Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. Proverbs 19: 20-21
June 19, 2021
This week I will fill you in on a few odds and ends. First, I want to apologize for forgetting to mention last week that Mr. James Calhoun celebrated his 101st birthday on June 8th. Not only is his memory better than mine, but I believe that he is our oldest registered member in the parish. His daughter told me that the secret to his longevity is that he eats spinach every day. I’m sure that Popeye would approve. Happy birthday, Mr. Calhoun, and may God keep you in good health.
Speaking of age, some of you have been asking me questions about my beard, like: “Why is it so white?” or “Has the parish been too stressful?” Life as a parish priest is a public life and few things are private, so let me briefly explain this situation and put it to rest. What you are seeing now is the actual me. “No! It can’t be true!” Yes, it’s true, and it’s been true for a long time. I have had this contrast of white facial hair with darker hair on the top of my head for years. The difference now is that my body has decided to call it quits by developing an allergic reaction to hair dyes. And so, long story short, the doctor told me to stop any further use. In eastern Christian tradition, the white bearded priest is a sign of wisdom. You all can pretend that it is so in my case.
Finally, I will be away on retreat this coming week. Last year I was not able to go on retreat because of Covid-19. This year is not that much better because the monasteries are still closed to guests. Instead, a priest friend and I will be making our own retreat in a very rural area of upstate New York. My friend has made most of the arrangements, so I don’t know much other than it is at a cabin with an outhouse and no running water. He was serious when he meant “retreat.” I will pray for you. Please pray for me too.
June 12, 2021
Now that the doctrinal feasts are behind us, we are settling into a long liturgical stretch of Ordinary Time. With that said, I read something far from ordinary that happened back on June 13th of 1920. On that day, 101 years ago, the U.S. Post Office Department ruled that children may not be sent by parcel post. Well, shucks! What was an adult supposed to do back then? I don’t think UPS or FedEx were around yet. There are times when a parent needs to send their child away (some more than others). What could be more convenient and dependable than the Postal Service? Remember their famous slogan? “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these courageous couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” That was first stated by Herodotus, a Greek historian, 2,500 years ago! And couriers are delivering our mail still today. Rather than parcel post, maybe if they had suggested an upgrade in mailing children via First Class or Priority it would have worked. We will never know for sure.
Yeah, I am being silly. But the ruling in 1920 is actually true, even though it sounds pretty silly to me. Sometimes the world’s view will also see the Christian life as something silly or strange. The dichotomy is inevitable. I remember a mailman once asked me years ago: “What do priests do all day, besides on Sundays?” His blunt question caught me a bit off guard, so I responded lightheartedly, “We pray all day.” He just shook his head and walked away. I suspect that my answer confirmed a preconceived view in him that priests don’t do much. What I said to him was in jest, but I wish it was true. The world may see the act of prayer as not doing much, but St. Paul urges us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thes. 5:17). To pray always is in essence a desire and longing for God. But if we cease to long for God, as St. Augustine taught, we will also cease to pray. May God give us the grace to always have that desire. For prayer, you might say, is the parcel post of the spiritual life.
June 6, 2021
Last Friday on May 28th, we had the 8th Grade Graduation ceremony for the students of St. Cecelia Inter-Parochial Catholic School at St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church. I suspect that some people at St. Brendan may not know that we are a feeder parish for St. Cecelia school. In fact, there are four feeder parishes: St. Brendan, St. Cecelia, Light of Christ, and St. Catherine. Given our beach location, the percentage of school-age children from our parish is small, but we fully support St. Cecelia School and I am there regularly to celebrate Mass. This Friday will be their last day of school for the students, though the teachers and staff will still be around for a couple of weeks before summer break begins.
Most of my priesthood has been connected in some way with Catholic schools. Having been to, or officiated at, numerous graduations, I am still amazed at the level of maturity, dedication, and academic accomplishment of these boys and girls. You should have seen all of the academic/athletic awards and scholarships that many of these students received before the actual diploma ceremony began. And to think they haven’t even started high school yet! It was quite impressive. To say that their future is bright would be an understatement.
This is attributed in part to the excellent teaching and formation they received in a Catholic school. Many of those children who graduated last Friday started in Pre-K and went all the way through to 8th Grade at St. Cecelia Catholic School. That would not have happened unless the teachers and staff are topnotch, starting with the principal—Ms. Valerie Wostbrock. She was actually the principal at St. Raphael School when I was pastor there for my first few years. I also know a couple of the teachers who used to teach at St. Raphael’s. Even one of the men from the maintenance staff I presided at his wedding many years ago (not at St. Raphael’s). They are good people. To work and teach every day in a school, some for many years, is not easy. And these folks are counted among the best—committed to their professional work and faithful to God. The results have shown itself not only in stellar accomplishments by its students, but the U.S. Department of Education has recognized St. Cecelia Inter-Parochial Catholic School as a two-time winner of the National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence Award for 2010 and 2020. Only a few Catholic schools in our diocese have won this prestigious (and difficult) award and, as far as I know, only St. Cecelia’s has won it twice! Check out all the other awards the school has won in recent years on its website.
If this sounds like a recruiting pitch—you’re right! Still, everything I said is true. A Catholic school education is worth the time and investment for our children and grandchildren. I heartily encourage you to consider registering your school-age children or grandchildren at St. Cecelia Catholic School: A Christ-centered, faith-filled Catholic community, serving others with compassion, committed to high academic standards, and striving toward life-long learning. And on top of all that, a priest from St. Brendan’s parish who tells great stories and does occasional magic tricks during the homilies at their school Masses. Wow, sign me up!
May 23, 2021
Sunday, May 23rd is the Solemnity of Pentecost, the birthday of the Church and the end of the Easter season. Since it is the Church’s special day, I would like to use my bulletin message this week to focus on a couple of church related items. The first has to do with the new guidelines from the CDC concerning masks and social distancing. We will try to follow these guidelines as best as possible at St. Brendan’s, along with what the diocese has suggested and any best practices by other parishes. The bottom line from the CDC is that if you are fully vaccinated you can resume normal activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing. There are a few caveats to this general rule. People are encouraged to wear a mask in church if: 1) You are not fully vaccinated; 2) You have an immune deficiency; or 3) You feel more comfortable wearing it. For the time being, Eucharistic ministers and clergy will still wear a mask when distributing communion. This is not for ourselves so much but for the sake of those receiving communion who may not be vaccinated. It is still not clear yet from the data if vaccinated people can possibly be carriers of the virus. We will communicate with our ministers on any updates. The ribbons will be removed from the pews to allow for regular seating after Pentecost. Hymnals and missalettes will also be returned to the pews at that time. Some things will remain in place for the time being, like the offertory baskets at the entrance doors. So please keep giving as you have this past year. Finally, let me emphasize how important it is to get vaccinated. It is a matter of your own health and safety.
The second item has to do with my initial plans for renovating a portion of the church. There are basically four, or perhaps five, parts to this project, depending on the estimated costs. The first is the need to redesign the baptismal font so that it is both functional as well as beautiful. Our font may have a nice modern artistic look, but it is not practical and quite challenging to use for infant baptisms. The bridal room, behind the baptismal font, will be renovated into a dual purpose room, specifically a cry room and bridal room. A large sound proof window will be installed in the wall with audio speakers in the ceiling. We do not have many registered members with children but we do have plenty of beach visitors who have no place to go when their children are crying. And next to the cry/bridal room is a neglected confessional room. It is more akin to a very small, dark closet with no air. Msgr. Devine shared with me that it actually was an “after thought” when the building was designed. The room will be enlarged, have more lights, anonymous and face-to-face options, and connected to the air duct system. Lastly, depending on costs, we may include repairing the wood frame that supports the stained-glass above the front doors of the church. Termites have badly eaten the wood over the years and the doors occasionally need to be adjusted in order to close and lock.
Okay, I have written enough for now. More details are sure to come in the weeks ahead about the CDC guidelines and especially our church renovation project. Like at Pentecost, the Church of St. Brendan is alive and well!
St. Brendan's Catholic Church of Clearwater, FL, located on Island Estates, is a loving, vibrant Catholic Church seeking for each and every member a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church.