From the Pastor

October 23, 2020

In this Sunday’s collect, there is a threefold petition that I would like to unpack with you: “Almighty ever-living God, increase our faith, hope and charity, and make us love what you command, so that we may merit what you promise.”

Let us take the first part, “Almighty ever-living God, increase our faith, hope and charity….” In this opening, we beg God to give us three particular virtues which only He can. We commonly know them as Theological Virtues, and these virtues are the ways God’s life lives in us – they draw us back to Him. You can study these virtues, as well as the Cardinal virtues, here: courtesy of the Thomistic Institute.

In the second part, by living the Theological virtues, we become animated to understand that God perfectly knows the best way for us to live. Therefore, we trust in His commands and ask Him to “make us love what you command.” At times, we distrust people in our everyday life, and the same thing can be noticed of our relationship with God. When we lack trust, we also tend to lack love and the will to do the good asked of us. We must ask God for the resolve to trust him and realize what He asks of us daily will always be for our good and the good of others.

The third and final part of the petition reads, “…so that we may merit what you promise.” When we live the Theological virtues, trust in God and live what He asks of us, we realize we are living in communion with God now and in the life to come. By merit, we should realize as the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches in paragraph 2008:

“The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace. The fatherly action of God is first on His own initiative, and then follows man’s free acting through his collaboration, so that the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God, then to the faithful. Man’s merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit.” (See here for more on the Catechism.)

This is why the prayer mentions the word “promise,” for God is always the one to act first on His creations to draw them to Himself. May God shower you with Faith, Hope and Charity to animate you to love His commands and be assured of His promises for you.

Peace in Christ,

Fr. Joe

October 9, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We beg God in our prayer for the Mass to have His grace “at all times go before us and follow after and make us always determined to carry out good works.”

This petition from our Collect this Sunday is beautiful and, at times, challenging – especially in times such as these. Our challenge to be faithful and good citizens is evident. To inform our citizenry with our praxis and our faith in Jesus will most likely be met with opposition, and such opposition will be overt.

Lately, much of the media in the United States surrounds evils of many stripes: racial injustice, outrage leading up to the Presidential election, unsettled grief in the loss of a Supreme Court Justice, frustration with what appears to be an immediate appointment of another justice leading up to the aforementioned election, and currently living in a pandemic. I imagine there are countless other concerns: domestic or otherwise, plaguing the minds of many of us.

In all of these moments, we must cling to our gift of Faith in Christ Jesus to inform us and enable us to live the authentic witness we are all called to live: morally, religiously, justly, and with charity informing all that we say and do. We are called to do good works. Sometimes doing good works does not happen naturally. In my experience, living the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy are good ways to humble my pride and allow me to love when things and people in life are most difficult, not when easy.

The Corporal Works of mercy are:

– Feed the hungry.
– Give drink to the thirsty.
– Shelter the homeless.
– Visit the sick.
– Visit the prisoners.
– Bury the dead.
– Give alms to the poor.

The Spiritual Works of mercy are:

– Admonish the sinner.
– Instruct the ignorant.
– Counsel the doubtful.
– Bear wrongs patiently.
– Forgive offenses willingly.
– Comfort the afflicted.
– Pray for the living and the dead.

May God’s grace encourage you to live these out in your walk with Christ.

Peace,

Fr. Joe

October 2, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Following St. Paul’s instruction from last week to the Philippians – and us – “to be united in our hearts and thinking one thing,” we know the one thing is to have the attitude of Jesus and to imitate Him by emptying ourselves in sacrificial love for the greater glory of God. In doing so, we become certain of the grace given to us by Jesus’ crucifixion and death. To live out this grace, we are to “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make [our] requests known to God. Then, the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard [our] hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

Why would St. Paul state that we should have no anxiety at all? I submit to you that one of the tactics of the devil is to disintegrate and perplex us, thereby causing us to fear to live our lives fully in Christ. When living in fear, we tend to shy away from joy, leisure, authenticity, conflict and a host of other beautiful things that God actually places before us to engage in and encounter Him. To engage the gift of our lives fully, we must by God’s grace live in such a manner that we know of God’s mercy, and the many other graces he has given us to live in everyday.

To live in the way St. Paul is exhorting us, we must keep in mind the following verses: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, what­ever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then, the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9)

By living in such a manner, peace is found and we realize anxiety is expelled.

My prayer for you this week: that God reminds you of His love, that you pray and petition Him, that you have no anxiety. May you think of the wonderful things St. Paul mentioned so you may live in the Joy that comes from Jesus.

Peace in Jesus,

Fr. Joe

September 29, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Today in the Church’s liturgy, we commemorate the Archangels: Gabriel, Michael and Raphael. Here are some basic truths to remember about angels. We believe that God did create these spiritual beings, whom we name as “angels.” They’re spiritual in that they are not composed of matter. We name them angels because of the Greek: άγγελος, which strictly means “messenger.” (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n.328-336). Thus, when we say “angel,” we mean “messenger sent by God.” Therefore, the name of any “angel” is the function of the spiritual being created by God.

In particular, we have three angels known to be “archangels.” Each has a name that is unique and each has particular functions by God’s grace.

Gabriel, whose name means “Fortitude of God,” is given the ability like the other two archangels to command the hosts of angels and, in particular, to execute the commands of the Lord to the Courage and Power of God. We notice this in Daniel chapters 8-10. We also find Gabriel to have the power of judgment. In Judaism, Gabriel is attributed with the judgment that brought about the destruction of Sodom and Sennacherib. (For more information, visit Catholic Encyclopedia and Chabad.org.

The archangel Michael, whose name means “Who is like God,” is also tasked with hosts of angels to share in God’s kindness and mercy. Tradition attributes Michael with the following duties: to fight against Satan; to rescue the souls of the faithful from the demonic, especially at the hour of death; to be the champion of God’s people, the Jews in the Old Law, the Christians in the New Testament; and to call away from earth and bring men’s souls to judgment. (Please refer to Catholic Encyclopedia.)

Raphael is the last of the three archangels and his name means “God has healed.” We find Raphael in the book of Tobit: cf. Tobit 5. In this scene, Raphael meets Tobias who doesn’t realize Raphael is an angel. They become companions on a journey, during which Rapahel tells Tobias they will stay in the house of Raguel and that Tobias should marry his daughter, Sarah. Further in the story, we hear of Sarah and Tobias returning home and Raphael revealing himself and bringing about a healing of Tobias. (cf Tobit 10-12). I highly recommend reading this short book of Sacred Scripture. In doing so, we realize why people select pieces of the book for readings in weddings.

Thanks be to God for the Archangels: Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael.

Peace in Christ,

Fr. Joe

September 18, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

On this 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, we are given the opportunity to recall God’s generous love and that this is such a gift that we must give it to others. God’s generous love is exhibited in many ways: by forgiving our trespasses, in receiving absolution in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and in recitation of the Our Father, when we receive forgiveness for venial sins that tend to plague and tempt us to not love God and neighbor.

The prophet Isaiah reminds us today of God’s gift in forgiveness: “Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their way, and sinners their thoughts; Let them turn to the Lord to find mercy; to our God, who is generous in forgiving.” (Isaiah 55:6-7) Seeking the Lord is priority. Do we look for Him in our everyday life? The Lord can be found in the simplest of ways and places. Perhaps, we see Him in our family, spouse, children, priest and any person.

The gift of being human comes with the recognition we are created in the image of God. (cf. Genesis 1:26) With this reminder that humanity is made in the image of God, we should strongly consider our conduct toward each other. How do I care for and love my neighbor? To love God and neighbor demands that we give assent to the common fact that God is divine and Man images the Divine.

It is true that humanity is fragile, vulnerable, and fraught with temptation and sin. But with these realities in mind, we ought not be disabled, immobilized or rendered incapable of holding to the commands of God to His precepts: Ten Commandments, The Beatitudes, for example. We are still called to love our fellow man and possibly bear wrongs patiently, displaying mercy. We should couple the beauty of God’s generous love found in forgiveness, to the desire that the Lord be magnified in our lives.

St. Paul exhorts the Philippians: “Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or death. For to me life is Christ and death is gain…Only conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ.” (Philippians 1:20,27a) Let us this week pray earnestly that our lives will give way to Christ and to follow His commands, to love God and neighbor and in imitation of our Blessed Mother: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior….” (Luke 1:46)

Peace in Christ,

Fr. Joe

September 15, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Coming off the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, celebrated on September 14, today we celebrate the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.

We are presented with a beautiful opportunity to pray and consider the words from the Gospel of St. Luke, spoken by Simeon in the temple to Mary: “Behold this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel and for a sign that will be contradicted and you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:34-35.)

Following is a performance of Stabat Mater composed by Antonio Vivaldi and performed by German countertenor Andreas Scholl and Ensemble 415: https://youtu.be/n71JvW4E9Xw, Stabat Mater Dolorosa is considered one of the seven greatest Latin hymns of all time and is prescribed as a Sequence for the Mass of the Seven Sorrows of Mary. (You can find additional information on the piece and composer at www.stabatmater.info/componist/vivaldi. A translation of the Sequence in English can be found at www.stabatmater.info/english-translation.)

Take time to be beside Mary in prayer as she was beside her Son, whom Jesus gave to be our mother. Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us.

In Christ,

Fr. Joe

September 11, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I recall many years ago my classes for religious education, particularly my classes for learning about the Sacrament of Confirmation. I must confess that I did not learn much. I diverted my attention to other temptations that would typically accompany an angsty 16-year-old boy. This was of my own will, choosing not to listen to the good-willed volunteer catechist. Only many years later did I come to understand those latent lessons and graces that this wonderful sacrament was giving to me.

These lessons are brought to our attention by St. Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians. (cf. 1 Cor. 9:15-27) What we notice is the demand to witness to others the graces we have received by living a life in Jesus for others. Effectively when we receive the Sacrament of Confirmation, we complete our initiation entering into the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic church. We do not graduate from the church. Rather, we are full-pledged, initiated witnesses of God, called to share the love and knowledge of Him and His church with others.

For more in-depth understanding, I direct you to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 1285-1321. Specifically, in the Catechism we find “For ‘by the Sacrament of Confirmation, [the baptized] are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed.’” (CCC, 1285; Lumen Gentium, 11; cf. Order of Confirmation, Introduction 2)

We are called to act and speak about the goodness of God and His church, akin to St. Paul who exhorts us: “Brothers and sisters: If I preach the Gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it!” (1 Cor. 9:16)

This may appear daunting; however, we are called to share God’s story, not our own. Our story can only make sense in the light of God, specifically the light of Christ, who is our entry through baptism to a relationship with God. To share this Gospel is beautiful, challenging and ultimately offering an invitation to another person the answer for which all seek: the way of living well.

Here is a great means of learning how to go about sharing the Gospel, which I found immensely helpful and practical, courtesy of the podcast “Every Knee Shall Bow,” made by Ascension Press: https://everykneeshallbow.fireside.fm/5.

May the Lord continue to strengthen you through the grace of receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation to be bold and true witness to the world of Christ and His church.

Peace in Christ,

Fr. Joe

September 8, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Today we commemorate the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This celebration lands eight months later than the fixed day when we celebrate the Immaculate Conception of Mary. Her parents’ names are Joachim and Anne.

We learn of their names and the birth of Mary in the Protoevangelium of James: www.newadvent.org/fathers/0847.htm. This document is not in the Bible, but is considered a part of the Church’s traditional beliefs, though it is not as authoritative as the Bible. Its final written version was completed in the early second century.

The document describes Joachim, Mary’s father, as a wealthy man and member of one of the twelves tribes of Israel. Both Joachim and Anne were saddened by their childlessness. Given their situation, Joachim calls to mind Abraham and Sarah and the birth of their son Isaac. (cf. Genesis 21-22).

Anne and Joachim began to fast and pray rigorously. They thought that their inability to conceive was because God was displeased with them. However, the couple would receive a greater blessing than Abraham and Sarah. The writing goes on to tell us that Anne was given a message by an angel: “The Lord has heard your prayer and you shall conceive, shall bring forth, and you shall be spoken of in all the world.”

Following Mary’s birth, Anne is described in the Protoevangelium of James to have “made a sanctuary” in Mary’s room and would not allow common or unclean items in the room with regard to her holiness, as told by the angel. When Mary was a year old, Joachim and Anne held a feast inviting priests, scribes and Pharisees of Israel, and they blessed her saying, “O God of our fathers, bless this child, and give her an everlasting name to be named in all generations. And all the people said: So be it, so be it. Amen.” (Protoevangelium, 6).

The protoevangelium goes on to describe how Mary’s parents, along with the temple priests, subsequently decided that she would be offered to God as a consecrated Virgin for the rest of her life, and enter a chaste marriage with the carpenter Joseph.

The beauty of what is encountered in the Protoevangelium of James is an understanding throughout the centuries of Mary and her upbringing. Allow this tradition to take place in your prayer and meditation with the greater reality of God’s favoring Mary to receive Jesus in her womb.

Peace in Christ,

Fr. Joe

September 4, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

At times, we could be like Peter who asks Jesus, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?” (Matthew 18:21b). I get the sense that we may think things would be easier in life if we do not forgive our brother, simply sloughing off the prospect of doing so, since we can rationalize that “it’s no big deal.”

On the contrary – and according to Jesus – forgiveness is a big deal. Notice, Jesus from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34). And certainly, His words today drive home the point, “I say to you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

The concept of numbers in the Bible for the Jewish people is important. Seven, was a number to signify perfection. Therefore, to suggest a multiplied number, such as seventy-seven, would be the equivalent of saying your ability to forgive someone should be “perfectly perfect.” Thus, we are called by Jesus to be a specialist in forgiving people. Especially since we are to imitate Jesus, Himself, forgiveness is to be demanded of us who follow Jesus.

May God grant you the grace to be such specialists in forgiveness, in imitation of His Son, and feel the working of his mercy in your everyday life as you serve Him with your whole heart.

Peace in Christ,

Fr. Joe

September 1, 2020

Our Collect for this upcoming Sunday (6 September) calls us to realize that we who received the Sacrament of Baptism are adopted children of the Father, in and through Jesus Christ and His church. This relationship is tremendously important and gives us a belonging and identity unlike anything else.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church: The Prologue and the first three paragraphs provide groundwork for understanding this relationship.

Prologue: “FATHER, . . . this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”(John 17:3). “God our Savior desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”(1 Tim 2:3-4). “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved”(Acts 4:12.) – than the name of JESUS.

Paragraph 1: God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Savior. In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children
and thus heirs of his blessed life.

Paragraph 2: So that this call should resound throughout the world, Christ sent forth the apostles He had chosen, commissioning them to proclaim the Gospel: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”(Mt 28:19-20). Strengthened by this mission, the apostles “went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it.” (Mk 16:20).

Paragraph 3: Those who with God’s help have welcomed Christ’s call and freely responded to it are urged on by love of Christ to proclaim the Good News everywhere in the world. This treasure, received from the apostles, has been faithfully guarded by their successors. All Christ’s faithful are called to hand it on from generation to generation, by professing the faith, by living it in fraternal sharing, and by celebrating it in liturgy and prayer. (Acts 2:42).

I would encourage you to take time praying and meditating through these short paragraphs. Know that God draws near to you, and desires to be with you, Jesus seeks us out to draw us back to the Father with love and that we have true freedom in the Lord and in His church.

Peace in Christ,

Fr. Joe

August 28, 2020

Throughout our readings for the Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary time, we find the theme to speak the Truth of the Lord. We encounter three different outcomes. The prophet Jeremiah laments the dilemma he finds himself in, “Whenever I speak, I must cry out, violence and outrage is my message; the word of the Lord has brought me derision and reproach.” (Jeremiah 20: 8b). To speak the word of God will at times result in becoming a laughingstock, and bring potential for persecution. It should surprise none of us to read this lament from Jeremiah and at times relate to his predicament.

Skipping to the Gospel, we last week read about Peter becoming the First Pope: the “rock,” the firm place which Jesus would bestow his authority and establish His church. Immediately following is what is in today’s reading. Jesus makes plain to the disciples that He will go to Jerusalem to suffer, be crucified and die. Peter exclaims, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.”(Matthew 16:22). Jesus corrects Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” (v. 23). At times, even after receiving great graces from God, we can totally fail, similar to that of Peter. We failed to keep in mind Jesus, His mission, and to heed the words of Mary, “Do whatever He tells you.” (John 2:5).

St. Paul in the Second reading, writing to the Romans encourages all “by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good, pleasing, and perfect.” (Romans 12:1b-2). This is a great reminder when we should be in the situations similar to Jeremiah and Peter. The question to have in our mind before any action should be, “Is this what you are asking me to do Jesus?” To conform our mind and thinking to Jesus’ mind and thinking demands ongoing conversion of everyone be they prophet, priest or pope. We find such graces in continual prayer, the Sacraments, reading Scripture as a Lectio Divina, spiritual direction, receiving constructive correction from a fellow Christian in charity, and many others.

May God give you the grace of ongoing conversion to avoid complacency and idleness which often tempts us not to live joyfully in the Lord.

Peace in Christ,

Fr. Joe

August 28, 2020

Throughout our readings for the Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary time, we find the theme to speak the Truth of the Lord. We encounter three different outcomes. The prophet Jeremiah laments the dilemma he finds himself in, “Whenever I speak, I must cry out, violence and outrage is my message; the word of the Lord has brought me derision and reproach.” (Jeremiah 20: 8b). To speak the word of God will at times result in becoming a laughingstock, and bring potential for persecution. It should surprise none of us to read this lament from Jeremiah and at times relate to his predicament.

Skipping to the Gospel, we last week read about Peter becoming the First Pope: the “rock,” the firm place which Jesus would bestow his authority and establish His church. Immediately following is what is in today’s reading. Jesus makes plain to the disciples that He will go to Jerusalem to suffer, be crucified and die. Peter exclaims, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.”(Matthew 16:22). Jesus corrects Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” (v. 23). At times, even after receiving great graces from God, we can totally fail, similar to that of Peter. We failed to keep in mind Jesus, His mission, and to heed the words of Mary, “Do whatever He tells you.” (John 2:5).

St. Paul in the Second reading, writing to the Romans encourages all “by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good, pleasing, and perfect.” (Romans 12:1b-2). This is a great reminder when we should be in the situations similar to Jeremiah and Peter. The question to have in our mind before any action should be, “Is this what you are asking me to do Jesus?” To conform our mind and thinking to Jesus’ mind and thinking demands ongoing conversion of everyone be they prophet, priest or pope. We find such graces in continual prayer, the Sacraments, reading Scripture as a Lectio Divina, spiritual direction, receiving constructive correction from a fellow Christian in charity, and many others.

May God give you the grace of ongoing conversion to avoid complacency and idleness which often tempts us not to live joyfully in the Lord.

Peace in Christ,

Fr. Joe

August 25, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In this week’s readings, we encounter a theme of anticipating the second coming of Jesus and how to authentically interpret what people are saying. In Thessalonica, there were many people who had unsettled minds and were confused by all the talking about Jesus’ second coming. Specifically, St. Paul mentions people being “alarmed either by a ‘spirit’ or by an oral statement.” He is making a direct reference to people who think they possess a prophetic spirit and authority to spread their ideas, though they may not be of God.

We are reminded by St. Paul to trust above all in Jesus and His words, to keep His promises at the center and not to be confused by any strange interpretations and sayings from others. We learned last weekend that Jesus established and gave his authority to the Church with Peter as its head and the apostles in union with him, which would eventually be known as the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. We are reminded by the teaching of the Catholic church to not be giving way to subjective opinions. Rather, we are to interpret the sayings and teachings of Jesus in the light of the Tradition of the Church, which has made definitions and clarifications throughout the course of history.

The Second Vatican Council, in the dogmatic constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei verbum), we find: “The task of giving an authentic interpretation, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ.” (DV, n. 10). What is meant in that statement is ultimately subjective interpretation does not carry any moral authority and can be discarded, especially in the cases which will distract us from joyfully living life and anticipating the Lord whenever he should come to meet us.

Following is a short video clip to watch on understanding Divine Revelation.

What Is Revelation? (Faith Seeks Understanding)

Peace in Christ,

Fr. Joe

August 21, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Sunday’s Mass is a beautiful reminder for us that God uses Peter as an instrument to begin building his Church. This only happens immediately after Peter answers Jesus’ question, “But who do you say that I am?”

This moment is the beginning of the hierarchical church. We learn more of this in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: Number 880: When Christ instituted the Twelve, “He constituted [them] in the form of a college or permanent assembly, at the head of which he placed Peter, chosen from among them.

Just as “by the Lord’s institution,” St. Peter and the rest of the apostles constitute a single apostolic college, so in like fashion the Roman Pontiff, Peter’s successor, and the bishops, the successors of the apostles, are related with and united to one another.

“Number 881: The Lord made Simon alone, whom he named Peter, the “rock” of his Church. He gave him the keys of his Church and instituted him shepherd of the whole flock.” The office of binding and losing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of apostles united to its head.” This pastoral office of Peter and the other apostles belongs to the Church’s very foundation and is continued by the bishops under the primacy of the Pope.

Let us take time to pray for Pope Francis, the successor of Peter, and all bishops who are in line with the Apostles: that they may be following the command of Christ to guide all and be good instruments of God’s grace in the Church for the world.

Peace in Christ,

Fr. Joe

August 18, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

For this Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time, we hear of Peter claiming Jesus to be “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16) Another synonym for Christ is the Hebrew word “Messiah.” Peter is stating Jesus is the long-awaited king to unite Israel and bring all creation into relationship with God the Father and the declaration that Peter is “rock” of the Church.

The entirety of the Liturgy for this day illumines for us the beauty, truth, and goodness that comes from Peter’s declaration and Jesus establishing Peter as the head of the Church, which still impacts us today.

What Jesus does in this scene is something to take to prayer and, I encourage you to read through the full passage: (Matthew 16:13-20). Jesus situates the conversation first with himself and his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (v.13). Seeking a general opinion, the disciples respond stating that Jesus is, perhaps John the Baptist or one of the prophets: Elijah or Jeremiah (v.14).

Then Jesus turns from the general response to ask for a personal response, “Who do you say that I am?” We find Peter’s answer “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (v.16), moves us from public opinion to a personal response, which Jesus makes plain is a gift of revelation from the Father (v.17).

This was a decisive moment of faith. Among many opinions, which could be confusing Peter confesses Jesus to be Lord. From that moment on, countless people have made this declaration, which questions about faith and living a Christian life (moral life) came about.

We find in our Collect language that reflects Peter’s Confession and Jesus establishing the Church: O God, who cause the minds of the faithful to unite in a single purpose,
grant your people to love what you command and to desire what you promise, that, amid the uncertainties of this world,
our hearts may be fixed on that place where true gladness is found.

May we, by God’s grace, “unite in a single purpose,” that Jesus is the Messiah, love what He commands, which is his Church founded on Peter, and desire His promises (i.e. Communion with God in this life and as we confess “life of the world to come”) with our hearts hoping to encounter “true gladness.”

May God bless Pope Francis, successor of St. Peter, and Archbishop Aquila and all bishops, successors of the Apostles.

Peace in Christ,

Fr. Joe

August 14, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Continuing with the theme of Faith from last week, this week proves to show a necessity for Faith when the supernatural – in this case the demonic – shows its existence in the Gospel. We must accept the reality of demons, since at root they are angels (which we readily accept angels that do good), who chose to no longer serve God but serve Satan.

These demons function to sow confusion and many a malady that can be difficult for us to grasp. But basically, they will cause disruption with God, disorder and disunity. Whereas, God serves to show us in Jesus no interruption or communion with Himself, order and Integrity with God and His creation. The more we seek deep Faith in God, the more possible we will encounter the evil which seeks to militate against God. Therefore, even in circumstances where the supernatural evil should exist, we – like the Canaanite woman – go to Jesus and persist, relying on His grace to exorcise and command the evil to leave.

On a practical level this is very subtle most of the time – via the Sacrament of Confession which is the greatest example outside of Baptism to expel evil or using Holy Water, making the sign of the cross, to name a few – and only in rare instances explicit such as found in the movie “The Exorcist,” which covers the story of a young girl possessed by a demon that calls for a Solemn Rite of Exorcism. How the film portrays the ritual is certainly fantastic and with many terrifying scenes. Despite the terror, every exorcism is to bring the person afflicted by evil to peace by God’s grace in Jesus and His working through the priest and those praying.

With all that said, the desire of the Canaanite woman for her daughter to be relieved from the demon displayed great faith to Jesus, and Jesus willed to bring peace to the daughter as well as the mother and not allowing her to feel defeated. My prayer this week for you is: when faced with great tribulation and evil, may the Lord increase your Faith, and as we pray the Our Father may you be delivered from evil and rest in God’s peace.

Remaining by God’s grace,

Fr. Joe

August 11, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Today we keep in memory and intercession St. Clare, who founded the Poor Clares in Assisi early in the 13th Century. She was the abbess for the community for 42 years. Anytime we encounter someone who lived such an austere life and persevered in doing so, we come to encounter the call to holiness and that there is also call for us to live a holy life in which we can detach from those things that will prevent holiness. To be detached, be it from things, people, emotions or events, simply means that in all the activity we may be called to do that God be placed above all those things that he may direct them accordingly with our cooperation.

We read the following in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2544:

Jesus enjoins his disciples to prefer him to everything and everyone and bids them “renounce all that [they have]” for his sake and that of the Gospels. Shortly before his passion he gave them the example of the poor widow of Jerusalem, who out of her poverty gave all that she had to live on (cf. Luke 21:4). The precept of detachment from riches is obligatory for entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven.

And paragraph 2545:

All Christ’s faithful are to “direct their affections rightly, lest they be hindered in their pursuit of perfect charity by the use of worldly things and by an adherence to riches which is contrary to the spirit of evangelical poverty.” (cf. Lumen Gentium, n. 42§3)

Ultimately, having a healthy spirit of detachment, we take on a poverty rooted in humility that is pure and desires to trust in God’s providence rather than consume ourselves with the thoughts of self-sufficiency and what happens should we fail, which leads to anxiety and further woes. The Catechism concludes this section with “Abandonment to the Providence of the Father in heaven free us from anxiety about tomorrow (Matthew 6:25-34). Trust in God is a preparation for the blessedness of the poor. They shall see God.” (CCC, 2547)

May God give you all a reminder of His love and providence. May you abandon your life to him in such a way that he be first above all else, so that you may see him and not be anxious.

Peace in Christ,

Fr. Joe

August 7, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The liturgy for this Sunday – and in particular the Gospel and the First Reading – reminds us of the gift of Faith we have in God and to trust in Him alone. Our First Reading, as well as the Gospel, calls us to remember that no matter the forces of nature or other forces around us, which at times will provoke terror, fear, and confusion, that God will come in the simple, the calm and at times underwhelming ways to rest our weary selves.

We must take consolation and beg for greater Faith when we are tempted to rely fully on anyone or anything that is not primarily God.

I recommend the simple practice of making an act of Faith. Here is the act to use:

O my God, I firmly believe that you are one God in three divine Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I believe that your divine Son became man and died for our sins and that he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe these and all the truths which the Holy Catholic Church teaches, because you have revealed them who are eternal truth and wisdom, who can neither deceive nor be deceived. In this faith I intend to live and die. Amen.

May God give you all a greater and more profound Faith and please pray that I increase in Faith too.

Peace in Christ,

Fr. Joe

August 4, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This week, the Church commemorates The Curé of Ars, St. John Marie Vianney. A humble priest, he was born of peasant stock on 8 May 1786 in Dardilly, France. Vianney struggled through his studies in the seminary and was eventually ordained a priest. His most famous assignment was the Pastor in Ars, France in 1818 at the age of 31.

Upon going to Ars, his Vicar General said of the town, “There is not much love of God in that parish – you will bring some into it.” A biographer said this about Vianney’s arrival in Ars:

When he got within sight of it, having gotten lost along the way, he turned to his guide, one of the local boys, and said, “You have shown me the road to Ars; I will show you the road to heaven.” From all we know he said it in a matter-of-fact way. Heaven is not a gargantuan dream; it was as palpable to him as his books and his bed. (Fr George Rutler, St John Vianney: The Curé D’Ars Today, Ignatius press, 1988.)

I really appreciate the simplicity of this priest and I hope you do, too. Mainly because through the grace of God, St. John Vianney exuded joy and truth in sharing the love of Jesus to those in his parish. Oftentimes, he would regularly be found teaching catechism, as well as spending many hours in the confessional reconciling souls back to God.

In a General Audience, on 5 August 2009, Pope Benedict XVI said of St. John Vianney:

Therefore, the centre of his entire life was the Eucharist, which he celebrated and adored with devotion and respect. Another fundamental characteristic of this extraordinary priestly figure was his diligent ministry of confession. He recognized in the practice of the sacrament of penance the logical and natural fulfilment of the priestly apostolate, in obedience to Christ’s mandate: “if you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (cf. Jn 20: 23).

We should all go to God in thanksgiving for such a holy priest and implore St. John’s intercession. I ask you to continue to pray for me, that with God’s grace a similar zeal and joy be present in my service to you all. That likewise with St. John Vianney, “I will show you the road to heaven.”

Peace in Christ,

Fr. Joe

July 31, 2020

Dear brothers and sisters in Jesus,

During Mass after the Gloria or the Penitential rite, the presiding priest exclaims, ”Let us pray” then makes a gathering in gesture. Do you ever wonder what that means? We call this prayer and gesture the Collect, which in Latin means ”to gather in.” So what the priest is doing is gathering in the prayers of those present to bring them to God the Father.

The priest then states a prayer from the Roman Missal made through Jesus Christ in communion with the Holy Spirit on behalf of the people.

Sunday’s Collect is no exception. The words in the prayer are beautiful and beg God to “draw near…and answer…prayers with unceasing kindness.” And what follows in the prayer is the realization that God is the Creator and we are His creation. What also is made clear is Creation due to sin can disintegrate and God the Father can restore His creation and also it, too.

Taking this prayer and the Second Reading from St. Paul, we understand that with God we need not worry for nothing will separate us from the love of Christ.

My prayer for you this week is that God reminds you of His love for you, and that you have nothing to be afraid of knowing God’s providential care.

Peace in Jesus,

Fr. Joe

July 28, 2020

The Altar, a sign of Christ, taken from Rite of Dedication of an Altar 4:

Everywhere, in varying circumstances, the Church’s sons and daughters can celebrate the memorial of Christ and take their place at the Lord’s table. Nevertheless, it is in keeping with the eucharistic mystery that the Christian faithful should erect a stable altar for celebrating the Lord’s Supper, something that has been done from the earliest times.

The Christian altar is by its very nature a unique table of sacrifice and of the paschal banquet:

  • a unique altar on which the Sacrifice of the Cross is perpetuated in mystery throughout the ages until Christ comes;
  • a table at which the Church’s sons and daughters are gathered to give thanks to God and to receive the Body and Blood of Christ.

In every church, then, the altar is “the center of the thanksgiving that is accomplished through the Eucharist” around which the Church’s other rites are in a certain manner ordered.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I have been reflecting and praying through the above passage before and after our new altar was dedicated. As the liturgy was going on and I was observing Archbishop dedicating the altar, I was overwhelmed with great emotion, mainly of awe and wonder at what was taking place. The amount of Chrism was great, and to see and smell such holy oil on the altar was a delight to my senses.

To have such a consecration occur made me contemplate on the sacrifice that Jesus did for us and the world and how in the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass we are taken to a place of life through Christ on the Altar. This reflection left me with overwhelming gratitude. I hope that same spirit of gratitude remained with you all as well who were present or watched the liturgy that morning.

As the ritual indicates, by its very nature the altar is a table of sacrifice and also of the paschal banquet. The altar represents a sacrifice in that it is a symbol for Jesus who is the one-saving sacrifice given to Father by the priest. Also, the altar is the paschal banquet, where we, the children of God the Father, receive the divine life of the Risen Christ.

I encourage you to take time in prayer on the beauty and symbolism of the Altar, may you realize it’s purpose and stability as a help for our worship to God.

Peace in Christ,

Fr. Joe

July 26, 2020

“God is in His holy place, God unites those who dwell in His house, He Himself gives might and strength to His people.” Psalm 68 (67): 6-7, 36.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The above Scripture is used for the Entrance antiphon for this Sunday’s Mass. The word “antiphon” etymologically is Greek, meaning in return (anti) sound (photos).
Thus, every time we begin a liturgy, which is an act of the total participation of Christ in His mystical body the Church, we move from the silence or the cacophony of our everyday life to sound praises to God.

This particular antiphon is full with things for reflection in prayer.

In this one line, we are reminded that “God is in His holy place,” He unites those who are with Him and He provides strength for them as well.

The holy place is wherever God is and consequently where holiness resides. Certainly, He dwells in the tabernacle of our church. When receiving Him in the Sacraments, He dwells in us. Since at times we cannot be in the Church, we should setup a prayer corner or a room for prayer, study and meditation. I highly recommend doing so.

Next, He joins us and unites us simply: those who are with Him and to one another. In my experience, we who strive to dwell with God are closely united to one another without, at times, the necessity of establishing a relationship, because Jesus is the one who has laid the groundwork, therefore we move ahead to communing with others easily. I noticed in my experiences of attending World Youth Days (Poland and Spain) or missioning to people in Eastern Russia we could commune and share life simply because Christ was our Foundation.

Lastly, by dwelling in God’s holy place and sharing His foundation with others, we will be strengthened for the mission He has asked us to co-labor with Him. This piece is one of most importance, mainly because in St. John’s Gospel we realize that Jesus is the vine and we are His branches and without Him we can do nothing (Cf. John 15:5). He must give us the strength to grow every day in His love, peace, power and joy and share life of God with others.

Try this week to realize and pray (1) where God’s holy place is, (2) the unity God provides to his followers, and (3) the particular grace in His strength He gives you.

Peace in Christ,

Fr. Joe

July 21, 2020

Then He said to his disciples: “The Harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few; so, ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” (Matthew 9: 38)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

For our third and final piece in Matthew 9:38, let us consider:

So, ask the Master to send out laborers for his harvest.

At times, we forget this all is His: the whole of creation, our lives exist in His mercy and grace. All of creation is being cared for by His tenderness, mercy, peace, correction and providence. We, his followers, specifically as his disciples, sit at his feet, and learn from him. When we are sent by him to labor and work the harvest, we act as his apostles, but only when he sends us. We must be docile enough that when he calls, we act on what he calls us to. In the same moment we are to pray because we are encouraged by Jesus to call on the Master to send laborers to work his harvest.

To take this reflection to a more practical pitch, I want you to consider the following questions this week:

How am I sharpening my tools for the harvest: i.e. Bible Study, time in prayer, reading the lives of Saints, reading the Catechism, and other methods?

Am I strong enough to enter the field and work? Am I receiving the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Confession when possible and necessary and finding time for silent prayer or sitting before the Lord in Adoration?

Know of my love for each of you and my prayer this week for you: That God provide you with the grace to intellectually and spiritually delve into breadth, length, height and depth of His Church and Sacraments.

Peace in Christ,

Fr. Joe

July 15, 2020

Then He said to his disciples: “The Harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few; so, ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” (Matthew 9: 38)
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Continuing on from last week’s initial reflection from Matthew 9:38, let’s reflect on:But the laborers are few….

At a certain point, we who were harvested, will be called to be the harvesters and laborers. Jesus is calling us onto the land of his creation, specifically to our fellow brothers and sisters who are raised in the fields of God’s love and grace from the seedling of their baptism and nurturing over time to be intimately connected to following Him. Further, there are also others who have never received the seedling of grace via Baptism. But their desire is so intense, we labor and harvest them that they may be immersed in the waters of Baptism, dying and rising with Christ. Reflect on the following questions this week with the Lord in prayer:

Do I realize I am meant to be a laborer in the harvest? How do I go about sharing and encouraging others to Jesus Christ and His Church?

Know of my love for each of you and my prayer this week for you: that Jesus reminds you of the work He has called you to with His love and mercy.

Peace in Christ,

Fr. Joe

July 7, 2020

Then He said to his disciples: “The Harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few; so, ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” (Matthew 9: 38)
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I write this note to you keeping in my heart and mind the above words from Jesus. Not often do I take time with one line of scripture and simply rest and chew on it for a while. Yet, I propose we think about and pray into the length, breadth, height and depth of such a line from our Redeemer for the next three Tuesdays. Particularly because, as stewards, we are also called by His grace to be laborers with the Lord.
The Harvest is abundant…
This may seem a bit odd, but for those of us who have spent any time on a farm – specifically around the time for harvesting crops, especially big crops that yield much – the sight is overwhelming. I think of those in the wheat and corn fields or perhaps grapes on the vine or olives in the trees, and harvesting getting ready to begin. But particularly the grain harvests, they were common in Jesus’ time and fitting analogies for people to understand the beauty and power of what can become of many planted seeds that are cared for.
To take that analogy to our life in Christ, many of us were given the gift of faith in seed form in our baptism as young children, babies most likely. And over time, we were nurtured not solely with food, but values, virtues and good help of God’s grace in the Sacraments we received, notably the Eucharist and Confession. We also likely received the sacrament of Confirmation strengthening us in the Holy Spirit for the great and holy things the Lord will call us to, be it Marriage, Holy Orders or Consecrated Life.
Take 5-10 minutes this week and reflect on these questions with Jesus:
  • When was I given the seedling of Faith in Baptism? Am I grateful for such a small gift?
  • When was the moment you were harvested by a laborer of the Lord – perhaps receiving Sacrament of Confirmation or a conversion experience – where you encountered the Lord and followed Him earnestly?
Know of my love for each of you and my prayer this week for you: that Jesus reminds you of His love and the great dignity of the holy life you are called to live in love of God and Neighbor.
Peace in Christ,
Fr. Joe McLagan