End of Year Thoughts (From my St. Pius X Bulletin Reflection)

End of Year Thoughts (From my St. Pius X Bulletin Reflection)

As this year comes to an end, I realize that one of my most important relationships is also coming to an end, and I don’t like it.  My great friend Bishop “Bob” Brucato is in the hospital and it is becoming more obvious that his time with us is limited. This man was at both my parents’ funerals, vested me at my ordination to the priesthood, and presided at my sister’s and brother’s weddings. He was the first priest I talked to about this crazy idea about the priesthood that came to me while on retreat.  I went to talk to him after a school retreat and I was sure he would say it was a passing inspiration and happened to everyone on retreat.  I never really thought anything would come of my thinking that God had called me to the priesthood.

At a family gathering along with the three priests that were close to our family, my mom mentioned a little  confusion as to how I ever considered a vocation.  We had never really talked about it as a family and my      parents were a little speechless when I told them.  All three chuckled and were shocked that this was a surprise to my parents.  They said in the Air Force we were always the family in the 2nd or 3rd row by the ambo as my dad was a reader.  I was an altar server since 6th grade, and my parents were very involved with marriage encounter. Our social life as a family revolved around the church.  We would get there early and be the last to leave.  My parents didn’t have to say anything about  living the faith, it was an essential part of who and what we had become.  When they were first married, my mom would frequently go to Church alone and my dad didn’t start receiving communion till my first communion (long story).  From about the time he was promoted to Lt. Col. he would go to daily Mass whenever he could, especially during Advent and Lent.  When he retired, he would often spend as much time at church as some priests.  He led the RCIA and reader programs for more years and at more places than I can count!  My mom did many things other than proclaim the Word; that was not her thing – her actions spoke the Word.

Thoughts for New Year

As we end this year, I am struck by the importance of what we do and what we believe, about how much they influence those around us.  As we set our goals (resolutions) for the new year, how can we be better?  What can we do to increase the impact we have on those around us? How can we draw people deeper into their faith?  How can we learn from and respect those that have been essential to who we are?  It really shouldn’t be about losing weight or stopping a bad habit; those things should be a byproduct of being the person God made us to be, respecting the gift of our lives and all that we have been given.  I was feeling like a hypocrite preaching about being all we were created to be and being 100 pounds overweight.  I had to fix that and now have 30 more to go.  Now I ask the deeper question: what do we need to do in order to be for this world what God calls us to be and needs us to be?  Let’s resolve to work on that.

 

 

 

REJOICE! Gaudete! 3rd Sunday of Advent, Be Thankful!

REJOICE! Gaudete! 3rd Sunday of Advent, Be Thankful!

Priests should wear pink and the reading remind us of many of the same things as the previous weeks with one very important difference.  Gaudete translates to rejoice and we need to remember to rejoice in all things, but Paul gives us another insight.   At  reading from Thessalonians calls us to be thankful in all circumstances.  Can we even be thankful in all things?

How many times to we ride an elevator, drive between point A and B, order food all without trouble.  I have no idea as a pastor, how many times the elevators at St. Pius X go up and down, but I do know that as soon as one of them is out, my phone starts going off.  Are we thankful for the days without traffic, or for the elevators that show up as expected or food orders that are correct?  Most of us just move on, but when anything goes wrong we remember it, we seem more inclined to react when things don’t go well.  What if we look at things more substantial.  Our heart beats over 100,000 times in 24 hours, do we give thanks for that?  We breath over 30,000 times a day, do we give thanks for that?  Yet if one of those two stop, we stop!

Paul calls us to be thankful in all things.  I had a friend in the seminary who returned one fall with a camel with a 24 on it.  When asked he would tell you that if a camel can go 24 days with out water, he could go 24 hours w/o a drink.  He would tell people he was a grateful recovering alcoholic.  That struck me as very wrong when he first said it.  But he would explain all he had learned through recovery that he wouldn’t have learned otherwise and he was grateful.

Are we thankful in all circumstances?  Most of us have to answer that with a no.  We are not thankful for tests of our faith and the challenges in life, but we should be.  Paul is telling us that we need to be.   So how do we do that?

I think there are three ways we have to approach this:

In our thoughts.  Our thinking determines much of who and what we are.  A high producing REALTOR that I know, would walk neighborhoods and get multiple listings in an hour.  She believed people wanted and needed her to sell their house, her attitude/thinking made her much more productive than almost any other agent.

Do we start our days alive, excited and full of energy?  Are we the Good morning God type, or the good God morning person?  Our thinking rules the day!

Socially is important too.  Those we hang out with change us and in some ways control our thinking.  How was Pooh so happy with Eeyore around?  Those around us can bring us up or down.  We need to be around those that we are either bringing to the faith or those helping us in our faith.  We need to be around those excited for each day!

Finally, Spiritually.  In the old days we would ask if people used God as a Dictionary or just when needed.  Today we could say use God like Google, only going there when we were in need.  When we are sick, are we thankful?  Are we thankful when things go wrong for the opportunity to learn and excel?  Do we see God in all things and all people?

Days left this Advent!

Can we use this last week to work on the above?  I don’t think we have a choice.  Our God entered the world as humbly as conceivable so that we might believe.  We now need to prepare this Advent so that on Christmas we can have that experience of the Word Incarnate that will deepen our faith and deepen our desire to be the presence of that Word to all we encounter, both in good times and in tough times.

As Paul tells us, we have to be Thankful in all circumstances!

The Jews Missed the Messiah! (According to Christians)

The Jews Missed the Messiah! (According to Christians)

Why Advent?  We have been listening to Christmas Carols in stores for months.  Churches have Christmas lights and Trees already up and decorated.  Why bother with a three week season this year?  Ponder this: The Jews Missed the Messiah!  (According to Christians)  But by our faith, the Jews, missed Him after generations and generations, of preparation.  Read the start of the Gospel of Matthew to confirm all the generations that they prepared.

I get tagged on Facebook with all the places that are celebrating Christmas.  Teachers and staff are quickly stopping their Christmas music when I show up.  I grew up and in house where advent was a wreath and we had advent calendars, but the prayer we prayed before we opened the window was, “let us remember as we pray this CHRISTMAS game that it was a night so long ago, that baby Jesus came.”  Well it is half and half.  My mom would have the house fully decorated for Thanksgiving so that we could enjoy it.

Every room, even bathrooms, had something Christmasy and she had what seemed like hundreds of different nativity sets, ornaments from all of our travels, it was spectacular.  Dad made it so that Christmas music started while we did the Thanksgiving dinner dishes.  The part that made me the most crazy was that Christmas evening my Mom was already planning on taking it all down.  She was tired of it.  My dad’s battle was to leave the main Nativity scene up long enough for the Wise Guys to show up at Epiphany.

Why Advent?

I sometimes want to say, OH HECK WITH IT, do what you want.  But I can’t, it is too important.  Listen to the prophecies.  Think about all the preparation the Jews had for the exact Messiah foretold to them for all these generations.  By skipping Advent and diving into Christmas, are we robbing ourselves of the season we need the most?

I look at our world and think most people don’t get it.  As I look at my life, I realize in many aspects, I am still struggling to get it.  If we got it, we wouldn’t let our friends sit at home, we wouldn’t passively attend Mass or any church.  We would be unstoppable.

Advent is a season to focus on preparation.  We are giving this season, to focus on what we do daily to be prepared.  Can we afford to take this for granted?  There was a book many years ago The Inconvenient Truth and although I have no idea what it was about or if I ever even read it, the title strikes me this Advent.

Our Inconvenient Truth

By Baptism we are called to evangelize.  I fear we are falling into the same trap as the Jews.  We become complacent.  We go to church, we tithe, we do all the things we are supposed to, just like the scribes, pharisees and Sadducees.

Question to help us focus on Advent:

Are we dealing with everyone in our lives as a creation of God?  Even the wonderful people cutting us off in traffic or “stealing” our parking places?

What would I do if this were my last day? (answer should be nothing, I’m ready) (it isn’t for most of us)

Who do I need to drag into church?

Do I spend enough time everyday with God?

If God appears before me, will I recognize that as my God?  (don’t be too sure, many Jews missed Jesus)

As the readings challenge us, Wake UP!  The time is at hand!  Even if the second coming isn’t close, the world is in desperate need of Christians on fire with their faith!

Advent in the next day or even same day world! (Thanks Amazon & UPS)

Advent in the next day or even same day world! (Thanks Amazon & UPS)

A season to prepare, Advent.  I think most of us get too busy to take the time for it, yet it is essential to a meaningful celebration of Christmas!  We have Amazon and UPS working together that we can order things from our phone anywhere and have them delivered almost anywhere the next day.  We have fast food, express lunches and minute planners, (OK yes that shows my age) and all things to live in a same day world.  Remember when 24 hour photo was a huge and not cheap solution.  Even pictures are immediate.  No waiting no anticipation and if we don’t like it, DELETE.  Our immediate world is also a disposable world.  This season is to fight the tenancy that even permeates our faith!

For those that are parishioners, this next part will be pretty much the same as what I have in this weeks bulletin.  Sorry, but see if you can find the differences.

Happy New Year!  The First Sunday of Advent, is also the start of a new Church year with Advent being a very short season of preparation.

Webster defines prepare as:

a : to make ready beforehand for some purpose, use, or activity-> prepare food for dinner

b : to put in a proper state of mind -> is prepared to listen

With Christmas having been out in stores for months now and many of our houses set up for Christmas we miss Advent, the first season of the Church Year.  How can we maintain a sense of Advent and preparation in a world that wants everything now and has no sense of the rewards of delayed gratification?  After all, our lives are in themselves a time of preparation, aren’t they?

To prepare implies a journey, getting ready for something that is not present to us yet.  How do we step back, realizing that we know Christmas comes whether we do anything or not to prepare?  We get rapped up in the parties and the lights and we lose that sense of waiting and preparing.

We are making changes to our Liturgy.   The Mass parts will be different, the Apostles Creed will be used, we will have a quieter nature all to focus us on the season.  The environment will help, but Advent is very short this year.  Christmas Eve is the 4th Sunday of Advent, so no 4th week of Advent.  We have 1.5 hours between masses to change everything over.  St. Pius is having many events to help set the scene.  We start with Rachel Dagget, a top Cutco rep and mother of ten, speak to us at our Meal and a Message.  We will celebrate an Advent Reconciliation service and we have Breakfast with St. Nick to help focus on the religious aspects of who Santa really is.

Questions for meditation or prayer this Advent season?
  1. If today was my last day, what would I have to do or say?
  2. Pray to constantly be learning new things
  3. We can pray for Grace
  4. Pray for the ability to truly rest and especially rest in God
  5. Pray for humor and being able to laugh every day.
  6. (Got this from Pope) Pray for discernment.
  7. Pray to see the Spirit in all you do and all you encounter

Have an amazing Advent!

Homily that wasn’t given 25th Sunday Ordinary Time A – Pat O’Brien

Homily that wasn’t given 25th Sunday Ordinary Time A –             Pat O’Brien

It was the deacon’s week to preach and I always have something ready just in case.  This has never happened, but one of the deacons started the homily exactly as I would have, but after that, went a little different way.  I liked my homily, so thought I would just share it here and as always it is something that I needed to hear.  So here is what my homily would have been for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time A.

Click here to see readings

The Gospel was about the land owner that paid the same amount to those that worked one hour as those that had worked the entire day.  I would have started as Deacon Dan did.  Ranting as a child “It isn’t fair, it just isn’t fair.”  Life just isn’t fair.  The reality is that our faith isn’t about being fair.  All we have to do is look at the crucifix to see a sinless man that died for our salvation.  In whose book is that fair?  Not mine.

Our litigious society is all about what is fair and just.  People wrong us and we want justice.  People take advantage of us and we promise to not let that happen again.  Fairness has become a part of everything we do.

Fairness is subjective

Continue reading “Homily that wasn’t given 25th Sunday Ordinary Time A – Pat O’Brien”

Confirmation – Something New for this Priest to Ponder!

Confirmation – Something new for this priest to ponder!

Confirmation is something new for me to ponder!  Sunday for the first time as the presider, I had the privilege to confirm 57 young people.  I have had the bad luck to hear some of the worst confirmation homilies of all time.  I’ve watched bishops warn young people about the dangers of sex, masturbation and porn in a way that gives them a road map to all these things.

Where my family lives was among the worst.  My brother even sent me a list of gifts of the holy spirit and social justice issues to help prepare my homily.  He did this having had to sit through some of the same, ick.  I reminded him that I only had 45 minutes for this.  I better would stick with the tried and true.

After our laugh, I started to think, what the heck can I say that will reach these sophomores on a hot Sunday afternoon.  After some thought and prayer, I left the readings behind and went with the fact that we are created in the image and likeness of God.  I talked about my struggles and leave of absence and told them life can get hard, but with the gifts of Grace from the Sacraments, we can conquer anything.    I reminded them that God made them exactly as they were on purpose!  Each created to show a different aspect of who our God is to the world.  It was a good B+ homily, but nothing compared to what came next.

Renewing our baptismal promises, every question met with a strong response of, I DO!  The confirmation followed.  I had always wondered how Archbishop Gustavo could preside at over 120 confirmations a year and be so good at it.  Looking up for the first time, no more, mission accomplished, 57 newly confirmed, wow.  I figured we were half way, but we were finished!  What an amazingly intimate moment of grace with our youth.

In Short…

Until yesterday, there was nothing about being a dean that I would miss.  Now when this job is finished, I will greatly miss the privilege of confirming our youth.  From the beginning to the end, it was amazing.

Guest Blog – Message from an 8th Grader on Good Friday

Guest Blog – Message from an 8th Grader on Good Friday

My Parochial Vicar wanted to add to Good Friday and proclamation of the 7 last words of Christ.  I said to go for it and I am so glad that I did.  The only mistake was that I let him talk me into taking one of the words.  As pastor, people hear me enough and what came out of our parishioners was amazing.  Many priests think that priests that love having a school are crazy.  (We might be, but for good reason) If we let them, our young people can teach and amaze us.  This is the first Guest Blog and is a message from an 8th grader to those gathered for the 7 last words.  As I listened there was no doubt why I love being at parishes with schools.

So, a message from an 8th grader on Good Friday:

Carli Medina

The sixth last word of Jesus- it is finished.

From the Gospel according to John

There was a vessel filled with common wine. So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth. When Jesus had taken the wine, he said: it is finished.

“It is finished,” is written as the Greek word tetelestai which translates directly to “it is finished” or “it is completed.” There are only two places in the New Testament in which this word is used and both are found in St. John’s version of the Passion of Christ. In John 19:28, this word is used to state that Jesus completed the scripture passage from what the Old Testament testifies and in John 19:30 Jesus simply states “it is finished.” It may seem very obvious to us here today about what Jesus implied when he spoke these words, but I hope I may help you dive a little deeper through my reflection on these words.

At this time, the word tetelestai was also written on business documents or papers to indicate that the bill or loan had been paid in full. Now understanding the basic components of this word, it is clear to see why Jesus stated this words. It was no accident that he was handed over to be crucified, was beaten so horribly at Pilate’s Palace, it was not an accident when he died on the cross. It was all a part of God’s plan of complete salvation for his children. Jesus took the burden of suffering the hideous death on the cross so that we might obtain the promise of eternal life. When Jesus said this before he gave up his spirit to death, he stated of his fulfillment of his mission on earth. It can be easily mistaken to be spoken with grief, despair, and surrender. This probably what Satan believed to be true and he rejoiced, as seen in Mel Gibson’s, the Passion of the Christ film. We believe this to be the opposite. With these words, Jesus was victorious over evil and I am confident to say he spoke these words with an overwhelming sense of relief. Jesus knew that he had won over evil and that he had completed his earthly task. We must recognize that right now and have faith in our true Savior. God loved us so much that he gave up his only Son to death on the cross. To me, this is hope for my spiritual life and future and peace for knowing that God’s love never dies. It is at times like today when we feel most vulnerable when we have to look up at the cross and trust in what God has done for us.

 

Thanks for letting me use this and get my birthday off!

Homily 25th Sunday Ordinary Time Sept 18th 2016

Homily 25th Sunday Ordinary Time Sept 18th 2016

The readings for today from the USCCB website are AM 8:4-7  PS 113:1-2, 4-6, 7-8  1 TM 2:1-8 LK 16:1-13

The Gospel is troubling as the Steward cheats his master and is rewarded.  I never write out my homilies.  My process starts on Sunday and I read the readings for the next weekend, Monday and maybe Tuesday.  I just start praying with them and Wednesday we go through the readings with staff.  If I don’t have a direction by Thursday I start reading commentaries or like for readings like today, I read the commentaries a bit earlier.

That said my homily develops each time I give it.  Sometimes the first time is the best, sometimes the last, I never know.  I do know that at this point in my life, that I am able to let go and let the Spirit guide me.  Some days like today, what I think I am going to say and what comes out are very different.

Many people today asked for a copy, so here is my attempt to write what I preached this evening.  This extra step will probably really change tomorrows message.

Last Sunday I was watching some mindless TV, don’t ask I will not tell, and the door bell rings.  A priest friend was at the door.  He enters and I say, “I hope you are not here for money”!  My fiend laughed and wasn’t there for money, but lets say I don’t have nearly as much vodka as I did earlier that Sunday.  He sits down and says, so what are you preaching one next weekend?

Knowing I had read the readings and knew that the main point was a dishonest steward being rewarded for his stealing.  He offered to let me preach for him, but didn’t offer to take my masses.  I joined in on the second drink, to be polite that is.  As you know I rarely avoid the tough topics, but this week the Amos reading was looking more and more attractive and a Deacon mentioned that if I lost my voice that was his plan.  Then Wednesday with the staff I realized that I had to deal with this reading and its implications, especially in today’s world.

Long time ago, in a diocese that none of you would ever connect me with a local priest that probably has been dead for 10 to 30 years now came to confession.  He starts out that he wants me to hear is confession for two reasons.  First he said I seemed like a good young priest and he felt his confession would be a cautionary tail and second he didn’t want to confess to a priest he knew.  He confessed that he had stolen around $30,000 from the Church.

This was one of the senior iconic priests of the diocese I was visiting.  I of course didn’t respond and he continued, it started with a quarter for the Coke Machine, then it was $5.00 for lunch than $100 to help parishioners or help with bills.  It was never more than a hundred and at that rarely $100, but he added it up and he believed the total was around $30,000.

Who would ever fault you for a .25 for the parish Coke Machine?  I was a very poor priest in a poor parish he said.  He then said to me, no one would ever fault you for the .25, but that .25 changed me forever.  I lost a bit of my integrity till I was ok on occasion taking $100.   He told me, never cross that line, once you have crossed to is to easy to stay over there.

I remembered this guy reading these readings.  In the time of Jesus there were not credit cards or ATMs.  People either had a bunch of money or no money and those that had no money bartered things of value they produced for things others produced.  The servant had no skill like that, he had been in his master’s care.  His fate was sealed, he was getting fired and the option he had was to make deals at his masters expense.  That was his only way to survive.  The “praise” he gets is more like a back handed compliment, his fate was already sealed, he had crossed the line.

Like the priest, he probably started small and as he got away with it it grew until he lost his livelihood.  We do that too.  How many white lies have been told to ease a situation and only lead to bigger problems in the future?  Once we tell one lie the second one is so much easier.

The first reading is at a time in Israels history where everything was going well.  They had started to lose their need for God. They were crossing the line and Amos is calling them back before as we know the pendulum comes back and things are not as easy.  The second reading is also calling them back to the straight and narrow, to the one mediator and the Truth.

Life would be much easier if we lived in a black and white world, we don’t.  Just turn on the news and see all the tough choices people have to make. Today’s readings as a culmination of the previous weeks of readings are calling us to the straight and narrow path.  Warning us that if we allow the gray of the world to permeate our souls, we lose.  When it comes to that integrity of self, we have protect our integrity.  We have to live the life God has called us to!

The world may be full of gray, but our faith isn’t, we are entrusted with the bright white light of Christ to be kept burning brightly from our baptism.  We have that light to keep us from the darkness of sin.  In this world, we have to be that light of Christ.  We have to live with integrity, that is really all we have left in a world that has far too many shades of gray.

Be That light

With all the turmoil in this world, you have to leave here to day and be that light.  We have our ministry fair, go and sign up for any of our ministries to help the Church be the light that this world is in dire need of.

Live with Integrity

We have many tough choices, we have to live beyond reproach.  We have to be that pillar of truth.  It only took a quarter for this priest to change his destiny, stay on the side of the light and protect your integrity at all costs.  As I tell our kids, if you always tell the truth, you never have to remember the story you told, we have to also model that integrity for our kids to see it at work in our lives.