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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