On the Fourth Sunday in Lent, March 22, 2020, the people of St. Anthony of Padua parish held a special day of Eucharistic adoration in a time of containment.
It is important that we, as Catholics, cooperate willingly and gladly with the authorities, as an act of love, to help slow and stop the spread of the new COVID-19 virus. Therefore, all public liturgies and gatherings in our diocese have been suspended since March 18.
So we did something else.
The doors of St. Anthony's have been open every day from 9 o'clock to 9 o'clock. People can come and pray quietly, and pay a visit to the Blessed Sacrament, and maybe light a candle. The church is big enough that even if there are ten people at a time, we can still be 20 or 30 yards apart.
Last Sunday, we set the monstrance on the altar with the Blessed Sacrament for all 12 hours. There was always somebody in the church. Sometimes there were a several people - we kept our bodily distance from each other even as we grew closer to the Lord.
In the course of the day, about 75 people spent any-where from a few minutes to a few hours in prayer. It was truly beautiful.
We "behaved ourselves" - that is, there was a great deal of respect both for the sacredness of the Eucharist and the gravity of our pubic health. Therefore -
all else equal, we will repeat this Day of Adoration on Sunday, April 19 (the Second Sunday of Easter).
Friar Bob Showers OFM Conv.
This blog entry is part of a series of follow-up articles to the questions and suggestions submitted at the Parish Town Hall Meeting of September 29, 2019. They are mostly written by Fr. Bob.
We could get an electonic number board and mount it there, where you suggest. There are several advantages to this: The numbers can be very large if we want (I have seen boards with 12 inch digits!); a lighted board is easier to see, even from a distance; the musicians would no longer need to climb a ladder to change the numbers; any changes to the music could be registered immediately; we could also post the page number in the missalette for the Scripture readings, responses, etc.
The counter-arguments: It affects the aesthetics of the sanctuary, making it more "artificial" and "electronic"; we lose the concrete symbolism of the wooden board; someone has to be trained to control the board; it is one more electronic thing that can go haywire.
Price is not an argument. Electronic hymn boards are actually CHEAPER than old fashioned wooden ones.
In the coming weeks, we'll discuss this more. If you have any opinions - for, against, or neutral - please do let us know! You can comment here, send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org, or just mention something to Marilee Roederer or Fr. Bob.
Praise the Lord with music!
friar Bob Showers OFM Conv.
There will be some changes in our Sunday evening Mass schedule.
St. Anthony's parish introduced Sunday evening Masses in January of 2018. At the time, we said that after a year or so, we would evaluate the reception of the new schedule. Now it is time to do that evaluation!
The parish pastoral council, the parish staff and the Conventual Franciscans have all contributed to the evaluation. Fr. Bob has also asked some of the groups involved.
The consensus is that the Sunday evening Masses are a mixed success. Here is our decision, pending more thought and discernment:
HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT MASS - first Sunday of the month. This Mass will be stopped. The original idea was to have an evening Mass that ties in with our Sunday evening youth group meetings. Now that the high school group meets on Sunday morning, an evening Mass makes no sense.
NEWMAN MASS - second Sunday of the month. This Mass is a moderate "success". When there was a Mass for Trine University students during the week, an average of 6 students participated. On Sunday evening, the average is twelve. We will continue this Mass, although between now and December we will reevaluate the time.
SPANISH MASS - third Sunday of the month. This change was also popular. When the monthly Misa Hispana was on a weeknight, the average attendance was 30. Now on Sunday evening, we average 50 people. This Mass will continue. Again - between now and Christmas, we'll discuss whether 7:30 is the best time or not.
MASS FOR THE SICK - fourth Sunday of the month. This Votive Mass for the Sick with celebration of the sacrament of the sick never caught on. There are usually only 4-6 people present. Effective immediately, we will discontinue this Mass.
HOWEVER - instead, the priests want to emphasize that you may ask the priest AFTER ANY MASS ON ANY DAY for the sacrament of the sick, and the priest will happily anoint you with the sacramental oil.
22 September 2019
The following is an edited version of the Advent Reconciliation Service held at St. Paul's Chapel on December 10 and at St. Anthony's on December 11, 2018. It is based on the Gospel of Luke, chapter 3.
Each year at Advent, the church offers us the opportunity to listen to the prophets of the Old Testament whose promise of a Messiah filled the people with hope at times of hopelessness. The Old Testament promise was fulfilled at the first coming of Christ into our world whose birth we are preparing to celebrate at Christmas.
Advent also invites us to make ready for His second coming, and to make room in our hearts for His arrival here and now--the Third Coming of Christ. It is with deep trust in God’s unconditional love for us that we acknowledge our failings in the presence of each other and seek his forgiveness.
John the Baptist is the great prophet of the New Testament who calls us to ready our hearts. John is the Prophet of Joy and the Forerunner of the Messiah.
God of mercy and compassion, as we come together to prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ, may the truth of His word bring love and hope to the darkness in our lives. Help us to bring down the hills and fill up the valleys, to straighten the crooked and to smooth out the rough until a highway runs right to our hearts, where Christ will make His home, for He lives and reigns, forever and ever. Amen.
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Saint Luke, chapter three, verses one and following.
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert.
The Word of God comes to us in the concrete realities of life — even as we go about our daily work, as we raise our families and build our societies, and sometimes when we find ourselves in the wilderness. Hearing the Word of God requires that we listen. So I ask myself:
John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
God has given us the holy sacraments as vehicles of His grace — we hear the Word of God in the celebration of the sacraments.
John said to the crowds who came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce good fruits as evidence of your repentance; and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.”
And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?”
Sometimes I need God’s guidance. Do I ask for it? Do I listen?
John said to them in reply, “Whoever has two tunics should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.”
Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah.
We long for the salvation of God. We long to understand the meaning of our existence, to see an end to our problems, to receive God’s help in our suffering. We long to know that we are loved.
John answered them all, saying: “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire.”
Sometimes we have other gods besides the one true God. Sometimes we take it into our heads that salvation comes from our own will power and discipline, from some political party or program or some political messiah, from some philosophy or from wealth, comfort, food or entertainment.
Exhorting them in many other ways, John preached good news to the people.
Now Herod the tetrarch, who had been censured by John because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and because of all the evil deeds Herod had committed, added still another crime to his list by putting John in prison.
John the Baptist was a messenger of God, a prophet preparing the way for the coming of the Saviour by encouraging the people to repent. Prophets are often ridiculed, persecuted or simply ignored. As we strive to witness to the values of the Gospel in today’s society, we too, are likely to meet ridicule and ignorance.
We will be challenged by the prophets of our times, and tempted, in our turn, to ignore them, ridicule them or cheer their persecution.
John the Baptist was the herald of the Messiah and made him known when at last he came. In his love Christ has filled us with joy as we prepare to celebrate his birth, so that when he comes he may find us watching in prayer, our hearts filled with wonder and praise.
by friar Bob
Blogs, podcasts, print-on-demand books, webcasts - there are so many ways for small operations to get their product out to the public today. And millions do just that. Just under the category "Catholic blogs", there are thousands and countless thousands (you're reading one now). Many - perhaps most - are of little interest to most people. But some blogs are really worth reading regularly, even some produced by individuals or small groups.
Besides the ones I read myself, I looked at lists of popular blogs at various North American web aggregators. It is no surprise that the most popular Catholic blogs are all produced by big Catholic magazines and news agencies. According to Freshy Sites, among the most popular are:
CNA - Catholic News Agency - owned by the National Catholic Register (which also owns EWTN), this is a "mainstream conservative" Catholic news agency, which does a lot of interviews with bishops.
CNS - Catholic News Service - this is the official news service of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. It is, therefore, quite authoritative but is sometimes thought of us less independent.
Besides the big sites, here are three interesting small blogs:
25 and Catholic, by Mary Kate Knorr - part of the website Patheos' stable of blogs, Mary Kate's blog explores expressions of Catholicism by a young, single, politically active adult. Well written, often exploring topics other blogs shy away from.
Carrots for Michaelmas, by Haley Stewart - Haley is a wife and mother in Texas, living and working on a sustenance farm. I like this blog because Haley is so well read, and keeps on reading. Haley herself says that she writes "about motherhood, faith, culture, and literature (with a healthy dose of miscellany and fashion)." For a good idea of her writing, see her blog about Halloween.
Peanut Butter and Grace, by Gracewatch Media (Jerry Windley-Daoust, ed.) - I let this one sneak in because it can be so interesting. Gracewatch Media is a small Catholic publishing house in Winona, Minnesota, whose staff publishes this blog "to help other Catholic parents raise their kids in the faith." They go on to say: >>Our primary audience is “middle pew Catholics”—parents who attend Mass regularly and want to do more to integrate the faith into their family life, but don’t know where to begin. They might even say, “I can’t teach my children about the faith because I don’t know how.” These parents are probably both working to support their family, living the crazy-busy lifestyle of the typical working- and middle-class American family.<< -- Please note that this is a commercial site selling products, but I like it anyway!
What are some of your favorite Catholic blogs? Please comment below.
NOTA BENE: I'm trying to get someone to write about good Catholic podcasts. Any takers?
Peace and all good,
friar Bob Showers OFM Conv.
October 8-18, 2018, seventeen members of the Secular Franciscan Order, two sisters from the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration in Mishawaka, and one Conventual Franciscan Friar journeyed from Indiana to the birthplace of St. Francis - Assisi in Umbria in Italy.
Sr. Agnes Regan SSFPA was the main planner and organizer. She was assisted by friar Bob Showers OFM Conv. of Angola. OFS members from fraternities in Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, Mishawaka and Chicago participated.
The pilgrimage included trips to Greccio (where Francis made the first living Christmas manger), San Damiano (where St. Clare founded the Poor Clares), Rivo Torto (where the friars first developed their concept of a 'friary'), and Mount La Verna (where Francis received the stigmata, the living wounds of the crucified Jesus on his hands, his feet and his side). Within Assisi, we prayed at the places where Francis was born, where he was baptized, where he fought against the death penalty, where he founded the Order, where he wrote the Rule, where he died, and where he is buried.
It was our great privilege to be able to pray at all these places and to celebrate Mass, from the tomb of St. Francis to the very spot where he received the stigmata. Each day we prayed moring prayer and evening prayer using the words of St. Francis himself.
Of course, there was also time for relaxation, wonderful food, beautiful scenery, good wine, good conversation and, in some of our cases, meeting up with old friends and acquaintances.
The Secular Franciscan Order - in Latin, Ordo Franciscana Sæcularis, hence the initials "OFS" - was founded by St. Francis of Assisi in the 13th century, with the guidance of Pope Innocent III. It is a fraternity for all those women and men - married and single, lay and ordained - who wish to follow in the footsteps of Christ in the manner of St. Francis, bringing the Gospel into their lives and their lives into the Gospel. You can learn more about the OFS by clicking here.
Written by fr. Bob Showers OFM Conv. on behalf of the pilgrimage group.
22 October 2018
Nota bene: this op-ed first appeared as Fr. Bob's "Letter from the Pastor" in the SEptember 2018 issue of Catholic 101: A Magazine for Catholics in Steuben County, published by St. Anthony od Padua parish incl. St. Paul's Catholic Chapel. The opinions expressed herein are Fr. Bob's.
In recent weeks, we as Catholics have experienced pain, shame, anger and confusion as a grand jury investigation in Pennsylvania revealed how a number of bishops mishandled accusations of abuse by clergy and other employees of the Church. Such news calls forth all sorts of reactions.
Let me say, first of all, that most of these reactions are legitimate. You feel what you feel. You are supposed to get angry at injustice. You are supposed to feel hurt when your family messes up. Sure, of course there are other families that mess up too. But this is my family, and we messed up. It hurts.
In my years as a Franciscan friar and as a Roman Catholic priest, I have known and spoken with both abusive priests and victims of abuse. I have worked closely with bishops who took the painful but necessary steps to protect the innocent; and I have had to work with bishops who tried to act like there was no problem. I do not expect perfection. I do expect a minimum of decency.
In the midst of this, there are moments of hope. I hope that these news stories, for example, will help parishioners and others understand why we at St. Anthony’s enforce the safe environment rules so strictly. I hope that, if the Roman Catholic Church gets beaten up in the public media, this just might help all of society start to deal more realistically with some big problems that are hurting people everywhere – both in the church and elsewhere. And I hope that it will help me to love appropriately.
St. Francis of Assisi said, if you see someone whose life choices you cannot agree with, do not look down upon that person, but look rather into your own heart and examine your own sinfulness, and then ask yourself, how can I love this person more?
Jesus loved his apostles, even though he knew that one would betray him, one would deny him, and most of the rest would run away when he needed them most. He chose to love them anyway, and he chose to build his church upon them in all their imperfection and weakness. Judas Iscariot and Simon Peter were both apostles.
I pray for those who were hurt. I pray for those whose lives were ruined. And I pray that the People of God – who are the Church – will learn how to care for one another in charity and with patience. “You are God’s chosen ones. Put on, then, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another in the Lord.” (Col. 3:12-13)
Peace and all good,
friar Bob Showers OFM Conv.
You can read more about the parish's Safe Environment Program here. To report suspicion of sexual abuse at the church, here is contact information. The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend has recently upgraded its Safe Environment Program, and we at the parish have followed suit. As a pastor, I am well aware that these efforts can be a hardship for our volunteer religion teachers and other parishioners. Some may even feel that we are doubting them or casting suspicion upon them. That is not our intention, of course. Our goal is to nurture a safe environment for all families, children, youth and vulnerable adults, so that everyone can feel welcome, withour fear. Thank you to all the parishioners who help us strive for that safe environment.
This was friar Bob's sermon for the Feast of the Assumption:
A confrère – a Franciscan friar who spent some years as a missionary in the Central American country of Honduras – was visiting his parish in the mountains of Comayagüela. He would ride his donkey from village to village and visit parishioners in their homes. Arriving at the home of a very poor family, he complimented the mother on the beauty of the house altar – like in most Spanish speaking households, this family had an altar set up against one wall as a focus of devotion. The woman had on display three beautiful pictures of the Blessed Virgin Mary: Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Lourdes and Our Lady of Fatima.
With joy in her voice, she pointed to each picture and said, “This is the virgin I pray to when someone in the family is sick, this is the virgin I pray to for strength in our daily work at home and in the fields, this is the virgin I pray to for the happiness and success of my children.” In his wishful thinking, the priest asked her, “You are aware, are you not, that there is only one Blessed Virgin Mary and all these pictures are of the same woman.” “Oh no, Father”, the woman replied, “there are many Blessed Virgin Mary’s and they’re all cousins!”
The priest knew better than to argue with a woman whose faith was stronger and more lively than his or that of any priest. It does remind me, however, that since the early days of the Church, our theological tradition has spoken of two Mary’s.
One the one hand, we have the earthly Mary, the Mary of the Gospel (cf. today’s Gospel, Luke 1:39-56), the historical Mary – the young woman who said YES to the Holy Spirit, who became the mother of our Savior, who loved him, nurtured him, raised him, taught him, until she let him go to do the work of his heavenly Father. And yet she followed him still, through his life and teachings, through his miracles, through his crucifixion, through his resurrection, until she became the woman around whom the Apostles gathered – causing St. Francis of Assisi to call her “the woman who became the Church.” (Salutation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, vs. 1)
Most of the big Marian Feasts of the Catholic calendar commemorate the earthly, historical Mary of the Gospels: the Immaculate Conception, the Nativity of Mary, the Annunciation, the Visitation.
On the other hand, there is the cosmic Mary, the heavenly Mary, the Mary of the Book of Revelation (cf. today’s first reading, Rev. 11:19a; 12:1-6a,10ab). This is the Mary who is Queen of Heaven, Queen of the Angels, the Mary who intercedes for us – now and at the hour of our death. Today’s feast – the Assumption of the Virgin Mary Body and Soul into Heaven – celebrates her passage from the earthly Mary to the Cosmic Mary.
This puzzle of two Mary’s is important because it mirrors the broader puzzle of our two-fold Christian calling: we are called to be IN the world but not OF the world. (John 17:14-16) How do we do that? What does that mean?
On the one hand, we are called by God truly to be in this world, to be part of it, to take it seriously. In the beginning, God placed humanity in the earthly garden and made us its stewards, to nurture and protect it in His name. (Gen. 2:8) We are called to build up a human society in this world that is just and good and holy, reflecting the goodness of our maker. “Be fruitful and multiply,” God said. (Gen. 1:28) We are called upon to raise families, to love our spouses and children and ancestors, to let our families be the foundation of civilization and of the domestic Church. (Cf. Vat II, Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People, chap. 3, par. 11: The Family)
But at the same time, we are called upon to remember that all of this passes away, none of it is as important as Heaven. “Our true citizenship is only in Heaven.” (Phil. 3:20) We must remember that only when we see God face to face will we know who we really are. Only in heaven will you become the human being you were always meant to be.
How do we do both at the same time?
God gave us Mary as a prism shining light and color on the conundrum. We see it partly in Mary’s words to the archangel Gabriel: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done unto me according to God’s will”. (Luke 1:38) The first step of our enlightenment – the first step of our passing from our own earthly selves to our cosmic selves – is to discern, accept, do and rejoice in the will of God. When Mary visited Elizabeth, she said, “My soul rejoices in God my savior.” (Luke 1:46-47) Being happy, finding true joy in the Lord, is another important step along the way. Mary said, “the Lord has looked upon me in my lowliness.” (Luke 1:48) Recognizing our own limitations, weaknesses and sinfulness with honest humility is another important step. “From this day every generation will call me blessed – the Lord has done great things for me!” (Luke 1:48-49) Even in our humility, we are called upon to recognize the great gifts God has given us and to rejoice in them, and to use them for others.
Mary’s greatest example, however – and I say this with trepidation because I know that I shall never experience this first hand – is the example she gave as a mother. The job of every parent is to pour your heart and soul and strength, your life’s blood, your joy, your tears, your hopes, your fears, your dreams, your being, into your children – just to let them go in the end, to say goodbye as they move out into the world. Mary did that with Jesus.
And Mary did that with her own life. The passage from the earthly Mary to the cosmic Mary was made possible by Mary’s willingness to let go. “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled." (Luke 1:45)
Fulfillment of our calling means to be like the Virgin Mary. St. Francis of Assisi said, “We become the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ when we carry Him in our heart and body through a divine love and a pure and sincere conscience, we give birth to Jesus through a holy activity which must shine as an example before others.” (Earlier Exhortation to the Brothers and Sisters of Penance, chap. 1)
You move from your earthly you to your cosmic you – that is, you fulfill the commandment of Jesus to be in the world but not of it – by accepting the will of God, living in true humility and true greatness, filled with the joy of the Gospel, and then by letting this go in the power of the Holy Spirit. You become the Mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ. You become the Church. Be the Church!
Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) Eschatologie, Tod und ewiges Leben. Kleine Katholische Dogmatik, Bd. IX. Verlag Fr. Pustet 1977. [English: Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life. Catholic University of America Press 1988]
Pope John Paul II. “Marie, premiere figure de la Redemption, Homelie a la messe du 15 aout a Lourdes,” in: La Documentation Catholique, Sept. 4-18, 1983: No. 827-828.
Charlene Spretnak. Missing Mary: The Queen of Heaven and Her Re-emergence in the Modern Church. Palgrave Macmillan 2004.
Paul Duggan. "The Assumption. Its Historicity and Relevance Today”, in: The Priest 7/3/2013 (https://www.osv.com/TheChurch/Papacy/PapalDocuments/Article/TabId/1341/ArtMID/15298/ArticleID/11003/The-Assumption.aspx)
For the writings of St. Francis of Assisi:
Francis of Assisi: Early Documents. Vol. 1: The Saint. Edited by Regis J. Armstrong OFM Cap., J.A. Wayne Hellmann OFM Conv., & William J. Short OFM. New City Press 1999.
June 13th is the Feast of St. Anthony of Padua, for whom our parish is named. Often simply called “The Saint – Il Santo”, Saint Anthony is beloved by millions of people who, in reality, know nothing about his life and have never read anything the man wrote. And yet they love him anyway. This is truly a wonder. It is beautiful.
This morning I was watching the children streaming in for the parish’s Vacation Bible School. Children are so full of love, even though you have to keep your eye on them every second or they’ll destroy the parish hall and everything in it. Children are innocent and explosive all at the same time. They love from the heart, without knowing the thing they love.
Saint Anthony said that our love must begin like that of a child – just as Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me” (Matthew 19:14). We approach God like a child. We meet God and start to love him with the explosive, ignorant innocence of a child.
But childish love does not last. If our love is to deepen, we must get to know God more deeply.
Saint Anthony said:
The child loves just because.
The adult loves, not because, but in spite of.
Here’s a little exercise:
Think of someone you love.
Make a list in your head of things you really like about that person, all the things that make you love them …
Now make a list of all the little things about that person that irritate you.
Often, the second list just writes itself, faster and longer than the first list.
Here is what adults discover: We love in spite of all these things! Not because, but in spite of. You are called to love your neighbor in spite of everything. This is a holy love.
Blessings for the Feast of St. Anthony
friar Bob Showers OFM Conv.
My inspiration for this entry:
“Saint Anthony and You: A Novena” by friar Juniper Cummings OFM Conv.
(available online at: https://www.ecatholic2000.com/cts/untitled-421.shtml)
St. Anthony of Padua Parish carried out elections for three new members of the Parish Pastoral Council on the weekend of June 2-3, 2018. Elected for a 4-year term (spring of 2018 until spring of 2022) were:
Election ballot counting committee: Fr. Bob Showers, Sam Thomas, Steve Wertman
Ballots cast: 137
Vote count: Laurie Beard 99, Tamera Wise 97, Jaime Tellez 87, Dan Caruso 85
As of now, the Parish Pastoral Council consists of: Laurie Beard, Ruth Libey, Julissa Reyna, Ben Roederer, Chris Scott, Jaime Tellez & Tamera Wise.
Fr. Bob sends his thanks and congratulations to the new PPC members, his gratitude to the outgoing members Liat Peters and Doug Osos, his thankfulness to all the candidates, and his gratitude to all those who have served this parish on the pastoral council in the past or who serve now.
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