St. Joseph Catholic Church, Clayton MO

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

Notes From The Pastor’s Pen – November 11, 2018


Saturday we celebrated the feast day of St. Leo the Great who was pope from 440 to 461. We can think that we have difficulties, but just in those 21 years Leo would have to address numerous heresies, stress that the bishop of Rome was the heir of Peter, and also face two attempted sackings of Rome. I guess that may have something to do with his gaining the title ‘Great’.

I have no doubt that we suffer from the threat of many heresies in our Church today, but fortunately I don’t think there are as large of groups in the Church who are promoting a fundamental theological teaching that is different from our common faith. Three heresies that he had to fight were Pelagianism, Manichaeism, and Monophysitism. In the simplest of terms you could summarize them as: Pelagianism – not believing in original sin and believing we can conquer sin and gain eternal life without grace; Manichaeism – a dualistic belief of good and evil that also asserts that we can achieve our salvation by knowledge and that all material things are intrinsically evil and knowledge is intrinsically good; and Monophysitism – the belief that Christ had only one nature and the denial that he had both human and divine natures. That is really an over simplification but shows some of the challenges in the Church at the time.

This is also why the stressing of the centrality of the Bishop of Rome was so important. To support the unity of the Church throughout the world in our beliefs and in our practice. Pope Leo would not only bring this out by his referring to the Pope as heir of Peter, but also in his sermons by addressing his concern and responsibilities not only for the people of Rome, but for those throughout the world. And he would also address disputes between bishops, defending the rights of bishops in their diocese against that of other bishops, while demonstrating the primacy of the Pope.

Beyond the theological concerns, Pope Leo also had the physical concerns that there were attempts at sacking Rome. In 452 Attila the Hun was marching on Rome and Leo convinced him to accept a sizable gift instead of sacking the city. He wasn’t as fortunate with Gaiseric the Vandal in 455 who did sack the city, but the Church and the city would survive.

Fortunately, I don’t think we have to worry about the sacking of Rome today, but other challenges Leo faced are things we can relate to today. Reflecting on the need for the unity in the Church and understanding heresies of the past might help us recognize and address those concerns today. And while we may not have sacking, we have seen bankruptcies of some dioceses, and they also survived.

Fr. Nick


Notes From The Pastor’s Pen – November 4, 2018


As we celebrated The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed on Friday, or more commonly referred to as All Souls Day, hopefully we think of and pray for those we know who have died. This might include visiting someone’s grave at a cemetery. One of the most common images I have of cemeteries is from my father. He would tell me and my siblings about how when he was young he had to ride the street car to the cemetery and would have a bushel of dirt with him to fill in over the grave where the earth would settle back down after the burial. I always assumed it was for his father’s grave who died when he was 17, and you needed to take care of the family grave sites.

That seems so foreign from our current practices, actually taking care of the plot yourself where your loved one is buried. Some people do still visit family graves regularly, but if it wasn’t for perpetual care at cemeteries I would believe that those well visited and cared for plots would stand out starkly against the majority which would look like condemned properties. Most of us don’t visit cemeteries that much anymore, but that doesn’t mean we can’t remember and pray for the dead.

This practice isn’t meant to be a morbid habit that we consider our lives cannot go on without them here with us, but it does help to keep our connection to them. Our prayers for them, for their swift passage to heaven, keeps an intimate connection and as with all of our relations strengthens our memories of them. It is also a hope that they may be praying for us. That even if the Church has not recognized them as a saint and canonized them, that they may already have begun an eternity in heaven with God. This practice also reminds us of our mortality, and hopefully also of our immortality, or what our ultimate end is meant to be.

Remembering that this life will end for us and we are truly meant for heaven will hopefully affect how we live today. It is so easy to get caught up in just what is happening today, or what I need now, or what message has gotten my attention this second. Hopefully we take the opportunity to remind ourselves of more important, eternal concerns to guide our lives.

One other thought. If you do manage to go and visit the grave of someone you know, look around at some of their neighbors and say a prayer for them also, someday we might meet them in heaven.

Fr. Nick

Notes From The Pastor’s Pen – October 28, 2018


This week I saw that the annual report of World Church Statistics came out of the Vatican. For some of you that may not sound very exciting but I always like looking at statistics to see what it might tell me that I wasn’t as aware of as I should be. (This information is for Dec 31, 2016)

As expected, the world population went up. The total is 7,352,259,000, that is 103,348,000 more than last year. The total number of Catholics also went up to 1,299,059,000, an increase of 14,249,000 which is 17.67% of the world population, but this was a drop of .05% from what it was last year. The only continent that went down in both percentage and number was Europe, which has 285,512,000 Catholics out of 718,018,000 people, which was a decrease of 240,000 Catholics from the previous year and their percentage is now 39.76% Catholic (-.11% from last year).

I have to say that the number that surprised me most in the continental information was how Catholic America is. Out of 990,747,000 people we have 631,291,000 Catholics, or 63.72%. (That was an increase of 8,519,000 people, 6,023,000 Catholics, and +.06%.) I guess what surprised me is that we seem to consider our society as becoming so secular, and yet we are over 63% Catholic.

A big factor that needs to be considered here is that this is for the continent, not the U.S.. In the United States we are 22.63% Catholic, but Brazil, the country with the greatest number of Catholics in the world, is 78.95% Catholic and Mexico is 86.67% Catholic. In the U.S. we are still over 70% Christian, but less than a third of that is Catholic.

I guess this is important to realize when we consider what type of a culture we live in and how that compares with what others live in. Our country is still very highly Christian and strongly Catholic. Sometimes we may think that our society doesn’t feel that way due to what we see in our culture, but compared to most of the world we are very Christian and Catholic, Asia is only 3.25% Catholic and they have 60% of the world population. And if we become more connected with the rest of America in our culture, we will become vastly more Catholic. And we need to not just have those numbers, but to live out that faith in our society.

Another thing I noted was the number of Catholic hospitals and orphanages around the world. In America there are 1530 Catholic hospitals and 2449 orphanages, a good number but I am sure much less than there used to be. In Asia there are 1154 Catholic hospitals and 3600 orphanages. Not nearly as many when you consider how many people they have, but an incredible amount when you consider the number of Catholics they have. With such a small percentage of Catholics there I have to believe that this is mostly from missionary efforts, a strong presence and living of the faith in those societies.

And for a last piece of information (from a different source), the country with the highest percentage of Catholics, Vatican City at 100%.

Fr. Nick