Reflections on the Discovering Christ Retreat

By Ted Haynie

Pneumatology

At a retreat on Saturday, the topic, “Who Is the Holy Spirit?” challenged the participants to focus on the Third Party of the Triune God. The people present, all Catholics, have said, “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” thousands of times over the course of their lives. Yet, many of us haven’t spent much time, if any, considering who that Third Person of the Trinity is, let alone how we incorporate His existence into our daily lives.

The Franciscan Spiritual Center in Aston, Pennsylvania, is on the campus of Neumann University. The center is located in Our Lady of Angels Convent. The building itself impresses. Five stories, spotless, gorgeous grounds including a grotto, a labyrinth, Stations of the Cross, and beautiful, labeled trees. The environment provides a peaceful and welcoming setting for God-thought.

We didn’t see many nuns, and the ones we did see wore civilian (as opposed to habits) clothes. I assume the elderly, plump, short-haired woman greeting us at the dining hall was a nun. She represented what I now think of as a nun: genial, helpful, dedicated. Not at all like the nun I had in first grade who intimidated me. Then again, if I had seventy first graders in one classroom I would try to intimidate them into submission too. Perspective tells so much of any story. Of nuns and just about everything else.

Mid-morning we watched a video that suggested that one of the Holy Spirit’s jobs is to reveal God’s personal love for us. He also gives us “power to live the Christian life,” “speaks the truth to us,” “helps us to know God in prayer,” and “empowers us to help others to know Jesus.”

We broke into small groups to discuss our thoughts and impressions. It didn’t take long to get to some heavy theological issues. When asked if anyone had experienced the Holy Spirit directly, one woman told a story about literally feeling “hands on my shoulders” as she tried to stay awake while driving on the Atlantic City Expressway. Another woman shared a story about how she felt the Holy Spirit push her forehead at a moment when she needed it. Were these physical interventions the Holy Spirit? How does a guardian angel fit into these emblematic anecdotes?

We spoke of the difficulty of envisioning a spirit. “I pray to God and to Jesus; I’ve never prayed to the Holy Spirit,” one person said. Another asked, “How can a spirit be the third “Person” of the Trinity? The beliefs of the members of the group ranged from “I’ve always prayed to the Holy Spirit” to “It seems more like a force or a spirit than a person to me.”

But Jesus certainly indicated that the Holy Spirit is a person. In John 14, Jesus says He “will send a Counselor who will dwell in us” (and the world cannot receive). This Counselor (Chapter 15 of John) will come and bear witness to Jesus. In Chapter 16, Jesus makes it clear: “I will send him to you…When the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” So, we are to understand the Holy Spirit to be a person and divine. A person because Jesus calls the Spirit a Counselor, and because the spirit speaks to us, helps us, empowers us. These are the actions of a person. Divine because the Spirit fully comprehends the thoughts of God, which He passes on to believers.

The Catholic Church teaches that the Father is in the Son and in the Spirit; the Son is in the Father and in the Spirit; the Spirit is in the Father and in the Son. This arrangement, according to the Baltimore Catechism, is known by the very cool word “circumincession.” The Spirit is the love of the Father and the Son as it acts in our world.

Did the members of the group walk out understanding everything there is to understand about the Holy Spirit? Definitely not. But they walked out informed. Informed about what others thought. Informed about church teaching.

Mostly though, we appreciated the mystery and splendor of our church. And we spent time thinking important thoughts. In fact, the most important thoughts. Are we supposed to comprehend everything? Probably not, but we are supposed to know the Holy Spirit’s role in the Trinity and in our lives. And as is true with so many faith issues, our own personal ratification of the contract made with God is necessary. “I ask you, Holy Spirit, to fill me and empower me to live as a son or daughter of God. I want to have your grace to truly live a new life.”

Not a bad way to spend a Saturday.

 

Feed and Be Fed a Huge Success!

“Whatsoever you do to the least of these, you do unto me,” says our Lord and Savior.  In celebration of His birth, last year, we announced that St. Rose was starting a bold new initiative to end Hunger called “Feed and Be Fed”.

 

The simple program asked all of us to pick up one non-perishable item during our routine grocery shopping and to bring the item to Mass and place it in the collection bin.  During Mass, we in turn are fed.  It’s that simple!

 

•      There are 80,000 people in Montgomery County either hungry or struggling to put food on the table.  One-third of them are children!

•      St. Rose parishioners set an initial goal to collect 80,000 servings and distribute them to local food banks including Manna on Main Street in Lansdale, the Mattie Dixon Food Cupboard in Ambler, Inter-Faith Housing Alliance Cupboard in Roslyn, Catherine’s Cupboard at Gwynedd Mercy University and St. Helena Food Cupboard in Olney.

 

On behalf of all of these food cupboards, and those that they served, “THANK YOU!”   We achieved our goal of collecting 80,000 servings of food this year which is more than the number of seats at Lincoln Financial Field!

 

This simple act, done by many of us in unison, has been a tremendous boost to the food banks and to those in need.  It’s truly inspiring to see how St. Rose parishioners have worked on this project – and we invite you to be part of it again!

 

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of our parish, we are continuing our food collection program and calling it Feed and Be Fed 100 with a new goal of collecting 100,000 servings of food in 2019.

 

As a group of people that believe we should help those in need, we are asking you once again to work together to accomplish this important and sizeable goal.  If each one of us commits to being here weekly to offer our prayers and food donation we can provide meaningful and life-giving help to hungry families in our community.  With our hearts open, we too will be fed by the Word of God and Eucharist.

 

There are also opportunities through-out the year to get more involved with the Social Justice team to see the effects of this work first hand.  You can join us in delivering food, visiting the homeless shelters, and being part of our outreach efforts in the coming year.  Contact us at jselner@srol.org offer your assistance. Thank you!

Prayer Shawl Ministry Highlighted at Masses on April 14 & 15, 2018

 

On April 14-15, St. Rose of Lima Parish heard from members of the very active Prayer Shawl Ministry.  They spoke about the beautiful work they undertake to offer hand-made shawls and prayer to anyone in need of a “hug from God”.  Ministry leaders Ginny and Paul Hunter shared these thoughts about the experience of presenting to the congregation and the Parish’s amazing response.

 

My favorite aspect of the Prayer Shawl Ministry is how collaborative it is.  Ministry members read at mass, others helped after mass, some contributed supplies, knitters created the shawls and another team of helpers wrapped them. And we can’t forget the dedicated members of our prayer team.

 

We received 33 new prayer intentions and distributed many shawls.  The mini-shawls were a big hit!  Most importantly, people got the message that a prayer team daily uplifts their intentions and their well-being, and that of their families, to our Heavenly Father.  Responses we received from the parish members were sincere; many almost in disbelief that something so simple was in existence at St. Rose parish.

 

The following day, a woman from north Philly called for a shawl for a baby.  When she came to pick it up, she requested one for a friend diagnosed with Cancer and 14 mini-shawls for others.  She left a list of all their intentions. (She has made two trips, as our inventory of mini-shawls is depleted.)  We have since received four more shawl requests from previous recipients who felt that they benefited from wearing theirs around their shoulders, and gave out 10 shoulder wraps to members of Living Again, the St. Rose parish bereavement group.

 

Surprise, surprise — we have been blessed with at least 20 new shawls that have been labeled, blessed and made ready for packaging at our next group meeting.  I feel that the Holy Spirit is the director of our little operation, reminding us to trust in His Divine Providence – manifested once again in His version of supply and demand.

 

Click HERE to learn more about the Prayer Shawl Ministry and how you may help spread the love of Christ!

St. Rose Visit to the Coordinated Homeless Outreach Center in Norristown on March 20, 2018

 

Nothing can prepare you for the experience of preparing and serving dinner to the ~50 residents of the Coordinated Homeless Outreach Center (CHOC) in Norristown.  The courage, determination, and humility of those struggling with the basics is moving and a sobering reality.  And in the midst of this, there is hope, happiness, and an amazing menu!   But overwhelmingly the interesting part of the experience were the tomato gardening tips that St. Rose parishioners learned from CHOC residents.  Most of us left wondering how we could not have known this before – and how you find wisdom in unexpected places!

 

On March 20th, St Rose hosted dinner at the CHOC facility in Norristown as part of our Hunger and Homelessness social justice efforts.  The CHOC dinners give us a chance to sit down, eat, and socialize with the residents.  Ever since CHOC moved facilities in mid-2017, they have been without an on-site kitchen.  High quality hot meals don’t come frequent enough.

 

The social justice team has adopted CHOC as an area of focus, and we have a dinner every several months at their location.  A cross-section of parishioners from St. Rose help by either preparing dinner at the parish center, donating items, transporting the meal to the facility, serving it to the residents and spending time with them, or a combination of these activities.  It’s a team effort and people can donate as little or a much time as they can give.   In addition to the dinner, several tenors associated with Gwynedd Mercy University provided traditional Irish music for the evening.  We are especially grateful that the event could go on despite the wintery weather conditions.

 

Here is a recipe for the delicious Irish stew we served for dinner and some pictures at CHOC’s Facebook page

Montgomery County declared a “Cold Blue” weather emergency because of wind chills below 20F and the impending storm.   This means that the CHOC facility is opened-up for additional people on an emergency basis – making the need for dinner even greater.  You quickly realize that there are the sheltered homeless, and then there are the truly unsheltered homeless people living on the streets.   CHOC does not really receive extra resources when a Code Blue is declared – so the bountiful dinner was really welcomed.  Coincidentally, our last visit on December 12, 2017, also was a code blue!

 

Most of us don’t drive past many homeless people in our daily routines.  Montgomery County has a strong economy and an innovative public-private partnership called “Your Way Home” to make homelessness “rare, brief, and non-recurring”.   The Your Way Home partnership offers a central intake process, counseling, transitional services, and suite of services to help people maintain housing (and prevent entering shelters or being street homeless).  And it’s working – the January 2018 point-in-time count of homeless individuals in the county shows excellent results: a 37% reduction in homelessness from 2013 to 2018.  But that still leaves about 300 people living in shelters or on the streets – and CHOC is perhaps the largest shelter in the county.

 

As the director of CHOC said in an interview  “What I think most people don’t know is that the people that come to the shelter could be them.  Their nieces, their nephews, their sons, their daughters, their sisters, their brothers.  You realize as you get to know them, that they’re no different than you, they’re no different than me.  We all want to have friends; we all want to have family.  And the people coming to the shelter looking for help have lost so much of that already.”   From Theater Horizon’s “Imagine No Homelessness” project

 

We find ourselves a mere 9 miles away from St Rose meeting Dan* a person that used to live in our parish boundaries, and Adam* – a man that had a failed relationship and could not afford the security deposit and first month’s rent on his own, and a twenty-something year old Gordon*.   (*not their real names)

Gordon was trying to make his way from California to Connecticut slept on the street the night before.  He was clearly looking for a way to store food for a future meal.   He was a very hopeful person – and asked me a lot of questions about places that I have traveled.

We referred him to the Your Way Home call center, and also directed him to the Legion of Mary Brother House in Norristown for their services on Mondays and Thursdays.  After a search, I found a piece of aluminum foil and gave it him.  He was so thankful.  He offered me a decal that he found commemorating the Eagles Super Bowl win – as he noticed my Eagles shirt.  I refused, but he insisted.  After all, he was from California not Philadelphia.

 

The most intriguing part of our visit was the conversations with Zach* (not his real name) –  a former chef at a higher end local restaurant.  He had tips for us on cooking meals and was readily comparing notes.  As the conversation turned to gardening, we learned a new way to grow tomato plans called “trenching”.  You basically plant the tomato on its side, and it should grow stronger roots – which leads to more tomatoes.  You just need to help the stem make a gentle curve upwards.

 

Most of the St. Rose people never heard this technique – but clearly we are interested in trying it out.  It was a big portion of our discussion at the social justice team meeting!   So, we learned something new – and don’t be surprised if parishioners have better gardens this summer (if the snow ever ends).

 

As we packed up and headed out, one cannot help but contemplate the many facets of the situation the CHOC residents face.  The courage and resilience of the residents, the dire situations they are in, and the fine line between having shelter and being on the street.   That many of the problems seem so small and like they can be solved quickly – but yet the underlying ones are so large.

 

You realize that when someone becomes homeless, it isn’t just their home that they lose.  It’s all the things a home brings with it – a place to socialize with friends and families.  It’s a place to talk about Eagles decals and tomato plants.

Any interest in helping with the next dinner at CHOC?  Contact us!

 

Lent Book Study ~ A Map of Life by Frank Sheed

 

Notes from A Map of Life evening discussion (Chapters 1 through 7) on March 12, 2018.

  1. We spoke about the author of the book. Frank Sheed, an Australian and Protestant at birth, moved to the U.S. He became an attorney at some point, but for most of his career he was a book publisher with his wife. He made the switch to Catholicism and must have felt that a map would help others understand the religion.
  2. After looking at which particular passages “spoke to us” individually, we tackled the big issues the author recommended. For examples, the difference between Spirit and Matter, the distinction between our souls and our bodies, the importance of understanding revelations, the importance of knowing what something is FOR before we can really know what it is, the understanding of moral laws (as well as material laws), his definition of heaven, the all-important concept of SUPERNATURAL LIFE, why the creation and fall were so important, an amazing chapter on the incarnation, why we need to comprehend the “mystical body of Christ,” how we should understand Heaven, what happens at the end time, etc.
  3. We agreed that Sheed used some fine analogies and metaphors. We liked the explanation of purpose. Even though a razor is designed to cut, clearly a razor would be ruined if someone tried to cut down a tree with a razor. It is important to understand Purpose before we can understand what something (including people) is. P. 52 “The purpose of man’s existence is to come to God.”
  4. While there was a feeling that some of the passages were challenging, we all agreed that reading the book has been useful. The book knows its purpose, to be a map for life.

 

We are looking forward to the next Book Study gathering at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 22, in the St. Rose of Lima Parish Center when we tackle Chapters 8 through 14. Please join us!