Padre Paul’s Ponderings: Two Reasons I Love my White Collar Job

Fr. Paul Jarvis left a few things behind, and among them was a coffee mug that still sits

on my desk holding a supply of pens. The mug features a Roman collar worn by a

priest, and is the source for the title of this column.

As we transition into summer, I’ve had the chance recently to reflect on two big reasons

why I truly love my vocation of being a priest.

One is the people. Now truth be told, especially when one becomes a pastor,

challenges can arise. It only makes sense. When you are working with a staff, a lot of

people in a parish, and have a lot of things going on, inevitably there will be some

bumps along the way as you have all of these opinions converging, and someone has

to be responsible for making decisions. Perhaps one day I’ll include that side of ministry

in a book, but the column space here is limited.

What I would like to note though are the people who help you through the bumps, and

who make ministry such a blessing. And that is the people who are part of a parish

family. There are some parishes out there that aren’t healthy – where a few people “run

the show” or the priest shuts down new ideas, or that are bastions of gossip and

negativity, or the staff have “turf wars.”. Saint Joe’s is not one of them. And what I mean

by this is of course we aren’t perfect, but as I’ve been here now two years, I’m

continually amazed at the power of the Holy Spirit here. SO many good things happen.

The Spirit is the outpouring of the love between the Father and Son, and I feel that here

serving as the parish priest. I see it in the staff, in the volunteers, and in all the good

things that happen here. I really love coming into the office and being with the staff, who

work so hard behind the scenes day in and day out, and getting to know the great

people here who care so much.

Last week, it was so moving to get so many words of thanks as I marked the completion

of my first decade as a priest. But it was a reminder of how every day I am lucky to

come in to our parish and see first hand the power of the Holy Spirit in action. Being the

parish priest here, it really does fill one with a sense of joy, seeing how people truly love

their parish, and build one another up rather than tear one another down. And sadly,

that can happen in parishes out there.

So I’d first like to thank you again, from the bottom of my heart, for helping me in my

ministry as a priest and for all that you do to support me, and this great parish. I hope

you don’t mind but my plan is to stick around for a while.

The other reason I love my job? The school. Our year wraps up this week, and we have

a group of awesome eighth graders who prepare now to move on to high school. I love

our school. I love going to the school Mass, I love going into classrooms (where Kirby

continues to be far more popular than me but I’m fine with that) and seeing the love our

teachers have for helping our kids to grow in knowledge that will help them through life,

and prepare them for the Kingdom of Heaven. Kelly Roche, our principal, has been

doing an amazing job as she finishes her first year, and we are so blessed to have her

and our great teachers. Next year, we open up our preschool, and we are excited to

begin this new chapter for our school.

And so, again, to all who have shown me such kindness, to all who do so much for our

parish family, and to all who care so deeply for Saint Joseph’s parish, thank you. May

we never forget that Christ is not gone in heaven just waiting for us, but alive and

guiding us through His love and the power of the Spirit. As we celebrate the sending of

the Holy Spirit this Pentecost Sunday, let’s not forget the Spirit didn’t just come on the

first Pentecost Sunday, but is still there to guide us, and strengthen us. Saint Joe’s has

so many good things going on, but the work is far from complete. Together, may we

move forward to continue that work, saying “we are Saint Joe’s” and working daily to

bring people closer to heaven through the love we bring into this world.

Have a blessed Pentecost Sunday!

Fr. Paul

The True Meaning of Memorial Day

Growing up in North Minneapolis, I spent a lot of time riding my bike along trail known

as “Victory Memorial Drive.” Situated between Robinsdale and Minneapolis, it’s a very

scenic stretch in the city where one finds paved trails, lots of trees, and plenty of space

for playing a game of catch. But, if you look closely, what you will find is that all along

the Drive are a series of markers with crosses on them. You will also find a spot to sit

along the drive where the American Flag flies, and you will see a monument with

numerous names written on it.

The markers and names are in remembrance of those who gave their lives to our

country in World War I.

Having spent so much time in this area as a kid, looking back, I can’t help but wonder

how many people have rode their bikes or ran along the Drive, or stopped to sit down to

rest by the flag pole, but never once read any of the names of the soldiers listed, let

alone say a prayer for them?

While for many we consider this weekend to be the unofficial start of summer, we also

must never forget the true meaning of Memorial Day.

Three years after the civil war ended, the head of an organization of Union Veterans

established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war

dead with flowers. Originally it was decided that this would take place May 30th, as this

was a day flowers would be blooming all across the country. In 1868, the first

observance was held at Arlington National Cemetery.

The ceremonies centered around the mansion that was once Robert E. Lee’s home,

and various officials from Washington, including General Grant, presided over the

ceremony. Children from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan Home made their way

through the cemetery and placed flowers on both the graves of both Union and

Confederate Graves.

In the years that followed, local celebrations of this day would continue. And, while

many now just celebrate with a cookout or a day off, countless others give back to

honor this day as it was founded.

Most recently in December of 2000, the “National Moment of Remembrance Act” was

passed, creating the White House Commission on the National Moment of

Remembrance. This commission is charged with “encouraging the people of the United

States to give something back to their country, which provides them so much freedom

and opportunity” by encouraging and coordinating commemorations in the United States

of Memorial Day and the National Moment of Remembrance. That moment encourages

all Americans to pause at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day for a moment of silence to honor

those who have died in service to our Nation.

Of course, many of us will mark today as a day for a day trip up north or just enjoying a

day off. And there is nothing wrong with that at all. We work very hard, and it’s nice to

have a 3-day weekend and look forward to summer, or to grill some burgers and take it

easy on a Monday afternoon. So please, don’t feel guilty for enjoying today with friends

and family. But at the same time, my hope is that we also never take for granted the

reason we have so many freedoms in our country is because so many people were

willing to serve to safeguard them. As the Trinity reveals perfected love, our soldiers

who have made the ultimate sacrifice also reveal love in all they have done for us. With

that in mind, I’d encourage us to keep in mind all they have done by praying for our

veterans and those who have died, and praying for all of our active duty servicemen and

women as we do each day at Mass, or by simply saying “thank you” to a veteran or a

person in uniform. Above all else, never take for granted the remarkable country we live

in by praying for our nation and realizing how blessed we are to be Americans.

We’ll be having Mass at 8:30 on Memorial Day, and at about 10 to 10:15 a.m. the

American Legion is scheduled to be at our cemetery for a ceremony. It’s also at this time

that I’ll join them in a prayer, and do a blessing for the new corpus that was placed on

our cross.

On this Memorial Day, I’d like to close by sharing the prayer of Saint Sebastian, the

patron Saint of Soldiers. A Roman Soldier who was a Christian, he was martyred for the

faith. May God bless our troops, and God bless America.

Blessings!

Fr. Paul

Prayer to St. Sebastian

Dear Commander at the Roman Emperor's court, you chose to be also a soldier of

Christ and dared to spread faith in the King of Kings, for which you were condemned to

die. Your body, however, proved athletically strong and the executing arrows extremely

weak. So another means to kill you was chose and you gave your life to the Lord. May

Soldiers be always as strong in their faith as their Patron Saint so clearly has been.

Amen.

Padre Paul’s Ponderings: Reflections on 10 Years of Ministry

It was about a month ago when Patty, our Director of First Impressions and Jill of All

Trades, asked me about my anniversary of ordination. She wanted to have a little

reception for me as she knew it was coming up. I hadn’t intended to mention it to

anyone. Maybe when I hit 25 years, but typically on my ordination anniversary I get

together with family, but keep it pretty low key.

I do believe the cat is now out of the bag though, and this upcoming weekend I’m

honored that Patty and others on staff kindly put together a reception to celebrate with

me 10 years of ministry.

It’s hard to believe where the last 10 years went. Hopefully I’ve got a lot left in my

ministry as a priest. Like with any vocation, there are peaks and valleys. And this week,

I thought I’d use this space to share some as I look back and look ahead.

I entered seminary right after college, about three weeks or so after I got my degree

from the U of M in political science. I gradually discerned in college that this might be

where God was calling me and that I could find fulfillment and happiness as a priest.

Seminary was 6 years, and while the classes were good and there were many

blessings, at the time it did seem like it would never end. I remember wanting to be out

there in parish life, as not too many people spend 11 years in school after they finish

high school.

As ordination day approached, we were invited to the archbishop’s for lunch for our first

assignments, and I opened the envelope to see I was headed to Holy Name of Jesus in

Medina. I hadn’t heard of the parish, but quickly found it was a great fit. In many ways it

is quite similar to Saint Joe’s. From there I went to Saint Hubert’s in Chanhassen,

became a pastor serving Saint Peter’s and Saint Joseph’s, now Saint Maximilian Kolbe,

of Delano for four years, and now I’m here at Saint Joe’s. And I’m very happy to be

here.

So what to make of a decade? What have I learned since seminary? I suppose that

could fill a book, but here’s some thoughts…

For one, prayer is so important. Priests and deacons commit to say daily the Liturgy of

the Hours, a series of prayers from the Psalms, readings and other prayers. It’s the

universal prayer of the church. Like everyone else, I can get a bit busy, and it could be

easy to let prayer go. Prayer helps me grow closer to God and gives me spiritual

strength.

I’ve also seen how it’s important to work as a team. I’ve never been a “control freak,”

and I think that’s because I’ve seen what happens when people micromanage or just

don’t care about other’s talents. It’s not good. In the parishes I’ve been at, I’ve seen how

people work so hard to make them thrive. As the saying goes, many hands make for

light labor. I realize that “help” is not a bad four letter word. A priest knows how to do

some things well, but we all have gifts – something we’ll think about as Pentecost

approaches – and people use those gifts to make our parish great. A big part of what I

do is consult – I get opinions from people who help make not only the parish better but

help me to become a better priest.

I’ve learned that you are a work in progress too. This is something I stress in my

preaching; all of us are trying to learn how to become better and grow in virtue. I

realized quickly while seminary taught us much, there’s much you learn in the parish

and that helps form you as we learn from our successes and failures.

I’ve learned you have to be comfortable being who you are. The priest is a very public

person. Some will like you; some won’t; many will be indifferent. Some will not like you

because you are too liberal. Or too conservative. Or not like your predecessor. Or your

predecessor’s predecessor. Some won’t like how you say Mass, or your preaching. Now

as I said, I’m a work in progress, so when I hear about things that are critical I do think

about them and change if needed. But really, as they say, you won’t keep everyone

happy, and you can’t try to do that. I’m comfortable being who I am, and that’s important

if a priest is going to be authentic.

I’ve learned once you become a pastor you ultimately have to make tough decisions at

times, or put on your “big boy” pants. Associate pastors sometimes serve as a means

for others in a parish to vent about the pastor. Pastors don’t get that option. To be sure,

the vast majority of people are supportive. But a pastor has to do tough things; hirings,

firings/layoffs asking for funds, closings, building projects, giving direction to staff &

volunteers, etc. Believe me, among some circles, people will be upset because you

lowered the thermostat by a degree or changed the lightbulbs to a warmer or cooler

shade of white. But there is no hiding from decision making – unnecessary brooding is

actually contrary to the virtue of prudence. “Kick the can” is not a game we can play, nor

should any of us play with decisions in life. So you pray, consult, discern and act and try

your best to serve a parish.

I’ve learned of the incredible power of love and amazing power of the Holy Spirit in

people. I celebrate this each time at Mass, but people never cease to amaze me. The

love of people who come together at the great moments of life like a birth and baptism,

and the heartbreaking moments when we face death. The love of people for their

parish. The love teachers have for their students in our school. The love the staff has for

the church not seeing as “just a paycheck” but a vocation. People never cease to

amaze me in how they reveal the power of God’s love and the Holy Spirit.

I’ve learned support is so key too. Having other priests to talk to, good friendships, and

seeing family who have been so helpful and supportive along the way is important,

because among them you can truly be yourself and not feel like you are “on” and truly

unwind, not being “Father” but just being “Paul” and get advice and counsel too.

I’ve learned that listening is one of the most important tools of the trade. Certainly in

confession, but in one-on- ones you have with people whether it’s with a staff, or in a

meeting or in a committee. It’s a lot easier to talk, especially these days with social

media, texting, email, etc. But listening takes true work – but when we listen, we gain

insight into how to do our job better, but also into what a person is truly trying to tell us.

I’m also continuing to learn you will make mistakes, and you will have to let things go.

It’s easy to have 20/20 hindsight. It’s also easy to not forget some of the frustrating or

negative things that you experience. But we aren’t meant to stay focused on the rear-

view mirror of life. Accept the fact that you are human, try not to hold a grudge, because

it’s just not worth it, and move on, using it as a learning experience.

Archbishop Flynn once said to our class that if he had a 100 lives to live he would live

them all as a priest. I’d have to say the same. I hope and pray for many more years of

ministry, and I have no idea where the road will lead. But I will say ten years in, I am the

happiest I’ve been as a priest. I work with a great staff, I’m in a parish where people

truly care about their parish and have yet to run into “cliques” or “I’ll do this for you but

what can you do for me?” types. Here at Saint Joe’s now for 2 years, I realize each day

how blessed I am with this assignment. People here are remarkable, and what an honor

to be with the parish as we turn 150. Thank you for your prayers and support!

Have a blessed week!

Fr. Paul

Padre Paul’s Ponderings: Mothers Reveal God in a Million Ways

Most every Catholic is familiar with the Blessed Mother, Mary. So much can be said

about her, but if I had to summarize her in just a sentence, it would be to express how

she brings us closer to Jesus.

We do not believe Mary is the fourth member of the Trinity. We also do not worship

Mary. Nor do we believe Mary is equal to God. Rather, we believe that she represents

the potential that is within each of us when we love God and trust in Him, and live a life

of loving service. Mary did this by putting her trust into God’s plan, and giving her family

love day in and day out. And later in life, she again trusted her Son to carry out His

mission, even when it seemed that it was powerless to overcome the forces of hate and

evil.

Jesus, from the Cross, says “behold your mother,” and in these words, we believe that

He gives us Mary as a gift to us – to be our mother too. To intercede for us, to inspire us,

to help us become better people. She has many patronages, among them being

mothers who are reflective in many ways of Mary.

Like Mary, our mothers typically aren’t people who seek the limelight. They aren’t

people who ask us to serve them, or love us with an asterisk meaning there’s a “what’s

in it for me” behind their actions. And above all else, in so many ways they show us

what God looks like through how they lead their lives.

In my life, I’ve been blessed by having a mom who has always been there for me, and

who has helped me to see what the faith is all about through how she lived her life. Over

the years, what has stood out to me about her is that she has always been there for me

and for our family. She’d work along with my dad to help support the family. At home,

she helped me realize my talents, from learning how to ride a bike to learning how to do

better at school with the hours she spent helping me to read and learn how to ride

through life too without training wheels. There was the advice over the years too; and

also the patience as like all kids and teens we go through phases we look back on and

say “just what were you thinking?” My mom is one of the most selfless people I’ve ever

met.

But then again, if you are reading it, I likely haven’t met your mom, and my guess is you

might have a similar story.

This weekend, we honor our mother’s on Mother’s Day. But really, mom deserves a bit

more than a once-a- year day for going out to brunch and taking it easy. If we are honest

and could look at our life in it’s entirety, odds are we’ll see some moments in there

where we see how we may have taken our mother for granted, been lazy and let her do

something, or not wanted to listen to her. And truth be told, are our mom’s perfect? Mine

is, but of course most aren’t. But in all seriousness, of course not, for moms are human

and make mistakes too. But if we honestly look at our mothers, we’ll see that for so

many, as the years go by they’ve done so much.

So how can we honor our moms daily?

For one, we can pray for them. Our prayers strengthen one another as we intercede for

them. But prayer also helps us too if you think about it. We are taking the focus off of

ourselves (though intercessory prayer is fine) and thinking about the needs of others.

Moms are pretty good people to focus on.

With that, we can also open our eyes to the needs of our mothers. Moms so often do

things silently, and don’t come out and say things, especially as we get older and move

away. Sure when we are 8 mom may be direct and say “eat your vegetables” or “finish

your homework” but other things moms just do both when we are kids and adults. When

we open our eyes we can take initiative to do more around the house, or to stop in more

often if our mom is aging.

Also, we can remember that our moms are human. What I mean by this is families can

be complicated – as a priest you certainly see this as some people may have had a

strained relationship with their mothers. One of the titles of the Blessed Mother is

“undoer of knots,” in that she helps to undo obstacles in a person’s relationship with

others and God. Maybe your mother has passed on, or you don’t have much contact

with her any more, or maybe you carry some pain in your heart. It’s OK to be hurt or

even angry if we did not get the love we should have gotten from someone. But think of

Jesus on the Cross, as He says “forgive them, they know not what they do.” Holding

onto anger or resentment doesn’t help improve a situation. Bringing it to prayer, talking it

through with God, or perhaps a counselor or even with a mother can help a person find

healing. Letting go takes time, but if we work through the past, we can find that both we

and the person who should have loved us more can find healing.

Finally, remember that life is eternal too. Many of us have lost mothers and

grandmothers. For me, my grandma Pat is not just a collection of pictures. Rather, she

is still alive with God, and that connection is always there. If you’ve lost your mom or a

grandmother, continue to pray for them. Continue to be inspired by them and try to

emulate their positive qualities and live them out. They are praying for you too just as

much as they did while they were on this earth. And through you, people can see them.

To all our moms, thank you for being such amazing, unsung heroes who pass on the

faith and reveal the face of God through how your lead your lives. May God bless you

always – and hopefully you know how much you are loved not just one day a year, but

every day of the year.

God bless,

Fr. Paul

Padre Paul’s Ponderings: The Eucharist: Food for the Journey

This weekend we’ll be celebrating the first Communions of a number of our young parishioners.

A lot goes into preparing for the day as we try to talk to kids about how Jesus is present in a special way. What I try to stress to the kids (and indeed to all people) is how much they are loved by God. Last week during my homily, I used the analogy of Thanksgiving dinner. While we don’t leave physically full from Mass as we do on Turkey Day, we do leave spiritually full of God’s love, much like we do with our families. The Eucharist does that for us. When we celebrate Mass, we believe Jesus comes into the home of our body (“Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof…”) and when He does this, we grow closer to Him. It’s His way of saying “I love you” and we celebrate Mass to commemorate what He did for us, but not just as a memorial; rather as a re-presentation of the Last Supper and the First Eucharist.

God is present in the Eucharist, but we also need to open up our hearts to receiving that love. It’s called “cooperating” with grace.

One way is of course through prayer and focusing on the importance of Mass. Jesus is made present each time we celebrate Mass, and as that time nears, we need to reflect on how we are loved by God and prepare for that moment when we welcome God, through the Eucharist, in a special way into our hearts. Mass helps us through the penitential rite, as we think about how we can become better people, and the Liturgy of the Word, as we think about how the readings apply to our own spiritual journeys. We also need to be open to the effects of the Eucharist, which draws us closer to God and one another, which means actively participating in Mass and prayer and also using the Eucharist to help us throughout the week. If we receive Communion and then are fighting in the car on the way home, are cold towards others during the day or gossiping and judging others, we might want to think more deeply about what we’ve just received.

You also might consider spending time in silent prayer in the sanctuary. As I was going through the church a couple of weeks ago, a parishioner who was volunteering that day commented how much she loved our worship space. I couldn’t agree more. I find it a very peaceful place to go and pray. The same can be said for other Catholic churches as well. We have the tabernacle with the sanctuary lamp as a reminder of Jesus being present with us always. You might consider dropping into the church from time to time for prayer or meditation.

As Communion gives us food for the journey, it’s also worth thinking about how our Lord can change us. Transformation comes gradually, but the more we open ourselves up to the graces of the sacrament, the better we can become. A person who has a close relationship with God and who has Eucharist take root exhibits changes. They are often seen in the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The Eucharist is meant to bring us closer to Jesus, and help us to become what it is receive. As we think of the significance of Holy Communion, we become better people.

Finally, like the apostles who distributed the food to the hungry crowd after Jesus performs the miracle of loaves and fishes, Communion, as it changes us, should inspire us to bring Jesus into the world. As we become people who are more loving, patient and joyful, we can help others to see God’s love for them through how we treat them. Holy Communion can help open our eyes to be aware of who needs that love. This is why the connection between Mass and the rest of our life is so important; as Pope Francis has said, the Church is a field hospital. We are to go out into the world to help one another, not tear one another down or ignore the needs of the others. Jesus reminds us of this at the Last Supper as He washes the feet of the 12 and tells them they must do the same.

Again, my congratulations to all making their First Communion this week and next, and thanks so much to all who helped prepare the kids for this big day. But my hope is the significance of the day, and our First Communion, is never forgotten and each time we come together at the Lord’s table we draw closer to Him.

God bless!

Fr. Paul

Padre Paul’s Ponderings: Commissions: How we Live out “We Are Saint Joe’s”

A seasoned pastor once told me when I first became a pastor to “be wary of those who

meet you at the train station.” The point was that once you start at a parish, there

typically will be those who greet you (many of whom are nice) but also those who

quickly want to have you do something. Typically they did not like something the prior

pastor did, and this is their chance to get something they want done in a parish.

Indeed, there were some people who “met me at the train station” of sorts when I

became a pastor. People had all kinds of ideas of where the parish was to go. The only

problem is that for a pastor, this can be a bit overwhelming. For while a pastor has to

lead, when a decision is made while some may like it, others may not. And when

someone doesn’t like it, that can turn into gossip and negativity directed towards (guess

who?) the pastor.

I know full well there is no way around making decisions as a pastor. It goes with the

job. But one thing I always have believed in is collaboration. When I became a pastor,

changes were made, but gradually. We formed a building committee to look at adding a

social hall. We met for nearly a year to set up a commission structure. We had

committees for hiring personnel. And we also met tirelessly together as we looked at

where to go in merging two parishes. This was all during my first pastorate, and while

there were some bumps, one of the things I can look back on is that through

collaborating, things were able to get done.

Arriving in Saint Joe’s now nearly 2 years ago, the only people who met me at the

“station” were people with positive comments about the parish. (Well Patty too, she

made sure there were doughnuts on day 1 for the new guy. Now that’s what I call a

good first day.) It was quite refreshing that hardly anyone said “Father you need to do

this.” And I think that’s due largely in part to the fact that thanks to the efforts of Fr. Paul

Jarvis, Jerry Roth and a number of others, a commission structure had been set up in

the parish.

It’s a system I’m quite familiar with. At my first assignment of Holy Name of Jesus, they

were called “Ministerial Area Commissions” or “MACs.” Much like we have here, the

various commissions would meet one night a month following a meal, and then the

parish council would meet.

The benefit of this is it really puts the ball in the court of the parishioners. Thanks to

commissions, parishioners get together and talk about ideas for the parish. These

include namely the areas of faith formation, parish life, administration, the school,

pastoral care and worship. The commissions meet once per month, and discuss various

topics related to these areas of the parish. Some of these are ongoing discussions;

others are action items. The parish council may then discuss these, and a final decision

will be made by the parish council and pastor, who consults with the commissions, staff

and parish director. Of course there’s a lot of things that have to be addressed that are

beyond the scope of the commissions too, such as costs, timing, impact on other people

or ministries, etc. The meetings last about 90 minutes.

There will be things that I as pastor will do of course without input from the commissions

or just input from staff. But the commissions are very helpful to me as a priest as they

are able to give me an idea of what parishioners are thinking, and a way for us to talk

through these ideas before they are implemented.

As you heard last week, Joanie Somes and Lori Hannasch who are on our parish

council spoke to the parish prior to Masses about how we are looking for new people for

next fall to be on our commissions. This weekend after Masses we have information on

the commissions, and in May on Wednesday, May 10th, we’ll have a discernment night

where people who are interested can come and discern which commission might be for

them.

It’s a joy to see how active our parish is and how people care so deeply about Saint

Joe’s. My hope is that you will prayerfully consider serving on a commission next year

as a way to share your input on the direction of our parish. Meetings are run well, and

the time commitment is just one evening per month excluding July and August. We’d

love to have you on a commission next year, and if you know someone who might be a

good fit, encourage them to stop by after Mass or to come on May 10th. Commissions

are a big way how we together say “we are Saint Joe’s!”

Have a great week – and listen to the Holy Spirit who may be tugging at your heart to

get more involved in your parish!

Blessings,

Fr. Paul

God’s Mercy is Something to Celebrate

God’s love is something I’ve preached upon on more than one occasion, and this week,

the Second Sunday of Easter, is also known as Divine Mercy Sunday.

The feast was proclaimed by Saint John Paul II, and has it’s origins in revelations to

Helena Kowalska, who became Sr. Faustina. She was born in Poland in 1905, the third

child of a devout Christian family.

In 1925, she entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, taking the

name Faustina. She served as a cook, gardener and doorkeeper in Krakow and several

other community convents. The sisters liked her but did not appreciate or understand

her deep interior life, which included visions and prophecies. On February 22, 1931,

Sister Faustina experienced a new and life-changing vision of Christ. She saw him

wearing a white robe and raising his right hand in blessing with his left hand resting on

his heart from which flowed two rays of light. Jesus told her, “Paint an image according

to the pattern you see, with the prayer, Jesus, I trust in you.”

Faustina could not paint, and struggled to convince her incredulous sisters about the

truth of her vision. Ultimately she persuaded her spiritual director, Father Michael

Sopocko, that the vision was real. He found an artist to create the painting that was

named The Divine Mercy and shown to the world for the first time on April 28, 1935.

Father Sopocko advised Sister Faustina to record her visions in a diary. At one point she

wrote that “Jesus said I was his secretary and an apostle of his divine mercy.” She

devoted the rest of her life to spreading the message of divine mercy and the growth of

popular devotion to it. Her mystical writings have been translated into many languages.

She died of tuberculosis at age 33.

Pope John Paul II canonized her on April 30, 2000.

The revelations experienced by St. Faustina were of a private nature, which are not

essential to anyone’s acceptance of the Catholic faith. These types of visions and

revelations are described in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Throughout the

ages, there have been so-called ‘private’ revelations, some of which have been

recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit

of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ’s definitive Revelation, but to

help live more fully by it in a certain period of history” (#67). In another section, the

Catechism describes popular piety, which helps us to put St. Faustina’s revelations into a

broader context: “The religious sense of the Christian people has always found

expression in various forms of piety surrounding the Church’s sacramental life, such as

veneration of relics, visits to sanctuaries, pilgrimages, processions, the stations of the

cross, religious dances, the rosary, medals, etc. These expressions of piety extend the

liturgical life of the Church, but do not replace it….Pastoral discernment is needed to

sustain and support popular piety” (#1674-76).

This is why there are careful investigations whenever anyone says to have had a vision;

and we find that there are many instances where someone may think they had a vision,

and it’s psychological in nature or not authentic. These fade over time. But Saint

Faustina’s were proven to be true. The Divine Mercy devotion fosters the virtue of trust

in God’s mercy that finds its fulfillment in the liturgy of Reconciliation and the Holy

Eucharist. Popular piety animates the faith attitudes that make participation in the

sacraments more vital and fruitful.

How to describe Divine Mercy? An article appearing on EWTN’s website sums it up

beautifully:

The message of mercy is that God loves us — all of us — no matter how great

our sins. He wants us to recognize that His mercy is greater than our sins,

so that we will call upon Him with trust, receive His mercy, and let it flow

through us to others. Thus, all will come to share His joy. It is a message

we can call to mind simply by remembering ABC.

A — Ask for His Mercy. God wants us to approach Him in prayer constantly,

repenting of our sins and asking Him to pour His mercy out upon us and

upon the whole world.

B — Be merciful. God wants us to receive His mercy and let it flow through

us to others. He wants us to extend love and forgiveness to others just as He

does to us.

C — Completely trust in Jesus. God wants us to know that the graces of His

mercy are dependent upon our trust. The more we trust in Jesus, the more

we will receive.

Mercy has also been a special theme of Pope Francis’ pontificate, as he declared last year

a year of mercy.

God’s love is something I try to emphasize in my preaching, and as I said on Easter, God

will always meet us where we are at and find us. What better way to end the Easter

Octave than to celebrate this mercy. Even though Lent is a particular time where we

focus on conversion, this really is life-long as we strive to become better people. Along

the way there will be setbacks, but God’s love will always be there for us. Think about

that and make use of confession, and make sure receiving the Eucharist isn’t just

mechanical but a reminder to you that Jesus takes away our sins. “Jesus, I trust in you”

are the words often seen on the Divine Mercy image – may we do the same daily

remembering His love and mercy endure forever.

God bless,

Fr. Paul

Padre Paul’s Ponderings: Easter is a Beginning, not an End

Easter, along with Christmas, is a very challenging day to preach.

The challenge for anyone delivering a homily on the day though is you have people from all walks of life present at Masses, which are fuller than normal, and you want to make the story relevant to their lives. Much like at Christmas where we know the story, trying to give those at Mass something to think about can be a challenge.

At the time of this writing, I haven’t finished my homily yet. I’m aiming for no longer than 26 or 27 minutes, tops.

Actually that’s a preaching tactic called the “attention grabber.” I figured it might work for a bulletin column too.

While I haven’t finished Easter’s homily yet (though I and my close personal friend Betty Crocker did just finish a batch of chocolate chip cookies, the first I’ve ever baked if you can believe it – one needs fuel for writing these columns. And yes, they turned out pretty good, mostly in circular shapes, but I digress…) one of the things I think I will likely focus on in part is a theme of “transformation.”

One of the things on Palm Sunday and Good Friday as we reflect on the Passion that stands out is the hidden aspect of sin in how so much of what we can do we can dismiss or ignore, but how sin inevitably comes to the surface. Cowardice, jealousy, envy, hate in the heart – it’s all there on display. But as we look at the Passion, we also see the hidden goodness inside all of us in that Jesus reveals our potential. All of us can love as He loved. And, through the apostles, we see how they too are transformed into people who are so full of this hope for heaven and so much on fire for God that they boldly proclaim Christ crucified and risen. It’s quite a contrast from where they were on Good Friday, scattered and hiding behind locked doors. And so, the challenge for us is to let Jesus transform us.

If you are reading this, it means you have come to celebrate Mass on Easter, and I’m glad you are here. But my hope too is that coming to Mass is just one of many things you look at to have a deeper faith life, and that you use this day as a real springboard for your faith.

For one, know that you are always welcome at Mass at Saint Joe’s. By encountering Jesus in the Word and the Eucharist, we are given food for the journey. If you have been away for a while, consider making our Masses a weekly part of our life. Just as we go to the gas station to fuel our car, we need to come to receive spiritual fuel for the challenges life brings.

Secondly, repent. That was the goal during Lent, but we don’t somehow stop falling into sin once we get to Easter. Remember those words of Ash Wednesday: repent and be faithful to the Gospel. So much occupies our time these days, and while it’s OK to be busy, your call is not to have the perfect job, the most awards, or tangible things. Your call is to become a saint. Look at your shadows by daily examining your conscience and ask yourself how you can daily become a better person. Jesus has shown us how as we’ve reflected on the greatest love story ever told over these past few days. The resurrection is God’s triumph over death, and reminds us of how much God loves us. We have to respond to that though by striving to continually become better people. On Ash Wednesday as we began Lent, some opted to give up things such as candy, pop, etc. Those practices are well and fine, but the point of Lent was to ask ourselves questions such as “who am I?” and “where am I going in life” and “where’s my focus” and “what’s lacking?” The effects of sin and bad decisions are very subtle. Little by little though, sin damages our relationship with God and one another. We need to continually become better people, which happens through daily growing in virtue.

Next, go above and beyond of what is asked of you. Being a Christian is a 24/7/365 affair. The story of what Jesus did for us is the greatest love story ever told, and Easter, when our Lord triumphs over death, shows us that sin, death and darkness do not have the last word, but that God does. God wants a relationship with you. The question is, do you want a relationship with Him? Our second reading says it best: “seek what is above.” If you’ve been away from Mass for a while, please consider joining us to hear God’s word and receive Him in the Eucharist. If you have been “too busy” for family lately, remember family means more than a ham dinner once or twice a year – rekindle those connections. If you find your time is spent more on your own activities, make time for other people and for volunteering. Seek what is above, for the rest turns to ashes.

Finally, remember we have the power to do what Jesus did and change the world. There’s so much hurt out there and so many people who are lost. Jesus through His selfless act on the Cross and through His ministry changes lives; people see that sacrifice and are moved to become better people and reform their lives. Open your eyes to see who may need you to help transform them by being more present to them.

Have a blessed Easter, and remember we’re here every Saturday night and three times on Sunday. Today is not the finish line of Lent. Today is a reminder of who we can become if we strive to live and love as our Lord – may we daily commit to running the race home to Him well.

In Christ,

Fr. Paul

Padre Paul’s Ponderings: Holy Week: A Time to Grow in Our Faith

Sometimes people will ask me “when did you know that you wanted to become a

priest?” There wasn’t a specific time really, it just kind of gradually grew as a call in me

as I finished up college at the U of M, where it reached a point where I had to say “OK

God, I know what you want me to do know.”

However, there were some moments along the way where you just felt the closeness of

God; where you can sense that God is calling you to respond to Him in a certain way.

For me, I think of a Good Friday liturgy that I went to in 1999 or 2000. I remember going

into church that evening, and everything was different. The lights were just high enough

so you could see to find your pew. The crucifix was covered in a black veil. The liturgy

took on a somber tone, and the deacon leading the service (Good Friday is the only day

of the year when Mass is not allowed to be said) walked with a cross around the church,

and gave a powerful homily on the greatest love story ever told in the Passion. That

liturgy impacted me, and made me think more deeply about my life, and my faith. And I

remember leaving that night changed, thinking about all that God has done for me. It

seemed to pale in comparison to whatever problems I was going through at the time.

To this day, I strive to live out my faith. The priest says many private prayers during

Mass to remind him of his own unworthiness (hence the washing of the hands; “Lord

wash away my iniquities, cleanse me of my sins…). And when I get to Holy Week, I am

again challenged through the liturgies to think about how I live and strive to become a

better person.

What I’ve found is that each of the liturgies can have a different way of helping me to

grow in my faith. And I hope you’d think about that as you prepare to celebrate this most

solemn week on our calendar.

We begin at Palm Sunday, and what strikes me with the day is the shallowness of

people. Many of us been burned by fake people in our lives; but let’s be honest,

sometimes we have done that to other people. You have the crowds who say

“hosanna!” but then drop the palms and walk away quickly when they realize Jesus is

not going to be a political leader. You have jealousy from the Sanhedrin and those who

see Jesus as a threat to their power. You have the cowardice of Pilate who knows the

right thing to do but doesn’t do it, even when God is literally staring him in the face. You

have Judas pretending to be loyal but betraying his friend with a kiss. This liturgy

challenges us in a way to think about how serious we are about the word “love” (more

on that on Good Friday). Do we really mean that word when we say it, or only when it is

convenient?

Holy Thursday gives us a lot to think about too. There is the institution of the Eucharist,

God’s gift of love to us when we celebrate at every Mass. There is the institution of the

priesthood which makes it a special day for thinking about my ordination and how I live

out my vocation. But what I’ve always been struck by is the washing of the feet. We do

this as a reminder of what Jesus did, but what I love with this ritual is that it’s a visible

thing we do at liturgy to basically say “OK people, if you are going to receive Jesus in

Holy Communion, and say I am a Christian, here’s what it means.” Holiness does not

come through hearing Latin, incense, chant or bells. There is a lot of beauty in liturgy,

and I love chant, I love incense. A good liturgy can bring us higher and touch the soul.

But liturgy always has to connect us to the greater community. Remember the words of

Pope Francis, that the Church is a field hospital. So as we see the feet being washed, it

helps us think about who’s feet we need to wash. Who might be hurting in our lives; who

we might be neglecting; or who might be hurting. Jesus even washes the feet of Judas.

Some people in our lives our lovable. Some people are challenging. We can’t just serve

or love when it is convenient – what Jesus does is give us a mandate to do for others

what He the master has done for the 12. That’s something that we need to live out daily.

What strikes me with Good Friday is what Deacon Otto preached on back in 2000 – the

greatest love story ever told. I heard another priest once say the only reason there is not

a Saint Judas church is because Judas didn’t realize Jesus still loved him. Yes, we are

sinners and do evil things. We are like those who drop the palms and walk away. But we

are loved – and this is how far God goes for us out of love. Think about that on Good

Friday as you touch the cross and reflect on the Passion again. Turn your sins and

struggles over to the one who is love itself and let that liberate you.

Lastly, Holy Saturday. I have to tell you it’s an incredible site from the presider’s chair

seeing all those candles lit. If you have never been to the Easter Vigil, do consider

going. Yes, it’s longer, but parking is a lot easier, and unlike the priest, that will mean

you can sleep in a bit on Easter, go find the Easter basket, and then go off to your ham

dinner. It’s so amazing to see the light dispelling the darkness as the Easter fire is lit; the

new Easter candle blessed and all the candles being lit from that candle. We are

reminded of God having the last word over death and of our redemption. It fills one with

hope, and when you hear the Exultet chanted, and the Litany of Saints prayed for the

newly baptized and confirmed, you are overwhelmed with this sense of God’s love and

the power of the love that exists in the body of believers, the Church.

So much more could be said about Holy Week, but I’ll just close with this: go to the

liturgies. They are not obligatory holy days, but as you experience the liturgies this

week, my guess is that you truly will grow in your faith and be touched by the love and

grace of God.

Have a blessed Holy Week!

Fr. Paul

***

Book of the Week: A parishioner kindly gave me a copy of “Pickle-Chiffon Pie” which I

used prior to spring break. Written in 1967 by Jolly Roger Bradfield, a Twin Cities native,

it gives a great message about thinking about others and empathy. (A good Holy

Thursday book perhaps?). Three princes vie to win the hand of a princess and they are

to bring back gifts, but only one gets what the deeper meaning of the task is.

Padre Paul’s Ponderings: Rediscovering the Meaning of the Cross

Last weekend at Mass, you may have noticed that I was wearing rose vestments (or if

you prefer pink). There are two days a year that these vestments are worn, the third

Sunday of Advent, and the fourth Sunday of Lent. Last weekend was known as “Latare

Sunday,” or “rejoice,” taken from “Isaiah 66:10, “O be joyful, Jerusalem.”

The two days mark turning points during the seasons that precede the two great feasts

of Christmas and Easter, as we are to rejoice at the feasts to come.

This week, as we begin the final two weeks of Lent, we enter into a period formerly

called Passiontide. One of the options during this time is to have all crucifixes and

images covered in veils. This is done until the Triduum, when the statues are uncovered

and the Triduum begins. (Here, we’ll be doing this starting on Palm Sunday, covering

the Cross for Holy Week).

Though optional, I’ve always liked this tradition. As for why we cover them, it’s to make

us think a bit of the meaning of the Cross. We are so used to seeing it we can take it for

granted. Some think it dates back to Germany, when in the 9th century a large cloth

was extended before the altar at the start of Lent, called the “Hungertuch,” or hunger

cloth, which hid the altar from the people during Lent, and was removed during the

reading of the Passion on Wednesday of Holy Week, at the words “the veil of the temple

was rent in two.” It helped illiterate to the faithful how to learn about Lent. Later in the

Middle Ages, the images of crosses and saints were covered at the start of the Lent; it

was at about the 17th century that it was moved to “Passiontide,” the last two weeks of

Lent. Now it is completely optional.

What I like about it is that it helps us to think about how we can take our faith for

granted. The cross especially is something we are so used to seeing; in homes, at our

school, and of course in church. It is always there. But what does it actually mean? The

answer to me is that it is meant to be a way of life. We are meant to have God inform all

that we do. When we look to the cross, we are reminded of how to live. The cross

symbolizes Jesus’ complete trust in the Father and His will. It also symbolizes Jesus’

complete love for you and for me. When we see the crucifix, we should see a reminder

that this is how we are to live. By covering it up, it causes us to think more deeply about

it’s meaning, especially when unveiled come the Easter Triduum.

During these last two weeks of Lent, I’d invite you to again think about the meaning of

the Cross in your life. Remember, Lent is meant to transform us and we emerge on

Easter a better person. As the cross is covered next weekend, perhaps we can think

about how God’s love is covered in our souls by sin; by our actions or inactions; or how

we focus on other worldly things rather than on radiating God’s love. Thinking of the

Cross also challenges us to think about how we can love as Jesus loves – do we think of

others and show them love in actions from our families under our own roofs to our

greater human family, or do we hold back on love or have an asterisk next to the words

“I love you?” Are we selfish or selfless? Loving as Jesus did, giving everything out of

love and forgiving takes work. Use these final two weeks to grow by coming to Mass;

celebrating the sacraments; finding time for personal prayer, and asking yourselves how

can I become what it is I receive every time I come to Holy Communion. You might also

consider Stations of the Cross, either on Friday evening or going into the church

anytime and going from station to station as a way to mediate, or picking up a Way of

the Cross book for personal meditation.

When the veil is removed during the Triduum, maybe a deeper thing to ask is can we

make sure come Easter, the veils are removed from our souls – permanently – that

prevent others from seeing the love of God in us, and that prevent us from seeing how

much God loves us and the response that it requires.

God bless,

Fr. Paul

***

Book of the week: A parishioner a couple of months ago kindly gave me a book called

“Pickle-Chiffon Pie” that was written by Jolly Roger Bradfield, from Minneapolis. The

book dates back to the 60s, but is a great tale of thinking of others. Three princes vie for

the hand of a princess, and each has to bring something to impress the king. They are

in for a surprise though in the end when one sees what ultimately is the finest present

one could bring for a princess.