Monthly Archives: February 2017

Pastor’s Notes – February 26, 2017

Father Shea

Father Shea

Father James E. Shea, C.Ss.R.

Dear Parishioners and Friends:

An American journalist was assigned to the Jerusalem bureau of his newspaper. He rented an apartment overlooking the Wailing Wall. Every day there would be a Jewish man facing the wall and praying vigorously.

Sine the Jewish man appeared every day at the Wall, the journalist figured there might be an interesting story about this man. So, the journalist went down to the Wall and introduced hiself to the Jewish man. The journalist said, “Sir, I see that every day you come to the Wall and pray. What are you praying for?”

The old man replied, “Well, early in the morning I pray for world peace. Then before noon I pray for the brotherhood of man. Early in the afternoon I take a break. I go home and enjoy a cup of tea. Later in the afternoon I return to the Wall to pray for the eradication of illness and disease from the earth.”

The journalist, being quite impressed, asked, “How long have you been coming to the Wall and praying for these intentions?” The old Jewish man said, “Well, about twenty or twenty-five years.” The journalist was amazed. He asked, “How does it feel to come to this Wall for twenty years and pray for these intentions?” “How does it feel?” the old man replied. “It feels like I’m talking to a wall.”

How often we heard our parents say to us as we were heading off to bed, “Don’t forget to say your prayers!” As we begin the season of Lent we will hear about the three suggested practices for lent: prayer, almsgiving and sacrifice. We will be hearing about these practices many times. It is the beginning of Lent. It is a time to go that extra mile in service to the Lord. We must not forget to increase our prayer life and our good deeds, for the Lord is calling us to come closer to Him through prayer and have a compassionate heart for those who are hurting.

We begin Lent with ashes on Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday is one of the most popular days in our church calendar. People seem to come out of the woodwork to receive ashes. Yes, ashes are important to people. But ashes are only a reminder to fill their days of Lent with prayer, almsgiving and sacrifice.

Ash Wednesday comes from the ancient Jewish tradition of penance and fasting. The practice includes the wearing of ashes on the head. The ashes symbolize the dust from which God made us. As the priest or deacon applies the ashes to a person’s forehead, he speaks the words: “Remember that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.” Or the priest or deacon will say, “Repent and believe in the Gospel.”

Also, we are following the example of the Ninevites. When Jonah said that the Lord would destroy their city unless they changed their ways, they put on sackloth and ashes. Our foreheads are marked with ashes to humble our hearts. Ashes reminds us that life passes away on Earth. We remember this when we are told, “Remember, Man is dust, and unto dust you shall return.”

Ashes also symbolize grief, in this case, grief that we have sinned and caused division from God.

The ashes are made from the blessed palms used in the Palm Sunday celebration of the previous year. The ashes are christened with Holy Water and are scented by exposure to incense. While the ashes symbolize penance and contrition, they are also a reminder that
God is gracious and merciful to those who call oh Him with repentant hearts. His Divine Mercy is of utmost importance during the season of Lent, and the Church calls on us to seek that mercy during the entire Lenten season with reflection, prayer and penance.

And the question is – who did the counting? There are 46 days, not 40 days from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday. What kind of math is that??!! Well, the church has always considered Sunday as ‘little Easter.’ The code of Canon Law states: “Sunday, on which by apostolic tradition the paschal mystery is celebrated, must be observed in the universal Church as the primordial holy day of obligation.” So, Sundays are not counted as part of our Lenten journey.

Abstinence binds all those over the age of 14. On a day of abstinence no meat is allowed. “No one should lightly be excused” from the laudatory practice of fast and abstinence during the Lenten season.

Ash Wednesday = fast and abstinence. Good Friday – fast and abstinence. All Fridays during Lent – abstinence is strongly encouraged. Throughout the other day during Lent everyone is encouraged to fast now and then – even though it is not obligatory. We are also encouraged to energize our spiritual lives with additional prayers and almsgiving.

St. John Vianney was the pastor of the church in the little village of Ars, France. He is known as the Cure of Ars. One day a wealthy woman, who was quite portly, asked him what she would need so that she could reduce her weight. With a twinkle in his eye the Cure of Ars said, “Madam, you need about three Lents.”

Fr. Jim Shea, C.Ss.R.

Pastor’s Notes – February 19, 2017

Father Shea

Father Shea

By: Fr. James E. Shea, C.Ss.R.

Dear Parishioners and Friends,

There was a janitor in a big city bank who was sweeping up the floor of the president’s office after banking hours. A telephone rang and he answered it. The excited voice at the other end of the line demanded, “I want to know what the Federal Reserve Bank discount is, what the prime-paper rate is, and if all these presidential executive orders will be upsetting our currency.” “Mister,” the janitor replied, “I told you all I know about banking when I said, ‘hello.'”

On Wednesday we will be celebrating an unusual feast in the Catholic Church. Most of the time we celebrate the feast days of Jesus, Mary, the apostles or other saints. Occasionally we celebrate the dedication of a basilica. The feast on Tuesday calls our attention to a chair, the ‘Chair of St. Peter.’ Imagine that. A chair. Why would the church give attention to a chair?

Well, down through the centuries popes would give official announcements from a chair. Today, we  speak of endowing ‘chairs’ in universities.

There are three significant pieces of furniture in every church. First, there is the ambo. Some call it the podium or lectern. In church language it is the ambo where the Word of God is proclaimed.

Then there is the altar upon which the consecration of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ takes place. In church language it is called ‘transubstantiation.’

The third article in the sanctuary is the chair where the priest sits. In church language it is the ‘Presider’s Chair.’

Speaking of chairs – when we had our last capital campaign there were some folks who donated money toward a new presider’s chair. I heard about a reputable chair builder. So I contacted Walter Lyssy. He was delighted to build us a presider’s chair.

But then he came down with prostate cancer. Well, I waited. After a year of treatments Walter returned to work. I invited some folks to join Walter and myself at St. Jerome’s to look at their presider’s chair. We gave Walter enough ideas. He wanted to build a prototype. After Walter had built the prototype we visited his shop to approve the prototype. We made minor changes. And we decided to have him build the presider’s chair out of mesquite wood.

Archbishop Gustavo has extended his welcome to our Redemptorist theologians. Since Archbishop owns the building I asked him to give his approval of the theologians living in the former nun’s convent. Archbishop also gave our committees permission to begin exploring possible locations for our parish offices. In years to come we hope that the number of theologians will increase. At that time we assume that they would be using the entire building. So, our committees will be hard at work. We will be welcoming ideas.

At the Southern Vermont Art Center, the meadow next to the parking lot was used by a local farmer to pasture cows. The cows were kept in the pasture with a thin, barely visible electric fence. One day some tourists arrived at the Center. They had spent many hours traveling so the wife opened the door of their car to give the dog a breath of fresh air. As soon as the dog saw the cows, the dog immediately gave chase. He hit the electric fence at full gait. He bounced off those wire and went howling into the woods. After an hour of hot pursuit, the owner stuffed his unhappy dog into the car. Just as he was about to leave the owner of the cows drove in. The dog’s owner angrily demanded to know why the farmer hadn’t put up a warning sign on the fence. The Vermonter’s response: “Well, I would have – had I known your dog could read.”

It is a blessing indeed to remain calm in the midst of potential danger. Take for instance the oriental bee keeper. He seldom wears a veil over his face while attending the bees. He remains remarkably calm. He is very deliberate in moving from hive to hive. Even though a bee comes directly toward him, and even lands on his nose he makes no effort to protect himself. Most of us westerners become nervous and combative around bees. Instead of being quiet we make noises. Sometimes we run away, frantically waving our arms. Because of our actions we often times get stung.

Today, we become serious about making a donation to the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal. Across the Archdiocese the faithful are being invited to make a pledge or donation. Let us surpass our goal this year of 12,210.

In Christ,

Fr. Jim Shea, C.Ss.R.

Pastor’s Notes – February 12, 2017

Father Shea

Father Shea

By Fr. James E. Shea, C.Ss.R.

Dear Parishioners and Friends:

The parishioners were excited. The children were well prepared and dressed in their finest. The Archbishop was coming to their small country parish for Confirmation. During the Confirmation ceremony, the Archbishop asked the children questions. He approached one fidgety girl, asking ‘what is matrimony?’

A bit nervous, the girl rattled off what she memorized from her catechism. “It is a state of terrible torment which those who enter are compelled to undergo for a time to prepare them for a brighter and better world!” The pastor quickly interrupted, exclaiming, “No! No! That isn’t matrimony. That’s the definition of purgatory!”

“Leave her alone,” said the Archbishop. “Maybe she is right. Besides, what do you and I know about marriage?”

Today, February 12th, is ‘World Wide Marriage Day’ I congratulate all couples. I thank you for showing us the gift of love you have for each other. Below is a passage known as: ‘The Hands of Matrimony.’ As you take each other’s hands, you may say this prayer.

Beloved wife, take your husband’s hands and look at them: Those are the hands, young and strong and vibrant with love, that held yours on your wedding day, as he promised to love you all the days of his life. Those are the hands that you placed with expectant joy against your stomach, until he too, felt his child stir within your womb. Those are the hands that looked so large and clumsy, yet they were so gentle as he held your baby for he first time. Those are the hands that have wiped tears from your eyes; tears of sorrow and tears of joy. Those are the hands that have comforted you in distress, and held you when fear or grief racked your mind. Those are the hands that caressed your heart throughout the years, to make the wonder of love come alive for you. Those are the hands that tenderly lifted your chin and brushed your cheek as they raised your face to look into his eyes; eyes that were filled completely with his overwhelming love and desire for you.

Beloved husband, take your wife’s hands and look at them: Those are the hands that held yours as she gave you her pledge to love you, and accepted your ring on your wedding day. Those are the hands that were smooth and young and carefree then, but lined and rougher now from thousands of dishes washed, tons of laundry cleaned, and hundreds of meals prepared. Those are the hands that are nicked and burned from irons, hot skillets and pans. Those are the hands that held you in joy and excitement each time she said you were to have another child; that together you created new life. Those are the hands that have held each child in tender love, soothing them through illness, disciplining them, diapering them, and sewing for them, baking for them and wringing themselves in worry when trouble came. Those are the hands that massage tension from your neck and back after you’ve had a hard day. Those are the hands that through the years have caressed you in the passion of love. Those are the hands that held your face and wiped tears from your eyes, in wonder and awe that you would cry for her.

Beloved couple: These are the hands of the Sacrament of Matrimony. These four hands are your armor and shield against the evils of the world. These four hands are God’s plan for renewing His Church. These are the hands that will reach out to the teenager, bring hope to the lonely, teach the engaged the wonders of married love, heal the abused and hurting children of the world. These hands are the hope of a troubled humanity. These are the hands that will change the world. Amen.

An old man got on a bus one February 14, carrying a dozen red roses. He sat beside a young man. The young man looked at the roses and said, “Somebody’s going to get a beautiful Valentine’s Day gift.” “Yes,” said the old man. “My wife.”

A few minutes went by and the old man noticed that his young companion was staring at the roses. “Do you have a girlfriend?” the old man asked. “I do,” said the young man. “I’m going to see her now. I’m bringing her this Valentine’s Day card.”

They rode along in silence. Then the old man rose to get off the bus. As he stepped our into the aisle, he carefully placed the roses on the young man’s lap and said, “I think my wife would want you to have these. I’ll tell her that I gave them to you.”

The old man quietly stepped off the bus. As the bus pulled away, the young man turned to see the old man enter the gates of a cemetery.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all.

Fr. Jim Shea, C.Ss.R.

Pastor’s Notes – February 5, 2017

Father Shea

Father Shea

By  Fr. James E. Shea, C.Ss.R.

Dear Parishioners and Friends:

A young man stood at the counter of a flower shop. He looked a but confused. The clerk asked if she could help. The young man said, “My girlfriend is turning 19. I can’t decide whether to give her a dozen roses or 19 roses – one for each year of her life.”

The clerk set aside her business judgement and offered the young man some practical advice. She said, “She may be your 19 year-old girlfriend now, but some day she could be your 50-year old wife.” The young man bought a dozen roses.

Next Sunday – February 12th – we celebrate ‘World Marriage Day.’ This coming Saturday = February 11th – we celebrate ‘World Day of the Sick.’ This coming Thursday the whole world has set the day aside for ‘The International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking.’

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops stated: Human trafficking is a horrific crime against the basic dignity and rights of the human person. All efforts must be expended to end it. In the end, we must work together – Church, state, and community – to eliminate the root causes and markets that permit traffickers to flourish; to make whole the survivors of this crime; and to ensure that, one day soon, trafficking in human persons vanishes from the face of the earth.

During the past decade, greater attention had been paid to this contemporary form of human slavery which is a global, national and local evil. In 2009, The International Labor Office in Geneva estimated that 12.3 million people live in forced labor, bonded labor and sexual exploitation conditions worldwide, including in the United States. It is estimated that every year 100,000 U.S. children are commercially sexually exploited. Ending contemporary human slavery is a human rights issue which everyone must address.

We could easily overlook this atrocious crime, thinking that it only happens in foreign countries, or in the ghettos. Human trafficking is happening all around us. So, we not only need to become aware of this crime. We also need to show respect to every person, for we are all children of God, created in the image and likeness of God. And above all, we need to pray; pray that the victims of human trafficking will experience the healing love of God.

An elderly couple woke up one morning. The husband reaches for his wife’s hand. She shouts, “Don’t touch me! I;m dead!” The husband barks back, “What are you talking about! Both of us are lying in bed talking. What in the world makes you think that you are dead?” The wife responds, “I know I’m dead because I woke up this morning and nothing hurts.”

We dedicate one day, this coming Saturday, to remember those people who are hurting. Those who are suffering from terminal diseases. Those who have chronic conditions. We remember all of them in prayer.

“Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing. For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things. At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known. So faith, hope love remain, these three remain; but the greatest of these is love.”

An engaged couple applied for their marriage license at City Hall. After they filled out their papers the clerk said, “This license is good for 30 days. “Oh, no, Madam” replied the nervous groom. “We want one that’s ’til death do us part.”

We pray that all married couples will live by the ideals given to us from St. Paul: Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, love is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

This week let us pray for the victims of human trafficking, all the people who are sick and hurting, and all married couples.

May God bless you all.

Fr. Jim Shea, C.Ss.R.