Fr. John's Letter Archives

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


While I'm Away...

09-29-2013Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

Well, I'm off on part of my sabbatical. The policy of the Bishop is to grant either a 3 month sabbatical or a year long one. However if you opt for the year sabbatical you cannot return to the same assignment. So I'll do three months in parts. The first part takes me to Italy and then Scotland. Fortuitously I will be in Assisi on the feast of St. Francis and Pope Francis will be there as well. That would mark the second time this year I have been with the Pope. I guess you can never be around Popes too much (unlike Bishops where less is more!) In Scotland I will be leading a retreat and giving a few talks. Pray for that. That puts me back in Tempe at the end of October just in time for our People Raiser.

Thanks to all of you who have made this possible. The outpouring of your love, support and generosity has been quite overwhelming. Please know that I will be offering Mass for all of you and your intentions throughout my travels.

In my absence Fr. Camilo, our deacons and parish staff, will ably serve you. Msgr. Moyer, pastor emeritus of Our Lady of Joy in Carefree will be assisting with Masses along with Fr. Brian Schultz, retired priest of the Diocese of Duluth, MN whose parents live in Mesa. So extend a warm welcome to them. I appreciate their assistance.

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Don't Drink the Water

09-22-2013Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

While I don't watch the morning news shows someone pointed this out to me. Good Morning America recently ran a story " Holy Water May Be Harmful to Your Health, Study Finds". Here's the gist of what was reported:

Researchers at the Institute of Hygiene and Applied Immunology at the Medical University of Vienna tested water from 21 springs in Austria and 18 fonts in Vienna and found samples contained up to 62 million bacteria per milliliter of water… Tests indicated 86 percent of the holy water, commonly used in baptism ceremonies and to wet congregants' lips, was infected with common bacteria found in fecal matter such as E. coli, enterococci and Campylobacter, which can lead to diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, and fever.

Nitrates, commonly found in fertilizer from farms, were also identified in the water. If ingested, water-containing nitrates over the maximum contaminant level could cause serious illness, especially in infants younger than 6 months, which could lead to death if untreated, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"We need to warn people against drinking from these sources," said Dr Alexander Kirschner, study researcher and microbiologist at the Medical University of Vienna.

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Syria and the Belly of the Whale

09-15-2013Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

This week is the 40th anniversary of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, a war Syria launched against Israel, in what the then Syrian dictator Hafez al-Assad declared as a "war of annihilation". And in a bit of historical irony once again Syria and another Syrian dictator named Assad is front and center in world affairs. Since the beginnings of the civil war in Syria I have been thinking that this conflict has the potential to draw the entire world into a massive war. Isn't it amazing how the same countries that we read about in the pages of the Bible still continue to make world headlines? There is obviously, as usual a larger story going on, one that shows the truth of God's Word and the biblical view of history. How things proceed could have much bigger implications that anyone realizes.

Ironically these events are being played out during the Jewish High Holydays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The days in between the two holy days are days of reflection and clarification of priorities and for committing oneself to taking responsibility. During the afternoon Yom Kippur Service the Book of Jonah is read, the classic tale of flight from responsibility. Jonah was called by God to confront a moral evil in the city of Nineveh. Jonah refused since he did not want his enemies to be saved. Jonah however got a chance to reflect on his refusal in the belly of the big fish and decided reluctantly to accept the task God had given him. He understood that no matter how difficult the task, Nineveh being a very large city and he an unlikely messenger, he nonetheless needed to take action to achieve the greatest good. Eventually by taking responsibility Jonah was able to save the population of the large city of Nineveh.

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Still Remembering

09-08-2013Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

"Father, I think my husband is in one of those buildings". Those were the words Donna Bird gasped on the morning of September 11, 2001. The rest is history now. But those words and the sinking sick feeling that accompanied them remain seared in my memory. Each year since her husband Gary was murdered in the Twin towers, Donna attends Mass at Mt. Carmel on the anniversary and we usually go out to breakfast. This year for the first time Donna has accepted the invitation of the Mayor of New York to attend the 9/11 Memorial service at Ground Zero. Pray for her, as this will be her first visit to the Memorial and the first time she sees her husband's name etched in stone at the Memorial. While the dark anxious memories I am sure will come back hopefully all the moments of grace that have carried her ever since will be present as well.

Since that September day in 2001 we have been dealing with the fingerprints of terrorism either through waging war, using drones to take out terrorist and through an increasing acceptance of trading our liberty for security. As the years have waned on our taste for war has grown sour. In general western democracies have little desire to fight any more wars. As a result our will and resolve when it comes to dealing with terrorism is greatly diminished. While being a warmonger is not what we aspire to, protecting liberty and freedom sometimes requires a strong hand.

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Will the "Dream "Live on?

09-01-2013Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

Last week at the 11am Sunday Mass out of the corner of my eye, just based one those who I know, I counted people from 41 different nations! This is what the prophet Isaiah foresaw when he proclaimed: "Lord every nation on earth will adore You". It is only Christ Jesus who can break down the barriers that divide people and bring them together for a singleness of purpose.

This was the same vision that inspired Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.. Fifty years ago he took that biblical vision of the prophets of Israel and helped us make it more of a reality. King, who took his vision from the biblical prophets and the Gospel, knew that the quest for justice could never be accomplished if it were detached from Judeo-Christian principles. Sadly, fifty years later many try to present him divorced from the biblical principles and Christian Faith that inspired him leaving us with a washed-out secular activist who was merely a dogooder. That was not King, that was not how he lived or what he died for.

On this 50th Anniversary of the "I Have a Dream" speech and the march on Washington, the commentary that rises to the top from pundits, talking heads and journalists seems to be saying that though we have changed a lot in our country there is still more work to do. Well true enough, every new generation of the human family will have to fight against its tribal instincts and put its biases, prejudices and at times outright hatred of people who are different aside. It is a problem that has dogged the human family since the beginning. Still many of those who are commenting on the 50th anniversary seem like scolds who forget how much we have really overcome.

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School's Back

08-25-2013Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

To this day I still get a knot in my stomach and a nauseous feeling on the first day of school and the second and third and everyday thereafter. I was not the kind of child that went easily to school. That's why I find it ironic that I am pastor of a parish with a school. I always hope that the children will forgive me for being complicit with their parents in detaining them against their will. But at least, I tell myself I've helped create a happy place that makes learning fun and interesting. It's a heavy cross! So as we begin another school year I want to thank everyone who supports our school in one way or the other. I thank all of you who participate in the Arizona Tuition Tax Credit Programs. This year from your support of Catholic Education Arizona our school families received assistance from approximately $300,000 raised through CEA and additional funds are also received from a variety of other Tuition Organizations in the state. Your support enables families who otherwise could not afford the cost of tuition to send their children to a Catholic School. Also thanks to all who donated to our Computer Challenge. As a result all our students from sixth to eight grade have a Chrome Book computer and our younger students have access to lots of technology in their classrooms.

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Boys will be Girls?

08-18-2013Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

Do these people have their heads screwed on properly?

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a controversial bill into law Monday afternoon allowing the state's transgender public school students to choose which bathrooms they use and whether they participate in boy or girl sports. The law would cover the state's 6.2 million elementary and high school kids in public schools.

Supporters say the law will help cut down on bullying against transgender students, The families of transgender students have been waging local battles with school districts around the country over what restrooms and locker rooms their children can use. "Now, every transgender student in California will be able to get up in the morning knowing that when they go to school as their authentic self they will have the same fair chance at success as their classmates," Masen Davis, Executive Director of Transgender Law Center said. (Via: Fox News)

How big of a problem is this that the entire state of California has to change its policy for all its schools? Not very big, less than one-half of one percent of students claim gender identity confusion (which is not the same as same-sex attraction). Which means 99.5% of students will have to go along with it or else. Does Gov. Brown not realize this policy change deals with children? Young, emotionally immature children who often pick on the kid who is different? And teens who aside from being less than emotionally stable are also very sexually curious. Young people in general act more on their feelings than their thinking.

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Let It Be

08-11-2013Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

And when the brokenhearted people living in the world agree, There will be an answer, Let It Be... "Let it Be" by the Beatles"

We are the brokenhearted who have found the answer. Most of us have had the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" pointed at us and yet rather than remaining as victims we find the answer in faith. What we agree on even in the midst of so much disagreement is that Jesus is the answer to our broken hearts and wounded souls.

Paul McCartney who wrote the lyrics to the song "Let it Be" explained that the genesis of the song came at a time when the Beatles were fracturing and their business was a mess. He said that he had a dream about his deceased mother, Mary, who was an Irish Catholic and she said to him (about his current dilemma) "Paul just let it be". Good motherly advice.

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Blame it on Rio

08-04-2013Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

Following the media coverage of Pope Francis's visit to Brazil for World Youth Day was at first disappointing and then very disappointing. The media coverage was at best sparse considering this was the Pontiff's first trip and more significantly the first Pope from Latin America to visit Latin America.

The blog for NPR didn't even mention the Papal trip but rather offered a long and extensive piece on a former Brazilian priest who has been excommunicated and is spending his days advocating for the usual litany of things for the Church to change. Now if this were 1968 that might be news but today it's just a rehashing of old news. I realize these people are unbelievers but do they have to be so clueless?

The media is good at finding people and groups who dissent from Church teaching in order to support the narrative the media has about how the world should be and how the Church needs to change to fit their vision. But they some how missed the bigger story of how the Church actually is: three million mostly young people gathered in Rio de Janeiro to listen to the Pope challenge them to revolutionize the culture by bringing the Gospel to their brothers and sisters.

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Warning: Don't be an unmarried lawyer from St. Louis

07-28-2013Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

Mark Twain often said, "there are statistics and then there is the truth." The information we glean from statistics is often colored by our preconceived notions, biases or just wishful thinking, at least in the popular mind. I realize the science of statistics can give us some really good objective data but once it's interpreted by people with agendas that same data miraculously seems to be able to support any hypothesis pro and con at the same time. Still it can be amusing to see how people interpret statistics that are garnered from polls, surveys and research.

So in light of that, here's what I extrapolate from three recent survey's: Devout married Catholics who are members of the Military and live in New York City have the most enjoyable and frequent sex and contribute the most to society's wellbeing among all demographic groups. Conversely, unmarried non-Catholic lawyers who live in St. Louis contribute the least to societyand have really bad sex lives. Here's the proof in favor:

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Lies and damn lies

07-21-2013Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

Experience has taught me that if you "buy a lie" the truth will forever kick your butt. Take for example the alcoholic who despite evidence to the contrary decides to buy the lie that he or she can find a way to manage their drinking. She'll tell herself that if she just exerts enough will-power she can control her drinking or if other people would just get off her back she wouldn't have to drink so much. Once she accepts that lie, alcohol will progressively ruin her life. However if she accepts the truth that she can never safely drink alcohol then she has a chance to recover and live a sober and sane life.

Many of us will also fight to make the lie true. We'll blame other people and victimize ourselves. We'll insist that if other people would only stop saying the lie is a lie, the lie would somehow morph into the truth. When others stand their ground and refuse to say the lie is the truth they are met with anger, resentment, ostracism and sometimes violence.

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Does anybody want what you have?

07-14-2013Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

I think I have DSP Withdrawal, as in Daughters of St. Paul. After spending a week with the sisters it's been a little empty without them. The love and joy the Sisters have is simply infectious. What great blessings they brought to our parish and to me. And the culmination of the week, the Perpetual Profession of Sr. Maria Kim, was a high-water mark for our Parish. Witnessing such a profound moment re-energized my own commitment to follow Jesus. And I would not hesitate to encourage any young woman to join their company.

As I originally told you the Daughters would teach us the secret to the "New Evangelization", how to share to Good News of the Gospel especially with our friends and family whose faith has lapsed. And true to form they did teach us. But it might not have been what you expected.

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A Milleseptuacentennial!

07-07-2013Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

"Religious liberty might be supposed to mean that everybody is free to discuss religion. In practice it means that hardly anybody is allowed to mention it." —G.K Chesterton (d. 1936)

This year we celebrate the milleseptuacentennial of the Edict of Milan (313 A.D.). That's 1700 years folks. The Edict, which really wasn't an Edict but more a letter written in the name of the eastern Roman Emperor Licinius and the western Roman Emperor Constantine, established what we know as religious freedom. The underlying principle was an understanding that God wishes to be worshipped by people who are free to doso. Hence compulsion or state mandated religious practice was contradictory to this principle. The Edict had the effect of allowing Christians and others to worship freely, for the Church to own property and to conduct it'sown affairs without state interference. The road to how we currently practice religious liberty is filled withstops and starts, often religious liberty was observed more in the breach as monarchs learned quickly how to use religion to their advantage (the prince's religion is the people's religion). After the 16th century Reformation the struggle for religious liberty was often dominated by the hostility between Catholics and Protestants.

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