For almost 50 years, the Catholic faithful have been called to observe “Respect Life Sunday” during the month of October. It is a Divine call to confront the multiple ways in which life is often devalued in our world—capital punishment, abortion, bullying, and judgmentalism, among others. It is a call to self-reflection about our personal and collective behavior. We can take this call to heart in every situation we encounter, and each day offers many opportunities—large and small—to respect life by the ways we treat one another. What is one positive choice for life that you have made today? How can the faith community at St. Joseph’s collectively say “yes” to all forms of life and charity?
Speaking of saying “yes” to a Divine call to respect life, for centuries the Catholic faithful have venerated the Blessed Mother during the month of October. It is not surprising that Our Lady of Fatima began to appear once a month to three children in Portugal in 1917—beginning on May 13 and ending on October 13. On the last day, with more than 70,000 people gathered in anticipation, many reported seeing an unusual heavenly phenomenon that has been called the “dance of the sun.” Ponder in prayer today what Saint John Paul II identified as Fatima’s significance: “A call to conversion and repentance … the nucleus of the message of the gospel.”
Following the 10:00 A.M. Mass last Sunday, it was fun to welcome some wonderful animal friends to St. Joseph’s Parish. We congregated in the parking lot for the annual blessing of pets to commemorate the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. Among the many humans in attendance, we were joined by cats, dogs, a beautiful horse who enjoys snacking on Table Talk pies, and a cute little pig named Oliver who oinked a few times when splashed with holy water! Of course, the birds were chirping from their roosts in the nearby trees. St. Francis would have been proud!
Psalm 147:9 tells us that God is concerned for all His creation, including the animals He created. We can take from Scripture that if God takes care of animals, then so should we. Many parents introduce a pet into their home to teach their children responsibility and other positive qualities, such as unconditional love, forgiveness, and steady companionship. That’s why pets are taken to hospitals and nursing homes to interact with people in need. They help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. We can learn an incredible deal from animals.
Good St. Francis, patron of animals, you loved all of God’s creatures. To you they were your brothers and sisters. Help us to follow your example of treating every living thing with kindness. Watch over our pets. Keep them – and their human companions – safe, healthy, and always in God’s loving care.
“Laudato si’, mi’ Signore”—“Praise be to you, my Lord.” In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home, God’s vineyard, is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us.
Whether you are visiting St. Joseph’s Parish or live in the area year round, you cannot help but to admire the beauty of God’s creation – especially this time of year when He paints the local vineyard with brilliant color to remind us of the depth of His Universal Love for us.
In your bulletin today, and at the entrances to the church, you will find postcards of St. Joseph’s church nestled in the foliage. Please take some home to post on your refrigerator, prop up on your desk, use as a bookmark, or send to a friend. Thank you for joining us this weekend in the Lord’s vineyard!
And remember, the Creator does not abandon us. He never forsakes His Loving Plan nor repents of having created us. Let us labor to protect the environment – His vineyard and our common home.
“… but afterwards he changed his mind…”
One of the more popular and effective interventions in the field of mental-health counseling these days is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Simply stated, if you can change your thoughts, then you can change your behavior.
One of my internship placements a few years ago involved counseling adolescents at a summer camp for wards of the state. One teen, Benjamin, was a good kid—friendly, helpful, even cheerful. Yet just below the surface, there seemed to be a slow-burning anger. It erupted unexpectedly one day. After striking out on the baseball field, Ben had an emotional meltdown.
I pulled him aside to give him time to cool off. “What’s going on, Ben?” I asked him. It took him a while to open up, but it turned out that after the strikeout, he’d overheard one of the guys on his team complain loudly, “I should have known. It never changes. He always makes the last out.” I figured there was more to the story because these kids usually had pretty thick skin after all the teasing at camp. In time it came out: “The last thing my father said before he sent me here was, ‘You’ll never change.’”
Ben and I had a talk later that afternoon about all the ways he’d changed for the better just in the short time I knew him. And I also pointed out his good traits that I hoped would never change—his kindness, his helpfulness, his very good heart. The rest of the summer was good for Ben.
Is there someone in your life who needs to hear some positive reinforcement about themselves? Could you help someone change their self-concept by pointing out what is good about them and what you like about them? You just might win them over to Christ. Remember, if you can change the thought, you can change the behavior.
At homily time a few Sundays ago, I asked jokingly from the pulpit a few questions taken from the now-defunct “Baltimore Catechism,” which was, as older Catholics remember, a lengthy instructional manual of questions and answers that young Catholic students in “Sunday School” classes were forced to memorize and repeat back to their teacher: “Who made me?” “God made me.” “Why did God make me?” “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next.” I was surprised at how many in the assembly that day remembered and responded openly and accurately the formulaic answers that they had learned from childhood!
This weekend, our parish joins the Universal Church in celebrating Catechetical Sunday. The theme for this year is taken from St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, “I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you.” Catechetical Sunday makes us stop and think about how we first learned of God’s Love for us, but more, it is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the role that each baptized person plays in handing on the faith and being a witness to the Gospel.
Here at St. Joseph’s, we are blessed to have parents and grandparents who are actively engaged in teaching children about the Catholic faith and tradition, not only through catechesis, but also by example. We are doubly blessed to have faith formation leaders like Paula King and Annie Anderson – both of whom are school-teachers by profession – who minister collegially to ensure that the youth of the parish understand that living out their faith is, as the 2020 Catechetical Sunday theme proclaims, “an invitation to a wholeness of life given by Christ to hear the Word and to share it as wit-nesses of the true and living God.”