Saturday, May 19, 2018

Pentecost Sunday - May 20, 2018

Here’s a bit of trivia for you. Do you know where the word “trivia” comes from? The Latin words tri via mean “three roads.” The place where three roads converged would be a place where people from all over would meet and share what was going on. Some of their conversation would be about important items, while others would be rather unimportant or “trivial.”

I was thinking of the etymology of “trivia” because I wanted to note the convergence of three celebrations. First of all, this weekend we celebrate the great feast of Pentecost. This celebration ends the season of Easter, but we can see it as not so much an ending as a beginning. We often refer to Pentecost as “the birthday of the Church.” When Christ ascended to heaven, he promised to remain with send the Holy Spirit upon His disciples to guide them in their work of proclaiming the gospel. Since then, the Church has been carrying out Christ’s mission, so that what the Lord did for us becomes the basis of everything we do.

As I write about Pentecost in that way, it strikes me that what I said sounds a lot like most graduation speeches. Often a speaker will comment that the word “commencement” means the beginning. What the students learned in school is something that they will put into practice now as the next part of their lives commences. So it seems fitting that Pentecost should also be the day when we celebrate the Senior Recognition Mass. At the 11:00 Mass this Sunday we will honor our graduating high school seniors and ask them to tell us where they will be going in the fall. As they move on to college or other destinations, we pray that the Holy Spirit who came upon the disciples at Pentecost – and who strengthened these young women and men at their Confirmation – will continue to guide them throughout their lives.

After Pentecost, we begin Ordinary Time. But this year there is a new twist on our change of seasons. Earlier this year Pope Francis announced that the Monday after Pentecost would now be the Memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church. We have often referred to the Church as “the Body of Christ,” with Jesus as our Head. So Mary is our mother, and Mary is the Mother of the Church. If Pentecost is the “Birthday of the Church,” then we should celebrate Mary’s role in conjunction with Pentecost. So although it is not yet on our calendars, this Monday we honor Mary’s role for guiding us today. In approving the decree, Pope Francis said that he had “attentively considered how greatly the promotion of this devotion might encourage the growth of the maternal sense of the church in the pastors, religious and faithful, as well as a growth of genuine Marian piety.”

So today we tie three celebrations together in a way that is anything but trivial. In the coming weeks, there are three more celebrations known as “The Solemnities of the Lord in Ordinary Time.” These are the Solemnities of the Most Holy Trinity, The Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus (Corpus Christi), and the Sacred Heart of Jesus.                                                                               
                                                               Father H 

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Seventh Sunday of Easter - May 13, 2018

I have frequently made a request of parents to bring their children to church, and I ask them not to feel the need to take them out when they cry. I must also recognize that some people do find crying to be distracting. I try to remind them that the noise of a crying baby is a sign of God’s gift of new life.

I suppose I don’t mind parents taking their children to the cry room, but it should be a place to quiet a child down. Once the children are quiet, I would hope that the parents would bring them back into the nave, the body of the church. Many times, however, our cry rooms are used for other purposes. I learned shortly after I got here that families with children had a hard time using the cry rooms because there were other people in them. The reason, I was told, was that it was difficult for people to hear in church. That explanation made sense since I knew that our sound system was not up to standard. Now, however, our new sound system has made it possible for people to hear in church. For anyone who has been going into the cry room in order to hear, I would like to offer an invitation to come out and try joining the rest of us in church.

Having people in the cry room is not the most important issue that we face, but there is a point to all of this. The liturgy is the work of the Church gathered together as a family. The unity that is part of such a gathering is best expressed when we are all together. If we go into separate places, it is harder to consider ourselves part of the larger community. Certainly there are times when practical needs require a certain separation. I have seen that happen in some places when there are larger crowds than the church can hold. In such instances, closed circuit television screens have been set up in a separate place so that overflow crowds can still take part. Something like that, of course, has happened with the Penguins in the playoffs, when large screens have been set up outside PPG Paints Arena, and the same has been done in some places for large crowds. In other instances, I have heard of people who, for medical purposes, cannot risk infection from large crowds of people. I understand the medical need, and I leave that to people’s own judgment. Such instances, however, should be the exception and not the norm. In most cases, we come together as one community, which is better accomplished when we are in the same space.

If we can come together into the nave of the church, we can free the cry rooms up for their original purpose, as a place for parents to take their crying children. In that case, as well, they become a temporary refuge, and the parents bring their children back into church when they have settled down.

It is not my purpose to give anyone an old-fashioned case of “Catholic guilt,” nor to shame anyone into feeling like something is wrong. Rather, it is my hope to bring our parish even closer together to share with one another the most powerful and dramatic gift of the Eucharistic Liturgy. Our celebration becomes ever more joyful the more we share it with one another, and I am very grateful for the opportunity to share it with all of you.
                                                                               
                                                               Father H 

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Sixth Sunday of Easter - May 6, 2018

This Wednesday we welcome Bishop Zubik to St. Malachy to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation with our eighth graders. With this sacrament, our young men and women can rely on the guidance of the Holy Spirit in all the choices of their lives. That makes me think of how appropriate it is to have Bishop Zubik coming to our parish at this time. With the decisions recently announced for On Mission for the Church Alive, we know that the bishop has relied deeply on the guidance of the Spirit throughout the process, including clergy assignments. So while we pray for our Confirmandi and for Bishop Zubik, I also ask your prayers for us priests as we prepare for our new ministry.

With that, I would like to offer a word of introduction for the priests who will be serving this community. This is not an “official” biography, but just my own knowledge of the priests who will be here. The new Administrator (who will get the title of pastor when the merger becomes official) is Fr. David Poecking, who is currently pastor of St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Carnegie. He was here a few months ago as one of the speakers for our Speaker Series. Fr. Poecking is a convert to the Catholic faith who spoke here about the influence that the writings of J. R. R. Tolkien had upon his life. I am confident that Bishop Zubik has made a fine choice in leading the new grouping.

Fr. Alan Morris has served as pastor of several parishes in our diocese, including serving as administrator of one of the parishes that I will be moving to, St. Valentine. As a young priest, he succeeded me as parochial vicar of another one of the parishes I will soon be serving, St. Gabriel Whitehall. In his first year there, he posed for a picture with the eighth graders of the school, and some people thought he was one of the kids who dressed up as a priest.

Speaking of St. Gabriel Parish, one of my duties during my time there was to train the altar servers. One of those servers grew up to be a priest who will be living here. Fr. Michael Ruffalo will be assigned to work with the archives of the diocese and will be available for help especially on weekends.

The other priests serving these parishes are more familiar to us. Fr. Bob Zajdel has served as parochial vicar at St. John of God Parish. We also have three retired priests who will continue to be in residence. Fr. Rege Ryan is, of course, the “mayor of McKees Rocks.” Fr. Bob Herrmann is a former pastor of Holy Trinity who has been living in their rectory in his retirement. And of course our own beloved Fr. Russell Maurer is staying with us. We will also benefit from the ministry of Deacon Tim Killmeyer, currently of Holy Trinity.

In the meantime, I am still pastor here until October 15. I will be writing more about my upcoming assignment in the future. But I take this opportunity to remind you that I will not forget the wonderful adventure I have had here at St. Malachy. The line I have been remembering a lot lately is from our school athletics, “Once a Bomber, always a Bomber.”                                                                                         
                                                               Father H