Saturday, June 16, 2018

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time - June 17, 2018

Fathers Day brings many memories to my mind. Here’s one that, I hope, will lead into another point. My father worked for Westinghouse, and in 1964 they asked him to learn to learn the COBOL programming language. Computers were not typically accessible to us ordinary folk, so even into college, I thought of my father’s work as something beyond me. Then in college I took a class in Fortran. I did well in the class, but I did have one program that absolutely would not run, so I asked my father for help. He came up to Duquesne one Saturday afternoon, and the two of us poured over the printout of my program. Finally, he spotted the bug. There was a print command with certain parameters. The line I wanted to print had to be in quotation marks, and the parameters had to be separated from the quotation by a comma. Like a good English student, I had put the comma inside the quotation marks. What was right English was absolutely wrong in Fortran.

Although I was 21 at the time of that Fortran class, I felt like a five-year-old who thinks that his father knows everything. How strange it felt to me years later when Dad would call me to help him with problems he was having in DOS or Windows.

It helps to have someone you can turn to for guidance when things are not going quite right. The surprising thing with a simple solution for computers is simply to reboot, to turn them off and on again. Turning it off clears the memory and gives it a fresh start. And that is the analogy I hope to use now that we are getting into summer. Life gets so hectic that it is nice to have a time when things move a little more slowly. One of the fringe benefits of my involvement with the school is that it makes summer a little more of a break. For me, summer is a time for two specific periods of “rebooting.” Next month I will be going on vacation, and I will write more about that trip in the columns to be published while I am away. Meanwhile, every priest is required to make a retreat once each year, and mine will be this coming week at my alma mater, Mount St. Mary Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland. It is important to take a vacation and have some fun, but it also is important to have a time to focus primarily on the spiritual. On a retreat such as I will be attending, there is one priest who serves as “retreat director,” giving spiritual talks and meeting with any of the priests attending who want to talk about anything connected with ministry. In addition, we get to talk with one another and offer support and friendship. There is a nice group of priests who attend this particular retreat every year, and we have become our own little once-a-year community. (Fr. Michael is part of this retreat and will be riding down to Emmitsburg with me.)  Similarly, it is helpful for any of us to find someone we can turn to for support and guidance, particularly someone who can help us from the perspective of our Catholic faith.
For anyone who still has a father to turn to, that can support both parts of this message – Fathers Day and my spiritual retreat. So please pray for my while I am away from the parish this week. And to all fathers, thank you for all you do. Happy Fathers Day.
                                                                                           Father H 

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Tenth Sunday of Ordinary Time - June 10, 2018

Fifty years is usually a major milestone, and this year we look back 1968. In many ways, that was a momentous year. But there is one thing that happened in 1968 that is widely overlooked. Next month, July 25, marks the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of the encyclical Humanae Vitae by Blessed Pope Paul VI, who is soon to be canonized as St. Paul VI.  In this encyclical, Blessed Paul reaffirmed the Church’s teaching that contraception (any artificial means of birth control) was sinful and was harmful to the relationship between husband and wife.

When talking with engaged couples, I like to compare two people with widely different expectations of what widespread contraception would mean to our society. On the one hand, I refer to Margaret Sanger, founder Planned Parenthood. Sanger claimed that the widespread use of contraceptives would greatly reduce divorce, since couples would have one fewer worry in their marriage. Contraception would also eliminate teenage pregnancy and would put an end to abortion. The reality, of course, is that all three of those problems have become much more widespread since contraception has become so much a part of our society.

Blessed Pope Paul, on the other hand, warned that contraception would “lead to conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality.” He also said that by ignoring one of the main consequences of sexual activity, a man would more easily see a woman as “a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment and no longer as his respected and beloved companion.” Certainly that temptation is always present, but it is so much easier to accept it in our current culture. Blessed Paul also saw contraception leading to an abuse of power if it becomes a tool of government. While we see signs of that abuse in our own nation, we can see it very clearly in a place like China, with forced abortion and a strict one-child law for families. In addition, the Pope saw contraception leading us to believe that our bodies are strictly our own, to do with as we wish, as we ignore God’s dominion in our lives. Sadly, everything that Blessed Pope Paul VI has warned us about has become fact in the last fifty years.

But there is hope. After the publication of Humanae Vitae, various groups of Catholic doctors felt that God was calling them to help develop methods of birth control that were in keeping with the Church’s teaching and were just as effective as artificial methods. Until then, Catholics had relied upon “the rhythm method.” Since then, these doctors have devised what has come to be called “Natural Family Planning,” or NFP. In the past, I worked with some couples trying to promote the Church’s teaching, and I always found it heartening to hear of how NFP made their marriages stronger. As convincing as Blessed Paul’s writing was, the witness of their lives and of their married love was what really showed me how much wisdom is present in the Church’s understanding of sexuality. I find it very fitting that this year, which marks the fiftieth anniversary of Humanae Vitae, is the time when the Church will recognize Pope Paul VI as a saint.
                                                 
                                                                                                       Father H  

Monday, June 4, 2018

Corpus Christi - June 3, 2018

I have to admit that it feels a little different this year. Every year I come to the end of the school year, and I have to admit that I am happy. I love working with the school for many reasons, but one of the fringe benefits is that it makes the summer a little more leisurely. I know I am not alone in that regard. In my younger days, when I was an assistant at St. Gabriel of the Sorrowful Virgin Parish, the pastor was very supportive of the school. Yet as much as Fr. Haney loved his involvement with the school, he always spoke fondly of the last day, along with his desire to “push the school buses out of the lot” to get them on their way and begin the summer.

This year it will be a little harder to get behind the buses and push. I will still be here when school resumes in the fall, but I will not be teaching classes once a week. For when school does resume, I will be just a few weeks away from my move to the South Hills. A little over a week ago, I went to St. Gabriel for one of their school Masses, and I visited the classrooms. They were very welcoming, and the teachers and students were telling me that they were looking forward to my teaching there in the fall. But every new adventure comes with a good-bye, and I will have a hard time leaving my family here. As we say in St. Malachy School, “Once a Bomber, always a Bomber.”

The attitude expressed by “Once a Bomber” is not the same as the British phrase of the “old school tie.” It is not just the memories of the current days that we will take with us into the future. Rather, we share something that holds us together, wherever we may go. Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, still commonly known by its Latin name of Corpus Christi. Our school at St. Malachy is based on something more than math, English, history, and science. We have shared together the Eucharist. We are united by the Body and Blood of Christ, and the Eucharist I celebrated at my visit to St. Gabriel is the same Jesus Christ that I have celebrated with the school students here at St. Malachy. I will still have a few more school Masses when the fall comes. But even when those Masses are being celebrated with the new priests, we will be together in Christ.

So this is not a final good-bye to St. Malachy School. I hope that all of our students, faculty and staff have a wonderful and restful summer. In fact, I’m going to go against the advice I usually give to our kids. One day, on the way out to recess, I joked that they were not allowed to have any fun. I thought that was just a one-time joke, but the kids kept it up for a few days after that, and it soon became a running joke at recess time. So now I’m going to tell the students that they are supposed to have fun over the summer. But please don’t forget that the Eucharist is our common bond and that God does not take a vacation from us, so we should not forget Him over the summer.

Meanwhile, I will see everyone again in the fall and will be part of the new school year at first. But I have to recognize someone special who is moving on. Janet Katic has been part of our school for the last twenty-six years, and now she is retiring. Mrs. Katic has done a wonderful job with our third grade over the years, and she will be missed. Congratulations, Mrs. Katic. And you, too, get to have fun.
                                                              Father H