easy to think that as a parish, we are a little island, floating on our own. And then, continuing with that line of thinking, to be angry or frustrated at the Archdiocese for leaving us here on our own. But did you know that we are decidedly not alone. In many ways, we draw daily and weekly support from “Lindell” (now moved to “Laclede Station Road”). Help is always a phone call away.

The Archdiocesan School office supports us with researched answers to specific problems and issues brought to Mrs. Reichenbach’s or my attention. Their expertise and assistance has been invaluable to the two ‘first time’ principals we have hired during my tenure here.

When I need a dispensation for a wedding or help for someone going through the process of an annulment, I know where to go and who to talk to. As the new changes in the translations of the mass are coming down the pipeline, I know that the Liturgy Office will be offering several training sessions (I’ve already been to the first one) to prepare our hearts to pray with the church as it prays.

When a legal issue raises its head, (and unfortunately, they do more often than I would like) the ‘Archdiocesan Lawyers’ are there to research the answers I need so I can deal with the situation correctly, yet compassionately.

When couples are preparing for marriage, I know there is a schedule of retreats already planned and evening “Pre-Cana” sessions scattered throughout the Archdiocese for them to plug into. I refer them to the Archdiocesan web-page, and off they go…

And on a more ‘local’ level, several parishes have ‘twinned’ with our St. Vincent De Paul society, making a monthly commitment to help us help those in need in our community and parish. Immaculata on Clayton was the first. Joining them over the course of the years have been St. Alban Roe, Incarnate Word and Ascension parishes, all in Chesterfield. Together they give nearly $500 a month in aid to our St. Vincent DePaul Society for those in our neighborhood.

Did you know? I hope so. But just in case you didn’t, breathe a prayer of thanks to God for the ‘connections between us’ as members of this wonderful Archdiocese of St. Louis…

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Are you possessed?

Published on 04. Jul, 2010 by in Sunday Homilies

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A father of a teenage girl was describing his daughter in a conversation.  “She is pretty normal and balanced, good sense of humor, athletic, sociable.  In 99% of her life, she is a typical teenager.  But when she misplaces her i-phone – she is like a woman possessed.  She becomes frantic, driven, and restless – she just gets crazy until she finds it again and is reconnected to her texts and tweets and voice mails…”

Typical?  I suspect there are many teens and college folks and business professionals in the same bag.  (show my phone)  But maybe it is not just people with cell phones that struggle.  I wonder if we all have things that ‘possess’ us.  Things that we have grown so attached to, that we cling to them like nothing else.

  • Perhaps it is that ‘perfect house’ with a perfect lawn, always spotless and immaculate, never a toy out of place, or clothes on the floor.  We get so crazy about that dream that we spend more time cleaning and doing the yard work than we do talking with our spouse.
  • Maybe it is a memory that has gripped us – of an event we can’t change, but we wished for a different outcome.  Years later, it still possesses us with a sense of shame or failure or ‘if only I had…”
  • Perhaps it is even a relationship – we come to depend on this one person to be in our life – and the idea of them not being there makes us frantic and crazy and possessive and unhealthy.

It is disturbingly easy to be possessed.  To let our attractions to things and people and status and events control who we are.

It is in that light I heard the gospel reading this weekend.  In those ‘marching orders’ that Jesus gives to his disciples, we hear an invitation to freedom don’t we?    In commissioning the 72, his desire is that none of those he sends out be possessed by ANYTHING, save the desire to bring in the harvest…

  • Take no money sack, no sandals, no traveling bag. – don’t get caught in the possessions game.
  • Stay where they welcome you.  Eat what they put before you.  Don’t get caught in the providence game – wondering where the next meal will come from or where you’ll be living.  It will come.  Just trust.
  • Don’t even get possessed by the desire for success or failure.  If people welcome you, stay there and do your work.  If they don’t listen, shake the dust (prophetic gesture), give them one last verbal warning, and then move on.  Don’t get bent out of shape by the outcome.  Just be about the work of the harvest.

Do you see how freeing that kind of life style is?  You are not owned by anything or anyone.  When you can rejoice only in that “your name is written in heaven” it is not even about the ‘reward’ of heaven.  Rather, it is the joy that comes from knowing that you have thrown your lot in completely with Jesus.  You become like St. Paul, boasting ONLY of the cross of Jesus Christ.

On this weekend where we celebrate our nation’s Declaration of Independence, and celebrate our freedom as a nation, we are invited around this altar to a different kind of independence.  Here we are invited to know, not a freedom from the tyranny of a foreign government, but a freedom from the tyranny of anything that seeks to possess our hearts and lives and loves, save that of our love for our Lord.  Here at this altar, we have an opportunity to say to the Lord how much he matters to us. When you receive the Lord in communion, take a moment to pledge anew your love for him.  Ask for the grace to see how ‘possessed’ you are, and then beg for the freedom from WHATEVER it is that holds you bound.

Then we’ll all know the freedom our Lord has in store for us, as he sends US out into the mission fields –to proclaim his love to all we meet, and the gather in the rich harvest Jesus tells us is waiting…

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Pastor’s Pen – July 4, 2010

Published on 04. Jul, 2010 by in Pastor's Pen

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Thanks…

Sr. Dorothy informed me that once more the people of St. Ann have been amazingly generous to the Annual Catholic Appeal. Thank you so much for not only meeting our parish goal, but exceeding our challenge goal. (The challenge goal is the amount that we raised last year.) Thank you for believing in the mission of the larger Archdiocese enough to support it and become a part of ALL the ministries that are larger than the boundaries of this parish. On behalf of the many agencies that are served by the Appeal, (especially our little Newman Center here) let me say a profound word of thanks. (and if you still praying over your response to this appeal, you have a bit of time left. Your last chance will be a letter from the Archbishop via the mail, coming sometime soon…

Thanks once more to our Chairman Bob Beckring, for all his hard work in organizing our efforts here. Thanks to Sr. Dorothy for ‘leaving the convent’ (only for a while) to help with the collation and sending in of the pledge cards. Thanks to Audrey Hughes for opening her house and her heart to Sr. Dorothy, allowing her to stay in her home away from the convent. It is an amazing hospitality and grace she offers.

There is one more appeal that is in my heart before this fiscal year closes. It is the “Pay it Forward” appeal, that will be going out to St. Ann Alumni and parishioners. As you remember, last year was the first year of this appeal, designed to help keep tuition affordable. We invited all those alums and friends of St. Ann school to ‘pay forward’ to the next generation of Students and parents the gift of the education they received here at our beloved St. Ann.

I am always aware of the many demands on your charity and generosity. But because I believe in the education and religious formation that happens in our school on a daily basis, I am honored to ask people to support what we do with the gift of their time, talent and mostly treasure.

A letter will be going out in the next week or so letting you know the particulars of that appeal.

Thanks SOOO much for your amazing support and generosity. You have had multiple opportunities to continue the work of our Savior by your support. Thanks for stepping up to the plate and hitting a home run this year!!!

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