Update on Religious Ed

RELIGIOUS EDUCATION UPDATE

 

We are finally approaching the start of our classes!  And although we may never get used to dealing with accommodating the pandemic requirements and precautions we live under, we do adjust to them and try to live life as normally as possible.  Those accommodations for our classes will look a lot like what your children experience in school during the week.  We will review our COVID-19 policies and class procedures during a parents’ meeting on our first day of classes.

As a reminder, only students, catechists, and staff will be allowed in the building and classroom areas.  Students will be required to check in upon entering.   Students, catechists and staff must wear masks at all times.  Social distancing is required.  Parents will be required to provide a signed COVID-19 Health Screening Agreement, a completed Student Screening Checklist to enter the building each day of classes, and an appropriate and effective mask for each child (face shields are not acceptable).  Children will not be allowed in the building if any of the Screening Checklist questions are marked “Yes” or they display obvious COVID-19 symptoms.  Catechists and staff will conduct daily COVID-19 self-examinations per the Parish COVID-19 Reopening Policy.  Cleaning of the facilities will be performed in accordance with diocesan policies.

Our program this year focuses on simple, age appropriate, Scripture-based activities in support of Bishop Boyea’s calling for a Year of Scripture to begin this coming Advent.  The goal is to help families better understand the Bible through joining together in prayer, reading the Scriptures and Spiritual works, and discussing as a family what they have read.

Families are encouraged to talk during the week about what their children learn in class.  That may not always be easy given everything going on around us.  As I have mentioned before, I remember those years when Kimberly and I struggled to balance work, school, sports, scouts, visiting grandparents, and having fun as a family.  Getting our children off to CCD classes on Sunday morning was always a challenge between their early morning paper route and 10:30 am Mass.  Sometimes we grumbled about it, and sometimes we failed.  Although we are glad we don’t have to go through that phase of parenting anymore, we often wish we would have tried harder to make more time at home to pray as a family and teach our children their faith.

Our Catechism says parents have the first responsibility to educate their children.  That includes making sure they attend religious education classes, teaching the faith at home, and making family prayer part of the daily routine and decision making.  For our parish religious education programs to work, our children must experience all of us—parents, relatives, friends, and parishioners alike—engaged in our faith by outwardly living a life devoted to Christ through our words and examples.  They must see us as truly faithful to the virtues of patience, temperance, charity, humility, diligence, kindness, and chastity.  Not in a showy way, but in a way they can relate to.

Classes begin on November 1st for St. Mary on the Lake (after Mass), and November 8th for Sacred Heart (between Masses).  St. Mary on the Lake will meet monthly for classes.  Sacred Heart will meet on a weekly basis.  Class schedules for the year will be provided at the parent meeting and available on the parish websites.

There will be a parent meeting on November 8 in the Parish Hall.   Please drop your child(ren) off at the school for Religious Ed and head to the Parish Hall for your parent meeting.  

We are still in need of a catechist at Sacred Heart to teach Grades 5-6, as well as additional volunteers’ help on Sunday mornings to assist with student check-in.  If you are interested, or know of someone who may be, please contact me.  Please continue to pray for our parishes and children as we navigate this difficult time, and thank you for all your support!

Deacon John

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Deacon’s Corner, October 18, 2020

Much like the past few years, the upcoming elections seem frustrating no matter our political affiliation.  Even so, we must remember that responsible citizenship is a virtue.  Our voting decisions should be decided by our conscience—not the media, political parties, or special interest groups.

As Christians, our conscience should be formed by natural moral law.  Natural moral law is part of our human nature and is founded in the Ten Commandments.  Unlike the civil laws made by legislators, or the opinions that we hold, natural moral law is not anything that we invent.  It comes from God.  In short, our conscience is the voice of truth within us.  It guides our actions and needs to be in harmony with that truth.  As Catholics, we have the benefit of the Church’s teaching to help us understand the truth and natural moral law as it relates to specific issues.  We also have the obligation to correctly form our conscience and be informed of the Church’s teaching.  That includes picking up the Catechism and reading it.

Pope Francis said that making progress in building a peaceful and just society depends on principles which are in tension with social reality. These principles are based on the Church’s social doctrine and include human dignity, human rights and responsibilities, respect for work and the rights of workers, care for God’s creation, and the preferential option for the poor and vulnerable.  Taken together, these principles provide a moral framework for Catholic engagement in advancing what is called a “consistent ethic of life.”

This ethic does not treat all issues as morally equivalent, nor does it reduce Catholic teaching to one or two issues. It anchors the Catholic commitment to defend human life and other human rights, from conception until natural death, in the fundamental obligation to respect the dignity of every human being as a child of God. The USCCB says that Catholic voters should use Catholic teaching to examine candidates’ positions on issues related to our core principles and consider a candidate’s integrity, philosophy, and performance.  It is important for all citizens to see beyond party politics, to analyze campaign rhetoric critically, and to choose their political leaders according to principle, not party affiliation or mere self-interest.

Our Catechism says that a society cannot be well-ordered nor prosperous unless the people with authority to govern preserve its institutions and devote themselves to work and care for the common good.  The foundation of this authority must lie in moral order derived from God, and cannot be contrary to His Natural Law.  As we prepare to vote next month, may we prayerfully seek to form our conscience to consider the issues of today’s society.  Doing so will promote the three essential elements of the common good:  respecting the fundamental rights and dignity of each person, developing society’s spiritual and material needs, and protecting the peace and security of the people (Catechism 1897–1927).

Deacon John

 

 

Kimberly’s Quote

Sunday carbs don’t count.   Those are the Lord’s carbs and He wants you to be happy.

 

Deacon’s Corner, October 4, 2020

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.   This Sunday, as part of a worldwide celebration of the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima, everyone is invited to gather at Noon near the club house at Shaffer’s Evergreen Golf Course in Hudson to pray the Rosary for peace as our Blessed Mother requested 103 years ago.

As Fr. Todd wrote in his bulletin article last week, October is the month our Catholic faith traditionally celebrates praying the Rosary and receiving the graces that come with it.  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 peace in our nation.  Then ask our Blessed Mother to help us find peace in our hearts.

Deacon John

 

Deacon’s Corner, September 20, 2020

I’m literally sitting on the shore of Lake Superior writing this.  It’s a perfect evening.  The temperature is cool.  The waves are gently lapping at the sand, and the sun is slowly becoming an orange ball in the sky.  Fall colors are beginning to show around the shoreline, and there is a hint of campfire smell in the air.  The peacefulness reminds me that God doesn’t think the way I do, and I thank Him for that.  Left to my own demise, my mind would wander to think of all the “stuff” I should be doing right now.  Instead, the simple beauty of this evening is God’s way of telling me to sit back and enjoy the moment in the magnificence of His Creation.

In our first reading today, we hear God say, “My thoughts are not your thoughts and my ways are not your ways.”  Think about that for a minute.   Left to our human reasoning, everything we do, everything we think, and everything we say would not be the way God would do it.  In the Gospel, we get a glimpse of the way God thinks with the parable about the vineyard owner and the workers he hires (John 20:1-16a).  Those who worked only a few hours are paid as much as those who worked all day.  Now, it didn’t make sense to the people back then, and it wouldn’t make sense in our world today.  Just as the Gospel says some workers were jealous of the others back then, how many of us would protest today and shout, “That’s not fair!”

But, God doesn’t think the way we do.  The temptation for us, just as it was back then, is to measure our life by what we deserve.  But, the truth is, God is extremely generous and merciful. He is just and always gives us far more than we deserve.  Even though we may seem totally unworthy, He still calls everyone to work in His kingdom.  And when we do, His grace overflows within us.

In our second reading, St. Paul says to “conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the Gospel of Christ.”  In all our relationships – at work, at school, with our family and friends, even those random encounters with others – we must treat others with respect.  We must act justly, honestly, and with integrity.  Our love must leave no one behind.  Because, that’s what it means to work in God’s vineyard.  Even though everyone may not enter the vineyard at the same time, everyone deserves to experience the same love of God through their encounters with us.

May we pray this week for the grace to unselfishly work in the vineyard, and make a difference in someone’s life who is in need of God’s love the most.

Deacon John

 

Deacon’s Corner, September 13, 2020

The mercy we show takes many forms: we encourage, we support, we carry each other.  But, at the core of showing mercy is the ability to forgive.  Jesus tells us in the Gospel today, we must forgive as God forgives us.  So, forgiveness comes from the heart, but only if we join our heart to God.

If there is no forgiveness in our relationships, or if there is no forgiveness among family members, then sufferings continue to get worse until walls are created that separate us from each other.  But, although forgiveness is not always easy, it is one of the most unselfish acts of love we can show for someone.  Forgiveness is one of the greatest acts of freedom we experience – the freedom to love even the one who has done you wrong.  If day after day we forgive, relationships can be restored and love can be reborn.

Sometimes our human strength is not enough to forgive.  Our emotions block us from doing so.  When it’s hard to forgive, we must ask God for the grace to do so.  Sometimes it takes a while until we can be open enough to receive God’s grace.  This is normal.  When we have been deeply wounded, receiving God’s grace can take time and a lot of prayer, patience, and humility.  Jesus showed prayer, patience, and humility on the cross forgiving His enemies when He turned to His Father and said, “Father, forgive them.  They do not know what they are doing.”  To forgive, then, is to go through our heart to the Father, because God is the source of forgiveness.

So, when it’s hard to forgive, I can do the same.  For the heart of God, who forgives me, is where I need to go when looking to forgive.  May you have a blessed week forgiving from the heart.

Deacon John

Adapted from the Meditation of the Day – Magnificat, September 13, 2020.

 

Deacon’s Corner, September 6, 2020

Last Saturday evening, we went to an outdoor Mass with some very dear friends at the Cross in the Woods at Indian River.  It was a beautiful evening, and God showed off when a Bald Eagle circled overhead during the priest’s homily.  The Cross in the Woods is the world’s largest crucifix.  Made from a single redwood tree, it towers 55 feet above Burt Lake and the Northern Michigan woods.  The bronze corpus of Jesus weighs 7 tons and is 28 feet tall, with His outstretched arms spanning 21 feet.   As incredibly humbling as it is celebrating Mass beneath this crucifix, the most powerful effect for me was looking up at the commanding face of Jesus looking down – it is truly the Face of God.

Looking up at Jesus hanging on that cross, I marveled at how God can be so forgiving of our sins even though our sins put Him there.  I thought about how we seek God’s forgiveness, but can be stubborn forgiving each other.  I thought about how forgiveness lies at the heart of our Christian faith, and how Jesus loved those who had nailed Him there, and as He was dying, asked His Father to forgive them because they didn’t know what they were doing.  Jesus didn’t hang on to bitterness or anger.   In His final minutes of human life, He showed grace and love to those who had wronged Him.

The ability to forgive requires humility with the desire to understand each other and reconcile – no matter who is at fault.  Choosing to forgive doesn’t condone sin, excuse the wrongs done to us, or minimize our hurts. Offering forgiveness simply frees us to enjoy God’s gift of mercy by inviting Him to accomplish beautiful works of peace within our hearts to restore our relationships with others.  Forgiving others demonstrates our humbleness and expresses our trust in God’s right to judge according to His perfection and goodness.

As we find ourselves this week being hurt or offended by others, may we remember that to find a forgiving spirit within us, we must look into our own hearts and realize that we, too, have a need for others to forgive us.  May we pray for the grace to humbly reconcile our differences, and to achieve such a true, loving spirit.  Have a blessed week!

Deacon John

 

Deacon Corner, August 30,2020

In our first reading today, poor Jeremiah says, “You duped me, O LORD…all the day I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me.”  He complains that by acting with integrity and responding to God’s call, he is a daily laughingstock among the people.  Despite his temptation to give up, Jeremiah finds the courage to go on.  In the Gospel, Jesus was tempted to give up, too.  He knew He had to make his last journey to Jerusalem and face the suffering that awaited Him there.  However, Peter, albeit with good intentions, tries to persuade Jesus not to go.  Jesus says, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”  Jesus and Jeremiah show us that it takes courage to do what God asks of us, especially in a hostile environment.  Both would be insulted, ridiculed, and the brunt of jokes.  But still, they were prepared to suffer for doing what was right—and Jesus, He gave His life because of it.  Tradition tells us that Jeremiah did too, being stoned to death by his own people.

In speaking to the early Christians in Rome, St. Paul said in the second reading to hold on to your principles and do what is holy and pleasing to God.  He told them not to conform to the behaviors of the world, but to discern the will of God and do what is “good and pleasing and perfect.”  That means we try to live by a higher standard of love and virtue than what is found in the world.  We try to live by the 10 commandments.  We love God with our whole heart, and our neighbor as ourselves.  We do this not only because that’s what Jesus expects of us.  We do these things to teach our children how to live a virtuous life, too.

As disciples of Christ, we must be prepared to be rejected, outcast, and suffer for doing what is right.  That’s why Jesus tells us today to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him.  Having the courage to carry our cross, set a good example, and love each other will lead not only to a much better world, but also to a reward in Heaven much greater than anything possible here on earth.

Deacon John

 

Deacon Corner, August 23, 2020

In our Gospel today, Jesus tells Peter: “You are the rock on which I will build my church.”  Jesus promises that the gates of hell will not prevail against this rock or the Church built on it.  Now, that’s a comforting thought, because it means there actually is something evil cannot destroy!  But, the problem is, reading the headlines these days, it looks like the gates of hell are beginning to prevail against Christ’s Church.

 If we wanted to blame somebody about this mess, we could blame Peter.  After all, he was chosen to be the rock and lead the Church.  But, what did Peter do?  He betrayed Jesus at a time when the Lord really needed him.  A betrayal like that does seem to have something hellish about it.  Incidentally, Judas also betrayed Jesus.  In fact, John’s Gospel tells us that Satan entered into Judas before he went to the Pharisees to conspire with them to get Jesus.  There is certainly something hellish about that!  So, if the gates of hell prevailed against two of Jesus’ chosen apostles, while Jesus was still with them, what happened to the promise Jesus made?

The answer comes with looking at the difference between Peter and Judas.  At first, we might think Peter repented and Judas didn’t.  But Matthew’s Gospel makes it clear that Judas repented, too (Matthew 27:3).   So, the real difference is that when Judas saw the sin of his betrayal for what it was, even though he was forgiven, he threw his life away as hopeless and irredeemable.  But Peter came back to Christ in the face of his own brokenness.  That is why Peter is the rock on which the Church is founded.  The Church is not a collection of the sinless; God never intended it to be.  The Church was founded on a sinner, Peter, who loved, sinned, was forgiven, and held on to the Lord anyway.  That is the type of love that evil can never prevail against.

Together, we are a collection of sinners.  We are also the Church, a community of believers who come to know who Jesus is.  We have been chosen by Him to continue building the Church on the rock where Peter started.  We do that by loving one another as Jesus and Peter loved each other.  May we pray for the grace this week to continue building Christ’s Church on love, so the gates of the netherworld shall never prevail against it.

Deacon John

 

Deacon Corner, August 16, 2020

Our Gospel today can give us the impression that Jesus and his disciples are prejudice.  A woman calls out to Jesus to heal her sick daughter.  At first, Jesus will not even talk to her.  His disciples demand he sends her away because she is a trouble-maker, a bother, and worse yet – a Canaanite.  Jesus seems to agree with them.  The woman is a foreigner, from an ancient enemy of the Jews.  Jesus replies “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”   But, this is so unlike Jesus.  Instead of responding quickly and with great compassion, he turns his back on her.  Doesn’t the love of Christ bring comfort to you and me when we ask God for help?

Finally, the poor woman walks up, shows her deep faith, and says, “Lord, help me.” Now, Jesus would never ignore such words.  But, we hear him say, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”  The woman turns Jesus’ words back on him and asks perhaps she could be like a little puppy and just have a scrap?  Seeing her faith, the same faith his disciples have, Jesus heals her daughter.  What at first appears to be act of prejudice, is really Jesus showing us that there are no boundaries or walls between God’s people no matter who they are.

Now, that makes for a good bible story to hear on Sunday morning, but what about us?  Because, each of us can build boundaries or walls between other people.   Boundaries and walls we use to let some people in, and keep others out.  Boundaries and walls such as politics, skin color, the way someone looks or acts, how they dress, or where they live.  But, Jesus welcomes everyone, and so should we.  As followers of Christ, Jesus shows us there can be no doubt that God’s care extends beyond the barriers we set up between each other.

In the 1st Reading today, God says, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.  May we pray this week for an end to our biases and prejudices so everyone feels welcome and the love of Christ in God’s Creation.

Deacon John

 

Deacon Corner, August 9, 2020

As I sit down to write this week’s Deacon’s Corner, I can’t help to see how the pandemic dominates every part of our life.  We have rules for everything from standing in line, attending church, social gatherings, and even using a public restroom.  Some people argue that the government doesn’t do enough to protect us from the virus.  Others argue that the government does too much.  Sometimes I think my civil liberties are violated because I’m required to wear a mask.  But, then the senior living center where my mom lives goes on lockdown again because a resident has COVID-19.    Did someone not wear a mask when they were supposed to?  Is it a false positive test result?  Was there an underlying health condition that mimics COVID-19?  Who knows – even the experts can’t agree!

As I tie myself in knots trying to make sense of all this, I remember the story in Matthew 22, when a group of Pharisees confronted Jesus and asked whether it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar.  Jesus responded by asking whose face was engraved on the coins used to pay the taxes. When they answered it was Caesar’s face, Jesus replied, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21).  Jesus is not mixing politics and religion.  His response is about how we relate to the government vs. how we relate to God.

The Roman government in Jesus’ day was totalitarian, corrupt, and ruled by a dictator.  Still, Jesus promoted an attitude of respect toward the government by obeying the law and paying taxes.  If the Roman government deserved the Jews’ respect, doesn’t our much more fair government deserve ours?  Even if we don’t like our current political leaders, we must remember that our citizens placed them there through fair and open elections.  Following the rules for this pandemic may seem to be an infringement on our constitutional rights to some.  But for others, the rules could possibly mean the difference between life and death.  Only God knows for sure.

At the beginning of this pandemic, Bishop Boyea wrote a Friday Memo reminding us that wearing masks is a sign of love for each other.  When I think about his words, I shouldn’t wear a mask because the government tells me to.  I should wear a mask out of love for people who are vulnerable to the virus or fear they will get it.  If Jesus were here today, would He say, give to Caesar what is Caesar’s by following the COVID-19 rules, and give to God what is God’s by loving each other?   I think He would.

Deacon John