Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Hope in Time of Uncertainty

 


Holy Family has been hosting an annual Spaghetti Dinner and raffle for the past 10 years in North Java. The Spaghetti Dinner is schedule for this Sunday, October 18H starting at 11:30. However, due to the Covid-19 virus, I received information from Steven Perkins, the Wyoming County Director of Environmental Services, that we could not host any eat-in event but “take out” only according to county health regulations. The safety of our parishioners is the most important priority and the parish committee decided that we would offer our parishioners and their friends “take out” only and cancel our in-house basket raffle to keep our community safe.

 

To prepare for this event, we asked our parishioners to make advance reservations so that our Executive Chef, Sandy Janes and her church volunteer crew, would know how many homemade meatballs to prepare in advance.

 

We mailed 1400 invitations to homes in several local towns to invite residents to join us for our annual celebration. On the day of the event, 338 dinners were served in 90 minutes by 20 volunteers. Then later in the day, another email was circulating that an anonymous donor had ordered 125 dinners to be donated to poor families in our Wyoming County area. 


 

 

Kari Sears, the Director of Angel Action, was contacted to help in this effort and she put together a list of families in need and that the agency would arrange distribution of the dinners to their homes by their volunteers. On Saturday, October 17th at 10 am, Sandy Janes, has requested volunteers to come to the North Java Fire Department to help prepare salads and package cookies for the event.

 

What started as an annual fund raiser for the parish that normally would have brought locals together to share a meal and offer their donated raffle baskets had been transformed into a county community wide event to help feed the poor of our community. Instead of surrendering to the fear and uncertainty of this pandemic, one person of faith had sparked this parish into action to be a sign of hope and hospitality knowing that we are not all in the same boat. Many families are unemployed, others are alone and isolated and we are all feeling frustrated and worried that we fall victim to this deadly virus. Sadly, the number of both confirmed and presumptive positive cases of the disease in the United States has reached almost 7.7 million with over 213,00 deaths reported among those cases.

 

We are a resilient community where wearing a mask and practicing social distance is a sign that we truly care about our neighbor. This invitation to come and take a dinner to a hurting family who feels frustrated and exhausted by the past seven months is a sign of hope that is needed to persevere during these uncertain times.  You will know that we are Christians by our love is a familiar hymn sung by many faith communities that expresses our faith to reflect the love of God for all people.

 

As shepherd of this dynamic Catholic community that welcome all especially anyone who feels uncomfortable coming to any church, know that you are in our prayers and welcomed always. The people of Holy Family practice social distance and wear masks at all their Sunday celebration but since March our worship services have gone virtual and over 25,000 people have clicked onto the parish website to pray with us. Every Sunday we Zoom and record our Mass celebrations. You can find us online at http://holyfamilyncchurch.org   

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, October 12, 2020

Have No Anxiety

 


With being the start of October, someone posted online: “Good News, 2020 is 3/4 over!”  Which was quickly followed by messages ranging from “it’s only 3/4 over… “don’t know if we’re going to make it thru another quarter…” “Where do we forfeit the rest of this year and just get to 2021?” 

Undoubtedly, by any measure this has been a historically challenging year on seemingly every level.  Whether it’s the viral pandemic… civil strife and growing polarizing division we experience whether virtually or in person… horrific weather events from wildfires to hurricanes.  And that’s not even considering the challenges, the struggles, the setbacks and difficulties so many people are dealing with on a local level in their homes, their families.  It’s understandable that there’s been widespread weariness, frustration and even depression.

 

With all those and probably a list of other challenges that escape the mind right now, it can be hard not to have a somewhat dismissive reaction to St. Paul’s words when he says, “Have no anxiety at all.” Imagine posting that online you can already hear the responses – “easy for you to say Paul…” “For Real?”  

 

Paul, we believe was inspired by God to do so.  That the Holy Spirit guided Paul’s mind, heart and hand to compose those words and that this divine message was not limited to just the people who were suffering persecution, but addressing these words to us, here, in North Java, in Wyoming County, in October of 2020.

 

So, take a second to just think of whatever it is that is causing you anxiety right now.  Whatever the list of worries, concerns, doubts and fears you’re experiencing… short term or long term… things for yourself, for your loved ones, your neighbors, our community, our nation, our world.

Paul says… God says: Have no anxiety at all.

 

Have no anxiety at all – because Paul reminds us, we have a God who loves us… Who is waiting for us to acknowledge His presence… Longing for us to recognize His history of goodness… and to cast our prayers, make our requests known to Him.

 

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends, let this be our daily mantra: “Seek to do God’s will and you will be free of needless worry and anxiety.” 

 

You’re invited to follow the link below to enjoy the beauty reflected in images captured in the photography of Father Matt.  Today’s Sonshine image is a new 2020 image that can be found in the Autumn Gallery. Proceeds will support the ministries of our parish and comfort home: www.frmatt.com

 


 

 

Sunday, October 04, 2020

I Am Simon


 

Last Thursday with it being the start of October, someone posted online: “Good News, 2020 is 3/4 over!”  Which was quickly followed by messages ranging from “it’s only 3/4 over… “don’t know if we’re going to make it thru another quarter…”  Undoubtedly, by any measure this has been a historically challenging year on seemingly every level.  Whether it’s the viral pandemic, civil strife and seemingly growing polarizing division we see, or horrific weather events from wildfires to hurricanes.  And that’s not even taking into account the challenges, the struggles, the setbacks and difficulties so many people are dealing with on a local level in their homes, their families.  It’s understandable that there’s been widespread weariness, frustration and even depression. Despite this chaos, I receive the following email.

 

Thank you so much Matt.  I needed this to reset my compass and the direction I am going. I guess that I am somewhat of a religious person even though my ass rarely finds its way to the church. I think I have told you this before.  For many years, I have had a favorite station of the cross. it moves me as much today as it did when I sat and had that revelation some 20+ years ago. I was brought to that station again recently. I went to a funeral a week or so ago. It was assigned seating and mine happened to be in front of my favorite....Number 5.... Simon helps.

 

Jesus was on his way to his crucifixion, weak and bloodied, stumbling and falling. Simon is a “dufus” like me wandering along, minding my own business. Suddenly, he is pulled from the crowd and told to help Jesus.  Why him? Why was he there at that place and time? He was for a reason and it was to help Jesus when asked. To do what God had ask...to help his son.

 

In my years of volunteering, I have always looked at myself and all volunteers as we are the modern-day Simons. We don't know why we are asked to help, but we are.  I always have felt that this is the hand of God resting on our shoulders asking us to help...to do his will...... without whining or complaining much. For what we are asked to do is not for us, it's not to fulfill our egos, but rather to do the work of God on earth as asked. 

 

I am Simon. 

 

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who find themselves being invited by God to be another Simon. Taking a neighbor for their flu shot, volunteering at our Comfort Home for the dying, caretaking our mother-in-law, helping our kids with their virtual homework, making our meal reservation ahead of time for the Spaghetti Dinner so Sandy knows how many “meatballs” to order.  Transform our “dufus” and whining brains and infuse your humility and compassionate spirit so that we simply say yes: “Your will be done.” 

 

You’re invited to follow the link below to enjoy the beauty reflected in images captured in the photography of Father Matt.  Today’s Sonshine image is a new 2020 image that can be found in the Autumn Gallery. Proceeds will support the ministries of our parish and comfort home: www.frmatt.com

 

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Five Surprising Places to Meet God

 

 


Many of us fall into the subtle trap of thinking the only place to find God is at church. If we’re not expecting to find God everywhere, we might just miss great opportunities for help, healing, and spiritual growth. Here are five places where God awaits you:

At Work

The relationships you have, the results you achieve, the quality with which you do your work can all be the stuff of holiness. Each day we “suit up and show up” at work we get opportunities to learn more about ourselves and to contribute our gifts to the good of the world.

In Difficult Relationships

It’s easy to love other people when everything’s going well. But when there are hurt feelings, mistrust, or clashing wills, relationships don’t feel very much as though they are of God. Yet it is at just those times, that we can witness the movement of God in our lives, leading us to healing, trust, and cooperation.

 

In Our Failings

 

We all like to be heroes. But it’s a given that each of us will fail in our lives. Nevertheless, when we hit our limits or even when we sin, we can turn to God for acceptance, mercy, and the strength to make amends and sin no more. In that turning to God and in our opening ourselves up to God’s grace and forgiveness, we become better people.

In Loneliness

Rather than trying to fill the emptiness with mindless entertainment or indulging our cravings, sit still and find God in the emptiness. It takes patience and courage and humility, but you will hear the “still small voice” of God even in the midst of your emptiness responding to your loneliness and restlessness with the only love that fully satisfies.

In Pleasure

Many people seem to think that if something’s fun, it must be at least partially wrong. Yet God gives us the world to live in and enjoy. In the words of St. Ireneaus, the “glory of God is a human being fully alive.” Therefore, pleasure is a place to meet God, whether it be the pleasure of nature, of playing, of loving one another, of beauty, or of the occasional overwhelming conviction that we are loved by God.

 

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends, that they experience your warmth in these surprising moments. The image comes from a Sonshine Friend who took this stunning photo in Maine. Take a moment to meet God in the glory of His creation.


You’re invited to follow the link below to enjoy the beauty reflected in images captured in the photography of Father Matt.  Let the vibrancy of color and the clarity of vision refresh your spirit and elevate your mood.  Proceeds will support the ministries of our parish and comfort home:

www.frmatt.com

 

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

None Did Her In

 


Think about this for a moment: “Are Catholics depressing?” If you visit a museum in person or online and check out images of the Blessed Mother, you might easily get depressed viewing painting after painting portraying Mary with tears welling in her eyes and rolling down her cheeks. What’s that all about?

 

Some people refer to Mary as Our Lady of Sorrows, with images reflecting the struggles, the trials, and the sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary: from the moment after the Angel invited her to become the Mother of Jesus to the many sorrows to come later, including:

 

-     The challenge of explaining to her fiancĂ©, Joseph, and her family, all that the Angel Gabriel shared with her about her role in becoming the Mother of Jesus, and enduring the judgment of some in the community…

 

-     Not finding any room in an inn and the resulting less-than-ideal circumstances of giving birth in a cave, and then caring for a newborn in a manger…

 

-     The painful prophecy of Simeon speaking of how a “sword” would pierce her heart…

 

-     Yet another prophecy foretelling Mary at the foot of the Cross watching her only son die a humiliating, torturous death…

 

-     The sorrow and anxiety she experienced when Jesus was lost in the temple…

 

-     And other sorrows that we can imagine when she sees or hears how Jesus is misunderstood by the crowds in their home of Nazareth, and when she experiences the negativity of the various religious leaders of the day that Jesus encounters.

 

These events have not been recorded and shared with us for the purpose of depressing us.  Quite the opposite! We are called to remember and reflect on these events, in part, to help us realize that “good news” does not mean we are always going to experience happy, joyful things, or a pleasant, comfortable environment all the time. The Good News was and is that none of those challenges “did her in.” 

 

Yes, Mary encountered real sorrow. But they were never lasting sorrows. And that is the Good News for her and for us: God has never and will never abandon us.

 

So, you may be experiencing sorrow in our world today in one or many areas of your life, for example:

- Not being able to visit family in a nursing home

- Planning to “celebrate” Thanksgiving this year at home alone, without joining or inviting extended family or friends so as to maintain social distance

- Struggling with sorrow after the death of a close friend or family member ~ perhaps someone you were not able to see in person recently due to social distancing.

 

The key is following Mary’s example by not losing our faith and abandoning Jesus when we, too, encounter sorrows. Instead, as Mary did, let us cling to Him ever more tightly, trusting that what He has done for our mother, He wants to do for each of us as His beloved sons and daughters.

 

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends that we realize You hear our every prayer, dry every tear, and hold us close when we feel “done in.”

 

You’re invited to follow the link below to enjoy the beauty reflected in images captured in the photography of Father Matt.  Let the vibrancy of color and the clarity of vision refresh your spirit and elevate your mood.  Proceeds will support the ministries of our parish and comfort home:

www.frmatt.com

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Fr. Matt's Photo Website

 


 

About a month ago, an international photographer and longtime friend said: “When are you going to have a website with your photos.” To myself I said, whose he kidding, I’m no professional. But… and that’s no excuse, his needling was the motivation to learn how to design a photo website.

 

So, humbly, the following is the “bio” I wrote for the website, and directions how to download Fr. Matt’s Photography:www.frmatt.com

 

“In my next life, I will be an award winning, nationally acclaimed photographer. My work will feature stunning images seen in many of the country’s most prestigious publications. My landscape images will have earned a reputation as one of the finest nature and outdoor photographers in the country.

 

However, I am a ’late bloomer.’ I have humbly served for 43 years as a Catholic hospital chaplain, trauma first responder, parish priest and shepherd to a flock in a rural Wyoming County, NY.

 

I have studied with the help of two gifted photographers, OJ Roth and Brandon Vick, to be a landscape photographer along with my dynamic spiritual stories to focus on capturing the natural beauty of a location. My images highlight the stunning beauty of our national parks, botanical gardens and artistic stain glass designs. Some recent projects include photographing, Glacier National Park, Banff Provincial Park, Picture Rock National Lakeshore, Bryce National Park, Antelope Canyon, as well as, historic lighthouses, covered bridges and stain glass designs from nationwide cathedrals.

 

My goal is to help you fall in love with the locations I visit by sharing my vision and passion through unique photography. I offer imagery with a dynamic storytelling twist to my parishioners, Sonshine Friends and fine art clients.

 

You can see my work by visiting my website and read about my journey on my popular blog Fr. Matt’s Sonshine: http://fathermatt.blogspot.com and my photos: Fr. Matt’s Photography: www.frmatt.com

 

My wish is that these photos find a happy home so that they can be loved and enjoyed for many years. I will use a portion of the proceeds from the sale of these images to support a comfort home for the dying on the grounds of my church and to support the many ministries of our faith community.”

 

We need your support to continue the awesome ministries of our parish.

You can help by forwarding this website: www.frmatt.com to your friends, neighbors, co-workers and email lists of fans and supporters. 

 

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends that we truly are grateful for the beauty of Your creation. May we praise you and give thanks for all the gifts you shower upon our family and friends.


Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Power of Prayer

                                                        


Where does your power come from these days? I sat in front of my computer this morning and when I clicked, the screen was dead. Thank God I knew it was not a “blue screen” which means a bad bug got into your system

 

Rather, I had left my power cord back in the office and my computer had run out of gas. well, not literally, but you get the idea. So, I borrowed another power cord and plugged into the outlet, hit the switch, and for a few moments waited for the power to come on. We’re at 7% as I write this reflection.

 

So, I give you this thought for today. When things go dark, when you are running out of energy, or when you’re pulling out your hair worried about kids on the bus going to school this morning say this prayer and pass it on.

 

Lord, we pray for our students and teachers this morning going back to school. We pray for their health and safety as classrooms and schools have been modified to allow for proper social distancing and hygiene. We pray for the janitorial staff and cafeteria workers, as well as the office staff; we pray that you would keep them safe and protected from the virus. Please protect the families of the students and teachers as they return home each day; please slow the spread of the virus so that it would not infect these families. Lord, we pray for the energy of their teachers that they will be able to plan their lessons and teach all their students, also that the students will be able to learn and keep up with their lessons. We pray for their spiritual growth, in Your name, Jesus. Amen.

 

Now that you drove your kids to school or sent them off on the bus, get yourself a cup of coffee and have a good cry. It will help to relieve your stress and bring you closer to God. Now that’s the power of prayer.