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
August 9, 2020
In September of 1985, Hurricane Elena rolled by Tampa Bay as a Category 3 storm with winds reaching 127 mph. There were a total of 9 deaths and 1.3 billion dollars worth of damages that resulted from that hurricane. Another thing that occurred from the storm, but did not make headline news, was that it completely sealed off Dunedin Pass. Sand was slowly accumulating and narrowing the Pass for a while earlier, but the hurricane finished the job in one big swoop and turned Dunedin Pass into a connecting strip of land between North Clearwater Beach and Caladesi Island State Park. Technically speaking, that means Caladesi Island is no longer an island onto itself but now makes up part of a larger island to Clearwater Beach. A couple of years after that happened a friend and I heard about Elena’s landscape remodeling and ventured to walk from NorthClearwater Beach to the tip of Caladesi Island State Park, known as Lone Oak Point. It is a one-way trek of about 5 miles. After the accomplishment, and seeing all of nature’s beauty along the way, I told myself that one day, hopefully, I would do it again. Well, that day came last week. Ever since I was informed of my new assign- ment to St. Brendan’s, I have been thinking in the back of my mind about that walk and the opportunity to take more walks of varied lengths along that path to pray and be alone with God in the beauty of God’s creation. Last week I wanted to walk the full length, so I had to check the tides because the area where Dunedin Pass was filled in is still affected by high tides. It took me most of an afternoon to get there and back; I’m guessing about 12 to 14 miles total. The main thing I learned from this trip is to do it early in the morning or wait until the cooler months of the year. It was really hot! That made coming back tough. And as my uncle has reminded me, “A dog your age is no pup.” Jesus is the most persistent pedestrian in the Bible. We heard of Jesus walking in last week’s Gospel, walking so far that the crowds had followed Him to a deserted place. This week’s Gospel continues with Jesus walking up a mountain to be alone to pray and then is seen by His disciples walking on the water, the Sea of Galilee. Jesus was constantly walking from place to place during His public ministry. I suspect 12 to 14 miles would have been an average day for Him. The familiar biblical reference of “walking with God” came to fulfillment for the disciples who literally walked with God in the person of Jesus. Thus, the early Christians were first referred to in the Acts of the Apostles as followers of “the Way.” Jesus is The Way, and as modern day disciples, we are also called to walk with Him and follow His path. Like Peter, may we have the courage and faith to ask the Lord to beckon us to Him, no matter where that may lead us. Peace. Father Tim
July 24, 2020
A couple of weeks ago I was walking into a department store in Clearwater and a young man noticed me and called out, “Hey, Fr. Tim!” He was about 18 to 20 years of age and recognized me immediately, even with a mask. “You probably don’t remember me,” he said, “but you gave me First Communion years ago when my family lived in St. Pete, since then we moved to Clearwater.” I was amazed that this young man would remember me, much less recognize me in public with a face mask, after so many years. It did my heart good being new to the area that someone knew me and went out of his way to reconnect.
I still can’t figure out how he could recognize me so easily when: 1) he was just a kid when he had last seen me, 2) the area we met was full of busy people, and 3) most of those people were wearing face masks. It seemed to me like everyone there was incognito and everyone was in isolation. Then, out of the blue, someone breaks that isolation and makes a genuine human connection, recognizing me by name. That short encounter turned a dreary site of endless face masks and social distancing into an uplifting moment of hope and promise for the future.
The day cannot come soon enough for me when we will no longer need to wear face masks or observe social distancing rules. Human beings are social by nature and we reflect the very communal relationship of the Triune God. But that brief meeting reminded me that wearing face masks or being cooped up in our homes is no barrier for God. As the prophet Isaiah stated: “Thus says the Lord . . . Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine” (Is 43:1). The Good News is that God always remembers and recognizes us, even in our times of isolation. By the way, what are the best jokes to tell in a quarantine? Inside jokes.
Commence throwing tomatoes now.
July 17, 2020
I would like to share with you a pleasant surprise that happened to me about six weeks ago. It was a royalty statement letter that came in the mail explaining that I was to receive a check for the sales of my third book. It covered the period from April 2019 to the end of December 2019. The total number of books sold during that period was 520. Though not a million seller, I was thrilled, and quite surprised, that 520 people even knew, let alone bought, my book. This was the first time I was to receive a royalty payment for any of the books I have written. The other two books were academic and focused on the homiletical or rhetorical analysis of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, Norman Vincent Peale, and Billy Graham. A number of university and theological libraries have them on their shelves, including USF and Eckerd College, but they still did not generate enough sales by contract to warrant a royalty. I ended up giving the money back to the publisher because they are a smaller publishing house and have struggled economically to keep their business going due to the pandemic. They supported me when other publishers would not, so I wanted to support them. Besides, it wasn’t that much money.
The reason why I mention this to you is not to “toot my own horn.” God forbid. But for the past two weeks, people have been asking typical questions to familiarize themselves about me, especially after weekend Masses. That is certainly understandable. People want to get to know their new pastor better. That will come naturally with time. However, if you would like to speed up the process a bit, allow me to suggest that you get a little book entitled The Storyteller’s Catechism: Stories of Faith from Parish Life. You will get a good sense of who I am from that easy-to-read spiritual book. I honestly don’t mean this to be a commercial. Simply consider it on its own merits. And if you decide to get a copy, I will be more than happy to sign it for you. Local Barnes & Noble stores did have copies available on their shelf when it first came out but it would likely have to be ordered now. You can always order it on Amazon or go directly to the Crossroad Publishing Company website.
Who knows? I may have one more book in me to write in the future. I’m always looking for new stories from around the parish. Poor St. Brendan’s.
July 10, 2020
Dear brothers and sisters,
Well, so far so good. The church is still standing. Nobody, that I’m aware of, has left the parish in protest. And as of yet, I have not received any angry letters about something I did or said. That makes for a successful first week for me at St. Brendan’s. Some pastors might think differently. They might say that those instances are signs of change and necessary to get things done. On such matters, I follow my first pastor’s advice when I was a newly ordained priest. He was a wise and gentle soul, but with a wry sense humor would say to me: “Tim, when you become a pastor, remember the only thing you change in your first year is your underwear.” I have tried to follow that sage advice for the most part in my previous pastorates and will continue to follow it as much as possible. The underwear part is particularly helpful. I don’t want you to leave because your pastor smells!
The Sunday Masses last week were a nice introduction for me of both the welcoming parishioners and the visitors that attend St. Brendan Church. I was told before I came that the parish area is comprised of “retirees, snowbirds, tourists, and spring breakers.” The parish does have a reputation for having many vacationers from around the country, and even from around the world, because of Clearwater Beach. I had a little taste of that fact with the 4th of July holiday weekend. After the Masses, I made myself available to greet the people outside under the portico in front of the church (following social distancing and wearing a mask, of course). We had people from a number of different states and who were visiting the parish for the first time. I was struck by two things: 1) that they took the time to find a Catholic church and came to Mass during their vacation and in the midst of a pandemic; and 2) that we are truly a “catholic” or universal Church that encompasses the entire world; that means all people and all places. All that from just meeting a few people after a couple of Masses.
We are in Cycle A of the liturgical year for the Sunday readings, which focus on the Gospel of Matthew. At the end of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus commissions His disciples and says to them in part: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations . . . teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19,20). The disciples then went out to all the world to preach the Gospel. We are called to do the same as well. But in an interesting twist, it seems that “the world” is coming to us to hear the Gospel and receive our Lord.
What a mind boggling responsibility, but also an incredible opportunity for us at St. Brendan’s. We are truly evangelizers and missionaries to all the world at the front doors of our humble, little church. That changes the perspective of who this parish is comprised of considerably. My prayer is that when people visit us they will recognize the presence of Jesus in all of us.
July 3, 2020
Dear sisters and brothers,
I’m here! Roll out the red carpet! Start the marching band! Make an official proclamation! I have finally arrived. Your long wait has ended. Gather around in great anticipation . . . Hello? Anybody? (a long pause ensues and the sound of crickets is heard in the background) Hmm. It looks like the coronavirus and social distancing precautions have left their mark here too. By the way, did you hear the joke about the coronavirus? Never mind, I don’t want to spread it around. (ha ha)
Greetings and salutations! My name is Father Tim Sherwood. I have been given the honor and privilege of being your brand-new pastor. Well, I’m not quite “brand-new,” maybe slightly worn. Okay, truth be told, I’m a used commodity, been around the block a few times, with more dents on the ole chassis than I care to mention, but I’m still in fairly good working condition. That said, I look forward to working with and serving you here at St. Brendan parish for many years to come, God willing.
Allow me to first sincerely thank Msgr. Michael Muhr for assisting me in the transition to adjust to my new assignment. He has gone out of his way to help me by preparing my living arrangements and highlighting some observational points about the parish that I requested. Msgr. Muhr is one of the best priests in our diocese and is highly regarded by all his brother priests. He would have been a wonderful pastor here, and I even hoped for it early on, but his gifts and talents are required full-time to serve the various needs of all the priests throughout our diocese. It is interesting that once again I am taking on a ministry that he is handing over to me. Many years ago he handed over the reins of CHOICE, a diocesan single young adult ministry, to me and I was its chaplain for about the next six years. The difference back then was that he just gave it to me. It didn’t matter that I didn’t want it. He insisted and said to me, “You will do well. God is calling you.” Catholic guilt works every time, but he wasright. It turned out to be a great ministry experience. I learned to trust his spiritual insights as I found they are usually right. He also affirms my new ministry here, but now I take it on willing with God’s help. And I want to be clear that it is “Monsignor” Michael Muhr. He doesn’t like that title, so here’s a little payback for years ago. Seriously though, I am especially grateful for his exceptional pastoral leadership during this past year at St. Brendan parish. Yet again, I have some big shoes to fill.
I begin my first weekend here on a great national holiday known as “Independence Day.” It refers, of course, to the Declaration of Independence of July 4, 1776, commemorating when the Continental Congress declared that 13 American colonies were no longer subject to the British monarch, King George III, but rather independent and free from his rule. The rest, as they say, is history. Perhaps on July 5th we can reflect a little bit on the spiritual importance not of independence but rather on dependence; that is, the awareness and need to be dependent upon God and to always submit ourselves to God’s rule over our own. Such an act must be an everyday commitment during an entire lifespan and not merely a onetime declaration. But in the end, by God’s grace, we become truly independent and free from the ultimate subjugation of sin and death. Now that’s something to celebrate!
I am happy to be here and looking forward to meeting everyone. Hopefully the virus won’t hinder us from fully doing that for too much longer. In the meantime, please keep me in your prayers as I will certainly do so for you.
Peace. Father Tim, Pastor
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.