The Virtue of Patience

11-28-2014Weekly ReflectionFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Today we celebrate the beginning of a new Liturgical year, the first Sunday of Advent. The season of Advent is a season of anticipation, a season of holy waiting, where we wait with joyful anticipation for the coming of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ at Christmas and the return of Jesus Christ at the end of the world.

In a season of waiting, the virtue of patience is always essential. We must patiently wait for Christ. Patience is something we struggle with in our modern culture. Simply put, we don't like to wait. We want things to happen immediately. It is for this reason that I think Advent is an important season for us.

We must always remember that God is patient with us, and He asks in return that we be patient with Him. Often times we expect God to act immediately and we become frustrated with Him when it appears as if He is not acting this way. It is in these moments where we must remember that God's grace works more like a crock pot than a microwave. Many times God chooses to work slowly over time with precision. The slow working nature of God's grace may not please us. However, although it may not please us, it is always what is best for us.

Our culture needs a greater outpouring of the virtue of patience. Maybe this Advent season, we could ask God in prayer that he begin this outpouring on our culture by helping us grow in patience. Maybe we could be the start of a "patience revolution." It has to start somewhere. Why not with us?

Peace in Christ,
Fr. Will

The True King of Our Lives

11-21-2014Weekly ReflectionFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Today we celebrate the solemnity of Christ the King, the last Sunday in Ordinary Time. Next week we will begin a new Liturgical year with the first Sunday of Advent. Today's solemnity was established in 1925 by Pope Pius XI. The purpose for the establishment of this celebration was to provide a response to 20th century nationalism and secularism. Pope Pius XI wanted the people of God to know that although most governments were no longer Christian, Christ still remains the true king of our lives. In his encyclical, Quas Primas, Pope Pius XI reminds us that Christ desires to reign in our minds, wills, hearts, and bodies. What does this mean?

Christ reigns in our minds when the truth of the Gospel becomes the lens through which we understand the meaning of all things. It is through Jesus Christ that all things were created. Thus, it is through Him that we come to know the purpose of existence. Science can tell us how the world was made, but only Jesus Christ can give us the meaning behind why the world was made. Biology can tell us how we were created, but only Jesus Christ can tell us our vocation, the purpose of our existence.

Christ reigns in our wills when we have true freedom. In our modern world, freedom is understood as the ability to do whatever we want. Unfortunately, this is not true freedom. We are truly free, when we are free to choose the good. Sin enslaves us. It pr events us from being free to choose what is good for us. Christ reigns in our wills when we are free from sin and are able to say "yes" to the Gospel. The gift of the Sacrament of Reconciliation is a gift that frees us from sin so that we are free to choose Christ.

Christ reigns in our hearts when we desire Him above all things. St. Augustine once said about our Lord, "Our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you." Christ reigns in the heart, when the heart finds rest in Christ. Every human being longs for communion with God. Christ is king of our hearts when we place our desire for Him above our desire for earthly things. This is why we often undergo various penances in Advent and Lent, so that we might always give preference to the desire for spiritual things.

Christ reigns in our bodies when we seek to serve rather than be served. The Second Vatican Council's Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, tells us that "man…cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself" (24). The truth of our existence is that we were created to be selfless, not selfish. We are made to serve. Christ reigns in our bodies when we fight our selfish inclinations and seek to live a life at the service of the Gospel. We discover our authentic selves only when we learn to make a gift of ourselves.

As we celebrate the end of another Liturgical year and beginning of a new one, let us be mindful of Christ's desire to be the king of our lives. May we allow Christ to reign in our minds, wills, hearts, and bodies.

Peace in Christ,
Fr. Will

Be Not Afraid

11-16-2014Weekly ReflectionFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In today's Gospel (Mt. 25:14-30), the servant who received one talent gave the excuse of "fear" as the reason why he refused to do anything with this talent: "Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter; so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground."

How often do we find ourselves acting out of fear? How many times have we let the following fearful thoughts keep us from living our faith? What if they call me a…(insert slanderous term here)…for standing up for my faith? What if they think I'm weird for praying in public? What if I invite them to Mass and they say "no" and then it is always awkward between us? What if they don't take me seriously because they know I'm a Catholic? What if try to avoid this sin and I fail? Won't that make me a hypocrite?

It is unfortunate when we let fear keep us from discipleship with Jesus Christ. When it comes to living our faith, God does not want us to be afraid. How do we know this? The answer is found in Scripture. The Bible says the words, "Do not be afraid," in the following passages: Genesis 21:17 & 43:3, Exodus 20:20, Numbers 14:9, Deuteronomy 3:2 & 7:18, Joshua 8:1 & 10:25, 1 Kings 17:3, 2 Kings 6:16, 2 Chronicles 32:17, Tobit 6:18, 1 Maccabees 3:22, 2 Maccabees 7:29, Proverbs 3:25, Luke 1:30, 5:10, & 12:4, Matthew 1:20, 10:26, 14:27, 17:17, & 28:10, Mark 6:50, John 6:20, Acts 18:9, & 28:24, & Hebrews 13:6.

We should never let fear keep us from living our faith. The servant in the Gospel was afraid of failure. He was afraid of being unsuccessful. When faced with possible failure, it is important for us to remember that what we may consider to be a failure, the Lord may consider to be a success. Take the Cross for example. The Cross is a worldly failure, but a heavenly success. It won for us eternal salvation, which means nothing for this world, but everything for the next world.

Brothers and sisters, be not afraid to live your faith. Be not afraid of worldly failure. Seek to be faithful, not successful. The Lord will bless you for your witness. May God one day say to us the same glorious words we heard in today's Gospel, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."

Peace in Christ,
Fr. Will

Mother and Head of the Church

11-07-2014Weekly ReflectionFr. Will Schmid

Mother and Head of the Church

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Today we celebrate the feast of the dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome. Why are we ignoring the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time to celebrate some Basilica in Rome? The answer to this question can be found on the Latin inscription at its entrance: Omnium Urbis et Orbis Ecclesiarum Mater et Caput (Of all the Churches in the city and in the world this is the mother and head).

Following Constantine's legalization of the Catholic faith in the early 4 th century, the land upon which this basilica is built (land that once belonged to Plautus Lateranus) was donated to the Catholic Church for the construction of a temple for public worship and a private residence for the Pope. As a result of this donation, the Basilica of St. John Lateran (originally named Basilica Salvatoris – The Basilica of the Savior) became the cathedral Church of Rome and is still its cathedral today. Since this Basilica is the Mother Church of Rome, we honor its history and significance with a special celebration.

One of the most beautiful aspects of this Basilica is the series of nineteen-foot-high statues of Christ and His Apostles at the top of the entrance. These statues are so large that you can see them from various points in the city of Rome. These statues remind us that the presence of the Apostles watches over the Church of Rome by watching over her skies. We know through the promise of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit that God offers special protection over the Roman Catholic Church (Matthew 16:18). The gates of hell shall never prevail against her. When we celebrate the dedication of the Lateran Basilica, we are celebrating this promise and protection.

In a special way, let us thank God today for the blessing of the Catholic Church and for always protecting her and guiding her. Let us thank God for the multitude of saints who offer us holy examples to follow and intercessions to guide us toward a more profound encounter of Jesus Christ. May the Apostles continue to watch over the skies of the Church of Rome!

Peace in Christ,
Fr. Will

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