Thank You to Pettis County

Here is my final bulletin article for the Catholic community of Pettis County, Mo. My first priestly assignment will always have a special place in my memory and heart.

Thank you! Thank you for the wonderful receptions, cards and gifts last weekend. Thank you for all of your support this past year and a half. Thank you for opening your community, your homes, your families and your lives to me throughout our time together. Thank you for allowing me to grow, learn and mess up as a “baby priest.” Thank you for allowing me to play softball, tennis and BBQ with you all. Thank you for allowing me to discover, share and cultivate my passion of teaching and sharing the faith with you all. Thank you to the students at Sacred Heart for always greeting me with a smile and joy. Thank you to my students for buying into a different way of learning and then pushing yourselves to grow. Thanks to Fr. Mark and the staff at Sacred Heart, St. Pat’s and St. John’s for helping me along the way. I could go on and on, so let me just it one last time, Thank you!

Holy Year Pilgrimage

During this Jubilee Year of Mercy we too are encouraged to make pilgrimage. The tradition of the Jubilee year in the Church is originally focused on the four major basilicas of Rome, St. Peter’s, St. Paul Outside the Walls, St. Mary Major and St. John Lateran. Thankfully Pope Francis has recognized that most of us cannot afford to just get up and travel to Rome (as much as we might like to), therefore bishops around the world have set up holy doors in their own dioceses. In our Diocese of Jefferson City, Bishop John R. Gaydos has designated the following Churches to have a holy door:

  • The Cathedral of St. Joseph
  • The Church of St. Peter in Brush Creek (where Fr. Augustine Tolton was baptized, whose cause for canonization is in process)
  • The Church of St. Patrick in Laurie in honor of the National Shrine of Mary, Mother of the Church
  • The Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows in Starkenburg

I encourage you all to make plans to visit at least one (or more) of these sites during the upcoming year. It could make for a lovely family day trip on a Saturday. Travel to the Church, pass through the door, then go out to lunch as a family. If you have any questions or need some tips about organizing such a day trip, don’t hesitate to call me, I’d be happy to help.

The point of pilgrimage and the point of passing through the doors in not a competition to see how many doors or how many times you can walk through a door. Rather, it is about intentionally seeking God’s help to open the doors of our hearts so that we may recognize, “God’s love has been poured out into our hearts” (Rom 5:5). We seek God’s mercy and forgiveness for the times we have failed to be Christ-like to others and ask for his strength to do so in the future.

Everyone’s invited to the Chrism Mass

Here’s my article for this weekend’s (March 12-13, 2016) bulletin.

This coming Thursday March 17th at 5:30 pm in the Cathedral, the Diocese of Jefferson City will host it’s annual “Chrism Mass.” Bishop John R. Gaydos will be the celebrant, joined by all the priests serving in the diocese. The Chrism Mass is held in every diocese around the world in the days leading up to the Triduum. Traditionally it is done on Thursday morning of Holy Week. While this works well in urban dioceses, in large, spread-out, rural dioceses such as ours, it is not practical. Some of our priests live over 3 hours away from the Cathedral and could never make it back in time for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Thursday evening.

The Chrism Mass serves two important purposes. 

The first is that the priests renew their commitment and promises to service of God’s people. Certainly, our vows or promises made at ordination are life-long, but it’s good to gather and publicly renew that commitment every year. This is done at the Chrism Mass because, it is associated with Holy Thursday, which is considered to be the day that Christ instituted the priesthood at the Last Supper. If you’ve never been to a Chrism Mass or an Ordination, it can be pretty impressive to see 70+ priests gathered together.

The second purpose is the blessing of Holy Oils, hence the term, “Chrism Mass.” The Holy Oils: the Oil of the Sick, Oil of Catechumens, and Sacred Chrism will all be blessed by the bishop during a special ritual. These oils are then to be used throughout the diocese in all of the parishes for the next year. After they are blessed at the Chrism Mass, they will be presented to our parishes during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday.

So when one of you or a loved one here is sick and or dying and receives anointing in the next year, the oil used by Fr. Mark or myself will have been blessed at this Chrism Mass. When one of your children is baptized, they will be anointed with the Oil of Catechumens and Sacred Chrism blessed at the Chrism Mass. When our RCIA candidates receive the sacraments at the Easter Vigil, they will anointed with these same oils. In April, the Bishop will come here to give some of our young people the sacrament of confirmation, and they will be anointed with the Sacred Chrism.

While we as priests will be in Jefferson City all day for a Day of Recollection with our brother priests, all of the faithful are invited and encouraged to attend this important Mass. So let this be your invitation to join us in this beautiful celebration of our Catholic and sacramental faith at St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Jefferson City at 5:30 PM on Thursday March 17.

How do we eagerly await God’s salvation?

As with all my homilies, this is a representative text of the homily I gave this weekend. Unlike a couple weeks ago, I wasn’t as happy with this one at first, so there was some more “tweaking” from Mass to Mass. Thankfully, as a priest, I get to deliver the same homily a few times every weekend, so there’s an opportunity to improve as the weekend goes along.

When my sister and I were growing up we would always call to find out when Dad was coming home from work. Then when we heard the garage door open, we knew he was home and would go running to greet him. We were eagerly awaiting his return. I hope that’s the case for many of you here as well. That you children here greet your parents when they come home and show they you love them.

What’s funny or ironic is that it’s not that long before the tables are turned and the roles are reversed. At some point it’s not the children waiting for mom or dad to come home, but rather mom or dad staying up late at night for their child to come, eagerly awaiting their return.

There’s lots of things we wait for all the time. This past week many of you demonstrated with all the celebrations that you’d been eagerly waiting another Royals championship for 30 years…imagine being a Cubs fan!

See there’s lots of things, maybe some of you are eagerly awaiting the new Star Wars movie next month.

Then of course, there’s Advent, which starts in a few weeks, a whole season in which we will be eagerly awaiting the Birth of Jesus.

Today’s second reading also reminds us there is something else we should be eager for…our salvation.

Hmm. We should be eager for our salvation. Unlike everything else I’ve mentioned, it seems a little harder to be eager for our salvation. We know how to be eager for all of those other things I mentioned, but how can we possible express our eagerness for our salvation? What does that look like? How do we express that eagerness?

Let me start by clearing up two extremes it is not.

First of all it is not taking a sort of doomsday approach where we are so preoccupied, think we must spend 24/7 looked in a cell praying, afraid of the world to the point we become paralyzed. Nor is it the opposite end where we say, well, the life’s short, so I might as well live it up, do what I want, with whom I want, when I want and where I want. Just do whatever, live without any consequences, because, “it doesn’t really matter.”

No, our eager awaiting of God’s salvation is somewhere in the middle. What’s missing from both extremes is an understanding of responsibility.

If we leave everything behind to go hide in awaiting God’s second coming, we leave behind our responsibilities. That’s because if you want to eagerly await God’s salvation, we do so by attending to our responsibilities. If you take the other approach it’s a life where there are no worries and no responsibilities are met either.

See if we ask ourselves the question, “How am I eagerly awaiting God’s salvation?” We start to overthink it too much, come up with all sorts of different ideas. But the path is right in front of us.

So to the children here, do we help out in the house? Do we do our chores? What about our homework? How do we treat our classmates in school?

Parents – Do we help our children when they need help? Or would we rather attend to our own needs? Do we bother to pass on our faith to our children? Make sure they are taught values and responsibilities? Or would we rather just forget about it all, do something else fun.

And fulfilling our duties and obligations when it’s easy or convenient isn’t enough. We also have to do it when it’s difficult. Listen to today’s gospel, the rich men give from their surplus, when it’s easy. But the poor widow gives from her livelihood, when it’s tough. So we too must fulfill our responsibilities not only when it’s easy, but also when it’s tough.

So doing the chores when they are easy, or because there is some obvious reward, that’s not eagerly anticipating one’s salvation. Maybe after mom or dad asks you do to something, before going back to playing your video games, you can ask, “Is there anything else I can do to help?” So if you’ve taken the trash out, you ask, “Is there anything else I can do to help?” Maybe you have to set the table, it takes two minutes, maybe she lets you go have fun. Just ask.

Parents, do we click over to the next episode on Netflix, or do you go spend time with your child? Ask them how their day went? Help them with homework or whatever else it is they need help with, even when we’re tired and would rather have some “me time.”

Another example we have here with us today is our soccer team. After Friday’s loss, and everything that happened, you didn’t give in and quit. It was difficult yes, painful, yes. But you all rebounded and gave it your all to claim 3rd place.

Why does this all matter? How does fulfilling our responsibilities help us eagerly anticipate our salvation? Because it helps us keep a proper perspective.

We have to keep the big picture in mind as we fulfill these responsibilities. That is to say we don’t freak out when we fail, and give up. No we keep trying. Nor do we seek to fulfill the responsibilities just for themselves. So we don’t just do our homework because it will get us a good grade and into a better college. No, we do it because it makes us a better person. We don’t just play sports to win championships but because they teach values, teamwork and responsibility, they make us better people. We help our children because we love them and want what’s best for them.

Perspective reminds us that at the end of the day what matters most is not what grades we get, how many goals we score, how many games we’ve won, how much money we make or whether we got the promotion or not. We will be judged on our ability to receive God’s love and our love to share it with others.

Just as we eagerly await so many good things in our life, we too must strive to keep perspective by fulfilling our responsibilities, not only when it’s easy, but also when it’s tough. In that way we will truly, eagerly, await God’s salvation.

Curing the wounds of mourning – All Souls Day

Yesterday evening we hosted a community wide (that is all 3 parishes combined) prayer service for all those who have passed away from within our Catholic community in the past year. The families of the deceased were invited to come and participate as well. We had a nice turnout. As a part of the service, I preached a short homily in both English and Spanish, as the entire service was bilingual given that we had people from both cultures present. Here’s what I had to say to them, more or less.

Our current worldview or cultural perspective tells us that death should be something clean, sterile, and kept at a distance. We try to remove ourselves from death. Yet all of us are here tonight because we know that’s not true. We know that death is real. The pain and hurts we feel are real. The wounds we feel in our hearts are not clear and sterile, but rough and dirty. So what do we do with this real pain, this real hurt?

Pope Francis tells us that the Church is to be a field hospital for the weak and suffering. But who is the Church? What’s she made up of? It’s no accident that yesterday we celebrated All Saints day, and today, All Souls Day. This reminds us of the three-fold make up of the Church. It’s not just us here gathered together. There’s us here on Earth, the souls in purgatory and the Saints in heaven. In our time of weakness and suffering we ask the saints to intercede before God on our behalf. We pray for the souls in purgatory, that they too may experience the glory of God.

The world tells us death is the end. That we are now separated from our loved ones. In the Church we believe that’s not true! Death is not the end, but a new beginning. We are not separated at all, but rather are united in prayer and love. In this way, the whole Church, us, the souls in purgatory and the saints, united by our faith in Jesus Christ as our savior, can become the field hospital which cures our painful wounds brought about by mourning the loss of a loved one. For we are not separated, but are united through prayer and love.

Is your goal to be a saint?

As promised here’s my homily from this past weekend on the Feast of All Saints. As always, I do not use a text during the actual delivery of the homily. With several Masses in a weekend, there’s always some variation, but this text is certainly representative if not a 100% verbatim of what I said at any given Mass.

Who are your heroes? Who are the people you look up to in your life? Who do you admire? There are so many people that we look up, that we consider our heroes. They come from so many different places. We have our favorite athletes, musicians, artists, actors and actresses. Then are various political and business leaders both from history and the past. We also have many fictional characters from books, movies and tales that we consider heroes. If they are from comics, then we even call them superheroes. I imagine many of our young people here dressed up as some of these figures last night for Halloween.

Yet, we don’t all wear the same costume every year. If nothing else, they won’t fit anymore after a few years. Beyond that, our interests change, we grow up. The music we listen to at one age is not what we are listening to 10 years later. We no longer care about our favorite superheroes. We read new books, learn more. Our favorite players get traded away and retire. I know after my sister’s favorite players got traded from the Cardinals I gave her a list of who could and couldn’t be her favorite player, lest they be traded too. For various reasons, these heroes don’t endure, they don’t last for ever.

Last week I was talking with a young mother and somehow Elvis came up in conversation. Her daughter asked, “Who’s Elvis?” Then we said, “A famous singer from a long time ago.” She replied, “Oh so like the 80’s?” See folks, even the great Elvis doesn’t endure!

This phenomenon has been true throughout history. In 1521 the great St. Ignatius of Loyola was a young soldier when he was injured in the battle of Pamplona. He was forced to stay in bed for months as he recovered. He didn’t have Netflix, so he couldn’t binge watch his favorite TV shows. Instead he read books. So he read all the tales of Knights and Ladies, Wars, Kings, Queens etc. Then finally once he had finished all of those, he began reading a book on the lives of the Saints. What he found was that when he read their stories, they left a burning feeling in his heart which endured. The stories of knights would pass, but the saints endured. So it should be for us as well.

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of All Saints. We remember not just the saints whose names we know, who get their own feast day, today we remember ALL the saints in heaven. They remind us that we are all called to be saints. Not only is it a call, it should be our goal. Yes we set goals in life like wanting a good job, family etc. But do we have the goal of being a saint? It should be the first and foremost goal of our lives. St. John Paul II and Vatican II both talked about a “universal call to holiness.” This means we are all called to be saints.

But what does being a saint look like? How does one become a saint? St. Francis de Sales writes that this does not just mean praying in the Church several times a day. He says to a mother who is busy raising children, “that is your path to holiness!” “That’s how you’ll become a saint! Through loving your children and being a good mother! That’s how!”

How do we know the right way for us to become a saint? How do we go about realizing our goal of being a saint? I could stay here for hours talking about many different ideas, but for today, I’ll stick with just two words.

The first is discernment.

When we hear this word in the Church, we often associate it with young men and women who are considering a call to the priesthood or religious life.  We turn it into a noun and say, “oh I hear she’s a discerner, or he’s a discerner,” as if it’s some sort of dirty word. Just because I was ordained a priest 4 month’s ago does not mean I’m done discerning. To discern is to include God in our decision making process, in this sense we are all meant to discern, and we never stop our entire lives. We tell children to think before they speak and act, but what about praying before we act? What about including God in those decisions.

This week the Church holds national vocations awareness week. To the young people here, I simply encourage you to consider a vocation to the priesthood and religious life. Another rule we teach children is to look both ways before you cross the street. So this must be true for discernment as well, that is to consider all the signs around you, to include God in our decisions, before we step out into the street. In a particular way with vocations, do we only look the way of marriage, just assuming that’s for us? Or do we at least look the other way and consider a vocation to the priesthood or religious life? It doesn’t hurt to look! In fact if you do, maybe you’ll find that’s the way for you. If you don’t look then you might miss something. So we must begin by including God in the little decisions of our everyday lives so that we can make the big decision about being married, a priest or religious.

However, it’s not enough to just say we will discern if we want to be saints. We also need fidelity. We need to be faithful. That is to say, God, I’m going to include you in my decisions, but I’m going to make mistakes. However, I’m not going to let those mistakes turn me away from you. I’m going to keep you trying, I’ll never give up. Sometimes we get this idea that the saints were somehow perfect in their lives. No! They were sinners too, they sat in the pews or celebrated Mass just like you and me. But they were faithful, and they always kept trying to be saints.

While our heroes may come and go, the example of the saints endures for us as a reminder that we too are called to be saints. If we discern more, include God in the decisions of our lives, and remain faithful to him, despite our failings, then we can strive to realize our goal, our goal to become a saint.

On the Mass as sacrifice, not entertainment.

Here’s my homily from this weekend. As always, I type (most of) my homilies out, then memorize them and deliver them without anything in front of me. Thus there are a few variations from Mass to Mass. I think these texts are certainly wholly representative if not 100% verbatim what I said in the actual delivery.

While I was gone I had the chance to catch up with many friends. Many would ask about my new assignment. One of the things I consistently mentioned was how much fun I’ve been having working in the school.

So this week when I got back I made sure to get back to the school as well. There was one class I still had not been able to visit with, so they were wanting to get to know me a little bit. One of them asked me, “Father, if you were stuck on an island, what three things would you bring?” We all laughed but then I answered the question.

I told him, “bread, wine and a chalice.” Once they all figured out the reason I had suggested those items was so that I could offer Mass, this raised another question.

“but father, you’d be alone…who would you offer Mass for? No one would be there.”

Bingo. Great question!

Listen to St. Paul today, “Every high priest is taken from among men and made their representative before God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring, for he himself is beset by weakness and so, for this reason must make sin offerings for himself as well as for the people.”

So whether I’m on a deserted island, or here with all of you, there is something in common, the Mass is offered to God. Not to you or to me. It is offered for your sins and mine. But what matters most is not who is or isn’t here. It doesn’t matter whether there’s a million people with Pope Francis in Philadelphia, or a priest on a deserted island, Mass is offered to God.

This is why the priest used to face the other direction when celebrating Mass. Often people say, “when the priest turned his back on people.” I don’t like that because it makes it seem like the priest doesn’t care about the people. No, it’s because he’s leading the people to God. Note, this homily is not about saying that’s how we should celebrate Mass, it’s about the fact that Mass is always about God.

What’s behind the question, “Well father, what if there’s no one there?” is an assumption that makes me not a priest but an entertainer. I’m sorry folks but I’m not here to entertain you. I’m not seeking a grammy, a tony or an oscar. If want to be entertained, go home. Turn on the radio or the television. Go to a game or a concert. I am not an entertainer, nor is the Mass to be entertainment.

This is why there a big fat book with a fancy title, Roman Missal, not missile. Because the Mass is not about me, nor is it about you. It’s about him. It’s not my Mass, nor your Mass. It’s Christ’s Mass. Through his Church he has passed down these texts and rituals. It it was mine or yours, we could make it up, and we’d be out of here in half an hour. Instead we follow the Missal. It’s not some sort of secret recipe book, where if we just do this or that, then poof, magic happens. No, it helps us to stay focused on Christ. If we start changing it around, or making it up, then it becomes about us, the Missal keeps us going in the right direction, towards God. If we start changing it, it is not longer Christ’s Mass, but ours. It becomes entertainment not worship and sacrifice.

If it’s not entertainment, then what is the Mass? It’s a sacrifice. Maybe when you hear that word you think of some weird cult in the woods, or historically of indigenous groups. But what sacrifice is the Mass about? It’s the sacrifice of the Cross.

In every Mass, we enter into that very same sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. That’s a big deal! It’s crazy! Not only does God send his only Son for the forgiveness of sins, but he even invites us to enter into that same sacrifice. That’s why the priest says, “Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.”

When I was in college some friends of mine and I were invited to a party. When we got there, the host was smoking a brisket. My friends said, “hey you’re on the BBQ team, you should go help.” So I did. Then I realized what a jerk I had been. Here I was invited to this guy’s house, telling him what to do. So why should it be any different with God?

Back to the original question, “why offer Mass without any people on a deserted island?”

If Mass is entering a sacrifice and not entertainment, then it is about glorifying God. But God already has everything. He doesn’t need our glory. But we need him. That’s why we come to Mass, and we bring to this sacrifice all our doubts, fears, worries, struggles, failures, weaknesses and sins. We place them before God and say, “I can’t do this on my own.”

It’s hard to do that if Mass is entertainment. We are too busy wanting to receive, to be entertained to enter into the sacrifice.

Just because Mass is so special and unique, unlike anything else we do with our lives does not mean that it belongs in some secret or special corner of our lives. If we really believe that Christ is present in the Eucharist. If we really believe that the celebration of Mass is entering into his sacrifice on the Cross. If we really believe that Jesus died for our sins, then that should transform us. It should change the way we think, the way we see, the way we speak, the way we act. That’s why at the end of Mass, the priest says, “Go Forth!” not “hang out a while and do nothing.” But to do that we must come to Mass, not to be entertained, but to enter into the sacrifice of Christ’s love poured out for us upon the Cross, so that love will transform us.

Interview with the Sedalia Democrat

During the Pope’s visit to the United States, I was interviewed by many different newspapers, radio and television stations.

One of these was a sit down interview with a reporter from my new local newspaper, The Sedalia Democrat.

It was a great opportunity to get to know a local reporter and share some of my thoughts and experiences of Pope Francis.

Here’s a link to the article.

Pastor’s Pen – On Pope Francis

During the month of September, we were blessed to have Pope Francis visit our country. During that time I wrote a pastor’s pen to help people get the most out of the experience.


By the time you’re reading this Pope Francis’ Apostolic journey to the United States will be nearly finished. However, as I write this note, his journey has just begun. So I cannot speak to the specifics of what he has said. After all, I can neither read minds nor predict the future. At the same time I would like to offer a few words for how it is that we can all benefit from the many graces of his visit.

First of all we can’t fall into the trap of thinking, “Philadelphia is far away.” No. We should be grateful that the Holy Father has chosen to visit our nation and culture, and we should listen to hear what he has to offer each of us. He may be speaking on the East Coast, but it’s our job to listen, and then make those words come alive here in Pettis County.

One of the difficulties we all face in our modern world is the need for the quick answer, the one-liner, the headline, the 140 characters in a tweet. Yet, if we are honest I believe we would all acknowledge that life is much more complicated and has much more depth. This is also true of Pope Francis’ message. So don’t remain satisfied or get caught up in only the tweets, headlines and catch-phrases of this week. Take time to read the entirety of Pope Francis’ speeches and talks. This will help you to get a better understanding of what he is saying to all of us. If you’re wondering where to find the texts, go to, then click on logo for the Pope’s Apostolic Journey to Cuba and the United States. There you’ll find links to all of his public addresses. Thankfully, these addresses, like everything else on the internet, remain forever. So you can still go back and read them if you didn’t have time this past week.

Lastly a reminder that one of the great things about Pope Francis is that he is just that, Pope Francis. So while many might attempt to place our Holy Father into their camp, category, or label, we must do our best to ignore such attempts. For Pope Francis does not belong to the “left” or “right,” he is neither, “progressive” or, “traditional.” He is not a legislator or political leader, he humbly seeks one goal, to bring Christ to people and people to Christ.

Welcome Pope Francis! Thank you for coming to our great nation!