Oh when the Saints...

This past week on November 1st, we celebrated All Saints Day.  This is one of my favorite feast days because I get to celebrate a bunch of my favorite people all on the same day: St. Genevieve, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, Padre Pio, Mama T, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Philomena, JPII, St. Michael, St. Raphael, and St. Gabriel...

Growing up, besides choosing a Confirmation Saint (St. Genevieve FYI), I didn't understand that we could have a relationship with the saints.  When I chose Genevieve as my Confirmation saint, it was the ordinary things we had in common that attracted me to her, like how she liked to go to church at night & pray by candle light.  I, as a night owl, love to spend time in prayer at church in the night, that's when my adoration hour is!  So this little aspect of her life spoke to me along with many others.  I chose St. Genevieve (or at least I think I did), but sometimes saints choose us instead.

I used to only be interested in "cool" saints, modern saints that a lot of people loved and cared about that were popular and had awesome conversion stories or great miracles  For me, St. Bernard of Clairvaux was not that person.  I thought he was lame.  I had learned that I shared my birthday with his feast day and hated it. I wanted to share it with someone cool like Mother Teresa, or Mary, or Maria Goretti!  I had zero interest in St. Bernard, but during the summer of 2012 he pursuaded me to change my mind about him.  St. Bernard, who in my naivety I found to be beyond lame, offered me a friendship that I couldn't turn down. I spent the summer of 2012 working as a camp counselor at Totus Tuus Camp in Lyons, KS.  That summer I fell in love with praying the Memorare. I hadn't really prayed it much before but I was consistently drawn to that prayer. Well guess who wrote it? St. Bernard.  I was also introduced to the story of St. Bernadette by one of my coworkers. Her story with Our Lady of Lourdes is beautiful. Did you know that Bernadette is the feminine version of the name BERNARD! Well, it is.  I had received a prayer card from a friend about the Guardian Angels and the last line of the card was a quote about the angels from? You guessed it, St. Bernard!  My friend and I went in to the Catholic book store to buy a few things for camp that week and when she walked in she walked right up to this table and picked up this little green box and told me she felt like it was something I just had to have.  It was a medal of St. Bernard, the ONLY St. Bernard thing in the whole store.

St. Bernard was saint stalking me!  The more I was aware of St. Bernard in these different aspects of my life the more I noticed him calling for my friendship.  He had something to teach me. You see St. Bernard had a deep devotion to Our Lady and at the time, apart from loving the Memorare, I did not.  So through his example, his writings, his prayer, I saw my own love for Mary grow.  This saint friend of mine who I had tried to avoid was only trying to draw me closer to our Blessed Mother. 

That's what our friends the saints do, they want to help us draw closer in relationship with Christ and His Church. Do you not have a saint friend yet?  That's okay, Maybe I can help!  Start by finding a saint who intrigues you.  Is there a saint who sparks your curiosity?  Makes you uncomfortable?  A saint you're resisting getting to know? A saint you just don't "get"?  Let these questions drive you deeper into who they are.  Don't worry about needing to know ALL of the saints, just choose one or two and get to know them, really know them, not just know about them.  Seek out their advice, pray for their intercession, look in to their life for insight into what's going on in your own.

The saints are already pursuing you.  They are humble and don't always draw attention to themselves, but if you pay attention you'll begin to notice the saints are walking with you already!  Reach out to a saint who inspires you and make a new spiritutal BFF!  Imagine your reunion with them in heaven when that time comes!

In Him, through Her,

Cassi FitzGerald 

 

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Walking with Purpose - August 12, 2018

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Are you interested in getting together with the women of our parish to explore your faith?  Would you like to see how the Scriptures apply to your everyday life?  If so, we invite you to consider joining Walking with Purpose at St. John the Evangelist.  A weekly evening group session is starting Wednesday, September 5th.  Our foundational course Opening Your Heart, is designed for women new to Walking with Purpose and those with more Bible study experience.

Walking with Purpose is a Catholic Women's Bible study for women 18+ that aims to bring women to a deeper personal relationship with Jesus Christ by offering personal study and small group discussion that link our everyday challenges and struggles with the solutions given to us through the teachings of Christ and the Roman Catholic Church.

Interested in learning more? WWP will have a table with more information out after the weekend Masses on August 18-19.  Please join uson our first evening at 6:00pm on Wednesday, September 5th in Clonmel Hall to see what it's all about! Feel free to bring friends and family with you!

For questions or to register, call or email Rennae Schroeder (316) 461-0269/This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Ashley Lange (316) 652-5037/This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  You can also contact the parish office for more information.

Visit the Walking with Purpose page on our website for mroe information or to register: http://stjohnsclonmel.org/stjohns/index.php/faith-formation/walking-with-purpose

In Him, through Her,

Cassi FitzGerald 

 

(Read archived blog posts here)

Prayer and Action Recap - August 5, 2018

It has been a couple of weeks since our high school youth have returned from their week in Pittsburg, Kansas at Prayer & Action.  The students spent the week in an atmosphere that is free of distrations which helped foster their faith, inspire charity, and lead them clsoer to Christ

The week was spent in service to a man named Michael, who they call the 'miracle man'.  While in his 30's Michael and a friend stopped at a gas station on their way to the lake.  His friend ran inside and when he came back out he found Michael laying on the ground beside his jeep.  By the time he got to the hospital Michael had suffered two strokes and a brain aneurism.  About a month ago Michael was back in the hospital with some complications.  This has left Michael with difficulty working and we were blessed to be able to serve him and his dog Mr. Toad.  Our students spent the week painting Micahel's home and making some minor aesthetic repairs.  The thing about Prayer & Action is that in the end it's not truly about the house being painted, it's about serving and loving the person that God has put in front of you, be that the homeowner, the parishioners, or the people on your work crew.

We had a blessed week, thank you for your prayers and your Stweardship that allow for our young people to be able to experience the love of Christ in such a real and tangible way! 

In Him, through Her,

Cassi FitzGerald 

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Start Reading Your Bible - July 29, 2018

If you're like me, there have probably been a few different times in your life you've decided to start reading the Bible but didn't know where to start.  You desire to go deeper into God's Word but don't know how to approach it.  To ensure that you don't just jump in and then quit out of frustration or confusion, there are certain things you can do to be more successful.  Here are a few tips:

1. Pick a time, but not just any time.  Commit to a daily time to read Scripture.  Make it an intelligent time.  If you're really tired, reading in your bed right before it's time to sleep might not be the best option.  Pick a time when you are totally awake so you can give it your full attention.

2. Get yourself a good Catholic Bible (that way you have all 73 books)! I heard once from Mark Hart that "your Bible is like a telescope - it's not mean to be looked at, but looked through."  So find a Bible that's easy to read out of, durable enough to use, and one you won't mind writing in or marking on.  I'm a big fan of the Revised Standard Version - Catholic Edition for personal use, but you could use a New American Bible as well, which is the translation we hear when we are at Mass.  That being said, the best Bible you can start with is the one you have, so you can start right away.

3. Pray, and then pray some more.  Before you open God's Word, ask the Holy Spirit to be present to you in what you're reading in a bold way.  Spend some time in silence, asking the Spirit to open your mind, eyes, and heart to His truth.  Thank Him for the gift of His Word.  This doesn't have to be a long prayer but it is the most important step in Bible study.

4. Have a plan.  If you're planning on reading the Bible cover to cover...don't.  The Bible isn't a novel meant to be read from Genesis straight through to Revelation.  I'm a big fan of starting with the Gospels.  The Gospel of Mark is a nice one to start with.  It's the shortest Gospel and the easiest to udnerstand (I think).  You already know the main characters, the plotline, and how relevant the Gospel is to your faith life.

I'll be praying for us all and a renewal in our love for Sacred Scripture. 

In Him, through Her,

Cassi FitzGerald 

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Why a Crucifix, not just a Cross - July 22, 2018

As Catholics we display, wear, and process with a crucifix and not "just" a cross.  We don't "keep the body on the cross" out of a morbid desire to depress people.  Many people think that because Christ has risen, He should not be portrayed on a cross.  We as Catholics don't condemn a plain cross, it was our Catholic ancestors who drew the first crosses as the symbol for their belief in Christ.  And there are even crosses that are "Resurrecifixes" (is that a word?) e.g. a cross behind an image of the Risen Christ.  

But Catholics raise high the crucifix because we want to proclaim the bigger picture of salvation.  Suffering is a beautiful and necessary part of salvation.  Life is not just about the shiny golden cross, that's only half the story.  The reality is that life is also about the bloody splintered cross.  Before Christ's crown was gold, it was thorns.

The crucifix ensures that we keep the proper perspective when life is more storms than sunshine.  The crucifix is not a symbol of defeat, but of hope.  The crucifix helps us to adore Christ, to produce contrition for sins, helps us focus on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, comforts us in our sorrows, inspires us to bear suffering patiently, shows us the price Jesus paid for us, increases our gratitude towards Christ, shows us the model of true love.    

In the eyes of God, the crucifix is the most glorious sight in the history of humanity.  While calling the bloodied and destroyed body of our God "glorious" may seem confusing in the mind of society, it is the most accurate description from God's perspective.  The body of Christ that we gaze upon in the crucifix is the highest sign of love this world has ever seen.  It is so scandalous and uncomfortable that most would rather view the cross without the body.

The love of God is scandalous because it is untamed, unconditional, and unyielding.  God the Father did not look down only to see the sin covering His Son, He looked down and saw the selflessness in the sacrifice.  When He looked at how abandoned His Son was in the face of suffering.  God's heart could not help but be moved by the perfection of love.

In Him, through Her,

Cassi FitzGerald 

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Saint Kateri Tekakwitha - July 15, 2018

It can be very hard to live an authentic Catholic life in our society today.  And in our journey, even if our family supports usin our faith, often it feels like we're going through it alone.  Culture tells us that happiness is achieved through popularity, money, success, fame, and sex.  It's easy to get caught up in that.  It's easy for our eyes to become fixated on ourselves.  We think "if only I was skinnier, had more friends, was a better athlete, was funnier...THEN I'd be happy."  We compare ourselves to everyone else and our focus is no longer on the cross, no longer on Jesus.  We forget that Jesus, and only Him, can bring us true joy, fulfillment, and peace.  

I want to introduce you to my pal, Saint Kateri Tekawitha, who was familiar with the challenge of living an authentic, Catholic life, despite having friends, family, and a culture that opposed her decision.  Kateri was born in 1656 in to the Mohawk tribe.  At four years old she contracted smallpox, an outbreak that killed her entire family and left her an orphan.  She became partially blind with severe scars all over her face which left her humiliated.  Orphaned, she was sent to live with her aunt and uncle and at age 11 became friends with a group of Jesuit missionaries visiting her village.  They introduced Kateri to Catholicism and helped her to develop a deep faith life.

Her aunt and uncle arranged for Kateri to be married but she refused.  Shocking her family and tribe she wanted to be baptized a Catholic.  At age 23 Kateri vowed to live as a Bride of Christ.  She said "I have consecrated myself entirely to Jesus, son of Mary, I have chosen Him for husband and He alone will take me for wife."

One year later her health began to decline and at age 24 she died.  Her last words were "lesos konoronkwa" - "Jesus, I love you."  Kateri's life was filled with suffering, and yet, she loved Jesus with her whole heart.  Do we live oru life in a way that shows people we love Jesus, even when it's difficult, even when we are misunderstood?

July 14 was St. Kateri Tekakwitha's feast day.  Let us ask for her intercession to give us the courage to follow Jesus without reservation.

In Him, through Her,

Cassi FitzGerald 

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Blood Drive - July 8, 2018

St. John's will be hosting another blood drive on July 22nd from 9:00am - 3:00pm in Clonmel Hall.  There is a signup sheet in the church gathering space for you to sign up for a time to donate or you may call the parish office during the work week to sign up for a time.  There is such a great need for donating blood in the summer months. Please consider giving to this life saving mission!

TOP 10 REASONS TO GIVE BLOOD

1. You will get juice and cookies. 

2. It's easy and convenient. It only takes about an hour to give whole blood, and you can make your donation here at church!

3. You will weigh less. One pint less than when you came in!

4. It's something you can spare. Most people have blood to spare, yet there is still not enough to go around.

5. No one can ask you to do heavy lifting. As long as you wear your bandage, you're on reprieve.  Wear it as long as you like. It's a badge of honor!

6. You will walk a little taller afterward. Most people feel good about themselves knowing they've just helped save someone's life.  You will too! 

7. You will be helping to ensure that blood is there when it's needed. Most people don't think they'll ever need blood, but many do.  One whole blood donation can yield up to three blood products: red cells, platelets and plasma.

8. You will give a gift that costs nothing, but lasts a lifetime. Blood is something money can't buy.  It's only something that one person can give to another.

9. You will be someone's hero! You may give a newborn, a child, a mother or father, a brother or a sister another chance at life.  In fact, you can help save up to three lives with just one donation!

10. It's the right thing to do!

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Tips for Families: The Rosary - July 1, 2018

Praying the rosary doesn't always sound like a lot of fun to kids and teens (or even adults).  It can be hard to convince our families to pray and not just go through themotions and say the words.  Here are a few tips to help make this time of prayer together special.

1. Pick a Time & Place - Consistency is key!  Even if it's just once a week, choose a time when everyone is home and make it family prayer time.  Make it special, and don't give up this time when things get busy.

2. Espect Distractions - The devil hates the Rosary, and he'll try to interfere.  Prayer is a battlefield and the enemy will try to make your prayer time less fruitful.  When a distraction happens and you realize it, return to prayer as if you were dodging a bullet and continue on.

3. Light a Candle - The simple lighting of a candle can help set the time and place of prayer apart.  Set it in the center of your prayer space next to a crucifix or a picture of Mary and let it draw your eye to rest on them.

4. Use Blessed Rosaries - If you haven't done so already, have your rosaries blessed by a priest.  I'll volunteer Fr. Tatro to do this!  Having a blessed rosary brings just a little more grace to your prayer time. 

5. Focus on the Mysteries - Google some images of the mysteries of the rosary, or have your little ones draw pictures of them.  Use these to help your family contemplate the mysteries in new ways.  It's okay to let your prayer focus on the mysteries of the rosary and not necessarily on the repetitive words of the prayers. 

6. Don't go Crazy - When it comes to prayer, quality matters much more than quantity.  If your family struggles to get through an entire rosary, don't force it.  It's better to pray one or two decades well than it is to ramble through a whole rosary to 'get it done'.

7. Keep a Tally - Every prayer said during a rosary becomes a rose in Mary's heavenly crown.  Keep a tally of how many roses yoru family has added.  Each rosary has 60 Our Father's and Hail Mary's combined.  Each time you pray, multiply the number of family members praying by 60 and add it to your existing number.  It will be fun for your kids (and you) to see some sort of progress being made!

You won't regret the efforts you put forth in establishing this habit with your family.  Our lady is always generous with those who turn to her for help. 

In Him, through Her,

Cassi FitzGerald 

(Read archived blog posts here)

13 Reasons for Hope - June 24, 2018

Hopelessness is a very real thing.  It can happen when someone is going through difficult times or painful experiences.  And, it can happen without specific reasons.  Maybe someone feels overwhelmed, trapped, or insecure; there might be challenges that someone is facing where there seems like no solution is possible.  But there is always a reason for hope, no matter how bad things seem at the moment.

You see, hope is more than a feel good emotion, it is a gift from God that He freely wants to give all of us.  Why is it important?  Because life has its challenges.  There are obstacles amidst the twists and turns of the journey.  The gift ofhope allows us to approach life with confidence that our loving God has our best interests at heart and will sustain us through the storms in life.

Remember these 13 reasons for our hope:

1. Christ is victorious (1 Corinthians 15: 54-54-58)

2. The Lord will fight for you (Joshua 10:25)

3. God has a plan and purpose for your life (Jeremiah 29:11)

4. Jesus is healer and wants to heal you (Luke 18:35-43)

5. God says you're not alone (Isaiah 43: 1-3)

6. God will always help you (Psalm 121: 1-8)

7. God's grace is enough (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

8. He will give you hope (Romans 5:3-4, 8)

9. God will comfort you (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

10. God will carry your burdens (Psalm 55:22)

11. He will forgive.  God syas he gave his only Son for our sins. (Isaiah 53: 3-5)

12. God loves you (John 3:16)

13. God is with you forever (2 Corinthians 4:7, 16-18)

Adapted from www.lifeteen.com/blog/13-reasons-hope/

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June 17, 2018

Dear Friends,

"You never leave a place you love.  Part of it you take with you leaving a part of you behind."  I do not know the author of this quotation, but I know that the words conveyed are true.  As I leave this parish family of St. John the Evangelist, I give thanks to God for the blessing and privilege of accompanying you the last two years in this pilgrimage to the Kingdom of Heaven. 

Three weeks ago at the 140th Anniversary Parish Festival, I shared with Fr. Derek Thome and the crowd gathered that night, that the two of us were about to begin a formation in a new seminary.  He will continue his formation as a priest at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Wichita, and I will continue my formation as a priest at St. John the Evangelist Parish in El Dorado.  Fr. Derek has been ordained three weeks and I have been ordained thirty years.  Our formation is never completed as priests and neither is the faith formation for any of you.  There is no graduation from faith formation!

God has truly blessed and continued to bless this parish for 140 years since its birth in 1878.  Generations that have gone before us have formed us in the Catholic Faith.  By our Baptism, we now are called to pass on that Faith to the generations that follow us.  There is a great blessing in knowing that we are on a pilgrim journey to one destination - the Kingdom of God.

Please know that as I celebrate Mass at the Altar of St. John the Evangelist Parish in El Dorado, I will pray for you as you gather around the Altar to celebrate Mass at the Altar of St. John tht eEvangelist Parish in Clonmel.  (It is 49.7 miles from one Altar to the other.  You know me and my love for numbers)!

I have no doubt that you will warmly welcome Fr. Joe Tatro as your new shepherd.  You are blessed indeed to receive such a gifted and holy pastor.  He is blessed to receive such a holy parish family as St. John the Evangelist.

"May the Lord bles syou and keep you.  May the Lord let his face shine upon you and be gracious to you.  May the Lord look upon you kindly and keep you in his peace." (Numbers 6:24-26)

In Christ's Service,

Fr. John 

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