Be Prepared

When I was growing up, I belonged to the Boys Scouts for a couple of years. I didn’t really want to join, but my best friend did so I followed along. It only lasted a year or two, at most. One of the things that I remember, and I’m sure most of you know as well, is the Scouts’ motto: “Be prepared”. It’s a motto not only for the Scouts, but it should be for all of us.  Throughout our lives, we need to prepare ourselves.

 

In the Gospels, Jesus tells us to “Be prepared. You do not know the day nor the hour that the Lord is coming”. Stern words, perhaps, but a good reminder.

 

I like to think about preparing for Mass. The last ten or fifteen minutes before Mass, I like to prepare, to get into, what I call, “Mass mode”.  Get ready to celebrate the mystery of Christ’s sacrifice, remember the Scripture readings that I will hear and proclaim, and prepare myself to be in touch with God.  Be prepared.

 

Before Mass, for the last 10 or 15 minutes before it begins, you will notice our music director, Steve Reyes, playing music softly.  He too, is trying to prepare himself for the Mass. He is also trying to set an atmosphere in Church, so that all of us are preparing ourselves.  A few months ago, I wrote about the importance of a silent atmosphere in Church, especially before Mass.  Many, many of you wrote to me in response, thanking me for the article. This is the time we are getting ready to be most united with Christ.  Although you may want to greet a friend, in a quiet voice, remember the reason that you are there. I hope no one of you comes to church merely to see his/her friends.  We come to be close to God.  Be prepared.

 

Those last minutes before Mass are also vital to the lectors and commentators. You should be spending the time checking over the passage from the Word of God that you are about to proclaim to the assembly, for them to hear from your mouth the Word of God.  What an awesome responsibility and privilege. Commentators, likewise, should be preparing the words that they have to announce to the Assembly; check on the pronunciation of names! No one likes to have his or her name mispronounced or worse yet, massacred, particularly at Church. The commentator is the voice of the Church for that particular Mass.  Be prepared.

 

We humans are people that are easily distracted. Let’s not let our voices or our actions distract others as they are trying to prepare to hear the Word of God and receive the Body and Blood of Christ.  Be prepared.

Fr. Ken

 

We’re not finished yet!

Perhaps you thought that things had settled in our parish; remember, we are merely 14 months old, and more changes are coming. Keep your eyes out for changes within in the Church in the month of September.

All of this surrounds the Baptismal Font that we obtained from St.Mel’s Church. Unfortunately, we were not able to bring the Baptismal Font from St. Damian, because of the size and the room necessary to locate it in the Church. The font from St. Mel’s is small and self-contained, meaning there is no need for any water pipes. It is a two-tier font, and will be placed in the back of the church, in the middle. It is a beautiful small font with water constantly flowing. It will also help the former St. Mel parishioners who have joined our parish to feel a little bit of their “past”, just as we incorporated items from the former three parishes that merged in 2016.

In order to place the font, we will have to move the vigil light candles. This is a little bit disappointing because they look great where they are. We will add an additional stand of candles so to have two sets on the south wall, between the main entrance and the reconciliation room. We will hang the picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe above those candles. On the north wall, between the main entrance and the windows of the cry room/chapel, we will place one stand of candles. Above that set of candles, we will hang a beautiful picture of St. Anne, who is the patroness of the Archdiocese of Detroit. Above the baptismal font will be hanging a half circle stained glass window that originally came from one of the old churches in the city of Detroit and was hanging in the chapel at Divine Savior for the last few years. Eventually spot lights will be placed to shine on the pictures and stained glass window.

Once all of this is in place, the old baptismal font will be removed and an additional pew will be added to the handicap section in that area. This pew will be taken from the area behind the choir seats.

I am excited about these changes, especially the baptismal font. Although they are only cosmetic, the environment in which we pray helps us to pray better. The quiet sound of water falling over the font will hopefully create a quiet, prayerful atmosphere in the church.

And all of this will be done with just minimal costs. So, just in case you thought that the dust had settled, we’ve only just begun.

Fr. Ken

Solar Eclipse

Did all of the talk of the solar eclipse tire you out? By the time Monday arrived, I was worn-out by it all and couldn’t wait for it to happen so that we could get on with our lives. Sure, it was an interesting scientific phenomenon that happens infrequently, just another proof of the wonder of creation and how much God’s hand has crafted this wonderful world that we live in.

In past cultures, of course, things were different. If you watched any of it on the television, you learned how some cultures felt that some animal, anything from a goat to a frog to dragon was eating the sun. One particular culture saw it as the end of the battle between the moon and the sun, and this was a moment of reconciling, as both sides were coming together to be one again. I kind of like that explanation, although it is very unscientific. Some native cultures converted after experiencing the eclipse.

We know that some natural phenomena can have an effect on us. A full moon can affect our sleep patterns, the birth of babies and even criminal acts. In some Asian cultures, rice is only planted during the first quarter of the moon. On very sunny days, many people are in good moods whereas if the days are dark or cloudy, some people tend to be more tired and irritable. Typically the day after a typhoon in Japan (probably the same for a hurricane), the sky would be cloudless and blue, the humidity low and the weather just perfect.

St. Francis refers to the sun, wind, air and fire as his brothers, and to the moon, stars, earth, water and death as his sisters. God has created all of them for us. All of this leads me to be more in awe of God and the wonders of his creation and how it all fits in together. And of his immense love for us.
Fr. Ken

Ear to Ear

I believe that the most important task that we, that is all humans, MUST do together is the work of “ear to ear”, that is, of listening to one another. Listening to each other without hurrying to give an answer. Welcoming the words of our brothers and sisters; later we can think of giving our own words. The capacity to listen is very important.

I find it interesting that when people have this capacity for listening, they speak with a low and calm tone. When they do not have this capacity, they speak loudly, even shouting. Among brothers and sisters we must all listen to each other, and speak slowly and calmly, looking for the way to communicate together. And when we listen to each other first, and then we speak to each other, we are on the right path.

Too often we jump to conclusions of things that we hear but do not give ourselves time to comprehend each other. Our words are already prepared which means that the words of our brother or sister fall “on deaf ears”. In the Gospels of these weeks, Jesus is speaking to us in simple, easy to understand stories (parables). He hopes that the listeners have some capacity to listen without thinking about a response.

Whoever has ears ought to hear.

Fr. Ken

We Are Called

In April, I attended the Chrism Mass at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral in Detroit. I was fortunate to have a seat in the front row; the seats reserved for priests behind the altar and to the right of the altar were filled, so the “overflow” seating for priests was the first few rows. Lucky!

There was a statue that I had never seen before in the Cathedral. It was located at the front of the sanctuary, in front of the altar. It was the statue of a man in robes, with an arm and hand outstretched. His face was down and covered. In front of him was a simple plate and cup. The statue intrigued me so much so that I could barely pay Picture1attention to the Mass. Was this a statue of Jesus, celebrating the Last Supper with his disciples? Or was this the statue of a poor, homeless person, begging for something to eat or to drink? I couldn’t decide. Maybe it was meant to be that way. Maybe it was Jesus, and he was in the person of the homeless man, pleading for something to eat or drink that day. The image of that statue “bothered” me to the point that I had to investigate it. Was it meant to be Jesus? Or just a local beggar?
I discovered that the Cathedral had leased a few statutes for the Lenten season; this was just one of them. Others portrayed a homeless person sleeping on a park bench, a sick person covered in a blanket, and others. The artist is Timothy P. Schmalz. You can check out his statues online.

I think that one of the reasons that I was so moved by the statue was that I couldn’t decide, in my mind (and my heart) if it was meant to be Jesus, or a homeless hungry man. Of course, the answer is obvious. It was BOTH. “I was hungry and you gave me to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me to drink. Whatsoever you do to one of the least of my brothers or sisters, you did to me.”

As a parish, we are called to reach out to others in need. Yes, indeed, each one of them is Jesus. The poor. The hungry and thirsty. The homeless. Those in need of medical care. We need not travel to downtown Detroit to encounter them, we meet them every day. We are in the process of reorganizing our Christian Service Commission, and we need YOUR help. If you have some extra time and want to live out your Christian faith in a practical way, please consider joining us. A parish that is just concerned about itself and maintaining itself is not living out Jesus’ call. We need a lot of hands and hearts. You can’t really tell Jesus that you are too busy, can you??

By the way, the statue left such an impression on me that I bought a miniature size one to remind me always to See Jesus in the most needy of my brothers and sisters.

Fr. Ken

Mother’s Day 2017

HAPPY MOTHERS DAY! To all of you who are mothers, grandmothers, godmothers, mothers-in-law, stepmothers and all who are like mothers or have the role of mother in the lives of others. My mother passed away two years ago. She suffered from dementia for many years so, in many ways, we had been saying farewell to her for many years. She was a gentle person; one of her favorite sayings, especially when she was raising the three of us, was, “If you don’t have anything nice to say about someone, don’t say anything at all”. And she lived that saying too.

Our mothers teach us many things; life lessons, how to interact with others, to be graceful and to take the higher road when necessary. When children (of any age) are asking for a favor, many times they go to their mother, who then takes the request to dad. How those decisions are made, the child may not know. I can remember when I was young, one night I couldn’t fall asleep and I heard my parents in the kitchen discussing the day’s events in their lives and in the lives of my siblings and I. Long afterward, I realized that that was how the family “decisions” were made.

It’s not hard to take this discussion to the next level and think about the family life of Mary and Joseph, raising the child Jesus. I’m sure they sat down and discussed the day’s activities; they prayed together and made decisions. Mary must have passed down to her Son life lessons.

Those of you who are mothers have an awesome responsibility as well as the possibility of molding your children (grandchildren, nieces and nephews,…). We pray for you, not only today but all days.

Fr. Ken

The silence before mass…

Many of us enjoy coming to church for a number of reasons. Not only do we get a chance to be closer to God, but we also get to see some of our friends, people that we have known perhaps for a long time, which gives us a chance to catch up on what is going on in each other’s lives. Some people come to church to be able to serve in one way or another: singing in the choir, assisting at Mass in one or more ways, even cleaning during the quiet times when the church is empty. But most importantly, we come to church not for ourselves, not for our friends or for something to do. We come to church for God.

A friend of mine told me that years ago, one of the things that she brings to church in addition to a prayer book and a rosary was a set of ear plugs. EAR PLUGS? Yes, she told me. She comes to church and wants to spend some quality time with God. And try as she might, inevitably someone walks in and begins talking in a loud voice, or yelling across the church at a friend, and there is distraction from her listening to God.

Unfortunately, I would have to tell her that our church is the same. I am often stunned by the high level of noise coming from people’s voices before Mass. Talking, even yelling at one another, as if they were in the playground. The church is a sacred space, a place where many people come to talk…to God. Not to you. I wish that we treated our sanctuary as a sacred place, a place reserved for silence and mystery and reverence and prayer. I realize that our gathering space is small and the space is limited, and especially during the cold winter months, it is not easy to stand outside while we chit chat. However I often look around, both before Mass and afterwards, and see the individuals, struggling to remain in silence, while others around them carry on conversations, and not in whispering voices.

The church is not just another large room, a hall or movie theater. There is something different here, something worthy of worship. The silence of a church isn’t a fearful silence of a slave before his or her master; it’s the stunned silence of an adopted child basking in his Father’s love. It’s a soul washed clean standing before her Lord, gasping, “See what love!” The silence demanded by God’s sanctuary is one of gratitude, of intimacy mingled with awe.

So I invite you, friends, to take your conversations outside. If someone starts chatting with you, encourage him or her (in a whisper) to join you in the gathering space. Before Mass begins, kneel and pray in silence as a witness to the power of a silent sanctuary. Perhaps the people around you will be struck by your reverence and recognize more fully the God who is present to us in the tabernacle. You may find that your example draws other people to silent prayer, too.

Fr. Ken

Beatitudes

There used to be a common practice among Catholics called the “examination of Conscience”. An examination of conscience is a “prayerful self-reflection on our words and deeds in the light of the Gospel to determine how we may have sinned against God and others” Perhaps some of you still do this, particularly before receiving the Sacrament of Penance. Many times, people will look at the Ten Commandments to examine their sinfulness.

While this is a good start, the Ten Commandments are not the only instrument we should use to judge ourselves. Reflecting on the Beatitudes (Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are the meek…etc) is an excellent way of continuing to reflect and examine ourselves.

Pope Francis recently reminded us that the Beatitudes are, in some sense, the identity card of the Christian because they identify us as followers of Jesus. He says that we are called to be blessed, to be followers of Jesus, to confront the troubles and anxieties of our age with the spirit and love of Jesus. Thus we ought to be able to recognize and respond to new situations with fresh spiritual energy. The pope also suggested some modern day beatitudes. While they do not replace the ones of Jesus, of course, they should give us something to think about, and to use when we examine our conscience.

  • Blessed are those who remain faithful while enduring evils inflicted upon them by others, and forgive them from their heart.
  • Blessed are those who look into the eyes of the abandoned and marginalized, and show them their closeness.
  • Blessed are those see God in every person, and strive to make others also discover him.
  • Blessed are those who protect and care for our common home.
  • Blessed are those who renounce their own comfort in order to help others.
  • Blessed are those who pray and work for full communion between Christians.

All these are messengers of God’s mercy and tenderness, and surely they will receive from him their merited reward.

Fr. Ken

Feast of the Epiphany!

The-Nativity-by-Rhoden-Franz-Geburt-Christi.jpg Today is one of the greatest feasts in the year of the Church. Today Jesus’ birth, the Light of Christ, is made known to all the nations, not to just the few shepherds and village people near where Jesus was born. In many countries, the Feast of the Epiphany is more important than December 25. Many people exchange gifts on this day (as the magi brought gifts to Jesus). In fact, some Christian faiths celebrate January 6 as the actual birth of Jesus, not December 25.

As you may know, there are some theories as to the actual date of the birth of Jesus. Most theologians and biblical scholars believe that Jesus was actually born in the spring (March or April). In the hills around Bethlehem, the weather is too cold to have the sheep out and they would be corralled at night. Additionally, it is unlikely that the Emperor would have announced a census and made everyone travel to the native villages during the winter.

Many believe that the date of December 25 was chosen from an ancient pagan feast honoring Saturn or perhaps the Egyptian God of the sun, Ra (Re). The date of December 25 falls just after the winter solstice, when days start to get longer. Adopting the feast from a pagan celebration might have made Christmas more interesting to pagans, attracting some of them to Christianity.

There are some customs associated with Christmas that come from pagan tradition, for example the Christmas tree. Recently this theory is considered less likely. Beginning in the 4th century, according to tradition, there were two dates that Jesus birth was celebrated: December 25 in the west and January 6 in the east. Another theory says that Jesus crucifixion took place on March 25, which was near the Passover feast. That would mean that Jesus conception and death both took place on the same day. Other ideas look at the birth of John the Baptist, and when he was conceived, to determine the date of Jesus birth. In that case, it could be sometime in September.

As we know, the Bible is not an historical book; rather it tells us about the life and teaching of Jesus. It really makes no difference on which day Jesus was born, what is important is that He WAS born, lived and died for us. As we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany, we should be proclaiming that birth to all, by our actions and our lives. As we pray in today’s responsorial psalm, “Lord, every nation on earth shall adore you”!

Fr. Ken

Who is in charge of your life?

Last weekend’s snow storm reminded me once again how beautiful our world is. I know that many people don’t like the snow and cold weather. We are Michiganders; God made us hearty people. I think that many people don’t like the winter because they like to complain about the weather. St. Theresa of Avila is one of my favorite saints, mostly because she has some great quotes. About this she said, “There is no such thing as bad weather. All weather is good because it is God’s”. I like to remind children when they tell me that they are bad, that “there is no such thing as a bad child. You came from God and everything from God is good”.

The storm also reminded me that every so often God reminds us that it is He that is in charge. We had great plans for the early morning celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Monday morning. Las mañanitas, the morning prayers to honor the Virgin of Guadalupe, with Mass, is a common tradition that we had planned. Because of the snow, we judged it best to cancel the celebration, although we did have a nice quiet 8:30am Mass with 20 or so faithful. Yes, God is in charge. Maybe our celebration was meant to be simple, humble, unassuming, as Mary is. We have to learn, over and over again, to put everything in God’s hands and trust.

As your preparations for Christmas become more hurried, take a few minutes each day and realize who is in charge of your life. Do you have to have control? Or can you leave it up to God?

Fr. Ken