Why the name?

"Holy Conversation" does sound like an exceptionally pious name, even for a parish blog. And we can't guarantee that everything here will meet the high standard the name implies. But the phrase comes from the story of our patron saint, and we think it fits. Here's why.

St. Scholastica was a sixth-century abbess who, according to the Dialogues of Pope Gregory I, used to meet once a year with her brother, St. Benedict. On the last occasion they were together, they spent their time "satisfying each other's hunger for holy conversation about the spiritual life."

We hope that this blog can become a place where the members of our parish can find a taste of the companionship and conversation that Scholastica and Benedict enjoyed so much. Welcome!

Monday, April 8, 2019

Confirmation video link

The Lower Allegheny Valley Catholic Community celebrated confirmation with Bishop Zubik at St. Joseph Church on Monday, April 8.

You can watch a video of the ceremony here.

Congratulations to all of our young people who received the sacrament!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Advent Resources

There are a multitude of resources available for deepening your spiritual life during Advent and Christmas.  Here are just a few.

We have a weekly one-sheet handout called “Keeping the Season” that includes a prayer, reflection on the Sunday Scriptures, and shorter reflections for each day of the week.  If you would like to receive it by email, please contact Andy Bechman here.

Matthew Kelly at Dynamic Catholic is once again presenting “Best Advent Ever.”  Visit the website here to learn how to receive daily brief videos via email.

Sacred Advent is a “daily email prayer break,” based on the writings of Sacred Space—the online prayer site of the Irish Jesuits.  It gives you the opportunity to prayerfully read and pray with a Scripture passage each day. Loyola Press offers it on their website here.

There are many reflections and prayers available on the Creighton University Online Ministries “Praying Advent” page here.

May you and yours have a blessed Advent!

Friday, September 14, 2018

More resources on the sexual abuse crisis

A great deal is being written and said concerning the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, including my previous post here.

Here are a few additional resources that I have found helpful.

First, listening to some reports, or even reading the grand jury report quickly, you can get the impression that the sexual abuse of children is still occurring at a high rate within the Church.  While of course, no level of incidence of such actions can be considered acceptable, most of the incidents we are hearing about now did occur years ago.

Two charts, published by America (the magazine of the Jesuits in the U.S.) show this.

The first shows that, on average, offenders mentioned in the grand jury report were born in 1933 and ordained in 1961.

The second shows that documented incidents of abuse peaked in the 1970s and have decreased greatly since.

You can find these charts in context here.

I do not underline these facts to minimize the horror of what happened.  It is important that we remain vigilant in pursuing the policies that have protected our children better since the adoption of The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in 2002.  But it is also important to recognize that there is not a wave of new abuse occurring now.  What we are facing now is the scope of the failure of Church authorities to protect children in the past, and particularly, how to deal with failures on the part of bishops.

In spite of its too-flippant title, this piece by Michael Cook of Mercator.net sounds some cautionary notes that—for all of our anger—are good to hear.

Still, the situation does call for systemic reform.  This piece by Russell Pollitt, SJ (director of the Jesuit Institute of South Africa) is the best short analysis I have seen of some of the systemic issues that we must deal with.

At the end of his piece, Fr. Pollitt cautions against scapegoating gay priests.  Some commentators, including Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, Wisconsin, indeed focus here on what he refers to as a “homosexual subculture within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church” and on a pattern of sin that he relates decisively to homosexuality.  On the other hand, James Martin, SJ, a defender of the place of LGBT Catholics within the Church, has written strongly here against any campaign to seek out and remove gay priests.

Are there resources that you have found helpful in understanding the mess we are in or pointing toward some ways forward?  Please send them to me here, or include them in a comment to this post.  I moderate the comments, so it will not appear immediately.  Also, I welcome any other comments you may have.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Resources related to the sexual abuse crisis

            In the wake of the grand jury report released last week, many of us find ourselves stunned, angry, dismayed, and a dozen other emotions.  As we try to find our way forward, we need to be as well informed as we can.  Here is an initial offering of resources that I hope might help.

            The grand jury report itself can be found on the Pennsylvania attorney general’s website here.  The responses filed to the report are available on the same page and deserve attention.  First, though, I would recommend watching the brief video on the same page, which focuses on the experience of a few of the survivors.  Their experience must inform our way forward.

            America magazine, published by the Jesuits, has collected links to their recent coverage here

            America also has many older articles that may help.  Among them is this helpful summary of the report published by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice on the causes and context of sexual abuse of minors by priests.

            Finally (for now), Fr. James Martin’s “Prayer for Angry Catholics” was written in 2012.  Thanks to Mary Ellen Maher for pointing me to it.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Pope Francis's Homily for Pentecost

In his Pentecost homily, Pope Francis gave a concise and stirring description of the work of the Holy Spirit.  Here is the text, courtesy of ZENIT.

Holy Father’s Homily on Pentecost (Full Text)

‘You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses.’
Following is the Homily Pope Francis delivered May 20, 2018, at Mass on Pentecost in St. Peter’s Basilica.

In the first reading of today’s Liturgy, the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is compared to “the rush of a violent wind” (Acts2:2). What does this image tell us? It makes us think of a powerful force that is not an end in itself, but effects change. Wind, in fact, brings change: warmth when it is cold, cool when it is hot, rain when the land is parched… this is why it brings change. The Holy Spirit, on a very different level, does the same. He is the divine force that changes the world. The Sequence reminded us of this: the Spirit is “in toil, comfort sweet; solace in the midst of woe”. And so we beseech him: “Heal our wounds, our strength renew; on our dryness pour your dew; wash the stains of guilt away”. The Spirit enters into situations and transforms them. He changes hearts and he changes situations.

The Holy Spirit changes hearts. Jesus had told his disciples: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8). That is exactly what happened. Those disciples, at first fearful, huddled behind closed doors even after the Master’s resurrection, are transformed by the Spirit and, as Jesus says in today’s Gospel, “they bear witness to him” (cf. Jn 15:27). No longer hesitant, they are courageous and starting from Jerusalem, they go forth to the ends of the earth. Timid while Jesus was still among them, they are bold when he is gone, because the Spirit changed their hearts.

The Spirit frees hearts chained by fear. He overcomes all resistance. To those content with half measures, he inspires whole-hearted generosity. He opens hearts that are closed. He impels the comfortable to go out and serve. He drives the self-satisfied to set out in new directions. He makes the lukewarm thrill to new dreams. That is what it means to change hearts. Plenty of people promise change, new beginnings, prodigious renewals, but experience teaches us that no earthly attempt to change reality can ever completely satisfy the human heart. Yet the change that the Spirit brings is different. It does not revolutionize life around us but changes our hearts. It does not free us from the weight of our problems but liberates us within so that we can face them. It does not give us everything at once but makes us press on confidently, never growing weary of life. The Spirit keeps our hearts young – a renewed youth. Youth, for all our attempts to prolong it, sooner or later fades away; the Spirit, instead, prevents the only kind of aging that is unhealthy: namely, growing old within. How does he do this? By renewing our hearts, by pardoning sinners. Here is the great change: from guilty, he makes us righteous and thus changes everything. From slaves of sin, we become free, from servants we become beloved children, from worthless worthy, from disillusioned filled with hope. By the working of the Holy Spirit, joy is reborn and peace blossoms in our hearts.

Today, then, let us learn what to do when we are in need of real change. And who among us does not need a change? Particularly when we are downcast, wearied by life’s burdens, oppressed by our own weakness, at those times when it is hard to keep going and loving seems impossible. In those moments, we need a powerful “jolt”: the Holy Spirit, the power of God. In the Creed, we profess that he is the “giver of life”. How good it would be for us each day to feel this jolt of life! To say when we wake up each morning: “Come, Holy Spirit, come into my heart, come into my day”.

The Spirit does not only change hearts; he changes situations. Like the wind that blows everywhere, he penetrates to the most unimaginable situations. In the Acts of the Apostles – a book we need to pick up and read, whose main character is the Holy Spirit – we are caught up in an amazing series of events. When the disciples least expect it, the Holy Spirit sends them out to the pagans. He opens up new paths, as in the episode of the deacon Philip. The Spirit drives Philip to a desert road from Jerusalem to Gaza… (How heartrending that name sounds to us today! May the Spirit change hearts and situations and bring peace to the Holy Land!) Along the way, Philip preaches to an Ethiopian court official and baptizes him. Then the Spirit brings him to Azotus, and then on to Caesarea, in constantly new situations, to spread the newness of God. Then too, there is Paul, “compelled by the Spirit” (Acts20:22), who travels far and wide, bringing the Gospel to peoples he had never seen. Where the Spirit is, something is always happening; where he blows, things are never calm.

When, in the life of our communities, we experience a certain “listlessness”, when we prefer peace and quiet to the newness of God, it is a bad sign. It means that we are trying to find shelter from the wind of the Spirit. When we live for self-preservation and keep close to home, it is not a good sign. The Spirit blows, but we lower our sails. And yet, how often have we seen him work wonders! Frequently, even in the bleakest of times, the Spirit has raised up the most outstanding holiness! Because he is the soul of the Church, who constantly enlivens her with renewed hope, fills her with joy, makes her fruitful, and causes new life to blossom. In a family, when a new baby is born, it upsets our schedules, it makes us lose sleep, but it also brings us a joy that renews our lives, driving us on, expanding us in love. So it is with the Spirit: he brings a “taste of childhood” to the Church. Time and time again he gives new birth. He revives our first love. The Spirit reminds the Church that, for all her centuries of history, she is always the youthful bride with whom the Lord is madly in love. Let us never tire of welcoming the Spirit into our lives, of invoking him before everything we do: “Come, Holy Spirit!”

He will bring his power of change, a unique power that is, so to say, both centripetal and centrifugal. It is centripetal, that is, it seeks the center because it works deep within our hearts. It brings unity amid division, peace amid affliction, strength amid temptations. Paul reminds us of this in the second reading, when he writes that the fruits of the Spirit are joy, peace, faithfulness, and self-control (cf. Gal 5:22). The Spirit grants intimacy with God, the inner strength to keep going. Yet, at the same time, he is a centrifugal force, that is, one pushing outward. The one who centers us is also the one who drives us to the peripheries, to every human periphery. The one who reveals God also opens our hearts to our brothers and sisters. He sends us, he makes us witnesses, and so he pours out on us – again in the words of Paul – love, kindness, generosity, and gentleness. Only in the Consoler Spirit do we speak words of life and truly encourage others. Those who live by the Spirit live in this constant spiritual tension: they find themselves pulled both towards God and towards the world.

Let us ask him to make us live in exactly that way. Holy Spirit, violent wind of God, blow upon us, blow into our hearts and make us breathe forth the tenderness of the Father! Blow upon the Church and impel her to the ends of the earth, so that, brought by you, she may bring nothing other than you. Blow upon our world the soothing warmth of peace and the refreshing cool of hope. Come Holy Spirit, change us within and renew the face of the earth. Amen.


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Service Saturday!

Our young people worked with Allegheny Valley Habitat for Humanity last Saturday.

CateCarnival 2017!

Our second annual CateCarnival kicked off the catechetical year with fun and food for our religious education program families!