(re)Introducing the weekly pastor’s post!

Almost a year ago, I started a series at the parish website – a weekly pastor’s post. I quickly found that I enjoy the opportunity to research saints I wouldn’t otherwise celebrate or know, muse a bit on topics that didn’t quite fit the bulletin or in a homily, highlight current events in-parish and out, or learn about odd trivia for a given date.

With the announcement of the upcoming priest transitions in Partners in the Gospel, it occurred to me that this was a good time to move over to my personal blog for this kind of thing – that way I can continue doing these while not necessarily obligating my successor to do so when he arrives in July. I usually post them on Mondays or Tuesdays – I hope these offer a pleasant way to start the week!

P.S. I’ve added a new feature to these posts – the week’s priestly anniversaries and necrology. Please spare a moment to pray for these priests this week!

April 16 – 779 years ago today (1245), two Franciscan envoys left Lyon as missionaries to Mongolia. Giovanni da Pian del Carpine and Benedict to Pole were the first Catholics to make this trip. Upon his return, Carpine was the first European to give an account of a Mongolian court! Read about them at the Central Minnesota Catholic website.

Image courtesy Archdiocese of Seattle (used with permission)

April 17 – Please pray for all of the pastors the archdiocese today through Friday as we gather together in preparation for the next phase of Partners in the Gospel. As you might imagine, we share in the anxieties and hopes of every Catholic in the archdiocese! Know of our prayers for you, too, during this time.

A volume of the Liturgy of the Hours in Belarusian, open to one of the offices

April 19 – Though I am away, our parish school will nonetheless gather at the normal time in the church for prayer. Since the pastor is away (that’s me 😬), the school will be praying Lauds or Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours. Though clergy and religious are required to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, all Catholics are encouraged to enter into this liturgical practice regularly. If you’re intimated by the books, consider using an app! I highly recommend iBreviary and Divine Office – both of which have browser versions and apps for iPhone and Android devices.

April 20 – This Saturday (and Sunday) kicks off the Saint Mark parish ministry fair! Organized by one of our pastoral council members (thank you, Paul!) and staffed by representatives from our parish ministries, programs, and groups, this is an opportunity for every parishioner to see, celebrate, and support the good work that is done year-round in our community. Especially as we prepare for the new pastor & vicar of our parish family, we need folks to help ensure that these efforts may continue to thrive and grow! Read about it in the parish bulletin (page four).

A color line art picture of people gathered around an altar as incense rises above them to heaven before the three Persons of the Trinity, Mary & Joseph, and all the saints & angels.

Priests celebrating their anniversaries this week

Remembering our deceased priests

  • Monsignor Gustave Achtergael (April 14, 1943)
  • Father Hervey Vanasse (April 14, 2001)
  • Father Joseph Doran (April 15, 1964)
  • Father August Banasky (April 15, 1985)
  • Father John Koehler (April 15, 2013)
  • Archbishop Thomas Connolly (April 18, 1991)
  • Father Patrick Donnelly (April 19, 1968)
  • Father Francis Jones (April 19, 1936)
  • Father Joseph Simon (April 19, 1959)
A black and white line art drawing of Christ the judge enthroned within an arch with angels seated on pillars to His right and left with stars behind him.

Light shining in the darkness – an eclipse on the Annunciation

Image courtesy Margaret Maurer (used with permission)

The day after Easter, I left for Austin, Texas with my family to see the eclipse along the path of totality. My parents, having witnessed this in 2017, invited me shortly thereafter and have been pretty enthusiastic evangelists for the event since then. Having only seen partial eclipses, I admit that I wasn’t entirely convinced that this was all that it was cracked up to be. Added to that was the forecast here in Texas: thunderstorms all day on April 8, with thick cloud cover anticipated well before the eclipse was to take place (~1:30 pm CST).

But having come all this way from Washington after all, we decided to give it the old college try. We made our way to the small town of Dripping Springs and – after enjoying a hour or so of the eclipse fair the town was putting on! – found a nice set of bleachers to witness whatever we could see as the moment drew near. And the Lord did not disappoint!

Though the predicted clouds did indeed turn up, they cleared up for a total of probably 10 minutes – the perfect 10 minutes, starting with an unobstructed view of the final moments of the moon’s movement into place. And with my special eclipse glasses still on, my first impression seemed to be accurate – I literally couldn’t see what the big deal was! Thankfully, my mom snapped me out of it as, between her own delighted exclamations, she called out “take off your glasses – take off your glasses!”. Rather sheepishly, I did.

And just like that, the splendor of the moment was laid bare. The moon, for that oh-so-brief period of three minutes – blocked out the majority of the sun’s light. We sat in a strange, almost mystical twilight – not exactly dark, but an odd dimness that was everywhere I looked. But of course, the real beauty was found in looking up at the sun.

A silhouette against the sun, the moon enabled us to look directly at it without fear of damage to our eyes – and because the sun’s brightness was mostly blocked, we could see more details rather than less. Apparently this eclipse was special due to increased thermal activity – and those flares were visible around the bottom edges of the moon, giving the appearance of a ruby gem1 at the 5 o’clock position of the wavering ring of sunlight around the moon. That ring of sunlight was distinct and sharp – we all marveled at how clearly we could make out both the moon’s shape and the shifting rays from the son. For three brief minutes, we could gaze directly at the sun and wonder at its glory. And so we did.

By virtue of having landed during Holy Week this year, the solemnity of the Annunciation was transferred to this same day. One of the words of the archangel Gabriel rings out as especially appropriate: “overshadow”. Despite the miracle Gabriel is describing with this concept, we often see it as a negative. Being overshadowed calls to mind a zero-sum game – one person shines while another is diminished. Whether it is at work, in our family, or among our friends, being overshadowed by someone else is not something to be sought after. But Mary, not suffering from pride or ego, simply says ‘yes’ – and light entered into the darkness of our world.

The light of Christ is intimidating. For us sinners, drawing close to Him – just looking at Him – is painful. But by Christ’s gift from the cross itself, we have Mary. And in a manner of speaking, she now overshadows Christ – placed by His divine providence between ourselves and Him as intercessor & guide. Thanks to her intercession, we find ourselves able to look more directly and see more clearly the glory & splendor of God. In contrast to the Lord, she is but a silhouette – we barely see her at all! – but because of her position & role as Jesus’ mother, we can make Him out more clearly and in greater detail while we are yet still sinners.

What a strange contradiction, that the Lord would go to such lengths to both enlighten the world and at the same time voluntarily allow Himself to be diminished! But in doing so He both offers salvation from darkness while also easing us into the brightness of eternal life.

As my parents were several years ago, I find myself continuing to marvel at what I saw this Monday, April 8 on the Solemnity of the Annunciation. I suspect I will be recounting the experience for a long time to come. I am particularly grateful for the way this celestial event points to a supernatural reality: that the Lord continues to provide for our sin & weakness – allowing us to turn toward Him and see His glory while we are yet in the valley of the shadow of death. By His grace, we will one day be able to see Him face to face – but even now we see glimpses of the glory to come, if we have the courage to look to the Lord.

  1. Just before totality, these diamond-looking visuals are called Bailey’s Beads. The red lights are prominences – which is a fancy word for solar flares! ↩︎

The next step of Partners in the Gospel – priest transitions

Across the archdiocese, announcements are being made at every parish about priest transitions. On one hand – and I’m surely not alone in this! – it is good to finally have priest (re)assignments known publicly. On the other hand, this is another benchmark where things get real: major changes are coming and we can’t pretend otherwise.

Adding to my own mixed feelings is the fact that I am on away with my family in Austin, Texas this week and next – we’re here to see the total solar eclipse, a trip we’ve been planning since my folks saw the last one in 2017. Even two thousand miles away, our hearts & minds (and conversations!) are enmeshed in all that is happening and to come with Partners in the Gospel. Who will our priest(s) be? What will our parish(es) look like? How will our communities change? Even with some of those questions answered this weekend, there is a lot that has yet to be discerned and revealed by the Lord.

It may be providential that we are reflecting on these questions at the tail end of the octave of Easter. Surely the Apostles were wondering these things at Christ’s death, but all the moreso at His resurrection. Though a wholly joyful event, His return must have raised new worries and anxieties. What will happen next? If Jesus is willing to suffer and die for His Father, what might He ask of us? Surely things won’t be the same as before…. but what does that mean going forward?

With the advantage of time & hindsight, we know that everything did change – with great fruitfulness even where sacrifice & suffering was required. But before that was demanded of the Apostles, Jesus made sure to spend personal time with them, to repeatedly console them – “peace be with you” – even when that meant walking through locked doors to find them where they were huddled in fear.

Jesus I trust in you…. mostly ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Despite any unease about what the future might hold, there is great peace to be found, if only we will spend time with the Lord. I know that I have spent – and will spend many more! – hours before the Lord in prayer, sometimes with great serenity, other times with great restlessness. But His message remains the same: “peace be with you”. Though it is hard to accept the ambiguities the future holds, the Holy Spirit is here with us now. As best we can, may we entrust ourselves to the providential care of God, confident that regardless of what comes next, He is actively caring for and guiding us.

Click below to read the letter from Archbishop Etienne as well as my own letter, both shared with my parish at all the weekend Masses:
Archbishop Etienne’s letter announcing the new priests of Parish Family 12
Father Maurer’s parish letter regarding priest transitions
Archdiocesan appointments for Partners in the Gospel

Easter Vigil in the Holy Night & Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord

Happy Easter! We have, at long last, reached the celebration of the resurrection of the Lord. And what a series of celebrations we have had, between the Easter vigil and the two Sunday morning Masses!

As I told the servers before Mass, the Easter vigil is the most solemn, the most important Mass of the entire liturgical year. It is our great privilege to be ministers of the mysteries we celebrate this night – and we do our best to do so with reverence, care, and attention to detail.

And there are a LOT of details. The first half of the day, in the morning, was spent in rehearsals. The servers and I spent and hour & a half going over the Mass, from top to bottom. After a brief break – fueled by several pizzas from Dominos – those to receive sacraments of initiation ran through their own rehearsal of the rites of baptism & confirmation.

When the night finally came, things fell together wonderfully. I won’t say that it was without a few hitches – not the least being my voice beginning to give out! But the Mass was beautiful. I have many favorite moments, but the most mystical one was during the Exsultet. Inside the church, illuminated only by the candles held by the congregation and the altar servers, with the smoke of the incense floating above us, the history of God’s plan for salvation was sung. This is one of the great highlights of the liturgy for me, and one I look forward to throughout the year.

We continued on with the Old Testament readings – proclaimed in the darkness. When we finally reached the seventh and final reading, the gloria was proclaimed and the lights came up. Servers lit all the candles in the church while bells rang out. At last, the light of Christ has dispelled the long dark night of Lent! I was struck by the contrast of extinguishing the candles at Tenebrae (the Service of Shadows) and lighting them anew at Easter: death & darkness do not prevail.

For the first time in a long time, we had baptisms and confirmations at the Easter vigil. I think my face is sore from how much smiling I did throughout – these folks were ready! They were so excited to be baptized and confirmed, and their joy was contagious. As I look through the photos of the night (thank you, Hope, for taking them!), I find myself smiling all over again.

All in all, the Mass was nearly three hours long – but it felt like it moved far quicker than that. And at the end, no one rushed out to leave! Thanks to the generosity of many parishioners, we had a wonderful reception afterwards – home made coconut macaroons (so good!), cake, fruit, sandwiches, sweets and more.

While I can’t pretend I wasn’t dragging a bit on Sunday, both of the Easter Masses were lovely – and packed! Special kudos, by the way, to the many volunteers who came back to serve on Sunday mere hours after the Easter vigil! There were a lot of naps being taken Sunday afternoon, I’m sure 🙂

Of course, Easter is not ended but rather, just beginning – we have a whole octave of celebrations, each day of which is a solemnity! And the entire Easter season – running until Pentecost – is fifty days. May we use it well, rejoicing in the graciousness of our Saviour, praying for all of those who received the sacraments of initiation, and proclaiming the Good News: He is risen, He is risen indeed!