OCTOBER INVITES US TO REFLECT ON RESPECT LIFE, ROSARY, THE LIFE OF ST. FRANCIS, AND MUCH MORE…..
First of all, let us wish our St. Francis parishioners a happy and joyful Feast of St. Francis. The Feast of St. Francis of Assisi is on October 4th. St. Francis of Assisi loved the whole universe. The custom of blessing animals originated from St. Francis’s love of all creatures. Animals used to come and listen to St.Francis preach. St. Francis loved all God’s creation, in other words, loved all life.
The Church dedicates the month of October to respect life and the rosary. We are in the “Year of St. Joseph” so we focus on a great example of St. Joseph, and the theme for the respect life is “St. Joseph, the defender of life.” Our life from womb to tomb is a gift from God and He is our Hope. As I mentioned above, October is the month of the Rosary, a devotion to our Mother Mary, which very well connects with respect life month. When we meditate on the mysteries of the Rosary, we walk through the life of Joseph, Mary and Jesus: from the very moment of his conception in the womb of Mary, how Joseph protected Mary and child Jesus. Further we go through his public life of Jesus; passion, death, and resurrection to his ascension and coming of the Holy Spirit. Through his salvific action, He restored the dignity of our life.
There is an article on the Respect Life website: St. Joseph: Faithful protector of Mother and Child. It says, “The humble and often hidden carpenter of Nazareth accompanied Mary in her pregnancy, assisted at the birth of the Messiah in a stable, presented Jesus in the Temple, fled with his family far from their homeland to protect them, and lovingly raised Jesus as his own son in the years to come.” St. Joseph tells us through his life, how to be the voice for the voiceless, and respect the dignity of life.
The scripture readings for this weekend are about the covenant, bond of love in marriage, a bond that God wishes to be permanent. In the book of Genesis, there are two creation accounts. The first one in chapter one which involves 7 days of creation. The second chapter gives us the second account of creation where man is created first. God created Adam, then created everything else and placed him in the garden to care for everything. But Adam was alone and the solitude was not good for him. So God created a woman, a partner for him. When man meets woman, it is the climax of the reading where Adam says, "This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” It is an institution of a covenant. We can see in the second book of Samuel 5:1, a covenant made between David and Israel, which reads, “All the tribes of Israel came to David in Hebron, and they said: “Look! We are your bone and your flesh.” In the Book of Genesis, it is a covenant between man and woman.
This reading prepares us to listen to the Gospel passage. It is a kind of debate taking place in the Gospel. The Pharisees wanted to prove that Jesus is wrong. The base of their argument is Deuteronomy 24:1, “When a man, after marrying a woman, is later displeased with her because he finds in her something indecent, and he writes out a bill of divorce and hands it to her, thus dismissing her from his house…” Jesus told them that Moses’s teaching was temporary due to their hardness of heart. Jesus emphasises on the Book of Genesis, Chapter 1:27 and 2:24, in the beginning of creation, there Jesus proclaims permanence to be the divine intent from the beginning concerning human marriage.
The second reading, from Hebrews, reminds us that Jesus became one of us, bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. In Israel, the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies once a year on the Day of Atonement to offer sacrifice for the reconciliation of the people to God and for the forgiveness of the sins committed over the past year. Jesus, the Eternal High Priest offered himself on the Cross and established the Eternal Covenant. He came as one of us, he “tasted death for everyone.” He was not only the Sacrifice, but also the High Priest.
The Work of the Spirit!
The reading reminds us of the work of the Spirit. The first reading is from the book of Numbers, Chapter11. Israelites had lamented the absence of meat from their diet, comparing the manna and the variety of food items they had in Egypt. Moses approaches God and explains his inability to manage these people. Moses was told to summon 70 leaders to the meeting tent to receive a portion of the Spirit he had been given. Sixty-eight did go to that tent, received the Spirit, and began prophesying. Can we see something similar in the Acts of the Apostles 2? The Apostles were gathered in the upper room and the Holy Spirit came upon them. We can see so many other passages where it explains people receiving the Spirit and prophesying: like the Soul receiving the Spirit and joining the prophets (I Samuel 10:10-12). In the first reading from the Numbers, the story takes a turn. There were two leaders, Eldad and Medad, who had remained in the camp and were not in the tent. Still they also received the Spirit and began to prophesy. So, they were not among those with Moses in the tent but still received the Spirit of prophecy. When this was brought to Joshua’s attention, he wanted Moses to stop them. Moses wouldn’t because he could see that their preaching was authentic. They had the power and the authority of the Spirit of God. Moses’ assistant, Joshua, asked Moses to stop them. Moses asked Joshua, "Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets!" and reminded Joshua gently that God is free to choose anyone He pleases as His prophet. Moses gently corrects Joshua.
This account compliments the Gospel of Mark 9:38-49. We see Jesus' response to the same kind of jealousy. Apostle John notices a man casting out demons in Jesus’ name. He said, “We tried to prevent him.” Jesus gives warning to his disciples for their jealousy and suspicion. Jesus told them, “Whoever is not against us is for us.” Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa put it, "We are to watch with joy, not with jealousy, the many who prophesy and cast out demons, thus contributing to authentic human development." So stretch our hands in generosity.
Jesus offered lessons on servant leadership, and collaboration in ministry. He wants the apostles to rejoice in the good that others are doing, for God is the doer of all good. Jesus warns the apostle against the tendency of causing others to sin. Jesus told them to avoid whatever caused them to commit sin. Otherwise they will end up in Gehenna. It is a valley directly south of Jerusalem. Jesus refers to it 11 times to talk about hell. There are two associations made with Gehenna: 1. Greek rendering of the Hebrew place name “Valley of the Sons of Hinnom.” It was the site of a frightful Cannanite cult that worshiped the idols of Malech and Baal by burning children in sacrifice (Jeremiah 7:30-32; 19:1-6; 32:35). 2. In Jesus time, Gehenna was a smoldering garbage dump and burned continually (Matthew 5:22; 18:9; 23:34). Jesus tells us that if someone stops us from being close to Him and living in holiness, cut that person or situation away from us. The most important thing is being close to Him and doing good.
In the second reading St. James gives us practical aspects of our life. We can be good neighbors, on the other hand we can be a scandal. Jesus invites us to share our blessing with others and help each other to grow in holiness. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to guide us so we can be a blessing to each other.
Reminder: Please join the Family of Faith on Wednesday of October 6 at 5 pm or 7 pm session. The invitation is for the entire cluster. Thank you!
I would like to borrow a thought from Fr. Bloom. He writes, many years ago, in England, three men were pouring into a trough a mixture of water, sand, lime, and other ingredients. A passer-by asked them what they were doing. The first said, "I am making mortar." The second: "I am laying bricks." But the third said, "I am building a cathedral." They were doing the same thing, but each looked at it differently. And what a difference that made! We can see something similar in the way people relate to their parish, why they give. One person says, "Oh! All they do down there is ask for money." The second person replies, "Well, you have to pay the bills." But the third person says, "I am building the Body of Christ."
Catechetical Sunday is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the role that each person plays, by virtue of Baptism, in handing on the faith and being a witness to the Gospel. Catechetical Sunday is an opportunity to rededicate ourselves to this mission as a community of faith. Each one of us is a catechist. There are a good number of people who volunteer to teach our faith to our young people. We recognize them and we thank them for their generosity.
Last year we used Family of Faith for religious education. Due to COVID-19, once a month, we had a religious education program for the entire family. Then parents taught the class for the rest of the month at home. Parents mentioned it was a great opportunity to refresh their faith, but it was a little too much to have class at home. So this year, we are going to have a religious education program at St. Anthony every week, but at the same time, we are going to have every first Wednesday of the month for the entire parish.
Whenever we hear about evangelization, we automatically think about going out to knock at someone’s door. New Evangelization is not about knocking on someone’s door to preach to them. It is about relearning our faith. I went to a seminary for fifteen years, after my ordination, and I cannot stop learning. I need to keep learning to share my faith with others. It is not only true just for priests and deacons, but it is the same for all of us.
Pope Francis wrote an Apostolic Letter, “Antiquum Ministerium” Instituting the Ministry of Catechist. In his letter, he says, “The role played by catechists is one specific form of service among others within the Christian community. Catechists are called first to be experts in the pastoral service of transmitting the faith as it develops through its different stages from the initial proclamation of the kerygma to the instruction that presents our new life in Christ and prepares for the sacraments of Christian initiation, and then to the ongoing formation that can allow each person to give an accounting of the hope within them (cf. 1 Peter 3:15). At the same time, every catechist must be a witness to the faith, a teacher and mystagogue, a companion an pedagogue, who teaches for the Church. Only through prayer, study, and direct participation in the life of the community can they grow in this identity and the integrity and responsibility that it entails (cf. Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, Directory for Catechesis, 113).”
Whether you have a role as Catechist or not, all are called to be a catechist by the virtue of Baptism. Our baptismal call invites us to continue to study and participate in our faith. Family of Faith, it is a beautiful program that is prepared for adults and children. This year's theme is the “Sacraments.” I would like to invite the entire cluster to join the Family of Faith on the first Wednesday of the month. The first class will be on October 6th at 5 pm or 7 pm at Padua Center. We have two sessions to accommodate everyone. For some, 5 pm will be too early, for others, 7 pm will be too late. Please mark your calendar every first Wednesday of the month whatever time fits in your schedule. Let us learn together, so we will be able to share our faith with our children, grandchildren, family, or other people. We will have different speakers every Wednesday of the month to make it more attractive. Please bring a friend with you. Some of your family or friends may not practice the faith, invite them to learn faith with you. So you can learn, at the same time you get the opportunity to evangelize. New Evangelization invites each Catholic to renew our relationship with Jesus Christ.
We are remembering September 11. Still it is alive in everyone’s mind, isn’t it? Especially it becomes more alive as we remember the faces of the thirteen Fallen in Afghanistan. Let us try to imagine we were on the ground running to save our lives or running to someone else. What will be our mental and emotional condition? It is hard to explain, isn’t it? Today we remember all those who died on that day, all those who did heroic actions to save the lives of many. Let us pray for them.
This weekends readings reminds us about sacrificial love. The first reading is the third of the four “Servant of the Lord” oracle. Three other passages that have been popularly called “servant of the Lord” are: 42:1-4, 49:11-7, 52:13-53:12. The servant gave his back to those who struck him, and willingly submitted to insults and beating. The servant declares his innocence, but he takes everything like a well-trained disciple. We see in the Gospel of Matthew 12:18-21, a quote from book Isaiah 42:1-4, the servant of the Lord. It shows that these servant of the Lord poems are fulfilled in Jesus. The first reading leads us to the Gospel, where we meet Jesus, the suffering servant.
In the Gospel we see there are three different faces in the Gospel reading for today: 1. Jesus asked the disciples a question, “Who do you say I am?” 2. Jesus told them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and finally, he said to the people and disciples, those who want to follow him must take up the cross and follow him.
Jesus went with his disciples to Caesarea Philippi and asked them a question: “Who do the men say that I am?” They had all kinds of popular answers. Then Jesus turns to them and asked, “But who do you say that I am?” Why did Jesus choose this Caesarea Philippi to ask this question? Caesarea Philippi is situated about twenty miles north of the Sea of Galilee and this territory was ruled by Philippi. There was a temple dedicated to Caesar Augustus. Here Jesus asks them these questions. Here Peter makes the profession of faith, “You are the Christ.” Today, this question is for us, who do I say that Jesus is? The search for Jesus continues. Historians will have one answer, artists may have another, but who is Jesus for you and I?
Even though Peter made his profession of faith, he failed to accept the suffering servant, Christ. Jesus says, “the Son of Man must suffer greatly.” The son of man alludes the royal figure described in the book of Daniel 7:13-14. Jesus is associated with this title especially with his passion. Jesus came to this world to offer as a sacrifice, to die on the Cross. It is the answer for the question: who is Jesus? In history people asked this same question and again and again and searched for him. Jesus tells all those who are searching for him, I am Christ, the anointed one who liberates you. Jesus suffered because he really loved us.
Chris Stefanick tells a story of an earthquake in Armenia in 1988. Three thousand people died in four minutes. One school totally collapsed, everyone made an assumption that no one was alive. But one father started to move stones one after another. At the beginning other people helped him and after a while everybody left him and started to mock him. After thirty eight hours he himself with bloody hands moved a stone and he saw his son and his friends alive. The first thing his son told him, I knew you would come dad. The Father sent his Son in search of us. Then he offered himself on the Cross for us. He invites us to carry our cross and follow him. Who is Jesus? Let us answer that question.
Centennial Celebration of St. Anthony Catholic School building!
It is a historical moment in the life of the St. Anthony Catholic Parish community. The cornerstone for St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church and School, the landmark of Park Falls, was laid on September 4, 1921. The new St. Anthony Church and School building was completed and Blessed in the Fall of 1922.
We all painfully remember the closing of the school in 2017. Since then we are constantly talking about the future of the building. Many people came and looked at the building, for apartments, a community center, YMCA, and so on. The majority of them looked at the building to make apartments. So far we haven't made a final decision, we are still open to new ideas.
In August, at our combined Parish and Finance Council meeting, we came up with a plan to celebrate the historic 100th anniversary of our original Church and school building. We are planning to form a committee for a year of preparation to celebrate the 100th year anniversary and have an active planning year for the future of the building. The closing of the historic celebration of the 100th anniversary will be next June 2022 in conjunction with the Feast of St. Anthony. We are planning to collect historical pictures, and the history of the original Church and School building for the celebration and have an open house. We are also planning to have a pictorial directory of the parish and include all the history of St. Anthony Church and School.
If you are interested in joining the planning committee, please call Fr. Shaji at 715-762-4494 Ext. 2. If you have creative ideas for our school building and are willing to join us for the planning, we are open to listen and take it to further discussion. Our goal is to make the best decision for our school building by the centennial celebration in June 2022. Our first request is your prayer. Please pray for this intention this coming year. We will inform you as it progresses. Stay tuned. Thank you!
Ephphatha, Be Opened….
This weekends readings for this weekend reminds us that God is with us always, be open to his presence, his Word, his blessings. The first reading from the book of Isaiah tells the Israelites that God will save them, and the blind, the lame, deaf, and dumb will be healed; the parched ground will become a pool (Isaiah 35:4-7). Isaiah told his people not to be afraid, and it is repeated in the Bible. We read in the book of Zachariah 8:13, “Just as you became a curse among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, so will I save you that you may be a blessing. Do not fear; let your hands be strong.” The restoration of Jerusalem is compared to the Exodus from Egypt into the promised land. The physical healing and prosperity will mark the renewal of the land of the chosen people. The ultimate fulfillment takes place in Jesus. We see the fulfillment of this passage in the Gospel (Mark 7:31-37). We can read the same passage in the Gospel of Matthew 15:29-31. We see a couple of gestures in the Gospel. Jesus put his finger into the man’s ears, spitting, touching his tongue, etc. Throughout the Gospel, we can see Jesus using the signs: touch, laying on hands, water, washing, mud, and so on. These signs laid the foundation for the Seven Sacraments, through the outward sign bringing the sanctifying grace. In the Gospel, Jesus healed the man who was deaf by uttering the word “ephphatha”, Aramaic word for “be opened.” Jesus opened his ears to hear God's Word. In the rite of Baptism, the priest/deacon will say the Ephphetha Prayer, the Prayer over Ears and Mouth. The minister touches the ears and the mouth of the baby and says: “The Lord Jesus made the deaf hear and the dumb speak. May he soon touch your ears to receive his word, and your mouth to proclaim his faith, to the praise and glory of God the Father. Amen.”
Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in Christ and continues through the Church today. Let us be open to his presence, his Word, and his Blessings. He is with us!