Pastor’s Pen – May 29, 2011

Published on 29. May, 2011 by in Pastor's Pen


Amazing.  Simply Amazing…

With one bill outstanding from the Sponsor’s Dinner Dance (from the credit card machine – and we are not sure of the percentage they will take off of those sales…) it appears to be safe to say that we raised at least $65,000 and most likely even more.  Wow!

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.  You have always been so amazingly generous in support of this parish and our school and our teachers.  In a parish founded on the generosity and faith of one woman, Anne Lucas Hunt, it is edifying to see that her Charism of giving still thrives in this community.  It is in our genes to ‘pay it forward.’  I am sure that Anne could only vaguely imagine what her gift might look like 160 years later.  But it was worth it to her to give generously from the heart for people she would never see.

In some ways, like Anne, we have no idea the impact of our parish and school on future generations of the church and world, but we trust that God will never be outdone in generosity.  Like St. Paul, we are only responsible for sowing the seeds.  The harvest is in God’s hands.

So am I surprised?  Not really.  It is what you do so often and so well for all these years.  Am I amazed and grateful?  Very much so!  The hard work of the committee and the generosity of so many (a huge word of thanks to all those at Table 3!!) are just more reasons why I love the gift of being assigned as Pastor here at St. Ann’s.

Thanks to Kay Dieckmann and Cheri Smith, our co-chairs for the event once more.  Thanks to their sometimes ‘orphaned’ husband and families for the hours they spent working to pull everything together.  Thanks to all our generous sponsors.  Thanks to the Men’s club for donating the receipts from the bar.  Thanks to Kathy Dolson for setting up our electronic spreadsheets and projectors so people could see where they were in the bidding wars.  Thanks to Jennifer Bahan for coordinating the decorations, and to Favazza Florists for donating the center pieces.  Thanks to Tom Kielly, Jr. and The Liquor Doctor for contributing the wine for the dinner once again.  Thanks to “The Z-man” and the volunteers who did the floors.  Thanks to Pat and Eileen, our office staff, who coordinated all the comings and goings here at the rectory.  And finally, to all who had any part in this wonderful day, a simple yet woefully inadequate “THANK YOU” from the bottom of this pastor’s heart and from the next generation of students, faculty and staff who are the beneficiaries of your faith and love…

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Are you ready for the Rapture?

Published on 21. May, 2011 by in Sunday Homilies


Are you ready for the Rapture?

Well, we’re still here…[Sunday masses…]

Harold Camping became famous for predicting that the rapture would come today.[yesterday]  We have until 6pm our time zone) before it is slated to happen here.  It is not the first time he has predicted this event.  Nor, I think, will it be the last time we hear about “the Rapture.”  It is an idea that has been around since about 1830.  It seems to have been invented by a British religious figure named John Nelson Darby, who claims God revealed it to him.  The Rapture is a scenario of events that are supposed to happen at the end of the world.  It goes like this:

At the end of the world, Jesus will come on the clouds of heaven and the righteous (the saints) will be raptured (caught up) into the air to be with Christ.  They will be separated from sinners who will remain on the earth to endure a period of great tribulation.  After this, Jesus will rule for 1000 years, and then the Parousia will come where Jesus comes at the end in judgment and will inaugurate the new heavens and a new earth…

Scripturally, people who believe in the Rapture will quote Thessalonians 4: 13-18 – which is really addressing a controversy in the early church.  Did those who died before Jesus returned have an advantage or disadvantage over those who did not?  Paul writes this in response:  For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up (raptured) in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever.  Therefore, encourage one another with these words.

There are a few things to say about this text from our Catholic perspective.  First, Paul is borrowing a pagan metaphor for death.  The pagans would speak of people being snatched away by death. That word snatched away is translated in our text as ‘caught up’.  Paul wants to tell us that we will indeed be snatched away, but not by death, but by our Lord Jesus, to join him and to welcome him in his return.

Secondly, in the ancient world, the ‘air’ was a scary place filled with unseen, hostile beings.  Being together with Christ in the air, meant that there was nothing to fear.  It was meant to be a comforting message.

Finally, the passage says nothing about being separated from others – (ie – sinners from the saints). The whole thrust is exactly the opposite.  It is about being together with the dead, all of us caught up in the power of Christ’s coming.

SO – the conclusion is clear: There is no support in this passage for a doctrine of the Rapture.  It would be a distortion of the biblical text. Nor is there a catholic doctrine on the existence of the rapture.

Is there something to be said for Harold Camping and his followers?  Actually, yes.  What he has captured and engendered in his followers is what we heard in John’s gospel today.  He has a real longing for going home to be with the Lord.   And a real belief that there are many mansions in the Father’s house – and that Jesus’ desire is that we come one day to be with him there.  I don’t know if I am nearly so eager for the end of time nor that mansion in heaven as he is.  I kind of like it here.  I like to quote my uncle Wally, whose chalice I use at each mass – “The good Lord knows that I want to meet him.  Just not yet.”   Mr. Camping’s call to be prepared for that day when the Lord calls us home is not necessarily a bad thing.  However, we need to heed the first words we heard in John’s gospel.  “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”  The day will come.  There is a place prepared for us.  Don’t worry about that.

Just be ready.  So if it does happen tonight at 6p – we’ll be ready.  Or tomorrow night at 6.  Or next week at 6.  Or whenever.  We follow the one who IS the way and truth and life.  And as long as our lives mirror his way and truth and life, then it doesn’t matter IF there is a rapture, or WHAT it might be or WHEN it comes.  We’ll be ready…

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Despite Mother Nature doing her best to thwart our efforts the 2011 St. Ann Parish Picnic was held on Saturday – May 14th.  Although the day was rainy and cold people came out to celebrate St. Ann and spend time with friends in a carnival atmosphere.  There were rides for the kids, carnival games, food, live entertainment and even craft vendors selling their wares in the Parish Center.  There was something for everyone!

We hope that all of you had a chance to brave the weather and spend some time with your family and friends in support of the St. Ann Parish. In between rain showers we were able to get a few photos of the picnic.  Here is a video remix of the photos as well as a link to view individual photos online.  (Remember, 50% of any online print purchases goes back into the St. Ann community.)

Click here to view and purchase prints online.

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Pastor’s Pen – May 15, 2011

Published on 15. May, 2011 by in Pastor's Pen


Does it ever stop?

The older I get the more I realize how important it is to “feed my introvert.”  And the closer to the end of the school semester, the more vital that task is to my ability to be present to people.  Having just met with Mrs. Reichenbach to talk about graduation and awards and end of the school matters, I realize I am just beginning to move into my second busy season.  (The first one started with Holy Week and ended with the Sponsor’s Dinner Dance.)

The month of May has a plethora of activities.  We all know them.  Mother’s day.  First Communion.  7th and 8th grade picnic.  Last day of school for the 8th grade class.  Graduations. Last all school mass.  Open Houses.  Throw into that your usual sports practices and games, miscellaneous family birthday gatherings, and the regular business of work, and if you blink, you’ll miss the entire month.

That is why it becomes all the more important for to ‘feed’ the part of the self that restores balance and energy.  For some, that means an extra few minutes on the back deck, lingering over a solitary cup of coffee in the morning or evening.  For others, it is that healthy jog or walk through the neighborhood, either alone or with a friend.  For me, that means I need to ‘feed my introvert’ – reading, a few holes of golf, quiet time in front of a fire pit, prayer before the blessed sacrament, or a late night walk through the neighborhood does wonders for my spirit.

Though it sometimes feels a bit selfish, my years in the priesthood have taught me that those are the exact practices that I need to choose so that I can be present to the people involved in the events of these whirlwind days.  These are the choices that minister to the minister.  And when I choose them, I find myself ready to listen to that troubled college student or hear the struggles of a single mom or be present to the spouse whose other half is in the nursing home or hospital.

One truth about life in our time is that it does NOT ever stop.  It will be as busy as you allow it to be and choose for it to be.  So you have a choice.  Will you complain and be tired and a bit grumpy because you have not ‘fed your introvert’, or will you do the things that feed your spirit so that you can be fully present to all the things you do choose?

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When you imagine the Shepherd’s voice – what does it sound like?

You always knew when it was dinner at the Kempf house in the neighborhood. (cup hand to mouth as a ‘megaphone’) Buddy, Joey, Denny, Billy, Corky, Mary T… Repeated about 3 times. Usually we would be in the middle of some game – fuzz ball, football in the lot, Frisbee tag, you name it. As kids we learned pretty quick: If it was a brother or sister calling your name, you had an extra 5 minutes that you could finish the inning or the game. If it was MOM calling your name, you left, even if it was the middle of your at bat. When mom called your name, the time had come. It was just that simple.

I can never read this passage from John without that image coming to mind – of mom calling our names to dinner from the back porch of our house. The houses were close together, and the places that we played were almost always literally within earshot of home. The shout from the back door was how we communicated over the distance. And mom was not alone in that practice. Other parents would do the same. So you had to listen, even in the midst of the game, for the voice that might be calling YOUR name.

In retrospect, we always dropped everything and came home when mom called for two reasons. First, mom’s voice meant the food was ON THE TABLE – not just about to be on the table – and in the Kempf family, you didn’t want to miss that. But secondly, not only was it the summons to food you didn’t want to miss, but you had to come so you didn’t miss out on family time, so you didn’t miss the one time the entire family would be together that day- sharing in life and love. That is why, when mom called our names, we knew we had to drop everything – because around the dinner table was where our family was family at its best.

That is the truth that Jesus is trying to convey to the scribes and Pharisees – the religious leaders of his day. “I have come that you might have life and have it t more abundantly.” With an aching in his heart, Jesus sees good people, like you and I, trying to make their way in the midst of a world with all kinds of ‘voices’ – all kinds of ideas of what will work to help you get through. “Many people will call your name, will try to attract your attention. Thieves and Marauders! People who do NOT have your best interest at heart.. Do not follow them.” In his heart of hearts, he knows those paths will not work – because they won’t lead people to his Father, the source of life.

Using that comforting image that all in his society would know in their bones – the shepherd’s relation to his sheep – Jesus invites the leaders of his time – and US – to trust in him. And to believe that in him, we will find the path to life. Gatekeeper, good shepherd, the one who calls you by name – all are different descriptions of the same truth – we have a savior who has come that we might know his life and love flowing through our veins. So this week, do a little “listening” for that voice. And listen for it in two ‘arena’s – as Jesus tells us – the being led out and the being led back home.

  • Where have you felt that pull, that leading out into the “mission fields” as a sign from an Episcopal church in Illinois tells you: You are now entering the mission fields. If being Catholic is all about sharing the love and life and faith that we know in our savior – then where are you being called to be the bearer of that love? Perhaps it is a letter to a relative who has been holding a grudge. Perhaps it is a Face Book search to connect with someone who has dropped off your radar. Maybe you hear it in ACA brochure – listing of the different charities – Criminal justice? Hmm… LISTEN for that call to GO OUT and serve.
  • And where have you felt the pull to ‘go inward’ with Jesus. Perhaps it is a journey of healing over some decision made years ago that you need to reconcile. Perhaps it is to learn more about this Catholic faith that we share. Perhaps it is the call to linger in PRAYER over that morning cup of coffee or that evening bowl of ice cream. Listen for the call of the Shepherd to go IN to be with Him.

(Hold had to mouth as ‘megaphone’) Buddy, Joey, Denny, Billy, Corky, Mary T – it is time to come home. So too for us. HEAR this evening/morning –the shepherd calling YOUR NAME – not to the Kempf family table, but to this table of the Bread of life – so that you might have life and have it more abundantly…

To the First Communicants: Today is a pretty exciting day. Every other Sunday before this, you heard Jesus calling your family members and your friends to the table. NOW, he is calling you to the table! Casimir, Jacob, Max, Ferderica, Lucille, Christoff, Jack, Jacob, Ryan, Cloe. Dinner’s on the table. It is time for you to take and eat and take and drink. I hope today and all days, you will learn to recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd who calls YOU to the table of life… Close your eyes and listen… today and all days…

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What do you find worthy doing, regardless of how it turns out?

I hear a lot of expressions of hope around this time of year – at the Newman Center, at the parish and even in the scriptures these days. Some of them are around the future:

  • “I hope my internship year goes well.”
  • “I hope I can find a job teaching Spanish.”
  • “I hope the weather will be good for the upcoming parish and school picnic.”

Some of them are around the present:

  • “I hope the murder of Osama Bin Laden makes the world safer.”
  • “I hope the Dinner Dance did well.” (It did!)
  • “I hope this relationship continues to deepen.”

And finally, there is that intriguing yet sad line from today’s gospel:

  • “We were hoping he was the one to redeem Israel.”

Hope gets a lot of press, doesn’t it? But I wonder if we often misuse the word. There is a fine line between hoping and wishing. And the difference, at least as I understand it, is all about the engagement level that those verbs convey. Wishing looks for something outside itself as the source of redemption. Hope nurtures and calls forth something within.

Vaclav Havel, the first president of the Czech Republic offered these reflections on hope, about three years before he became the president.

“Hope is a dimension of the soul, an orientation of the spirit. It is not the same thing as joy that things are going well, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed. Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out…”

The two disciples are blindly fleeing Jerusalem because things did not turn out well, according to their wishes. They end up returning there because Jesus helps them to see a whole way of life that embodies hope. In recognizing Jesus in the breaking of the bread, they understand first the truth that Jesus has liberated them from sin and death. But more importantly, they realize they have to live in such a way that they risk their own bodies being broken and their blood poured out in love of others. To put it another way, they make the connection between Holy Thursday and Good Friday, the connection between the Eucharist and the Cross and finally the resurrection. This is what sets their hearts burning as they race back to Jerusalem – the hope that living for others is worth the doing regardless of how it turns out.

So the story of Emmaus becomes a description of the process of moving from wishing to hoping. In that gradual process of listening and speaking, of praying with and studying scripture, of walking with others on the road, – that daily perspective of taking, blessing, breaking and eating, and the invitation to the Lord to ‘stay with them” – the Jesus we thought we knew vanishes and the risen Christ remains.

This week, the story of the two disciples on the road holds out for us that amazing virtue of hope. I invite you to bring the sentiment of Vaclav Havel to prayer this week. You can ask it in two ways:

“Where do you find your heart burning, on fire with love, able to sacrifice and give?” That experience of a burning heart will point you to the source of hope.

Or: What do you find worthy of doing regardless of how it turns out?

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A hearty thank you to everyone who made this weekend’s Sponsor’s Dinner Dance & Auction such a success.  From the looks on everyone’s faces during the event I can tell you it was a huge success.  We are truly blessed to have such a caring and passionate community here at St. Ann’s.

Below is a video remix of photos taken at the auction as well as a link to view photos individually with the option to purchase a print of your favorite photos.  50% of the proceeds from purchased prints will go directly back to the St. Ann community.



View photos & purchase online here.

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Pastor’s Pen – May 1, 2011

Published on 01. May, 2011 by in Pastor's Pen


I came across a few lines in “The Word” – a weekly column that unpacks the upcoming Sunday’s scripture in America Magazine – that caught my attention.  Barbara Reid, O.P., writes: “Easter is not only what happened to Jesus but, to a great degree, it is about what happens to us as we live lives that are transformed by his rising.  …We await not only final transformation but, every time we stand with the crucified peoples of our day, as did Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, the Risen One is alive in us as we break the hold of the death-dealing powers even now.”

The older I get, the more I appreciate that the call and challenge of Easter is never confined to just a personal, interior change of heart and a feel good kind of getting my act together.  Rather I am called to be a part of the transformation of our culture and our world.  I am invited to run breathlessly, heart racing, as did the women and the disciples from the tomb, back into the world, there to make a difference.

I find the daily newspapers a ‘good’ place to start, in that it brings to my attention so readily, all the places that still need to know the power of Christ’s love.

  • So how can I not pray for and stand with the people of Libya in the midst of their oppression?
  • How can I keep my voice silent as the Congress debates and tries to come to an agreement on its yearly “moral document” – called a budget?  And make no mistake about it, budgets are value based, moral documents.  They reveal to us what we value as a people and a nation.  Though people of good will can differ about approaches and what needs to be kept and what needs to go, I continue to find it disturbing the “given’s” in our budget process.  One example: How can I stand silent while MY tax dollars are used to fund the largest provider of abortion services in the country?
  • How can I build up an inner sense of worth in high school and college students I meet and work with so that they will not feel a need to turn to the drugs that continue to fuel the violence in Mexico.  In Juarez alone, it is estimated that 20,000 have been killed because of drug related violence.

So, read the papers this week.  And then ‘sit’ in prayer with the headlines.  Which one calls to you, which one seems to invite a response, however small, to bring the Risen One’s strength to bring about resurrected life?  And then get busy being the bearer of good news…

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Have you ever shared your ‘scar’ stories with your kids/family?  (Or why did Jesus show the disciples his hands and side?)

It was a strange way to dispel anxiety and grief, wasn’t it?  “He showed them his hands and his side.” Given the horrible wounds Jesus has in both places, what was he getting at?  Aside from letting them know that this REALLY is him –the one they saw crucified on the cross – what does sharing his ‘scar story’ do?  Why does Jesus show the disciples his hands and his side?

Think of the context.  The apostles were hiding behind locked doors because they were afraid. If they were identified as followers of Jesus, they could share his same fate.  It was an understandable and prudent fear.  And as the gospel continues, even though most of them had seen our risen Lord, a week later they were still locked in that upper room still barricaded in.  Something has yet to happen inside of them despite seeing him.  They were still in that upper room – a bit trapped, a bit bound, a bit “un-free” – and Thomas the most un-free of any of them.  Into that “STUCK-NESS” – into the midst of their fears, Jesus breaks into their lives: not merely into the physical place in which they had taken refuge, but into the core of their hearts. He attempts to calm their fears with that simple act: He showed them his hands and side.

LOOK at these wounds, he invites.  See them for all their gory truth.  BUT KNOW THIS – they are not ultimate.  They do not have the last word.  Pain, suffering and loss, and the scars that they leave, need not be the last word for those who believe in the love of God. That is what Jesus wants his disciples to know.  ‘Your failures, your falls, and your brokenness – I know them more than most.  They are only the end of the story if you let them be that; if you let your wounds and failures drag you down.  But they don’t hold me back.  Nor will they you, if you let me live in you.’

All of us have experienced pain and suffering. We all have our ‘scar stories’.  If you touch my forehead right here (put hand on forehead above my nose) you’ll feel mine.  As a 3 ½ year old, I “knew” that if you fell and scraped your hands/arms, they would hurt for 2 weeks.  If you fell and hit your forehead, it would hurt for 10 minutes.  It made perfect sense to me to choose the ten minutes of pain over the two weeks of pain.  However most of our scars are a little more invisible.  All of us bear the wounds of failure, betrayal, deception, disappointment, and loss. Our hearts, our minds, our memories – our souls – have the scars to prove it. Out of fear of being hurt further, like the apostles, we sometimes lock ourselves away in some small emotional or spiritual corner of the world, living in fear of what other pain or disappointments life may bring in the days, months and years ahead. We withdraw from life: in effect, we die, with no hope of resurrection.

Jesus would have us know a different truth, wouldn’t he?  And those middle words in that first appearance narrative seal it: “Who’s sins you forgive are forgiven, but when you let them bind, when you let your scars and wounds hold you fast, you are held bound.”  You can live there, being bound, but that is not what Jesus wants for you.

This is why our Lord must have loved it when Thomas said to the community: “I’ll not believe” without entering the wounds.”  I need to see that there is life on the other side of the wounds – that they indeed have not stopped you from being the living one.  And from the exploring of those wounds a most amazing faith emerged: “My Lord and my God!”

On this Divine Mercy Sunday, the only truth our savior wants us to know is that we are always being set free.  We are always being forgiven.  We are always being shown a mercy that acknowledges our scars and failures, but that tells us not to live there.  The scars of our humanity are a part of our past and if we are honest, a part of our present. They need not, however, determine the course of our future.

This Sunday, bring your ‘scar stories’ – all of your failures and brokenness and woundedness with great confidence to the Lord.  And the one who shares his scar stories, who shows us his hands and side will tell you that his Father had the last word in his life. And if you let him, he will have the last word in yours!

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