Wednesday, September 30, 2015

New Tricks

Baxter is a creature of habit. He eats the same amount of the same food at the same time each day. His sleep patterns are quite regular. When he gets his snack, gets brushed, drinks his “cat milk” are all notched into the twenty-four hour cycle of his day. There is very little variance in Baxter’s daily routine, and if there should be, he usually doesn’t take kindly to the change. Late for a meal, and he will whine and cry as if he were being tortured. Disturb his sleep, and he will find a place to hide in disgust over the affront to his peace and quiet. He likes his routine, and he sees no reason to alter it whatsoever.

On his recent visit to the United States, Pope Francis showed a different attitude and called us to consider how we might adopt it into our lives. To his security guards dismay, I’m sure, the Holy Father had no qualms about responding to the moment. If he spotted a child, a disabled person, or someone who caught his attention, he simply stopped his journey and recognized him or her with his care, a short conversation, and a gesture of affection. He didn’t allow the schedule, the plan or the rules to prevent him from personally ministering to those in need in some way. The Holy Father places people first in the Church’s mode of service, and God first in its reason to serve. We get to God by serving others, for it is in our authentically human needs that we discover the image of God incarnate. These don’t fit a set pattern of responses day after day. Some need physical support food, clothing, shelter, medical care some need more spiritual and psychological care companionship, affection, education, compassion, prayer. The works of mercy are both corporal and spiritual, but they are never routine and anonymous.

Robots can’t be disciples of the Lord Jesus. They can’t meet people as human beings, but only as objects of their assigned tasks. Disciples encounter others as fellow followers, looking for the God who brings meaning and purpose to their lives. The Church is the place where a culture for such encounters can be fostered and grow, so that one by one and multiplied by many, the atmosphere among people changes from mindless habits and routines to graced relationships, unique in their character but united in their shared roots in the Body of Christ.

Pope Francis gave us a glimpse of this vision of the Church. He challenged us to begin to build it each day by changing our routine ways of connecting to each other. Instead of thinking we know what others are going through, listen to them. Instead of assuming we know their point of view, talk to them and learn it. Instead of thinking the worst, give them the benefit of the doubt to show us something good. This isn’t easy. Routines are easy. Holy encounters call us to be thoughtful, open and generous towards each other, putting aside our egos and self-interest, our ambitions and anxieties to give grace a chance to work its transforming effects.

Cats can’t do that. They have to settle for being creatures of habit who live their days contented. We look for more from our lives, and it is possible. Not on our own, but sharing a common vision of God’s love in our midst and working together to embody that vision when an how we meet others, a better world can unfold. Maybe we can’t teach an old cat like Baxter new tricks. He is set in his ways. But Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and He invites us to try something different. We have nothing to lose, but new life to gain, if we follow in faith.

-Monsignor Statnick

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Spot of Light

I notice that Baxter seeks out the sunlight. Even on the warmest day of summer, he will find a spot near the window to allow the sun’s rays to land on him and warm his body. I guess it is his version of tanning. The light and warmth seem to bring Baxter comfort and a sense of well-being. He will lie in the sunlight for hours, dozing off from time to time, but often just soaking in the feel of the light. Touching him, I sometimes think he must be on fire, but he gives no indication of discomfort. He continues to stay in the light, content with the warmth and uplifting brightness it offers.

Cats’ body temperatures are higher than the human average. So when we feel warm, they may feel comfortable, and when we feel comfortable, they may feel cold. They need more molecules moving in their environment to meet their metabolism rate and feel at home. Sunlight generates warmth by moving molecules of air more quickly than they do in colder and darker conditions. Light and its warmth are friends of cats.

The light of Christ is our friend. Like the sun, when it shines it brings warmth to those it touches, and those who bear this light do the same. A bright smile coming from the heart can invite others closer. A comforting look or friendly gesture can break the ice of a strange or threatening situation. An act of kindness can melt a person who is angry or distressed. These are all ways that Christ shines through us, and they make all the difference in how we deal with each other, speak to each other, or regard each other.

Pope Francis has shown the power of this light when he passes through a crowd or meets with people. People encounter a genuine, caring human being in this successor of Peter, and through this lens, they see more than a man. They see the Spirit of God using our personal encounters to shine grace and blessing on those who meet in Christ’s name. As Pope Francis himself has said, it’s not about him. It is about how God is showing Himself to others through him.

How well do we take seriously that we are instruments of God for others? If we refuse to be bearers of light and warmth in our human relationships, God doesn’t have a chance to be seen and known. The darkness and cold of a harsh and violent world block people from seeing God’s love in their midst and feeling its warmth in their souls. God can’t touch others without our help. Our witness to God’s goodness, joy and peace changes the atmosphere around us and those we encounter at work, at home, or in social situations. We don’t have to say a word. People pick it up in the movement of spiritual molecules they feel when God’s presence is allowed to change the way we deal with each other.

Baxter knows that the light is friendly. He seeks out its warmth and comfort. Unless we bring Christ’s light--not our own egotistical glow--to others, they will go elsewhere, looking for warmth in this harsh and dreadful world. God’s love is warm and inviting. Don’t stand in its way, but be a beam of its light for others.

-Monsignor Statnick

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Buttering Up

Baxter thinks he knows how to get what he wants. He charms me. Usually his wants center around his stomach, so he sets out to please and soften my will power when I am preparing to eat. He rubs his body against me, leaving a swath of hair on my pant leg. He lowers his head to spread his scent (which I can’t smell) on my arm or hand. He paws at me when I’m eating, hoping for a shared morsel. He softly purrs and stares longingly while I’m getting lunch or dinner. Whatever it takes to weaken my resolve not to feed him from the table, Baxter will use. He tries to butter me up so that I slip an unscheduled treat his way. He has no shame, if it gets him what he wants.

We sometimes take this approach to God. If I just do what I think will please God, I will get what I want. The Scribes and Pharisees did it with the law. The temple priests did it with the ritual rules of sacrifice. Jesus’ own disciples tried their charm with the titles they heaped upon Him: Messiah, King of the Jews, Teacher, Prophet. The crowds acclaimed His miracles and His feeding of the multitudes. Everyone tried to get into the act of getting Jesus’ attention by stroking His ego. They spared no flattery, if they thought it would work to their purposes. They did whatever they thought it would take to get the prize they were looking for—power, prestige, popularity, security, influence, titles, or whatever…

But God was not impressed. Jesus always preferred the honest sinner to the fake saint. He noticed those who were sincerely struggling to do the right thing for another’s benefit the widow’s mite, the centurion’s plea for his servant rather than those who strived for their own success Zebedee’s sons or the elder son in the prodigal parable. Charm doesn’t win Jesus over. Straight talk does. Recall the dialogue with the Syrophoenician woman for her daughter’s health. Jesus wants the best for others, but often people don’t know what is best for them. Like Baxter, they just want more and more of what gives them immediate pleasure without considering the consequences for their life and happiness. It is not what tastes good and satisfies now, but what nourishes our spirits with lasting meaning and ongoing hope. It takes a sincerely generous person to want these things of the spirit, not charm and manipulation.

Baxter will keep trying to charm more food out of me, and hopefully, I will resist his initiatives for his own good. Let us keep trying to do the right thing for others, so that we can’t resist God’s grace at work through us.

-Monsignor Statnick

Thursday, September 10, 2015


Pauper came to live with us sometime in November of 2000. We named her Pauper, because we already had a cat named “Princess”. I thought it would be funny to pair them off as ‘the Princess and the Pauper’. Princess was chosen. Pauper chose us. She had been hanging around outside the house for a few days and I told my children, who were young at that time, not to feed her. They ignored me. We already had a cat and I wasn’t interested in a second. So, I left on a business trip only to call home and have my wife tell me “I let that cat into the garage. It was really cold here last night, and I felt bad for her.” “That’s fine,” I said, “but that cat cannot come into the house.” When I arrived home, I found Pauper sleeping peacefully in our sun room. Princess was not amused.

For a while, we didn’t know if Pauper was a boy or a girl. She doesn’t like to be touched and does not like to be picked up. If you have ever seen the picture of the ‘angry cat’ on the internet, that could be Pauper. Had I realized years ago that there was a market for this feline miserableness, I could have made a small fortune on coffee mugs and shirts bearing her likeness. Her gender was confirmed when we took her to the vet for shots, an ear cleaning, and to be spayed or neutered – we weren’t sure what procedure would be required. We were quite surprised when the vet told us that she was already spayed. From that, we concluded that she may have been somebody’s pet. Perhaps they didn’t like her demeanor. Maybe she hissed, bit or scratched a child and was shown the door. She might have been a feral cat who just didn’t want to spend another winter on the streets. Despite her demeanor, Pauper found a home with us.

I am sure we all know somebody who shares personality traits with Pauper. They are the ‘feral people’ who are out in the cold because they don’t know the love of the Lord or the warmth of a faith community that cares about them. Perhaps something has happened in their life that we just don’t or can’t understand. Maybe they feel unwelcome. What can we do, as a community of God, to show our concern and welcome them back into His home?

I ask these questions because recently, the Diocese of Greensburg asked the regional Pastoral Councils to focus on evangelization. The objective is to invite lapsed Catholics to come home. There are many reasons people don’t come to Mass. Some of those reasons are personal and some are just misunderstandings. You can also factor in the busy work and activity schedules for some. In case you haven’t noticed, attendance at weekly Mass across the nation is down. It’s a serious problem and it affects our parish as well. If we don’t start reversing this trend, the impact can be very profound on the future of the local church.

We will never know why Pauper was displaced from her first home, if she had one. She is about 15 now and despite her dislike of Princess, she seemed lost when Princess passed away. Pauper has a very good life that she reluctantly shares with Pumpkin, who joined our home after she was abandoned. How can we show those in our community that we have a strong, welcoming, and vibrant parish life? We can start by inviting them to come in out of the cold to share with all of us the love of our Lord and to join us in the celebration of the Eucharist.

Cliff Gorski
Pastoral Council

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

A letter to the Saint Sebastian parishioners...

September 2015
Hi Everyone!

It has been over a year since I have had a chance to write to you. During that time I made one of the best decisions of my life. I joined the choir! You know, singing in the choir is such an uplifting experience for me. I am able to “sing to the Lord” during Mass and enjoy the camaraderie of the choir members. What is even more important, I recently read where singing in the choir is good for your mental health as well. Doctors at a leading university were able, through experimentation, to show that people who sing in a choir tend to “feel better” as a result of immense endorphin production in the brain. I am not sure HOW it happens, but, hey, that is a good thing as far as I am concerned. And I know that happens to me!

So, with these benefits, all as a result of choral singing, why not come and be part of the Saint Sebastian Choir? We sing at the 11:00 AM Mass on Sundays and practice Wednesday evenings. Everyone is asked to attend as often as possible. However, if work, or another commitment conflicts, it is OK to miss practice. Gene, our director, is a very understanding guy!!

So, let me close by saying it is great to write to everyone again. And yes, it is great to be able to be part of such a great group of people. Finally, Saint Sebastian choir practice begins on Wednesday evening, September 9 at 6:29 PM. If you like to sing, and if you are high school age or older, please make a “note” about September 9. It really will make you feel good! God bless you all!

Joyne de Kwyre