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Thanks to everyone that came out and supported the 2010 Monsignor Sprenke Soccer Tournament at St. Ann’s!  Below are a few photos snapped during the final night of the tournament.

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Please Support This Year’s Deacon Formation Collection

Did you know that, over the last four decades, dozens of Deacons of the Archdiocese of St. Louis have, in addition to their parish service, volunteered countless hours of selfless, lovingcare for those in our midst who are suffering and in need? Like those first seven ordained by theApostles, our Deacons are called to be ministers of charity and models of Christ-like compassionfor the sick, the poor, the imprisoned, and the dying, Deacons “wash the feet” of the faithfuleach day, seeing the face of Christ revealed in their ailing brothers and sisters. Deacons canbe found offering us comfort in every facet of daily life—nursing homes, hospitals, hospices,prisons, schools, airports, businesses, and more. Can you help our future deacons be Christ’shands and feet with your charitable donation to this year’s Deacon Formation Collection?Deacon formation in the Archdiocese relies heavily on the support of this year’s annual DeaconFormation Collection, held this coming October 2nd and 3rd. Please be as generous as possible.God bless you for your support!

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Art Trapp.  Gary Braun.   Nick Schneider.  They are three of my heroes in the priesthood.  Each, in their own way, has played a role in my journey to the priesthood and my living within that priesthood.  Art was the rector of the seminary and a model of humility.  Gary was my spiritual director and continues to be my mentor.  Nick was the pastor at my home parish and taught me so much about how to be a good pastor and priest.  Today, I add a fourth priest to that list.  In Birmingham, England, a man and a convert to Catholicism and later a priest, whose name was John Newman was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI.

There are two aspects of his life that converge on today’s gospel.

For Newman, the life of the mind was seamlessly interwoven with his own heart, and it is both together that create a full, and rewarding existence.  Newman was a brilliant scholar within the Anglican tradition.  He wrote numerous tracks and scholarly articles.  But then something happened that he didn’t expect to happen.  His study of the early father of the church led him to conclude that the Catholic tradition best lived and fulfilled the teaching and mandate of Jesus.  Withdrawing from his beloved Oxford, and the intellectual life he flourished in, he studied and prayed and wrestled for 2 ½ years.  At the end of that time, he converted to Catholicism.  He discovered that his heart had to follow the truth his mind revealed to him.  His heart had to follow the truth.  And though he was hated by many of his former comrades in the Anglican tradition, and never fully embraced by most of his Catholic brothers in his lifetime, that witness of intellectual honesty remains something so attractive and compelling all these years later.

In this Gospel parable, Jesus is not praising deceit.  Rather He praises the use of the mind to help the Kingdom come here, now.  Use that awesome brain, Jesus is saying, to be clever as a fox in accomplishing His purposes.  In other words, God needs your mind, your brain, your brilliance!  Make sure you use it and use it well.  Concretely, I encourage you to take a moment this week and in your own way, to dedicate your mind to serve God.  Put your mind into God’s hands, realizing that one of the best ways to do that is put God in the center.  As Jesus tells us when he wraps up his puzzling parable:  “You cannot serve both God and mammon.” Put your mind at the service of God.

The second thing Newman would tell us comes from his motto:  “Cor ad Cor loquitor”.  “Heart speaks to heart.”  There is a great dialogue that God the Father always wants to have with us.  The divine heart is always reaching out to us to engage us and call us and invite us into that relationship of life and love we call salvation.  And though reason is to be trusted and respected, and followed, it is never to be followed alone, never divorced from the Heart, never divorced from that ongoing conversation with God that seeks our salvation and life.

Nourish that intellectual life with a life of prayer, with a life of connection to God, would be Newman’s other gift to us.  And you’ll find no better prayer, I believe, in the ones that Newman passed down to us than this one to wrap your heart and mind and life around:

God has created me to do Him some definite service.

He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another.  (can stop right there a great prayer)

I have a mission;

I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next.

I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons; He has not created me for naught (nothing).

I shall do good–I shall do His work.

I shall be an angel of peace while not intending it

if I do but keep His commandments.

Therefore, I will trust Him.

We gather tonight as links in that chain that traces itself back to BLESSED John Henry Cardinal Newman.  May we live well the life of the mind he modeled, and enter into that dialogue of prayer where God’s heart will speak to our heart, setting our feet on that mission that is ours and ours alone to do.  Amen.  Amen…

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Our family was unable to afford comic books growing up, so I was introduced to them only in college, where two classmates had extensive collections.  Superman, the Fantastic Four, the X-men  – really, all the comic book characters with the exception of Captain America and Conan the Barbarian – had secret powers.  And they would use these powers for good.  (Except the bad guys, of course, who would use those powers for evil) Secret powers were a good thing.

If you or I could have a secret power, what would it be?  Or what would you ask for?  The ability to fly?  Or like the Flash, to go incredibly quickly, so you could get all your papers and homework done in a blink.  Or in a different vein, to heal a broken heart?  To create world peace at the drop of a hat?  As I mused on this, it dawned on me – I do have a secret power.  Yep.  I’ve been holding out on you these years.  I have a secret power.

You see, I can make people invisible.  I can make them invisible.

It’s a little funny, though, this power.  It only works for me.  I am the only one who can’t see them. They are right there. Others can see them. They can see themselves.  But I can’t see them.  Sometimes I control the effect.  Other times, it just happens.  Making people invisible is a scary secret power.

The rich man in today’s gospel had that power as well.  He didn’t see Lazarus.  Sure, he knew he was there.  He would have had to step over him on his way in and out of the house.  He allowed him beg by his door – rather than have him run off by the police.  He even knew his name – as we discover, when he asks Abraham to send Lazarus to dip his finger in water to comfort him.  But he never SAW Lazarus.  He had made him invisible – so he wouldn’t feel guilty.  So he wouldn’t have to deal with a situation that would confront his eating comfortably, his dressing in wealth and finery.

The last time I used that power was last night.  I was up at St. Ann’s at the Msgr. Sprenke tournament. As I was walking to the pavilion area where people gather, I walked by a new family, whom I’ve been introduced to several times and whose name I should know, but because I couldn’t remember it, I just made them invisible.  It happens at UMSL when you are the second one to show up to a classroom, and it is that ‘odd’ student sitting there, and rather than taking the risk to be associated with them, you make them invisible and sit across the room.  We know that sometimes in our own families/apartments, when our spouse or sibling or roommate has angered us by any one of a countless number of things -–and we grow tired from being healthy and confronting them with what we need and what we can tolerate and what we are willing to budge on – so we ignore the problem and ignore them until it blows up in our face…

Sometimes we even make ourselves invisible- because we don’t trust that people will want to hear what we have to say – so we hold back – and our friends never get a glimpse into the things that we hold sacred in our hearts…

And those are just the easy times when we make people invisible.  20 million people were affected by the flooding in Pakistan.  Soldiers and civilians are being killed on both sides of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Today’s front page screams at us of a world’s pain and suffering, but, like the rich man, it is easier to make it all invisible.

Secret powers.  I thought they were great when I was first introduced to comic books.  Until I realized that I too have powers, and that I too, have used them to the detriment of the kingdom.  I encourage you this week to examine the ‘powers that you exercise’ as you relate to people.  Perhaps, like Superman, you can see beyond appearances to the heart of what people struggle with.  Use that power this week as you listen to folks with all your strength.  Perhaps, like me, you have made people invisible.  Learn to see them this week by having lunch with them or a conversation…

But know that you have great power within you – the power to nurture life and love, the power to return love for hatred, light in the place of darkness, hope in a world full of despair.  It is the power that comes from the one who sees us all so clearly and loves us all into life- Jesus whom we receive at this table.

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MCCCN…

By invitation of Archbishop Carlson, at all the masses next weekend you will be given an opportunity to put your faith into action by joining the Missouri Catholic Conference Citizen’s Network.  The Missouri Catholic Conference is the official public policy agency for the Catholic Church in Missouri.  Its board of directors are the Catholic Bishops of Missouri.

The Missouri Catholic Conference is non-partisan.  It does not endorse or oppose candidates but focuses on issues and legislation.

Through the years, the Missouri Catholic Conference has had many successes, such as enacting a ban on partial birth abortions, expanding health care to the poor and passing a tough new law regulating triple X pornography stores.  But the Conference is only effective if Catholics participate in the MCC Citizen’s Network.  Participation in the network is free.  The MCC only asks that you try to respond to their action alerts by contacting legislators when key votes are pending in the Missouri General Assembly or Congress.

Through this network, Catholics work together to advance the common good by protecting the unborn, assisting the poor and promoting quality education for all school children.  Network members receive regular e-mail updates and alerts on pending issues and legislation.  The Missouri Catholic Conference puts network members in touch with their legislators when key votes are pending.

You will find enrolment forms at the end of the pews at all the masses next weekend.  Fill in those forms and drop them in the collection baskets over the next two Sundays.  You can register by text message – type MCC, your first and last name and email address.  Send your text message to 27126.

As Catholics, we are called to bring the light of Christ into the public square.  This is one very concrete way that you can do this.  As Pope John Paul II said:  Democracy needs virtue.  Democracy serves what is true and right when it safeguards the dignity of every human person, when it respects inviolable and inalienable rights, when it makes the common good the end and criteria regulating all public and social life.  Please prayerfully consider signing up next weekend…

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September 19, 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Today our Archdiocese observes its 10th Annual Stewardship Awareness Sunday.  Stewardship awareness should happen every Sunday—and every day of the week—but this annual reminder is an excellent opportunity for me to once again say thank you to each of you for your generous stewardship of all God’s gifts!

Stewardship Awareness Sunday is also a time for each of us to remember that everything we have is a gift from God—our minds and hearts, our skills and talents and all our material possessions all comes as free gifts from a generous and loving God.  On this day we are reminded in a special way that we own nothing.  God owns everything, and He shares His gifts with us so that we can share them with others.

Once we accept that everything truly belongs to God, there are two appropriate responses:

The first is to be filled with gratitude for all the blessings God shares with us so generously.

The second is to recognize that we have a responsibility to use our gifts wisely and well in the way that God wants.

Gratitude and responsibility are fundamental characteristics of a Christian steward. Both demand that we be people of prayer.

When we pray, especially in the Eucharist, we give God thanks and praise. We acknowledge His goodness to us, and we express our profound gratitude for all His abundant blessings.

When we pray, we should seek God’s will for the development and use of all His gifts to us. We can only know how God wants us to use our gifts if we turn to Him every day in prayer and ask Him.   

That’s why the theme for this 10th annual Stewardship Sunday is Stewardship: Start with Prayer. Earlier this year I met with more than 300 pastors and stewardship leaders from all regions of our Archdiocese and I asked them to set aside the year 2010 as a time when we all reflect prayerfully on what stewardship means to us individually and as a Church.

Today I am asking you, and every Catholic in our Archdiocese, to join me in reflecting prayerfully on all God’s blessings and on His will for how we develop and share them with others.

Let’s start with prayer.  I encourage you to begin every day with this simple prayer:  Thank you, Father, for all your blessings. And then pray: Lord, what do you want me to do with all the gifts you have given me? Listen to God’s answer. He speaks to us—not necessarily in words—in the stillness of our hearts.

I believe that prayer will lead us all to greater participation in our parishes and a stronger desire to “pay back” God’s goodness by sharing our gifts with our Church and our world.

As I mention in my article in this week’s St. Louis Review, we can never really pay God back for all His goodness to us, but it’s my experience that when we embrace stewardship wholeheartedly through a life of prayer and active participation in our Church’s mission, we find great joy.  Our lives change for the better.  We feel less stress and much more peace because we have given everything back to God and allowed Him to take charge of everything – exactly as He should.

This is my hope and prayer for you on this Stewardship Awareness Sunday.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Archbishop Robert J. Carlson

Archbishop of St. Louis

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Stewardship: Start with Prayer

By now, when most people hear the word ‘stewardship’, three words jump into their minds: Time, Talent and Treasure.  Those are good words to associate with the notion of being good stewards –using those basic gifts God gives us to cooperate with God in the building up of the kingdom.   The danger, however, in associating those words first with stewardship is that we can miss the deepest reality about stewardship – that is it first and foremost a spiritual message.

Stewardship is the way that we are called to live out our faith.  Primarily it is a way of life that allows us to be true disciples of Jesus and to follow more closely the teaching of the Gospel.  True stewardship always starts with prayer.  It always starts, like Mary, with our sitting at the feet of the Master, listening to his words and letting them soak deep into our hearts.  The temptation is to jump in, like Martha, to the response step of serving before we have had the chance to do the proper listening step.  Much will get done with that approach, but it begs the question whether what we are doing is what God wants us to do.

This Stewardship Sunday’s theme echoes this teaching: Stewardship: Start with Prayer.  Archbishop Carlson has one key statement for us to respond to:  “How do we know what God expects of us if we are not in close communication with Him through prayer!”  The purpose of stewardship is not to tell God all the things that we want God to do, but rather to ask God what He wants us to do and then be quiet enough to hear the answer in our hearts.  And THEN to let our prayer lead to action.

So, this coming Stewardship Sunday (which is also Catechetical Sunday), Sept. 19th, I invite you to begin a new, daily kind of prayer.  Just 5 minutes a day each day, first thing in the morning.  Pray this simple phrase and then be quiet.

“Lord, what do You want me to do with all the gifts you have given me TODAY?”

If we pray well into those two notions recommended to us by Archbishop Carlson – spending time in prayer and asking the question –  then I think we’ll be on our way to being the faithful stewards who are praised in the gospels for their love and response to God…

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“It was the stupidest thing I could have done.  I brought two people on my team to lead music, and then, when the time came for them to ‘do their stuff’, they were so slow getting things started, and I felt the energy leaving the room, so I just jumped up there with my guitar and took over.  How could I have been so thoughtless?”  

“I am so ashamed of the choice I made back then, Father.  I was a teenager, scared, alone.  My boyfriend had dumped me when he heard the news.  I couldn’t tell my parents or anyone.  So I went to the clinic and had my “problem” taken care of.  And now, every time I see a child about the age mine would have been, I want to run and hide and scream.  How could God possibly love me after THAT kind of choice?”

“I was an impetuous, self-centered little snot.  I believed that life owed me something.  So I took all my father would give me, burned all my bridges behind me and went off to live life as it should be lived.  It didn’t take long for the money to run out.  Or for my new found ‘friends’ to abandon me.  And now, there’s nothing for me.  Nothing.”

Do you believe in life after failure?  When you have fallen flat on your face, do you believe that there is a grace strong enough and persistent enough and loving enough to raise you up?  Do you really believe that someone – not you – but that someone – a higher power – actually has the last word?  You see, that is the promise that our scriptures hold out for us today.  

The last story – I hope you recognized the prodigal son and the story of a God who despite the son’s failures, sought him out to love him and heal him.  He deserved ‘nothing’.  There was no amount of groveling he could do to ‘earn’ his status as son back.  But that didn’t stop God.  And this man who deserved nothing received everything!

The middle one – well, that would be a version of St. Paul’s life in this era of elective abortions – one who had become a mass murderer for the sake of all that is holy and righteous.  She was a woman I was introduced to by a mutual friend – in need of help and hope and healing.  And through the grace, not of a light coming out of the sky, but a program called Project Rachel, she is a healed and happy mother of 3 very bright and lively children.

The first one – that was me in my very early days of priesthood – on a Search retreat program.  I knew how to be a musician on those retreats – I had played that role for years.  I didn’t know how to be a priest on that retreat – and I botched it very badly.  And to this day, I can close my eyes and picture that cafeteria in the old Mercy High School where I heard those healing words with Joe’s hand on my right shoulder and Donna’s on my left:  “We forgive you.”  And I learned so much about love and forgiveness and grace and humility in that moment.

Do you believe in life after failure?  Moses certainly did, as he pleaded before God for his people.  He believed in a dignity that went beyond their failures and moral flaws.  And knew they were worth fighting for.  And he reminded God that God believed the same thing about them.

Do YOU believe in life after failure?  Will you let YOUR failures have the final word in your life?  Or will you trust that God is more interested in what you can become after the failure, and even because of the failure, than any mistake or sin you have committed.  Will you trust that like the people of Israel, like Paul, like the prodigal son, like my friend’s friend, like me, our loving father has so much more in store for us?  -That God wants to restore you to the dignity of his sons and daughters?  And often, it is only through our failures that we learn about life and love, about who we are and whose we are.  Only there on the bottom, do we learn about God’s embrace that will always have the last word in our lives.  Today, and this week, let us give God a chance to do what He does best – to welcome each and every one of us, each least and last and lost one of us, to the embrace of grace that always brings life after our failures…

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2010 St. Ann Garage Sale

Published on 07. Sep, 2010 by in Events, News

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Our annual garage sale to benefit St. Ann School and the St. Vincent De Paul Society will be held on the weekend of October 23 and 24, so start scouring the attic, basement, garage, and closets for usable items you no longer want…we’;; be glad to have your household items, decorations, tools, toys and games, books, clean clothing, etc. You may drop off donations beginning on Monday, October 18th.

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It’s Sprenke Time!!!!

Published on 07. Sep, 2010 by in Events, News

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Great soccer and succulent BBQ are available at St. Ann during this tournament. The Men’s Club serves up great barbecued meats and sides and beverages on Friday and Saturday evenings (Sept. 10, 11, 17, 18, 24, 25) so take the family out for dinner and fun…call up old friends and let them know it’s coming up and plan to meet at the pavilion.

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