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Lenten Reflection on Joy

March 9, 2018

During the season of Lent, we are reflecting on the “joy of the Season.” It seems odd to say that, it almost sounds like Christmas. But as we have been reflecting, Lent starts with the wonder of God’s love for us.

Opening ourselves up to God in prayer, we enter upon a conversion journey deepening our relationship to a merciful God and knowledge of Jesus which is a joyful experience.

But how does fasting fit into this reflection, and how can self-denial, sacrifice, and mortification be joyful? The Latin root of the word mortification literally means to put to death. If putting to death bad habits or any action that undermines our humanness, then it is not something sad but full of joy. Oh, it may be difficult to change habits and patterns; but, if it opens up for us a new zest for life and living in the Spirit, then it is a joy.

Let me explain. We are not called to despise our humanness. God created everything good. So to die to self (mortify) is not a denial of the goodness of who we are, but a recognition that self-defeating patterns of  behavior diminish our true humanness.

Giving up things, sacrificing, and denying ourselves is not to cause pain, but they are done in pursuit of the fullness of life which God fashions for us out of His love. Looking at Lent in this fashion is not a putting to death  but a coming to life.

Fasting is a path to joy because it opens a path to a fuller life. We sacrifice a false or lesser belief for a fuller one gaining a measure of freedom over compulsive behavior. If you sacrifice an hour away from your computer or “hand-held device” and reflectively used this same amount, would your life be less joyful? If you took that $20 or $40 you spent on your favorite indulgence; i.e., alcohol, desserts, junk food and donate it to a worthy cause, would your life be less? If you “put to death” that which has diminished you, a false life for a true self free from a slavery you are caught in, would that not be joyful?

Yes, fasting, although difficult, can offer us the freedom of God’s love and mercy. And isn’t that a wonderful joy? 

Lenten Reflection on Prayer

March 5, 2018

Congratulations to our catechumens, Keith and Cory, upon being called through the Rite of Election by the bishop to journey to the Easter sacraments and full initiation in the church at the Easter Vigil through Baptism, Confirmation, and receiving the Eucharist (Holy Communion).

This is certainly a time of joy for them and should be for the entire community. In my column of February 4th, I spoke of the joy of Lent. A thought that almost sounds counter-intuitive. However, I did reflect upon the disciplines of prayer, fasting, almsgiving, as a way to open ourselves up to God’s love which is always around us and is always a joy. Noting that I would continue this thought, I would like to reflect further.

If Lent starts with the wonder of God’ love and putting the accent on God’s mercy and love, not merely on our own strength of will, then we must be open to a journey of conversion. That is, in the biblical sense of changing of one’s heart. We might even say that conversion is a joyful process because at the very center of conversion is us letting go of that which does not work for us. A turning away from what is illusory, deceptive, and dried-up wells that do not give us life. Like the woman at the well in today’s Gospel, we seek fresh running springs of water that refresh us like a fountain of love, God’s love. As our Catholic catechism says, conversion is not just human, it is a contrite heart moving to “respond to the merciful love of God who loved us first.”

Conversion first begins in prayer. Prayer is a joyful moment especially in our busy and hectic lives. We shouldn’t think of prayer as something for professional religious or contemplatives who are trained in it. Rather, it should be likened to two lovers or two friends who can sit in silence with each other knowing that a love exists between them, and they share it without saying a word. As Thomas Merton once said prayer is becoming conscious of what is already happening between God and ourselves. In prayer, we discover what we already have and possess, God’s love. Again, conversion is a joyful discovery of God’s love. If Lent offers us this type of prayer, we will move toward Easter with hearts renewed and all action will flow from the life-giving water of adoration, prayer, and praise.

Next week, I’ll reflect on the joy of fasting — really!! Seeking the bread of life is our true joy. Continue to live Lent in the joy of the season.

One last word goes to Mr. Jeff Smith for organizing our trip to the DIA for the Monet Exhibit. The day was wonderful, good art, good friends, good food. Thank you, Jeff and Joe Zainea for your hospitality at the Majestic Café.

Our Newest Catechumens & Parish Council Update

February 16, 2018

On this First Sunday of Lent, we acknowledge our catechumens, Keith Arcicovich and Cory Fullilove, who have been sent to the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament to participate in the Rite of Election.  Now called the elect, and having been received by Archbishop Vigneron, they are in their final period of preparation and purification for the Easter sacraments. Their sponsors, Bill Zuerblis and Bryan Jones, respectively, have been walking with our catechumens and speak positively about their growth and development.

Catechumens are non-baptized persons, and at the Easter Vigil after these Lenten days of Scrutiny (examine) will be led by their sponsor to the font of Baptism. It is an exciting time in their spiritual lives and an exciting time for our community to welcome them in the faith of our Church.

I ask that you greet them warmly, encourage them in the faith, and continue to pray for them throughout these Lenten days.

As part of our Lenten journey and our own examination of conscience, I would invite you to mark your calendars for a couple of dates. On Monday of Holy Week (March 26th), we will celebrate our Parish Lenten Reconciliation Service (communal confession). The liturgy is always so beautiful, prayerful, and spiritually uplifting. Yet many people do not attend. Reflecting on this, Lent would be a good time to renew our understanding of the sacrament and its forms of celebration. To that end, we will be offering on Sunday, March 18th, in conjunction with our Hospitality Sunday a presentation on the Sacrament of Penance in the church auditorium. So plan on socializing a bit with your fellow parishioners, and then reflect with them on your Lenten journey of prayer and penance. Hope to see you there.

On another matter of importance to our parish is the ongoing development of our Parish Council. If you remember, we added three new members in the fall. With the passing of our prior president, Vaughn Adams, we needed to fill his seat (sede vacante). Today, I am happy to announce that the Council selected Mr. John Dunstone as our new president. John and his family have been active members in the parish for over 25 years. John being on the Parish Financial Council and co-chairing the CSA, while his wife, Liz Foley-Dunstone is a lector; and their children, Mary Elizabeth and Patrick, are current and former altar servers. We congratulate John on his new position which is, per the council, projected for two years.

In addition to this, Mr. Mike Dulapa has also joined the Council as Representative of the Evangelization Committee. Mike, if you remember, was our representative to Synod 16 in the Archdiocese. As Mike moves forward, he plans to re-invigorate our Evangelization Committee and present their efforts to the Parish Council. We welcome Mike, and with a renewed energy our Parish Council looks forward to providing direction and guidance to parish life so that, as our Mission Statement says, we can be a Beacon of Light and a Sign of Hope.

In the weeks to come, we will formally install our new president, John Dunstone, and our Evangelization representative, Mike Dulapa, at a weekend liturgy.

May God give to each of you a Lenten journey filled with spiritual renewal and love of our Lord as we together move to the Easter sacraments.

God bless you, Father Duane

As We Enter Lent...

February 10, 2018

All the poinsettias are gone from our sanctuary, throats will be blessed
in honor of St. Blaise, and old palms will be collected to be burned. It can
only mean one thing, Lent is soon upon us. Because Easter is early this
year (April 1st), so too is Ash Wednesday (February 14th) which begins the season of Lent. Ironically Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine’s Day.

For some, it may seem odd that this day dedicated to a saint that has become synonymous with love, hearts and flowers, and romance should begin a liturgical season of penance and fasting., Yet upon further examination, perhaps it is the most perfect time to start our Lenten journey. For Lent is a season of love.

Let’s give gloom and doom a rest in Lent this year. After all, Jesus advises his followers in the Gospel, “Do not look gloomy like the hypocrites...When you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that you may not appear to be fasting.” (Matt 6:16-18)

So how do we find joy in Lent? Well, we must begin with love, God’s love. Before Jesus went into the desert for 40 days, he was filled with the love of his Father which came down on him at his Baptism in the Jordan River.
“You are my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Filled with the Father’s spirit of love, only then does Jesus go into the desert. Following Jesus, we can find joy and a new life in our Lenten season.

If our Lenten activities do not begin with the wonder of God’s love, but rather from some self-centered need to prove our holiness, then our path in Lent will be a dreary one. At times, we think that the more we stockpile penitential works, we will win God’s love. In fact, it is quite the opposite. God’s love is always present to us. We joyfully enter into prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, so as to open ourselves up to receive a love that is always present. As Jesus opened himself to the Father in the Jordan River and the Spirit came upon him, so too are we asked to open ourselves up to God’s overflowing life and love that surrounds us. God loves us first and unconditionally, we don’t earn God’s love, we receive it and Lenten practices help to open us to that perfect love.

In the upcoming weeks, I’ll reflect upon this more in The Pulse. I pray we all have a good and loving Lent. Remember bring your old palms next week, we will create our ashes from them on Ash Wednesday, St. Valentines Day!

Please respond by February 17th for the Monet exhibit. Jeff Smith who is coordinating the event tells me it is going to be a great day. What a wonderful way for us to once again gather as friends and parishioners! God bless you!

2017 Christmas Season

January 11, 2018

Merry Christmas!!! The Christmas celebrations were prayerful and just beautiful. Now that we are well into the Christmas Season, I hope you have time to enjoy family and friends. Given the way the calendar fell this year, we had a short Advent as well as a short Christmas Season.

The Baptism of the Lord is the day after the Feast of the Epiphany (Monday, January 8). No matter how short the season may seem, time keeps marching on. This week-end, on December 30th, I’ll mark my 67th birthday. It’s hard to believe I was only 38 years old when I came to St. Matthew Parish. Although it seems like a lifetime ago, the journey of faith has been a good one for me, and I do hope for the parish as well.

As we stand on the brink of another New Year, we anticipate still more growth, more challenges, and successes. We have been adding new parishioners to our community which helps keep us stable, our Christian outreach and service remains strong. Our finances would be more secure if we could sell our school building. That is something I would ask every parishioner to put in their daily prayer intentions. We need to move forward on this issue, and with the help of God (and St. Joseph whom we buried in front of the school), I’m sure our prayers would be answered.

Indeed, we have challenges for the New Year, but none that can’t be overcome. I feel strongly in what the theme of our 50th Anniversary stated in 1977, “We are here to stay,” and in what our 75th Anniversary theme was in 2002, “What was, What is, and What will be!” What we hope to be is as our Parish Mission Statement directs us, “to be a beacon of light, and a sign of hope” on the eastside of Detroit. (Please re-visit our Mission Statement displayed in the back vestibule of the church.)

Our efforts in the New Year should strive for that as we continue to work with the Archdiocese of Detroit to Unleash the Gospel. Happy New Year to all and may your Christmas Season be blessed with peace, joy, and hope in Christ Jesus.

God bless all of you, Father Duane

Synod '16

November 13, 2016

Next weekend, the Archdiocese of Detroit will be holding Synod 16, a time to renew ourselves by changing, as the Archbishop says, our “DNA.” Moving from maintenance to mission, the Archdiocese will be focusing on a New Evangelization so as to create a Catholic Church presence in Southeast Michigan that is vibrant and growing.

I ask everyone to pray for the Synod, our Archdiocese, and for our representatives, Mike Dulapa, Patricia Camazolla-Godoshian, and our alternate, Debbie Nieddu. I’m sure as they will be experiencing and participating in the Synod, they will be able to report back to us. The format for this has yet to be determined.

Please see the insert in today’s Pulse to read the Archbishop’s letter.

On another Archdiocesan issue, we congratulate Bishop Mike Byrnes who has been appointed by Pope Francis as Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Agana in Guam. Guam is a U.S. territory in the South Pacific. An island of 210 square miles, 80% of its 165,000 inhabitants are Catholic.

Archbishop-elect Byrnes will be in Detroit until late November to help lead the Archdiocese’s first Synod since 1969 before transitioning to his new role in the Archdiocese of Agana.

Please remember that as we approach this historic occasion for our local Church, Archbishop Vigneron is asking all members of the faithful to join him in prayer for the success of Synod 16.

God our Father, you have called us to be witnesses to Jesus and have sent us on a mission to lead all people to encounter him.

Send your Holy Spirit to enlighten our minds and enkindle our hearts, so that we may grow daily as your disciples.

Empower us to face bravely the challenges of our time. Keep us close to you, together with Jesus your Son, Mary our Mother, and St. Anne our patroness, as we engage in Synod 16 to Unleash the Gospel.

Transform us into a band of joyful missionary disciples, who will bring the message of Jesus’ power and mercy to every person in southeast Michigan.

We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

AMS Collection & Other Updates

October 30, 2016

As a country, we are all grateful to the men and women who serve in our military to protect and defend our nation. With all the “hot spots” in the world, our service men and women are deployed throughout the world and at home. These men and women still have the same needs we do, materially, physically, and spiritually.

For those who are Catholic, the Church provides for our military through the Archdiocese for Military Services (AMS). Like all dioceses, they require funding;  and, with limited resources, the AMS has requested the U.S. Bishops to take up a collection once every three years for their needs. St. Matthew participated in the first of these collections in 2013. As we are now in 2016, the opportunity is here once again to assist.

I certainly know that there are a lot of needs that we come to you for; but on behalf of the AMS, we ask that you respond the best you can. Enclosed in The Pulse this week is a brochure outlining the AMS appeal. Envelopes are in the pews for your convenience.

I also want to remind everyone that Tuesday, November 1st, is All Saints Day, a holy day of obligation. As Catholics, we are called to celebrate those who through their heroic and virtuous lives are declared saints and have gone before us in faith.

The entire month of November is dedicated to the dead. As a parish, we acknowledge those whom we have buried here at St. Matthew with our Scroll of the Dead. At the end of the month, we will celebrate our Memorial Mass for them. Book-ending the month with All Saints/All Souls and our Memorial Mass helps to keep us focused on the fact that we are not meant to live forever; and one day, we will meet our Lord in all His glory.

Let these darkening days keep us hopeful for the joy and light of Christ in His Resurrection.

God bless you, Father Duane

Mass for Pardon Update

October 16, 2016

I want to thank the community for the week-end liturgies we celebrated. Per my homiletic reflection on gratitude, I say thank you to all of you for your kind remarks of gratefulness toward me at our Communion meditation on Sunday; when, with the movement of the Spirit, we voiced for all to hear what we’re thankful for. Many told me it was a moving experience.

Another moving liturgical experience we had was the Archdiocesan Mass for Pardon. It was an overwhelming experience filling the cathedral; included were nine members of our parish who attended. The liturgy reflected the elements of the Church’s Good Friday service. Our Archbishop and Auxiliary Bishops prostrated themselves in a penitential attitude as we reflected upon specific sins of the church asking for God’s mercy. As the Mass continued, Archbishop Vigneron delivered a homiletic reflection on God’s mercy and our need to ask for it in the midst of knowing we receive the gift of Salvation.

In the Prayers of the Faithful (Universal Prayer), again reflecting the Good Friday liturgy, the petitions were read for forgiveness of sins against the Virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity. The Archbishop offered a prayer at each intercession. The tone of the liturgy could have been “dark” and full of sadness; but, in the end, it was hopeful and joyful. I think it was because God’s mercy and forgiveness is filled with hope and joy.

The message all need to take from the Mass for Pardon is that God’s mercy is hopeful and joyful. Perhaps this is a great incentive for the Church as it continues to seek reconciliation. When asking for pardon and forgiveness from the Lord, there is no need to be afraid.

On another matter, I want to remind everyone that this week and next will be our annual “count Sunday.” Hopefully, all parishioners will attend St. Matthew’s that week-end. Please pass the word, your presence is important.

Just a reminder that our Gold’n Harvest 50/50 Raffle is coming up with the kick-off this week-end. Last, year, we did so well, and it helped tremendously toward our overall budget. I ask you to please do all you can to promote and sell tickets. I will certainly do my part. We do need a successful raffle this year as we try to balance our budget and create a sustainable community.    

Once again, I continue to pray for all of you and for the success of our parish.  St. Matthew, pray for us!

God bless you, Father Duane

Altar Severs & Acolytes

October 9, 2016

At this writing, we have not yet celebrated the Archdiocesan Mass for Pardon.  So, I’ll wait to comment on the experience later.

This week I would like to highlight a very important ministry in our parish.  The ministry of Acolyte or Altar Server.  Typically, this ministry has been fulfilled by our young parishioners, beginning around the fourth grade through high school and beyond.  I have always tried to encourage this ministry among our young people as a Youth Ministry.   To serve at the altar of the Lord is a privilege, it keeps us actively involved in the Liturgy; and, it increases our understanding of the Church’s prayer life.  I, myself, began serving at my home parish of St. Dorothy in Warren as a fourth grader and continued through high school.  The experience fostered in a me a love of the Liturgy and an awareness of serving the Church.

At this time, due to a number of our young parishioners going off to college, our numbers have been reduced to three servers; and, this will not be enough to cover our schedule.  I know we have some young people in our pews, and I would ask that they give serious consideration that, if asked, they would respond to the call.  Parents, I would ask you to encourage your sons and daughters in this ministry of service to the Church.  You would certainly be setting them on a good path.

Even as I ask for young people to respond, I am also asking some adults to consider being an Acolyte, especially for funerals.  Typically, funeral liturgies are celebrated during the week at times when our young people are in school.  So, I  need adults who can share this responsibility and serve at the altar.  If you are asked, please consider this ministry.  It is very rewarding.

Once I have the candidates for this ministry, I will have a formation session and review the ritual and your role within it as a server.  We need at this time to re-establish this vital ministry in our parish.

God bless you!

Father Duane