The Fourth Sunday of EasterBy Fr. Gary Spencer
This is a strange time we live in. People don’t seem to get along like they used to. Used to be people had more trust in their neighbors and gave one another the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise. That trust in neighbor seems to have flown out the door. It seems just about every week there is a story in the news about neighbors calling the police on each other for ridicules things like having a barbeque at a public park, or because someone is not speaking English, or because of how someone is dressed or because of their attire.
On a lesser scale we see arguments erupt between friends over the smallest disagreements. And talking politics nowadays will definitely bring out the nasty in people.
On second thought maybe my memory is faulty. Maybe it just seems like people used to be more friendly and trusting. Looking back throughout recorded history it is amazing, and sad really, how people have treated one another. A look back through time reveals that people have been treating one another poorly, rudely, and very often with cruelty and malice since history was first recorded. Jesus too experienced this sort of treatment right in the town where he grew up. Part of the problem stems from people jumping to conclusions instead of calmly thinking things out. I know I have been guilty of doing this, and it’s something many of us need to change.
The people in the synagogue in Nazareth made some hasty decisions regarding Jesus too. They figured that they knew who Jesus was, and decided that he couldn’t possibly be the fulfillment of the prophesy of Isaiah. Isn’t he the son of Joseph, they asked? So how could he possibly be anything more than that kid we knew growing up? The carpenter’s son.
They jumped to a quick conclusion and in doing so missed out on a ton of love and grace they could have received had they just opened their minds and hearts to Jesus. They had closed hearts and closed minds, so they could neither give or receive love or knowledge, and all the blessings that come with them. I have a bumper sticker that reads, “Minds are like parachutes – they only work when open.” I would guess that hearts are like that too!
Therefore, in order for all of us to be better Catholic Christians, we must never close our minds to the voice of God or neighbor, and we must open our hearts in order to give, and receive, love.
Ch. 13 of St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, we heard part of it in our second reading, tells us what love is, and is not, and gives us the ideal way to relate to others.
“Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Reading this beautiful description of love reminds me that I fall short of loving as I should love. All of us can see how well, or how badly, we measure up by omitting the word, “love,” in this passage and inserting words for ourselves in its place. Here’s how it goes: I am patient and kind; I am not jealous or boastful; I am not arrogant or rude. I do not insist on my own way; I am not irritable or resentful; I do not rejoice in wrong, but rejoice in the right. I bear all things, hope all things, endure all things.
Does that describe you? I know I fall short. If this little test doesn’t describe you then ask Jesus to help you love the way He loves. Ask Him when he is present here this morning in the Holy Eucharist. But to hear His answer we must open our hearts and minds. God will help us to be better people because He loves us more than we can ever imagine.
This week, keep the description of love in your thoughts and try your hardest to love as Jesus wants us to. Being a good Christian is a full time job, not just something we do on Sunday, so instead of trying to shove Jesus off of a cliff we must open our arms and embrace Him, and His love will lead us on the path to eternal bliss.
Third Sunday of EasterBy Fr. Gary Spencer
Did you ever do something and feel funny about it? Something in public that you maybe don’t normally do, and after doing it you feel so embarrassed you try to make excuses about it? That happened to me once while marching next to the Cathedral Dancers float at the Pulaski Day parade. It was hot and misting rain on and off and I was dressed in a wool Polish mountaineers costume that, once it was damp, smelled like an old goat. Anyway the parade stopped almost in front of the grandstand on Harlem Rd. when the leader of the Polish Dancers here at HMRC, Michelle, grabbed me and informed me we were going to Polka! Terror flashed through my mind; I don’t really know how to polka, I thought. But polka we did, or at least she did. When the music stopped I was so embarrassed, and relieved, but mostly embarrassed at my attempt at dancing the polka. I kind of knew the basics, but I am in the company of many Polish people, and seasoned polka dancers, who were watching me hop around in my goat-wool costume not knowing what in the world I was doing. I kept saying that I didn’t know how to polka hoping Michelle would have mercy on me, but there was polka music playing, so off we went. It was like being in an old Twilight Zone TV episode. I half expected to see Rod Serling out of the corner of my eye, holding a cigarette and explaining to everyone my predicament. But, for the sake of the float I marched, or should I say ‘hopped’ on.
Unfortunately, when it comes time to give thanks to Our Heavenly Father, for many of us, circumstances dictate our actions. Even little things like saying grace in public before meals makes some people feel uneasy. Some even make excuses for not giving thanks.
Those Apostles we heard about in our first reading certainly weren’t afraid to give thanks to God, and they were facing some serious consequences. The Apostles were so filled with the Holy Spirit that they couldn’t help but extol the graces of God and the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ.
We can be filled with the Holy Spirit too! All we have to do is pray for God the Holy Spirit to touch us with Godly grace, and we too could have the courage of the Apostles to always and everywhere give thanks to the Lord.
You know, maybe if I practiced dancing the polka more I wouldn’t be self-conscience of polkaing in public. And maybe if all of us would practice praying to God the Holy Spirit we might be more comfortable about giving thanks to God no matter the place or circumstance. When you think about it other people in other religions aren’t ashamed to be who they are in public. I regularly see Jewish men wearing yarmulke, and Muslim women wearing hajibs, so why should Christians be uncomfortable about showing their love of God no matter what they are doing? As a matter of fact, one cold Sunday earlier this year my wife, Donna, and I were walking around McKinley mall for exercise when we went down one of the now dead end sections where an anchor store used to be and witnessed a woman on a prayer rug deep in prayer. In the mall! She didn’t seem to be embarrassed one bit.
So my dear friends pray to God the Holy Spirit for help in being the best Christian you can be right now, and never feel uncomfortable about giving thanks and showing your love of God no matter where you are. I will leave you with a quote from a sign I saw in an antique shop regarding God being everywhere. It read, “Wash your hands and say your prayers because Jesus and germs are everywhere!”
The Second Sunday of EasterBy Fr. Gary Spencer
The Apostles are witnesses that we rely on to give us proof of Jesus’ Passion, death, and Resurrection . They are the ones who testify, by their words and deeds, that what we know from the New Testament is the truth. Yet, the Apostles, even though Jesus told them repeatedly that He was going to be put to death and in three days rise up again, didn’t understand what occurred on Easter morning. All, that is, except John. When John got to the tomb on that first Easter morning and saw that it was empty and that the burial cloths were strewn about, he knew what had happened because he alone remembered Jesus’ words. The Gospel states, “He saw and believed.”
Eventually, all the remaining Apostles saw the resurrected Jesus and all believed. And what did Jesus tell them after His encounter with Thomas? “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
So all of us present here today, and Christians throughout the world who believe in Jesus Christ, who believe that Jesus died and rose from the grave are “blessed”.
Many of us believe, but don’t really know why. This is what we were taught in Catechism class, and because we received the Holy Spirit through our baptisms, we believe because that same Holy Spirit opened our hearts to these truths. It is because of the Holy Spirit within us that we believe with all our mind, with all our heart, and with all our strength that Jesus is God the Son – one being with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
And as I said, we first received the Holy Spirit through baptism. The Apostles received the Holy Spirit like us through baptism, but also received the Holy Spirit through Jesus when he breathed on them, and again on Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended on them as tongues of fire. This triple blessing of being touched by the Holy Spirit gave the Apostles the ability to be conduits of Gods miraculous powers. It also gave them the courage, first of all, to come out of hiding after the Crucifixion, to preach God’s Word and heal the sick, and to withstand torture and death rather than proclaim anything other than the truth about Our Lord and Savior.
All of us gathered here today are also disciples of Jesus Christ, and we are, therefore, commissioned to tell others about the truths and Good News of the Gospels.
You know, the Apostles were persecuted for spreading the Word of God because they were confronted by people who didn’t know Jesus, and didn’t want to know Him, and today is really no different. More and more people are turning away from God, and want others to join them. These people are atheists and they don’t just want others to not believe in God too, they hate God. They confuse the teachings of Jesus with the actions of bad men throughout Christian history. Men who disregarded Jesus’ command to love one another, and instead perpetrated many bad crimes in His name; crimes for which they surely received their just judgment before God.
So we, my sisters and brothers, being disciples of Jesus, have a big task to carry out, but with the help of the Holy Spirit we can do it! We can do it not by preaching on a street corner or by going from house to house, but we can spread the Gospel through our actions. Remember what St. Francis was purported to have said, “Preach the Gospel always, and use words when you have to.”
Whenever we are in the presence of Our Lord, especially in the Eucharist, we must ask Him fro help from the Holy Spirit to have the courage of the Apostles and Christian martyrs, and the words to proclaim the Gospel, that we might shine Christ’s light on a world that seems to be covered more and more in darkness. With Jesus’ help and guidance from the Holy Spirit our words and deeds of love will get through to those who do not know, or have turned their backs on God. So let us go forth in the Peace of Christ reminding all that there is more to life then this little time we have on earth, that salvation comes from God, and that blessed are they who have not seen and have believed.
"Joyfully Remembered, Already Missed!"Bishop Thaddeus Peplowski 1936 - 2018
The Right Rev. Thaddeus S. Peplowski, Bishop Emeritus of the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Diocese of the Polish National Catholic Church, died Friday in the Macauley Residence, Town of Tonawanda, after nine months of declining health. He was 81
Bishop Peplowski was born on Nov. 4, 1936, in Albany, the son of Joseph and Sophia (Zalenski) Peplowski, and baptized in the Polish National Catholic Church. As a youth, he received his Catholic education at Our Lady of Czestochowa Parish in Albany and his formal education in the Albany public education system.
He entered the Savonarola Theological Seminary, in Scranton, PA, in September 1954, and completed a four year course of study. He was ordained to priesthood on May 15, 1958 by Most Rev. Leon Grochowski. His first assignment was, ironically, at the parish he is serving presently, the Holy Mother of the Rosary Cathedral, which he served for nine years. Of his first assignment in Buffalo he stressed involvement with the youth of the parish, and organized a strong Youth Club of whom members are still very active in the parish.
After leaving Buffalo he was assigned to All Saints Parish in Rome, New York and St. Joseph Parish in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada, until 1971. After those assignments he organized the St. Barbara Parish in Houtzdale, PA, and stayed there until 1990 when he was assigned to the Holy Mother of the Rosary Cathedral in Buffalo which he served until his retirement in 2012.
He was elevated to the office of Monsignor (Senior Priest) in July 1982 by Most Rev. John Swantek and served as the dean of the Central Deanery of the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Diocese. He was elected a bishop of the Polish National Catholic Church at the 19th General Synod of the Polish National Catholic Church in Toronto, Canada. On Nov. 30, 1995 he was consecrated bishop by Most Rev. John Swantek, and installed as Ordinary of the Buffalo-Pittsburgh diocese on the same day at Holy Mother of the Rosary Cathedral.
During his time as priest and bishop, he was responsible in organizing several parishes that include St. Stephen the Martyr Parish in Canada in 1969, St. Barbara Parish in Houtzdale in 1970, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Lilly, PA, in 1995. Later he organized St. Martin & Rose Parish and Annunciation Parish, both in San Antonio, TX, St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Mesa, AZ, Transfiguration Parish in Mt. Pleasant, PA, in 2003, Our Lady of Good Health in Dallas, TX, and St. Anne Parish in New Millport, PA, with the last two in 2008.
He has performed mission work at St. Thomas Mission in Tyrone, PA, Blessed Sacrament Mission in Fayetteville, NC, St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Denver, CO, and Holy Cross Mission in Pe Ell, WA. Mission work was also performed in North and South Carolina, Virginia, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Canada. Mission work over ten years was done with the Nordic Catholic Church which had eight parishes in Norway where he served as its Missionary Bishop.
He instituted many items of importance, that exist to this day, such as the National Youth Convocations, first held in Buffalo in 1964, Altar Boy Retreats, Diocesan Basketball Tournaments, Youth Tours to Poland where he served four times as Youth Chaplain, the Diocesan Holy Mount Retreat Program, and helped to establish the bi-annual Music Workshop of the United Choirs of the PNCC.
His other activities in the Polish National Catholic Church are: representative in the Old/Orthodox Dialogue Commission, which produced the book, “Road to Unity,” served for six years on the Dialogue Commission with the Roman Catholic Church, which produced “Journeying Together in Christ,” signed a Convenant agreement between the Buffalo Roman Catholic Diocese and the PNCC Buffalo-Pittsburgh Diocese with Bishop Edward Head, taught Liturgy for five years at the Savonarola Seminary, and authored a “Handbook on Liturgy” in 1981, for students and priests of the Polish National Catholic Church. He then was appointed to chair the PNCC/Orthodox Dialogue Commission.
He directed a Polish Cultural Program in Houtzdale which included weekly Polish language and pisanki classes. He directed Polish dance groups that performed in Buffalo, Cheektowaga, in Poland, in the State Education Building in Harrisburg, PA, and many other performances in New York State, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and at the rededication ceremony of the Statue of Liberty. While serving on the board of directors of the Polish National Union for eight years the Bishop Hodur Center was built, and a new office was constructed.
However his biggest achievement, as far as his present parishioners are concerned, was the building of the multi-million dollar cathedral complex, located on Broadway in Lancaster. His foresight, courage, guidance, and inspiration were essential to the successful completion of this project.
During his 50 years in the priesthood he has traveled extensively, and has visited Poland fourteen times, Holland, Germany, Italy on several occasions, Switzerland, England, Greece, Turkey, Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. He has had an audience with Pope John Paul II in 1992 and met with the Patriarch, Bartholomew II in Istanbul, Turkey. At one time Bishop Peplowski had a private pilot’s license, and wishes he still had it to help him in his journeys.
His many recent awards include the General Pulaski Association of the Niagara Frontier Recognition of his spiritual guidance to Polonia in 2002, the Polish National Union of America award in recognition of many years of dedicated service in 1999, the Diocesan Union of Holy Name Societies (Roman Catholic) Ecumenical Award for outstanding work for God, church and community in 1993, the 1991 Am-Pol Eagle Citizen of the Year Award in the religion category, the 2005 Am-Pol Eagle Citizen Award in the heritage category, and the Buffalo Bisons and the Polish Community of WNY award of Polish American Citizen of the Year award in 2006. He is listed in Strathmore’s Who’s Who in 2006-2007.
On June 7, 2008 Bishop Peplowski was honored at the Holy Mother of the Rosary Cathedral, in Lancaster, the See of the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Diocese, bishop, pastor, and spiritual leader on his 50th anniversary of priesthood. He retired in 2012.
The parishioners of Holy Mother of the Rosary Cathedral know how blessed we were to have Bishop Peplowski as our pastor and spiritual leader. While our hearts are deeply saddened in his passing, it was our greatest honor to know and love him.
God bless you Bishop Peplowski or Bishop Pep as we fondly referred to him, you will remain forever in our hearts!