Monday, October 27, 2014

Thirtieth Sunday In Ordinary Time - October 26, 2014

Happy Hallowe’en! This Friday is the day when ghosts and goblins come out and scare us – or at least when they ring doorbells and ask for candy. It can be a fun holiday, though (and here I realize that I’m about to sound like an old fogy) it seems to me that it has become a much bigger deal than it should be. I was in a store on my vacation in July, and they already had Hallowe’en decorations for sale.

By way of explanation, did you notice that I still spell Hallowe’en with the apostrophe? The apostrophe is quite uncommon these days, but I intend to keep it. The name “Hallowe’en” is originally a contraction for “All Hallows E’en,” or the Eve of All Saints Day. In other words, the popular day for dressing up and getting free candy is not nearly as important as the Holy Day that comes immediately after it. For me, the apostrophe is a reminder to let Hallowe’en go and to concentrate on All Saints Day on November 1 and the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (“All Souls Day”) on November 2.

It may seem odd to preface All Saints Day with a day that focuses on the macabre – witches, graveyards, goblins and the like. Yet if we do not forget its context as the Eve of All Hallows Day, then it can even make sense as a Christian celebration. Hallowe’en can remind us that we need not fear the ghosts and the goblins, for Christ has won salvation for us. So Hallowe’en has become a time of fun at the devil’s expense. In fact, many spiritual writers have told us that humor is one of the best ways to deal with the devil. C. S. Lewis, in The Screwtape Letters, describes a devil for whom everything must be austere and serious, for he rejects joy and laughter as God’s gifts. So G. K. Chesterton said, “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly. Never forget that the devil fell by force of gravity.”

So I intend to keep the apostrophe in “Hallowe’en.” (When I used a PC, WordPerfect’s spell checker accepted it with the apostrophe.) That apostrophe helps me keep a perspective when I see someone’s yard filled with fake tombstones or statues of witches and ghosts. It reminds me that our destiny is that which we celebrate on All Saints Day, to share the glorious Beatific Vision of God in the eternal joy of heaven. No ghost could possibly scare us when we remember that we are called to share the Resurrection of the Lord. As long as we make All Saints Day a priority, we can enjoy the silly little holiday that comes before. So Happy Hallowe’en, complete with the apostrophe.  Oh, and while I’m at it: Boo!

On a practical note, when All Saints Day falls on a Saturday, we are excused from the obligation to attend Mass. For those who want to come, we will have a Mass this Saturday morning at 9:00. Also, the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed takes precedence over a Sunday in Ordinary Time. So the Masses next Saturday night and Sunday morning will be for All Souls Day.

                                                                                                               Father H

Monday, October 20, 2014

Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time - October 19, 2014

       My first days in the seminary were an exciting time for me as an 18-year-old college freshman. In addition, it was an exciting time for the Church on a broader scale. Pope Paul had died just a few weeks before, and my first full day of orientation was the day that the Conclave elected Pope John Paul I. Little could we imagine that the new pope would live only 33 days before a sudden heart attack would force yet another Conclave and the election of a the first non-Italian pope in 455 years.

        As one who always enjoyed the study of history, I found myself fascinated with these changes in the papacy. I came to see that during much of the Church’s history, the popes had been frequently weak of sometimes corrupt, and that the papacy had been at the center of many power struggles. All of that helped me recognize what an amazing time we lived in. In modern times the Catholic Church has been led by some of the most dynamic and effective leaders in its history. More importantly, we have been led by some of the holiest and most prayerful leaders.

        This is a good time to reflect on these holy men, as this month we celebrate the feast days of two of our newest saints, Pope St. John XXIII and Pope St. John Paul II. St. John was an older man when he was elected in 1958, and no one expected anything more than a caretaker pope. Yet moved by the Holy Spirit, St. John called the Second Vatican Council, which created such a renewal in the Church. St. John Paul, as Bishop Karol Wojtyla, was a very active participant in the Council. As pope, he consolidated many of the developments of the Council and set a direction for the Church that will continue to influence us for generations. Both were canonized earlier this year. St. John’s feast day is October 11, the anniversary of the opening of the Council. St. John Paul’s feast day is coming up this Wednesday, October 22, which is the anniversary of his liturgical installation as pope.

         Sometimes overlooked is the important figure who stood in between those two giants. This Sunday in Rome, Pope Francis will preside over the beatification of Pope Paul VI. As Archbishop Giovanni Montini, he had a clear vision of the Church, which he would discuss with his friend, Cardinal Angelo Roncalli. When Roncalli became Pope John XXIII, Montini’s vision became part of what St. John relied upon in calling the Vatican Council. When St. John died after the first session of the Council, Montini was the obvious choice for a successor to bring the Council to completion. He dedication to ecumenism and his decision to be the first pope in many years to travel outside of Rome both influenced St. John Paul. So while in many ways Pope Paul is overlooked in comparison to those who came before and after, I find this to be a very joyous day. Today we can pray, “Blessed Paul VI, pray for us.”

                                                                                                                            Father H

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time - October 12, 2014

     My father always enjoyed taking family pictures, and for many years he took slides instead of prints. The good thing about slides was that we could all see the pictures at the same time. One of us would see a picture and remember something about it, and then someone else would add a few more details. I ended up with some good “memories” of things I had not even been present for. Those memories mean so much to me that a few years ago I scanned all of my father’s slides (about 8,000 or so from about thirty years) onto my computer.
     Looking at old photos can be a good way to grow closer to our families. Something similar happens when we bring out the important stories of our faith and share them together. This month of October is dedicated in a special way to the Rosary. When we pray the Rosary, we can think of it as setting up the projector and bringing out the pictures. For in the Rosary, we contemplate the great mysteries of our faith. We see the live of Christ, from His Incarnation up through the Paschal Mystery of His Passion, Death and Resurrection. We see them not as a story from the distant past but as part of our own history. In the Nativity, Christ came to share our humanity completely and to be part of our human family. We share the life of the Risen Christ through the Salvation He has brought to us. The mysteries of the Rosary tell us our story.
     As a slideshow lets us share memories, so in the Rosary, we contemplate the mysteries of our faith by joining with the Blessed Virgin Mary. The repetition of the “Hail, Mary” can quiet our minds and help us set aside all the distractions of life so that we can focus better on the various mysteries. By using the “Hail, Mary,” we invite the Blessed Mother to watch with us. We get Mary’s perspective. The faith and dedication that led her to accept God’s call helps us to see more deeply what a gift we are receiving.
     In the Joyful Mysteries of Jesus’ birth as Mary’s Son, we see that Christ shares our life in every way. In 2002, Pope St. John Paul asked us to include a new set of five decades known as the Luminous Mysteries, from the word for “light.” These mysteries are events that shed light on the person of Christ. Through His ministry, He demonstrated who He was and showed Himself to us as “the Light of the World.” The Sorrowful Mysteries show us the depth of Christ’s love for us in that He would not abandon us, even at the cost of death. And finally, the Glorious Mysteries tie it all together by showing us Christ’s final triumph over sin and death. As we include Mary’s Assumption into heaven, we recall that we too are called to follow the way of Christ to everlasting life.
     St. John Paul II said, “The Rosary, though clearly Marian in character, is at heart a Christ-centered prayer.” We meditate on these mysteries of Christ, but with the Blessed Mother to guide us. So during October, we have the invitation to look at our family pictures as a sign of God’s love.
                                                                          Father H

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time - October 5, 2014

       “Congress is so strange; a man gets up to speak and says nothing, nobody listens, and then everybody disagrees.” I was recently looking at some quotations by American humorist and commentator Will Rogers concerning politics in his days. Rogers claimed that those in Congress “are all good fellows at heart, and if they wasn’t in Congress, why, they would be doing something else against us that might be even worse.” The truth is that as long as the American government has been going, people have been complaining about it. Yet our political system has worked well (on the whole) for years. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill once said, “Democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried.”
Despite the advantages of our form of government, it does not translate over to the running of a parish. About forty years ago, there was a move within the Church to establish Parish Councils in each parish. Most of these bodies were based on a model that is familiar to us through politics. Elections were held, often with the parish boundaries divided up into districts so that each area could have its own representative. Meetings were run by parliamentary procedure, featuring Robert’s Rules of Order, and most decisions were reached by majority vote.
          A few years ago, the Diocese of Pittsburgh revamped its policies for such groups. Parish Councils were gone, to be replaced by “Pastoral Councils.” The difference was more than just a few letters. A Pastoral Council was not to be a debating society where each member argued for his own position or that of his constituents. The group was to look at the big picture, to help form a vision for the parish and to help the pastor set goals for the parish and to evaluate the parish’s progress toward those goals. In doing so, they were to work by achieving consensus. While a good Pastoral Council will get involved in certain tasks, theirs is more the task of working from a broader perspective.
Taking a less “political” approach to their business, the Pastoral Council also does not hold elections. Currently, our Council is looking for new members to step in for those whose terms are expiring. We are currently taking suggestions of people whom our parishioners may like to see on the Council. The current members, both those who are leaving and those who will remain, have begun the process and have suggested a number of good names. Now we would like to open it up to others. If you know of someone whom you think would be an asset to the parish in the circumstances I described, please let me know or else contact one of the current members. You can call our current facilitator, Terry Neary, at 412-715-4418.    
                                                                                                             Father H