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
November 26, 2023
I read an interesting magazine article recently by a college history professor. She told of an experience in one of her classes where the students revealed that they could not read cursive. They were studying a textbook on the Civil War that included photographs from primary sources, such as letters, diaries, and other original handwritten compositions from that time. The professor was surprised by the revelation and asked them questions pertaining to how they wrote their personal signatures and how they read other professor’s handwritten notes on their tests or papers. She went on to discuss how Common Core standards in public education omitted cursive in 2010, and then focused the remainder of the article on her concerns about our future based on an inability to interpret our past. It was quite thought-provoking. As a side note, I am happy to say that our Catholic schools still teach cursive writing.
My memory of learning how to write cursive goes back to second or third grade. I remember a large alphabet chart, showing both capital and lower case cursive letters, permanently placed along the walls of the classroom. Our teacher would dedicate class time every day for us to practice cursive writing, both at our desks and at the chalkboard. It was hard work for little hands, and it took lots of repetitive practice. The purpose was not to punish us but to learn how to communicate well in writing.
The spiritual life also takes dedication, hard work, and repetitive practice, particularly with prayer. It doesn’t just happen. It takes constant practice. There are no shortcuts. And the consequences of omitting it would be detrimental. Though hard work, it is not meant as a punishment. Rather, it is how we learn to communicate well with God. It is the Christian way of life. So on this great Solemnity of Christ the King, may the Lord write upon our hearts, and help us to always interpret His will for our lives as servants of the Kingdom of Heaven.
November 19, 2023
This week on Thursday, November 23rd we celebrate Thanksgiving Day. Tis the season to give thanks, and to ponder how time has flown by so quickly. It seems like just a few days ago that it was Halloween, and then only a couple of weeks before that it was the 4th of July. How can we be celebrating another Thanksgiving Day when my internal clock tells me that it is way too soon? It is like the old saying that time can feel like a roll of toilet paper—it unrolls faster and faster the closer you get to the end. So why does time fly faster with age? Psychologists and social scientists have many theories on a possible reason. One theory says that it is related to how long we have lived. A five-year-old, for example, feels a year is long because it makes up 20% of their life. Another theory suggests that our ability to process visual information slows with age. As fewer mental images are perceived, time feels like it is speeding up. But who knows? Not even the scientists can agree on any one theory, which are too numerous to mention here and thus waste even more of your valuable toilet paper. Rather, I will accept the fact that Thanksgiving Day is here again and adapt a wise gelatin proverb to my life. A dear relative of mine used to say, “There’s always room for Jell-O,” even when we were full as ticks from eating too much turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing, green bean casserole, and all the trimmings. Well, there’s always time to give thanks too . . . no matter how much toilet paper is left on the spool.
November 5, 2023
One of my favorite teachings of the Church is the Communion of Saints. Most Christians profess it in the Creed, but Catholics and Orthodox understand it differently from Protestants. I was reminded of that once in a conversation with a good friend. She was talking about the death of her parents and believed that the joy of heaven prevented them from having a closeness or an awareness of her continued struggles on earth. She basically believed that if her parents knew the extent of her sadness that they then would not be happy inheaven. In her mind, her parents were essentially “cut off” from her in heaven. After my initial surprise, I asked her to explain what the Communion of Saints meant to her, but her response was limited. And though I respected her opinion, I could not remain silent on a belief that gives me a great deal of comfort every day. The concept is probably not well under- stood by many even though it need not be complicated. I just shared with my friend a simple and familiar image from our Lord in the vine and the branches (John 15:1-10). Our relationship to the Lord in the metaphor is that Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. We are connected to Jesus, but we are also connected to one another. Those in heaven remain as branches and thereby, if symbolism means any- thing, continue to remain connected to rest of us and not merely to the vine. November is the month we remember this mysterious connection between the living and the faithfully departed. The Communion of Saints gives me great comfort because it teaches that our loved ones are not “cut off” from us. Those who loved you while they were alive are still bound to you by that mysterious cord of love and faith. They also desire out of love to intercede for you whenever you are in need. St. Therese of Lisieux affirmed that with her beautiful quote: “I will spend my heaven doing good on earth. I will let fall a shower of roses.” But someone might say, “It’s impossible for those who are dead to be able to have an influence on their loved ones still living.” To that you can respond, “With God, all things are possible.” Peace. Father Tim
October 29, 2023
This Wednesday is All Saints Day, a Holy Day of Obligation as we begin the month of November. It is also a reminder to me that the Advent and Christmas seasons are just around the corner. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago about how people often wish that they were famous celebrities, like actors or music stars. But have you ever wished that you were a saint? My guess is that most people do not give it much of a thought. They probably think that it would be way too boring or difficult. Part of the reason why we observe the Solemnity of All Saints Day is not only to honor the great saints but to be inspired and follow their example. It was St. Pope Clement I, a martyr in 99 AD, who encouraged us to “follow the saints, because those who follow them will become saints.” His feast day is on November 23rd. Indeed, we need more modern day saints in this secular age. People inspired to follow the heroic example of well-known saints, like St. Teresa of Calcutta, but also those willing to enter the equally effective way of sanctity by disappearing into the background of ordinary life to love God and neighbor. We need lives who share our humanity but are visibly transformed for us into images of Christ. The world needs that more than ever, and may we have that desire to live as witnesses of the Gospel. To be saints. Recall the words of the poet, Francis Thompson, who once said, “To most, even good people, God is a belief. But to the saints, God is an embrace.” Yes, be those who embrace God, now and always.
October 22, 2023
Dear Parishioners, Next Sunday afternoon, October 29th, is the annual conferral of the St.Jude the Apostle Medals for this year’s recipients. Bishop Parkes will preside at the ceremony, which will take place at the Cathedral in St. Petersburg. As I have explained in the past, the medal ceremony was started in 1999 to recognize a person or couple annually from every parish in our diocese who have distinguished themselves by outstanding service to their parish. The diocesan commission stated, “this medal acknowledges the great gift of the Church, its people, exemplified in these individuals who through their generosity and love of their faith have greatly contributed to spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ in their parish community.” And so, I am happy to announce that the 2023 medal for St. Brendan parish will be awarded to Tony Victor. Most of you know him as our very dependable sacristan on Sunday morn- ings. But that is just one of the hats that he wears on any given day. He is also the sacristan for Monday morning Masses, plus often covers for others when they are sick or away. On Sundays, he makes sure that lectors and Eucharistic ministers are signed in for Masses; and if they don’t show up, he will either tag somebody else or do it him- self. He always assists the ushers, especially when help is needed to pass the baskets and collect the tithes. Then, on top of all that, Tony comes early to open the church and locks up after Masses are done every Sunday. He can also be depended upon by Tom, our parish facilities manager, when the occasional assistance of two extra hands is needed and appreciated. And the list of things he does continues, but you get the idea. Thank you, Tony, for all the quiet and “behind-the-scenes” work you do for us at St. Brendan parish. Our parish could not function without people like you. And I am grateful that we are blessed with other people just like you from this parish who have been recognized with the St. Jude Medal for their selfless service since 1999. You stand in the company of those who take seriously the mission of witnessing to the Gospel message and contributing to the building up of the Church. I know you would rather not have all this attention; but then, that is also part of the reason why you were chosen for the award. Congratulations! Peace. Father Tim
October 15, 2023
I know you are all “Swifty” fans, whether it be openly or in secret. For the very few who do not have a clue to what I’m talking about, I’m referring to the pop music star Taylor Swift. She has been on the news and other media outlets a lot lately. Two things specifically have brought up her name on the news: 1) she has broken a number of records this year, like being the first concert tour to gross over a billion dollars, and 2) she is dating Kansas City Chiefs’ tight end Travis Kelce. The news said that a substantial jump in the number of people are coming to the Chiefs’ football games wherever they are playing, but not to watch the Chiefs but to hopefully get a glimpse of Taylor Swift.
The craze, particularly by young people, to see a famous music or movie star is nothing new. But sometimes it becomes more than just wanting to see them. They often become our role models. We want to be like them. While Taylor Swift and other famous celebrities have certainly accomplished much professionally, do we really want to imitate them? I find it fascinating that when movie stars play characters in movies they are essentially pretending to be somebody else, and their characters are usually “ordinary” people. When music stars sing popular songs, they are usually singing about “ordinary” people or relatable things. Ordinary people and everyday situations seem far more interesting to Hollywood and the Top 40 hits. People like you and me.
A learned and holy rabbi once told his disciples, “When I get to heaven God isn’t going to ask me, ‘Rabbi Yosef, why weren’t you more like Moses?’ No, God will ask me, ‘Rabbi Yosef, why weren’t you more like the Yosef whom I created?” Be the person God created you to be.
October 1, 2023
Dear Parishioners, This week is our annual diocesan convocation for priestly renewal from Monday, Oct. 2nd to Thursday, Oct. 5th at the Bethany Center. I will be away to attend most of its scheduled meetings and activities. The theme for this year continues on topics regarding the national Eucharistic revival, and our speakers are Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens of the Diocese of Crookston, Minnesota and Timothy O’Malley, Ph.D. who is a liturgy professor at the University of Notre Dame. Part of the intent of convocations is for spiritual and intellectual renewal; but if truth be told, the main source of renewal for me at these annual get-togethers is the priestly camaraderie. I will always get in my annual retreat and will always get in my annual continuing education, but I don’t always get the opportunity to see or spend time with my brother priests. That is also very important to the overall health of a priest. I will keep you all in prayer at our daily Masses. Then upon my return we have the annual Missionary Coop- erative Appeal scheduled for the weekend of Oct. 7th and 8th. The first thing it means is that you get a break from listening to me. I can imagine that everyone is celebrating already. Secondly, we have a guest priest from the Josephite religious community, Father Bozeman, who will be speaking at all the Masses about the missionary work of his community. Please welcome him to St. Brendan parish and respond with a generous heart to his appeal, which is always in your nature. St. Paul reminds us this Sunday in his letter to the Philippians: “Have in you the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus.” Attitude was originally an art term that referred to the posture or position of a figure in a statue or painting. It was only in later centuries that the term took on the added baggage of feelings and behavior. But the posture of Jesus, as St. Paul continues, is that of one who “humbled himself” and assumed the position of “even death on a cross.” May that always be a true attitude-adjuster in our own lives. Peace. Father Tim
September 24, 2023
Several weeks back a group of you, mostly among our weekday Mass attendees, took up a collection on the occasion of my birthday. They knew that I did not want anything, so they collected the money for the St. Vincent de Paul Community Kitchen and Resource Center in my honor. I was happy to present a total of $450.00 to Christine “Chrissy” Bond, the Executive Director of the SVdP Community Kitchen. Christine sent us a thank you card expressing her heartfelt gratitude, and to let us know how blessed they are to call us friends. To those who participated, I too am truly grateful for your thoughtfulness and generosity on behalf of the needy.
We are more familiar with the great charitable work of Pinellas Hope, since it covers the larger county, but many are not aware of the St. Vincent de Paul “Soup Kitchen” in our local area. It was quite revelatory to me the number of people who live on the streets or in their cars around downtown Clearwater alone. Volunteers at the soup kitchen arrive every day at 4 AM to prepare a full hot meal for approximately 150 of these folks. The morning meal that they serve looks more like a dinner than a breakfast. Chrissy explained that is because it is too dangerous to sleep at night on the streets. Many of them stay awake to protect themselves and to keep the few possessions they have from being stolen. By morning time, they are tired and hungry, ready for a more substantive meal. Whatever sleep they can get is usually during the day when they feel a little safer. The resource center also provides other services to help these people get back on their feet, including addiction services, mental health counseling, medical care, housing assistance, and job placement. If you would like to volunteer or to learn more, check out their website at www.svdpclearwaterfl.org.
Our second reading this Sunday from St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians says to “conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Volunteers serving at a local soup kitchen surely are worthy witnesses of that conduct. But there are many “worthy” ways to conduct ourselves for the sake of the Gospel of Christ. May the Lord give us the grace to creatively respond to His invitation.
September 17, 2023
Recently I encountered a person who saw me taking an early morning walk. I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt, but the person still recognized me as “the priest” because of my beard. That big white beard has become a dead give-away! At any rate, the encounter was less than pleasant as the person had much to complain about concerning theCatholic Church. I won’t get into the details, but I can tell you that there was a lot of pent-up anger and resentment. And my words had little effect given that the person’s mind and heart had long since been closed. I continued my walk after the encounter, but I was too unsettled to pray my rosary at that time.
It reminded me of an old story of a man who was struck by an arrow shot by an unknown assailant. The wounded man refused to allow the arrow to be removed, or to have the wound be treated, until the archer was located and properly punished. Days grew to weeks, and weeks to months, as his wound increasingly got worse until it eventually killed him. The story ends with a moral question: Who is responsible for the man’s death--the unknown assailant or the man himself who foolishly clung to the arrow? The person I encountered has clung to an arrow for a long time. Such a long held grudge may be legitimate or it may not, but the interaction highlights an important life lesson on the destructive nature of hatred and blame.
This week’s Gospel is about Jesus telling Peter to forgive others not just seven times but seventy-seven times. In other words, whoever counts the number of times they forgive has not truly forgiven. The kind of forgiveness that Jesus calls for is beyond calculations, both for the benefit of the forgiven and the forgiver. So, may we pull out any festering arrows in us and apply daily the healing salve of forgiveness. No prescription is necessary. Jesus, the Divine Physician, will freely provide His healing grace in abundance to those who ask. But we have to ask. The mind must be willing and the heart open. Meanwhile, I might shave off all the hair on my head and then nobody will recognize me. I did it once before. But that’sanother story for another time.
Peace. Father Tim
September 10, 2023
Dear Parishioners, Thank God most of us made it through Hurricane Idalia unscathed. I decided to stay put during the storm, even though there was a mandatory evacuation. The parish had minor damage to the rectory fence and a couple of other things, but thankfully that was about it. That old fence needs to be replaced anyway, preferably with something that can stand up better to high winds. During the night of the hurricane, when the wind and rain were at its worst, I heard a loud “boom” from a transformer behind the rectory that lit up the dark sky. Amazingly, my electricity did not go out at that moment or at any time during the storm. That was a miracle in itself. The strange part for me was the next morning after the hurricane had passed. That was when the storm surge creeped up. Many of the streets in the area were like rivers. I was getting a little nervous about whether the water on Dolphin Point street (north side of the rectory) would eventually reach the rectory. Yet that was nothing compared to the Island Way street in front of Publix grocery store. It looked like you could have taken a large boat down the street. Thankfully for us the water receded quickly before any damage could occur. On that morning, as I was inspecting the parish property, I had to laugh because we had almost as many cars parked around the church in the parking lot than we do on a busy Sunday. For a moment, I thought they were all there waiting for Mass to start. But then I remembered that the church was built on the highest elevation point on Island Estates. Maybe next time I should collect a parking fee. I know, I know. It was just a thought. Rather, I will leave you with a better thought from the second reading: “Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law” (Rom 13:8). Peace. Father Tim
September 3, 2023 Father Tim's weekly message:
I am writing this as the weather reports are forecasting on Tropical Storm Idalia. They are saying that it will possibly develop into a hurricane, and it is projected to hit somewhere in the Big Bend or Nature Coast region. You will know the end of the story by the time you read this message. Hopefully everything will be okay, especially with no fatalities, injuries, or destruction to any people or property.
We have a beautiful tradition in the Catholic Church of referring to the Blessed Mother as Our Lady, Star of the Sea, or Stella Maris. It stretches all the way back to the 5th century, to the time of St. Jerome. Scholars say that the title may have started from a linguistic error, but it soon became a beloved and universally accepted title for Mary nevertheless. For like the stars that point the way to safety for sailors, the Mother of God will always point the way to her Son, guiding us to the safe harbor of Jesus, especially during the storms of life.
Our Diocese has a prayer on its website from St. Pope John Paul II to Our Lady, Star of the Sea. I would like offer this prayer as we prepare for both the storms in the Gulf and those in our lives: Mary, Star of the Sea, light of every ocean, guide seafarers across all dark and stormy seas that they may reach the haven of peace and light prepared in Him who calmed the sea.
As we set forth upon the oceans of the world and cross the deserts of our time, show us, O Mary, the fruit of your womb, for without your Son we are lost.
Pray that we will never fail on life’s journey, that in heart and mind, word and deed, in days of turmoil and in days of calm, we will always look to Christ and say, “Who is this that even wind and sea obey him?”
Our Lady of Peace, pray for us! Bright Star of the Sea, guide us!
Our Lady, Star of the Sea, pray for seafarers, pray for us. Amen.
Peace. Father Tim
August 27, 2023
Dear Parishioners, I am reminded of an old English literature quote: “The writings of the wise are the only riches our posterity cannotsquander.” Elders of the past were the traditional wisdom teachers of familial and tribal communities. People would gather together around a crackling fire and listen to stories from the “venerable ones” who had lived the longest. Sadly,society today does not always assume the same respect for our elders as the keepers of history and teachers of wisdom.They’re just old people. That quote above came to mind because every time I move to a new parish assignment I discard a lot of things before I start packing. However, that’s not true with my old treasured books. They might be old and worn, some even with the binding falling apart, but their riches are from within like wise elders. That never gets old; in fact, it gets better. May we be mindful of the living treasures around us, especially our parents and grandparents, and appreciate their wealth of wisdom in our midst. Only then can we ever begin to acknowledge the source of all wisdom. As St. Paul said in the second reading, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!” Peace. Father Tim
August 20, 2023
Dear Parishioners, Some of you have asked about Msgr. Devine because he has not been normally present concelebrating at a weekend Mass. He is fine, but he left for Ireland due to the death of his sister Kathleen. She was the last living (and youngest) sibling of Msgr. Devine, and she passed away on August 3rd of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. Msgr. Devine wanted to do the funeral and left a bit earlier than expected with Anna (a friend and caretaker), even though they knew it could be any day. In the end, as he said, it was a blessing. On a more positive note, Msgr. Devine will also be attending a ceremony at his old high school with a new soccer field named in his honor. He proudly told me that he now has either a soccer field or a state divisional wrestling competition named after him in Florida, Africa, and Ireland. Not that he is bragging. He will be back on Friday, October 6th. On another positive note, we finally reached our goal in pledges for the 2023 Catholic Ministry Appeal. Thank you so much for your participation and generosity! The bishop sent us a video message to also express his appreciation that you can watch on Flocknote. I’m hoping next year’s goal for the parish will not be as large, so keep your fingers crossed. Finally, I’m reminded as I write this message that we are in the peak of the annual Perseid meteor shower period. The Perseids happen every summer when the Earth plows through a cloud of debris associated with a comet named Swift-Tuttle. Tiny bits of comet, some as small as a grain of sand, hit the atmosphere at high speeds, which creates friction and causes them to burn up and glow. It is one of the better comet shower displays to watch. Those of you who live on or visit the beach, and can get far away from artificial light, will likely see a wonderful natural fireworks show. However, the best place to see shooting stars is in the middle of the ocean at night with no artificial lights and no light from the moon. I experienced that often while in the Navy. Military ships do not typically have outside lights on while cruising at night, so a clear night sky is flooded with stars and comets flash to and fro almost constantly. It was always a sight to behold, for I could clearly see God’s glory in creation. Faith can see things in a way that we cannot otherwise see. In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus praised a woman for her great faith because she saw Jesus in a way far beyond what others saw. That’s the gift of faith. It provides the grace to see, say, and do things--for the glory of God--that we cannot otherwise even imagine. May we always pray for that special gift--the gift of faith. Peace. Father Tim
August 13, 2023
According to the latest update from the Catholic Ministry Appeal, St. Brendan parish is $14.74 away from reaching this year’s goal in total pledges. I get it. You’re teasing me now, right? Showing that cool glass of water to a thirsty man, even bringing it just close enough to touch—but not quite. Okay. Ha! Ha! The joke’s on me. A bit cruel, but funny nonetheless. Now would somebody please cover the rest of the goal. Then we can focus paying off the remainder that is still due from our total pledged, which is $5,202.14. Seriously though, thank you so much for your participation and generosity to our parish!
Financial concerns are always important, but I am reminded every August 10th where the Church’s true treasures lie. That day is the Feast of St. Lawrence, a deacon and martyr of the Church in the year 258. As the short version of the story goes, St. Lawrence was ordered to hand over the treasures of the Church to the Prefect of Rome. After three days, he gathered a large group of people from Rome, many who were sick or destitute, and presented them to the Prefect saying, “These are the treasures of the Church!” That, of course, cost his life. He was basically grilled alive on a giant barbeque as a consequence. But despite it all, he kept his humor intact, even while roasting away, by telling his executioners, “Turn me over, I’m done on this side.” Soon after, his last words were, “I am cooked enough.” And St. Lawrence went home to the Lord.
You are the treasures of the Church. Money is nice, and we need it to pay our bills (collectors won’t accept my good looks). But St. Lawrence reminds us that the true treasures of the Church are the People of God. “The Church, in Christ,” as Vatican Council II declared, “is in the nature of sacrament—a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all men.” That is, among all people, including you and me!
August 6, 2023
Wednesday, Aug. 2nd was the start of school already! Can you believe it? Well, it was at least for the teachers at St. Cecelia Catholic School. This week on Wednesday, Aug. 9th will be the first day of school for all the students. I can remember as a kid not going back to school until late August or even after Labor Day. They have more stuff to teach these days I suppose. At any rate, I welcomed back the faculty and staff with a Mass and breakfast on August 3rd and also met the new hires for this year. They are a great group of dedicated professionals who truly enjoy their work and are excited to be at our local “Blue Ribbon Award Winning” Catholic school.
Going back to school is usually considered an activity for the young, but let this week be a motivation for all of us to return to learning. We are never too old, although I do find that I have only so much room on my “brain shelf.” It seems when I put something new on one side of the shelf something else falls off on the other end. Nevertheless, that should not deter us from always being a student and always learning. God gave us a mind to use. Like the old saying goes, “A mind is a terrible thing.” Oh, I’m sorry, that’s wrong. What I meant was “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” See what I mean? That fell off my brain shelf, so I had to pick it up.
I tend to do a lot of picking up anymore, and maybe you do too, but that’s okay. The desire to learn itself is what is important and it should be a lifelong activity. Our classroom days were just the beginning. Finally, we are reminded that there is a hierarchy of knowledge, and that all truth has an original source; namely, the one who is Truth itself. And so, as disciples—that is, students—of Jesus, may we continually have the desire to take to heart the words of The Divine Teacher: “. . . learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light” (Mt 11:29).
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.