Monday, February 20, 2017

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time - February 19, 2017

 We have two events coming together this Tuesday. I will miss both of them, but I think I have a good excuse. I will be at St. Paul Seminary that day for the next installment of the Priest Leadership and Evangelization Collaborative that the Diocese is sponsoring to help us priests prepare for the changes from On Mission for the Church Alive. So while I will miss the spiritual nourishment that we offer here, I will be learning and growing in my faith with almost 150 of my brother priests.

Tuesday is the next installment of our St. Malachy Speaker Series, with Nancy Amorose speaking on the subject of “In the Beginning, A Spiritual Journey to Truth.” Mrs. Amorose belongs to St. Pio of Pietrelcina Parish in Blawnox and is the founder of a group known as “Ladder of Truth.” Their mission statement speaks of “helping parents and guardians instill Christian ideals in their children.” The speaker series has very well received, and we have been very fortunate to have some excellent speakers. This should be another excellent offering.

The same day is also the third Tuesday of the month, and that means we have our monthly Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Having both on the same day has been an incentive for more people to come to the 6:30 Benediction. We keep the Benediction simple, especially when followed by a speaker, but it is still a profound opportunity to spend time with our Eucharistic Lord. We will have Exposition at 1:00 and then have the Blessed Sacrament on the Altar for the entire afternoon. If you cannot be here at the Benediction, feel free to stop in at any time during the day.

Someone once referred to Eucharistic Adoration as “the Mass in slow motion.” I was unable to find the quotation (though I did find that phrase as a title of an unrelated book by Msgr. Ronald Knox). The point is that so much is happening at Mass that we may not full appreciate the wonderful gift that we receive. At Eucharistic Adoration, then, we have a chance to sit back in the presence of Christ on the Altar and to realize just how powerful a gift we have. This gift is so powerful that J. R. R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings, once said, “I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament. There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves on earth.” So join us on Tuesday and give yourself the favor of growing closer to Christ in the Eucharist.

On a related note, in the past we began Adoration at the 7:15 Mass. The people who come regularly were having a harder time filling in all the hours, and we should never have the Blessed Sacrament exposed when no one is present. So if you can make a regular commitment to coming each month, let us know. We will get your name to the people who organize this holy time.

                                                                                          Father H

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time - February 12, 2017

My father and I both loved the TV show M*A*S*H from when it first came on. Dad had the entire series on DVD, and now I have his discs. Recently I have been watching the early seasons, but right now I’m remembering a couple of later episodes. In one, Hawkeye and Winchester wanted to demonstrate how gullible some people can be, so they mentioned to Klinger about the coming visit of Marilyn Monroe. Soon, even General Schwerin arranged a visit to the camp in order to see her. In another, a visiting inspector led the members of the 4077th to believe that the Army was going to break them up to build a new unit. Soon everyone on the show was acting crazy in order to avoid being chosen for the new unit.

As M*A*S*H demonstrated, rumors can quickly overwhelm the truth. As we go through the diocesan initiative On Mission for the Church Alive, we know we are going to see some changes that will affect each of us. It is little wonder, then, that people are speculating about what is going to happen. Every once in a while, though, I hear it said that certain stories are going about. So perhaps it would be a good idea to review what is happening and remind everyone of where we stand.

Last year, the diocese proposed at least a couple of models for each parish as a starting point for discussion. There are two models that involve St. Malachy Parish. One would have us forming a new parish with St. John of God, St. Philip (which itself is a recent merger of St. Philip, Ascension, Guardian Angels and Holy Innocents) and St. Margaret of Scotland. The other model has us in with the same parishes plus Holy Trinity. In either case, the new parish would feature two “campuses.” It is important to keep in mind that neither model takes the schools into consideration. The diocese is studying schools separately, and even when they announce a new direction for schools in the North Hills region this month, that does not give us any indication of what will happen with our school. Absolutely no decisions have been made on the future of our school.

First indications are that our parish favors the model without Holy Trinity, though many wonder why St. Margaret is in with us. Yet Bishop Zubik is open to other ideas as well. Nothing is decided at this point. Fr. Lou Vallone at St. John of God is proposing his own model in which St. Malachy, St. Philip and St. John of God would join together as one parish. St. Malachy and St. Philip would be the two campuses, but with St. Mary Church of St. John of God Parish remaining open for weddings, funerals and one Saturday and one Sunday Mass each week. Of course I have no way of knowing how Bishop Zubik will react to Fr. Lou’s proposal.

Right now, that is all we know. Anything else you may hear is a rumor and should be treated as such. Remember what Hawkeye Pierce said on M*A*S*H when BJ Hunnicutt teased him about taking Klinger’s story too seriously. “That’s what you get for listening to idle gossip,” said Hawkeye, “especially when it comes from an idle gossip.”
                                       
                                                                                       Father H                  

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time - February 5, 2017

A while ago I got an email from a parishioner with a question. When I get questions, I sometimes like to save them for this column when I am not sure what else to write about. I realized I hadn’t put this particular question in my Ponderings until our organist, Laurie Lanz, told me that someone had asked her the same question. It concerns the “Lamb of God” that we sing at Mass. It is often longer than we are used to, and some have wondered why we repeat it over and over again.

To answer the question, we have to start with the purpose of the litany. It does not stand on its own; it is designed to accompany an action. After the Lord’s Prayer and the Sign of Peace, we go into the Rite of the Breaking (or “Fraction”) of the Bread. Notice that the priest takes the consecrated host and breaks it into pieces, placing a small piece into the chalice. This action can easily be overlooked, but it is important enough that the earliest Christians used it as a title for the whole liturgy. That is, where we would say, “We go to Mass on Sundays,” the early Church would have said, “We go to the Breaking of the Bread.” The image is that, at the Last Supper, Christ used just one loaf of bread from which all of those gathered there had a piece. As the Church grew, a single loaf became impractical, so they began using individual pieces of bread, “hosts.” The priest had one a little bigger so that it could be seen when he held it up and so that it could be broken as a symbol of our unity. The Fraction is a reminder that we share one Eucharist with every Catholic throughout the world.

The litany that accompanies this action adds further significance. The Lamb of God ties the Eucharist in with Christ’s crucifixion. Therefore, it is always a part of the action, not something that stands alone. At times, that action can take a little longer. I like to use the very large host so that at least some people can receive a piece from the same host. Also, we have a large bowl that, to signify that unity, allows me to put all of the hosts into one container. Part of the Fraction Rite is to distribute those into the various patens that the Eucharistic Ministers and I will hold when we distribute. All of that takes a little bit longer. Meanwhile, the plan is for the litany to accompany the entire action. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (the document that tells us what to do at Mass) says, “This invocation accompanies the fraction of the bread and, for this reason, may be repeated as many times as necessary until the rite has been completed. The final time it concludes with the words grant us peace.”

I hope that explanation not only answers the question but also gives you a better understanding of what is happening. And if you have any questions that I think may be of general interest, I will try to get to them in future columns.

                                                                                  Father H                  

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time - January 29, 2017

In the early years of the Peanuts comic strip, there Charlie Brown decided that he wanted to quit school. “After all,” he argued, “I want to be a baseball manager when I grow up. Why should I have to go to school?” Lucy reminded him that a baseball manager needs arithmetic, or else he wouldn’t even know if he had enough players on the field. So Charlie Brown decided he would remain in school until he learned to count to nine, and then he would quit.
              
A good education involves more than just learning certain facts. Education affects every aspect of our lives. That, in fact, is one of the main reasons why we celebrate our annual Catholic Schools Week this week. We want the world to know that we offer an excellent education, not only in academics but also nourishing the spiritual, physical and social lives of our students.

Perhaps the big difference is in how we see our purpose. Many see the purpose of education as training to get a good job. If you want to be a doctor, you focus on science and related fields. Subjects such as literature and philosophy would not have much to offer. On the other hand, we see our mission as the formation of the human person for life as a Catholic and, ultimately, to share the eternal glory of Christ in heaven. We try to emphasize everything that helps the students to become the best people that they can be and to live as the children of God. We see our role as supporting the parents, to whom the liturgy of Baptism refers as the “first and best teachers of their children in the way of faith.”

With that end in mind, I take this opportunity to thank everyone associated with our school. Our new – yet very experienced – principal, Mrs. Cathy Militzer, has really settled in and shown wonderful leadership. Our teachers are one of the most talented and dedicated groups I have ever worked with in my years with Catholic schools. The support staff and the volunteers are incredibly helpful. And of course the students themselves are delightful. I have always said that whenever I have a bad day, I can find an extra smile just by walking over to the school and seeing what the children are doing in class. So I pray that this Catholic Schools Week helps us to come to a deeper appreciation for the wonderful treasure that is St. Malachy School.

On a somewhat related note, we hope that we never stop learning. So this past week I went back to school in a sense. I am taking part in the “Priest Leadership and Evangelization Collaborative,” a workshop that the Diocese is offering to all priests as part of “On Mission for the Church Alive.” As you saw from the models presented, the new parishes in the diocese will be rather more complex than we are used to. The diocese is offering this program to help priests prepare for the new configuration. So please bear with me as I may have to adjust my schedule a bit over the next few months. From what I can see, I believe it will be truly worthwhile. 
                                                                 Father H                  


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Third Sunday In Ordinary Time - January 22, 2017

During last Sunday’s playoff game in Kansas City, announcer Cris Collinsworth made an interesting observation about Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell. Collinsworth told of how many scouts and coaches tried to discourage Bell’s running style, in which he hesitates before deciding which hole to attack. Bell was so used to those comments that he was surprised when Steelers coach Mike Tomlin Bell said that he liked Bell’s approach. The rest, as they say, is history. Earlier this season, Bell broke the Steelers’ team record for most rushing yards in a game. Two weeks ago he set the team record for most yards rushing in a playoff game, a record he broke again last week.

With that opening, I could take this column in two directions. I could talk about football since everyone around here wants the Steelers to beat New England this weekend and move on to yet another Super Bowl. I am more of a baseball fan, but this is a football town. Each year, at the beginning of the season, I try to ignore football. The game has gotten so violent, and the NFL has such a poor record on players’ health, that I begin to wonder if I can watch football in good conscience. It’s easy for me to refrain while baseball is still going on, but some time after the World Series I get caught up in the excitement. Right now, I want to the Steelers to beat the Patriots as much as anyone. So sing along with me: “We’re from the town with the great football team. We cheer the Pittsburgh Steelers. Winning’s a habit, not only a dream. Go out and get them, Steelers.”

But I also want to build on the comment that only Mike Tomlin saw the true value of Le’Veon Bell as a running back. It is all too easy to get caught in the trap of overlooking someone’s value. Consider that January 22 is the anniversary of the Supreme Court rulings in the cases of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, the cases that made abortion legal in this country. In those cases, the court essentially said that human beings do not have any value before birth. Since then the Catholic Church has been at the forefront of the Right to Life movement. Without making light of the problems of women facing unplanned pregnancy, we want to show that even these small, helpless children have the intrinsic value of a human being beloved by God. Let us pray that our society will come to recognize that human life is a gift from God to be treasured, even while we have to deal with the issues that arise in difficult situations.

I think we can say that the Miami Dolphins and the Kansas City Chiefs have begun to appreciate the value that Le’Veon Bell has as a running back. May we someday be able to say that our culture appreciates the value that all human beings, from the moment of conception, have by being created in the image and likeness of God.

                                                                                             Father H                  

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time - January 15, 2017

First of all, thank you to everyone who has expressed sympathy with my current discomfort. The fracture in my ribcage is small and not displaced, though the treatment is the same in either case: nothing. They don’t even wrap ribs anymore, as they learned that wrapping was leading to pneumonia. As I write this note, I am feeling very good, though I do find myself getting short of breath rather quickly. My question is whether I’m feeling better because I’m healing or because of the pain pills they gave me. My prescription will be finished by the time you read this, so will see if I’m still feeling as good as I am as I write. Now let’s see if I can use that introduction as a transition to what I really wanted to write about.

The doctor told me that I had very few restrictions. For instance, I shouldn’t play full-contact football. That’s no problem, but I’m already thinking of sitting out this year’s parent-student basketball game. Meanwhile, I am also trying very hard not to get sick. I think a fit of sneezing or an upset stomach would really hurt. Of course, it is not easy to avoid illness this time of year. I got my flu shot, but we encounter so many people and in such close quarters that it is easy to spread bugs around.

The main point here is to ask you to use common sense. For instance, some parishes refrain from offering Communion under both forms during cold and flu season. I prefer to trust people to make good decisions. If you are feeling sick, please do not receive from the Cup. (Don’t worry about me; fractured ribs are not contagious.) It is better to keep your germs to yourself at that point. And while we encourage our Eucharistic Ministers to use every precaution, you are free to choose not to receive from the Cup if you are uncomfortable with drinking from a common vessel. Communion under both forms will still be available for those who want to receive it, but it is always optional to each person receiving.

The Sign of Peace is another time when some people feel a little uncomfortable. In most cases, a handshake will not be a problem. But if you are sick, please do not extend your hand. The Sign of Peace is still a regular part of the Mass, so please don’t ignore your brothers and sisters in Christ. But perhaps you could hold your hands together and give a nod and a smile if you have germs that you don’t want to share.

My comments above assume that you have a cold or a mild bug. Please remember that if you are really sick, you can keep your germs at home. We do have a serious obligation to attend Mass every Sunday, but that does not apply to those who are sick. God understands our sickness and does not ask us to go beyond common sense. Of course, if you are healthy enough to go to a Steelers game or to bingo, then you are healthy enough to come to Mass. But those who are truly sick would be better off staying home and praying a rosary or some other devotion.

                                                            Father H                  


Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Epiphany of the Lord - January 8, 2017

As we end the Christmas season with tomorrow’s feast of the Baptism of the Lord, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you a blessed Christmas one final time for this season. And while I am at it, I would like to add a few other notes.
                  
First of all, I want to say “Thank you” for those who made Christmas special for us. That includes “the usual suspects,” such as Laurie Lanz for all her work with the music, and for Yumi Fisher for her time directing the children’s handbell choir. John Lester and his team did their usual wonderful job of decorating the church. But I want to add a personal note of thanks to everyone who sent cards, gifts and goodies (with calories that I didn’t need). I really appreciate celebrating Christmas with my parish family.

Speaking of thanks, I want to include a note of thanks to Fr. Pat O’Brien. Fr. O’Brien has been a contributor to our parish family since early in Fr. Michael’s tenure as pastor taking one Mass every Sunday. He had not been coming to help recently, since the weekend he passed out while I was on vacation, but for quite some time he would call each week and would promise that he would be back once he was feeling better. He hasn’t been calling lately, so I asked the clergy office of the diocese if they had any idea of how he was doing. Recently they told me that Fr. O’Brien is going to be entering a nursing home. Effective January 18, Fr. O’Brien will be living at Locust Grove Assisted Living in West Mifflin. If anyone wants to write to him, the address is 4043 Irene St., West Mifflin, PA 15122. I wish we could have had time to give him a nice farewell and to thank him for his service to St. Malachy, but I hope that he knows he will be in our prayers.

Also, I want to remind you that we have changed the schedule for Confessions. I always found the schedule very tight between Confessions and the Saturday evening Mass, particularly if Confessions ran overtime. So please remember that we now have Confessions every Saturday afternoon, from Noon to 1:00.

Another change you have probably noticed is that we have adjusted the sound system. I would still like to revamp the system entirely, but thanks to Dan Chujko, it is at least somewhat easier to hear in our church.

There was another bit of work done lately, but that was not planned. One day during Christmas week, a pipe broke under our parking lot and created a lake in the lot. Thanks to Bill Rusnak and his crew for fixing the problem in very short time and getting things back in order. The only complaint that I have heard about the job is that the pipe didn’t break while school was in session, when we could have had a couple extra days off. (That complaint came from teachers, not students.)

One final note: I had a bit of a fall one night last week. It turns out that I have a couple of fractured ribs. Please excuse me if I am not quite as mobile as usual in the next few weeks. (And please don’t offer me a hug.)

                                                                                              Father H