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Pray for an Increase of Vocations

During June each year the Church turns its attention to prayer for the increase of vocations to the priesthood and diaconate.  This is the month where we honor our father’s on the third Sunday of the month, so as we honor our earthly fathers, it would seem the perfect time to honor and pray for our spiritual fathers as well.

If we give just a bit of thought to our spiritual lives and even our family lives as well, we will find that our spiritual father has been there with us during these times and journeys in our lives.  During times of joy such as weddings, the birth of children, the passages of life such as First Holy Communion, Confirmation or a graduation, our pastors are there with us, leading us in thanking God for the blessings we have received, bringing God into our lives in ever stronger ways.  During the difficult times of sorrow, such as sickness or funerals, it is the clergy who bring us the comfort and spiritual healing of the presence of God in prayer and the sacraments.

When we reflect upon these times within our lives it is then that we realize that we truly need to have these men within our lives who serve the Lord and us.  We need the bishops, priests and deacons as a part of our spiritual lives.  And if this is the case then we, as the members of the Church, must play an important part in helping and encouraging the young men, as older ones as well, to consider a vocation in holy orders.

As I look back at my own calling to the priesthood, I see that it did not come as one loud cry from the heavens to go off to seminary, and it was not even something that I can say that I had from the time I was very young.  Rather the calling to the priesthood was something that a very many people and communities had a hand in helping to bring to the forefront.  First and foremost there was my family.  It was there that I was encouraged and helped; especially in my younger years, but also throughout my entire life.  It was serving at the altar as a young boy at Our Saviour’s Parish in Lawrenceville, New Jersey and seeing how the ministry of a priest affects the lives of others.  It was the community of people at Our Saviour’s who showed me the loving faces of a praying and active community of faith.  It was my adopted spiritual home at St. Casimir’s Parish in Rochester, New York that accepted me as one of their own during my college years at the University of Rochester.  And especially it was a number of dedicated clergy with whom I had regular contact, who so impacted me with their love, dedication and commitment to God and His people.  Family, community and the example of other clergy, it was these things that led to my own vocation to the priesthood of Christ and I imagine that it is the same for many other priests within the Church.

So during this month of prayer for Sacred Vocations, and beyond this month as well, I encourage the members of the P.N.C.C. to pray the prayers given at the end of this article.  They are prayers taken from the most recent P.N.C.C. Prayerbook which each member of the Church should have and use regularly.  But in this time of prayer for vocations we also must realize that prayer is not something that takes place only in those quiet moments when we are alone in thought.  Praying these prayers is rather just a beginning.  Beyond these spoken prayers our prayer should also be communal, it should be active and it should be visible.

Our prayer must be communal in several ways.  First of all we must pray for vocations, not only as individuals, but also as parishes.  The Sacred Vocations Commission has written intercessions for each Sunday and Holy Day of this liturgical year.  They should be prayed within our parish communities and printed within our weekly parish publications so that our parish communities can pray these prayers when gathered together and separately, but joined together in one thought.  Our prayer must be active.  St. Paul reminds us in his First Letter to the Thessalonians (5:16-18), “Rejoice always, never cease praying, render constant thanks; such is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  Certainly this does not mean that we are to be constantly on our knees with hands folded, so it must rather mean that everything we do must be a part of our prayer life to God.  We must then ask ourselves, “Do my actions, especially those at Church, either help or hinder a young man, or older one, whom God might be calling?”  “Do I actively encourage vocations through the way I speak about and treat the clergy that I know?”

Lastly our prayer life must be visible.  Let the bishops, priests and deacons know how much you appreciate their ministry, and also let others know as well, both those inside and outside of your parish community.  If we do this, then others will know that the priests and deacons are truly loved, cared for and supported within your parish and within our Holy Church, and therefore, other men, may consider that God may be calling them.

Each of these things is only one small way, but when we add them together, through many acts of thoughtfulness and prayers, through many people, in many parish communities, it will become a mighty act of prayer for vocations within our Holy Church.  But each of us must play our part, because each of us is an important part of the building up of the Kingdom of God around us.  My brothers and sisters, let’s begin with these prayers below, but also let them be the beginning of a tide which supports and nurtures the call of God to a Sacred Vocation within each of our parishes and within our entire Church.

Prayer for the Clergy

Lord Jesus, Great High Priest and Eternal Shepherd, for the building and expansion of Your Kingdom You have called forth men to apostolic orders to serve in Your Church.  By the grace of the Holy Spirit strengthen the Prime Bishop, Bishops, Priests and Deacons.  Endue them with the gifts of wisdom, understanding and knowledge; guide them with Your counsel, give them strength to fulfill their ministry.  Fill them with the spirit of piety and the fear of the Lord so they can be true witnesses of Your Gospel.  When the time should come for them to cross the threshold of life, receive them into Your heavenly Kingdom.  Through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

For the Increase of Priests

Almighty and Eternal God, in Your plan for our salvation You provide priests as shepherds for Your people.  Inspire men to answer Your call to become priests, because “the harvest is great but the labors are few.”  Grant Your Church an increase of priests and keep them faithful in their love and service to You and the people entrusted to their care.  Through their faith and ministry may Your light shine in the world and Your kingdom be built among us.  Through Jesus Christ, our High Priest.  Amen.

For Those in God’s Service

O God, Author of all sanctification, pour out the gifts of Your blessing upon those whom You have called into Your Holy Priesthood.  Grant that they may lead holy lives, honor Your commandments, proclaim Your Word with faith and emulate the lives of saintly men.  May they be righteous, persevering, merciful and steadfast in overcoming evil.  May their lives shine forth as good examples.  Through their admonition may they strengthen their people by prayer and awaken them to zealousness.  We ask this through Jesus Christ.  Amen.


The Time of the Church

As most of you know, the liturgical year follows a pattern that has been in place for centuries.  The year begins with the Advent season which celebrates the time of waiting for the Messiah to arrive.  Then the Christmas season celebrates the birth of Christ and the Incarnation of the Son of God.  The Epiphany Season and Ordinary Time immediately after celebrate the early manifestation of the Messiah, first through the Magi and also in the calling of the Apostles and the earliest miracles of Jesus.  Next the Pre-Lent season begins to change the focus away from the joy of these manifestations to a more penitential one and then Lent begins with its contemplation of the Passion and Death of our Lord.  This contemplation is most intensive during the last two weeks of Lent in Passiontide and especially Holy Week.

The mood then shifts to the expression of joy which is celebrated on Easter Sunday at the triumph of Jesus over the grave and it is extended for the season of Easter as Jesus appears to His followers.  This time is culminated with the Solemnity of Pentecost as the promise of the Father, the Holy Spirit, descends upon the Apostles.  Next comes the long season of Ordinary Time.  In 2016 this Ordinary Time season lasts for 27 weeks, more than half of the year.  But how best do we describe it as a whole?  During the first part of the year, the liturgical seasons have a theme which runs throughout.  What of this longer Ordinary Time season?  In order to find this theme, we need to examine some of the solemnities that occur.  The season begins with three solemnities, namely those of Pentecost, Holy Trinity and Corpus Christi.  During the middle we will focus on the teachings and parables of Jesus and honor His miracles. Towards the end we will focus on His teachings regarding the end-times and finally it concludes by honoring Jesus as Lord and King of all things.  This Ordinary Time can really best be thought of as a celebration of the “Time of the Church.”

As stated, the season begins with a few Solemnities.  Pentecost is the celebration of the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles, with the implication for us that these same Apostles and their successors will continue to pass down this Holy Spirit upon the faithful.  It is often said that the Solemnity of Pentecost is a celebration of the “birthday of the Church.”  Although I suppose that it is true in some ways, we can never look at this ‘birthday’ merely in terms of just another year within the life of the Church, or a parish, or even an individual Christian.  The Solemnity of Pentecost is rather the celebration of a one-time event that has become an ongoing reality for the Church today.  Jesus says in St. John’s Gospel: “If you love Me and obey the commands I give you, I will ask the Father and He will give you another Paraclete – to be with you always: the Spirit of truth Whom the world cannot accept, since it neither sees Him nor recognizes Him; but you can recognize Him because He remains with you and will be within you.” (John 14:15-17)  Pentecost then is a reminder of the on-going reality of the sending of the Holy Spirit upon the Church.

This season then goes on with two important solemnities which celebrate for us two great mysteries of our faith, the Holy Trinity and the Holy Eucharist.  Our belief in the Holy Trinity is certainly foundational for us, but it also reminds us that God is experienced in a relational way.  God as Father, Son and Spirit shows us that within the very nature of God there is relationship and God desires to then have a relationship with us.  God is not somehow apart from us, but again as Jesus has reminded us, “Anyone who loves Me will be true to My word, and My Father will love him; We will come to him and make our dwelling place with him.” (John 15:23)

Secondly we celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.  In this celebration we acknowledge that Jesus is present to us in the Holy Eucharist which He gave the Church at the Last Supper.  As we know the Eucharist is the focus of all that we do as Catholic Christians.  It is within this celebration that we come to more fully know our relationship to God and join ourselves to His presence.

Another Solemnity that is an important part of this season is the one that concludes it, the Solemnity of Christ the King.  This celebration reminds us that Jesus Christ is truly Lord, not just in some cosmic way only, but the true Lord and Ruler of our very lives.  He is Lord of our families, our communities, our parishes, of all that we are.  Through this solemnity we are reminded that “Christ must reign until God has put all enemies under His feet, and the last enemy to be destroyed is death. … When, finally, all has been subjected to the Son, He will then subject Himself to the One Who made all things subject to Him, so that God may be all in all.” (1 Cor 15:25-26, 28)

But in between these two extremes, the Ordinary Time season moves on to the Sundays that are celebrated in green vestments, those that are simply listed as a certain numbered Sunday in Ordinary Time.  As we move through these Sundays we will be confronted with the many actions and teachings of our Lord.  To just name a few:

On the 10th Sunday, Jesus raises the young son of a widowed mother;

On the 11th Sunday, Jesus forgives the sins of a woman and His teaching concerning forgiveness;

On the 12th Sunday, Peter confesses Jesus as the Messiah.

On the 14th Sunday, Jesus sends out the seventy-two.

On the 15th Sunday, Jesus gives the two laws of Love.

On the 17th Sunday, Jesus prays the Our Father and teaches concern prayer.

On the 21st Sunday, Jesus’ teaching on who will be saved.

On the 23rd Sunday, Jesus’ admonition to ‘Take up your cross and follow.’

On the 25th Sunday, Jesus’ teaching on serving God alone.

On the 28th Sunday, Jesus heals ten lepers.

On the 31st Sunday, Jesus and Zacchaeus

On the 33rd Sunday, Jesus’ teaching on endurance.

As you can see these Sundays will place before us a varied number of things, some parables and teachings regarding Christian living, some miracles showing us the power of Jesus and also of faith, teachings concerning prayer and perseverance.  And we also remember that this is only in the present year, Cycle C, and other images will be presented to us in other years.  But in all of this we must remember that there is for this time of year a unifying force and it is to look at each of these Sundays through the Solemnities which bracket this season.  We must remember that God desires to be in relationship with us.  These teachings and miracles that are presented to us during these Sundays help us to see exactly how this relationship is to be lived out.  God shows love for us, and desires that we love Him in return and also that we share this love with others.  God wants to have an ongoing connection with us and shows us how this is to be accomplished through prayer.  The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ also reminds us in this context that for our entire journey of faith, God will provide for us as we travel.  We are given the food of eternal life and an ever-present companion in Jesus Christ Who comes to us through the Eucharist.  This ever-present help of the Eucharist will strengthen us to live out this relationship and seek to deepen it.

We also must keep in mind the goal of this Ordinary Time season in looking to the last Solemnity, that of Christ the King.  In contemplating the parables and miracles, in digesting and internalizing the teachings, through growing in prayer life and following the commandments, we desire to place ourselves under the gentle and loving rule of Jesus Christ.  In speaking of Jesus, John the Baptist said, “It is the groom who has the bride.  The groom’s best man waits there listening for him and is overjoyed to hear his voice.  That is my joy, and it is complete.  He must increase, while I must decrease.” (John 3:29-30)  These words can be applied to our Christian journey as well.  We desire to listen to Jesus as He speaks to us in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist in the Gospel and the Sacrament of the Word of God.  We are filled with joy as we contemplate these
mysteries and teachings and they accomplish the situation where the life of Jesus will continue to increase as my own willfulness and sin decrease.  That is the goal of the Christian life, that we will place our entire lives under the love of Jesus Christ .

So my brothers and sisters, as we enter this Ordinary Time of the year, let us keep in mind the entire journey. To seek an ever stronger relationship with God, to be strengthened in the reception of the Holy Eucharist and to place before us the goal that Jesus will rule us completely.


The 150th Anniversary of the Birth of Prime Bishop Francis Hodur


On April 1, 2016 we honored the 150th anniversary of the birth of the First Prime Bishop and Organizer of the Polish National Catholic Church, Franciszek Hodur.  On Easter Sunday, April 1, 1866 in the small village of Zarki, Poland, Franciszek Hodur was born into a large and poor family.  So much of what he experienced during his years as a child would mirror those families that he would later pastor as priest and eventually bishop of the Polish National Catholic Church.

As a young child Francis Hodur knew the difficulties of poor families.  Many within the village of Zarki and throughout the Katowice region worked farming small tracts of land or at the number of coal mines in the area.  It was with people such as these that Bishop Hodur would band together with in organizing St. Stanislaus Parish in South Scranton.  What is unfortunate though is that because of a lack of information regarding the early life of Bishop Hodur we do not know exactly how these people and events might have affected his upbringing and his later thoughts and actions.

After his early education in Zarki, we know that from the years 1882 to 1889 Franciszek Hodur attended the St. Anne’s Gymnasium a well-known high school in Krakow.  This school was also known as the Nowodworski School as it was endowed in 1617 by Bartlomiej Nowodworski, a Polish nobleman.  This prestigious school was originally founded by the faculty senate of the Jagiellonian University in the 1500’s.  Throughout its history a number of well-known Poles had attended this school.  While there Franciszek Hodur was an excellent student ranking in the top ten percent of the 37 graduates.  It was also during this time that Franciszek Hodur became friendly with Adam Krzyzanowski, who would eventually become a renowned economist and Jagiellonian University professor.

After graduation Francis Hodur entered the Catholic Seminary which was a part of the Jagiellonian University.  There too it would seem that he was a good student.  In regards to his religious life there is record that he received tonsure and the minor orders during his first year in the seminary 1890.  But we also know that Francis Hodur left the seminary before his ordination to the diaconate.  It would seem that there is question as to exactly why he was dismissed from the Seminary.  We know that during the years 1891 and 1892 there were many complaints at the seminary regarding the living conditions and the quality of the food.  There were also investigations into these matters by the seminary administration.  Many of the students refused to eat at the seminary and went elsewhere to obtain their meals.  In a paper from Professor Andrzej Halas he cited from a Fr. W. Mis from the seminary, who wrote: when during Lent humble Lenten fare was served, several seminarians revolted and found better food in the city.  This was publicized in a humorous publication in Cracow and Bishop Dunajewski, who had charge of the seminary, punished the revolt severely, dismissing its main instigators.  Was Francis Hodur among those who were dismissed for this reason?  We do not know.  But because of a clue in the later writing of Bishop Hodur there also could be other reasons as well.

In later writings Bishop Hodur mentioned that it was during this time in seminary that he became a follower of Fr. Stanislaw Stojalowski, a political activist known as “The People’s Tribune,” who fought for the rights of the ordinary people of Poland. Could this involvement have played a role in his dismissal?

The truth is that we might never know.  Research still does continue into the life and ministry of Bishop Hodur and while we might find the answers to many of these questions, there are also many others which may never we answered.  But to think about the early life of Bishop Hodur does give us pause though.  From his earliest years, he not only lived in difficulty, but was concerned about the difficulties of those around him.  From helping to teach his fellow students at St. Anne’s Gymnasium, to his getting involved with Fr. Stanislaw Stojalowski in his seeking rights for the downtrodden, to his trying to raise up the living conditions for his fellow seminarians, Franciszek Hodur knew of God’s love for His people and sought to have them live their lives in accord with this love.

This trajectory of his life would certainly continue when he finally came to Scranton, Pennsylvania and its nearby towns and he began his ministry as a priest.  While we must remember that it was the people of Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Parish in South Scranton who first decided to break away from their former parish and build anew to escape oppression and gain their rights as children of God, it was Father Francis Hodur who helped to teach and organize them during his years as assistant there.  And later when they were looking for a pastor to lead them, they called on Fr. Hodur, a priest who was already steeped in the ideas of fighting for the rights of God’s people against those who would oppress them.

This is the legacy that we remember as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of Bishop Hodur in Zarki, Poland.  But as we celebrate and honor this occasion, let it not just be a remembering of the past.  There is still much that needs to be done.  The conflicts are a little different now, but there are conflicts all around us just the same.  Our society now tries to tear people away from religious thought and religious action and set them on a secular course.  The worship of God is held in low esteem and morals have been redefined.  We must not only stand strong in our faith, but, as Franciszek Hodur was from a young age, we must bring up the children around us to care for the faith life and dignity of God’s people.  We must stand for the importance of service to others, as well as the importance of faith and prayer.

In order to be inspired for this continuing work of the faith and life within the Polish National Catholic Church, I encourage all Polish National Catholics to read the history of the P.N.C.C., “The Origin and Growth of the Polish National Catholic Church”
written by Rev. Stephen Wlodarski, PH.D. and especially concerning the life and work of Bishop Hodur in “Bishop Hodur: Biographical Essays” by Dr. Joseph Wieczerzak.  It is from these two books that the information above was gleaned and within them there is a voluminous amount of interesting and inspiring information.  Reading them can lead all Polish National Catholics to a better understanding of the road traveled to organize a Catholic Church which is one, holy, catholic and apostolic in its faith and in its governance in line with the foundations of the apostles and fathers of the early church.

In this church, handed on to us by Bishop Hodur, the many priests and bishops and the early organizers throughout the United States and Poland, each of us has and continues to have a vital role to play. It is a role in listening to the voice of God which calls to His people, in setting a course to follow in the catholic and apostolic faith, and to serving all of God’s people with the respect and dignity that they all deserve as children of God and brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ.

In this we must remember that we cannot sit back and leave the work to others for there are always those who desire to either enslave us or marginalize us. We must stand by the words of the motto given us by Bishop Hodur, “Through Truth, through work and through struggle, we shall overcome.”  We have the truth which has been given us in the words of Scripture and the tradition of the apostolic faith.  Let us make sure that we continue to hand it down to our children, not only in catechetical classes, but also in how we live our lives and how we stand up for what we believe in against the directions of our culture.  We have received the benefits of the work of the past, but it is work that must continue in every generation.  The work of past generations will not make the church strong today if we do not take up the banner and continue in the same way that they have.  And lastly we know that the struggle still continues.  No generation will win the final conflict until the beginning of the age to come, announced by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Until that time it is our lot to struggle, but as told us by Bishop Hodur, we also know that if we continue in the struggle, working as those before us in the truth of the Holy Gospel, then we know that in the name of Jesus Christ, we will overcome.  We will share in that joy that is God’s love and God’s way in the world.

In this year as we honor 150 years since the birth of Bishop Francis Hodur, let us continue to build up the kingdom of God as we find it within our holy Polish National Catholic Church.


Christ is Risen, Alleluia

We have now completed the season of Lent and have come to the point that is the true focus of our faith, the celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, from the dead.  The Romans had thought that they had crushed the hopes of this small movement within Palestine as they had done with others.  Even the disciples were downtrodden and fearful thinking that their Master had been killed and their own lives now in danger.  But something awesome happened on that first Easter morning.  The words of Scripture from St. John’s Gospel tell us of the event, but even the apostles then didn’t entirely understand it.

“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.  So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.”  Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb.  The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.  He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in.  Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb.  He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself.  Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that He must rise from the dead.” (John 20:1-9)

We see in this Scripture, especially with St. John, the beloved disciple, a combination of non-comprehension but also strong belief.  This Scripture reading has always moved me because I feel too that it is the position in which we often find ourselves.  We do not fully understanding the mysteries of our Lord, but at the same time we fully believe that Jesus is the Lord of heaven and earth and the long awaited Messiah.  We have faith and can see and know the actions of the living Jesus in our lives, but we may not entirely understand it all.

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ says one thing to us and says it in no small way.  “Jesus is Lord.”  He rose from the dead.  He was and is victorious over sin and death.  He now lives a transformed life that will not end.  Throughout the rest of the Church year we will have the opportunity to work out all that this means for us as Christians and for the world as undergoing the new creation, but the day of the Resurrection calls for us just to take it all in and be a witness to the joyous celebration.  This day, Jesus has returned to us as Risen Lord and Savior.  This day Jesus is finally to be recognized as Lord of the world and Messiah of Israel.  This day sin and death, those most fearsome of enemies, is conquered.  All these things happened on that morning.  The disciples then were witnesses and we today are called to be witnesses of these things just the same.

When we consider the power of the Resurrection, is it any wonder that after encountering the risen Lord Jesus, the disciples were no longer afraid but began to go out into the world and proclaim that good news?  Is it any wonder that those disciples who once feared for their very lives all went to a martyr’s death proclaiming that Jesus has conquered death?  If we are to be the same sort of witnesses today, we too need to worry less about what others might think and say about us and rather focus on the power of the Resurrection of Jesus as they did.

Something truly awesome happened on that first Easter day and it was there Jesus was truly risen.  The disciples witnessed the empty tomb and encountered Him in a variety of times and places.  As Polish National Catholics we have the opportunity to encounter Jesus in Word and Sacrament and in the worshiping community which is the Body of Christ and each of us His members.  As strongly as the first disciples proclaimed that Jesus had been risen from the dead, we too can and must proclaim that “Christ is Risen.  He is Risen, Indeed.”

These words should be always on our lips as faithful members of the Church.  And more importantly they are to have an effect on our lives.  We can’t just proclaim that Jesus is Lord and Savior and then go back to living our lives in whatever way we please.  If Jesus is our Lord and has beaten sin and death for us, then certainly His way of life and living must be the way that we follow; if not, there is a horrible inconsistency, or worse yet hypocrisy, to our lives.  The fact that Jesus is alive should have a part in every decision that we make, every action we take and every thought we think.  If we are followers of Christ we must take on that attitude of St. Paul who tells us in Galatians 2:20: “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.”

So my brothers and sisters, let the words ring out strongly from our lips on Easter morning, throughout the rest of the Easter season and beyond.  “Christ is Risen.  He is Risen, Indeed.”  But more importantly let us proclaim that He lives through our actions of love, mercy and kindness and let others know that our Christian faith and Christian life is a reflection of the living Christ.

“Christ is Risen.  He is Risen, Indeed”



Beginning on the day of Ash Wednesday, this year February 10th, the Church enters into the season of Great Lent.  It is the season of preparation for the great and holy mystery of the Resurrection of our Lord and in it we focus on two aspects that concern our religious life, that which we normally do as an active Catholic Christians and also the calling of the Church to expand our attention to the Lenten practices.

To begin with what is familiar, we see that during the Lenten season a few things change within our parish churches when we gather for the weekly celebration of Holy Mass on Sunday.  As a start the more festive colors of white, gold and green of the Christmas and Epiphany seasons have now given way to the more somber color of purple.  The color purple has come to represent for Western Catholic Christians the season of penitential preparation.  We are reminded that, aside from the Sundays and weekdays of Lent, purple vestments are also worn whenever the Sacrament of Penance is received, even if outside of Lent and also during the preparatory parts of the Sacrament of Baptism.  In fact these aspects of penance and renewal can be considered together during this season of Great Lent.

While the Sacrament of Penance is offered each and every time we gather for Holy Mass, it is during the season of Lent that we pay special attention to it.  Some parishes may include an examination of conscience as a part of this Lenten penitential
experience during Mass, or the priest may increase the amount or intensity of the penance that is assigned.  Aside from the penitential part of Holy Mass many parishes also have separate Penitential Services that occur during the Lenten season.  These services allow us to focus extra attention on the sinful parts of our lives and to seek God’s forgiveness and ask for His strength to move away from sin and to a closer relationship with Almighty God.

If this practice is not a part of your parish experience, there are certainly other ways in which you can experience it.  Each of us can spend time in prayer on a Saturday evening in preparation before going to Mass on Sunday.  An Examination of Conscience is something that someone can easily obtain on-line but there are also two wonderful Polish National Catholic sources.  Within the Mass Pew Book, on pages 1 to 7, there are various prayers for both before and after Confession as well as an extended
Examination of Conscience.  The questions asked allow us to look into our daily lives and see where we are not measuring up to the demands of our Lord.  Another excellent source is found within the P.N.C.C. Prayer Book, on the Sacrament of Penance.  From pages 53 to 70 there is a short catechesis on the Sacrament of Penance as well as prayers before Confession and an extended Examination of Conscience based on the Ten Commandments.  These two examples are wonderful ways in which we can make Lent a time of spiritual preparation as well as increased prayer.

This of course brings us to the next portion of the Lenten experience, the disciplines of Lent.  Our Lenten discipline is to be a time of increased prayer, increased giving and increased fasting.  Notice that I use the word “increased.”  It is certainly hoped that these disciplines are already a part of your daily life as a Catholic, but Lent calls us to go a step further.

One aspect of this is the liturgy of the Church.  During the Lenten period, the Church adds services to allow us to enter more deeply into the passion and death of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and to consider all that He has done for us.  The Stations of the Cross and Bitter Lamentations both serve this purpose and encourage us, as members of a congregation to gather together to contemplate this  great mystery of our Lord offering Himself for our salvation.  We must also remember that even if we cannot be together at the parish church, we can still benefit greatly from these services.  Again both the Stations of the Cross and Bitter Lamentations are found within the P.N.C.C. Prayer Book and can be read individually as a private devotion.  For example I have tried to make it a habit to celebrate each of these services, one day a week in the chapel at the National Church Center.  I do this by myself and it allows me to spend some extra time in contemplating on the readings as a time of spiritual reflection.  In this way it is a different experience  than celebrating together at the church.

Along with celebrating these services, either congregationally or individually, we should spend a little more time in private prayer.  It is at this point we can ask the questions.  Do you pray in the morning upon rising?  At night before going to bed?  Before and after meals?  Before and after any important part of your life? Do you pray for your spouse and children?  For your other family members and those who are a part of your daily life? We should all give this some thought.  I too can say that sometimes, I forget to pray in each of these situations, but what it takes is discipline.  Like many of you I need to remind myself. I try to do this by keeping my Prayer Book always close at hand where I can see it.  That way even if I don’t use the Prayer Book while I pray, it acts as a strong reminder to make prayer a part of everything I do.

The next Lenten discipline is giving.  Now I am certainly sure that most of you are already giving to your parish as well as to other good causes, but again Lent asks us to increase our giving.  One way to look at this is together with another Lenten practice of “giving something up” for Lent.  Whatever you might give up, see what the cost of that item is and then
donate this amount as well.  And of course Lent is also the time for us to consider our giving in accord with the blessings we have received.  We can ask ourselves, can I sacrifice more to better help my parish or other good causes?

Our last Lenten discipline is fasting.  As many of you know this usually entails the abstinence from meat on the Wednesdays and Fridays of Lent as well as the reduction of food on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.  We perform the discipline of fasting to remind ourselves that it is often from our bodily desires that sin arises.  But the discipline of fasting goes beyond this as well.  As we fast from food stuffs, we are also reminded that there are other, often much worse, things in our lives from which we should be fasting.  In this regard, there really isn’t any better teaching than that from the great fathers of the Church, St. John Chrysostom and St. Basil the Great.  These fathers remind us that even in their times of great austerity in the Church, fasting always called us to something greater.

“For let not the mouth only fast, but also the eye, and ear, and the feet, and the hands, and all the members of our bodies.  Let the hands fast, by being pure from violent stealing and greed.  Let the feet fast, by ceasing from running to the unlawful spectacles.  Let the eyes fast, being taught never to fix themselves rudely upon handsome countenances, or to busy
themselves with strange beauties.  For looking is the food of the eyes, but if this be such as is unlawful or forbidden, it mars the fast; and upsets the whole safety of the soul; but if it be lawful and safe, it adorns fasting.  For it would be among things the most absurd to abstain from lawful food because of the fast, but with the eyes to touch even what is forbidden.  Do you not eat flesh?  Do no feed upon lasciviousness by means of the eyes.  Let the ear fast also.  The fasting of the ear consists in refusing to receive evil speakings and calumnies.” (St. John Chrysostom, On the Priesthood)

“Do not however, define the benefit that comes from fasting solely in terms of abstinence from foods.  For true fasting consists in estrangement from vices.  ‘Loose every burden of iniquity.’  Forgive your neighbor the distress he causes you; forgive him his debts.  ‘Fast not for quarrels and strifes.’  You do not eat meat, but you devour your brother.  You abstain from wine, but do not restrain yourself from insulting others.  You wait until evening to eat, but waste your day in law courts.  Let us fast an acceptable and very pleasing fast to the Lord.  True fasting is the estrangement from evil, temperance of tongue, abstinence from anger, separation from desires, slander, falsehood and perjury.  Privation of these is true fasting.” (St. Basil the Great, Homily on Fasting)

So these are the practices and disciplines of Lent.  While it may seem like quite a lot, we must remember the word, “increase.”  During this season, let’s let our faith, our discipline, our prayer, our fasting, our giving, our piety “increase.”  No one should ask how much, or worry about comparing to others.  Let it just all be “increase,” that on Easter Sunday, the day of Resurrection, we will be even more ready to meet the resurrected and glorious Lord.


Epiphany – To Reveal Jesus Christ

Following the season of Christmas, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Epiphany, the Feast of the Three Kings. This Solemnity is one of the most important holy days throughout the Church year as it is one of only five solemnities that is  celebrated with an octave.  For a full eight days this Solemnity is remembered in the prayers during Holy Mass.

Now although the Scripture readings and prayers speak of the visit of the Magi or Kings who have come to worship the infant Jesus, the real reason for the feast is not only the worship of the kings, but is in fact that the acknowledgment of Who Jesus really is is beginning to spread.  Jesus is being revealed to the world.

In fact this revelation or Epiphany is not just one
Solemnity or even just the octave, but it extends through this entire time of year.  If we listen to the preface of the Epiphany, we hear of the three main moments of epiphany that the season hinges upon.  As the preface prayer says, in Epiphany we celebrate His triune revelation.  He was revealed to the Magi from the East, while yet a child He was worshipped.  He was revealed to all people at His baptism in the River Jordan.  You, Father, and the Holy Spirit give witness to His divinity; He revealed Himself to His Apostles in Cana of Galilee, making manifest the power of God through His miracles.”

So in this season of Epiphany Jesus is revealed in many ways.  Not only does God reveal to the Magi, through the shining of a star, that He is doing something special by breaking into our human existence through the birth of His Son, but in the Baptism the Father sends the Holy Spirit upon Jesus as a manifestation of the Trinity and He announces and reveals that Jesus is, “the beloved Son.” Likewise at the first miracle in Cana in Galilee, Jesus manifests His power in the performance of the miracle turning water into wine.  This action reveals that Jesus is inaugurating the kingdom of God through works of power.  During this time of year in the many readings that take place during the weekdays in between these important events, we hear of many other ways in which Jesus is revealed, both in powerful actions and inspired teaching.

One of the most important parts of the miracle in Cana is the very last verse of the Gospel reading which is oftentimes overlooked.  After the completion of the miracle, the Gospel of John tells us, “Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.” (John 2:11)  These two actions permeate the season of Epiphany, Jesus reveals His glory and His disciples believe.

This reminds us all that during the season of Epiphany, we don’t only remember the past events in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we also acknowledge the present action of Jesus in the world today.  And this is especially true within the lives of individual Christians.

If we take a bit of time and really give some thought to God’s action in our lives, we will see that He gives us all many of the same signs that we see in Scripture.  Now, although we may never have seen a bright shining star in the sky to announce the Lord Jesus Christ, God does put a great many small signs in our lives that point us to acknowledge God’s action and presence.  Have we ever considered that the people within our lives, as well as all of the beautiful things that move and affect us, are in fact God putting small stars within our lives for us to see?  And then of course when we see them, we need to take the action of the Magi, we must follow these signs to see where they lead, and of course we know that they lead to the creator of all things, the Lord Jesus Christ “through Whom all things were made.”  And then knowing this we must, as the Epiphany prayer says, “follow until we find Him and finding Him to rejoice.”

Similar things must be considered when we take a look at the Baptism.  We must remember that each and every time we come to church, we place our hands into the Holy Water and then make the sign of the cross, as a remembrance of our own baptism.  In doing this action, we must remember that we are united with Jesus Christ, even in His baptism.  At His baptism the Holy Spirit came upon Him and the Father announced, “this is My beloved Son.”  We must remember that at the moment of our own
baptism the Holy Spirit also came into our hearts and into our lives and God again said, “this is My beloved child.”  It was after this event that Jesus began to call His disciples and spread the message of the coming of the kingdom of God.  In the same way we are called to be disciples and followers of our Lord Jesus Christ and then, like the disciples, we are to announce the kingdom of God and the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

During this season of Epiphany we also contemplate the miracle of the turning of water into wine.  In some ways we are drawn to the miracle where wine then becomes the Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.  We know that in this powerful action of God, Jesus again becomes present in the world, and through our gathering at the Eucharist, we together announce the kingdom of God is among us.  Also in many other ways we know that small miracles surround us each and every day in the actions of Jesus in our lives.

In this miracle we also remember the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  It was she who told the waiters at the wedding feast, “Do whatever Jesus tells you.”  This too should be our attitude to all things within our lives, to “do what Jesus tells us.”  Jesus desires that we live lives of faith and service.  In order to bring this to a reality, we must listen to Jesus and put His words, His actions and especially His love into all that we do.

For each of these parts in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ, we should ask ourselves, how does this apply to me today?  How is Jesus being revealed to me and how can I then reveal Jesus to others?  So, my dear brothers and sisters, let us truly celebrate this season of Epiphany.  Don’t let it get lost following the celebration of Christmas.  But as we might say during Christmas time, let’s keep Christ in Christmas, then let us also keep the revelation of Jesus Christ in this season of Epiphany.  Let us not only remember these events of Scripture where Jesus was revealed, but let us also remember to continue to reveal Jesus in our lives and in our world.  Through actions of love, loyalty and service, let us continue to reveal Jesus Who is the Lord and Savior.


A Blessed and Joyous Christmas

“In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.  Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a
manger.  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!’” (Luke 2:8-14)

After our period of waiting and preparation, the great event of the Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is now upon us.  The Church puts aside the purple and blue of the Advent season and adorns the temple and the altar with white and gold, with
flowers and evergreens to remind us that it is now time to rejoice, rejoice that the Christ-Child has been born in the manger in Bethlehem.

The Solemnity of the Nativity of our Lord speaks to us in so many ways as a child of God who calls upon the Lord to come to us.  From the Scripture reading above we see the glorious visit of the angels and their message which comes to the shepherds from the sky.  And in this same way we remember the words of the Angel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary telling her that she would conceive a child and give birth to a Son.  And because of these events we certainly are moved to see that God has planned something very special and now He is about to accomplish it.  God does things in an out of the ordinary way to show us that His magnificent plan for our salvation is about to take place.  It is the birth of the only-begotten Son of God, the Savior of the world.  It is the birth of the Messiah which the people of Israel had long awaited.

But I have always felt that even with all of this magnificent expression of God’s power, these things are not the most meaningful.  As children of God and a part of His creation, it is always especially moving to spend some time by the manger, whether in our parish Church or at our home and consider in this what God has done for us.  Yes the images of God’s power can certainly be impressive, but oftentimes God speaks most strongly when He does so in a whisper.

We see in the manger the Blessed Virgin Mary, the one who trusted that the Lord’s words to her would be fulfilled.  In this we know that God still speaks to us today.  His words of peace and loving kindness  are announced in the words of Scripture and in the works of Christians as they strive to follow the way of the Lord.  We see at the manger Joseph, a member of the house of David, who would care and protect Mary and Jesus from the many who sought their lives.  He would guide them through these
early days, always following God’s way.  We see in this that we are called to stand by our Lord Jesus Christ and that we must defend the faith often in a strong and quiet way.

We see the animals and through them we know that the message of salvation and restoration is announced to all creation.  All things will be restored because of the life and presence of Jesus Christ.  We see the shepherds, those lowliest ones of that society and in this we know that the good news is kept from no one.  In witnessing their worship we know that all are called to witness the saving act of God in the birth of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.  In knowing that the shepherds returned to the fields praising God, we also see that we must go about our own daily lives in an attitude of reverence, glorying and praising God in all things.  We see the three kings and we know that we must put aside any worldly things or talents we have gained and offer them to the service of Jesus Christ.

The manger is a special place to spend a bit of time during the Christmas season, and I encourage each and every one of you to spend a bit of time there in prayer.  If you have done a bit of study, I know that in some ways the manger as we have it today is not an actual picture of what probably occurred on that evening in Bethlehem.  The places where animals are kept didn’t quite look like that wooden crèche.  I know that the kings didn’t arrive until sometime later and probably the Holy Family was living in another area.  But these small inaccuracies are not really all that important in comparison with the message that God is trying to give us, whether through the words of Scripture or in this Christmas display.

God tells us that the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah, has come to each of us in a small, quiet way.  He comes not with a crash through the skies but with a small, quiet voice which says come to the manger, come see the Lord born to you this day.  I encourage you to let this Christmas season be one of a return to the manger, a return to Jesus Christ.  Put aside those things which have kept you away, the busyness of life, the distractions of modern life, and return to Jesus and His way.

As this New Year of 2016 is to be a Year of Reverence within the Polish National Catholic Church, it might do us well to begin it by spending a bit of time each day at the crèche.  And then of course let us take its lessons to be forthcoming into our daily lives.  Let us live simply as did Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  But let our simple lives be lived for God, Who desires all to come to know Jesus Christ as the newborn Savior and Messiah.

To all of my brother Bishops, to the Very Reverend and Reverend Fathers, to the deacons and all of the faithful of our Polish National Catholic Church, I wish you God’s blessings of peace, love and joy during this season of the Lord’s birth, and know that I will kneel at the manger each day this Christmas season, praying that Jesus will visit all our lives.

A Joyous Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year 2016 to all.



adventAs we approach the end of November the Church enters the season of Advent.  The first Sunday of Advent is always the Sunday closest to November 30th, the Feast of Saint Andrew, the Apostle.  In this way there are always four Sundays of Advent before the feast of the Nativity of our Lord at Christmas.  This season can be looked at in several different ways as a season of extension or preparation.

As an extension, Advent occurs immediately following the Solemnity of Christ the King as the last Sunday in Ordinary Time.  Although we say that the Solemnity of Christ the King ends the liturgical year and Advent begins the New Year, there certainly is a connection.  Throughout Ordinary Time, we often hear about the teachings and actions of our Lord Jesus Christ in His ministry.  This season culminates with us acknowledging that Jesus is the true Lord of our lives and our world, that He is Christ the King.  But then in Advent the response to this acknowledgement is to desire Jesus to once again come into our world.  As Christians today we wait for the culmination of all things in the return of Jesus Christ.  We still acknowledge this each and every time we proclaim the Nicene Creed during Holy Mass, “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom will have no end.”  We also remind ourselves that the very last words of Scripture tell us of the situation in which we find ourselves.  At the conclusion of the Book of Revelation we read, “It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches.  I am the root of and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”  The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.”  And let everyone who hears say, “Come.”  And let everyone who is thirsty come. … The one who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.”  Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus!”  (Revelation 22:16-17, 20)  As Holy Scripture closes with these words, these are the words of the Church for today.  We wait for the return of Jesus.  The church, the Bride of Christ, says “Come, Lord Jesus.”  The season of Advent is an extension in that it is the response to the acknowledgement that Jesus is Lord.

This season is also a preparation.  Certainly I imagine that in our world today we tend to look at these few weeks in this way, of course maybe not as the season of Advent, but rather as a secular preparation for Christmas.  As the month of December begins there is certainly much pressure to get ready for Christmas.  In fact we can sometimes see that Christmas sales and displays might have been present even since the time of Halloween.  We are encouraged to get our homes ready by decorating.  We are encouraged to get ready by spending countless hours in stores looking for just the right gift for everyone we know.  But all this is not the season of Advent.

Advent encourages us to get our hearts, our minds and our lives ready for the arrival of the new-born Messiah on the Solemnity of the Nativity.  Like the prophets of long ago, we know that Jesus is coming into the world and we must work to make ourselves ready.  This certainly occurs within the liturgical life of the Church, via the celebration of the Sunday Masses and also with the celebration of Rorate Masses in Advent which honor the Blessed Virgin Mary.  These Masses have always had a special place in my Advent preparation.  The faithful gather in the

early morning, oftentimes while it is still dark, to honor the Blessed Virgin as an example for all Christians who wait for Jesus, the true light.  During these Masses the ancient prophesies regarding the Messiah are read and we also read of their fulfillment in the history of the life of Mary from the time of the annunciation until the birth of Jesus.

And of course there are also many other ways to honor this Advent season in our homes as well.  Many families light an Advent wreath, especially before the evening meal within their homes. Meditations or prayers are read and the light
multiplies from one candle to four as the time for the birth of Jesus draws closer.  There is also the tradition of an Advent calendar.  On each day as the number is counted down a small door or drawer is opened on the calendar revealing an image or portion of Scripture.  Each of these family devotions gives us the feeling that we are in the time of waiting and expectation.

Within the family, Advent is also a great time to begin to set up the Nativity scene.  The manger can be placed out, as well as some of the people and animals that are not as crucial to the story.  Of course Mary and Joseph would be saved for Christmas Eve and the Christ Child for Christmas Day, either after returning from Midnight Mass or early in the morning.  This too reminds us that Advent is to be a time of preparation, and as we prepare our homes we should also be preparing our hearts and lives for the arrival of Jesus.

Although I certainly see in Advent both an extension of the liturgical year past and a preparation for the arrival of Jesus, in another sense I always look at Advent as the best expression of where all Christians are now within our spiritual lives.  Each and every day of our lives we are waiting and striving to bring Jesus into the world.  In prayer we desire to be in contact with Jesus as the Lord and Savior of our lives.  We receive Holy Communion to unite ourselves with Him.  We want Jesus to be a part of our family life, our work life and our worship life.  We want Jesus to be born into every one of our thoughts and actions.  And of course we desire this not only for ourselves, but also for those we love, for our families and our parishes.  Each prayer, each act of love, kindness and mercy is, in some ways, filled with the plea, “Come, Lord Jesus.”

I often think that it is for this reason that although I certainly am lifted up and rejoice in the hymns of Christmas and Easter, it is the hymns of Advent that speak to me most strongly.  They are the hymns of my daily life.  These hymns cry out “Come Jesus” just as my prayers and good works do.  So many of these hymns are familiar to us, but do we take time to contemplate the words, “Send forth, O Heavens,” “Come, Thou Long-expected Jesus,” and many others.  During this season of Advent, I encourage you to listen to the words of the Advent hymns and make them a part of your daily prayer life.  As an example, I’ll share one of my favorites.  “O Come Divine Messiah! The world in silence waits the day, when hope shall sing its triumph, and sadness flee away.  Sweet Savior, haste; Come, come to earth: dispel the night and show Thy face and bid us hail the dawn of grace.  O come, Divine Messiah, the world in silence waits the day, when hope shall sing its triumph and sadness flee away.”

Let this Advent be a response to the acknowledgement that Jesus is the Lord of our lives and let it be the time of preparation to accept Him, not only at the Solemnity of the Nativity, but to welcome and accept Jesus each and every day.


The Christian Family

During October the Polish National Catholic Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Christian Family.  It was established at the Third General Synod held in Chicago, Illinois in December of 1914.  At the time the Polish people, who predominately made up the membership of the Church, were worried about World War One which had broken out in Europe.  Soon thereafter the  United States would enter into the War.  In the Church there were also topics of great concern discussed at the Synod.  During this Synod the matters of clerical celibacy, mission and the possibility of elections for new bishops were discussed.  But among these weighty topics Bishop Hodur rose to propose to the Synod delegates establishing three holy days of the Polish National Catholic Church.  As listed in the Synod Minutes it mentions: “The Holy Day of the Arising of the National Church, on the second Sunday of March, The Holy Day of the Fatherland, on the second Sunday of May, The Holy Day of the Family, on the second Sunday of October.”  The minutes go on to say that the Synod body “with enthusiasm supported the thoughts given by Bishop Hodur.”

These three feasts in some ways go together as a response to the difficulties that the members of the Church were facing.  Three things would help to bring comfort and stability to God’s people in facing difficult times: their Church, their culture and their family.

The Church, at this moment in history, saw that the family was an important and vital part of the faith and the work of living and spreading the faith.  Seeing as we do today the breakdown of families, and the difficulties that this brings, truly we can say that the Christian family is something not only to be celebrated, but also something to be supported, prayed for and encouraged.

The Gospel reading for this solemnity is taken from the second chapter of Luke.  It is the one episode from the life of Jesus during his teenage years.  Jesus goes with Joseph and Mary to Jerusalem for the festival.  While there, He becomes lost and when His parents journey back to find Him, Jesus is in the temple “sitting with the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.” (Luke 2:46b)  The Gospel reader begins to know that something is special and unique about Jesus as it says, “All who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers.” (Luke 2:47)

While certainly this Scripture reading reminds us that Jesus is not just an ordinary child and is in fact the Son of God when He mentions that the temple is “My Father’s house,” the reading does not end here.  Luke’s Gospel goes on to say that “then He [Jesus] went down with them and came to Nazareth and was obedient to them.  His mother treasured all these things in her heart.” (Luke 2:51)  This Gospel reading ends with the primary focus on family life.  Joseph and Mary sought the child Jesus when He was lost and Jesus, as a young boy, was obedient to His parents.

We then can ask, why was this part of Jesus’ life made a part of the Gospel?  Certainly Jesus had done many things as other children did in Nazareth. Certainly He had prayed prayers at home and went to  the Synagogue.  Why was only this episode
recorded?  We can see within this one event preserved within the Gospel that even in the midst of the earliest beginnings of Jesus’ ministry, family life was of great importance.

And of course this brings us to today, where we must ask ourselves, what is the state of my own family life and am I truly a part of the Christian Family?  It begins with our own individual families.  In the Mass Book as we each prepare for the celebration of Holy Mass with the Sacrament of Penance, there is a long section asking questions on our “Duties towards others.”  For children there is a section on our relationship to our parents, giving some concern to our attitude towards them and our willingness to listen to and trust their judgment.  We should make sure that our young members take a look at these questions each time we come to Mass.

For parents there is a section on our relationship to children, asking how well we know their life and their friends and are we striving to be good examples for them in all ways.  This section then goes on to one for husbands and wives.  This basic unit of the Christian family is one that needs to be strong if the faith is to be lived and shared and children are to be brought up loving and serving God.  As parents and spouses we also need to make sure that we review these questions often to strengthen our Christian family life.

At the beginning of this section on “Duties towards Others” there are also general questions about how we are in all of our relationships.  Are we nursing any hatred, dislike or grievance?  Have I hit anyone physically or hurt them by spiteful or unkind words?  And more positively we ask, do I encourage whatever contributes to good relations with other?

In our celebration of the Solemnity of the Christian Family, one thing that we are called to begin to see is that, in reality, these groups described above are sort of arbitrary.  If we truly examine our lives, within our own families, within the larger family of our parish and our Church, then we fulfill all of the roles at different times.  If we just give some thought to our lives, especially within our parishes, we are all children and parents, friends and relatives to each other.  First of all we are relatives.  St. Paul reminds us, “So then, whenever we have the opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.” (Galatians 6:10)  We are not just individuals who happen to worship at the same building, but rather we are a “family of faith” with all of the responsibilities this relationship entails.  St. Paul again reminds us of these responsibilities to care for each other when he says, “And whoever does not provide for relatives, and especially for family members, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8)

But even within this family structure we fulfill the different roles at various times.  There are times when we are like children.  Certainly, at all times, we need to increase our understanding and our knowledge of our faith and moral life.  In this way we need to learn from others and all of us are required to follow the discipline of the Church.  Like children we must accept that there are times when we need to be corrected and shown the way by others.  In other ways we are like parents.  Each of us must be careful to give a good example of Christian life to those around us.  We are called to help point the correct way as well as to help those that are in need.

In other words, as a part of the great Christian family, we fulfill each role.  This is what it means to celebrate the Solemnity of the Christian Family, acknowledging our ties to each other and acting in such a way to strengthen the family virtues of love and caring.  So now that we have celebrated this Solemnity and spent time in prayer for our individual families and our family of faith, let us make sure that we are fulfilling our roles in a right Christian spirit. I encourage each of you, as you prepare for Sunday Mass this week and every week, take a look at the examination of conscience found within the Mass Book, especially that part that deals with families and relationships.  And of course, let it not only guide your confession for that day, but let it be the beginning or the strengthening of our resolve to truly be a Christian Family, individually and collectively.  As members of the Christian Family, let us strive to follow the admonition of St. Paul, “If you sow to your flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit.  So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.  So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.” (Galatians 6:8-10)


September Reflections

During September, there are a number of important events which, as Polish National Catholics, must be a part of our religious life and prayer life as well.  They are the Solemnity of Brotherly Love, the anniversary of the consecration of Franciszek Hodur as Bishop and Spójnia Sunday.  Now while I would certainly not say that these events occupy the same level of importance to me as Prime Bishop, certainly each one does remind us of an important part of our religious life.  And they also fit together as a
religious reflection as well.

We have just passed through the celebration of the Solemnity of Brotherly Love.  This year, of course, we did something a bit different and prepared ourselves with a presentation to help each of us to get ready a few days before the actual solemnity.  How wonderful it is to know that on Wednesday evening, September 9th, so many Polish National Catholics gathered together, either with their parishes, or just at home online, and reflected on the importance of this Solemnity of Brotherly Love and spent a bit of time reflecting on our actions in the past and resolving to put these principles of Brotherly Love into action in new and exciting ways in the future.

We saw that our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, has called us to act like the Samaritan in the parable.  This means that we must put aside anything that deters us from acting to help someone in need, and rather we are to put all that we have and all that we are at the service of others.  The Samaritan was able to look past any ethnic differences and rather seek to give aid.  In helping another child of God, he put to use his time in stopping his journey long enough to help.  He put to use his knowledge in using his limited medical knowhow to pour wine and oil on the wounds of the injured man.  He put to use his wealth in paying for this man to be taken care of at an inn.  Then the parable goes even further.  There are also the two important aspects which are often forgotten in this parable.  The Samaritan was able to get others involved in helping when he brought the injured man to an inn and involved the innkeeper. His help and interest was also not limited to only that short interaction.  Scripture tells us that the Samaritan said that he would return to pay whatever extra was owed, therefore implying that he would check up on the
injured man in the future.

Although it was certainly my hope that as many as possible were able to join us on September 9, 2015, if you were not able, please know that the entire presentation is now available on YouTube.  Please just go to the Future Direction channel there and you can find the entire presentation as well as the preparatory videos presented by the bishops and also the presentations of the youth of the Church recorded at their different retreats this summer. Please remember that these videos are available to you at any time and they can be used in a variety of ways.

The lessons of the Wednesday presentation were then amplified when on September 13, 2015 all Polish National Catholics came together on Sunday for the celebration of the Solemnity of Brotherly Love.  We heard the parable again and together with the homilies in our own parishes began to see how we can put these lessons into action right within our own parishes, right where we are.

Now, of course, we are in the period after. We are then presented here with two choices.  We can just let the lessons go and not think about any of these things for another year.  Or rather we can now resolve to put this example into action.  The Future Direction subcommittee has put a challenge before each parish of the Church to complete events where we show ways in which we Feed, Clothe and Comfort others around us.  In this way we extend the Solemnity of Brotherly Love into the future.  This is the call of the Church at this time because it is the call of Jesus Christ, to love without condition.

Now we turn to the other two events for our reflection.  On September 29 we celebrate the 108th anniversary of the consecration of Fr. Franciszek Hodur as the first Bishop of the Polish National Catholic Church.  Each of the present bishops of the Polish National Catholic Church can trace their apostolic succession through this event.  Because of this it is of great importance to us all.  Because of this we know that when we celebrate the Eucharist, truly Jesus Christ is present to us under the forms of bread and wine.  Because of this we know that Jesus Christ is present to us in the Eucharist to strengthen us to perform those acts of love and mercy that we spoke of above.  Jesus spurs us on to feed, clothe and comfort each other.

Lastly we know that within the Polish National Catholic Church we honor September as Spójnia month and the last Sunday as Spójnia Sunday.  The Polish National Union of America, Spójnia, is one way in which we can help to put our love and mercy into action.  In fact the P.N.U. is our fraternal organization and we know that ‘fraternal’ comes from the same root word as ‘brotherly.’  A fraternal organization, such as the P.N.U., is one place where we can show brotherly love to those in need.  Yes it is the place we go to get life insurance for ourselves and for our families, but the P.N.U., in cooperation with the ideals of the Church, puts the proceeds of their work into the support of actions of brotherly love, reaching out to those in need, helping students, working together with the parishes and the entire Church.

So in all of these reflections we see that the common denominator is Brotherly Love.  It is to this that we are called.  When we gather for Holy Mass in prayer, Jesus is present to us in the Eucharist.  This presence then strengthens us to live out our calling in showing Brotherly Love.  Although we know that the Solemnity of Brotherly Love is now behind us, don’t let it just fade into the past. Now and each of every tomorrow is an opportunity to truly “Be the Samaritan.”  Give of your time, knowledge, talent and treasure to help and lift up one another.  Be the one to feed, clothe and comfort.  Be the Samaritan, each and every day.


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