God our Father, you give your Church constant growth by adding new members to your family. We welcome Rebecca Marie Bernard with great joy into our parish family. She is receiving the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist this Pentecost at the 9:30 Mass on May 31st. We also welcome Brandon Coats, Karina Oretga and David Veselenak as they make a Profession of Faith and receive the Sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist. Let us support them with our prayers and welcoming presence so that they may live fulfilling lives as members of God’s Family and joyful missionary disciples of Jesus Christ. Help all of us put into action in our lives the Baptism we have all received with faith. Amen!
David J. Conrad
P.S. Do you know someone who is curious about our Catholic Faith or who would like to become Catholic? Have them call or email me: 734-425-5950; firstname.lastname@example.org.
I was thinking over the last several weeks of our “stay-at-home” order for lockdown due to the pandemic—about how different the life-norm has been for everyone with all of our burdens and adjustments as we tried to “flatten the curve” (yea! we did it for now). We continue to try and protect the vulnerable and each other while the experts work to get a handle on this terrible virus; fulfilling the social contract of caring for and about each other by wearing masks, washing our hands more often, practicing social distancing and being mindful about our contact with each other.
I am fortunate in that I am still able to work out with my trainers through Skype in my home—because I can’t go the Livonia Rec Center now to use the equipment, or to swim or walk the indoor track—or recover in the hot tub after any workout. I really miss it; and my trainers have had to get creative to give me good cardio workouts in my living room and at my weight level while respecting my aging joints and physical abilities.
We have been told that one of the ways to combat corona depression and lockdown is to get moving physically—and my sessions with my trainers (Nick and Emily) have helped a lot with my mental outlook and attitude. (I am so blessed!) Another great thing that helps us in our mind set is obvious to us: prayer! (I like to work in our yard and garden while praying sometimes—another physical outlet for any frustration or fear I may be feeling).
What does this have to do with the Scripture for today as we celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost: the birth of our universal Church and us having been given all we need to work our missions here on earth? St. Paul reminds us today of all gifts and talents bestowed on us by the Holy Spirit—and all those talents that can be used and shared (thank you skype and zoom) in the midst of Covid 19. God is good! And maybe you have even surprised yourself with what you have managed through all this—or have gained a real appreciation for the action and work of others in your life whom you may dearly miss now (like your kid’s teachers). We should be grateful even now—and recognize God working through all for good. This is also a gift from God: to open our eyes to the work and commitment of people we may not think about much or often in our pre-pandemic days…
One can receive a gift and then fail to use it. For all practical purposes you can be given the gift of a tractor and yet never plow a field. The power was there to do so—but it lay fallow and unworked. We know that some Christians do not bear fruit… The Sequence for Pentecost says it all about those gifts of the Holy Spirit: praying for them and using them, what we are given and what we may accomplish with them. And Jesus tells us today that living in the Spirit will bring us peace. So today I recommend that you consider the Holy Spirit to be your spiritual trainer—maybe while you work out, or take a walk or garden or rest, or clean, or just be. You will yield the fruits of the Spirit—in yourself and for others.
Personal physical trainers are great because they hold us accountable, they encourage us, and they provide a daily regimen to follow. Spiritual fitness should be a top priority for all of us, too—we must ask ourselves the hard questions, seek the answers in prayer, study/reading of worthy material, reconciliation, and conversation with other “seekers” of truth.
The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Who couldn’t use more of that? Or “workout” to utilize these fruits for a better life for all? These fruits are the “measuring tape” or “scale” of the Spirit’s gifts in our lives—and it’s not always about what exactly you do—but your manner and attitude in how you do them. We have all received the gifts of the Holy Spirit; so let us live in ways that the Spirit’s fruits in us are obvious to all others. This is the challenge and the mission. My prayer as I work out or garden or walk or cook or clean or rest will be that I will be a truly Spirit-filled Christian to all people in with whom it is safe (for now) to be near.
Keep singing in your hearts always!
Of all the weekends to start offering public Mass again, this is one of the best, for we celebrate the Feast of Christ’s Ascension into heaven. In this unusual and difficult time we see in Christ’s Ascension our destiny. Through Christ, each of us - body and soul - will be brought into the very life of the Trinity. Such is God’s purpose and this weekend’s feast is a needed reminder of that. Our current travails need not hold us down; united with Christ and through the power of His Death and Resurrection, this order is passing away (cf. Revelation 21:4).
Christ has ascended into heaven as God and Man – with our humanity. Now and forever more Christ is a man. Because He has taken a human nature to Himself, He has taken a man into the Trinity. His purpose in bringing a human nature into the Trinity was to bring us with Him into the very life of God. By accepting the gift of the Spirit we become incorporated into Christ and are made new, a process that has begun now – with our Baptism and subsequent Christian living – and will be completed in heaven. God’s ultimate purpose is to bring all of humanity, glorified and joined to His Son, fully into the Trinitarian life, sharing in the very relationship of Christ the Son with the Father.
Let us then continue moving forward with the face of the ascended Christ before us; through Christ “this momentary light affliction [will produce] for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
David J. Conrad
In the past two months I have grown an even greater appreciation for all those who volunteer their ministry to the parishes I serve at. I will be so pleased to have many of you return to the church and take back your service role. I learned that caring for plants and even animals is something that can not be rushed. There was a ton of technology struggles I had to overcome to livestream and record Mass and even put live or video content on social media. I never realized all the places our disciples traveled to in Acts of the Apostles as I read them at St. Fabian’s daily Mass. I got to sing birthday greetings to staff who found my voice “entertaining.” I learned where many of you hide your “stuff” and it is likely I did not put it back correctly. -sorry about that. Keeping a parish operational takes far more work than I ever realized. We could not do it without so many of you.
In all of this, I have enjoyed “lunch not at my desk” and something called “daily exercise” thanks to the absence of evening meetings. The Holy Sprit had his hand in making me attend daily Mass at to record and twice on weekends. I also have an appreciation for what a balanced life of prayer, work, relaxing and exercising is like. And I won’t be quick to return to my old ways. I hope you found some blessing in this experience.
For those of you who need to protect yourself by isolating, we will continue to remember you in prayer. Please let us know if there is anything you need even if it is a phone call to chat. We will continue to put the Mass on the website. Participate if you can, in the live version. We have a little online community started and it is great to see those names pop up as “viewing” each week.
Looking forward to seeing your faces even if it is from behind a mask.
Today we gather in person here at St. Aidan Church (some of us, anyway) for the first time in many weeks. We celebrate “The Ascension of the Lord” as we are near the end of the Easter Season 2020. Last week in the Gospel Jesus told us He would not leave us alone and today He tells us “I am with you always, until the end of the age.” We are charged with carrying on His message through ministry and the Church; we are told that salvation is for all; and we are commissioned to serve others, always.
If you remember last week’s Scripture readings about love (and sacrifice), we are called to emulate Jesus’ self-emptying, sacrificial love in our own lives by letting go of any of the sinful, selfish and destructive things, thoughts and feelings to which we may cling. “Let go and let God!”
Right now (and for weeks) we have been experiencing the sacrifice of many ‘things’ for our safety and the safety of others. (Love in action!) We have the opportunity now to really examine (both individually and collectively) all of the unnecessary things of our society with which we have indulged ourselves; the cruelty and injustice we have accepted without enough scrutiny and reconciliation; and the preservation of what actually is good and worth keeping—those actions that do serve God’s plan for all of His children. You know, we might actually strive to make all things better, safer, healthier and happier for all of us, no exceptions!
Having tasted a somewhat simpler life in some (or many) ways, perhaps we will shift from some and any of those destructive values and patterns in our lives. Now that we have seen the importance of community, of social contracts (like wearing masks to keep each other safe, or stopping at red lights) and the sharing of resources, maybe we will invest more in the well-being of all people and not just the individual self. Maybe we can even consider the urgency to act on the problems of poverty (here at home and away), the suffering of Creation by the greedy and thoughtless, and the health and education of all our brothers and sisters. This pandemic has highlighted the many social problems we have in our society—which, personally, I find so painful to consider how unthinking, selfish and unkind we can be about the problems of others sometimes.
Pain, though, is an unwelcome teacher and an important element of reality in this world. It is not only often helpful, but is absolutely necessary to human health and well-being. How do you know to keep your hands away from an open flame, or to flush a grain of sand from your eye? Pain. Any doctor will tell you that a person whose nerves can't send pain signals will have serious problems in living a normal life. We know that God allows suffering, but he is not the one who causes it and sends it into our lives. We experience pain because we live in physical bodies in a physical world—and we suffer emotional pain because we are (hopefully) sensitive to misfortune, loss, and injustice. Sometimes the most horrible wounds we experience are those that come to us and are even traceable to our own wrong choices! But He will be with us always through it all and to the end.
This faith we have is a relationship with God that provides the daily presence, strength, and encouragement of the Living Christ for whatever comes our way. It doesn’t exempt us from it, but it does sustain us. And this love in the midst of trial is what we are called to be in the world as Disciples. We do not yet have complete and detailed plans for the future of Covid 19 in our Communities—but like the Disciples in Scripture today we know Jesus is with us while we figure it all out—and we have an Advocate, the Holy Spirit.
As Disciples we depend on the Word, the Paschal Mystery and each other to be the presence of Christ. St. Peter of Damascus wrote that we will ascend with Christ to heaven through these real presences of Jesus. We move from “fear to religious devotion—from which springs spiritual knowledge; from this knowledge comes judgment—that is, discrimination (discernment); from discernment comes the strength that will lead us to understanding; and from this comes wisdom.” We need to ascend to this heavenly wisdom!
Thanks to the ministry of the Apostles, all believers will ascend with Christ into heavenly wisdom. When Christ Ascended they had to depend on their faith, believe in their mission, and carry the Gospel to all. (The Holy Spirit makes all this possible!) We are charged with this same mission, now, today. We are lost if we do not take this mission seriously—especially since we now have the time to reconcile our faith with our actions and our decisions--and we have the Holy Spirit to help us, always.
Keep singing in your hearts and minds—or out loud while quaranteaming with your lovely ones!
Just a note: Just a reminder that while in church (masks on), there is no Assembly singing in responses or of hymns and Mass Ordinaries. This is encouraged by our Archdiocese, our Archbishop and the science behind aerosolized particles of the virus. (Instead of full, conscious and active outward participation—it is now a prayerful, interior, internally active participation while in church.) When attending mass, please only sing in your hearts. I know that one day we will sing aloud, raising our voices together again; but in the meantime we make this sacrifice of love to protect each other and the vulnerable. For now, our Journeysong hymnals are stored away—and we all look forward to the future when they will be accessible to all again.
I was thinking about love and what love means for us all —especially in this time of social distancing—for this Sixth Sunday of the Easter Season. In the Gospel today Christ reminds us: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments…you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you…Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me…”
So, what is love, where is the love, and how do we demonstrate it? I believe that when we are really and truly “in love,” we move from our individual selves to unite with another—any other—whether in companionship, friendship, marriage, community—or any kind of trusting relationship you name. While operating in true love we should become the best versions of ourselves that God created us to be. Love is the attraction of all things toward all things and the care of all things; it is a universal language, and it has an underlying energy that we are called to make present in all we say and do in this world.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955, French Jesuit priest who trained as a paleontologist and geologist), said love is “the very physical structure of the Universe.” This is a surprising statement for any scientist to make—and yet for Teilhard: gravity, atomic bonding, orbits, cycles, photosynthesis, ecosystems, force fields, electromagnetic fields, sexuality, human friendship, animal instinct, and evolution all reveal an energy that is attracting all things and all beings to one another. He said that the universe is in “a movement toward ever greater complexity and diversity—and yet ironically also toward unification at ever deeper levels.” In other words: love fills in the spaces and gaps between us and all other things and beings…
What does that mean for us nowadays as we cope with this pandemic and all the problems generated by it?
Love is so simple and yet so hard to teach—and yet we all know love when we see it in motion, and from whomever it truly emanates. There is not a Native person, or Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Islamic, or Christian way of loving; or a Methodist, Lutheran, or Orthodox way of running a soup kitchen, food pantry or charity; or a gay or straight way of being faithful in relationship; nor a Black, Caucasian or Asian or any other way of hoping. (Teilhard’s diversity!) We know the positive force of love’s energy when we see it from anywhere true love comes, and we all recognize the opposite—a resistance and coldness when we feel it. The first commandment instructs us to love God more than anything else because to love God is to love what God loves. And to love like God means to love everything . . . no exception! The actual word ‘religion’ comes from the root religio, which means to reconnect, to bind back together—now there’s a bit of food for thought in this fractured world…
We have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit so that we may love all things and people in themselves and for themselves. That is when we begin to love our family, friends, and neighbors apart from what they can do for us or how they make us look. We love them as living images of God in themselves—despite their finiteness and fallibility. From love of God (everything), any couple’s love may expand still further, Teilhard has suggested. The more deeply and passionately two people really love each other, the more concern they will feel for the state of the world in which they live. They will feel their connection with the earth and a dedication to care for this world and all others as a natural extension of their mutual love.
Love demonstrated by parents or by people in general is always about the “other” first. Jesus demonstrated this when He accepted the cross—as true love always involves some sacrifice of self—and maybe some discomfort for the other person’s well-being. If we were to all act with this kind of care for each other, we would never have to worry about being cared for ourselves, or about whether we are living our best selves. The world would be a much safer and loving place. This is the great love and the great way of love given to us by Jesus.
We are now in a time of great distress in the world, but it is our responsibility to speak and demonstrate this language of genuine, sacrificial, authentic love, (if we claim to follow Jesus) and extend it to all of God’s creation. In many moments of our lives a good question-reconciliation for ourselves should be: where is the love in what I am deciding to say and do? Because the first commandment is for all people.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always." (John 14:15-16)
Just a note: Some of you may have noticed that I did not finish my article with my usual “Keep singing!” that I always use. I would love that you do keep singing—in the safety of your homes and with your loved ones—your “quaranteam-choir.”
The new directives for reopening our church to real time attendance states that the Assembly may not sing responses or hymns and songs in church—and no choirs or chorale groups, either. The science is pretty clear: choral, or assembly and group singing, is a “super-spreader” of the virus.
We (the Directors of Music Ministry) in following these (temporary) directives given us by our Church, Archdiocese and Archbishop are not to encourage the people (The Assembly—that’s you) to sing in church in order to help stop the spread of Covid 19 to the faithful. By planning moments of music without singable refrains, by no availability of hymnals or missalettes, we hope that you not be tempted to sing, or forget and by habit do so in church.
As a Pastoral Musician, understanding very well the comfort of music, this is such an awful challenge for me—and is definitely is a sacrifice for all of us—singers, worshippers and assembly—alike. But in sacrificial love and care for all (especially the vulnerable), we must do this in order to prevent more sickness and death.
So, for now: How does communal worship look for those attending or watching? All the ‘Ordinaries’ of the Mass are spoken (Kyrie, Gloria, Holy, etc.). I will be using antiphons created and related to the day of the Sunday scriptural texts for gathering, for the preparation of the altar, for the communion procession. No singing by the Assembly; and sometimes instrumentals. For now it may feel very “old world” to us all who enjoy a variety of music.
Here is my advice to you: Please use this time of stark, quieter worship as an opportunity to internalize all the texts of our Scripture and worship. In other words: for now we must strip away the music from all the things we say together and used to sing together. We are given this time to reflect all the deeper on the words of our worship—and we know that God works through all things for good. (The theme of my last several weeks of articles.) I have always chosen music by their texts first—this is what I am called to do as a Pastoral Musician—as our sung texts must be Scripture based.
Our music, our lifting our joined voices in love and praise of God together will return, Be Not Afraid. Love is about sacrifice. For now we have the time to focus on all of our texts of love for God and each other as commanded.
David J. Conrad, M.A. Theology. Our Director of Faith Formation.