We Are All Poets

I discovered Pablo Neruda’s poetry about 15 years ago; this one is my favorite. I had not picked it up, much less recited it for a few years. Yet, on this Friday morning, it awakened in my soul. Perhaps it is the simple phrase “cooped up” which makes the obvious connection. Yet it seems that our current circumstance is already seeking to find meaning in the chaos, light in the darkness, hope in the despair. I pray that each one of us can trust the voice which rises up within us, the voice of loving God who has promised to save us. With hope in our hearts we can be the voice of the sea for all our brothers and sisters who are yet dwelling in fear. God bless you all. — Father Mitch

To whoever is not listening to the sea
this Friday morning, to whoever is cooped up
in house or office, factory or woman
or street or mine or harsh prison cell;
to him I come, and, without speaking or looking,
I arrive and open the door of his prison,
and a vibration starts up, vague and insistent,
a great fragment of thunder sets in motion
the rumble of the planet and the foam,
the raucous rivers of the ocean flood,
the star vibrates swiftly in its corona,
and the sea is beating, dying and continuing.

So, drawn on by my destiny,
I ceaselessly must listen to and keep
the sea’s lamenting in my awareness,
I must feel the crash of the hard water
and gather it up in a perpetual cup
so that, wherever those in prison may be,
wherever they suffer the autumn’s castigation,
I may be there with an errant wave,
I may move, passing through windows,
and hearing me, eyes will glance upward
saying ‘How can I reach the sea?’
And I shall broadcast, saying nothing,
the starry echoes of the wave,
a breaking up of foam and quicksand,
a rustling of salt withdrawing,
the grey cry of the sea-birds on the coast.

So, through me, freedom and the sea
will make their answer to the shuttered heart.

Pablo Neruda

Perseverance in Prayer

As we move into our second Sunday without the Eucharist and into our second week of “stay at home,” it is very important for us to persevere in prayer. I have found myself trying to look out to the horizon, wondering, “when will this end.” That line of thinking has not been helpful to me. What has been helpful to me is remaining faithful to a rhythm of prayer that engages me morning noon and night. Then, through intentional connection with family and dear friends, mostly by text, I can fill much of my day with thoughts and feelings grounded in my relationship with God and my relationships with God’s children. That leaves less time and space for falling into the many rabbit holes which tempt me most days (cable news, chocolate, negative thoughts, etc…). So let us lift one another in prayer and persevere in sustaining the relationships which matter most.

We will continue our prayerful procession with the blessed Sacrament tomorrow, Friday, at 6:00 pm. We are careful to observe the six foot social distancing and the walk through the neighborhood lasts one hour. Our route tomorrow will be the “The Wedge.” We will begin by walking south on Adkins, then west on Schiller, then south on Morgan Ford, then west on Bates, then north on Gravois, east on Gertrude, north on Morgan Ford, west on Freida, north on Gravois, east on Eichelberger, north on Morgan Ford, west on what’s left of Walsh, then north on Gravois, east on Delor to the Grotto . You are welcome to join us for the whole Rosary (all 20 mysteries), for a decad or two, a block or two or simply to step out on your porch and pray as we pass by. This is a way for us to be a Eucharistic people even as we fast from the Eucharist. We know our life is in Christ and nothing in this world can separate us from the love of God poured out in Christ Jesus. On Sunday, at 9:00 am, we will gather at the Flag Pole in Tower Grove Park and process through the northern parts of the parish, beginning south on Gustine.

We are praying for everyone affected by the spread of the new coronavirus and Covid-19. I ask your prayers specifically for my sister, Patty Cormack, who is a critical care nurse in New York City. She is actually leading a team in Tech company designing tracking software to provide real time diagnostics and care plans for health care workers and patients who may have Covid-19. I do not understand the complexities of the technology, but I know patty is saving lives on the front lines of the pandemic. And I know that many of you are reaching beyond yourselves to care for your brothers and sisters, even if from a distance. Let us continue in love for one another. “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”

The Annunciation: The Dawn of a New Creation

One of my favorite poems has become part of my morning prayer; I recite it first thing after waking. It is from our friend, Hafiz, entitled “The Seed Cracked Open.”

It used to be that when I awoke in the morning I could with confidence ask,
“What am I going to do today?”

But that was before the seed cracked open. Now Hafiz is certain:

There are two of us housed in this body,
doing the shopping together in the market
and tickling each other while fixing the evening meal

Now when I awake, all the internal instruments play the same music:

“God, what love mischief can we do for the world today?”

We are living through a significant moment of history; each one of us asked to make sacrifices we could not have imagined just one month ago. Even as we distance, even isolate, from each other, we can trust that we are not alone. Our most intimate friend, Christ, dwelling within us, is more ready than ever to accompany us in this most sacred journey, a different path for the life of the world. Let us use this time of quiet to tune our internal instruments, the faculties of our mind, heart, body, spirit and soul. Getting all of our instruments to make beautiful music together will prepare us for the glorious communion which we will share when we witness a new beginning of love on the other side of this despair, on the other side of this darkness, on the other side of this virus.

I entered the Adoration Chapel this morning and found a young disciple reading the Bible and praying before the Blessed Sacrament; a few minutes after he left, another disciple entered, carrying in her arms her beautiful granddaughter. It was clear to me that God was blessing me with the gift of the Real Presence of Christ, fully present in my brother, in my sisters and in the Eucharist. It was a gift of true spiritual communion. I cannot wait to share that deep communion with all of you in the Liturgy of the Eucharist; soon and very soon.

Wednesday, March 25, is the Feast of the Annunciation, the moment the Angel Gabriel spoke to Mary and Mary responded with her “yes” for the salvation of the world. This is the dawn of a new creation, the recreation of the world. We are invited to say “yes” with Mary, with our lives, surrendering our will that we might become bearers of Christ to the world. This truth of our salvation runs deeper in our bones and in our community and in our world than anything else. Indeed, nothing else matters. Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

COVID-19: Christ Over Virus and Infectious Diseases

This is the message I received I received from Rodney Jones, our Head of Facilities at St. John’s, on Friday morning:

Not once in the Bible does it say, “worry about it, stressover it or figure it out.”  But over and over it clearly says, “TRUST God.”

           C.O.V.I.D.-19

“Christ over virus & infectious diseases.”

Have I not commanded you?  Be strong & courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

                                                                                                                   Joshua 1:9

 

I am so grateful for the many ways God continues to reveal himself and Christ’s love; a simple message from Rodney at 8:07 in the morning sustained me for the whole day.  A well timed smile, an offer of chocolate, a phone call from a friend, a holy hour in the adoration chapel and so many blessings flowing from the very Body of Christ even as we are fasting from the Body of Christ in the Eucharist.  Please continue to support one another. And be creative, even adventurous in doing so. Some friends of mine hosted a ZOOM Happy Hour on Saturday evening. It is not the “same” but it is intentional, it is an act of love and, in some ways, a deepening of faith.  Please know of my ongoing prayer for each one of you. Do not hesitate to call just to say “hello” or request specific prayers.  

MY CELL NUMBER IS 314.803.4523.

I am your pastor and want to stay connected to you.  I am practicing safe distance and am very healthy right now.  I am willing to visit you in your home if that is what will be helpful to you.

We will definitely continue the processions with the Blessed Sacrament on Friday evenings at 6:00 and Sunday mornings at 9:00.  I will consult with the City regarding how to make it conform with the “Stay at Home” direction from the Mayor. I am also available in Church for Confessions on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 6:30-8:00 am (except Monday, March 23, when the Church is being disinfected).  And remember the Church is open 24/7 via the red door by the Adoration Chapel and the northwest glass door into church.

PRAYERS NEEDED FOR DONNA NAGEL

Donna passed away on Friday morning, after a nearly four year battle with cancer.  We commend her to the Lord and ask your prayers for her husband, Dan and their children, Joe, Jessie and Jim. 

Staying Connected

Dear Friends,

I want to stay connected with you and commend your eternal connection with each other even while our world requires us to remain at a distance.  I encourage you to seek Spiritual Communion through prayer which can be facilitated by watching the Mass via “live streaming.” I strongly recommend daily Mass from Bishop Barron’s Chapel sponsored by his Word on Fire Ministries.

I have also posted the “Mass on the World,” first prayed by Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. when he was Chaplain for the French army during World War I. 

Here is a bit of what you would have heard me preach this Sunday if we were able to gather:

Today we witness the recreation of the world.  We know, in faith, that each one of us has become a new creation in Christ.  One consolation from today’s Gospel story is that the whole world, with us, is being recreated; Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, the one through whom everything has been created, is making all things new.  When Jesus reaches down into the clay of the earth (cf Gn. 2:7), mixes it with his own saliva, his divine DNA, and places it in the eyes of the “Man Born Blind,” there can be no mistaking the very act of creation…the first moment of God’s love being expressed in the universe.  From that moment flows an abundance of God’s grace and mercy in all of creation. The first time, we wandered off course; this time, through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we claim our victory over sin and death. We join the Man Born Blind who can now see clearly and deeply; we say “I am.”  That phrase is not an accident. Because of God’s desire for intimacy with you; because God so loved the world; because Jesus freely offered his life on the cross, reconciling all things in Christ, our lips speak the name of God. In this moment of creation, this moment which conquers sin and death, once and for all, we participate in the Divine Life, we share intimately the very life of Christ in the world.

John’s Gospel once again gives us an insider view; we recognize that Jesus is calling the Man Born Blind to be an Apostle; he, like the Woman at the Well, is “sent” to be washed clean in the waters of baptism and then to announce the presence of the Messiah.  He is free from blindness, from sin and from death. And so are we. We can laugh at the pharisees, and even the disciples, who are revealed as the ones truly unable to see, unable to recognize the love of God being poured out in Christ Jesus.  

Our eternal life began in the heart of God; we were placed in the Garden of Eden and we will spend our eternal life in the Heavenly Jerusalem (Rv. 21).  Our life in this world is the journey from one Sacred Garden to another; this journey passes through the Garden at the foot of the cross and near the empty tomb and this journey promises to bring us home back to the very heart of God; this is what it means to fashioned in the very image and likeness of God.  While this world is fraught with suffering, with love, with grief, with joy, with struggle, with courage and with sin, all of it is gathered up in Christ’s victory over sin and death. In the face of untold and yet unknown suffering let us claim our victory in Christ. And while we fast from the Eucharist let us allow God’s love, God’s grace and God’s mercy to become a wellspring of life-giving water within us; let us announce to the world what we have seen: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

Teilhard de Chardin’s Mass On the World

This is a liturgical version by Cynthia Bourgeault. It is adapted from the Offertory of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s “Mass on the World” (The Heart of Matter, p. 119-121) as excerpted by Ursula King (in Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: Selected Readings, p. 80-81). 

Participants are seated in a circle. After a few minutes of silent settling, the Mass begins. The readers can read from their seats, or can come forward to a lectern or podium. If they choose to sit, it is best for them to be opposite one another in the circle. 

If preferred, the whole recitation can be done over soft background music. Cynthia Bourgeault strongly recommends “Essence” by Peter Kater, which is forgiving in the extreme and perfectly adapted to the overall mood and intent. 

READER 1: Since once again, Lord…I have neither bread, nor wine, nor altar, I will raise myself beyond 

these symbols, up to the pure majesty of the real itself; I, your priest, will make the whole world my altar and on it will offer you all the labors and sufferings of the world. 

Over there, on the horizon, the sun has just touched with light the outermost fringe of the eastern sky. Once again, beneath this moving sheet of fire, the living surface of the earth wakes and, 

once again, begins its fearful travail. I will place on my paten, O God, the harvest to be won by this renewal of labor. Into my chalice I shall pour all the sap which is to be pressed out this day from the earth’s fruits. 

My chalice and my paten are the depths of a soul laid widely open to all the forces which in a moment will rise up from every corner of the earth and converge upon the Spirit. Grant me the 

remembrance and the mystic presence of all those whom the light is now awakening to a new day. 

READER 2: One by one, Lord, I see and I love all those whom you have given me to sustain and charm my 

life. One by one, I also number those who make up that other beloved family which has gradually surrounded me, its unity fashioned out of the most disparate elements, with affinities of 

the heart, of scientific research, and of thought. And one by one—more vaguely, it is true, yet all-inclusively—I call before me the whole vast anonymous army of living humanity; those who 

surround me and support me though I do not know them; those who come and those who go; above all, those who in office, laboratory, and factory, through their vision of truth or despite 

their error, truly believe in the progress of earthly reality and who today will again take up their impassioned pursuit of the light. 

This restless multitude, confused or orderly, the immensity of which terrifies us; this ocean of 

humanity whose slow, monotonous wave-flows trouble the hearts of even those whose faith is most firm; it is to his deep that I thus desire all the fibers of my being should respond. All the 

things in the world to which this day will bring increase; all those that will diminish; all those, too, that will die: all of them, Lord, I try to gather into my arms so as to hold them out to you in offering. This is the material of my sacrifice, the only material you desire. 

READER 1: Once upon a time, men took into your temple the first fruits of their harvest, the flower of their flocks. But the offering you really want, the offering you mysteriously need each day to appease 

your hunger, to slake your thirst, is nothing less than the growth of the world borne ever onward in the stream of universal becoming. 

(Reader 1 gestures participants to stand and raise their arms in a mutual oblation.) 

Receive, O Lord, this all-embracing host which your whole creation, moved by your magnetism, offers you at this dawn of a new day. 

(All in the circle hold the gesture for at least one or two minutes—as long as the energy can be 

sustained. Then, as Reader 1 lowers their arms, inviting those in the circle to do likewise, Reader 2 begins to speak.) 

READER 2: This bread, our toil, is of itself, I know, but an immense fragmentation; this wine, our pain, is no more, I know, than a draught that dissolves. Yet in the very depths of this formless mass you 

have implanted—and this I am sure of, for I sense it—a desire, irresistible, hallowing, which makes us cry out, believer and unbeliever alike, “Lord, make us one.” 

READER 1 “Lord, make us one…..” 

(Readers encourage others in circle to join in this spoken petition. When words subside, turn 

down the music, and readers again sit, inviting participants to do likewise. Liturgy then moves into silent meditation for at least five or ten more minutes.) 

A Few Words From Father Mitch

Dear Friends,

This is the second day without Eucharist; and somehow this feels more empty than Good Friday.  I want to trust God’s plan for us, yet it is so difficult to move in the in-between places. Today, more than ever, we are like the first disciples on the journey with Jesus.  When he talked of his suffering which would be life for the world, his disciples had no way to process what they were hearing; it was altogether too new. We are like Mary realizing that what Simeon prophesied is indeed coming true: “a sword shall pierce your heart.”  All we can do is surrender ourselves to the Sacred of Heart of Christ and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, trusting their love and mercy to flow within us and through us to all the world.

Moses began the first “quarantine” when he journeyed to the top the Mountain of God to confer with the Lord.  While he was alone in prayer all the people felt lost. They began to wonder if Moses would ever return; they began to doubt God’s power to save, so soon after it had been revealed to them in their freedom from slavery in Egypt; so soon after they had received Quail in the evenings and Manna in the mornings.  It is important for us to persevere in fasting and prayer during this Lenten Journey of 40 days, even if it means fasting from the Eucharist.

We will stay connected by phone, email and lift each other up in prayer.  Please stop by the Church to pray. Using the code to enter through the door by the adoration chapel you have 24/7 access to the adoration chapel and, once inside, to the church through the northwest glass door, nearest the adoration chapel.  I will be in church to hear confessions on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 6:30-8:00 am.

I will also use the former gathering times of Friday evening and Sunday morning to process with the Blessed Sacrament through the neighborhoods of the parish.  Tuesday evening I walked the perimeter of the parish praying the Rosary. This Friday at 6:00 pm I will process for one hour up and down the streets just north of our church; beginning on Ridgewood to Taft, down Alfred to Delor, up Morganford, down Varrelmann, up Adkins and down Newport.  If you want to step out on your porch to join me in the praying of a decade of the Rosary as we pass by, please do. Or if you want to join in the procession, at a safe distance of six feet for a couple blocks, you are welcome to do so. On Sunday morning at 9:00 we will continue the procession.  God willing we will pass near every block of the parish before Easter.

As I walked the perimeter of the parish on Tuesday, the first day without Eucharist, I claimed it all as holy ground for Christ.  I imagined myself smearing the blood of Christ’s sacrifice, his redeeming blood, on every door post of the parish. While we wait for the Lord to reveal his new plan for us it is important for us not to become frightened and weary as the Isrealites did.  Our perseverance in faith will be a blessing for our community and for our world. We are John the Baptist announcing the presence of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. That is still very good news. God bless you.

Fr. Mitch

Daily Mass from Bishop Barron’s Chapel

We’re sharing Bishop Barron’s letter here:

Friends,

In recent weeks, the coronavirus outbreak has had a profound impact on countries around the world—and, increasingly, here in the United States.

In light of measures being taken to contain the outbreak and avoid further illness, many of us may be hesitant to leave our homes. In many areas, Mass and other church services may not be available.

It is at this exact moment that our faith is most needed.

In an effort to continue the practice of our faith in these trying times, I would like to invite you to join us online for daily Mass.

Beginning today, Tuesday, March 17, Word on Fire will be offering daily Mass for the foreseeable future.

If you cannot attend Mass or join us online, I encourage you to read the Gospels, pray with your families, and join yourself to the Eucharist—the source and summit of our Catholic faith—by making an act of spiritual communion like the one recommended by Archbishop Gomez: “I wish, my Lord, to receive you with the purity, humility, and devotion with which your most holy Mother received you, with the spirit and fervor of the saints.”

And please continue to pray for all those affected by the coronavirus.

Peace,

Bishop Robert Barron