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! 

 

Jesus and You – Living a Single Life With an Open Heart

Recently, St. Andrew Church hosted an evening program entitled, “Jesus and You – Living a Single Life With an Open Heart” for divorced, widowed, never married or otherwise single people from both St. Andrew and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parishes. This is the first program of its kind in our Pastoral Region and hopefully, from the feedback received, not the last.

Silhouette People Man Guy Sad Alone Trees

Over 30 men and women were present, as well as, the Holy Spirit.  Fr. Chris began the evening with prayer and a short talk, sharing his humor, family stories, and kind heart; drawing people in and putting them at ease. He opened the door wide to a wonderful evening of discussion.

Following his words, each person was assigned to a small group and each group received 2 different scripture passages related to leading a single life.  These passages were used as a basis for discussion on how these words related to their lives.  Many people shared stories  of the joys of single life, some pain and suffering, and even the aloneness of their lives and how they attempted to deal with this, using these scripture readings to help focus the discussion. Many others talked how adjusting to being single takes time and lots of prayer.

While we all knew we were in the same boat, many came to the boat for very different reasons, and we all had to learn how to live in silence, by ourselves.  As Fr. Chris said, “we all have the capacity to love and that is what we are called to do.  Living alone provides us with the time and availability to do just that.”

While sharing a personal story of pain and grief with strangers is never easy, there was a certain comfort when you realize that on this path, you are never really alone.  While the discussions from each of the 6 groups was very different, there was clearly a common thread – whatever your situation, you have to trust that God will care for you and if you do trust in his wisdom, you will live in peace.

I am with you always, even to the end of time. Lk. 24:29

Cathy O’Toole

Stay where you are. Find your own Calcutta.

The above quote is from St. Teresa of Calcutta as she tells us to recognize needs in our own communities.

A friend of mine recently retired and was looking for a volunteer opportunity. She decided to help out at her grade school alma mater, St. Francis de Sales School in Walnut Hills. She began volunteering and realized as she observed the kids, they struggled with reading which would affect all of their other studies. While they read at school, many of them did not have any books at home to read.  Buying books for their children may not be a financial priority for parents who struggle to put food on the table. My friend saw a need and was determined to do something about it.

Child with books scuptureThe St. Francis de Sales Book Club was created out of a need to provide the school’s students with a variety of books to hopefully instill a lifelong love of reading, a curiosity of the world, and a foundation for success. St. Francis de Sales School is one of eight CISE (Catholic Inner-city Schools Education Fund) schools in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. The demographics for the CISE schools include 93 percent poverty; 83 percent minority; and 76 percent non-Catholic. Although each classroom does indeed have a variety of books, and library time is part of each week’s curriculum, some students do not have access to books at home.

My friend decided to increase not only the classroom libraries but also the children’s personal library at home. She even started a weekly awards program for the best readers and gave them a book of their own.

Here is one of the Award Winners with her book.

Award Winner

In addition, she created the St. Francis de Sales Book Club on Amazon, which includes individual Wish Lists for each grade from Pre-K through grade eight, as well as a Miscellaneous Wish List and one for Black History Month. The teachers have provided titles they would like to have, and other books have been added. They have taken special care to include books that represent the demographics of the students, hoping that stories that reflect their lives in a positive way and will foster a love of reading and whet their appetites for more.

Can you imagine, as you look at this blog, to not being able to understand its meaning because you have not had books to practice and hone your reading skills. The work of Christians is to act where there is a need, just as St. Teresa of Calcutta told us and so it has been done in this situation. Jesus taught us to act when we see a need and to always help others.

. . . a skillfully composed story delights the ears of those who read the work. 2 Maccabees 15:39

 If you are interested in checking out the St. Francis de Sales Book Club, click on this link:   https://www.amazon.com/gp/registry/wishlist/26SHVBJ0868DY

Cathy O’Toole

 

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