Category: From the Pastor

Bishop Olmsted’s Homily on the Feast of St. Patrick

March 17, 2019 | Homily from the 10:30 am Mass

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted 

       At birth, my father was given the name Dale Willey. It wasn’t a name he liked. So, at the age of 20, when he decided to become a Catholic and be baptized, he seized the opportunity to take a new name: Patrick. Several months later, he proposed marriage to my mother who is 100% Irish.     As you might guess, my family loves St. Patrick. Being baptized in a small church in Nebraska, where the pastor was straight from Ireland, we were delighted that on St. Patrick’s Day, even though it was Lent, Father Daly replaced the purple vestments with green. Last night, when I called my mother to let her know I was coming to St. Patrick’s Parish, she also thought it was a great place to celebrate this great Irish saint. Thank you for inviting me to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with you in this 50th Year of the Diocese of Phoenix.

It seems fitting that the Gospel today recounts the Transfiguration of Jesus in the presence of Peter, James and John. What Jesus provided for the three Apostles, He also provided to St. Patrick, 500 years later. Born and raised in England, during his teen years, Patrick was kidnapped and sold as a slave to a Chieftain in Ireland. Brutally separated from family, friends, familiar food and language, compelled to labor in squalor and treated like dirt, Patrick barely survived until, six years later, he managed to escape and return to England. What happened upon his arrival and over the course of the next decade of his life remains largely unknown, except that he eventually became a monk, was ordained a priest and asked his superiors to be sent back to Ireland, to bring the Good News of Christ to the people who had treated him so harshly and were most likely to do so again. We don’t know what happened in Patrick’s soul; why he wanted to return to Ireland–not to seek revenge but to bring them the Gospel of Christ. He must have experienced something like what Peter, James and John discovered at the Transfiguration: in the face of terrible suffering, he found the love of Christ; in all that he had endured he found more than meaningless brutality. Christ was at work in that suffering, not only giving him courage to endure but also preparing Patrick for a mission to the same people who treated him so badly.

In parallel fashion, consider what happened to the three Apostles during the mystery of the Transfiguration. Eight days before the Transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain, He did something that left the Apostles discouraged and near despair. Jesus told them that He was going to be betrayed, scourged and crucified, and on the third day, rise again. He also told them, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”  They could not imagine how death by crucifixion could possibly be good news. So, “Jesus took Peter, James, and John and went up the mountain to pray…” there, He was transfigured before them” (Luke 9:28ff). Jesus led them beyond agony into the mystery of God. On a mountain top, He gave them a glimpse into the inner life of the Blessed Trinity. The voice of God the Father was heard speaking of His Son Jesus: “This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him.” And the Spirit was present in the form of a cloud. Here is the most profound of all mysteries; God who is a communion of three divine Persons united in life and love.

There is nothing more glorious than the Blessed Trinity, nothing more wondrous than the Love that constantly flows from the Father, through the Son, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, constantly creating and restoring life, even overcoming death by suffering death.  Through the Father’s gift of the Son, and the Son’s and Father’s gift of the Spirit, we learn that the dynamic of God’s relationships with each person is always self-gift. Because we are made in God’s image, we can receive His love and can give this love in turn by making a sincere gift of self. This may explain why St. Patrick was so enthralled by the shamrock; seeing in the one plant with three leaves a symbol of the Blessed Trinity. Wherever he came upon a shamrock, Patrick was reminded of God’s unending love and moved to strive always to make a gift of self for love of others.

Dear brothers and sisters, sons and daughters in Christ, think of when you have suffered injustice or passed through terrible sorrow. Did you see it, in the beginning, as totally meaningless? Did you come to see it as a moment of grace?

After Patrick escaped the cruel slavery of Ireland, God’s love opened his heart in a new way. Instead of harboring revenge for his former slave-holders, Patrick came to a keen sense of his own sinfulness, combined with a deep trust in God’s merciful love. The Lord opened his eyes to see the spiritual poverty of his Irish slave holders, i.e. that they had never heard of Jesus and His Gospel. No one had witnessed to them the mystery of the Cross and Resurrection of Christ.

In this way, Christ called Patrick to return to Ireland to bring them the Good News of God’s Triune love. Patrick made his own the words of Psalm 27 “The Lord is my light and my salvation.”            What followed is one of the greatest missionary successes: Over the next 30+ years, Patrick walked the green fields and rocky hills of Ireland, using the shamrock to teach them of the Blessed Trinity, and using the Cross to open hearts to Christ. Through the witness of St. Patrick, and God’s amazing grace, the emerald isle became Catholic in half a century. In his own lifetime, dioceses and monasteries were established, marriage and family life flourished; religious life and consecrated virginity blossomed, and many young men were ordained priests, not only to serve Christ in Ireland but even far beyond.

While many legends about this saint abound, making it hard to establish fact from fiction, most scholars agree that a document called the Confessions of St. Patrick is authentic. Like the Confessions of St. Augustine, it offers faith-filled thanksgiving and praise to the Blessed Trinity for the privilege of suffering for Christ’s Name.

The priestly heart of St. Patrick was filled with awe and wonder at the Trinitarian nature of God: how total gift of self is the constant dynamic of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  In addition, Patrick composed a famous prayer known as THE BREASTPLATE OF ST. PATRICK  I shall conclude with that prayer:

I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through belief in the Threeness, through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.       

I arise today through the strength of Christ’s birth with His baptism, through the strength of His crucifixion with His burial, through the strength of His Resurrection with His Ascension…Christ to shield me this day: Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every person who thinks of me, Christ in the eye that sees me, Christ in the ear that hears me.

I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through belief in the Threeness, through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.”

An Update on Fr. Eric

An Update on Fr. Eric:

Please continue to keep our Pastor, Fr. Eric, in your prayers.

On Monday, February 11, he underwent bypass surgery. The surgery went well and he is recovering. He is in good spirits, and looking forward to getting back to St. Patrick and the football field.

Dear Heavenly Father, restore to full health, mind, and body all those in need. Amen.

Please note: Fr. Eric will not be checking email or returning phone calls while he recovers. If you need anything immediately, contact the front office, otherwise, Fr. Eric looks forward to hearing from everyone when he returns. We ask that there be no visitors or flowers. Cards can be sent to the church. Thank you for your respect and understanding as he recovers.

Welcome the Stranger: Extended Love Resource Guide

Extended Love: Migration and the Church

Fr. Eric wishes to share with everyone this resource guide. “Extended Love: Migration and the Church” is a quick reference resource to help everyone reflect on Church teachings, scripture, and quotes regarding the issue of migration and how the Church is called to respond.

Click here to download the resource.

If you would like to dive further into this topic, you are invited to join VIP (Valley Interfaith Project) and us as we co-host a Civic Academy on the topic, Wednesday, January 16. Click here to download the flyer.

Click here to visit a webpage with all the information we currently have on our Matthew 25 Project which is the way we are answering the call to Welcome the Stranger.

First Down (November 25, 2018)

Dear Friends,

I saw my first Christmas commercial right after Halloween. KOOL-FM was the first radio station to start playing holiday music followed by KEZ 99.9FM. Both stations talked about people needing the uplifting of spirits with so much going on in our world. The ratings are very good for such music. Stores are setting up already for the holiday shopping season. Charities are working hard to meet the important needs of those who come for assistance. What this tells us is something is needed in the souls of people for comfort, uplifting spirit and reminding us of our better angels.

I wonder if there is any longing by people for God. What is going on in front of us is a longing of people for something more than what is before us, to connect, to find and to remember who we really are. So we Catholics see the situation, people are searching for something. Is it more than just shopping deals? Is it more than Holiday music? Is it more than planning where to spend Christmas?

I would say that Catholics can be great instruments of God by inviting people to come to Mass with them during the Advent/Christmas season. To bring people to God and help them remember the good things God brings to them. To reconnect with God, Eucharist, Jesus our Savior, to hear music and preaching that inspire and challenge. A shadow side of Catholics is we tend to make faith a private experience, not wanting to offend, be rejected or been seen as a strange religious person. We do not invite others as we ought.

Consider inviting someone you know or a family you know to come to Mass with you and make a meal experience afterwards. At that meal you might hear their experiences of what they think about God, the Church, that Fr. Eric talks too long or something that reminded them of a time they felt close to God.

Do not worry about being told no. Just simply invite. The goal is to simply bring them. When Jesus was asked by people who are you, what are you all about? Jesus simply said come and see. That is all we need to tell people who wonder what God, St. Patrick, our faith, our love of Jesus is, come and see. I hope this Advent/Christmas season you can try doing this.

Everyone is listening to Christmas music right now. Why, because they are longing for something. Is it God?

Peace in Christ,

Fr. Eric

First Down (November 18, 2018)

Dear Friends,

A very powerful scripture passage from the Gospel is used by the Church for Thanksgiving Day mass. Jesus heals ten lepers and sends them off to show the priests. The priests are the ones who announce who were unclean and have now become clean and can rejoin the community. Their illness has excluded them from community life. In the Gospel, only one returns to give thanks to Jesus. Jesus does ask

where are the other nine? Were not all ten made whole? Even in the time of Jesus, the mindset of religious life was it was expected that one would offer praise and thanks to God for all good gifts. It was a given. Even Jesus understood this and this is why he asks, where are the other nine? Our Eucharist is thanksgiving. The word Eucharist, from the Greek, means giving thanks. Every time we are at the table of the Lord it is one of praising and giving thanks to God for all he has done. Not just for us but for all people.

Even today Christians can be overwhelmed with life issues and even opportunities. We can become lost in daily living with stress, but also with the good things in life. One can forget to come to the table to be grateful for every gift from God. One must not just take for granted that God will just do his thing and we live in expecting our will not God’s. For some it is so expected that one becomes angry with God and his people because what was expected has not happened.

I invite all parishioners to really enter into the Thanksgiving Day setting. Enjoy family, offer peace for that day if needed, take time to pray before the meal, and if that is seen awkward by those at the table,it might be a good time to invite people just to simply say or think what they are thankful for. It is a great way to remind people what Thanksgiving is about. Maybe this reflection might encourage more people to enter the wonderful thanksgiving experience called the mass. I think the people of St Patrick and Scottsdale are people who have so many things to be thankful about.

As Jesus healed he knew the custom of praising God. Jesus might be asking where are the others? We’re not all healed? May we can commit to thanksgiving more often.

Peace in Christ,

Fr. Eric

First Down (November 11, 2018)

Dear Friends,

‘We need to measure success,’ might be a phrase we are familiar with. ‘Numbers do not lie,’ is another saying that many have heard. These two statements might lead to an expectation that whatever we invest our time, our money or our work into, should bring about results that we can measure. I would imagine this type of thinking might work often for people needing to see results, and using results to have people support a cause or effort we believe in.

I would have to say that doing the work of the Lord with this type of thinking really does not fit well. That is not to say that some people put a lot of stock in numbers when it comes to “church work”. How much money does the church bring in? How many families are registered? How many people go to church on Sundays? The data shows how big the ministries and the programs are and people might be impressed.

When I look at the ministry that I do here at St. Patrick, I find that many of my encounters with people do not show up on a balance sheet or add to our membership numbers. In fact the work of the Lord that I do does not show much data.

When I visit prison no one signs up to be parishioners, no one gives money to the parish and no one signs up for involvement. When I visit the sick in hospitals many are from other parishes in the Valley, some do not go to a church, others are not interested in church but do love God and want comfort. There are parishioners who love the parish, love being Catholic, love God but do not always go to Mass often yet, they consider themselves active in the faith. They do not come, but they do God’s work in the world. Others come to the parish and receive much, but give nothing to financially support the parish community. Some people need a priest to talk to but do not come to St. Patrick but still need someone to listen to them. When I meet people out in the community and see God in their lives, yet they have not been involved with religion or see any benefit to it yet, I enjoy their friendship or conversation but I have no data to show that I am successful in my ministry.

The point is, discipleship is simply laying the seed for God to do His thing. I cannot control how people respond or not respond. I encounter people every day in my ministry who will never join the parish, never give support, will not come to Mass here and/or will not sign up for ministry. Yet, they have been touched by God. I have had a powerful encounter with them. I have seen God present in their lives. Many times I do not have the numbers, the data to show everyone that I am successful or that the parish is successful. Sometimes it is just encountering people, help them see God in their lives and then they move on.

It is very freeing to live this way. Simply look for God in all types of people. See Him alive in every person. Then let them go on their way. Church is sometimes just the encounter, and that pleases God.

Peace in Christ,

Fr. Eric

First Down (November 4, 2018)

Dear Friends,

It has been a tradition in our Catholic faith that during the month of November we pray for all those who have died. November 2 was the Feast of All Souls where we remembered all our loved ones who have returned to the Lord.

We are reminded in the Scriptures that we are to pray for those who have died. There is a connection between the living here on earth and those who have gone before us. We are the Church on earth and they belong to the Church in heaven. We look forward to the day when all will be gathered at the eternal banquet.

The connection is that our deceased loved ones pray for us here on earth. They “tug” at the cloak of God by asking on our behalf. We remember to ask for their intercessory prayers to God, to remember us and open our lives to see His presence with us.

The three angels at the base of our altar are a powerful reminder that at the same time when we gather at our altar, our loved ones with God eat the same heavenly food. This reminds us that the “meal” we eat here is what is eaten in heaven. Meals are so important to human beings. We may look at the different people that we have drawn close to through the experience of the meal. It can create a connection, a bond in the sharing of the same meal. The same happens to those in heaven right now.

To feel close to our loved ones gone before us, simply come and be present at the table, and eat this heavenly food.

Peace in Christ,

Fr. Eric

First Down (October 28, 2018)

Dear Friends,

We are all about to enter into the annual season of the holidays. It is definitely a different time of year where there is some celebration, being more open to helping those in need or offering a greeting that might spark more conversation. There are certainly some positive things happening during these several months that make up the holidays.

I love the fact that our Catholic faith begins this special time of year with October 31st, Halloween. In my day, it was getting a large grocery bag and going to every house in our town to receive candy. Everyone would ask each other what we were we going to dress up as for Halloween. For some, the emphasis can be too much on horror and evil. Yet, our faith history would say in earlier times people would dress to mock evil and death as having no more power over us. It was called All Hallows Eve, as the word hallow means holy, saintly. It is the eve of a special holy day called All Saints Day. It is a feast in the Church that honors all men and women whose lives were saintly, faithful to God. There is a connection to those who have gone to the Lord and we call it a “community of saints”. These are people who are role models and inspiration for living our Christian faith. Secondly, we talk to them in prayer, asking them to pray for us to our Lord. There is a connection between us and those Saints. They don’t just sit up there waiting for us rather, they are truly our patrons. Thus we say we have a patron Saint, one who understands our occupation, our situation and our struggles. We move from All Saints Day November 1st to November 2nd which is the Feast of All Souls. It is the one day that all who have died are remembered in our prayers. Scriptures reminds us to pray for those who have died. We remember them, we honor their resurrection with the Lord and we look forward to the day they receive us in God’s kingdom.

So maybe we struggle with the secular holidays for a whole host of reasons. Maybe this special week might help us to remember that we believe that death, evil and fear have no power over us.

The feast days of the Church continue throughout the upcoming weeks. Thanksgiving is the time to be grateful for all gifts. Advent is remembering Jesus came to us and will come again. Christmas recalls the Incarnation, God becoming man and dwelt among us, and the New Year, marking the beginning of another year and asking God to bless our new year.

Recalling that God is central at this time of year might help us experience these days in a new way.

Peace in Christ,

Fr. Eric

First Down (October 21, 2018)

Dear Friends,

It is always important to remember what the times were like when Jesus was physically present to humanity. Biblical scholars, including our own Fr. André Dargis, know that Jesus challenged the cultural mindset of how women were viewed. Women would sit at the feet of Jesus the Teacher, which was amazing for that time. Women were to be seen as equal to their husbands, as marriage was to be a mirror of divine love. Women were also disciples of Jesus and the first to see the empty tomb. Church historians

would also acknowledge that the Roman Empire found it strange that early Christians treated women with respect and a place of sharing in the mission of Jesus. Some of the persecution towards Christians by Romans happened because of how they valued the role of women.

Tension is part of our world as some women want to remind others, that women have value and are to be treated with dignity and respect. For others there is a tired feeling of what can be called political correctness and a feeling of mistrust as to what people really want. The Gospel of Jesus does remind us that women have an important role in serving the Kingdom of God. There is strong evidence in scripture to support this understanding.

Today, women serve St. Patrick Community in ways that are important to the mission of serving God’s people. Women in leadership, is alive in our Church. The majority of our Parish Staff are women, beginning with Mary Permoda, our Director of Pastoral Activities, who really runs the Parish. She serves the community in working with personnel, ministry leaders, budget matters, being present to the community activities and making sure all levels of the Parish mission run correctly. Barb Nicol, Coordinator of Social Justice/Outreach. When she first arrived last year she was overwhelmed with the magnitude of what we do in Social Justice/ Outreach and we told her it would take a year just to see how things work. She coordinates and collaborates with SJO work in the Parish. Diane Kar is Coordinator of Stewardship, involving Praying, Giving and Serving. Whatever increase that is happening in these areas, are in part because of the leadership she brings. The Parish scheduling is under the direction of Carol Campbell as we are open 365 days a year with space being very tight.

There are more women involved in leadership through either being staff members or serving in leadership roles in the many ministries (135+) of the parish. There are too many to mention by name but are still valued.

The Church misses out when we see pictures of just men gathering for important meetings to make decisions. One could think where are all the women? Well one could simply look around and see many women in leadership roles, doing simply what Jesus encouraged centuries ago.

Peace in Christ,

Fr. Eric