Happy New Year! May 2023 be happy, holy, and healthy to you and your families. Since 1967, January 1st is observed as the “World Day of Peace” in the Catholic Church. In his 1967 encyclical on the development of people, Populorum Progressio, Saint Pope Paul VI notes that “peace is not simply the absence of warfare, based on a precarious balance of power; it is fashioned by efforts directed day after day toward the establishment of the ordered universe willed by God, with a more perfect form of justice among men.” As war continues to rage in Ukraine, Yemen, Ethiopia, and in other places, may we continue to pray for peace in our world and may 2023 be the year that these tragic wars come to an end.
Switching gears entirely, some of you may know about St. John Bosco, known affectionately as “Don Bosco” in Italian. He was an Italian priest, born in 1815, and died in 1888. He dedicated his life to the betterment and education of street children, juvenile delinquents, and other disadvantaged youth. He is the patron saint of schoolchildren. As we begin a new year, many of us will make New Year’s Resolutions. I found the following “Resolutions” written by St. John Bosco that are still applicable today and I share them with all of you as good New Year’s Resolutions for our participation in Mass:
1. Try to be early for Mass always. A few minutes spent in before Mass can open your soul to wonderful Graces.
2. When you enter or leave the church take Holy Water and sign yourself with the Sign of the Cross.
3. Always genuflect when you enter or leave your seat. This is an Act of Adoration to Almighty God, present in the tabernacle. So take time to genuflect reverently, facing the altar and saying “My Lord and My God” as your right knee touches the floor.
4. Don’t talk in church unless absolutely necessary. Talk only to Jesus—it is Him you have come to visit. Don’t talk as you leave either. Some people may still be praying.
5. Listen to the sermon. It is a message from God which could bear much fruit for you.
6. Don’t start to leave church until the priest has left the church. Stay to thank God for the Graces you received from Him in the Mass.
Finally, St John Bosco reminded us that every day we take a step closer to Heaven, that every act should be for the greater glory of God and that every morning we should renew our resolve to work for the Salvation of souls. May God bless you this year and always. Happy 2023!
During Mass, at the Lamb of God, the priest breaks a piece of the consecrated host and places it in the chalice. During this action, he says a prayer quietly: “May this mingling of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ bring eternal life to us who receive it.” One meaning of this commingling of the Body and Blood of Jesus was expressed by the liturgical scholar Dom Prosper Guéranger (died 1875) when he wrote: “Its object is to show that, at the moment of Our Lord’s Resurrection, His Blood was reunited to his Body; by flowing again in his veins as before.”
Another meaning comes an early Church practice called fermentum. This practice involved bringing a particle from the consecrated host at the bishop’s Mass (called a fermentum, from the Latin word for leaven or yeast) to the parish church and mingled in the priest’s chalice as a sign of the unity of the priest’s Mass with the bishop’s. The fermentum was used brought from the bishop of one diocese to the bishop of another diocese. The receiving bishop would then consume the species at his next celebration of the Eucharist as a sign of the communion between the churches. The fermentum then is a sign of unity: between the bishop and the parish; between dioceses; and between Christ and his Church.
Now you might be asking why I am talking about this during the season of Advent and in our preparation of Christmas. St. Alphonsus Liguori gives an explanation about this commingling. He wrote: “This mingling of the holy species represents, too, the unity of divinity with humanity, which was at first effected in the womb of Mary through the incarnation of the Word, and which is renewed in the souls of the faithful when they receive him in the eucharistic Communion.”
At the preparation of the gifts (the offertory), the priest or deacon pours a little water into the chalice filled with wine and says quietly: “By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” This prayer comes from an ancient Christmas prayer that we still use today as the Collect (opening prayer) for Christmas Mass on Christmas Day. As we prepare for Christmas this Advent, we recall the unity of the divinity and humanity of Jesus—a unity shown through the mixture of water and wine and the unity that is the Eucharist. Holy Communion is the sacrament of unity.
That Christmas Collect is a good preparation for us this Advent: “O God, who wonderfully created the dignity of human nature and still more wonderfully restored it, grant, we pray, that we may share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity. Amen.”
Sometimes people ask me about the different Eucharistic Prayers used at Mass and why one is used over another. I thought I’d answer these questions in this week’s bulletin column since the Eucharistic Prayer is the center and high point of the entire Mass.
There are four principal Eucharistic Prayers, numbered in Roman numerals, I through IV. Eucharistic Prayer I is also known as the Roman Canon. It is an ancient text, having existed by the beginning of the fifth century and by the beginning of the seventh it has remained practically unaltered. It was the only Eucharistic Prayer used at Mass in the West between 1570 and 1970. This Eucharistic Prayer may always be used at any Mass. It is especially suited to certain feast days that have special prayers assigned within it (Holy Thursday, Christmas, Easter, etc.). It is also especially suited for the feast days of the apostles and saints mentioned in the prayer itself. Along with Eucharistic Prayer III, it is especially suited for use on Sundays.
Eucharistic Prayer II is adapted from an ancient Eucharistic Prayer called the Anaphora of Hippolytus from the third or fourth centuries. Because of its conciseness and comparative simplicity, it is suited for use on weekdays and in Masses with children, young people, and small groups. It is also suited for use at Masses for the Dead. The Church also notes that because of its simplicity, it makes a good starting point for catechesis on the different elements of the Eucharistic Prayer.
Eucharistic Prayer III is a new composition composed after the Second Vatican Council. Its use should be preferred on Sundays and festive days. It may also be used in Masses for the Dead as it has a longer proper text for such Masses. The liturgical norms suggest alternating Eucharistic Prayer I and III on Sundays.
Eucharistic Prayer IV is also a new composition composed after Vatican II. It is based on Eastern Eucharistic Prayers. Because it comprises a rather detailed summary of the history of salvation and as such presupposes a somewhat superior knowledge of scripture, the Church recommends its use with groups having a better foundation in Scripture. It is suited for use on Sundays in Ordinary Time It cannot be used during Advent or Lent or on certain feast days.
Finally, there are several other Eucharistic Prayers used in special circumstances. I’ll write about these lesser-used prayers in a future column. God bless you.
As the seasons change and so does the weather, I often receive a number of complaints: some say it’s too cold in the church and others tell me it’s too warm. I wanted to spend a moment to let you know a bit more about our parish’s HVAC system and what we try to do to keep it comfortable in the church.
You may not know it, but there are five different heating systems in our building. The boilers heat the church (nave and sanctuary), the school, and the rectory. There are separate forced air furnaces that heat the gathering space, the parish offices, the cafeteria, and the church basement. There are also electric baseboard heaters in the offices for “make up” heat. None of these systems ‘talk’ to one another so it can be common to have one area cold and the other warm, even when the thermostats are seemingly set to the same temperature.
We try to keep the church’s temperature between 68°F and 70°F. For some, this might seem cold; for others, this is warm. Everyone keeps their own dwelling at their preferred temperature. Why do we try to keep the church at this temperature? Most people in church have coats on in the fall and winter so if they are cold, they can keep them on; otherwise, they can take them off. Also, there are no air vents in the sanctuary and the priests can get very warm with vestments on. The temperature is usually 2–3 degrees warmer in the sanctuary and I do not think you want your priests passing out during Mass. Finally, the parish’s natural gas bill is about $10,000 a year (probably more this winter!)—and most of that is spent for heating in the winter.
Perhaps you’ve noticed I’ve said “try” a lot. While our boilers are relatively new, the control system is very hard to use. We have very little control over the temperature and when the system comes on—not to mention that the systems do not ‘talk’ to each other. We are looking into a new control system for the HVAC system and might use some campaign money for that since, as you might imagine, it’s not a small cost. However, it would give us much more control with the systems.
In the meantime, I encourage you to dress warmly if you’re cold or to dress in layers if you’re warm. One hint: the perimeter of the pews receives the least amount of air from the vents. If you sit in the middle of the pews, you’ll notice the air blowing more. We’ve tried to adjust where the air blows but there is little we can do. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions. Fire and heat, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever. Cold and chill, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever. (Daniel 3:66–67)
You may have noticed that we have added more altar candles on the altar of sacrifice recently. With the refurbishment of our altars, the size of the top of the altar (called the mensa) was increased. This increase in size allowed us to purchase additional candles to put on the altar. When the mensa was smaller, the additional candles would not have fit well with the missal stand and the sacred vessels. Now that we have more room, it all fits nicely.
If you attend daily Mass, you might have noticed that the number of candles we have out each day changes. Some people have asked why the number changes (from two to four to six). There is a principle of “progressive solemnity” in the liturgy: that is, as the feast day gets “higher” we increase the solemnity of the Mass. One easy way to do this is by changing the number of candles on the altar.
The schema that we use here at OLQH followed the rules governing Mass: on weekdays on which there is no celebration of a saint (known as ferial days) and on optional memorials of saints, we use two candles. When there is an obligatory memorial of a saint, we use four candles. On a feast or solemnity, we use six candles. Since Sundays are always solemnities, we will always use six candles for Sunday Masses. As a matter of trivia, if the bishop would ever come to the parish to celebrate Mass, we would use an odd number of candles as the Church’s tradition is to always use an odd number of candles, usually seven, when a bishop celebrates Mass.
With the invention of electric light, some people ask why we still use candles at Mass since we no longer need them to see. Candles are symbols of the presence of Christ, the light of the world (John 8:12), and of baptism by which we share in his light (Colossians 1:12) and are also signs of reverence and festivity (think of lighting birthday candles to celebrate a birthday). Prior to the Second Vatican Council altar candles were to be composed primarily of pure beeswax, with the exact percentage determined by the diocesan bishop (often 51 or 65%), since the beeswax symbolized the pure flesh Christ received from his Virgin Mother, the wick symbolized his soul, and the flame his divinity. After Vatican II, there are no longer regulations concerning candles’ composition but most churches, including ours, still use 51% beeswax since it is cleaner and longer burning. It was often common (and still is in some places) to use unbleached candles for funerals and during Lent and Advent as a sign of mourning or penitence.
Faith. We often talk about faith and yet sometimes we question ourselves if we even have any faith. This weekend’s readings from Sacred Scripture offer us an opportunity to meditate more deeply on what it means to have faith and how it should shape our lives as Christians.
Perhaps we feel like Habakkuk from our First Reading. He prays to God saying, “How long, O Lord? I cry for help but you do not listen! I cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not intervene.” Perhaps in our own prayer, we make the same request as the apostles did to Jesus: “Increase our faith.” What are we supposed to do?
The answer lies in the Lord’s response to both Habakkuk and to the apostles. The Lord says to Habakkuk: For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint; if it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late. In other words, God says wait. He says wait and have faith. We don’t always like this answer. God’s answer is to wait; that by delaying, our faith is developed. Faith then involves patience. Yes, God hears our cry but He also knows how to develop our faith through patient endurance.
The meaning of this weekend’s parable of the unprofitable servants is that because of our relationship with God, we are not owed anything; we have not earned anything. Rather, we were simply doing our duty as Christians and so should think of ourselves as unprofitable servants of the Master—that is, of God. Why does Jesus connect this parable with faith? It is because it warns the disciples against supposing that faith, and the obedient service of the Lord in which faith is expressed, establishes a claim for reward. When you have done all that is commanded you, say “We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.”
Be encouraged, therefore, by the words of St. Augustine: “We must believe, then, in order to pray; and we must ask God that the faith enabling us to pray may not fail. Faith gives rise to prayer, and this prayer obtains an increase of faith. Faith gives rise to prayer, and is in turn strengthened by prayer.”
I hope you all enjoyed the parish picnic several weeks ago. I enjoyed my “job” as popcorn maker. I think we will continue having popcorn available at the picnics. When I was pastor in Polonia, the pastor’s job was “chairperson of the weather committee.” The pastor, in fact, was the only member of the “committee” and his sole job was to pray for good weather. While we don’t have a weather committee here at OLQH, my prayers for good weather were answered as it was a beautiful day!
I want to thank Deacon Tom and Mary Anderson for serving as the chairpersons for the picnic this year as well as all the chairs of the various booths and areas. Everyone’s hard work is greatly appreciated. We sometimes forget that the picnic is our parish’s largest fundraiser of the year and, while it serves to bring the parish together and have some fun, we also hold it for fundraising. Once all of the receipts and invoices come in, we will be able to offer you a financial report of the picnic. This often takes some time so your patience is appreciated. If you were not able to help at or attend the picnic this year, consider doing so at next year’s.
Changing gears, we heard last week from Bishop Callahan about the beginning of the school year. On August 30th, we had our first school Mass at OLQH School. I am happy to report that the attendance at OLQH School (grades 5K–2) is at its highest in recent years. I am very happy to be able to often celebrate Mass for our students and also visit all the classrooms regularly. Our own parochial vicar, Father Weller, is chaplain at Assumption Middle and High Schools and he is now spending most of his week at AHS. Please keep him in your prayers for his effective ministry there.
We also have a great program of religious education, adult faith formation, and RCIA planned for this year. I am so thankful to have Rebecca Zalar as our Director of Religious Education. She is always available to speak about anything regarding religious formation. If you or someone you know is considering becoming Catholic, or getting confirmed as an adult, why not take the time to speak to Rebecca about the exciting RCIA program we have in our deanery this year.
As we get back to the autumn routine, it’s a good time to get back to the routine of regular Mass, prayer, and reception of the Sacrament of Confession. All of our times are listed on the front of the bulletin. We’re glad you’re a part of this parish—let us together walk in the light of the Lord!
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.