Through Him, With Him, In Him

05-31-2020Weekly ReflectionFr. 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.


Come, Holy Spirit, Come

05-24-2020Weekly ReflectionFr. 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!


From Obligation to Devotion

05-17-2020Weekly ReflectionFr. 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.


Encountering the Fullness of Christ in this Community

05-14-2020NewsFr. John Sims Baker

We have the joy of resuming the public celebration of Mass at Saint Rose beginning on Monday, May18. The celebration of Mass is the heart of our parish's core purpose of being the place of encounter with the fullness of Christ in this community. It is wonderful to begin again!


That being said, we will begin again soberly and prudently in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Remember that there is no obligation to attend Mass at this time. Bishop Spalding has issued a dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation until June 30, when the dispensation will be reviewed. 



05-10-2020Weekly ReflectionFr. 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?


Public Celebrations of Mass

05-08-2020NewsFr. John Sims Baker

Bishop Spalding has announced today that public celebrations of Mass can resume in the Diocese of Nashville on Monday, May 18. I am attaching the bishop's letter HERE. Of course, many precautions will be required before public celebrations can begin, including strict observance of social distancing, as well as the observance of civil regulations. This is very good news, but also a grave responsibility.

Although Bishop Spalding has authorized public celebrations of Mass beginning May 18, no parish is required to begin on that date. Each pastor is encouraged to use his judgment about the conditions for beginning public celebrations in his parish. Having only received the authorization, I cannot at this time announce the beginning of public celebrations of Mass at St. Rose, but my intention is to begin as soon as we prudently can with the precautions in place. I will be communicating in the coming days about our plan to begin public celebrations of Mass again and the precautions we will be observing. 



05-03-2020Weekly ReflectionFr. 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!


Staying Focused

04-26-2020Weekly ReflectionFr. 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!


Missing Jesus!

04-19-2020Weekly ReflectionFr. 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.


Domestic Church

04-12-2020Weekly ReflectionFr. 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!


Humble and Obedient in Charity

04-05-2020Weekly ReflectionFr. 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.


Out of the Depths

03-29-2020Weekly ReflectionFr. 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!


Focus on the Important Things

03-22-2020Weekly ReflectionFr. 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.


New Life

03-15-2020Weekly ReflectionFr. 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!


Fr. Baker



03-08-2020Weekly ReflectionFr. 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.


Fr. Baker


Lenten Liturgy

03-01-2020Weekly ReflectionFr. 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.