Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Seventh Sunday of Easter - May 25, 2014

A few years ago I heard an editorial on the radio which made an interesting suggestion. The commentator suggested that we switch Memorial Day with Veterans Day. I thought the idea sounded silly until he explained it. His argument was that Veterans Day honors all those who served in the military and came home to their family and friends. It should be a day of celebration and joy, but it happens to fall in a month when winter is starting to settle in, and thus we tend to think of it as a time of passing. (For us as Catholics, November is particularly a time of prayer for those who have died.) Memorial Day remembers those who did not come home, those who died defending our nation, so it should be a more somber time. Yet we have come to think of Memorial Day as the beginning of summer, so we make it a time of cookouts and picnics. The man on the radio thought it would be better if we had those cookouts while honoring our living veterans and prayed for those who died in the dreary month of November.
That argument made sense when I heard it. Now I am not so sure. Perhaps the holidays as they are now can provide a little balance. While we honor our veterans in November, the approach of winter reminds us of the struggles they faced and of the need for continued vigilance. Meanwhile, this weekend's celebration of Memorial Day should give us pause to reflect, while the beginning of summer offers us hope. On the one hand, we have hoe that those who "gave the last full measure of devotion" (in the words of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address) will share eternal life with Christ in heaven. In addition, the somber purpose of Memorial Day reminds us that the freedoms we enjoy did not come easily. Whether we enjoy a picnic or a party or baseball game on that day, we should all remember to take time to thank God for all that we have as we look ahead to summer.
As for me, I am looking forward to my first chance to participate in the Kennedy Township Memorial Day parade that I have heard so much about. I hope that this local celebration will help me to focus on what the holiday is all about as we pray for those who have died defending our nation. May we pause to reflect on the sacrifices of the brave soldiers who have done so much for us. And may we then return to the celebration, reflecting on the blessings we have as Americans, as well as the joy of looking forward to summer.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Fifth Sunday of Easter - May 18, 2014

As I write this, I have been here at St. Malachy for two weeks. By the time you read the note, I will be completing my third week and will be celebrating my third weekend. So far the excitement has not faded for me. I admit there are times when I walk into the rectory and think, "What am I doing in Fr. Mike's house, and why isn't he here to greet me?" But in the midst of it all, I am feeling more and more at home. A large part of that feeling, of course, comes from the way in which the people of St. Malachy have greeted me and welcomed me and made me feel like I belong.

During my first weekend, especially with the excitement of Bishop Zubik's visit for my installation, I found it appropriate to make a few points of introduction. Perhaps I need not repeat myself, but I thought it important to restate some of the themes of my "inaugural address" here so that they are on record in written form (assuming that nobody was taking notes during my remarks).

I am currently in "listen and learn" mode. People ask me how I want to do things, and for the most part I respond by asking what we have done in the past. I know this is an excellent parish, and it is not my intention to fix what isn't broken. But at the same time, I bring my own gifts and talents to this parish, and there are certain areas of parish ministry where I have always found the most blessings. Toward that end, I make you my two promises, as I have done in every parish where I have served as pastor and administrator.

My first main promise is that I will make every effort to celebrate every liturgy with both reverence and joy. The Vatican Council reminded us that the Eucharist is the "source and summit" of the Christian life, so there is nothing I do that could be more important than the celebration of the Mass. I have tried to learn as much as I could about the liturgy, and I try to put my best effort into the celebration.

My second promise is primarily to the families who have children in St. Malachy School or St. Malachy CCD. I promise to them that their children will see me in the school or in the CCD. As a newly ordained priest, serving in McKees Rocks, I got pushed into teaching in the school. I found that was one of the gifts God gave me, and I found that it brought me great joy. I have always enjoyed visiting classes and allowing the children to ask questions, which encourages me to think on my feet. I also think it is important for the children to know that the priest is not some distant figure whom they only hear over the church microphone. Every priest hopes that he will encourage some young man to think of the priesthood, but I also want all children to grow up thinking of a priest as someone they can turn to when they have a need.

Those are my promises to you as I begin my term at St. Malachy. I also look forward to visiting the sick, taking part in parish events and serving the people of the parish in many different ways. But I begin with the promises that liturgy and catechesis will be at the heart of my service to the people of Kennedy Township.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Fourth Sunday of Easter - May 11, 2014

I remember a little girl in our neighborhood who always wanted to "play house". We were at the age when we boys thought that girls had "cooties", but I could not always avoid her. She would be the mommy, I would be the daddy, and her little doll was our baby. The game was very structured, as Sandi told us exactly what we were doing at every moment. "Now we're having breakfast," and we would pretend to ear. "Now I'm vacuuming," and she would pretend to run the sweeper. She made the life of a mother seem very simple and straightforward.
As we celebrate Mothers Day, we know of the tendency to sentimentalize the day. We think of Mom's apple pie or the way she used to kiss our boo-boos to make them better. As adults, we begin to realize how much our mothers did for us. Mom had to juggle the demands of each child without letting any of them feel neglected. She has to be stern but fair, sometimes correcting or saying no. And mixed in with all that, she has to dust, do laundry and do the the hundreds of other tasks that kept he house running. Today's mothers have the added pressure of jobs outside the home, but then my mother did not have a microwave oven or other labor-saving devices. I will let others decide which life was tougher. My point is to offer my wish for a happy Mothers Day to all moms out there and to make sure they know that we do appreciate the sacrifices they made for us and the trouble they put up with for us. Happy Mothers Day!
It seems fitting to me that we celebrate Mothers Day during May, which we traditionally dedicate to Mary, whom Christ gave to us as our Blessed Mother. And as we sometimes tend to over-sentimentalize Mothers Day, so we can also ask what kind of view we have of the Blessed Virgin. If we base our devotions to Mary on a serious study of Sacred Scripture and Catholic Doctrine, then we get a picture of Mary as a real human being. She is the purest and holiest of our race, but she still lived a human life and made all the sacrifices and gifts of love that a mother makes. Thus she can be a model and an intercessor for mothers and also for the rest of us. She can be the one who helps us deal with our own struggles and frustrations and who celebrates with us our joys and successes. First and foremost, she does so by leading us closer to her Divine Son. So along with a happy Mothers Day, I wish you a prayerful month of the Blessed Mother.

Father H 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Third Sunday of Easter - May 4, 2014

It is a thrill for me to be here at St. Malachy and to being my new assignment as your pastor. As I am excited to begin my time here. What a wonderful way to start, as well, as we welcome Bishop Zubik this weekend for my installation.
I used to go for spiritual direction to a priest who joked that he wondered why they call it an installation. It sounds like the bishop is coming with a wrench and a screwdriver and will plug me in. On a serious note, the presence of the bishop is a wonderful sign of our Communion with the Church as a whole, and thus our Communion with Christ. He is a sign that we share our faith with all who have carried on the Tradition from the time Christ commissioned the Twelve to go forth and proclaim the coming of the Kingdom. As such, the Bishop also reminds us of our unity with one another.
We express that unity in different ways. For me, it is becoming clearer now by my new assignment. Many of you know that Fr. Mike has long been one of my best friends, and we talk just about every evening. So I had a head start on my time here (in addition to visiting that parish when I was Pastor of Guardian Angels in the West End, 1998-2005, and even when I was Parochial Vicar of St. Francis de Sales in McKees Rocks, 1986-1989). In addition, it means that I will keep Fr. Mike informed. right now I want to offer my thanks to him for the wonderful ministry he gave to this parish over the last nine years. God bless you, Fr. Mike.