On Friday, June 19, we celebrated the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and then on Saturday, June 20, we celebrated the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The Feast of the Sacred Heart us always on the Friday after Corpus Christi, and the Feast of the Immaculate Heart is always the next day. For us the heart symbolizes passion, emotion, and love. In ancient Hebrew culture the heart was the center of both emotion and wisdom. Understanding comes from the heart and leads directly to action. The Greatest Commandment in the Law is “to love the Lord with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.” To love someone with all of your heart is not only to have an emotional, passionate love for them, but also to love them with wisdom and understanding which leads you to try to actually do good for them.
In the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus we’re reminded that our Lord has that kind of love for us. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, became incarnate by taking on a human nature out of love for us. We see the passionate, emotional love of Jesus when He has pity on the widow who’s just lost her only son, when He heals the lepers, and when He weeps at the death of His friend, Lazarus. We also see His love for us and, more importantly, for His Heavenly Father, in His anger at the dishonor shown to the Temple when He drove out the money changers. Love can be shown not only through acts of kindness and generosity but in righteous anger at injustice and in offering correction. Finally, though, Christ shows the depths of His love for us in offering His life on the Cross. As our Lord said, “Greater love than this has no man, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
That feast is followed on the very next day by the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Our Blessed Mother represents the Church and the love that the Church is called to have for Christ. The Blessed Mother is completely devoted to her Son. In the Gospels she is always with Christ, she is always bringing peoples attention to Christ, and she’s always pondering His words in her heart. She is the Immaculate Heart because she was conceived in a state of grace, meaning without original sin, and she never sinned during her life. The Church is also “holy” and without sin because she is the Body of Christ and is filled with the Holy Spirit, but we the members of the Church must still struggle with temptation and sin. We are called to the sort of love that our Blessed Mother has for Christ. We are called to the perfection of faith, even though we know that we won’t get there during this life. However, we must still strive for it. Why did Ferdinand Magellan try to circumnavigate the world even though everyone who’d tried before Him had failed? Why did Edmund Hillary try to climb Mt. Everest when so many people had died trying? Why does mankind keep going back to space, to the moon, or even to other planets? If these things are worth dedicating your life to, then how much more is it worth it to dedicate your life to God?
I’m republishing this Pastor’s Bulletin to emphasize the importance of the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, which is often the last opportunity to receive sacramental grace, have our sins forgiven, and be reconciled to God.
From the Pastor’s Archive: December 31, 2017
Anointing of the Sick
The Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick is one of the most misunderstood sacraments. It is often called Extreme Unction, which literally means “last anointing.” If baptism is the first anointing, then the anointing of the sick is the last anointing. It is also confused with the Last Rites, although it is really only one part of the last rites.
Anointing of the Sick is for anyone who begins to be in danger of death from illness, injury, or old age. So, for example, if you are diagnosed with cancer you can be anointed as soon as you are diagnosed. You don’t have to wait until you are in grave danger of dying. In the sacrament the priest will pray over the sick or injured person, lays hands on them (usually on their head), and anoints the forehead and hands with the Oil of the Sick, which is one of the Holy Oils blessed by the bishop during Holy Week every year and distributed to all of the parishes. Only a priest or bishop can give the sacrament of anointing.
In the sacrament we pray for 2 things. First, and most importantly, is spiritual healing and strength. Injury and illness can be a very dangerous time spiritually, especially as we approach death, and we need extra help from God during those times. Through the anointing our venial sins are forgiven, our faith and hope are increased, and we are given sanctifying grace. Some of the graces we might pray for through the sacrament are comfort and consolation, perseverance, courage, and the knowledge of God’s presence with us. Second, we also pray for physical healing, either through the skills of doctors and nurses, or miraculously. However, we also know that this is not always given, so we pray as Christ did in the Garden of Gethsemane, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not as I will, but as you will.” Even Christ prayed to be spared the suffering of the Cross, but He also accepted the will of God; we should follow His example.
The Sacrament of Anointing, like all of the sacraments, gets it’s power from the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus. In our suffering we may be tempted to lose hope, to lose faith in God, or to give up, but in the Sacrament Christ gives us His strength. He reminds us of His promise to His disciples, “I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
Lectio: Mary with Dr. Brant Pitre on Formed.org
Throughout my eight years in seminary I had a number of classes on the Sacred Scriptures taught by different professors. Most of these professors certainly knew their subject and knew the Bible, but they way they presented the information seemed to suck all of the life out of it. They mainly focused on the facts and on the intentions of the human authors of the Bible, sometimes to the point of neglecting the fact that God is the primary author of the Bible and there is also a spiritual meaning to every passage of Scripture. As St. Augustine put it, “In every page of these Scriptures, while I pursue my search as a son of Adam in the sweat of my brow, Christ either openly or covertly meets and refreshes me” (Contra Faustum 12.27). That is, since the entire Bible is the Word of God, Jesus Christ is present in the entire Bible, not just the New Testament.
At Notre Dame Seminary I had one class with Dr. Brant Pitre, Pentateuch. If you’ve read any of his books or listened to any of his talks, then you know that Dr. Pitre loves to show the unity of the Bible by showing how to read the Old Testament in light of the New and how the New Testament opens up the Old. That is exactly what you’ll get in the Lectio Bible Study on the Blessed Virgin Mary that Dr. Pitre did for Formed.org. In this Bible study Dr. Pitre talks about Mary as the New Eve, the New Ark, the Mother of the Messiah, the Queen Mother, the Perpetual Virgin, the Mother of Sorrows, and the New Rachel. In each 30-40 minute talk he shows the continuity of the Old and New Testaments and how the Church’s teaching on Mary is foreshadowed in the Old Testament, fleshed out in the New Testament, and present in the ancient Tradition of the Church.
If you’ve had trouble answering questions from non-Catholics about the Church’s teachings on the Mother of God, or if you simply want to dig into the Scriptural roots of those teachings, then you need to watch this series. It can be found on Formed.org, in the Bible Studies section. If you are a member of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, then you can use our subscription for free.
To Sign-up for Formed.org
1. Go to the Formed.org website or download the app.
2. Click Sign Up.
3. Click “I Belong to a Parish or Organization.”
4. Put in the Zip Code of Church: 70092
5. Put in your email address.
As I write this we’ve just had the first termite swarm of the season hear around the rectory. It wasn’t a very big one compared to what we had last year, but I imagine it’s going to get worse. Imagine my surprise as I was sitting in my chair reading and a termite falls right into my lap. I checked the doors and found that they were crawling in through the cracks in the front and back doors. I turned off all of the exterior lights and as many of the inside lights as I could spare, and that helped a lot. I imagine we’ll be seeing swarms of termites around the light poles soon.
The way termites are attracted to light got me thinking. Why are they attracted to light? Scientists aren’t actually sure, but many of them think it’s because they mistake artificial lights for natural lights and get confused. If, for example, they’re trying to use the sun or moon to help navigate, they can get confused by a light bulb and end up flying circles around it, which makes them easy pickings for predators or bug zapping lamps.
This is a great example for the spiritual life. We are attracted to the light of Christ and naturally want to move towards Him. When we follow the light of Christ we find meaning, joy, and true life. Unfortunately, we often confuse mere reflections of the light of Christ for Christ Himself. These are genuinely good things that truly reflect the light and goodness of Christ, like human sexuality, food and drink, the respect of other people, money, and so many other things. These are all good things and gifts from God, but they are mere reflections of God, Who is the source of all goodness.
If we confuse them for the true Light of Christ, then we end up circling our lives around them and don’t get to where we’re meant to end up, which is union with God in heaven. We should use these things as God intended them, and see His own light and goodness reflected in them, but keep our eyes fixed on the true Light of the World, our Lord Jesus Christ.
For the past 2 months we’ve been practicing social distancing, staying at home, and/or quarantined. At times it’s felt like the world is on hold while we deal with Covid-19, but now, things are beginning to start back up again. We’re not completely back to how thing were, and we probably never will be in some ways, but in many places we’re seeing the new cases and hospitalizations dropping, businesses beginning to open back up, and people starting to go our and about. Now is the time to reflect on the spiritual lessons of this time and how we can truly take these lessons to heart and not just “go back to normal.” Some of the things that I’ll be working on, in the coming weeks and months, are being more comfortable with silence, having a greater appreciation for the community of the Church, and having a deeper reverence for and reliance on the sacraments, especially the Eucharist.
In the past two months, I’ve spent a lot of time sitting in Church or sitting out on my porch. Some of that time has been spent watching TV and some of it reading, but a lot of it has been spent in silence, with only the sound of the wind, the birds, and the occasional passing car. I’ve come to realize that I was accustomed to always having some sound going on. Even if I was just working around the house, I would turn on the radio or listen to a podcast. The silence has allowed me to hear myself thinking again. Silence can be uncomfortable or make us feel anxious because we’re not used to being alone with ourselves. When become comfortable in the silence, we begin to realize that we’re not alone, because God is with us. God doesn’t usually come with a light show and a spectacle, and it can be hard to hear His voice even in the silence, and He’s much harder to hear when we never allow the silence to linger.
I’ve also come to realize just how much I need the community of the Church. I’ve always focused on prayer, teaching and preaching, and the sacraments, and I might have taken the community aspect of Church for granted. It’s not that I thought it was unimportant; I just never really thought much about it at all. This time without the Church around me has reminded me why I love being a parish priest and why I chose diocesan or parish priesthood over joining a monastery. The monasteries are extremely important, but the ordinary life of the Church is in the parish and in the day to day lives of ordinary Catholics, coming together in Church to worship God together, to be strengthened through that worship, and then going out to bring the Word of God into the world.
Finally, I think that we, and I mean the Catholic Church throughout the world, not any specific individuals, have taken the sacraments for granted. In these two months I’ve seen a growing desire for the Eucharist, I’ve seen people spending hours each week in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, just to be close to our Lord present in the Blessed Sacrament, and I’ve seen multiple people brought to tears because they’ve finally been able to receive Communion again. Even, and especially priests, can fall into the trap of taking the Sacraments for granted, because we handle sacred things on a day to day basis and sometimes we don’t stop to think just what it is that we’re doing. We must remember that we don’t go to the Sacraments for ourselves, but to give ourselves to God, but we must also remember that what we receive in the Sacraments is far greater than what we give, because we receive God Himself, the Most Holy Trinity.
From the Pastor’s Archive
First Published October 22, 2017
Even though you probably can’t remember it, your baptism is one of the most important moments in your life. In that moment you were freed from the tyranny of sin, claimed for God through the sign of His Cross, and filled with His Holy Spirit. Just before the baptism of an infant, the priest or deacon turns to the parents and godparents and tells them, “See that the divine life which God gives them is kept safe from the poison of sin, to grow always stronger in their hearts.”
Holiness is not just for priests and nuns. Everyone is called to a life of holiness. It may be intimidating at first, but it simply means that God wants us, with the help of His grace, to strive to follow Christ. It’s not always easy, but, with God’s help, it is possible. So, how do we do it? How do we answer God’s call to live a holy life?
First, go to Mass. What happens to your body when you don’t eat enough good food? First, you start to get weaker. Next, you start to get sick. Then, you die. Exactly the same thing is true in the spiritual life. If you don’t eat spiritual food (that is, the Eucharist) you won’t have the strength to live a spiritual life. You won’t have the life of God within you. Think I’m exaggerating the importance of Mass? Well, listen to what Jesus said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day” (John 6:53-54).
Second, pray every day. How do we know what Jesus wants us to do? How do we know how to follow Him? We have to get to know Him, and we get to know Jesus the same way that we get to know anyone else: through spending time with Him, talking to Him, and listening to Him. People often ask me to tell them how to pray, but the “how” of praying is easy. Just talk to Jesus and listen to Him. The hard part is actually doing it.
Finally, go to confession. All of us, every one, sometimes fails to follow Jesus, to listen to Him, and to love Him. That’s why He gave us the Sacrament of Reconciliation. That is where we repair our relationship with God when we’ve damaged or broken it through sin. When we read the lives of the saints, we see that all of them went to confession regularly. Let’s try to follow their example.
So, you are getting by and through this worldwide pandemic and dealing with all of the hand washing, social distancing, sanitizing, and limited travel away from home but just not feeling yourself. You have not tested positive for the virus but there is a sense that the pep in your step is less than what it was or that the things that usually amuse you seem not to be as amusing.
There is a better than average chance that you may have a different strain of the Coronavirus – the Corona Crud. For complete disclosure purposes, I am not aware that there is an actual ailment officially called the Corona Crud, but you get the idea. The overall feeling that life is just a bit off balance and that some days things almost feel normal but still different. You’re not overtly depressed or having debilitating anxiety but the updates of information and the review of the COVID19 statistics usually end with a deep sigh. Even the occasional glass of wine or beer is interrupted by some conversation about the virus and it seems that it’s one of the last things that you think about at night and one of the first things that you greet the day with on more days than not.
And as if all that wasn’t enough, all of your badges of honor from past disasters like Katrina, Rita, the BP Oil Spill, Refinery explosions, and even Betsy for the most experienced of survivors, really carry little weight to combat this one.
Well, here is the good news- in addition to the Gospel. If you’re going through any of the above or things similar you are completely normal. Keep in mind that normal is a relative term. But for the most part, you can count on the above symptoms remaining with you for a while longer butyou will get better at it and it will help form the roots for a stronger and more resilient you. In the meantime, here are a few helpful hints to remember that make for good emotional health.
1. One of my personal favorites- why give yourself a hard time for having a hard time dealing with hard times. In other words, feeling a bit off center in the face of a historical pandemic and all of the impacts associated with it is right where most of us spend a decent amount of our days. It is really important that we can acknowledge that the things that we are experiencing like the symptoms above is OK to feel. It doesn’t mean that we are in some way less than we are supposed to be. It just means that this situation is a challenge for now. Vent a little more, wonder a little more, nap a little more, and question a little more; but just for a while.
2. But be OK with not staying there. Once you can give yourself a pass for not being completely happy with the pandemic situation, you also can free yourself from having to change it. Take solving the COVID19 crisis off your To Do list. You see, we are creatures who look for ways to minimize discomfort and maximize pleasant experiences. So, if you release yourself from having to solve the COVID19 pandemic, it becomes a bit more sensible to let yourself do and think about other things. Be free of the chains of the virus. This simple act can go a long way to open yourself to the rest of the world around you.The daylight, the clouds, the rain, the stars, the sunset, the birds that you hadn’t seen before. Be open to it all.
3. Here is a small but powerful tool. Laugh and Smile. Sure, it may seem inconsistent to laugh or walk around with a big grin on your face when there is so much stuff going on but trust me on this one. This is a biggie. You know that it takes more muscle energy to frown than to smile- so it is actually more efficient to smile. Find something: a television show, a movie, a joke, a photo album or old video, a funny memory, or watching orangutans. Whatever it is that amuses you, find it, experience it, and laugh at will. Repeat as often as possible. And feel free to make yourself contagious on this one. Obviously, be mindful of the other people around who may not have advanced to your level of personal adjustment and who may not understand your laughter just yet.
4. Another helpful hint is to allow yourself to engage the pandemic for what it is - a world crisis that will end in time - and move on with your history story. Not that we should be insensitive to the struggles that people may have but let it have its place and stay in its place. People often can get wrapped up in having to know all there is to know about the tragedies of the world. Sort of like having to look at the car accident on the highway- you don’t want to see but you just have to look. Here is a secret that is related to #2 above. Its likely not your job to solve the Coronavirus pandemic so engage the crisis; get the facts;know that it is real, that it will have some impact on life as we know it for the immediate future; and expect that it will pass. So, turn off the 24-hour coverage on the pandemic and get on with something else. There will be plenty of time to come back to any relevant issue or person that needs your attention.
5. Eat, Play, Pray, and Rest. You know the saying- take care of yourself and your self will take care of you. Be deliberate in trying new things to eat or places to order from. EAT - Our culture is such a delicacy and while some of our reliables may be on a temporary hiatus, use this as the time to expand your food experience. Do a food exchange with friends and neighbors. You know you can really tell a lot about a person from the food they feed you. Travel the seven continents one by one by different cultural dishes during the course of the pandemic. Or play your own version of your favorite reality cooking show- you make the rules and you always win. PLAY - Dust off those board games or tennis shoes or gardening tools. You know all those things you used to enjoy doing but got too grown up to do anymore or made it a chore to do. Now is a good time to try them out again. Make it fun instead of seeing as a “have to do” item. And even while you’resocial distancing, you may find someone to do them six feet away from. Take pics of your new playful self. PRAY - And while you’re doing things deliberately- work a couple of practical prayers into the mix. The old favorites like the rosary or novenas are good solid prayers but stretch your spiritual self and try adding in a little mixture of prayers that you hadn’t followed before. Be it a focus on nature or history or mankind, let your prayer journey be influenced by topics of prayer that you have not considered a source of prayer time or include in your prayers getting to know some of the saints and or other spiritual models whom you don’t know. REST - And get your rest. Be careful in the process of eating, playing, and praying that you leave time for a few good mid-day siestas and some early to bed nights and late to rise days. Sleep is such a distinct behavior of ours that on this one be cautious about changing what works but be open to adjusting what does not. Someone recently shared with me that last year laying on the couch when the neighbors were out was seen as lazy and antisocial and this year it is seen as responsible distancing. Go figure. Rest sustains us; good rest energizes us; and peaceful rest strengthens us.
So, there you have a quick review of the Corona Crud and some ideas to cope with it. I most encourage readers to rip it apart, write your own version of the crud symptoms and the helpful hints to cope with it. Afterall, you are the expert. And as we often need to be reminded-
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. The courage to change the things I can. And the wisdom to know the difference.
This, too, shall pass. You know this because this is not where our story ends.
God Bless You.
We are now a little over a month into the “Stay at Home” orders stemming from the Coronavirus, or COVID-19, and this Sunday is Divine Mercy Sunday. As a parish family we just finished praying the Divine Mercy Novena together, with the special intention of against God, in His mercy, to heal the sick, protect those most at risk, and end this pandemic.
I want to invite you to pray another novena with me, starting Monday, April 20. This is one that I wrote to ask for God’s grace during times of spreading disease. I call it the Novena Against Disease and Pestilence. We’ll pray it starting Monday, April 20, and go through Tuesday, April 28. The full text of the novena will be available on our website: www.olol-church.com.
We’re starting tomorrow, not today, because I want to reiterate a point from last Sunday’s, Easter Sunday’s, homily. While we definitely need to fast and pray, to seek conversion and forgiveness, and to beg God’s mercy, the Church, in her wisdom, also recognizes that we need time to feast as well. Sunday is a special time for feasting because on every Sunday, and most of all during the Easter season, we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ to new life, and the gift of new life that He offers us in the Sacrament of Baptism. Take the time this Sunday to do something that makes you happy: make some bread pudding, fire up the grill, go for a drive, or call a friend or relative you haven’t talked to in a while. We need to celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord. Even my pet turtle celebrates on Sundays. Every other day of the week he gets turtle food pellets, but on Sundays he gets something fresh, usually a bit of shrimp.
I like to focus on the Most Holy Eucharist on Easter Sunday, because the Eucharist is the Resurrected and Glorified Jesus Christ made present for us in the Most Blessed Sacrament. We celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord specifically on Easter Sunday, but every Sunday, and every Mass, is a celebration of the Resurrection, just as every Mass is also a memorial of the Passion and death of the Lord. On this Easter Sunday, many of us won’t get to receive Holy Communion and almost none of us will get to go to Mass. We’ve been encouraging people to watch and listen to the Mass however they can and to make a Spiritual Communion, but that truly isn’t the same as actually attending Mass. In the Mass the Body of Christ, which is the Church, is gathered together to worship our Lord and God and be united to him through the Most Blessed Sacrament of His Body and Blood, and our physical presence there is important. After all, it’s important that the Son of God really became flesh and didn’t just appear to. However, just being physically present at Mass isn’t enough, either; we need to actually be paying attention. We need to actively participate in the Mass, and we can do that part even sitting in front of our computers or TVs, and God can use that to bring unimaginable graces into our lives.
Before Mass even starts, take 3-5 minutes to prepare yourself for Mass. Try to push any distractions out of your mind, and ask the Holy Spirit to help you to focus. Take this time to tell God what you are offering the Mass for: a particular grace, a person, the intentions of the Pope, etc.
During the Penitential Rite, really ask God for mercy. You probably don’t have enough time to do a full examination of conscience, but in the brief pause remember any particular sins that are weighing on your soul and ask God to give you a holy hatred for every sin and a desire to never be separated from Him.
Try to really pay attention to the readings as they’re read. You don’t need to analyze them for every little detail, but at least listen for something that stands out to you: an idea, theme, phrase, or action. During the homily, listen for the main point. God can and will speak to you through the homily, whether the homilist is interesting or boring. You may learn something new, find something to bring to prayer, or be called to do something.
While the gifts are being prepared, prepare to offer yourself to God along with them. Place your intention on the altar with the gifts. Place yourself on the paten with the host and in the chalice with the wine. Ask the Lord to transform you through His grace just as the bread and wine or transubstantiated to become the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Then, during the Eucharistic Prayer focus on the words the priest is saying and unite your prayers to his.
After Mass is over, just get up and walk away immediately. Take a moment to thank the Lord for the great gift of the Mass, of your faith, and of the Church. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you put the graces you’ve receive to use so that, through this Mass, you might grow in love of God and neighbor in some tangible way.
During this time of exile from the sacraments I’ve been thinking of other times when Catholic have, by necessity, been away from the sacraments. I don’t mean when we can’t make it to Mass because of our work schedule or when we’re traveling; I’m talking about extended, involuntary periods of time away from the Sacraments and the Eucharist. Since we know that God’s hand can work in all things and that the Lord can bring blessings even out of evil, then we can think about the blessings that can come from this present absence from the sacraments caused by the Coronavirus Pandemic.
The first group I thought of was the Catholic community in Japan. The first Catholic missionaries reached Japan in the 16th century and they began to make great progress in spreading the faith, converting 2-300,000 to Catholicism. The persecutions began in 1587 when Christianity was outlawed, the missionaries exiled, and some churches burned, but the missionaries continued their work in secret. The martyrdoms began 10 years later, in 1597, and continued on year after year, with brief intervals of peace. The last of the missionaries, 5 Jesuits and 3 secular religious, were martyred in 1643, and we don’t have much information from after that time. However, in 1848, when Commodore Perry forced the Japanese to reopen their borders to outsiders, it was discovered that there were still tens of thousands of Christians practicing the faith in secret without clergy or any sacraments other than Baptism. We can thank the Lord for our religious liberty, which wasn’t granted to the Japanese Christians until 1873, and ask God to strengthen our faith like the faith of the Japanese Catholics and martyrs.
Next, I thought of Christians imprisoned for their faith, like those in Communist Russian prisons. Now Cardinal Sigitas Tamkevicius was a priest in Lithuania in 1983 when he was arrested by the KGB and sentenced to 10 years in prison, some of which was spent in Siberia. Cardinal Tamkevicius explained, “My stronghold was my faith, which I kept alive by praying a lot. I could only celebrate Mass secretly.I celebrated the Eucharist with great care, and for me it was a great source of strength in prison.” He was able to request unleavened bread with his meals, and would use the grapes to make wine in secret. We can learn from Cardinal Tamkevicius and those like him to rely more on prayer, to stay close to the Eucharist however we can, and to do what we can with what we have.
Finally, I thought of those who are homebound or in hospitals and care facilities and who thus can’t get to Mass. Sometimes, they are able to watch Mass on TV or have the Eucharist brought to them, but that’s not the same as actually attending Mass. I have greater compassion for these people now, even though I get to celebrate mass every day, because I can’t go where I want or do what I want, and I also intend to have greater appreciation for the great gift of the Eucharist in the future. Let’s learn to never take our Lord, or Holy Communion, for granted, but to always reach out to Him in faith, wherever we may be, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Fr. Bryan became pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes on July 3, 2017. Read his bio here.