Sunday, May 29, 2011

What we do best

One of the great things about being Catholic is that we have great festivals – Holy Days, and simple holidays. We know how to celebrate, because we know what to celebrate: Jesus Christ the Only Son of God; and everything we have in common with Him, that is, everything truly human, except sin. So we have a lot to celebrate!

Easter is behind us and Christmas far away. Corpus Christi is in late June this year, and Assumption always in the doldrums of August. Graduation will cause no little joy, and some good parties to boot. But we have something bigger than graduation here!

Our year is marked with the milestones of these intersections of our lives with the life of the Savior. Our birthdays: He had one, too. Our marriages: He brought very good wine. Our friends: He rejoiced with His, too.

I have discerned that we at Saint Bernadette have a special gift for celebration. I think that is a special grace from God. Remember, in the book of Revelation we learn that Heaven itself is described as resembling a wedding feast – a really big party, for a really good reason.

Fr. Nick has been here at Saint Bernadette for five years, living in our rectory while pursuing the doctoral degree his bishop assigned him to get. During that time, he has thrown himself into the life of the parish, and it has been great for us. He has been a huge help to our life and growth in Christ, and has given every one of us a great gift.

His new assignment is to be Dean of the seminary in his home diocese on Long Island, New York. We all new he was working toward an important job like this, and we all knew he would have to leave to do it. So it is with both sadness and satisfaction that we notice that that time, and that goal, have been reached.

Before he drives north, though, we have to have a celebration. So I invite all of you to set aside the weekend of June 10 – 12 on your calendars to join in FatherNickFest.

Fr. Nick has many names, like I have many hats. One of them is Father Golf – everyone knows that’s one of his passions. So the Holy Name guys are pulling together a golf outing with him on Friday 10 June.

Then, that Friday evening out on our field, there will be one of those difficult-to-categorize events that we do so well here. There will be fun for everyone in the family, games for the kids, food for families who want to make it dinner, and then it will morph into one of those summer evening specials that make visitors wish they were in our parish.

Sunday, June 12th, Pentecost Sunday, father Nick will celebrate the 11 o’clock Mass as his valedictory here. There will be a reception in the Monsignor Stricker Room between the nine and eleven o’clock Masses, and then after the eleven.

Don’t worry about Father Nick’s other nickname – Father Food. Saturday night is traditionally our night to dine together in priestly fellowship, and we will manage to come up with something good that Saturday. Trust me.

So write it on your calendars and get ready to celebrate. We have a lot of gratitude and a lot of joy, and we know how to use it. See you there!
Monsignor Smith

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Keeping it up

This place has turned into a hotbed of activity once again. We were all a little caught off guard, I think, when the kids came back from Easter break and we found ourselves already on the Monday before First Holy Communion, and Mother’s Day! Now, already, next week is Memorial Day, and after that comes summer. Imagine!

Despite the weather, which has been admittedly crazy, the campus is swarmed much of the time with activities athletic, spiritual, academic, and of every other good sort. From the small people playing ball on the back field to the prayer groups in rooms across the front, this is the place people come to connect with others who share the strongest connection there is: the divine life of Christ Jesus.

I am relieved that the slow, chill spring has finally produced the thick canopy of leaves on our trees and lush green carpet of lawn that emerges each year between our buildings and the busy roads out front. This turns the place into a parklike preserve that makes me thank God for the wise souls who did not turn the whole front into a paved, striped, sizzling parking lot.

Whether we play on the field or pray in the beautiful church, we have reason to be grateful for the stewardship of those who were here before us. Beyond our gratitude and prayers for them, though, we ourselves have a role to play in that stewardship. We must maintain and improve this place as well as the spirit that animates it, building up the community in love, and giving the buildings a little tender loving care.

In order to make sure that your material contributions to this stewardship continue strong and faithfully regardless of travel or distractions, please consider enrolling in Faith Direct, our secure and straightforward electronic giving program. There are forms at the doors and in the rectory, or you can enroll online at using our church code, MD91.

If you are already enrolled and know how effective and easy it is, please check before you go to make sure your planned offerings reflect your gratitude to God and commitment to the parish. Either way, we have to keep the air conditioning running and the roof fixed, pay our staff, and mow that beautiful lawn, even while you are at the beach or in the mountains.

Allow me to draw your attention to the letter printed nearby from Cardinal Wuerl, thanking us for our participation in the Cardinal’s Appeal, meeting our parish goal for commitment, and making it possible for him to meet his Apostolic commitment to serving the poor and promoting the Gospel throughout our city and our Archdiocese. That is a letter I am pleased to receive, and I join my thanks to his for your faithful witness and sacrificial contribution to this work of love.

Just because our pledges have cleared the hurdle of our goal, please do not think if you have not already pledged that your participation is not necessary. Circumstances often lead some folks to fall short of their planned contribution, so if you get a call or letter asking you to join us in this great work, please, by all means, do weigh in. Remember too that it is important that as many of us of this parish as possible participate together. This is not only a demonstration to our Archbishop of our commitment, but also binds us more closely into one body, one Spirit in Christ. Thank you, and thanks be to God.

Monsignor Smith

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Time Out of the Bottle

When I was in high school, one of my teachers said that the normal birthdays hadn’t given him any trauma – you know, thirty, or forty. He said the one that drew him up short was twenty-five: a whole quarter century. So, when my own “Big QC” rolled around a decade later, I looked for the trauma, but found only a great dinner with some friends, who gave me a hat (which I still have).

Neither thirty, nor forty have proven to be any more unnerving, either – just opportunities to have fun with folks I like to be with. But this weekend, I have what might be called “the revenge of the QC,” my quarter-century, or twenty-fifth college reunion.

I can’t see what my friend was getting so excited about, really. Twenty-five years is not much at all. At least I keep telling myself that. I mean, look how little I’ve changed since May 1986 (cough). Oh, sure, a lot of other things have changed – the order of the world, for example, the course of the nation, technology both personal and public, and how people live.

Of course fashions have changed too. They say men are most comfortable all their lives wearing the same styles (if not the same clothes) they wore in college. So most of us will be wearing clothes that would have fit in when we were students; fortunately “preppy” never goes out of style. It is a question whether we would fit in to the clothes we wore then, but that’s another story. But I won’t be wearing the same things; I’ll be in my collar.

There’s an interesting prospect, because I didn’t go to a Catholic college, and looking at my classmates bios in the pre-reunion book, I see that banking, investing, managing, some teaching, and lots of lawyering are all to be expected among my fellow alumni, but priesting really isn’t. In fact, I may be the only monsignor my school has ever produced in its 262-year history! They’ll never name a dorm or stadium after me, though – my Annual Fund checks are WAY too small.

I am looking forward to the weekend, though, even though it might seem that I would have little in common with my classmates. On the contrary, I have found that I have more in common with them now than back then – marriages, families, lives, careers, adventures, and other things that surprise us always give me something to talk about with them. And there is always someone who could use some prayers.

Before I leave here for Lexington, though, I have another event to celebrate. Cardinal Baum, for whom I worked for four years as secretary, is celebrating his 60th anniversary of priesthood ordination with a Mass at the Basilica. Now, sixty years – that’s some time. Twenty-five? Not so much. Really it’s not. Young William Baum had to receive a special dispensation to be ordained a priest early, six months before his twenty-fifth birthday – his “big” QC.

Even though I don’t change (stop coughing!) some things around here do. Our new receptionist here at Soubirous Central is Melisa Darby. She’s been at the desk for two whole weeks now, so she’s over the initial shock, and ready to meet you if you just want to stop by and say hello. And next week, our summer seminarian arrives to spend eight weeks here learning about priesting and the parish. His name is Rob Maro, and he’s studying at Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary for our Archdiocese. There will be more about him, soon – because time flies. Praised be Jesus Christ! Now and forever.

Monsignor Smith

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Not to be overlooked

You know that I often take this space to thank everyone who worked hard to make our major Holy Days beautiful celebrations. I wanted talk to you about Blessed John Paul II last week, but don’t let that make you think I am, or we should be, any less grateful.

A lot of people worked very hard to make the church beautiful, and Yvette Burgess and Jessica Barsch oversaw all that work brilliantly. Richard Fitzgerald and Camille Frezzo and our choristers and musicians made for an elevating and splendid liturgical setting. I am always proud of my altar servers, who really have to work extra hard through all those complicated Triduum liturgies. And our ushers and Ministers of Holy Communion helped us take care of all the folks who came to share and partake. Thank you all.

My especial thanks to Liz Morelli and everyone who prepared the hospitality and egg hunt on the lawn. That has become a very happy custom here and I think it helps our many visitors experience the gracious nature of our parish community. Whoever ordered the beautiful weather we got Easter Sunday – congrats, you nailed it!

Thanks to our Scouts for kindling the New Fire, and to our counters for handling the offerings that I promise we try not to burn through. Also, our parish staff, especially Dao, and Norma and the sacristy team, all put in many an extra hour. The lists of details that need to be taken care of would amaze you.

I also want to express my personal thanks to everyone who went to the effort to find and greet my parents on Easter. Ordinarily if left to their own devices, they would simply slip quietly off to the rectory; but that way they would never get the chance to meet you, who are in a very real way my family. So I am grateful you were willing and able to hunt them down welcome them. They got some small idea of why I like you all so much!

Also, thanks to everyone who inquired about my family after the tornadoes in Alabama. As you gathered, everyone was in fact up here when the storms hit, so they are safe. They and their immediate neighbors did have some damage, but it was minor. Nearby some more serious storm damage is visible, and they are close enough to the real destruction that everybody knows somebody who got hit very badly. The destruction is astonishing, according to them, as is the persistence of the stricken people in carrying on nonetheless. Let us keep them all in our prayers.

Congratulations to our First Communicants who entered into our Eucharistic Communion this weekend. The Holy Eucharist is of course one of my favorite things, and all the more is it a delight for me to offer it for the first time to children. Somehow they are often able to grasp the reality of the gift of Jesus’ Body and Blood more clearly and simply than we adults. May their insight and enthusiasm fill us all with a hunger and a gratitude for this awesome, life-giving gift and mystery.

Praised be Jesus Christ! Now and forever.

Monsignor Smith