Spiritual Resources

November 15, 2020 – Pastor’s Keyboard

During this month of the dead, I especially think and pray often for the soul of my grandmother, Silvia Scott.  Her final days were extremely hard. Her kidneys were failing, she had a tracheotomy (incision in her throat to allow for breathing), and was in a hospital for weeks on a floor that was largely silent since all the patients had had the same procedure.  She could not call for assistance but had to count on a button they handed her. If it slipped out of her hand, she could not reach for it herself.  My grandmother had always been a strong and independent woman. Now she was helpless. Thanks to the visits of family, friends, and church members, she was well prepared to meet the Lord.  Near the end, I asked her if she was ready to meet the Lord, and she signaled to me that she was.

She eventually accepted the reality of her coming death, and thanks to a good friend of mine who lived nearby, she was ministered to every day.  Often, I would come to visit her, and my friend would have already been there praying with her, reading her scripture, or encouraging her to trust in the Lord. I noticed as she got closer to the end of her sojourn in this life, she watched less tv and spent more time in silence. Her faith grew stronger even as her body grew weaker. 

When I received the news from my mother that my grandmother had passed, rather than feeling the extreme sadness I had expected, I felt peace and unexpected joy. When I consulted the Lord as to why wondering if maybe I was not accepting the reality of it, I discovered that it was because I knew she was well prepared for her final judgment. She had made her peace with the Lord and trusted in His love and mercy.  During those days, she, and my mother (her daughter), who had not had an easy relationship, was able to reconcile and find peace.

Every time I think of her, I offer up prayers for the repose of her soul. So that if she is in the purgatorial state, she might receive the final graces to see her to her heavenly homeland.  I also ask her to pray for me now that she is so much closer to the good Lord.  I hope that all of us will have time to prepare to meet Him before our deaths, to trust in Him, and to prepare for our final judgment.  This is not granted to everyone but to those who it is what a blessing!  Leaving this earth may be far harder than our arrival, but if it helps us prepare better, then how worth it will it be! Ask God daily for the grace of final perseverance in Faith.  We know not the day nor the hour.

Your father and brother in Christ,

Fr. Scott Woods

November 8, 2020

I just want to use this pastor’s keyboard to thank everyone at both St. Peter Claver and St. Cecilia who volunteered to spend an hour with Jesus exposed in the Blessed Sacrament for 24 hours on Election Day and the day after (November 3-4) as we prayed for God’s will in the election process and our acceptance of His will.  Some of you even spent two hours and one college student spent 4 1/2 hours!  I know that the Lord was able to not only bless you during these times of intense prayer, but also many among your family and friends as well as the nation as a whole. This is one of my favorite quotes:

“Pray for my soul. More things are wrought by prayer. Than this world dreams of: Wherefore, let thy voice, Rise like a fountain for me night and day.” – Alfred Tennyson, Idylls of the King

As I’m writing this, we still don’t know who the next President is, but God does!  And that is all we need to know.  Not only does He know, but He is already at work for our good regardless of who is elected. This should be the primary reason we should not give into rejoicing and expecting too much nor to fear and being hopeless because our hope, trust, and confidence is more in Him than in any political figure.  

So, let us pray for our President (assuming that by now we have one) and pray for whoever it will be.  He will need our prayers and, regardless of whether we are happy about the results or not, we are going to need him to bring this country together and lead it, and he will need the help of the Lord to accomplish it as well as the help of all good Christian people to participate in the political process, to advocate for the good, and to fight against the bad .

These have not been easy days, and maybe all of our nerves are a little shot, yet, knowing that the Lord is with us and for us, we can truly move forward now with more peace and joy. Pray for the peace of the Lord to fill your hearts and minds and spread it to those who you encounter at work, school, church, and especially at home. God has work for all of us in His vineyard, and it never ends with an election of any political leader; it is a new beginning, and we are all meant to be active.  

May the Lord bless our president, new or continuing.  May He help him to govern our country well with respect for all life from conception to natural death, and may the good Lord bless him with faith, love and the humility necessary to become a better man, better Christian, and better leader than he has ever been to help our country have a more perfect union and a more generous spirit.  Amen!


Your brother and father in Christ,
Fr. Scott

October 25, 2020 – Pastor’s Keyboard

The Call to Silence. Even before COVID entered my life, I have felt a greater call to make time for Silence. At first, this surprised me. After all, I make a Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament every day, as well as stop to pray the Liturgy of the Hours (the prayer all priest promise to pray every day for the church and the world) five times a day. I also pray the daily Rosary.  All of these involve silence.  What was the Lord asking me to do now?

Some years ago, Cardinal Sarah (an African born Cardinal who oversees the rules for the Sacraments for the Universal church) wrote a powerful book called The Power of Silence.  Here he spoke of the Dictatorship of Noise. Thanks to modern technology, it is almost impossible for modern men and women to live in silence. Not only that but silence has become foreign to us.  It, at times, even disturbs us because it can be deafening. 

Yet we existed in our mother’s womb for 9 months, mostly in silence. Silence is necessary to quiet the mind and clear it to hear the voice of God.  Yes, periods of silent prayer can do much, but even with this, we often cannot quiet the mind, which is constantly reminding us of the noise we are now fasting from. So, the interior noise we have just entered can be more deafening than the exterior noise.

I found the Lord calling me to spend more of my car rides in silence.  More of my meals (when alone) in silence and in the evenings, the call to read more without the background music I like to play.  But then came a new temptation.  What if I listen to more religious music and podcasts while in the car, eating alone, or in the replacement of reading?  To this, the Lord pointed out again He wanted me to break away from even these.  Not that I could not occasionally enjoy them, but that He did not want them to dominate my life. Why? Because in order to be more recollected (self-possessed, calm, serene), I needed to live more in silence throughout my day, especially with a busy schedule like mine. 

Though it has been difficult and with many starts, failures, and restarts, I have found it to have a profound effect on my mind and heart. It has also benefited my ability to concentrate better and to have a better prayer. I have felt the Lord calling me to call more of you, to turn off the technology more, and to turn on the silence.  To enter a place of solitude with the Lord and to hear the natural noises that the Lord has planted in our life.  In this way, you too will be more recollected, which, according to Websters Dictionary, means you will be, “Synonyms calm, collected, composed, cool, cool-headed, equal, level, limpid, peaceful, placid, possessed, sedate, self-composed, self-possessed, serene, smooth, together, tranquil, undisturbed, unperturbed, unruffled, unshaken, untroubled, unworried.” Who could not use more of any of these in our busy, hectic, noise-filled lives?  Silence is an invitation and a gift.  May you accept the call to it.

Your Brother and Father in Christ,

Fr. Scott

October 11, 2020 – Pastor’s Keyboard

For so long, I had heard and read of the Saints and Holy people I know speak of their closeness to Mary the Mother of God the Son.  They spoke of experiencing this closeness to her, and how much she led them to love and serve her Son better.  They spoke of turning to her intercession in difficult situations of life and of their desire to be good sons of such a good Mother.  The language was that of love, humility, and intimacy. I struggled with this because I did not experience this. 

At first, I thought it was because, as a convert to Catholicism, I had been instilled with so much false teachings about the devotion to the saints, especially Mary,  that I was finding it hard to overcome this on a psychological level. But having meditated much in the scripture passages involving Our Lady and on the writings of the earliest Christians, who clearly had a great love and devotion to Mary, I knew this could not be the reason.  I thought maybe it was because I did not enter enough into the other great Marian devotions of the church, the Scapular, the Consecration to Mary by St Louis De Montfort, or read enough spiritual books on proper Marian devotion. 

I went on a retreat for 8 days of silence with the Lord.  There I asked our Lord,  who while hanging on the Cross , having given His mother to the care of St John the Apostle; and according to the writings of the earliest fathers of the church , He gave her to everyone who is baptized.  Since when we were baptized, we are made members of the Body of Christ. Mary truly becomes Our Mother, too.  I asked our Lord why I did not experience this closeness that I knew He wants all of us to have with His Mother? 

The reply was that I still had wounds from the relationship I had with my earthly mother.  That just as some can find that they struggle having a close Relationship with God the Father because they have struggled in their relationship with their earthly Father.  I love my mother so much and felt close to her. So, I then asked our Lord how this could be. He showed me in prayer, times when I closed off my heart to my mom because of wounds she most likely never intended to make in my heart. Because of this, I had to allow the Lord to show me these wounds and bring them before His cross with the willingness to forgive my mother (knowing most of these she would not even now remember). I received not only healing in these moments of prayer but a renewed desire to show love to my earthly Mother and my Heavenly Mother. 

This was one of the great blessings of my life. Not only because I was able to have healing in my relationship with my mom, but greater mercy toward others who had hurt me even unknowingly in my past. I was also able to open my heart to the relationship with Mary that would lead me so much deeper into my worship of her Son Jesus at Mass, and to the acceptance of my own Sonship as a member of His body and as a Beloved son of God, the Father. This deeply affected everything in my life.  The Lord did this all through the intercession of Our Blessed Mother and through responding to the call to have a relationship with our Heavenly Mother, who is here to aid us toward healing and wholeness only found in her Son. 

May we all choose to grow closer in devotion to Our Lady this Month of October and see how she helps us to worship God with greater joy and peace.  All praise be to His Name!

Your brother and father in Christ Jesus,

Fr. Scott Woods

October 4, 2020 – Pastor’s Keyboard

While I was away on vacation, I received the sad news that Jane Kayser died. Jane was officially a member of St. Michael’s but often came to daily Mass and occasionally Sunday Masses at St. Cecilia. She was married to a great husband, Dave, who helped found our local youth group with two of his sons attending. He and his sons often helped at St. Cecilia and St. Peter Claver picnics and many other parish events in my first seven years here. Jane and her husband had six kids, now all adults. By God’s grace, all are still practicing their Catholic faith (nearly a miracle nowadays sadly).

What many might not know about Jane and her husband is that they came here after he lost his job in California and needed a fresh start.  Not too long after arriving here and building a home in St Inigoes, they started to homeschool their younger children.  Jane and Dave were active in scouts, parish life, and many other activities in our community.  Then Jane found out she had cancer.  It took a lot out of her, but with prayer, family, and a lot of community support, she beat cancer!  During this time, she led her children to weekly holy hours, helping to start adoration at St. Michaels parish. She often attended daily Mass and had a deep love of the Lord that had a great effect on her friends and family. 

Jane was blessed to live to see 15 of her 17 grandchildren (two are still in the womb). She was blessed to see three sons enter the military (all having been long time altar boys in all three parishes and one having spent time in seminary), she saw two of her three daughters happily married and working jobs they love, and a third daughter enter doctoral studies. Through it all, she spoke with her kids frequently, visited the local ones often, and was always there for them and her husband, Dave. 

Wednesday, just over a week ago, she felt sick and collapsed on the way to the car with her husband to head to the hospital. She literally began her journey home in the arms of her beloved husband and best friend. Jane’s life was not easy, but she would say it was very blessed. Through highs and lows, she clung to Jesus, her family, and her church.  She sought to raise her sons and daughters to know, to love, and serve the Lord and His Church.  She was an inspirational me and many others.

Please pray for the repose of her soul and for her family. Take her example and strive to live it out as we face all the valleys that we will have to travel through. The road may not be as long as we think, but if we travel with the Lord up the hills and down through the valleys, He will see us through to the Father’s House. Rest in Peace, Daughter of the King!

Your Father and Brother in Christ,

Fr. Scott Woods

September 27, 2020 – Pastor’s Keyboard

“Then Jesus said, “Let us go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” Mark 6:31. He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles did not even have time to eat.

The importance of Holy Friendships – As many of you know, I have finally had a chance to get away for another week of vacation with some priest friends from our Archdiocese. Fr. Drew Royals from St. Joseph’s Parish has a family lake house in North Carolina that we stayed at last year. The trip was such a blessing to us that on the last day in the parking lot, we said we return and immediately booked a week for the next year to gather again. This year there were five of us, and what a blessing it had been. 

So, you may be asking what do priests do on vacation? The most important thing we do is offer mass together, though much later in the morning than normal, thanks be to God! We pray the Liturgy of the hours, which every priest is to pray five times a day (office, morning, daytime, evening, and night). Some of them we pray together and others on our own. We visit a local parish and make an hour-long visit to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, where we commune with the Lord in silence, letting Him speak in the depths of our hearts. We also pray the rosary together. Never leave home without the rosary!

I know you are thinking this sounds more like a retreat then a vacation. But what would a vacation be like for any Christian, and especially a priest, if a significant part of it were not spent with the one you all love the most. With no phone calls, emails, text, and unexpected visitors to take you away from Him. But obviously, we do more than just the spiritual, though this is the heart of our lives, as should be for every Christian (though one does not need to do all we do).

We take the time to have great conversations about the other great loves of our lives …. Wait …. Wait, yes, you guys! Those we serve in ministry. Some call it a talking shop. We call it our greatest joy and greatest cross. I think every parent can say the same. We talk about what is happening, the good and the bad. We talk about our plans to try to serve God and His holy people better and how we feel we are doing and ask for advice. We talk about the church universal as well as our own archdiocese. We share deeply about our joys and our struggles, and we encourage each other in the Lord.  We also take turns cooking meals, but not me. I am not good at it. I would rather clean dishes any day. If it is warm enough, we swim in the lake, and some go fishing or ride on the boat. But at the center of it all is fellowship in the Lord.

Last year, some asked me, how was your vacation? I said, it was the best one of my whole life. I spent it with my brothers, and it centered on our Lord. I feel that I came back from it more refreshed, encouraged in the Lord, and ready to climb Mount Calvary than ever before.  

Please pray for us. This year has been more trying than any of us could have ever imagined. Yet the Lord has seen us through and now wishes us to come away to rest awhile with Him, as He did in the gospels with the apostles. May we rest and return to serve you better and more on fire then we left. All Glory be to God!

Your Father and Brother in Christ,

Fr. Scott Woods

September 20, 2020 – Pastor’s Keyboard

I have noticed that very few people at St. Peter Claver feel comfortable coming into the church for Mass due to COVID, though many have come to listen to Mass outside in their vehicles. Then they will come to the side door to receive our Lord with great love and respect. So, an idea came to me of offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass outside. I knew this would take a lot of work for the ushers, musicians, and the staff, but everyone loved the idea. Labor Day weekend, we saw a good size crowd. Then came last Sunday.

It started well with great weather and no rain.  But then at the start of Mass, there was some midst, and then the rain came during my homily. The few who did not have umbrellas (as most did not) went to their cars. But the fair majority stayed and participated with great joy in the rain. There was a long, socially distanced line to Holy Communion, and they came with joy and great devotion to receive our Lord.  It was simply beautiful!  And again, a good size crowd came out for Mass. 

I have been concerned about what is going to happen if we end up with early and colder Fall weather than usual.  Yet, I know Our Lord does not want us to worry.  He wants us to trust, pray, and prepare. Pray that the Lord bless our doctors and scientist with wisdom and knowledge to come up with good, moral, and affordable cure that can be given to everyone soon.  Pray that the inordinate fear we are all tempted toward during COVID is overcome with trust in the providence of the Lord and prudence in our decisions. Pray that everyone returns to the practice of the faith when the dispensation from Mass is lifted by the bishops.

Until then, let us continue to do all we can to increase our prayer, penances, sacrifices, and worship of the Lord. Remember that the convent chapel with the Blessed Sacrament at St. Peter Claver and the St. Cecilia church are both open 24/7 for private prayer. They are safe, clean, and filled with the Presence of the Lord.  Be Not Afraid!

Your Brother and Father in Christ,

Fr. Scott Woods

September 6, 2020 – Pastor’s Keyboard

I bring to you news of great joy! September 9th is the feast of St. Peter Claver. We are going to have two Masses to celebrate his feast day!  You might ask the questions, why do we name churches after Saints?  What is a feast day?  Why and how should we celebrate it? Here is your answer to these important questions.

 Long ago, in the ancient days, the church in Rome had to offer secret Masses in homes.  The safest place for Christians to offer the Mass was in the Roman Catacombs.  These were the subterranean cemeteries that were outside of the city of Rome. They go for many miles, and some are five, or more, floors of tombs.  At times of great persecution, Christians would go there under cover of night and offer Masses over the tomb of the martyrs (those who died rather than renounce their Christian faith).  In this way, they honored these Christian hero’s and asked for their intercession for themselves and non-believers.

Eventually, after Christianity became legalized, they began to build churches to hold the beautiful tradition of connecting churches with those Christians who either paid the ultimate price to stay loyal to Jesus or to honor Christians who lived lives of exemplary holiness.  They knew that since these saints were now in heaven, they could intercede with the Lord for the Church Militant (the church on earth). Whole areas, and sometimes cities, were named after the saints of a given parish church.  Often the life of the saint would be taught to the people and held up as a model of faithfulness and love.  Some churches even have the entire body of the saint, while most have an Altar Stone, which contains a fragment of the saint’s body in a marble slab that is placed in the altar.  The priest kisses the altar cloth over the spot of the relic at each Mass. Paying homage to Jesus and asking the saints prayers for the church. 

Every saint has two birthdays. The day of their birth into the world and the day of their birth into heaven.

The church, since time immemorial, has celebrated the lives of the saints on the day of their birth into Eternal Life.  This day is called their Feast Day. Traditionally in many catholic countries, this would be a day when the entire town or parish would attend a solemn Mass at the parish church and then have a huge party with food and fireworks and games and maybe even a procession of the saint’s relics and/or statue. 

The church offers a special blessing to those who attend Mass or pray in a parish church on its patron Saints feast day.  This blessing is called a Plenary Indulgence.  It reduces time in purgatory and comes with much grace. To receive this blessing, you must visit the church on the feast day, and you have to be:

1) free of mortal sin and attachment to sin

2) receive holy communion (within two weeks before or after)

3) go to confession (within two weeks before or after)

4) pray for the Popes intentions

5) and then you can apply the graces to yourself or a deceased person who may be in purgatory

Sadly, many of these traditions have not been kept up as they once were, yet we can revive some of them.  This year will be the greatest one St Peter Claver’s Parish has ever had.  I was informed that Archbishop Gregory asked if he could personally offer Mass at St. Peter Claver’s this Wednesday!  Sadly, because of COVID, the numbers will be limited, but we will offer the Mass live starting at noon.  There will also be a High Latin Mass at 6:00 PM for those who would like to attend. This is going to be a truly blessed day for us all. St. Peter Claver, pray for us!!!

Your Brother and Father in Christ,

Fr. Scott

August 30, 2020 – Pastor’s Keyboard

This past week, I was asked to give a talk for the Diocese of Arlington on racism. It was titled Responding to Racism: Understanding, Conversion, Action. The Bishop of Arlington has done a lot of work to try to create greater dialogue within his diocese about the issue of racism. How to understand it and how to fight it.  If I have not told you this before, you should know that I hate giving talks. This stems from my childhood insecurities.  Even homilies cause me a lot of anxiety.  While it is not as bad as it once was, it still strikes at times and leads me to avoid giving talks outside of Mass, unless absolutely necessary.  I share this with you so you can pray for me. And to reassure others who, like me, suffer from the same weakness. Yes, I am glad for this, for in 2 Corinthians 12:9 it says, “But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. “

When the head of the Diocese of Arlington Catholic Charities called and asked if I would be willing to give this talk, I felt fear and trepidation well up from within me. Then I heard the Lord encourage me saying that I should give this talk.  Just before he called, I had been explaining to some of the summer helpers why so many people were marching, why they were angry, and what we were called to do to fight the evil of racism in all its forms internal and external.  So it seemed to me to be Divine Providence that I would then receive a call right after this from a man I did not know, to give a talk in a diocese not my own, on a topic that I have only touched upon in homilies and conversations.

I knew that many who would be watching would personally not be from a minority community. Some were going to attend or watch online so that they might understand better the problems that were causing racism, injustice, and oppression in our society.  Others already had their minds made up. They were either very supportive or very angry at what they thought was a non-issue causing unrest.  I knew I needed to find a way to address them all and to try to crack open hearts and minds so that the Lord might use me to help them to understand the evil that confronts us as a church and as a society, and how we are all called as brothers and sisters in Christ to shine forth the light to fight it.

I spent time in prayer and study and even got significant aid from a very informed friend. I am not sure how it turned out in the end. I know all 100 seats in the gym were reserved in a short amount of time.  And that over 1,100 people watched online. There were so many questions coming in I was told they would have to email me the rest due to the short time allowed for questions. Many came up to me afterwards to comment or to tell me their stories with racism.  Some said they understood better. Others said they were challenged to do more, and still, others were happy to hear their own experiences (even in the church) affirmed.

In the end, only the Lord knows how well these seeds will flourish in each of their hearts.  All I can do now is pray that I spread them far and wide and that they will find good soil in which to grow and bear fruit.  Please pray for this weak vessel of the Lord, that my fears do not keep me back from preaching the gospel in season and out when it is easy and when it is hard.  Pray that as we approach what feels like the most contentious election of my lifetime, I will be able to boldly preach the fullness of the gospel and that we all have ears and hearts open to receive it and let it grow within us and bear fruit that will last.

 

Your Brother and Father in Christ,

Fr Scott

Responding to Racism: Understanding, Conversion, Action Recording.

August 23, 2020 – Pastor’s Keyboard

Hello everyone! This is Dcn. Nicholas here!  I have the pleasure of writing this Pastor’s Column, as it will be my last weekend with you all before heading back to school in Rome.  But before heading back, I am not ashamed to beg you all for your prayers!  Please pray for me during this next year, especially as it is my last year to prepare before priestly ordination.  Please pray that I have the strength to give everything away!  To give it all!  To shed the old man, so as to be fully invested and transformed into Christ!  Please pray that I might burn away completely so that only Christ will shine in me.

“I am the light of the world,” says the Lord. “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

Something interesting about flames is that wherever they are, they always seem to be the center of focus!  Have you ever noticed that when sitting around a bonfire or sitting around a candle in a dark room?  We always quickly find ourselves gathering around light as the center of attention!

We don’t naturally gather around darkness.  However, it seems to me that something has us all shaken up such that we have become consumed by the darkness of the world.  This exterior darkness has even begun to seep inside of us, leaving us with feelings of confusion, disorientation, anxiety, fear, despair.  Who knows when all this darkness will go away.  But, if this is the question that you are asking yourself, you are still focused on the wrong things!  We need to get our attention back on the Light!

The Gospel of John says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).  —The darkness has not overcome the light!  There is only one way this is possible.  In a world which seems to be getting darker, the only way that the light will not be overcome is if the light becomes brighter too!  As the darkness grows, so must the light!

Christ is shining away, like a light set on a lamp-stand, giving light to the whole house (Matt. 5:14).  But the powers of darkness are distracting and trying their hardest to take away the glory of this light.  We can join in this effort by lending our own lamps.  We are called by Jesus to be disciples with lamps burning (Luke 12:35)!  We must boldly make that stand and hold out our lights despite the darkness, even amidst the darkness.

We need to become enkindled!  We need to be ignited!  We need the flame of the Holy Spirit to rush upon us and consume us completely.  We need to gather so close to the fire of the Most High God that, like tinder held closely to a bonfire, we too burst into flames.  We need to become like Moses on Mt. Sinai, whose face was ignited and illumined with the glory of God.  “Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he has been talking with God” (Ex. 34:29).  His face shone so brightly, they had to cover his face!

May our faces be so too!  May our lives be so too!  May our lamps be so too!

There is only one way to overcome the darkness, and that is to overcome it with light! We don’t fight darkness head-on, but we overcome by out-shining it with light.  We must become alight ourselves, and the brighter we burn, the more boldly we burn, we begin to outshine the darkness, the confusion, and the despair.  This comes by making a resolute stand to be more prayerful, more devoted to the sacraments, more pious.  We need to become more gracious, more grateful, more hospitable.  We need to become more outgoing, more friendly, more charitable.

As the darkness increases, so must the light!  The only way to respond is by shifting our attention back to the Light of the World.  Let this light fill your eyes and brighten your countenance so that we can spread the joy of the Light and scatter the darkness.