One More Sacrament

11-24-2019Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

I know that I announced last week a series of articles on the Mass, but before beginning that project there is one more sacrament I want to encourage in the parish. I am very edified by the number of confessions we are hearing in the parish, and I want to continue to encourage regular and devout attendance at Mass. There is another sacrament that I want to encourage as well: the Anointing of the Sick. The Church instructs us that this sacrament should be received anytime we are in danger of death from sickness or old age. It can be received when it is first needed, perhaps at the time of a serious diagnosis, right up to the moment of death. It is there to sustain us spiritually in times of physical suffering. The two are related after all.

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The Mass in Slow Motion

11-17-2019Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

As we move as a parish from obligation to devotion in our spiritual life, I think that we can begin at no better place than the Mass itself. The Mass is both the source and the summit of the Christian life. As a human reality, the Mass communicates in deeply human ways. When we gather together we tend to act and speak in specialized ways. Think of a football game or of a family holiday gathering. There are certain ways that we do things that are very meaningful, but these very things would be confusing to someone who has never been to a football game or to our family gathering. The Mass works in the same way. The Mass speaks in ritual words and actions. It is steeped in symbolism and tradition. In order to enter more deeply into the Mass, we need to understand these celebrations of the family of God. I propose to reflect on the Mass in this space for many weeks to come, taking each part of the Mass slowly and unpacking the meaning as best I can. I hope that this understanding may help us to move into greater devotion for the Mass.

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I Look Forward to the Resurrection of the Dead

11-10-2019Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

We say this every Sunday at Mass in the Nicene Creed. What are we "looking forward" to? Resurrection means that when Jesus comes again at the end of the world, He will raise our bodies to be reunited with our souls forever. Jesus rose from the dead in his body. He promises that we will too. It is a radical idea. We see in the Gospel today that the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. It was one of the things that separated them from the Pharisees. When St. Paul was addressing the scholars of Athens, they listened to him respectfully until he taught about the resurrection of the dead. This most fundamental truth of our faith seems to many people too good to be true.

But it is true. It is the cornerstone of our faith that Jesus rose from the dead in the flesh. This is the resurrection that we look forward to when Jesus comes again. Death occurs when the body is separated from the soul. When the soul departs the body, the body dies. The soul is immortal, but after death it is deprived of the body. What does it mean to be a human being without a body? I really cannot imagine. Everything that we have ever known or experienced has come to us through our bodies, including eternal life in the waters of baptism and the food of the Eucharist. God somehow provides the soul an existence without the body, but even the souls of the saints eagerly await the resurrection of the dead.

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Many Thanks for Many Things

11-03-2019Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

St. Gregory of Tours began his History of the Franks (written in the 6th century!) with these words: "a great many things keep happening." A great many things also keep happening here at St. Rose in the 21st century!

Thank you for your patience with all these many things. I am sure that the mess of construction in the church and the resulting complications in the schedule are getting old for some of you. We have come through our parish stewardship commitment time, as well as the wrap-up of the Bishop's Annual Appeal and the Seminarian Education Fund. We are in the middle of strategic planning and a busy school year. The list goes on and on.

In the midst of the busy-ness, I believe that we are managing to keep the first thing first, which is the love and worship of God! Masses are still filling up. There are still lines for confessions. Adoration is on-going. If we keep these first things first, we will be able to manage all the rest!

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Sacraments and Liturgy

10-27-2019Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

As your pastor, I am incredibly proud and excited about what is going on at St. Rose of Lima Parish. In many areas, I see us undertaking a move from obligation to devotion. I would like to focus attention to this movement from obligation to devotion especially on the sacramental and liturgical life of the parish. Today is Priesthood Sunday. Nothing is more central to the life of the priest than the sacraments and the liturgy, especially the Sacraments of the Holy Eucharist and Confession. These two sacraments are practically what the priesthood exists for. In light of the beautiful Gospel today of the tax collector's prayer for mercy that Jesus praises, let's reflect on making devout confessions: "O God, be merciful to me a sinner."

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Strategic Planning Survey

10-13-2019Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

Last week, I received a summary of the parish survey conducted by the Strategic Planning Committee. I will ask the committee to make a more detailed report available, but I wanted to share with you my "take away" points from the survey.

First, there were more than 400 responses to the survey from individuals and from ministries. In itself, that sort of response shows a great interest in the future of the parish.

As for the current state of the parish, the responses generally saw St. Rose as meeting the essential needs of parishioners. Looking to the future, the hopes seemed to me to focus in a few areas:

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From Obligation to Devotion

10-06-2019Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

"We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do." These words from the Gospel remind us that we are truly servants in relationship to God. And yet, to serve God is to be fulfilled in joy and freedom! Let's think about that.

I am finding comfort, strength, and hope in my servant relationship with our God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The readings for this Sunday are simply amazing! Through the Prophet Habakkuk we hear: "Destruction and violence are before me, there is strife and clamorous discord." How true is that of our world and our lives today? And yet God assures us: "For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint; if it delays, wait for it." St. Paul tells us in the Second Reading: "For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control...Take as your norm the sound words that you heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard this rich trust with the help of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us." To serve God is better than to try to be my own master.

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Everything Matters

09-29-2019Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

Dear Parishioners of Saint Rose,

This letter is meant to strengthen our understanding of stewardship and our reason for sacrificial giving. This fall, we are having a series of homilies on stewardship in connection with an appeal to support and to become more involved in the parish. These homilies will be posted on the parish website, as well as preached at Mass. In response, I ask as your pastor for you to make a commitment to regular participation in the parish, including financial support.

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What is a Steward Anyhow?

09-22-2019Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

We are beginning this weekend a series of homilies on stewardship. Although this concept includes being generous with our money, it is much bigger than that. It is really a way of living.

In the first place, what is a steward? The Gospel today gives the example of a steward -- a really bad steward actually! A steward is one who has been entrusted with authority over goods that belong to the one who has entrusted the goods. It is a concept that comes up in the gospels a lot. The servants, for example, who are entrusted with the various number of talents, for example, are stewards. The man in the Gospel today is also a steward for his master's accounts, but he abuses the trust of his master to take care of himself.

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16 Weddings - In One Day!

09-15-2019Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

Saint Rose parish continually amazes me, but a Saturday a couple of weeks ago really stands out in my experience here. On that day, there were 16 weddings in one big nuptial Mass, along with four baptisms and 12 confirmations. There were also five baptisms of children before the Mass, as well as almost countless confessions the night before.

How did this come about? The marriage preparation ministry of the Hispanic community reached out to couples who were not married in the Church, that is, who had not received the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony -- for any number of reasons and with any number of complications. This ministry got to work on marriage preparation for these couples, as well as addressing whatever obstacles were in the way. A beautiful communion developed among the couples preparing for the sacrament and those preparing them. There was a lot of work involved, to say the least. In the end, 16 couples received the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony as well as other sacraments that were needed. In all, the ceremony was three hours! And then there was a grand fiesta.

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Behind the Scenes

09-08-2019Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

Last week, I talked about the obvious improvements going on at St. Rose in our construction projects in the church, and they are continuing at a good pace. I thank you for your support and patience during this time. I also want to tell you about other projects going on in the parish that are not so obvious: the work of our new councils and committees.

Parish Pastoral Council: This council is exactly what it sounds like, a group to guide the pastor about the parish's pastoral mission. It serves as a sort of "cabinet" to the pastor to keep the parish unified in carrying out dimensions of formation in the parish: human, spiritual, intellectual, and apostolic. The pastoral council works to foster unity between the English and Spanish speaking elements of our parish as well as unity with our parish school. This council has begun to meet and to organize itself according to this vision.

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New Normal!

09-01-2019Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

Back in November when Saint Rose took over the pastoral care of our Hispanic community, the plan with the diocese was that there would be three priests assigned to Saint Rose. There are at least a couple of other parishes with three priests, and I would say that we need that many with all the pastoral responsibilities that our parish covers. That is when Fr. Michael joined us at Saint Rose. Since then, however, for a number of reasons we have had only two priests for the majority of that time. Now that Fr. Edwuin has his visa and is back in the parish (as of last Monday), we should regularly have three priests in the parish. All three of us will be offering Masses and confessions at all of the regular times, and we will divide up certain areas that each of us will concentrate on serving. Fr. Edwuin will be especially helpful with the Hispanic community, Fr. Michael will have a concentration on our homebound and hospitalized parishioners, and I will offer pastoral care to the MTSU Catholic students. Of course, all of us will be involved in all areas to some degree.

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