Friday, July 25, 2014

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 27, 2014

Last week my column was my first “postcard” from my vacation.  As you read this, I am still on vacation for another week, as I will be returning to the parish on Saturday, August 2.  So as with last week, this column is to let you know that I’m thinking about you while I’m away.  (Technically, I’m thinking about you as I’m writing this, which is before I leave on vacation.  But let’s not quibble about semantics.)
My second week of vacation is usually a little more relaxing than my first week.  The first week is spent in a big city, watching baseball games and touring attractions.  The second week is time for me to relax a bit.  For years that meant coming back to Pittsburgh and spending time with my father at his apartment.  We would go out to eat and perhaps see a movie or something like that.  In the past few years since my father’s death, I have had to find other ways of slowing down for the other part of my vacation.  Sometimes I visit family out of town, or sometimes I go someplace I can relax and still go out and do some things.
This year I had to change my plans when my first approach did not work as I expected.  So I decided to take a roundabout route to go to one of my favorite places.  Yes, it is still related to baseball.  The roundabout trip will take me to the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre area and then up to Binghamton, New York.  I will stop long enough to see some minor league baseball in each city before going on to spend a couple of days in Cooperstown, New York, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame.  That presents an interesting contrast.  The minor leaguers are all hoping to reach the Majors, though only a few of them will truly make it.  Minor league baseball is fun, especially after spending a week of watching Major League games.  The ballparks are much smaller, and the fans are closer to the action.  There is a thrill to watching the games and wondering which players I will hear of in the future, particularly as I can see the difference in how the game is played.  You can see the players are still learning the finer points of the game, particularly with their judgment of the strike zone.  Minor league ball is a lot of fun.
The contrast is to go from there to the Hall of Fame, which honors those players who played at the highest level and achieved the most.  Each one of them was once a minor leaguer who hoped to make it.  (There are rare exceptions such as Al Kaline, who never played in the minors.)  Writing about that contrast makes me think of our devotion to the saints.  They are the ones we would like to emulate, and they are where we hope to end up.  If we are honest with ourselves, most of us would have to admit that we are still in the minor leagues when it comes to following God.  But if we do not make the “Hall of Fame” of canonized saints, we do know that God will lead us to His kingdom, where we can enjoy His eternal glory.
So again, please continue to pray that I may have safe travels and a refreshing vacation and may be ready to return to work on Saturday.  And now, if you will excuse me, I’m going to the hotel’s swimming pool.
               Father H

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 20, 2014

What?  You didn’t expect to hear from me?  Consider this my postcard.  My general practice is that while I am away on vacation, my column is about my vacation experiences (with some attempt to make a spiritual point).  Of course I cannot be too detailed since I have to write these columns before I actually go on my vacation.  But although I am composing this column before I leave, please imagine that I am writing to you from pool-side at my hotel.
Actually, I probably won’t spend much time by the pool.  My vacations are usually pretty frenetic – at least during the first week.  Ever since 1997, I have centered the main portion of my vacation around baseball.  That year I decided to pick a Major League ballpark that I had not seen and go spend a weekend watching a couple of games.  Since then my baseball trip has expanded to a week-long adventure.  I do tourist-type things (museums, historical attractions and such) during the day, and I usually attend five or six baseball games while I am there.  So each year I plan my trip by looking at when I can get two weeks off, and then I compare the schedules of the Major League teams whose current ballparks I have not yet seen.  This year I am spending my time at Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Chase Field is my thirty-second park for big league baseball, including Forbes Field, Three Rivers Stadium and PNC Park here in Pittsburgh.  By my latest count, there are eleven teams whose parks I have not seen, some of whom I have seen in facilities that are now closed.  That means that if no new parks open and if I continue to do one per year, I should complete the circuit in 2026.  Meanwhile, I am looking forward to visiting Phoenix.  As of this writing, I’m not sure what I will see, but it’s always fun to visit a city’s tourism web site and pick some possibilities.  And I would think of Phoenix as a fantasy come true, except that my fantasies about Phoenix usually occur during the winter.  I admit that I do not have a full appreciation for all of God’s creation, and I find it harder to recognize the beauty of God’s handiwork in the middle of winter.  At some point every winter I find myself wondering what it would be like to live in Phoenix.  On the other hand, I love the hot weather.  Still, even I will probably appreciate air conditioning on this trip, where the temperatures routinely hit 100 this time of year.
So perhaps, in an attempt to include a spiritual point, I will simply turn to an old joke.  One Sunday morning in the middle of summer, people gathered in an old church that did not have air conditioning.  A few of them let the priest know that they wouldn’t object if he skipped the homily, but he told them that the homily is an integral part of Mass and should not be overlooked.  Instead, he gave them this homily: “Today is the hottest day of the year, and by the time this Mass is over it will be the hottest time of the day.  Just remember that there is one place hotter than this.  Stay out of it.”

                                                                       Father H

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 6, 2014

When we get to the Fourth of July, we can definitely say that summer is in full swing.  It is nice to have this time of year when things slow down a bit.  I know I was looking forward to summer in a special way this year.  I arrived in the parish in late April, when we were in the midst of First Communions and graduations and many other such events, including some one-shot deals such as Fr. O’Brien’s golden anniversary, Fr. Russell’s 80th birthday and Zach Galiyas’ ordination to the diaconate.  In the midst of all that, I was trying to learn such simple things as which key gets me into the sacristy.  So it feels good to slow down, but there are still some important events.  Today I would like to look ahead to two things that are happening next weekend.
Next Sunday, July 13, is our annual Parish Picnic at Fairhaven Park.  We will begin with Mass at 1:00 at the park, with help from our Contemporary Choir, and then there will be an afternoon of fun and food.  Thanks to the Knights of Columbus, there will be typical picnic fare, including hamburgers and hot dogs.  There will be games for the kids, and there will be games for the adults.  The latter includes Bingo, and I will probably try calling a game or two, as has been the practice of the pastor here.
It often seems that a parish schedules different events as fundraisers, trying to keep their heads above water.  That is an important task, but it is nice to have something that is simply a “fun raiser” or a “friend raiser.”  The idea of this picnic is to bring our parish together to have a good time and to get to know one another a little better.  Please come and join us for a pleasant afternoon at the parish picnic.
The other event next weekend is the annual Mission Appeal.  It is the practice of our diocese for each parish to take one weekend and welcome a representative of some group that does missionary work.  This is a fundraiser for that group, as they take a second collection at the Masses, but it is also an opportunity for us to learn about what conditions are like elsewhere in the world.  More than that, by our donations we take part in the work of the Church in other areas.  Next weekend we welcome the Sister Servants of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus to speak at all Masses and to take up a special second collection.  Thank you in advance for your generosity.
So despite the slower pace of summer, we have some times to remember here at St. Malachy.  Thank you for your support of our parish.  And please pray for good weather for our picnic.  See you there.

Father H