Spiritual Resources

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

April 25, 2021 – Pastor’s Keyboard

For the first time in U.S. history, less than 50% of citizens attend church or other religious houses weekly.  In 1975 (the year I was born), 71% of Americans attended church. This trend was happening long before COVID, but certainly, COVID has made it much worse. It was understandable why people were nervous about attending Mass early on when the churches opened up again without the obligation to go to Sunday Mass. The number of people catching COVID was growing, and we had little knowledge on how the virus spread, and there was great concern about any gatherings of people outside the same household, especially since we did not have a vaccine at the time. But now, anyone who wants to be vaccinated can be, and we know that the chances of catching the virus from touching surfaces are minimal. At least in our area, there have been no major outbreaks stemming from church attendance or schools. Children are returning to school, and people are going to stores and restaurants. As people get the vaccine, many are visiting family and friends. All this is to say I strongly encourage you to return to church. Return to the supreme act we are called to do as Christians, the worship of God on Sunday at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. 

At St. Peter Claver and St. Cecilia, you can still attend Mass in the parking lot and come in for communion. Both parishes are cleaned between all Masses, and hand sanitizers are available at every entrance. Social distancing is maintained, and masks are worn. There are those in the High-Risk category who have not been able to get the vaccine yet either for medical reasons, age, or other issues, which is understandable. They may need to stay home for themselves or to keep a loved one safe. For this reason, the church has not reimposed the obligation to go to Mass. It is left up to each family and individual to discern if and when they can return to church.

I am especially concerned about how many young adults and younger families are not attending in the numbers they did before.  Many have not been to Mass in over a year. I fear that they will continue to stay away even though schools are opening, people are going shopping and visiting friends and family, and playing on sports teams. The message children and teens will get is the worship of God is not essential and not worth the risk. I fear this could endanger future generations far more than the pandemic, for it will then endanger their souls. 

I am saying all of this to encourage everyone to invite those who can to return to the full practice of the faith. Whether you worship inside or outside the church. I encourage younger families to ask themselves if sending their kids to school for seven or more hours a day or those who play sports and go shopping is safer than attending Mass for one hour inside or outside of church once a week. Every Sunday is a chance to worship the Lord and receive Him who is the true protector and healer of souls. 

Please pray that more of our fellow parishioners who can safely come back to church will choose to do so. Also, pray for those who cannot attend because of pre-existing conditions or other dangers. The obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains lifted, but the desire should remain strong for us all. 

May God Bless you all and guide you in your discernment of these most important things I have touched upon in this Pastor’s Keyboard.

Your brother and father in Christ,

Fr. Scott Woods

April 11, 2021 – Pastor’s Keyboard

This past Easter Sunday, I was blessed to bring three adult men into the church. All three were heavily influenced by the example of faith they saw and experienced in the lives of members of our parish. This should be a good reminder of how much our living out of the faith can lead people away from or to the Lord. 

Shawn is a young man in his 20s who works at McKay’s Grocery store. He came to know a parishioner of ours who works there, and who has a deep love of the Lord. This parishioner often spoke to him of Jesus and the importance of the Mass and Confession. After many discussions and attending Masses on his own, he felt a great desire to enter the church. At the Easter Vigil, Shawn received Baptism, Confirmation, and First Communion! His friend, Marcus, who was influential in his conversion, served as his Godfather and Sponsor.

Stephen is a young man in his 20s who just graduated from St. Mary’s College. He met Catholic students on campus who took their faith very seriously and lived it out well. Though not Catholic himself, he joined the Catholic Seahawks for Mass, retreats, social gatherings, Bible study, and many other events. This awoke in him a great desire to become Catholic and to receive the Sacraments. Our Catholic Campus Minister, William Bolin, worked with him for almost a year to prepare him to receive the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Communion. At the Easter Vigil, where he was received into Full Communion of the Catholic Church, he had his parents and their current spouses, his brother, and his step-uncle and aunt. They were happy for him and attended to show support with his decision to live a life as a disciple of the Lord in the Catholic church.

Finally, we welcomed Dr. Chuck Benner into full Communion with the church. Raised in another Christian tradition, he had been very active in several Christian churches over the years but has finally found a home in the Catholic Church. He was strongly influenced by his wife, Dr. Patricia Gurney’s faith. Coming often with her to Mass, he had a desire to receive Jesus in the Eucharist. I prepared him with one-on-one classes to enter the church. He consumed the church’s teachings with joy and faith.  I have known the good doctors for years. They have both come to my rescue many times over the years, as they have for so many of their patients. Dr. Chuck’s decision to join the church was incredibly special for me because of our friendship and the blessing of seeing their faith grow together and leading them closer to the Lord, each other, and our parish. 

Please pray for all three of these men and their families. Remember, continue to seek to lead others to the Lord by your example, words, and good deeds. Nothing attracts people to Jesus like a Christian filled with the Joy of the Lord. May the many opportunities to receive the grace and love of Jesus this Easter season in your reception of Holy Communion, Confession, daily prayer, personal scripture reading, and bible study set you on fire with the joy and peace of the Lord. From you, may others catch the flame!

Your brother and father in Christ,

Fr. Scott

March 7, 2021 – Pastors Keyboard

Recently, a teacher at St. Mary’s Ryken high school suggested that I read a book on the challenges that confront us as Christians. In these times, when society has almost completely transformed from a Christian culture, built on moral norms that descend from scripture to an increasingly atheistic secular society, where norms change frequently and further and further away from the Divine Law and Natural law. Because of this rapid change, Covid-19, the reality of continued racial injustice, riots by various groups, and political upheaval that is unprecedented in our nation’s history, not to mention world history, many have said they feel like the world has turned upside down.

This has led some to become very hopeless or at least very discouraged with the state of the world. The book I read spoke of this transition from Christendom (when the culture was a Christian culture) to Apostolic Mission (Christians are now a minority in a hostile environment to the faith, called to spread the gospel like in the time of the apostles).  Because of this reality, we can lose focus on the good that lies before us and Him who is with us as we enter a new era of evangelization. 

While this is all good, the current situation still looks bleak. Huge numbers of the faithful no longer practice the faith (and that was before Covid). Many young people are apathetic, if not hostile, to the faith, and the morals of the wider culture are not only moving away from that of the Lord but are increasingly hostile to the mere mention of them. 

Ok, Father! Ok, I get it. Times are not good! Any good news for me, Father? YES! In the second Book of Kings, the prophet Elisha was dealing with an invasion of an alliance of hostile powers that invaded Israel. Things were looking very bad. The prophet’s servant was very discouraged and felt they were done for (sound familiar)?  The prophet then said, “Don’t Be Afraid; those who are with us are more than those who are with them”. This seemed like a crazy statement to make. Then the prophet asked God to let him see the truth of the situation with spiritual eyes. He was then able to see the genuine reality. He then saw “an army of heavenly horsemen and chariots around Elisha more than equal to the task of handling the enemy forces.” This is the reality for every one of us who profess the name of the Lord and hold to His teachings! 

We are never alone in any situation or circumstance. We are loved. Even those who have turned away from the Lord, those who have turned against His teachings, are loved and sought by Him.  So, we have a reason for hope, despite the lack of numbers, money, political capital, or all the other things that are seen as essential by the world. The Lord provides all that we need.  Let us ask for that faith and spiritual sight to see it, believe it, and act on it! Let us be on our way to spread the message of the gospel to everyone! Be Not Afraid!!!

Your brother and father in Christ,

Fr. Scott