St. Joseph Catholic Church

106 N. Meramec Avenue, Clayton, MO 63105…Parish Office (314) 726-1221


Notes From The Pastor’s Pen – January 21, 2018

Hello,

The Pope has weekly General Audiences where many of us go to see him personally if we are fortunate enough to be on a trip to Rome. The last few weeks he has been talking about different parts of the Mass, and last week he mentioned an interesting part I remember being taught when I was in the seminary, the importance of silence. In this address he was talking about the Gloria and the Collect (or the Opening Prayer) at the beginning of Mass, and how important the silence is when the priest begins the Collect with the words, “Let us pray,”:

With the invitation “Let us pray,” the priest exhorts the people to recollect themselves with him in a moment of silence, in order to be conscious of being in the presence of God and have arise, in each one’s heart, the personal intentions with which he takes part in the Mass (Cf. Ibid., 54). The priest says “Let us pray”, and then comes a moment of silence, and each one thinks of the things of which he is in need, what he wishes to ask for in prayer.

The silence isn’t reduced to the absence of words, rather in disposing oneself to listen to other voices: that of our heart and, especially, the voice of the Holy Spirit. In the liturgy, the nature of the sacred silence depends on the moment in which it takes place: “During the Penitential Act and after the invitation to prayer, it helps recollection; after the Reading or the homily, it’s a call to meditate briefly on what one has heard; after Communion, it fosters interior prayer of praise and supplication” (Ibid., 4r5). Therefore, before the initial prayer, silence helps to recollect ourselves in ourselves and to think why we are there. See then the importance of listening to our spirit to then open it to the Lord. Perhaps we come from days of toil, of joy, of sorrow, and we want to say it to the Lord, to invoke His help, to ask that He be close to us; we have sick relatives and friends or who are going through difficult trials; we want to entrust to God the fate of the Church and of the world. And for this the brief silence is useful, before the priest, gathering the intentions of each one, expresses in a loud voice to God, in the name of all, the common prayer that ends the Rites of Introduction, doing in fact the “Collect” of the individual intentions. I earnestly recommend to priests to observe this moment of silence and not go in a hurry: “Let us pray,” and that silence be kept. I recommend this to priests. Without this silence, we risk neglecting the recollection of the soul. (from the Papal General Audience on Jan. 10, 2018: ZENIT translation by Virginia M. Forrester)

While this time of silence is not extensive, only a moment, but along with the other times the Pope mentions hopefully they help us to more fully participate in the prayer of the Mass. I know some of you thought I was just waiting for the server to bring the book over and then find the right page, but I almost always have the page marked with a ribbon beforehand, and the fact that we teach the servers to bring the book over when they hear us say “Let us pray” is just a good cue for the servers, and a built in reminder for myself, to not rush past this moment of silence.

Peace,
Fr. Nick

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Notes From The Pastor’s Pen – January 14, 2018

Hello,

This Wednesday is the feast of St. Anthony. Now the first St. Anthony that came to my mind wasn’t the one we celebrate this week, St. Anthony of the desert, but St. Anthony of Padua (he’s the one you get if you do a web search just on the words “St. Anthony” also), but ‘St. Anthony of the Desert’, also known as ‘St. Anthony of Egypt’ is the one we are celebrating.

He is known for not just an ascetic, but for a completely isolated life in the desert. He was born in 251 and when he was between 18 and 20 his fairly wealthy parents died. At this time he heard the Gospel passage:

“If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” MT 19:21

Most will reflect on this in their lives but they don’t take it completely literally, but Anthony did. He gave away his inheritance to relatives and sold what was left, giving his proceeds to the poor, and went to live by and learn from hermits who lived in huts a little ways outside of his town in Upper Egypt. After a few years he is reported as moving to a more remote spot. But after 15 years, when he was 35, he is described as moving to a completely abandoned hill-top in the Arabian desert where he would not see another face for the next 20 years.

At that time he first accepted some followers to build hermit cells close to him, so that they may converse and he could guide them at times, but he would still maintain great solitude. He is noted as coming into cites twice after this period, first in 311 when he went to Alexandria to help defend the faith, and then later in 338 he returned to Alexandria to help address the heresy at the time of Arianism. After this he would return to the desert and is reported to have lived to the age of 105.

While he was likely not the first to live in such a manner of prayer and solitude, he did receive notoriety for it in different writings and was most widely known through the book “Life of Antony” by Atahansius. Various different practices and teachings are also attributed to him such as the following:

“Abbott Antony taught Abbot Ammonas, saying: You must advance yet further in the fear of God. And taking him out of the cell he showed him a stone, saying: Go and insult that stone, and beat it without ceasing. When this had been done, St. Antony asked him if the stone had answered back. No, said Ammonas. Then Abbott Antony said: You too must reach the point where you no longer take offence at anything.” (Butler’s Lives of the Saints, 17 January, pg 118)

Just as all of us are not called to live in complete isolation or give up all their possessions in this life, I don’t think I will get to the point of the stone. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t try to do better than where I am right now. May St. Anthony of the Desert, and all of the saints, continue to inspire us to live more holy lives.

Peace,
Fr. Nick


Notes From The Pastor’s Pen – January 7, 2018

Hello,

In the Christmas season that we are celebrating there are quite a few great feast days. This last Wednesday we celebrated the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus. One of the ways this was promoted and spread was by using the inscription IHS to stand for Jesus. Looking up some things about this I found out that what was most prominent in my mind for what IHS stood for was actually wrong, at least in a way. I knew somewhere in there that it was letters denoting Jesus’s name, specifically the first three letters in the Greek name for Jesus, ΙΗΣΟΥΣ, iota-eta-sigma, or ΙΗΣ, but more dominant in my mind was the connection to “Jesus, Savior of men”, or “Jesus Hominum Salvator” in Latin. Reading a variety of sources on this, one source (Wikipedia – although they actually give some respectable references for this entry) refers to this interpretation as a backronym, that people worked backwards to explain what it meant, and didn’t exactly get it right.

In this case that can be kind of interesting since IHS may have originally been simply an abbreviation for the name Jesus, but if the actual context in which it was written the person who wrote it considered that they were expressing “Jesus, Savior of men”, then the second interpretation is actually correct even if it was founded on a mistake. But if we start using the second interpretation on something where it wasn’t meant that way we may be adding things that were not intended. Since we normally use this symbol (IHS) by itself that isn’t a great concern, it is reminding us of Jesus, or of Jesus, Savior of men, both are good things but is still a distinction to be aware of.

A similar difference can be considered for how we read Scripture at times. We might be struck by certain words or phrases in a passage, they might even lead us to an epiphany of sorts (the feast we celebrate today), but we need to be careful how we put that understanding in the rest of the passage, or chapter, or book. If it wasn’t meant that way we might get a wrong interpretation of the greater passage, forcing our will and desires on the reading instead of being open to God’s message to us. Like the IHS being read as “Jesus, Savior of men” is fine by itself, but if that is imposed in a passage where it is meant to simply say “Jesus” we might be emphasizing the divinity of Christ at a place where it is meant to show his humanity. Since I’m not usually reading Scripture in the original Hebrew or Greek this is always something to be aware of as we are struck by small passages, to recognize how they do fit in the entirety of Scripture.

While we still have another week of the Christmas season in the Church I realize that most of our lives have gone back to our regular daily schedules. Like the words and smaller passages in Scripture that might have inspired us for the moment, hopefully we realize they were also not meant to stand by themselves, but are meant to be a part of all of our lives. The real celebration of Christmas does not mean that we only remember Christ on that day, or week, but it only truly makes sense if Christ is to be a part of every one of our days.

Peace,
Fr. Nick