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April 13, 2014

Holy Week has begun. Of all the weeks of the year, the Church declares this one to be “holy.” The liturgies throughout this seven-day period invite us to reflect on and enter into the Paschal Mystery.

Yes, Jesus’ life, death and resurrection are put before us in ways not seen during the remainder of our liturgical year.

We begin on Palm Sunday with the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. We stand by the roadside and join in proclaiming: “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest!” Quickly we move to the upper room and find ourselves celebrating the Last Supper. We are troubled by Jesus’ words: “Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” We rush to deny any disloyalty and to recommit ourselves as followers of Jesus; and yet, we soon find ourselves standing with Peter denying Jesus three times. The Lord’s Passion brings us to the gibbet of the cross and our hearts are crushed as we hear Jesus cry out: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” How can we move forward? How can we believe? The Church then gives us a short respite. We close our Palm Sunday liturgy by once again being nurtured by the Holy Eucharist.

We then are given three days to conclude our Lenten preparation. We fine-tune our forty-day discipline of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. We celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

And finally, the hard work of Lent concludes with the beginning of the Triduum (i.e., the period from the start of the Holy Thursday Mass through the Easter Sunday celebration).

Holy Thursday brings us back to the Last Supper. We are asked to re-commit ourselves to serving the Lord, the Church and our fellow brothers and sisters. We celebrate receiving and being the Body of Christ. We depart nurtured, yet wondering what this service entails.

Good Friday plunges us back into the mystery of the passion and death of Jesus. How do we embrace the cross? What does the crucifix mean to us? Can we walk the walk of Jesus?

Finally, thankfully, Holy Saturday arrives. We begin in darkness. Suddenly the light of Christ shines through our despair to provide us hope. Our Scripture readings traverse our salvation history. We invite others to join us in our faith journey — Baptism, Reconciliation, Confirmation and First Eucharist are celebrated — and new members are welcomed into our community (i.e., neophytes). For the first time in 40+ days we are allowed to proclaim the “A” word. Let us rejoice and be glad!

Easter Sunday brings our journey through the Paschal Mystery to its final stage as we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus. We kick off our fifty-day Easter party. What does this gift mean to us? What is the church? As Christians, what are we called to do with this gift?

Yes, my brothers and sisters in Christ, we have entered the most sacred of all weeks. May God bless us as we once again embrace the central mysteries of our Christian/Catholic faith.

Holy Week blessings, Fr. Brian

March 6, 2014

Here you can read about the experiences of people who are either in Nicaragua at the moment or have been in Nicaragua and know the people, the place, the church in our sister parish community.

Specifically now…

Mary Pat Potts is in Jinotega right now! She will be there until March 7, leading several parishioners in a pilgrimage. They will be e-mailing their progress, impressions, and such throughout their visit. Check back frequently to see what’s going on!

photo11Monday, March 3 was such a very busy day!

At 7:00 am, bright and early, we met Vilma and Herman at the storage room (“bodega”) at Our Lady of the Angels where we keep the Feed My Starving Children food that photo15St. Ed’s sends down there.We spent most of the day delivering boxes of food to the various Pastoral Ministers who then distribute the packets to the people in their neighborhoods whom they have deemed as having the greatest need for this very nutritious food – those with the greatest food insecurity. They try to identify families with children who are very malnourished and supply them with this food each month.

Sue and I have gone around on previous trips gathering photos and stories about how this food is helping children to regain their strength and health. This trip we were able to visit a mother who has four children who we met on a previous trip after her husband left with another woman. She lived in a house made of plastic garbage bag-type material and did the best she could. When we met her last May we noticed that there was something wrong with the photo13baby she was holding in her arms – his eyes were funny. When asked about her baby, she told us he has Cerebral Palsy and was much older than he looked. How sad! Immediately she was put on the food list, so she could give her children enough nutrition. Sue was also able to use some of the private donations she receives from people to have the house made stronger with wood (Herman built it for her) and to provide some very basic beds for them (which they did not have). This trip when we saw them her little baby looked much more like a 4-year-old and was going to “Los Pepitos” – a school for handicapped kids which we have helped in the past — and had a little stroller that she could push him around in (as he is getting too big to just carry everywhere)!

photo17We also visited the home of another family that receives the food – Victor is a man who broke is back when he fell off the cliff behind his previous house and landed on his cement latrine. He was working all the time before the accident, and after the accident couldn’t work for a long time. He limps quite heavily and uses a crutch, but when photo16we saw him this year he was working! He was helping to build a house in his new neighborhood! His family moved up higher onto the hillside, to a part of the hill where they could own their own home, but in reality the city will not give them a deed to the house because the hillside may be prone to landslides. But still he and his family are very proud!

When we climbed up to their house it was so dangerously steep and slippery for us! But it is what they can call their own. His children looked much healthier for the food.

That Monday night we had a Farewell party at the old AVODEC building. Lots of fun & good relationships – which is what Sister Parish is all about!

Tuesday and Wednesday we spent most of the time doing a bit of touristy stuff.

We spent Tuesday at an organic, sustainable coffee plantation that is also a resort called Selva Negra. We went on the tour of their sustainable farm, hiked, and rested a bit. I particularly enjoyed the howler monkeys! It is in a cloud forest and is run by 5th generation Germans who were invited over to Nicaragua in the 1800s to help the Nicaraguans learn how to make a good business out of coffee farming. They also sell their organic, fair trade coffee.

On Wednesday we went to see Masaya Volcano outside of Managua, then on to the colonial town of Granada. We went on a boat tour of some islets in Lake Nicaragua, which was very relaxing and interesting. We managed to attend Ash Wednesday Mass at a church in Granada. At the end of Mass when we were receiving ashes, they brought out a statue of Christ carrying the cross that was original to the church and is over 400 years old. After receiving ashes, everyone kissed the hands of Christ on this statue. An interesting cultural twist.

And that was our 2014 Pilgrimage trip to Nicaragua. It was a fascinating experience!
– MaryPat

March 1, 2014

Here you can read about the experiences of people who are either in Nicaragua at the moment or have been in Nicaragua and know the people, the place, the church in our sister parish community.

Specifically now…

Mary Pat Potts is in Jinotega right now! She will be there until March 7, leading several parishioners in a pilgrimage. They will be e-mailing their progress, impressions, and such throughout their visit. Check back frequently to see what’s going on!

On Saturday we did a service project with the Prison Ministry group.

photo5 photo4In the morning Marilyn, Sue and I worked alongside the women to cut up vegetables for the meal they would serve the prisoners, while my husband Ken played guitar and practiced with the singing group and Jeff visited people in the hospital with our friend Renae. We so enjoyed working right with our fellow volunteers and chatting and singing with them! Then we went over to the jail with Vilma and the choral group to sing and pray with the prisoners. In the past there has been a maximum of only about 120 prisoners in that jail, but now there are 250 because the other prison (that they would send the most dangerous ones to) is over-full. Vilma is amazing to watch as she photo3preaches and gives hope to the prisoners! The Spirit really touches them through Vilma. Then we served the lunch to the inmates and blessed them. It was quite humbling to intentionally look into each one’s eyes and see the face of Christ, then remind them that God loves them.  It was quite a powerful experience for us.

 

photoLater we went to the church of the Black Christ – Señor Escipula. There we said the rosary with them, then went to Mass. We even got to witness two Baptisms! It is called the Black Christ because there was a small town in one of the photo9Central American countries that apparently was not following Christ. The church in their town burned completely to the ground except for the crucifix, which was charred completely black. The people took this as a sign that they should repent and they turned back to Christ. That is the story of the Black Christ that we heard, and it has become very powerful to the people in Central America.

That was our Saturday — MaryPat

 

Pope Francis seems to be a Pope for the people – well-loved, humble, plain and simple.

His inspiring words and surprisingly compassionate actions have touched the souls and hearts of so many around the world. Here at St. Ed’s we have embraced the hope he brings to our church. My husband affectionately calls him the ‘Hope Pope.’ This is a time within our world church, and our local archdiocesan church, and even our home church when Hope is welcomed; hope is a breath of new life that leads us forward.

Last Fall we began our year of Adult Faith offerings with Jackie Witter nourishing us with the “Ignatian Theology of Pope Francis.” Some folks who were at that retreat, said that the Ignatian Theology of Pope Francis is about “Humbleness – Being Christ – truly living the gospels;” it’s about seeing God as a “God of Surprises” and we need to “be available to God. Take to the streets andPope Francis get to know people by name;” it’s about “My God lives in me, walks with me, wants me to live the Gospel in the world and to be open to his surprises!” “How fortunate we are to have a Pope who cares. Especially for the poor.” Pope Francis wrote a fabulous Apostolic Exhortation called “The Joy of the Gospel.” (Evangelii Gaudium) This document encourages, warns, explains and challenges Catholics, and as William N. Patenaude in the Nov. 27, 2013 Catholic World Report says, “all rooted in a pastor’s love for the flock.” Pope Francis is concerned about the “consumer” church of today and “warns that worldly forces will crush adherents to lukewarm, highly interiorized, and personalized Christian spiritualities that seek only their own ends—their own salvation. Such spiritualities impede the mission of the Church. Symptoms of these closed-in attitudes include the expectation that Mass must entertain; that the Church is a means to personal, worldly gain; or that the Gospel must make no demands on one’s life.” (William Patenaude) Oooh — that’s harsh. But it is a reality in churches like ours around the world.

Pope Francis also recognizes threats from society that keep folks from truly living the Gospel – or even hearing it properly.

This document cites threats like an “economy of exclusion,” where “[h]uman beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded” (EG 53-54); the “new idolatry of money,” which derives from “the denial of the primacy of the human person” (EG 55-56); a “financial system which rules rather than serves” (EG 57-58); rampant “inequality which spawns violence” (EG 59-60); and an array of other cultural concerns (EG 61-67) such as secularism, the breakdown of the family, and the viewing of marriage as a means to “mere emotional satisfaction that can be constructed in any way or modified at will” (EG 66).

But Pope Francis finds hope in the Joy of the Gospel that calls us to live the love that Jesus showed us so well in his example in the Gospels. He says in his document, “Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is nothing else than the culmination of the way he lived his entire life. Moved by his example, we want to enter fully into the fabric of society, sharing the lives of all, listening to their concerns, helping them materially and spiritually in their needs, rejoicing with those who rejoice, weeping with those who weep; arm in arm with others, we are committed to building a new world. But we do so not from a sense of obligation, not as a burdensome duty, but as the result of a personal decision which brings us joy and gives meaning to our lives” (Evangelii Gaudium, 269).

Here at St. Ed’s, our many ministries of outreach to the poor and marginalized show that we take seriously this call to live a life of love of neighbor, of charity and justice.

From our many collections of food and other necessities, to hosting homeless families here for a week at a time through Families Moving Forward, even to our conscientious distribution of our Tithing money, we at St. Ed’s are answering this call to share the Joy of the Gospel. Pope Francis offers a Vision of JOY, a vision of HOPE, and a vision to be a “Church for and with the poor.”

Pope Francis says. “Be a Joyful Messenger.” So, here at St. Ed’s, on Sat. March 8, our Adult Faith Committee offers one more chance to get to know our new ‘Hope Pope.’ Fr. Greg Welch will present a morning on “Pope Francis: Plain and Simple,” from 9:00-11:30 am. We hope you will join us to embrace this new Pope who teaches us how to live the joyful Gospel more intentionally, every day, and in every way. Please call the parish to register, 952-835-7101.

MaryPat Potts (Director of Adult Faith, Community Life and Social Justice & Charity)

November 28, 2013

Advent has arrived! A new liturgical season has begun.

We turn to Matthew’s Gospel for guidance and insight. How do we proceed? Consider one approach from one of the liturgical pioneers of our Catholic Church during this post-Vatican II era:

Advent

Human beings cannot live without hope. Unlike the animals, we are blessed — or cursed — with the ability to think about the future and to fear our actions to shaping it. So essential is this to human life, that human beings cannot live without hope, without something to live for, without something to look forward to. To be without hope, to have nothing to live for, is to surrender to death in despair. But we can find all sorts of things to live for and we can hope for almost anything: for some measure of success or security or for the realization of some more or less modest ambition; for our children, that they might be saved from our mistakes and sufferings and find a better life than we have known; for a better world, throwing ourselves into politics or medicine or technology so that future generations might be better off. Not all these forms of hope are selfish; indeed, they have given dignity and purpose to the lives of countless generations.

But one of the reasons why we read the Old Testament during Advent is to learn what to hope for.

The people of the Old Testament had the courage to hope for big things: that the desert would be turned into fertile land; that their scattered and divided people would eventually be gathered again; that the blind would see, the deaf hear, the lame walk; that not only their own people, but all the peoples of the earth, would be united in the blessings of everlasting peace. Clearly, their hopes were no different from ours or from any human being’s: lasting peace, tranquil lives, sufficiency of food, an end to suffering, pain and misery.

advent hopeThus we hope for the same things as the Old Testament people, for their hopes are not yet realized. But we differ from them in two ways. First, the coming Jesus in history, as a partial fulfillment of God’s promises, immeasurably confirms and strengthens our hope. Secondly, we differ from the Old Testament people because Jesus has revealed to us that God is not afar off, but is already in our midst. Hence the importance in the Advent liturgy of John the Baptist and of Mary; because they recognized the new situation, they serve as models for the Church in discerning the presence of the Savior in the world.

— by Mark Searle

My brothers and sisters in Christ, may we be a “people of hope” in the midst of a challenging world. I encourage you to embrace the spirit of the Old Testament people in these troubling times. Together we can and will build the kingdom.

Advent blessings, Fr. Brian