Mold, an e-mail hack, and watermills

Online Prayer Groups

They’re starting up this week! The one with the most room is the first one at this link, led by Jane. The others are pretty much filled, but only a couple people have signed up for this one so far- there is room for you in this group! Especially for those of you who are still in shut-down mode, please take a look at this! 
I recently gave a talk to the online “Rainbow Recovery” group, and was really moved at the sense of community that can be shared with other people even when online (everyone is in their own home, so it’s actually a pretty unique and personal dynamic). Give it a shot and join this group, especially if you are isolated from us right now!! We miss you!
 

This group is a place to pray for each other and others and apply the word of God to our daily lives. It follows a simple prayer format that doesn’t require any preparation or homework: Gratitude, an Act of Contrition, Reading the Gospel and a discussion about applying it to our lives, Praying for one another’s intentions, and an Our Father!

My E-mail was hacked.

This was NOT from me- I hope no one fell for it! 
There are people who are imitating the email addresses of priests in our Diocese, and the Bishop (repeatedly), and asking people for money. It’s a wicked scam!
 

Donations 

-I’m so thankful to all of you for keeping the parish on the level through these difficult months, we’re holding our own. I’m grateful to be part of a parish family that is generous with their time, talent, and treasure.
 
-I recently posted on Twitter that our parish was looking for some new altar server cassocks and surplices, and wondered where was the best place to buy them. (our albs are well past well-worn) I got a call from a Paul Sterett in Georgia who is sending us some support toward this effort, and a care package from a Lynn Pechiney in Virginia (filled with surplices, rosaries, crosses, and a donation! Pictured below-) It was by far the best experience I’ve ever had of the internet (and definitely of twitter!). Living in such a remote location, I feel like we don’t often get to experience the plus side of being part of a universal Church, it really warmed my heart and meant a lot to me that two strangers (and now friends) would reach out like that!
-A parishioner who passed away recently left $5,000 to the parish. She was very involved with our Thrift Shoppe and parish life for many years- the practice of her faith and devotion was central to her throughout her life. I thought it was pretty special that she and her (adult) children included the Church in her will. As a priest I’ve often been shocked to see in many families the dynamic of children fighting over the inheritance! In contrast, that this family had such harmony and generosity was pretty uplifting to me, and that they wanted to honor their mother in continuing her legacy of supporting the mission of our Church. 
Since I arrived here in July of 2015, this was the third person who remembered St. Joseph’s in her will. The first was a $15,000 donation which paid for our Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Program (materials, reno, and training), the second was a woman who gave her last $250 to the Church. It’s a beautiful way to continue the good that someone did in our world even past their lifetime. Thank you so much-
 
A man from downstate who I met at a wedding last summer recently donated $4,000 to the parish! It was in response to a thank you note I had sent to him for a previous donation equal to that, which allowed for us to help some families with school tuition. Pretty amazing!!
 

MOLD

Just wanted to keep you in the loop. I was hoping to have a definitive answer or solution to this problem before I shared it with you, but a quick answer doesn’t seem likely right now! 
Last week Fr. Romeo had to take himself to the ER twice, as he was having an extremely difficult time breathing. I was out of town at the time. We are pretty sure it was a reaction to mold- namely the moldy ceiling across the hall from his bedroom (pictured below) caused by an ice dam that has been there for years. His symptoms were very alarming. His symptoms mirrored my own respiratory issues- which leads us to believe the problem is environmental. We’re both working with doctors to figure out what’s going on with us. 
Two separate abatement companies have confirmed we have a serious mold problem (clearly!). It’s been vague, slow, and difficult to work with our insurance company to figure out what is covered, and what the solution might be. Other than the leak in the ceiling, the mold might come from an old and possibly leaky tub, or a poorly ventilated attic with paint-clogged soffits that are too narrow, or maybe it was damage from the bathroom vents that were insufficient until we replaced them a couple years ago. You’ll remember that we replaced the windows in the rectory last year and the year before because they were moldy.
Fr. Romeo and I have moved into Dcn. Bill’s apartment (he’s in Florida, and graciously let us crash at his place!). Fr. Mark is doing fill-in at other locations in the coming weeks. It was on our docket to replace the rectory roof this spring/summer- we were waiting to repair the leaky ceiling until the roof had been replaced (to cut off the problem at its origin, and not put good money after bad). Unfortunately, we kicked the can too far down the road and it came back to bite us, hard. 
Now, we’re in a weird limbo- where it’s still not a great idea to fix the mold problem until we can fix the probable cause of it (the ice-dam/leaky ceiling, and constantly patched roof being the most likely culprit)- but, the rectory isn’t livable until both are fixed. We’re even considering changing the pitch of the roof when it’s redone, for a more permanent long-term fix. 
 
Some of the issues I’m not sure how to solve at this point:
-Dcn. Bill has been beyond generous with us, but if this goes on past February we may need to seek alternative housing for a few months. 
-I won’t allow anyone but professionals handle the actual work of abatement, but after they’ve done their piece and we’re confident the mold is gone, I may look for volunteers to help tear out the rest of the carpeting (a lot of it is original to the building)- we’re going to replace it with vinyl planking. We do not know yet how extensive the project needs to be. 
-Our part-time Maintenance Supervisor works 17 hours a week, and has been generous in working more than expected the last few weeks. (We have two college students who are helping for a few hours a week as well, and some amazing volunteers!!). Because Sam is going to be pulled onto this project in various ways, we may need a hand in simply keeping up with standard operating procedures. 
-I’ll keep you updated.
 

 

Homily

 How do we find peace? How can we hear the voice of God?
Our lives have become so small! Being isolated, and confined to our homes has been difficult. For most parishioners, it’s been a bit of a mind-game. Many are given over to worries or distraction.
We’re either mulling over reality: the unprecedented power of big tech companies, Covid and the vaccine, the controversy surrounding the election, (did Epstein kill himself?) A whirlwind of other stories on the news- how much time and energy have we given to watching the news? And of course the shut-down of society and the impact it’s had on your finances, your relationships, your mental health, your former way of life.
Or, when we’re not stewing over these realities, our minds are given over to distraction. With no sports or restaurants (or social lives in general!), one coping mechanism that many people have turned to is to binge watch Netflix, Disney + and Hulu, and You-tube rabbit-holes or worse. Or to scroll infinitely on social media, or endlessly play videogames. 
So if you try and stop- and have silence, then this movie reel plays in your mind of whatever media you’ve been filling your hearts and homes with.
Between our worries about reality, and our preoccupation with unrealities, we have little peace, and our minds are always running.
Like if you’ve ever pulled up to a stop light, and the car next to you has spinner hubcaps that keep spinning even when their car is stopped?
Maybe some of you feel that way at this exact moment! We try and come to a stop but our wheels still seem to be turning!
We can’t seem to stop thinking any more than we could stop a river from flowing.
How do we find peace? How can we hear the voice of God?
In the first reading today, Samuel was sleeping in the temple- and He hears the voice of God calling Him by name.
In the Gospel, John the Baptist introduces two of the future apostles to Jesus, and they spend the afternoon with Him.
As preoccupied as so many of you are with your distractions or your worries, I know you have a desire to hear the voice of God, and to speak with him. The Lord gave you that desire- He planted it in your heart as a homing device to Himself.
Many of you have been filled to the brim with the news and all that the internet has to offer- and have found it wanting. Unsatisfying. Ultimately: empty.
If you have fallen sleep through sin, addiction, or selfishness- 
hear God calling your name in the night to a higher mission, as He called Samuel to be a great prophet.
 
How do we find peace? How can we hear the voice of God?
First, know that God cannot fill what is already filled. He is soft-spoken, and to hear Him you must avert your attention to Him. If you make Him shout over noise to communicate with you, you may not like what He has to say at that point!
Recognize what is NOT life-giving, what does not lead you to peace, heaven, to God- and cut it from your life.
If you’re on a diet, you have to look at a doughnut and tell yourself: “That’s poisonous, I cannot eat it”
I challenge you to go on a media diet! Not to bury your heads in the sand, but to bring balance and moderation to your consumption of the news- so that you don’t lose the capacity to hear the voice of God. Treat the media in the same way you treat donuts- knowing that it’s not healthy to gorge yourself on either!
Samuel had space in his life. The young Samuel was dedicated to God from a young age- His heart was filled with the study of Scripture, in prayer and song and silence at the Temple.
Here is the spiritual truth I want to teach you this week- and I’ve gotten a lot of mileage from this in my own life- (listen closely this is really helpful!) This is from a book called, “Spiritual Combat Revisited” (by Jonathon Robinson of the Oratory)
For me this has been the answer to the questions: 
How can I find peace? How can I hear the voice of God?
We bring what we are, and what we are doing, to our prayer, and that is why we have to try and see our daily lives as a preparation for our prayer.
 
St. John Cassian writes that : “This activity of the heart is not inappropriately compared to millstones, which the swift rush of the waters turns with a violent revolving motion. As long as the water’s force keeps them spinning they are utterly incapable of stopping their work.” One way or another our minds seem to be working all the time. This activity may range anywhere from concentrated intellectual work to idle daydreaming. This has nothing to do with whether the ideas are good or bad but is merely to point out that the mind always seems to be working. Furthermore, we all know that we do not always seem to be entirely in control of what goes on in our minds. We may be trying to concentrate on writing an essay and find we are tempted to think about playing golf. We call this a distraction. What distracts us is not necessarily sinful, but it is something that gets in the way of what we’re trying to do. In this case, what we are trying to do is write the essay. Cassian: “In the same way the mind cannot be free from agitating thoughts during the trials of the present life, since it is spinning around in the torrents of the trials that overwhelm it from all sides.”
The mind then, is always in motion, and we sense that it is only by quieting the mind that we will find that peace necessary for a closer communion with God. How are we going to find this peace of heart that will enable us to become the temples of the Holy Spirit? There seem to be two sorts of answers. One, which is an old one but seems popular today, is to try to stop the mind from working. Try, so we are advised, to empty the mind of all thoughts and images, and wait peacefully for God.
Leaving aside any theological considerations, it can at least be said this effort to empty the mind and to keep it still just does not work. The mind, as Cassian says, is like the mill driven by water power, and “it cannot cease operation at all so long as it is driven round by the pressure of the water.” Trying to still the mind by our own efforts is to render ourselves less than human, not more than human. We have to use the water power for as long as we are driven by it. We have then to use our minds and to try to feed its ceaseless activity with thoughts that will lead to peace of heart and so help in our sanctification. The mill is not going to cease operation, but it is possible for the person in charge of it to decide whether he prefers wheat or barley or weeds to be ground… So, the lesson is clear. You cannot top the mind from working (any more than you can stop a river from flowing), so feed it with good material rather than bad. The mind will gradually become fixed on what it thinks about. If we think about good things, we will gradually obtain a taste for them. ..On the other hand, if we feed weeds into the mill, we must expect things to work out badly.
 
In short, our minds keep going and won’t shut up! We don’t always seem to be entirely in control of what goes on in our minds, and we cannot stop thinking anymore than we could stop a river from flowing.
He then gives the comparison of a watermill- powered by a river, and points out that it us up to us what we put in that mill to be ground up. In the same way, it’s up to us what we put into our minds to mull over. 
The trick to it is this. We can USE our minds and try to feed its ceaseless activity with thoughts that will lead to PEACE of HEART and so help in our sanctification. The mill is not going to cease operation, but it IS possible for the person in charge of it to decide whether he prefers wheat or barley or weeds to be ground.  
To decide whether we want to fill our hearts with media or with the Word of God.
So since we cannot stop our minds from working, rather than filling them with bad a useless material, let us feed them with GOOD material