Thursday, October 30, 2014

Trunk or Treat - St James Fall Fest - Gru and the Minions



We dressed up as character from Despicable Me - Gru and the Minions.  

Scenes from our Fall Fest - Trunk or Treat - St James Catholic Church - Tupelo Mississippi








Fancy the English Bulldog dressed up as a minion for Halloween




Our parish office manager has an English Bulldog named Fancy.  (You don't have to ask - she is a big Mississippi State Bulldog fan!)  Fancy - the bulldog - dressed up as a minion for Halloween at our parish's Fall Festival - pink toenails and all!  She was a hit at the Fall Fest.  

11/2/2014 – Todos los Fieles Difuntos - Romanos 5:5-11, Salmo 23:1-6, Juan 6:37-40

      Trabajaba como misionero en Ecuador desde hace un año cuando mi padre falleció.  En ese momento, trabajaba en una aldea muy remota que no tenía teléfono.  Mi hermana en Los Angeles llamó a la casa provincial de nuestra congregación misionera en la ciudad de Quito para notificarme. Finalmente recibí la noticia a través de una radio de banda ciudadana, un mensaje que tenía que pasar por muchas diferentes sacerdotes misioneros a fin de que al fin me alcanzó en la selva.  En tres días de viaje, llegué al funeral en California.  Este viaje tenía mucho significado para mi.  Sin embargo, ya que mi padre fue enterrado en Chicago, y el funeral fue en el sur de California, no fue capaz de ir a su tumba en el cementerio, hasta dos años más tarde, cuando terminé mi trabajo de tres años en Ecuador como misionero y regresé una vez más a los Estados Unidos.  Puse una pequeña cruz de madera en su tumba en el Cementerio Rose Hill en Chicago que mis estudiantes en Ecuador construyeron, junta con un rosario que conseguí en Ecuador.  Era importante para mí que le honré de esa manera.  Creo que todos nosotros queremos recordar, conmemorar, y orar por nuestros fieles difuntos de una manera especial, que es la razón de que la celebración de los dos días de Todos los Santos y Día de los Fieles Difuntos es una fiesta tan popular para el fieles católicos.
       Pablo habla acerca de la virtud de esperanza en su carta a los Romanos. Pablo explica que esta esperanza que tenemos no nos va a decepcionar, ya que Dios por el Espíritu Santo colocó esta esperanza en nuestros corazones.  El Papa Francisco dice que las dos grandes fiestas que celebramos este fin de semana - Todos los Santos y Día de los Difuntos - son celebraciones de la esperanza.  Las celebraciones de estos días son para llevar la esperanza en nuestros corazones - para ser levadura para nuestros espíritus al igual que nosotros somos levadura en el mundo.  Todos nosotros pasamos por momentos difíciles en nuestras vidas, como el momento en que nosotros perdemos a un ser querido, pero con la esperanza que hay en nuestros corazones y en nuestra fe, seguimos adelante y ponemos nuestros ojos en las verdades eternas – en eso, tenemos la esperanza en nuestra fe.  Hoy, el Día de los Difuntos, es un día de esperanza porque sabemos que nuestros hermanos que murieron en el amor de Cristo están en la vida eterna con Él.  Ponemos nuestra esperanza en la vida eterna para nosotros mismos.  Ponemos nuestra esperanza de que algún día nosotros también estaremos en los brazos amorosos de Jesucristo, el Buen Pastor quien cantamos sobre en el Salmo 23, quien llevará nuestras almas al descanso eterno y refrigerio.
        Desde los primeros siglos después de la muerte y la resurrección de Cristo, la Iglesia ofrecía las oraciones y la misa por las almas de los fieles difuntos en el purgatorio.  En el momento de su muerte, aquellas almas que no fueron limpiados por completo de sus pecados pasados ​​ni habían expiados por completo por sus transgresiones pasadas, y por lo tanto no estaban listos para la unificación con Dios en la vida eterna.  Los fieles aquí en la tierra ayudan a estas almas en el Purgatorio en la consecución de la vida eterna con Dios a través de nuestras oraciones, nuestras buenas obras y la ofrenda de la misa.
       Utilizamos las fiestas Todos los Santos y los Fieles Difuntos para empezar nuestra conmemoración del mes de noviembre del mes de la memoria, en el que en la Iglesia tradicionalmente recordamos a los que han entrado en la vida eterna con nuestro Señor.  Este acto de recordar no es sólo un nostálgico mirando hacia atrás, sino más bien una forma de construir y mantener nuestra santa comunidad, de hacer el amor y la misericordia y la bondad de Dios presente en nuestras vidas.   Nos recuerda de esta manera cada vez que celebramos la Eucaristía como comunidad.  Y el recuerdo de este fin de semana adquiere una importancia adicional al recordar las almas de los fieles difuntos.
     La promesa de la vida eterna que Jesús nos presenta en el Evangelio de hoy nos da esperanza y aliento, especialmente durante los gozos y los desafíos de nuestro propio viaje.  Tenemos la llamada de tener esta esperanza presente en nuestras oraciones y adoración hoy en nuestra conmemoración de la fiesta de los fieles difuntos.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

11/2/2014 – All Souls Day – Romans 5:5-11, Psalm 23:1-6, John 6:37-40

       I was a missionary in Ecuador for about a year when my dad passed away.  At the time, I was serving at a very remote mission site that had no telephone at all.  My sister contacted the provincial house of our missionary order in the capital city of Quito to notify me.  I finally got the news via a CB radio, a message that had to pass through many different missionary priests in order for it to finally reach me in the jungle.  It took me several days of travel, but I was able to make it back for the funeral, which really meant a lot to me. However, since my dad was buried in Chicago, and the funeral was in southern California, I was not able to go to his gravesite until several years later when I had completed my term as a missionary and returned once again to the United States.  I placed a small wooden cross at his gravesite in Rosehill that my students in Ecuador had made, as well as a rosary that I had gotten in Ecuador.  It was important to me to honor him in that way, and to remember him as I continued on my journey as a missionary.  I think all of us want to remember, honor, commemorate, and pray for our deceased loved ones in a special way, which is reason that the two day celebration of All Saints Day and All Souls Day is such a popular festival for the Catholic faithful.
      Paul speaks about the virtue hope in his letter to the Romans.  Paul said that this hope we have will not disappoint us, because it has been poured into our hearts by God through the Holy Spirit.  Pope Francis says that the two great feasts that we celebrate this weekend – All Saints Day and All Souls Day – are celebrations of hope.  The celebrations of these days are to bring hope into our hearts – to be a leaven to our spirits just as we are to be leaven in the world.  We all go through difficult moments in our lives, such as the time in which we lose a loved one, but with the hope that is in our hearts and in our faith, we press forward and we keep on eyes focused on those eternal truths that matter, we keep focused on what awaits us.  Today, All Souls Day, is a day of hope because we know that our brothers and sisters who died in the love of Christ are in eternal life with him.   We place our hope in that eternal life for ourselves.  We place our hope that one day we, too, will be in the loving arms of Jesus, the Good Shepherd whom we sang about in Psalm 23, that he will lead our souls to eternal rest and refreshment.
      Since those first centuries after the death and resurrection of Christ, the Church has consistently encouraged the offering of prayers and Mass for the souls of the faithful departed in Purgatory.   At the time of their death, those souls were not cleansed completely of their past sins nor had they atoned completely for their past transgressions, and thus were not ready for unification with God.  The faithful here on earth assist these souls in Purgatory in attaining eternal life with the divine through our prayers, our good works and the offering up of Mass.
       We use All Saints Day and All Souls Day to start our commemoration of November of a month of remembrance, in which we in the Church traditionally remember those who have entered eternal life with our Lord. This act of remembering is not just a nostalgic looking back, but rather a way of building up and maintaining our holy community, of making the love and mercy and goodness of God present in our lives.  We remember in this way each time we celebrate the Eucharist as a community. And this weekend’s remembrance takes on additional significance as we remember the souls of the faithful departed.
        In the opening prayer that we use for the wake service at the death of a loved one, the priests exclaims that we the faithful believe that all the ties of friendship, love and affection that knit us together as one throughout our lives do not unravel with our earthly death.  Our loved ones are still united with us in their eternal life, where they offer up prayers and intercessions for us, and we in return offer prayers for them.  We have our altar cloth at St James where we write down the names of our loved ones and remember them during the entire month of November.   Remembering and being connected to our deceased loved ones and to those who passed down the faith to us throughout history is an important part of what we celebrate in these two feasts in the Church this weekend. When we went out to the cemetery at St Thomas in Tupelo this weekend, we see those mothers and fathers of the early Catholic community here in the Tupelo area who were pioneers of Catholicism in Northeast Mississippi.  Often they had to travel far to attend mass, often they had to bring in priests from the Benedictine monastery in Alabama, but living out their Catholic faith was an important part of their lives that they would not give up.  When I blessed the graves in historic Glenwood cemetery in Yazoo City, we always started at the graves of the priests and nuns buried there, some of whom died in the yellow fever epidemics that struck the Mississippi in the 19th century.   In is important for us to remember and to pray for those to whom we are connected in our families and our lives of faith, to offer thanksgiving and blessings to them for their faith and their example. 
       The promise of eternal life that Jesus gives us in the Gospel today gives us hope and encouragement, especially during the ups and downs of our own journey. May that hope be present in our prayers and worship today. 



Tuesday, October 28, 2014

10/30/2014 – Thursday of 30th week in Ordinary Time- Luke 13:31-35

      The Pharisees think they have the answers. They are always are criticizing Jesus and trying to bring him down.   They try to entrap him and ensnare, focusing so much on that that they are open to the wisdom and goodness that he is trying to bring to them.  As Jesus says, they reject the prophets that God sends to them, they are unwilling to see the signs that God sends them. Pope Francis, in an interview with America Magazine last year, had this to say about the openness we need to have for God in our lives:  “If one has the answers to all the questions - that is the proof that God is not with him. It means that he is a false prophet using religion for himself. The great leaders of the people of God, like Moses, have always left room for doubt. You must leave room for the Lord, not for our certainties; we must be humble.”  As we search for God in our lives, are we concentrating so much on the answers we think we have, that we aren’t open to hear God’s voice as it comes to us in unexpected ways?  We need to be open to mystery, ambiguity, and uncertainty.  We to be open to truly listening not only to God, but to our brothers and sisters, to their lives and their journeys.  No, we don’t always all the answers.  But that’s ok. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

10/31/2014 – Friday of 30th week in Ordinary Time – Luke 14:1-6

         As a priest, I spend a lot of time visiting the sick & the shut-ins, so I can really imagine how Jesus responds the way he does in today’s Gospel, as he goes to the home of a Pharisee on the day of the Sabbath, but right in front of him is a man suffering from dropsy.  From what I understand about that medical condition, the person fills up with excessive fluids, an uncomfortable & painful & dangerous condition.  When Jesus sees this man, he doesn’t think about the rule that prohibits him from performing any work on the Sabbath.  Instead, out of his love & mercy, he sees a man who needs his healing, so Jesus heals him, no questions asked. 
         Often we can get so caught up with our own busy lives, with all the work that needs to be done, with all the chores that need our attention, with our obligations to family and friends.  Do we respond to those around us when they need our love and mercy?  We cannot heal in exactly the same way that Jesus does, but you would be surprised as to how much a smile or a kind word, a prayer or a visit, would bring different forms of healing to someone’s life. 

         Lord, may you bring love and healing into our hearts today, so that we may become instruments of your compassionate love to our busy world.  Be with those who are in need of your love and compassion today, Lord, and may we always be servants of your peace.