Saturday, April 23, 2016

Fifth Sunday of Easter - Sunday, April 24, 2016

As we come to First Communion this week and next, I realize that I overlooked something I have done in past years. I usually print out copies of a photograph from my first Communion and give them to the teachers to show their classes. The children then try to guess who the little boy in the photo might be. Although this year’s class did not see how cute I was in 1968, I thought I still might reflect on what I learned in second grade and how I use those lessons today.

On my First Communion day, there was some confusion about whether the boys would be wearing suit jackets since some of our classmates did not have them. We were then told that none of the boys would wear jackets, so I left mine at home. Almost everyone else had a jacket on, but fortunately everyone agreed that we would leave them behind. We learned that clothes are not as important as the fact that we present ourselves to receive the Body of the Lord.

I remember having to memorize some statements from a mimeographed sheet, but the only one I remember was, “If the host sticks to the roof of your mouth, use your tongue. Do not put your fingers in your mouth.” Of course, that was before Communion in the hand, and only the priest could actually touch the host. Also, our teachers told us not to chew the host but to swallow it or let it dissolve in our mouths. We were all worried that we would commit some sacrilege if we bit it accidentally. Then Fr. Murphy told us that we are indeed allowed to chew the host. We learned then that the Eucharist is not something to be approached with fear, that it was a gift from Christ to show His love to us.

On my First Communion day, my classmates and I wondered what the host would taste like. We found that it was not like the bread we ate at home, but it was enough like eating a piece of bread. Now we let the children practice ahead of time with unconsecrated hosts, but at least we got Christ’s message when He said, “My flesh is real food, and my blood is real drink.”

Looking back at my First Communion, I realize now that I was learning lessons about the Eucharist without even realizing it. There was, however, one point that I did not understand. I remember one of the teachers saying, “Don’t be nervous. Fr. Murphy loves giving Communion to children.” I could not see how children were any different to the priest except that he would have to bend down a little. I did not give that comment much more thought, though, until one First Communion day when I heard myself saying I loved giving the Eucharist to young children. Now I understand. These boys and girls approach the altar with a joy and an innocence that we hope to rekindle in ourselves. For them, this is a big day, and that should help us see that every time we receive the Eucharist, it is a big day for us. So as we see the children of our parish receiving Christ in the Eucharist this weekend for the first time, try to remember your own First Communion Day. Let us pray for these girls and boys, and let us pray that the Eucharist will always be as important to us.                                
                                                                                           Father H    

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Fourth Sunday of Easter - April 17, 2016

This weekend is our final session of CCD classes, which brings up the question we ask so frequently, “Where does the time go?” I do remember an old Calvin & Hobbes comic strip when Calvin asked that question, and Hobbes suggested, “Cleveland?” But while our school year still has a way to go, the end of CCD reminds us that summer is coming. And that means we can look forward to some of the projects that will happen over the summer.

Thanks to the diocesan capital campaign that we have all been taking part in, Our Campaign for the Church Alive, we have been able to take care of some important maintenance in our parish. If you have made a pledge to the campaign, I hope that the projects you see will inspire you to continue fulfilling the pledge. One of the projects we will be doing this summer is a completion of the job we started last year. We have a company coming to clean and paint the window frames of the church. With all the glass we have in our church, those frames are very important. This job will prevent rust and keep our church beautiful. It’s a case of maintenance that is much more affordable than the repairs that would be necessary if we do not keep the frames in good shape.

Another job for this summer is to resurface the parking lot. This is another job we are funding through the diocesan campaign, and it will be more than just a patch job. Some time ago I wrote about the paper recycling bins that we have in the back and how the market for recycled paper has crashed, meaning that we are getting very little benefit out of those bins. Our Finance Council agreed that we would do much better to go without them and to repave that area for extra parking. The company that will do the job for us assures us that we can get an extra twenty-some parking spaces, which should help us during the festival and the fish fry as well as for Masses. And of course this whole job will include fresh lines in the parking lot so that people no longer have to guess where the parking spaces are.

There is a job that is not on our list of projects for the diocesan campaign, but I would like to see it get done. The current sound system in our church was not well designed for our space. We have an application in for a grant from a company that wants to help parishes improve their liturgies. We will not hear about that grant until August. If we get it, we can get a system designed to eliminate the “dead spots” in our church. In the meantime, if you cannot hear well, consider trying a different part of the church.

Those are the upcoming projects that we are working on (or hoping to work on if we get funding). Let me also remind you of a couple of dates coming up in the summer. Vacation Bible School runs June 20-24, and the annual Parish Picnic is scheduled for July 24. Save the dates.
                                                                                                   Father H                  

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Third Sunday of Easter - April 10, 2016

Thursday is my day off each week. In the five years since Dad died, I have had to decide what to do with my time off each week. Some weeks I just take care of errands, buying things that I need or getting a haircut. But I also enjoy finding some form of entertainment. For several weeks I was checking the movie listings on the Internet and deciding that there was nothing worth seeing. But in recent weeks, that has changed. I have recently seen three movies that were not only entertaining but were also uplifting.

Risen is a powerful movie set in the days immediately after Easter. A Roman centurion named Clavius (played by Joseph Fiennes) had witnessed Christ’s crucifixion. In the following days, Clavius tries to find the body to disprove the claim of resurrection. He hunts down the Apostles, whom he believes have stolen the body, and instead finds them sharing a meal with the Risen Lord. The story necessarily includes speculation, but it also weaves the Scriptural accounts into the story. The Apostles, while still not fully understanding, become excellent witnesses of Christ to Clavius. In the end, his encounter with the Risen Christ becomes a life-changing experience for Clavius.

Speculation is even more important and necessary to The Young Messiah. Adam Greaves-Neal is a seven-year-old Jesus. While the story does include some references to the Bible, the movie focuses on a time in Jesus’ live that the Gospels pass over. It gives one possible answer to the question of how Jesus understood that He was the Son of God. In the words of St. Joseph (played by Vincent Walsh), “How do you explain God to His Son?” While there are those who would be unsettled by the image of Jesus not knowing conceptually who He was, there is no definitive teaching on how Christ came to His self-awareness. The movie treats the characters reverently, and while I would not recommend this story as highly as Risen, it was well worth seeing.

Miracles from Heaven is based on the true story of a ten-year-old girl who has a debilitating and potentially fatal disease. After a thirty-foot fall into a hollow tree, she had a near-death experience in which she met Jesus. When she was rescued, not only was she uninjured, but she was also cured of her disease. (If you think I have given away the story, the trailer to the movie serves as a major spoiler.) Miracles from Heaven is a real tear-jerker, but it also gives some real insight into the ways that faith can be tested by adversity and the possibility of miracles in our modern world. As far as the acting is concerned, Jennifer Garner gives one of the most amazing performances I have seen in a long time as the mother.

Hollywood is often very disappointing when it comes to matters of faith, but it is nice to know that we can still get a good Christian movie every so often. If you are looking for a movie to see, I would recommend any of those three.

                                                Father H                  

Monday, April 4, 2016

Second Sunday of Easter - April 3, 2016

“Father, what do you want?” It was Holy Saturday 2015. I had been at St. Malachy a little less than a full year, and that was my first Easter. I was getting ready for the Holy Saturday blessing of Easter food when I got a phone call asking what I wanted. The caller explained that they had always given money to the priests at the blessing of Easter food until one of the priests then said he would rather have some of the goodies. I didn’t really want to ask for food since I knew that Fr. Russell and I were already getting more than we could possibly eat. So this year, remembering that question, I decided to try something different. I put out the donation box for Focus On Renewal and asked people to consider sharing with those less fortunate. With no advance warning, the people who were there donated an overwhelming $236 to F.O.R. to help those in need.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so surprised. If there is one thing I have learned about St. Malachy, it is that the people here are very giving. So I need to take time to say “thank you” for all that you did to make Lent a fruitful time and to make Easter a joyful celebration. And yes, that includes those who gave me more food than I could possibly eat.

For the thirty-ninth consecutive year, St. Malachy Players presented a very moving experience of the Living Stations of the Cross throughout Lent, both here and on the road. Even while their director, Margie Masilunas, was convalescing, they did a great job under the guidance of Sue Barron.

Special thanks for the music at our liturgies. Director of Music Laurie Lanz did another spectacular job of coordinating the choir, the cantors, the Schola Cantorum (the quartet) and the children’s choir along with the guest instrumentalists. And again, even the absence of Margie Masilunas did not stop the parish and school hand-bell choirs from making “a joyful noise unto the Lord.”

The days of Holy Week present such a wide range of atmosphere that it can be a real challenge for any parish to do an effective job of properly decorating to reflect the mood of each individual day. Kudos to John Lester and his team for again bringing out the beauty of our glorious church.

I have thank those who did their normal tasks but with special intensity during the Triduum. The altar servers, lectors, Eucharistic Minister, ushers and others served “above and beyond the call of duty” with all of the liturgies.

Finally, thanks go along with congratulations to our newest Catholics, Tammie Colucci and Greg Moore, who entered the Church through the RCIA at the Easter Vigil. Along with Tim and Mary Ann Kuruce, whose full initiation is still to come, their joy at entering the Church is a testimony to the rest of us of how precious our faith is. And the way Tammie’s children answered my questions during the Easter Vigil homily added a note of joy that many parishioners truly appreciated.

Our Easter season is still in its early stages, but it has already been a celebration that I will always treasure.

Thank you, and thanks be to God.
                                                                                   Father H