October 22, 2017
The new parish year is well under way since Faith Formation G.O.L.F. sessions began the Sunday after Labor Day and both regular class sections have had the chance to meet. It is very hopeful to witness first-hand the parish becoming more active and alive. I am very grateful to many of you I see weekly at our weekend Masses. To quote the Second Vatican Council’s document Lumen Gentium (chapter 2:11) “Taking part in the Eucharistic sacrifice, the source and summit of the Christian life, we offer the divine victim [Jesus] to God and ourselves along with him.” The mystery of our salvation as Church is fully present when all of the faithful gather to celebrate the Eucharist. I know I am “preaching to the choir” as the saying goes. If you are reading this, I could be wrong, but you are likely reading this in the pew before Mass or on the car ride home. You came to Mass. We need to work together in reaching out to family and friends who consider themselves parishioners and Holy Cross their spiritual home but who do not regularly practice their faith or likely support the parish beyond sacramental donations or the fees associated with Faith Formation classes.
I wish I had the problem of figuring out how to add Masses because of the crowds of faithful. Unfortunately, instead I dread a future not too far away when we might not need four Masses. When we don’t have Faith Formation classes on Sunday evenings, like two weeks ago on Columbus Day weekend and likely in two weeks for Veteran’s Day weekend, there are often less than 30 people at the 5:30pm Sunday Mass. However, crucial numbers at Masses and the regular financial support of the parish whether families come to Mass or not is only part of the concern. I am just as if not more concerned about the future of our Catholic Church if attending Mass as a family, regardless of age, and getting involved in the life of any parish is limited to only receiving the sacraments of Baptism and First Reconciliation and Communion and getting through Faith Formation to Confirmation. There is simply not enough time in classes of 90 minutes twice a month for six months to create a foundation of faith that young people can confidently and meaningfully draw upon throughout the rest of their lives. We need to always practice what we preach and teach.
I will be the first to admit coming to Mass is not the most exciting or entertaining thing one does each week. Football, soccer, movies and gaming are more exciting and entertaining. But that is not the point of the Eucharist. Many parishioners do say we have good liturgies: a warm and welcoming atmosphere, uplifting music, relatively good and relevant homilies, and feel spiritually fed when leaving church to face a new week ahead. There is always room for improvement and I promise you that I will do what I can to ensure the Eucharist remains the source and summit of our life here in the parish. The point of the Eucharist first and foremost is to understand the Greek word’s definition: “thanksgiving.” We gather in anticipation and to begin the Lord’s Day at the vigil Mass on Saturday evening, on the Lord’s Day Sunday morning and evening to give thanks to God for sending us his Son, Jesus, the divine victim, without whom there would be no salvation. We literally re-present Christ’s own gift of self on the Cross to the Father through the action of the Spirit each time we share God’s word and offer the sacrifice of the Mass. It is primary in the life of any follower of Jesus to follow his command to do this often in memory of him. Since the Ten Commandments, a weekly celebration of God’s love for his people has been understood and accepted as the rhythm of the spiritual life for any believer.
Listening and celebrating God’s word and God’s gift week after week, month after month, year after year creates and sustains a meaningful foundation each of us draws upon through the ups and downs of life. Classes and spiritual reading, retreats and spiritual sharing all augment the celebration of the Eucharist, but nothing short of seeing Jesus in heaven substitutes for celebrating the Eucharist communally and as individuals as we hopefully journey back to the Father throughout our life on earth. I highly encourage families to reassess weekly priorities to be able to be spiritually fed through the greatest gift God gives us, the Eucharist.
October 15, 2017
It is hard to believe it is the middle of October already. It still seems like summer with the temperatures we have been experiencing and only a hint of color on the trees so far. I know I shouldn’t be complaining, January and February will be here before we know it!
One thing I have always appreciated about the fall is a feeling of reflecting over what has been and looking ahead to what might be. Maybe it’s celebrating another birthday or our annual holiday of Thanksgiving with the coming Christmas holy days into a new year. Whatever it is, it is good to take time to do something similar to stopping and smelling June roses, taking time to soak in the beauty of God’s magnificent creation in the radiant yellow, red and orange leaves bursting with color on a sunny autumn afternoon. Take a stroll through the leaves and listen to them rustle underfoot. Sit with your eyes closed on a bench and feel the cool breeze gliding over your face. Summer days are behind us and winter has not yet settled in, enjoy the in-between time.
I hear so many families these days say how crazy life is. Unfortunately, life only gets crazier if each of us in our own way doesn’t take time to keep perspective. I know I’m speaking as someone who doesn’t have kids going every which way and a job that builds in time for prayer. However, even in my life, if I let myself get caught up in the busyness of each day and do not make time for personal prayer and some relaxation, priorities get out of whack pretty quickly and I do find myself feeling more “stressed.” There’s a modern buzz word, especially among teens and young adults, “I’m so stressed.” When I lived with 184 privileged college undergrads I would often remind them: you’re likely in need of some lessons in prioritizing and better managing what has become a limited amount of time each day. Most of the rest of the world is actually stressed by not knowing where they can obtain clean drinking water, where their next meal will come from, if their clothes will last or when the next conflict will break out between tribes, ethnic or nationalist groups- that’s being stressed. Life is a balancing act and there’s no going backward. Hopefully we each take the needed time to stay balanced, mostly happy and at peace in life. Living into our faith keeps us grounded amid the tensions and tumults of life. Each of us only gets one life to live. I pray you live it well with few regrets.
One opportunity to slow down and gain some perspective you will be hearing about this weekend, challenging yourself to live a Cursillo weekend. Cursillo is an active three-day learning experience in basic Christianity featuring practical insights into an everyday life of faith and service. It is a unique experience that offers each person an opportunity to develop, nurture and deepen one’s own personal relationship with Jesus. It may be the best gift you ever give yourself! And it is one of many weekend, weeklong and longer retreat models based in scripture and guided by the wisdom of our 2,000 plus year tradition of following the Lord.
So as these autumn days continue and we look toward celebrating all the holy women and men who have gone before us in faith, either having been officially declared saints or simply by reason of living into their baptism the best they could and enjoying their eternal reward, we will be inspired to do our daily best to live into God’s merciful grace each day. Know of my ongoing prayers for each parishioner to live life to the full without getting overwhelmed or discouraged. The reflection I used in my homily at Masses last weekend pointed out, “We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.” Make good choices this week and find the peace that only God can give.
October 8, 2017
This past week in a monthly mailing to all priests in the Diocese of Fall River we received a packet of information beginning a two year campaign entitled Share the Journey, calling upon all Catholics to reflect on what it means to be a refugee, migrant and immigrant in the 21st century. Our brothers and sisters often make perilous journeys, leaving their homelands because they are forced to flee their homes to escape conflict, poverty, persecution and violence. There are more refugees and internally displaced people now—over 65 million—than at any other time in recorded history. Our faith calls us to “love our neighbor,” to see Christ in those who are in greatest need, and to welcome newcomers seeking the security, peace, and opportunity they cannot find in their home countries.
Pope Francis inaugurated this world-wide two year campaign from the Vatican in Rome on September 27th. He asked bishop’s conferences throughout the world to promote a Week or Prayer and Action from Saturday, October 7th through next Saturday, October 14th. I wish he would have given us a bit more lead time! Nonetheless, we will begin this week by including prayers into the Prayers of the Faithful for refugees and immigrants. I have asked the Social Action Commission and the Respect Life Committee and any other interested parishioners to actively come together and help all of us pray, learn and take an active role as parishioners in Sharing the Journey with our brothers and sisters displaced throughout the world by famine, ethnic cleansing, war and other challenge that force families from their homes and homelands. Most of our ancestors were once migrants and immigrants. Mine came from Poland, Germany and Hungary. I wouldn’t be your pastor at Holy Cross if my great and great-great grandparents weren’t welcomed by Lady Liberty into this great land of opportunity. I pray and hope we continue to welcome new peoples to the America we love and know as home. May all countries of goodwill throughout the world do the same.
We can join Pope Francis and the Church around the world, and share the journey with fellow children of God by:
- Learning about their journeys. Read stories, watch videos, and pay attention to news that can help sensitize us to their reality. Then, share what you learn with others by:
- Joining the #sharejourney campaign on social media!
- Meet immigrants and refugees. Contact our local Catholic Charities agency to learn how you can join or support their programs that serve immigrants and refugees. Links to Diocesan and local agencies are listed on our parish webpage.
- Say a daily prayer for all people, and especially children, who have fled their homes in search of peace and safety.
- Support the work of local and international Catholic agencies, like Catholic Charities and Catholic Relief Services, who help to care for the needs of immigrants and refugees in the United States and around the world.
Learn more about and get involved in the Share the Journey global migration campaign at sharejourney.org. I hope you share my expectation in waiting to see what our parish leaders come up with to help educate and guide us through this prayerful campaign.
Don’t forget to sign up to donate blood this coming Wednesday, October 11th here at Holy Cross in the Great Room. I’ll be there giving a pint. I also thank you for your generosity in aiding the people of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands in your free will offerings as you leave Mass this weekend. You can also give something online through our website, mail it to the parish or drop a donation off at the Parish Center this week. Everything collected will once again be entrusted to Catholic Charities USA on the ground in the Caribbean aiding in recovery efforts.
October 1, 2017
Autumn officially began on Friday, September 22nd and the very next day we had the Fall Festival where many parishioners enjoyed chili, hamburgers and hot dogs, snow cones and cupcakes. It was a fun afternoon of music, informative booths, balloon obstacle courses and tosses and other fun games and prizes. The day concluded with a delicious Italian Dinner and entertainment by Joe Presley and the Castletone Band. The dance floor was full quite a few times. It was a great day in the social life of the Parish. Maybe next year we can entice more parishioners to join in the fun.
I mentioned at the end of my column last week that October, in addition to the month of May, is dedicated to honoring our Blessed Mother. The feast day of Our Lady of the Rosary is next Saturday, October 7th. It is always inspiring to pray the rosary with parishioners before each daily Mass. I encourage parish families to pray the rosary together at home. A Holy Cross priest, Fr. Patrick Peyton, C.S.C., founder of Holy Cross Family Ministries whose world headquarters are located here in Easton off 138 across from Stoneforge Grille, coined the phrase, “The family that prays together stays together.” He was particularly referencing praying the rosary as a family. I really learned the basic prayers of our faith, the Apostles Creed, the Glory Be, the Hail Mary and the Our Father by praying the rosary with my family at funeral wakes. It was always a time of peaceful reflection and hope amid tears of sadness and loss. As a parish family we will be honoring the 100th anniversary of another feast day of Mary, Our Lady of Fatima annually celebrated on May 13th. Pope Francis asked all the faithful to entrust our cares and concerns in prayer to Mary, particularly this year marking the centennial of her apparitions to three young children in Fatima, Portugal. On Saturday, October 14th we will gather in church at 3:00 p.m. to begin Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. After ten minutes of quiet personal prayer, we will pray the rosary together led by our own parish children and end with Benediction. There will also be the opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation during the regularly scheduled time (3:15-3:45 p.m.) followed by our regular Saturday Vigil Mass.
Today, the first day of October and first Sunday in October is Respect Life Sunday. Our parish Respect Life Committee is very active in meeting, discussing various topics and encouraging all parishioners to think and pray about life issues. Church teachings on various moral issues concerning the conception of life, the dignity of the human person and the end of life are all central to our life of faith in a God who creates, sustains and calls every human person to live with God forever in heaven. I encourage you this month and beyond to learn more about the Church’s teachings amid the varied and oftentimes misinformed opinions about teachings people either never learned or reflected on but summarily dismiss. Life is God’s greatest gift. May we steward it well for ourselves and others, especially the most vulnerable in our midst.
Lastly, don’t forget to bring your pet(s) to Church at 4:00 p.m. Sunday afternoon for the annual Blessing of the Animals in honor of St. Francis of Assisi whose feast day is this Wednesday, October 4th. And make sure to say a special prayer to your Guardian Angel whose feast is Monday. “Angel of God my guardian dear, to whom God’s love entrusts me here, ever this day be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen.”