On Monday, August 15th, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven. It’s not a holy day of obligation this year (more on why below) but we will have Mass at OLQH at 8:00AM nonetheless. What exactly are we celebrating in Mary’s life with this feast? The dogma of the Assumption of Mary is rather simple, in fact. It states that that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory. In other words, when Mary came to the end of her life, she was taken body and soul into Heaven.
Why was Mary taken up into Heaven body and soul? Mary was preserved free from all stain of original sin (that’s the Immaculate Conception) so there was no need for her to have the separation of her body and soul and wait until the Last Day to have them reunited. For those of us who were born into original sin—and that’s all of us—when we die our bodies will remain here on Earth until we are reunited with them when Jesus comes again in glory. Mary, having no original sin and no actual sin, was not subject to this separation and is able to exist wholly in Heaven.
Mary sits now in Heaven and is exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death. Mary is our example: we hope to one day be like her, seeing God face-to-face in Heaven with both our body and soul. The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son’s Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians. What has already happened to Mary—that is, her existence in Heaven body and soul—is the anticipation of all of us: that one day we too might live with God forever in Heaven, body and soul.
Now, the question from above: why is the Assumption not a holy day of obligation this year? There is always confusion about when certain feasts are or are not holy days. In the United States, the bishops have determined that the following days are holy days of obligation: January 1, Mary, Mother of God; Ascension Thursday; August 15, the Assumption; November 1, All Saints; December 8, Immaculate Conception; and December 25, Christmas. However, most dioceses in the United States, including our own, transfer the Ascension to Sunday, so there are really only 5 holy days of obligation in the United States (along with all Sundays).
However, whenever January 1, August 15, or November 1 falls on a Saturday or on a Monday, the precept to attend Mass (the “obligation” part) is removed since it is so close to Sunday. This removal does not happen with December 8, the Immaculate Conception, since this is our country’s patronal feast day. In the end, the whole purpose of these days is to render worship to God, to celebrate the joy proper to the Lord’s day, and the suitable relaxation of mind and body.
I don’t often use the bulletin column to talk about money, but when it’s “free money” I will make an exception. How does the parish get free money? Through our scrip program! I want to take a few moments here in the bulletin to talk about the benefits of the scrip program and to encourage you to participate if you do not already do so.
For those who are unaware, the scrip program is a parish program in which the parish purchases ordinary gift cards, or scrip, from popular retailers at a discount, which the retailers are happy to give because they’re guaranteeing themselves customers and some goodwill advertising. Anyone can then buy the gift cards at face value. We keep the difference in price. If you are a parent of an Assumption Catholic Schools student, the profit is used by ACS. When you spend the scrip card at the retailer, the card is worth the full face value; you haven’t spent an extra dime to help the parish or ACS, nor have you had to change stores. Scrip is just another way to pay for everyday purchases using gift cards in place of cash, checks, and credit or debit cards.
Some people think that scrip is worth less than the face value of the card or what they’ve paid: that’s not true at all. For example, if you purchase a $100 gas scrip card, you pay $100 and get $100 for use at the retailer. However, we purchased the card at only $95 and so we made $5 in profit from the sale. It’s really free money for us. The profit percentage varies by the retailer: some are as high as 20% or as low as 1.25% but every little bit helps!
If every parish family simply purchased their gas and groceries using scrip cards, the parish would have a great deal of free money to use! Think about it before you go to the grocery store or the gas station next time. Scrip is available after the Masses on Saturday evening and Sunday morning and anytime in the parish office during regular business hours. When you get into the habit of buying scrip—especially for those regularly purchased items like gas and groceries—it’s easy and helps the parish tremendously.
Additionally, in this age of “big brother” and targeted advertisements, when you purchase scrip using a check or cash at the parish and then use the scrip card at the retailer, the retailer doesn’t know who you are and cannot track your purchases: an added benefit. Finally, take it from me as a millennial (that is, someone born between 1981–1996), young adults and young people love getting gift cards as gifts and we don’t see it as impersonal in the least. Rather we see it as allowing us to purchase what we want: so think of the scrip program when you’re gift giving, too! If you have any questions about the scrip program, don’t hesitate to ask or stop by the parish office. Remember: try to purchase at least gas and groceries with scrip to help the parish!
It’s hard to believe but last Wednesday, July 6th was my one-year anniversary of arriving at Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish as your pastor. The year seemed to fly by, at least for me. Perhaps it did for you too. Some people know that I am a Star Trek fan (a “trekkie” as some say!). There is a line in the film Star Trek: Generations in which Captain Jean-Luc Picard remarks: “Time is a companion who goes with us on the journey, and reminds us to cherish every moment because they’ll never come again.” I’ve very much enjoyed my time here at OLQH over the past year and I cherish the moments that I have been able to spend with you.
I know that not every one may have agreed with some decisions I have made or things that I have done. There may have been times where I said something to you or someone you know that was taken the wrong way, out of context, or perhaps I was rushed, tired, or distracted. If, over the last year, I have offended you or been unkind, please know that I am sincerely sorry. Priests are human, very human, and sometimes our humanity comes out a little strong. Like you, I work each day to try to be kind to everyone in thought, word, and deed.
As I begin year two here at the parish, as we say ‘good bye’ to Father Levi Schmitt, and as we welcome Father Steven Weller, I encourage you to pray often for priests. We need your prayers. Being a priest is not easy. There are numerous difficulties—many unseen—that challenge all priests. Please pray for us. Below is prayer you might consider using:
O Jesus, I pray for your faithful and fervent priests; for your unfaithful and tepid priests; for your priests laboring at home or abroad in distant mission fields; for your tempted priests; for your lonely and desolate priests; for your young priests; for your dying priests; for the souls of your priests in purgatory.
But above all, I recommend to you the priests dearest to me: the priest who baptized me; the priests who absolved me from my sins; the priests at whose Masses I assisted and who gave me your Body and Blood in Holy Communion; the priests who taught and instructed me; all the priests to whom I am indebted in any other way.
O Jesus, keep them all close to your heart, and bless them abundantly in time and in eternity. Amen.
Today is the last weekend with Father Levi Schmitt as our parochial vicar at OLQH and chaplain at Assumption. I want to thank him for his two years of service here in Wisconsin Rapids and wish him the best as he begins his new assignment as parochial vicar at St. Mary’s in Altoona and St. Raymond of Peñafort in Brackett as well as chaplain at Regis Middle and High schools. Having served in that assignment myself for three years, I know it well and I know that Fr. Levi will do well himself. It’s never easy moving from one assignment to another but as priests we are called to go wherever the bishop needs us.
Last weekend Father Steven Weller was ordained a priest at the Cathedral of St. Joseph the Workman in La Crosse. Ordinations are always enjoyable times for priests: we get to see so many of our brother priests and celebrate new additions to our ranks. Being a priest is not an easy vocation (although what vocation is?) but having the support and fraternity of brother priests is of great consolation to us. As Father Weller (as he wishes to be called) moves into the OLQH rectory this week, we assure him of our support and prayers as he begins his first assignment. Priests remember their first assignments well: sometimes learning how to do things and other times learning how not to do things! I hope Wisconsin Rapids can give Fr. Weller the former, not the latter.
Sometimes people ask me what exactly is a “parochial vicar.” A parochial vicar is a priest who is associated with the pastor of a parish. He is a co-worker with the pastor and shares in his solicitude. Parochial vicars offer service in pastoral ministry by common counsel and effort with the pastor and under his authority. Normally in our diocese, a parochial vicar is assigned to assist in exercising the entire pastoral ministry for the whole parish but they can be assigned only to a determined part of the parish (for example, to youth and young adults), or a certain group people of the parish (for example, to a group who speaks a specific language), or even to assist in fulfilling a specific ministry in different parishes together (for example, providing care to all the homebound in a deanery).
In our diocese, most parochial vicars spend two years in an assignment. While some people say this is too short, it’s really for the benefit of the priest. As recently ordained priests, they need to learn about the various regions of our large diocese, about the different styles of parishes, of pastors, and all the pastoral and administrative work that goes on in a parish. Someday these parochial vicars will be named pastors and these short assignments as “young priests” help them to become ready to be pastors. Therefore, let us pray for all our recently ordained priests and help them in any way we can. God bless.
Last weekend in my homily, I mentioned Cardinal Désiré-Joseph Mercier of Mechelen, Belgium, who died in 1926 and his method of prayer which he called the secret of sanctity and happiness. A number of people asked for me to print it in the bulletin, which I gladly do below for your own prayer. I hope you find it as help as I have over the years.
Cardinal Mercier was a noted scholar, especially of Thomism (that is, of the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas). He obtained a license in theology and a doctorate in philosophy from the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, taught philosophy at the university, and was named chair of Thomism there. He was a staunch opponent to the German occupation of Belgium in World War I and he was kept under house arrest by the Germans. He died on January 23, 1926.
Cardinal Mercier’s Secret of Sanctity
“I am going to reveal to you the secret of sanctity and happiness. Every day for five minutes control your imagination and close your eyes to all the noises of the world in order to enter into yourself. Then, in the sanctuary of your baptized soul (which is the temple of the Holy Spirit) speak to that Divine Spirit, saying to Him:
O Holy Spirit, soul of my soul, I adore You.
Enlighten me, guide me, strengthen me, console me.
Tell me what I should do; give me Your orders.
I promise to submit myself to all that You desire of me
and to accept all that You permit to happen to me.
Let me only know Your Will.
If you do this, your life will flow along happily, serenely, and full of consolation, even in the midst of trials. Grace will be proportioned to the trial, giving you the strength to carry it and you will arrive at the Gate of Paradise, laden with merit. This submission to the Holy Spirit is the secret of sanctity.”
Happy Solemnity of Pentecost. We have reached the end of the Easter Season. As the Magnificat antiphon from the Liturgy of the Hours states for today: “Today we celebrate the feast of Pentecost, alleluia; on this day the Holy Spirit appeared before the apostles in tongues of fire and gave them his spiritual gifts. He sent them out to preach to the whole world, and to proclaim that all who believe and are baptized shall be saved, alleluia.”
At the first Pentecost, after the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus, the Holy Spirit was manifested, given and communicated as a divine Person to the Church, fulfilling the paschal mystery of Christ. Each year the Church celebrates the memory of the Pentecost event as the beginning of the new “age of the Church,” when Christ lives and acts in and with his Church.
In the Byzantine Liturgy, the troparion, or post-communion antiphon, of today’s feast of Pentecost expresses what Pentecost means to us: We have seen the true Light, we have received the heavenly Spirit, we have found the true faith: we adore the indivisible Trinity, who has saved us.We have received the Holy Spirit not only at Pentecost but also in the sacraments, especially in Baptism. God is love and therefore his Holy Spirit is a gift of love to us. In our baptism, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is a gift of love that takes away our sins. The communion we have with the Holy Spirit in the Church then restores the likeness to God in us, the baptized, that we had lost through sin. As that Byzantine antiphon states: in receiving the Holy Spirit, we have found the true faith and we adore the Trinity who has saved us. The Holy Spirit, whom Christ the head pours out on his members, thus builds, animates, and sanctifies the Church.
May the indwelling of the Holy Spirit allow us to proclaim boldly our faith in Christ Jesus and to be his witnesses to all we meet in our daily lives. That is our call as baptized and confirmed Catholics. We live in a world that badly needs to hear the Good News proclaimed by Jesus Christ: may we be evangelizers and witnesses to that Good News to all.