Pastoral Sharings

Operation Star Fish

 

Our parish continues to be a model of love and service to the poor!

Food for the Poor has just released a new video about Operation Starfish. It will be used to encourage other churches to consider starting their own ministries to the poor. You’ll see several familiar Nativity faces featured throughout, including Fr. Martin, Fr. Cilinski, and Fr. Korpi.

Learn more are www.operationstarfish.org

 

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Advent 2017

Live a full and meaningful Advent this year.  Take time to prepare your heart for the Birth of Our Lord
Please take moment to check out these resources.
1. Advent Companion 2017  – A wonderful booklet from Magnificat that costs under $5
2. Advent Gospel Reflections  – Daily emailed meditations from Bishop Barron
3. Advent Preparation – Daily meditations from ETWN

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Our Lady of Fatima Talk

Learn about the History and Significance of Our Lady of Fatima 

Listen to Fr. Vaccaro’s  message of peace, prayer and conversion on the 100th anniversary

Presentation

Our Lady of Fatima Talk

Handouts

Newspaper Articles

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The Heights to Which We Can Rise

“Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength ” Nehemiah: 8:10

My dear parishioners,

The people of Israel finally returned from their exile. Ezra the priest reads to them from the Torah and preaches. It lasted half a day. When he ended, the people rejoiced not because it was over but that now his words and teaching helped them rediscover their common roots and the truth of who they could be in the Lord, a truly chosen people.

Not only did the city walls of Jerusalem need to be rebuilt, but the people themselves had to be rebuilt into a community. We at Nativity recently dedicated the new Fr Martin Center and we rejoice in our new facilities. In May we will begin phase II of our construction project renovating our offices, restrooms, and new church vestibule. Those renovations are exciting and needed. However, the church is more than buildings. We are the people of God.

When we gather for the Sunday Eucharist, the Scriptures remind us of who we are called to be. In a culture where moral standards are always in danger of slipping away, the teachings of the gospel show us the heights to which we can rise. The scriptures and homily keep us in touch with our roots and to what God is calling us to do. They are the place of the life-giving truth that we are all parts of the one Body of Christ and of a mission, sending us to extend the reach of Christ to people around us in this Jubilee year of Mercy.

Love and blessings
Fr. Bob

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A Garden for 2014

Dear Friends,

I received the following from a parishioner. What a beautiful world we would live in if everyone would respect each other enough to act upon the words that follow:

What a great time to think about planning your Spiritual 2014 Garden! As you plant it, the following may support you.

A GARDEN FOR 2014

Here’s what you need for your spring garden:

Plant five rows of squash:
Squash gossip
Squash criticism
Squash indifference
Squash resentments
Squash bigotry and prejudice

Plant seven rows of peas:
Prayer
Promptness
Perseverance
Politeness
Preparedness
Purity
Patience

Plant seven heads of lettuce:
Let us be unselfish and loyal
Let us be faithful to duty
Let us search the scripture
Let us not be weary in well doing
Let us be obedient in all things
Let us be truthful
Let us love one another

No garden is complete without turnips:
Turn up with a smile, even when things are difficult.
Turn up with determination to do your best in God’s service

Let’s pray for sunshine….go out into the light and plant a beautiful garden.

Have a good week!

Fr. Martin

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Doubt, Question, and Grow

Dear Parishioners

“Doubting Thomas” is an expression used for people who have a hard time believing what is sometimes evident. Today’s Gospel (John 20:24-28) is the origin of that expression. Thomas, the Apostle, doubted that Jesus had actually risen from His grave, “Unless l see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

In today’s Gospel, Thomas refused to believe. A week later after seeing for himself what others had been telling him, he cried out, “My Lord and My God.” When I was growing up, the mindset of many families was that children should never question their elders. In the seminary I remember being reprimanded when I dared to question the Rector. Since the Vatican Council, however, respectful questioning can be looked at in a positive way. Questioning can and oftentimes leads to growth within a person. In our Church we must be careful not to alienate those who have legitimate concerns. They may not agree with nor like the answers, but they nevertheless should be able to have their concerns listened to. Each of us is different – some don’t feel the need to inquire, while for others wrestling with the questions might lead to a stronger and even more committed faith. Thomas, the Apostle, the Doubter, was never put down by the risen Lord. Thomas doubted. Thomas questioned. Thomas GREW into the strong Apostle that he was.

Have a great week!

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New Life

Dear Parishioners and Visitors,

Our Easter congregation, like Christmas, is so diverse. Children home from college, relatives and friends visiting from out of town, as well as family members and friends from other denominations, all joining in worship with us. I welcome back those, who for various reasons, have been away from the Church. On this beautiful Easter day I offer a sincere welcome to all. It is my hope that all of you (and especially our visitors), will feel the warmth and hospitality of our parish. It is also my hope that you will leave filled with the peace of the Risen Christ.

Sharing a reflection on the Easter egg, I am reminded of an e-mail that my nephew Paul sent me a few years ago. As the Director of Continuing Adult Education at Bryant University in Rhode Island, he was invited to bring his two sons to a new event, the Spring Egg Hunt. As a matter of principle he declined the offer, reminding those directing the affair that “there is no such thing as a Spring Egg Hunt or spring eggs.” How proud I was that he stood up for what the day is really all about, the Resurrection of Jesus, Easter Day, not just another spring day.

The Easter egg is an ancient symbol of resurrection – new life. The tiny bird encased within its shell experiences life only after it breaks forth from its hard shell. At times we can be enveloped in our own “shells”, shells of anger, shells of pride, shells of intolerance, and shells of prejudice. Sadly, on Palm Sunday, we again witnessed a vicious act of violence, this time in Kansas.  This Hate Crime was perpetrated by a 73 year old, who was known to be associated with the Ku Klux Klan.  His rampage resulted in the killing of two people outside of a Jewish Community Center, and one person outside of a Jewish Retirement Home.  The two people killed together were a grandfather out with his grandson.  It is worth noting that all of the victims were Christian.  Our Jewish Fathers in Faith were spared the anguish of loss this time, but all are diminished when any are the victims of brutality.  Our shells can be walls that separate us from our relatives, friends and community. Walls that were often put up for such insignificant reasons. Only until we break out of our shells, can we truly experience life. All that is usually needed on our part is a small dose of humility.

We have purchased 80 dozen colorful plastic eggs to hand out to our children, as a symbol of Easter. It would have been nice to have the real thing, but not very practical. One of our parishioners, Michelle Mack, filled them with jelly beans and included a short message from me. My wish for all of you is that you will experience the peace, love and joy of Easter. For those of you who are still encased in a shell that keeps you apart from one another, I hope that you will have the determination and courage to break forth. Life is too short for walls.

New life, peace and love is what the Resurrection is all about.  Happy and blessed Easter to all of you!
Fr. Martin

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What Goes Around, Comes Around

Dear Friends,

His name was Fleming, and he was a poor Scottish farmer. One day, while trying to make a living for his family, he heard a cry for help coming from a nearby bog. He dropped his tools and ran to the bog. There, mired to his waist in black muck, was a terrified boy, screaming and struggling to free himself. Farmer Fleming saved the lad from what could have been a slow and terrifying death.

The next day, a fancy carriage pulled up to the Scotsman’s sparse surroundings. An elegantly dressed nobleman stepped out and introduced himself as the father of the boy Farmer Fleming saved.

‘I want to repay you,’ said the nobleman. ‘You saved my son’s life.’

‘No, I can’t accept payment for what I did,’ the Scottish farmer replied waving off the offer. At that moment, the farmer’s own son came to the door of the family hovel.
‘Is that your son?’ the nobleman asked.

‘Yes,’ the farmer replied proudly.

‘I’ll make you a deal. Let me provide him with the level of education my own son will enjoy. If the lad is anything like his father, he’ll no doubt grow to be a man we both will be proud of.’ And that he did.

Farmer Fleming’s son attended the very best schools and in time, graduated from St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School in London, and went on to become known throughout the world as the noted Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of Penicillin.

Years afterward, the same nobleman’s son who was saved from the bog was stricken with pneumonia. What saved his life this time? Penicillin…

The name of the nobleman? Lord Randolph Churchill.
His son’s name? Sir Winston Churchill.
Someone once said: What goes around comes around.

When I read the last line, I thought of my dad. One of his favorite sayings was “When you give out to others it comes back double.” I have found that so true in my life and I’m sure that my brother, sister and their children have also found it true, for Dad, so often, shared and lived those words. It certainly has been true for our parish. Once again during Lent, our Project Starfish basket will be at the entrance of the church. This Lenten endeavor that began fifteen years ago with some $67,000 filling the basket in 1998, has grown to $510,000 last year. During these years we have received a half million dollars and have built 1,100 houses, drilled water wells, built a two story school, fed thousands, cared for lepers, built tilapia fish farms, and purchased five large fishing boats. In doing this, we have done something far more important,
we have changed hearts! And therein lies the blessing. The poor have changed us! Our outlook and attitudes have so changed our parish that our hearts, as a caring community, have gone out around the world ( Haiti, Cameroon, The Philippines (Sister Jean Mary’s House of Love and Mexico) – (The House of the Poor in Tijuana) as well as across the street – helping those needing temporary financial assistance because of serious illness and not able to meet everyday bills, to providing prayer shawls for the seriously ill that always are accompanied by the prayers of all in our community. By helping those around the world and across the street we are the ones who have been blessed many times over. We are known in the Diocese as the “caring parish.” Yes, how true the words – what goes around comes around.

As we journey through Lent, the story above is a practical reflection on going out of our way to help another. We might also recall the words of the writer Peter DeVries:

“We are not primarily put on this earth to see through one another, but to see one another through.”

Have a nice week!

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No Room!

Dear Friends,

NO ROOM!

Some of the saddest words on earth are: “We don’t have room for you.” Jesus knew the sound of those words.  He was still in Mary’s Womb the innkeeper said: “We don’t have room for you (Luke 2:7).

And when he hung on the cross, wasn’t the message of utter rejection? “We don’t have room for you in our world.”

Even today He is given the same treatment. He goes from heart to heart, asking if he might enter (and become a real part of our life and actions). Every so often, he’s welcomed. Someone throws open the door of his or her heart and invites him to stay.  And to that person Jesus gives this great promise, “In my Father’s house are many rooms.” (John 14 vs 12).

What a promise he makes us! We make room for him in our hearts….And  He makes room for us in his house!

(From Grace for the Moment, Max Lucado)

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The above from Max Lucado is practical and appropriate as we begin our Lenten season.  Let’s be honest, sometimes we don’t have room for certain people in our lives. For some of us it might be people of color or of a different culture. For others it might be people from the middle east who veil their face and wear a long flowing Burka; Still for others it might be because they are gay or belong to a religion strange to us (usually strange because we have never taken the time to know more about what others believe). Our ignorance can equate with fear.

As I wrote last week, Lent for some hasn’t advanced from childhood practices of giving up cake, cookies or liquor. One practice might be to fast and abstain from our narrow mindedness or prejudices. We might recall the words of Pope Francis when asked about atheists: “They are good people too.” Or his now often quoted words “Who am I to judge…” Remember when you point a finger, three of your fingers point right back at you. Try it!

This Lent you might find time to attend a weekday Mass or make the Stations of the Cross on Fridays.  However, if there is no room in your heart, or love for those who are different what good are you really accomplishing? Some even  may have walls between members of their own family.

Try it. You just might find your experiencing your best Lent ever. Remember the Great Commandment never said we had to like everyone, just to love (respect) them. It’s really not that hard. Give it a try.

Have a good week!

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A Banquet of the Poor

Dear Friends,

This Wednesday we begin the Lenten season. My thoughts and practices of Lent have changed over the years. While we read in the Preface of Lent that it is a “happy season”, I never looked at it that way as a youngster or even in my early days in seminary. In those earlier days Lent was always a time of giving something up – usually candy, sweets or deserts. I remember as a young priest going to a restaurant on Friday and substituting the meat entrée for fish. It was then that I began to rethink Lent. Is it a sacrifice to give up eating meat for lobster or crab cakes? It was actually a “trade-off”. I was keeping a church rule but there was no sacrifice. I also remember reading what Pope Leo had said many years before: “ Let your fasting become the banquet of the poor.” Crab cakes, shrimp, hardly fit the banquet of the poor. Ordering a simpler entrée and putting the difference in the parish poor box or the Starfish basket at the entrance to the church might be a more appropriate sacrifice. Skipping the appetizer and putting the difference to help the less fortunate could be a better practice. Over six weeks it can really mount up.

While on the subject of “giving up”, perhaps instead of giving up something material, we might give up something much more difficult. I recall the saying: “IT IS BETTER TO GIVE UP HATE THAN TO GIVE UP WEIGHT.” Perhaps calling (or emailing or texting) a relative or friend whom we have been at odds with or even put a wall between is far more in keeping with the Lenten spirit than giving up a snickers bar (my favorite). And it might well be a more difficult Lenten sacrifice. Think of that when you listen on Ash Wednesday to the words in the Book of Joel in the Old Testaments: “RETURN TO ME WITH YOUR WHOLE HEART. REND YOUR HEARTS NOT YOUR GARMENTS.” Thousands of years ago it was the practice for Jewish males to tear their outer garment as a sign of repentance. Today, we might rephrase the saying: Look out for others, forgive, show kindness, acceptance and love to those you may have been ignoring. Try to accept those you are prejudiced against. That in itself is far more meaningful than giving up sweets.

Yes, I have matured in my outlook of Lent. It is now a time of personal and spiritual growth. Now it is a time to look inward and see how well I do (or do not) live the Gospel message. For those who may attend daily Mass as a Lenten practice, I encourage you to remember the words my Episcopal colleague has at the exit of his church: THE SERVICE IS ENDED – NOW SERVICE BEGINS. Lent is a time to become more holy and by holy I suggest the definition of Father William McNamara, noted author and retreat director: “TO BE A HOLY PERSON, JUST INSERT THE LETTER “W” BEFORE HOLY. A HOLY PERSON IS A WHOLE PERSON OPEN TO THE NEEDS OF ALL.” To give up our candy and sweets is a much easier Lenten sacrifice. The above is much more difficult, but it will result in a more meaningful Lent for you and for others.

We all have our own ideas of Lent and how we look at our faith and our God. You must do what is comfortable for you. For me ,however, trying to live the Gospel message is far more meaningful…and a little more difficult than giving up candy!

Have a nice week.

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