Category: First Down

First Down – Week of April 7

Dear Friends,

Growing up one of my favorite things to do was to go to Baskin Robbins 31 flavors. There were so many choices even though many still choose Vanilla, Chocolate or Strawberry. When you entered the place, there was a wheel where you would go and take a piece of paper with a number. The person behind the counter would say, “Serving number 22” and you would be so happy to have been chosen to be served. It required patience, yet once the ice cream was given there was pure joy.

There are times when our patience is tested. Not wanting to take the time to wait, feeling that there is too much to accomplish to have to wait, or feeling rushed. To wait, for some people is just not an option. Wanting to be served without waiting, making others wait so that our needs are met first is a challenge for us.

I am inviting parishioners to try and gauge their patience when coming to mass, staying afterward to greet and meet people, to even say hello to the Pastor. The rush to get out the door and move on to the next project can cause us to miss the important things about gathering for mass.

The Narthex and the shaded area outside our entrance are invitations to every parishioner to take some time to meet people and to get to know them a little better. People who we often see but never take the time to talk with. It is amazing what happens when parishioners and guests decide to have a donut, talk to some new people and let the parking lot clear up as others dash out. These types of things can change the parish from being seen as too large, to being seen as a real community.

The other important aspect of patience is not to be impatient with God. Whatever stress we may be going through, we need to be sure to take a moment to thank God before we leave. That is why I ask that people return to their seats after receiving Communion. The beautiful act of receiving our Savior on our hand or on our tongue is such a gift that it must be reflected on before we walk out the doors. We really should not receive Communion and walk out without any reflection. After reflecting for a couple of minutes then we can make the decision to leave if it is necessary. This is the real practice of patience by being patient with God.

Time is a gift from God, it is not guaranteed, it is not expected it is all gift. May our attitude about waiting for good things never stress us but allow us to be open to the joys of life.
Peace in Christ,

Fr. Eric

First Down – Week of April 3

Dear Friends,

Since arriving in July 1995 this Easter marks my 20th with the parish family. One would think after 20 tries that we would have it all down. For the most part we have had outstanding Easter celebrations and have met the challenges that have come along. I am grateful that we have been blessed with another great Easter.

Of course it takes many people to make this all happen, and for some there is really very little knowledge of what goes into making Easter happen at our parish. A special thanks goes out to our entire Maintenance crew which year after year go way beyond their normal roles to have Easter flow wonderfully. We are blessed with the best crew in the State, and that is a fact. They buy into our vision of hard work, hospitality and more importantly they know they are part of our family. I want to acknowledge the hard work of our parish staff, starting with those who worked in preparing for our liturgies, ministering during the liturgies and working to help prepare the entire campus for this busy time. Countless meetings and communication, makes us realize St Patrick is not just a small country parish rather it is a big operation to meet the needs of the many. For staff people who sacrificed their family time, what can I say except thank you for knowing that our role here calls for us to be present and not forgetting that their families share in that sacrifice so others may be served.

To all the parishioners who practiced, set up, prepared, served and welcomed during our entire Lent/Holy Week and Easter, my heartfelt thanks to all of you, too numerous to mention. Please remember you are NOT Volunteers, for that is not the best name to use, rather thank you Ministers. Ministry by the parishioners is never an option, it is our baptismal duty, and for those parishioners who understand that and served, thank you. You have my respect for your willingness to recognize and answer your call.

And to all parishioners who practiced true authentic hospitality to anyone who came last weekend, I am so grateful that your Christ like actions were shown to those who are here often and to those who visited. We never know how people will be touched by our acts of kindness.

So my 20th Easter Day has been completed and there is much to reflect on, to review and to continue to celebrate Easter for the next six weeks. While many of you will move on to the next event in life, our staff along with myself will start to prepare for another Easter, and I look forward to as many Easter’s as possible with you, but that’s in God’s hands, not mine. Again thank you to everyone.

Peace inChrist,

Fr.Eric

First Down – Week of March 20th

Dear Friends,

It is interesting that when Jesus was made to suffer and was sent to his death by crucifixion, it most likely was an event that many did not even pay attention to. In other words, on the street, it was business as usual. Many people did not stop and say, “Oh look, there goes our Savior dying

for our sins”. It was just another person being put to death by the authorities, and business continued on.

Some 2,000 years later, as this saving event happened so long ago, Christians can almost have the same kind of experience in their own lives. We become so busy with life’s activities that we skip the events that lead us to that great time of Easter. The saving deeds included suffering, fear, drama, torture and death; all things that Christians have said for centuries are the acts of salvation.

I invite all who claim the name of Christ to be sure that some part of this week becomes different than any other week of the year. Either by attending one service on our calendar during Holy Week and/ or setting time with family or personal time to reflect on what Jesus did. These things are meant to be pondered and reflected on.

One final thought is as we prepare for our wonderful Easter celebrations that we will have many guests and others who make it their priority to attend at Easter. I know this pleases God, and to meet people where they are at, is most Christ-like. Let our mindset be one of welcome, patience, mercy, hope and joy. So many people say their faith journey was enhanced by other Christians who were kind, welcoming, helpful and friendly. It is important to note that we really may never fully know how our attitude and kindness made a difference in people taking that next step on their faith journey.

The Pastor sets the tone for the whole community. Welcome, Hospitality, Come to the Table, Good to see you here with us. Play your strengths in life to please God. When the Pastor is committed to such ways, so can the people of this community make this happen.

Peace in Christ,
Fr. Eric

First Down – Week of March 13th

Dear Friends,

Over the years that I have watched news and information programs, many times I have seen great reports on how a number of business companies offer support to its employees. Reports on self-improvements, work sharing and addressing issues at home or personal issues, to get the most out of their employees. The reports usually quote employees about how they like the work

programs and the outreach or the self-improvement programs to become healthier. I always wondered if these activities and projects were so good and well

liked, why other companies aren’t catching on.

I have found that for some it must be a committed effort to make these things happen and for others it is deemed as not essential to help support their employees. For many in the work force we become so overloaded and made to feel that all our time needs to go in to being productive, and then when trying to keep the home life going, it is simply too overwhelming. When does one find the time to reflect, refresh and refocus their views of life?

It might be through vacation, maybe making better choices of deciding what is really important, or stepping back to go to our favorite place with a retreat attitude. Some businesses do this well, while others do not. Yet when businesses really care about its people it really makes a difference.

Our faith community offers its people a way to reflect, recharge our lives and refocus our priorities, it is called HOLY WEEK. While our world keeps getting busier, Jesus is reminding us to remember why He came, what He did for all of us and what really matters in the end.

Beginning March 24 through the 27, Christians throughout the world enter into the holiest time of year, ‘The remembrance of the saving deeds of Jesus Christ for all humanity’. We begin with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Thursday the 24 along with the foot washing and Adoration after mass until midnight. Good Friday remembers the death of Jesus with Stations of the Cross at noon and the service in the evening. Saturday is the Easter Vigil welcoming the new members into full communion with the Church and of course the Easter masses on Easter day.

As good businesses offer good opportunities to its employees they value, so does our faith community. We offer an opportunity to remember all that God has done to help us refocus on what truly matters, to know true freedom from God and to renew our faith. I hope everyone can try to make some time during these upcoming holy days to remember how much God, our true boss, really values us all.

Peace in Christ,
Fr. Eric

First Down – Week of February 28

Dear Friends,

Next month our Lenten season will take all of us down the path of recalling the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus. I hope that each year we can gain a different insight into how and why Jesus was put to death. Whatever insight we might

gain does have a profound way of touching our view of the world right at this moment. We know through scriptures that Jesus did many good things for people and he spoke truth to people of power.

It is difficult to miss the mission that Jesus had in preaching to the poor. In fact at the beginning of this year, we all heard the mission of Jesus quoting the prophet Isaiah to bring glad tidings to the poor. For two thousand years many Christians have really glanced over that part of Jesus mission. One thing we know for sure is that if what Jesus preached as good news is not good news to the poor, then it is not good news.

There were people who through their own lenses saw Jesus as dangerous. The Roman authority went to great extremes to crush any hint of problems. Those in power over the poor had to hear Jesus challenge their mistreatment of the poor and their taking advantage of them. Rather than hearing the words of Jesus as good news they heard a political idea that was not in their favor. We all know that Jesus was innocent, yet put to death. And yes, his words were a threat to some.

Peace in Christ, Fr. Eric

First Down – Week of February 21

Dear Friends,

For many of our Christian brothers and sisters there is a constant call to be generous in giving financial resources to do their work of ministry. The expectation of many Christian denominations is that money will be talked about, following the biblical call for tithing. Many surveys show that other Christian community members are very generous in giving

financially to their communities. When some of these Christians join our Catholic family they continue their generous giving. The same data unfortunately shows that in many Christian Communities, Catholics are the people who give the least.

There are many reasons why, yet it does not remove the call to ask Christian Disciples in Mission to share their bounty that has come from God. There can be a misconception that money talks should not be given. Yet one only needs to look closely at the life of Jesus who depended on the generous giving of the people. There are actual names of men and women in the scriptures who gave money to Jesus for his mission. To feed his group, to give to those in need, for his travel and all things needed to meet the basic human needs.

St. Paul talked about people giving him money for his mission and collecting money for needy communities that were established. Paul gave gratitude for the people giving generously. Our parish community today relies on the generosity of its family members to help meet the needs of our mission in preaching the Gospel and caring for those in need. I am grateful for those who take seriously the call to be generous. Without your willingness to give we could not do what God has asked of us. Yet in all honesty there are a significant number of parishioners that give very little or nothing at all. Our weekly giving has not reached the pre-recession levels, even though a significant number of people do have the ability to be generous in their giving to this community.

This Sunday is Commitment Sunday, an opportunity to remind all parishioners the need to give, to help us continue our mission to bring Christ into the world. Does St. Patrick Community bear any fruit in the world? Does what we do at St. Patrick make any difference to people? Why then do so many people come to us looking for Christ, support, help, comfort, direction, prayers, communion, sacraments, forgiveness, hope and the teachings of Christ. There is so much we offer through God’s grace and yet so many give so little or nothing at all.

I invite everyone to help change some of the data that shows that Catholics give the least of all Christian denominations. We can begin in our community, as all that we do can only be done through generous giving. As Jesus, St. Paul and many others in scriptures depended on generous gifts, so do we.

Peace in Christ, Fr. Eric

First Down – Week of February 14

Dear Friends,

The teachings of Jesus in the Gospels on marriage can be difficult to fully understand exactly how we are to live it in our lives. Jesus does speak on marriage and what the early community struggled with regarding divorce. When two people become a Sacrament in our Catholic faith, the priest

who is a witness along with those present assume that the marriage taking place is valid, spiritually. This means that two people enter the union freely, a quality of consent that is good and that both people can carry out the expectations of a valid marriage.

When divorce happens, anyone has the right to petition for an annulment. In other words, no one can say beforehand you have no case or no chance for an annulment. An annulment means something spiritually was missing from the relationship prior to the wedding. It does not mean children become illegitimate, and an annulment does not say that the relationship did not happen. It seeks to look closely at the relationship since we believe all marriages are sacramentally valid until otherwise shown through a process. This can all be hard to understand during such a painful time. Mercy needs to be the challenge of the Church in trying to follow what Jesus wanted for marriage and be merciful when couples find their relationship has been broken.

Bishop Thomas Olmsted has decided that the Diocese of Phoenix Tribunal, which oversees such annulment cases and other marriage situations, will now provide the annulment service free of charge. In other words, no one will be asked for money to help offset some of the costs of providing this service. Pope Francis has in the past expressed a desire that the Church not ask for a fee for such services and our Bishop has decided that our Diocese will no longer ask for a fee. What good news for many people.

During this year of Mercy, asked for by Pope Francis, this is an important step to reach out to those who find themselves in need of an annulment. I personally see the need for an annulment for many reasons. The other side of the coin is that the process takes way too long, and this saddens me, but I have no control over the process. This may not be the best day to share this news with you on Valentine’s Day, yet I think it is. Anytime the Church can take steps to comfort those who want to love again, to protect the marriages of those already married by reminding us of the beauty of that great sacrament, I see this as healing and hopeful. I am so grateful to Bishop Olmsted for making the decision for no charge for annulments. May this merciful step go even further in being just as merciful as our Merciful Father.

Peace in Christ, Fr. Eric

First Down – Week of February 7

Dear Friends,

We begin another Lenten season this week. People know that Ash Wednesday is a big deal as ashes are distributed. This allows people to have an outward sign showing they want to follow God as well as reminding others that Lent has begun. Traditionally Fridays have been days of self-sacrifice and penance. Businesses know that on Fridays in Lent

increased amounts of fish and other non-red meat items will be sold and they plan accordingly. Most people know that Catholics do not eat meat on Fridays during Lent, except the Catholics! Giving up meat is a small way we can share in Jesus’ mission to give up things that are not as important to God and take on things that are very important to him. Catholics sometimes choose a different item to give up/offer up. Another way Catholics honor this tradition during Lent is to take on new things which help our spiritual outlook.

We are reminded that Lent does not stand alone, meaning that it is all about giving up things or making ourselves uncomfortable for six weeks. All our Lenten practices lead us to prepare to celebrate the great season of Easter, which lasts for seven weeks! Lent helps us remove things from our lives that keep us from experiencing fully the Easter mystery.

I look forward to seeing many people come to the church on Wednesday, as it’s always nice to see people on days other than just Sundays. This is a wonderful outward sign of our journey to renew our lives during this holy season of Lent. Also, every parishioner will be receiving a magazine that covers our theme of Mercy for Lent and for the entire year. It provides a great resource in understanding what mercy really is and how we can practice mercy in our daily lives and relationships.

We also want to keep in prayer all the adults and families that are in our Initiation process. These adults and family members have been on a journey to prepare for full communion with our Catholic family. On the first Sunday of Lent they will become the elect and will examine closely their commitment prior to being fully initiated at our Easter Vigil Mass.

May our merciful God show us the way to Easter this Lenten season.

Heavenly Hint:

Peace in Christ,
Fr. Eric

First Down – Week of January 31

Dear Friends,

The season of Lent comes very early this year as we begin on February 10 with Ash Wednesday. There have been Lent seasons that I have really looked forward to especially when I feel the need to renew my life, examine what needs to change or take a different approach to my life. At the same time there have been other Lent seasons that I have not been very open to challenge, conversion or stopping my rhythm in life because my heart was not open to reflection or renewal.

Believe it or not Lent can be the most important and wonderful journey in our spiritual lives. When one is open to new possibilities, open to renewing our outlook on ourselves and life and ready to be challenged to change behaviors, it can be the most moving time in our lives. Yet when we approach Lent as simply a season to give something up and do not take time to reflect on what really needs to change in our lives, then Lent simply becomes a time that we were miserable for giving up something for six weeks.

I find it interesting that when we are challenged to relook at our “sacred items,” meaning those things we have determine should never change or be questioned, it sends a clear message that something needs to change. When one is offended by someone suggesting that systems, ideas, laws, behaviors, relationships might be approached differently, it can send people’s blood pressure rising. In other words, it has been determined there is no openness for discussion or looking at a shadow side of something we love or admire.

What are the “sacred items” in our lives that we dare not look at or see differently? It does not necessarily mean what we hold dear is totally wrong, but it might mean it is time to change our attitude or insights into life, people or systems.

This Lent find the sacred item that needs to be renewed with a different outlook. Maybe our pride of not wanting to be wrong, our stubbornness in making other people wrong and our need to be right can all change. Maybe can change our way of thinking when it is placed ahead of the Gospel of Jesus or rules our life and is not so much God.
This just might be the Lent that everyone will look forward to with a desire to know that whatever we are willing to question will in the end draw us closer to the truth.

Peace in Christ,
Fr. Eric

First Down – Week of January 24

Dear Friends,

Our faith is God is a constant call to care for those who are weak, powerless, defenseless and forgotten. It is really not an easy call. At times people who answer the call to help those who need assistance are seen as people who just want to make others happy or to relieve their guilt for having blessings that others may not have. Why is there resistance from others when one simply wants to protect and defend those who need protection? That is the important question for me. One may like to watch movies or hear stories of people helping others to overcome the odds and resistance, yet when it comes to real life situations there often is a different attitude. Trying to listen to what God wants us to do in helping others is not always easy, in fact we may encounter anger and even hate.

Our humanity sees every person born as vulnerable and so dependent that without protection, the newborn would surely die. That is a stark reality. The newborn is at the mercy of parents who either love and care for them or neglect, abuse and do not want them. Newborns are helpless and need the love of all humanity.

As our thoughts again this January turn towards the abortion issue, it is an important reminder that in our desire to ensure the unborn are seen as gifts from our loving God, we will experience some anger, resentment and ridicule from people who do not see what we see. The unborn are defenseless human beings. I find it interesting that if abortion was a nice clean painless procedure where no one gets hurt, it should be out in the open and shown for everyone to see. Yet no one really wants to see the aftermath of an abortion. It is unbelievable that a human life is terminated is such a sad and gory way.

So everyone must seek to understand what God really wants from us in speaking on behalf of those who have no voice, no power or no control over what happens to them. It might begin with the unborn but it should extend to everyone in all stages of life. It is our call to speak out on: protection of children, care for adults who are ill and disabled, care for the elderly whose minds have weakened and care for those whose health cannot be improved because of unbelievable costs.
What is it when our desire is to protect the least and vulnerable as God wants us to, yet we are met with anger and resistance? I think we all have some kind of answer but what is God telling us to do?