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Our Church

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Prayer of Sending for the Rite of Election 2011

"My dear elect, you have set out with us on the road that leads to the glory of Easter.  Christ will be your way, your truth, and your life.  Until we meet again for the scrutinies, walk always in his peace."  The Dismissal prayer for the elect captures in a wonderful way what Lent is all about for each of us and amazingly for us as a parish family.  This year we will welcome seven new members to our parish family!  Not since Fr. August was here have so many chosen to join us at the Eucharist!  Each is a wonderful person and an inspiring story of God's providence and grace!  On the first Sunday of Lent it is customary for Catechumens and Candidates to travel to the Cathedral and to be presented to the Bishop for "election" to receive the rites of initiation.  What a powerful ceremony it is!  Bishop Etienne represents 2011 years of continuity with Jesus Christ and the Apostolic Church that Jesus founded.  Thus when one stands in his presence the office of Bishop so clearly manifests just how true our faith is!  The bishop is the principle priest, teacher, and governor of the Diocese.  That is why those who are seeking to enter the Church, after careful preparation and formation at their parishes, are presented to the bishop.  He guarantees that they will receive the saving graces intended by Jesus and won for us by His suffering, death, and resurrection.  Graces that are uniquely given through the seven sacraments.  So we as a parish rejoice with: Cipriano Vega, Delaney Campbell, Nyah Campbell, Wade Newton, and Chase Anderson.  These five will be baptized at the Easter Vigil just 5 weeks from now!  Kristi Vigil and Kaeli Campbell will also enter into full union with the Church.  They are called Candidates since each has already been baptized.  Kristi will be confirmed and receive the Eucharist for the first time; Kaeli will make a profession of Faith and receive full communion with the Catholic Church then be confirmed and receive the Eucharist.

What a wonderful group of people!  I am truly inspired and amazed at the good work that God has begun in each of these Elect and Candidates and also in each of us!  In a real way each of us will be different when we renew our baptismal vows this Easter.  How this will happen is up to us:  our penance, prayers, fasting, and almsgiving are meant to dispose us to the great grace of Easter!  Let us rejoice and encourage each other as we continue the great pilgrimage of Lent!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lent a pilgrimage to the victorious cross!

Lent is a pilgrimage!  A couple weeks ago I took a hike with the World Youth Day pilgrims from our parish.  We carried 40 lb. backpacks, or their equivalents, and hiked the bike path to simulate what we will experience in Spain this coming August.  We shared an inspiring talk by Tyler and a "yucky" lunch together.  I spoke to them about Lent and how we as a Church are constantly moving toward the Second Coming of Jesus!  The liturgical year has as its highpoint the great season of Easter when we renew our baptismal promises and experience the new life of the children of God!  The season of Lent is characterized by discipline: acts of penance, self denial, and service: "This rather is the fasting I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and homeless; Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.  Then your light shall break forth like the dawn..."  This discipline ought to become for us a new way of life.  We are not to return to the slavery to sin from which Jesus liberates us during this grace filled time!

Last night I had the privilege of blessing the girls basketball team on their "last supper" prior to leaving for State tournament.  It occurred to me that the seating arrangement for the dinner looked very much like a triclinium, the table at which Jesus ate his last supper before going to His glorious victory on the cross. 

I think that sports can be a really healthy image of Lent.  Sports like basketball require us to play as a team.  In order for this to happen we have to learn to be selfless and to be attentive to those who play with us and who's efforts are necessary for victory.  This takes lots of practice, lots of sacrifice, hard work, study, and a commitment forged in the fires of desire.  The same is true for Catholics.  We in baptism are made part of God's people:  we too are called to daily prayer, liturgical prayer with our parish family, we have to make sure that what we do on Saturday and Sunday corresponds to the way we live the rest of our lives.  Discipleship as a Catholic is a lifelong team effort!

Discipleship as Catholics takes good coaching!  Just like our boys and girls who would never have qualified for state without the wisdom, guidance, discipline, and encouragement of their coaches so we too must rely on God (this pic aptly captures a team of three kinda like the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), the Pope, our Bishop and our pastor.  We need each other too.  We have to be ready, young and old, to lead by example as we journey together toward Easter joy.

This is my first Lent with you as a Pastor!  I am conscious of this in a powerful way.  Hard to believe that I did not know any of you 9 months ago, let alone last Lent!  I believe that God brought us together for a reason.  I am not completely clear what that reason is but I know that God is forming us as a parish family.  In just the 8 months that I have been here as your Pastor, I have seen such amazing examples of faith and community.  I eagerly look forward to the fruits that our Lenten penance, prayer, and service will yield!

As you may have noticed we have a new floor and a new paint job in the entryway of the church!  It was such joy to see the faces and to hear the surprise in so many people's eyes.  I need to credit my committee that picked the tile and paint color!  Plus a good Samaritan who did the painting and McKinnon flooring who worked so hard to get this done from Sunday to Tuesday!  Also the flooring in the Rectory entryway is also complete!  I see in this a metaphor for Lent as well!  Just as there is a floor in the new entryway to our public worship and parish office so too do we as a parish family have to make these days of Lent an opportunity to re floor and repaint our interior entryway for Christ and others!  St. Leo the Great, Pope  wrote: "Initially, men are made new by the rebirth of baptism.  Yet there is still required a daily renewal to repair the shortcomings of our mortal nature, and whatever degree of progress has been made there is no one who should not be more advanced.  All must strive to ensure that on the day of redemption no one may be found in the sins of his former life.  Dear friends, what the Christian should be doing at all times should be done now with greater care and devotion, so that the Lenten fast enjoined by the apostles may be fulfilled, not simply by abstinence from food but above all by the renunciation of sin."  

May this Lent be a true pilgrimage for all of us!  Know of my prayers for you and your love ones as we continue this journey toward holiness and the joy of Easter!

Friday, February 4, 2011

You are the Salt of the earth; You are the Light of the World!

Jesus said to His disciples: "You are the salt of the earth...You are the light of the world." (Mt 5: 13, 15)  This week is liturgically extraordinary!  Within the same week we encounter two very clear expressions of the mysteries of our faith:  The Presentation of the Lord and the 5th week in Ordinary Time's gospel!  Both celebrations commemorate Jesus as the Light of the World and how we, "through, with, and in Him" extend God's redemptive work.  On Wednesday we celebrated the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple.  I got to share this feast those who came to daily mass a 7 a.m. then with all the kids in CCD on Wednesday afternoon and evening.  Each person was given a blessed candle to carefully keep lit as a reminder that Jesus is the light of the world.  Jesus is the light that shines in the darkness that no sin, evil, disaster, or doubt can extinguish.  It was wonderful to watch the teachers light each student's candle.  I stressed with the children that it is no accident that they have the parents that they do, or the teachers, coaches, mentors, or pastor that they do.  God selected every one of these individuals to reflect the light of Christ to them.  Isn't this truth a cause for consolation and humility?  God chose you to be a parent or to have the parents you have because there is something about you that others need and something you need from each person in your life. (There is a duty each parent, pastor, teacher, coach, mentor has to live up to this duty, a particularly harsh condemnation awaits anyone "who would cause these little ones to sin.").  This is true, for us as brothers and sisters in the parish.  As a parish we are a family and have been drawn together by God to enlighten and encourage one another.

The liturgy for the Feast of the Presentation envisions a procession with lit candles into the Church for mass.  We are on a journey together to meet Jesus who is the bridegroom of the Church as our redeemer, Savior, and Lord.  Just as a spouse entrusts everything to his/her spouse so we must dedicate the whole of our attention and daily lives to Jesus!  Many of the children's candles went out once, twice, or several times.  I had given the teachers and adults tapers to light the votive candles of the kids.  I reflected with the children that when our faith seems to go out, we need the faith of others to reignite our faith and to encourage us.  We need a community to keep our light shining brightly and to increase its brilliance.  This was brought home when I asked the kids what they would have done had there been no adults to light their candles.  "No one could have helped us."  This is the message of the readings for the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time! 

"Thus says the Lord:  Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own.  Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed; your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.  Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer, you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am."(Is. 58:7-9)  The Kingdom of God is not ethereal or solely philosophical, but is communal and concrete.  We are challenged to live the corporal and spiritual works of mercy through the lens of all that God has done and continues to do for us!  We live discipleship as salt and light to the degree that we encounter each other personally.  We are constantly called to be in the moment, to be Eucharistic: allowing ourselves to be blessed, broken, and given to others in ordinary daily ways!  To the degree that we allow ourselves to be salt and light for others do we realize the presence of God's Kingdom!  This week is truly to be an extraordinary liturgical experience!  We are called to see in Jesus the Light that illuminates us, enlightens us as a parish family, and then, "Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father."(Mt 5:16)  Let the light shine!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Christ Jesus, wisdom from God, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption

"It is due to (God) that you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, as well as righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, so that, as it is written, 'Whoever boasts, should boast in the Lord.'"(1 Cor 1:31)  This weekend we celebrate for the first time in this Liturgical year, the concrete teaching that Jesus uniquely offers to us as our Christ, that is as our Messiah!  Beatitude means happiness!  God wants us to experience joy and joy to the full!  This is good news!  God alone is the key to human happiness and fulfillment.  This is true because we are made in the image and likeness of God, and are created for ultimate beatitude: unity with God!  In Matthew's gospel we see Jesus as the new Moses, who went up the mountain to receive from God the Ten Commandments, which was the crown of the covenant that was born of the passover of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt to freedom in God.  Like Moses, Jesus offers us freedom from slavery!  The slavery Jesus frees us from is the slavery to sin, which causes death.  This weekend we are challenged to embrace anew the value system of the Kingdom of God.  The Beatitudes are the blueprint for our individual and communal lives!  They are also counter cultural and have the power to transform us as a parish family. 

Last Monday I hosted 32 women from our parish to do Lectio Divina (holy reading) with the Eucharistic Prayers in the current Roman Missal.   I explained the parts to of the Eucharistic prayer: Thanksgiving, Acclamation, Epiclesis, Institution Narrative and Consecration, Anamnesis, Second Epiclesis, Intercessions, and Doxology and Great Amen.  We are called to remember that WE offer, as God's priestly people, the Eucharist together!  During the Eucharistic Prayer, though the people speak only in the form of acclamations (the Memorial Acclamation and the Great Amen), everyone is to participate actively, everyone is to be offering the mass together!  We offer to God the greatest gift of all, Jesus!  "Do this in memory of me."  We in turn are offered to God "with, in, and through Him" and are to be changed by this living encounter with the Risen Christ!   The ongoing invitation is for us as a parish family to appreciate anew the gifts we have as a Church!

Last week, as you know, I attended the January Institute in Cheyenne with Bishop Etienne, the priests and deacons of our diocese, and lay leaders from many of the parishes in our diocese.  This was the second stage of the process of Strategic Planning for the Pastoral plan that will guide our diocese particularly at the parish level for the next five years.  The Priorities of this plan are: Renewed focus on the Sacramental life of the Church, especially the Eucharist; Catechesis (what we believe as God's people and how we encourage a spirit of lifelong formation in every person); New Evangelization: Proclaiming Christ to the World especially reaching out to those who no longer come to church regularly and those in our communities who do not belong to any church;  Ministry to and with Youth and Young Adults; Family life and Vocations, and finally Stewardship as Discipleship.  I was involved in the group which brainstormed about the New Evangelization.  I came away with excitement and lots of questions as to how we can better "speak from the heart one on one with others about Jesus".  It is the experience of a saving relationship with Jesus that is the heart of everything we do and are.  It is the relationship of love with God, that is our ultimate, daily, and true beatitude!  Let us live into true joy and happiness through Jesus!  

Friday, January 7, 2011

Of space and sign! The gift of ordinary time...

So what is in a sign?  Signs have power to communicate important messages to others.  In one of the Eucharistic prayers the Church is described as a "sign and instrument of unity."  This week, after six months, our sign in front of the Church finally was changed to reflect that we have a new pastor (now not so new).  Not only that, the sign has been given new glass, new script, and is nice and lighted.  Though it may be easy to miss, partly due to familiarity, this sign is another expression of our unity in mission!  We are to be like a bright, clear, and current sign of the presence of Jesus in our community!  This invites us to make the best of Ordinary Time that begins this Sunday evening.  Ordinary Time is a call to conversion and appreciation of the mysteries of our faith, "Ordinary Time is not ordinary at all.  Ordinary Time, the celebration of Sunday is the identifying mark of the Christian Community which comes together, remembering that on the first day of the week the Lord of Life was raised up and creation came at last to completion.  Sunday as a day of play and worship is a sacrament of redeemed time.  How we live Sunday proclaims to the world what we believe about redeemed time now and for ever."  These words from the Order of Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours and the Celebration of the Eucharist remind us that Sunday itself is a sign!  Our cars in the parking lot, our singing, and our gathering as we enter the Church and after Eucharist are signs.  The way we spend our time on Sundays is a sign to each other and to the community.  What do these signs currently say?  How can we better live the gift of our faith together? 

So what is in a space?  When the Church was remodeled two doors were removed near the entrance of the Church.  This week the framing for the doors was removed with an amazing consequence!  The space that many see and experience when they enter the Church is now open and inviting!  This is the first encounter with liturgical space.  That is, the first concrete movement into the space where we as a parish family will offer worship to the Lord!  The experience of a welcoming gathering area as we transition from the world into liturgical time and space, the "real world",  is so important for orienting us to the work of worship!  Every time WE, living stones,  gather as God's people, as a parish family, we are drawn together "assembled" as a sign to each other and to the world that "God shows not partiality, everyone is welcome."  We come together for mass, or at times for baptisms or funerals, for CCD or CCW or KOC, Bible Study, English as a Second Language courses, for Eucharistic Adoration or to pray the Rosary, for DTS and pass into this sacred space through the gathering area.  Now we'll be able to experience an openness not formerly possible. 

"From worship into service."  As we leave mass we descend stairs either to go to the parish hall or out to our vehicles through the gathering area.  The message we get is that we leave as one people united more
perfectly by God's grace for service to the world.  We don't, and can't, serve the world as disciples individually.  Jesus sent the disciples two by two and thus indicated how necessary it is that each of us be good stewards of the time, talent, and treasure we have and together continue the hard work of justice and charity here in Worland.  This space will be updated to better communicate the message of "welcome" and "Go in peace to love and serve the Lord."  New flooring, painting, and lighting will tie the gathering space to the Church in a fuller way.  This will be a space where parish news can be shared such as our financial statements, parish council minutes, special scheduling, and brochures concerning aspects of our discipleship will be available.  This space will be occupied at times by funeral processions, wedding processions, processions to CCD classes, a fuller experience of greeters-perhaps by families, and visitors will get an impression of who we are as God's family. 
So what do signs and space say through us to the world?  The icon of St. Mary Magdalen our patroness is a wonderful call to holiness.  St. Mary Magdalen was the first person to witness the empty tomb and to encounter the resurrected Jesus!  She was sent to the Apostles with the message to meet him in Galilee.  As she went she declared, "I have seen the Lord!"  Let that be the fruit of the sign and space that greets us every time we "come to church."  Let it be the message we radiate to our world!

Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year, Mary the Mother of God, and Epiphany!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!  2011 Begins with two wonderful Solemnities:  The Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God and the Epiphany of the Lord!  Both are feasts of amazing import as they continue to unwrap for us the great gift of Christmas-Jesus the Lord.  First our attention is focused on The Blessed Virgin Mary.  The fact of Jesus being the incarnate word of God means that Mary in giving birth to Jesus is the mother of God!  She did not create God, but through her God came into the world as a human being!  This feast is really about Jesus and what can happen when we cooperate with God's grace.  We are to be like the Blessed Mother and allow ourselves both to receive God's life in us and to deliver HIM to everyone we meet!  This year we are getting ready to implement the new translation of the Roman Missal.  I've been sharing the current Eucharistic prayers with our Candidates for full communion with the Catholic Church.  You may gain renewed faith and deeper insight this year by praying with the words of the Eucharistic prayers and then looking at the changes that will come next Advent.

The Epiphany celebrates Jesus as Lord and Savior of all peoples!  The magi's arrival from the East reveals to us another dimension of the gift of Christmas!  The ONE we worship is in fact the light of all nations!  "Where is the newborn king of the the Jews?  We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage."  The magi announce the great Christmas message!  It is as though we are not able to fully grasp the mystery of Jesus until it is presented to us from the vantage point of the world.  "Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem!  Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you.  See, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples; but upon you the Lord shines, and over you appears his glory.  Nations shall walk in your light, and kings by your shining radiance...Then you shall be radiant at what you see, you heart shall throb and overflow, for the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you, the wealth of the nations shall be brought to you."  Isaiah the prophet articulates the events that happen liturgically this weekend!  "Your hearts shall throb and overflow."  What an image!  Does my heart throb and overflow at the Christmas message?  Is our parish more fully aware than ever of the nearness of God?   

The full cast is set before us this weekend:  The Christ child, the parents of Jesus, King Herod and all of Jerusalem, the magi, St. Paul, the Gentiles, and our parish family.  What is offered to us anew, is the chance to receive into our lives and our community, the greatest gift of all, "Jesus, the newborn King!"

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Merry Christmas! Living the mystery!

Merry Christmas!  We are now into the 4th day of the Octave of Christmas!  To most of the world, despite vacation from school, Christmas is passed and we are getting ready for New Year's day.  Yet the Christ Child continues to beckon to us to be with HIM!  We are invited into greater union with the mystery of Emmanuel, God with Us!  The challenge is to allow ourselves to be like Mary, "ponder(ing) these things in her (our) hearts."  This is my first Christmas with you as a Pastor.  I am very blessed by the gift of Christ allowing me to journey with you on pilgrimage to holiness. 

Holiness is a difficult thing to keep our eyes on if we allow it to remain an abstraction.  Just as the Incarnation forces and encounter with a person, the child held in the arms of Mary, so too does holiness require of us the capacity to recognize God's presence in our daily lives.  Attention to personal prayer, to members of our family, to our parish family, and to our community are the places of encounter with Christ.  This is the crucible of conversion as the promise of redemption and the work of conversion are impressed upon us. 

Like sheep we have to attune our ears to recognize the voice of the Holy Spirit with greater clarity that we may respond with greater alacrity.  Jesus declared that we are called to enter through the narrow gate.  There is nothing childish about holiness!  Jesus was clear that the road to holiness is narrow and few travel upon it.  We are constantly challenged to joyfully apprehend the NOW of the kingdom and to prioritize the value system of the Kingdom of God in all areas of our lives.  This is a time of great HOPE as we respond to the promise of Jesus to "make all things new."  There are three major mysteries remaining in the Christmas season:  January 1: Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God, The Epiphany, and the Baptism of the Lord.  All three mysteries evidence the transformative power of God's love concretely affecting humanity and human history.  It is for us to enter like little children more confidently and trustingly into the arms of this season of grace!