Deacon’s Corner, December 8 2019

Over the past three months, our Confirmation students have been working hard preparing to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation in May.  As you may remember, our two parishes joined together again this year with a combined class of young adults to learn about their Catholic faith and how the Holy Spirit works within them to fulfill the plan God has for their lives.

This year’s class has 14 students: 10 from Sacred Heart and 4 from St Mary on the Lake.  Back on October 19, they attended a one-day retreat at the Judson Collins Retreat Center in the Irish Hills.  The Confirmation classes from St. Joseph Shrine, Holy Family (Adrian), and Light of Christ parishes also joined in.  Fr. Todd and I spent the day with the group, prayed Mass with them, and finished the evening with Eucharistic Adoration.  I am always so impressed by how much the kids enjoy these retreats every year, especially spending quiet time with the Lord during Adoration.

Jen Loar, a catechist from St. Mary on the Lake, has graciously volunteered to lead our combined program this year.  The following is an update from Jen on what the class has been doing…..The Confirmation students have been busy with their service and mercy work! We had lots of fun helping at the Sacred Heart Gala and bowling and social time afterwards was really good time together.  We also spent a few hours at the Catherine Cobb Shelter organizing boxes and PILES of donations. The kids worked SO hard and we all wished we could have done more, but they really appreciated our many hands of mercy!

Keep these students in your prayers as they discern their Confirmation Sponsor. If you are asked, please keep your heart open to saying YES! It means they look up to you as a person of faith in their lives. They are also choosing a Patron Saint name.

On Sunday, December 15, we will Christmas Carol to a few of our parish shut-ins after we help prepare cookies for the Kiwanis food baskets. If your family would like to join in the caroling as well, please meet us at St. Mary on the Lake at 5 p.m. I am also in need of a few helpers to get some hot cocoa and food ready for us when we return at approx. 6 p.m.

Please contact me if you would like to help in this night of caroling around the lakes! God bless you for your prayers and support of our youth!   Jen Loar – 517-673-1185  or email me:  jenloar@yahoo.com.

Thank you, Jen, for all that you are doing to serve our parishes.  Please keep our young adults in your prayers as they prepare to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation.  Please also consider joining us to celebrate their Confirmation Mass with Bishop Boyea on the evening of May 28th in St. Dominic Chapel at Siena Heights University.  Thank you!

Deacon John

Deacon’s Corner, December 1 2019

If you are like me, you may not have realized today is the 1st Sunday of Advent until you saw the wreath in the front of the church. I write every year how Advent sneaks up on me, and this year is no different.  Today marks four weeks until Christmas.  But, before we rush ahead and think about everything to get done by December 25th, let’s take a look at why we celebrate Advent and what the wreath is all about.

“Advent” is from the Latin adventus for “coming” or “arrival.” It originally described the whole mystery of the Incarnation – the Word made Flesh – or Jesus, God with skin, as I like to think.  Once Christmas became a popular Christian feast in the 4th century, Advent evolved as a distinct liturgical season to help people prepare for the second and final coming of the Lord with a joyful theme of getting ready to celebrate His first coming.

The Advent wreath tradition originated among Lutherans in Germany in the 16th century.  It was probably adopted from a Germanic pagan custom of burning festive lights at the end of November and beginning of December as the darkness of winter set upon them.  The Advent wreath was brought to America by German immigrants and became popular among Catholics in the mid-1900s.  Wreaths have always symbolized victory and glory.  So, the lighting of one wreath candle each Sunday of Advent represents the Light of Christ increasing to push out darkness, until all four candles are burning.  The Advent wreath represents the long time when we lived in spiritual darkness, waiting for the coming of the Messiah, the Light of the World.

Each year during Advent, we wait in darkness for the coming of the Lord – His historical coming in the mystery of Bethlehem, His final coming at the end of time, and His special coming every time we accept God’s grace.  This year during Advent, don’t just write a letter to Santa, but say a prayer of thanksgiving to God for the gift of Jesus’ birth.  May you have a joyful Advent preparing for the coming of Our Lord.

Deacon John

 

Deacon’s Corner, November 24 2019

From crucifixes to candles to the Sign of the Cross, symbols are deeply woven into our Catholic Faith.   These symbols are not pointless items to take lightly.  They exist to enrich our prayer life and help us grow closer to Christ.  We can study our Faith, talk about our Faith, listen to CDs, and hear great homilies.  But the symbols of our Faith provide another layer of teaching to help us understand what we believe.

For example, the Stations of the Cross displayed along the walls of our church allow us to use our imagination to share in the suffering of Jesus on the way to Calvary.   The fourteen stations each portray a different image inviting us to meditate on His Passion and death.  The Stations of the Cross are “symbolic” of that first Good Friday to help us appreciate exactly what Jesus endured for us.  As with all of our Catholic symbols, they touch our whole self:  mind, will, emotions, and body.

A symbol is something that stands for something else.  It literally “re-presents” an idea to us in a different form so we can take it in more fully and deeply.  Some symbols are images, such as the lamb representing Christ as the Lamb of God.  Other symbols are abstract, such as the initials IHS, an abbreviation of the Greek name for Jesus.  Color can be symbolic.  Blue is usually associated with the Blessed Mother, white with purity, and red with martyrs.   Gestures also carry a symbolic meaning.  Genuflecting before the tabernacle, with Christ present inside in the consecrated hosts, represents our reverence and allegiance to Him as our Lord and King.  In each case, the symbol points to something more significant beyond itself.

One important distinction to understand is the difference between a symbol and a sacrament.  A symbol represents something, while a sacrament is something.  The Eucharist is not a symbol of the body and blood of Jesus.  It truly IS the body and blood of Jesus.  The water used in Baptism is not a symbol of the cleansing of original sin.  It IS the means by which we receive God’s cleansing grace of the sacrament.  However, holy water at the entrance of church is a symbol which reminds (re-presents) us of the time we received the Sacrament of Baptism.

Our rich Catholic tradition has many symbols so everyone, no matter their personality or preference, can experience God through their body, senses, emotions, and minds.  All these symbols have something in common:  they remind us of our Faith.  Every time we dip our hand in holy water, make the Sign of the Cross, genuflect, light a candle, or look at the crucifix, we are reminded of our Faith and invited to deepen our reverence and draw closer to the Lord.  What are your favorite symbols of our Faith, and do you know what they mean?  Understanding the meaning of our symbols can have a positive influence on our attitude towards prayer and being in the presence of our loving and gracious God.

Deacon John

Adapted from Catholic Answers Magazine, January-February 2018

 

Deacon’s Corner, November 17 2019

Last week, I wrote about how Fr. Mike Schmitz explained why we don’t drink coffee at Mass.  Essentially, he said that through our baptism, we share in the priesthood with Jesus when we were anointed with Sacred Chrism as “priests, prophets, and kings.”  That makes us “kingdom priests,” while Fr. Todd and Fr. Tomy are consecrated (ordained) as “ministerial priests.”  As kingdom priests, we do not go to Mass to watch and drink coffee.  We go to actively participate in the worship of God.  This week, let’s look at what “active participation” at Mass really means.

 

The Second Vatican Council called for “full, conscious and active participation” in the Mass by the people.  Changes were made to the Mass to help make this happen.  Among those changes were:  turning the Altar so the priest faced the people, praying the Mass in the native language instead of Latin, using non-ordained people such as lectors and Eucharistic Ministers, including a dialogue of prayers between the priest and the people, and receiving Communion in the hands.  All of these changes were designed to encourage and allow active participation of God’s people to come together in worship to celebrate God’s presence among us.

 

But active participation is more than these changes.  Active participation means both our heart and mind are awake, alert, and engaged.  It means on the inside, we participate with all the powers of the soul in the mystery of Christ’s sacrificial love.  On the outside, we say and do things with sacred gestures, postures, speech, and song.  Active participation develops the relationship between our soul and body to unite us with what is taking place on the altar.  All of this so we can bear witness to our faith and share that experience with others.

 

Pope Benedict wrote that active participation in the Mass means being a part of something bigger and more awe-inspiring: that God dwells among us.  If we truly believe God’s divine presence is everywhere, then why wouldn’t we actively participate as kingdom priests in the Mass?

Deacon John

 

Deacon’s Corner, November 10

Ever wonder why we don’t drink coffee and eat donuts at Mass?

First of all, because of our Eucharistic fast.   Canon Law requires abstaining from food or drink (with the exception of water and medicine) for at least one hour before Holy Communion.  The Eucharistic fast has its roots in both Judaism and the ancient tradition of our Church.   In Acts of the Apostles (13:2), we find evidence of fasting connected with the liturgy.  St. Augustine talks about it in his own writings during the 4th Century.  But, no coffee and donuts at Mass goes much deeper than rules and customs.  It goes to the core of who we are, and why we are at Mass.

We are a nation of priests (1 Peter 2:9).  When you were baptized, you were anointed with Sacred Chrism.  While placing the chrism on your head, the priest or deacon or bishop said, “I anoint you as priest, prophet, and king.”   To understand the meaning of that, we need to understand a little about priesthood theology. Jesus is the Great Priest and the High Priest.  There is only One Priest: Jesus Christ.   However, Jesus extends His priesthood to ministerial priests.  That would be Fr. Todd and Fr. Tomy.  Jesus gave them the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands by the bishop when they were commissioned (ordained).   Jesus gave the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, who handed it to the bishops down the line over the past 2000 years, who hand it down to the ministerial priests.  So, Fr. Todd and Fr. Tomy are able to, with Jesus, offer up the sacrifice of Jesus to the Father through the Holy Spirit.  Through your baptism, you are consecrated as a kingdom priest.  That means you also share in the one priesthood of Jesus Christ.   As a kingdom priest, you are able to offer up sacrifices.  Not just in your daily life, but also at Mass.

The problem is, many of us show up on Sunday to just “watch” the Mass.  We waste our priesthood.  We look at the ministerial priest and say, “He’s the one who’s praying and doing all the work, so we just need to watch.”  But, if we think that worship at Mass means simply to show up and watch the priest pray, then it really doesn’t matter if we bring our Starbucks and scone to church.  But, that’s not what worship means.  Worship means we are fully engaged and actively participating in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  We sing, we pray in dialogue with the priest, and we share in the Eucharist together as the Body of Christ.  Full and active participation means we embrace our kingdom priesthood, and along with the ministerial priest, united with the One High Priest, Jesus Christ, we offer up the sacrifice of the Son to the Father, through the Holy Spirit.

Drinking coffee and eating donuts may be the latest trend in some churches to bring people in on Sunday morning.  So, why not Catholics?  Because, through our Baptism we share in the priesthood with Jesus.  We are not at Mass to just watch and be entertained.  We are at Mass to fully participate in the worship of God as kingdom priests.

Deacon John

Adapted from “Why we don’t drink coffee at Mass” video by Fr Mike Schmitz

 

Deacon’s Corner, November 3 2019

What a beautiful way to pray together: Fr. Todd explained the Mass while we celebrated the Mass!  He mentioned that our Mass has its traditions and roots in both ancient Jewish and early Christian worship.  Hearing that reminded me of an earlier Deacon’s Corner I wrote about St. Justin Martyr describing the Mass to a Roman emperor almost 2000 years ago.  I would like to share some of that with you again this week.

St. Justin Martyr was a scholar and converted to Christianity after years of studying various pagan philosophies.  He adamantly defended the Christian faith from attacks by pagans, Jews, and heretics.  In 155 AD, Justin wrote a letter to the Roman emperor appealing for justice and mercy for Christians by clarifying the Christian worship liturgy.  At that time, Christians were being falsely accused of engaging in cannibalistic rituals.  Justin’s letter described what we call today the Mass.  He wrote:

“On the day we call the day of the sun, all who dwell in the city or country gather in the same place.  The memoirs of the apostles and the writings of the prophets are read…When the reader has finished, he who presides over those gathered admonishes and challenges them to imitate these beautiful things.  Then we all rise together and offer prayers for ourselves…and for others…so that we may be found righteous by our actions, and faithful to the commandments, so as to obtain eternal salvation.  When the prayers are concluded we exchange the kiss.  Then someone brings bread and a cup of water and wine mixed together to him who presides over the brethren.  He takes them and offers praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and…gives thanks (in Greek: eucharistian) that we have been judged worthy of these gifts.   When he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all present give voice to an acclamation by saying “Amen.”  When he who presides has given thanks and the people have responded, those whom we call deacons give to those present the “eucharisted” bread, wine and water and take them to those who are absent” [from The Lamb’s Supper, Scott Hahn, pages 34 & 35].

How many parts of today’s Mass can you find in Justin’s letter: the Readings? Homily? Petitions? Preparation of the Gifts? Eucharistic Prayer? The Amen?  Sign of Peace?  Communion in both forms?  Communion to homebound parishioners?  Even the day, the “day of the sun,” or Sunday, shows that our Mass has been celebrated on the weekday of Jesus’ Resurrection since the beginning of the Church.

About 10 years after St. Justin Martyr wrote this letter, he was tried, convicted, scourged, and beheaded for refusing to worship Roman gods.  As we walk into church for Mass today, may we take a moment to remember St. Justin Martyr and the early Christians who endured hardships, persecution, and martyrdom for this liturgy that is our highest form of prayer.  May we find joy in the Mass, as they did, by experiencing God in our hearts.  After all, it’s been that way for almost 2000 years.

Deacon John

 

Deacon’s Corner, October 7, 2019

 

Why do we have music at Mass? Music is as much a part of the Mass as the prayers and Scripture readings.  According to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (the GIRM), which tells us how to celebrate the Mass, singing is of “great importance” and should be part of the Mass whenever possible, especially during Sundays and Holy Days.

Music at Mass helps us come together as one. It encourages everyone to participate in expressing our joy and love of God. Our Catechism teaches that the music and song of the Mass “participate in the purpose of the liturgical words and actions: the glory of God and the sanctification of the faithful” (1157). That’s a lot of words, but it tells us that the Mass, in itself, is a song.  Music at Mass has its roots in our Jewish heritage. Jesus would have sung Psalms in the synagogues and temple with His family, friends, and the Apostles as a way of giving glory and praise to God. The Gospel tells us Jesus sang at the Last Supper when He instituted the Holy Eucharist (Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26). So, we should not be surprised that for almost 2,000 years, we have had music and singing during Mass. Music helps us express spiritual union, show gladness in our heart, and creates a feeling of unity as we gather in sharing the Eucharist together. The GIRM encourages all of us to sing along as part of the dialogue of prayers with the priest so we do not lose the beauty and joy of praying through music as our ancestors did.  St. Paul said, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16). Singing is the sign of the heart’s joy (Acts 2:46). As we join together today at Mass, let’s remember that music and singing are part of our deep, Catholic roots. Those roots are the identity of our Church we must work to preserve for generations to come.

Deacon John

 

Deacon Corner

In 1917, Mary appeared six times in Fatima, Portugal, telling people to pray the Rosary for world peace.  The last appearance was on October 13.  It had rained throughout the night before, soaking the ground and the pilgrims traveling to Fatima by the thousands to see Our Lady appear at noon as she had promised.  As noon local time passed, Mary did not appear.  However, when the sun arrived directly overhead, Mary was seen rising in the east.  She turned the palms of her hands towards the sky.  Although the rain had stopped, dark clouds still obscured the sun.  Suddenly, the sun burst through the clouds and was seen as a soft spinning disk of silver.  Recorded eyewitness accounts tell how people saw the face of the Blessed Virgin Mary and watched the sun, without any discomfort, as it trembled and danced in the sky.  Some claimed the sun changed colors and whirled on itself like a giant wheel that lowered to the earth as if to burn it with its rays.   The crowd cried out and people fell on their knees to pray.  70,000 people witnessed this Miracle of the Sun, including atheists, communists, and non-Catholics.  Some of them converted to our faith.

 

Yesterday, at noon, as part of a worldwide celebration of the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima, a group of our parishioners gathered at the club house at Shaffer’s Evergreen Golf Course in Hudson to pray the Rosary for peace as our Blessed Mother requested 102 years ago.  The word ‘rosary’ comes from Latin and means ‘a garden of roses.’  Our Rosary is a form of devotional prayer in honor of our Blessed Mother.   The Rosary prayers come from Scripture and the traditions of the early Christians.  There are four sets of mysteries of the Rosary based on different aspects of Jesus’ life.  These are the Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious, and Luminous Mysteries.  Praying the Rosary and reflecting on these mysteries gives us a profound, intimate, personal experience with Jesus through the eyes of Mary.

 

Taking 20 minutes to pray the Rosary can draw out the deepest desires in our souls—desires for God and God alone.  Even taking just a few minutes to pray one decade allows us to slow down, calm our hearts, and rest in God’s presence. This week, let’s all take time to pray the Rosary for world peace.  Then ask our Blessed Mother to help us find peace in our heart.

Deacon John

 

Deacon’s Corner, October 6 2019

In last Monday’s Gospel reading, Jesus watched His disciples argue about which one of them was the greatest.  So, He took a child by His side and said to them, “Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest” (Luke 9:46-48).  Now, these are good words for the Gospel, but not so good when my Fighting Irish are going head-to-head against a rivalry and bragging rights are at stake.

 

While praying on this Gospel, I read a reflection written by a graduate student at the University of Notre Dame who wrote about her experience attending the football game in Athens, Georgia two weeks ago when Notre Dame played the Georgia Bulldogs.  The possibility of a national championship was at stake. It was a chance to prove who was the greatest among them.  Her reflection on this Gospel says it all, and I want to share it with you here.

 

She wrote:  “Welcome to Athens!” “Good luck tonight!” “Go Irish!” – All heard coming from the amazingly friendly Georgia fans two weekends ago. Walking up to the sea of red at the Georgia tailgates while wearing my Irish green was pretty intimidating, but I was happily surprised by the friendly faces, smiles, and words of welcome we received. Some Georgia fans stopped us to ask how our experience in Athens had been. They were glad we were having a great time and being welcomed enthusiastically because they and everyone they knew had had such a pleasant time at Notre Dame [during the game] in 2017.  Later we talked with a member of the SilverDawgs, who explained how the University of Georgia instituted the SilverDawgs based on the Notre Dame [football stadium] Ushers. Georgia wanted to create the same kind of welcoming atmosphere they had experienced at Notre Dame.

 

Every football weekend, when we welcome opponents to our campus, we truly live out Christ’s call to love everyone regardless of background and affiliation. We embody Christ’s message, “Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me.” Though we sometimes don’t receive back the kindness we give or see the fruits of our generosity, that’s not why we love in the first place…It was a blessing to see Christ’s love shining through both sets of fans. It’s amazing how a kind word and smile, multiplied by thousands of Notre Dame fans, set in motion a wave of love and kindness in the Georgia fans. The love Christ shares with us is meant to be received as a gift and shared tangibly with the people we encounter daily.

 

What beautiful words to describe how Jesus wants us to treat each other!  On a side note, our very own Delmar Marry (Sacred Heart Parishioner) is a stadium usher for Notre Dame home football games.  That means Delmar helps bring the love of Christ to over 80,000 people every time he is in the stadium.  I’m not sure how many people can do that!  Certainly, not me.  Go Delmar!

 

May we pray this week to be welcoming, to open our hearts in humility, and to receive the gift of the cross so we can give ourselves away in service to others for the love of Christ.

Deacon John