Pruning

01-31-2021The Pastor's PenFr. Matthew R. Paratore, S.T.L., J.C.L.

Dear Friend,

Every branch that bears fruit must be pruned to bear more fruit. A friend of mine has a fruit tree that has been living for a number of years. Every winter the cold weather and heavy breeze kills more than half of the branches and leaves. If he does not prune the dead, it will spread and kill the whole tree. Therefore, he must prune what is wilted to save the rest of the tree. In turn, the tree grows bigger, stronger, and bears more fruit than before. The fruit doesn’t only multiply, but they are much more pleasing in their flavor.

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Leaving a Lasting Impact

01-31-2021Gospel Meditation© LPi

Most of us are quiet people who desire to live a good and holy life, promote the values and mission of the Gospel as best we can and desire to one day inherit the surprise of life eternal God promises to us. We are not trail blazers. We are simple people who want to do the simple things of life well. But there are others who left a more profound impact along the way of the paths they walked. Folks like Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Thomas Merton, Gandhi, St. Teresa of Calcutta, and many others left lasting impacts and legacies. Like Moses, they show us by word and deed who God is and what integrity and a purpose driven life look like. They show us how to be holy. We need Moses people like these to give us inspiration, hope and an example of holy living.

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Give Until It Hurts

01-24-2021Everyday Stewardship - Recognize God in Your Ordinary MomentsTracy Earl Welliver, MTS

One of the characteristics of Everyday Stewardship is to be committed — to persevere daily in a way of life acknowledging that everything belongs to God. I know, I know. Easier said than done.

Just ask Zebedee. It’s quite an image we get from the Gospel, after all. “So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him.” There was Zebedee, about his business, mending nets with his two sons, who were undoubtedly his best workers, they had to have been more dedicated than the hired men, who worked for wages rather than for family. And in an instant off they go, following this strange man.

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The Challenge of Living

01-24-2021Gospel Meditation© LPi

It was a normal day by all accounts, but John just wasn’t feeling himself. He was a little lightheaded and out of sorts. Later in the afternoon, he experienced a sharp pain in his chest and arm. Quick thinking and action brought John to the emergency department with a diagnosis of a significant heart attack. Surviving this ordeal, he found himself face to face with his cardiologist, having an honest conversation about things that needed to change. “I came close to death,” John found himself thinking.

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Favorite Scripture Passage

01-24-2021The Pastor's PenFr. Matthew R. Paratore, S.T.L., J.C.L.

Dear Friend,

During a parish Adult Formation Class in Washington, D.C. the question was asked, "In your time of discouragement, what is your favorite Scripture passage?"

A young man said, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want" Psalm 23:1. A middle age woman said, "God is my refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" Psalm 46:1. Another woman said, "In this world you shall have tribulations, but be of good cheer, I have overcome this world" John 16:33-35.

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The Floodlight that Illuminates Jesus

01-17-2021The Pastor's PenFr. Matthew R. Paratore, S.T.L., J.C.L.

Dear Friend,

The Holy Spirit's distinctive role is to fulfill what we may call a floodlight ministry in relation to the Lord Jesus.

I remember walking to Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris one winter evening to preach on the words, "He will glorify me" (John 16:14). Seeing the building floodlit as I turned a corner I realized that this was exactly the illustration my message needed.

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Come and You Will See

01-17-2021Gospel Meditation© LPi

Our faith is not just about ideas. It's really about having an encounter with God and, in particular, the Risen Christ! Once w e give ourselves over to the notion of God's presence, w e have to train ourselves to listen for God's voice and b e attentive to God's call. Having companions on our faith journeys is so incredibly important as they can help us fine-tune our listening skills and discern God's voice from others w e may be hearing. Faith is all about having these profound encounters not only with God but with our brothers and sisters, and creation itself. Anyone or anything that is alive with God's presence becomes an occasion for God to speak and call us to deeper graces and experiences. "Come, and you will see."

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The Baptism of the Lord

01-10-2021Gospel Meditation

We need history. We need it in order to understand ourselves, personally and collectively. The pieces of our histories may not have always been the most positive, honest, exemplary, dignified, proud and best moments of our lives, but they are ours. We have to acknowledge, remember, accept, and often heal them. We cannot forget them or pretend that they never existed. As horrible as the atrocities of events like Auschwitz, brutal injustices committed throughout the human journey, or personal painful experiences in our own stories, we need to remember. These times when humanity in general or people in particular have lost their way are times that need to be reconciled and redeemed.

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When God Whispers

01-10-2021Everyday Stewardship - Recognize God in Your Ordinary Moments

“You don’t need to shout. My hearing works just fine.”

Are you a parent that has used that one on your kids? I’m not sure at what age they realize that the volume of their voice doesn’t correlate to the likelihood of receiving a favorable reply — it might be sometime in the teenage years, when the talking slows down altogether. But I’ve got to admit, it would be nice if God always gave us a loud and dramatic sign when He wanted something — the booming voice and the torn-open heavens (“This is my beloved Son!”) really get the message across. Sometimes I find myself envious of the Apostles, who were able to witness such things in person.

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Remove Stumbling Blocks

01-10-2021The Pastor's PenFr. Matthew R. Paratore, S.T.L., J.C.L.

Dear Friend,

A lady in the north of Ireland said that every time she got down before God to pray, five cases of Irish Whiskey came up before her mind. She had taken them wrongfully one time when she was a housekeeper, and had not been able to pray since. She was advised to make restitution by her pastor, Father Hearn.

"But the person is dead," she said. "Are not some of the heirs living?" "Yes, a son." "Then go to that son and pay him back."

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Wise Men See God in the Simple Things

01-03-2021Everyday Stewardship - Recognize God in Your Ordinary Moments

If you’re on social media, you have probably seen a meme going around that features this quote: “God has a plan for your life. The enemy has a plan for your life. Be ready for both. Just be wise enough to know which one to battle and which one to embrace.” There were certainly two competing plans for the Magi: God’s and Herod’s. And, wise as they supposedly were, it wasn’t entirely easy for the Magi to discern which was which.

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The Epiphany of the Lord

01-03-2021Gospel Meditation© LPi

“Where is that thing?” mumbled Bob as he searched frantically on his dimly lit desk for the current electric bill. “I know I put it right on top of these papers this morning!” Growing in frustration and bordering on anger, he flies stuff around, moves books and opines why simple tasks need to be so hard. Enter his wife, who calmly says, “Maybe it would help if you put the light on, dear.” The desk light goes on and lo and behold, there is the electric bill right where Bob left it earlier. All it took was a little light!

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Temptations

01-03-2021The Pastor's PenFr. Matthew R. Paratore, S.T.L., J.C.L.

Dear Friend,

Think how many temptations we might face in an ordinary day.

Growling at the breakfast table - the temptation to unkindness.

Arguing over who should change the baby this time - the temptation to selfishness.

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Brilliant: 25 Catholic Scientists, Mathematicians, and Supersmart People by Warren David

01-01-2021Recommended Reading

Think faith and science don’t go together? Think again! It’s important to teach children at a young age that faith and science are complementary! Too many people today—adults and children—think that faith and science don’t go together. In fact, many people who leave the Catholic Church report that they don’t believe faith is compatible with science. Sadly, one study found that the median age of people who leave the Church is surprisingly young: thirteen.

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The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

12-27-2020Gospel Meditation© LPi

Tragedy and disappointment are inevitable. What sees you through this? There will be challenges, changes, unexpected circumstances, interrupted plans, hurts, and injustices experienced by every human being at some point in their lives. We will be asked to adjust our plans, change course, and even encounter suffering and death. Where do we learn all of the lessons we need to live life well? Some of them we learn along the way but much of what we bring to life, positive and negative, comes from our early beginnings, our families. This is our early world and provides the blueprint for how we see the bigger, more inclusive world, which unfolds before us .

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The Gift of Family

12-27-2020Everyday Stewardship - Recognize God in Your Ordinary Moments

What a year it has been! How will we speak of these times a decade from now? As time goes by, our impressions of this past year will certainly change. How we feel today about dealing with a killer virus and all the chaos surrounding that is still fresh for all. I would assume that most of us right now are also holding those we love a little closer and hugging them a little harder. Hopefully, even if the fears and concerns of 2020 dissipate in the future, the way we feel toward our family should never leave us.

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Christmas Service

12-27-2020The Pastor's PenFr. Matthew R. Paratore, S.T.L., J.C.L.

As we begin a new calendar year let me offer some thoughts about making Christian Service a joy.

An amusing story was told to me by the retired manager of a New York hotel which hosted many large Catholic functions. The great Paderewski occupied a suite there a number of years ago during one of his seasons at Carnegie Hall. It was his custom to practice for a couple of hours every morning on the magnificent instrument that he had brought with him.

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4th Sunday of Advent

12-20-2020Gospel Meditation

In Blaise Pascal's work, Pensees, he says: "What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself."

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Light is more powerful than darkness.

12-20-2020The Pastor's PenFr. Matthew R. Paratore, S.T.L., J.C.L.

Dear Friend,

Christmas can still arrive when you least expect it, sometimes in the most unexpected manner. A priest friend of mine relates a story of an elderly woman named Stella Thornhope who was struggling with her first Christmas alone. Her husband had died just a few months prior through a slow developing cancer. Now, several days before Christmas, she was almost snowed in by a brutal weather system. She felt terribly alone--so much so she decided she was not going to decorate for Christmas.

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3rd Sunday of Advent

12-13-2020Gospel Meditation

Did you ever stop and realize that there is no earthly gain that can ever really satisfy us? Think of winning the Lotto. On this side of the winning ticket, it’s all about the money, the new car, house, vacations, bank accounts, and infinite pleasures. The possibility of acquiring all of these earthly securities brings us back again and again to the purchase of a ticket. Then, one day we win! Our dreams are fulfilled, and happiness is on the horizon. Then one day, we wake up and realize that nothing has really changed, and I am not as satisfied as I thought I was or would be. I find myself living in my incompleteness and with my profound sorrow and grief. I did not find joy.

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Act with Generosity

12-13-2020The Pastor's PenFr. Matthew R. Paratore, S.T.L., J.C.L.

Dear Friend,

Two hundred years ago, in the early 19th Century, as astonishing as it may seem, Christmas in Great Britain had become almost extinct.

The Times newspaper did not mention Christmas once between 1790 and 1835. Not once!

However, Charles Dickens was instrumental in reviving Christmas during the Victorian era. He wrote his book A Christmas Carol in 1843 for several reasons.

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Five Smooth Stones

12-06-2020The Pastor's PenFr. Matthew R. Paratore, S.T.L., J.C.L.

Dear Friend,

In 1 Samuel 17, we have the thrilling story of David, the modest shepherd boy who slew Goliath, the arrogant giant of Gath. The drama of that event so occupies our attention that the spiritual lessons contained in the more minute details may escape our notice.

Today, therefore, I'd like to consider the  importance of the expression "five smooth stones."  Why more than one stone? Wasn't David a man of faith? Did he doubt that God would give him perfect timing and aim as he used his trusty sling to take on the enemy of the Lord? (Certainly he needed only a single small pebble to accomplish his mission.

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Making Preparations

12-06-2020Gospel Meditation© LPi

People knew over a year in advance that the Pope was coming for a visit to America and the preparations began. Security, space limitations and requirements, protocols, crowd management, itineraries, invitations, regulations, and so much more was necessary to pull this event off effectively. It’s not every day that we get a visit from such a prominent dignitary. Thought, effort, meticulous attention to detail and vision all are necessary to make this thing work. After all, he can’t just show up in the ordinary and normal daily routines of life and catch people unprepared! Tickets have to be purchased, buses rented, hotel rooms reserved, and travel arrangements made early because it will be impossible to see him if we wait too long!

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Joyous Expectation Journeying Through Advent With Mary by Frisk M. Jean

12-01-2020Recommended Reading

As we get ready again for the coming of the King, who better to have by our side than Mary, His mother? In this spiritual resource, you can prepare for Christmas by journeying with Mary to Bethlehem. Drawing on the liturgy, these warm and inspirational reflections help readers celebrate the Advent and Christmas seasons with faith and prayer. Also included are special materials for feast days, information related to Christmas and Advent customs, notes on the saints of Advent, and project boxes with additional material for celebrating the season.