We are a community of Catholics and in our own imperfection are attempting to follow the way of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. If you are seeking a perfect church with the perfect congregation you will not find it here. If you are seeking to become perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect then you are welcome to join us. Ours is a road of repentance, we follow in discipleship and by Grace live in Joy, Hope and Love.
Homily given by Rev. Tony Thurston for the Feast of Christ the King, November 24, 2019
Growing up, I attended Mass and received the Sacraments at Santa Maria church—the parish in my home town of Orinda, California. It was a beautiful church, and in my mind’s eye, I can still see the great Crucifix from—I believe—Switzerland, hand carved in wood. Its appearance was not unlike the Crucifix at Saint Paul church downtown, which was carved in alpine Germany.
Infrequently, due to some scheduling matter, my family would go to Sunday Mass at Saint Perpetua church in the neighboring town of Lafayette. I never much liked attending Mass there. As a small child, I didn’t like the unfamiliarity. Besides, it wasn’t a real church: it was a gymnasium or cafeteria which had not been beautified as our wonderful Sacred Heart of Mary church has been. But in particular, I didn’t like its Crucifix. Not at all naturalistic, it made instead a profound theological statement which of course was way over this little boy’s head. The statement was certainly legitimate, and my parents assured me that the Crucifix was OK . . . but I still didn’t much like it at the time. (Now, with a more understanding, I expect I would.)
This Crucifix portrayed Jesus as the Great High Priest . . . and King. He was dressed in priestly vestments: a green chasuble, with alb showing from underneath. And, if I remember correctly, He was crowned, not with thorns, but with a royal, golden crown. This was an image of Christ the King.
King of what—Catholics? Christians? All persons? Yes, but of more: as the full name of today’s Solemnity tells us, Our Lord Jesus Christ is King of the Universe. So: King of the heavens (the whole cosmos), into which He ascended; King of the seas, upon which He walked; King of the earth, which was created in, through and for Him. Jesus Christ is Lord of all the earth: no “Gaia”, no other concept of an earth god or goddess is a legitimate reality. No idol or symbolic representation of the earth has spiritual substance (unless it be demonic), and cannot be bowed down to by any Christian. The earth—like any gift from God—is to be treated well, but it is subject to us, not vice-versa. To Adam and Eve, God said, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion . . . over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” [Genesis 1: 28]
What we do not have dominion over . . . is God. He is Lord; He is King, and He has dominion over us. To set up other “gods” is a revolt against Christ the true King.
Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, is our King. And we get a partial, although imperfect notion of His Kingship by looking at the kingship of David. In our first reading today, all the tribes of Israel assert that “the Lord said to [David], ‘You shall shepherd my people Israel and shall be commander of Israel’.”
A shepherd, and a commander: two rather different images. A shepherd guides his flock and protects it from danger. A commander instructs his troops and sometimes puts them in danger. The Israelites acknowledge as much: “it was you [, David,] who led the Israelites out and brought them back”. David led them out to battle, and brought them back.
This is one of the duties of a king. Leading his people into battle is one of the duties of a king; following that king’s commands and engaging in battle is one of the duties of his people. And this is all the more so when the King is God Himself, Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.
Jesus Christ, our King, does lead us into battle. Another atypical image of the Crucifixion—one that I very much like—makes this point. It is a woodcut by a Japanese artist whose name I’m afraid I cannot tell you. Like Saint Perpetua church’s Christ as High Priest on the Cross, this Japanese crucified Christ is also clothed, but as a priest and king, but as a samurai warrior.
Like the Crucifix at Saint Perpetua church, this image, too, speaks a theological truth: Jesus Christ, our King, is a warrior. The sequence we pray at Mass on Easter Sunday reminds us of this: “Death and life have contended in that combat stupendous.” Combat! Our duty, as subjects of this King, is to follow Him into combat.
The emphasis that is so often placed on Jesus’ mercy, His forgiveness, His compassion; on the image of Jesus as a shepherd; can distort our impression of Him, making Him always “nice”, always gentle, inoffensive and pleasant.
But Jesus wasn’t always like that. He called the Pharisees Whitewashed sepulchers, beautiful on the outside, but full of corruption within. I do not think these Pharisees found Jesus to be pleasant. One scribe explicitly told Jesus that they were offended by Him. The money changers He drove out of the Temple with a whip did not find Him gentle. Yes, Jesus kindly bound up the wounded; He healed the sick; He forgave the sinner. But He also blasted the corrupt; exposed the hypocritical; and took a whip to those who polluted the Temple. Let’s not wimpify Him.
When He needed to be, Jesus was a warrior. If we are to be faithful subjects of such a King, there are times when we need to be warriors, too. And now is certainly one of those times. The Bride of Christ, the Church, is being attacked from without and from within. Our King is calling us to arms in her defense, and our duty—as well as our honor and privilege—is to respond, to join the battle.
Or, battles: there are many attacks. The attacks from without must be fought against; we may not sit on our hands. We have a duty to battle against such attacks as direct persecutions by evil governments like totalitarian China’s and aggressively hostile California’s; to battle against the unnatural gender ideology now making great advances into our society.
But more essentially, the attacks from within the Church must be fought against. We have a duty to battle against such attacks as: the betrayal of Catholic doctrine; moral and financial corruption; irreverence towards the Mass and the Eucharist; idolatry; and–since every temptation is an attack on the Church and one of her members– our own sins.
In 1972, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen spoke about this battle to the Knights of Columbus. He said:
“Who is going to save our Church? Not our bishops, not our priests and religious. It is up to you, the people. You have the minds, the eyes, the ears to save the Church. Your mission is to see that your priests act like priests, your bishops, like bishops, and your religious act like religious.” [quoted by Bishop Athanasius Schneider, Christus Vincit, p. 154]
Long before Archbishop Sheen, an important Christian letter from the third century was written. In part, it reads:
“When has Christ need of your aid? Now, when the wicked one has sworn war against His bride; or in the time to come, when He shall reign victorious, having no need of further help? Is it not evident to anyone who has even the least understanding, that it is now? Therefore, with all good will, hasten in the time of the present necessity to do battle on the side of this good King, whose character it is to give great rewards after victory.” [ Epistola Clementis ad Iacobum 4. Found in Schneider’s Christus Vincit, p. 215. emphasis added.]
Homily given by Rev. Tony Thurston for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, November 3, 2019
This Sunday marks the beginning of Vocations Awareness Week. I had planned to give a brief homily this weekend, with just one point which I hoped would make a lasting impression. But I’m afraid I have to say more. I’ll get the “more”, which is not very pleasant, out of the way first; and then conclude with the point I originally intended.
A meeting of Bishops and others from around the world recently concluded at the Vatican. The topic addressed was the situation of the Church in the Amazon region of South America. In a preliminary prayer service in the Vatican gardens, a carved wooden image of an Incan earth “goddess”—that is, of a pagan idol—was set up and ritually bowed down to. This false god was later processed into Saint Peter’s Basilica for the opening ceremony of the Synod itself.
Now, I’m just some minimally-educated priest out here in the hinterlands, but it certainly seems to me that a terrible infidelity to the Catholic Faith—an infidelity to Jesus Christ Himself—occurred right within the Vatican during the now-concluded Amazon Synod.
This sure looked like idolatry, and not only to me. Others who know more than I do have made similar comments. A Brazilian Bishop, José Luis Azcona Hermoso, called the Vatican garden ritual a “demonic sacrilege”. [ https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/demonic-sacrilege-brazil-bishops-condemns-vatican-gardenspachamama-ritual] The courageous Bishop Athanasius Schneider called the Incan idol “a new golden calf”. He wrote: “Syncretism and paganism are like poisons entering the veins of the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church.” [same lifesitenews link] Syncretism—the attempted melding of false and true religion— is a poison, an evil corruption, within the Church.
The ritual in the Vatican gardens and the ceremonial procession of this idol into Saint Peter’s Basilica were a betrayal of the truth. An earth goddess is a falsehood. The earth is a part of created reality, created by God and is not a god or goddess itself. We know that from the very first sentence of the Bible: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
These ceremonies were a betrayal of the Faith. The very first of the Ten Commandments forbids them: “I am the Lord your God; you shall not have strange gods before me”. The Psalmist condemns them: “O Lord, you hate those who pay regard to vain idols.” [Psalm 31: 6] The Prophets condemn them: Isaiah, for one, wrote numerous criticisms, including, “All of them are put to shame and confounded, the makers of idols go in confusion together. But Israel is saved by the Lord . . . .” [Isaiah 45: 16-17] Saint Paul forbids it: “Therefore, my beloved, shun the worship of idols.” [1. Corinthians 10: 14] Saint John forbids it: “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” [1. John 5: 21] The Book of Revelation links idolatry to the demonic: “The rest of mankind . . . did not . . . give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood.” [Revelation 9: 20]
Not only sexual and financial corruption, but also theological and spiritual corruption, are attacking the Faith and the Church from within. But things that are wrong can be set right. Faith that is lost can be recovered. Souls that have gone astray can be converted. (And for my own sake, I thank God that this is so!) Sinners can become saints. We need to help this happen.
We need to be holy ourselves. And beyond this, we need to challenge. We need to fast and pray. We need to make reparation for the wicked things done in and to the Church: our Church, the true Church, the Church of Jesus Christ . . . the Catholic Church. Because the more the Catholic Church is damaged, the closer to Hell the whole world gets.
Alright: that’s the unpleasant part I had to say. For now, please file that away. On to the point I originally wanted to make.
It’s Vocations Awareness Week and—no surprise—I want to say something about the vocation of the priest.
When the priest is praying at Mass, the great majority of the time, he is praying to God the Father as spokesman for all of the faithful. So when the priest prays “we”, that “we” refers to each/all of you as well as to me
In the second Eucharistic Prayer, the priest prays, “we offer you, Lord, the Bread of life and the Chalice of Salvation, giving thanks that you have held us worthy to be in your presence and minister to you.” The priest is praying to God—“we offer you, Lord . . . “; and he is speaking for all the faithful—“you have held us worthy”.
A couple of years ago, in late November, I was offering Mass; the date was the anniversary of my ordination, and—not by my design—I was using this Eucharistic Prayer. And as I prayed the words, “giving thanks that you have held us worthy to be in your presence and minister to you,” the thought came to my mind that I, as an individual person, could say this to God Who called me to be a priest. That He has held me (?!) worthy to be in His presence and minster to Him: what an astonishing and undeserved honor! A priest is profoundly honored by God!
And then, a couple of months ago, as I prayed these same words, another thought came to my mind. This was at a Saint Joseph’s Sunday evening Mass, and just before that Mass, I had been hearing Confessions: absolving sinners!; freeing persons!; reopening the gates of Heaven for those in mortal sin!
You know, it humbles me to hear Confessions. I have no right to hear what someone’s sins are; that’s none of my business. Yet, Penitent after Penitent comes in to the Confessional and confides in me: entrusts me (!) with this most intimate (and sometimes shameful) personal information.
As I say, I have no right to that. And yet it is given to me. This . . . is a most astonishing honor. I find it amazing how greatly Catholics (and sometimes others) honor priests. And not only in the Sacrament of Penance: in many ways, we priests receive honor that goes far beyond anything we might deserve.
Of course, when it’s done rightly, it’s honor paid to Jesus, Whom we priests represent and bring to people.
And so at that Mass a couple of months ago, still feeling the impact of having administered those Confessions, when I prayed to God the Father, “giving thanks that you have held us worthy to be in your presence and minister to you”, the thought came to my mind that I could say that to all of you: I give you thanks that you have held me (?!) worthy to be in your presence and minister to you.
I’m not worthy, and so all the more I thank you. And I rejoice that the priesthood is honored.
Pray for one another.
Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone in good spirits? He should sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint [him] with oil in the name of the Lord and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven.
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.
Following the advice offered in the Letter of James, please feel free share your prayer request with us. You can also express your gratitude in a prayer of Thanksgiving. email@example.com
The Windows of St Joseph the Worker Parish
The stained glass windows adorning the north and south walls of the church were created and placed by Pittsburgh Stained Glass Studios of Pittsburgh PA. The artist was Peter Brahm, and his craftsmen. The installation of the windows began in 1969.The twelve windows follow the theme of Salvation History, starting with the Creation window. This window is on your left as you enter the church, above Station of the Cross #6 (Veronica wipes the face of Jesus). The Creation window is somewhat dark with subdued colors, but with each window progressing toward the Sanctuary, the windows begin to brighten until the Sanctuary windows glow with a golden light.
The Rose Window, the Symbols of the Apostles
The Rose window, which faces the setting sun, was installed during the construction of the church in 1961 and 1962. The church was dedicated on May 1st, 1962 by Archbishop John Joseph Swint. The panels, although there are no names or human images on the windows portray the twelve apostles. Each window depicts the symbols of one of the apostles. The windows depict the eleven faithful apostles (Judas Iscariot is left out of the group and St Paul was put in his place to complete the number 12) The Rose window as created by Poremba Stained Glass Studios from Warrensville Heights, OH. The windows were donated by the Christian Mothers.