The Heavens Declare The Glory Of God

The Heavens Declare The Glory Of God

Dear Parishioners,

The “Great American Eclipse,” as some are calling it, is almost upon us.  Here’s some data to help you observe the eclipse from our area:

    9:03 AM - The beginning moment of the eclipse
   10:16 AM - The maximum eclipse.  
   
11:36 AM. The end moment of the eclipse

Since we are not located in the “path of totality,” meaning that we will not see a total eclipse, but rather a partial eclipse (94%), at no time should anyone look directly at the sun.  So, as a basic public service, we are making available certified solar glasses at the end of the Masses so you can enjoy the beauty of God’s creation.  The event as a whole will last, roughly, two-and-a-half hours. So, there will be plenty of time to observe.

Okay, so one might ask, what’s all the hype about? Simply, the beauty of creation, particularly the heavens, declare the glory of God (Ps. 19:2).  Did you know that the Church has been engaged in science since its earliest developments, and indeed, is responsible for the very scientific method we all use? Astronomy, in particular, has been of particular interest to the Church in order to know the seasons of the year and liturgical events like Easter. The Vatican opened its first observatory in 1891, placing it among the oldest astronomical institutes in the world (vaticanobservatory.va). 

In the Scriptures, “celestial” events have been signs of the works and presence of God.  Some Christians and non-Christians have chosen only to focus on the foreboding events such as the eclipse that occurred at the crucifixion. But, as Catholics, we also recognize that the beauty of the created world gives us a foreshadowing of heaven and a glimpse about the works of God. This weekend’s reading from 1 Kings 19:9A, 11-13A , is instructional. In the text, we can hear that God and nature are not the same thing, as a pantheist would propose. Instead, we heard how nature reflects something about God. In this week’s reading, we heard about Elijah encountered God. The LORD was not in the wind, earthquake, nor fire, three common elements as understood by antiquity. Yet, these events signaled the LORD’s coming presence.  In the end, Elijah experienced God speaking in a tiny whispering sound.  Elsewhere in the Scriptures, God was understood to be announced by the sun in Matthew 17: 2 and clouds covering the tent and filling the tabernacle during the Israelites journey in the desert in Exodus 40:34.  The power of God to forgive sin metaphorically is described via an eclipse in Sirach 17:31.  Encouragement to have no “fear of the signs in the heavens” can be found in Jeremiah 10:2.  The stars served as a sign of promise to Abraham in Genesis 15:5, and my favorite Psalm 19:2 solemnly says, “The heavens declare the glory of God.”

The eclipse that will fall across the United States on Aug. 21st is an amazing event for many reasons.  Primarily for the general public, we will admire it for its sheer beauty.  An eclipse is relatively unusual to the common person, though they happen every year somewhere on Earth. The phenomena surrounding an eclipse (darkness, crescent shadowing under trees, and birds trying to settle in for rest) remind us about the role the the sun and moon have in experience of life on Earth.  For those inclined to things geeky, how amazing it is that the relative sizes and distances of both the moon and sun relative to the Earth are such that the moon can completely block the sun so that people can experience the beauty of a total eclipse. If the moon was any closer or father away, we would not experience a total eclipse. As it turns out, the Moon is slowly moving away from the Earth. So eventually, the moon will be far enough away such that total eclipses will no longer happen.  How amazing that we are alive at a very particular time in the history of Earth that we can observe total solar eclipses.  God’s a pretty good planner, eh?

Finally, as a ministry to our community of faith, I have arranged the purchase of hundreds of solar glasses to be given away for free after the Masses this weekend (as supplies last) [REVISION: The shipment did not arrive in time for this weekend. But, it is scheduled for Monday and so we will have the solar glasses available for next weekend's Masses.]  Please enjoy the eclipse in safety.  While viewing, remember how awesome our God is.  May this event be an opportunity to lift up our hearts in praise of the LORD’s handiwork.  

Here’s a website to visit to learn more: greatamericaneclipse.com

Blessings,

Fr. William Holtzinger
Pastor

Groundbreaking Scheduled

Groundbreaking Scheduled

Dear Parishioners,

Praise be to our Lord Jesus Christ who continues to inspire and work in our Church.  As of this writing, the church building is now completely gone.  The dirt underneath the foundation will soon be removed down to the bedrock, and a new two foot layer of rock will follow.  From that point, the site will be fenced off for safety, and the hole that remains will be off limits.  We will be applying for construction permits, and wait until mid September for more activity.  

Mark your calendars for September 17th when Bishop Peter smith will come for our 11 AM Mass followed by a groundbreaking ceremony. This project needs all of our prayers: prayers for safety, prayers for healing, prayers for those who have been away and are coming back of curiosity, prayers for the continued work of the committees stewarding the project along, andprayers that we will be the welcoming people our mission calls us to be.

If you are involved in social media such as Facebook or Twitter, you may have realized that updates on our project are frequently posted there.  They are, in fact, the most rapid and up-to-date means to maintain clear and transparent communication with people. I will, of course, keep us up-to-date via our bulletin or “pulpit announcements” at Mass as needed. We will continue to do so as a way to help us all journey together and pray together for this work that God is doing in our community of faith.

Blessings,

Fr. William Holtzinger
Pastor

"Let's Do This!"

"Let's Do This!"

Last Monday at 9 AM, my prayer with those gathered in our parking lot ended with this phrase, “Let’s do this!” It was not a statement of arrogance or something to revel in, but one of decisiveness amidst what I expected to be a very difficult event, the demolition of our old church. While I have been very excited about the prospects of a beautiful new church, I have also been keenly aware of the suffering that many have been going through up to this day. It was a day for some of our community where memories were dislodged from a physical space they had come to know and love. In some ways, the past was being demolished along with the building.  But, as Catholic Christians, this cannot be the last word. Suffering does not have the final word.

We believe in God who suffered too. We know he suffered and died in the person of Jesus Christ who was nailed to the cross for our sins, though personally innocent. What can we learn from this example by our Lord?  Not just that suffering is part of life, but that suffering leads to resurrection, to new life, to joy.  Between suffering and joy, however, is death.  We all experienced the death of our old church on Monday.  It was both dramatic and traumatic.  

I was personally moved when the excavator first pushed several times against the facade and doors of our church, breaking the stained glass and caving in the cinder block. The I-beam that held the balcony refused to be moved despite many tries by the excavator, almost as if fighting against its own demise.  But, it soon would give in like the rest of the building. In a sense, this is sentimentalizing an inanimate object. Yet, welling up within me was a sadness at the scene taking place before my eyes.  One parishioner reminded me, “Even though we are demolishing this church building, the gates of hell will not prevail against His Church,” referencing Matthew 16:18.  Great words!  A great reminder, for God has plans in which we can place our hope. The Church is not built with brick and mortar alone, but more so upon the hearts of the faithful where Christ himself resides.

Beginning of demolition.  Photo courtesy of Fr. William Holtzinger

Beginning of demolition.  Photo courtesy of Fr. William Holtzinger

For the next two months, our hallowed ground will lay dormant while we quietly prepare for the next phase.  Beginning in the first part of August, we will go out for bids for subcontractors for the new church.   We already have our mechanical, plumbing, and electrical contractors lined up.  These are the most important and foundational groups needed.  On September 17th, Bishop Peter Smith will be here and offer our 11 AM Sunday Mass followed by an official groundbreaking ceremony.  There may already be some work done on the new foundation by that point, but it is important to be reminded that this is not just a human endeavor.  Ultimately, it is for the praise and greater glory of God. 

May glory of God shine through us as we bury, so to speak, our former church, and begin to witness the rising of a new church building.

Blessing,

Fr. William Holtzinger
Pastor

Drone photos courtesy of Vernon Snyder

Church Building Now Empty

Church Building Now Empty

Dear Parishioners,

This past week has been an important yet emotional step in our journey to our new church building. Thank you to all the many people who came this past week to help prepare our church by preserving all the items that are important to us while also removing the items that needed to be thrown away or given away for other noble purposes. 

While Tuesday was our official day for the “Church Clean Out Work Day,” we had many people come on Monday to help us get ahead in this needed task. On this following Monday (June 26), the church building will be off limits to all as asbestos abatement begins. It is scheduled to last for two weeks.  At the time this posting went live, we have a demolition date for July 10th. I don't know what time this will be, but keep your eyes peeled to our parish Facebook and Twitter feeds for the latest. 

In addition to preparing the church building for demolition, we have settled into a routine for daily Mass. If you come to daily Mass, each parishioner needs to immediately take notice that they will be responsible for placing a host in the paten to be brought forward at the Preparation of the Gifts.  This is one benefits of no longer having two entrances and two sides to our gathering space. Now, we can more easily fulfill the Church’s guidelines that tell us that the hosts to be brought forward should only be the ones needed for the community at that Mass. As for Sunday celebrations, our sacristans will continue to get rough counts of those who have come for Mass and make sure the number of hosts is appropriate. In addition, we continue to have a reserved number of hosts for the sick in our Tabernacle so that our Homebound Ministers can bring Christ to the sick.

As always, please keep this courageous and faith-filled enterprise in your prayers.  And, again, thank you to all who gave of their time and talent this past week to help prepare the church for asbestos abatement.

Blessings,

Fr. William Holtzinger
Pastor

It Has Begun

It Has Begun

Dear Parishioners,

Well, it has begun.  Last week our flags were taken down and our pipe organ dismantled and sent to St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church in Portland. This weekend marks the last time we will offer any Sacraments or services in our church building. Each one of these events are uncomfortable and even disturbing, for we are all used to these things.  We’ve come to expect them in our minds, hearts, and vision when we come to our campus.  But, instead of living solely in the sadness of things going away, we must all accept that suffering and dying are necessary parts of life and necessary parts of our spiritual growth.  When we accept suffering and death into our lives, we are accepting our cross.  When we accept our cross, we are being true disciples of the Lord and only then can resurrection occur.  So, I want to encourage us all to truly take in the changes that cause us discomfort and see them for the potential gifts that they can be. 

Last week, while on retreat, I came upon this wonderful thought from Thérèse of Lisieux who was quoting a priest, Fr. Almire Pinchon: “The greatest honor that God can pay to anyone is not to give him much but to ask much from him.” God is asking much from us. This transitional time will require us to be uncomfortable at times and even bump into each other at times. We will get to know each other in a much more intimate space, literally we will be closer by the fact that we will be sitting right next to each other! But, this is our grand opportunity to give praise to God and love each other at a more personal level!  This is our time to pray for our community that we will grow through our suffering and become the saints we are all called to be. So, praise God for what he is asking from us!  In return, pray that our participation in our crosses will bear great fruit not just for our parish, but for all those who come to visit or are wanting to join us in the years to come. 

We will be saying goodbye to our current church (honoring our past), and preparing for our new church (building our future).  This presents us all a choice.  What will you choose?  May all our efforts give God the glory, for we choose to serve the Lord (cf. Joshua 24:15). 

Blessings,

Fr. William Holtzinger
Pastor

Countdown

Countdown

Dear Parishioners,

Let the countdown begin! Next weekend will be the last time we will celebrate any Masses, services, or any of the Sacraments in our current church as we move to the Hall and prepare for the next step towards our new church. Here’s what’s coming in the near future. 

June 13-16th - The organ will be dismantled, transported, and reassembled in St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church in Portland. 

June 18 - After the 11 AM Mass, we will solemnize the departure of our church by stripping the altar, removing the Blessed Sacrament as well as the Holy Oils and processing through the church and to the Parish Center Sky Room where we will have a short time of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

June 19 - Our first Mass in the Sky Room will take place. We will continue to use the Sky Room until the day we dedicate our new church in the later part of 2018. We are planning for Christmas and Easter Masses to take place in the gym of the Lincoln Elementary School across the street just so we can handle the increase in attendence during those times.

June 20 - All are invited to help in the removal of all the other items of the church to be either stored, thrown away, or given to other entities. The pews will need to be unbolted from the pews and placed outside. This activity will be lead by Kirk Chapman, Stephen Voehl, and Alan Crews.  If anyone has any questions, they are the ones with whom to inquire.

June 21 - If the church is not yet emptied of items that are scheduled to be removed, etc., this will be when the last items should be completely taken out.

After all the needed items have been removed from the church, a company will come to the church to begin asbestos abatement which will take two weeks to complete. The church will be completely off limits during this important step, indeed expect to see workers dressed in special garb and face masks as well other special wrapping around the church as the professionals determine are needed.

After asbestos abatement, heavy equipment will be brought in and demolition of the church will commence. This is expected to take only three days. We will make sure to advertise this date when it is known. It will be quite the event to witness.

So, there’s our short-term timeline of events.  There may be some unforeseen changes, but we do not expect them at this point.  As always, please keep this process in your prayers.  Please pray for the safety of all who are doing this work.  And ultimately, let us always keep our hearts, minds, and vision on the goal which is a new church for the greater glory of God.

Blessings,

Fr. William Holtzinger
Pastor

Moving & Working Together

Moving & Working Together

Dear Parishioners,

As we have shared previously, our last weekend in the church is June 17-18.  At the end of the 11 AM Mass on June 18th, we will formally strip the altar, remove the Blessed Sacrament and Holy Oils, and process in solemnity and joy from the church to the Parish Center for a short time of adoration and prayer.  In the days that follow that weekend, we need to begin to prepare the church for asbestos abatement and later demolition. This is where we, as church, can help out. We will have to unbolt the pews, removed the sound system and statues, and many other things.  A “honey-do” list will be created as well as dates as best as we can for these and other activities.  We will advertise these things when we know them more definitively.

Please keep this whole process in your prayers. We are now getting to the phase where things are not just being done in committees, but happening in front of our very eyes. We, ourselves, will need to move and get used to a new “field-church” situation in the Parish Center. We have only three more weekends left in our current building!

May charity and joy reign in our hearts. May we continually lean on the Lord for guidance and strength. And as it is written in Ephesians 1:17 from today’s Mass, “May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give [us] a Spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him.”  For the greater glory of God and the increase of the Faith are why we do what we do. May he bless our hands and hearts in the weeks and months ahead.

Blessings,

Fr. William Holtzinger
Pastor

Do Not Let Your Hearts Be Troubled

Do Not Let Your Hearts Be Troubled

Dear Parishioners,

Jesus said, "Where I am going you know the way." Thomas then answered, "Master, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" In the context of the moment, Jesus was trying to encourage his disciples not let their hearts be troubled. And why? Because, Jesus knew that his disciples were afraid and unsure of the future. Jesus told them that, despite his leaving, he would prepare a place for them and then return. He assured them that, more than anything else, they needed to know that Jesus is the "way and the truth and the life," and thus they went out with courage and faith. In this event, Jesus is speaking to us as well.

In each of our lives, there are changes, uncertainties, and other things that cause us fear and worry. In view of our new church building project, the reality that our current church will be demolished could cause anxiety and sadness for some. For others, there is anticipation and excitement. One thing is certain, we must be sensitive to each other during this process. We all hold memories of sacraments and other events that were commemorated in our church.

Going forward, be assured that people of good faith are striving to be good stewards in the process. Things are bound to change and mistakes will be made. We will be bumping into each other more and sitting closer to each other. In our transition period, which is slated to begin on June 24/25th, we should not be like the Israelites who grumbled and, thus, wandered in the desert. Rather, we are the disciples of Jesus who are called to a particular mission (this new church) with courage and faith.

Blessings,

Fr. William Holtzinger Pastor 

Thank You Volunteers!

Thank You Volunteers!

Dear Parishioners,

This weekend, we offered our annual Volunteer Appreciation Dinner. Giving thanks is what we Catholics do. The word in Greek is the same word we use for Eucharist. So, we share our common thanksgiving for what Christ gave us in his Body and Blood as well as the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the lay ministries of the Church.

Last week, we heard about how the disciples gathered together to listen to the teachings of the Apostles, share in fellowship, broke bread (think the Eucharist), and lived a common life helping each other. They didn’t do this because they believed in Socialism. They lived this way because of their shared experience of the crucified and risen Lord. Out of that experience came their desire to serve and give instead of being served and hoarding. We can all learn from their example.

In our situation, we have much for which to be thankful. Indeed, without our volunteers participating in the many, many ministries of our parish, there simply would be no outreach beyond Mass. It isn’t a matter of ownership and territory (these are antagonistic to the Gospel), but one of responsible stewardship, of recognizing one’s need to give, of making commitments and following through, of tending, and of responding in gratitude for all that God has given us. So, if you are involved in any ministry and were not able to make it to our gathering, please know of our deep appreciation for your faithful response to God’s calling in your life. I am a proud papa, or pastor! I am so grateful for all those things our parishioners do, those visible and invisible. You know who you are.

May God continue to pour out on you all his grace upon you all, and thank you so much for giving of your time, talent, treasure, and tradition to our community!

Blessings,

Fr. William Holtzinger
Pastor 

Christ Lives!

Christ Lives!

Dear Parishioners,

All praise be to our Lord Jesus Christ who is risen from the dead! Alleluia!  Alleluia!

This weekend we celebrate the greatest of our holy days in the Church, for we remember and rejoice in the greatest miracle of love: the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is through his rising from the dead that he conquered death, the ultimate barrier humanity had to eternity with God. This event we call Easter concludes what we call the "Paschal Mystery." This Paschal Mystery is Jesus' suffering, death, and resurrection. In Spanish, Easter is referred to as, "Pascua."

We all yearn for heaven, though possibly unaware. We yearn for communion, love, and ecstasy.  Yet, we look for these in things, events, and people that cannot and do not fulfill these desires. Some theologians speak about it in terms of having a God-shaped hole in our hearts, and only God can fill that hole completely. In the meantime, we strive for joy and happiness only to be disappointed when our direction is toward anything other than God.  A simple example is when someone we deeply love dies or suffers; We lose and suffer with them. We seek out help which is important. But, when we leave God out of the equation, we never fully heal, but rather continue to suffer. Jesus knew this about us. Indeed, God made us for himself, and he loves us perfectly. Remember, God is love and the author of love. So, since love is what we yearn for, it can only be fully experienced with God deeply involved. As St. Augustine once wrote in his book, Confessions, "You arouse us so that praising you may bring us joy, because you have made us and drawn us to yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you."

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, indeed his entire Paschal Mystery is the model and paradigm for all of Christian life. Whether we realize it or not, it is for this that our soul longs.  So Easter is a celebration and a reminder that we were made for love and eternal life with God in heaven. Yet, we don't have to wait until we are in heaven to experience some foretaste of what is to come. But, in order to do that, we must follow Jesus in his Paschal Mystery. We must join our suffering to him, die to ourselves, and then be set free in a new joy/resurrection in our life here.  

When a tragedy befalls us, when we have been betrayed, when we have been hurt by others, we naturally suffer.  But, we are prone to avoid entering into it and avoid dying to ourselves. I include myself in this as well. When that happens, we never heal, never rise in joy. Easter reminds us that the path to joy is one preceded by suffering and death. So, where Jesus went, we are to follow. Think about a situation where there is some hardship or suffering.  Spend time in prayer reflecting with Jesus about that situation. Ask Jesus to enter into that suffering with you.  Listen to what he has to say. Put yourself aside. Put your own desires aside, and listen to the Lord. Seek out with Jesus and ask him where you need to let go, to die to yourself in regard to the suffering. Then, you will be open to what Jesus says and wants for you, not despite your suffering, but through your suffering. By doing this, you begin to die to yourself.  By trusting in our Lord, a new situation, a new day, a resurrection is possible. By letting go and dying to yourself, you let Jesus work miracles in you. Sorrow can turn to joy. Hatred can turn to love. Despair can turn to hope. This continual spiritual exercise will train you for life eternal.  It will turn you into a person whose joy is beyond the circumstances of this life. Your focus will no longer be the news or the latest gossip. You will not desperately seek out the approval of others. It will be solidly resting in the truth about God in your life, the truth that he loves you, the truth that sets you free!

This is what we celebrate in Easter. Jesus rose from the dead. He conquered death. He opened the gates of heaven. Resurrection is possible. Jesus rose from the dead and now sits at the right hand of the Father where he intercedes for us. He wants all of us to join him. But until that time, he wants us to live here on Earth in joy and to love his creation. May this Easter, this Pascua, remind you of these divine truths. May we all rejoice in God's love for us and his gift of the Paschal Mystery of his Son, Jesus Christ. May we all, too, live in imitation of our Lord, and so rise one day like him. May all we do give praise to Christ who showed us how to live, die, and rise to eternal life!

Blessings,

Fr. William Holtzinger
Pastor