St. Joseph Catholic Church

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


Notes From The Pastor’s Pen – December 17, 2017

Hello,

We are at the third Sunday of Advent already, and only a week and a day left until Christmas so I was thinking last week about Christmas trees. Not only is it one of the primary Christmas decoration traditions (I know people who consider where they would put a Christmas tree when they are looking at houses to buy), but it is also a part of our Church’s tradition so I thought I would share with you some of that information and paraphrasing or quoting directly from the Catholic Church’s Book of Blessings on the Order for the Blessing of a Christmas Tree.

The origins of the Christmas tree are from the medieval period where they referred to a tree of paradise and the Christmas light or candle symbolizing Christ. The tree was normally set up just before Christmas and would be kept up until theFeast of the Epiphany. Normally they would be put up in a home but they could also be placed in a church. I think the most informative part about the Christmas tree isn’t given in the introduction for the blessing (which is where I got the above information) but rather in the two options they have for the Prayer of Blessing itself that are as follows:

Lord our God, we praise you for the light of creation: the sun, the moon, and the stars of the night. We praise you for the light of Israel: the Law, the prophets, and the wisdom of the Scriptures. We praise you for Jesus Christ, your Son: He is Emmauel, God-with-us, the Prince of Peace, who fills us with the wonder of your love.

Lord God, let your blessing come upon us as we illumine this tree. May the light and cheer it gives be a sign of the joy that fills our hearts. May all who delight in this tree come to the knowledge and joy of salvation. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Or

Holy Lord, we come with joy to celebrate the birth of your Son, who rescued us from the darkness of sin by making the cross a tree of life and light.

May this tree, arrayed in splendor, remind us of the life-giving cross of Christ, that we may always rejoice in the new life that shines in our hearts.

We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen

As you can see the blessings tell us that the tree is to remind us of Christ and the eternal life he offers us. That seems like a pretty joyful thought.

Peace,
Fr. Nick

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Notes From The Pastor’s Pen – December 10, 2017

Hello,

During Advent, as we prepare for Christmas ourselves, it also provides the opportunity to share our faith with others. One feast day that occurs during Advent, although not strictly a part of Advent I think most people can make a connection with preparing for Christmas, is St. Nick’s Day (Dec. 6th). Different cultures have different practices for St. Nick’s Day and I will talk about them another time, but I got into my own practice beginning with grade school.

Since my birthday was never during the school year I never got to bring in a treat to my class on my birthday like most of the other kids. But starting as early as I can remember, my mother had me bring in cookies on my feast day, St. Nick’s Day, for my class. I don’t know if this was already in 1st and 2nd grade, when I was in a public school, or only starting in 3rd grade when I was first in Catholic schools, but everyone in my classes knew it was St. Nick’s Day.

When I was in college my junior year I was no longer living in dorms and normally had lunch at the student union building with some friends, and since I now had my own kitchen in my apartment I decided I would make cookies for St. Nick’s Day and share them with my friends. Many of them had some traditions in their family, either from religious or ethnic backgrounds, but some had never heard of it. It was an opportunity to share traditions and also the history of St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra.

Doing this in college was one thing, but then when I graduated and started working with McDonnell Douglas I decided to continue doing this. Most places people work there is at least a break or coffee area where people will bring in food at times, so I brought in some St. Nick’s Day cookies. This was a bit larger and more diverse backgrounds then my friends from college, and more non-Christians, providing many more opportunities to share the history of St. Nicholas. And as long as they got a cookie, no one seemed to ever take offense. And one fellow engineer I worked with a few years married a Catholic woman and they named their first child Nicholas. Previously he had no clue about St. Nick’s Day but he checked with me before it came around that first year because he knew he wanted to celebrate it for his son in some way, and he knew he would score a few points with his wife that he knew about St. Nicholas.

When I entered the seminary I decided I would continue this tradition and the cooks who ran the kitchen were more than happy to let me use the ovens. Since I’ve been ordained if you come to the rectory on St. Nick’s Day, or my office at the Rigali Center since I’ve began also working there, you can have a cookie on St. Nick’s Day. Not exactly the greatest, most convincing form of evangelization, but one of the many simple opportunities we have of living and sharing our faith with those around us, and who will turn down a cookie? Thanks Mom.

Peace,
Fr. Nick


Notes From The Pastor’s Pen – December 3, 2017

Hello,

This Tuesday we celebrate the First Reconciliation for the second Grade class of our PSR program. While we normally pay a little more attention and recognize when they are celebrating their First Communion we can also support them and beinspired by them for their First Reconciliation also.

In second grade they usually are around 7 years old, what we consider the age of reason. That is why they will celebrate their First Communion this year, they can understand and distinguish to some degree the difference between ordinary bread and the Eucharist, but also they can understand right from wrong at a level that they couldn’t before. This not only means that they now can knowingly and intentionally sin, but also that they can similarly ask for forgiveness. Actually one of the things you have to teach them at that age is that if something is an accident it isn’t a sin. While the fact that you weren’t paying attention or doing as you were supposed to and this caused the accident might be the sin, but the actual accident itself wasn’t.

I think looking at how they recognize sin, and how we have to teach them the difference of what they are not responsible for, but also what they are, is probably a good example for the rest of us also. We can get upset with ourselves or feel guilty for something that happened that might have just been an accident and itself wasn’t really our fault – when we should be upset with ourselves and feeling guilty for the position we put ourselves into that led to the accident. We had control of that and even if we might have gotten lucky and the accident didn’t happen, we still wouldn’t be innocent. I know I’ve heard a few times when a child was confessing that they failed a test and I told them that failing a test wasn’t a sin, but if we weren’t respecting our parents or teachers and listening in class, doing our homework, and studying for the test, using the gifts God gave us as He desired instead of just how we wanted, that might be where we sinned. If we did all of that and still failed the test then the test is doing what it is supposed to and showing that we need a little more help with this topic. I think we can find similar things for us adults to consider too.

This is also the First week of Advent. It is going to be a short one this year, only three weeks and one day. Maybe we can use the example and encouragement of the children receiving their First Reconciliation to encourage us to also celebrate the sacrament. Advent isn’t necessarily a penitential time like Lent, but it is a time of preparation. What better way to prepare to receive Christ, like the second graders are, then to recognize and ask for the forgiveness of our sins.

Peace,
Fr. Nick