Spiritual Resources

February 7, 2021 – Pastor’s Keyboard

It has been an amazing thing to see new faces appear in both parishes, even though the number of you who can attend Mass has been very small compared to normal. One of these new faces is a young man who is now discerning the priesthood. Another is a couple who just recently got married and have joined the parish. While others from parishes around the county have started to attend our parishes. This does not take into account the many people who attend online, from all over the country.

Now, this does not change the sadness of missing so many of you in the pews due to COVID-19 safety precautions. Yet, it is a reminder that the Lord is still bringing growth to our parishes, nonetheless. Despite most parish activities needing to be canceled, and without most of the community present to welcome visitors, new people are attending Mass. Not in vast numbers, but it is increasing. Why? Because their hearts were made for the Lord, and we desire to be close to him.

I believe it is the faithfulness of all of you who pray for our parish and support it in all the ways that you can. Whether it be financially, volunteering, and by your presence online and in person. I know for many of us, it can be difficult not doing what you used to do due to the dangers that exist. Your prayers are still bringing people to the doors of the church. While we do not know how much longer this will last, we do know that the Lord is calling so many more people to come and worship Him. Saint Augustine used to say that our hearts were made for the Lord and will not be satisfied until they are filled to the brim with his love. This happens in the reception of the sacraments, community life of this parish, and in our prayers. No pandemic can stop it.

Yes, parish life is quite different than before, but it has not ended. I pray for all of you every day, both those present at the church, and those remote. Please pray for me, the parish leaders, and volunteers that we may allow the Lord to use us. The way He wills despite the dangers. Please keep praying for our church families. May we continue to grow and show forth the love of the Lord to all people!  Let us be on our way!

Your Brother and Father in Christ,

Fr Scott

January 10, 2021 – Pastor’s Keyboard

Welcome to one of the best years of your life!!! This greeting might sound outrageous to some, but I genuinely believe it to be so! I believe that if we choose to center our lives and our attitudes in Jesus, this can be one if not the greatest year of our lives. This can be true even if COVID does not disappear like the Spanish Flu, even if the social upheaval does not just settle down, and even if we ourselves must deal with our own sickness or that of a loved one due to COVID or some other medical problem.

How can this be, you ask? If this life is truly about entering into a deeper encounter with the living God, and I am open to that encounter, regardless of the circumstances, God will see us through. He will help us grow in TRUST and FAITH that will help us to receive the joy and peace only He can give and sustain.

I have experienced this in my own life and witnessed it in many who struggle financially, with mental illness, with their own sickness or that of a loved one, and even from the dying. What lessons have I learned from them? Pray ceaselessly in all circumstances. Praise the Lord for all the goods of each day, make constant acts of trust (Jesus, I trust in you, help my lack of trust), read the scriptures every day, and receive Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament as often as you can.

The more we stay centered in Christ, the more prepared we will be to face all circumstances with peace and joy.

Your brother and father in Christ,

Fr. Scott

December 27, 2020 – Pastor’s Keyboard

Christmas is Cancelled! That was the headline we woke up to a few days ago. The Prime Minister of Great Britain announced further lock downs during the Christmas and New Year’s Holidays to prevent a new COVID strain from spreading. Once again, the media got it wrong! No one has the power to cancel Christmas! Not the prime minister, not the Queen, not the President, and not even the Pope.

Christmas celebrates an event that has already happened, has permanently changed the world, and affects eternity. Its celebration will take place with or without a congregation in every church and monastery where a priest lives and is able to celebrate Mass. After all, the word “Christmas” is really made up of two words: “Christ” + “Mass.”

The words were put together over time, changing as the English language has changed over the centuries. Yet, the core of the celebration, the Holy Sacrifice of the mass, has not changed and never will. Christ comes to us, the same Christ in Sacramental form at every Mass, even when we sadly cannot be there due to the COVID pandemic, sickness, or work

Because of COVID-19, sickness, or work, we can unite our prayers to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass said at all the altars all over the world and God’s abundant grace is given to US in every home, hospital, or nursing home room. We can do this as individuals, families, and friends, and the Christ Child is indeed made present to us and we to Him. Yes, family and friends may not be able to gather as they usually do, yet now we are given an opportunity to really keep the coming of the Christ Child at the center of our Christmas and our lives as well as those of our family members.

The Greatest Gift ever given or that could be given to us by God Almighty is coming for US. Let us rejoice! Christmas has arrived and “Christ Mass” is being offered for us all on every altar in every Catholic parish and monastery in the world! Nothing and no one can cancel it, reduce it, or prevent the graces offered to us because of it. All we can do is ignore it or embrace it.

Let us rejoice in what the Lord has done, is doing, and will do this Christmas season.

Your brother and father in Christ,

Fr. Scott

December 13, 2020 – Pastor’s Keyboard

Who is one of the most powerful intercessors in all of heaven but is often overlooked when it comes to knowledge or appeals to him? St. Joseph! He is the foster father of Jesus, the husband of Mary, and a most righteous man.  Why do I bring him up? Because Pope Francis surprised the worldwide church on December 8 (the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary) by announcing that this year will be dedicated to St. Joseph.

Why is he often overlooked?  I believe it is because he is verbally silent. We only have his response to the Word of God.  He also disappeared from scripture after Jesus is found in the temple and before he started his public ministry. Yet, he has been a model for Christian manhood and fatherhood from some of the earliest centuries of the church. The Holy Father wants this to be a year in which we will grow closer to St. Joseph in prayer and meditation in his responsiveness to God’s call to Holiness.

To encourage this, the Holy Father is offering the chance to gain extraordinary graces. For more information on this, please see below. We need to especially lift up our biological fathers and all the spiritual fathers that God has placed in our lives.  It is my prayer that all of us fathers will model our lives after the example of St. Joseph’s faithfulness and obedience to God the Father.

Your father and brother in Christ,

Fr. Scott

Conditions for the plenary indulgence

The plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful under the usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic Communion, and prayer for the Pope’s intentions) to Christians who, with a spirit detached from any sin, participate in the Year of St. Joseph on these occasions and manners indicated by the Apostolic Penitentiary:

–           The plenary indulgence is granted to those who will meditate for at least 30 minutes on the Lord’s Prayer or take part in a Spiritual Retreat of at least one day that includes a meditation on St. Joseph. “St. Joseph, an authentic man of faith, invites us”, the decree reads, “to rediscover our filial relationship with the Father, to renew fidelity to prayer, to listen and correspond with profound discernment to God’s will.”

–       The indulgence can also be obtained by those who, following St. Joseph’s example, will perform a spiritual or corporal work of mercy. St. Joseph “encourages us to rediscover the value of silence, prudence and loyalty in carrying out our duties,” the decree notes.

–       The recitation of the Holy Rosary in families and among engaged couples is another way of obtaining indulgences, in order that “all Christian families may be stimulated to recreate the same atmosphere of intimate communion, love and prayer that was in the Holy Family.”

–       Everyone who entrusts their daily activity to the protection of St. Joseph, and every faithful who invokes the intercession of St. Joseph so that those seeking work can find dignifying work can also obtain the plenary indulgence. On 1 May 1955, Pope Pius XII instituted the feast of St. Joseph “with the intent that the dignity of work be recognized by all, and that it inspires social life and laws, based on the fair distribution of rights and duties.”

–       The plenary indulgence is also granted to the faithful who will recite the Litany to St. Joseph (for the Latin tradition), or the Akathistos to St. Joseph (for the Byzantine tradition), or any other prayer to St. Joseph proper to the other liturgical traditions, for the persecuted Church ad intra and ad extra, and for the relief of all Christians suffering all forms of persecution. Because, the decree notes, “the flight of the Holy Family to Egypt shows us that God is there where man is in danger, where man suffers, where he runs away, where he experiences rejection and abandonment.

December 6, 2020 – Pastor’s Keyboard

Amid the growing number of COVID cases and the political upheaval, I feel so blessed to have been able to perform two baptisms last week.  One was at St. Peter Claver for Stevie Marie and Adam Starks. The other baptism was at St. Cecilia for Jeffrey and Melanie Norris.  I have known both Stevie Marie and Jeffrey since they were both in high school.  Stevie Marie was active at St. Peter Clavers through the youth group and her involvement with many parish activities (Martin Luther King Day celebration, Labor Day festival, etc.).  Jeffrey was active in my Boy Scout retreats, helping with the youth group, and as a chaperone for many vocations’ trips.

I was blessed to prepare both of them for their marriages, and I performed their marriages here in the county. At both of these baptisms, it hit me that these are young people who have not only come back to the church to dedicate their children to the Lord,  but they have continued to practice the faith.  The baptisms were not just a checking off the box of things they do to please their devout parents or to feel good. They genuinely want their children to have Jesus in their lives, and they know this is the first of many steps they can do to help their children toward heaven. 

Though Covid prevented many family members and friends from attending who ordinarily would have been there, both had family there who largely take their faith very seriously. Before me were grandparents, parents, and children.  At one point after the baptism, I saw Stevie Marie holding her daughter, taking a picture with her mom and grandmother. Four generations of strong Catholic women.  These two baptisms were so inspiring to me, I felt I needed to write to you about it. 

Yes, Covid continues to worsen, and people are struggling with finances, mental health, and family issues.  Yet, by God’s grace, these two Christian families gathered to thank the Lord for the gift of new life and to affirm they so believe in the eternal life to come. They were not going to let Covid stop them from Baptizing their children and dedicating them to the Lord.  Yes, we all wore masks, used hand sanitizer, and kept social distancing. Pray God, when these two Christian children look at the pictures of these events some years from now, it will look strange.  They will know that their parents loved God and them so much nothing was going to stop them from giving their children Jesus in the Sacrament of Baptism.  Please pray for these two families. Pray that they may remain faithful and strong. Pray that others may follow their good example of trust, prudence, and hope. 

Your brother and father in Christ,

Fr. Scott Woods

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