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grandmotherWhat do we know about St. Ann? Other than being married to Joachim and being the grandmother of Jesus, not much, at least as history records. We only hear her name from the Protoevangelium of James, written around the year 150. Yet, as the ages rolled down, Anne became the patroness of unmarried women, (as she was wed very late in life); of housewives, of women in labor, of grandmothers, horseback riders, cabinet-makers, and the Mi’kmaq people of Canada. St Anne (as the French spell it) is also said to be a protector from storms. And here at St. Ann, we are aware of St. Ann oil and Ann’s role as an intercessor for healing. This is the ‘knowing’ of St. Ann that floated down to us through the tradition of the church.

But is this ALL we can know about St. Ann for our benefit? I think not. When you think about Ann from the perspective that she was the grandmother of the Lord, then suddenly, a few things become potentially clearer, don’t they, because many/most of us have had the experience of grandparents. So I asked some of the kids at Christian Family Camp this morning what they learned from their grandparents that they did not learn from their parents. My niece Katherine gave my favorite answer: “I learned from them that my dad is crazy.” (My other niece nodded her head in agreement. She could have asked her uncle and found the same truth.) Another shared: “I learned how delicious chocolate mint ice cream is.” A final one, when about to head off to college said: “What my grandpa shared with me about college was so much more helpful than my parents. All I got from them was a list of “no’s”. From Grandpa, I got wisdom.”

Wisdom. Truth telling. And a love that is extravagant in the form of chocolate mint ice cream. Those are wonderful images to pray about when we think of St. Ann.

Today’s scriptures give us two additional insights about the role that St. Ann can play in our lives – legacy, and gratitude. Sirach tells us:
Their wealth remains in their families,
their heritage with their descendants.
Through God’s covenant their family endures,
and their offspring for their sake.
Jesus does not appear in a vacuum, but comes from parents and grandparents and a whole family tree of people who pass on all that is of value and love from generation to generation. So we see in Jesus’ piety, a glimpse of Mary’s holiness. And we see in Mary’s holiness that Godliness of Ann and Joachim. And though we can trace that holiness backwards, what would it be for us to think about the legacy that WE are creating in our children and grandchildren? Do they see in our constancy to Sunday mass people who strive to honor God by giving him the first day of the week? Do they see any evidence of a prayer life? Do they see us doing the works of Justice, transforming this world by our actions and deeds?  What will your children’s children know of God because of you?

In the gospel we hear Jesus praising his followers – and inviting them to an awareness of the graces bestowed upon them: “Blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.” St. Ann was privileged to see the dawn of salvation in the birth of her grandson. Yet, you and I have also seen much of grace and love and beauty. And I find, in the hustle and bustle of life that I don’t take the time I would like just to be aware of the blessings. The feast of St. Ann is an invitation to cultivate an attitude of gratitude.

So if you have a grandkid – take them out for chocolate mint ice cream. (If you don’t have one, then invite a friend to go for some.) Share on that outing, some of your favorite stories that taught you about life and love. And pass on to them the faith legacy that Ann gave to Mary – a life of gratitude and love for all your eyes have seen and known…

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* Click image below to view bulletin (pdf)

July 27, 2014

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Thoughts from a seminarian:

Come and see:
The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus…They said to him, “where are you staying?” He said to them, “come and you will see” (John 1, 37-39).

When I knew my bishop would send me to the United States for the program of priestly formation, a lot of questions came in my mind. I didn’t know how USA is because I had never come to USA before. I had always heard it is a country of civilization, progress, and freedom. However, the most important question that I wonder to know is how is this Church, and how is this Harvest of God there? I remembered the invitation that Jesus said to two disciples, and I wanted to come and see. I did come, and what have I seen?

First, I came to the place that trains the shepherds, the laborers, Kenrick seminary. When I arrived at this seminary, surprise by surprise came to me. It is really a wonderful seminary outside and inside, materially and spiritually. Before I came here, I had always heard about some civilized countries. There are few young people following a Vocation and many seminaries and churches were closed. But when I came and saw Ken-rick Seminary, I was surprised by the number and the faithfulness of seminarians. There are 130 seminarians and they are full of the Holy Spirit. Since I have lived, studied, and played with them, I believe that they are promising candidates for Holy Orders and will become good shepherds, good laborers in the Harvest of God.

Second, after one year living at the seminary, I went to a Harvest, St. Ann parish. And what have I seen here? The more parishes that I have visited, the more surprised I was when I came and saw St. Ann parish. I have seen some parishes were closed, many others don’t have any parishioners come to celebrate daily Mass. However, in St. Ann parish, there are tens of people come to celebrate daily Mass and hundreds at Sunday Mass with faithfulness and joyfulness in God. This is a beautiful Harvest of God.

In short, the things that I have seen since I came here encourage me a lot in the way of following my vocation. I will try to become a good laborer of God, and when I go back to Vietnam, my Harvest, I will remember and talk to my people about the marvels that God has done for his Harvest in the United States, so we always give thanks to the Lord our God…

…Khanh

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Thoughts from a seminarian:

I was born in a countryside village in Vietnam with ranges of bamboos surrounding the village. The bamboos are very common and meaningful to the Vietnamese who live in countryside areas. Because of its characteristics of endurance and perseverance, people consider the bamboo as the symbol of the Vietnamese. In my village, there is a parish church built in 1989 in the western architecture style with two towers on the facade of the church. People are very religious—in the whole village, there are only two non-catholic families. Thanks to living in such a catholic environment and thanks to prayers of three generations in my family including my grandparents, parents, and my siblings, I have a vocation which I am following now. When I decided to follow my vocation for the priesthood, I never thought that I would have a chance to study in the United States which is the richest, the freest, and the most modern country in all the world. However, God’s will is done and I am in the US now. Although I have been here for eleven months, I am still surprised by the American seminarians’ kindness and generosity at Kenrick Glennon seminary and by my first pastoral experience in an American parish.

I still remember the first day I stepped foot in Kenrick Glennon seminary; I received cordial welcomes from the faculty and seminarians. They are very generous and kind in helping me to get used to the new environment and daily lifestyle of everyone in the seminary. Moreover, they help me to experience the American culture through daily activities, such as sport playing, entertainment, gauds, and Caritas group. Thanks to their generosity and kindness, they make me feel at home and comfortable in the new school.

After finishing the first school year, I have three months for summer vacation. However, I was surprised to find out that I would have an opportunity to live in an American parish, St. Ann parish in Normandy, for two months to observe and study the pastoral experience with its pastor and from activities in the parish for my future priestly ministry. You know that there is different pastoral administration in different countries, so living in St. Ann parish is the best opportunity for me to experience the new pastoral ways. Living in the rectory, I also understand a little about the pastoral works of Fr. Bill through what he shares and through working with him in daily works. Thanks be to God for granting me an opportunity to live and study in the United States.

Praising God forever! Quang

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* Click image below to view bulletin (pdf)

July 20, 2014

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* Click image below to view bulletin (pdf)

July 13, 2014

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Social Media/Technology update…

Many of you reading this will remember the era of party lines. No, they were not cute remarks that people made to win the esteem of the opposite sex at gatherings. Rather, they were the most economical way to have phone service at your house. Pick up the phone, and even though no one in your house was on a handset, the line was often in use by the other ‘party’ who shared the same line and the cost. I suspect that concept is pretty much unfathomable to the current generation of technologically savvy young adults and children. Things have changed vastly in our communication and technological worlds.

So, too, things have changed in the world of personal finance. Many people bank online, pay bills online and manage their financial affairs without ever stepping foot inside a bank. Technology is such that even craft fair vendors can swipe your credit card on their phones as you buy their wares in church basements and auditoriums. It is a different world in so many ways.

So, it is time for St. Ann’s to do a little catch up in terms of the data we collect, how we contact you and even how people might make their stewardship of the financial treasure God has entrusted to them. To that end, a small Stewardship committee (Bill Hook, Meg Naes and myself so far) have been looking at various options to make St. Ann more responsive to the times in which we live.

As a FIRST step in that process, we will be collecting as many e-mail addresses of parishioners as we are able to. From those addresses we will be able to send out timely notices – about deaths and funeral arrangements of parishioners, special events on the horizon, prayer requests and news that affects this community that is the rock of Normandy. That collection of data will hap-pen via a little paper form (or an electronic one from our Facebook page) that people will fill out on the weekends of Aug. 9-10 and 16-17th. (If you don’t have an email address, we will just be asking for updated information.)

In addition, we will be using the Our Sunday Visitor company to manage an Electronic Offertory giving pro-gram. You can ‘give’ to St. Ann parish by your credit or debit card, or directly from a checking or savings ac-count. We will roll out the OSV version of this program on Stewardship Sunday, Sept. 27-28th. More information to follow. HOWEVER, many banks allow for ACH transfers. (electronic transfer of funds from your bank account.) Those can be set up at any time. Please contact Eileen at ext. 852 and she will make the necessary arrangements.

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frisbeeSometimes it does not take much to go from rocky ground to fertile soil – to go from being barren and resistant to grace/love, to being a complete vessel of that very love and grace. As you know, many years ago, Fr. Hanneke and I met with Fr. Vic about our concerns with his drinking and our demand that he seek treatment. Of course, according to him, “he did not have a problem.” It was a cold few days in the rectory. He was seriously contemplating leaving the priesthood. But, in his own telling of the story to you, do you remember what changed for him? Do you remember what was the catalyst that moved him from being rocky ground to fertile soil? A tossed Frisbee. One poorly tossed Frisbee, and rocky ground became fertile soil.

Perhaps you remember the story as Fr. Vic shared it upon his return. At the fish fry on the day after we confronted him, Bummer Barry brought a ton of Frisbee’s to the event. Why, I’ll never know. As Fr. Vic was walking from the garage to the Parish Center kitchen, one of the rugrats had grown very frustrated with his inability to throw a Frisbee. The errant throw landed at Vic’s feet. “Aargh, it never goes where I want it to. Fr. Vic, can you help me?” Vic, growing up in the 70’s, lived, in his own words, with one attached to his hand. And so he showed the kid how to grip it and how to toss it, and when the kid tried, the Frisbee went exactly where he had thrown it. He looked at Fr. Vic and said simply: “Gee, Fr. Vic, you’re great.” In that moment, the walls of resistance came tumbling down, and the rocky ground became fertile soil. He said of that moment later: “I knew I had to go for him and for all the people who look to me for guidance and love.” And if God can accomplish that movement of grace by a frisbee – imagine what he can do when we give him our lives.

In God’s timing and providence, it does not take much to change rocky ground to fertile soil. I remember a college student telling me how much she had struggled all her life to believe that she was loveable and worthwhile. She was not endowed with the looks of a model. But on retreat, as part of a prayer experience, someone whispered to her quietly: “You are so beautiful.” And the stony, rocky ground of her heart, so carefully protected and barricade from just about everything, became fertile soil. “I don’t know what was different about that time, because I had heard the message before. But, somehow, that time, it got through, and I have believed that ever since.” Sometimes it only takes a whisper to change rocky ground into fertile soil.

In today’s gospel, Jesus does not promise that all the sowing will bear fruit. But if these two simple examples ring as true in your life as they ring in mine, then sow extravagantly. Because we dare not chance that the message won’t get through. In a thousand ways we must tell our children we love them; our neighbors that they matter; our community that together we are sent to bring the kingdom. Sow extravagantly in your words and deeds, for you’ll never know if what God has put into your heart to say and do is exactly what the person before you needs to hear at exactly the right time.

Practically, pick ONE area this week to sow some seeds – take the kids to a ball game, go to dinner and movie with the spouse, a visit to a shut in, make a holy hour with God – it matters not. But sow extravagantly.

You see, we’ll seldom know, this side of eternity, exactly what we said or did that changed rocky ground into fertile soil. But it happens all the time, because God is so extravagant and the seed of his love is so powerful. Be sowers, therefore, of God’s love this week.

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How busy is your life?

Published on 06. Jul, 2014 by in Sunday Homilies

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welcomehome“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” I suspect that many people know this experience: the busy parents chauffeuring kids to various sporting practices and games to the corporate executive traveling with the demands of their career, to the elderly grandparent giving their children a bit of a break by babysitting so they can have an evening out. It is easy to get caught up in the barrenness of a busy life.

But here is what is surprising about the quote. Somehow, you would suspect that this would be a somewhat modern day quote, befitting the hectic pace of our times. You’d be wrong. The author of the quote was Socrates – who died 399 B.C. Here was a man who spent more than his fair share of time thinking and reflecting. And a man who learned all about the dangers of restlessness that comes from filling every moment of every day with some kind of activity. Beware of that, he cautions. There is a restlessness that comes from being too busy, too full of activities, even if they are fun activities, even if they are good things to be involved in. Sometimes our business is a way to hide our emptiness. If we never have time to stop and think, we don’t have to face the fact that we are so lonely and so disconnected. “Beware the barrenness of a busy life.”

Jesus knew that same reality – in the people of his generation, as well as in his own busy life. He himself was always a man on the go, constantly meeting people, healing, teaching, traveling – it would have been easy for Jesus himself to fall prey to that busy kind of life. There is a way, he tells his disciples, not to get caught in that trap. There’s a great freedom I know, an easy burden, a light yoke – this kingdom way of living. Because it comes from a rested, restful soul. It comes from a place of freedom and not a place of “have to…” Take MY YOKE upon you and learn from me. There is a path to take that will keep you refreshed from within, that will be like a fountain spilling over inside of you.

Yet, as often as I have prayed that line and thought that line and reflected on that line, here is what I missed. I, in my busy-life-mindset, jumped right to the conclusion: take my yoke upon you; learn from me. “I can DO that. I got the doing of stuff down. And already I am in the doing world. But there is a necessary pre-step, a necessary condition that allows the path of kingdom living to become an easy yoke. “COME TO ME!” Without that step, every yoke we take, even if done in love, becomes an experience of barren business.

So, I have been struggling to find an image that will last, a way of thinking about this first part of kingdom living that will keep me focused on the essential point of Jesus’ teaching. And God was very good at providing it. Friday night, when I came home from fireworks, I was flipping channels on the TV – and caught the end of the Tom Cruise remake of War of the Worlds. Here is the image that I want you to have in your head about this invitation – to COME TO ME!

There is a scene, after all the action is over, when Tom is carrying his physically and emotionally exhausted child down the empty street to the Brownstone where his ex-wife lives. The door opens and mom appears on the steps. Dad sets his daughter down, and without a word, without an invitation, she simply RUNS pell-mell down the street, oblivious to anything but THROWING herself into her mother’s arms. The camera angle shifts, and now you see the silhouette of a teen framed in the door, the son, whom Tom was sure was dead. And even though he is much older than his little sister, also quickly makes his way down the steps to his dad, and after a moment of just looking in his eyes, also throws his arms around his father in this huge bear hug.

THAT IS WHAT JESUS wants us to know when we are trapped in the barrenness of a busy life. It is what has been revealed to the little ones – that we simply come and throw all our burdens, all our pain, all the weary emptiness and struggles of our lives into the amazing bear hug of grace and love with our Lord.

What a difference it would make, if we learned to approach our God with our burdens and weariness with that same childlike abandon…

P.S. – (at end of mass) If you want another image of the “Come to ME” part of today’s gospel – then do a web search and type in: “Soldier homecomings”. Click a link, almost any link, and image the homecoming you see there as what God wants you to do daily…

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The progress after one night of pulling wire…

I learned a lot of things that I did not know after one night of pulling wires in our St. Ann school. First and foremost is the “rule of knots.” Apparently, the long-er the distance that two or three pieces of cable run side by side, the greater the probability that they will tangle themselves into knots. We experienced firsthand how true that axiom is, as we found our-selves tied up with in a major way when trying to correct a path to our longest run.… I suspect there is a homily in there someplace – about lives and friend-ship and how things get tangled up despite our best efforts – but I will save that for another day…

The second truth about working with an old building is this – no matter how carefully you prepare, some-thing will throw a wrench into your plans. And whether that is plaster that pulls away when you are opening old wire molding, or accidentally cutting the wire that provides internet service to the rectory (major ooops) – you always find yourself needing to adapt and change to the changing situation. I suspect folks who are parents know this truth on a daily basis.

Finally, I once more discovered that people at St. Ann’s are incredibly generous with their time and talents. Thanks to the crew who helped with this part of the technology infrastructure rewiring project– Dan Klohr, Jim O’Donnell, Kenny Hundelt, Steve Dieckmann, David May, Jim Krueger, Gail Fike, Quang Van Dihn, Mike Marty, Mike Hubbard, Teresa Harris, Mel Hussmann, Don Davenport, and Kevin Kirchgessner (for bailing me out of cutting the wire to the rectory). More work to be done tonight, but we are making progress. (If I forgot anyone, I am sorry – there was a lot going on last night…)

On another subject:
Finally, do not forget to breathe a word of thanks to God for the favorable Supreme Court Decision in the Hobby Lobby case. As we end this third Fortnight for Freedom, I am ever more mindful of the need to protect this valuable gift of religious freedom, bought by the blood of the martyrs and the sacrifices of our veterans. Continue to pray for all those, especially of our parish, who serve our country’s freedoms in the military.

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