Pastor’s Keyboard

December 9, 2018

Pastors Keyboard: A friend of mine recently gave me this quote “Wounded people wound people, healed people heal people.”  With my thoughts, with my words, with my actions, I either wound or I heal.  Jesus is often seen in the gospels healing people.  In fact, the blind, the lame, the disfigured, and the sick flock to him for healing.  Those with these physical ailments know they are sick, but we who have these same ailments, though of the mind and spirit, often don’t choose to acknowledge them and therefore can’t bring them to Him who can heal all our ills.

There is another old saying “Before God says go, he says, come.”  He wants us to come to Him with our sins, blindness, weaknesses, to admit to our need for Him and ask for Him to heal us.  This healing is a process, yet as we grow in Christ, we become healers, those who in thought, word and action bring Christ’s truth, love, and hope to the world.  This happens because as members of the Body of Christ the more we conform our hearts to His, through cooperation with His grace, we become like stain glass windows that allow Him to shine through us out into a darkened world.  But first we ourselves need to allow Him to show us where it is, we need to grow in virtue and knowledge of His truth. Then He will send us out to spread that healing message to all the world.  This is the reason we should especially strive to go to reconciliation frequently, pray daily, and review our consciences every night.  It is a long road but one that leads us and those we lead to Jesus and eternal Happiness.  That’s the road less traveled but worth traveling every day.

 

Your Brother and Father in Christ,

Fr Scott

December 2, 2018

Pastors Keyboard: As a priest, I made a promise to pray for the entire church and world five times a day, every day for the rest of my life.  The prayers are mostly made up of psalms from the Book of Psalms in the Bible.  As a teenager, whenever I was really upset or frustrated or angry with God, parents, friends, anything or anyone I often went to the book of Psalms to find one or more that could help me express these strong emotions to God the Father.  I always especially liked to go to them when I was really upset with God Himself.  Why, because I knew it came from a deep place and I needed to express that frustration and but not let it lead me to a dark place.  The beautiful thing is that a number of the psalmists (those inspired by God to write them) also had the same frustrations, and confusion as we at some of the things God did or allowed into their lives.  At times the psalms express this anger and feelings of betrayal in a much more blunt and direct way then I would have ever allowed myself, if I were not using the words of scripture.

Yet they always came back to trust in the Lord,  trust in His plans even when they could not understand them or see how they could end well.  The psalms allowed me to go up to the edge of the cliff and then lead me back to a place of deeper trust, hope, faith, and comfort then I could have had on my own.  I always tell people in difficult circumstances, who find themselves horrified by their frustration or anger with the Lord, to find and pray a Psalm that best helps them to express their current emotions to Him and then He will work through it to lead them back.  Not once has anyone ever not come back and thanked me for leading them to this rich Well of prayer.  It is not just for the priest, religious, monk, Holy retired person, but the Book of Psalms is waiting for us all.  No matter what the sorrow, joy, frustration, anger, hope, or injustice you are experiencing there is a psalm that is waiting to help you pray and heal.  Find your favorite psalm, memorize it and experience the power of Christ’s Word in your life in a new way that will always move you closer into the relationship you and I were made for.

Your Brother and Father in Christ,
Fr Scott
Psalm 133:2

November 25, 2018

Pastors Keyboard: Some say that there are only two types of prayers to God: “Gimme, Gimme, Gimme” or “Thank You, Thank You, Thank You”. Which one do you pray most? My family has a tradition at Thanksgiving that many others follow. Before we eat dinner, we go around the table and talk about what we are thankful to God for. Sometimes we are surprised by what different family members or friends will say. Sometimes the things we thought were the worst have become the best, and sometimes those things that seemed so small and insignificant turned out the be the biggest and greatest of Blessings. Thanksgiving reminds us that the good Lord has and is blessing us, and we need to be grateful. Not because He needs our prayers, but in our expressing it to Him we ourselves come to know His love and His care and it gives us greater faith, trust, and hope.  And with everything going on in the world today, we can never have too much of faith, trust, or hope.

Recently one of the daily mass altar boys said to me, “I don’t know why we need Thanksgiving, after all we should be thankful to God everyday”. He is right about being thankful to God everyday but he’s wrong about not needing Thanksgiving. We need it because too often we are so busy we stop recognizing our greatest blessings: God, family, and friends. Not to mention the bare necessities that sustain us every day: the sun, food, and clothing. By having this holiday, we can concentrate even more on the truth of God’s generosity and our blessings, as well as trying to go forward with a heart that is not only grateful but generous to God, family, neighbors, and strangers. We have been given so much that we do not deserve. Let us give back in gratefulness and in love everyday of our lives. Praise be Jesus Christ Now and Forever!

Your brother and father in Christ,

Fr. Scott

November 18, 2018

Pastor’s Keyboard: This last Tuesday, I was walking out of Immaculate Heart of Mary church with Fr. Marco at the end of youth group when a young father and his two sons aged 11 and 9 walked into the church looking very tired and sad.  The dad walked up to Father and I and asked to speak with the Pastor.  He said him, and his sons had been evicted from their home and were now homeless. As if this weren’t bad enough, he told us the eviction happened while he was out with his sons trying to get food.  When he came home the owner told him that he evicted them, and his wife and 9-year-old daughter were waiting for him and the boys at the Sheetz nearby. When he got to the Sheetz they weren’t there. It was a very cold day.  He and the boys then spent hours walking up and down the roads looking for them becoming more desperate as they walked. He worried about their safety.

Exhausted with two boys who had not eaten since lunch, he asked around for a warm place to stay.  Everyone said go to Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, sometimes they let you sleep in the pews. So, he came in with two very tired boys and asked if they could sleep in the pews for the night. There was no way we could let them do that.  I drove the young father and his sons around for a good while looking for his wife and daughter.  After some time, all we could do is hope that someone might have paid for a room for them.  Sadly, neither parent owns a phone. We got the kids some food from McDonald’s (the dad said he was too sad and shocked to eat anything). Then we were able to get them a room at the local A&E motel (the cheapest in the area) for a few nights. In doing this, I had to change all my evening plans, but God used this to bless them. When I texted people explaining why I could not meet them, they immediately offered to help in anyway the family needed. People offered rides, food, and one couple even bought them both track phones with cards that would allow them to make calls for a month.  The generosity and concern of the young adults I contacted was amazing!

Where do we go from here?  Fortunately, the young father and his wife were able to find each other the next day.  Sadly, there is only one homeless shelter and it does not take in families.  Hopefully social services can help them find temporary housing soon. The young father is not in good health and has been unable to find work.  They are now working to get the kids back in school and are trying to make it day by day.  When I last spoke to him, he expressed thanks to God and to me, but it was I who felt blessed. I saw how God changed my carefully laid plans for the evening to do that which was unexpected but needed. I saw others step into the breach and offer to help this family whom they had never met, and I saw the reality of what so many in our area and around the country and world face every day.

When I was young, my dad was injured, and we got behind on the bills like this young father. Fortunately for us at that time we had a lot of family to lean on and they were able to get us through that time until he was better and could work again. I kept thinking that if we had not had such a wonderful and generous family with resources, we too could be in the position of this family.  What would I have hoped others would have done to help us? What would you have hoped others would have done to help you if you and your children or grandchildren were one day in this position?  Whatever your answer to this question tells you and me how we should all respond to the needs of the homeless and helpless in our country.  We need to pray and work for those in need.  Jesus says, “Whatever you do to the least of these you do for me”.  What will you do?

Your Brother and Father and in Christ,

Father Scott

November 11, 2018

Pastors Keyboard: “The best laid plans of mice and men”.  My dad use to say this quote to me all the time when I was a child, usually when I was upset because my carefully laid plans were not working out according to MY plans.

This past weekend I wrote to you about the planned vocations weekend I was to help with to encourage more young men to discern the call to the priesthood. I also had a packed schedule for the week after, along with a full day set aside to be with my family for my grandmother’s funeral…Then it happened. I woke up Friday morning and the entire world was spinning around me. At first, I thought it might stop after a little while, but it continued this way for so long I could not even walk. I texted my dad as best as I could, and he said it was Vertigo. He had it in the past and it would likely pass in a few hours. Not only did it not pass within a few hours, it had not passed in a few days. I’m still suffering from it. On top of that, I got a sinus infection. Suddenly a doctor friend made clear to me not only could I not drive, but I needed to stay in my rectory and rest all I could and walk and move around as little as possible while sitting in a chair… “all day”!

This meant I was not going to be able to help with the vocations retreat for the weekend, I was not able to meet with those I scheduled appointments for, and I could not even celebrate Mass or pray my Liturgy is the Hours for the first three days. It has changed everything, and I can’t say I’ve been very accepting of this.  Then a priest friend called me who has been suffering with this for a month and a half.  He reminded me that this too was essentially a call to “let go and let God” and to unite the dizziness, frustration, weakness, and change to my carefully laid plans up to the cross of Christ for reparation for my own sins and failings as well as for the redemption of souls. That, in the midst of this, lay an opportunity to trust more in the Lord and less in me. This is always a good lesson. While I can’t say this has made it easier, I can say that embracing these small crosses has been a grace to me.

Lessons so far learned: First, I’m always aware that there are those around me who suffer far more than I do. Second, this is a great opportunity to have my faith grow through daily stretching. Third, it’s a reminder I’m only human and I need to pace myself more (I can hear my grandmothers voice now). And fourth, no matter what sicknesses I must endure, no matter how far behind the eight ball I feel, no matter how useless I fell, no matter how unable I am to do one simple task, God Loves me and will give me all that is necessary and good for me and those I serve. So, once again, and constantly throughout the day, I say this prayer: “Jesus I trust in You, Help my lack of trust”! And to that may we all say an Amen!

Your brother and father in Christ,

Father Scott

October 28, 2018

Pastor’s Keyboard: Many of you have asked me about my grandmother. I’m sad to report that at this time her health is rapidly failing. She has decided to stop dialysis. The doctors felt it was delaying the excusable and she is now impatient for the Good Lord to take her home. This has been the hardest on my grandfather and my parents, so please especially keep them in your prayers.

My grandparents have been happily married for over 60 years and have rarely ever been apart.  They speak few words to each other but often have communicated in a language all their own (mostly through knowing facial expressions).  My mom and grandmother, like so many mothers and daughters, have not always gotten along, yet up until recently they often talked to each other on the phone. Now that she is approaching her final goodbyes to us on this side of Heaven, I have made more time to think on what my grandmother’s life has been to me these 43 years that I’ve been blessed to walk God’s green earth.

At a time when my parents stopped attending church, it was she and my grandma Lily (my father’s mother now deceased) who took turns taking me to church, and Sunday school. During my childhood, my grandparents often had me stay the weekend at their house. My grandmother, and I would have long conversations about everything under the sun.  My mother frequently reminded me not to feel I had to tell my grandmother everything she asked (in other words “don’t talk about me”), but I would anyway!

In later years, I would spend a lot of my summer vacations at their beach condo in Virginia Beach. It would be just the three of us, and there were always fun times. Later, as I entered seminary, my grandparents would visit me two or more times a year, and often send support by mail and by phone. When I finally got ordained it was my grandmother who decided she would purchase my Chalice, and restore some ancient vestments for my first Mass. Many members of her episcopal parish attended my ordination and prayed for me. In these years since I was ordained, we have talked often, and she has been a source of wise council and inspiration in my life.

My grandmother Silvia has meant the world to me and was one who helped shaped who I have become. The words of the Boys to Men song “It’s so hard to say goodbye ” keeps flooding into my mind, but my faith continuously reminds me that she is a daughter of God, and this (pray the Lord) will not be a permanent goodbye.  She is going ahead of me as she always has.

Please pray for her, and my family. Stay close to all those you love, for I have realized that I have been privileged to help her prepare for this final journey.  I am grateful to her for all the many blessings she has brought to me. All is Grace!

Your brother and father in Christ Jesus,

Fr. Scott

October 7, 2018

Pastors Keyboard: This last week, on October 2, was the feast day of the guardian angels. Sadly, today many people either don’t know, don’t care, or don’t believe that they have a guardian angel. Yet scripture is very clear on this. We all have a guardian angel assigned to us. St. Thomas tells us that each guardian angel is only assigned to one person, they are pure Spirits. A guardian angel describes their function not their being. They are Pure Spirits made by God assigned to everyone to help us know, love, and to serve the Lord. Though we rarely get the chance to see them, they always see and hear us.  They are not passive in our lives. They strive to encourage us in our relationship with the Lord and discourage us from all that would take us away from Him.

Several Saints got to see and hear their guardian angels, and they built beautiful relationships with them. I used to think this was only for saints like St. Padre Pio, but it really is for all of us.  Not that all of us will have the great privilege of seeing and hearing our guardian angel, but we do have the ability to talk to them. We can ask for their intercession. They want to have a relationship with us that will lead to a friendship that will aid us in growing in Holiness and Love of the Lord.  I find that the more aware I am of my guardian angel, the more I want his (though, as a pure Spirit, they are not male or female angels) help and to make him proud by avoiding the bad and seeking the good.  It’s a friendship that enables us, like Tobit in the Old Testament or Mary in the New Testament, to be guided to a deeper relationship with the Lord and to a faith that grows!

Your brother and father in Christ,

Fr. Scott

September 30, 2018

Pastors Keyboard: This week I’m writing to you from the eternal city.  I’ve been in Rome with the American seminarians and their families for four days now. Here in Rome, you can really experience the Universal Church like no other place. On every street and at every church you hear every language, and see every nation represented in their native clothes and cultures. In addition to seeing people from all over the world, flocking here to be near the tombs of the apostles, Peter and Paul, and to the places where so many saints have lived their lives, I felt doubly blessed to be spending time with young men who are preparing for the priesthood.

The North American College, which is the Graduate School in Theology for men studying for the priesthood from all over the United States, is very impressive. There are over 220 seminarians who are studying at this college. Many of them have left successful careers (i.e. government positions, military, medical field, police officers, etc.) to follow Christ who has called them to serve God and to serve you as Shepherds. They, like you and me, have been scandalized, saddened, and angry at what has happened in the church because of shepherds who abused the sheep or allowed others to get away with it. Yet, in the midst of their sadness and anger, I found them hopeful and more determined than ever to make sure that this evil will never again be allowed to subsist in the church. I have been so encouraged by how they desire to live their lives in deep intimacy with our Lord, and integrity in the way they live. These young men, and some not so young, have a deep desire to serve the Lord as parish priest someday in our local parishes. It’s heartening to see several young men studying at our premiere seminary, whom I have known since they were little kids.

I’m here with a family who have three sons studying for the priesthood, two of whom are studying in Rome.  I have the unbelievable privilege to vest their oldest son as a Transitional deacon (that is last stage before he is ordained a priest on Father’s Day weekend). Please pray for Jami Morrison and his family. Know that I will continue to pray for all of you at every Mass and Holy Hour I go to here in Italy. I look forward to seeing you all later this week. God bless you and Your families always!

Your brother and father in Christ,

Fr. Scott Woods

September16, 2018

Pastors Keyboard: Recently with so much happening in the church and world that are completely outside of my control, I feel like a little fish in a big pond.  In prayer, the Lord brought to my mind the apostles on the Sea of Galilee at night.  A storm suddenly came up and the waves were hitting the boat very hard, causing them to become hopeless and discouraged.  What they did not know is that Jesus was on a mountain nearby and He saw their predicament.  They did not see Him but He saw them.  He then came walking on the water to them.  They were afraid until they heard His voice say “Take courage! It is I. Do Not Be Afraid!”

At that moment the wind did not stop blowing and the waves did not stop crashing, the darkness that enveloped them did not become light.  The circumstances around them that had caused them to fear, did not change.  What changed was that they now had a new PERSPECTIVE!  Jesus’ presence, their realization that He saw them! He was with them!  He could and would see them through the situation.  He helped them to see that Jesus was Stronger than the wind, Greater than the waves, brighter than the darkness, even though these things were still present.  They were now Present to the Presence of the Lord.  And that changed everything inside which gave them courage to face what was outside.

Many of you, myself included, might feel like we are going through a long dark night based on the problems in the world, the church, our families, and our work.  Whatever it is that threatens to bring us to a place of darkness or hopelessness, we must look beyond.  It is in these times that we need to most seek to be Present to the Presence of the Lord who always sees us, seeks us, loves us, and saves us.  Yes, the circumstances outside have not and may not change right away and the storm may even get worse, but Christ will give us the strength to pull through.

Let us sing and remember that beautiful old hymn:

“No storm can shake my inmost calm,

While to that rock I’m clinging.

Since love is Lord of heaven and earth

How can I keep from singing?”

 

Your brother and father in Christ Jesus,

Fr. Scott