Thursday, March 20, 2014

From the Vatican New Service - Pope Francis...

Vatican City, 19 March 2014 (VIS) – “St. Joseph the educator” was the theme of the catechesis of today's general audience on the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Mary's spouse and patron of the Universal Church. The Holy Father recalled the great mission of the saint who was able to “protect the Holy Virgin and the Son Jesus”. “We look upon Joseph as the model of the educator, who protects and accompanies Jesus in his journey of growth in wisdom, age and grace, as the Gospel tells us. He was not Jesus' father – Jesus' father was God – but he was a father to Jesus in order to raise him. And how did he enable him to grow? In wisdom, age and grace. … He raised him, ensuring that he lacked nothing necessary for his healthy development”.
He continued, “St. Joseph's mission is certainly unique and unrepeatable, as Jesus is absolutely unique. However, in protecting Jesus, in teaching him how to grow in age, wisdom and grace, he is a model for every educator, and in particular for every father”. Pope Francis gave his best wishes to all the fathers present and encouraged them always to be close to their children, “letting them grow, but always being nearby. They need you, your presence, your closeness, your love. Be, for them, like St. Joseph: protectors of their growth in age, wisdom and grace. Guardians of their path, and educators: walk alongside them. And with this closeness, you will be true educators”.
Before concluding, the Pope mentioned all those who have lost their fathers, and asked those present to pray the “Our Father” for all fathers, living and departed.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Homily from Sunday, March 2, 2014

On the eve of Lent we will finish up our reflection on the Sermon on the Mount: this wonderful passage from Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus offers us a very different perspective on how to live. As I have been saying, this is a very challenging gospel because Jesus’ perspective is very different from ours.  You see Jesus’ view is not what we would consider normal because his view is from the Kingdom of God and not the world in which we live our day to day lives. Therefore, in this “sermon" Jesus’ call requires something that we generally avoid at all cost.  He calls us to CHANGE!

I have to admit that I have struggled to come up with the best approach to this issue because I am no different that you, I don’t like change. I like the sameness of my daily and weekly routine. I get up at 6AM sharp every day and pretty much follow the same regimen from there on.  I am easily flustered by changes in that routine. 

Nonetheless, I recognize that change is a reality in life. Before my assignment here I spent seven  months on sabbatical. During that time I resolved to change a few things about my life. I had spend time working on my prayer life and I wanted to make sure that I continued those new practices when I returned to ministry.  I also resolved (and you’ll laugh when you hear this) to improve my golf game.  In order to do that I had to loose weight, get physically fit.  A tall order, could I do all this?

Loosing weight and working on my physical fitness were relatively easy (as long as I remained patient). Golf was another story for as I worked to improve my game, I did not at first get any better.  In fact I got worse!  I began to question my ability to improve; was I doomed to be a rouge amateur - a weekend hacker? Not only was I working with a teaching pro but I also started to read books on how to play the game.  I found, however, that those books were not answering my question.  Someone suggested a book entitled “The Talent Code,” a book that answers the question: “is talent innate or learned?" I also read several books on how the brain functions - very interesting stuff. It turns out that the answer is yes, I can improve my game, I can change. In time I did improve, I did change.

More significantly, over the course of these past two years, the desire to change other areas of my life has increased: my behavior patterns, my habitual sins - can I change these areas?  These are more difficult and I have found that making excuses is easier than making changes!  How do I/can I make these changes?  Back to the books! I read more about studies that have been done to show HOW change happens.  Most recently I have been reading a book entitled “Switch.” It is a book about making effective, permanent change in life. The authors use the image of rider on elephant…  The rider represents our logical, reasonable approach to life; the elephant represents our emotional approach to life (this is about changing people).  Think of going on a diet to loose weight.  Logic dictates that loosing weight is good for any number of reasons.  On the other hand, emotions dictate that food is good and getting that elephant to move away from all that wonderful and delicious food can be a real challenge.  Sometimes, however, dieting is not a people problem; in other words rider can get the elephant to move.  Unfortunately, a third aspect (not about people) comes into play: the actual path that the rider & elephant are taking.  Sometimes the path is so cluttered that it’s impossible to make any progress, it is impossible to change!  That’s the person in our life who loves to cook good food and is offended when we don’t eat!  We must sometimes work to clear the path.

Keep this image in mind as we go on because this brings me to the issue I need to address in this homily. I want to address this issue not from a worldly perspective but from perspective of the Gospel, particularly the Sermon on the Mount: Jesus’ perspective.  Here’s what Jesus says: “Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not more important than the birds?”  Well, aren’t you  more important that a bird? Of course you are!  Even though the Father provides for a bird’s needs, they still have to scrounge for food.  We, who are infinitely more important than birds still have work to do.  And there is a change here at St. Jerome's that must take place.

As a complete outsider, a stranger as it were to St. Jerome’s, I enter into this situation and objectively state that what I find in this parish is an overwhelming challenge - this parish is dying - it’s like a sinking ship and the rats a fleeing!  Understand, I say this with no disrespect for you who have been long time parishioners.  I know that you have a deep love and concern for your parish.  I have witnessed this in the many homes I have visited and the many people that I have come to know. There are many good people here do many great things - there is great potential - there is tremendous opportunity for a hope filled future.  There is no reason to think that change cannot happen. It is with that in mind that I say I plan on sticking around in order to try and help create a vision so that others can experience the benefits that come from a willingness to change. I’ll be the captain that does not abandon the ship.

Over the course of the past few months I have attempted to appeal to both the rider and the elephant.  I have tried to use logic and emotion to effect change.  To some degree it has helped.  We have done some great things: work on the rectory, an evangelization team, etc. Unfortunately from my perspective these have not been enough to effect the necessary changes to turn the corner from dying to growing.

Here is a case in point: in December we had one particular weekend of very bad winter weather.  As a result many people did not attend Mass, consequently the offering that weekend was below what is necessary to cover our expenses.  I sent out an “emergency appeal” email asking folks to “make up” the following weekend - and you did!  Two weeks ago we had the same situation only this time I did not send out an appeal email.  The result: the second weekend’s collection was only what it normally has been (actually a little less).  If this continues by the end of March we will be bankrupt; we will be unable to pay our bills.

This past week, as I have struggled with and prayed about this crisis situation and what to do about it, God gave me the answer: “its not a people problem, its a path problem, John!  Why are you so worried, just clear the path!”  So today I am going to attempt to do just that, I am going to clear the path.  First, starting today NO MORE second collection.  It is a distraction to our praying three Hail Mary's and the opportunity I take to give you a one sentence reminder of the theme of my homily.  I do, however, still need what you might plan to throw in the second collection.  So if you came prepared to put a dollar or two in the second collection, please put it in the first collection - there will be no second collection. 

The second change - path clearing - has to do with the envelopes you receive.  I receive a set as well and I contribute to the parish as well - but I don't use the envelopes.  So I took a look at the envelopes you & I receive in the mail - ridiculous! This is crazy! I said to myself, “John you wouldn’t do this to yourself, why are you doing this to these good people."  This is going to stop. Starting with the next set you receive you will find one for each Sunday of the year. You will receive one for Christmas and one for Easter.  You will also receive one for each of the memorials (All Souls, Christmas flowers, Easter flower, Mother’s Day and Father’s day) because those are times for me to pray at Mass for your loved ones. A total of 59 envelops each year.  For the special diocesan collections that occur throughout the course of the year I will take about 5% of the Sunday offering and send it to the diocese on your behalf. Additional, each week in the bulletin I will give you the information that you need that will help revive your parish - what it actually cost to operate your parish.  Also, because not everyone is here this weekend to hear me speak on this subject, in the coming weeks I will offer reminders about all this.

Throughout the season of Lent the theme of my weekly message  will be: “what has God given to me, what will I give back to God.”  In today’s Gospel, Jesus commends us to no longer going to worry…  We are going to rely on God to provide for us because that is his promise.


Below is the bulletin insert that shows in some detail the financial crisis we face.  Please look it over and especially pay attention to the information I offer suggesting a new way to support your parish.

Please consider a new approach to supporting your parish: regardless of the envelopes you receive in the mail, think about what you can reasonably contribute to your parish EACH MONTH, then divide that number by the number of Sundays and make your contribution accordingly. If you wish you may opt to make your contribution once a month (so if you miss a Sunday because of the weather, you will still be supporting your parish). You may also opt to use the “On-line Giving” program. This program has a variety of giving options. 
Each year we send out about 59,000 individual contribution envelopes at a total cost of $4,758, which means that each envelope costs about eight cents. About 11000 of those envelopes are returned through the course of the year; in other words, 48,000 are not returned. This basically means that about $3,890 is thrown away each year – what a waste! 
In order to save your parish some money, starting with the NEXT round of envelopes you receive in the mail, you will find only one for each Sunday of the month. The only additional envelopes you will receive will be for the Memorials of Christmas, Easter, Mothers Day, Fathers Day and All Souls Day as well as the Christmas and Easter collections. 

Also, starting this weekend, there will no longer be a second collection. However, we still need the income from the second collection. If you were planning to throw a few dollars in the second collection please put those same dollars in with your first collection contribution.