Pastor’s Keyboard: Wednesday of Last week, Fr Ray (the Pastor of St John’s in Hollywood, Maryland) called to tell me that he was very excited about an event that was taking place in his parish the next day. A year ago, the Archdiocese decided that they wanted to find a formal way of recognizing and honoring all those who were buried in Catholic Cemeteries who had been slaves. In many of the parish cemeteries, these places of rest were lost to human memory and not recorded or there were no markers left. The Archdiocese decided they would offer plaques and large markers to honor them.
Fr Ray decided this was a great opportunity to not only honor these sons and daughters if God who were forgotten but to help others in the parish and county to remember this sad history of our Church, Nation, and Country. He wanted to have a Mass that would focus prayers for the repose of their souls and honor their faith in the Lord. He arranged for an amazing Opera singer to sing Negro Spirituals.
When he chose the date for the Mass, he had not looked for any special date in particular, he just wanted it to work with his very full parish schedule. So, he knew it was Divine Providence when it turned out that the date he had chosen was the 51 anniversary of the assassination of Dr Martin Luther King and the day chosen to announce the New Archbishop of Washington, who it turned out was the first African American Archbishop of Washington!
As he told me this, I too was becoming more excited, especially since the new archbishop’s name had not been officially announced yet, but the media found out early. I decided then and there that I would attend even though it was my day off and I would already have said Mass in the morning. But as this thought was going through my head Fr Ray said, “I know it’s short notice, but I was afraid to ask since it’s your day off, but would you mind giving the Homily for the Mass tomorrow?” Well, he had already gotten me so excited with the rest of the news I couldn’t imagine saying no.
The day of the Mass arrived and I found myself filled with meetings (though it was my day off, it’s also Lent), I won’t go into my schedule but the only time that day I had free was the 15 minutes I had for a power nap. When I arrived that evening to concelebrate the Mass and give the homily, I realized I had had no time to prepare. I said a quick prayer and made an act of Trust in the Lord and he provided all I needed. Grace was abundant. The music was superb, the talk by the Head of the Intercultural Office for the Archdiocese was powerful and so was Fr Ray’s short talk of what inspired him to have this Mass. Then to top it off all of us lit candles and walked into the darkness to illuminate the night with faith, song, and prayer. The Memorial was then blessed, and we sang one last song in honor of Our Lady. It was beautiful, powerful, and a blessing for all who came from across the county. Let us remember this sad history, less we repeat it. Let us honor all the victims of slavery through learning their stories and praying for the repose of their souls. And let us strive to illuminate this dark world where hatred and division often seem to win out, with the light of Christ’s love, mercy, truth, and charity. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it!
Your spiritual Brother and Father,
Pastor’s Keyboard will return next week.
What is Laetare Sunday?
A little light breaks into Lent this Sunday! The Fourth Sunday of Lent (March 31st) is called Laetare Sunday, when the Church takes a bit of breather from Lenten practice and opens Mass with the Entrance Antiphon, “Rejoice, Jerusalem … Be joyful, all who were in mourning!” – taken from Isaiah chapter 66.
To get a deeper insight into this “Rejoice” Sunday, we asked Father Matthew Ernest to explain some of the theology and practice related to the celebration. Father Ernest was ordained in 2004 for the Archdiocese of New York, where he serves at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Scarsdale. He holds a doctorate in Liturgy from The Catholic University of America and has assisted in the preparation of the new translation of the Roman Missal.
Fathers for Good: Where does the name “Laetare Sunday” come from?
Father Ernest: Laetare Sunday, the Fourth Sunday of Lent, takes its name from the Latin word which begins the entrance antiphon (introit) for that day. Laetare means rejoice, and this Sunday is marked by a relaxation of the penitential character of the Lenten season. In church, flowers may be used to adorn the altar on this day, and the organ may be played more fully.
FFG: Are we supposed to “Rejoice!” in the middle of Lent?
Father Ernest: Indeed we are! On this Sunday, we look with expectation to the great Solemnity of Easter for which we have been preparing ourselves as a Church during the Lenten season. By its anticipation of the joy of Easter, Laetare Sunday is meant to give us hope and encouragement as we slowly progress towards the Paschal Feast.
FFG: Did the priests used to wear rose vestments on this Sunday?
Father Ernest: Not only did priests used to wear rose vestments, but they still may! On both Laetare Sunday and Gaudete Sunday (the Third Sunday of Advent), a priest may wear rose vestments. The color rose is used as a sign of the joy which characterizes these two Sundays. The use of rose vestments probably stems from an ancient papal tradition of blessing golden roses which would be sent to Catholic heads of state in Europe on the Fourth Sunday of Lent.
FFG: Are there traditional (or contemporary!) celebrations or observances that a family might observe to make this Laetare Sunday more memorable?
Father Ernest: In addition to attending Sunday Mass, a family might choose to mark Laetare Sunday by anticipating the Easter feast; a Sunday brunch with roses on the table would be appropriate. A family might also wish, during this beginning period of spring, to plant a rose bush on this day. Finally, there was a medieval tradition of visiting one’s “mother church” (the church where one was baptized) on this day. A family trip to see where mom and dad or the children began their journey of faith could make for a fine Sunday afternoon outing!
Pastor’s Keyboard: “The Joy of the Lord is my strength”! Recently a student from China came to meet with me. He was raised in an atheist country where the faith is very controlled and often suppressed. During his years at Ryken he said he encountered Christians who were filled with Joy. Every year some of teachers and I take some young men to visit the seminary for a day. Usually we always end up taking some non-Catholics and even non-Christians. Some of the priests at the seminary were not happy when we first did this, but I explained that as a convert myself, I knew it could help them to be open to the call of the Lord to the faith and from there to a potential vocation to the Priesthood. This young man said that trip had a huge impact on him. He said he had never met so many young men who were so happy and fulfilled. It inspired in him even more the desire to become Catholic himself. What amazed me was the expression of joy I saw on his face as he spoke of the young people and teachers that influenced his decision to enter the church. I thought to myself, surely, he knows that the church is going through one of the greatest crises it has faced in the modern era? Surely, he knows that the media and many others have little to nothing good to say about the church or those who serve her? Yes, he knows, yet what has influenced him to see the good and beauty in the church has been Christians alive with the joy of the Lord despite the failings of some of our own.
This year I’ve had a number of students at the high school and the college and both parishes that want to enter the church. Most have supportive families, some have been told NO! This young man comes from a prominent family and so the consequences could be bad. He knows that he could be risking family disapproval and government disapproval, yet he is determined. Even before he met with me, he started to attend daily Mass, though not receiving Holy Communion, he started to pray daily, and started to read more about the faith. He is a passionate young man who desires to give his life to the Lord and if necessary, for the Lord. It’s a beautiful thing to think about the effect the everyday students and teachers have had on him. He went to another Christian school before Ryken where the same gospel was preached but he said it was not lived out in daily life. He said here in our community he has experienced both the teachings and the teachings lived out in the lives of his fellow students, teachers, and the seminarians he has met. Now he wants to enter the faith. How many people like this young man exist in our families, among our neighbors, co-workers, and among our friends. They are watching us, even when they seem not to be listening to us. Therefore, we must make sure that the gospel that we have learned, and that we speak, matches (by God’s grace) our lives. The lived Gospel can have the most powerful effect on us and on others. The lived Gospel in your life this week at work, at home, in the neighborhood, among your friends might not only save your soul but theirs. Please Lord may it be so for us all!
Your Brother and Father in Christ,
Pastor’s Keyboard will return next week.
PLEASE PRAY FOR OUR NEW ARCHBISHOP
Father, you have given us your Son, Jesus Christ to teach, sanctify and govern your people. You also gave us the gift of your Holy Spirit so that we may forever remain One in your name.
Father, we ask that you look with favor upon those in our church, who will prayerfully select our new archbishop. Give them a Spirit of wisdom and counsel that they may discern your will.
We ask in the name of your Son, that you bless our future archbishop. Provide him with the gifts he will need to carry on the ministry of Jesus in our diocese.
Grant him the heart of your Son, the heart of the Good Shepherd. Bestow upon him the zeal of St. Paul in preaching the Good News; the humility of St. John Vianney in ministering the sacraments; the compassion of St. Vincent DePaul in serving those most in need; and the wisdom of St. Augustine in teaching the doctrine of our church.
We ask this through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Mother and Model. Amen.
Pastor’s Keyboard: Where in the world is Fr Scott this week? I seemed to hear people say. Last week, I was with over thirty kids from our youth group and their parents on our annual Youth Group Ski Trip. Which would have been impossible without the generosity of two parishioners who every year let us borrow their beautiful homes up in Canaan Valley, WV, the parents who cooked meals, chaperoned the various excursions, and drive loads of kids in their vehicles up to the mountains and back. This was our new youth minister’s first major trip after only a few weeks in the position. He did an awesome job, and all had a wonderful time.
This year’s group of kids were very impressive not only by their very good behavior but especially their love of prayer. We had daily Mass with the backdrop of a wall of glass behind which was a snow-covered forest. We had daily Holy Hour which all entered into with great devotion. Many of them choose to spend most of it kneeling on the floor, some bent over with heads to the floor (in what looked like a very uncomfortable position) with a desire to show love and respect to our Eucharistic Lord.
What also impressed me were how many of them choose to also pray the Liturgy of the Hours which is prayed by priests, monks, and nuns all over the world. As a diocesan priest, I made a promise to practice this devotion for the church five times a day. Whenever I was going to pray it, I invited anyone who wanted to join to come and pray, it was so optional, yet for the first time in ten or eleven years of doing these trips every kid and most parents joined me in praying: Morning Prayer, Daytime Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Night Prayer. It was beautiful. Pretty soon it was the kids asking me, “Is it time to pray Morning Prayer yet?” or asking about praying one of the other times.
The youth had a chance to encounter Jesus in the Eucharist, the beauty of nature, and in one another. This week, I’m at Sacred Heart in La Plata giving a parish mission while Fr. Swink gives our parish mission at St Peter Claver. I hope everyone from all the parishes in the area will come out to listen to this very dynamic, Spirit filled priest of God. Pray that God may use me as a good vessel to the people of La Plata. And I look forward to seeing you when I return on Thursday for Mass. God bless you and keep you.
Your spiritual Brother and Father,
The pastor’s keyboard will return next week. However, we would like your help in getting the word out about St. Peter Claver’s Parish Revival!
|REMEMBER YOU ARE DUST But Don’t Worry God Loves You!
St. Peter Claver Revival March 11-13, 2019 Dinner at 6:00 pm Adoration and talk at 7:00pm
REVIVAL PREACHER – FR. LARRY SWINK
Father Larry Swink serves as the Pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in La Plata, MD. He has been leading retreats for men’s and women’s groups for nearly nine years. He has led very powerful and spiritually healing pilgrimages for couples and college students to Mexico City and holy sites in Europe. The oldest of ten children, Father Swink was ordained a priest in May 2006 after attending Immaculate Conception Seminary in South Orange, New Jersey. His previous assignments in the Archdiocese were Saint Mary of the Mills in Laurel, Saint Pius X in Bowie and Jesus the Divine Word in Huntingtown, MD.
LARRY SWINK’s schedule while visiting Southern Maryland
|Saturday, March 9
3:00PM Confessions (St. Cecilia) 4:30PM Vigil Mass (St. Cecilia) Confessions following
Sunday, March 10
7:00AM Exposition of Blessed Sacrament (St. Cecilia) 7:45AM Repose 8:00AM Mass (St. Cecilia) 10:00AM Mass (St Peter Claver) Confessions following
Monday, March 11
6:30AM Exposition of Blessed Sacrament (St. Cecilia) 7:20AM Repose 7:30AM MASS (St. Cecilia) Confessions following 7:00PM Adoration & Spiritual Talk (St. Peter Claver) Confessions following
Tuesday, March 12
6:30AM Exposition of Blessed Sacrament (St. Cecilia) 7:20AM Repose 7:30AM Mass (St. Cecilia’s) Confessions following 7:00PM Adoration & Spiritual Talk (St. Peter Claver) Confessions following
Wednesday, March 13
6:30AM Exposition of Blessed Sacrament (St. Cecilia) 7:20AM Repose 7:30AM MASS (St. Cecilia’s) Confessions following 7:00PM Closing Mass with Healing Prayers (St. Peter Claver)
Father Larry Swink will be available for personal appointments March 11-13.
Angie in the St. Cecilia parish office at 301-872-5460
to schedule an appointment.
Father Larry Swink will be available for personal appointments on Monday, March 11-13. Contact:
Angie in the St. Cecilia parish -office at 301-872-5460
to schedule an appointment.
Pastor’s Keyboard: Often family and friends ask me “So how are you doing these days?” This use to be taken by me to be a simple inquiry into what was happening in my life. Today I think what they are really asking is “how are you holding up at this time when so many scandals are coming out involving priest, bishops, and even your former Archbishop now Laicized?” Often, I find it hard to answer that. Not because I’m not affected but because I have such a mix of very strong emotions and so little time outside of prayer to really dive deeply into such self-evaluation, even though I should. Like most people but especially for us who love our church and are most dedicated to her as the Body of Christ, one can’t help but feel a profound disappointment with so many of her Shepherds past and a number in the present. If the scandal of 2002 was about the actual priest abusers, this round of scandals is more about the bishops (many dead or retired) who care too much about protecting the reputation of the church, the men who did these crimes, or their own reputations. This round of scandals involves the bishops and Popes under which they either happened or were not brought to justice. Me and many of my brother priests along with so many of you can only feel deep disgust, anger, frustration, rage, and sadness. Along with so many other feelings that one feels when feeling let down by those you trusted to do the right thing.
I don’t have time to go into all that I’m feeling at this time. But I can say that the feelings come upon me like many waves upon the shore in a storm, especially as new revelations of the past behavior hit the headlines on a daily basis. So how do I and so many priests striving to live out the vocation God has called us to with integrity and holiness of life, how do we not despair? We look to Him who said, “I make All Things NEW”! Despite the disappointment, the lack of transparency in the past we have hope because we look not to men but to the God who established His church using imperfect men, the apostles. Who said the “The Gates of Hell shall Not overcome” His church despite the failings of those who lead her? I also look at how far we have come since 2002 the year I was ordained. By God’s Grace the church has done an amazing job in the area of child protection and vetting those who work with them clergy and laity alike. Many of the young bishops who have been taking over in diocese all over the country are men who have lived through the great horrors of the past and are doing all they can to make sure that it cannot and will not be tolerated or allowed to take root ever again. This sadly will not mean that there will never again be a single case where it could happen again in any church, school (public or private), or other organization that serves youth. But what it does mean is that they are doing their best to try to make sure if accusations are made and are credible, they are dealt with immediately and never hidden or discouraged.
Yes, these are very difficult times to be a Catholic and especially a priest walking around in a collar knowing that there are people looking at us and wondering if we might be one of the 4 or 5 percent of priest who have done these crimes. How do I deal with this? I stay focused on the Lord and all the good He is still doing in His church through the service of many many Holy priest and laity. The fact is the far majority of priests have not and would never do such a thing as this, the far majority of bishops today are good men working very hard to do all they can to make sure this can’t happen again, and the church is still the Bride if Christ, still beloved of God and now He is cleaning house to purify her and strengthen her. And all of us are part of this process, by our prayers, advocacy, strong involvement in our parish and archdiocese, and by our own personal call to Holiness. This has been a very tough time, and I fear we are not even near the end of it, but that is fine, let’s pray that this work of purification is made complete. Keep your eyes on Jesus, He is still Emmanuel (God with Us) and that makes all the difference in the world. The “night is far spent and the day draws near” let us awake and go forward with and in the Lord to bear witness to the Gospel and to help the church to heal and shine forth with the truth of the Lord that is meant to cast out the darkness of sin and death! And please pray for me and my brother priests and know that I pray for you every day.
Your Brother and Father in Christ,
Being a priest and a spiritual director, I have had the opportunity to accompany many of you through the full spectrum of life’s joys and sorrows, both the profound and mundane: births and baptisms, job losses, sickness, addictions, marriages, and the list goes on and on. While I consider it a deep honor to be entrusted with all of these events, one of the things I encounter with much more frequently than the average person is watching friends enter into terminal illness, the circumstances leading up to death, and saying goodbye to people who are dying.
As Catholics, we know that life is sacred from natural conception to natural death. Unfortunately, we live in a culture that is increasingly focused inward, more focused on satisfying the demands of “me”, most often at the expense of the vulnerable. At this moment, our own state of Maryland is dealing with a specific example of this, as the Maryland General Assembly considers a proposition to legalize physician assisted suicide. This bill is very dangerous “me”-focused legislation that will ultimately impact all of us if it passes, but especially the sick, the disabled, the elderly, and other vulnerable populations.
Proponents refer to this initiative as “Death with Dignity”, or “End-of-Life Options”, and they argue that it will allow doctors to prescribe a lethal prescription to any requesting competent adult with a terminal diagnosis that is capable of self-administering the prescription. Many supporters cite the death experiences of family members and friends as their desire to have this “option”. In some cases, they describe witnessing instances of prolonged pain and suffering; in others they describe watching loved ones become physically incapacitated, lose the ability to participate in life in ways they previously did, and falling into dependency on others. Proponents argue they want the choice to avoid these painful and difficult circumstances, and that legalizing lethal medication won’t affect anyone besides Marylanders who choose to take it.
Let me be clear on this: through our faith, we know that physician assisted suicide is NOT dignified because it actively ends a human life. Our faith also informs us that there are morally acceptable means of allowing people to enter death without prolonged suffering or extensive medical interventions.
With those two points being said, I’d like to focus on this issue from the perspective of people who are not Catholic, or Christian, or of any faith at all. Even from this perspective, it should be clear that this legislation WILL absolutely affect vulnerable populations in a negative way… and that alone should be reason enough to not pass this dangerous bill.
It will negatively affect the sick and the disabled by sending the message that just because you’re physically incapacitated, or near death, that your life isn’t worth living. It will negatively affect the elderly because (although the bill claims to have safeguards) there’s no way to prevent coercion; we all know of an elderly friend or family member that has been very dependent on others for making health decisions. It will set a negative precedent for those with suicidal tendencies by legislating the option to choose to end your life; even though the bill doesn’t allow people to access lethal medication based on the premise of depression alone, passing it would send the message that ending your life can be morally acceptable. It will negatively affect minority communities that already experience a disparity in health care access, quality, education on palliative care, hospice care, advanced directives, and other non-suicidal options. I encourage you to take a look at the infographic enclosed in the bulletin for more specifics on why this bill is dangerous for all Marylanders. Indeed, through my own experiences of accompanying souls through the dying process, I can attest that legalization of physician assisted suicide would only serve to make the vulnerable more susceptible than what they already are.
As Christians, we are called to be light in a dark and broken world: as far as Maryland’s physician assisted suicide initiative goes, I encourage you to do so, first, by prayer: pray for God’s grace to work in our society, for those dominated by a “me”-focused perspective; for the sick, the elderly, those who face death, and for their families; for the depressed and lonely, and those with suicidal tendencies; for those who have difficulty accessing healthcare and the disabled; for those who work in politics, and in the medical and pharmaceutical professions, and their patients.
Second, I encourage you to take practical steps against this legislation by contacting your legislator: you can go to the website below or call 301-858-3000 to find your legislators’ contact information. (Now is particularly ripe time to do so, as the bill will have its second committee hearing this Tuesday)!
Third, I encourage you to sign up and attend the Catholics in Annapolis event THIS THURSDAY; this event brings together Catholics from across the State to voice concerns on everything from this issue, to Catholic schools, to immigration and social justice issues. Southern Maryland participation is specifically needed at this event. (You can see the enclosed flyer for instructions).
I apologize that this Pastor’s Keyboard has been so long! This is an important topic that deserves our attention!
Your Brother and Father in Christ,
The celebration of Mass is an act of the whole assembly gathered for worship. In the Mass, the Church is joined to the action of Christ. We are joined to this divine action through Baptism, which incorporates us into the risen Christ. This action, which lies at “the center of the whole of Christian life” (General Instruction of the Roman Missal [GIRM], no. 16), is initiated not by us but by God acting in and through the Church as the Body of the risen Christ. The Liturgy is designed to bring about in all those who make up the worshiping assembly a “participation of the faithful, namely in body and in mind, a participation fervent with faith, hope, and charity” (GIRM, no. 18). To the extent that we are able to participate in this way, the work of redemption becomes personally effective for each of us. By such participation we make the actions and prayers of the Liturgy our own; we enter more fully into our personal communion with Christ’s redeeming act and perfect worship. “In the celebration of Mass, the faithful form a holy people, a people of God’s own possession and a royal Priesthood, so that they may give thanks to God and offer the unblemished sacrificial Victim not only by means of the hands of the Priest but also together with him and so that they may learn to offer their very selves. They should, moreover, take care to show this by their deep religious sense and their charity toward brothers and sisters who participate with them in the same celebration… Moreover, they are to form one body, whether in hearing the word of God, or in taking part in the prayers and in the singing, or above all by the common offering of the Sacrifice and by participating together at the Lord’s table” (GIRM, nos. 95, 96). The participation of each person in the Liturgy is important. Each person needs to do his or her part. – USCCB