Staying Focused

04-26-2020Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

I am very grateful for the creativity of our parish staff and ministry leaders to keep Saint Rose of Lima Parish on track by carrying out our core purpose in these very challenging circumstances. How Saint Rose of Lima School is providing on- going instruction, for example, is an amazing accomplishment! Our Food Pantry is taking care of very fundamental needs with creativity as well -- and with the generous support of the parish, I need to add. I am grateful also for the technology that makes much of this possible. I am now a believer in the power of live-stream to help us stay connected in prayer and worship until we can gather again!

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Missing Jesus!

04-19-2020Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

Yesterday I was in the church and saw a parishioner praying the rosary. I was moved by this example of trust and prayer. I could also see sorrow in the parishioner's eyes. Upon reflection, it reminded me of the sorrow of St. Mary Magdalen coming to the tomb of Jesus, seeing it empty, and not knowing where to find Jesus. Mary Magdalen has had about as much as she can take. Her sorrow is soon to be turned to joy, but at the moment she does not know that. Seeing the sorrow of this dear parishioner made me appreciate the longing for Jesus that so many of you are experiencing. I am glad that we can live-stream Mass, but it is not the same. At this point, your sorrow in missing Jesus is my greatest sorrow. I want to help, but I don't know how other than to trust in Jesus that this sorrow will soon be turned to joy, as it was for St. Mary Magdalen.

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Domestic Church

04-12-2020Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

As I pray more these days, I am seeing the pandemic as a path of purification from God. God is so good and amazing that He can use even the worst things for good. Just look at "Good" Friday!

Here is an example of what I mean. Even though the reason we are at home is not something that we would have chosen, the fact of being at home is having great effects. We are learning to be families again. We are learning to do all kinds of things together again, including praying! And this is very good.

The Church has always taught that the church begins at home. We call it the domestic church. But we tend to compartmentalize things and segregate church to Sunday, at most, and in a special building. But not now! The situation of the stay-at-home order is perfect for building up our homes as places where God is loved and served and where we love and serve each other. That is charity, the supreme virtue of the love of God and love of neighbor. Then our homes have become true temples!

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Humble and Obedient in Charity

04-05-2020Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

The governor has issued a "safer at home" order for Tennessee. I plead with all the faithful of Saint Rose of Lima Parish to heed this order and to shelter at home. The church does remain open for set hours, and the governor's order explicitly permits visiting churches. If you do come to the church, please be sure to observe social distancing and hygienic practices. We will continue to keep the church sanitized as well as we can. We will also continue to offer confessions under as sanitized conditions as possible. Obviously, we cannot accommodate crowds for visiting the church or for confessions, as these would violate the order to keep gatherings to fewer than 10 people. To abide by the governor's order is an act not only of obedience but also of charity for the welfare of others.

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Out of the Depths

03-29-2020Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

The Fifth Sunday of Lent is when we cover the statues and images in the church. This year the meaning of this gesture needs no explanation. I think we know it in our hearts and feel it in our guts. Desolation. The faithful of the Church all over the world are deprived of the greatest consolation of our faith: the Holy Eucharist.

And yet...God is with us! The Lord Jesus is sacramentally present in the tabernacle of our church and in all the churches of the world. He is also in the tabernacle of our hearts. There is a real presence of God called the Divine Indwelling that begins at Baptism and continues within us while we remain in a state of grace. He is really there so worship Him!

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Focus on the Important Things

03-22-2020Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

In the midst of concerns about pandemic, we need to keep a supernatural point-of-view. In last week's bulletin, I commented on how the tornadoes had caused me to see the value of human goodness and generosity. We all really need each other. We need love, support, and care from one another at all times, not only in a time of disaster. Likewise this week and probably for a while to come, the necessity to pull back from unnecessary activities centers us on home and those closest to us. Once the pandemic has run its course -- and pray God that it will be brief -- perhaps it would be good for us to re-examine if we need to go back to doing all those things that were cancelled. I find some consolation, for example, that as a parish we will be focused on the most fundamental aspects of our life together united in prayer. In these days, we will need to be able to be together as families. So many of our activities, although certainly not bad, are secondary and often get in the way of family life and faith. In the midst of precautions and concerns, let us find consolation and strength in the most important things and people: those closest to us, that is, God and family.

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New Life

03-15-2020Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

As nature springs to life around us, new spiritual life and growth is apparent everywhere at Saint Rose in these days of spring. We have more and more moments of sacramental encounters with the Lord Jesus: First Penance and Reconciliation, Confirmation, RCIA coming into the home stretch, and First Holy Communion later in the spring. At the same time, we are having crowds at Masses and Confessions, Adoration is thriving, and the church is remaining a hub of prayer and peace. It makes me think that something is right at Saint Rose, and that something is the desire to encounter Jesus here!

Faithfully,

Fr. Baker

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Storms

03-08-2020Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

We had bad storms on Monday night of this week. There were even tornadoes in some areas resulting in the loss of life. It moves me to prayer when I hear of the suffering of others. It also causes me to remember what is really important. I think that I need to love and to care for others much more. I think that I need to be more patient and to forgive much more. I need to have more compassion and more understanding. Life is precious and deserves care and respect. The most important thing I have to do each day is to care for those around me. I find it easy to get caught up in small, unimportant matters. I find it easy to get caught up in myself. I will begin again to pay attention to the eternal things in my life: God and other people.

Faithfully,

Fr. Baker

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Lenten Liturgy

03-01-2020Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

During Lent, we try to reflect the seriousness of the season by celebrating the liturgy more simply. The Church directs us, for example, to use instruments less and to chant acapella. We do not sing the Gloria in Lent, and Alleluia disappears for Lent as well. We also do not have flowers in church during Lent. The vestments are a more somber purple color. These are all external signs of the need for internal simplification.

We should do the same sort of simplification in our personal lives during Lent. This is the reason for giving up something for Lent. If we keep a good and simple Lent, Easter will mean more to us, just as we will appreciate the joyous music, flowers, and vestments of Easter after the somberness of the Lenten liturgies.

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Carnival: Will you say goodbye to something for Lent?

02-23-2020Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

We may be more familiar with the French term Mardi Gras -- Fat Tuesday, but in many cultures the period leading up to Lent is called Carnival. That word literally means "goodbye to meat." We have a little relic of this banishment of meat in the abstinence from meat that we practice on Ash Wednesday and all the Fridays of Lent. (Isn't it interesting that everyone from environmentalists to your doctor is recommending going light on meat? Maybe the Church has been guiding us well all along!) It is OK to celebrate a bit before Lent begins, especially if you intend to keep a good Lent, but keep the emphasis on your interior preparation. What can you say goodbye to that will help you to grow in the love of God and neighbor?

Faithfully,

Fr. Baker

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Something Good to do for Lent: From Obligation to Devotion

02-16-2020Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

After our parish mission, I have been thinking of how to make our celebration of the Mass more of an encounter with the Lord Jesus. For our English Masses, we need to concentrate on finishing Mass well. First of all, everyone needs to stay until the end of Mass. What does it indicate about what we believe if we leave Mass right after receiving Holy Communion? Remember, no one should leave Mass before the priest does! Also when we remain until the end of Mass, we need to say thank you to God for the gift we have received or at least to be quiet so that others can do so. Mass is something that we are doing as the Mystical Body of Christ and so we need to have that "team" attitude and not an individual one.

I commend our Hispanic community at the Spanish Mass for staying until the end of Mass, but I do want to encourage reverence after Mass in the church so that it remains a time and place for prayer. Visiting with one another can take place in our large vestibule after Mass.

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World Marriage Sunday

02-09-2020Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

The Church celebrates and exalts the role of husband and wife within the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. She reminds us that marriage is a part of creation. In other words, marriage is something that God made. We did not make it. Like all of God's creation it is beautiful and powerful. Literally, the life of the world depends on marriage. Also like all of God's creation, marriage is fragile and requires constant love and care.

A project that I am working on for our parish is a comprehensive marriage preparation program, involving married couples, as well as the priests and deacons of the parish. Pope Francis has suggested that marriage preparation should be thought of in the same way as preparation for priesthood or religious life with robust and thorough formation. I am very excited about this project.

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Place of Encounter

02-02-2020Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

This past week, ministry leaders and staff of Saint Rose met for an introduction to the Amazing Parish process.

All ministries and staff are asked to engage in three key behaviors in their work in the parish.

  1. Culture of Prayer: before we do anything, we need to be praying with and for each other.
  2. Culture of Active Discipleship: before we do anything, we need to commit to follow Jesus in everything.
  3. Culture of Healthy Teamwork: before we do anything, we need to commit to healthy collaboration.

We also discussed our core purpose as a parish: to be the place of encounter with Jesus Christ in his fullness in this community.

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