Fr. John's Letter Archives

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


In between Death & Healthcare

11-24-2013Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

Last week we considered the necessary inevitabilities and eventualities that need planning for when we die. The larger society however has been considering, almost obsessing on how we access the medical care we need before we die, particularly in light of the implementation of the new Affordable Care Act. As much as I am a proponent of reforming the health insurance system in our Country especially since the Catholic Church has such a large healthcare ministry and is a major employer as well, I am not a fan of the current attempt encapsulated in the Affordable Care Act. Here's why:

The major reason being is that Congress and the President exempted themselves, their families and staff from the Act in a condescending "not for me but for thee" move. And they've made certain that even if they get voted out of office they get to keep their Federal Private Healthcare for the rest of their lives. Coupled with this, last week the President stated, in light of the troubles with the Affordable Care Act rollout, "What we are finding is that purchasing insurance is complicated." Obviously he does not breath the same air as us mere mortals as almost every adult in the country knows that purchasing insurance of any kind is complicated. Hence, the Congress and President have no skin in the game, no dog in the fight. Which means they have little incentive to produce a health insurance system that is any better than what we now have since it will never affect them or their loved ones. And this points to a bigger issue: rather than being governed by elected representatives we seem to more and more be ruled by elitist prigs. But that's a topic for another discussion.

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Once You're Dead...

11-17-2013Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

During November we call to mind both the Saints and the Holy Souls. It is also a time to focus ourselves on how well we are prepared for our own deaths. And while end of life issues and health care decisions need to be carefully considered before our demise. I want to focus on what happens after death, in other words the funeral and burial practices that are appropriate for Christians. (A great resource for end of life issues is the "Advanced Medical Directives & AZ Health Care Power of Attorney" found on the Diocese of Phoenix web site: www.diocesephoenix.org and click on Departments: Medical Ethics.)

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NARTH

11-10-2013Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

This past week the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) held their annual meeting in Phoenix. This is a group of counselors, mental health providers, social workers, pastoral counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists that offer a form of counseling for those with unwanted same-sex attractions or gender identity issues who want to sort through the issue and live a chaste life. This type of counseling has been banned for minors in both California and New Jersey. Needless to say NARTH has many detractors and some who will go to any length to shut them down. In fact as is becoming increasingly clear anyone who disagrees with those who promote same-sex attraction will incur their wrath.

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Lampedusa & Arizona

11-03-2013Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

Immigration is not just a hot button issue in the US but also in Europe. On Oct. 13 a boat filled with over 500 North Africans trying to immigrant to Europe sunk, killing over 300 people near the Italian island of Lampedusa (a sort of Italian version of Ellis Island). This horrific tragedy sparked lots of debate about the immigration challenges that the EU faces. The arguments for and against were almost identical to the arguments we hear in the US. The deaths near Lampedusa (caused by harsh weather) could easily have been the deaths of those crossing the border in Arizona.

Recently Sheriff Joe announced that he was placing white crosses at the places in Maricopa County where immigrants perished. I'm not sure what his motivation is but I think it a good way to visually remind us all of the humanitarian disaster that has become our immigration policy. Pope Francis likewise pointed out the plight of migrants when he visited the island of Lampedusa to pray for migrants living and dead and strongly denounced their human traffickers.

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People Raiser IX

10-27-2013Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

The Diocese of Phoenix has the largest St. Vincent de Paul Society in the world. Our parish has one of the largest St. Vincent Conferences in the Diocese which means we are one of the world's largest SVDP's. I'm not sure if that should be a source of pride or dismay that other places aren't taking up the work of the Society more aggressively. Either way for 60yrs our Vincentians have been caring for the needs of those who find themselves unable to fulfill their own needs. All this means is that since we are large we have lots of work to do and therefore always need more people to help with the work of the Conference.

This is just one of the many ministries that we are highlighting on this People Raiser Sunday. Our theme this year is: The World's Most Interesting Parishioner. Since you already met the World's Most Interesting Priest a few years back I thought it be good for you to meet a parishioner who understands that the nature of a Christian is to serve.

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Will You Answer Prayers?

10-20-2013Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

I know for sure that I have been greatly blest by God and many times despite myself. Aside from the gratitude that comes with that I always ask myself, "what does God want of me"? Why does He bestow gifts if He is not expecting them to be used beyond my own well-being? How can I then return to the Lord with increase?

One way that I have tried to use my experience, strength and hope is to help families struggling with a young person with problems such as drug use, cutting, and eating disorders through our FullCircle Program. Experience has taught me that many families are broken and don't know where to turn for assistance. So many parents are praying that God will help them with their teen and I hope that I can be part of the answer to their prayers. And that is the essence of good stewardship.

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Guest Writer

10-13-2013Fr. John LettersErma Bombeck

By Erma Bombeck, May 1973

There are many theories being circulated these days about taking your children to Mass. Some parents say if the Good Lord had meant for children to go to church, he would have put restrooms at the end of each pew. Others say, "What does it profit a mother to ask God's blessings when she doesn't have the strength to endure the ones He has already given her?"

I have always envied the mother who enters church with her brood and walks down the aisle like a tour guide at Lourdes. Her children are always immaculate and bob along with military precision, genuflecting as a group and filing in until the row has been filled.

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Still Respecting Life

10-06-2013Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

40 years since Roe v Wade and we celebrate another Respect Life Sunday in October. Obviously we’re in it for the duration. But I wonder about the pro-abortion side? As of the most recent count 44 Abortion Clinics have closed this year alone. Good. This is happening mainly due to more restrictive laws that require abortion clinics to operate according to the same standards that other medical clinics are required to uphold. As we saw in the horrific case of the abortionist Kermit Gosnell even simple sanitary standards are often ignored by abortion clinics.

Many states, including Arizona passed legislation requiring a licensed MD be present during abortions. Sounds reasonable yet the blowback has been fierce and the lawsuits came tumbling in. One of the reasons the abortion clinics objected so loudly to this simple and reasonable request was that as it turns out there are very few physicians who are willing to perform abortions. Hence a requirement to have a licensed medical doctor in attendance slows up the abortion factory disassembly line.

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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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