Do Whatever He Tells You. Jn. 2 :5

At the Wedding Feast at Cana the guests were enjoying themselves when the wine ran out. As a result, the wedding couple would have been thought of as inhospitable until Jesus stepped in at the urging of his mother and performed his first miracle at this wedding feast by providing additional wine so the celebration would continue.

Years ago Terri and Bob Mackey decided it would be nice to celebrate the joy of their wedding anniversary with other parishioners.  So they secured a list of parishioners that were having milestone anniversaries and invited them to dinner at the Parish Center. They felt it was important to provide a way to remind parishioners that marriage is a vocation, a lifelong commitment and a way of life.

Mackeys

They invited couples who were celebrating milestone wedding anniversaries from their 1st, 2nd, 5th, 10th, 25th and 40 or more to come and celebrate with them. Fifteen years later, the Anniversary Dinner is something married couples look forward to at St. Andrew.

This year, 40 couples gathered on May 7, 2017 for prayer led by Pastor, Fr. Michael Cordier followed by an Italian dinner, conversation and lots of fun. See photos below.

The meal of appetizers, salad, bread, lasagna and desserts were prepared and served by St. Andrew parishioners.

It is always fun recognizing the couple who have been married the longest and this year, Jack & Ruth Rugh were the longest married couple celebrating their 71st Wedding Anniversary!  RUGHS

Everyone has a great time, so when you get your invitation in the future…

                        be sure to mark your calendar and call the Parish Office! 

 

Why Have You Forsaken Me!

crucifixAs I age, I have spent a fair amount of time over the years thinking about the Crucifixion during Holy Week, and particularly on Good Friday. Knowing that Jesus was fully God and fully human, I wonder how much he understood about what was to come in his final days on earth.  It makes me think about my final days. Will there be excitement at facing our Lord and the reward of a life well-lived or regret for all the failures?  Will I be aware of those last moments on earth? What will that very last breath be like?

I have been privileged to be with several family members and even some close friends as they faced their last days on earth and I realize that depending on the information shared by their doctor, their state of mind, as well as the knowledge of their body, and their faith; they do know the end is near. I have seen people who are tired of suffering and have gladly given their life over to God. And, I have also witnessed people who have fought for every last breath of their life.

Did Jesus know what his last few days would bring, all the suffering and pain?  Yet, he willingly and graciously accepted it!   He even forgave his persecutors with his last breaths.

Father, forgive them, they know not what they do. Lk. 23:34

And, then I read these words of his;

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Mk. 15:34  

Maybe even Jesus wondered, as do I.

Cathy O’Toole

 

God’s Plan for Me

I have 3 prayer books that were written by Mark Link, S.J. in the late 1990’s for the turn of the century. The series of books is referred to as the Vision 2000 series and there is one for each of the 3 yearly liturgical cycles. And yes, I have been reading these books and reflecting on them each evening for nearly 20 years.

The daily format consists of a scripture reading, a short story, a question for reflection and a quote from a famous and sometimes, not so famous person. I love these books because they allow me to relate my life to the scripture reading, in other words, they make me think. And the reason that I have been reading them for so long is because my thoughts on scripture have deepened over the past 20 years.

The other night I was reading; (Isaiah 65: 17-18) The Lord says, “I am making a new earth and new heavens. The events of the past will be completely forgotten. Be glad and rejoice forever in what I create.”

This reading was followed with the story:

The Italian sculptor Donatello rejected a block of marble because it was flawed. Michelangelo was offered the same block and accepted it. He looked beyond the obvious flaw to something potentially beautiful in it. He eventually carved from it his greatest masterpiece: David. God did something similar with us and our sin-filled world. God looked beyond our obvious flaws to something potentially beautiful in each of us. God is now “re-creating” all things in the image of Jesus.

The question for reflection was “How convinced am I that God has a plan for me and wants to make me into something special in spite of my flaws”?

After nearly 20 years of reflection, I have come to accept the fact that God has a plan for me and most of the time I see God’s hand in my life. I must admit though, sometimes he may have to shove me into something that I ordinarily would not consider doing. My flaws are countless. So, that is that! Yes, God does have a plan for me. And I will try to recognize it and follow him.

But, as I read this passage this year, particularly in light of the story included, I think I may often act like Donatello and become focused on the flaws of others, as well as my own.  Because of this I may fail to see the work of God in my life or in others.

Dear Lord, make me like Michelangelo so that I overlook my flaws, do not dwell on past failures and let me see your hand at work in not only my life but in others.  Do not allow me to step in the way of your plan for us all.

Cathy O’Toole  D29BF91F-326B-4778-8E20-A127888D1370.medium

 

Preparing for Lent

The 40 days of Lent are rapidly approaching and now is the time to be thinking about personal plans for this holy season. For me it is often difficult to decide what I will do and/or what I will give up this Lenten season to prepare for Easter. Placeholder Image Whatever I decide, I see it as a way to strengthen my faith during this time.  It is a good idea to write the plan on paper so as to commit to it more fully.  I also glance at it often to remind myself of my commitment.

On Ash Wednesday at Mass, we will hear the priest say in the Collect Prayer a the beginning “Grant, O Lord, that, we may begin with holy fasting this campaign of Christian Service, so that, as we take up the battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. “

The plan for the Lenten Season should contain 3 things; Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving.

PRAYER: A good way to approach prayer during this season is to attend daily Mass. In a parish I was in years ago parishioners were encouraged to join ‘The 40 Club’ which was attending Mass each of the 40 days of Lent.  Today, this is often not possible, particularly with those who work during the day but finding a noon Mass near a church where you work may be possible. Maybe you could plan on attending Mass as much as possible during Lent. What are other options? Consider, praying novenas, a daily rosary, and the Stations of the Cross or any of a number of prayers available.

These are all great ways to get started in enhancing our prayer life. Spending an hour at Eucharistic Adoration in the presence of our Lord speaking and listening to him is critical in growing our faith. And, don’t forget the Sacrament of Reconciliation during this holy season.  Vary your prayers and the schedule as needed. Sometimes we can repeat the same prayer so many times we tend to do it without giving it thought. Particularly during Lent, you want to make the most of your prayer time by thinking about the words you are saying.

Set aside time each day to read the Bible or maybe a book about saints  lives.  This will help you spend more time with Jesus reflecting on what you just read, either His word or the life of a saint and how you can emulate that.  Remember that the gospels tell us that Jesus often went off to a quiet place, by himself, to pray.  Remove yourself from any distractions and ask Jesus to speak to you through your prayers or readings.  Thank Him for giving you life, and ask him for continued blessings and hope for a future with Him.

FASTING:  Of course we know that on Ash Wednesday and on all Fridays during Lent we are asked to abstain from meat. Many local parishes have Friday Fish Fries with reasonable prices, including St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, so it is a great way to abstain from meat and enjoy an evening with parishioners and neighbors.

There are other ways to fast also, such as giving up something you really like to do or to eat.  It might be limiting your TV or social media time or giving up a favorite but unnecessary food. Think about what you do now and what you will do during Lent.  Another positive aspect of this fasting is it may create a bit more time for prayer.

ALMSGIVING:  According to the United States Council of Catholic Bishops, the foundational call of Christians to charity is a frequent theme of the Gospels.  During Lent, we are asked to focus more intently on “almsgiving,” which means donating money or goods to the poor and performing other acts of charity.  As one of the three pillars of Lenten practice, almsgiving is “a witness to fraternal charity” and  “a work of justice pleasing to God.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2462).

There are numerous ways to demonstrate our fraternal charity such as giving money or other donations to St. Vincent de Paul at St. Andrew Church or Hope Emergency, these organizations assist our local neighbors. You could also watch out for neighbors who you know may need help.  Perhaps you could offer a ride to the grocery store or doctor, invite them to your house for a meal, take them some left over food from your table, or just spending time with them in a short visit.

Many other Catholic organizations provide assistance to the poor, including; the Catholic Ministries Appeal, the Collection for the Churches in Central and Easter Europe, the Collection for the Holy Land which is used to help to maintain the Christian sites and help the poor in the Holy Land.  As a child, I looked forward to donating a portion of my allowance during Lent to the CRS Rice Bowl. This is a great way to involve your whole family in almsgiving for Lent.

When making your plans for you and your family, keep in mind doing something that touches the hearts of those around you and that expresses your thanks and love of God by sacrificing in some way.

Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Cor. 9:7

Cathy O’Toole  fullsizerender-1

Are You Excited to be Catholic?

It was over 5 years ago that I went on a faith journey that led me to where I am today. I was questioning the origins of my Baptist tradition so I started to study the history of the Christian faith. It was during this time that I came to realize that there were many truths  I never learned about at the private Baptist school I attended. Growing up I had always heard many misconceptions & falsehoods about Catholics, such as what they believed and why they did what they did. I have always been fascinated with history and I wanted to worship God the same way the early Christians did.

The more I studied, the more my investigation led me to the Catholic Church. Like understanding that before 1517 A.D. the only Christian church that existed was the Catholic Church and that all other denominations, like my own Baptist faith, originated from the Catholic Church. This was a total game changer for me. I thought, would the Church Christ gave us, the Church founded on the Apostles, be wrong for over 1500 years until the Reformation; I don’t think so.

I also thought, would Jesus want a divided Church? Of course not. Jesus prayed, “So that they may all be ONE, as you, Father are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.” JN. 17:21.

Now I found myself studying and reading everything I could get my hands on about the Catholic faith. I identified 5 issues I had about the Catholic faith and researched them. I was totally shocked! Not only did I find them to be truth, but they were backed up by scripture as well.  I began to think, what else am I missing?

Then I started reading about the Church Fathers, and about the wonderful liturgy of the Church, and of course the Sacraments. To think I might have lived out the rest of my life and not experienced the Sacraments would have been a terrible loss.

I realized that the only way to experience everything Jesus gave us, was to become Catholic. My wife Beth and I began participating in RCIA about 5 years before finally being received into the Church and celebrating Confirmation and first Holy Communion together on August 27, 2017. It was a long journey, but one we would do all over again. It was such a beautiful, awesome experience and I can’t think of a better place to experience all of this other than at St. Andrew! We feel like St. Andrew is our family now and we have made many lifelong friends in this community.

What a wonderful thing to now realize the beauty of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and to know that Jesus really is in the Eucharist! Just knowing that every time we go to Mass that we are doing it the same way the Apostles would have celebrated it almost 2000 years ago. Just to know that we are all part of the first Church that Jesus gave us is such an awesome privilege!

I am certainly not knocking other Christian denominations some of which my entire family is still a part. The Reformation had its place in history. But, I now know that the only place to find the Full Deposit of Faith is the Catholic Church. Being able to experience the Advent season this year at the Eucharistic table with Beth was the highlight of my Christmas season.

After doing a lot of research for many years I am not only proud to say that I am Catholic.  I’m excited to be Catholic. I know for certain that I am a part of the One True Church. I look forward to going to Mass. It is always the highlight of my week. Knowing what I am a part of now, I can’t get enough. Jesus is there every week waiting for us in the Eucharist.  How could I not be there? I hope all of you can join me in being a part of God’s divine Truth that is called the Catholic Church! So, I’ll ask again;

Are you excited to be Catholic?

“It is in the Church, in the communion with all the baptized, that the Christian fulfills his vocation.”
CCC 2030

Ben Gilmore

Beth and BenBen and Beth Gilmore have been parishioners at St. Andrew Parish for over 5 years and came into full communion with all members of this community in August of 2017.

God’s Will Be Done

God blesses us with different insights when we read very familiar scripture verses. In a recent Sunday reading, while I have read it many times, something dawned on me which I had never thought of before.

The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him. . . Lk. 2:2.33

When taking Jesus to the temple for purification, an old man named Simeon approached Mary and Joseph and as he gazed at the baby said, “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” Lk.2:29-32. Through the Holy Spirit, Simeon knew that he would live to see the Son of God.

When reading this I thought maybe Mary and Joseph were not only amazed, as the scripture verse above states but perhaps frightened. Two complete strangers approach them in the Temple, Simeon and later Anna and proclaim the baby as the son of God, the long awaited Madonna and ChildMessiah. Did they think that the baby’s identity was a secret and would not be revealed until he was an adult or at least not until he began his ministry.  Did they wonder how many more people know that their precious baby is the Son of God? If these two people in the Temple knew, with how many more people did God share this secret?  How would they be able to protect him?

From the beginning of this pregnancy, Mary and Joseph trusted God. They did not understand but they accepted God’s plan for them and their son. They had absolute trust in God’s will. They knew that their baby would be safe because of their faith in God. Their faith led them to believe that God would provide them with the strength and the wisdom to deal with whatever came their way while raising His son.

Dear Lord, let me place my trust in you just as Mary and Joseph did. Give me a strong faith that will allow me to accept your will and not to worry about things that I have no control over. Reinforce this trust, faith and acceptance of your plan for my life.

Cathy O’Toole

The Fourth Sunday of Advent

            (This year on the Liturgical Calendar the Fourth Sunday of Advent is also Christmas Eve.  It is a compressed week.)

Last year in 2016 at this time, I was a mess.

My husband and I were running around, trying to find presents for all of our friends and family, baking cookies for the neighbors, visiting with everyone coming back to Cincinnati for the holidays, watching every Christmas movie under the sun, to make it all absolutely perfect…all while I was 3 months pregnant, exhausted and desperate for Frisch’s onion rings.

It was a weird time.

The excitement of the pregnancy made the holiday celebrations even more meaningful than usual as people expressed their joy at the soon-to-be arrival of our little one. But at the same time, my drive to make Christmas “perfect” as I had strived to do for years, made it all that much more difficult. I remember feeling paralyzed as we unearthed the Christmas decorations (multiple mounds of them), and feeling like it was just too much to try and put it all up. But I felt like I had to as I thought, “It just wouldn’t be Christmas without XYZ decoration!” And so we did all of the things that would make the season “wonderful” – wrapped all of our presents perfectly, provided the perfect side dishes for all of our family gatherings, created the most perfect card to send out, and put every ornament in a perfect place on the tree. And by January 1, we were drained.

Fast forward to 2017.

Our baby girl is now 6-months old, exploring her world and growing by leaps and bounds each day. It’s an exciting time with LOTS of firsts! But I have to say one of the most surprising things for me as a new mom is that Christmas has felt “different” this year, and not necessarily in the sense I expected. What I EXPECTED was that I would create the “perfect” Christmas for her, she would stare at our Christmas tree ornaments with wide eyes and a smile, be fascinated with a big man in a bright red suit and play with wrapping paper next to me as I meticulously covered each edge and corner of a gift. It would be like a storybook. What I GOT instead was this overwhelming feeling to protect her from the overabundance of it all.

My husband and I both agreed to take a break from putting up our boxes upon boxes of decorations, we put up our tree with a few of our favorite ornaments, displayed our manger scene and decided to make most of our gifts instead of urgently shopping around for presents. Now don’t get me wrong, part of our reasons for making these decisions included sleep deprivation, a tighter budget and unpredictable diaper changes, but let me tell you – finally – the Christmas season feels GOOD. By not emphasizing all the other “stuff” that we typically do, we have found ourselves more immersed in the celebration of Advent not only at mass each week, but also at home. We’re actually taking the time to read our little blue book, use our Advent calendar and are specifically setting aside time for ourselves to spend quality time together as a family. It has inspired us to really embrace the beauty of preparation, the hope it inspires and the ultimate destiny it fulfills – Jesus’ birth, of course, but also our entrance into heaven one day.

While some people would certainly say that the deep joy we are experiencing this season is due to having a new baby – and yes, certainly, there is a lot of joy in that! – I would venture to say that the deep joy we are experiencing is due to taking the time to really reflect on and enjoy what this season is all about with our new baby. It has made me realize that we don’t need all of the stuff to make Advent and Christmas wonderful. We just need each other, our love for one another and the opportunity to spread glad tidings of great joy to the family, friends and community around us.

My husband and I have both decided to continue with our “toned down” Christmas in future years. As it is our job as parents to prepare our daughter, and any other future siblings she may have, the importance of being selfless, giving and loving others, we feel it starts here. What an opportunity to show our daughter and our future children the difference between God’s love and the false allure of the materials of this world. Jesus was born amongst livestock and wrapped in some rags. Why would I ever think that Christmas should be about all the “stuff?” Because truth bomb: all of that stuff doesn’t make us happy. The presents. The cookies. The decorations. The cards. Trying to perfect all of it only made the season miserable, exhausting and overwhelming to me, yet year after year I would do it again. And the one year we decided not to? Well. . .

It’s been a most blessed season.

The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of God shone around them, and they were struck with great fear.  The angel said, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’

And suddenly there was a great multitude of the heavenly host with an angel, praising God and saying: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.  Lk 2: 9-14

Mandy Geyman and Lucy Mandy and Lucy

 

The Third Week in Advent

Third Sunday of adventI have been blessed to have taken 4 pilgrimages to the Holy Land. My first 3 though prevented me from going to the site of the Visitation because my arthritic knees would not permit me to climb the hills. Even the thought of walking those hills to get the Church of the Visitation made me cringe.

When I think of Mary traveling to be with her cousin Elizabeth in Judah, I imagine how difficult that journey up those hills must have been for her. She was a young woman and while I am sure she had good knees, she was in her early stages of pregnancy. As I thought about Mary making the journey from Nazareth to the hills of Judah (about 90 miles) walking and/or riding on a donkey suffering from symptoms of possibly nausea, headaches, backaches and tiredness, I was amazed at her self-sacrifice. She was determined to get to her cousin Elizabeth to help her in her time of need.

Elizabeth was an old woman who was likely suffering similar symptoms to Mary’s and she may have even had worn out knees. She was very near to giving birth to her son, John the Baptist, and Mary had to get there to assist her through her pregnancy and to help her with her newborn son. She put herself aside to help her cousin. No wonder God selected this woman to raise his son. She was selfless.

Mary set out in those days and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. Lk. 1-39

VisiationI finally made it to the Church of the Visitation at the top of the Judean Hills (see the picture to the right) on my last pilgrimage and was awestruck looking out over the scene. It was not only one of the most beautiful sites I have ever seen but knowing what happened there made me more conscious of focusing on other people instead of my own troubles. The view along with this  reminder was well worth the wait.

Dear Lord, help me to always put others in need first as Mary, Your Mother did. Don’t let me trip over my own problems on the way to helping others, particularly as I look around at this time of the year and see so many others who require help.

Cathy O’Toole