This Week in Prayer, Service & Community - April 12, 2019

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This Week – April 12, 2019

Dear All:

Christ’s Peace!

Extra blessings for every parishioner as we head into the year’s holiest week. Be sure to check the section below and the parish bulletin for times for all our Holy Week services. Greatest thanks, in advance, to the scores of people who make the Triduum so beautiful around here. What a grace it is to pray with all of you – the helpers and the entire congregation. I hope you can block out some extra time to quietly and sincerely recall what He has done for you and your loved ones. Blessed be.

THIS WEEK IN PRAYER 

  • Palm Sunday – Please take palms on the way into church this weekend. Hold them good and high for the blessing at the start of the Mass.

  • Holy Week – Services are as follows:

    • Holy Thursday – Mass of the Lord’s Supper, 7:30 pm.

    • Holy Thursday – Adoration, 9:00-11:00 pm.

    • Good Friday – Passion Liturgy, 3:00 pm

    • Good Friday – Stations of Cross, 7:30 pm

    • Holy Saturday – Blessing of the Easter food, 9:00 am (Hospitality Room)

    • Holy Saturday – Easter Vigil (begins with fire in front of church) 8:00 pm

    • Easter Sunday – Masses at 7:15 am, 9:30 am and 11:30 am.

    • Easter Sunday – NO 6:00 PM MASS

Sunday’s Homily 

April 7, 2019 — Fifth Sunday of Lent
A Deeper Our Father? Part 5: “Deliver us from evil"?

To listen to Sunday’s homily, click here.

To read a summary of it, go to the bottom of this page.

THIS WEEK IN SERVICE: 

  • SPRING CLEANING – Mark your calendars for Saturday, April 27, the Saturday after Easter. Check out the projects pictured and described in the gathering space this weekend and next. Then pick one. It is a great day for the workers and (weather permitting) a gigantic help to the parish. 

  • Ministry Recruiting – GREAT blessings for all who signed up for new ministries. Get this – 111 people (one hundred and eleven) committed to new ministries this year. That is an amazingly beautiful thing.

  • Virtus Training – Please complete the training if you can – and surely if you hope to work with children or vulnerable adults. Bob Ferretti will be offering two sessions on Wednesday, April 17 – one at 9:30 am and another at 6:30 pm. Register online today!

THIS WEEK IN COMMUNITY:

  • Trivia Night – Who knew it would be such an outstanding night? More fun than I could have guessed. The table decorations were a riot – and the seeds are already planted for next year. Thanks to Bob Ferretti for taking a chance with a new fellowship event to subsidize our youth. GREAT work. 

  • Blue Storm Banquet(s) – Yes, the turnout was once again so strong that the organizers had to have two banquets on Sunday for our basketball players, their coaches and their families. Blue Storm truly is an enormous credit to the parish. Thanks to all who made the season and the banquet happen. And thanks, and thanks again to our players for using so well the gifts God has given you. You inspire us.

  • Seven New Names – How is that going for you? I have heard rumors that there will be “cash and prizes” for the fold that does the best at learning each other’s names. I do not comment on rumors!

  • Becca’s Friends (BF) – What great fun that was – the Easter Egg Decorating Morning last Saturday, April 6. The BF gang had a great time decorating the eggs and enjoying a delicious brunch compliments of Janet Pescinski, one of the coordinators for BF. 7th Grade confirmation students, as well as the BF Ministry members, enjoyed a fun morning enjoying each other and decorating eggs. You can see the finished project in the Parish Hall on the white trees on the stage.

  • SAGES MINISTRIES – Our “Sages Ministry,” our new parish ministry to identify and address the pastoral, spiritual, educational and recreational aspirations of our wisest parishioners (i.e., 55+) is off to a rollicking great start. The first go-round of programs begins right after Easter. Each of these most promising gatherings is on a Wednesday (the least active day of the week) from 2-4 pm (the least engaged time of day): April 24, old comedy clips; May 8, wine and painting (ZERO talent required); May 22, daytime game night, and; June 5, activities fair (learn more and voice preferences about upcoming programs). BE THERE.

  • A Parish Columbarium? – Learn more about the possibility of a Parish Columbarium. The first draft of the plans make it look quite beautiful. The financials make it look quite do-able. Plan to attend an information session: Sunday, April 28 at 10:45 or Monday, May 13 at 7:00 pm

  • Confirmation Reception – GREAT and overdue thanks to the folks who organized the reception after last week’s celebration of Confirmation. Big thanks to the 7th graders who made the reception beautiful. Special thanks to Ryan Sahns and his mom, Cindy, who led the charge. The 8th graders and their families truly appreciated everyone’s efforts!

  • Derby Party – If you are a 4:45 person, plan to stick around church on May 4 to watch the Kentucky Derby with your Mass-mates. There is talk of hats. Could be fun. Definitely BYOB and munchies.


Your Pastor’s Brag – This week it is all about folks with musical talent!

  • Musical Theatre Prize – Bravo for HHS freshman Kelly Irwin (11:30 S 4) who last week placed first in the musical theatre junior category at the Mid Atlantic Music Teacher’s Guild competition. Congratulations Kelly. May you break many legs for many years!

  • Many Drummers Drumming! – Lauren Ellis (6:00 S CHOIR) has been drumming since she was a little kid and now that she is a big kid she is keeping up the great work, for our 6:00 pm Mass and for Immaculata High School. Most recently, Lauren was part of the group that won the USBands Indoor Percussion Championships. How blessed are we to have Lauren drumming for us?

Please email me some of the good news you know about parishioners for “The Pastors Brag.”

Fr Hank

April 7, 2019 — Fifth Sunday of Lent
A Deeper Our Father? Part 5: “Deliver us from evil"?


We Catholics end the Lord’s Prayer with a bit of urgency as we pray “deliver us from evil.” Sunday’s readings invite us to wonder what we mean when we say that. They also invite us to wonder what God wants us to mean when we say that.

The readings suggest that God wants to deliver us from both the evil that comes to us and the evil that comes through us. God wants to lift us above all participation in evil, both the evil others do unto us and the evil we do unto ourselves and others.

Sunday’s first reading (Isaiah 43) describes two colossal events in Israel’s history. The first, the Exodus, lay in the past. The other, the return from Babylon, had yet to occur when Isaiah was written. Both the Exodus and the liberation from Babylon are stories of God delivering people from the evil others did unto the Israelites and the evil the Israelites did to themselves and others.

The flight from Egypt rescued the Israelites from the horrors of slavery that Pharaoh inflicted on them. The forty years of desert wandering were then years of purification when God dialed down the Israelites’ evil inclinations to worship false gods, to torment Moses and others, to gripe about God, and to perform other evils. The Exodus delivered the children of Israel from both external and internal evil.

The Liberation from Babylon is a similar story. God used Cyrus of Persia to deliver the exiles from the evils Nebuchadnezzar and his minions did to the Chosen. And God used the time in Babylon to purify the exiles of their worst tendencies to sin as they did before the exile. God delivered the Israelites from the evils others did to them and the evils they did to themselves and others.

The gospel story (John 8) Follows the same pattern. The religious leaders were eager to stone to death the woman caught in adultery. Jesus rescued her from their wicked intentions. He also rescued the woman from the evil she did to herself. After dismissing her accusers, Jesus told the woman, “Go and from now on do not sin anymore.” He delivered her from the evil that came to her and the evil that came through her.

What about you? From which evils do you really want God to deliver you? What evils do you have in mind when you close the Our Father? What evils do you suspect God wants you to have in mind when you close the Our Father? More specifically, from which evils committed by other people do you want God to deliver you? Are there people who seem out to hurt you? Are there situations in the world that hurt you, and those responsible for the hurt don’t even know you exist? Which evils in the world seem most threatening to you and your loved ones and your larger community?

And which of your misdeeds seem to require God’s intervention? Do you have some dopey little sinful habits that you seem unable to escape? Perhaps you have addictions that hurt yourself and others? From which participations in evil do you want God to liberate you?

We praying people ask God so frequently to “deliver us from evil.” What might be your next two or three steps in meaning that more? When you stop and think about it, from which handful of evils – both those that others commit and those that you commit – do you most want to be delivered? And as you gain clarity on your intentions, can you sense God gaining delight in your prayer?

This Week in Prayer, Service & Community - April 5, 2019

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This Week – April 5, 2019

Dear All:

Christ’s Peace!

Tonight’s Trivia Night – a very fun fundraiser for our summer work trips – is welcoming walk-ins. I tend to be great with bible questions and certain aspects of history. I can also name New Jersey’s 21 counties in alphabetical order but something tells me that will not be one of the questions. I stink at Hollywood questions and at most (but not all) areas of sports history. Let me know if my skills complement your team’s. It would be good to form a winning team. The games start at 7:00. Remember to BYOB and BYOmunchies.

THIS WEEK IN PRAYERA Week of Amazing Graces 
– The flow of grace around here this week has been remarkable. 

  • The Confirmation Retreat and Concert – Rea Larangeria, one of our most cherished parishioners-in-law, led a most dynamic, all-Saturday retreat for our confirmandi. The joint was jumping for much of the day as they prayed, talked, and sang with gusto. Thanks to Rea and to Bob Ferretti and the many members of the Youth Group who helped Rea.

  • Confirmation – Thursday’s celebration of Confirmation was a night of exceptional grace. Blessings for Bishop Checchio who introduced us to a new and marvelous way for him to move among the confirmandi. Thanks and blessings for our 66 Confirmandi, their parents and sponsors, their CCD teachers, our CCD Program leaders, Jim Jungels and Linda Mackiw and, once again the ushers. Thanks to the choir from the 6:00 pm Mass and thanks to the folks who organized the refreshments and to Michelle and Bill for organizing dinner for the bishop. It was a giant team effort and it worked out beautifully. A special cheer for the confirmandi for making deliberate eye contact with the bishop and shaking his hand firmly! 

  • The Lenten Penance Service – We had a few hundred people come to the ten priests for confession. It was especially excellent to celebrate the sacrament with the scores of 7th graders who “had to go” and many of their parents who used the night as an excuse to go. I still cannot put my finger on it, but there was something rare in the air that night. Extra special thanks to the ushers for doing such a masterful job of managing all the movements. And thanks to Carol Valone for being a superb QB and Matt Viola for the terrific music. 

  • Stations of the Cross – The turnout continues to be impressively strong, both in the morning and the evening. Thanks to Peggy and Rich Fullam and all who lead that prayer. If you hope to pray the stations and haven’t done so yet, you can still join the prayer tonight and/or next Friday. 

  • Monday Evening Mass – I for one will be a little sad to see that Lenten offering end. We have Mass this Monday and that is it. The following Monday is the Chrism Mass and the week after that, Lent is only a memory!

Sunday’s Homily 

March 31, 2019 — Fourth Sunday of Lent
A Deeper Our Father? Part 4: “As we forgive those who trespass against us”?

To listen to Sunday’s homily, click here.

To read a summary of it, go to the bottom of this page.

THIS WEEK IN SERVICE: 

  • Interfaith Hospitality Network (IHN) – Once again, thanks and blessings for the many St. Joe’s parishioners who volunteered at this week’s IHN at Hillsborough Reformed Church in Millstone. Great work. Our next opportunity to help homeless families will be the week of May 5 to May 12, right here at St. Joe’s. As we will be supplying all the labor, it will be “all hands on deck.” Plan to help if you can.

  • Ministry Recruiting – Blessings for the dozens of parishioners who have signed up for new ministries in the last few weeks of ministry recruiting. This is the last week of recruiting and the tables will host: 

    • CAREGIVERS MINISTRY – Help the parish help the people who care for loved ones.

    • COLLECTION COUNTING – A group of unsung heroes who give one or two Monday mornings each month (though one group meets on Sunday) to count the collection.

    • EUCHARISTIC MINISTERS: CARRIER CLINIC – These amazing ministers bring Communion to people at Carrier Clinic, many of whom are feeling an extraordinary need for Christ.

    • LECTORS – Just try to imagine Mass without them? Unthinkable. If you have a talent for reading out loud, sign up. If you can read out loud you are probably old enough.

  • Virtus Training – I completely get that it consumes your scarce time. Still, we know that in our current reality it is non-negotiable. All of us who work with children or vulnerable adults need to complete the training and have our backgrounds checked. To make it as easy as possible, Bob Ferretti is once again offering Virtus Training right here at St. Joe’s. He is conducting one session at 9:30 am on Tuesday, April 17 and another that evening at 6:30 pm. If you are considering a ministry that requires Virtus training, please register online for one of the sessions. The more parishioners who are Virtus-trained, the better off we all are.

THIS WEEK IN COMMUNITY:

  • Seven New Names – How is that going for you? Cards are still available if you don’t have one already. The cards help us to achieve the goal (of learning seven names of people near whom you regularly sit). So does using the person’s name at the sign of peace and at the dismissal. And remember, charity and manners. As soon as you sense someone is struggling to come up with your name, tell them!

  • SAGES MINISTRIES – Our “Sages Ministry,” our new parish ministry to identify and address the pastoral, spiritual, educational and recreational aspirations of our wisest parishioners (i.e., 55+) is off to a rollicking great start. The first go-round of programs begins right after Easter. Each of these most promising gatherings is on a Wednesday (the least active day of the week) from 2-4 pm (the least engaged time of day): April 24, old comedy clips; May 8, wine and painting (ZERO talent required); May 22, daytime game night, and; June 5, activities fair (learn more and voice preferences about upcoming programs). BE THERE.

  • A Parish Columbarium? – We have several more hurdles to get over before we can make any promises, but we are still exploring plans for a parish columbarium (like a mausoleum but only for cremains/ashes). Let me know if this prospect interests you.


Your Pastor’s Brag – This week it is all about folks who finished high school ... a few years ago!

  • 65 Years Out – All best blessings for Frank Colpini (11:30 S3) who soon heads out to his 65th reunion at West Point. Frank, the king of suave, was part of the occupation force in Germany at the end of the Second World War. Greatest blessings for Frank and his classmates.

  • Purple Hearts Among Us – John Tamburini (7:15 S3) is one of our parish’s Purple Heart Awardees. John was granted a Purple Heart for his meritorious service in Vietnam in 1970. Thank you John! 

  • Carol Tyukody – Carol (4:45 S5) was just granted a “Core Values Award” by our beloved Gigi’s Playhouse for “her continued efforts to educate and inspire others to believe in the Down Syndrome Community.” Thanks to Erin Sweeney and Gigi’s for acknowledging Carol’s brilliance.

Please email me some of the good news you know about parishioners for “The Pastors Brag.” 

With gratitude and all best blessings and hopes to see you at Trivia Night.

Fr Hank

March 31, 2019 — Fourth Sunday of Lent
A Deeper Our Father? Part 4: “As we forgive those who trespass against us”?



Forgiving – Step One: Disavow retaliation.

Forgiving – Step Two: Reject the impulse to equate the trespasser with the trespass.

Why step two? Four reasons. First, we ask God to “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others.” If we equate our trespassers with their trespasses, then we are asking God to equate us with our trespasses, to treat us only as a person who sins, to dwell on our misdeeds and forget everything else about us. Seriously, do we want God to see us that way? If not, then we need to move beyond the impulse to see others only as the creature that sinned against us. Second, we know that we become like the realities we habitually contemplate. We cannot help it. If we habitually contemplate Christ, we become more like Christ. If we habitually contemplate others’ trespasses, we become like those trespasses. Sooner or later, if we obsess about someone’s dishonesty or aggression or self-destructive choices or whatever, we become far more likely to replicate their sins. Third, dwelling on others’ sins makes it very hard to disavow retaliation. If we play the trespass movie over and over and over, we reduce our ability to disavow retaliation. Fourth, and most importantly, Jesus tells us to reject the impulse to equate those who trespass against us with their trespasses. Sunday’s readings make that clear. God gives us an example to follow and God tells us to follow that example.

Sunday’s first reading gives us an example to follow. It comes from the Book of Joshua (Joshua 5). The passage recounts the time when the Israelites first crossed the Jordan and entered the land God had promised. They had reached home after 40 years of wandering. God led them into the Promised Land despite their terrible deeds. They had built the golden calf, rebelled against God at Meribah and Massa, ganged up on Moses in a reprehensible manner and committed countless other sins. But God did not equate them with their sins. If God had, God would not have led them into the Promised Land. God saw them in their entirety. God acknowledged their virtues and their vices and, ultimately, responded to their better moments.

Sunday’s gospel story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15) features three people: the dopey younger son who made some terrible choices, the cranky older brother who refuses to welcome his returning brother, and the gracious father. Clearly, the gracious father is the one worth imitating. He is fully aware of the younger son’s rotten choices. But the father does not dwell on the young son’s worst actions. If the father had dwelt on those actions, he surely would not have killed the fatted calf. The older brother opted for a different response. He decided to think only of the younger brother’s transgressions. That thinking seems only to have intensified his self-absorption. Jesus is plainly inviting us to imitate the father. He is inviting us not to equate people with their worst choices.

What about you? In what circumstances have you gone from mimicking the son to mimicking the father? With what people have you moved from seeing them only as the committer of a trespass against you to seeing them as a human who – like you, me and every person – makes both inspired and uninspired choices? And what helped you to make that change? What helped you to see that trespassing other as something more than the maker of the uninspired choice that hurt you?
And where might you be called to move to that higher road? Who in your life has hurt you or someone you love in a way that makes you see that person as nothing other than a source of pain? And, given the lessons from your past, what might help you shake off that perception?

We surely do not want God to see us only as a wad of sinning gunk. And if we want God to see the whole “me,” don’t we sometimes need to change our take on others? When have you morphed from the son into the father and where might you be called to do that now, for your own serenity and because God is asking you to? (NB – The person in the mirror might be the one you need to see in a bigger and more forgiving way.)

This Week in Prayer, Service & Community - March 29, 2019

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This Week – March 29, 2019

Dear All:  

Christ’s Peace!

Thank you for responding so very generously to last weekend’s request to learn more of your fold-mates’ names. For some, it is a real chore and I very much appreciate your generosity. For others, it is an excuse to do what they have wanted to do for a while. For still others, it is redundant as they already know the names of most of their pew-mates, fold-mates, and Mass-mates! Thanks to all.

Remember to bring your cards to church this weekend. The longer-term hope is to have most people know the names of most of their regular pew-mates and fold-mates. Why? Three main reasons – to help welcome new parishioners (more on that later), to let me know if someone is missing (though Gladys-Kravitzing is strictly prohibited), and to enrich your experience of Mass. Again, thanks.

I hope you run into many of your pew-mates, fold-mates, Mass-mates and Parish-mates at Rea’s Praise and Worship Concert on Saturday and at next Friday’s Trivia night.

THIS WEEK IN PRAYER

  • Parish Penance Service – I hope to see many of you on Tuesday at 7:30. Once again, we blocked out all the mean priests and only nice priests will be here to hear confessions. Feel the grace of the sacrament.

  • Confirmation Retreat – Please pray for our confirmandi (plural of “confirmandus,” i.e., one who is to be confirmed). Our 65 confirmation students, mostly eighth-graders, began their preparation with the Rite of Enrollment at the start of 7th grade. The training will reach a major milestone when they complete the Rite of Covenant at Saturday’s 4:45 Mass. Before coming to Mass, they will have spent the day making their confirmation retreat. After that Mass, they will enjoy Rea’s evening of Praise and Worship. We are proud of all of them and of those who have brought them to this moment.

  • Monday Evening Mass – It was once again very good to celebrate Mass with many of you on Monday evening. There will be Monday evening Masses this week (April 1) and the following week (April 8). There is no evening Mass on Monday of Holy Week as that is the time of the Chrism Mass.

  • The Little Black Books (LBBs) – Thanks to the many who keep me posted on their favorite passages. I am all ears when you are filling me in. Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Stations of the Cross – Blessings for all who are praying the Stations. Whether you come every week (morning or evening), or only once, your presence is a blessing. The turnout has been very impressive.

Sunday’s Homily 

March 24, 2019 – Third Sunday of Lent
A Deeper Our Father? Part 3: “Our Trespasses?”

To listen to Sunday’s homily, click here.

To read a summary of it, go to the bottom of this page.

THIS WEEK IN SERVICE: 

  • Interfaith Hospitality Network (IHN) – Great blessings for the many parishioners who are, this week, helping to staff the IHN visitors at our much-loved neighbor, Hillsborough Reformed Church. Our parishioners are helping to host seven people who don’t have homes -- two moms and their five children. We have people cooking the dinners, staying overnight and doing all the work that helps the homeless among us trust in God’s love and find their way forward.

  • Prayer Shawls by the boatload! – Our knitting and crocheting groups are out-knitting themselves. They now have SIXTY afghans to deliver to our beloved homebound parishioners and to folks who live in long-term care facilities.

  • Ministry Recruiting – Bravo for the many parishioners who are committing to new ministries. The turn out has been inspiring. Several of our parish’s social ministries have experienced great interest. The liturgical ministries and the community ministries are also feeling the support. Good for all of you. This week there will be recruiting for: 

    • ALTAR SERVERS – we could use a few more, especially at the 4:45 and the 9:30 

    • INTERFAITH HOSPITALITY NETWORK – always good to have greater bench strength for this one – though it requires help only 3 times each year 

    • THE PARISH MEALS MINISTRY – to help our parishioners when they run into a rough patch – medically or otherwise 

    • SENIOR RESIDENCE EUCHARISTIC MINISTRY – the folks who bring communion to the nursing homes on Sundays and sometimes other days – a beautiful ministry.

THIS WEEK IN COMMUNITY:

  • Seven New Names – Right – the longer-term goal is to learn the names of all of your regular pew-mates and fold-mates and many of your Mass-mates. For now, you should be very pleased with yourself if you learn 7 new names this Lent. BIG CAVEAT – in the world of name-learning, there is only one major sin – to put someone on the spot. PLEASE offer your name at the first indication that the other is having a hard time coming up with your name. Good manners = Good Christianity! 

  • The Evening of Praise and Worship – The concert/retreat we have all been waiting for is this Saturday. After the 4:45 Mass, the Youth Group will be selling stadium food for dinner. You can go right from Mass to dinner to the Evening of Praise and Worship without ever going out in the rain. Hope to see you there.

  • Trivia Night – It is a terrifically promising night of fun for all big kids (i.e., those already confirmed) and adults. The proceeds will help support the dozens of young parishioners who will be spending a week of this summer on one of the two parish service trips – our college students will be working in Texas and our high-school students will be working in Pennsylvania. If you assemble eight friends for a whole table, great. But no need to worry about having a whole table. We welcome folks who come solo or with a friend or two. 

  • SAGES MINISTRIES – Our “Sages Ministry,” our new parish ministry to identify and address the pastoral, spiritual, educational and recreational aspirations of our wisest parishioners (i.e., 55+) is off to a rollicking great start. The first go-round of programs begins right after Easter. Each of these most promising gatherings is on a Wednesday (the least active day of the week) from 2-4 pm (the least engaged time of day): April 24, old comedy clips; May 8, wine and painting (ZERO talent required); May 22, daytime game night, and; June 5, activities fair (learn more and voice preferences about upcoming programs). BE THERE.

  • A Parish Columbarium? – We have several more hurdles to get over before we can make any promises, but we are still exploring plans for a parish columbarium (like a mausoleum but only for cremains/ashes). Let me know if this prospect interests you. 


Your Pastor’s Brag – This week its all about our fleet-footed young people

  • A mind-boggling marathon – Remember the horrible stories about the Bataan Death March? Get this, Josie Greenwood (4:45 S6), a freshman at the University of Oklahoma, is also an Army Cadet. She and 14 members of her troop recently completed a grueling 26 mile march across the White Sands missile range in New Mexico to honor the victims of the march.  Josie and her march-mates completed the trek while carrying 35-pound rucksacks. Go Josie!

  • High School Runners – Congratulations to Peter Cavanaugh (9:30 S2) and to Nicole La Mastro (4:45 S1) for their great athletic achievements. Peter was honored for running the 800 meter in 2 minutes and 4 seconds. Talk about fleet foot. Nicole was named Rookie of the Year. Thanks to both of you for the great example of wonderful use of the gifts God has given you.

Please email me some of the good news you know about parishioners for “The Pastors Brag.” 

With gratitude and all best blessings and hopes to see you at the Night of Praise and Worship.

Fr Hank

March 24, 2019 – Third Sunday of Lent
A Deeper Our Father? Part 3: “Our Trespasses?”



Who wouldn’t rather confess someone else’s sins? I notice the tendency in confession, both when I am the confessor and when I am the confessee! In discussing the context for a particular sin, how easy is it to drift into meanderings about others’ sins. How easy is it to make a similar move when we pray “forgive us our trespasses”? Perhaps we are calling them “our trespasses” but thinking mostly of “their trespasses.” Sunday’s readings invite each of us to take a closer look at “my trespasses” and to remember that God wants us to own them and to overcome them.

The people in Sunday’s gospel (Luke 13) start off paying a great deal of attention to the sins of other people – especially the people Pilate killed and the people on whom the tower fell. Jesus urges them to change focus. He wants them to stop speculating about other peoples’ sins and to own their own. His message resembles his advice to those who would remove a speck from another’s eye while ignoring the plank in their own. Start the anti-sin campaign with the one who appears in your mirror. His request seems to be “Own your sins; acknowledge them; admit you have committed them.” Doing all that points us toward peace and provides a far more meaningful experience of the Our Father when we pray “our trespasses.”

Jesus’s also wants us to overcome the sins we have owned – and he believes we can overcome them. While he doesn’t want us to trivialize our sins, neither does he want us to treat them as the end of the world. He wants us to avoid despair, even in the face of our recurrent sins. Otherwise, why would he have urged the people in the gospel to repent? Jesus never asks us to do the impossible. If repenting were impossible, he wouldn’t ask us to do it. But he does ask us. It must be possible to overcome our sins – with his grace.

Sunday’s readings also remind us that God makes great use of those who own and overcome their biggest sins. The first reading places Moses in Midian, the land to which he fled after he killed the Egyptian. He was a reformed murderer, and God made spectacular use of him. The same goes for Saint Paul, the author of Sunday’s second reading. Remember that Paul took great delight in tormenting Christians, really tormenting them. When he later owned his sins and overcame them, God made extraordinary use of him.

What about you? What makes it difficult for you to admit your mistakes and sins? Might it be an unholy fear of imperfection or maybe some other lingering issues? And what makes it easier for you to acknowledge mistakes, especially those that are sins? Do you need to have the right audience? Do you need to keep remembering that God does not equate you with your worst choice and God doesn’t want anyone to equate anyone with their worst choice? What helps you say “I have sinned.”

And what helps you move beyond sins, especially recurrent sins? Do other peoples’ stories of success give you hope? People in the bible? People in your life? Does good conversation with trusted friends keep you on track? What about confession?

When Jesus taught us to speak to Our Father about “our trespasses,” he didn’t want us to stop with lip service. He clearly wants us to admit our sins and to overcome them. What gets in the way of you doing those two things? And what helps?

This Week in Prayer, Service & Community - March 22, 2019

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This Week – March 22, 2019

Dear All:

Christ’s Peace!

I hope to see you at tonight’s Fish Fry. If you are bringing youngsters, encourage them to sit up front on the floor during the Irish dancing. The view is much better there. I hope too that your Lenten adventures are unfolding well and that God is blessing you with the graces one might associate with acts of self-denial and with next steps in prayer, service, and community.

THIS WEEK IN PRAYER

  • Saint Joseph Day – Great thanks to all who multiplied the blessings on Monday, the feast of our patron, Saint Joseph the Husband of Mary. (May 1 is the feast of Saint Joseph the Worker, but we can celebrate that one too.) It was a grace to have so many people at church and to consider how Saint Joseph let God direct his choices. Extra thanks to all who organized the remarkable party after Mass. That was some spread and the lessons – about how certain foods became part of the feast – were terrific.

  • Monday Evening Mass – It was once again very good to celebrate Mass on Monday evening. The Monday evening Masses (6:15) will continue throughout Lent.

  • The Little Black Books (LBBs) – We still have a small collection of LBBs to give away. Check out the Moses table. Might you have a friend or relative who would benefit from having one? Take one and share it. And what was your favorite part this week? I particularly enjoyed Tuesday’s reflection on the Transfiguration and Thursday’s description of Corrie ten Boom. What about you?

  • Stations of the Cross – Blessings for all who are praying the Stations here and courage for all who would sort of like to check it out but are hesitating!

Sunday’s Homily 

March 17, 2019 – Second Sunday of Lent
A Deeper Our Father? Part 2: “Our Father?”

To listen to Sunday’s homily, click here.

To read a summary of it, go to the bottom of this page.

THIS WEEK IN SERVICE: 

  • Ministry Morning of Recollection – Holy Smokes! – You people are completely excellent. Saturday’s morning of recollection reminded of that all over again. Great thanks to the 125 of you who were able to make time to reflect on how God uses you as instruments of divine kindness, justice, and humility. Thanks especially for your candid thoughts about what is working well in your ministry and what needs work. Great thanks to the ministry leaders for their invaluable input and boatloads of thanks to Suzanne Kral, our parish’s ministry liaison, for putting the whole thing together. Rockstars all.

  • Young Adults and Corned Beef ― Kudos to our Young Adult Ministry for cooking all that corned beef and cabbage for Elijah’s Promise. I’d never seen so many carrots in one pot. Your work is both inspired and inspiring and will surely engage even more of our parish’s 20 to 40-year-olds who are eager to serve, connect and pray.

  • The Bishop’s Annual Appeal – Thanks for all the goodwill that went into last week’s support of the Bishop’s Annual Appeal. Several have asked for clarity about filling out cards if you have already made your pledge. I am working on that. Thanks to the ushers for the extra help. Thanks to Bill Gibson (9:30 S7) for undoing the weekend’s one technological glitch. Thanks to all for supporting the Appeal.

  • Virtus – We will be running two Virtus sessions for anyone who volunteers with youth or the elderly/homebound on April 17. Pick the one that works best for you - 9:30AM or 6:30PM. Registration is required.

THIS WEEK IN COMMUNITY:

  • New Parishioners – Please join me in welcoming the newest members of our parish. Please join me in greeting them when possible and in saying a prayer for them, that their years at St. Joe’s might be many and that God will use them to bless us and us to bless them. Say hello to:

    • Patrick and Karen Kelly

    • Megan Kubek

    • Danny and Caitlin Murano and their son Gabriel

    • Robert and Alyce Vornlocker and their son John

    • Bill and Amy Walsh and their children Laurel, Jack and Patrick

  • Ministry Recruiting – Ministry Recruiting continues in the Gathering Space this weekend. Check out the tables. Maybe it is time for you to join one of this weekend’s ministries: Becca’s Friends, Healing Prayer, New Parishioner Welcome and the Ushers. 

  • Where You Sit – Now that we all know how to describe our usual locations, it is time to take one simple and important next step. Stay tuned this weekend.

  • Mark Your Calendars – Tonight’s Fish Fry marks the start of our Spring Fellowship Tripleheader. Our Parish Fish Fry is tonight. The Evening of Praise and Worship is next Saturday after the 4:45 Mass and Trivia Night is the following Friday. This is a great season to meet new folks and to reinforce connections with people we already know and love. 

  • Kentucky Derby – Yes. We will be having a Kentucky Derby party after the 4:45 Mass on Saturday, May 4 in the Hospitality Room – unless the crowd gets too big in which case we will move the action down to the Parish Hall. If the preacher doesn’t prattle on too long, Mass will be over a little more than an hour before the race goes off at 6:50. And it is definitely BYOMJ.

  • A Parish Columbarium? – We have several more hurdles to get over before we can make any promises, but we are still exploring plans for a parish columbarium (like a mausoleum but only for cremains/ashes). Let me know if this prospect interests you. We will make a proposal to the parish before we make the all-important proposal to the diocese’s College of Consultors. Word is that the chancery takes a brighter view of columbaria than they do of skating rinks.

Your Pastor’s Brag – 

  • Doctors in the House? – Giant congratulations to DOCTOR Ann Harris (11:30, S5) who successfully defended her dissertation, in the Education School at Seton Hall University, on Thursday afternoon. Bravo and great strawberries and a wonderful recuperation for DOCTOR Harris. And great and overdue congratulations to Anthony Carter (11:30, S1) who, last year, was granted an honorary doctorate by Fordham University. Fordham had many wonderful reasons for conferring the honorary degree on Anthony. I still have not found out how much they considered the fact that Anthony occupied room 1106 in Walsh Hall the year before I did – and evidently left some holiness in the air. 

  • Keeping the Faith – One of the big things we hope for our high-school grads is that when they get to college, they will not only keep going to Mass but will become active members of the community. And so it is with Fred Shaw (11:30, Lector, S1 or S5). Fred regularly plays the flute and generally helps out with the big student Mass on Sundays at 6:00 pm at, where else? Loyola in Baltimore. Fred is majoring in Accounting and Computer Science. He has made the Dean’s list again and my spies tell me he is doing an overall great job. 

Please email me some of the good news you know about parishioners for “The Pastors Brag.” 

With gratitude and all best blessings and hopes to see you at the Fish Fry.
Fr Hank

March 17, 2019 – Second Sunday of Lent
A Deeper Our Father? Part 2: “Our Father?”



Sunday’s first reading (Genesis 15) describes an elaborate ritual wherein Abraham chops up livestock, lays out the pieces and then falls into a deep sleep and, while sleeping, sees a flame pass through the animal parts. The mysterious floating fire is God’s way of saying “Abraham, I am making with you the strongest possible covenant I can make. I am completely in; I trust you are too.” The covenant is a cause for great rejoicing. It does not, however, change the basic relationship between God and Abraham. Both before and after the covenant, Abraham is still God’s chosen servant.

Compare Abraham’s link with God to Jesus’. At the end of Sunday’s Transfiguration gospel (Luke 9), the Father says of Jesus "This is my chosen Son; listen to him." The link between the Father and the Son is precisely that, a father/son relationship that is, by its very nature, indissoluble.

In calling Jesus “my Son”, the Father invites us to understand their Father/Son relationship as we understand blood relationships among humans. Relationships rooted in consanguinity cannot be reversed. If you and I are related by blood, we cannot stop being related. We might move to different continents and not see each other for decades, but we are still related. Nothing can change that. Jesus is the first and only person God has called “My Son.” The Old Testament refers 14 times to those who are God’s children, but the reference is always to the nation, never to an individual. The Father acknowledges only Jesus as being the equivalent of a blood relative.

Consider the difference in the ways that Abraham and Jesus are related to the Father. Abraham is God’s beloved servant. Jesus is God’s beloved Son. Which would you rather be? Both are chosen but only one of those relationships, Jesus’, is indissoluble. Of course, we would prefer to share in Jesus’ relationship to the Father. And the good news is that we do.

Jesus has taught us to call His Father “Our Father.” He alone among all human beings has the right to do that. Doing so makes good sense. We know that Jesus is God’s Son. We also know that Jesus is truly human. He is one of us. He is our blood relative. That means God is Our Father too. And if God is Our Father, God is in an indissoluble relation with us, one that cannot be broken.

What about you? Has there been a time when, because of life’s difficulties, you wondered if God had dissolved your relationship? Maybe a profound personal tragedy made you think that? Or a major reversal of fortune? Maybe there was a time when you thought that perhaps God had forgotten or abandoned you. (NB – The Psalms are full of stories of people who wonder that very thing.) But then you regained your conviction that the appearances were misleading you. God had not forsaken or abandoned you. God was loving you “from the other side of the clouds” as the poem says. When have you gone from not wanting to call God “Our Father” back to a willingness to do so?

And who in your life might be going through a similar darkness wherein it feels goofy to call God “Our Father”? Who is living through circumstances that suggest that God has checked out, is behaving like a “deadbeat dad” and perhaps no longer wants to be Our Father? Who needs a patient, empathetic listener?

Before Jesus, it made no sense to call God “Our Father.” Since Jesus, it makes no sense to call him anything else. When have you lost sight of that? Who might be losing sight of it now?

This Week in Prayer, Service & Community - March 15, 2019

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This Week – March 15, 2019

Dear All:

Christ’s peace.

I look forward to seeing many of you on Saturday morning at our Lenten Morning of Recollection for volunteers from every parish ministry. And whether that gathering is part of your plans, I hope your Lent is continuing down consoling paths of self-denial and of next steps in prayer, service and community-formation. Good stuff.

THIS WEEK IN PRAYER

  • Monday Evening Mass – Sorry the announcements about the additional Monday evening Mass didn’t come out until Sunday. But there will be an additional Mass during Lent – at 6:15 p.m. Monday evening – for those who would like to participate in an additional Mass during Lent, but who cannot get to the 8:35 a.m. It was good to celebrate Mass with Monday evening’s cheery group and it will be good to share the prayer with a few more people this Monday. 

  • The Little Black Books (LBBs) – Most of the special stash of LBBs will be on the Moses table this weekend. Thanks for taking only one per household up until now. Now that we have provided time for every household to secure one, we can make more available to those who are sharing LBBs at home. Enjoy them and keep praying. What is your favorite passage so far?

  • Stations of the Cross – What a consolation it was to learn that we had sizeable groups, both in the morning and the evening, praying the Stations last Friday. Feeling the urge? Join the prayer! 


Sunday’s Homily March 10, 2019 – First Sunday of Lent
A Deeper Our Father? Part 1: “THY Will Be Done” or “MY Will Be Done?
To listen to Sunday’s homily, click here.To read a summary of it, go to the bottom of this page.

THIS WEEK IN SERVICE: 

  • Ministry Morning of Recollection – Tomorrow – The gathering begins with Mass at 8:35. We then migrate down to the Parish Hall for coffee, carbs and chat time. My talk will last 30-40 minutes and will be followed by two rounds of conversation for people in your ministry. It will be lunchtime before you know it and then time to go home and gussy up for your St. Patrick’s celebrations. As always, many folks must choose which of their multiple ministries to spend the morning. The good news is that there is plenty of time to extend the conversations during breaks and lunch. It will be good to be together.

  • Caregivers Morning of Recollection – Last Saturday – What a terrific bunch! Great thanks to the highly dedicated organizers and to the speakers who provided a consoling and informative morning for more than 60 caregivers. Many of those caregivers are Saint Joe’s parishioners and many came from other parishes and other faiths. People also came from a wide array of caregiving situations. Some are caring for spouses, others for parents or children or siblings or other loved ones. It was a blessing to reassure our caregivers that they are appreciated and loved.

  • The Parish Meals Ministry – Thanks again to the 15 cooks who answered the call to help our parish meals ministry. We have regained our ability to balance demand and supply! Extra thanks to the ministry leader Lee Parasol. If you or another parishioner is in a difficult period, especially if you are undergoing demanding medical treatments, please let your parish help. Contact Lee at leeparasole@gmail.com or call the church office.

  • Young Adults and Corned Beef ― Our recently launched Young Adult Ministry (think 21 to 40 year- olds) will be making a Corned Beef and Cabbage dinner for Elijah's Promise Soup Kitchen on Saturday, March 16 at 1:30 in the St. Joe's kitchen. If you are actually in that age group (don’t just wish you were) join the cooks in the kitchen. It is an excellent project and a great way to serve and connect. If you would like to learn more, email Bob Ferretti at bobf@stjosephsparish.com 

  • The Bishop’s Annual Appeal – This weekend is the “In-pew” weekend for the Bishop’s Annual Appeal. Part of the homily time will be devoted to viewing Bishop Checchio’s message and to filling out the pledge cards. Once again, if this is a rotten financial year for you, do not worry about the Appeal. Give a dollar or two to help increase our participation rate. If it is a good financial year, do what you can – and then some. The Appeal funds greatly inspired and inspiring works.

THIS WEEK IN COMMUNITY:

  • Where You Sit – Now that we know how to describe our respective sections/folds, the next step will be to make our sections/folds a bit more familiar. Stay tuned.

  • Mark Your Calendars – We are moving into the peak season for Fellowship Events:

    • Our Annual Fish Fry with Irish Dancers – Friday, March 22.

    • An Evening of Praise and Worship with Rea Larangeira – Saturday, March 30

    • Trivia Night – Friday, April 5

    • Parish Spring Cleaning – Saturday, April 27

    • The Gubitosi Golf Classic – Monday, April 29

Your Pastor’s Brag – 

  • John Reilly’s Blood – John (9:30, S 1 or 11:30, S 1) has very unusual and appealing blood. His type is O-, a type that anyone in the world can receive. It is extremely valuable blood, but only 7% of the world’s population has O- blood. John feels strongly about giving his blood to others. He is particularly eager to share his platelets, which aid in clotting and are particularly helpful to people in treatment for various forms of cancer and for accident victims. John has already donated more than 125 times and continues to do so. Three cheers for O negative and attitude positive.

  • Rowan de Wet Wrestles on the Frontier – Girl’s wrestling is a new thing and new to the area. Earlier this month, fifth-grader Rowan de Wet (11:30, S 6) won second place in her division at the statewide match, the “Wrestle Like A Girl Challenge” in Bound Brook. This was the first time the girls-only statewide competition was held. It attracted 70 athletes, including Rowan. How excellent that Rowan is out there on the athletic frontiers and doing so well.

  • Maritza Arango Teaches above and beyond – Maritza (9:30, S4) was recently selected for special recognition by the South Brunswick Board of Education. Teachers can only receive this award if a student writes a very persuasive letter about the teacher. Keep up the great teaching Maritza. What profession is more important than yours?

    Please email me some of the good news you know about parishioners for “The Pastors Brag.

With gratitude and all best blessings,
Fr Hank

March 10, 2019 – First Sunday of Lent
A Deeper Our Father? 

Part 1: “THY Will Be Done” or “MY Will Be Done?


Lent’s scripture readings invite reflection on that most familiar of all prayers, the Our Father. The readings that lead us further into the Our Father help us take a very valuable next step in prayer.

Each synoptic gospel (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) describes the temptations as events that occurred immediately after Jesus’ baptism. Jesus went from the unimaginable consolation of hearing the Father’s affirmation to the inconceivable desolation of confrontation with Satan. The abruptness of that transition boggles the mind. So does the content of the temptations.
 
In Sunday’s gospel (Luke 4), the second temptation is the one in which Satan promises to give Jesus power over the whole earth if only Jesus will worship Satan. Of course, Jesus refuses, rebutting Satan with another quote from Deuteronomy “It is written: You shall worship the Lord, your God and him alone shall you serve.” Jesus will have none of it.
 
But, because it was a temptation, there were aspects of the proposition that Jesus found attractive, at least until he thought it through. To what human does the prospect of greater influence not hold some appeal? Who doesn’t want things to go their way? Would the ability to call the shots all around the planet not appeal to each of us, including Jesus? One need not be a control freak to enjoy that prospect.
 
The Our Father teaches us the main drawback to possessing that power. The Lord’s Prayer instructs us to tell God “Thy kingdom come” and “Thy will be done” not “my will” or “my kingdom.” If Jesus had succumbed to that temptation, he would have been ditching “Thy will be done” and “Thy kingdom come” and adopting “My kingdom come” and “My will be done.” Succumbing to that temptation would have been incompatible with the prayer he taught us, with the life he lived, and with his own prayer on the night before he died, “Let not my will but thine be done.” He felt the urge to seek “my kingdom” and “my will” but ultimately chose “thy kingdom” and “thy will.”
 
What about you? You have surely imitated Jesus’s choice. There have been moments when you felt inclined to impose your will on a situation and then your good angels persuaded you to choose God’s hopes. Maybe you were thinking of retaliating, and then recalled that doing so insulted God. Maybe you were trying to force someone to make the choice you wanted them to make, and then you thought of God’s hopes and changed your approach. Maybe you were determined to think only of yourself when making a choice that affected many and then Christ’s light went off in your heart? You have surely felt the urge to seek your will and then regained your spiritual wits and prayed earnestly “Thy kingdom come” and “Thy will be done.” When have you imitated Jesus in facing down that temptation? And maybe just maybe where do you need to check in on your thy/my balance now?

This Week in Prayer, Service & Community - March 8, 2019

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This Week – March 8, 2019

Dear All:     

Christ’s peace.

I hope your Lent is off to a very good start.  What might a “good start” include?  A degree of confidence that the Lenten observances you have chosen will ultimately deepen your connection with Jesus.  I hope you are feeling peaceful about what you have chosen to give up and what you have chosen to take up.  And under the “take up” heading, I especially hope that you have considered inspired next steps in prayer, service and community-building.  Given how good you all are, I am pretty sure your Lent is off to a good start.

THIS WEEK IN PRAYER

  • The Little Black Books (LBBs) – This year’s demand for the LBBs has been especially robust.  Good for you!  The main supply is all gone but we still have a few tucked away for the late arrivals.  If your household does not yet have one, please let me know after Mass this weekend and we can get you squared away.  The six minutes spent each day with the LBBs are six well spent minutes.  Onward!

  • Stations of the Cross –   Stations started this morning (Friday) after the 8:35 Mass and will be prayed every Friday morning in Lent.  The Friday evening sessions start at 7:30.  It is a beautiful prayer led by very kind and welcoming people.  If you haven’t prayed the stations in a while, or even if you have never prayed them, give it a shot.  

  • Monday’s Scripture Study – The number of people that signed up is a little more than the limit, but we will for sure make it work.  It will be good to explore the Book of Genesis with you.  A few people will have to share books.  Maybe some of the wife/husband teams won’t mind sharing.  Also, BRING YOUR BIBLE WITH YOU ON MONDAY NIGHT AT 7:30   


Sunday’s HomilyEighth Sunday in Ordinary Time Inspired Challenging, Part 5: Knowing When to QuitTo listen to Sunday’s homily, click here.To read a summary of it, go to the bottom of this page.

THIS WEEK IN SERVICE:

  • No Such Thing as “Too Many Cooks” –  Great thanks to the fifteen people who signed up to cook for our parish meals ministry.  We have recently seen a significant increase in the number of parishioners requiring meals during difficult circumstances.  We also have a number of our old-reliable cooks away on extended vacations.  Greatest thanks to the 15 cooks who answered the recent pulpit call.

  • Ministry Morning of Recollection – LAST CALL! – we are just about at our seating limit for the March 16 Morning of Recollection for volunteers in every parish ministry.  We still have a few spots and will be ordering the food midweek.  So, seize the moment and RSVP to Suzanne Kral at skral@stjosephsparish.com   Be sure to tell her the ministry with which you want to spend your time. 

  • Young Adult Ministry ― The Young Adult Ministry will be making Corned Beef and Cabbage dinner for Elijah's Promise Soup Kitchen on Saturday, March 16 at 1:30 in the St. Joe's kitchen. If you are between 21 and 40 years old and looking for a chance to meet some great people and perform some service, send an email to bobf@stjosephsparish.com for more information.

THIS WEEK IN COMMUNITY:

  • New Parishioners – Please join me in welcoming the newest members of our community.  Also join me in saying a praying for their years at St. Joe’s – that God will use the community to bless the newest arrivals and that God will use the newest arrivals to bless the community.  We welcome:

    • Linda Gallo

    • Michael and Amanda Marciniak and their children Jamie and Jenna

    • Vivian Okrepk

    • Salvatore and Bernice Romano and 

    • Salvatore and Helene Saladini

  • Mr. Bober’s Movies – These movies should be required viewing for just about every Hillsborough resident.  Mr. Bober teaches filmmaking at the high school and uses his considerable talents to make movies in which students with special needs are featured.  One of his most recent movies was a whodunnit that included many students from St. Joe’s – AND Christine Demetriou who worked with many of the students for many years.  The movies were the high point of the most recent and very energized gathering of Becca’s Friends.  Blessings for Mr. Bober, Mrs D., and all the movie stars.

  • Where You Sit  –  In case you missed last weekend’s big reveal.  The church has voted and the results are clear.  Section One is by the choir and Section Seven is behind the altar servers.

  • Mark Your Calendars –  We are moving into the peak season for Fellowship Events:

    • Our Annual Fish Fry with Irish Dancers – Friday, March 22.

    • An Evening of Praise and Worship with Rea Larangeira – Saturday, March 30

    • Trivia Night – Friday, April 5

    • Parish Spring Cleaning – Saturday, April 27

    • The Gubitosi Golf Classic – Monday, April 29

  • Parish Personnel Changes

    • Outgoing Parish Trustees – Our parish has been blessed with wonderful trustees.  For nearly three years, Marybeth Delisi and Rich Realbuto have done a thoroughly excellent  job.  But they have both had to step down.  Marybeth had to resign in the Spring when her husband Bryan became our Facilities Manager.  Rich had to step down last week when his wife Anna Maria became the Director of our Senior Ministries and Parish in-reach programs.  All of us, especially me, are greatly indebted to Marybeth and to Rich

    • Incoming Parish Trustees –  Thanks to Susan Wund and Guy Gubitosi for agreeing to serve as our newest parish trustees.  Both Susan and Guy have been involved in many ministries for many years.  They know the place very well and can give excellent advice.  God bless Susan and Guy.

    • Parish Staff – Great blessings for Gail Bellas (Social Ministries) and Anna Maria Realbuto (Sages Ministries and Parish In-Reach) who officially joined the parish staff this week.  Both Gail and Anna Maria are terrifically talented in their fields and are great additions to the staff.

Your Pastor’s Brag –

  • Matt Toste – Matt, son of Patty and Paul Toste (9:30, S 6) graduated from HHS in 2017 and is about to observe his second anniversary in the United States Marine Corps.  Matt is currently a Lance Corporal and is stationed stateside.  Matt, a master at driving giant-sized vehicles that support infantry activities, will probably remain in the States through the summer.  God bless Matt and the USMC and all our service people.

  • Megan Stanton – Megan, daughter of Lilly and Rick Stanton (9:30, S 2), was recently the subject of a very impressive article in one of Rutgers’ leading online magazines.  Megan has excelled in her studies of German and spent a semester in Berlin.  Having been on the Dean’s List every semester, Megan has been accepted to graduate school in education and has been a member of the marching band all four years.  Way to go Megan!

  • Tom Comiskey – (9:30  S 1)  Tom graduated from Scranton U about 1000 years ago and from Dartmouth Business school a little after that.  More recently, Tom was featured in the online magazine “ROI.”  The article reports that Tom, who is the Regional President of M&T Bank, has enabled the bank to become a significant presence throughout New Jersey.  Tom’s wife (Maryann) and their daughters (Malia and Maggie) clearly provide much of the inspiration that energizes Tom’s professional success.  (Comiskey is pronounced like  COMMonwealth rather than like the Chicago ball park, coMISSkey)

Please email me some of the good news you know about parishioners for “The Pastor’s Brag.” 

With gratitude and all best blessings

Fr Hank

This Week in Prayer, Service & Community - March 1, 2019

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This Week – March 1, 2019

Dear All:

Christ’s peace.

The verdict is in! The people of God have spoken! The show of hands at each Mass was consistent and persuasive. We will henceforth refer to the section by the choir as “Section One” and the section behind the servers as “Section Seven.” Section Four is Section Four no matter which way you go. We might not be able to call it the “sensus fidelium” but we can call it “our consensus.” More on this as Lent unfolds. Thanks for keeping it fun and clear.

THIS WEEK IN PRAYER, SERVICE, AND COMMUNITY: SPECIAL EDITION – MAPPING OUT LENT

Yes. Lent is days away. It is hard to imagine that we are here already but here we are so let’s get going. The season invites us to renew our focus on Jesus. It calls us to become more intentional in our discipleship. It recruits us to take next steps as priests (peoples of prayer), prophets (who challenge and console others) and queens/kings/monarchs (who build up the community). Yes, it is a season of giving things up. And yes, it is a season to do the work of adopting habits we want to maintain over the long run. Perhaps it makes good spiritual sense for you to consider some of the following options. Regardless of your Lenten plan, I look forward to seeing you on Ash Wednesday.

  • Prayer – Ash Wednesday Services. Masses are at 8:35 a.m. and 7:30 pm. Ashes will be distributed at both Masses. There will be a service to distribute ashes at 5:00 pm.

  • Prayer – Daily Mass. We have a delightful group – sometimes up to 50 or 60 people who come to daily Mass. Think of joining the celebration. You will also discover that the regulars are a delightful bunch of Christians. The “8:35 Club” is there to welcome you every morning, Monday through Saturday. On Saturdays, we make extra time for everyone to pray their intentions out loud at the Prayers of the Faithful. Warning – many of the people who started coming for Lent ended up coming all year round!

  • Prayer – the Little Black Books. I never knew about the Little Black Books (LBBs) before I landed here. They are a great idea. It is already pretty much of a parish thing and is becoming even more so. Good for us. Are we at the point where we can assume that every adult around us (i.e., big kids and taxpayers) is spending a few minutes a day with the LBBs? If not, we are quite close. The LBBs are available in the Gathering Space this weekend. Here is a big favor. For this weekend, please take just one for each household. Next week, if we have extras, we can provide more. We bought plenty but they are in huge demand. Thanks. Pray well.

  • Prayer – Stations of the Cross. Stations are prayed twice every Friday – in the morning right after the 8:35 Mass and in the evening at 7:30 pm. Even if you aren’t in a position to go every week, go at least once if you can. It is a beautiful part of our tradition

  • Prayer – Confessions. Lent is a great time for Reconciliation. I am “in the box” at 4:00 pm every Saturday. The last two Saturdays in Lent include extra confessions times. We have a parish Penance Service coming up and I am always happy to hear confessions in my office. If you want to go but don’t want to go with me, totally fine. I can help you find just the right confessor. 

  • Prayer – Scripture Study – The Book of Genesis – Not that scripture study is synonymous with prayer, but the study can enrich the prayer. I am going to lead a new scripture study program that I have not used before but that comes well recommended. We will study the book of Genesis – and will not complete the entire book. The Scripture Study meets in the Hospitality room on Monday nights from 7:00 to 8:30. The class is limited to 35 people. Signups are in the Gathering Space this weekend. The classes will meet on March 11, 18 and 25 and April 1 and 8.

  • Prayer – Church Teaching – Pope Francis’ “Rejoice and Be Glad: The Call to Holiness” – Father Greg Uhrig will continue his very popular Thursday morning classes. But this time registration is not limited to those who attend 8:35 Mass. This letter of Pope Francis’ is excellent and Fr. Greg has a marvelous way of making it real. Registration is limited to 40 and the classes will be on Thursday mornings from 9:15 to 10:30 on March 14, 21 and 28 and on April 4 and 11. Signups are in the Gathering Space this weekend.

  • Prayer – 2 Mornings of Recollection – Our Lenten calendar includes two mornings of recollection for different groups. If you are a caregiver, come to the Morning of Recollection for Caregivers on March 9. You will gain a great sense of inspired connection with people who know first-hand the ups and downs of doing what you do. Sign up in the Gathering Space this weekend. The other retreat morning is the Morning of Recollection for All Ministries on March 16. Whatever your ministry, you are encouraged to participate in this retreat morning. It is a great time to reflect on the ways God uses you and to connect with the others in your ministry. Be there. RSVP via Suzanne Kral at skral@stjosephsparish.com

  • Service – Ministry Recruiting – For Five Weekends Starting March 10 – Many of you perform great acts of service outside of the parish. Good for you. Whether you have an outside service commitment or not, Lent is a great time to rethink your ministerial commitments. Perhaps it is time for you to up your game – especially in the liturgical ministries (maybe as a Eucharistic Minister, an usher, a server or who knows what) or in the social ministries. It might even be time for you to dial it down or find a new ministry. And perhaps the reflection will reveal that you have it just right. My hope is that you will take that long loving look at how you are answering your baptismal call to serve as a prophet of consolation and challenge. The Ministry Recruiting can help.

  • Community. This Lent includes more than the usual number of fellowship events in the parish. Each provides a chance for you to get to know a new parishioner or two and to renew your connections to people you know. But before all that happens, please wonder about the place where you usually sit on Sundays and how many names you know. This Lent’s Fellowship Events include:

    •  Our Annual Fish Fry with Irish Dancers – This is a perennial favorite, and rightly so. Mark your calendar for Friday, March 22. If you have registered in the parish in the last two years, let me know if you want complementary tickets. It truly is one of the BIG fellowship moments of the year – and GREAT food. 

    • An Evening of Praise and Worship with Rea Larangeira – After the 4:45 Mass on Saturday, March 30. The Youth Ministry will sell food between Mass and the concert. The concert is a big part of the Confirmation students’ retreat day. All are invited to this Praise and Worship Service. Rea rocks.

    • Trivia Night – This is a new one and promises to be a keeper. See the posters in the Gathering Space for more information. There is a rumor going around that the game’s organizers are going to raffle off the pastor to the highest bidder to help with the trivia questions about religion. I sure hope he gets at least one bid and I sure hope he doesn’t embarrass himself. Trivia Night is Friday, April 5 and the proceeds help support our Youth Group’s Summer work projects.

Next week’s “This Week” will be in the usual format. Have a great start to Lent
Sunday’s HomilyFebruary 24, 2019 – Seventh Sunday in Ordinary TimeInspired Challenging, Part 4: Disavowing RetaliationTo listen to Sunday's homily (and access to past homilies), click here.To read a summary of it, go to the bottom of this page
With gratitude and all best blessings
Fr Hank

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Inspired Challenging, Part 4: Disavowing Retaliation


Has any human NOT felt the urge to retaliate? Who among us has never experienced the desire to “inflict injury in return for an injury”? When someone hurts you, or worse yet, hurts someone you love, revenge crosses your mind, right? The impulse comes with our human nature. The call to control that impulse and use it for good comes from Jesus. Sunday’s readings clarify his call for us to disavow retaliation, again and again and again.

Sunday’s passage from Luke 6 comes from “The Sermon on the Plain” (Luke 6: 20-49), Luke’s version of Matthew’s “Sermon on the Mount.” The passage we heard this week provides Jesus’ instructions for loving our enemies. To understand Jesus fully, it helps to consider his uses of “enemy” and “love.”

Who is an enemy? Anybody who wants to injure us. And why do they want to injure us? Because they hate us. And why do they hate us and want to injure us? Do we ever really know the answer to that question?

Moreover, when Jesus speaks of “love,” he is referring to a genuine devotion that labors for what is best for the other. Jesus takes a dim view of love-talk that does not find expression in love-action. Jesus’ life and words justify what so many saints remind us: “true love finds expression in action, not simply in words.” Jesus wants us to enhance the other’s quality of life, to deepen the other’s peace in this life and the next.

When we assemble the pieces, we hear Jesus speaking the seemingly preposterous order: “labor for the wellbeing of people who want to injure you.” That command leaves no room for retaliation. That command also points the way to a peace that no pursuit of retaliation can supply. Retaliation is a fool’s errand. It never gets us to the peace we crave. Retaliation is a losing proposition. To misquote the old bromide, “Winners don’t retaliate, and retaliators don’t win.” Disavowal of the retaliation impulse is the only way to go. Jesus never asks us to condone bad behavior or encourage any form of abuse. He wants us to champion “justice” – the world the way he wants it. But retaliation is incompatible with the pursuit of justice.

Sunday’s first reading (1 Samuel 26) depicts King David as a poster child for those who disavow retaliation. The passage describes the second time that David could have retaliated against King Saul. Sunday’s verses come from the part of the story when Saul is still King and is trying to kill David so David will not become king. Funny turns of events twice put Saul within David’s reach but David did not retaliate. David made plenty of mistakes in his life, but in this case, he got it right. He worked for the wellbeing of a person who hated him.

What about you? You have done what Jesus requires and what David did. You have felt the urge to retaliate and you have resisted the urge. It might have happened at school, on your team, in your study group, at work, in the neighborhood, in the family, with former in-laws, or even at church. You could have gotten even, or at least tried to, and you did not. You subsequently felt the peace that comes from disavowing retaliation. When have you experienced the grace to disavow retaliation and who might need to hear your story? Is there a person in your life who is contemplating revenge? Is there a way in which your story might challenge that other to make a better choice? In this season of reflecting on our mission to challenge others, is there a way in which your story of struggle and success might challenge a loved one to disavow retaliation and know Christ’s peace in a deeper way?

This Week in Prayer, Service & Community - February 15, 2019

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This Week – February 15, 2019

Dear All:

Christ’s peace.

The not-so-great news? We did not get the subsidies for the air conditioners or for the lights. We staged a mighty and a well-coordinated effort but the folks who administer the subsidies determined we do not have enough energy-hog lights to qualify for air-conditioner subsidies. A bit confusing, I know, but so it goes. The people with whom we interacted have been very helpful and kind. Special thanks to Paulette Matis for playing QB for our efforts. It has involved a load of paperwork and Paulette coordinated it masterfully. Fortunately, we are in a financial position to fund the needed improvements but doing so means we will have to postpone other important work. We thank God for the gifts given and continue to explore every opportunity to save without sacrificing safety or the serenity that the right surroundings provide.

THIS WEEK IN PRAYER:

  • First Reconciliations – Three dozen of our youngsters will make their First Reconciliations this Tuesday, February 19 at 7:00 pm. Please say a prayer for them as they enter this new phase of their relationship with Jesus, a phase in which they truly know the difference between right and wrong, and in which they know Jesus as the Merciful One who always welcomes those who seek his pardon. Blessings for all who prepared our students for this very important moment.

  • The 8:35 Prayer Lists – One of the many beautiful things about the folks who regularly attend our 8:35 daily Mass (aka the 8:35 Club) is that they really mean it when they say they will pray for someone. Each day before their 8:00 Rosary, they pray out loud for each person for whom prayers have been requested. On Saturday mornings, they recite all those names at the Prayers of the Faithful. It truly is a beautiful experience. If you have a special prayer intention, let me know and I will pass it along to the right 8:35 prayer-person.

  • Stations of the Cross – Have you marked a few Friday nights on your calendar, while Lent is still a few weeks away, so you will have time to pray with the wonderful folk who pray the Stations of the Cross in Lent? And remember there are also opportunities to pray the Stations on Friday mornings after Mass.

  • Your Sunday Prayer Area – Stay tuned for news about how to identify the area where you usually sit for Sunday Masses.

Sunday’s Homily
February 10, 2019 – Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Inspired Challenging, Part 2: Inspired Self-doubt”

  • To listen to Sunday's homily (and access to past homilies), click here.

  • To read a summary of it, go to the bottom of this page

THIS WEEK IN SERVICE:

  • Feeding Hands – The goods continue to arrive at a terrific rate. As of this morning, it seems we will contribute even more than we did last year. Your kindness provides a great boost to our low-income neighbors. Think about how bad it would be not to have toiletries or cleaning supplies. And then think of how grateful you would be to the people who provide them.

  • Ministry Morning of Recollection – Calling volunteers in every ministry! Try to join your fellow volunteers/ministers on Saturday, March 16 for the Parish Ministries Morning of Recollection. The program starts with 8:35 Mass and concludes with lunch. Please RSVP to Suzanne Kral and be sure to tell her the ministry with which you want to spend your morning. You can email Suzanne at skral@stjosephsparish.com It will be good to share the morning.

  • The Caregivers’ Morning of Recollection – If you are helping a friend or relative who needs a bit of extra TLC these days, or if you are a professional caregiver, please join your mission-mates for the Caregivers Morning of Recollection on Saturday, March 9. You can sign up in the Gathering Space during the weekends of February 23/24 and March 2/3. 

  • Random Acts of Kindness – Our High School Youth Ministry's Random Acts of Kindness Day was a huge success. Thanks to every parishioner who supported it. Our teens made 60 bagged lunches for Somerville’s Samaritan Homeless Intervention Program, visited every Avalon resident and gave each a card, candy and a flower from The Flower Barn. Thanks to our Prayer Shawl Ministry, our students were able to give lap blankets and prayer shawls to 15 very appreciative residents. They also paid for several strangers’ coffee and clothes washing with the admonition to “pay it forward.” God bless our teenagers.

  • Sweet Treats and Sentiments ― Huge thanks to Jaqui Seelig's First Grade Class. They made lovely Valentine cards and bagged chocolate treats for members of our church. They shared these with the homebound and the 8:35 Club.


THIS WEEK IN COMMUNITY:

  • All You Need Is Love – At this Saturday’s 4:45 Mass, we will begin our parish celebration of World Marriage day. During the Mass we will pray for all married couples and honor those who are celebrating their 25th and 50th anniversaries. The sold-out, BYOB frolic begins right after 4:45 Mass. The food, the DJ and the photo booth promise to be great fun, as do the two short rounds of . . . live entertainment. 

  • Where You Sit – How do you describe where you usually sit at the Mass you usually attend?

  • Your Pastor’s Brag – I want to brag all about you to your fellow parishioners who are eager to learn of the good things fellow parishioners do, in all areas of life. So please let me know the good news about parishioners who have done good things (e.g., won an award, succeeded at academics or at sports or at extracurriculars or in service or have done something great at work or in the community). Also, let me know which Mass the person usually attends and the section in which the person usually sits. The section closest to the choir is Section 1. The section behind the servers is Section 7. Email me the news at fhilton@loyola.edu Be sure to put “PASTOR’S BRAG” in the subject line.

    • Nils Dahl – Nils Dahl (6:00 PM Sunday, Section 2) recently triumphed in the Wodapalooza – one of the world’s most celebrated CrossFit competitions. Nils and his two teammates finished 10th. That’s right, we can brag that our very own Nils’ team is basically tenth in the world. And get this – the nine teams that finished ahead of them are all full-time CrossFit folk; they don’t have day jobs. Nils does. From my perspective, that makes Nils and his teammates the world’s best self-supporting CrossFitters! Congratulations Nils. What a great use of the gifts God has given you. And congratulations to Nils’ wife Amy (Also 6:00 pm Section 2) for enabling it all to happen.

    • Fran Hoh – This week’s Catholic Spirit contains a superb article written by our very own Fran Hoh (6:00 pm, Section 6). The article, “Understanding differences in palliative, hospice care” is great background reading for all and should be required reading for anyone dealing with end-of-life issues. How blessed are we to have Fran among us and willing to help?

With gratitude and all best blessings

Fr Hank 

 Sunday, February 10, 2019 – 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Inspired Challenging, Part 2: Inspired Self-doubt”


As persons baptized to “remain forever a member of Christ who is Priest, Prophet, and King,” every Christian is commissioned to challenge others at the times and in the ways God desires. That means you. That means me. It is part of our “prophet” thing.
Sunday’s readings point out the value of inspired self-doubt, that just-right amount of insecurity that keeps us from becoming puffed-up windbags. Without a touch of insecurity, how easily might we become the cocky know-it-alls Jesus derides rather than the inspired prophets he sends to his beloved. We do not want the uninspired self-doubt that immobilizes or paralyzes us. We want the inspired self-doubt that keeps us attentive to Jesus and kind to others.

Isaiah, one of the greatest prophets ever, seems to have possessed just the right dose of healthy insecurity. Sunday’s first reading (Isaiah 1) describes the supernatural scene in the temple in which Isaiah said “Yes” to God’s call. But before saying “Yes,” amid earthquakes and great clouds of smoke, he expressed self-doubt, telling the Lord “I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips.” Notice that God does not say “Oh no Isaiah. You are not a man of unclean lips.” God seems rather to agree with Isaiah and then sends a coal-carrying angel to burn Isaiah’s lips clean. Isaiah’s expression of self-doubt is typical of the many biblical figures God calls into service. They are aware of their frailty but not immobilized by it. God seems to like that mix.

Peter makes the same move in Sunday’s Gospel. Just as Isaiah confronted earthquakes, smoke and God’s glory, Peter confronted the miraculous catch of fish. The experience makes him aware of God’s presence. It forces him to his knees and to the declaration "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man." Jesus doesn’t argue with Peter’s self-understanding. He simply promises to work with Peter’s limitations. Perhaps Jesus was aware that Peter would succeed most in those moments when he was most aware of his own human frailty and of God’s power flowing through him.

What about you? Who has challenged you in your life? Who has encouraged you to make more inspired choices about your health or your relationships or your studies or your athletic habits or your ways of taking care of others? When you consider the most effective challengers/prophets, perhaps you recall how their humility and empathy gave them credibility and made their challenge to you more appealing? Were they willing to admit they did not have all the answers? Were they at ease with their own human frailty? And what about people who came across as know-it-all windbags who were “often in error but never in doubt?” How much did they help you?

In what circumstances are you following the leads of your most effective prophets? In those relationships in which you are called to offer the challenging word, in which are you doing so as a fellow pilgrim on the way who is aware of your own frailty? In what circumstances are you OK with your limitations and willing to share them with those you challenge? Where are you following the leads of Peter and Isaiah? Where might you be acting a little bit like a puffed-up windbag?

NB – In every mission to challenge others, there is a time for inspired self-confidence, a time for knowing that you have discerned well and are proceeding well. In no mission to challenge others is there a time for the arrogance that alienates others and depletes our sense of dependence on God.

This Week in Prayer, Service & Community - February 8, 2019

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This Week – February 8, 2019

Dear All:

Christ’s peace.

Two very good things about crossing February’s threshold? First, we can savor the wedding pictures posted in the Gathering Space in anticipation of the February 16 celebration of marriage. What astounds me is how amazingly good looking everyone was – and how well preserved so many are! Second, we can now say “Spring starts next month.” I like the sound of that. I also like that we can now expect some of the early spring flowers to start peeking out very soon. I will provide a reward, albeit a very meager one, to the first little kids (baptism to First Communion) and kids (First Communion to Confirmation) who can point out the first bud of spring on the parish grounds. BTW, the poor daffodil that popped up in December by the church’s front door doesn’t count.

THIS WEEK IN PRAYER: 

  • Sacramental Preparation – With the approach of spring comes the home stretch of preparations for First Communions and Confirmations.

    • First Reconciliations – February 19 at 7:00 pm. Unlike some of the other penance celebrations, this one does not include an invitation to the entire parish – just to the second graders and their families. We do however invite everyone to pray for the children who are taking this big next step. This year we have 36 children making their First Reconciliations and First Communions. Thanks to Michele Tuck, our second grade CCD teachers, and all who have trained our First Communicants. Special thanks to Ginny Houle and Kathy Kafka who have worked closely with our young people with special needs.

    • Confirmation Conferences – Our 66 confirmation candidates will start their Confirmation Conferences this week. Each of our candidates has a conversation with a Knight of Columbus who invites the Confirmation candidate to reflect on her or his spiritual preparation up to this point. Great thanks to our confirmandi, to their teachers, families, and sponsors.

Sunday’s Homily – February 3 – Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Inspired Challenging, Part 1: “You Have What It Takes”

  • To listen to Sunday's homily (and access to past homilies), click here.

  • To read a summary of it, go to the bottom of this page

THIS WEEK IN SERVICE:

  • Feeding Hands – We are off to a terrific start with our collections of toiletries and cleaning products for the people who rely on the Feeding Hands Center in Somerville. The collection portion of the project officially starts this Sunday but we have already collected 700 items. It seems very likely that we will meet our goal of 1750 items. If you haven’t already taken a labeled bag, think about doing so. This is one of those projects that produces immediate results for people who need them.

  • Random Acts of Kindness – On Saturday, members of our Youth Group will be doing kind things all around Hillsborough. We don’t want to give away all the secrets about what they are doing this year, but last year they delivered flowers to residents of nursing homes, prayer shawls to people who could use them, food to SHIP (Samaritan Homeless Intervention Program). They also purchased cups of coffee for unsuspecting folks all around town. Thanks to our Youth Group and thanks to all the parishioners who supported the adventure by putting money in the poor boxes for the last two weeks.

  • Ministry Morning of Recollection – Calling volunteers in every ministry! Try to join your fellow volunteers/ministers on Saturday, March 16 for the Parish Ministries Morning of Recollection. The program starts with 8:35 Mass and concludes with lunch. Please RSVP to Suzanne Kral and be sure to tell her the ministry with which you want to spend your morning. You can email Suzanne at skral@stjosephsparish.com It will be good to share the morning.

  • The Caregivers’ Morning of Recollection – If you are helping a friend or relative who needs a bit of extra TLC these days, or if you are professional caregiver, please join your mission-mates for the Caregivers Morning of Recollection on Saturday, March 9. You can sign up in the gathering space.


THIS WEEK IN COMMUNITY:

  • Basketball Stars – Hats off to the young people who won their age divisions in last Sunday’s Free Throw Contest: Patrick Kirwan, Julia Elmalis, Dillon Ludwig, Emily Albert, Cameron Diogene, Addison Harkin, Ethan Diogene, Kylie Freeman, Owen Albert and Scott Lentz. It is wonderful to know you are using your talents so very well. And greatest thanks to Dominick Ferrigno for organizing the competition on behalf of the Knights. 

  • Where you sit – If you had to indicate where you usually sit at Sunday Mass, how would you describe your location? This question will take on some amusing and helpful dimensions in the next few weeks. 

  • Broken Pipes – Great thanks to Bryan Delisi and Bob Ferretti, the staff members who led the recovery effort two weeks ago. What are the chances that, at the very same moment, a water pipe above the kitchen would break and a sewer pipe in the front yard would back up? The probability of that coincidence actually occurring is very small, but it happened and it was a mess. Thanks to Bryan and Bob for getting it under control and for overseeing both clean up efforts. BTW – the firm that came in to sanitize the kitchen has transformed it. Every square inch of the place was sanitized. Thanks too to our terrific vendors for riding to the rescue.

  • Pasta Dinner – Once again, great gratitude to the Knights for swapping dates for the Pasta Dinner (because of the broken pipes). That was a big effort that they completed with their usual style and grace. The food was excellent and the 200 parishioners who turned out had a fine time. It was a great grace to share the evening with so many of you. Thanks too to the folks from Petrocks for the wine tasting. 

  • Father messed up – Calling all Married Couples – “All You Need Is Love” – February 16 – I crossed my wires on Sunday at the 11:30 and . . . . long story short, there was no one there to take reservations for the marriage celebration after the 11:30. So there will be another chance for the 11:30 folk to sign up this Sunday. Remember – next weekend’s celebration of marriage begins with the 4:45 Mass and continues with the party in the Parish Hall – buffet and DJ. (I think it is BYOB but double check).

With great and ever-increasing gratitude for the grace of being your pastor,

Fr Hank

 Sunday, February 3 – 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Inspired Challenging, Part 1:

“You Have What It Takes”


“To challenge others” is one of our Christian duties. It comes under the “prophet” heading of our Priest-Prophet-King job description. As priest, each of us is a person of prayer who listens to God and speaks to God. As prophet we are servants who console others and challenge others. As king/queen/monarch we build up the community. The prophet/challenge part can be one of our trickiest duties. The Sunday readings from now until Ash Wednesday shed valuable light on that duty. Last Sunday’s readings remind us that inspired challenges begin with votes of confidence in the other, with overt or subtle claims that “You have what it takes.”

Sunday’s first reading (Jeremiah 1) recounts the story of God calling and sending Jeremiah to serve as a prophet. “Before you were born, I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you.” Jeremiah fires back that he is not up to the task – “I do not know how to speak. I am too young!” To Jeremiah’s objection that he (Jeremiah) does not have what it takes, God replies “Of course you do.” Sunday’s passage omits much of God’s rejoinder to Jeremiah, but it does describe the gifts God has given Jeremiah, “for it is I this day who have made you a fortified city, a pillar of iron, a wall of brass.” God is telling Jeremiah, “You have what it takes to do what I ask.”

Many argue that, in Sunday’s gospel (Luke 4), Jesus is delivering just the opposite message to his hometown people. But there is another view, that Jesus’s challenge to the people of Nazareth reveals his belief that they have what it takes. He reminds his listeners that their ancestors rejected the great prophets Elijah and Elisha. But would Jesus bother to deliver that message only to browbeat them for their ancestors’ choices? Would he gripe just for the sake of griping? Might it be more accurate to notice that Jesus only delivers challenges to those he believes can get on board? Time and time again, His challenges reveal his conviction that each person he challenges has what it takes to say “yes.” Might he be telling the people of Nazareth, “your ancestors made poor choices, but I believe you can say ‘yes’ to me, otherwise I wouldn’t bother to challenge you?” Might the implied affirmation of their graces be for them a Jeremiah moment? A moment when God says “You have what it takes to make the inspired choice.”

What about you? What about your Jeremiah moments? When have others had more confidence in you than you had in yourself? When have others believed in you more than you believed in yourself? When has another delivered the message to you, probably on God’s behalf, “You have what it takes; quit doubting yourself?” Perhaps it happened when you had a setback that shook your self-confidence. Maybe it was in your professional life or in your life as an athlete or a student? Maybe it was during a challenging time in your marriage or in your faith-life. Maybe it had to do with your ability to get back on the proverbial horse after life had thrown you. When has someone said, “I believe you can rise to this challenge because you have what it takes?”

And where might you be invited to do that for another? To speak the challenging word of belief in the other? And what story does it make sense for you to share? When was that moment when, for good reason, you thought you couldn’t and someone thought you could? When have your mistakes convinced you that you have lost the program but someone else talked you out of that mistaken belief? Or when have you been the victim of someone else’s malice or stupidity and you were ready to quit and God used another to remind you “You still have what it takes?” Because you do.

God’s call only takes you where God’s grace can hold you. If God is calling, God is supplying. When have you, like Jeremiah and the people of Nazareth, been reminded of that? Who might need to hear your story? Who has been that prophet of challenging affirmation for you and to whom might God be sending you as a prophet of challenging affirmation?

This Week in Prayer, Service & Community - February 1, 2019

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This Week – February 1, 2019

Dear All: 
    
EAT MORE SPAGHETTI AND MEATBALLS!!!!! GOD TOLD ME ON RETREAT TO TELL YOU THAT.

OK. Just kidding about the divine revelation concerning the noodles. That didn’t really happen. But our annual Pasta Night really is happening, tonight. I hope to see you there. And I hope to see many of you in two weeks at “All You Need Is Love,” our parish celebration of marriage on February 16.

THIS WEEK IN PRAYER 

  • Retreat – OK. OK. So maybe God didn’t say anything about pasta, but retreat was excellent anyhow. The weather stunk; there were a few patches of sunshine and one fully sunny day, but it rained 6 out of 8 days. Then again, the lousy weather didn’t diminish the retreat. God was amazingly kind, even for God. It was one of those retreats that will take a very long time to sort out. But I am glad I get to sort it all out here rather than there. One of the very best parts of the retreat was returning to Saint Joe’s. I truly am one of the luckiest and most blessed guys I know. Time away did nothing but deepen that conviction. 

  • Stations of the Cross – We are still five weeks away from Lent, but now might be a good time to mark a few of your chances to pray the stations. They will be prayed twice each Friday in Lent. 

  • Sacrament of the Sick – This is the last reminder in this series. Don’t hesitate to arrange the Sacrament of the Sick. Grab me after Mass and we can get right to it. Or email me to arrange an anointing for your loved one. God wants us to be at peace, especially in times of illness and injury.

THIS WEEK IN SERVICE: 

  • Help for Feeding Hands – The Feeding Hands food bank in Somerville supports 250 low-income families. Our parish, for the second year, supports Feeding Hands by providing items that are not eligible for public subsidies – e.g. laundry soap, toiletries, dish detergent, sponges and cleaning products. If you have not done so already, and you are feeling the itch to help, please pick up a shopping bag in the gathering space. The bag identifies a particular good for you to buy. That way we don’t end up with 700 razors and no sponges. The collection bins are in the Memorial Hallway. (P.S. – Over the last two years The Paul Gubitosi Charitable Fund has given Feeding Hands 100 shopping carts so the people who come to Feeding Hands can get their food home.)

  • Ministry Recruiting – Thanks to all the Ministry Leaders who have arranged to recruit in the Gathering Space this Lent. As of yesterday, all the slots are reserved. Here’s to God blessing this recruiting season and to God blessing each parishioner’s discernment about personal ministries.

  • Calling All Ministers – Please plan to participate in the annual Morning of Recollection for all parish ministries on Saturday, March 16. Volunteers in EVERY parish ministry are invited. The morning provides time to reflect on your ministry and to connect with others in your ministry. Please reply to Suzanne Kral at skral@stjosephsparish.com if you plan to attend. Please identify your primary ministry in the email.  

  • Are you a Caregiver? – Has God been asking you to make life better for a loved one who, long term or short term, needs some extra TLC? Or maybe you work as a caregiver of some sort? Either way, join us for the morning of recollection on Saturday, March 9 – the Saturday immediately before the Ministries Morning of Recollection. If you have participated before, you know how good it is to learn, laugh and pray with people who do what you do. You are not alone. If you are a caregiver who has yet to participate in one of these mornings of recollection, we are eager to welcome you. RSVP instructions will be available next week.

  • Congratulations Chris Cusack and Christina Androulakis – Christina and Chris, two very active members of our parish Youth Group, received the Diocese of Metuchen’s St. Timothy Award last week. Thanks and blessings for Christina and Chris and their families for representing our parish so well. Thanks to Bishop Checchio for granting the awards.

THIS WEEK IN COMMUNITY:

  • The Rescheduled Pasta Dinner – I hope to see many of you tonight. As I am writing this, our stalwart Knights are knocking out the meatballs. Granted, I am a complete and utter dope when it comes to cooking things that don’t go in the microwave, but what these guys are doing sure looks like rocket science to me. I just got a detailed explanation of why they use only San Marzano tomatoes in the sauce (or is it “gravy”), and why it is best to soak the bread in milk before it goes into the meatballs. Who knew? Anyhow, hope to see you tonight.

  • All You Need is LOVE – Our parish celebration of the married vocation starts at the 4:45 Mass on Saturday, February 16 and continues with great food and fellowship, and some fine music, in the Parish Hall. Remember to submit a COPY of your wedding picture in the paper frame (don’t give us an original) AND remember to buy your ticket this weekend. Not only does this night promise to be great fun, but it is also the bargain of the year. (PS – Seriously, if you are in a tight financial spot, please let me provide you and your spouse with a ticket. Please.)

  • Summer CCD July 21-Aug 1― We are happy to announce that this year we will be using our Finding God Curriculum for the summer. There are so many great lessons, projects, and activities in this program, that it will be perfect for the relaxed, fun atmosphere we strive for in our summer offering. Our plan is to have the registration process begin in late March again this year, so stay tuned for more specific details when registration materials are available!

  • Trivia Night ― Friday, April 5th. Do you think you know it all? Get your team together and prove it at our first adult Parish Pub Trivia Night fundraiser for Catholic Heart Workcamp and our young adult service trip. Tables of 8 will compete for some great prizes! Tickets (and more information) are available at on our website.

It was good to be away and even better to be back. As always, great thanks and all best blessings. 

Fr Hank

This Week in Prayer, Service & Community - January 25, 2019

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This Week – January 25, 2019

Dear All:

The Pasta Dinner has been rescheduled for next Friday – February 1.

Greatest thanks to the Knights and to the Parish Staff for managing the situation so adroitly and amicably. They are a dream team.

And I am innocent! As hard as I prayed for the grace to figure out how NOT to miss the dinner, I did not ask the Good Lord to sabotage the building – to burst one pipe or clog another. But things being as they are, I very much look forward to joining you at the dinner next Friday. I am scheduled to return from retreat on Thursday.


THIS WEEK IN PRAYER 

  • Retreat – I hope you don’t mind if the prayer part of this week’s THIS WEEK includes a bit about my prayer/retreat. Although I am only 40 hours into it, I am loving it. Other than getting this “THIS WEEK” to you, I am pretty much completely unplugged. As always, I started retreat with confession and I stumbled into a great confessor here. (N.B. – No, I do not plan to get my haircut down here. Retreat is the one exception to the haircut/confession deal.) This retreat house offers great places for each day’s meditations. Many of the places offer views of salt water and sailing vessels. Already, I am a bit surprised by the direction the Lord seems to be pointing me. It is a bit difficult to explain but it has something to do with a never-before-seen connection between a favorite Psalm, a favorite passage in Mark, the words of the consecration, and the amazing grace of being at St. Joe’s. Last thing, my retreat reading, for the times in between meditations, is Gerhard Lohfink’s “Jesus of Nazareth: What He Wanted, Who He Was.” Glad I saved it up for retreat. Please send up a good prayer for me.

  • Sacrament of the Sick – Just another friendly reminder, please do not wait to request the Anointing of the Sick for yourself or a loved one. Catch me after Mass and we can get right to it or arrange for me to visit your loved one. God wants you to be at peace and this sacrament helps that happen in times of illness and injury.

Sunday’s Homily – January 20 – Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, “Getting Back on the Horse”

  • To listen to Sunday's homily (and access to past homilies), click here.

  • To read a summary of it, go to the bottom of this page

THIS WEEK IN SERVICE:

  • Ministry Recruiting – Our ministry recruiting season will occur in Lent this year. Suzanne Kral, parish liaison to all ministries, has invited all ministry leaders to sign up for a recruiting station. We have 2 or 3 slots remaining for the recruiting season. If you would like to claim one of the available tables, email Suzanne at skral@stjosephsparish.com 

  • Ministry Morning of Recollection – Mark your calendars. People involved in every parish ministry are invited to the annual morning of recollection on Saturday, March 16. The morning provides time for reflection on your ministry and it also provides an excellent opportunity to connect with the many parishioners who share your ministry. 

  • The Caregivers’ Morning of Recollection – The date for the Spring morning of recollection has been set for Saturday, March 9. If you are helping provide that extra TLC for a loved one in a tough patch, be sure to join us. It is good for people performing these labors to laugh, learn and pray together. Eating together is also good. 

  • St. Timothy Award - Congratulations to two of our high school teens who received the Diocese of Metuchen’s St. Timothy Award. Chris Cusack and Christina Androulakis have been key members of our youth group and are involved in myriad ministries and service work in our parish. We are blessed to have them in our parish and happy that Bishop Checchio is honoring them on Saturday at a special mass celebrating World Youth Day.

THIS WEEK IN COMMUNITY:

  • Our Government Shutdown – The shutdown makes life difficult for many government employees and for the many who work for government contractors. If the government shutdown has put you in a difficult financial position, please Contact Michelle Laffoon in our Social Concerns office. Your parish is praying for you and might be able to help you a little with your highest priority bills. While it won’t pay a bill, the youth group would also like to offer you a homemade turkey pot pie. 

  • Blessings for Our Newest Parishioners – The Good Lord continues to bless us with new parishioners. May all of the new parishioners find here a true spiritual home and even deeper awareness of Jesus’ love and Jesus’ call. Welcome to all of our newest community members:

    • Dan Calabrese    

    • James and Mary Castro

    • John and Nadya Furnari and their children Isabella and Alexander

    • Daniel and Jill Gleeson and their children Daniel and Cameron

    • Rashad and Stephanie Hix and their children Qua’sheed and Jackson

    • Arthur and Nancy Leo

    • John and Sharon Liszczak

    • Lauren Yackowski and her children Matthew and Caitlin

  • Dates to Mark:

    • Our Annual Pasta Dinner – ONCE AGAIN – IT IS NOW ON FRIDAY FEBRUARY 1.

    • Calling all Married Couples – “All You Need Is Love” – Saturday, February 16 – at the 4:45 Mass with dinner and a party afterwards, a celebration of marriage for all our married couples. Recall last year’s reception after the 11:30 Mass on Valentine’s Day? This celebration will be that excellent but different. Plan to be there. And make sure you do the paper frame thing for your wedding pictures.

    • Trivia Night ― Friday, April 5th. Do you think you know it all? Come and prove it at our first adult Trivia Night fundraiser for Catholic Heart Workcamp and our young adult service trip. Tables of 8 will compete for some great prizes! More details to follow.

I almost forgot to mention at the top of the page, the Passionists no longer eat standing up. A bunch of them chuckled when I asked about that tradition and if it really happened or maybe I was going delusional. They assured me they used to eat that way. They still have the “dining shelves” in parts of the refectory!

With gratitude for the time away, gladness at the prospect of returning, and all best blessings.

Fr Hank 

 January 20 – Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
“Getting Back on the Horse”


Who among us has not felt a little confused, bewildered or befuddled in our relationship with Jesus? Is it too far a stretch to regard the unsettling spiritual moments as “inevitable?” And if such sad spiritual experiences are unavoidable, then isn’t it also true that each of us faces moments when we must decide whether to “get back on the horse that threw us?”

Sunday’s Gospel (John 2) about the wedding at Cana suggests that even the Blessed Mother had to make that choice. The depletion of the wedding wine would have been a mortifying embarrassment to the host. In order to prevent that embarrassment – at least that is what a good chunk of our tradition says motivated our lady – she asked Jesus to help. The request seems innocent enough and understandable.

But how did Jesus reply? “Woman, how does your concern affect me?” Both parts of that reply, the “Woman” part and the “your concern” (i.e., not mine) part, come across as more than a little abrasive. Scripture scholars over the centuries have tried to explain Jesus’ words as a friendly rejoinder but their efforts have faltered. Perhaps it is best to treat it as distancing and probably unsettling for Mary.

Given all that, Mary’s reply seems to be another Cana miracle. Rather than correct Jesus or distance herself, she expresses pure faith in him, telling the waiters “Do whatever he tells you.” That faith-filled reply offers a great example of someone getting right back on the spiritual horse that threw her. Jesus seems a little distant and she makes the choice she would have made anyhow.

What about you? You have had rough spiritual moments that have made you wonder about God’s love, and you got back on your spiritual horse. Despite the disappointment or confusion, you continued to make inspired choices. You didn’t deny the disappointment, but neither did you let it stop you. Everyone who has lived through the death of a child and still goes to church has done that. Everyone who has labored and prayed fervently for a particular outcome and then not received it – and still prays – has done that. When you have felt rejected by God or the church and have continued to bless God and the church, you have gotten back on your spiritual horse. You have, like Mary at Cana, participated in one of Cana’s less-known miracles – the miracle of perseverance. When have you done just that and who might need to hear your story, not just the victory part, but the part about feeling dismissed by God and ready to ditch the horse?

And the other miracle? The horses just keep on coming. It seems that whenever we feel spiritually pummeled, God provides an opportunity for us to re-profess our faith. God provides horse after heavenly horse for us to get back on. What is your story?

This Week in Prayer, Service & Community - January 18, 2019

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This Week – January 18, 2019

Dear All: 

Monday morning was another one of “those moments,” a moment that exposed the great generosity of spirit that lives in the hearts of so many St. Joe’s parishioners. The volunteers – both the 8:35 Club regulars and the folks who came especially to help – had all the Christmas decorations put away by 9:30. The dozens of poinsettias, the creche, the flying angels, everything was all relocated in a half hour. It then took a bit more time to schlepp everything over to the rectory basement, to sweep up the hay and to put away the outside lights, but it was all done speedily with great good humor. Major thanks to all who pitched in and thanks to those who would have pitched in if they could have. And, of course, great thanks to all who labored mightily to make the church as beautiful as it was for Christmas. Your outstanding efforts helped many people to pray and to feel and trust God’s infinite love.

 THIS WEEK IN PRAYER 

  • Sacrament of the Sick – Don’t hesitate to ask for it! If you are about to have an operation or have received a challenging diagnosis, please let me know ASAP. On your way in or out of church is the best time to tell me. My usual response is to anoint as soon as I have greeted the last departing parishioner. The anointing only takes a moment and the grace is, according to the many who experience it, palpable. God wants to help you get better. Also, please let me know if you have a loved one who is homebound or living in a healthcare facility. The goal is to provide spiritual sustenance to every parishioner, whether or not they can get to Mass. I anointed about 160 parishioners last year. It is a beautiful part of who we are.

  • Travelling Devotions – Our Lady of Guadalupe Icon and Prayers – Remember, if you would like to host the icon and pray the prayers for a week in your home, please get in touch with Suzanne Kral at skral@stjosephsparish.com 

Sunday’s Homily – “January 13, 2018, The Baptism of the Lord; I Have Called You for the Victory of Justice”

  • To listen to Sunday's homily (and access to past homilies), click here.

  • To read a summary of it, go to the bottom of this page

THIS WEEK IN SERVICE:

  • Calling all Technical Writers – Have you had experience writing manuals or other technical guides? If so, can you help us out? Our recent tech upgrades – the Church sound system, the new wifi throughout the building, excellent AV equipment in the CCD classrooms – in addition to the tech upgrades that we hope to make this year, require people who know how to run the equipment. Many would like to help but need better instructions. Might you be able to help us produce the manuals or user-guides that will enable more people to join the tech ministries? If yes, email me at fhilton@Loyola.edu

  • Ministry Recruiting – Our ministry recruiting season will occur in Lent this year. Suzanne Kral, parish liaison to all ministries, has invited all ministry leaders to sign up for a recruiting station. We have 2 or 3 slots remaining for the recruiting season. If you would like to claim one of the available tables, email Suzanne at skral@stjosephsparish.com 

  • Ministry Morning of Recollection – Mark your calendars. People involved in every parish ministry are invited to the annual morning of recollection on Saturday, March 16. The morning provides time for reflection on your ministry and it also provides an excellent opportunity to connect with the many parishioners who share your ministry. 

  • Turkey Pot Pies ― Did you ever wonder what happens to all the turkeys we collect around the holidays? Any turkeys not consumed by needy families get turned into turkey pot pies that will be used by our emergency meals ministry throughout the winter. This past Saturday our youth group baked - from scratch - 22 pies and enough trays of food for two meals at Elijah’s Promise Soup Kitchen. Let no turkey go to waste! Way to go!

THIS WEEK IN COMMUNITY:

  • Our Government Shutdown – The shutdown makes life difficult for many government employees and for the many who work for government contractors. If the government shutdown has put you in a difficult financial position, please Contact Michelle Laffoon in our Social Concerns office. Your parish is praying for you and might be able to help you a little with your highest priority bills. 

  • Dates to Mark:

    • Our Annual Pasta Dinner – Friday, January 25 –– a great night for the entire family. My personal regret is that I will not be there as I will be away making my annual retreat from January 23 to January 31. Yes, I confess I am feeling a bit envious of you who will be there. 

    • Calling all Married Couples – “All You Need Is Love” – Saturday, February 16 – at the 4:45 Mass with dinner and a party afterward, a celebration of marriage for all our married couples. Recall last year’s reception after the 11:30 Mass on Valentine’s Day? This celebration will be that excellent but different. Plan to be there.

  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day ― This Monday is a holiday and our parish offices will be closed. There will still be 8:35 am mass, if you are home, please feel free to join us.

I leave for retreat on Wednesday. I still strive for the Jesuit norm of an 8-day retreat each year and at least one 3-day follow up at another part of the year. I spent last year’s 8-day retreat with the Franciscans. I am once again being ecumenical and spending this year’s retreat with the Passionists. They eat standing up. That works for me. Say one for me and know that I look forward to rejoining you at Mass.

Fr Hank

January 13, 2018, The Baptism of the Lord
I Have Called You for the Victory of Justice


The word “justice” has a way of activating our political antennae. We hear the word and we quietly drift to our Democratic or Republican or Libertarian or Bolshevik corners. We hear the word and we start thinking as conservatives or liberals or anarchists or monarchists.
 
The tendency to turn “justice” into a political notion is both understandable and problematic. Scriptural references to “justice” typically invite us to take the bigger view. Perhaps it is fair to hear biblical invitations to promote “justice” as invitations to promote right relationships (a) among all humans and (b) between humans and God. Those “right relationships” are the relationships that delight and glorify God, that lead people to peace, and that are guided by love.

Sunday’s first reading (Isaiah 42), the first of Isaiah’s four magnificent “Servant Songs,” claims “I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice, I have grasped you by the hand.” That line is addressed primarily to Jesus. It is also addressed to the mysterious suffering servant and to us. God the Father wants to use us to promote right relationships in our own lives and around the world. Not only does God want to use us in that effort, God grasps us by the hand – i.e., God helps us.

Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 3) depicts Jesus’ baptism and a moment when Jesus experienced the profound, interior awareness that he and the Father were linked in a completely unique relationship. The moment affirms Jesus’ singular role in promoting true justice. To whom else has the Father ever said, “You are my beloved son"? No one.

But to whom else has God said “in you I am well pleased”? He has said that to millions of people, including you. It didn’t happen with an opening in the sky and the descent of a dove. It happened in the quiet of your heart when you knew that your relationships lined up with God’s hopes. It happened when you had that quiet awareness that what you were doing and the way you were living your relationships was consistent with “justice” – even though the awareness most certainly did not rely on that word. 

What about it? In what moments have you experienced that profound, God-given conviction that your relationships were right? That they reflected what Isaiah terms “justice”? When have you felt particularly right, because you felt particularly close to Jesus in your life as a parent, as a child, as a sibling, as a spouse, as a friend, as a caregiver, as a kid who includes the lonely, as a worker who helps colleagues, as an athlete who plays for the team’s best, as a benefactor who, in large ways and small, helps the less fortunate? Surely, there have been many moments when you felt a deep-down confidence that your relationships and God’s hopes were very much in synch. When were they and what do those moments say about God’s desire to keep “calling you for the victory of justice?”

This Week in Prayer, Service & Community - January 11, 2019

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This Week – January 11, 2019

Dear All:

Wednesday night was one of those nights – a night that provided a delightful reminder of God’s impressive action in our parish life. While the group in church was singing and praying for migrants and refugees, the Knights were holding their monthly business meeting in the hospitality room, the leaders of our Becca’s Friends Ministry were meeting in the south end of the Parish Hall, and the folks who knit and crochet were pursuing their crafts at the Parish Hall’s other end. We have so many of those nights. God is good and so are you.

THIS WEEK IN PRAYER

  • Traveling Devotions – Our Lady of Guadalupe (OLG) Icon and Prayers – 8:35 – Thanks to the members of the 8:35 Club for signing up to host the traveling OLG icon for the next four months. The signup sheet is now posted in the 8:35 section of the Gathering Space bulletin board. CCD families will be the next to be invited to host the icon and pray the associated prayers.

  • Prayer Service for Refugees and Migrants – Thanks to all who came to pray on Wednesday night. The prayers and the music were very engaging and the translated testimonies moved many hearts. While we hold many different views about how best to serve migrants and refugees, we know that each of us is called to pray for these beloved of Jesus who, as a child, experienced firsthand the refugee life.

  • Praying for Loved Ones with Illness and Injuries – If you would like one of your loved ones to be named in our Sunday Prayers of the Faithful for people with illness or injury, just call the church office and make your request. We are currently trying to improve our methods for getting people on and off the list. Meanwhile, keep the requests coming. The prayers help.

Sunday’s Homily – “January 6, 2019, Feast of the Epiphany; Hope Part VIII: Hoping for Warm Welcomes”

  • To listen to Sunday's homily (and access to past homilies), click here.

  • To read a summary of it, go to the bottom of this page

THIS WEEK IN SERVICE: 

  • Your Christmas Generosity – The results are now all in and they are impressive. 

    • The Advent Giving Tree (AGT) – The AGT Committee put up 750 gift-request tags and received more than 1000 gifts. That is correct: they requested 750 gifts and received 1,000. Many of the requests were for gift A OR gift B and the donor gave gift A AND gift B – e.g., the request for boys’ size 7 shoes or boots produced shoes AND boots.

    • Becca’s Friends – With the help of many St. Joe’s parishioners, our Becca’s Friends Ministry hosted a Christmas dance that was attended by more than 100 guests. Many of the people who came for the great food and dancing belong to St. Joe’s but the majority were not parishioners and many of our guests came from area group homes. Members of our Youth Group and CCD Programs provided invaluable company.

THIS WEEK IN COMMUNITY:

  • Our Government Shutdown – The shutdown makes life difficult for many government employees and for the many who work for government contractors. If the government shutdown has put you in a difficult financial position, please Contact Michelle Laffoon in our Social Concerns office. Your parish is praying for you and might be able to help you a little with your highest priority bills. 

  • Dates to Mark:

    • Our Annual Pasta Dinner – Friday, January 25 –– a great night for the entire family. My personal regret is that I will not be there as I will be away making my annual retreat from January 23 to January 31. Yes, I confess I am feeling a bit envious of you who will be there. 

    • Calling all Married Couples – “All You Need Is Love” – Saturday, February 16 – at the 4:45 Mass with dinner and a party afterwards, a celebration of marriage for all our married couples. Recall last year’s reception after the 11:30 Mass on Valentine’s Day? This celebration will be that excellent but different. Plan to be there.

  • Collection Counters – Thanks to Bill Houle and his remarkable team of high-productivity, low-maintenance collection counters, we had the Christmas collection counted and in the bank before noon on December 26. The Christmas counting is a gigantic undertaking and Bill and his team made incredibly short work of it all. Great thanks to Bill and all.

  • Committees and Councils – Great thanks to members of the many committees and councils who are working extra hard in the post-Christmas season.

    • Parish Council -- Thanks to the Parish Council for tweaking the meeting time and for the great conversation about a number of very important issues, especially the issue of how best to minister to parishioners who, for a variety of reasons, cannot join us at Mass 

    • Buildings and Grounds – Thanks to B&G for tweaking its meeting time and for doing the hard work of establishing priorities for the remainder of this fiscal year. If our parish gets major subsidies on the AC units that need to be replaced, we will be able to pursue one set of priorities. If not, we will pursue another. Your deliberations have produced great wisdom.

    • Finance Council – The Finance Council meets this Tuesday to discuss, among other important topics, our finances for the first half of the current fiscal year, how close we are to the agreed upon budget, and what course adjustments we can or should make.

      Members of all these groups make great contributions to our ability to grow as disciples of Christ, to take meaningful next steps in our lives as priests, prophets, and kings.

With blessings for every St. Joe’s parishioner and whatever is going on in your life these days. May God divide whatever sadness you are feeling and multiply the joy.

Fr Hank

January 6, 2019, Feast of the Epiphany
Hope Part VIII: Hoping for Warm Welcomes


Who doesn’t hope for a warm welcome? We hope we will receive warm welcomes when we are feeling vulnerable. We doubly hope that for our children and our loved ones. We know the ultimate warm welcome awaits us in heaven but, meanwhile, we hope for sincere receptions and we hope that those who welcome us into new situations will value our gifts. It is a very human experience.

Two groups of people in Sunday’s first reading (Isaiah 60) hoped for warm welcomes and a place in the community – the exiles who would be returning to Jerusalem from Babylon and the visitors from Midian, Ephah, and Sheba who would someday visit Jerusalem. They would come to Mount Zion from places and cultures with which the people of Jerusalem were not familiar. They would be bringing gifts that the locals might not recognize. Of course, those returnees and visitors would be feeling vulnerable and hoping for a warm welcome and an appreciation of their gifts.

Many questions surround the Magi’s origins and motives (Matthew 2). Notwithstanding those unknowns, we do know that they came to Bethlehem from far away bringing gifts that were rare or unknown in Bethlehem. Herod feared them, gave them a very insincere greeting and cared little about their hopes and their potential contributions. The Holy Family, from what we can infer, received the Magi and their gifts and their unfamiliar ways.
What about you (in three questions)? First, when have you been the vulnerable one hoping for a warm welcome, a sincere interest in your story, and an appreciation of your gifts and potential contributions? Perhaps you had the experience when you moved from one place to another, when you tried out for a team (athletic or professional), when you wanted to join a ministry, when you needed to share important but scary news about yourself, when you needed to go to confession, or when you had achieved something beautiful and important? Who welcomed you and valued your gifts?

Second, where have you offered precisely that sort of warm welcome and sincere appreciation to someone you knew well or someone you were just getting to know? Perhaps it was a friend or a relative who had undergone a personal transformation and needed to feel safe with that new insight? Maybe it was someone who joined you at work or on your team or in your neighborhood – and you did just the right thing? This is not to say “Anything goes” or “Every idea is equally valid.” But God does invite us to welcome many people and their varied ideas and gifts.

Finally, where might God be prompting you now to offer that warm welcome – the sort that Herod withheld from the Magi but the Holy Family offered? To whom does God want you to say, indeed more than in word, “You matter?”

This Week in Prayer, Service & Community - January 4, 2019

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This Week – January 4, 2019

Dear All: 

Thanks for the inspired and inspiring Christmas. I hope and trust that yours was also full of great blessings and that your new year is off to a rollicking good start. This weekend we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany. Next Sunday it is the Baptism of the Lord. Then on January 20, we return to Ordinary Time until Ash Wednesday, March 6. Enjoy the 60 days of green vestments.

 THIS WEEK IN PRAYER

  • Travelling Devotions – Our Lady of Guadalupe Prayer Guide – Our Metuchen Diocese is promoting a year of spiritual renewal. It includes renewal of our relationship with the Blessed Mother, in her role as Our Lady of Guadalupe. Saint Joe’s and every other parish in the diocese have received an icon and a collection of prayers that is meant to stay at a different parishioner’s home every week. I thank the members of the 8:35 Club (the folks who regularly attend daily Mass) for signing up for the first 15 weeks. Thirty-seven more households can host the icon and pray the prayers once the 8:35 gang finishes the preliminary round. Great thanks to Fernando Diaz, our parish liaison to the project. Please contact Suzanne Kral at skral@stjosephsparish.com if you would like to be put on the list of host households.

  • Prayer Service for Refugees and Migrants – Think about joining the prayer for refugees and migrants this Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. The diocese invited our parish to host this event as part of next week’s nation-wide effort to pray for our dislocated brothers and sisters. Join us if you can. 

Sunday’s Homily – “December 30, 2018 – Feast of the Holy Family: Hope Part VII: Family Hopes, Me and Us”

  • To listen to Sunday's homily (and access to past homilies), click here.

  • To read a summary of it, go to the bottom of this page


THIS WEEK IN SERVICE: 

  • The Inhalers: At the end of each Mass on December 30, I asked you to consider putting an offering in the poor box, an offering that would help pay for a local man’s inhaler. Because he is not a U.S. citizen, our friend is not eligible for government assistance. Your response was truly outstanding. Your generosity has enabled us to set up an account, within our Social Ministries accounts, that will pay for his next six inhalers. Imagine our friend’s relief when, as we stood at the cash register and the very kind pharmacist said “That will be $620. How would you like to pay,” and I was able to reply “St. Joe’s Parish will cover it.” Thanks too to all who offered other forms of assistance. You are a blessing.

  • Virtus Training available for any parishioners interested in volunteering to work with youth, special needs adults or the elderly is available tomorrow from 9:30 - noon. There are only 5 of the 40 spots still available. Click here to register.

THIS WEEK IN COMMUNITY:

  • Welcome to Our New Parishioners – Once again, we are delighted to welcome several new members to our parish. May your years at St. Joe’s be many and may they be years of great grace for you, and because of you, years of great grace for all parishioners:

    • Maureen Amter and her son Michael

    • Patrick and Diane Baldoni

    • Ryan and Sarah Forrester and their children Charlotte and Adam

    • Ellen Schwalm

    • Logan Stahl

    • Christopher and Carol Wishbow

  • Dates to Mark:

    • Our Annual Pasta Dinner – Friday, January 25 –– a great night for the whole family

    • “All You Need Is Love” – Saturday, February 16 – at the 4:45 Mass with dinner and a party afterward, a celebration of marriage for all our married couples. Recall last year’s reception after the 11:30 Mass on Valentine’s Day? This celebration will be that excellent but different. Plan to be there.

With blessings for every St. Joe’s parishioner and whatever is going on in your life these days. May God divide whatever sadness you are feeling and multiply the joy.

Fr Hank

December 30, 2018, Feast of the Holy Family
Hope Part VII: Family Hopes, Me and Us


We celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family every year on the Sunday after Christmas. For most families, the feast occurs on the heels of a wonderful family celebration of Christmas. For others, the feast follows some difficult days. Regardless of the state of our family, the feast offers consolation and challenge. By inviting us to look at our hopes – our “me-hopes” and our “us-hopes” – the feast consoles and challenges all of us. The feast’s scriptures do the same.

Sunday’s first reading (First Samuel 1) touches the stories of two families. The main family in the story, Samuel’s family, includes several people who care primarily about “us.” Elkanah and Hannah reveal a strong, underlying concern for each member of the family. Neither of them pursues “me-hopes.” Peninnah, a very influential and severely self-centered woman who lurks in the story’s background, could not care less about others’ wellbeing. She is all “me-hopes.” Eli’s family is the story’s other family. Eli cares deeply about the community and about his family. His two deadbeat sons, Hophni and Phineas, are great examples of pathologically self-absorbed youths. They hope only for their own gratification. That misguided hope proves to be their undoing.

The gospel (Luke 2) recounts the time when Jesus became separated and then reconnected to his family. He has one idea about what is best for “us.” His parents have a very different idea. Their story is not like that of Hannah and Peninnah or like that of Eli and his sons. Those stories were about “me-people” confronting the “us-people.” The gospel, by comparison, is a story of “us-people” having different notions of what is best.
Both readings challenge. The first reading challenges us to wonder about our “me-hopes,” – i.e., hopes that focus only on my wants and needs rather than on the family’s. They invite us to put down our Peninnah and take up our Hannah. The gospel challenges us to consider the possibility that we might need to put down an “us-hope” even though that hope gives every indication of being inspired. 

But the readings also console. They invite us to recall moments when, with God’s help, we have recognized our “me-hopes” for what they are and put them aside. They also invite us to recall those graced moments when we surrendered a beautiful “us-hope” in favor of another’s.

When have you put aside a powerful “me-hope?” When have you recognized that a goal you are pursuing benefits only you, not the family? Maybe it was about your professional life, or your training schedule, or your sports schedules, or your recreational life? And when have you put your “us-hope” aside in favor of another’s? Maybe it was about family finances or relationships or recreation?

Regardless of the current state of our families, whatever we regard as “family,” there is probably a chance to go from a me-hope to an us-hope, and another chance to go from one us-hope to a better one. What is your story?

This Week in Prayer, Service & Community - December 21, 2018

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This Week – December 21, 2018

Dear All:

Happy winter solstice, the day with the smallest amount of daylight. Also, the day when the rising sun angles through our church’s roof windows to shine on the heart of our crucified Christ. Sort of our own little Stonehenge, but better. Too bad today’s gloom deprived us of that. But it is also the feast of the great Dutch Jesuit, Peter Canisius, a doctor of the church and a superb teacher. Students facing those final finals, ask him to help.

Today’s “THIS WEEK” is short. Who has time to read this close to Christmas? It is also the last one for a few weeks. You will receive regular greetings but not a full weekly update.

THIS WEEK IN PRAYER 

  • Weekend Mass Schedule – The regular Mass schedule applies this weekend (4:45, 7:15, 9:30, 11:30 and 6:00). 

  • Christmas Mass Schedule – There are three Masses on Christmas Eve, each with a different music offering.

    • 4:00 pm – The children’s choir provides the music, with some help from our cantors.

    • 6:00 pm – Laurie and the Sunday 6:00 pm Praise Group will sing at the 6:00 pm Christmas Eve. 

    • 10:00 pm – The carols start at 9:30 pm, led by the Sunday 9:30 a.m. choir.

  • There are also three Masses on Christmas morning:

    • 7:15 am – Andrea and Tim, the regular 7:15 ensemble, will provide the music.

    • 9:30 and 11:30 – These are the BIG music Masses. Andrea and Tim will support a mix of regular musicians and visiting musicians. The lineup includes Trombone (by the guy who plays the trombone in the White House Marine Band!), bass guitar (Pete from the 9:30), french horn, viola, violin, flute (Thomas from the 9:30), Andrea playing the organ and guitar and singing also (7:15 regular), her husband Tim singing bass and a visiting Soprano (the singing kind, not the gangster kind)

It will be excellent to pray with you whenever you are here. When thinking through Mass times, remember that the 4:00 pm is very convenient for many and starts to fill in at 3:00 pm. By 3:45 we pretty much reach the fire code limits, that is with people standing in the gathering space and the hallways. Last year we had to draw the line at 1300 people. (For reference, we usually have 1300 people for the entire weekend.) Also keep in mind that the music will be delightful at all the Masses and that the full sound at the 9:30 and 11:30 merits consideration. Either way, pray well!

  • Confessions – I will be in the confessional for an extra half hour tomorrow (Saturday) – starting at 3:30. Once again, think of enjoying the grace of reconciliation – a good Christmas present to yourself.

  • Prayer Service for Refugees and Migrants – Mark your calendar for Wednesday, January 9. Sister Ruth Bolarte, IHM, Director of the diocese’s Secretariat for Family and Pastoral Life, has invited St. Joe’s to host the diocese’s prayer service for refugees and migrants around the world. This prayer service is part of the nationwide observance of what the U.S. Catholic Bishops have labeled “National Migration Week,” January 6-12, 2019. Come and pray if you can.

Sunday’s Homily – “December 16, 2018 – Third Sunday of Advent: Hope, Part IV: Hoping for Inspired Certainty”

  • To listen to Sunday's homily, click here.

  • To read a summary of it, go to the bottom of this page


THIS WEEK IN SERVICE: 

  • Your Great Efforts to Console: You perform remarkable works of mercy all year long. Your year-round generosity is both inspired and inspiring. Most recently, you have truly outdone yourselves – both in helping people to have a good Thanksgiving and in helping them to have a good Christmas. May God bless you mightily. It will be good to take a fresh look at our ministerial options. We can do all that after January 1. Meanwhile, continue to be good to those you meet – and take good care of yourself.

THIS WEEK IN COMMUNITY:

  • Welcoming the Hopeful – Many people who come to pray with us only on Christmas. Thanks for joining me in welcoming them into our community. We will have some goodies for them as they leave church. I will need a few of you to help hand out said goodies – all of which are designed to get them thinking about coming more often. 

  • Welcoming the Little Children – I will also need a few folks to help hand out coloring books and crayons to the little ones, especially at the 4:00 pm. The crayons etc increase the chances that the kids will have a good time in church and the chances that their parents might be able to relax and pray.

I assure you of great blessings for you and your loved ones and your celebrations of Christ’s appearance on earth. Being your pastor makes me the luckiest guy I know – enormously blessed. Thanks for that privilege.

Fr Hank

Summary of December 16 Homily:
Third Sunday of Advent
Hope, Part IV: Hoping for Inspired Certainty


Certainty can be a good thing or a not-so-good thing. Uninspired certainty can leave us committed to choices and adventures that have little to do with Jesus’ desires for all of us. Inspired certainty, by comparison, is that justifiable confidence that my choices and adventures align with Jesus’s Sacred Heart. Uninspired certainty makes us vulnerable to that age-old malaise “Often in error, never in doubt.”

Zephaniah upbraids the people of ancient Israel for leaning to heavily on uninspired certainty. They somehow convinced themselves that it was OK to worship Baal and some of the area’s other false gods. But Zephaniah also assures the people that the day will come, after they repent, when they will enjoy the peace that comes from knowing they are making inspired choices and are entitled to that peace that only invades our hearts when our choices reflect God’s. In Sunday’s first reading Zephaniah assures the people that God will eventually rejoice over them and sing about them. Why all of that divine gladness? Because they will be making the inspired choices that create inspired certainty.

Sunday’s gospel portrays people sincerely seeking advice from John the Baptist. Three groups – the crowds, the tax collectors and the Roman soldiers – ask John “What should we do?” Clearly, they want to get to a place of inspired certainty, where they can relax and pray in the knowledge that they are fundamentally getting it right with God. They can put self-doubt aside and absorb God’s love.

What about you? When have you had particularly strong desires for inspired certainty? Sometimes we get the craving – to know deeply that we are knowing, wanting, and doing what God wants. When have you had that experience? Sometimes difficult circumstances intensify our hunger for inspired certainty. New adventures also have a way of strengthening our desire to get it right. That appetite for inspired certainty, whatever the stimulus, is a gift. It truly opens us up to God’s hopes. It is frequently a difficult gift but a gift nonetheless. When have you been, at least in your heart, as hungry for inspired certainty as the three groups of people who, in Sunday’s gospel, asked with complete sincerity, “what should we do?”

This Week in Prayer, Service & Community - December 14, 2018

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This Week – December 14, 2018

Dear All:

Happy Feast of Saint John of the Cross, Doctor of the Church. Any guesses about why we might consider today a feast for people who prefer bare feet?

THIS WEEK IN PRAYER 

  • Beautiful Music – Calling all kids! If you are old enough to read but young enough to consider yourself “a kid,” come and sing in the Children’s Choir at the 4:00 pm Mass on Christmas Eve. You need only to attend one of the rehearsals. You can either come to the practice on Monday the 17th or Wednesday the 19th. Both rehearsals start at 6:45 and end at 7:30. Give it a try!

  • Beautiful Silence – Hats off (silently of course) to all who participated in Tuesday night’s penance service. It was the quietest and most prayerful penance service I have experienced here. Frank Viola’s inspiring music, which was particularly easy to hear because of the delightful quiet, was a perfect match for the moment. Thanks to the ushers for keeping us moving and for organizing the express lanes, (based on age, not on volume of sins), to Mrs. Meyer for reading, to all our visiting priests, to Mrs. Valone for arranging the confessors, to the eighth graders for being so well prepared, to the CCD teachers and the parents and all who prepared and transported the eighth graders, and to all who participated in the prayer. It was a great grace to share the prayer with you.

  • Answer to Last Week’s Quiz – 

    • What feast do we celebrate exactly nine months after the Immaculate Conception? 

      • Mary’s Birthday, September 8

    • What do we call the feast that occurs exactly nine months before Christmas? 

      • The Annunciation, March 25 

    • Who were Mary’s parents?

      • Anne and Joachim (when is their feast and what do we pray for that day?) 

    • What scripture passage provides the basis for today’s feast?

      • None. Several passages allude to the underlying truth but none states it.

  • Advent Confessions – Remember – this Saturday and next, December 15 and 22 – confessions start early. I will be in the Reconciliation Room from 3:30 to 4:25.

  • Prayer Service for Refugees and Migrants – Mark your calendar for Wednesday, January 9. Sister Ruth Bolarte, IHM, Director of the diocese’s Secretariat for Family and Pastoral Life, has invited us to host the diocese’s prayer service for refugees and migrants around the world. This prayer service is part of the nationwide observance of what the U.S. Catholic Bishops have labeled “National Migration Week,” January 6-12, 2019. Come and pray if you can.

Sunday’s Homily – “December 9, 2018 – Second Sunday of Advent, Hope, Part III: Hoping to Matter”

  • To listen to Sunday's homily, click here.

  • To read a summary of it, go to the bottom of this page

THIS WEEK IN SERVICE: 

  • Our Advent Giving Tree – All the gifts are on their way. Shortly after Christmas, we will be able to supply a few measurements of your remarkable generosity. HUGE thanks to all who organized the tags and the 1001 details the project requires. Extra special thanks to Carol Jorgensen and Michelle Laffoon.

  • A Time for Every Purpose under Heaven – Of course we want to remain attentive always to the needs of those around us – i.e., around our county and around our world. But we are not built to drive at full speed in every season. Your giving has been going at full speed since October. May the days and weeks after Christmas be a time of grace-filled restoration. 

  • Ministry Leaders and Ministry Members – Ministries recruiting week will be here before you know it! How are you feeling about your current ministerial commitments? Which would you like to maintain and what changes might you think God is inviting you to make?

  • Food Bank Folks – In addition to the seasonal giving, we have dozens of parishioners who each week donate food for local food banks and a committed bunch of people who deliver that food. Your year-round efforts are appreciated every week of the year.

  • Interfaith Hospitality Network – Blessings for all the St. Joe’s people who chipped in to help the shelter that was hosted by our dear neighbors, the Hillsborough Reformed Church. This week’s guests included four moms and seven kids. Special thanks to all who go the great distance with this work, especially Sue Calamoneri, Alyson Scillitani, Gregory Scillatani, Sid Lentz and Kristen Mazuera.


THIS WEEK IN COMMUNITY:

  • You Are Fine Evangelists – Each November the diocese asks us to count the number of people who come to Sunday Mass. The statistics help them plan. The great news is that the number of people who go to church here continues to grow. In November 2013, an average of 993 people participated in Sunday Mass here. This year that number rose to 1,213 – an increase of 22 percent in five years. As many of the more recently registered parishioners will tell you, it is because you are committed to your parish, you find peace here, you talk about it, and you welcome new folks. You are one fine bunch of evangelists!

  • Buildings and Grounds – The excited preparations for Christmas do not slow our ongoing efforts to maintain and improve our facilities. Since Labor Day, our crew has completed many significant tasks: Installation of WiFi throughout the church, installation of new AV equipment in the CCD classrooms, replacement of the (worn out) office carpet, demolition of a rectory patio that was funneling rainwater into the basement, stabilization of a giant crack in the rectory foundation, creation of a new classroom out of two storage rooms, and, at last, repair of all the parking lot lights – even though one pole still needs to be replaced, but now it has electricity. Great thanks to all who make it happen.

With blessings for every parishioner and a special welcome home to our college students – with a double welcome to those who were not able to be home for Thanksgiving.

Fr Hank

Summary of December 9 Homily:
Second Sunday of Advent
Hope, Part III: Hoping to Matter


Of course, we all hope that we matter. We hope that we matter to others and we hope that we matter to God. We hope for reassurances that God and others care about us and the quality of our lives. The hope can devolve into a slightly neurotic, excessively needy thing, but there is a very healthy version of our hope to matter. That hope comes with being human. 

Sunday’s first reading comes from the book of Baruch, a spokesman for God whose writings appear in the Catholic bibles but not in the Protestant or Jewish bibles. Baruch addressed people whose lives were ravaged by The Babylonian exile. His heart ached for the people who were dragged away, the people who were left behind, and the people who fled when the trouble started. All of them had plenty of reasons to believe that they did not matter to any nation and they did not matter to God. Baruch needed to redirect them. He wanted them to keep hoping that they mattered to God. Sunday’s passage contains the good news that God cared about them very much. Baruch assured the people that, in the not too distant future, “God will bring (the captives) back to (Jerusalem), borne aloft in glory as on royal thrones . . . that Israel may advance secure in the glory of God.” Baruch wanted to restore their hope that they still mattered very much to God.

Sunday’s gospel (Luke 3) situates the appearance of John the Baptist in the history of Israel. Luke tells us that John appeared when the area was ruled by Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate, Herod the Tetrarch, and the High Priest(s) Annas and Caiaphas. We have plenty of reason to believe that these people cared far more about their own wellbeing than about the nation’s. With the possible exception of Annas and Caiaphas, the children of Israel mattered little to the named rulers. They contrast starkly with John the Baptist who cared intensely and who was sent by a God to who cared greatly. Moreover, John was clearing the way for Jesus, the human who cared more than any other human about all humans. The people who mattered little if at all to the people Luke names in this passage, mattered greatly to John, to Jesus, and to Jesus’ father. John’s appearance signals the start of a new era?

So what about you? God clearly wants people to know that they matter to him and that he cares about them. The readings make that very clear, albeit in a subtle way. Chances are excellent that you are doing a great job of feeding people’s hopes that they matter to others and they matter to God. Chances are also quite good that you play a significant role in justifying the hopes of some people. Without you and your care, they might easily wonder if they matter to anyone, and once that thought settles in, it is easy to suspect that we do not matter to God. Where are you doing a great job, a somewhat Christ-like job of letting others know that they do matter and that people do care? Is it with friends or relatives who are currently feeling pretty lousy about themselves? Is it with kids at school who never get picked for teams and who frequently eat lunch alone? 

God wants us to hope that we matter to others and to God. God also wants us to have moments when we realize the hopes are fulfilled, moments when we know that we do matter and that others care. Circumstances sometimes get in the way of those hopes and convictions. God is using you to feed those hopes and convictions. Name three or four ways in which you are doing a great job and one relationship in which you might up your game – so that one person regains the belief, “I matter.”

This Week in Prayer, Service & Community - December 8, 2018

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This Week – December 8, 2018

Dear All:

Christ’s Peace and Happy Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Mass for the holyday is this morning (Saturday) at 8:35. And in response to the day’s most frequently asked question, especially among the rascals, “No. Today’s 4:45 Mass does not ‘count’ for the holyday and for Sunday.” So there! And if it were mine to grant a dispensation from the obligation, I would do so only for the people who pass the Immaculate Conception quiz (see below)

 
 THIS WEEK IN PRAYER 

  • The Feast of the Immaculate Conception – Test your knowledge of the faith. And remember, if you get all the answers right, I might grant you a dispensation to double dip – if I had the juice!

    1. What feast do we celebrate exactly nine months from today?

    2. What do we call the feast that occurs exactly nine months before Christmas?

    3. Who were Mary’s parents?

    4. What scripture passage provides the basis for today’s feast?

  • Advent Penance Service – How long ago was your last confession? Regardless of your answer, Tuesday night is a great moment for your next confession. We have nine priests. Eight have passed the “kind confessor” screening. And the ninth isn’t all that bad. Give yourself a Christmas gift: feel the grace of absolution and true reconciliation. The service starts at 7:30. The eighth graders will be there for their pre-Confirmation confessions. We will have express lines for non-eighth-graders. Extra pitch – if you are a parent of an eighth grader who is going to confession, Tuesday is a great night for you to go to confession as well.

  • Advent Confessions – Remember – on Saturdays December 15 and 22 – there will be an extra half hour of confessions. Saturday afternoon confessions will run from 3:30 to 4:30, rather than from the usual 4:00 to 4:30 

  • Chins up! – Chins up Spiritual Exercisers (aka Exercitants). The transition from the First Week to the Second Week doesn’t happen instantaneously. And yes, the Rules for Discernment are a product of the 16th century. Remember to read them generously and update them in your own mind.

Sunday’s Homily – “December 2, 2018 – First Sunday of Advent, Hope, Part II: Hoping for Safety”

  • To listen to Sunday's homily, click here.

  • To read a summary of it, go to the bottom of this page

THIS WEEK IN SERVICE: 

  • Our Advent Giving Tree: The gifts destined for Appalachia headed out on Sunday afternoon. It was quite an impressive collection, a great tribute to your generosity of spirit. The remainder of the gifts are due by Sunday afternoon. If you want to get a sense of just how good are the people in our pews, take a look at the Memorial Hallway before Sunday afternoon. 

  • Ministry Leaders and Ministry Members – This is a good time of year for all of us to wonder about our ministries here at Saint Joe’s. Soon after Christmas, it will be time for our ministry recruiting Sundays. Now is a good time for ministry members and leaders to wonder about what next steps might be good for your ministry to take. It is a good season for all of us to wonder how God might be nudging us to take up a new ministry or perhaps put down an old one. It sometimes helps to wonder about our ministerial commitments in terms of Priest, Prophet and King – i.e., those ministries that help people to pray, those that provide consolation and challenge, and those that build up the community. Discern well.

THIS WEEK IN COMMUNITY:

  • New Parishioners – A hearty and sincere welcome to our newest parishioners. May your years at Saint Joe’s be many and may they be years of blessings for you and, with your help, for all parishioners:

    • Nicholas and Jean Ciampa

    • Vincent and Lorraine Colarusso

    • Jen Hermann

    • Ray and Cara Holzer and their children Stefen and Stasha

    • Christine Leiter (and an additional welcome to Christine’s husband Alan)

    • Nina Napolitano and Rosanna Napolitano

    • James and Mary Ann Polito

    • Irene Tobia and Joanne Tobia

  • Great Pancakes – Dear Knights, You did a completely terrific job on Sunday morning. Everything about the pancake breakfast worked beautifully. Special thanks to Dominick Ferrigno for coordinating the effort and thanks to all the Knights who arrived before dawn and labored mightily.

  • Great Concert – Big thanks to PJ Anderson for yet another wonderful concert. Special thanks to parishioners Mike DeLucia and Pete Macor who were so much more than “doo-wop boys.” And of course, great thanks to our Youth Minister, Bob Ferretti, to all the young people who did the grunt work and to all the parishioners who turned out to enhance the marvelous mood.

  • Great Ornaments – Thanks to all who designed and produced the parish ornament. Remember to purchase one for your tree. They cost only $5.

With blessings for every parishioner and, as we observe Pearl Harbor Day, a special prayer for all who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation and an extra prayer for permanent peace. 

Fr Hank

Summary of December 2 Homily:
First Sunday of Advent
Hope, Part II: Hoping for Safety




Who doesn’t hope for safety? We all want it. For ourselves and for those who are dear to us. We all hope for it. Sunday’s readings remind us that God loves and honors our hopes for safety.

Sunday’s first reading (Jeremiah 33) has deep roots in the horrifying story of The Exile. The nation’s leading citizens had been abducted and removed from Jerusalem, Solomon’s temple had been destroyed, and the people who remained fretted about their very survival. The people of The Exile could, at any moment, be abused, sold into slavery or even executed. It was a horrifying time. It is to these terrified people that God tells Jeremiah to declare that, in the future, “Judah shall be safe and Jerusalem shall dwell secure.” God recognizes their fear and their hopes for safety and God plans to respond.
Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 21) also speaks to some very frightened people, people to whom Jesus was describing the terrible events that would accompany the world’s end. 

Expressing words of hope and possibility, Jesus tells his audience “stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand . . . Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.” To his original audience and to those who would later hear Jesus’ words, the messages about “standing erect,” “having strength” and “escaping tribulation” effectively say “I care about your fears and your hopes for safety and I want you to be prepared for the scariest parts.” The passage would later be particularly helpful to Christians who were trying to make sense of the desecration of the temple, the destruction of the temple and the persecution of Christians.

So, what about you? Are you seeing the connections between your choices and habits and God’s desire to satisfy peoples’ hopes for safety? The truth is that you constantly help people to feel safe and when we feel safe, we make more inspired choices. Are you seeing the link between (a) your participation in the parish’s seasonal giving projects (food and gifts) and (b) the sense of safety your gifts engender in the recipients, especially the children. Are you seeing the connection between (a) your regular routine as parent or spouse or child or caregiver or care-receiver and (b) the sense of safety that your choices cultivate in others? Students, are you seeing the relationship between (a) your choices to use your gifts – academic, athletic, spiritual, you name it – and (b) the sense of relief that raises in your parents. And students, are you seeing the way that (a) your choices to include people in your groups at school (b) make the included feel safe in ways God wants them to feel safe.

God has built many hopes into all human hearts. One of them is the hope for safety for our loved ones and for ourselves. We hope that we and our loved ones will abide beyond the threats of harm. Ultimately, it is the “big-H-hope” for heaven where we all dwell beyond death’s shadows and dwell secure in God’s presence. Meanwhile, how are you doing in noticing the ways you help God help people to feel safe, to is this that their realities are aligning with their hopes for safety, to feel that the perfect safety of heaven will someday be theirs?

This Week in Prayer, Service & Community - December 1, 2018

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This Week – December 1, 2018

Dear All:

Christ’s Peace!

This weekend’s parish fellowship events promise to feed the soul and the body in fine fashion. Last night’s PJ Anderson Concert – with a special performance by our very own Mike DeLucia on guitar and vocals and Pete Macor on bass – was both fun and prayerful and great for the spirit. Sunday’s pancake breakfast will, thanks once again to the great work by our Knights, be fun and delicious. Great thanks to everyone who has put these events together.

And on a less fun topic . . . the dirty rotten scoundrel who was impersonating my email has returned. Please be cautious with emails that purport to be from me. Before opening them, make sure that they are from my real email fhilton@loyola.edu I have no Gmail account. And be assured that I am not in jail in Turkey, do not need gift cards for typhoon victims, and do not need your help in liberating my confiscated lottery winnings. Evidently, many priests have stories similar to mine.
 
THIS WEEK IN PRAYER

  • The Feast of the Immaculate Conception – The Feast is NEXT WEEK – Saturday, December 8. We will have the vigil Mass for the feast on Friday, December 7 at 7:30. The 8:35 Mass on Saturday morning will also be for the feast. It being Saturday, however, the 4:45 Mass on Saturday, December 7 will be for the Second Sunday of Advent.

  • Taking Care of Business – Keelin Glennon has outdone herself yet again. Keelin has single-handedly replaced all the hymnals with the new hymnals and put a cover on each one. She has also purchased covers for the missalettes that are kept by the front door and put the new missalettes in their covers. Thanks to Keelin for the great effort that helps each of us to pray.

  • Thanksgiving Masses – Blessings for all who helped us to pray at the Thanksgiving Masses – both the 5:00 pm on Wednesday and the 8:35 am on Thanksgiving Day. The turnout for both Masses was great.

Sunday’s Homily – “Sunday’s Homily – HOPE, Part I: The virtue of Hope and the feelings of hope”

  • To listen to Sunday's homily, click here.

  • To read a summary of it, go to the bottom of this page

THIS WEEK IN SERVICE: 

  • THANKS – for the Thanksgiving Food Baskets – You have done an incredible job – again. Your donations filled 100 baskets. One hundred tables that might have been empty were covered with Thanksgiving dinner. Try to imagine the people on the receiving end of your generosity.

  • THANKS – to Our YOUTH GROUP – The scene here two Fridays ago was more than a little amazing. How many dozens of our teenagers came to church to organize the food and get it into the baskets? It was one of those moments of great rejoicing over the size of our parishioners’ hearts, including the young hearts.

  • THANKS – for Our Advent Giving Tree – You have already taken 700 gift cards. Another 75 were placed on the Advent giving tree yesterday. So you still have a chance to help. Again, try to imagine the gladness you are bringing to 700 of God’s beloved. Three cheers for you. (Friendly reminder – if you have an Appalachia tag, the gift needs to land at the church by Sunday afternoon)

  • Interfaith Hospitality Network (IHN) –  How blessed are we to share the mission with our friends at Hillsborough Reformed Church (HRC)? We will once again be helping to staff the IHN’s shelter for homeless families when it moves to HRC for the week of December 9-15. Thanks to Sid Lentz for rounding up our share of the volunteers and thanks to Sue Calamoneri for all of her great efforts. If you can help, email Sue at matlison@yahoo.com

THIS WEEK IN COMMUNITY:

  • Our Thanksgiving Gatherings – The Wednesday night before Thanksgiving was a wonderful night to be in church. What a treat it was to spend time with the tailgate crowd in the Hospitality Room. Just right. And what a blessing it was to see so many of our young people at the Youth Group Reunion in the parish hall. That was almost a little challenging to take in – all these kids home from college and their first stop was . . . church. Wow. And WOW about our Youth Minister, Bob Ferretti, who does such great work with our young people. Again. Think about that one. They come home from college and head right for church.

  • Put your church on your tree! – Starting this weekend, you can purchase a very special ornament for your tree – a delicate metal cut-out of the parish itself. The ornaments are being sold for $5 – which is just about exactly the cost of production.

  • Becca’s Friend’s Cards – Our Becca’s Friends Ministry – the parish recreational group for young adults with special needs – will be selling cards in the gathering space and at the pancake breakfast. All proceeds help pay for people with special needs to spend time at the ARC of Somerset’s Camp Jotoni.

  • New Banners – Thanks to Kevin Lee for designing the banners on the parish’s light posts. The banners will be green for ordinary time, purple for Advent and Lent and white for Christmas and Easter. Notice the three designs. One depicts the bread and the wine. Another depicts the bible. The third portrays the Holy Spirit on the waters of baptism. Thanks to Kevin for designing them and to Carl Panzera and George Putvinski for helping to install them. 

  • CCD Parents – Remember parents – if your child will making first reconciliation this Spring, please come to one of the parent meetings -- either December 3 or December 4. Both meetings are at 7:30 in the church.  

  • Financial Report – Enclosed in this week’s bulletin you will find the summary of our 2017/18 fiscal year. You have done another wonderful job of supporting our parish. We paid all our bills, including some large capital improvement bills, gave staff raises, expanded some programs, and we still had $3,000 left over to put in the bank. Good for you.

  • Grace Signaigo’s Bequest – The financial summary also reminds us of Mrs. Grace Signaigo’s extraordinary gift to our parish. Her gift increases our confidence that future generations of parishioners will belong to a financially sound parish. Good for Grace.

With all best blessings for you and hoping to see you in the pancake line –

Fr Hank

Summary of November 25 Homily:
HOPE, Part I: 

The virtue of Hope and the feelings of hope


Oxford defines “hope” as “the feeling or the wish that a desired good can be achieved.”
The virtue of hope gives us the conviction that the ultimate good, eternal life, can be achieved. The virtue of hope enables us to trust that Jesus keeps all his promises, including the promises he made about the possibilities of eternal life. Sunday’s readings for the Feast of Christ the King sharpen our focus on eternal life and on our conviction that we can reach it.

Sunday’s first reading comes from the book of Daniel, a book written in the second century BC about events that might have happened during the sixth century BC. The author of Daniel wrote the book to remind his second century BC audience that they too could withstand the persecutions they were enduring. One of his most encouraging messages was that God will send an agent to end their misery and to establish a never-ending kingdom. As Christians, we know that Jesus is the one who will establish that never-ending kingdom, who is “the one like a Son of man” who will receive “dominion, glory, and kingship.” We know that Jesus will have “an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away” and that “his kingship shall not be destroyed.” We are convinced of that precisely because God has blessed us with the virtue of hope. Hope gives us the conviction that God keeps his promises, including His promise about the never-ending kingdom of light, happiness, and peace.

Sunday’s second reading, from the first chapter of Revelation, addresses the same belief. When John, the author of Revelation speaks of Jesus as “the alpha and the omega,” he is speaking of Jesus as the one who always was and who, when he returns, will reign forever.

The gospel passage from John’s 18th chapter describes Jesus’ conversation with Pilate. Jesus makes it very clear that his kingdom “does not belong to this world,” that it is unlike every other kingdom. As Christians, we know that one of his kingdom’s distinguishing features is that it will never end. Once he returns, he will reign over the earth “without end” in that kingdom of light happiness and peace. We know that, we trust that, we look forward to that – precisely because God has endowed us with the virtue of hope.

The virtue of hope (which enables us to believe that heaven will happen) is both like and unlike our feelings of hope. We know from experience that feelings of hope sometimes lead to disappointment, that we sometimes have the feeling or wish that some good thing can be achieved and then it is not achieved. The beloved dies. The job offer goes to another. The relationship withers. Our physical or financial health deteriorate. These experiences of dashed feelings of hope have a way of eroding our virtue of hope. If we cannot trust the Lord in little matters how can we trust him in great matters? The disappointments arising from unrealized hopes can make us wonder if Christ really will be the King forever if we truly will spend eternity with God and our beloved.

Might frank conversation with Jesus help when the disintegration of feelings of hope make it hard to trust that heaven will really happen? Might it help to recall the candid conversations Martha and Mary had with Jesus when their fervent hope for their brother’s survival came to naught? What about spilling it all out to Jesus and naming the ways in which disappointment erodes hope.

And what about others? Are there people in your life who have been through the wringer and find it hard to trust that the virtue of hope – with its conviction about eternal life – makes sense? Is there someone in your life who just needs you to listen to their story, just listen, in a way that enables them to regain hope, to regain the conviction that Jesus loves them and will be their king forever?

This Week in Prayer, Service & Community - November 16, 2018

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This Week – November 16, 2018

Dear All:

Christ’s Peace!

A greatly blessed Thanksgiving to every Saint Joe’s parishioner. I hope the blessings include an inspired mix of invigorating activity and restorative stillness as well as an inspired awareness of your blessings.

It will be good to pray together. We will be having low-key Thanksgiving Masses on Wednesday at 5 pm and Thursday at 8:35 am. Join the prayer if you can.

It will also be good to hang out for a bit. The Wednesday evening Mass will be followed by a BYOB in the hospitality room. Think of it as tailgating but indoors, and very informal. It is also BYO everything else, munchies etc. I hope someone remembers to bring a corkscrew this year. There is a microwave in the vicinity if your hors d'oeuvre requires nuking.

Meanwhile, as the adults gather in the Hospitality Room, the Youth Ministry Reunion will be taking place in the Parish Hall. It will be wonderful to have our college students back with us.

Thursday morning after the Thanksgiving Mass will be time for deluxe donuts and coffee, once again in the Hospitality Room.

I hope many will be able to join the prayer and getting-together at church. And whether extra prayer and fellowship is or is not part of your Thanksgiving, may your holiday be excellent.
 
THIS WEEK IN PRAYER

  • Prayers for Our Deceased Loved Ones – Our Trees of Remembrance keep us mindful of the call to pray extra for our deceased loved ones in the month of November. Continued thanks to MaryAnn Comiskey and all who created the trees. Continued hopes that all of us, especially our young people, will make ample use of our fundamental prayer for our deceased loved ones:

Eternal rest grant unto them oh Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. 

May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.


Sunday’s Homily – “Perfection? Part 2: God Loves Our Personal Best”

  • To listen to Sunday's homily, click here.

  • To read a summary of it, go to the bottom of this page

THIS WEEK IN SERVICE: 

  • Our Advent Giving Tree – Our Advent Giving Tree is up and full of tags that are ready to take. Thanks in advance for doing what you can to help people who might otherwise not have much of a Christmas. Giant thanks to the 25 volunteers who have been working for weeks to organize the tree’s 500 tags. N.B. –  The tags labeled “Appalachia” are due back by December 2nd so we can get them to the good recipients in Appalachia. Also, the Appalachia tags that specify items from Walmart really do need to come from Walmart as that is the only store in the area. If exchanges for size are needed, they can be easily done through Walmart.  Last thing, all other tags are due back on December 9th.

  • Our Thanksgiving Food Baskets – You have done a marvelous job of helping our needy neighbors to have a happy Thanksgiving. The Memorial Hallway is FULL of the food you have so kindly contributed. Members of our youth group sorted the baskets tonight and delivering them tomorrow.

  • Becca’s Friends – Last weekend was one for the record book. On Friday night the BF volunteers and participants hosted the 165 people who turned out for “The Arc’s Got Talent.” A terrific night. Then on Saturday night, the same group hosted a dinner for 50. Blessings for all of you.

THIS WEEK IN COMMUNITY:

  • Celebrating our Veterans – Sunday’s 11:30 Mass and the party that followed were exceptional. Thanks and more thanks to all parishioners who have served in our armed forces – and special thanks to all the vets who gave the parish the honor of honoring them on Sunday. Great thanks to the Knights for providing yet another remarkable lunch. And boundless thanks to the incredible crew that produced the event. They thought of everything and then took care of everything – the portraits and the decorations in the gathering space, the flags all around, the boutonnieres, the roll call, the centerpieces in the parish hall, the decorations, the greeters, organizing the gift bags and those who contributed the gifts (the cards from Becca’s Friends, the haircuts from Hillsborough Great Cuts and the prayer cards from the Columbiettes). This group could have gotten Hannibal over the alps in no time flat. It was one superb celebration. 

  • Financial Review – Thanks to the members of the Finance Council and to Bill Strawderman and all who have made our financial reports easy to understand. The audited report for the 2017/18 fiscal year is now posted on our website. The one-page summary will be inserted in the bulletin in a few weeks. The bottom line? Thanks to your generosity, in 2017/18 we were able to pay all our bills (including some major capital expenses) and put a few thousand dollars in the bank.

  • Family Wreath-making for Advent – Eat pizza and make your Advent wreath! Who could want more? Join the fun on Sunday, November 18 from 12:30 – 3:00 PM in the Parish Hall.  

  • PJ Anderson is Returning – Mark your calendar for the return of Nashville recording artist P.J. Anderson. P.J. will be here to lead us in song and fun on Friday, November 30. See you there. 

I will once again be having Thanksgiving dinner at the Cracker Barrel in Lancaster PA. The dinner satisfies my extravagant tastes in food but, far more importantly, it means I get to spend time with Ralph, a fellow I used to coach in Special Olympics Sailing, and Debbie, his amazing mom. Lancaster is sort of halfway between Millstone and their home. The drives to and from Lancaster, with the window open and the radio off, provide a great chance to count many of life’s greatest blessings. You top the list. I am immensely grateful for the privilege of sharing this adventure with you. 

Some of the drivetime will surely be spent dwelling on you as priests/people-of-prayer with whom I share the gladness of celebrating Mass and the sacraments. I could spend 100 miles recalling great graces in daily Mass with the 8:35 Club, or the lights generated in Meeting Christ in Prayer and the Spiritual Exercises, or the delight of the dozens of women in Working with Purpose. Then again, there is all the goodness of the people who take communion to the homebound and the nursing homes and those who provide the beautiful funerals week after week. And that is just the start.

Some of the drive time will be spent smiling about the ways you are prophets who console and challenge others. Even as I prepare to hit “send” on this week’s THIS WEEK, I am aware of folks in the parish kitchen cooking eight turkeys for Elijah’s Promise on Sunday, of the group heading into the gathering space to trim the Giving Tree, of the Youth Group arriving to take care of the food baskets, and again, that is just tonight’s list.

Your lives as kings/community-builders will also take many miles to contemplate. I get to recall all the greetings you share before and after every Mass. I get to recall our first-rate fellowship events, including the Parish Picnic and the many other events when the Knights feed us so well. I get to recall the many ways in which we strengthen the connections that make us a stronger community of Jesus’ friends.

Wow. Now that I start to get specific about all the gifts to count, I am thinking maybe I should drive a little further. (I just checked; Cracker Barrel does not operate in Juneau. Hmmm.)

Either way, all best blessings and thanks to each of you for giving me so many blessings to count and, more importantly, for giving each other so many blessings to count, and for making God smile.

Father Hank

Summary of November 11 Homily:
Perfection? Part 2: God Loves Our Personal Best


What are we to do when we hear God calling us to be perfect? What about those passages in scripture that set the bar at great and oh-so-discouraging heights? Do we give up? Do we pretend? Give it a try? Go to plan B?

November’s readings give us some great recommendations. They invite us to wonder about our approaches to perfection. Two weeks ago, the readings suggested that progress toward perfection, even though we will never get there in this life, delights God. This week’s readings remind us that God asks us only for our personal best. God knows how easily the perfect becomes the enemy of the very good. Personal best matters.

The widow of Zarephath gave her personal best and it delighted God (1 Kings 17). Elijah landed in Zarephath hungry and tired and looking for help. The drought and the famine that ravaged the land made helpers hard to find. But the widow rose to the occasion. She gave Elijah something to drink and a piece of bread. Her kindness thrilled Elijah and God. God rewarded her personal best with survival: “She was able to eat for a year, and he and her son as well; the jar of flour did not go empty,nor the jug of oil run dry.” Notice, the Zarephath widow did not host a lavish dinner. It was beyond her means. She provided a cup of water and a piece of bread. Her personal best gladdened God.

The widow in Sunday’s gospel (Mark 12) participated in a similar dynamic. She gave what she could and her effort consoled Jesus greatly. While people with high incomes made a big production out of their contributions, the widow gave as much as she could and sought no attention. Jesus told his disciples that she – a widow who, in ancient Israel would have had no meaningful income stream – outperformed all the others. Her personal best also gladdened God.

What about you? When have you experienced the happiness of knowing you had offered your personal best? You have surely done that in many ways – in sports, in academics, at work, as a mom, as a dad, as a devoted child, as an unswerving caregiver. Just about every one of those ways is the work of a priest (a person of prayer), as prophet (a person who challenges and consoles others) and/or as king (a person who builds up the community)? When have you felt God nudging you to up your game? To offer something closer to your personal best? To take a chance on growth in prayer? On growth in service? On growth in community-building? Maybe you were aware that what you had to offer was not going to change the world, was by some measure “imperfect,” but you did it anyhow. And in doing so, you delighted God in the same way the widow of Zarephath and the widow in the temple did. You offered your personal best, and your offering gladdened God greatly. What is your story?

This Week in Prayer, Service & Community - November 9, 2018

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This Week – November 9, 2018

Dear All:

Christ’s Peace!

Thank you to all our veterans and boundless thanks to the loved ones of all who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. We look forward to praying for you and with you and to thanking you this weekend, at the 11:30 Mass and at the party that follows in the parish hall. Thanks in advance to Debra Grimmer and her many generous helpers who make the event happen. And of course thanks to the Knights for the lunch.

Sorry about the phishing emails some of you received from a fake “Father Hank” account asking you to donate gift cards or to call me. My email is fhilton@loyola.edu. If you see an email from fr.hhilton coming from a gmail account – delete it immediately. Also, I do not solicit contributions of any sort via email. Only in the last few days have I been made aware that there is a whole cottage industry of people out there who pretend, via email, to be priests. Rough stuff. Onward!
 THIS WEEK IN PRAYER 

  • Trees of Remembrance – Blessings for those of you have a chance to pray at the Trees of Remembrance. Great thanks to MaryAnn Comiskey and all who put the trees together. It is a giant undertaking. The Trees present an opportune moment for parents and CCD teachers to help younger parishioners learn our fundamental prayer for our deceased loved ones:

Eternal rest grant unto them oh Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. 

May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

  • Temple Beth-El – Thanks and blessings for the many parishioners who all who joined the very moving ecumenical prayer service at Temple Beth-El last Monday. The show of solidarity was impressive. Many of the brief reflections by area religious leaders were clearly inspired. Thanks too to the parishioners who were such cheerful givers when it came to sharing our bus with many others. May God hear our prayers, prevent recurrences of the Pittsburgh tragedy, put an end to anti-Semitism and an end to all violence.

  • Confirmandi – Congratulations and thanks to the 60+ young people who formally began their preparation for confirmation at Sunday’s 6:00 pm Mass. Thanks to the confirmandi for their participation. It is a great gift for all of us. Thanks to the parents, the sponsors-to-be and the CCD staff for putting it all together. Together, all of you make our parish and our larger church better.

  • CCD Resumes this Week – Calling all CCD students and teachers. Classes resume Tuesday. I hope your days off for the Teachers’ Convention were enjoyable.

Sunday’s Homily – “Perfection? Part I: God Loves Progress”

  • To listen to Sunday's homily, click here.

  • To read a summary of it, go to the bottom of this page

THIS WEEK IN SERVICE: 

  • Thanksgiving Food Drive – Help us feed those in need this Thanksgiving by providing a food basket for a family. Our goal is to fill 100 baskets for families and we need your help! Download the shopping list here. If you can't do a whole basket we are also collecting other non-perishable items. All food can be brought to the Memorial Hallway starting Nov. 10 and must be there by Friday afternoon Nov. 16.

  • Our Advent Giving Tree – Since most of us have not yet gotten around to putting away the porch furniture, it is a little bit hard to believe that it is almost time for the Advent Giving Tree. But it is. Thanks in advance to all who are already working hard at making this year’s project a great success.

  • Our Knitting and Crocheting Stars – Blessings for those who join forces to produce the beautiful afghans and blankets that continue to delight the residents of area nursing homes. Your labor of love brings great happiness to many – and gives the faith and its communities such great credibility.

THIS WEEK IN COMMUNITY:

  • Gathering Space Flowers – The sister/brother team from the Flower Barn, Angelo Yaccone and Rosie Tamburini – take great care of us with church flowers each week. Extra special thanks to Ang and Rosie for last week’s flowers. In honor of the anniversary of their mom, they provided their mom’s favorite flowers, all from the tropics. Loads of people commented on the arrangement’s beauty.

  • Becca’s Friends – Three cheers for all involved in the Becca’s Friends Ministry. Tonight the ministry is hosting “Arc’s Got Talent!” – a talent show for many of our area friends with special needs who are served by the Arc. Tomorrow night is the big (pre-) Thanksgiving dinner cooked by guess who?

  • Thanksgiving Tailgate – Sort of. Given the great time had by all at last year’s gathering, we will once again have a BYOB get-together on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. The 5:00 pm Mass will be followed by a 6:00 BYOB and much Thanksgiving merriment.

  • Youth Group Reunion – While the adults gather in the Hospitality Room, the college kids will be getting together in the Parish Hall. Remind your college student (in case they don’t read “This Week”) to join us for the 5:00 pm Mass and the post-Mass wingding.

  • Parking Lot Lights – The lights are just about finished. All the bad wires have been replaced and we have electricity to each pole. All we need to do now is replace two special-order lightbulbs and replace the pole we lost in one of last year’s blizzards. Thanks to all for your cooperation during the project.

  • Family Wreath-making for Advent – Eat pizza and make your Advent wreath! Who could ask for more? Join the fun on Sunday, November 18 from 12:30 – 3:00 PM in the Parish Hall.  Register at the parish’s Religious Education website or call Mr. Jungels in the parish office to RSVP. It is a mighty fine time

  • Artifacts Roadshow Will Be Back – Not sure what to do with those inherited statues, rosaries, crucifixes or other “holy items”? Keep them safe at home until Lent. We will then collect them in the gathering space and deliver them to the organization in PA that then finds them new homes in mission territories of every sort.

  • PJ Anderson is Returning – Mark your calendar for the return of Nashville recording artist P.J. Anderson. P.J. will be here to lead us in song and fun on Friday, November 30. See you there. 

With blessings for every parishioner,

Fr Hank

Summary of November 4 Homily:
Perfection? Part 1: God Loves Progress 


Moses lays down a most intimidating challenge in Sunday’s first reading. Jesus repeats the challenge in Sunday’s gospel. Both challenges sound like an unachievable call to perfection.

What should be our response when scripture or other voices call us to unachievable perfection? Politely ignore the call? Pretend to be perfect? Engage it? And if we engage it, which way do we go?

Both Moses (Deuteronomy 6: 2-6) and Jesus (Mark 12: 28-34) challenge us to love God completely. Moses says: “you shall love the LORD, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.” Jesus adds a fourth aspect: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” How are we to interpret the “all” aspect of both commands? And what are we to do if we come up short? If we feel as if we do not love God with all our heart and all our soul and all our might?

Maybe just maybe, after studying the complex backgrounds of the worlds “heart,” “soul,” and “strength” – and after reflecting on the way Jesus interacts with people through the gospels – perhaps we should hear Moses and Jesus as calling us to make progress rather than to covet perfection. Perhaps we should put less emphasis on being perfect, which we will never be in this lifetime and more emphasis on making progress.
Might it be that when Jesus asks us to “love God with all our heart” he is asking us to look at our relationships and wonder about the ways they glorify God and lead people to peace? And maybe He wants us to wonder about relationships that we don’t yet have and should have, especially with people at the edge? Maybe Jesus is saying that he wants us to try to make progress in all of them, enrich them in ways that delight God, both the important relationships and the less important ones.

Might it be that when Jesus asks us to “love God with all our soul” he is asking us to look at our aspirations and wonder about the ways they glorify God and lead people to peace. Might he want us to seek progress in all the aspirations that our souls hold? To hold them up to the light of his life and wonder how we might tweak each of our ambitions? To seek progress rather than perfection in all of our ambitions and aspirations?

Finally, might it be that when Jesus asks us to “love God with all our might” he is asking us to look at our actions and wonder about the ways our actions, especially our habitual actions, glorify God and lead people to peace? Maybe Jesus is not demanding perfection.

Maybe he is asking us to be mindful of our actions and the ways we can improve them.
What about you? Can you notice ways in which you have made progress in your relationships, your ambitions, and your actions? Do you see indicators of progress ineach area? And in terms of “all” your heart, soul, and mind, can you notice ways inwhich you used to “hide” some of them from God (i.e., not open your entire heart, soul or might to God) but now bring more of them to your conversations with God?

Both Moses and Jesus lay down pretty tall orders, orders that seem to demand perfection. But maybe the deeper truth is that they are asking us to let God’s light shine on all our relationships (heart), all our aspirations (soul) and all our actions (strength or might)? And maybe they are asking us to delight in our progress rather than regret our lack of perfection?