Saturday, June 27, 2015

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - June 28, 2015

We often think of summer as a time of rest and relaxation. It is a time when things quiet down and we can enjoy some simple pleasures. For many of us, summer brings to mind the image of sitting on a beach or beside a pool with a tall glass of lemonade and some light reading. I have known a number of people who say that summer is a time for some “trashy novel.” I would like to offer a thought on light reading that isn’t quite so trashy. Please keep two points in mind. First, this list is not comprehensive at all.  These are just a few writers whom I have enjoyed and who offer a perspective of faith.  Secondly, in keeping with summer, this is a list of light reading such as you can do at the beach, so I won’t include some of the heavier works of spirituality.

Let me start with my absolute favorite author, C. S. Lewis.  As profound as Lewis is, he is really very easy and entertaining to read. His most famous works are either his children’s series The Chronicles of Narnia or his wonderful spiritual work The Screwtape Letters. That latter work was the first book that made me realize that spiritual reading could, in fact, be fun. For adventure, consider his “space trilogy,” Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra and That Hideous Strength.

Those who enjoy Lewis may also enjoy Lewis’ close friend J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The movie version of The Lord of the Rings is one of the best cinematic adaptations of a book that I have ever seen. (I won’t say the same for the movie version of The Hobbit.) Another possibility is G. K. Chesterton, whom some have called “The apostle of common sense.” Among his lighter works would be an unusual story called The Man who was Thursday. If you enjoy detective stories, consider his Father Brown mysteries in which it is a simple priest who solves the mysteries.

I once took part in a seminar on Christian literature in which I was asked to lead the session on C. S. Lewis. That seminar introduced me to the writings of Catholic authors Graham Greene and Flannery O’Connor, both of whom offer some interesting insights. In addition, I have enjoyed seeing faith from the Jewish perspective in the writings of Chaim Potok, especially such novels as The Chosen, The Promise and My Name is Asher Lev.

Again, summer reading is often for relaxation and entertainment. Not every book we read has to be explicitly spiritual. C. S. Lewis once said that “Christian fiction” simply meant fiction written by a Christian, as he believed that faith would inform the writer’s storytelling. So even simple light reading can involve books with a positive message. I greatly enjoyed J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, for instance, with its battle of good against evil. And lately I have been enjoying the mysteries of Agatha Christie.

As I said above, this list is just a sample of the ways we can some pleasant, relaxing reading in during these summer months while still nurturing our faith.
                                        Father H

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time - June 21, 2015

Next Saturday morning, June 27, Bishop Zubik will ordain six new priests for the Diocese of Pittsburgh at St. Paul Cathedral. One of them is our own Zachary Galiyas. The next day, Sunday June 28, Fr. Zachary Galiyas (I’m trying to get into the habit of referring to him by his soon-to-be title of “Father”) will celebrate his Mass of Thanksgiving, his “First Mass,” at 2:00 in our church.

I cannot help but think of a story I remember from my own days in the seminary. Each year we were assigned to various forms of ministry. One year I went once a week to Camp Hill State Prison. One day I was walking around the cell block when one of the prisoners noticed my Roman collar and asked if I was a priest. I told him that I wasn’t yet a priest but that I was studying to be ordained. He then asked how long it took, so I told him that I had just finished four years of college seminary and was starting on four years of Theology. He noted, “That’s eight years!” I admitted that his math was correct, and he shook his head and said, “Man, that’s how long I’m in for.” I had to laugh and tell him that sometimes it felt that way.

I know most seminarians reach a point where ordination day seems so far off. I’m sure Fr. Galiyas has felt that way at times. He has gone through a long time of training and preparing. It is not all academic, of course. He has had a lot of classroom work, but the seminary has prepared him for various forms of ministry and has helped to shape his spirituality. Any of us who know him know that Fr. Galiyas is a man of deep prayer. I know he is very eager to get down to work in whatever parish the bishop sends him to, and he will be eager to experience all the joys of priesthood.

While I offer my congratulations to Fr. Galiyas, I also offer my congratulations to his parents, Mitch & Mary Galiyas. I remember my parents meeting Cardinal Wuerl once when he was still Bishop of Pittsburgh, and he thanked them for giving their son to the Church. Mom responded, “We didn’t give him; it was his idea.” But the openness to a vocation needs a faith that is nourished by our parents. Mitch and Mary and their whole family have a lot to be thankful for as they rejoice with their son. And the same is true for our entire parish. We rejoice with Fr. Galiyas, and we are thankful that we have played a part in his formation. I say “we,” of course, even though he was ready to be ordained a deacon when I arrived here. But in any event, we will always be happy to say, “We knew him when.”

Most importantly, this is a big day for the entire Church. I always say that there is no shortage of vocations to the priesthood. There is, however, a shortage of young men hearing and responding to God’s call. Please pray for vocations, and please pray for Fr. Zachary Galiyas as he begins his priestly ministry. If he experiences even half of the joys that I have experienced, he will be very happy indeed.
                                                                                                                       Father H

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time - June 14, 2015

While I usually like to take one topic and develop it through my column, there are occasions when I want to write about a number of different things, even if in less detail than usual. Sometimes it is the result of having several things come up at the same time. Sometimes it is because I want to clean out a number of things that have been piling up. And sometimes it is because I’m not sure what to write about. I will leave it to you to guess which is true in this case.

First of all, I want to thank everyone who has pledged to Our Campaign for the Church Alive, the capital campaign that Bishop Zubik promoted a couple of years ago. The campaign is still running since the pledges are still being paid. So although I was not here for the pledge period, when we were asking for money, I am here as the money comes in. If you have given, thank you for that gift. If you are still paying off your pledge, thank you and please keep up the good work. And with that, the next couple of items in my column are some of the ways St. Malachy benefits from your generosity.

You will notice that there is work happening on the hill outside Father Weirauch Hall. Thanks to the campaign, we are well on the way to realizing a long-standing wish for the parish. We will soon have a handicap walkway into our parish hall. It is a project that has to be done in parts, but it should be ready in time for the Parish Nationality Festival in October.

This week we also began work on repairing the fascia of the church. As beautiful as our church is, I couldn’t help but notice the flaws in the fascia when I was preparing to move in last year. This work should keep the roof safe and, with a good painting, make the building look even more inviting.

On a different note, I will be away from Monday through Friday this week for my annual retreat. Canon law requires every priest to make a retreat each year. But as the old saying goes, “It’s not just the law, it’s a good idea.” We all need to take time to get back to what matters and to remind ourselves that there is nothing more important than our faith as a relationship with Christ. I like to make my annual retreat during the summer, when school is out and the activities slow down a bit. Perhaps that would be a good suggestion for everyone, to take some time during this summer (even if it is just a few minutes here and there) for prayer and reflection. As I am doing this week, I always enjoy going back to the seminary where I studied for the priesthood, Mount St. Mary in Emmitsburg, Maryland. So please be aware that I will not be available during this coming week.

And speaking of school being out, don’t forget that our annual Vacation Bible School will take place the following week, June 22-26. This will be a great time for students, from age three through fifth grade, to grow closer to God through a week of fun and games. It will also be our “last hurrah” for our retiring Catechetical Administrator, Joanne Swank. Thanks again for everything, Joanne.
                                                                                                              Father H

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) - June 7, 2015

I’m not much for getting into debates, and so I rarely feel tempted to write letters to the editor. But a few years ago there was a letter in the newspaper that I felt compelled to respond to. The letter was published when we were preparing for the new English translation of the liturgy. Essentially, the letter writer’s point was that with all the social justice issues in the world, the bishops had more important things to worry about than what we said in church. I just had to write my response to the effect that there is nothing more important. What we do at Mass is far and away the most important activity that we do.

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, still frequently known by its Latin name of Corpus Christi. This day commemorates the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper and the importance of the Eucharist in our Church. In the words of the Second Vatican Council’s document Lumen gentium, which I quoted in my letter to the editor, the Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.” By referring to it as the summit, the Council made the point that nothing we do matters more than our celebration and reception of the Eucharist. By also noting that it is the source, the Council reminded us that everything we do has to come from our reliance on Christ. It is important for us to build up the kingdom of God in this world by working for just causes. But unless we remain rooted in Christ, then our human weakness takes over and our good intentions fall short.

That is why it is important for the Church to make sure that we celebrate the Eucharistic liturgy as well as possible. That is also why we have a special day to remind us of the importance of the Blessed Sacrament. The Mass is something we do every Sunday, which means that it may become rather routine to us. One of the traditional features of this feast is time for adoration with a public procession of the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance. We will have Exposition at the end of the 11:00 Mass this Sunday, with the procession to a temporary altar in the gym, beginning at 2:30. Please consider joining us for this public witness to the importance of the Eucharist. And please pray for good weather so that we can indeed be public by having the procession outside.

As the Eucharist is also the source of the Christian life, then the feast of Corpus Christi is also a good time to recognize those who put their faith into action. For the Diocese of Pittsburgh, it is a time to present the Manifesting the Kingdom award. Every couple of years, Bishop Zubik recognizes one person or one couple from each parish for their efforts to build the kingdom of God. This year’s awardees from St. Malachy are Dan and Linda Trocchio. I take this opportunity to thank them for the way they take the gift of the Eucharist and put it into action in their lives, particularly for all they do for our parish and school.

                                                                               Father H

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Most Holy Trinity - May 31, 2015

Recently, as I was teaching one of my classes at our school, I asked the kids if they still used the end-of-the-year rhyme that we grew up with. Mr. Walker said that rhyme was finally dying out, and he didn’t want me to perpetuate it. So I kept it to mayself. For those who may not know it, it was, “No more pencils, no more books. No more teachers’ dirty looks.”

I truly love being involved with the parish school. I have been blessed to be with schools all my priesthood, and the clergy office told me that they knew they had to assign me to a parish with a school when I was last up for transfer. But I have to admit that as much as I love school, one of my favorite days is the last day of school. In fact, being involved with a school makes summer even more of a break. Even when I’m not away on my own vacation, I can tell that things are a little quieter and less hectic. I look at this time as a gift from God to refresh and renew us.

So let me take a moment to look at this coming week. On Wednesday afternoon, our Kindergarten children will finish their year and get ready to move on to first grade. Even for those who have been in pre-school, this year has been an experience of learning what school is all about. Then Wednesday evening we have the eighth grade graduation Mass. Many of our sixteen graduates have been in our school since kindergarten. They are now getting ready to move on to high school and take the next step in their education.

For everyone in between kindergarten and eighth grade, the big day is Friday. They will be back with us next year and will welcome new students to our school. In fact, it looks very much like our enrollment will actually go up a bit next year, making us one of the few schools in the diocese to achieve an increase in enrollment. That is a very real blessing that is one factor in allowing us to hold the line on costs, with no increase in tuition for next year. But I’m getting ahead of myself. The children in St. Malachy School aren’t ready yet to think about the fall. They have a summer ahead of them, and they richly deserve a vacation. And even if they don’t richly deserve it, their teachers certainly do.

So as I conclude my first full school year at St. Malachy, I want to thank our excellent principal, Mrs. Escovitz, and a wonderful faculty. They have shown a true concern for their students and a professional approach toward their jobs. I thank the support staff for all that they do to keep our school running smoothly. I thank the parents, grandparents and other volunteers who give of their time. I thank all the school families who have chosen St. Malachy for an excellent education for their children. Thanks to the entire parish for supporting the school as a vital part of our ministry. And of course, I thank the students themselves, who make our school so special. Have a great summer.

Don’t forget – you have a vacation from school, but church is open all summer. God never takes a vacation.

                                                                                                             Father H