Father Kevin’s Reflection– February 14, 2016– Meaning of Lent

lent

A Time, Again, to Exercise some Spiritual Muscle

The etymology of the word “Lent” is inspiring … going to what we celebrate for over 40 days as a Christian church.   “Lent”  comes from the old English “Lencten”, meaning, “Early Spring” or “Spring Coming”.  As such, it is a special time for prayer, sacrifice, almsgiving and fasting as Scripture invites a Christian to live with seasons of more intense spiritual work, on the one hand, and times of festivity on the other (eg: Hebrews 12).

The purpose of Lent is to have us exercise spiritual muscles, we haven’t used for awhile (a Early Spring training … if you like).   The goal is to demonstrate not only to the world; but also, to actualize faith in ourselves … we can control and sacrifice worldly desires and wants to God and for God’s sake.   By doing so, we prepare for the lean times that may present themselves in a soul’s lifetime.

When I have a loss … when I experience desolations and emptiness … when I am seriously hurt (or a member of the family is hurt) … when I am challenged by things of this world – my  practices in Lent train me to know how temporary these situations actually are.   I learn I can and do endure for the sake of something greater than myself.    Having Jesus as our Model and Guide at Lent, we realize as Christians, He is able to transfigure this world (and our lives) for the greater glory of God.

When a soul prepares well: a good Lenten practice will make for a good Holy Week celebration.   A good Holy Week celebration then makes for a wonder filled Easter Season.

And, remembering that God will never be out done in love – I can tell you – when Easter comes around … WOW !   I discover how wonderful a treat the item that was sacrificed, when returned to me at Easter, is a great and true blessing.

 

Father Kevin’s Reflection– January 17, 2016–The Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy is in Progress

Cross 3The Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy is In Progress

Well … first things first.   What is so unusual about a Jubilee Year?

We’ve seen several special “years” in the Church.   (You may remember the Year of Faith in 2012–13.)  But an Extraordinary Jubilee is, as the name implies, something special.

The tradition of “jubilee” has its roots in the Old Testament, where the People of Israel would,  every fifty years, were to remember God’s mercy for them and that they were to extend mercy and forgiveness to others (not only for slights against them, but even monetary debts).    All hurts were required to be forgotten and never thought (or brought up again).   As the people would want God to forgive and forget … so it would be the same with the People of Israel.   This tradition has continued in the Catholic Church, where every 25 years a jubilee (or holy year) is called. The most recent was the Jubilee Year 2000 to mark the beginning of the new millennium.  An extraordinary jubilee occurs outside that normal 25 year cycle and is called to direct our attention to a particular event or theme.

Why Pope Francis call for this Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy?

“Here, then, is the reason for the Jubilee: because this is the time for mercy.   It is the favorable time to heal wounds, a time not to be weary of meeting all those who are waiting to see and to touch with their hands the signs of the closeness of God, a time to offer everyone, everyone, the way of forgiveness and reconciliation.”   (Divine Mercy Sunday, 2015)

Our days can often be filled with experiences of division between friends and strangers, family and co-workers, and even within our Church.    This spiritual cancer , of course,  necessarily translates and reflects our “Christian World”.   More than ever our world needs mercy today, as seen in the frightening events of mass shootings and terrorism, war and rumors of war, and the incredible and unprecedented plight of millions of refugees from the war-torn Middle East.  Our own country seems more polarized and divided than ever over the most fundamental questions of life, family, and freedom.

Pope Francis has called us to step back, to recollect ourselves and consider God’s work of mercy in our own lives … how He has extended forgiveness to us and blessings for us … and … in return …  how we have and might still offer mercy and kindness to others.

Over the course of the Holy Year of Mercy, let’s use this space to offer suggestions for how we can seek mercy for ourselves and our loved ones and offer mercy to others.   A good start is the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.   We’ll be expanding on the meaning of those works of mercy as well as other ways to live out the Jubilee of Mercy.

 

Father Kevin’s Reflection– January 10, 2016– The Baptism of the Lord

Baptism of the Lord

As Christmas now ends, we take a moment to reflect on how Christmas bring us to the crib of Jesus.   We are claimed for Christ and His Kingdom at baptism.  The vast majority of Christians, including almost all Catholics, are baptized when they are infants, and this is most fitting. The sacraments are instruments of God’s grace, and even newborn babies need the grace of God. Moreover, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it, “The sheer gratuitousness of the grace of salvation is particularly manifest in infant Baptism,” and for this reason: “The practice of infant Baptism is an immemorial tradition of the Church.”  (CCC 1250, 1252).   But along with the indisputable benefits of baptizing infants comes a special danger: those who are baptized before the beginning of memory will have no recollection or understanding of the most important day in their lives.  Unless they receive the Gospel with saving faith and the meaning of their Baptism is explained to them as they grow, then they will not know that they have been born again of water and the Holy Spirit and have been made children of God, members of Christ and heirs of the Kingdom.  So, as John the Baptist recognizes Jesus as the Son of God, parents and god parents are reminded at each baptism:  “You have asked to have your child baptized.  In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training him (her) in the practice of the faith.  It will be your duty to bring him (her) up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor.   Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?”   And, the parents respond in this faith: “We do.”  In other words, as Jesus begins His ministry at His baptism … the parents (and god parents) begin their ministry in perpetuating the faith until He comes again.

 

Father Kevin’s Reflection– December 27, 2015– What are the Five “Holy Days of Obligation”?

holy-familyWhat are the Five “Holy Days of Obligation”?

 

They are:

Friday, January 1, 2016 -Mary, Mother of God

Monday, August 15 – The Assumption of Mary

Tuesday, November 1 – All Saints Day

Thursday, December 8 – The Immaculate Conception

Sunday, December 25 – The Nativity of the Lord

Sunday, January 1, 2017 – Mary, Mother of God

(Then it starts all over again.)

 

These days mark significant Solemnities of our Catholic faith and since they do not always fall on Sunday (except once every 7 years) the Church wants us to celebrate them no matter what day of the week they fall.

Now … go home … get out the Sharpie and circle these dates in those new 2016 calendars and when you turn to the new month … you will see … and prepare yourself … for coming to the Holy Day Mass.  Four of them fall within a two month period (with the Feast of the Mother of God coming up next week).

All Catholics are bound to attend Mass for this Feast, either by attending a vigil Mass the night before or a Mass on the very day.  This gets a little tricky when a Holy Day falls either side of Sunday, so I’d like to review the options you have to fulfill your obligation to celebrate both Sunday and the Feast Day.

First of all, there is no way to attend Mass on Saturday and have “it count for” both the Solemnity and Sunday!  No, you must attend two Masses next week!  Please look on this as the great opportunity that it is … the chance to be reminded of God’s marvelous plan for our redemption that involved a woman without sin … Mary … who was chosen to be the Mother of God and give humanity (and flesh) to Jesus!  Hence, delight in the manifold graces that God will lavish on you each time you glorify Him through His Son in the Mass.  Enjoy and celebrate this wonder filled (wonderful) Christmas Season!   Remember, the Year of Mercy and Grace of 2016 will only occur once in our lifetime.

 

Father Kevin’s Reflection–December 20, 2015–Fourth Sunday of Advent

adventcandle4Ready or not, Christmas Day will be here …

5 days! Yes, schools will be closed, some businesses will be on ‘shut-down’ and many people will take time off for vacation.   So this might be the perfect time, to really slow down and reflect upon your life.  How’s it going?  Are you living in accord with your priorities … or are changes needed?

Ready or not, the New Year will begin … in 12 days!  This is the customary time to make new resolutions and to begin to live in the way you really want to live.  Of all the things you can hope for in the New Year, I suggest you contemplate the idea that we, the people of God, are called to become hope for the Church and the world.

Our Holy Father, Pope Emeritus Benedict, once said: “hope is a recognition of the ongoing need for salvation.”  In other words, we are not supposed to just sit still and await the arrival of the Lord as if He was some beautiful decoration coming to a world already saved.  Rather, we are to actively participate in the work of guiding others to salvation in Jesus Christ.

The goal to achieve … is God … for us and for all!  And that should be our top priority as we enter the year 2016.  So, ask yourself the question: “What can I do to help others begin or renew their relationship with Jesus?”  And then, ask yourself:  “What can I do to improve my relationship with Jesus?”

Do you have family members and friends who are living away from the Catholic Church for one reason or another?  Well, this would be a particularly good time to invite them to come back to union with God in His Church!  Great graces will flow during the Christmas Season and many people will feel the urge to be back in Church.  So, please pray for the courage and the words to invite all of your fallen-away family members and friends to come and be reconciled with the Church.

Encourage them to start the New Year out right by meeting with their Parish Priest and charting a course to come back into the Sacramental life of the Church.  As we celebrate the Great Mercy and Hope that God gives us when He gave us His Son 2015 years ago, let’s pray to actually become hope for many others as we invite them to come and adore Baby Jesus whose image is in the Crib Set, and whose True Presence is in the Tabernacle!

Christmas and the Solemnity of Mary~~

Holy Days of Obligation

Thurs Dec 24

5:00 pm Bowdle w/ 4:30 pm Caroling

Fri Dec 25     

8:00 am Onaka

10:00 am Hoven w/ 9:30 am Caroling                                        

Thurs Dec 31

5:00 pm Bowdle

7:00 pm Hosmer

Fri Jan 1 

9:30am Hoven

 


Surrounding Area Times:

Dec 24 

4:00pm Eureka

5:30 pm Leola w/ 5:00 pm Caroling

6:00 pm Herreid

8:00 pm Selby

8:30 pm Roscoe w/ 8:00pm Caroling

Midnight Ipswich w/ 11:30 pm Caroling

Dec 25

9:00 am Ipswich

9:30 am Herreid

Dec 31

5:00pm Roscoe

5:30 pm Eureka

7:00 pm Leola

Jan 1

8:30 am Herreid

9:00 am Ipswich

10:30 am Selby

 

Father Kevin’s Reflection–December 13, 2015–Third Sunday of Advent

adventcandle3

The wood carved Crib Set is now out in front of St. Joseph’s side.  I hope you will go take a look.  But, not to look at the scene as you have looked at it in the past.   During this Year of Mercy, ask God to open your heart and mind to the Mystery of Mercy and Divine Love … especially, if you can, bring your children and grandchildren with you and learn from you.  Pray for the family and the world that God’s Mercy can touch us in a unique way this coming year.

I will gradually being putting the main characters into lives as the Advent and Christmas Season unfolds in front of us.  During Advent the lifelike figures, darkness and the cold temperature helps us to contemplate the reality of God’s love … that He would send His Son to be born into our world so that we could experience His love and compassion in a most powerful and personal way.   Advent is the time to renew our faith in this reality.  With faith, everything appears in a new light, because with faith, we accept God’s vision of reality and allow Him to guide us with His word and His Sacraments to understand what we must do and the path we must follow to live in His love.

With the many difficulties of this life, Advent invites us to renew our certainty that God is present … that He entered the world and became human … like us … at the world’s darkest hours (therefore, December 25th) in order to bring to fullness His awesome plan of salvation.

We humans are very resilient and have the power to move forward even in very difficult situations as long as:

  1. it leads toward a goal,
  2. we are sure of the goal, and
  3. the goal is good enough to justify the effort of the journey.

Well, the Catholic Faith provides a resounding ‘yes’ to each of these elements!

There is a goal called Heaven … that God has assured us exists to serve as our Eternal Home … and the joys of Heaven are so wonderful that they are beyond our ability to describe!  So, the goal exists … and it’s a goal worthy of our every effort.  Heaven is not here on earth … Heaven is the gift offered by the Father and obtained through the Son.  That is why Christmas is so very special!  Without the Son, there would still be no way for us to reach the goal of Heaven.  It was only by Jesus offering His human life for us on the Cross, that the Gates of Heaven were re-opened enabling us to enter in.  Christmas marks the visible beginning of our redemption for that is when the world first looked upon the face of the new-born Babe in Bethlehem, Who would soon become the Savior of the world!  Let us continue to prepare our hearts to celebrate the Birthday of Jesus by contemplating the mystery of the manger … where God, Who is pure spirit, took on the flesh and blood of man!  And, then let’s go and share this wonderful news with everyone who will listen!

 

Father Kevin’s Reflection– December 6, 2015–Second Sunday of Advent

First Sunday of AdventAre you feeling it?   Are you feeling something special coming Tuesday?

That’s when it happens … that’s when Heaven opens up a special avalanche of grace that is pouring out upon the world and it will continue to rain down upon us for the next 335 days! That’s because our Holy Father Francis, the Vicar of Christ on Earth, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, established a Year of Mercy to run from Dec. 8, 2015 to Nov. 20, 2016.

 

You may ask, “What’s so exciting about that – it’s like declaring next year “The Year of Air or the Year of Water?”   Exactly!   It’s just like that … because air and water are essential elements to our survival … without them we die.   And so it is with recognizing God’s Mercy … without it we lose God’s truly selfless generosity!   Air and water are all around us and we often take them for granted.   But think for a minute how we would live without them.   We wouldn’t … we couldn’t and it’s the same with God’s Mercy.

 

I think, as Catholics, we may take God’s Mercy for granted, when really it is God’s free and unmerited gift to us as the key to Eternal Salvation.   Do we recognize this?   And do we act in ways that show we treasure the gift of Mercy.   Then, as we come to understand the Mercy of God, we can challenge ourselves with the question:  “Are we committed to proactively sharing Mercy as a human virtue with others?”

 

Well, there’s always room to take our understanding of Mercy to a higher level, which will be our mission for the year ahead.   2000 years ago, John the Baptist announced the coming of Christ with the words: “Repent and believe in the Gospel”!  Since then the Church has always preached this call to conversion and holiness and during its history there have been times of great faith and mercy lived.   But sadly, today is not one of those times.   In fact, in our own Country that was founded on a deep and abiding faith in Almighty God, there is a rising tide of persecution that threatens the religious liberty we have enjoyed and celebrated since 1776.   Let us call on God’s Mercy (understanding what Mercy can mean for humanity) this coming year … for God’s sake!

 

Father Kevin’s Reflection–November 29, 2015– Getting Ready for Christmas…In Other Words…1st Sunday of Advent

First Sunday of Advent I hope everyone is preparing for Christmas

To understand Christmas Traditions, its good to know how we got to where we are.   The greatest of the Christmas Traditions is the evergreen tree.   The Christmas tree traces its roots to the tree of paradise that was featured in the medieval mystery (miracle) plays.  A tree was adorned with fruit to represent what our first parents were forbidden to eat.  The fruit has since evolved into the colorful balls that are used to decorate the modern Christmas trees.

 

The handmade paper chrismons that adorn some tree traditions, with their images from Sacred Scripture (a Butterfly, Cross, Noah’s ark, the tablets of the Ten Commandments, the Star of David, etc) also evoke the Tree of Jesse, the pictorial representation of the genealogy of Jesus as it is found in the Gospels according to Matthew (1:1-17) and Luke (3:23-38).  The genealogy found in Matthew is the first part of the Gospel that is proclaimed in the Vigil Mass for Christmas.

 

Christmas trees are meant to be illumined after the prayer of blessing on Christmas Eve.    Yes, the tree is not supposed to be lit until Christmas Eve … and stay on until we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus (6 weeks after Christmas).   The lights signify Christ, “the true light, which enlightens everyone, [and] who [is] coming into the world” (Jn. 1:9).   As we recognize the longest night (Winter Solstice) in our world, we know the light of the world increases.   The trees “arrayed in splendor remind us of the life-giving cross of Christ” (Book of Blessings), the “tree of life and light” by which the Lord Jesus Christ “rescued us from the darkness of sin.”

 

Our Christmas trees then call to mind the reason why we needed a Savior (our fall from grace, no thanks to the fruit of one tree) and the manner by which He has saved us (His death on a cross that had been made from the wood of another tree).   Though the world seems to be in darkness and dead, the evergreen trees naturally give color (hope) in our life.   They are a fitting backdrop to the scene of our Lord’s birth, evoking not only the dark past of our sinfulness but also the dazzling future that His death and resurrection has in store.

 

Father Kevin’s Reflection– November 22, 2015– Giving Thanks to Almighty God…

christ-the-kingGiving Thanks to Almighty God … Who gives us the Family

How long has the Thanksgiving holiday been with us?

We, as a nation, formally celebrated it for the past 152 years … ever since our 16th President … Abraham Lincoln declared the 4th Thursday in November to be a National Holiday.   But, the idea of taking a special day to express our gratitude to God for all His blessings actually came from the very First President of the United States… George Washington.

Consider what this remarkable man wrote 217 years ago regarding November 26th, 1798:

“Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His Will, to be grateful for His benefits, and to humbly implore His protection and favor; ( I ) recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them the opportunity peacefully to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

(Wow!  A President who had no problem acknowledging God as Almighty and declaring our relationship to Him as one of humility and gratitude.)   President Washington went on:

“Therefore, I do recommend and assign (next) Thursday of November (26th) to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be, that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country, … for the signal and manifold mercies and favorable interpositions of His Providence in the course and conclusion of the late war, for the great degree of tranquility, union and plenty which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been able to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed.”

Freedom of religion!  We’ve had it from the very beginning of our country … may God help us to retain it.   As we gather together this week to celebrate Thanksgiving Day with our families and friends, let’s remember President Washington’s invitation to include prayers of thanksgiving the very day he asked us to give thanks to God.   And hopefully, this would include the greatest most powerful Prayer in the world … the Mass (which will be offered at 7PM, in Hoven on Wednesday and 8:00AM in Bowdle, Thursday Morning.   Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

 

Father Kevin’s Reflection–November 15, 2015–Why do Catholics Call Their Priest a Father?

Who Do You Say That I AmWhy do Catholics Call Their Priest a Father?

The leaders of other congregations will often go by the title of: minister, elder, parson, pastor, priest, chaplain, officiate, etc.    However, the Catholic and the various Orthodox Christian Churches have traditionally referred to their priest as: “father”.

 

The title of “father” becomes more evident and understandable when the parish sees itself as a reflection of this world … as well as … the Kingdom of God being established here on earth.    This is why; when Jesus was trying to express a way to understand God … He looked at His experience as a human being and chooses the family unit as a model of the heavenly reality.   (When you think about it, St. Joseph must have been a singularly amazing man.   As the hymn so rightfully testifies:  “…and Joseph’s love made father  to be … for Christ …  God’s Name.”)

 

What is the quality of “father” which makes a priest tremble as he hears the same title calling him to attention … and to serve?

 

I remember one of the most difficult religion classes I taught was on the Trinity.   A few weeks before this particular class – one of my students was hospitalized because of a beating she received from her drunken father.   Since each of us has one (and only one) father … God taught me a lesson on understanding a Good Father … and that of a false representation of a man who fathers a child.   The Father, Son and Holy Spirit … a loving God — fell on deafen ears that year.

 

What are the qualities of a father … beyond the physical aspects?   Well, similar to the character Tevye (Fiddler on the Roof):  he is the one who, as provider and protector, must take in the specific (detailed) facts as well as be the one who looks from a distant place to look back … and prays.   He must take it all in and digest every morsel.   And, in the end … as a good and prudent father … must be ALONE and take all the hits, all the blame, all the criticism, all the responsibility when making the final decisions on matters of his family.   So, no, I really am not your pastor … we have only one pastor: Bishop Paul Swain – Successor of the Apostle.   (He gives me his authority in his parishes).    I am Father Kevin Doyle, a priest of God.   (You who are good fathers, yourselves, understand my office … my duties.)    And, God planned from the beginning of time to have me be your priest to serve these parishes as His representative.

 

When a decision has to be made, I must take in the specific (detailed) facts as well as be the one who looks from a distance … and prays (all the time).   Seeing in the past, present and future … I am the one who takes all the hits, all the blame, all the criticism, all the responsibility when making the final decisions on matters of his family.  And, a family can have only one father.   At this moment in time, let me be Father Kevin and everyone else be the children of God.   (Trust God put me here for a reason.)   Have faith as a Catholic … mean what you say when saying: Father Kevin.    I will, like St. Joseph, protect His greatest treasure until death do us part … or the Second Coming (or the bishop moves me).