Several weeks ago I got a call from a parishioner. She said she had received a text message purporting to be from me asking for money to help someone who was in need. The text message asked them to go online and buy online gift cards. She asked if this text message was from me. It was absolutely not from me! Just yesterday I was with my priest support group that all priests are encouraged to have. One of the priests in my group said several of his parishioners received similar text messages. One of his parishioners actually thought it was legit, went online, and bought an online gift card. Unfortunately we live in a world of great fraud. I am pretty sure I know how this happened. In our case this person’s cell phone number was listed on our St. Mary parish website. It didn’t take much for the imposter to get my name, find her number, and send her a text message.

Several weeks ago I announced a wonderful booklet was available (free to take) in the back of the Church called Equipped. It is a book produced by an amazing Christian company called Covenant Eyes that is working with Archbishop Coakley and the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City over the next four years to assist in the fight against internet pornography. As of this writing there are still copies available in the back of the Church. The studies (even secular studies) are beginning to come to the conclusion that pornography use is bad for the individual who is addicted. Even worse the studies are showing it has a major effect on all a porn addict’s relationships. The relationships that suffer greatest are the ones with God and a spouse.

Spring in a Catholic parish is often a whirlwind. It seems to be a universal thing. Actually, I think I will take that back. From Advent and Christmas through spring is often a whirlwind in a parish. Well…..come to think of it we are always in the midst of a whirlwind! Those who volunteer and work in a parish know and understand what I am talking about. Sometimes it is hard to get the calendar set or to make sure this or that meeting or session goes off without a hitch. The life of a parish, while a whirlwind most of the time, is an awesome and an amazing ride!

The Easter Season is a truly wonderful and blessed sight for a priest to behold! After many Lenten weeks of fasting, abstaining from certain foods, Stations of the Cross, a penitential mood in the liturgies of the Church, and finally the Easter Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil, it is a great thing when Easter arrives! We are truly blessed. Each and every year we get to participate in the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ! This one eternal event of salvation through the great mystery and power of the Holy Spirit is made present once again for us in time.

Thank you to the Knights of Columbus for the wonderful Fish Fry last week. It was a great evening! This past Sunday was our second monthly Sunday Vespers & Potluck. Estimates were that we had about 70 parishioners for that event. There was so much wonderful food and dessert. It was a perfect start to Holy Week and a wonderful way to bring Palm Sunday of Our Lord’s Passion to a close. The Liturgy of the Hours – of which the Office of Vespers (Evening Prayer) is part – is a prayer for the Church and the people of God. If you would like to learn more there is a wonderful App for that! It is called iBreviary and it is available at both Apple and Google App Stores online.

Several weeks ago I sent a letter to our St. Mary parishioners who have children at our very own St. Mary Catholic School. The letter was simple. It stated the mission of Catholic parents. That mission is to strive to fully live the Catholic faith as a family. Catholic Christian parents have a more important obligation than just making sure children have food, shelter, and clothing. Their most important obligation is to see to it their children know, love, and serve God in this world and are preparing for life eternal in heaven! In the Sacred Scriptures our Lord says if one of us harms one of His little ones it would be better if they had a millstone put around their neck and were thrown into the ocean! This is where St. Mary parish comes into play.

Our age is an age of experimentation and dislocation. What I mean is that we have changed the way we live in such a way that is second to none in the history of our world. Perhaps a distant second would be industrialization in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In those times people went from rural surroundings to the urban city. They went from agricultural surroundings to factory surroundings. This caused a change in life, but for the most part families were still closely united. Extended families didn’t live across the country from each other. In fact they usually lived within the same city. Industrialization did cause a change in how we work most definitely, but by and large the family unit remained intact.

As many of you know, I made my First Confession right before I made my First Holy Communion in second grade. I was scared to make my First Confession. I was so scared that when I sat down to confess my sins I immediately started crying. I confessed the sins of a nine year old child and I thought they were the worst sins in the world. I thought they were so bad there was a part of me that thought perhaps the priest would refuse to forgive me or even God too might withhold forgiveness. Thanks be to God neither was the case. It was still a very traumatic moment for me. So traumatic was it that I did not make another Sacramental Confession until I was 21 years old! I was 12 years without the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness.

It is hard to believe but come this July I will have been pastor of St. Mary and St. Margaret Mary for four years! These two gems in Logan county are truly unique and I have and continue to enjoy my time here!! I don’t often get to write about St. Margaret Mary, our mission parish in Crescent. I know many of you have probably never been there. It is a very small church, but it is very beautiful. Over the high altar on the east wall of the church is at least a ten to twelve foot stained glass window of the Crucifixion of our Lord. Gathered around Him are the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Mary Magdalene, and St. John the Apostle. When the sun rises from the east during Mass on Sunday mornings the window is at its best. I love looking up at that window!

This Sunday used to be called Quinquagesima Sunday. Quinquagesima means 50, as in there are 50 days until the completion of the Easter Octave. This Sunday as well as the past two Sundays used to be part of the season of pre-Lent. The past three weeks have been a time to ease into a penitential state of fasting and abstinence. So now that we are on the cusp of Lent here are the current penitential practices Catholics are bound to:

Last Sunday began the traditional season of pre-Lent in the Catholic Church. Last Sunday was traditionally called Septuagesima Sunday. Septuagesima means 70, as in last Sunday there were 70 days until the completion of the Easter Octave. Today is traditionally called Sexagesima Sunday. I’m sure you guessed that means 60. Then the following Sunday, a few days before Ash Wednesday, is what was once called Quinquagesima Sunday, which means 50. The Christian Orthodox in the East still hold to the season of pre-Lent even though we discarded our celebration in the Catholic Church in 1970. Today the Orthodox celebrate what they call Meat-fare Sunday. Today for the Orthodox is the last day to eat meat at all until Easter. Before refrigeration meat would spoil before too long and so Meat-fare week was the week to feast and eat all the meat in the house. Then tomorrow, Monday, begins what is called Cheese-fare week which culminates next Sunday with Cheese-fare Sunday. By next Sunday all the cheese and dairy must be eaten as it cannot be enjoyed by the Orthodox until Easter. Does that sound scary? I don’t know about you but I love meat, cheese, and dairy!

Ash Wednesday is March 6. That means Lent is fast approaching. Until 1970 the Church observed what it called pre-Lent. It is a tradition that was celebrated in both lungs of the Church east and west. In 1970 the Catholic Church suppressed it. It is a true tragedy it was suppressed. The idea behind pre-Lent is that our penances of abstinence and fasting begin slowly. We slowly ease into a penitential state rather than abruptly begin on Ash Wednesday. This Sunday (February 17) is actually the beginning of pre-Lent. Until 1970 this Sunday was called Septuagesima Sunday, which means 70. It means from today’s Mass there are 70 days until the completion of the Easter Octave. For our ancestors food was nowhere nearly as readily available and abundant as we have it today. So the idea behind pre-Lent was to eat up all the forbidden foods so they wouldn’t spoil during Lent.

It is hard to live a truly authentic Catholic life! It is hard for us to turn from sin and selfishness. Often I hear people say, “I try to be a good person.” The internet company Google’s motto is: Don’t be evil. What is good and evil? How do you know if you are doing good or doing evil? Does it just mean you try to obey the speed limit, or obey government laws, or pay your taxes without grumbling, or not make people angry? The problem boils down to what is good and what is evil? We could put 50 people in a room and each would have different ideas of what is good and what is evil. This is where our world is right now.

Today begins Catholic Schools Week. Making faith a priority is one of the great goals at St. Mary Catholic School. We are blessed to have a Catholic School, but merely having a school, putting the name ‘Catholic’ on the sign, and having religion classes is where so many schools stop. The question St. Mary Catholic School seeks to ask itself is: What does it mean to be a faithful Catholic Christian in today’s world? This year – with the blessing of Archbishop Coakley – St. Mary Catholic School began a gradual transition to a classical education.

I have received the final numbers of St. Mary and St. Margaret Mary’s pledges to the One Church, Many Disciples campaign of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. You will remember this campaign took place to raise money to build a fitting shrine for Blessed Stanley Rother and to bolster the efforts of evangelization and spiritual as well as catechetical formation of our local Church: the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. Remember as Catholics our view of the Church is an ancient one, going back to our Lord Jesus Christ, His Holy Apostles, with the bishops of the Church as successors to the Apostles. That’s what we mean when we say: I believe in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church! Our Church is one gathered around the bishops as successors to the Apostles. St. Ignatius of Antioch, born in the year 35 AD, only two years after the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ said: “Where ever the bishop is there is the Church!” This idea of bishops is not some new imposition on the Church. It goes back to the very nature of the Church as founded by the Christ as blood and water flowed from His side! Wow!!

Happy New Year! I am so thankful for Christian hope. It means that no matter how hard, trying, or dark a certain time may be, the grace of Christ can break through all of it. There is nothing in our current times that can cause us so much distress or anguish that we lose our faith, hope, or charity. Often I hear people say, “I just need to have more faith,” but in reality faith is not something I close my eyes and make happen. It is a gift of God. God gives me faith. Faith first comes in the initium fidei, the first stirrings of faith before Baptism, where the adult believer is drawn to the Gospel. We receive the gift of faith in Holy Baptism. Then it becomes the believer’s task not to have faith or to keep faith, instead it is our task to nourish the gift of faith.

I am very happy to tell you all that St. Mary has OFFICIALLY paid off our roof loan from the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. Over 3 ½ years ago Fr. Chuck Murphy signed a contract to replace the entire roof of St. Mary Catholic School. This roof replacement included the school gym. The loan we took out was for $110,000. The total cost to replace the roof actually came to about $111,000. By the time we got the bill I was the new pastor here. So I paid the roughly $1,000 overage on the bill and then we proceeded to make monthly payments on what was to be a 5 year loan. That was 3 ½ years ago. For that time we used the Building Fund collection envelope to help us make these payments. With your generosity and our Finance Council’s determination we have paid off the entirety of that $110,000 loan! Thank you all! From this month the monies collected from the Building Fund envelope will go to what has long been known as the Seeds of Faith savings account. It was a fund started many years ago under Fr. Hanrahan. It still exists and now we are going to start putting money in there again. You never know when something will break and so it is a good thing to plan for who knows what!