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

 

Fr. Todd Bulletin, January 12, 2020

Dear Sacred Heart and St. Mary’s,

A big thank you to Phil Marry, Matt Shaffer, and Steve Wright for getting our bell working again!  It is a blessing to have parishioners who take such good care of our beautiful church.

Fr. Tomy will be taking some time for vacation and will be gone Jan 17th-Feb 16th.  Those Mondays while he is gone, we will not have Monday morning Mass at Sacred Heart: Jan 20th and 27th, Feb 3rd and 10th.  Fr. Tomy is still working on getting his green card, so he isn’t able to go home quite yet.  Hopefully by this coming fall he will have his green card and will be able to see his family after a few years of being away.  I will be taking some vacation time this week (14th-16th) to go to a farm show with my twin brother and my folks.

I had a wonderful time this last Sunday baptizing my newest nephew, Owen.  What made it especially exciting was the fact that there were 12 kids there as well—11 years old and under.  They outnumbered the adults and so had a great time running all over the place during the baptism! I imagine that this is probably how many scenes unfolded from the Gospel whenever there were crowds that gathered to hear Jesus.  He talked with the gathered adults and parents while kids ran all over the place in the background.  The life of grace often looks much more like that than the peaceful serenity we see in holy cards!

There are two upcoming events that I want to put on your radar.

Accept the Challenge 2020: Diocese of Lansing Catholic Men’s Conference
For years, this conference has been helping Catholic men courageously live a Christ-centered life in today’s world. That’s the most important challenge of our lives. Come and be equipped to accept the challenge!

When: February 22, 2020

Where: Oosterbaan Field House, 1202 S State St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Time: 9 AM – 6 PM

What to Expect:

* Motivating messages from Fr. Larry Richards, Bart Schuchts, Dan DeMatte

* Adoration and confessions
* A mouth-watering pig roast BBQ lunch from Stick-A-Pig-In-It
* Excellent music
* Mass with Bishop Boyea (12 PM)
Registrations are now open. For more information or to purchase your tickets, visit

http://www.acceptthechallenge.org

 

Mission Retreat: Wixom, MI.

This is a retreat for 8-12th graders at St. Catherine of Siena Catholic School in Wixom.  It is a powerful retreat in which God speaks His love to all who come.  This retreat does a great job providing space for those who come to encounter the Lord and can be healing and transformative.

When: March 6-8, 2020

Where: St. Catherine of Siena, Wixom, MI

Cost: $85

Registration details will be coming soon.  I would love to bring a bunch of our teens to this retreat.

 

God Bless!

 

Fr. Todd Bulletin, January 5 2020

 

Dear Sacred Heart and St. Mary’s,

Happy New Year!  ’Tis the season for New Year’s Resolutions: things we want to take on that can help transform our lives.  People can wonder what some Catholic New Year’s Resolutions might be.  To help with that, I borrowed a few from an article written by a young woman named Meg Hunter-Kilmer.  She grew up Catholic but stopped practicing her faith until she had a powerful encounter with Jesus.  If you want to know more of her story, go here: https://www.piercedhands.com/

  1. Read the Bible. Attached to here is a link to a plan to help you read the entire Bible in one year.  This plan has you reading different parts of the Bible at the same time so you will not be simply starting from the front until you reach the back.  https://www.piercedhands.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/One-Year-Bible-Chronological.pdf  We will be picking up our own Bible Study in the second week of January and we will be going through Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.

  2. Read something worthwhile: a book about a saint, a book about a particular aspect of the faith that you want to learn more about, a book that is simply good literature and thus is worth reading. There are four seasons in the year, so a simple rule of thumb can be one book per season.  (Since I love reading, I might be slightly biased with this one!  If you need a recommendation for something, let me know.)

  3. Pray every single day. Ask the Lord what the minimum might be: the amount of time you will spend in prayer every day no matter what kind of day it has been. Fighting for time with the Lord will transform your life. Last year, the whole Diocese celebrated a Year of Prayer and had these suggestions/challenges:   *  Married with kids at home: 10 minutes of daily prayer.   *  Married empty nesters: 30 minutes of daily prayer. *  Married retired: one hour of daily prayer.  *  Single: one hour of daily prayer.  *  Priests: two hours of daily prayer plus Mass.  *  Deacons: one hour of daily prayer.

  4. Forgive. Forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. Make a resolution to forgive somebody for whom you’ve been harboring resentment, then do something tangible like offering a Mass for them or placing a picture of them before an image of the Blessed Mother or just daily praying, “Father, I forgive N. Please give me the grace to forgive him/her.”

  5. Remember that when we fall, we get back up! Part of any resolution is learning to be in it for the long haul—with all the twists and turns that entails.

God Bless,

Fr. Todd

Fr. Todd Bulletin, December 29 2019

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

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year (almost)!  I hope that everyone had a great time with your families and friends and will do so over New Year’s.

The Church will celebrate Christmas for a whole season that will end on Jan 12th.  All these days, we need to ponder anew the reality of Christmas and what it means that Jesus was born into the world.

Whenever we walk by a stable scene where we see Jesus as a baby lying in the manger, it brings up one real question: “Why did you do this?”  If we are able to ask that question, we will hear Jesus’ answer: “I did this for you.  You are known and loved.  You are worth being born in a stable and you are worth dying on a cross.  You are never alone.”

Ponder these truths and we will be able to enter into Christmas.  Leading into this season, the Lord has been placing this sense on my heart that He wants to take our burdens from us.  This is the marvelous exchange of Christmas: we bring our burdens, our wounds, our sins and He brings us life.  May we all encounter anew this love that heals and makes whole!

 

God Bless,

Fr. Todd

 

Fr. Todd Bulletin, December 22 2019

Dear Sacred Heart and St. Mary’s,

Thank you for all your birthday wishes.  Come Monday, I will be the big 32!  My official birthday is Monday, so I will be able to join my brother for dinner at my folks’ place before we both go to our respective parishes for Christmas Eve on Tuesday.

One of my favorite aspects of Advent and Christmas is that they reveal the fidelity of God in bringing His plans to fulfillment.  This story, and the whole story of salvation, is filled with prayers and promises.  Those prayers and promises were never forgotten, even if they were answered in ways and times much different than expected.  At times, we can wonder if God does hear our prayers and if He is going to ever answer them.  This season reminds us that no prayer is ever wasted.  Furthermore, that no act of grace, no act of love is ever wasted and can bear fruit in ways and times we can’t imagine.  I think of the happenings of that regular winter night in Bethlehem and the fact that so many of the people who interacted with Mary and Joseph had no idea of what was unfolding in their midst.  Yet their simple acts of love still echoed into eternity.

This is a picture of a cup two gentlemen dropped off at the rectory a few weeks ago.  On the side of it is an inscription that reads: “To Rev. Elsen by the pupils of Parochial School Hudson  Jan 1st 1881.”  These brothers found this cup in their mom’s house after she passed away. They do not know how she came into possession of it, but they thought it belonged here.

I think of the journey of this cup—a beautiful gift from the school kids and how it would have cheered up Fr. Elsen when he saw it.  An act of love perhaps forgotten by those who gave it all those years ago but remembered anew.  Now it has made its way back to us 138 years later.  God’s timing isn’t our timing. This cup is a little reminder of how nothing is forgotten. This Christmas season, bring to the Lord again those needs that may weigh you down.  Be encouraged in your acts of love, knowing that they can and will be used in ways you may never know…until maybe 138 years later!

 

God Bless,

Fr. Todd