Monday, February 27, 2017

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time - February 26, 2017

Easter is a little later this year, and thus Lent begins a little later. When Lent begins later, it always makes it a little easier to get back to normal after the Christmas festivities and not feel as though the year is rushing by. And yet no matter how late Ash Wednesday is, I always want to ask the question, “What, already?” And that is where we are. This Wednesday, March 1, is Ash Wednesday, and our holy time begins.

As we prepare for Lent, I call you attention to the pamphlet in the bulletin today. This pamphlet gives the schedule for important Lenten events and guidelines for keeping the season. I remember my attitude toward the season when I was younger. Lent was always marked by the question, “What are you giving up?” Lent was a time of deprivation, and my goal was to get through it. How longingly I awaited my Easter basket each year, eagerly anticipating the thrill of tearing open a candy bar and enjoying what I had missed for the Forty Days. I suspect many of us still carry at least a little bit of that attitude with us as adults. And I cannot deny that ads for steak restaurants – or even fast-food hamburger joints – look so much more enticing on Ash Wednesday. But I hope we can make this Lent more about the preparation for Christ’s Resurrection and our new life in heaven. In fact, rather than think of the forty days of Lent, I try to think of the ninety days that begin with Lent and lead through the Easter season, right up to Pentecost.

To help with that attitude, I would like to call attention to one particular entry in the Lent pamphlet. I would like to invite you to make this the “best Lent ever.” That is the title for a special program that we are taking part in. At Christmas we gave out copies of the newest book by Matthew Kelly, Resisting Happiness. Kelly’s organization, Dynamic Catholic, is offering the “Best Lent Ever” program. The best part is that it is very simple to take part. All you have to do is go to and sign up with your email address. Those of us who sign up will get an email each day during Lent with suggestions for the season, along with videos featuring Matthew Kelly and reflections from other members of the Dynamic Catholic organization.

The pamphlet gives other ideas for Lent, along with the regulations for the season and our parish’s observances. Most of these things should be familiar to us from our previous observances of Lent, so I am focusing primarily on the Best Lent Ever program. But the entire season is a time of great opportunity for us. As St. Paul tells us in the second reading, “Behold, now is the very acceptable time. Behold, now is the day of salvation.”
                                                                                              Father H                  

Monday, February 20, 2017

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time - February 19, 2017

 We have two events coming together this Tuesday. I will miss both of them, but I think I have a good excuse. I will be at St. Paul Seminary that day for the next installment of the Priest Leadership and Evangelization Collaborative that the Diocese is sponsoring to help us priests prepare for the changes from On Mission for the Church Alive. So while I will miss the spiritual nourishment that we offer here, I will be learning and growing in my faith with almost 150 of my brother priests.

Tuesday is the next installment of our St. Malachy Speaker Series, with Nancy Amorose speaking on the subject of “In the Beginning, A Spiritual Journey to Truth.” Mrs. Amorose belongs to St. Pio of Pietrelcina Parish in Blawnox and is the founder of a group known as “Ladder of Truth.” Their mission statement speaks of “helping parents and guardians instill Christian ideals in their children.” The speaker series has very well received, and we have been very fortunate to have some excellent speakers. This should be another excellent offering.

The same day is also the third Tuesday of the month, and that means we have our monthly Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Having both on the same day has been an incentive for more people to come to the 6:30 Benediction. We keep the Benediction simple, especially when followed by a speaker, but it is still a profound opportunity to spend time with our Eucharistic Lord. We will have Exposition at 1:00 and then have the Blessed Sacrament on the Altar for the entire afternoon. If you cannot be here at the Benediction, feel free to stop in at any time during the day.

Someone once referred to Eucharistic Adoration as “the Mass in slow motion.” I was unable to find the quotation (though I did find that phrase as a title of an unrelated book by Msgr. Ronald Knox). The point is that so much is happening at Mass that we may not full appreciate the wonderful gift that we receive. At Eucharistic Adoration, then, we have a chance to sit back in the presence of Christ on the Altar and to realize just how powerful a gift we have. This gift is so powerful that J. R. R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings, once said, “I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament. There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves on earth.” So join us on Tuesday and give yourself the favor of growing closer to Christ in the Eucharist.

On a related note, in the past we began Adoration at the 7:15 Mass. The people who come regularly were having a harder time filling in all the hours, and we should never have the Blessed Sacrament exposed when no one is present. So if you can make a regular commitment to coming each month, let us know. We will get your name to the people who organize this holy time.

                                                                                          Father H

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time - February 12, 2017

My father and I both loved the TV show M*A*S*H from when it first came on. Dad had the entire series on DVD, and now I have his discs. Recently I have been watching the early seasons, but right now I’m remembering a couple of later episodes. In one, Hawkeye and Winchester wanted to demonstrate how gullible some people can be, so they mentioned to Klinger about the coming visit of Marilyn Monroe. Soon, even General Schwerin arranged a visit to the camp in order to see her. In another, a visiting inspector led the members of the 4077th to believe that the Army was going to break them up to build a new unit. Soon everyone on the show was acting crazy in order to avoid being chosen for the new unit.

As M*A*S*H demonstrated, rumors can quickly overwhelm the truth. As we go through the diocesan initiative On Mission for the Church Alive, we know we are going to see some changes that will affect each of us. It is little wonder, then, that people are speculating about what is going to happen. Every once in a while, though, I hear it said that certain stories are going about. So perhaps it would be a good idea to review what is happening and remind everyone of where we stand.

Last year, the diocese proposed at least a couple of models for each parish as a starting point for discussion. There are two models that involve St. Malachy Parish. One would have us forming a new parish with St. John of God, St. Philip (which itself is a recent merger of St. Philip, Ascension, Guardian Angels and Holy Innocents) and St. Margaret of Scotland. The other model has us in with the same parishes plus Holy Trinity. In either case, the new parish would feature two “campuses.” It is important to keep in mind that neither model takes the schools into consideration. The diocese is studying schools separately, and even when they announce a new direction for schools in the North Hills region this month, that does not give us any indication of what will happen with our school. Absolutely no decisions have been made on the future of our school.

First indications are that our parish favors the model without Holy Trinity, though many wonder why St. Margaret is in with us. Yet Bishop Zubik is open to other ideas as well. Nothing is decided at this point. Fr. Lou Vallone at St. John of God is proposing his own model in which St. Malachy, St. Philip and St. John of God would join together as one parish. St. Malachy and St. Philip would be the two campuses, but with St. Mary Church of St. John of God Parish remaining open for weddings, funerals and one Saturday and one Sunday Mass each week. Of course I have no way of knowing how Bishop Zubik will react to Fr. Lou’s proposal.

Right now, that is all we know. Anything else you may hear is a rumor and should be treated as such. Remember what Hawkeye Pierce said on M*A*S*H when BJ Hunnicutt teased him about taking Klinger’s story too seriously. “That’s what you get for listening to idle gossip,” said Hawkeye, “especially when it comes from an idle gossip.”
                                                                                       Father H                  

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time - February 5, 2017

A while ago I got an email from a parishioner with a question. When I get questions, I sometimes like to save them for this column when I am not sure what else to write about. I realized I hadn’t put this particular question in my Ponderings until our organist, Laurie Lanz, told me that someone had asked her the same question. It concerns the “Lamb of God” that we sing at Mass. It is often longer than we are used to, and some have wondered why we repeat it over and over again.

To answer the question, we have to start with the purpose of the litany. It does not stand on its own; it is designed to accompany an action. After the Lord’s Prayer and the Sign of Peace, we go into the Rite of the Breaking (or “Fraction”) of the Bread. Notice that the priest takes the consecrated host and breaks it into pieces, placing a small piece into the chalice. This action can easily be overlooked, but it is important enough that the earliest Christians used it as a title for the whole liturgy. That is, where we would say, “We go to Mass on Sundays,” the early Church would have said, “We go to the Breaking of the Bread.” The image is that, at the Last Supper, Christ used just one loaf of bread from which all of those gathered there had a piece. As the Church grew, a single loaf became impractical, so they began using individual pieces of bread, “hosts.” The priest had one a little bigger so that it could be seen when he held it up and so that it could be broken as a symbol of our unity. The Fraction is a reminder that we share one Eucharist with every Catholic throughout the world.

The litany that accompanies this action adds further significance. The Lamb of God ties the Eucharist in with Christ’s crucifixion. Therefore, it is always a part of the action, not something that stands alone. At times, that action can take a little longer. I like to use the very large host so that at least some people can receive a piece from the same host. Also, we have a large bowl that, to signify that unity, allows me to put all of the hosts into one container. Part of the Fraction Rite is to distribute those into the various patens that the Eucharistic Ministers and I will hold when we distribute. All of that takes a little bit longer. Meanwhile, the plan is for the litany to accompany the entire action. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (the document that tells us what to do at Mass) says, “This invocation accompanies the fraction of the bread and, for this reason, may be repeated as many times as necessary until the rite has been completed. The final time it concludes with the words grant us peace.”

I hope that explanation not only answers the question but also gives you a better understanding of what is happening. And if you have any questions that I think may be of general interest, I will try to get to them in future columns.

                                                                                  Father H