St. Joseph Catholic Church, Clayton MO

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

Notes From The Pastor’s Pen – December 23, 2018

Merry Christmas,

As we get ever closer to Christmas Day I was considering on how busy and active things get, but some of the most memorable parts of Christmas’s have been very calm and quiet moments. That made me think of the song “Silent Night” and I know I had heard of its origin but had forgotten, so I thought I would look it up. Good thing I did because it just so happens that tomorrow is the 200th anniversary of the writing of that hymn.

I found the history of it in a book I have, and then went on-line to find numerous other versions, but all of them had some parts in common that I will take as true. Fr. Joseph Mohr wrote the words for the song and the music was composed by Franz Xavier Gruber, the organist at the parish, and it was first performed in public on December 24th, 1818 at St. Nikolai (or Nicholas in English) church in Oberndorf Austria. That first time it was also not accompanied by the organ, since some say the organ was broken, but rather by a guitar. This leads into the next point in that it was the organ repairman, Karl Mauracher, who heard them play it when he came to repair their organ who then would spread it around many villages he traveled to in the Austrian Alps. By the early 1830’s it managed to spread further by some traveling folk singers and would be heard in a few royal courts and in 1839 was reportedly first performed in America.

The original arrangement cannot be verified but there are a few different manuscripts of the carol found that were written by Gruber, and one by Joseph Mohr that is believed to date to 1820. The common current arrangement is believed to be only slightly different. And the words always change slightly with translations but hopefully still carry the same meaning that will hopefully help you find the calm and peace of Christ.

May you and your families have a Merry Christmas.

Fr. Nick


Notes From The Pastor’s Pen – December 16, 2018


The second week of Advent is over and only one week and 2 days left until Christmas (but who’s counting). As children I think we were usually counting because we were so anxious of getting to Christmas day and the gifts, and the gatherings, and the cookies and other things we remembered from past years and looking forward to again. As adults I think we usually are thinking of all the things we still need to get done (the gifts, the cookies, the invitations, the parties, the cards, the decorating …) before Christmas. As a kid we are more in the anticipation and excitement attitude, as adults a bit more of a worry attitude, I think we need to be more like the kids.

As we celebrate Gaudete Sunday and light the rose colored candle we are supposed to rejoice in joyful expectation. Again, sounds more like the attitude of children then most adults. I think one of the main reasons for this problem for adults is that we think it depends on us, that we are responsible. If we don’t get all the things we need to get done that Christmas won’t be, or it will be ruined. As children we know it doesn’t depend upon us. We get to participate in the celebration and to be a part of it but we also realize that there are all of these old traditions and practices that are done that we are only starting to take part in. It is kind of obvious that this was happening even before we were around (as was always a reminder for me growing up in looking at old family photos we put out of Christmas’s past when I wasn’t even born yet).

Maybe just looking at one small but critical part of most of our Christmas celebration can help see this. Consider your family Christmas tree. Most of us probably have specific ways in which it is to be decorated, if it is a live tree or artificial, if we use colored lights or only white, what goes on top, the type of ornaments we use, where it goes in the home and even when it goes up are all things we can get pretty fixed on. And yet all of those are just very secondary and don’t even matter, if we don’t have the tree. Christ is that tree.

All the other things we do, that we are responsible for, are useless if we don’t have Christ in our Christmas. And that is a part that God has waiting for us. You could say don’t forget to come by Church and pick Him up. God gives us what is central for our Christmas celebrations, never forget in all that we do to prepare for it that the gift of Christ is what Christmas is about.

Fr. Nick

Notes From The Pastor’s Pen – December 9, 2018


This week our 2nd graders will be celebrating their First Reconciliation. As we see them taking this important step in their lives, hopefully it makes us consider being open to the grace of this sacrament ourselves. At one time the sacrament was a weekly practice for many before they would receive the Eucharist each week, but today many Catholics would be hard-pressed to tell you how many years it has been since they celebrated the sacrament of Confession.

There are various reasons why it may have been a long time since someone has gone to Confession and I will try to answer some of them: I don’t have any mortal sins: Great. But we don’t need to have a mortal sin to need forgiving and to benefit from the grace God offers in this sacrament. If we are not open to that grace now it can only make it easier to fall into mortal sin and be harder to be open to the sacrament then.

I know I’m just going to do the same sins again: We might, and for some of the sins we probably will. But if we do not take the time to recognize and admit that they are sins, to realize we need forgiveness for them, and to ask for God’s help those vices that led us to these sins will only grow, instead of being open to God’s help to develop our virtues and eventually overcome those temptations.

It’s been so long I forgot what I’m supposed to say: It is easiest just to start out saying “Bless me Father for I have sinned. It has been ______months/years since my last confession.” You confess your sins and the priest will talk to you and give you a penance. Then you pray an act of contrition. You can use your own words or use a standard prayer such as “My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things. I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin. Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. In his name, my God, have mercy.” (this or a similar act of contrition is also available on cards in most confessionals) The priest will then give you the blessing of absolution.

God doesn’t need me to confess to a priest for my sins to be forgiven: Correct, God can do anything. But God gave us the Church and the sacraments as means to be open and cooperate with his grace. If we believe in God and the Church, then we should try to cooperate with Him.

As a priest, it is an incredible blessing to be able to minister the sacrament of Confession. Hearing people’s struggles in their lives who are truly sorry for their sins and striving to grow in their faith and their closeness to God is encouraging for me to see in those around me and to know that with God’s help, I can also overcome temptations in my life. Our Confession schedules here at St. Joseph’s are Monday-Friday at 11:15-11:50 am and on Saturday 4:00-4:45 pm and most other parishes are also available for Confessions on Saturday evenings. As we prepare for Christ’s coming, what better way than to celebrate this sacrament.

Fr. Nick