Saturday, November 7, 2015

Saturday, October 31, 2015

St. Maria Goretti Pilgrimage

Please join us! We're leaving from St. Mary's of False River this afternoon at 5pm for a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Mercy Church in Baton Rouge to venerate the body of St. Maria Goretti. 

Here's a short biography of St. Maria Goretti from The Catholic Gentleman blog:

If you don’t know St. Maria’s story, she was a young Italian girl born in October of 1890. She lost her father at a young age and had to mature quickly to help take care of her siblings while her mother earned a living. Due to their extreme poverty, the Goretti family had to move in with another family, the Sarenelli’s.
While Maria was only 12 at the time, Alessandro Sarenelli, who was 22, began making sexual advances toward Maria, threatening her if she told anyone. On July 5, 1902, while the rest of the family was away, Alessandro approached Maria with a 10 inch knife, threatening to kill her if she did not do what he said. He intended to rape her, and it came out later that he had tried twice before. Maria refused and began to fight him off. In a rage, Alessandro stabbed her 14 times. Eventually, Maria died from her wounds, but not before completely forgiving her attacker and stating that she wanted him to be with her in heaven.


While Maria’s short life was a beautiful testimony to God’s grace, what struck me especially was the conversion of her killer, Alessandro Sarenelli. His story, too, is a witness to the power of conversion, and that no one is beyond hope.
Six years into his 30 year prison sentence, Alessandro was at the brink of despair. How he could he go on knowing what he had done, and knowing the best years of his life would be spent rotting in prison? Then, something extraordinary happened. Maria appeared to him holding a bouquet of lilies and lovingly handed them to Alessandro one by one. This gesture of forgiveness from the girl he murdered transformed Alessandro completely. For the first time since the crime, he was truly repentant. As he later said, “Maria’s forgiveness saved me.”
Once freed from prison, Alessandro began a life of penance. He met with Maria’s mother and begged her forgiveness. He also accompanied Mrs. Serenelli to Christmas Mass in the parish church where he spoke before the stunned congregation, acknowledging his sin and asking God’s forgiveness and the forgiveness of the community. He eventually joined the Capuchin Franciscans as a lay brother, working as a gardener and general laborer. In 1970, he died peacefully in Christ, loved by all who knew him.
After his death, the Franciscans found a spiritual testament among his belongings, written in the form of an open letter to the world. Here is what the one-time murderer and attempted rapist wanted to say to the world—and to you.
I’m nearly 80 years old. I’m about to depart.
Looking back at my past, I can see that in my early youth, I chose a bad path which led me to ruin myself.
My behavior was influenced by print, mass-media and bad examples which are followed by the majority of young people without even thinking. And I did the same. I was not worried.
There were a lot of generous and devoted people who surrounded me, but I paid no attention to them because a violent force blinded me and pushed me toward a wrong way of life.
When I was 20 years-old, I committed a crime of passion. Now, that memory represents something horrible for me. Maria Goretti, now a Saint, was my good Angel, sent to me through Providence to guide and save me. I still have impressed upon my heart her words of rebuke and of pardon. She prayed for me, she interceded for her murderer. Thirty years of prison followed.
If I had been of age, I would have spent all my life in prison. I accepted to be condemned because it was my own fault.
Little Maria was really my light, my protectress; with her help, I behaved well during the 27 years of prison and tried to live honestly when I was again accepted among the members of society. The Brothers of St. Francis, Capuchins from Marche, welcomed me with angelic charity into their monastery as a brother, not as a servant. I’ve been living with their community for 24 years, and now I am serenely waiting to witness the vision of God, to hug my loved ones again, and to be next to my Guardian Angel and her dear mother, Assunta.
I hope this letter that I wrote can teach others the happy lesson of avoiding evil and of always following the right path, like little children. I feel that religion with its precepts is not something we can live without, but rather it is the real comfort, the real strength in life and the only safe way in every circumstance, even the most painful ones of life.
Signature, Alessandro Serenelli

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Our Plan, Part Two

Long term, we want to build our various events into year-long programs, as well as add and beta-test other programming. Some of these will also require more recruitment, such as with the Mentor Couples, or long-term planning, like for mission trips.

Mission Trips & Pilgrimmages

Our parish recently hosted a trip to aid the Piarist Fathers' Appalachian Mission in Kentucky. The missionaries were able to quickly raise all the funds and supplies they needed and more, so there is obviously fertile ground for this apostolate in our parish!

It would be great to return to Kentucky and other domestic mission locations. As well, I'm sure there would be a lot of excitement for international missions and pilgrimages. For example, my wife and I went to Rome for our honeymoon and received a papal blessing on us and our marriage, which was all ... TOTALLY AMAZING!! Ashton and I would love for other young couples to have this kind of experience. Such a pilgrimage can't help but leave an indelible impression on the couple and their marriage. Maybe Ashton will write a post describing our honeymoon-pilgrimage in more detail [hint, hint] ;)

Speaking of pilgrimages, one amazing destination would be March for Life! I would love for a crew of young families to caravan together to March for Life in DC ... ROAD TRIP!!

Adult Catechesis: Year-Long Curriculum

So far, our Adult Catechesis program has been pretty spotty and decentralized. I teach 2-3 multi-week courses a year at St. Mary's. Past courses include "Hail, Holy Queen," a course based on Scott Hahn's book of the same title; "The Eucharist," based on Dr. Brant Pitre's Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist; and "The Pentateuch" based on my class notes from Notre Dame Seminary.

We need a whole year's worth of programming for consistency sake. That means we need more teachers! And more teachers means more classes, more diversity, and more subjects! Here's an example of a year-round curriculum (actually a half-year), more or less fit to the liturgical calendar:
  • September - October (7 weekly classes): "The Eucharist"
  • November 3: Dr. Brant Pitre event, "Jesus and the Jewish Roots of Marriage"
  • November - January (10 weekly classes): Catholicism series by Father Robert Barron
    • Facilitated (hopefully) by Pat Witty
  • January - February (7-10 weekly classes): "Theology of the Body"
    • Facilitated (hopefully) by Jennifer Bollich
  • February - March: [class tailored to Lent]
Ongoing with all of this, Bible studies and book clubs are/will be ongoing.

Mentor Couples

This would be a great way to partner up the older and younger generations, to bring our parish community closer together. Marriage preparation in our Diocese (Baton Rouge) includes this. Ashton and I were partnered up with Deacon Tom and Ms. Patrice, and this was a great experience for us. It brought us a lot closer to the Robinsons -- they kind of feel like the godparents of our marriage. Anyway, I'm hoping the Holy Spirit will find us somebody interested in facilitating this program.

I envision this program as, basically, quarterly dinners. The mentor couples would host their "mentee" couples at their house for dinner 3-4 times a year -- or go out to dinner together -- -- maybe even at one of our Second Sunday lunches.

Softball League

Last, but not least! We need an inter-church, inter-denomination, co-ed, pan-generational softball league! That's ICIDCEPGSL for short! We had one tournament this year, which was actually more of a scrimmage between clabbered-together teams, but hey! it's a start. We used the "tournament" as a baby goods drive for the local pregnant women's shelter, too. Lots to build on! I'll probably be writing a separate post on this alone. There will be softball: we will not ...


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Eucharist Class @ St. Mary's -- Starts THIS WEEK!!

I'm teaching a free course on the Eucharist over the next seven weeks. This course is based on Dr. Brant Pitre's book, Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist -- Catholic Art & Gifts will have copies available for sale at class. Class will be held every Thursday at 6:30pm in the St. Mary's Parish Office Conference Room (or in the church depending on attendance). The individual class topics and dates are listed below:
  1. The Mystery of the Last Supper & The New Exodus -- Sept 17
  2. The New Passover -- Sept 24
  3. [Pro-Vita Supper in lieu of class] -- Oct 1 
  4. The Manna of the Messiah -- Oct 8
  5. The Bread of the Presence -- Oct 15
  6. The Fourth Cup -- Oct 22
  7. On the Road to Emmaus -- Oct 29

THEN, on November 3, Dr. Pitre, himself, is coming to give a presentation entitled "Jesus and the Jewish Roots of MARRIAGE"!!

Our Plan, Part One

In this and the next post, I will outline the proposal for a young and marrieds ministry that we submitted to our parish priest. 

Short Term Goals

The short term goals included the following, which required little or no effort to put together or were already in place:

"Second Sundays" Lunches

Baptists are really good at potlucks. Our parish has tried this, but only ever intermittently for special occasions, never on a consistent basis.

Pat Witty, one of the bulwarks of our parish, has a saying his dad shared with him, "You've gotta keep your doors open, your lights on." If we want to build our ministry, we need to have consistent programming. People will walk through the doors -- more and more over time -- if we just stake out our place and time. 

So, Jennifer Bollich, our youth minister, gave us a time: "Second Sundays." Every "Second Sunday" of the month, we're reserving a big section of a local restaurant -- hopefully, something self-contained to help prevent the kids from wandering off. This has the added benefit of supporting our town's local businesses. 

Date Nights

The basic idea here is that we help married couples escape the helter skelter of daily life for the peace of date night. Couples drop off their kids at the church, where babysitters are provided for a nominal fee as well as youth programming -- two generations, one stone. The couples go off on their own for date night. We provide goodie bags with games and discussion questions. Then, after a romantic interlude all by themselves, the couples return for dessert at the church and a short program.  

We want to provide this on a monthly basis, as well -- to keep those doors open! The childcare idea is based on a self-funding model, so we aren't a drain on church funds. At the same time, we create a lucrative, regular job opportunity for some local teens. 

Adult Catechesis Classes

This is part of the New Evangelization called for by Pope Benedict XVI: the re-proposing of the Gospel "to those regions awaiting the first evangelization and to those regions where the roots of Christianity are deep but who have experienced a serious crisis of faith due to secularization." See Pope Benedict XVI, "Homily of First Vespers on the Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul",

There was already a good bit of groundwork established here. I've been teaching theology courses, somewhat sporadically, in our parish for some time. There will be a subsequent post to provide some background here. My classes included Hail, Holy Queen after Dr. Hahn's book of the same title, "The Pentateuch" from my class notes in Dr. Pitre's class, and Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist from Dr. Pitre's book of the same title. 

Also, Dr. Brant Pitre is already schedule to come speak at our parish, so my class on the Eucharist is designed to build excitement and momentum for his visit. Dr. Pitre will be speaking on November 3rd starting at 6:30pm at St. Mary's -- more on this later!

Pro-Life Ministry

My ever-patient and loving wife and I also started our parish's local chapter of Louisiana Right to Life. We have already put together a year's worth of programming for this, so we just rolled this into the mix. On our schedule, we've got 40 Days for Life, March for Life, and our first annual banquet and fundraiser, set for February 18, 2016 with special guest Abby Johnson. For more information about these events, check out our Pointe Coupee Right to Life Facebook page, our Twitter handle @PCRTL, and the page on this blog site. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Too Busy To Be in Ministry, Too Busy Not To Be in Ministry

Have you ever noticed the ages of those involved in Church ministry programs?
There's the high school youth, who are involved in youth group activities, and then there's the near-retirement age group, who handle the crux of parish ministry. Where are the in-betweens?

The in-betweens are busy with babies. And work. And school and after-school activities. And keeping the house. And somehow carving out a moment for family time. And they would really love to be involved in ministry but there just has to be family time. I haven't been there, I am here. And I know other couples who are here as well.

Family time is important. We all know this. It's important, necessary, and healthy for the marriage, as well as the individual family relationship. But what concerns me is the dwindling participation in the communal church life, our spiritual family. This concern challenges my way of thinking: maybe the very reason I give myself not to be involved in my church community is the very reason I should be. 

Let me explain. As parents we have the most important job in the world. We have been entrusted with these little lives to shape and mold in accordance to the teachings of His revealed truth, to His Church. They are the now-Church, and they are the future leaders of the Church. It's a stressful job that we don't want to mess up. I'm realizing, though, that there is no easier way for me to mess up than to mess myself up. If I am not fed and supported spiritually than how can I raise these little ones to be spiritually equipped? It's like building a house without tools.

We are communal people. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says,
"The human person needs to live in society. Society is not for him an extraneous addition but a requirement of his nature. Through the exchange with others, mutual service and dialogue with his brethren, man develops his potential; he thus responds to his vocation. (CCC 1879)"
It is in our very nature as human beings to live and thrive in a society of people. We live in a community to support our social needs; to be healthy emotionally and physiologically, we all need some degree of human connection and friendship. We live in a community for the support and sustenance of our physical needs like food, clothing, electricity, medical health, and a job. Communal support is essential. Isn't it important to live in a spiritual community for our spiritual health and needs?

But how do we do this? This is the question that has plagued me since our first baby was born. How do I find time to minister, and be ministered to, without compromising the health of our family in other ways? The best answer that I can think of that actually works is becoming involved in our Church family as a family.
Note: This is not Lucy, but it could have been.

I'll never forget trying to live out the idea of a family ministry. I brought my firstborn, Lucy, along for a ministry my husband was involved in. He taught/teaches Adult Catechesis classes at St. Mary's and I wanted to help and support him. I'd bring Lucy to the parish office, set out some drinks and make some coffee, enjoy conversation with fellow parishioners, and then the class would start. At first Lucy was pretty well behaved, but after the first hour I was almost tempted to let her climb the fake potted tree in the corner. I'd dumped the diaper bag, which contained A LOT of things (our first-child parenting skills at that point consisted of packing a lot of stuff to keep the baby perpetually entertained) but Lucy had decided that she was going to be fussy until I let her under the conference table to pull at people's shoe-laces and eat the crud off of their shoes. So naturally, I would leave and sit in the next room with her, where I couldn't hear much of the class anyway.

My husband and I are not the only ones who have this same dilemma. There is a need in our Church to support these stages of adulthood that raise children because this stage of child rearing has the greatest influence on future generations. Young and Marrieds Ministry seeks to do this by enabling young families to partake in a ministry together, focusing on the communal nature of man.

Everyone has to eat, why not eat together?
Our Second Sunday lunches are intended to unite young, faith-filled couples and individuals in community with one another in a setting  that enables families to partake in parish life together (i.e., children are wanted, invited, and welcomed)! In a world that is so divided--where our beautiful Catholic faith is stifled and misunderstood, and likened to things such as hate-crimes, misogyny, anti-freedom, and where we become so isolated because of the fast-paced society that we live in, we especially need the communal faith support. We need to be reminded that we do not fight the battle for our children's souls, and our own, alone. In bonding with other Catholic Young and Marrieds, we can receive encouragement and hope, helping keep each other's spiritual candles lit to light up a dark world and pass the light onto our children. 

After all, Christ spoke of a special grace gained in joining with others in faith: "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (Matt 18:20)