Pastor's Page

   
 Fr. Tom Hartman

 Greetings in Christ!  I’m excited to be here in Groton and Turton as your new pastor.  This is my first experience as a pastor, so I’m a little nervous, mostly excited but you will find that I’m green at this.  So be patient, it will take a little time to learn this new role.  In this time of transition, I will try to keep the main thing the main thing, JESUS CHRIST!

So, I am coming from St. Michael's Parish in Sioux Falls as the former associate and my first assignment as a priest.  I was ordained June of 2017.  Before that I was in seminary at Holy Apostles Seminary in Cromwell, CT.  This was predominantly a later vocation seminary for older men.  The nickname was Holy Fossils Seminary.
               
 As you noticed from this first weekend here, I’m not a young man but don’t consider myself old yet and have a little experience behind me.  Before entering seminary I was working and living in Milbank, SD where I helped run the family owned grocery store.  (Currently named Hartman’s Family Foods)  I worked full time from 1990 to 2012 but as far back as I remember dad had us kids working.
               
In that period of time, I was married and had two children.  Isaiah is 28 and living in Denver, CO and working as a firefighter.  His fiancé Megan and he will be married next summer.  Natasha, my daughter is 27, living in Milbank with her husband Christian and my first grandchild, Gavin.  Christian farms while Natasha is an English Teacher in the high school. 
               
 As to how I became a priest, invite me over sometime, it’s not a short story.  But after only a few years of marriage, I ended up divorced and later annulled.  Through those years, the Lord continued to convert my heart to a priestly heart, a heart that God led me here to you.  I hope it’s a heart open to a deeper conversion with all of you. 
                
My hope is someday that people in the future will call upon us for intercession as the great saints of Groton and Turton.



             
From the Pastor

FINDING NINEVEH

As a non traditional (non-trad) college student in my late 20’s I was in an English class and we were studying the Scarlet Letter.  One morning another non trad student came barreling in with her dominant personality before the teacher arrived.  She ranted on how she detested the female protagonist of the story and began to ask each of her fellow students what they thought.  It seemed they all cowered or they all agreed with her view.  I was hoping after two to three students she would quit but she didn’t and finally she came to me.  My opinion was the opposite. I love Hester Prynne, and, for many reasons, opposed to her opinions. 

In this moment, I would rather have been like Jonah and excused myself and not taken part in this conversation or engage this woman. I may even have enjoyed a three day rest in the belly of the whale more.  The problem was that this class was where God had placed me and that was where I was called to go to.  So I took a deep breath and explained my position to her and to the class.  That day, this woman and I became great friends and we had countless conversations that were deeply intimate and faith filled. 

Why do I share this story?  All of us our sent to preach the gospel like Jonah.  If the Lord does not tell us to go somewhere other than where we are at, our mission is right where we are.  You don’t need to go out looking for Nineveh, but realize Nineveh is right where God has you today.

 

Thank You!

 Just wanted to reiterate my thank you to all who made this past Christmas Season so beautiful.  Both Churches looked fantastic, the liturgies were beautiful. Thanks to all who took part in the various ministries.  Thanks especially to our musicians for your extra effort to make everything so beautiful.   All these ministries would be less fulfilling without all of you who came to celebrate and join us in welcoming Our Savior.  Also, thanks to all who joined us spiritually, especially in our online broadcasts.  Our prayers unite us as one.

On a personal note, thank you to all who sent me cards and gave me gifts.  You were all so generous that I decided to purchase something that I’ve desired since being here and yet benefit our parish.  With your gifts, I’ve purchased a new living room set.  If it is anything like the last one, we might be set for another 20 years.  I will certainly enjoy them and hopefully any guests that may come over.

Since being on vacation, I’ve sent Deacon Jeff  multiple pics of all the snow that I encountered in Colorado and now arriving back, pictures of me relaxing in the new recliner.  Thanks again for you generosity and God bless us all in the New Year.

Fr.Tom

 

Feast of the Epiphany 


This weekend we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany, the day that God revealed that all nations are called to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. This is depicted by the Wiseman coming from the East and that they came to pay homage to the New Born KING! The Lord opened the gates of salvation to all people. The Wisemen realized the gift they received and brought their gifts in return, gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Gold for a King, Frankincense for a priest, and myrrh for a suffering servant. All three gifts perfect for Jesus, priest, prophet, & king. We too bring these gifts spiritually to Jesus. The Myrrh is us knowing sin causes us to die spiritually, so we lay our sins before the Infant King. The Frankincense is the ’fragrant offering of our lives’ and we ask the Infant King to help us make it pleasing. Finally, the Gold, the gift for the King of Kings. This is giving Jesus permission to rule our life, to lead and direct it according to his purpose. Are you willing to give Jesus the gift he desires most, the gift of your heart? 


Merry Christmas!


“Hail and blessed me the hour and the moment when the Son of God is born of the Blessed Virgin Mary at midnight in the piercing cold, in Bethlehem, in a cave.  Vouchsafe O God to hear my prayers and desires in this moment and grant them through the merits of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the intercession of His Blessed Mother!

This Christmas, let’s go to the manger in our own poverty: sickness, fear, division, perplexity, our sinfulness, etc.  Whatever is the poverty of your heart, travel in faith and humility like Joseph and Mary did . Allow them to lead you into the manger and encounter the Greatest Treasure of all time, Jesus Our Savior.

Take time and hold him close to your heart, allow his heavenly light to penetrate those very places that are poor and let him fill that space with his love and grace.  The manger has been transformed into a symbol of great HOPE.  Allow Christ to transform the manger of your heart to be that same symbol. 

So my prayers for all of you are placed in this moment, in that cave, and placed right in the manger.  God bless you all and Merry Christmas!

 


LOVE

This is the 4th week of Advent and our last candle banner is up!  We started with Hope or trust. Trust leads us to a peace the world can not give.  Peace moves us to joy and with all three virtues, this ultimately leads us to Love.

There is an old song  that goes, “Looking for love in all the wrong places.”  In this time as we approach Christmas, I think about the Magi (Wisemen) beginning their journey to find the Newborn King.  I imagine them thinking the star might lead them to a place/city like Jerusalem that had a palace fit for a king or a temple to give fitting worship.  Maybe the newborn king would have a golden crib, surrounded by servants/subjects to pay him fitting homage.  But they would be looking for love in all the wrong places.

This King wants to enter into humanity’s poverty. He wants to go where his love is needed most.  So the Magi find him in the little town of Bethlehem, in a cave, lying in a manger.  The Christ/Love wants to enter most into the poverty of our hearts, the place that our hearts most need him to come.

We have less than a week to prepare for the coming of the King.  Let us search our hearts, find that poorest place, and invite the Newborn King to lay His head there.  Let him make this place, that would seem the wrong place, the place that contains the greatest treasure this world ever knew.  Invite Love in.

 

Joy

“The emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation” noun (dictionary.com)

 

As you read this definition of Joy that the world gives and see that it is caused by something exceptionally good, what does that do for the Christian meaning of JOY that encounters the Infinite, All Powerful, & Eternal Love of God?  In our virtue classes in seminary, we spoke how human virtues such as prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude can be developed by the human person without a relationship to God, but when the Holy Spirit is breathed into us, these virtues become supernatural and we call them the Cardinal Virtues.  They are elevated on a whole new level.  The same principle can be applied to the fruit of Joy.  We experience joy on many levels and in many encounters, but when we encounter the living God, this produces a supernatural JOY.

 

This spiritual joy is indeed a fruit of the Holy Spirit, a characteristic mark of the kingdom of God.  This is not a passing enthusiasm that is quickly destroyed by persecution.  This is a joy that is a witness of living the gospel. Both in times of consolation and desolation  with fidelity, generosity, and a spirit of docility that derives from that spirit of HOPE!

 

This week is the Third Sunday of Advent, marked by the word, “REJOICE”, or have JOY again.  If you are having difficulty with this Fruit of the Spirit, on this Sunday pray for an encounter with this Infinite, All Powerful, and Eternal Love of God and go away rejoicing with this supernatural Fruit of the Holy Spirit.

 

PEACE

 Peace is tranquility of order.  Peace is a work of justice and the effect of charity. CCC 2304 

Last week our candle banner, at SEAS, was Hope. This week the banner is Peace.  The catechism reminds us that peace is the tranquility of order.  Isn’t that so true? I remember having an office at the grocery store that lacked serious order.  Papers, bills, invoices, new products, samples, etc. would begin to overtake the office and begin to suck it into an abyss of sorts.  It wasn't until I would sit down, go through everything and put them in right order to in some way find peace walking into the  office.  The same is true with our souls.  Do we have them in right order?

 

Last week, the candle of Hope was a reminder to put our souls in right order.  If we begin by entrusting our lives to God, we live the virtue of hope. In that virtue, it moves our souls in right order toward peace.  The catechism reminds us that peace is a work of justice...do we render another their due or treat others fairly.  When we do, this promotes peace to others.  But peace is also an act of charity, and requires us to go beyond justice.  God also calls us to forgive when someone doesn't’ treat us fairly or render us what is due. 

 

This is part of that tranquility of order in our soul that we long for, or as Jesus says, “A peace the world cannot give.”  So as we trust (HOPE) in the Lord, we have to allow him to bring order to our soul (Peace) and sometimes that means cleaning out those things that are not easy.  Getting rid of the forgiveness and uncleanliness of spirit.  This is done especially in the Sacrament of Confession.  Let’s move from hope to peace this week.

 

Hope 

CCC 2090 “When God reveals Himself and calls him, man cannot fully respond to the divine love by his own powers. He must hope that God will give him the capacity to love Him in return and to act in conformity with the commandments of charity. Hope is confident expectation of divine expectation of divine blessing and the beatific vision of God; it is also the fear of offending God’s love and of incurring punishments.” Happy Advent! This weekend you will see that in the church we have our first of 4 Advent Candle banners up in the sanctuary with the word hope. Ultimate hope is the expectation of seeing God face to face in heaven. This is the beatific vision, but it’s also the expectation that God wants to bless us through his love. As the Catechism states, man cannot fully respond to God’s love with his own powers. He has to trust/hope that God will help him to encounter His love. Advent is a time of living out this reality of not fully being able to respond to God’s love. We do what we can to prepare for the coming of Christ at Christmas. First, I would say that is by simple invitation. “Jesus, I desire to encounter you more fully and experience your love in my heart more profoundly. Jesus I trust/hope that you desire this encounter for me. Come, O Come, Emanuel!” Second, do something extra this advent to prepare: read the beginning of all four gospels up to the baptism of Jesus, pick up an extra meditation book at the church, pray the joyful mysteries of the rosary. Find something that will invite Jesus into your heart in a deeper way and have Hope that he will come to you!



The Four Last Things

Last week we wrote about the 4 last things: death, judgement, heaven, and hell and last week covered death and judgement.  This week we talk about the realities of heaven and hell.  A famous story of St. Francis was that he was standing on the edge of a cliff and as he looked down he saw hell, looking up he saw heaven.  In this experience he began to shutter because he didn’t know where he was going.

The catechism affirms us of personal responsibility, it states, “The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the church on the subject of hell are a call to personal responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny.  They are at the same time an urgent call to conversion.” (1036)

This call to conversion is necessary in order to keep our eyes fixed on the goal, that is to keep our eyes fixed on heaven.  This reality is to finally come to rest in perfect love.  In many ways, this is what our hearts search for in many things or people we pursue but they will always be restless until they rest in God.  Where do your hearts want to find rest?  What are those things in my life or people in my life I spend pursuing?  These are questions we can ask when thinking of heaven or hell and then evaluate whether these things move toward God (heaven) or away from God (hell).  The Church in having us reflect on these four realities is only trying to help us move toward perfect love or God. 

 

“Parents and godparents, this light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly, so that your child, enlightened by Christ, may walk always as a child of the light and persevering in the faith, may run to meet the Lord when he comes with all the Saints in the heavenly Court.” (Order of Baptism)

 This week at St. Joseph you will notice new processional candles for our servers.  Hopefully the candle itself will be more protected and guarded. So as the servers are processing, the flame will not blow out.  As you can see, although a candle can give off a bright light, it also has to be protected. The flame can be delicate.

So is true with the gift of our faith, the gift of our salvation.  How careful are you as parents, grandparents, and individuals in guarding the light of faith given to you and to those that are entrusted to you?  Do you make sure that like in today’s gospel, you and your family are like the wise virgins, that had extra oil to make sure their lamps burned brightly as the bridegroom appeared?  This is done by filling our souls with things that are holy: sacraments, prayer, reading the scriptures, spiritual reading, and acts of charity. 

It seems like in today’s world, we are so busy with things of the world, that we forget about the bridegroom coming and many are not prepared.  Our oil lamps are running low, and we need to fill them up once again with God’s divine life and grace.  Once our lamps are filled and ready, let us recommit to US keep our lamps/lights of faith burning brightly and those who God has entrusted to us.

 

"How wonderful would it be, even as we discover faraway planets, to rediscover the needs of brothers and sisters who orbit around us!" Pope Francis (Fratelli tutti) 

This week I’ve started reading Pope Francis’s new encyclical, ‘Fratelli tutti’ (On Fratternity and Social Friendship). Pope Francis models his encyclical after his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, by highlighting Francis’s love for all people and all creation, a true brother to the world. Our gospel this week reminds us of the Great Commandment, to love God and neighbor, and in our first reading from Exodus, it reminds us that aliens, widows, orphans, & the poor are among our neighbors. Pope Francis challenges us not to hide from encounter, but to discover the needs of our brothers and sisters in dialogue with them, with real and lived encounters for understanding. The following quote is about how we build walls to prevent encounters. “Paradoxically, we have certain ancestral fears that technological development has not succeeded in eliminating; indeed, those fears have been able to hide and spread behind new technologies. Today too, outside the ancient town walls lies the abyss, the territory of the unknown, the wilderness. Whatever comes from there cannot be trusted, for it is unknown, unfamiliar, not part of the village. It is the territory of the “barbarian”, from whom we must defend ourselves at all costs. As a result, new walls are erected for self-preservation, the outside world ceases to exist and leaves only “my” world, to the point that others, no longer considered human beings possessed of an inalienable dignity, become only “them”. Once more, we encounter “the temptation to build a culture of walls, to raise walls, walls in the heart, walls on the land, in order to prevent this encounter with other cultures, with other people. And those who raise walls will end up as slaves within the very walls they have built. They are left without horizons, for they lack this interchange with others”. What walls have you put up to prevent you from a genuine encounter with your neighbor?

Change Friends or Change Your Friends

In 7th grade, I got in trouble with some of my friends for vandalism.  This is not something I am proud of but I remember my Dad giving me advice something like this.  You either have to change friends or change your friends.  I’m happy to say that most of us little hooligans turned out OK.  But this saying of Dad seems to be resurfacing these days in view of the elections.

It seems that whether we belong to the Democratic Party or the Republican Party, we are in a party that doesn’t fully embrace the teachings of the Catholic Church, especially as laid out to us by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  The bishops remind us that abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, subjecting workers to subhuman living conditions, redefining marriage, and racism are always evil and cannot be supported.  They also remind us of the importance and care for the environment, to seek peace and avoid war, religious freedom, and much more.

My purpose in writing this is that in this time, we work so hard to promote our own parties, that I think we forget we are also called to change our parties.  To challenge them in such a way, that they see a holistic view set forth by the church that is in line with the Gospel of Christ.  The bishops remind us that it is the laity who go into the public square to make change.  So I’m not instructing everyone to change parties but to change their party!  “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

 

 

Good Morning God 

There is an old line that goes,  “An optimist is someone who wakes up in the morning and says,  “Good Morning God! A pessimist is someone who wakes up in the morning and says, “O good god, morning!”  In our gospel this week, Jesus shares the parable of the two sons, whose the father asked to go work in the vineyard.  The first said, “No” but eventually went off and worked, the other son replied, ‘Yes’ but did not go.  Jesus than asked, “Which of these two did the father’s will?”  Of course, we see that it was the first son.  Jesus responds, “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of heaven before you.”  So, those that initially said, “no”, turned back to God and are now the first to enter the kingdom.

But in this parable, Jesus forgets the third scenario.  The son, who knows his identity as belonging to the father, loves being part of the kingdom and working in his father’s vineyard.  Abraham is a great example in Scripture of this third son.  When God calls him, Abraham like the optimist, says, “I’m ready.”  He knows that God’s call is the best call.

Bishop DeGrood has a vision for our diocese to raise up life long missionary disciples of Jesus Christ to proclaim the good news of God’s love for us.  He is calling us to labor in the vineyard.  What will be your response to this call?  I encourage you all to pray for the grace to be like that third son, or like Abraham, our father in faith.

 

Life Long Missionary Disciples of Jesus Christ Through the Love of the Father

 This last week Deacon Jeff and I were at clergy days with 115 other priests/deacons from our diocese. Bishop Donald DeGrood laid out for us his desire for every person in our diocese to become life long missionary disciples of Jesus Christ through the love of the Father.  Now that is a power packed vision statement, but I like that it is his desire for every person.

As a kindergartener, my parents began praying with us as a family every morning before school.  Although there was plenty of moaning and groaning from some of my older siblings, I remember enjoying this moment as a child.  I also remember as a first grader the time I read the prayer card for the first time.  It delighted me in such a way that I’m sure I felt like a big boy, but even more it  impacted me in such a way that I list this as one of my first encounters of God’s love for me. 

Being life long missionary disciples of Jesus Christ through the love of the Father requires that we encounter that love of the Father, through our relationship with Jesus Christ.  Maybe some of you have not had that deep experience of God’s love yet in your life.  On the other hand maybe some of you have had profound encounters with God’s love.  Regardless of where you are on the spectrum, we need to all pray for a deepening of that encounter, so that through the experience our desire to be disciples is motivated by love.

 

Parents: First Teachers of Their Children in the Way of Faith!

Our Religious Education classes have been off and running for 3 weeks now.  School has started, Fall has approached, and we are beginning to see more people in the pews on the weekends.  For some of you that may be sad because you’ve had to close up the lake home.  We are glad to see you back in the parish.  It is with sincere hope that with your return, you never went on vacation from God this summer.  The 3rd commandment doesn’t say Keep Holy the Lord’s Day except on summer vacation, but calls us to keep Sunday holy all year long.

Although the pews are fuller, I’m seeing far too few students in our pews on Saturday nights or Sunday mornings.  Yet surprisingly, many are dropped off for religious education on Sunday mornings.  Now, I hope many of you are finding other places to go to mass that fit your schedule, but I’m also a realist that knows this isn’t true for everyone. 

If given the choice between a family going to Mass or sending their children to Religious Education, Mass ranks higher.  I would rather see you as a family at Mass and sneak away from religious education.  Since you are the first teachers of your child in the way of faith, Religious Education only compliments your mission of teaching your children in the ways of faith.

 

40 Days For Life…

 Often in my daily Masses, I pray the intention, “for a greater respect for life from conception until natural death and that each one of us will see the dignity of the life of each person that is placed before us.”  It was said, that St. Francis so saw the dignity of the person before him and Christ living in them, that he would genuflect or bow upon greeting them.  St. Elizabeth of the Trinity wrote in a letter to her sister about not making her niece's baptism, “Oh if I could be there beside her crib, I would kneel beside her and adore the Christ that lives within her.”  These saints knew what it meant to respect life.

The 40 Day for Life Campaign begins Sept 23rd and goes till Nov 1st.  Yes, it is a campaign that focuses primarily on the issue of abortion, but that is because over 800,000 deaths occur every year.  This is also why the church has abortion as a primary issue when it comes to voting and the necessity of Catholics to raise a voice in defense of the defenseless. It is also a time to pray for respect for life in the many stages of life that follow.  In our country we often see on the news, the disrespect and disregard for our brothers and sister in our common humanity.  In this time of the 40 Days for Life, we certainly are called to pray for that deep respect for Life at conception, and also pray that we are consistent in that Life is respected from conception till natural death and all that lies therein.

  

 

FROM THE DEACON’S DESK...

Bishop Barron had a really good homily on this Sunday's readings so, I thought I would write about some of the things he had mentioned. This Sunday’s topic has to do with forgiveness and in order to forgive we need to stop holding on to wrath and anger. Bishop Barron says, “Wrath and anger are destructive things, yet we hold them tight”. Why do we hold on to these things so dearly? St. Thomas Aquinas says , “Anger is a passion for revenge that goes beyond the control of reason. Anger is not a desire to re-establish justice, but to hurt someone more than they have hurt you to the extent that it is unreasonable. The answer to anger is forgiveness.”

Forgiveness is when I do my part to re-establish justice. I take the first step toward the other person but they do not budge. In a sense, I bear the burden of the other person. I go the extra mile. I do what they should have done. Meanwhile resentment is stating that I will not take one more step in your direction no matter what the other person does or says. For this reason forgiveness is a very difficult act of the will. We should forgive because God has forgiven us. Every sin is an offense against God, yet He is constantly pursuing us to seek His forgiveness. If God can forgive us then we can forgive others. If only we are as compassionate and merciful as our Lord, this would be an easy task but forgiving others can be one of the hardest things to do. Bishop Barron offers three concrete steps we can take to receive healing. 1. Write a note, letter, or start a conversation where you go the extra mile to repair a broken relationship. 2. When you are hurt, forgive quickly. No sense of holding on to that which is destructive. 3. Stop criticizing a person behind their back. Only criticize them to the point where you are willing to help them with the problem you are raising.   Give them a try, give forgiveness a try!

 

“You, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel; when you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me. If you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way, the wicked shall die for his guilt but I will hold you responsible for his death.” (Ezekiel 33:7-9)

 As Catholics we are taught or should’ve been taught the Corporal Works of Mercy: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, bury the dead. But we also have the Spiritual Works of Mercy: admonish the sinner, instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, comfort the sorrowful, bear wrongs patiently, forgive all injuries, pray for the living and the dead. Often times with the idea of social justice, we embrace the Corporal but forgot the Spiritual and among the most difficult in today’s society is to admonish the sinner. The prophet Ezekiel reminds us of this grave responsibility and the consequences of not admonishing the sinner. Of course, we try to do this with love, knowing that we too are sinners in need of God’s mercy. Admonishing the sinner is to lead them to the merciful heart of Christ, where detachment from sin becomes possible.

 May we all live and abide in that Sacred Heart! 


Who do you say that I am?

 As we approach the upcoming elections with conventions, speeches, debates and finally a vote, it may surprise you that when it comes to this Sunday’s gospel, a democracy ruled church is rejected by Christ. He asks the people, “who do you say that I am?”  Some replied, “John the Baptist”  others, “Elijah”, still others, “Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  If it were left up to the people, they would’ve gotten it wrong.

Still, an aristocracy style wouldn’t have worked either, cause he turned to the disciples, and said, “Who do you say that I am?”  They remained silent.

BUT, their was one man, Simon, Son of Jonah, who said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  Jesus said, “Blessed are you Simon, Son of Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but my Heavenly Father.”  One man, inspired by God, not a democracy, not an aristocracy, or even a monarchy but a Theocracy.  One man inspired by God.

This is why Simon’s name gets changed, it’s not a name as much as a title.  “You are Rock.”  This is the foundation on which Jesus built his church in order to preserve the truth.  For Jesus says, “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it’ and “what you bind and lose, I bind and lose.”  So as Simon receives the title Peter, Simon, son of Jonah will one day die but Peter, the title has been passed on 266 times to Pope Francis.  The responsibility is the same, to be the rock, the key bearer, and the Shepherd.  The Pope is a firm foundation, he guides the sheep because he has the keys the Kingdom of heaven.  God bless Pope Francis!

 

 

III Commandment:  Remember to Keep Holy The Lord’s Day!

             As many of you have received an email from Bishop DeGrood or heard his message via social media, you know that he has recently reinstated the Sunday Obligation for our diocese.  Please listen to his message at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6DleCFrGGTE#action=share .  Or read his statement at https://www.sfcatholic.org/bishop-degrood/redefining-dispensation/

As you discern how God is calling you to respond to the Bishop’s message, I would like you to pray and reflect over the past 5 months.  Ask yourself how you’ve been following the Third Commandment of keeping the Lord’s Day Holy?  Have you taken time each Sunday to spend with our Lord in prayer by attending Mass in church or via some media source?  If you have not, have you taken time to read the scriptures and spend time with God in his Word?  As a family, have you set time aside on Sunday to pray and worship together?  Do you use this as a day of rest or take time to reach out to your neighbors in need?  On the flip side, have you done unnecessary work and not used it as a day of rest?

REGARDLESS of what you discern as you hear the call to return to Mass, you are called to make this day HOLY.  The Lord wants to spend time with you and he set this day apart for that purpose.  Please keep this in mind as you pray how God is calling you to respond.

 

If you have concerns and want to talk, Fr. Tom and Deacon Jeff will be available.

 

For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” (Luke 12:34)

After almost a month of being the pastor here at SEAS & St. Joseph I’ve started to develop a routine.  Part of the routine is trying to make a holy hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament each day.  For the most part the routine has been fairly successful but I find my attention span on prayer can often times be distracted.

On the other hand, my time on email, Facebook, TV, and screen time on my phone seem to get my undivided attention.  I can totally be absorbed into what I’m doing or what I’m watching.   As I ponder this, I have to ask myself, where is my heart and what or who is my treasure.

It is in these moments that I have to remind myself that all my devices are a ‘what’ but time before our Lord is a ‘Who’.  This is a great privilege to spend time with our Lord.  I pray for the grace to spend it in reverence and love as our Lord deserves. 

 

Where is your heart?

What is your treasure?

 

Longing for a New Manna!
 
As a young adult, I loved reading the lives of saints and the tales of the many miracles attributed to their holiness and docility of God working through them. Often in my prayers, I would talk to God about this and in someway, long for a raising up of new saints. In our gospel, we see the people of Israel in the time finding themselves in a spiritual desert under the hardship of Roman occupation. This isn’t what the Promised Land was suppose to be. Instead of flowing with milk and honey, it probably seemed more like Egypt again or the desert. It made me wonder how many were longing for a New Manna/Bread from Heaven or the restoration of the land flowing with milk and honey. It had to be awesome to be there that day among the 1000s of people who were fed with 5 loaves and 2 fish. I imagine as many ate from those loaves, they couldn’t help but wonder what type of bread they were eating. Was this a new bread from heaven and if a new Bread from Heaven, will a Promised Land be restored? Of course we know the story, Jesus did foreshadow them a new Bread from heaven in the Eucharist and opened up the gates of the Promised Land of heaven. In this time when things may seem like a spiritual desert in the world, we need to cling to the Eucharist and spend time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. It is here that he will raise up for us new saints and show his power through them. Hopefully those new saints are each one of us! 

What is love?

Love looks to the eternal.  Love is indeed ecstasy, not in the sense of a moment of intoxication, but rather as a journey, an ongoing exodus out of the closed inward-looking self towards its liberation through self-giving, and thus towards authentic self-discovery and indeed the discovery of God.”  Pope Benedict XVI

 

This week, I’ve found myself still pondering and praying about Deacon Jeff’s homily and the beautiful words of Pope Benedict.  That love is a journey or an exodus out of self...how many times I find myself choosing to stay inward, focusing on me, and how often that seems to not make me happy.

 

But...when I choose to exit this life that is inward looking and look to the  needs of others and to serve them, I become free.  My heart experiences a joy and how often this joy in serving others, helps me to experience the  living God. 

 

“Whoever seeks  to gain his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it.”

(Mt 10:39)

Take some time this week and evaluate. Is your love inward-looking/selfish or an exodus out of self that looks to the needs of our brothers and sisters?  Let us all ask the Lord to help us to discover him during this time of our Exodus.

 

To Love God First, is to Love the Best!

             It is said, that the best gift a father can give to their children is to love their mother!  I remember sitting around the table of a friend and having this discussion.  The father had the idea that loving the children was the more important han his wife.  This scenario  has the same principle as our gospel this Sunday

“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Mth 10:37)

Like a father who loves his wife, this is the best love he can give his children.  It make the children feel secure to have this firm foundation of their love to be placed upon.  This security brings about a peace in the child’s life.

When we love God above all people and things, this gives us a firm foundation that when things or people pass away, we have the peace and sure foundation of our faith in God who does not pass away and is always near.

The other product is that when we love God above all things and God animates our souls, we love with the presence of God within us.  That is a much more powerful love than us trying to love with our own nature.  With God’s love within us and animating us, we begin to realize that we love with a supernatural love.  This makes the people we encounter seem as though they have been loved the best!

 


HAPPY FATHERS DAY!

In 1986, in Armenia, a devastating earthquake struck, killing 30,000 people in less than four minutes time.  A father who knew his son was at school, ran to the school to find the building completely collapsed in rubble.  He knew about where his son’s classroom was and began to dig with others helping him.  As the hours went on, all others gave up hope, but the father continued to dig.  As he continued digging, people began to mock him telling him to give up, but 38 hours later,the man lifted the stone to the face of his young son.  The young son seeing his dad, said to the friend next to him, “See, I told you my dad would come.”

This is the kind of love that God calls all Fathers to exemplify, to sacrifice to the point where we may even embrace our children with bloodied hands that have been removing stones for 38 hours like this man from Armenia.  That our children know assuredly that we are there for them.

Jesus reminds us that the Father knows us so well, he even knows the number of hairs on our head.  He reminds us, “be not afraid” you have a Father in heaven who knows & loves you.  (Matthew 10: 26-33)  He show the extent of his love by the very blood of Jesus on the Cross.

To all you dads out there, HAPPY FATHER’S DAY and blessings upon you.  God has trusted you with an awesome mission to love your family and lead them to Him.  I pray you continue to grow in strength for this awesome privilege you have been entrusted.

 

Trinity Sunday!

St. Augustine was walking along the shore when he noticed a young child taking water from the ocean and filling a hole he had dug.  He asked the young child what he was doing and he said, “Trying to empty the ocean into my hole.”  Augustine replied, “That’s impossible, your hole is too small.”  The young man replied, “It is no more impossible than what you are trying to do-comprehend the immensity of the mystery of the Holy Trinity with your small mind.”

How do we comprehend that there is one God, but three divine persons: Father, Son, & Holy Spirit?  This is the Church’s greatest mystery, and if I tried to explain, chances are I would probably fall into heresy.  So, we do the best we can, but trust that this one God, in three persons, desires to be in relationship with us.

The trinity itself is a relationship, where the Father loves the Son and the Son returns the love to the Father. The love exchanged between them is the Holy Spirit.  This love is a model for us.  This Love, as a model par excellence, like all love, could not contain itself,  but had to burst forth and be fruitful.  This love burst forth ultimately in all created things. Of all that the universe contains, this Love burst forth and created YOU.  You are an expression of the Trinity’s love.

We also model this with one another.  In a marriage relationship, we see that in a tangible way as a husband and wife exchange the love between themselves, it becomes fruitful bearing a child.  But also as we exchange love with a neighbor, hopefully it produces the fruit of peace.  In this time of unrest, let us model the Trinity’s exchange of love and pray that Peace bursts forth for the whole world.

 


 Pentecost Sunday!

This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost.  This Solemnity is the second highest Feast we celebrate in the church year after Easter.  It ranks higher than Christmas or any other Holy Day of Obligation.  The Church is telling us, this is REALLY IMPORTANT!  Celebrating these 50 days of the Easter Season was/is to prepare us to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit came down upon the Apostles in tongues of fire and a strong driving wind.  These once weak and frightened men after receiving the spirit became courageous witnesses, many to the point of dying for their faith.

In this month of May, we celebrated our Blessed Mother with our procession and crowning.  She too is a model of the power of the Holy Spirit.  She was so open to the Spirit’s power in her life that she conceived Jesus in her very womb.

Have you experienced the Spirit’s power in your life or do you desire to experience the Holy Spirit even more powerfully in your life?  Two suggestions: 1.  Like Mary, give God your ‘yes’ let him know to let it be done to you according to his Word.  Give your heart to him as totally as possible. Ask Mary to help you.  2.  Sin blocks the Holy Spirit, so examine your conscience and ask God to forgive your sins.  A Sacramental confession is very important, especially if we have fallen into serious sin.

Repent, give God your ‘all powerful yes’ & now be open to seeing the Holy Spirit working in your life.  He will amaze you with tongues of fire experiences, but also in the subtle dew fall experiences where you know God is present.  Know that as we receive the Holy Spirit, it is so that we will be witnesses like the Apostles  to the ends of the earth.  Come Holy Spirit!

 

Ascension of Jesus into Heaven

             On Thursday, May 21st, 2020 the traditional Solemnity of the Ascension would take place.  This is because the Scriptures tell us that Jesus appeared to his disciples for 40 days after his resurrection from the dead or Easter.  On the 40th day he was taken up into heaven to take his place at the right hand of the Father.

Before ascending into heaven, he told them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Holy Spirit to come.  They went to the upper room and devoted themselves to prayer with Mary.  Tradition holds that they prayed for nine days and on the 10th day (Pentecost) the Holy Spirit came upon them in tongues of fire and a strong driving wind. 

As Christian Catholics we are called to enter into this mystery.  In this month of May we have been asking our Blessed Mother to pray with us & for us with our processions from home to home.  Now, we join her even further and begin to pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon each of us and our parish family. 

So from the time you get this bulletin, to Sunday, May 31st, please pray the enclosed Novena to the Holy Spirit.  Find your upper room or place of prayer each day. Ask Mary to help you pray the following prayers, then decide what gift of the Holy Spirit you desire most and what is the intention you desire to pray for .  The Holy Spirit wants to come to each of us in a powerful way.  So start those prayers today!

 

Happy Mother’s Day!

              There was an old Indian woman dying in a nursing home up near the Turtle Mountain Reservation.  As the priest was praying with her, an old man shuffled in with his walker, and sat beside the priest crying at the bedside of the old woman.  The woman saw the man and beckoned him to lay beside her on the bed.  She began to whisper in a light voice while stroking his head, “My baby, my baby!”  The old man was her youngest son.  What a beautiful image she gives us of a love of a mother.  I hope this is the same love or similar love that we all experience from our mothers and on this Mother’s Day Weekend, we can give thanks and show our appreciation to them.  Thank you mom’s out there for your important vocation.

For those following us on Facebook, you’ve also seen that May is the month of Mary.  It’s been beautiful to see how families have brought her into their homes and prayed the rosary.  Mary as our Eternal/Heavenly Mother sees each one of us as her children.  If you are 90 years old or 9 years old, you are a child of Mary.  She wants to call you to her side, just like the old woman in our story, and remind you that you have a Mother that loves you with the greatest love possible.  Mary loves you perfectly with the love of Jesus.  Be willing as St. John at the foot of the cross to take Mary as your mother and bring her into your home as St. Joseph did at the message of an angel. (Don’t be afraid to take Mary into your home. Mth 1:20)  Mary will lead you only to where your hearts belong, to the Heart of Jesus.

Happy Mother’s Day and God bless all you mom’s out there!

 

Bishop’s Homily: Longing for the Eucharist

              Bishop DeGrood, in his homily for the 3rd Sunday of Easter, spoke about our longing for the Eucharist and gave some great spiritual principles of how to take this to prayer.  The first principle was that we acknowledge what’s taking place in us.  (longing, sadness, anger, frustration, etc)  Once we acknowledge what is taking place in us, we relate this to the Lord.  (speak to the Lord what’s taking place within you)  As you’ve spoken, now you need to spend time in silence before our Lord to receive his message.  What is the Lord saying to you in what you have acknowledged.  This time may be a good time to open the scriptures or pray a rosary reflecting on what the Lord is saying to you.  The last principle is to respond.  What did you receive from the Lord and where is he now moving you in this time?  These Spiritual principles will help us to develop a deeper interiority, a deeper understanding of ourselves, & an ear open to the Lord.

The Gospel today puts it into a picture format.  We are out working in the fields and as we work, we acknowledge something taking place within us.  There are lots of places we could turn, maybe find a sage in the highlands, but the Good Shepherd tells us to come through his gate to relate it to him.  After we relate, he sends us out not to work, but to rest in those green pastures in some ways to chew on what he is giving us.  Finally, he moves us back to our mission field, hopefully renewed and with a purpose. 

Maybe take some time this week to spend with Jesus in the quiet of the church and practice these principles in prayer.  I’m sure if you do, you will find rest for your soul.

 

The Face of Grace

             There is a saying, “Things may not always seem as they appear.”  I believe this statement can be true of our recent devotions.  Although praying the Divine Mercy Novena with all of you was beautiful, but the appearance of what took place was rather simple.  A family in their house, reciting their prayers together.  But what might that have looked liked from an eternal perspective?

 For example we see in the gospel of Luke that Mary was a virgin full of grace, betrothed to a man named Joseph and referred to herself as a ‘lowly handmaid.’  (Luke’s gospel)  But the vision in the Book of Revelation was a woman clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars.  (Rev 12:1) The first was the earthly reality in which we see our Blessed Mother, but the second was the heavenly reality or the invisible reality in which John had a vision.

So what may that look like when a family prays in the simplicity of their home?  First, I believe Jesus is present, for he says “When two or three are gathered in my name I will be present”. (Mt 18:20)  In this case, maybe those rays from his heart are shining on the family praying.  Second, the guardian angel of each of the family members is present.  Third, the home is called the domestic church, so in the eternal reality, that home is transformed into a grand cathedral.

Obviously, this is from my own lack of imagination, because I’m sure it’s much grander than that.  Do you believe in the super abundance of God’s grace offered to you in these moments of prayer?  Remember things may not always be as they appear.  Trust that the simplicity of your prayer is truly grand.

 

Dear SEAS & St. Joseph Parish Family,

                 Happy Easter and Happy Feast of Divine Mercy.  Our Easter Proclamation is, ‘This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad, Alleluia!’  I imagine for some, that this is still a difficult time but the Lord has instilled in me a gladness this past week.  Even though we are separated by space, it has been such a joy in praying the Divine Mercy Novena with you and our families who have led us.  What a blessing to have so many joining us on our SEAS & St. Joseph Parish Family group!

We need to continue to find ways to be together and communicate more effectively.  So, I want to encourage all of you to sign up for our new MY PARISH APP!  It is filled with resources to help you to live your faith: prayers, confession reminders, mass readings, homilies, along with diocese and world news.  It also allows us to communicate with you through messages and reminders, having the bulletin available, and setting up groups that pertain to your ministry. 

As most of this technology is fairly new to me, please be patient.  I hope as time goes on we can see that this is another tool to keep us together while we are apart, but also to help us to grow in our faith.  We can’t keep the faith within the confines of our church or homes.  We are all called to be disciples and my hope is that this is just one of many tools to help you in your ministry.

This weekend, we hear Christ say to his disciples, “Peace be with you.”  My prayer is that each of us in this time of isolation, fear, & behind our closed doors has the Risen Christ come to us and we hear that same voice within our hearts.

PEACE BE WITH YOU!

 

Happy Easter!

             Jesus Christ is Risen Today! (Well, if you got an early edition to the bulletin you might have to wait a couple days.)  In the midst of a hard lent and carrying this cross of the quarantine, it seems like most of us have lived our hardest holy week ever.  BUT, the good news is Jesus Christ is Risen Today.  His rising from the dead didn’t change Roman occupation, it didn’t end suffering of the Jewish people, but it did come with great power.  His love burst time into eternity and this great act of his saving love is always present to us.  This great act of love on Calvary was so great, it couldn’t stay as a moment in history,  but burst into eternity so we could experience its effects.  Now that is power.

This power has radically come to believers throughout history and has made for us many great saints who bore witness to the power of Christ risen in their hearts.  This past 2 weeks, I’ve experienced the power of Christ working through you.  We have almost 80% of our families who have joined our Facebook page, many taking part in daily masses.  We have 77 people who have joined FORMED to grow in their faith.  Families have stepped up and will live steam the Divine Mercy Chaplet from their homes.  Families have come together to pray in the church during adoration and many have sent me messages of encouragement.  Yes, Jesus Christ is Risen Today!

You have shown this priest the power of

Jesus Christ over Sin & Darkness

Thank you & God bless you all this Easter!



 God bless you all,
                Fr. Tom

Greetings in Christ!  It seems like this year we’ve all been thrown deeper into the mystery of the cross.  I’m sure many of us have spent time agonizing in prayer over our current pandemic.  I’m sure our leaders have felt the weight and pressures of the crown of leadership, medical professionals the weight of the cross of long hours.  I’m sure mother &  fathers are weeping for their children, not sure of the future, and those suffering from the virus certainly can unite more closely to Christ on the Cross.  Yes, in all of our situations, it seems Christ is inviting us to journey with him.

But the journey doesn’t end  in that garden, or with those piercing thorns.  It doesn’t end with the weeping women or the agony of the weight of the cross.  It didn’t end with Jesus on the cross or even when he cried out “It is finished.”  No, the story ends with a triumphal resurrection.  We are a people of Hope and as the cross of Christ led to the salvation of the world, imagine the graces that can flow from this cross Christ asks us to carry.

This week is Holy Week and we are called to walk with Christ in his suffering, death, and resurrection.  In particular we are asked to participate where possible in the Holy Triduum.  This begins on Holy Thursday, where we commemorate the Last Supper and end with Jesus going to the garden to pray.  We continue on Good Friday and celebrate Jesus’ great act of love for us in his passion.  Finally on Holy Saturday, we continue with the Easter Vigil that evening celebrating the great light of Christ coming into the darkness of our world through his resurrection.  We continue to celebrate this light of Christ on that Easter Sunday Morning to celebrate this Holiest Day of the year with HOPE!

 

John 11:1-45

“Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?”

                 There was a priest who had a dream that he was falling into hell.  As he was falling, St. Padre Pio fell with him.  As they were falling together, St Padre Pio listened to the priest’s confession and once he absolved him of his sins, the two of them began to move heavenward.  The priest awoke from his dream.

In the story of Lazarus, God seems to move his friends, Martha and Mary, to the very edge of despair with the death of their brother Lazarus.  Mary fell at his feet weeping and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 

To what degree do we trust in Jesus.  I often think of mothers and fathers who continue to pray for their children, especially those who seem to have left the faith.  How long do they continue to hold out for that miracle or God intervening in their lives.  The answer is to their dying breath.  Jesus words, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?”   Do you believe with faith, that not only you will see the glory of God but  your children too?  So if the Lord takes us to our dying breath, we continue to trust.  We echo the words of Martha:

“Yes, Lord.  I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the son of God,

the one coming who is coming into the world.”

We say ourselves, “I have come to believe that you will save me, my family, and for those for whom I pray.  I trust that even if they pass from this life seemingly unrepentant, they may even have a Padre Pio waiting outside the gates of heaven  to give them another opportunity to come to believe. 

JESUS I TRUST IN YOU!

 

CORONA VIRUS PRECAUTIONS

Dear SEAS & St. Joseph Families,

 

Greetings in Christ!  As of yesterday, March 17th it looks like all of us are entering into the Season of Lent in a whole new way and in uncharted territory.  I’m sure for all of us, that whatever age we are at, there was not a time in our living history of the Church suspending Masses and church related activities.

Looking over these past nine days, I am so grateful that we prayed the Novena to St. Joseph, the Protector of the Universal Church, our diocese patron, Patron of St. Joseph in Turton, & I hope you have  taken him as the patron of your families.  I believe that many graces are going to flow from the novena.

In the meantime, as all activities (including Masses) are suspended and the corona virus is spreading, we need to enter into this season of Lent with greater ardor in our prayer, fasting, and alms giving.  Included in this bulletin will be ideas to help you but in the end, quiet yourself and ask the Holy Spirit where He is leading you.  If you are a family living together, where is the Holy Spirit leading you as a family in this time?  Be open and docile to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit.

So, it is important to note that as your pastor, I will still be celebrating Mass each day in private.  The mass is still the most powerful prayer we have and it is in union with all of heaven.  So although the pews may be empty, we have a great and powerful congregation present in the communion of the saints and they pray in unison with the priest to the Father.  The Mass intentions will still be the same but weekends might have to be revised and the intentions rescheduled for a daily mass.  It is by Canon Law that at least one weekend mass is offered for the people of the parish.

Lastly, remember we are a people of hope.  We place our trust in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior and place ourselves under St. Joseph and our Blessed Mother’s intercession.  Wherever God places us, may this light shine forth from us and bring people hope in the present darkness.  God bless you all,

      Fr. Tom

Adam and his wife hid themselves from the face of the Lord. (Gen 3:8)

It seems as though human nature hasn’t changed much in 6000 years or so since Adam and Eve.  We seem to have a tendency to hide ourselves from God when we sin.  God, like in Adam and Eve’s case, calls us out from hiding.  He echo’s the call from the garden to us  ’Where are you?’   During the season of Lent and especially as we move into Easter, the church reminds us that we need to go to confession at least once a year but more if we fall into mortal sin.  That God tells us it’s time to come out of hiding and to let him get a good look at us.  In the garden, God made Adam answer to his sinfulness & guilt in order to bring him hope and promise a savior who would crush the head of the serpent. (Gen 3:15) 

Confession is God calling us out of hiding and  to come to him in confession.  We let him see the ugliness of our sins and trust that he will love us and forgive us.  This sacrament is very intimate...you allow God to see into you,  (IN TO ME  SEE/INTIMACY) into sometimes what  might seems terrible or ugly.  But we do this knowing his love and mercy.  As we bring this before him, the savior of the world, Jesus Christ is present in the confessional and he simply uses the voice of the priest to say to you...YOUR SINS ARE FORGIVEN, GO IN PEACE!

This week, we have two opportunities to go to confession where we will have an extra priest with us.  (Tues. March 17th, 7pm in Groton and Wed. March 18th 7pm in Turton)  Take advantage of this special gift that God wants to give us, come out of hiding.  Remember this also prepares us to receive more fully the graces God wants to give us in our NOVENA TO ST. JOSEPH.  As you come to confession, also take advantage and come to mass at  either place on Thursday, Nov. 19th to celebrate the SOLEMNITY OF ST JOSEPH.  This is what we’ve been preparing for in our 9 day novena of prayers. 

 

St. Joseph Novena

On Thursday, March 19th we celebrate the Solemnity of St. Joseph, the patron of the universal church, the patron of our diocese, and in particular, the patron of our Turton Parish.  To prepare ourselves to celebrate this event, we will begin a Novena (9 days of prayer prior to the Feast beginning Tuesday, March 10th) and celebrate with a Mass On Thurs. March 19th in Turton at 5:00pm.  We will also have communal penance services on Tuesday, March 17th  in Groton and Wednesday, March 18th in Turton. Both penance services will begin at 7:00pm.  What an opportunity to open our souls to receiving the graces God desires us through St. Joseph’s intercession.

Read what our Carmelite Sisters in Alexandria, SD have to say about St. Joseph’s intercession:  ”St. Joseph is the protector of the Holy Family.  He wishes to be the Protector of your family and your loved ones.  He took care of Jesus and Mary.  He is watching over you.  He is swift to action, a man of deeds rather than words, and he will help you manage the affairs of your household, of your heart and life.”

“The more faith-filled and confident your trust, the  more blessings St. Joseph will pour out on you and those you love.  If you pray the novena “mountains” can be moved and hearts can be touched with grace!”

This weekend Novena booklets will be passed out at the mass.  We ask one booklet/family and to pray this novena together for the nine days beginning Tuesday, March 10th.  We also will have a copy in the church by the St. Joseph statues.  Stop in and pray sometime during this time period.

 

 Lent from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB.org)

10. Lent begin with the powerful lesson of Ash Wednesday, it has retained its ancient appeal to the penitential spirit of our people. It has also acquired elements of popular piety which we bishops would wish to encourage.

11. Accordingly, while appealing for greater development of the understanding of the Lenten liturgy, as that of Advent, we hope that the observance of Lent as the principal season of penance in the Christian year will be intensified. This is the more desirable because of new insights into the central place in Christian faith of those Easter mysteries for the understanding and enjoyment of which Lent is the ancient penitential preparation.

12. Wherefore, we ask, urgently and prayerfully, that we, as people of God, make of the entire Lenten Season a period of special penitential observance. Following the instructions of the Holy See, we declare that the obligation both to fast and to abstain from meat, an obligation observed under a more strict formality by our fathers in the faith, still binds on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. No Catholic Christian will lightly excuse himself from so hallowed an obligation on the Wednesday which solemnly opens the Lenten season and on that Friday called "Good" because on that day Christ suffered in the flesh and died for our sins.

13. In keeping with the letter and spirit of Pope Paul's Constitution Poenitemini, we preserved for our dioceses the tradition of abstinence from meat on each of the Fridays of Lent, confident that no Catholic Christian will lightly hold himself excused from this penitential practice.

14. For all other weekdays of Lent, we strongly recommend participation in daily Mass and a self-imposed observance of fasting. In the light of grave human needs which weigh on the Christian conscience in all seasons, we urge, particularly during Lent, generosity to local,national, and world programs of sharing of all things needed to translate our duty to penance into a means of implementing the right of the poor to their part in our abundance. We also recommend spiritual studies, beginning with the Scriptures as well as the traditional Lenten Devotions (sermons, Stations of the Cross, and the rosary), and all the self-denial summed up in the Christian concept of "mortification."

15. Let us witness to our love and imitation of Christ, by special solicitude for the sick, the poor, the underprivileged, the imprisoned,the bedridden, the discouraged, the stranger, the lonely, and persons of other color, nationalities, or backgrounds than our own. A catalogue of not merely suggested but required good works under these headings is provided by Our Blessed Lord Himself in His description of the Last Judgment (Mt 25:34-40). This salutary word of the Lord is necessary for all the year, but should be heeded with double care during Lent.

 

 

Love your Enemies

 Love your Enemies Immaculée Ilibagiza in her book,  ‘Left to Tell’, Immaculée Ilibagiza shares of her experience during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. She survived hidden for 91 days with seven other women in a small bathroom, no larger than 3 feet by 4 feet. The bathroom was concealed in a room behind a wardrobe in the home of a  Hutu pastor. During the genocide, most of Ilibagiza's family (her mother, her father, and her two brothers Damascene and Vianney) was killed by Hutu  soldiers. Besides herself, the only other survivor in her family was her brother Aimable, who was studying out of the country and did not know of the genocide. Ilibagiza shares how her Catholic faith guided her through those 91 days and describes her eventual forgiveness and compassion toward her family's killers. (Wikipedia)  

Immaculee’s story is a powerful examples as shown in today’s gospel of loving your enemies and blessing those who persecute you.  In this she truly realized she was a child of our Heavenly Father.  Despite this amazing story of forgiveness, it doesn’t always make it easy when someone has hurt us deeply.  The problem is when we don’t forgive, we seem to let those very people continue to hurt us and we never truly heal. 
Tony Zuniger, a public speaker known for his gift of healing, said, “The first step to healing is, if you want to live, you have to forgive.”  All the hatred, bitterness, and anger we hold on to is not good for our physcial, emotional, or spiritual health.  When we forgive, our body, minds, and souls experience peace and are in a much better state to heal. 
As we approach the season of Lent we often taught to give something up or to do some act of charity.  Forgiveness seems to fit both, give up that hate and in a great act of love, forgive as Christ forgives. 


Commitment Weekend CFSA

Two weeks ago I was at the Newman Center in Aberdeen visiting with the Focus Missionaries and the director when this tall, middle aged man walked past us and into the sitting area.  After we were finished visiting, I went over to see where this man went.  There, in the college lounge area, he just sat.  As I introduced myself, he said that he was just coming back to the places that he encountered God.  This trip to the Newman Center was like a pilgrimage for him.  He mentioned how much time he spent as a college student there and the support he received from the students, staff, and priests.  I believe that he was even married in the Newman Center.  It was beautiful to see this man’s heart still grateful and still faithful.

As I have now been at the Newman Center for about 6 mos., one thing I’ve noticed is that the Newman Center isn’t self sustaining.  For some reason college kids don’t seem to contribute enough each week to hardly pay for the electricity of the place.  That means the Newman Center is funded by outside sources and one key source is money given through CFSA.  The story of the middle aged man, made me see the value of CFSA.  Here is a man with a grateful heart and a faithful heart because of what he received through the Newman Center.  Our contributions make a real difference in lives across our diocese and beyond our borders like this man.  Let us be God’s instruments to help make these encounters and experiences possible.  Support CFSA 2020!

 

Light to the Nations

“In Spite of my littleness, I would like to enlighten souls as did the prophets and the Doctors.  I have the vocation of the Apostles.  I would like to travel over the whole earth to preach your Name and to plant your glorious cross on infidel soil.  But...one mission alone would not be sufficient for me, I would want to preach the Gospel on all the five continents simultaneously and even to the most remote isle.  I would be a missionary, not for a few years only, but from the beginning of creation until the consummation of the ages.”  St. Therese of Liseux

The above quote from St. Therese is from a saint who joined a cloistered community whose mission is not to go out to all the world but to close oneself to world in order to pray for it.  It is through this spirit of prayer that she was able to accompany and be in union with past, present, and future missionaries and continues today to be the patroness of missionaries.  St. Therese knew her place in the mission field was in the cloister praying for missionaries.  Although, she knew her spot was in the confines of the cloister, her prayers extended far beyond the walls to all ends of the earth and beyond time into eternity.

As we prepare for this years Catholic Family Sharing Appeal (CFSA) lets us pray through St. Therese’s intercession to open our eyes beyond the needs of our little spot here in Groton/Turton and in particular in our parishes of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and St. Joseph.  Most of us at this time are called to be here but our help can reach beyond our own community and help our entire diocese through CFSA.  It’s necessary to see beyond our little world.

During Lent, we even take it a step further and look to the needs of the world, especially the poor.  The Lord wants us to open our eyes to the needs of our brothers and sisters here, in our diocese, in our country, and in our world.  Most of us like St. Therese probably won’t be a missionary in the physical sense but we can support the church in her mission through our prayers and our resources.    Please consider helping this year’s campaign and know that in doing so, you are being a “Light to the Nations.”  St. Therese of Liseux, patroness of missionaries, pray for us.

 

 

Love is the Mission (Article by Mary Lund) https://loveisthemission.wixsite.com/guatemala  

 Water water everywhere, not a drop to drink. That is how I felt when I did not have any clean water to drink. Even though the faucet was full the first day we were at the hotel in Guatemala City, we were warned not to drink any of the water from faucets Etc, only bottled water. I was thirsty but my bottled water was gone. I did have a filtration bottle that I could use to purify the faucet water but could I trust it?  Fortunately, my roommate and I discovered that the unusual bottle on the counter was agua para.  (drinking water) It didn't have a lot in it, but enough until we could buy some.  We hadn't gone to the village yet, but the need for the water project to get under way was already very apparent to us. 

 When we arrived at Playa de Oro we were greeted as returning friends to this forgotten village. Many of those who we were with, had been there several times. I of course was new, but the love these people displayed to each of us was heartwarming. 

  Before the week was through, the village was out of the water they paid to have trucked in each week. This water was deemed not safe for us to drink.  The children of the village were often sick with waterborne parasites and diseases. 

 The children at the school were reduced to drinking the collected rain water from the summer, contaminated with whatever was on the roofs at the time it rained. This was the dry season, so anything in the rainwater had plenty of time to fester. We ended up sharing our bottled water with them until ours was also gone.  Once again, we were out of drinkable water until someone went to a town to buy more for us. When you are thirsty not much else matters.  The villagers lack transportation and money to have the luxury of running to town to buy more. Since the government does nothing about the lack of clean water, the mission of St Michael’s church is to raise $20,000 to pay for the Healing Waters group’s work to improve the well and put in a purification system for the village.   I was privileged to join the mission group to do what I could do to help by painting classrooms.  If anyone would like to contribute to this mission, donations would be gratefully accepted through Fr Tom or the above website. 


Love is the Mission

https://loveisthemission.wixsite.com/guatemala

                 The Christmas season is a season of extraordinary grace. The church helps us to prepare ourselves during the season of advent. The grace we ultimately prepare to receive is Jesus in a more powerful way. Our mission to Playa de Oro began on the Feast Of the Epiphany, where each of us came as wise Men bringing our own gifts and talents to the people. Some came as medical professionals, others as teachers, and various laborers. Each of us worked together as the body of Christ.  Our medical team saw about 130 people and treated many of them with parasites from the unclean water.  The construction crew painted & secured a room so that the children in the school would have computers, and the college students took care of about 50 children each day with a vacation bible school.  But most importantly, the water project was approved and in conjunction with Healing Waters, the ministry of education, and our Love is the Mission organization, the people of Playa de Oro should have 100% pure water by June.

Even though we were all wise men in our areas, all of us were also shepherds, humbled by the message of  the love of Jesus shown us by the people/children of this community.  Despite having a very hard life in this village, so many exuded joy and love.  One woman took a pregnancy test and was excited about the new life within her and the dreams of being a mom.  The children not only loved us with all their hearts but time after time showed us how they take care of each other.  It’s as if they were the light or angel that lead us deeper into the manger, experiencing the love of God in this lowly village much like Bethlehem.

Our trip ended on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.  After experiencing the love of Christ through these people, it seems as if most of us came to a greater understanding of the words, “This is my beloved son/daughter in whom I am well pleased.”  As this trip and our Christmas season comes to an end, we are all called to live this season of grace in Ordinary times.  For most of us, it probably won’t be in another country but right here where God has placed us in our ordinary lives but we try to do it in an extraordinary way, with the love of Christ that lives within us. Fr. Tom’s Trip Highlights

1.  Clean water for the village  2. The love experienced from the people. 3.  The hike up the volcano and roasting marshmallows on the volcanic rock   4. Growing with our group and developing new friendships.

 

 

FEAST OF THE EPIPHANY & THE BAPTISM OF OUR LORD

(Matthew 2:1-12 & Matthew 3:13-17)

             The next two weekends we are finishing up the Christmas Season.  The first of the two weekends we celebrate the Epiphany or the coming of the Wise men to see Jesus.  The wise men followed in faith the light from the star.  But Matthew reminds us that after the meeting with the King, the star reappeared. “And  behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.  They were overjoyed at seeing the star.”  This implies that for a time the star was not in the sky, that the wise men had to journey for a time without the light to guide them.  Yet, the memory of that light and the promise continued to move them onward and when the time came, the light shown brightly over the place where salvation laid his head.

The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, reminds us that Jesus came not  to be saved by the waters of baptism but that he came to sanctify the waters of baptism.  Water has always been a sign of life, but through Christ sanctifying the waters, they fill us with his divine life through baptism and the light of Christ fills our souls. 

This interior light that comes from the grace of baptism should guide us on our journey through life.  At times, like the wise men, it will guide us shining brightly, and other times it may seem like it disappears.  In these times of darkness we have to persevere like the wise men, following  in faith, and pursing the direction of virtue.  In following this pursuit, the great light given us in our baptism will shine once again, pointing us even deeper to the heart of our savior, Christ the Lord!

Let us thank the Lord for these two great Feasts that end our Christmas Season, and may that light of Christ guide us once again into Ordinary Times.

 

 

Feast of the Holy Family

              “Wives be subordinate to your husbands as is proper in the Lord.” (Colossians 3:17)

As I type out that scripture, part of me laughs thinking of all the hairs on the back of wives necks that might be raising at this passage, and how I may have sealed my fate as a martyr putting it on the front of the bulletin.  BUT for me, this passage is more of a challenge for the husband.  The word subordinate could be defined as ‘under the order of.’  So what is the order of the husband? Ephesians 5:25 tells us, “Husbands love your wives as Christ Loved the Church.”

So every husband should read the gospel and ask how did Christ love the church? Therefore how should I love my wife?  Christ taught, prayed with, healed, comforted, lowered himself and served. He loved the church so much that he laid down his life for her.  If every husband strived to love as Christ did, how much easier would it be for wives to place themselves under that same order. 

What is that same order?  The order of being a gift of self to the other person, a relationship that strives for selflessness and not selfishness.  If husbands and wives put themselves under this order, I’m sure that what will flow from it, is a holy, happy, & peace filled family.   

May the Holy Family bless your family!

 

HOPE, PEACE, JOY, & LOVE

             We have arrived at our 4th Week of Advent.  I know many are already greeting people with ‘Merry Christmas’, but we are not quite there yet. Joy ought to be bursting out of us, and we just can’t contain ourselves.  This irresistible desire of our hearts, should be turned into a prayer….”Jesus, help me to burst with excitement at your coming, help this Joy I’m feeling in my heart to move me to experiencing your love this Christmas.  Even if that love is subtle like the conception of Jesus in Mary’s womb, or not so subtle like the baby leaping in the womb of Elizabeth, but Jesus I desire you to burst forth in my soul, like you burst forth in the manger.  I desire to experience your love as the shepherds did in visiting you.  Help me to hold on to you with as much love as Mary & Joseph did.  Jesus love me & I will try to love you more in return.”

Look back over the 4 weeks of Advent, stare at those candles burning in the church, and come to the manger on Christmas with Hope, Peace, Joy, & Love.  Our savior is waiting for you!

Oh Come Let us Adore Him,

Christ the Lord!

 

Rejoice Sunday!

 As a child, I remember sitting in church waiting each week for a new candle to be lit from the Advent Wreath. It was as if you could feel with each candle being lit, that Christmas was getting nearer.  On the third Sunday of Advent, you knew that this Sunday was different because in the midst of the 3 purple candles  on this 3rd Sunday the rose candle got lit.  It was almost as if the candle knew that my heart was getting more excited, more filled with Joy as I anticipated the coming of Christmas.

On this Gaudete Sunday or Rejoice Sunday, we celebrate just that.  This Sunday should fill our hearts with anticipation. Joy should start to arise, and we should be excited to celebrate the savior’s birth. He wants to continue to come to each of us in spirit and power this coming Christmas.

This Sunday, the priest also wears rose vestments giving us these same reminders.  The priest only wears rose vestments, twice a year; the 3rd Sunday of Advent and 4th Sunday of Lent.  Again, to ask us…. ARE YOU READY?  Have you prepared well?  Is Joy rising in your heart?

The color rose was explained to me that when you get up early before the sun rises in the sky, it is preceded often by a beautiful rose color first.  As we prepare for the coming of the Son of God, we wear a beautiful rose to tell us the Son is coming.

The past two weeks, we celebrated the “Lord who is to come.”  This Gaudete or Rejoice Sunday, we celebrate, “The Lord who is now near and close at hand.”  Let us continue to invite the Lord of the universe to visit us in the manger of our hearts.

 

 

 

From a sermon by Saint Bernard, abbot

                 
We know that there are three comings of the Lord. The third lies between the other two. It is invisible, while the other two are visible. In the first coming he was seen on earth, dwelling among men; he himself testifies that they saw him and hated him. In the final coming all flesh will see the salvation of our God, and they will look on him whom they pierced. The intermediate coming is a hidden one; in it only the elect see the Lord within their own selves, and they are saved. In his first coming our Lord came in our flesh and in our weakness; in this middle coming he comes in spirit and in power; in the final coming he will be seen in glory and majesty. 
Because this coming lies between the other two, it is like a road on which we travel from the first coming to the last. In the first, Christ was our redemption; in the last, he will appear as our life; in this middle coming, he is our rest and consolation. 
In case someone should think that what we say about this middle coming is sheer invention, listen to what our Lord himself says: If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him. There is another passage of Scripture which reads: He who fears God will do good, but something further has been said about the one who loves, that is, that he will keep God’s word. Where is God’s word to be kept? Obviously in the heart, as the prophet says: I have hidden your words in my heart, so that I may not sin against you. 
Keep God’s word in this way. Let it enter into your very being, let it take possession of your desires and your whole way of life. Feed on goodness, and your soul will delight in its richness. Remember to eat your bread, or your heart will wither away. Fill your soul with richness and strength.