August 18, 2019 – Thoughts by Rev Kev

Celebrating the 250th Anniversary of Monongahela was exciting and fun! The chance to be with one another as one parish from Saint Damien’s Festival, Mary, Mother’s Festival of Nations to the Parish Picnic in Donora, left me very excited and ready to work together in fulfilling the Mission of Jesus here in the Mon Valley! To accomplish events like these takes a lot of dedicated people like all of you, of whom I very much am grateful to.

As we listen to the Gospel today, Jesus outlines many of the ways in which his coming into the world will cause division, and not peace. He comes to set the earth on fire, to destroy it, but to emblaze it with the fullness of God’s love for us. The divisiveness arises not from Jesus Himself, but from people’s response to him; choosing either to build up that fire, or to tramp it down. Let us be those who feed the fire of the Kingdom, not extinguish it.

Please continue to pray for the openness of creating that excitement, that Fire as Jesus spoke of and the chance to get to know one another amidst our Parish within the Mon Valley. It is said that being a Christian is daring to entrust oneself to this “burning fire.” The fire is set ablaze when we speak the truth and find the peace from our Loving Creator. Peace can be found when we trust in God. Our discipleship does not depend on what we can do alone, but in what God can do through us. God is on the journey with us. And although that journey is difficult, God makes even the narrowest path passable.

A Family that prays together stays together!

August 18, 2019 – Ruminations by Fr. Pat

In the Gospels we read of Jesus’ concern for bodily and spiritual welfare of the Sick. We constantly read that He healed people and were concerned for their emotions. In the Letter of St. James, chapter 5, this concern was pre-served and was a focus for the Church. Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint [him] with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven.

Through the Sacrament of anointing Christ strengthens, through the Ministry of the Priesthood, the Faithful who are afflicted by illness, providing them with the strongest means of support (from the Instruction for the Anointing of the Sick). The person is able to bear the suffering and unite himself/herself to the death and resurrection of Christ. The Sign of the Sacrament is the Laying on of hands, just as Jesus did, and the anointing with Oil, a sign of strength. If a per-son is near death and able to participate, Viaticum (Holy Communion) is given, as Food for the Last Journey.

Many people see the Sacrament as the “Last Rites.” They see the Sacrament as being received only at the point of Death. This type of thinking developed during the Middle Ages, especially when the Black Plague spread across Europe. In an earlier time, the Sacrament focused on bodily healing. But with so much death, a shift in thinking occurred. The ‘healing’ being sought turned to a spiritual one – the forgiveness of sins mentioned in the second half of James 5:15. Life was short, medicine had little to offer, and serious illness or injury quickly and almost inevitably ended in death. When one looks at the times, this shift was understandable. Healing only occurred rarely. Praying for a physical healing accomplished nothing but to harm the faith of the believer.

Vatican II brought back the earlier notion of physical healing, along with preserving the Spiritual welfare of the per-son. No longer should the Sacrament be a Sacrament of “embalming.” It should be seen in the light of Life with Christ in the Church. The Sacrament is seen as a prayer of the believing community for its members in need of healing. Please do not think of the Sacrament only for the dead; it is for us all. It is better to Celebrate the Sacrament when participation is available. Please do not wait until the last moment.

August 11, 2019 – Thoughts by Rev Kev

    Jesus says in today’s Gospel , ”Do not be afraid, For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.”

    One treasure in of our faith is the belief that the Church (the people of God, not a building) is the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ. As Catholics we are welcome to come to daily mass and especially the Sunday Liturgy to be renewed as those sons and daughters who by the Eucharist can recognize Jesus in our lives. If we think about our faith journey, Jesus is not just one more prophet like Abraham or Saint John the Baptist and not simply a spokesperson for God like Moses. Rather he is; “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God,” which we profess together in our Creed.

    At the Eucharist we gather to become that treasure as the Mystical Body of Christ. We pray that the offering of our parish gives us a chance to receive His loving mercy and through the Power of the Holy Spirit to transform us and leads us not to be afraid but be open to the mystery of our salvation.

    In this world many of our hearts ache to be in union with God especially through the Eucharist! Why not come to the Eucharist? I invite each of us to pray around the Eucharist table, so that we can be encouraged to confirm us to carry the Light of Hope into the World.

 

August 11, 2019 – Ruminations by Fr. Pat

   The last two weeks we explored a little bit on the Sacraments of Initiation, namely, Baptism and Confirmation. For this week let us look at the Sacrament of the Eucharist, the third Sacrament of Initiation. Please keep in mind that many, many, pages could be written. There is so much Theology that can be used and talked about. My purpose is to keep things simple and to talk about only a couple of points.

    These three Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist are God’s Gifts to us, to help us become closer with Him. This Life begins in Baptism, when we are joined to Christ and are made sons and daughters of the Father. It is strengthened by the outpouring of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.

    In the Eucharist, by eating His Body and Blood, we become even more united to the Lord. “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him” (John 6:56).  By being in Communion with Jesus through the Holy Spirit living in us, we are made part of the Relationship of the love between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

    Remember, that by participating in Mass, we are participating in the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus. Mass is not merely “watching” what is going on; it is being part and parcel and integral to the Original Event. Jesus, outside of time and space, allows us to participate in those events. It is not just the history of the Past; it is the Presence of God in the here and now.

    There are different words used when we talk of this Sacrament. We use Communion because we Become One with the Trinity and with one another. We use the term Eucharist, because we give Thanksgiving to the Trinity. We use The Lord’s Supper, because of its Connection With The Supper which the Lord took with his disciples on the eve of his Passion and because it anticipates the wedding feast of the Lamb in the heavenly Jerusalem. We use The Breaking of Bread, because By This Action His Disciples Will Recognize Him After His Resurrection.  It is in this expression that the first Christians will use to designate their Eucharistic assemblies; by doing so they signified that all who eat the one broken bread, Christ, enter into communion with him and form but one body in him.

    When you think of the Eucharist, what is it that you think of? Do you think of the Eucharist as an object, and not the Real Presence of Jesus? Do you think of the Eucharist as a type of Vitamin, instead of a connection with the Living God? Do you think the Eucharist as being only an individualistic ritual, instead of being part of the whole (Christian Family)?

 

 

August 4, 2019 – Thoughts by Rev Kev

Today as we listen to the Word of God we are reminded of the similar message that God will al-ways provide. More importantly we are invited to reflect on what do we really need in our lives, how much stuff do we pack for a journey, what do we need to provide for our family needs? In the Gospel, we listen to the parable from Jesus of the farmer who chooses to keep all of his harvest for himself, rather than share the excess harvest of grain.

Similarly, we also hear from Saint Paul as he writes in his letter:

Brothers and Sisters, If you were raised with Christ , seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.

May we all stay focused on serving God and allowing God to Provide for us. The Church offers the guidance to each of us especially with the Sacraments. Come to pray with the community at the Eucharistic Table and take advantage of the Sacrament of the Reconciliation to offer you guidance and grace.

Today the Church also invites us to celebrate Saint John Vianney whose feast day is August 4th. Saint John had great trouble with his studies and almost did not get ordained. After he became the pastor in the little French town of Ars he became best known as the Cur`d’Ars. He gained great fame as a confessor, hearing confessions sometimes 12 hours a day. He is the Patron of Saint of Parish Priests.

August 4, 2019 – Ruminations by Fr. Pat

In the Early Church, when an adult became a Christian, he/she would undergo the Sacraments of Initiation. These three Sacraments are Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Eucharist. These three Sacraments would represent the beginning of a new Life in Christ. Baptism was when we died to our old life of Sin and became a new Creation in Christ, thus, beginning our Relation with Him. Although originally seen as one Ritual experience, this Rite had three elements to it, the three Sacraments mentioned above.

Today we shall look a little at Confirmation. And to do that reflection we need to look at the Early Church and the legalization of Christianity. Because the numbers were always pretty small, the local Bishop would perform these Rites. But, what would happen, when all of a sudden, there were thousands of people being Baptized and being Received into the Church? The local Bishop couldn’t do it all. He had new responsibilities and couldn’t keep up.

In the Eastern part of the Empire, the solution was to delegate the local Pastor to perform these Rites. To this day the Easter Rites perform all three Sacraments together. The only exception to this delegation was that the Bishop would Consecrate the oils used in these Rites.

In the Western part of the Empire, the bishops also delegated Baptism to Priests, but retained the function of per-forming the Initial Anointing and Laying on of hands. This they would do whenever they visited a particular locality. Thus, in the West the Celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation was done at a later time than the celebration of the Sacrament of Baptism. Baptism would be the time for the initial gift of the Holy Spirit, while Confirmation would be the Sacrament of the fullness of the Spirit with His Seven Gifts. In the West Confirmation gradually became a Sacra-ment of Maturity (it is still seen by most people today in this light). Those who received it were regarded as old enough and ready to live active, responsible Christian lives. The Christian was sealed as a witness for Christ in Confirmation and fortified by an increase of the Spirit’s gifts to fight, suffer, and die for the faith.

Do you only see Confirmation as a rite of Passage, or do you see it as something else? Do you see it as an end (to CCD) or a strengthening of your Relationship with God?

July 28, 2019 – Thoughts by Rev Kev

God already wants the best for us and doesn’t need to be talked into anything. Why should we pray?

God knows what we need and he wants us to have it. Why do we have a need to ask and pray for something?

God doesn’t need to Change, but we do in all kinds of ways.

Take a moment and read the Gospel of Luke again. We not only hear how Jesus first teaches us the words, we can pray, but also Jesus offers how to put those words of prayer into action. Yes, Jesus teaches us the “Our Father” which reminds us that when you ask you shall receive, when you seek you will find, when you knock on the door it will be opened to you.

Prayer is about changing us, reshaping us, reconfiguring our insides to match God. It is about getting us in sync with God. Prayer is about becoming like God on the inside, becoming whole and peaceful and happy on the inside.

Think about all that can happen when we open our hearts to God, when we trust enough to be touched in our inner being and reshaped in God our Likeness.

Our prayer, if it is really true, opens us to God, and realigns us with God and puts us at God’s disposal. Our prayer can make things happen, “powerfully good things.” For this reason we are no longer living and acting alone, but God is living and acting within us.

July 28, 2019 – Ruminations by Fr. Pat

Last week we briefly looked at what Sacraments are. Sacraments are when God has to directly step into our lives to bring us Salvation. Regular Graces help us to do whatever we need to do, but Sacraments are gifts of God that bring us Eternal Life.

Of the three Sacraments of Initiation that we will, briefly, look at (Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist), Baptism is that Sacrament that starts our Relationship with God. The Ritual states: “Through baptism men and women are incorporated into Christ. They are formed into God’s people, and they obtain forgiveness of all their sins…Baptism is the door to life and to the kingdom of God”

Most people, when asked, say that the primary focus of Baptism is to remove Original Sin. However, look at the above statement. Forgiveness of Sin comes secondary to having a relationship with God. The relationship comes first. Keep in mind that to have that relationship, Sin needs to be removed. God does that, but the relationship is the primary focus for the “why” of Baptism. God starts the Relationship and ends it.
There are two aspects of this relationship that makes us children of God: (1) Death and Dying, and (2) being Washed Clean of Sin. In the early Church, people were Baptized by Immersion; they were “dunked” under water. Going under the water represented Death to the person’s old life of Sin. Coming out of the water represented becoming a New Creation in Christ.

In the early Church, when people came to Rome’s St. John Lateran Basilica to be Baptized, they saw this quote above the Baptismal Waters: Here is born in Spirit-soaked fertility a brood destined for another City, begotten by God’s blowing and borne upon this torrent by the Church their virgin mother. Reborn in these depths they reach for heaven’s realm, the born-but-once known by felicity. This spring is life that floods the world, the wounds of Christ its awesome source. Sinner sinks beneath this sacred surf that swallows age and spits up youth. Sinner here scour sin away down to innocence, for they know no enmity who are by one font, one Spirit, one faith made one. Sinner shudder not at sin’s kind and number, for those born here are holy.

July 21, 2019 – Thoughts by Rev Kev

What is the root of hospitality?

    You see, in general, hospitality is when you invite strangers, people in need, people who have been wandering a long way, and you take them into your house and you wash their feet and you feed them.

So you are the host and the host is supposed to care for and serve those who come to his door. And so there’s a big difference between the host and the guest. The host is supposed to take care of the guest and give the guest whatever he or she needs.

    This is not like inviting friends for dinner, or being kind and inviting someone in, because the host must become the slave of the guest and take on responsibility of taking care of them.

Do you know the word hospital? The needy and sick and often forgotten people come to a hospital, and the host is the hospital and the hospital must take every one of them in and cure them and heal them and send them out again.

         When we talk about hospice, it’s the same word. The host is called upon to take those who even the hospitals can no longer care for, into another place and take care of them, be their guardians, their help, love them and serve them until God takes them home.

    Please consider helping our parish with the visits to those in the hospital, those parishioners who recently were in the hospital and are at home, to those in an extended care facility such as Mon Valley Rehabilitation Center, Haven Crest, to those in Skilled Nursing Facilities like Residence at Hilltop, Dunlevy or the Old Thorpe’s Facilities.

    If nothing else we are looking for parishioners to be Greeters of Hospitality at the doors prior to our Liturgy and especially our Funeral Liturgies.

 

July 21, 2019 – Ruminations by Fr. Pat

Last week in our ruminations we looked at the general notion of Grace. God gives us Grace for what we need to do in this life.

When it comes to actual Salvation, we cannot save ourselves. No matter what we do here on earth, we cannot achieve Salvation by ourselves. It is for this reason Jesus died for us – to set us free. God, Himself, helps us by stepping in and giving us a special Gift of Grace. We call this special Grace a “Sacrament.” An official definition of Grace is “an outward sign instituted by Christ to give Grace.” Basically, what that statement means is that using the language of the Church (remember when we talked about that?), God alters (so to speak) our reality; He does what we cannot do. If we are in need of Salvation, He gives it (Baptism). If we are in need of Spiritual Nourishment, He gives it (Holy Communion). If we are in need of Spiritual Forgiveness, He gives it (Reconciliation). We cannot do these things on our own. We cannot Save ourselves; we cannot create Spiritual food; we cannot rid ourselves of Sin. God has to step in.

In our example last week, I used one of my teachers from Ringgold as an example. Let’s use that example again. When I was having trouble with my various word problems, the teacher would ask me if I used what we were talking about on that particular day. I said yes, but I couldn’t get the problem. She asked me if I used what we did the day before; I said yes, but I couldn’t get the problem. How about the learning from last week? Yes, but I couldn’t get the problem.

At this juncture she would take my paper and do the problem for me.  DING! Lightbulb shining over my head. I understood what she did, although I couldn’t do it on my own. Who did the work? She did. Who benefitted from the work? I did.

That is what Sacraments basically do. Through the act of a loving God, we receive Salvation. While God has to step in and do the work for us, we benefit from those actions. With any area that deals with Salvation and Eternal Life, God has to do the work; we are not capable.

Something to think about. When we receive any Sacraments, how do you see them? Do you see them as “Holy Magic?” Or do you see them as a personal Encounter with Christ? Holy Magic is basically “saying the words and making the gestures, and, voilà, you are saved.” That makes it so the priest is doing the work. It doesn’t work like that. God gives Himself so that we can be one with Him.