Fr. John's Letter Archives

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


Families Wanted

12-30-2012Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

The year that was has waned and on this final Sunday of 2012 we celebrate the Holy Family. A family that had its own share of hardship including having their little child pursued by a mass murderer and their adult son executed in horrible agony. The family of Joseph and Mary and Jesus stand in solidarity with the families of:

Charlotte Bacon, Daniel Barden, Olivia Engle, Josephine Gay, Ana Marquez-Greene, Dylan Hockley, Madeleine Hsu, Catherine Hubbard, Chase Kowalski, Jesse Lewis, James Mattioli, Grace McDonnell, Emilie Parker, Jack Pinto, Noah Pozner, Caroline Previdi, Jessica Rekos, Avielle Richman, Benjamin Wheeler, and Allison Wyatt.

Each of these families have their own personal journeys to Egypt to make but hopefully before they do they will be visited by Magi offering them gifts of hope, healing and peace.

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O Little Town of Bethlehem

12-23-2012Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

From the start the little town of Bethlehem was inhospitable to Joseph and Mary, no room at the Inn, and the city of the Savior's birth continues to be an unfriendly place for His followers. Today less than 2% of the population in the area is Christian. The spirit of Herod still haunts the place. We should not neglect to remember this as we celebrate in freedom the birth of the one born in Bethlehem. Two thousand years later the hatred towards God's people is as strong as ever.

On November 29 the United Nations passed a resolution granting "non-member observer status" to the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, the Palestinian territories. Ironically this was 65 years to the date that the UN developed a partition plan creating a Palestinian state and a Jewish state. At that time the Jews accepted the plan but the Arab nations rejected it and tried to take all of Palestine by force. Hence there has never been a functional Palestinian state. Somehow the United Nations forgot about the 1947 Arab rejection of a Palestinian state and the five wars in which they tried to take all of the Jewish state.

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Hanukkah Blessings

12-16-2012Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

A belated Happy Hanukkah! For the past eight days Jews throughout the world have been lighting a candle each night on their menorahs in commemoration of the days' worth of oil that lasted over a week, lighting up the Temple menorah in Jerusalem in 167 BC. Though Hanukkah is not on our Liturgical calendar we should nonetheless recall it, as Israel's history is also part of Christian History. In fact you really can't understand Christianity apart from the history of Israel and the Jewish people.

Hanukkah celebrates the victory of the few over the many; the powerless over the powerful, hope over despair and hence light over darkness. During this historical period Syrian Greeks who wanted to impose on the "backward" Jews a new, more progressive, enlightened culture dominated Israel. This would require the destruction of all things Jewish. The Greeks understand that the only way to accomplish this was to stop the study of the Torah and worship in the temple. Study of the Torah became illegal and forced faithful Jews to study Torah in secret.

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All I want for Christmas

12-09-2012Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Santa,

All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth. But since I already have them, here's another list:

♦ The Parishioners at Mt. Carmel who pay taxes to the state of Arizona direct their taxes to Catholic Education Arizona by donating to CEA and then claim a tax credit on their income taxes. Santa this is a wonderful way for Arizona taxpayers to stipulate the use of their tax dollars rather than have the Legislature do it for them. This year Santa the amounts that can be claimed for a tax credit have doubled! An individual can donate $1003 and a married coupled can donate $2006 to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel School. Any tax preparer or CPA will tell you "anyone with two brain cells can see how easy this is" so why do so many choose not to participate? Maybe Santa you need to give them two brain cells for Christmas too?

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In Translation

12-02-2012Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

This First Sunday of Advent is an anniversary of sorts. It has been a full year since we began using the 3 Edition of the Roman Missal. In the build up to the Missal a whole lot of ink was spilled on such few words! But all in all implementation has been smooth at least in our parts. In other places the implementation was rather bumpy as little preparation was done and some congregations were caught off guard and without pew cards to help them. This was undoubtedly due to that quality that characterizes the priestly species: (to paraphrase Nietzsche) "the instinct of mediocrity." Implementation is yet occurring in many countries, others are in the translating process still. The Italian Bishops are in full revolt over the change from "all" to "many" (tutti to molti) in the words of consecration. Benedict XVI probably wishes he were back in Germany.

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Let Them Eat Cake

11-25-2012Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

It's almost a real life enactment of Jerry Seinfeld's "Soup Nazi". Mayor "Marie Antoinette" Bloomberg of New York has decreed that homeless shelters, soup kitchens and other agencies that serve the poor shall not accept food donations since the city can not assess the salt, fiber and fat content of such donations. "So they have no food? Let them eat spinach salad with a low-fat dressing on the side (hold the bacon bits)." We can add this to the list of other "thou shall not's": thou shall not drink more than 16ounces of soda, thou shall not smoke tobacco, thou shall not consume trans fats in restaurants, thou shall not feed thy baby formula and, thou shall not copulate without protection.

The Church of Secular Fundamentalism of Our Atheistic Lord of the Left is a religion to be reckoned. It has its own high priests, sacraments, dogmas, doctrines and heresies with accompanying punishments. Radical secularism has been the "religion" that has imposed its values on society more than any other in the last 40yrs. The sad irony is that adherents to secularism complain loudly about how religious believers are trying to "impose" their values on others, legislate morality and control people's lives and then they turn around and do the same thing they accuse others of doing. And they do it with fierce intolerance towards anyone who disagrees with them. If you don't believe me try bringing a saltshaker, an ashtray and a liter of soda into a Manhattan restaurant, school or park.

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Thanksgiving

11-18-2012Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

As we approach Thanksgiving Day Weekend let's remember the real reason for our gratitude. While the material blessings and the bounty of the earth are rightly acknowledged we need to see underneath them to the Giver of all Gifts, who has given us the greatest of gifts: our Faith. And that faith is birthed, nurtured and matured in the loving arms of His Church. And so a little appreciation and gratitude in the words of poet Maya Angelou:

"It's Sacred: Church":

Everything in God's world is sacred. Trees and roads and
little girls' eyes. Grandfather's hands
and the murmuring voices of lovers. Sacred

A poet's dream, almanac compilers and rocks that
look up at the moon. Sacred. Everything can be
church and anything can be church.

Church was the first public place where I came
child to spirit to Christ. "Suffer the little children
to come unto me, for such is the Kingdom of Heaven."

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Here come the Deacons!

11-11-2012Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

Fifty years ago the Second Vatican Council sought to analyze and refocus Church teaching and practice. The most obvious result of the Council was a new liturgical form for the Mass, which really was more of a return to an older tradition and not so much an innovation. Once the Council issued a new rite for the Roman Mass it was obvious that an overhaul of the sacrament of Holy Orders was needed.

Prior to the Council the Sacrament of Holy Orders was divided into two parts: minor orders (porter, lector, acolyte, exorcist) and major orders (sub-deacon, deacon, priest, bishop). Earlier in the history of the Church each of these was a ministry in and of itself and stood alone from the other ministries. So a porter, (one who opens a door) actually started off in times when Christians met in secret for fear of authorities or when only fully initiated Christians could participate in the Eucharist. So the porter was responsible for knowing who was who and who to let into the celebration. (You see a remnant of this when during the RCIA process we dismiss the candidates and catechumens after the homily.) The lector was the only one to read the sacred scriptures during the Liturgy as most people were illiterate and books were rare. As liturgies become more complex trained servers (acolytes) would be required to navigate the maze of liturgical rubrics.

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Election 2012: Caesar vs God

11-04-2012Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

Like many pastors in the US, I received a letter from the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. Rev. Lynn for some reason felt it necessary to remind me of the IRS regulations on 501(c) (3) tax exempt organizations, which are mostly (but not always) Churches, which forbids such groups from endorsing or opposing candidates for political office or intervening directly or indirectly in partisan campaigns. He also reminds me that this free-speech muzzle does not stifle my right to speak out on religious, moral and political issues. How condescendingly quaint.

Rev. Lynn also in said letter warns me that if I do cross that line and endorse or oppose a candidate for political office he will send the Speech Police knocking at the Church door. (I'll be hospitable.) The IRS according to Lynn will revoke our tax-exempt status. Except that in the 58yrs since the IRS adopted the "Johnson Amendment" (inserted into the tax code in 1954 by then Senator Lyndon B. Johnson who got ticked at a group of Baptist ministers that opposed his reelection in Texas, stating that pastors cannot get involved in partisan politics) they have rarely tried to enforce it. This is most likely because the IRS knows the Johnson Amendment is a violation of the First Amendment. (At this point the Supremes have yet to sing about it.) But the IRS can and has made life miserable for some religious groups with audits and fines. So I don't doubt their coercive power.

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An Election Primer

10-28-2012Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

Well, here's a little Election Primer. Never let it be said I did not tell you how to vote!

First and foremost, citizens have not only a right to vote but also a moral duty to do so. Remember failure to exercise (our rights) causes them to atrophy. And as you exercise your right to vote please do so as an informed Catholic. Too often we are more interested in being a faithful Democrat or Republican or Independent than a faithful Catholic. Partisan labels are simply stupid for Catholics. The truth is that sometimes you may have to vote liberally and at others conservatively. Such is the nature of the Christian's participation in the maze of politics.

It is very important to remember that while some issues involve absolute principles others involve prudential decisions. Simply put our moral principles are a commitment to the common good and the dignity of each human person. So for instance voting against abortion or candidates who support it is in keeping with upholding the moral principle of human dignity. When it comes to upholding the common good say for instance as it is expressed in care for the poor, the "how to" will usually involve a prudential decision. That is while the principle that we should care for the poor is not up for grabs the strategy of how best to do that will be a point of disagreement even while upholding the general principle. So while two different courses of action may both be in keeping with and not violate the general moral principle you will have to make a prudential decision on which one to support.

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Stem Cell War Victory

10-21-2012Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

Well you could've knocked me over with a well, stem cell, an induced pluripotent stem cell to be exact. This year's Nobel Prize for Medicine was awarded to Japanese scientist Dr. Shinya Yamanaka, who developed the induced pluripotent stem cell (IPSC) procedure by which stem cells can be developed without destroying an embryo. Dr. Yamanaka discovered a way to reprogram normal skin cells so that they become like an embryonic stem cell or pluripotent, that is a cell that can differentiate into almost any body part.

What is more interesting is that Dr. Yamanaka decided to pursue this research after looking at embryo destructive research and having the realization that the embryos that were being destroyed could have been his daughters. He put it this way: "When I saw the embryo, I suddenly realized there was such a small difference between it and my daughters". When he looked through the microscope he saw not just a cell but also the beginning of a human life. "If human embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) does not make you at least a little bit uncomfortable, you have not thought about it enough," he said. "I thought long and hard about whether I would do it." He then realized how ethically troubling embryo destructive research was and sought to find a way to continue this research in an ethical way. His insight and ethical qualms changed the course of stem cell research and the terms of the great Stem Cell Debate.

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The Year of Faith

10-14-2012Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

Mother Church rejoices that, by the singular gift of Divine Providence, the longed-for day has finally dawned when —under the auspices of the virgin Mother of God, whose maternal dignity is commemorated on this feast — the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council is being solemnly opened here beside St. Peter's tomb.

With these words Blessed Pope John XXIII opened the Second Vatican Council on October 11, 1962. Fifty years later Pope Benedict XVI called for a "Year of Faith" to mark this anniversary as well as the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Both Pontiffs saw that as a Church our "salt is becoming tasteless and our light is hidden". The Church in every age needs renewal so that its salt can flavor the world and its light can light up the path to Christ for humanity. John XXIII's main concern in calling the Council was to help the Church speak more clearly to the modern world. This was to be done by taking many of the documents of the First Vatican Council (1868) and updating or redacting them, bringing clearer focus on issues of modern importance and lessening the stress on other issues of lesser present significance. But in no way was it the intention of the Council or the actual work of the Council to throw out the baby with the bathwater. So why did so much confusion and apparent decline in the practice of our faith follow in the aftermath of Vatican II?

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Is Lady Liberty an abused spouse?

10-07-2012Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

Is Lady Liberty an abused spouse?

One of the dynamics that often is present when a spouse is abused is that the abused believes (wrongly) that the abuse is their fault. Abusers are very good at convincing their victims that somehow the fault lies in their behavior not the abuser’s behavior. So in effect an abuser is saying to a victim “you brought this on yourself”. So the victim spends her time apologizing and trying her best to placate her abuser. The victim then will often go out of her way to not make waves or do anything that would set the abuser off. But even when the victim is behaving “perfectly” an abuser will cleverly set the victim up to provoke a reaction so that he can inflict more physical, mental or emotional abuse. This is just the sad cycle of abuse and if it is not broken victims can wind up dead.

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