Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Is A Vocation Our Ultimate Calling...Music for April 24th

Hello St. Francis,
This week I would like to reflect on what most people, including myself have always thought to be the pinnacle of our religious, personal and professional lives.  I have heard it said and I have spoken myself many times about how we should seek a vocation in life.  My simple definition of vocation is that it takes what we do any transforms it into who we are.  I, therefore would strive not to do the work of a husband or a teacher but to actually be a husband and a teacher.  It becomes a part of your own description of who you are.   I have also heard vocation defined as the process by which we discover a love of God for the sake of God.  This is a great thing.  It is a self-giving thing.  When we choose to love God because we want God to know that we love him, it reminds us of the awe and wonder we have for the God who is so full of mercy, grace and love.

So, how is this not the ultimate calling?  Indulge me this.  I think that it is a whole lot easier to love God than it is to love myself.  When I think of God in that way, it is easy to miss the "feet in the mud" type of sacrificial love that we would need to show for another person.  I think that we can trick ourselves into thinking we love ourselves because we love God.  I mean, God created us, right?  So I would have to love myself by default then...right?  My vocation can easily become stagnant if it is centered only in a philosophy that I am living by "God's Plan".  So, what is the alternative?

Of course God wants us to love God!!!  But, even more important to God, I think, is that we love and appreciate His creation, especially ourselves.  So instead of loving God for the sake of God, I am challenged to love myself for the sake of God.  OK.  What does that mean? Well, that means that I can take that feeling of wonder and awe, I can take that duty to live out my vocation and turn it into something even more selfless, and dare I say even more fulfilling and life giving.  You see, when you love yourself for the sake of God, it challenges you to take that vocation (something that is inside of you) and turn it into a...MISSION!!!  So what is a mission?  A mission is the way I seek to live my vocation in the service of others and the glory of God.  My mission forces me to move beyond my comfort zone and take my gifts, my talents and my circumstances and use them to bring God's love to everyone.  So, when I wake up in the morning and look at myself in the mirror, I do not only see what "I Am", but also what the real "I AM" is calling me to.  Sounds like a challenge that will enrich me and my life.  Heed the call!!!

Jim

Music for April 24th:

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Let The Children Lead Them,...Music for April 17th

Hello St. Francis,

This week our parish family will be celebrating a very big day in the lives of six of our young people as they receive Jesus in the Eucharist for the first time.  I don't know about you but my 1st Communion memories have stood the test of time.  I remember with great fondness many moments of my own 1st Communion...(MANY years ago).  For me, I was blessed to have my entire family present and we celebrated this occasion as momentous day in my life.  Many things have changed in our church since I received my 1st Communion but, thankfully, many things have remained.  For example, I remember that we were asked to get dressed back up in our 1st Communion outfits for the next week's Mass so that the parish could see how handsome and beautiful we looked.  For some reason, I remember watching the congregation watch us receive Communion with big smiles on their faces.  I asked myself and to a certain extent continue to ask myself this question.  Why did they look at me with such reverence and joy when all of them were allowed to receive communion any time they wanted?

I think that one of the aspects of 1st Communion that we all cherish is the innocence and awe of the children who receive it.  We see a faith in them that does not question, that does not fear and that is filled with life and expectation.  There is a reverence and a joy about these children that not only bring us joy, but also bring us back to a time when maybe we felt the same way about it.  Where did it go?  Have we from time to time allowed this beautiful and traditional ritual of our faith become simply a part of a routine?  You know what I mean...we sit, we stand, we say Amen, we sing, we receive Communion and then we are off to continue life as we know it.  I think this type of pattern is easy to fall into.  I would like to suggest something to all of us.

This week, remember your own 1st Communion.  Remember the anticipation and the excitement.  Remember the joy and the reverence.  Remember the celebration and the family.  And then, when you process with your parish family to receive Jesus, think of these children who will receive Jesus in the way we are all called to.  It is true that taking the routine we have gotten into and transforming it back into the ritual it is will take some effort.  It will in some ways force us to be more engaged, more prayerful and more filled with wonder and awe.  But, when you think about it, isn't that what it should be?  Isn't that what will increase our capacity to truly appreciate the gift we have in Eucharist, in the Mass and in the community we call home?

So, this week, let the wisdom and faith of these small children inspire you to see this precious gift with the eyes of a child and with the faith to know that when we do receive Eucharist, we grow even closer to Jesus, and by being closer to Jesus, he will bless us with the grace to see all things with the optimism and innocence of a child.

God Bless...Please Pray for our young children who will receive Jesus for the first time this weekend.

Jim

Music for April 17th


Psalm 118

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Faith...The Final Frontier....Music for April 9-10

Hello St. Francis!

I was so blessed this week to have the opportunity to attend a convention of people from around the USA who work as ministers with young people.  There were so many amazing insights that were made by a group of dedicated servants of God that I felt in many ways overwhelmed.  If you've ever attended an event like this, as you know, it is easy to leave it energized and ready to change the world.  Thankfully, our experiences concluded with a reflection and prayer that quite frankly put in to focus all of the things we experienced.  This week, I want to share a perspective that I acquired during this event.

We find ourselves at a very exciting time in the evolution of our church.  Our call can often seem cloudy and we may not know exactly where we are supposed to be.  As people of faith, we are certainly called to evangelize, to invite others into a deeper relationship with God and a community of faith, but who? but where?  Here is a perspective.  We are called to be missionaries on the Frontier of our community, society and world.  Now, the interesting part about this is that I am not sure that means we need to leave our own building, let alone our city to find the frontiers of faith.  This time that we live in provides us with so many people who question faith, who believe in something different or in some cases, do not believe in anything at all.  For me, this is the next great frontier.  It is often said that the way you live and the attitude you possess is a much better advertisement than your words.  I certainly agree with that.  So what should the "billboard of our life" be?  Allow me to share my thoughts.

First, and this may be the most difficult part, is that there needs to be a true surrender of self to God's will.  I think that most people with the very best intentions, do not find the answer because they can not or will not allow God to ask the question.  We seek to answer the question we want answered, not necessarily the one that God is calling us to answer.  Our PURPOSE, our MINISTRY is not our own.  Instead, in our surrender to God, we receive our purpose and our mission.  Surrender, is a difficult concept so let me offer this definition.  The true definition of the word is this...HOPE.  I can measure the hope that I have, in God, in myself and in others by the amount of myself that I am willing to surrender to God.  Powerful statement!!!  The foundation of hope is surrender.  Hope, should be at the center of our billboard because as much as anything that a person can possess, Hope attracts others.

Second, when we get people's attention, what do we do?  We share the most love filled message that we can.  We share the Catholic Ministry of Reconciliation. That is who we are.  We are a people of forgiveness, mercy and reconciliation.  I believe that our frontier just may be an invitation to reconcile the estranged.  Who are the estranged?  Where do you start?  There are so many that have turned away or have been turned away from faith for so many reasons.  I know that I can not answer their questions or solve their problem.  What I do know is that I can tell them that there is Hope and that what is now at our center is reconciling all to God and to their faith.

Here is my conclusion for what it is worth.  Our frontier is a fractured world.  Religious Ideologies, Politics, Liberal/Conservative.  Maybe instead of discerning who we agree with and who we don't, we should just assume that the intention of both sides are pure and that even if we are incredibly opposed to the belief or ideology of the other, they come to the table with the same HOPE we do.  Maybe, instead of raising a banner for one side, we should be the ones that hold the hand of those on both sides.  If we do that. aren't we the link?  If we are between them, can't we begin to erase the dividing line that separates them and begin our mission to the frontier of reconciliation.

Have a great week St. Francis.
Jim

Thursday, March 31, 2016

the History of Divine Mercy...Music for April 2nd and 3rd

Hello St. Francis,
This week I want to present to you an article about the history of the feast we celebrate this week.  Divine Mercy Sunday.  During this Year of Mercy, I think we should all take a few moments to discern the limitless mercy of God and then attempt to imitate that love.

Music for April 2-3
Processional - Alleluia Let The Holy Anthem Rise
Psalm 118
Offertory - In Christ Alone
Communion - Day of Peace
Recessional - Bless That Wonderful Name

Why Catholics Celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday
By Rev. Alfred McBride, O.Praem.




On the Second Sunday of Easter of the Jubilee Year 2000, at the Mass for the canonization of St. Faustina Kowalska, Pope John Paul II proclaimed to the world that “from now on throughout the Church this Sunday will be called Divine Mercy Sunday.”
Pope John Paul had actively promoted the message of St. Faustina. In his 1980 encyclical on God’s mercy, Rich in Mercy, he developed a scriptural and doctrinal basis for our faith in the mercy of God. By linking the revealed truth about God’s mercy to one of the most solemn Sundays after Easter itself, he illumined the fact that the liturgy already proclaimed the divine mercy. The truth has been embedded for two millennia in the worship of the Church. Once again we see an illustration of the ancient saying, “The law of faith is the law of prayer.”

From Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday to the Eighth Day of Easter, the divine love song of mercy is chanted amid abundant alleluias. For centuries in liturgy the Church has proclaimed the mercy of God through the Word of God and the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ. The tables of Word and Sacrament are heaped with the promises of Divine Mercy and its grand effect in the lives of millions. The liturgy is the storehouse of the wisdom of God and a treasure chest for all the worshipers.
‘I spoke as a brother’
A TIME magazine issue in 1984 presented a startling cover. It pictured a prison cell where two men sat on metal folding chairs. The young man wore a black turtleneck sweater, blue jeans and white running shoes. The older man was dressed in a white robe and had a white skullcap on his head. They sat facing one another, up close and personal. They spoke quietly so as to keep others from hearing the conversation. The young man was Mehmet Ali Agca, the pope’s attempted assassin; the other man was Pope John Paul II, the intended victim. The pope held the hand that had held the gun whose bullet tore into the pope’s body.
In the cell, unseen in the picture, were the pope’s secretary and two security agents, along with a still photographer and videographer. John Paul wanted this scene to be shown around a world filled with nuclear arsenals and unforgiving hatreds. The Church has always used paintings, sculpture and architecture to communicate spiritual meanings. This was a living icon of mercy.
The Church was celebrating the 1,950th anniversary of Christ’s death and Christian redemption. The pope had been preaching forgiveness and reconciliation constantly. His deed with Ali Agca spoke a thousand words. John Paul’s forgiveness was deeply Christian. He embraced his enemy and pardoned him. At the end of their 20-minute meeting, Ali Agca raised the pope’s hand to his forehead as a sign of respect. John Paul shook Ali Agca’s hand tenderly.
When the pope left the cell he said, “What we talked about must remain a secret between us. I spoke to him as a brother whom I have pardoned and who has my complete trust.” This is an example of God’s divine mercy, the same divine mercy whose message St. Faustina witnessed.

St. Faustina Kowalska: Apostle of Divine Mercy
The story of St. Faustina Kowalska reveals the inspiration behind the Divine Mercy devotion. Helena Kowalska was born in Poland on August 25, 1905. She was the third child of a devout Catholic family. As a small child she reported seeing bright lights during her night prayers. At age 16 she went to work as a servant in a neighboring city. She soon resigned after a fainting spell, even though a doctor said she was healthy.
Helena told her parents that she wanted to enter religious life but failed to obtain her father’s permission because he felt she was too young. She took another post as a servant and made friends with a circle of young women. At a dance, she experienced a vision of Christ suffering that touched her conscience and revived her desire to be a nun. She soon left her job and sought entrance in a religious congregation.
In 1925, she entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, taking the name Faustina. She served as a cook, gardener and doorkeeper in Krakow and several other community convents. The sisters liked her but did not appreciate or understand her deep interior life, which included visions and prophecies. On February 22, 1931, Sister Faustina experienced a new and life-changing vision of Christ. She saw him wearing a white robe and raising his right hand in blessing with his left hand resting on his heart from which flowed two rays of light. Jesus told her, “Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the prayer, Jesus, I trust in you.”
Faustina could not paint, and struggled to convince her incredulous sisters about the truth of her vision. Ultimately she persuaded her spiritual director, Father Michael Sopocko, that the vision was real. He found an artist to create the painting that was named The Divine Mercy and shown to the world for the first time on April 28, 1935.
Father Sopocko advised Sister Faustina to record her visions in a diary. At one point she wrote that “Jesus said I was his secretary and an apostle of his divine mercy.” She devoted the rest of her life to spreading the message of divine mercy and the growth of popular devotion to it. Her mystical writings have been translated into many languages. She died of tuberculosis at age 33. Pope John Paul II canonized her on April 30, 2000.
The revelations experienced by St. Faustina were of a private nature, which are not essential to anyone’s acceptance of the Catholic faith. These types of visions and revelations are described in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Throughout the ages, there have been so-called ‘private’ revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ’s definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history” (#67).
In another section, the Catechism describes popular piety, which helps us to put St. Faustina’s revelations into a broader context: “The religious sense of the Christian people has always found expression in various forms of piety surrounding the Church’s sacramental life, such as veneration of relics, visits to sanctuaries, pilgrimages, processions, the stations of the cross, religious dances, the rosary, medals, etc. These expressions of piety extend the liturgical life of the Church, but do not replace it....Pastoral discernment is needed to sustain and support popular piety” (#1674-76).
So we see that devotion to divine mercy in no way replaces any of our rich liturgical traditions. The Divine Mercy devotion fosters the virtue of trust in God’s mercy that finds its fulfillment in the liturgy of Reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist. Popular piety animates the faith attitudes that make participation in the sacraments more vital and fruitful.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

To Know God's Love...Music for Palm Sunday and the Triduum

Hello St. Francis,

So, we have made it.  It's almost time for the Easter Bunny to come and relieve you for your Chocolate deprivation...or whatever else you gave up for Lent.  I hope that these few weeks have been ones filled with digging deeper into your faith and finding God more clearly in all things.  Lent is a time of preparation that allows us the time to discern what Jesus' gift of the Eucharist, his passion and death, and resurrection mean to us and how seriously we take our call to discipleship and to carry our crosses with grace and dignity.  We know how the story ends, triumphantly!!!  But, the only thing that makes a happy ending better is when we understand the struggle that had to be overcome to reach that ending.  This week we will hear about Jesus' return to Jerusalem and how he was betrayed, (not just by Judas, but by all of his disciples) and the suffering he had to endure on his road to the cross.  For many years, I thought of this story in a pretty dark and dim way.  I felt (and was told by some) that it was my sins that caused Jesus to suffer.  There was guilt, sadness and a real sense of disconnection from God.  I mean, if I did this, than how could he love me?  I would have a hard time loving anyone who caused me such pain.  To be honest, I find it hard to love some people even if they haven't caused me pain.  The question is, did Jesus die because of my sins?

The simple answer is NOPE!!!  Jesus did not die because of my or yours or anyone elses sin.  He died because he loved me...and you too!!!  If you listen to what the church has provided for us in the scriptures over the past few weeks, you remember that Jesus describes the love of a father for his "Prodigal Son" and that Jesus did not condemn the woman caught in sin.  What did he do?  He loved them.  So when you look at it then, this story is not just the "Greatest Story Ever Told", it is the "Greatest LOVE Story Ever Told"  I believe that not for one second did Jesus think about my sins, or your sins or anyone elses sins as he carried his cross.  I do believe that Jesus did however think about me and you and everyone else and just loved us...even more.  In a strange sort of way, it was our love for Him and His love for us that allowed Jesus to bear all of the pain he did.  Simply, he just loves us that much.  Pretty humbling and inspiring...huh?

So, this week, make a real effort to come to your parish home as we remember this Love Story.  Let the words, the scriptures, the music and the community itself open our minds, and our hearts to know how much God really loves me and you.  REALLY KNOW IT!!!  Let there be no doubt, Jesus did not do all of this because of me, he did it for me.  He just loved me that much.  If we all seek to know God's love, it is in the celebrations of the this week that will make it most clear.  Know God's Love and celebrate it with our community this week.

Blessings!!!  Pray for someone this week!!!
Jim

Palm Sunday 
Processional - Ride On King Jesus
Processional #2 - We Sing Praises 
Offertory 1 - You Alone
Communion 1 - Jesus The Lord
Communion 2 - Above All
Recessional - Jesus Keep Me Near The Cross

Holy Thursday
Processional - Pan De Vida
Washing of Feet - Jesus Is A Rock
Offertory - Taste And See
Communion - We Are One Body
Communion Meditation - In Remembrance
Transfer of the Eucharist - Pange Lingua

Good Friday
Veneration 1 - Calvary
Veneration 2 - Power of the Cross
Veneration 3 - Were You There
Veneration 4 - Just For Me
Communion 1 - Only Love

Monday, March 7, 2016

Do We Perceive It?...Music for the 5th Sunday of Lent

Hello St. Francis.

I must say that I am a big fan of the readings coming up for us this week.  In the Gospel, Jesus refuses to condemn the "sinful" women saying: "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone".  That kind of pumps me up.  I love the times when Jesus puts people in their place.  I often tell students that the only time I can remember Jesus getting angry was when he was dealing with hypocrisy.  He never got mad at "sinners", he welcomed sinners and ate with them.  I just love when Jesus puts those kind of people in their place.  They deserve it!!!

I am also a fan of Paul's reading.  He talks about righteousness and he says that true righteousness (like all things good) come from God.  He tells the people that he is continually growing in his faith and righteousness, not his own but the faith and righteousness of God.  That's interesting.  As we know, if it weren't for Paul, so may would have never even heard of Jesus.  It seems odd that he feels he has not reached righteousness and maturity, but toils everyday not looking back but with his eyes fixed on Jesus.

And then, it all made sense.  I read a bit of the reading from  Isaiah and it all fell into place.  It is a simple statement and probably one that I have heard but not listened to multiple times.  He says " I am doing something new...do you not perceive it?"  Of course I perceive it.  I am a Christian, I am a good person, it is my job to help all of those people see God.  I invite them to church and I pray a lot.  Of course I perceive it...or as they say "Not so fast".

Here is what I perceive now.  The lesson isn't as much about how Jesus made those "hypocrites" walk away as it is about how I too walk away sometimes.  I think we sometimes hold our signs up high making sure people know just how righteous we are and wonder why people do not recognize it.  I am not saying that I am a hypocrite, what I am saying is that if Paul sought maturity and righteousness and the apostles looked to Jesus for righteousness, how can I think that I fully understand what it means.  I perceive that even though I attempt through prayer, study, Mass and countless other ways to be the best version of myself, I am only my best self when I allow God to be my righteousness, my faith my love and my life.  I perceive that although I may applaud Jesus for putting those people in their place, I too, even if I was silent, may have considered that "sinner" less righteous than I.  I perceive that the answer is...I don't know the answer...but, God does.

Isaiah said it best.  If we seek righteousness, maturity and peace, maybe we too need to try something new.  The question is, do we have the eyes of faith to perceive it.

Have a great week.  Pray for someone.
Jim

Music for 5th Sunday of Lent

Communion: Stand By Me
Recessional: Rain Down

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

It Never Gets Old...Music for the 4th Week of Lent

Hello St. Francis!!!

It is certainly an exciting time at St. Francis as we journey through Lent in anticipation for Holy Week and Easter.  As you can imagine there is a whole bunch of preparations being made all around the Parish to make this year's celebration of the center of our faith as inspiring and beautiful as possible.  This week, I want to talk to you a little bit about the most important preparations being done.  If you attended the 11:00 or 12:30 Masses on Sunday you saw a group of unbelievable people who are making their final preparations to receive the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist).  It is a tradition of our faith that during these last few weeks before the Easter Vigil, these folks go through what is called the Scrutinies.  Before the Prayers of the Faithful, our "Elect" are prayed for and over by the celebrant and the parishioners.  It is a beautiful testament to our faith and an even more profound reason to recognize the blessing we have all received to know and love Jesus Christ.

It never gets old.  I have witnessed many people proclaim their faith and become fully initiated members of the Catholic Church but as many times as I see it, it never fails to inspire me.  I know that before I could ever make my own decision about faith, before I had the ability to discern fully the commitment necessary to live my Christian faith, it was chosen for me by my parents.  I think many of us fall into this category.  We certainly are all continually learning more about our faith and our God but the nature and the scope of our faith formation occurred when we were children.  For these people, when I look at them, I see someone who has made a profound decision in their life to live as a Catholic Christian.  I see someone who with everything that is going on in life, has decided to make their relationship with God and the practicing of their beliefs a paramount priority in their life.  I see in so many ways, what we are all called to be.  One who passionately hungers for a closer relationship with God and with a faith community.

You see, they chose us.  They chose to walk with us in the most intimate and powerful of ways.  Where as our path has been forged for us and we faithfully walk through that door that has been opened for us, these amazing models of faith have recognized the door that they have been called to and then blaze their own path down the road of faith.  They walk with us, and for me, they lift me up.  They make me want to know and love Jesus even more.  They encourage and inspire me by their courage and their commitment to look at our faith with renewed and amazed eyes.  When the Easter Vigil arrives and the graces of these Sacraments are opened to them, they will become what we all should long to be; awestruck, grateful and empowered.  And that, never gets old!!!

Pray for them this week.  And pray for all of us that we may cherish our faith just as much as they do.

Jim

Music for the 4th Week of Lent