Sunday, November 29, 2015

First Sunday of Advent - November 29, 2015

   A young woman went to see the doctor, who told her the news she was waiting for. She was pregnant. She and her husband were thrilled. But soon they began to talk about the changes in their lives and about the responsibilities that they would have to carry. And that was assuming that nothing went wrong. Soon, the pregnancy became a time of adjustment and preparation. But they never forgot the joy of the new life that was coming to them.

The season of Advent which we begin today has frequently been compared to pregnancy. On one level, that is obvious. We are just under four weeks away from Christmas. The image of Christ as a newborn baby obviously leads us to reflect on Mary’s pregnancy. Yet as the Church has structured our observance of Advent, this first part of the season is not so much about preparation for Christmas as it is for the Second Coming of Christ. We have a reminder that we live all our lives in a time of anticipation. As a family awaiting the birth of a child comes to feel that their home is not complete until the child arrives, so we know that our world is never complete until we live every moment of our lives in a total and complete devotion to God. Recognizing that we will never reach that state on earth, we live our whole lives in anticipation. Christ is coming, and we see that promise as something real in our lives.

To speak thus of Advent as a time of preparation can make us as nervous as a young couple expecting their first child. Yet at the same time, our faith in Christ gives us the certainty of His gift of salvation. So this Advent becomes a time of joy and hope, even as it becomes a time of preparation. We may see similarities between our observance of Advent and that of the Lenten season which prepares us for Easter, but there are real contrasts. In both seasons, we simplify the decorations and the celebration of the liturgy. For instance, we do not sing the “Glory to God” at Mass during these seasons. In Lent, that change is a sign of our penitential spirit. In Advent, these changes are meant to remind us that we are in preparation and that our celebration is not complete until Christ comes.

There is still a penitential spirit to this season, of course. As a family starts thinking about things like gates on the stairs to keep a young toddler safe, so we look to make our lives more fitting for Christ to come in. As we prepare to begin the “Year of Mercy” proclaimed by Pope Francis, many people will be coming to Confession. In addition to our regular time of Saturday afternoons from 3:00 to 3:45, we will join with all parishes in the diocese to sponsor “The Light is On For You,” when every parish will offer Confessions on Wednesday evening, December 9, from 6:00 to 9:00.

                                                                                                Father H                  

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Christ The King - November 22, 2015

Once on The Dick Van Dyke Show, Rob Petrie was asked to write a letter of recommendation for an old friend. To make it easier, the friend wrote the letter himself, and Rob only had to sign it. In the letter, the friend exaggerated his skills. He said, for instance, that he spoke four languages. As it turned out, he knew the word for “yes” in four languages. That got me to thinking that there are certain words that we generally know in a number of different languages. I take that as a sign that these are some of the most important expressions we have, if they become that familiar even in a foreign tongue. Take, for instance, words or phrases such as merci boucoup, grazie, danke schön or gracias. Everyone knows the English equivalent: “Thank you.”

Gratitude is so important to us. Primarily, we owe our gratitude to God, from Whom all good things come. So this Thursday, we have our special day for giving thanks to God for all His blessings. I have always loved the expression of thanks in a Preface to the Eucharistic Prayer available for weekday masses: “For, although you have no need of our praise, yet our thanksgiving is itself your gift, since our praises add nothing to your greatness but profit us for our salvation.” Gratitude to God helps us to be more open to His goodness in so many ways. In His love, He always wants the best for us.

In expressing our gratitude to God, we recognize that many of His gifts come from the love we show one another. So in thanking God, we also thank one another. I find that kind of gratitude especially important, for I am so thankful for the wonderful community that I have here at St. Malachy Parish. I get so many reminders of God’s blessing on a day-to-day basis, with the fantastic staff, with the volunteers in our parish liturgies and all our parish organizations, with the children of St. Malachy School and CCD who always bring a smile to my face, and all who make this such a wonderful parish for a priest to enjoy his ministry.

On a related note, since my mother’s death in 1992, my Thanksgiving tradition has been to celebrate the holiday with my sister in Fredericksburg, Virginia. So I will be away this week from Sunday afternoon through Friday evening.  But as our prayers center on thoughts of gratitude, please know that all of St. Malachy Parish will have a special place in my prayers this week.

Finally, I must admit that I used the Internet to make sure of my spelling of the French, Italian German and Spanish above, and I found quite a few others. So I address you now in various languages. In Hawaiian, Mahalo nui loa. In Hebrew, Toda raba. In Latin, Gracia tibi ago. In Norwegian, Takk. In Sanskrit, Anugurihiitosumi. And in Elvis, Thank you. Thank you very much.

                                                                                 Father H              

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time - November 15, 2015

During the week, I usually have lunch with the children in school. One day recently a young boy asked me about what it was like when I was his age, “back in the 1990s.” I let him know that he had to go back to the 1960s, and the look on his face showed his amazement that someone my age was still walking around. That helped prepare him for the shock of learning that I grew up in an age when we did not play video games.

It is always interesting to look back and see how things have changed. I recently read a book on the history of Commodore computers, having used a Commodore when I was first ordained. Among other things, the book reminded me to appreciate what we have today. Certainly there are dangers in today’s world that we never worried about when I was young. I wrote about some of the dangers in my Ponderings over the summer. But today I would like to offer some thoughts on resources that can be helpful for Catholics.

An obvious place to start for any Catholic is the local parish and diocese. We have a very helpful website at for the parish or for our school. If you are looking for information about some of our neighboring parishes, try the diocesan web site at

On a national level, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has a web site that I use just about every day. has the readings for Mass for every day, which I use for homily preparation, as well as the entire Bible that makes it easy to find a passage. For worldwide news, the Vatican’s website at Vatican.VA offers official Church messages. That can be helpful considering the way that Pope Francis’ message is often twisted in the secular media. And for travelers, is very helpful for finding where the local churches are and when they offer Mass.

For mobile devices, there are quite a few apps that are helpful. I should mention that I use Apple, so my familiarity is with apps for the iPhone and iPad, though I know that some of them are available for other devices. There is an app version of and of the Vatican web site. The daily readings and other prayers are available through the iMissal app. And one of the best overall apps, from what I have seen, is called Laudate. Laudate gives users the New American Bible (through the USCCB website) and the old Douay Rhiems Bible as well as the full text of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and quite a few official Vatican documents, including documents from the Second Vatican Council. There is quite a good selection of prayers (including a whole selection in Latin) and devotions and much more.

Again, all of this is just a selection of all that is out there, and I am only writing about things that I have used. The key point is that our modern technology can be a help to our faith. We have to be careful, but we can find some wonderful resources.

                                                                         Father H                  

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time - November 8, 2015

The famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright once commented, “There is nothing more uncommon than common sense.” Harriet Beecher Stowe said, “Common sense is seeing things as they are; and doing things as they ought to be.” According to Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Common sense is genius dressed in its working clothes.” Finally, Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas said, “Common sense often makes good law.” Perhaps that last quotation is the most important, for I would like to appeal to common sense in stating a policy for St. Malachy Parish.

I was once stationed in a temporary assignment, filling in for a pastor who was on a leave of absence. Quite a few people asked me about whether we could offer Holy Communion under both forms. When I asked why we were not doing it in the first place, I learned that the parish had quit offering the cup because of the fear of spreading germs. I was sympathetic to those who wanted the option, but I did not want to step on the pastor’s toes.

Here at St. Malachy, we do give the Precious Blood at Mass. Many people still feel comfortable receiving from the cup, and I do not want to deprive them of the opportunity. So I would like to ask you to use common sense when making the decision. If you have a cold or some other communicable illness, please refrain from receiving the Blood of Christ. And if you have any doubts, you need not receive the Precious Blood. There is great benefit to receiving in both forms. As the Vatican document Redemptionis Sacramentum states, “So that the fullness of the sign may be made more clearly evident to the faithful in the course of the Eucharistic banquet, lay members of Christ’s faithful, too, are admitted to Communion under both kinds.” But for those who do not wish to receive from the cup, we remember that St. Thomas Aquinas explained, “nothing is lost by the body being received by the people without the blood: because the priest both offers and receives the blood in the name of all, and the whole Christ is present under either species.” In other words, when we receive just the Body of Christ, we receive all that Christ has to offer us, while that fullness may be more evident when we receive under both forms. I want to continue giving the option of receiving from the cup, but I must ask you to use common sense during cold and flu season.

Finally, let me use this point to remind you that what we receive truly is the Body and Blood of Christ. Whatever your choice, please do not get into the habit of referring to the cup as “taking the wine.” It truly is the Precious Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that we receive.

                                                                                            Father H                  

Sunday, November 1, 2015

All Saints Day - November 1, 2015

Today we celebrate All Saints Day, an important enough feast that it takes the place of the regular Sunday celebration. Throughout the year, we celebrate feasts of saints who have been important figures in the history of the Church. Yet what about the many who have lived holy lives but in ordinary ways? What about those who have enjoy the perfect happiness of heaven but who are forgotten on earth? These countless men and women, including our own families and friends, are the saints we celebrate on All Saints Day.

Our devotion to the saints is a point that non-Catholics do not always understand. In trying to explain it to some friends, I found that myself relying on a prayer from the Preface of the Eucharistic Prayer for feasts of pastors – those saints who were popes, bishops or priests. That prayer, like most every prayer at mass, is directed toward Father through Christ in the unity of the Holy Spirit. That direction reminds us that all devotions to the saints should lead us closer to God. Then, as we remember the saint of that day, we say, “You strengthen [the Church] by the example of his holy life, teach her by his words of preaching, and keep her safe in answer to her prayers.”

First, the saints give us the example of their holy lives. They were real people who faced real issues, many of them the same as the ones we deal with. Many of them stumbled, and many of them faced real doubts. In looking at their lives, we can see hope for our own. And on All Saints Day, we may think of the struggles of our parents or grandparents and all they did to keep the faith alive in our families.

Next, they teach us by their words of preaching. Not every saint was learned, and not every saint wrote books or had teachings that others wrote down to remember. Of those who did, however, we can find some very inspiring words. And on All Saints Day, we may think of the times when we find ourselves saying things like “My father used to say...” Many people have taught us of the love of God, and for that we are thankful.

Finally, God keeps us safe in answer to their prayers. This point, in fact, is the crux of the matter. The saints are not merely historical figures who are cut off from us. Our faith teaches that we are brothers and sisters by being children of God the Father, and so we share the love of a family with one another. If that love is truly a reflection of God’s love, then not even death can break it. So while, St. Anthony does not literally find our lost items by himself, for example, he does continue to pray for us at our request. And on All Saints Day, we think of the all who have loved us enough to include us in their prayers. They continue to do so in heaven.

Speaking of saints, this Tuesday is the Feast of Saint Malachy, our patron. We will have a special school Mass at 8:45 that morning.

                                                                                      Father H