Sunday, July 26, 2015

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 26, 2015

Last week’s column served as a “pictureless postcard” from my annual summer vacation. This week I am doing the same thing as I am on my second week of vacation. I will return to the parish on Friday night, and in the meantime I am still relaxing and recreating. (Of course, this note was written before I left on vacation. So if I get rich by panning for gold while in California, I won’t be able to tell you until I get back.)

Last week I mentioned that my vacations are generally filled with activity. But I usually save time for quiet relaxation while I am away. One way I do that is by visiting family. Since I was planning on going out west on my trip, I decided to see if I could get my sister in Provo, Utah to invite me to stay with her for a few days. Fortunately, Barb kind of likes me, so she happily agreed to let me visit. And the time I spend in Utah will be much quieter and move at a much slower pace than my time in California.

That is not to say that Barb is not planning some fun things for me. For one thing, she knows my obsession with baseball. And while she does not share my excitement at a good ballgame, she provides opportunities for me to see the games. In the language of those who counsel people with addictions, Barb is an “enabler” for my baseball addiction. Last time I visited her, I saw minor league games in Orem and Salt Lake City. Moreover, she contacted a friend who knew a man in the neighborhood and arranged for me to visit. I spent a fascinating afternoon visiting with former Pirates legend Vernon Law, hero of the 1960 World Champion Pirates, listening to his baseball recollections. I even got a picture of myself with Law in which I was wearing his 1960 World Series ring. (He made sure I gave it back to him before I left.) Other times we have just taken walks or gone to the movies.

I don’t know what activities Barb has in store for me this trip, but I know it will be good to be with family. We don’t get together often enough, and it is good to visit and to enjoy one another’s company.

I realize that the purpose of this column is to keep you informed about parish life or to say something spiritual to help inspire you to follow Christ more closely. I usually try to find some spiritual point in describing my vacation in this forum. Today I will simply draw the analogy of taking time out of our busy schedule to visit with family and to share one another’s interests. God is like that with us. He is not watching over us like a taskmaster, trying to get us to do more or to work harder. Rather, He invites us to take time out of our busy schedules and to relax in His presence. He wants to share what we find important in this world that He created for us, and He wants to share with us His hopes and desires for us.

So please pray that I may have a relaxing and fun vacation and that I may return safely. I will see you next weekend.
                                               Father H      

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 19, 2015

Greetings from sunny California. As I write this, I am sitting in Pittsburgh and preparing for my vacation. By the time you read this, I will be in Anaheim. As is my custom, I write my column in advance before going on vacation, which means that I have to do a little guessing as to what I’m going to tell you. This is my postcard to you, complete with the phrase, “Having a wonderful time. Wish you were here.”

As you may be aware, I plan my vacation around Major League Baseball. Each year I choose one or two ballparks where I have never yet seen a game and go watch baseball. As you read this note, I am in Anaheim to see the Angels play three games at Angel Stadium. From here I go to San Diego, where I will see four Padres games at Petco Park. This brings my total of ballparks seen to 34, including of course Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field, Three Rivers Stadium and PNC Park. That leaves nine current parks for me to visit, though at least one team (Atlanta) is currently planning on building a new ballpark to add to my list.

In addition to the baseball, I enjoy touring the city. I usually do a web search for museums and other attractions. In fact, half the fun of vacation is in the anticipation and in trying to decide what I want to see and do at each place. I imagine that I will have to spend some time at Disneyland while in Anaheim. And while this is my first visit to Anaheim, I visited San Diego in 2003, the last year the Padres played at the old Jack Murphy Stadium. Among my activities that year was an afternoon bus ride to a foreign country. I can officially say that I visited Mexico, though saying I visited Mexico after an afternoon in Tijuana is like spending five minutes in the gift shop and saying that I had seen the Smithsonian Institute. I’m sure I will find many new things to do in San Diego, but there is one experience I was hoping to repeat. Last time I found a museum there dedicated to old computers, such as the Commodore 128 that I used when I was first ordained. Sadly, my Internet research tells me that this museum is no longer open.

Many people think of vacation as a time of rest. They probably think that my vacations are too frenetic. But for me, part of the vacation is the leisure to explore new things and new places, unencumbered by a schedule or by phone calls. As much as I love the daily activities of the priesthood, it is refreshing to get away and to do fun things. I consider my trip as a chance to discover more about the marvelous creation God has given to us. And yes, I enjoy the ballgames. As much as I love going to Pirates games, it is a fun change to go to a game where I am a neutral observer and don’t have to worry about whether my team wins or loses. Even that gives me a chance to be thankful to God for all His blessings to me.

So please pray for me during my vacation, and know that I look forward to resuming my ordinary activities – but not until I’ve had some extraordinary fun.
                                                                              Father H                

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 12, 2015

Did you ever adopt a “pagan baby”? To answer that question, or even to understand it, you would have to be at least around my age. In our days, we saved up money to send to the missions, where it would help small children overseas. In my school, and by my time, the whole program was not as much of a big deal. But there was a time when, after you had donated a certain amount of money, you got a certificate stating that you had adopted a particular child. You could even name the child after your favorite saint.

In an article published by Catholic News Service a couple of years ago, Oblate Father Andrew Small reflected on those days. Fr. Small said, “We can smile at it now at perhaps how silly it was. But, in fact, the entire program was rooted in a sense of solidarity and charity in the broadest understanding of the word. No one was, in fact, adopted or bought. Despite its apparent condescending tone at times, it instilled a radical sense of urgency in children that we are responsible for one another.” In other words, it was an attempt to explain our responsibility to one another in terms children could understand. Today, with more instantaneous communication, we can see images of children in other countries who are in need of help.

I write this in preparation for next weekend, when our parish will have its annual Mission Appeal. Every parish in the diocese, and in every diocese in our country as far as I am aware, hosts a visiting missionary once a year. That missionary tells about the work of his or her order or organization. There is then a special second collection to help the missionary work of the Church around the world. We are not only supporting a worthy cause; we are also expressing the unity of the Church throughout the world.

Next weekend we welcome Fr. Ken Breen of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy. Fr. Breen will speak about their community in Cuddaph, India. There is a great problem there of lost, abandoned and runaway children who are living in the streets. These children are vulnerable, and many of them are dealing with malnourishment and various diseases.

When supporting this mission appeal, please make any checks payable to St. Malachy Parish. We will forward the money to the diocese, and they will send it to them. This allows the diocese and our parish to keep records of how much is collected. So please do not make the check payable to the mission order. Besides, “St. Malachy” fits much better on the “Pay to the order of” line than “The Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy.”

On another note: When Fr. Breen’s superior called me to schedule the mission appeal, he told me that they are happy to help out by scheduling the appeal when the pastor is away. So please note that I will be leaving this Wednesday for my vacation. I will be back to work on Saturday, August 1.

                                                                                                         Father H                  

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 5, 2015

I may be a day late in wishing everyone a happy Fourth of July, but this is a holiday that can extend for the entire weekend, including any time off that anyone may have from work. So we take this time to honor our nation as, in the words of our National Anthem, “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

In our modern world, freedom essentially means that we can do what we want. If you have a job with a boss telling you what to do (as is true for most of us), that limits our freedom. Yet the scriptural understanding of freedom is somewhat different. As Fr. Robert Barron explains in his Catholicism series, “Freedom is not primarily a choice, but rather the shaping of desire so as to make the achievement of the good first possible and then effortless.” Fr. Barron explains with the example of Michael Jordan playing basketball. Jordan put in long hours of tedious practice, taking instructions from many coaches over the years, in order to be able to get on the court and play all parts of the game effortlessly. Thus he became, in Fr. Barron’s words, “the freest person every to play basketball.” So for us, freedom is coming to see what gifts God has given us and developing them as God intended us to use them.

One of the keys to that understanding of freedom is that we are part of a larger community. We can look at freedom selfishly, that I can do whatever I want. That understanding of freedom leads to such things as abortion, sexual exploitation and many other evils. On the other hand, a freedom that challenges us to see ourselves as brothers and sisters can lead us to reach out to those in need and to make sacrifices for worthy causes. I think of my parents’ generation, when our nation fought World War II. My father sacrificed four years by serving in the army. My mother and many others on the home front put up with rationing and other restrictions for the good of all. Alternately, we can think of John F. Kennedy’s challenge, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

Today’s thoughts do not just come from a reflection on Independence Day. I was away on retreat when the news broke that a resident of our neighborhood had been murdered. But after my return, I attended the meeting at the Kennedy Fire Hall in which our commissioners and our police department promoted crime prevention. Mr. Nicholson’s death seemed to be something of a wake-up call, and my of our residents were there. I had already written last week’s column, but I decided to comment this week. It was good to see so many people who wanted to make our community as safe as possible. Part of that process, they told us, is to look out for one another. The work of the police can be much easier if we are willing to do something as simple as to report any suspicious activity we might see. That willingness comes from a respect for one another. We are all in this together.                                                                                                                      Father H