Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Words from Fr Ed (From Sept. 5th, 2010 Bulletin)

“Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple”

This could cost you, discipleship that is. Yes, it will cost you, because as Christians we must be ready, willing, and actively giving of ourselves. Jesus’ love is known in Greek as kenosis, which means ‘an "emptying", from the root word kenos, which means "empty". Philippians 2:7 says that Jesus "...emptied himself...." Jesus as the Son of God, Word of the Father, is in Himself a kenosis of the Father, both in and outside of, created time. Before the world was created, the Father generated a perfect image of Himself, perfect love, for love alone. “God is love.” Through Jesus, by the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, we enter into this heavenly relationship of the Trinity.

This comes as a free gift. God freely gives this relationship of adoption to us as His beloved children. We can do nothing to earn this. We simply say ‘yes’ to the invitation. If the Pope invited you to dinner at the Vatican, one might wonder what you did to deserve such a privilege. What if the Pope said, “I invited you because I wanted to. You did nothing to deserve it. I simply want to pour out God’s love to you as a follower of Christ.”? We might still be suspicious in our consumer society. Is anything really free? I would say ‘Yes’, yet in the case of God’s invitation and gift, we need to continuously reassert our ‘yes’ to Him and His grace.

Once we say ‘yes’ to faith in Christ’s saving action in our lives, we are called to affirm this ‘yes’ through acts of love, carrying our cross as disciples. We make choices every day as to how we think, speak and act. Even as I write this article there is a lovely cookie waiting near my computer within reach. A delicious cookie I can either eat or not eat. Before I eat this cookie, my conscience, if it is awake, is prepared to offer a moral assessment of the situation, asking questions like, “Is it a fast day? How many cookies have you already eaten? Will this affect your health in some way? Or what is God’s will for you at this particular moment?” My conscience may approve, saying “Eat and give thanks to God”, or disapprove, saying, “Aren’t you supposed to be focused on your bulletin article right now?” So far, the cookie has survived the paragraph.

As disciples we are called to pick up our cross and follow Him, which usually deals with matter that is more difficult than whether or not to eat a cookie. This picking up of our cross is an act of the will, a free reciprocation of love. It is one more ‘yes’ on top of our original ‘yes’. The grace to pick up our cross is again freely given by God. We simply need to say ‘yes’. What is the cost of this ‘yes’? It is humility, affirming that God’s way is better than my way; it is honesty, which says that it was true and good to say ‘yes’ in the first place; and it is also wise, because by our ‘yes’s we remain in Him, Who is perfect love, both in this life and the next.

(And thank you Lord for good cookies!)

The House
Many parishioners have asked about the plan for a new rectory to be built on our property. At this point, with the interim residence providing great access to the parish and enough room for two clerics, the urgency of building something new is not as great as it used to be. We are also finishing a five year plan that should include some vision for the near future and how it affects our facilities. The economy too has been rather unpredictable, which makes it a little more precarious to borrow money for more construction. The current residence, however, lacks a ground floor bedroom for an elderly or ailing priest. The bedrooms are also small and not suites, which would allow for a life more conducive to study and correspondence. So our rectory plan remains on the stove, but on a back burner until it becomes more obvious that this is our highest priority.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Words from Fr Ed (From August 29th, 2010 Bulletin)

…take the lowest place.

Our readings this week point to the humility that is needed in God’s kingdom. Jesus advises us, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor…Rather…go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, ‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’” This movement is the opposite of our ego-driven world. We can easily fall into the trap of seeking recognition, praise and honor. We have to go against this ancient wound that came with the fall of Adam and Eve.
One of the most powerful litanies that I’ve seen is the Litany of Humility. Its petitions may seem odd to you, or even impossible. But we are secure in the dignity that God desires to give us, if only we will humble ourselves.

Litany of Humility
O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved...
From the desire of being extolled ...
From the desire of being honored ...
From the desire of being praised ...
From the desire of being preferred to others...
From the desire of being consulted ...
From the desire of being approved ...
From the fear of being humiliated ...
From the fear of being despised...
From the fear of suffering rebukes ...
From the fear of being calumniated ...
From the fear of being forgotten ...
From the fear of being ridiculed ...
From the fear of being wronged ...
From the fear of being suspected ...
That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I ...
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease ...
That others may be chosen and I set aside ...
That others may be praised and I unnoticed ...
That others may be preferred to me in everything...
That others may become holier than I,
provided that I may become as holy as I should…

Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930),
Secretary of State for Pope Saint Pius X

St. Benedict’s Twelve Steps of Humility
From a Homily by St. Benedict of Nursia (480-547 AD)
Holy Scripture proclaims to us brothers: "Everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted" (Lk 14:11). It tells us that all self-exaltation is a form of pride, against which, the prophet tells us, he guarded: "Lord, my heart is not exalted, nor are my eyes lifted up; neither have I walked in great things nor in wonders above myself. But to what purpose if I did not think humbly but exalted my soul? As a child weaned from his mother, so will you reward my soul" (Ps 131:1-2).
Therefore, brothers, if we wish to reach the highest peak of humility and soon arrive at the heavenly heights, we must, by our good deeds, set up a ladder like Jacob’s, upon which he saw angels climbing up and down. Without doubt, we should understand that climbing as showing us that we go up by humbling ourselves and down by praising ourselves. The ladder represents our life in the temporal world; the Lord has erected it for those of us possessing humility. We may think of the sides of the ladder as our body and soul, the rungs as the steps of humility and discipline we must climb in our religious vocation.
The first step of humility is taken when a man obeys all of God’s commandments–never ignoring them, and fearing God in his heart.
(For the rest of this homily see:>http://www.saint-mike.org/library/rule/excerpts/steps_to_humility.html)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Words from Fr Ed (From August 22nd 2010 Bulletin)

Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?
Lk 12:51

While we work for peace in the world, we have to wonder what Jesus, who said, “Blessed are the peace-makers”, meant by this radical statement. When we think of peace, we tend to think of an absence of war. The 20th century was full of wars, even what we call World Wars. Now we continue a ‘war on terror’ in the Middle East while drug cartel violence begins to permeate our borders. All the while, since 1973, an average of 4000 children per day are killed by abortion in America. How much control do we actually have over world peace, whether traditional war between nations or the domestic violence that has destroyed (50 million killed in 37 years) more lives than all the wars in the history of the world put together?

Genuine peace is only possible through an adherence to the truth. But truth, Jesus says, will bring division as some may accept it and some don’t. Look at the division in our own country over various moral issues, sometimes driving a line straight through a family. This can test our Christian allegiance to God above people. Thomas à Kempis says in the Imitation of Christ, “Better to anger another human rather than our God.” We must be determined to serve the Lord regardless of what others think. This takes detachment from human opinion and personal ego. It also takes the kind of relationship with Christ that can detect His will over and against what may be popular.

Our Gospel calls us today to that kind of fidelity. St. Ambrose says, “It is necessary that we should esteem the human less than the divine. If honor is to be paid to parents, how much more to your parents’ Creator, to whom you owe gratitude for your parents! If they by no means recognize their Father, how do you recognize them?” He does not say children should reject a father but that God is to be set before all. You are not forbidden to love your parents, but you are forbidden to prefer them to God.

Real peace does begin with me. After me, I have little control over other’s responses. They may or may not reject any peace offered. The world will fall out accordingly. Christians must do their best to work for peace, but realize that it can only spread through hearts dedicated to truth and love. Our Pope Benedict writes in his encyclical Caritas in Veritatis,

“Only in truth does charity shine forth, only in truth can charity be authentically lived. Truth is the light that gives meaning and value to charity. That light is both the light of reason and the light of faith, through which the intellect attains to the natural and supernatural truth of charity: it grasps its meaning as gift, acceptance, and communion. Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality. Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way. In a culture without truth, this is the fatal risk facing love.”

Let us pray for this gift of love which “casts out all fear” and the truth which “sets us free.”

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Words from Fr Ed (From August 15th, 2010 Bulletin)

My soul magnifies the Lord…
The Solemnity of the Assumption falls on a Sunday this year. It draws our attention to Mary and the mystery of the end of her earthly life. I don’t say her ‘death’ because we believe that she did not die. Death came into the world as a punishment for sin, or perhaps better said, a consequence of sin. Mary didn’t sin. She was quite human, more fully human than anyone except her own Divine son, but she was spared from the stain of original sin, the concupiscence that the rest of us have. Fortunate woman, yet she still had to courageously say ‘yes’ each step of the way and suffer the way that Simeon foretold, “and a sword shall pierce your own soul.”

It was the ‘yes’, an answer every human can freely give, that gained for her a full cooperation with God’s will for humanity. She permitted herself to be this chosen vessel. Finishing her life free from sin, free from any corruption of the body and its relationship with the soul, we believe that she immediately was ‘assumed’ into heaven. The eastern Christians call this a ‘dormition’, or ‘falling asleep’. There are several sites that claim this occurrence, two in Jerusalem and one in Ephesus, so we are not sure where it happened, only that it did. We have no tomb for her like we have for many of our other saints.

Pope Pius XII, wrote, in his Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus (The Most Bountiful God), “She, by an entirely unique privilege, completely overcame sin by her Immaculate Conception, and as a result she was not subject to the law of remaining in the corruption of the grave, and she did not have to wait until the end of time for the redemption of her body.” We see some remnant of this in the ‘incorruptibles’, those saints whose bodies have not decayed significantly since their death.
"You will not allow your holy one to see corruption" - Ps 15.

(See http://www.catholicapologetics.info/library/gallery/incorrupt/incorrupt.htm# )

Truths that apply to Mary are meant as well for the Church and the individual Christian. Church Fathers had a phrase, “Maria, vel Ecclesia, vel anima” (Mary, or rather the Church, or rather the soul). In relation to the Assumption it means that God desires to raise the Church to Himself as a spotless bride. The Church is being purified for this union. This may help explain the recent scandals that have rocked the Church. While courts and news media have been instrumental in pushing the issue, it is God Himself who is purifying the Church of abhorrent behavior on the part of priests and others entrusted with sacred ministry.

What is true for Mary and the Church is true as well for each of us individually. God desires each one of us to be prepared in holiness to meet Him some day. Life’s difficulties are painful, yet they can also serve to help us surrender to the transforming power of the cross, realizing our total dependency on God. Jesus said we must be perfect, even as our heavenly Father is perfect. This would be impossible relying on our own power. We must allow God to perfect us with His own perfection. One disciple who can help us the most is Mary. May we do something special in prayer with Mary this week?

The Church’s Oldest Prayer to Our Lady
O Mother of God, we take refuge in your loving care.
Let not our plea to you pass unheeded in the trials that beset us,
but deliver us from danger, for you alone are truly pure, you alone are truly blessed.

We pray for Brian Thompson …
as he heads back to school. Here is a prayer for him and all our seminarians.
Lord Jesus, we ask your special blessing on those preparing for the priesthood in our seminaries.
We pray that they will grow in faith, hope and love.
May their hearts overflow with your compassion, understanding and generosity,
and may their desire to serve you inspire others to answer your call.
Give them courage and perseverance and be their constant companion
as they prepare to serve you and your people with faithfulness.
Lord, give our seminarians the grace to continue to answer the call to follow you on their journey. When they are lonely or discouraged, comfort them with your peace.
Jesus, meek and humble of heart, fill the hearts of our seminarians with the fire of your love.
Make them holy as you are holy.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Words from Fr Ed (From August 8th, 2010 Bulletin)

Going Away for Brian Thompson
It was a great grace for us to host our first seminarian in a long time here at St. Stephens. Brian is returning to seminary at Theological College at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. for his second year of Theology. He was both a great help to us this summer along with sharing his gift of humor and good will. Thank you Brian for your presence here with us. We will pray for you, Brian, and for your vocation to prosper. Know that you have a home here with us. The gift of a seminarian, a young man willing to serve the Lord, even at the cost of family, friends, and possessions, is a great inspiration to our community. He represents Christ in a special way. The sacrifice is apparent in their challenges, the reward is apparent in their joy. Love is at the heart of every vocation, and we pray that Brian always grow in his.

God our Father,
You will that all people be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. Send workers into your great harvest,
that the Gospel may be preached to every creature and your people, gathered together by the Word of life and
strengthened by the power of the sacraments, may advance in the way of salvation and love. Bless Brian with discernment
and strength to live his vocation with great love. Grant this through Christ Our Lord.

Please join me in thanking Brian at a going-away reception between the morning Masses on August 14th, from 9:45am to 10:45am in the parish hall.

Ashes to Ashes
One of the invocations on Ash Wednesday expresses this physical reality in store for our bodies here on earth. It is natural. But
more and more I receive good-willed people preparing for funerals who don’t realize the Church’s teaching on how to care for the remains of
their loved ones. I include here a short extract from the New York Bishops’ Conference on cremated remains:

Does the Church have a preference for either cremation or burial of the body of the deceased?
Although cremation is permitted, Catholic teaching continues to stress the preference for burial or entombment of the body of the deceased.
This is done in imitation of the burial of Jesus’ body.
“This is the Body once washed in baptism, anointed with the oil of salvation, and fed with the bread of life. Our identity and self –consciousness as a human person are expressed in and through the body...Thus, the Church’s reverence and care for the body grows out of a reverence and concern for the person whom the Church now commends to the care of God.”

A second question is important as well:
What should become of the cremated remains following the funeral?
Church teaching insists that cremated remains must be given the same respect as the body, including the manner in which they are carried and the attention given to their appropriate transport and placement. The cremated remains of a body are to be buried or entombed,
preferably in a Catholic cemetery, and using the rites provided by the Order of Christian Funerals. The Church does not consider reverent, the following dispositions: scattering cremated remains, dividing cremated remains and keeping cremated remains in the home.
(For the full brochure on Cremated Remains see: http://www.holyroodcemetery.org/teachingcremation.pdf )

It may be attractive to scatter ashes on Mt. Rainier or some other special place, or place them in an ornament that one wears as a remembrance, but the body deserves burial in preparation for the Resurrection. Burial also assists the grieving process which is a letting go of
the body. I was able to keep my grandmother’s ashes during the month that lapsed between her death and memorial service. It was a special time to pray with her remains, but when the memorial came it was time to let go and I had the privilege of pouring her remains into the burial
ground at her Episcopal Church. Another advantage is for future generations to have a site where they can go and honor their deceased relatives, to orient themselves in time and meditate on the meaning of life. I’ve been fortunate to be able to visit many of my relative’s graves in the Seattle area and consider the gift of life that they have given me and the urgency to use it wisely. The Fathers of the Church affirmed the power of a cemetery to increase our faith. If you have any questions about preparing for the Resurrection, please speak to Deacon Marshall or Marijean Heutmaker for more information.