Good News in Our Parish

19 Jan

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I want to share with you a great blessing that has come to St. Mary Magdalen Parish here in Altamonte Springs, FL.

Surely, other parishes have experienced this blessing as we have—or perhaps in different ways.

It’s the blessing of faith confirmed. In our more than a half-century as a parish, we have indeed experienced God’s love and care, as well as strong conviction in God’s actions in the Sacraments and in the proclamation of his holy Word.

It is also a blessing of faith renewed, deepened energized.

In the past year, our pastoral team and staff have launched a seasonal preaching/catechetical series designed to help the entire parish experience a deeper, more personal and more challenging encounter with the Gospel of the Lord.

We used the RCIA model of “breaking open” the Word of God. We sat together, read the Gospels for the specific liturgical season, broke up into groups, were assigned one Gospel, and thought deeply of what God wanted our parish to understand from  each particular Sunday in that particular season.

From this discernment came a number of insights from each Sunday. These reflection points were listed. Then selectively, these insights were to be used in homilies, catechesis and spiritual formation. Cards, listing the season’s reflection points, were printed and mailed to everyone in the parish. Slides were created for use in church. The aim was to get everyone in the parish on the “same page.”

It has been a tremendous help. We have a parish of more than three thousand families and ten thousand souls. We have three priests, seven for deacons, a Catholic school, vibrant religious education and RCIA ministries, a commitment to spiritual formation of all parishioners, and hundreds of lay people up to their ears in outreach to the poor, sick, bereaved, homeless and otherwise marginalized.

We are now gearing up Lent.

Thanks be to our God.

 

 

 

‘Let Them Decide’

10 Jan

 

 

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Find your way t0 the Light of Truth.

“Let them decide.”

That’s the attitude of many people today in questions of morality and faith.

Two examples come to mind.

First: Religion in the family

From time to time, young parents will say they don’t want to force religion on their children. They will let their children decide what they want to believe—if they choose to believe.

Perhaps these young parents were force fed “religion” rather than led into a life of faith in God—a faith which recognizes God as the source of life and the promise of eternal life.

Perhaps these parents were never taught anything about God.

Whatever the case, I find this attitude both illogical and dangerous.

It’s an illogical attitude. It goes contrary to a parent’s desire to do what’s good and right for the child. A loving and sensible parent would never let a child decide if he wants to play on the highway, or jump from the roof to see if she can fly, or decide whether to learn how to read or study history.

It’s a dangerous attitude. It isolates the individual from what others need and what they have to offer. And, if that attitude becomes widespread, it leads to a society in which chaos and violence become the norm as each person vies for what he or she wants regardless of how it affects others.

Just look at those sections of our society in which men impregnate women and then leave them to earn a living for their children. Not to mention the burden it places on the welfare budget.

This attitude, where it does exist, marks a society going bad. There is no sense of right and wrong. There is no desire to know what is right because each person makes up his or her own mind about what “I want and what is right for me.” This is isolationism at its worst. Its leads to a disintegrated society promising nothing but angst, anxiety, loss of focus, hatred, violence and a continued frantic search for happiness and a reason for living.

Second: The Question of Marriage

As these lines are written, there is a rush of gay couples to become married in the eyes of civil law.

Again, judging from Face Book offerings, proponents of gay marriage believe folks have to make up their own minds about what is right or wrong—again, based on a mindset devoid of moral conviction.

I firmly believe that marriage, according to God’s revelation in Scripture, is intended for the union of one man and one woman. There is, according to revelation, in the Jewish and Hebrew Scriptures, no such thing as a marriage between same-sex couples.

Opinions to the contrary seem to be rooted in convenient humanism and the idea that human freedom is devoid of any responsibility to seek Truth and to live according to that Truth.

In short, proponents of same-sex “marriages,” as with any movement away from traditional moral standards, deny God’s supremacy and authority. As they try to fashion God in their own image, they have created for themselves a false god.

I can hear it now: “Homophobe!”

Get a life!

Truth cannot contradict itself!

 

 

 

Where Lies Peace?

30 Dec

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I wish you a Blessed New Year, filled with the peace of God.

When Jesus was born, peace came into the world.

But where is that peace?

Families are broken.

Ethnic groups raise slogans of hatred and violence.

Human trafficking enslaves God’s children.

Millions of people suffer hunger and pestilence.

Wars rage between nations and terrorism raises its ugly, cowardly head.

So, Lord God, where is that peace that came into the world with the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ?

Perhaps God, our Father, might say:

Peace comes when compassion triumphs over condemnation and when virtue replaces violence.

Look to my Son, your Savior and Lord. His power lies in his love, even for those who hated and killed him.

The peace of the world lies in the human heart. When your heart is filled with peace, and as more people discover peace of mind and soul, the world is gradually made better.

Now, that is surely not a quick and easy fix.

But it is the only one which will eventually bring peace on earth.

The Son of God became one of us. He took on our fallen human nature.

 “When God reveals his humanity, his goodness cannot possibly be hidden. To show his kindness what more could he do beyond taking my human form? My humanity, I say, not Adam’s—that is not such as he had before the fall.”[i]

Jesus experienced joy and sadness, fatigue, betrayal, false accusations condemnation and unjust execution.

Can we, his disciples, expect a bed of roses?

We continue his mission for we are the Body of Christ.

Peace begins in Christ, grows in our own faithful hearts, and then to the entire world through our compassion and love.

 

[i] St. Bernard, Abbot, Liturgy of the Hours, Book I, pg. 447

Vignette for Life

29 Dec

 

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Three Mothers, Three Babies

Three Jewish mothers sat nursing their infants.

One said with pride, “My little son will be a great man of business, just like his father.

The second beamed, and said, “My son will be, like his father, a great landowner.

Both looked at the third mother. One asked, “And what have you to say of your little baby?”

The third mother just smiled as she looked down at her baby, Jesus.

 

 

The Mystery of Love

22 Dec

Baby

Take a moment.

Think.

Forget carols, presents, trees and last-minute rushes.

Think about the great mystery of love—not what passes for love in modern entertainment and “romances.”

Love, that real, unsullied, selfless and everlasting love—the love that prompted God to become one of us, like us in everything but sin.

The angel asked, “Will you?”

Mary said, “Yes.”

And God became one of us, fully human and yet still divine—truly a human with body, blood, bones and a soul.

God has become so human that, like us, he is totally vulnerable, able to suffer pain and hunger, cold and chill. That Baby, soon to become a man, had to have his diapers changed. He had to learn to walk, to talk, to pray.

Jesus is his name—Son of God, Son of Mary, Son of Man, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Messiah and Savior.

But, also, he is Friend and Brother.

Jesus had to grow, to work, to play with his young friends.

He grew in age and wisdom, as do we all. He, Son of God, had to learn the depths of his Father’s love, the path he was to walk, the mission he was to fulfill, the death he was to suffer and the resurrection that would defeat sin and death.

That’s the mystery of love—of God’s love.

Christmas isn’t about trees and lights. It is about the Light of the World.

It’s about how the wood of the crèche foreshadows the wood of the Cross.

God so loved the world…

That’s the mystery.

That’s love.

Have a Holy Christmas—one filled with the joy born of being loved and the hope born of resurrection.

 

A Child Deserves Better

18 Dec

Family

A thirty-something single woman has decided to make a difference in the lives of needy children.

She has become a foster mother—and in her own family of parents, siblings and grandparents, the children are smothered with love.

As I understand it, she’s had a series of what might be called “short stays,” little ones whose foster parents need a break or whose mothers, for whatever reason, cannot care for them for whatever reason.

The kids are a delight—particularly the little ones who are crawling or beginning to walk. They receive hugs, kisses and cuddly spells in a rocking chair. Their responses are bright smiles, returned hugs and peaceful sleep.

One little boy, about six, has a great ear-to-ear grin—even with his two front teeth missing.  He has problems in school and acts, at times, like unleashed energy. He finds it difficult to take directions. Everything is a game that he wants to play by his own rules.

Apparently his mother is unable to care for him. He craves to be hugged and loved.

All these little ones, but especially our little rebel, deserve better than what life has so far given them.

Please God, bless them, their real parents and their foster parents.

I can hear the echo of the angel, “A child is born.” Every birth of every child is precious, a treasure.

Christmas and Old Folks

5 Dec

 

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 This is a West Virginia scene. No snow in Central Florida!

For us older parishioners, Christmas brings back many memories of the “good old days.” I remember my earliest Christmases—the mystery of Santa Claus and the anticipation of what would suddenly appear under the tree.

I remember loving and generous parents, although they were far from rich and not especially comfortable with expenses vs. income. And I had wonderful grandparents, uncles and aunts, and cousins galore. Then there was brother, nine years my senior—and the wicked joy he took in teasing me.

Memories of Joy and Sadness

But burned ever more deeply in my memory was the tradition of Midnight Mass for all of us, with Mama singing alto in our parish choir.

Even when I was five or six years old, I knew the real meaning of Christmas—Jesus, our Savior is born.

Christmas joy and love remain among us—but, along with other older Catholics, there is that sadness that “things are no longer the same.” We are not as spry as we used to be. We forget things that happened last night while we recall a Christmas decades ago.

And there is sadness, too, that “things are no longer the same” in our families. There are fewer families boasting relatives who live near us, who can come together for Christmas dinner.

And, many of us old folks experience disappointment that, in our judgment, some of our children, grandchildren and other relatives seem to have lost the significance of the birth of Christ.

Incarnation is for Every Day

The Incarnation of the Son of God, and his birth from the virginal womb of Mary, must remain a daily reality. You see, we are part of the mystery of Incarnation. The Son of God became a man like us in all things except sin. We are in Christ; we are the Body of Christ.

In baptism, we were filled with divine life of God—and Jesus’s mission became our own when he commanded: “Go forth and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19 ff).

Live What We Believe

We have no idea how our faith will impress or inspire those around us. Blessed Pope Paul VI said that we first of all share our faith by our goodness and holiness. In other words, we live and practice what we believe before we can ever hope to convince others when we speak to them about our faith.

 

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