January 7, 2018

Why bring back the bells at the consecration? For most, but not all, the return of the bells during the Mass at the consecration is a welcomed addition. I would like to share with you my thinking as it pertains to this and the reason I have chosen to introduce the ringing of the bells within this faith community.

First, let us reference the Church’s teaching: The General Instruction of the Roman Missal refers to bell ringing in No. 150: “A little before the consecration, when appropriate, a server rings a bell as a signal to the faithful. According to local custom, the server also rings the bell as the priest shows the host and then the chalice.” This official text of the Church makes it clear that ringing a bell at the consecration is an option, not an obligation.

Now, let me share with you why I think it is appropriate to include the bells within our Sunday liturgies. There are three primary motivations on my part for this addition. I present them in no particular order.

I am often told that people have trouble staying focused during the Mass and I believe this introduction of sound will help gather our wandering minds back to the mystery being celebrated. In reading a biography of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, I was moved to learn that she loved hearing the bells at Mass because her life was so hectic that she could not maintain focus during the Mass and the bells drew her back from the worries of life to the glory of our Lord.

I know many of us can relate to that.

Research continually shows that those Catholics who do not attend Mass in accord with the precepts of the Church no longer believe in the true presence of our Lord in the Eucharist. Correspondingly, as a society, we are living in an age when people are enthralled by audiovisual means of learning (and less attentive to the abstract and/or silence). I feel that by calling special attention to the consecration we can regather everyone’s attention and help highlight and teach the truth of the True Presence of our Lord.

We have a strong group of parents who is attempting to teach the Mass to their children. This is most evident each third Saturday of the month when we gather for our spirited babies and young children Mass. The more engaged we make these very young Catholics the more they will learn about the Mass. Hopefully, that knowledge of the Mass and of our Lord will lead to a lifelong Love relationship with our God.

Whereas I do fully acknowledge that the historical and practical reasons for ringing the bells have all but disappeared, I believe it serves a purpose as an extra aid to call attention to the moment of the consecration, as a jolt to reawaken wandering minds, and as a useful catechetical tool for children and adults alike.

Remember, the ringing of the bells alerts the congregation to the calling down of the Holy Spirit and prepares them for the consecration that immediately follows. The bells are rung at the time of the epiklesis in the Eucharistic Prayer. At this point, the priest joins his hands and places them over the bread and wine to be consecrated. He prays for the Holy Spirit to come down upon the gifts so that they may become the Body and Blood of our Lord. After the priest says the words of consecration, he elevates the Sacred Host or the chalice of Precious Blood. The ringing of the bells at each elevation alerts the faithful that transubstantiation has taken place and that the Body and Blood of our Lord are truly present on the altar.

Information was gathered from http://www.ewtn.com/library/liturgy/zlitur94.htm and from Straight Answers By Fr. William Saunders http://www.catholicherald.com/News/Why_the_Bell_Tolls/

December 31, 2017

The tabernacle in the center of the Church. Since moving the tabernacle to accommodate the Giving Tree gifts, I have been receiving a very large number of compliments and requests to make this change permanent. Personally, I have found that it has resulted in three benefits. First, it makes celebrating Mass (especially on Monday night) much smoother for me as celebrant. Secondly, I believe (and others have agreed with me on this, but I am sure there are opposing views) that the tabernacle and tabernacle lamp add depth, context, and color to our wall which actually helps to highlight our sculpture, adding to its beauty. Finally, I have been so pleased that upon entering the front doors of the church you immediately see the altar and the tabernacle−the centrality of our faith as well as its source and summit−greet all who walk into our church.  What a special gift and what a special welcome! With this in mind, I am going to leave the tabernacle where it is.

Therefore, I do want to remind everyone of some basic information which becomes more relevant to our liturgies with the new placement of the tabernacle.

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal teaches us that those in procession at the start of the Mass genuflect to the tabernacle when it is in the sanctuary, at the beginning and end of Mass. Ministers carrying items in the processional (i.e. the cross, candles, book of the Gospel) bow their heads instead of genuflecting. However, all ministers, including cantors and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, bow to the altar during the course of the Mass. Ministers bow toward the altar when passing in front of it once Mass has begun because the Mass is the unfolding mystery of Christ – – first His word in the scripture, then His sacrifice on the altar, His communion with us, and finally His abiding presence. Remember, we see the altar as representing Christ, the Living Stone (cf. 1 Peter 2:4). Because of this association, a bow of the body is prescribed as the normal gesture made toward the altar, as if toward Christ Himself. Outside of Mass, however, the normal tradition applies. We genuflect whenever we cross before the Lord reposed in a tabernacle (remember a genuflection to God is made by bending the right knee).

December 24, 2017

Happy 4th Sunday of Advent: This advent season I have preached on the idea of preparing the way of the Lord by deepening our understanding of Church. As I have said, it is the normative way God enters our lives on a day-to-day basis, most especially via the sacraments. Yet, it−the Church−is so much more. It is us, we are the Church! It is our daily living and loving of our

brothers, sisters, and neighbors. The Church is all encompassing. It can be with us, supporting and sustaining us, at every moment of our lives. I hope that this Advent season has been a true experience of growing in your knowledge of the Church so that you have made ready the way of the Lord and are prepared for the awesome gift that comes with the birth of Jesus who is true God, true man, and head of His body the Church.

Merry Christmas! On behalf of Father Daniel, Father Elmer, the parish staff and in my own name, I extend to you our prayerful best wishes this Christmas day and Season. Merry Christmas. May the true meaning of Christmas rest deeply within your heart so that it may refresh you the whole year through.

This Advent we have been preparing the way for this moment. So, what does this day bring? The answer is the simplest of words whose meaning is as deep as any mystery of God. Love. Yes, love is the gift that Christmas brings. It is a gift we can choose to accept and should not return for an exchange! It is a gift that will feed, fuel and inspire us. It is a gift that the more we share the more it gives back in the process (so we should re-gift it). Nevertheless, it is a gift that does require some “assembly.”

What do I mean by that? Well, love is something that is freely offered to us by God, but we must first allow ourselves to accept such a gift. For many, that is not an easy thing to do. Let us pray for all people who find themselves struggling with the belief that they are worthy of such great love. Once accepted, many people find it difficult to share true unconditional love with others. Let us remember these people in prayer as well, for the idea of giving away so great a treasure as one’s love, asking nothing in return, is a frightening thought to many. Love is also sacrificial. Because making sacrifice isn’t part of our current culture it is difficult for many to properly share the Love Christmas brings. Let us pray for all those who are burdened by fear and selfishness and unable to offer sacrifice for others.

Love: the greatest of all gifts. Love: the gift of Christmas. Love: our lived experience of Church and the result of our participation in the Mass. Wait. What? Participating in Mass is about love? Yes! The Mass is our place to receive Love, learn about Love, and be strengthened to share Love. Our On Mission prayer tells us this when we pray to “learn Jesus, love Jesus, and live Jesus.” It’s a Christmas message. If you haven’t been to Mass recently, or don’t come faithfully, I invite you to return. Return to the place where love is always present, always flowing. This weekly respite from the world is the means by which we are strengthened to carry out our Christian duty to love the Lord our God with all our heart and mind and to love our neighbor as ourselves. If you have prepared the way for the Lord this Advent, then reward yourself with the continual gift which is brought into our lives through the Church, specifically through the Mass. Thank you for celebrating Christmas Mass with us. I look forward to celebrating every Sunday and Holy Day Mass with you too, as we continue to receive the great Christmas gift of God’s true and unconditional love. Merry Christmas.

December 17, 2017

Is the Pope changing the words to the Our Father? No. But you might have heard the story on the news. That story pertains from the recent updated translation to the Our Father implemented in the Churches of France. It is a change of translation, not a change of the words themselves. Basically, the issue is how people today understand the words we use. One way to fix misunderstandings is to update translations. Another way is education. For your education I offer the following:

Text seemingly being misunderstood: Lead us not into temptation. People were understanding this as God being the one who places temptation into our lives as if he were attempting to cause us to sin. He is not! As St. James tells us “No one experiencing temptation should say, “I am being tempted by God”; for God is not subject to temptation to evil, and he himself tempts no one. Rather, each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire” (Jas 1:13-14).

What the text actually means: As St. Thomas says, “To be tempted is human, but to consent to it is diabolical.” The prayer says “lead us not into temptation,” rather than “let us not be tempted.” This aspect of the Our Father seeks for us the Virtue of Temperance which enables one to encounter, and even at times enjoy, pleasing entities in a moderate and reasonable manner (in accord with one’s station in life). The temperate person is not “led into temptation” when faced with tempting situations but rather is blessed by God with the virtue needed to use all of God’s creation rightly and justly.

You can stop by the Welcome Desk to pick up a handout that describes the Lord’s Prayer as Petitions for the 7 Virtues or one that describes the Lord’s Prayer as a Weapon for Spiritual Conflict.

December 10, 2017

Proper Planning needed to make it to Mass on the 24th and 25th: With Christmas being on a Monday this year, it will be important to properly plan your attendance for the 4th Sunday of Advent and then the Christmas Mass. Please note the schedule!  Please share this information as it involves several changes.

4th Sunday of Advent Masses are Saturday, December 23, at 5:00 PM and Sunday, December 24, at 9:00 AM and 12:00 Noon. (There will be no 8:00 AM or 10:00 AM Mass this Sunday.)

Christmas Masses are Sunday, December 24, at 5:00 PM, 7:30 PM and Midnight. Then there is a Mass at 9:00 AM on Christmas day.

There are three (3) opportunities to make your Sunday obligation and four (4) to meet your Christmas day obligation. Please plan ahead to ensure that you and your family will meet both your Sunday and Christmas obligation to attend Mass. Seeing that this year January 1, Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, is not a holy day of obligation, there will be no change in the weekend schedule. However, on January 1 the only Mass celebrated will be the 7:00 PM Mass.

Confessions will be: Wednesday, December 13, from 6:00-9:00 PM (The Light Is On For You), and Saturday, December 23, from 11:00 AM-12:00 Noon.

Hark the Herald Angels Sing … who is this Herald guy? Let’s not be obtuse in our knowledge of the Angels. The Adult Ed Committee invites you to our next BCC (Becoming Confidently Catholic) session where the subject will be … angels. Please join us in the Lawrence Room at 6:30 PM on Saturday, December 16.  Festive snacks will be provided; please bring the beverage of your choice.

December 3, 2017

Proper Planning needed to make it to Mass on the 24th and 25th: With Christmas being on a Monday this year, it will be important to properly plan your attendance for the 4th Sunday of Advent and then the Christmas Mass. Please note the schedule!  Please share this information as it involves several changes.

4th Sunday of Advent Masses are Saturday, December 23, at 5:00 PM and Sunday, December 24, at 9:00 AM and 12:00 Noon. (There will be no 8:00 AM or 10:00 AM Mass this Sunday.)

Christmas Masses are Sunday, December 24, at 5:00 PM, 7:30 PM and Midnight. Then there is a Mass at 9:00 AM on Christmas day.

There are three (3) opportunities to make your Sunday obligation and four (4) to meet your Christmas day obligation. Please plan ahead to ensure that you and your family will meet both your Sunday and Christmas obligation to attend Mass. Seeing that this year January 1, Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, is not a holy day of obligation, there will be no change in the weekend schedule. However, on January 1 the only Mass celebrated will be the 7:00 PM Mass.

Confessions will be: Wednesday, December 13, from 6:00-9:00 PM (The Light Is On For You), and Saturday, December 23, from 11:00 AM-12:00 Noon.

November 26, 2017

Real Life Evangelization: Last week I found myself reading an article in the Post Gazette that was fascinating yet confusing. It concerned the US Bishop’s meeting in Baltimore and claimed that a message had been sent to Pope Francis indicating displeasure with the Pope’s leadership in the area of pro-life. I find secular articles about the Church to be highly misleading. The press, it seems, is always looking for the controversy even when none exists. The pro-life movement in the United States is enacted specifically to confront our cultural norms and national laws−our current state of life. The pro-life movement of the Pope is that of the Universal Church speaking holistically. This does not indicate conflict between the two but rather a more focused approach in our country to our most pressing pro-life need while adhering to the Truth of faith. We are all pro-life cradle to grave! We are all dedicated to respecting and honoring all life, in all forms, at all stages. When part of the church focuses on one area for a certain period of time, it does not indicate dissension with the whole but rather the reality of life.

This idea of being in the reality of life came up within the article in an interesting way as well. The author stated that the new head of the Bishop’s Pro-life Committee was at odds with the Pope’s “call for priests to accompany people in their struggles rather than preach black-and-white doctrines.” But to be in real life, every priest (every person helping their neighbor) needs to journey with the other not in stagnant misery but towards truth and healing. Thus, any real journey of Love involves a clear teaching of Truth. This means the teaching and adhering to of our doctrine. True Love involves proclaiming the Truth in word and deed while sacrificing for others as we journey with them into a deeper relationship with the Lord. Doctrine is not the enemy of Love! In real life we must balance our doctrine and our patient leading of others through their struggles. In this there is no conflict, only real life evangelization.

November 19, 2017

Preparing for uncertain change: I hope that you have been keeping up with all the news about On Mission for the Church Alive! The Pittsburgh Catholic has been providing great updates and articles. You can, of course, also use the internet and social media to keep abreast of the latest news as well. It is only by understanding the possible future that many of the things happening in our parish will make sense.

What do I mean by that? Well, since On Mission began, we have all known that no final decisions were made (and still haven’t been). However, as news comes out and plans are being discussed, one option is to prepare as if the current possibility will become the final option. This is a catch 22. It means sometimes we prepare for what is coming and sometimes for what will not. Having taken this approach, I think we have been prudent and I know that our parish family has benefited from this tactic. We are a parish that continues to embrace what it means to be Church! We are a parish that is reaching out and expanding our cooperation, collaboration and ministry. We are ready for the change (whatever it might be) that On Mission will bring.

Our promotion of social media and the use of technology is a prime example. Imagine the following possibility− St. Colman, Good Shepherd, St. John Fisher, St. Jude the Apostle, Madonna del Castello, St. Maurice and Word of God parishes being served by one administrator and three assisting priests (see http://onmissionchurchalive.org/recommended-groupings-by-parish/). That is seven parishes with four priests. Communication of information in this possible reality will be challenging. Social media and the use of online calendars can and will help. But the best practices of communication with technology for our parish and our grouping will not just spontaneously arise. So, like many steps we have taken, we are continuing to expand and experiment with the use of technology to help us evangelize. As we do this, please know that the investments we are making are in movable technology and hardware. We have done this so that no matter what final decision is made by On Mission the parish resources now being used will continue to enhance our future parish as we provide a Church Alive and vibrant ministry to our members and neighbors.

I feel very good about Saint Maurice’s position entering the next stage of On Mission! The April 26, 2018 announcements will begin the “transition phase” of On Mission. From May to September, clergy in new parish groupings will determine how to provide pastoral care. New Mass schedules will be developed. Then the implementation phase will begin on October 15, 2018 when the new clergy assignments and Mass schedules take effect.

November 12, 2017

Purple on All Souls Day: I had a few questions about why I wore purple on All Souls Day (one even from a priest). Often this celebration, like a funeral liturgy, is celebrated wearing white. As you know, the use of colored vestments conveys a significant meaning in the liturgical celebration. White, when used for funerals, symbolizes the resurrection of our Lord, when He triumphed over sin and death, sorrow and darkness. It also denotes rejoicing and purity of the soul−thus the reason All Saints Mass was celebrated in white. Purple, however, is a sign of preparation. Thus, as we offered the All Souls Mass for those preparing/purifying themselves for entry into heaven, I chose the liturgical color of purple. This is based upon the understanding that the Mass was offered for those souls in purgatory.

The Reality of Purgatory: The custom of praying for the dead is rooted in the very nature of heaven. Revelation 21:27 states, “nothing unclean will enter it.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven (1030). They do this in purgatory. The Church identifies the souls in purgatory as “our brethren … who having died are still being purified” (Lumen Gentium, No. 51). They continue to be important members of the Church, of the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ according to the belief in the communion of saints. We are able to assist the faithful departed by our prayers, just as they can also help us by their prayers (CCC 958). The Catholic Church has taught this for centuries. We commend the souls in purgatory to God’s mercy and pray for them.

November is dedicated to prayer for the Holy Souls in Purgatory; let us remember to keep them in our prayers out of love. Let us remember that prayers can be extremely powerful in assisting the souls of our loved ones in their journey to attaining eternal life and peace. Be mindful as well that we can help them by also by offering a Mass in their name, by giving alms, by indulgences or other works of penance done for their benefit (CCC 1032). A partial indulgence, applicable only to the souls in purgatory, can be obtained when the Eternal Rest (Requiem aeternam) is prayed.

For more information I recommend researching Catholic Activity: Praying for the Dead and Gaining Indulgences During November. Information for this article was taken from Catholicstand.com’s Praying for the Souls of the Dead: A Catholic Tradition by Nada Mazzei • October 24, AD2016.

November 5, 2017

Health Update: First off, I want to thank all of you for your continued prayers. I recently joked with some that if I don’t get back to 100% soon people’s faith will be shaken. But, of course, we as Catholics know that illness is part of the great mystery of salvation. We may not understand it, but we do know how to deal with it. When faced with illness we have the option to join our suffering with Christ in such a way that brings us closer to Him (or we can depend on methods to avoid all pain and suffering). Contrary to what seems to be the logical choice, our faith ensures us that our illnesses, suffering, and pain are bearable only when faced head on with the Lord−and following doctor’s orders.

Over the past two weeks I followed my doctor’s instructions and had a bone marrow biopsy and a PET/CT scan. Both tests were to check for cancer. I am very pleased to report that all my tests showed that I am healthy! No cancer. However, I am still dealing with a blood disease. For the next few months I will be taking a low dose of steroid to maintain healthy blood counts. I will slowly be taken off this medicine and the hope is that when this occurs my body will be back to normal. I am very hopeful that, as my treatment moves forward, my body will respond and my overall energy and focus will improve. In the meantime, please keep me in your prayers.

A joy to meet a native son called to the ordained life: This past week I meet Deacon William F. Strathmann. You may know him. His home parish (the one he grew up in) is Saint Maurice. Deacon Bill is the first person who I have met who was raised at our parish and responded to the call to a religious vocation. I often ask parishioners if any native children became seminarians, male or female religious, deacons or priests. To this point no one has identified any. Deacon Bill changes this narrative. If you know of anyone else, please let me know. More importantly, if you know someone in our parish who you think has a religious vocation let him or her know. You might be surprised that 4 out of 5 men ordained to the priesthood in 2017 were urged to consider the priesthood by someone from their parish. If you are interested in more details about vocations check our twitter feed for the article 4 Ways to Promote Priestly Vocations in Your Parish (written by Brenton Cordeiro and published on Catholic-link.org).

Two new ministries: Please see details in this bulletin about two exciting new opportunities at our parish. One is an adult education program called Becoming Confidently Catholic (a modification of our occasional series from last year called Confident Catholic). The other is a ministry to families with infants and young children to provide them an opportunity to celebrate the Eucharist together and find support and fellowship following Saturday morning Mass.

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