From the Pastor’s Desk | Sept. 24, 2017

frsamDear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The Gospel we read this weekend presents us with the confounding generosity of God, who gives freely of his love, mercy, and grace, whether we have earned it or not. In the parable of the workers in the vineyard, some work from the start of the work day, while others are hired only for the last hour. Yet all are paid the same. Those who began work earlier are upset that those who worked less are being paid the same as them. In their jealousy of those who are receiving the same as them, they lose sight of the fact that they are being paid exactly what they agreed to, and what, a few hours earlier, they had been perfectly content to see as just. The lesson here is that God looks on us and desires to generously pour out his grace upon us, whether we have earned it or not. We are entitled to nothing, yet our good God, in his generosity, confounds and goes beyond our logic that we might learn what it means to give wholeheartedly and without reserve.

We are very often like the servants who began the day early. We want what is our due. In this, we seek justice, which is perfectly reasonable. We err, however, when we begin to look at everyone else and compare ourselves, our situation, our salary, our possessions, our rewards, to those of others. That is when entitlement creeps in – our minds and hearts turn to wanting more, believing that we are entitled to more. And so we become cranky consumers, complaining when things don’t go our way, with no sincere thought about others.

Jesus challenges us in this Gospel to be different. Rather than complaining that others have received what is good, we should be content that we have done what is necessary. When we feel entitled, we should be very cautious! Entitlement in our hearts can lead to vicious snobbery, division among family and neighbors, and resentment. So let’s catch ourselves. When I feel entitled, I should ask myself, “What have I done to deserve any reward? What am I willing to give in imitation of the generosity and love of God?” The owner of the vineyard in the parable Jesus tells is generous – we too should seek to live this generosity!

The Stewardship Model can be helpful in answering this question. What am I willing to give of my time, talent, and treasure? The truth is that it is easy to write a check, but giving of our treasure is just one (important and appreciated!!!) form of generosity. Do I place my skills at the service of others? Am I willing to use my expertise and talent to benefit someone other than myself?  In parish life, perhaps the most important form that generosity takes is time. There is always a need for hands (skilled or unskilled!). St. Teresa of Calcutta, when offered money for her missions, would often tell people to keep their money and immediately ask them to come and work alongside her instead. Time is a great treasure!

And so, God who is abundantly generous, calls on us to be generous, too. We are to imitate this good vineyard owner, offering ourselves without counting the cost. Instead of comparing our compensation to what others receive, let’s look at what we can give. If we seek to be generous stewards, we will grumble less and smile more, we will no longer feel resentment but rather compassion, we will experience decreased separation from God and increased union with the Heart of Christ who gives to the utmost without counting the cost.

Peace,

Fr. Sam

From the Pastor’s Desk | Sept. 17, 2017

frsamDear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Today’s Gospel is one we cannot hear often enough. The call to forgiveness is vitally important in our world, in our community, and especially in our lives. Forgiveness, offered even in the most challenging situations, releases us from burdens and influences our whole environment. Jesus’ challenge to forgive seventy times seven times is not strictly numerical, nor is it easy. Yet He calls us to forgive and to forgive without counting the cost. The ability to forgive is both an act of the will and a God-given grace. In other words, I must choose to forgive those who hurt me. I must opt in, actively deciding that I will extend forgiveness to others. At the same time, I cannot make that noble, beautiful, holy choice without the aid of God’s grace. God who forgives perfectly is the one who makes it possible for me to forgive, even if my forgiveness is imperfect. In fact, it is precisely because of this human weakness that Jesus tells us to forgive so much – the more we practice forgiveness, the better we get at it, the more perfect our human efforts become. Aided by God’s infinite grace, we learn to forgive.

In our effort to imitate Christ, we ought to forgive those who sin against us. This, in fact, is exactly how Jesus teaches us to pray in the Our Father: “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” How powerful those words are in light of the Gospel we hear this weekend! In this great prayer, we ask God to forgive us for our own sins according to the measure with which we forgive other people. If this is the case, I must become more forgiving! Thus, the challenge of forgiveness directly impacts my own spiritual well-being.

Finally, if we understand the old Latin maxim “Nemo dat quod non habet” (“I cannot give what I do not have”), we will recognize that if we are to forgive from the bottom of our hearts, we must receive forgiveness ourselves. If we have been forgiven, we understand the free gift that forgiveness entails and we appreciate the mercy we have received. Thus we should seek forgiveness always! Have you hurt someone in word or action? Seek their forgiveness as soon as you can. Do you stand in need of God’s mercy? Seek His forgiveness in the sacrament of Confession as soon as you can! Jesus gives us the means to receive mercy for our souls. Confession is one of the most precious gifts imaginable. Here at St. Pius, confessions are available every Wednesday evening and Saturday afternoon, and additionally by request – just stop a priest. Likewise, there are several churches in the area that offer daily confessions: St. John the Evangelist in Stamford, St. Mary’s in New Haven, Immaculate Conception in Waterbury. For you commuters, St. Patrick’s Cathedral has daily confessions, as do many churches in the Big Apple. Take advantage of the great mercy that God wants us to receive, and, being forgiven, become and instrument of forgiveness in the world!

Peace

Fr. Sam

From the Pastor’s Desk | Sept. 10, 2017

frsamDear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Now that summer has officially come to an end – and we all know that the St. Pius X Festival is the true mark of the end of summer – we find ourselves once again facing the activity and busy-ness of life, school, and non-summer activities. With this in mind, what are we to do? How do we engage the most hectic nine or ten months of the year while maintaining our sanity and our sanctity? I would like to suggest three “P’s” to help us through.

Pray. The first step should always be prayer. In a busy world, we need moments and even extended periods of silence to gather our thoughts. Every human heart is created to know and love God, and so we need to give ourselves time to pray. As Catholics, we do this both individually and communally. Our communal expression of prayer comes in the form of Sunday Mass. Attendance at Mass on Sunday should be the indispensable foundation of our prayer lives. If we want to keep our focus and help our children grow in their faith each day, the practice of attending Mass on Sunday is non-negotiable. With Mass, we guarantee ourselves a set time for prayer, which helps us put the busy things of life aside and connect with the God who loved us into being.

Prioritize. Everything in life seems to compete for our attention and demands to be most important. The truth, however, is that the most important things in life are our relationship with God and with our family. Everything else must be in service to these primary relationships. Work, career, sports, etc. must take second place. Prioritizing our practice of the faith and our time with family makes all the difference in the world. And fortunately, these two things are not mutually exclusive! A specific word about youth sports is necessary, I think. Every year, it seems that the demand for practice time and absolute commitment to the youth sports in Fairfield grows exponentially. Sports are great and there is no problem with sports per se. But when they demand an exclusive commitment that interferes with the practice of our faith, they have become a false god. But all is not lost! I know of a young woman who was recently confirmed here who, when a cheerleading practice was scheduled at the last minute that interfered with her Confirmation class, chose to attend class and skip the practice, resulting in unfair criticism from her adult coach and peer pressure from her teammates. She bravely chose her faith first. I also know a youth football coach who realized that his team had a game that would conflict with the Confirmation retreat for many of the boys on the team. He rescheduled the game so that his boys would be able to attend the retreat and told them that their faith comes first. May we all prioritize with this kind of faith!

Play. We are over-scheduled machines, sometimes. While structure in life is good, too much can be damaging. We need to give ourselves time to relax and to play. Here, I am not talking just about games or toys. Play is the type of activity that can otherwise be considered useless. But play allows us to develop a part of ourselves that, with too much structure and programming, would otherwise be left to wither. Play can take many shapes: games, sports, various hobbies, cooking, cleaning, reading, etc. We need to give ourselves space and time.

And so I encourage you in this new school year, in these busy months ahead, to pray, to prioritize faith and family, and to give yourself time to play, knowing that with these things, we find our truest identity, we live healthy lives, and our hearts, minds, and souls are able to open more fully to the life God has given us.

Peace,

Fr. Sam

From the Pastor’s Desk | September 3, 2017

frsamDear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Last weekend’s Gospel told us the story of Simon making his great confession of faith that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. In turn, Jesus bestows on him a new name, Peter, and with that new name, a new identity – the rock on which He establishes His Church. The most essential aspect of our identity is always rooted in our relationship with Christ. As we make our confession of faith, as we proclaim Jesus as Lord, and as we turn to God in humble prayer, our true identity as sons and daughters of God, our true identity as the Church founded on the rock of Peter, becomes clear.

Today, though, the Gospel seems to veer from this pleasant and ideal road. Peter, perhaps a bit full of himself because of his new identity, contradicts Jesus’ prediction of suffering and death. Jesus seems to respond harshly: “Get behind me, Satan.” The lesson is a bit of both. It is instructive for us: though we have this great, noble, and privileged identity of being called sons and daughters of God by baptism and part of God’s chosen people by our belonging to the Church founded on the rock of Peter, we are nevertheless, like Peter, subject to human weakness, flaws, and sin. Our attitude toward the Lord sometimes results in a rebuke rather than tender words. How easily we forget our true identity in favor of what the world expects. Maybe Peter had taken himself too seriously – being the rock on which something is built is, after all, a powerful testimony of identity. Peter is important! Yet for all his importance, Peter must still be humble before Jesus. And so should we. Thus, at every Mass, and every time we celebrate the sacrament of Confession, we acknowledge our sins and our need for God’s presence in our lives. Sum it up, if you will, in this simple axiom: “There is a God, and I am not Him.”

Let’s end on a hopefully more comforting note. What if Peter spoke to Jesus as he did today, not because of pride but because of a total freedom in expressing himself before the Lord? In other words, when Jesus bestows his new identity on him, Peter gained a confidence in Jesus that he did not have previously. Now he is truly free to speak to Jesus from the heart. Even though his heart is misguided, he is honest and true in his words. Let us then, have the same freedom. Let us speak to Jesus honestly and freely from the heart. If our hearts are where God wants them to be, the response will be comforting and filled with peace. If our hearts are elsewhere, let the response be that of Jesus in the Gospel today so as to steer us back to the path we need. Peter’s words did nothing to take away his identity as the rock. Rather, they served as the means by which Jesus called Peter closer and back to the right way. Our faults and failings do not change our identity in God’s eyes, either. May they serve to call us closer to the Lord every day of our lives.

Peace,

Fr. Sam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the Pastor’s Desk | August 27, 2017

frsamDear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I write to you as I prepare to leave for my annual retreat, and you will read this after I have returned. Thus, I am anticipating with great hope a peaceful week of spiritual renewal. While that is the most noble and good thing I can hope for, my past experience with retreats has also taught me that it isn’t always so easy. Sometimes the Lord takes advantage of time on retreat to challenge me, expand my spiritual discipline, or simply asks me to be present with Him. There are many things that go into a retreat being good: for me, the chapel needs to be conducive to quiet prayer and contemplation, and the food has to be good. If I’m distracted by a chapel I don’t like, my mind is wandering. If I’m hungry, my mind is definitely not on conversation with God!

The most important aspect of retreat, though, is making oneself available to the Lord. If I’m resisting his call, or not taking advantage of the time given for prayer, I’m allowing a graced opportunity to pass me by. This is true outside of retreat, as well! The Lord is constantly inviting us to be with Him, to walk with Him, to grow in His grace. If we neglect prayer, or put off making changes to our spiritual or moral discipline, we miss a graced opportunity to grow in God’s love. Just as we need a place to live and food to eat, and just as we need a place to pray and the spiritual food given to us in the Eucharist, so we need to give God permission to access our hearts, so we need to make ourselves docile to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in prayer.

I know that no matter what happened this week, God was at work. No matter how well or poorly I cooperated with the Lord, the retreat belonged to Him. So do we. Let us remember whose we are, and that the good Lord has created us for eternity with Him in heaven.

Peace

Fr. Sam