The Church, Our Mother

07-26-2020Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

There are many images of the Church. The most beautiful and consoling image of the Church is the Church as our loving Mother. This image, of course, makes us think of the Blessed Mother. Scripture and the Tradition of the Church emphasize the connection between Mary and the Church. The Second Vatican Council teaches that Mary is the Image of the Church.

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Fare Forward!

07-19-2020Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

The time has come to wish Fr. Michael farewell as he begins his new assignment at St. Joseph in Madison. An English Catholic poet came up with a new word that I like even better than farewell. It is "fare forward!" It is a shame that we are not able to celebrate Fr. Michael's time with us in a large group gathering as we would ordinarily have done in other circumstances, but this in no way diminishes our fondness for him and our gratitude for his service here at Saint Rose. I would still encourage you to write to Fr. Michael if you have not already done so. He is a great letter writer, and he loves to receive them as well. Speaking of writing here is his new address at St. Joseph:

Fr. Michael Baltrus
St. Joseph Catholic Church
1225 Gallatin Pike South
Madison, Tennessee 37115 

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Solidarity

07-12-2020Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

There is certainly a lot of noise and confusion on the surface of the world right now. We see a lot of anger and division in the news. Down deep, however, we need to find unity. It is always there. Despite our differences, we are more brothers and sisters than anything else. And now can be a time to discover our unity in a very visible way.

Can you think of any external thing that has affected the whole world the way the coronavirus has? Literally, everyone in the world is having to deal with this same thing. Everyone's life has been changed by this. We are together in this experience. Why isn't it bringing us together in compassion and understanding for one another?

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Domestic Church

07-05-2020Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

I think that the Fourth of July weekend is a good time to think about the gift of being together as family. I certainly have some happy memories of being together with my family during this holiday when I was growing up. We really need more time and experiences together as family. One good thing that I can say about the pandemic and quarantine is that we have had more time to be together. Perhaps we have had the opportunity to share family meals together more often. I have been happy to see families playing together. I also hope that our families have been praying together more often as well.

The Domestic Church of the family is the ordinary way that we come to faith and grow in it. Faith takes time and attention on the part of families. We should look for ways to experience our faith and to share it with one another at home. Family prayer is one of the best ways to do this. Family prayer is simply a family conversation that includes God! We bring God into the conversation in just the same way we would draw one another into conversation. We can thank God for blessings. We can tell God and one another that we are sorry for offenses. We can ask God for needs that are on our hearts, for ourselves and others. And just like in family life, we can communicate the most important thing, which is that we love God! Maybe Dad could start the conversation, and then everyone joins in. We come to recognize God in our lives, our homes, and our families in this very natural way.

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New Schedule

06-28-2020Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

This is the new provisional schedule for Saint Rose Parish for the rest of the summer through August 15 (see front cover). Here is a summary of the changes: We are moving the bilingual Mass from Sunday afternoon to Saturday evening at 6:30 p.m.

We are moving all the Sunday Masses to begin 30 minutes earlier. They will now be at 7, 9, and 11 a.m. and 3 and 5 p.m. The Saturday evening Masses remain at the same times.

The bigger changes are on the weekdays. We will Mass every morning in English (7 a.m. MF and 8 a.m. on Saturday). On Tuesday, there will be Mass at 6:30 p.m. in Spanish. On Wednesday, there will be Mass at 6:30 p.m. in English. On both Tuesday and Wednesday, there will be Confessions at 56:15 p.m. In July, there will also be Confessions at 23 p.m. on Saturday.

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Ordinary Time

06-21-2020Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

We do not live in ordinary times! But on the Church's calendar "Ordinary Time" is the name for these many Sundays from now until Advent. In the world, the times are indeed extraordinary. But by His suffering, death, and resurrection, the Lord Jesus Christ has overcome the world.

On Good Friday, things looked very bleak. The power of the Roman government and the hostility of the religious authorities had crucified Jesus. Love and hope seemed crushed by the powers of this world. And then Jesus rose from the dead not by escaping from death but by passing through it triumphantly! This is the new definition of what is "ordinary." The sacrificial love of redemptive suffering causes, not defeat, but salvation.

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Flexibility

06-14-2020Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

Thanks to everyone for so much flexibility last week. I confess that it was a pretty overwhelming few days with many distractions for me. I thank you for your prayers. Some things just had to give way. I think that we need to be prepared for sudden changes and cancellations, even though I do not prefer to operate in that way.

Please remember that the bishop's dispensation is in effect until the end of June so that even if you missed a Mass because it was cancelled, you were not under obligation to attend Mass.

I wish I knew a more reliable way for us to operate in these days, but I don't. We will continue to communicate through as many channels as we can. I appreciate your fidelity and cooperation!

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Virtue Stands in the Middle

06-07-2020Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

We are living through troubling times. On top of a public health pandemic, which has brought about economic upheaval, we now experience civil unrest, including demonstrations and curfews. Unlike the pandemic and the economic issues, however, I think that there is clear guidance for us in the civil disturbance.

In the first place, the incident that sparked the demonstrations is a clear act of injustice which deserves and requires a response of righteous anger. Not only is the murder of George Floyd an act of injustice and violence, it is also another example in a troubling pattern of injustice towards African Americans which has a long history in our country. Demonstration in this circumstance is entirely justified. As a matter of fact, the failure to condemn this act and the pattern it exemplifies would be an act of cowardice in the face of injustice.

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Through Him, With Him, In Him

05-31-2020Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

As some of us begin again at public celebrations of Mass and as others continue to join in by livestream, we all have an opportunity to relearn the Mass from its most essential elements. I ask your understanding as we begin the public celebrations of Mass very simply, much as we have celebrated the Mass without a live congregation over the past couple of months. There is an eagerness, which I understand, to experience the Mass with the full array of ministers, processions, singing, etc. But we are going to begin simply, in order to get used to the new situation we find ourselves in and the requirement this situation imposes on us.

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Come, Holy Spirit, Come

05-24-2020Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

It is wonderful and Providential that the preparation for the Solemnity of Pentecost is coinciding with the beginning of reopening the parish. We need the Holy Spirit now! As I have said before, I have no interest in "going back to normal." I believe that God has given us a chance for a new beginning. How is the Holy Spirit leading us to be the place of encounter with the fullness of Christ in this community? How is the Holy Spirit calling us deeper into a culture of prayer, of active discipleship, and of healthy teamwork? How is the Holy Spirit leading us from obligation to devotion? Let's be open and docile to the Holy Spirit. As we start to celebrate Mass together again, we notice that we are doing many things differently, and yet it is the Mass! I believe that the Holy Spirit is shaking us up for a reason so that we will listen and follow where we might not have gone if things remained "normal." That is certainly true for me, and I thank God for the challenge. One week to Pentecost!

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From Obligation to Devotion

05-17-2020Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

Following the directives of Bishop Spalding and the governor, we will begin to "re-open" the parish, although we have never really been closed! On the practical side, this will mean that as of Monday, May 18, we will begin to have the public celebration of Mass again.

As I said before, this is a great blessing and a great responsibility. We have sent out directives for the celebration of Mass over the week and will continue to do so as schedules and protocols develop: everything from times to capacity to precautions. Let me emphasize once again that at this time and through the end of June (at least), no one has any obligation to attend Mass. I am grateful for the bishop's dispensation not only practically but also as a matter of vision.

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Mass

05-10-2020Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

When we get back to the public celebrations of the Mass, I am sure that there will be special precautions specified, at least for a time. There will be no passing of the peace -- and no passing of the offering baskets, either! -- and modifications to the reception of Holy Communion, among other precautions. Please do not let these disturb you. What is most important about the Mass is that it is offered and that you pray it. Everything else, including the reception of Holy Communion, comes after that. We need to remember what the Mass is: it is the sacrificial offering that Jesus Christ makes of Himself to the Father in loving obedience. In the Mass, we are able to be present at the foot of the cross for the sacrificial offering of Calvary along with the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. John, and St. Mary Magdalen. That is the amazing reality and truth of the Mass. What more do we need?

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Communio

05-03-2020Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

No, auto-correct didn't make a mistake! I meant communio. This is a Latin word meaning communion. And it is a very important word from the Second Vatican Council. It is a very important word for us in our parish right now. It is why we long to come back together in church as the Church, even as we accept the bishop's dispensation and the suspension of public Masses for the common good. Watching Mass on Facebook, YouTube, or TV can never replace being at Mass in church -- although I am grateful that we have those tools when we need them, as we do now. And communio is why. We have to get out of the house and get with others because we are on the way! We are not at home here in this world. We are going home, and we are going home with our people -- the People of God (another important concept from Vatican II). Think of the Israelites leaving Egypt and going to the Promised Land. You can't do that in front of a screen! At every Mass we process to the very gate of Heaven with our brothers and sisters to receive the food for the journey that will get us all the way there. Come on along!

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