It is an answer that most of the baby boomers will know by heart. In gym class, at work, in school – the answers are as varied as the ones giving them. As we observed the 50th anniversary of that Nov. 22 day, there is still a clarity to people’s memories – so much so that sociologists call moments like these “Generation Defining moments.” Something was etched forever into the collective memory of all who lived through that Dallas day. You always remembered where you were when you heard. This week, the media have taken us back to that November day, and invited us to remember where we were and how Kennedy died, but more so, what we have become because of that day.

Here is the uncomfortable question that flows from the timing of that event to today’s feast. Do you remember where you were when you last committed your life to serving Christ the King with the same clarity? And in the same way that media has done with Kennedy’s death, our readings have invited us to remember, not just where and how Jesus died, but what WE have become because of that day.

Of the three gospels the church chose for this feast day, only today’s from Luke’s gospel depicts Jesus’ decisive act of Kingship happening upon the cross. And it has everything to do with what we as a nation are about in commemorating Kennedy’s assassination: Remembering.

Many of us, like the thief on the one side of Jesus, pray that God has selective memory. “Save yourself and us. God forbid that you remember what I have done, how it has all gone wrong, how I am justly condemned to die – just remember that you have the power to get me out of this place.” That is the kind of memory that most of us want God to have – for God only to remember that he has the power to rescue us from trouble *snap* just like that.

The other thief, though, has a different plea, a different use for memory. And like people in therapy who are often asked to go through the memories of their childhood, past addictions or poor decisions and put them together in a different way, the thief needs to reassemble his life in the most profound way.
“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” That’s the cry of everyone who is in need of a different story line. As his life is ebbing away, as death nears, there is only one story line that he sees – the endless poor choices that led him to be more than a common thief. Crucifixion was reserved for serious offenders of the law, not the mere riff raff of the day. Recognizing a kingly divinity in Jesus, he turns and prays for a different memory – a different way to put his life together. “Jesus, remember me” – put me back together in the way that you need for me to be put back together. He knows he has nothing to offer the king next to him – no promise of a new life, no new leaf to turn over. He is out of time and excuses. He doesn’t ask for vengeance or to sit on a throne next to Jesus. He asks that his life be remembered – put together differently and included in the life of Jesus himself. And Jesus grants him that wish. Today you are in my ‘memory’ – my story line. Today, you are with me in paradise.

That’s what memory did for the thief – it gave him a new story line, a new way to see his life – not as a failure, but as caught up now in the saving death of Jesus on the cross. And that is what memory can do for us as well – it can let us put the coherent thread of our lives together in a way that lets it be caught up in the life of Jesus himself.

“Jesus, remember me” – becomes our prayer on this feast of Christ the King. Jesus, put my/our lives together in a way that encompasses mercy and love and forgiveness. Put us together in a way so that your story of love becomes our story of love. Remember us as we ‘do this in memory of you’ here at this altar. Because then something new can happen. If you do, then something amazing can be constructed out of our broken lives.

50 years ago, a nation grieved at the death of our leader. We each remember that event in very personal way. 2,000 years ago, only a few people grieved at the death of our savior. One of them, however, was gracious enough to utter the plea in a way has changed everything. Today, may that be both our prayer and our commitment – to open our hearts and our will to be remembered into being the sons and daughters of the King…

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom…”

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November 24, 2013

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Holiday Tips from Kitty Dooling, M.Ed., L.P.C.

The holidays can be a stressful time of year. For many people, there are special meals to cook, parties to attend and presents to purchase. This is in addition to one’s everyday responsibilities. But for others, the holidays can be a reminder of what they no longer have to do or get to do. What can a family do, when changes in health, transitions in living arrangements, or family losses impact the experience of the holiday season? Here are some tips that may be useful:

1  Focus on good communication with family. Be open and honest with each other about how you are feeling. Sit down and talk about how you see the holidays this year.

2  Don’t have high expectations that are unattainable or unrealistic. Hoping for things to be as they once were may only set yourself up for disappointment. Also, be open to doing things differently. The important thing is being with people you love.

3  Know that there is no right way or wrong way to handle the holidays.

4  Be careful of “shoulds.” While you may feel that you should attend the usual events or activities be-cause you don’t want to hurt people’s feelings, re-member that you have the right to make new choices and changes each year.

5  Set limitations – don’t be so hard on yourself! Things have changed. You don’t live in the same house or your parents don’t live in your childhood home anymore. You may be adjusting to a new place or visiting your parents in their new place. Do what you can and give yourself a break if it doesn’t all get done.

6  Consider adjusting traditions. Instead of going over to mom’s house to bake cookies, you might want to invite her to your house to do that. Or dinner needs to happen at your sister’s house instead of at Dad’s. You might want to even consider going out instead of having that added stress of cooking. New traditions are sometimes fun!

7  Let others help with things, too. If you have sib-lings, it’s good to discuss together who is going to do what during the holidays. One person does not have to do everything. Remember, though, not everyone does things the same way. Be open to others’ interpretations. It’s nice just to have others helping.

8  And remember, what you choose to do the first year, doesn’t have be done the next. Change is difficult but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.

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It started with a slight slurring of speech, barely noticeable, and mostly in the evenings. Then there were the occasional bouts of muscle weakness – but again nothing alarming. The slurring got worse when he was tired. A visit to the doc seemed absurdly preposterous – but why not, just to put his mind at ease. One test let to another and then to another, and soon they were praying for a treatable disease, ANY treatable disease but the one the doctor suspected. When the diagnosis finally came back, it was ALS and suddenly, everything they counted on was gone. Life was dramatically changed – and forever.

IN TODAY’S Gospel, Jesus points to the temple, the pride and joy of every Jewish person, their place of refuge in the storm and the one constant in their relationship with God. Jesus says: “The days are coming when all of this will be torn down.” And we hear the disciples being almost unable to comprehend that such a thing could be possible, much less seeing how they could go on after its destruction. “How could we ever be okay without the temple?” they thought. Isn’t that exactly the question we ask when our temples are torn down. It is what my friends asked when their diagnosis came. What do you do, when what you thought you had to have to be okay, is no longer there?

Because the truth is we always make temples, don’t we? We always elevate something or someone to be that place of wholeness for us, to be that which we rely upon to get us through. And those temples – they always get torn down. A family member is diagnosed with cancer; a loved one dies suddenly and inexplicably; a friend betrays our trust and confidence; mom and dad get divorce. In those moments, our carefully constructed world of how we thought God was going to be faithful falls apart and the temples come crumbling to the ground. What do you do when what you thought you had to have to be okay is no longer there? What DO you hang onto?

Jesus tells his disciples: “Even when you are betrayed and persecuted, handed over by brothers and sisters; even when all the carefully constructed temples you built crumble and tumble to the ground, TRUST – ‘not a hair on your head will be destroyed.’” Jesus can say that because he knows the heart of God. He knows that God is with us in the adventure of life. Through the struggles and difficulties, through the experience of “not one stone left on another stone”, God will walk with you and bring you life from death. There is a new life on the other end…a new good that emerges and comes to be. Joseph Campbell, writer and American Mythologist says it this way: “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

Dave and Ann dreaded the bad news in the days before they knew. They had hoped for something treatable. Even now they pray for their miracle. Yet they have discovered in the family and friends that have surrounded them – Team FROGS they call themselves – (after Dave’s college mascot), that there is more. There is a community of faith that is sustaining them and pulling for them and loving them in ways that they never knew nor thought possible. And they have discovered what somewhat wrote about the diagnosis of cancer is true for the diagnosis of ALS. “What Cancer Can’t do.” Cancer is so limited: It cannot cripple love.  It cannot kill friendship. It cannot shut out memories. It cannot silence courage. It cannot invade the soul. It cannot reduce eternal life.  It cannot lessen the power of the resurrection.

They are learning to live the life that is waiting for them once their temples had fallen.

For us, how do we do the same? How do we learn that TRUST after all our temples have crumbled to the ground? There are three tasks are crucial and that are much easier to enumerate than they are to accomplish – as they take a lot of work on our part.

1) We have to let go of the life we thought we would have. All the woulda, coulda, shoulda’s will only keep us chained that life that is no longer ours. Grieve the loss, but don’t stay in that past life.

2) Diversify – do not put all our eggs in one basket. In ways that are wonderful for their marriage – they have been so open to receiving the support of so many, not being jealous of the people that are good for their spouse – but celebrating the gift others are for them that they can’t be. By letting others into their struggle, they have let God into their struggle.

3) Finally, as you can imagine, they both have developed a habit of prayer that they keep returning to and that allows them to tap into the love of God in all the tough moments. God, give me my daily bread – not what I’ll need tomorrow or 5 weeks from now or 5 months from now – but what I need for today.

Living this way, they know the perseverance that Jesus concludes the gospel with: “By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”

You know, there is an old bumper sticker that says all this quite simply. “The world is going to end … but it won’t be the end of the world.”

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* Click image below to view bulletin (pdf)

November 17, 2013

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Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

The gravity of the devastation in the Philippines, Vietnam and Asia by Super Typhoon Haiyan becomes more evident to us each day. Thousands have lost their lives and millions have been affected. The survivors are seriously threatened by the lack of pure water, food, medicine and shelter. Homes, businesses and essential services have been destroyed.

At the Vatican on Sunday, Pope Francis urged the faithful to pray in silence for the typhoon’s victims. He asked us to offer generous assistance to those impacted by the typhoon.

Through Catholic Relief Services (the international humanitarian agency representing the U.S. Catholic Church), we are working to respond to the needs of the survivors. Catholic Relief Services, in cooperation with our partners, will provide families with shelter, essential living supplies, and clean water and sanitation.

I urge you to contribute generously to Catholic Relief Services’ relief work in the areas devastated by the typhoon. Given the urgency of the situation, I ask you to make your contribution, if possible, this weekend at your parish. Donations should be sent to the Archdiocesan Finance Office, Attention: Catholic Relief Services – Typhoon Haiyan Disaster Relief, 20 Archbishop May Drive, St. Louis, MO 63119. (NOTE, WE WILL TAKE UP A SECOND COLLECTION this weekend for those affected. IF you want to participate but were not prepared to do so, please drop off your gift by this Friday to the rectory.)

Please continue to pray for those impacted by this tragedy, especially those who have lost their lives and their families.

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Robert J. Carlson

Retreat Opportunity for Men:
Since we don’t offer our own version of the White House Retreat, here is an opportunity:
If you are interested in making a White House Retreat from February 20th – 23rd 2014, contact: Mark Fain at 314-910-2105, [email protected]. This retreat is offered by a Catholic north county group, independent of our parish, in the hopes of bringing as many men as possible to the special experience that White House offers. Come away to be with the Lord at the magnificent retreat center we have right here in St. Louis.

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* Click image below to view bulletin (pdf)

November 10, 2013

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Children’s foundation… continued.

Some more Q and A…

Won’t this initiative reduce state funding of public schools?
No, the Initiative explicitly declares that state aid to a school district cannot be reduced because it receives funds from a non-profit foundation. In addition, this initiative earmarks 50% of its assistance to public schools. And public schools will be eligible for the 10% earmarked for special education. Public schools are the primary beneficiaries of this proposal.

Isn’t this just another school choice (voucher) proposal?
This is not a voucher but a tax credit. There is appropriation of state funds; instead a portion of a taxpayer’s tax liability is reduced when he or she makes a financial donation to an eligible foundation.

So how does this work?
If enough signatures are collected, the ballot initiative will be put on the November 2014 election ballot as a Missouri constitutional amendment. According to the terms of the amendment, no more than $90 million in private donations will be allowed in any given year, which will result in $180 million for K-12 education. The Children’s Education Initiative combines public and private investment to improve the education of all children.

We will hold the petition drive here at St. Ann the weekend of Nov. 23, 24. If you would like to assist with this effort, there is some training involved. Please contact Jim Paunicka, our parish chair of this effort, at your earliest convenience. Jim and the Knights of Columbus have graciously agreed to spear-head our efforts.

I had hoped to be ready to roll out the Visitation Drive this weekend, as a part of a renewed stewardship of resources effort this weekend. But the timing of my leaving for retreat before Pat Marstall returned from her well deserved vacation precluded that as a realistic possibility. But stay tuned, as they say, for further information.

Finally, due to one of those quirks of calendar and liturgical law, the feast of the Immaculate Conception falls on a Sunday in Advent which takes precedence. The feast is transferred to Monday the 9th, but its nature as a Holy Day of Obligation is abrogated (translation – we still celebrate the feast, but you don’t have to go to mass under pain of sin if you miss.)

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My Aunt Dot was 86 years old. And she was ready to go home. She missed her husband desperately in the 18 years since he died, and she had increasing mental and physical health issues that weighed on her. And so on Monday, surrounded by her family, she quietly slipped free from the bonds of this earth, there to be reunited with her beloved Duggan. (Doug) Did she recognize him, when she reached heaven? Did he still know her?” We’ve all heard those questions before.

What I believe and what our faith tells us is that “yes, yes she will.” All that we have loved becomes a part of who we are, part of what we take into the life beyond this life. In the beauty of the communion of Saints, love is forever.

That being said, what’s with Jesus’ answer about marriage in today’s Gospel? The Sadducees, who do not believe there is a life beyond this life, pose their hypothetical question which is not about marriage at all. Rather, it is about the afterlife: specifically a woman, who married each of seven brothers in succession. You can hear their cynicism as they get to the punch line: “Now, at the “resurrection”, whose wife will that woman be?” Jesus’ response? “I can tell you spent a lot of time on this question. It’s just the wrong question to ask.”

“Those deemed worthy to attain the coming age neither marry nor are given in marriage” Jesus tells us. Marriage is not an end in itself. Authentic marriage never was, and never will be an end in itself; so too, our best friendships. Marriage is more a means to the end, the launch pad for everything else. And everything else is described this way by the Zen master Thích Nhất Hạnh. “Through my love for you, I want to express my love for the whole cosmos, the whole of humanity, and all beings. By living with you, I want to learn to love everyone… If I succeed in loving you, I will be able to love everyone… This is the real message of love.”

And THAT, my friends, is the best reason I could ever give to be married. And that is also the best reason I could ever give to dare a deep friendship. Marriage and friendships are training grounds for the soul. They are meant to open us up THROUGH this one relationship to better love this entire world. Marriage is not an end in itself. Nor is friendship.

And so a different way to summarize the response of Jesus: “No, you won’t be married the way you are talking about it. And you won’t need that. Yes, that person will still be a part of who you are, and you a part of them. But there is something much bigger here, for your love will become like the love of angels – a love that is there for ALL.”

Here is the kicker, we need to learn on earth how to be open to that in heaven. Each particular relationship is to help forge our souls for the BIGGER unity. My friendship to this one person is meant to help break stuff down in me that needs to be broken down. My marriage is where I learn to let go of the walls and protections I tend to surround myself with, so I can be more present to whomever is before me. And if my marriage/celibacy/friendship with one person does not make me more loving and caring for everyone, then something is not healthy and it needs to change. A good and healthy and holy relationship will always make me more loving to all. This one friendship/ marriage to this one person is to show me the God who is Love here so that I can find the God who is Love in everyone, everywhere.

And even when this marriage or friendship fails, or does not last for any reason, it still – even in its failure – can bring out the best about love and for love in us.

I smiled at the funeral with the image of my Aunt Dot having a great reunion – with her husband Duggan, my uncles Wally and Joe and my own dad. All that we have loved becomes a part of who we are, part of what we take into the life beyond this life. But I hope she’ll know in its fullness that which Thích Nhất Hạnh said so powerfully:

“Through my love for you, I want to express my love for the whole cosmos, the whole of humanity, and all beings. By living with you, I want to learn to love everyone… If I succeed in loving you, I will be able to love everyone…”

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* Click image below to view bulletin (pdf)

November 3, 2013

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