Fall Book Clubs Begin This Week!
Deacon John and Fran La Noce are offering two books for your spiritual reading in October. Deacon John will be reflecting on The 21 Undeniable Secrets of Marriage: Taking Your Relationship to the Next Level by Allen Hunt, and Fran will be reflecting on A Quiet Place: How Daily Prayer Can Change Your Life by Fr. John Bartunek. A limited number of copies of each are available in the Narthex. Donation is $3.00. You can also order the books on Amazon in print or for your Kindle. Each weekend, Deacon John’s and Fran’s reflections will be available on the website or in print in the Narthex. Please email Deacon John at firstname.lastname@example.org or Fran at email@example.com to let them know you are joining their book clubs.
Deacon John’s Schedule:
Chapters 1-5: October 10-11
Chapters 6-10: October 17-18
Chapters 11-16: October 24-25
Chapters 17-21: October 31-November 1
Chapters 1 and 2 – “Why Pray?” and “What Is Prayer?” by October 3-4
Chapter 3 – “Do We Really Need a Spiritual Hideout?” by October 10-11
Chapter 4 – “Getting Practical: How Do We Pray?” by October 17-18
Chapters 5 and 6 – “Getting More Out of Mass” and “Warnings and Shortcuts” by October 24-25
Fran’s Fall Book Club – Reflections
A Quiet Place: Reflections on Chapters 1 and 2
In the title of Chapter One, Fr. John Bartunek poses the question, “Why Pray?” By the end of Chapter Two, he has clearly answered this question. Prayer opens the door to let God’s grace in. Grace can be a mysterious and difficult concept to grasp. In the Book of Psalms, which Fr. Bartunek calls “a school of prayer,” King David writes, “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (103:8).
To be gracious is to be kind, tender, caring, and generous of heart. These are qualities of our God, and, when God shares them with us by his grace, we experience God’s life within us. Fr. Bartunek reviews how God’s grace was given and lost to the human race in the Garden of Eden, returned to us when Jesus died on the cross, and given now to us individually as children of God in Baptism. Grace gives our lives meaning and enriches them through the presence of the Holy Spirit.
“The amazing dream that God has for each one of our lives” takes shape through the Spirit’s gifts, which draw us to sainthood and true joy (7). Isn’t it beautiful to imagine God having a dream for us! We fall short of sainthood and joy when we fail to pray because “prayer is the soil in which grace can grow” (7). When it comes to prayer, all we have to do is try. The story of the “guy in Chicago” teaches us how to begin: to simply be present to our loving God (8-10).
What does presence have to do with prayer? Everything! God, as Trinity, exists in relationship. That is our Christian belief. “For us, the essence of prayer is relationship,” writes Fr. Bartunek. “It’s not primarily about doing something, but about getting to know someone”(13). Have you ever thought of prayer that way? Christian prayer is more than just ritual, as meaningful as that can be. It is “the kind of communication that happens between two persons who know and love each other” (15). It’s personal! That just might be my favorite definition of prayer yet! Fr. Bartunek emphasizes what an incredible gift we have in a God who “has promised to be present, to listen, to respond when we call on him” (17).
I think the best line in these first two chapters is this: “From cornfields to concentration camps, from palaces to prisons, from grocery stores to gulags, God’s loving interest in and dedication to us . . . never wavers” (18). I have to admit that this line caught my attention because I spent most of my adult life in Iowa, frequently driving through its beautiful cornfields. “Iowa” is a Native American word meaning “beautiful land.” And it is! I felt God’s presence strongly on those drives, and prayers of gratitude would often spontaneously bubble up in my heart. I would smile as I remembered Ray Kinsella’s response to the question posed by “Shoeless Joe” Jackson in the 1989 film, Field of Dreams: “Is this heaven?” “No, it’s Iowa.” Sometimes, to pray, all we have to do is open our eyes.
Next weekend, I will share some thoughts on Chapter 3.
A Quiet Place: Reflection on Chapter 3
“SANCTUARY!” This was the cry of Quasimodo, played by Charles Laughton, in the 1939 film, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, re-released as a musical by Disney in 1996. As a child, I remember walking into our TV Room on a Sunday afternoon when my father was watching this old black-and-white movie. I saw a disfigured man holding up a limp woman in his arms, crying, “Sanctuary!” The man scared me, but I asked Dad what it meant. He explained that the gypsy, Esmerelda, was about to be unjustly executed as a witch. Quasimodo had seen her often praying in the grand cathedral and had fallen in love with her. He swooped down to save her from hanging and brought her into the cathedral, invoking an old tradition that no one could be arrested in a church. Because of his appearance, Quasimodo had made Notre Dame his lifelong hideout, serving as its bell-ringer, and now he was sharing it with Esmerelda to keep her safe. Even today, we have seen incidents in our own country of migrants and refugees seeking asylum in a church to escape deportation.
[As an aside, the Disney version contains a beautiful song written by composer Alan Menken and lyricist Stephen Schwartz called, “God Help the Outcasts”. Check it out on YouTube for your prayer time!]
God offers us a hideout, a sanctuary, through the gift of prayer. Fr. John Bartunek defines this hideout as “a spiritual stronghold where we can take refuge and regroup” (23). He explains that, in this spiritual hideout, we can maintain peace of mind and heart, develop quality relationships, find shelter from storms and troubles, and experience lasting joy (23). Our inner peace, Fr. Bartunek says, is under attack by sin. These words really struck me: “What Jesus’ enemies did to his body during his passion and crucifixion is an image of what sin does to the human soul . . .” (24). Our peace is also under attack from uncertain circumstances over which we have no control. Certainly, that describes the times we are living in right now in our country! We need times of prayer as a reminder that “God can handle things even when we can’t” (25).
“To be known and loved by others, and to know and love them in return – this is the stuff of meaning and fulfillment,” Fr. Bartunek writes (26). Whenever I would test my students in a course about Jesus, they would joke that, if they didn’t know the answer, they would just write “love” and I would always give them credit. How could I not! Jesus’ message and his life itself can be summed up in this one word. Look back and reflect on the “Onlys” on page 27. They are really quite beautiful!
Writing about Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, Fr. Bartunek says, “If Jesus Christ needed prayer in order to carry his cross, how much more will we need a life of prayer to be able to carry ours!” (30) My family and friends gave me the gift of a pilgrimage to Israel when I left my high school teaching career two years ago. Kneeling at the rock in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed was one of the most powerful moments for me. The rock is now inside before the altar of the Church of All Nations which surrounds it. It is scrubbed clean and white, and the day that we celebrated Mass together in the church, there was a single pot of red roses sitting in the middle of the rock. I was thinking how much those red roses reminded me of Jesus’ sweat falling like drops of blood as he prayed that awful night, “Let this cup pass from me . . . .” At that very moment, the priest raised the cup and said, “This is the cup of my blood of the new and everlasting covenant which will be shed for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Jesus’ Passion and the Eucharist came full circle for me in that place.
In the last part of the chapter, Fr. Bartunek shares his deep regret that we so often forget how much God loves us. One reason is that our culture is no longer “built around the rhythms of the liturgical year and the values of the gospel”, as it once was. Our spiritual hideout of prayer gives us the time to remember God’s love, and that has the power to bring us great joy! “The deeper our connection to God, the greater our capacity for joy, regardless of the challenges and losses that affect us” (37). This connection depends on prayer!
Returning to the beginning of the chapter, Fr. Bartunek tells the story of King David, anointed by the prophet Samuel, but constantly trying to escape the threat to his life from King Saul by hiding out in the desert. In the Book of Psalms, David sings to the Lord, “You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance” (32:7). Although we may not be fleeing for our lives, we are offered this same spiritual refuge today when we simply come to God in prayer.
(Look for a group email to share your comments with us. Chapter 4 next week)
A Quiet Place: Reflection on Chapter 4
“I’ve been trying to get down to the heart of the matter.” As I began reading Chapter 4, I heard Don Henley’s lyrics in my head. This is what Fr. Bartunek is doing in this chapter, but he starts by reminding us once again of the principle on which his book is based: “The essence of prayer is the ongoing relationship each one of us is meant to have with God, and the heart-to-heart communication that nourishes such a relationship” (39). After clarifying, however, that the practice of prayer is an activity, he categorizes prayer as either personal or communal (the setting) and as either vocal, mental, or liturgical (the method). Then he dives into an explanation of each of these “kinds and forms” of prayer.
Personal and communal prayer are pretty self-explanatory, and Fr. Bartunek emphasizes that we need both in our lives. We need intimate one-on-one time with God, but, on the other hand, “we don’t fly solo in the Christian adventure” (41). I love what Jesus says in Matthew’s Gospel, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (18:20). All of the work on my Master’s thesis was based on those words, and they are what inspire me to bring our parishioners together in small faith communities. The form of liturgical prayer is always communal and always going on in the universal Church, most importantly, in the Mass.
Sometimes I think that there are as many forms of prayer, or ways to pray, as there are believers. One of the most interesting theories about prayer that I have discovered speaks of the connection between our learning styles and the ways we are most comfortable praying. First answer this question: Are you primarily a visual learner, an auditory learner, or a kinesthetic (hands-on) learner? Then consider whether your favorite ways to pray somehow relate to your learning style. For example, my learning style is off-the-scale kinesthetic. Knowing this has helped me to understand why cooking can be prayer for me. Did she say cooking? Yes! When I work with my hands in the kitchen, I find myself praying for the people I love that will be sharing my table, or I am filled with gratitude for the bounty of God’s earth that I have the privilege of using to create nourishing meals. I think Fr. Bartunek would consider this mental prayer, a way of listening to God through beauty (the art of cooking and the gifts of nature) and life events like holiday meals with friends and family (49). While we are on page 49, I thought the brief section, “Hearing God’s Voice”, spoke directly to our email discussion last week about listening to God. And sometimes, Fr. Bartunek writes, God speaks to you, very simply, “when something strikes a chord in your heart” (52). Have you ever had an experience of this?
I agreed so strongly about the value of vocal prayer in times of grief. The story of Cardinal Van Thuan demonstrated this very well (44-46). There are times in our lives when we experience such pain or loss that we barely have the energy for a conversation with God or anyone else, and finding words to express what we feel becomes virtually impossible. As Catholics, we are so blessed to have a treasury of formal prayers to fall back on in these difficult times. A favorite of mine has always been the Memorare, which I learned as a small child at what is now Merion Mercy Academy. (Back then it was a K-12 school.) I recently shared this prayer with my daughter, and she now loves to pray it, too.
Some final thoughts about contemplation and yoga . . . Fr. Bartunek’s description of contemplation, when we find God’s presence taking over our hearts, reminded me of a spiritual director in Iowa, a Sister of Mercy, who used to spend time sitting silently in her rocking chair. She described it as “resting in the lap of God.” How peaceful and beautiful! The late Walter J. Burghardt, S.J., once defined contemplation as “a long, loving look at the real.” Nice! As for yoga, I often get questions about whether or not it is an acceptable practice for Catholics. I think Fr. Bartunek got it right when he said that it’s all about the motivation being God-directed and not self-centered (57). He writes, “We pray because we are involved in a relationship, a friendship with the Lord, not because we want to get a spiritual high” (57-58).
Let’s finish the book by reading Chapters 5 and 6 for next week.
A Quiet Place: Reflection on Chapters 5 and 6
A parting plea to my senior students in theology every year as they approached graduation was, “Stay close to the Eucharist!” Father Bartunek writes, “Mass is the anchor of our spiritual and moral life. It holds everything else in place”(61). We need this Communion with Jesus! Mass on the weekends really grounds me. My favorite moment is when the celebrant raises the host for the second time and it is broken. This image constantly reminds me that, as bread, Jesus’ body, is broken to nourish others, I need to offer myself as bread broken to nourish my brothers and sisters in any way I can throughout the week. It is a continuing call to love and serve.
Father uses the word “objective”, meaning “independent of our own efforts, ideas, and feelings” to describe the prayer that is the Mass. I found this label a little odd and distancing, because we bring our hearts and our lives to this table. A better way that he expresses this idea is by saying that our prayer becomes part of Christ’s own prayer. The Mass links our present experience both with Calvary and with heaven.
In the Liturgy of the Word, we listen to Jesus’ story, and in the Liturgy of the Eucharist, we respond to that Word by joining our stories to his. “The sentiments of Christ’s heart are re-presented through the words of the Eucharistic Prayer. The complete sacrifice of his obedience is re-presented through the offering [and transformation] of the bread and wine . . .” (64). Here our lives are miraculously joined to Christ’s, followed by the wonder of receiving Holy Communion. Father then makes a critical point: Any failures in the external circumstances of the celebration make no difference! The Eucharist has a power all its own. To summarize, Father’s answer to “getting more out of the Mass” seems to be understanding what it is, not being distracted by external shortcomings, and continuing to nurture our personal prayer lives which are so closely bound to the great prayer of the Mass.
How have you experienced the obstacles of laziness (evident in procrastination and fatigue or moodiness) and distractions in your prayer life? I really liked what Father said about engaging our senses in prayer to minimize distractions. Remember, I am a kinesthetic learner and prayer! Have you ever tried different ways of engaging your senses in prayer?
“By now, you have surely realized that the shortest path to jump-starting and developing your prayer life is committing yourself to a daily God time that includes mental prayer”(74). This is the second major message of the book after understanding that prayer is a relationship. Father’s recommendation: Make the decision to pray, choose a good time and place and an attractive structure, spend fifteen minutes daily for a month, and then make adjustments. Look back at the ideas for a prayer structure and decide which ones appeal to you (74-76).
In his final section, Father suggests three shortcuts to growth in prayer that, I think, are all worth trying! Do spiritual reading once or twice a week. Make room for silence once or twice a day. “Silence for our spiritual life, is like the space inside of a violin. It is what allows the music to resonate” (77). What another great image! Finally, reconnect with nature so you can know God more deeply through his Creation. “Doing so helps you learn to recognize his voice in your heart more and more easily . . .”(78).
Monsignor is restarting his First Thursday evenings on prayer, COVID-19 style, as “Prayer Minus the Pizza!” Come join us on November 5th from 6:30 to 7:15 when he will talk about bringing faith into the home in concrete, tangible ways through Christian art that we can and do display in our homes. This will be both in-person in the church and live-streamed like we do the Mass, so come and be comfortable! And thanks for being a part of our book club this Fall!
Deacon John’s Fall Book Club – Reflections
Reflections on Chapters 1-5
When Sherry and I first became engaged, I sought out older couples and asked what their secret was? I received a wide variety of answers and was determined that there was some long-kept secret that guaranteed a good marriage. Well, any married person can tell you that if there was one secret like that, it would not stay a secret for long. Instead, it’s a long list of lessons that we learn together and a boatload of love, laughter and forgiveness to help build a good marriage. But, if you’re like me, you’d love to find the cliff notes to ‘Good Marriages for Dummies’. The good news, Dr. Allen Hunt of Dynamic Catholic has written it for us and it’s called ‘The 21 Undeniable Secrets of Marriage’.
Dr. Hunt breaks these secrets down into five categories: Mysterious, Revolutionary, Daily, Crucial and Grace. The mysterious secrets refer to the aspects of sacramental marriage that distinguish it from a civil marriage. This is more than just that a wedding takes place in a church, but rather that the purpose of a marriage is to help your partner be the best version of themselves, such that they will be welcomed into heaven at the end of their lives here on earth. This doesn’t mean that our partners need to be our life projects, just that we need to stick together to keep ourselves on the right path.
This book is a very readable roadmap for a couple to follow to deepen their love for each other and the strength and health of their marriage. Each chapter is just a few pages and can be a great nightly or weekly read. Infused with scripture as well as healthy doses of humor, it reminds us how the small gestures of love and support have a huge impact and need to outnumber slights or hurts five to one. Dr. Hunt also shares the power of prayer in protecting our marriages against the constant strain and distraction of our secular culture. Most importantly, he reminds us that synergy of a couple’s life together is always better than the sum of their individual lives.
These are just a few teasers from the first few chapters of Dr. Hunt’s book Taking your Relationship to the Next Level: The 21 Undeniable Secrets of Marriage. I recommend the book highly with its invaluable advice to nurture this most important relationship in our lives, presenting in an easy to read format sprinkled through with scripture and prayer.
Reflections on Chapters 6-10
In Chapters 6-10, Dr. Hunt offers us the Daily Secrets to ponder within our marriages. The first daily secret is THE SECRET OF THE LOVE BANK – where he states, “If you want more love, you have to give it away”. This statement corresponds well to the scripture verse from St. Paul, “…a person will reap what they sow…”. The visual of each of us having a love bank is one we should all be able to relate to as we think of a bank account that has deposits and withdrawals. Dr. Hunt suggest we make a 5:1 ratio between deposits of love and withdrawals. When we think about how we give and receive love we can reflect on the 5 Languages of Love. These help a couple to acknowledge and celebrate that men and woman are different in how we express and receive Love. THIS WEEK: let us take the time to review the 5 languages of Love, by each spouse selecting which of the languages describes themselves best and which describes your spouse…and then compare notes and let the conversation begin! How can I make more deposits into our “love bank” this week? And then let the joy be felt! PRAY: Dear Lord, teach us to love generously and to receive love with gratitude”.
Chapter 7 – THE SECRET OF ROMANCE. Two take away points to reflect on from this chapter would be 1) God loves each and everyone of us deeply and God yearns to romance our soul – let us reflect on how God has shown us His love this week, how he has romanced our soul – and it turn let us offer Him our gratitude for his presence and love in our lives and in our marriages…2) Romance has an element of delight…a self-giving positive celebratory sense – romance is one of the fuels to grow our love within a marriage. Romance goes beyond physical intimacy to a self-giving love that can be celebrated through feelings, time together and creating experiences with one another. THIS WEEK: See if you can guess what was the last romantic thing you did for your spouse that he/she can think of? I am willing to bet it will not be what you expect…and…take the time to schedule a romantic opportunity as a couple this week, so you can fuel the romantic fire that is so essential to our marriages! What was the first romantic thing you remember your spouse did for you when you started dating? Be prepared to smile and laugh. PRAY: Dear Lord, we are grateful for the love you have for us and for the efforts you make to romance our souls. Please open our eyes this day to find opportunities to love you back and to romance my spouse so we can celebrate the gift of love you have given us in our marriage.
Chapter 8 – THE SECRET OF THE BEST FRIEND – Dr. Hunt offers “Don’t marry someone you can live with; marry someone you can’t live without”. I would alter the second half of this statement to be “marry someone you don’t want to live without” because the “want” speaks to a desire and a choice to be with your spouse and that desire comes from the seed of friendship the two of you have for one another. Long after the “sizzle” of a new relationship has cooled, a genuine heartfelt friendship will ensure you are able to live a life together. I think at times the greatest compliment I can say to my wife Sherry is not “I love you”, but “I like you”. The depth of “liking someone” covers respect, admiration, gratitude, and a level of love. THIS WEEK: Find time to come together and tell each other what are some of the things were you initially liked about the other person when you met and what do you like about them now. Reaffirm with each other what you like about the other…let it out, let it be known not just in our internal conversations but actually to our spouse. PRAY: Thank you for the blessing of (spouse) in my life and for the opportunities build our relationship from friendship to a nurturing love that encourages us to grow with one another. I love you Lord…and I like (spouse).
Chapter 9 – THE SECRET OF AGES AND STAGES – if individually we were the same today as we were yesterday, I think life would become boring. The same holds true for our marriages. The interesting part is we do not have a choice in this, for we change physically, mentally, intellectually, spiritually as we move through our lives. Not to mention the roles we play, newlyweds, parents, empty nesters, grandparents, etc.…. Change is inevitable…the challenge is to find the opportunity in the changes that comes our way. I might go a step further to suggest, when we celebrate our changes with one another, we encourage each other to move forward,, which in turn helps to celebrate our marriage. God did not bless us with our spouse so we can just survive, He blessed us with each other so we can thrive. Yes, we can fall into routines that can take up some of our time, but we need to find the time to be intentional with each other to acknowledge the changes each spouse is experiencing. To change together is the key – and to do this requires patience, courage, good communication, and the grace of God. THIS WEEK: Ask ourselves, “Am I allowing/supporting my spouse to change?” and discuss this question with one another. PRAY: “Heavenly Father, thank you for the ebbs and flows in our lives and for the graces you bless us with so we can embrace these changes to move forward in life to celebrate my marriage and spouse and to glorify you, my God”.
Chapter 10 – THE SECRET OF THE BED – while sleeping apart while at times is necessary, usually for health reasons, we need to recognize it is not optimal. It is more than a physical closeness; it is an opportunity for connection. As Dr. Hunt states “There’s a mystical and sacred element to that shared space where something as personal as sleep, bad breath, and yes even lovemaking occurs.” Sherry has never wanted us to get a king size bed because of the loss of that “closeness” feeling which energizes each of our souls and our marriage. The secret of the bed is a mystery, then again, so is marriage! THIS WEEK: Lie in bed together, as a couple. Do not touch each other, just look into each other’s eyes for two minutes…re-establish that bond of closeness. PRAY: Dear Lord, I am grateful for how close you stay with me throughout my day. Bless (spouse name) and I with the grace to re-establish our closeness with one another.
“I LIKE IT WHEN YOU SMILE. BUT I LOVE IT WHEN I’M THE REASON”
“MY FAVORITE PLACE IN ALL THE WORLD IS NEXT TO YOU”
Applies to both our spouses and with our God.
Have a great week!
Reflections on Chapters 11-15
In Chapters 11-15 Dr. Hunt presents the Crucial Secrets:
Chapter 11 – The Secret of Priorities: Life is about priorities…love is about priorities…and marriage thrives when the couple embraces the secret of priorities! When you make time for something, it becomes your priority. Look at our calendars and phones and we will see our priorities! These are all similar points to what Jesus said – “Where your treasure is, your heart will follow.” (Matthew 6:21). Our marriage needs to be a priority to us – to get our time, calendar and believe it or not…our money!
If we need or want to change our priorities, we need to recognize this change will also change our lives…which may be a good thing or something that is needed. When our marriage is our priority, then we will adjust our time, calendar and money to reflect that! We also must realize that God created marriage for most of us as the primary way by which we will be transformed into a better-version-of-ourselves.
Our marriage should be a priority, but it is also a covenant between two people, similar to God’s covenant between He and His people. The marriage covenant does not shackle us…just the opposite…it frees us to realize our full potential! When we perceive marriage as a covenant created by God, unbreakable and everlasting, this perception changes our behavior by allowing our marriage covenant to be our priority! Priorities takes time, they require effort, and they usually require money…but best of all…marriages are worth every bit of it! That is the secret of priorities.
Chapter 12 – The Secret of Separation: For a marriage to really thrive it must stand on its own, between the couple. Free of meddlers, hovers and controller = family members and friends. That’s the secret of separation. A husband and wife must separate themselves from their families in order for their new marriage, or continued marriage, to grow into all it can be. Therefore couples need to have some honest conversations about boundaries and if needed, write them down, so that everyone can be reminded of them on occasion. Separation has a physical aspect but also an emotional element as well. Dr. Hunt warns If one person has an emotional overdependence on a parent, usually the mother, that will inhibit full emotional attachment to their spouse. For a marriage to thrive, the secret of a healthy separation will bring a necessary power and strength to a relationship.
Create a Moment: Share with each other a time when you experienced a challenge, a crisis, or a time of suffering together. Share with each other what you felt knowing you had your partner alongside of you.
Prayer: “Dear Lord, Thank you for the gift of my spouse. Grant me the graces I need to keep him/her as my focus to bring my thoughts, feelings, successes and challenges to. Throught Christ our Lord…Amen”
Chapter 13 – The Secret of Insiders: “When in doubt turn toward your mate”. A great thought to remind ourselves…”Don’t marry someone you can live with; marry someone you don’t want to live without!”. That is the secret of the best friend. In the same way, if you have a best friend outside the marriage, know that you may well be entering treacherous water. This secret reminds us if we confide our deepest feelings about yourself and your spouse with someone outside your marriage, you have taken the right thing and put it in the wrong place. Intimacy belongs first and foremost in your marriage…this is the secret of insiders. The nature of intimacy comes from the ability and freedom to share completely with your mate what you are thinking and feeling…and that sharing rightly belongs only within a marriage. Danger often arises when one spouse seeks help from outside friends who know the deepest intimacies of the heart that are being kept from the spouse. This transferring of intimacy from inside the marriage to outside will often damage the relationship rather than help it. Dr. Hunt offers, if you feel you need the perspective of someone from the opposite sex in order to understand your spouse better, consider meeting with your pastor, a marital counselor of that gender or discussing your concerns with friends who are a couple so that you get both perspectives.
Create a Moment: Talk to your spouse about attending a seminar on communication or a marriage retreat together to create the environment to better understand one another. If this becomes difficult, write a letter to your partner presenting the questions you have and asking for a time to connect.
Prayer: “Heavenly Father, bless my spouse and I with the courage to create opportunities for open communication where we can lovingly discuss our difference or questions so we gain the wisdom to better understand and know our partner. We ask this through Christ our Lord…Amen”
Chapter 14 – The Secret of Attention and Affection: Attention and affection are the means that will prevent you from neglecting each other and can serve to enhance your respect and trust with one another. When it comes to the secret of a satisfying marriage, Dr. Hunt offers, scientific research tends to confirm it is what Faith has already taught us. Attention and affection are two ingredients in a relationship that work like oxygen and water in a human body…with them it thrive, without them it withers. Very simply, the secret of attention and affection will prevent you from neglecting each other. Every relationship, every marriage, every person needs intimacy, respect and trust. Remember God’s purpose for marriage in the first place “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him” (Gn 2:18).
Dr. Hunt offers a Leger-Canadian survey asked women and men what they most want in a spouse. Both women and men shared three of the top four answers: 1) faithful partner, 2) respect for the other person’s independence and 4) physical attraction. The third differed…men offered a woman with intelligence and woman desired a man with the ability to listen…undivided attention!
For men, we need to avoid the tendency to want to take on the fix-it mentality. The cure is to listen…slowly. Simply talking and listening actually matters…a lot!
As a side note, Dr. Hunt reminds us, “the greatest gift any couple can give their children is the gift of a good marriage”. A good reminder for all of us, for a stable, secure home life gives kids the greatest likelihood of success in life… and the secret of attention and affection creates that!
Create a Moment: Sit together for 30 mins one night this week…no cell phones, no laptops, no television in the background…no distractions. Share with each other the events of your day. Listen slowly to one another. Invest in a little attention and affection.
Prayer: “Dear Lord, grant us the graces we need to slow down, calm down and allow silence into our relationship so we can find the time and courage to share my life with my spouse and just be with one another. Thought Christ our Lord…Amen”
Chapter 15 – The Secret of Women: Dr. Hunt offers “no matter how much our culture tries to make women into men…there are times when a woman needs a man to be a man”. While men and women are equal, they are not the same. We were made for each other, not like each other. God made men and women to be much the same, yet significantly and wonderfully different. Remember marriage is a mystery. And one portion of the mystery is discovering how the two of you fit together…how you uniquely complement each other as only the two of you can do.
Dr. Hunt presents the secret of women consists of the three N’s: nourish, nurture, nest and in this role the woman represents God.
Men and women complement each other’s strengths in a thriving marriage. They make each other better. After all, the purpose is to help one another produce the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. We are trying to help each other get to heaven. That’s the purpose. We were made for each other. Men and women each bring as much to a relationship…just in different ways.
Create a Moment: For the woman – write down the ways you see yourself in the three N’s. Share these with your spouse and discuss. What can the husband do to complement the wife’s N’s?
Prayer: Dear Lord, we thank you for the unique ways you have made us to contemplate one another. Help us to use these gifts to energize our marriage so we may find ways to glorify you. Through Christ our Lord…Amen.”
Motivational Monday – Special Summer Edition
Join us each Monday as we discover meaningful ways we can be inspired by Sunday’s Gospel and enrich our faith at home! Each week you will find activity-based prayers that lead us to further reflection, organized by ages Pre-K-grade 4, grade 5-8, high school, and parents.
Tuesday Movie Recommendations 6-2-2020
Family movies that you can view on your streaming devices.
AFF Wednesday 10-14-2020
Suggestions from websites like FORMED, Word on Fire, and Dynamic Catholic to help your faith grow.
Thursday’s Music 4-23-2020
Thursday night candlelight reflection by Deacon JT.
April 28, 2020
Catholic Social Services — Urgent Need
As you know, Catholic Social Services has been hit extremely hard by COVID19. Staff and residents have been infected- even some deaths. Supplies are limited, but they continue to serve the underserved as best as possible.
Below are some ideas if anyone wants to help and is in a position to do so.
Catholic Social Services is in desperate need of Uber/Lyft gift cards for essential workers at CSS service sites. Many of these workers rely on public transportation for work. Because Septa is on a limited schedule, and concerns exist regarding risk factors to the riders, the workers must use Lyft/Uber to go to their employment to care for the underserved. Gift cards in denominations of $20, $25, $50 are much appreciated. Please share this with your staff, parents, and broader community. Lyft/Uber Ggift card donations may be sent directly to the site of your choice on the attached document.
Consider brightening the day for the staff at a CSS homeless shelter, family center, home for those who are physically or intellectually challenged by sending a meal via an Uber Eat /GrubHub gift card. See sites attached.
Are you looking for a meaningful project for your families? Please consider assembling “to go” lunch bags for CSS food distribution sites such as St. John Hospice. They are in need of “to-go meal bags” – would normally be a P&J or bologna and cheese sandwich, a granola or nut bar, a fruit cup or applesauce, and a drink. Their need is outstripping supply almost daily. If interested contact Dave Stier firstname.lastname@example.org at St. Johns Hospice to discuss delivery.
Catholic Social Services Housing Programs
1) St John’s Hospice/ Good Shepherd Program
1221 Race Street
Philadelphia, Pa 19107
Attn: Mr. David Stier
– Residence and day services for men experiencing homelessness
2) St. Mary’s Residence
247 South 5th Street
Philadelphia, Pa 19106
Attn: Ms. Kathy Nelson
– Housing for low income older adult women
3) McCauley House
1800 Morris Street
Philadelphia, Pa 19147
Attn: Maria Cedeno
– Housing for medically fragile women experiencing homelessness
4) Mercy Hospice
334 South 13th Street
Philadelphia, Pa 19107
Attn: Ms. Renee Hudson-Small
– Recovery house for women and mothers with children
5) Visitation Homes
2638 Kensington Avenue
Philadelphia, Pa 19125
Attn: Ms. Katherine Baumgardner
– Transitional housing program for families
6) Women of Hope Lombard
1210 Lombard Street
Philadelphia, Pa 19147
Attn: Ms. Roe Chetalo
– Safe Haven for young women experiencing homelessness
7) Women of Hope Vine
251 North Lawrence Street
Philadelphia, Pa 19106
Attn: Ms. Kathryn Girasole
– Residence for women experiencing mental health issues and homelessness
May 22, 2020
All Parishes Invited to Virtually Participate in the Annual Ringing of the Liberty Bell on Saturday, July 4th at 2:00 p.m.
On Saturday, July 4th, Independence National Historical Park (INHP) will host the annual symbolic ringing of the Liberty Bell virtually. Beginning at 2:00 p.m., the time designated by the 1963 Joint Resolution 25 of U.S. Congress, several descendants of the signers of the Declaration of Independence will tap the Bell 13 times.
Descendants include William Douglas Banks II, Joseph Edward Aubrey Banks, and Zechariah Williams – three children of the Rev. W. Douglas Banks who is the 5th generation grandson of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings.
INHP Superintendent Cynthia MacLeod will host at the ceremony, which was initiated by the Pennsylvania Society of the Sons of Revolution. Society President Ben Ramsay Wolf, Sr. will officiate in this brief, safe-distance commemoration.
The program will be live-streamed globally, with simultaneous bell-ringing participation by United States naval ships around the world as well as churches, historic buildings, and institutions across the country who have bells to toll.
All parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Philadelphia are encourage to participate in the ceremony by tolling church bells 13 times at precisely 2:00 p.m.
Additionally, faithful throughout the five-county Archdiocese are invited to participate by ringing their own bell, or tapping a glass, a pot, or a pan at home – as the Bell is a symbol of religious freedom as evidence by the quote from the Bible inscribed on the Bell, “Proclaim Liberty Throughout the Land Unto All the Inhabitants Thereof.”
Please consider sharing this material broadly in your parish community in the manner that you deem most appropriate. Thank you.
Sincerely in Christ,
Rev. Msgr. Daniel J. Sullivan
Vicar for Clergy
May 6, 2020
This week we celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week, a time to honor and thank all of our teachers throughout the nation for the vital role they play in the lives of our children and families. Here at Saint Alphonsus, this is an important time for us as a community, because we are especially blessed by the incredible dedication of our OLM teachers and our PREP catechists. I ask you to join me in offering a prayer of thanksgiving for all they do and for the many sacrifices they make to form our children, especially in our Catholic faith. Thank you, teachers and catechists! May you always know how much you are appreciated and loved for all you do.
This year, though, is a unique Teacher Appreciation Week due to the pandemic. Teachers have responded in extraordinary ways and with great creativity to help our children continue to learn and maintain some sense of normalcy and community. But the pandemic has also brought to the fore a new group of people that have to be celebrated this week, and that is our parents. In the midst of the many challenges and uncertainties they face, and while doing their own work from home and adjusting to the many pressures of this moment, they too have become teachers. With all the responsibilities of day, they are working with our teachers and catechists to ensure their children continue to learn. I am especially conscious of our PREP parents, who in addition to regular school work, are tasked with helping our PREP students to continue their religious education. Thank you, parents, for you all you are doing and for your patience as we work this extraordinary time.
As we pray daily for an end to this pandemic and for all those on the front lines fighting for us, let us not forget to pray for our teachers, catechists and parents. They are very much a part of this battle as they help our children to study, pray and, equally important, to play and to simply be kids. Know we stand with you and support you, and may God bless you in every way!
Stay safe and healthy, and let us pray for one another, as we say together, Saint Alphonsus, pray for us!
Sincerely in Christ,
May 2, 2020
Today we were to celebrate First Holy Communion for our parish children. Since we cannot gather for this celebration, let us pray in a special way today for our First Communion Class. May Jesus bless them and grant them soon the grace of receiving him in the Holy Eucharist!
April 29, 2020
For centuries, the Church has honored Mary during the month of May. As we celebrate and enjoy the arrival of new life in nature around us, we are reminded that through Mary our heavenly Father has given us new life in his Son, Jesus Christ. This spring, I think we are all especially attuned to the preciousness and fragility of life, and our need to care for this gift both bodily and spiritually. In honoring Mary, we celebrate God’s gift of our own creation and redemption and we renew our love for our Mother Mary, who was entrusted to us by Jesus himself on the Cross.
So that we may embrace this opportunity to grow in our devotion to Mary and to deepen our awareness for the gift of earthly and heavenly life given to us by our Father, may I suggest the following ways we can celebrate the month of May:
- Join Archbishop José Gomez, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB),and Catholics throughout the United States to pray together in renewing our consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary on Friday, May 1st. This consecration will be livestreamed on Facebook at 3:00 pm EST. You may go to our Facebook page for the link to this service, or directly to the USCCB Facebook page. The worship aid can be found in both English and Spanish at www.usccb.org/consecration.
- Pray the rosary daily as a family or individually, especially as we ask the intercession of the Blessed Mother for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic. Pope Francis has written a Letter to all the faithful encouraging us to pray the rosary, and he has written two new prayers which he asks to be recited at the conclusion of the rosary. This is a wonderful way for us to pray together with the Holy Father and Christians throughout the world for the health and safety of all people. I will post His Holiness’s Letter to our website and social media.
- Though I encourage you to pray the rosary every day, I would like for us to be able to pray together as a parish one day a week, and so I invite you to join me on a Zoom video conference on every Thursday in May at 6:30 pm (May 7, 14, 21 & 28). The Deacons and I will lead the prayer and will invite different parishioners to share in leading the decades of the rosary. You will be able to join by video or just audio, whichever you prefer. If you wish to participate, please email me at email@example.com and I will send you the link to join me for our May weekly parish rosary.
Let us continue to pray for one another and especially those most affected by this pandemic.
May the Lord keep us safe, increase our trust in his will, and make us ever-more conscious of caring for one another. Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us! Saint Alphonsus, pray for us!
Sincerely in Christ,
Stay Healthy & Get Your FREE** Flu Shot! Help keep our St. Alphonsus Community Safe and Healthy CVS-sponsored Flu Clinic hosted by St. Alphonsus Saturday, October 3rd 10am – 3pm Location: St. Alphonsus Gym Vaccinating ages 3 and older (legal guardian must accompany minor) Offering the same vaccine available at your doctor’s office: Quadrivalent (protects against 4 strains of the flu) High Dose (age 65 and older) Pneumonia vaccination will also be available for patients… Read more
Parishioner Kyle Retallick will be speaking about a wide variety of saints who helped guide and lead the Catholic Church in its first 500 years of existence on Thursday evening, November 21, from 7:00-8:30 in the Meeting Room. Kyle is greatly inspired by the lives of the saints and hopes you will be, too! Feel free to read the Acts of the Apostles prior to this talk for additional background (just a suggestion). Read more
On Wednesday, November 6th from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. in Church, the St. Alphonsus Children’s Choir will begin rehearsing for the 4:00 p.m. Christmas Eve Mass. All children in grades 3 and above are invited to join our group. For further information, contact Mary Lou Lewcun at 215 654-0129 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Download a Registration Form. Read more