Nov 102017

Deacon: Servant to all

Deacon

This weekend Subdeacon Matthew Schnabel will be coming to visit with us. He is preparing for his ordination to the Order of Deacon in January. Many people see the role of Deacon as a stepping stone to the Priesthood. However, that is not entirely true.

Being a Deacon is much more than a stepping stone. It is learning to be a servant to all people. This period is one that gives the candidate a chance to learn about what it means to be the foot-washer that Jesus became at the Last Supper.

This is why Bishop’s used to wear Dalmatics under their vestments at Mass. It was to remind them that they are still just a Deacon. They are to be servants to all people. As a Franciscan, this message is very common.

One of the teachings of the Rule of Saint Francis is that you should always be last. Many people find this strange, especially at potlucks at church. They are so used to the pastor being the first in line. Saint Francis expected us to make sure that everyone was fed and taken care of before we took time to care for ourselves.

So I wait until everyone else is taken care of. It is also part of being a Deacon. We are called to be servants to those around us. And when we do this, we will find ourselves caring more about the comfort and well-being of others. It can change the world when we spend time caring for others.

This week, resolve to care for others before yourself.

Nov 022017

Make time to visit our Lord

time

Over the past 24 hours I have been working hard to come up with a start to my NaNoWriMo project. NaNoWriMo is a challenge to write a 50,000 word “fiction novel” in the 30 days of the month of November. For the last 5 or 6 years, I have tried to meet this goal with little success. Finding time to write has also been a great challenge.

As I sit here today, I find myself without a clue what to write or even what type of novel I want to write. The ideas escape me. I feel hollow and empty as I contemplate what I should write.

In this moment, I find myself realizing that this is how many of us feel everyday. We feel that we are missing something important. It is a feeling of despair or hopelessness. A disconnected feeling overwhelms us. But what we are missing is not words. It is a connection to the Divine that we lack.

I saw the posting from Saint Miriam Parish and Friary, our sister parish in Flourtown, PA for their service of Adoration tonight. I found myself longing to sit with our Lord and just to be present in His presence. And I have the great opportunity to do just that any time I want. The problem is not the ability to spend time before our Lord, but rather it is allowing everything else to push that time out of the picture.

I was lamenting the fact that I was alone last night at All Saint’s Mass. Deacon Dana and Subdeacon Thomas were unable to attend last night and so I was alone at Mass. No one else came. As I sat there contemplating putting everything away, I realized that I had everything set up for Mass and I had the time. So I said Mass. Alone. With only the Angels and Saints looking on.

In a way it was a real moment of spiritual enlightenment. It was the realization that I can say Mass whenever I want. I can spend time with our Lord any time I choose. It is all about making that choice to spend time with Him. Unfortunately, I forget that and allow everything else in my life to take priority over my spiritual life. I suspect many of you do the same thing too.

Now is the time to change our priorities. As we prepare to enter Advent and Christmas, as we wait and prepare for the coming of the Christ-Child, we have the great opportunity to spend time in prayer and mediation. We should make time to come to Mass and celebrate the great gifts God has given us. The gift of grace is freely available to those who would take the time to come and receive it.

Resolve with me to make the time to come worship our Lord. Make time to sit silently before Christ and to listen for the still small voice of the Holy Spirit. And be transformed by this great gift of being in His presence.

Come and experience the difference one hour can make!

Oct 262017
Violence and Hate in the church

There is so much violence and hate in our world today. Our politicians and religious leaders have done very little to curb this growing trend.

Today, a dear friend of mine pointed out the hateful display posted at the Cleveland State University. The display calls for members of the LGBTQI community to commit suicide. The display put up by “Fascist Solutions”. And the university is hiding behind the First Amendment in order to keep the display up.

Then we have Roman Catholic priest who spend all their time attacking Old Catholics and Independent Catholics in the United States. They do not have the time to visit the sick or to help bury the dead, because they are needed to defame and attack our churches.

All of this is done in the name of Christ. Bishops issue decrees barring the funerals and burials of “notorious homosexuals”, just like Jesus would do. Right? Wrong! Jesus would have accepted them with open arms.

Too often we forget that Jesus hung out with the outcasts of society. He was routinely seen dining with tax collectors, prostitutes, and all manor of “notorious” sinners. Jesus went to those who needed him most. He spent time in the gutters helping those who had been tossed out by society.

It is time that we as Christians follow the example of our Christ. We must put away the pettiness we have allowed to spring up in the church. We need to welcome all with open arms. It is not our place to judge their worthiness. Our calling it to love them regardless of who they are or what they have done.

We need to support our brothers and sisters in the LGBTQI community. They are just like us! They are no better and certainly no worse than we are. The are Children of God and it is time we treat them as such.

Join me this week in welcoming all to the table of the Lord!

Sep 282017

Worrying about tomorrow

worrying

As many of you know, I have been helping with concessions at a local high school band booster program. I volunteered to be their concessions chairperson which requires a lot of work. Most of the time, I try to let volunteers under me do the jobs they are best at. But there are times when I end up worrying about things and step on people’s toes.

You see, I have the bad habit of jumping the gun. If I had been patient, if I had scrolled to the end of a spreadsheet, I would have saved myself and others a lot of time and trouble. Thankfully, the volunteer was nice enough to overlook my faults and continue doing the great job he has always done.

This gave me a chance to stop and reflect on my tendency to worry too much. There are those things in life we can change and control. If we can change and control them, then there is no need to worry about them, just change them. However, we tend to worry about those things we have no control over or ability to change. So we sit and worry about those things.

For the past couple of weeks, my wife and I have vacillated over whether we made the right decisions about her mother. We know logically and medically that we did everything we could to help her. However, it is difficult to bear the fact that she is gone. We cannot change what happened and we had no control over what happened, but it still worries us.

Jesus knew that worry was a constant issue in our human condition. He preached about worrying in the Gospel of Saint Matthew:

Because of this I say to you, you shall not take pains for yourselves with what you will eat, or what you will drink, neither for your body, what you will put on; behold, is not the soul greater than food, and the body than clothing? Behold the birds of the sky, that they neither sow nor reap, neither do they gather into barns, and your Father who is in Heaven sustains them; behold, are you not better than they? But who of you, while taking pains, is able to add a foot and a half to his stature? And why are you taking pains about clothing?

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow without laboring or weaving. But I say to you, not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field that is today and will fall into the oven tomorrow, does he not multiply more to you, Oh small of faith? Therefore do not be concerned or say, ”What will we eat?’, or ”What will we drink?’, or, ”What will we wear’? For the Gentiles are seeking all these things, but your Father who is in Heaven knows that all these things are necessary for you. But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Therefore you shall not be concerned about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be concerned for itself. A day’s own trouble is sufficient for it.

Jesus reminds us that even the smallest creatures of creations do not worry. They know that they will be cared for by the one who created them. So why do we worry? Instead, we should seek the Kingdom of God and everything else will fall into place.

So maybe it is time I stop worrying so much. Rather, I should give all my cares and concerns to God and allow him to be in control.

Are you ready to let God be in control of your life too?

Jul 272017

A change at Saint Francis

Change

If you come to visit us at Saint Francis over the next few weeks, you will notice a slight change in the way we celebrate the liturgy. This change comes out of several factors and I wanted to take a moment to explain them.

It has been a blessing to have a generous benefactor who has purchased Missalettes for us over the last two years. We are very grateful for the donation of these Missalettes, however, we want to do more to be responsible for our expenses and our impact on the environment.

These missalettes are expensive to purchase and ship. The ones we used the last two years are about $3 a piece including the shipping. The ones we would like to have moved to, because of the larger print and better hymn selection, are $7 a piece with shipping. This is too much of an increase for us to be comfortable with.

Besides that, I can tell from my vantage point on the altar that people are having difficulty following along with the mass in the missalette. There is a lot of page turning and confused looks from our visitors. This is not helpful when you are trying to grow a parish!

So we have asked Saint Miriam Parish and Friary in Flourtown PA, one of our sister parishes in the Old Catholic Churches International, for their permission to use the Mass Booklets they created at our parish. Bishop St. George has graciously agreed to allow us the use of the booklets. These booklets are much cheaper to print, contain less paper (and the paper we use is recycled), and are more streamlined so that they are easier to follow. Also, they contain a few of the older prayers, like the Creed, rather than the newer and more difficult to read prayers. This will allow for more familiarity with the Mass.

One of the drawbacks to the new booklets is that they will not contain the readings for Mass. However, I believe everyone can listen and understand the readings without having to actually see them in print before them. If this is a problem, we can make accommodations for those who need to have a print versions for physical reasons.

Also, we have newly printed brochures about Saint Francis that will be on the small table to the right of the doors as you enter the main church. On the table with them will be the Mass Booklet and a small card you can fill out if you would like to know more about our parish or if you wish to join our parish. Please note on the card if you wish to receive our weekly newsletter.

A basket is provided on the table by the door to the main church for donations should you feel so inclined. We do not take a collection at Saint Francis because we feel it disrupts the liturgy to stop and take up a collection. If you would like to set up an automatic draft, you can do so on our website.

All these things are being done to help make Saint Francis a more welcoming, affirming, and inclusive home for all people.

Please join us this Sunday and see the a different way to be Catholic!

 

Jul 202017

The work of a Pastor

Pastor

Being a pastor is hard work. I have been a pastor since 1999 and I know the difficulties that we face. So many pastor’s burnout or loose their faith.

As pastor’s we help people when they need it most. Most of the time it is on the worst day of their lives. We are there when they call at 3 AM and need someone to pray with them. There are times when we spend long periods of time in the hospital praying with someone as they cross over.

We are there to preform a wedding, funeral, baptism, first communion, confession, or anointing. And rarely do we ask for anything in return. Most of the time, we spend long periods of time away from our families, or have to leave to help someone during our infrequent family time. And we do this without complaint.

Sadly, we also deal with people who are angry or upset that we did not do what they wanted us to do. Some people complain that we spend too much money. Others complain that we don’t spend enough. There are those who complain that we do not do enough as pastor and others complain that we do too much and should take more time off.

As pastor, no matter what I do, there is always someone who is not going to be satisfied. I do my best to make everyone feel welcome and appreciated. Sometimes it is not enough and for some people it is too much. However, I intend to continue doing what I do.

Most of us already feel that we are not able to do enough and that we are inadequate to do the work of the ministry. We certainly do not need anyone to remind us that we are broken people. I know that I am reminded every day that I am inadequate. However, we get up every day and work to help others despite our brokenness.

We have worked hard to build Saint Francis. And while very few people come to Mass, we faithfully celebrate the Eucharist every Sunday. The only thing I ask is that you come and check us out. Give us a chance to show you a different way to be Catholic.

Come and see what it means to be welcoming and inclusive. Help us to proclaim the message that God loves everyone. And help me to build a parish that will be a safe space for everyone. This is the greatest gift anyone can give me as a pastor.

Take a moment today to consider how your pastor feels and the burden that he or she has to carry. Please take a moment to thank them!

And remember, we are here for you anytime!