September 12, 2021 – PASTOR’S COLUMN

Advice on Making better confessions:

Last week we spoke about examining your conscience.  This week in light of the Gospel I would like to give some advice on how to make better confessions….

Notice in the Gospel the man being healed by Jesus is plagued with a speech impediment.

It says in the Gospel:

“And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment…”

The catechism of the Catholic Church says:

“The confession (or disclosure) of sins, even from simply a human point of view, free us and facilitates our reconcilation with others.   Through such an admission man looks squarely at the sins he is guilty of, takes responsibility for them, and therefore opens himself up to God.”

Jesus says, this weekend: “Ephphatha”..”Be opened”.  St. Josemaria Escriva gives great advice on not to have a speech impediment when we go to confession and open ourselves to his healing graces He writes:

Concrete Confession – without generalities- straight forward. The penitent declares or indicates his-her situation, the time of his last confession, the difficulties to live a Christian life. We say ours sins and the circumstances of our faults not to be excused. We accuse ourselves so the Confessor may judge, absolve and cure.

Clear Confession – with clarity- transparency in order to be understood, declaring the precise faults. Recognizing our sins and misery with modesty and gentleness is much needed.

Complete Confession – with integrity. Without shame or holding some sins back because we do not want to look bad before the priest. 

Every time we go to confession, we review that it is: Concise, Concrete, Clear and Complete.

If we do so, we will be free like this this deaf and dumb man….!

In Christ,

Fr. Larry  (Reminder: There are now confessions at S. Peter Claver every Wednesday from 4-6pm!)

August 15, 2021 – Pastor’s Column

Pray the Rosary!

This weekend, we celebrate the Feast of the Assumption.  This truth of the faith teaches us that God assumed Mary, the Mother of God (body and soul), into Heaven before corruption could touch her immaculate body.

Mary intercedes for us in Heaven.  As Catholics, we are taught to go to Mary to ask for her powerful intercession in prayer so that she can go to her son Jesus Christ and get graces for us to get to Heaven.  We pray in the Hail Mary: “Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death Amen…”

One powerful way of prayer is praying the Holy Rosary daily.  There are 15 promises that are given to us by Mary for those who pray the Rosary daily. Here are a few of them that were given to Blessed Alan de la Roche:

…I promise my special protection and the greatest graces to all those who shall recite the rosary.

…The rosary shall be a powerful armor against hell, it will destroy vice, decrease sin, and defeat heresies.

…It will cause virtue and good works to flourish; it will obtain for souls the abundant mercy of God; it will withdraw the heart of men from the love of the world and its vanities, and will lift them to the desire of eternal things. Oh, that souls would sanctify themselves by this means.

…Whoever shall recite the rosary devoutly, applying himself to the consideration of its sacred mysteries, shall never be conquered by misfortune. God will not chastise him in His justice.

…He shall not perish by an unprovided death; if he be just, he shall remain in the grace of God, and become worthy of eternal life.

…Whoever shall have a true devotion for the rosary shall not die without the sacraments of the Church.

…I shall deliver from purgatory those who have been devoted to the rosary.

Padre Pio once said:

“Love the Madonna and pray the Rosary, for her the Rosary is the weapon against the evils of the world today.  All graces given by God pass through the Blessed Mother…

Happy Feast Day! Love the Madonna and pray the Rosary!

Fr. Larry

August 8, 2021 – Pastor’s Column

Treat Him Well!

Hey folks! I am out in California with twenty priests praying, taking classes, studying, and hiking. I am remembering all of you in my Masses and prayers.

This week our Lord is affirming that the Eucharist is truly his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. The catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us the following:

“In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist “the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained.” (CCC #1374)

After ordaining men to the priesthood, a holy bishop in Spain said with tears in his eyes:

“’Treat him well for metreat him well‘! He was telling them to treat the Eucharist well because the Eucharist is Jesus. Jesus will say this weekend in the Gospel: “…and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the world.”

How do we treat Him (the Eucharist) well? We need to clean up, dress up, hold up…when we come to mass.

Clean up:  If an important person (like the Pope) were to come to our house for dinner we would make sure that all the rooms are clean before he came.  We must be clean of all mortal sins before we go to Holy Communion.  Mother Church teaches:

“Anyone conscious of a grave sin must receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to communion” (CCC 1385).

Dress up:  If we were going to a wedding or a funeral we would most likely dress up for the event. We ought to dress up for Sunday Mass. At the White House, there is a dress code to visit certain parts. In order to get a tour of the West Wing it says:

“No shorts, jeans, t-shirts…etc.”

The catechism of the Catholic Church does not get that explicit with dress code, but it does say the following:

Bodily demeanor (gestures, clothing) ought to convey the respect, solemnity, and joy of this moment when Christ becomes our guest” – CCC 1387

Hold up:  We also are to observe the Eucharistic fast before Holy Communion. In Canon Law it states:

 “Canon No. 919: One who is to receive the Most Holy Eucharist is to abstain from any food or drink, with the exception only of water and medicine, for at least the period of one hour before Holy Communion.”

So, we need to hold up on food and drink for one hour before we receive Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament.

These are all ways to “Treat Him Well”!

Be Holy!
Fr. Larry

July 18, 2021 – Pastor’s Keyboard

Spend at least 10 minutes a day in mental prayer…

A lot of good Catholics pray the Rosary daily, some go to daily Mass, but very few spend time in mental prayer.  It is vitally important to learn to spend some time every day in mental prayer.  Today’s Gospel Jesus tells us: “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while…”

What is mental prayer?

Teresa of Avila describes mental prayer as follows:

Mental prayer is nothing else but being on terms of friendship with God, frequently conversing in secret with Him.

Mother Teresa once said:

In vocal prayer we speak to God; in mental prayer he speaks to us. It is then that God pours Himself into us.

It is how we get to know Jesus in an intimate way and become friends with Him…

How do we do it?

  1. Settle down in a quiet place.

Jesus says to the Apostles in today’s Gospel:

“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” 

A key to good prayer is a suitable place for prayer…

St. Francis de Sales says: “If you can perform it in church, so much better…because he goes on to say you could not easily insure uninterrupted hour at home…”

If you can’t sit in a church find a spot at home that is quiet.

2. Set a time….

There is an expression, “A WHAT WITH A WHEN is A NEVER!” St. Francis de Sales says: “if you can, let it (prayer) early in the morning…”

The reason he says so is because “your mind is less cumbered and more vigorous after the night’s rest…”

This is very much what our Lord Jesus, our savior did when he was walking on the earth…

It says in the Gospel of Mark 1:35:

“Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed…”

Whether it is in the morning or evening, there has to be specific time to pray.  I tend to pray early in the morning because there are no distractions. 

3. SEEK Christ in the Scriptures…

The catechism of the Catholic Church states:

“We are usually helped by books, and Christians do not want for them: the Sacred Scriptures, particularly the Gospels…”

4. Solicit advice by asking questions…

It says in the Gospel: “…he began to teach them many things.”

After prayerfully reading the Gospel of the day, solicit advice from Jesus with the following questions:

  1. What… does this Gospel say?
  2. So, What…? What does this word say to me?
  3. Now what? What needs to change in me because of this word…?

Do this ten minutes a day and you will begin to know and love Jesus more and more.

Fr. Jaques Phillipe in his book “A Time for God” says;

“Time spent faithfully every day in mental prayer that is poor, arid distracted and relatively short is worth more, and will be infinitely more fruitful for our progress, than long ardent spells of mental prayer from time to time, when circumstances make it easy…”

Peace!
Fr. Larry

July 11, 2021 – Pastor’s Keyboard

I am so happy to be in St. Mary’s County and to begin serving you as your priest for the years to come!  My name is Fr. Larry Swink. I have been a priest for 15 years, and have served in four different parishes up until now. I am 45 years old, the eldest of 10 children, and a lifelong Catholic. 

I have known Fr. Scott since I joined the seminary and am honored to take over for a priest that I love and respect. My hobbies are cycling, hunting, and paddle boarding. My favorite saints are St. Michael the Archangel, St. Josemaria Escriva (whom I quote incessantly!), the Blessed Mother, and St. John Vianney. I also like Padre Pio a lot. 

I enjoy preaching retreats and recollections, teaching Bible Classes, hearing confessions, and most of all celebrating, the Holy Mass. I played baseball in college and am a Nationals fan. My two favorite forms of prayer are Eucharistic Adoration and the Holy Rosary. 

I look forward to helping you all to the best of my abilities (with and only with God’s grace) to get closer to Jesus Christ and to our Heavenly destiny…

Peace!
Fr. Larry Swink

July 4, 2021 – Pastor’s Keyboard

One of my favorite songs is It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye by Boys to Men.  It expresses how I feel about leaving our beloved county.  Yet, I know the Lord loves us all so much and is aware of every circumstance and desire that we could need, has great things waiting for you and me.  Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”  We have heard this so many times, I fear the words lack the power they originally had for those first followers of Jesus. 

I recently received a text message from a parishioner of Saint Cecilia. It read “I think this is a move up so that you don’t get too comfortable. God has great plans for you.” As I read these words, I felt they were not just to me and about me. They were also for all of you and those at my new mission.  After all, the God of the universe loves each one of us individually and desires not only our salvation but that we grow to trust most in Him

There can be a danger in clinging too tightly to a particular minister of His sacraments, places, and people, including our loved ones. Jesus says, “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” As easy as these quotes and bible verses are to remember and say, they are not as easy to embrace. We need to allow ourselves to be stretched, to learn to trust even more in the Father’s love for us and for those He sends into our lives.

These have been the happiest and most fulfilling years of my priesthood. Through you, God our Beloved Father, has grown me, renewed me, stretched me. I pray that through me, God has done the same for you.  I will not say goodbye to you, though some of you may not see me again in this life. My prayer is that we will all meet again in “The Father’s house.”  Earth is not our permanent home. We are all only traveling through. It has been a huge blessing for me to be your Shephard over these 13 years. To lead you closer to our Lord and the home to which He is calling all of us.

Please pray for me, and Father Swink. Your new Shephard was chosen for you by God our Father. He is very gifted and has many blessings the Lord wants to work through Him for you and through you for him.  Do not limit what the Lord can do! All is Grace! All will work out for His Glory and our good!  Praise be His Name now and forever!

Your brother and father in Christ,
Fr. Scott Woods

June 27, 2021 – Summer Helper Column

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Many of you know me already, but for those who do not, my name is Luke Collins. I am a high school graduate, and I was homeschooled all my life. I was born into a large catholic family, and I started attending St. Cecilia in 2013.

Growing up catholic, I never took my faith very seriously. I would attend Mass on Sunday and pray before meals, but that was the extent of my faith. Until one day, I was at a friend’s house. They had a priest over for confessions. They asked me if I would like to go. I had not been in a while, so I said yes. As I finished my confession, the priest started asking me questions about my faith. I was a little confused at the time because I did not know what spiritual direction was or this priest who was asking me these questions. Later that night, I found out that the priest’s name is Fr. Scott Woods. Little did I know, he would later be my pastor and spiritual director. Fr. Scott would inspire me to pray more often and help serve at the Mass. As I reached High school, he would help me grow in my faith by encouraging me to attend daily Mass, youth group, and many retreats with other young people.

Early in May, Fr Scott asked me to come and help him for the Summer. At first, I was a bit hesitant, but as I prayed about it, I realized that it would be a good way for me to discern the future wherever God calls me. It is sad to see Fr. Scott go, but I pray that he has the impact on other youth that he has had on me.

God bless,
Luke Collins

June 20, 2021 – Summer Seminarian Column

On Monday morning this past week, Fr. Scott and all his summer helpers were awake at 5:30 am for benediction. They had taken shifts the whole night adoring before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament at our summer retreat in North Carolina. Fifteen minutes after benediction, we celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. 5:45 am Mass was not the result of a coincidence. We had chosen this time intentionally so that the sun would rise above the mountains, which we could see from the window behind the altar, during the consecration.

Needless to say, Mass was beautiful, and the sunrise helped all of us ‘lift up our hearts to the Lord,’ as the Priest commands the congregants at the beginning of the preface to the Eucharistic prayer. Why is it that beauty has this effect on us? Why does it draw us up into contemplation of the divine?

There is a philosophical/theological category called “the transcendentals.” To this category belongs truth, goodness, and beauty. These three things are so intertwined that when one is encountered near its perfection, the other are sure to be found with it. Something that is truly good must also be truly beautiful and truly real (i.e. true). God is Truth, God is Goodness, and God is Beauty. Therefore, anything that is true, good, or beautiful has its ultimate source in God, and therefore, it draws the attentive soul towards Him.

Upon encountering truth, such as the Nicene Creed, which we say at Sunday Mass, we are drawn up to God by knowing about Him. Upon encountering Goodness, for instance in an act of charity by a fellow Christian, we can feel our hearts being lifted up to God. And lastly Beauty can lift our souls to God as we encounter something that He created simply for His and our delight.

Beauty is powerful. Souls have been converted just by walking into a beautiful Church. As we strive towards our heavenly homeland, it is extremely helpful to surround ourselves with beauty, so we do not so easily forget the wonders that Beauty Himself has prepared for those who persevere.

In Christ,
Colin Snyder
Seminarian

June 6, 2021 – Summer Helper Column

Today is the celebration of Corpus Christi. Corpus Christi celebrates Our Lord giving us His Body and Blood at the Last Supper.  On a Feast Day such as this, we want to avoid the temptation to celebrate without cause. The feast of Corpus Christi is a celebration, a party. In order to celebrate well, we should ask why do we celebrate? Man is who God gave the Eucharist to so it is with man that we will start. 

The most universal fact about man is that he is made for union with God. For evidence of this, look at his desires. Man desires many things, food, friendship, and family to name a few. Among these desires, there is one that man cannot find the object to.  It is a desire for something infinite, something that has no beginning or end, and man is uncertain of the object.

Man tries to fill the desire with things of this world. He thinks to himself if I just have one more good moment with my kid, do just one more good thing for someone, or make my spouse happy one more time, then I will be happy. Man does these good things in hope that they will fulfill the deepest desire of his heart. He is time and time again mistaken.. He knows deep down that he longs for something greater. He knows that even the best things of this world will not make him fully happy.

The object of this desire is God. Man will not be happy until he lives his life for union with God. No amount of good things in this world will fulfill man because man is not made for this world. His deepest desire is for God, and he cannot shake it no matter how hard he tries.

The Eucharist is then the fulfillment of this desire within the Heart of man. Our Lord gave man the Eucharist to have a type of Union with God. True union with God cannot be fully had until man beholds God face to face, in heaven. The Eucharist is God Himself and by receiving God in a state of grace we are given a foretaste of what is to come. 

The Feast of Corpus Christi then makes a lot of sense. It is chance to celebrate our true happiness. We are made for Heaven and will not be happy until we live Our life for Union with Him. By receiving God when not in mortal sin, we are given a taste of our true happiness. So Happy Feast Day of The Body of Christ.

God Bless,
Jacob Redmond

May 9, 2021 – Pastor’s Keyboard

May is here! St. Mary’s College of Maryland College, St. Mary’s Ryken high, and St. Michael’s school will soon hold graduate.  Our first summer helper has arrived, and more are on their way. We’re especially excited about the arrival of our summer seminarian, Colin, on Saturday, May 1th.  

Looking through old photos from past parish events, I was struck by how much younger I looked.  Altar boys who once couldn’t see over the altar now tower over me, and many treasured members of our community are now at home with the Lord. 

As life speeds along, I sometimes feel I can’t keep up. Our Lord provided the books of Nature and of God’s Word to help us in these times.  The book of Nature reminds us to appreciate God’s creation. We need to make time to sit outside or take a stroll. In creation, God ministers to us and enables us to thirst upon His love and goodness.

The book of God’s Word helps me slow down and center myself in God. Though the world changes and the storms of this life rage, He is “my rock and my salvation, whom shall I fear”. The more we abide in him, the more we can appreciate each day, both dark and light. With Jesus, we are never frail, as the “joy of the Lord is my strength”.  Allow Our Lord into your heart through these two books. If you give Our Lord the chance, you’ll find deep peace in every moment with Him.

God bless and keep you always!

Fr. Scott Woods