SJV COVID response

Brethren, We have now been under the shadow of COVID-19 almost 9 months now.  We have gone from a total shut down of St John Vianney to where we are now; but where exactly are we?  

Right now, COVID-19 is still present, but is not a virulent as it once was.  The death rate is way down thanks to our medical professionals and researchers who have learned how to treat this virus.  We have all gotten better at not going out unless necessary, eating at home, and not touching our faces.  We are truly better off than we were in March 2020.

What does this mean for St John Vianney parish?  We will continue with our regular schedule of masses and confessions, we have been named an essential service.  We will follow Ordinariate dictates on how we behave within the confines of the mass.  Right now the Ordinariate is not mandating the use of masks, but is asking us to social distance and allow for a “clean environment” to worship in.  We do wash with bleach all surfaces in the cafetorium prior to mass.  We also provide Purell (or like) at the doors, and I have pure alcohol to sanitize my fingers between each family at the distribution of the Blessed Sacrament.  We are blessed with a huge area for mass, and we can easily keep 6’ between each family, even if our whole congregation attends.

Bishop Lopes has gone a step further by offering commutation from mass for all who are 60 or above, or have underlying health issues that makes them vulnerable to COVID-19.

We are also offering daily masses that are not well attended, thereby giving the opportunity for those in vulnerable states to receive the Blessed Sacrament safely.  

Though we do not, and will not require masks, if there is demand, I will be very happy to offer an extra Sunday mass that requires mask wearing.  If this will help, please let me know and I will make the arrangements.

This is a difficult time.  Real numbers and facts are all caught up in politics, and we cannot be certain of how serious this virus is.  What we can do is be vigilant, and be godly.  This is a charged situation because we are dealing with the unknown.  We must all fight to keep our tempers, and trust in God.

If you ever have questions or concerns, please call me.

God Bless

Fr Scott

A Day Late and a Dollar Short

A day late, and a dollar short. (This email was suppose to be out yesterday-apologies) My dad used this phrase often with me when I was late coming home, late getting up for work (family work…as opposed to paying work), he used the phrase liberally!  To take the phrase literally, it identifies you’re tardiness, and since you are a dollar short, there is no way that you can make reparations for said tardiness.  After a time, I decided I would get smart and bring a dollar when I was late, giving it to dad after he recited the expected phrase.  This did not go over well and taught me the valuable lesson, as well as another well used quip… money can’t buy everything. 

The inference in this phrase transfers to our spiritual life.  We all know in Romans chapter three, Paul states, “Brethren, we are all a day late and a dollar short”. OK, he didn’t say it quite like that, he did say “ …23 since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,…”. We live our life a day late and a dollar short.  If we have sinned, we cannot pay our debt.  Fortunately, Jesus paid that debt.  Interestingly, did Jesus give us a blank check?  Can I simply walk up to Jesus, who will be our judge, and just give him the dollar…the dollar that He gave me through His work on the cross?  I bet that will work about as well as giving my dad the dollar when I was late.

So what do we do?  Can we never pay God back for our debts?  Of course we can.  What did my dad want?  He wanted me to gain a work ethic; to show up when I was suppose too.  It worked, I am usually on time to my obligations.  Being on time takes work though, I am notorious for leaving 10-15 minutes early, I have spent countless time in parking lots, waiting for a meeting.  I have true remorse and contrition when I am late, to anything.  I hate being late.  But even with all my efforts, I am still late at times.  Things happen, traffic, flat tires, and yes, mistakes on my part.  What do I do then?  I apologize first thing.  The minute I show up I apologize for being late.

With our sins, we must do the same.  We should, as mature Christians hate to sin.  We are weak at times and do sin, but we should hate them.  We should also, upon sinning, apologize to God.  Afterwards, we must apologize formally through the sacrament of confession.

My dad did me a big favor by burning that phrase into my head.  He also did me a big favor by training me to be on time.  His lesson is part of me as an adult.  Habits take time to seed, if you have a sin and don’t hate it, you likely cannot change overnight.  You also will need help, I did not learn to be on time alone; and rest assured, left to my own devices, I would not have learned to be on time.  So, how do you get that help?  Ask your father!  Many people struggle year after year with sins and never ask for help.  Family and friends can be a great aid in troubled waters, but if they are unable to help, then the Church is here for you. Priests can help, outside of the confessional, to direct you in ways to put away your sins and begin to hate them.  Get help, alone we are all vulnerable.

We are all a day late and a dollar short, let’s accept that, but let’s not learn to live with it.  Pray to hate your sins.  Go to confession often.  If needed, go ask for help.

Dcn Scott

The parish I want to be apart of!

The Milwaukee basilica of St. Josaphat always captivated me, not simply because of its impressive size and wonderful architecture; but because of the story that lies behind the huge stone edifice.  You see St. Josaphat was a mission formed of Polish immigrants back in the early 19th century in the city of Milwaukee.  Their numbers grew, then their church burned to the ground.  The congregation obviously needed to move, but where?  They were a large congregation but had little means; the parish was made up of mostly labor class and the poor.  They saved and collected their resources and hired an architect.  About this time, they heard of a Chicago post office that was decommissioned by the government.  There was a huge cost savings to be had by buying that building, deconstructing it, loading it on 500 rail cars, and rebuilding it on their site, with a few marked changes to make it a church.  This was a great idea, and all were for the cost savings, but there was one catch, getting the building from its current lot in Chicago to the rail cars, then getting it from the rail cars to their site in Milwaukee.  The parishioners solved this problem, they would do it.  So, after a long day of manual labor, they all met, at first journeying to Chicago, and then finally in Milwaukee, to load and unload trucks.  Day after day, week after week, month after month of labor.  Can you imagine?  I work inspecting homes and making roof estimates, a far cry from heavy labor, and I cannot imagine giving up my evenings lifting building materials.  This they did, for their community.

 

We do see a few stories like this today, but mostly we see flashy pastors creating a shallow cult of personality that thrives for a time, then dies when the pastor moves on.  Or, more frequently, we find the program church that has a little for everyone but nothing that really takes us deeper into the reality of God.  Could we find the spirit of those immigrants of St. Josaphat today?

 

We are told in scripture that if we have faith, we can move mountains, St Josaphat certainly did that!  Faith is the belief in the unseen.  We know that God wishes for us to know Him, so we study.  We study scripture, we study the saints, we study theology.  This is a great start for our walk with Christ, as faith is that which gives us knowledge of God present in His sacraments.  Living a sacramental life, full of study and contemplation provides Christians with the knowledge that God is real, and present in our lives.  In my year in the Catholic Church, I have found many that love a sacramental life, but I have found many more that come to mass, and that is it!  Open the newspaper and see reports of Catholics in public office supporting abortion minutes before (and after!!) birth.  Instead of building the Church these people are tearing it down, brick by brick, and we can lose hope.

 

Hope is the ability to reach for what lies ahead, even if the going is tough.  We take the time to teach our children because we have hope that they will grow to be God fearing productive members of society.  If we had no hope of this, we would likely still house them, but we certainly would not nurture them.  This is the reality of so many in our society today, hope is gone for a good life for parents and they project that upon their children, not taking the time to teach and raise their offspring simply for lack of hope that any good will come of their labors.  Without hope we become self-centered and materialistic.  We lack love.

 

Love is a word with many meanings these days.  I am afraid in many churches today it means giving each other a hug and saying, “God bless”.  Paul speaks in first Corinthians 13 that without love we are loud clanging symbols, among other things.

 

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. [1]

 

Paul says love is above both faith and hope, as without it you can have neither faith nor hope.  Seems that we should study this word “love” closely, because if it does mean “give a hug”, then I had better start to hug everyone I see!  (the spectre of me hugging everyone I meet should tell us we need to go deeper for the true meaning!)  The Greek word used for “love” in that section of Corinthians is transliterated “agape”.  If you have been around the Catholic Church for any time at all you have likely heard the word.  There are many words for love in Greek, philio, is brotherly love, pragma is a long-standing love such as you would have for a longtime friend, there are more, but you get the idea.  Agape is the love Jesus gave us on the cross, it is sacrificial love.  If Jesus could have given us a hug and said, “God bless”, instead of being crucified, believe me He would have!  Jesus loved us so much that He died for us.  This is agape love.  To be patient and kind is at times a sacrifice, not to be jealous or boastful is a sacrifice…again, you get the idea.

 

Parishioners of St. Josaphat had faith, they carried tons for God, knowing He wanted them to build a church.  This was not a shallow faith that would go transfer with their pastor, this was all in faith.  They had hope, they could see the beauty they were constructing piece by piece.  They had hope for their children, building them a place to be raised and educated in the Catholic faith.   But most of all they had agape love; sacrificial love.  Sacrificing night after night to carry block after block.  They did it for love of God, they did it for love of community, which they were apart, they did it for love of their children who came after them and centered their life around the building they built.  It took years, many did not live long enough to see its completion, but they prevailed.

I want to be part of that church!  One where everybody carries the bricks!  One where everyone sees a job and asks how they can help.  One that is a community built on mutual help, like the one in Acts 2.

 

Acts 2:41-42 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. [2]

 

A community of faith hope and charity.

[1] Catholic Biblical Association (Great Britain). (1994). The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version, Catholic edition (1 Co 13:4–7). New York: National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA.

[2] Catholic Biblical Association (Great Britain). (1994). The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version, Catholic edition (Ac 2:40–42). New York: National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA.

Jesus-surrounding us

What do we mean when we speak of the Person of Jesus Christ?

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger. (i)

 

When we speak of the person of Christ, we must have a knowledge of God, and His love for His creation, or else we will misunderstand the Person of Christ, along with His purpose in coming among us.  Christ did not come among us to find out what it is to be human, nor did He come to us to temper an angry God, He came as the one promised, the one that would bring the kingdom, the one who would repair the separation between creation and creator, the one who would create a Church for all, and finally the one that would mediate God’s presence to all creation.

As the poem that founds the hymn, St. Patrick’s Breastplate shows us clearly that Christ is all encompassing.  This speaks to God’s wish to be with His creation.  God is love, and He made creation to share that love.  This is an absolute, and must be the basis for all theology, otherwise we slip into heresies too many to count.  Love is the reason, all starts with love, and all ends with love.  As we study the beginnings of mankind, the garden, man’s relation with God, and finally man’s disobedience, we see a God that acts with love in every action.  From the moment of the expulsion from the garden, man lamented his sinful action, and yearned for God.  This was not an unrequited love, God yearned for humankind.  God would not leave His creation; Jesus in the Old Testament times is the promise that once again mankind would walk with God.  Jesus was hope for redemption found in the Word of God, and in the mouths of God’s chosen prophets.  Jesus, prior to the Incarnation, was the Logos who was comfort to all that sought God, He was the lighthouse to a ship lost in a storm.

Before the Christ event, man was most formal with God, not even speaking His name.  God set rules for His creation and it was man’s obligation to follow.  Breaking commandments was a grave offense that could not be corrected, only appeased through sacrifice.  The idea of a personal relationship with God was foreign to most at the coming of Christ.  This fact unfortunately bred a rote adherence to God’s law, obeying to obey, not for love of the law giver.  This view of the law brought demigods, who would punish those who were outcast or less fortunate

The person of Jesus at the incarnation was the embodiment of change and reform.  All creation would receive a stark reminder that God was love, and in love He sent His only Son.  Eternal as the Father, second person of the Trinity humbled Himself to be born of a virgin, virgin before, during and after the birth of Christ by divine miracle.  Jesus was fully man and fully God, a hypostasis that to many would seem impossible, but the incarnation truly showed to all the power and love of God.  Jesus was self-aware as divine and would herald the coming of the kingdom of God, setting a table of love in the face of hate.  Jesus from the beginning of His earthly ministry would show solidarity with those who were outcast, in prison and sick.  Mankind was not created as Narcissus, to gaze at his own beauty, instead God created us with love in order to share that love with all.  This means sharing love with the one without a cloak as in Luke:

Luke 6:29-31 To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from him who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt.  Give to everyone who begs from you; and of him who takes away your goods do not ask them again.  And as you wish that men would do to you, do so to them. (ii)

As well as a different type of love found in Thessalonians:

2 Thessalonians 3:10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: If anyone will not work, let him not eat. (iii)

Love is not simply a hug or a kiss, it is indeed a true way to deal with all facets of life, this was Jesus as He lived and taught on earth.  Here we must stop and understand that Jesus was not a pacifist, though He did instruct us to always discuss our problems before taking up arms.  Augustine, and later Aquinas would take up this teaching and show that Jesus found love in many forms, some gentle, some not.  The person of Christ in His incarnation was the picture of family, of solidarity with the poor, of protector of God’s creation from those who would exploit it.

The person of Jesus was sacrificial.  The wages of sin was death, and that could not be undone.  But through the Divine plan of salvation Jesus would repair the brokenness of humankind and allow God to once again come close to His creation.  Though death remained, the power of God through the Holy Spirit’s indwelling would allow mankind to begin the restoration of all of creation in cooperation with God.  This salvation, brought through a loving sacrifice, was and is available to all mankind, bringing salvation to all in whatever state they find themselves.  This free gift is the most powerful proof of God’s love for us that mankind has ever seen.  Open to all is the opportunity to be lifted out of darkness and sin and be in an instance transformed and healed.  Though salvation is a free gift, it is only applicable to those who believe and actively practice their faith.  Those who do not believe or chose to turn their back on the Church have the freedom to reject this great gift.

Love cannot operate from a distance.  Once Jesus had left the earth for the right hand of God, mankind would again be alone.  God knew this from the beginning, and Jesus before He left would create His Church.  The person of Jesus is found in the Church.

Jesus left a sacramental economy in place within His Church.  These sacraments are all very real means of and to Christ and His grace.  The Church stands as a beacon to all of who Christ is and what He did for us.  From the baptismal font at the door, reminding us of God’s salvation coming through water, to the crucifix on the wall behind the altar reminding us of the salvific act of love Jesus offered to us on the cross, the Church stands as a beacon of Christ and His love.  But a beacon only gives vision, and vision is always in some way separated from the viewer, and this simply was not close enough for God.  The Church therefore was gifted the sacraments in order to mediate God’s presence to all humanity.  Whether this mediation be through the priest “in persona Christi” or through the love of marriage or through the mysteries of the Eucharist, Jesus is truly present, and God is intimately close.  The Church is not simply a building for self-help groups, it is the very real presence of God to His creation.  As I began this section saying, the person of Jesus is found in the Church, I should end the section explaining that reality.  The Church, the people of Christ, are the bride of Christ.  In good times Jesus can be seen very clearly through gazing at that bride, but if that bride is not diligent about her prayers and disciplines, that vision glorious can be distorted.  Our assurance lies in the fact that the efficacy of the sacraments does not rely on the actions, good or bad, of the people that make up the Church.  As long as proper Holy Orders reside in the Church, God will be very real and present to the faithful, even in the worst of times.

Lastly, the person of Christ is the lasting presence that Jesus partakes in to all of creation.  Jesus showed us that God does not wish to be a distant God, He wants to be present with His creation, in a loving way.  As we look about creation, we see God’s love in every sunrise and sunset, in every infant and every act of kindness.  God’s presence is within His church certainly, but we see Christ’s presence everywhere, a lasting after-image of Jesus and His miraculous works.  An after image that is not fading but ever present and ever strengthening with every redeemed soul.

Christ, just as God, wishes to be in every facet of our lives; with me, behind me, before me, beside me, to win me, to comfort and to restore me; beneath me, above me, in quiet and in danger, in hearts of all that love me, in mouth of friend and stranger.  The person of Christ is the Person of the Divine Trinity that ensures that in all situations I am either loved and encouraged or stretched or disciplined.  The person of Christ is the very vision of the Father, showing the divine love to all who would ask.  He is the redeemer of all through His sacrificial loving acts.  He is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and end, and He will be our judge at the particular and general judgements.

[i] St. Patrick’s Breastplate, Charles Villiers Stanford, 1902

[ii] Catholic Biblical Association (Great Britain). (1994). The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version, Catholic edition (Lk 6:29–31). New York: National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA.

(iii] Catholic Biblical Association (Great Britain). (1994). The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version, Catholic edition (2 Th 3:10). New York: National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA.