Of our city’s founder…

One of my favorite stories about King Louis IX of France, was his decision to always invite the poor to any of his ‘state dinners’. (The number varies according to what source you read – but it was more than 1 or 2 per meal.) I suspect that made him the talk of many a queen and monarch, and not necessarily in flattering terms. But I also suspect it was a reminder to him that our dignity and worth come, not from our state in life, the circumstances of our birth and the accidents of genetic inheritance, but rather, from our relationship to our Lord and Savior. Looked at from that perspective, all is gift and all is grace. Those at table with him would be a visible reminder of that truth – that we are all precious in the eyes of the Lord.

The following prayer was a part of the 800th birthday celebration of King Louis IX of France, and the 250 anniversary of the city named in his honor. I thought it a great prayer for anyone, at almost any time…

O Saint Louis, King of France and patron of our city; evangelizer, ruler, builder, husband and father, we beg your protection and prayers for all who live and visit here.

Inspire our bishops, priests and deacons to preach our Faith with courage, constancy and love. Strengthen them to combat every evil.

Pray that God will raise up courageous and honorable civic leaders who will enact laws respecting the dignity of the human person, enforcing them with justice, truth and charity.

Pray for all faithful men and women that they will live virtuous and peaceful lives as they journey toward their final goal of Heaven.

Pray that all children may keep their baptismal innocence and be spared from every evil.

Pray that the sanctity of human life will be forever respected.

Pray for an increase in holy vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

And Saint Louis, our patron, as you have left your earthly throne to assume your heavenly throne, pray that we will one day share with you the eternal crown of salvation after our earthly lives are ended.


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* Click image below to view bulletin (pdf)

August 31, 2014

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icebucket challengeIf you have been on any social media these days, chances are very good that you have heard this phrase, or a variation of it. “I challenge N. to either donate a $100 to ALS or to dump a bucket of ice on your head. You have 24 hours.” Former presidents have done so. Family members of victims have done so. Football teams and actors and a veritable host of famous people have taken the challenge. Even Kermit the Frog has done the ice bucket challenge. Most seem to do both a check and the ceremonial dumping of the ice on their heads. (The best one I have seen so far is of a guy who gets a whole concrete truck of water poured on him followed by a front-loader’s worth dumped on top.)

It has been an amazing boon to raising awareness of this horrendous disease, as well as raising funds for research. And there is a good Catholic option, by the way, to this – instead of sending money to the ALS society, you can send it to the John Paul II research facility which uses adult stem cells in their research for ALS instead of embryonic ones.**(See mailing address below homily)** Or you can donate directly to an affected person to help with their medical and treatment costs. In the short term – the ice bucket challenge is the hottest thing going. And it is the most hopeful thing my friends Dave and Ann have seen since Dave’s diagnosis a year and a half ago. But will it have a lasting effect on research? – that is the question. And will it truly raise awareness past just the few days and weeks that fads such as these run?

Jesus – aware that people are prone to ‘flash in the pan’ fads – to ideas that spring to life and then just as quickly fade away, begins to ask his disciples who the crowds say that he is. Is he just another person doing the ice bucket challenge of his day – the itinerant preacher gig, proclaiming good news one day and then gone the next, or is there something more, something else going on? What’s the buzz, what is the atmosphere around me and this little movement?” Because he knows he wants what he is doing to be something more than a fad, something more than a one-time gimmick and response, he makes a direct challenge to his disciples: “And you, who do YOU say I am?”

I suspect that the disciples knew by both the tone in his voice, and the place where he asked the question, that he was wanting more than a one-time-within-24-hours kind of response. You see, Caesarea Philippi was at a pagan cross roads. It was about a 2 and a half day hike from the shores of the sea of Galilee through some pretty inhospitable country. But the city built where the underground snow melt from far away Mount Hermon broke through the ground in lush springs, and to this day, it is the most important fresh water resource in the holy land. And because of this huge stone wall and immense cavern, the place was replete with temples and shrines and wall niches to almost every kind of deity and worship style and religious fad that existed. So much so, that the Jewish people (a mono-theistic religion) referred to that spot as the gates of the netherworld because of the many gods. Here in that spot – Jesus asks his disciples THE question. “Am I just “One of these gods, one of these fad religions, here today and gone tomorrow to you, OR… is there something more to me and to what I am going to demand of you than all this?

That was the ice bucket challenge of Jesus’ life, still rolling down the ages, addressed not just to his disciples with him, but to anyone whom would seek to follow him – WHO DO YOU SAY I AM? And unlike the ice bucket challenge, he is not interested in a 24 hour response time, but rather a 24/7 response.

But here is the other truth about Jesus’ challenge – it is one that is seldom spoken out loud, or delivered via a facebook message. Rather, it happens when:
• You are wounded by a boyfriend/girlfriend, or by a loved one, or a family member and you have the chance to ‘let them have it’ and the question is there: Who are you about to say I am in your response?
• You struggle with viewing images/movies that are less than dignified – and before you open the website or buy the ticket, the question is there: Who are you saying I am in this?
• You are approached for the 10th time this week by that same awkward kid down the hall, asking for help with math, and as you think about your response, there is the question: Who do you say I am
• In a positive way: When you decide to be a part of a peaceful prayer vigil at Michael Brown’s shooting site or donate to a Ferguson food pantry that is short on supplies because of the turmoil, you say who Jesus is.
• When you sacrifice your time to be with an elderly neighbor or to cut the grass of a friend who had knee surgery; you say to Jesus who he is…

I hope, for my friends Dave and Ann, that the Ice Bucket challenge makes a huge difference in the fight against ALS. But more so, I pray that you and I might give answer again and again by how WE LIVE to that most important challenge that Jesus gives to us: “Who DO YOU say I am…”

So, I’m calling all of you out, right here and right now, to take the “Jesus challenge.” Only, it is not a one-time challenge, and you don’t have 24 hours. Rather, you have between now and that moment when you come down to receive our Lord in communion to renew your commitment for 24/7 in every decision you make and every action you take… Who DO you say he is?

John Paul II Medical Research Institute
540 E. Jefferson St., Suite 202
Iowa City, IA 52245


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Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

We are all aware of the turmoil and tragedy our St. Louis community is experiencing. The residents of Ferguson, Missouri, are struggling to find peace in the chaos. As people of Christ, we are struggling to find direction in the unrest.

I have personally visited Ferguson and Michael Brown’s memorial to offer my prayers for everyone affected by this tragedy. As I have been observing this situation and reflecting on it through much prayer, I find strength in the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.” In all circumstances, but especially in these difficult times, we are all called to be instruments of peace through our words and actions. Pope Francis recently stated that, “All men and women of good will are bound by the task of pursuing peace.”

To that end, I invite the Catholic faithful to offer Masses for peace in our community. The Office of Worship will contact pastors to provide the appropriate resources. Additional parish activities could include Holy Hours, a parish rosary, or a special collection this week to assist in the effort. (We dedicated our All School Mass this past Wed. and will for next Wednesday for this at St. Ann.)

Because many Catholic schools are beginning classes both this and in the coming weeks, I have asked our Catholic schools to begin a daily rosary for peace and to offer special intentions during all school Masses. Catholic Family Services, an agency of Catholic Charities, has made counselors available to any Catholic school that requests assistance. Catholic Family Services has also publicized tips for parents and schools when dealing with crisis situations.

Pope Francis has encouraged us again and again to ask Our Lady, the Undoer of Knots, to intercede for us in difficult circumstances. So too, I ask all the faithful in the Arch-diocese of St. Louis to join me in praying to Our Blessed Mother and to her son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, for peace and justice in our community.

Sincerely Yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Robert J. Carlson Archbishop of St. Louis

I was hoping to put some info about the Feast of St. Louis this week and the events at the Cathedral, but these events are much more pressing. Go to http://stlouisreview.com/article/2014-08-06/coming-st-louis for more information about the celebrations.

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* Click image below to view bulletin (pdf)

August 24, 2014

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* Click image below to view bulletin (pdf)

August 17, 2014

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crayonsWhat could we learn from a box of crayons? Depending on how long you’ve had you box, you will notice that some of them might still be sharp while some are pretty used up; and a few are broken. There are all different colors, some of which have pretty unusual names, like apricot and orchid and periwinkle. All these differences, but they all have to live in the same box. As different as they are, they all have to live in the same box.

So do we. We are so different – at least externally – on so many levels. Yet, as different as we are, we, too, all have to live in the same box. Certainly the tensions and violence in Ferguson these days have made painfully clear the challenges of doing so. But the challenges in Ferguson right now, are not new.

700 years before Christ, the prophet Isaiah proclaimed the dream that was in the heart of God that ALL God’s children would come together as one; holy and happy on God’s holy mountain. That the prophet proclaims such a dream tells us it was not yet happening.

Nor was it happening by the time Jesus walked the earth. In today’s gospel we see that the challenge was still just as real. The disciples were trying to keep a woman away from Jesus because: well, first she was a woman. Secondly, she was a foreigner. Finally, she was a persistent complainer, making her need known early and often.

It is important to remember that these disciples had been walking with Jesus for a while. They saw how inclusive his life was. They saw that the preached – and lived- in a way that again and again welcomed the outcast and the outsiders INSIDE his box of crayons. Jesus saw – and proclaimed – that we are one. If it was still that hard for those disciples – who walked with Jesus himself – how real the challenge will also be for us.

It IS hard for us. Yet that does NOT free us from the responsibility of the work of inclusion; the work of justice, the work of bringing people together into the one box of crayons God created for us.

I learned this profoundly on the eve of the feast of the Assumption, summer of 1981. I was standing on top of a small hill, overlooking the soccer field of Ballyoran school in Portadown, Northern Ireland. I was with a group of volunteers during the high point of ‘the troubles’ – trying to make a difference. To ‘honor’ Mary, ostensibly, the Catholics have their bonfires, a response to the Protestant bonfires of July. They start out peacefully enough, but like what we are seeing in Ferguson, they become a flashpoint for all the frustrations to come out as the evening wears on. So the volunteers stay indoors – remaining neutral, having a sing a long, playing games and just interacting. At one point, I stepped outside to clear my head from the smoker’s haze.

teargasI became aware of a presence…a local walking the grounds to make sure we were safe. So we starting talking. Mid-sentence, he stopped, said “Achh!” (and something else I won’t repeat here) “It’s started.” “What?” “The riots. There – the sound of a plastic bullet being fired. And another and another.” With a sickening feeling in my heart, I realized that less than a ¼ mile from where I stood, a riot was going on. Here – it’s about 4 miles as the crow flies – and riots are going on. Just then, the door opened behind me, and I heard them singing. And the song that they were singing was “Puff the Magic Dragon”. It froze me to the spot. Before me just beyond the top of the low income Catholic housing project, were people from one country, two political/religious/social realities who could not seem to find a way out of the spiral of violence. Behind me, were students representing 6 countries, 4 different religions and an agnostic or two thrown in for good measure, who found a way to love each other with all our differences. And as clear as day, it was as if a voice spoke in my head. “Both of these worlds were created by the choices that people make. Bill Kempf, which world will you create with your life?

That, I think, is the challenge of these days for us as believers. How do we see in such a way as to create the “Puff the Magic Dragon” world? How do we teach ourselves to see what Jesus saw across the board? How do we make sure that we remember that people whose gender attraction, whose religion, politics, skin color, country of origin are different than ours – are precious to God. How do we recognize that we are all called because of our faith in God to create that kind of world?

I don’t claim to have that figured out, but I suspect a lot will be in baby steps: the jokes that I choose not to pass on or forward that demean people; the choice to absorb some pain from people’s treatment of me, instead of transmitting it; the decision to be involved in writing to and working with our politicians to create a less heavy handed way to respond. What I do know it begins with a choice. A choice about what kind of world we will create, what kind of life we will lead to make that happen.

<> One interesting piece of information about the evolution of crayons. It seems that the people of the Crayola company had to learn just that. When I was young, (back in the 1800’s) my box of crayons had a tan-colored crayon that was named ‘flesh’. I wonder how many children looked at that and wondered: “Why do they call that “Flesh”? The people from the Crayola company changed. They realized that human flesh takes on all different hues, and whatever our differences, all people smile in the same language. And if the people from corporate America can learn that, the we, looking at the world with our eyes of faith, can’t we learn to acknowledge that we are indeed, brothers and sisters in Christ.

We could actually learn a lot from a box of crayons. With all the different colors and names, as different as they are, they all have to live in the same box. So do we. So do we…

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Of Popsicle Socials…

It may have been the most pleasant weather ever for Tues-day’s Popsicle Social, the ‘unofficial’ start of the school year. After a quiet summer, the screeching of kids playing on the playground equipment while new and returning parents met is such a welcome sound. Tomorrow (Wednesday) starts our first half day of school. We are excited to be beginning.

All of our staff but one is returning. Mrs. Renee Joiner, our third grade teacher, decided to stay at home to care for her four children. Though we completely understand, we will miss her enthusiasm and energy on our school faculty. Mrs. Dana Aubuchon, former second grade teacher, will be moving up to third grade. Ms. Jennifer Givens, our new hire, (and an UMSL Newman Center/UMSL alum) will be teaching our second grade. The rest of the faculty remains the same.

So once more, St. Ann School embarks on the mandate given by Ann Lucas Hunt when she donated the start up funds and the land for the new school – “to see the education of the children and the care of the flock.” May God bless our school year and may we continue to make an impact in the lives of our students and families.

Speaking of making an impact, I received the following email from a former St. Ann Alum. (this is the first chance I had to get it into the bulletin.)

“Because it soon will be the feast of St. Anne and for old times’ sake I looked up my alma mater and just want to say hello. I graduated from St. Anne’s in 1941 and entered the Passionist seminary, ordained 1955 and sent to Japan 1957 where I have been in pastoral work since. There may be a few classmates or friends still in the area. George Graham was the last I am aware of. Until his death he lived in Normandy.

Is the Schulte hardware still there at the Loop? As you probably know, the Passionist Seminary was just beyond Lucas and Hunt on Natural Bridge. When I entered I walked from my home carrying my suitcase. At that time, before the church was built, the school auditorium was used for Mass and the old stone church built by Fr. De Smet was still there. I took secret pride that my name was written in the plaster in a corner of the steps going up to the bell tower. As a server to be assigned to ring the church bell was a real thrill. (You could hold on to the rope and let it carry you in the air.).”

Fr. Denis (James) McGowan, C.P.
Ikeda City, Japan

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hands upIt has become a kind of national symbol, hasn’t it – this symbol of marching and protesting with hands held high. ( |0| =”Hands up – don’t shoot” ) It is in honor of Michael Brown, the youth that was slain just a week ago. According to most of the un-official reports – that was his posture when he was shot – hands in the air – no weapons here. Hands in the air – I am not armed. Hands in the air – I am not a threat. Maybe we will never know exactly how it all went down that Saturday night – hands in the air or running away or what. But it is true to say that this image (hands in the air) has been adopted as a symbol of protest, hasn’t it. Protest for all the racial divisions in our world. Protest for all the victims of violence at the hands of those who are supposed to protect us. Protest for all that is wrong and unfair and unjust in our world. And there is a lot that is wrong, and unfair and unjust in our world.

But I wonder, on this feast of the Assumption, if we, as a faith community, might co-opt that gesture to tell another truth, to tell another story, to unpack a deeper insight into life. And that would be this: What happens when we turn THIS gesture ( |0| ) to THIS gesture – ( \o/ =  “Hands up in prayer and surrender”). It is a lot bit different, isn’t it? hands

This -( |0| ) is a bit defiant, isn’t it. Almost like saying: get away from me. Or come no closer. Or, it is like saying: “you are not going to move me.” ( |0| ) This says there is something between you and me, something that you should not cross, that you dare not step over. And this can be a kind of invisible barrier – like when we see those mime’s in their invisible boxes. (do the mime of the invisible box routine…) You can’t get in, I can’t get out…

But, when we turn it just so ( \o/ ), doesn’t that tell a completely different story. Doesn’t this ( \o/ ) say: “I need help/others?” Doesn’t it communicate very subtly: You are welcome here? Doesn’t it say that “We are all in this together?” And, when we use it in reference to God when we pray, doesn’t it say: I surrender all into your hands? Isn’t this ( \o/ ) the gesture that we know best in Mary, whose feast we celebrate today?

Many of the statues you will see of Mary is a kind of reverse – ( /0\ – rotate elbows until the arms are straight, hands pointing to the floor) Mary’s arms reaching out to us, her hands open to us – to pour out her love, the be the conduit of Jesus’ grace for us – to make sure that we feel loved and blessed and graced by her Son. This ( /0\ ) , when prayed by Mary, says to God – I am your servant. It says: “pour out your love upon me.” It says: “I trust you with all I am and all I hope to be.” It is that attitude that the church celebrates on the feast of the Assumption – that trust that God will then take ALL we are (body and blood, soul and divinity) into the life of heaven. And where Mary has been taken in grace, we hope to follow.

I suspect it may take a long time before ( |0| ) becomes ( \o/ ) on the streets of Ferguson. And it will take a long time to heal the wounds that the death of Michael Brown have left in our neighborhood. But here is what I would like YOU to do. Everytime you see this ( |0| ) in the news, on facebook, on You-tube, in the paper as you read the stories and remember the events of these days: Breathe a prayer, that by YOUR example and YOUR sacrifice and YOUR love, through the intercession of Mary, this  ( |0| ) may become ( \o/ ).

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faithThe storm was upon them. The Sea of Galilee could be notoriously tricky during a storm – especially a storm at night. It is not like they had gps to keep them on course. They could only use their instincts and the wind direction to keep them orientated. And these boats, sturdy as they were, were not unsinkable.

You can imagine the scene. Lightning and thunder and wind driven rain lashing upon them. Fishing tackle, usually innocuous, now becomes a deadly hazard. And then, in the middle of their tense exhaustion, an apparition. Something – no – someone walking ON the WATER. It had to terrify them. The invitation – “Lord if it really is you, tell me to come to you across the water.” “Come”.

So what was the hardest step for Simon Peter?

A part of me thinks the first one might have been the easiest. “Get me out of this boat.” Masts swinging, waves crashing over the bows, sails and ropes and gear all around – get me out of here. We know that, don’t we? Sometimes life gets so bad that we simply have to escape, we have to ‘get out of there’ – whether it is an abusive relationship, a sinful habit, an addiction that has finally become unmanageable.

The second step – a bit easier for Peter and us – “Hey, look at me, I’m walking on water!” Amazing that I can do this, when I never thought I could. I think of my friends Ann and Dave – as they learn to manage the disease. I think of so many of you in the midst of Chemo and radiation treatment or physical therapy – the hair is gone, you might be using a cane, but look at you, you are walking! And the spirit is unbowed… You CAN do this.

But, somewhere between step two and step three, when Simon realizes how turbulent the wind, and how wild and difficult the sea is; when he realizes that he is sinking – comes the most difficult step, for Simon and for us. The most difficult part of walking on water is THE CHOICE to KEEP WALKING and KEEP HANGING on in FAITH. That is the most difficult step for each of us, when we are beset with difficulties and trials – that choice to keep walking in faith.

Note what Simon cries out at that moment: “Lord, Save Me.” Most us know how to cry out: ‘Rescue me!” We know how to say: Get me out of this mess, this craziness, this difficulty and struggle. Let the storm be over, the suffering be at an end, the weary battle with cancer or addiction be done. I want it to stop. This, we all know how to pray.

It is a very different thing to cry out “Save me.” Save me – let your redemptive, salvific plan of love be at the center of my life. That is the most difficult step for any of us in the walk of faith. That is the step that Jesus makes in the garden when he says: “Not my will, but yours, be done.” That is the step that Simon makes when he reaches out, not to the boat behind him, but the Lord before him.

And that is the choice that is before each one of us in our walk of faith. We can rail at the unfairness of life, the cancer, the disease, the addiction, the poverty that grips us. We can be paralyzed by fear and stay stuck in the boat of our cancer treatments, addictions, habits of sin. OR, we can, with Simon Peter, make that most difficult step to keep walking in faith, following our savior, come what may.

The fact that you are here, says, at least on one level, that you have already gotten out of the boat. You have heard the Lord’s invitation to “Come.” Will you make that most difficult of all choices, the decision to keep on walking in faith, eyes upon the Lord, and his love alone to sustain you?

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