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There has been much furor over the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) recent requirements for even more stringent security measures.  Full body imaging makes some people uncomfortable, if not for themselves, then certainly for their small children.  A more invasive ‘pat down’ procedure has civil rights activists up in arms.  Some people are outraged.  Others are resigned to it.  The goal is to keep everyone safe when flying.  The question is how much security is enough, and how much is too much?

For once, the church is actually a bit a head of the curve.  The Vatican version of the TSA, the CSA (Catholic Salvation Authority) has just announced its own set of screening measures, going into effect this coming week.  Every believer, when walking through the doors of church, will have to pass through, not a full body imaging scanner, but a full ‘soul image’ screening device.  Its intent, according to the press release, is to screen out any dangerous attitudes that would get in the way of people entering fully into the Mass and this season of Advent.

Fortunately for us, Wiki-leaks just posted a bootleg copy of the items the CSA considers dangerous and instructs us to make sure people leave at the door.  We’ll have bins in the vestibule for you to leave those items behind.  And like the airport, once you have left them there, you can’t retrieve them again.

(Unroll scroll…)

The CSA forbids the carrying on of:

  1. Any and all works of darkness.  These include but are not limited to: 
    1. Laziness and presumption:  There may not be tomorrow to get it right.  Because the day will come suddenly, right in the midst of ordinary behaviors.  Therefore, waiting till some vague ‘future’ to get your act together will no longer be allowed.  “Stay Awake, for you know not the day nor the hour…”
    2. Any excesses and indulgences that make the heart sated and sluggish.  Binge drinking, viewing pornography, treating people as objects for our own pleasure, using people for what they can give to you are no longer acceptable items to carry into church.  In fact, they never have been.
    3. Bellicose and warlike attitudes absolutely much be checked at the door.  Only pruning hooks and plowshares welcomed here.  And this is not limited to the personal sphere either.  We’re screening for more than just the ability to get along with crazy Aunt Matilda during the holidays.  Tacit complicity with unjust wars, support of the selling of arms and munitions such as cluster armaments that remain a risk decades after a conflict is over is not permitted in the church.  Letters, writing congress to ratify the treaty banning such munitions, that three fourths of the nations of the world signed, is strongly encouraged.
  2. Secondly, the Catholic Salvation Authority will be watching for less easily detected attitudes that cripple the soul.  Most often discovered in the type of humor and jokes that are passed on, any forms or racism, sexism, ageism or any other ‘ism’ will be confiscated and thrown into the trash where they belong.
  3. Furthermore, in an attempt to strengthen all travelers on their journeys to the kingdom, the CSA is inviting people to “put on the armor of light.”  To travel safely, please spend a few extra moments in prayer these weeks, opening a space for the Christ to be born in you once more.**  (for the Newman Center see …… below)


Oh, there’s an asterisk.  **In Normandy, Missouri, people must give up the practice sometimes known as “St. Ann’s time.”  (Hey, I don’t make this stuff up…(point to scroll) – there it is in the fine print…)  By drifting in to mass week after week, the ability to form a united and prayerful community is damaged; people’s concentration and ability to focus on the Word as it is proclaimed is stolen, and God is not praised as he could and should be by the worshipping community.

As the CSA becomes aware of further threats to the unity of the church and its preparation for the second coming of our Lord, we will make these known and initiate further security measures.  In the mean time, we appreciate your cooperation as we make this journey of Advent.  May you arrive at your destination safely with all your fellow passengers by leading lives of joyful expectation…

    In Normandy, Missouri, find something better to do at 3:30 p.m. than watch Jeopardy.”  (Hey, I don’t make this stuff up… [point to scroll] – there it is in the fine print…)  You don’t learn anything that matters; you sacrifice prime study time, and the world would be a much safer place if you spent that time having real conversations with the diverse group of people in that room than watching Alex Trebek.  😉

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As you may know, the Kempf family celebrates Thanksgiving on Wednesday nights.  It makes it easier for the married ones among us to spend time with their other side of the family, and it allows us to visit uninterrupted, instead of having family who can only make it for dessert or for dinner, but not both.  It has served us well.

Toward the end of the evening, not in a real planned or orderly way, and with a lot of interruptions – we got to the question:  What are you thankful for?  It is a good question.  And a common question this time of year.  But upon reflection on my ride home last night, I also think it is a DEAD WRONG question to ask.  And I think it is wrong because the pronoun is wrong.  What are YOU thankful for?  Where is the focus to that question?  It strikes me – “I” am the focus of that.  (or whomever is answering that question.)  I, the one giving thanks, is the important one as you answer that, not the one who is the source of all our blessings.

Maybe I am nit picking.  Maybe that is the way it has to happen in our psyche – we rise from our awareness of self to the awareness of God.  But when I woke up with a song in my head this morning, I thought there might be something to my musings on the car ride home…  The song is by the St. Louis Jesuits, titled: “May we praise you.”  (I played it at my first mass, and my 25th, both at the thanksgiving time of mass.)  For me, this song embodies the grateful response.  It captures rightly the focus of this day.

The words go like this…

May we praise you, O Lord,

With heart and hands and voice.

And since life itself is your gift to us,

Then may all that we are be yours…

May our living be true

May all return to you.

And when life is done, let our passing be

Like a birth into light of day

Let your step light our path

Let shades of dark not last

May the Son of justice return on high

And your love be our road and guide.

To the Father be praise

To Son and Spirit praise

Unto God the one let all praise be done

Till the dawn of the lasting day.

May we praise…

SO, as we listen to this song, let it guide your praise of God for all the good that God has done for you…

(play song)

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Our pastor, Fr. Bill, has graciously invited me to share this column with him every other week during the time I am with you at St. Ann’s. I thought I would use this opportunity to tell you a little more about myself, as well as to outline briefly what Fr. Bill and I thought might be some things I could do in the parish during my stay with you.

I have a passion for evangelization and faith formation. It used to be said of Catholics that they were well catechized (knew some answers from the Catholic Catechism) but not evangelized (had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ). Today, sadly, it is often the case that Catholics are neither catechized nor evangelized. Generally speaking, we are poorly equipped to “give an explanation for the hope that is within us” (1 Pt. 3:15). Pope Benedict XVI and Archbishop Carlson are all about changing this. My life is given to assisting them in these efforts.

In addition to working with Mary Jo Reichenbach to being a resource for our grade school children, and with Fr. Bill as a resource for his students at the Newman Center at UMSL, I offer myself as a resource to you in your desire to enter more deeply into the mystery of the Christian faith. I see myself as a “Faith Coach.” I love to walk alongside folks who want to know more of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. To this end Fr. Bill has asked me to offer a few series of presentations during the upcoming months, beginning with three sessions on the Person of Jesus during the Advent season. You will see advertised in the bulletin classes that Fr. Bill and I believe might be helpful for the parish.

Thank you for welcoming me to St. Ann’s. I recognize in your warmth the promise of Him who said, “whenever you did it to the least of my brethren, you did it unto Me” (Mt. 25:40).

– Phil Krill

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Of many things…

As promised, thanks to Patrick Garrett, the year end fiscal report is up on the parish website. If you want to view it, go to:

www.stannchurch-stl.org/2009-10-parish-year-end-report/

Thanks once again for your faithful and amazing stewardship. Your contributions, big and small, help us to create this corner of God’s kingdom, right here in Normandy, Missouri.

I feel a bit like the boy who cried wolf too often, asking for your generosity and aid again and again. We had the seminary appeal. And the Annual Catholic Appeal. Followed by the Pay It Forward Appeal. And finally, in a few weeks, our annual Visitation Appeal which helps with the operational expenses of the parish. Each of these appeals makes a concrete difference in the lives of those who are served by our gifts. Each appeal gives us another opportunity to put our faith into action.

Archbishop Carlson put it so well in his remarks about Stewardship: “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.” Thank you for the ways you have been such good stewards of the gifts God has given to you…

What an amazing fall for weather this year. I don’t remember so many dry and warm days strung together in a long time. That has been great for my exercising and for the second annual “Walktober Challenge.” The results are in for this year. And though St. Ann school did not take the trophy this year in the challenge, the Priests in the Northwest Deanery (that would be our deanery) did come in first with an average of 2654 minutes of intentional activity during the month. The first place trophy in the Priests Category went to the former pastor of St. Ann Parish – Fr. Jim Edwards, with 4739 minutes, an average of 2 ½ hours a day. Yours truly came in 5th, averaging 1 ½ hours a day. (Of course, the majority of those minutes came while chasing a small, white round ball through some nicely cut fairways.) Our school kids came in ranked 6th out of the 25 teams – averaging an hour and 7 minutes a day.

Thanks be to God for the gift of bodies that work and glorious days in which to enjoy them…

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Little Timmy got a toy drum for his birthday.  And he loved that drum above all the other gifts he got that day.  Timmy loved that drum.  Aunt Dottie, growing weary asked Timmy: “Aren’t you tired of playing that drum yet?”  It was the wrong question.  About 10 minutes later, Uncle Mike tried: “Timmy, you got a lot of other toys for your birthday, don’t you want to play with some of those?  That too, was the wrong question.  Finally, grandpa Mac, who was a bit wiser than most asked Timmy: “Timmy, do you have any idea what is inside of that drum?”

It was the right question to ask…

In today’s gospel, Jesus, who has finally completed his long journey to Jerusalem begins this apocalyptic discourse – a series of sayings and teachings about the end time.  It progresses from the destruction of the temple, to the cataclysmic happenings that will wreak destruction on the earth and among peoples, and finally, to the destruction of the individual believer.  “There will come a day…,” Jesus begins.  And the people around him immediately jump into the wrong questions.  “When will this happen?  What will be the sign?” They wanted to know day, hour and minute.  And in response, kind of like Grandpa Mac, Jesus says: “You’re asking the wrong question!”  He never gives an answer, does he, to that “when” question.  Not in this gospel or any other one.

Instead, he directs his listeners to HOW to respond to these events.  That’s the question he needs us to be asking.  And if we do that, we will not be defenseless in times of crisis.  So what does he tell us about how?

First:  “Many will come in my name.  Do not follow them!”   Jesus is asking to be the Lord of your life.  Not your wife, your parents, your CEO, your best friend.  As wonderful as they might be, we have to get rid of anyone we put in Jesus place.  All those people we submit our lives to in the hopes of getting happy.  All those we turn to quell our loneliness – they have to go.   Jesus will not be one figure along side of others.  To get to the next age, he must be the Lord of your life.  And if our focus is on Jesus, and not our tribulations, then we will be able to stand fearless.  We will when we are doing what we are called to do, which means that sometimes we will have to stand up against the powers that be, we’ll have an opportunity to witness – to give testimony – to what God’s reign is about.

There is a parishioner who is traveling next weekend to protest at the school of the America’s [The SOA continues to train folks from oppressive regimes on how to conduct war and over throw governments using less than savory/ethical tactics.]  He told me: “I’ll be at the meeting on Tuesday, unless they arrest me.”  Talk about a freedom in the face of oppression.  Talk about a life that gives testimony.

The testimony Jesus calls us to give is not a speech that one carefully composes ahead of time.  The preparation consists in persevering in a life of faithfulness and trust in the one who provoked crises by the manner of his life.  I will give you a wisdom that your adversaries will be powerless to refute. And in Luke’s gospel, just a few weeks before he death, that testimony will be the witness of the cross – the wisdom of pushing self emptying love into all the situations of our lives.  If there is a ‘narrative’ about this world and how it works that no one will be able to refute, there it is.  You can try power, prestige, etc.  Those fail.  The story that remains has always been the story of a love that gives itself away in sacrifice.

Not when, but HOW are we to stand in the midst of cataclysms and trials and persecutions?  That is the question we must prepare for each and every moment of our lives.  Here around this altar, receiving the body and blood of our Lord, we take into ourselves that gift of sacrificial love.  Our very bodies are ‘built’ on that gift of a love that gives itself away, as the bread and wine, now transformed into the body and blood of Jesus are transformed by our digestive system into ‘us’.  And if we are true to what we receive, -rather to WHO we receive, then, we’ll hear those final words spoken to us by Jesus.  “By your perseverance, you will secure your life…”

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Pastor’s Pen – November 7, 2010

Published on 07. Nov, 2010 by in Pastor's Pen

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Whew!

Though I cannot prove it, I believe that if I had had to listen to one more negative attack advertisement about this or that candidate, I would have exploded. It wears on the spirit, doesn’t it? That kind of continuous rhetoric, continuous assault on the integrity of others has a way of dragging the spirit down. (It makes you wonder why anyone would ever enter into politics, knowing that they would have to face such a barrage of attacks…)

So it was refreshing to have the readings for the feast of St. Martin de Porres greet me on Wednesday morning as I prepared for the All-School Mass. St. Paul wrote:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Phil.4:8)

Now, I realize I am an eternal optimist and a romantic to boot. And I know that many other people do not share that view of the world. So I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that most of the political ads and the campaign managers would ever give much thought to applying these words of St. Paul to their election strategy. But of the two different world views espoused by campaign ads on the one side and St. Paul’s words on the other, I would chose the latter, not the former.

And unlike the ads on TV, you and I have some control over creating that kind of world around us. Are our words honorable and true? Do we commit to what is pure and lovely? Are the jokes we tell and the stories we share about other people gracious and worthy of praise? Do we call others to excellence and accept nothing but our own striving for that virtue in all the things that we do?

So, let me encourage this little meditation from St. Paul for use as your examination of conscience for the end of a day, and as a part of your morning offering as you begin a new one. What a different world we could create by making this our intention each day. And if we do this, we will know the truth of that final line from this section of St. Paul’s writing. “Then the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil.4:9)

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What are you willing to die for?

Published on 07. Nov, 2010 by in Sunday Homilies

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Two teenage girls are looking through the latest issue of a Hollywood star magazine’s list of the “Most beautiful people on the planet.”  While flipping the pages they come to a picture of Justin Beiber, and one of the young girls says to the other, “Isn’t he just gorgeous?  He’s to die for!”  Across town, two adults are talking on the phone about a shiny new car they both want to buy one day.  It is way too expensive for either of their budgets, but they dream and wish anyway about the day one of them could just walk into the car dealership and drive away in this cherished chariot of their dreams.  Says one to the other, “Oh how I wish I could drive up to my High School reunion in that car!  It’s just to die for!”

So, “Just what are you willing to die for?”  Of course, no one would really die for the chance to be with a handsome movie star, or to drive an expensive new car, no matter how impressed one’s friends and former classmates would be.  But it is an important question to ask ourselves, “Just what is big enough, important enough, that I would give my life for it?”  The instinct to protect one’s life is powerful, and should be so.  No one should take their life lightly, since it is a precious gift from God.  It is good and right that a person takes care of their health, avoids dangerous situations, and keeps a vigilant eye to any threats to life and limb.  But as important as self-preservation is, it should not be a person’s highest value.  If a person does not have some values in life that are worth dying for, that are more important than just self-preservation, than that person is vulnerable to a life that is dominated by fear and selfishness.

Our reading from Maccabees illustrates the point.  In this story, set during the second century B.C. occupation of Israel by the Syrian ruler Antiochus Epiphanes, seven Jewish brothers and their mother are captured and brutally tortured, one by one, in an effort to break their loyalty to their Jewish faith and customs.  It is a gruesome scene, as each brother is slowly killed in the presence of the remaining family members.  But each brother and their mother chose death rather than betray their faith.  And so they endured the ultimate sacrifice of martyrdom, bearing witness to their faith in God’s ultimate justice against their enemies, and their faith in the resurrection from the dead.  Centuries later, their story was still being told, and they are even listed in the roll call of faithful saints in Hebrews 11:35.

And what, you may ask, did the Syrian ruler ask the family members to do, that would be worth this sacrifice?  Did he challenge them to curse God?  Or tear up a scroll of scripture?  No.  He just wanted them to eat a piece of pork.  Simply to make one small break in the Kosher laws of Judaism.  It was not such a big thing, when you think about it that way.  Just a slice of bacon on a BLT, or a piece of sausage with their breakfast.  And for many Jews in that day, the expedient thing to do was to make this one small concession, rather than lose one’s life.  But for this family, even that one small departure from the laws of Moses represented a denial of the whole of Jewish faith.  So for this family, this was the line in the sand where they would take their stand.

So, again, what is important enough to you and to me that we would die for it?  Is there anything big enough to live for that is important enough to die for?  For some, it has been the ideals of freedom and country.  The example of Pat Tillman, the NFL player who gave up a multi-million dollar contract playing football, choosing instead to serve his country in Afghanistan, and ultimately losing his life there, is a case in point.  Others would say that they would readily give up their life to save the life of their children or spouse, or maybe even the life of a stranger in distress.  We still speak with hushed awe over the 9/11 firefighters in New York who ran into those dying buildings in the effort to save people they never met.

In her song, The Rose, Bette Midler sings, “It’s the one afraid of dying, who never learns to live.”  She is right.  Whether or not we ever face the crucial decision of martyrdom, it is important to decide that there are some things that are worth dying for.  Until we have identified those values, we have not begun to live fully, for we are locked up behind the bars of fear.

This week, learn a lesson from the Maccabee children.  Spend some time in prayer identifying that for which you are willing to die.  Stay with it, make sure that you name at least one thing that matters so greatly that you would be willing to die for it.

And then, here is the catch – ask the important corollary question:  How am I, even now, LIVING for that which I am willing to die?”

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