Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Words from Fr Ed (From August 1st, 2010 Bulletin)

Young Parishioner Gives Two Years as Missionary
St. Stephen’s parishioner, Kyle Senn, is giving two years of his life to minister to college students through the outreach called FOCUS, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students. He will be here this weekend (July 31/August 1) to share his experience of FOCUS and his call to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. FOCUS‘s mission statement is “To know Christ Jesus, and to fulfill His great commission by first living and then communicating the fullness of life within the family of God, the Church.”

As you know, college students are at a crucial crossroads as they weigh the values given to them by their families against the marketplace of ideas and religions that they are exposed in the university atmosphere. It is an important place for the Catholic Church to be present to young people and their desire to grow in truth and charity. Please consider supporting Kyle through your prayer especially, as well as financial resources if God so moves you and you are able.

Who appointed me as your judge…?
Typical Jesus question. In our gospel this weekend, someone asks Jesus to intervene in an inheritance dispute. Typical humans! But Jesus, as was his custom, responded with a question about the source of this person’s confidence in Jesus. Why turn to Him for such trivial matters? We know, especially from family experience, that these can be very contentious matters. Sadly, inheritance questions can divide (and conquer) a family as it processes the death of a loved one.

If we go back to Jesus’ question, “Who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?” the answer is simple - His Father in heaven. We believe as Catholic Christians that Jesus will “come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.” He will be our judge. That might frighten us if we are not in touch with His infinite mercy for our failings. A relationship with His mercy restores us to friendship with the God and Father of us all. That’s why confession is such a gift, giving us assurance that we are forgiven.

Deacon Bill & Barb Eckert
Please see Deacon Bill and Barb Eckert’s letter inserted into this bulletin. After 25 years in the parish it is hard to see such a wonderful couple and two servants of God leave our community. We will miss them dearly, but pray for God to continue to bless their path in Tacoma. We will be planning a going-away celebration for them as soon as possible. We also offer our condolences to both of them for the loss of Barb’s father, Harold Williams. May he rest in the peace of Christ.

Doctor of Philosophy Coming to St. Stephens
Dr. Douglas Fortner, professor of philosophy at the Josephinum Seminary in Ohio will be here the next two Wednesdays to offer us a philosophical foundation for faith. Say what? The Greek word ‘philo-sophia’ means literally, ‘lover of wisdom’. Wisdom means ‘knowledge of the first causes of things’. Which means that wisdom leads us to God, or one could say, given these definitions, that philosophy, rightly understood, leads us to God. Sadly, modern philosophy has often done the opposite, leading to skepticism rather than certitude. One of my philosophy Profs at a local Catholic university once said, “Philosophy asks questions, it doesn’t give answers.” Socrates would disagree with that professor.

Thomas Aquinas would say, “Faith builds on reason just as grace builds on nature.” Faith and reason are not opposed. They complement one another. Dr. Fortner will offer a condensed overview of philosophy and lay a foundation for how our reason supports our life of faith. Please come on the next two Wednesdays (August 4 and 11) for Mass at 6:30pm, followed by snacks and then a wonderful presentation by Dr. Fortner beginning at 7:30pm in the church.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Words from Fr Ed (From July 25th 2010 Bulletin)

“Lord, teach us to pray…”

Such a simple request, would that it was so easy to learn. Not that it is hard for the Lord to teach. For some reason it can be hard for us to learn how to truly pray. Maybe it is too simple. The simplicity of this request from the disciples is true prayer. To be honest with the Lord is true prayer. Honesty is also open to an answer. If I am honest I will realize my deeper desire to be in communion with God. As Augustine said, “Our hearts were made for Thee, O Lord, and my heart is restless until it rests in Thee.” Our hearts long to rest in the love of Our Lord. They find this through sincere prayer.
St. Teresa of Avila, a true master of prayer, wrote this in regards to praying the “Our Father”:

And it is good for us to consider that he taught this prayer to each of us and that he is showing it to us; the teacher is never so far from his pupil that he has to shout, but he is very close. I want you to understand that it is good for you, if you are to recite the Our Father well, to remain at the side of the Master who taught this prayer to you. (Way of Perfection, 24:5)

She encourages her sisters, and us as well, to imagine that the Lord Jesus is next to you when you pray. She says that:

If you grow accustomed to having him present at your side, and he sees that you do so with love and that you go about striving to please him, you will not able --- as they say --- to get away from him; he will never fail you; he will help you in all your trials; you will find him everywhere. Do you think it’s some small matter to have a friend like this at your side? (26:1)

Here, the essence of prayer, communication with God, takes place. This is not just a trading of words, but also a union of the soul with God’s Spirit. God’s desire is not just to have a friendly conversation and exchange information. No, His greatest desire is the eternal union of each of our souls with His Divine Presence in a spiritual marriage. It is available to all through this prayer.

Nuptial Meaning of the Body
God’s desire for spiritual marriage is reflected analogously in our sexuality. We long as humans for a union of love. That is in fact who God is, a Trinitarian communion of persons who we call Love. Who God is, is expressed in how He made us in His image (Imago Dei). The Book of Genesis, reveals this to us from the very beginning, “God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them.”(Gen 1:27) Christopher West, in his classic text “Good News about Sex & Marriage”, notes that the Bible begins and ends with marriage. The book of Revelation climaxes with the Bridegroom Christ coming to unite Himself with His Bride, the Church. “I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (Rev 21:2)
Thus God has made our sexuality an expression of His own holiness. This is why the Church may seem preoccupied with sex. It is trying to protect the dignity of sex. One comparison that I make is the care that my chalice deserves. It has a sacred purpose during the Mass. It can only be used in that context and with all the reverence that a sacred vessel deserves. I’m trained in how to use it properly and not just externally. I need the interior intentions that make my ministry during the Mass effective.

Unfortunately the Church has come across at times in an oppressive or repressive way. The teaching of the Church on sex is meant to capture the sacred value of how we relate with others through our gendered persons. The beauty and goodness of men and women includes in an intimate way their gendered-ness and the complimentary nature of their sexuality. Our gendered body is oriented towards a fruitful, free, full and faithful union with another. John Paul II calls this the ‘nuptial meaning of the body’. He would say that this “spousal love … [is] the fundamental component of human existence in the world.”
As you can imagine, I am just scratching the surface here of a profound teaching. Over two thirds of the Church’s writings on sexuality come from John Paul II. It is a revolution in human relations begun. For a good basic interpretation of this teaching I recommend “Good News about Sex & Marriage” by Christopher West.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Words from Fr Ed (From July 18th Bulletin)

Man cannot live without love.
-John Paul II

I had hoped to have time to write more about the Theology of the Body, but as I write this I need to get on the road to Yakima for our Youth on Mission. So instead of TOB, I include here a passage of Seneca (a Roman philosopher) gleaned from Dr. Fortner’s ‘on vacation’ out-of-office response. Dr. Fortner is a Professor of Philosophy at the Pontifical College Josephinum, in Columbus, Ohio. ~Fr. Ed

Seneca, *Epistulae Morales*, XXVIII - "On Travel as a Cure for Discontent"
Do you suppose that you alone have had this experience? Are you surprised, as if it were a novelty, that after such long travel and so many changes of scene you have not been able to shake off the gloom and heaviness of your mind? You need a change of soul rather than a change of climate. Though you may cross vast spaces of sea, and though, as our Vergil remarks:

"Lands and cities are left astern, / your faults will follow you whithersoever you travel."

Socrates made the same remark to one who complained; he said: "Why do you wonder that globe-trotting does not help you, seeing that you always take yourself with you?  The reason which set you wandering is ever at your heels." What pleasure is there in seeing new lands? Or in surveying cities and spots of interest? All your bustle is useless. Do you ask why such flight does not help you? It is because you flee along with yourself. You must lay aside the burdens of the mind; until you do this, no place will satisfy you. Reflect that your present behavior is like that of the prophetess whom Vergil describes: she is excited and goaded into fury, and contains within herself much inspiration that is not her own: The priestess raves, if haply she may shake, the great god from her heart.

You wander hither and yon, to rid yourself of the burden that rests upon you, though it becomes more troublesome by reason of your very restlessness, just as in a ship the cargo when stationary makes no trouble, but when it shifts to this side or that, it causes the vessel to heel more quickly in the direction where it has settled. Anything you do tells against you, and you hurt yourself by your very unrest; for you are shaking up a sick man.

That trouble once removed, all change of scene will become pleasant; though you may be driven to the uttermost ends of the earth, in whatever corner of a savage land you may find yourself, that place, however forbidding, will be to you a hospitable abode. The person you are matters more than the place to which you go; for that reason we should not make the mind a bondsman to any one place. Live in this belief: "I am not born for any one corner of the universe; this whole world is my country." If you saw this fact clearly, you would not be surprised at getting no benefit from the fresh scenes to which you roam each time through weariness of the old scenes.

For the first would have pleased you in each case, had you believed it wholly yours. As it is, however, you are not journeying; you are drifting and being driven, only exchanging one place for another, although that which you seek --- to live well --- is found everywhere.

Can there be any spot so full of confusion as the Forum? Yet you can live quietly even there, if necessary. Of course, if one were allowed to make one's own arrangements, I should flee far from the very sight and neighborhood of the Forum. For just as pestilential places assail even the strongest constitution, so there are some places which are also unwholesome for a healthy mind which is not yet quite sound, though recovering from its ailment. I disagree with those who strike out into the midst of the billows and, welcoming a stormy existence, wrestle daily in hardihood of soul with life's problems. The wise man will endure all that, but will not choose it; he will prefer to be at peace rather than at war.

It helps little to have cast out your own faults if you must quarrel with those of others. Says one: "There were thirty tyrants surrounding Socrates, and yet they could not break his spirit"; but what does it matter how many masters a man has? "Slavery" has no plural; and he who has scorned it is free --- no matter amid how large a mob of over-lords he stands.

It is time to stop, but not before I have paid duty. "The knowledge of sin is the beginning of salvation." This saying of Epicurus seems to me to be a noble one. For he who does not know that he has sinned does not desire correction; you must discover yourself in the wrong before you can reform yourself. Some boast of their faults. Do you think that the man has any thought of mending his ways who counts over his vices as if they were virtues? Therefore, as far as possible, prove yourself guilty, hunt up charges against yourself; play the part, first of accuser, then of judge, last of intercessor. At times be harsh with yourself.
- Farewell.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Words from Fr Ed (From July 11th, 2010 Bulletin)

You shall love…your neighbor as yourself

Jesus often emphasizes this command as a centerpiece of His New Covenant. It is not something that he was unwilling to do. As we repeat the words of Christ in the Mass,

“Take this all of you and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of me.”

Jesus’ example of self-giving love stands forever as the ultimate love of neighbor. When we try to imitate Him, we realize that we are incapable of it. Only God can give us such grace and love. He gives us the same strength in the Mass when we receive Him worthily. The same love with which he loved us, even in his death, is the love he gives us in the Eucharist. It is there that we are restored and filled for another week of loving. The world, the flesh, and the devil can drain us, but Christ fills us to overflowing.

Mission 2010
One great way in which our teens express Christ’s love is by serving those most in need in the Yakima area each summer. We send two 20+ member teams each, in the next two weeks, to work in the mission that Young Neighbors in Action operates. Our youth join up with a hundred youth from around the United States in learning the Social Doctrine of the Church. According to the U.S. Bishops, the basic themes of this Doctrine are:

Sanctity of human life and dignity of the person
Call to family, community, and participation
Rights and responsibilities
Preferential Option for the poor and vulnerable
Dignity of work and the rights of workers
Care for God's creation

These principles call us to a radical love of neighbor that Jesus taught us. Please pray that our youth learn these well and are able to help renew God’s Church with these life-giving teachings.

What is Chastity?

I had hoped to continue on the subject of chastity, but am running out of space. I will come back to it as I feel it is so crucial in our day. Impurity is rampant and we Christians need to arm ourselves. Our youth are especially vulnerable. For the time being I will leave you with a good website where one can learn more about John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, http://www.tobforteens.com/default.asp.

Welcome to Fr. Kokol!
Fr. Juan Carlos (‘Kokol’) should be arriving before this weekend from Honduras. Fr. Kokol served as pastor for the local church that includes Nuevo Paraiso, where we normally stay when on mission there. While he does not speak much English yet, I hope you have the chance to meet him and welcome him during his visit of several weeks.