What It Means to Be an Altar Server – Jesse Hardin

Jesse HardinMy name is Jesse Hardin and I am a junior at Archbishop Moeller High School. I became Catholic in the first grade by choice and it was the greatest decision in my life. In the fourth grade I decided to become an Altar Server. It isn’t a requirement, but for me it was a choice that I love. It is a choice to serve the Lord. I feel more connected to the Lord while serving than any other time. I feel like I am directly helping the Lord while on the Altar. Servers are right there by the priest when the bread and wine are changed to the body and blood and I feel the power of the Lord working as I watch.

When you are serving at Mass or at a special liturgical service, you see things from a different viewpoint than the rest of the congregation. I was serving at the Easter Vigil and all the lights are turned off during the beginning of this service. The Deacon began to slowly raise the Bible at the Gospel. I was behind him with the thurible (a metal censer suspended from chains, in which incense is burned during worship services) and the other server was gradually turning the lights to full power. The lights are gaining in power and the Deacon is slowly raising the Book. The choir starts singing softly and then louder as the lights came up, I felt the power of the Lord working. This moved me enough that I smiled and I was filled with the Spirit.

I also am moved when I am using the thurible. I serve at many funerals and when we are sending the body from the church, the priest incenses the casket. Some priests put the incense right above the head of the casket. This is touching because you can almost see the soul rising to heaven. I love the experience of being a server, as I said, I feel so much closer to God when I do it. I am so glad I became a server. I love Sundays when I get to serve the Lord.

 

 

Bread From Heaven

LogoAlthough we often think of Jesus as a Christian he was a devote Jew who followed all the precepts of Judaism. He was born of a Jewish woman, in a Jewish town in Galilee, was circumcised, studied the Torah, celebrated Jewish feasts, took pilgrimages to Jerusalem, taught in Synagogues, and celebrated Passover with his apostles. So, why is this important to Catholics? It is simple; the origins of the Catholic Mass are rooted in Jewish customs, history and scripture.

Exodus 16:4-6  Then the Lord said to Moses; I am going to rain down bread from heaven for you. Each day the people are to go out and gather their daily portion; thus will I test them to see whether they follow my instructions or not. On the sixth day, however, when they prepare what they bring in, let it be twice as much as they gather on the other days.

Scripture tells us that the Jewish people were waiting for a political messiah who would set them free, a new Exodus, if you will. As the Jews were fleeing Egypt, God took care of them every morning and night for forty years. Each morning in the desert the Jews found dew on the ground and when it dried, it was like flakes and they asked what it was. Moses said, “It is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat.” And, each evening, they were fed quail. The bread was called manna and in the desert, any manna that was not consumed was stored in a tabernacle. A candle was lit next to the tabernacle to indicate that there was manna stored within. The Lord fed the Israelites for 40 years, manna in the morning and quail in the evening. The manna was referred to as “bread from heaven.”

Source:  The Jewish Roots of the Eucharist, Brant Pitre

Tabernacle and Lamp

Today the unused consecrated hosts remain in our tabernacle for the sick and dying. When the candle next to it is lit; you know the tabernacle has consecrated hosts in it.

The Tabernacle at St. Andrew The Apostle Church

The Worship Commission

 

 

 

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

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

 

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