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5C8DA9DC-BA57-41C2-BA74-EF44F1C97886In the novel, All is quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque, we follow a bit of the life of a young German soldier named Paul Baumer, fighting in World War One. In one part of the story, we find Paul huddled in a shell hole in the midst of an enemy bombardment. The first wave of enemy troops clatters over him, but then an enemy soldier falls into the shell-hole as well. Instinctively, Paul pulls out his dagger and stabs him. The enemy’s body grows limp and lifeless. Paul thinks he has killed him, but, after a while the dying soldier moves a bit and even opens his eyes. He looks at Paul in terror. Paul knows he is dying, and gives him some water and tries to bandage the three stab wounds in the man’s chest. But the soldier dies shortly after that. Paul is deeply disturbed by it all.

He looks in the soldier’s pocket and discovers that the man’s name was Gerald Duval, that he was a printer and kind of poor. This man who had been an abstraction, an enemy soldier, now becomes all too real for him. He finds a picture of a woman and a child. Moved, he speaks to the corpse…”Forgive me, comrade; how could you be my enemy? If we threw away these rifles and this uniform you could be my brother.” Filled with remorse, he says to himself… to the world… “We always see it too late”

We always see it too late. It is almost hard wired into us to see that which is ‘different’/‘other’ before we see what is the same.

That is the work of Satan. The primary work of Satan is to divide. The primary work of the Holy Spirit is to unite. But we humans have always been so quick to respond to the temptation to divide.

We see it in today’s scriptures. In the first reading, there were two who were prophesying who weren’t there at the beginning. So Joshua, Moses’ right hand man, asks Moses to divide the two groups. “Moses, my lord, stop them!” They are not the same as us. The Gospel tells of a similar situation with Jesus. “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” Jesus who is about the work of uniting, not dividing, responds: “Do not stop him. Whoever is not working against our purposes is working with us.”

Satan works to divide. The Holy Spirit works to unite. Moses and Jesus refuse these arbitrary divisions. Jesus will simply NOT divide. He will not make an enemy out of those doing it another way.

When Pope Francis addressed the congress on Thursday, he said it this way: “There is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners. The contemporary world, with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization which would divide it into these two camps. We know that in the attempt to be freed of the enemy without, we can be tempted to feed the enemy within. To imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place.” The devil divides. The Holy Spirit unites.

So how do we avoid this temptation? How might we live this gospel?

1) Delete this phrase from your vocabulary. “Those people.” It does not matter who we finish that sentence with – the rich, the poor, the murderers on death row; the frat boy or the sorority gal. As long as we see them as THOSE people, we’ll never see them for who they are in God’s sight.

2) Unfortunately that is exactly what we will be inundated with these next 13 months – people labeling the other as dangerous, as the enemy. We call it an election year… So, put on a set of filters this election season – EVERY TIME you hear a candidate dividing us – Ask: Who are they keeping out? Who is excluded in the values they are proposing? And do you like the prospect of that kind of world? 3) The next time you are ‘in the proverbial fox hole with your enemy, do something to “see pictures in their wallet” or cell phone. – Find out about their family. Recognize the humanity, the fears, the struggles of the person you are in disagreement with.

“Forgive me, comrade; how could you be my enemy? If we threw away these rifles and this uniform you could be my brother.” Filled with remorse, he says to himself… to the world… “We always see it too late.”

Let us not see it too late.

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Beyond Sunday…

In case you are wondering, the Beyond Sunday campaign is still in gear. As in all capital campaigns, there are several stages to the process. We are in the ‘quiet stage’ – where my team and I are making “house calls” with individual families. A few questions have come up regularly during the course of those meetings. Here is my version of a Q and A sheet addressing some of the issues raised.
1) Does the Archbishop get any of these funds? No – the funds are split (40/60) between St. Ann parish and the Roman Catholic Foundation of Eastern Missouri. (RCF) None of it goes to “Lindell”, as people used to call it.
2) For what will the RCF use their share of the funds? The short answer is Catholic Education. If I could use my own words – the RCF has three funding priorities. i) Tuition assistance for middle income families is first – both for children in Catholic grade schools, and in a more limited role, Catholic High Schools. ii) Helping schools maintain their academic excellence so they can compete with the public schools in their neighborhoods. iii) Best practices that will help transform our schools in the areas of Catholic Identity, teacher retention, and management.
3) When can I expect someone to call me? Letters are usually sent out a week or two before you will get a phone call to set up a meeting with one of our committee members.
4) Will everyone in the parish be invited to be a part of this mission? Yes.
5) When will the ‘public stage’ begin? The committee is working through our one on one meetings as quickly as we can. Since we are in Block ONE of the parishes con-ducting the campaign, we WILL be done by this Dec. 31st at the very latest.
6) Didn’t we just finish a capital campaign? Yes, the Faith for the Future Campaign just finished, which sup-ported the renovations of our seminary. All of those funds went to our seminary. What is different about this is that 40% of the Beyond Sunday funds will come directly back here to St. Ann parish. And with the increased threshold for scholarships, I suspect we will have even more families who will receive scholarships to send their children to our St. Ann School.

So, continue to pray for the success of the Campaign, both for what it will allow us to do here at St. Ann, as well as how it will help the mission of Catholic Education here in our Archdiocese.

ps – Thanks to the 47 people who came to the first meeting for the Parish Planning Process. I hope you found the time to be both an affirmation of this wonderful community as well as a challenge to be an even more evident expression of the Kingdom of God in our time… pps – Our FINAL meeting for this process is THIS SUNDAY, Sept. 27th beginning around 12:15 in the Parish Center…

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* Click image below to view bulletin (pdf)

September 27, 2015

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0DD9F548-C49A-4CF6-AE34-1251A55BE3A6In February of 1999, Monster.com ran a famous ad in that year’s Superbowl. Perhaps you remember it. It was a bunch of kids answering the question: What do you want to be when you grow up? The answers were a bit telling… “When I grow up, I want to…” “File papers all day…” “Have a brown nose…” “Claw my way up to middle management…” “Be a yes man…” “Be a yes woman…” “Be underappreciated…” “Be forced into early retirement…” And then the tag line, written across the screen, reading: “What do you want to be?” – with the Monsters.com logo displayed. Unspoken was the assumption that, “with us, you don’t have to settle…”

What made the commercial so striking is what it tapped into in our human psyche. We don’t like being unimportant or unnoticed.

Neither did the disciples. And they got caught, right in the act of pretending to be somebody. An argument, a discussion – “who has done the most for Jesus – who’s given up the most, sacrificed the most, laid the most on the line for Jesus”? And therefore, who is going to get the biggest reward, the biggest prize at the end of it all?

Jesus, who was always so alert to what was going on around him, asks, once home: “What are you talking about?” I suspect he was hoping they would ‘man up’ and admit it. But like kids with hands caught in the cookie jar who knew they had no defense, they were silent.

“SIGH!” And so what does Jesus, the teacher do? He gives them his version of the monster.com commercial. “If anyone wants to climb the corporate ladder of the kingdom…” then be ready to do the filing, or the laundry, or the middle management, or taking out the trash, or cutting the lawn, or… That is what it means to be important in the kingdom of heaven.

And then, to make sure they “GOT IT” – Jesus places in their midst a living example of the unimportance they are to strive for. A child. And it is not because the child is a child and kind of cute and adorable, as in the commercial, but because the kid is a NOBODY, a NOTHING. No rights, status, rank, privilege, anything. Though that is a foreign concept to us, even as late as the middle ages Thomas Aquinas instructed people in the Summa Theologica that the order of ‘rescuing people from a burning building was: Father, Mother, Wife and THEN children. They were on the lowest rung. So Jesus says in effect – you must be willing to serve those who are the last and least. That must have given his disciples pause.

It is so difficult to learn that, to trust that, to embrace that way of thinking. If you have watched any of the republican presidential debates, you realize how counter cultural a message it STILL is here in the United States and in most of our world’s history.

I sometimes wonder if we could have some kind of ritual within the Catholic church that would remind us of that. Sort of like the holy water reminds us of our baptism, this ritual, whatever it would look like, would put Jesus’ invitation before us as clearly as that child Jesus put in front of the disciples in his day.

To that end, I do know that in Vienna in Austria there is a church in which the former ruling family in Austria, the Hapsburgs, are buried. When royal funerals used to arrive, the mourners knocked at the door of the church to be allowed in. A priest inside would ask “Who is it that desires admission here?” A guard would call out, “His apostolic majesty, the emperor.” The priest would answer, “I don’t know him.” They would knock a second time, and again the priest would ask who was there. The funeral guard outside would announce, “The highest emperor.” A second time the priest would say, “I don’t know him.” A third time they would knock on the door and the priest would ask “Who is it?” The third time, the answer would return: “A poor sinner, your brother” and the priest would let them in.

When all is said and done, God will not ask how important we were, how many companies we led, or even if we ‘clawed our way up to middle management, or lived with a brown nose.” Rather, he will ask simply: “Did you serve every last, least and lost one of my brothers and sisters with all you had and all hoped to be…”

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Just a quick reminder of the two sets of Parish Planning Meetings – to look at our St. Ann community and determine contingency plans for staffing with a declining number of priests.

When: Tuesdays, Sept. 22 and 29, 7pm
or Sundays, Sept. 27 and Oct 4 – 12:15pm
Where: Parish Center
Why: To prioritize our top three options of how to staff St. Ann parish in the years to come…

PLEASE RSVP to Pat Marstall so we may prepare foryour presence – 314-385-5090

Finally, as promised, back to “Caregivers, Part III”

The next helpful step, we can work to regain “order” in our lives. A good place to start is to take steps toresolve all legal decisions regarding our loved ones, which will alleviate unnecessary stress and ideally help us in the future. Tasks such as ensuring that wills are up-to-date, naming a Power of Attorney, and establishing Medical Directives are concrete duties that help caregivers feel like they are more capable of managing the situation once completed.

It is also necessary to learn to let go, especially in areas where it is either not our job or where we have no control. Look at the situation realistically and determine what you are able to do and what you are not able to do. Learning to set limits and boundaries is a vital part of self-care. In order to develop healthy boundaries, we need to start learning how to be emotionally honest with ourselves, start owning our feelings, and communicate in a direct and honest manner. Once we are able to hear our own voices, our decisions will generally be what is best for our loved one and best for usin the long run.

All of these things are easier said than done. During these difficult times, it is important for caregivers to practice good self-care and focus on the bottom line – planning for our loved ones’ care and future. Therapy is a wonderful way to…work through feelings of anxiety, frustration, uncertainty, and fear that we often experience as our loved ones age and decline. Mediation is another means to relieve the stress in this difficult situation. Mediators act as a neutral third party and can assist families in developing and agreeing upon a plan of care for their loved one. Therapists and mediators can provide support and guidance on how to navigate end-of-life tasks that caregivers face such as handling the demands of providing daily care, establishing and enforcing boundaries, exploring new responsibilities and roles within the family, and planning for the future.

Caring for a loved one is a demanding and often lonely experience. It is imperative for caregivers to reach out and accept support in order to continue providing quality care for the duration.

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* Click image below to view bulletin (pdf)

September 20, 2015

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(I know I promised to continue the segment on “Caregivers”, but a few time sensitive events have pre-empted the rest of the article for this week. I intend to publish the rest of the article in next week’s pastor’s pen. Thank you for your patience.)

As you know, each parish in the Archdiocese has been asked to go through a Parish Planning Process that looks ahead realistically to the challenges of staffing parishes with a declining number of priests in the years to come. A small group of parishioners has helped me work through the “First Implementation” of the process. After scoring the parish on 123 individual items, we came to a composite score that listed our combined vitality and viability as “GOOD”. From there we looked at the 10 strengths and 10 deficits of our parish, ranked them in order and importance. From there, there were twenty five guided questions that helped us to see how that data would apply to the seven options for utilization of priests in staffing the parish. We then prioritized our top three choices of staffing if a priest would be available to act as pastor and then our top three choices if there was not to be resident pastor. It is now your turn to have a voice.

To that end I am scheduling TWO sets of TWO meetings. Please mark your calendars for either Tuesday, Sept. 22 and 29th respectively beginning at 7pm, OR for Sunday, Sept. 27, Oct. 4th, at 12:15pm. Meetings will be in the parish center, and will last, at most, an hour and a half. IF you want to have a say in terms of how the Archdiocese will staff St. Ann parish in the years to come – NOW IS YOUR CHANCE!

What: Town Hall Meeting
When: Sept. 22, 29, 7pm or Sept 27, Oct 4 , 12:15pm
Where: Parish Center
Why: To prioritize our top three options of how to staff St. Ann parish in the years to come…

Finally, two follow up resources on Aylan Kurdi and the immigration crisis in Europe.

Catholic Relief Services: www.crs.org/stories/walking-solidarity-syrians
CRS has been on the ground in war torn areas around the globe for decades and does amazing work.

A parishioner forwarded a second site to me – www.wewelcomerefugees.com/. I don’t know much about the groups partnering this site, nor how effective their work on the ground is, but certainly the options to be in solidarity with churches which ARE directly sponsoring refugees seems like a great way to bring Pope Francis’ call to life. Minimally they offer 6 concrete areas in which to be involved…

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* Click image below to view bulletin (pdf)

September 13, 2015

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As the Kempf family deals with the physical limitations that my mom’s aging and health issues have imposed, I am mindful of so many folks who have stepped into the role of caregiver. I share an article that ‘fell into my lap’ from a monthly email from West County Psychological Associates which you may find helpful.

“Caregiver” is an obscure identity, as there is no single description for what it entails. It, like many other identities, expresses a significant change in one’s life. However, unlike the welcome identity shifts throughout life, this change is often painful and isolating. It challenges us at every level: emotionally, physically, mentally, and financially. Caregiving wears away our patience and increases feelings of depression and anxiety. We become frustrated with our loved ones and then feel guilty about our aggravation. As a result, we often feel overwhelmed, lonely, and as though we cannot keep up. We feel unsteady in a chaotic situation and question our ability to regain our balance. Due to these challenges, all caregivers need support in order to continue to function effectively.

Generally, these feelings are common but rarely discussed with our family and friends. We worry about what people would think of us if they knew how we really felt; we chastise ourselves for being “too emotional;” we convince ourselves to push our feelings to the backburner and deal with them when we are not so busy. In the long run, these emotions will catch up to us and they cause us to burn out. If we continue to deny our emotions and place ourselves last, then our ability to care for our loved ones will diminish. We cannot keep running.

When we feel overwhelmed, angry, or depressed as caregivers, these emotions are signs to us that there is probably an issue that needs to be addressed. First, we need to acknowledge our identity as a caregiver. Once we are able to say, “I am a caregiver,” we can then begin to understand and address the issues that accompany this role. It is essential to accept the role changes in our lives, and be compassionate and patient with ourselves in the process. When we continue to ignore or deny these role changes, then we subject ourselves to increased stress and declining overall health.

To be continued next week…

Finally, Sprenke time is upon us. Remember to put the ‘hat of hospitality’ on, and to be welcoming to all who find their way here. The stranger you make a good impression on, may be the future neighbor who comes here, precisely because in you, they experienced what we know 24/7 – a warm and caring community…

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* Click image below to view bulletin (pdf)

September 6, 2015

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