Sunday, November 26, 2017

Our Lord Jesus Christ King of the Universe - November 26, 2017

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. That’s a real mouthful, so let’s just call it by its common title of Christ the King. As important as this feast is, there are some interesting facts behind it that can give us an insight into what the feast is all about.

First of all, this seems like an obvious celebration for our Church. Jesus spoke frequently of “the Kingdom of God” and let it be known that He was the one to bring about this Kingdom. He is clearly our Lord and Savior, fully divine and fully human, and it is through Him that the Father created all things. Thus it should be obvious that we acclaim His as our King. So it may surprise us to learn that today’s feast is relatively new, less than 100 years old. Pope Pius XI instituted the celebration of Christ the King in 1925. Pope Pius was concerned with the rise of secularism and atheism in the society. If that was a concern in 1925, imagine how Pope Pius would react to our age. In a world where our culture tells us to keep our faith to ourselves and that does not want us to influence public policy, we can reflect on Pius’ words, “If to Christ our Lord is given all power in heaven and on earth... it must be clear that not one of our faculties is exempt from his empire. He must reign in our wills, which should obey the laws and precepts of God.”

When Pope Pius created this feast, he put it each year on the last Sunday of October. In 1969, Blessed Pope Paul VI moved it to its current place in the calendar, on the last Sunday of the Church’s year. Next Sunday begins a new year in the Chard with the start of the season of Advent. That seems appropriate because the Church traditionally takes the end of the year to reflect on the end of time. While we believe that Christ’s death and resurrection truly instituted the Kingdom of God in the world, we also see that the kingdom will not be fully realized until the end of time, when Christ will return and when He will join us to Himself in the eternal glory of heaven. Until then, this feast represents our certain faith in Christ’s victory over sin and death.

As we celebrate Our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe, I remind you of the opportunity to spend some time in Adoration of our Lord in the Eucharist. We will have Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament after the 11:00 Mass until the solemn Benediction at 3:00. Please join us to worship our Lord and King.

Finally, as I was double checking on a few of the details of this column, I also found a little bit of trivia that I leave you as a bonus. A number of Protestant churches have picked up the feast, and the Church of Sweden informally refers to this feast as “Sunday of Doom” since it reminds us of the last days when the world comes to an end. Furthermore, there is a statue of Christ the King in Swiebodzin, Poland. That statue holds the record for the largest statue of Jesus in the world. It is listed at 33 meters high, one meter for every year of Jesus’ earthly life. That puts it three meters taller than the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I don’t know if that means anything significant, but you may be able to use it to impress your Catholic or Polish friends.
                                                                                                Father H                 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time - November 19, 2017

In the Peanuts comic strip, Charles Schulz did a series of strips in which Snoopy was so caught up in the beauty of the world that he just had to dance. In the midst of it, Lucy – ever the fussbudget – criticized him. How could he dance with so much trouble in the world? Snoopy paid her no mind but just went on dancing. Finally, after Lucy had offered her criticism, Snoopy stopped and sat down. Lucy said, “I’m glad you finally came to your senses.” After she walked away, Snoopy said, “It wasn’t that. I stopped dancing because my feet hurt.”

There is a little bit of Lucy in each one of us. Sometimes life weighs us down. It is easy to see the problems and struggles of life. It is easy to focus on the things that are wrong. But sometimes we need to be Snoopy. How often do we take time to recognize the blessings? How often are we so caught up in the beauty of the world that we just have to dance – or sing or laugh or whatever we do to express our joy?

This week we celebrate Thanksgiving. There are great rituals associated with this holiday. They involve eating so much that we fall asleep on the sofa while watching football. But let us not forget what this holiday is truly all about. This is our opportunity to give thanks to God for all His blessings. Giving thanks is not a way to appease God as though we were worried that He might get mad if we forgot Him. It is rather a way of accepting His gifts for what they are, signs of His love. By being grateful, we see His love in every moment of our lives. In that way, we take a cue from one of the Prefaces that we use for the Eucharistic Prayer 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 salvation.”

In my own prayer, I sometimes use a rather silly image to help me recognize how important gratitude is. I imagine trying to thank God for every gift we have received. I would start with each breath I take: “Thank you for that one, and for that one, and there’s another one.” And in the midst of it, I would begin to notice each beat of my heart. In fact, I would get so caught up in thanking God for those basic signs that I would never be able to move, and I would thus miss the opportunity to thank Him for every blade of grass and every ray of sunshine. The serious lesson I draw from that image is that we are so surrounded by God’s gifts that we cannot possibly thank Him sufficiently. But in trying to do so, we move from Lucy to Snoopy. We keep our difficulties in perspective to see that, above all and in spite of anything else we might face, God’s love and protection are with us.

For me, I will be celebrating Thanksgiving with my sister in Virginia. I will be gone this whole week, but please know that I will be keeping all St. Malachy parishioners in my prayers in a special way, for the opportunity to serve this parish is one of the gifts for which I am most grateful. So happy Thanksgiving, everybody. And if you take this holiday seriously, then be like Snoopy and dance until your feet hurt.
                                                                                           Father H                   

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time - November 12, 2017

In 1991 and 1992, the Pittsburgh Penguins won their first two Stanley Cups. In each case there was no question as to who would win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. Mario Lemieux was clearly the best player on the ice each time. Our Penguins have again won the Cup each of the last two years, and again the team captain was playoff MVP in each season. The difference is that the choice was not as obvious either year. Most of us would agree that Sidney Crosby is the best player in the NHL, and he was certainly a deserving choice for the Conn Smythe. But you could make a strong argument for Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin, Jake Guentzel or a number of other players. This is Sidney Crosby's team, but winning the Stanley Cup is truly a team effort.

The Church also works as a team. In the Diocese of Pittsburgh, each parish works with others to accomplish what we cannot do on our own. That idea is part of the hope behind On Mission for the Church Alive, which seeks to bring parishes together to form one stronger parish. But it also reaches beyond what any parish could do. By itself, for example, no parish could run a hospital or a nursing home for the care of the sick. No parish could run a seminary for the education of future generations of priests. Through the teamwork of the various parishes, the Diocese of Pittsburgh runs such programs through the efforts of the annual Parish Share Program. I generally write about this program, both in this column and in a letter to parishioners, in February, when the program starts for the year. But I want to renew my comments again at this time because we are a bit behind where we have been in the past. I want to take this opportunity to ask for a little extra push.

I have to admit that at times, pastors tend to look at that Parish Share assessment as a tax, an amount we have to come up with. Yet the truth is that we do benefit from that contribution. Even beyond the benefits we share with other parishes, we benefit directly in the generous contributions the Diocese has made to our own St. Malachy School. Beyond the help that we receive from the Parish Share Program, we can also benefit in another way. If we can collect the entire amount of our assessment, then the Diocese allows our parish to keep any additional money we would collect in this drive and would not count it toward next year’s assessment. So we have the opportunity to support the teamwork of the Diocese and still help our parish in a particular way.

If you have already given to the Parish Share Program, I thank you for your commitment to our parish and our diocese. If you have not yet given or would like to increase your donations, I can tell you that I would truly appreciate your push to make this program a success for our parish. To return to my original analogy, consider the Penguins’ run to the Cup this past year. Jake Guentzel was a big star, although he started the year as a minor leaguer. Marc-Andre Fleury was the goalie through the first half of the playoffs, when Matt Murray was injured, but then Murray came back and was fresh when Fleury seemed to be tiring. The Penguins relied on players to come in part way through and make a push to help those who had been contributing. So we can appreciate those who come in when we need an extra boost and give us a hand toward meeting our assessment. Thank you, as always, for your contribution to our parish.
                                                                                          Father H                 

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time - November 5, 2017

This weekend we celebrate our parish feast day, the feast of Saint Malachy. We are permitted to move our patronal feast to the nearest Sunday in order that we may celebrate with the entire parish. The readings we use this weekend are not the readings found in the worship aids. We are using readings and prayers from the Common of Pastors. Meanwhile, I want to update some of our plans for St. Malachy Church.

A few weeks ago I wrote about the “test drive” we recently had with the potential new sound system. Now I want to tell you what has happened since. For one thing, I said in that column that I did not know if the diocese would let us change the case statement to use money from the recent diocesan capital campaign for the purchase. Our Regional Vicar, Fr. Howard Campbell, read that column and encouraged me to apply for the change, telling me that he thought it would be a good use of our funds. Following diocesan policy, I got signatures from both our Pastoral and Finance Councils supporting the change. I sent those forms to the diocese along with a copy of my earlier column, which showed that we were open with all of you about our plans. I expected there to be a time for discussion and for the diocese to ask further questions. Instead, they replied very quickly, agreeing that we had taken the proper steps and that this is a worthwhile project for us. They gave us immediate permission to proceed.

Even though we got permission, we still had to determine whether we actually had the money available right now. Before we could actually pose the question, a parishioner who had been very impressed with the speakers approached me. This parishioner insists on remaining anonymous and wants to contribute a significant percentage of the cost. (If anyone else wants to contribute as well, we would be happy to accept.) With that generosity, we have placed the order for the new speakers. It should take some time before we can take delivery and install them, but we are at least in process.

Meanwhile, I would like to address the two biggest concerns from the surveys. One was that some people heard a bit of an echo. While the nature of the building creates an acoustical challenge, a permanent installation on the wall should allow us to improve that issue.

The other issue was that my lapel microphone was a bit muffled, although the hand-held mike was better. Those microphones are part of the existing system. As it turns out, even if we would not get the new system, we would lose both of those mikes. They are on a frequency that is now reserved and is no longer available for our use. The frequency of the hand-held mike is already unavailable to us, and the lapel mike will likely follow very soon. So while we are addressing the speakers, we are also planning to get new microphones that should be clearer.

What impressed me most during the trial period was the number of people who told me personally that they had hearing problems and that the speakers we were trying made a world of difference. Those were the people who implored me to get them. The Eucharistic Liturgy is the most important thing we do, and I am glad that we are going to enhance the experience of the Mass by making it easier for our people to hear.
                                                                                    Father H