Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

This is the quieter time of year. Christmas is over, and Lent is still a month away. Baseball season doesn’t start for a while. (That’s important to me.) And it’s generally too cold to go on a picnic. So things get a bit quiet. But at least we can look forward to the Steelers making a run for the Super Bowl.

As we move into the cold time of winter, we spend a lot of time indoors. There are germs circulating, and when we are in close proximity, we pass them around. I have talked to a few people recently who have suffered with the flu. As I write this note, Fr. Russell is receiving treatment for his flu. So as I sometimes do around this time of year, I would like to offer some thoughts on keeping ourselves healthy.

My first suggestion, for those who have not already done so, is to get a flu shot. About twenty years or so ago, I was serving in a parish in which a nurse asked me if I had gotten a flu shot. My thought at that time was that flu shots were more for elderly people. The nurse asked me, “How much time do you spend in school with the kids?” Knowing how children can pass germs around, I asked her to give me a flu shot. Since then, I have gotten a flu shot every year. Of course I don’t know if I would have gotten the flu if I hadn’t gotten the shot, but I feel more confident with it.

The other points have to do with our gatherings in church, where we pray together in close proximity. A couple of areas of concern are the Sign of Peace and receiving the Precious Blood of Christ from the cup. Some parishes have gone so far as to stop offering Communion under both forms during cold and flu season, but I do not want to go that far. I would rather leave all of this up to everyone’s individual choice. If you are concerned with receiving the Blood of Christ, don’t. Similarly, if you have something that is contagious, please stay away from the cup. Eucharist in both forms is a powerful sign of the Sacrament, but we receive the entire reality of the Eucharist when we receive the Body of Christ.

Similarly, if you have concerns about the Sign of Peace, or if you are feeling ill, you do not have to shake hands. There should be some sign to those around you so that you are not skipping the Sign of Peace altogether, but you can do so without physical contact. I would suggest folding your hands in a prayerful posture and bowing slightly in such a way that the people around you can understand that you are not ignoring them but are simply taking a precaution.

When you come to church, I hope that you will find a great spiritual experience. Beyond the spiritual aspect, we also are concerned with the temporal well being of all our parishioners. So please stay healthy during cold a flu season. And if you do find yourself “under the weather,” please disregard what you learned about sharing when you were in kindergarten.
                                                                                                   Father H  

Sunday, January 7, 2018

The Epiphany of the Lord - January 7, 2018

Christmas is coming to an end. I know, in our secular society we are already somewhere between Valentine’s Day and the Fourth of July. But as we celebrate the Epiphany this weekend, I want to start with a word of thanks for all that the people of St. Malachy did to make my Christmas so special. First of all, I truly appreciate everything that went into making a special celebration of the season. That includes John Lester and his band of decorators who made the church look so beautiful. And we owe a work of thanks to the Kennedy Township police, who called right before Christmas to ask if they could donate some poinsettias to our church. I also have to thank Laurie Lanz for the music that she provided for our parishes, along with those under her direction, including the adult choir, the contemporary group, our “schola cantorum,” and the special school choir, along with the school’s handbell choir under the direction of Yumi Fisher. My thanks goes out to everyone who served the Masses in any capacity, those who attended the Masses, and anyone else who enriched the parish in any way, even by simply coming to Confession before Christmas.

I also offer my thanks to those who offered personal Christmas greetings, including sending cards and gifts. I cannot express the sense of gratitude I have to God for sending me to such a wonderful parish as St. Malachy.

The gifts that the Magi took to the child Jesus were a sign of His kingship (gold), His divinity (frankincense), and the death by which He would bring us salvation (myrrh). So the gifts we offer can be a sign of the presence of God in our world. That thought strikes as particularly fitting as we are now just a few months away from the official announcement of where On Mission for the Church Alive is going to take us. The bishop’s desire for building strong new parishes includes a hope that each parish will have the resources to make a serious effort at evangelization, taking the message of Christ’s love to the rest of our community. That effort includes those whose image of the Church is negative, including quite a few who grew up in our faith. One of the best ways to reach out to such people is to show them the joy that Christ brings. If we can remember what this holiday meant to us and the love that we received from those around us, then I hope we will continue to bring the love of Christ to everyone we meet, even if just by a simple greeting.

As we close out this special season, we settle back into the routine and get the new year up and running. I imagine that many of us will still be writing “2017” on our checks for a while. But as we get used to 2018, I hope the spirit of the Christmas season can continue with us so that we can be signs of God’s goodness to all around us. Think of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and the way he summed up the change in Ebenezer Scrooge, “And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of all of us.”
                                                                                                        Father H 

Monday, January 1, 2018

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary & Joseph

One time when I was a little boy, I said to my father, “Won’t it be exciting to see the year 2000?” Dad said, “Maybe for you, but I won’t be around to see it.” He explained that he would have to live to be 85 to see the year 2000 and that he didn’t expect he would make it. I reminded Dad of that conversation in 2009, on his ninety-fifth birthday. That just reminds us of how hard it is to know what the future will be like. The year 2000 came and went, and we still do not have the flying cars that we pictured as part of the future. On the other hand, hardly anyone saw how modern technology would change our lives, with cell phones, the Internet and the like.

As we prepare to enter a new year, we realize that the coming year is still a mystery. That is particularly true for us priests with On Mission going on in our diocese. But whatever happens, we have the promise of Christ that He will be with us always. That is why I always find it fitting that the new year begins at the Octave of Christmas. We are still celebrating the birth of Christ, even if all the stores are now promoting “after Christmas” sales. Our society tries to make the festive season start earlier and earlier each year, with the result that we are ready for Christmas to be over by December 26. But in the Church we go through a period of preparation called Advent that is not yet Christmas. So now that we have celebrated the big day, we realize that it is not just one day. This is our time of celebration. This is our time of recognizing that Christ our Lord came to share our human nature for our salvation.

At this time of the year, I often like to make the point that we do not have a God who is so far above us that He makes impossible demands upon us. Rather, we have a God who shared our humanity and who thus knows first hand what we go through. That point can be a good starting place for meditation as we prepare to begin a new year. When we have any difficulties over the next twelve months, we know that God understands our struggles and is there to help us. When good things happen, we thank God for His blessings and His support.

There are many ways to dedicate the new year to Christ. One is to recognize that January 1, as the Octave Day of Christmas, is the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God. We are excused from the obligation on that day when it falls on a Monday, but for anyone who would like to come to Mass, we will have Mass at 9:00.

Another way I like to dedicate the new year to Christ is in prayer right at midnight. I was never much for New Year’s Eve parties when I was younger, so when I was ordained I had the idea of going to church for prayer right at midnight. I decided I would offer that same opportunity to parishioners one year, although I guessed that only one or two people would show up at that time – that anyone who was staying up had a party to go to. That again shows that it is hard to make predictions, for we had a nice gathering that first year and every year thereafter, in whatever parish I have been in. That time of prayer has developed into an annual New Year’s Holy Hour, with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and prayers and readings related to the time of year. So I invite you to join us in church at 11:30 Sunday night, at which point we will give thanks for all of God’s blessings in the past year and to place the upcoming year in His hands.                                   

                                                                                                    Father H