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* Click image below to view bulletin (pdf)

June 29, 2014

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Of small improvements and large…

…You may have noticed these past two weekends that our usual communion cups were not in service. Deacon Norm Janson and his wife Jackie purchased them for the parish for our 150th jubilee back in 2006. (Can it really be 8 years since then?) They have served us well, but gradually, over those 8 years, the gold plating on the inside began to fail in enough places that it was time to have them redone. So currently, they are ‘at the shop’ being replated on the inside. (the outsides have weathered time well) I hope to have them back by next Sunday at the latest.

…When Kevin Kirchgessner was a student, volunteers from the parish laid the internet wiring infrastructure that has served the school since then. This past year found Mr. Clark and our technology committee dealing with multiple issues which affected our teachers’ abilities to reliably use resources from the WWW in their class-rooms. I suspect the folks who did that first wiring of the school wanted to be as unobtrusive as possible, and so they ran single wires to different floors in the scant spaces between radiator piping. Those runs went to switches from which more wires ran, which went to more switches and more runs. The result was a hodgepodge of connections with no ‘map’ of which wire connected to which room by which path. But it worked for quite some time.

New technology (Ipads and Macbooks co-existing with Windows) placed new demands upon the system, necessitating a change. So this summer, we are replacing the wiring with a more direct system of wires – each connection completing what is called a “home run” – where it goes from the server to the classroom without any switches or interruptions or change in wiring. This should stabilize both our wireless infra-structure as well as the communications between the server and the individual computers.

In addition, a student volunteer from UMSL’s I.T. department is helping us to reprogram our server (the main computer that talks to, and coordinates with all our other devices) to industry standards, cleaning up some ongoing issue there. The hope is that by end of the summer, we will have a reliable, robust and user friendly Information Technology environment for use by teachers, students and staff alike.

I meet tonight (Wed.) with my two architects of the rewiring project. I am hoping to need volunteers on Mon, Tues or Wed. of this week to get started. Listen for the pulpit announcement..

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Peter and PaulThere are times when I feel out of my league. When the technology committee convenes, I can follow the big picture ideas and streams of thought. But when they start talking jargon and the nitty gritty, I KNOW that I am not smart enough in this area to add anything, other than to help keep the conversation moving forward. I suspect we all have areas of our lives like that. We don’t know the field, didn’t keep up with the reading on the subject, or perhaps, simply are not good at something (like math.). That is one level of being inadequate. And that has more to do with what we know or don’t know.

But there is this other level, isn’t there – of the times when we feel like WHO we are is not enough, and will never be enough. Perhaps you know that when you leave the hospital bed or nursing home or stop by a family member’s house just after the hospice care nurse left. What could I possible say to make this situation better? How can I ‘fix’ the unfixable? I felt that this past Tuesday after lunch with my friend with ALS and his wife. Somehow you feel that you not only have nothing to give, but that who you are is not nearly enough either. Do you know that experience?

It would have been easy for Peter and John in the first reading to succumb to that. They are fishermen, a long way from home, and from their livelihood. Their ‘bank’ in terms of resources available to them is back in Galilee and they are in Jerusalem. And they are ‘accosted’ by a beggar at the gate. Not much in their pockets to give. And you know how some beggars can be – with those piercing eyes and guilt inducing glance – “DO SOMETHING to help! Anything to help! Please!” In my prayer image of the scene, he skewers them with this glance.

Watch what happens next. Neither Peter nor John shrink away from that moment and its opportunity. They are aware, perhaps painfully, of what they don’t have. Silver nor Gold – the stuff which ‘gets things done’ in the world of both those days and our day. They are out of their league in terms of making a long term difference in the life of that beggar financially. Just as we are completely not up to the task of ending hunger or disease, etc. in our time. Yet, instead of succumbing to that feeling that ‘who I am is not enough’ – they charge right into that man’s life. Not – “I got nothing for you,” but rather: “Here is what I have to give you.” And they trust that their love for Jesus will be enough in this man’s life.

Paul would have had even MORE reasons to think that who he is would never be enough. He describes himself as a “persecutor of the church BEYOND MEASURE”, and “a zealot beyond his own contemporaries.” And yet, there came that moment on the Damascus road where all of that comes crumbling down. Everything that he had defined his sense of self by – his zealousness, his religiosity, even his persecution of the way – none of it is enough. Who he thought himself and created himself to be – Paul the Jewish Pharisee and Zealot –was so, so wrong. But, like Peter and James, rather than be paralyzed into inaction, what do we hear him doing? Recreating his entire identity in the one place where he does matter. “When God, who FROM MY MOTHER’S WOMB had set me apart…was pleased to reveal his Son to me…” then who he was was enough. ONLY from that place, from his identity in Jesus – does he know that what he is is ALWAYS enough.

As the church celebrates these two pivotal Saints who stand as the pillars of our faith, let me suggest just one way of praying and reflecting this week. Namely this – Finish the statement that Paul lived with his life and that Peter and John voiced in the first reading from Acts. “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I have I give you.” What IS it that you have to give away? What is it that you give to God, to your neighbor, your spouse, your friend in need. And, like Peter and Paul, stay with that uncomfortable question until the only answer that rings true is the only answer that matters: What I have to give, is my Lord’s love of me, in me, for you….

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* Click image below to view bulletin (pdf)

June 22, 2014

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breadUnless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies,
it remains just a grain of wheat, but if it dies, it bears much fruit…

You probably have heard these words a hundred times, a thousand times in the course of your life time. I came across this poem in the blog: “A Concord Pastor Comments – On Spirituality, Worship and Prayer in the Roman Catholic Tradition” which opened up a bit more of the mystery of today’s feast. I share it with you now in the hopes that it might do the same for you.

You have to listen with all of you
to hear the white-green shoot
pushing, rubbing, scraping up through
cool, moist earth: wheat being born.

It’s a comforting sound when, finally,
you hear it and you know the growing sound
isn’t in the field
but in your fragile frailty,
in you…

Then fear comes over you:
you will be torn inside, again, until it hurts
and this may be the time
when growing leaves behind
the one you think you are,
harvesting the one you were made to be…

Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies,
it remains just a grain of wheat, but if it dies, it bears much fruit…

You don’t have to listen so closely
to hear the wind shuffle its way
through fields of wheat
so you have to look very carefully
to see it’s not the wind after all, but simply
wheat brushing against wheat,
wheat supporting wheat,
wheat enjoying wheat,
wheat embracing wheat.

The rustling becomes a symphony
of meeting, knowing, touching, growing:
wheat reaching out to wheat
not with fear, not with flushed face,
but only with the need to touch
and the sound of reaching
is strong, enveloping, alive!

Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies,
it remains just a grain of wheat, but if it dies, it bears much fruit…

Grinding grains of wheat: harsh,
breaking, crushing sounds,
a not soft noise – hard.
And now you don’t want to hear
wheat being crushed:
it just doesn’t look like wheat anymore
and maybe the explosion in you
wasn’t a matter of life but…

water is cool
and now it is all around you:
bubbling and swirling
in flour ground of wheat
and now you’re not surprised to know
you’re listening to blood filling your veins,
flowing all through you: life.

And just before the fire consumed us, too,
we found bread: one beautiful brown loaf
of wheat, wind, water
all rising to life in bread.

Then came One
who broke himself like a loaf
and we heard
in the cracking and tearing of the crust
the Word of life grown, ground and given
for those who share
in the breaking of the bread.

Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies,
it remains just a grain of wheat, but if it dies, it bears much fruit…

P.S. (after communion) – just one more image about this feast, from a science fiction book called Children of the Mind:

How suddenly we find the flesh of God within us after all –
when we thought that we were only made of dust…

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The Fortnight for Freedom: Freedom to Serve will take place from June 21 to July 4, 2014, a time when our liturgical calendar celebrates a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power—St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, St. John the Baptist, SS. Peter and Paul, and the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome.

During this time let us pray for the protection of our religious freedom and conscience rights from several threats—the HHS mandate, legalized abortion, the main-streaming of homosexuality, abusive treatment of immigrants, women, children, and minorities, and affronts to the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman.

This God-given freedom of conscience is referred to in Gaudium et Spes, 16: “Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment. . . . For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God. His dignity lies in observing this law, and by it he will be judged. . . . Through loyalty to con-science Christians are joined to others in the search for truth and for the right solution to so many moral problems.”

We are American, and we are grateful for protection of our freedom of religion. We can never take that freedom for granted nor let it in any way be jeopardized. We stand grateful yet vigilant in prayer during the Fortnight for Freedom and always.

O God, our Creator,
from your provident hand we have received our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. You have called us as your people and given us the right and the duty to worship you, the only true God, and your Son, Jesus Christ. Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit, you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world, bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel to every corner of society.

We ask you to bless us in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty. Give us the strength of mind and heart to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened; give us courage in making our voices heard on behalf of the rights of your Church and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.

Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father,
a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters gathered in your Church in this decisive hour in the history of our nation, so that, with every trial withstood and every danger overcome—for the sake of our children, our grandchildren, and all who come after us — this great land will always be “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen

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* Click image below to view bulletin (pdf)

June 15, 2014

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As you may have read and heard, Archbishop Carlson received some less than stellar press in our local media outlets. Let me present at least something of the ‘other side of the story.’ From the Archdiocesan Communications Office:

“This statement is intended to clear up confusion generated by the release on June 9, 2014, of a videotaped deposition of Archbishop Robert J. Carlson, Archbishop of St. Louis. This deposition was taken in a lawsuit for damages pending in a Minnesota state court relating to events that occurred more than 30 years ago in Minnesota. Neither Archbishop Carlson nor the Archdiocese of St. Louis is a party to this case.

During a press conference held on June 9, 2014, Plain-tiff’s lawyer strategically took Archbishop Carlson’s response to a question out of context and suggested that the Archbishop did not know that it was a criminal offense for an adult to molest a child. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Contrary to what is being reported, Archbishop Carlson is and has been a leader in the Church when it comes to recognizing and managing matters of sexual abuse involving the clergy. As far back as 1980, then-Father Carlson wrote “This behavior cannot be tolerated” in a memo referencing a priest’s abusive actions (Exhibit 301 of this case).”

If I may be so bold as to reiterate a framework for understanding the Archbishop’s responses: If someone was asking me about three depositions that I gave 27 years ago, expecting me to remember exactly what I said under penalty of perjury, without my opportunity to have reviewed those files, I am pretty sure I would also state: “I don’t remember” as often as they asked specific questions about the content of that deposition.

Archbishop Carlson’s lawyer said it this way: “Plaintiff’s counsel questions the Archbishop, who had repeatedly requested and was denied the ability to review case documents pertaining to the questions asked of him, and who, 27 years after last being deposed, is now being maligned for his inability to recall certain events.”

I write this on Wednesday morning, so I am not sure how much of the original reporting will have been addressed and ‘corrected’ by your reading of this column. Please go to the Archdiocesan Website: http://archstl.org for a more comprehensive understanding of the deposition as well as the context from which the comments came.

In the mean time, we do what we always do whenever the press reports on instances of abuse, no matter who the perpetrator is. We continue to pray for victims of sexual abuse, everywhere and in every age. Pray for an ending to this scourge, a healing of the lives affected and for God’s love to be showered down upon us all.

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father of bride 2It is “wedding season” for us priestly types, and perhaps, for many of you, as sons, daughters, neighbors and friend’s children are making the trip to the altar. In my nearly 30 year of witnessing them, I have become convinced that weddings have an ability to give us an experience of and glimpse into the nature of God. In particular, there are usually three moments that stand out for me, and perhaps stand out for you, at every wedding I have been a part of. Interestingly enough, the correlate to the Trinitarian greeting that we use from St. Paul so often at the beginning of each mass.

The first moment: I always enjoy looking at the groom’s face while everyone else is fixed upon the bride walking down the aisle. There is this curious mixture of desire, of amazement, of joy and wonder at how beautiful his beloved looks on that day. And though I can’t know what is in their heads, I can’t help but wonder if and hope that, at some moment during that walk, they think: “What did I ever do to deserve this grace?” What did I ever do to have someone give their love and their life to me? What did I ever do to be able to find my life precisely as I give it away to them in turn? And in that moment, I think, they know “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Grace equals divine favor; it is that unmerited gift, that undeserved but freely given relationship that Jesus makes possible for us with God. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is made visible in the eyes of a groom watching his bride walk down the aisle, in the eyes of the bride as she kisses her father ‘goodbye’ and takes her grooms arms and turns and faces the altar.

The second moment – I’ve just alluded to: It is that moment when the father gives away the bride. It is a long walk, I think, for the dad down that aisle, and perhaps too short of one at the same time. Pride, joy, a tinge of sorrow, a lot of letting go – all of those emotions – are nestled in the bend of his elbow where his daughter’s hand rests. And as often as not, you see a father’s hand resting over his daughters – in that last bit of ‘protection’, that last walk of letting go. And you know in the tears they try to hide, a heart that bursts in love in the giving away. It’s the day they’ve always wanted for their daughter, but it is bittersweet– for they know not what the future will hold for their beloved. There is a huge surrendering there, a huge act of trust and letting go. “The Love of God” becomes so visible, so real in that timeless moment. If you take a picture of that moment, you see the echo of what St. John spoke of so eloquently: For God so loved the world, that he gave his ONLY son, so that all who believe in him might have eternal life. In every giving away in love, every surrender made to a bigger story, every sacrifice made for others, you and I touch the love of God.

Finally, I’m pretty convinced that couples don’t really realize that ‘it’ has happened – that they are really married – until just before the end of the ceremony. They’ve said the vows, exchanged the rings, had the nuptial blessing prayed over them, received the Lord in the Eucharist, visited Mary, and heard the final blessing. And then there is that small moment, almost invisible, where the couple is turned toward each other, and introduced formally for the first time. And whether it is a quick kiss, a kind of shrug of their arms enfolded in each other, or a clasping of the hands together – their bodies cement that moment when they realize: “It is us now.” The two of us traveling together, down whatever paths and whatever roads God has in store for us. There’s a quiet confidence in that moment, a thrill of the journey ahead, and a kind of ‘we can do this TOGETHER’ realization that comes upon them. It is the “fellowship of the Holy Spirit” moment. That ‘fellowship’ is the Spirit’s gift to them/us. It is the love of the Father poured into the Son and the Son given back to the Father that creates the home called Spirit. It is that fellowship of the Spirit that helps them create a home together.

Weddings can reveal to us a lot about the Trinitarian nature of God. But they are not the only places where God is revealed. This week pay attention to those moments when you know “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.” In each of those moments- breathe in that life that God is sharing with you, and breathe out your response of gratitude and love.

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Dear Pastor,

It is with joy, hope and confidence in the faithful I am announcing that I will consecrate the Archdiocese of St. Louis to the care of the Holy Spirit at the Vigil of Pentecost on Saturday, June 7, 2014 at Holy Redeemer Church at 7:30 p.m. and on Sunday, June 8, 2014 Pentecost Sunday at 10 a.m. Mass at the Cathedral Basilica. To truly be Alive in Christ, we need the Holy Spirit.

Pope Francis reminds us that the action of the Holy Spirit, “The Soul of the Church” is to guide us to the truth. “He leads us not only to an encounter with Jesus, the fullness of Truth, but guides us “into” the Truth, helping us enter into a deeper communion with Jesus himself.” The Holy Father acknowledges that we cannot accomplish these things on our own, but instead must place our Future in Faith confidently in the hands of the Holy Spirit.

Consecration means to set aside for a sacred purpose. I am asking the faithful of the Archdiocese of St. Louis to consecrate themselves to the Holy Spirit so that we may live out our Sacred Purpose: “Seeking to live in sacramental communion with one another, the Archdiocese of St. Louis exists to make disciples and missionaries of Jesus Christ to prepare for the promise of eternal life.” With the help of the Holy Spirit we will better live the four pillars of being “Alive in Christ” Education; Stewardship; Evangelization and Social Justice.

I ask that a prayer of Consecration to the Holy Spirit be prayed at each Mass, in every parish and mission in the Archdiocese throughout the Pentecost week-end. Enclosed is a copy of the prayer, feel free to reproduce it for your parish. I call upon all our people to pray in preparation for this profoundly personal commitment, “Come, Holy Spirit, Come”.

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Archbishop Robert J. Carlson

CONSECRATION TO THE HOLY SPIRIT
O Holy Spirit, receive the perfect and complete consecration of my whole being. In all my actions, grant me the grace of being my Light, my Guide, my Strength and the Love of my heart. I surrender myself to You, and I ask You for the grace to be faithful to Your inspirations. Holy Spirit, transform me through Mary and with Mary into a true image of Christ Jesus, for the glory of the Father, and the salvation of the world. Amen.

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