Nan Hillebrand shares her testimony with the women of St. Patrick at the Women’s Prayer Breakfast.
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.”
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.
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.
Recalculating – A Christmas Story
Read below or use the player above to hear the story of Zadkiel and Aniel. As angels in the Heavenly Hosts Choir, they were very excited to be heading to earth tonight for this performance of a lifetime, a performance announcing the birth of the greatest king ever!
Written By: Dr. John Konicek
Read By: Torri Winn
Music: Arrangement of “Silent Night” by Rocky Searan from his album “Synthetic Christmas.” Used with permission.
Recorded By: Michelle Harvey
Edited By: Adam G. Stein
Go Beyond the story…
Fr. Eric & Kevin McGloin will be hosting a special evening event that is open to anyone looking to reconnect with their faith. Have you taken a different path? Do you hear that voice, like your GPS, saying, “Recalculating?” Then join us for one of these two evenings.
Wednesday, January 9 or Monday, January 14
7:00 pm in the Daily Mass Chapel
Christmas Angels Take a Turn for the Worst
Zadkiel and Aniel had been practicing their music for generations. Aniel excelled at memorizing her lines for the soprano part, whereas Zadkiel had a remarkable range as a tenor. As angels in the Heavenly Hosts Choir, they were very excited to be heading to earth tonight for this performance of a lifetime, a performance announcing the birth of the greatest king ever. The lead angel [who went by his professional title, Angel of the Lord] had kept the exact location of the performance under wraps, but Zadkiel and Aniel had speculated that the announcement would be made to people who were really powerful and profoundly influential. Zadkiel was certain that the prominent Temple Priests would need to be the first to hear the important news. It was a jewish baby being born after all. Aniel insisted that the proclamation should go right to the top, to the Roman emperor. Not the nicest of persons, but none had more power than he did.
The signal came to head out. Zadkiel and Aniel as section leaders were equipped with a GPS [Gloria Positioning System]. Zadkiel confident of what he thought would be the stopping place entered the location for the Temple. Aniel, just as certain for her prediction, entered “Rome.” However, as they got closer to earth, the Angel of the Lord texted the actual coordinates. The voice on Zadkiel’s and Aniel’s GPS cried out, “Recalculating! Recalculating!” How could they both be wrong? Dismayed, they followed the directional arrow to the final destination, but it was a field with sheep and shepherds. Both Zadkiel and Aniel tapped their screens, hoping to correct the obviously bad connection. This was the wrong place with the wrong people. Shepherds were undesirables, unclean and living outside the city where dirty people belonged. They often illegally grazed their flocks on land that didn’t belong to them. And their animals were involved in a financial scheme with the Temple priests that charged high prices for exclusive sacrifices to God.
Surely they must have taken a wrong turn. Then the Angel of the Lord spoke directly to the shepherds, announcing good news of great joy for all the people. Born this day is a Savior, the Messiah, the Lord. The Heavenly Hosts Choir on cue launched into a song of praise. “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” It wasn’t a wrong turn after all. These lowly ones understood the meaning of the message and immediately spread that message to others, the message of how the earth would be forever set in motion for God’s new direction for humanity. Where God is leading us is the way of embrace for the lost and the lowly, the downtrodden and the abandoned, the discarded and the dirty. God’s saving love finds us where we often don’t think it can exist. This Christmas, how will you let the Angel of the Lord recalculate where God is found in your life, especially in the places you would never expect?
For the Love of Kids: Living the Beatitudes
The Beatitudes are the teaching of Jesus from his Sermon on the Mount, Mathew 5:1-10. In our ministry we see the light of Jesus in every interaction we have with the children of God. If you have not read any of our prior blogs, the For the Love of Kids Ministry works with children in group home foster care. We minister to them at least once a week, showing love and compassion through games, classes, projects, outings and retreats. We have 30 girls in three group homes ranging in age from 13 – 19 years old. When they age out, or have to leave the homes, we try to maintain contact and offer support, but sadly that usually doesn’t come to a happy ending. Less than 25% of kids in group home foster care graduate from high school, even fewer utilize the systems in place to assist them in any advanced or technical educational programs. Thus, sad to say that most will end up on the streets or in jail. We have over 20 wonderful volunteer ministers within our ministry, But we need more, with more we can do more, we can help more. You could easily affect change in a child’s life forever with just a smile, a kind hello or words of encouragement.
BLESSED ARE THE POOR IN SPIRIT, FOR THEIRS IS THE KINDOM OF HEAVEN
Blessed are the poor in spirit, or we could say blessed are the burdened, the downtrodden. This is a story of a wonderful young lady we met just before her 15th birthday. Amaigh had a look in her eye, a forlorn look, distant, not believing that anyone could help. That September she wanted to join the junior police force in Phoenix. She needed a ride to the initial sign up meeting so we took her, twice. She aced the testing but could never get all her paperwork together. The school let her down, they didn’t have all her records. The house mom said it would be too hard to get her there every Saturday. She was very defeated, again.
The more time we spent with Amaigh the more she opened up about her past. Bouncing from family member to foster care, back to family, only to be rejected again and sent back to foster care. Now she felt too old for any family to want her, almost 15.
On her 15th birthday she told me “Wow, I didn’t think I would make it to be 15.” This wasn’t the first time I heard this kind of statement from a child, but it never makes it any easier to hear. The feeling that they don’t have a future, and no sense of belonging is what leads so many children down the road to alcohol, drugs, and babies making babies.
Amaigh now 18 has been an integral part of the atmosphere of the home, the leader. Her calming presence is felt by everyone who lives or visits the home. She has taken part in 4 Teen Life Retreats, she has spilled her guts to the world in an effort to help others realize the pitfalls of her life have made her stronger. She has this pride, a power about her “I am going to make it”.
Amaigh will graduate this year from high school at the top of her class. She is so excited to see the future ahead of her. Already accepted into NAU, UA, but she will be attending her true first choice ASU to study Forensic Science. We are so proud of her, she has come so far, such a bright future.
Her future sure will be the Kingdom of Heaven, as long as we are by her side she has a chance. Can you imagine your children with out support or guidance at 18? We will be there.
BLESSED ARE THE MERCIFUL, FOR THEY WILL BE SHOWN MERCY
I say we because there is a collective we, 20+ ministers who give tirelessly to this amazing cause. They are the Merciful. They give of themselves, their time and their treasure for the children. An enormous thank you to all our volunteers, their dedication is amazing. One of the most Merciful of women is now an angel watching over the children now. Priscilla gave of herself more than anyone could have thought possible. The children were so moved by her. They truly loved when she was with them, their smiles would grow and her kindness would flow out in immeasurable ways. Thank you to all who help make this ministry happen, to Laurie with her unwavering dedication, she leads the charge daily. Blessed are these women and men for they are the Merciful, for they will be shown Mercy.
We will not let go of Amaigh, we will not leave her side.
We are here for the long haul and we will not go away.
That is what For the Love of Kids Ministry is about; helping with love in any way we can.
Bishop Olmsted has heard from many in the Diocese about how the current scandals surrounding the Church have affected you, and now he would like to hear from all of you. The Diocese of Phoenix has built a new website and invites everyone to take a few minutes to share your thoughts. Bishop Olmsted will review your responses and share the information with his brother Bishops. Click here to visit the website and use the player below to watch a message from Bishop Olmsted.
2 COR 8:7, 9, 13-15
Brothers and sisters:
As you excel in every respect, in faith, discourse,
knowledge, all earnestness, and in the love we have for you,
may you excel in this gracious act also.
For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that though he was rich, for your sake he became poor,
so that by his poverty you might become rich.
Not that others should have relief while you are burdened,
but that as a matter of equality
your abundance at the present time should supply their needs,
so that their abundance may also supply your needs,
that there may be equality.
As it is written:
Whoever had much did not have more,
and whoever had little did not have less.
In our very first blog we told the story of a strong yet troubled child, today we would like to update the story. We will start with a paragraph from the original story…
I have to share one of the girls life story with you. She is 15, smart, beautiful, but has a troubled soul. Her story begins in Ukraine where she spent the first 5 years of her life in an orphanage, so no one loved her for the first 5 years. She was to be adopted by an American couple from Arizona! Hooray! A family to love her! But as she grows she has nightmares and bouts of depression. There are days when she doesn’t want to talk, to be “normal”. By the age of 10 her “parents” have had enough of her and decide to drop her off at the mental hospital (her words). She then bounced around from institution to institution for about a year and a half before landing in the foster care system. She was 11 and abandoned again. Eventually when she was 13, the state convinced her adopted parents that she was all better and they should take her back, which they did for a short time. “They didn’t even tell me it was for me, they said dad had a doctor’s appointment, then they left me there again”…She was 14. Today she is 15, in a group home and would like to graduate high school early and go to college to be a forensic pathologist.
Fast forward to January of 2018, “Ey” GRADUATED HIGHSCHOOL! A year and a half early! She was able to leave the group home and move in with a foster family shortly after graduation. She did this while working, sometimes 2 jobs, going to school during the day along with night classes and the personal support of our ministers. It was not always fun and roses, along the way there were many bumps in the road. At times her drive and determination clashed with her need to be a “normal” teenage kid. She numbed her mind at times with drugs, one time it ended with her in the hospital. Silly mistakes for which she was so apologetic, when we went to see her on her release from the hospital. “EY” said “I know it was stupid, I’m sorry for making you worry.” We just hugged and told her we care, so please not again. There was no repeat of the drug induces foolhardy behavior, as far as we know. Since January we have not seen or spoken with “EY”.
A week ago my wife and I were exiting a movie theater passing the popcorn stand heading for the exit when we heard someone calling, “Laurie!”. We turned to see a young lady running out from behind the counter toward us, it was “EY”. She gave my wife the biggest of hugs so very excited to see us. She caught us up on her life and her future plans, she is planning to attend a community college in the fall to take her basics so she can move on to ASU to major in medicine. She is back to working two jobs and is happy as a lark with her ever present larger than life smile.
After we gave our good bye hugs and headed out my brother and sister-in-law came over to us. They had walked away during the visit, and they went on and on about the chance encounter. They knew we worked with foster kids but were amazed by the impact that this ministry has had on that child’s life. Our ministry is impacting children in the foster care system on a daily basis and it is so rewarding to see the fruits of our labor. We usually measure our successes in tiny droplets of love and compassion; it is not often that we see a bucket full.
This is a very powerful ministry; we are in their space, impacting their lives. Do you have space in your heart to help out with one visit a month? Do you have an hour and a half to make a difference in the lives of teenage girls? If so please contact us for further information.
“For the Love of Kids” a St. Patrick ministry | Laurie Wheeler 602-499-1928 | fortheloveofkidsministry(Replace this parenthesis with the @ sign)gmail.com
Once again the St. Patrick Catholic Community has generated love that is beyond measure – however, there was a bit of measuring that went on. The 2018 Water Drive collected bottles and funding that produced 364,296 bottles of water! Thank you for your generosity. That water was shared between local agencies and will provide relief to many in need.
The generosity of the St. Patrick community was enhanced by larger community partners including the Safeway on Pinnacle Peak and Scottsdale Road – who gave a fabulous price on cases of water, Ajo Al’s on 90th St. – who donated one dollar per specialty water drink through the month of June and Company Nurse in Scottsdale who did an office collection with company match. Way to showcase Living Beyond Sunday!
And yet, Arizona continues to set records for heat related deaths. The excerpts below come from the article cited. If you are able to take a moment to read the article you will find interesting information about why the temps keep climbing, obstacles that people face in trying to stay cool and hydrated, ideas the city is contemplating to remedy the situation and how your donations are wonderfully assisting. The article shows the two feet of social justice – charity and justice. Also, included below is a link to the Maricopa Association of Government (MAG) website which lists the hydration and collection station information. Maybe during the remaining hotter months you might consider dropping off a case or two of water at one of the locations.
“The threat has grown all too real. In 2016, 150 people in metro Phoenix died of heat-related causes, the largest annual number since agencies started counting. So many deaths from one apparent cause would count as a natural disaster if they occurred all at once.”
“Many of its victims live in poorer neighborhoods that lack shade and cooling grasses. Some, lacking the money for an air-conditioner, have only old-style evaporative coolers, or no home cooling at all. Others have air-conditioners but not the cash to pay hundreds of dollars a month to run them in summer.”
“Maricopa County has tracked heat-related deaths for about a decade, and the numbers have risen sharply in recent years until 2016’s peak at 150. In 2017 the final figures may climb even higher. So far, the county has either confirmed or is investigating 183 suspected heat deaths.”
In closing, thank you again to all who led the drive, worked the drive, donated to the drive, and supported the mission of St. Patrick Catholic Community. You have all made a difference for others… let’s continue it and be Christian Disciples in Mission who are Living Beyond Sunday!
spending money or resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant.
having or giving something on a lavish scale.
Everyone knows the story of the prodigal son who asks for his inheritance, and after wasting it he went crawling back to his father, who then welcomes him home. Is this a story about the over indulgent son, or of a father’s unconditional love for his child?
I have been toiling over this blog for a while now. Not knowing where it was going gave me great pains. The truth is, it is a story without an ending; it is a tale that, unfortunately, I hear and see all too often.
This tale started about a year and a half ago when we met a young lady hardened by street life. “M” was smart and witty in a sassy way that I find very endearing. She had been on her own for several years, now at 16 about to be 17, she felt she needed to turn herself in to CPS to gain some support and financial assistance. “M” had attended school sporadically throughout her life, so graduating from high school was not really an option for her; she spoke of possibly trying for her GED. “M” had this tough guy attitude, but she always had someone under her wing: she was a protector of the weak within the house. Motherly would be the word used to describe her. “M” grew up with a drug addicted mother and 2 young siblings. This, I believe, is why she protects and mothers the weak.
The turning point of her opening up and trusting us came when one of the ladies from our ministry set up a day long retreat here at St Patrick’s for the girls from the homes. The retreat was led by our wonderful ministers from Life Teen. I was a bit apprehensive about it but it turned out amazingly well. Shortly after the day retreat, “M “and two other girls attended a full Life Teen retreat. When we picked them up after the Sunday night Mass it was obvious that each of the girls experienced the touch of God’s grace. It was wonderful to hear them discuss their experiences with us over dinner that night.
That spring is when “M” moved into an independent living program. She got a job with a painting company and was signed up for her GED class. Life was good for her, she seemed very happy, and for the first time there was excitement in her voice. Then she stopped calling. Our texts were unanswered. We went by the place where she lived only to find out that she had up and left and no one had any idea where she had gone off to. Her phone was off, no service, and she was gone.
On a Monday night in January, our phone rang. It was “M”. She said she was not in a safe place and needed to find a place to stay, that she was afraid. Homeless, no job, no clothes other than what she had on, she was asking for help. We helped her look for services, we made calls to all the shelters only to find out what she already knew: there was no space available for her anywhere. Thankfully, her cousin took her in; she could sleep there but had to leave during the day. On Saturday we met with her to bring her some donated clothes and take her out for a big breakfast; she was emaciated, a sliver of her former self.
Over breakfast, “M” filled us in on what she could remember of her missing months. She had moved in with her mother because “mom said she would take care of me”. Only, she fell into the same darkness her mother has been in for her adult life, the comfort of drugs. When the drugs were too much she moved in with a guy 15+ years her senior, only to be bounced out again. “M” had several stints in various jails for things “that were not my fault”. All of that aside, she wanted to get clean, get back into the assistance program for foster youth, and get a job. She said all the right things, and all she was asking was for someone to listen, to be there for support.
We took her to Walmart to purchase an outfit that she could wear to a job interview. We dropped her back at the apartment complex and after long hugs we watched this emaciated young woman with a bag of clothes and a bigger bag of leftovers disappear into the maze of buildings. We met with “M” several times over the following weeks until she disappeared again for a week or so. When we finally saw her, she was wearing an ankle monitor. She had been arrested again. “M” told us she couldn’t go look for a job now because everyone just sees her monitor and would never hire her. It was quite large. Back to Walmart to buy pants that would cover it and hopefully give her the confidence to go get a job. Back at the apartment complex there were lots of hugs, and smiles… You see, she was going for an interview the next day. “I will call you and let you know how it went”.
That was the last time we saw “M”. She is a lost child, not yet 19. Has she been arrested, gone to jail? Is she safe? Has she gone back into the darkness that enveloped her soul?
We will wait by the phone, watch the road that leads her back, waiting to see her crazy hair and distinct gait as she strolls toward us. We will welcome her back as we will welcome all of the lost children.
We are here for the long haul and we will not go away.
That is what the For the Love of Kids Ministry is about; helping with love in any way we can.
Joel Stepanek, Director of Resource Development for LIFE TEEN, speaker, and author, joined the men gathered at St. Patrick Catholic Community’s Men’s Mass & Breakfast on March 10, 2018. He shares some practical insights on living a life of faith using Ignatian spirituality.