The Holy Souls in Purgatory

10-31-2014Weekly ReflectionFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Today we celebrate the solemnity of All Souls Day. It is a day for us to focus on the importance of praying for all those who have died. Why do we pray for the dead? When we die, don't we all go straight to heaven? What need do they have for our prayers?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that "all who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven" (par. 1030). The Church derives this teaching from both Sacred Scripture (1 Corinthians 3:15, 1 Peter 1:7, and 2 Maccabees 12:46) and Sacred Tradition [St. John Chrysostom (407), St. Gregory the Great (604), the Second Council of Lyons (1274), the Council of Florence (1439), and the Council of Trent (1563)]. The name given to this final purification is "Purgatory."

Who goes to purgatory? As mentioned above, those who die in God's friendship, but who still lack perfection, go to Purgatory where they undergo this process of final purification. Once this purification has been completed, they are then ready to experience the fullness of God's glory in heaven. Even good people who die go to Purgatory. The perception of Purgatory as a kind of punishment is a false perception. Purgatory is purification, not punishment. Think of a Brita water filter and how it strains out the impurities in the water. That is similar to what Purgatory does for souls. It perfects those who are in relationship with God.

If we spent some time reflecting upon our deceased relatives and friends, we would likely discover that many of them died in relationship with God but without the perfection necessary for heaven. Thus, many of those souls are in Purgatory.

Since there are many souls in Purgatory, we have a responsibility to pray for them so as to help them in their final purification. Our prayers offer them assistance on their journey toward eternal life. What a beautiful gift! Even death does not destroy our relationship with those who have died. Rather, we are still in communion with them and can help them in their relationship with God. Then, when they have reached their final destination in heaven, they can in turn pray for us and help us on our journey toward heaven. Sounds like a really good deal to me!

Brothers and Sisters, throughout the month of November we will be praying in a special way for all of our deceased family members and friends. A book of remembrance has been placed in the narthex of the Church for us to write down the names of these people who may still need our assistance with final purification. I invite you to join us in providing spiritual assistance for these souls. May the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace!

Peace in Christ,
Fr. Will

Financial Snapshot of the Fiscal Year

10-26-2014Weekly ReflectionFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This week I am proud to present to you a financial snapshot of the 2013-2014 fiscal year. As you can see from the chart below, we had a great financial year. This is due to the generosity of our parish families and excellent financial planning by our Director of Finance and Operations and Parish Finance Council. St. Mary Magdalene continues to grow in so many ways. This past fiscal year we gained over 500 families and are currently one of the largest parishes in the Diocese of Phoenix. As our parish continues to grow, so too do the services we provide. As we move forward through our new fiscal year, let us pray for continued generosity from our parish families so that we can fulfill our mission of witnessing the love of Jesus Christ through evangelization, catechesis, and the celebration of the Sacraments.

Peace in Christ,
Fr. Will

  June 30,2014 Budget, 2014
Plate Income $1,644,462 $1,262,144
Building Fund $295,521 $206,500
Other Income $128,008 $93,700
Total Income $2,067,991 $1,562,344
Total Expenses $(1,460,124) $(1,302,618)
Net Income Total $607,867 $259,726

*As of June 30, 2014 St Mary Magdalene had 3,933 registered families, this is an increase of 531 families within the fiscal year.

*The balance on the bond loan is $3,443,999.84 as of June 30, 2014. The original bond loan amount was $4.1 million

Give to God What Belongs to God

10-17-2014Weekly ReflectionFr. Will Schmid

You're Invited

10-11-2014Weekly ReflectionFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In today’s Gospel (Mt. 22:1-14), Jesus tells a parable of a very generous king who has invited a large number of people to be a part of his son’s wedding feast. What a beautiful invitation! Weddings are familial celebrations. The king has invited complete strangers to be a part of his family for this special celebration. Unfortunately, not everyone appreciated the value of this invitation. Many invited were too preoccupied with their earthly business to appreciate the grace offered to them. Instead of coming to the feast, they ignored the invitation altogether. This is the first scorning of the king’s invitation that we see. The second scorning of the king’s invitation is found in the man who came to the wedding feast but decided not to prepare. He came to the celebration as if it were no big deal, refusing to put on the appropriate wedding garment. The Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar offered the following commentary on this man’s behavior:

The second form of unworthiness…is that of the man who strolls into the Eucharistic Celebration as if entering a pub. Why should I get dressed up? The king should be happy that I come at all, that I still communicate, that I bother myself enough to leave my pew to stuff a bit of bread in my mouth…Perhaps only after being tossed out it will occur to him what he has missed out on because of his lackadaisical behavior. (Light of the World, 135).

This man responds to the invitation, but not in an appropriate manner. He responds half-heartedly to a whole-hearted gift. How often do we behave the same way with the Mass? How often do we respond to the Lord’s invitation to share in the wedding feast of His Son with half-heartedness? Do I treat the celebration of the Eucharist as something different, something special, or as if it were just another daily activity? Do I prepare for Mass, or do I rush into it? While at Mass, do I seek to participate, or do I expect to be entertained? Do I go to confession when I have gravely sinned so as to receive Holy Communion in a state of grace, or do I treat the Eucharist like it is just another piece of bread?

Brothers and sisters, Christ’s invitation to us is something special. We must treat it accordingly. Our loving God has invited us to be recipients of great graces in the Eucharist. May we respond whole-heartedly to this invitation with utmost respect and reverence.

Peace in Christ,
Fr. Will

Wild Grapes

10-05-2014Weekly ReflectionFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

One of my favorite Church documents is the Second Vatican Council's Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, more commonly known as Gaudium et Spes. In paragraphs 22-24 of Gaudium et Spes, the Church invites us to gaze upon the Cross of Jesus Christ as a kind of mirror revealing to us our true nature and identity. As we gaze upon Christ crucified, we see how we were created to love. It is in selfless giving that we discover our true identity as human persons and authentic fulfillment. The sacrifice of Christ demonstrates to us that we were not made to take, but to give.

In today's first reading (Isaiah 5:1-7), the prophet Isaiah uses the image of a vineyard overrun by wild grapes. The vineyard owner did all that he could to create a vineyard that produced good grapes, but the bad grapes took over. This image is an image of God's people. God has done all that he could to produce good fruit in us, but we have decided to take control of God's vineyard and have allowed it to be overrun by wild grapes. This is what happens when we decide to replace God's plan for humanity with our own. God has created each and every person for selfless giving. The more we seek to make a gift of ourselves to others the way that Christ made a complete and total gift of Himself to us on the Cross, the more we discover our true identity. We experience fulfillment only when we are willing to give of ourselves as Christ gave of Himself. When we act contrary to this nature, we end up lost, broken, and confused. We end up becoming like wild grapes…

Our modern culture has bought into a dangerous philosophy that distorts the proper understanding of human nature. We live in a world that presents our human nature as a blank slate to fashion in our own way. In other words, I make myself into who I want to be, rather than receive myself from the God who created me. I have taken God's vineyard as my own, and I have forgotten that it has been given to me as a gift. This is part of the reason why our culture finds things like abortion, contraception, and the redefinition of Marriage acceptable. Since the marital embrace is a human action, it is therefore subjected to whatever I want it to be. If I don't want it to be inherently unitive or procreative, I can alter it to become what I want it to be. If the consequence of the marital embrace is not what I want, then it can be discarded at my own pleasure and convenience. In other words, it is only a human person if I want it to be a human person.

The problem with this terrible philosophy is that it is an illusion that only produces wild grapes. There is an authentic human nature given to us as a gift, and we will continue to live an unfulfilled life until we discover it. Our faith professes that this nature can be found in its fullness when we come to know, love, and serve the person of Jesus Christ. Only in Him do we find our true selves. Only in God's plan for our humanity is good fruit produced in us. Let us pray today that God gives us the grace to trust in His plan for us since He knows us better than we know ourselves.

Peace in Christ, Fr. Will

The Justice of Gratitude

09-21-2014Weekly ReflectionFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Today's Gospel (Matthew 20:1-16) is about justice. Justice is the virtue by which a person gives to someone what is due to them. The workers are upset with the vineyard owner because they believe they have been treated unjustly. Specifically, they are upset because everyone was paid the exact same wage (including those who only worked for one hour in the vineyard). At first glance, this seems like a complete injustice. However, the vineyard owner goes on to explain that each worker received the exact payment to which they agreed. What they are really mad about is that the vineyard owner decided to be generous to those who only worked a short amount of time.

Today's Gospel is really a parable about salvation. The payment that God makes available to us for our service to the Gospel is salvation. However, the gift of salvation is very different from some other kind of monetary gift. Salvation is a gift that none of us can actually earn. It is a gift that far exceeds human work or worthiness. The fact that God has invited us to be a part of his vineyard is also a gift. God did not have to include us in His plan for salvation. It is through His generosity that we are included.

Since God has been generous with us, out of justice, we owe Him our gratitude. To fail to give gratitude for such an incredible gift would be an act of extreme injustice. This is why the vineyard owner is frustrated with his workers. They are ungrateful for what the owner has generously offered them. Rather than thanking the owner for the daily wage, they chose to protest him for his generosity. How often do we do the same to God? How often do we look at the lives of others and wonder why God didn't give us what He has given to others? How often do we become selfish with God and demand that He give us salvation on our terms rather than His?

Brothers and sisters, I would like to invite you to participate this week in a prayer of gratitude. Some time this week, I invite you to pray the rosary, except with this particular rosary, before each bead, name something that God has given you for which you are thankful. Do not repeat it more than once. Each bead should represent something different. At first, this will come easy. However, about halfway through, you will begin to see how hard of a task this really is. Don't give up. Keep going. Such an endeavor will open you up to a whole new understanding of gratitude.

Peace in Christ,
Fr. Will

Exalting the Cross

09-14-2014Weekly ReflectionFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Today we celebrate the feast day of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. This is an ancient feast day that Catholics have been celebrating since the 4th century. In light of this ancient feast, what does it mean for us to celebrate the Holy Cross today?

In a way, the Holy Cross is already a widely honored image in the world. We see crosses all over the place: as decals on cars, branded on t-shits, tattooed on body parts, as various jewelry pieces, etc... However, when we exalt the Holy Cross, we are doing something so much more than merely honoring the Holy Cross by displaying it publicly.

The word, "exaltation," comes from the Latin word, exaltare, which means to come from within (ex), and to go on high (altar). The word exaltation is also similar to the Latin word, exhalare, which means to breathe, or exhale. In a way, you could make the linguistic argument that to exalt something is to breathe something out that comes from deep within you. It is not a true exaltation if it doesn't come from deep within you.

For Catholics, this is very important. Placing the Holy Cross on a pedestal for all to see can be a beautiful act of honoring the Cross, but it isn't a true exaltation if it doesn't proceed from a place deep within our souls. As Catholics, we seek to display the Holy Cross on high for all to see because we live the Holy Cross in our daily lives. We have experienced the peace, joy, and fulfillment that comes from carrying the various crosses of our daily lives and we want the world to know of its glory. The best way for us to exalt the Holy Cross, is for us to joyfully embrace the various crosses that God has placed in our lives. To display the Holy Cross publicly in our homes, on our cars, at work, or on our bodies while bitterly rejecting the daily crosses of our lives is a false exaltation and a contradiction. How can we praise the image of the Cross while rejecting its substance? As Catholics, our love for the Cross must come from deep within our souls. We have to "breathe" the Cross. This process begins with a loving embrace of the small cross es that our Lord asks us to bear each and every day. May God give us the grace to make such an exaltation of His Holy Cross.

Peace in Christ,
Fr. Will

Conflict Resolution

09-07-2014Weekly ReflectionFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In today's Gospel (Matthew 18:15-20), Jesus gives us a beautiful formula for effective conflict resolution. The question we have to ask ourselves in light of our Lord's instructions is, "Why don't we follow it?" Most of the time, conflict resolution never happens as Jesus instructs. Instead, we turn to harmful methods that lead us into sin and only exacerbate the situation

One of the sins that we often fall into because of our refusal to heed the advice of the Lord is the sin of detraction. Detraction is the sin of disclosing another person's faults or failings to persons who are unaware of them without an objectively valid reason. How often does someone's fault effect us in such a way that we immediately go and tell another person for no good reason? Often t imes we rationalize this sin by calling it "venting." In this scenario, we aren't concerned about effectively resolving the situat ion. Instead, we want someone to justify our frustration with the other person and have them feel sorry for us. Detraction is a serious sin because it destroys someone's reputation and causes them unjust injury.

Another sin that we fall into because of our refusal to heed the Lord's advice is the sin of rash judgment. In the face of an other's faults and failures, how often do we resort to rash judgment and assume that their fault or failure was performed maliciously? If we were to approach the person, as the Lord instructs us, we might find out that the offender's intention was never to harm us. In other words, we might find out that it was a genuine mistake. Like detraction, rash judgment causes unjust injury to another. As Christians, we need to avoid rash judgment by carefully interpreting, insofar as possible, our neighbor's thoughts, words, an d deeds, in a favorable way. We must do this in order to protect their reputation.

Brothers and sisters, the formula is simple: if someone sins against you, go talk to them and see if you can clear it up peacefully. Yes, this demands humility. Yes, the conversation will likely be awkward. Yes, we will experience some discomfort. In the end, the Lord's formula is the only one that protects our dignity and the dignity of others. May God give us the grace to heed his advice and refuse to resort to sins that unjustly injure another.

Peace in Christ,
Fr. Will


08-31-2014Weekly ReflectionFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In today's Gospel (Matthew 16:21-27), Peter doesn't like the message that Jesus must suffer and die, so he pulls Jesus aside to rebuke Him. In turn, Jesus rebukes Peter for his unwillingness to accept the fact that discipleship with Christ comes with the responsibility of carrying the cross.

How often do we find ourselves like Peter, frustrated by the cross that God has asked us to bear? How often do we find ourselves like Jeremiah, feeling like the Lord has duped us? How many times have we expected the work of Jesus Christ to be easy, rather than challenging?

Cardinal Dolan tells a story in his book, To Whom Shall We Go?: Lessons from the Apostle Peter, about some World War II veterans who went to see Padre Pio before he died. One of the veterans, an Italian-American who was very skeptical about the rumors that Padre Pio had been given the gift of the stigmata (the physical wounds of Jesus Christ), said to Padre Pio, "Show me your wounds. I don't believe you." Padre Pio replied, "Show me yours." The man responded, "What are you talking about?" Padre Pio explained, "We've all got wounds. We all bear the stigmata. We've all got the wounds of Christ. Mine happen to be visible. You've got them too. Can I see yours?" In response to Padre Pio's explanation, the man began to weep. Indeed he did have wounds. During battle, two of his friends were mortally wounded by machine guns. He alone escaped the nightmare. He had been carrying this wound for a while and had never told anyone. Padre Pio, the saintly man that he was, heard the man's confession, and helped him face his woundedness.

The Christian life is a life of suffering. Jesus says, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me." If we are to follow Christ, we must be willing to suffer. We must carry whatever cross our Lord asks us to bear. The Cross of Christ should not surprise us. Rather, we should expect it. The key to living a joy-filled life is not to hide from or block the cross, but to lovingly embrace it as Jesus did. We must learn to echo the beautiful prayer, "We adore you, Oh Christ, and we praise you, for by your holy Cross, you have redeemed the world."

Peace in Christ,
Fr. Will

P.S. If you enjoyed Fr. Will's homily last week and would like to learn more about the papacy, Fr. Will recommends the following books:

Catholicism and Fundamentalism: The Attack on "Romanism" by "Bible Christians" by Karl Keating
Saint Peter Lives in Rome: Explaining the Misunderstood Ministry of the Pope by Robert Stackpole, STD
The Biblical Basis for the Papacy by John Salza
Catholic and Christian: An Explanation of Commonly Misunderstood Catholic Beliefs by Alan Schreck

Who is Jesus to you?

08-24-2014Weekly ReflectionFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In today's Gospel (Matthew 16:13-20), Jesus asks His disciples an important question: "Who do you say that I am?" If Jesus were to ask you this question, how would you respond? Pope Saint John Paul the Great once said in a homily, "We all know this moment, in which it is no longer sufficient to speak about Jesus by repeating what others have said. You must say what you think, and not quote an opinion. You must bear witness, feel committed by the witness you have borne and carry this commitment to its extreme consequences. The best friends, followers, and apostles of Christ have always been those who heard within them one day the definitive, inescapable question, before which all others become secondary and derivative: For you, who am I?"

Every Christian, at one point in time, must answer Jesus' question, "Who do you say that I am?" Discipleship is a personal conviction that is based on our answer to this question. We cannot escape it. The person of Jesus Christ demands a response from us. How will we respond to this question? C.S. Lewis once said, "Christianity if false is of no importance; and, if true, of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important." Peter's statement, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God," is a bold proclamation of who Jesus is to him. Jesus is everything to him. To make such a statement is to say that everything else is secondary to Jesus. Do we have the same faith as Peter? Do we believe that Jesus Christ is the messiah, the savior of the world? Does our life proclaim this truth? If not, why not? If not, who then is Jesus to you? Just remember, at some point you must answer this question.

Peace in Christ,
Fr. Will


08-17-2014Weekly ReflectionFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In today's Gospel (Matthew 15:21-28), we may be tempted to think that the healing of the woman's daughter is the apex of the story. However, if we take a closer look, the faith of the Canaanite woman that blossoms out of her dialogue with Jesus is the real apex of the story.

At first glance, it seems that Jesus is very rude to the woman. First he ignores her request. Then, after ignoring her, Jesus indicates that she does not belong to the family that He has come to feed. Finally, to add insult to injury, Jesus calls her a "dog," exposing her unworthiness of what He has to offer. Yet, even though Jesus has communicated three times that He is not interested in her request, the woman performs a beautiful act of faith that brings great joy to Jesus. She admits her unworthiness. She admits that she is a "dog" and asks only to receive what God is willing to give to her. Wow! What a bold demonstration of humility! How many times have we found ourselves requesting something from God with a disposition that suggests that God owes us something? As if we deserved that which we were requesting? The woman in today's Gospel empties herself completely of everything she thinks she deserves so that she is free to receive what God wants her to receive. Her perseverance in the face of what appears to be Jesus' rudeness and disinterest is her way of demonstrating to Jesus the true nature of her faith. Once she has demonstrated that she had emptied herself of her pride, then she was ready to receive the blessing of Jesus Christ.

If we are to receive the beautiful gift that Jesus Christ desires to give us, we have to first let go of any pride that lives within us. We are not deserving of God's gifts. We should not approach God is if we are worthy of such blessings. Rather, we should approach the Lord as the Canaanite woman: in humility, with a faith content to receive whatever scraps from the Master's table He is willing to give us.

Peace in Christ,
Fr. Will

Complete Trust

08-10-2014Weekly ReflectionFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Sometimes God reveals himself to us in the most unlikely situations and circumstances. This is exactly what we see in today's readings.

In today's first reading (1 Kings 19:9-13), the prophet Elijah is asked to go to the mountain of Horeb in order to have an experience of God. As he waited in a cave on the mountain, a strong wind, an earthquake, and a fire all passed by the mountain. You would think that if God were going to reveal Himself, He would choose something obvious like a strong wind, an earthquake, or a fire. Yet, God was not present in these phenomena. Rather, it was in the tiny whispering sound where the presence of God was found (the last place Elijah expected). In today's Gospel (Matthew 14:22-33), we see a similar situation. When the disciples were caught in the violent storm, the last person they expected to encounter walking on water was Jesus. Instead, they thought He was a ghost.

Something that we must learn as disciples of Christ it to let go of some of our misconceptions about God. Often times we try to restrict the freedom of God with preconceived ideas about how He is supposed to work. When we do this, we end up limiting our spiritual vision. God works in His own mysterious ways, and as disciples we must learn to let Him reveal Himself to us in the manner that He so chooses. We must let God be free to communicate Himself as He desires. Discipleship is about being led by Christ. It is not about us telling Christ where He is supposed to be. It is about us following His lead and discerning Him in every moment and situation.

May we learn to be like the great saints of the Church who trusted completely in God. May we learn to discover Him in every situation and in every person. May we open ourselves up to God's free revelation of Himself and experience the fruits of this beautiful revelation. God's plan is always better than our plan.

Peace in Christ,
Fr. Will

Power of Prayer

08-03-2014Weekly ReflectionFr. Chris Axline

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

How much do we truly believe in the power of prayer? Today's Gospel shows us just how powerful prayer really is and how we should pray at all times, but especially when faced with big decisions and life-changing choices. This is exactly what our Lord does. Before all the major moment in His life Our Lord prays so that He might be strengthened in His work. Before calling His Apostles, He prayed. Before the Last Supper, He prayed. Before His death and Resurrection, He prayed. Even today, when He heard about the death of His cousin and friend, Jesus withdraws to pray. But then, something miraculous happens, strengthened by His prayer the crowd comes to Him and He feeds about 5,000 people!

Following Jesus' example, we see that prayer should be the first thing we turn to when faced with difficulties in our life. It is in our time spent in personal (and communal) prayer that we encounter in radical and profound ways God's power always at work in our lives. Through prayer we are strengthened and renewed so that we may step back into the world and bring God's unfailing Love to all that we hold dear.

As you proceed forth from here into your week, challenge yourself to see where, when, and how can you truly make prayer first in your life? How can you spend more time in prayer? How will the time you spend in prayer nourish, guide and motivate all that you throughout this week? Know that you are always remembered in the prayers of all the priests here! May God Bless you and shower His blessings upon you now and forever!

Peace in Christ,
Fr. Chris