Fr. John's Letter Archives

Enjoy re-reading Fr. John's weekly bulletin letters for the past year.


No Greater Joy

06-29-2014Fr. John LettersFr. John

A year ago this weekend we were blessed to witness Sr. Maria Kim make her perpetual profession with the Daughters of St. Paul. I remember with fondness the gang of Sisters that “invaded” our parish the week before and shared with us their great love of the Lord and their incredible teaching skills. For a pastor to see one of the young people from the parish consecrate her life to the Lord and the service of the Church, yes there is no greater joy.

This weekend a year later, we witness the ordination to the priesthood and the First Mass of Fr. Scott Sperry. Again what greater joy can a pastor have than seeing a young man lay down his life in service of Christ the High Priest? Truly there is no greater joy...Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every year in June we had someone dedicating his or her life to the service of the Gospel?

But in order for that to happen our parish has to be an incubator of vocations. Vocations rarely sprout in isolation. Most begin to germinate in the family and in the larger parish family. Both are the fertile soil in which a young person can begin to yield to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and be given the courage and support needed to accept the call to “come follow Me” as Jesus invites.

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Come one, come all!

06-22-2014Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

With Praise and Thanksgiving to God, Our Almighty Father and relying upon the help of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Diocese of Phoenix and the
Parish of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel joyfully announces the Ordination of

Scott Michael Sperry

to the Sacred Priesthood of Jesus Christ through the imposition of hands and the Invocation of the Holy Spirit
by His Excellency Thomas J. Olmsted, Bishop of Phoenix
on Saturday, the twenty-eighth of June
in the year of two thousand-fourteen
Ten o'clock in the morning
SS. Simon and Jude Cathedral, Phoenix, Arizona

First Mass of Thanksgiving
at five o'clock in the afternoon
Sunday, the twenty-ninth of June two thousand-fourteen
Solemnity of SS. Peter and Paul Apostles
at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church, Tempe, Arizona

We have waited a long time for this so please come and share our joy!

Love, Fr. John B.

Happy 82nd Birthday

06-15-2014Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

This past week our Parish officially turned 82! The Parish of Our Lady of Mount Carmel was erected in 1932 but the community existed as a Mission in Tempe since the 1870's using a small adobe Church where now stands the Sun Devil Stadium and then built a more permanent structure on University and College and finally migrating to the Rural Road property in the late 1950's with the cornerstone of the current Church being laid in 1968. If you go to our website and click on the Video Gallery you can watch the video of the History of the Parish that was put together for the 75th anniversary. It is certainly a history of a community's growth with the buildings and properties providing the structure for that growth to happen. The history of the parish demonstrates the old adage: build it and they will come!

What always amazes me is that the move from the "old Church" to the new campus increased the size of the Church and the property by ten times! That was quite a hopeful vision that the community would grow accordingly. And maybe what's more amazing is that the community, a lot smaller than it is now, was able to build and pay for a new Church, Hall, school, convent and rectory. Many of you were around when the parish moved to the Rural road property and helped build the present campus. But unlike many of you, the buildings on the campus are starting to show their age!

So here's the latest triage report for the bricks and sticks that are on our property. We have done a fairly good job of keeping up with the maintenance and capital improvements needed on our property but there are a few large outstanding issues we need to start working on.

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A Toxic Product

06-08-2014Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

The University of California at Santa Barbara recently became the latest killing fields. Before the young killer went on his murderous rampage he posted a video manifesto of his intentions and his grievances. One of his grievances was that women had ignored him and refused to have intercourse with him and he greatly resented being a 22yr old virgin. His rejection by women seems to be the motivation behind his murderous spree. But where did he get the idea that women owe him sex?

Pornography is the answer to that question. Even if you don't view pornography you are still affected by it as our culture is saturated in it. From the way people dress, to the steady stream of graphic scenes in movies and television, to the lyrics of much contemporary music it is easy for a young man to get the idea that women are walking lust factories just looking to satisfy their urge. As this young man found out the reality is often otherwise. But the fantasy world that porn creates is for many of its users reality that they act upon and expect others to do the same. The blurring of the lines between the real world and the fantasy world has damaging results for individuals, marriages and society at large. If a cigarette produces secondhand smoke that has harmful effects on non-smokers then pornography certainly produces "secondhand sex" that has harmful effects on non-users.

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Politics and War

06-01-2014Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

The inevitable intersection of politics and war often produces less than ideal results. Since the Vietnam War military analysts report that politicians usually because of domestic pressures did not send enough troops, or enough equipment or the right equipment to enable the military to get the job done. To have executed a war properly would most likely mean that politicians would have to ask the American people to make some sacrifices and that is usually not a position people up for re-election like to hold. The last war in which Americans really had skin in the game was WWII. There were lots of sacrifices, rationing, restrictions etc. The national feeling was that we were all in it together no matter which side of the battlefield. Whether Americans just won't go for that scenario or politicians wrongly think they won't go for it, the end result is fighting a war on half-measures. For the last 13 years America has been engaged in two wars but unless you are in the military or have a family member who is, there were no sacrifices required.

Which is all the more reason that Americans should be outraged at the chaos that marks the VA Healthcare system. How is it that a healthcare system as large as the VA can fail so miserably in taking care of veterans who make up around 1% of the population? So while our military men and women were fighting wars that required little on our part we could at least show our gratitude by making sure our veterans are well cared for upon their return. Maybe now is the time for Americans to make some sacrifices on behalf of our veterans and get the VA system up to par.

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The lessons of Tobit

05-25-2014Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear  Friends,

After firing its chief editor (Jill Abramson) the publisher of the NY Times shot down the reports that they had done so because she had demanded a salary equal to her male predecessor, which meant they were paying her less than a man for doing the same job. Imagine that, the NY Times angry with the mainstream media for coming up with a narrative that did not fit the facts! How rich is that? After all the NY Times is the master of setting a narrative that tells the story they want to tell whether or not it has any relationship to reality. I confess I took almost perverse pleasure in watching the owner of the NY Times come undone over the reporting by his colleagues in the media. I guess sooner or later what goes around comes around.

The irony here is that the NY Times has strongly shouted the narrative about the “war on women” and that women receive less pay than men for the same work. And now they, the champion of the narrative of women’s inequality are being accused of treating a woman employee in an unequal manner to men. You can understand why the publishers became a bit apoplectic over the reporting.

There is a spiritual lesson in there: the thing that we most pride ourselves on can be the thing that humiliates us. All of us have a soft-underbelly that is vulnerable to attack. Just think of the Church: the Church’s teaching on human sexuality is clear, concise and well defined. Unlike other churches we have not wavered on it even in the face of great opposition and calls for change and cultural shifts. And where was the Church the most humiliated recently: with the sexual abuse scandals by priests. The lesson is quite clear: humiliation will come in that area you are often strongest in. Which means pay attention so that does not happen.

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Moral Hoops

05-18-2014Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

How often do we hear, "if it feels right then its ok" with the caveat: "as long as it does not hurt anyone"? That seems to be the prevailing moral norm of our society. When you make a claim to objective moral truths or absolute values or that some things are intrinsically wrong you're usually told that you are some kind of right-wing control freak that is trying to "impose" your religious values on everyone. The problem here is that the truth is the truth and no matter how much you want to relativize it to a person's feelings it has a way of asserting itself sooner or later.

Case in point: the recent episode with Donald Sterling, the owner of the professional basketball team in Los Angeles. Mr. Sterling shared his feelings privately with another person, saying he did not want her seen in public with black people. Once his remarks were made public he was soundly condemned. Now if you use the prevailing moral standard he was just sharing his "truth", the way he felt with another person. What's wrong with that? Furthermore he really did not harm anyone as the remarks were private and he did not take action on them. Once the remarks were made public they offended just about everyone but doesn't he have a right to his own moral beliefs, especially if they "feel right" to him? After all if there are no objective moral truths that our reason can grasp then who are we to judge Mr. Sterling's feelings that he expressed privately?

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Teaching the Wrong Lessons

05-11-2014Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

A few recent headlines in the news show a rather disturbing trend in the lessons we teach our children. In one case a high school honor student took a picture with her phone of an image that was projected on the screen in the classroom. The image was pornographic and was generated from the teacher's computer. The student was promptly suspended. In another case a student recorded with his phone or i-pad an incident of bullying that was happening to him. The student was not only suspended but also charged with the crime of clandestine recording.

While I suppose the school administrators in these cases had what they considered good reasons for the actions they took they seemed to wildly miss the bigger picture. What lessons are they teaching their students?

The students in these cases pretty much walk away from these "learning" experiences thinking that adults are a bunch of liars who can't be trusted. Adults look out for themselves first and will throw children under the bus to protect their agenda. And worse, when students do the right thing they will be punished. So why listen to adults? Any wonder we have behavior problems in our schools?

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How successful was Lent?

05-04-2014Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

Now that the Lenten Fast has turned into the Easter Feast we might want to ask ourselves how productive was our Lent? Some of us may be looking back and wondering what difference it all made if any. Did it have any effect? What was the point of all that penance and "giving things up"? It may seem like little growth was had or we just didn't get the Easter infusion of spirituality and grace. Did we make spiritual progress or just go through the motions?

The point of our Lenten practices, particularly fasting was to discipline the body so as to assert the primacy of the spiritual. Now that we have done that we need to tend to the interior effects of fasting and see if it has helped us overcome the corrosive vices that settle quietly in the soul.

I came across this quote by St. John Climacus, a 7th century monk who is a saint in both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches:

Let us not believe that an external fast from visible food alone can possibly be sufficient for perfection of heart and purity of body, unless with it there has also been united a fast for the soul. For the soul also has its foods that are harmful...

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SAINTS INDEED!

04-27-2014Fr. John LettersFr. John

Elegy for a Pope

"I accept". 16 October 1978, then

Habeamus papem…Carol Cardinal Woytyia…bewilderment?...A Pole!
Joy: Viva il Papa!

Totus Tuus

No Pole, not Italian, not Mexican nor American or Asian, a
Brother
Shepherd
Voice of the Poor
Clarion of Justice
Peter
Father

Your words: BE NOT AFRAID
Baruch a'schem
A salaam a-lakum
Splendor of the Truth
Gospel of Life
Luminous Mysteries
Divine Mercy

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But for the Grace of God

04-20-2014Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

One of the songs we have been singing during Lent titled: There By The Grace of God Go I, a new composition written by Chris Muglia. Chris said the inspiration for the song was Pope Francis' statement "who am I to judge". That statement is a strong reminder that those of us who are living a life of grace have been saved from so many of the hurtful behaviors we watch others engage in. And it is mostly an affirmation of the fact that it is only by the grace of God that we are not doing the things we rightly judge to be sinful. That makes us righteous not self-righteous. It is important to remember that loving someone does not mean accepting wrong behavior or not judging behavior that is hurtful but rather recognizing that that person could be me if it were not for the abundant grace of God. That gives things a different perspective.

This is what makes our Eucharistic Assembly so diverse and beautiful, so rich: from top to bottom, from rich to poor, from sinner to saint we are all present together only by the grace of God. What or who would we be without that grace? Maybe we would be the liar or cheat, or the addict or the unfaithful one. No matter how much we've cleaned up we know where we came from and what keeps us from going back: the grace of God.

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Tolerating Intolerance

04-13-2014Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

"Trouble, oh we got trouble, right here in River City, with a capital T".

Recently the CEO of Mozilla, Brendan Eich was forced to resign from his position because he had donated to the CA Prop 8 campaign in support of traditional (1 man- 1 woman) marriage. The supporters of same-sex marriage let it be known that no dissent will be tolerated and anyone who holds positions contrary will be shunned from polite society. Traditional Marriage supporters have been compared to Holocaust deniers, segregationists, racists, bigots, and mentally deranged persons. Not really the group you would want to belong to, right? So it makes lots of sense to join the other side, after all if you say you are gay/lesbian or much, much better trans-anything you get all the accolades, a cheering-section, special protections, designated safe places at schools and universities and the full support of our media and government. Who wouldn't want to sign up for this club? Nuts not to...

Still the lack of tolerance that this episode displayed is truly bone chilling. Even to the point that some of the biggest supporters of same-sex marriage found it revolting for a pluralistic society like ours. Andrew Sullivan, a long time advocate for same-sex marriage said, "Will he [Brendan Eich] now be forced to walk through the streets in shame? Why not the stocks? The whole episode disgusts me – as it should disgust anyone interested in a tolerant and diverse society. If this is the gay rights movement today – hounding our opponents with a fanaticism more like the religious right than anyone else – then count me out. If we are about intimidating the free speech of others, we are no better than the anti-gay bullies who came before us."

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40 Days for Life

04-06-2014Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

This always makes my head explode. A TV journalist, who generally does a fair job and is also a Catholic, said recently: "Catholics believe life begins at conception." NO, NO, NO, Catholics do not BELIEVE life starts at conception, it is a scientific fact, biology specifically that has empirically proven that once an egg is fertilized by a sperm then life begins. Now maybe you think this is just a matter of semantics or less than precise terminology. But it matters for several reasons. Firstly, the Pro-life side is often accused of being anti-science but the fact is that we have science on our side. Secondly, since human life begins at conception our position that human life no matter what stage of development has the same intrinsic worth and dignity and therefore right to life that other stages of human life have is consistent with science and ethics. Therefore to say that ending a newly conceived human life is killing is very logical. Since one of the foundational principles of our society is that it is always wrong to intentionally destroy innocent human life, abortion, the direct taking of human life at its earliest stages is killing. Which means to get around that you either have to deny biological science or agree that it is permissible to directly intend the killing of human life.

Most people probably don't think all that deeply about the issue or the logic of the Pro-life side or the illogic of the Pro-choice side. That's why when most women seek an abortion they are usually seeking a solution to the problem of an unexpected pregnancy. Our experience of working with women at our crisis pregnancy centers proves that point again and again and also proves that when we present solutions other than abortion many, many women tell us no one ever told them there were other options and that help was available to them.

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