Fr. Todd Bulletin, April 26, 2020

Dear Sacred Heart and St. Mary’s on the Lake,

This weekend I am preaching on showing Mercy and Forgiveness.  Often it is a wall that needs to be overcome but we simply don’t know how.  I have included here a powerful meditation to help us walk through a process of forgiveness.

The Journey of Forgiveness

Uncovering the Wound:

In your prayer, retell the story of when you were hurt.  Pay close attention to the details and your reaction to them. Do you feel pain, sorrow, anger, resentment?  How intensely?  How do these emotions affect your daily life?  How do you think about the person who hurt you?

Choosing a Different Way:

Very likely, the one who hurt you can’t give back what they took.  Insisting that they do so traps you in your negative emotions.  Can you acknowledge that you have tried, but you cannot make yourself well?  Are you willing to let go of the debt, rather than demand repayment?  If so, ask the Lord to help you forgive.

Working on Forgiveness:

In prayer, behold the life story of the person who hurt you.  What was their life like growing up?  When they hurt you?  Ask God to show you how He sees their story.  Can you see them as another person, someone who also carried pain?  Ask for the gifts of understanding and compassion.  Can you offer them a gift, an act of mercy?  If so, pray the Prayer of Forgiveness (given below).

Embracing Freedom:

Notice the change as you move from demanding to forgiving.  Invite Christ to show you the meaning of your suffering, which has led you to forgiveness.  Offer back to Him any remaining pain; offer it for the one who hurt you, if you can.  Compare the darkness of the wound to the light of forgiving. Resolve to live this way of goodness and bring light to others who are in darkness. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you always on this way.

Prayer of Forgiveness

  • Ask the Holy Spirit to show you whom you need to forgive (could be family, friend, abuser, God, yourself)
  • Picture the person in front of you and pay attention to what you feel in your heart and body
  • Make an account of the debt they owe you (what did they take from you, how did they hurt you? It is okay to feel angry or nothing at all)
  • Imagine yourself telling them what they did to hurt you and how it has affected you
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you any identity lies you believe about yourself based on that incident
  • Renounce the identity lie-“In the name of Jesus Christ, I renounce the lie that I am not loved or cared for, that I have to perform well to be loved, etc.”
  • Announce the truth of your identity in Christ- “In the name of Jesus Christ, I announce the truth that I am seen, that I am valuable, that I am loved, etc.”
  • Bring the person with you to meet Jesus on the Cross at Calvary and look at His face of care and mercy
  • Ask Jesus to forgive the person
  • Ask Jesus to give you the grace to forgive the person.
  • Pray a prayer of blessing for that person-ask God to bless them and heal them on their journey
  • Ask Jesus to seal this forgiveness and heal the wounds in your life
  • Thank God for His healing mercy and grace

 

Here is a link to Sr. Miriam Heidland and Fr. John Burns walking through this meditation:

https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=l8rVfw013TQ

God Bless!

 

Fr. Todd Bulletin, April 19, 2020

Dear Sacred Heart and St. Mary’s,

This weekend, the very last day of our eight-day celebration of Easter, we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday. “In 2000 he [St. John Paul II] canonized Sr. Faustina – making her the first canonized saint of the new millennium – and established “Divine Mercy Sunday” as a special title for the Octave Sunday of Easter for the universal Church.  In his homily on Mercy Sunday in 2001, Pope John Paul II called the Mercy message given to St. Faustina ‘The appropriate and incisive answer that God wanted to offer to the questions and expectations of human beings in our time, marked by terrible tragedies…. Divine Mercy! This is the Easter gift that the Church receives from the risen Christ and offers to humanity at the dawn of the third millennium.’” (Taken from https://www.thedivinemercy.org/articles/divine-mercy-legacy-pope-john-paul-ii)

This weekend is a time to lean into this greatest of Easter gifts: the Mercy of God.  One of the principal prayers from this weekend is the Divine Mercy Chaplet, which is prayed on the Rosary.  Some of Jesus’ last words were spoken to the thief by His side who asked Jesus to remember him when He came into His Kingdom.  Jesus said to him, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”  With these words of Mercy, Jesus died for him and for all of us.

Typically, we would have a special time of adoration and prayer to celebrate this day.  Knowing that is not possible due to the Coronavirus lockdown, I want to give here an explanation of how to pray the Chaplet so we can pray it at home.  I began praying the Chaplet every day as a Lenten penance, and I plan on continuing during the time this lockdown continues.  It is a prayer I love for things that seem too big or impossible—for nothing is impossible for God.

  1. Make the Sign of the Cross
  2. Our Father
  3. Hail Mary
  4. The Apostles’ Creed
  5. The Eternal Father Prayer:  Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.
  6. On the 10 Small Beads of Each Decade:  For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.
  7. Repeat for the remaining decades:  Saying the “Eternal Father” (6) on the “Our Father” bead and then 10 “For the sake of His sorrowful Passion” (7) on the following “Hail Mary” beads.
  8. Conclude with Holy God (Repeat three times):  Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

(Taken from https://www.thedivinemercy.org/message/devotions/pray-the-chaplet)

Pray Well!

Fr. Todd

 

 

Fr. Todd Bulletin, April 5, 2020

Dear St. Mary’s and Sacred Heart,

Last weekend I attended the very small private baptism for my nephew.  Another nephew will either have been born as of this weekend or will be shortly.  Even amidst the trials there is joy!

That is my encouragement this week: to recognize our blessings and live joy even amidst the challenge of these days.  This weekend on Palm Sunday, we begin Holy Week.  We will hear this line from Jesus on the very eve of His Passion, Death and Resurrection: “When the hour came, he took his place at table with the apostles.  He said to them, ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for, I tell you, I shall not eat it [again] until there is fulfillment in the kingdom of God’” (Luke 22:14-16).  The Last Supper was the opening act of Jesus’ Passion, and yet He eagerly desired it, knowing what it was going to accomplish.  Looking past the pain of the cross, He saw the freedom His sacrifice would bring to us, and that brought Him great joy.  Jesus gives us a powerful example of the joy that is found in loving and caring for others—namely, us.

That is our encouragement during this time we have been given: to focus not so much on what we don’t have but on what we do have, and on what can be accomplished in our lives and those around us.   With great eagerness, let us enter in asking Jesus how we can live joy.

Mother Teresa said: “Joy is prayer; joy is strength; joy is love; joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.”  Our joy is something God can use for great good.  So, look for and live joy.  There are many ways this can be experienced.  I want to list a few:

The joy of time together with family.  Many families are spending a lot more time together.  This means many opportunities for returning to simple joys the busyness of life can take away—family dinners, family game nights, etc.  Here at the rectory, it has been a blessing to spend times playing cards in evenings that are suddenly free.  These are simple joys we too often overlook and need to be intentional about protecting in our lives.  I hope that after everything returns to normal, our “normal” will have been changed to include things we have been missing.

On a side note: I have asked our resident seminarians to share their vocation stories on video so you can get a chance to meet them.  Click on these links below:

Josh Bauer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBozmyHe1H0

Dan LaCroix: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQqWZPiwmyE

The joy of serving.  Now that many people are cooped up at home, it is a great time to be more intentional about living up to the old adage of “See a need, fill a need.”  This can mean taking on chores and tasks that have perhaps belonged to others but can be done by us to help out.  Not only does this help everyone, it brings us joy to simply anticipate needs and take care of them without having to be asked.  On a wider level, we can serve the community by reaching out to our neighbors who may need that phone call and run to the grocery store.  If you are interested in helping as a volunteer at the Market House, here is a video talking about their needs: https://www.facebook.com/unitedhudsonchurches/videos/237527134301463/

The joy of generosity. This is a scary time with the economy being affected at every level.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t keep giving even if our means change—generosity is not determined by the amount we can or cannot give.  At this time, the food pantry at St. Mary’s on the Lake is still open, as well as the Hudson Area food pantry.  Donations can be given for a need that will be magnified by this crisis.  I am grateful for any support you can offer our parishes which still need to operate. Generosity also includes acts of service and love as we give of our time to those who need it the most.

The joy of prayer. Every day, I am striving to go on a Rosary walk around town to lift up and pray for our communities and our world.  Often Josh and Dan come along.  Those times of prayer are a highlight of my days.  They remind me that God is bigger than all of this, bigger than the Coronavirus, bigger than fear and anxiety.  It is in times of prayer that we can hear Jesus remind us that He is the light that has come into the world and the darkness has not overcome it. During times of need, we can storm the gates of Heaven.

Like Jesus, let us enter eagerly into the time laid before us, looking to all that God can accomplish in and through us. Doing so, we won’t just experience joy, we will also bring joy into the world!

God Bless!

 

 

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