Feast of Saints Simon and Jude

Today marks the Feast of Saints Simon and Jude, both apostles and early missionaries of the Church. Of the two, St. Jude, the patron of lost causes, the namesake of a notable children’s hospital, is the better known of the two. Jude, also known as Judas Thaddaeus was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus according to the New Testament. He is generally identified with Thaddeus, and is also variously called Jude of James, Jude Thaddaeus, Judas Thaddaeus or Lebbaeus. He is sometimes identified with Jude, the brother of Jesus, but is clearly distinguished from Judas Iscariot, the apostle who betrayed Jesus prior to his crucifixion. Catholic writer Michal Hunt suggests that Judas Thaddaeus became known as Jude after early translators of the New Testament from Greek into English sought to distinguish him from Judas Iscariot and subsequently abbreviated his forename. Most versions of the New Testament in languages other than English and French refer to Judas and Jude by the same name. Continue reading

A year from now

In our gospel story, the tax collector went home justified. Sure, he has been extorting people, shaking them down for the Roman overlords and some profit for himself. Sure, he is considered a traitor and an outcast from Jewish life – someone whose life is “breaking bad.”  But he has reached a moment of conversion, right?  He is about to get right with God; get justified.  Here is the one moment, a moment when all the trappings of life are torn away, he finally sees himself in humble relationship to God: “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.”  And the tax collector went home justified. Continue reading

Parish Life – annual reporting

Back in the day when I was a parishioner at a small country parish in Northern Virginia, once a year the chairperson of the parish council would speak during the Masses about parish finances. There were several handouts about assets, cash flow, expenses and revenues. All true and necessary things. Even though a parish is meant to be a center of worship, ministry, faith, and life – there are still budgets to make, bills to pay and plans to make. Continue reading

Pernicious and Pervasive

This week the first readings for Mass are taken from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans. He lays out stark choices for us and does not hesitate to reference our condition to one of slavery. It paints the picture of an individual facing a world a world of pernicious and pervasive temptation.  St Paul spent a lot of time in Corinth, which like any “navy town” is not short on all manner of opportunities to make bad choices. I think that he just observed people, the choices they made, the habits that became ingrained in their lives, and simply wrote: “For just as you presented the parts of your bodies as slaves to impurity” (Romans 6:19) from today’s readings. Some folks think St. Paul is being a little melodramatic or overstating the case to make his point. Is he? Continue reading

Slave or servant?

From the readings of this day’s Mass: “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey, either of sin, which  leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?

I think it would interesting if everyone could sit on “the other side of the screen” for the Catholic sacrament of Reconciliation; could sit where the priest sits and hear what he hears. And it is a wish not rooted in any one particular confession, one moment of sin, a moment of redemption, but rooted in what “the big picture” has to say about one part of our human condition. Continue reading

Quid pro quo

Quid pro quo” – it has certainly made the news lately.  I suspect (or at least hope most people know it is Latin). It is just one of the many expressions and word rooted in Latin that are part of the lexicon of modern English. Here’s a modest guide to some of the major Latin words and expressions, with special attention to those that are sometimes most misunderstood or misused by modern American speakers. Continue reading

Persistent or Presumptuous

This coming Sunday marks our journey in Ordinary Time, the 30th Sunday in Year C. You can read a complete commentary on the Sunday Gospel here.

9 He then addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else. 10 “Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity—greedy, dishonest, adulterous—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’ 13 But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ 14 I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”  (Luke 18:9-14) Continue reading

Prayer and the long defeat

In the epic novel The Lord of the Rings, the elves of Lothlorien admit that they are losing their forest lands. But they battle on. The describe their struggle as “fighting the long defeat.” This is source of the comment made by Paul Farmer, who has fought a “losing battle” for health care for the poor. In Tracy Kidder’s biography of Farmer called Mountains Beyond Mountains, Farmer says, “I have fought the long defeat and brought other people on to fight the long defeat, and I’m not going to stop because we keep losing… I actually think sometimes we may win… So, you fight the long defeat.”

Reminds me of the persistent widow. Continue reading

Stewardship and not changing a thing

Stewardship in a parish is always a topic best approached cautiously. It shouldn’t be, but it is. People always assume that it is just a $20 word to bring up donations and the need for money. In this musing, I want to talk about Stewardship in two ways: (a) to lead you to online resources that explore the richness of Stewardship, Belonging and Gratitude – the call of who we are to be as Christians in the world. And (b) the easiest way you might ever find to donate to Sacred Heart by not changing a thing in your life. Continue reading

Saint Marguerite Marie Alacoque

Saint Marguerite Marie Alacoque was a French Roman Catholic Visitation nun and mystic, who promoted devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in its modern form. Today is her feast day

In 1905, at the dedication of our current church, our parish was renamed “Sacred Heart” and consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Sacred Heart of Jesus is a devotional with long and historic provenance within Christianity, and in modern times has been established as a Solemnity for the universal Church.

The Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus is a celebration that falls 19 days after Pentecost, on a Friday. The liturgical feast was first celebrated in Rennes, France. The liturgy was approved by the local bishop at the behest of St. John Eudes, who celebrated the Mass at the major seminary in Rennes on August 31, 1670. You’ll notice that the first celebration was not situated in the days following Pentecost. St. John Eudes composed a Mass and a set of prayers for outside the Mass (referred to as an “Office”) that were quickly adopted in other places in France.  Continue reading