The Apostles' Column

From the desk of our Pastoral Coordinator

Practical ways to spread the Good News.

This column offers a weekly highlight for all of us, as apostles in the Church, as missionaries within our own parishes and communities. We are all called to spread the Good News, and this column considers practical ways for each of us to deepen our relationship with Jesus Christ, and help lead others to do the same.

November 29, 2020

The Apostles’ Column

11/29/2020

O Come Let Us Adore Him…

“When we come to the Blessed Sacrament, we come to Bethlehem.”

St. Teresa of Calcutta

And so it begins… The season of Advent… the start of the next liturgical year. The days are shorter, which means there is greater darkness; and they are colder as winter sets in. Certainly in nature things are still and subdued, like the first snowfall when a great peace settles over everything. But why do we need this liturgical season? Why can’t we simply go from Ordinary Time to Christmas?

This important liturgical season ushers in Christ’s advent (“coming”) into the world. It’s meant to be a time of spiritual preparation, but for most people it’s a time of material preparation as we get caught up in the demands of daily life: family customs and traditions, gift-buying, decorating the house or workplace, playing Christmas music, baking, party planning, etc. These material preparations seem to go on for weeks, often starting well before Halloween these days! This season of peace (Advent) has become a season of frenzy…

God gives us Advent to help us step back from the frenzy and find the peace. It is an opportunity to spiritually prepare ourselves and our families for the coming of our Savior, and to reflect on the fact that God is always with us, particularly in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. It is a time for greater silence: of speech, of action, of the mind and heart. It is a time for gentle prayer, perhaps letting go of some of our daily vocal prayers and contemplating Christ in our hearts, without words.

The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist has been taught since the days of the Apostles, but it was the Council of Trent that led to the start of widespread devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. That widespread devotion lasted for hundreds of years; but over the past decades it has waned. I’ve mentioned before the Pew Survey done in August 2019 which showed that 69% of self-identified Catholics do not believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. That’s 2/3 of all Catholics. Before the pandemic, about 1000 people came to Mass each weekend between our two parishes. Consider the stunning fact, based on the results of that Pew Survey, that perhaps 660 of those parishioners don’t believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. That is a staggering notion. Lord, now more than ever, help my unbelief…

I was recently reflecting on Mary and Joseph as they prepared for the birth of Jesus, and I understood in my heart that the “practice” or devotion of Eucharistic Adoration didn’t start with the early Church; rather it began with this most holy couple, before Jesus was even born. My mind was drawn to the idea of Mary as a tabernacle, carrying Jesus in her womb, waiting in joyful anticipation of His coming. He was inside of her, and I imagine her heart and soul were adoring Him constantly. And Joseph must have knelt lovingly with Mary in her pregnancy at times, adoring Jesus as He grew in her womb.

After Jesus’ birth, adoration continued, not just by Mary and Joseph, but the shepherds and the angels as well…and later the Magi. At the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple, Simeon gave glory to God, and so did Anna. These were acts of Eucharistic Adoration, worshiping God, giving Him thanks and praise, exalting Him in the Eucharist (the infant Jesus).

The Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament is a mystery, which means we are not meant to understand it fully. But we are meant to believe it; it is foundational to our Faith. If you believe that Jesus Christ, our Lord and King, was born in Bethlehem in a lowly manger, then believe that He is present to you here and now. Come and discover Him dwelling in your heart by spending time with Him this Advent. O come, let us adore Him… 

We are blessed to offer time for private, silent prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament each Sunday evening during Advent. We will alternate parishes, and Adoration will be live-streamed for those who are unable to get to the church. What better place to slow down, to be silent, to pray gently and lovingly and to discover Jesus in your heart. Jesus is waiting for you. He wants to love you Face-to-face… Come, be with Him…

Queen of Angels Parish – Nov. 29 and Dec. 16, from 6:00 – 7:30 pm
St. Joseph Parish – Dec. 6 and Dec. 20 from 6:00 – 7:30 pm

“The mystery of the Eucharist gives us the joy of having Christmas every day.”

St. Teresa of Calcutta

Pax Christi,

Cathy Wiswell, Pastoral Coordinator

November 22, 2020

The Apostles’ Column

11/22/2020

Who are the sheep, Lord…?

“When once men recognize, both in private and in public life, that Christ is King, society will at last receive the great blessing of real liberty, well-ordered discipline, peace and harmony.”

Pope Pius XI

The Gospel this week (Mt 25:31-46) completes Christ’s teaching about what lies in store for all of us. Jesus holds in His hands the eternal destiny of every single man and woman ever created, for all time – past, present and future. Imagine the line-up in front of the King on the last day: thousands upon thousands of souls waiting to give account of their lives, to the minutest detail. A basic tenet of our Catholic Faith is this final judgment by The King. We profess it each time we recite The Creed: I believe…He [Jesus Christ] will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom will have no end. But why is it important? I’m Catholic… I believe in God… I pray… Doesn’t that mean I will go to heaven when I die?

Jesus is a just King, but I can only imagine the pain in His heart when He has to separate sheep from goats on the last day. He’s done so very much to help us prepare: He took on flesh (the Incarnation) to teach us in ways that we humans could understand; He gave us the Church, the deposit of our Faith, with the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide and strengthen her; and He gave us the Sacraments, most especially Himself in the Eucharist, as reassurance that He is with us always, as promised. Why would a King go to such lengths?

Remember, each of us was created in His image, to be with Him forever in the Kingdom of Heaven. The last judgment is our final reunion with Him after years of journeying on this earth. We should anticipate that reunion with great excitement, and joy in our hearts; but do we? Or, is our anticipation of the last day filled with fear and trepidation? If Jesus came down today, would He number you with the sheep or with the goats? There is no in-between, no spectrum of differentiation. It is very sobering to have only these two choices in the end.

We, as children of the King, do rightfully have an inheritance; but to receive it, we must be holy. There is no other way. I would wager that both the sheep and even many of the goats are considered “believers”; but the distinction between them is vast after that, and we recognize them by the way they lead their lives. Recall some months ago when I spoke about the Apostolate of Love? I explained that it is essentially the intersection of our lives of prayer, service and community. An apostolate is the work of the laity; the work of bringing others to the knowledge and love of Christ, so as to help with the salvation of their souls. Those who are the sheep are living this Apostolate of Love; they are right with God; while those who are the goats, although many appear pious and may indeed perform acts of charity, are not right with God; their motivation is self-centered instead of Christ-centered. Sobering distinction indeed: one destined to inherit eternal life; the other destined for eternal damnation.

As the liturgical year comes to a close, let’s take a really hard look at our lives and ask ourselves some basic questions:

  • How have I loved?
  • How have I cared for others?
  • I am called not just to avoid doing wrong or harm, but to go out of my way to do good and to serve others. How have I done this over the past year?
  • Is my motivation truly Christ-centered? If not, what do I specifically need to do to detach from my ego and pride?
  • Am I doing a lot for God at the expense of being fully Christ-like? How do I begin to make changes in who I am, and focus less on what I do?

Living a virtuous life puts us right with God (think sheep); and once we are right with God, loving Him for His own sake, we will begin to serve others for love of Him.  This is what ensures our inheritance of eternal happiness in Heaven.  The Daily Examen is a technique described and practiced by St. Ignatius of Loyola, which helps us grow in virtue.  Through prayerful reflection on the events of our day, we can detect God’s presence in our lives, see His hand at work, and discern His direction for us.  Consider starting this practice. This basic, simple examen (click here to download or print) is an easy form for a nightly spiritual review of your day.  For those who are interested in something a little more rigorous, you might explore this option: some years ago I came across a most helpful booklet, published in 1959, which has the Imprimatur, entitled Examination of Conscience for Adults  (click here to download or print). It is a comprehensive examen based on twelve of the virtues, and would make an excellent spiritual exercise over the coming year, taking one virtue each month.

The bottom line is that we need to prepare now for the Lord’s Second Coming.  Let each of us become as holy as we can be.  Let’s be counted as sheep on the last day, and inherit The Kingdom.  St. Augustine, in his commentary on The Last Judgment, had sage advice for all of us: be merciful before He comes; forgive whatever has been done against you; give of your abundance; and live the sacrifices most pleasing to God: mercy, humility, praise, peace and charity.

Christ conquers, Christ reigns, Christ commands!

Pax Christi,

Cathy Wiswell, Pastoral Coordinator

November 15, 2020

The Apostles’ Column

11/15/2020

Well Done, My Good and Faithful Servant…

“When a Christian kills time on this earth, he is putting himself in danger of ‘killing heaven’ for himself.”

St. Josemaria Escriva

Jesus continues His Gospel parables this week with the Parable of the Talents (Mt 25:14-30). Once again we are instructed about preparedness, and that our eternal destiny depends on our own contribution to the growth of The Kingdom. If we do not put in the effort to invest in The Kingdom, we will be thrown into the darkness. It’s another clear teaching that there are only two choices at the end of life on this earth….

Each of us has received a unique set of talents; gifts that God has bestowed upon us as particular grace: from our very lives; to the material goods that we rely on each day; to our family and friends; to our faith. Everything is a gift. God has also given us free will, which means we have the choice to use these gifts wisely, or squander them away. One key factor in our choice: time is finite and we know not how much of it we have left; one day our opportunity will be lost, so it behooves us to begin increasing the wealth of The Kingdom now if we have not already done so.

Jesus implores us to respond to our particular grace, and to keep up the effort for our entire lives. We are on a mission: certainly one for His glory, but also one that puts the responsibility of salvation into each of our hands, salvation not only for our own souls, but the souls of others as well. It’s a scary thought, this immense responsibility; and most of us shy away from it. But God wants us to trust Him and to have confidence in the talents He has given us. It’s not about the actual talents themselves, how many we have received or what they are; what matters is that we generously put them to good use.

How does all of this fit in to the three pillars of living a Christ-centered life: prayer, service in the Church, and community/fellowship? The first step is to identify what talents God has given you; and the second step is to identify how you can use those talents to serve God. This week, as we begin to wind down the liturgical year and move towards Advent, set aside some quiet time to make a list of the talents and skills that God has given you, and determine how you can best use them to build up The Kingdom. Perhaps you are called to an apostolate of prayer; or maybe your talents lead you to serve the poor and under-served of our communities; maybe you have a talent for welcoming people or teaching, or standing on a street-corner as a witness for pro-life efforts; perhaps it is an apostolate of evangelization. If you aren’t sure, take time to pray; ask God why He’s given you a particular talent that you have not put into service. He will give you an answer if you ask….

The bottom line is that we must tarry no longer. We will face Jesus one day, and He will ask for an accounting of all the gifts that we have received. Let us work diligently now and for the rest of our earthly lives, so that He will reward us at death with eternal life in Heaven: ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’ (Mt 25:21)

Pax Christi,

Cathy Wiswell, Pastoral Coordinator

November 8, 2020

The Apostles’ Column

11/8/2020

The Need for Vigilance…

“If men only knew what eternity is, they would do everything in their power
to change their lives…”

Blessed Virgin Mart to St. Jacinta of Fatima

This week’s Gospel (Mt 25:1-13) is one that I have always found challenging.  It’s another parable with lots of symbolism, and it requires piecing together all the details in order to understand the meaning.  At the heart, however, it is another parable about The Kingdom of Heaven.

The bridegroom is, of course, Jesus.  The ten maidens or virgins represent the Church: Christians who have been called and responded to that call.  The torch is the light of faith within each one of us as Christians; and the oil is the actual grace from God which allows us to have that faith in the first place.  The bridegroom’s arrival symbolizes Christ’s Second Coming; and the door closing represents The Final Judgment.  Taking all of this together, it is clear that this is a parable about salvation: preparedness leads to Heaven whereas lack of it leads to Hell (Jesus saying, “I do not know you” indicates the rejection of Him by the foolish maidens.)  But it is abundantly clear that there is work involved; that we must put in the effort to be saved; it’s not a given by any means.  And at some point in time we lose the opportunity and the door is closed…

It is important to note that the ten maidens were all alike except for one detail: five of them neglected to bring oil…they weren’t prepared.  On first glance we might sense that the wise maidens were simply selfish in not sharing their oil; but no, there wasn’t enough to go around; and, with this Jesus is simply teaching us that we are all accountable for our own choices in life.

Although Jesus is actually referring to a future event in this parable, His Second Coming, He’s directing us to prepare now.  He’s reminding us that our lamps need to be lit before the bridegroom comes, and that we must watch so that the lamps don’t go out and find us caught off-guard.  What a shock it would be in the end to realize that we had not done enough in this life to work out our salvation!

How do we put this parable into practice in our own lives, get prepared and remain vigilant?  How do we stay with the wise maidens and not become foolish maidens?  How do we work out our salvation on a practical level, beginning now?  There are basically three key factors: actually getting onto the road itself; continuing to move forward on the road until we reach the end; and getting back on the road when we veer off of it.  This is the only way to get to Heaven…

  1. Actual grace. This comes directly from God.  Recognizing that we cannot make the journey alone is the very first step.  But we must start by turning our hearts to God, through prayer and reading Scripture.
  2. Believing the truths of the Catholic Church and adhering to God’s Commandments.  It’s no longer about what we want, but what God wants for us.  We must be open and obedient to God’s will for us, which can be very challenging.
  3. Good works. Sitting on the fence, being idle…these stall us.  The road to salvation is paved with service to the Church.  We must live out our faith to stay on the road.
  4. A Sacramental life. Immersing ourselves in the life and prayer of the Church, especially liturgical prayer, full participation in the Mass.  (In these days of COVID-19 restrictions this is challenging, to say the least!  Consider attending Mass regularly if it is safe for you to do so.)

     

  5. Fellowship and community. Gathering together has become more and more difficult in this age of COVID-19 restrictions.  But connecting with fellow Catholics is vital to our salvation: we lift each other up; we learn from one another; sharing our faith with others strengthens us for the long journey.  Be proactive in this: join a virtual small group when offered, like the current Metanoia series, or Marian consecration; host a Zoom prayer gathering or devotion, like Stations of the Cross, each person in the group taking a Station; phone another parishioner and “have tea”, making prayer an integral part of the conversation; have a virtual “pancake breakfast” with other families on a Sunday once a month, and add in a virtual family Rosary; etc.
  6. Reconciliation and Penance. Remember that sin destroys our relationship with God, but also our relationship with other members of the Mystical Body of Christ.  Our transgressions have significant impact, seen and unseen; they cause us to veer off the road.  In the Sacrament of Confession, the priest has the power (from God) to absolve our sins; he then imposes a penance, a ‘work’ of reparation, to repair the damage done by our sins.  This is how we get back on the road…

Life is a series of conversions, changes that take place in us every day.  They get harder, and more demanding as we continue on our journey; but we mustn’t see that as an obstacle, or fear it.  We must be ever-watchful, ever vigilant and ready at every turn.

Pax Christi,

Cathy Wiswell, Pastoral Coordinator

November 1, 2020

The Apostles’ Column

11/1/2020

All saints go to Heaven…

Lake Tiberias as seen from the Mount of Beatitudes. Photo: Olevy, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

“If any one will piously and soberly consider the sermon which our Lord Jesus Christ spoke on the mount, as we read it in the Gospel according to Matthew, I think that he will find in it, so far as regards the highest morals, a perfect standard of the Christian life…”

St. Augustine – On the Sermon on the Mount

Mercy and peace in abundance from Almighty God and Christ Jesus our Savior!

The Beatitudes in this week’s Gospel (Mt 5:1-12) are not something that Jesus simply describes in passing. He has intentionally gone to the top of the mount; He intentionally waits until the disciples (the followers of Christ) have gathered and quieted down; and then He intentionally begins to unveil the Truth. I visited the Holy Land last year, and part of our pilgrimage was the purported site of The Sermon on the Mount. It is a beautiful area very near the Sea of Galilee. The valley is like a natural amphitheater, so I imagine that Jesus was heard by the multitude who had gathered there, although I also imagine that for most of them Jesus was simply a curiosity.

Beatitude means blessing; but in the context of this Gospel passage the word has far greater meaning. It’s not about a simple blessing, i.e. that Jesus is extending a blessing over the crowd with His teaching. Rather, Jesus is leading us with this discourse to the heart of all human desire: happiness. The Beatitudes embody the ultimate in happiness, in blessedness: a state of personal holiness that exemplifies the core Christian virtues of humility, gentleness, mercy, justice, purity, and fortitude. With this teaching, Jesus invites us to ponder what it’s like to live in the Kingdom of God, for The Beatitudes lead the way to God. In them, Jesus is describing Himself, The Way; and the Catechism of the Catholic Church confirms this: “The Beatitudes depict the countenance [face] of Jesus Christ and portray His charity.” (CCC 1717)

But why this particular Gospel passage for The Solemnity of All Saints? It’s simple really: All Saints is a feastday reminding us that we, as humans, are made to spend eternity with God in heaven. We benefit from The Beatitudes to the extent that we examine them in this light, i.e. in light of eternal salvation. We are called not only to live them, but to be them; and as we aim for this here on earth, the doors of the Kingdom will be opened to us.

The saints follow Jesus all the way to Heaven. They never give up; they never turn back; they surmount every obstacle. They are examples of how to do things well in this earthly life; how to make good, yet often very difficult choices. The Beatitudes point to these good choices, but God leaves it to us to decide for ourselves; it ultimately becomes a choice between life and death.

Christ’s teachings must be either fully accepted or fully rejected. Saints are souls with the courage to fully accept Christ’s teachings. Saints are souls with the courage to be different; to stand out from the crowd. They are the souls who understand the repercussions of following Jesus: being insulted, persecuted and slandered; and yet they also know the joy in following Jesus. Let’s all strive for the courage to live what Jesus Christ considers a blessing, and to be saints here on earth so we can continue as saints in everlasting life.

Pax Christi,

Cathy Wiswell, Pastoral Coordinator

October 25, 2020

The Apostles’ Column

10/25/2020

The Greatest Commandments of All…

In the name of the Lord who loves us, peace be to you!

“The reason for loving God is God Himself.”

St. Bernard of Clairvaux

In the Gospel this week (Mt 22:34-40), Jesus teaches us that the entire law is summed up in two commands – not suggestions, but commands:

  • To love God with our whole heart, soul and mind;
  • And to love our neighbor as ourselves.

God doesn’t single anyone out of this command, meaning that we must even consider our enemies as our neighbors. This, indeed, can be most challenging.

These two commands go hand in hand; they are not exclusive of one another; rather, they are equally important in God’s eyes. Our pure love of neighbor is the ultimate proof of our love of God. And the virtue of charity encompasses this teaching. Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for His own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God. (CCC 1822)

Love of neighbor is one of the most difficult hurdles on our journey. What possible reason would there be to love someone who causes me grief; who drives me nuts; who treats me poorly? How can I love someone whose behavior is intolerable? From the moment of birth our lives are lived in relationship with others, relationships that can be positive or negative. Recall that ‘community’ is vital to living a Christ-centered life; but healthy community only comes when those relationships are loving.

For many years I struggled with this command of loving my neighbor, until one day I was reading a commentary on the writings of St. John of the Cross. The author said that we do not have to like a particular person, but we must love them. This helped me to understand the basic tenet that every human person is made in the image and likeness of God and if I do not see them as God sees them, and love them as God loves them, I am failing to keep these two commandments. Whether I like the person or not is immaterial.

We are all created out of love. The fulfillment of our lives, our purpose in this earthly exile, takes place only in God’s love; and this love demands that we respond to others in charity. Do we practice this daily? One great habit to get into each evening before going to bed is an examination of our day: how did I live in God’s love today? How could I have done better? What do I need to change about myself in order to love others more deeply?

The great Saints realized something critical in this life: that God is love! To live that truth at the center of all we do, even the most mundane of tasks; to live it especially in our interactions with those who try us the most; this is the highest form of love. To want what is best for someone in order to achieve their salvation; this is what helping and caring for others is all about.

Throughout the New Testament Jesus clearly states that if we fail to live the Gospel message, if we fail to live these two commandments in particular, it is a rejection of Him. The thought of the eternal consequences of this rejection is disconcerting. We have two choices at the end of this life: heaven or hell. Let’s do our utmost to serve Christ in this life so we can be with Him in heaven for ever.

I end with six practical ways that we can begin to love our neighbors as ourselves, and truly live the Gospel message. (But the list is not exhaustive!) May each of us strive to put some of these into practice every day! What a change that would make in the world!

  1. Every week choose a person who is difficult to love and keep them in your heart. Pray especially for them. Love them for who they are and not who you want them to be.
  2. Bless and pray for those who persecute you.
  3. Connect with people. Interaction leads to connection which becomes a stepping stone for long-lasting friendships. In these days of Covid “stay home” orders and extraordinary use of technology, why not pick up a pen and paper and write someone a letter? It’s an amazing blessing to receive a hand-written note by snail mail!
  4. Go above and beyond for others. Jesus gave His life for us in the ultimate Sacrifice. What little thing can you give up on a daily basis to help someone else in need?
  5. Little acts of kindness and respect: say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’; and each and every day make it a point to be gracious and thankful to (and for) everyone you meet.
  6. Slow down. Take time to be present to God by being present to others.

 

Pax Christi,

Cathy Wiswell, Pastoral Coordinator

October 18, 2020

The Apostles’ Column

10/18/2020

Preparing for November… a time to remember…

Mercy and peace in abundance from Almighty God and Christ Jesus our Savior!

In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, in as much as he had the resurrection in mind; for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead.

II Maccabees 12:43-44

The month of November is traditionally a time when the Catholic Church remembers the dead. It is ushered in with a special triduum of feastdays:

All Hallows’ Eve | Oct. 31

The Vigil of All Saints’ Day, this is a time to ponder death: what to do in this life to gain eternal life in heaven; how to avoid eternal damnation in hell.

All Saints’ Day | Nov. 1

A time to honor the Church Triumphant: those souls who have entered the glory of heaven.

All Souls’ Day | Nov. 2

A time to commemorate the Church Suffering: those souls being purified before entering The Kingdom of God.

As we continue to focus on the three pillars of a Christ-centered life – prayer, service and community – the month of November is an opportune time to begin an apostolate of prayer for the dead. Recall that the Spiritual Works of Mercy are a form of service to the Church, and the last of the Spiritual Works is to pray for the living and the dead.

We cannot presume to know who is already in heaven, aside from the official Saints of the Church. We pray for the faithful departed, hoping that they have gone to heaven; but it’s not likely to be a straight shot for most of us! The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 1030) teaches us:

All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

Purgatory is real. Many people fear Purgatory because they don’t understand it in relation to Catholic teaching. It is not a place of punishment; on the contrary, it is God’s loving gift to humanity, a gift of mercy and pardon. We must be perfect to enter heaven. Until we are perfect, we will have to suffer in some capacity. Souls in Purgatory will enter heaven one day; their suffering will have been well worth it!

This year of COVID brings special challenges to all of us, but especially in regards to celebrating special Catholic feastdays in full community at Mass. We are limited in what we can do, but that is not going to hinder us from offering ways we can come together to pray for the dead. To this end, we’ve got some exciting opportunities now available:

Queen of Angels & St. Joseph Parishes Purgatorial Society

This is a new, informal and essentially unorganized group of parishioners who enroll themselves as part of an ongoing apostolate of prayer for the dead. It’s a type of “spiritual association” if you will. What does this informal commitment entail?

  • Enroll yourself for a year or a lifetime. No one is keeping track; it is simply a personal offering.
  • Pray a Rosary every Monday for the Faithful Departed.
  • Assist the Holy Souls in Purgatory with your Masses, devotions, and good works.

The “Book of the Dead”

Typically the book would be available to sign up names of deceased loved ones. However, we are not permitted to have items in the narthex of the church that could potentially lead to the spread of infection, so this year we have a new plan in place:

  • Between now and Nov. 1: submit names of your deceased loved ones.
  • Use this convenient online form or send your list to the parish office.
  • Names will be bundled and placed on the altar for the month of November.

Novena for the Octave of All Souls

  • There will be no All Souls’ Mass this year.
  • In preparation, after sunset on All Saints’ Day (Sunday, Nov 1st) light a candle at home and pray a Rosary for the dead.
  • Special candles will be lit by staff on the morning of Monday, Nov. 2 in each church, in honor of all of those parishioners who passed away this past year. We will post the names in the bulletin so everyone has access to the names.
  • The candles will be left burning through the Octave of All Souls’ – so please come to the church to pray for our fellow parishioners who have passed away over the last year.

Ongoing Registration List of the Deceased

  • Use the online registration form to add names to the list of deceased each month.
  • Parishioners may also drop off names of recently deceased family or friends to be included in the bundle each month.
  • We will bundle the names and place on the altar to be offered at Mass every First Friday beginning in January.

Other activities to honor the faithful departed

  • Visit the graves of deceased family or friends.
  • Pray The Divine Mercy Chaplet for those who are dying, for the grace of a holy and happy death.
  • Give alms in the way of lighting votive candles in the church, or offering Masses for the dead.
  • During the Rosary, substitute the following prayer in place of the Fatima Prayer at the end of each decade: Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.
  • Pray The Little Litany to the Holy Souls in Purgatory (read here or listen here) or The Chaplet of the Dead (read here or listen here) weekly (or more frequently).

The dead deserve our prayers and sacrifices. Through our offerings and other acts of charity, we can assist the Holy Souls in Purgatory with their release into eternal peace and happiness. Pray especially for the souls who have languished there for a very long time, and those who have no one to pray for them by name.

Pax Christi,

Cathy Wiswell, Pastoral Coordinator

October 11, 2020

The Apostles’ Column

10/11/2020

Many are called but few are chosen…

Mercy and peace in abundance from Almighty God and Christ Jesus our Savior!

The Gospel this week (Mt 22:1-14) rounds out a triad of parables that deal with refusal and rejection. Along with the parable of The Two Sons and the parable of The Wicked Tenants, Jesus once again delves into the mystery of human freedom of choice.

Sometimes when I read parables I don’t understand the meaning fully; I’m not always good at piecing together what the different parts or players mean. If you have that difficulty too, don’t give up trying to understand them; the Gospel message is always worth exploring more fully.

The king in this parable represents God the Father, and the Bridegroom is Jesus. The wedding feast or banquet symbolizes the call to salvation, ultimately entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven. The invited guests represent all of us. And lastly, the wedding garment embodies the virtue of charity, and the purity of heart needed to appear before God. When we make these connections we can begin to put the puzzle together.

The Kingdom of Heaven is where we are all intended to be, from the moment God first thought of us, even before we were created! The invitation to enter the Kingdom is extended to all and the ultimate aim is the good life. This is God’s most generous gift to us: the potential for eternal love and happiness with Him in Heaven. Our first duty then, would be to accept His gift, and do everything in our power to be at the banquet. But it’s not that way; the invited guests simply don’t want to come. “But they were not interested…” How many, many times I have made that choice in my life, and it really boils down to my ingratitude; a self-centered disregard for the generosity and goodness of God. It’s an ugly place to be…

So many of us find it easy to accept Christ in a basic way, but find it more difficult to accept Him on a more particular level: being called to share my faith in a small group; assisting in the Religious Education classes of our parish youth; adhering to the moral teachings of the Church; tithing; inviting a fallen away Catholic back to Mass. The list is endless. We hear about the “wide road” all the time (recall that it does not lead to Heaven); it is the road that doesn’t require me to change, or to venture out of my comfort zone. If I’m not interested in the invitation to the wedding banquet, if I don’t accept the invitation, I’m taking that wide road, and excluding myself from the Kingdom of Heaven.

Keep in mind that it’s not just about accepting the invitation, and attending the wedding banquet. We also have to be clothed in the wedding garment, because it stands for the Christian life; and that life is founded on humility and charity. Take a moment to reflect upon the fate of the guest who chose not to wear the garment (recall he accepted the invitation to the banquet and was in attendance, he simply was not clothed properly): “Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.” Yikes! This is akin to having faith, but not putting it into action; to believe without charity.

We all have a choice: to accept the invitation and attend the banquet, or to blow it off; to wear the wedding garment, or leave it behind. The greatest obstacle for most of us is the distractions of the routine of daily life. We have so many things vying for our attention, but God truly wants to be at the very top of our to-do list, and yet for so many, He’s not on the to-do list at all. What is preventing me from living out my faith fully? Why am I hesitant to be involved in a parish group or help with activities? Am I afraid to speak to others about Jesus, for fear that they will reject me? It is my Christian duty to serve the Church and to help others get to heaven; why does that frighten me? Is it because what God is calling me to do is an inconvenience that interrupts my own plans? Am I more dedicated to my work and recreation than to seeking Christ’s true meaning for my life? Am I seeking Christ at all?

Whatever you do, don’t refuse the invitation to the banquet; you have been chosen! Go to the wedding feast! Wear the wedding garment! And if you aren’t sure how to prepare for the banquet, always keep our three pillars in mind: prayer, service and community. Pray every day, no matter what. Serve in some capacity (take a peek at last week’s Apostles’ Column for simple ways to serve every day). And be with Christ by being with others in a sense of fellowship, to come together and exhibit evidence of a relationship with Jesus in our personal lives. This is what honors the King.

Pax Christi,

Cathy Wiswell, Pastoral Coordinator

October 4, 2020

The Apostles’ Column

10/4/2020

Tend the vineyard and produce good fruit…

Mercy and peace in abundance from Almighty God and Jesus Christ our Savior!

Today’s Gospel (Mt 21:33-43) follows right on the heels of the parables of the past couple of weeks. This parable of the vineyard points not only to the course of salvation history, but also to the course of our own lives and how we individually respond to God’s grace. Last week Jesus explained to us that the Kingdom of God belongs to those who obey His will and take it to heart, even if there is a delay in acting on it. This week, Jesus tells us that we risk losing the Kingdom altogether if we do not tend our vineyard and produce good fruit.

God is good and merciful, and exceedingly generous. It’s important for us to stop daily and reflect on just how generous God is. He has given us life; He has given us hope; He has redeemed us; and He has prepared a place of everlasting love and happiness for us, if we but cooperate with His grace. But He is also a just God, and this parable makes it clear that our lack of fidelity will ultimately lead to a path of destruction if we don’t work to produce God’s fruit, instead of our own.

It is easy for us to deplore the wickedness of the evil tenants in this parable. But, we would be well-served to examine our own lives in the way that we treat others. Do we destroy those that the landlord (God the Father) has sent to gather the fruit; or do we receive them in charity and loving kindness? Do we feign charity with our external actions, masking uncharitable hearts?

Each of us is a tenant in one form or another; but do we understand what constitutes the vineyard? Our family; our parish; our work; our community…everything we are, and everything around us comprises our personal vineyard. God gives each of us unique gifts and resources to tend our vineyards, and hopefully to help produce good fruit. But do we use them to the best of our ability? Do we use them at all? The mark of good stewardship is the wise and prudent use of our time, talent and treasure in raising a bumper crop of good fruit.

The degree to which we ignore the call to be good tenants corresponds to the degree to which we reject our share in the Kingdom. God wants each of us to be with Him in heaven one day, but we have to work towards getting there; we must put in the effort. Stepping away from our self-centered lives into Christ-centered lives helps us to become sharers in the Kingdom.

Here are some practical ways that we can serve God and our neighbor, i.e. be good tenants of the vineyard:

  1. Serve as family: be cooperative, kind and gentle with one another; be engaged in conversation; go on family outings and discover the beauty of creation; be interested in the health and well-being of each other; send a letter to grandma and grandpa; garden together; clean house together; pray together.
  2. Serve as parish: pray for our parish programs; support the Church financially (tithe); get involved in ministry, like serving at Mass, serving as a Homebound Minister, assisting with St. Vincent de Paul, working with the Respect Life Group, or helping award High School Scholarships; join a men’s or women’s fellowship group. Find a way to volunteer in some capacity – there is something for everyone!
  3. Serve as community: pray for conversions; evangelize by striving to live a Christian lifestyle, bearing witness to the Gospel in all you do; donate food to the poor; volunteer at community events; be a driver for people who have no means of transportation; become a foster parent; offer to do yard work for a neighbor; pick up trash when you find it. The list is endless….

Of course “service” is more challenging with COVID-19 restrictions; but there are indeed myriad ways to serve and be God’s good tenants every day, despite the perceived obstacles. God created each one of us for a special role in His plan of salvation. Be grateful for being created; be grateful for the opportunity to serve Him each day, no matter the cost or the reward.

Pax Christi,

Cathy Wiswell, Pastoral Coordinator

September 27, 2020

The Apostles’ Column

9/27/2020

Saying ‘no’ to God…

Grace, mercy and peace, from God our Father, and Christ Jesus our Lord!

In today’s Gospel (Mt 21:28-32), Jesus gives us a parable about conversion: that personal change is marked by those times when we realize we’ve made a wrong choice and we try to rectify it somehow. In the parable God commands two things: 1) to work; and 2) to work today. So He’s telling us that we must avoid being idle, and that there is a sense of urgency in this command.

When we hear the word “work” we typically associate it with employment…a job. But in the biblical sense, “work” is really about action of some kind, action through which we seek to be accepted by God. That action might be prayer; or some type of service in the Church; or something that builds community. In this Year of the Eucharist (in the Archdiocese of Seattle), we are called to take action to change our lives and become more Christ-centered.

Every day I am faced with choices, and I know that I fall frequently to the response of one son or the other in today’s Gospel parable. I am blind at times to the degree of selfish indifference that I exhibit when I really don’t want to do something. I am blind too on occasion to the false commitment that I sometimes give, those times when I really have no intention of following through. I say “blind” because sometimes I’m either unwilling or unable to perceive Jesus in the situations that are put before me. I’m “spiritually” blind at times. God calls me to prayer each evening, but I sometimes give the excuse of fatigue after a long day at work. God calls me to spend time pulling weeds or cleaning the bathroom, but I blow it off because I’d rather watch old cowboy shows on TV. God calls me to invite a friend out for a day hike, but I make some excuse because I’m “peopled-out”. I fail so often to stop and consider that “work” is those choices I am faced with every day; and God wants me to say “yes” to Him, and do the things He’s calling me to do, not begrudgingly, but joyfully; and not tomorrow, but today.

The “work” of the vineyard needs to be done, and it’s something we are all expected to do, not just a chosen few. So what does that “work” look like?

  • We can all pray – even a little bit each day is better than none.
  • We can read Scripture or other spiritual reading – even for 10 minutes a day.
  • We can invite someone back to Mass.
  • We can invite our spouse or child(ren) to turn away from destructive behaviors and move to a life of love.
  • We can consider the Corporal and Spiritual “Works” of Mercy and explore how to live them in our own lives.
  • We can get involved in the parish: for example Knights of Columbus or the Catholic women’s groups; St. Vincent de Paul Society; Respect Life Groups; Legion of Mary; etc. These are service groups that give us an opportunity to help others; and in that, help ourselves and others come to know Christ in a special way.

Jesus is calling us to the fullness of life. He’s asking us to be doers, not just say-ers, which means that our words and our actions must be in agreement. Am I responding to His call with faith and trust; or am I consistently saying “no” in one form or another? Am I constantly dragging my feet in doing what God wants? Putting off good deeds (good “works”), or saying “no” to God outright, is the sin of omission; it’s the choice to not perform some action that God has called me to perform. How often in a day do I choose the easy way out…

Every step of our personal journey is an opportunity to do something to draw nearer to Christ. Every step is a choice: to serve God simply out of love; or to avoid something I really don’t want to do (for the Father). Today, and every day, let’s strive to do one thing that we’ve been neglecting. Let’s take action, and “work” for the salvation of our souls and the souls of others.

Pax Christi,

Cathy Wiswell, Pastoral Coordinator

September 20, 2020

The Apostles’ Column

9/20/2020

The Power of Prayer and Fasting…

Grace, mercy and peace, from God our Father, and Christ Jesus our Lord!

If you’re like me, you are watching the approach of the upcoming election with a sense of vigilance, understanding that prior to every presidential election there is political posturing and back-stabbing that takes place. This year is unprecedented, however, in that the Church is in a pivotal position, with so many theological and moral truths in question. Well-meaning and pious Catholics often make poor choices, not fully understanding the contentious issues. Many Catholics disregard the issues and fall in line with the crowd, agreeing to rules and modes of behavior that are generally accepted rather than founded on the teachings of the Church. Sometimes it’s founded in fear; but often it’s simply a lack of understanding and acceptance of the truths of our Faith. What can we, as apostles of the Church, do as we edge ever-closer to election day?

First, educate yourself on the moral principles of the Catholic Church. EWTN has a great “Catholic Voter’s Guide”; and the USCCB (US Conference of Catholic Bishops) has provided the document Forming Conscience for Faithful Citizenship . Please read through this valuable information. In addition, take the time to learn about the candidates and their platforms (most candidates have their own website with information about how they stand on the issues). This can be challenging, as sometimes the information is sketchy or even non-existent. But do make an effort to truly understand where the candidates lie with regard to moral issues. It is our obligation to vote, and to do so responsibly and according to Catholic teaching. Inform yourself so you can vote according to your conscience. Please see today’s bulletin for more information.

Second, there are two spiritual practices that are vitally important as we approach significant events in Church history: prayer and fasting. In the book Freed and Healed Through Fasting, Sister Emmanuel, the author, starts off with a message from the Blessed Virgin Mary at Medjugorje (January 25, 2001). There is one line in particular that jumps out at me: “Little children, the one who prays is not afraid of the future and the one who fasts is not afraid of evil.” The most powerful prayer we can pray is the Mass; so please attend Mass and pour your heart out to Jesus for His mercy on the world. But the second most powerful prayer we can pray is the Rosary. If you want to understand the power of the Rosary, read the Catholic historical account of The Battle of Lepanto! It will blow your socks off! So please pray the Rosary daily, for the conversion of souls, for unity and peace in our country, and that God’s will be done in this election.

Fasting is something that we should begin to practice if we haven’t already started. I am reminded of the story of Esther in the Old Testament, when she fasted leading up to an important event in Jewish history. The Jews of her time fasted in order to seek victory in battle against their enemies. And fasting for us can have the same purpose: we are in battle against the enemies of God, so let us control our passions, and in that sacrifice and suffering unite ourselves to Christ for the reparation of the sins of humanity, and ultimately to defeat Satan. If your health permits it, take up the fast of old between now and the election: nothing by mouth except bread and water on Wednesdays and Fridays. If you cannot fast from food, find another form of fasting: get up an hour earlier and spend that time in prayer; go without TV or non-essential digital/computer time; abstain from caffeinated beverages; eat smaller portions at each meal; spend an hour in Eucharistic Adoration each week instead of some other activity; etc. Fasting is powerful, and combined with prayer it becomes even more so.

Fasting brings answers to prayers when nothing else works; together they are one of the most powerful spiritual combinations on earth; together they give us the power to overcome the enemy. You can have prayer without fasting, but you cannot have fasting without prayer. Add this powerful discipline to your weekly spiritual routine and God will work through you in new and wondrous ways!

Pray and fast for the best possible outcome to the presidential election. And may God’s will be done…

Pax Christi,

Cathy Wiswell, Pastoral Coordinator

September 13, 2020

The Apostles’ Column

9/13/2020

As we forgive those who trespass against us…

Greetings in the words of St. Paul: We give thanks to God always for all of you, remembering you in our prayers, unceasingly! (1 Thess. 1:2)

This is The Year of the Eucharist in the Archdiocese of Seattle. The Archbishop wants each of us to become more holy, to strengthen our faith and become more Christ-centered. Our goal as parishes over the coming year is to focus on this idea: in our prayer; in our work in the Church; and in the parishes as community. The Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith, so let us strive to make It the core of our lives each day.

In today’s Gospel (Mt 18:21-35), Jesus uses yet another parable, this time to emphasize the importance of forgiveness. This passage isn’t only about the effect on the offender and the one offended; it extends to others as well, servants who were “deeply disturbed” by what they witnessed. Sometimes this is the case in our own lives, when there are witnesses to our poor treatment of another person; but at other times the offense is hidden, known only to ourselves perhaps. Either way, and difficult as it may be, reconciliation must take place in order to remain centered in Christ.

I am a sinner, and I fall daily in my interactions with others. I try to keep in mind how my words or actions impact others; but I am prone to rash judgment and impatience (interior or exterior), although I have made progress these past years in the virtues of prudence and patience. Looking on a deeper level, I consider how my behavior impacts not just those in my immediate circle, but the wider Church as well, the Mystical Body of Christ. This is the community of Christ, of which I am an integral part; my deeds, my words, indeed even my thoughts have direct impact on the sanctity of The Body, and the impact will be a negative one if I am not living in the imitation of Christ.

Last week I was away for my annual private retreat at Mt. Angel Abbey in Oregon. I took with me for spiritual reading a wonderful book written by Romano Guardini entitled Meditations Before Mass. In it he speaks about ‘congregation’, and how its unity is impacted by the behavior of each member of The Body of Christ. When I think of the word ‘congregation’ I simply think of a gathering of people in the church. But to Catholics it is (or it should be) much more: “Where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Mt 18:20) Guardini says, “A congregation, then, exists when a number of people disciplined by faith and conscious of their membership in Christ gather to celebrate the Sacred Mysteries.” (p. 95) He goes on to refer to congregation as “the sacred coherence” and “the unity of men in Christ.” (p. 96) This is really profound. I’m not simply an individual, sitting in a pew, getting out of Mass whatever it is that I want to get out of it. I am part of a living organism of faith; one with Christ; and as such, whatever I do against that faith destroys the cells of that organism.

Each of us is called to “actively participate” in the Mass. That phrase has taken on various meanings over the past 60 years; but suffice it to say, that we cannot fully participate in the Mass unless we are free from grudges against our neighbor. Guardini encapsulates this important notion: “But if you have wronged your ‘brother’, and he has a grudge against you, a wall rises between you and him which excludes you from the sacred unity [the congregation]; then, as far as you are concerned, congregation ceases to exist. It is your responsibility to restore it by removing the impediment between you and your brother.” (p. 97) He goes on to say, “For the essential depends not on the actual agreement reached by the estranged parties, but on one condition: your forgiveness. As long as you bear a grudge, no matter how “valid”, there can be no true congregation as far as you are concerned. Forgive, honestly and sincerely, and the sacred unifying circle will close again.” (p. 97-98) Wow! The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass loses it’s sacredness, that “sacred coherence” referred to by Guardini, when even one person in the church at Mass has a grudge against another. Imagine how broken-down the congregational unity is in reality, when not one of us can say that we enter the church for Mass unencumbered. We are all sinners.

Each time we prepare for Mass, let us examine our conscience, and rectify any offenses that we may have against another person. Certainly, we aren’t going to drop everything and rush to someone’s house to make amends; that is unrealistic. If you can get to confession before you attend Mass, that is ideal; but it may not be possible. Guardini gives us good advice: “He can promise himself to remove this injustice by correcting it as soon as possible. The honest intention suffices to bring down the wall between himself and his ‘brother’. Immediately the unifying element is free again to contact all parts. As soon as the injustice that isolates has been overcome, the congregation is restored.” (p. 97) This means that each and every one of us must forgive. We must strive for this honest intention before we can truly be centered on Christ in the Mass. And if even one person in the church, as an integral part of the congregation, has not made this effort on behalf of everyone in the church, the “sacred coherence” is not achieved.

Guardini leaves us with one last thought: “The forgiveness of Christ…means that divine love gains a footing in us….Hence, when you try to fulfill the law of love for the sake of God and His holy mysteries, you make it possible for God to allow the congregation of those rooted in His love to flower.” (p. 98) Let us always love enough to forgive, over and over and over again….

Tomorrow is the feast of The Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the ultimate symbol of forgiveness. Let us praise and thank God for this amazing gift. We adore You O Christ and we praise You, because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.

Pax Christi,

Cathy Wiswell, Pastoral Coordinator

September 6, 2020

The Apostles’ Column

9/6/2020

Fraternal Correction…

Grace to you, and peace in God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ!

Do you every stop to consider your purpose in life, why God made you and why you are so important to His Divine Plan? In the grand scheme of things we are really here for two simple reasons: 1) to give God glory with our lives; and 2) for the salvation of souls, especially our own. We are here on earth to be the best we can be; to strive to get to heaven, our eternal homeland; and to help as many other souls get there as well.

In today’s Gospel (Mt 18:15-20), Jesus gives us a plan for fraternal correction, which is actually one of the Spiritual Works of Mercy (admonishing the sinner). When someone has strayed from the truth it is our duty as Christians to do everything we can to correct them and bring them back. Watching out for each other keeps us on the right path; and as members of the One Body, we are all in this together. When one person sins, whether that sin is obvious or not, the damage affects each and every member of the Mystical Body of Christ. Parishes suffer greatly because of the tolerance of sins such as gossip, detraction, envy, hate, greed and covetousness. Every week I hear about some new story going through the grapevine at one or both parishes; the falsehoods and outright lies that are spread outweigh the truth so much of the time. It saddens my soul to think that our own parishes are steeped in the sinful behavior of gossip and detraction, and how this undermines the faith of so many parishioners…

Pray for the courage to learn and live the teachings of the Catholic Church, and be faithful to those teachings. Pray for the courage to have difficult conversations when they are necessary for correcting those who are in error. And pray for the courage to accept any outcome. Last Sunday Jesus asked us to pick up our cross and follow Him. When we do that we choose the narrow and difficult path, filled with humiliation, rejection and opposition. Fraternal correction is never easy; but it is vital for the salvation of souls, not just others’, but our own as well. If we know someone is in the wrong and we do not correct them, we have omitted a good deed, an obligation in fact. So out of love for your neighbor, take them aside and re-instruct them if they have strayed from the truth. It may just be the grace that saves their soul…

One last thing: it is an act of charity to forgive the wrong and overlook the faults of others; avoid holding grudges; and avoid being judgmental when correcting those who are in error. Reconciliation is at the heart of the Gospel; let us work towards that together.

May the Precious Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, shed so abundantly during His Passion, cleanse us of everything harmful, and sanctify all that we do.

Pax Christi,

Cathy Wiswell, Pastoral Coordinator

August 30, 2020

The Apostles’ Column

8/30/2020

Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me…

Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father, and Christ Jesus our Lord!

In today’s Gospel (Mt 16:21-27), Jesus tells the Apostles that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things prior to being put to death. Then He entreats all of them, anyone for that matter, to follow Him, which means denying oneself, taking up one’s cross, and walking a very special path….

Have you ever stopped to think seriously about why Jesus came to earth; why God would take on flesh and live in the world for a time? The answer is simple, and yet so full of mystery: Jesus became incarnate (took on human flesh) to suffer out of love, and subsequently to be put to death and rise from the dead. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that “His redemptive passion was the very reason for His Incarnation” (CCC 606). So Jesus, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, out of love for His Father, became man solely to suffer and die for each one of us. His whole life was an offering to the Father: for His glory and the salvation of souls.

It took me many years to understand “offering” things up. Jesus “offered” His life; my mother “offered up” our family problems; priests that I knew would tell me to “offer it up” when my life was difficult for some reason. But no one ever explained to me what that meant. I am a practical thinker – I need to understand why I’m doing something and what it means in the bigger scheme of things before I can really put it into practice in my life.

Offerings and sacrifices have been around since the start of time, and they have various levels of complexity, too deep for this Apostles’ Column. So let’s keep it simple here. The first thing to remember is that everything we are, everything we have and do is a gift from God. It’s a gesture of love to thank the person who has given the gift, so offering our lives, and everything in them, back to God in thanksgiving is a wonderful thing. “Offering it up” maintains our relationship with God.

But part of our lives also involves the suffering that we experience every day. Suffering is essentially the many hardships we undergo: it could be physical pain; it could be anxiety, anger or depression; perhaps we’re financially strapped suddenly, and have to go without some of the luxuries we’ve been used to; maybe it’s spiritual suffering, like children leaving the Church; or disappointment in the weather outside today. It could be any number of things. But there is also “positive” suffering: giving up something for Lent; intentional fasting; alms giving; etc. We cannot escape suffering, no matter how hard we might try. But, we can take that suffering (whether it is good or bad suffering) and make it an act of love; we can “offer it up” to God as a true gift of self, uniting ourselves to Christ in His suffering and sacrifice. And remember, the point of Christ’s sacrifice was salvation: salvation of the whole world. He gave His life to atone for (repair/reparation) the sins of humanity, and He’s asking us to do the same….This is what redemptive suffering is all about: it’s denying ourselves, carrying our cross and following Jesus.

But, there is one catch: we must suffer in love if it is going to be of any benefit to ourselves and others… if it is to be redemptive. If we suffer with anger, impatience, whining, grumbling, complaining and the like… this is not useful. This is not carrying our cross, but rather dragging it behind us! However, if we suffer patiently, in silence, and even with joy in our hearts, there is great merit in all of it. An abundance of grace comes from this, for ourselves and others, often for people we don’t even know, souls who are in need of that grace…

So, let’s get in the habit of offering our lives to God each day. The Morning Offering is another prayer that each of us should pray every single day. Here are a couple of options for the Morning Offering:

O my Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer Thee all my prayers, works, joys and suffering of this day. For all the intentions of Thy Sacred Heart, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass said throughout the world, in reparation for my sins, and for our Holy Mother, the Catholic Church. Amen. 

or

O my God, I offer unto thee all my thoughts, works, joys and sufferings of this day; and I beseech Thee to grant me Thy grace, that I may not offend Thee this day, but may faithfully serve Thee and do Thy holy will in all things. Amen.

Let the whole of our lives, especially our sufferings, be offerings to God; let us lift up the countless activities of our day: the works, the joys and the sufferings and unite them to Christ’s suffering for the salvation of the world.

Pax Christi,

Cathy Wiswell, Pastoral Coordinator

August 23, 2020

The Apostles’ Column

8/23/2020

You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God…

Christ conquers, Christ reigns, Christ commands!

We see over and over again in the Gospels that Jesus responds to those who have faith. But what is faith, and where does that faith come from; and why is it so very important? How do I come to believe? How do I strengthen my faith? What exactly am I believing in?

Today’s Gospel (Mt 16:13-20) highlights Peter’s profession of faith. His profound truth, uttered amidst the other Apostles, is definitive. He says out loud, in their hearing, that he believes without doubt that Jesus is the Christ (the anointed one), sent by God to save the world. Jesus goes on to bless Peter, and announce His plans to build the Church.

The Church is built on faith, and it will prevail only through faith. Every age of the Church has seen evil which has tried to destroy the truth: scandal, moral degradation, heresy, war, schism…the list goes on. But in every age, the Church prevails because over and over again there is a renewal that takes place by souls who want to be saints; souls who live Christ-centered lives every day; souls who believe that the Church on earth is the Mystical Body of Christ, which makes each of us who believe an integral part of this Living Body, with Christ as the head.

Faith is a gift from God; nothing less. It is the essence of trust, which is exhibited in our lives as absolute commitment to God; living the way that we know He wants us to live; accepting whatever He permits to happen. Please do not take this gift for granted! Last week I encouraged everyone to pray a daily Act of Faith. This Act is simply our individual profession of faith, a “mini-Creed” if you will. Peter lived with Jesus for three years; he came to know Jesus intimately through his interaction with Him. But we can’t fully acknowledge Christ by anything but faith… faith that is strengthened only through our personal relationship with Him in prayer and spiritual nourishment in the Blessed Sacrament.

The Church is not one person; it is a Living Body composed of unthinkable numbers of souls who have lived and died over millennia. The Church is a community in the deepest sense: the community of the Triune God, and spreading out from there the Communion of Saints (the Church Triumphant); the Holy Souls in Purgatory (the Church Suffering) and the Mystical Body of Christ (the Church Militant). Souls on earth must want to be saints: for the glory of God; for our own sanctification and salvation; and for the sanctification and salvation of other souls. I strive to love God above all things; I want to be in heaven one day (hopefully on the day I die); and I want to bring as many souls with me as I possibly can! None of this is possible without faith!

So, strive to stay connected to the Church, the true Church. Pray every day, and pray to deepen your prayer life; it will come if you persevere. Go to Mass every week (and take your family), even in this time of dispensation from the obligation; Mass is not about us, and how we feel or don’t feel, what we like or don’t like; it is about Jesus and being there for Him at the foot of His Cross to console Him in His most Holy Sacrifice of Love. Look for ways that you can build up the Kingdom in your own life, so you can eventually help others to do the same in their lives: sit in the church in silent Adoration; learn about the lives of the saints; read the rich doctrine of the Church; read Sacred Scripture…even weekly if that is all you can manage! Regularly examine and evaluate your own perspective: am I living today as Christ would want me to live, or am I living the way of the world? Am I seeing through Christ’s eyes, or the eyes of the world?

Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God; He is truly present in the Eucharist, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. Can each of us say with all the love of our hearts that we believe this? Can each of us say “I believe!” without any tinge of doubt? Sadly, for most Catholics, there is tremendous doubt. A year ago, a Pew Study (click to read the article) showed that 69% of self-identified Catholics do not believe in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ, i.e. they do not believe that the host and wine used during Communion become the Body and Blood of Our Lord. This is very telling…

Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1) If you are one of the 69%, please turn to God in prayer and ask for His help. The gift of faith will come if we desire it and we put the effort in to ask for it, not just on occasion, but daily! Jesus said, “Everything is possible to one who has faith.” (Mark 9:23) He didn’t say “some” things are possible; He said “everything”. Pray for your own faith; pray to strengthen your faith, because we must work for the rest of our lives to strengthen our faith. Never give up on this absolute. Pray to Jesus, “Lord, help my unbelief!”

The parishes recently purchased a subscription to the online faith formation program called FORMED. A literal plethora of free amazing “faith-strengthening” resources awaits each one of you. If someone tells you it comes at a cost to you, they are wrong – please call me or have them call me! The parish subscription is accessible to any of you with internet access, free of charge. Click on this link: https://formed.org. Then click the “sign up” button, choose the option “I belong to a Parish or Organization” and in the window, type your zip code! That is the easiest way! You’ll be prompted with our parish listing Queen of Angels (98362) and St Joseph (98382)… click on it and then click “next”. Enter your name and email address. (Save the website to your favorites for quick access in the future.) Once you are signed in you have access to thousands of excellent Catholic programs: movies; audio programs; and books – all geared toward living your Catholic Faith in a more meaningful way. Please join us in using this subscription – it will be well worth your time and effort! Make this resource a part of your life and the life of your family: schedule use of it once a week or more. It has prayers; it has spiritual reading; it has devotionals; it has just about everything you can think of to help you explore your faith, share your faith, and live your faith! What glory there is in all of it!

Jesus, increase my faith…

Pax Christi,

Cathy Wiswell, Pastoral Coordinator

August 16, 2020

The Apostles’ Column

8/16/2020

O woman, great is your faith…

Greetings in Christ!

In last Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus performed a miracle in response to Peter’s doubt. This Sunday, His miracle is in response to someone’s faith.

Jesus traveled far and wide to spread the Gospel message. He even ventured into “pagan” territory, which in today’s Gospel (Mt 15:21-28) led Him north along the Mediterranean coast to the regions of Tyre and Sidon. He continued to work miracles, and in this particular Gospel passage He casts out a demon merely by His spoken word: “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.”

Miracles are really signs and wonders; events that show Christ’s power; events that show that He is God and that God works through Him. Miracles are meant to stir up faith in Jesus. In this passage, we know that the pagan woman already knew of Christ and that she believed in Him – how she came to believe we don’t know; but the seed had already been planted. What is very clear is that her contact with Him, her interaction with Him increased her belief, to the point of holy boldness.

The Canaanite woman is an example of the virtue of perseverance. She has been struggling with the trial of her daughter’s demonic torment, but she makes a leap of faith by asking Jesus to heal her daughter – not out of selfishness (pride), but out of selflessness (humility). She was asking for a miracle, for the life of her daughter, and she had the faith that Jesus would respond. She did not give up hope; she persisted despite the fact that she was unworthy. And Jesus responded because she touched His Heart. When we pray in love, faith and humility we move the heart of God. That is why He responded to the Canaanite woman: she humbled herself before Him and simply asked.

Humility is the mother of all virtues, and it embraces in its first tier the three theological virtues: Faith, Hope and Charity (love). These virtues are vital to our personal holiness and indeed to our salvation; they are virtues that we should strive to pray for every single day of our lives. The Catholic Church has given us The Acts of Faith, Hope and Charity, three acts that are simple to pray and easily memorized with time. They are best prayed first thing in the morning, ideally right after getting out of bed when we pray our Morning Offering (more on that prayer in a future Apostles’ Column). These Acts are also prayers that we should be teaching our children from an early age, because they are prayers that truly give us the strength to persevere to the end. If these are not part of your daily routine already, please print them and begin to pray them daily! They will change your life! They only take a few minutes to pray, so get up earlier than usual every day, kneel at the side of your bed and turn your heart to God with your deepest love, and pray:

Act of Faith

O my God, I firmly believe that You are one God in three divine Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I believe that Your Divine Son became Man, died for our sins, and that He will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe these and all the truths which the Holy Catholic Church teaches, because You have revealed them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived.

Act of Hope

O my God, relying on Your almighty power and infinite mercy and promises, I hope to obtain pardon of my sins, the help of Your grace, and life everlasting through the merits of Your Son, Jesus Christ, my Lord and my Redeemer.

Act of Charity

O my God, I love You above all things, with my whole heart and soul, because You are all good and worthy of all my love. I love my neighbor as myself out of love for You. I forgive all who have injured me, and I ask pardon of all whom I have injured. Amen.

Keep in mind too, that these three Acts follow the fruits of the first three Glorious Mysteries of the Holy Rosary: The Resurrection is the mystery of Faith; The Ascension is the mystery of Hope; and the Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles is the mystery of Love. When we pray the Glorious mysteries, we should turn our hearts to God and meditate on these fruits, asking Him to increase our faith, hope and charity.

God wants us to pray. He wants us to ask Him for things, in humility. He always answers our prayers; not necessarily the way we would want Him to, but the way that He knows is best for us. He rarely answers our prayers immediately; instead, He wants us to increase our desire for an answer by increasing our faith in Him and His response to our prayers. Pray… simply pray every day… that’s His most basic request of all of us!

Jesus, teach me to pray from my heart, and increase my faith…

Pax Christi,

Cathy Wiswell, Pastoral Coordinator

August 9, 2020

The Apostles’ Column

8/9/2020

The mountain, the waves, and the wind…

In the name of the Lord who loves us, peace be to you!

Today’s Gospel (Mt 14:22-33) is about faith and doubt, strength and weakness, and Jesus as the center of it all. There is so much going on right now in our personal and public lives, and in the world and Church at large, that it can be difficult to stay faithful and upright. Little things can pull us away from Jesus, like discord in our families or at work; but so too can the troubles in the world, like the ever-changing nature of the pandemic, and the social and economic unrest that have resulted.

Sometimes we find it difficult to believe, in God I mean. We wonder how He could allow the “bad” events of our lives to happen. In the Gospel narrative: why would He allow the wind and the waves to nearly sink the Apostles’ boat? Why would He allow Peter to walk on the water and then nearly sink? Why does He allow the world to be in a seemingly downhill spiral right now? Why does He allow persecution of the Church? Why does He allow physical and spiritual suffering on so many levels?

The answer is basic, but difficult to accept at times: God loves us. He gives us so much suffering, so many trials and tribulations, because He loves us; and He wants us to take advantage of every opportunity, every moment of our lives, to draw nearer to Him in some way, and in that to strengthen our faith. He knows our weaknesses, but despite them He stretches out His hand, gives encouragement and elicits prayer. He wants us to believe and trust in His plan; He wants us to reach out in times of trouble and declare our faith; He wants us to be grounded in prayer, the lifeline between our souls and God. But…He also wants us to be thankful for all the blessings we receive everyday…

Throughout our day we have many ups and downs, and in that, countless opportunities to turn to Jesus in our hearts. Prayer isn’t always about lengthy periods of time in silence; or reading Scripture; or reciting the Rosary. Those are all good; but sometimes, it’s the littlest moments in prayer that become considerable founts of grace. There is great sacrifice in disciplining ourselves to habitually turn to God in those moments of struggle, or disciplining ourselves to thank Him periodically in times of joy, and indeed in times of sorrow.

One easy way to start turning to God throughout the day is in a type of prayer called an aspiration. These are short prayers, a word or phrase that we can memorize and use over and over throughout the day. “I believe.” “Jesus, Mary and Joseph.” “Jesus, I trust in You.” “Jesus, take care of everything.” “Jesus, I love You.” “Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Even simply stating the Lord’s name, as we use it to beckon Him. Try it right now, it truly does bring peace and calm to a troubled soul, and greater joy to an elated soul: “Jesus.”

If you aren’t praying, please start. It truly is our lifeline to God. For many of us, we aren’t sure how to pray; so we need to learn. Starting small is helpful, and aspirations are a perfect way to begin. Make one up, or use one of those noted above; but begin using it every day. Memorize it, and every time you’re feeling stressed about something, just say it: out loud, in a whisper, in your mind…but say it! I’ve read in the lives of the saints how they would keep track of things in order to mark their spiritual progress. Why not try this: make a tick mark for every time you use your aspiration in a day, and after a week check your progress. Then keep up the good work; try it again for another week, and another – just that single word or phrase as a short prayer of love to Jesus during the day. Avoid making it a competition with yourself or becoming obsessed by it however. That’s not the point. Just start small, and every time you have lost your peace (impatient with the kids or spouse; angry because the cats chewed a favorite plant again; discouraged because of inability to lose weight; feeling guilty for gossiping; etc.) turn to Jesus with a short prayer. He will bring you peace. Or every time you are happy about something (not losing patience with the family; smiling when the cat chewed the plant; losing a couple pounds; not gossiping; etc.) turn to Jesus with a short prayer. He will bring you joy! These aspirations are like holding His hand throughout the day…

Jesus teaches us by example the importance of spending time in prayer. If He retreated to the mountains or hill country by Himself to pray, then so do we need to make time for God, even short moments throughout our day. One heartfelt “Jesus, I love You” is worth so much…. In the words of St. Therese of Lisieux: “Prayer is an aspiration of the heart, it is a simple glance directed to heaven, it is a cry of gratitude and love in the midst of trial as well as joy.”

Lord, teach me how to pray…

Pax Christi,

Cathy Wiswell, Pastoral Coordinator

August 2, 2020

The Apostles’ Column

8/2/2020

Feeding the Multitudes…

Greetings in Christ!

The Apostles’ Column sprang to life a month ago bringing to light the three pillars that really set the foundation for a Christ-centered life: prayer, work in the Church, and building community. In these past weeks we have come to understand that living a Christ-centered life begins deep inside each one of us. Unless we begin to change our lives, away from worldliness and toward heaven, we will not find the greatest treasure there is. This means surrendering ourselves; setting aside silent time and being committed to it; starting small and continuing over many years to advance; continually putting in the effort; never getting discouraged; and persevering to the end.

Do you ever stop and think to yourself, “Why…? Why would I want to change? I’ve got it pretty good right now: I finished college; I have a good job; I have a family; I have friends; I have money; I get out every night and enjoy social time with my friends; I have a beautiful home with a gorgeous landscaped yard, and loads of possessions in which I take great pleasure; I go on expensive vacations two to three times a year and live it up… Why change all that?” The answer is simple: God is nowhere in the picture…

Our earthly lives are very short; they are but a millisecond in relation to eternity. If we waste this precious, but short, time here on earth, well… I shudder to think about what will happen to us when we die. I’m fairly certain that most of us are hopeful that we’ll end up in Heaven; but truly, it takes a lot of effort and a lot of grace for us to get there! I’m shooting for Heaven myself, because if I miss then with grace I will end up in Purgatory. But, if I don’t change who I am, and become more centered on Christ, I’m simply taking whatever I can get; and if I am hoping for Purgatory and I miss, well, the fires of Hell await me! The bottom line: the choice is mine… all mine… God doesn’t send souls to Hell; they send themselves because they choose in this life to live apart from Him.

So what’s this got to do with the Gospel this Sunday (Mt 14:13-21)? Of those three foundational pillars, there is one in particular that is vital to a personal relationship with Jesus: prayer. Although the three pillars are inter-related and necessary, prayer trumps the other two. Why is that? Because prayer is the umbilical cord of the soul, the lifeline between God and each one of us. If we are not praying, we have no lifeline to God; if we pray, but it leaves much to be desired, we are in danger, as the cord that connects us is drying up and will one day be cut off; if we pray every day, even a little and even if we’re not always attentive, our lifeline is established and with our effort, and grace, it will strengthen over time.

We’ll talk about personal prayer in an upcoming column; but today I want to focus on the Mass, because it is a prayer… the highest prayer that any of us can pray. When I read the various Gospel accounts of the multiplication of the loaves (and there are several), I can’t help but consider the people who had gathered: there were thousands of them; they had been hanging about for a few days, they must have been tired; they’d had nothing to eat or drink, and I imagine they’d be grumbling about that; they were likely hot and sweaty; they clamored for attention from Jesus, to heal themselves or their loved one(s). My point here is that the vast majority were likely not really focused on Jesus for who He was; but rather on their own material and personal needs – after the multiplication it says they went away satisfied….Did any of them realize the absolute miracle that had just taken place…? Or were they now corporally satiated and simply wanted to get home… long journey and all…?

The multiplication of the loaves is Jesus in prayer; it prefigures the Mass, and parallels the actions that were recounted at the Last Supper: Jesus takes the bread (Preparation of the Gifts), He looks up to heaven and blesses the bread (Eucharistic Prayer of thanksgiving and blessing), and gives it to the disciples (the Communion Rite). As we all know (or should), in the form of unleavened bread, Jesus was giving the disciples His Body. (“This is My Body…which will be given up for you.”) It’s not just about an informal meal with friends; it’s about Jesus Christ literally offering Himself, sacrificing Himself for the glory of His Heavenly Father and the salvation of the world. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is imbued with profound meaning and mystery; prayer that is unequaled in our Catholic Faith. Does this influence me spiritually; or am I simply one of a larger crowd waiting for my share?

Mass is an integral part of our Faith. We need to be united with Him in this highest prayer of Jesus. Remember, Mass takes us to the foot of the Lord’s Cross on Calvary, to His sacrifice. When we place ourselves in His presence at Mass – whether we are in the church or watching on TV/computer – we are joined to Him in prayer, and in some special way we are part of His plan of redemption. So take time each week to “be” at Mass, and pray in this way. It’s awful easy right now to let it slide, but re-read the third paragraph above and consider why this prayer in particular is so important to our own salvation.

We are in unprecedented times; it is not possible for all of us to get to Mass for one reason or another: we are fearful of venturing out; we are in a vulnerable category; seating capacity is very limited. Be reminded that the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and holydays of obligation has been abrogated; the dispensation from the Archbishop is in place until the pandemic subsides, so it is not a mortal sin to miss Sunday or holyday Mass at this time. But, that does not mean that we should simply blow off Sunday Mass! On the contrary, if we cannot attend Mass in the church, we should strive to watch Mass via computer (many options here, streamlined and recorded – our local Mass is aired live at 11:00am every Sunday) or on TV (EWTN has televised Mass every day). Be at Mass in the church if you are able, even once every couple of weeks, on any day that we have Mass available. Our Mass schedule provides eight Masses per week between the two parishes, enough for those wishing to attend Mass to do so as long as we act charitably and avoid “grabbing” excessive Masses in a week’s time. Make Mass a priority in your life, but strive to focus on the miracle of Jesus’ sacrificial prayer rather than simply being satisfied and heading home…

“Put all the good works in the world against one Holy Mass;
they will be as a grain of sand beside a mountain.”

 

–St. John Vianney

Blessed Virgin Mary, Mediatrix of all graces, please pray for us!

Pax Christi,

Cathy Wiswell, Pastoral Coordinator

July 26, 2020

The Apostles’ Column

7/26/2020

Treasure, Pearls, and Nets in the Sea…

Jesus Christ: yesterday, today and forever!

Once again in the Gospel Jesus is teaching us through parables about the Kingdom of Heaven; but once again we can use the message and apply it to our own lives on a more intimate level. Yes, the Gospel is about the ultimate destiny: eternal life in Heaven; but it is also about possessing the Kingdom of God here on earth, in our own hearts; and living it in our lives…

When I was a little kid, I would find or be gifted something that was really special, and I would keep it in a little jewelry box that my parents had given me. Imagine a tiny plastic hot dog “charm”; or a beautiful turquoise cross for a necklace; agates from the beach; or my first birthstone ring. I had numerous unique items, each one of great worth in my kid’s mind. That jewelry box became a hidden collection of the most amazing little treasures, each one with loving memories and meaning for me alone.

The treasure and the pearl in the Gospel parables this Sunday (Mt 13:44-52) represent friendship with Jesus. Whether we are actively seeking this, or it is bestowed upon us through grace, we must understand that it has the highest value of anything we can possess; and once it is ours, we must never let it go.

Friendships do not just happen. As I said last week, relationships that are meant to last start out very tiny and blossom with time; and if they are holy friendships they consume the heart with love. This is what Jesus wants for each one of us: to be consumed in His love.

I’ve talked about some practical ways to begin establishing a deeper relationship with Jesus: reading Scripture; praying the Rosary; spending time with Him in silence. If you are like me, there are many, many things preoccupying your mind; so taking time out to read, pray or simply be with Jesus becomes a great battle: family members vying for our attention; grocery and other “to-do” lists; conversations with others in our minds about something we did or something we have to do; mental wanderings about an upcoming vacation or trip; the cell phone, computer or email; health issues… The list goes on.

But here’s the thing: this budding relationship with Jesus will only become an everlasting friendship (our greatest treasure…the pearl of great price) if we make the time to be with Him, and write it in stone. We must commit ourselves, and carve out time for Him – sacred time that no one and nothing else can steal. Consider your day: aren’t there things that absolutely have to get done, and on a time schedule? Spouses getting off to work on time; children getting to school on time; doctor or dentist appointments; a meeting; getting your haircut; even a workout at the gym. These are things that we wouldn’t consider delaying. So why haven’t we set aside dedicated time to be with Jesus?

Jesus Christ considered Heaven to be His pearl, His treasure…so much so that He became man, He suffered, and He died for love of each one of us personally. He rose from the dead to open the gates of Heaven to each one of us personally. Right now, today, He’s asking each one of us, personally, to make Him our treasure so that we can get to Heaven one day….

I would like to end with a beautiful excerpt from a profound little book.

A pilgrim sets out for an unknown destination. There’s trust, however, that much will be in store, because those who have taken the journey before have been transformed from who they were on departure to who they were to become in the wholeness and fullness of God. On the way there is shedding and leaving behind, and dust to be shaken off the feet. Whatever happens, the assurance that all will certainly be better than it was, that the rewards and treasures are indeed worth the toil, is what draws us to journey.

 

The journey is a solitary one, as each soul is called by name. The call is to an intimate encounter with the One who supplies everything, a growing relationship with the One who guides everything, a trusting confidence that all is already within us and will be exposed in its appropriate time. We learn to open ourselves to receive what we need, to be conscious of and cooperate with the changes we must make, to be aware of what separates us from the measure of God’s love.

 

~ The Twelve Degrees of Silence by Marie-Aimee de Jesus O.C.D.

The mere realization that Jesus is our Treasure is the spark that begins our transformation, one that leads to our conversion. Commit time to Jesus. Make this budding friendship with Him your greatest treasure and protect that Treasure with your life. For years now, I have set my alarm 30 minutes earlier than usual so I can have quiet time before my family starts their day; it has become a most serene prayer-time. Begin to disable excessive stimulation, the noise of our lives; God is found in solitude. Silence the ‘self’, especially the inquisitive and curious mind, which is always trying to draw us away from God. Don’t get discouraged; keep trying, for God is so thrilled with our efforts. Make Him, and begin treating Him, like that pearl of great price….

Pax Christi,

Cathy Wiswell, Pastoral Coordinator

July 19, 2020

The Apostles’ Column

7/19/2020

Tiny Beginnings that Expand Over Time

Greetings in Christ!

“Lord Jesus, let me know myself, let me know You, and desire nothing save You.” ~St. Augustine

I was born and raised Catholic, into a devout Catholic family; I attended Catholic schools and completed the Sacraments of Initiation before graduating from 8th grade; I was active in ministry at my Catholic High School. But I still left the Church in my late teens when I went off to college. Looking back on it, I was the picture of a devout Catholic, but I didn’t know Jesus. I didn’t know myself, so how could I even begin to know Him?

When I returned to the Church twenty-two years later, I returned exteriorly, but on the inside there was still no knowledge of Jesus. Faithfully attending Mass every Sunday, I was fed and nourished, but it lacked meaning. Mass was an obligation that I knew I must fulfill; but the words of God simply passed through me.

Over the years I heard priests speak about coming to know Jesus, having a personal relationship with Him, and how vital that was for eternal salvation. But, it always stopped there. I wasn’t connecting any of the dots at that point so I started to become frustrated. I needed details: the practical things that I could do to help me form this “personal relationship”. I didn’t understand the Trinity to any depth at that time; I knew there were three Persons, but I only ever considered them as “God”. Singling out one of Them was a bit foreboding: how was I to start that? Like many of us, I simply didn’t know how to begin.

My half-hearted searching went on for years. But then, something began to change. In retrospect I realize that so much of it was about grace, and my openness in responding to it. God showers us with grace all the time; yet in every opportunity we have a choice: to go His way, or to go our own…to cooperate with grace or not. One day, out of the blue, I finally – and intentionally – chose His way. I began to pray the Rosary, something I had not done since my youth. It had hardly any meaning, but I was faithful to it. Every time I got into the car, I turned off the radio and prayed a decade of the Rosary. Little did I realize at that time how instrumental this small act was: it became the seed for my personal relationship with Jesus. The Rosary is a living prayer, and every time we pray it – attentively or not – Mary is leading us to Him….

Within months, something else began to happen: I understood that this was a budding relationship, and the only way it would get “personal” was for me to spend time with Him, to truly begin to get to know Him. Did I care enough to set aside time to be with Him? I was so distracted with family, kids in school and work outside the home; I rarely thought about Jesus. But I knew, deep in my heart, that I had to make the move; I had to intentionally make the time, or I would lose the opportunity being presented to me.

Jesus’ parables of the mustard seed and the leaven speak to us about patience and hope. Although He is referring to the expansion of the Kingdom for tiny beginnings, we can use this as a metaphor for expanding His Kingdom in our own hearts as well. The seed and yeast start out very tiny, but are transformed into a big tree and a lot of dough. Think of the wondrous and vast difference between their tiny beginnings and their final results. In order to know Jesus, we have to be the mustard seed, we have to be the leaven. The growth and the fermentation begin only if we choose to devote time to get to know Him, and make Him the center of our lives.

Perhaps each one of us can make this summer a “mini Advent”, a time to anticipate Jesus coming into our lives in a new way. Make a small commitment to carve out some time each week to spend with Jesus, all by yourself, even just 10 – 15 minutes. This will entail sacrifice, which is Jesus’ love language! But it will be another small step in coming to know Him. Take a nature walk and begin to see and know Him in His creation. We are blessed in that both of our parish churches are open at least a portion of each week. Why not commit to 15 minutes sitting quietly in the church every week until Labor Day? And then have patience and hope: no expectations; tiny beginnings that will blossom with time if we stay the course. In taking this step, we will begin to learn about ourselves; we will begin to know Jesus and we will begin to desire Him. This is the start of a Christ-centered life.

Let us pray to Mary and ask her intercession to help us incline our hearts and minds ever-more toward Jesus, and come to know her Son.

Pax Christi,

Cathy Wiswell, Pastoral Coordinator

July 12, 2020

The Apostles’ Column

7/12/2020

“Why do you speak to them in parables…?”

Greetings in Christ!

I mentioned in the first Apostles’ Column (June 28) that we’ve all been called to carry out the Gospel message as apostles, children of God with a purpose and a mission. Every aspect of our lives must be centered in Christ: our prayer, our work and our contact with others. These are the three pillars of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. But before we delve into an intimate relationship with anyone, we have to get to know them. Without knowledge of the other person, the relationship remains superficial and without real meaning….

So, how do we come to know Jesus? One of the best ways to begin learning about Who He Is is to read Scripture. I will admit that it took me years to begin reading the Bible. I would listen to the readings at Mass every Sunday, but that was about it. I was familiar with various stories in both the Old and New Testaments, but I couldn’t quote Scripture to save my life, and I can’t to this day. But some years ago I decided to make a concerted effort to begin reading the Gospels. I simply wanted to know more about Jesus; so I purchased an approved Catholic bible with extensive and very helpful commentary.

My efforts were hit or miss for years. I couldn’t get into it. But, I kept trying; and that is what God wants from each of us: to keep trying, to keep putting in the effort to come to know Him. I was determined to take 10-15 minutes regularly to read and think about a short Gospel passage, first weekly and then with time, daily. I always found the parables particularly difficult to understand until I realized that parables are the Lord’s way of teaching us about the Kingdom of Heaven. He weaves truth into the everyday events of our lives, things that we can relate to. The naked truth is sometimes difficult to digest and accept; Jesus knows this. But if we hear the truth through a practical application, something we are familiar with, it can be more convincing.

Take The Sower of the Seed parable: Christ is the sower; each soul is the garden. He is sowing the seed of Truth into our souls, He, as the Word of God. Our job is to tend that garden: to water it and remove the weeds in order to gain knowledge and understanding. If my heart is not open to hearing the word, then my efforts will be in vain; I must be attentive to the garden of my soul.

In this earthly life, we are bombarded with obstacles: the devil, the world and the flesh continue to vie for our attention. But truly, if we begin to take just 10 minutes a week, to sit down in a quiet place and read the Bible, and we commit to that, our lives will begin to change. Turn off the TV and/or digital media; get up earlier in the morning; break away at noon; whatever it takes to put aside 10 minutes a week (with an ultimate goal of 10 minutes a day) to simply read and think about a passage in the Gospels. It could be the Gospel of the day; or a random passage. No matter what you read in the New Testament, it is Jesus speaking to you.

Jesus wants us to know Him…to listen to the truth and begin living it. He gives us so many opportunities each day, but ultimately the choice is ours: to choose His way, or some other way. Reading the Bible and thinking about His word is a start. It is a sacrifice of our time; but it is worth it! Let your soul be a Garden of Eden: tend it and grow it. Help it to grow better each day, more perfect; otherwise it will deteriorate and turn to wasteland. When I found Your words, I devoured them; they became my joy and the happiness of my heart. (Jeremiah 15:16)

Pax Christi,

Cathy Wiswell, Pastoral Coordinator

July 5, 2020

The Apostles’ Column

7/05/2020

For My yoke is easy and My burden is light…

Greetings in Christ!

One huge jump that we all have to make at some point in our lives is to trust God implicitly: not just with some things, but with everything: our material needs, our family dynamics, our health, our jobs, the world at large…the list is endless. We live in a state of concern and trepidation about every aspect of our lives. Do we ever stop to consider our constant loss of peace in the comings and goings of our day? In the current state of affairs we are getting further and further from that place of peace: we are more isolated than ever, not just physically but socially as well; we cover our faces, even when no one else is around us; we are immersed in the daily news of the mainstream media which only serves to heighten our fear about things we have absolutely no control over. We have lost our peace, collectively and individually.

Where does peace come from anyway? And how do we get it? Not just for a moment or two; but true and lasting peace? The answer is simple, yet demanding, because it requires us to change. Jesus Christ is peace. Jesus is the only source of deep and abiding peace. Our worldly burdens are oppressive, but Jesus has offered to take our burdens, and carry them for us! So what does He demand? That we surrender everything to Him, and therein lies the difficulty. It’s so challenging to let go, to allow God’s plan to unfold in our midst and not try to control the outcome, or the steps leading up to it. Sometimes we get part way there: we begin to let go; then we find ourselves not happy with whatever is happening and we get fearful, or we grumble and complain.

Surrender is one of the first steps in living a Christ-centered life. Each of us is at a different place on the journey, but we can all surrender in some way every single day: sometimes it’s little things like not having a favorite snack; or getting up 5 minutes earlier than usual to start the day with prayer. Sometimes it’s a little more difficult, like doing our best to avoid speaking uncharitably about someone, or not having a judgment or an opinion about a situation around us. Surrender is something that comes with time and practice, but we have to want it to attain it. And it will only come with God’s grace.

Novenas are prayers that come in groups of nine, typically once a day for nine days. They are very powerful and we can often see the fruit of the prayer before the novena ends. In this time of great uncertainty in the Church, with Covid-19 and the civil unrest that stretches across the globe, we could all use some peace…peace that comes only through surrender to Jesus. I’ve included in The Apostles’ Column a wonderful start to letting go, and giving everything over to Jesus: The Surrender Novena. (click to read) Perhaps we could each take 10 minutes a day, in a quiet place for the next nine days and ask Jesus to take our burdens, so that we can have peace. I’ve been known to convert 9 day novenas to ‘perpetual’ novenas, praying them over and over for a particular grace in my life to help me change. Maybe a perpetual Surrender Novena is just what the Church needs right now…. Come to Me all you who labor, and I will give you rest….

Pax Christi,

Cathy Wiswell, Pastoral Coordinator

June 28, 2020

The Apostles’ Column

6/28/2020

Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect

It is the last weekend of the fiscal year in the Archdiocese of Seattle. Normally this is a time when we see priests transitioning to new parishes, but as we all know that is not happening this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Fr. Robb, our beloved pastor these past six years, retires in just a few short days, and we will miss him dearly. It is sad that we are unable to have a going away reception for him now or perhaps even in the coming months; he told me recently he’d prefer to wait on that until such time that he’s feeling up to it. Father’s health issues (the congestive heart failure and ongoing issues with his prosthesis) continue to be a bit of a struggle for him, so please hold this up in prayer. Thanks to everyone who brought or sent in retirement cards to the offices I will deliver them after the 4th of July, so if you have one that you haven’t sent in yet, please do so ASAP. The big “gift boxes” will remain in the narthex of each church until the end of next week; feel free to swing by either church during visiting hours and drop your card in the box! You may certainly send or bring the cards to the parish office as well! Again, let us keep Father in our prayers, thanking God for his pastorate these past six years, as well as his priestly ministry the past 46 years; and wishing him all the love and peace of Christ!

Archbishop Etienne recently consecrated 2020 The Year of the Eucharist in the Archdiocese of Seattle. It will run until the feast of Corpus Christi 2021. As I begin my tenure as Pastoral Coordinator, I cannot help but consider what the upcoming year holds for all of us . The Eucharist is the source and summit of our Faith, and in that It should be the center of all we do; as parishes certainly, but more importantly, as individuals.

We are in an unprecedented time in the history of the Catholic Church, a time of great suffering in The Body of Christ, the Church militant; but also a time of great opportunity and purification. To save the world we  need to be saints in these times. Each one of us must strive to live a life of Christian perfection now more than ever, moment by moment; the current milieu demands it. If we relax our efforts, out of fear or any other number of reasons, we are failing our Baptismal call.

Over the course of this next year it is my hope that our parishes will become more holy; that each of us will strengthen our faith and become more Christ centered. I will be working with the Pastoral Council to  explore ways that we can call people to conversion, help strengthen families, renew our efforts at being more welcoming parishes and developing strong leadership in our ministries. We have all been called to carry out the Gospel message, and we must do so not merely as disciples, or students of the Word; but as apostles, children of God with a purpose and a mission. In our prayer; in our work; in our contact with others; in our suffering…in every aspect of our lives we must be centered on Christ and the Eucharist.

The Apostles’ Column is about all of us and in it I will share with you each week ways that we can strengthen our faith through prayer, service in the parishes, building community and the like. For now, I have a special request: next year at this time we will be welcoming a new pastor. That is my great hope, and I know that each of you joins me in that hope. The prayer below was written imploring God to bless us with a new and holy pastor next year. If we all pray for this daily, it will come. Please make a concerted effort to join me and the other parishioners in praying daily:

QA/SJ Prayer for a holy pastor.

Dear God our Father, we ask for blessings on your parishes, Queen of Angels and St. Joseph, our homes and sanctuaries of faith. We pray for the intercession of St. John Vianney, the beloved patron of parish priests, to send us a holy pastor in July 2021, an d with this prayer to open our hearts to the love and faith and will of Almighty God. Lord God, we petition you with all humility and an unwavering trust that these prayers will be heard, and that joy and peace will bloom in our faith communities. We petit ion all the angels and saints and our Virgin Mother as we seek a holy pastor, a disciple of Christ, to guide and lead us in our journey with God and to our eternal rest. We ask this as always, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Thank you for all of your loving support over the past several months. It’s a new time, but an exciting time. Know that you remain in my prayers as we move forward together in the midst of all the uncertainty.

Christ’s peace be yours today and always,

Cathy Wiswell, Pastoral Coordinator

Queen of Angels

209 W. 11th St.
Port Angeles, WA 98362
(360) 452-2351

qa@clallamcatholic.org

St. Joseph Parish

121 E. Maple St.
Sequim, WA 98382
(360) 683-6076

sj@clallamcatholic.org