10,000 Reasons or More

11-28-2014Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

Welcome to the Year of Grace 2015. Each liturgical year we recall the events that led to our salvation beginning with the Advent of our God. Yet oddly as we celebrate Christmas the only one not to get a gift is the child born in straw poverty. But then again that is how Jesus works: he turns the world's values upside down. Still we can give the newborn Savior our gratitude for condescending, becoming one of us and changing all of us. So this Advent I propose that we have an Advent of Gratitude. Why not all together come up with 10,000 reasons to be grateful.

This is how it works: take an Advent Calendar (at the Church exits or download one from our website; the same website where you take the ME25 Survey!) and for each of the 25 days of Advent write three things you are grateful for. Each day must have three different things listed, no repeats. By Christmas Day you will have 75 reasons to be grateful and whatever gifts you receive will be icing on the cake! Plus on Christmas when we come together to celebrate the Birth of our Lord, together we really will have 10,000 reasons for our hearts to sing.


Chinese Food for Thanksgiving

11-21-2014Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

Do you hear the people sing?
Singing the song of angry men
It is the music of the people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes
—Les Miserables

As I was cleaning out the birdcage for my parrot Lucy, I was thinking how animals in cages or zoos have pretty good lives. They never go hungry or thirsty, in fact we probably feed them food that many people in the world wished they had, they are not in danger of predators and likewise of dying from disease. In general these animals have much longer lifespans than their counterparts in the wild. Yet though they may not know it, they are not free.


I see dead people

11-14-2014Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

I see dead people. Lots of dead people. They are usually in coffins or urns sometimes in their beds. A frequent encounter with death always forces me to consider my own death and what comes next and by extension how I live the life I have. During this month of November we remember the holy souls who have gone on before us and it is also a time for us to consider those four last things: death, judgment, heaven, hell. But I have to say many of the things I notice at funerals and all that surrounds them gives me pause for concern.

Too often I see a variety of beliefs concerning death and the life after this life that are not in sync with Christian belief. To put it simply there are three major themes that seem to swirl around our culture even among Catholic Christians when it comes to death. The first is simply that death brings complete annihilation. There is nothing more after this life. That's a hard one to stomach and zaps any motivation for virtuous living. Thankfully that view is in the minority.


Survey Says...

11-07-2014Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

Beginning next Sunday (11/16) I am going to need every individual member who is over 18 to fill out a Member Engagement Survey.

Over the past year our Parish Pastoral Council has been involved in Strategic Planning for our Parish. The basic question the Council is seeking to answer is: How does our Parish best proclaim the Gospel in the 21st century? As such the Parish Council has identified six broad areas for study: How can we enhance communications with parish members and with the wider community, how do we reach the non-Churched? How can we better promote Stewardship and become better disciples? How do we re-catechize marginal Catholics or Catholics who no longer participate? Are there ways to enhance our Worship? How do we increase involvement in our ministries? How do we enhance our On-going faith formation programs for members?


All Souls to the Polls

10-31-2014Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear  Friends,

Once again I have received my pre-election letter from the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Rev. Lynn takes it upon himself to advise me of the requirements of the IRS 501 (c) (3) regulations for Churches and non-profits regarding pulpit and politics. How condescendingly quaint.

The letter is more of a secularized threat of excommunication than a demonstration of fraternal counsel. From what I know about Rev. Lynn and his organization the letter seems to be born out of his desire to keep in power those with a left leaning agenda rather than a concern for the autonomy of religious organizations. Rev. Lynn obviously has appointed himself the Grand Inquisitor of the pulpit police. But the issue of how pulpit and politics play out in Churches is one that is best dealt with between the pastor and the congregation. So Rev. Lynn should stop sticking his sermon in everyone else’s pulpit.


I Now Pronounce you...

10-24-2014Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

A Federal Judge has now told us that the definition of Marriage and its practice is changed in the state of Arizona. This ruling is similar in its imposition to that of Roe v Wade in which the Supreme Court legislated abortion on demand throughout the country. Like Roe v Wade this present juridical imposition will be divisive indefinitely since the redefinition of marriage has effects way beyond issuing Marriage Licenses. This cascade of rulings legalizing same-sex marriage in many US states is a direct result of the Supreme Court abdicating its responsibility to give us solid reasons why states, against the will of the people, need to redefine marriage.

What is so galling about this judicial decision and all previous ones on same-sex marriage is that the judges ruled based on their emotional opinion and never gave any thing approaching serious jurisprudence in their rulings. In almost every ruling whether from the Federal bench or state courts the reason given for redefining marriage has been that opposition to same-sex marriage is irrational and based on "animus" (hatred) towards gays. Basically the courts are saying that supporters of conjugal marriage are irrational and motivated by prejudice. You can read the various rulings yourself and see that with one fell swoop of raw judicial power anyone who opposes the redefinition of marriage needs to crawl back into the uncivilized cave from which they came.


Withholding Nothing

10-17-2014Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

On the southeast entrance to our Church is a small plaque remembering the Hughes Family who in the 1950's donated the 10 acres on which our campus sits. It's a small reminder of a big gift. Ten acres of empty desert may not seem like much but it was a huge kick-starter for the community of Mt. Carmel to begin to build its new home.

On those ten acres a convent was built to house the sisters who taught our children in the school that was soon constructed. Afterwards a Hall was built, a rectory and finally in 1968 the Church. After that a few other buildings were added to complete the campus. Amazingly the buildings were completed and paid for in record time. All at a time when the number of parishioners at Mt. Carmel were much smaller than they are today.

But putting up buildings is only one part of building a parish community. Making sure the community that inhabits those buildings is a living and growing community, that is a visible sign of Christ' presence, is a whole other task. It is easy to measure the buildings and properties but much harder to measure the faith of the community.


PR-X is Coming!

10-11-2014Fr. John LettersFr John

Dear Friends,

How willing are you to serve the Lord? What are you still withholding from God? How much fear drives your decisions and choices? What would your life look like if you actually surrendered your will and your life over to the care of God? Would you even be recognizable? What will it take for you to lay it all down for the Lord? Can you let go or will it all have to be ripped out of your hands? God has a way of get-ting what he wants from us. The only question is will we let go willingly or get dragged along the way to God’s Will?

These are some questions we’ll be asking at our 10th Annual People Raiser or PR-X. The People Raiser provides an opportunity for all of us to examine the stewardship of our time and talents. How well or not are we using them to build up the community of the Church? Where are we resisting? Do you wake up each morning ensnared by your problems? Or do you wake up seeing the possibilities that your problems present? A Christian steward should be above all filled with confidence and hope. After all God’s power is just a prayer away!


What's a Synod of Bishops?

10-04-2014Fr. John LettersFr John

Dear Friends,

This weekend the Synod of Bishops convenes to begin its study on how the Church can strengthen families, marriages and by extension society itself. What is a Synod of Bishops anyway? According to the United States Con-ference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB): “The Synod of Bishops is a permanent institution of the Catholic Church. Pope Paul VI established it in 1965, shortly after the close of the Second Vatican Council, to continue the spirit of collegial-ity and communion that was present at the Council. The Synod is an assembly of bishops from around the world who assist the Holy Father by providing counsel on important questions facing the Church in a manner that preserves the Church's teaching and strengthens her internal discipline.”

The Synod of Bishops is convoked by the Holy Father and can be either Ordinary or Extraordinary. The latter being called to deal with matters requiring a “speedy solution” and which demand “immediate attention” for the good of the entire Church. This is only the third time an Extraordinary Synod has been convened, the others being in 1969 and 1985 (the ‘85 Synod produced the Catechism). At the Extraordinary General Assembly, the bishops will define the current state of the family and challenges that face it. This should be completed by June 2015 and then the Ordi-nary Synod or the Ordinary General Assembly of Bishops is convened and they will formulate pastoral guidelines to respond to those challenges. So probably by late 2015 or early 2016 the Pope will issue a major document based on the work of the Synod. In Vatican time that constitutes “speedy immediate action”.


42 Years & 40 Days

09-28-2014Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

Many of us have been laboring in the Lord's Pro Life vineyard for a long time. The work certainly has it's ups and downs but what keeps us going is the face of the child we see that was spared from a death sentence or the grateful tears of a mother or father who has found healing and forgiveness post abortion. So as we start on another 40 Days for Life Campaign we do well to remember how far we have come locally. As one of our parishioners who has been on the front lines recently reminded me:

From the time the first African slave arrived on our shores in 1619, until the Emancipation
Proclamation in 1863, 244 years passed. It took another hundred and one years for the Civil
Rights Bill. We have been in this fight for just 42 years.

Since 1982 our community has participated in prayers at abortion clinics, first at the clinic
on Rural Road just south of Mt. Carmel church. Thanks be to God, that clinic has closed
its doors. Next, we prayed at the clinic on Broadway just west of Tempe High School.
Thanks be to God, that clinic has closed its doors. Now, we can pray at the Planned
Parenthood Clinic very close to us on Apache Blvd., just east of Rural Road. It has already
cut back its hours and is now closed on Sundays and Mondays.

Because of 42 years of prayer and education, the rate of abortion and its ratio to live births
are at their lowest points since 1973, when Roe v Wade was enacted. Real progress is being made!


ERIN GO...Gay?

09-21-2014Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

I'll march my band out, I will beat my drum,
And if I'm fanned out, your turn at bat, sir,
At least I didn't fake it, hat, sir,
I guess I didn't make it.
Get ready for me, love, 'cause I'm a " comer,"
I simply gotta march,
My heart's a drummer.
Nobody, no, nobody
is gonna rain on my parade!

Fanny Brice isn't the only one to like a good parade. And one of the grandest of them all is the New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade. However this parade has a new route: it will now march down that one way street called "tolerance and inclusivity" more commonly known as Make it Gay Way.


Ridi Pagliaccio

09-14-2014Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

If you are not an Opera fan but would like to venture into this wonderful musical genre a good place to start is with the Opera Pagliaccio by Leoncavallo. It is a simple, easy to follow work in two acts. It starts out with a Prologue that reminds the audience that actors have feelings too and that this story is about real people. Act One ends with the very famous operatic piece "Vesti la giubba", as one of the clowns sings the well-known aria, Laugh Clown laugh, in which you can almost taste his pain. Underneath the grease paint and costume is some real dark pain:

Ridi, Pagliaccio,
sul tuo amore infranto!
Ridi del duol, che
t'avvelena il cor!

(Laugh, Pagliaccio,
for your love is broken!
Laugh of the pain, that
poisons your heart!)


Absolute means Absolute

09-07-2014Fr. John LettersFr. John

Part of the fall-out from the sexual abuse cases that plagued the Church was that many jurisdictions tried to include in the mandatory reporting requirements any real or suspected abuse heard during the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Debate about this was pretty intense in Ireland and Australia but never got to the level of legislation. One of the reasons the issue never really got traction is that it is a rarity for a victim of sexual abuse to make the claim that they reported the abuse allegation while making a sacramental confession.

But now one such case has arisen in the Diocese of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The victim of the abuse told authorities that a Church employee abused her and that she revealed this to her parish priest during a confession. The local prosecutor has subpoenaed the priest to testify as to whether or not he heard the girl’s confession and if so did she reveal the abuse to him as she claimed and what he said or did about it. The priest has refused to testify as this would violate the seal of confession and the issue is on Appeal to the US Supreme Court.

Obviously for us this is a clear First Amendment issue about the free exercise of religion. The confidentiality of the sacrament of Reconciliation is absolute in the Roman Catholic tradition and has been for centuries. A priest can reveal nothing he has heard within a confession, nor can he act upon what he has heard (even if the penitent tells the priest he is leaving a bomb in the confessional that will explode in one minute the priest can take no action based on that information), nor can he disclose the identity of anyone whose confession he has heard even if the penitent gives the priest permission to do so.  It is important to remember that the priest cannot insist that the penitent do anything that would cause him or her to reveal publicly their sins. He can suggest but not make it a condition of absolution. There are no exceptions to the rule and violators incur excommunication that can only be lifted by the Pope himself. Traditionally courts have respected the absolute nature of the confessional or sacred communications between religious ministers and their members and in cases where they did not priests have been jailed and even executed for their refusal to violate the seal of confession.