Fr. Chris's Letters
to the SPA Family

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lack of love

December 5, 2021

Dear SPA Family,
What we are today and what we have is a product of our abilities and efforts, and what we have received from God and people. In what we receive from others, material values are the easiest to see. Inheriting a great fortune is something. However, it means nothing when the gift of love is lacking. It was out of love that God sent us his Son, Jesus Christ. During Advent, we wait for His coming. Being open to this gift turns the greatest sinners into saints. It is for this reason that we cannot avoid Christ, who walks with us on the pilgrimage of our lives.
John the Baptist announced the coming of Jesus, and in this Advent, Saint John prepares us to receive Him, this Love. He warns us and rebukes us, he calls us to straighten the paths of our lives. St. John’s warning is an expression of love and concern. Only those who truly love us will tell us about our mistakes in order to save us from wasting our lives. Love makes demands so that we can be complete. In this case, he calls us to straighten the paths of our lives, because sometimes they are so twisted and bumpy that there is no chance of finding God and our neighbor on them.
I remember from my childhood, the unpaved road leading to some fields of my family farm. After the rain, it became one large puddle of mud. Traveling this road was a pain horse wagons and especially for tractors that worked in the fields or hauled trees from the forest. More than once, my father and his sons (me too :) worked hard to get the tractor out of the muddy slush. Today, this road is leveled and paved with asphalt; my brothers can reach their destination quickly and easily. But before that happened, a lot of work and effort had to be put into its construction. After the road was built, the great mound near stables from which we used to sled down in winter disappeared. Hundreds of thousands of times the shovels dipped into this mound, taking sand to build this road.
John the Baptist calls us to straighten the paths that lead us to God and our neighbor. These are the ways of God’s commandments. Sometimes on this path, the mountains are so high and the valleys so deep that there is no chance of reaching our destinations. Sometimes, valleys of mutual aversion are insurmountable, and mountains of prejudice reach the sky and obscure other people for us. Jealousy will twist the roads so much that we may not see the way out of them. Hate digs valleys so deep that we see nothing but revenge. And pride often reaches gigantic dimensions so that the prouds can only see themselves. All these intricacies isolate us from our neighbor and God, and deprive us of the most important gift which is love.
Lack of love stops us in development and deprives us of the possibility of a saving encounter with God. Straightening these paths requires a lot of effort and perseverance. However, taking this effort causes that “...all people will see God’s salvation”
Have a blessed week. Fr. Chris Ciastoń

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blue sky

November 28, 2021

Dear SPA Family,
I remember the first time I took a boat trip on the Chicago River. I remember the color of the river’s water. Closer to the Chicago Harbor Lock, which leads to Lake Michigan, I noticed that the water was turning ‘bluer.’ After passing the lock, the waters turned into crystalline and its unusual blue-turquoise color. The color of the water reflected the pristine blue of the sky. As the clouds came and covered the sun, the water turned gray in the lake and the blue of the sky disappeared. Back on Michigan Ave, one of the participants of the trip said: “I was in heaven for a while.” Indeed, our earthly world can charm us with its beauty and give us a foretaste of heaven. Side note: in the Polish language, there is only one word for heaven and sky (niebo). Therefore, sky and heaven are the same thing for me:-)
The biblical heaven partly becomes our share here on earth, which is the place where it is conquered. We are sailing on the endless ocean. Above us, there’s the blue of the sky/heaven and the sun. This Sun is Christ, who says about Himself: “I am the light for the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” Sometimes, clouds appear in the sky of our life to obscure this Sun. These clouds take the shape of sin and all the evil that separates us not only from God but also from our neighbor. When they obscure Christ, our spiritual world turns gray and the heaven to which we are all called disappears from the horizon of our lives. Someday the time will come, when the image of the reflected sky/heaven in earth’s reality will disappear, only heaven will remain. And this will happen at the end of time when Christ returns to judge the world.
The anticipation of Jesus’ return at the end of time is the main theme of the Advent beginning. To be vigilant/watchful means to use the time to grow in holiness. Metaphorically speaking, it is to remove from the blue of your sky/heaven all the clouds of evil that obscure Christ. In this vigilance and growing in holiness, prayer, reading a pious book, retreats, additional devotions are important, and all this is what the Church encourages us to do during Advent. But all this would mean nothing if it had not intensified love for God and neighbor, which is the most important path to holiness and the surest preparation to meet Christ in the end times.
Advent preparation for meeting with Christ in the end times takes place in the charming atmosphere of preparation for Christmas. Our four-week preparation for the Holy Days evokes the expectation of the Chosen People for the coming of the promised Messiah. This prophecy was fulfilled for every Christian, when the sky was flared up over Bethlehem and a star of extraordinary brightness appeared, announcing the birth of the child, who was named Jesus. The memory of this event very often dominates our Advent preparations. And sometimes it replaces all preparation. Of course, the external beauty of Advent preparations, colorful Christmas trees, gifts, carol melodies, a common Christmas table, an atmospheric nativity scene in the parish church are needed. They fill our hearts with beauty, gentleness, goodness, love and help us prepare to meet the greatest Love that will embrace us and open the gates of the end times for us.
Have a blessed week. Fr. Chris Ciastoń

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RMC -Areas of Challenge and Opportunity

November 21, 2021

Dear SPA Family,
I believe St. Paul the Apostle Parish has truly lived Jesus’ message to love and care for one another from day one. This work has continued on a consistent basis. Perhaps the challenges which accompany our response to COVID have provided an opportunity to work our way through our ministries on a more personal level. Perhaps we can guide each one to revisit its mission. Perhaps this is the time to review how participants in those missions have been attracted and how to revise our efforts during these difficult times. Perhaps we can use our need for community and for normalcy to draw others into God’s family which is the most normal place any of us can be!
Areas of Challenge and Opportunity -What are the greatest challenges our parish faces?
Ministerial Challenges:
- GIVING: We donate/give/collect a large sum of money and items to various charitable programs. However, we noticed that parishioners help only with a few of these programs ‘in the field.’ Part of this is the result of job and other family commitments.
- VOLUNTEERS: Finding enough volunteers and ministers is always a challenge. We need to be more diverse in our approach, perhaps by developing the younger generation and encouraging cross-generational participation; sign-ups are a challenge.
PPC: needs to continue to develop/restart its status and regular meetings.
- OUTREACH: better outreach to the community especially with those of other religions
- COVID: getting people to return to the faith community has been difficult. Saturday Evening Mass is live streamed to help with this.
- DISCONNECT: with religious education and follow through with Mass attendance
- COMMUNICATIONS AND COLLABORATION: between ministries; not everyone knows what everyone else is doing - Leadership Summits are helpful.
Operational Challenges:
- FINANCES FOR FUTURE MAINTENANCE: The parish campus; facilities, huge acreage, 4 large parking lots, and greenery are in good shape. However, we may experience difficulties to cover future maintenance expenses. Continuation to be good stewards.
Where could we benefit from mutual support with St. Gilbert?
St. Gilbert’s is accomplishing wonderful things and so are we. This process has opened all of us to learning from one another’s best efforts as we carry on. A few specific ideas that our parishes could benefit working and sharing with each other would be the following:
A “Renew My Church” kick off social. Invite adults of all ages from both parishes to bring an appetizer to share, assorted beverages would be provided, and perhaps use this as a time for our parishioners to connect and create an initial bond for future events.
Vacation Bible School: Both parishes had extremely vibrant programs. Perhaps this would be a wonderful opportunity to have a representative from each parish act as the “leaders”. VBS could share volunteers, space, responsibilities, etc. by providing one program for one week. In the past, we shared resources, volunteers, as well as children enjoying both programs. This would present an excellent opportunity to work together.
A Lenten/Advent Parish Mission or special event. Perhaps Advent could be held at one parish and Lent at the other. Offer a time for discussion/small group/social after each presentation. Invite a friend, neighbor, etc. to the event.
I’d like to express my gratitude to our Renew My Church Team; Fr. Joe Curtis, Amy Russell, Beth Penfold, Mary Penich, Sue Tebbetts, and Catherine Karl. They offered their precious time, thoughtful insights, and enormous love for our parish. Thank you!!!
Have a blessed week. Fr. Chris Ciastoń

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RMC - Strengths

November 14, 2021

Dear SPA Family,
I’d like to present to you this week our parish strengths which our Renew My Church Team created during five-week meetings. As you know SPA facilities are located in the heart of Gurnee. The parish serves over 2000 families who reside in the greater Lake County area. Our parish community is ethnically, economically, and ideologically diverse. We believe this is the direct result of our founders’ commitment to be a welcoming faith community and our ongoing efforts to maintain and nurture that openness to all of God’s people. This commitment to welcome has resulted in the formation and development of 55 ministries which serve our parish children and adults under the guise of our five commissions (Faith Formation and Catechesis, Human Concerns, Worship, Parish Life and Evangelization & Spiritual Life). At out parish, we invest ourselves in offering welcoming, vital and reverent liturgies, comprehensive Faith Formation opportunities and plentiful charitable initiatives with both one-time and long-term commitment opportunities.
Areas of Strength. Where do we see the fruits of the Holy Spirit at work in our parish?
Ministerial Strengths:
OUTREACH: From the onset, we have and continue to engage in generous and proactive outreach. Giving Sunday for Catholic Charities (2000+ gifts), donating and helping at two food pantries, SVDP, 3 sharing parishes, prayer shawls; Baby Bottle Campaign, Turkey Dinners, grief & divorce support, Pro-Life movement, senior & funeral luncheons, Simbang Gabi and Knights of Columbus charities, to name a few.
LITURGY: Liturgies are energetic, and faith filled. Music is very well done and invites congregational participation. The two priests and six deacons provide solid and engaging homilies. We utilize ProPresenter (projection) which enhances Mass attendance and participation.
FAITH FORMATION: Strong and diversified faith formation grouped by K-5, Confirmation (6-8), HS Confirmation, Youth Ministry (Life Teen), SPRED, Adults (Bible Study, Tabor, Core, Men’s Legacy, Circle of Women, Faith Sharing). Meetings/classes always begin with a formal greeting and a prayer, Mass and/or other services.
HOSPITALITY: Warm and heartfelt hospitality has been and continues to be a hallmark of parish life. Monthly donuts, coffee and juice; the reception desk which is staffed before and after all Masses to inform, assist, sign-up and register parishioners. Informational Desk staff is accompanied by greeters and ushers who welcome and assist those coming to worship. Father Chris and Coordinators reach out and coordinate parish life through their weekly letters to the parish, and social media presence. Our newest addition to parish life is the Flying Angels - who are on-call volunteers.
MISSION: From the beginning of the parish (1992), SPA has been a mission parish, a parish of missionary disciples, a parish focused on Christ’s mission. SPA has worked very hard to draw people into God’s family. This began with the great ministry of the Carmelites (1992-2019) and now Frs. Chris and Joe and the parishioners who worked at their sides. These efforts resulted in both subtle and profound deepening of our communal and personal relationships with God.
Operational Strengths:
ATTENDANCE: Consistently large Sunday Mass attendance.
FINANCES: Parish finances that are strong and consistently supported.
LEADERSHIP: Strong, collective, and diverse parish leadership; competent and well-informed finance council; welcoming and competent heads of ministries; Leadership Summit support for all involved.
GATHERING SPACES: Lower and Upper Gathering Spaces; place for advertisement, sales, ministry meetings, meals, wake visitations, ministry fairs, sign ups, food/coat/baby bottles… collection, polling place.
The next weekend I will present the challenges RMC Team noticed at our parish and how SPA can collaborate with St. Gilbert, and Bishop Jeffrey Grob will visit us next Sunday and celebrate Holy Masses at 9:30 and 11:30. Have a blessed weekend. Fr. Chris Ciastoń

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Renew My Church

November 7, 2021

Letter from Archdiocese of Chicago.
St. Gilbert and St. Paul Renew My Church Update: October 2021
Discernment Process
During the past few months, St. Gilbert and St. Paul the Apostle Parishes engaged in the Renew My Church (RMC) review and discernment process. The Grouping Feedback and Discernment team (GFDT), which was made up of members from each community, met to review and discern how to respond to the call to renewal for the grouping’s parishes, including any potential changes to parish structures.
Based on their meetings and feedback gathered from the larger parish community, they submitted feedback to the archdiocese. The Archdiocesan Standards and Recommendations Commission, which includes representatives from across the Archdiocese of Chicago, reviewed the feedback and other information, including financial summaries and parish trends.
Cardinal Cupich and Bishop Grob are grateful to the parish leaders who gathered as a Grouping Team, as well as all the parishioners who offered feedback through the discernment process.
Outcome
In the past few weeks, Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, archbishop of Chicago, the archdiocese’s auxiliary bishops, and the archdiocese’s Presbyteral Council met to discuss the Commission’s recommendation. Based upon those discussions and prayerful consideration, Cardinal Cupich made the following decisions regarding St. Gilbert and St. Paul the Apostle Parishes.
• Both parishes will remain in their current structure.
- Cardinal Cupich affirmed the feedback that formally uniting the parishes would not be fruitful for the sake of renewal.
- The RMC Commission was excited to learn about the work of renewal already begun in each parish and the commitment of each parish to continue on the path of renewal with an even deeper focus.
- Cardinal Cupich affirms the grouping team’s vision that continued work, especially in the area of evangelization and re-evangelization of parishioners, will be necessary to reground people in their discipleship. We know that only disciples can invite and inspire other disciples.
- Pope Francis calls us to not only be disciples of Jesus, but Missionary Disciples who share the Good News of Jesus in the world around us, a world yearning to hear and know Jesus.
- The Renew My Church imperative of making disciples will continue to be the mission into the decades to come.
• There will be no structural changes to St. Gilbert School as a result of the grouping discernment process.
Next Steps
The parish communities will continue to the next phase of renewal, focusing on strong evangelization to the world around us. Specifically, with the support of the Parish Vitality Coordinator, Eleanor Segraves, and the Evangelization team of the Archdiocese, your parishes will continue to build the new reality, focused on deepening discipleship, and supporting disciples in becoming missionary disciples for the work of evangelization. The renewal process calls us to become a stronger, more sustainable presence for the future, capable of reaching more people by sharing our discipleship in Jesus Christ, building communities with one another and inspiring witness in the world around us.

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love understands

October 31, 2021

Dear SPA Family,
Many years ago, one of the islands was inhabited by Happiness, Sorrow, Knowledge, Vanity, Wealth, Love and many other feelings. One day it was announced that the island would soon be under water. So, everyone started preparing the boats to leave the island. Love decided to stay until the last moment. When the island was almost completely submerged in water, it was only then that Love decided to ask for help. While looking for help, Love noticed a richly equipped, enormous boat passing by. Wealth was the captain. ‘Wealth, can you take me with?’ Love asked. ‘No, I cannot, there is much gold and silver in the boat. There is no place for you on my boat, Wealth answered. Love decided to ask for help Vanity, which was sailing on a beautiful, luxurious ship. ‘Vanity, please help me,’ Love pleaded. ‘I cannot help you. You are all wet and you could make mess on my ship,’ Vanity replied. Sorrow passed nearby in its boat. Love renewed its request. Sadness replied, ‘I am very sad. I have to stay alone by myself. So, I can’t take you away.’ Happiness was also sailing, but it was so overjoyed with laughter that it did not hear the cry of Love. And then suddenly, a distressed Love hears a voice: ‘Love, come here. I’ll take you.’ Love was so thrilled that it forgot to ask the name of the old man who took her to the boat. When they reached dry land, the old man continued on his way. And when he disappeared around the bend, then Love realized how much she owes to the old man. So, Love asked Knowledge about the name of the old man who had helped her. ‘It was Time,’ Knowledge replied. ‘Time?’ Love asked, ‘Why did time help me?’ Knowledge, smiling, with a smile through which the deepest wisdom pierces, said: ’Because only Time is able to understand how great and wonderful Love is.’
We have a wonderful gift which is time. We often bargain with life for the length of this time. In fact, the value of life does not depend on its length, but on what it is filled with. To paraphrase the story of a sinking island, we can say that Time knows the truth about life that becomes great and wonderful only when we fill it with love. Time, stretching out into eternity, reaches God Himself, who is the fullness of love. Immersed in this fullness, we can saturate our lives with the love that brings salvation. Therefore, faith in God directs our attention to its fundamental truth, which is love.
The scribes of the Law often asked which of the 615 Old Testament precepts were the most important. According to the scribes, human relations were governed by various laws, including the law of love. Christ gives a new meaning to the word ‘love.’ The novelty is that the neighbor is not only a fellow-tribe, but every human being. Love understood in this way is more important than prayers and burnt offerings. And for such love we will have to give an account to God someday. Love is the key to our salvation. The gates of heaven will open before us as we saturate our lives with love.
Have a blessed week. Fr. Chris Ciastoń

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sensitivity to help

October 23, 2021

Dear Spa Family,
The cry for help is heard all over the world and it does not omit the places where we live. Sometimes a call for help is loud and clear. For ships in great danger, a Morse code SOS signal has been issued since 1908. At this signal, everyone who is nearby rushes to the rescue. In life, however, there are more signals that call for help, the reception of which depends on the sensitivity of our heart to the needs of another human being.
A young man who found himself in a very difficult life wrote a desperate letter to Eleanor Roosevelt. Mrs. Roosevelt met with him, supported him financially and helped him finish his medical studies. After graduating, the young man, filled with gratitude, asks how he could pay back. Then Eleanor Roosevelt replied, ‘There is one way you can pay me back; when you materially get back on your feet, help someone else who is really in a difficult situation like you were.’ And this is how the Gospel sequence of help begins, which transforms the world and makes it impossible to cry out for help.
Sometimes we hear a cry for help, and despite our most sincere intentions, we feel helpless in the face of this cry. We cannot change anything; we can only be together with the caller. Not so long ago, the young father of the family asked me if I could talk to him. Around midnight, I enter his apartment, where despair was mixed with hope. In a voice full of fear and despair, the young man begins to say: ‘Father, I am sick with cancer, doctors are not giving me any chance, there are already metastases to the brain. But I have to live, I have someone to live for, I have a wife and two young children, I cannot die.’ Words break, tears flow, and despair appears on his face. There are no words of human wisdom that can capture the pain even a little. The words that everything is possible have not been used much… doctors may be wrong… medicine knows cases of sudden healing even in hopeless situations.
We started talking about God and his plans that were incomprehensible to us. Then we prayed together with the words of the psalm: ‘Even though I walk in the dark valley, I will not fear evil, because You are with me.’ Together with the suffering person, I tried to direct his heart and mind to Him who is hope even in the most difficult situations. I affirmed him that God listens to us, and the fulfillment of prayers often comes in a different form than we expect. Very often the fruit of prayer is a glance that brings hope and helps us to understand more fully the situation in which we find ourselves, and to bear the burden of suffering with dignity. Peacefully for eternity.
Nick, the dying father of the family, received this grace of a fuller vision. He was going away to eternity calmly. In difficult days, a loving family stayed with him, and together they turned their hearts and minds to Him who is the source of hope. So often in our lives, and especially in its last hour, we need a presence that brings hope.
Today I may have everything, I don’t have to call for help, but tomorrow I may lose it, including my health and life, I will need help, from those who have the sensitivity to the voice of those calling for help.
Have a blessed week. Fr. chris Ciastoń

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a servant spirit

October 17, 2021

Dear SPA Family,
Zebedee’s sons, James and John, asked for the high positions in the kingdom that Jesus had announced. The other apostles were indignant at this request. In response to this situation, Christ explains what power is, and on which way a person gains greatness. The terms ‘master’ and ‘servant’ are known even to the smallest children. The master and servant often appear in the pages of children’s fairy tales and stories. Every child knows that the master is to rule and govern who usually has unlimited power over his subjects, and a servant, deprived of basic rights, is to faithfully serve his master.
In the gospel perspective, authority is service, and the true greatness of a person arises from the greatness of his service and sacrifice. You want to be great, treat your life and your power as a service.
Even those who treat authority as dominating other people agree with the gospel statement. This is for a simple reason. Anyone who has even flashes of common sense realizes that his true value is as much as he is useful and needed by people. And who would not want to be needed and appreciated by others. Hence, the greatest tyrants said their power was at the service of the nation, the working class, and the proletarian revolution. Stalin murdered everyone without exception and called it service to the people. Once, I was walking along the avenues of merit in Warsaw’s Powiązki Cemetery and saw monuments of ‘meritorious’ for the nation. They called their power service, but in fact they enslaved the nation, taking care of themselves and pleasing the rulers of the Kremlin.
Let's leave history aside and take a look at the environment we live in. We will meet people who, when exercising power, put their own interests first and call it service to the country, the local community, the Church, the needy, the lost, the family, etc. It is not a bad thing to relate self-interest to service to others, as long as service comes first, and self-interest comes second. Reversing this order distorts the notion of service and causes the other person to be treated as an object that we can use for our own interests.
True greatness through service can be gained regardless of what condition we live in, what position we hold, or what work we do. Martin Luther King, Jr., puts it very aptly: “Everyone can be great... because everyone can serve. You don’t need to have an academic degree to serve... All you need is a heart full of gratitude and kindness and a soul animated by love.”
So we can hold an unimportant office, or we can have none, and we can gain a greatness that will go around the world and enter the history of humankind forever. Mother Teresa of Calcutta gained such greatness because she devoted her whole life selflessly to serving her neighbor.
Most often, our lives are fulfilled by ordinary, daily duties, if we fulfill them in a servant spirit, they become the source of our greatness, greatness that wins the respect of people and the reward of God Himself.
Have a blessed week. Fr. Chris Ciastoń

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sense of a fulfilled life

October 10, 2021

Dear SPA Family,
Former U.S. Senator and all-star professional basketball player Bill Bradley wrote the Values of the Game, a book that explains the positive character traits required to be a winner in sports, as well as in life. Once, in Chicago, after playing a game, a man came up to him and asked him, ‘Do you really like to play the ball?’ ‘This is my passion, I can even start the game over now,’ replied Bradley. ‘It’s great,’ says the man. ‘You know, I used to play the trumpet. I think I know how you feel. I was in a small music band. We were very good. We played at college every weekend. In the last year, our band received an offer to undertake an artistic tour and record an album. Everyone agreed except me.’ ‘Why didn’t you say yes,’ Bradley asks. ‘My father thought that it was not a very solid job, it did not give financial and life stability. I wasn’t sure what to make of this. However, I agreed with my father that this lifestyle could be good for a short time. That’s why I went to study law and gave up playing the trumpet completely. And now I don’t have time for that.’ ‘Do you like the law?’ Bradley continues. ‘It’s okay, but it's nothing compared to playing the trumpet,’ replies the young man.
Probably this young man would fulfill himself most fully as a musician. He would do what he likes and be happier. However, he chose the law because graduating from law studies gave him a chance for a well-paid job and a sense of life stability. He did not reach higher because he was afraid of the risk. According to him, life demanded too much of a sacrifice from him. He is probably leading a prosperous life now, and the trumpet’s voice comes to him as a reproach for an unfulfilled vocation.
The evangelical young rich man had a chance to fulfill his life. But did he not lack the joy that would be his if he followed Jesus’ call? Or perhaps the sadness with which he left Jesus, fell not only on his mortal life, but also on his eternity. God sends us good inspirations. Sometimes we are sure that following His voice would give us joy and a sense of a fulfilled life. However, sometimes we desert these inspirations because we have become too used to the present way of life and are held back by material conditions. We cannot afford these risky decisions. Because these noble inspirations may die in us, and with them the best part of our personality may die too.
The circle of noble inspirations includes Christ’s call to choose a more perfect way of life. And sometimes a person becomes completely deaf at God’s direction. He has made himself so comfortable in this life that he doesn’t even want to think about another. To people suffering from such deafness, Christ addresses the words: ‘How difficult it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.’ Riches alone are not an obstacle to achieving God’s Kingdom. It all depends on our attitude towards material goods. Probably, when we stand before God, it won’t matter how much wealth we had, but how we used it.
Have a blessed week. Fr. Chris Ciastoń

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marriage vows

October 2/3, 2021

Dear SPA Family,
For 13 years, a 60-year-old woman has been lying paralyzed, inert, and helpless. Her husband, 10 years older than her, cares for her with touching devotion. He would not give her to the ‘professional care’ for anything. He said, ‘she has always been the best wife for me, and we are still happy today. How can I leave her now when she needs me most? If I can no longer look after her, we will both go to the nursing home together.’ Many years ago, these spouses stood at the altar and, holding back tears of emotion, repeated, ‘I vow to you love, faithfulness and marital honesty, and that I will not leave you until death. So, help me, Lord God Almighty, one in the Trinity, and all the saints.’ On the wedding day, everything had a festive and unique character. All of this has passed, and the inexorable time has even erased from memory many details of the wedding day. However, the most important thing remained, which has not lost its value over the years, moreover, it became nobler and took on additional depth. What is left is pure and beautiful love, which, captured in the form of a marriage vow, like a river with crystalline water, carries refreshing strength and life.
The words of the marriage vows for newlyweds are dictated by a sincere and genuine heartfelt desire. The newlyweds want to be faithful to each other until the end of their days. It would be unthinkable for them at this point to accept the possibility of leaving their spouse at a difficult time in life. God sanctifies the natural aspirations of the spouses, makes them indissoluble and becomes a source of supernatural power in building the durability of the marriage community.
Not all married couples enjoy the joy of being united. Some of them experience life storms that undermine and destroy their marital stability. Some marriages are declared null and void by the Church Tribunal because there have been so-called canonical marital obstacles that made marriage invalid from the outset and prevented survival. It also happens that a marriage, validly contracted for various reasons, breaks up, and the spouses decide to divorce and enter a new relationship, but without the possibility of a church wedding, and hence the question arises; what is the place of these people in the Church?
In response, I will refer to the teaching of the Church contained in the Apostolic Exhortation of St. John Paul II; ‘Familiaris Consortio.’ It says that divorce and remarriage does not put the faithful, who experienced the tragedy of the breakdown of their marriage, outside the Church. The Church is established for the salvation of all people, especially the baptized, she does everything to make the spouses of the second union ready to receive the grace of salvation. Those who live without a church wedding cannot be judged by one measure. Bringing everyone under one common denominator is harmful and does not allow proper pastoral service. There are spouses who did everything to save their first marriage.
The Pope calls on the parish priests and the community of believers to reassure those living in second marriages that through baptism they have become members of the Church and they belong to it. The Church prays for them, showing them mercy, strengthening them in faith and hope. The Church firmly believes that those living in second marriages are able to receive the grace of transformation and salvation if, animated by the spirit of reparation, they continue in prayer and perform works of mercy.
Have a blessed week. Fr. Chris Ciastoń

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conscience

September 25/26, 2021

Dear SPA Family,
The most important thing in faith is to know Jesus, so that He would cleanse us and make us see sisters and brothers in other people. We cannot consider ourselves better than others, believe only for show and count for a ‘sure’ reward in heaven. We are also to learn from others. We are to see God’s action in them as well.
Because through everyone God can do a lot of good. It is fortunate to notice this. The disciples of Jesus did not see this in this Sunday’s gospel, so they were jealous: we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us... Let such inappropriate attitudes disappear from us. Let suspicion and jealousy not take the place of a willingness to meet and have a pleasant conversation.
This conversation does not necessarily have to be on religious topics. We read in the bible that whoever is not against us is with us. Let God’s grace work everywhere, even where it seems to be absent. Jesus’ apostles thought that way. And it turned out that they did not act properly. They heard from Jesus: do not prevent him...
The task to which Sundays’ gospel also calls us is to strengthen the faith of others. For faith requires strengthening, and what can break it is the scandal against which Jesus warns his disciples: whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.
Therefore, it is not enough to be in the community of the Church, to be a disciple of Jesus, but to be set by example. We cannot act one way in the church and act out of it in a different way. It is extremely important not to distract anyone from the faith. How much scandal comes also through an irresponsible word on television, in the press, on the radio or in a social media or conversation. We can kill faith in a person through the word, deprive him of the sense of moral responsibility for his act. We must guard against sin that ruins our own and others’ lives and happiness.
Krzysztof Krawczyk, one of my favorite Polish singers, once sang: “It was all sin that made people feel bad about themselves. So instead of sticking to your pride, ask your conscience, how it’s doing.” We would often like to convert others, cleanse them of their mistakes. I think we need to look at our own hands at times, keep our legs from chasing unnecessary things in our life, keep our gaze on our spouse, family, neighbor rather than cut their hands and legs off and pluck their eyes out just because they caused them to sin.
Have a blessed week. Fr. chris Ciastoń

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desire

September 18-19, 2021

Dear SPA Family,
Historians, writing about wars, filled thousands of pages with analyzes of the causes of conflicts between nations or societies. Hundreds of reasons have been cited, but perhaps it is not among them that wars are the result of a lack of prayer. If the historian had made such a claim, his colleagues would probably be suspicious of him. What can be the connection between war and prayer? There are thousands of other sources of conflict, but not prayer. St. James sees actually the fires of wars in the absence of prayer.
According to him, desires are the cause of wars and quarrels, and desires are the result of a lack of good prayer. We live in a circle of different values that influence our lives. The shape of our lives very often depends on the values that we value the most and strive to achieve them. Some values are universal and timeless. These include good, beauty, love, justice... For example, if a person strives to know the good and wants to fill his life with it, he transforms and becomes better. Contact with the good changes a person. The same is true for other values.
We want to financially secure ourselves, have things that we like. However, it may become a destructive force when it is overcome by desire. Then arises the desire to possess at any cost. In order to gain something, desire causes a person to sell his honor and convictions, he will deny friendship, he will turn in his colleague at work to take his place, he will get rich by selling drugs, he will raise Cain’s hand on his brother for a few pennies, he won’t spend some money to buy a good book that might enrich his interior, he won’t have time for those in need, he won’t also find time to reflect on his life in the silence of the temple, etc. People overcome with greed/desire turn green at the sight of someone’s great car, their pride swells due to someone’s promotion, and they lose their health and integrity by digging holes under their fellow men.
Sometimes the desire for possession was concealed under noble mottos. The Spaniards reached the Americas many years ago. The conquest of new lands has begun. The newcomers announced to the world that they had noble motives, preaching the Gospel and giving the Indians a ‘higher,’ European culture. Christian missionaries also sailed on the ships, but the destination was decided by someone else. And the goal was gold and new lands, this goal grew out of the desire to possess. This goal/desire contributed to the death of millions of people and the decline of the great Indian civilization. The desire for possessions was the source of wars.
For a believer, God is the embodiment of the noblest values, and to a perfect degree. Contact with these values is personal in God because God is a person, He is the most perfect being. The believer addresses Him as someone very close to him because He died on the cross out of love for him. He seeks God, finds Him, and is filled with Him, and this becomes a source of inner transformation. The process of seeking and finding closeness to God is prayer. And in this sense, prayer transforms a person. Albert Schweitzer: said, “Prayers don’t change the world, but they change people, and people change the world.” If prayer doesn’t change us, it’s worth asking if it’s a good prayer, aren’t we just praying for satisfaction of our desires?
Have a blessed week. Fr. Chris Ciastoń

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suffering Messiah

September 11-12, 2021

Dear SPA Family,
Near Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asked his disciples who people believed Him to be. The answers were different. He then asked his disciples the same question as to who they thought Jesus was. Simon Peter replies, “You are the Messiah”. Christ praised this answer and commanded the disciples not to spread it. Christ knew perfectly well that the apostles’ image of the Messiah was not entirely true. Just as their countrymen expected the Messiah to fulfill their political hopes. He would set them free from slavery and establish a kingdom more powerful than David’s. Christ leads his disciples out of error, instructing them that the Son of Man must suffer much, that he will be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes; that he would be killed, but after three days he would rise again. Peter begins to rebuke Jesus and tries to lead Him away from the vision of a suffering Messiah. And then, Jesus addresses him with sharp words: “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do”. The Messiah has a mission to fulfill, but Satan is the one who wants to turn Him away from it. However, near Caesarea Philippi, Peter seemed to be prompted by Satan, who offered a vision of an easy messianism realized in earthly glory.
Each of us has a mission to fulfill here on earth, the fulfillment of which, according to God’s plan, is the fulfillment of a vocation that is common to all people; we came out from God, and we are to return to God. On this path of returning to God, Jesus Christ stands as our Messiah and Savior. We encounter many temptations in pursuing our earthly calling. Recently, I met a very ambitious young man who came to the United States to study and work. He wanted to become a lawyer. He seemed to have this goal within reach. And yet, one event broke everything. He and his friends were in the car, the police stopped them, and illegal drugs were found in the car. And instead of driving home, his mother visited him in prison. He faces a sentence of up to several years in prison and later deportation to the UK. It is much more dangerous to succumb to Satan’s temptation to miss Christ. This very often has temporal effects, but it is primarily about the eternal life. sacrifices. Therefore, Christ, after rebuking Peter and explaining that his suffering and the cross are necessary for his glory to be fully revealed in the resurrection, adds: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me”. If someone does not endure the suffering necessary to fulfill his calling, he loses everything to achieve his goal. Although it seemed to him that he was enjoying life by handfuls.
I remember, at one of the Kairos retreats, I led for the high school youth, one of the students said, “I hate my faith. It makes me the loneliest teenager. I can’t get drunk like most of my friends do, and that’s why I don’t often go to their parties. I gave up premarital sex and lost a lot of boyfriends. I have chosen to do the right thing, as I think God requires me to do so, and as a result, I stay home every Saturday night”. The girl’s statement shows what kind of the cross one need to take to follow Christ. It seems like she is losing a lot of life. But is it really so?
Have a blessed week. Fr. Chris Ciastoń

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deafness by choice

September 5, 2021

Dear Spa Family,
The senses play a very important role in human life. Through our senses, we perceive external stimuli and analyze them. Thanks to them, the human mind creates an image of the surrounding reality, which in turn has a major impact on shaping the personality. Traditionally, there are five senses: sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste. Among the senses, hearing plays the greatest role in the development of personality.
The evangelical deaf man was unable to either come to Christ or ask for the grace of healing. However, there were people with sensitive hearts. Thanks to them, the deaf stood before Christ. Christ used his divine power and there was a miracle of healing. Christ always focused on human suffering. However, human suffering cannot be limited only to the physical realm. We have a spiritual dimension, and in this dimension dramas more painful than physical suffering take place. Miracles exceeding the framework of the laws of nature, open us to the supernatural reality. The evangelical scene of the deaf-mute healing has yet another meaning. The evangelical context of this miracle makes us realize that there may be another kind of deafness. Healing from it is essential in human life, both earthly and eternal. A person can be deaf with excellent physical hearing. It is deafness by choice, a person simply closes himself to certain values and does not want to hear about them.
Even those close to Jesus succumbed to this deafness. St. Thomas refused to believe the apostles who told him that they had seen the risen Christ. A few days later, Christ appeared to him. Thomas believed. Christ healed him of the deafness of unbelief. I remember a statement of one of the atheistic philosophers who repeated that even when he witnessed a miracle, he would not believe it anyway. A manifestation of deafness is the rejection of certain values without knowing them.
Human deafness can take other forms as well. One only listens to what he wants to hear. Sometimes guided by unjustified prejudices or gossip, he forms a negative opinion about his neighbor. He doesn’t notice the good in his neighbor’s life.
There is another type of very dangerous deafness. Affected by this type of deafness, one hears all praise about himself very clearly. However, even the slightest criticism does not reach him. He’s even closed to sympathetic criticism. This deafness is very dangerous for people in high office. There are always many flatterers around them, who will call mistakes brilliant ideas. The classic example is Stalin. He was surrounded by a pack of flatterers who used all their abilities to read the dictator’s thoughts and say what he wanted.
Christ heals us of physical deafness but also of spiritual deafness, thus He opens us to the fullness of life.
Have a blessed week. Fr. Chris Ciastoń

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faithful to the Law

August 29, 2021

Dear SPA Family,
I remember one of my teachers in the seminary who told me a story of a rabbi who ended up in a Roman prison. He received minimal but sufficient rations of water and food for survival. However, as time went on, the rabbi grew weaker. Until finally a doctor had to be called. The doctor stated that the body was dehydrated. The medical diagnosis surprised the prison staff. They could not understand how this could have happened, since the prisoner was getting enough water to drink. The case was explained by a guard who often observed the rabbi’s behavior. The rabbi used the water for ritual religious washing before prayers and before eating. As a result, there was little drinking water left. This old rabbi was faithful to the Law.
When speaking of the Law, an Israelite means two things: the ‘Written’ Law and the ‘Oral’ Law. The older and more important is the Written Law. The Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) contains this law. Some Torah laws were detailed, and others were very general. For a long time, the Israelites were satisfied with the general norms that each tried to apply to specific life situations. In the fifth century BC, a group of legal experts called the Law Scholars appeared. They believed that general rights, not fully specified, should be formulated in clearer forms, so that they would consider all the details of human life. And that was one of the sources of the Law of Oral tradition.
At the same time, a group grew up among the Israelites who wanted to imitate the ritual holiness of the priests. For example, according to the written law, all priests were required to wash their hands before entering the most holy place in the temple to remove any ritual impurity and make a worthy sacrifice to God. The faithful, following the example of the priests, began to wash their hands before praying and also before eating. These two phenomena caused the Law of Oral Tradition to multiply its provisions and become more and more extensive.
In Jesus’ day, many Israelites kept and valued the Law of oral tradition more than the written Law of the Torah. The belief arose that scrupulous observance of the Law of oral tradition was the ideal of religious life. Attempts were made to saturate every activity of the day with the religious law. The Pharisees took the lead. They knew the law perfectly well and scrupulously obeyed it. It turned out, however, that these efforts led to the degeneration of religion. Religious life took the form of external ritual activity. In a short time, the external observance of the ritual law was identified with genuine piety and service to God. The meticulous, external observance of the Law of Oral Tradition was more important than the internal disposition and deeds of the faithful.
Let me illustrate what I’m trying to say. Around two in the morning the telephone rings at the rectory. In a broken voice someone says: “My daddy is dying”. The priest quickly dresses, takes the Blessed Sacrament, and goes to the address indicated. On his way, a man with a gun runs up to him and demands money. The surprised priest reaches for his wallet in his coat pocket. When the priest unbuttoned his coat, the robber saw a collar. “Oh, I didn’t know you were a priest”, said the robber, hiding the gun. “I’m so sorry, you may keep your money”. Grateful for getting out of trouble, the priest wanted to offer his attacker a cigarette, but the man shook his head and said, “Thank you, Father, I don’t smoke in Lent”.
Have a blessed week. Fr. Chris Ciastoń

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the wisdom of choosing life

August 22, 2021

Dear SPA Family,
Why do we tell ourselves that God’s teaching is too difficult and impossible to implement? Here are some defense mechanisms:
• The teaching of the Church requires sacrifice from people, which is often not wanted.
• Evil appears many times as something nice and sympathetic, then God’s commands seem impossible to implement.
• Many echo the well-known stereotype that the gospel precepts are beautiful, but not adequate to today’s life.
• Dislike of priests and the Church means that there are also some Christians who justify their moral mediocrity with ‘black sheep’ among priests.
• The lack of religious education causes Christians to run away from a deeper understanding of the content of faith and the morality it entails. It's easier to say then: I don’t understand it, it’s too difficult.
Religious indifference can generate an attitude of avoiding making demands on us, and then each commandment will be too difficult because it limits human freedom. As you can see, there are many reasons why we can behave like many disciples who returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied. However, it is worth realizing that the impossible becomes possible with God.
On behalf of everyone, Peter knew that none of the people had the word of life. He listened attentively to Jesus’ powerful talk and watched as thousands drifted away from the Master. He stayed because he knew the Master had the words of life. He knew he could resurrect, and others do not have that power. The Word of Life held the Apostles to Christ. They took a chance and won. Today they have a part in this life. Only Judas went to the servants of death for thirty pieces of silver, and he set the coins higher than the word of life.
Several times in the Gospel, Peter voices extremely wise words. He spoke based on the richness that the Father filled his heart with. He was the only one who saw in Christ the Messiah and the Son of God. He saw in Jesus the word of life. Yet he made mistakes, serious ones. This is best seen in Gethsemane, when he chose sleep over prayer with the Master, and in the courtyard of Caiaphas, when he swore out of fear three times that he did not know the Master. This is meaningful to us. Even the most beautiful words and wisdom in our minds and hearts cannot protect us from mistakes. It takes constant vigilance to remain faithful to the life that Christ gives. Be prepared to resist life-threatening temptations.
Life is under attack. Every wise person notices how often, by what methods, and on what scale the struggle with life is carried out. Seeing attacks, we should go back to Christ, confessing: Only you have the words of life. This is especially true when thousands turn away from life and only individuals are left with it. This was the case at Lake Gennesaret after the famous speech of Jesus. A dozen left. Self-ruled majority principles mean nothing here. What matters here is the wisdom of choosing life as a value on which God stands. Whoever chooses life chooses God, whoever turns away from life turns away from God.
Have a blessed week. Fr. Chris Ciastoń

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Assumption

August 15, 2021

Dear SPA Family,
In mid-August, the night sky glows with nebulae of stars, and the fields are full of ripening crops. The mowed grains slowly fill the empty silos. Soy, buckwheat, and millet are still ripening. We will have to wait for the harvest of cabbage and root crops. But farmers may already be celebrating; the most important crops have been harvested. In the old days, the fate of all inhabitants depended on the harvest. There was something to enjoy and to thank for. For millennia up to Christianity, some farmers turned their thanksgiving thoughts to idols. I remember some of the old legends my parents would tell me when I was working with them in the fields. Czarnooka Południca (the Black-eyed Midday) was a terror to the lazy. She was tracking those who fell asleep in broad daylight among the grain. Meeting her in such a situation could end in death. Rżana Baba (Rye Witch) was less threatening. The most important, however, was the dwarf Plon (Crop) that was guarding the harvest.
The adoption of Christianity by Poland changed the customs related to the harvest or took on a different meaning. And Mary found a special place in Polish religiosity. The farmers chose her to be the patroness of the harvest and gave her the title of Our Lady of the Herbaceous. And the day of her Assumption, August 15, became a day of thanksgiving for the harvested crops. “Assumption finishes reaping,” says a Polish proverb. On this day, the faithful make bouquets and wreaths from the crops of the earth, and then they bring them to the church for blessing. The smell of the harvest field fills the sanctuary. After blessing, the wreaths are taken home and placed in a dignified place, often behind a holy image. And a decoction made from them may heal diseases.
The feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is very old and has a rich tradition. It took on a fuller meaning in the lives of the faithful after the proclamation of the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1950 by Pope Pius XII. He proclaimed, “By the dignity of our Lord Jesus Christ, the blessed apostles Peter and Paul, and by our dignity, we declare - and declare as a dogma revealed by God - that Mary, the Immaculate Mother of God and always Virgin, having completed the course of earthly life, was taken with her body and soul into heavenly glory.”
This means that Mary is already in the state that awaits the saved in heaven at the end of times. She passed from the bodily state proper to the earthly life to the mysterious but real state proper to the eternal life. The dogmatic definition does not specify how this happened, whether it was a direct transformation without death or after death, there was Mary’s resurrection shortly thereafter. Theologians have full discretion on this point. And among the people for whom theological discussions were too complex, traditions arose, dictated by sincere faith.
Pius XII justified this dogma in the following way: “Sacred Scripture presents before our eyes the holy Mother of God, who is most closely united to God with her Son. For this reason, it seems almost impossible for us that Mary who gave birth to Christ, nourished Him with her milk, held Him in her arms, was to be separated from Him after her earthly life”.
Have a blessed week. Fr. Chris Ciastoń

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Body of Christ

August 8, 2021

Dear SPA Family,
Great Wall of China is about 12,000 mile long and is the only human creation seen from space. The builder of the Wall was the Chinese Emperors. History says that those rulers felt a great fear of death. The court magicians told them about the existence of a paradise island in the East Sea. According to them, the inhabitants of this island have learned the secret of eternal life. The rulers sent many ships there, loaded with treasures, to find this island. After many voyages, the island was found, but none of its inhabitants were able to sell the secret of eternal life even for such huge treasures.
Similar stories grew out of people’s desires for eternal life. Potions of youth and eternity were ‘invented’, the magic of which can do anything. However usually, it turned out that this elixir of youth was a simple deception. Today, magic is pushed aside, and the scientific path is looking for a way to extend life. Some believe it will be possible in the distant future. But before that, science offers us life-extending diets, remarkable exercises, thousands of lotions, and other beauty industry wonders. I am not sure if it will extend life, it may certainly be more beautiful, but the problem of eternity will still be open.
Faith is a place of seeking and finding eternity. Each religion has its own vision of attaining eternity. One may ask which of them is the most certain. We cannot find this certainty outside ourselves, it is born within us, as a result of an encounter with God who reveals himself.
I believe that Christ is the way to eternity and He’s the food on this way. This is the faith of my parents. It was through them that I came into contact with the reality of faith. And later, when I was able to judge and choose for myself, I chose what my parents have handed over to me.
Christ describes Himself as the bread that gives eternal life. This bread becomes the food of eternity when we eat it. It is possible to starve to death in a warehouse full of bread if we do not reach out for it and eat it. We can surround ourselves with holy books, pictures, and move the rosary beads with the eagerness of an addict, kneel in front of the tabernacle and be spiritually dead, and not grow for eternity. To eat the Body of Christ is to welcome it with an open heart and to let Him become the strength of our life and our soul. Such an opening makes every part of our being transformed by the values brought by Christ, and that is when eternal life begins.
Have a blessed week. Fr. Chris Ciastoń

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divine food

August 1, 2021

Dear SPA Family,
During the Spanish Civil War (1936-9), one of the soldiers was seriously wounded. After being transported to the hospital, he had a chance to recover on the condition that he took food, and the nurses and nuns did their best to encourage him to do so. However, these efforts were in vain. The wounded soldier continued to refuse to eat. Then one of his friends decided to bring his father to the hospital. He arrived at the wounded man’s house and introduced his parents to their son’s health condition. The father prepared to go, and the mother wrapped a piece of homemade bread for her son. The wounded soldier was very happy to see his father but still refused to accept food. The father said, “Son, here is the bread that your mother has made”. The boy perked up: “Oh, the bread baked by my mother… give me some”. From that moment on, he began to eat. He regained full health in a short time. This bread was more than just food for the body. Motherly love was hidden in this bread. Probably at that moment, the wounded soldier needed the bread of love the most. This bread not only relieved the soul but also became a source of healing for the body.
Is our life not like battling? This rhetorical question is posed by the Scriptures. We know from everyday experience that we often face adversities. It is a difficult fight in which we often get deeply hurt. Spiritual wounds can be more painful than physical wounds. We are, humanly speaking, helpless in the face of the wounds of an incurable disease, life's transience, and finally death.
A teenage Simone de Beauvoir, the future wife of the atheist philosopher Sartre, stood in front of the alarm clock one night and loudly – to make sure that God hears her – said: “Let's get over it. If you are God, give me a sign within three minutes”. When three minutes had passed and she noticed that nothing had happened. Thus, the problem was eliminated. God did not respond to the teen’s three-minute ultimatum, so she rejected His existence. The same woman several decades later, already as a famous writer, once stood in front of a mirror and saw an aging face and wrote: “Bags under the eyes; wrinkled face... life has no meaning, life does not make sense”. The statement “life does not make sense” is the most tragic wound in human life.
To heal this wound and other spiritual wounds, we need food that, like the mother’s bread in the story of the wounded soldier, is more than just physical food. The mother’s bread is only a substitute for the bread which becomes Christ Himself. For the bread of God is Jesus who comes down from heaven and gives life to us. Christ becomes the food that satisfies all hunger and heals our wounds. This bread is the source of life, the beauty which does not depend on the wrinkles on the face.
Have a blessed week. Fr. Chris Ciastoń

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lasting value

July 25, 2021

Dear SPA Family,
St. Teresa used to say that if Jesus came to earth today and attended school like any other student, he would have passed all the exams except one – math. Jesus’ multiplication of bread in the wilderness defeats all mathematical rules. Five barley loaves and two fish were enough to satisfy the hunger of five thousand men, not counting women and children. Moreover, twelve more baskets of leftovers from the feasters were collected.
It became possible because the logic of the reality brought by Christ does not always comply with the laws of the economy. It even runs counter to them when it comes to the most important law of the Gospel, the law of love. Some, however, try to subordinate love to the laws of the economy. Guided by ‘love’ they can give a lot to others. But there is a question behind this giving; what will I get out of it? Behind this giving is the hope of getting more in return. Such questions and hopes can only prove that some people are guided in life by the so-called ‘mercantile love’ that has nothing to do with the love that Christ teaches. His all-giving love does not ask what I will receive in return, this love is a service that brings selfless help to my neighbor.
Out of love for the crowds, Jesus multiplied the bread, but in this act, he included human generosity. The boy offered five loaves and two fish. It was a great sacrifice for this boy. Human sacrifice with God’s omnipotence created a miracle. Today we can also be co-creators of such miracles.
35 years ago, a middle-aged woman entered a slum in a large city for the first time. She had two dollars with her, no salary or place to stay. All she knew was that God wanted her to come to the aid of the poorest. It was Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Today, the Congregation that Mother Teresa founded has 80 schools, 70 clinics for lepers, 30 homes for the dying, 30 homes for abandoned children, 300 ambulatory buses and 40,000 volunteers to help with this work. Mother Teresa gave Jesus little at his disposal, just $2 – like this evangelical boy who had five loaves and two fish, and Christ, in his supernatural logic of love, multiplied them to feed millions.
We entrust our resources to banks that multiply our savings with mathematical precision. Without neglecting bank savings, it may be worth considering entrusting some of our bodily and spiritual possessions to another ‘bank’ – Christ. He will multiply them like bread in the desert and feed millions and make out of them wealth, which has a lasting value beyond the earthly reality.
Have blessed week. Fr. Chris Ciastoń

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pleasantly surprised

July 18, 2021

Dear SPA Family,
A nervous patient comes to a psychologist. The psychologist asks about the reasons for his visit. The patient lists a long list of problems that haunt him. He is worried about his future and thinks that he is not sufficiently secured financially. His current apartment needs renovation, he is not sure if he can handle it. The neighbors replaced the old car with a new one, so it is not proper for him to drive with an old car. He is worried about his children; they have many problems, and they also need to be supported. He works from dawn to dusk, but it is still not enough to cover all expenses. The psychologist patiently listened to the long monologue and wrote out a prescription; a two-hour walk in the cemetery once a day. The patient was absolutely shocked. There must be something wrong with the psychologist. Nervous, he jumped out of the office. On the way back, he calmed down and pondered the advice. Passing by a cemetery, he started walking along the cemetery alleys. He relaxed slightly. While reading the tombstones, he found the names of his friends. He remembered that they, like him, were busy, restless, and that this was the reason for the premature ‘change of residence.’ After the first walk, the patient began to look at life a bit differently. Thoughts about God, faith and eternity were also revived. After a short time, the effect of the treatment could be noticed. The frustrated man became calmer, he did not worry about the future unreasonably, he was able to enjoy every day. Reflecting in the cemetery and encountering the mystery of death helped him to fully discover God and the wisdom of life.
Christ sends the apostles to missionary work. They go to people, and from dawn to dusk they rub against their problems. They are tired. Probably this human confusion caused that the teaching of Christ, which they preached, lost clarity. That is why Christ sends them to a desert place by themselves. That away from the hustle and bustle of the world, they would discover God’s closeness and be filled with the energy it carries. The moments of being only with God are necessary for us to be filled with divine brightness and wisdom and to be able to carry them effectively to his neighbor.
We often meet great ‘activists’ who are constantly on the move and have thousands of errands to deal with. They cannot sit still for one moment. Staying alone with themselves is unbearable for them. They have nothing to say to each other. They also have nothing to say to God. They realize themselves only in external activities. They only exist in what they do. They do not have time to reflect on their sense of urgency. Consequently, it can result in empty loneliness that hurts a lot.
Once, Mother Teresa of Calcutta visited a retirement home in Sweden. At first, she was pleasantly surprised. The elderly inhabitants of this house were well-groomed, they had medical care, they lived in sparkling clean rooms, they had great opportunities to spend time pleasantly. This house seemed to meet all the conditions to become a home for the happy and joyful old age. However, as Mother Teresa later noted, there was no smile on the faces of these people. Almost everyone was staring blankly at the door. The nurse explained this behavior. They waited for visits from their relatives. And such visits happened extremely rarely. Their children were as busy as they were before they entered the retirement home. They did not have time for loneliness in the face of God, where we discover eternity and love, where there is no room for painful loneliness.
Have a blessed week. Fr. Chris Ciastoń

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too many bundles

July 11, 2021

Dear SPA Family,
I’m going to visit my homeland for a few weeks. Now, there is the nightmare of packing before the trip. Deciding what to take and what to leave. Shopping, packing, and making decisions confuse the joy of the upcoming travels. Probably, it will turn out during the trip that taking the most ‘necessary things’ are not the most necessary, and some of them will not be used at all.
We all can look at our entire life through the prism of these experiences. We accumulate many things in life, it seems to us that they are necessary for life. Gathering, packing, and then carrying them around so engages us that we forget about the very life that escapes us between our fingers. Some act as if tying and carrying bundles contain the essence of life. However, sooner or later it turns out that our life has escaped, and there are still bundles that once obscured the joy of life, and today have little value for us.
Once upon a time, a knight decided to set off on a long journey. He wanted to defend the oppressed as well as gain fame. He took a sword and heavy armor in case he met enemies. He took with a large container of essential oil to protect against the scorching sun. He also took some wood to make a fire at night. His bags also included a tent, bedding, food for him and his horse. Overloaded, he left his city. After a few days of travel, he was crossing the old bridge, and when he was halfway across the bridge, it collapsed, unable to bear the weight. The loaded knight fell into the river and drowned. Noble goals, good intentions are stuck in the prose of material life.
Christ shows the most essential goal of human life: building the Kingdom of God, in which we find our salvation. Christ reminded us more than once that His Kingdom was not of this world. This Kingdom is realized in material reality, but its spiritual fullness will take its final shape in eternity. We people, being by nature physical and spiritual beings, experience tensions between these two spheres. If our physical sphere prevails, then we become burdened with material values, like the knight. Consequently, the bridge leading to God breaks down and we may drown in material values.
This is extremely dangerous for those whom Christ calls in a special way to proclaim the kingdom of God. Christ reminds His apostles to take nothing for the journey, no food, no sack, no money in their belts. Sandals and one attire are enough. This is enough to effectively preach the Gospel. Saint Francis of Assisi gave all his wealth to the poor, and he himself lived off begging. He threw away all unnecessary bundles and relied entirely on God. And that’s why, he was the happiest man who ever lived, even death did not disturb his joy, he simply called it his sister.
No matter where and how we live, we can learn a lot from Saint Francis. Let’s not tie up too many bundles for ourselves, which may drive us into a spiral of mad pursuit of material values and obscure the charm of life. Let’s take with us as much as is necessary, remembering that we will also leave these ‘necessary bundles’ at the gate of death, and God will only look at the gift of love in our hands.
Have a blessed week. Fr. Chris Ciastoń

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jealousy acts deceitfully

July 4th, 2021

Dear SPA Family,
The ancient Greeks valued the beauty of the human body and cared about physical fitness. They began the Olympic Games. Olympic winners were honored as heroes. Their statues were placed in public squares. These statues were often salt in the eyes of envious competitors. One of them, under the cover of night, decided to destroy the statue of the winner with which he competed and lost. With great difficulty he moved the statue, which fell to the ground and crushed the unfortunate jealous. He was killed by envy and jealousy, which he nurtured in his heart and then put him into action.
And one more, contemporary example. Marian came from Poland a few years ago to the United States. He was an agile and wise man, full of initiative. Upon his arrival, he met his compatriot Janusz. They celebrated the meeting very cheerfully. In the first days, Janusz helped Marian take his first steps in a new land. Marian found himself in the new environment very quickly, he soon established his own company, which prospered very well. And that was the reason for the end of friendship. Janusz couldn’t reconcile the fact that his friend was on his feet so quickly, he was consumed by envy. He was swamped by envy which, like poison, kills friendship and takes away inner peace.
Christ came to his hometown of Nazareth, and according to the Jewish custom, he went to the temple on the Sabbath where, after reading a passage from the Scriptures, he began to teach. Everyone was astounded by His wisdom and by what they had heard so much about Him. But they were not willing to accept either Jesus or His teachings. Why did this happen? There can be many reasons for this attitude of Christ’s compatriots. Perhaps one of them was jealousy and envy. Is He better than us? His brothers and sisters and his mother live here. He is one of us, so why does He magnify Himself? Jealousy and envy prevented them from accepting Christ. Because of their envy, they missed the grace of a saving God.
We are reluctant to admit feelings of jealousy and envy. We recognize that jealousy and envy are wrong. However, as all evil, jealousy acts deceitfully, in order to expose them, it is worth asking ourselves a few questions: Can we enjoy the success of our neighbor? Do I see good in my neighbor? Are we able to praise them? Does a critical attitude towards our neighbor dominate our attitude? Are we happy when my neighbor bears misfortune? Are we trying to find fault in our neighbor’s success where there isn’t any? Are we changing the conversation when it begins to mention about our neighbor’s success?
There are many such and similar questions. And a sincere answer to them will also be the answer to how much we’ve managed to overcome the feeling of jealousy and envy. Envy and jealousy not only destroy inner peace but also create a split between people and can lead to a failure to meet the saving God.
Have a blessed week. Fr. Chris Ciastoń

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faith works miracles

June 27, 2021

Dear SPA Family,
Norman V. Peale in the book “The Power of Positive Thinking” shows the role of faith in our lives. This book focuses on the psychological aspect of faith. As an illustration, I will refer to one of the events described in this book. After Peale's lecture, a man comes up to him and says, “Could I talk to you about a matter that is of the utmost importance to me. I have no faith in myself. I feel terribly insecure. I just can’t believe I’ll succeed. I am discouraged and depressed. In fact, I’m almost a loser. I am forty years old. Why do I have a feeling of inferiority all my life, insecurity, self-doubt?”
Peale gave him this advice: “I suggest that you repeat some words during your evening walk. Please repeat them several times when you go to bed. When you wake up tomorrow, say it three times. Do it with faith and you will be given the capacity to deal with it. Later, if you like, I will analyze your underlying problem, but whatever comes out of it, the formula I am going to give you will be an important factor in your final cure”. Here is the sentence it was recommended to him: “I can do everything in Christ who strengthens me”. After some time, Peale received a letter from his patient which reported that this simple formula worked a miracle in that man’s life. It seems unbelievable that a few words from the Bible can do so much. There were fundamental changes in this man’s life. He gained confidence, the joy of life returned, and everything started to go well. The question to what extent it is the action of God’s power and to what extent the action of psychotherapeutic techniques will probably remain unanswered.
In medicine, the patient’s faith in recovery is very important, without it the patient may die, even though from the medical point of view there were no reasons for death. It also happens the other way round, someone recovers, even though medicine did not give him a chance. In such a case, we can also ask to what extent it is the action of God’s grace, and to what extent is the hidden strength in the human psyche. However, there are cases when recovery can only be explained by great faith and God’s grace. We call these cases miracles. In shrines all over the world, there are books of miracles, and they describe events that they happened because of God’s response to people’s faith.
The Gospel contains descriptions of many miracles performed by Christ, including miracles of healing. Those miraculous healings, even nowadays, have always been God’s response to the great faith of sick persons. Jairus in Sunday’s Gospel believes deeply that Christ can heal his daughter. And when it was reported in the crowd that his daughter was dead, Jesus urged him, “Do not be afraid; just have faith”. Great faith brought a dead girl back to life. Here the saying literally comes true: “Faith works miracles.”
All these forms of faith should lead us to its most important dimension, in which it becomes the basis of salvation and eternal life for us. Christ says: “Everyone who believes in me, even though he dies, will live”. These words are especially important to us in the most difficult moments of our life, such as the death of a loved one. Christ then says to us, “Do not be afraid; just have faith”. Thus, not only our mortality depends on our faith and action in accordance with it, but most of all our salvation and our eternity.
Have a blessed week. Fr. Chris Ciastoń

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Amazing Grace

June 20th, 2021

Dear SPA Family,
Life is often compared to sailing at the sea. We know the port which we sailed from, we also know – perhaps less precisely – the port to which we are heading. The road between these ports is unpredictable. We cover vast sea distances in the allotted time. The sea is sometimes calm, the light swaying allows you to enjoy the passing days, other times you have to deal with the waves that are breaking on the deck, and still other times the waves exceed our strength and there is only a cry for help.
The apostles in this Sunday’s gospel are helpless in the face of the raging element. Their cry for rescue is addressed to Jesus, therefore it does not remain unanswered. At the words of Jesus: “Quiet! Be still!” the whirlwind calmed down and there was a deep silence. The astonished apostles ask one another: “Who then is this whom even wind and the sea obey?” It was, in a way, a rhetorical question because they had seen the extraordinary power of Jesus more than once. The experience on a troubled lake was a source of strengthening the faith of the apostles and a fuller understanding of His vocation.
John Newton was the son of a ship’s captain. At the age of 8, after the death of his mother, his father took him on the ship with him. The young boy was learning the marine life. At 17, he rebelled against his father, left his ship, and began to lead a rowdy lifestyle. Then he joined a ship transporting slaves from Africa to America. In a short time, he became the captain of that ship. The fate of the slaves was indifferent to him; he did not consider whether it was good or bad, the most important thing was the money he was earning on this type of transaction.
One night changed his life. On the high seas, his ship was surprised by a storm. Huge waves had thrown the ship like a nutshell. Sailors were frightened. John got down on his knees and began to pray with these words, “God, if you save me, I promise to be your slave forever”. God heard his request. The ship survived. Upon reaching land, John Newton gave up the slave trade. Later, he began his studies and after graduating he became a pastor in a tiny church in England. He became famous as a renowned orator and author of many songs. One of these songs talks about his conversion.
Amazing grace… how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me (a shipwrecked man like me)! I once was lost, but now I'm found, was blind, but now I see.
Like the apostles, John addressed his call to God. God stretched out a helping hand and amazing fruits were born from the storm of his life. It was adherence to God and the beauty of the spiritual life that arose out of this relationship. This beauty makes the world more friendly and human. This beauty also gives human life the deepest meaning and mystical dimension.
We will experience many storms in our lives. Knowing how to receive them always bears good fruit: wisdom in life, strong selfhood. Most often, we deal with life’s storms with our own strength. Sometimes the storms exceed our strength, and we summon a friend. After passing through it together, the beauty of human friendship is born. However, there are inevitable storms that exceed human strength. Then there is a cry to the One who stretched out His hand to the fearful apostles. Then the fruit of a saving friendship with God is born.
Have a blessed week. Fr. Chris D. Ciastoń

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a tiny mustard seed

June 13, 2021

Dear SPA Family,
In 1812, three-year-old Louis Braille had an accident at his father's factory. As a result of the injuries, he completely lost his eyesight. When he reached school age, his parents sent him to a school for the blind in Paris. At that time, blind students used huge books written in large convex letters. Reading such a book was difficult and time-consuming. One day, a retired officer Charles Barbier visited the school, introducing the students to handwriting he called “The Night Writing.” It was the recording system used by the French army during night battles. Soldiers used it to communicate in the dark, without the need to use light. The information was recorded with the help of holes in paper, cut out according to a special code. Knowing this code, the words were read with one’s fingers.
Young Louis Braille was fascinated by this way of recording information. He realized that with some modifications, this recording system would become a wonderful tool in the hands of the blind. So, he simplified the code of “night writing” and used convex dots instead of holes in a sheet of paper. It was a great invention for blind people. However, during Braille’s lifetime, hardly anyone was interested in his writing. It was only after his death that Braille began to spread rapidly. Today it is known and used all over the world.
In teaching about God’s Kingdom, Christ uses all sorts of comparisons and parables. We can look at these parables from different angles and constantly discover new content. Like the parable about the mustard seed in this weekend’s Gospel.
From a tiny mustard seed, a large bush grows in a truly short time, in the branches of which, as the Gospel tells us, birds make their nests. Great social movements very often have very modest beginnings, sometimes they need time to spread later with amazing dynamics in the world. As it is with the mustard seed and as it was with Braille. By making further comparisons, we can say that the creators of great movements in life are often unnoticed. They are like a mustard grain unnoticed among other grains, or like Braille, underappreciated and unnoticed in life but only after his death, his invention began to conquer the world.
All these comparisons refer to the most important movement in the history of humankind, which is the reality of the Kingdom of God, about which Christ speaks by comparing it to a mustard seed. The reality of the Kingdom of God in Christ takes on extraordinary dynamics. Christ sowed the seed and it grew into a huge tree, in the branches of which all people find shelter and salvation.
On a global scale, the beginnings of this Kingdom were modest. In a remote Roman province, the Teacher appeared. Although He had crowds around Him who heard the Good News of God’s Kingdom confirmed by numerous miracles, it was not much on a global scale. And when the time came for His trial on Calvary, a small handful of His followers remained with Him. After Christ’s death, it was thought that ‘the problem of Jesus’ would be over. However, it happened otherwise. After Christ’s death and resurrection, God’s Kingdom developed so dynamically that all human attempts to explain this dynamism have failed.
Christ calls us to build the Kingdom of God to the best of our abilities. Thanks to Jesus, we can do amazing things, although it sometimes seems to us that our act is so insignificant that the seed of good, we throw into the world, is choked by the weeds of evil. Let’s not worry that this grain of goodness is not noticed by others, that we ourselves do not see its fruit in the earthly life. The full harvest of our sowing will be fully revealed when Christ gathers us all in His kingdom.
Have a blessed week. Fr. Chris Ciastoń

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the feast of Christ’s presence

June 6, 2021

Dear SPA Family,
Many years ago, I visited my family in Poland. Before my departure, one of my friends in Chicago who wasn’t in Poland for over 30 years, asked me to bring her a loaf of Polish bread. A bit surprised by this request, I packed a large loaf of Polish bread into my suitcase. After arrival to O’Hare, I decided to visit my friend first before going to my parish. My friend opened the door, and I came in holding that bread in my hands. My friend couldn’t stop crying and kissing it. For Elżbieta and her family, the bread brought from Poland was unique and irreplaceable. It tasted different. That bread brought the memories and taste of Poland, and evoked emotions for their homeland. And then I thought that this bread was food for the longing soul rather than food for the body. In the smell of this bread, one could feel the ripening fields of cereals under the Polish sky, the smell of cornflowers that fade with the cut grain, the unique smell of the wind passing over the fields, meadows, and forests. Eating this bread, one could hear the reapers bustling in the field and the scream of frightened quail. This bread also carried my own memory of my family home and my mother hustling baking bread on Saturday evening. This bread, which satisfies the physical hunger, has become a symbol of the values ​​that satisfy the hunger of the longing soul.

My visit at Elżbieta’s home reminded me about the genius composer Frédéric Chopin who was a man full of internal anxieties, thirst and hunger; often looking for happiness without God. When he was dying, his friend, Bishop Jełowicki visited him. After a long conversation, he decided to make confession, and then he received Holy Communion. His face became serene, it reflected the peace that had entered his soul. He looked happy. Bp. Jełowicki, in his letter, quoted one of Chopin’s last words: “I love God... It’s good that I'm dying like this... Pray for me, see you in heaven... God has already forgiven me... Oh, how good God is...” Chopin accepted a white piece of bread which satisfies our deepest hungers.

What are some of the hungers we long for in life? Hunger for love, perfection, eternity, a sense of the meaning of life, in a word, hunger for those values that are enclosed in the word God. This white piece of bread is not only a symbol, but it is God Himself. This Bread is the body of Christ. Before his Passion, Christ took bread in his hands, broke it and handed it to his disciples, saying: “Take this, all of you, and eat of it, for this is my Body, which will be given up for you.” If I believe in Christ as my Savior and God, I have to trust Him even when His teaching is difficult and not fully understood, even when He says that this white piece of bread is His Body, that He is present in it. Bread is very important in our lives, and this is one of the reasons why Christ used it as a sign of His presence among us.

Speaking of trusting Christ, I will bring up a story from my childhood. I had a soccer ball in my hands and my dad talked to me about the shape of the globe and used a ball for comparison. I imagined myself standing on top of the globe, but then a thought came to my mind about those who stood on the side; they probably have to help each other holding their hands not to slip off the globe. It was unthinkable to me to imagine those standing on the other side of the globe; how could they stay afloat?!? I thought they would drop anyway, since how they could stay on the bottom side of the ball - kids’ reasoning :) I was too young then to understand the law of gravity. I couldn't deal with the roundness of the earth, but I was convinced it was that way because my Dad said it. I had the boundless trust of a child. When Christ tells us about His presence under the form of bread, and when reason cannot cope with it, then the child’s trust is needed. Christ demands this trust when he says: “If you do not become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of God.”

The Solemnity of Corpus Christi is the feast of Christ’s presence in the form of bread and wine. On this day, streets in many cities, towns and villages change their appearance. Colorful decorations can be spotted everywhere, and colorful processions go down the streets. First Communion children in immaculate white clothes throw flowers so that the streets look like a floral carpet. Altar servers pour incense into the thurifer. A priest walks under the canopy and holds a golden monstrance in which the white consecrated bread is enclosed. In front of this white bread, the faithful fall to their knees and sing: “Hail, living Host, in which Jesus Christ hides the Deity! Hail, Jesus, Son of Mary, You are the true God in the Holy Host.”
Have a blessed week. Fr. Chris Ciastoń

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God's smile

May 30, 2021

Dear SPA Family,
During my childhood, the movie entitled “Teutonic Knights” was shown in theaters. Many scenes from this movie deeply fell into my childhood imagination. For instance, I remember the morning before the Battle of Grunwald in 1410. The sun is rising, the morning dew is rising, and the forest is filled with birdsong. The Polis-Lithuanian armies led by King Jagiełło are waking up. The knights direct their first thoughts to God, each of them worshiping Him in their own way and asking for protection for the upcoming, difficult day. Soldiers from some Lithuanian banners turn to the rising sun and worship it as God.
From the early days of history, people have looked at the wonderful world with admiration; the sun and the stars, lofty mountains vanishing in clouds, lightning zigzagging across the sky and winds sweeping everything off the earth, people watched and admired; if it is all so powerful and wonderful then how mighty the Creator of it all must be. And so, some people have discovered the God whom they’ve worshiped and entrusted to him their life, both temporal and eternal. For some it was different. Those who were infatuated with created works did not see their Creator. Consequently, they’ve bestowed divine qualities on mountains, lightning, winds, and celestial bodies. Created things obscured some people their Creator. And that’s how the sun became a god.
We can imagine that the sun is our great friend, whose smile reaches us in three radiant ways. The first smile brings the light that fills our planet with radiance. The second brings the warmth that warms the whole world. And the third radiant smile brings the energy necessary for the functioning of people and their machines. We can say that there is one friend in the sky with various faces. The smile of its every face brings us good and blessing in various ways.
The dogma of the Trinity is one of the greatest and most important mysteries of the Christian faith. We believe that there is one God, but in three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. It is a truth that exceeds the cognitive abilities of the mind; therefore, we often use comparisons when talking about this mystery. One is the comparison with the sun, which in the triple way brings us the blessed smile of a friend. Staying on the literary plane of this metaphor, we can say that God comes to us through a triple smile.
The smile of God the Father creates a wonderful world and us that has a spark of eternity and God’s perfection. God’s smile descends to earth as the Son and becomes one of us to redeem humanity and give it a chance to return to God. The smile of God the Holy Spirit descends to earth, remains among us, and makes us the Temple of the Most High.
Have a blessed weekend. Fr. Chris Ciastoń

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language of love

May 23, 2021

Dear SPA Family,
There is a story in the Book of Genesis about the builders of the Tower of Babel. According to the etymology, the word “babel” means “confusion.” People forgot about the punishing waters of the Flood (story of Noah) and drifted further and further away from God. In their pride, they decided to build a great city with a tower reaching the sky (heaven). They set to work with great enthusiasm. When it seemed that they were getting close to the goal the so-called confusion of languages happened. Everyone spoke a different language. Disagreements and feuds arose. As a result, not only did they fail to build the city and the tower reaching the sky, but they were also scattered all over the earth. The multi-faceted message of this story also includes the fact that building a human community without divine laws may end in failure, and that without God it is impossible to conquer heaven. When I was a child, I remember how the communist system in my homeland promised to build a heaven on earth without God.
To bring closer the problem of the so-called “confusion of languages” I will use an example from the life of the Polish community of a large city in the East Coast. Various Polish organizations operated here for generations. I would like to draw attention to one of them, because its disintegration was a great loss for the Polish community. A group of post-war emigrants decided to establish the “Jedność - Unity” association. The initiative group consisted of young, ambitious, and energetic people. They agreed on the purposes, goals, and structure of “Unity.” They started with great enthusiasm. “Unity” began to bear fruit and profit. It was also possible to obtain certain social programs from the state budget for the Polish diaspora group. At the beginning, they all spoke one language, that is, the language of consent and understanding.
With time, however, they began to speak ‘different languages.’ The common goal was blurred by multi self-interests. It started with the election of the president. Some believed that they deserved this position because they were the authors of the success of “Unity” and had the best idea of how the organization worked. The president, with own benefits in his mind, began to bend the terms of the “Unity” charter and fill positions with his own people, who did not always have the appropriate competences. There was such a confusion of languages that no one understood anyone. The meetings were led by those who shouted the loudest. The members of “Unity” lost their precious energy on slandering themselves in the press and lawsuits. As the confusion of languages deepened, the collapse of "Unity" came. Today there are buildings put up for auction, unfinished court cases and devastating animosity in the hearts.
It is not without a reason that I raised these issues during the Pentecost celebration. The event we remember during this celebration is described in the passage from the Acts of the Apostles. On the day of Pentecost, fifty days after the Passover, the Jews celebrated thanksgiving for the harvested crops. At that time, pilgrims from all over the world were visiting Jerusalem, speaking different languages. And the Apostles, locked in the Upper Room, praying, waited for the Holy Spirit promised by Jesus. This invisible power of the descending Holy Spirit was accompanied by the sound of the wind and the flame of fire. But the most important thing was what happened in the hearts of the apostles. The Holy Spirit descended on the apostles and gave them his gifts: love, wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, fear of God, the gift of tongues.
Filled with the Holy Spirit, the apostles went out and proclaimed the risen Christ with great power, courage, and God’s wisdom. They directed their learning to people who spoke different languages. They spoke one language, and everyone understood them. People also understood them because the apostles spoke in a universal language understandable to everyone, the language of divine wisdom and love. These were the beginnings of the Church whose purpose is the glory of God and the salvation of humankind. And these goals are fulfilled in the language of love, which is a language understandable to all of us. This is the language which unites and allows us to be fully satisfied, both in the earthly and eternal reality.
Have a blessed week. Fr. Chris D. Ciastoń

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people whose lives are the open book of the Gospels

May 16, 2021

Dear SPA Family,
Chiapas is one of the poorest regions in Mexico. The mountainous areas with a tropical climate are inhabited by numerous multilingual tribes. One of them, Chamula, lives in the village of San Juan Chamula. Members of the tribe grow corn, sell wood for fuel, and buy the most necessary products for life. Most of them raise cattle that provide milk and meat. Many centuries ago, unprecedented poverty, violence and brutality in social and family life as well as distrust of strangers made this town almost completely closed to outsiders. Then, Christian missionaries came to this area. Chamula tribe was hostile and suspicious of them. However, this did not discourage the missionaries. They decided not to interfere with the life of the Indian community. They lived outside an Indian village, trying to live according to the principles of the Gospel. The Indians were curious about the life of the Christian community; getting food, relating to each other, raising children. Slowly the missionaries gained the trust of the Indians. Some of them got in touch with the missionaries, who in turn began to preach to them about Christ, about salvation, and about the Good News.
The missionaries began to exert more and more influence over the members of the Chamula tribe. Many Indians have abandoned their pagan way of life and embraced Christ. Converted Indians built a community according to the gospel teaching, based on mutual understanding, respect and love. They also began to be critical of the brutality and violence in tribal and family relations. This attitude met with opposition from those who remained distrustful and hostile towards the missionaries. Persecution of new believers intensified, their houses were burned down, their herds of cattle were slaughtered, their crops were destroyed. Many of them were murdered.
Some of the new converts did not endure persecution and renounced Christ, while most remained faithful to the end, and it was they who built a new village on the other side of San Cristobal de las Casas, naming it New Hope (Nueva Esperanza). Christ was their hope in time and eternity. With these hopes in mind, they built a community that was fundamentally different from the one they had left. There was more mutual love, consent, kindness, sensitivity to the needs of its neighbor. The power of Christ, transforming their mortality, opened the prospect of eternity for them.
Christ, through his coming to earth and resurrection, brings hope that is unique in the history of humankind. We are especially aware of this mystery on the solemnity of the Lord’s Ascension. Christ visibly ascends to heaven, but mysteriously remains on earth, among us who are on our way to our eternal homeland. On the way to eternity, Christ is strength, wisdom, and nourishment for us.
The reality of heaven is realized in our life on the way of faith in Christ. To believe is to change our everyday life according to God’s commandments. A person transformed in this way becomes an open book of the Gospel, which brings God closer to others. And thus, we fulfill the faith requirement addressed to the disciples before the ascension: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature!”. Such an open book of the Gospels was the life of the missionaries who came to the Chamula Indian tribe.
Our faith was very often born when we were accompanied by people whose lives were the open book of the Gospels. Our parents, grandparents, other family members and friends are probably among them. We have so many wonderful memories of them. Their first sign of the cross on our foreheads, their persistence in teaching us how to pray, their attention of bringing us up into this earthly and spiritual life, and then their departure into eternity, which opened us even more to the reality of heaven, which Christ shows us in the mystery of his ascension.
Have a blessed weekend. Fr. Chris D. Ciastoń

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this is my mother

May 9, 2021

Dear SPA Family,
In 1896, a naval battle was fought in which the US Navy, under the command of Admiral Dewey, defeated the Spanish fleet. Just before the start of the fight, an event occurred on one of the American ships which did not influence the outcome of the battle, and which is no less recordable than the battle itself. Well, the wind blew the navy jacket of one of the American soldiers. Without thinking, he wanted to jump into the water after it. This jump could have ended in death. Therefore, the commander firmly forbade him to do so. The sailor, however, ignored the orders of the commander and jumped into the water. He saved the navy jacket, but for disobedience, he faced a sentence of several years in prison. Admiral Dewey had the disobedient sailor brought in, wondering why he had disobeyed the order. The sailor took a wallet out of his salvaged jacket, then took a photograph from his wallet and handed it to the admiral with the words: “This is my mother”. Then, the sailor explained that he always carried this photograph with him. When he jumped into the water, his first thought was to save a photograph of his mother. The admiral, smiling, said: “The sons who risk their lives to save their mother’s photograph will also be ready to lay down their lives for their homeland; they should not be imprisoned like criminals”.
Mother’s Day is the reason for this beautiful love story. What can be a more beautiful gift for a mother than the love of her children? But even the most beautiful love of children is unlikely to be able to balance the maternal love. Much is said and written about this love.
Happy are those who on Mother's Day can visit their mothers, make wishes, kiss and give them flowers. But it happens that when we have such an opportunity, we underestimate it. This changes when it comes time to part for a while or to say the final farewell to them. I remember my last parting with my mother when I went back to Poland over two years ago. While packing my suitcases, a silent inner tension was building up so as not to inflict unnecessary pain in ourselves. My mom became somewhat more oblivious, pensive and I could see her wet eyes. Mindful, she wanted to put as much as possible into my suitcase as if she wanted to put a part of herself among my belongings. Then, she pushed into my hands a sandwich for the travels – that any meals at the best restaurant cannot compete with. Finally, after many hugs and never-ending cheeks kisses, when the car door slams, it was impossible to hide the pain of parting. The sobs stayed in the car and in the house… However, for these partings, I know that I’ll be rewarded with another visit, which I hope will take place this summer or maybe later.
But where to find reward and consolation in partings that leave no hope of meeting again. I mean the partings that come with death. A few years ago, I celebrated the funeral of the late Bolesława – my ‘American-Polish mother’. I saw the great love and gratitude of the family for the deceased. I asked if anyone in the family would read the readings during the funeral. A great-granddaughter volunteered. I was a bit surprised as I saw that there may be some language difficulties in the third generation of immigrants.
Seeing my surprise, the great-granddaughter added: “Prababcia (Great-Grandma) will help me when I have problems with pronouncing some words”. Late Bolesława passed on love, faith, and Polishness to her family. Everyone was grateful to her for the wonderful gift of caring love. During the funeral homily, I spoke about the mother who, while cooking in the kitchen, looked out of the window into the yard where her children were playing. She saw every danger that would threaten her children and was always ready to help them. The children knew about it and therefore felt safe. I always felt safe around her. I remember how one of her children recalled a short prayer before a meal said by her 4-year-old son: “Thank you God for mother in the window’. This is also how we can pray after the death of our mothers, adding only: in the heavenly window. Our mothers look at us with concern from the heavenly window and ask God for blessings for us. They look and look forward to a joyful meeting with their children.
Happy Mother’s Day! Fr. Chris Ciastoń

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the value of our lives

May 2, 2021

Dear SPA Family,
The radio, TV, smartphone, fridge, washing machine, lamp... cut off from the power source are just pieces of furniture/device of no great value. They do not fulfill their essential task. The moment they are connected to a power source, they take on their full value and begin ‘to live’.
It is the same with our spiritual life. In order for each of us to bear the fruit God intended, we must strive to be constantly united to Christ. Jesus compares Himself to the vine and us to its branches. He says: “I am the true vine; you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him bears much fruit, because without me you can do nothing”.
Just as the value of the branch, its vitality and fructification depend on union with the vine, so also the value of our life depends on our union with Christ. What does that mean exactly? Well, this means that each of us is a branch planted by Christ in a vineyard named ‘Church’. Each of us is to bear the fruit that God set for him when he chose him and gave him a special calling.
The fundamental bond with Christ is the state of sanctifying grace that we obtained in baptism. We can, however, lose this grace by committing a mortal sin. We then become dry, dead twigs that belong to the vine – but they are not alive, they do not bear fruit.
So, what should we do to be with Christ continually? First of all, we must try to live in a state of God’s grace. Everything else; prayer, Holy Mass, Holy Communion, keeping the commandments, faith, love – these are the means or results of living in God’s grace.
Thanks to Christ, we know that God Himself is the source of our spiritual life. Thanks to his love and grace, everything we do in our lives takes on meaning and value. “Whoever remains in me and I in him, the same bears much fruit”.
The misfortune of dying outside God’s grace and being unable to bear fruit usually begins with little things. It begins with neglect in the morning or evening prayers and ends with stopping praying altogether. We start slowly to skip Sunday Mass and end up stopping attending the Eucharist. We neglect confession before Christmas or Easter, and we end up not going to confession for a few or many years.
The same happens in our dying outside commandments and moral values. We start with the first cigarette and end with an insatiate craving for it. It starts with one glass of wine and often ends with an alcohol addiction. We reach out for the first dose of the drug, and it may end up wasting and losing health and life. It innocently starts with a flirtation and I may end with divorce, the breakdown of marriage and family.
Let us remember that as many times as we cut ourselves off from Christ and His grace, we die and bear no fruit. No wonder our hearts grow cold, and, in many cases, we end up deviating completely from Christ. Separated from Jesus, not only do we fail to bear God’s commissioned fruit, but our lives also end in a spiritual defeat. Then the words of Christ are fulfilled: “Whoever does not remain in me will be thrown out like a vine and wither. And it is picked up and thrown into the fire and it is burned” (Jn 15.6). Nobody wants that! I don’t… and I believe that you do neither.
Let us therefore remain in union with Christ. This is our mission and calling here on earth. The value of our actions, our prayers and the value of our lives depend on it.
Have a blessed week. Fr. Chris Ciastoń
P.S. I invite you to watch what our staff prepared for the retreat of our awesome 1st Communion Recipients. https://www.saintpaultheapostle.church/family-spiritual-formation
Keep them in your prayers as they receive the Holy Communion for the first time on May 1.

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Jesus, the Good Shepherd

April 25, 2021

Dear Spa Family,
The fourth Sunday of Easter is known and celebrated throughout the Church as the Sunday of the Good Shepherd. Basically, we probably all know the image of Jesus carrying a lamb on His shoulders, showing Him as the Good Shepherd. This picture is so eloquent in its content, because it speaks of Shepherd’s care over his flock, moreover, over each sheep. But…! Isn’t it a bit like… as if nowadays, this image has lost its proper meaning and message…? We believe that Jesus, the Son of God, is the Shepherd, each of us is a lamb who is devoted and entrusted to Shepherd’s care. This divine care results from love and willingness to do good for humankind. But does it translate into life and the environment in which we live, work, and meet other people…?
Today, the world creates a slightly different picture, as if there is no need for someone to care for somebody else because we hear that a person is to be independent and self-sufficient. And to expect support, help, or care from someone else – as something natural – is often seen as a human weakness. Commerce, materialism, the pursuit of a better tomorrow, rivalry, and often misunderstood ambitions that enter human life make it easy for a person to be drawn into this ‘machine of good and happiness’, hoping that he will succeed. However, it often ends in failure, disappointment. Why is this happening….?
In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of a good shepherd who knows his sheep and cares for them, and moreover, lays down his life for them. He is the shepherd himself. But it also talks about a hired man, a different kind of shepherd. That is, about someone who needs sheep so that he can earn something on them, get rich, achieve his goals. This ‘shepherd’ and the sheep have no bond whatsoever apart from the work related to it. In this situation, often in the face of danger, the hired man runs away, leaving the sheep, saving only his life. And maybe you are wondering what this has to do with what was mentioned above? Well…!
How often in human life, in our life, we let ourselves be deceived, deceived by people who at first glance want to be such life coaches (shepherds) for us, telling us that it is about our good, happiness, fulfillment, and future, which is wide open to us. And they say that they do it completely selflessly, they simply feel sorry for the talents that lie dormant in us. Is it not so…? However, in difficulties, when something goes wrong, it really turns out what the intentions were, and we are often left to ourselves. Isn’t that the attitude of that wage-earner in this Sunday’s Gospel...?
Jesus, the Good Shepherd, wants to care always for us, even in our difficulties, giving his life for us. Why...? Because we are from His sheepfold, where each sheep is precious, and the whole sheepfold is united by one bond - love.
Let this Sunday be an opportunity for us to be prudent about what the world offers us, in the name of good and our happiness, so that in Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, we may discover and find true happiness.
Have a blessed week. Fr. Chris D. Ciastoń

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human world vs. God's world

April 18, 2021

Dear Spa Family,
An important decision… Every believer should consider what kind of world he wants to live in; whether in the human world and designed by humans, or in the world of God and created by God. It all boils down to the question of whether he wants to decide about his world for himself, or is he looking for someone with whom he would like to make decisions and implement programs.
Building with people… Freedom is now understood as an opportunity to build our own world. Whoever understands it like this looks for like-minded people, and there are millions of them. They want to decide about human life, about the durability or impermanence of marriages. They want to decide about sexual practices, about euthanasia, about intake of stimulating substances, about how to treat other cultures or skin color, about the rights that they establish for themselves. This is a strong standpoint in the modern world, and sadly many people follow it, and among them are also many Christians who are eager to join them.
In the name of freedom, many want to build their world, disregarding the world of others, even those who are at their home. Unbelievers build and program their world at the expense of everyone, as long as they are comfortable. It is known from experience that a world built at the expense of others is never a good world and the builder himself will not be happy in it.
And here the fundamental question arises: Can a believer agree to their system and join them, building his world in the name of freedom, disregarding anyone?
I am building with God… Faith introduces us to the world of God and the world of God's plans. There is also a plan for the implementation of our life, and a specific plan with detailed instructions for its execution.
The believer, entering God's world, makes a decision about the implementation of God's plans for him. From now on, his concept of life is based on the principles of God's law, which he wants to respect.
God's textbook… The textbook of this wisdom, needed to enter God's world and necessary to master the ability to live in this world, is the Holy Scriptures. For in it is the essential message of the revealed truth about God's world. Interpretations of the Scriptures over the centuries reveal thousands of successes in the construction of this world and thousands of failures, when the principles given by God were disregarded. We believe that God is the truth and never lies to anyone.
I choose… We must realize that in our generation we are faced with a fundamental and very important decision. It has to be a clear decision without any compromise. Either we build the world with people or we build the world with God. We need to make a choice and be consistent in it.
If we have already made such a decision, let us not try to cooperate with people who expect us to trample God’s law. Their world is a world of enslavement... and the pleasures they reach have little to do with true joy... for many, it is a tempting world. God’s world is thousands of times better, richer, without fences, without fears, without worrying about tomorrow...
Have a blessed week. Fr. Chris D. Ciastoń

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my God

April 11, 2021

Dear SPA Family,
God exists whether anyone believes in Him or not. He is the Creator of the world, He watches over it in His providence, He guides everything that exists to its goals. One can know quite a lot about such a God by listening or reading about him. But as long as it is not my God, it is only messages that are no different from any other.
The life changing event is discovering that this is my God. Then He appears as a great mystery that opens its doors to me. I can go in and I can be in this world, a thousand times more real than the one in which I was born into and I will die from. This world is transient, and God's world is eternal and so vividly alive that there is not a trace of death in it.
We call such an encounter a conversion. It is the beginning of a new way of life. Thomas the Apostle was waiting for such a conversion. When he met the Risen One, he said shortly: “My Lord and my God.” Here, the word “my” is the most important. Many people are waiting for such an encounter.
St. Faustina encountered that ‘my God.’ She replied to Jesus succinctly: “Jesus, I trust in You.” This was her personal confession. She wanted everyone to be able to say this to Jesus personally. In such an act, a new way of life is opened.
God's mercy is best understood precisely by those who experience ‘His intrusion’ into their lives. Whoever can say in his heart: “Jesus, I trust in You” is saved. Jesus is his (‘my’). He will repeat after Thomas: “My Lord and my God.”
Such an act of faith is always a declaration of love. For whoever I love is mine (‘my’). The personal dimension of reference to Jesus and to God the Father is extremely important in the act of faith. As long as, there is no such reference, so long the act of faith is weak and does not shape human lives.
This Sunday, Thomas the Apostle will call us for an answer to the question: “Is God yours?” Happy are those who use the word ‘my’ when speaking of God, because they know who they are talking about.
Happy Divine Mercy Sunday. Fr. Chris Ciastoń

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a revolution of love

April 4, 2021

Dear SPA Family,
Easter, the oldest and most important Holy Day for Christians, is celebrated every year. Maybe it has become a bit commonplace for us. The same liturgy of the Easter Triduum, passion, cross, tomb, resurrection. How can we understand this greatest mystery of our faith?
Let's look at the movie “Risen” (2016) directed by Kevin Reynolds, which presents the investigation of Jesus. We see the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection through the eyes of the Roman Tribune of Clavius, to whom Pontius Pilate commissioned to find the disciples of Jesus who had just been sentenced to death. According to Pilate, prompted by the Sanhedrin, Jesus’ body was stolen by his disciples who wanted to continue spreading ‘heretical religion.’ Clavius, following alleged thieves, also goes deep into himself. All he wants is "freedom from killing and death." He is a straightforward killer who obeys orders, but wants to remain consistent with his conscience. It changes gradually in contact with Jesus’ disciples.
Clavius realizes slowly that everything cannot be explained by reason alone. After all, he had seen the strange reflection on the shroud, the melted seals, the ropes that were cracked rather than cut, a boulder that had been pushed backward that several strong men would have to move. He also experienced the extraordinary goodness of the carpenters’ disciples. Ultimately speaking with Jesus’ disciples, Clavius is full of doubts.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a revolution of love. It is not a matter of coincidence that Christ the Lord rose on Sunday. The light of His resurrection illuminated the morning of the first day of the week. With His resurrection from the dead, Jesus ushered in a new era in the human history. He illuminated all the earth with the light of the age to come. However, the resurrection itself brings with it many questions that we must rediscover over and over again, as do so many generations of disciples of the Risen One. To this day, the sharp minds of this world are wondering…what and how?! And the mystery still remains a mystery. And it must be so.
But is there anything that could be done about it? Well no, because the revelation of God is already written in the Scriptures. It is what guides us along the paths of Easter. However, in order to discover the victory of Easter morning, faith is necessary.
Victory happens in us through love. After the suffering and death, after the pain and uncertainty of tomorrow, the resurrection begins. The resurrected love is not merely the longed-for goal of our eternal life. This love begins right now in this life. From the empty tomb of Jesus, the Gospel of life spreads throughout the world. The Risen One shows that life and love are inextricably linked. On the other hand, there are many stones in the world that block access to the grace of resurrection. Jesus sets aside these stones so that we can enter a life full of joy, hope and freedom.
Jesus is truly risen! Do we believe that we will also rise with Him? Yes we do!!! “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad”. Alleluia!!!
Happy Easter. Fr. Chris D. Ciastoń

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conscience

March 28, 2021

Dear SPA Family,
This weekend, we will hear again the description of the Lord’s Passion. We can only stop at the level of the story, description. But we can also go deeper. We may realize that this description is not just words. This is an event without which our lives would be meaningless. This is an event that opens up a different perspective for us. Jesus lays down his life for us, for our lives, for our sins, for our happiness, for our eternity. Freely! He could have come down from the cross, but he didn't. He could resign from his mission at any moment, but he did not.
We can view the Passion of the Lord only as a description. But we can see God’s love for us in this description. And if the Passion of the Lord is a song of God’s love for us, we must do something with ourselves, with our lives.
Is there any way to discover this love? Yes… a little less hurry. It is worth stopping for a moment and ponder… Haste always prevents us from reaching love, truth, and goodness.
Jesus’ enemies are in a hurry too, because the Sabbath is drawing near. Time is short. Therefore, they provide arguments that cannot be checked or confronted. They want to get rid of the ‘problem of Jesus’ quickly. And they have a strong religious argument: the Sabbath is approaching.
How to stop the rush/hurry? There are many ways. One of them is working on conscience, listening to its voice. Pilate heard the voice of his conscience as he spoke the words, “I find no fault in him”. It was, however, too weak a voice to resist the pressure of the crowd.
I think, more effort should be made to work on our conscience, too. Each of our conscience can be twisted – if this work is not performed. Working on conscience is a daily examination of conscience. It is making a decision to go back to God each day. Daily returns to God shape our conscience, position it properly, and make it sensitive to human reality. Everyday returns to God slow our lives, making us aware of their purpose.
During this Holy Week, let us do our best to care for the daily examination of conscience while we make our daily returns to God and let us not hurry :)
Have a blessed Holy Week. Fr. Chris D. Ciastoń

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Totus Tuus (All Yours)

March 21, 2021

Dear SPA Family,
Marta's attitude is extremely instructive in this weekend’s gospel. We need to draw the right conclusions from it. Lazarus’ sister, when asked about faith in Jesus, replies with the affirmation without hesitation. However, she begins her dialogue with the Master with the eloquent words: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (Jn 11:3). This faith in God’s protection is even exemplary! God’s presence in life brings us prosperity! With such trust, we do not have to think about it, we do not look for immoral solutions. The very presence of the Lord sensitizes a person to the quality of His life and also gives a sense of security! Saint Augustine wrote vigorously centuries ago: “Let your profession of faith be like a mirror for you. Look at yourself in it to see if you believe everything you say. And every day enjoy your faith”. Therefore, it can be said that genuine faith translates into faithfulness in everyday life, in seeking God’s will, and in cooperation with the grace of the Lord!
Martha, however, does not stop at professing her faith in the power of Jesus' presence. She adds confidently: “I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask” (Jn 11:22). Only faith in God’s omnipotence allows such a clear declaration. In our lives, we often encounter powerlessness, a ‘wall’ of adversities, and our own helplessness. We often rely only on ourselves, assuming that everything depends on us. In our life decisions, we must allow God into our hearts because faith accepts total surrender to the Providence.
Let’s entrust our lives, problems, and loved ones to God. Martha proves that even in the face of an unexpected death, it is possible to stay with God without rebelling. Obviously, this is not an easy-to-implement attitude! When pain or suffering comes, it’s easy to blame God. However, Jesus showed that a completely different attitude is possible. In Lent, the Messiah proves that pain can be liberating. In suffering, we have a chance to go beyond ourselves, our weaknesses and egoism, and discover the ceasing face of suffering. Martha, bending over her brother’s grave, suffered, but at the same time gave everything to God.
Let’s remember the attitude of John Paul II, who, waking up after the tracheotomy surgery, wrote on a piece of paper: “What have you done to me? After all: Totus Tuus (All Yours)”. Such total dedication to God is the common denominator of the attitude of Jesus, Martha and the Pope. It is also available and attainable for us. But one thing is needed: concern for our own faith! How to do it? Saint Paul urges us not to live according to the flesh, but according to the spirit. It is possible “as long as the Spirit of God dwells in us” (Rom 8:9). So, let us take care of our inner temples of the Holy Spirit.
Have a blessed week. Fr. Chris D. Ciastoń

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the spiritually blind

March 14, 2021

Dear SPA Family,
Have you ever thought about what it means to be blind? To live in the eternal night, never to see the sun, the beautiful morning and twilight; never see the face of a loved one or the innocent eyes of a child; never to see a rainbow in the sky, colorful flowers, and other natural wonders - it is a great misfortune and a great loss.
The blind in this Sunday's Gospel is a picture of all those who are blind to God and to God's things. Oftentimes, evil blinds us all. However, we can recover and see again. How? The Divine Doctor is always nearby. In baptism, we received the grace of faith, God's knowledge, God's sight, new eyes of the soul. However, many did not keep this gift. Those who think that they can see, that they are righteous and wise, that they can cope on their own, remain in darkness, in weakness, limitation, and sin, and sin is the greatest darkness. They are terminally ill because they like the dark and don't want to see through. They convince themselves that they are healthy and do not need a doctor. Even the greatest miracle will not open their eyes. They think it is easier to close their eyes than to change your mind, heart, and life.
It’s likely that they have lost faith in any possibility of change. And yet Christ can do anything, and do it immediately, just as he immediately healed the blind man.
Every sinner is blind because he cannot see where his good and happiness are, and he smells foul-smelling mud more than a flower. He loves this mud and rarely wants to see through. Let us try not to belong to the group of the spiritually blind.
But we are not only to care for ourselves. Each of us is responsible for the other person. Do we contribute to making even the greatest sinner dare to turn to Christ with a request for healing, for breaking out of addictions, sins, religious indifference, and the destruction of love in the family?!
Let us ask the Lord to see if we are blind. God gave man freedom already in the act of creation, so great that he was capable of opposing His will. This freedom was greatly respected by the Son of God. He knew the needs of every person he met, but he repeatedly said: "What do you want me to do for you?"
Let us ask Christ with courage and trust for our transformation, especially during this Lent, so we all can "walk as children of light!" (Eph 5: 8).
Have a blessed week! Fr. Chris d. Ciastoń

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the drink of immortality

March 7th, 2021

Dear SPA Family,
We know ‘ambrosia’ from Greek mythology. It was the drink of the gods, which gave them immortality and eternal youth. Everybody wanted to try it. Tantalus, the son of Zeus, stole it from the gods and sold it to his friends. Because of this offense, he was thrown into Tartarus and was tormented there. These famous torments of Tantalus consisted in the fact that, for example, he was hungry, although fruit hung over his head, which he, however, could not reach. He was thirsty though he stood knee-deep in the water. To make it more dramatic, a boulder was constantly swaying above him, threatening to crush him.
As in these mythical, fairy-tale stories, also today people are constantly looking for such potions that may ensure their longevity. They sell aloe or other remedies, and we buy them with the intention that we will be healthy. The Internet is full of ads saying that this man is not liked by doctors because he has a recipe for a healthy life. That lady, in turn, is not liked by dermatologists, because she has a recipe for smooth skin without wrinkles, etc.
We are also looking for the drink of immortality. That's why we come to church. We are looking for food that will satisfy us. We are looking for a drink that quenches all desires. In Sunday's Gospel, we will hear that Jesus Christ Himself is such a drink. He says to us: whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life (Jn 4:14).
Each of us carries some desires. These desires vary with our age. Boys want to be strong, accepted in their group, girls want to be beautiful, noticed by others. Parents want to be important, rich, well-positioned in life. Older people want to be healthy, live happily ever after, and enjoy their grandchildren. Everyone has their own desires. To these desires, we must add the desire of God. Jesus' thirst. He says to us: I am the way, the truth, and the life (Jn 14: 6). So, He says: I am everything! That is why we need to seek Him. We need to be in a close relationship with Him. Because we are convinced that He is truly the Savior of the world.
Today, when we look at the Lord Jesus, He appears to us as a true man: tired of the journey, he sat down by the well. On the other hand, He appears to us as true God who says to us; if you knew who the one who talks to you, you would ask him for living water.
The Samaritan woman recognized Jesus as the Savior. She wanted living water from Him. She spoke about this living water in her village in which she lived. Let the thirst of Jesus’ living water burn in us too. Why? Because we are convinced, we know that this man really is the Savior of the world (Jn 4:42).
Have a blessed week, Fr. Chris Ciastoń

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the taste of climbing a mountain

February 28, 2021

Dear SPA Family,
On October 16, 1978, as the College of Cardinals in Rome met to choose a new pope, at the same time thousands of miles away, a Polish woman named Wanda Rutkiewicz was climbing the highest peak in the world - Mount Everest. She took some stones with her from there. When a year later in June 1979 she met John Paul II, she gave him a gift from the summit of Mount Everest. The Pope said to her: "On the same day we both climbed so very high ...".

There are various mountain peaks. They have one thing in common, climbing them requires a lot of effort. Nevertheless, we go there against logic. But when we get there, we get back from there changed. Because from the top, everything is seen differently, with a completely different perspective. As if we were closer to heaven, as if much, much lower, we would leave what holds us to the ground and prevent us from looking up towards heaven. The conquerors of both these great peaks and the smaller ones, when asked what they are going there for, why they risk so much, why they tire themselves out, often reply that the way to the summit and reaching the peak change them.

Jesus went to the high mountain of Tabor to be transformed there before his three apostles. But that road with Jesus to the top, and also conquering it were to transform these three disciples as well. The experience of Mount Tabor was to open their eyes to Jesus as God and to important things they had not seen before.
Many of us know the taste of climbing a mountain, many of us know the taste of fatigue that comes with it, and the taste of great joy when we reach the top. Probably many of us are looking not only for rest in the mountains, but also for a transformation, a change of heart, thinking, outlook, values...

Only the bare essentials are taken to the mountains, because every unnecessary object becomes heavy and cumbersome. The heavy load may prevent us from reaching the desired peak.
It turns out that our life may be similar to the climbing the mountains with a heavy load. We are often burdened with unnecessary things, which makes it difficult to journey through life. We at times strive for money, material wealth, high quality of life, and we like to surround ourselves with luxury.
For some of us, work becomes more important than the time spent with family. Or, a bank account becomes more important than visiting or reaching out a sick friend.

The expedition to the top teaches us to treasure what has real value, what is really important and what counts on the path of our life, which we follow most often with our family and friends. Faith, love, honesty, truth, loyalty, friendship, generosity and sensitivity are the values that always turn out to be essential and timeless in the journey through life.
Everything looks different from the top. What is so enormous on the ground and overwhelms us so much, from the top appears just teeny tiny. At the top, everything is closer to heaven. Heaven seems to be much closer than the earth left far below us.

This experience teaches us the wisdom of a change of heart, a change of thinking. It teaches us to value wisely, so that we would not be occupied with what is only earthly, but would raise our eyes to the heavenly and start thinking about God. Let us begin to be guided by what is important to God in our lives.
The apostles returned from the Mount Tabor as changed people - different from who they were when they had climbed it. They have been transferred because they saw in Jesus God, the Messiah, a mighty Lord worth being with. Let the Lenten journey to the summit of Easter transform us, so that what is earthly will not obstruct our view of God and heaven!
Have a blessed Lent.
Fr. Chris D. Ciastoń

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attitude of conversion

February 21, 2021

Dear SPA Family,
Lent, which we began on Ash Wednesday with the rite of sprinkling ashes on our heads as a sign of penance, introduces us to the liturgical season of preparation for Easter. The time of 40 days is an echo of the 40 days that Jesus spent in the desert before starting his public activity. The next six Sundays will lead us through the greatest mysteries of our faith. We will come to know Christ and ourselves anew in the light of faith in Him who is our Savior.
The purple color of liturgical vestments and church’s decoration reminds us to take a moment to reflect on our lives. The Word of God during the whole season of Lent will be an invitation to boldly look at our relationships with others: to our spouses, children, neighbors, colleagues at work and at school.
In the temptation in the desert, the Lord Jesus confronts Satan and shows how to fight his temptations. He firmly rejects any proposal from Satan. It is a preview of the final fight that Jesus will bring to evil on the cross. Through death and resurrection, he will overcome death and sin.
At the beginning of Lent, we hear from Christ's lips a call to conversion. The Lord Jesus, having defeated Satan in the desert, teaches us how to fight sin and its consequences.
Lent is a time of deep reflection on the mystery of the presence of the Son of God on earth. The Lord Jesus came into the world to show each of us how to re-establish a relationship with God and how to rebuild mutual love and trust. The way to achieve this goal is the attitude of conversion and acceptance of the Gospel.
Conversion (Greek metanoia) consists in the complete transformation of a person: his way of looking at the world and himself. Conversion includes our attitudes towards God, and therefore prayer, participation in Holy Mass (in-person or online), and the fulfillment of His commandments are to help us in our daily struggles with our lives. The attitude of conversion begins with the heart, which is a symbol of our feelings, hidden desires and ambitions. The decisions of the will are born in the heart, thanks to which we can stay with God.
The attitude of conversion is also about a new view of the world, which makes it possible to see in it the presence of God, a loving Father. This experience gives rise to a new view of others: parents, brother, sister, colleague at work or at school.
The Christian tradition suggests to us penitential practices consisting in limiting the pleasure in order to come closer to Christ who accepted the suffering of scourging, who was crowned with thorns, and who bore the cross. During Lent, we express our accompaniment to the suffering Christ by prayer, giving up entertainment or denying ourselves stimulants: alcohol, coffee, chocolate, candy, and by spending some of our treasured resources on helping those in need.
Christ who meets us on the roads of Lent, wants to show us a new meaning and purpose of our earthly journey. The condition for taking up this path is the readiness to change and patient quest for God who comes to meet us.
Have a blessed week. Fr. Chris D. Ciastoń

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social leprosy

February 14, 2021

Dear SPA Family,
It's hard for us to earn acceptance in life. And yet we want to be in a group of people who think at least the same. What stands in the way? Let’s look into this weekend readings for answers. They deal with the disease of leprosy. All patients had to strictly follow the rules about what to do. “A leper suffering from this disease will have his clothes torn, his hair in a disorder, his chin veiled, and he will cry out, ’Unclean, unclean’!” (Leviticus 13:45). So, they were isolated from the rest of society.
It might seem that this is a long past. And yet not. Nowadays, we are dealing more and more often with another form of the disease: social leprosy. It is asymptomatic but severe for those affected. The sick, as in the case of real lepers, are isolated from the rest, and additionally they are treated as unwanted, unneeded, and redundant.
Even though they sometimes have a lot of good news, advice, or information to convey, they are not seen, their dignity is trampled on, and they are even killed with psychic daggers. Those who ‘get sick’ are mostly sensitive people, internally rich, but ‘unfashionable’ for others. They are doomed to be misunderstood and ridiculed. Isolated, they still create, think, work, volunteer. They want to be helpful and needed. And that's what they are ridiculed for.
Therefore, while listening to this weekend’s readings and the Gospels, let us look around us. Are there nearby those who have been pushed aside like lepers by us or by others? Or maybe we don't like the fact that they are different than us?
As Christians, we are to love one another, and this means finding understanding for those we call misfits. Saint Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, says: “Avoid giving offense, whether to the Jews or Greeks or the church of God.” (1 Cor 10:32). We can read it as a call to accept the people we reject, or are rejected by others, for various reasons.
Christ perfectly understood the ailments of illness, and also knew the status of the rejected, misunderstood, because he had experienced it many times. As the Son of God, He could help those in need. He showed mercy to the one asking for healing, saying these words: “I do will it. Be made clean!” (Mk 1:41b).
Conclusions? Let us not dismiss someone who according to our standards is a little different. Let us show him, like Christ, mercy, saying – Brother, Sister, come with us, be with us.
Jesus Christ, constantly deepen our love for our neighbors, teach us to give love to people as you give your Love to each of us.
Have a blessed weekend. Fr. Chris D. Ciastoń

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Every person has a special and exceptional value in God’s eyes.

February 7, 2021

Dear Spa Family,
There are various moments in our lives. There is a lot of joy, but also sometimes we go through very difficult days. Like Job in this Sunday’s first reading. He was very sad and lonely, abandoned (even by family and friends), alone, not understood by anyone. In the silence of his heart and conscience, in a silent monologue, he complained about his life. He believed that his life passed quickly and senselessly. Like many modern people today, this is how they live their lives.
When Jesus heals - as we heard in the Gospel - his mother-in-law and many sick people, He shows us his power and, above all, his sensitivity to human life. By performing these miraculous healings, He shows us that He does not want human suffering. He doesn't want anything to enslave people!
Jesus wants to approach everyone personally. He wants to take everyone by the hand and lift them up, because every person (especially the sick and suffering) has a special and exceptional value in God’s eyes. Jesus is the one who rose from the dead of the greatest disease, which was death. He wants to pick up those who somehow "touch" the reality of death. That is why, sick, suffering, sinful, addicted... need to come to Jesus who, through the sacraments, heals our soul, and in many cases also the body.
When can we conclude that Jesus heals us and gives us His power? Let us look at the attitude of Peter's mother-in-law. Immediately after being healed, she began ministering to the apostles. We can say: when people want to fight anew, undertake new tasks, it is then that they open themselves to the healing grace of Jesus. When apathy, anxiety, withdrawals, even despair, and fear of everything around paralyze our actions - then we do not allow Jesus to take us by the hand and lift us up. Meanwhile, Jesus allows us to find himself. He shows us the way how not to get lost in life.
I hope this message finds you and your loved ones healthy and well. In light of the current coronavirus pandemic, our primary concern is the spiritual and physical health and welfare of the faithful and all those who serve our parishes. We also recognize that we have a duty to care for those among us who are most vulnerable.
These dual concerns reflect everyone’s need for safety, while at the same time supporting those who need it most in our Archdiocese and parish.
While the financial circumstances of many families in our parish are uncertain, for those who are able we ask for your support of our Church. The Annual Catholic Appeal will launch next weekend and since our services are limited in the number who gather in person, there is an online giving option at annualcatholicappeal.com and a text-to-give option by texting the word “ACA2021” to 345345.
While challenging days remain, we also recognize this opportunity to be truly present to one another and care for those who are struggling. May we continue to pray for all those affected by COVID-19, those who are caring for the sick and for each other.
Have a blessed weekend. Fr. Chris Ciastoń

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You Are Prophets!

January 31, 2021

Dear SPA Family,
What is prophecy? It is an extremely responsible and even dangerous charism. A prophet is someone who speaks not his own words, but God's. God's words are placed in his mouth like pearls inside a shell. The clatter of shells is prophesying, proving the existence of a pearl. Secondly, the prophet is a person who cares for God all the time. Caring for God is the result of discovering God's care for humankind.
I believe that the true prophet is a fulfilled prophecy. When one is a poet, in a sense, he himself should be a living poem. It is the same with prophecy. When prophesying, one should be faithful to what is preached.
The possessed person in this Sunday’s gospel prophesied, claiming that Jesus was the Holy One of God, but his life was in clear contradiction to what he preached. Besides, he was SCREAMING, not TEACHING like Jesus. By shouting, we can make a great impression. I remember when I read about a rock singer who was asked why she was screaming so much during her concerts. Confused, she replied, "I'm screaming to be heard." But it seems to me that she was more concerned with jamming for others than with being heard.
Prophecy is an expression of God's concern for us and He wishes to awaken within us the same concern for Him. His goal is love, because his beginning is love. God reveals Himself in prophecy just like He really is - a caring God. So, if you too reveal God as a caring Father and you care for Him most tenderly, you are a prophet, although you may not know it!
Just ask yourself: are you teaching or screaming? Do you scare others using God’s name or you inspire others to trust Him?
No one is a prophet who has not seen God's promises fulfilled in himself/herself. When it happens than we become friends with God. And for a friend, it is the most beautiful thing to care for his/her friend… his/her God, to guess His desires, to sympathize with Him, to suffer with Him, to enjoy His joy, to ask about His worries, to console Him, to spend time with Him, to be with Him when people insult Him, to be a friend so trusted that his/her friend dares to confide and reveal His secrets. Only between friends, secrets are not secrets. A prophet is a friend of God.
Have blessed weekend. F. Chris C

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“the world in its present form is passing away”

January 24, 2021

Dear SPA Family,
A few years ago, I was walking down the street and I saw my friend walking with his dog, a St. Bernard. It would not be surprising, if not for the fact that my friend with his dog on a leash was walking in a zigzag, from tree to tree. “Hello friend, where are you going?” I asked. “I don't know, ask my dog!” He replied. It turns out that we can be owners of dogs, but we may not own them because they may own us.
We should acquire things in a way so that what we acquire does not enslave us. Isn't it ridiculous to find someone who has bought a piece of new electronic equipment and then complains that they cannot leave the house because they have to use it? Or someone who has bought a new car and spends all days admiring, washing, and waxing it, and nights making sure it doesn't get stolen? Shhhh… I was one of them :-)
What is this ridiculousness? Well, electronics or cars are not worth our lives. They are to serve us, not vice versa. If the opposite is the case, we are drifting away from true happiness. Why? Because we don’t know the proper hierarchy of values, treating things that are not important as the most important. It's as if someone wanted to go home, but he tried to convince not a taxi driver, but instead... a tire to take him home.
The point is not to negate all the pleasures in life, but to choose what is really good, important, valuable. And the key to the right choice is the words which we will hear this Sunday “for the world in its present form is passing away” (1 Cor 7:31). This way, we can distinguish what is really important and what is not.
Simon, his brother Andrew or James, son of Zebedee, had their lives in order, they had their hierarchy of values, their boats, their world. Everything was in place for them. But when Jesus came, one sentence was enough for them to leave their jobs, wages, and families. “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Mk 1:17). Suddenly, they found that there was something more important, something worth giving it all up. They left everything and followed Jesus.
God wants us to win our lives. Therefore, when we lose the proper hierarchy of values, when something less important – money, fame, power, vanity, selfishness - takes over us, it is worth remembering what is most important in our lives.
Just as God did, reminding the people of Nineveh whose lives were absorbed only with possessions. Jonah remaindered them, that what they thought was important would disappear. The people of Nineveh converted, changed their thinking and the hierarchy of values.
Is it worthwhile to deal with this in our lives, since “the world in its present form is passing away”?
I invite you to reflect on this question this week as we are coming closer to another liturgical season in the Church, Lent.
Have a blessed week! Fr. Chris D. Ciastoń

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Ordinary Time

January 17, 2021

Dear SPA Family,
This past Sunday we celebrated the last day of the Christmas Season, but also, we began a new liturgical season in the Church – Ordinary Time. At this time, the green color of liturgical vestments is in force, symbolizing hope, rebirth and youth.
Ordinary Time is a kind of a moment of a rest for the Church. It is the longest liturgical season, lasting between 33 and 34 Sundays. It is divided into two parts. The first, the shorter one (about 8-9 Sundays) lasts from the Sunday of the Baptism of the Lord to Ash Wednesday, and the second, from the Sunday of Pentecost to the First Sunday of Advent.
Hence a doubt arises; Why do we need Ordinary Time? After all, there are so many holidays and memories that should be included in the church year. Exactly. This is the secret of the Ordinary Time. And yet during this period in the liturgy we remember so many saints (Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul), the Apostle (Sts. Peter, Matthew, Luke), we celebrate Marian feasts and other celebrations (Our Lady of the Snow, Assumption, Transfiguration, All Souls).
This is the time when we get to know Jesus' life and activities more deeply, mainly through the Liturgy of the Word. Only when we understand it well and receive it, we will we be able to follow Him as He wants.
Ordinary Time separates, as it were, the two most important celebrations of the Church, the Nativity of Christ and the His Passion and Resurrection.
And it is this time, also by its length, that teaches us a certain longing for important celebrations. Short winter and longer summertime and vacations -because these are most often associated with the Ordinary Time - are beautiful moments that can and should be devoted to more frequent prayer, contemplation or reading of the Holy Scriptures; not only within the walls of the church or our homes, but also surrounded by nature; on vacation or retreat.
This is a season that cannot be wasted thinking that we are resting from God! After all, God Himself does not rest from us. Doesn’t He watch over us in our homes, at our workplaces, schools, and on the mountain trails, in the waves of the sea while the travel? It is in these situations that we can give a beautiful and vivid testimony of faith, which is to do His will and to always show our belonging to His Church everywhere and at all times.
Ordinary Time during this year’s wintertime with its still unending COVID and political challenges is a kind of a school of independence of religious practices. That’s why, I’d like to invite you to test your courage and bravery in professing faith while you are at your home or work or at your travels to different environments. Let's not sleep through Ordinary Time. Because Ordinary Time is a time for growth and maturation, a time in which the mystery of Christ is called to penetrate ever more deeply into history until all things are finally caught up in Christ.
Have a blessed week, Fr. Chris D. Ciastoń

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What's new?

January 10, 2021

Dear SPA Family,
Whenever I meet my friends I like to say, "What's new?" It has only been a couple of weeks since Christmas, so if I were to ask you, "What's New?" you would probably have a lot to tell me about.
All of us like new things, don't we? Don't we just love the look and feel of new clothes? Well maybe children don't get as excited about new clothes as we adults do, but I am sure they get excited about new toys! They have probably spent hours playing with the new toys they received for Christmas.
We are at the beginning of a new year. Some people like to make New Year's resolutions or promises to themselves about what they plan to accomplish in the new year. The number one resolution that people make is, "I am going to lose weight." I don't think too many people succeed, since it seems to be the number one resolution year after year.

New Year is a time that we can forget our past mistakes and look forward to new opportunities that lie ahead of us. It is a time of new beginnings. It is a chance to start over. It is a time to try to do things better than we did last year.
Jesus experienced times of new beginnings in his life too. One of those times was when he was baptized. I wonder how many of us celebrate the anniversary of our baptisms? How many of us even know when we were baptized?
There were a couple of very important things that happened when Jesus was baptized. First of all, the Bible tells us that the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit came down in the form of a dove and landed upon him. The second thing was that God spoke and said, "You are my Son. I love you and I am well-pleased with you."
This event marked the beginning of Jesus' ministry here on earth. Up until that time, he had not performed any miracles, but with God's stamp of approval and with the spirit of God upon him, Jesus began to perform great miracles.

Our own baptism represents a new beginning for us as well. God may not always be well-pleased with us, but I think that He looks down with an approving smile when he sees us trying to walk with Jesus.
Our baptism was like an official adoption ceremony. God’s been proud of us from the very beginning when we became his children because that is what he wants us to be.
And like a good Father - or a good Mother - God is there to help us do all the other things he asks us to do - things like loving our family members and our neighbor - and forgiving and helping one another - and sharing the good things that he gives us with those who are in need.
Wouldn't you like to be the kind of person that would cause God to look down from heaven, as he did with Jesus, and say, "My child, I am proud of you?"
I would like to be like that - and every day I try to be, knowing that God loves me and is there to help me be the kind of his child he wants me to be.
Have a blessed weekend. Fr. Chris D. Ciastoń

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