Monday, August 15, 2011

Happy Feast of the Assumption!

Happy Feast of the Assumption everyone!



Today the Church celebrates a great miracle in the life of Mary--her being assumed into heaven. She stands as the hope for all the world--that we too may be assumed, body and soul, into heaven when Jesus comes again. Most people reading this probably are thinking, "Say what?"

Here is an article I came across today which does well to explain this special day...this special reality. WHAT IS THE "ASSUMPTION?"

Tomorrow I will be heading down to Orange Beach, AL for the week for the Annual Seminarian Gathering (see August 18, 2010 post for Last Year's Gathering). So this will probably be my last post until after next Monday. This is the one time of the year when all of the Seminarians from the Archdiocese get together. It is a great time to build fraternity amongst the guys, especially since we are all scattered around in different seminaries. Archbishop Rodi, the Vocations Directors, and the Chancellor will spend the week with us. Please pray that we have good weather and times this week.

Before I head down, I thought I would share some shots of things over this past week.

On my way to make a couple home visits...



On Friday, I was able to meet with a good friend of mine from Furman University--where I went to College. We hadn't seen each other in 4 years, so we thought we would meet at one of the nicest restaurants in the Wiregrass---Pizza Hut! Hahaha! I decided to capture the first encounter.

video


Patrick lives Mobile now and I am in Enterprise...so after some careful calculations...we deduced that Evergreen, AL was right in the middle. So we met right there for the afternoon at their local Pizza Hut. It was so refreshing to meet up with an old friend. Amazing how you can pick right back up where you left off. Shared some great times together in Greenville and really got to know one another over a 2 month Study Abroad Program in Chile back in 2006.

Here we are doing a little PR for the faithful Hut. We are really trying to highlight their "Cheesy Bites" and "Pepsi" while showcasing their ever-fresh salad bar just to our rear. Thanks to the Pizza Hut staff for letting us sit in their Hut for about 4 hours and for this photographic magic.



Driving back to Enterprise, I passed through Andalusia, AL. As I hit the main intersection...I ran into one of my past loves--Hawaaiin Shaved Ice! I used to make a DAILY pilgrimage to Sno Biz in high school. Seeing it, I just had to pay my respects.

As refreshing as the flavored shaved ice, was the chance to rub elbows with some locals. I struck up a convo with one kid and his Dad while waiting in line. I loved the way the kid introduced himself to me, "Hi! I'm in sixth grade and I play the drums!"

His comment made me chuckle as I witnessed in him the peaceful simplicity and enjoyment of a youth in a small town.


Saturday Night, I joined with the Guatemalan Prayer Group for probably the last time. Again they prayed for over 3 hours! Their fervor and devotion to prayer is one of the many treasures I hope to carry with me from Enterprise. They really made we felt welcome each time I joined them for prayer and praise. This past night they really offered some special prayers for me as I head back to seminary shortly. Thank God for them and for their special gift of prayer.


Well, again, Happy Feast Day!

May the peace that surpasses all understanding come more fully into your lives this day and every day.

Amen.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Funeral Tuesday in Mobile

On Tuesday, I woke up early in the morning to serve at the Funeral Mass of Father Ernie Hyndman.

The sun was just finishing its rising when I was heading out. Made for a serene start to the day.





The first half of the drive was very beautiful as I rolled through small towns and farm land. Here was a little Country Store I passed by on the way.



Father Ernie grew up in Mobile graduating high school from McGill-Toolen and college from Spring Hill College with a degree in English.



Father Ernie is remembered for having a great sense of humor, being a die-hard LSU fan, and being a friend and Father to everyone in his midst.



Strangely and sadly, last week, Father Ernie took his own life.

A wave of grief swept through lower Alabama.

How? Why? Can this be true?

In the past week, many have wrestled to understand how such a young and lighthearted Priest could take his own life.

It is impossible to understand--the darkness one is facing when they come to that decision in life.

Only now, do many realize that Fr. Ernie had been battling depression for several years.

It is not for us to judge.

God alone sees into the heart. He alone can judge. His mercy alone can heal.

It was this kind of spirit that drew everyone together in Mobile.

The response of love and prayer for Fr. Ernie and his family was overwhelming. The Cathedral was packed. People were standing all along the back. Over 30 priests attended. Around 15 of us seminarians were able to be present as well. It was a sobering experience.

In the face of such a mysterious darkness, I found a newfound thankfulness for being part of the Christian body. To not have to face such darkness alone, felt so powerful. To be able to come together and kneel before the mystery of life and cry out to a God who is Beauty, Love, Goodness, and Truth and trust him with all that exceeds, boggles, and transcends the mind and heart. To be able to pray for Father Enrie with his family, with all the angels, the saints, with all his friends, and all gathered there that day...was a beautiful thing. To shower him with our prayers...to place him in the hands of a Merciful and Loving God. Faith become almost tangible in moment like that.

It was great to be with the other seminarians as well. Here are a couple shots of us getting ready for the Mass in the Sacristy. Even in such a dark hour, it was a gift to be able to be with these, my brothers and share the experience. Even find a way to make one another laugh in the midst of it all.




Fr. Paul Zoghby, one of Fr. Ernie's closest friends, gave the homily at the funeral. His words were great, challenging everyone to realize that it was not helpful to obsess over the question "What If I would have?" at this point. Rather, we gather together to remember the ways in which Fr. Ernie brought the love of Christ into our lives and to pray for him...commending him to our Good and Merciful God. He even told a Budro joke (revolving around a Cajun guy named Budro) which Father Ernie was famous for routinely telling to his congregation. Even more than his words...it was a powerful thing to see his best friend find the courage to stand before a crowd of witnesses and say Goodbye.

After the Funeral Mass, we all caravanned over to the old Catholic Cemetery for the graveside ceremony.


You could almost feel the sacredness of the cemetery. As we drove in, we passed several graves over 150 years old. It was humbling to pass through the midst of so many lives that have past before our own....knowing that we too will join them one day...

This one funeral marker made a particular impression on me. The Angel looking so confidently and steadily over the cemetery gave me a certain sense of peace and security.




Too, it was great to run into some of my good friends from Seminary...who are now Mobile's newest priests! It was my first time to see Fr. Travis and Fr. Stephen since there ordination in June.


(Left to Right) Fr. Stephen Vrazel (Ordained June 2011), Me, Fr. Fred Boni (Ordained June 2010), Fr. David Shoemaker (Ordained July 2000), Fr. Travis Burnett (Ordained June 2011)

This picture above may be entitled: "Veterans of Summer Assignments in Eufaula with Fr. Snowmaker." Each of us spent a summer under the care of Fr. David. Thanks for putting up with us over the years, for all the hilarious memories, and priestly example.

The New Priests being "pastoral"

Ca is one of our seminarians from North Vietnam. The guy has a great sense of humor and always sports a smile. Archbishop Rodi passed his crosier to Ca to take care of it. He is smiling because he had just figured out how to unscrew it into two pieces.

Left is Matthew Stillwell, one of our newest seminarians. He will finish his Masters degree this fall and begin his seminary studies in the Spring. Right with the shades is Chris Boutin, going into his second year of seminary, reigning from Prattville, AL. With those shades, I guess Chris was hoping to catch some bass or field some grounders after the graveside service. hahaha.

It was a day of mixed emotions, experiences, and prayers. All of which reminded me to be thankful for my faith...without which I would have had no hope or recourse in confronting such a situation.

Here is an article that Dave O'Brien wrote about grief following Fr. Ernie's death that some of ya'll might find helpful.

Aiight.

Let's continue to Pray for Father Ernie Hyndman and all those grieving his loss.

Eternal rest, grant unto him, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon him.
May he rest in peace.

Amen.

I need to learn how to spell

"parafanilia"

is actually spelled

"paraphernalia"

Thanks Rob.

Also "Jasmine"

is actually spelled

"Yasmeen"

And finally, what we ate at Pablo's birthday party was a "Shrimp BOIL" not a "bRoil." Big difference. I should have known better! haha

Thanks Pablo.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Family Visits

Sorry it's been a week since the last post. My evenings have been blessed with several home visits & activities this past week which have made posting difficult...especially considering the amount of food in the tank upon returning to the rectory! haha

Last Wednesday we had Youth Group as usual. After dinner and some games we talked about "Saints." We had a nice discussion about what "Saints" are and the kids shared about different saints that they know.

As they would share, I would write down the saint's name as well as common attributes of the saints (i.e. they are in heaven, they love us, they gave their lives heroically in love, they are our role models for Christian living, we can talk to them and ask them for prayers just like we can ask people in the Church community on earth to pray for us, etc.)

Here is the board at the end, decorated with my exquisite handwriting:



Sunday afternoons have been a great time to visit some families from the Hispanic Community at St. John's. Sunday is, for many of our parishioners, the one day that they do not have to work. So it is a great time to drop by for some chatting, eating, discussion, and prayer.

Here are some shots I took this past Sunday of a trailer park where several families from our parish live.




Here is the field where all of the neighborhood kids play soccer everyday





Later on Sunday evening, Tom and Luanne invited me over to dinner at their home as well as Alice and Chuck. We enjoyed great food and wine and even better company.

Here is a shot of a beautiful lake on the way to their house.


Tom and Luanne have a lovely and most interesting home. Throughout Tom's career in the Army, he and Luanne moved all around the world. Along the way they really developed a knack for collecting and decorating. Plus, Luanne was an elementary school teacher for several years, so, like most people in her field, her creativity knows no bounds.

Once, while visiting China, Luanne noticed a Chinese Coke bottle laying beside a trash can. Interested by the Chinese writing, she picked it up thinking it would be an interesting souvenir. Living in Korea at the time, Luanne then picked up another Coke bottle with the writing in Korean. Little did she know that this would over the years blossom into an extensive "Coke" parafanilia collection which now adorns there sun room making for a room-sized conversation piece.


I was amazed by Alice's bravery in admitting that she prefers Pepsi as she sat on the Coke Couch in the Coke Room!!!! hahahahaha



Their back yard is a kid's paradise. Besides the little pool, fountain, and space to run around...they also have a playhouse for their granddaughter and a "Crooked House" for their grandson.









Tonight, Eva, Pablo, and Jasmine invited Father and I over for a Shrimp Broil for Pablo's 31st birthday. Happy Birthday Pablo!

Pablo has been in the Army for 9 years and is currently stationed at Fr. Rucker like many other of our parishioners are or have been before they retired.

Pabo is from Southern Texas and Eva is from just across the border. They are a great couple and have been very hospitable to me since arriving here. Jasmine is 6 and pretty much dominates the Coloring Book circuit. She had just churned out some masterpieces of Justin Beiber, Selena Gomez, and Phineas and Ferb earlier today which Father and I were able to enjoy. She loves the color Red, chocolate chip pancakes from Bob Evans, and losing teeth. She was sweet to let Father and I crash her Dad's B-Day Bash! Thanks Jasmine!


And, as I am one that made a point to not make a serious face in a picture until the age of 11, I have to give Jasmine serious props for the face she made the first time we took a picture together.



That is pretty much unbeatable....so with that....

Thanks to everyone here in Enterprise for being so warm and inviting. It is a real blessing to be sharing in the richness, height, depth, diversity, and particularity of the People of God down here at St. John's.

Goodnight and God Bless ya'll.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Wayne and Old Enterprise High

Last night I was able to catch up with one of the Youngest priests in the Archdiocese of Mobile--Fr. Wayne Youngman.

Fr. Wayne has been a priest know for just over a year. Before priesthood, Wayne had a career in the Army as a Black-hawk Helicopter pilot. Also, he raised and showed English Bull Dogs professionally as his hobby. Although he is modest about it, I heard he was even invited one time to bring one of his dogs to Westminster!

Also interestingly, Wayne grew up Methodist. When he moved to Enterprise (because of Fort Rucker being just next door) several years ago, Catholics moved into his closest circle of friends. Slowly he felt called to join the Catholic Church....and eventually the Lord made his calling to the priesthood clear as well. It is amazing how God moves into our lives when & how we least expect it.

Fr. Wayne, did his Pre-Theology and Theology studies at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans. He was ordained a priest down in Mobile in June of 2010. He and three other guys were ordained together becoming the first priests to be ordained in the Archdiocese of Mobile since 6 years prior! So...please keep praying for more priests!!!

He served his first year at St. Ignatius in Mobile and recently was made a pastor after being a priest for just over a year! He has been assigned to oversee 5 parishes in SW Alabama!!! The fiefdom... or frontier... or lower quarter of Alabama to which he is assigned covers about 1,600 square miles (from my approximation)! So we need to pray for Wayne as he stays on the move in his new assignment.

Fr. Wayne seems to be doing very well and is enjoying getting to know all of the good folks down in SW Alabama. In just a few weeks...maybe days...Archbishop Rodi will be visiting Fr. Wayne so as to officially install Wayne as pastor over these parishes.

Fr. Wayne was passing through town yesterday to visit family and rest a bit. I was able to invite myself over for dinner and catch up a bit which was a real treat. Thanks Wayne. I'm still enjoying that steak! haha


Today I decided to take a couple more pictures of St. John's and the surrounding area. Enterprise High School used to sit right in the back yard of St. John's. However, a devastating tornado hit the high school on March 1, 2007, devastating the grounds and killing 8 children and 1 elderly lady. One of the kids was a parishioner here at St. John's. Since then the High School has been rebuilt at a different location...and it is really nice...and really huge...and really impressive.

It is a tragedy that people still vividly remember and continue to morn.

The old football stadium was not damaged and still remains in use by various athletic teams in town.

View of St. John's from the back lot, with my back to the stadium

Go Wildcats!

Home Bleachers and Press Box

Our neighbor to the left is Hillcrest Baptist Church. They have a huge church which has also built an elementary school on the other side of the football field. The sheer size of Hillcrest compared to St. John's on its right is an apt depiction of the number of Baptists vs Catholics down here in the Wiregrass.

Here I am standing on the far side of the track surrounding the football field. From there, you have a really nice view of St. John's. Particularly the Cross which looks down over the field always.

1 Cor 1:18 The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Galatians 6:14 But may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

Aiight Ya'll.

Have a great evening.

May we be foolish, and embrace the Saving Power of the Cross.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sunday

Yesterday was a special day here at St. John's.

Jorge & Ilaria got married.

They are a great couple that have really made me feel welcome here in Enterprise. They have fed me several times and helped introduce me to other Hispanic families in the parish. They are also famous around here for helping to organize the celebration for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe here in Enterprise. In fact, the statue of Our Lady that is used for the Feast sits proudly on their front porch throughout the year.

They are also very involved in a Movement called "El Movimiento Familiar Cristiano." It is an international Catholic movement which aims to bring together couples so that they may grow deeper in their relationships, parenting, faith, organization, etc. I have been really impressed with the Movement as I have learned about it through Jorge and Ilaria as well as Deacon Alfonso Diaz who is the Spiritual Director for this movement in the area. I would recommend it to anyone in the area.

Here are a couple links where you can check it out....if you speak Spanish that is...haha



There are many other English speaking organizations like this. One I am familiar with and would recommend to any couple looking to deepen and strengthen their relationship with one another is called "Marriage Encounter." Here is there main website.

Anyways, back to Jorge and Ilaria. They wedding was really beautiful. They came with their friends and really decorated the whole Church well.



Here is Jorge just before the Mass started. Little bit Nervous...but looking sharp



Here is the Wedding Party getting in Line



Congrats to you Jorge and Ilaria. May God Bless you both richly with many happy and faith-filled years together!

Tonight, the 4th Degree Knights of Columbus had a social out at "PoFolks" restaurant.



They graciously invited Father Gregory and I to attend as well as the priest (Army Chaplain) stationed out at Ft. Rucker, Fr. Chris Butera. I was surprised to run into Chris there tonight. We actually spent one year together in seminary up in Philly at St. Charles Borromeo. Small world!

Sorry it's blurry. But here is the group mingling and keeping it real

Here I am with the Grand Knights of the Councils in Enterprise (L) and Daleville (R).

Both seem to be very active Councils of the Knights of Columbus, a group especially dedicated to "fraternity, charity, and unity." They also are sincerely dedicated in the support of Priests, Seminarians, and their ministry. Thank God for them. Check them out HERE if you don't know much about them.

Thanks ya'll for your hospitality.

It was a great evening.

Peace.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Mary

Before Mass this morning, I walked around the grounds of St. John's as I said my Morning Prayer. Just as I finished, I walked by the grotto here and was struck by its beauty. I took a couple shots which I think turned out really well.




I love the way the light is gently covering Mary in this one. It is so fitting for her--our gentle and loving Mother.


Our Mother. She became the Mother of us all at the foot of the cross. When all other of Jesus' disciples had abandoned him out of fear, there his Mother remained with St. John, Mary of Magdala, and another Mary.

John 19: 26-27
Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala.
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son."
Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother."

Here Jesus gives one of his greatest treasures to his beloved disciple--his very own Mother. And in doing so, he gave Mary to be the Mother of the Church...of the World.

As Catholics, we do not worship Mary but we are deeply grateful to Jesus for sharing his Mother with us. We honor her just as God honored her in sending his angel Gabriel (meaning "messenger") to greet her with the message, "Hail (Rejoice/Be Glad) Mary, full of grace! The Lord is with you!" (Luke 1:28). We honor her just as Elizabeth honored her saying, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb" (Luke 1:42).

Some point to a scene in Mark chapter 3, as a moment when Jesus downplays the importance of his Mother. Here Mary and Jesus' cousins (Referred to as "brothers" here because the Hebrew culture did not have the word or really concept of "cousin." All relatives were just referred to as "brothers"/"siblings") were waiting outside of a home asking for Jesus. The disciples tell Jesus that his Mother and "brothers" are looking for him to which he responds,
"(For) whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother" (3:35).

Rather than rejecting Mary as his Mother in that moment or even downplaying her role as Mother, Jesus is reaffirming the Motherhood of Mary. For who more than her opened her heart to the will of God?

When God wanted to bring to fruition his plan for the world since the beginning of time, he came to her saying, "Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, [...] and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God."

Confronted with such a mind-boggling proposition...something defying the logic of the world...something fully incomprehensible to the human mind...how did she respond?

"Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word."

And with her "YES," the door was opened. She conceived a child in that moment with her YES, and history itself changed forever. Emmanuel... Wondercounselor... Christ... Messiah... Lion of Judah... King of Kings... Prince of Peace...the Word...was made Flesh in her womb. Such that the Flesh of Jesus IS the Flesh of Mary. Through her YES, Jesus came to us. And through her YES, Jesus continues to come to us.

So we have Mary as our Model of the Christian life. For ultimately, God wants to do in us exactly what he did in Mary--Fill us with the Holy Spirit...so much so that God himself unites himself to our Flesh and Blood. So that we become the Body of Christ...His Flesh and Blood for the World. However, he will never force this upon us. But always, He stands at the doors of our hearts, gently knocking...sending a host of angels...inviting us to take part in the Mystery of his Love. But it is only our YES...following the perfect example of Mary, Our Loving, Gentle, and Patient Mother, that opens that door to the Will of God. The more we say Yes...the more we open ourselves to the Will of God in our lives...the more God is able to unite himself to our person...our body and soul...and thus...the more we truly become the "mothers, sisters, brothers" of Jesus.

So Yes...we honor Mary, but only because she brought us Jesus and continues to POINT us...to carry us to Him. Just as she told the servants at the wedding feast in Cana, she gives her best advice to us today, "Do whatever he tells you" (John 2:5).

All true Devotion to Mary leads to Jesus. And so the ancient Christian tradition continues today: To Christ through Mary. If we run to her, she will never fall to take us to her Son. Nobody knows a Son like His Mother. Nobody can get the attention of a Son better than His Mother. And Nobody is prouder and more eager to share their Son, than their Mother. So who could be better to help us follow, know, and love Jesus than his Mother?

Here are some folks here at St. John's that seem to understand all of this all too well: The Rosary Club.

1...2....3....Marryyy!

They Pray the Rosary every day after 9AM Mass. Except on Wednesday's they pray it at 5PM just before Benediction and Mass.

The Rosary is ultimately a meditation on the life of Jesus. It is a powerful prayer that has been near and dear to the life of the Saints for centuries. In this prayer, we turn to Mary to help us to enter more deeply into the Mystery of Her Son Son's Conception, Life, Death, and Resurrection.

It was the favorite prayer of Blessed Pope John Paul II and has grown to be near and dear to me as well. In a letter he wrote about the Rosary, he states:

The Rosary, precisely because it starts with Mary's own experience, is an exquisitely contemplative prayer. Without this contemplative dimension, it would lose its meaning, as Pope Paul VI clearly pointed out: “Without contemplation, the Rosary is a body without a soul, and its recitation runs the risk of becoming a mechanical repetition of formulas, in violation of the admonition of Christ: 'In praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think they will be heard for their many words' (Mt 6:7). By its nature the recitation of the Rosary calls for a quiet rhythm and a lingering pace, helping the individual to meditate on the mysteries of the Lord's life as seen through the eyes of her who was closest to the Lord. In this way the unfathomable riches of these mysteries are disclosed”.

It is worth pausing to consider this profound insight of Paul VI, in order to bring out certain aspects of the Rosary which show that it is really a form of Christocentric contemplation.

Again, Contemplating Jesus is key.

Here is a link to the entire letter he wrote about the Rosary.


If you would like to learn how to pray the rosary, here are two helpful websites:

Have a great night ya'll.

To Jesus through Mary,

Let's aim to do whatever he tells us.

Peace.