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There are some…

So, there are some disadvantages to being a small parish community. One of them is to not be able to organize and host your own ACTS retreat program. (or at least do so easily…) However, God is good. I received a call from Roger Chik, one of the leaders of the upcoming ACTS retreat program for Holy Spirit parish. He is-sued an invitation for any of the men of our parish to join the men of their parish in their upcoming ACTS re-treat, to be held February 12-15, 2015 at Pallottine retreat center in Florissant. It will be an exciting weekend filled with prayer, reflection time, and fellowship! Please call Roger Chik (314) 348-0014 and he will be happy to dis-cuss the weekend with you. This is an excellent opportunity to explore and recharge your faith. What an awe-some way to start the New Year!
(Ladies, please note that these retreats are single sex only – we are not trying to exclude you… I’ll let you know if/when the women’s ACTS retreat is scheduled.)

Just One Thing… (continued)
“We lose sight of the big picture when self care be-comes an afterthought rather than an intentional part of our lives. Look at the categories of Mind, Body and Spirit and see what you would like to include in your life. Decide on some actionable steps – you don’t need to go from zero to 70 in one moment (a good way to fail) If exercise is a goal – find two slots a week you can stick to, and start there. Once those are automatic, you can look for a third slot…”

Here are a few ‘epic ideas’ to start taking care of yourself. 1) Go unplugged for a day, a weekend or a week. See how much you gain in terms of time and energy. 2) Pick up a book on a subject you have always been interested in. 3) Select one spot in your house that is driving you crazy and clear it out. Notice how the emptier space makes you feel.
…. …. ….
What are you doing for Lent this year? What if I told you, don’t give up chocolate? Instead, do something life-changing. Because Lent isn’t about chocolate; it’s about transformation. This Lent, join me and your fellow parishioners in doing “Best Lent Ever,” an email program by Dynamic Catholic. You will receive daily emails with short videos, inspirational quotes, and spiritual coaching from Matthew Kelly, America’s best-selling Catholic author in America. The program is free. All you need to do is sign up at www.BestLentEver.com.

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February 1, 2015

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Do you like to fish?

Published on 25. Jan, 2015 by in Sunday Homilies

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wormI have never enjoyed fishing. Never liked touching worms, much less putting them on a hook. The fish were slimy and would ‘fin’ you if you were not careful when you had caught them. And it seemed unfair – that you would catch them with their hunger – they did not stand much a chance once you had them snagged. (Plus all I knew was catch and release, so it did not make much sense to do all that work for nothing.) So, aside from the cute verbal turn of the phrase, fishermen to fishers of men, that image of being fishers of men never did much for me. Yet, it is precisely that call that Jesus uses to catch his first disciples. So, there must be something there for us non-fishing-loving-people. What is at the heart of that image – fishers of men? Certainly it is not the image of dragging things against their will from the sea to the shore. (use finger as a ‘hook’ in my mouth to drag me sideways) That does not do much for me.

Here is where some information from the cultural world of Jesus supplies some needed information. For the Jewish people, the sea, even as it was a source of their livelihood and food, was primarily a place of chaos, filled with monsters and demons. We hear the images in the Psalms: ‘Leviathan’, the ‘monsters of the deep’, the ‘torrents overwhelming us’. The greatest punishment they could imagine was to be cast into the sea with a millstone around their neck. The sea was a dangerous place to venture, fraught with peril. Thus, when Jesus walks on the water, he ‘tames the forces of evil and chaos; he shows his mastery over those demons and forces. So, when he invites his apostles to be fishers of men – he invites them to be the ones who pull people from a place of danger, to rescue them from places of chaos; to bring them to a shore of safety.

That way of looking at being “fishers of men” has captured my prayer this week – to be a person who saves people from the chaos of life, to rescue folks, to bring them to a place where they might come to know safety, to help them escape the nets of a sometimes crazy world, – and ultimately to meet the same Jesus that I have met – Ahh! that kind of fishing I can get hooked on. (pun intended)

So, I have looked for opportunities this week to make that happen. Though none of the moments would make it to the front page of the news, there are those moments when you are able to invite people to come and stand on safer ground.
• While at dinner with a friend, they voiced concern about a destructive relationship one of their friends was involved in. So we spent some time brainstorming about how to voice those concerns in a loving but challenging way.
• At Dave and Ann’s house, who continues his battle with ALS last Sunday night, it is obvious that the disease is winning. Though we all continue to pray for a miracle which has yet to be granted, what I could affirm was the wonderful group of friends they have who gather each Sunday night to pray the rosary with them. Their faithful witness is a wonderful way that they know God is still with them in the battle.
• Though they have postponed the planned execution of a death row inmate slated for this Wed., Missouri put 10 people to death last year. And is probably on that same pace for this year. It is a flawed system of justice. So I spent time this week writing my governor and elected officials inviting them to stop the practice.
• I had a two minute conversation with a student who now has to change majors – not because I could change the outcome at the University level, but because they needed to know they were still loved and worthwhile, no matter where their education brought them to…

Fishing for people: finding a way to rescue people from the dangers – great and small – that their lives are in, and gently call them to life. It is what Jesus invited his disciples to do. It is what he invites us to do.

Whether you like fishing or not, I believe we all know people who are in peril on the seas of their lives. How is God inviting you to be a fisher of His people this week?

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Year one of Dynamic Catholic Alive focuses on Prayer and the need to develop a consistent practice of prayer and reflection in our lives. A practical way of living that commitment is to participate in either a yearly retreat or one of the many days of recollection and reflection that are organized on an Archdiocesan level. Two of those opportunities are approaching rapidly. The Catholic Men for Christ Conference will be held on Saturday, February 7, 2015 at the Peabody Opera House. This year’s lineup includes George Weigel, Tim Staples, Terry Barber, and our very own Msgr. James J. Ramicciotti. For more information, or to register, go to https://www.catholicmenforchrist.org/2015-conference.html.

Likewise, the Catholic Women for Christ Conference will be held on March 21st, at the St. Charles Convention Center. Keynote speakers are Teresa Tomeo and Brenda Sharman. Go to http://www.catholicwomenforchrist.org/ for registration information.

In light of the events around our Country, Bishop Edward Braxton of Belleville published a Letter called: The Racial Divide in the United States: A Reflection for the World Day of Peace 2015. It is certainly worth the reading and reflection it engenders. It consists of 6 parts:

I. Prologue – an invitation to imagine the country and the Church from a different perspective.
II. A New Awareness of the Racial Divide and a Call to Christian Dialogue: a Christmas challenge to enter the dialogue.
III. Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, John Crawford Ill, Michael Brown, Jr., Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice: An insightful summary of the known facts about their deaths and the international protests that followed.
IV. What we have Seen and Heard: an invitation to reflect upon these events within the context of the Church’s teachings and actions concerning the racial divide in America.
V. Are there really “Minority” Americans and “Minority” Catholics?: an expansion of the dialogue that examines the negative impact of expressions such as “minorities” and “minority groups.
VI. Conclusion: Pray, Listen, Learn, Think, and Act: some specific suggestions of activities that may help bridge the racial divide.

Go to: http://bellevillemessenger.org/2014/12/bishop-braxton-writes-a-letter-on-racial-divide-in-the-united-states/ for the entire document.

(I will return to the “Just One Thing” wellness document next week…)

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January 25, 2015

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come and seeIt is known as the St. Louis question – and there are two variations on it. The first – What high school did you go to? The second – What parish do you belong to? Both of them reveal a lot about who we are and what makes us tick. “Prep South High School” and “Our Lady of Providence parish” are my answers. The first tells you that I was in the seminary from early on. The second tells you that I grew up in white, lower middle class suburbia. But if you are like me, you get tired of those questions, don’t you? Because both of them lead to rather predictable conversations – about different pastors and priests or different high school sporting events or players or competitions. And, I confess, I long for a bit more. When someone asks you: “What High School did you go to?” how do you answer them? Because you have a choice about how you answer that, and where the conversation goes from that point on.

In today’s gospel, we hear the 1st century variation of that question: “Rabbi, where are you staying?” But, notice, the response of Jesus is not the usual street address/parish/high school kind of answer. “Come and you will see!” As if to say: “You can’t answer that question with words – only with actions, only with what really reveals the heart and soul – the things that I do.

Notice what happens next. The two disciples stay with Jesus the rest of that day, from 4:00 on. What they see as they watch Jesus interact with his family, with his friends, for the rest of that day is enough for Andrew. There is something about this Jesus, something about how he lived that ordinary day at home that changes everything for Andrew. He tracks down his brother and says: “This is it. I’ve found the one. And now I know “WHERE” I will STAY for the rest of my days – following this one, letting his dream become my dream, letting his passion become my passion. Where am I staying? Peter, I will spend the rest of my days staying with this one called the messiah. That’s where I will stay, that’s where I will live.”

“Where are you staying?” It is one of the more important questions that the disciples ask Jesus. But I believe it to be one of the important questions that the gospels ask of us. Where are you staying? Where do you live? For the disciples discovered, there are no guarantees in that reply of Jesus. “Come and you will see” – took them to work among the poorest of the poor. “Come and you will see” – invited them to journey to the Cross at Calvary and their own crosses, scattered throughout Christendom. “Come and you will see” – may take you and me to the inner city of St. Louis or the streets of Ferguson, or to serve your local municipality as a councilwoman or man. Like Dr. Martin Luther King, it may bid you to combat racism in all its forms, to march in political rallies, to get involved in the shaping our laws and policies. To all the places where Jesus lives, where Jesus stays, we are invited to stay. “Where are you staying?” Close to the master. Close to the places where He spent His energy. Close to his love.

That process – of ‘staying with’ the person you have been introduced, is so important, isn’t it? It is what Eli had to teach Samuel to do with his middle of the night wake up calls. “Don’t come running to me. Stay in that moment, in that encounter and LISTEN. Then you will come to know the truth that God wants and needs you to know.”

This week, I invite that gospel question of the disciples to be the question of your prayer – “Where are you staying?” “What are the things that you are passionate about, the places where you are ALIVE and not just surviving?” That, I believe, is the biggest challenge of the four signs of a Dynamic Catholic – to realize that God is calling ME/YOU, actively, like he called Samuel, Andrew, and Simon Peter, to come and see. May we have the grace to respond as they did: “Speak Lord, your servant is listening!”

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January 18, 2015

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At our priest’s convocation back in September, I picked up a flyer put out by the priest’s wellness program. Like many pieces of paper, the pamphlet disappeared for a while amid the stacks of papers and magazines and books that I put aside until I have time for them. Such was the fate of this one, until I rescued it from the pile by my chair. There at the top of the small booklet was a simple question:

“What if you could do JUST ONE THING to: …”
be good to yourself
enjoy life as it is
build on your strengths
be more effective in your ministry
make peace with your emotions
…would you do it?

I admit, even though I know the ‘correct answer’ is to say “yes”, my operational answer is more often “No.” I love going to see movies on the big screen. When was the last time I did so? About 5 years ago when a friend dragged me to a mid-week matinee. I do try to at least set Thursdays aside as my day off, and Fr. Ron is very gracious to cover mass for me, but today was kind of typical for a day off. There was a presentation on new findings about Alzheimer’s and dementia on the campus where my 90 year old mother is staying. Seeing that mom is now facing significant loss of memory, I figured it would be a necessary thing to attend. And then, because one cannot plan funerals, I traveled to Edwardsville, IL for the visitation for a friend’s father. Both are things that I chose to do; the result is that my winter days off are more like a few hours taken here and there.

Page three of the booklet begins with this thought: Stop giving yourself the leftovers. As priests (and as laypeople, though this was written for us priests) so many of us spend our time taking care of everyone else, that we never make our own needs a priority. We take care of our parish needs 100%. We help friends and colleagues and parishioners with what they need. Often our families come next on the list. Then, many of us give ourselves the leftovers, the 5 minutes, squeeze-it-in, of time.

Self care means knowing what fills up your soul, what nourishes your body and mind, excites you in life – and the choice to meet those needs on a regular basis. Just as there is a reason why flight attendants tell you to put on your oxygen mask first before attending to children, so too, is the discipline of self care.

To be continued…
(By the time you are reading this, I will have finished some serious self care on my annual winter vacation on Turks and Caicos Island in the eastern Caribbean… YEAHHH!!!)

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Of families and holiness…

I came across the following quote shortly after the feast of the Holy Family. Had I found it before, I would have based my homily on it. Yet, I trust you will draw nourishment from it without my help…

“Each Christian family can first of all — as Mary and Joseph did — welcome Jesus, listen to Him, speak with Him, guard Him, protect Him, grow with Him; and in this way improve the world. Let us make room in our heart and in our day for the Lord as Mary and Joseph also did, and it was not easy: how many difficulties they had to overcome! They were not a superficial family; they were not an unreal family. The family of Nazareth urges us to rediscover the vocation and mission of the family, of every family. And, what happened in those 30 years in Nazareth, can thus happen to us too: in seeking to make love and not hate normal, making mutual help common-place, not indifference or enmity. It is no coincidence, then, that “Nazareth” means “she who keeps”, as Mary, who — as the Gospel states — “kept all these things in her heart” (cf. Lk 2:19, 51).”
[Pope Francis, General Audience, December 17, 2014]
……. …… …… …… …… ……
If you have not picked up your copy of the 4 signs of a dynamic catholic, please do so at your earliest convenience. Or if your spouse has a copy, and you would like your own, also pick up a book. We have spares for the taking. Over the next four years, our Archdiocese is going to use the concepts from this book as a major thrust of evangelization and outreach. The initiative, called Dynamic Catholic, Alive!, will focus on the four principals, one year at a time: Prayer in 2015; Study in 2016; Generosity in 2017; and Evangelization in 2018. This will be a wide-ranging Archdiocesan initiative, touching parishes, institutions, and each and every one of you.

In this year devoted to prayer, it is important to reflect on the importance of prayer in our spiritual lives. The most dominant quality of Dynamic Catholics is a daily routine of prayer. In the year of prayer, I encourage you to pray more, to go to Mass more, to participate in the sacraments more, and to make significant and lasting spiritual progress.

In our bulletin, usually below the pastor’s pen, you will see a series of announcements, highlighting a different aspect of the yearly theme. This is one way we will work to integrate these concepts into our life of faith here at St. Ann. More steps to follow in the weeks to come.

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January 11, 2015

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