Fr. Todd Bulletin, March 29, 2020

Dear Sacred Heart and St. Mary’s,

Well, some good news amidst so much upheaval.  My brother, Fr. Gary, has been named the pastor of St. Joseph Church in Howell, MI.  He will be moving there the end of June.  He is a little bummed that with everything being closed down, he hasn’t been able to visit the parish or school yet.  As pastor, his day off will also be on Monday, so I am very much looking forward to seeing him more often for days off at the farm!

It has been a blessing to have two seminarians with us: Dan LaCroix and Josh Bauer.   The seminaries are shut down because of the Coronavirus, so they are completing their studies online.  They have been very helpful in figuring out how to record our Masses and it has been good to be able to pray the Mass and breviary with them each day.  As an added bonus, since there are four of us here at the rectory, we also have a built in Euchre Game!

I have been struck by the fact that we have celebrated two major feast days during our first week of the lockdown: those of St. Joseph and Mary’s “Yes” at the Annunciation.  Both Joseph and Mary are great examples for us to emulate during a time when so many things we have taken for granted are suddenly changed and/or taken away.  Such was the nature of God’s call in both of their lives.

The angel appeared to Mary and asked her to be the mother of the Son of God.  Not understanding the totality of what that would mean, she said these beautiful words: “Let it be done to me according to your word.”  Jesus would take those words and shorten them in the Lord’s Prayer into this four-word phrase: “Thy will be done.”  Mary’s yes was a surrendered yes, open to all that God would call forth from her in the ensuing years.  I am sure that there were many elements of her life that she could never have anticipated.  Yet through it all, her foundation was that request: “Let it be done to me according to your word.”  So often my own yes to God is paired not with that phrase but instead this one: “My will be done.”  Learning to say “Yes” to God and have that yes really be free of my will is the work of a lifetime for every Christian.  Various situations are more adept at providing opportunities for practicing this.  This crisis is one of them.

When it comes to Joseph, I think one of the most beautiful aspects of his life is that we don’t have a single recorded word from him in Scripture.  That is because Joseph had the habit of being told what he needed to do and he simply did it.  At times when I do what God is asking, I might do it, but my actions are accompanied by many words both internally and externally!  Are you sure about this?  Why do I have to do this?  Why is it so hard? (The questions and grumblings can go on for a while.)  Joseph was asked to do something much harder than I have ever had to do, and he did it without a word. He moved his family to Egypt without any time of preparation, but with a healthy dose of trust that when they got there God would make a place for them.

In these times when it is easy to be marked by fear, frustration, and the temptation to rely on ourselves, let us instead lean into God. With Mary and Joseph, let us say “Yes” in a surrendered and trusting way.  Above all else: Thy will be done!

 

Mary and Joseph, pray for us!

 

Fr. Todd Bulletin, March 22, 2020

Dear Sacred Heart and St. Mary’s,

A question many of us have right now is: “Is the world being turned upside down?”  In many ways, it is, as things we were all familiar with are now being changed, altered, and/or canceled.  Where is God in all of this?

This has reminded me of a beautiful metaphor from a biography written about St. Francis of Assisi by G.K. Chesterton.  Chesterton described how St. Francis saw the world.  Francis’ vision is one we should all pray for.  Chesterton wrote:

If a man saw the world upside down, with all the trees and towers hanging head downwards as in a pool, one effect would be to emphasize the idea of dependence. There is a Latin and literal connection; for the very word dependence only means hanging. It would make vivid the Scriptural text which says that God has hanged the world upon nothing.

If St. Francis saw in one of his strange dreams, the town of Assisi upside down, it need not have differed in a single detail from itself except in being entirely the other way round. But the point is this: that whereas to the normal eye the large masonry of its walls or the massive foundations of its watchtowers and its high citadel would make it seem safer and more permanent, the moment it was turned over the very same weight would make it seem more helpless and more in peril. It is but a symbol; but it happens to fit the psychological fact.

St. Francis might love his little town as much as before, or more than before; but the nature of the love would be altered even in being increased. He might see and love every tile on the steep roofs or every bird on the battlements; but he would see them all in a new and divine light of eternal danger and dependence. Instead of being merely proud of his strong city because it could not be moved, he would be thankful to God Almighty that it had not been dropped; he would be thankful to God for not dropping the whole cosmos like a vast crystal to be shattered into falling stars. Perhaps St. Peter saw the world so, when he was crucified head-downwards.

That we all depend in every detail, at every instant, as a Christian would say upon God, as even an agnostic would say upon existence and the nature of things, is not an illusion of imagination; on the contrary, it is the fundamental fact which we cover up, as with curtains, with the illusion of ordinary life. That ordinary life is an admirable thing in itself, just as imagination is an admirable thing in itself. But it is much more the ordinary life that is made of imagination than the contemplative life. He who has seen the whole world hanging on a hair of the mercy of God has seen the truth; we might almost say the cold truth. He who has seen the vision of his city upside down has seen it the right way up.

We know how strong and steadfast are the hands of God which hold all of us: our families, our parishes, our school, our community, our nation, and our world.  May one grace of this time be that we are all better able to see the world the right way up—all held and sustained by the hands of God.

God Bless you all!

Fr. Todd

Fr. Todd Bulletin, March 15, 2020

 

Dear Sacred Heart and St. Mary’s,

Thank you in advance for your support for DSA.  We have always had a strong support for DSA—this is a blessing for many throughout our diocese.  DSA always falls during Lent because it is an answer to the Lord’s call for almsgiving during this holy season.  If we exceed our parish goals, 50% of that comes back to us.

I want to highlight Catholic Charities as one of the blessings the DSA helps make possible.  Last year, 286,000 people were served throughout our diocese through the care of Catholic Charities.  These are people whom we couldn’t necessarily serve ourselves, but we can through the good work of Catholic Charities.

On the weekend of March 21st and 22nd, we will have a representative from Catholic Charities present at each Mass to invite us to help with their foster care services.  Last year, Catholic Charities facilitated 31 adoptions.  What a great blessing to help these children find forever homes with families who love and care for them.  The only issue with so many adoptions is that it meant that many families who had previously been foster families dropped off that list.

We have purposely chosen this weekend as the date closest to March 19th.  March 19th is the feast day of St. Joseph who, as the foster father of Jesus, is the ultimate example of being a foster parent.  Pope Francis once said: “God came into the world in a family. And he could do this because that family was a family with a heart open to love, a family whose doors were open.”  Isn’t that an astounding reality?  God, who is all powerful, still waits upon our yes.

This Lent, God will come to us in many ways, and we pray for the grace to always say yes in response.  This call to fostering might be one of those ways!

I want to conclude with a prayer to St. Joseph, Foster Father.

Dear Joseph, foster father of Jesus and protector of the Holy Family, in you we contemplate a model of courage and compassion.

Help us be more courageous in making space for God in our lives, so we may be better guardians of the vulnerable, especially the children and their families seeking our care.  As we contemplate your role, alongside the Blessed Virgin Mary, as first teacher of the faith to Jesus, may we recognize our own call to live with conviction and fidelity God’s mercy and faithfulness.

Help us to be more compassionate, so we may be present and faithful to all, but especially to those children whose lives are chaotic, anxiety-filled and too often marred by violence. As we contemplate the Holy Family’s moments of stress in Jesus’ young life – your betrothal to the Blessed Virgin Mary, your flight to Egypt, losing Jesus in the Temple – may we recognize our own call to give tender care and protection to those whom God brings to us.

Help us to be strong and wise in our faith, yet tender and open to love, as you were.  May God grant that our families, including our parish family, be places of communion and prayer, authentic schools of the Gospel.

Amen.

 

God Bless,

Fr. Todd

 

Fr. Todd Bulletin, March 9, 2020

Dear Sacred Heart and St. Mary’s,

Thank you all for helping with the Disciple Maker Index Survey.  I very much appreciate your help and I know the feedback will be helpful.

I want to continue to wish all of us a Blessed Lent.  I know that as we come to the first few weeks of Lent we can grow discouraged—a failure in our resolution can make us want to toss in the towel before Lent has really even begun.  The thing is, if we stumble, we get back up.  I think in the end, this is one of the great lessons of Lent: learning how to handle our stumbling and failures with God’s grace.  In the end, we need to realize that God is less shocked by our failings than we are.  Like a loving parent or good coach, His concern is helping us back up.

Someone once told me that on the Way of the Cross, Jesus fell three times.  Yet each time He fell, He fell forward, closer to the goal of Calvary.  It can be a powerful reality to meditate on this as you pray through the Stations of the Cross and imagine each step of that journey.

What a blessing if that were to define our spiritual lives!  We hear this famous verse in Romans 8:28: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”  What a great prayer, to ask Jesus to bring even good out of evil in our lives.

For us then, we need to learn to fall with grace into grace.  In our fight against sin and temptation, if we fall, let us fall into the confessional, this place of the Lord’s mercy.  If we have fallen, let us fall into humility, into that act of asking for forgiveness and working to undo any hurt we caused.

Proverbs 24:16 states:  “The righteous may fall seven times but still get up.”  May the Lord be a part of every step of our Lenten journey—even our stumblings.

God Bless,

Fr. Todd

 

Fr. Todd Bulletin, March 1, 2020

Dear Sacred Heart and St. Mary’s,

As we are all aware, Lent has begun.  It is about right now that we realize we don’t have any Lenten practices yet or the ones we chose need some tweaking.  It is never too late to start!

Here are some suggestions from an article from Busted Halo (a great resource in general). https://bustedhalo.com/ministry-resources/25-great-things-you-can-do-for-lent.  While they offer 25 suggestions, I want to highlight a few:

  1. Make a commitment to read the Sunday scriptures before you go to Mass. In the same way that reading up on football players, opposing teams, and coaching strategies will help you experience a game more fully, familiarizing yourself with the readings ahead of time will help you experience them in a deeper way on Sunday.

 

  1. Use Busted Halo’s Lent Calendar, filled with Lenten-themed Daily Jolts and MicroChallenges to find new ways to practice the disciplines of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. Each day of Lent, we’ll offer an inspirational quote paired with a practical, challenging task that you can do that day to help keep your spiritual life on point.

 

  1. Think about what you usually spend your money on. Do you buy too many clothes? Spend too much on dinner out? Pick one type of expenditure that you’ll “fast” from during Lent, and then give the money you would usually spend to a local charity.

 

  1. Go to a weekday Mass one day during the week. Many parishes offer them early in the morning, at noon, or after work. Daily Masses are often more intimate and shorter than Sunday Mass.

 

  1. Unplug from your iPhone or turn off your car radio on your commute. The silence may be jarring at first, but you may find that you are able to concentrate better and will be more observant of your surroundings.

 

  1. Think about a habit that has kept you from being whom God is calling you to be. Consciously give up that habit for Lent.

 

  1. Spend at least one weekend or evening volunteering during Lent. Serve a meal at your local soup kitchen. Visit the elderly. Stock shelves at a food pantry.

 

  1. Make a commitment to fast from insensitive, cruel comments about others. So, no gossiping or going down the Twitter rabbit hole.

 

  1. Pray for somebody. As you’re walking the streets, driving the highways, or sitting in your cubicle at work, pick out a person who appears to be in need and pray for that person. Be mindful of the words of philosopher Philo of Alexandria, who said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”

 

  1. Celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Can’t remember how? Here’s a simple guide with some tips. Tell the priest it’s been a while, and ask him to guide you through it.

 

Blessed Lent!

Fr. Todd

 

Fr. Todd Bulletin, February 9, 2020

Dear Sacred Heart and St. Mary’s,

Asking the Lord what He wanted this bulletin article to be about, the sense I received was “encouragement.”   Here is what I think that word means for us.

We are now one month into 2020.  It is about this time of the year that we can be tempted to give up New Year’s resolutions or, after stumbling in those resolutions, simply think it isn’t worth getting back into the fight.  Most everyone looks at a new year at its beginning and expects/wants it to be different from the last.  That, after all, is what our resolutions are there to help us with.

The encouragement is: keep on going even if the results are still seemingly insignificant, if the year isn’t unfolding as you had hoped, if the battle seems to have been lost before it ever really began.  Keep on going and get back up if needed.

Israel’s history is dotted with moments like that where they stumbled and fell, but through God’s correction and help, they were able to get back up.  At one point in their history Jerusalem and the Temple, the very heart of their nation, were razed to the ground.  Coming back many years later, they faced the monumental task of restoring and rebuilding the city and particularly the Temple. The Prophet Zechariah conveyed these words from God to a dispirited people and their leader Zerubbabel:   “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundations of this house, and his hands will finish it. Thus you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you.  For whoever has scorned such a day of small things will rejoice to see the capstone in the hand of Zerubbabel”  (Zechariah 4:9-10).

What Zechariah prophesied did happen—even as impossible as it may have seemed to Zerubbabel himself that he would lay both the cornerstone at its beginning and the capstone at its completion.

Those words of encouragement jump out: Don’t scorn a day of small things, don’t despise small beginnings.  In the life of grace, such small things grow into great ones.  The mustard seed grows into a great tree.  Our small efforts can bear fruit in ways and times we cannot imagine.  As we know from God Himself, He can bring good even out of our stumblings.

So, for all of us as we enter the second month of 2020, may we be encouraged by God Himself to keep on going!

God Bless,

Fr. Todd

 

Fr. Todd Bulletin, February 3, 2020

Dear Sacred Heart and St. Mary’s,

It was a blessing this past week to celebrate Catholic Schools Week at Sacred Heart.  We are so blessed with our teachers and students!  If you ever want to be encouraged, come over to Sacred Heart for the school Mass on Fridays at 9am.  Their faith and joy are an inspiration for us all.

This weekend, we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple.  It refers to when Mary and Joseph presented the child Jesus in the Temple.  From very early on in the Church, this event has been connected to the imagery of light.  Jesus is the light that has come into the world and darkness does not overcome it.

Because of that symbolism within the Church, candles are a sign of Christ.  We have the Easter candle, which is a symbol of Jesus and the light of faith.  At baptism, children receive a baptismal candle lit from the Easter candle and parents make a promise on behalf of their children to help them keep this light of faith burning brightly.  The Easter candle is used at baptisms and funerals as a sign of the Lord’s presence.

In any Catholic Church throughout the world, a sanctuary light is always kept burning.  This solitary candle is a sign that Jesus is present in the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle.  At St. Mary’s, this candle is right next to the tabernacle.  At Sacred Heart, this candle is hanging from the ceiling right over the altar.   I personally love to go into the Church when that sole candle provides the only light and spend some time with the Lord.

This feast day can also transform the way we pray part of the rosary.  The 4th joyful mystery is the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple.  I like to use this decade to pray for people who are perhaps experiencing a time of darkness or are far from God.  Since this mystery celebrates Jesus entering into the Temple, I will often pray for someone and ask Jesus to please enter their hearts and lives just like He entered the Temple in Jerusalem.  If they are experiencing darkness, I will often pray this decade asking Jesus to enter their darkness with His light and bring them hope.

At our Masses, we will bless candles that will be used for Masses and for the blessing of throats for St. Blaise.  St. Blaise’s feast day, and the blessing of throats, is always the day after the Presentation of the Lord.  Since we won’t have Mass that Monday, we will do the blessing of throats Thursday morning at St. Mary’s on the Lake (the 6th) and Friday morning at Sacred Heart (the 7th).

Let us welcome the Lord anew into our lives just like He entered into the Temple!

God Bless,

Fr. Todd

 

Fr. Todd Bulletin, January 26 2020

Dear Sacred Heart and St. Mary’s,

Pope Francis has named the 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time (this weekend) the Sunday of the Word of God.  This weekend, then, I want to highlight the practice of Lectio Divina, a way of prayerfully reading and entering into Scripture.  Sometimes we can be a bit daunted by the Bible; the key is just to start.  I remember someone once saying that Scripture tells our story—the faces just change. This is when the Scriptures really come alive: when we realize they are God’s word to us and for us.  In them we encounter our story.

Here is a short description of Lectio Divina from a larger article that can be found at this link: https://www.aquinasandmore.com/blog/how-to-do-lectio-divina-catholic-meditative-prayer/.

Lectio – The first step is reverential listening: listening both in a spirit of silence and of awe. You are listening for the voice of God speaking to you intimately. In lectio, read slowly and attentively, listening for a word or phrase that is God’s Word for you.

Meditatio – Once you have heard your word or phrase that is speaking to you in a personal way, take it in and ponder it. Memorize it, and while gently repeating it to yourself, allow it to interact with your thoughts, your memories, your hopes, your desires. This is the second step or stage. In this step, allow God’s Word to become His Word for you, a word that touches you and affects you at your deepest levels

Oratio – The third step is the prayer step…prayer understood both as dialogue with God and as consecration, or prayer as an offering to God of parts of ourselves that we have not previously believed God wants. Allow the word that we have taken in and on which we are meditating to touch and change your deepest self. Just as a priest consecrates the bread and wine at the Eucharist, God invites us to hold up our most difficult and pain-filled experiences to Him, and to gently recite over them the healing word or phrase He has given us in our lectio and meditatio. Finally, allow yourself to be touched and changed by the Word of God.

Contemplatio – In the final step, simply rest in the presence of God and accept His transforming embrace. No one who has ever been in love needs to be reminded that there are moments in loving relationships when words are not even necessary. It is the same in our relationship with God. Contemplation during the Lectio Divina is a wordless, quiet rest in the presence of God. In silence, let go of your own words and simply enjoy the experience of being in the presence of God.

This prayerful reading of Scripture is one of my favorite ways to pray. This is the foundation of my homily preparation as I read through the Scriptures for each Sunday and ask the Lord what He wants me to preach about.

I hope this helps each of us enter more deeply into God’s Word!

God Bless!

 

Fr. Todd Bulletin, January 19 2020

Dear Sacred Heart and St. Mary’s,

 

It was good to get a little time away this past week for some vacation time with family.  It is good to be back, though. For this month that Fr. Tomy is gone for vacation, I will be covering the weekend Masses.  I look forward to being able to see everyone every weekend!

As pastor of Sacred Heart and St. Mary’s on the Lake, my primary responsibility is to help you grow as disciples of Jesus and to equip you to go and make disciples of others.  I am excited to share with you that our parish is going to participate in a parish survey conducted by the Catholic Leadership Institute.  The Disciple Maker Index (DMI) Survey allows parishioners to reflect on their own spiritual growth and discipleship and identify the ways in which the parish effectively supports that growth.

The web-based survey will be accessible online and in paper form from February 8th-March 1st.  If you have an opportunity, please stress the importance of responding to this survey to your ministry members.

At the completion of the survey, our parish will receive an aggregate report of the results.  We will NOT have access to individual survey responses.  This survey offers us a unique and important opportunity to learn about issues of importance to families in a confidential and professional way.  We will use these results to: 1) look at opportunities to support parishioner growth in discipleship, and 2) create goals and action plans to achieve that growth.

Soon, you will receive a communication from us inviting you to participate in the survey.  If parishioners ask you about the survey, please:

  • Remind them about the dates the survey will be live: February 8th-March 1st.
  • Encourage them to respond as soon as they can. We want to hear from as many people as possible.
  • Assure them that the parish leadership will receive a summary report of the aggregate data and that no one at our parish will have access to individual survey responses.

Thank you in advance for the encouragement that you will provide to the community when we solicit feedback.  Meanwhile, if you have any questions or ideas about good ways to boost the response rate, please let me know.

Thank you for your help with this!

 Fr. Todd