St. Joseph Catholic Church, Clayton MO

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

Notes From The Pastor’s Pen – September 12, 2021

Its All About Control

From toddlerhood to old age, we grow in mastery of our own lives, our bodies, and our destiny. This mastery is hard won, and we don’t let go of autonomy easily. Much of this self-mastery involves the avoidance of pain or discomfort, so when we hear things like “take up your cross” and “lose your life,” we tend to resist the message.

James says that faith without works is dead. Ouch! That is really a direct message! One way to look at this, as well as the part about losing our life to find it, is that faith is a process of more and more openness to God’s direction of our lives. It is very hard for us to give up control, but perhaps what we are being asked to do is not to become passive and babyish, but to allow God to direct where our self-mastery will lead and what it will accomplish. We are asked to relinquish the need to control the results of our efforts; to risk, as Jesus did, the loss of everything we are working to achieve. We are asked to let God take the lead and to control the results, even though we may never see those results.

© J. S. Paluch Co.

Notes From The Pastor’s Pen – September 5, 2021

The Messiah Foretold

Today’s story of the cure of a deaf man with a speech impediment is a good example of how much is contained in a simple miracle story. The Greek word mogilalos appears only here in all of the New Testament. It is a technical term referring to someone with a stammer. It is also used only once in the entire Jewish scriptures, in the passage that we read today as our first reading from Isaiah. Clearly, by his choice of this precise word Mark wants us to recognize that what Jesus is doing is the fulfillment of what Isaiah had predicted centuries earlier. In fact, Mark wants us to recognize that Jesus is the Messiah foretold by Isaiah and the other Jewish prophets of old.

The word ephphatha, “be opened,” used to describe the restoration of the man’s speech, is another example of a subtle allusion to an earlier prophecy. This time the prophecy in question is from Ezekiel, when he foretells that in the messianic age, “your mouth shall be opened to speak” (24:26). The sophistication of Mark’s narrative is further revealed when we realize that there are multiple levels within a single reference. Mark not only draws our attention back to Israel’s prophetic past, he also points to the initiatory practice of his contemporaries by his mention of such things as spittle, touching of ears, and the use of the word ephphatha, all of which were practices incorporated into the early Church’s baptismal ritual.

© J. S. Paluch Co.

Notes From The Pastor’s Pen – August 29, 2021

Doers of the Word

The second reading for today begins a five-week series of selections from James, a letter that is classified among the so-called “catholic” (or universal) epistles because they are addressed to a general audience rather than to one particular community. Today’s text offers important advice for Christians of every generation. God is first cited as the author of all gifts, and in particular, reference is made to the gift of baptism by which we have been made the “first fruits” of the new creation.

What follows is advice based on a very Jewish understanding of the “word” as an active force, operative in the world. We are reminded that unless we, too, become “doers” of the word, our claim to faith is empty. Today and in subsequent weeks the author reminds us that it is equally important to do the “works” of love, for example, by caring for the “orphans and widows in their affliction.”

© J. S. Paluch Co.

Notes From The Pastor’s Pen – August 22, 2021


There is an axiom that states, “Not to decide is to decide.” This saying was popular in the turbulent times of the Vietnam War. It urged us not to allow others to answer the moral questions raised by our nation’s involvement in that terrible conflict, but to decide for ourselves. Making such choices is never easy. Avoiding them is common. Jesus, for his part, was not only a gallant risk-taker, but a clear decision -maker. As he pursued the mission to which the Father called him, he continually decided for us and for the Father. He worked hard to lay out a scenario that would enable others to make similar choices. Never did he make decisions for others or force others into decisions, even decisions that had eternal ramifications. Jesus is inviting us to make such decisions today. We won’t be absolutely sure. What is sure, however, is the command that issues from God’s word: Take the risk. Decide!

© J. S. Paluch Co.

Notes From The Pastor’s Pen – August 15, 2021

Dear friends,

This Sunday the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Assumption and so calls to mind the fact that, when the course of her earthly life was completed, the Blessed Virgin Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven from where she continually intercedes for us to God.

The Preface for today’s Mass invites us to join together in prayer to God our Father as we call to mind this event in the life of Mary. As this prayer tells us, “today the Virgin Mother of God was assumed into heaven as the beginning and image of your Church’s coming to perfection and a sign of sure hope and comfort to your pilgrim people; rightly you would not allow her to see the corruption of the tomb since from her own body she marvelously brought forth your incarnate Son, the Author of all life.”

As we celebrate this Solemnity, let us pray that, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we will all be strengthened by the grace of God to follow Christ closely so that dying in Christ we will all be brought one day to the glory of the Resurrection.

Father Bené

Notes From The Pastor’s Pen – August 8, 2021

Civil Discourse

“Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.” These words bring us up short! What could we be doing to grieve the Holy Spirit? Alas, the same things that the Ephesians were doing in the time of Paul, that is, fighting, shouting, reviling each other with fury, anger, and malice. Just tune in to talk radio some day or observe some “road rage” on the expressway. If we who are partakers of the Body of Christ can treat one another this way, what does that mean about our belief in Christ’s message of peace and reconciliation? The Eucharist is the sacrament of unity. It is communion with God and with each other. A good first step would be to speak civilly to each other, even in disagreement!

© J. S. Paluch Co.

Notes From The Pastor’s Pen – August 1, 2021

The Bread of Life

Today’s Gospel has the crowd asking Jesus three questions. First, “When did you get here,” to which Jesus responds by rebuking them for their failure to grasp his miracle as a “sign,” an occasion to put faith in him. Their second question about accomplishing the “works of God” has Jesus respond that faith is the “work” that God wishes. Many scholars believe this is John’s answer to the faith-works dichotomy emerging in the early Christian community. Faith is the work of God in the believer, John would have us understand. The third question asked by the crowd is a request for a “sign” that would allow them to put faith in Jesus, as the manna in the desert allowed the Israelites to put faith in the Lord God. Jesus answers by revealing himself as the “bread of life” that “comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

© J. S. Paluch Co.

Notes From The Pastor’s Pen – July 25, 2021

Dear friends,

This weekend the Church throughout the world celebrates the first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly recently instituted by our Holy Father Pope Francis. The annual World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly will take place each year on the fourth Sunday of July which is near the Feast day of Saints Joachim and Anne, the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary and grandparents of Jesus.

In his Message on this occasion, Pope Francis tells us that the vocation of grandparents and the elderly is to “help us better understand that our vocation is to preserve our roots, to pass on the faith to the young, and to care for the little ones.” As he writes, “It makes no difference how old you are, whether you still work or not, whether you are alone or have a family, whether you became a grandmother or grandfather at a young age or later, whether you are still independent or need assistance. Because there is no retirement age from the work of proclaiming the Gospel and handing down traditions to your grandchildren. You just need to set out and undertake something new.”

Pope Francis tells us that grandparents and the elderly can help build the world of tomorrow and invites them to set up the following three pillars to support this new edifice, namely, dreams, memory, and prayer. Regarding dreams, he tells them: “You need to show that it is possible to emerge renewed from an experience of hardship.” Regarding memory, he writes that “Keeping memory alive is a true mission for every elderly person: keeping memory alive and sharing it with others.” Regarding prayer, he tells them: “your intercession for the world and for the Church has great value: it inspires in everyone the serene trust that we will soon come to shore.”

This weekend let us pray for all grandparents and elderly, that Almighty God will bless them with long life, happiness, and health, and that they always will be living signs of His presence to their children and grandchildren.

In Christ,
Father Bené

Notes From The Pastor’s Pen – July 18, 2021

The Days are Coming

Separation, isolation, and hostility are terrible things. We are, sadly, too familiar with all of them in our modern life, whether we look at world events or events in our own neighborhoods and families. All three readings today refer to these same sad human conditions.

The prophet Jeremiah describes world conditions as if the people of his time were sheep who had been scattered by poor leadership and corrupt shepherds. But “the days are coming,” he assures us (Jeremiah 23:5), when a new shepherd, a just king, will come. We meet that king in the second reading and the Gospel. Paul reminds us in the Letter to the Ephesians that all divisions can now cease in Christ Jesus, who has brought us together through his blood. In Mark’s Gospel we see Jesus himself, looking with pity on those searching for him as if they were sheep without a shepherd.

© J. S. Paluch Co.

Notes From The Pastor’s Pen – July 11, 2021

God Chose Us

Who chose first, God or you? That is the question explored in today’s three readings. The second reading, from Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, reads almost like a hymn. It praises God for choosing us, for calling us to serve, and for blessing us in our service. Paul makes it clear how honored we are and how special is the call to live as children of God. This is through no doing of our own.

The first reading and the Gospel use prose rather than poetry to describe the same truth: God did the choosing, not us. When the prophet Amos was berated for being a prophet, he retorted that the whole thing wasn’t his idea in the first place. Neither did the twelve apostles in today’s Gospel ask for their calling. Jesus sent them forth, two by two, to do the work of his kingdom.

© J. S. Paluch Co.