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The Newman Center is offering a series of reflections during this year of Mercy as a part of our Spring Urban Immersion Trip. Matt Hubbard, St. Ann and Newman Center alum, is speaking at the first one. As always, you are welcome to attend any or all of these presentations. RSVP to Kay at 385-3455.

MARCH 2, 2016 at 6:30pm
Pope Francis declared that from December 8, 2015 through November 20, 2016 that the Church would be celebrating a Jubilee Year. So far we have seen the Church open “doors of mercy.” But is the Jubilee year just about opening ceremonial doors? Matt Hubbard will take you on a journey into the history of the Israelite people with the Biblical Vision of Sabbath Economics and the great power in celebrating a real Jubilee year.

What can a Jubilee year do to bring broken communities back together? What would a Jubilee year mean for the people of St. Louis? What would a Jubilee mean for the world? What does the season of Lent have to do with Jubilee? All are Welcome!

MARCH 9, 2016 at 6:30pm

Recently the musical artist Macklemore said in his song White Privilege II, “It seems like we’re more concerned with being called racist than we are about racism.”

So let’s concern ourselves with racism. On this evening we will dive into our own privilege. We will learn about the systems that are perpetuating white privilege and institutionalized racism. Jenny Traux from the Karen House Catholic Worker Community will bring us the challenging subject that we all would rather went unspoken.
We will gain a common vocabulary with which to continue these honest dialogues in the future. All are Welcome!

MARCH 16, 2016 at 6:30pm
It is so easy to label a group of people that we lose the individual human person. Tonight we will hear from The Urban Guerilla Andre Cole. Dre will talk about his decade working with people suffering from homelessness with organizations like The Benaryridge at Centenary and Peter & Paul Community Services. Dre sees the individual trees in the for-est. He knows each of the guys that enter Peter and Paul Emergency Shelter have an individual story and history and name. He treats everybody with a degree of compassion and respect that is modeled so well by Pope Francis.

Dre runs a newsletter, podcast and multiple Facebook groups on St. Louis homelessness. Questions and answers will follow his presentation.

These sessions are planned to be held at the Newman Center, but please RSVP to Kay for each event in case numbers dictate that we move to St. Ann to accommodate all wishing to attend.

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Are you a procrastinator?

Published on 28. Feb, 2016 by in Sunday Homilies

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procrastinatorThings had not been going well for Satan and his minions. They thought they had everything sowed up that Friday on the hillside outside the city of Jerusalem. But then, the impossible happened – that damnable resurrection and suddenly all their work was undone. After centuries of futility, Satan called a meeting of the lowerarchy, with all of his minions to do some brainstorming. How can we seduce people from following God? What will work the best? Ideas came forth.

“Tell them there’s no heaven..” After some thought, Satan reacted – “No – they’ll look at the stars in the night sky, the sun as it sets, or the longing in their hearts at their moments of greatest fulfillment all the while wanting more. And they’ll know there is something MORE – and they’ll know there is a heaven….” It won’t work.”

“Tell them “There’s no Hell!” “Promising”, said Satan, on first glance. “But they’ll look around again – and see the suffering of the hungry, those whose lives are shattered by death, countries torn by war and dissention, and the hatred and malice that people nurture in their hearts, and they’ll know there is a hell, and we will be exposed. It won’t work.”

After a long pause, a timid voice from the back said: “Tell them ‘There’s no hurry…..'” And with that, SATAN smiled, for he knew they had found the way…

How diabolically seductive is that plan: there’s no hurry! There’s always tomorrow to say “I’m sorry to my friend”. There’s always tomorrow to tell our parents how much we love them or at least appreciate all they’ve done for us… There is always tomorrow to work on ending the death penalty and the many injustices in our world. There’s no hurry to do the loving thing, to go to church on Sunday, to get our act together, to talk to our friend who just broke up their best friend…. THERE’S NO HURRY!!

We all know the stories. A friend of mine’s brother went to bed and simply didn’t wake up. There is a tragic, but flute accident and one of these huge construction cranes in New York tumbles to the ground, crushing a person sitting in their car blocks away. A young girl is killed by a stray bullet in North St. Louis as she is doing homework in her own bedroom. Jesus tells two such stories from his own day about people whose lives were suddenly ended – one in a construction accident, and the other as a result of a terrorist uprising ruthlessly put down. And he tells them, not to frighten us into obedience, as if we were small children, but rather to invite us to the repentance that the gospel demands. And that is precisely why he lumps those two stories with the all important third one.

“Cut this tree down. It’s taking up precious space and is worthless!” To which the gardener responds, “Sir, let it alone one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.” At the heart of this parable is an admission of neglect by the gardener. The landowner wants his figs from the tree, but the gardener admits he’s not taken responsibility for feeding, pruning, and pampering this struggling tree. “No care, no manure, no pampering, no pruning – equals no fruit.”

The takeaways from today’s lessons? Hear the lie about: “There is no hurry” as just that – a lie to make us complacent in our discipleship. That day will come, we know not when. Whether by our own fault or suddenly and accidentally, our days will run out. Will you hear all the front page news as Jesus did – an invitation to repent, to acknowledge that NOW is the time to do the charitable deed, now is the time to be reconciled with that family member, now is the time to put a lively love of God into your heart?

The second takeaway is all about the responsibility we have for nurturing our spiritual life. When was the last time you were on retreat? What was the last book you read about prayer? How much time did you spend with your Savior in prayer this week? Like the gardener in the story, take ownership over your spiritual journey these Lenten days.

There’s no hurry? Don’t believe it.
There’s no need to care for your spiritual life? Wrong answer as well.

May those final words of today’s gospel be the guidepost for the rest of Lent: “Sir, leave it for this year – I will actively care for it, nurture it, prune it – it may yet bear fruit. If not…you can cut it down…”

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* Click image below to view bulletin (pdf)

February 28, 2016

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* Click image below to view bulletin (pdf)

February 21, 2016

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A new “tenant” in the rectory….

Catholic Charities has launched a new initiative aimed at reducing poverty in north St. Louis County, one family at a time. Pathways to Progress is a collaboration between Catholic Charities, the eight federated agencies, leaders in the community, committed organizations and the many families that will “walk the path” out of poverty.

These families will not walk alone. At every step of their journey, clients will be partnered with highly trained, culturally competent advisers, who will assist them with the services provided by the Catholic Charities Federation and additional community resources. Through this initiative, clients will develop skills, build assets, and access vital services. On each step of their journey, clients will work toward education, employment, health, housing, and community involvement goals. With each pathway completed, we build a stronger, safer, healthier, thriving community.

To empower communities, we must support families. Priority for enrollment in Pathways to Progress will be given to families already participating in youth programs throughout the Federation. Through this unique referral system, it is expected that parents will be engaged in intensive case management, just as their children are participating in empowering educational programming. We know that parent stability is critical for children to flourish.

Our compass: let the community be our guide. A Community Advisory Council made up of representatives from the faith, academic, government, healthcare and corporate sector will help oversee the direction of the initiative and maintain a strong line of communication between Catholic Charities and the community. Graduates of Pathways to Progress are invited to join the Advisory Council or participate in an alumni network that will allow them to remain active in the community initiative. The most important voice in transforming any community is the collective voice of those who live within it. As our graduates share their stories of success with others, inspiration will be-come a call to action.

We invite you to learn more by contacting our Director of Service Integration, Tyrone Ford at 314-367-5500 x1151 or [email protected].

“Pathways to Progress” are using the first two rooms down the corridor from the front offices.

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Mountain fogIt had been a rainy morning. When the bus left us off at the base of the mountain of the Transfiguration, it was clear that the top of the mountain was shrouded in clouds. There is this harrowing taxi drive up the mountain (and even more harrowing coming down). A third of the way up the mountain, we entered the cloud/fog. When they dropped us off in a parking lot, I could only see about 10 -12 feet in front of me. Besides the damp that clings to you, what I noticed in that fog, was an amazing silence. You HEARD the gentle drip of condensation falling from the wrought iron gates as you pass them, heading up to the chapel at the top. There was the ever so slight hush of a breeze as it moves the tall evergreens only at their tips. A gentle shuffle of foot against loose gravel. When you are in a fog that thick, most other sounds kind of fade away.

I have always wondered if that was a part of the miracle of the Transfiguration. I wondered if it was that experience – of being in a thick fog, where your sight is limited to what is right in front of you, and the sounds are so muted that you kick up your listening and all your senses a notch – that allowed the disciples the perspective they needed to truly see Jesus in his glory. A classmate from the seminary wrote a poem years ago that has stayed with me about this.

“Once Jesus took his friends, Peter, James and John, to a craggy mountaintop, far from the madding crowds, where they used to act so officious, like important mediators. Taken up with him alone, gradually, they composed themselves, and their eyes were opened, and they saw him for just a moment, as he really was all the time.”

Will you allow yourself time this Lent/week to be taken up with the Lord alone? To sit in front of His presence in the tabernacle? To find your favorite outdoor spot, and just BE there? Step away from the business and just be with our Lord.

2nd thought: If you notice, Peter, James and John were asleep when the transfiguration began. But then Luke records that the disciples “became FULLY awake.” I suspect he was talking more than just about getting up from a nap. Rather, they ‘see Jesus’ glory’. And there is something in that seeing that allows them to see their own glory because of the radiance of Jesus. It is that kind of seeing that is what we are about as Christians. Seeing the glory in each person, as a reflection of the glory of Christ. Pope Francis and Donald Trump got into a bit of a tiff this week, because the Pope gently said: Any ‘seeing’ that wants to build a wall between “Us” and “Them”; that does not see the goodness in the other is not Christian seeing.

The challenge of the transfiguration is to become FULLY AWAKE, not to our way of seeing, but to Jesus’ way of seeing. Peter gets it partly right in his response. “Let’s build three tents here” – because in this moment, and this place, attentive to you, we see the glory that is always there, not just in you, but in each other.” Sadly, too often we don’t. So the call is to let our vision include all of Jesus’ friends. And they are a strange bunch, I will warn you. Tax collectors, sinners. Crazy folk. Fringe people.

But Peter also gets it very wrong. He wants to stay there in that moment, in that seeing. Wrong answer, says Jesus. We are called to bring what we see down the mountain, back to the people and places where we live and move and have our being. Perhaps we get to how well we are doing that in part by listening to our internal dialogue about people. “What an idiot they are.” Who does she think she is?” “Where do they get off telling ME what to do?”

There are times, when even on beautiful sunny days like this weekend, I/we have to ‘re-enter the fog’ of the mountain of the transfiguration. To let ourselves be divested of all the things we plug into and are bombarded with. There, taken up with him alone, we can see HIS glory, and recognize that glory in each of our brothers and sisters…

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During this Lenten Season, we are invited to turn our minds and hearts back towards our God of mercy. Begin your daily encounter with mercy with Lenten Moments of Mercy. This daily, Scripture-based series is delivered to you by e-mail. In this series, James Campbell, M.A., D.Min, shares beautiful reflections and the inspiring words of Pope Francis, and provides suggestions for Lenten actions and prayers. Lenten Moments of Mercy is free from Loyola Press. Go to http://www.loyolapress.com/lenten-moments-of-mercy.htm  and be ready to connect with the Pope’s message of mercy, and live it daily throughout Lent.

Principal Search update…
Allow me a word about the search to find Ms. Reichenbach’s successor. The Archdiocesan School Office updated its principal search packet this past January. In that document they describe the role of the principal this way. The principal is the spiritual and educational leader of the elementary school community… The highest priority of the principal is the building of a Christian Community of faith that provides for the spiritual, moral, intellectual, emotional, social and physical needs of the children in the school. The document then goes on to describe the 4 areas in which the principal exercises that leadership.

Using those guidelines, I have sought the input of the faculty around these three questions:
1) What are the strengths of our St. Ann School community?
2) What do you see as the most pressing needs of our
St. Ann School at this point in history?
3) What skills and qualities are most important for an
administrator to possess in order to guide the future of St. Ann School?

That input was then collated and reviewed by a search committee that I appointed, consisting of one school board member, (Mrs. Christina Buchek) one faculty member (Mrs. Dana Aubuchon), one St. Ann parish school parent (Mr. Joe Morrow), one non-catholic St. Ann school parent (Mr. Tommy Smith), and one parent at large (Mrs. Nancy Williams). This group then reviewed the faculty input as well as their own, and began work on identifying the important skill sets and experiences we are looking for in the candidate.

Taking that information, two of our faculty members, Mrs. Cheryl Thomas and Mrs. Julie Thompson will sort through the resume’s on file with the Archdiocese, and make recommendations on which candidates to invite to inter-views. (I have already had 11 people contact me about the position.) We will conduct those interviews in as timely a manner as possible and keep you updated as we move forward. Please feel free to contact any member of the Search Committee for further information.

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bread“One does not live by bread alone.” It is the first return shot by Jesus to the temptations of the devil. It is the first response of the Son of God about that ongoing struggle against sin and the forces of the evil one to teach us, his brothers and sisters, about what truly matters. And, if we are honest, it is a necessary prescription to that very human temptation to want to turn stones to bread. To take things that will never feed us, never satisfy us, and try to make them do so.

What stones are you trying to feed yourself with?

…If you watched the superbowl commercials of last week, you would have seen many advertisers telling you that driving a certain automobile, eating a certain hamburger, owning a certain possession, will turn your ordinary life into something others will envy. A machine that provides transportation can quickly become a status symbol. Having the ‘right’ possession will lead to a full life. And though we might not ever think it that blatantly, isn’t that exactly how we sometimes treat all those four-wheel “stones”, and possessions – as if they can be nourishing bread? One does not live on 4 by 4 SUV’s alone..

I sometimes smile as I watch my students sitting around the table during soup following mass, trying to sneak peek at their phone texts while sitting right next to live human beings. (I have been guilty of doing the same.) And whether they are texting, snapchatting, facebooking, tindering, (pick your social media) these are only great TOOLS to help foster communication. They are not the end in themselves. True connection requires conversation, looking into the eyes of another, listening with ear and heart to words and gestures and feelings. Communication, connection – those may be begun with these (hold up phone) but these can never become bread. “One does not live on Facebook alone…

I listen with interest the conversations that students/parishioners have about binge watching on Netflix. I saw all of “House of Cards” or “Breaking Bad” or “Game of Thrones” or “Downtown Abbey”. They can describe in great depth the plot lines, character motivations, and intrigue of these fictional characters. And in so doing, can feel hip – Can say, I have value. I wonder what our world would be like if we spent the same amount of time and energy working on Ferguson. Or education. Or eradicating poverty… One does not live by Netflix alone…

And so it goes. In a hundred different venues, in a thousand different social interactions, in the complex and amazing ways that we try to navigate what it means to be a human being – we fall prey to that ancient trap of the devil – first learned from the fall of Adam and Eve and then from Jesus temptation in the desert: to take something – anything – and put it in the place of God. To seek nourishment outside of the normal channels which give life. Turning stones to bread.

2000 years after this gospel, I somehow doubt that the tempter has changed tactics. It is very effective tool. A very subtle and sneaky way to go about the work of turning people to sin. Have people turn stones to bread. Have them feed off of things that will not satisfy. Have them put anything but God in the place where only God can fill.

Jesus knew best what feeds us – the Word of God. St. Augustine said it this way – Our hearts are restless until they rest in God. As long as we try to make bread from stones, we will still be hungry.

This week, I invite you to take an honest look at the THINGS that you do on a regular basis. Make a list, a log recording if you dare, of the time you spend during an average week doing stuff. “X” amount of hours at the office. “Y” on the commute. “Z” – with my spouse. “A” with the kids. “B” – with God in prayer. And then, at the end of the week, just look at the chart. What does the time you spend doing the tasks and choices of your life say about who/what is most important? Does it tell you what stones you are quietly trying to turn to bread?

And then hear again, the first response to ending the temptations of the devil: “One does not live on bread alone….”

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February 14, 2016

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bifocalsFor the first time in nearly six years, I went to the eye doctor this Monday. I confess, I only did it because my glasses are starting to show some wear in terms of the protective film that covers them. Not because I thought I needed a new prescription. I thought they worked fine. Little did I suspect that something was amiss.

The interesting thing about these <> glasses is that they are called progressive lenses. They are bi-focals where I look through the top part for distance seeing and the bottom part for close up reading. What makes them progressive is that they change from distance to near without an obvious line marking the spot where they change. And if I tilt my head up or down just right, I can find the sweet spot of focus that brings whatever I am looking at into near perfect focus.

So the doctor brings up the eye chart. No prob, I think. What is the lowest line that you can read. I nail the bottom line, indicating 20/20 without even breaking a sweat. E-V-O-T-Z. Then, without as much as a word, he places his hand on the back of my head, and pushes my head forward until my forehead is touching the top part of the frame of the equipment. “Now, what line can you see?” “Ahhrrgghhh! I confess, I could not even see the third line clearly, which indicate 20/70 vision, though I could tell the letters were T-O-Z.

What I had been doing, while being completely unaware that I was doing it, was to compensate for my failing vision by raising my head till I found the ‘sweet spot’ in those progressive lenses. I literally was looking at texts and computer screens and distance objects by tilting my whole head upward till things came into MY focus, not the natural focus that should have been there with my head level. It is no wonder that my neck hurt by the time I went to bed…

SOOOO, what does this have to do with Lent? I wonder if one of the key aspects of Lent is all about learning to see correctly and then acting upon what we see? We are invited to those disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, to correct how we see things, and to teach us how to move from a ME-centric perspective – so as to learn how to see things from God’s perspective. And though many of us claim to be doing just that, I wonder how many of us are in reality doing the ‘tilting of the head’ trick, so that things come into focus as WE want them to, and not as they should?

I was completely oblivious to the fact that I was tilting my head to bring my vision into focus. I wonder if I am just as guilty of tilting my conscience so that decisions I make ‘look’ like they are in God’s focus.
• “I’m not gossiping, I am just offering constructive criticism to this person’s co-workers.” <>
• “I am not over-indulging, I am just keeping my stomach acid in check and my health okay by late night snacking.” <>
• “I am not selfish, I am simply putting money aside for my future education/retirement/kids college fund.” <>
• “I am not insensitive to the poor, I just did not have time for that beggar whose eye contact I avoided. I already give to the Vincent DePaul society.” <>

I suspect there might be quite a few ways where we ‘tilt’ reality to make it comfortable for us, and not in line with God’s way of seeing.

This Lent, we are given three practices to “Keep our Head Straight” – because all of them are NOT about us: Prayer – so as to get out of our own head; Fasting – to get out us out of our stomachs; Almsgiving – to get out of our own world/selfishness. These three ways are the means by which the Father invites us to put our heads and hearts straight forward, and to see, not as we want to, but as God desires. They are never ends in themselves. Just the means to the end to see as God sees.

So, the good news is my new glasses have been ordered. In about 7 days, I won’t have to tilt my head up to bring things into proper focus. The good news for us is that we have 40 days to get our vision corrected. <> May we all end up with spiritual 20 -20 vision, or better…

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