Padre Paul’s Ponderings: From Presumption to Preparation

In the familiar short story of “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” an emperor is so vain and so preoccupied with the beauty of his garments, that when two shady individuals decide to take advantage of his vanity by pretending to prepare garments for him that only others can see, he is made a fool for being at a parade without any clothes on.

The story may be a fable, but on a deeper level we too must be on guard that we are not caught like the emperor when we stand before God at the end of our lives, avoiding the presumption that our ticket to heaven is stamped, but rather daily preparing for the banquet that awaits us.

This week in our Gospel, we are told that a king and his son are hosting a wedding banquet. Many people are invited to the banquet but some refuse to come. When messengers go out a second time, they are given excuses from people why they cannot come, and some even do violence to the messengers. Finally, servants of the king go into the streets to find people to come to the wedding, the “bad and good” alike. One person though has no wedding garment. When asked why he is unprepared, he is reduced to silence, and thrown out of the feast.

It seems like a rather cold thing to do. After all, this person gets invited to a party with relatively short notice. And who could expect him to actually have a wedding garment ready?

To understand this, we need to understand what is meant by “wedding-garment.” In the time when this parable was written, whatever state of life you were in carried with it certain obligations, and among these were wedding customs which applied to everyone, no matter what. If you were invited to a wedding, you were required to come properly dressed, and there were no exceptions. The man is unprepared.

The people in the story are symbolic of the people in the world. The king symbolizes the Father; the son of the king represents Jesus. Some in the world react with violence to the message; others with indifference.

From this Gospel, we have a couple of challenges.

The first is that we must be vigilant to be on guard to have the opinion that based on our status, we are entitled to an invitation to the banquet. Much like the people in the vineyard last week, just being there does not mean all is ours forever. Sometimes, we can get high on our horse and look down on others. We can become judgmental; looking down on some for their past, or for whom they associate with, or think that we can peer into their souls. We can then have a lofty opinion of ourselves and think we are entitled to heaven because we are “better” than others because we say more prayers, go to Mass every week, or are knowledgable with respect to what the Church teaches. It can be very easy to overlook gossip, a condescending attitude, or a “holier than thou” mentality. Small wonder Jesus is so often critical of Pharisees, those who were good at knowing the rules but not focused on interior conversion.

That interior conversion and daily call to holiness is the challenge of our Gospel as well. We never know when we will stand before God. The term “God fearing” can be confusing. We should not fear God because He will punish us; rather the fear is the fear of letting Him down. Daily we should strive to grow in holiness by asking ourselves “how can I become a better person today?” Much like a tailor working to make beautiful garments, we do the same thing with grace. Grace is the invitation that is given to us to go to the banquet, but it requires a response. We have to acknowledge what God has done for us and daily strive to return that love.

Indeed, the joy for us in heaven is beyond anything we can comprehend. As our first reading tells us, “He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces…It will be said on that day, “Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let is be glad and rejoice…” Let’s make sure we are prepared for the banquet by being mindful that all are invited to it, and reminding ourselves that the materials for the garment are given to us by God, and working on the proper response takes daily preparation.

Blessings,

Fr. Paul

Padre Paul’s Ponderings: All of us are Guardian Angels

Last week we celebrated the feast of the Guardian Angels on Monday, October 2nd.

Though there’s a lot of theology behind angels, the web site “saintoftheday.org,” (run by the Franciscans, very helpful to learn about the feast days of the various saints) summarizes guardian angels in the following way:

Perhaps no aspect of Catholic piety is as comforting to parents as the belief that an angel protects their little ones from dangers real and imagined. Yet guardian angels are not only for children. Their role is to represent individuals before God, to watch over them always, to aid their prayer, and to present their souls to God at death.

The concept of an angel assigned to guide and nurture each human being is a development of Catholic doctrine and piety based on Scripture but not directly drawn from it. Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:10 best support the belief: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”

Devotion to the angels began to develop with the birth of the monastic tradition. Saint Benedict gave it impetus and Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, the great 12th-century reformer, was such an eloquent spokesman for the guardian angels that angelic devotion assumed its current form in his day.

The day also coincided with the news of the tragic shootings in Las Vegas that left more than 50 dead and hundreds wounded.

On the one hand, when we see such events, the inevitable question of “why?” emerges. Tragedies occur daily in the world, and perhaps one might wonder why angels don’t intervene to stop accidents, wars, and violence.

Certainly evil is permitted to continue in the world by God, but this does not mean He is absent from it. Remember, He suffered along with us and was victimized by evil too, dying for us. But this does not mean that we are alone in the world. Indeed, angels do watch over us, but we also see angels in the flesh in the sense that from tragedies, we see heroes emerge. And that is something all of us are called to be: a guardian angel in this world.

On the one hand, there are those in uniform. The heroes in our military. The people who are police officers. The firefighters and paramedics. Two police officers were killed last Monday. These people do not get the respect that they deserve, and we should honor them, thank them, pray for them, and appreciate all they do for us. When we have an accident, when someone is breaking into our home, or when a family situation is escalating and becoming dangerous, they are the first people on the scene to bring peace to it. They are true guardian angels in a dangerous world.

But we also must remember that we are called to that role as well. Sin is ugly, and there is no escaping the reality of evil. As such, we need to do something about it and be guardian angels too for people in the world, especially children and vulnerable adults.

Certainly on the one hand, any time we suspect abuse, we must get involved and alert authorities. It’s always better to err on the side of caution, and that phone call to the police could save a life.

More often than not though, it’s the things that go on daily where we need to use fortitude to act to get involved. We need to be aware to what kids go through at school, when there is bullying going on, when a child may be exposed to pornography, or dealing with an overbearing parent at sporting events. The list really is endless, but that’s why God gives us a conscience that tells us “you need to do something.”

There will always be evil in the world, and there is no way to shield children from it all. But if you’ve seen guardian angels depicted in art, they are often pictured walking with children through a journey, and that needs to be all of us. When we do the right thing, we can truly combat evil with good, and by being aware to the presence of evil in all it’s many forms we can live out those words from Matthew’s Gospel that we proclaimed last Monday: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.” Jesus also wants us to be their angles, so let’s do that by being aware of what children deal with, and when we see threats, do something about them rather than remain silent.

Have a blessed week!

Fr. Paul

Padre Paul’s Ponderings: The Marathon of Service

Every fall, Catholic schools around the country have a marathon. Growing up going to two different Catholic schools, I participated in such events myself.  This year at St. Joseph School, we will not be collecting pledges, but will be giving of ourselves in service. Students are encouraged to bring in coin donations that will go directly to Feed My Starving Children.  Our fundraising efforts will be focused on the winter Catholic Schools Raffle and our Spring School Gala on April 14th, 2018.

When I arrived at Saint Joe’s and asked about the marathon, I learned that it was going to have a bit of a different flavor. Instead of getting pledges for running, walking and biking, the students would use that time and instead be boxing food at Feed My Starving Children. This food will then be sent to people in need in underdeveloped countries such as Haiti, and help fight malnourishment and hunger. The meals are specifically formulated for malnourished children. FMSC has reached out to over 70 countries. Though the people who pack the meals and those needy children who eat them may never meet on this earth, such a big difference is being made thanks to people giving of their time.

What a great idea. By doing this, it reminds us of how we are connected to one another. Walking and biking is great, and we should exercise to take care of our bodies, but we also need to take care of the Body of Christ. Our service marathon gives students a chance to think about how they, too, can reach out to others and make a difference. What a great teaching moment!  So often we get stuck in our own little world, and forget there is so much good that we can do.

Filling one bag with food might not end malnutrition, but it leaves an impact. And daily, we have the chance to make a difference too. A marathon is a tough thing to run – it takes endurance and determination. We run the marathon of life for the crown of eternal life. So let’s learn from our students and ask ourselves how we can do a daily service marathon for people in our lives who need our time, our forgiveness, our compassion, and our presence.

It’s also important that we emphasize to the students what a Catholic education is all about. As Catholics, we emphasize that faith must lead to action. Living out the faith is something that isn’t just for a marathon, but needs to be a way of life. As Catholics we live that out daily.

While I exercise daily I don’t plan on running a Marathon anytime soon, but let’s all “run” this marathon daily by looking for ways God wants us to make a difference in the lives of one another each and every day. Thank you to our students for showing us how to bring God’s love in the world, and thank you for your support of our service marathon.

God bless and have a great week,

Fr. Paul

Padre Paul’s Ponderings: Unsung Heroes Make a Parish Thrive

While in seminary, there’s a lot of focus on the content of the faith. This is understandably important as you need to know what you are talking about, and articulate what the Church teaches if you are going to help people. And this is ongoing too, as the Holy Spirit continually guides the Church as we understand God’s revelation to us anew as the years go by. The academics help you understand how to hear confessions, give spiritual counsel, preach and interpret, and also formulate theological opinions too with respect to the content of the faith. But that’s just part of it.

Knowing what the Church teaches matters, but the “how” is what goes on in the parish every day. How people understand how it’s all wrapped up in loving God with your whole heart, mind and soul and loving your neighbor as yourself, that’s a lot more than hearing confessions and preaching. The priest is merely part of the whole equation, it takes a team for someone to truly become closer to God. And that’s why I think of parish work as ministry, rather than “jobs.”

One of the first people I met when I found out I was going to Saint Joe’s was Patty Stibal. Fr. Paul Jarvis was giving me a tour, telling me about the parish, and it was at a point where I knew I’d be moving on from my prior assignment. I was a little nervous about what lied ahead, but just seeing the people here and the parish filled me with a calm. Patty had this great demeanor and joy about her when I first met her, and that continued when I officially started in July of 2015. Not knowing much at all about the parish, she quickly filled me in on who’s who, on the office, helped me get settled, and helped me to build bridges between parishioners.

But then I also got to see her in action day to day. She’s amazing. She makes people feel welcome. She greets everyone with a smile. She looks people in the eye and listens to them. She makes you feel like family. She goes out of her way to help others both on staff and in the parish. She truly sees her work as ministry, far from just punching a clock. I can honestly say she has helped me on my own faith journey, and made me a better priest. Yes, she is truly one of our unsung heroes.

A couple of weeks ago, Patty met with Randy Haney, our parish administrator, and me, and gave us some difficult news, that she had discerned that now was the time for her to move on from Saint Joe’s. She has been here now for 17 years, and feels called to serve elsewhere. After prayer and discernment, she’ll be taking a position managing the office at Saint Michael’s parish, which is in her hometown in Farmington.

Saint Michael’s gain is our loss, but I know that Patty will do great in her new position. She’ll bring a lot of gifts to our neighboring parish, and God has new chapters now to be written in her life. While she’ll be very hard to replace, we do have her position listed with the archdiocese, and have received a number of applicants. She’ll also be able to help our new person transition and learn the ropes, and when we do have a person in place we’ll be sure to let you know who that is right away. I am confident they’ll feel welcomed here too much as I have been. Saint Joe’s is a really special place.

Patty’s last day will be this Friday, September 29th. We’ll miss you, Patty! Thank you for helping our parish to thrive and grow, and for the joy you have brought to our faith community. People like Patty truly exemplify the words “thy kingdom come,” for we see God’s love in this world more clearly through people like her.

As I preached on last weekend, God calls us all on an adventure, and it’s up to us to follow His plan. I’m so honored Patty followed His call to be with us at Saint Joe’s, and wish her the best as He has now called her to serve Saint Michael’s. God bless you Patty, and may the road ahead be filled with many more joys and blessings.

Have a wonderful week, 

Fr. Paul

Padre Paul’s Ponderings: September 11th Reminds Us of the Power of Good in All of Us

Last week our nation marked 16 years since the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

For me, that was the first week of seminary. I remember first seeing some of the footage on one of the TVs in a hall at Saint Thomas, and then seeing the rest of the day’s events unfold on TV and online. One of the images I remember from that day itself was of a photo of the smoldering Twin Towers, where if you looked closely it appeared to be the face of the devil.

While it was a striking image and likely just the result of light hitting the smoke, far more powerful than that image were the stories that came out of the day of so many people who leaped into action.

In my homily at daily Mass that day, I shared the story of two marines who were featured in an article running in “Business Insider” which I’ve attached below:

While the planes were hitting the World Trade Center, 27-year-old Jason Thomas was dropping off his daughter to his mother in Long Island.

When Thomas heard what had transpired, he changed into the Marine Corps uniform he had sitting in his trunk — he was a former sergeant who had been out of the Corps for a year — and sped toward Manhattan.

“Someone needed help. It didn’t matter who,” Thomas told AP. “I didn’t even have a plan. But I have all this training as a Marine, and all I could think was, ‘My city is in need.’”

Around the same time in Wilton, Connecticut, Dave Karnes was working in his office at Deloitte watching the attack unfold on TV.

We’re at war,” the former Marine staff sergeant said to his colleagues, before telling his boss he might not be back for a while, according to Slate. He went and got a haircut, changed into his Marine uniform, and drove toward New York City at 120 miles per hour.

Once both Marines reached the collapsed towers — the site now covered in ash and debris — they began searching for survivors, but first, they found each other. They had little gear with them besides flashlights and a military entrenching tool, AP reported.

Along with other first responders, the pair climbed over the dangerous field of metal, concrete, and dust, calling out, “United States Marines! If you can hear us, yell or tap!”

According to Stripes:

When they reached a depression in the rubble of what had been the south tower, he said, “I thought I heard someone. … So I yelled down and they replied back that they were New York Port Authority police officers. “They asked us not to leave them.”

Karnes told Thomas to get to a high point to direct rescuers to the site, then called his wife and sister on his cell phone and told them to phone and give the New York police his location.

The two officers, William Jimeno and John McLoughlin, were on the main concourse between the towers when the South Tower began to fall, but made it into a freight elevator before the collapse. They were alive but seriously injured, trapped approximately 20 feet below the surface.

According to USA Today, once they heard the voices of the Marines, Jimeno began shouting the code for officer down: “8-13! 8-13!” After they were located amid the unstable mountain of debris, it took rescue workers roughly three hours to dig out Jimeno, and another eight to reach McLoughlin, who was buried further down. 

An exhausted Thomas, who never gave his first name, left the site after Jimeno was rescued, but returned to Ground Zero for the next 2 1/12 weeks to help. His identity was a mystery until after Oliver Stone’s 2006 film “World Trade Center” chronicled the rescue of the officers, and Thomas emerged from the shadows.

Karnes also left after Jimeno came up, but helped at the site for another nine days. After he returned to Connecticut, he went to his reserve center and reenlisted, and later served two tours of duty in Iraq.

In the readings for September 11th, Paul says in his letter to the Colossians: Brothers and sisters: I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his Body, which is the Church, of which I am a minister in accordance with God’s stewardship given to me to bring to completion for you the word of God, the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past.” When I first read that, it seemed a bit odd, for how could anything at all be lacking in the sufferings of Jesus? Paul’s point isn’t that anything is lacking in what Jesus did for us. Rather his point is that he invites us be close to Jesus and to suffer like Jesus did for one another. This does not mean we have to intentionally seek suffering. But it does mean all of us are called to sacrifice.

And when we look back on the sacrifices of people, whether it was the two marines Jason Thomas and David Karnes, or the countless other people who were first responders that day and who worked tirelessly in the days that followed, we see how good triumphed over evil. This requires sacrifice though. A willingness to suffer for others.

The challenge for us is to always see the bigger picture and the potential, and to see what good can do. Hopefully we will not face such a horrific situation in our lives, but through the sacrifices we make, there is so much good we too can bring into the world. Giving of our time to serve others can make such a big difference in this world.

Indeed, so many are willing to do just that, which is what gives me hope for our world and for all of humanity. It should’t take a major tragedy though for us to spring into action, so may we daily look for ways that we can truly serve one another and bring God’s love into this world.

I haven’t seen the image of the devil in the smoldering towers since it first ran on 9/11. But I have read many stories like those of the two marines, and daily see so many good things going on this world from the events of our own parish, to the thousands of volunteers pouring into Texas and Louisiana from all over to help people in need, to the millions raised to help people rebuild. God sees the good in us all, which is why He created us, and died for us. Let’s respond to that by bringing to completion his love in the world as Paul invites us to do, never forgetting our sacrifices can bring about such good to make this world a better place where God’s love is seen and known.

 

God bless,

 

Fr. Paul

Padre Paul’s Ponderings: Food, Fun & Fellowship

Growing up Catholic, one of the staples of my summer and fall was the church festival. From enjoying underage gambling and winning a whopping $20 in Bingo, to having some of the best meals known to man, to the polka Masses, I’ve always loved a great festival.

Now as a priest, I’ve been blessed to be at my fourth parish where the festival is a big yearly event. While our parish festival might not be on the level of Leprechaun Days, it is a very big deal. You’ve probably seen all of our publicity in the bulletin, or the signs up and down area streets to promote it. I believe we also rented the Good Year Blimp to fly over the Bank for the Vikings opener to promote it too.

Well, perhaps that last part didn’t happen, but if you have been in the dark or on the fence about the festival, I hope you’ll consider joining us this upcoming Friday or Saturday. There’s still time to volunteer too.

We’ll be getting underway Friday night with an Oktoberfest theme. Naturally this will feature brats, and we’ll also have pretzels, beer and polka music until 10 p.m. We’ll have pull tabs, raffles and bingo as well, along with games for kids and a Craft Fair.

The festival will continue Saturday night with an Irish theme, starting with 150th Anniversary Kick Off Mass at 5 pmand then move to our Social Hall with a Chicken Dinner and Irish music, along with raffles, pull tabs, bingo, kid’s activities and the craft fair.

Our Prize raffle will feature beautifully made quilts, framed photographs, and many Craft Fair items.  Our Cash raffle will feature two $500 prizes, a $750 prize, one $1000 prize and a grand prize of $2500. We also had a bonus for the parishioner selling the most tickets of $500. The drawing was August 28th, and the winner was Karen Leiferman, congratulations!

On the one hand, our festival is a big fundraiser for our parish. Monies raised from the festival help us to provide more ministries to our parish.

But on the other, just as the Minnesota State Fair is known as the “Great Minnesota Get-Together” where families and friends often meet up and people connect with one another, the same is true for the parish. The festival gives us a chance to come together and get to know better some of the familiar faces we see each week at Mass. It also gives us a chance to celebrate our parish and is a great event for everyone. So too is it a great way to showcase our parish, which is why we are promoting the festival so much in our community. Hopefully this will result in some new faces joining Saint Joe’s as well. (I even found a flyer at my doorstep. Needless to say, I’ll be there. I think Kirby is interested too.)

Bridget Samson and a small army have been working for months to gear up for our festival. They have been contacting sponsors, coming up with new ideas, getting the food ordered, and working so hard for this event. Thank you, Bridget &  Committee!    A big shout out to the Harvest Festival committee:   Maureen & Bob Sturm, Doris McCarty, Katie Johnson, Maria Weber, Wayne Rychwalski, Carmen & Dave Johnson, Tony Brand, Rick Chodek, Pam Keuler and the late Gene Gergen.  With their help under Bridget’s guidance is making sure the Festival will be a very fun and memorable weekend.

I look forward to being there both nights (brats and chicken with all the fixings? Yes please!). Thank you for coming out to this event for our parish. What a great way to start the celebration of our 150th year as a parish which we’ll celebrate next year at this time.

See you Friday and Saturday!

 

God Bless  ~Fr. Paul

Padre Paul’s Ponderings: Making a Difference through our Labor

I’m not sure how old I was at the time, maybe 5 or 6, but one evening when the building was closed, my dad took me to see where he worked. It seemed like the coolest place in the world. He had a key for the elevator that made it work. He had a desk in an office, next to a big boiler. The place he worked was huge with room after room, big hallways and even a gym.

For years, my dad worked in maintenance for the Minneapolis Public Schools. My mom worked too, part time and then full time for a department store and then the gas company. While I doubt my dad would have said his job was as “cool” as I thought it was at 5, what I can say is that both of my parents worked hard and because of that, we had a good life growing up. They also made a big difference at the places they worked at, and in the process also taught me the value of hard work. Through it all, they also both worked hard at home while still finding the time to spend so much time with my sister and me growing up.

If you went into the school where my dad worked, or into my mom’s office, you might not know who they were or what they did. But what they did mattered a lot, and that is true for all of us in our vocations.

Sometimes I’ll get asked about the parish I serve. When I describe it as being over 2,000 families in size with 4 weekend Masses, the person might jump to the conclusion that I’m quite busy or that there’s a lot on my plate. I am busy to be sure, and there is a lot going on, but I’m also quick to share with the person that the job is made so much easier because of the great people around me. I’m part of a magnificent team at our parish.

This week, I’d just like to take the time to thank our staff for all that they do. My column space is too short to hit on every position, but I’d like to try my best to hit on some of the people you might not always see, but who are so instrumental to our parish thriving.

Randy Haney (recent birthday boy, and while I won’t reveal his age I’ll just say his first car was a Model T) is our Parish Director. Randy manages our staff, works on our budget, handles day-to-day operations for the parish, works with our commissions, and serves as a jack of all trades. What I love with Randy is he’s an entrepreneur. What I mean by that is a person in his position could “keep the lights on” and the pastor might not notice it, but he really sees big things for our parish, and cares about it so much. He’s always coming up with ideas for our parish to go from being great to being even better.

Jane Schmitz is our Office Manager. She works hard on the inflow and outflow of our parish funds, ensuring payroll is on time, helps with budgeting, keeps the books balanced, and works hard on our accounting. Jane works closely with Randy, and because there are so many funds going in and out of a parish our size, her position is vital.

  Patty Stibal is on the front lines of our parish as an Administrative Assistant. We like to call her “Director of First Impressions” too. Patty was one of the first people I met when I visited Saint Joe’s, and she’s such a delight. She is kind, patient and caring with all parishioners who call or come in. She gives support to both me and other staff. She goes the extra mile for people. She has one of the biggest hearts of anyone I’ve ever met.

Maggie Roth serves as our Database and Finance Administrator. There are so many things that go on “behind the scenes” and Maggie helps to give support to other staff, keep our parish records up to date, and helps Randy with the daily operations of the parish & also assists our commissions.

Bobbi Neuens works in Communications. Thanks to Bobbi we have a great bulletin each week, and can get the word out to parishioners about all that’s going on at Saint Joe’s.

Pat Archer is our head of Maintenance. Pat works so hard for Saint Joe’s. There a million things that go on in our building – things need cleaning, things break, things need fixing, supplies need ordering. Pat seems to know it all, and if he doesn’t, he works hard at finding the answer to a problem. He also goes the extra mile in saving the parish money, checking and haggling with vendors for things we need to order. He’s come in on multiple occasions on evenings and weekends too when something wasn’t working right at the parish. On top of all this he has a heart of gold, always a smile and a positive attitude.

  Esther Jaeger is our Faith Formation Director. Esther cares deeply about passing the faith onto future generations and helping people grow in their own faith journey. She’s works hard to put together a great program.

Kathy Neary serves as our Sunday School coordinator. Thanks to Kathy, some of the youngest members of our parish are able to have the faith come alive for them each week.

Bridget Samson is our Director of Parish Life. It goes without saying we have a plethora of ministries and programs that happen year round at St. Joe’s. Not to mention the big upcoming Harvest Festival, and our 150th anniversary celebration. Bridget helps keep the excitement up at our parish, and helps get people involved so we can help provide great ministries to you.

  Kyle Finken is our Coordinator of Pastoral Ministry. Kyle has a huge heart and helps coordinate our Samaritan ministers who visit the sick, and works with families who have suffered a loss as they prepare for funerals. He’s helped to grow the program and is so helpful to me in my vocation too as I minister to people in need.

  Kelly Roche enters her 2nd year as our principal, and boy has she done a great job. She’s helped continue our traditional of excellence, and build up the school even more by bringing such a positive attitude to the staff. She has a passion and love for our school, and is a true blessing. The principal has a tough job, having to oversee curriculum, work with teachers and staff, deal with budgeting issues, but Kelly works so hard to make our school great.

  Cris Meaden is on the front lines of our school. Assisting Kelly in her work, she works with parents, and also heads up athletics at our parish school. She’s great with our school kids, and keeping things on track at the school, and working with parents too.

  Bill Bradley is our Director of Worship. Thanks to Bill, we have so many involved in music ministry and in our liturgies. Bill helps to make liturgy beautiful at Saint Joe’s, so our liturgies can truly bring people closer to God on their faith journeys.

There are MANY people missing from this column – all of our great teachers, and a number of our part-time staff and some of our maintenance staff as well. Also missing is the lengthy, lengthy list of those who give so freely of their time in volunteer ministries. Because of you, people can come together for a Harvest Festival. Because of you, families can find comfort by being with one another at a funeral luncheon. Because of you, our school can function better because you give of your time. The list is endless in terms of the people who volunteer, and the impacts that they have.

My hope is that as you celebrate Labor Day Weekend, you never forget that whatever you do, you make a difference for your families. Work matters. And my hope too is that when you think of Saint Joe’s, you never forget all that goes into our parish every day of the year. I am truly blessed to be here to work with such great people, who see what they do not as just a “job” but as a true ministry.

 

Have a very great Labor Day weekend.     ~ Fr. Paul

Padre Paul’s Ponderings: Learning the Faith, One Action at a Time

One of my favorite shows of all time is “The Twilight Zone.” So many of these episodes are timeless tales of the nature of humanity, the decisions we make, and how those decisions impact other people.

One episode, “The Changing of the Guard,” tells the story of a teacher, Professor Ellis Fowler, who was being forced into retirement. Deeply depressed, he looks through old yearbooks and becomes convinced that his lessons haven’t helped anyone. He considers taking his life, but is visited by ghosts of former students, who tell him that they have become better people. By the end of the episode, he realizes that he has changed the lives of people, and that’s because he saw his work not as just a job, but as a vocation and he cared about all his students.

The thing I love with “The Twilight Zone” is many episodes make you think, and address timeless issues. This particular episode showed what can happen when a person lives for other people.

Being a witness is so important in how we live out our faith. Jesus in this week’s Gospel asks who the apostles think He is; Peter speaks up and says that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.

It will take time for them to all understand what this means, but eventually once they do understand, they will live out the faith as witnesses for it. The follower of Christ has to respond to that faith. Professor Ellis responded to his call to teach, and changed many lives because of it. The question for us is are we going to do as Jesus commanded us, and live our lives for others by proclaiming His Gospel through words and actions?

Doing that is a daily effort.

For one, we must never forget while we say every week in our Creed who God is, understanding the meaning behind those words takes effort. Every day we need to grow in our faith through prayer, being engaged in Mass, and celebrating the sacraments. We also look for ways to learn more about the faith, something that doesn’t end once we finish Confirmation. There is so much good stuff out there, from good Catholic websites, to the Catholic Bible with footnotes, to multimedia presentations and video and other good content at sites such as formed.org, EWTN.com, USCCB.org, wordonfire.org, catholic.org and archspm.org, our own archdiocese’s website, just to name a few. (And this may shock you, but there are also many anti-Catholic sites out there too, or inaccurate sites – so just make sure to check the source. Catholic books always have an “imprimatur” from a bishop).  Whether you are a convert or a cradle Catholic, there’s so much about our faith we might not know or need clarity on

But then faith has to be lived out. If we say we know who Christ is, it will show in our lives. For the professor in the Twilight Zone episode, it was the daily interactions that he had with his students, his daily efforts into preparing for his classes, and the time he took with them that added up over the course of a lifetime. Such is the case with us as well. To be a witness to the truth, to be an evangelist, is not just a part-time affair. Rather, it entails sacrifice and commitment. It can even entail suffering. The problem is sometimes people can think of heaven and earth as a kind of double-decker bus. Jesus is “up there” and removed from my life, so I must live “down here” and focus on the things of this world. So many in the world are unable to see Jesus present in our midst because no one has revealed God to them. Daily though the Christian must grow in our understanding of God by seeing Him in our lives, and help others to do that through how we are present for them and how we speak and live out our faith with them.

Like Peter, we say Jesus is Lord – but also like Peter, we have to learn how to live out the words we say. Our task is to serve this King of Kings who loves us so much – daily may we strive to embrace the Holy Spirit who teaches us what it means to have faith, and use the gifts of the Spirit to teach others through our daily actions to do the same.

God bless,

Fr. Paul

Padre Paul’s Ponderings: Planting Mustard Seeds

About two decades ago I made the choice to be a catechist. Every Sunday night, I went to Saint Vincent’s and helped to lead a group of eighth graders in talking and learning about the faith. Now was every eighth grader on fire to talk about religion on a Sunday night? No. But do I believe those youth learned more about their faith? I do. I was helping as part of a team to pass the faith on, and over that year, I grew as a person, and my hope is that those youths, now in their 30s, grew too in their understanding of the faith. Just as growth sometimes takes place below the surface and we don’t always see it, the same is true with our faith. Sometimes growth is obvious – and you see it as a catechist. Other times it’s a little more hidden. Both types of growth involve the Holy Spirit, and people who are willing to help the growth happen. That’s where you come in.

We need a team to help pass the faith on to our young.

As you know we rely on an army of catechists to come and help pass on the faith to our young people too during the school year when we have faith formation at our parish.

Right now, we have a need with 82 positions to fill.

These include:

 Catechists, who lead small groups of students throughout the year and plan pre-selected lessons; along with substitutes to fill in and provide support; hall monitors who help maintain safety in the halls as well as monitoring the entrances to the building; gym supervisors who help supervise gym activities, and people to help set up for faith formation night.

We also have need for volunteers to assist with the Youth EXPO, in particular on the 2nd and 4th Sunday evenings of September through April to help lead small group discussions and activities. (No lesson planning required)

For our confirmation program, we are in need of people to help with the retreat. Needed for this is a small group facilitator to lead discussions; a hospitality crew to prepare snacks and lunch and a registrar to greet and get youth checked in. For the program throughout the year we are also in need of presenters who present on predetermined topics that they go over with the director, and mentors to help develop and maintain a pastoral relationship with candidates and help guide the candidates on their faith journey.

Finally we are also looking for people interested on being in the Youth EXPO and Confirmation Committees as our programs are always being fine tuned.

When you become a catechist, you will make a difference and play an important role in helping to pass on the faith. If you talk to some of our veteran catechists or those who have journeyed with youth through confirmation, they’ll have plenty of stories to share of how the faith began to come alive in our youth. For others, it might be a number of years from now and they return to the faith in part because of the mustard seeds that you helped plant. Whether you are leading a group, monitoring the hall or helping on a retreat, by simply giving of your time you are making a lasting impact on living out what Jesus told us, to go and baptize and make disciples of all nations.

I hope you will prayerfully consider getting involved in faith formation which begins Sept. 6thYou can sign up on the board as you leave Mass, or by going to our website and following the tabs to faith formation, or emailing or contacting Esther Jaeger at 651-423- 4402 x 3225.

By working together, we can do so much to help fan the flames of faith in our young people. Thank you for considering this important ministry!

God bless,   ~Fr. Paul

Padre Paul’s Ponderings: Journeying Forward as a People of Hope

One of my favorite courses in seminary was an elective class we had on the virtues and their corresponding vices. The virtues are the gifts we are given from God at our baptism and by virtue of being born into this world. Among them is the virtue of hope.

Now when I say “hope” to you what comes to mind?

I suppose on any given day I’d say as a Vikings fan I hope the Vikes win and the Packers lose. As one who can’t stand winter I’d say I hope winter does not come this year. I’d use it to talk about things I’d like to see happen, but that’s not what hope is about.

Hope can be summed up best as we have a hope for heaven, but we live out that future hope right here in this world in the here and the now. As such, we do not say as Catholics “I’m saved.” Certainly we are loved by God, but talk is cheap. It needs to be backed up by action. A Christian who is on fire with hope is someone who is so in love with God that they want to go to heaven, but take seriously the words of Jesus to wash the feet of one another and to love others as He loved them. Jesus was focused on the Father, but that meant living out His mission here on earth.

So what of His mother, Mary? We venerate Mary quite a bit as Catholics, but just like with hope if asked what hope is, we might have a hard time defining Mary exactly. Particularly you may find confusion among Protestants (though Martin Luther who began the reformation had a deep Marian devotion, more on that perhaps for a future column). Some might think she isn’t all that significant; others the fourth member of the Trinity, or perhaps some super saint above the rest. Really though Mary for us is a sign of someone who lived out faith, hope and charity, the theological virtues. Someone who didn’t know where God was leading her, but put all her trust into God by bringing Jesus into the world.

After that “yes” at the Annunciation, Mary lived out her faith in so many ways. In the Gospel for the Assumption, we see an example in the story of the Visitation, where Mary visits Elizabeth. She goes out of her way to help her cousin, not something she was required to do, but something she wanted to do. As the years go by, Mary will always be close to her Son. Even on Good Friday, when the sword pierces her heart, she remains faithful to God. Her reward for this is sainthood, being assumed body and soul into heaven. Her uniqueness is being born without original sin; but she had free will her whole life, and her choice was trust. Commitment. Love. Dedication.

You won’t find the Assumption in the Bible. This is where the big “T” comes in: Tradition. It was always celebrated for centuries, and declared a dogma by Pius XII in 1950.      Quite a good time for it if you look at history, with wars raging, the Iron Curtain descending on Europe, and numerous problems all over the world with racism and violence. Pius in declaring this dogma which was already held by our Church (for had Mary died and not been assumed, certainly the early Christians would have venerated her tomb) Pius gave the world a sign of hope – someone to look to.

So what that means for us is to look to Mary, but to challenge ourselves. To not be content doing the bare minimum our faith requires, but to always ask ourselves how can I take it to the next level. How can I be better at how I live my faith. How can I be a person of charity and love. How can I overcome the nagging sins in my life. Like Mary, how can I be a sign of love in this world to all from those under my roof to the people at work and school to the new people I will meet. Inside us all is such power to be like Mary, the Theotokos or “God Bearer.”

Finally, Mary also does so much for us too to bring us closer to God. As someone in heaven who was always close to Jesus, we ask for her intercession. This is why we pray not “to” Mary but “through” Mary. We ask her to pray with us and to help us, much like we do with our earthly mothers too. Most Catholics know the words to the “Hail Mary,” but as such a familiar prayer it’s worth thinking about the actual words from time to time that we pray. Mary is holy and can help us become holy; Mary prays for us as sinners because she loves us; now and at the hour of our death meaning she is always with us as she was with Jesus. Mary is full of grace and we are too with the Holy Spirit. The Lord is with her and is with us. Mary helped Jesus through so much in His life and the same is true with us.

This Tuesday, August 15thwe honor our blessed Mother with the Assumption, a Holy Day of Obligation. We’ll have two Masses, at8:30 am and then again in the evening at 6 pm

Have a blessed week,   ~Fr. Paul