Weekly Reflection from Father Kevin, July 12, 2020

We have all been created as male and female.  While the differences between us may sometimes cause confusion or frustration between us, our differences also complement each other.  We all know that differences beyond our sexes are much the same way, but nothing is more universal than the struggle to understand another of the opposite sex.  


To face this honestly, we have to get past even the most light-hearted jokes.  We have to do this so that we can honestly look at the gifts of femininity and masculinity with all the humility we can muster.  If we do not, we will never give the honor which is due to one another.


I knew a couple when I was in college who embodied this very well, and were so vocal about it that I was able to see exactly why I admired them.  Almost every time I spoke with one of them one-on-one, they would talk about each other.  All I ever heard them say about one another was positive. Beyond that, they would often compliment the other for talents which they didn’t personally possess.  


While not all of these things were directly connected to their masculinity or femininity, their compliments about each other always had to do with how well they complemented each other.  As a couple, they were more well-rounded than either could hope to be as an individual.  As parents, they were better than most because they allowed their differences to shine, and give all their children authentic models of womanhood and manhood.  I will always be inspired by their model, and I’m sure their children have benefited greatly.


While both were saintly on their own, they were always better together, and always recognized it.  When I remember them in my prayers, I  always feel challenged to recognize the talents of others which I don’t possess.  It is one thing to admire those who are better at something than us, it is quite another to truly admire someone who is wholly different.  Whether we aren’t interested in those talents, or we are jealous, or we simply don’t understand the value of another’s talents, we must always be humble before others.  If we are different from someone for any reason, we should always consider the possibility that they have something to bring to the table which we can’t.

Rev Kev

Weekly Reflection From Father Kevin, June 21, 2020

“Right is right, even if everyone is against it, and wrong is wrong, even if everyone is for it.”

John Wayne said it best, but he was quoting William Penn, who was repeating an idea that seems to have been expressed by almost every culture at some point.  Given the fact that the idea pops up so often in writing, it must be something that needs to be said again and again.  So let’s simply remind ourselves once more – right and wrong exist, and being right doesn’t have anything to do with the volume of the message, nor the number of people saying it.

In our readings today, we see examples from Jeremiah and Psalm 69 of the feelings we can have when we are right, though we are surrounded by others who disagree.  We first have to truly consider whether or not we are in the right, but even when we are, this likely won’t mean that we are popular for it.  When this happens, we can often have feelings of isolation, fear of others’ intentions, dejection at the loss of friendship, etc.  All of these things are addressed in Scripture over and over, and the solution is always the same. 

Jeremiah and the Psalmist and Job and Jesus Christ Himself all turn to the Father, confident that God not only hears our prayers, but also answers them according to His Will.  In these moments, when we feel (or are made to feel) alone, why would we do anything else?  Why wouldn’t we simply reach out in that moment with the same confidence in God’s presence and love?  It is because sometimes we believe the lie, sometimes we believe that we are alone.

The pressure to be a part of the group is quite powerful, and can make us panic into giving up on our principles. Furthermore, the feeling of being part of something can be quite intoxicating.  To say that this is simply not rocking the boat is too simple, and cheapens the fact that we are deeply affected by relationships in our lives.  It really hurts when we are opposed to one another, and it can feel very fulfilling when we are all together.  But these feelings, through no fault of our own, may be leading us away from the Truth.

We cannot control our feelings, but we are responsible to do what is right, whether  it fills our hearts or breaks them.  These are the moments when we need the guidance that only God can provide.  To trust in God enough that we can stand apart will also help us to know when to stand with others.  This is easier said than done, because we aren’t just talking about “others,” we are talking about our friends, neighbors, coworkers, parents, siblings, and children.  We are talking about standing with or against the people we love. 

But we must finally ask ourselves this: who do I trust so much, love so much, that I couldn’t possibly stand against them?  The answer must be God alone.

Rev Kev

Open Wide Our Hearts: Prayers to Heal Racial Division

In November 2018 the Catholic bishops of the United States released a pastoral letter against racism called, Open Wide Our Hearts. The letter is a powerful invitation for all the people of God to “face courageously the vice of racism, . . . reach out generously to the victims of this evil, to assist the conversion needed in those who still harbor racism, and to begin to change policies and structures that allow racism to persist.” Go to usccb.org/racism, to read the letter, find current resources and get ideas for how we can respond. 

Prayer to Heal Racial Division

We thank you, O Lord,
For in your loving wisdom
You created one human family
With a diversity
That enriches our communities.

We pray to you, O Lord,
That we always recognize
each member of this human family
As being made in your image and beloved by you,
With worth and dignity.

We pray to you, O Lord,
That we may envision a way forward
To heal the racial divisions
That deny human dignity and
the bonds between all human beings.

We pray to you, O Lord
That we may affirm each person’s dignity
Through fair access for all
To economic opportunity, housing,
Education, and employment.

We pray to you, O Lord,
That we may have eyes to see
What is possible when we reach out
Beyond fear, beyond anger,
To hold the hand of our sisters, our brothers.

We thank you, O Lord,
For your call and challenge to us
That we may reveal your teachings and your love
Through our actions to end racism
And to proclaim that we are all your children,
heirs to your sacred creation. 

Amen.

Copyright © 2018, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved.  This text may be reproduced in whole or in part without alteration for nonprofit educational use, provided such reprints are not sold and include this notice.

Doorstep Visits for the Feast of St. Anthony

To celebrate the feast day of our patron, St. Anthony, we plan to stop by the homes of our parishioners for a brief “doorstep” visit and prayer.  How will this work?

Visits will take place outside with social distancing; staff will not go into your home.

Visits will take place on the mornings and evenings of June 7-20 (weather permitting).

Visits have been scheduled by neighborhoods. You’ll get a call the day before we come to your area to let you know the general time we’ll be there.

Either Fr. Kevin or Deacon Tom, along with a staff member will lead the prayer and blessing.

If we haven’t visited you by June 21 please call Laura Hollinrake at 641-842-5267 so we can catch up with you!

Weekly Reflection from Father Kevin (May 24, 2020)

St. Peter speaks this week about suffering for being a Christian, namely for carrying that name of Christian.  At this time, being called a Christian usually wasn’t going to be a positive thing, and it certainly wasn’t something neutral like it is today.  It was always going to be a label that meant something very important, whether good or bad, relating to the person who called you a Christian.

Of course, this could be a very positive thing, if it was coming from a fellow Christian.  It would be a sign of common ground, even common struggle.  It also brought confusion to non-Christians when the label was embraced, and eventually used by Christians to describe themselves.

This is precisely what St. Peter is getting at today, which non-believers couldn’t (and still don’t) understand.  How is it that when a group was ridiculed with a name, they embraced it?  Even though it meant that they were being taunted, they didn’t seem to care.  This was because the meaning behind the name Christian was the same no matter who said it, but the deeper understanding of that meaning was completely opposite between believers and non-believers.

Christians were called Christians because they followed Christ, and this was meant to ridicule them for following their leader who was humiliated and killed.  We embraced the name because we see it quite differently.  Not only do we know that Christ rose and ascended to Heaven, we also know that His suffering and death is what continues to pay our own ransom.  We embrace the notion of suffering (even though it is hard to do when it arrives), because we can unite that suffering to Christ’s own suffering.  In doing so, we are, in some small way, participating in Christ’s life.

This is why we embrace using the Cross as our symbol.  Again, it seems backwards to non-believers, and can only be partially understood without faith.  We even embrace images of Christ on the Cross, the suffering and pain He endured for us.  This is a recognition of the Salvation He won for us through that suffering and death, and also a bit of a rallying cry as well.  Just as early Christians embraced the label of Christian, so also we embrace the true meaning behind it, one who follows Christ even in His suffering.  We celebrate this, even though it may still seem strange to non-believers, because the suffering and death of Christ is the most powerful statement to others, and reminder to ourselves, of the depth of God’s love for us.

So, in what way do you embrace suffering in your life?  While no one should go out looking for it, it doesn’t have to be dreaded.  When suffering must be ours, in whatever form it may take, let us all find a way to unite it to Christ’s own suffering, and so call ourselves more truly Christian.

Rev Kev

Watch the Metanoia Series

In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus’ first words are an invitation to metanoia–an invitation to repent, to change, to be converted. No matter where we are on our faith journey, Jesus is calling us to a deeper relationship with him. Metanoia: A Journey with Christ into Conversion is a video series that explores areas in our life where change is often needed if we are to follow Jesus. Filmed on location in the Holy Land, and led by Fr. Dave Pivonka, TOR, President of Franciscan University, the series leads us on an inspirational journey of grace, hope, repentance, and transformation.

You can watch the series for free at https://wildgoose.tv/ (you’ll need to create an account). Following is a brief overview of each 30-minute episode. Download the viewer guide to find questions for discussion or personal reflection. 

If you’d like to gather with others via Zoom video chat to discuss the videos, please contact Laura Hollinrake; she will coordinate day and time details with those who are interested.

Episode 1:  Who Do You Say That I Am?

Viewer Guide

Jesus took his disciples to Caesarea Philippi–a place full of images of pagan gods and idols–and asked them who people think he is; the disciples give various answers. Then Jesus follows up by asking them who they think Jesus is. This is an important question because Jesus will soon leave for Jerusalem where he will meet his death. It’s important that the disciples understand who Jesus is if they are going to follow him, and it’s just as important for us to answer that question if we are going to follow Jesus.

Episode 2:  What Must I Do To Inherit Eternal Life?

Viewer Guide

Perhaps the most important question every person needs to be able to answer is this: What do I need to do in order to inherit eternal life? Many people believe that it’s enough to simply be a good person, to avoid breaking the commandments, and to go to church. While these things are extremely important, the key to inheriting eternal life is being in a relationship with Jesus who is the Way and the Truth and the Life.

Episode 3: Death and Life

Viewer Guide

There is a paradox in the life of a Christian: In order to live, one must die. If one hopes to become great, one must first become little. Jesus says from the beginning that if people want to follow him, then they must deny themselves and pick up their cross. Self denial, difficulties, crosses and suffering are part of the Christian life. In a world of extravagance, choosing less or going without is counter cultural, but it can help us grow.

Episode 4: Sin and Mercy

Viewer Guide

We need to take sin seriously because Jesus takes it seriously. Sin offends God and hurts human relationships, but it isn’t a stumbling block for God’s love. God has mercy and compassion towards sinners. Too often people believe that God couldn’t possibly love or forgive them, but Jesus came to earth to break the power of sin and death and set sinners free. 

Episode 5: Jesus Prays

Viewer Guide

In the Gospels we see again and again that Jesus took time to pray.  Jesus sought intimacy with his Father–the kind of intimacy that is only achieved through prayer. If prayer was necessary for Jesus, how much more necessary is it for each of us? 

Episode 6: Hunger and Thirst

Viewer Guide

We are created with a sense of incompleteness, with a deep longing and hunger for God. Jesus tells us that he is the bread of life that can fill and satisfy. This revelation of the Eucharist proves to be a hard teaching for many and Jesus loses followers over it, but his disciples stay even though they struggle to understand. They do not turn to anyone else because they know that Jesus alone, “Has the words to eternal life.” Only Jesus fills the hunger of the human person.

Episode 7: Jesus Calls and Empowers

Viewer Guide

Jesus loves each of us and calls to each of us by name. His love is always personal. Jesus’ love and call empower us. Like he did for Lazarus, Jesus calls each of us out of our tomb–out of what binds us–into fuller life. He calls us because he loves us.

Episode 8: Jesus’ Power over the Evil One

Viewer Guide

There is an evil one and he desires to destroy us; we see images of the evil one in the very beginning of Scripture. However, Jesus confronts the evil one and has authority over him. Jesus has given us a share in his power over the evil one. Every time we resist temptation and respond to grace, we participate in Christ’s saving victory over evil. This response to grace is conversion, which is God acting in us.

Episode 9: This Teaching Is Hard

Viewer Guide

In the scriptures, Jesus teaches some things that can be hard for us to accept. We have a tendency to deal with this by making Jesus into our own image—emphasizing the things we like and ignoring the things that challenge us. It is important that we be obedient and humble when we come face to face with some of these “hard teachings.” Ultimately, we can be confident in knowing that Jesus gives us the grace we need to embrace these hard but beautiful truths.

Episode 10: Do You Love Me?

Viewer Guide

God never gives up on us and always seeks us out in order to love us. God does not force himself on us, but tenderly and patiently waits for us to return to him. Jesus came in love to save us and we respond by sharing the news of this great love with the world. We tell others who we know Jesus to be. We tell how we have been loved, how he has done great things for us. When we come to know the love of Jesus we are moved to share it with others.

A Reflection from Father Kevin (May 10, 2020)

As we saw last week, it’s quite important to consider how Jesus Christ is the gate, the Way to eternal life.  In today’s Gospel, St. John shows us Jesus telling His disciples that he is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  This is one of those times when we have to see what Christ was trying to show them and us, but the meaning is lost on the listener until we allow it to change us.  In fact, this meaning is not truly known until we allow our lives to be taken over by it, until we surrender our hearts to God.


The complicated part about this is that we must trust in Jesus Christ being the Way, Truth and Life in order to do this.  This trust is not cheap, and it can’t be faked.  It may start with an invitation, a curiosity, a reasoned contemplation, an inspiration or many other things, but it must progress through an acceptance of Jesus Christ as the answer we have been looking for.  While this may look different for each person in its initial stages, it will resemble Way, Truth, or Life.
For some it will look like the Way, the path to something, or the path back from something.  For some it will look like the Truth, the realization they have found that pearl they have sought for so long.  And for others, it will look like the Life, the purpose and belonging they have longed for all along.


Once this becomes established in our lives, we must all strive that each of these principles become one, that each contains the others and is a part of the others.  A Christian life allows Jesus to lead us along the way , that way reveals the truth, that truth the next path forward, that next path defines our next focus in our lives, etc., etc.  Each step we allow ourselves to be drawn further into God’s life, and thus each time we see God’s plan more fully and completely.  And with each step, we will realize more deeply that in every way, it is Jesus Christ who is the Way, Truth and Life of it all.

Rev Kev