Thursday, May 26, 2022

"A most pure heart" - Nicholas Flowers

      On Wednesday, May 25th, I concelebrated and preached the funeral of a young man whose name is Nichols Alexander Flowers.  Nick was 19 year old.  He is the son of Mickie and Larry Flowers, the brother of Maddie, Gabbie and Noah, the grandson of my cousin Larry and his wife Joyce and the grandson of Ray, a grade school classmate and his wife Patti.

     Less than four weeks ago life was normal, but within that time Nick found he had a heart problem and underwent major surgeries before leaving us this past Friday morning.  His passing was devastating, his funeral very sad, his spirit, though, overriding all these emotions, brought a smile to so many faces and peace to so many hearts.

    Many people said many things about Nick.  His family shared that he was "the sweetest, kindest, most loving soul.  He loved his family dearly."  He never, ever, had a mean word for anyone or about anything.  "He is without a doubt the most pure hearted person that we have ever known."

    This was echoed on social media by his high school band director who posted "I witnessed one of the kindest, happiest, purest young men I have ever met."  He said of Nick "His attitude instantly filled the entirety of every space he was in until there was no room for anything else but happiness."  "He always knew what was important, and was never afraid to remind us in his own gentle but insistent way."   This teacher concluded: "I will never have another student like him and you will never have another friend like him because he is one of a kind."  A great tribute.

Nick was involved in band and the drama club at Albert Gallatin High School and was currently on the dean's list in his freshman year at Penn State.

He was a kid that "went to bed with a smile on his face and woke up the same way."  He was a young man of deep faith and infectious joy.

     One person on facebook spoke of being inspired by this family every time they came into Saint Joseph Church, filled the pew, knelt in quiet prayer before greeting those around them and praying with the parish family at liturgy.

     Nick is a gift to us.  Nick in his young life knew that God had gifted him so that he could share that giftedness with others.  And he welcomed the gift that others are into his life.  No wonder he was such a pure heart who exuded happiness.  Thank you, Nick.

    He brings his joy to the home of his heavenly Father.  Our continued prayers to his Mom and Dad, sisters and brother, family and friends.

Monday, May 23, 2022

A GREAT FRIEND

      We are all too often touched by the experience of death in our lives, especially as we grow older.  

    I would like to mention the death of a very good friend from Masontown, who I have known since my arrival there as pastor at All Saints in October of 1986.  Her name is Donna Jean Parish.  Donna died on May 18th after a very long and courageous battle with cancer.

    Donna was loved and supported by and, as he told me yesterday, a blessing to her husband and best friend, George.  Their son, George and his wife Sarah, and their children Levi and Andrew were the joy of Donna's heart.

    Donna taught kindergarten at All Saints School for 26 years, touching a generation of lives with her faith, goodness and love.  Her funeral Mass was today.  How can I remember and honor her?  I think that I have found a way, with the help of one her former students, Drew Colebank, who wrote what follows below about this good woman.  I share his words, which her son, George, posted on facebook.  Thanks Drew.

From Drew Colebank regarding Donna Parish

How do you measure the life of a woman?  In the love she shared from her heart!

Did she leave the world better than she found?  A woman who taught a generation to keep the faith, always hope, and abide in love.

She taught a generation to care for each other, even in a careless world of bigotry.  She taught a generation to give to each other, even in a selfish world of vanity.  She taught a generation to seek peace, even in a violent world of hate.

 She comforted us as kindergarten children on the day the world stood still, 9/11 a day of crisis, while the world is in crisis still in senseless conflict and painful pandemic.

Is the world any better?  Absolutely!

It was not, is not, and will not be the same without this loving little servant who made an everlasting impact on the Kingdom of her God, a true saint of Christ.  She fought the good fight, a battle won!

"Well done, good and faithful servant!  You have been faithful over a few things.  I will make you a ruler over many things.  Enter into the joy of your Lord."  (Matthew 25:11)

Thanks, Drew ... and most especially - Thanks, Donna.  She now Rests in Peace.  I am blessed to call her a friend.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

VIGIL REFLECTION

     I was asked to preach at our house Vigil celebration this year.  What follows is my reflection given this past Saturday evening to the men of the Neumann House residence for retired priests.

     We began our Triduum liturgy on Thursday by remembering - calling to mind as we heard the scriptures from Exodus the Passover supper of the first covenant - and then entering into the supper of the new covenant, doing as Jesus asked of us "in memory of me".  We recalled on Friday the suffering and death of Christ as we remembered the act of our redemption, the source of our salvation.  We reached out and touched the Cross which becomes our sign of victory.

      Tonight we continue to remember as we pledge to continue to walk in his way.  Our remembering involves the telling of our story, part one of our history.

     In 1981 there was a Mel Brooks comedy that came out entitled "History of the World, Part 1".  It presented a number of comedic scenes from human history from the cave man to Moses to Nero to the Spanish Inquisition to the French Revolution.  The Church tonight, in the beauty of the full liturgy and scriptures, gives us the REAL history of the world, part 1.

     From darkness and chaos and nothingness the Lord God said "Let there be light" ... he brought order to all created things ... and out of nothingness he brought life.  He crowned his creation by fashioning us (human beings) "in his image and likeness" and the befriending us.  But temptation and sin entered the picture and things went downhill from there.

     He called a people to himself in Abraham - and in the pivotal moment of our story freed them from slavery and bondage in Egypt and led them to a land flowing with milk and honey, a promised land.  There were highs and lows in this journey, all leading to the close of part 1 and the beginning of something new.

     That new thing, that new covenant was sealed with the ultimate sacrifice - the life of the Son of God on the tree of the Cross.  From this new Passover we experience a new exodus - from the darkness of our sin to reconciliation and the light of truth, through the chaos and confusion of a life lived in a troubled world to a way of living that IS peace, and from death in all of its forms to the new life of the risen Lord and the empty tomb.

     We will be invited in a moment to recall our baptismal promises and renew our commitment to this new covenant and the beginning of "the history of the world, part 2" - a journey that, while still not lived in perfection, is lived in hope and the assurance that the victory has been won ... the tomb is empty ... and we walk again, like in the garden of old, side by side in the friendship of Jesus, our Lord and Savior.

     Then, coming again to the table and recognizing him "in the breaking of the bread", we can go forth to witness with ALLELUIA on our lips and in our hearts. 

Friday, April 15, 2022

VIA DOLOROSA - completion

      I missed last Friday's post on the Way of the Cross, so I will complete our reflections on this Good Friday.

The Eleventh Station

JESUS IS NAILED TO THE CROSS

    The action of "nailing" the convict to the cross was not commonplace but reserved for the circumstances when a "point was to be made".  Usually the hands and feet were securely bound by ropes.  However we are bound to our cross, the pain is always there and usually excruciating.

    Sometimes our will is bound to the cross through the people that we are forced to bear or who we must serve or obey.  Sometimes it comes through sickness and disease without our being able to do anything about it.  Sometimes our being bound to our cross crushes our dreams, plans, and ambitions that keep us from touching the living God.

    Jesus willing allowed himself to be bound, with nails and ropes, to a cross for the redemption of all creation.  

The Twelfth Station

JESUS DIES UPON THE CROSS

    At the foot of the cross was his mother, Mary.  She stood there in anguish and sorrow.  Though Mary can do nothing at this moment, her inactivity is not paralysis.  It is an inward churning of love and wonder and sorrow.  If this is where her son leads her, then this is where she will stay.  She will want nothing else if this is the appointed end of the son whom she loves; the son who, far from receiving her loving care has become the master of her soul.

The Thirteenth Station

JESUS IS TAKEN DOWN FROM THE CROSS

    He has commended himself into the hands of his Father.  The crowds begin to disperse.  Those who love Jesus stay with him in stillness; those who hate, betray, or deny him leave, with many words and emotions.  Waiting with Christ in stillness, like Mary, means union with him.  It means knowing "the tragedy and the victory of his love."  It is called contemplation.  Are we found at the foot of the cross in prayer and contemplation, or have we moved on?  The great "Pieta" is the image of this Station.

The Fourteenth Station

JESUS IS LAID IN THE SEPULCHER

    The scriptures take the view that in living and dying, the best thing available to us is the knowledge of God.  As to knowing ourselves, that will come with knowing God.

    The Cross of Christ reveals God most truly because that is where he redeems the human beings that he has made, bringing them fully and finally into his purposes.  Wonderfully he allows us to embrace his Cross.  When the crucified comes to live with us, we die into his glorious Resurrection.

Remember, that Easter morning this sepulcher will be found empty ... but he is found in our midst.

Friday, April 1, 2022

VIA DOLOROSA - 9 & 10

      We continue with our journey to the Cross on Calvary with these next two Stations.


The Ninth Station

JESUS FALLS THE THIRD TIME

    Jesus fell three times, the Scriptures tell us.  Why?  Was there a reason beyond pain and exhaustion?  Maybe this third fall was for us, that we might find strength in his weakness and might not fall ourselves.  Or, if we do fall, we might love him whose battered face and pain filled eyes cast the look of love our way - and who picks us up because he fell bearing a Cross of love.


The Tenth Station

JESUS IS STRIPPED OF HIS GARMENTS

    Not since Adam and Eve clothed themselves with the skins God gave to them as he cast them out of the Garden has man's nakedness been anything other than a mark of his shame.  Christ's nakedness reverses that curse, and all who believe will be given robes of white, washed in the blood of the Lamb.

    That day they removed all his earthly clothes in order to prepare him for his robes of glory and triumph. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

A FRESH START

      At this stage in our Lenten journey we see invitations to parish Lenten Penance Services where the Sacrament of Reconciliation is celebrated.  It is a part of the penitential nature of the season.

The first reading for this Tuesday in Lent is from chapter 65 of the prophet Isaiah.  We read: "Thus says the Lord: Lo, I am about to create new heavens and a new earth.  The things of the past shall not be remembered or come to mind.  Instead, there shall always be rejoicing and happiness in what I create; For I create Jerusalem to be a joy and its people to be a delight; I will rejoice in Jerusalem and exult in my people."

    What powerful and affirming words ... what a reassurance to the heart that is lost in sin or the struggle to follow the Lord's way.

    The Sacrament of Reconciliation is about forgiveness of sins.  Recognizing our failures and desiring to be be set free and to begin anew, we come with a sincere heart and an open mind to the truth that the Lord is creating a new thing, opening for us the possibility to begin again, to make a fresh start, to be reconciled.

    A very important part of that gift is found in the words: "The things of the past shall not be remembered or come to mind."

    How hard it is for us to not remember - the hurts that we have experienced, the hurts and failures that we have inflicted upon others, the burden of our guilt and pain.  But God's word is clear.  Come to him with a truly repentant heart, trust in his mercy and love, and start fresh to walk in the way of the Lord.

    If you are contemplating taking part in a Lenten Penance Service this year, remember God's assurance that his grace will bring about a recreation in you.  Make a fresh start and be blessed.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

VIA DOLOROSA - 7 & 8

      We continue with our journey with Jesus to the hill of Calvary with the next two Stations of the Cross.


The Seventh Station

JESUS FALLS THE SECOND TIME

Jesus fell once.  It was from weakness and pain but it was for something or someone.

    He fell the first time for those who set the murderous wheels of his passion and death in motion, Pilate and his emperor, the chief priests and religious leaders calling for his death, those blinded by power and their weakness.  He showed them the power of weakness when that power and weakness are called love.

    This second time he fell it was for those who followed and watched, sometimes at a distance as passive bystanders and sometimes as the crowd jeered his and called for his death.  They were caught in spiritual paralysis and guilt and blindness to suffering and death.  He fell that they might run to their merciful God.  

    He fell a second time and he got up again and stumbled forward to his death and our freedom.

The Eighth Station

JESUS MEETS THE WOMEN OF JERUSALEM

In Luke 23:28 Jesus says to these women along his path "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children."

    Jesus predicts a harsh future that his people will have because of their rejection of God's works of mercy and grace.  Jerusalem will ultimately fall to the Romans, the temple again destroyed and God's people once again dispersed.  When sorrows and pain touch our lives we must remember that redemption and joy are our destiny, when we weep for the crucified one and rejoice in the risen Lord