Monday, December 29, 2014

St. Michael's News Connection • Week of December 28th

The Grace of the Interrupted Moment

Between the last of December and the beginning of January – a little over a week – the Church packs in three special feast days: The Feast of the Holy Family, the Solemnity of Mary, and the Epiphany.  In a poetic sense, the Church is bursting with the joy.  The joy of the season cannot be contained.

Unexpectedly, the word burst led me to think of the word interruption – the Latin rumpere meaning to burst, and interrumpere meaning to break apart. And I found that  as I reflected on each of these feasts, interruptions play a significant aspect in the gospel accounts. In the Feast of the Holy Family, Joseph is warned in a dream to take his family and flee to Egypt.  Later and angel appears and tells him to return to Israel –though Joseph makes a slight change in his destination. Their lives are uprooted more than once, yet they respond with faith hope, and love.  In Mary’s case, an angel appears to her without warning, and her “ordinary” life is turned upside down when she responds with her fiat to become the Mother of God.  In the Epiphany, a star changes the direction the magi’s lives take. Then after paying homage to Jesus, the magi are warned in a dream to return to their country another way, thereby avoiding Herod. Having met Christ, and for the sake of Christ, they choose to face an untried path on their journey home.

Dealing with interruptions in life is not easy, particularly if you are like me, and like to plan things, set schedules, follow routines, and complete things sequentially – and then, at the end of the day, review all that “I have accomplished.” But as I reflect upon this week’s three feasts, it becomes increasingly evident that once we meet Jesus we are called to meet the unexpected, we are called to a life filled with interruptions.

Jesus came to interrupt our lives.  He calls us to break old habits, to open our hearts to new life.  He calls us to focus less on our own needs and wants, and respond to those of others. He presents us each day with the grace of the interrupted moment. And if we elect to respond, the promise of life a bursting with joy awaits.

Jim Gase

Monday, December 1, 2014

St. Michael's News Connection • Week of November 30th

Joyful Anticipation

The Season of Advent is upon us, and during these next four weeks, we anticipate and reflect not only on the birth of the Messiah, but we also prepare for His Second Coming. In this First Sunday of Advent, Mark’s Gospel reminds us to “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.” 

At first glance, these words seem a bit ominous, but, in fact, this is a message of hope. Our lives are filled with moments of joyful anticipation, and oftentimes this can be elating: watching as the sun dips below the horizon, looking forward to the cherry trees blossoming each spring, waiting for a toddler to take his first steps. American novelist Nicholas Sparks remarks, “Never forget that anticipation is an important part of life…without excitement, you have nothing. You’re cheating yourself if you refuse to enjoy what’s coming.” A. A. Milne’s character Winnie the Pooh explains anticipation this way: “ Well,’ said Pooh, ‘what I like best,’ and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.

As faithful Christians, we spend the next four weeks getting ready. We light our Advent candles, listen to familiar Christmas carols, and adorn our homes to reflect the festivities; even baking and purchasing gifts reminds us of what is to come.  We do this with a watchful eye, vigilant, alert, and prepared.  So let us fly on the wings of anticipation this Advent, and be ready for all the glory that this Season holds.

Kathleen Mock
St. Michael’s School

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Time to Watch

Because the Gospel for the upcoming First Sunday of Advent repeats the word watch (or its variant) a few times, it made me think of an old parlor game. In this activity, the host would ask a volunteer to take off his or her watch and give it to a volunteer observer to hold. Ostensibly, the observer’s task was to look at the watch as the watch’s owner was asked a series of questions about the watch. Questions were asked about the color of the watch’s face, whether it had Arabic or Roman Numerals, how many number appeared, whether there was a sweep second hand, what brand name or logo appeared on the watch, and if the watch include calendar day and/or month. After each question, the observer was asked if the owner had answered correctly. Once the owner was complimented for answering so many questions correctly, or more likely, having been sufficiently embarrassed for getting so many wrong, the watch was returned. The host then turned to the observer and asked him or her what time it was. Most often this observer, who spent so much time intently looking at the watch, could not correctly give the correct time. The observer had been subtly misdirected. The observer watched but did not consciously see.
As we enter Advent, if we are not careful, our attentions and intentions may be subtly misdirected. It is easy to get caught up in the busy-ness of the season. Christmas shopping for family and friends is a wonderful thing, as is strengthening and building enduring relationships during holiday parties.
Think of how much greater value such activities can have, however,
if we take the time to watch for and make sure that we truly see not only Christ’s presence,
but his presents -his gifts of life, time, mercy, love, and redemption.
Watch how the season of Advent can be a time to pre-pare,
to cut down to the essentials,
to focus on doing things
that ensure that Christ may not only be born in our hearts,
but be borne in our hearts –
so that others see us carrying and spreading
the joy of the Gospel.
Watching is not a passive activity. It requires conscious consistent action and effort on our part. Just watch carefully this Advent and see what can happen.

-Jim Gase

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

St. Michael's News Connection • Week of November 16th

Celebrating Mass

It has been almost five months since I began my first assignment as a priest here at St. Michael’s, and I would have to say that I am loving every minute of it. Ministering to my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ at all stages of the Christian life has been a great source of joy for me. Today, though, I would like to focus on one source: celebrating Mass.
A relative of mine recently asked me what I do on my day off. I gave her a list of the common things that I do, such as visit my parents, hang out with friends, or simply spending some quiet time alone to recharge. I told her that regardless of what I plan for my day off, I always make sure that it revolves around Mass. Noticing that my relative was a bit surprised that I celebrate Mass even on my day off, I continued by explaining that, for me, being able to make Jesus present in His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity at Mass is an awesome privilege that I hope to do every single day for the rest of my life.
At every Mass, I never cease to be humbled by the fact that a sinner like me can make present the source and summit of the Christian faith: Jesus Christ. All the more I pray that I may give myself totally to Christ so that it is He that the people see and hear…not me. However, in lieu of writing a long explanation of my thoughts on celebrating Mass, I think that it would be better if I point to two references instead.
The first reference is the book, What Happens at Mass, written by my favorite teacher, Fr. Jeremy Driscoll, OSB. On the back cover is written, “What Happens at Mass draws the reader to a deeper understanding of the Mystery of Faith. The Mass is the gift of and an encounter with Jesus Christ. What Happens at Mass is about God acting in our lives through tangible human actions and words. This book draws us closer to the ritual form of that Mass that is nothing less than the very event of our salvation.” It is a short but powerful book, and I highly recommend it. It is available through different sources online (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.)
The second reference also features Fr. Jeremy. It is a video about his thoughts on the liturgical reform of Vatican II, which, I think, is worth watching. Do you prefer the priest facing the congregation or do you prefer him facing east? Is one better than the other?
See you at Mass!
Fr. Lauro

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Veterans Day

On November 11th, we observe Veterans Day.  This day is the anniversary of the signing of the armistice, which ended World War I in 1918.  On this day we thank all military personnel who serve the U.S. in all wars, particularly living veterans.

Sometimes overlooked are our Catholic military chaplains.  Did you know that there were four U.S. Naval vessels named for Catholic military chaplains?  The bravery of four chaplains in the line of duty has been recognized by the U.S. Navy vessels named in their honor.

Father Aloysius H. Schmitt and the USS Schmitt
Father Schmitt was born in St. Lucas, Iowa on December 4, 1909.  Serving on his first sea tour, he was hearing confessions on board the battleship USS Oklahoma when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.  When the ship capsized, he was trapped along with several other members of the crew where only a small porthole provided a means of escape.  He assisted others through the porthole, giving up his own chance to escape, so that more men might be rescued.  He received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal posthumously for his courage and self-sacrifice.

Father Joseph T. O’Callahan and the USS O’Callahan
Fr. O’Callahan was born in Boston, Massachusetts on May 14, 1905.  He was aboard the aircraft carrier USS Franklin when the Japanese attacked it off the coast of Kobe, Japan on March 19, 1945.  After the ship received two well-placed bomb hits, fuel and ammunition began exploding and fires were rampant.  The commanding officer of the carrier saw Fr. O’Callahan manning a hose which laid water on the bombs so they would not explode, throwing hot ammunition overboard, giving last rites of his church to the dying, organizing firefighters, and performing other acts of courage.  He received the Purple Heart for wounds he sustained that day and the Congressional Medal of Honor.  He was the first chaplain of any of the armed services to be so honored.

Father Vincent R. Capodanno and the USS Capodanno
Fr. Capodanno was born in Richmond County, New York on February 13, 1929.  Having requested duty with the Marines in Vietnam, he joined the First Marine Division in 1996 as a battalion chaplain.  While seeking to aid a wounded corpsman, he was fatally wounded on September 4, 1967 by enemy sniper fire.  He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty…”  He had previously been awarded the Bronze Star Medal for bravery under battle conditions.

Father John Francis Laboon, SJ and the USS Laboon
Fr. Laboon, born in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania on April 11, 1921, was a member of the Class of 1944 at the U.S. Naval Academy and a distinguished athlete.  In World War II, Ensign Laboon was awarded the Silver Star for bravery for diving from his submarine to rescue a downed aviator while under heavy fire.  Lieutenant Laboon left the Navy after the war to enter the Jesuits.  He returned to his beloved “blue and gold” as a chaplain in 1958.  For the next twenty-one years, he served the Navy-Marine Corps Team.

Check the U.S. Catholic Bishop’s website at www.usccb for additional information about these brave veterans.

-Robin Swank

Monday, November 3, 2014

All Saints and All Souls

As we celebrate the feasts of All Saints and All Souls this week, I am reminded how thankful I am that our Catholic faith teaches us that our loved ones who have gone before us now have a special role to pray for and intercede for us still here on Earth. We not only have friends and family in this world, but in the next as well, and it is a blessing to consider that so many people we have loved and known are now members of the Communion of Saints.
         I have had non-Catholic friends or family caution about the dangers of praying to anyone other than God and I think it’s important to remember that we don’t pray to anyone other than God either. We ask the saints (or our deceased loved ones) to pray for us, just as we would ask our earthly friends to say a prayer for us in a time of need. It is a gift to have friends in heaven!
         My favorite saint is St. Thérèse of Lisieux, and a particular devotion I learned from her, is to ask our deceased relatives and friends to pray for us in the same way that we seek the intercession of the formally canonized saints. St. Thérèse had four siblings who died before age 5, and in her writings she shares how she would pour out her heart to her little brothers and sisters in heaven and ask them to pray for her. I was really touched by her simple trust in her very young siblings, that she knew they were in heaven and had the power to pray for her just as the great Saints and Doctors of the Church could.
So this week, as we honor all the saints, known and unknown, I invite you to think of a heavenly friend or family member, that you may not have considered praying to before, and ask them to provide you with guidance and spiritual support, as they now sit at the feet of God.

A Prayer for All Saints… 
Dear God, thank you for the example of the Saints. I desire to join in their company, worshiping you forever in Heaven. Please help me follow their footsteps, and yours, Jesus Christ. Please help me to conform myself to Your image, seeking Your will in all things, as the Saints did.  Please help me to devote myself, and all that I do, to Your glory, and to the service of my neighbors. 

-Shay  McKinley 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Prayer and Surrender

I once heard someone say, prayer isn’t part of your relationship with God, prayer IS your relationship with God. That is a thought I often keep in mind when I’m talking to people about God.

For me prayer has been a lot of things, a struggle to humble myself before God, a challenge to do what I know is right regardless of the personal hardships I might face, a comfort in the God whom I know loves me, and a joyful experience of happiness and peace are just a few of the things prayer has been. What I’ve been learning recently however, is how prayer, at its root, is that original and simple definition of lifting one’s mind and heart to God.

This simple definition describes the essence of prayer. It tells us that we don’t have to be in a certain place, have a certain attitude, or have a cookie cutter approach to begin to pray. It shows how we are able to simply lift our minds and hearts to God in whatever state we are currently in. We could be angry, we could be sad, we could be upset, or maybe tired, or frustrated, or impatient, or any other number of things and that is OK. God asks us to bring ourselves to him as we are, not as we’d like to be. That is the proper place to start. Jesus says that he came not for the righteous but sinners, not for the healthy but sick for those who are well have no need of a physician” (Mark 2:17).

Jesus in our wounded state, in our sickness, in our unrighteousness offers us healing and pardon and peace. Through this healing and pardon and peace he gives us a new life, a good life, a happy life of joy and abounding in love. Jesus also said “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). This life of love and peace and happiness is what Christ desires for us every moment of every day. We need only to bring ourselves to him whenever, wherever, and however we are. We are not called to be perfect to come to prayer, for it is the process of prayer that makes us perfect. This process might at first be painful, uncomfortable, or humbling, but those things are simply the divine physician cutting open and cleaning a wound so it can properly heal. Once healed and set right, the patient can move and be free from that ailment or problem and live more abundantly than before.

It all begins with that first step, that first act of love, that first surrendering of one’s pride so they might humbly receive the divine diagnoses as to eventually be healed. This takes courage and an act of our will that we often times don’t like to do, surrender. This surrender is the only thing that will truly set us free and bring us the healing we so desire! Below are two things that can help us in beginning this process of prayer, in this surrender to God’s will.

Matt Rossio
Youth Minister



 (Pray this prayer when you are ready to experience intimacy with God, and hunger for a deeper relationship with Him. When you are ready  to understand fully His purpose and plan for you, the reason for your mere existence, surrender to Him, pour out all your heart and soul to Him in an act of  giving all up to Him. It’s okay to ask Him to help you to do it.)
“….may Your will be done” (Matthew 26:42),
 Loving Father, I surrender to You today with all my heart and soul.  Please come into my heart in a deeper way.  I say “Yes” to You today.  I open all the secret places in my heart to you and say, “Come on in.”  Jesus, You are Lord of my whole life.  I believe in You and receive You as my Lord and Savior.  I hold nothing back.  Holy Spirit, bring me deeper conversion to the person of Jesus Christ.  I surrender all to you: my health, my family, my resources, occupation, skills, relationships, time management, successes and failures.  I release it, and let it go.  I surrender my understanding of how things out to be; my choices and my will.  I surrender to You the promises I have kept and the promises I have failed to keep.  I surrender my weaknesses and strengths to You.  I surrender my emotions, my fears, my insecurities, my everything.  I surrender _____________, ______________________, _______________________, _____________________. (Continue to surrender other areas as the Holy Spirit reveals them to you).  Lord, I surrender my entire life to You, the past, the present and the future.  In sickness and in health, in life and in death, I belong to You.
“Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess.  You have given all of me.  To you, O Lord, and I return it.  All is Yours.  Dispose of it wholly according to Your will.  Give me Your Love and Your grace, for this is sufficient for me.” – Saint Ignatius of Loyola
The Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity 
To accept the things I cannot change; 
Courage to change the things I can; 
And wisdom to know the difference. 

Living one day at a time; 
Enjoying one moment at a time; 
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; 
Taking, as He did, this sinful world 
As it is, not as I would have it; 
Trusting that He will make all things right 
If I surrender to His Will; 
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life 
And supremely happy with Him 
Forever and ever in the next.