This past Friday, I celebrated my 40th Birthday! Another decade gone and another one started. Many thoughts run through my head as I meet this halfway point on the ascent of the mountain journeying towards heaven. I see it not as going over the hill, but getting to that ridge on the mountain where I can see the top, where I need to go.
Welcome back, students, faculty, and staff!
Buckle up! Here we go! This past week and this Monday many of the children and teen agers of the parish have gone back to school. St. James School begins Monday morning bright and early. The parish campus will be a buzz with energy and activity once again!
Last Sunday, an usher came to me with a page from a Winnie the Pooh coloring book and handed it to me. Seeing the puzzled look on my face, he began to tell me a story from the previous mass. After the collection was taken up and the gifts already brought forward to the altar, a man brought his sobbing daughter to the back of the church to give something to the usher. She handed him a picture of Tigger that she had colored and wanted to put in the collection basket, but she couldn’t get it out in time to put it in and missed her chance. But, she still wanted to give it away in the collection.
My brothers and sisters, it has been almost a year since I arrived at St. James the Less as your new Pastor. It has been quite an amazing year! I have much more to learn and I am still getting used to being your Pastor. I must say that I have thoroughly enjoyed being with you, growing with you, learning with and from you, and accompanying you this past year. Even in the midst of mistakes and missteps, it has been a great year!
July 25, 2018 marks the 50th Anniversary of the encyclical Humanae Vitae written by Pope Paul VI. In this document we received an affirmation of the rich and consistent teaching of the Church on the beauty and dignity of married love and life. We at St. James will celebrate this anniversary by hosting a dinner and lecture on Saturday, October 27, 2018 at 6:30 PM in the Parish Center (the gym). Fr. John Johnson, S.T.L., a priest of the Diocese of Savannah, who has received his degree from the Pope John Paul II Institute on Marriage and Family Life, will be our speaker. All are invited.
In the Church’s Liturgical calendar, we celebrate the Birth of only three people – Jesus (Solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord, December 25th), Mary (Solemnity of the Nativity of Mary, September 8th), and John the Baptist (Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, June 24th). Usually, the feast days that we celebrate are moments in the lives of Jesus and Mary and then the deaths of the Saints (their birth to eternal life). Today is a patronal feast of the Diocese of Savannah. Which means that we all celebrate it with great festivity and ask his prayers for everyone living in the Diocese of Savannah.
The mid-16th century was a perilous time to be a Catholic in England. On June 22nd, we celebrate the feasts of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More. These men were martyred for the faith, giving witness to the truth of marriage and the supremacy of the Pope to lead the Church across national borders. One of their heads replaced the other on the pike on London Bridge as a sign to those who defied the King. They were brothers in arms and in faith. One a layman, the other a Bishop and Cardinal of the Church.
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, Our Lord. At each mass we obey his words, “Take and eat…Take and drink…do this in remembrance of me.” As we hear from the lips of our Lord, “My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink,” we say confidently, “Amen” when the priest or the Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion says, “The Body of Christ” or “The Blood of Christ.”
“Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirt and they shall be created and you shall renew the face of the Earth.
Let us pray. O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant by that same Holy Spirit, we may be truly wise and ever rejoice in His consolations.”
Today we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord Jesus into heaven. He has gone to prepare a place for us and to send the Holy Spirit upon us so that we may be led to all truth. It is on this day that he spoke his last words to us while on this earth. There were many things to tell us, but he gave us at the very end the great commission. He charged us to evangelize all people, make them disciples and teach them his commandments and baptize them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. This commission is our task as His disciples. Being a missionary and bringing Jesus to people and people to Jesus is an intrinsic part of being a Christian. It is essential to our Baptismal vocation.
There is rejoicing in heaven and here at St. James! Yesterday, May 5th, we celebrated the First Communion of 59 of our parishioners! 2nd graders from the School and our Parish Religious Education Program and a few others received the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ for the very first time!
Thursday, May 3rd is the feast day of St. James the Less, our Patron! This is a special day for all members of our St. James family! On this day, we celebrate our Patron and ask him to bless us and pray for us as we seek to be disciples of Jesus Christ just as he was!
With the Resurrection of Jesus, Almighty God brings new life to all who seek it! We become new creations when we are baptized and when we go to confession and are reconciled to God! Spring too is a time of new life! There is a newness in the air (see the pollen!). Flowers and new growth in the trees spring forth from the ground and the limbs.
Missionary Disciples is the theme for the 2018 Bishop’s Annual Appeal. We are disciples of Jesus Christ if we call ourselves Christian. Being a disciple automatically means that we are missionaries as well. We bring Christ to others. We radiate Christ to one another and to everyone we meet. We are the Gospel that they encounter. Each of our parishes should be a school of discipleship where we learn how to be a disciple of Jesus.
My first Easter here at St. James was beautiful! The liturgies were moving and prayerful and drew everyone into the mysteries begin celebrated! The choir and the servers were extraordinary! The decorations were gorgeous! Thanks to all who had a hand in it!
Thursday, March 22nd, our Bishop Gregory John Hartmayer confirmed 50 young men and women here at St. James! Congratulations on receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation! As they become more and more involved in the Church, we welcome them. I would like to encourage them to become involved in the ministries in the church as ushers, lectors, altar servers, and the choir. Let’s welcome them into those ministries and assist them in all they need to become involved in our parish community. Congratulations!
Lent is a journey towards Easter, towards the celebration of the Paschal Mystery, the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ! We are closing in on the end of these 6 weeks of spiritual and bodily penances and exercises so that we can strengthen ourselves and have fertile soil in our souls to experience the abundant graces available for us during Holy Week and the Sacred Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday).
Lent is a time of conversion, repentance, turning away from sin and being faithful to the Gospel. It is a time when we assist the Lord Jesus in cleaning His house, our souls. Each one of us, each one of our souls is the dwelling place of God, His house. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit dwell in our souls because of our Baptism. They made their home there at that moment and have dwelt there ever since.
This week we will be halfway through Lent. What a journey! We use this time to prepare ourselves to celebrate the Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. These days celebrate the passion, death, and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Through His blood, we are redeemed. His sacrifice gained for us eternal life, happiness, fulfillment of every longing. This is why we celebrate, this is why we fast, increase our prayer, and practice almsgiving and works of charity.
In a few days Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, February 14th (be careful, couples…better celebrate Valentine’s Day another day!). This day begins the season of Lent – 6 weeks of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. The Church gives us this time to focus on something that will make us better disciples of Jesus Christ. Individually we can do so many different penances or works of mercy which form us and mold us into better disciples.
In a few weeks, we as a parish will begin our Lenten program, Living the Eucharist, with other parishes around the diocese. For six weeks we will be meeting together in small groups, as families, as friends, as teens, to grow deeper in faith, hope, and love for our Lord Jesus Christ and our Catholic faith. Don’t miss this opportunity. We all need each other to grow and to continue our conversion.
Monday, January 22nd, marked the 44th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Roe vs. Wade which opened the door to legal access to abortion across our nation. This began a massacre of innocents and opened wounds in the hearts and souls of so many women and men. Some of our parish went to Atlanta to the March for Life there to witness to Right to Life of every human person no matter how small or vulnerable. They went to offer healing to the women who have had abortions and to the men who have been effected.
2018 sure has started with a bang! I returned from vacation in the frozen tundra of northern Michigan (where the temperature never got above 12º and was most often negative with the wind chill) to the frozen low country of Georgia! However, I must confess, it was nice to come home to a closed office and get a few more days to catch up before I jumped back into things!
Vacation was nice and the weather gave me plenty of time to read and watch the bowl games! UGA played brilliantly in both the semifinal and the National Championship game but just came up a little short in the final. The future is looking bright for the Dawgs! Yes, I cheered for them against Oklahoma and Alabama. Though I am an LSU fan, UGA runs a close second. Go dawgs!
Now, we will all go through College football withdrawal until things start up again in the fall.
All the parishes in the Diocese of Savannah will be participating in a Lenten program for the next three Lents called Living the Eucharist. This revolves around small groups getting together weekly to share the faith and learn more about the faith and how to allow the faith to impact their daily lives. You will be hearing more and more about it over the next few weeks, please keep your eyes and ears open for more information.
Lent begins on February 14th. Just like we had a short Advent, we have an early Lent and an Early Easter. Easter is on April 1st. It is amazing how time flies!
The Sunday within the Octave of Christmas is celebrated as Holy Family Sunday when we reflect on the family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. What a blessing it is to go to the school of love which is their family and their relationships.
Imagine that household – the Son of God, His most perfect creation, and the man entrusted to care for both of them! Joseph was entrusted to care and protect and provide for Jesus, the Word made flesh, our Lord and Savior, Almighty God and Mary, the Mother of God, the Immaculate Conception, the sinless Virgin.
Look at the joy and peace which reigned in their home. Joseph and Mary teaching Jesus about the Jewish faith and heritage, bringing him to synagogue every Sabbath. They prayed in their home each day. Joseph loved Mary and taught Jesus the beauty of married love. Mary cared for Joseph and Jesus with a tenderness and concern surpassing all others.
What can we take away from their life at their home in Nazareth? Maybe we think about how we pass on the Catholic faith to our children. Do we bring them to mass each Sunday (even if they are in high school and even if they go to St. James or St. Vincent’s or Benedictine)? Do we pray as a family? Does my son or daughter see me pray and value my relationship with Jesus? Do they see me try to grow in my understanding of the faith? Do they see me involved in my parish?
This New Year perhaps we can make some resolutions along those lines. Maybe we can commit to praying as a family each night (praying a rosary together or naming what we want to pray for and ending with an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory be). Perhaps we commit to spending an hour in the adoration chapel each week as a family.
Whatever resolution you make as a family, may your lives be filled with the Joy and Peace of the Holy Family! On behalf of the other priests and the staff at St. James, we wish you a Happy, Healthy, and Holy 2018!
This Pastor’s Corner will be a bit different. Today we celebrate the 4th Sunday of Advent and this evening and tomorrow, we celebrate Christmas! It is the shortest 4th week of Advent possible – only a few hours!
Today is a Sunday of rejoicing! The pink candle is lit. The priest may wear rose vestments (I think Fr. Adams has a vestment, but the parish doesn’t have one – we will wear his!). This lighter color symbolizes the need to rejoice during this Season of Advent.
The First Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of a new Church year! We begin with Advent leading up to Christmas. Then we have Christmas and the Christmas Season. Last year, we had the longest Advent we could have since Christmas fell on a Sunday. This year, we have the shortest Advent we could have since Christmas falls on a Monday.
Many blessings and prayers for you and your family as you celebrate this weekend and give thanks to Almighty God for all He has done for you. I thank Him for you, the parishioners of St. James the Less Parish! What a blessing you are to me!
During the month of November, in our Catholic tradition as the end of the year approaches, we think and dwell on the four last things: death, judgment, hell, and heaven. We have covered death and judgment. The third installment is on hell.
During the month of November, in our Catholic tradition as the end of the year approaches, we think and dwell on the four last things: death, judgment, hell, and heaven. We covered death last week. This week we will reflect on judgment.
At 3:00 PM, Sunday, November 5th, we will have the Blessing of the Graves at the Catholic Cemetery. During this blessing and prayer service, we will read the names of each of those who have been buried from our Catholic Churches over the previous year. We will pray for their souls and for their eternal rest.
October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses onto the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg, Germany. This act is widely regarded as the beginning of the western schism in the Catholic Church and is celebrated by our Protestant brothers and sisters as the beginning of their traditions especially of Lutheranism and Calvinism. Tuesday marks the 500th anniversary of this event.
We read in the Letter of St. James, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,’ but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead…For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” (James 2:14-26)
Today we welcome all new members to St. James parish who have come this past year! I am amongst them! I too am a new parishioner! On Wednesday, we will have our Welcome Dinner as our first monthly parish dinner this year. Everyone in the parish is invited.
Hurricane Irma came and went! We were spared the brunt of it, but we still had our damage. There are plenty here in our parish who suffered flooding of their property and wind and tree damage. The church buildings survived beautifully. Nothing but debris and limbs to clean up afterwards! Sr. Lisa, Sr. Carolyn, Fr. Adams, Richard Morgan, the Kromenhoeks, and I had a two day clean up after the storm! We had a great time – though we are all a bit sore!
Whatever is faithful to the tradition of the Church, whatever is permissible in Sacred Scripture, Canon Law, and by Holy Mother Church, and whatever helps the Catholic Faithful grow deeper in love with Jesus and His bride the Church, I support and I will facilitate as best I can. The Holy Spirit works in all different ways and in so many different forms and apostolates and ministries to draw people closer to Jesus.
On Tuesday, August 15th, we celebrate the Assumption of Mary into heaven. This day we proclaim that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever-Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her early life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.
Sitting in the Personnel Board Meeting this spring, the meeting took a bit of turn and next thing I knew, Bishop Hartmayer asked me if I would be the Pastor at St. James. As I said yes, I thought, “Man, I’m going to miss my friend, Mark.” This was followed by, “My goodness, that parish is huge…and a school…and a convent of sisters…and an Adoration Chapel…and 2 parochial vicars…and a monastery of Carmelite nuns!!” What wonderful things are going on over here at St. James! What exciting movements of the Holy Spirit! What amazing potential!
St. James the Less Catholic Church
8412 Whitefield Avenue
Savannah, Georgia 31406
Office Hours: M–F | 9A – 5P