Monday, October 17, 2016

It is our Grace that is Amazing

Hello St. Francis!!!
This week let us all live in the joy of God's Amazing Grace.  Sound Good?  I don't know about you but sometimes the "Grace Tank" feels like it is on empty or I just do not have the right amount of grace to be who I am called to be.  Just getting through the day sometimes can be a challenge in itself. Being full of life and positive energy is just too much to ask.  I spend a good deal of time studying the saints of the church and very often I am inspired but too often I come to my own realization that I am disconnected from their humanity.  "It can't be real"  I say.  I can't do what they did.  God must have chosen them for a special mission and armed them with some "extra" grace that we normal folks don't get or understand.  "If I only had what they have." I say to myself, 'Then, I would have what it takes to live more grace-filled".

So, there is a whole bunch that can be said about this.  But, let's keep it simple because life is too complicated already.  Here are two statements of truth that we often forget or deny.

1.  The grace that has been given to me and you is exactly what we need to live a life of positive energy and joy.  Serving others and being saints!!!

2.  God did not give Mother Theresa or Pope John Paul II or Pope Francis any more life giving grace than He has given to us.

That begs two questions that I ask myself and I hope you think about this week as you do what you do.

1.  Does that mean that God's grace is something that I already have and don't use all of the time?
2.  How do I find it?

Great questions if I do say so myself.  Here is my simple answer to this difficult question.  Remember when Jesus took 5 Fish and Two Loaves and fed 5,000?  Neat trick huh?  But what if he wasn't given the Fish or Bread by the young boy who had nothing else to give?  Was it a miracle of Jesus or was it the giving of what the boy had that made it possible for great things to happen?  I think Jesus would say it was the offering of what he had.  I believe that when we are not afraid to empty our "Joy Tank", or our "Faith Tank" or our "Help Someone Tank"  then we will realize that we have more than we thought we have.  Maybe the only reason we haven't felt more "Grace" is because we only use the small part we know we have and hold back the infinite part that we have to trust we have.  It is easier to know than to believe, that is true, but maybe the only difference between us and those great saints is that they just emptied their "Grace Tank" and believed that God would fill it up again.  Maybe, they believed that God would increase their grace, but, what I believe is that IT IS ALREADY THERE!!!  All I have to do is believe in it enough to see.  May we all see God's Grace this week at work in our lives in small and profound ways.

Music for October 23rd
Processional - Glory Glory Hallelujah Since I Laid My Burdens Down

Psalm 34 - Taste and See

Offertory - Bless That Wonderful Name

Communion - Amazing Grace My Chains Are Gone 

Recessional - Can't Nobody Do Me Like Jesus

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

What It Means To Be Intentional...Music for the Weekend of October 16th

Hello St. Francis,
I wanted to take this week's blog as an opportunity to share a vision we all have as a faith community. The term INTENTIONAL has become sort of a buzz word in the Catholic community over the last few years and it is certainly something that is a necessary part of a healthy and vibrant faith community, but, how do we become more intentional?

So often, I feel like we are somewhat called out by our church, school, or workplace to be intentional, and I think the average person, like you and I can often say that we are being intentional. We are committed to our work, our family and our church.  We give 110% to make sure that we are doing what we are asked to do.  In terms of our commitment to our church, we make an effort to go each week and we may even say hello to some folks that we have never met before.  We support the mission of being a welcoming church and we enjoy the time we spend there in prayer.  This is all great stuff, and may I add, more that a lot of places can say.  But, from time to time we are asked to do more than we may feel comfortable with.  This in turn can make us feel uncomfortable or even distressed.  I mean, we all have real and legitimate reasons why we can't do any more than we do. I get it, we all get it.  So, that's the end of that...right?

Well, I just have one question that I ask myself all of the time and maybe you do as well.  "If not me, than who?"  You see, the best part about making that extra effort to be intentional is that through that extra effort we become intentional.  If I only do what I am 100% comfortable doing than how do we grow into a deeper relationship with others, with our church or with God?  I believe that truly being intentional requires us all to take a leap of faith into uncharted territory.  So, when someone stands at the pulpit and asks for people to consider taking on a ministry, whether it be music, lector, Eucharistic Minister, Minister of Hospitality, Religious Education instructor, do we look around and hope that someone accepts the challenge or do we take that leap and make an intentional decision to support our community?

Here is the secret.  When you make that leap you are rewarded with a sense of pride in your community and a new vision of the love and grace of God abundantly flowing through your life.  The liturgy becomes yours to an even larger degree and your prayer, that at one point was done with words now is reinforced with intentional actions.

I want to extend an invitation to you to become more intentional.  If the music we pray at SFDS inspires you, join us in inspiring others.  The Music Ministry is having a Meet and Greet event on Monday, October 24th at 7pm in the Parish Office.  Come by.  Talk to the parishioners who are involved in this ministry.  Ask them how their intentional action has increased their faith.  And then, taker that leap.  Whether it be in this ministry or the many others at SFDS, be intentional and become the inspiration for others to take the same leap.  You know what they call that?  Being A Christian.

Thanks and See You This Weekend.

Music for October 16th
Processional - O Magnify The Lord
Psalm - The Mountain of God
Offertory - The Lord Is My Light
Communion - Stand By Me
Recessional - Go Out

Monday, October 3, 2016

Music From The Soul - Music for October 9th

Hello St. Francis,
It has been a while since I have written.  The good news is that the summer was wonderful and we in the Music Ministry have been hard at work over the past few weeks preparing songs of praise and meditation for our Liturgies.  I must say that working with the amazing people at SFDS is a true blessing in my life.  I enjoy every minute of it.

As you may know, we are continuously inviting anyone who has an interest in joining us in the Music Ministry to give it a try.  One of our goals this year is to involve more people in the Ministry.  I hear so many of you singing from your seats every Sunday (Thanks for that by the way) and whatever the reason is that is holding you back, let it go.  We are a "Come When You Can" Ministry.  I understand that making a commitment in this busy world is not easy, so we try to remove the commitment.  Every week, I send out links to recordings of the music we sill be singing as well as the sheet music.  There are NO REHEARSALS!!!  We get together around 10:00 on Sunday morning to go over the songs and then sing at 11am Mass.  If it is the 11am Mass that poses a problem, no problem.  We are also looking to expand our ministries at every Mass.  The bottom line is that whenever you can make it, we want you to.  If you can't, no problem.  The point is, having your voice, or instrument once a month or twice a month or every week would be a great addition to what we do.

To that end, we are having a Meet and Greet on Monday, October 24th at 7pm in the Church office for anyone who has questions or would like to spend some time with us.  It is an evening of prayer, music and fellowship.  No obligations, just a time to get together.

Finally, I would like to formally welcome Quincy Dover to our Music Ministry team.  Quincy will be the principle accompanist at the new 5pm Sunday Mass.  Quincy comes to us from Queens and is the Director of Music at St. Gregory's Church in Brooklyn.  He is an amazing young man and a fabulous musician.  You may want to check out our new 5pm Mass on Sunday to hear for yourself!!!

Talk to you next week.

Music for October 9th

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!!!


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.


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.

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.