Cimply Putting It…
The greatest day of our lives…Mark Twain wrote a short story called “The Great Catastrophe” in which his characters ended up in such a mess that even Mark Twain himself couldn’t figure out how to solve it. At the end of the story he concludes with this author’s note: “The trust is, I have got my hero into such a particularly close place that I do not see how I am ever going to get him out of it again—and therefore I will wash my hands of the whole business and leave that person to get out the best way that offers—or else stay there.” A reader once complained to Twain and said, “What kind of an ending is that?” to which Twain replied, “If you think you can do better, you are welcome to try.”
The story of us as human beings has a similar theme. Lost in sin with no possible way out is a great catastrophe indeed. But God re-wrote the ending to the human story. He gave us a different destiny, a different purpose, and he turned the great catastrophe into the great triumph of mercy. How did God re-write the ending? He sent his Son.
It is one thing for God to offer such a great gift; it’s another thing for us to receive it and make it our own. We do through the gift of Baptism.
One of the quotes that the late Msgr. McEneaney used to use in many of his presentations was one that came from an interview with the late Pope John Paul II. The now canonized saint was reflecting on his life. After referring to so many incredible events—even being the first non-Italian Pope in more than 500 years, growing up under Nazi then Communist occupation, the assassination attempt, helping to bring down the Iron Curtain, and so on, the reporter asked the Pope, “So Holy Father, what do you consider to be the most important moment in your life?” to which the Pope responded, “My Baptism”.
John Paul II knew that in his baptism he became a child of God. That event changed his life, it changed his destiny, and it changed his mission. His Baptism united him to Jesus and Jesus united him to God the Creator. The catastrophe of his human and sinful condition was changed and the story of his life was re-written. It all happens because of our baptisms.
This weekend we start our Parish Mission and with the assistance and expertise of Fr. Michael Griffin we will reflect on our baptisms. Please take note of the schedule for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. I hope you will be able to participate in some or all of it. I am so thankful for Fr. Griffin to take the time to share his insights with us. This is a wonderful opportunity for us to prepare for Holy Week and the joy of Easter. Don’t miss out, plan now to attend.
The new organ is here! Peggy Bartunek from Rodgers Classic Organs will be here this weekend to play a couple of hymns and display the beauty of our new instrument. If you wish to donate to our organ fund, I would appreciate it.
Bishop Paul Swain will preside and be the homilist at our 11:00am Mass next Sunday, March 22nd. He will be here to see our newly renovated church and celebrate Mass with us.
Make it a great week. clc
Cimply Putting It…
Fr. Kristopher Cowles joined our staff last July and after a couple of days of unpacking he went to Mexico to learn Spanish. He had a few years of high school Spanish and had done some preliminary studying, but this was a two month immersion into the language. He lived with Spanish speaking families and had an intense one-on-one teacher to assist him in learning the language. All of this was in preparation for assisting with the Hispanic community in Sioux Falls, and particularly those at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish.
This past Monday, March 2nd, Bishop Swain appointed Fr. Cowles the pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe. He had been assisting the parish on a limited basis but now will be there most of the time. He will stay in residence at our rectory and you will still see him around (probably not so much on weekends). He will assist with some things in our parish but his first responsibility will be his parish.
In the short time we had Fr. Cowles with us we have all been blessed by his joyful spirit and insightful homilies. He has particularly touched the youth and those who assist our young people in our schools and religious education programs. I am glad he will still be living with us for awhile, and will still be able to help us out whenever possible. Our prayers are with him as he becomes a pastor for the first time in his priesthood. He will, I know, be a great one.
Thankfully, for my sake and for the sake of our parish, we have Fr. Nicholas with us. He will continue to be on our staff and you will of course be seeing more of him at our weekend Masses. It has been a blessing to have three priests in our parish the past few months, and as you are well aware, that is quite unusual for the current time in our church history. God has truly blessed us with wonderful priests, a fantastic deacon and a great parish staff. We have a lot to be thankful for at St. Michael Parish.
A new organ will be placed in our church this week. When we did the renovation of our church we knew that the organ we had was not in good shape. Many of its speakers were not functioning. We have decided to purchase a new organ. The good news is that it will be here and installed, but we are still in need of some donations to complete the funding for it. We are about $20,000 short of the cost. If you would like to make a donation to help with the cost, it would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for considering this donation.
So how is your Lent life going? Maybe it is passing quickly and all the great expectations you had on Ash Wednesday aren’t working out quite the way you thought. We have been offering a number of Lenten opportunities for you, and now to give us a real jump start before Holy Week, we will be having a Parish Mission on the weekend of March 14th & 15th and also the Monday and Tuesday following the weekend. I have invited Fr. Michael Griffin, pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Pierre and known to most of us because of the excellent articles he writes each month in our Bishop’s Bulletin. His presentations are going to center around the elements used in our baptisms: Water, Oil, and Fire. He will give presentations on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday evenings. Fr. Griffin will also preach at all of the Masses next weekend. There will also be some lunch hour presentations on Monday and Tuesday. A complete schedule of the mission will be in next week’s parish bulletin, but please attempt to mark your calendars to attend all or part of the mission. It promises to be a great time for a personal renewal for each of us in our parish.
You might be asking: Why would I go to a parish mission? Here’s a possible explanation. As you know I am pretty well hair deprived—actually I’m almost bald. But I still watch those commercials for conditioners that pledge to restore dull, dry, or “flyaway” hair—mine flew away years ago. So, if hair can be reconditioned, certainly neglected faith becomes dull, dry and may even fly or drift away. As we work to recondition our faith, we do well to consider another dimension of the process, the task of setting the conditions for our belief. As followers of Christ we strive for unconditional love, but few can reach that lofty ideal. Similarly, we humans generally harbor conditions for our faith, though these may sometimes remain unconscious. Our faith suffers when trials violate those unspoken conditions, leaving us disappointed and shaken in our beliefs. When presumptions about God are tested, we must recondition our faith. The graces of our baptism are in us, but we may need a bit of “reconditioner” to get it going again. Try participating in the mission and see what it can do for you.
Our new St. Michael Directory has openings for your picture beginning this week. If you have not had your picture taken yet, would you consider doing so? It is really painless and you receive a free picture and a free directory just by getting it taken. I did so and it took less than 15 minutes. You can sign up online on the parish website or just call the parish office and we will schedule a time for you to have it taken. The deadline is drawing near and the directory will be incomplete if you are not in it.
Easter is less than a month away so let’s attempt to make the days of Lent good opportunities for us to grow as holy, happy, and God willing, healthy people of God.
Make it a great week. clc
Cimply Putting It…
The Feast before the Fast: and can you have fun without sinning? Sometimes I think being Catholic and/or Christian means that we are like on a perpetual diet. There is lots of great food out there but whatever tastes good isn’t good for us. Does being a real Catholic mean an end to our fun?
The Bible doesn’t mention much about fun. I did find one use of the word in the New International version when people “made fun” of Peter. In examining the lives of major biblical characters, I don’t see fun being a priority. John the Baptist lived in the desert, went to prison where he was beheaded. Paul was shipwrecked, imprisoned, and beaten. According to tradition, all but one of the disciples died a martyr’s death. Fun is never the focus or goal Jesus promised his followers. But don’t we like to have fun?
Does becoming a real Catholic (Christian) mean the end of my fun?
Sometimes not only from younger people, but also from baby boomers like myself, I get the notion that Christianity has gotten the reputation as a killjoy. It’s something for boring, old people. Fun by definition is a source of enjoyment, amusement, or pleasure. There is no doubt that truly living our faith changes how we participate in things that are enjoyable, amazing and pleasurable, but it doesn’t mean we can’t have fun. Just by asking the question, “Does being a true Catholic mean the end to fun in my life?” says something about how we view God. Does God want us to have an un-enjoyable life? The Bible certainly is a serious book, but there is nothing in the Bible that suggests that God does not want us to enjoy our lives. Quite the opposite point of view is offered by the Good News. God doesn’t try to keep us from good things; God is the Giver of all good things. God is the source of all that is good and true and beautiful.
Yes being a Christian does mean that we have to deny ourselves. Truly there are bad things for us, things that in the long run steal fun instead of giving it. For example, having a drink can be fun, but drunkenness leads to stupid actions and decisions. We also have to be honest with ourselves. There are things that we enjoy that are bad for us. Most of us can recall times when things seemed fun, but we had to deal with the consequences later.
How we view God does seem to be an indicator of how we live as God’s children. We might wonder, “What does God think of me?” Because I do good and love people and believe what I am suppose to believe, am I pleasing to God? Can I still have fun? Or is God more concerned about the evil and hurt I cause?
A number of people around my age are old enough to remember being formed by an image of God as a tough judge, someone who was supposedly hard to please and easy to offend. God seemed to be waiting for us to have too much fun and then making a mistake. A number of others, usually younger than me, were often taught to look upon Jesus as a friend, someone at their side and looking at them with compassion. Jesus wasn’t their judge but their advocate.
Some of our imagining may go back to the first book of the Bible. When Adam and Eve were created they walked and talked with God. But once they ate from the forbidden fruit they felt ashamed and started to imagine that if they felt bad about themselves, God must be feeling the same way. Conversely, if God blessed people with riches and family and prosperity, then they must be getting along with God. It all seems natural. If times are tough and things aren’t going so well, we wonder if God is warning us that we are off the trustworthy path and punishing us for having too much fun. If we develop an illness or disease, the first question that hits us is “Why me?”
The temptation is to believe the more miserable you are on earth, the closer you are to God, and that enjoyment, amusement and pleasure are signs that we are in trouble with God.
We all want to have fun. Fun and happiness are true human cravings. God, I believe, wants us to be happy as God’s children. Can we picture God sharing in our fun, our pleasures, our accomplishments? Do we think of God as someone who takes delight in us, who gets a kick out of us?
It’s Fat Sunday (Saturday), Monday and Tuesday! I like the fun to last as long as it can before Ash Wednesday. I think the one thing that keeps us from becoming cynics is a strong sense of believing we have people who love us and support us. Otherwise we can easily keep asking things like “What’s the use?…Why bother?…Who cares?” We know we are not living in an earthly paradise (even in the great city of Sioux Falls). We do not necessarily have an easy life. At times we struggle. However, that is why we gather together to pray. We are not in isolation, but in communion with one another. And it is best when we do so with happiness, joy and fun. Maybe a good start to the fast of Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent, might be for us to laugh at ourselves and to stop taking ourselves so seriously. It seems that might be one of Pope Francis’ themes too. If we can learn to laugh at our own foibles, we’d be taking steps toward becoming a truly humble community of faith. We don’t need to look very far to have some good, clean fun. We just need to look at ourselves and believe God is getting a kick out of us too.
Have fun before the fast! clc