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Somehow, I always manage to be gone for the parish feast day. This time, it is for a baptism of the fourth child of two friends of mine near Portland, ME. (I have baptized the other three – so when they asked, I was delighted to say yes…) Still, I find myself thinking about St. Ann and her role as mother and grandmother. I came across a reflection written by Teresa Roberson-Mullins for our 150th anniversary year which rings as true now as it did then. (As you recall, this is why one of the bells from out-side, now ‘lives’ inside our church – to continue to call us to prayer and reflection in our life of faith…)

Inspired by St. Ann, who nurtured her daughter Mary with love and the teachings of her faith….the sisters of Mercy, the sisters of the Good Shepherd, the sisters of Loretto, along with Jesuits, Passionists, diocesan priests and lay men & women have brought the love of Christ and the teachings of the church to our school students – for 150 years (STRIKE THE BELL)

Inspired by St. Ann, who taught her daughter to be a good neighbor and how to have the strength to deal with the difficult political situations her grandson would en-counter,….we live as good neighbors in our community and as political activists when society threatens the vulnerable – for 150 years. (STRIKE THE BELL)
Inspired by St. Ann, who had a daughter, Mary, with an unplanned pregnancy, a son-in-law, Joseph, who considered a divorce, whose grandson, Jesus, ran away as an adolescent, then ended up on death row and executed…we support families in their struggles – for 150 years. (STRIKE THE BELL)

Inspired by St. Ann, faithful wife of Joachim, mother of Mary, grandmother of Jesus, ordinary woman, living an ordinary life, made holy by her faith…we are made holy by the faith we bring to ordinary parish gatherings: Men’s Club (and now Ladies’ Guild) meetings, Sprenke Tournaments, Parish Council Meetings, School Boards, Finance Councils, SAPO gatherings; at Baptisms, Funerals, Marriages & First Communions, Dinner Dances, blood drives and sharing in the Body and Blood of Christ – 150 years of living faith. (STRIKE THE BELL)

Inspired by St. Ann, who taught her family to pray, we continue, now for the 159th year, the story of a mother’s and grandmother’s love that is at the heart of THE story of salvation. “Beloved St. Ann, as you raised Mary and nurtured your grandson, Jesus – raise up and nourish in us a lively faith, so that we too, might bear fruit for the good of the Kingdom. This we ask in the Name of your grandson, Jesus, our Lord. Amen”

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* Click image below to view bulletin (pdf)

July 26, 2015

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imageThere are some times in my life, like everyone’s life, when things get a little hectic and crazy. Too many irons in the fire, too many things to do, being pulled in too many directions. You all know them, because this is an occupational hazard of being alive at this time in the world. Those are the times when I find myself trapped in a little spiral of business – and having so many things to do and each of them take a chunk of time, so that sometimes I just get stuck – paralyzed you into doing nothing.

That is when I go to a favorite little saying that I learned in a class about stress relief given to priests. It is a saying and once you hear it, you’ll know all you need to know about how to use this effective tool. Instead of saying: “I don’t have enough time to get anything done” –(because sometimes that is exactly what it feels like) – a healthier response is to finish this statement. “I have just enough time to do WHAT?” I have just enough time to …read the table of contents and intro for the book report due in four day. I have just enough time to …write out a prioritized list of what needs to happen. I have just enough time, not to do the entire load of laundry, but to …get my whites done. I have just enough time to…

And saying and acting in accordance always seems to get me “unstuck.” Sure, there are still mountains of things that eventually I will have to get to, but somehow, just starting one small thing is enough to get me past the paralysis of ‘so many things that have to get done.”

It seems that Jesus knew this trick – whether as a question he asked, or minimally, by the behavior that he chose. You can see the scene. The disciples return from their mission. They had so much to talk about, so much to process through – and everyone was clamoring for a bit of the master’s time and attention. And suddenly, it is a little overwhelming for everyone, including Jesus. So Jesus recommends a “time out’ – let’s go to a quiet place for a while, just to settle down, just to breathe, just to let there be room for God to act. And so they take off. But people get to see them go, and the routes across the Sea of Galilee in that northern corner are pretty predictable, so they cut Jesus off at the pass, and start to gather where he will strike land.
Jesus glances to the shore, and he sees what is coming. So what does Jesus do? He ‘asks that question’ – I don’t have enough time to go on a mini-retreat with my disciples, but I do have just enough time to do what?” And in my mind’s eye, he does the math – we have about 18 minutes (whether they used minutes as a measure of time, I am not sure) before we hit shore. 18 minute before we are once more surrounded by that needy, adoring crowd. “I have just enough time to do what?” he asks. And in my mind’s eye, he tells the boys – I’ll be in the back of boat – leave me alone for a few… He closes his eyes and takes a few deep breaths. He feels the sun shining warm on his face. He focuses on the sounds of the oars pulling through the water, the gulls cry in the air, the water lapping distantly on the shoreline. I have just enough time to acknowledge my Father God’s love for me and his people. Just enough time to slow my heart down and center in the love of God for me. And that is exactly what he does.

When he reaches the shore, as exhausted as he and his disciples might have been, he is now ready to minister to the crowds, because he had just enough time to tap into the Father’s love and way of seeing, and knew that they were sheep without a shepherd.

I think we all understand asking that question as a matter of stress relief – “I have just enough time to do what?” However, this week, what would it be to ask that question in the realm of our spiritual life? I don’t have time to read the 4 Signs of a Dynamic Catholic, but I can read the intro. I don’t have time to pray a whole rosary, but I can get in a decade while waiting for soccer camp to be done. I don’t have time for a holy hour, but I can linger over the morning cup of coffee, and invited God to be present in my day.

What do you have just enough time for – TODAY – in your relationship with God? And once you hear the answer, then get to it…

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* Click image below to view bulletin (pdf)

July 19, 2015

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We are in the home stretch of the Annual Catholic Appeal for this year. And though we have made our actual goal, there is always a challenge goal that we are invited to strive toward, so that the good things that are accomplished through this Appeal may be done, year in and year out. If you have already made your pledge, thank you so much for your generosity. If you have yet to pledge, or have misplaced your card, please contact either me (314-385-5090) or Jim Paunicka (314-385-7552) at your earliest convenience. Together, we help to change lives…
… … … … …
Continuing our ‘conversation’ from last week, here are some of the Church’s key teachings on marriage:
– “Marriage, the clinging together of husband and wife as one flesh, is based on the fact that man and woman are both different and the same. They are different as male and female, but the same as human persons who are uniquely suited to be partners or helpmates for each other. The difference between man and woman, however, cannot be restricted to their bodies, as if the body could be separated from the rest of the human person. The human person is a union of body and soul as a single being. Man and woman are two different ways of being a human person.”
(“Love and Life in the Divine Plan”)

– “The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.”
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1601)

-“The intimate community of life and love which constitutes the married state has been established by the Creator and endowed by Him with its own proper laws … God Himself is the author of marriage.” The vocation to marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as they came from the hand of the Creator. Marriage is not a purely human institution despite the many variations it may have under-gone through the centuries in different cultures, social structures, and spiritual attitudes. These differences should not cause us to forget its common and permanent characteristics. Although the dignity of this institution is not transparent everywhere with the same clarity, some sense of the greatness of the matrimonial union exists in all cultures. “The well-being of the individual person and of both human and Christian society is closely bound up with the healthy state of conjugal and family life.”
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1603)

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sandalsWe have all heard the scenario – you wake up to discover your house in on fire. Everyone is safe, and now you only have time to bring ONE thing with you. What do you bring? It is an exercise in priorities – what really matters of all the items you have and possess. And it is revealing in terms of your attachments. If you have trouble deciding on one item, then perhaps there are too many things in your world…

With that as a backdrop, I confess, in all my years of hearing this gospel, like that burning house scenario – I always understood Jesus asking: “What do you really, really need to take on the journey?” Because Jesus tells them in no uncertain terms: “Bring no food, no suitcase, no money in your belt” – everything that most of us would pack first if we were going on a long journey. His invitation then, was to live so completely trusting in God, that you were attached to nothing. You were to live so that nothing possessed you other than the Kingdom of God. So I found it interesting that in Mark’s version of the sending of the disciples, they are commanded to leave pretty much everything behind EXCEPT for two things:

Did you catch them? Take nothing with you on the journey, except for SANDALS and a WALKING STAFF. I don’t want to read into this more than is there – but those two items are kind of telling, aren’t they. In sending his disciples out with these two ‘permitted items, he tells them – be prepared for a journey. Be prepared to walk a long way – longer than you’d be able to do in bare feet. Bring a staff to help you overcome the obstacles on the way, because there will be some. Be prepared to go to places you never dreamed you’d go on your own…

…Students from the UMSL Newman Center left this morning for a service trip to Nicaragua. I can tell you that they took more than sandals and a walking staff. 😉 But what I challenged them to take as they went was what Jesus invited them to know – the ability to actually walk into other peoples’ lives, to enter another’s world, to sojourn to the sacred ground of those they serve, not as saviors and heroes, but as servants and disciples. To walk, sandals and staff in hand, to be the love of God to those they meet, and to receive the love of God in those they contact. It will be interesting to hear how well they did that.

Secondly, as Jesus sends out his disciples, he knows that there are some roads they/we will walk on that they/we would not necessarily choose. Which is why, even before Jesus sets the limits of what to bring, he tells them HOW to go. In pairs. Two by Two. As a mini-“community of faith” so they can support and encourage and challenge one another.

…I will celebrate a home mass for my friends Dave and Ann tonight. As I think about their lives, and how that diagnosis of ALS has affected them, I realize that they have spent quite a bit of time with their walking staff and sandals on. They have gone to Jeff City, and to Washington DC – to advocate for others suffering with Lou Gerhig’s disease and the care they need with this disease that strikes faster and harder than insurance programs are authorized to keep up with. They have journeyed to ice bucket challenges and ALS walks and 5-K runs. And, through it all, they have surrounded themselves with a wonderful group of fellow pilgrims, who have helped with Dave’s care and therapy. They ‘get it’ – partly from necessity, and mostly due to faith – that Jesus intends for them to travel, not as an isolated couple, but to let others in to care for and nurture them. And they continue to make the longest walk of all – to trust that somehow God is found in the welcome and love and hospitality of their friends and families who are walking with them on the journey..

So, where is Jesus inviting you to don your walking stick and sandals? What long or short or in-between journey are you being called to be a part of?
• Papal encyclical Laudate Si – walk the journey of recycling, of minimal use of water, or reducing your carbon footprint.)
• We are just under a month away from the 1st Anniversary of the Michael Brown shooting – and though the confederate flag is down in some states, the experience of racism continues. How will you travel in that world.
• WHO is God invited you to journey with – as he sends us out minimally two by two? Who is on your heart to pray for?

Take nothing for the journey EXCEPT your walking stick and sandals – not because the house is burning down and there is only time for one item– but because it is how we best travel as disciples – trusting the Lord and living in community. And have no doubt about it – the same Jesus who sent his disciples on the road, calls us also to go and bring the good news to every place where we will walk…

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Marriage is…

Atlanta Archbishop Wilton Gregory published this statement after the Supreme court decision which changed the definition of marriage in the laws of our land.

“Each U.S. Supreme Court decision that has ever been rendered has resulted in deep disappointment for some people and vindication for others. If we all agreed on the outcomes of these divisive cases, there would simply be no reason for the Court to convene. This most recent decision is no different.

By the same token, every court decision is limited in what it can achieve; again, this one is no exception. It does not change the biological differences between male and female human beings or the requirements for the generation of human life, which still demands the participation of both. It does not change the Catholic Church’s teaching regarding the Sacrament of Matrimony, which beautifully joins a man and woman in a loving union that is permanent in commitment and open to God’s blessing of precious new life.

This judgment, however, does not absolve either those who may approve or disapprove of this decision from the obligations of civility toward one another. Neither is it a license for more venomous language or vile behavior against those whose opinions continue to differ from our own. It is a decision that confers a civil entitlement to some people who could not claim it before. It does not resolve the moral debate that preceded it and will most certainly continue in its wake.

This moral debate must also include the way that we treat one another – especially those with whom we may disagree. In many respects, the moral question is at least as consequential and weighty as the granting of this civil entitlement. The decision has offered all ofus an opportunity to continue the vitally important dialogue of human encounter, especially between those of diametrically differing opinions regarding its outcome….”

As this is an issue that will come up frequently in conversations, our Archdiocese has some resources available to all of us, giving us both context and content as this ‘conversation’ in our nation continues in the days and weeks ahead. Go to: http://archstl.org/marriage – for further resources.

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* Click image below to view bulletin (pdf)

July 12, 2015

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July 5, 2015

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Surprising study about addiction recovery…

In one of Facebook’s better moments, a friend shared a link to a Huffington Post book review – about Addiction and its treatment. Summarizing the somewhat surprising results of the book – it seems that addiction is best treated, not by “the tough love of isolation and cutting people out of your lives until they sober up. Rather, the more connected people are to others – in service, in community, in homes and families, the better their chance to indeed recover.”

The article concludes: “This isn’t only relevant to the addicts I love. It is relevant to all of us, because it forces us to think differently about ourselves. Human beings are bonding animals. We need to connect and love. The wisest sentence of the twentieth century was E.M. Forster’s — “only connect.” But we have created an environment and a culture that cut us off from connection, or offer only the parody of it offered by the Internet. The rise of addiction is a symptom of a deeper sickness in the way we live — constantly directing our gaze towards the next shiny object we should buy, rather than the human beings all around us.

The writer George Monbiot has called this “the age of loneliness.” We have created human societies where it is easier for people to become cut off from all human connections than ever before. Bruce Alexander — the creator of Rat Park — told me that for too long, we have talked exclusively about individual recovery from addiction. We need now to talk about social recovery — how we all recover, together, from the sickness of isolation that is sinking on us like a thick fog.

But this new evidence isn’t just a challenge to us politically. It doesn’t just force us to change our minds. It forces us to change our hearts.”

(For the full article, go to: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/johann-hari/the-real-cause-of-addicti_b_6506936.html)
Perhaps it was the timing of this article, (I write this just after the feast of Corpus Christi) but it strikes a chord in me about the importance of Church. St. Bernard of Clairvaux called the church a ‘school of love and friendship.’ We are never meant to come to God alone.

Paul Tillich once defined salvation as ‘Accepting Acceptance.’ Perhaps this generation calls us to two other important words – to let them be in our hearts and lives and loves. “Only Connect.”

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