Pastor’s Weekly Message

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw
St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church


Creating a New Year

This New Year of 2020 presents us with a lot of challenges and opportunities. Two that I would like to focus upon are:  Ecumenical relations and interracial understanding and harmony.

Pope Francis is leading the way for our church in his identifying of ecumenical understanding and cooperation as a key theme of his Papacy. He has personally met with the Russian Orthodox Patriarch, with Protestant and Anglican leaders, with Islamic Imams, and Jewish Chief Rabbis.  He has also called upon Catholics to recognize the good and the truth that exists in all of the great world religions even those that appear somewhat distant from us such as Buddhism, Hinduism and Taoism. His common theme is that the world needs the cooperative spiritual forces of all religions in order to move forward in world compassion, hope and fellowship. We are to be united in a common cause that requires all of our spiritual wisdom, courage and leadership. One practical goal for all of us might be to better educate ourselves concerning the great world spiritualities and how we might together strengthen a spiritual world view as opposed to a secular, anti-spiritual  and materialist one. Parishioner participation in our Inter-Faith Celebration with Temple Beth El (February 20 -23) is a good place to start.

Martin Luther King national holiday (Tomorrow Monday, January 20, 2020) presents us with another spiritual growth opportunity as we prayerfully confront the social sin of color based prejudice, discrimination and racism. The elimination of social sin is not just the responsibility of government or social organizations but is, first and foremost, an individual spiritual responsibility. I would like to suggest that as Catholic individuals and families that we model a commitment to equality of opportunity and real social interaction that gets past racial differences to respect the God given worth and dignity of each person. Only when we try to regard and understand others as God does will we have 20/20 vision.

May God grant us the clearest of vision and the deepest experience of solidarity as we move together into the future. 

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw

Baptism: Our Spiritual Birthday

Every year we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord. 

Our own baptisms are occasions of great family joy, preparation by Godparents,passing down of Baptismal garments and most of all the re-commitment of the family of the baptized to our own baptismal promises. We know that the formation in faith of our children is accomplished by the complex process of passing on Christian values and understandings and the modeling of them in the home.
A Christian family culture is lived and practiced and has our identity as a beloved child of God right at the center. The respecting of the dignity and value of each family member needs to be taught and reinforced each day. Pope Francis reminds us that the virtues of mercy and forgiveness need to be experienced in order to become real.  Antithetical teachings of greed, selfishness, overemphasis on passing material things need to be contradicted by living according to the Way of Jesus. Our parish is composed of so many different forms of families and of families at differing stages of  development that it is hard to generalize.   It seems clear to me,however, that true Gospel family living involves prayer, mutual love and understanding, charity towards neighbor and something of a counter-cultural life.  It is true that we live in this world and that it is our home but we must be vigilant not to let a secularized world define our identity
as Christians.

Baptism incorporates us into Christ.  We share in His saving life, death and resurrection and are empowered by the Holy Spirit to live with passion and clarity of focus in this world. Baptism also incorporates us in life in the Church, the Body of Christ. We know that the life of a Christian family is best lived within a faith community and with the friendships, prayers, common vision and ministries of our parish family life. Each time we celebrate birthdays it is an excellent idea to celebrate the “Birthdays” into faith that occurred when each of us were baptized. Our “Spiritual Birthday” complements our “Birthday into human life” and enables and fits us for eternal life.  May God bless  and keep Saint Joan of Arc families as we celebrate our two birthdays.  

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw

The Solemnity of the Epiphany of The Lord

Epiphany is a Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of the Trinitarian God becoming incarnate as Jesus Christ. The feast commemorates principally (but not solely) the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child. The young Messiah is revealed as the light of the nations. Yet, as the antiphon for the Magnificat at Second Vespers reminds us, three mysteries are encompassed in this solemnity: the adoration of the Christ Child by the Magi, the Baptism of Christ and the wedding feast at Cana.

The traditional date for the feast is January 6. However, since 1970, the celebration is held in some countries on the Sunday after January 1.

The word Epiphany means manifestation or showing. What the Church celebrates today is the manifestation of our Lord to the whole world; after being made known to the shepherds of Bethlehem He is revealed to the Magi who have come from the East to adore Him. In them, the whole world is represented and invited to return to our homes as privileged witnesses.

“The Lord and Ruler is coming; kingship is His, and government and power.” With these words the Church proclaims that today’s feast brings to a perfect fulfillment all the purposes of Advent. Epiphany, therefore, marks the liturgical zenith of the Advent-Christmas season. We are reminded that much of the responsibility of revealing Christ to the world depends upon us. By our example, personal holiness and our zeal for spreading our faith, we can make a difference in the lives of many people. We can offer hope and light through our faithful discipleship. May the “Showing” continue in every time and place.

Emmanuel, God is with us!!

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw

A New Year 2020

Every New Year seems to bring its own reasons to be thankful and to be concerned. This year is no different. It is a great time to remember with joy all who throughout the years have experienced the power and presence and life of God through Saint Joan of Arc: our worship and spirituality, our community life and our outreach ministries. We are particularly grateful for the gift that our children and youth have been to our parish and for the formation in faith that has helped them to know, love and serve God with joy in their hearts. Because our parish family is made up of all of our families, we have seen Births and Baptisms, Penance and Holy Communions, Marriages and Anniversaries and sadly Funerals.

Once again in this New Year we confront the fact that life is a “mixed bag.” We begin the year by celebrating the Feast of Mary the Mother of God. We remember her “yes” of faith and how that openness to God’s will transformed her own life and all of history. We certainly need that type of faith ourselves. We should ask Our Lord for His Mother’s faith and also for her humility because we can accomplish little of lasting impact without the power and grace of God. As we begin this New Year, we also are invited to pray and to work for peace in our personal lives and in our world. We are challenged to set aside the ways of anger and revenge in order to create the Kingdom of God . We need to make room for the Prince of Peace to truly dwell within us and to help us transform our relationships with others. Creating space for God is only possible if we throw out what we don’t need in terms of attachments and bad habits and are truly open to the “new from God” in the New Year. Nothing can prepare us better for a different future than worship, prayer, meditation upon God’s Word and active works of mercy.

A “Happy New Year” in the Christian sense is what we will bring about with God’s grace and our hard work and imagination. Let’s welcome the New Year by creating the holy space and time, the relationships and opportunities that we long for and that will give us true and lasting happiness.

Msgr. Michael D. McGraw