Sunday, June 29, 2014

Saints Peter & Paul - Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sometimes we can only truly appreciate what we have when we see it from an outsider’s point of view.  With Independence Day coming this Friday, I would like to look at what our nation is all about from a British perspective.  The British Catholic writer G. K. Chesterton (1876-1936) had traveled in the United States, and he wrote about his experience.  In What I Saw in America, Chesterton makes in important point:  “America is the only nation in the world that is founded on a creed.  That creed is set forth with dogmatic and even theological lucidity in the Declaration of Independence... and it by inference condemns atheism, since it clearly names the Creator as the ultimate authority from whom these equal rights are derived.”
Our nation has received many blessings from God.  So if we are to fulfill what many consider to be our destiny, it needs to be in the context of these blessings.  Many people have sacrificed many things over the years to keep our nation free and strong, and it is vital that we continue to seek God’s will.  Sometimes it takes years to correct injustices, as we remember that slavery was legal in parts of our nation until the Civil War.  But we continue to ask for guidance.  We ask God to guide us to care for the weakest and poorest among us, including the unborn.  We ask God to help us work for the rights of all people, remembering that those rights are not merely the license to do whatever we want but to build a society on the true good of all people.
I remember the times of protest in the 1960s and 1970s.  Those who felt that it was unpatriotic to question our leaders quoted a line from British military commander Stephen Decatur, “Our country, right or wrong.”  I always liked the quotation from American statesman Carl Schurz (1829-1906), who expanded upon that saying, “My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right, and if wrong, to be set right.”  Today, as we celebrate our national independence, we realize that we need to follow God’s law in order to be the great nation which Chesterton described and which our Founding Fathers intended.
Meanwhile, I wish everyone a very happy Fourth of July.  May we truly be grateful that, as The Declaration of Independence states, we “are endowed by [our] creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are the Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”  Happy Independence Day, and God bless America.  Please note that the Mass for July 4 will be at 9:00 in the morning and that the parish office will be closed on that day.

Father H

Monday, June 23, 2014

Corpus Christi - Sunday, June 22, 2014

A priest went to visit a parish where his friend was stationed, and as they walked through the social hall, he noticed that they were taking down some posters on the Sacraments, the parts of the Bible and other such topics.  He asked his friend why they were removing them, and the priest from that parish responded that the posters were projects of our CCD classes, and they had to get them out of the way for the bingo that evening.  The visiting priest remarked that we sometimes get things backwards.  He said, “Jesus played with children and taught adults.  Today we teach the children and then play with the adults.”

It is easy to separate learning from fun.  Yet what Christ’s teaching is not supposed to be tedious or dull.  It may not always be fun, for the way of the Lord can be challenging.  Ultimately, though, Christ taught us in order to help us come to the fullness of joy in His kingdom.  So why shouldn’t we have fun while growing in our faith?  And with that in mind, we have Vacation Bible School this week.  This is a time for our younger children to get out of the house and go to school during summer vacation.  It almost sounds cruel to send children to school during the summer, but Vacation Bible School is an event that combines learning with fun.  While this is my first experience of St. Malachy’s Vacation Bible School, I have been involved with it in other parishes.  Everywhere I have seen the VBS, it has been a truly enjoyable week for all involved.  There are games and crafts and songs and many other activities, along with stories from Sacred Scripture.  And not only is it fun for the younger children, but the older kids who volunteer have a great time as well.  In fact, as I mentioned the habit of “playing with the adults,” I have found that the adults who are involved are having just as good a time as the children.

As we prepare for this event, I want to say a special word of thanks to our Director of Religious Education, Joanne Swank, and her team for putting this event together.  There is a lot of work that goes into an event of this kind, and just coordinating all those who are involved is a major task.  Yet she and her team do the job joyfully, out of a deep love for Christ.  That faith is the foundation of the efforts to make the week worthwhile as being both educational and fun.

So we welcome all who are taking part in our Vacation Bible School this week.  I may even sneak out and get into a game or two myself.  Just because I’m an adult doesn’t mean that I can’t play and have fun.  After all, we all hope to share in the joy of Christ that will never end.  So please pray that we can share that joy with the children of our parish in our VBS.

Father H

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Most Holy Trinity - Sunday, June 15, 2014

I was in the sacristy one Saturday evening before Mass when the organist walked in and wanted to make sure that we both knew what we were doing.  I told him we were not doing anything out of the ordinary, and it reminded him of a line a priest had said to him once under similar circumstances.  “We are celebrating the great Paschal Mystery in which bread and wine become the very Body and Blood of Christ our Lord.  In other words, just the ordinary.”
The organist’s comment reminded me that every celebration of the Eucharist is a great mystery of faith in which we receive all the glory of heaven.  That thought strikes me now especially as we have completed the Easter season and returned to “Ordinary Time.”  We generally use the word “ordinary” to refer to that which is normal, commonplace and run-of-the-mill.  But the liturgy we celebrate is never ordinary in that sense.  Our term of “Ordinary Time” refers to the word “ordinal.”  If we remember our math classes – and I admit that I would not have remembered had I not re-learned the term in liturgy classes – ordinal numbers are those which put things in order.  So the ordinal numbers are first, second, third and so forth.  Ordinary Time refers to the fact that we are in that part of the year in which we measure the passage of time by numbering the weeks.  So in the Church’s liturgy, we are now beginning the Eleventh Week of Ordinary Time, with green vestments and a little less solemnity than we had during the Easter season.
Normally those weeks of Ordinary Time begin with the corresponding Sunday in Ordinary Time.  But to show that this time is not “ordinary” in the sense of being commonplace, we begin with a series of special feasts.  Immediately after Pentecost each year, we explore some of the important mysteries of our faith by celebrating a series of what are called “Solemnities of the Lord in Ordinary Time.”  We begin with today’s Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.  This solemnity allows us to reflect upon God’s gift of the insight into His true nature as One God, with no division, yet as three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  On a side note, many priests consider this to be a difficult Sunday on which to give a homily, and so I felt a little guilty when I arranged for our newly ordained Deacon Zach Galiyas to give his first official homily on Trinity Sunday.
Next Sunday is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, commonly known by its old Latin name of Corpus Christi.  We enter into the mystery of our salvation and come to share in the life of the Blessed Trinity by receiving the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist.  Again, we celebrate this great gift so often that we can take it for granted, so we have this feast to remind us of its importance.
Corpus Christi was originally scheduled for the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, but the bishops had the choice of making it a Holy Day of Obligation or moving it to the following Sunday.  The Friday after Corpus Christi, this year June 27, is the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  That is not a Holy Day, but it ties the other celebrations together by uniting us in the love of the Heart of Christ, and thus it is given to us as the third of the three Solemnities of the Lord in Ordinary Time. Father H

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Pentecost Sunday - June 8, 2014

As a seminarian, I took a Church History course in which we had to do an “oral history” project.  I got to interview the retired pastor of my home parish, Fr. Robert Murphy, through whom God had first inspired me to think about the priesthood.  Fr. Murphy told me that when he was in first grade, the teacher asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up.  He said he wanted to be an Altar Boy.  Sister suggested that he might want to be a priest.  He replied that he couldn’t do that.  “A priest,” he said, “is made in heaven.”  When the pastor walked into the classroom, Sister had him repeat his answer for Father to hear.
Priests are human beings, each with his own strengths and weaknesses.  Yet in a real sense, a priest is indeed made in heaven, chosen by God with special graces for the good of the whole Church.  This year our parish has enjoyed a special time of reflecting on the gift of priesthood through five separate occasions.  The first two were Fr. Michael’s departure and my arrival.  Fr. Mike spoke of how much the parish’s appreciation meant to him as he left, and I am both strengthened and humbled by the welcome I have received.  Today I want to touch on the other three events.
A few weeks ago we honored Fr. Patrick O’Brien on his golden jubilee of ordination.  Today we celebrate Fr. Russell Maurer for his eightieth birthday.  And next weekend Zachary Galiyas of our parish will be ordained a deacon as the last step before priesthood.  Each of these events sheds a different light on what a priest is.  Fr. O’Brien has had a long and distinguished academic career.  His erudition is a sign of how we grow in our understanding of God and never cease to learn about our faith.  Fr. Russell is a kind and gentle man who truly has a priestly heart.  He is a sign of how a priest is to treat every person with the dignity of a beloved child of God.  He also continues to live his priesthood in his devotion to the Mass, despite his physical limitations.  Zach Galiyas is a very prayerful young man who joins the enthusiasm of someone starting a new adventure with the faith that allows him to place his life in God’s hands.
Each of these priests (and the future priest) is important to me.  My seniors, Fr. O’Brien and Fr. Russell, inspire me with the example of their years of priestly ministry.  Zach helps me renew the priestly fervor of my younger days.  And of course, Fr. Michael continues to be a good friend, a contemporary with whom I can share the joys (and occasional struggles) of priesthood.  I thank God for each of them, and I pray that all of us can be examples, each in our own way, to the people of St. Malachy Parish.
Our celebration for Fr. Russell’s birthday is at the 11:00 Mass today.  Please come to Father Weirauch Hall after Mass for a brief reception.  Zach’s diaconate ordination is next Saturday at St. Paul Cathedral.  Zach will be the homilist, one of the privileges of a deacon, at the 8:00 and 11:00 Masses next Sunday.  Please come and celebrate with him.  And please pray for vocations.
Father H

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Seventh Sunday of Easter - June 1, 2014

This past Monday I had the honor of taking part in the Kennedy Township Memorial Day celebration.  I had heard about the parade and the ceremony for some years from Fr. Michael, so I was pleased to be part of it.  This event was another reminder to me of what I am quickly learning about the spirit in our community.  I think our township’s slogan says it very well, “A great place to live, work and worship.”
             The parade on Monday also helped us remember that Memorial Day is much more than just a day for picnics and cookouts.  But it is traditionally the start of summer activities, even if we do still have a week left of school.  This Friday is the last day of this school year for the students here at St. Malachy.  I must admit that I approach this summer with mixed emotions.  On the one hand, the past few months have been such a whirlwind for me that I am looking forward to the somewhat slower pace that we get during the summer.  On the other hand, I am just starting to get to know people and to feel really a part of this school.  I think I will be ready for school to start again in the fall, when I can be part of the activity for the whole year.  In the meantime, though, let’s enjoy the summer.
That brings me to some comments that I like to make around this time of the year.  That fact that I’m new to this community and have not yet spent a summer here gives you the opportunity to dismiss any remarks I make that may not apply.  But most of these are generally true to some degree or another of most parishes.
First of all, please remember to include God in whatever summer plans you may have.  God does not take a vacation from us, and we should be totally dedicated to Him in everything we do.  If you travel this summer, as I hope to do, remember that there are parishes throughout the country and around the world that welcome visitors.  If you are not sure how to find a local parish, try the website  They can help you find the closest Catholic churches wherever you may be.
Also, when you go to church, please remember that our reverence extends to the way we dress.  As I say, I have not yet seen what St. Malachy looks like in the summer, but I know that different churches have this issue to different degrees.  I have been in parishes where most people dressed for Mass in the summer much as they would at other times.  I have also been in parishes where I wondered if the beach was right next door.  I well remember growing up in the days when we used to dress up for Mass each Sunday.  I still like to see people dress up for Sunday, but I recognize that we live in a more casual age.  So while I do not look for tuxedos or evening gowns, I do ask you to keep your wardrobe presentable and appropriately modest when coming to church.
Father H