Sunday, January 29, 2017

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time - January 29, 2017

In the early years of the Peanuts comic strip, there Charlie Brown decided that he wanted to quit school. “After all,” he argued, “I want to be a baseball manager when I grow up. Why should I have to go to school?” Lucy reminded him that a baseball manager needs arithmetic, or else he wouldn’t even know if he had enough players on the field. So Charlie Brown decided he would remain in school until he learned to count to nine, and then he would quit.
A good education involves more than just learning certain facts. Education affects every aspect of our lives. That, in fact, is one of the main reasons why we celebrate our annual Catholic Schools Week this week. We want the world to know that we offer an excellent education, not only in academics but also nourishing the spiritual, physical and social lives of our students.

Perhaps the big difference is in how we see our purpose. Many see the purpose of education as training to get a good job. If you want to be a doctor, you focus on science and related fields. Subjects such as literature and philosophy would not have much to offer. On the other hand, we see our mission as the formation of the human person for life as a Catholic and, ultimately, to share the eternal glory of Christ in heaven. We try to emphasize everything that helps the students to become the best people that they can be and to live as the children of God. We see our role as supporting the parents, to whom the liturgy of Baptism refers as the “first and best teachers of their children in the way of faith.”

With that end in mind, I take this opportunity to thank everyone associated with our school. Our new – yet very experienced – principal, Mrs. Cathy Militzer, has really settled in and shown wonderful leadership. Our teachers are one of the most talented and dedicated groups I have ever worked with in my years with Catholic schools. The support staff and the volunteers are incredibly helpful. And of course the students themselves are delightful. I have always said that whenever I have a bad day, I can find an extra smile just by walking over to the school and seeing what the children are doing in class. So I pray that this Catholic Schools Week helps us to come to a deeper appreciation for the wonderful treasure that is St. Malachy School.

On a somewhat related note, we hope that we never stop learning. So this past week I went back to school in a sense. I am taking part in the “Priest Leadership and Evangelization Collaborative,” a workshop that the Diocese is offering to all priests as part of “On Mission for the Church Alive.” As you saw from the models presented, the new parishes in the diocese will be rather more complex than we are used to. The diocese is offering this program to help priests prepare for the new configuration. So please bear with me as I may have to adjust my schedule a bit over the next few months. From what I can see, I believe it will be truly worthwhile. 
                                                                 Father H                  

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Third Sunday In Ordinary Time - January 22, 2017

During last Sunday’s playoff game in Kansas City, announcer Cris Collinsworth made an interesting observation about Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell. Collinsworth told of how many scouts and coaches tried to discourage Bell’s running style, in which he hesitates before deciding which hole to attack. Bell was so used to those comments that he was surprised when Steelers coach Mike Tomlin Bell said that he liked Bell’s approach. The rest, as they say, is history. Earlier this season, Bell broke the Steelers’ team record for most rushing yards in a game. Two weeks ago he set the team record for most yards rushing in a playoff game, a record he broke again last week.

With that opening, I could take this column in two directions. I could talk about football since everyone around here wants the Steelers to beat New England this weekend and move on to yet another Super Bowl. I am more of a baseball fan, but this is a football town. Each year, at the beginning of the season, I try to ignore football. The game has gotten so violent, and the NFL has such a poor record on players’ health, that I begin to wonder if I can watch football in good conscience. It’s easy for me to refrain while baseball is still going on, but some time after the World Series I get caught up in the excitement. Right now, I want to the Steelers to beat the Patriots as much as anyone. So sing along with me: “We’re from the town with the great football team. We cheer the Pittsburgh Steelers. Winning’s a habit, not only a dream. Go out and get them, Steelers.”

But I also want to build on the comment that only Mike Tomlin saw the true value of Le’Veon Bell as a running back. It is all too easy to get caught in the trap of overlooking someone’s value. Consider that January 22 is the anniversary of the Supreme Court rulings in the cases of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, the cases that made abortion legal in this country. In those cases, the court essentially said that human beings do not have any value before birth. Since then the Catholic Church has been at the forefront of the Right to Life movement. Without making light of the problems of women facing unplanned pregnancy, we want to show that even these small, helpless children have the intrinsic value of a human being beloved by God. Let us pray that our society will come to recognize that human life is a gift from God to be treasured, even while we have to deal with the issues that arise in difficult situations.

I think we can say that the Miami Dolphins and the Kansas City Chiefs have begun to appreciate the value that Le’Veon Bell has as a running back. May we someday be able to say that our culture appreciates the value that all human beings, from the moment of conception, have by being created in the image and likeness of God.

                                                                                             Father H                  

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time - January 15, 2017

First of all, thank you to everyone who has expressed sympathy with my current discomfort. The fracture in my ribcage is small and not displaced, though the treatment is the same in either case: nothing. They don’t even wrap ribs anymore, as they learned that wrapping was leading to pneumonia. As I write this note, I am feeling very good, though I do find myself getting short of breath rather quickly. My question is whether I’m feeling better because I’m healing or because of the pain pills they gave me. My prescription will be finished by the time you read this, so will see if I’m still feeling as good as I am as I write. Now let’s see if I can use that introduction as a transition to what I really wanted to write about.

The doctor told me that I had very few restrictions. For instance, I shouldn’t play full-contact football. That’s no problem, but I’m already thinking of sitting out this year’s parent-student basketball game. Meanwhile, I am also trying very hard not to get sick. I think a fit of sneezing or an upset stomach would really hurt. Of course, it is not easy to avoid illness this time of year. I got my flu shot, but we encounter so many people and in such close quarters that it is easy to spread bugs around.

The main point here is to ask you to use common sense. For instance, some parishes refrain from offering Communion under both forms during cold and flu season. I prefer to trust people to make good decisions. If you are feeling sick, please do not receive from the Cup. (Don’t worry about me; fractured ribs are not contagious.) It is better to keep your germs to yourself at that point. And while we encourage our Eucharistic Ministers to use every precaution, you are free to choose not to receive from the Cup if you are uncomfortable with drinking from a common vessel. Communion under both forms will still be available for those who want to receive it, but it is always optional to each person receiving.

The Sign of Peace is another time when some people feel a little uncomfortable. In most cases, a handshake will not be a problem. But if you are sick, please do not extend your hand. The Sign of Peace is still a regular part of the Mass, so please don’t ignore your brothers and sisters in Christ. But perhaps you could hold your hands together and give a nod and a smile if you have germs that you don’t want to share.

My comments above assume that you have a cold or a mild bug. Please remember that if you are really sick, you can keep your germs at home. We do have a serious obligation to attend Mass every Sunday, but that does not apply to those who are sick. God understands our sickness and does not ask us to go beyond common sense. Of course, if you are healthy enough to go to a Steelers game or to bingo, then you are healthy enough to come to Mass. But those who are truly sick would be better off staying home and praying a rosary or some other devotion.

                                                            Father H                  

Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Epiphany of the Lord - January 8, 2017

As we end the Christmas season with tomorrow’s feast of the Baptism of the Lord, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you a blessed Christmas one final time for this season. And while I am at it, I would like to add a few other notes.
First of all, I want to say “Thank you” for those who made Christmas special for us. That includes “the usual suspects,” such as Laurie Lanz for all her work with the music, and for Yumi Fisher for her time directing the children’s handbell choir. John Lester and his team did their usual wonderful job of decorating the church. But I want to add a personal note of thanks to everyone who sent cards, gifts and goodies (with calories that I didn’t need). I really appreciate celebrating Christmas with my parish family.

Speaking of thanks, I want to include a note of thanks to Fr. Pat O’Brien. Fr. O’Brien has been a contributor to our parish family since early in Fr. Michael’s tenure as pastor taking one Mass every Sunday. He had not been coming to help recently, since the weekend he passed out while I was on vacation, but for quite some time he would call each week and would promise that he would be back once he was feeling better. He hasn’t been calling lately, so I asked the clergy office of the diocese if they had any idea of how he was doing. Recently they told me that Fr. O’Brien is going to be entering a nursing home. Effective January 18, Fr. O’Brien will be living at Locust Grove Assisted Living in West Mifflin. If anyone wants to write to him, the address is 4043 Irene St., West Mifflin, PA 15122. I wish we could have had time to give him a nice farewell and to thank him for his service to St. Malachy, but I hope that he knows he will be in our prayers.

Also, I want to remind you that we have changed the schedule for Confessions. I always found the schedule very tight between Confessions and the Saturday evening Mass, particularly if Confessions ran overtime. So please remember that we now have Confessions every Saturday afternoon, from Noon to 1:00.

Another change you have probably noticed is that we have adjusted the sound system. I would still like to revamp the system entirely, but thanks to Dan Chujko, it is at least somewhat easier to hear in our church.

There was another bit of work done lately, but that was not planned. One day during Christmas week, a pipe broke under our parking lot and created a lake in the lot. Thanks to Bill Rusnak and his crew for fixing the problem in very short time and getting things back in order. The only complaint that I have heard about the job is that the pipe didn’t break while school was in session, when we could have had a couple extra days off. (That complaint came from teachers, not students.)

One final note: I had a bit of a fall one night last week. It turns out that I have a couple of fractured ribs. Please excuse me if I am not quite as mobile as usual in the next few weeks. (And please don’t offer me a hug.)

                                                                                              Father H                  

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Solemnity of Mary - January 1, 2017

Happy New Year. And as someone once said, my the worst day of the new year be better than the best day of the old year. There are a number of aspects to this day, so let me take a few of them for our consideration.

For one thing, this is the Octave Day of Christmas. The Church takes the major feasts and celebrates them with an octave, an eighth day. That concept comes from the greatest of feasts, Easter. For the Jewish people, the number seven was considered a sign of completion. That symbolism was based on the fact that there are seven days in a week and that, according to the first of the creation stories in the book of Genesis, that was the framework in which they told of God creating the world. So celebrating an eighth day is the reminder that Christ gives us a new creation. In a musical octave, do-re-mi-fa-sol-la-ti-do, the eighth note is the same as the first note. So in a Church octave, the eighth day falls on the same day of the week as the first. Thus Christ’s new creation falls does not eliminate the old, but rather fulfills it.

In the Jewish tradition, when a family had a baby boy, the child would be circumcised on the eighth day. So in the former tradition, January 1 was the feast of the Circumcision of the Lord. We always remember that Christ shared our human nature completely and that he lived in accord with the Laws and the customs of his faith.

Today, we instead celebrate this day as the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God. Of all the titles we give to our Blessed Mother, this is the one that is central to the mystery of faith. It was for this purpose, for instance, that she was given the grace of the Immaculate Conception. This special feast allows us also to reflect on the nature of Christ’s Incarnation. The title of “Mother of God” was officially given to us at the Council of Nicea, which gave us the Creed we recite at mass, and it especially teaches us about Christ. The union of the human and divine natures of Jesus is so complete that we cannot separate them into different “parts” or “aspects” of who He is. He is completely God and completely human. So we cannot say that Mary is simply the mother of the human part of Jesus. She is truly the Mother of God.

In the late 1960s, Pope Paul VI gave us a special commemoration for the start of the new year. This is a day we set aside for prayers for peace in the world. The new year always gives us hope for a new start. And while we know that there will be tension and strife, we place this new year in the hands of God and ask that there may be peace in our world. That means, of course, that we seek to live that peace in our own lives.

Finally, we all know the secular aspect of the new year, which is a beginning of something new, and that means new possibilities. As of now, for instance, the Pirates have not lost a game all year and are tied for first place. May 2017 be a great year for all of us. Let’s make the most of it, with the grace of God and the prayers of our Blessed Mother.
                                                                                          Father H