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August 7, 2022, Bulletin... Saints of the Week

August 9: St. Teresa Benedicta
Edith Stein was so captivated by reading the autobiography of Teresa of Avila that she began a spiritual journey that led to her baptism in 1922. Twelve years later she imitated Saint Teresa by becoming a Carmelite, taking the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.

Born into a prominent Jewish family in Breslau, Germany - now Wroclaw, Poland - Edith abandoned Judaism in her teens. As a student at the University of Göttingen, she became fascinated by phenomenology - an approach to philosophy. Excelling as a protégé of Edmund Husserl, one of the leading phenomenologists, Edith earned a doctorate in philosophy in 1916. She continued as a university teacher until 1922, when she moved to a Dominican school in Speyer; her appointment as lecturer at the Educational Institute of Munich ended under pressure from the Nazis.

After living for four years in the Cologne Carmel, Sister Teresa Benedicta moved to the Carmelite monastery in Echt, Netherlands, in 1938. The Nazis occupied that country in 1940. In retaliation for being denounced by the Dutch bishops, the Nazis arrested all Dutch Jews who had become Christians. Teresa Benedicta and her sister Rosa, also a Catholic, died in a gas chamber in Auschwitz on August 9, 1942.

August 10: St. Lawrence
As deacon in Rome, Lawrence was charged with the responsibility for the material goods of the Church, and the distribution of alms to the poor. When Lawrence knew he would be arrested like the pope, he sought out the poor, widows, and orphans of Rome and gave them all the money he had on hand, selling even the sacred vessels of the altar to increase the sum. When the prefect of Rome heard of this, he imagined that
the Christians must have considerable treasure. He sent for Lawrence and said, "You Christians say we are cruel to you, but that is not what I have in mind. I am told that your priests offer in gold, that the sacred blood is received in silver cups, that you have golden candlesticks at your evening services. Now, your doctrine says you must render to Caesar what is his. Bring these treasures - the emperor needs them to maintain his forces. God does not cause money to be counted: He brought none of it into the world with him - only words. Give me the money, therefore, and be rich in words." Lawrence replied that the Church was indeed rich. "I will show you a valuable part. But give me time to set everything in order and make an inventory." After three days, he gathered a great number of blind, lame, maimed, leprous, orphaned, and widowed persons and put them in rows. When the prefect arrived, Lawrence simply said, "These are the treasure of the Church."

The prefect was so angry he told Lawrence that he would indeed have his wish to die - but it would be by inches. He had a great gridiron prepared with coals beneath it, and had Lawrence's body placed on it. After the martyr had suffered the pain for a long time, the legend concludes, he made his famous cheerful remark, "It is well done. Turn me over!"

August 11: St. Clare
At 18, Clare escaped from her father's home one night, was met on the road by friars carrying torches, and in the poor little chapel called the Portiuncula received a rough woolen habit, exchanged her jeweled belt for a common rope with knots in it, and sacrificed her long tresses to Francis' scissors. He placed her in a Benedictine convent, which her father and uncles immediately stormed in rage. Clare clung to the altar of the church, threw aside her veil to show her cropped hair, and remained adamant.

Sixteen days later, her sister Agnes joined her. Others came. They lived a simple life of great poverty, austerity, and complete seclusion from the world, according to a Rule which Francis gave them as a Second Order. At age 21, Francis obliged Clare under obedience to accept the office of abbess, one she exercised until her death.

Contemporary accounts glow with admiration of Clare's life in the convent of San Damiano in Assisi. She served the sick and washed the feet of the begging nuns. She came from prayer, it was said, with her face so shining it dazzled those about her. She suffered serious illness for the last 27 years of her life. Her influence was such that popes, cardinals, and bishops often came to consult her - Clare herself never left the walls of San Damiano.

Scripture Readings Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Wisdom 18:6-9; Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19; Luke 12:32-48


July 31, 2022, Bulletin... Saints of the Week

August 2: St. Eusebius of Vercelli
Born on the isle of Sardinia, he became a member of the Roman clergy and is the first recorded bishop of Vercelli in Piedmont in northwest Italy. Eusebius was also the first to link the monastic life with that of the clergy, establishing a community of his diocesan clergy on the principle that the best way to sanctify his people was to have them see a clergy formed in solid virtue and living in community.

He was sent by Pope Liberius to persuade the emperor to call a council to settle Catholic-Arian troubles. When it was called at Milan, Eusebius went reluctantly, sensing that the Arian block would have its way, although the Catholics were more numerous. He refused to go along with the condemnation of Saint Athanasius; instead, he laid the Nicene Creed on the table and insisted that all sign it before taking up any other matter. The emperor put pressure on him, but Eusebius insisted on Athanasius' innocence and reminded the emperor that secular force should not be used to influence Church decisions. At first the emperor threatened to kill him, but later sent him into exile in Palestine. There the Arians dragged him through the streets and shut him up in a little room, releasing him only after his four-day hunger strike. They resumed their harassment shortly after.

His exile continued in Asia Minor and Egypt until the new emperor permitted him to be welcomed back to his see in Vercelli. Eusebius attended the Council of Alexandria with Athanasius and approved the leniency shown to bishops who had wavered. He also worked with Saint Hilary of Poitiers against the Arians. Eusebius died peacefully in his own diocese at what was then considered an advanced age.

August 4: St. John Vianney
John Vianney was a man with vision: He wanted to become a priest. But he had to overcome his meager formal schooling, which inadequately prepared him for seminary studies. His failure to comprehend Latin lectures forced him to discontinue. But his vision of being a priest urged him to seek private tutoring. After a lengthy battle with the books, John was ordained.

Situations calling for "impossible" deeds followed him everywhere. As pastor of the parish at Ars, John encountered people who were indifferent and quite comfortable with their style of living. His vision led him through severe fasts and short nights of sleep. With Catherine Lassagne and Benedicta Lardet, he established La Providence, a home for girls. Only a man of vision could have such trust that God would provide for the spiritual and material needs of all those who came to make La Providence their home.

His work as a confessor is John Vianney's most remarkable accomplishment. In the winter months, he was to spend 11 to 12 hours daily reconciling people with God. In the summer months, this time was increased to 16 hours. Unless a man was dedicated to his vision of a priestly vocation, he could not have endured this giving of self day after day.

Many people look forward to retirement and taking it easy, doing the things they always wanted to do but never had the time. But John Vianney had no thoughts of retirement. As his fame spread, more hours were consumed in serving God's people. Even the few hours he would allow himself for sleep were disturbed frequently by the devil. Who, but a man with vision, could keep going with ever-increasing strength? In 1929, Pope Pius XI named him the patron of parish priests worldwide.

Scripture Readings Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Ecclesiastes 1:2, 2:21-23; Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11; Luke 12:13-21


July 24, 2022, Bulletin... Saints of the Week

July 25: St. James
This James is the brother of John the Evangelist. The two were called by Jesus as they worked with their father in a fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus had already called another pair of brothers from a similar occupation: Peter and Andrew. "He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him" (Mark 1:19-20). James was one of the favored three who had the privilege of witnessing the Transfiguration, the raising to life of the daughter of Jairus, and the agony in Gethsemani.

Two incidents in the Gospels describe the temperament of this man and his brother. Saint Matthew tells that their mother came - Mark says it was the brothers themselves - to ask that they have the seats of honor in the kingdom. "Jesus said in reply, 'You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?' They said to him, 'We can'" (Matthew 20:22). Jesus then told them they would indeed drink the cup and share his baptism of pain and death but that sitting at his right hand or left was not his to give - it "is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father" (Matthew 20:23b). It remained to be seen how long it would take to realize the implications of their confident "We can!"

The other disciples became indignant at the ambition of James and John. Then Jesus taught them all the lesson of humble service: The purpose of authority is to serve. They are not to impose their will on others or lord it over them. This is the position of Jesus himself. He was the servant of all; the service imposed on him was the supreme sacrifice of his own life.

On another occasion, James and John gave evidence that the nickname Jesus gave them - "sons of thunder" - was an apt one. The Samaritans would not welcome Jesus because he was on his way to hated Jerusalem. "When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, 'Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?' Jesus turned and rebuked them..." (Luke 9:54-55).

James was apparently the first of the apostles to be martyred. "About that time King Herod laid hands upon some members of the church to harm them. He had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword, and when he saw that this was pleasing to the Jews he proceeded to arrest Peter also" (Acts 12:1-3a). This James, sometimes called James the Greater, is not to be confused with James the Lesser or with the author of the Letter of James and the leader of the Jerusalem community.

July 26: Sts. Joachim and Anne
In the Scriptures, Matthew and Luke furnish a legal family history of Jesus, tracing ancestry to show that Jesus is the culmination of great promises. Not only is his mother's family neglected, we also know nothing factual about them except that they existed. Even the names "Joachim" and "Anne" come from a legendary source written more than a century after Jesus died.

The heroism and holiness of these people, however, is inferred from the whole family atmosphere around Mary in the Scriptures. Whether we rely on the legends about Mary's childhood or make guesses from the information in the Bible, we see in her a fulfillment of many generations of prayerful persons, herself steeped in the religious traditions of her people. The strong character of Mary in making decisions, her continuous practice of prayer, her devotion to the laws of her faith, her steadiness at moments of crisis, and her devotion to her relatives - all indicate a close-knit, loving family that looked forward to the next generation even while retaining the best of the past.

Joachim and Anne - whether these are their real names or not - represent that entire quiet series of generations who faithfully perform their duties, practice their faith, and establish an atmosphere for the coming of the Messiah, but remain obscure.

July 29: Sts. Martha, Mary, and Lazarus
Martha, Mary, and their brother Lazarus were evidently close friends of Jesus. He came to their home simply as a welcomed guest, rather than as one celebrating the conversion of a sinner like Zacchaeus or one unceremoniously received by a suspicious Pharisee. The sisters felt free to call on Jesus at their brother's death, even though a return to Judea at that time seemed to spell almost certain death.

Martha's great glory is her simple and strong statement of faith in Jesus after her brother's death. "Jesus told her, 'I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?' She said to him, 'Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world'" (John 11:25-27).

No doubt Martha was an active sort of person. On one occasion, she prepares the meal for Jesus and possibly his fellow guests and forthrightly states the obvious: All hands should pitch in to help with the dinner. The Lord recognizes that Martha is "worried about many things," also noting that Mary, who has spent the preparation time at Jesus' feet listening to his words "has chosen the better part." (John 12:1-8) describes Mary's anointing of Jesus' feet at Bethany, an act which he praised highly.

Legends abound about the life of Lazarus after the death and resurrection of Jesus. He is supposed to have left a written account of what he saw in the next world before he was called back to life. Some say he followed Peter into Syria. Another story is that despite being put into a leaking boat by the Jews at Jaffa, he, his sisters, and others landed safely in Cyprus. There he died peacefully after serving as bishop for 30 years.

Scripture Readings Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Genesis 18:20-32; Colossians 2:12-14; Luke 11:1-13


July 17, 2022, Bulletin... Saints of the Week

July 18: St. Camillus de Lellis
At 17, he was afflicted with a disease of his leg that remained with him for life. In Rome he entered the San Giacomo Hospital for Incurables as both patient and servant but was dismissed for quarrelsomeness after nine months. He served in the Venetian army for three years. Then, in the winter of 1574 when he was 24, Camillus gambled away everything he had - savings, weapons, literally down to his shirt. He accepted work at the Capuchin friary at Manfredonia and was one day so moved by a sermon of the superior that he began a conversion that changed his life. He entered the Capuchin novitiate, but was dismissed because of the apparently incurable sore on his leg. After another stint of service at San Giacomo, he came back to the Capuchins, only to be dismissed again, for the same reason.

Again, back at San Giacomo, his dedication was rewarded by his being made superintendent. Camillus devoted the rest of his life to the care of the sick. Along with Saint John of God he has been named patron of hospitals, nurses, and the sick. With the advice of his friend Saint Philip Neri, he studied for the priesthood and was ordained at the age of 34. Contrary to the advice of his friend, Camillus left San Giacomo and founded a congregation of his own. As superior, he devoted much of his own time to the care of the sick.

Charity was his first concern, but the physical aspects of the hospital also received his diligent attention. Camillus insisted on cleanliness and the technical competence of those who served the sick. The members of his community bound themselves to serve prisoners and persons infected by the plague as well as those dying in private homes. Some of his men were with troops fighting in Hungary and Croatia in 1595, forming the first recorded military field ambulance. In Naples, he and his men went onto the galleys that had plague and were not allowed to land. He discovered that there were people being buried alive, and ordered his brothers to continue the prayers for the dying 15 minutes after apparent death.

July 20: St. Apollinaris
According to tradition, Saint Peter sent Apollinaris to Ravenna, Italy, as its first bishop. His preaching of the Good News was so successful that the pagans there beat him and drove him from the city. He returned, however, and was exiled a second time. After preaching in the area surrounding Ravenna, he entered the city again. After being cruelly tortured, he was put on a ship heading to Greece. Pagans there caused him to be expelled to Italy, where he went to Ravenna for a fourth time. He died from wounds received during a savage beating at Classis, a suburb of Ravenna. A beautiful basilica honoring him was built there in the sixth century.

July 21: St. Lawrence of Brindisi
Lawrence was born on July 22, 1559, and died exactly 60 years later on his birthday in 1619. His parents William and Elizabeth Russo gave him the name of Julius Caesar, Caesare in Italian. After the early death of his parents, he was educated by his uncle at the College of St. Mark in Venice. When he was just 16, he entered the Capuchin Franciscan Order in Venice and received the name of Lawrence. He completed his studies of philosophy and theology at the University of Padua and was ordained a priest at 23.

Lawrence's sensitivity to the needs of people - a character trait perhaps unexpected in such a talented scholar - began to surface. He was elected major superior of the Capuchin Franciscan province of Tuscany at the age of 31. He had the combination of brilliance, human compassion, and administrative skill needed to carry out his duties. In rapid succession he was promoted by his fellow Capuchins and was elected minister general of the Capuchins in 1602. In this position he was responsible for great growth and geographical expansion of the Order.

Lawrence was appointed papal emissary and peacemaker, a job which took him to a number of foreign countries. An effort to achieve peace in his native kingdom of Naples took him on a journey to Lisbon to visit the king of Spain. Serious illness in Lisbon took his life in 1619.

July 22: St. Mary Magdelene
Except for the mother of Jesus, few women are more honored in the Bible than Mary Magdalene. Yet she could well be the patron of the slandered, since there has been a persistent legend in the Church that she is the unnamed sinful woman who anointed the feet of Jesus in Luke 7:36-50. Most Scripture scholars today point out that there is no scriptural basis for confusing the two women. Mary Magdalene, that is, "of Magdala," was the one from whom Christ cast out "seven demons" (Luke 8:2) - an indication at the worst, of extreme demonic possession or possibly, severe illness.

Writing in the New Catholic Commentary, Father Wilfrid J. Harrington, O.P., says that "seven demons" does not mean that Mary had lived an immoral life - a conclusion reached only by means of a mistaken identification with the anonymous woman of Luke 7:36." In the Jerome Biblical Commentary, Father Edward Mally, S.J., agrees that she "is not...the same as the sinner of Luke 7:37, despite the later Western romantic tradition about her."

Mary Magdalene was one of the many "who were assisting them [Jesus and the Twelve] out of their means." She was one of those who stood by the cross of Jesus with his mother. And, of all the "official" witnesses who might have been chosen for the first awareness of the Resurrection, she was the one to whom that privilege was given. She is known as the Apostle to the Apostles."

Scripture Readings Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Genesis 18:1-10a; Colossians 1:24-28; Luke 10:38-42


July 10, 2022, Bulletin... Saints of the Week

July 11: Pope St. Pius I
Pius, a native of Aquileia, was elected pope c. 140. He presided over the council that excommunicated Marcion in 144; Pius also combatted gnosticism. He is supposed to have been the brother of the Shepherd of Hermas and to have known Justin Martyr. Pius died c. 154 and is first mentioned as a martyr in the 9th century.

July 13: St. Henry
As German king and Holy Roman Emperor, Henry was a practical man of affairs. He was energetic in consolidating his rule. He crushed rebellions and feuds. On all sides he had to deal with drawn-out disputes so as to protect his frontiers. This involved him in a number of battles, especially in the south in Italy; he also helped Pope Benedict VIII quell disturbances in Rome. Always his ultimate purpose was to establish a stable peace in Europe. According to eleventh-century custom, Henry took advantage of his position and appointed as bishops men loyal to him. In his case, however, he avoided the pitfalls of this practice and actually fostered the reform of ecclesiastical and monastic life. He was canonized in 1146.

July 14: St. Kateri Tekakwitha
Her mother was a Christian Algonquin, taken captive by the Iroquois and given as wife to the chief of the Mohawk clan, the boldest and fiercest of the Five Nations. When she was four, Tekakwitha lost her parents and little brother in a smallpox epidemic that left her disfigured and half blind. She was adopted by an uncle, who succeeded her father as chief. He hated the coming of the Blackrobes - Jesuit missionaries - but could do nothing to them because a peace treaty with the French required their presence in villages with Christian captives. She was moved by the words of three Blackrobes who lodged with her uncle, but fear of him kept her from seeking instruction. Tekakwitha refused to marry a Mohawk brave, and at 19 finally got the courage to take the step of converting. She was baptized with the name Kateri - Catherine on Easter Sunday.

Her dedication to virginity was instinctive: Kateri did not know about religious life for women until she visited Montreal. Inspired by this, she and two friends wanted to start a community, but the local priest dissuaded her. She humbly accepted an "ordinary" life. She practiced extremely severe fasting as penance for the conversion of her nation. Kateri Tekakwitha died the afternoon before Holy Thursday. Witnesses said that her emaciated face changed color and became like that of a healthy child. The lines of suffering, even the pockmarks, disappeared and the touch of a smile came upon her lips. She was beatified in 1980 and canonized in 2012.

July 15: St. Bonaventure
A senior faculty member at the University of Paris, Saint Bonaventure certainly captured the hearts of his students through his academic skills and insights. But more importantly, he captured their hearts through his Franciscan love for Jesus and the Church. Like his model, Saint Francis, Jesus was the center of everything - his teaching, his administration, his writing, and his life. So much so, that he was given the title "Seraphic Doctor."

Born in Bagnoregio in 1221, Saint Bonaventure was baptized John but received the name Bonaventure when he became a Franciscan at the age of 22. Little is known about his childhood, but we do know that his parents were Giovanni di Fidanza and Maria Ritell. It seems that his father was a physician and a man of  means. While Saint Francis died about five years after the saint's birth, he is credited with healing Bonaventure as a boy of a serious illness.

Saint Bonaventure's teaching career came to a halt when the Friars elected him to serve as their General Minister. His 17 years of service were not easy as the Order was embroiled in conflicts over the interpretation of poverty. Some friars even ended up in heresy saying that Saint Francis and his community were inaugurating the era of the Holy Spirit which was to replace Jesus, the Church, and Scripture. But because he was a man of prayer and a good administrator, Saint Bonaventure managed to structure the Order through effective legislation. But more importantly, he offered the Friars an organized spirituality based on the vision and insights of Saint Francis. Always a Franciscan at heart and a mystical writer, Bonaventure managed to unite the pastoral, practical aspects of life with the doctrines of the Church. Thus, there is a noticeable warmth to his teachings and writings that make him very appealing.

Shortly before he ended his service as General Minister, Pope Gregory X created him a Cardinal and appointed him bishop of Albano. But a little over a year later, while participating in the Second Council of Lyon, Saint Bonaventure died suddenly on July 15, 1274. There is a theory that he was poisoned. Saint Bonaventure left behind a structured and renewed Franciscan Order and a body of work all of which glorifies his major love - Jesus.

Scripture Readings Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Deuteronomy 30:10-14; Colossians 1:15-20; Luke 10:25-37


July 3, 2022, Bulletin... Saints of the Week

July 5: St. Elizabeth of Portugal
Elizabeth is usually depicted in royal garb with a dove or an olive branch. At her birth in 1271, her father, Pedro III, future king of Aragon, was reconciled with his father James, the reigning monarch. This proved to be a portent of things to come. Under the healthful influences surrounding her early years, she quickly learned self-discipline and acquired a taste for spirituality. Thus fortunately prepared Elizabeth was able to meet the challenge when at the age of 12 she was given in marriage to Denis, king of Portugal. She was able to establish for herself a pattern of life conducive to growth in God's love; not merely through her exercises of piety, including daily Mass, but also through her exercise of charity, by which she was able to befriend and help pilgrims, strangers, the sick, the poor - in a word, all those whose need came to her notice. At the same time she remained devoted to her husband, whose infidelity to her was a scandal to the kingdom. Denis, too, was the object of many of her peace endeavors. Elizabeth long sought peace for him with God, and was finally rewarded when he gave up his life of sin. She repeatedly sought and effected peace between the king and their rebellious son Alfonso, who thought that he was passed over to favor the king's illegitimate children. She acted as peacemaker in the struggle between Ferdinand, king of Aragon, and his cousin James, who claimed the crown. And finally from Coimbra, where she had retired as a Franciscan tertiary to the monastery of the Poor Clares after the death of her husband, Elizabeth set out and was able to bring about a lasting peace between her son Alfonso, now king of Portugal, and his son-in-law, the king of Castile.

July 6: St. Maria Goretti
One of the largest crowds ever assembled for a canonization - 250,000 - symbolized the reaction of millions touched by the simple story of Maria Goretti. She was the daughter of a poor Italian tenant farmer, had no chance to go to school, never learned to read or write. When Maria made her First Communion not long before her death, she was one of the larger and somewhat backward members of the class. On a hot afternoon in July, Maria was sitting at the top of the stairs of her house, mending a shirt. She was not quite 12 years old, but physically mature. A cart stopped outside, and a neighbor, 18-year-old Alessandro, ran up the stairs. He seized her and pulled her into a bedroom. She struggled and tried to call for help. "No, God does not wish it," she cried out. "It is a sin. You would go to hell for it." Alessandro began striking at her blindly with a long dagger. Maria was taken to a hospital. Her last hours were marked by the usual simple compassion of the good - concern about where her mother would sleep, forgiveness of her murderer (she had been in fear of him but did not say anything lest she cause trouble to his family), and her devout welcoming of Viaticum, her last Holy Communion. She died about 24 hours after the attack. Alessandro was sentenced to 30 years in prison. For a long time, he was unrepentant and surly. One night, he had a dream or vision of Maria gathering flowers and offering them to him. His life changed. When he was released after 27 years, his first act was to beg the forgiveness of Maria's mother. Devotion to the young martyr grew, miracles were worked, and in less than half a century she was canonized. At her beatification in 1947, her 82-year-old mother, two sisters, and her brother appeared with Pope Pius XII on the balcony of St. Peter's. Three years later, at Maria's canonization, a 66-year-old Alessandro Serenelli knelt among the quarter-million people and cried tears of joy.

Scripture Readings Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Isaiah 66:10-14c; Galatians 6:14-18; Luke 10:1-12, 17-20


June 26, 2022, Bulletin... Saints of the Week

June 28: St. Irenaeus
As bishop of Lyons, he was especially concerned with the Gnostics who took their name from the Greek word for "knowledge." Claiming access to secret knowledge imparted by Jesus to only a few disciples, their teaching was attracting and confusing many Christians. After thoroughly investigating the various Gnostic sects and their "secret," Irenaeus showed to what logical conclusions their tenets led. These he contrasted with the teaching of the apostles and the text of Holy Scripture, giving us, in five books, a system of theology of great importance to subsequent times. Moreover, his work, widely used and translated into Latin and Armenian, gradually ended the influence of the Gnostics.

June 29: Saints Peter and Paul
The New Testament clearly shows Peter as the leader of the apostles, chosen by Jesus to have a special relationship with him. With James and John, he was privileged to witness the Transfiguration, the raising of a dead child to life, and the agony in Gethsemane. His mother-in-law was cured by Jesus. He was sent with John to prepare for the last Passover before Jesus' death. His name is first on every list of apostles.

And to Peter only did Jesus say, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Matthew 16:17b-19).

Paul's central conviction was simple and absolute: Only God can save humanity. No human effort - even the most scrupulous observance of law - can create a human good which we can bring to God as reparation for sin and payment for grace. To be saved from itself, from sin, from the devil, and from death, humanity must open itself completely to the saving power of Jesus. Paul never lost his love for his Jewish family, though he carried on a lifelong debate with them about the uselessness of the Law without Christ. He reminded the Gentiles that they were grafted on the parent stock of the Jews, who were still God's chosen people, the children of the promise.

June 30: First Martyrs of the Roman Church
In July of 64 A.D., more than half of Rome was destroyed by fire. Rumor blamed the tragedy on Nero, who wanted to enlarge his palace. He shifted the blame by accusing the Christians. According to the historian Tacitus, many Christians were put to death because of their "hatred of the human race." Peter and Paul were among the victims who are remembered together following the feast day of the two apostles.

July 1: St. Junipero Serra
Born on Spain's island of Mallorca, Serra entered the Franciscan Order taking the name of Saint Francis' childlike companion, Brother Juniper. Until he was 35, he spent most of his time in the classroom - first as a student of theology and then as a professor. He also became famous for his preaching. Suddenly, he gave it all up and followed the yearning that had begun years before when he heard about the missionary work of Saint Francis Solano in South America. Junipero's desire was to convert native peoples in the New World. The first mission founded after the 900-mile journey north was San Diego in 1769. Other missions followed: Monterey/Carmel (1770); San Antonio and San Gabriel (1771); San Luís Obispo (1772); San Francisco and San Juan Capistrano (1776); Santa Clara (1777); San Buenaventura (1782). Twelve more were founded after Serra's death.

Junipero made the long trip to Mexico City to settle great differences with the military commander. He arrived at the point of death. The outcome was substantially what Junipero sought: the famous "Regulation" protecting the Indians and the missions. It was the basis for the first significant legislation in California, a "Bill of Rights" for Native Americans. Junipero's missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic military commanders and even with danger of death from non-Christian native peoples. Through it all, his unquenchable zeal was fed by prayer each night, often from midnight till dawn. He baptized over 6,000 people and confirmed 5,000. His travels would have circled the globe. He brought the Native Americans not only the gift of faith but also a decent standard of living. He won their love, as witnessed especially by their grief at his death. He is buried at Mission San Carlo Borromeo, Carmel, and was beatified in 1988. Pope Francis canonized him in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 23, 2015.

Scripture Readings Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - 1 Kings 19:16b, 19-21; Galatians 5:1, 13-18; Luke 9:51-62


June 19, 2022, Bulletin... Saints of the Week

June 21: St. Aloysius Gonzaga
At age 7, Aloysius experienced a profound spiritual quickening. His prayers included the Office of Mary, the psalms, and other devotions. At age 9, he came from his hometown of Castiglione to Florence to be educated; by age 11, he was teaching catechism to poor children, fasting three days a week, and practicing great austerities. When he was 13 years old, he traveled with his parents and the Empress of Austria to Spain and acted as a page in the court of Philip II. The more Aloysius saw of court life, the more disillusioned he became, seeking relief in learning about the lives of saints.

A book about the experience of Jesuit missionaries in India suggested to him the idea of entering the Society of Jesus, and in Spain his decision became final. Now began a four-year contest with his father. Eminent churchmen and laypeople were pressed into service to persuade Aloysius to remain in his "normal" vocation. Finally, he prevailed, was allowed to renounce his right to succession, and was received into the Jesuit novitiate. In 1591, a plague struck Rome. The Jesuits opened a hospital of their own. The superior general himself and many other Jesuits rendered personal service. Because he nursed patients, washing them and making their beds, Aloysius caught the disease. A fever persisted after his recovery, and he was so weak he could scarcely rise from bed. Yet he maintained his great discipline of prayer knowing that he would die three months later within the octave of Corpus Christi at the age of 23.

June 22: Saints Thomas More and John Fisher
Fisher himself was an accomplished preacher and writer. His sermons on the penitential psalms were reprinted seven times before his death. With the coming of Lutheranism, he was drawn into controversy. His eight books against heresy gave him a leading position among European theologians. In 1521, Fisher was asked to study the question of King Henry VIII's marriage to Catherine of Aragon, his brother's widow. He incurred Henry's anger by defending the validity of the king's marriage with Catherine and later by rejecting Henry's claim to be the supreme head of the Church of England. In an attempt to be rid of him, Henry first had Fisher accused of not reporting all the "revelations" of the nun of Kent, Elizabeth Barton. In feeble health, Fisher was summoned to take the oath to the new Act of Succession. He and Thomas More refused to do so because the Act presumed the legality of Henry's divorce and his claim to be head of the English Church. They were sent to the Tower of London where Fisher remained 14 months without trial. Finally, both men were sentenced to life imprisonment and loss of goods.

When the two were called to further interrogations, they remained silent. On the supposition that he was speaking privately as a priest, Fisher was tricked into declaring again that the king was not supreme head of the church in England. The king, further angered that the pope had made John Fisher a cardinal, had him brought to trial on the charge of high treason. He was condemned and executed, his body left to lie all day on the scaffold, and his head hung on London Bridge.

Described as "a man for all seasons," More was a literary scholar, eminent lawyer, gentleman, father of four children, and chancellor of England. An intensely spiritual man, he would not support the king's divorce from Catherine of Aragon in order to marry Anne Boleyn. Nor would he acknowledge Henry as supreme head of the Church in England, breaking with Rome, and denying the pope as head. More was committed to the Tower of London to await trial for treason - not swearing to the Act of Succession and the Oath of Supremacy. Upon conviction, More declared he had all the councils of Christendom and not just the council of one realm to support him in the decision of his conscience.

Scripture Readings The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ - Genesis 14:18-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Luke 9:11b-17


June 12, 2022, Bulletin... St. Anthony

June 13: St. Anthony of Padua
Saint Anthony was born Fernando Martins in Lisbon, Portugal. He was born into a wealthy family, and by the age of fifteen asked to be sent to the Abbey of Santa Cruz in Coimbra, then the capital of Portugal. During his time in the Abbey, he learned theology and Latin. Following his ordination to the priesthood, he was named guestmaster and was responsible for the abbey's hospitality. When Franciscan friars settled a small hermitage outside Coimbra dedicated to Saint Anthony of Egypt, Fernando felt a longing to join them. Fernando eventually received permission to leave the Abbey so he could join the new Franciscan Order. When he was admitted, he changed his name to Anthony. Anthony then traveled to Morocco to spread God's truth but became extremely sick and was returned to Portugal to recover. The return voyage was blown off-course, and the party arrived in Sicily from which they traveled to Tuscany. Anthony was assigned to the hermitage of San Paolo after local friars considered his health. As he recovered, Anthony spent his time praying and studying.

An undetermined amount of time later, Dominican friars came to visit the Franciscans and there was confusion over who would present the homily. The Dominicans were known for their preaching, thus the Franciscans assumed it was they who would provide a homilist, but the Dominicans assumed the Franciscans would provide one. It was then the head of the Franciscan hermitage asked Anthony to speak on whatever the Holy Spirit told him to speak of. Though he tried to object, Anthony delivered an eloquent and moving homily that impressed both groups. Soon, news of his eloquence reached Francis of Assisi, who held a strong distrust of the brotherhood's commitment to a life of poverty. However, in Anthony, he found a friend.

In 1224, Francis entrusted his friars' pursuits of studies to Anthony. Anthony had a book of psalms that contained notes and comments to help when teaching students and, in a time when a printing press was not yet invented, he greatly valued it. When a novice decided to leave the hermitage, he stole Anthony's valuable book. When Anthony discovered it was missing, he prayed it would be found or returned to him. The thief did return the book and in an extra step returned to the Order as well. The book is said to be preserved in the Franciscan friary in Bologna today.

Anthony occasionally taught at the universities of Montpellier and Toulouse in southern France, but he performed best in the role of a preacher. So simple and resounding was his teaching of the Catholic Faith, most unlettered and the innocent could understand his messages. It is for this reason he was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XII in 1946. Once, when St. Anthony of Padua attempted to preach the true Gospel of the Catholic Church to heretics who would not listen to him, he went out and preached his message to the fish. This was not, as liberals and naturalists have tried to say, for the instruction of the fish, but rather for the glory of God, the delight of the angels, and the easing of his own heart. When critics saw the fish begin to gather, they realized they should also listen to what Anthony had to say.

He was only 35-years-old when he died and was canonized less than one year afterward by Pope Gregory IX. Upon exhumation some 336 years after his death, his body was found to be corrupted, yet his tongue was totally incorrupt, so perfect were the teachings that had been formed upon it. He is typically depicted with a book and the Infant Child Jesus and is commonly referred to today as the "finder of lost articles." St Anthony is venerated all over the world as the Patron Saint for lost articles, and is credited with many miracles involving lost people, lost things and even lost spiritual goods.

Scripture Readings The Most Holy Trinity - Proverbs 8:22-31; Romans 5:1-5; John 16:12-15


June 5, 2022, Bulletin... This Week's Celebrations

June 6: Monday of the Octave of Pentecost
An "octave" is an eight-day period in which the Church - not content to remember some great mystery only on a single day - extends her joyful celebration for the period of a full week, with a culminating remembrance on the eighth or octave day. The concept of the eighth day is important in Christian theology. The eighth, being one more beyond the seven-day week that represents the order of creation, symbolizes the eternal life reached after passing through this earthly life. In the Jewish reckoning, in which the Sabbath is the seventh day, Sunday - the day of Our Lord's resurrection from the dead - can be seen as both the first day (the new creation of light) and the eighth day (the gateway to eternity). Running through a week like this - the week of creation that culminates in God's rest, and beyond it to the day of the resurrection - symbolizes the fullness of the Church's rejoicing (it is for all time) and the eternal joy of heaven.

The Church Fathers and the medieval theologians also saw in the mathematical structure of music a natural sign: the octave, or eighth note, is, in a way, both the same note as the lower octave (a C is a C), and yet a different note (a lower C is not a higher C), so that we have the sense of both homecoming and making progress. Our earthly pilgrimage toward heaven is bringing us to the perfection and joy for which we were created in the beginning. Like passing through the notes of a scale to reach the octave, we celebrate the feast day by day to arrive at the place from which we began, in a "virtuous circle." Life is not meaningless repetition or equally meaningless variety, but ordered steps with directionality.

The idea behind a liturgical octave is that certain feasts are so immense, so profound, so consequential, that we cannot give them only one day, as if checking off a box ("been there, done that"). Rather, just as small bodies give off no gravitational field but very large bodies do (that's why people don't spontaneously attract objects, but the earth attracts everyone on it and holds them to its surface), so the greatest feasts - and, above all, Christmas, Easter, Pentecost - throw a certain "field" around themselves, pulling in time beforehand (the O Antiphons, Holy Week, the novena of Ascension and the Pentecost Vigil) and extending outward to an afterglow of seven more days and into a season.

The earliest extant record of the Pentecost octave is from the late sixth century - the same century in which we find the first indication of the observance of an octave day for Christmas, January 1, the feast of the Circumcision of Our Lord - but a prolonged celebration of Pentecost is probably much older, considering its universal presence in East and West. Something done by both the Latins and the Greeks unanimously and from the earliest records is likely to belong to the apostolic period or shortly thereafter. In the English mass, the Octave of Pentecost was suppressed in the new calendar in 1970.

June 9: St. Ephrem
Born in Nisibis, Mesopotamia, he was baptized as a young man and became famous as a teacher in his native city. When the Christian emperor had to cede Nisibis to the Persians, Ephrem fled as a refugee to Edessa, along with many other Christians. He is credited with attracting great glory to the biblical school there. He was ordained a deacon but declined becoming a priest. Ephrem was said to have avoided presbyteral consecration by feigning madness! He had a prolific pen, and his writings best illumine his holiness. Although he was not a man of great scholarship, his works reflect deep insight and knowledge of the Scriptures. In writing about the mysteries of humanity's redemption, Ephrem reveals a realistic and humanly sympathetic spirit and a great devotion to the humanity of Jesus. It is said that his poetic account of the Last Judgment inspired Dante.

It is surprising to read that he wrote hymns against the heretics of his day. He would take the popular songs of the heretical groups and using their melodies, compose beautiful hymns embodying orthodox doctrine. Ephrem became one of the first to introduce song into the Church's public worship as a means of instruction for the faithful. His many hymns have earned him the title "Harp of the Holy Spirit." Ephrem preferred a simple, austere life, living in a small cave overlooking the city of Edessa. It was here that he died around 373.

Scripture Readings Pentecost Sunday - Acts of the Apostles 2:1-11; 1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13; John 20:19-23


May 29, 2022, Bulletin... This Week

May 31: Feast of the Visitation
This is a fairly late feast, going back only to the 13th or 14th century. It was established widely throughout the Church to pray for unity. The present date of celebration was set in 1969 in order to follow the Annunciation of the Lord and precede the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist. Like most feasts of Mary, it is closely connected with Jesus and his saving work. The more visible actors in the visitation drama (see Luke 1:39-45) are Mary and Elizabeth. However, Jesus and John the Baptist steal the scene in a hidden way. Jesus makes John leap with joy - the joy of messianic salvation. Elizabeth, in turn, is filled with the Holy Spirit and addresses words of praise to Mary - words that echo down through the ages.

Luke, speaking for the Church, gives a prayerful poet's rendition of the scene. Elizabeth's praise of Mary as "the mother of my Lord" can be viewed as the earliest Church's devotion to Mary. As with all authentic devotion to Mary, Elizabeth's (the Church's) words first praise God for what God has done to Mary. Only secondly does she praise Mary for trusting God's words. Then comes the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55). Here, Mary herself - like the Church - traces all her greatness to God.

June 1: St. Justin Martyr
Justin never ended his quest for religious truth even when he converted to Christianity after years of studying various pagan philosophies. As a young man, he was principally attracted to the school of Plato. However, he found that the Christian religion answered the great questions about life and existence better than the philosophers. Upon his conversion, he continued to wear the philosopher's mantle and became the first Christian philosopher. He combined the Christian religion with the best elements in Greek philosophy. In his view, philosophy was a pedagogue of Christ, an educator that was to lead one to Christ. Justin is known as an apologist, one who defends in writing the Christian religion against the attacks and misunderstandings of the pagans. Two of his so-called apologies have come down to us; they are addressed to the Roman emperor and to the Senate. For his staunch adherence to the Christian religion, Justin was beheaded in Rome in 165.

June 2: Sts. Marcellinus and Peter
Marcellinus and Peter were prominent enough in the memory of the Church to be included among the saints of the Roman Canon. Marcellinus was a priest and Peter was an exorcist, that is, someone authorized by the Church to deal with cases of demonic possession. They were beheaded during the persecution of Emperor Diocletian. Pope Damasus wrote an epitaph apparently based on the report of their executioner, and Constantine erected a basilica over the crypt in which they were buried in Rome.

June 3: St. Charles Lwanga and Companions
One of 22 Ugandan martyrs, Charles Lwanga is the patron of youth and Catholic action in most of tropical Africa. He protected his fellow pages, aged 13 to 30, from the homosexual demands of the Bagandan ruler, Mwanga, and encouraged and instructed them in the Catholic faith during their imprisonment for refusing the ruler's demands. Charles first learned of Christ's teachings from two retainers in the court of Chief Mawulugungu. While a catechumen, he entered the royal household as assistant to Joseph Mukaso, head of the court pages. On the night of Mukaso's martyrdom for encouraging the African youths to resist Mwanga, Charles requested and received baptism. Imprisoned with his friends, Charles's courage and belief in God inspired them to remain chaste and faithful. For his own unwillingness to submit to the immoral acts and his efforts to safeguard the faith of his friends, Charles was burned to death at Namugongo on June 3, 1886, by Mwanga's order. When Pope Paul VI canonized these 22 martyrs on October 18, 1964, he also made reference to the Anglican pages martyred for the same reason.

Scripture Readings The Ascension of the Lord - Acts of the Apostles 1:1-11; Ephesians 1:17-23; Luke 24:46-53


May 22, 2022 Bulletin... Saints of the Week

May 25: Pope St. Gregory VII
The 10th century and the first half of the 11th were dark days for the Church, partly because the papacy was the pawn of various Roman families. In 1049, things began to change when Pope Leo IX, a reformer, was elected. He brought a young monk named Hildebrand to Rome as his counselor and special representative on important missions. Hildebrand was to become Gregory VII.

Three evils plagued the Church then: simony - the buying and selling of sacred offices and things; the unlawful marriage of the clergy; and lay investiture - kings and nobles controlling the appointment of Church officials. To all of these Hildebrand directed his reformer's attention, first as counselor to the popes and later as pope himself.

Gregory's papal letters stress the role of the bishop of Rome as the vicar of Christ and the visible center of unity in the Church. He is well known for his long dispute with Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV over who should control the selection of bishops and abbots. Gregory fiercely resisted any attack on the liberty of the Church. For this he suffered and finally died in exile. He said, "I have loved justice and hated iniquity; therefore, I die in exile." Thirty years later, the Church finally won its struggle against lay investiture.

May 26: St. Philip Neri
At an early age, Philip abandoned the chance to become a businessman, moved to Rome from Florence, and devoted his life and individuality to God. After three years of philosophy and theology studies, he gave up any thought of ordination. The next 13 years were spent in a vocation unusual at the time - that of a layperson actively engaged in prayer and the apostolate.

As the Council of Trent (1545-63) was reforming the Church on a doctrinal level, Philip's appealing personality was winning him friends from all levels of society, from beggars to cardinals. He rapidly gathered around himself a group of laypersons won over by his audacious spirituality. Initially, they met as an informal prayer and discussion group, and also served poor people in Rome. At the urging of his confessor, Philip was ordained a priest and soon became an outstanding confessor himself, gifted with the knack of piercing the pretenses and illusions of others, though always in a charitable manner and often with a joke. He arranged talks, discussions, and prayers for his penitents in a room above the church. He sometimes led "excursions" to other churches, often with music and a picnic on the way.

Some of Philip's followers became priests and lived together in community. This was the beginning of the Oratory, the religious institute he founded. A feature of their life was a daily afternoon service of four informal talks, with vernacular hymns and prayers. Giovanni Palestrina was one of Philip's followers, and composed music for the services. Philip's advice was sought by many of the prominent figures of his day. He is one of the influential figures of the Counter-Reformation, mainly for converting to personal holiness many of the influential people within the Church itself. After spending a day hearing confessions and receiving visitors, Philip Neri suffered a hemorrhage and died on the feast of Corpus Christi in 1595. He was beatified in 1615 and canonized in 1622. Three centuries later, Cardinal John Henry Newman founded the first English-speaking house of the Oratory in London.

May 27: St. Augustine of Canterbury
In the year 596, some 40 monks set out from Rome to evangelize the Anglo-Saxons in England. Leading the group was Augustine, the prior of their monastery. Hardly had he and his men reached Gaul when they heard stories of the ferocity of the Anglo-Saxons and of the treacherous waters of the English Channel. Augustine returned to Rome and to Gregory the Great - the pope who had sent them - only to be assured by him that their fears were groundless.

Augustine set out again. This time the group crossed the English Channel and landed in the territory of Kent, ruled by King Ethelbert, a pagan married to a Christian, Bertha. Ethelbert received them kindly, set up a residence for them in Canterbury and within the year, on Pentecost Sunday 597, was himself baptized. After being consecrated a bishop in France, Augustine returned to Canterbury, where he founded his see. He constructed a church and monastery near where the present cathedral, begun in 1070, now stands. As the faith spread, additional sees were established at London and Rochester. Laboring patiently, Augustine wisely heeded the missionary principles - quite enlightened for the times - suggested by Pope Gregory: purify rather than destroy pagan temples and customs; let pagan rites and festivals be transformed into Christian feasts; retain local customs as far as possible. The limited success Augustine achieved in England before his death in 605, a short eight years after his arrival, would eventually bear fruit long after in the conversion of England. Augustine of Canterbury can truly be called the "Apostle of England."

Scripture Readings Sixth Sunday of Easter - Acts of the Apostles 15:1-2, 22-29; Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23; John 14:23-29 (57)


May 15, 2022 Bulletin... Saints of the Week

May 16: St. Ubaldus
Ubald Baldassini was born of a noble family in Gubbio Italy, was orphaned in his youth and was educated by his uncle, the Bishop of Gubbio.Ubald was ordained, was named deacon of the cathedral, reformed the canons. and then left a few years later to become a hermit. Dissuaded from the eremitical life by Peter of Rimini, he returned to Gubbio, and in 1126 was named Bishop of Perugia but refused the honor. He became Bishop of Gubbio in 1128 and persuaded Emperor Frederick II not to sack Gubbio as he had Spoleto during one of his forays into Italy. Ill the last two years of his life, Ubald died at Gubbio on May 16 and was canonized in 1192.

May 18: Pope St. John I
Pope John I inherited the Arian heresy, which denied the divinity of Christ. Italy had been ruled for 30 years by an emperor who espoused the heresy, though he treated the empire's Catholics with toleration. His policy changed at about the time the young John was elected pope. When the eastern emperor began imposing severe measures on the Arians of his area, the western emperor forced John to head a delegation to the East to soften the measures against the heretics. Little is known of  the manner or outcome of the negotiations - designed to secure continued toleration of Catholics in the West. On his way home, John was imprisoned at Ravenna because the emperor had begun to suspect that John's friendship with his eastern rival might lead to a conspiracy against his throne. Shortly after his imprisonment, John died, apparently from the treatment he received in prison. John's body was transported to Rome, and he was buried in the Basilica of St. Peter.

May 20: St. Bernardine of Siena
He was the greatest preacher of his time, journeying across Italy, calming strife-torn cities, attacking the paganism he found rampant, attracting crowds of 30,000, following Saint Francis of Assisi's admonition to preach about "vice and virtue, punishment and glory." Compared with Saint Paul by the pope, Bernardine had a keen intuition of the needs of the time, along with solid holiness and boundless energy and joy. He accomplished all this despite having a very weak and hoarse voice, miraculously improved later because of his devotion to Mary. When he was 20, the plague was at its height in his hometown of Siena. Sometimes as many as 20 people died in one day at the hospital. Bernardine offered to run the hospital and, with the help of other young men, nursed patients there for four months. He escaped the plague but was so exhausted that a fever confined him for several months. He spent another year caring for a beloved aunt whose parents had died when he was a child, and at her death began to fast and pray to know God's will for him.

At 22, he entered the Franciscan Order and was ordained two years later. For almost a dozen years he lived in solitude and prayer, but his gifts ultimately caused him to be sent to preach. He always traveled on foot, sometimes speaking for hours in one place, then doing the same in another town. Especially known for his devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus, Bernardine devised a symbol - IHS, the first three letters of the name of Jesus in Greek - in Gothic letters on a blazing sun. This was to displace the superstitious symbols of the day, as well as the insignia of factions: for example, Guelphs and Ghibellines. The devotion spread, and the symbol began to appear in churches, homes and public buildings. Opposition arose from those who thought it a dangerous innovation. Three attempts were made to have the pope take action against him, but Bernardine's holiness, orthodoxy, and intelligence were evidence of his faithfulness.

General of the Friars of the Strict Observance, a branch of the Franciscan Order, Bernardine strongly emphasized scholarship and further study of theology and canon law. When he started, there were 300 friars in the community; when he died there were 4,000. He returned to preaching the last two years of his life, dying while traveling.

Scripture Readings Fifth Sunday of Easter - Acts of the Apostles 14:21-27; Revelation 21:1-5; John 13:31-33a, 34-35


May 8, 2022 Bulletin... Saints of the Week

May 9: St. Gregory Nazianzen
After his baptism at 30, Gregory gladly accepted his friend Basil's invitation to join him in a newly founded monastery. The solitude was broken when Gregory's father, a bishop, needed help in his diocese and estate. It seems that Gregory was ordained a priest practically by force, and only reluctantly accepted the responsibility. He skillfully avoided a schism that threatened when his own father made compromises with Arianism. At 41, Gregory was chosen suffragan bishop of Caesarea and at once came into conflict with 
Valens, the emperor, who supported the Arians.

When protection for Arianism ended with the death of Valens, Gregory was called to rebuild the faith in the great see of Constantinople which had been under Arian teachers for three decades. Retiring and sensitive, he dreaded being drawn into the whirlpool of corruption and violence. He first stayed at a friend's home, which became the only orthodox church in the city. In such surroundings, he began giving the great sermons on the Trinity for which he is famous. In time, Gregory did rebuild the faith in the city, but at the cost of great suffering, slander, insults, and even personal violence. An interloper even tried to take over his bishopric. His last days were spent in solitude and austerity. He wrote religious poetry, some of it autobiographical, of great depth and beauty. He was acclaimed simply as "the Theologian."

May 10: St. Damian de Veuster
When Joseph de Veuster was born in Tremelo, Belgium, in 1840, few people in Europe had any firsthand knowledge of leprosy, Hansen's disease. By the time he died at the age of 49, people all over the world knew about this disease because of him. They knew that human compassion could soften the ravages of this disease.

In 1873, he went to the Hawaiian government's leper colony on the island of Moloka'i, set up seven years earlier. Part of a team of four chaplains taking that assignment for three months each year, Damien soon volunteered to remain permanently, caring for the people's physical, medical, and spiritual needs. In time, he became their most effective advocate to obtain promised government support.

Damien contracted Hansen's disease and died of its complications. As requested, he was buried in Kalaupapa, but in 1936 the Belgian government succeeded in having his body moved to Belgium. Part of Damien's body was returned to his beloved Hawaiian brothers and sisters after his beatification in 1995.

When Hawaii became a state in 1959, it selected Damien as one of its two representatives in the Statuary Hall at the US Capitol. Damien was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on October 11, 2009.

May 13: Our Lady of Fatima
Between May 13 and October 13, 1917, three Portuguese children - Francisco and Jacinta Marto and their cousin Lucia dos Santos - received apparitions of Our Lady at Cova da Iria near Fatima, a city 110 miles north of Lisbon. Mary asked the children to pray the rosary for world peace, for the end of World War I, for sinners, and for the conversion of Russia.

Mary gave the children three secrets. Following the deaths of Francisco and Jacinta in 1919 and 1920 respectively, Lucia revealed the first secret in 1927. It concerned devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The second secret was a vision of hell. When Lucia grew up, she became a Carmelite nun and died in 2005 at the age of 97.

Pope John Paul II directed the Holy See's Secretary of State to reveal the third secret in 2000; it spoke of  a "bishop in white" who was shot by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows into him. Many people linked this vision to the assassination attempt against Pope John Paul II in St. Peter's Square on May 13, 1981.

Scripture Readings Fourth Sunday of Easter - Acts of the Apostles 13:14, 43-52; Revelation 7:9, 4b-17; John 10:27-30 


May 1, 2022 Bulletin... First Communion

Congratulations to those who received their First Communion on this first day of May, 2022... Gage Brobst, Rayne Feeney, Bayless Finley, Blaise Garrison, Harrison Goad, Hattie Hays, Scarlett Lindley, Hudson Marcolla, Brecken Pope, Jack Schreiner, Vivian Vandemore, Alexandra Warren, Gabriel Widner

Scripture Readings Third Sunday of Easter - Acts of the Apostles 5:27-32, 40b-41; Revelation 5:11-14; John 21:1-19


April 24, 2022 Bulletin... New Parishioners

Twelve (12) people of all ages received Sacraments at this year's Easter Vigil, Saturday, 04/16/2022. We are blessed to have a large group of new parishioners who have received sacramental graces from God.

  • Baptism - Ellaina Jo Miller and Maverick Cranmer were Baptized. Ellaina is the 6-year-old daughter of Jacky and Joanna Miller. Maverick is the 3-year-old son of Ryan and Courtnie Cranmer.
  • Baptism and Confirmation - Max Cranmer, Rowdy Miller, and Jacky Miller were Baptized and Confirmed. Max Cranmer is the son of Ryan and Courtnie Cranmer. Rowdy Miller is the son of Jacky and Joanna Miller. Jacky Miller is the husband of Joanna and father of Ellaina and Rowdy.
  • Marriage - Jacky and Joanna Miller's Marriage was Con-Validated.
  • Profession of Faith and Confirmation - The following people have already been baptized in other Christian faiths, so they made a Profession of Faith in the Catholic Church and received the Sacrament of Confirmation: Betsey Garcia, Stephen Garcia, Sean Sensenich, Megan Sensenich, Elijah Sensenich
  • Confirmation - The following had already been Baptized in the Catholic Church but desired to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation: Joanna (Grohs) Miller, Theresa Jodi (Dinwiddie) Kent

Scripture Readings Sunday of Divine Mercy - Acts of the Apostles 5:12-16; Revelation 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19; John 20:19-31


April 17, 2022 Bulletin... Divine Mercy Sunday

The Second Sunday of Easter was already a solemnity as the Octave Day of Easter; nevertheless, the title "Divine Mercy Sunday" does highlight and amplify the meaning of the day. In this way, it recovers an ancient liturgical tradition, reflected in a teaching attributed to St. Augustine about the Easter Octave, which he called "the days of mercy and pardon," and the Octave Day itself as "the compendium of the days of mercy." It is well known that the title "Divine Mercy Sunday" expresses the message of the prayers and readings traditionally appointed for this Octave Day. Liturgically, the day has always been centered on the theme of Divine mercy and forgiveness. That is why in its decree establishing Divine Mercy Sunday, the Holy See strictly insisted that the texts already assigned for that day in the Missal and the Liturgy of the Hours of the Roman Rite, "are always to be used for the liturgical celebration of this Sunday."

The Octave Day of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday, therefore points us to the merciful love of God, and the forgiveness of sins, that lies behind the whole Paschal Mystery - the whole mystery of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ - made present for us in the Eucharist. In this way, it also sums up the whole Easter Octave. As Saint John Paul II pointed out in his Regina Caeli address on Divine Mercy Sunday, 1995: "the whole octave of Easter is like a single day," and the Octave Sunday is meant to be the day of "thanksgiving for the goodness God has shown to man in the whole Easter mystery." Given the liturgical appropriateness of the title "Divine Mercy Sunday" for the Octave Day of Easter, therefore, the Holy See did not give this title to the Second Sunday of Easter merely as an "option," for those parishes and dioceses who happen to like that sort of thing. Rather, the decree issued on May 5, 2000 by the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments clearly states: "the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II has graciously determined that in the Roman Missal, after the title Second Sunday of Easter, there shall henceforth be added the appellation 'Divine Mercy Sunday'...". Divine Mercy Sunday, therefore, is not an optional title for this solemnity; rather, Divine Mercy is the second name for this Feast Day.

In a similar way, the Octave Day of the Nativity of Our Lord was named by the Church "The Feast of the Mother of God." As Pope Saint John Paul II stated in his homily at the first universal celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday in 2001, "Divine Mercy! This is the Easter gift that the Church receives from the risen Christ and offers to humanity at the dawn of the 3rd millennium." This means that preaching on God's mercy is also not just an option for the clergy on that day - it is strongly encouraged. To fail to preach on God's mercy on that day would mean largely to ignore the prayers, readings and psalms appointed for that day, as well as the title "Divine Mercy Sunday" now given to that day in the Roman Missal (no pressure!). For the Lord, in the Gospel on that day, says "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" (Jn 20:22-23). The 2nd part of the Gospel, with the account of St. Thomas, which actually happened on the Octave Day of the Resurrection, teaches us to trust in Jesus. The full Gospel is clearly illustrated in the image of The Divine Mercy.

In short, what Pope Saint John Paul II has done by establishing "Divine Mercy Sunday" is not to create an alternate theme or celebration for the Easter Season. All he has done is recover an ancient tradition of celebrating The Octave Day of Easter as a summary of the whole Paschal Mystery, and the merciful love of God that shines through that Mystery. Insofar as the devotional forms given to us by the Lord Jesus, through St. Faustina's faithful recordings, actually direct us to, and amplify for us, this same Paschal Mystery, and this same merciful love, then her faithful witness is an aid and not a hindrance to the People of God in their celebration of this great Octave Day solemnity.

Scripture Readings Easter Sunday - Acts of the Apostles 10:34a, 37-43; Colossians 3:1-4; John 20:1-9


April 10, 2022 Bulletin... Easter Triduum

The Latin word triduum refers to a period of three days is most often used to describe the three days prior to the great feast of Easter: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday/the Easter Vigil. The General Norms for the Liturgical Year state that the Easter Triduum begins with the evening Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday, reaches its high point in the Easter Vigil, and closes with evening prayer on Easter Sunday.

Holy Thursday: The Lord's Supper
The Triduum begins with the evening Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday, which commemorates when the Eucharist was instituted at the Last Supper by Jesus. The traditional English name for this day, "Maundy Thursday", comes from the Latin phrase Mandatum novum - "a new command" (or mandate) - which comes from Christ's words: A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another." (Jn 13:34).

The sacrificial nature of the Eucharist is brought out in the Old Testament reading, from Exodus 12, which recounts the first Passover and God's command for the people of Israel, enslaved in Egypt, to kill a perfect lamb, eat it, and then spread its blood over the door as a sign of fidelity to the one, true God. Likewise, the reading from Paul's epistle to the Christians in Corinth (1 Cor 11) repeats the words given by the Son of God to His apostles at the Last Supper: "This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me" and "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me."

Thus, in this memorial of Jesus' last meal with His disciples, the faithful are reminded of the everlasting value of that meal, the gift of the priesthood, the grave dangers of turning away from God, the necessity of the approaching Cross, and the abiding love that the Lord has for His people.

Good Friday: Veneration of the Cross
This is the first full day of the Easter Triduum, a day commemorating the Passion, Cross, and death of Jesus Christ, and therefore, a day of strict fasting. The liturgy is profoundly austere, perhaps the most simple and stark liturgy of the entire year. The liturgy of the Lord's Passion consists of three parts: the liturgy of the Word, the veneration of the Cross, and the reception of Communion. Although Communion is given and received, this liturgy is not a Mass; this practice dates back to the earliest years of the Church and is meant to emphasize the somber, mournful character of the day. The Body of Christ that is received by the faithful on Good Friday was consecrated the prior evening at the Mass of the Lord's Supper.

The simple, direct form of the Good Friday liturgy and readings brings the faithful face to face with the cross, the great scandal and paradox of Christianity. The cross is solemnly venerated after intercessory prayers are offered for the world and for all people. The priest takes the cross, stands with it in front of the altar and faces the people, then uncovers the upper part of the cross, the right arm of the cross, and then the entire cross. He places the cross and then venerates it; other clergy, lay ministers, and the faithful then approach and venerate the cross by touching or kissing it. In this way each person acknowledges the instrument of Christ's death and publicly demonstrates their willingness to take up their cross and follow Christ, regardless of what trials and sufferings it might involve.

Holy Saturday/Easter Vigil
The ancient Church celebrated Holy Saturday with strict fasting in preparation of the celebration of Easter. After sundown, the Christians would hold an all-night vigil, which concluded with baptism and Eucharist at the break of dawn. The same idea (if not the identical timeline) is found in the Easter Vigil today, which is the high point of the Easter Triduum and is filled with an abundance of readings, symbols, ceremony, and sacraments.

The Service of Light begins outdoors and in darkness. A fire is lit and blessed, and then the Paschal candle, which symbolizes the light of Christ, is lit from the fire by the priest. The faithful then join in procession back to the main sanctuary. Everyone's candles are lit from the Paschal candle and the faithful return in procession into the church. Then the Exultet is sung by the priest. This is an ancient and beautiful poetic hymn of praise to God for the light of the Paschal candle. It may be as old as Saint Ambrose (d. 397) and has been part of the Roman tradition since the ninth century. In the darkness of the church, lit only by candles, the faithful listen to the song of light and glory: The Liturgy of the Word follows, consisting of several readings from the Old and New Testament. These readings constitute an overview of salvation history and God's various interventions into time and space, beginning with Creation and concluding with the angel telling Mary Magdalene and others that Jesus is no longer dead.

From the early days of the ancient Church, the Easter Vigil has been the time for adult converts to be baptized and enter the Church. After the conclusion of the Liturgy of the Word, catechumens (those who have never been baptized) and candidates (those who have been baptized in a non-Catholic Christian denomination) are initiated into the Church by (respectively) baptism and confirmation. The faithful are sprinkled with holy water and renew their baptismal vows. Then all adult candidates are confirmed and general intercessions are stated. The Easter Vigil concludes with the Liturgy of the Eucharist and the reception of the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of the Crucified and Risen Lord.

Scripture Readings Palm Sunday - Luke 19:28-40; Isaiah 50:4-7; Philippians 2:6-11; Luke 22:14-23:56


April 3, 2022 Bulletin... Saints of the Week

April 4: St. Isidore
Isidore has become the patron of farmers and rural communities. In particular, he is the patron of Madrid, Spain, and of the United States National Rural Life Conference. When he was barely old enough to wield a hoe, Isidore entered the service of John de Vergas, a wealthy landowner from Madrid, and worked faithfully on his estate outside the city for the rest of his life. He married a young woman as simple and upright as himself who also became a saint - Maria de la Cabeza. They had one son, who died as a child.

Isidore had deep religious instincts. He rose early in the morning to go to church and spent many a holiday devoutly visiting the churches of Madrid and surrounding areas. All day long, as he walked behind the plow, he communed with God. His devotion, one might say, became a problem, for his fellow workers sometimes complained that he often showed up late because of lingering in church too long.

He was known for his love of the poor, and there are accounts of Isidore's supplying them miraculously with food. He had a great concern for the proper treatment of animals. He died May 15, 1130, and was declared a saint in 1622, with Saints Ignatius of Loyola, Francis Xavier, Teresa of Avila, and Philip Neri. Together, the group is known in Spain as "the five saints."

April 5: St. Vincent Ferrer
The Western schism divided Christianity first between two, then three, popes. Clement VII lived at Avignon in France, Urban VI in Rome. Vincent was convinced the election of Urban was invalid, though Catherine of Siena was just as devoted a supporter of the Roman pope. In the service of Cardinal de Luna, Vincent worked to persuade Spaniards to follow Clement. When Clement died, Cardinal de Luna was elected at Avignon and became Benedict XIII.

Vincent worked for him as apostolic penitentiary and Master of the Sacred Palace. But the new pope did not resign as all candidates in the conclave had sworn to do. He remained stubborn, despite being deserted by the French king and nearly all of the cardinals.

Vincent became disillusioned and very ill, but finally took up the work of simply "going through the world preaching Christ," though he felt that any renewal in the Church depended on healing the schism. An eloquent and fiery preacher, he spent the last 20 years of his life spreading the Good News in Spain, France, Switzerland, the Low Countries and Lombardy, stressing the need of repentance and the fear of coming judgment. He became known as the "Angel of the Judgment."

Vincent tried unsuccessfully, in 1408 and 1415, to persuade his former friend to resign. He finally concluded that Benedict was not the true pope. Though very ill, he mounted the pulpit before an assembly over which Benedict himself was presiding and thundered his denunciation of the man who had ordained him a priest. Benedict fled for his life, abandoned by those who had formerly supported him. Strangely, Vincent had no part in the Council of Constance, which ended the schism.

April 7: St. John Baptist de la Salle
As a young 17th-century Frenchman, John had everything going for him: scholarly bent, good looks, noble family background, money, refined upbringing. At the early age of 11, he received the tonsure and started preparation for the priesthood, to which he was ordained at 27. He seemed assured then of a life of dignified ease and a high position in the Church.

During a chance meeting with Monsieur Adrien Nyel, he became interested in the creation of schools for poor boys in Rheims where he was stationed. Though the work was extremely distasteful to him at first, he became more involved in working with the deprived youths. John threw himself wholeheartedly into the work, left home and family, abandoned his position as canon at Rheims, gave away his fortune, and reduced himself to the level of the poor to whom he devoted his entire life.

The remainder of his life was closely entwined with the community of religious men he founded, the Brothers of the Christian School (also called Christian Brothers or De La Salle Brothers). This community grew rapidly and was successful in educating boys of poor families, using methods designed by John. It prepared teachers in the first training college for teachers and also set up homes and schools for young delinquents of wealthy families. Afflicted with asthma and rheumatism in his last years, he died on Good Friday at age 68, and was canonized in 1900.

Scripture Readings Fifth Sunday of Lent - Isaiah 43:16-21; Philippians 3:8-14; John 8:1-11


March 27, 2022 Bulletin... Saints of the Week

March 28: St. John of Capistrano
There's only one saint in this week's calendar; and it's in the Latin mass calendar. Technically, it's not his feast day as the principal day is the weekday of Lent. Therefore, like St. Benedict last Monday, St. John is considered just a commemoration.

Lent is treated quite reverently in the liturgical calendar. Each day has its own prayers and readings which is unusual for a liturgical season. Additionally, unless the feast of the saint is quite big (St. Joseph, Annunciation, etc.), it is simply commemorated instead of completely usurping the Lenten weekday. In the Novus Ordo (English mass), this is done by saying the opening prayer for the saint and then using the Lenten texts for the other prayers, including the readings. In the Latin mass, commemorations are done a bit differently.

Each saint, regardless of the prominence of the feast day, has at least three prayers for him/her. In the Novus Ordo, we would know these as the opening prayer, the prayer over the offerings, and the prayer after communion. The way that a saint is commemorated in the Latin mass is the principal day's prayers. In this case, the Lenten weekday are said first, then the prayer of the saint is said immediately following. This way, no prayer disappears completely.

It has been said the Christian saints are the world's greatest optimists. Not blind to the existence and consequences of evil, they base their confidence on the power of Christ's redemption. The power of conversion through Christ extends not only to sinful people but also to calamitous events. Imagine being born in the 14th century. One-third of the population and nearly 40 percent of the clergy were wiped out by the bubonic plague. The Western Schism split the Church with two or three claimants to the Holy See at one time. England and France were at war. The city-states of Italy were constantly in conflict. No wonder that gloom dominated the spirit of the culture and the times.

John Capistrano was born in 1386. His education was thorough. His talents and success were great. When he was 26, he was made governor of Perugia. Imprisoned after a battle against the Malatestas, he resolved to change his way of life completely. At the age of 30, he entered the Franciscan novitiate and was ordained a priest four years later.

John's preaching attracted great throngs at a time of religious apathy and confusion. He and 12 Franciscan brethren were received in the countries of central Europe as angels of God. They were instrumental in reviving a dying faith and devotion. The Franciscan Order itself was in turmoil over the interpretation and observance of the Rule of St. Francis. Through John's tireless efforts and his expertise in law, the heretical Fraticelli were suppressed, and the "Spirituals" were freed from interference in their stricter observance.

John of Capistrano helped bring about a brief reunion with the Greek and Armenian Churches.

When the Turks captured Constantinople in 1453, John was commissioned to preach a crusade for the defense of Europe. Gaining little response in Bavaria and Austria, he decided to concentrate his efforts in Hungary. He led the army to Belgrade. Under the great General John Hunyadi, they gained an overwhelming victory, and the siege of Belgrade was lifted. Worn out by his superhuman efforts, Capistrano was an easy prey to an infection after the battle. He died on October 23, 1456.

Scripture Readings Fourth Sunday of Lent Time - Joshua 5:9a, 10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Luke 15:1-3, 11-32


March 20, 2022 Bulletin... Saints of the Week

March 23: St. Turibius
Together with Rose of Lima, Turibius is the first known saint of the New World, serving the Lord in Peru, South America, for 26 years. Born in Spain and educated for the law, he became so brilliant a scholar that he was made professor of law at the University of Salamanca and eventually became chief judge of the Inquisition at Granada. He succeeded too well. But he was not sharp enough a lawyer to prevent a surprising sequence of events.

When the archdiocese of Lima in Peru required a new leader, Turibius was chosen to fill the post: He was the one person with the strength of character and holiness of spirit to heal the scandals that had infected that area. He cited all the canons that forbade giving laymen ecclesiastical dignities, but he was overruled. Turibius was ordained priest and bishop and sent to Peru, where he found colonialism at its worst. The Spanish conquerors were guilty of every sort of oppression of the native population. Abuses among the clergy were flagrant, and he devoted his energies and suffering to this area first.

He began the long and arduous visitation of an immense archdiocese, studying the language, staying two or three days in each place, often with neither bed nor food. Turibius confessed every morning to his chaplain, and celebrated Mass with intense fervor. Among those to whom he gave the Sacrament of Confirmation was the future Saint Rose of Lima and possibly the future Saint Martin de Porres. After 1590, he had the help of another great missionary, Francis Solanus, now also a saint.

Though very poor his people were sensitive, dreading to accept public charity from others. Turibius solved the problem by helping them anonymously.

March 25: The Annunciation
The feast of the Annunciation, now recognized as a solemnity, was first celebrated in the fourth or fifth century. Its central focus is the Incarnation: God has become one of us. From all eternity God had decided that the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity should become human. Now, as Luke 1:26-38 tells us, the decision is being realized. The God-Man embraces all humanity, indeed all creation, to bring it to God in one great act of love. Because human beings have rejected God, Jesus will accept a life of suffering and an agonizing death: "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends." (John 15:13).

Mary has an important role to play in God's plan. From all eternity, God destined her to be the mother of Jesus and closely related to him in the creation and redemption of the world. We could say that God's decrees of creation and redemption are joined in the decree of Incarnation. Because Mary is God's instrument in the Incarnation, she has a role to play with Jesus in creation and redemption. It is a God-given role. It is God's grace from beginning to end. Mary becomes the eminent figure she is only by God's grace. She is the empty space where God could act. Everything she is she owes to the Trinity.

Mary is the virgin-mother who fulfills Isaiah 7:14 in a way that Isaiah could not have imagined. She is united with her son in carrying out the will of God (Psalm 40:8-9; Hebrews 10:7-9; Luke 1:38).

Together with Jesus, the privileged and graced Mary is the link between heaven and earth. She is the human being who best, after Jesus, exemplifies the possibilities of human existence. She received into her lowliness the infinite love of God. She shows how an ordinary human being can reflect God in the ordinary circumstances of life. She exemplifies what the Church and every member of the Church is meant to become. She is the ultimate product of the creative and redemptive power of God. She manifests what the Incarnation is meant to accomplish for all of us.

Scripture Readings Third Sunday of Lent - Exodus 3:1-8a, 13-15; 1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12; Luke 13:1-9


March 13, 2022 Bulletin... Saints of the Week

March 17: St. Patrick
Details of his life are uncertain. Current research places his dates of birth and death a little later than earlier accounts. Patrick may have been born in Dunbarton, Scotland; Cumberland, England; or in northern Wales. He called himself both a Roman and a Briton. At 16, he and a large number of his father's slaves and vassals were captured by Irish raiders and sold as slaves in Ireland. Forced to work as a shepherd, he suffered greatly from hunger and cold. After six years, Patrick escaped, probably to France, and later returned to Britain at the age of 22. His captivity had meant spiritual conversion. He may have studied at Lerins, off the French coast; he spent years at Auxerre, France, and was consecrated bishop at the age of 43. His great desire was to proclaim the good news to the Irish.

Because of the island's pagan background, Patrick was emphatic in encouraging widows to remain chaste and young women to consecrate their virginity to Christ. He ordained many priests, divided the country into dioceses, held Church councils, founded several monasteries and continually urged his people to greater holiness in Christ. He suffered much opposition from pagan druids and was criticized in both England and Ireland for the way he conducted his mission. In a relatively short time, the island had experienced deeply the Christian spirit, and was prepared to send out missionaries whose efforts were greatly responsible for Christianizing Europe.

March 18: St. Cyril of Jerusalem
The crises that the Church faces today may seem minor when compared with the threat posed by the Arian heresy, which denied the divinity of Christ and almost overcame Christianity in the fourth century. Cyril was to be caught up in the controversy, accused of Arianism by Saint Jerome, and ultimately vindicated both by the men of his own time and by being declared a Doctor of the Church in 1822. Raised in Jerusalem and well-educated, especially in the Scriptures, he was ordained a priest by the bishop of Jerusalem and given the task during Lent of catechizing those preparing for Baptism and catechizing the newly baptized during the Easter season. His Catecheses remain valuable as examples of the ritual and theology of the Church in the mid-fourth century.

March 19: St. Joseph
Everything we know about the husband of Mary and the foster father of Jesus comes from Scripture. We know he was a carpenter, a working man, for the skeptical Nazarenes ask about Jesus, "Is this not the carpenter's son?" (Matthew 13:55). He wasn't rich for when he took Jesus to the Temple to be circumcised and Mary to be purified, he offered the sacrifice of two turtledoves or a pair of pigeons, allowed only for those who could not afford a lamb (Luke 2:24).

We know Joseph respected God. He followed God's commands in handling the situation with Mary and going to Jerusalem to have Jesus circumcised and Mary purified after Jesus' birth. We are told that he took his family to Jerusalem every year for Passover, something that could not have been easy for a working man. Since Joseph does not appear in Jesus' public life, at his death, or resurrection, many historians believe Joseph probably had died before Jesus entered public ministry. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the Apocryphal Date for Joseph's birth is 90 BC in Bethlehem, and the Apocryphal Date of his death is July 20, AD 18 in Nazareth.

Joseph is the patron saint of the dying because, assuming he died before Jesus' public life, he died with Jesus and Mary close to him, the way we all would like to leave this earth. Joseph is also patron saint of the Universal Church, families, fathers, expectant mothers (pregnant women), travelers, immigrants, house sellers and buyers, craftsmen, engineers, and working people in general.

We celebrate two feast days for Joseph: March 19 for Joseph the Husband of Mary and May 1 for Joseph the Worker. March 19 has been the most commonly celebrated feast day for Joseph; and it wasn't until 1955 that Pope Pius XII established the Feast of "St. Joseph the Worker" to be celebrated on May 1. This is also May Day (International Workers' Day) and believed to reflect Joseph's status as the patron of workers.

Scripture Readings Second Sunday of Lent Time - Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18; Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 9:28b-36


March 6, 2022 Bulletin... Saints of the Week

March 8: St. John of God
Having given up active Christian belief while a soldier, John was 40 before the depth of his sinfulness began to dawn on him. He decided to give the rest of his life to God's service and headed at once for Africa where he hoped to free captive Christians and, possibly, be martyred. He was soon advised that his desire for martyrdom was not spiritually well based and returned to Spain and the relatively prosaic activity of a religious goods store. Yet he was still not settled. Moved initially by a sermon of Saint John of Avila, he one day engaged in a public beating of himself, begging mercy and wildly repenting for his past life.

Committed to a mental hospital for these actions, John was visited by Saint John, who advised him to be more actively involved in tending to the needs of others rather than in enduring personal hardships. John gained peace of heart and shortly after left the hospital to begin work among the poor. He established a house where he wisely tended to the needs of the sick poor, at first doing his own begging. But, excited by the saint's great work and inspired by his devotion, many people began to back him up with money and provisions. Among them were the archbishop and marquis of Tarifa.

Behind John's outward acts of total concern and love for Christ's sick and poor was a deep interior prayer life which was reflected in his spirit of humility. These qualities attracted helpers who, 20 years after John's death, formed the Brothers Hospitallers, now a worldwide religious order.

John became ill after 10 years of service but tried to disguise his ill health. He began to put the hospital's administrative work into order and appointed a leader for his helpers. He died under the care of a spiritual friend and admirer, Lady Ana Ossorio.

March 9: St. Frances of Rome
Frances' life combines aspects of secular and religious life. A devoted and loving wife, she longed for a lifestyle of prayer and service, so she organized a group of women to minister to the needs of Rome's poor.

Born of wealthy parents, Frances found herself attracted to the religious life during her youth. But her parents objected, and a young nobleman was selected to be her husband. As she became acquainted with her new relatives, Frances soon discovered that the wife of her husband's brother also wished to live a life of service and prayer. So the two, Frances and Vannozza, set out together - with their husbands' blessings - to help the poor.

Frances fell ill for a time, but this apparently only deepened her commitment to the suffering people she met. The years passed, and Frances gave birth to two sons and a daughter. With the new responsibilities of family life, the young mother turned her attention more to the needs of her own household. The family flourished under Frances' care, but within a few years a great plague began to sweep across Italy. It struck Rome with devastating cruelty and left Frances' second son dead. In an effort to help alleviate some of the suffering, Frances used all her money and sold her possessions to buy whatever the sick might possibly need. When all the resources had been exhausted, Frances and Vannozza went door to door begging. Later, Frances' daughter died, and the saint opened a section of her house as a hospital.

Frances became more and more convinced that this way of life was so necessary for the world, and it was not long before she requested and was given permission to found a society of women bound by no vows. They simply offered themselves to God and to the service of the poor. Once the society was established, Frances chose not to live at the community residence but rather at home with her husband. She did this for seven years until her husband passed away and then came to live the remainder of her life with the society - serving the poorest of the poor.

Scripture Readings First Sunday of Lent - Deuteronomy 26:4-10; Romans 10:8-13; Luke 4:1-13


February 27, 2022 Bulletin... Saints of the Week

March 3: St. Katharine Drexel
St. Katharine Drexel is the second American-born saint to be canonized by the Catholic Church. This amazing woman was an heiress to a large bequest who became a religious sister and a brilliant educator. Katharine was born in Philadelphia on November 26, 1858, the second child of a prominent and wealthy banker, Francis Anthony Drexel and his wife, Hannah Langstroth. Her mother passed away just five weeks after Katharine was born. Her father remarried to Emma Bouvier in 1860; and together, they had another daughter in 1863, Louisa Drexel.

The girls received a wonderful education from private tutors and traveled throughout the United States and Europe. The Drexels were financially and spiritually well endowed. They were devout in the practice of their faith, setting an excellent example of true Christian living for their three daughters. They not only prayed but practiced what the Church calls the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.

Katharine grew up seeing her father pray for 30 minutes each evening. And every week, her stepmother opened their doors to house and care for the poor. The couple distributed food, clothing and provided rent assistance to those in need. The Drexels would seek out and visit women who were too afraid or too proud to approach the home in order to care for their needs in Christian charity.

After watching her stepmother suffer with terminal cancer for three straight years, Katharine also learned that no amount of money could shelter them from pain or suffering. From this moment, Katharine's life took a turn. She became imbued with a passionate love for God and neighbor, and she took an avid interest in the material and spiritual well-being of black and native Americans.

In 1884, while her family was visiting the Western states, Katharine saw first-hand the troubling and poor situation of the Native Americans. She desperately wanted to help them. As one of their first acts following their father's death, Katharine and her sisters contributed money to assist the St. Francis Mission of South Dakota's Rosebud Reservation. Katharine soon concluded that more was needed to help the Native Americans and the lacking ingredient was people. In 1887, while touring Europe, the Drexel sisters were given a private audience with Pope Leo XIII. They were seeking missionaries to help with the Indian missions they were financing. The Pope looked to Katharine and suggested she, herself, become a missionary. On February 12, 1891, Katharine made her first vows as a religious and dedicated herself to working for the American Indians and African-Americans in the Western United States. Taking the name Mother Katharine, she established a religious congregation called the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored, whose members would work for the betterment of those they were called to serve. From the age of 33 until her death in 1955, she dedicated her life and her fortune to this work. In 1894, Mother Katharine took part in opening the first mission boarding school called St. Catherine's Indian School, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Other schools quickly followed - for Native Americans west of the Mississippi River and for the Blacks in the southern part of the United States. St. Katharine was beatified on November 20, 1988, and canonized on October 1, 2000 by Pope John Paul II.

March 4: St. Casimir
Casimir, born of kings and in line to be a king himself, was filled with exceptional values and learning by a great teacher, John Dlugosz. Even his critics could not say that his conscientious objection indicated softness. As a teenager, Casimir lived a highly disciplined, even severe life, sleeping on the ground, spending a great part of the night in prayer and dedicating himself to lifelong celibacy. When nobles in Hungary became dissatisfied with their king, they prevailed upon Casimir's father, the king of Poland, to send his son to take over the country. Casimir obeyed his father, as many young men over the centuries have obeyed their governments. The army he was supposed to lead was clearly outnumbered by the "enemy"; some of his troops were deserting because they were not paid. At the advice of his officers, Casimir decided to return home.

His father was irked at the failure of his plans and confined his 15-year-old son for three months. The lad made up his mind never again to become involved in the wars of  his day, and no amount of persuasion could change his mind. He returned to prayer and study, maintaining his decision to remain celibate even under pressure to marry the emperor's daughter.

He reigned briefly as king of Poland during his father's absence. He died of lung trouble at 25 while visiting Lithuania, of which he was also Grand Duke. He was buried in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Scripture Readings Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time - Sirach 27:4-7; 1 Corinthians 15:54-58; Luke 6:39-45


February 20, 2022 Bulletin... Saints of the Week

February 22: Chair of St. Peter
This feast commemorates Christ's choosing Peter to sit in his place as the servant-authority of the whole Church.

After the "lost weekend" of pain, doubt, and self-torment, Peter hears the Good News. Angels at the tomb say to Magdalene, "The Lord has risen! Go, tell his disciples and Peter." John relates that when he and Peter ran to the tomb, the younger outraced the older, then waited for him. Peter entered, saw the wrappings on the ground, the headpiece rolled up in a place by itself. John saw and believed. But he adds a reminder: "...[T]hey did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead" (John 20:9). They went home. There, the slowly exploding, impossible idea became reality.

Jesus appeared to them as they waited fearfully behind locked doors. "Peace be with you," he said (John 20:21b), and they rejoiced. The Pentecost event completed Peter's experience of the risen Christ. "...[T]hey were all filled with the holy Spirit" (Acts 2:4a) and began to express themselves in foreign tongues and make bold proclamation as the Spirit prompted them. Only then can Peter fulfill the task Jesus had given him: "...[O]nce you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers" (Luke 22:32). He at once becomes the spokesman for the Twelve about their experience of the Holy Spirit - before the civil authorities who wished to quash their preaching, before the Council of Jerusalem, and for the community in the problem of Ananias and Sapphira. He is the first to preach the Good News to the Gentiles. The healing power of Jesus in him is well attested: the raising of Tabitha from the dead, the cure of the crippled beggar. People carry the sick into the streets so that when Peter passed his shadow might fall on them.

When Peter stopped eating with Gentile converts because he did not want to wound the sensibilities of Jewish Christians, Paul says, "...I opposed him to his face because he clearly was wrong... [T]hey were not on the right road in line with the truth of the gospel..." (Galatians 2:11b, 14a).

At the end of John's Gospel, Jesus says to Peter, "Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go" (John 21:18). What Jesus said indicated the sort of death by which Peter was to glorify God. On Vatican Hill, in Rome, during the reign of Nero, Peter did glorify his Lord with a martyr's death, probably in the company of many Christians. Second-century Christians built a small memorial over his burial spot. In the fourth century, the Emperor Constantine built a basilica, which was replaced in the 16th century.

February 23: St. Polycarp
Imagine being able to sit at the feet of the apostles and hear the stories of life with Jesus from their own lips. Imagine walking with those who had walked with Jesus, seen him, and touched him. That was what Polycarp was able to do as a disciple of Saint John the Evangelist. But, being part of the second generation of Church leaders had challenges that the first generation could not teach about. With the apostles gone, heresies sprang up pretending to be true teaching, persecution was strong, and controversies arose over how to celebrate liturgy that Jesus never laid down rules for.

Polycarp, as a holy man and bishop of Smyrna, found there was only one answer - to be true to the life of Jesus and imitate that life. Saint Ignatius of Antioch told Polycarp, "your mind is grounded in God as on an immovable rock." When he was tied up to be burned, Polycarp prayed, "Lord God Almighty, Father of your beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, through whom we have received knowledge of you, God of angels and powers, of the whole creation and of the whole race of the righteous who live in your sight, I bless you, for having made me worthy of this day and hour, I bless you, because I may have a part, along with the martyrs, in the chalice of your Christ, to resurrection in eternal life, resurrection both of soul and body in the incorruptibility of the Holy Spirit. May I be received today, as a rich and acceptable sacrifice, among those who are in your presence, as you have prepared and foretold and fulfilled, God who is faithful and true. For this and for all benefits, I praise you, I bless you, I glorify you, through the eternal and heavenly High Priest, Jesus Christ, your beloved Son, through whom be to you with Him and the Holy Spirit glory, now and for all the ages to come. Amen."

The fire was lit as Polycarp said Amen, and then the eyewitnesses who reported said they saw a miracle. The fire burst up in an arch around Polycarp, the flames surrounding him like sails, and instead of being burned, he seemed to glow like bread baking, or gold being melted in a furnace. When the captors saw he wasn't being burned, they stabbed him. The blood that flowed put the fire out.

Scripture Readings Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time - 1 Samuel 26:2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23; 1 Corinthians 15:45-49; Luke 6:27-38


February 13, 2022, Bulletin... Saints of the Week

February 14: St. Valentine
Saint Valentine, officially known as Saint Valentine of Rome, is a third-century Roman saint widely celebrated on February 14 and commonly associated with "courtly love." Although not much of St. Valentine's life is reliably known, and whether or not the stories involve two different saints by the same name is also not officially decided, it is highly agreed that St. Valentine was martyred and then buried on the Via Flaminia to the north of Rome.

One common story about St. Valentine is that in one point of his life, as the former Bishop of Terni, Narnia and Amelia, he was on house arrest with Judge Asterius. While discussing religion and faith with the judge, Valentine pledged the validity of Jesus. The judge immediately put Valentine and his faith to the test. St. Valentine was presented with the judge's blind daughter and told to restore her sight. If he succeeded, the judge vowed to do anything for Valentine. Placing his hands onto her eyes, Valentine restored the child's vision.

Judge Asterius was humbled and obeyed Valentine's requests. Asterius broke all the idols around his house, fasted for three days and became baptized, along with his family and entire 44 member household. The now faithful judge then freed all of his Christian inmates.

St. Valentine was later arrested again for continuing to try to convert people to Christianity. He was sent to Rome under the emperor Claudius Gothicus (Claudius II). According to the popular hagiographical identity, and what is believed to be the first representation of St. Valentine, the Nuremberg Chronicle, St. Valentine was a Roman priest martyred during Claudius' reign. The story tells that St. Valentine was imprisoned for marrying Christian couples and aiding Christians being persecuted by Claudius in Rome. Both acts were considered serious crimes. A relationship between the saint and emperor began to grow, until Valentine attempted to convince Claudius of Christianity. Claudius became raged and sentenced Valentine to death, commanding him to renounce his faith or be beaten with clubs and beheaded.

St. Valentine refused to renounce his faith and Christianity and was executed outside the Flaminian Gate on February 14, 269. However, other tales of St. Valentine's life claim he was executed either in the year 269, 270, 273 or 280. Other depictions of St. Valentine's arrests tell that he secretly married couples so husbands wouldn't have to go to war. Another variation of the legend of St. Valentine says he refused to sacrifice to pagan gods, was imprisoned and while imprisoned he healed the jailer's blind daughter. On the day of his execution, he left the girl a note signed, "Your Valentine."

The romantic nature of Valentine's Day may have derived during the Middle Ages, when it was believed that birds paired in mid-February. According to English 18th-century antiquarians Alban Butler and Francis Douce, Valentine's Day was most likely created to overpower the pagan holiday, Lupercalia. Although the exact origin of the holiday is not widely agreed upon, it is widely recognized as a day for love, devotion and romance.

Whoever he was, Valentine did really exist, because archaeologists have unearthed a Roman catacomb and an ancient church dedicated to St. Valentine. In 496 AD Pope Gelasius marked February 14th as a celebration in honor of his martyrdom.

February 17: Seven Founders of the Servite Order
In 1240, seven noblemen of Florence mutually decided to withdraw from the city to a solitary place for prayer and direct service of God. Their initial difficulty was providing for their dependents, since two were still married and two were widowers. Their aim was to lead a life of penance and prayer, but they soon found themselves disturbed by constant visitors from Florence. They next withdrew to the deserted slopes of Monte Senario. In 1244, under the direction of Saint Peter of Verona, O.P., this small group adopted a religious habit similar to the Dominican habit, choosing to live under the Rule of St. Augustine and adopting the name of the Servants of Mary. The new Order took a form more like that of the mendicant friars than that of the older monastic Orders.

Members of the community came to the United States from Austria in 1852 and settled in New York and later in Philadelphia. The two American provinces developed from the foundation made by Father Austin Morini in 1870 in Wisconsin. Community members combined monastic life and active ministry. In the monastery, they led a life of prayer, work and silence while in the active apostolate they engaged in parochial work, teaching, preaching, and other ministerial activities.

Scripture Readings Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Jeremiah 17:5-8; 1 Corinthians15:12, 16-20; Luke 6:17, 20-26


February 6, 2022, Bulletin... The Question of "Why?"

It's a one-word question that is the nightmare of many parents with young children: "Why?" Parents say something or explain something and the child simply asks, "why?". It's explained further, but the question repeats itself. Again and again, the child will simply ask this basic question as they attempt to rationalize in their young mind whatever concept you're explaining. Typically, the exchange ends with an exasperated parent and a partially-satiated child.

But the simplicity of the question masks its depth. The question of "why" is a question that only human beings are able to ask, and it's a question that cannot even be answered with science. Science explains how, not why. Therefore, this philosophical question, which can applied to almost anything, can often go unanswered, and depending on the circumstances surrounding the question, the lack of an answer can be our undoing.

Unfortunately, we have not yet been spared from further tragedy in our parish as two more parishioners have passed away in the last week. As with any loss, regardless of whether or not it was expected, many times the loved ones will ask that simple, yet profound question. Why? Why was our loved one "taken" from us? Why now? Why in this way? Why didn't they have more time? Why is God punishing us? Why, why, why?

These questions are natural because despite the certainty of death that we all have, we're never truly ready for it, regardless of whether our loved one was a child or 100 years old. Therefore, we seek understanding. We seek to know the circumstances surrounding the loss so as to bring closure. Having unanswered questions is like walking through an unfamiliar room that's dark. We move slowly, if at all, as we try to avoid hitting things and seek the exit. Getting answers is like having lights turn on that show us the room and allow us to walk through it confidently and without incident. Therefore, we desperately seek answers.

The issue then becomes when we ask questions that we cannot get answers to. We ask questions of God Who tends not to respond to us in "human" terms. We demand that He provide us with the complete layout of space and time so that we can understand exactly why what happened, happened. And when He doesn't give us the answers that we seek, we get angry and frustrated with Him, and He becomes the focal point of our anger, one of the stages of grief.

It's difficult to counsel people to simply let go and accept the situation. There's no way to say that in such a way that doesn't sound unfeeling and uncaring. We don't want to let go of our loved ones. We don't want to accept that they're no longer here on earth with us. Even with the certainty of everlasting life that our faith teaches were we to follow God's commandments and teachings, we still miss those we truly loved. Even with the sure and certain hope that those who have gone before us are on their way to eternity in the beatific vision that is the Infinite God of the universe, we'll never hug them again, hear their voice again, or see their smile again - at least, not until we follow after them.

Asking why things happen is natural, but asking questions that we won't get answers to any time soon will trap us in a spiral of grief, anger, and disillusion. When we find ourselves asking, "why", let us use that opportunity to offer up our prayers for our loved ones who have gone before with the sign of faith and rest in the sleep of peace.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Isaiah 6:1-2a, 3-8; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Luke 5:1-1133


January 30, 2022, Bulletin... A Word of Thanks

Kim Murrell and the entire Murrell family would like to extend their sincere thanks and gratitude to everyone in the parish who has reached out to them, prayed for them, or otherwise helped them in this difficult time. No matter how small the gesture, it has been very heartwarming for them to experience the true generosity of the parish; and they cannot thank you all enough.

Along those same lines, I would like to extend that same gratitude. As you all know, these past few weeks have seen an enormous amount of death and tragedy for our parish family. We can only pray we will be spared further heartbreak, at least for the near future.

Despite our knowledge of the inevitability of death, there is nothing that can ever truly prepare us for the death of a loved one. Those who have heard any of my homilies for funerals know that a supernatural void is created within us when we experience the death of someone we truly loved and only God can ultimately fill the void that's been created.

As a priest, life and death are acutely experienced as simply part of the job. We understand that we experience all parts of life with our parishioners, from the joys of baptism and marriage to the sadness and grief of death. It is something that many priests are able to detach themselves from in part, simply as a way of being able to carry on. But when tragedy hits home for the priest, or when there is such a deluge of death and heartbreak as we've experienced, it can very much take its toll, as the rest of the priest's life and schedule are not abated when funerals, etc. are added.

I suppose I often don't think much about "self-care" when it comes to my state of mind during times such as these. I hunker down and carry on because I know that's what's best for the parish. I don't like to be gone from the parish and despite the respite a good vacation can provide, it doesn't mean that the work stops and life stops happening. It has certainly been difficult these past few weeks with so much death and heartbreak happening all at once, but the priest is called to always think of others first and himself second. We die to ourselves which is why we wear black: to remind ourselves that we have done so.

But I've noticed over this past week or so that several parishioners have reached out to me about how I'm doing with everything going on. It jarred me at first because although I did lose a friend in Donnie as so many of us did, any grief I could be experiencing pales in comparison to the families of those who have passed from this life into the next. But the notes of concern I was receiving were simply about how I was doing coping with all of this and trying to keep everything going in the midst of a storm of suffering, and it made me so eternally grateful that God has blessed me with a parish such as this. I cannot count the blessings I've been party to since arriving just a few years ago. And times such as this, when I'm reminded in so many ways of the incredible people that call St. Columban home, I pray that whenever I'm called away from here, I can experience but a fraction of that kindness, generosity, and faithfulness wherever I end up serving.

I am so grateful for all of you; and I give thanks for you and the things you do for me on a daily basis. Know of my continuous prayers for all of you, especially those who have been suffering with grief over these past few weeks and months.

Your grateful servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Isaiah 6:1-2a, 3-8; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Luke 5:1-11


January 23, 2022, Bulletin... 

Father Koster was out of town a couple of days this week, so please see below or the links above for past Features... a new Feature will be available in the next Bulletin.

Scripture Readings Third Sunday in Ordinary Time - Nehemiah 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10, 1 Corinthians 12:12-30, Luke 1:1-4, 4:14-21


January 16, 2022, Bulletin... Stewardship Opportunities

I often get asked by people about ways they can be more involved around the parish. Typically, the larger the parish, the more groups, activities, organizations, etc. available for those who wish to do more. But regardless of the size of the parish, these groups, activities, organizations, etc. all rely on the time and effort of those involved to succeed. We all want to have an active parish that has numerous opportunities to be more involved, but we're seldom willing to help support them with our time and talent. Most groups and organizations require very little outside of time in order to be involved. I understand more than most how precious one's time can be as I'm often pulled in more than one direction at any given moment. However, I would like to highly encourage you to get involved in one of the groups listed below. Or, if something isn't listed that you would like to have, then perhaps you're the person we've all been waiting for to start it.

Knights of St. Michael: The Knights of St. Michael is a group made up of all of the altar servers of the parish. The group meets together on the first Wednesday of each month at 6:30 pm unless otherwise stated. The meetings, lasting 60-90 minutes, consist of training, group prayer, spiritual instruction, and fun activities for all members. Members progress through the various ranks based on age, merit, and knowledge. If your son, age 7 or older, is interested in becoming a server and joining the group, please email Fr. Koster for more information.

Knights of Columbus: We all know about the Knights of Columbus and Ladies Auxiliary, and we all love the work that they do for the parish and community. However, this work is shouldered by a small percentage who are always willing to donate their time and talent to the various endeavors the Knights undertake throughout the year. For those who are already members but do not attend the meetings or help out at the events, please make the effort to do so. For those not yet members, please contact Joe Timmons, Grand Knight. The Knights meet on the first Monday of the month at 7pm in the Knights Hall unless otherwise noted.

Choir: The choir is still rather new as far as something that meets on a regular basis. We have a great group of dedicated singers who are generously lending their voices to the enhancement of the liturgy. If you would like to add your voice to the group, they rehearse every Tuesday at 7pm in the choir loft and sing at the 10am mass every Sunday. Obviously, we understand that one isn't able to make it to every practice, but the more practices that you can attend, the more the group will be able to do.

Youth Group: The youth group is open to all youth of the parish, second semester 8th grade-12th grade. They meet on Wednesday evenings at 7pm in the Knights Hall (excluding first Wednesday). This is a great opportunity for young people to have fraternity and grow in their faith while having fun together. There is also always a need for more adult leaders to help facilitate the group.

Altar Society: The altar society takes care of the sanctuary and the sacristy, along with any other needs of the parish. It is open to all ladies of the parish. Meetings are published in the bulletin, and the group meets in the Knights Hall.

Bible Study: This is a new endeavor which starts the first Wednesday of February and is open to all adults and teens. This is a great way to grow in knowledge of the scriptures and to do so in a group setting that allows for fraternity and collaboration.

Lector: Several people have asked about possibly becoming a lector at mass. If anyone who is not currently a lector would like to start reading at mass, please send me an email, and I will organize some workshops here at the parish to train those interested.

This is not an exhaustive list; and if I forgot to mention a group, I apologize. We have an active and thriving community here that has the ability to do so much more than we already do. Complacency is a dangerous mindset, thinking that everything is just fine and that we can just keep doing the same things. I see great potential everywhere I look, but what we need are people who are willing to unlock that potential and turn it into action. Become more involved. We can all always do more.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Second Sunday in Ordinary Time - Isaiah 62:1-5; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; John 2:1-11


January 9, 2022, Bulletin... Epiphany and "Chalking the Doors"

Epiphany (also known as Twelfth Night Theophany, or Three Kings Day) marks the occasion of a time-honored Christian tradition of "chalking the doors." The formula for the ritual, adapted for 2022, is simple: take chalk of any color and write the following above the entrance of your home: 20 + C + M + B + 22.

The letters have two meanings. First, they represent the initials of the Magi: Caspar, Malchior, and Balthazar, who came to visit Jesus in His first home. They also abbreviate the Latin phrase, Christus mansionem benedicat: "May Christ bless the house." The "+" signs represent the cross, and the "20" at the beginning and the "22" at the end mark the year. Taken together, this inscription is performed as a request for Christ to bless those homes so marked and that He stay with those who dwell therein throughout the entire year.

The chalking of the doors is a centuries-old practice throughout the world, though it appears to be somewhat less well-known in the United Sates. It is, however, an easy tradition to adopt, and a great practice whereby we dedicate our year to God from its very outset, asking His blessing on our homes and on all who live, work, or visit them there.

The timing for the chalking of the doors varies somewhat in practice. In some places, it is done on New Year's Day. More commonly, it is performed on the traditional Feast of the Epiphany: the Twelfth Day of Christmas. Most often the chalking takes place after Epiphany Mass, and can be done at any church, home, or dwelling. Traditionally, the blessing is done by either a priest or the father of the family. This blessing can be performed simply by just writing the inscription and offering a short prayer, or more elaborately, including songs, prayers, processions, the burning of incense, and the sprinkling of holy water.

Practicing traditions like the chalking of the doors helps us to live our faith more concretely and serve as an outward sign of our dedication to Our Lord. Our homes are also the place where many of us will make the greatest strides in our spiritual growth, through observance of daily prayer, spiritual reading, and work offered as an oblation to God. The chalking of the doors of a home encourages Christians to dedicate their life at home to God and to others. Seeing the symbols over our doors can help to remind us, while passing in and out on our daily routines, that our homes and all those who dwell there belong to Christ. It also serves as a reminder of the welcoming the Magi gave to Jesus. We should strive to be as welcoming to all who come to our homes to visit us! Below, I've provided some examples of how this ceremony can be performed.

NOTE: There is chalk that was blessed on January 6th, the traditional feast of the Epiphany, available at the entrances of the church.

On entering the home, Leader: Peace be to this house. All: And to all who dwell herein. All: From the east came the Magi to Bethlehem to adore the Lord; and opening their treasures they offered precious gifts: gold for the great King, incense for the true God, and myrrh in symbol of His burial. Leader: Our Father... And lead us not into temptation. All: But deliver us from evil. Leader: All they from Saba shall come. All: Bringing gold and frankincense. Leader: O Lord, hear my prayer. All: And let my cry come to You. Leader: Let us pray. O God, who by the guidance of a star didst on this day manifest Thine only-begotten Son to the Gentiles, mercifully grant that we who know Thee by faith may also attain the vision of Thy glorious majesty. Through Christ our Lord. All: Amen. Leader: Be enlightened, be enlightened, O Jerusalem, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee - Jesus Christ born of the Virgin Mary. All: And the Gentiles shall walk in thy light and kings in the splendor of thy rising, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon thee. Leader: Let us pray. Bless, O Lord God almighty, this home, that in it there may be health, purity, the strength of victory, humility, goodness and mercy, the fulfillment of Thy law, the thanksgiving to God the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. And may this blessing remain upon this home and upon all who dwell herein. Through Christ our Lord. All: Amen. After the prayers of the blessing are recited, each room of the home may be sprinkled with holy water. The inscription: 20+C+M+B+22 is written above each entrance door of the home, or simply the front door.

Another possible prayer to say during your chalking:
May all who come to our home this year rejoice to find Christ living among us; and may we seek and serve, in everyone we meet, that same Jesus who is your incarnate Word, now and forever. Amen. God of heaven and earth, you revealed your only-begotten One to every nation by the guidance of a star. Bless this house and all who inhabit it. Fill us with the light of Christ, that our concern for others may reflect your love. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen. Loving God, bless this household. May we be blessed with health, goodness of heart, gentleness, and abiding in your will. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Baptism of the Lord - Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11; Titus 2:11-14, 3:4-7, Luke 3:15-16, 21-22


January 2, 2022, Bulletin... A Possible Catholic High School, Part II

I think that when many people heard that I wanted to start a Catholic high school, they envisioned a multi-million dollar campaign to build a facility, hire a faculty and staff, and hope to God that enough students will show up and keep it afloat. Now don't get me wrong, I'd love to get the old hospital property down the street, complete with paved parking lots, and erect a beautifully sculpted temple to Catholic education. But that's not in the cards, nor is that how any Catholic school has ever been started.

In order for the school to be successful out of the gate, it needs to be basically impossible for it to fail. What I mean by that is that in the beginning, we cannot go all in on facilities, faculty, and other expenses that can cause the school to fail due to financial reasons. If the school doesn't work out and after a year the program folds, those who invested time and money into it must be able to keep going without missing a beat. There are ways to accomplish this.

What I envision is a cross between a homeschool cooperative and a homeschool hybrid learning model. A homeschool coop is when several homeschool families get together in one location and have classes together or do other activities together. A hybrid learning model for homeschoolers is when they get together in a formal classroom setting, a few days per week, and are taught by instructors, keep to a schedule, and basically mimic a "normal" school environment.

So the plan at the beginning, at least, is to have the students come together at a specific location, 4-5 days per week, and have a mix of structured classroom instruction for certain subjects and more independent learning with other subjects. Each student would purchase the same Catholic homeschool curriculum, which is accredited. Therefore, the classes are accredited by a separate institution and thus transferrable to other high schools and accepted by colleges. That way, there is no need for the new high school to be an accredited institution on its own at the beginning, which requires an enormous amount of work and infrastructure. So in the eyes of the state, the students are homeschooled, but the bulk of their work/learning is being done at a central location under supervision and formal instruction.

As for the costs, those would depend on a few factors. Depending on the facility that is used, there could be a cost associated with that. Additionally there would be the cost of any other instructor (apart from myself) who would need some kind of stipend to come in and teach. Then there's the curriculum itself and the books. The curriculum I currently have my eye on would cost around $1000 per student with books included. This encompasses everything. So hopefully, at least at the beginning, the costs associated with attending would be less than they are to attend Bishop Hogan. Ideally, costs would remain as low as possible moving forward so as to allow any to attend who wish to do so.

I know there are many who will look at this proposed model and think that it cannot work. I know that there are many who would not send their future professional athletes to a high school that didn't have an athletic program. There were also many who abandoned Jesus when He explained that they needed to eat His flesh and drink His blood to attain eternal life. This high school program isn't Jesus, but He is Who we're trying to bring these students closer to.

Please do not hesitate to contact me with questions, concerns, ideas, and suggestions about this. We do not need to build a giant facility and have everything intact when we begin. What we need is passion, determination, and the desire to create something while the rest of the world seems intent on tearing everything down. In so many places, the Church is shrinking, her schools are shrinking and closing, and the faith is dying out. In this place, let us deny ourselves, take up our Cross, and follow Christ together.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Feast of the Epiphany - Isaiah 60:1-6; Ephesians 3:2-3a; Matthew 2:1-12


December 26, 2021, Bulletin... A Possible Catholic High School, Part I

Over the past two weeks, I had the opportunity to meet with several parishioners about the possibility of starting a Catholic high school program here in Chillicothe. When I wrote about this a few weeks ago, I was rather vague about the plans because until I understood the concerns and desires of those who might be interested, I didn't want to attach myself to any one plan moving forward. Many of the questions that were asked at the sessions held over the past two weeks had to be given an answer that isn't always a good one: "it depends".

But, unfortunately depending on the question, there are many different factors on which the answer would depend. How much will it cost? It depends on the number of students, the facility that's used, the curriculum that's chosen, and the cost of anyone, apart from myself, who would be assisting in the teaching and administration. Where will it be housed? It depends on the number of students attending. So many things are unknown because this is the very earliest of stages.

That being said, I would like to take this opportunity to respond to some of the concerns raised in order to put many minds at ease. I understand there are many in the parish who remember the heartache and hardship caused when the Diocese made the decision to close the school. I have a bullet hole in my house as a friendly reminder. I assure you that won't happen again, at least not in the near future. I cannot guarantee that a school will never close, but St. Joseph's Academy lasted 97 years before it closed its doors.

I will not be setting up the high school as being dependent upon the parish. While Bishop Hogan is subsidized by St. Columban, the high school won't be. It will be under the jurisdiction of the parish, namely that the pastor is the superintendent of it as he is for Bishop Hogan, but the school itself will be financially independent. I don't want the Diocese to subsidize it because that gives the Diocese more jurisdiction over it to potentially close it or alter it. Additionally, I don't want the parish to be financially liable for it either because we simply do not have the resources to stretch that far.

I will not allow the church or the grade school to suffer on account of the high school. That would be backward if I did. The church is the most important. Without the church, the school means nothing. Everything stems from the sacraments and the liturgy that is offered at the church. Additionally, a high school cannot succeed without a thriving grade school. One of the things that is spurring this conversation now is the success of Bishop Hogan and the increased enrollment that we have. It would make zero sense to allow the grade school to suffer for the sake of a high school.

I would hope that in my brief tenure here thus far, the work that's been undertaken at the church, the school, and the rectory have shown that I want to preserve the great things that we have and make them even better. We have more space in the rectory now. We have more teachers, more students, more altar boys, more active musicians. I want to figure out how to renovate the upper floor of the red building to create more specialized classroom space for Bishop Hogan. I say these things, not to tout my own accomplishments, but to emphasize my commitment to solidify, grow, and improve the already wonderful things we have here in the parish. If anyone were to claim that I would voluntarily tank the finances of the parish, the school, or any other facet of the parish to pursue this endeavor, they would be speaking erroneously without any evidence to support it.

I have a great love of teaching and have taught high school in the past. I want to be able to lend my services and expertise to this new school in whatever ways I can. I also don't draw an additional salary for helping, so anything I can do helps to lower the initial costs to the students. That being said, I'm also acutely aware of how much time there is in the day, my own schedule, and most importantly my responsibilities when it comes to the parish and the school. I do not plan on burning myself out or neglecting my responsibilities elsewhere in favor of something else. To assume that I would is to assume that I'm ignorant of my job and my abilities. I know what it feels like to almost burn out as it happened about four years ago. I do not plan on letting that happen again.

Next week, I'll go through my vision as to what this program will look like in its formative years which is quite different than many people envision, which I believe has led to much of the confusion.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Feast of the Holy Family - 1 Samuel 1:20-22, 24-28; 1 John 3:1-2, 21-24; Luke 2:41-52


December 5, 2021, Bulletin... Catholic Education

Whenever I speak with someone from Kansas City or St. Joseph about Chillicothe, they're always surprised to hear that we have a Catholic grade school. I think some of that is general ignorance about the area, some of that stems from the fact that the school doesn't share the name of the parish (which is unusual for a parochial school), but I think a large part has to do with the size of the town and the fact that we're very much isolated from the major metropolitan centers in the Diocese. I say this is the main reason because they're also very surprised to hear that the school is thriving (in addition to existing). They are then stunned to learn that at one point a Catholic high school existed in Chillicothe.

St. Joseph's Academy opened in 1872 as a school for girls. In 1917, boys were admitted; and in 1921, it became a fully accredited secondary school by the University of Missouri. Traditionally, the Diocese has been in charge of secondary schools unless they are run by religious orders. Therefore, it was the Diocese that made the decision to close the school in 1969.

It's safe to say that many schools, including Bishop Hogan, struggled greatly in the latter half of the 20th century. In some places, due to myriad different reasons, Catholic schools continue to struggle and close. I could certainly wax on for many pages with my thoughts as to why this is, but that's not the purpose of this particular column.

A child's character is primarily formed during their high school years. This really should take place primarily in the home as the parents are always the first educators of their children, whether it's the faith, knowledge, or simply life in general. But obviously many hours are spent in school during those four years and those that the child interacts with, whether they be peers or instructors, can have a great deal of influence on them moving forward. In the right situation this is enormously beneficial. In the wrong situation, it can be devastating.

I'm preaching to the choir, no doubt, were I to talk about the radical ideas that are slowly making their way from one public school district to the next. It is a vocal minority that is pushing curricula and agendas that suit a particular narrative and that narrative is antithetical to the teachings of the Church. The problem that many parents have in our community is that there are really only two options: public school or homeschool. Homeschooling is a great thing (I was homeschooled for two years), but to do it properly, the parent really needs to be active in the home full time, and this is especially crucial at the high school level when the subject matter becomes more advanced and the children intrinsically more lazy (they are teenagers, after all).

Some in the parish have talked to me about what it would take to establish a third option in Chillicothe, namely, a Catholic high school. This is a complex question, and one that I've begun to investigate in an informal way. It's very much possible; and additionally, from the outset at least, could be rather simple. My first assignment was teaching high school in St. Joseph; and I did so for three years. I have a great love for Catholic education and the fruits that it can bear if it's done well.

However, before any real progress can be made to attempt to do anything, I need to gauge the feelings of the parish, and, in theory, the community at large. Therefore, I'm going to hold a few listening/information sessions to have a dialogue with interested parties and share my findings so far with what could, in theory, be possible. I understand that this is a chaotic time of year, so I'm going to have multiple sessions in the hope that as many who are at the very least curious may attend.

All sessions will be held in the Bishop Hogan cafeteria...
(1) Wednesday, December 8, 7pm (following the 6pm mass for the Immaculate Conception);
(2) Wednesday, December 15, 6pm (note the earlier time); and
(3) Thursday, December 16, 7pm
Additional sessions may be held if necessary; and I would be very happy to meet with anyone individually who cannot attend any session.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Second Sunday of Advent - Baruch 5:1-9; Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11; Luke 3:1-6


November 14, 2021, Bulletin... Upcoming Masses

Monday, November 22nd, is the feast of St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music and one of my patron saints as well. In her honor, the usual Traditional Latin Mass will be sung (as it was on All Saints' Day), and the time will be moved to 6pm so more have the opportunity to attend. Additionally, Monsignor Eugene Morris from St. Louis will be preaching the sermon for that mass. Msgr. Morris is an incredibly gifted homilist and was an instructor of mine in the seminary.

Tuesday, November 23rd, is the feast of St. Columban. Mass will be at 6pm as usual, but there will not be adoration beforehand. We will be having music provided by Kim Yoko (mother of parishioner Zeb Yoko) and our new choir. We will also be using the new hymnals. A plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful who attend mass in a church on its patronal feast day. Because of this opportunity, I thought it best to revisit indulgences and give them another explanation.

According to the Catechism, an indulgence, "is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church[...]. An indulgence is partial or plenary accordingly as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin." Ok, so what does that actually mean?

The Catechism goes on to explain more precisely this definition. In order to understand this, we need to remember that sin has a double consequence. Mortal sin breaks our relationship with God. It deprives us of communion with God and makes us incapable of eternal life should we die in a state of mortal sin. That's why it's so important for us to go to confession whenever we're in a state of mortal sin, which is far more often than many realize. When we're deprived of eternal life due to our own actions, this is called the "eternal punishment" of sin. Venial sin doesn't break our relationship with God, but it does harm it. Every sin, even the less-serious venial ones, carries an unhealthy attachment to something of this world. That's why we commit sins: because we have an attachment to some aspect of that sin. These attachments to sin which we have must be purified before we may enter heaven, as Revelation states that nothing unclean may enter heaven. This purification therefore needs to happen either on earth or in purgatory should we not die in a state of mortal sin. The purification of our attachments to sin is called the "temporal punishment" of sin.

When we go to confession, we're purified of our eternal punishment of sin, since we confess our mortal sins and obtain absolution for them. We're now restored to our relationship with God, and this can only be done through sacramental confession. However, there still remains the temporal punishment because even though we've been absolved, we still tend to have those attachments to sin and thus will most likely sin again. If we die in a state of grace, which is to say that we're not in a state of mortal sin, then we're spared the eternal punishment of hell, but many still carry these attachments to sin and thus require the remission of the temporal punishment. This is what purgatory entails, but the remission can also happen while still alive. This is where indulgences come in.

Indulgences, whether partial or plenary, are gained through specific works and actions that are designated by the Church. These include works of devotion, penance, and charity. They are things that direct our thoughts and actions to God and by doing so, turn our minds away from sin, thus helping to remove those attachments to sin that we have. There are numerous ways to gain indulgences that can be found online and elsewhere and are too many to list here. What is also required to gain the indulgence, in addition to whatever the specific indulgence might be, is to go to confession within a week on either side of when the indulgence is done, receive communion in the state of grace, and to pray for the intentions of the Holy Father.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings The Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time - Daniel 12:1-3; Hebrews 0:11-14, 18; Mark 13:24-32


October 31, 2021, Bulletin... Sacraments of Service
Holy Orders, Part 2

Given the importance of the ordination of bishops, priests, and/or deacons to local churches, it's desirable for the ordinations to happen in the cathedral of the diocese. Our diocese has two co-cathedrals as the Dioceses of Kansas City and St. Joseph were merged in 1956. Therefore, we've had a tradition in recent years of ordaining transitional deacons in the Cathedral of St. Joseph and priests in the Cathedral of Kansas City. Sometimes if there is only one person to be ordained a transitional deacon, it may be done in his own parish depending on the size of the church.

Like all other sacraments, Holy Orders has both matter and form. The matter of the sacrament is the imposition of hands from the bishop to the person being ordained. The bishop places both of  his hands on the head of the candidate for ordination in silent prayer as a physical conferral of the Holy Spirit. The form of the sacrament is the consecratory prayer which the bishop says one time over all of the candidates.

We can break down an ordination a bit more from just the matter and form. Specifically, we'll look at the ordination of a priest. Following the gospel, the candidates are called forward with each responding "present" when called by name. Then the homily is given with the candidates sitting in front of the bishop. The homily in this case is mostly directed towards the candidates as instruction to them. After the homily the candidates are examined, being asked a series of questions to which each responds, "I do". The last question, which asks if the candidate resolves to be united more closely every day to Christ the High Priest and will consecrate himself to God for the salvation of all, the candidates respond, "I do, with the help of God."

After these promises, each candidate kneels before the bishop with his hands folded in prayer. The bishop places his hands around the candidate's and asks if he promises respect and obedience to him and his successors. The candidate responds, "I do". After each has done this, all candidates will then lie prostrate, that is completely face down, and the Litany of Saints is spoken or sung. After the Litany, the bishop will lay his hands on each candidate (the matter). The candidates then kneel while all priests in attendance will lay their hands on the candidates as well. Then the candidates kneel while the bishop recites the prayer of consecration (the form). After the prayer, the candidates are now priests.

Following the prayer, the newly-ordained are vested in the stole and chasuble (outer vestment) of a priest. Then, each goes to kneel before the bishop who fully anoints the palms of both hands of the priest with Sacred Chrism. The priest's hands are then folded in prayer and wrapped in a piece of cloth called a maniturgium. The maniturgium will be given to the priest's mother after ordination and she is buried with it so when she arrives at the gates of heaven, she may tell God that she gave Him her son as a priest. After the priests have gotten the Chrism off of their hands, a chalice and paten are brought forward and the priest kneels before the bishop and holds both with the bishop. The chalice and paten, which will hold the Body and Blood of Christ, are the main symbol of the priest's ultimate function which is the offering of mass. The bishop then offers the sign of peace to the newly ordained and then all priests in attendance will do the same. The mass then proceeds as normal.

It's important to remember that no one has the right to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders. No one claims the office for himself; he is called to it by God. Anyone who thinks he recognizes the signs of God's call to the ordained ministry must humbly submit his desire to the authority of the Church, who has the responsibility and right to call someone to receive orders. Like every grace, this sacrament can be received only as an unmerited gift.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings The Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time - Deuteronomy6:2-6; Hebrews 7:23-28; Mark 12:28-34


October 24, 2021, Bulletin... Sacraments of Service
Holy Orders, Part 1

The seventh and final sacrament to be discussed is Holy Orders. Holy Orders is the sacrament through which the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time. Thus it is the sacrament of apostolic ministry which has three degrees/levels: episcopate (bishop), presbyterate (priest), diaconate (deacon).

The word "order" in Roman antiquity designated an established civil body, especially a governing body. Ordinatio (ordination) means incorporation into an ordo (order). So each level of Holy Orders is its own order: the order of bishops, the order of priests, and the order of deacons. Other groups also receive the name of order: catechumens, virgins, spouses, widows, etc. Integration into these groups was done through an ordination. Today, the word ordination is reserved specifically for those joining the one of the three holy orders. It also goes beyond simply joining the order because it confers a gift of the Holy Spirit that permits the exercise of a sacred power which can come only from Christ Himself through His Church.

Through the ordained ministry, specifically bishops and priests, the presence of Christ as the head of the Church is made visible in the midst of the community of believers. However, this presence of Christ in the minister is not to be understood as if the minister is preserved from all human weakness, especially sin. The power of the Holy Spirit doesn't guarantee all acts of ministers in the same way. While it does guarantee the efficacy of the sacraments regardless of the sinfulness of the minister who celebrates them, it obviously doesn't guarantee that the minister will be a holy and good person.

Holy Orders, like baptism and confirmation, leaves an indelible (permanent) mark. Therefore,  once someone is ordained, they cannot be "unordained". Like baptism and confirmation, Holy Orders is confirmed ultimately once; but if one is ordained a deacon, then priest, then God forbid a bishop, they are receiving a greater fullness of the same sacrament. In a way, you could liken it to confirmation conferring the fullness of the Holy Spirit that was begun with baptism, even though those are two different sacraments. However, to the point above, a priest (for example) is a priest forever regardless of his ministerial status. Priests are granted faculties at their ordination which are the things that he's permitted to do by the bishop who ordains him. These faculties can be revoked so that the priest can no longer serve in any public ministry. A priest can be "laicized" (to become a lay person again) by the Vatican. What this really does is not unordain someone but rather release them from the obligations of the clerical state. They are still technically a priest. However, the only thing that they can do in that state is hear someone's confession who is in danger of death. Otherwise, they cannot exercise any priestly function again.

Each degree of Holy Orders has its own function. Deacons are ordained to serve the priests and bishops as was their original function in Acts of the Apostles. They can baptize, witness marriages, and perform funeral rites outside of mass. Additionally, they proclaim the gospel and can preach. Priests, whenever they are doing any of those things, are exercising their diaconal role which they received when they were first ordained deacons. Likewise, whenever a bishop says mass, hears confessions, or anything else that a priest can do, is simply exercising his priestly role which he received at his priesthood ordination.

There are two types of deacons today: transitional and permanent. Transitional deacons are those men that are pursuing ordination to the priesthood. They must be ordained a deacon before priest. Often times, they're ordained a deacon before their final year in the seminary. Someone who is ordained a transitional deacon has the right to be ordained a priest within three years of his diaconate ordination unless he was to do something that would make him irregular for priesthood ordination. Permanent deacons must be at least 35 years old before ordination (for transitional deacons I believe it's 23 or 24 as you must be at least 25 to be ordained a priest. Permanent deacons may be married at the time of their ordination; but if one is ordained a permanent deacon and is not married, he cannot then go get married afterward. Deaconesses (women deacons) existed in name only in the early Church. They were not ordained, but rather they were conferred that title as their role was to help with baptisms which were done fully nude. Therefore, "deaconesses" aided the women who were being baptized, and deacons aided the men. When baptism was no longer done in the buff, the role of a deaconess became obsolete.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings The Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Jeremiah 31:7-9; Hebrews 5:1-6; Mark 10:46-52


October 17, 2021, Bulletin... Sacraments of Service

The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children. This covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ to the dignity of a sacrament.

Scripture begins and ends with marriage. In Genesis, we have the creation of man and woman in the image and likeness of God; and in Revelation, we have the vision of the wedding feast of the Lamb. Throughout Scripture, it speaks of marriage and its mystery; its institution, the meaning God has given it, its origin and its end, its various realizations throughout the history of salvation, the difficulties arising from sin and its renewal in the new covenant of Christ and His Church. Scripture affirms that man and woman were created for one another. Woman is created from man and thus the two, through marriage, literally become one flesh.

Jesus unequivocally taught the original meaning of the union of man and woman as the Creator willed it from the beginning. The permission given by Moses for divorce was one of the many concessions in the Deuteronomic Law made for the hardness of the Israelites' hearts. The insistence on the indissolubility of the marriage bond may have left some perplexed in Jesus' time and seemed like an impossible burden. However, by coming to restore the original order of creation, disturbed by sin, He Himself gives the strength and grace to live marriage in the new dimension of the Reign of God. It is by following Christ, renouncing themselves, and taking up their crosses that spouses are able to receive the original meaning of marriage and live it with the help of Christ.

In the Latin Rite of the Church (to which we all belong), marriage is typically celebrated within the context of mass. The reason is because of the connection of all the sacraments to the Paschal Mystery. The Eucharist is also the memorial of the New Covenant when Christ united Himself to the Church, His bride. So it's fitting for the spouses to seal their consent to give themselves to each other within the same context. However, it is completely permissible to simply have a wedding ceremony. A wedding ceremony comprises of the procession, readings, homily (obviously the highlight), the exchange of consent/rings, and the nuptial blessing. Often times, when one spouse is not Catholic and thus most likely so is his or her entire family, a wedding ceremony is chosen as it's more familiar to non-Catholics.

The sacrament of marriage is unique among the sacraments insofar as the minister of the sacrament is not an ordained person. The spouses act as the ministers because it is by their exchange of consent that the sacrament is conferred. The priest, deacon, or bishop act as the witness of the Church.

In order for the sacrament to be valid, the parties must be free to marry and freely express their consent. To be free means that they're not under any constraint and they're not impeded by any natural or ecclesiastical (Church) law. The consent must be an act of the will of each of the contracting parties, free of coercion or grave external fear. So no shotgun weddings allowed. No human power can substitute for this consent. If this freedom is lacking, then the marriage is invalid. Also, if it was determined that one or both of the parties weren't of sound mind at the time of the consent, it's invalid. So no drinking before the wedding.

The minister of the Church receives the consent of the spouses in the name of the Church and gives the blessing of the Church. This is the reason why the Church normally requires that the faithful contract marriage according to Church form. Sacramental marriage is a liturgical act. However, dispensations may be given for good reasons, including getting married outside the Church by a non-Church officiant. But these must be granted before the wedding and are not retroactive. Additionally, permissions and dispensations are required for Catholics to marry baptized and non-baptized non-Catholics. I've never known for these permissions to not be granted.

Marriage is a thorny issue these days and has now become more about the wedding/reception than about the sacrament and the indissolubility of it. Marriage has also become very secularized and thus a "Church wedding" isn't something that many Catholics think they need or want, unfortunately to their own detriment. As I mentioned recently in a homily, any "irregular" marriage situation you think you might be in is fixable. Please do not hesitate to come talk to me about how it can be rectified. I promise you it will be worth it.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings The Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Isaiah 53:10-11; Hebrews 4:14-16; Mark 10:35-45


October 10, 2021, Bulletin... Sacraments of Healing
Confession - Part 2

The confession of our sins, even from a purely human standpoint, frees us and facilitates our reconciliation with others. Through our admission of guilt, we look squarely at the sins we're guilty of, take responsibility for them, and open ourselves again to God and to the communion of the Church. And confessing our sins to a priest is an essential part of the sacrament. The Council of Trent said that when Christ's faithful strive to confess all the sins they can remember, they undoubtedly place all of them before the divine mercy for pardon. But those who fail to do so and knowingly withhold some, place nothing before the divine goodness for remission through the mediation of the priest. "For if the sick person is too ashamed to show his wound to the doctor, the medicine cannot heal what it does not know". It's ok to legitimately forget sins in confession because to forget is not intentional. If we withhold sins, though, then the absolution isn't valid.

According to the Church's command, the faithful are bound by an obligation to faithfully confess any mortal sins committed at least once per year. Anyone aware of mortal sin should not receive communion, as doing so constitutes the sin of sacrilege since we're knowingly putting the Eucharist in a spiritually unclean vessel: ourselves. If we do commit a mortal sin, we should seek recourse to the sacrament as soon as we're able. We're only bound to confess mortal sins in confession, technically. Venial, which is to say less-serious, sins need not be confessed, but doing so is a good practice as it makes us more acutely aware of all of the little ways we sin all the time.

When we confess mortal sins, we're also obligated to confess them in kind and number. Basically, what exactly did you do and how many times. The reason is that we shouldn't be committing so many mortal sins that we have no idea what we're doing or how many times. And if we're going so long between confessions and allowing mortal sins to pile up into uncountable numbers, then we need to go to confession far more often.

Before going to confession, one needs to make a good examination of conscience. There are many resources online to help guide someone through a good examination. When you do, my suggestion is to write it down, either on your phone where it can be easily deleted, or on a small piece of paper. I used to use post-it notes in the seminary and then flush them down the toilet afterwards. A good examination of conscience makes it to where we're not forgetting sins or continuing to do things that we didn't realize were serious sins.

Confession is not the hypothetical game. Do not confess sins as if you're not sure if you did them. Either you did or didn't. So phrases like, "if I've ever done X", "for any times I may have done Y", aren't helpful because you're not truly taking responsibility for an action. You did it or you didn't do it. If you're not sure or can't remember, then just say you did them. Better safe than sorry and it's not like there's extra judgment on the priest's part. Confession is also not about what everyone else did that caused you to sin. The priest doesn't need to hear about how awful other people are and how that caused you to sin. The priest doesn't need to hear about how you try to be a good person. We assume that you do because you're there. Be direct, be frank, and be honest. I've heard it all. You will not surprise me, and you will not shock me.

Confession is also not spiritual direction. What I mean by that is that because confession is before mass, and I have presumably more than one person wanting to go and a hard deadline when I need to leave, I tend not to give advice that's unsolicited unless I feel there's a good reason to do so. If you'd like to discuss certain things at a greater length, then please either make an appointment for confession or an appointment to see me in spiritual direction which carries nearly the same weight of confidentiality as confession.

The seal of confession is absolute. I cannot reveal anything said in the confessional. Ever. I would be automatically excommunicated by Church Law. I cannot even confirm to someone that a person even went to confession. I cannot indirectly violate the seal of confession by treating someone differently based on what they said or doing anything based on information learned in the sacrament. It is absolute. You cannot think of a scenario where the seal could be broken because if you could, then it wouldn't be absolute. Go to confession!

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings The Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Wisdom 7:7-11; Hebrews:12-13; Mark 10:17-30


October 3, 2021, Bulletin... Sacraments of Healing
Confession - Part 1

This sacrament is known by several names. Some call it confession, others penance, and others reconciliation. Each conjure a specific connotation in regard to the sacrament. Confession calls to mind the actual disclosure/confession of sins to a priest which is an essential element of the sacrament. Penance refers more specifically to the sinner's personal and ecclesial steps of conversion, penance, and satisfaction. Reconciliation calls to mind the love of God who reconciles us both to Himself and the Church.

Since this sacrament is basically exclusive to the Catholic Church and even within her ranks is not usually listed as the most favorite or practiced, it's important to understand it as much as we can. A good question to start with is why we need confession when we have baptism? Baptism has made us "holy and without blemish", but the apostle John says that if we say we have no sin, then we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. While baptism does cleanse us of original sin and, if baptized later on, of all sins prior to baptism, it doesn't make us stop sinning afterward, nor does it continue to forgive sins that we knowingly commit following our baptism.

We all still carry concupiscence, which is to say we still carry the inclination to sin. With this inclination, we obviously struggle with a variety of sins throughout our lives which may change for various reasons over the course of our lifetime. It is hoped that with the availability and use of confession, we learn to overcome our sins with the grace of God which comes to us through this sacrament. The worst trap we can fall into is to think that we don't really sin, or at least we don't really sin in any serious way. A protestant notion that's quite prevalent is that we do of course sin, but our sin is continually covered/washed away by the grace received in baptism. That's a nice thought, but it's also saying in reality that we're no longer liable for the sins we continually choose to commit. It takes away the responsibility of our sin which confession brings to the forefront.

It is true to say that only God forgives sin. The Church doesn't dispute this and in fact says it quite openly. However, He quite clearly imparted His own apostles with His power to forgive sins. Additionally, He gave them authority to reconcile sinners with the Church. Matthew 16:19, I will give you the keys to the kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. The office of binding and loosing was given to Peter but was also assigned to the college of the apostles united to him. There are several scriptural passages that all reflect this ministry.

True penance requires the sinner to endure all things willingly, namely, to be contrite of heart, confess with the lips, and practice complete humility and fruitful satisfaction. That is from the Catechism published after the Council of Trent 500 years ago. So firstly, the penitent must be contrite. He must actually be sorry for the sins he's committed. Being sorry for a sin doesn't mean you don't think you could potentially do it again. Being truly contrite is not wanting it to happen again. As a bad example, I don't want the Chiefs to lose again, but I know that it's a very real possibility. In theory it's not, but let's be honest about it. That doesn't change my feelings about it now. The same holds true with our actions. When we commit a sin, which we no doubt greatly enjoyed at the time since we tend to enjoy most of the sins we do which is why we do them, we can still be contrite about the fact we committed the sin. However, if we're not actually sorry for it at the base level, then it cannot be confessed. We can feel justified about our sins, but that doesn't change the intrinsic nature of the sin. We tend to rationalize the sin, making it not really our fault and thus minimizing blame. We're sorry that we did it, but it really wasn't totally our fault. That mentality lessens our contrition because we're shifting blame away from ourselves and putting on another person or on something circumstantial.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings The Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Genesis 2:18-24; Hebrews 2:9-11; Mark 10:2-16


September 26, 2021, Bulletin... Sacraments of Healing
Anointing of the Sick

Illness and suffering have always been among the gravest problems confronted in human life. In illness, man experiences his powerlessness, his limitations, and his finite nature. Illness can lead to anguish, self-absorption, and sometimes even despair and revolt against God. The Church received the charge to heal the sick from the Lord and strives to carry it out by taking care of the sick as well as by accompanying them with her prayer and intercession. The live-giving presence of Christ is particularly active through the sacraments.

At the Council of Trent, the Church said that the sacred anointing of the sick was instituted by Christ our Lord as a true and proper sacrament of the New Testament. It is alluded to indeed by Mark, but is recommended to the faithful and promulgated by James the apostle and brother of the Lord. From ancient times we have testimonies to the practice of anointings with blessed oil. Over the centuries, the sacrament became used almost exclusively for those at the point of death, hence the received name of "Extreme Unction". The Second Vatican Council revised the rite of the sacrament.

It is not a sacrament for those only at the point of death. If someone who is in bad health receives the sacrament and recovers, they could receive it again if they became sick again. It is a sacrament that can be received as many times as necessary. Only priests and bishops are ministers of the sacrament.

The celebration of the sacrament, like all others, is liturgical in nature when done in its fullness. Those who wish to receive the sacrament should be in a state of grace and therefore confession is recommended before receiving the anointing. The priest or bishop will begin by silently laying their hands on or over the sick person. This is a silent prayer of the minister to the Holy Spirit. The minister then anoints the forehead of the person by saying, "Through this holy anointing may the Lord in His love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit". Then the minister anoints both palms of the person while saying, "may the Lord Who frees you from sin save you and raise you up. Amen." If the person being anointing is a priest or bishop, then the backs of the hands are anointed because the priest or bishop's palms were anointed with Sacred Chrism during their ordination. A proper concluding prayer, depending on the particular circumstance, concludes the rite.

The effects of the sacrament are generally misunderstood. Anointing of the Sick is not necessarily associated with physical healing. The idea is not that when you're anointed you are now healed of all afflictions and if that doesn't occur then something went wrong. The first grace of the sacrament is one of strengthening, peace, and courage to overcome the difficulties that go with the condition of serious illness or the frailty of old age. It's a spiritual strengthening, not necessarily a physical one.

There is a union with the passion of Christ. By the grace of the sacrament, the sick person receives the strength and the gift of uniting himself more closely to Christ's passion. Suffering, which is a consequence of original sin, acquires a new meaning. It becomes a participation in the saving work of Jesus.

If the person who receives the sacrament is in danger of death, then there is the preparation for their final journey. It completes our conformity to the death and Resurrection of Christ, just as baptism began it. It completes the holy anointings that mark the whole Christian life, when baptism sealed new life in us, and when confirmation strengthened us for the combat of this life. This last anointing fortifies the end of our earthly life like a solid rampart for the final struggles before entering the Father's house.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings The Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Numbers 11:25-29; James 5:1-6; Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48


September 19, 2021, Bulletin... Sacraments of Initiation
Eucharist, Part 3

You've hopefully heard me use the phrase, "Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ" several times in my homilies. The theology of the Eucharist is that what we are consuming is actually the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. It's not a metaphor, it's not a symbol, it doesn't represent something or stand in for something. It is actually the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. This crucial distinction alone is what separates Catholics from protestant denominations. So while in some areas we may have similar beliefs and practices as, say Lutherans, when it comes to the Eucharist which is the source and summit of our entire faith, we differ dramatically. And that's where it counts.

Many have probably also heard the word "transubstantiation" before as well. This word is used to describe what happens to the bread and the wine when it becomes the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. And how it works is actually explained by a concept that has its roots in Greek philosophy several centuries before Christ was born. The philosophical concepts were not used to create the teaching, but rather to explain it.

In John 6, the Bread of Life Discourse, Jesus uses increasingly blunt and almost graphic language to describe the Bread of Life/the Eucharist. At one point, the original Greek that the gospel was written in has the connotation of crunching on the bones of Jesus when He speaks of Himself being the Bread of Life. Each time He explains it, He gets more specific. The reasoning is that He didn't want there to be any question about how literal He was being. And He was so literal that everyone but the apostles leaves Him. If He was just being symbolic or metaphorical, then how would the teaching be so difficult for everyone? Then, at the Last Supper, Jesus gives the apostles the bread and says that it's His body. This connects back to John 6. Jesus says that His body is literally the Bread of Life, then He gives them the bread and says it's His body, and the apostles connect the dots. However, since the bread at the Last Supper did not turn into Jesus' right thigh or something, how can what He said in both instances (John 6 and the Last Supper) be true?

Everything has two sets of characteristics: accidental and substantial. A thing's accidental characteristics are the attributes of the thing that are tangible and detectable with our five senses. How it looks, smells, tastes, sounds, and feels. A thing's substantial characteristics are what make it one thing and not something else. The essence, the being of a thing that is not tangible but knowable. For example, a wooden table has its accidental characteristics that we're all familiar with. It's substance is that of a table. It's what makes it a table and not a sculpted pile of wood. We call it a table because that's its form/essence/being. You could sit on a table, but you don't call it a chair. If the table is broken down into its original parts, you don't call it a table. You call it wood and screws and nails. With me so far?

So bread and wine have accidental and substantial characteristics. Their accidental characteristics are known to us because we can sense them. Their substantial characteristics are also known to us, even though we cannot detect them with our senses. When the consecration happens, the substantial characteristics are changed but the accidental characteristics are not. So what we have is a transubstantiation of the bread and the wine into the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. We can't see it, taste it, smell it, feel it, or hear it, but we have faith that it occurs because otherwise Jesus is a liar. He's a liar because what He said in John 6 wasn't true. He's a liar because what He said at the Last Supper wasn't true. Since it's not a good starting place to call Jesus a liar, we know that the substance of the bread and wine is what changes while the accidents remain the same. But the substance is what matters. The substance is what makes us human beings and not piles of differentiated human cells. Our nature, our essence, and our being are what matter, not our varying accidental characteristics.

And so, it is only by faith that we can truly see and believe what is presented to us in the Eucharist. But because it looks the same before and after, it's very easy for us to forget and more easily dismiss the reality. But the reality is that we're receiving the actual divine substance of the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ and how we receive it and treat it should always reflect that.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings The Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Wisdom 2:12, 17-20; James 3:16-4:3; Mark 9:30-37


September 12, 2021, Bulletin... Sacraments of Initiation
Eucharist, Part 2

As early as the second century, we have writings from St. Justin that detail the general outline of the mass which show that from the earliest days, the structure of the mass has remained the same throughout history. The liturgy develops organically, meaning that changes occur over time as we better understand the theology of the sacrifice of the mass.

The mass itself is broken down into two main sections: the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The Introductory Rite contains the entrance antiphon, which is substituted with a hymn when the mass has music, the sign of the cross, and greeting. Next, the priest invites the faithful to acknowledge their sins in the Penitential Rite, which includes the Confiteor ("I confess") and the Kyrie ("Lord, have mercy"). Next comes the Gloria, if the mass includes one. Glorias are restricted to feast days of the first and second class, meaning Sundays and major feast days of saints or of the Lord.

The main section of the Liturgy of the Word follows with the readings from scripture. Again, depending on the class of the day, you'll have one or two readings from scripture, typically one reading from each testament depending on the liturgical season, plus the psalm. The climax of the Liturgy of the Word is, of course, the gospel, which we reverence by standing for it. Technically, the homily/sermon is outside of the mass, since its text is created by the celebrant or homilist. That's why I remove the maniple from my left arm before giving it, because the maniple is a vestment solely used for the mass. When I take it off, it symbolizes that something outside of the mass is occurring. The difference between a homily and a sermon is that a homily is based almost entirely on the readings. A sermon can address any theological, scriptural, or moral topic. We all secretly know that my homilies are the highlight of everyone's life; but for now, we'll just keep that between ourselves. Also, if you're reading this while I'm giving my homily... don't.

Following the homily/sermon, if there is one (they are only mandatory on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation), comes the creed which is only said on feast days of the first class. Petitions may follow in some form, but they are optional during the week and their length/number is to be determined by the celebrant.

The offertory follows where the priest offers to God the offerings of the people, namely the bread and the wine, and symbolically cleanses himself to offer the one, perfect sacrifice of Christ.

The Eucharistic Prayer follows; and this is the heart and the summit of the celebration. It begins with the preface where we give thanks to the Father, through Christ, in the Holy Spirit, lifting up our hearts to the Lord as is right and just.

During the Eucharistic Prayer, or the Roman Canon (which is the one I always use unless it's a funeral), the priest invokes numerous saints by name, all of whom were martyrs for the early Church. The priest then extends his hands over the gifts in the "epiclesis", asking the Father to send His Holy Spirit upon the gifts. The consecration comes next and the priest, standing in the person of Christ, speaks the same words over the bread and wine. Once spoken, they are elevated so that the faithful can see and venerate what has now substantially changed into the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ.

After the rest of the Canon, we come to the Communion Rite, which begins with the Lord's Prayer. The priest then offers the peace of Christ to the faithful directly, and optionally, the faithful may offer it to each other. Again, this is a part of the mass that has always been optional. After that the priest receives communion and completes the sacrifice. Technically, he is the only one required to receive communion at mass, as he must do so to complete the sacrifice he has offered. The Concluding Rite follows communion with the post-communion prayer, final blessing, and dismissal.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings The Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Isaiah 50:4c-9a; James 2:14-18; Mark 8:27-35


September 5, 2021, Bulletin... Sacraments of Initiation
Eucharist, Part 1

The holy Eucharist, the source and summit of our entire faith, completes Christian initiation. Those who have been raised to the dignity of the royal priesthood by baptism and configured more deeply to Christ by confirmation participate with the whole community in the Lord's own sacrifice by means of the Eucharist. All of the other sacraments and all of the other ecclesiastical ministries and works are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church.

We refer to the Eucharist by several different titles, each one evoking certain aspects of it. The word Eucharist has a Greek root which means thanksgiving, because the celebration of it is an act of thanksgiving to God. We call it the Lord's Supper because of its connection with the Last Supper of our Lord at which He instituted it. We call the mass the Holy Sacrifice because it makes present the one sacrifice of Christ and includes the Church's offering. We also use sacrifice of praise, spiritual sacrifice, and pure and holy sacrifice. We call it Holy Communion because by this sacrament we unite ourselves to Christ who makes us sharers in His Body and Blood to form a single body.

At the heart of the Eucharist are bread and wine, the signs under which the Eucharist is made present to us. We use these because we as His Church are faithful to His command to do this in memory of Him. And what He did when He said that was use bread and wine. They also signify the goodness of creation which is recalled in the prayers during the offertory (spoken aloud at daily mass here), which say that they are the work of human hands, but above all are fruit of the earth and of the vine; gifts from our Creator. The Church also references the old testament priest Melchizedek who brought out bread and wine, a prefiguring of the Church's own offering.

The three synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, as well as St. Paul have given us the account of the institution of the Eucharist. John's gospel reports the Bread of Life discourse in chapter 6 in the synagogue of Capernaum. These words prepare for the institution of the Eucharist as Christ calls Himself the bread of life. By celebrating the Last Supper and instituting the Eucharist in the course of the Passover meal, Jesus gave the Jewish Passover its definitive meaning. Jesus' passing over to His Father by His death and resurrection is anticipated in the Passover and celebrated in the Eucharist. This fulfills the Jewish Passover and anticipates the final Passover of the Church in glory of the kingdom.

During its institution, Jesus tells His apostles to do this in memory of Him. The command to repeat His actions and words until He comes again does not just ask us to remember Him and what He did. It is directed at the liturgical celebration of the memorial of Christ. From the beginning the Church has been faithful to this command. Acts 2 speaks of the people devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and the prayers. Because it is a direct command from our Lord and God, the Church gives it the gravity that it deservers. Our free choice to not follow the command of God thus constitutes a grave and mortal sin.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings The Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time - Isaiah 50:5-9a; James 2:14-18; Mark 8:27-35


August 29, 2021, Bulletin... Sacraments of Initiation

By the sacrament of confirmation, the baptized are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed. Confirmation has its roots with the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles at Pentecost. This is the fullness of the gift of the Holy Spirit that we receive at baptism. The apostles would impart to the newly baptized the laying on of hands, giving them the same gift of the Spirit they had received. Very early on, to better signify this gift by material means, an anointing with perfumed oil (chrism) was added to the laying on of hands. This is why the Eastern churches call the sacrament Chrismation. In the West, we say confirmation, which suggests that this sacrament confirms baptism and strengthens baptismal grace.

In the first centuries, confirmation was almost always tied immediately with baptism into one ceremony. Eastern churches have kept this tradition, even with infants, and so it is the priest that baptizes who also then confirms. We have this in the West whenever anyone above the age of reason is baptized. They are then immediately confirmed as well. Most are familiar with the tradition of baptizing the infant but then waiting to confirm by the bishop later. The Eastern tradition gives more unity to the sacraments of initiation, and the Western tradition gives those confirmed more unity with their bishop who is actually doing the confirming.

The anointing with chrism that is done in confirmation leaves an indelible, permanent mark. It is a spiritual seal of the Holy Spirit. Those who are marked with this seal share more completely in the mission of Jesus Christ and the fullness of the Holy Spirit with which He is filled, so that their lives may give off the "aroma of Christ".

When confirmation is celebrated separately from baptism, which is the norm in the Latin Rite Church, the liturgy itself begins with the renewal of baptismal promises and the profession of faith by the confirmands. The bishop then extends his hands over the whole group, signifying the gift of the Holy Spirit from the direct successor of the apostles. The bishop then anoints each confirmand on the forehead with chrism. The saint which the confirmand has chosen as his/her patron is said by the bishop, who then adds, "be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit". The bishop then offers the newly confirmed the sign of peace.

It is evident from its celebration that the effect of the sacrament is the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit as granted upon the apostles at Pentecost. It brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace. It roots us more deeply in the divine sonship, unites us more firmly to Christ, increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us, renders our bond to the Church more perfect, and gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the cross.

Every baptized person not yet confirmed can and should receive the sacrament of confirmation. In the West, as said before, we tend to wait until after they've reached the age of reason, but in danger of death, children not yet at that age should still be confirmed. Preparation for the sacrament should aim at leading the Christian toward a more intimate union with Christ and a more lively familiarity with the Holy Spirit in order to be more capable of assuming the apostolic responsibilities of Christian life.

The ordinary minister of confirmation is the bishop. In danger of death, any priest can administer confirmation. Additionally, any priest who baptizes someone above the age of reason automatically has the faculty to confirm the person immediately. The bishop has the right to confirm all Catholics within his diocese. So someone who is baptized Catholic as an infant or below the age of reason is confirmed by the bishop. However, the bishop can extend the faculty of confirming already baptized Catholics to a priest in certain circumstances. The most common is when a Catholic who was baptized but never confirmed "reconverts" at the Easter Vigil. Since this is common, the bishop extends the faculty to priests for the Easter Vigil when the priest submits the specific names of the people needing to be confirmed on that occasion. Individual cases can also be delegated to the priest depending on the circumstances.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings The Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time - Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8; James 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27; Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23


August 22, 2021, Bulletin... Sacraments of Initiation

The seven sacraments: baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, holy orders, marriage, anointing of the sick, and reconciliation are broken down into three groups - these are the sacraments of initiation, of service, and of healing. The three sacraments of initiation are baptism, confirmation, and the Eucharist. These lay the foundation of every Christian life. Paul VI said that the faithful are born anew by baptism, strengthened by confirmation, and receive in the Eucharist the food of eternal life. By means of these sacraments, they receive in increasing measure the treasures of the divine life and advance toward the perfection of charity.

The word "baptism" comes from the Greek "baptizein" which means to plunge or immerse. The "plunge" into the water symbolizes the catechumen's burial into Christ's death from which he rises up by resurrection with him as a new creature.

Baptism was prefigured in several different ways in the Old Testament. From creation itself water has been the source of life and fruitfulness. Genesis said that water was overshadowed by the Spirit of God at the moment of creation. Noah's Ark is seen as a prefigurement of salvation by baptism because through it people were saved, and the world was cleansed through the water of the flood. The crossing of the Red Sea is a very easy comparison, for it was through the waters of the Red Sea that the children of Israel were literally set free from slavery. It is also prefigured in the Israelites crossing the Jordan, for it was through the crossing of that water that the Israelites entered the Promised Land.

All of these Old Testament prefigurations find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ. He began his public ministry by having himself baptized by John in the Jordan. After his resurrection, he commands his disciples to baptize all nations. Jesus voluntarily submitted himself to the baptism of sinners, which is what John was doing, as a manner of self-emptying. He had no sins to confess and be forgiven for, but in order to fully identify with us, Christ underwent baptism because we are all in need of baptism. He chose to go through what we must go through. The same can obviously also be said about his death. Through his action, he also sanctified baptism.

The Church has been celebrating baptism since Pentecost. After Peter's speech, about 3000 people were baptized after witnessing the miracle. St. Paul said that through the Holy Spirit, baptism purifies, justifies, and sanctifies. Today, the celebration of the sacrament combines multiple symbols with physical and metaphysical realities. The sign of the cross at the beginning marks the one who will be baptized with the imprint of Christ. Since baptism signifies liberation from sin and from the Devil, one or more exorcisms are pronounced over the candidate. The celebrant then anoints him with the oil of catechumens on the breastplate. The baptismal water is consecrated by a prayer through which the Church asks that the power of the Holy Spirit be sent upon the water. Then the essential part of the rite follows, by which the sacrament is made valid. The water is poured over the head, the water must flow off the head, and the celebrant says, "[name], I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." If any part of that is altered, the baptism is not valid. The person is then anointed on the forehead with Sacred Chrism. Chrism is only used in sacraments that leave an indelible (permanent) mark: baptism, confirmation, and holy orders. The white garment traditionally worn symbolizes that the person baptized has "put on Christ". Then a candle, lit from the Easter candle, signifies that Christ has enlightened the new Christian.

Those who can receive baptism are anyone who has not yet been baptized. You cannot be baptized more than once which is why the Church recognizes protestant baptisms that use the above formula. Adult baptism was very common in the early Church but so was infant baptism. Children are born with a fallen human nature and tainted with original sin, so they have the need of the new birth in baptism. The Church and the parents would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God were they not to confer baptism shortly after birth.

The ordinary ministers of baptism are bishops, priests, and deacons. Anyone can be an extraordinary minister of baptism when there is danger of death present. They still must use the above formula when doing so.

Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament. The Church does not know of any means other than baptism that assures entry into eternal life. However, while God has bound salvation to the sacrament of baptism, He Himself is not bound by His sacraments. The Church has always held that those who suffer death for the sake of the faith without having received baptism are baptized by their death, called a baptism of blood. In regard to children who die without baptism, the Church teaches that we entrust them to the mercy of God, knowing that He desires for all to be saved. Children who are not baptized but are not yet at the age of reason haven't made a conscious act of sinning against the will of God. Thus, they cannot be punished eternally for acts they never committed.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings The Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time - Joshua 24:1-2a, 15-17, 18b; Ephesians 5:21-32; John 6:60-69


August 15, 2021, Bulletin...
The Liturgy of the Church

Before talking about the seven sacraments individually, the Catechism goes into great detail regarding the celebration of the liturgy within the Church. Liturgy is an action of the whole Christ, which is to say the entire Church. Each sacrament involves the celebration of a liturgy which takes on different forms depending on the sacrament, who is celebrating it, when it happens, and where it happens. All members, the whole community, celebrate the liturgy, but not all of the members have the same function. Certain members are called by God to a special service in the community. These servants are chosen and consecrated by the sacrament of Holy Orders, by which the Holy Spirit enables them to act in the person of Christ. The common priesthood of all the baptized, each according to his function, celebrate together in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

Celebrations of the sacraments are woven together from signs and symbols. The meaning of these signs and symbols is rooted in the work of creation and in our culture, specified by the events of the Old Covenant and fully revealed in the person and work of Christ. We need signs and symbols to communicate with others, such as through language, gestures, and actions. The same principle holds true for our relationship with God.

Holy images are also very important in our liturgical celebrations. The sacred image, the liturgical icon, principally represents Christ. It cannot represent the incomprehensible and invisible God, but rather the incarnation of the Son of God. All the signs in the liturgical celebrations are related to Christ, including images of Mary and other saints. They truly signify Christ who is glorified in them. The beauty of the images should move us to contemplation of the glory of God and keep our minds always focused on Him. That is why churches are decorated with icons, statues, and murals that depict holy things. Churches that are white-washed and don't contain any religious imagery don't avail themselves as a sacred space when the liturgy isn't being celebrated because the place takes on the look of a normal space when not in use. You cannot walk into St. Columban and think that's it not a sacred place regardless of the time of day.

The liturgical celebrations of the Church are all situated around the liturgical year. From the time of Moses, the people of God observed fixed feasts, such as Passover. They happen at the same time each year as a constant reminder of what God has done for us. In like manner, the Church has established the liturgical year as a way of keeping our lives rooted in the liturgy regardless of the day or time of year. The year begins with the first Sunday of Advent, then moves into the Christmas season, ordinary time part 1, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, and then ordinary time part 2. Easter is always the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring equinox which is why it moves. Ultimately, the liturgical year is focused on Easter as the feast of feasts. Christmas, being a fixed date, determines the beginning of the year, but everything following is based off of when Easter occurs. Included throughout the year are the recurring feasts of the saints who have suffered and been glorified with Christ. They are presented to us for the two "I's": Imitation and Intercession.

The liturgical celebrations of the Church are not confined to any particular space. The whole earth is sacred and entrusted to the children of men. However, when religious liberty is not being threatened, we build buildings for divine worship. They are not just gathering places, but make visible the Church that lives in a particular place. I would stand to argue that our church makes the Catholic community in Chillicothe very visible and showcases our devotion through its beauty. Within the church itself, there are certain furnishings that are (or should be) present. The altar is where the sacrifice of Christ is made present. Our high altar elevates our hearts, eyes, and mind to God as His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity are made present upon it. The tabernacle is always to be situated in a most worthy place and with the greatest honor, according to Pope Paul VI. Ours is right where it should be, for it contains the source and summit of our entire faith and thus should be in the heart of the focal point of the church: the high altar. Those who would argue that it should be placed off to the side would need to explain why the source and summit of something should be found off to the side somewhere. The ambo is where the word of God (and mediocre homilies) are proclaimed and thus deserves a high place of honor as well. The chair of the priest, according to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, should express his office of presiding over the assembly and directing prayer. The beautiful sedilia (plural Latin for seats) certainly expresses this.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary - Revelation 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab I; Corinthians 15:20-27; Luke 1:39-56


August 8, 2021, Bulletin...
Sacraments: Introduction

Over the next few weeks, we'll be looking at the sacraments of the Church in depth as the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) explains them. The whole liturgical life of the Church revolves around the Eucharistic sacrifice and the sacraments. There are seven sacraments in the Church: baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, penance, anointing of the sick, holy orders, and marriage. A sacrament is defined as "an efficacious sign of God's grace, instituted by Jesus Christ, and entrusted to the whole Church". It is through the sacraments that divine life is dispensed to us.

The Council of Trent in 1547 stated infallibly that it is through our adherence to the scriptures and apostolic tradition that we profess that all seven sacraments were instituted by Christ. The mysteries of Christ's life are the foundations of what He would dispense in the sacraments, through the ministers of His Church. Sacraments are powers that come forth from the Body of Christ, which is ever-living and life-giving. They are actions of the Holy Spirit at work in His Body, the Church.

The Church is ultimately the authority that determined the sacraments, their celebration, and their number. In the same way, she set forth the canon of scripture and doctrines of the faith. This comes from the guidance of the Holy Spirit, with which the Church is imbued. The number and celebration of the sacraments have come into form over the centuries, so it's always important to remember that things develop organically in the Church. Those who would point to "how things were done originally" as a way to justify a sudden change in things today do not understand this organic development and seek to simply do something based on an antiquarian argument. The sacraments are "of the Church" in the sense that they are by her and for her. They are by the Church because she is the sacrament of Christ's action at work in her through the mission of the Holy Spirit. They are for the Church since they manifest and communicate to men, most of all in the Eucharist, they mystery of communion with God.

The Church acts in the sacraments as a priestly community. Through baptism and confirmation, all Church members form a priesthood of the baptized which allows them to celebrate the liturgy. Those who have received holy orders, namely deacons, priests, and bishops, are appointed to nourish the Church with the word and grace of God. The ordained ministry is ultimately at the service of the priesthood of all the baptized, namely the people of God. Priests guarantee that it really is Christ who acts in the sacraments through the Holy Spirit for the Church. The saving mission entrusted by the Father to His Son was then committed to the apostles, and through them to their successors, the bishops, and their collaborators, the priests. The three sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and holy orders confer a sacramental character/seal by which the Christian shares in Christ's priesthood and is made a member of the Church according to different states and functions. It is an indelible mark, meaning it remains forever.

The purpose of the sacraments is to sanctify men, to build up the Body of Christ, and to give worship to God. They are signs, but they also instruct. They presuppose faith, but by words and objects they also nourish, strengthen, and express faith, which is why they are called sacraments of faith. The Church's faith precedes the faith of the believer who is invited to adhere to it. When the Church celebrates a sacrament, she confesses the faith received from the apostles. The ancient Latin phrase, "lex orandi, lex credendi", means the law of prayer is the law of faith. The Church believes as she prays. For this reason, no sacramental rite may be modified or manipulated at the will of the minister or the community. Even the supreme authority in the Church may not change the liturgy arbitrarily, but only in the obedience of faith and with religious respect for the mystery of the liturgy.

When they are celebrated worthily in faith, the sacraments confer the grace that they signify. They are efficacious, meaning to give effect, because Christ Himself is in them at work. It is ultimately Christ who is acting in the sacraments. The Church affirms that the sacraments act "ex opere operato", meaning "from the work it is worked". So the worthiness of the particular minister is of no consequence, meaning that the priest/deacon/bishop could be a horrible person, but that doesn't change the efficacy of the sacrament. From the moment the sacrament is celebrated in accordance with the intention of the Church, the power of Christ acts in it and through it.

Sacraments are necessary for salvation for those. Sacramental grace is the grace of the Holy Spirit, given by Christ and proper to each sacrament.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time - 1 Kings 19:4-8; Ephesians 4:30-5:2; John 6:41-51


August 1, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:

The Book of Revelation is apocalyptic literature. Apocalyptic literature, by definition, is highly symbolic. I start with this because so often people like to interpret Revelation very literally, even more so than other books in the Bible. This will cause a lot of problems because it's not designed to be treated literally. Much of the Bible isn't either. Ezekiel and Daniel are also apocalyptic in some respects, so Revelation is not a unique style in the Bible.

The historical setting of the book is important to note as well. In 67AD, Emperor Nero sends Florus to be governor of Judea. He began his term by massacring hundreds of innocent people in Jerusalem. A bold move, to say the least. The province was already on the verge of open revolt, and then it does revolt, and the Jews have the upper hand which historically is rare. Vespasian is sent in and has military success. Nero commits suicide in 68, Vespasian is named emperor; and his son, Titus, remains to handle the Jewish problem. The Christians, meanwhile, fled to the mountains. The Romans sieged Jerusalem, and over a million Jews died. Others were sold as slaves or thrown to lions in the arenas. The Temple was also completely destroyed. It would never be rebuilt, and thus the world of the old covenant was gone.

John describes the heavenly liturgy in terms of things we can experience with our senses. The real truth of the heavenly liturgy is beyond our comprehension until we reach heaven ourselves. The structure of the book is similar to the structure of mass. Revelation 1-11 is the Liturgy of the Word. There are the readings of letters to the seven churches, and the scroll is sealed with seven seals. Revelation 11-22 is the Liturgy of the Eucharist. It is the pouring out of the chalices and the marriage supper of the Lamb.

Revelation begins with a vision of heaven. In Rv 1:12-16, John uses the phrase "one like a son of man" which means one who looked human. This is Jesus Christ in His heavenly glory. He tells John not to be afraid. Christ then dictates seven letters, one to each of the seven churches. These reflect what was going on in those churches at that time. The letters are also addressed to the whole Church, calling everyone to turn back to Christ. The whole first section is really a call to repentance. John's vision of heaven sees God enthroned with all the heavenly beings forever worshipping Him.

Next, John sees a scroll sealed with seven seals. No one on earth or in heaven is able to open the scroll. The Lion of Judah (which is a 
symbol of Christ) is found worthy. But it's not a lion, it's a lamb. Then He begins to open the seals. The first seal brings four riders on four horses. The first rides out to conquer, the other three bring war, famine, and death. These are the things the people of Judea suffered in the Jewish war at that time. The rest of the seals are opened, sending frightened people to caves to hide, like the Christians did. It is an assurance that God will protect the faithful. It says that 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes will be marked on their foreheads with the seal of the servants of God. This number is not literal. Twelve obviously symbolizes the tribes of Israel and the apostles. To add a 100 or 1000 to a number is to indicate a perfection of that number. So 12,000 is considered the perfect amount, whatever amount that actually ends up being. Also, the word "mark" is from the Hebrew letter "tau" which is shaped like a cross. Christians receive that mark when they're baptized. The total number of 144,000 also represents those who fled during the Jewish revolt.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time - 1 Kings 19:4-8; Ephesians 4:30-5:2; John 6:41-51


July 25, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:
Sacraments in Scripture

The definition of a sacrament is an efficacious sign of God's grace, instituted by Jesus Christ, and entrusted to the whole Church. There are seven sacraments, all of which were instituted by Christ, and all of which are found in scripture. The Protestant notion that not all sacraments are in scripture is simply not backed up by scripture itself.

Baptism is a new birth in water and the spirit according to John 3:5. Baptism is the only sacrament that is technically necessary for salvation. What I mean by that is that if one were only to receive baptism and then die before committing any sin or receiving another sacrament, they would achieve salvation. There is a clear institution in Matthew 28:18-20, when Christ tells the apostles to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Today, the ordinary minister of baptism is a deacon, priest, or bishop. However, in an emergency, anyone can baptize as long as they use water and the Trinitarian formula that Christ gave the apostles in the gospel.

Confirmation can be found more explicitly in Acts of the Apostles in both ways common today. In Acts 19:5-6, it shows the tradition of baptizing and confirming at the same time. This is done today for adults who are entering the faith and it's also how it's done by the Eastern churches. In Acts 8:14-17, those who had already been baptized were waiting for the apostles to come and lay hands on them. This is like waiting for the bishop, a successor of the apostles, to come and confirm those who were baptized as infants. Confirmation completes our baptism with the full conferral of the Holy Spirit.

The Eucharist is obviously instituted at the Last Supper. Matthew 26:26-29 is one of the passages that mentions it. When we connect Jesus' words at the Last Supper with His words in the Bread of Life discourse in John 6, we understand that the Eucharist is substantially Jesus Christ and not merely a symbol as many believe it to be.

Penance is a bit more controversial because no one likes admitting that they're wrong, but it nevertheless is scriptural. Baptism washes away sin but it doesn't make us perfect. In John 20:22-23, Jesus breathes on the apostles and says whose sins they forgive are forgiven and whose sins they retain are retained. Venial (less serious) sin harms our relationship with God. Mortal (serious) sin breaks it. To repair that broken relationship, we must be forgiven and to do that, we must confess those sins with honesty and contrition. James 5:16 says to confess sins to one another, doubling down on the idea that we can't just confess to God and be done with it. There is no humility and admitting to God that you did something wrong that He already knows you did. Jesus clearly gave His apostles the power to forgive/retain sins. The Church uses that power to bring Christians back into a right relationship with God.

Anointing of the Sick is mentioned in the verses immediately preceding the verse about confessing sins to one another in James. James 5:14-15 says that anyone who is sick should go to see the presbyter (priest) and that he will pray over and anoint the sick person. Jesus left His healing power to His disciples. Oil was always part of the ritual. Mark 6:13 says that the disciples drove out many demons and anointed those who were sick. Anointing of the Sick is not necessarily associated with physical healing. It prepares us to face the challenges of illness so that we may ward off sin.

Holy Orders has three levels: bishop (supervisor), priest (elder), and deacon (helper). All three are mentioned in the New Testament as part of the original Church hierarchy. This can be found in 1 Timothy 3:1.

Marriage goes all the way back to Genesis 1:27. However, it is sanctified by Jesus at Cana where He performed His first public miracle. It is similar to His sanctifying of baptism when He participated in it Himself after John had already been doing it.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time - 2 Kings 4:42-44, Ephesians 4:1-6, John 6:1-15


July 18, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:

Luke works very hard in Acts of the Apostles to show that Paul has the same authority as the other apostles. When composing the book, Luke parallels Paul's ministry with Peter's to demonstrate their similarity since no one would doubt Peter as an apostle.

Paul was chosen for a specific reason: to bring the gospel to the Gentiles. To do this, Paul had numerous qualifications. He was classically educated which taught him to speak to Greeks and Romans in their own terms. That same education grounded him in logic so he could make important distinctions in Christian doctrine. His study of Hebrew scripture, otherwise known as the Old Testament, gave him the ability to argue against Jewish authorities who disagreed with him. And finally, his Roman citizenship that he inherited from his father kept him safe.

Paul understood that the new covenant was the fulfillment of the old. Therefore, it was natural that the gospel would be preached first to the Jewish people. However, unlike the old covenant, the new covenant was for all people. The Council of Jerusalem said that Gentiles could not be held responsible to the Mosaic Law, so a natural question to be asked would be what the point of the Law ever was since it no longer applied. Paul explains that the Law was like a custodian/tutor. Wealthy Romans would have a private custodian/tutor for their son. This person was a slave but had absolute authority over the son. As an adult, the son was then only subject to his father. The Law was our custodian, but with the revelation of Christ, we grew up in faith.

Paul takes several missionary journeys traveling primarily through Asia minor (modern day Turkey), Greece, and Rome. Eventually he ends up in Rome as a prisoner because as a Roman citizen, he could appeal his case directly to the emperor. As a prisoner (he was basically under house arrest), he could still receive visitors and write letters. He meets Luke there who writes down his journeys for Acts of the Apostles. Several of Paul's epistles were written while he was a prisoner, known as the captivity letters. Paul dies on the same day as Peter during the persecution of Nero. He's beheaded outside the city because as a Roman citizen, he earned a clean and quick death. According to legend, his head bounced three times, each time causing a spring of water to burst out of the ground. This place has a church over it today and is called Tre Fontane (Three fountains).

All of the apostles would meet similar fates. Peter was crucified upside-down because he didn't feel like he deserved to die in the exact same way as Christ. Andrew was crucified on a cross in the shape of an X for similar reasons at Patros, in Greece. That's why it's known as a St. Andrew's cross. James the greater was the first apostle to die in 44. He was beheaded in Jerusalem. Bartholomew was flayed alive in Armenia after bringing the gospel to Persia. Matthew died in Ethiopia but the method is unknown. Thomas went as far as India and was martyred there. James the less was thrown off the temple in Jerusalem. Then he was beaten to death. Philip was killed by Jews in what is now central Turkey. Simon was crucified in Syria after evangelizing all over Africa. Jude was beaten to death in Mesopotamia. And John, who wrote the fourth gospel, Revelation, and three letters, was exiled to the island of Patmos after they tried to boil him alive, but it failed.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Jeremiah 23:1-6; Ephesians 2:13-18; Mark 6:30-34


July 11, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Father is on vacation this week.

Scripture Readings 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Amos 7:12-15; Ephesians 1:3-14; Mark 6:7-13


July 4, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:
Stephen, Saul, and the Council of Jerusalem

After Pentecost, with the ranks of the Church now swollen with 3000 additional converts, the Sanhedrin were eager to try to shut it down. However, in order to actively persecute the apostles, the Sanhedrin needed something concrete that the Jewish people could get behind just like they did with Jesus. And the easiest charge to bring was the same they brought against Jesus: blasphemy. Stephen was one of the first converts, and he was also one of the first seven deacons ordained by the apostles. He made some powerful enemies when he bested them in a debate in Acts chapter 6. In anger, his opponents brought him before the Sanhedrin where Stephen made a long speech in his defense. He told them how the coming of Christ had been prophesied all the way through the Old Testament but lecturing the Sanhedrin on their own scriptures did not improve his standing among them. Then Stephen had a vision of the heavens opening with Jesus there as the Son of Man, which was also claiming that Jesus was God, the same claim Jesus had made that sent the Sanhedrin over the edge before. It did so again, and they drove Stephen out and stoned him to death. This first martyr was the catalyst for the Jews to begin persecuting the entirety of the fledgling Church in the area.

During this persecution, another of the original seven deacons, Philip, is told by an angel to go down into the desert where he encounters and Ethiopian eunuch who is in the court of the queen of Ethiopia. Ethiopia at the time was very civilized and also very wealthy. Philip hears him reading Isaiah and joins him in the chariot where he explains that the prophecy is referring to Jesus. Philip then explains the gospel to the eunuch who then asks to be baptized. This is the first time that a gentile had been baptized as a Christian and also an example of how the gospel was to be spread to all nations. To the Romans, Ethiopia was the farthest point of the known world, and so in principle, it's also fulfilling the command of Jesus to go to the ends of the world.

Saul was a fanatical Pharisee who was leading the persecutions against Christians in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas. We're first introduced to him at the martyrdom of Stephen when those who were stoning Stephen laid their cloaks at Saul's feet. He was overseeing the execution. Saul was Jewish, but his father was a Roman citizen and Saul inherited this citizenship. Roman citizenship was not something that everyone had just because they lived in the empire. It was very exclusive, very prestigious, and would open many more doors, so to speak, than not being a citizen. So Saul's full name was Saul Paulus (Paulus being the Roman name). Saul decides to go to Damascus because he heard that Christians were there as well. On his way, he's struck blind off of his horse and hears the voice of Jesus asking him why Saul is persecuting Him. Saul is sent to Damascus where he's to wait for Ananias, whom Christ sends to Saul. Ananias was wary to go because he knew who Saul was and what he was doing there. However, Ananias goes and baptizes Saul. Saul then tries to meet up with the other apostles, but they're also wary of him because of his past. Barnabas will testify to Saul's true conversion and he's then accepted by the apostles as a true believer.

Now that more and more gentiles were converting straight to Christianity, a question arose amongst the apostles and Jewish converts: did one need to be Jewish before becoming Christian. There was a general assumption that you did since Jesus was Jewish and Christianity is a fulfillment of the Law of Moses. It wasn't an unfair or unjust assumption. Cornelius was a Roman commander, and he was also what was called a Proselyte of the Gate, which was someone who was, for lack of a better term, half-Jewish. He was told in a vision that he should send for Peter, so he sends some of his men to seek him out. Then Peter is given a vision while he's asleep and in the vision, an angel spreads before him a bounty of non-kosher foods and tells Peter to eat them. Peter refuses, as he's always been an observant Jew. The angel replies that what God has made clean, Peter shall not call unclean. Gentiles were considered unclean by strict Jewish standards. After the vision, Cornelius' men arrive and take Peter to Cornelius who then asks to be baptized. Peter baptizes the household and sees that they all received the Holy Spirit.

Meanwhile, Saul was preaching primarily to the gentiles and gaining thousands of converts. But then the question arose again as to whether someone needs to be Jewish first. Saul and Barnabas were in Antioch, which is where Christians were first called Christians, when inspectors came from Jerusalem claiming to have been sent by James. They told the gentile converts that they couldn't be saved unless they were circumcised and followed the Law of Moses. Even Peter hesitated to admonish the inspectors, which Saul took note of. The apostles then called the first Council of the Church, the Council of Jerusalem. Eventually, Peter spoke, referencing his vision and Cornelius, and as Peter was the pope/chief of the apostles, his word was final. The only stipulation the gentile converts were asked to do was not to eat food offered to idols (false gods) and a few other minor dietary restrictions.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Ezekiel 2:2-5; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; Mark 6:1-6a


June 27, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:
Birth of the Church

After His resurrection, Jesus appeared and taught the disciples for 40 days. The number 40, of course, usually pertaining to times of trial and repentance. Here we see the number also correlating to the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert preparing for His ministry. When Jesus ascends 40 days after the resurrection, He tells the disciples to stay in Jerusalem. The reason for this is because they have yet to receive the Holy Spirit. The ascension is always traditionally celebrated on a Thursday which is 40 days after Easter Sunday. It's been moved to the following Sunday in most dioceses in the US because that means one less Holy Day of Obligation. It's a bit insulting to think that we can't handle another one; and thus it bumps the Sunday, but they didn't ask my opinion.

The apostles were also told before Jesus ascends that they are to restore the Davidic Kingdom and spread the gospel to the ends of the earth. Jesus reigns in heaven and leaves His ministers on earth to handle the earthly affairs of the kingdom. The restoration of the Davidic Kingdom, however, starts first in Israel. The 12 apostles represented the 12 tribes of Israel, but Judas has now killed himself so the apostles realized that they needed to appoint another to take Judas' place. Acts 1:21-26 is where we have the selection of Matthias. The apostles were careful to choose someone who had known Jesus the whole time and most importantly, had not abandoned Him when He taught the Bread of Life discourse. That left two men and the apostles cast lots so as not to formally make the decision themselves, and the lots fell to Matthias.

Ten days after the ascension and 50 days after Easter, we get Pentecost. Pentecost now signals the end of the Easter season in today's liturgical calendar. Pentecost, however, was also a feast for the Jews. It was the celebration of the giving of the Law to Moses on Sinai. Therefore, Jews from all over the near east were gathering in Jerusalem for it. In Acts 2:1-4, we get the decent of the Holy Spirit as of tongues of fire upon the apostles. This is the baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire. Then, the apostles went outside where there were vast crowds and began speaking in tongues. What this meant is not the gibberish sound that people tend to make today when they "speak in tongues", but rather the apostles speaking and every person understanding them in their native tongue at the same time. The corollary would be a person getting up and speaking, and three people there, one who speaks English, another Spanish, and the third French, all understanding the person in that particular language. In other words, a miracle. Those who were disbelievers simply claimed that the apostles were drunk. This event, though, is a development in the relationship between God and man. Covenants made throughout history bound the human and the divine. Jesus Christ, both human and divine, completed this relationship and established a new covenant. Pentecost is how our relationship with the divine continues until the second coming. The Holy Spirit is given to the apostles to establish Christ's Church on earth. The Holy is present in the Church and remains the principal means through which Christ is present in the world.

Peter then proceeds to give a short sermon once the initial miracle of the apostles speaking in tongues has occurred, and he has everyone's attention. He begins by explaining what the people are seeing at that moment: the coming of the Holy Spirit. This was foretold by the prophet Joel, which the Jews would've been familiar with. By quoting Joel, Peter is letting the Jews know where they are in their own history. These are the last days, when the Christ has already come. Next Peter reminds the crowd of the miracles worked by Jesus. Miracles were signs from God that should've told them who Jesus was. Then Peter tells them that the crucifixion was actually part of God's plan, which would've been shocking to most people since it seemed like a failure. Then Peter quotes Psalm 16, written by David to explain who Jesus was. In the psalm, David could appear to be talking about himself, but he's actually talking about Jesus. David calls his son "my Lord" because the Son of David is also the Son of God who lives and reigns at the right hand of God the Father. When Peter is finished, the people ask what they should do, and Peter says they need to be baptized - 3000 were baptized that day.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Wisdom 1:13-15,2:23-24; 2 Corinthians 8:7,9, 13-15; Mark 5:21-43


June 20, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:

What was normal for the Romans at the time was to put the bodies of crucified criminals in a public grave. However, Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin, asked Pilate for the body of Jesus so that he could lay Him in a proper tomb. Pilate agreed and Nicodemus, a Pharisee who had come to Jesus by night in John's gospel to question Him about His teachings (this is the famous John 3:16 passage), brought myrrh and aloes for a traditional Jewish burial. The tomb was dug into the rock on the side of a hill with a stone that took more than one person to move it placed in front of it. The Jewish leaders then posted a guard at the tomb in case any of Jesus' followers might attempt to take the body and then claim that He had risen from the dead.

Jesus died on a Friday, the day before the Sabbath. However, Sabbath begins at sundown on Friday, so Jesus dying around 3pm didn't give a lot of time for a proper embalming. If they were not only working on the Sabbath but also touching a dead body, they would've defiled themselves, so the body was only partially embalmed. This is why after the Sabbath, on Sunday morning, the women were coming to the tomb at all: to finish the work.

Mary Magdalene discovers the tomb empty with the stone rolled back. Since it took more than one person to move it, Mary goes to tell Peter and John that someone has taken the body of Jesus and they don't know where. Upon returning to the tomb with Peter and John (with John casually mentioning in his own gospel that he was a faster runner than Peter), the disciples see the tomb but doubt. Mary remains after they leave, and Jesus appears to her first. She then tells the other disciples about her encounter, but there is still doubt among them.

In Luke 24, we get the story of the two disciples, not part of the twelve, who are on the road to Emmaus. Jesus appears to them as a traveler and asks them why they're upset and what they're talking about. He forces them to explain all that has happened and then admonishes them for not understanding the scriptures that He had tried to teach them when He was alive. So He opens the scriptures to them verbally, explaining how every event that happened was prophesied and needed to occur, including the resurrection. They then invite Him to stay with them and when He breaks the bread, their eyes were opened to who He was but then He disappears from their sight. This demonstrates the importance of the Eucharist, for even though their hearts burned within them when He opened the scriptures to them on the road, He was truly known to them in the breaking of the bread.

In John 20:20-23, Jesus appears to the apostles only in the upper room. Only God had the power to forgive sins, but now Jesus gives that power to the apostles. He is entrusting the ministry of reconciliation to His apostles and the bishops, their successors, and the priests as the bishops' collaborators, continue to exercise this ministry. The Catechism states that bishops and priests, by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, have the power to forgive all sins. Unfortunately, not all of the apostles were there the first time Jesus appeared. Thomas was gone. When the other apostles tell him that Jesus had appeared to them while he was gone, Thomas doubts, which is really something he can't be blamed for since the concept of resurrection is unique in history. Unless Thomas saw the wounds of Jesus himself and put is finger in the nail marks and his hand into His side, then he would not believe. Thomas demonstrates the human desire for empirical proof; proof that we can experience with our five senses. Just a verse or two later, Thomas gets his wish as Jesus appears to all of the apostles again. Thomas puts his hand into Jesus' side, and his eyes are opened. But blessed are those who have not seen and believe. Thomas, according to tradition, will end up taking the gospel all the way to India.

The apostles returned to Galilee, as in Mark's gospel, the angel told Mary to tell the apostles that Jesus would go before them to Galilee. Once there, they went back to doing what they knew best: fishing. In John 21:4-8, Jesus appears on the shore and John again recognizes Jesus first. Peter jumps in and swims while the others bring the boat to shore. On the shore, there's a charcoal fire. The term "charcoal fire" appears only one other place in the entire New Testament: earlier in John's gospel in the account where Peter denies Jesus three times. So now there's the same fire, and Jesus will give Peter the ability to undo that denial three times. He asks Peter three times if he loves Him, and Peter answers "yes" to all three. The New Testament was originally written in Greek. There are multiple words for "love" in Greek and this passage uses two of them: agape and phileo. There's debate about which is the more profound love, and most scholars point to agape being the more profound.

Jesus asks Peter if he "agape" loves Him, and Peter responds that he does "phileo" love Him. The second question uses the same pattern. Then the third time, when Peter becomes distressed that Jesus asks a third time, Jesus asks if Peter "phileo" loves Him, and Peter responds that he does "phileo" love Him. One interpretation that you could draw is that Jesus is not only having Peter undo the denial, but also testing him. Agape love could be something so profound that Peter as a human being is incapable of it. So Peter responds that he loves Jesus with "phileo", the most he's able to, as opposed to lying and saying that he's capable of a love that he's really incapable of having. So then Jesus meets him where he's at with the third question which resolves everything.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Job 38:1, 8-11; 2 Corinthians 5:14-17; Mark 4:35-41


June 13, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:
Sanhedrin, Pilate, Crucifixion

When Jesus was brought before the Sanhedrin, it says that they brought many false witnesses against Him. What the high priest had done was bribe witnesses to come forward to testify against Jesus. The reason they did this was because they didn't want to take any chances. The more witnesses, the better their case. The problem was that the stories of the false witnesses didn't agree with each other, so doubt was still being sewn as to Jesus' supposed guilt. So this causes the high priest to bypass the witnesses' testimony and ask Jesus a direct question: are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? Jesus answers "I am", which is the English translation of the divine name, "Yahweh". Orthodox Jews don't even say the divine name. Not only did Jesus say the name, but He also by extension claimed to actually be God. If this wasn't true, it would be blasphemy. Obviously it is true, but since the Jews didn't believe it, they simply saw His statement as blasphemous. This alone was a sufficient charge to condemn Him to death.

However, unfortunately for the Jews, the Romans were in charge and Jewish leaders didn't have the legal recourse to formally condemn someone to death. Only the Roman governor could do that. The Jews could be their own judges in religious matters, but not when it came to a death sentence. In the meantime, Judas is having second thoughts and is trying to repent. The Sanhedrin doesn't want their money back which was the only way Judas thought he could be forgiven. So while Judas technically repents, he never understood what Jesus had tried to teach him about forgiveness. So he falls into despair over his decision and kills himself. This is not true repentance because true repentance, coupled with the forgiveness of God, cannot lead to despair. The despair stems from a misunderstanding of divine forgiveness being absolute.

So in order to get Jesus condemned to death, the Jews take Him before Pontius Pilate. Blasphemy was a sufficient charge for the Sanhedrin, but not for Pilate. For him to condemn Jesus to death, he needed something that was a direct threat to Rome. The Jews understood this so they claimed that Jesus claimed that He was the King of the Jews. For Pilate, he could see this as the start of another insurrection, because if there was something the Romans knew about the Jews, it's that they insurrected (not a word) a lot. Pilate, however, wanted nothing to do with the situation, but the Jews helpfully pointed out that they didn't have the power to put anyone to death. So Pilate questions Jesus but sees Him purely as a harmless philosopher. He then has Herod question Jesus because Jesus was from Galilee, but Jesus refused to speak to Herod at all. So Pilate scourges Jesus in the hopes of appeasing the bloodlust of the crowd, even though he found no crime in Him. The crowds demand crucifixion. There was nothing special about crucifixion at the time. That was simply the "lethal injection" or "electric chair" of the time for the Romans. When Spartacus led his slave revolt, when it was put down, the Romans crucified 6000 slaves on the road to Rome as a message. Pilate still refused to comply, but the trump card was when the Jews claimed that if Pilate released Jesus, he was no friend of Caesar. Everyone who makes himself a king sets himself against Caesar. Word would reach Rome that Pilate was allowing what, on paper, would look like open rebellion. Pilate understood the optics and finally ordered the crucifixion.

Jesus carried His cross to Golgotha, which means place of the skull. Jesus is offered wine mixed with myrrh but He refuses. This was offered as a painkiller which would've reduced the suffering. Jesus refused because He didn't wish to reduce any of the suffering. Above most crucifixes today are the letters INRI, which is an abbreviation of the Latin, "Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum", which means, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews". The inscription was written in three languages: Hebrew (for the Jews), Latin (for the Romans), and Greek (for everyone else since Greek was a common language). The sign was found a few centuries later by St. Helen and can be seen in the church of Santa Croce in Rome.

Jesus is then offered a sponge soaked in sour wine on a branch of hyssop. Hyssop was what was used to sprinkle the blood of the Passover Lamb in Exodus. This was the cup of consummation. After He drank it, He said, "It is finished". In Latin, "Consummatum est". Then He died. The curtain that physically separated the dwelling place of God in the temple from people was torn in half. This signified the end of the world of the Old Covenant. Jesus descended to Hell, not as a torment, but because that was where all humans went before His death. This was Him fully experiencing death. He descended as Savior and there He saved the souls of all of the just ones who had died after the Fall of Adam and Eve who had been waiting for redemption.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Ezekiel 17:22-24; 2 Corinthians 5:6-10; Mark 4:26-34


June 6, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures: Last Supper, Gethsemane, Peter's Denial

As we know, the Last Supper was the Passover feast that Jesus celebrated with His apostles. So what we now know as the mass takes its origins from the Jewish Passover celebration. Passover was celebrated with four "cups". After a solemn blessing, the first cup was drunk. This was followed by the eating of bitter herbs that symbolized the bitterness of captivity in Egypt. Then the Passover story from Exodus 12 was read. After this, the second cup was drunk. Then the main meal of lamb and unleavened bread was eaten and the third cup was drunk. This was called the cup of blessing. Afterwards, Psalms 114-118 were sung and the fourth cup was drunk. This was called the cup of consummation.

When Jesus celebrated Passover with His apostles, He did something different. In Matthew 26:26-29, we get the account of Jesus giving the apostles bread and wine and saying the famous words that they are His body and blood. This cup that He gave them was the third cup, the cup of blessing. When He referred to it as the blood of the covenant, He was referring to the ratification of the covenant between God and Israel, but now He was introducing a new covenant. Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives. Jesus says after the third cup that He will not drink of the fruit of the vine until He drinks it new with them in His Father's kingdom. So what's important to note is that they didn't finish the Passover meal before they left. They sung the Psalms but never drank the fourth cup, the cup of consummation. This was the most important part of the Passover meal.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, on the Mount of Olives, Jesus explained to them what was going to happen. He then told His disciples to wait while He prayed. He took Peter, James, and John with Him, but no one else. What was different about those three was that they were witnesses to the Transfiguration while the others were not. In Mark 14:35-36, Jesus asks His Father if it was possible, to take the cup away from Him. This cup that He's referring to is the cup of consummation. A good question that's asked is why He asked for it to be taken away. Obviously, He knew what was going to happen, so this line could imply a conflict between His human and divine natures. We know theologically that His natures were never in conflict because that would cause a contradiction to happen and contradictions can't exist together, so the line would seem to have been better left omitted. However, His asking to have the final cup removed from Him if possible, knowing that an excruciating death was part of it, expresses the horror that death is to human nature. If He never expressed any horror at the idea of death, especially a death like His would be, then we could argue He wasn't fully human because no human would want to go through with that without some trepidation. His acceptance of the Father's Will shows the supremacy of God's Will over ours and His acceptance of His death as redemptive.

Jesus is then arrested; and Judas, His betrayer, points Him out to the guards with a kiss. The reason Judas uses this method was because a kiss was how any disciple would greet his teacher. That's why Jesus makes a reference to Judas using this method: he was treating Jesus like a faithful disciple would while simultaneously betraying Him. Jesus has accepted His fate and is ready to drink the final cup, so He goes peacefully with the guards.

Peter is then recognized by three different people; and of course, each time adamantly denies knowing Jesus. Upon his third denial, a cock crowed twice. And only in Mark's account do we get the actual number of crows. The others simply say that the cock crowed. The reason for Mark's specificity was again that most likely Peter was Mark's main source for information and that event would certainly have been seared into Peter's mind. In Luke's account, when the cock crowed, Jesus turned and looked at Peter. Peter remembered the words that Jesus told him - that he would deny Him three times, and wept. In a way, Peter betrayed Jesus the same as Judas, but Peter was capable of repentance whereas Judas was not.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Corpus Christi - Exodus 24:3-8; Hebrews 9:11-15; Mark 14:12-16, 22-26


May 30, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures: What Jesus Taught, Part 2

The Sermon on the Mount begins in Matthew chapter 5 with the famous Beatitudes. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The Beatitudes take up and fulfill God's promises, beginning with Abraham, by ordering them to the kingdom of heaven. They respond to the desire for happiness that God has placed in the human heart, teaching us the final end to which God calls us: the Kingdom. The also confront us with decisive choices concerning earthly goods, purifying our hearts in order to teach us to love God above all things.

We spoke last week about the teaching of the last shall be first and the first shall be last being a circular idea. In Luke 6:24-26 ("woe to you who are rich"), it's clear that those who are attached to worldly things have the least chance at the Kingdom of Heaven. The idea being that if you have good things in this life, you tend to hold onto those things and neglect the next. You don't want to lose your stuff, thus you orient yourself to this world and what it offers rather than God. Matthew 19:20-24 demonstrates this with the rich young man who goes away sad because he didn't want to sell all that he had to follow Jesus. But ultimately this is based on a mindset, not necessarily your possessions. It is certainly possible to be wealthy and to be very righteous as well.

Probably the most difficult teaching of Jesus is also the simplest. Luke 6:27-36 - love your enemies. Ultimately the idea is that Christian forgiveness is unlimited. There's the famous question of how many times one must forgive, as many as seven times? Jesus answers in two different ways: not seven but 70 times 7. Or not seven but 77. These aren't hard and fast numbers, meaning that if you forgive someone 77 times, then the 78th time they wrong you you get to punch them in the face. 70x7 or 77 are repetitions of the perfect number: 7. That implies unlimitedness. In addition, Christ is also referencing a passage from Genesis regarding Lamech, a descendent of Cain in that evil line. Lamech said that if Cain would be avenged sevenfold, then surely Lamech would be avenged 77-fold. Lamech is making the same unlimited reference, but referencing revenge. Christ uses the same reference to undo the revenge ethic and turn it into forgiveness.

Speaking of forgiveness, we then have the famous parable of the Prodigal Son. We're all familiar with the basics of the parable: ungrateful younger son takes his inheritances, blows it on women and booze, has to work with the swine, then comes home ashamed. The son returns with the conclusion that he doesn't deserve anything good from his father based on all of his behavior up until that point, yet he's treated like a returning hero, much to the chagrin of the older brother (and let's face it, older brothers are always jealous of their younger brothers). The older brother is indignant even though for him, absolutely nothing had changed. The reason he was mad was because he thought it was unfair that the younger brother wasn't punished more than he already had been. This is a normal human response. Our mentality is for strict justice. God's grace is different. We don't deserve it most of the time. But God's grace is given out of love, not out of deserving.

The most important teaching that Jesus gave was the Bread of Life discourse in John chapter 6. This is when Jesus says that He is the Bread of Life. Coupled with His words at the Last Supper, this is the foundation for our belief when it comes to the Eucharist. In John 6:35, Jesus says, "I am the Bread of Life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst." On its own, this could be easily construed as metaphorical. He's like bread and wine with His teachings, or something of that sort. Jesus knows that those who are listening are assuming He's being metaphorical, so He persists. In John 6:51 He says, "I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world." So here it's a little more literal at the end, saying that this bread is His flesh. So now the Jews are starting to raise some eyebrows and get confused, because this is starting to sound a bit like cannibalism. Jesus persists further in John 6:53-58. You must eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood. My flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. In the original Greek, the connotation of the words implies crunching on bone. Basically, when He was finished, there was no way to get away from what He was saying. His body is actually the Bread of Life and it's not symbolic. This causes just about every one of His followers, except the apostles and few others, to leave. Then at the Last Supper, He shows them the bread and says this is my body, and the same with the chalice of wine. And even there one could say that He was being symbolic but not with the very literal and graphic language used in John 6. So you put them together and you get the teaching of transubstantiation: the substance of the bread and wine changes completely into the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ while the accidental characteristics (things you can experience with your five senses) remain the same.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Most Holy Trinity - Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40; Romans 8:14-17; Matthew 28:16-20


May 23, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:
What Jesus Taught

When Jesus was teaching, some believed what He said and gave up everything to follow Him. Others tried to kill Him simply based on the words He spoke as they mistakenly took them as blasphemous. Some of His teachings were so difficult that those who had given everything up to follow Him gave up on Him. Jesus' most common and well-known teaching tool was the parable. A parable is a short story or example based on life experience that illustrates a principle. If the parable is difficult to understand, it's because the principle it's based on is hard to understand.

One of the seemingly most simple parables of Jesus is the wise man who built his house on rock and the foolish who built his house on sand. This is found in Matthew 7:24-27. The wise man's house was built on rock; therefore, when the weather came, it withstood it. The foolish built his house on sand; and when the weather came, it fell down. The first layer of meaning that jumps out to the most basic of listener is that if you do what Jesus says and follow the teachings laid out, then you will be secure because His teachings are providing you (the house) with a firm foundation. However, there is a deeper layer of meaning that would've been understood by the Jewish audience Jesus was speaking to. The "wise man" was understood to be Solomon, as Solomon became the symbol of wisdom to the Jewish people. And Solomon built "a house"; specifically, the original Temple. And he built this "house" on a "rock", called the Foundation Stone. The Foundation Stone is a large rock that sits in the center of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. So the Lord's House is built upon a rock, like the wise man's in the parable. We see something similar in Peter's confession about Christ in Matthew 16:17-18. You are Peter, and upon this "rock", I will build my Church. Jesus is building His Church on a rock as well.

In Mark 1:15, the first thing we hear from Jesus is that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. This is the theme of everything that Jesus taught. The rest of His teachings tell us what it's like and how to live in it. In the Kingdom, we act out of love, not obligation. Obligations in our faith are rules that are designed to teach us what's important, that we may then understand to love these things rather than despise them. Many rules parents give to children are designed to teach them to love certain things in life that they might not if the rules didn't keep them centered on them. We also hear that the last shall be first and the first shall be last. This confuses some people as those who are "first" in this world seem destined to be last despite the fact it might not be their fault that they were "first". They might also be incredibly devout people. The way that I personally interpret this teaching is that it's circular: first is last, last is first, and around and around. There is no beginning or end to a circular line; therefore, there is no distinction in the Kingdom of Heaven like there is on earth. We don't deserve the reward God has for us, but He gives it because of His own love for us. And the only way to the Kingdom is through Christ, and then it is our duty to show everyone else the way.

In the Kingdom, we also obey the spirit of the law, not merely the letter. God desires mercy, not sacrifice. Obeying simply the letter of the law is not enough. Obeying the letter of the law on its own is simply going through the motions without any true devotion or love. The Law of Moses was meant to teach the people of Israel how to be holy. But in order to do that, it had to make concessions because we're still sinful people. It was clear on Sinai that the sinfulness of the Israelites would be too much to all be a nation of priests. So the second law in Deuteronomy made concessions so that the people could still follow the law but it wasn't too strict as to be impossible to follow. For example, the Mosaic Law allowed divorce. This was a concession, not a recommendation. That's what Christ alludes to in the gospels. It was a concession for sinfulness but not something that should be aspired to. We make concessions for children all the time, gradually reducing them as they grow (hopefully) so that they're ready to face a world with consequences (hopefully).

The famous parable of the Good Samaritan illustrates the letter vs. the spirit of the law. A lawyer asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus asks him what the law says, and he replies to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind, and your neighbor as yourself. Jesus says that's correct and that if he does that, he will live. Then the lawyer gets legal and asks Jesus who his "neighbor" is that he needs to love as himself. He wants to live by the letter of the law. Tell me exactly who I need to love as myself. Then Jesus tells the famous parable, and we have the two examples of the priest and Levite not helping the man who was robbed. The reason they didn't help was not because they were jerks, but because the body looked dead. If either had touched the body (notice Jesus uses a priest and Levite, not just a normal Jewish person), they would've been made ritually impure. The Samaritan doesn't have the same thought and simply helps. So the letter of the law, based on this parable, would be that your neighbor would be just other Jews at the most extreme. The spirit of the law is that every human being is your neighbor, and we are called to love them as we love ourselves.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Pentecost - Acts 2:1-11; 1 Corinthians 12:3b-7,12-13; John 20:19-23


May 16, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:
What Jesus Did

When it comes to the many things that Jesus did (His actions), we'll analyze just a few of them so as to not get too bogged down. Jesus' first public miracle was at the wedding in Cana. This event is only chronicled in John's gospel and happens after Jesus is baptized. In John 2:1-11, when Mary tells Jesus that they have no wine, subtly telling Him to fix the problem, Jesus responds by saying "my hour has not yet come". Many would argue that what He means is that His public ministry isn't supposed to start then, which could make sense if He didn't then immediately perform the miracle. What He meant by His "hour" is His suffering on the cross. The true wine is provided by Christ by His suffering on the cross. This is when His "hour" comes. This is celebrated in the Eucharist when the wine becomes the Blood of Christ. So in reality, it was more of a reminder to His mother that while He would provide the party with wine, it would just be wine, and not the true wine that would be offered later.

Also early in John's gospel, immediately after the passage about Cana, Jesus cleanses the temple. Many people think that this is quasi-sinful, since Jesus appears to get angry and destroy things unnecessarily. It's obviously not a sin since Jesus cannot sin because of His divine nature. We need to understand the difference between righteous anger and wrath. In Ephesians 4:26, it says to be angry, but not to sin. This shows that one can be angry without sinning, so long as that anger is righteous. This would be spurned by some injustice. The vendors in the temple were selling religion. Jews had to pay a temple tax in temple currency in order to get into the temple. Unfortunately, everywhere used Roman currency since they were in charge. Roman currency had the face of the emperor on it, whom the Romans worshipped as a god. Since you didn't want the face of a foreign god going to pay for the temple to the one true God, you needed to change your money. Money changers at the temple would happily do this for you, keeping a percentage while they did. The Jews were also obligated to offer animal sacrifice for their worship. If you weren't able to bring an animal from home due to the hassle, merchants would sell animals at the temple at an inflated price, like stores in an airport. John places this scene at the beginning of Jesus' ministry while the synoptic gospels place it near the end. There's a chance that it could've happened more than once, or John was simply arranging the events differently. There is no contradiction between the gospels even with the different arrangement. The story illustrates that Jesus is bringing a new covenant. The old religion equaled big business. In the new age, the spirit of the law, not just the letter, would be the important thing.

Miraculous healings were prophesied by Isaiah to occur with the coming of the messiah. Therefore they would've been one of the first things faithful people expected to see. Back in those days, sickness was thought to be bound with sin. It was the sinfulness of people that then was manifested by their physical sickness. While not true, from a medically ignorant people, it makes sense that you couldn't be a sinful person and yet remain physically healthy because of how the physical and spiritual were so closely tied together. In Mark 2:1-12, Jesus tells a sick person that their sins were forgiven. He didn't heal him, He just said his sins were forgiven. Only God could forgive sins, so Jesus is equating Himself to God when He says this. He's called a blasphemer because nothing is equal to God. He then heals the man when He realizes what people were thinking and then to them, the sins were forgiven because the man became physically healed.

In Matthew 9:27-30, Jesus heals two blind men. Their only knowledge that Jesus could heal people would've been what people told them, since they obviously couldn't have witnessed it themselves. Jesus tests that faith and it's confirmed when He heals them. Their eyes were blind, but their hearts were not. For the scribes/pharisees, their eyes saw everything and yet their hearts were still blind. They refused to see the spiritual truth of what was happening in front of them. Even the demons recognized Christ while the pharisees refused to. In Mark 1:23-27, Jesus casts out the demon solely through the power of His word. He does no other action. This is also how God creates: through the power of His Word.

Jesus obviously got into a lot of trouble with the pharisees for many things, but one that was very bad was eating with sinners, particularly tax collectors. Tax collectors were bad because they sent to Rome what Rome wanted. Rome didn't care, however, how much was collected overall, just as long as they got their portion. So tax collectors took more to make a profit. Even an honest tax collector was scorned because of who he represented: Rome. Calling a tax collector to be an apostle was profound, but eating at his house with other sinners was even worse.

There were two rules to follow back then: don't talk to women in public and don't ever talk to a Samaritan. Jesus did both. Samaritans descended from the Israel/Assyrian transplants. By ministering to them as well, Jesus fulfills the promise that the whole kingdom of Israel will be restored. Jesus also treated women the same as men. Most of His faithful followers were women; and the resurrection was revealed first to a woman: Mary Magdalene.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings The Ascension of the Lord - Acts 1:1-11; Ephesians 1:17-23; Mark 16:15-20


May 9, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:
Baptism of the Lord/Temptation in the Wilderness

John the Baptist is mentioned in all four of the gospels, which is no small feat. While the three synoptic gospels and John all have many things in common, the fact that John the Baptist is explicitly mentioned in all four underscores the important role that he had. John was a Levite, so he was a member of the priestly tribe, and he was also the cousin of Jesus since he was the son of Elizabeth, who was a cousin of Mary.

In Mark 1:6, John appears dressed in camel's hair with a leather belt around his waist. He was eating locusts and wild honey as well. This may seem like an odd fashion choice, but it was chosen for a reason. The great prophet Elijah dressed exactly the same. Because it wasn't a common wardrobe, it would've made John instantly recognizable as imitating the dress of the prophet. There are similar examples we could use today about characteristic dress of people of history.

His message was clear: repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. People came from all over to confess their sins and be baptized. His influence became so strong that the government began to fear him. They feared that he might attempt to overthrow the government or perhaps lead a revolt against the Romans. Either way, it wouldn't end well for Israel if that happened. However, despite this, John never lost sight of the fact that he was simply a forerunner. John was repeatedly asked if he was the Christ, the promised messiah, but John always said no and that there would be one coming after him who would be greater whose sandals John was not worthy to untie. There was a prophecy in the book of Malachi that was interpreted as Elijah returning before the Christ arrived. Because John dressed the same, he fulfills this prophecy which Christ Himself will attest to later in the gospels. The purpose of John the Baptist was to turn the hearts of the people toward Christ and prepare them for His arrival. John is therefore the last of the prophets because the whole point of the prophets was to prepare for the coming of the messiah.

A good question that is often asked is why Jesus wanted to be baptized. He certainly didn't require it as He was sinless and also God. The reason was that it was part of His identifying with us. He chose to go through what we must go through. David and subsequent kings of Israel were also all anointed by Levites. Since John the Baptist was a Levite, his baptism of Jesus was a de facto anointing, thus showing that Jesus is the true king and Son of David.

After Jesus is baptized, a dove descends. This dove represents the Holy Spirit, but it also represents the Flood. Baptism, like the Flood, is a new creation. And in the past when kings were anointed, the spirit of the Lord was upon them. Likewise after Jesus' baptism, the Holy Spirit literally was upon Him. The Catechism states that the baptism of Christ is part of the acceptance and inauguration of His mission as God's suffering servant, similar to crossing the Red Sea or crossing the Jordan into the promised land. It is a beginning. Christ also sanctifies baptism by His participation in it and makes it a sacrament. By extension, the waters of the Jordan and all water become an instrument of salvation.

After His baptism, Jesus prepares for His ministry by fasting in the wilderness for 40 days, the symbolism of 40 being times of trial and repentance. During this time, He was tempted by the Devil, but in reality the temptations were more like tests. Jesus couldn't sin because He was God and that would be against His nature, so there was no real temptation to do it. However, as fully human, it was fitting for Jesus to face the same temptations that had caused others to sin.

Satan knows that Jesus is truly human and so his first attack is to Jesus' stomach. The true temptation here is to lead Christ away from suffering and toward Himself, since turning stones to bread isn't intrinsically sinful. If Satan could lead Jesus away from suffering when He's hungry, perhaps Jesus would go away from suffering when He's on the cross. Jesus' answer is that God's plan is more important than human hunger.

The second test is when Jesus is taken to the top of the temple and told to throw Himself off so the angels will catch Him. The temptation is to test God's own words about the safety of the messiah and prove that He is the son of God. The answer is that you shall not test the Lord. Forcing God's hand, as it were, shows a lack of faith and an idea of legalism: this is what it says, this is what will happen. It's a business-like approach to religion which is pagan.

The third test is when Jesus is offered the kingdoms of the world. In essence, to be the messiah that was expected: a conquering hero. There would be no suffering on the cross. This would make Jesus "like God" which was the same temptation as Adam, as well as worship a false god (Satan), which is the same temptation as the Israelites in the desert. The answer is to worship the Lord your God alone. Jesus repeats the same trials as those who had come before Him, but He overcomes them as we are all called to do.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Sixth Sunday of Easter - Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48; 1 John 4:7-10; John 15:9-17


May 2, 2021, Bulletin...
On Indulgences and the First Public Mass of a Newly Ordained Priest

In my column this week, I'm going to take a stab at explaining as clearly as possible what an indulgence is, what is required for obtaining one, and how this ties in with the upcoming celebration of the first mass of the future Fr. Armentrout.

According to the Catechism, an indulgence, "is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church [...] An indulgence is partial or plenary accordingly as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin." Ok, so what does that actually mean?

The Catechism goes on to explain more precisely this definition. In order to understand this, we need to remember that sin has a double consequence. Mortal sin breaks our relationship with God. It deprives us of communion with God and makes us incapable of eternal life should we die in a state of mortal sin. That's why it's so important for us to go to confession whenever we're in a state of mortal sin, which is far more often than many realize. When we're deprived of eternal life due to our own actions, this is called the "eternal punishment" of sin. Venial sin doesn't break our relationship with God, but it does harm it. Every sin, even the less-serious venial ones, carries an unhealthy attachment to something of this world. That's why we commit sins: because we have an attachment to some aspect of that sin. These attachments to sin which we have must be purified before we may enter heaven, as Revelation states that nothing unclean may enter heaven. This purification therefore needs to happen either on earth or in purgatory, should we not die in a state of mortal sin. The purification of our attachments to sin is called the "temporal punishment" of sin.

When we go to confession, we're purified of our eternal punishment of sin, since we confess our mortal sins and obtain absolution for them. We're now restored to our relationship with God; and this can only be done through sacramental confession. However, there still remains the temporal punishment because even though we've been absolved, we still tend to have those attachments to sin and thus will most likely sin again. If we die in a state of grace, which is to say that we're not in a state of mortal sin, then we're spared the eternal punishment of hell, but many still carry these attachments to sin and thus require the remission of the temporal punishment. This is what purgatory entails, but the remission can also happen while still alive. This is where indulgences come in.

Indulgences, whether partial or plenary, are gained through specific works and actions that are designated by the Church. These include works of devotion, penance, and charity. They are things that direct our thoughts and actions to God, and by doing so, turn our minds away from sin, thus helping to remove those attachments to sin that we have. There are numerous ways to gain indulgences that can be found online and elsewhere and are too many to list here. What is also required to gain the indulgence, in addition to whatever the specific indulgence might be, is to go to confession within a week on either side of when the indulgence is done, receive communion in the state of grace, and to pray for the intentions of the Holy Father.

A plenary indulgence, which is a full indulgence, is granted to a priest on the occasion of the first mass he celebrates and to the faithful who devoutly assist (which means attend) the same mass. So for all who are planning to attend the first mass of the future Fr. Armentrout, you will receive a plenary indulgence if you also do the other requirements (confession, communion, and prayers for the pope's intentions). There will be multiple priests in attendance; and my desire will be to have both confessionals staffed prior to the mass by visiting priests.

A first mass is a truly blessed event, and one that is unfortunately rare in most parishes. It hasn't happened here this century; and a first mass done as a Solemn High Latin mass hasn't been done here in quite a bit longer. It will be an experience unlike any other; and despite the fact that many may feel uncomfortable given that it's a Latin mass, the programs provided will help you follow along. The music will be provided by the Benedictines of Mary from Gower, MO. I know that Deacon Armentrout is very appreciative of the support that you've provided him along this long and almost-finished journey. I hope to see you all there as we celebrate its completion.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Fifth Sunday of Easter - Acts 9:26-31, 1 John 3:18-24, John 15:1-8


April 25, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:
Nativity and Childhood of Jesus, Part 2

For the birth of Jesus, we look to the Gospel of Luke who has probably the most complete account. Being the historian, Luke is very careful about the historical setting of Jesus' birth. It's during the reign of Caesar Augustus, Quirinius was the governor of Syria, and Caesar wants the whole world to be enrolled. Modern historians do not have an exact date for when those three events came together or what "enrolled" actually meant. However, we must remember that the point was for the original audience, not the audience reading it 2000 years later insofar as the dating goes.

To be properly enrolled, Joseph has to go to Bethlehem which is where his family is from. Because everyone was doing the same thing, the inns are all full. So as we know, Christ is born in a stable and laid in the manger. While most who were being enrolled would not have cared about such an event, the shepherds in the field that night were given quite the scare. When the angel appears to the shepherds, it uses very specific titles so that the shepherds would know that the messiah had been born. These titles were "savior": the one who would rescue the people from their captivity, "Christ": the anointed one and promised successor of David, and "Lord": the one who sits at God's right hand. Shepherds were outcasts to most people, but David was a shepherd and so the birth of the Son of David was announced first to the shepherds.

Then we have the Epiphany, which is the visit of the Magi. When they arrive in Jerusalem and tell Herod that they're here to worship the King of the Jews, he's not terribly excited to find out that's not him. Herod would've been well aware of the prophecies that talk of the coming Messiah, and not wanting to displaced as ruler, he wants nothing to do with the Messiah. Herod asks for an exact location so that he can eliminate the problem and sends the Magi on their way. The gifts of the Magi that we're so familiar with all have symbolic meaning in the prophecies. Gold and frankincense were prophesied by Isaiah to be brought by all nations to the God of Israel. Myrrh was added to the holy oil used to anoint the priests of Israel which we see in Exodus. It is also used to anoint bodies for burial, so there is foreshadowing with it as well.

It was custom for children to be presented in the Temple 40 days after they were born, here again using 40 as a time of purification. When they arrive, Simeon recognizes the Christ and prophesied the fulfillment of the promises made to the Son of David, which were glory to Israel and salvation for all nations. This demonstrates that the faithful still remained despite Herod's restorations and those who actually saw him as a messianic figure.

The Magi knew something was off about Herod and were warned in a dream not to go back to him. Joseph is then warned in a dream to flee the area and seek refuge in Egypt. The reason for Egypt was because Alexandria's population was about 25% Jewish at the time and so there was a large community they could stay with. Additionally, the Roman Empire's road network and safety meant they could easily travel there. The easiest way for Herod to eliminate his supposed problem, since he didn't know exactly where the Messiah was, was to kill every male child under the age of 2, just to be safe. This isn't a stretch for him since he murdered his own sons. We also get the Old Testament comparison of what happened to the Jews in Egypt and how Moses was spared.

After Herod's death, the Holy Family was able to return to Israel, specifically to Nazareth. All of the gospels besides Luke don't pick up Jesus' life again until adulthood. In Luke, we get the story of Jesus in the Temple at age 12. This helps to illustrate his total consecration to His mission that flows from His divine sonship. Mary and Joseph are still not fully aware of what Jesus is saying/meaning when they speak to Him in the Temple, and this is again part of the mystery of the Incarnation. Jesus spends the majority of His life sharing the condition of normal human beings: work, schedule, obedient Jew to the Law of God, and obedient to His parents. He chooses to go through all of the states of growth, both physical and intellectual, that all of us must go through.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Third Sunday of Easter - Acts 4:8-12; 1 John 3:1-2; John 10:11-18


April 18, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:
Nativity and Childhood of Jesus, Part 1

The Incarnation of Jesus Christ, God becoming flesh, is the central event in history because it's how we date things, even if modern woke people try to change the labels. B.C. means Before Christ, and A.D. stands for "Anno Domini" (year of the Lord). BCE and CE (before the common era and common era) are just ways of removing God from things while keeping the exact same system. There is no year zero, because zero means nothing, so time goes from 1 B.C. to 1 A.D., although modern scholars now think Jesus was actually born sometime between 4-6 B.C. due to an error in the way the monk who calculated the dating system did it. Regardless, the Incarnation is the union of two natures in one person: human and divine. The divine nature is Jesus Christ, the Son of God existing from all eternity, and the human nature was Jesus born at a particular time/place and dying at a particular time/place. This is part of the mystery of the Incarnation: the Son of God assumes a human nature in order to accomplish our salvation in it.

Matthew's gospel begins with a genealogy as stated before and is the beginning of the entire New Testament. His genealogy mirrors Genesis 5:1, emphasizing again the Jewish audience for his gospel. They would've been very familiar with this account and wording. He also sets up Christ as the new Adam; Adam as he should have been. Matthew's genealogy is arranged in three groups of 14. Three is, of course, trinitarian, and 14 is double 7, which is double perfection. The Hebrew language uses letters to represent numbers, similar to Roman numerals (I, V, X, etc.). In Hebrew, Daleth (D) was 4 and Vav (V) was 6. There are no vowels in Hebrew, so David's name would've been spelled DVD. Those letters added together equal 14. The symbolism of the genealogy is meant to show that Christ is the ideal and perfect heir of David.

Matthew divides history in his genealogy with his three groups: The covenant with Abraham (Abraham to David), the covenant with David (David to the Babylonian Exile), and the Babylonian Exile (Exile to Jesus). Both covenants had promises that would not be fulfilled until Christ and the exile had not truly ended. Although a remnant had returned to Israel, many were still scattered throughout the Mediterranean. Christ will bring all together again into the Kingdom of God.

Mary's role, of course, cannot be understated. At the Annunciation, when Mary asks for clarification from Gabriel as to how exactly she will become pregnant since she had no relations with a man, Gabriel says that the power of the Most High will "overshadow" her. The word "overshadow" is used very deliberately to mirror the Old Testament. When God first dwelt in the tabernacle in the meeting tent that the Jews built in the desert, His presence "overshadowed" it. The idea here is that when Mary conceives, she will also be overshadowed, meaning that the same presence, the true presence of the Lord, will be dwelling within her. This makes Mary the new Ark of the Covenant. There is also a stark difference between Mary and those in the Old Testament. Her fiat, her submission to God's will, contrasts with the rebellious nature of the Jews in the Old Testament. Not clouded by sin, Mary has no objection to the will of God and fully submits. We have the same capacity, but it's harder and harder to accept God's will the more that sin clouds our minds and souls.

We also see Mary as the Ark of the Covenant when we compare her visit to Elizabeth with David bringing the Ark to Jerusalem, which happens in 2 Samuel 6. "David arose and went" to bring up the Ark, while in "Mary arose and went" to visit Elizabeth. David asks, "How can the Ark of the Lord come to me?" while Elizabeth asks, "Why should the mother of my Lord come to me?". David was "leaping and dancing before the Lord", while John the Baptist leapt for joy in Elizabeth's womb at Mary's arrival. On its way to Jerusalem, the Ark and David remain at someone's house for three months, while Mary remained with Elizabeth for three months.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Third Sunday of Easter - Acts 3:13-15, 17-19; 1 John 2:1-5a; Luke 24:35-48


April 11, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:
New Testament Books Overview

We must always remember that the New Testament does not replace the Old Testament. It fulfills it. St. Augustine said that the New Testament was hidden in the Old Testament and that the Old Testament is revealed in the New Testament. Without the New Testament, the Old Testament is just a collection of tragic stories and unfulfilled promises. In light of the New Testament, we see the Old as a gradual unfolding of God's plan of salvation.

The books of the New Testament can be organized in the same way as the Old: Law, History, Wisdom, and Prophecy. The Law are the four gospels, the History is Acts of the Apostles, the Wisdom are the Epistles, and Prophecy is the Book of Revelation.

All four gospels tell the same story, but each tells it from a different point of view. Each emphasizes different details because each is writing to a different audience. The different details are important because they will speak more to a particular audience. John's gospel is the most unique of the four, and the other three are known as the synoptic gospels because they are so similar. Due to the amount of similarities, there is speculation that they're related. The old theory is that Matthew's gospel is the oldest because it's the first listed and it's also the longest (28 chapters). The most popular theory now is that Mark is the oldest; but in the end, it's all speculation. And even though all four gospels are different, they never contradict each other. Now we'll look at the basic overview of each of the four gospels.

The author of Matthew was Matthew the apostle, who was also a tax collector originally. The audience for the gospel was mostly Jews. We know this because Matthew shows how Jesus fulfills the Jewish expectations of the Messiah. He also begins his gospel with a genealogy to show how Jesus is directly descended from David. Matthew tends to let Jesus speak for Himself. For example, the Sermon on the Mount takes up three chapters, and Matthew simply reports what Jesus says without adding his own words.

The author of Mark was most likely a disciple of Peter. He wrote his gospel based on the stories Peter told him. Mark tends to include little details that others do not that would've been recalled by someone who was actually there. His audience was most likely Gentile Christians living in Rome because that's likely where he wrote it when Peter was there. It's the shortest of the four gospels (16 chapters), and many believe to be the earliest. It is also a very straightforward account, jumping from one event to the next and using the word "immediately" a lot.

The author of Luke was a physician who was very well-educated and traveled with Paul. His audience were Gentile converts because he emphasized Jesus' ministry to all nations, not just the Jews. In his opening paragraph, Luke mentions that "many" had already compiled narratives about Jesus' life, so a good question would be why is he writing one as well? There are two reasons: first, to give an orderly account, which he mentions, which would indicate that many are either poorly written or not very helpful to people. The second reason is because he had information that no one else did. Only Luke mentions the Annunciation, the baby in the manger, the visit of the shepherds, and Jesus teaching in the temple at age 12. It is then very likely that Luke traveled to see Mary, who would've been the only person at all of those events.

The author of John is the apostle, known in the gospel itself as the "beloved disciple". He emphasizes Jesus as the Word incarnate, and his audience was mostly likely Jewish Christians, but possibly second generation Christians as well. John was the youngest apostle and the last to die, so his gospel was written later. His verbiage speaks to a group of people familiar with the basics and thus ready for something a little deeper and more theological.

Acts of the Apostles is a sequel to Luke's gospel. This is the only reliable history that we have of the early Church. Luke was an eyewitness to many of the events in the book which is why you see it switch between "they" and "we".

The Epistles are letters written to churches founded by the apostles. They addressed specific problems and incorrect teachings that arose, as well as simply being more general. Some are addressed to the Church as a whole. Paul wrote the majority of them and these were addressed to specific churches and specific people. The Catholic epistles are addressed to the whole Church, and these would be James, 1&2 Peter, 1-3 John, and Jude. The overarching messages of these letters are telling Christians to live their faith and warning against false teachers.

The Book of Revelation was written by the apostle John. It is apocalyptic literature and is, therefore, by definition, highly symbolic. This is a difficult book to discuss because interpretations can vary wildly due to the amount of symbolism contained within it.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Divine Mercy Sunday - Acts 4:32-35; 1 John 5:1-6; John 20:19-31


April 4, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures: New Testament World

Before we start looking at the New Testament texts themselves, it's important to understand the world that the events of the New Testament occurred in. After the successful Maccabean revolt, in Israel, the high priest was also the secular ruler. This was a total blending of Church and state. From 135-106BC, John Hyrcanus is the high priest/ruler of Israel. He wanted to purify the entire country of any remaining pagan influences. So he gave everyone in the country a choice: be circumcised or leave. Being circumcised entailed taking on the whole of the law of Moses in addition to the physical aspect. Almost everyone agreed to it, and those that didn't left, so the country became 100% Jewish practically overnight. Hyrcanus also destroyed the temple of the Samaritans which soiled the relationship even more. He did this because, of course, the Samaritans worshipped God incorrectly because they worshipped Him as one among many gods. Hyrcanus reconquered almost all territory that belonged to the Davidic Kingdom bringing Israel back to its former glory.

However, there was one step that he didn't take to fully attempt to reestablish the Davidic kingdom, and this step was taken by his successor: Aristobulus. He proclaimed himself king and high priest. Thus it seemed as if all of the prophecies of the Messiah had been fulfilled: the country was whole, it was Jewish, and it had a Jewish king. The only problem was that Aristobulus was not in the line of David. He was a Levite. Thus the united Israel quickly became divided again between two rival parties, the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

The word "pharisee" comes from a Jewish word meaning "the separated". According to them, the only way for the Jews to be faithful was to keep themselves pure, and the Law alone wasn't sufficient enough to accomplish this. Therefore, even normal Jewish families should imitate the rituals and purity of the priests. The Pharisees refused to associate with Gentiles and even entering the house of a Gentile would defile a Jew. So to distinguish themselves from the Gentiles, the Pharisees over-exaggerated their distinctly Jewish customs.

These beliefs are actually kind of justifiable if you recall the history of Israel up to this point. Any time Jews associated with pagans it led to trouble. The problem with all of the things the Pharisees pushed was that the Law then became a burden. Everything was external: how you dressed, how you observed the Sabbath, your dietary laws, etc. The Pharisees themselves evaded these burdens with skeptical interpretations of the Law (thus making them the hypocrites that Jesus calls them). By the time of Christ, the Pharisees were very powerful and most people assumed they were as righteous as they claimed to be. However, their way of life rejected the Davidic covenant which was to be an international and inclusive covenant.

The Sadducees were the heirs of Zadok, who was Solomon's priest. They were supposed to have been priests in Jerusalem forever. They thought that the best way for Judaism to survive was to cooperate with the Gentiles. The Sadducees had the most power in the Jewish government. For them, only the Torah, the five books of Moses, were canonical scripture. They did not believe in life after death or any kind of resurrection from the dead. And since they only accepted the Torah, they didn't accept any of the additions and interpretations of the Law by the Pharisees.

So the difference between Israel at this point in history and Israel when it was a divided kingdom was that politically Israel was one nation, but internally it was divided which is just as dangerous for survival. Luckily, our country isn't divided internally at all. And while the kingdom never officially split up, there were several civil wars between factions vying for the throne. It was during one of these civil wars that the Roman general Pompey the Great, rival of Julius Caesar, intervened on behalf of one side and helped them to capture Jerusalem. Judea was then established as a Roman province that allowed Jewish kings to rule but as tributaries to Rome. In 40BC, a man named Herod convinced the Romans to install him as king in Judea. Now, by any standard you use, Herod was insane. He murdered three of his own sons so brutally that a Roman general remarked that he'd rather be Herod's pig than his son. Herod sent lavish gifts to Rome to remain in its favor, and he was also not even Jewish. His was an Edomite. He pretended to be Jewish and claimed that he had returned from exile. He rebuilt the temple quite lavishly which was by far his greatest work. It was more glorious than Solomon's according to historical accounts. So people actually began to think that Herod might be the messiah. After all, Israel was one, the temple was more glorious, people were coming from far away lands just to see it, and Israel was prospering economically. Sure, Herod was a murderer and a tyrant, but David was an adulterer. Tomato tomato. After his death, the Romans split the kingdom four ways between his sons that he hadn't murdered. Herod Antipas ruled over Galilee during Christ's ministry.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Easter Sunday - Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Colossians 3:1-4; John - 20:1-9


March 28, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures: Minor Prophets

There are twelve "minor" prophets in the Old Testament, but we will only briefly examine five, just to give you a sense of what these books contain if you're not already familiar with them. Hosea is a relatively easy prophet to nail down insofar as when it was written because he gives us a list of kings that reigned in both the north and the south. The southern kings mentioned span from 767-686BC, while the northern kings reigned from 782-752BC. Since Hosea was a prophet to the north, the fact that he even mentions the southern kings could reference the legitimacy of the Davidic line as opposed to the instability in the north. The purpose of the book was to demonstrate the steadfast love of God for Israel despite her continued unfaithfulness. This is done symbolically through Hosea's marriage. Hosea marries a prostitute, and she bears children which the Lord commands him to give symbolic names: Jezreel, Not-Pitied, and Not-My-People. The idea here is that God is the faithful husband, and Israel is the prostitute. The children themselves are prophecies for how God will then deal with his unfaithful spouse.

The name Joel means "Yahweh is God", which helps to emphasize the message of Joel which lays stress on God as the Sovereign One who has all creation and the nations under His power and control as the God of history. The date of the book is impossible to determine with certainty, so scholars date it anywhere from 835-400BC. The problem is that there is textual evidence to support both ends of the spectrum. The key theme centers around what Joel refers to as the Day of Yahweh. He uses a recent drought and locust plague that strikes Judah without any warning as a lesson to warn of a future invasion of Judah in the Day of Yahweh. Of course, the people can always repent, but naturally, they don't. There is also a promise of future deliverance that when the day comes, those that call upon the name of the Lord, which will be a faithful remnant, will escape harm.

Amos means "burden-bearer". He was a sheepherder from Judah (south) but was a prophet to the north. The date is somewhere between 790-763BC, just before Israel is defeated by the Assyrians. The message is simple: fiery judgment from Jerusalem all the way north. He then lists seven nations and details the oracles and judgments against them, ending with Judah and finally Israel. Among these oracles against the nations, there are several sins listed: social injustice, immorality, idolatry, and rebellion against God. Luckily we don't do any of these anymore. What we learn from the oracles is that God holds all nations of men accountable, cruelty and apostasy (denial of the faith) are treated the same since nations who do not believe in God cannot commit apostasy, heathens are judged for violations of basic principles of righteousness, and the people of God are judged by faithfulness to God (or lack thereof).

Micah means "who is like God". He was from Judah near Jerusalem; and the date of the book is roughly 735-700BC. The message of the book is present judgment, future blessings. The judgment is coming because of Judah's unfaithfulness, but blessings will come because of God's faithfulness. This would be in the person of Christ. The book contains three oracles: coming judgment with a promise of restoration, God's condemnation of Judah with a glimpse of the future hope, and God's indictment of Judah with a plea for repentance and promise of forgiveness. The pattern of God's prophets at this time was to proclaim the coming judgment which involved captivity, then provide a basis for the judgment which would describe the nature of their sins and departure from God, then a promise that God would one day restore the good fortunes of the Israelites, but it would require repentance and involve a remnant. Micah's purpose was two-fold: to warn the people so they can repent as necessary and to encourage the people because hope for the future will encourage them in the hard times to come. This follows the present judgment, future blessings model.

Malachi means "my messenger". He is the last prophet in the Old Testament and the last until John the Baptist. There are no kings by which to date the book, but events and happenings in the book are also recorded in Nehemiah. Malachi rebukes Israel for intermarriage with heathens which is mentioned by Nehemiah in his second term as governor. This would date the book about 432-425BC. The form of the book is unique because it takes the form of a debate. An assertion/charge is made against someone, an objection to the charge is voiced, and the objection is answered with evidence of the charge's validity. Ten times Malachi asserts a charge against Israel. The people are portrayed as disagreeing with him, and the prophet answers with the preciseness of their guilt before God.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Palm Sunday - Isaiah 50:4-7; Philippians 2:6-11; Mark 14:1-15;47


March 21, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:

The Book of Proverbs is concerned primarily with the development and assessment of godly character. A godly man does not only profess truths, but he practices them as well. No other book in the Bible stresses the development of godly character more than Proverbs. But as said, it also teaches us how to assess the character of others. For example, 1:8-19 teaches that the wicked should be avoided; 29:24 says we should not partner with thieves (so don't go into politics, basically). Scripture 17:9 says gossipers are not good friends; while 17:17 says true friends are faithful, and 27:5-6 says true friends will also be truthful and honest with you.

Proverbs eliminates any distinction between the sacred and the secular (non-sacred). We often like to separate our faith from the rest of our lives. We think that our faith only works in the world of ideas and the theoretical, but when it comes to "real life" it's not applicable. It's not that we don't know enough about our faith, it's that we fail to do what we know to be right. Proverbs eliminates this separation by keeping everything tied in the "regular world" as opposed to "in church".

Proverbs also wants to teach us how to be wise rather than smart. There is a huge difference between knowledge and wisdom. Without wisdom, knowledge can be used for evil means. A doctor can withdraw a small amount of fluid from a pregnant woman to see if the baby has any genetic disease. This can also tell the sex of the baby. The couple then hears that the baby is perfectly healthy, but it's not the sex they want, so they decide to have it aborted. This is using knowledge that we have without the slightest trace of wisdom.

Wisdom is personified as a woman in the book. In chapter 9, we see the comparison between Lady Wisdom and Dame Folly. Both are similar in their introductions, but one (Folly) professes a seemingly easier path to "wisdom". If one is not careful, they can fall into the abyss of folly. It's a good comparison of good and evil, where because evil is simply a lack of good, depending on how much good is left in whatever it is, it can be difficult to tell the difference between what is good and what is evil. True wisdom helps us to tell this difference and make the right decisions.

Proverbs teaches us that what is good is also what is right. The primary aim of the book is to teach us how to be righteous. Those who pursue happiness as their goal will not find it, but those who pursue holiness will also find their happiness. This is part of the book's aim to look at life realistically. Proverbs describes life as it is, not necessarily as it should be. For example, in chapter 17, there are two verses, 8 and 23, that say that while perverting justice with a bribe is wrong, a bribe in general can be the way things can get done. This isn't ideal, but it's also reality. To be wise and righteous you must see the world as it really is. Those who appear to be wise and righteous while looking at the world through rose-colored glasses won't be either because they are seeing a distorted reality.

The proverbs are a form of Hebrew poetry. While our poetry is typically arranged by similar sounds, Hebrew poetry is arranged by similar thoughts in parallel statements. There are three kinds of parallelism in the book. Antithetical parallelism is the contrasting of two ideas. The second line usually starts with "but" and contrasts the idea of the first line. Proverbs 10:27 - Fear of the Lord prolongs life, but the years of the wicked are cut short. Synonymous parallelism restates the idea of the first line but in a different way. It is meant as a continuation, not a contrast. Proverbs 1:8 - Hear, my son, your father's instruction and reject not your mother's teaching. So the second line has the same idea as the first, just phrased differently. The third type is synthetic parallelism. This expands upon what was stated in the first line as opposed to synonymous which is a restating. Proverbs 21:13 - Those who shut their ears to the cry of the poor will themselves call out and not be answered. So this is more than a restating, as the second line takes the idea of not helping the poor and expanding it to include the person not receiving help themselves should they ever find themselves in a similar situation.

Next week, we'll take a look at some of the minor prophets in the Old Testament before turning our attention to the New Testament.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Fifth Sunday of Lent - Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 5:7-9; John 12:20-33


March 14, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures: Psalms

The Hebrew name for the book is actually "Praises" rather than Psalms. Now this is not because all of the psalms are about praise, but because the entirety of the psalms made up a manual of temple service which was chiefly of praise. So the name "Praises" was given to the manual itself. In Greek, the word "psalmos" meant the twang of strings of a musical instrument. The equivalent word in Hebrew meant "to trim", meaning a poem of "trimmed" and measured form. These words demonstrate that a psalm was a poem of set structure to be sung to the accompaniment of stringed instruments.

There are a total of 150 psalms, but they are numbered differently in the Hebrew bible and in the Vulgate/Septuagint. In our modern lectionary, we use the Hebrew numbering of the psalms. In the Latin mass, the Vulgate is used, and thus has a different numbering of the psalms which is off by one for most of the psalms. The Vulgate/Septuagint combines psalms 9 and 10 while the Hebrew bible separates them. It has since been agreed that they should have been combined but no one is willing to change things/admit they were wrong. Thus the numbering is off by one until the Hebrew bible combines psalms 146 and 147. So the only psalms numbered the same in both versions which are used at both masses celebrated here are 1-8 and 148-150.

The Book of Psalms, or Psalter, is divided into five books, each ending with a doxology which is a short verse praising God. Book 1 is psalms 1-41, Book 2 is psalms 42-72, Book 3 is psalms 73-89, Book 4 is psalms 90-106, and Book 5 is psalms 107-150. Book 5 doesn't have a doxology because psalm 150 is itself a grand doxology for the entire collection. This division comes from early Jewish traditions. David gave the five books of psalms to correspond to the five books of the Law given by Moses. All but 34 psalms have their own titles in the Hebrew psalter. The Septuagint provides titles to these 34 psalms (called orphan psalms in Hebrew Tradition). The titles tell us at least one of the following things about the psalm: its author/collection, its historical occasion, its poetic characteristics, its musical setting, and/or its liturgical use.

Some Jewish traditions attribute all of the psalms as being written by David. In Christian tradition, it's uncertain. St. Ambrose and St. Augustine make David the sole author. Others claim there must be multiple authors due to multiple authors being named in the psalms themselves. In 1910, the Biblical Commission stated that it can't be denied that David is the chief author. It also can't be denied that David is the author of those psalms that are cited under the name David. 73 psalms in the Hebrew bible claim David as their author. Many times the book is referred to as the Psalms of David or something similar. Whether this implies all of the psalms are his or whether he's just the primary author remains subject of debate.

The psalms can also be arranged in chief groups. First is alphabetic or acrostic. These psalms have lines, which in Hebrew, start with words whose first letters follow a certain pattern. For example, in psalm 119, the first 8 lines start with words beginning with the Hebrew letter ALEPH, the second 8 lines start with words beginning with the Hebrew letter BETH, etc. Ethical psalms teach moral principles, an example being psalm 15. Psalms of praise are about... praise, such as psalm 103. Historical psalms review the history of God's dealings with His people, like psalm 106. Imprecatory psalms invoke God to bring evil upon one's enemies, such as psalm 69. Messianic psalms pertain to the coming Messiah, an example being psalm 2. Penitential psalms express sorrow for sins committed, like psalm 51. Songs of Ascent or Songs of Degrees were possibly psalms sung by pilgrims on the way to Jerusalem to observe the feast days. They are grouped together as psalms 120-134. Psalms of suffering are the cries of those suffering affliction, like psalm 102. And psalms of thanksgiving are psalms of grateful praise to God for blessings received, such as psalm 100.

These various styles can be used for teaching, as responsive for liturgies, meditation, praise and devotion, and prayer/petition. Christ uses psalms to teach, citing them in the Beatitudes. Saints Paul, James, and Peter also reference psalms in their New Testament writings. Many psalms possess basic principles of righteousness which still hold true today. Christians should study the psalms to receive this instruction in righteousness.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Fourth Sunday of Lent - 2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23; Ephesians 2:4-10; John 3:14-21


March 7, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures: Job

With the Maccabean revolt, we've reached the end of the history of the Old Testament, that is, the historical events of Salvation History leading up to the New Testament. However, before we delve into that, I'd like to look at some other books individually in the Old Testament, starting with some of the wisdom books and of those, start with the Book of Job.

All wisdom books have several things in common: they are secular in nature and not terribly concerned with God's miraculous works in our world. They do not concentrate on the history of Israel. They ask questions about the problems of life that affect all people, not just Israel, and they express joy in coming to know God. They were developed during the golden age of Israel; a time when people weren't just concerned with survival.

The Book of Job deals with universal questions: why does evil exist if god is good, why do bad things happen to good people, why do evil people prosper, and why do suffering and death exist? There are two basic types of evil: moral evil, an example of which would be innocent people being killed by terrorists; and natural evil, which would be things like natural disasters and diseases. The Book of Job questions the idea that good things happen to good people and that evil is a punishment for bad behavior.

We are introduced to Job as being from Uz, which is not in Israel. This is to show he is not a Jew and thus not one of the chosen people. The ideas in the book are intended to be universal. The numbers associated with Job's possessions and family are symbolically perfect. This is to show that Job is "perfect", so not a candidate for punishment as the ancient way of thinking would have gone. Then, we get a conversation between God and Satan and Satan's insinuation that Job is only good because he's been showered with blessings. Satan attests that good behavior is only the result of circumstance rather than inherent virtue. God gives Satan the power to inflict evil upon Job but does not allow him to physically harm Job.

The first trial sees all of Job's possessions and family taken away (apart from his wife), but he himself is not harmed. He utters the famous phrase, the lord giveth and the lord taketh away and does not curse the Lord. So Satan ups the ante, saying it's only because Job hasn't been harmed physically that he continues to praise God's name, so God gives Satan power to harm Job, but he cannot kill him.

Job then is struck with sores and other bodily afflictions and incorrectly assumes that the evil is coming from God. What is happening is evil allowed by God but not authored by God. We then meet Job's three friends. The main division of the book is poetical. It's a succession of speeches and replies by Job's friends and his reply to each. The friends are convinced that the trouble is the result of wrongdoing on the part of Job. They consider Job to be a great sinner and assume that his claims of innocence are hypocrisy. Job protests that God is punishing him and by doing so fails in his reverence toward God. To Job, God is a severe, hard, and inconsiderate ruler rather than a kind Father.

Job's expressions of irreverence are, at most, venial sins which humans can never fully avoid. Job also claims that his words are involuntary expressions of pain; but unfortunately for him, go too far for God's liking. Eventually, God responds by absolutely verbally blasting Job through a wall in four of the most glorious chapters in the Bible where God goes after Job relentlessly. I love it.

Job then recants at the end of the book of what he said about God; and his recant is emblematic of how we tend to sin because we temporarily blind ourselves to God. We understand God's power and our need to be in communion with Him when we go to confession. It's a back and forth; but when we do recognize God and understand His love for us, He generously restores us to grace.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Third Sunday of Lent - Exodus 20:1-17; 1 Corinthians1:22-25; John 2:13-25


February 28, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:
Maccabean Revolt

In order to understand the environment surrounding the revolt of the Maccabees, you need to understand the major historical events that occurred in the centuries prior to it. In 538BC, Cyrus the Great issued the edict which allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem from their captivity in Babylon. Cyrus was the leader of the Persian Empire, the most powerful empire the world had seen up until that point. In 490, the Persians attempted to invade Greece but were defeated at the Battle of Marathon. Ten years later, they tried again and faced off against the 300 Spartans at the Battle of Thermopylae, eventually being defeated by the Greeks at a later battle. The second defeat of the Persians produced a loose confederation of Greek states which would be the height of their power and influence. They began to push the Persians back away from Greece, but the alliance slowly broke up as old rivalries and issues returned to the forefront.

In 338, Philip of Macedon finished his campaign to subdue the Greek peninsula, and with Greece again under one banner, he turned his attention to attacking Persia. However, before he can invade, he is assassinated. He is then succeeded by his son, Alexander the Great. Alexander invades Persia in 334; and after three years, defeats the Persian king, Darius. In 326, he had made it as far as India, but his army mutinied and refused to march further. Alexander returned to Babylon where he would die suddenly in 323 without an heir. His empire is then divided into four parts, each ruled by one of his generals.

One of the lasting legacies of Alexander's brief empire was Hellenization. This is the process of making civilizations Greek in their practices. Alexander brought the Greek culture with him wherever he conquered and introduced Greek philosophy, language, religion, and customs. This culture actually unified the near east because the over-arching culture provided a mechanism for people to trade and understand each other. Unfortunately, the division of the empire was particularly bad for Jerusalem. At first, it was controlled by the Ptolemies of Egypt. All in all they weren't too bad. But they came into conflict with the Seleucids, another division of the old empire, and the two fought for control of Palestine. The Seleucids were victories and at first they weren't too bad either. Greek culture was everywhere, but the faithful Jews were left alone.

This all changed with Antiochus IV who became king of the Seleucid empire. He called himself "God Manifest", so clearly he was quite humble. His subjects called him "Out of His Mind". His desire was to totally Hellenize the entirety of his empire by forcing out any cultures that remained. At the time in Jerusalem, whoever the high priest was, he was also the secular ruler, so church and state were exactly the same. Antiochus, however, decided to sell the position to the highest bidder. This would not end well.

The Greeks saw local deities as manifestations of their own gods. So they see a temple dedicated to the most high God and just decide to make it a temple to their most high god: Zeus. This meant they also introduced Greek styles of worship which were... different. Everyone was forced to take part in the sacrifices offered to the Greek gods including eating the food sacrificed which often included non-Kosher pork. When the Jews refused, Antiochus resorted to torture. This is shown quite explicitly in 2 Maccabees 7.

The resistance to all of this becomes formally led by Mattathias, an old priest and his sons who refuse to participate in the pagan sacrifices. They didn't really believe that they could succeed in overthrowing the Seleucids, but they knew that it was better to die than be unfaithful to God. After Mattathias dies, Judas Maccabeus became the leader of the revolt and had stunning military success. They are able to recapture the Temple and purify it after it was used for pagan sacrifices. Today, the purification of the Temple is celebrated as Hanukkah. Their victories continued, and they were able to conquer most of the old Davidic kingdom, making alliances with Sparta and Rome while they were at it. So in 125BC, over 400 years after the fall of Judah to the Babylonians, there finally existed another Jewish Kingdom.

The Books of Maccabees gives us a good insight into what Jews believed during this time which is several centuries after the last prophetic book was written and relatively close to the time of Christ. The word "Israel" referred only to the faithful remnant, not everyone of Jewish descent. Many Jews also believed in the resurrection of the dead by this point and the concept of saints. They believed that martyrdom is better than apostasy (renouncing the faith). They understood that God judges His people as a father judges his children; Israel's sufferings came because they need discipline, not because God wants revenge. They also believed it was good to pray for the dead which we see in 2 Maccabees 12:40-45. This is where we get vindication for the idea of purgatory where we pray for those who have died in order to speed their journey to heaven as opposed to praying to them as if everyone went straight to heaven after death.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Second Sunday of Lent - Exodus 20:1-17; 1 Corinthians1:22-25; John 2:13-25


February 21, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures: Post-Exile

It's not often that a foreign king is treated with a lot of respect by the Jews, but in the case of Cyrus, King of Persia, he is actually considered a "messiah". He's called an anointed one in the scriptures; and it is he and his Persian Empire that conquer and defeat Babylon. Cyrus expanded his empire by war, but he kept it together by inspiring loyalty in his subjects. Conquered peoples were allowed to keep their own customs as well as worship in their own ways. So for the Jews in exile, Cyrus was seen as a liberator. When the Persians capture Babylon, the Babylonian Exile is ended and the Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem. They weren't forced to go, and many chose not to.

Jerusalem hadn't been lived in for over 50 years, and thus it was still a wreck. The first thing they did upon their return was lay the foundation for a new temple. In Ezra 3:11-13, it mentions how once the foundation was laid, the elders began to weep, not because they were overjoyed, but because they knew by the foundation that it wouldn't be as grand as what had been built before. They didn't have the money or the manpower available to recreate what Solomon had built.

As mentioned before, the Samaritans were still in the area, being the offspring of Jews and those transplanted to the area by the Assyrians. They worshipped God, but only as one of many gods. The faithful remnant that had returned from Babylon understood that their trouble had been because they didn't offer proper worship to God. Therefore when the Samaritans offered to help, the remnant kept their distance because the Samaritans didn't worship God properly. This offended the Samaritans who then actually tried to stop the building of the Temple. They told the new King of Persia that the Jews in Jerusalem were not building the temple but rather their own defenses so they could rebel. Due to Israel's history of rebelling against empires, it wasn't a hard sell, and the project was ordered halted. After some time, the prophets Haggai and Zechariah renewed enthusiasm for the project. The Israelites were building beautiful homes for themselves, and the prophets asked why they were doing that while the house of the Lord is in ruins? This is the same mentality for priests when it comes to their rectories. We focus on the church first and our house second which is no doubt why the rectory was never tended to properly over the past years. The new king of Persia found the original edict that allowed the temple to be built and the project continued.

Ezra was a scribe who was given authority by the king to appoint judges and magistrates in Judah. His dream was to restore a purified Israel in the promised land and became the moral leader for the Jews. He taught them the Law and edited the scriptures as well. Nehemiah became the governor in Jerusalem and fortified the defenses of the city to protect it from attacks from surrounding Samaritans. He took no salary and this example needed to carry over to the rest of the Jews. The biggest problem he was facing at the time was hypocrisy. The rich would buy and sell slaves despite it going against Mosaic Law; and to atone for it, they would make a small sacrifice in the temple. It's very similar to the mortal sin of presumption, when we commit mortal sins or any sin because we know that we can simply go to confession to right the wrong. We're presuming on God's mercy. Added to that, the animals they were offering in the temple were the worthless ones in their flock, so it wasn't really a sacrifice. It would be akin to giving up something for Lent that you really don't do anyway, and thus there really is no sacrifice. What God ultimately desires is righteousness.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings First Sunday of Lent - Genesis 9:8-15; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:12-15


February 14, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:
The Time of Isaiah and Jeremiah

The Samaritans get a lot of flack in the gospels; and it's clear that the Jews don't have a high respect for them. Samaria was the capital city of the northern kingdom before it was destroyed, so Samaria was in Israel and occupied by Jews. The reason the Samaritans are despised 700 years later during the time of Jesus is because after the Assyrians destroyed the kingdom, they re-settled the area with people from other lands. Those then intermarried with the few Israelites that were left in the area that the Assyrians ignored. Their descendants were therefore not fully Jewish. They worshipped God, but they worshipped as one among many. They were not always faithful or considered part of the Jewish heritage.

Isaiah was a prophet to the good king Hezekiah in Judah. Hezekiah was a serious reformer, tearing down pagan altars, tearing down places where people worshipped God in the wrong way, and even going so far as destroying the bronze serpent Moses had made in the wilderness because people had begun to worship that too. Isaiah had already been a prophet to three bad kings prior. He was called to bring Judah to repentance. He was also prophesying for the days when Jerusalem would be the spiritual capital of the world. The main themes in the book of Isaiah are repentance - that judgement will come if there is not repentance, the unconditional promises to David - that the faithful remnant of Judah will return to establish a new kingdom in Jerusalem, and that the kingdom will be restored more glorious than ever under a new ruler.

The son of Hezekiah was Manasseh who took over after his father died and was the exact opposite of his father. He restored the worship of foreign gods, and he even burned his own sons as offerings to pagan gods. The Assyrians attack Jerusalem and Manasseh is captured and carried off in chains. While in prison, he prays to the Lord for deliverance, and he is indeed returned to Jerusalem. After this experience, he got rid of his pagan altars and restored worship to God.

The king Josiah was a great reformer. The Book of Deuteronomy had been lost for years in the archives of the temple, and it was "re-discovered" during the reign of Josiah. The people had forgotten the second law in Deuteronomy, and Josiah read the law to the people who then swore to keep all of the commandments of God.

After Josiah died, Judah went downhill pretty quickly. This is the time of the prophet Jeremiah. Egypt made Judah a tributary, and then Jerusalem was attacked by the Babylonians who had defeated the Assyrians. The Babylonians stripped the temple of its furnishings and left the city in ruins. And still there was no repentance. Jeremiah tried to warn everyone, and for his troubles he was imprisoned, beaten, thrown down a well, and threatened with death. The last king of Judah attempted to rebel against Babylon with Egypt (which had worked so well for the north). Jeremiah told the king that it would be of no help because Judah's fate had been sealed. He prophesied that the destruction would be so great that creation itself would be undone. However, even with the Flood, God preserves a faithful remnant, and with this remnant, God will create a new covenant.

In 586BC, Jerusalem is attacked again and completely destroyed, including the temple. The population is taken prisoner to Babylon, and the Babylonian Exile begins. While in exile, the Jews remembered God because they had nothing left but Him. Being surrounded by paganism made them realize what they had lost. Many books in the Old Testament were edited into their final forms during this period of exile.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46; 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1; Mark 1:40-45


February 7, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:
The Divided Kingdom

Upon the death of Solomon, his son, Rehoboam, was set to succeed him. The problem was that Rehoboam only knew a life of luxury from growing up in Solomon's court. In 1 Kings 12, a group of Israelites comes to Rehoboam and asks him to lighten the work they'd been having to do under Solomon. Rehoboam tells them to come back in three days, and he takes counsel with two groups of people: one group is old and the other is young. The older men advise him to do as the people ask for it will show good faith. The younger men advise Rehoboam to increase the taxes and burdens as a show of strength and that's the course that Rehoboam takes. The ten northern tribes secede and name Jeroboam as their king. Only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin remain faithful to the king in the south.

The prophet Abijah tells Jeroboam, now king of the northern kingdom (called Israel, while the south was called Judah), that the separation of the kingdom was part of God's plan, but Jeroboam didn't trust in God. His new subjects were looking fondly down at Jerusalem and the temple and thinking that maybe they shouldn't have seceded. Jeroboam, in a bid to keep his kingdom and his people separate, decides that going back to the golden calf system was a good idea, since that worked so well the first time. So he fashions TWO golden calves, because two bad things are definitely better than one, and tells his people that they are the gods that brought them out of Egypt. In both kingdoms, you had a series of good and bad kings. Good kings brought people back to worshipping God, while the bad kings introduced foreign gods. This time period became the time of the prophets.

King Ahab was one of the most wicked kings in the northern kingdom of Israel. He marries a Sidonian princess named Jezebel, who persuades Ahab to worship Baal. Ahab has a temple constructed to him and then Jezebel persecutes the prophets of the Lord. So for one of the worst kings, we get one of the greatest prophets: Elijah. The name Elijah means "the Lord is my God", and the first thing we hear is that he can stop the rain with his prayers. Elijah often worked through God's miracles to demonstrate God's power, not his own. In a famous story, he goes up against 450 prophets of Baal. The rules were simple: each side builds an altar and prepares a sacrifice but doesn't light the fire. The real god would send fire from heaven to light it up. The prophets of Baal try everything but eventually give up. Elijah then soaks his altar with water for dramatic effect and then after he prays, fire incinerates the altar, including the stones. The prophets of Baal are then killed by the mob.

After this ordeal, Jezebel is clearly angry at Elijah, and he flees to Sinai. Here is where we get the story of God's presence passing by. God was not in the earth, wind, and fire (pun intended), but rather in the tiny whispering sound, demonstrating that while we often look for cataclysmic signs from God, if we're not truly listening, we might miss Him. Elijah's successor is Elisha (which isn't confusing at all), and once Elisha is anointed, Elijah is taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire (pun intended).

What the northern kingdom of Israel feared most were the Assyrians. The Assyrians had a policy of resettlement as insurance against rebellion. They scattered the populations they conquered around their empire so they wouldn't be able to band together against them. The last king of the north, Hoshea, tried an alliance with Egypt against Assyria, but that was discovered by the Assyrians, to whom Israel was paying tribute already to avoid attack. The Assyrians then besieged Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom, and destroyed it, resettling the entire population of the 10 tribes and beginning the Diaspora of the Jews, when they lived outside of the promised land.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Job 7:1-4, 6-7; 1 Corinthians 9:16-19; Mark 1:29-39


January 31, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:
The Davidic Covenant and Solomon

The covenant with David, the 5th covenant made so far (Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses preceding), is laid out in 2 Samuel 7:11-16. In this passage, it says that the Lord will make David a house, meaning David will be the founder of a dynasty. The Lord will establish the kingdom of David's dynasty, meaning David's son will be the ruler of a kingdom. David's son shall build a house, meaning a temple which will be built by Solomon. The Lord will be his father and the son of David will be God's own son. The Lord will not take His love from him, meaning God will never disown David's line like Saul's. Finally, David's throne shall be established forever, meaning the dynasty of David will never end. Some of these promises will be fulfilled by Solomon, others by Christ.

There are some key differences between the covenant with David (Zion) vs. the covenant with Moses (Sinai). Jerusalem has now replaced Sinai as the center of Israel's religion. The Mosaic covenant circulated around the tabernacle which was contained in a movable tent for nomads. The Davidic covenant will have the temple; a permanent structure that draws all to it. The Mosaic covenant was a national covenant that was for Israel only. The Davidic is an international covenant that reaches all nations through Israel. The Mosaic covenant was exclusive, designed to keep nations out while the Davidic is inclusive and inviting nations in. The Mosaic covenant was defined by the Torah, the law to keep Israel separate, while the Davidic was defined by the Wisdom literature that speaks to all mankind. Finally, the Mosaic covenant had as its service a sin offering to atone for sins while the Davidic had the "todah". In Greek, the word would be "Eucharist", which is an offering in thanksgiving.

The Davidic covenant had seven primary features to it. The first was kingdom, as it would make Israel more than just a nation. Second was dynasty, because the covenant was made with the whole dynasty of David. Third was God's own son, as the anointing of David and his successors made them adopted by God. Fourth was unlimited, because in time and space the Kingdom will be everlasting. Fifth was Jerusalem which became the new spiritual center of the world. Sixth was the temple which was the architectural sign of the covenant. Seventh was wisdom, which was the new law of the covenant that was accessible to all.

There were also three secondary features to the covenant, all of which have a New Testament corollaries. The first was the Queen Mother who is the only one that the king bows to. This is correlated with Mary. The second is the prime minister, the chief among the servants. This is correlated with Peter, the first pope. The third is the thank offering which was the primary liturgy in the temple. This correlates with the Eucharist.

After David dies, his son Solomon, whom he had with Bathsheba, the wife he stole from Uriah the Hittite, takes over. God comes to Solomon in a dream and tells him that he can ask for anything he wants. Solomon's request is that he's given wisdom so that he can govern the people God has set him over. Solomon then becomes a symbol of wisdom. David's military success had vastly increased the size of the kingdom and Solomon's wisdom and reputation would draw in visitors and traders from nearby kingdoms. Solomon also married into alliances, as was common practice up until the last century or so (World War I was basically fought between monarchs who were cousins).

One of the countries mentioned that Solomon married into was Egypt. 1 Kings 3:1 mentions that Egypt sent a princess to Solomon's court. This is significant because Egypt never sent their children to other courts, but rather everyone sent them to Egypt. Whichever kingdom was more prestigious and powerful is where the couple would live. This demonstrates not only the important placement of Israel, but also the power and prestige during Solomon's reign. We hear that at one point, Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that those numbers are not entirely accurate. Those numbers are, though, symbolically perfect, showing that he'd intermarried with all nations and extended his dominion, in some way, over all of the earth. However, as we know, polygamy in the bible always leads to some sort of misery. Ultimately these foreign wives would drive Solomon away from God.

The reputation of Solomon would draw in many visitors, one of the most famous being the Queen of Sheba. Her visit shows us that all people are now being drawn to God as the covenant was meant to do. The wisdom of the kingdom was expressed in the wisdom literature, namely the proverbs. The Book of Proverbs contains several collections of wise sayings, many Solomon's and some others, including some that were by pagan authors. The reason that the bible includes pagan authors is because all wisdom comes from God and a true believer never rejects wisdom no matter where it's found.

Eventually, Solomon's pride would get the better of him. He overly taxed his people so they had to labor for Solomon to pay it off, and they began to question his leadership. Then his foreign wives convinced him to build temples to their own gods as well and things took a turn for the worse for Israel.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Deuteronomy 18:15-20; 1 Corinthians 7:32-35; Mark 1:21-28


January 24, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:
King Saul and King David

When the Israelites decided they needed a king to unite them, they turned to Samuel. Samuel had been the last of the Judges, but he was quite old, and his sons were not worthy to succeed him. So the Israelites asked Samuel to appoint them a king. This might sound rather insulting to Samuel; but in reality, they weren't rejecting Samuel, they were rejecting the Lord and rejecting being a nation set apart that was not ruled by a king like everyone else. Moses had actually prophesied this happening and the second law from Deuteronomy had provided for this occasion. Samuel warns the people that from a king they will get taxes, military service, and oppression (luckily that only comes from a monarchy so we're totally safe from that), but even with that warning, the people were insistent.

Saul was from the tribe of Benjamin which was the smallest tribe. He happened to come to where Samuel was because he was having some livestock issues, but Samuel appointed him as king. He anointed Saul with oil which was the visible sign that Saul had been chosen. He therefore became the anointed one, which in Hebrew is "messiah" and in Greek, "christ". An anointed one is someone chosen by God and anointed to be the leader and savior of God's people. Obviously with Jesus that term has taken on a whole separate significance; but before Jesus, it was a term used more often and for more people.

At first things went rather well for Saul. He defeated one of their more powerful enemies and everyone thought they'd made the right choice in wanting a king. Then the power started to go to his head. In a war with the Philistines, when all hope seemed lost, Saul needed God's help. Samuel told Saul to wait for him to arrive to offer sacrifices, but Saul was impatient. Saul therefore offered the sacrifices before Samuel arrived. The reason this was a problem was because Saul only did it because he wanted something from God. He wasn't doing it out of reverence and love for God, and his impatience proved that. When Samuel found out, he told Saul that his own line would not endure and thus Saul's son would not be king.

Saul is then told to destroy the Amalekites and put everything under the ban. The "ban" was when Israel did not take spoils of war but rather destroyed everything. The reasoning for this is simple: war brings spoils and thus can be enjoyable for the winning side. If you're always getting rich off of war, you want to do it more and more. If you're only waging war to destroy your enemies, and you make no gains other than safety, you only go to war when it's necessary. By having everything put under the ban, God ensures that Israel will not go to war simply for spoils, but rather only for defense. Unfortunately, Saul's men do not put everything under the ban and take spoils from their conquest. Samuel confronts Saul, and Saul understands the mistake he made, but it's too late for him. Samuel tells him the final punishment for his disobedience. First, it was he would have no dynasty, and now he will lose the kingdom.

The Lord sends Samuel to Bethlehem to anoint the new king. When David is chosen, Samuel anoints him, and thus David becomes the anointed one as there can be only one (like the Highlander). The spirit of the Lord left Saul and transferred to David, and immediately Saul became tormented by an evil spirit. Saul is also still under the impression that he's the king. When he was tormented, the only thing that would soothe him was music, and it just so happened that David was the best musician in the land. So David becomes a member of Saul's court, and Saul is still unaware that David has been anointed by God. Eventually, Saul dies and David officially becomes the king. He chooses Jerusalem to be his capital because it didn't belong to any of the 12 tribes. This is the same reasoning that Washington is its own district and is not part of any state. The capital being "neutral" means that no tribe or state has influence over it. David also brings the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem, thus making it the political and spiritual capital of Israel.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Third Sunday in Ordinary Time - Jonah 3:1-5, 10; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20


January 17, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:
Joshua and Judges

The Book of Joshua details the conquest of Canaan, or the holy land/promised land. The Israelites would never actually fully drive their enemies out of the promised land, and this led to an almost constant struggle with them for both power and religious fidelity. The first target of the Israelites was Jericho. Some claim that Jericho is the oldest city in the world as the settlement goes back to the Stone Age.

When God told Joshua it was time to cross into Canaan, Joshua sent two spies to scout the city. It turned out that the reputation of the Israelites had preceded them. Everything they had done, from the Lord drying up the Red Sea to them defeating kings and armies in the desert, had come to the ears of the Canaanites. The spies sought refuge in the house of Rahab, a harlot, and promised her that if she hid them, her and her family would be kept safe. When the Israelites crossed the Jordan, the ark of the covenant preceded them and the waters again dried up so they could cross. This is seen as a "type" of baptism for Christians; when Christians, the new Israel, pass through the waters of baptism to the Promised Land.

The famous story of the fall of Jericho is, of course, the Israelites being told to simply march around the city for seven days and on the last day to blow the trumpets and lift up their voices and the walls would come tumbling down. It would stand to reason that it was done in this manner, as opposed to Israel laying a conventional siege, so that the miraculous nature would strike fear into the enemies of Israel. When the city is taken, Rahab and her family are saved as promised. She marries an Israelite according to the genealogy of Matthew's gospel which makes her an ancestor of Christ.

Joshua kept the Israelites faithful to God while he led them. When he knew that he was dying, he summoned the heads of the tribes together. He pleads with them to obey the law of God and even gives them a chance to back out and go another way. Basically he says that if being faithful to God is going to be too much work for them, it's better to simply say so and not be faithful than to say they will be faithful and then not be in the future. Be honest rather than make a promise you can't keep. The Israelites swear they will be faithful (I'm sure they meant it this time), and Joshua seals the covenant with them. Afterward Joshua dies, and the heads of the tribes were actually faithful to their promises up until they died as well. Then it all begins to fall apart.

This leads into the Book of Judges. The Book of Judges follows the same pattern over and over again: the people fall away from God, then they become oppressed by another nation, a judge is raised up to lead Israel, and the people are delivered from their enemies. Then it all happens again in the same order. This happened so often and so easily because the Israelites had failed to fully drive out the Canaanites. Some of the people in the land already were very difficult to conquer, such as the notorious Philistines, and so the Israelites just chose to ignore them and live next to them. The problem with that was there were several key differences between the Israelites and the Canaanites they left alone that made the Israelites rather envious. The Canaanites were city dwellers, had temples made of stone and houses made of brick. The Israelites were used to being nomads and living in tents. So this sophisticated-looking civilization starts to look rather attractive, and in conjunction, the religion that happened to go with this attractive, sophisticated civilization. Added to that, the Israelite tribes were not always united and would often fight amongst themselves. This made them easier prey for their strong neighbors. Since all of the stories in the Book of Judges are basically the same, we won't look at any individually. The most famous of the Judges would be Samson and his notorious affair with Delilah. Eventually, the state of anarchy that Israel was falling into made them take action for themselves, and they decided that the only way they could ever be united was to have a king.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Second Sunday in Ordinary Time - 1 Samuel 3:3b-10, 19; 1 Corinthians 6:13c-15a, 17-20; John 1:35-42


January 10, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:
Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy

Leviticus is a Latin word meaning "having to do with the Levites." In the Hebrew tradition, it's known as the Manual for Priests. Contained within Leviticus are many, many different laws, the purpose of which was to teach Israel how to be a holy people. So in another way, the book can also be seen as a manual for holiness. In fact, the word "holiness" occurs 87 times in the book.

It starts with instructions for sacrifices and for the consecration of priests. So the priests begin following these instructions and then, very much in form, almost immediately disobey them. In Leviticus 10:1-2, priests who offer the sacrifice incorrectly are consumed by fire. While this sounds very harsh, what this shows is how seriously the laws were to be taken. Quite frankly, given all of the abuses that occur within the mass throughout the world on an almost daily basis, I think we could use one or two instances of this to get some wayward priests back on track...

There were also laws about what food they could eat, which we're still familiar with as Kosher laws. These specific rules have more to do with them apart from just health. For example, they're told that they cannot eat shellfish or pork, but both of those are quite healthy for people to eat. So if a neighbor were to offer a Jew pork or shellfish, they would have to refuse because of the Kosher laws. What this does is constantly remind the Jewish people that they're different. They were set apart as God's people and strict dietary laws would be a constant reminder of this. The laws also made them ultimately governed by God, since that's Who gave them the laws. This concept was unique in the world.

The Book of Numbers is known in the Hebrew tradition as In the Wilderness. This is the book where we hear of Israel's famous 40 years of wandering in the desert. Now something that's rather interesting is that many people think that they were simply lost or something along those lines, but that's not the case. The trip from Egypt to the promised land would normally have taken 11 days, and they also knew the direction they were to go. The problem was they failed to trust in God.

The Israelites approached the borders of the promised land and sent scouts to check it out. They reported back that the land was rich and abundant but also that there were already people living there who seemed to be very strong and very big. Thus we see the familiar pattern again where the Israelites grumble that they would've been better off in Egypt as opposed to coming to this land and facing what they incorrectly perceived as "giants". So what happens in Numbers 14:26-31 is that every person who had been saying non-stop that they were going to die in the wilderness will actually do so. They fail to trust that God will be with them as they enter the promised land, and so they never get to enter it. The Israelites will end up wandering around the desert for 40 years, constantly rebelling against God and Moses as those who originally left Egypt and refused to trust in God slowly die off.

In Numbers 20:2-12, the people once again need water and say it would have been better if they had stayed in Egypt. Moses, fed up, strikes the rock with his staff angrily and water pours out. However, what he did was very bad for two reasons. First, he struck the rock in anger, which seems justified, but when you're basically performing a miracle from God, having rage while you do it is not. The second thing is that when he struck the rock, since the people were asking him to do something, he actually made it seem as if it was him performing the miracle rather than God. Because of this, neither Moses nor Aaron would enter the promised land either, although Moses would glimpse it before he died.

The word Deuteronomy means "second law". Due to Israel's increased unfaithfulness in the wilderness, they required a second law. The law in Exodus would have made them a nation of priests. They were clearly not ready for that. Deuteronomy was a law for them to be just another nation-state. It also takes into account that Israel will not always be holy and will fall away from time to time. The Book of Deuteronomy is a series of speeches that Moses gave when they reached the edge of the promised land. At this point, everyone who had originally left Egypt, apart from Moses, Joshua, and Caleb, had died. Everyone else had been born and raised in the wilderness.

It starts with an introductory speech in which Moses reminds the new generations where they came from and what led them here. Then he restates the important parts of the Exodus law. The Ten Commandments are listed again; the only difference being that the last two commandments are switched. In Deuteronomy, do not covet your neighbor's wife precedes do not covet your neighbor's property. Then there's the constitution of Israel: a new law for living the promised land, followed by the ratification of this constitution. Next, Moses lays out a prophetic road map, telling the people how they will forsake the Lord and bring curses upon themselves, but that a future restoration and blessing will follow. Finally, the book concludes with the last days of Moses. He sees the promised land from a distance but never enters. He was buried in a secret grave by God so that the Israelites would not fall into idolatry and go to worship at the grave of Moses at any point in the future. There is speculation by some that Moses was taken up into heaven like Elijah will be because he is seen conversing with Christ and Elijah at the Transfiguration.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Baptism of the Lord - Isaiah 55:1-11; 1 John 5:1-9; Mark 1:7-11


January 3, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:
The Golden Calf

The exodus from Egypt was akin to the Declaration of Independence for Israel. Like America's, it didn't specify a form of government or any laws. We needed to wait for the Articles of Confederation/Constitution for that. For Israel, as long as they followed Moses' instructions, they did well. However, with Moses gone for 40 days and 40 nights (a number associated with times of trial and repentance), they fell into some old habits.

The Israelites demand that an image of "their god" be made, and Aaron, unfortunately, obliged. He crafted a golden calf. The reason for a calf was because it represented the Egyptian god, Apis, who was an Egyptian fertility god. In Exodus 32:3-6, it says that the Israelites "sat down to eat" and then "rose to play". Because Apis was a fertility god, the way that one worships a fertility god was, shall we say, immoral celebrations. That's what you do when you worship fertility gods. It also showed that the people had already renounced the covenant.

As the Israelites "played", God lets Moses know that something bad is happening. He refers to them as "your people" to Moses, not "my people". That simple word choice shows that God is disowning the Israelites as they disobey Him. God then gives Moses a choice. He offers him the chance to be a new Abraham, to have a new people instead of this one which doesn't seem interested in following the rules. Moses chooses to be selfless and instead pleads for Israel. By doing so, he spares them from the wrath of God. When Moses descends and sees the "play", he smashes the tablets on the ground in anger. He knew already what was happening because God told him, so what he actually saw must have been far worse than simply the Israelites bowing down to a golden calf. The smashed tablets, then, are symbolic of the broken covenant.

Israel's sin here was actually similar to the sin of Adam and Eve. They had a unique relationship with God that they chose to destroy. The original covenant would have made the entire nation a nation of priests. Because it was clear that a universal priesthood was not a good idea, the tribe of Levi, the Levites, became the priestly tribe. This ultimately protects the people from themselves. The Levites act as mediators, stopping the people from approaching God directly in a state of unworthiness. Something similar exists today with the sacrament of confession and really all of the sacraments. The priest acts as the mediator between God and men, offering the sacrifice to God on behalf of the people (which is why he faces the same direction: he's offering the sacrifice and talking to God primarily). Also, by being the custodians of the sacraments, it's the job of the priest to make sure that those who receive them are in a state that is worthy. This involves not only absolving sins from the confessional but also instructing the people as to what sins they might be committing. If one doesn't really know and approaches unworthily, then they do themselves a disservice.

So now that Israel has shown that they don't do well with relatively lax laws, they would now be governed by incredibly strict and specific laws. The laws handed down were different than human laws. Human laws (mostly) are meant to simply keep order in society, not just make people do things for no good reason or for reasons unproven. The laws handed down to Israel are meant to do more than just keep order. Even though God had brought them out of slavery in Egypt, they were still slaves to Egypt's gods. With laws of ritual purity, God meant to teach them humility. They would have to live apart from other nations so they would not be infected by other religions. They were told to make regular sacrifices to God, always sacrificing an animal they had worshipped as a god in Egypt. The laws were not intended solely as a punishment for their disobedience, but rather as instruction and rehabilitation. It's the same intention as a parental punishment. Punishments from parents to children are designed (in theory) to keep the child from getting into trouble again, not because the parent stopped loving the child.

The Book of Exodus ends with the building of the Tabernacle. It was the portable temple that would be God's dwelling place in the midst of His people. When the New Testament was written, the writers would have been using the Greek translation of the Old Testament, called the Septuagint (because it was written by seventy scholars). In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, it uses the word "overshadowed" to denote God's presence in the tabernacle. In Luke's Gospel, when Gabriel tells Mary that she will conceive and bear a son, he explains to Mary that the power of the most high will "overshadow" Mary. So the implication is that it's the same divine presence (Jesus) that will dwell within Mary that also dwelled in the desert with the Israelites.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Epiphany of the Lord - Isaiah 60:1-6; Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6; Matthew 2:1-12


December 27, 2020, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures: The Ten Commandments

Once the Israelites had crossed the Red Sea, they realized they had a problem: they had no food packed for the journey. They saw starvation as an inevitability and immediately began looking fondly on their days in Egypt where they had food, ignoring the fact that they were basically enslaved. This mentality demonstrates the dichotomy of the material and the spiritual. People see "things as good" only when they're satisfied materially. If you have enough stuff, enough money, enough food, then things are good. This ignores the spiritual which is ultimately where our minds should be focused. The Israelites seldom made distinctions between a life free from slavery and filled with devotion to God, and slavery in Egypt with a full stomach.

So they beseech Moses for help who then turns to God. God sends manna from heaven for the Israelites to eat. The word "manna" means "what is it", because the Israelites didn't really see it as bread that they recognized. But with food, you need drink. The same pattern followed where the Israelites moaned to Moses about how much better Egypt was because there was water, and so God had 
Moses strike the rock with his staff and water poured out. Manna and the water from the rock are both "types". Manna is a "type" of Eucharist because it's bread from heaven. Christ Himself will make this comparison as well. The water from the rock is a "type" of Christ. Christ gives us living water to drink, and from His pierced side flowed blood and water.

After three months of wandering, the Israelites reach Mount Sinai. The Lord is now ready to make a covenant with His people, if they want it. What God is planning to do is to make Israel a kingdom of priests. He has chosen them to bring His word to the rest of the world. God would speak to them directly and have a personal relationship with them. So Moses goes up the mountain, but God is going to speak so that all will hear Him so that they'll believe. However, it turns out that just the voice of God will frighten the people so much that they ask that Moses speak to them on God's behalf.

God then hands down the Ten Commandments: You shall have no other gods but God alone, you shall not take the name of the Lord in vain, keep holy the Sabbath, honor your father and mother, you shall not kill, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness, you shall not covet your neighbor's property, you shall not covet your neighbor's wife. After the commandments are handed down, Moses goes back up the mountain where a more detailed law was given to him. When that was finished, the covenant was sealed with a sacrifice. After this, the elders were invited up onto the mountain as well to behold God. They saw God, and yet they did not die. The reason is because after the covenant was sealed, Israel was a nation of priests speaking directly to God.

The Ten Commandments sum up and proclaim God's law. They outline how to love God and how to love our neighbor. The first three are all about loving God, the last seven are about loving your neighbor. You cannot honor another person without blessing God, his/her creator. In like manner, you cannot adore God without loving all men. Thus the commandments bring religious and social life into unity. The commandments also relate to the natural law. The natural law contains those rules which regulate moral behavior that are available to us through the application of human reason. Many of the commandments can be understood without divine revelation, such as not killing or not stealing. We know these things to be bad for the good of society because of our reason. However, worshipping no other gods or keeping holy the Sabbath are things that we would not know simply by reason, and thus they had to be transmitted to us by divine revelation. The Ten Commandments are actually a privileged expression of the natural law because they were made known to us by both divine revelation and human reason.

Moses goes back up the mountain alone for 40 days and 40 nights. Remember that the number 40 is usually associated with times of trial and repentance. While on the mountain, God shows Moses the pattern of the tabernacle. The tent would serve as a traveling temple for the people as they wandered in the desert. It was supposed to mirror the heavenly temple. At the center of it would be the Ark of the Covenant which would store the tablets of the Law. This would also be God's throne on earth; a shadow of His heavenly throne.

Luckily, the Israelites will remain completely well-behaved while Moses is gone and not do anything they're not supposed to...

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings The Holy Family - Genesis 15:1-6; 21:1-3; Hebrews 11:8, 11-12, 17-19; Luke 2:22-40


December 20, 2020, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:
Plagues and Passover

Moses delivered his not-so-famous statement to Pharaoh, which was not, "Let my people go!", but rather let God's people go into the wilderness for three days to offer sacrifice. Unfortunately for the Pharaoh, he doesn't care about some God he's never heard of. In his mind, if the Hebrews can plan 3-day ceremonies, then they obviously have too much free time on their hands. So Pharaoh increases their workload even more and the Hebrews blame Moses and Aaron for this.

In total, 10 plagues are sent upon Egypt. The way to look at them is as nine plagues plus the final plague: the killing of the first born. The first nine can be seen as three cycles of three. The first two will carry a warning with them, the third will not, then the cycle repeats.

The first plague is the Plague of Blood, where the Nile river is struck with the staff and turns to blood. Pharaoh is warned of this plague by Moses, as God tells Moses to, "Go to Pharaoh in the morning...". The second plague is the Plague of Frogs. Moses is again warned of this plague as God tells Moses to "Go in to Pharaoh...". However, the first two plagues don't phases Pharaoh because his so-called magicians are able to somehow recreate the plague with their "magic". As such, Pharaoh doesn't fear a God which can be at least mimicked by his own magicians. The third plague is the Plague of Lice/Gnats. There is no warning to Pharaoh about this plague; and not even his magicians could mimic it. However, Pharaoh remained obstinate.

The fourth plague is the Plague of Flies; and the cycle starts again. Moses is told by God to "Go to Pharaoh in the morning...". This plague also carries a difference from the first three: the plague doesn't affect the Hebrews. The flies went everywhere except where the Hebrews were living. This made it obvious that they were being protected. When Pharaoh saw that the Hebrews weren't affected by the plague, he was ready to negotiate. His suggestion to Moses was that the Hebrews could simply take a break from their work and offer sacrifice to God while still in Egypt. However, Moses tells Pharaoh that their sacrifice would be abominable to the Egyptians. The reason for this is because God wanted them to sacrifice cattle, sheep, and goats. The Egyptians worshipped these animals as gods, or at least as the manifestation of their gods. Therefore, the Hebrews would be seen killing Egyptian gods which the Egyptians would probably not be fans of. Because the Egyptians worshipped these things, the plagues are also seen as judgments on the gods of Egypt. The Egyptians worshipped the Nile as a god, a bull, and a frog as well. When plagues affected these things, God was using things they saw as sacred and showing them that they really were not. And seemingly after each plague, Pharaoh was ready to listen, but once the plague went away, he would back out of any deal.

The fifth plague is the Plague on Egyptian Cattle, once again carrying a warning. The sixth plague is the Plague of Boils and had no warning. Then the cycle repeats again. The seventh plague is the Plague of Hail, which had a warning. The eighth plague is the Plague of Locusts, which came with a warning, and the ninth plague is the Plague of Darkness which had no warning.

Now we come to the final plague. Moses' initial warning to Pharaoh was that Israel was God's first-born son, and if Pharaoh refused to let them go, then God would slay Pharaoh's first-born. The death of the first-born would also not be exclusive to the people but also to the animals as well, showing again the symbolic killing of Egypt's gods. The instructions given to Moses for the Passover were very specific. The bread should be unleavened because they would not have time to let it rise. The lamb should be roasted, not boiled, and they should eat with their traveling clothes on, as though they were in haste. The Israelites were to observe a week-long Passover every year after this so that they would never forget what God had done for them.

The Passover lamb is a very common image and "type" of Christ. The blood of the Passover lamb was to be sprinkled on the doorposts to save the Israelites from death, and it was the Blood of Christ that saved us all from eternal death.

Following the death of the first-born, the Egyptians were now demanding that the Israelites leave. Pharaoh once again has a change of heart when he came to grips that his cheap labor had left and decides to pursue the fleeing Israelites. When the Israelites realize that Pharaoh is going to attack them, we see the beginning of a soon-to-be familiar pattern. Whenever there's a problem, the people turn to Moses and complain that they would have simply been better off staying in Egypt. Moses will then beseech the Lord for help, and they will be delivered. As the Egyptians are crossing the parted Red Sea, their chariot wheels get stuck in the mud, and the entire army is killed. And so without the sword, Israel defeated the mightiest empire in the world at the time, and the victory belonged to God alone. The crossing of the Red Sea is also a "type" of baptism, because through the waters of the Red Sea, the Israelites were saved from certain death.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Fourth Sunday of Advent - 2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16; Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38


December 13, 2020, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures: Captivity and Moses

When we ended the Book of Genesis, Jacob and his family had moved to Egypt because of the famine that had spread throughout the land. Joseph and his position in the Egyptian government had made this quite easy for the Hebrews and also because of Joseph's position, the relationship between Egypt and the Hebrew people was quite good. The Hebrews became quite rich and owned much of the best land. Unfortunately, they were not remain simply guests for much longer.

In the first few verses of Exodus, it says that a new pharaoh arose that "did not know Joseph". Now this was several hundred years after Jacob's family had moved there, but it was unlikely that the pharaoh had never heard of Joseph. Since there was a large group of foreigners occupying space in Egypt, who they were and how they got there would have been well-known. What is more likely is that the new pharaoh wanted nothing to do with the Hebrews and refused to recognize the good relations they had with them. The pharaoh says that his fear is the Hebrews will "join our enemies", meaning that their loyalty was in question should Egypt ever be invaded. It was the same accusation leveled against Christians in the Roman Empire.

His solution to the Hebrew problem is slavery and lots of it. However, that doesn't work very well, so he decides that they need more slavery and harsher tactics. This also doesn't work very well at slowing down the growth of the Hebrew population, so his solution is to murder the sons that Hebrew women have. The reason he goes after just the sons and not all of the children is because the daughters, having no Hebrew sons to marry, would be forced to marry Egyptians and all of their inheritance would pass back to Egyptians and they would get their land back. Pharaoh was playing the long game.

During this program of killing the Hebrew sons, Moses is born and put in a basket in the river by his mother to save him. He is found by Pharaoh's daughter who names him Moses, which means "brought up out of the water". She then asks for a Hebrew woman to nurse him and they get his actual mother to be his nurse. Moses grows up in the palace with all of the privileges associated with it, and he's also aware of his true identity thanks to his mother who tells him. He starts to realize how the Hebrews are being treated and one day sees and Egyptian treating a Hebrew badly. Moses kills the Egyptian and buries him. Later, two Hebrews are fighting and Moses tells them to stop, and one asks if Moses is going to kill him like the Egyptian. Moses realizes that the crime is known and must flee for his life.

He goes to Midian and stops by a well, the greatest pick-up destination in the ancient world. While there he protects some women from shepherds who had driven them away from the well and then he waters their flock for them. The women were the daughters of the priest of Midian and one of them, Zipporah, is given to Moses in marriage. They have a son named Gershom. Moses settles down in Midian and that would have been the end of him as an important figure, but God heard the cries of His people and was ready to deliver them from Egypt.

One day Moses comes across a bush that is burning, but the bush is not being consumed by the flames. This strange sight draws him in, but he stops when he hears the voice of God. He immediately covers his face because no one is to look directly upon God no matter what form He takes. God introduces Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This is important because if He was just the God of Abraham, the Egyptians could claim Him because Hagar, Abraham's wife's maid, was Egyptian. If it was just Abraham and Isaac, then the descendants of Esau, the Edomites, could lay claim. This was the God of the people of Israel who were now slaves because that's where Jacob's family went. God says that He is here now because He has heard the cry for freedom of His people and wants to send them to the promised land.

Moses is reluctant because he knows that he's still a wanted man in Egypt. Added to that, he's not sure even though God says that He'll be with him. And so Moses asks for God's name so that he can tell the Hebrews who sent him when they inevitably ask. God's answer is "I am who am", or "I am". In Hebrew, this is Yahweh. It is the sacred name of God that orthodox Jews will still not utter to this day. Despite all of this, Moses is still reluctant. This is a familiar pattern and is called the pattern of the reluctant prophet. 1. God chooses the prophet. 2. Prophet doesn't want to be chosen. 3. Prophet tries excuses as to why they shouldn't go or be chosen. 4. God answers every excuse. 5. Prophet does what God asks.

The message that Moses then delivers to Pharaoh is not the one people think. It wasn't him going to him and saying, "let my people go"! Rather, Moses asks for pharaoh to let the Hebrews go into the desert for three days to offer sacrifice to God. That's it. Nothing about freedom or less work, just go to worship. The Lord knows Egypt will be stubborn, and pharaoh refuses. Thus begin the famous plagues.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Third Sunday of Advent - Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28


December 6, 2020, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:
The Patriarchs, part 2

After Jacob's vision of the ladder and God's renewal of the Abrahamic covenant with him, Jacob stops at a well. As we know, a great place to find a wife. There he meets Rachel and instantly falls in love with her. Rachel was the daughter of Laban who was Jacob's uncle. Some sources say Laban was Jacob's cousin; but regardless, Rachel and Jacob were cousins. After working for Laban for a month, Laban asks Jacob what he wants in return for his work.

Laban has two daughters: Leah is the older one, and Rachel is the younger one. Traditionally, the older daughter would be married off first, so when Jacob asks for Rachel's hand in marriage, the request is unusual. Jacob was in love with Rachel and, according to the scriptures, Leah wasn't that good looking. Jacob promises to work seven years for Laban in exchange for Rachel's hand in marriage and Laban agrees.

After seven years have elapsed, Jacob asked for Rachel to be brought to him so that they may consummate the marriage. Laban gives a banquet for the whole town, and when Jacob is nice and drunk, Laban sends Leah in to Jacob, not Rachel, and the two consummate. This is the true act of marriage, not a set of vows as we see it today. Therefore, when Jacob wakes up and realizes what had happened, he's quite mad at Laban because he was now married to Leah. His consent was not a factor but rather simply the act of consummation. Laban says that it's the custom to marry the older daughter first, regardless of what he'd said earlier, and then tells Jacob that if he works another seven years, he'll get Rachel as well. Jacob agrees and seven years later is married to Rachel. One thing to note is that polygamy, whenever we see it in the Bible, always leads to some sort of misery. There is never an instance in the scriptures when polygamy exists and everyone and everything is just great. This underscores the value of monogamy, which wasn't terribly common in the ancient world. However, God's laws have always been counter-cultural, even way back then.

So Jacob now has two wives: Rachel and Leah. Rachel was loved more, but she was barren. Leah wasn't loved by Jacob, but she bore sons. Leah bore Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah. Rachel, because she was barren, then gives her maid to Jacob to have sons, just like Sarah had done with Abraham. This maid bears Dan and Napthali. Leah, because she hadn't given Jacob any sons for a bit, decides to give her maid to him as well. This maid bears Gad and Asher. Then Leah is apparently able to have sons again, and she bears Issachar and Zebulun. Then apparently Rachel is no longer barren and finally has a son, and this is Joseph. Much later, Rachel will bear a second son, Benjamin. So Jacob has twelve sons by four different women. These twelve sons will be the twelve tribes of Israel.

Now Esau returns to the story; and Jacob hears that he's coming to see him with a retinue of 400 men. Jacob assumes the worst and assumes that Esau is still bent out of shape about him stealing his birthright, so Jacob gets his family out of harm's way and sends gifts to Esau in the hopes of appeasing him. Then, Jacob has a strange vision at night. In this vision, Jacob is wrestling an angel at night. When it's daybreak, the angel asks Jacob to let him go, but Jacob refuses unless the angel blesses him. The angel then asks for Jacob's name, and when he tells him, the angel replies that he shall no longer be known as Jacob, but rather as Israel. Israel means, "he who strives with God". Jacob meets with Esau, who had apparently gotten over the grudge, and all of that was settled. Then later, God appears to Jacob and confirms that his name will now be Israel. He tells Jacob to be fruitful and multiply (which he had already done quite well, I'd argue) and says that an assembly of nations will rise from his loins. The phrase, "be fruitful and multiply", which we hear at the creation of Adam and Eve, signifies just that - a new creation. This creation is the people of God.

Fast forward now to when the sons of Jacob are much older. Joseph is given a coat of many colors by his father. After all, Joseph (before Benjamin was born) was the only son of Rachel who was the one that Jacob truly loved. This gift of the technicolor dream coat was given as an obvious show of favoritism which did not do much to make Joseph's 10 older brothers happy. Added to that, Joseph wasn't very tactful with them. He told them of dreams that he had which showed him ruling over his 10 brothers. In another dream, he was ruling over his father and mother as well. The brothers took offense at this and pushed him into a well. Reuben, the oldest, convinced the others not to kill him but rather sell him into slavery.

Joseph is sold to some passing traders who take him to Egypt. Once there, Joseph was favored by the Lord, and so wherever he went and whatever he did was blessed. This allowed him to quickly rise to a position of great power and authority. Joseph filled the Egyptian stores with grain because the Lord told him there would be a famine there after years of prosperity. This famine struck the entire near-east, including modern day Israel. So everyone goes to Egypt to get grain because they have a surplus, including Joseph's brothers. However, when they arrive, they don't recognize Joseph because he's older, his name is different, and he speaks through an interpreter. Eventually Joseph reveals himself to them and Jacob's entire family moves to Egypt. This is the settling of the Israelites in Egypt and the beginning of what will be the captivity in Egypt. This is also the end of the Book of Genesis.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Second Sunday of Advent - Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11, 2 Peter 3:8-14, Mark 1:1-8


November 29, 2020, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures: The Patriarchs, part 1

All of God's promises to Abraham that we talked about last week were to be fulfilled through Isaac. However, before they could be fulfilled, Isaac needed to start his own family and for that, he needed a wife. Abraham told him that he should not marry a Canaanite (which is where they were living) because he was afraid that Isaac would get absorbed into their pagan customs. It was the same problem that happened when the line of Seth began to intermarry with the line of Cain.

Abraham sends his servants back to Mesopotamia to find a wife and on the way they stop at a well. Wells were natural gathering places for women because it was their job to fill the jugs with water. There they meet Rebekah, and she becomes the wife of Isaac. For a long time, Rebekah was childless just like Sarah, but eventually she has twins: Esau and Jacob. However, even in the womb, there was something different about them. They seemed to be fighting each other in her womb as if two nations opposed to each other. Esau was born red all over, as if he'd been struck again and again. Esau is close to the Hebrew word for "red". Jacob was born holding onto Esau's heel. Jacob means "he takes by the heel". Esau was Isaac's favorite and Jacob was Rebekah's favorite.

One day, when Jacob was making food, Esau comes in quite hungry and says that he would give away his birthright for what Jacob is making. Jacob agrees and this immediately shows that Esau thinks only in the short term while Jacob thinks in the long term. A birthright in those days meant that you were head of the family and received a double inheritance. Of course, it was unlikely that Isaac would honor this so-called trade so Esau figured he was in the clear.

Then we get the famous deception of Isaac by Rebekah and Jacob. Esau goes out to find game and prepare it for Isaac. Meanwhile, Rebekah dresses Jacob to feel like Esau (Isaac was now blind). When Jacob goes in to see Isaac, Isaac gives his blessing to Jacob, thinking that he is Esau. This blessing is to be the head of the family and bestow the birthright. Then Esau comes back and Isaac realizes that he's been deceived. However, he begins to shake violently because blessings, like the one he had given to Jacob, were absolute. It could not be retracted or changed. So when Isaac realizes he was deceived, he was terrified because he had given away the birthright to someone else whom he didn't know at the time. Once he realized it was Jacob, things were better. But this conflict between Jacob and Esau would be a prophecy for two future nations: Israel and Edom. These nations were mortal enemies. Jacob was the father of Israel and Esau was the father of Edom.

In the immediate aftermath of Jacob stealing the birthright of Esau, Jacob has to flee because Esau is going to kill him. Jacob flees to Haran where his uncle Laban lived. In Genesis 28:12-14, Jacob has a vision of a ladder with angles ascending and descending. Here, God renews the Abrahamic covenant with Jacob. This was God's way of blessing Jacob as Isaac's rightful descendant. Even though Jacob had tricked his way into it, he received the blessing from Isaac, and God recognized it as well.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings First Sunday of Advent - Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b, 64:2-7; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:33-37


November 22, 2020, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:

When we're introduced to Abram in Genesis chapter 12, one of the first things we're told is that he's 75 years old. The reason this is significant is, quite simply, that he's old. He's not the ideal person to be starting an entire new life, and yet he's chosen.

God makes three promises to Abram in Genesis 12:1-4. These are: land and a nation, kingship and a name, and that he will be a blessing for all nations. The land that he's promised is Canaan, and he's promised land because a nation needs land. Kingship and a name means that God will found a dynasty upon the name of Abram, a lowly and humble man. A blessing for all nations means that God will use Abram to bring salvation to the whole world. These promises are all fulfilled in subsequent covenants. The first promise, land and a nation, are fulfilled through Moses. Kingship and a name are fulfilled through David, and a blessing for all nations is fulfilled through Jesus Christ.

Now let's break these promises down individually. The first promise, land and a nation, is difficult for Abram to believe. He's rather old (75) and his wife, Sarai, is barren. An old man and a barren wife tend not to be the ideal candidates for starting an entire people. The promise is a good thing because it is considered a great blessing to have numerous descendants. However, the more time that passed since God made this promise, the more Abram was cautious about how this could actually come to pass. In Genesis 15:1-8, God makes the famous promise that Abram's descendants will be as numerous as the stars and the sands on the seashore. However, this time, Abram asks for proof that this promise will actually come true. In ancient times, serious oaths were sworn with sacrifices, and the most solemn way to swear an oath in this fashion was to cut a sacrifice in two and walk between the two halves (your guess as to why is as good as mine). And so we get God telling Abram to prepare a sacrifice and cut it in two, then God descends as a smoking fire pot and passes between the two halves. This is how Abram knows God means His oath. An interesting side note is that in the lectionary, it used to say brazier instead of fire pot, but too many lectors pronounced brazier as brassiere. That's true.

For the second promise, kingship and a name, the only way to found a dynasty on someone is for them to have their own children. Here we have a problem because Sarai is not only very old, but she's barren. So she thinks that God might have meant that Abram wasn't to have children through her. There was an ancient custom of a wife's servant having relations with the husband and then the husband and wife claim the children as their own. So Sarai's servant, Hagar, has relations with Abram and has Ishmael. However, Sarai becomes indignant at Hagar and casts both of them out. Ishmael then becomes the father to the Arabs. In Genesis 17, God confirms the second promise by changing Abram's name to Abraham, which means father of a multitude. The outward sign of the covenant is established as circumcision, and Sarai's name is changed to Sarah as God promises a child through her. She has Isaac, which means "he laughs", because Abraham laughed when he heard that his 90-year-old wife would bear a son.

Following the birth of Isaac, in Genesis 22, we have the famous sacrifice of Isaac. This shows the depth of Abraham's faith. He doesn't bargain or ask for clarification, he simply does. One of the reasons for this is that among the pagans in Canaan, child sacrifice was common. So why would Abraham think that his God is any different in asking for it, despite the fact it would destroy his line? But in the passage are some key elements that many miss. Often times, Isaac is depicted as quite young, implying that Abraham tricked Isaac into everything, and it wasn't until he was bound that he realized what was going on. This isn't true. When Abraham and Isaac separate off from the other servants, Isaac is carrying the wood. This would not have been a small amount of wood, and thus it shows that Isaac isn't that young or that small. Abraham is also about a thousand years old at this point, so he easily could've taken him. Then, when Abraham goes to bind him, Isaac would be fully aware of what's going on and could have fought back. Isaac is clearly a willing participant in this whole affair.

Isaac's willingness makes him a "type" of Christ. A "type" in Old Testament literature, is something that prefigures something in the New Testament. Isaac is a type of Christ because Christ, too, could have resisted, but didn't. The father was offering his beloved son, the son submitted to the will of the father, Isaac carried the wood for his sacrifice like Christ carried His cross, and in the end, God provides the sacrifice Himself. In the case of Isaac it was the ram, and in the case of Christ, it was God Himself providing the perfect sacrifice. God's final promise to Abraham, that he will be a blessing to all nations, will be fulfilled because Isaac will marry and bear children, thus continuing the line all the way down to Christ.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Christ the King - Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17; 1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28; Matthew 25:31-46


November 15, 2020, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures: T
he Fall of Man

We all know the story of the Fall of Man, facilitated in part by the serpent. A good question to ask is why Adam and Eve disobeyed God's command. They literally had one job to do, or in this case, not do. It all stems from pride which is why pride called the root of all sin. The serpent, which in Hebrew the word means "powerful evil creature", tempts them to believe that if they eat of the tree they will become like God. This desire to be equal to God, the same as Satan's and those fallen angels that followed him, is a very powerful desire, but it is unattainable. But our pride often clouds our minds when it comes to what we can and cannot actually achieve.

God told Adam and Eve that they would die if they ate the fruit and the serpent tells them that they won't die. God and Satan were both right but were talking about two different things. Satan was speaking of a physical death; and he meant it in terms of them not dying instantly. God was speaking of a spiritual death which they did die. By eating the fruit, Adam and Eve lost supernatural life, original holiness, and original justice. They chose to love themselves more than God.

And after it happens, God asks Adam where he is in the garden as if He doesn't know, which of course He does. The reason God asks them where they are and why they were hiding was because He was giving them a chance to confess. However, instead of immediately showing contrition for their disobedience, they make excuses. Adam blames Eve, and Eve blames the serpent. An interesting question to ask would be what would've happened if they had just confessed right then and there?

With the fall comes the curse. All of the good things that God blessed humanity with would now be cursed in some way because of their sin. The task to be fruitful and multiply will now be painful for the woman when she bears children. Work was supposed to be a joy but will now be filled toil and will not always be fruitful. The gift of life itself will now end with physical death, which is inevitable. Family life, which is in itself an image of God's love, is now marred by sin and so will not always be loving.

Before the fall, evil was confined to the supernatural realm. Adam and Eve allowed evil to enter our physical world. This is shown immediately afterward with Cain and Abel. Both sons bring sacrifices to God, and yet only Abel's is pleasing to God. This is not because God preferred Cain to Abel or animals to vegetables but rather because Cain was envious of his brother's sacrifice. Cain's mindset was bad from the beginning; and so the sacrifice, which was good in and of itself, was marred by Cain's envy, and the Lord obviously knew that which was why it wasn't pleasing. This is the first example of sin following the fall of Adam and Eve.

After Cain kills Abel, Adam and Eve have Seth, a third son who is the replacement for the righteous son that was killed. Cain and Seth each have their own line of descendants: Cain's is evil, thinking of themselves first, and Seth's is righteous, thinking of God first. However, the lines begin to intermarry; and the righteous line of Seth is then corrupted by the line of Cain. This is the beginning of the almost full corruption of humanity which precipitates the flood.

God plans to destroy everything in the flood apart from Noah, his family, and two of every creature. The reason God does not destroy Noah and his family as well and just start completely over is because Noah and his family are righteous. God will never punish those who are righteous. In the preparations for the flood, two numbers pop up: 7 and 40. These numbers are significant because 7 represents creation and the swearing of a covenant, while 40 always represents periods of trial and repentance. 40 years wandering in the desert, 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness, 40 days of Lent, etc.

A question that is asked all the time is whether or not the flood really happened as was described. Some modern theories point to events in history that could have been the flood. Basically there were large scale floods at certain points in history that could have been interpreted by the author as the whole world flooding. Also, the Hebrew word for "world" can also mean "country". That would change things as well if the whole country was flooded as opposed to the whole world. However, what really matters in this passage is not whether the world literally flooded and two of every creature set sail with a man and his family, but rather what the passage says about humanity's relationship with God.

The covenant with Noah is a second creation. God gives Noah and his family dominion over the earth like He did with Adam and Eve. Noah and his family weren't free from sin, though, so what was the point? The point was that Noah was provenly righteous. Even though he carries original sin, he proved he could still live a more or less righteous life. The flood is also a precursor to baptism. The old world sin is washed away, but we still carry the potential of sin with us after baptism. However, we've received God's blessing and His promise that He will not destroy us.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Thirty-Third Sunday In Ordinary Time - Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6; Matthew 25:14-30


November 8, 2020, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures: Creation

When it comes to the story of creation, the most important thing to remember from the outset is that it was never meant to be a scientific explanation of how the world came into being. It is meant, rather, to explain the order of creation. We look at creation as two sections: the first three days and the last three days. The first three days create environments and the last three days create rulers of those environments.

On the first day, what is created is night and day, light and darkness. God creates simply by the power of His word. He speaks and creation occurs. This is why we refer to Christ as the Word if you recall John's gospel: and the Word became flesh. This is a confirmation that Christ is a member of the Trinity, existing always. He was present at creation through God's Word.

On the second day we get sky and sea, and on the third, land and vegetation. God is creating a world with a structure. He is creating environments in which His creatures will live.

On the fourth day, we get the first of these rulers when the sun and the moon are created. They are the rulers for the environments of the day and night. On the fifth day, the birds and the fish are created to rule the environments of the sky and the sea. On the sixth day, beasts of the field for the land/vegetation and finally human beings to have dominion over all of the rulers.

On the seventh day, God rests. In Hebrew, the phrase "to swear a covenant" is based off the word for seven. So the implication with God resting on the seventh day is that God is swearing a covenant with the universe He created. The seventh day is a capstone for all of creation and carries with it that symbolism. Time and space exist for us, but not for God, meaning He is outside of both space and time. He isn't governed by it. God fills all of space and time which means God's divine presence can't actually move. He cannot move because if He did, then there is now a place where He is not (which is what movement implies). So when we say that God cannot move, it's not a restriction but rather something that cannot happen due to His nature. The number of days in the creation story is irrelevant, meaning the number mentioned is symbolic, not literal. The question that's answered in the creation story is "why", not specifically "how".

The second story of creation in chapter 2 of Genesis is specifically about the creation and purpose of man and woman. Adam's role, according to the scriptures, is to "till and keep" the garden, depending on the translation you're using. These are the same words that will be used by the Hebrew priests when they describe their own duties in regards to the Temple of the Lord. They use this same phrase to show that creation itself, represented by the Garden of Eden, is a temple.

When God sees that Adam is unhappy being alone, He decides to find a suitable companion for him. God parades every animal in creation before Adam, who proceeds to give them all names, to see if any is a suitable partner. Obviously, none of them are and God also knows this. So the question to ask is why God goes through this motion of showing Adam every animal, knowing that none will suffice. The reason is that it shows Adam that he, and by extension all of us, are different than all of the other animals. We are the only ones imbued with a rational soul. We are the only ones created in the image and likeness of God. And when modernity tries to elevate other animals to the same "human rights" as human beings, what they're actually doing is reducing the status of human beings to the level of simply animals.

When Eve is created, she is done so through God taking a rib from Adam and creating her from him. This shows that man and woman are created to be a communion of persons: "bone of my bone" and "flesh of my flesh". They are complementary to each other, and so in marriage, they truly become one in a union that both unitive and procreative.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Thirty-Second Sunday In Ordinary Time - Wisdom 6:12-16; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 25:1-13


November 1, 2020, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures: Old Testament Overview

A common question that's asked is why do Christians need to know the Old Testament? Christianity is about the worship of Jesus Christ as God who doesn't appear until the New Testament, so what benefit do we get from studying the Old Testament? The answer to those questions is given in the first verse of the New Testament: Matthew 1:1. It's the list of ancestors of Jesus Christ which is also a summary of Old Testament history. This is how Jesus is related to the Old Testament. If we do not understand the Old Testament, we cannot understand the New. The New Testament does not replace or cancel out the Old, it fulfills it. The whole point of the Old Testament is to prepare for the coming of Christ. The authors of the Old Testament really didn't know this, but that does not matter.

The books of the Old Testament are organized into four categories: Law, History, Wisdom, and Prophecy. The books of the Law are first because they are the foundation of the Old Testament. Prophetic books are last because they look to what has yet to be.

There are five books of the Law: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. These are also referred to as the Torah (Law), Pentateuch (five books), or the five books of Moses. Genesis tells the story of creation, the origin of the nation of Israel, Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Joseph and the Technicolor dream coat, and ends with Joseph and his family living in Egypt. Exodus is the story of the Israelites in Egypt, Moses, the escape from Egypt, and the Ten Commandments. Leviticus is named for the priestly tribe of Levi and is a book of laws, mostly dealing with religious observances. It is very explicit and very detailed in this regard. Numbers is a census of the twelve tribes of Israel and the story of the 40 years in the desert and the Israelites' near-constant rebellion against God and Moses. Deuteronomy, which means second law, repeats the Ten Commandments and also contains new laws for living in the promised land.

The Historical Books come next and begin with Joshua which tells the story of the conquest of the Holy Land. The Book of Judges is the time immediately afterward, when the people were constantly disobeying God, and then judges were raised up to help free them from their enemies. Judges were military or other leaders, not judicial judges as we would think of them. The Book of Ruth is about a foreign woman who converts to Judaism. Her great-grandson is King David, making her a relative of Christ. 1 Samuel deals with the first king of Israel: Saul. 2 Samuel is the story of David after Saul's death and includes the covenant with David. 1 Kings is King Solomon, the prophet Elijah, and the building of the Temple. 1 Chronicles is much of the same history as 1 and 2 Samuel, but from a different point of view. 2 Chronicles is much of the same as 1 and 2 Kings but focusing on the southern kingdom of Judah. Ezra is the story of the Jews coming back from the Babylonian Exile, and Nehemiah is about restoring the city of Jerusalem and the people promising to live by the Law of Moses. Tobit is a story about a pious man living in the exile and is where we hear the name of the archangel Raphael. Judith is about an heroic woman who saves Israel and her success was due to her trust in God. Esther is about an Israelite woman who becomes the queen of Persia, saving her people from the plot of evil enemies. 1 and 2 Maccabees are the end of the Historical Books but chronologically are between the prophets and the New Testament. They tell the story of the Maccabean revolt.

The Wisdom Books are mostly written in verse, telling us how we should live. The Book of Job is a long poem that asks the question: why does God let bad things happen to good people? Psalms is a collection of religious poems/songs, mostly attributed to David. Proverbs is a collection of wise sayings, mostly attributed to Solomon. Ecclesiastes is a long meditation on vanity. The Song of Songs is the world's most famous love poem which is seen as an allegory for Christ's love for His Church. Wisdom is a poem in praise of wisdom (shock). Sirach tells us how to live a good life and how to live in the real world without compromising our faith in God.

The prophets were sent by God to bring His words to His people. The things that were primarily prophesied about were disasters, comfort, and the messiah. There were four "major prophets" and thirteen "minor prophets". The four major prophets were Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Isaiah, and you can remember them because they spell out JEDI. Isaiah's prophecies are the clearest in regard to the coming of Christ, Jeremiah foretold the destruction of Judah (southern kingdom), Ezekiel is apocalyptic literature and full of strange visions, and Daniel was a prophet in exile in Babylon. The other prophets: Baruch, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, mostly foretell specific prophecies for their time while including messianic prophecies which are all fulfilled by Jesus Christ.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings All Saints Day - Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14; 1 John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12a


October 25, 2020, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures; The Bible as Literature

The Bible is sacred because it's the word of God. This is pretty simple. The Bible is literature because it's a written work. Because it's a written work, it uses literary forms and devices that are found in all written work. We always need to remember that the Bible was actually written by a human being who was also inspired by God. There are numerous types of literature that are found in the scriptures: stories, poems, dialogue, figurative language, parables, records, etc. So many different authors in different times result in the variety that we see. The Bible is also ancient literature. We must take into account the situation at the time when a particular book and/or passage was written. The same thing could be presented in different fashions depending on certain things such as the author, the audience, and the historical conditions.

Ultimately, the Bible is religious. Every passage in the scriptures has two senses: the literal and the spiritual. The literal sense is what the author intended to express. In other words, what is the passage saying on its face? The spiritual sense is the meaning of the passage when read under the influence of the Holy Spirit in light of the mystery of Christ. These senses should never be in contradiction. For example, the parable of the mustard seed in which Jesus stipulates that the mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds. This is not a scientific fact. So does that make Jesus a liar? The author of the passage is a liar? Or did they just not know? The point of the passage is not to make a scientific argument for the size of seeds, but rather to point out that having faith "the size of a mustard seed" can result in great things. So the two senses of the passage are not in conflict, nor is the passage in err because its intention was not to be a scientific fact.

Our history is never objective. History, as we know, is written by the victors and thus it is always written from a point of view that belongs to someone. Scriptural history, however, is ultimately written by God and is therefore His point of view. Because of that, scriptural history is completely unbiased. The important thing about history to the biblical writers is what it tells us about God's relationship with His people. The famous people in our history are kings, emperors, presidents, generals, etc; people that are elevated in the scheme of society. The famous people in biblical history are seemingly ordinary people: fishermen, tax collectors, farmers. While we don't see them now as ordinary people because of our knowledge of the Bible, imagine how they were viewed by their contemporaries. Jesus Himself is maligned for being simply the son of a carpenter. Ordinary people carry God's message. That's why the Bible tends to ignore people like emperors and kings for the most part and concentrates on those who were truly important. In fact, the Israelites never even had images made of their own kings. The only image of an Israelite king that we have is one from the Assyrian Empire, where the Israelite King Jehu was bowing before the Assyrian king.

The main story of the Bible is the story of Salvation History: the story of how God's plan to save us was worked out over thousands of years. Salvation history is seen as a series of covenants over the course of time. A covenant is more than just a contract. It unites the participants in a family relation; something that is meant to last and cannot be broken. That's why marriage is a covenant. Throughout history there have been six covenants and each has built on the one previous to it. The covenants don't replace each other, they build upon each other. The first covenant was with Adam. It was quite simple: be fruitful and multiply and it was formed with a couple. The second was Noah, which was the second chance for humanity. It was formed with a family. The third was Abraham which was God creating a new nation and forming a covenant with a people. The fourth was Moses which gave a law and a homeland for this nation of people. Then the fifth was David which gave a King for this nation. Then was Christ who was the savior for the nation. Each built upon the one before it.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Exodus 22:20-26; 1 Thessalonians 1:5c-10; Matthew 22:34-40


October 18, 2020, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW

In this series, I will attempt to give a general overview of the key points in the Bible, that of salvation history. This will look at the story of salvation from Genesis through the gospels. It won't be totally comprehensive and cover every book but rather the unifying thread that is woven throughout. To begin, however, it's good to look at an overview of the Bible itself.

The Bible is composed of 73 books and 2 testaments. This is different than the Bible used by Protestants which contain 66 books. The seven books that are left out of Protestant bibles are Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, and parts of Daniel and Esther. Luther adopted the Jewish scriptures for his old testament in a way of subverting Church authority. The reason the Jews left those seven books out is because they were originally written in Greek as opposed to Hebrew. The three original languages of the Bible are Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic (although no book is composed entirely of Aramaic).

All scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit. What this does not mean is that the scriptures were dictated and then written down. This is called dictation theory and is incorrect. Divine inspiration is mysterious insofar as it is 100% human and 100% divine (like Christ Himself). How this works exactly, we're not sure. But this does mean that every book has a human author and a divine author.

Now as to who actually wrote what, that is up for debate. The Torah or Pentateuch (first five books) are traditionally attributed to Moses. This is in dispute because Deuteronomy chronicles the death of Moses and then continues afterward. However, nothing is impossible for God; so, in theory, the argument could be moot. As for the historical books of the Old Testament, there is no agreed upon author to my knowledge. It's always safe to attribute the prophet the book is named after for the prophetic books, and David and Solomon are responsible for many of the Wisdom books. The New Testament is much easier as almost all books have the author in their title. Acts of the Apostles was written as a sequel to Luke's gospel, and Revelation was written by the apostle John. God, of course, is the ultimate author. But He had humans write it so we could actually understand it. Each book was written by a particular person, in a particular place, at a particular time, and for a particular group of people. This was specifically for those people to be able to understand it. However, there is also a timeless nature to the scriptures. Messages from them can be re-applied today even if they don't ring literally true.

Scripture is also not our only source of Catholic beliefs and teachings. The Protestants believe in Sola Scriptura (scripture alone) which claims that scripture is the only source of teaching. The Catholic belief (which is backed up by scripture itself) is that scripture and Tradition work together. Both are divine. Scripture is obviously the word of God and Tradition comes to us originally from Christ and is handed on through the apostles and their successors. Thus, like the scriptures, it is divine in origin.

Because the scriptures are divine in origin, they are inerrant (without err). This can sometimes be a stumbling block for people because if you read some passages in scripture, they seem to be factually inaccurate and thus in error. But it's important to remember that the truth is not just in the words themselves on the page, but in the meaning and the message. It's always good to ask ourselves what the passage is actually trying to say. Because if the Bible was truly inspired by God (which it was), then it cannot err at its core.

As for the interpretation of scripture, anyone can do that. However, only the pope and the Magisterium can interpret the scriptures infallibly. I can interpret them however I want, but my interpretation and yours are secondary to the Church authority's interpretation. This allows the Church to maintain uniformity of understanding when it comes to the word of God.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Isaiah 45:1, 4-6; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5b; Matthew 22:15-21


February 23, 2020, Bulletin... The Lenten Season

This Wednesday (02/26/2020) is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten Season. The Ash Wednesday mass times will be 8:15am, which will include the whole school, and 6pm. I would like to use this week's column to talk about Lent and what we will be offering here at the parish.

Of course, one of the most famous things about Lent are the Knights of Columbus Fish Fry Dinners. Those dates are Feb. 28, Mar 6, 13 & 27, and the time is from 5-7pm at Bishop Hogan. These are wonderful opportunities to not only support the Knights and the great work they accomplish throughout the year but also to grow in parish fraternity and community unity as many non-Catholics come to these events. It is an opportunity for us as a parish community to show the greater Chillicothe area who we are and what we're about during this penitential season. Abstinence from meat during Lent is a very visible and tangible reminder for Catholics that allows us to connect ourselves more closely with the sacrifice on Calvary that we commemorate most intimately on Good Friday.

But what many don't know is that abstinence from meat on Friday is not just contained to Lent. In fact, the Church asks that every Friday, Catholics abstain from eating meat. The exception that came about was that another suitable penance could be substituted outside of Lent on Fridays as opposed to not eating meat, but unfortunately most are unaware of this and don't substitute anything. I would encourage you all, as we move through the mandatory abstinence of Lent, to reflect upon this practice when we enter the Easter Season and beyond.

Adults aged 18-59 are also asked to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday in addition to abstaining from meat on both days. The fast, a laudable spiritual and physical practice, means that we can have one normal-sized meal and two smaller meals that together, would not equal the normal meal. Fasting is a wonderful way to focus the mind on spiritual matters, because although the rumbling of our stomachs makes us immediately think of food, our next thought goes to the fast and the reason we're doing it.

I used to weigh 250 pounds when I was in college. At one point, I dropped all the way to 175 through what is called a "crash diet" and exercise. A crash diet is basically not eating a lot and minimizing caloric intake dramatically in order to facilitate weight loss. The problem with that is that you don't learn to actually eat right, you just eat less. I wouldn't recommend it as a long-term solution. But I mention this because at night I would often go to bed hungry, but that was a reminder that I was trying to become healthier and when I eventually did, I wanted to do everything I could to maintain that health. In like manner, when we fast and abstain from meat, we need to remember we are trying to grow spiritually; and if we persevere, we will want to maintain that spiritual growth no matter what.

On Fridays we will have Stations of the Cross at the parish at 6pm. The Stations of the Cross are a wonderful way for us to come more face to face with Christ's sacrifice, as they allow us to meditate and reflect more directly on every suffering step our Savior went through to gain for us the prize of salvation. I highly encourage all to attend and to even make them yourselves during Lent if you're unable to make the official time. The church is normally unlocked during the day.

Also, on the Tuesdays of March 3, 24, 31, and April 7, following the 6pm mass, we will have a soup dinner hosted by the Altar Society in the cafeteria of the school, and I will present a scripture study as well. One of the subjects I've formally taught was a course on the scriptures, and there are many nuances to passages we feel like we know so well that we're actually unaware of. I hope that through these sessions I can help expand your knowledge of the Word of God which will then help when we hear these passages during mass.

I pray that you all have a very fruitful and blessed Lenten Season. My prayers are continually for all of the parishioners here and students in our school. I am so blessed to be a part of such a wonderful and generous community, and not a day goes by that I don't stand in awe of the great honor that has been bestowed upon me to be your pastor.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time - Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18; 1 Corinthians 3:16-23; Matthew 5:38-48


December 8, 2019, Bulletin ... Rorate Mass

On Saturday, December 14, instead of the normally scheduled 8:15 Latin mass, we will have what is called a "Rorate Mass". The mass will still be the Traditional Latin Mass, but it will begin at 6:45am instead of 8:15. The Rorate Mass takes its name from the opening words of the Introit which comes from Isaiah 45:8: "Rorate, caeli, desuper, et nubes pluant justum, aperiatur terra, et germinet Salvatorem." "Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the just: let the earth be opened and bud forth a Savior."

The reason for the change in time is that the Rorate Mass is supposed to begin before sunrise. It is a votive mass in Mary's honor that is said during Advent. It is also lit only by candlelight. We will have personal candles for the faithful to hold in addition to all of the candles (and some extra!) lit on and around the high altar. In the dimly lit setting, the priest and the faithful prepare to honor the Light of the world, Who is soon to be born, and offer praise to God for the gift of Our Lady. As the mass proceeds and sunrise approaches, the church becomes progressively brighter, illumined by the sun as our faith is illumined by Christ.

The readings and prayers of the mass foretell the prophecy of the Virgin who would bear a Son called Emmanuel and call on all to raise the gates of their hearts and their societies to let Christ the King enter; asking for the grace to receive eternal life by the merits of the Incarnation and saving Resurrection of Our Lord. I hope that you will all be able to join us on Saturday morning before dawn to welcome the day as we will soon welcome Our Lord.

Sunday, December 8, is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and also the Second Sunday of Advent. As such, in the new calendar, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception is transferred to Monday and is NOT a holy day of obligation. However, in the old calendar which is followed by the Traditional Latin Mass, the Immaculate Conception is not moved from Sunday. Therefore, Monday, December 9, is not the Immaculate Conception in the old calendar, but rather a weekday in Advent. Because the Traditional Latin Mass is offered on Mondays, that is why the Feast does not appear on our liturgical schedule. If you have any questions or need any clarifications on this, I will be happy to help.

Scripture Readings Second Sunday of Advent - Isaiah 11:1-10; Romans 15:4-9; Matthew 3:1-12


November 17, 2019, Bulletin... Celebration of 140th Anniversary of Church Dedication

As it was announced last weekend, on Sunday, November 24, at 2pm, we will have a Solemn High Latin Mass to commemorate the 140th anniversary of the dedication of our beautiful church. If you have never experienced a Solemn High Mass or even a Latin mass before, I highly encourage you to attend. The full array of the beauty of the Latin Rite, of which we are all members, will be on display. It's also a bye-week for the Chiefs.

What makes a Solemn High Mass different than the low mass which is celebrated on Monday and Saturday mornings already is that it is a much fuller expression of the rite. The low mass is said by the priest with or without a server. There is no music, and there cannot be more than two servers. Everything about a low mass is relatively simplistic. A Solemn High Mass involves more servers, music, as well as more clerics. There is a deacon and a subdeacon in addition to the priest. I am very grateful to Fr. Eric Schneider, pastor of St. Ann's in Plattsburg and St. Joseph's in Easton, and Fr. Kevin Drew, pastor of St. Joseph's in Trenton and Immaculate Conception in Princeton, for taking time out of their busy schedules to assist in these roles. They are both priests within our deanery, and it's a wonderful display of fraternity and unity within our local church as well to have them.

For those who might be skeptical because of the mass being in Latin and possibly unfamiliar in general, I have a few suggestions to help. First, I recommend reading my explanation on the Traditional Latin Mass that can be found in its entirety on the parish website. Second, I recommend coming to one of the low masses this week, either on Monday morning or especially Saturday morning, the 23rd, which is the feast of St. Columban. Third, feel free to reach out to me with any questions you might have in general. I'm always more than happy to offer explanations about the liturgy. Also, we will have booklets which will have the translations of the prayers and readings as well.

I've said many times that one of the beauties of the Traditional Latin Mass (for me personally) is the lack of pressure on the faithful. When I first began attending masses in Latin, it was only because I spent the night at a friend's house and that's where they went. I didn't understand what was going on, and I felt like I had to say and do the right things, otherwise I would be doing something wrong. But the more I began to understand the mass, the more I realized that all that is required of the faithful is to simply pray. The faithful offer their sacrifice through the priest but the manner in which they do that is up to them. They may respond with the servers and/or choir or not. They can spend the whole time kneeling and praying the rosary in the back of the church. What's important is the mindset. All you need to do is offer prayer along with the priest and you've fulfilled your role. In reality, it's very little pressure as opposed to needing to respond at certain times, etc.

The final thing I'll mention is the beautiful image that we will be on that Sunday afternoon. On an altar that's 115 years old, in a church that's 140 years old, with many last names the same as back then, we will offer the august sacrifice of the mass as one parish community, unbroken for 162 years and, by the grace of God, unbroken for decades and centuries to come. The chalice that I will be using is 62 years old and was the ordination chalice of Fr. Sinclair, whose first assignment was here in 1957 and taught at the high school.

I, as your servant in Christ, will face the same direction as you, leading us toward God and heaven. I know that some are uneasy about the priest facing the same direction as the congregation; and for that conversation, I will leave you with two points. First, the priest is offering the sacrifice on behalf of the people. In a way, he is "driving" the mass. Would you ever get on a bus where the driver was facing you and not the road? Second, the chalice I mentioned is gold-plated. As such, it's highly reflective like a mirror. When I elevate the chalice at the freestanding altar on the weekends, I see the high altar and the tabernacle behind me. That's a beautiful image. However, when I use it at the high altar, I have God within the chalice itself, and reflected in it I can see you. I see all of you reflecting off the vessel which holds God Himself. That's a more beautiful image and a more complete image. On the 24th, I hope to see the reflected image of a full church, the same as it would have been all of those years before.

Scripture Readings 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Malachi 3:19-20a; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12; Luke 21:5-19


September 29, 2019 Bulletin - Last weekend, we had two major fundraising events at the parish: the Fall Festival and the Quinn 5K. Both events, in order to be successful, needed good weather on a weekend with nothing but rain forecasted. When I was in seminary, I was told that the best thing to do to ward off unwanted rain was to pray the Memorare prayer to Mary as much as you can. When I looked at the forecast, I lit a candle on the Marian altar and said the first Memorare. Every time I thought about the weekend (which was often) or spoke with someone about it, I would pray one and encourage them to do the same. As the weekend approached, the forecast became more and more certain that rain would persist all weekend.

On Saturday, the rain tapered off around 7-7:30am, just before the run began. It started again after the race. On Sunday morning, as our amazing volunteers struggled with tents in the pouring rain, it appeared as if the whole event would be forced inside. However, when I walked over from the rectory at 11:45 with an umbrella, by the time I reached the gym doors, I no longer needed it. The sun came out, tables and chairs were set up for people to eat and watch the Chiefs game outside, and the rain held off even for the cleanup.

Mary is a powerful intercessor. Anyone who thinks that God's hand wasn't present that weekend as He watched over our parish and its events would be mistaken. Through Our Lady's intercession and the mercy of God, our fundraisers were both successful. Never doubt the power of prayer. Never doubt the power of Mary's intercession. Never doubt that our parish's devotion and love for God aren't rewarded. I am so grateful to Our Lord and our tremendous volunteers for a successful weekend, and it excites me to think what we'll be able to accomplish, with God's help, in the future. For if God is for us, who can be against us?


June 9, 2019 - I would like to use this week's column to introduce myself to all of you. This will allow me to preach about Pentecost this weekend as opposed to preaching about myself. I was born and raised in the northland of Kansas City, about 15 minutes from the airport. I attended Rockhurst High School and graduated in 2007 before heading to the University of Dallas to study history. My dream was to become a high school history teacher. However, after two years, I discerned that God was calling me to the seminary instead. I graduated from Conception Seminary College in 2011 and attended the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, OH. I was ordained on May 23, 2015; and my first assignment was to teach full time at Bishop LeBlond High School (don't worry, all of my shirts are going into storage). I taught there for three years and also coached the boys and girls soccer teams as well. So I have been to Chillicothe several times but only to the high school and only on the visitor's sideline. After three years, I was assigned to St. Therese Parish in Parkville, MO, the largest parish in our Diocese, as the associate. While there, I also helped a bit at St. Pius X High School, helping to coach their soccer teams as well (and those shirts are going into storage as well). While there, I coached against my former teams at LeBlond; and I mention this, not because I'm a turncoat, but because I'm fiercely loyal. And while it might be awhile before I'm wearing the red and black of the Hornets, know that I am very happy to be here and look forward to the many ways in which I can serve the great community that we have here. One final note: there will undoubtedly be some things that will change from what Fr. Kneib did and while some change is always expected, I do not intend any of it to be disruptive. There is always a reason for why I do what I do, which means if you ever have a question about it, you will get an answer. I pray that my tenure here is long and fruitful, and know of my prayers for all of you as we start this new journey together.

A Duty Sanctioned - Parishioner Brenda O'Halloran has written a book based on the story of us. The book is entitled A Duty Sanctioned. You may read an excerpt by clicking on the book image here. We hope you will purchase your very own copy of the book to read in its entirety and to also help with this very worthwhile fundraising endeavor! TO ORDER: Contact Kim at the church office (email subject: Book Order). We prefer that you pick your order up at the church office, but mailing options are available (applicable shipping costs apply).

GUIDE TO OUR STATUES: A guide is available on this website to help you learn about the statues in the church. Mouse over the General Information tab at the top of any page to see a dropdown menu with a link to the guide or click here...

RESOURCES - Here are some resources available to aid us in being more knowledgeable about our faith. Please consider the following to determine which might be the best for you.

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St. Columban Catholic Church 1111 Trenton Street, Chillicothe, MO  64601
Phone: 660-646-0190

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