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August 31, 2014

Recently a parishioner approached me about the possibility of offering a parish Mass on the first Saturday of each month. I encouraged them to investigate the interest level in the parish and to bring the idea to our Worship Commission.

Subsequently, a poll was taken that showed 28 families expressing interest; in addition, our Worship Commission recently discussed and approved a trial period. Therefore, from September through January, a parish Mass will be offered on the first Saturday of each month at 9:00 am. I am open to meeting with all interested parties to discuss how to develop this tradition within our parish. I hope to see a good turnout for our first Mass on September 6th. Below is a description of the First Saturday devotion I found on one of the Catholic websites.

Summer blessings, Fr. Brian


What is the Catholic Tradition of First Saturday?

The Catholic devotion of First Saturdays was given to the Church by Our Lady of Fatima and the Child Jesus through the children of Fatima. It is a devotion that atones for the sorrows of Our Lady. On July 13, 1917, Mary appeared to the children and showed them a vision of hell. Afterward, she told the children,

“You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace… I shall come to ask for… the Communion of reparation on the first Saturdays…” 

Eight years later, when one of the children, Sr. Lucia, was a postulant, Our Lord appeared to her with Our Lady and showed Sr. Lucia the Immaculate Heart, pierced by a sword. Our Lady said,

sacred-heart-of-mary“Look, my daughter, at my heart, surrounded with thorns with which ungrateful men pierce it at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude. You at least try to console me and say that I promise to assist at the hour of death, with the graces necessary for salvation, all those who, on the first Saturday of five consecutive months, shall confess, receive Holy Communion, recite five decades of the Rosary, and keep me company for fifteen minutes while meditating on fifteen mysteries of the Rosary, with the intention of making reparation to me.” 


How to Practice the Devotion

The devotion takes place over a period of five consecutive months and each Saturday atones for a different offense against Our Lady. The five Saturdays atone for:

  1. Attacks against Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception.
  2. Attacks against her perpetual virginity.
  3. Attacks against her place as the Mother God and mother of all humanity.
  4. Those who try to implant indifference and hatred of Our Lady within the hearts of children.
  5. Those who insult her sacred image.

On each of these Saturdays you must:

  1. Receive communion in the state of grace within 24 hours of Saturday. (This usually will involve going to confession beforehand).
  2. Say a five-decade rosary
  3. Meditate on the mysteries for at least fifteen minutes. This could be done all at once or you can spend three minutes on each mystery as you say the rosary.

Why Practice the Devotion?

You should first approach the practice of this devotion with love for Our Lady and Our Lord. When practiced worthily Our Lady promises to assist you at the hour of your death with all the graces necessary for salvation. Through this devotion many souls can be saved, including your own. As with any devotion, the promise is not a free ticket heaven. Rather, it is a promise of Divine assistance for those who have lived Christian lives and frequented the sacraments.

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

September 1, 2013

Here is Part II of Archbishop Nienstedt’s recent column on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. View last week’s post for Part I or go to TheCatholicSpirit.com for the full column.

Summer blessings, Fr. Brian

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Sacrament of Reconciliation: Why confess to a priest? (Part II)

confessional.stockvaultWhy would forgiveness be the first thing Jesus willed for his Church? Well, first of all, as we read in the curing of the paralytic in Mark 2:1-12, forgiving sins is reserved to God alone. To say that a human being forgives his own sins or those of another is blasphemy. Secondly, Jesus’ whole ministry was about forgiveness, about healing, about making people whole again. So, if that was the primary concern for Jesus, it has to be the first priority for his Church.

A priest is ordained to stand “in the person of Jesus Christ, the Church’s Head.” I personally was attracted to the priesthood because I believed it would be the best way I could help others to know God, to resolve their spiritual conflicts and to get to heaven. I always thought that the image of Jesus as the “Divine Physician” or “Healer of Souls” provided an incentive for my priestly service. As doctors use medicine to cure physical ills, a priest employs the Holy Spirit to cure spiritual ills. In the sacrament of confession, the priest is not there to scold or admonish, nor is he there out of curiosity to learn about your “dark side.” No, the priest is there as “Another Christ” to offer comfort, counsel and, above all, forgiveness and healing.

Speaking the words

Thirdly, we have to confess our sins to a priest because, believe it or not, it is good for us. Those who have been successful in Alcoholics Anonymous will tell you that one cannot begin to be cured until one admits out loud to another, “I am an alcoholic.” There is a real difference between thinking something in our heads and speaking it in words. Once an idea is articulated (i.e. a word spoken in anger) in speech, it takes on a life of its own. Likewise, I may think I am sorry for an evil action, but until I ask for forgiveness in words, I really do not experience the effect of that sorrow. But, once I admit I’ve done wrong, then the admission becomes tangible and it can be absolved. Also, in admitting I am powerless to overcome my sin, I can turn to ask help from the One (i.e. God) who has the power to evoke a conversion.

Fourth, as Americans, we have been heavily influenced by the Protestant notion of “predestination” that was so heavily emphasized by Luther and Calvin. They taught that, as believers, we fall under the influence of God’s eternal judgment, which already knows who among us will inherit eternal glory and who will receive eternal damnation. In previous generations, people of faith worried over the “damnation” aspect. Today, most everyone feels he or she is already destined for salvation. Thus, they reason, “What difference does it make what I do or don’t do? I’m ultimately going to heaven, God won’t stop me.”

Sin is relational

What complicates this situation even further is a superficial understanding of “sin” as a violation of a rule or an external law. Sin rather is a failure to live up to my baptismal call to love God above all things and my neighbor as myself. Sin is hurting someone I love. Sin is relational. So when I wallow in self-pity or indulge in gratifying my senses, when I prefer to go shopping rather than participate in Sunday Mass, when I intentionally ignore the needs of the world’s or my neighborhood’s poor, when I invoke God’s name or his damnation on a colleague in a conflict situation, I sin. That is to say, by this act, I have harmed the baptismal covenant relationship I have with God as well as harmed my relationship with another and upturned my own sense of spiritual well-being.

So, the question, “Why do I have to tell my sins to a priest?” is a great question because its answer explains why we need the Church, why we have to admit our wrongs in words, why we cannot presume we are already saved or damned and why sin is not the same as breaking the speeding limit or running a stop sign. This sacrament over time has been called penance, reconciliation and confession. But whatever we all it, that encounter is a meeting in time with the Merciful Jesus, the Divine Physician. It offers such a powerful assistance to our spiritual growth, why not use it? Yes, why not indeed!

God bless you!

August 25, 2015

Originally posted August 25, 2013

I am regularly confronted with people who are lamenting the “decline” of the Catholic Church.

These concerned individuals point to people they know who have either become lax in their faith or simply left the Catholic Church to join another Christian church.

sacramentsI believe a huge factor here is our loss in the understanding of and appreciation for one of the greatest gifts of our faith, namely, the Sacraments.

For example, do we know the stark difference between how a Lutheran and a Catholic view the Eucharist? Confirmation? Reconciliation? Marriage? My personal research indicates that most Catholics do not.

In response to this growing concern our Adult Faith Formation (AFF) Committee will be offering a series on our Catholic Sacraments: The Doors to the Sacred – an Adult Perspective on Sacraments with Judy Foster Mon. evenings, Nov. 4, 11, 18, 25.

Watch for the AFF’s program booklet which will list the many wonderful offerings for the coming year or visit the Adult Faith Formation pages on Faith Series Offerings, One Time Events, Book Discussions, Second Sunday Speakers and Rediscover. A calendar for the full year of adult faith formation offerings is now available. Yes, all adult Catholics have a responsibility to know and embrace our faith, especially if we expect to be able to pass it on to our children.

With this in mind, I encourage you to check out Archbishop Nienstedt’s column in the most recent edition of The Catholic Spirit – pick up a copy at church or go to TheCatholicSpirit.com  – for he has offered a great reflection on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In fact, I am going to share his teaching in my column over the next couple of bulletins. I hope everyone will take serious this important responsibility for their continuing education in our Catholic faith.

Summer blessings, Fr. Brian

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Sacrament of reconciliation: Why confess to a priest?

— by Archbishop John C. Nienstedt

One of the most frequently asked questions that I receive is “Why do I have to tell my sins to a priest?” Actually, it is a great question because the answer to it involves the whole reason behind why Jesus established a Church and therefore, why we are Catholics after all.

You recall the scene in Matthew 16:13-20 when Jesus asks the apostles at Caesarea Philippi what people are saying about him. That episode includes Jesus saying to Simon: “I for my part declare to you, you are ‘Rock’ (“petrus”), and on this rock I will build my church…” In Matthew 18:20, Jesus in discussing prayer with his disciples tells them: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in their midst.” Notice he didn’t say that when we are off on a mountainside or sitting beside a tranquil lake or even meditating alone in our room he would be present. No, Jesus proclaims that the only authentically verifiable place where we can be absolutely certain he is present is: “Where two or three are gathered” in his name.

Establishing his Church

From these and other scriptural texts we can be assured that Jesus intended to establish a Church as his abiding presence in the world. And, to be sure that it was his presence, he breathed on that Church his Holy Spirit the very evening of his resurrection. Again, notice carefully where he places the priority as he imparts the Holy Spirit: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive men’s sins, they are forgiven them: if you hold them bound, they are held bound.” – John 20:22-23

“Binding and loosing” implies an outsider’s judgment; it requires therefore, the context of the Church, Jesus’ presence in the world.

(Tune in next week for part II of Arch-bishop’s reflection on Reconciliation.)