Sunday, June 26, 2016

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - June 26, 2016

Imagine a child walking through a store with his parents when he sees something he wants. Immediately he asks, “Mommy, can I have that?” Certainly we want that child to feel comfortable enough to ask for what he wants, but sometimes Mom says “no.” At that point the child has several options. He can whine, he can beg, he can try to look sweet and innocent, or he can bargain. And if all else fails, he can pretend that the conversation never happened and then go ask Dad.

We are God’s children, and sometimes we approach Him in the way I described above. We turn to God when there is something we want. Of course He wants us to ask. According to the gospels, Christ told us on several occasions to bring our needs to Him. Petitionary prayer is a very important part of our prayer life. When we are in need, it makes sense to turn first to God. On the other hand, prayer has to be more than just asking. Prayer is a communication that allows us to grow in our love for God. A loving father wants his children to ask when they want something, but he also wants them to respect him when the answer is no.

What made me think of this topic for today is that I found a bunch of litter in church when I came back from my retreat last week. I sometimes find it hard to address such a situation, for the person who left the litter is quite possibly not reading this note. But probably many of you have seen papers which promise a “powerful novena.” The prayers themselves are simple and good, usually beseeching the intercession of Saint Jude. But the promise of the paper is, “You will receive your intention before the 9 days are over, no matter how impossible it may seem.” These novenas usually include the promise that it has “never been known to fail.” The novena also includes the instruction to leave nine copies in church each day for nine consecutive days. (When I was first ordained, people were instructed to leave one copy for nine days. Since then, it seems, Saint Jude bought stock in Xerox.) What I object to, however, is not that these papers pile up and make the church look cluttered. It is that they promote a type of petitionary prayer that invites us to look at God as nothing more than a heavenly vending machine – put in the right prayers in the slot and push the buttons for what you want. That encourages the toddler mentality whereby we hold our breath until we get our own way. Rather, we take Christ Himself as our example. As C. S. Lewis said, “In Gethsemane the holiest of all petitioners prayed three times that a certain cup might pass from Him. It did not. After that the idea that prayer is recommended to us as a sort of infallible gimmick may be dismissed.”

So if you see any “powerful novenas” in our church, please do me a favor and throw them out. But while we are at it, please say a prayer for the person who left them. And as we do so, remember that most difficult line from the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy will be done.”

                                                                                                          Father H      

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time - June 19, 2016

When I was a student at Central Catholic High School, there was a poster in every classroom. The image was different on each one, but the message was the same. It read, "What you are is God's gift to you. What you make of yourself is your gift to God." I would like to keep that image as a common theme for several unrelated thoughts.

First of all, it was my father who thought that I should go to Central Catholic. I had expressed an interest in the priesthood, and he thought Central would be a better choice for me to explore that possibility than Wilkensburg High School. I always knew that Dad would support whatever choice I made since he himself had spent time in the seminary. So on this Fathers Day, let us thank our fathers for the support and encouragement they gave us Happy Fathers Day.

At Central, of course, I had the privilege of studying with some of the Christian Brothers, the order founded by St. John Baptist de la Salle. I think it was Brother Lawrence Shine who told us that St. John had planned on founding an order of priests, but his first candidate died suddenly, just days before his ordination. St. John interpreted that death as a sign that God did not want his men to be ordained. Since the, the Christian Brothers have done marvelous work in Catholic education., but they have also done missionary work. This weekend we welcome the Christian Brothers to speak at all M asses as part of the annual Missionary Cooperative Appeal. Each year the Diocese of Pittsburgh arranges for a missionary group to speak at each parish. The second collection today is to support the work of the Christian Brothers. I am happy to support that effort, for I owe the brothers more than I could hope to repay. Thank you for your generosity.

Of course, the process by which we make of ourselves a gift to God is a process that goes on all our lives. This week we express that hope to some of our youngest parishioners in our annual Vacation Bible School. This is a time when we gather the young children for fun and games, for crafts and other activities, as well as for stories from Scripture. It is a good way to keep the lessons of our school year going and to give the kids a break of they've been complaining of boredom now that school is out. Special thanks go out to our Catechetical Administrator Steve Swank for organizing the event and to all the volunteers, adults and children, who make the program a success.

Finally, as we believe that "What we make of ourselves is our gift to God," the one part of that equation is to take care of ourselves. I am just coming back from a week of retreat (and am still looking forward to some vacation). Meanwhile, Fr. Russell will be away from us for the next two weeks. He leaves Monday morning for California, where he will spend time with his brother and other members of his family. Bon voyage, Fr. Russell. All of us at St. Malachy hope you have a wonderful trip and return to us refreshed and ready to inspire us.

                                                                                                         Father H

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time - June 12, 2016

School is out, and our children are now enjoying a well-deserved summer vacation. Yet we are already getting ready for the next school year. Of course the biggest step in that process is the hiring of a new principal in light of Mrs. Escovitz’ retirement at the end of this past year. By way of introduction to our new principal, I would like to share with you the text of a letter I recently sent to the school families:

I know that you shared with me in the sadness of the news that we were losing our school principal. Janet Escovitz has done such a fine job of leading our school for the past seven years, and we were sorry to see her go. Yet I also knew that she deserves to enjoy her retirement, and I trusted that the Holy Spirit would guide our search to find a suitable successor as principal. Today, it is my great joy to introduce our new principal to the St. Malachy School family.

Beginning with the 2016-17 school year, our new principal will be Mrs. Catherine Militzer. Mrs. Militzer is a veteran teacher and administrator in our diocese. She was a teacher in the Pittsburgh Public Schools and at St. Margaret of Scotland School in Greentree before being named Vice Principal at St. Margaret in 1999. In 2003 she was named principal at St. Margaret, a position she has held through this current school year. Mrs. Militzer comes highly recommended, not only for her skill as an administrator, but also for her deep personal faith and her deep care for the children entrusted to her care. She is a passionate educator who will bring great dedication to our school and will help us continue to grow.

By diocesan policy, each candidate for the principal’s position was required to submit a brief summary of his or her “Catholic Philosophy of Education.” Mrs. Militzer’s philosophy paper stated, in part, “A good Catholic School is Christ Centered. In order to prepare our students to spread God’s love, they must experience it in their everyday life. It should be a visible part of their day through the example of the adults working with them. The school community must foster spiritual growth and trust in God.” In conjunction with those who volunteered to serve on our search committee, I know that St. Malachy will continue to be that Christ Centered school which truly will foster that spiritual growth and trust in God. Please join with me in welcoming Mrs. Catherine Militzer as our new principal, and please pray for her success as she undertakes this new endeavor.

On a different note, please be aware that I will be away from the parish this coming week, from Sunday afternoon through Friday. I will be making my annual retreat at my alma mater, Mount St. Mary Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

And finally, on yet another note, next Sunday is our annual Mission Cooperative Appeal. A representative of the Christian Brothers will be speaking at all Masses next weekend, and there will be a second collection to benefit their work.
                                                                                                   Father H                  

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - June 5, 2016

For more than a year, we have been finishing the Universal Prayer (the “Prayer of the Faithful” or the “General Intercessions”) with Bishop Zubik’s prayer for the initiative On Mission for the Church Alive! This initiative is an important response to the changing conditions in the Church, as we strive to build the strongest parishes now and for the future. This is something that will touch every parish in the diocese by the time it is finished in 2018. And so the bishop wants to be sure that every parish and every parishioner has a voice in the process.

One way to accomplish that goal is for every parish to name six On Mission Parish Team Leaders. These leaders have been going through training in recent weeks, and now they are preparing to take the next step. Our St. Malachy leadership team is:

                                              Sharon Cercone
                                              Rosemary Corsetti
                                              Timothy Davis
                                              Edward Kantz
                                              Anita Astorino Kulik
                                              Daniel Trocchio

The Leadership Team is to collaborate with me as well as with the Parish Pastoral Council and Finance Council. They will also be the primary ambassadors of the initiative to the parish.
The diocese has a working agreement with the Catholic Leadership Institute to help lead this program throughout our area, and CLI is helping to generate some preliminary “models” for each area of the diocese. Our parish’s team will be taking part in consultation sessions to study these models and to generate feedback on them. That process will include studying the models themselves, but it also includes soliciting and collecting ideas from all of our parishioners. Your insights are important, and the On Mission Commission is providing tools to our team to help them get the best possible understanding of what our future direction should be.

Bishop Zubik has asked every parish to take this weekend to publish the names of the team members in the bulletin, as I have done here, so that you will know who is involved in the process for this parish. But above all, he asks us to pray. We do not take on a major initiative such as this one without imploring the guidance of the Holy Spirit. To make such major decisions without openness to God’s would be to court disaster. So please pray for the Leadership Team named above. Please pray for Bishop Zubik, the Diocese of Pittsburgh and all our priests (including me), and please pray for the success of the initiative On Mission for the Church Alive!

                                                                                      Father H