News from P.I.T. (Pastor in Training)
October is the yearly attendance count for the Diocese. We track how many people show up to Masses each weekend in October so that over the course of the years we can compare and see whether attendance is rising or falling. Don’t worry, we don’t keep track of who it is while counting (though we used to do that year round based on your donation envelopes in the basket!). So, in order to satisfy my own curiosity, I’m wondering how many people actually read the bulletin articles. If you would therefore please send me an email right now at FrJames@OLMercy.com with the subject line or content being READ THE BULLETIN, I’ll be happy to report the results to my boss! It’ll also look good on you, unless of course I receive the email during one of the Mass times. Then I’ll just know you weren’t paying attention during Mass!
Thanks. Now that that’s over, October is also the month of the rosary. While the origins of the rosary are long debated and have several variations, let’s just say that it has a long historical pedigree. The 150 Hail Mary’s of all three sets of mysteries are often connected with the 150 psalms, making the rosary the ‘layman’s psalter’ of sorts. Another origin story calls the practice a “rosarium”, or, “rose garden”. Given the fact that St. Therese of Lisieux kicks off this month with her feast day, and the fact that her prayer cards are often adorned with the prayer: “St Therese, the Little Flower, please pick me a rose from the Heavenly Garden and send it to me with a message of Love,” I enjoy the idea of our rosaries being like us picking roses one by one and laying them at the feet of our Mother Mary! Nevertheless, the rosary is so universally revered in the Catholic world because it is so wonderfully universal! It leads us into vocal, meditative, and contemplative prayer alike, while inviting us into both Scripture and Tradition and ultimately a deeper relationship with Our Lord Jesus Christ. This month, let’s count off those beads and offer the fragrance of our prayers to Our Lord through the hands of Our Lady of the Rosary!
This weekend we are celebrating the feast of Our Lady of Mercy. As I reflect on my first assignment as pastor, I truly believe the Lord is inviting me into His school of mercy through the instruction of Our Lady of Mercy. I say it is a school because I continue to learn and be transformed by His mercy through our Mother’s beautiful example.
I have encountered brokenness in my own body through various physical ailments. I’ve experienced brokenness in my relationships with my friends and family. I’ve also seen my relationship with God experience strife and difficulties. One thing that is clear; I am a person in need of God’s mercy and healing.
Our Lady of Mercy is a beautiful teacher. Mary was the first to receive Jesus at the Annunciation. She was the first to hold her son and embrace him at his birth. She initiated Jesus’ ministry at the wedding feast at Cana. As she stood at the foot of the cross, her heart was pierced, and she became a teacher of her son’s mercy to his disciples.
When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. John 19:26-27
Next week, starting on the first Saturday of October, which is dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, we will begin 7 continuous days of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament ending on the first Friday of October celebrating the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I would like to encourage everyone to consider joining Our Lady of Mercy in adoration of her Son in the Blessed Sacrament. Come spend time in silence with our Lord and enter into His school of Mercy. Sign up for adoration hours may be found online and in the Narthex after all Masses.
Our Lady of Mercy, pray for us!
Recently I learned another little factoid about the Mass that I wanted to share with all of you. Have you ever noticed that the priest bows slightly right before saying the words of consecration? This is first of all because the big red book called the Roman Missal tells the priest not only what to say, but also what to do while saying it. At the most important point of the Mass, the Missal instructs the priest with these simple words, “He bows slightly,” and then, in all caps, tells him to repeat the words of Christ, “TAKE THIS ALL OF YOU…”
Why bow? On the one hand, we may be tempted to think that the priest should simply be looking at the people and saying these words standing straight up because, in a certain way, he is re-enacting the scene of the Last Supper where Jesus said this to the disciples. However, the Mass is so much more than a re-enactment. If that were all it is, I’m sure you could find much better actors and singers at the Paramount Theatre! Something substantial and miraculous is happening when we follow the Lord’s command to “do this in memory of me.”
In medieval times, kings would send messengers on their behalf to share a message. In order to make clear that what they were saying was from their lord and not from them, the messenger would bow while pronouncing their king’s words. Not only would this convey a certain reverence for their king’s words, it would also be a simple way to distinguish between who was saying what. During the Mass, the priest does much the same. He takes the words of Jesus as his own because of his ordination into the priesthood of Jesus Christ—“THIS IS MY BODY…THIS IS MY BLOOD”. This is an amazing and beautiful moment for priests, as it reminds us to give up our own bodies, to give up our own blood in service to our people. But the priest also bows while saying these words to show that he is merely a servant of the True Priest, a messenger of the High King.
At Mass we not only remember what Our Lord did for us, we encounter His very self—Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity—offered to us, and for us. May we, at each and every Mass, keep our gaze fixed not simply on the messenger, but on the True High King and His good news of great joy.
My dad’s first cousin is a priest for the Diocese of Des Moines. My dad’s step-brother was a Jesuit priest and professor at Creighton University. My great-aunt was a Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) sister and taught in Chicagoland area. My mom’s first cousin is a Franciscan priest in the Holy Land and was the former pastor at the Church of Nativity and the Church of Annunciation in Nazareth. If you ask my mom, she could list even more distant cousins with religious vocations. Needless to say, religious vocations have been present in my family. However, it might surprise you to know that while growing up, the idea of priesthood never entered my mind!
Now that I am older and I can reflect back, I can see signs of the invitation, but at the time I was completely absent-minded to the Lord’s call. You could say I grew up in the Lord’s house, the Church; by going to Mass on weekends and Holy Day of Obligations, but I was unaware of the Lord’s plan for me.
Whenever I hear the story of the Prodigal Son, I see a similar a struggle; both sons fail to see the invitation of the father. The first son wanted to find his identity away from his father, while the oldest son thought he only need to live under his father’s roof. But the father was offering something more than just shelter, food, and work to both of them. He was offering his very self, his very heart.
I believe we as Catholics continue to miss out on the invitation given to us by Our Father in heaven through his Son. We are personally aware that many have left the faith like the younger son, but how many of us in the pews, or should I say those in the presider’s chair, fail to realize the invitation to the Father’s heart through the gift of his Son?
Some may think that it would be the job of the pastor/priest and our ministries is to get people into the Church. But that would miss the point of the Gospel and the lesson that needs to be learned by the older son in the parable. The goal of the priest and our ministries at OLM is to make people aware of the beautiful invitation before them. The invitation to God’s heart! I’m truly grateful for all the ministries at our parish that invites each and everyone of us to enter more deeply into the Father’s heart.
Normally when we think of voluntary poverty, we think of religious brothers or sisters. Indeed, the catechism tells us, “The life consecrated to God is characterized by the public profession of the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience.” (CCC 944) However, it also tells us, “Christ proposes the evangelical counsels, in their great variety, to every disciple.” (CCC 915) Really? Yup. We hear it this weekend: “Whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”
Of course, we can’t all be mendicants, but the evangelical counsels have proven for two thousand years to be the surest way to perfection. Since we’re all called to “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48), we’re also all called to some form of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
I’ve sought to do so in my own vocation through my priestly association, the Companions of Christ. For example, we pursue poverty by having a $200 spending limit. This means, if I’m going to make a purchase over $200, I know I’m going to have to run it by my fellow Companions. Sometimes that’s all it takes to discourage me from being so quick to spend money on myself!
This trifecta of holiness directly combats the three major temptations. Chastity fights the lust of the flesh, calling us to the selfpossession that frees us to make a gift of ourselves. Poverty fights the lust of the eyes (greed), calling us to the healthy detachment that frees us to store up our treasure in heaven. Obedience fights the pride of life, calling us to the humility that frees us to serve God rather than our ego.
For us, practicing obedience may simply mean a humble submission to the circumstances of life, trusting that “all things work together for good for those who love God.” (Rom 8:28) Chastity may mean googling for the “parents’ guide” before beginning a new TV show or movie. Poverty may mean setting aside a percentage of our income for OLM, the Diocese, and our favorite charities like Hesed House or Waterleaf. Each disciple’s circumstances are unique, but every disciple is called to the perfection
of heaven. Let’s ask God this weekend how He is asking us to live
out poverty, chastity, and obedience.