An exotic restaurant in southern California was named “Eddie and the Dragon,” and it served upscale clientele.
One evening, a beggar approached the back door, and he said to the woman who appeared to be in charge, “Ma’am, I haven’t had nothin’ to eat in days! Could you spare me some food?”
“Get out of here,” yelled the woman. “We don’t feed beggars or bums!”
The man turned and left. But a few minutes later he returned to the back door.
“What now?!” asked the irritated woman.
The beggar, looking up at the name of the restaurant on the sign over the door, pointed toward it and said, “I wonder if I could talk with Eddie this time?”
* * * * * * *
A small story with a point to ponder. Could this be me? Could this be you?
Hopefully not, and may the Good God find us with magnanimous, generous hearts.
In the Redeemer —
When I have a break in my daily schedule, I enjoy a long walk in the woods. There are several paths around the area, but my favorite is Springs Run Trail, just over the ridge on the north side of Saint Clement’s. For me, a most enjoyable thing is watching the birds, and I’ve noticed there are many Blue Jays up here! On rare occasions, you can even see a flock of Jays!
When I was a kid, I remember several Jays flying around our house, and they’d boldly fly onto our back porch if there were a peanut to be had. So, once in a while we’d place a few peanuts out back and, once discovered, the Jays would swoop down. Piggies for peanuts! If they could grab a small one, they’d throw their head back to make room for another. Why take only one at a time!?
Once, just to be ornery, we put a line of peanuts on the outside railing. However, we tacked down the peanut closed to the door with a big hat pin. Only one Blue Jay showed up that day, but he decided to quickly hoard them all—lest another Jay come along. He wanted the whole schlemiel! Starting the furthest away, he zipped back and forth until he came to the last nut ….
Oh, how he struggled to pick it up! “Dagnabbit, it won’t move! How is it stuck?!” He tried and tried, and then he tried some more. He was ranting and raving, cursing this bad-luck peanut. But, finally he gave up and flew away in a huff. Meanwhile, we were in the doorway and laughing at his expense.
Perhaps we laugh because other creatures remind us of ourselves? We chuckle at what our dogs and cats do. We giggle because a parrot says something. Even a wild creature like a Blue Jay can make us roar with laughter. Hmmm, I wonder if any of them, in their own way, sit back (or up in a tree) and laugh at us because we remind them of themselves?
In the Redeemer —
A century ago, Joyce Kilmer published a poem which most of us are familiar with or, well, at least many know the first stanza. It begins: “I think that I shall never see // A poem lovely as a tree.” (No, I didn’t miss an “as.” That’s how it was actually composed.)
Since my arrival in Saratoga three years ago, we’ve taken down approximately ten trees around the property! That’s a shame, but there was a very good reason to do so in each instance. For example, our gardener Ray got to calling the largest pines in our Stations Grotto the “widowmaker.” A very majestic tree, but potentially deadly with the next windstorm! Like us, even though many trees can easily outlive us, they grow sick and die.
It has been said that the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago or today. We don’t have a time machine, so 1998 is out of the question. However, we can do something here in 2018 so that when 2038 rolls around, the property will look gorgeous! What I’m doing with this Pastor’s corner is metaphorically planting a seed (an acorn perhaps?) in all your minds: if we’ve taken down ten, then let’s see about putting up at least twenty! Are you with me?
However, the tree-planting season is quickly coming to a close. The next window of opportunity will be in mid-autumn. I’m planning to write more shortly (in an insert), but in the meantime, think about how you and your family may wish to donate a tree to Saint Clement’s and keep this corner of Saratoga Springs awash in greens and other splendid colors!
Oh, and I suspect that you may know the ending to Joyce Kilmer’s poem:
“Poems are made by fools like me // But only God can make a tree.” So, if I may add a verse: “Ten have fallen but twenty will rise // To newly grace Saratoga’s skies.”
In the Redeemer —
On Friday, May 25th, Bishop Emeritus Hubbard will visit Saint Clement’s to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation with us. However, it’s not simply a matter of us waiting for the bishop to arrive. There are still things to do ….
First of all, there’s a rehearsal on Thursday the 24th. The ultimate purpose of a rehearsal is to put all at ease so everyone can “enter into the moment.”
Secondly, other preparation—namely prayer and reflection. Confirmandi will receive a supernatural grace, and something so weighty should be received in the state of grace and with a prayerful heart. Pray, pray, pray so more. And if in doubt, go to confession to make sure the Seven Gifts are well met.
Confirmandi should already have a confirmation name in mind. This is a saint’s name which resonates with you deeply. You will have a new advocate in your prayer life and life’s battles. Choose wisely if you already haven’t!
Confirmation gifts are all good and well. Better yet is being fully present to that moment where the bishop lays his hand upon you to call down the Holy Spirit and then seals your forehead with Chrism. It all will happen quickly! Nevertheless, the best gift you may give to yourself is to pay full attention and realize that an extraordinary grace is being poured out upon you at that very moment!
Finally, I would ask all Confirmandi to please dress appropriately. It should be something comfortable, yes, but above all something that shows Christian dignity. Modesty and reverence are virtues.
You may very well end the evening feeling as though nothing has changed. But, regardless of how you feel, given time you should sense a change. Those Seven Gifts are meant to be difference makes in your spiritual life. Gently challenge the Spirit to show you how they help lead you toward eternal life—beginning in the here and now. He will not disappoint a sincere heart.
In the Redeemer —
I do not go the movies as often as I’d like. (On the other hand, there’s not much worthwhile seeing nowadays, is there?)
But, during my vacation, I had the opportunity to see Paul the Apostle, twice.
Jim Caviezel, who played Jesus in The Passion of the Christ, played the role of Saint Luke. If you could get beyond seeing him playing another role, then I suspect that you’d also zero in on Jim Faulkner’s portrayal of Saint Paul. In my humble opinion, Faulkner’s performance was masterful. How would Paul look, think, laugh, cry, talk, and more? Faulkner’s interpretation is exactly how I’ve envisioned this great apostle.
A matter of taste? Perhaps.
In the middle of the movie, there are two key scenes, back to back, that cemented this version of Paul for me. In the first scene, some of the younger men in the Roman community argue for striking back. Speaking for Paul, Luke locks horns with the malcontents. In the next scene, Luke meets with Paul in prison, describing the dilemma to the apostle. However, Luke is now crumbling as cowardice creeps into his heart. Jim Faulkner’s Paul looms large in this particular moment, while Caviezel’s wide-eyed Luke shrinks into the shadows. What is most striking are Paul’s words (taken from 1st Corinthians) said with a perfect balance of emotion and conviction. Nothing feels forced or contrived. These scenes, therefore, become the movie’s pivotal moments.
If you get the chance, get to the theater, buy a big tub of popcorn and soda, sit back and take it all in. Maybe you, too, will want to end up seeing it again.
In the Redeemer —
I am starting the Easter Season, that is the Resurrection through Pentecost Sunday, with a vacation. This weekend I, er that is we, will celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday. Let us reflect on this wonderful grace:
Reflecting upon past moments often helps to bring the present into a sharper focus. Just like my reflection upon Palm Sunday, my first memorable Easter is one of those moments, for me.
My mother’s mother was still living in upstate PA when I was a little four-year-old squirt. Shamokin is nothing much to talk about, a small, dirty, coal-mining town nestled alongside two mountains. Oh, but it had five Catholic churches. That Easter we went to Saint Joe’s.
On the inside, Saint Joe’s was a bright church with tall, white walls and brilliant lights. Lilies were placed around the whole church and their “icky” fragrance permeated the church interior, which contrasted greatly with the burning incense. After several weeks of “somber singing,” all of the music was now very joyful. Everyone was decked out in their Sunday Best, and most the babas wore Easter bonnets. However, being the little kid in knickers (yes, Mom dressed me up more Oktoberfest than Easter!), all of these sights, sounds, and smells were still beyond me. What did it all mean?
What wasn’t beyond me was the Easter basket when we returned to Grandma’s house. Jelly beans, chocolate & peanut butter eggs, and the enormous chocolate bunny! Wow, I was all over it! Kind of like Christmas, I thought, but more edible! (However, I quickly developed a lifelong hatred for white chocolate when I overdosed on it. Ugh.)
What has stuck with me over the years? Oh, I might go for a taste of chocolate, but nothing more, thank you very much. That has come and gone. What has arrived and grown is an appreciation of the reason for this season—and this day. Easter is the greatest day of glory, wonder, and thanksgiving. And it will become more glorious with every passing year. Please, just don’t overwhelm me with the lilies, and never, ever offer me any white chocolate!
In the Redeemer,
One of my first vivid memories of church is Palm Sunday. My family and I went to Mass at Saint Mary’s in Marietta, PA. It was an old-style church with ancient statues, faded paint and even more faded wallpaper, creaky pews, and a carpet-covered communion rail. This particular Sunday stood out because this Mass was so different than any other.
First of all, that Mass seemed to last forever! For a precocious, rambunctious little boy, sitting still for a long time was not easy. I grew antsy, particularly during the reading of the Passion, because I couldn’t understand why we had to stand so much. Secondly, it was a “hot” day (springtime arrives quicker there than here), and I couldn’t sit contently and keep quietly warm as I had during winter.
But, the biggest reason it was so different to me was that we did something unusual that day. Everyone one had these long, green shoots, which were kind of like leaves —or like flimsy green swords to a little boy’s wandering imagination. (My father was quick to tell me to behave myself, lol.) Then, for some unknown reason at the beginning of Mass, everybody held these green leaves up, and Father Callistus walked down the main aisle sprinkling us with water. Well, I didn’t quite get what it meant, even after it was explained to me, but this unique moment certainly made an impression!
I vaguely remember going to church again later that week, although I cannot tell you whether it was for Holy Thursday, Good Friday, or Stations of the Cross. That seemed odd, but not unexpected. I somehow knew we were in a different time as far as church was concerned. But what struck me and stuck with me the most from that “first year” were the palms held high and the shower of tiny raindrops on my face. “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!”
In the Redeemer,
Three essential things make any parish what she is. If you remove any of the three, a parish ceases to exist. Likewise, if you diminish any, a parish becomes a shade of what it is meant to be. And those three things are? Worship (i.e., Mass, Adoration, and celebration of the sacraments), Catechesis, and Pastoral Care. All of the other stuff, as good as it may be, is gravy. So, it only follows that one of a pastor’s greatest concerns is building up these three columns.
We have CCD for our children. We have RCIA for those coming into the Church. Properly speaking, we have nothing for adults, yet. Starting in September, a weekly catechetical meeting (on Wednesday evenings, from 6 to 7) will begin here at Saint Clement’s, and hopefully continuing until Jesus comes again in glory. The material to be used is (as I like to call it) “meat and potatoes.” It will be open to all who are 19+ years old, for whenever it fits into your schedule. The objective is to grow in deeper knowledge and appreciation of our Faith. There will be no timetable about when where we’re “done.” More to be said in the future.
Concerning next year’s CCD program for the kiddies, the deadline is now set at Wednesday, September 12th. One may sign up now, and you need only talk to Randy and Maureen Rivers, Denise Salage, or Fran Fay to get the ball rolling. Thank you!
Bocce Ball! At this very moment, we have approximately 30 teams signed up. Randy Rivers and I will soon be constructing a handbook and the schedule. Everything that you will need to know will be written down. The biggest thing you will need to know is that we want everyone to have fun. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy! (And the same holds true for Jill!) We’ll be touching base with all the teams by Easter. Thanks!
In the Redeemer,
Since Lent is a penitential season, more opportunities will be offered to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation….
On Wednesday the 7th, Father Tuttle and I will be in the confessionals from 2 o’clock to 4 o’clock. Later that day, Father Bob and I will be in the confessionals from 7 o’clock to 9 o’clock. On Wednesday the 28th, I will be in the confessional from 1 o’clock to 4 o’clock. Later that day, I will be in the confessional from 7 o’clock to 9 o’clock.
And, while it should go without saying, you need only contact myself or one of my confreres to make an appointment to go to confession. May we all grow closer to Our Lord Jesus Christ this Lent and Easter.
One more important note: Randy Rivers will be in the Gathering Space after all the Masses next weekend, March 10th and 11th, to get people signed up for our first season of Saint Clement’s Bocce Ball League. The sign-up forms will be at the front office during the next two weeks, too, and then Randy and I will sit down to plan out the season. Sign up will close on March 15th.
Hoping and praying everyone is having a prayerful Lent and preparing well for the great feast of Easter.
In the Redeemer,
A remembrance of a day long ago has been running thru my mind since we celebrated Ash Wednesday and entered Lent.
When I was ten, my brother Matt, my Uncle Jim, and I went for a hike. We were at my Grandma’s house in Shamokin, PA. On the other side of that small city was Big Mountain, which was covered with coal and slag. On the ridge road halfway up was one of those mammoth coal trucks, the kind where the tires are about 12’ in diameter. Matt and I desperately wanted to see that truck up close, and Uncle Jim wanted to see it as well. So, we walked across town, found the access road and walked up the mountain. Some pine trees had found purchase in the rocks, but otherwise, it was a barren landscape. Our shoes and pants were getting dusty, but they weren’t too bad—yet.
Our road didn’t go directly to the truck, so we had to double back on a terrace roadway. However, once we got there and were done admiring that monstrosity, we were faced with a “dilemma.” We were very thirsty, and returning from whence we came would only make it worse. The sun was sharp and hot. The alternative route was scramble down the gigantic coal bank to the city. It wasn’t dangerous; rather, it would guarantee that we’d be covered with coal dust, at least from the waist down. (“Ah, we can just brush it off!” I said.) And so we went downhill ….
A cold Coca-Cola and 45 minutes later we returned to Grandma’s house. Oh, but was there holy heck to pay, because we were layered with coal dust! (It was as though we’d spent a day working in a coal mine!) Both Mom and Grandma were livid. But, being the kids, Matt and I didn’t take the brunt of the scolding, instead that landed squarely on Uncle Jim.
I needed a long, hot shower to get squeaky clean. Coal dust can get everywhere and anywhere given a chance!
In the Redeemer,
Last weekend I cracked open the chestnut about how to go to confession. Now I’d like to crack open another. Why? Why should I go to confession?
“Why?” is always our biggest question, for anything we do. If we’re given a sufficient reason then, I believe, most persons will respond rightly. Concerning Reconciliation, the quick answer is we cannot absolve ourselves, nor does time heal all our wounds, nor are we as good as we think we are.
What?! Especially that last part …. What?!
True, there are times we need to “forgive ourselves,” but that’s an emotional concern. Real forgiveness, where sin is wiped away, and the soul is purified, can only happen with God. It takes an Infinite Person to annihilate an infinite offense.
Time heals many things, such as emotional wounds. But, time cannot heal wounds of the soul. The soul is built for timelessness, for eternity; its remedy for spiritual ills are found only with One who is Infinitely Timeless.
Nature builds upon grace. While there is such a thing as “human virtue,” it is a mere shadow of supernatural virtue. “Without me, you can do nothing,” says Jesus (Jn. 15:5). In Confession, God helps us to reacquire our baptismal innocence, where we are cloaked in Christ’s merits. Imagine how powerful a person’s words and actions are when our nature is built upon His grace!
“Those who pray will be saved; those who do not will be lost,” says Saint Alphonsus. He also opines that anyone who goes a month without praying commits a mortal sin. The Church bids us go to confession at least once a year. I wonder, what would this patron saint of moral theologians say about those that rarely go to confession, if ever? Don’t quibble with the saints ….
The “why” is that we all need God’s grace to touch and transform our hearts. Anything short of that is foolish and risky.
In the Redeemer,
As we approach Lent, we all should be thinking about righting our relationship with the Good God. In Scripture, we hear: “For the just man falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble to ruin” (Prv. 24:16). All of us stumble in some way before the Lord. With that in mind, the Church bids us go to confession at least once a year—lest we stumble into eternal ruin.
A few thoughts to ponder ….
One, I believe it helps to confess in the following way: “I accuse myself of the following sins ….” When we ponder what is happening, that verb accuse is most applicable. Before Him, we all are in need of His grace, lest we lose our souls forever. We cannot save ourselves.
Two, in a similar fashion, it is sufficient to say just that. Quite often penitents will give a back story to why they did such-and-such. Again, if we ponder, that can mean that we’re starting to self-justify. “Oh, if it wasn’t for this person doing this, then I wouldn’t have done that!” Our posture should be one of humility, honesty, and courage. The fault is mine, not another’s.
Three, it’s necessary to examine one’s conscience beforehand. Oh, the priest will surely help you, but virtually everyone is capable of doing this. My best counsel is to search your heart out each night as you crawl into bed because there’s no better way to end the day! And if you’re still unsure, read thru the Catechism and consider well what you read, because it is “a sure guide.”
Four, while laundry-list confessions are not the goal, it helps to mention how much you struggle. For example, if using the Lord’s name in vain is a daily sin, then convey that reality. (The Council of Trent bids us to number our sins for our own good.) There’s a big difference between the man who curses once a year, once a week, or several times a day!
I’ve many other thoughts to share, but space doesn’t permit it. We are offered one of the greatest gifts in this sacrament. Jesus asks us our deadly sins and, in exchange, He offers us grace upon grace. How can anything else compare to this?
In the Redeemer,
Please allow me to explain the reason for the orange cones along Lake Avenue and alongside the church. Our next door neighbors at the Grove have expressed three concerns.
First, some parishioners use their parking lot. Until recently this has not been much of a problem, but as they approach capacity, that has changed. If you park there now, you may be ticketed and towed. Second, the lane between the church and the Grove needs to be kept clear since it is a fire lane. If you park there, there’s a good chance you may be ticketed and towed. Third, on Lake Avenue, people consistently ignore the signs that say “No Parking from Here to the Corner.” This makes it very difficult for their residents to leave without risking an accident. Additionally, several cones have been placed directly in front of our property where these signs exist—and are consistently ignored. Large vehicles parked at the corners make exiting and entering dangerous at times.
Please do not move the cones. Please do not park between them. Please also pass this information on to everyone else who visits our parish or school, in particular. We have sufficient parking on our lot. (Heck, use the clergy parking if you need to!) The Grove manager and I will be meeting with the city administrator about having those Lake Avenue spaces white-lined in Spring. When the parking lot is sealed in the summer, we can dedicate more spaces for handicap parking, if the need exists.
The bottom line is safety for our neighbors and parishioners. Thank you.
In the Redeemer,
“All work and no play makes Johnny a very boring fellow.” I’m not sure that’s the exact quote, but you get the idea. With that in mind, we will begin our first season of Saint Clem’s Bocce Ball League this year, starting in late April. (Oh, in case you missed it, one bocce court was built toward the back of the property last summer. Another will soon be built as an Eagle Scout project.)
Who can participate? Any parishioners from 9th grade to age 99 may play. (We can see about creating a junior league in the future, okay?) Each team will consist of two persons. They will play round-robin from April to August, culminating with the Super Bowl(ing) #1.
Meanwhile, we’ll also have a parish-wide gathering with hot wings, hot dogs, burgers, a bouncy-bounce,horseshoes, etc., etc. Hopefully, it will be a competitive season for everyone to look forward to!
Sign-up forms will soon appear in the parish office. So, grab a friend or a family member and sign up! Come up with a catchy team name (maybe something like the yellow blackbirds or the pink elephants). Once we have the rosters set, Randy Rivers and I will construct the round-robin, and we’ll post the weekly standings in the church bulletin. Scoring will be simple: a win is worth 3 points and a tie gives 1 point to each team. We’ll also keep track of game points, for and against. Then on Thursday, August 23rd, the top 4 teams will play for the trophy. (Yeah, we do plan on getting a trophy!)
The deadline to sign up is March 15th, Saint Clement’s feast day. Good luck and let the bragging begin!
In the Redeemer,
Brrrrr!!!! It’s soooo COLD!!!!
The first week of January I was on vacation in southern PA, at Mom’s house. However, it felt more like northernNew York. I could have sworn that I took Saratoga south with me. Like everyone else, Mom and I spent the whole week sitting inside. I didn’t have even the slightest temptation to step foot on the country roads like I usually do.
Yes, it was shared grief all around, wasn’t it? In an odd way, it made me feel slightly warmer (but not without sympathy!) to see that I’d escaped an overnight wind chill of -30 here in Saratoga. At Mom’s, we were dealing with -10 wind chill. But, both were balmy in comparison to Mount Washington, where crazy weather researchers at the Tip-Top House were enduring -90 overnight! Wow! They referred to it as “stupid cold.”
It’s been said that a snowstorm is God’s way of telling us to slow down. In a similar fashion, I’d imagine that a cold snap is another one of God’s ways of saying the same thing. “Slow down, keep warm, have a hot
chocolate, and …?”
And what? Do what? Movies? Eat? Read? Xbox? Sleep? Etc.?
What about pray? With many things shelved for several days, did this slow-down open any moments in your life for prayer and reflection? Or, did any worldly stuff invade and conquer that space?
It’s a good question to ask. And, if the semi-stupid cold returns this winter, it is a good question to ask ourselves again.
In the Redeemer,
This is our first weekend with the new Mass schedule. I am aware that some are not very happy with this change; I suspect that for many others it’s just another change in the lifetime of a parish. Nevertheless, I hope that we all shall settle into this new schedule well.
Another change I mentioned weeks ago, and it’s one for which I’m sure that I’ll receive some criticism. However, it is a practical and necessary change. The time between the request for baptism and the actual baptism is now going to be two months. The reason for this change is to give parents to make sure preparation and godparent selection is done correctly. This is a pastoral delay, not a denial of the sacrament.
Some parents have complained about “church rules” or “being singled out,” whenever it comes to the godparents they have pre-selected as being called unqualified. In short, they don’t want to understand it. My duty as a pastor, as a priest, is to see to it that the sacrament is properly celebrated, according to the teachings of the Church.
This is what a pastor, a father, does: he sometimes makes difficult, unpopular decisions.
* * * * * * *
I hope that 2018 is a blessed year for all of our parishioners. May the Good Lord bless you all in abundance, particularly with the Holy Spirit.
In the Redeemer,