Sunday, September 27, 2015

Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time - September 27, 2015

This has been an exciting time, with Pope Francis visiting the United States for the first time in his papacy. I know of some people who have been making plans to travel to Philadelphia to be part of the festivities. On the other hand, I know some priests from the Allentown area who are planning on going the other direction in order to be away from the traffic and the chaos. If only there were a way to experience the thrill without the inconvenience.

Here is a way that you can experience the thrill of travel without any of the inconvenience. Okay, you figured me out. What I’m really trying to accomplish here is to give a commercial for the annual St. Malachy Parish Nationality Festival. No, Pope Francis will not be coming (although he would certainly be welcome). But the St. Malachy Nationality Festival gives us a chance to experience some of the excitement of other cultures, at least in a culinary sense, and still sleep in our own beds at night. And the festival is much more affordable than traveling to Europe.

There are a number of ways I could look at our festival. Obviously, this is an important fundraiser for our parish. As my responsibility to the parish includes making sure that we can pay our bills and keep everything in good shape, I have to look at the festival in terms of what kind of profit we make. But there is much more to the festival than the so-called bottom line. This is also a chance for us to enjoy one another’s company and to work together and play together.

As important as fundraisers are to a parish (and to a parish’s school), it is just as important that we build up our community. This festival is an excellent time to come together and to enjoy one another’s company. It is a time to spend time with one another in a social setting. The festival gives us an opportunity to meet others in our community, and frequently people will bring friends and family from outside the parish to enjoy a good meal.

Many parishes have festivals that offer games (for adults and for kids) and entertainment. Most of them offer food as part of the experience. Ours features the food as the primary part of the experience. Last year I found that I could have something different every day and still not get a meal from each and every booth. I don’t think I hit any of the booths more than once. Okay, I was a frequent visitor to the cookie booth, but I mean that I didn’t have a main meal from the same booth more than once. Last year I was eager to taste the wares of the German booth, and I took care of that as soon as the festival opened. I kept wanting to go back for more, but I had to offer my support to other booths as well. No, that was not a sacrifice since I enjoyed the others just as much. But I can promise that I am planning on hitting the German booth again this year. Three of my four grandparents were German (the Hissrich, Gall and Maass families), so I plan on celebrating my heritage.

So I look forward to seeing you at the parish festival this coming week. And as you’re looking for a parking place, just remind yourself that this is much easier than seeing Pope Francis in Philadelphia.
                       Father H                  

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time - September 20, 2015

I remember a Peanuts comic strip in which Charlie Brown was so tired of school that he threatened to quit. He wanted to grow up to be a baseball manager, so he did not think he needed a lot of schooling. Violet reminded him that he had to know his math or else he wouldn’t know if he had enough players on his team. So Charlie Brown responded, “Okay, I’ll go to school until I learn to count to nine, and then I’ll quit.”

Charlie Brown shows us that most people think of education as a means to a specific end. We have come to judge a person’s education by whether that person is able to get a good job coming out of school, and we urge students to study subjects that will prepare them for a career. Certainly that should be one of the aims of education, but it should be so much more. A thorough education should have an effect beyond making us employable. Studies such as literature, art and music can make us well-rounded individuals who can live full human lives and not simply contribute to the economic life of the society.

Beyond all of that, our ultimate goal is eternal life with Christ in heaven. The goal of every one of us is to become a saint, and we need an education that will help us to reach that end. To recognize that goal, we celebrate today as Catechetical Sunday. Today we honor those within our parish who give so much of their time and talent to our parish’s Religious Education program. Our CCD program (along with our school) is at the heart of our Religious Education efforts to help shape our young people in the faith. For those public school students who come to our classrooms once a week, religious education should not be just another subject that they have to learn. It should be the one subject that touches the heart of who they are as people created by God. What they receive in CCD should shape the way that they look at all of their other subjects. It should help them see that they are more than just potential wage-earners; like all of us, they are saints in the making.

This year’s theme for Catechetical Sunday is “Safeguarding the Dignity of Every Human Person.” I see that theme as way of looking beyond any merely utilitarian understanding of our humanity. Archbishop Leonard Blair, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, states, “This year’s theme reminds us that the dignity of each human person rests in the biblical teaching (Gen 1:26-27) that he or she is made in God’s image and likeness.” All of our teaching, in CCD or our parish school, in our Baptism classes and our RCIA, in our St. Malachy Speakers Series and in everything else we do, is an attempt to give us deeper insight into what our lives are all about. We are God’s people. We are learning to be saints. On this Catechetical Sunday, I offer my thanks to Catechetical Administrator Steve Swank, to our volunteer catechists and to all who promote the Christian dignity of everyone entrusted to our pastoral care.                              
                                                                            Father H                

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time - September 13, 2015

Occasionally newspaper columnists do not focus on one topic, but rather clean out their files with a number of short topics. They often have a clever way of introducing such a column. I’m missing the clever introduction, but here is my series of disjointed topics.

Be sure to join us this Wednesday evening for the first session of the St. Malachy Speaker Series featuring Father Joe Mele and his presentation on Pope Francis. With the Pope soon to visit the United States (albeit on the wrong end of Pennsylvania), this is a particularly timely topic. The basic format for these evenings is for the speaker to give us his wisdom for about forty-five minutes, followed by time for questions. At the end there will be a light social. So please come and hear Fr. Mele, and keep an eye on the bulletin for future installments of the Speaker Series.

Our Festival is rapidly approaching, and I am grateful for all the people who donate so much time and energy to this big event. But one area where we could use some help is with the pierogis, both for the Festival and the Fish Fry. We have some great volunteers and could use some more, and we also need someone who can coordinate the volunteer efforts so that we make the best use of our resources. Those pierogis are delicious and are a huge moneymaker, but they are labor intensive. If you think you can help, please call the rectory. And for anyone who would like to volunteer without being in charge, there will be opportunities to pinch pierogis for the Festival on September 21 and 22. September 22 is the day we could especially use some help.

I have a special personal request. If you are going into the hospital, please consider calling the rectory (or having a family member call) to let us know. I would love to visit parishioners in the hospital, but especially with privacy laws as they are now, it is often hard to know who is where. And don’t forget to tell us which hospital. When I was first ordained, I was sent up to Ohio Valley because the woman who called just said that her mother was in “the hospital” and needed to be anointed. I often said that in my first anointing call, we lost the patient. “She didn’t die,” I would say, “I mean we literally lost her.”

Have you considered the benefits of electronic giving for our parish? We do so much banking on-line these days, and most of us have found it to be a great convenience. St. Malachy is set up to take donations to our Sunday offertory program on-line. There are several options on how you can have it work, including an automatic debit so that you have one fewer detail to remember.

Now for one final quiz. Close your eyes and see if you can remember the different topics I have covered in today’s Ponderings. And if you didn’t get them all, don’t feel bad. I’m not sure I would have remembered them all, either.                                          
                                        Father H                  

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time - September 6, 2015

I have seen it on numerous bumper stickers over the years: “The worst day fishing (or some other activity) is better than the best day at work.” We all have days when we feel that way, when our jobs frustrate us or when we would like to be somewhere else. If I take the sticker too literally, however, I find myself saddened that someone would feel that way. We spend a good deal of our time at our jobs, and I (who have been blessed to do something I love) have a hard time imagining what it would be like to feel that my work was something I had to endure.

As we celebrate Labor Day this week, we take it as a time to honor those who have worked and sacrificed to promote better working conditions for laborers. As Catholics, we can be proud of our heritage. In 1891, at a time when many religious leaders were urging workers not to organize, Pope Leo XIII wrote an encyclical entitled Rerum Novarum (translated “concerning new things”) in which he affirmed the rights of labor to organize and to work for living wages and proper conditions. This encyclical was the beginning of a strong tradition of Catholic social teaching in other areas, though labor continued to be an important aspect of the teaching.

Such reflections have given rise to a deeper understanding of what our labor is all about. In the Second Vatican Council, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes) stated, “Far from thinking that works produced by man’s talent and energy are in opposition to God’s power, and that the rational creature exists as a kind of rival to the Creator, Christians are convinced that the triumphs of the human race are a sign of God’s grace and the flowering of His own mysterious design.” So as we celebrate Labor Day, we begin to see that our work allows us to share in God’s creative power. We can see that gift in the nurse who brings God’s comfort and healing power to the sick, but we can also see it in the men on the smelly truck who take our garbage. We can see it in the teachers in our schools, but we can also see it in the student who, after school, helps us overcome our hunger by asking, “Do you want fries with that?” We can see it in those who do not get paid for their work – the stay-at-home-mom, who does so much for her family and gets so little recognition or thanks, the retired couple who babysit their grandchildren or those who are sick or elderly and who cannot do much beyond the important work of praying for all of us.

In a poem entitled “Two Tramps in Mud Time,” Robert Frost describes a man chopping wood when two tramps come up who want the job simply because they need the money. While recognizing their need, Frost concludes the poem: “But yield who will to their separation, / My object in living is to unite / My avocation and my vocation / As my two eyes make one in sight. / Only where love and need are one, / And the work is play for mortal stakes, / Is the deed ever really done / For Heaven and the future’s sakes.”

                                                    Father H