Weekly pastor’s post (September 24)

This last Saturday (September 23, 2023), we had our informal parish townhall Q&A in preparation for our formal feedback session this Thursday, September 28 at 6:30 pm in the school gymnasium. This Thursday will be our opportunity to give our feedback about the proposed parish family configuration of which Saint Mark parish is a part: parish family 13 – Saint Catherine parish, Saint Matthew parish, and Saint Mark parish. Parishioners are especially encouraged to come with their response to two questions: What does or doesn’t work with this proposed parish family configuration? and What alternatives do I suggest? It is my hope that every parishioner takes part in this crucial feedback to the archbishop and those helping him in his final decision later this year.

But enough about that, and back to the townhall! As the day got closer, I found myself more and more anxious about how it might go. As much as I feel capable of handling expressions of strong emotions, conflict – especially angry conflict – is something I just dread, every time.

I needn’t have worried. About sixty parishioners showed up, all with intelligent & insightful questions – and kind dispositions. We talked for over two hours about the what, why, and maybes of Partners in the Gospel. If you’d like to check out those questions & answers, there is an extensive summary available online on our website.

An Android logo made out of an apple – make of that what you will!
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

On the geeky side of things, that summary was largely enabled by my Google Pixel 7’s Recorder app, which transcribed the entire session for me! Though I had to do some heavy editing (it really likes commas), it saved me a boatload of work by doing the heavy lifting of turning what was said into text. I’m not telling you what kind of phone you should purchase – but if you’re going with an Android phone, Google’s Pixel line is pretty amazing (and honestly, can a Christian in good conscience buy hardware whose logo is a sign of original sin? 🤔😏)

A takeaway from Saturday – as well as a planning meeting during the week for our adult catechesis classes – is how enjoyable it is to just spend time together talking about what we love. Sharing our faith, enjoying each other’s presence, sharing our joys & sorrows – this is at the heart of the life of community for which God created us! It is easy to forget how wonderful it is to simply be with others, especially in light of all the technological barriers to doing just that.

Whatever may be in your schedule this week, I hope it includes some time with family, friends, and those around you. Rest assured of my prayers for you throughout.

yours in Christ,
Father Maurer

September 26 – This day is the memorial of Saints Cosmas and Damian. If you listen closely the Roman Canon (Eucharistic Prayer I), they are both mentioned before the consecration. They were twin brothers who became doctors, legendarily not charging for their services. During the persecution of Diocletian, they were tortured and eventually executed for their faith. Devotion to their veneration spread quickly, leading to their inclusion in the commemoration in the Roman Canon. Read more at Catholic Culture.

September 27 The memorial of Saint Vincent de Paul holds a special place in Catholic communities around the world, not least because of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul – conferences of which are found in parishes everywhere. These conferences, though their own non-profit organization, are manned by members of the parish community and serve the most needy in their local area. These ‘Vincentians’ go out two-by-two to meet our neighbors, offering a helping hand. Read more about their mission at the official SVdP website. And if you’d like to support their work, you can donate online to our Saint Mark Saint Vincent de Paul conference.

September 28 Saint Lawrence Ruiz & his companions – whose memorial is today – stand as witnesses of how ordinary people can make an extraordinary witness. A simple parishioner, husband, and father, he found himself fleeing his home when falsely accused of murder. When he and the Dominicans who helped him escape landed in Nagasaki, they found themselves caught and tortured under the persecution of Christians there. Their torturers explicitly desired their renunciation of the faith, but Saint Lawrence and the three priests refused, holding fast to their faith to the end. The Vatican News website has more about their inspiring story.

Aartsengelen Michaël, Gabriël en Rafaël aanbidden Maria met Kind, Diana Mantuana, image courtesy of Rijksmuseum

September 29 – Of all the angels, the archangels Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael are the only whose names have been revealed to us. Though each is mentioned at several points in Scripture, they are particularly known for their appearance in the Book of Revelation (Michael), at the annunciation (Gabriel), and in the Book of Tobit (Raphael). May we regularly call on them – and all the saints & angels – to pray for us! And if you’d like to pray to them, consider learning each of their prayers:

For further reading, you may enjoy Pope Benedict XVI’s 2007 homily on their feast day at the ordination of new bishops.

Saint Jerome Writing, Caravaggio

September 30Saint Jerome, whose memorial is today, famously said that “ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ”. As Catholics, we’re blessed with many opportunities to reflect on Sacred Scripture – not only in regular reading of the Bible (that too!), but in the Liturgy of the Hours, at Mass, and in devotional prayers such as the rosary. Read more about Saint Jerome at Ascension Press – and take some time to pick up your Bible today, and every day, to draw closer to the Lord.

Weekly pastor’s post (September 17)

‘I wish it need not have happened in my time,’ said Frodo. ‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.’

I caught myself ruminating on this scene from The Fellowship of the Ring. Though the conversation in the movie is portrayed ever-so-slightly differently than is found in the book, the sentiment rings true – especially in the portrayal of Frodo reflecting on the conversation before committing to fulfilling his mission despite the breaking of the Fellowship.

Partners in the Gospel is the opposite of the breaking of the Fellowship – if anything, we are long overdue for a re-forging of fraternity among Catholics in the Pacific Northwest. Even in my relatively short time in the archdiocese (I’m a military brat and have only lived here since 1998), the deep divisions within our archdiocese have always been evident – both within any given parishes as well as between them.

What we could not – or perhaps, if we’re brutally honest with ourselves, would not – achieve by will alone, circumstances are now forcing: we will be forged together by this process into one parish, one community. But there’s still choice in the process. Much like Frodo we must choose between walking the path set before us or turning back.

Frodo’s uncle Bilbo offered some words of wisdom that also ring true: “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” But that’s the nature of every great story – what started off as familiar & comfortable turns into an unexpected journey! And there’s great adventure to be had, if we’re willing to choose to walk the path.

Just as Frodo needed reminding that he wasn’t meant to do it alone from his friend Samwise (arguably the true hero of the trilogy!), we do well to remember that we are also not alone. We go together, supported by the intercession of all the angels & saints, accompanied by Christ Himself. May we walk the path set before us by the Lord, confident that He has great things in store for us.

Yours in Christ,
Father Maurer

P.S. Perhaps my subconscious remembered that this Friday, September 22, is Frodo & Bilbo’s birthday (also called ‘Hobbit Day’)! Given how much hobbits enjoy merriment, food, and drink, it seems appropriate to take their lead in our own participation in the celebration!

September 19 – The memorial of Saint Januarius is one that deserves much more attention than it gets this side of the Atlantic. In Naples, Italy, however, this celebration holds great significance – a vial of his blood, saved after his martyrdom, is brought out for veneration. Close attention is paid to this vial, for it has – and almost always does on this day – miraculously liquify. When it fails to do so, it is taken as a sign of some kind of coming trouble. Rather appropriately, Saint Januarius is the patron saint of blood donors! Read more at Catholic News Agency.

September 20 – Today we celebrate a LOT of saints – one hundred and thirteen of them, to be exact! This memorial of Saints Andrew Kim Tae-Gŏn and Paul Chŏng Ha-sang and companions recalls their martyrdom in the mid-1800s. Though Catholics of that time were few in number (a few thousand) at the time, those numbers have since grown to nearly four million. Though we hope never to face martyrdom ourselves, may their fidelity spur us to similarly profess the faith in all that we do.

September 21 – Today’s Office of Readings contains an excerpt from Saint Bede’s homily, in which we are invited to reflect on Matthew’s call by Jesus. Though unworthy of the Lord’s call, Matthew was called nonetheless – and responded in faith! His life and work (not least in his writing of the Gospel of Matthew) have proven to be a model for Christians in every generation. Read about him and his feast day at the National Basilica’s website.

September 23 – Saint Pius of Pietrelcina – colloquially known as ‘Padre Pio’ – was perhaps best known for his lifetime of suffering and for his dedication to prayer. Eight years after his ordination, he received the stigmata in his hands, feet, and side. Due to some questions about their authenticity, his ministry was restricted and he was not allowed to publicly celebrate Mass or hear confessions. Though this was quickly reversed, he never complained or disobeyed, choosing instead to humbly obey. May his example of sacrificial suffering help us to embrace our own crosses. Read about him at the Vatican News website.

Weekly pastor’s post (September 10)

This weekend I announced the draft configuration of the parish family (parish family 13). I won’t rehash all that is in the announcement or the included Q&A, save to encourage you to read them both, mark the dates of the related parish gatherings, and – most importantly! – to pray that we may together discern and respond to however God is calling us in this.

This is part one of the #justiceforroberta saga. Delightfully, there is now a part two, a part three, a part four, AND a part five. I’m on the edge of my seat, myself.

If you’re like me, heavy moments need followed by lighter fare. On that note, I would like to share with you a series of short videos from one of my favorite short video creators, Gwenna Laithland of ‘Momma Cusses’. Fair warning: she isn’t speaking rhetorically about being a mother or cussing. If you’re put off by an occasional swear, this may be worth a pass.

That said, I am especially enjoying what has become a video series saga about Roberta, a porch goose. It’s silly fun of the kind that is so often found in families that have all the right combinations of lovable weirdness. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

Back here at the parish, I’ve been enjoying an unexpected intersection of my love of technology with the rollout of ParishStaq – the new parish management software being taken up throughout the archdiocese. It is essentially a centralized portal where parishioners can manage their parish information, join & leave groups, communicate within those groups, and receive communications from leadership within the community.

We’re not quite ready to invite everyone just yet, but we are onboarding select groups in the parish – they’re essentially our beta testers for how to use this tool well. You can check out our parish groups listing (click on each one for the whole effect) or the (developing!) online calendar, two of the many neat functions of ParishStaq. I think you’ll agree it looks very promising!

As we enter into this week – especially as we go into this new phase of Partners in the Gospel – rest assured of my prayers. May God bless us all now and throughout our discernment together.

Yours in Christ,
Father Maurer

September 11 – Especially for those of us who were around on September 11, 2001, today marks a life-altering anniversary. As we watched in shock and horror, shocking acts of terror took the lives of hundreds of Americans. The victories of that day were bittersweet, the heroic bravery of the passengers of Flight 93 that prevented the fourth attack but cost them their lives, the extraordinary selflessness of the NYPD, FYPD & PAPD,1 as well as numerous civilians who ran not away but into the burning Twin Towers in efforts to save as many as they can. You may recall that the first listed fatality was a Roman Catholic priest who was serving as a NYFD chaplain.

One icon – figuratively and literally speaking – of the amazing grace that came from this day is Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church & National Shrine. Destroyed during the attacks, members of the church, fellow citizens, and many more rallied around the church as it was rebuilt. Last year, on its feast day of Saint Nicholas (December 6, 2022), it fully reopened. Though we have much healing and growth yet to realize, the Lord is bringing many graces through all of this!

September 12 The memorial Most Holy Name of Mary, reinstituted by Pope John Paul II, has its roots in as a local Spanish celebration. It was inserted into the Roman Calendar in 1683 after the Battle of Vienna, in which the Ottoman Empire was turned back from Vienna – King Sobieski credited Mary for his victory, as he had asked for her intercession at the Shrine to Our Lady of Czestochowa prior to the battle. Though this occasion inspired the feast day, veneration of the name of Mary pre-dated it – and continues today! Read about how we yet honor the holy names of Jesus & Mary at Catholic Culture.

September 13 – “The road to hell is paved with the bones of priests and monks, and the skulls of bishops are the lampposts that light the path.” With these words attributed to Saint John Chrysostom, one of my seminary professors welcomed us to our studies for the priesthood. A bracing welcome, but one that has stuck with me as a firm reminder of the responsibilities we (all!) have to live & proclaim the Gospel – which is as he intended, I’m sure! Read more about Saint John Chrysostom at Franciscan Media.

1 Corinthians 2:10, Full of Eyes

September 14 – The feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is a rare celebration that is recognized not only by Catholics, but by Orthodox and Protestant Christians as well. Though it goes under different names (The Elevation of the Venerable and Life-Giving Cross, Holy Cross Day), the cross of the Lord nonetheless unites us all. As we reverence the instrument through which Jesus saved us, let us pray for the fulfillment of His words – ‘they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you’2. Check out the reflection on this feast day at the Vatican News website.

September 15 – The memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows holds a special place in my heart. On this feast day eighteen years ago (2005), we then-seminarians of Mundelein seminary woke up to the death of two of my fellow seminarians (Matthew ‘Matty’ Molnar and Jared Cheek) in an alcohol-related car accident. The driver (Robert Spaulding) and the other seminarian in the car (Mark Rowlands) were suspended, to be later expelled from the community.

God brought some unbelievable graces from that terrible day – some of my closest friendships were forged in the suffering & sorrow we endured together. The driver, too, experienced extraordinary graces – foremost in the mercy of the parents of Matty & Jared, who pled for leniency at his trial. The driver is now Father Rob Spaulding, who, having served his sentence then worked with his bishop to discern if the Lord was still calling him to priesthood. He was ordained in 2009 for Diocese of Cheyenne.

As you might imagine, I and my classmates from Mundelein always remember Matty, Jared, Rob, and Mark on this day – please join me in praying for each of them.

  1. New York Police Department, New York Fire Department, and Port Authority Police Department, respectively ↩︎
  2. John 17:21 ↩︎

Weekly pastor’s post (September 3)

The Code of Canon Law defines a parish as “a certain community of the Christian faithful stably constituted in a particular church, whose pastoral care is entrusted to a pastor as its proper pastor under the authority of the diocesan bishop” (Canon 515 §1). But what is the purpose of a parish – why have them at all? The USCCB statement Communities of Salt and Light says “The parish is where the Church lives. Parishes are communities of faith, of action, and of hope. They are where the gospel is proclaimed and celebrated, where believers are formed and sent to renew the earth.”

This last Sunday – in both my homily and in the pastor’s notes of the bulletin (see page 4) – I made an appeal that I’ll repeat here: Saint Mark parish needs help. I need help. The work of our parish is at stake – without regular, committed, and on-going help, we will be unable to maintain essential ministries & programs. Please consider how you can help, both in prayer and action! Even the smallest of works help our parish proclaim and live the gospel more fully.

The photo that started it all (click for a full size view)

Speaking of small acts, there’s a neat story I want to share. Every month I send out birthday & anniversary postcards to my brother priests. My July anniversary cards happened to have a photo of the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, Israel on the front, a brief description of which I included on the bottom right corner of the message side of the card.

Join me in saying a prayer for the Franciscans in the Holy Land & their mission!

By some machine glitch of the USPS – and despite me properly addressing the cards and only paying for regular postcard postage – all of them were accidently sent to Nazareth! From there, Israeli Post delivered them all to the basilica, where they were received by the bemused and more than slightly confused Franciscan community who cares for the church.

To my great delight, one of the members of the community went to the effort to help me out. Initially, he simply forwarded the first postcard to its proper destination. When twelve more arrive, he gathered them all together and sent them back with a kind note explaining what had happened. I’ve since gotten them to their intended recipients (sent in envelopes that do not have potentially machine-confusing labeling 🙄), but now with a story of how their card not only has a picture of the Holy Land…but actually went there and back! In the words of the Exultet: ‘O happy fault!’

I hope that this week also brings you many ‘happy faults’, with all the blessings & delights that come with them. Know of my prayers for you throughout.

Yours in Christ,
Father Maurer

P.S. The photo that triggered this whole saga (above) is of the altar in Mary’s home, where the angel Gabriel appeared to her to announce the conception of Christ.

Monday, September 4 – In 1981, Pope John Paul II published his encyclical Laborem Exercens, itself celebrating the ninetieth anniversary of its predecessor Rerum Novarum. Our annual Labor Day celebration is an excellent cue for Catholics to revisit the Church’s teaching on the dignity of laborers, the gift of work, and how the exercise of our talents & skills fits into the Lord’s plan for mankind and eternity!

September 8 – The feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a traditional celebration of the birth of Mary, celebrated since at least the sixth century. Though Scripture does not give an account of her birth, the apocryphal Protoevangelium of James offers a non-historical expression of Christian piety on the development of the tradition of her birth. Read more at Loyola Press.

September 9 – Today is the memorial of Saint Peter Claver, ‘apostle to the slaves’. When he was just 20 years old, Peter joined the Society of Jesus. Ten years later he left for Cartagena in present-day Colombia – one of the primary hubs of the Spanish slave trade – where he finished his seminary training. The plight of the slaves he encountered so touched him that at his final profession to the Jesuit order he signed his vows ‘Peter Claver, the slave of the Africans forever’. For 40 years, he served them while also preaching to slaver traders, criminals, and the wealthy before eventually catching the plague. He was canonized in 1888, together with his friend & mentor Alphonsus Rodriguez. Read more about him at Word on Fire.

Weekly pastor’s post (August 27)

This Sunday we offered our goodbyes and thanks to Deacon Kirk Altenhofen as he celebrated his last Masses at Saint Mark parish. As I mentioned in last week’s pastor’s post, he has served faithfully at nearly every liturgy, coordinated our faith formation programs, and offered himself in ministry for the last several years. We have been blessed to have him. Please join me in praying for him as he discerns how God is calling him in his vocation as husband, father, and deacon.

This last week also saw the last of our ‘Ask Me Anything’ summer series. Thank you to Dane for leading the conversation on suffering, as well as fielding the many questions that were offered across a variety of topics. Despite it being the final session, we had 30+ folks come to share in food, fellowship, and faith sharing. This is definitely something we hope to revisit in the future.

There was one question asked that comes up with some regularity in parishes: ‘why don’t we more frequently use Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion’? As you might imagine, this is especially relevant given that I will be the only cleric at Masses starting next month! The short answer is that that the name of such ministers gives away the intention of the Church: that they are extraordinary (ie, out of the ordinary).

In 2004, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacrament (now called the Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments) released a document called Redemptionis Sacramentum. Among many other things, it explicitly speaks to how Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (Redemptionis Sacramentum, 154-160) may only assist at Mass for sufficient reason. The teaching document even goes so far as to name brief prolongation of the Mass as insufficient reason for their use. If you’re interested in learning more about this, I highly recommend reading the whole section of the document – it is just a few paragraphs and is both enlightening & edifying.

This is not to say we don’t need help at our parish – especially at Mass! As the summer comes to an end, we are in real need of assistance for a number of ministries in & out of Mass: lectors, ushers, confirmation (youth) and RCIA (adult converts) teachers, in particular. And if there is some other way you’d like to be involved at the parish, please give us a shout!

Finally, please keep our parish and our archdiocese in your prayers, especially in the coming weeks. As you know, Partners in the Gospel is rolling out – we will be having our own input session on the draft family configuration on Thursday, September 28. As we discern how God is calling us locally and beyond, may we be sure to entrust ourselves to His loving will.

Yours in Christ,

Father Maurer

Monday, August 28 – Bishop of Hippo and a Doctor of the Church, Saint Augustine not only had great influence during his lifetime but continues to provide inspiration & wisdom to modern Christians. One of the greatest Catholic minds of history, his works are cited throughout the Catechism, Church documents, and by Christians worldwide.

Saint Augustine never failed to credit his faith, rooted as it is in Christ, as having been placed in his heart through the intercession of his mother, Saint Monica (whose feast day, August 27, is not celebrated this year because it lands on a Sunday). Despite his wanderlust – and oh how he wandered! – it was his mother’s faith that ultimately brought him to Christ. Finally sharing the faith here on earth, they yet looked to heaven – one such conversation is recorded by Saint Augustine in his book, Confessions (you can read about it, and them both, at Aleteia). May we ask the intercession of these two faithful saints, and pray for our own conversion, and that of the whole world.

Tuesday, August 29 – Though he famously said ‘I must decrease, he must increase’, we nonetheless celebrate Saint John the Baptist in the liturgical calendar – on the feast of his birth (June 24) and today, the Passion of Saint John the Baptist. Though he was known on earth for his prophetic lifestyle (and wardrobe!) and his role in preparing the way for Christ, perhaps his greatest triumph was offering his life for the Lord – first in stepping aside when his role as “the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord'” (John 1:23), and lastly in his martyrdom at the hands of Herod.

May we, like Saint John the Baptist, humbly embrace our own vocations! Though we are small in comparison to the Lord, He no less treasures our part in His plan. Let us witness to Christ in our words and our work – perhaps asking along the way for the gift of humility in all we do.