Of Movember, Pink Ribbons, Saint Baldrick’s and Reverence for Life

This post is my bulletin column for this week.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

 

Some years ago, it was popular to do the “ice bucket challenge” in order to raise funds for ALS, popularly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  Many of my friends on social media were taking up the challenge, and I knew that, sooner or later, the challenge would fall to me.  So I did my research, and found that the ALS Foundation supports research based on embryonic stem cell research, which is fetal tissue left over from aborted babies.  So I wrote a bulletin column (at my last parish) entitled, “Why I Won’t Ever Take the Ice Bucket Challenge” and instead made a donation to the John Paul II Medical Research Institute (jp2mri.org) which researches cures for diseases, including ALS, using Catholic teaching with regard to Respect for Life.

 

Some years before that, I considered shaving my head for Saint Baldrick’s which researches cures for pediatric cancer.  Doing my research for that charity, I found that they specifically did not support embryonic stem cell research, because the majority of their donors asked them not to.  So our witness, does in fact make a difference.  Before that research, I was leaning toward not shaving my head, but finding it in concert with Catholic teaching, and after receiving a note from one of my young parishioners who had survived cancer, I gladly supported them, and yes, shaved my head!  

 

What we are finding is that we don’t need to abort babies to cure disease.  The fact is, there are other very successful research projects which are finding their success without using embryonic stem cell research.  It is our responsibility as pro-life Catholics to support them so that there will be more of them.  

 

This all came back to me because of the popularity of “Movember,” in which men grow moustaches and collect funds in support of men’s health, specifically testicular and prostate cancer, and suicide prevention.  All laudable causes, but in the case of the cancers, somewhat debatable as well (talk to your doctor).  I couldn’t find any information on their stand on embryonic stem cell research so I decided not to support them.  Instead, I’ll make a donation to the JPII Medical Research Center.  If you’re wanting to get on the moustache bandwagon, you might consider the Nazarite Challenge (nazaritechallenge.com), which focuses on making us all better men (and, they have a women’s track as well).

 

I want you to think about this when you’re invited to give to the Pink Ribbon campaign or the Susan Komen Walk for the Cure, which have questionable records on supporting embryonic stem cell research, and in the case of the Komen Walk, have a relationship with Planned Parenthood.  Both of my parents have suffered from cancer – we all know someone who has – and I support research to end the scourge of that disease.  But the point is, we have to do our research as Catholics.  We absolutely must support research to end disease, but we have to do it with fidelity to our pro-life teachings.  And the really awesome thing is, we can.

 

Yours in Christ and His Blessed Mother,

Father Pat Mulcahy, Pastor

The Twenty-ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time: Stewardship Sunday

Today’s readings

This is indeed our home.  It can be easy to come to think of this place as a school, or an auditorium, or even as a worship space and fills a function and other than that, doesn’t mean anything different.  But as I said in the video this is our home: this is where we come to find peace when we’re struggling; this is where we go to make a difference as we did (earlier today/yesterday) and witness to our faith; this is where we gather to celebrate our faith in God and receive the grace he pours out on us through the sacraments of the church.  This isn’t just any old building, it’s a community, it’s a family, and it is us.

And because this is our home, we have to attend to it.  We have to fix what’s broken, we have to strengthen what’s weak, we have to invest in a community so it will be here for our children and grandchildren.  And so this is one of the very few times that I will come to you and give the “money” talk.  Because I get it: I know that everyone has demands on their finances, sometimes very significant ones.  But if this is our home, then we are called to make an investment in its present and future, just as previous generations have done for us.

Our Gospel reading today calls us to give to God what belongs to God.  This then becomes a reflection on the first commandment of the Decalogue: “I am the Lord your God; you shall have no other gods before me.” This is echoed by the prophet Isaiah in today’s first reading: “I am the Lord and there is no other, there is no God besides me. It is I who arm you, though you know me not, so that toward the rising and the setting of the sun people may know that there is none besides me. I am the LORD, there is no other.”

Giving to God what belongs to God is foundational. Failure to do that leads to all other kinds of sin. Today, we have in our Scriptures an examination of conscience. Have we been zealous to give to God what belongs to God? Have we taken time for prayer? Have we been of service to our brothers and sisters in need? Have we made teaching the faith to our children our primary priority? Have we been vigilant to prevent anything from getting in the way of celebrating Mass as a family? If we have fallen short in any of those ways, this is the time to reverse the course and get it right. Caesar gets what’s his one way or the other. We have to be the ones who are on fire to give to God what belongs to God.

We’ve accomplished a lot as a parish in the last year.  I hope you saw that wonderful list in the bulletin a few weeks ago when we presented the parish financial report.  It was a full and engaging year, and we should take pride that we as a parish could do so much together.  I am grateful for the way the parish came together to provide a beautiful sign out on Route 59, that we found a way to repair many of the sidewalks and other concrete around the facility, and to revamp our parish gym.  What a blessing that we could get those things done!  But, just like any home, there’s a lot to be done.  We need to repair the parking lot, the floor in Cana Hall, and the windows in the Commons, to name but a few.  We need to take care of those things and provide space in our budget for when stuff happens, like the air conditioning going out in the school office, or a leaking pipe in the narthex.

One of the very first things I did when I found out I was coming here was to sign up for online giving.  I wanted to make sure that I was giving expression to my gratitude for all that God does in my life.  And so it is in that spirit that I ask that each of you discern how you can help us to meet our increased budget needs through your offertory support.  While we all have different resources to draw from and commitments to fulfill, we can each give something in support of our parish family.  We are doing our best to use modern conveniences to assist parishioners in their giving.  We have electronic giving options to help meet the demands presented by the fast pace of our lives.

In the past week or so, you probably received a letter from me asking for your support.  After you have prayed about your response, I would ask that you fill out the enclosed letter of support and send it back to us.  You can mail it to the parish office, to my attention, or you can drop it in the collection basket this week or next.  Please know how very much I appreciate the support you give to our parish.  It helps me accomplish the mission we have as a parish to worship, teach the faith to people of all ages and to reach out to others in acts of service and charity.  Please know of my prayers for you every single day, and how much I love being your pastor.  May God bless us all as we continue to Make Christ Known together!

Monday of the Thirty-third Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

You know, every time we hear this story about the widow’s mite, the story is equated with the call to stewardship. That’s the classic explanation of the text. And there’s nothing wrong with that explanation. I might even go so far as to preach it that way myself on occasion. But honestly, I don’t think the story about the widow’s mite is about stewardship at all. Yes, it’s about treasure and giving and all of that. But what kind of treasure? Giving what?

I think to get the accurate picture of what’s going on here, we have to ask why the Church would give us this little vignette at the end of the Church year, in the very last week of Ordinary Time. That’s the question I found myself asking when I looked at today’s readings. Well, first of all, it’s near the end of Luke’s Gospel so that may have something to do with it. But I think there’s a reason Luke put it at the end also. I mean, in the very next chapter we are going to be led into Christ’s passion and death, so why pause this late in the game to talk about charitable giving?

I think the key here is to figure out why the woman would have done what she did.  Why would she, a poor widow without anyone to take care of her, why would she have tossed her last two coins into the treasury?  It’s totally irrational when you think about it.  But I think maybe, just maybe, she gave everything because she was used to sacrificing for the one she loved, which until recently would have been her husband.  Now she doesn’t have anyone left to give everything for, except for God alone.  The love she had for her husband has to go somewhere, it doesn’t just disappear, so now she can give everything for God.

In this last week of the Church year, we have to hear the widow telling us that there is something worth giving everything for, and that something is our relationship with Christ our God.  Here at the end of the Church year, we are being invited to look back on our lives this past year and see what we have given. How much of ourselves have we poured out for the life of faith? What have we given of ourselves in service? What has our prayer life been like? Have we trusted Jesus to forgive our sins by approaching the Sacrament of Penance? Have we resolved to walk with Christ in good times and in bad?

In short, have we poured out everything we have, every last cent, every widow’s mite, for our life with Christ? Have we given our whole livelihood?  Or have we held something back, giving merely of our surplus wealth?

Tuesday of the Tenth Week of Ordinary Time

Today's readings

[display_podcast]

The Lord takes care of those who are on fire for love of him, he takes care of those who season their lives and the lives of others with the gifts God has given them.  Today, in a very familiar way, we are being called to be salt and light. 

Salt is one of those wonderful things that is great in moderation.  Too much, and you’ve ruined the dish.  Not enough and it’s just bland.  But in just the right proportion, the food is perfectly seasoned.  Similarly, a fervent witness is a great thing.  Too much, and people might turn off your witness.  Too little and nobody will even notice what we’re saying.  But in the right proportion, a fervent witness draws other people to Christ and to the Church, builds up the body of Christ, and sends us all on the way to salvation.

But when the salt loses its flavor, what good is it?  Or when you put a lamp under a bushel basket, what’s the point?  The gifts we have been given, we are to give in return.  The widow at Zarephath learned that in today’s first reading.  She didn’t think she had much, just enough flour and oil to bake a meager cake to provide a last supper for her and her son.  But when she gave even what little she had, she was able to eat for a year, her and her son and her guest too.

The Lord takes care of those who are on fire for love of him, he takes care of those who season their lives and the lives of others with the gifts God has given them.  Whether we think our gifts are a little or a lot is ultimately meaningless.  The only thing that means anything is how willing we are to share them out of love for God and for others.  When we do that, the little we have is increased many times over and all for the glory of God.

Today, we are being called to be salt and light.  God promises to take care of us when we give.