Messages From Fr. Jim

October 13, 2021 (Reprint from September 2020)

Mass Information . . . Part 7 / Liturgy of the Eucharist – C

Last week we looked at the “anatomy” of the Eucharistic Prayer. This week I will sum up this series by looking at both The Communion Rite and the Dismissal.

The AMEN is the joyful acclamation AND affirmation of the congregation to the Eucharistic Prayer. Once this has happened, we engage The Communion Rite.

The Communion Rite begins with the communal recitation of the Our Father, the “Lord’s Prayer.” The disciples of Jesus asked him to teach them to pray. The Our Father is the prayer that Jesus taught as an answer to their request. It’s simplicity and directness are beautiful! We praise God and bless his name. We pray that his kingdom come, and that what he wills be done on earth AND in heaven. We pray for daily sustenance, and that God forgive us. But then we are challenged, as that forgiveness has a condition – that God forgive us as we forgive those who hurt us! Then the prayer ends with a plea that we be spared from temptation and evil.

The priest then prays a prayer asking God to deliver us from evil; to grant us peace; to free us from sin and make us safe from distress by the grace of his mercy toward us, and all this while we wait for Christ to come again.

Then the affirmation of the assembly to the total prayer . . . “For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever!”

We move then to the sign of peace. (Which these days is more a “nod of peace.”) We prepare ourselves to receive the Body and Blood of Christ by being one and at peace with each other. If we are to receive the Risen Lord and become tabernacles of his presence, we must do so being at peace with one another. (And even if we are not completely at peace with others, the receiving of the Body and Blood of Christ reminds us to work to be one with our sisters and brothers.

The priest prays a quiet prayer after the sign of peace as he places a piece of the host in the chalice and mingles it with the Blood of Christ. The prayer at this time is:

May this mingling of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ bring eternal life to us who receive it.

Following this prayer, we engage what is called “The Fraction Rite.” The host is broken into pieces, (thus “fraction”) As this is happening, the congregation prays the “Lamb of God.” The “Fraction Rite” – or the “Breaking of the Bread” recalls the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus. They walked with the Lord and heard him speak as their hearts were burning, and yet it was in the “Breaking of the Bread” that they recognized Christ. We recall that Christ was broken for us that we might be saved.

The priest invokes the words of John the Baptist . . . “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.” It is we who are blessed because we are called to this “supper of the Lamb.”

The people respond with the words of the centurion who asked Jesus to heal his servant. “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” (Matthew 8)

As the priest receives communion, he quietly says the following words: “May the Body of Christ keep me safe for eternal life. . .   May the Blood of Christ keep me save for eternal life.

The people then receive communion. The congregation here at Our Lady of Grace has had a tradition of receiving both the Eucharistic Bread AND Eucharist Cup. Given the need to carefully observe sanitary practices during this “Covid-19 time,” it is important that we understand that the Church teaches that we receive the fullness of Christ’s presence, the Body and Blood of Christ, by receiving the host only.

The priest concludes “The Communion Rite” by praying the “Prayer After Communion.” This is the third of what are called “The Presidential Prayers.” (This prayer is sometimes mistaken as the prayer to end the entire Mass. It is not that. This prayer is focused on having received communion and what that means. It is a summing up of what we have just done as a community. The Prayer After Communion reflect all this.

After this prayer, we move to The Concluding Rites. This is essentially the time when the people are blessed and sent. The blessing may be a Solemn Blessing, when the priest prays a three-fold blessing over the people, then blesses them with the Sign of the Cross. Or – the priest can simply bless the people with the “Sign of the Cross,” “May almighty God bless you, in the name of the Father +, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” 

The people are then sent. A variety of formulas are used at this time.

Go forth, the Mass is ended.

Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.

Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.

Go in peace.

The people are DISMISSED and SENT. The word “dismissed” brings to mind a word that it is related to – MISSION. We are dismissed or sent into our world, tabernacles of the Risen Christ, to bring Christ to that world. This is more than simply leaving the church building. This is about leaving the church building after having come to be fed with the Body and Blood of Christ, that we might be SENT into the world.

Then after the blessing, the priest (and deacon) venerate the altar with a kiss, they bow and the leave the sanctuary.

This series is ended . . . go in peace!

Thanks be to God.

It has been a joy to reflect on our Mass with you. I hope you found this series on the Mass helpful to your own understanding of what it is we do when we celebrate the Mass. May all of us ever be one with the Risen Christ in the gift of his Body and Blood! AMEN.

 Fr. Jim

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October 6, 2021 (Reprint from August 2020)

Mass Information . . . Part 6

Liturgy of the Eucharist – B

Last week we addressed the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist. This week we will take a look at the “centerpiece” of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the Eucharistic Prayer. There are a number of Eucharistic Prayers that we can pray, with different emphases, different words in some parts of the prayer, and different in history. For example, Eucharistic Prayer No. 1 is called the “Roman Canon.” It is a prayer that was once, (pre-Vatican II), the only choice of Eucharistic Prayer. Vatican II opened up to us the opportunity to pray a variety of Eucharistic Prayers. While different, they all follow a certain pattern. Let’s take Eucharistic Prayer No. 2 as a model. This particular prayer comes to us from the earliest centuries of the Church, probably out of Rome. Following are the parts of this prayer:

  • We begin with praise of God, the source of holiness.
  • Epiclesis – a prayer for the sending down of the Holy Spirit 

(note the gesture of the priest holding his hands over the gifts.)

(You may also hear the bells ringing at this point of the Mass.)

  • Institution Narrative – the words of Jesus,

Take this and eat, for this is my body . . . 

Take this and drink, for this is my blood.

With these words, we remember the words of Jesus himself

as they were reported in the scriptures.

Jesus “instituted” the Eucharist and told us to 

“do this in memory of me.

The ringing of the bells reminds us of the sacredness of this

part of the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

  • The Mystery of Faith

The people gathered recite this together.

It is more than a remembrance,

it is our recalling of the central mystery 

of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus,

and our belief that this mystery is not just past,

but present to us in these holy actions,

in the moment and time we are praying!

The words that follow the recitation of 

the Mystery of Faith emphasize this.

  • We offer the Bread of Life and the Chalice of Salvation,

thanking God that he allows us to be in his presence

and minister to him.

  • Prayer that we who partake of the Body and Blood of Christ

maybe gathered into one by the Holy Spirit.

  • Remembrance of the universal Church throughout the world.

In this part of the prayer,

we pray for the Pope, the Bishop of our Archdiocese, and the clergy.

This part of the prayer emphasizes the unity of the Church

as the Body of Christ is served by Pope, Bishop and Clergy.

  • Remembrance of the dead.
  • A prayer for mercy for all of us –

in union with Mary, the Mother of God,

Joseph, the Apostles, and all the Saints.

This part of the prayer emphasizes the unity of the Church,

a Body of Christ that transcends borders and even time!

We pray that we may have eternal life 

that we may praise and glorify God,

one with the great company of the holy ones.

  • Doxology – Through him, with him, and in him . . .

As the priest and deacon lift the Body and Blood of Christ,

the say/sing the word of praise.

  • AMEN – all say/sing AMEN as a way of signifying that they affirm 

all that has been said and prayed by the priest. 

With the AMEN, we complete the Eucharist Prayer. 

As I noted, there are a number of Eucharistic Prayers. All of them, (with the exception of Eucharistic Prayer No. 1 / The Roman Canon), follow the basic pattern outlined above. The differences in the wording are meant to open up opportunities to pray certain themes that benefit us. (Just this aspect of the various Eucharistic Prayers could be a whole course!) 

It is important for us to remember that when we pray the Eucharistic Prayer, we are stepping out of normal time and space – we enter and engage the realm of the eternal, where we stand around the altar with all the saints and angels in one chorus of praise.

Fr. Jim

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September 26, 2021

Mass Information . . . Part 5 – Liturgy of the Eucharist – (Reprint from August 2020)

Last week we addressed the Offertory of the Mass, noting how important this part of the Mass is as a transition between the two major parts of the Mass. This week we launch into exploring the second of those two major parts – the Liturgy of The Eucharist. This particular exploration will be in three parts – an A, B and C. 

Let’s begin with a helpful definition of the Eucharistic action we call “The Mass.” I once came upon this wonderful definition of the Eucharist that serves us as a good guide. (I regret that I cannot remember the source of the quote – so to whomever gave us this wonderful definition of Eucharist, our thanks!)

The Eucharist is a holy action, of a holy people,

  • gathered by Christ,
  • joined to Christ,
  • enacting with Christ,
  • his worship of God and
  • his salvation of humanity!

The Liturgy of the Eucharist begins with a DIALOGUE between the priest and the people:

The Lord be with you.

And With Your Spirit

Lift up your hearts.

We Lift Them Up to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

It is Right and Just.

We enter into the celebration of the Eucharist together, ordained ministers and the People of God! The priest, as the Presider, speaks on behalf of the people. Also very important – the priest speaks “in persona Christi” – IN THE PERSON OF CHRIST! The Eucharist is the ultimate encounter with Christ. 

After the dialogue, the priest prays a “Preface” prayer that is prelude to the Holy, Holy, Holy. The Prefaces are a rich source of beautiful prayer that highlight a variety of seasons and feasts. There are Preface prayers for Advent (2), Christmas (3), Lent (4), Passion of the Lord (2), Easter (5), Ascension of the Lord (2), and Ordinary Time (8), The Blessed Virgin Mary (2), Apostles, (2) . There are also prefaces for Saints (2), Martyrs (2), Virgins and Religious, Masses for the Dead (4) and other occasions. These prayers have about them a flow and direction that they all share, even as they vary on their theme. All preface prayers follow this three-part pattern. (Remember – numbers are important symbols in our faith language! Whenever there are three of something, we are seeing that something presented as perfect!) 

  • It is our duty always and everywhere to give thanks and praise to God.
  • Each prayer then speaks to a theme particular to that Preface Prayer.
  • Then the Preface Prayer notes that all lands and people join with saints and angels in singing and acclaim the hymn of praise to God. 

After the Preface Prayer is recited (or sung!), the congregation joins in singing the Holy, Holy, Holy (Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus!) (There is that THREE again!) This prayer/acclamation is taken from the vision of the Prophet Isaiah in which he received the call to be a prophet, and so it is based in the Hebrew Scripture. (Isaiah 6) Isaiah envisions God in his temple surrounded by angelic hosts singing his endless praise! The “thrice holy” – (the three holies), speaks of the perfect holiness of God. 

Next week, we will look at the Eucharist Prayer, the “centerpiece” of the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

Fr. Jim

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

September 22, 2021

Mass Information . . . Part 4

My last article I wrote about the Liturgy of the Word. This week I would like to delve into some explanation of the that part of the Mass that bridges the two main sections of the Mass. This bridge is the Offertory.

Once the congregation finishes the Universal Prayer (also called the Prayer of the Faithful), the collection is taken up. During these “Pandemic Days” – the collection is done differently. Parishioners are asked to place their contributions in a box in the vestibule. This collection offering is more than just a practical matter. The collection is really the way that the people of God can give to and support the efforts of the Church. It is their/YOUR way of offering of yourself. There are the weekly collections that support the ongoing needs of the local parish, (in our case, Our Lady of Grace.) There are also other collections that support beyond our parish. These collections often support charitable outreach. Sometimes the collection is done in the form of a campaign – as is done annually in the “Campaign for Catholic Ministries.” This campaign supports a host of ministries that are of benefit to the Church.

A note: wherever I have served as a priest, I have heard the comment from some parishioners that they DO NOT want a cent of their money to go “downtown” – i.e. to the Archdiocese of Baltimore. I would take this opportunity to challenge this attitude. We are part of the Archdiocese, and so what we give in the various collections that support the Archdiocese we really, in so many ways, give to ourselves. We receive the support of Archdiocesan offices all the time. I hope we can bash the “us VS them” mentality, as it is not helpful. Most of you know that I myself worked “downtown” as the Director of Clergy Personnel and Western Vicar for eight years. I personally saw the dedication of Archdiocesan employees who worked day in and day out to meet the many needs of the parishes and schools; the needs of the poor, the homeless, the forgotten; the needs of the larger Church beyond even our own Archdiocesan family. I happily offer anyone the chance to talk with me about this – I will be glad to explain why I believe it is important for us to support the Church beyond just our own parish.

Once the collection is finished, we go about preparing the altar for the second major part of the Mass – the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The altar table is “set” – it is prepared for the Eucharistic Banquet that we are to partake of.

First, there is the prayer with the bread:

Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through you goodness we have received the bread we offer you: fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life. (Blessed be God forever.)

Then there is a quite prayer as a bit of water is poured into the chalice of wine:

By the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.

If there is a deacon present at the Mass, it is he who says this prayer. This prayer reminds us that our goal as Christians and our reason for gathering to receive the Eucharist is that we might share in the divinity of Christ.

Then there is a prayer with the wine:

Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the wine we offer you: fruit of the vine and work of human hands it will become our spiritual drink. (Blessed be God forever.)

The two prayers that begin with “Blessed are you, Lord God. . .” are a specific form of prayer that is Hebrew in its origin. That prayer is called the BERAKAH. It is a reminder that the  prayers of the Mass were not and are not new to Christians. Our Mass is set within the context of a specifically Jewish form of prayer. These Berakah prayers are steeped in that ancient history and connection.

Upon the completion of the Berakah prayers with bread and wine, the priest bows and offers a quiet prayer that the sacrifice we offer may be accepted by and pleasing to God. He then invites the people to join him in that prayer. Following this, the priest prays the Prayer Over the Offerings – the second of what are called the Presidential Prayers. With this prayer, the Offertory of the Mass is completed, and we are ready then to engage the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

Fr. Jim

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September 15, 2021

Dear Friends and Parishioners of Our Lady of Grace,

Over the summer months you have heard of my progress after having hip surgery and through the days of rehab after the surgery. Just as I was preparing to engage working in the parish again, I experienced what I would characterize as a se back in my recovery. I returned to the hospital and I am now again in a rehab facility at Mercy Hospital in Baltimore. I am deeply disappointed that I cannot return to the parish at the time I had expected to. At the same time, I am also concerned that my not being at the parish in person going forward places you, the parishioners, in a situation of lacking the presence of a pastor for too long.

Through the generosity of Msgr. Schleupner, Archbishop Lori has offered me the opportunity to take a medical leave of absence through Christmas. Msgr. Schleupner will be named administrator of Our Lady of Grace during these upcoming months. This means that Msgr. Schleupner will take on the duties of a pastor for a period of time, with care for the pastoral and administrative needs of the parish. This will hopefully offer you the leadership presence you need, and give me the time to attend to my present medical needs so that I can return to ministry in the parish again. I believe this is good news for all concerned.

Let me take this opportunity to thank you, the parishioners of Our Lady of Grace. I am lifted by your continuing prayers and support, and I promise you my own prayers during these upcoming months. My thanks also to Msgr. Schleupner for his commitment to Our Lady of Grace. Finally, thanks to Archbishop Lori and his team, (including Msgr. Jay O’Connor and Bishop Parker), for their care and support for us. This arrangement shows how we are part of a larger family that goes beyond our parish boundaries.

Thank you!

Fr. Jim

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September 11, 2021

Mass Information . . . Part 3

Dear Friends of Our Lady of Grace,

Last week I wrote about the opening rite of our Mass. The opening rite is that part of the Mass that ritualizes our gathering and getting ready to participate in the first major part of the Mass, the Liturgy of the Word. This week I would like to delve into some explanation of the first of two major parts of our Mass – The Liturgy of the Word. Once our opening rite is finished, we sit to listen to God’s word. Our gesture of sitting is one that reflects an open and listening heart.

First Reading

This is usually from the Hebrew Scriptures, (Old Testament), but not always! In the Easter Season, we hear from the Christian Scriptures, (New Testament), about the early Church and its experience of the Risen Savior. The first reading is a reminder that we have our roots in the experience of the People of Israel, God’s chosen people.

Responsorial Psalm

The Psalms are the songbook of the temple. While they can be recited, they find their fullest expression in being sung. Like the people of ancient Israel, we look to these special songs to respond to the hearing of God’s Word.

Second Reading

This reading is always from the Christian Scriptures, chosen from the various letters of the New Testament. From these readings we can get a glimpse into the early life of the Church. The letters are often written to specific communities,  (like the Corinthians, the Colossians, the Ephesians, the Romans), and to specific individuals, (like Timothy).

Gospel Acclamation

The Gospel acclamation is Alleluia at all times of the year except during the Season of Lent. During Lent, the Gospel acclamation is a song of praise to Christ, (Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ, King of endless glory! or Glory and praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ! – something along these lines.) Why no Alleluia during Lent? Alleluia is the quintessential word of Easter. Therefore it is saved so that the acclaiming of the Alleluia holds more meaning. In a real sense, we FAST from the word of Easter so that it holds more significance for us when finally we can sing it in response to the joy of Jesus risen!

Posture – we stand for the Gospel acclamation and the gospel as we greet the Risen Lord in his Good News. Standing is a symbol of our attention to and acceptance of the witness of the Gospel writers, whose task it is to tell us of the life of Jesus, and his dying and rising to save us.

Gospel

The word GOSPEL comes from the Anglo Saxon “godspell,” meaning “good story” or “good news.” The Greek equivalent is “evanglion,” from which we get the word “evangelist,”  one who spreads the Good News. Upon hearing the Gospel proclaimed, we are all called to be evangelists! If a deacon is present, the reading of the Gospel is to read by him. Only if there is no deacon present does the priest read the Gospel.

Homily

The priest or deacon then takes time to reflect on the scriptures and tries to see our present day in light of the Word of God.

Creed

The congregation then recites together the Creed. Normally, it is the Nicene Creed that is recited. (The Apostles Creed is also an option.) The Nicene Creed is a prayer of great historical significance. The first two-thirds of the Nicene Creed, (about the Father and the Son), were written at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD. (Nicea was located in what would now be modern day Turkey.) This council was called to address the Christological heresies that were popping up in the Roman world at the time. The goal of the council was to set down in writing what exactly it was that the Church believed about Christ. These words that we inherit are those beliefs passed down through the ages. The last third of the Nicene Creed, (about the Holy Spirit), were composed and added at a later council – the Council of Constantinople. (Modern day Istanbul, Turkey.) Although never referred to by this name, given that the Creed was composed at two councils, the full name of the Creed is the “Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed.

The Universal Prayer (Prayer of the Faithful)

The Universal Prayer is that prayer which gathers the present needs of the Church and presents them to God. Having gathered to hear and reflect on God’s Word, then, having recited the ancient Creed that unites us with Christians through the ages, we offer prayers and present day needs to God’s mercy and care and plead for God to hear us as we pray, “Lord, hear our prayer!” With this prayer, we bring the Liturgy of the Word to its conclusion.

Fr. Jim

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

September 2, 2021

Mass Information . . . Part 2

Last weekend I wrote about some general information about the Mass, explaining the meaning of some of the language we use when we speak about the Mass. This week in Part 2 of this “Mass Information” series, I write about the opening rite of our Mass. The opening rite is that part of the Mass that ritualizes our gathering and getting ready to participate in the first major part of the Mass, the Liturgy of the Word.

Let’s look at seven elements of our opening rite. They are:

  • Procession (often accompanied by a gathering song of musical processional)
  • Sign of the Cross
  • Greeting
  • Introduction
  • Penitential Rite
  • Gloria (omitted during Advent and Lent)
  • Collect (Opening Prayer)

Procession

(usually with gathering song or processional music)

The ministers of the Mass walk through the midst of the people gathered to take their place in the sanctuary. The priest and deacon bow and kiss the altar as a sign of reverence for the altar because the altar is a symbol of Christ’s sacrifice. They then go to their chairs. The priest’s or presider’s chair is usually a more ornate or larger chair as it is the place where the one who leads the assembly in the Mass is seated. He “presides” over the Eucharistic assembly from this chair. 

The Sign of the Cross

This sign, so familiar to us, both begins and ends the Mass. It amplifies that the cross is the core of what we are about and what we are doing now that we have gathered. By the death of Christ, we are offered the fullness of life, given to us in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit!

Introduction

The priest may say a few words of welcome and introduce the Mass by referring to what Sunday or holy day is being celebrated and by noting in general what the scriptures may say to us. 

Penitential Rite

One of the first things we do at Mass is plead for God’s mercy. Lord, have mercy? Christ, have mercy! Lord, have mercy! (Kyrie eleison! Christe eleison! Kyrie eleison!) These Greek words are an option in addition to the English we usually use. They are the only Greek words that have survived the centuries that are still used at Mass.  They are of ancient origin. 

Gloria

This song of the angels is then sung, recalling the announcement of the angels when Jesus was born. He is born anew in us who gather to receive his Body and Blood. (Receiving the Body and Blood of Christ is central to who we are as Catholics. It is worth noting, then, that while, at this time, many of us choose not to attend live Mass for health reasons, we cannot see this as a normal or permanent solution to the issues of the day. Let us LONG to gather in person again, for it is there that we most experience the sacramental presence of Christ in the Eucharist.)

Collect (Opening Prayer)

All of our own prayers are “collected” and presented to God on our behalf. This prayer brings the opening rite to an end. This is the first of three prayers that are called “Presidential Prayers,” meaning that the Presider, (priest celebrant), prays to God on behalf of those assembled. 

In our next look at “Mass Information,” we will look at the first of two major seg-ments of our Mass – the Liturgy of the Word.

Fr. Jim

(Reprint from 2020)

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August 23, 2021

Mass Information . . . Part 1

We live in a world where we are deluged with SO MUCH information coming at us constantly! We are indeed consumers of MASS INFORMATION. But this week and in future weeks the Pastor’s Notes is not about this phenomenon. Rather – this is the first in a series that I will be writing that will present information about the ritual we call the Mass!

Some background: The Pastoral Council and some individuals have mentioned to me that there was a time when parishioners would experience the “liturgical minute” here at Our Lady of Grace. The pastor, (Fr. Nicholas), would take one minute before Mass to talk about some part or aspect of the Mass to inform the people present about what it was they were celebrating. I think it’s a great idea, but given our present time, I thought I would apply that same topic to our bulletin.

So here we go!

Let’s begin with some of the vocabulary we use around the word MASS. The word Mass comes from the same root word for MISSION. The Mass is about the fact that we assemble to worship God, and are fed by the Body and Blood of Christ for the MISSION that we leave Mass to set about. That MISSION is to proclaim by word and/or example that God redeems us in Christ, whose commandment for us is to love one another.

The ritual we call The Mass is the setting of the Mass. This ritual has flow and meaning, gestures and set movements, words, colors and fragrance, places and times, all of which aim to say something. There are many subtle and overt symbols that are part of the larger proclamation that the Mass is about.

To begin with, there is the simple fact of people coming together, gathering or assembling. People come into Mass and go to a place, (often the same place), in preparation to begin Mass. But Mass has already begun – in the act of assembling! The Greek word “ekklesia” means a gathering, a coming together of a group. This word is used in scripture. Our word “Church” comes from the Greek word “Kyriakon” – meaning “The Lord’s House.” This word refers to a place, and it is not used in scripture. However, words and their meanings change over time, and in modern parlance, the word Church does now often refer to the assembly. (We are the Church, the Body of Christ!)

Once we gather in the place where our worship will take place, we begin the more proper part of the ritual we call the Mass. We do this with the Entrance Rites. We will “enter” into a deeper understanding of these beginning rites in next week’s Pastor’s Notes – Mass Information – Part 2!

Fr. Jim

(Reprint from 2020)

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August 18, 2021

Dear Friends in Christ,

As you know, the gospels in these past weeks have been from the gospel of John, reflecting on the Bread of Life, the Eucharist. As a Church community, these reflections are especially important this year as we celebrate the Year of the Eucharist. Our own parish has highlighted this Year of the Eucharist by seeing our ongoing life as a parish through the lens of “receiving” the Eucharist. We have celebrated a return of people to attending Mass through “Receive and Rejoice!” The we celebrated Youth Ministry and the youth music ministry on the weekend of “Receive and Rock On!” As we gear up to engage another year of Faith Formation, parents are invited to prepare to enlist their children for Religious Education/Faith Formation – “Receive and Register.”  In this Year of the Eucharist, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is held on fourth Sunday of the month from 3 pm – 7 pm, with the recitation of the rosary at 5 pm. We call this “Receive and Reflect.” All of these various pieces of parish life are seen through the lens of RECEIVING. Receiving the Eucharist is the center of lives as believers. Although we offer our Mass via live streaming, it is always important for us to remember that nothing can take the place of receiving the Eucharist. I am so encouraged by the number of people have returned to attending Mass. It shows that we understand the importance of attending Mass IN PERSON. For it is in person that we are most able to meet the person of the Lord by receiving his Body and Blood.

Let us work to support and contribute to the building up of the Church at this place and this time in history. God gives us a MISSION! Let us RECEIVE, and then nourished for the task ahead, let us go out and live, in love, through Christ, by Grace.

Holy Mary,

Mother of God and Our Lady of Grace

Pray for us.

Fr. Jim

 

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August 12, 2021

Dear Friends in Christ,

This coming weekend we will step away from celebrating the Sunday’s in Ordinary Time and instead celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Why? The Church ranks days according to their importance, and a SOLEMNITY is the highest ranking given to a day. When a Solemnity falls on a Sunday in Ordinary Time, it is the Solemnity that takes precedence over the Sunday. This year, that is the case.

The Solemnity of the Assumption celebrates that Mary was taken into heaven body and soul as a special honor to her. The preface prayer (the prayer before the Holy, Holy, Holy) of this feast prays, “you would not allow her to see the corruption of the tomb since from her own body she marvelously brought forth your incarnate Son, the Author of all life.” But any feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary also celebrates the hopes and dreams of all of us, the Church. That same preface prayer prays, “For today the Virgin Mother of God was assumed into heaven as the beginning and image of your Church’s coming to perfection and a sign of sure hope and comfort to your pilgrim people. . .”

Surely Mary kept her eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. It is Mary whose own faith and devotion inspires us as she comforts us and offers us hope that our own ongoing journey is one that has meaning as it seeks to touch the grace of God. We give thanks to God for the gift of Mary, Our Lady of Grace, and mirror of our destiny.

Our Lady of Grace . . . pray for us!

Fr. Jim

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

July 28, 2021

Our Lady of Grace . . .

Rooted, Living, Serving ~ in love, through Christ, by Grace

Completing now our series of reflections flowing from our parish mission statement Rooted, living, serving . . . in love, through Christ, by Grace, this week our reflections are about Children of Faith in our midst.
 
Rooted . . .
All of us are born into, rooted in a family. For us as Christians, it is BAPTISM that is the seal of this reality. Through BAPTISM, we become children of light, children of faith. As a sacrament, baptism is not a onetime reality. Rather, it is lived out in many ways throughout our lives. Through baptism, we are incorporated into the Body of Christ. Baptism brings us into the community of believers. Baptism is the ground of all sacramental experience because baptism is first of all the sacraments and the doorway to sacramental life.
Imagine a tree in the spring. Its roots, (which for the most part we cannot see), reach for nourishment in the earth and for a water source. Above ground, the tree grows and reaches for nourishment from the sun. Each year it grows out a bit more than the year before. It provides shade for those weary of the intense sun. Birds and insects thrive in this tree, which is a universe unto itself. It’ beauty is apparent and a gift for all to see. This is a symbol of what baptism is – a universe in which we encounter the living Christ and all that is of him. This is what being ROOTED is.
Living . . .
This week I would like to highlight Youth and Young Adult Ministry as a way that our mission is lived out. This past weekend, some of our youth participated in leading the music at our Masses. It was a sign of life for us to see the ministry of music being taken up by our youth. Our new Youth Minister, Tony Persichitti, introduced himself to our parishioners at all the Masses. Youth and Young Adult Ministry is an important way for us to stay connected with a significant sub-group of our parish: those who have recently received the Sacrament of Confirmation and those who reach college age and beyond. Youth and Young Adult Ministry is one that involves a number of our parishioners. Certainly our Youth and Young Adult Minister plays an important leadership role in this ministry. There are also the many parishioner volunteers who support this ministry. Confirmation classes and preparation, youth presentations and retreats, peer leader preparation and retreats, formation of volunteers, set up and tear town for meetings – all these require people in our parish who are devoted to Youth and Young Adult Ministry. They support this ministry as an important way to evangelize in the name of Jesus and spread the Good News of his love.
Serving . . .
Our parishioners are extraordinary in their outreach to others. This is done throughout the year. To mention a few: Our Daily Bread contributions, back to school supplies for children, cold weather clothing and blankets collection, Christmas outreach for those in need, Pregnancy Center Baby Bottle campaign and support, Easter campaign for families, various outreach efforts to vets and the VA Hospital, and outreach to members of our own community. These activities and more are a sign of a parish that is vibrant in its generosity and parishioners who see the face of Christ in those who are in need. Let us work to support and contribute to the building up of the Church at this place and this time in history. 
 
God gives us the MISSION!
Let us go out now and live, in love, through Christ, by Grace.
 
Holy Mary,
Mother of God and Our Lady of Grace
Pray for us.
Fr. Jim

~~~~~

July 20, 2021

Our Lady of Grace . . .

Rooted, Living, Serving ~ in love, through Christ, by Grace

Continuing our series of reflections flowing from our parish mission statement Rooted, living, serving . . . in love, through Christ, by Grace, this week my reflections are about prayer and WORD in the life of our parish.

Rooted . . .  For all of its life as a community founded in Christ, PRAYER has been an essential part of the life of the Church. You may recall the acronym ACTS to describe prayer. A = Adoration, C = Contrition, T = Thanksgiving and S = Supplication or asking/request prayer. I suspect most of us are most familiar with the latter of those categories of prayer. (I know that among these categories, my own prayer is often the asking type!) Once in awhile it is good to remind ourselves of the richness of prayer that is available to us. When we stand contrite before God because of our sin, a prayer of contrition is appropriate. When we stand in awe at the beauty of creation, a prayer of thanksgiving is called for. When we know the closeness of God to us in our lives, we often feel a prayer of adoration welling up from the depths of our hearts. All of these types of prayer are part of who we are as believers. Through them, we discern God’s presence in our lives. Prayer ROOTS us to the source of all we are.

Living . . . There are any number of ways that we “live out” prayer in our lives and open ourselves to God’s will for us. Top among the ways we pray is our communal prayer of Mass. Mass is the highest form of prayer for us, for there we meet God in WORD and SACRAMENT and gather as his community to give honor and praise. Mass would fall under the “T” of ACTS . . . THANKSGIVING. The word Eucharist means “thanksgiving” or “to give thanks.” It is at Mass that we receive the Body and Blood of Christ that we may be fed for the work that waits for us. All of our life beyond Mass is an opportunity to be a disciple and to off the Word and Sacrament we have received to others.

To receive God in Word and Sacrament it is important to be physically present to celebrate Mass. After the year of COVID, it has been so encouraging to see many people return to church for weekend Mass.

Another way of praying that I would bring to your attention this week is ADORATION. On the fourth Sunday and the first Wednesday of the month our parish sets aside time for adoration before the exposed Blessed Sacrament. On the fourth Sunday that time is from 3 pm – 7 pm, with the rosary being recited at 5 pm. On the first Wednesday that time is from 9 am – 10:30 am. Quiet prayer in the presence of Christ can lead to a deeper experience of adoration.

Serving . . . The ministry that is our focus this week is that of LECTOR. Lectors at Mass do more than “read” the scriptures assigned for a particular week. By reading the  scriptures to the assembly gathered for Mass, the lector PROCLAIMS the Word of God. Then it is the deacon or priest who PROCLAIMS the gospel. Those assembled for Mass HEAR the WORD OF GOD and are nourished by it. Then, fed by WORD and SACRAMENT the assembly is dismissed into the world to be the presence of Christ there.

I remind you that this coming weekend our parish will celebrate “Receive and Rock On.” This will also be an occasion to celebrate with some of the youth who have worked to form a music group to serve at parish Masses. They have named themselves “Led By Grace.” Also, our new Youth & Young Adult Minister, Tony Persichitti, will be introducing himself to parishioners at all the Masses.

Let us work to support and contribute to the building up of the Church at this place and this time in history. God gives us the MISSION! Let us go out now and live, in love, through Christ, by Grace.

Holy Mary,

Mother of God and Our Lady of Grace

Pray for us.

Fr. Jim

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

July 8, 2021

Our Lady of Grace . . .

Rooted, Living, Serving ~ in love, through Christ, by Grace

During this month of July, I will be doing another “series” on my Flocknotes that explores our parish mission statement: Rooted, living, serving . . . in love, through Christ, by Grace. The idea behind these Flocknotes will be to highlight how and what we are and what we do as a parish and as individual believers is connected to the larger Church, past and present.

Rooted: in the last days of June, the Church Universal celebrates the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul. Peter and Paul are often celebrated together as founders of the “New Rome.” They represent the ongoing conversation that the Church is having in history. These two men were quite different, but each, in his own way, served to build up the Church. The Church of the present day and our own parish are rooted in the faith that comes to us from the apostles – and in particular the faith to which these two great saints witnessed.

Living: This first week of July, I would like to highlight Faith Formation in our parish. Faith Formation is not just “religious education,” it is broader than that. Core to the idea of formation is our hope to be formed in the image of Christ. Formation opportunities, then, are about equipping parishioners to live with an openness to this very hope. If we learn about our faith; if we know about its past and how the present emerges from that past; if we celebrate that faith in a living way by our participation in the Mass, then we are living in a way that allows formation to shape us and make us into the image of Christ. It is, of course, a never ending process.

Serving: If Faith Formation is highlighted as one of the important ways that we live out our faith, then the service that we should highlight is that of the catechist. Catechists are those who exercise the ministry of “teaching” the faith. Teaching is more than educating. The catechist is one who “passes on” the living tradition of the Church. In this way, the catechist is one who does more than increase the knowledge of those whom they serve. Rather, catechists make themselves vehicles of the living Word of God and help others to understand the Church’s Tradition (BIG “T”) and their place in that Tradition.

Let us work to support and contribute to the building up of the Church at this place and this time in history. God gives us the MISSION! Let us go out now and live, in love, through Christ, by Grace.

Saints Peter & Paul – Pray for us.

Holy Mary, Mother of God and Our Lady of Grace – Pray for us.

Fr. Jim

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

June 20, 2021

Dear Friends of Our Lady of Grace,

Let me begin my message to you by first addressing a problem we have been having with the live streaming of our Masses. If you have been trying to join us for Mass via our live streaming, you already know that we have been having a problem with the sound. Attempts have been made to remedy this situation, but to this point no solution has been found. This situation seems a good time, however, to let you know that we have engaged a company to set up a system for our live streaming that will bring a clearer picture and better sound. We hope to have this permanent set up in place by mid-July. In the meantime, we will continue to make efforts to find a solution to the present issue. Thank you for your patience.

A number of parishioners have asked me to address how I am doing. I am happy to bring you up to date on my status. After twenty days in the WellSpan Surgical and Rehabilitation Hospital in York, PA, I came home this past Tuesday. My experience at the rehab was nothing less than excellent. The staff there worked with skill and patience in helping me to build up my stamina and to be able to walk and do those things necessary to ordinary living at home. I certainly want to give the doctors, nurses, nursing assistants, physical and occupational therapists much credit for their work! There is still work to do to heal and get to a normal routine again. To that end I will be working with a nurse, an occupational therapist and a physical therapist at home. Let me take this opportunity to thank you all for the cards and well wishes. This experience highlights for me how fortunate I am to serve at a parish like Our Lady of Grace.

Finally, I ask your prayers for a new priest who will serve the Archdiocese of Baltimore. This Saturday, June 19th, Archbishop Lori ordained Fr. Scott Kady to the priesthood at Divine Mercy Parish / St. Peter, Westernport. St. Peter’s is the first parish that I served as a pastor. Fr. Scott was one of my parishioners. He is a fine man and will serve the People of God well.

I also want to wish all the fathers in our parish a happy and blessed Father’s Day.

Thank you!
Fr. Jim

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

June 18, 2021

What is the Mission of Our Lady of Grace? Rooted, living, serving: in love, though Christ, by Grace

Dear Friends of Our Lady of Grace,

My message to you this week is about our parish mission statement. A Mission Statement is a brief statement of what our parish community is at a core level. It has been some time since the parish took a look at a Mission Statement. In cooperation between staff and with the approval of the Pastoral Council, we have crafted a statement for Our Lady of Grace that is brief and easy to remember. Rooted, living, serving: in love, through Christ, by Grace reflects what we are and do. It defines all we do in our parish administrative activities; it reflects what we do in all aspects of formation of the young to adults! It reflects what we do when we help those who are less fortunate. It reflects who we are when we gather for Eucharist to be fed so that we can be rooted in the life of a Trinitarian God, in whose love we live and serve. This is the essence of who we are as a parish: redeemed and animated to go out and live out the mission entrusted to us.   

How was this mission statement crafted? Let’s look at its two parts: first, rooted, loving, serving. We are born into a Catholic and Apostolic faith. By baptism, we are ROOTED in this faith all our lives. We LIVE this faith out day to day, growing in our understanding of the mystery in which we are rooted. As our faith and life is never alone but always with others, an authentic faith seeks to SERVE others in love. And the second part: in love, through Christ, by Grace. In one of his letters, John writes: “God IS love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” (1 John 4:16) Of Christ it said: “For IN him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) And finally, in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians we hear: “For BY grace you have been saved . . .” (Ephesians 2:8) These scriptures reveal to us the relationship to which God call us, a relationship that is reflected in our love for one another. It is, after all, the command given by Christ; “Love one another as I have loved you.” (John 13:34) 

Another element of the mission statement, (especially the second half,) is its flexibility. The prepositions “in”, “through” and “by” can be applied to love or Christ or Grace, making this statement a symbol of God’s all encompassing presence to us and love for us.

Finally, both parts of the mission statement are presented in a triad structure, (a structure with three elements,) pointing to God’s being as a Trinity. We begin our lives “In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  We end our ​lives in the same way. We begin our prayers with these words while tracing ourselves with the cross. We begin and end Mass with these words and sign. Our lives are steeped in the mystery of the Holy Trinity. So too is the mission that defines our community of Our Lady of Grace.

Fr. Jim 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

June 8, 2021

Dear Friends of Our Lady of Grace,

Receive and Rejoice!!!

Now that the Church has celebrated the Easter Season, we engage in Ordinary Time by the celebration of two feasts that highlight the Church as a community of believers. Last weekend we celebrated the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, a feast that celebrates that God’s existence shows forth the life of community and unity. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are Three persons, ONE God! 

This weekend we celebrate the Solemnity of Corpus Christ, (The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.) This Body and Blood of Christ is what makes us a Church. This year we come together to RECEIVE & REJOICE, after the interruption in receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, this past year it is good to be back together. 

We hope you will join us for Mass this weekend when we celebrate this feast. Let us appreciate the abundance of God’s love, given to us in the Eucharist! Come, RECEIVE the Body and Blood of Christ! Give thanks for the immense gift it is and REJOICE in God’s great love for us!

Welcome to New Staff Members . . .

This month we welcome two new staff members to Our Lady of Grace. Pam Bennett will serve as our front office assistant. She will assist Debbie Kaminski in her work. She will also give the Formation Team with administrative support. Welcome Pam!

Tony Persichitti is our new Youth Minister. Tony just graduated from Towson University. He comes to us with a strong youth ministry background, having served in his home parish of St. Clement Mary Hofbauer in Rosedale, and Campus Ministry at Towson University. Welcome Tony!

God’s blessing on both Pam and Tony as they engage this new phase on their lives. May they both be a blessing to Our Lady of Grace!

Reflections From Rehab . . .

Many of you already know that I fell and broke my hip on Monday, May 24th. I was transported to York Hospital and had surgery on my hip the next morning. By Thursday, I was transported to Wellspan Surgical and Rehabilitation Hospital where I am undergoing rehab. It is painful, for sure, but I see improvements day by day. I am committed to seeing this time as an opportunity to learn new skills and to take better care of myself going forward. I do not know how long I will be staying here; that will be determined soon. I have seen firsthand the commitment of folks whose only goal is the care of the patients in their care. I am grateful the doctors, nursing and healthcare for their excellent care. I offer God a prayer of thanks for them and the place they have held in my life this past week and a half. I also thank you all for your prayers and support as we journey through this challenging time together.

Thank you!
Fr. Jim 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

June 2, 2021

Last Year’s Reflections from Our Pastor

This coming weekend we celebrate the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ – (aka Corpus Christi). Every weekend, in fact, EVERY DAY, the Church celebrates this essential part of our belief that the bread and wine at Mass become the Body and Blood of Christ. His presence to us sacramentally is a key belief for us as Catholics.

We live in and are surrounded by a scientific milieu. We see the world through the eyes of fact and data. But facts and data cannot tell the whole story when it comes to our encounter with God. Scientific facts and data tell us about our world using a particular lens and language. And a marvelous world it is that we see through the eyes of science!  Science does not deny faith and belief, for it can only support faith and belief – but only to a point. Then faith and belief take us even deeper in our journey of “faith seeking understanding.” (This phrase was the motto of St. Anselm of Canterbury, d. 1109 – a great theologian.)

The Eucharist as the Body and Blood of Christ is something that we can only perceive through the eyes of faith and belief. Of the Eucharist, the great St. Augustine said: “If you are the body and members of Christ, then what is laid on the Lord’s table is the sacrament of what you yourselves are.” (Sermon 272) Our belief in the Eucharist, then, is about our belief in the presence of the Risen Christ who invites us to see our own destiny intimately tied to his destiny – a destiny of life and light and risen life!

The work of the Church is never ending. And we ourselves are part of the Church’s never-ending journey to announce his salvation to the world. How much we need that in these days of confusion, strife and discord. As the sacrament of unity, the Eucharist is that act by which we commit ourselves to care for our world, to support the unity and peace for which all of us long. And when we receive the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Christ, we are then commissioned to go forth to actively be agents of God’s own call that all be one in Christ, who is one with the Father and the Spirit.

Fr. Jim

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

May 24, 2021

The Great Sunday of 50 Days . . .

This weekend, the church celebrated the Solemnity of Pentecost. With this celebration, we bring the Easter Season of 50 days to it completion. But what is beyond what this feast celebrates? It is said that Pentecost is the birthday of the Church. What exactly does a birthday celebrate? It celebrates the day we were literally “poured out” into the world, when we took that first gasp of breath of life! This feast celebrates exactly that – when the Holy Spirit came down upon the Church and that Church was poured out into the world to take its first breath in the Spirit of Christ and to bring that Spirit to the world. Jesus left the Church the commission to take his Word into the world and be his presence to all. That same commission, that same mandate is still with the Church, as we are poured out into the world to be the presence of Christ.

It has been good to see more people coming to Mass of late. We are slowly building our Mass community back up again. What a joy to see! We will be celebrating this by launching The Year of the Eucharist on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, June 5th and 6th. There will be a time to gather with friends and fellow parishioners after each Mass that weekend. We are calling the weekend “RECEIVE and REJOICE!” We want to highlight the joy of being able to attend Mass in person and to receive the Body and Blood of Christ with fellow parishioners once again. Please plan on attending Mass for this wonderful Solemnity.

It has been said that another name for the Holy Spirit is GRACE. What a blessing for our parish that we are named for this grace, and given Mary as an example and guide! May that Holy Spirit bless us as a parish family that we may be rooted, living and serving: THROUGH love, IN Christ, BY Grace! May God’s Holy Spirit rest upon your home and family!

Thank you!

Fr. Jim

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

May 18, 2021

What Does the Ascension of Jesus Mean For Us?

This past weekend we celebrated the Solemnity of the Ascension. As is always the case with such feasts, what we celebrate about Jesus says something to us about ourselves in the scheme of things. What exactly? Let’s explore this idea and unpack the scriptures of this feast for the wealth that they offer us.

The first reading of this feast is the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles. It was written by Luke and follows his gospel to record the acts of the early believers. This particular passage begins with Jesus instructing his apostles about the coming of the Spirit, their mission to be his witnesses “to the ends of the earth.” Upon giving this instruction, “he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.” As they were standing there looking at the sky, two men dressed in white asked them, “why are you looking at the sky?” That question seems to me to be an invitation to the apostles fix their gaze on the task ahead, and to start thinking about what being a witness for Jesus is about. The apostles are called to be grounded in the mission given to them, one that will be affirmed for them with the coming of the Holy Spirit. And that, of course, we celebrate this Sunday with the Solemnity of Pentecost – the coming of the Holy Spirit.

As the reading from The Acts of the Apostles was the beginning of that book, the gospel passage from Mark is the end of Mark’s gospel. The gospel reflects the theme of the first reading, with Jesus instructing his disciples to, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” Again, the mission to go out is central to this gospel passage from Mark. It is in following through with this mission that Jesus is present to every age through the activity of the Church, the Body of Christ. Not only that, but Jesus does not leave us in his Ascension. Rather, he takes us with him! Listen to one of our great saints on this matter. Pope Leo the Great (390 – 461 AD), preached to the people of Rome about how we too are glorified in Christ’s Ascension, how our humanity is united to Christ’s divinity.

“The Ascension of Christ thus means our own elevation as well: where the glorious head has gone before, the body is called to follow in hope.

 Let us therefore exult, beloved, as is fitting and let us rejoice in devout thanksgiving. For on this day not only have we been confirmed in our possession of paradise, but we have even entered heaven in the person of Christ; . . .”

We heard Leo’s words reflected very directly in the Collect Prayer for the feast of the Ascension!

“Gladden us with holy joys, almighty God, and make us rejoice with devout thanksgiving, for the Ascension of Christ your Son is our exaltation, and, where the Head has gone before us in glory, the Body is called to follow in hope.”

Fr. Jim

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

May 11, 2021

Themes of the Easter Season . . .

The weekend and weekday readings of the Easter Season have some general themes that are worthy of note. First, we are hearing much from the Acts of the Apostles about the life of the early Church. The Acts of the Apostles, (called simply “Acts,”) is considered to be something akin to the second part of the Gospel of Luke, and believed to have been written by Luke. Like any community in history, the Church had growing pains and issues that it had to face. The earliest Christians had to go about the process of articulating who they were and what they believed about Jesus. That community had to answer some basic questions, most especially as the they grew out from Judaism and engaged the Greco-Roman world. Questions like, “Do you have to embrace Judaism and its traditions in order to be Christian?” were important questions to answer. The Acts of the Apostles describes the very first council of the Church as it engaged this very question. The activity of the apostles and St. Paul describe a community as it comes to know and define itself. So, why is this important? Because through this particular book of scripture we learn how the Church engaged important questions, and we see this as a model of how we, the Church in this present day, are to engage questions. Since those earliest days of the Church community, the Church has held a full twenty-one ecumenical councils to be one in mind and heart in addressing important questions of the day. (And that does not include the many synods and local gatherings of bishops to address concerns of their own particular area!) Many of us alive today remember the Second Vatican Council and how it engaged the modern world. Acts describes the birth of a community of believers in Jesus. That birth continues as we strive to be the Body of Christ in our own time and place in history.

The gospel of John figures prominently in the Easter Season as well. Especially important is John’s gospel are a group of seven sayings called the “I AM” sayings They are placed in John’s gospel in a way that has them throughout the gospel. Looking at them in one place, we can see that we have all heard them, and know them. The I AM sayings are:

  • I AM the Good Shepherd
  • I AM the Bread of Life
  • I AM the Way the Truth and the Life
  • I AM the Sheep gate
  • I AM the Light of the World
  • I AM the Resurrection and the Life
  • I AM the Vine, you are the branches

The words U are U! They are the words that God spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, when Moses asked God to identify himself. Remember . . .  Moses was sent by God to the Israelites. Before going back down the mountain he asked . . . “Who shall I say sent me?”

God responded – I AM WHO I AM – Say to them I AM sent you. John is making a very deliberate connection here between the words of Jesus and this pronouncement from the Book of Exodus.

These I AM sayings, spread throughout the gospel, form a unity of seven sayings. Seven symbolizes COMPLETION. So what is John saying with all of this? Simply that In Jesus, we experience the fullness  or the completion of God’s presence to us. These sayings presume a depth of relationship. In them we have an answer to the questions – who is Christ to us, who are we to Christ, and, therefore, who is God to us, and who are we to God.

The scriptures and their depth offer us a true gift in what they reveal. There is always something new “just around the corner!” In this Easter Season, as we celebrate the Risen Lord, we know his risen life in the many ways that HE IS to us. And because of this, we know the Father who is revealed to us by the Son and in the Spirit.

Fr. Jim

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

May 8, 2021

Tell Them I AM Sent You . . .

During this Easter Season, we have been hearing from the gospel of John. John is known for his use of symbols; he hopes to convey to his readers a deeper sense of who Jesus was and is to his Church. Words alone cannot do this, but words arranged in a specific way can point the way to a deeper reality.

In that spirit, we have been hearing a set of sayings called the “Ego Emi” or I AM sayings. They are placed in John’s gospel in a way that has them throughout the gospel. Looking at them in one place, we can see that we have all heard them, and know them. The I AM sayings are:

I AM the Good Shepherd

I AM the Bread of Life

I AM the Way the Truth and the Life

I AM the Sheep gate

I AM the Light of the World

I AM the Resurrection and the Life

I AM the Vine, you are the branches

So, what’s with the “I AM?” The words I AM are extremely important! They are the words that God spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, when Moses asked God – to identify himself. Remember . . .  Moses was sent by God to the Israelites. Before going back down the mountain he asked . . . “Who shall I say sent me?”

God responded – I AM WHO I AM – Say to them I AM sent you. John is making a very deliberate connection here between the words of Jesus and this pronouncement from the Book of Exodus.

These I AM sayings, spread throughout the gospel, form a unity of seven sayings. Seven symbolizes COMPLETION. So what is John saying with all of this? Simply that In Jesus, we experience the fullness  or the completion of God’s presence to us. These sayings presume a depth of relationship. In them we have something of an answer to the questions – who is Christ to us, who are we to Christ, and, therefore, who is God to us, and who are we to God.

The scriptures and their depth offer us a true gift in what they reveal. There is always something new “just around the corner!” In this Easter Season, as we celebrate the Risen Lord, we know his risen life in the many ways that HE IS to us. And because of this, we know the Father who is revealed to us by the Son and in the Spirit.

Fr. Jim

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

May 1, 2021

Mary and May and Our Lady of Grace

Dear Friends of Our Lady of Grace,

May and October have traditionally been months when we honor Mary the Mother of God. It is spring! Flowers and trees open up to reveal the fullness of life that has been dormant during the winter, they reach out for life and show their beauty. As it is a beautiful time of year to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus, so too it is a good time to remember the role of Mary in his life, and in the life of the Church.

Our own parish honors her name under the title of Our Lady of Grace. I thought it would be a good thing to devote this column to this title of Mary, Our Lady of Grace, and the sacramental that we know as the Miraculous Medal, also known as the Medal of Our Lady of Grace. The medal’s origins are from a series of visions that were had by St. Catherine Laboure. 

Before continuing to reflect on the image of the medal, it is good to remember what medals, holy water, holy images are about. They are called sacramentals. In his book, Signs of Life, Scott Hahn gives us a good definition of what a sacramental is and is not. He reminds us that objects such as the Miraculous Medal, or any holy image or holy instrument can help to increase our devotion. A sacramental is like a Sacrament but is NOT a sacrament. A sacramental is an outward sign of an invisible reality. It conveys grace indirectly. A Sacrament offers grace DIRECTLY.

Having that as an important background, let’s look at the sacramental known as the Miraculous Medal of Our Lady of Grace.  Much of the information that follows is thanks to what is found on Wikipedia!

On July 18, 1830, St. Catherine Laboure had a vision of Mary, who announced to her that God wished to charge her with a mission. Later that year, on November 27, 1830, St. Catherine reported that Mary returned to her during evening meditations. How St. Catherine saw Mary is what we see in the Miraculous Medal. Mary was set within an oval frame, standing on a globe. She wore rings with gems that shone rays of light over the globe. Around the margin of the frame appeared the words, “O Marie, concue sans peche priez pour nous qui avons recours a vous.” (O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.) In St. Catherine’s vision, the frame rotated showing a circle of twelve stars, a large letter “M” with a cross over it, the Sacred Heart of Jesus crowned with thorns and the Immaculate Heart of Mary with a sword piercing it. St. Catherine’s vision is captured in what we now refer to as the Miraculous Medal. The design of the Miraculous Medal, based on St. Catherine’s visions, was done by a goldsmith named Adrien Vachette.

So what does what St. Catherine saw mean? What does what she saw symbolize? The various elements of the Miraculous Medal are about what we, as Catholics, believe about Mary. The front side of the medal has Mary standing on a globe, crushing the serpent, with her hands outstretched. The crushing of the serpent is a reference to the Book of Genesis where God has the offspring of Mary crushing the head of the serpent. God tells the serpent that he “will put enmity between you and the woman.” (Genesis 3:15) The image of Mary crushing the head of the serpent implies that she is far from sin and seeks to crush it. She protects us from evil as she crushes the head of the serpent. The rays that flow from her hands symbolize grace, and are a reminder that Mary is an advocate for us in prayer.  Her open arms also invite us to her embrace in love. The words around the oval that encases Mary are a reminder of the vision of St. Bernadette regarding the Immaculate Conception, “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.” We ask for Mary’s prayerful support. We do this because she is available to us, she accompanies us on our walk of faith.

The reverse side of the Miraculous Medal depicts twelve stars around the oval. Here we are reminded of St. John’s vision reported in the Book of Revelation, “And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” (Revelation 12:1) In the middle of the reverse side oval is an “M” intertwined with a cross. Mary stood at the cross of Jesus. Viewing Mary in this moment is to also see Jesus. Below this “M” intertwined with a cross are two hearts with flames. The left heart has a crown of thorns over it. This heart symbolizes the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This depiction of the Sacred Heart is a reminder that it is Jesus who is the source of our salvation. The heart on the right is pierced with a sword. This depicts the Sacred Heart of Mary. This image of a heart pierced with a sword has its origin in the gospel of Luke, when Mary and Joseph present Jesus in the temple.  “… and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of may hearts may be revealed.’ ” (Luke 1: 34-35) The fire around both hearts symbolizes the burning love that Jesus and Mary have for us.

For those who wear this Miraculous Medal, this sacramental can be a reminder of God’s presence to us in the prayers of Mary. Any good that Mary may bring to us has its origins in God alone. As the Mother of Jesus, the Mother of God, Mary is “full of grace,” and stands ready to help us in our need.

Holy Mary, Mother of God and Our Lady of Grace, pray for us!

Fr. Jim

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

April 21, 2021

Reflections from Deacon Jim for the Weekend of April 24th/25th:

I love these Easter season readings from the early Acts of the Apostles, where we can actually see the earliest actions that lead to our church taking shape.

Today we see Peter, who, has now received the Holy Spirit with the other apostles, show us a complete transformation, from hiding in the dark room to casting aside his fear, going to the temple, curing a cripple and then strongly preaching the astounding truth of Jesus’ resurrection. For this, he’s grabbed by the temple guards, thrown into jail, and is now being judged by the same High Priest and elders that found Jesus guilty! They want to know by what power he cured this cripple! Now, the safe answer would have been…..Gosh, guys. You’re right, I’m wrong. I’m sorry.

But, NOOOOO….Peter, our uneducated fisherman, with his life at stake, replies “it was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead; in his name this man stands before you healed.”

This is how our church started…with honesty and boldness, backed by complete faith in God!

Then, in our gospel reading, we hear Jesus explaining one of the foundational truths of this faith that Peter so boldly proclaimed.

Jesus is explaining that He is radically different from other people in authority. He explains that the normal leader works for pay and benefits; and, therefore, it’s all about themself!

But Jesus will die for His followers. Jesus has true love for us, and true love is all about the other! It’s not about Himself! Rather, for Jesus, it’s all about us.

So, if it’s all about us, what’s the definition of “us?”

Jesus goes on to explain –“I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.”

I think it’s time to talk about this definition of “us.”

What is causing our nation to become increasingly polarized concerning so many topics?  It seems that in our nation today, we have become more adept at drawing battle-lines than we have at solving issues. Pick any topic and see how the lines have formed: citizen vs. immigrant – majority vs. minority – wealthy vs. underprivileged – corporate vs. self-employed – green vs. cheap energy – government control vs. personal freedom – etc., etc., etc.!

We have witnessed a technical revolution in our world that has quickly changed many of the fundamentals without our fully grasping the real impact. With increased ease of communication, it is now easy to spread information quickly, regardless of whether it is true or false. Supporting one side of a conversation, while spreading disinformation about the opposing viewpoint, has become the norm. News providers are now increasingly more concerning about drawing in viewers by sensationalizing the news, rather than finding the truth. Our political leaders are more rewarded for painting the opposition as dramatically misfocused, rather than giving us balanced leadership. The ultimate result is that we are encouraged to take sides, to selfishly defend our own desires while ignoring the needs of others.

What is our role in all of this?

In this chaos, we can get our direction from both Jesus and the actions of the early church leaders.

First, Jesus came so that there could be one flock, and one shepherd. So, we know that there is only one shepherd – and that it’s not us! We are not here to push our own agenda and win control. Rather, we are here to practice true love, which is about putting others first!

Second, we are to act with honesty and boldness, putting full faith in God. This means putting in the effort to determine all the facts, not just the ones that suit us. This means speaking that truth, even when it is not popular. This means standing up for the common good, not just our own personal desires.

And third, we need to embrace the correct definition of “us!” “Us” is not limited to those who have the most in common with me – whether this be socially, economically, racially, culturally, religiously, intellectually, etc., etc.….When Jesus was challenged to define who the “neighbor” is in “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” He gave us the Good Samaritan proverb. Our neighbor is the person in need. Jesus loves each of “us,” and we are called to live, and grow, in that true love, so that we can share it with “us!”

May we all continue to grow, and share, God’s love during this Easter Season!

God bless you!

Deacon Jim

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

April 14, 2021

 A Change In Plans . . .

Dear Friends of Our Lady of Grace,

I write you today with some words about the Archbishop’s Pastoral Planning Process and a change in that plan as it concerns Our Lady of Grace and St. Francis Xavier parishes. Many of you already know that when I was named pastor of Our Lady of Grace that the plan was that in time, (when Fr. Frank Brauer retired), I would also become pastor of St. Francis Xavier in Hunt Valley as well. One pastor of those two parishes would constitute, then, a PASTORATE. Fr. Frank will be retiring this coming June, and here is where there is “a change in plans.” That original plan has been changed, and now I will not be named pastor of St. Francis Xavier after all. I will remain pastor of Our Lady of Grace. (Please note that I was consulted about this arrangement. I feel that it reflects a plan that is good for our parishes and good for me personally.)

One of the positive aspects of the Pastoral Planning Process is that it is flexible. If a change in the plans seems appropriate and good, the process allows for that change. That kind of change has happened to the original plan to have our pastorate activated as Fr. Frank now moves into the retirement phase of his life, a few months from now. What does that change in plans look like? Fr. Kevin Farmer has been assigned to be pastor of St. Francis Xavier as of July 1st.  And in time, once I move on from Our Lady of Grace, the plan would be for Fr. Kevin to then be named pastor of Our Lady of Grace while remaining pastor of St. Francis Xavier.

I know Fr. Kevin well and I am excited about his moving into our area. I think he will bring great energy to St. Francis Xavier and to Our Lady of Grace as we engage in working together for the good of our two parishes. Fr. Kevin and I have an interesting history. My first parish assignment as a priest was to St. John’s in Frederick, MD. When I left St. John’s, Fr. Kevin followed me as associate there. Fr. Kevin would later return to St. John’s to become pastor there, where he has served as pastor for nine years now. For the last three of those years, he has also served as pastor of St. Joseph’s in Buckeystown, MD. I played a part in supporting these assignments on behalf of the Archbishop in what was then my role as Director of Clergy Personnel. And now, if things “go as they are planned,” Fr. Kevin will follow me as pastor of Our Lady of Grace at the appropriate time.

Once “the dust settles” and Fr. Kevin is at St. Francis Xavier, he and I will be talking with each other and our staffs about creative ways that our parishes can work together. There is an opportunity here for us to see beyond our parish boundaries and to recognize that we share a faith in Jesus Christ with our neighbors at St. Francis Xavier. As we work together, recognizing that we are one in Christ, we are given a unique opportunity to forge a new understanding of ourselves in communion with others.

Finally, let’s pray for Fr. Kevin and his staff and parishioners at St. John in Frederick and St. Joseph in Buckeystown. A change in leadership at a parish is a significant time in the life of a parish and those who are being reassigned. And let’s pray for our own parish of Our Lady of Grace, that we may benefit from an open and ongoing commitment to be a people who grow and are ever renewed by the life giving love of the Risen Lord!

Thank you!

Fr. Jim

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

April 7, 2021

“Eight Days A Week . . . Alleluia!”

Once again, we dip into our “archive” and give you some reflections on the importance of the week we are living through. I offered these reflections last year for the bulletin on the importance of the “Octave of Easter.” I hope you enjoy again, with some “tweaks.”

Christ is Risen! Alleluia!

Truly he is Risen! Alleluia!

Some of you may recall the Beatle’s song called “Eight Days A Week.” We are in such a week! We are celebrating the OCTAVE of Easter. An OCTAVE consists of eight days of celebrating something. In this case, the OCTAVE is a celebration of Easter. Once the Triduum is ended, we engage the Octave of Easter. That means that Easter Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and the Second Sunday of Easter are all the highest rank of a day on the liturgical calendar, they are all SOLEMNITIES. Not only that, but the eight days are all considered the ONE feast of Easter! Easter is TOO BIG to celebrate in one day! It is an immense reality and gift from God that Jesus is risen, and so the Church takes eight full days to celebrate the marvelous deeds of God in raising Jesus from the dead.

The fact that we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus in this way is important because it sets our celebration in the context of our time and our history. In a day when all of us are “displaced” by all we have been going through with the Coronavirus experience, (distance, isolation, fear of the unknown), we can find our place, our  home, our grounding in our belief that our life rises above any worry this world brings our way and invites us to see beyond the fear and isolation, for the victory of Christ is ours if we believe that he is risen from the dead!

Our Octave of Easter ends with the celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday – the Second Sunday of Easter. This Sunday is a reminder that God, in his mercy, never abandons us. God’s mercy and grace will guide us. They will serve as a “tether” to keep us united with each other, even in times of physical distance.

This coming Sunday’s second reading from the First Letter of Peter begins with praise to God for our birth to a new hope and the inheritance that is given us through faith. Then we are given these words: “In this you rejoice, although for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” I was impressed with this line from our scripture because it places all our trials into the context of our faith. May the trials we suffer prove to be for praise, glory and honor of Christ. And may these trials ultimately lead us to Christ, to whom we can say: “Jesus, I trust in you.”

Fr. Jim

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

April 1, 2021

The Sacred Triduum

Last year, I prepared a bulletin column reflection on this coming week. As we have now engaged the holiest week of our year, I offer you these reflections again.

An interesting note . . . Lent ENDS on Thursday, before the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. With the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, we engage what is the shortest and yet most important “season” of our Liturgical Year – the Sacred TRIDUUM. The word TRIDUUM means “three days.” These three days are the height of the Liturgical year, for they celebrate the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

The Liturgies of the Triduum are really ONE liturgy. Let’s take a closer look. On Holy Thursday evening, we celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. The readings for this Mass ground what we celebrate every day of the Church year. The reading from the book of Exodus is about the preparation for the first Passover meal. The “Blessing Cup” of Psalm 116 is a reference to a special cup of wine served at that Passover Meal. St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians is the Last Supper, the Passover Meal at which Christ gave us the Eucharist. (This passage is the first known passage in the Christian Scriptures that describes the essence of the Mass.) Then the gospel of John sums up that for which the Eucharist feeds us – to wash the feet of others, to be models of love, as Jesus was and is. The Mass of the Lord’s Supper doesn’t really end in the normal way. The Prayer After Communion is prayed – then the altar area is stripped. There is no formal blessing or sending.

Good Friday’s Celebration of the Lord’s Passion is a beautiful and simple liturgy. It does not begin in the normal way, with an entrance hymn or a procession. It simply begins with a prayer and then moves to a Liturgy of the Word. Following this, there are Solemn Intercessions, Veneration of the Cross and Holy Communion. This liturgy ends with a Prayer Over the People, (but no blessing invoking the Trinity.)

The Easter Vigil is the high point of our liturgical year! Holy Thursday and Good Friday have set us in motion to celebrate this vigil. We begin most years, (but not this year), with a Service of Fire. From this sacred fire the Paschal Candle is lit and processed into the Church – for the Light of Christ has conquered death! We hear readings from the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures that trace the history of our salvation. After having fasted from “the word of Easter – ALLELUIA!” for forty days, we hear the gospel story of his empty tomb – and the proclamation that Jesus is RISEN FROM THE DEAD!

May our hearts be light as we celebrate Christ’s resurrection, for in his rising, we are given life! In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul reminds us:

Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.

Though we may have to observe distance from each other for the time, may this feast and its joy bring our hearts close together and we may be one body in our praise of Christ, who has conquered death and who offers us life in abundance!

Jesus is Risen! Truly he is Risen!   

Fr. Jim

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

March 19, 2021

Dear Friends of Our Lady of Grace,

Holy Orders: The Priesthood and Episcopate

I begin writing these reflections on March 19th – the Feast of St. Joseph. Somehow it seems an appropriate day to think about priesthood and episcopate. St. Joseph cared for Mary and Jesus, serving as a protector to them. His love for them is something we should honor, as we engage a year dedicated to St. Joseph. Priests and bishops care for the Church via their own ministries. St. Joseph serves us as a patron whose life is a model of loving care.

The priesthood and the episcopate, (the order of bishops), care for the Church, each in their own unique way. Both of these orders are centered in the sacraments. Both of these orders are especially grounded in the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the Mass. The sacraments are the life blood of the Church. The Eucharistic celebration is the Church gathered for prayer to worship the Father, as the Body of Christ, in the Holy Spirit. The Eucharist is the food that fuels the Church alive in the present and connects it with all believers for all time. It is in this way that the Eucharistic Church is eternal!

All priests have this sacramental and Eucharistic core in common. But the life of the priest can be lived out in any number of ways. I presently live the priesthood out as a pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish, and happily so! The priests who work at the Archdiocesan offices live the priesthood out in other ways, perhaps as a Director of Clergy Personnel, or as a Vicar for Religious sisters, brothers and priests, or in care to retired priests. Some priests are teachers and may join a religious community precisely to live the priesthood out in the context of education or formation. Some priests are scientists or artists. Some priests live the priesthood out by serving the poor. Some priests are hospital chaplains or military chaplains. As you can see, there are many ways to “be” a priest. However a priest serves, his life and ministry are centered in the sacramental life of the Church. 

Bishops, (who belong to the Episcopate), are also centered in the sacramental life of the Church. All bishops are “successors of the Apostles.” The role of a bishop, like that of a priest, can be lived out in any number ways. Many bishops, (perhaps even most), are bishops attached to a diocese. Our Archbishop and vicar bishops are “attached” or “incardinated” into the Archdiocese of Baltimore. They serve this Archdiocese in a number of roles. Archbishop Lori is the “ordinary” of this Archdiocese, meaning he is the leader. Bishop Parker is the Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia. Bishop Madden is the Vicar for the City of Baltimore. Bishop Lewandowski is a pastor and serves the Hispanic community. Priests can celebrate six of the seven sacraments. Bishops can celebrate all seven! That seventh one, of course, is Holy Orders. Bishops have the honor of ordaining men to the diaconate and priesthood. With the approval of the appropriate offices in Rome, and with the final approval of the Holy Father, three bishops together ordain a bishop. 

When we look at all the various titles that priests and bishops have, it might be helpful to remember that beyond all the titles, men are deacons or priests or bishops. Even the Pope, (elected to his office by a group of his peers and having accepted the election), is the bishop of Rome. These various ministries are, in the end, always for the good of the Church. Those who are ordained to these various ministries serve the Church by assuring that the faith that was passed down to us from the Apostles is proclaimed in a way that is faithful to their Apostolic witness and meaningful to those who live in the present day.

Fr. Jim

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

March 13, 2021

The Sacrament of Holy Orders: The Diaconate

Dear Friends of Our Lady of Grace,

Please note that there are some important announcements after our look at the next of the sacraments in our “Sacraments Series!”

Holy Orders: The Deacon / The Diaconate

As we look at this last sacrament in our “Sacrament Series,” let’s do a quick review of what we have covered so far. 

There are three Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist.                                                                                

There are two Sacraments of healing and forgiveness: The Anointing of the Sick and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

There are two Sacraments of Vocation & Mission: Matrimony and Holy Orders. They are Sacraments of Vocation because people are CALLED to them. They are Sacraments of Mission because that call involves GOING  OUT and being MISSIONARY DISCIPLES. These sacraments serve the world in some way. Marriage is a glimpse of God’s love in our midst. Diaconal ministry is one of service to others. 

I am sure you have noticed that the word “orders” of Holy Orders is plural. Those orders are deacon, priest and bishop. (The Diaconate, the Presbyterate and the Episcopate.) This week we will look at the Diaconate.

Deacon – The deacon is one whose ministry is centered around the areas are Word / Sacrament / Service. The deacon proclaims the gospel at Mass. It falls to the deacon always to proclaim the gospel, as that is his proper place in the liturgy. It is the role of the deacon to read aloud the Universal Prayer, (the Prayer of the Faithful.) The deacon assists at Mass and is an ordinary minister of the Eucharist. (We are so used to having Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist giving out communion, that we might forget that there actually are those who are designated Ordinary Ministers of the Eucharist.) The deacon also officiates at weddings, baptizes and officiates at funerals and burial services. The deacon also serves the Church through the ministry of charity to those in need. 

The history of the diaconate is an interesting one. From approximately the 5th century forward, the diaconate was reduced to a “step” on the way to priesthood. It took the Second Vatican Council to restore the diaconate as a permanent order, and not just a step in a process! This is the origin of the term “permanent deacon.” This term was used for a time to designate a deacon who was permanent and not pursuing a path to priesthood verses a man who was pursuing that path. There really is no need to use the word “permanent” to describe the deacon. In fact, a deacon is a deacon – that simple!  

Deacons, (like priests and bishops),  never stand alone! They are and must be in communion with their bishop and with the priests with whom they serve. The deacon, priest and bishop are all ordained to their specific ministry and bound to each other in a sacramental bond. Together they work for the good of all of God’s people in their own specific way, according to their own specific order.

If a deacon is a married man, his wife often works with him in supporting parishioners. In our own parish of Our Lady of Grace, Deacon Jim is very involved in baptism ministry. While he performs the baptism, his wife Camillus has a major role in Baptism Preparation. While Deacon Jim officiates at weddings, Camillus has a major role as well in Marriage Preparation. And, of course, they do so much more! Deacon Jim and his wife Camillus are indeed a real blessing to our parish!

Fr. Jim

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

March 6, 2021

The Sacrament of Matrimony

Dear Friends of Our Lady of Grace,

Please note that there are some important announcements after our look at the next of the sacrament in our “Sacraments Series!”

I asked Deacon Jim and his wife Camillus to offer a reflection on the Sacrament of Matrimony. My thanks to them for taking the time to give us their thoughts on this wonderful sacrament which they themselves live out day to day. Like all married couples, they are a sign to all of us that God is with us and calls us to love.

This week, we look at the Sacrament of Matrimony. It is the only sacrament that the engaged couple administer to themselves, by mutually promising themselves to each other –  “I take you to be my husband/wife…..to love you and honor you all the days of my life.”  The priest or deacon is there to give the blessing of the church, bestowing upon the couple a special sacramental grace that strengthens them, so that they can not only support each other in their holiness, but also welcome and educate their children in God’s love. This covenant agreement is sealed by God Himself.

Some people think that love is an emotion, but that’s not correct. True love is a decision….a decision to put your spouse ahead of yourself, to dedicate your life to the other. When two people can truly do that, they will reap that deep inner joy of true love. They will still face challenges, and still disagree and argue. But, when we both put the other’s well-being ahead of our own, the solutions are much more reachable, and our peace is much more cherished.

No doubt, marriage imparts new responsibilities to the couple, starting as a newlywed couple learning to make their own way in the world, then growing as new parents, and, after many changes, as the old, experienced grandparents. Interestingly, as our marriage develops, and our responsibilities and workload grow, so do our abilities to handle them together. We become flexible, adapting as a family to the ever-changing set of challenges.

The two service sacraments of Holy Orders and Matrimony share much in common. Just as Matrimony provides a deep inner joy to couples as they dedicate their lives to each other and those they love, so, in Holy Orders a priest receives that same inner joy by dedicating his life in service to his parish. But more importantly, just as the goal of a married couple is to get each other, and their family, to heaven; so the goal of the priest is to get his many parishioners to heaven. Pretty lofty goals….and pretty lofty sacraments!

Deacon Jim & Camillus

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

February 28, 2021

The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick  and The Annual Appeal for Catholic Ministries

Dear Friends of Our Lady of Grace,

Continuing with the series on The Sacraments, this week we take up the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. Of the seven sacraments, the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick probably stands out as one of the more “mysterious” sacraments. When celebrated, it is often celebrated with no one but the priest and the person receiving the sacrament present. Sometimes, family members are present for the celebration of this sacrament as well. This sacrament carries with it an “ominous” feeling for some people because when they receive it, they are sick, sometimes near death! Some people may recall that before the Second Vatican Council, this sacrament was called “Extreme Unction.” “Unction” refers to the anointing with oil. “Extreme” refers to a person being close to death, at the “extreme” end of their life. So let’s try to take the ominous and extreme away and see the beauty of this sacrament.

The Communal Nature of Sacraments

All sacraments are communal, they are celebrated in the context of the Church’s community. Even when a sacrament is celebrated between only the priest and the person, (like this Sacrament of the Sick, or the Sacrament of Reconciliation), it is celebrated in the context of the Church community. 

In the case of the Sacrament of the Sick, the Church community brings prayers and support to the person who is sick through the ministry of the priest. We pray for healing of the person who is ill. 

One of the things that highlights the communal nature of this sacrament is the oil that is used. This sacrament is celebrated by anointing the sick person with an oil that is blessed by the Archbishop every year specifically for this purpose. It is the “Oil of the Sick,” (Oleum Infirmorum.) This Oil of the Sick, along with the Oil of Catechumens, (Oleum Catechumenorum) and Sacred Chrism, (Sacrum Chrisma), are blessed by the Archbishop every year at The Chrism Mass. Representatives from parishes throughout the Archdiocese come to this Mass to collect these oils for use in their parish. This Mass highlights that we are members of an Archdiocesan community – under the lead of our bishop, Archbishop Lori. 

What is Healing?

Let’s pause and ask ourselves, what is healing? Healing for some people is a matter of the literal healing of their body; they are healed and restored to their normal life. But it must be said, for some, healing is letting go and returning to God. Ultimately, the attitude that this sacrament requires of us is one of openness to the will of God. We pray for healing, whatever form of healing God gives. 

Uniting Our Suffering with the Suffering of Christ

The Mystery of the Cross is ongoing in the life of the Church. Christ died once, for all. His

redeeming act of love by dying on the cross is the source of our salvation. The Church proclaims this clearly and loudly! 

            We adore you O Christ and we praise you,

              because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

Part of the MYSTERY of Christ’s suffering is that we who are united to him in baptism are bound to his suffering, so that our suffering is united with his, our “crosses” are united with his CROSS. The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick reminds us of this great mystery and invites us to see our suffering in a new way. The words the priest prays when he anoints someone are:

Through this holy anointing, 

may the Lord in his love and mercy 

help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit.

 May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up.

Love, mercy and the grace of the Holy Spirit are the gifts of this sacrament. Salvation and resurrection are the future of every faithful Christian. 

Joyful In Hope: 2021 Annual Appeal for Catholic Ministries

Last weekend Fr. Roth and I spoke about The Annual Appeal for Catholic Ministries. This annual appeal supports many important ministries in the Archdiocese. Some of the ministries supported by this appeal are:

  • Youth Ministry
  • Parish Planning
  • Catholic Charities
  • Baltimore Child Abuse Center
  • St. Vincent de Paul
  • Hospital Chaplaincies
  • Prison Ministries
  • Crisis Pregnancy Centers
  • College Campus Ministries
  • Ministry to the Disabled
  • O’Dwyer Retreat House
  • Tuition Assistance
  • Special Education
  • Vocations
  • Retired Priests Care            

Our Lady of Grace’s Goal for the Appeal this year is $50, 900. Our parish has given $10,217 – 20% of our stated goal. Please consider giving a gift to the Annual Appeal for Catholic Ministries

Use this link (https://www.archbalt.org/appeal/give/) to go to the site to contribute.

Thank you!

Fr. Jim

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

February 19, 2021

The Sacrament of Reconciliation / Part 2

Dear Friends of Our Lady of Grace,

First – one announcement/housekeeping note: You may have seen the new tables at the entrance of the church and at the front of the church. These tables were made by a parishioner, Hunter Rowe, with help from another of our parishioners, Bruno Munoz. Materials for this project were given by our own Knights of Columbus Council. Our thanks to Hunter, Bruno and the K of C for their support of this project in our parish.

Now onto the Sacrament of Reconciliation / Part 2. One of our parishioners suggested to me that I might want to write about what actually happens in celebrating this sacrament. I thought her idea was a good one, so I will do exactly that. Thanks to Bette Hobner for her suggestion.

I think it is fair to say that many people are confused about the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Some even fear it! After all, who among us wants to admit our sins and failings to another person? It could be embarrassing, or we may fear judgement. My suggestion is to just relax. Any priest that you go to is by far most likely to want to help you walk through the ritual of this Sacrament, (Confession.) IF a priest turns out not to be kind to you, tell him that he was not kind and he needs to go to confession. I am betting that you will never have to do that!

So, what exactly is involved in the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation?”

Examination of Conscience

Take some time before going to Confession to think about the sins and failings you wish to bring to the sacrament, those things for which you are asking God for his forgiveness. You might want to even write them down to take with you.

Go to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation

There are many churches in our area where you can go to celebrate this sacrament. Our Lady of Grace is one choice. I usually celebrate this sacrament in the vesting room – the first room on the left as you enter the church through the doors closest to the handicap parking.

You might begin with the traditional, “Bless me Father for I have sinned. It has been ________ since my last confession. These are my sins.” Then list your sins. Or – you might just tell the priest that you need his help to begin. Don’t worry! You won’t be judged by the priest. I love to help people walk through this sacrament – and I try to make them feel comfortable with the ritual.

Penance

Once you have confessed your sins and failings, the priest might give you some advice on what you have said. He will then give you a “penance.” This “penance” is an action or prayer that is meant to outwardly express your sorrow for your failings. I most often give a penance that is connected to what I heard from the “penitent.” (That’s you!) If you have any questions, please feel free to ask them at this time.

Act of Contrition

Once you have received your penance, you are invited to say aloud an “Act of Contrition.” An “Act of Contrition” is any prayer of sorrow for your sins and failings. If you want to learn one, go to the web and type in “Act of Contrition,” and you’ll find plenty of sites to go to. I suggest the Vatican website. (https://www.vaticannews.va/en/prayers/act-of-contrition.html). If you don’t know one, the priest will help you with this prayer.

Prayer of Absolution

Finally, the priest prays the Prayer of Absolution. I included this prayer in my Flocknote last week. It is worth repeating here:

God, the Father of mercies,

through the death and resurrection of his Son

has reconciled the world to himself 

and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins;

through the ministry of the Church

may God give you pardon and peace,

and I absolve you from your sins

in the name of the Father + 

and of the Son +

and of the Holy Spirit. + Amen.

With this prayer, you have completed the ritual of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. You are invited to “Go in Peace!”

I hope this explanation takes away some of the “unknown” of this wonderful sacrament. Lent is a wonderful time to celebrate this sacrament. Please take advantage of the times offered. Please note that snow and ice could change the availability of the priest, (usually me – Fr. Jim).

A priest is available, (usually me – Fr. Jim), every week before the Saturday 5:00pm Mass from 3:30pm – 4:30pm for Confessions. 

During this Lent, I will also be available on Monday evenings from 5:30pm – 7:00pm for Confessions. 

AND – going forward, I will be available on the first Wednesday of the month from 9:00 am–10:30 am. During this time, the Blessed Sacrament will be exposed for prayer and adoration.

Fr. Jim

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

February 12, 2021

Dear Friends of Our Lady of Grace,

I begin this Flocknote with some announcement/housekeeping notes:

  1. Some  of you have received an email that indicates that it is from me and says 

“Hi, How Are You? I Need Your Help? Please Let Me Know You Get This.
 Peace.”

Then my signature as Msgr. James Hannon.

This is a scam! Please delete it. 

I was told by our tech guy that this was only text and that it poses no threat to anyone’s computer. It is a lesson for us to consider. If you get an email that is “off” in some way, trust your senses. For example, this particular email capitalizes all the words. This is one indication that something is not right. Another clue is the signature. By far, I most often sign “Fr. Jim.” I occasionally sign using the title “Msgr,” but that is rare. 

If you hear from me it will be via Flocknote, or one of my two emails that end with “@archbalt.org” or “@ourladygrace.org.” In this case, it was the “ourladygrace” account that was used to create a false account – “pastor.ourladygrace@gmail.com.” 

  1. I spoke with both Fr. Joe Wenderoth and Msgr. George Moeller this week. They are both doing well! Like all of us, they are ready for this COVID thing to end. Msgr. Moeller celebrated the Thursday morning Mass before COVID hit. He will start celebrating that Mass again beginning on Thursday, March 11th. 

Now, continuing our series of reflections on the Sacraments, this week we look at the Sacrament of Reconciliation

The above words that began this Flocknote are from the Prayer of Absolution of the Rite of Reconciliation, (what many people refer to as “confession.”) Confession is not as popular as it once was – but it is still one of the Seven Sacraments, and as such, it is something we should take seriously as a gift from God and a source of comfort and healing. All of us are sinners. No one of us escapes this reality in our lives. Christ provides us a way to be released of our sins in this Sacrament of Reconciliation. We are reconciled to God in Christ through the ministry of the Church. Let’s look at a couple of points about the Sacrament of Reconciliation that might help us to recover a love for this wonderful gift.

The priest and the penitent, (the person confessing), meet in person for this Sacrament. The priest hearing the confession is acting on behalf of Christ, and so, in a real sense, the penitent is meeting with and encountering Christ himself. It is Christ who forgives our sins. It is Christ who showers us with the grace of God’s redeeming love. 

It is important to remember that the priest is not better than the penitent in any way. The priest is a fellow sinner who himself always stands in need of the merciful grace of Christ. The priest is, however, ordained to celebrate the Sacraments with the people of God. While we hope that the priest does all he can to avoid sin, the Sacrament does not depend on how holy he is. As long as the priests celebrates the Sacrament correctly, the penitent celebrates the Sacrament of Reconciliation and its graces.

Why do I need a priest to confess my sins? Why can’t I just speak to Christ from my heart, tell him my sins and ask for his forgiveness? This question gets asked often. If we are truly sorry for our sins, we can pray to Christ and be assured of his merciful forgiveness. BUT – this IS NOT a sacrament. The Sacrament of Reconciliation requires that we confess our sins to another member of the Church community who is a priest or bishop. Then, in the name of Christ AND the Church, we are absolved of our sins. 

This absolution of our sins is done in the context of being a member of the Church. Even though the sacrament is celebrated in a private setting between a priest and a penitent, still, it is set within the context of the Church community. The absolution restores us to that community. 

This coming week we begin the season of Lent. It is a perfect time to consider celebrating this Sacrament of Reconciliation. A priest is available, (usually me – Fr. Jim), every week before the Saturday 5 pm Mass from 3:30 pm – 4:30 pm for Confessions. During this Lent, I will also be available on Monday evenings from 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm for Confessions, in the first room to the left as you enter the church from the doors closest to the handicapped parking. (All of this is, of course, weather permitting!)

AND – going forward, I will be available on the first Wednesday of the month from 9:00 am – 10:30 am. During this time, the Blessed Sacrament will be exposed for prayer and adoration.

AND, of course, any parishioner can call me to set up an appointment to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation. 

I will end my Flocknote with the Prayer of Absolution. 

God, the Father of mercies,

through the death and resurrection of his Son

has reconciled the world to himself 

and set the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins;

through the ministry of the Church

may God give you pardon and peace,

and I absolve you from your sins

in the name of the Father + 

and of the Son +

and of the Holy Spirit. + Amen.

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

February 6, 2021

Source and Summit . . .

Dear Friends of Our Lady of Grace,

Let me begin by mentioning that this Flocknote is interspersed with information from Bishop Robert Barron’s series on The Sacraments.

Over the past two weeks we have considered the first two Sacraments of Initiation, Baptism and Confirmation. This week we consider the third of these Sacraments of Initiation, the Eucharist!

As I noted last week, most of us received the Eucharist, (which is the third Sacrament of Initiation), second in line of the Sacraments of Initiation after Baptism. Then, sometime later we received Confirmation, (which is the second of the Sacraments of Initiation.) The reason mentioned was so the bishop could keep some connection to the faithful. I know, it can get confusing! But it is important to know this so that we keep in touch with the practice of the Church from its earliest times.

The Second Vatican Council produced a number of documents. Of all these documents, four of them were “Constitutions.” They addressed matters that were particularly important to the life of the Church. One of these Constitutions was The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.  Part of Section #10 of this Constitution contains what are probably the most well-known words of Vatican II. 

  1. Nevertheless the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Churchy is directed; at the same time it is the fountain (source) from which all her power flows. 

The Eucharist is BOTH source and summit for the Church. It is the encounter with Christ that nourishes us and from which we go; it is the ever-deepening encounter with Christ the heights for which we reach! 

Vatican II confirmed the belief of the Church through the ages. Bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ by the words of the Eucharistic Prayer. Even as bread and wine appear to remain the same, the deepest reality of what appears to be bread and wine changes. The word used for this wondrous reality is TRANSUBSTANTIATION. And we, by eating this sacred food, become something different ourselves. We become the Body of Christ in our world, in our time. The Church, gathered around the altar of the Lord, has engaged this ritual and this reality unbroken from its very beginning. 

This time of COVID-19 has been a challenge to all of us. We are offering live streaming of the Masses and will continue to do so, especially for those who cannot make it to church for Mass. Many people are still not ready to return to church for Mass and are taking advantage of the live streaming of our Masses. I want to challenge all of us on this practice, however. Participation in Mass via live streaming cannot be seen as a replacement for the way we have celebrated Mass in the past. It CANNOT replace the in-person participation at Mass and the reception of Holy Communion, the Body and Blood of Christ. The time will come when we will be able to gather in person for Mass again. When that time comes, let us keep before us the importance of attending Mass in person. Nothing can replace that. For those who are homebound, the live streaming can be source of connection and encouragement. For someone who is homebound, we have Eucharistic Ministers who will again bring the Eucharist to their home. We pray for this time to come.

I end this reflection with a suggestion. The next time you have a slice of bread, prayerfully consider that Christ offers his body and blood to us, truly and really, in something so common as bread. Just as bread feeds and nourishes us, so Christ uses bread to feed us and nourish us with his body and blood that he may nourish us for the task of bringing his presence to our world! 

Fr. Jim

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

January 29, 2021

Be Sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit . . .

Dear Friends of Our Lady of Grace,

Let me begin by mentioning that this Flocknote is interspersed with information from Bishop Robert Barron’s series on The Sacraments.

As I noted last week, my Flocknotes to you for the next weeks would be a series on the Sacraments. This week we will look at the second of the three Sacraments of Initiation, CONFIRMATION. Most of us received this particular Sacrament of Initiation as the third of three, (with Baptism and Eucharist preceding it,) but in fact, from ancient times, the Sacrament of Confirmation was meant to be second in the line of three. I will explore this change in order later in this essay.

So – what is this Sacrament of Confirmation all about? Like all sacraments – the Sacrament of Confirmation is about an encounter with Christ. The  Lord CONFIRMS us with gifts of his Holy Spirit – enabling us to do Christ’s work.

Confirmation is deeply tied to Baptism. It is meant to strengthen and confirm the baptized, so they are prepared to spread and defend the faith in word and action. Another word for this is MISSION. The strength of the Holy Spirit is given for the spreading of the faith.

In his series of The Sacraments, Bishop Barron makes an interesting comparison that is helpful. It is this – “Confirmation stands to Baptism as Pentecost stands to Easter.” Through the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, Confirmation unleashes the power of Baptism, just as Pentecost unfolds the true nature of the Church, the community  of believers in their experience of the Risen Christ. 

Jesus breathed on the disciples and said to them RECEIVE THE HOLY SPIRIT. The Latin word for “breath” is “spiritum.” Jesus breathed on his disciples; this breath was the Holy Spirit. The Sacrament of Confirmation is the way that Jesus breathes on us. The gifts of the Spirit are given so that the confirmed can be about the mission of Christ and his Church. What are these gifts?

Wisdom
Knowledge 
Understanding
Counsel
Piety
Fortitude
Fear of the Lord 

Wisdom: Bishop Barron notes that wisdom is the view of life from the standpoint of the highest cause. What does God want? Asking this reveals the attitude of wisdom.

Knowledge & Understanding: These are about the great truths of the faith. We must know the faith in order to spread it! 

Fortitude: Defending the faith and spreading it requires fortitude. There are so many  who attack our faith. There is so much negative out there. Fortitude gives us strength to face the attacks and speak the truth of Christ. 

Counsel: Is about moral “know how.” It is about prudence and practical wisdom that leads us to depend on God and to ask, “What do I do now, Lord?”

Piety: This is about our attitude towards God. It is about giving to God what is due to God. God, who gave us everything deserves our total commitment and honor. We owe God our worship and life.

Fear of the Lord: This is NOT about being terrified of God. Rather, it is about awe in the presence of God. God deserves the deepest reverence of which our heart is capable . . . a reverence that is beyond family or country or organization. The  one who deserves our deepest reverence is God alone.

The ritual for the Sacrament of Confirmation is beautifully simple. The person to be confirmed stands before the minister of the sacrament. The minister of the sacrament, (usually a bishop, but not always), takes the Oil of Chrism and makes the sign of the cross on the forehead of the person being confirmed saying, “Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit!”  The minister of the sacrament then wishes the confirmed peace. The meaning of being “sealed” is about the “branding” of a person. The sign of the branding is the Sign of the Cross! Confirmation is one of three “character” sacraments. The other two “character” sacraments are Baptism and Holy Orders. Chrism is an oil of consecration. With it, the minister of the sacrament BRANDS the person with a new and deeper identity!

The minister of the Sacrament of Confirmation is usually a bishop. (A priest, however, can be delegated to celebrate Confirmation.) In the early days of the Church, bishops celebrated all the Sacraments of Initiation. When membership in the Church began to increase from the fourth century on, it became impossible for the bishop to be the only minister of the Sacraments of Initiation.  It became the practice that those entering the Church would be baptized and given Eucharist by their local priest. Confirmation was reserved to the bishop as a way for those entering the Church to have a connection with their bishop. This emphasized that the one who was being confirmed had a connection with the larger Church and with the bishop, who was charged with care for the larger flock. This practice remains with us today. It is why Confirmation, the second Sacrament of Initiation, is most often celebrated third, after Baptism and Eucharist. 

It is a particularly windy day today, as I write this Flocknote to you. I am reminded of that first Pentecost when the Spirit came in a mighty wind! “Ands suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit . . .” (Acts 2) 

I end this reflection with a suggestion. Go outside for a moment and experience the wind. It may be a “strong driving wind,” or a gentle breeze. Let it remind you of the breath of God coming to you and speaking of God’s love. Thank God for the Gift of his  HOLY SPIRIT in your life and in the lives of those whom you love. AMEN.

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

January 23, 2021

Dear Friends of Our Lady of Grace,

For some time, a group of Our Lady of Grace parishioners has met to share company and to learn about their faith on most Wednesday mornings after the 8:30 am Mass. In spite of COVID – this group has continued to meet, but now via ZOOM. I am a part of that group, and I look forward each week to our conversations and exploration of our faith.  

(As a side  note . . . if any of you would like to start such a ZOOM group, let me know. I’d be happy to arrange a group or groups to get together via ZOOM and discuss any number of topics that are centered on our faith! Just email me a Jhannon@archbalt.org. I’ll be in touch with you to organize a group.)

This past Wednesday, we started a series on The Sacraments. (The series is presented by Bishop Robert Barron.) This got me to thinking, (via a suggestion by a friend), that it would be a good thing to follow that series here in my Flocknote to you every week. They are, after all, SO important in our lives as Catholics. And so for the next weeks, I will be writing and reflecting on the meaning of the sacraments for us. SO . . . here we go!

The first sacrament and the gateway to all the other sacraments is, or course, BAPTISM. Many of us were baptized as babies, some of us as adults. Baptism is our entry into the Christian/Catholic community. (I write it that way,  i.e. “Christian/Catholic” because we share this sacrament with other Christian communities who celebrate the sacrament as we do. Acknowledgement of this fact could well be the beginning of the conversation that leads us to Christian Unity) 

Most importantly, BAPTISM is our entry into our life in Christ. 

The ritual of baptism is the beginning of a lifelong process that leads us to God’s grace as the source meaning of our lives. Baptism, as our entry into the community of the Church is an entrance into the Mystical Body of Christ, as a sacrament, an outward sign to the world of Christ’s presence. Baptism, with the other sacraments, is the means by which Christ continues to communicate his life to his people. In his series, Bishop Barron calls baptism and all the sacraments the “prolongation of the incarnation across space and time.” We can never escape the wonderful reality that we celebrate at Christmas, the INCARNATION, for God is now with us, intimately tied to us in a relationship that begins with BAPTISM. Bishop Barron notes that BAPTISM, and all the sacraments, is a visible sign of the invisible gift from God – GRACE, or THE DIVINE FRINEDSHIP.

The Seven Sacraments are delineated by what it is they “do,” or how they operate in our lives. BAPTISM is one of three “Sacraments of Initiation.” With CONFIRMATION and EUCHARIST, BAPTISM initiates us into the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ. 

Baptism is also one three sacraments that are called “Character Sacraments.” They give a permanent “character” or “mark” or “configuration.” These sacraments are BAPTISM, CONFIRMATION and HOLY ORDERS. These sacraments mark the individual in such a deep way as to order their lives.

Many of you parents remember taking your child to the church to be baptized. It would be good to remember the promises that you made in the context of the ritual of baptism. You officially named your child, then you asked for the gift of BAPTISM for your child.  The minister of the sacrament then said to you, “You have asked for your child to be baptized. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training them in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring them up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us.” 

At one point in the ritual of baptism, we were anointed with CHRISM, a special oil of consecration. (Chrism is used for the three “Sacraments of Character.”) The minister said, “As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet and King, so may you live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life.” 

There is, of course, so much more that could be said about the importance and beauty of the Sacrament of Baptism. We will see in future weeks how important it is in relationship with the other sacraments. 

I’ll end this reflection with a suggestion. The next time you run the water at your sink, touch it and make the sign of the cross. Flowing water is a sign of our life in Christ. Thank God for the gift of his GRACE in your life and in the lives of those whom you love. 

Fr. Jim

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

January 14, 2021

A Prayer for our Nation and Government 

What is coming this week? On Monday our nation celebrates the annual observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. On Wednesday, the swearing in of a new President and new Vice-President will take place. This year, both the remembrance of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the beginning of a presidential administration are set against the backdrop of a nation that is sadly divided. It is difficult to hope when we are plummeted with sad news of insurrection and disruption, and reports of plans for more disruption in the days ahead. But hope we must! For our deepest and truest allegiance is to Jesus Christ and his kingdom in our midst. No matter what our political stripe, it is in allegiance to Jesus and the kingdom that he announced that we find our common ground and the source of deepest identity. It is to this identity that we commit each time we receive the Eucharist!

Having said that, let us then turn to prayer. The rest of this Flocknote will be given over to a Prayer for Government written by the first bishop in the United States, the first Archbishop of Baltimore, Archbishop John Carroll. Archbishop Carroll wrote this prayer in 1791. May it give voice to our hopes as we mark the transition in presidential administrations. 

PRAYER FOR GOVERNMENT BY ARCHBISHOP JOHN CARROLL

We pray you, O God of might, wisdom, and justice, through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist with your Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude the President of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to your people, over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality. Let the light of your divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government, so that they may tend to the preservation of peace, the promotion of national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge; and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty. We recommend likewise, to your unbounded mercy, all our fellow citizens throughout the United States, that we may be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of your most holy law; that we may be preserved in union, and in that peace which the world cannot give; and after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal.

Fr. Jim

~~~~~~

January 3, 2021

Welcome All Wonders . . . an Epiphany!

Dear Friends of Our Lady of Grace,

This weekend we celebrate the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. The gospel for this feast is Matthew’s telling of the story of the three magi who followed the star that took them to Jesus. There, they offered their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. These three gifts point to deeper realities. The gold indicates that Jesus is king. Frankincense indicates that Jesus is God. Myrrh is a spice that will be used to prepare the body of Jesus for his burial. And so, even as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we do not forget why he came to us – to undergo the redeeming act of his love for us on the cross. 

For both my Christmas homily and my Epiphany homily, I quote a poem written by Richard Crashaw in 1648:

Welcome all wonders in one sight!
Eternity shut in a span,
summer in winter,
day in night,
heaven in earth
and God in man.

Great little one whose all embracing birth
lifts earth to heaven,
stoops heaven to earth.

And so on this great Solemnity of the Epiphany, we WELCOME the WONDER of God made flesh and come to save us! We WELCOME the vision that the magi beheld as they completed their journey to the place where Jesus lay.

May this new year be one of many wonders for us all! May God’s blessing be like a star that guides us to his love.

Fr. Jim

* * * * *

December 23, 2020

Dear Friends of Our Lady of Grace,

Greetings to all and MERRY CHRISTMAS.

In this past week, we have celebrated a number of “confluences,” “convergences,” or even “conjunctions!” In the gospel of last weekend, the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to announce to her that she will bear a son who will be “Son of the Most High, and the Lord will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Interestingly, the feast that celebrates this scene, (the Annunciation), is celebrated on March 25th every year, exactly nine months before Christmas. It is also considered to be that moment when Jesus was conceived in the womb of Mary.

In our weekday readings, we encountered Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John the Baptist. It is the scene that we know as the Visitation. It was the meeting of Mary and Elizabeth AND the meeting of Jesus and John!

Our Collect Prayer from last week notes that the Incarnation of Christ is made known by this angel. Mary’s “YES” to the angel’s announcement brings about the great reality of God made flesh! (Incarnation!) It is Mary who is a house/tabernacle for the God who comes into our midst by the birth of Jesus.

Whenever we receive the Eucharist, WE become the house/tabernacle of God! What an amazing thing! We, the created, become the place where the divine dwells. We who are finite are privileged to hold the infinite within us! This honor is given to us by a God who loves us. God comes to us to establish an intimate relationship with us. God becomes our very food and drink as he offers his body and blood to us. On Christmas, we will look to another house, Bethlehem . . . a name that means, “house of bread.” There, the one who offers us his body and blood is born anew in our lives!

O Come! Let us adore him who is our salvation, the one for whom we long, God with us then and now and into the future! May the darkness of 2020 be shattered and broken by the power of Christ, who is light from light, and may 2021 be a year of healing and peace.

I join our entire staff in wishing all a blessed and Merry Christmas!

Fr. Jim

* * * * * * *

December 13, 2020

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. 

Dear Friends of Our Lady of Grace,

Christmas Masses ~

As you know, last week I highlighted the Christmas Mass schedule and the sign-up process for reserving a seat at our Masses, (given the limited seating that has been mandated due to Covid-19). That process has gone well. If you wish to reserve a seat, please go to our parish website. Some of the Masses are already full, but you can still find room at other Masses. 

Distribution of Communion ~

This weekend, the Third Weekend of Advent, we will be returning to having communion at the normal time at Masses. The process will be a bit different in that we are trying to distribute communion in a way that respects social distancing. That process will be explained at Masses. 

A reminder about how to receive communion:

  • Please keep a 6-foot distance between you and the person in front of you, both going to receive communion and when returning to your seat.
  • Wear your mask until you have communion in your hand – step to the side, THEN adjust your mask in order to place the host in your mouth.
  • Please offer your hand flat rather than cupped – in order to help in avoiding physical contact  with the person distributing communion.

Advent Reflection

 This weekend we hear from the gospel of John, who highlights John the Baptist, “the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘make straight the way of the Lord.’” John the Baptist is announcing the one whose presence and activity are about inaugurating the reign of God! And what does this “reign” look like? Our first reading from Isaiah the prophet gives us a hint. “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me . . . he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and release to prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord . . .!”

This Third Week of Advent has traditionally been called GAUDETE Sunday. GAUDETE means REJOICE! Saint Paul tells us to, “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, . . .” I began this Flocknote quoting the words of Saint Paul in his letter to the Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed the Lord is near.” (Philippians 4: 4-5) Even in the midst of a difficult year when it would be easy to feel disoriented and disconnected, we are reminded to rejoice! There is much to rejoice about! Keeping our eyes fixed on this positive message can give us the ability to get through this time, so we can at last arrive at the dawn of our salvation! Remember . . . REJOICE!

Fr. Jim


* * * * * *

December 5, 2020

Christmas Masses, Happenings and Advent Reflections . . .

Dear Friends of Our Lady of Grace,

This weekend I call your attention our Christmas Mass schedule. 

Christmas Eve Masses will be celebrated:

2:00 pm         Church

4:00 pm         Church

4:15 pm          Hall

6:00 pm         Church

8:00 pm         Church

10:00 pm       Church

Christmas Day Mass will be celebrated at:

10:00 am        Church

We will be careful to observe all COVID-19 protocols for the safety of all who attend our Masses. Since our seating is limited at this time, we are asking that you register for the Mass you wish to attend. Go to our parish website at www.ourladygrace.org and follow the instructions to register yourself and your family. If the Mass is full, you will be asked to register for another Mass. Thank you for your patience as we maneuver this most unusual year in our lives!

Advent Reflections . . .

This second week of Advent, we hear from the 40th Chapter of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. It is, I believe, one of the most beautiful scriptures written. Isaiah has God speaking tenderly to Jerusalem and announcing the deep and abiding comfort that he brings to her. Then we hear about that voice that cries out  . . . PREPARE THE WAY FOR THE LORD! The beginning of Mark’s gospel for this weekend quotes this chapter of the Prophet Isaiah and identifies that voice as belonging to John the Baptist, who is announcing the coming Christ who baptizes with the Spirit. The imagery used in the Book of the Prophet Isaiah is that of valleys being filled in, mountains and hills made low, rugged land being made a plain, rough country a broad valley. The road for God into our hearts must be smooth; nothing should hinder our welcome of the divine in our lives!

Every year during this season we are given the opportunity to go back in time to the yearning for the first coming of Christ so that we can look at life now and into the future to a second coming of Christ. We are not just remembering traditions from the past that make us “feel good,” we are remembering so that our present is informed and infused with the meaning of the events we celebrate.

Fr. Jim

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First Weekend of Advent . . .

Dear Friends of Our Lady of Grace,

I begin  by sharing with you an experience that is relatively new to me, one that has given me an opportunity to see our gathering for Mass in a different way. As you know, I am seated ten or fifteen minutes before Mass begins. (This was born out of the COVID-19 instructions to not have a procession for a time. That is why it is relatively new.) During this time, I have thought about how beautiful it is to see people coming into the church for Mass. One by one, people find their place in the church. Many, including me, wave to others, mostly keeping a reverent silence as others pray before Mass. It strikes me that this simple act of people entering the church is, in itself, a part of our Mass and a significant matter. People are GATHERING, they are quite literally MAKING an ASSEMBLY. Once we have gathered, we celebrate the most sacred prayer we pray, the Mass. Being already seated before Mass begins has given me the blessing of reflecting on the meaning of our gathering or assembling more deeply than I ever have before. It has also allowed me time to reflect on my own role in this gathering as one who presides at Mass. 

A Brief Advent Reflection . . .

This experience that I have just described was born out of “Pandemic Time.” Is it fair to say that something good has come out of this time? I think so. It is also fair to say that a lot of people have had enough “down time,” and are ready to get back to normal. But will there ever be a normal as it was before? I think not. The normal will be new. As we now engage the Season of Advent, we might want to think about that. We may find that this season, with its emphasis on waiting for God to come to us, might just be in tune with what we are experiencing. For, while we wait for God to come to us, we are also waiting for our deeper selves to be revealed in that wait. That process can be uncomfortable or even painful, (like the time we are in.) But, being born anew usually is. 

Fr. Jim

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November 13, 2020

Dear Friends of Our Lady of Grace,

This weekend the Church marks the 33rd Weekend of Ordinary Time. This is the last of the weekends of this liturgical year that has a number attached to it. Next weekend, we will celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King. Then we engage a new liturgical year with the First Weekend of Advent. (Christmas is not far away!) 

This past week and this coming week are particularly rich one in terms of the celebration of feasts of saints. I want to use my Flocknote this week, (as I do upon occasion), to highlight some of our saints whom we honor with feast days. The information given in this Flocknote comes from our ORDO – a book that contains the “Order of Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours and Celebration of the Eucharist,” and the “Saint of the Day” from Franciscan Media. 

November 9th – The Dedication of the Lateran Basilica

This day marks the anniversary of the dedication of the cathedral church of Rome on land that was once owned by the Laterani family and willed to the Church. This dedication happened on November 9th, 324. This church is honored as the episcopal seat of the pope as bishop of Rome. On the façade of this church are the Latin words for, “mother and head of all the churches of Rome and the world.”  This feast is one of three feasts in the year that celebrate the dedication of church buildings. The other two feasts of the Dedication of Saint Mary Major, (August 5th), and the Dedication of Basilicas of Saints Peter and Paul, (November 18th).

November 10th – Saint Leo the Great (died in 461)

Leo was elected pope in 440. He was considered an eminent pastor and preacher. He worked against two heresies of the day – Pelagianism (overemphasizing human freedom), and Manichaeism (seeing everything material as evil). He is known as one of the best administrative popes of the ancient Church. His “Tome” on Christ’s two natures was adopted by the Council of Chalcedon. (451) Many of his prayers are found in the Roman Missal. He saved Rome from marauding Huns and Vandals. 

November 11th – Saint Martin of Tours (died in 397)

Martin was born of pagan parents in what is now Hungary. He was forced to serve in the army at age 15. He was baptized at age 18. He became a disciple of Saint Hilary of Poitiers, (feast day January 13th). He worked with great zeal against the heresy of Arianism. He founded the first monastery in the Western (Latin) Church. He became bishop of Tours at the insistence of the people of Tours. He was the first non-martyr with an annual feast in the Western Church. He is the patron of soldiers, wine producers, and of France.

November 12th – St. Josaphat / Bishop and Martyr (died 1623)

Josaphat Kuncevych was born in Poland, and was raised Ukrainian Orthodox. His fidelity to Rome and his desire for union between the Ukrainian Church and Rome led to his murder at Vitebsk. He is the first formally canonized saint of the Eastern Rite. 

November 13th – St. Frances Xavier Cabrini (died 1917)

Frances Xavier Cabrini is the youngest of thirteen children. She founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart. She ministered for twenty-eight years in the United States and South America. She is responsible for the establishment of sixty-seven institutions that include schools hospitals and orphanages. She died at one of the hospitals she established in Chicago in 1917. She is the first US citizen to be canonized, (1946). She is the patroness of immigrants and migrants.

November 16th – St. Margaret of Scotland (died 1093)

Margaret spent much of her youth in the court of her great-uncle, the English King Edward the Confessor. Her family fled England to escape William the Conquerer. She ended up in Scotland when the ship she and her family were in shipwrecked off the coast of Scotland. Eventually, Margaret married King Malcolm III of Scotland. Her love of the poor was legendary. 

November 17th – St. Elizabeth of Hungary (died 1231)

At the age of fourteen, Elizabeth married Louis IV of Thuringia, (a German principality), whom she deeply loved. She led a life of prayer, sacrifice and service to the poor. She wore simply clothing and would daily take bread to the poorest who would come to her gate. Elizabeth’s husband Louis IV died in the Crusades. After his death Elizabeth joined the secular Franciscan Order. She founded a hospital in honor of St. Francis. She died before her 24th birthday and was canonized only four years after her death. She is the patroness of Catholic charities.

November 18th – The Dedication of the Basilicas of Saint Peter and Saint Paul

Vatican hill was once a simple cemetery where Saint Peter was buried. After his death, believers would gather at Peter’s tomb to pray. In 319, Emperor Constantine built a basilica on the site of Peter’s tomb that lasted for more than a thousand years! In 1506, Pope Julius II ordered that the old basilica be torn down. (The old basilica was in terrible shape by that time and close to collapse). He ordered that a new basilica be built in the place of the old basilica. Two centuries later, on November 18, 1626, the Basilica of Saint Peter’s that we know today was consecrated by Pope Urban VIII. 

St. Paul-Outside-the-Walls was also built over a church that was commissioned by Emperor Constantine over the grave of Paul. In 386, Emperor Valentinian II ordered the building of a church on this site to replace the one that Emperor Constantine had built. This church was destroyed by fire in 1823. A new one was built on the same site and was consecrated by Pope Pius IX. Pius IX joined the dedication of these two great basilicas to be celebrated with one feast. 

The celebration of the Apostles Peter & Paul are often joined. They have one feast on the liturgical calendar on June 29th. They are considered the “Twin Founders of the New Rome.” You will often see them depicted in art together. 

So – we began, and we end our look at the saints with the dedication of three of the four major basilicas in Rome. These buildings remind us that as the Body of Christ, we ourselves are an edifice built by the Holy Spirit. Each member is a part of the larger structure built up to be one great “building,” one great Body of Christ. The saints whose lives we have explored and celebrated here are but a few of the lives who are part of the larger edifice of the Body of Christ. 

Fr. Jim

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November 6, 2020

Dear Friends of Our Lady of Grace,

This weekend of November 7th and 8th, we welcome Fr. Steven Roth to our parish. Fr. Steven is the Vocations Director of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. He is here to speak with us about vocations. Ten years ago, the Archdiocese of Baltimore had around twenty-four men preparing for priesthood for service to the Archdiocese. Today, we have fifty-three men preparing for priesthood for the Archdiocese. (Take a look at the large vocations flyer in the foyer of the church.) Fr. Roth deserves much credit for the increase of men preparing at this time. He is energetic and joy filled about his ministry!

All of us, as baptized members of the Body of Christ, are called by God . . . we all have a “vocation.” The married life is a “vocation.” Perhaps your work is a real “vocation” for you, you feel called to do the work you are doing. This weekend, however, Fr. Steven will focus on vocations to ordained ministry and religious life. 

A clarification . . . on “religious life.” This term applies to those who are members of a religious community. It can be women or men. Women’s religious communities are comprised of sisters or nuns. (There is a difference!) Men can be brothers or priests in their religious community. A man can hear God’s call to the priesthood as well as priesthood in a religious community. Communal living is a charism that not all men have. The term “religious” or “religious life” does not apply to all priests. Many of us priests are “diocesan priests” – who belong to a body of priests in a particular diocese called “a presbyterate.” For example, Fr. Roth and I both belong to the presbyterate of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. So, while I hope we both of us are “religious men,” (meaning that we live religious lives and our religion is important to us), we are not “religious” in the sense we use the word here. 

A bit of my own story . . .

When I was young, both of my brothers were in the seminary. I was introduced to the idea of “vocation to the priesthood” early on in my life. I, of course, wanted to be like my brothers, so I decided that I wanted to go to the seminary. In the early 1960’s, I went to St. Paul Latin High School in Baltimore. St. Paul’s was a day seminary – meaning that we attended the seminary during the day but went home in the evening and on weekends like every other high school student. St. Paul’s closed after my second year of high school when the seminary program was moved to Cardinal Gibbons High School. I went with the program and attended and graduated from Cardinal Gibbons. (One of our parishioners, Alan Stokes, was in my class at Gibbons!) After graduation from Gibbons, I attended college seminary at St. Mary’s College Seminary, which was located on the site of the old St. Charles Seminary in Catonsville, MD. From St. Mary’s College Seminary, I decided to leave seminary for a period of time. I attended and graduated from Loyola College. During all this time, my own vocation matured and grew. I found that I wanted to be a priest because I felt called by God to this vocation, not because I wanted to be like my brothers. (By the way – they both left the seminary and got married!) I taught high school religion at Seton High School and the Institute of Notre Dame. Eventually I found my way back to the seminary to work toward becoming a priest for the Archdiocese of Baltimore. I attended a seminary named Theological College – nicknamed “TC.” TC was attached to The Catholic University of America. My time at TC was a wonderful time in my life. My education at The Catholic University was a gift for which I am thankful. (I lived on the fifth floor of the seminary. During the winter, when the trees had no leaves, I could see the capital dome from my window!) I was ordained a deacon in 1987 and a priest in 1988 by Archbishop William Borders. As they say . . . the rest is history!

I can honestly say that I love being a priest! I feel that my temperament and gifts match the ministry that I do as a priest and pastor. As you know, before coming to Our Lady of Grace, I served as Director of Clergy Personnel for eight years. I had the privilege of working with our own diocesan priests, (including Fr. Roth in his role as Vocations Director), and religious priests during that time. I feel that this ministry gave me deeper insight into the call to be a priest. Many people think that we priests have to sacrifice so much in our lives in order to follow God’s call. In fact, I don’t feel that I have had to sacrifice much at all! I would argue that instead of sacrifice, I have found joy in priestly ministry! The return to parish ministry has affirmed for me that I love serving as a pastor. Serving here at Our Lady of Grace has been a true blessing in my life! 

Many times young people are introduced to the idea of a vocation to being a deacon, priest or religious when they are invited by someone to consider the vocation. Do you know anyone who fits this description? If so – consider telling them that you think they might want to consider a vocation. Your affirmation of their gifts might be the one thing they need to open their eyes to the possibility that God is calling them to serve the Church in this way. You yourself might be the voice that God uses to call someone to consider a vocation! 

Fr. Jim

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November 1, 2020

Some Catching Up. . . a Word of Welcome . . . All Saints and All Souls!

Dear Friends of Our Lady of Grace,

Some catching up . . . 

I spoke with both Fr. Joe Wenderoth and Msgr. George Moeller this past week and wanted to bring you up to date on both of them! Both report that they are doing well. They commented on the fact that this time of Covid-19 has had its challenges. Mercy Ridge, where they both live, has been very careful with Covid-19 protocols. Both Fr. Joe and Fr. George are grateful for the careful approach being taken and are themselves being careful to observe all appropriate protocols. As you know, Fr. George had some surgery some time back. He reports that he is fully recovered and feeling well. I reminded Fr. Joe that when we are able that we still want to have a celebration of the many years of service that he gave to our parish! (That celebration was interrupted by Covid-19.) While that time is not here yet, we won’t forget!

A word of welcome . . .

When Fr. Joe told me that his doctor recommended to him that he cut back on his outside activities and that he felt it was time to stop celebrating Mass at Our Lady of Grace, I was hoping that we might find someone else to celebrate Mass in our parish in an ongoing way, as Fr. Joe did. God provided! Msgr. Michael Schleupner was available and interested in serving Our Lady of Grace in exactly this way! Msgr. Schleupner is a retired priest of the Archdiocese. Before retiring, he served as pastor of St. Margaret in Bel Air, MD. We WELCOME Msgr. Schleupner and thank him for joining our parish community to preside at Eucharist! 

All Saints Day . . . All Souls Day

This weekend we celebrate All Saints Day! This would usually be the 31st Sunday of Ordinary Time, however, when a Solemnity like All Saints Day occurs on the same day as a Sunday in Ordinary Time, the Solemnity takes precedence! In the course of the liturgical year, we celebrate a number of saints whose lives are held up as examples of how to live the faith. Their stories are often heroic and inspiring. On this feast, however, we celebrate ALL the saints, known and unknown, who have lived as true disciples of Christ. Among them could well be our deceased friends and family, whose example of living out the faith was formative to our own lives as disciples. We believe that time and space do not keep us from their presence, and that they are with us every time we celebrate the Eucharist. They gather around the altar with us to sing the praises of Christ who has redeemed us all. This weekend let us be grateful for their witness and living out of the faith from centuries past to the present day. May God be praised in His angels and in His saints!

All Saints Day if followed, of course, by All Souls Day – to be celebrated this Monday. All Souls Day is also known as the “Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed” and “Day of the Dead.” While All Saints Day is triumphant, All Souls Day has a more somber feel to it. For us as Christians, our belief that Christ is triumphant over death and that we are redeemed by his saving grace places our death and the death of those we love in a joyful context. Death has no sway over us for Christ has redeemed us from death! Even so, on this side of heaven, we have to acknowledge that death is a sad experience for us. When we lose someone we love, we miss them, we grieve the loss of those whom we love. Even when we are confident that we will be with them again, the loss we feel is real and needs to be acknowledged. 

We have a choice of three liturgical colors for All Souls Day: white, purple or black. You don’t see black vestments much these days! Some years ago, I had a set of black vestments made to wear on All Souls Day in memory of my deceased parents. The black vestments acknowledge the sadness that is part of the experience of death. But Christ redeems even that sadness as we celebrate his life, death AND resurrection whenever we gather at the Lord’s table to be fed by Word and Sacrament!

Fr. Jim 

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October 19, 2020

Our Path Forward . . . A stewardship Initiative . . . Reflections from Last Week

Dear Friends of Our Lady of Grace,

This weekend we launch our stewardship initiative, Our Path Forward. My thanks to Scott Shannon, a member of our Finance Committee, for his willingness to address the people at all our Masses. Scott will be inviting us to prayerfully reflect on our giving to Our Lady of Grace. This initiative is an opportunity to continue to support our parish ministries and mission. While we are asking you to consider increasing your giving to Our Lady of Grace, this initiative is about so much more than finances. It is about our ability as a parish to continue to be about the mission of proclaiming Jesus Christ! Clearly this time of pandemic has had an impact on all our lives. It has also had an impact on our parish. If Our Lady of Grace is to continue being an inviting parish that reaches out to those in our community to offer them the good news, then all of us who are members of the parish will need to support the efforts that are required for this evangelizing mission. God invites us to be laborers in the vineyard. Please let your gift to Our Lady of Grace be your part in supporting that labor. 

Universal Prayer – Joining Our Prayers With Mary and All the Saints

Many weekends in the Prayer of the Faithful, (aka Universal Prayer), we often have a prayer that prays, “for those needs entrusted to us by others, and for those needs we hold in our hearts.” This weekend and going forward, I am going to do something different with this prayer, and I wanted you to know about it! Going forward, when this prayer is part of the Universal Prayer, I am going to add the names of the saints whose feasts we celebrated the week before the weekend that Mass is celebrated. So – for this weekend, our prayer will go this way . . .

For needs that have been entrusted to us by others, and for those needs we hold in the silence of our hearts, that they be united in the Holy Spirit with Mary, the Mother of God, St. Callistus, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Hedwig, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, and St. Ignatius of Antioch, we pray: Lord, hear our prayer.

Mary is, of course, always mentioned first, as she is our patroness and the first and truest disciple. When we gather at Mass, we believe that the saints are with us at the altar. Now, in the course of the year, we will mention by names those saints whose feast is on the liturgical calendar. 

Fr. Jim 

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June 17, 2020

For it is in giving that we receive . . .

This line is taken from the Prayer of St. Francis. Giving, (specifically to Our Lady of Grace), will be a theme that I will take up in the next several weeks, as it is on my mind and the minds of all who care for our parish.

Now that we have had a couple of months to figure out how the Pandemic has affected our parish financially, I write to you with an update on how Our Lady of Grace is doing in that area. It is a matter of some concern. What is that concern about?

  • Envelope offertory giving is down over 50%.
  • Our offertory income is not covering our payroll and insurance expenses. We are short an average of $9,000 a month.
  • Our total income does not cover all our operating expenses.

We are short $30,000 on average per month.

And so a few points . . .

  1. To those who can give but who have not given because you have not yet returned to church . . . I appeal to you to please reinstitute your own pattern of giving to Our Lady of Grace. If you can increase your gift, that would be much appreciated. As you can see from the above stats, our need is great at this time.
  2. To those who have continued to give throughout these past few months, our thanks for your ongoing generosity to the parish. If you can increase you giving, that would be much appreciated. If every parishioner increased their giving by a relatively small amount, that would make a difference. . . a difference that we need at this time.
  3. Whenever I have written or spoken about giving to the parish, I have tried to be sensitive to the fact that some of our parishioners are themselves experiencing financial stress. For this reason, some may find it difficult to give as they try to find their way through this time. To those who find themselves in this situation, please know that we continue to pray for you and your families. If you cannot give at this time, then please give to the parish via your own prayers that Our Lady of Grace will find its new normal and be financially viable.
  4. To all who are able to give, I ask that you seriously consider setting up a weekly or monthly ongoing offering to Our Lady of Grace via GIVE CENTRAL. You will find the link to this online service on parish website . . . https://www.ourladygrace.org/

GIVE CENTRAL is an ideal way to give as your support will be sent to the parish even if you are unable to attend Mass. It is also ideal as it gives you complete control over how much you give and what collections you support.

I will be addressing this need again in future Flocknotes and from the pulpit. Thank you all for considering the need of the parish at this time. It is so important for us to find a way to continue our ministries as a parish and keep the goal of a  healthy financial status in front of us always. But it is good to remember that in the end, it is not about finances . . . it is about finances that support the mission given us by Jesus himself – to GO MAKE DISCIPES. It is important for us always to remember that our giving reflects our own priorities in life. Giving from the heart offers us a chance to be part of something bigger than ourselves. “For it is in giving that we receive. . .”

Thank you.

Fr. Jim

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