Two things: one lighthearted and one of great import. First, check out our new parish T-Shirt for the summer. It’s a creative way to build parish camaraderie as we move into summer and it’s also a fundraiser to help offset costs due to COVID-19. Details are on our website. I think they’ll go quick!
Second, I’m sickened by the images of George Floyd being slowly killed by police officers as he lies handcuffed and helpless with an officer’s knee driven into his neck. He has become the new face of the long, sad, and enraging story of racism in this country. It’s a kind of national original sin. I’d like to make a few observations about this scourge on our culture. If you wish to hear my longer video with a teaching against racism, please see the attached link. https://youtu.be/aeamAQ1hKJA
As Catholics, we believe in the inherent dignity of each and every human being. Period. It’s a kind of axiom at the root of all our social and individual morality. It’s the bedrock principle of Catholic social teaching. Betraying it is like trying to betray gravity: people get hurt. Racism is a direct violation of our common human dignity.
This moment in our country is an opportunity for reflection and action. Are we listening to those who have suffered racism in our country? Are we sifting our own hearts and minds for attitudes that have knowingly or unknowingly absorbed racism? Are we seeking to better understand why racism is evil and trying to get better at communicating that in our circle of influence?
Just like Original Sin haunts the human race until it is fully overcome, so racism haunts our country until it is fully dealt with. The good news of our faith is that God has acted in Christ to free us from Original Sin—but that takes our cooperation. It’s not automatic. So too our country and culture can be healed of the “original sin” of racism, but it will also take our cooperation. It will take prayer, individual repentance, dialogue, and non-violent action rooted in truth and love.
We believe that the Church is the sacrament of the unity of the human race because it is Christ’s Body. I’m proud of the way our parish manifests this. Though we are far from perfect, our community here is a true brotherhood and sisterhood of people from a wide diversity of racial and ethnic backgrounds. In my five years here, I’ve been amazed at the way we strive to be ONE FAMILY IN CHRIST. What unites us is our common humanity and our new life in Christ. I thank God for it. Let’s dedicate ourselves to celebrating and strengthening this unity in our parish family.
The Lord Jesus overcame the power of original sin. May he help us overcome the “original sin“ of racism in our hearts, our wider community, and our country.
Fr. John Muir Pastor, St. Thomas Aquinas Parish Avondale, AZ
May 27, 2020
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
It was so warm the other day that I stood squinting up at the sun, marveling how so much energy can come out of that golden orb. Of course, the sun is essentially fire. How wonderful that the Holy Spirit is depicted by the appearance of physical fire coming down upon the apostles. Like physical fire, He purifies, illuminates, and creates movement. He sends the church into the world precisely as the fiery light of the world.
And that Fire continues to burn brightly today. I’m so grateful for the way the Holy Spirit is transforming our parish: illuminating souls with wisdom, bringing divine love into marriages and families, setting people free from sin and evil, and giving gifts to everyone to fulfill their mission in the church.
With the Holy Spirit in mind, I want to list 10 awesome things that the Holy Spirit does in our lives as we celebrate Pentecost. Here are the 10 things... not just to know about intellectually, but to experience burning in the depths of our heart.
1. The Holy Spirit gives the power of Re-birth through the waters of Baptism
2. The Holy Spirit is the Fire of God's transformative action in the Church and in our hearts. 1Thes 5:19; "Don't quench the Spirit."
3. The Holy Spirit is the Light that illuminates our minds to see the supernatural mystery of Jesus' divine identity.
4. The Holy Spirit is the Finger of God by which evil is cast out and also writes on the tablets of our hearts. Ex 31:18
5. The Holy Spirit is the Dove, the sign of new life which comes down in the purified hearts of the baptized.
6. The Holy Spirit makes our hearts a kind of new Paradise, a new Garden of Eden where we walk with God and have perfect love with one another.
7. The Holy Spirit is the Wind, the dynamic action of God that moves the Church, and everyone into mission. It fills the sails of the Church's life.
8. The Holy Spirit speaks to us in the Scriptures He inspired and is in the living tradition and magisterium of the Church.
9. The Holy Spirit inspires in the witnessing of the Saints, specifically through their lives and holiness.
10. The Holy Spirit makes Jesus present in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the same way that He is present in the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist.
Fr. John Muir Pastor, St Thomas Aquinas Parish Avondale, AZ
May 19, 2020
Dear Brother or Sister,
I felt a deep sorrow and loneliness six weeks ago when, on Easter morning, I walked through the empty parking lot and quiet church building to offer Mass looking at a camera.
Last Sunday, that feeling was replaced by an amazing spirit of joy when I saw you back at Sunday Mass. I felt almost like a new priest again. There was a measured quality to the joy because, as we all know, we have to proceed with caution and care. Nonetheless, let’s praise God that we have begun this “Phase One” of “Rising With Christ,” our diocesan and parish re-opening plan.
Thanks so much for everyone who stayed home because you felt sick or weren’t ready to get back to Mass. It’s great to keep live streaming at this point, especially if you have any doubts about your physical readiness. Thanks to you who came to Mass with your joy, good attitude, and for doing all the common sense things we have learned to do to keep us all safe.
I’m grateful too for the many volunteers and staff members who helped to organize and clean things so that being back at Mass was safe and prayerful. Congratulations to our entire school community for finishing this year with such gusto. Our parents, teachers, staff, and students stepped up to the challenge of keeping the educational standards high in a tough time. Way to go! Let’s pray God blesses our 8th graders as they move on to high school.
We have loads of people getting ready for the Sacraments of Baptism and/or Confirmation and First Holy Communion. I’m happy to report that we have rescheduled these Masses for the coming weeks. Those dates will be announced soon!
The Doc (the fantastic coffee shop part, at least) will be open this Saturday from 8 am to 10:30 am and Sunday 7:30 am to 12:30 pm. Also, the Sacrament of Reconciliation will be offered in the church (not in the confessionals…they’re too cramped) Saturday beginning at 8:30 am for approximately one hour.
Thanks to our amazing volunteers in our St. Vincent de Paul Society for bringing Christ’s love to those in need, often in the form of food, financial support, and prayer. We’ll have our super 5th Sunday collection to help this amazing part of our parish family on the LAST SUNDAY OF MAY. Thanks for remembering them, if you can.
Finally, this Sunday will be the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord. It’s not the departure of the Lord Jesus, but rather the elevation of His humanity into mission control, so to speak, of all creation. Ascended to the Father, the King is in command. And what good news…because His expansion of His kingdom on earth is what our mission is all about. How is He expanding His kingdom in this particular moment in your life? Your mind? Your family? Your work? Your parish? Your circle of influence? Let’s ask Him for a deeper insight into this very thing.
At the King’s Command, Fr. John Muir
May 13, 2020
I’m so happy to announce that we are now in “Phase One” of our re-opening plan at St. Thomas Aquinas and the Diocese of Phoenix. Check out my video in the home page for my comments on it. Some key points are:
—The Sunday Masses are open to the public up to about 25% of the church’s capacity.
—Patience will be required as this will be a gradual process. It won’t be perfect—but it will be safe and reverent.
—Live streaming of the Masses will continue and is recommended for whoever wishes.
—Holy Communion will be distributed after all Masses (for approx 30 minutes) for those who participated via live stream AND for those who perhaps couldn’t enter the church due to capacity restrictions.
—Employ careful responsibility for yourself and your family! E.g., hand washing, bring hand sanitizer, masks are recommended, Communion in the hand is recommended, practice social distancing, and don’t come if you are sick or are at a high risk.
—Stay in communication with us via the website and Flocknote for the most recent updates on the plan.
I’m so proud of the way our community is handling this challenging time with a deeper trust in God, love for each other, and passionate support for our parish family in a tough time. This multi-phased plan is called “Rising with Christ.” I pray that it will truly be an experience of the power of the Resurrection of Christ for each one of us.
See you soon…in person or on live stream!
Yours in Christ, Fr. Muir
May 5, 2020
I’ve been riding my bike around the parish lately and discovering nooks, crannies, and various cul-de-sacs that previously escaped my awareness. It’s truly been one of the many “Corona-Blessings” in my life. Just last night I was out for a late-night walk. As I was praying my rosary for the parish, I was silently blessing houses as I strolled by. I felt like a proud dad blessing his kids as they sleep.
This morning I went for a bike ride around Perryville Prison and blessed the inmates from a distance. As I pedaled North, I passed a neighborhood called “The Farms at Litchfield,” if I recall it correctly. It’s a gorgeous little community adjacent to sprawling farmland with rows of tilled soil with giant sprinklers shooting water over it. It happily occurred to me, “God has entrusted the Farms at Litchfield to my pastoral care and concern…and I didn’t even know about that this morning!” It was a joy. So, I asked God’s blessing on the people there!
If it weren’t for COVID-19 and the gyms being closed, I probably wouldn’t have experienced those blessings. A good thing occasioned by this crazy time is what I call a Corona-Blessing. What Corona-Blessings have you experienced so far? Let me know through our social media!
Things are starting to open up a bit in Arizona—which is indeed a relief. We are working hard in the parish offices to get ready for a multi-phase re-opening in the parish. It will take patience, creativity, and caution, to be sure. It will also take volunteers who do not have high-risk factors. If that’s the case for you, I hope you’ll consider helping a bit with some volunteering so that our re-opening is both safe, joyful, and reverent for everyone in our community. Delilah Garcia is your contact for that: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m so grateful for the amazing character you are showing amidst all these challenges: trust in God, concern for the Common Good of our neighbors, zeal for the Church’s mission, love for the poor, and just good old-fashioned perseverance. I am so proud to be your pastor—whether I’ve rolled my bike past your house recently or not.
Grateful for Corona-Blessings, Fr. John Muir
April 30, 2020
Friends in Christ,
I’m so impressed with your response to our food drive this past Saturday. Together we donated over 4,000 pounds of food for the poor in our community. That’s amazing! Thanks to you, to our Knights of Columbus (who sponsored the drive), and our St. Vincent de Paul Society (who are administering the food distribution). It’s a great sign of our faith in God and love for the vulnerable in our community.
Our school continues to operate very well despite the fact that we are still doing online-learning with our teachers and students. It’s hard to believe that we’ve been doing this now for almost the same length as a summer break. Way to go school community! Mrs. Scheller is continuing to lead our school community in academic excellence and growth in faith despite all these challenges in temporary distance learning. It’s not how Catholic education is supposed to be, but we are doing our best.
Like so many others, we’ve had to reduce our parish staff and the number of hours worked, at least until we enjoy lessened restrictions. Our mission as a parish is unchanged (to bring every person into intimacy with Christ) as is what we do (worship, proclaim the faith, serve the poor)...but how we do it is affected. With a smaller staff, I’ll have to lean on volunteers a bit more for various tasks, and some pastoral initiatives will pause or at least slowdown. I’m grateful to our amazing staff for all they have done and do to serve our parish!
This Sunday, I’d like to focus on the dynamics of the spiritual life. What is it, how does it work, why does it matter? With so many external restrictions, what a good time to focus on our interior life.
Sheltering in Christ, Fr. Muir
April 22, 2020
Dear Friends of St Thomas Aquinas Parish, Every single one of us has been deeply affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. It has disrupted our lives and caused much pain, suffering, and uncertainty. Though we may feel ourselves in a never-ending Lent, I hope that you might turn your mind and heart to the Risen Christ and find peace, joy, and light, here and now in this difficult time. I also hope that our parish family has been a support to you in this crisis. Our work of helping people discover intimacy with Christ continues! Much has stopped in our world, but the work of the Church moves forward. We are still preparing people for marriage and having (small!) weddings. We are still doing funerals. We are still running our great school and preparing people to receive sacraments of initiation (all online). We are still celebrating the sacrament of reconciliation with hundreds of people through Saturday drive-through confessions. We are bringing financial support and food to the poor in our community through our St. Vincent de Paul Society. We are reaching out to parishioners through phone trees, social media, videos, and live-stream Masses on the weekends. I see something amazing happening. We have been brought to a new threshold. We are poised to reach, impact, and unite people in our parish like never before. Unlike perhaps any time in our lifetime, people are aware of their fragility and therefore also of their deep need for God and for what He alone gives: infinite love, truth, and life. And our parish is responding with love, energy, and creativity. I don’t think we’ll ever be the same. That’s a wonderful thing! We are responding to the needs of our community in a new way. We’ve had thousands of people live stream our Masses. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that we had upwards of twenty thousand views on our parish website around the time of Holy Week. But I think what moves me the most is when, during this crisis, a young mom and her daughter spend a few minutes in quiet prayer in the church on a Tuesday morning. Or when an elderly man who has lost his vision kneels for an hour in the front pew in the empty church as he whispers his rosary. Or when a father leads his family in a simple online bible study even though he’s not sure he can do it “right.” We’re growing where it matters and that’s a great thing. I want you to know that we can keep moving forward. We can be better as a parish than we’ve ever been before. That is why I am asking for your help. As you know, almost everything we do is offered for free. The financial support we receive goes right back into supporting our mission. Unfortunately, like so many of you, we have seen a steep decline in our essential revenues. I need your help to keep our operation stable and moving forward in this crucial time. People in our community are suffering. Lost jobs, drained savings, failed opportunities. Parishioners have called me and emotionally told me that they are able to give half of their normal gift, or none at all. My response is, “God bless you! How can we help you?” I believe if we can help, we have a special God-given responsibility to do so. We are in this together! If you can help financially, I humbly ask that you consider making a gift to St Thomas Aquinas parish and to support our mission of bringing Christ into people’s lives. In particular, our online giving really helps us become more stable and strong (www.stacc.net/ways-to-give.html). I’m grateful for your support in the past, and for your prayerful consideration of even more investment in our life-changing mission now. Every day I pray for you and your family. There is great peace and joy in my heart knowing that the Risen Jesus is with us, leading us, and uniting us in his love. May he help us to trust him more than ever before. Thank you for everything you are and do. Yours in Christ and His Mission, Fr John Muir Pastor, St Thomas Aquinas Parish and School
April 20, 2020
Is all this time together making you a worse human being than before COVID-19?
Or is it making you better? More patient, loving, engaged?
However you feel, this is a time to experience the "180 degree turn" the Risen Lord wants for us in all sorts of exciting ways.
I know, we've all had our moments when we feel a bit stir-crazy. But I'm seeing some wonderful things happening, too. One husband told me that he regularly tells his wife, "Honey, there's no one I'd rather be isolated with than you."
Even in the priests' rectory things are changing for the better. Whereas before several days or even weeks could rush by in a flurry of pastoral activity, we three priests (Fathers Nguyen and Anwar and I) are sharing meals, conversation, and prayer more than ever before. I'm listening to my brother priests more intently. I'm seeking to understand their experiences, needs, and joys more like a true brother. It's a grace from God.
We recently celebrated Divine Mercy Sunday in which the Risen Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit out upon his flustered apostles. Soon we will hear the account of Jesus appearing to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Though the former occurs indoors and the latter outdoors, there is a similar interior transformation that Jesus effects in both cases.
This change is a kind of spiritual 180. In the upper room, Jesus stops the apostles' momentum toward fear and reorients them to be missionaries of his mercy in the world. On the road to Emmaus, he ceases the disciples' downward descent into discouragement and launches them back into the community of the church in Jerusalem, this time as bearers of his good news.
In both cases the Risen Jesus fills those he encounters with the dynamism of his divine mercy. Those he touches start move in a whole new way, with new purpose and hope.
This is a tough time. Every one of us feels the suffering of this pandemic in different ways. It's easy to just white-knuckle it and say, "I'll just wait til things are back to normal. I don't care what God has to say to me. I'll spiritually engage after this is all over." It's when we most need a spiritual 180 that the Lord is most likely to manifest his mercy to us. Maybe it's in the form of a kind word from a spouse; an insight from the Scriptures; an inspiration to be more generous with someone; a new capacity to open your heart. to God in prayer. Whatever it is...let the Lord to be with you and change you however he wishes in this time.
Things will go back to "normal," at least on some levels. But I hope that there's NO going back to our old attitudes of fear and sadness because we met the Risen Lord when we most needed him, and where we most needed him.
Christ is Risen! Fr Muir
Phone: (623) 935-2151 | Fax : (623) 935-5044 13720 West Thomas Road, Avondale, AZ 85392