Deacon’s Corner, January 17, 2021

Soon, we enter the 11th month of the pandemic.  What we once thought would be a 4-week inconvenience has evolved into our normal life.   TV screens full of political turmoil, mask mandates, COVID vaccinations, and riots were once seen as problems in other countries, but now they are happening in our backyard.  How do we process all this?  How do we find hope for peace?  How do we deal with these dark clouds hanging over us that just won’t seem to go away?  The answer is right in front of us if we just look around.

Last week, I received an email from Lisa Gramm, who is a catechist in the Faith Formation Program at St. Mary on the Lake.  I found her email very comforting by showing me where to look for hope in our world today.  Lisa wrote…

With God’s grace and love we look expectantly into this new year with continued hope and anticipation.  2020 has challenged us in many ways, in our families, work places, schools and churches.  But we have adapted and realized that maybe some additional time at home to just “BE” with our family is exactly what we needed!

I myself have been reminded again and again of the Scripture verse Luke 18:16-17: ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.’

My kids have been such a source of inspiration to me – going to school with masks on all day, not complaining about it and just adapting to the new reality. They have had sports taken away and clubs and sleep overs taken away – all with little to no complaining.  Truly inspiring.  I would be willing to bet your kids have all taught you several things during this pandemic. What a gift that is!”

This Scripture verse Lisa quoted is my favorite to use at baptisms.  I tell the adults who are present that Jesus may be talking about the children here, but He is really talking to us.  Every child places total trust in their parents and adults around them for food, shelter, clothing, safety, and general well-being.  And that’s how God wants us to be—like little children.  God’s children, who place their trust in Him that everything will be OK.  It’s that simple.  But, in order to receive the grace of peace that comes with that trust, we must be like a child.  Because just like a child, we don’t know what the future will bring.  But, we do know that no matter how old we are or what is happening around us, God has a plan for us, and His plan is good.

All it takes is seeing the joy in the children around us, and having a heart like them to believe.

 

Deacon John

 

Deacon’s Corner

Deacon’s Corner – Praying for others

Why do we pray for others?  Fr Bill Ashbaugh wrote in Faith Magazine that prayer has power, and it feels good to hear someone say “I am praying for you.”  We know Jesus prayed during his ministry (Mark 6:36).  He spent all night in prayer (Luke 6:12; Mark 14:32; Matthew 26:36). He prayed for the sick (Luke 4:40), for the possessed (Luke 4:41); for his disciples (John 17); for Peter in a special way and all who would believe (Luke 22:31-32).  Jesus prayed for himself (Matthew 26:39); and to intercede with his Father for you and me (John 17:20, Hebrews 7:25, 1 John 2:1).  Like Jesus, God wants us to pray on behalf of others.  Doing so not only helps them, but also helps us grow less selfish and become more like Jesus.  We grow in awareness of how the human family is connected because of the mercy and goodness of God.

So, how do we pray for others?  It’s like asking God for help on behalf of the person you are praying for.  Ask for him to give them strength, courage, and wisdom for the problems they face.  Ask him to give them hope, peace, and comfort in their suffering.  Ask for everyone involved in their situation to do their best and love the person as Jesus loves them.  Ask for them to be ever mindful of God’s presence in their life and stay focused on doing his will.  Ask God to look favorably on them, and if our prayers are seemingly not answered, ask for them (and us) to have the grace to accept the outcome he has planned.  Even if they don’t understand “why” at this time.  But most of all, let’s not forget to pray in thanksgiving and honor to Him, especially when our prayers are answered.  And, yes, we can even pray for a miracle.  But, no matter how we pray, we should always ask the Holy Spirit to connect our heart to theirs and give us the empathy to pray well.

Beginning this Sunday, our weekly bulletin will have a section devoted to praying for the needs of others.   For now, the names of people listed will be parishioners or very close family.  Names will remain on the list for one month, unless requested to remain longer.  For reasons of confidentiality, the reasons for prayer will not be listed.  This list of names in the bulletin is in addition to the names in the prayer line emails, although many names may be the same.  Also, included in this bulletin space will be a special prayer intention, or a short prayer, for a special need that affects everyone.  If you are interested in placing yourself or someone on the bulletin prayer list or prayer line emails, please contact Linda Higgins at lahiggins68@yahoo.com.

St. Ignatius said praying is like talking to Jesus as a friend.  Ask for forgiveness.  Ask for protection and help.  Ask for wisdom.  Do all this in the spirit of gratitude to receive the grace of peace in your heart that comes through prayer.  May you have a Blessed week praying for others with our Lord.

Deacon John

 

Deacon’s Corner, November 8, 2020

Our readings today are about being ready.  The first reading is from the Book of Wisdom.  “Wisdom” is the spirit of God who fills the world—the Holy Spirit.  It says Wisdom will be found by those who seek her, to watch for the Holy Spirit, and our troubles will be gone.  Wisdom tells us to be on the alert, and we will find solitude.  The key words here are “watch” and “alert.”

The key words are the same in our Gospel.  But the bridesmaids are not watching and certainly not alert.  So, what happens?  While waiting for the groom to come, both the wise and the foolish bridesmaids fall asleep, so some aren’t ready when he shows up.  But, falling asleep wasn’t the problem.  That’s forgivable.  After all, they are human.  The problem was that some of them were lazy or complacent, then ran out of oil for their lamps to burn.  The parable tells us something about how to live our life in view of the final coming of Christ, and what it means to be ready.   But, like the bridesmaids, the problem is not that we fall asleep.  The problem comes if we don’t have enough oil when we need it.

The oil in the parable determines who gets to enter the banquet.  The banquet represents the joy we receive being in God’s Kingdom.  And what is the oil?  It’s the good works that we do for others.  Jesus is urging us to persevere in doing good works—those works of mercy, justice, faithfulness, and taking care of our neighbor’s basic needs.  He uses this parable to explain how we should live the in present age.  Jesus leaves no doubt that being ready means hearing the word of God and doing it—and foolishness is failing to do so.

The parable says nothing about when the end of our time is.  But, it does say a lot about living in vigilance, patience, readiness, and hope.  The point is not that we need to know the hour or the day when destiny might arrive, but we do need the wisdom of being ready.  That wisdom is spending time in the present moment—the waiting—to keep our lamps burning brightly with acts of charity, prayer, and the sacraments.  Waiting in joyful hope with our hearts open to the goodness, beauty, and truth of our loving God.

That’s Jesus’ message today.  Waiting in hope that leads us to Him.   The question we must ask ourselves is: “Will we have enough oil to meet Jesus when He comes?”  Because, if we don’t await the bridegroom with a full supply of oil—we will not be ready to enter the feast either.

Deacon John

 

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

Click here for Religious Ed Registration

Deacon’s Corner, November 1, 2020

November is a special month for Catholics as we remember those who have gone home to the Lord.  Notice, I didn’t say “died” here.  That’s because, as Christians, we believe in eternal life.  St. Paul said, “although we know that while we are at home in the body, we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:6-7).  So, if we believed what we see, life ends at death.  But it doesn’t.  For Christians, life does not end with death—it only changes form, and we go home to live forever in God’s Kingdom.

The Church’s funeral rite consists of three separate liturgies to celebrate someone’s death: the Vigil Service, the Funeral Liturgy, and the Rite of Committal at the cemetery.  On the evening before the Funeral Liturgy, we hold a scripture Vigil Service to gather in the presence of the deceased to pray, remember their life, and comfort the family in their grief.  The next day, the Funeral Liturgy is celebrated either within Mass or outside of Mass.  The Funeral Liturgy allows us to relive the Easter mystery and Christ’s promise of eternal life.  Afterwards is a graveside service, the Rite of Committal, to say farewell to our beloved brother or sister.  At this time, we commit our loved one to their earthly resting place and await the resurrection when our bodies will be rejoined with our souls at the Second Coming of Christ.

Our funeral rite offers worship, praise, and thanksgiving to God for the gift of our loved one’s life which we now return to God.  Together, all three parts of the rite allow the family to fully experience the Christian burial of their loved one, although, families do not have to select all three.   As a minimum, the Christian Funeral Liturgy should include the Rite of Committal with the Final Commendation to say farewell to our loved one and experience God’s graces when we commend them to His eternal care.

Celebrating Christian funerals brings hope and consolation to the living.  While proclaiming the Gospel and witnessing hope in the resurrection, the funeral rite also recalls God’s mercy and our need to turn to Him in times of crisis.   Through the Order of Christian Funerals, we recognize the spiritual bond that still exists between the living and the dead, and proclaim our belief that all the faithful will be raised up and reunited someday in the new heaven and new earth where death will be no more.

Deacon John

 

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