Letters From a Pastor to His People

  • 13 October 2019 | By

    Fr. James with SJS alumni at Regina Dominican High School after saying Mass.
     

    Letters from a Pastor to His People- October 13, 2019

    Dear Parishioners,

    I shared a quote from author Ruth Burrows last week on prayer.  Allow me to share another one with you.  She writes about how most of the time our prayer isn't authentic prayer because it's more thinking, self-reflection, and just expressing our own desires, which aren't always things that would be good for us (i.e., not God's will).  "We may want a 'spiritual life', we may want 'prayer'," she writes, "but we do not want God." 

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Ask and you shall receive

Father James with his two nephews: Luke (age 4) and Sebastian (age 2) 

Letters from a Pastor to His People- July 28, 2019

Dear Parishioners,

I have mentioned my nephews and niece in homilies before.  They are ages four, two, and one.  In addition to simply the joy I receive spending time with them, there is always some lesson or message I also take away by our encounters. 

Swimming with them is one of those insightful experiences.  My nephews, Sebastian and Luke, in particular love going in the water.  When it is time for them to go out of the pool and dry off they cry, yearning to get back in.  They stand on the deck and hold their arms out, indicating for me to grab them and pull them in.

Now, I'm not their father (I guess I'm their uncle-father?), but our interaction made me think of my relationship with God, whom Jesus tells us to call our Father and to ask him for things. 

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Contemplative prayer

Father James with his five friends from seminary: Fr. Pat (Mobile). Fr. Adam (Kansas City), Fr. Victor (Mobile), Fr. Alex (Scranton), Fr. Anthony (Harrisburg).

Letters from a Pastor to His People- July 21, 2019

Dear Parishioners,

A wise person once told me that true love doesn't consist in saying 'I love you'.  Think about when you're with your spouse, or your brother or sister, or your best friend.  When you're watching TV together, or fishing together, or having dinner, you may be sitting in silence, but love is being expressed.  Love is a reception of the other person's presence.  That is the ultimate goal for prayer.  That is what we call contemplation, and that's the point I want to make from the Martha-Mary Gospel.

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Preoccupation

Father James with an employee of Wrigley Field after he said Mass for the Chicago Cubs

Letters from a Pastor to His People- July 14, 2019

Dear Parishioners,

Preoccupation.  That, to me, is one of the themes of the parable of the Good Samaritan from today's Gospel.

The priest passes by the victim because the priest is on his way to the temple to worship. The priest will be delayed and, furthermore, if he comes into contact with a potential non-Jew (remember, the man has been beaten and stripped, so there's no way to identify him as a Jew or Gentile), the priest will be impure and have to go through ritual washings, delaying him even more.  The priest is too preoccupied.  He needs to serve God by getting to the temple.  He passes the beaten man by.

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Rejoice because your names are written in heaven...

Fathers. Derek, James, Connor, and Tom will be looking to win the priest golf outing this year

Letters from a Pastor to His People- July 7, 2019

Dear Parishioners,

"Rejoice because your names are written in heaven" (Luke 10:20). In baseball, a defining moment is before the game even starts when the manager writes up in the dugout on a piece of paper the starting lineup.  If you're an everyday player, it's not that big of a deal, but if you're a player who plays sometimes, it is significant.  If your name is written on the lineup card, you're focused, you loosen up, pay attention to the pitcher throwing warm-up pitches.  If you're out of the lineup, you relax, pop some more sunflower seeds, and are somewhat disengaged.  There's a difference.

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God is Our Inheritance

Father James baptized the children of some recent SJS alumni. Congratulations!

Letters from a Pastor to His People- June 30, 2019

Dear Parishioners,

In the Old Testament, each of the Twelve Tribes of Israel were given parcels of land throughout Israel, following the Exodus and return to the Holy Land.   That is, all of the tribes except the tribe of Levi.  The Levites were set apart as priests for Israel.  This was determined by Moses when he came down from Mount Sinai with the Law.  The Levites would not farm, goat and sheep herd.  They would not have to worry about land disputes.  Their whole task was to care for the Temple in Jerusalem.  How would they be sustained?  From where would their livelihood come?  One word answer: God.

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Holy Spirit, Giver Of Life

Letters from a Pastor to His People- June 9, 2019

Dear Parishioners,

In the Nicene Creed at Mass, we say the following:

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,

who proceeds from the Father and the Son,

who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified,

who has spoken through the prophets.

 The giver of life.  What a great sobriquet of the Holy Spirit! 

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Take the High Ground with Prayer

Letters from a Pastor to His People- June 2, 2019

Dear Parishioners,

There are many hills in the Holy Land, and when a figure from the Scriptures ascends one, we should pay attention.  Abraham goes up Mount Moriah to sacrifice his son Isaac.  The angel stays Abraham's slaughtering hand, Abraham is established as the father of Israel, and Moriah will become the site of the temple mount in Jerusalem.  About 1,000 years later King David will ascend that very same hill to recreate the nation of Israel.  His son, Solomon, will construct the temple on that mount. 

Noah's ark lands on Mount Ararat.  Moses ascends Mount Sinai, is literally wrapped in a cloud of divinity, and comes down with the Ten Commandments.  And Elijah defeats the pagan priests atop Mount Carmel. 

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Easter Hymns, My Favorite

 

Dear Parishioners,

Easter hymns are my favorite.  They are joyful and triumphant.  Here is one not all that common, "That Easter Day with Joy was Bright" (perhaps you can listen online to hear the tune):

That Easter day with joy was bright:

the sun shone out with fairer light

when to their longing eyes restored,

th'apostles saw their risen Lord.

 

His risen flesh with radiance glowed,

his wounded hands and feet he showed;

those scars their solemn witness gave

that Christ was risen from the grave.

 

O Jesus, King of gentleness,

do thou thyself our hearts possess,

that we may give thee all our days

the willing tribute of our praise.

 

O Lord of all, with us abide

in this, our joyful Easter-tide;

from ev'ry weapon death can wield

thine own redeemed forever shield.

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Simply, Love One Another

Dear Parishioners,

George Washington's Farewell Address is considered one of the greatest speeches in American history, second to Lincoln's address at Gettysburg.  It has been analyzed, referenced, and reenacted (the speech is read every year on the US Senate floor on February 22) countless times. 

Washington didn't actually deliver publicly the over-seven thousand word address.  It appeared in the newspapers on September 19, 1776.  The father of the nation indicated he would not seek a third term as President of the United States.  He would instead "retire" to his home in Mount Vernon.  This was truly his desire since the end of the Revolutionary War.  He simply wanted to tend his land.  He truly was a 'Cincinnatus'. 

Washington warns, in the address, against division: geographic, political, international. But he is also positive, attempting to guide the people and leave an American legacy. "The name of American, which belongs to you, in your national capacity," he wrote, "must always exalt the just pride of patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local distinctions."

Washington wanted to form an American identity in the people.  They were no longer British colonists.  Nor were they citizens of a particular state, federalists, republicans, farmers, soldiers, whatever.  They were Americans.

We read from the Gospel of John this week part of Christ's 'farewell address.'  It's better than Washington's.  His 'command' to the people (just like Washington 'commanded' the people not to be divisive) was: "love one another" (John 13:34).

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We Survived!

Dear Parishioners,

When I first prayed over the second reading for this Sunday, in preparing for this letter, I had my own revelation.  Of course, this is John's revelation.  He sees a great multitude standing before the Lamb of God, wearing white robes with palms in their hands.  One of the saints leans over to John, during his vision, and explains to John that “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (Rev 7:14). 

My vision was that this multitude in the white robes was you all, you faithful Catholics.  No, it wasn't an idea of throwing a toga party.  It was me seeing you all who have survived 'the time of great distress.'

Okay, what's the time of great distress?  Two things.  First, in the Catholic Church. It's been a rough year for the Church, with the scandals and so forth.  You are still coming to Church.  (If anyone thinks Catholicism has been weakened, I hope you saw the Church on Easter Sunday—it was an absolutely packed house.  And, talking with pastors elsewhere, they had similarly full congregations.)  You have persevered in your faith throughout the scandals.  Your robe has been washed white.

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