Fr. Chris's Letters

to the SPA Family

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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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being faithful

January 3, 2021

Dear SPA Family,
Isaiah had foretold that "all the ends of the earth will behold the salvation of our God."
Now, on the Epiphany, the light from the skies is strengthened a hundred, a thousand fold and the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that "nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance."
To the amazement of all in that region, there come foreign camels bearing foreign scholars – wise men – kings! Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh!

What courage and perseverance those strangers have shown, to brave the dangers of travel, skepticism, and political intrigue. But they found what they were looking for.
That star gave trustworthy guidance and now triumphantly shines as guard over the lowly dwelling wherein rests the child who possesses all meaning.
They fall to their knees in homage, for their learning has made them humble, and their wisdom leads them to recognize the Divine in the fragile flesh of a child.
What a silent Adoration! What loving glances they exchange with Mary and Joseph!

But for all their simple faith, their wisdom is sharp enough to detect the sham delight and murderous intentions of the wily Herod. And so they pay their respects, leave their gifts, and modestly depart for their homeland, sorrowfully aware of the terrible price justice must pay for Peace.
Their role in history has been accomplished – to teach us all to follow the guidance of the Almighty, to accept our own role as Bearers of the Light, and to follow this Christ into His Mission, to partake of His Passion, and to join the millions through the ages who will preach His Gospel of universal salvation.
The Son of God is the one Judge and Arbiter of Truth and the one Source of Light, but we are all called to be "epiphanies," providing glimpses of that Truth, showing the way in our own small spots of time and circumstance to a larger plan and destiny.

O princely Child make of us all, wise men, courageous women, obedient children who will follow wherever You lead us.
That means being faithful to prayer, diligently reading articles and booklets about our faith, sharing what we learn with others, taking part when possible in prayer and study groups.
This is the way for us to be light-bearers, lighting up the darkness and confusion in the world in which we live.
Have a blessed weekend. Fr. Chris D. Ciastoń

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A FAMILY FROM NAZARETH A MODEL FOR ALL FAMILIES

December 27, 2020

Dear SPA Family,
The family plays an extraordinary role in human life and society, which is why the Church wants all families to follow the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary, her most chaste spouse Joseph and Jesus, who make up the Holy Family of Nazareth. Let us note that the Son of God himself, in order to come among us, wanted to be born and live in the family, thus emphasizing the importance of this most common human structure.
The family is not the result of a simple legal contract, subject to change and transformation over time, but it is a relationship of irreplaceable and lasting value, which is based on the eternal and unchanging love of God. Marriage is a masterpiece of creation: in it, man and woman are called to unite as one in a mutual gift of one another that lasts throughout their lives. By nature, love is constant and loyal; love is faithful and fruitful. Man and woman are called to fatherhood and motherhood. Marital love is so great that it has been raised by Christ to the dignity of a sacrament.
The family was defined by the Second Vatican Council as the "Domestic Church". It’s the place where the most important religious values are communicated, where the spouses should be the first and irreplaceable educators for their children who teach by word and example. The family is a place where mutual love between spouses and between parents and children develops and flourishes. The family should take care of the life of prayer, participation in the Sunday Mass, and be a school of self-sacrifice, patience, and mutual forgiveness.
We all know the story of the flight to Egypt and the persecution unleashed by Herod against Jesus, which is one of the most tragic moments in the life of the Holy Family. How many wonderful examples and teachings we can draw from the lives of Mary and Joseph! Despite great hardships during the flight and the period of exile, poverty, and uncertainty, they accept all suffering with a spirit of faith and trust in God.
Even the most painful events did not disturb the harmony and peace of the Holy Family, because God was always first and everything was done according to His Will.
The Holy Family is the perfect model for all families. Following in the footsteps of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, we will learn to pray, meditate, discover and understand the mystery of the inner riches that animated their whole lives.
Let us hope that the families of our time will renew their awareness of their holy nature and will be able to discover their divine origin and, following the exalted example of the Family of Nazareth, have become truly Christian.
Have a blessed weekend.
Fr. Chris D. Ciastoń

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Mass: In-person and Drive-thru Communion

December 13, 2020

Dear SPA Family,
The Christmas season is upon us and our thoughts turn to the birth of Jesus our Savior, family, and friends. Given the challenges of the Pandemic, our immediate and extended families have all suffered spiritually, physically, financially, and emotionally. Even in the midst of these difficulties, Jesus is with us and will help us weather the storm and lead us to safety. “God is our refuge and our strength” and he will guide us through the darkness.
Our goal this Christmas season is to accommodate the spiritual needs of as many parishioners as possible by presenting an extensive number of Mass time options. We are offering In-Person Mass and a limited number of parking lot Live-Stream Masses with Drive-Thru Communion. Registration is required for in-person and outdoor services and available on our website (www.saintpaultheapostle.church) or you may call the parish office at 847-918-0600 to register.

In-Person Mass
We are following the Archdiocese of Chicago guidelines for in-person attendance which is 20% of our capacity, or in our case 220 people.
● Kindly arrive 15-20 minutes before Mass to be seated, allowing all attendees to participate in Mass.
● Park in the west parking lot from Hunt Club Road and enter the church through the west doors only.
● Please bring/wear a properly placed face mask covering your nose and mouth.
● Greeters will sanitize your hands and check you in.
● Ushers will direct participants to appropriately distanced seating.
● Due to capacity and space restrictions, requests for priority seating cannot be honored.
● Social distancing must be maintained at all times and we require that you remain seated before and during the service.
● Ushers and presiders will provide additional instructions throughout Mass.

Outdoor Live-Stream Mass
Parking lot (stay in your car) Masses, with Drive-Thru Communion will be held in the east parking lot.
● Kindly arrive 15-20 early for a parking assignment.
● Access the east parking lot from Gages Lake Road.
● Bring your own device to watch the Live-Stream Mass.
● We will be broadcasting the Mass at a designated frequency so you can listen via your car radios.
● At the conclusion of the in-person Mass, Drive-Thru Communion will be offered in the east parking lot adjacent to the east door entrance.
● When instructed by “traffic guards” and/or signage, stay in your car and drive one by one in a single line to the Communion tent.
● Place and keep your mask on your face when you approach the tent.
● While in the tent, remain in your car, place the car in Park, and roll the windows down.
● An usher will sanitize your hands.
● A Eucharistic Minister will place the Holy Communion in your hands.
● Once all members of your party have received the host and the Eucharistic Minister has stepped away from your vehicle, remove your mask(s) and consume the Holy Host. Reposition your face mask(s).
● A large collection box will be available for those wishing to make a Christmas offering.
● Please exit the parking lot with care.

St. Paul the Apostle Christmas Season Mass Schedule


Volunteers Needed
We will require a significant number of volunteers to serve as greeters, ushers, and outdoor traffic guards at these Masses. Thus far, the response from our faith community has been tremendous; however, additional help is needed for our Christmas Season Masses (December 24 - January 10). We encourage and welcome volunteer participation of singles, couples, and families. To sign up; email info@saintpaultheapostle.church or call the parish office at 847-918-0600. Your assistance will be a great gift of service to both our Lord and your fellow parishioners.

With deep joy and gratitude, I extend to you my prayerful best wishes for a holy, healthy, joyful, and blessed Christmas.
In the midst of all our current challenges and concerns, the love of God the Father is made manifest to us in the wonderful gift of His Son, Jesus. With the angels in Bethlehem, our faith moves us to sing: “Glory to God in the highest and peace to His people on earth!” We recognize that true peace on earth flows from our recognition and praise of God in our lives.
On behalf of the members of the parish pastoral staff as well as the Parish Leadership and Finance Council, may our Lord Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem, bless you, your families, and loved ones at this blessed time of hope and grace. May Mary, the Mother of the Child Jesus, and our Mother watch over you always and our beloved Saint Paul the Apostle Parish.
Several years ago, I received a Christmas card with this message: “This Christmas, I wish you, Jesus.” On the inside, it read: “Isn’t nice to have everything!”
Wesołych Świąt Bożego Narodzenia i Szczęśliwego Nowego Roku!
Maligayang Pasko at Manigong Bagong Taon!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year :)
Fr. Chris D. Ciastoń

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Quo Vadis

Dec. 6, 2020

Dear SPA Family,
We are used to smooth, asphalt, and wide roads. We can just get in the car to meet friends who live very far from us. This ease of meeting is one of the many benefits that good roads bring. Some of us may remember or know the places where the roads are not paved. Visits from relatives living many miles apart sometimes could take several days. Crooked and bumpy roads are often the reason for weakening family relationships and friendships. Of course, it is not the material condition of roads that is the main reason for undermining interpersonal ties.
The bumps and roughness in the spiritual path that connects people are a fundamental cause of hostility and division between them. This is the way the Prophet Isaiah and John the Baptist speak this weekend. Life is often compared to the road. Each path leads to a designated goal. The path of our life is directed towards God and our neighbor. But it can be so sinuous and bumpy that it never gets us to our destination.
The Nobel Prize winner, Henryk Sienkiewicz in his novel “Quo Vadis” shows the bloody persecution of Christians in the first centuries. Despite such cruel persecution, Christianity spread in an extraordinary manner. This happened thanks to the teaching of St. Peter. One of the themes of this novel is the love of a young Roman, Vinicius, for the beautiful Christian Lydia. However, they are separated by a huge chasm, a road almost impassable. They differ in their lifestyle. Vinicius lives the life of the demoralized Rome of that time, and Lydia is a devout Christian. She is guided by evangelical morality, in which the commandment of love is at the forefront. For the Romans, love and mercy in the Christian version were unacceptable, they were something degrading.
Vinicius wants to break the chasm between him and Lydia, so he wants to learn as much as possible about Christianity. To this end, he secretly went to their prayer meeting. Unrecognized by anyone, he participates in the service led by St. Peter. Vinicius, listening to his words, felt that something strange was happening to him; begins to take the words of St. Peter about Jesus. Later, he thought about it a lot and finally made the decision to be baptized. Something that seemed impossible happened. Vinicius made his way to meet not only with Lydia but also with Christ.
An Advent’s call to conversion is not limited to confession and turning away from evil only. This is only half the way. The full conversion is to bear good fruit. At this time of the year at St. Paul, we bear a lot of good fruit by helping those less fortunate. We’ve helped to feed many by assisting two Food Pantries at St. Anastasia and Holy Family. We’ve supported the Knights of Columbus’ many programs. We donated several thousands of dollars to the Turkey Dinner initiative so that veterans and needy families of our community could enjoy the Thanksgiving celebration. And soon, we will share thousands of gifts with kids and their families through Gift Sunday program.
We are encouraged by the Prophet Isaiah and John the Baptist to straighten the paths that lead to God and our neighbor and to remove everything that separates us from them. Vinicius showed us how. Along with bearing good fruit we make the paths leading to God and our neighbor straight, and I believe that then God is born between us and within us.
Have a blessed week. Fr. Chris Ciastoń

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Timetable for passengers traveling towards HEAVEN!!!

November 28, 2020

Dear Spa Family,
Are you thankful no matter what? Perhaps you have lost your job recently, as the economy has continued to struggle. Or you may have lost your health, or a loved one. Such circumstances can be tremendously difficult. But even so, we all have much to be thankful for not only on this Thanksgiving weekend but also on any other weekend or day of our lives. Because, God has given us the greatest Gift of all – His Son, who died on the cross and rose again so that we can know Him personally and spend eternity with Him in heaven. However, before spending the whole eternity with Jesus, we need to get there in some way.
Just this past Monday I had a curious and existential conversation with my sister. This kind of conversation doesn’t happen too often :) Later that day, she send me an interesting and humorous text showing how we can travel toward heaven (just to prove her point!). I’ll try to do my best to translate it for you. Let’s be grateful for a smile too :-)

Timetable for passengers traveling towards HEAVEN!!!
Departure - we do not know the day or time
Arrival - depends on ourselves
Ticket prices - holy life, fulfillment of gospel counsels, penance, trust in God, prayer, fasting, almsgiving, obeying God's commandments, fulfilling duties
For latecomers - a special rescue train - reconciliation at the hour of death. Due to the strict departure times, we do not recommend it - you may not make it on time!
Caution!
 Ticket without the stamp of sanctifying grace is invalid
 Tickets are valid only one way
 Round-trip tickets are not issued
 We do not advise to travel for excursions. Too much can be lost.
 Please do not take your luggage with you because they may not make it in time, or they will have to wait in the purgatory luggage room to be released from it at the later time.
 During the journey, it is allowed to change from a lower class to a higher class; vice versa is strictly forbidden! You have to think about it when buying tickets.

We wish all passengers a pleasant journey!!!

Have a blessed Thanksgiving weekend and the 1st Sunday of Advent.
Fr. Chris Ciastoń

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the image of Christ in each one of us

November 22, 2020

Dear SPA Family,
This weekend’s Solemnity ends the liturgical year. The Gospel presents us with Christ, to whom will belong the last sentence in the history of each of us. And with this last sentence, that is, the judgment on us, Christ will open the last, endless chapter of our existence. Our King uses an extremely simple criterion in his judgment. This criterion is the love shown to another person. Love that is realized in help, kindness, good word, good deed. Before God puts us on the right or on the left, He will ask us a simple question: have you learned to love other people on earth? Have you made other people on earth a hell or a heaven?
Jesus Christ, King and Judge, will take into account everything we have done or have not done to our neighbors and count it as an act done for Himself. So we will be judged on good and bad deeds. As human beings, we are created to do good so that we may leave this world with our heads held high, with the awareness of a life well lived and with the awareness of the good we have done to other people. Since our King is the source of good and love, then we, as His people, should strive for good and love.
A certain Persian king summoned various sages and asked them: What is the greatest degree of human poverty? Various answers were given: old age, disease, poverty. And one of the wise men said: The greatest poverty can happen to a man when, standing at the end of his life, he cannot remember any good deed.
Showing mercy to people is showing mercy to Christ himself. That is why, in Sunday's Gospel, Christ encourages us to do good here on earth, because it will be our ticket, our pass to heaven.
Maybe today Christ wants to say: “I am so close, behind your wall, I am in need, and you pass me by indifferently. I live right next to you, and you don't notice me, you pass me on the street every day with contempt and disrespect. Whatever you did to one of the little ones, you did to me”.
There is a movie, the action of one of the scenes takes place in Hyde Park in London, where everyone can stand on a platform and say whatever he likes, as long as not to offend the queen. A man stood up, a wandering preacher, and began to teach: At the last supper, Jesus took and broke the bread and gave it to Peter first. And someone in the crowd said: ‘not to Peter first, but to John’. This preacher paid no attention to it. He continued his teaching, but after a while he asked: ‘Who said that Jesus gave the bread first to John and not to Peter?’ The man was already gone. The preacher jumped down from the dais, runs after him, caught up with him, put his hand on his shoulder, stopped him and says: ‘You, how do you know that the Lord Jesus gave bread first to John and not to Peter? ‘ He says: ‘Because I was there’. And he takes his hand off his shoulder, and the preacher sees a nail mark on the man’s palm. Christ is in Hyde Park. Christ is in Muszynka (my hometown), Christ is in Chicago, Waukegan, Grayslake, Gurnee, at the corner of Gages Lake Rd. and Hunt Club ...
Christ also walks among us today, especially now in this very unique year with its challenges. Not in royal robes, not in a crown on his head, not in a shining cloak. He looks into our apartments and houses. Interestingly, we are still looking for this Lord Jesus, as pretty as in the picture with a long white robe, beautiful hair, and a crown on His head... I believe that Jesus our Kings is visible to us through the presence of others in our lives and ours in theirs. But His presence in others often is camouflage by words and actions made in human weakness.
Each of us has layers of goodness, let's use them, let's not postpone them. Let us also try to see in each person the image of Christ. Because only then can we be pleasantly surprised by the words of Christ. “Come, blessed ones of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you. For whatever you did for one of the least of these my brothers, you did for me“.
Have a blessed week!
Fr. Chris Ciastoń

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Financial Report

November 8, 2020

Dear SPA Family, The past year was a year of transition and challenges. As your one-year-old pastor, I
thank you for the warm reception that you have given me since the first day of my arrival. I have
experienced firsthand the welcoming spirit that our community cherishes so deeply. I am also very
appreciative of all your support as I strive to serve you in your needs. I present to you the annual parish
financial report for the fiscal year; this in accord with Archdiocesan Policy. You, the parishioners of
St. Paul, demonstrate a consistent commitment to God and your parish through your gifts of prayer,
service and treasure. THANK YOU and GOD BLESS YOU. -Fr. Chris Ciastoń

To view our Annual Financial Report compared to 2019, please click on Media then Bulletin for November 8th, 2020 .

St. Paul the Apostle Annual Financial Statement Comparison - Year Ended - June 30, 2020
Ordinary Operating Income Sunday, Holy Day and Other Collections $1,019,140
Christmas Collection 73,303
Easter Collection 20,778
Fees (primarily religious education) 124,697
Fundraising 1,127
Interest Income 10,867
Miscellaneous Income 48,998
Total Ordinary Operating Income 1,298,910

Ordinary Operating Expenses Salaries and Payroll Taxes 603,619
Health Insurance and Benefits 81,150
Books and Supplies 25,096
Utilities 65,172
Maintenance and Building Repair 100,814
Archdiocesan Assessments 123,840
Archdiocesan Property/Casualty Insurance 42,347
Miscellaneous Expenses 211,259
Total Ordinary Operating Expenses 1,253,297
NET ORDINARY INCOME (LOSS) $45,613

Extraordinary Operating Income
Sharing Collections for Other Parishes $123,461
Archdiocesan Required Collections 39,177
Annual Appeal Rebate 120,235
Capital Campaign Collections 12,747
Total Extraordinary Income $295,620

Extraordinary Operating Expense
Sharing Collections Paid to Other Parishes $123,461
Archdiocesan Collections Paid 39,177
To Teach Who Christ Is payment 120,400
Capital Improvements (Note 1) 1,923
Total Extraordinary Expense 284,961
NET EXTRAORDINARY INCOME $10,659
TOTAL NET INCOME (LOSS) $56,272

General Note: Ordinary Miscellaneous Income includes stole fees, mass stipends and miscellaneous donations. Ordinary Miscellaneous Expenses includes, but is not limited to, transportation, food and meals, altar and liturgical supplies, furnishings and equipment and other administrative costs.
Note 1: Capital improvement expenditures included the following: 2020 HVAC repair $ 0, Security expenditures 1,923. Total $1,923
If you have questions or comments regarding the financial reports, please email us at business@saintpaultheapostle.church

Have a blessed weekend, Fr. Chris Ciastoń

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Eagle Scout Award

November 1st, 2020

Dear SPA Family,
I would like to congratulate Matthew D'Souza for achieving the Eagle Scout Award which represents many years of dedicated effort. The Eagle Scout Court of Honor is a very personal event in both the life of the Eagle Scout and the lives of his family, friends, and even church community. The Eagle Scout is the highest rank attainable in the Boy Scouts of America program and it is awarded to Scouts who achieve excellence in service and leadership. Matthew, with some friendly and helping hands, presented to SPA a gift of a closet for the altar servers’ albs. You can find it by the South-East exit. I’m very grateful for his work and dedication to our parish. Matt is a very faithful, kind young man. He has shown we’re never too young or too old to make a difference.

Thanks to Matthew, our parish has a lasting legacy created by one of our own young people. Great job Matt!!! Please read what Matt shared with all of us.

Blessings, Fr. Chris Ciastoń

My name is Matthew D'Souza and my family and I have been parishioners of St. Paul the Apostle Parish for the last 10 years. I am actively involved in Boy Scouts (Troop 96 in Grayslake) and earned my Eagle Scout rank in September 2020. Part of my rank advancement was to work on an Eagle project that gives back to the community. I reached out to Father Chris for some ideas, and we agreed that a closet for altar servers’ albs would be a good service project.

I believe the altar servers’ albs are a very important part of the Mass celebration and should be stored in an enclosed closet. Prior to my project, the albs were being hung on a coat rack at the side of the church and were exposed to the elements such as sunlight and dust.

I started fundraising for this project back in February by selling “The World's Finest Chocolates” and reaching out to local businesses to help with supplies. Home Depot was very generous by providing some of the wood and hardware I needed for my project. However, COVID came along in March and put all my plans to a screeching halt. Due to the quarantine, I had to put my project on hold and was not sure if I would get it done per my timeline. However, once some of the restrictions were lifted, I was able to get back on track and was able to schedule a couple of build dates. I had a few fellow scouts and a couple of adult volunteers help with the build-in my garage. In turn, I provided pizza and soda for all the troop members that attended these events. While doing the build, we all had to wear masks and adhere to the social distancing guidelines recommended by the State laws.

The builds went off well and I am so happy that everything came together and the project was a success, A special thank you to everyone who helped me, especially Mr. Todd Nitto who guided us thru all the carpentry aspects of the build as well as helped me transport materials to my house, and the finished vestment closet to Church. I feel proud that I was able to accomplish this project and provide an alb closet for my church. It was truly my pleasure to build this closet and I thoroughly enjoyed watching it all come together with help from my peers and troop leaders who were also instrumental in the build. I hope that this closet will continue to provide storage space for the altar servers’ albs for a long period of time.
Thank you, Matthew DSouza

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encouragement in Jesus

October 25, 2020

Dear SPA Family,
This time of pandemic has turned my schedule upside down. However, in the middle of this so-called ‘almost a new normal’ I have found some time to read a bit more of the Bible. I stated to read the epistles (letters). I just finished reading St. Peter’s first letter. St. Peter was in a great deal of distress and pressure as he wrote it. The church was experiencing a great deal of suffering and persecution during that time. Peter writes his first epistle to encourage the church during his and church’s trials. How fitting into our pandemic times.
He is saying that even though poverty, persecution, and uncertainty there is a reality that extends beyond the current circumstance which is the salvation of people’s souls. Peter was actually very practical and gave them instructions on how to live the authentic Christian life even while in exile. Giving them practical insights on things such as marriage, children, church life, and spirit to build up the church in order to continue to make a difference for the gospel.
The 1st Letter of St. Peter is particularly helpful for us especially during this season of great trouble and uncertain times. It provides us a reminder that while following Jesus is simple, it doesn’t mean that it will always be easy. In fact, we are exiles of another kingdom while living in this world. Therefore, the way that we live here on this earth should reflect the truths that we believe.
We find the greatest encouragement in Jesus which is utterly vital for all Christian believers. We need to look for that because oftentimes we put our hope and trust in things that cannot save us and may often let us down. Things like income, education, friends, family, government, or work. Sometimes we trust and hope in man-made things rather than God-created things. St. Peter reminds us that there is a world far greater than this one. That’s why he is encouraging us passionately to follow Jesus even during difficult times. Jesus never promised us that our life in this world would be easy, but he did say so many times that we would not go through it alone. In this world, in everyday and spiritual life, we may, and perhaps we will at times, endure and encounter immense pressure, but Jesus and St. Peter want us to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus’ eternal promises rather than be impulsive by our temporal aches.
Interestingly, St. Peter is very practical in his writings, and not as theological as Sts. John or Paul in their Letters. He gives us directions on how we should continue to live even in the midst of trial and pressure. In Essence, work hard, love your spouse, raise your kids, and be devoted to the church as this is a way in which our testimony about Jesus bears witness to the world.
I encourage you to read St. Peter’s Letters if you have some time to spare. I’ve discovered that especially the 1st Letter of St. Peter is a beautiful writing about hope, grace, glory, and life. When things feel overwhelming it is of great reassurance to know that God has been at work through people experiencing the same pressures of life that are familiar to all people and he remains faithful even unto this day.
GOD IS ALWAYS THERE FOR HIS FAITHFUL!
Have a blessed week.
Fr. Chris Ciastoń

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Clergy Appreciation Month

October 18, 2020

Dear SPA Family,
Just this past Tuesday you received an email from the SPA’s staff members stating that October has long been recognized as Clergy Appreciation Month. Frankly, every October I’m reminded of it and usually I don’t remember about it :-) The call to honor our church leaders’ contributions can be traced back to St. Paul. In establishing the first Christian churches, St. Paul advised the congregation to give “double honor” to the elders of the church who managed the affairs of the church well, “especially those whose work is preaching and teaching” (1 Timothy 5:17).

St. Paul further urged Christian communities to acknowledge those “who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you,” holding these spiritual leaders “in the highest regard in love because of their work” (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13). I think that here we also need to acknowledge our parish staff members and parish leaders who do such an amazing job here at our beautiful parish.
As of mid-2018, there are approximately 51,000 people in the United States who are officially employed as clergy (bishops, priests, and deacons). When we consider all that religious leaders do, it becomes clear how important it is to celebrate and uplift our hardworking clergy. Sometimes, people ask me what priests do…? Most of you perhaps see me or Fr. Joe or deacons on Sunday in the church or on the screens of your TVs when you join us digitally while we all pray. So here are some of the things we clergy do.
On a daily basis, we clergy members prepare weekly messages and homilies, celebrate sacraments, manage the maintenance and financial obligations of our churches, and, most importantly, nurture the spiritual well-being of our congregants.
Aside from these daily duties, we clergy members participate in the highs and lows of the lives of our churchgoers and other members of the community. We lead mourners during funerals, pray over the sick, minister to the homebound and abandoned, catechize our young ones, and strengthen the faith of the others. Moreover, we bear the emotional pressure heaped upon us by dissatisfied congregants, and also absorb the sometimes hostile criticism of an increasingly anti-religious society. This weekend we will have a chance to help prayerfully and financially those who work as missionaries as we celebrate World Mission Sunday this weekend.
We, clergy, also oversee our most joyous occasions. We play a vital role in marriages, baptisms, Holy First Communions, Confirmations and requests for special blessings. We also uphold the institution of marriage by counseling struggling couples to hold fast to their marital vows and guide the Lord’s flock by giving clarity to those with a fractured emotions and sense of faith.
It’s important to note that some clergy members often risk their physical well-being for the sake of doing God’s Work. Clergy serve as missionaries in tough areas worldwide, care for people with contagious diseases, and literally stand at the front-lines of social justice movements.

I would love to take time to appreciate, encourage and acknowledge personally the Carmelites who used to minister here, Fr. Joe, Deacons Mike, Ivan, Bob, Andy, Rod, Brent, and their spouses and our staff members and parish leaders.
Jesus said, “Well done, good and trustworthy servant...” (Matthew 25:23)
Have a Blessed week :-)
Fr. Chris Ciastoń

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God has the ability to extract good even from negative situations

October 11, 2020

Dear SPA Family,
I believe that everything that happens in life is foreseen by God who wants good for people. Even though, sometimes the freedom of creatures leads to negative consequences. However, God has the ability to extract good even from negative situations. This is one of the most important lessons that the coronavirus crisis is giving us.
I trust in the positive effects that the pandemic may bring to the world. There are values that are more visible now than before, namely, stronger family relationships, solidarity, equality of human life, care for the environment. The world will come out better out of this crisis if we are able to overcome the divisions of prejudice and cultural diversity. If we learn to see everyone as brothers and sisters who belong to one family of God's children.
My confidence that this can happen results from my deep trust in people, because there is always a spark of good in people and you can count on it. People respond positively to various challenges because goodness is written in their hearts. This inner conviction that God is Love and that love for all creatures inspires hope. In fact, you just need to look around to see examples of solidarity, for instance, efforts of doctors and nurses who try to instill confidence and smile or expressing pain for people who could not be saved. Many people, in all sorts of professions, were able to put themselves to assist and support others. And we’ve tried to help others with our treasures and time for those who go through financial or health difficulties. I’d like to mention your financial efforts to help women through the Baby Bottle Campaign and those with intellectual disabilities through Tootsie Roll Campaign.
Watching news, I can see examples of solidarity in the help for our town and nation and also countries who struggle intensely because of this virus and natural or humanmade disasters. Those efforts are made to do everything so that individual communities or nations not only think about protecting their goods, but about integrating their own economic vision with that of others. One of the greatest examples of that happened right after the explosion in Beirut.
These testimonies do not hide though the challenges posed by this COVID crisis. There is also fear and anxiety. However, I think we don't have to deny it, but accept it. I'd say that we need to learn to live with fear without letting it hold us back. Only love removes fear so that there is no fear where there is perfect love. So, the greater the love, the less the fear, because love helps us to act with love, hope, trust, and solidarity.
Have a blessed week.
Fr. Chris Ciastoń

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Is the coronavirus a punishment from God?

October 4, 2020

Dear SPA Family,
The pandemic is bringing the world to its knees. Is it God's punishment? It’s the age-old question about the evil scandal, to which no superficial answer can be given. Only God can give a proper answer. Everything else is assumption. In fact, God has been asked about it several times before. Like when He “saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked Him: " Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus replied: "Neither has he sinned nor his parents, but [it was so] that the works of God might be revealed in him" (Jn 9: 1-3).
Jesus himself was judged: was not the crucifixion the greatest curse of God (see: Gal 3:13)? The high priests, the leaders of the people and the common passersby mocked Him and insulted Him: "Get down from the cross...". They did not have the heart to understand that Isaiah's prophecy was being fulfilled, that a "suffering servant" would be considered "smitten of God, and afflicted!" (Is 53: 4).
What image of God have we made for ourselves? Sometimes we present Him ‘in our image and likeness.’ This is the case when we expect vengeance more than justice and we want a God who punishes those who do evil, especially if they are others. Our God is different, more like the father in the parable, who does not throw a thunderbolt from heaven on a dissolute son who has left with his father’s fortune, but he waits for him with longing and welcomes him with open arms. Our God does not cut down a fig tree that bears no fruit, but patiently cultivates it "for a year." How long is the year of the Lord? Perhaps until His return. Only then He will separate the wheat from the weeds. First, it’s the time of His mercy.
Evil exists. We experience various tragedies. But does God want them? Many times, we (people) ourselves are the cause of them. If we invested in research instead of arms, if we built hospitals instead of cruise ships perhaps, we would have a better world. God has entrusted the world to us, it is up to us to manage it. In any case, God does not allow tragedy as punishment. "If God is for us, who is against us?" And if Jesus died for us, who can separate us from Christ's love? Maybe the coronavirus? "But in all of this we are fully victorious because of the One who loved us." Nothing "can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom 8: 31-38).
In the face of the events of Jesus’ day - the bloodstained persecutions by the Roman soldiers who committed the crimes in the temple and the collapse of the tower at Siloam, leaving eighteen people dead - Jesus wasted no time in debating: is this a punishment from God or not? Rather, He invites us to draw from these facts a warning that applies to all, because we all need conversion: "If you do not repent, you will all perish in the same way" (Lk 13: 5). If everything returns to the pre-pandemic state after the pandemic is over, I think, it will be a real punishment. The deaths of so many people and the tragedies experienced will be wasted. If we convert, if we learn to change the direction of production and research, distribute goods, build relationships between us... then the pandemic will serve some purpose and we can say with the Apostle Paul: "We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God” (Rom 8:28).
Have a blessed week.
Fr. Chris Ciastoń

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we are in this together and we will get through this

September 27, 2020

Dear Spa Family,
Our nations have recovered from war, terrorism, natural and manmade disasters, but the threat of COVID-19 brings anxiety and existential fear that we have not experienced since the 1918 pandemic. However, we are in this together and we will get through this.
Everyone is finding their own way to cope with this pandemic and the loss normalcy. Among many coping ideas, we also need to embrace a spiritual or religious practice.
For those who regularly attend the Mass, the sudden absence of it constitutes a tremendous loss and could not come at a worse time. Spirituality is unique to each person. One way to define spirituality is as a connection that gives meaning and purpose to our life. For some it means connecting with God or a higher power. For others, it means connecting with nature or helping those in need. During difficult times, spirituality is a source of strength, hope and faith.
For many of us, spirituality, faith and religion are essential elements of daily life. If you are feeling spirituality disconnected or isolated, consider these ideas for reconnection:
• attend Mass in-person or online
As you may know, we can hold 200 people per Mass at this time. Yes, it is not 1100 capacity we could have in the church before March, but we are open now and with the registration, disinfection, and social distancing our liturgies are as beautiful as they were before the pandemic. We also live-stream the 5pm Saturday Mass which you can also watch any time at our website.
• connect with a small group online
Join Canaan Wine 10 series which will give you an opportunity to encounter God, grow in faith, and be encouraged in community through a series of short films on culture, heroes, villains, virtue, vice, and adventure into the deep heart of God. We will meet virtually in October on Mondays (1pm) and Tuesdays 6:30pm). You will need a device with a camera and/or microphone to participate via Zoom.
• pray or meditate
If you have established a daily prayer or meditation, now is the time to stick to it. A daily ritual can look different for everyone. Prayer usually involves intentional communication with God to request support, express gratitude or simply connect. Both prayer and meditation are something you can do anytime and anywhere.
• connect with nature
For many, connecting with nature is a deeply satisfying and spiritual experience. While staying home and practicing social distance is key to reducing the spread of COVID-19, you are permitted to go outside for fresh air and exercise. If you live close to a quiet spot in nature, visit that place for some personal time to connect and recharge. My personal favorite is Lake Carina and Rollins Savanna.
• find a reason to be grateful
During these difficult times, it’s easy to get consumed by everything that’s going wrong, while taking for granted the many things that are still going right. Despite the challenging circumstances you may face, it can quickly put things in perspective to consider that things could always be worse. Instead of focusing on what’s wrong, try to identify three small (or big) things that you can be grateful for today.
Have a blessed week
Fr. Chris Ciastoń

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5 COVID spiritual lessons

September 20, 2020

Dear SPA Family,
I have spent a lot of time talking to you, my family and friends about how this outbreak of the COVID-19 virus has been a very difficult time for all of us, and in every challenge, there are deeper spiritual lessons that we can learn from this COVID time. Today, I’d like to share some of lessons I’ve learned while I’ve talked about them with you.

1. The Value of Authentic Relationships. The common phrase that is circulating is “social distancing,” which describes the measures taken to restrict when and where people can gather to slow the spread of the infectious disease. Ironically, with the onset of social media and the smartphone, most people have been “socially distancing” themselves for the past several years. Our world was increasingly a place of distraction and superficial relationships, longing for a deep sense of belonging and communion with one another. In this unprecedented time, we have the opportunity to reflect on how much we miss encountering others face-to-face without fear or danger.

2. Hunger for the Eucharist. No Mass means no access to the Eucharist. I’m so happy that we were able to reopen our church again after two and a half months of closed doors. The faithful are now able to worship God as a community of faith and to receive the Eucharist. Yes, it still comes with some limits, but I think it’s better than closed church. Let us take these feelings of sorrow to God in prayer and share with the Lord our desire to receive the Eucharist. Let us allow our hunger for the Eucharist to deepen our faith. Let our prayer permit our love to increase for such a great gift as we beg the Lord to give us hearts that hunger for God alone.

3. Surrender to God and the Circumstances. A few months ago, our greatest dilemma may have been where we were going to travel for spring or summer vacation. Many of our short-term plans are no longer feasible and each passing day raises more questions than answers. Many people have become accustomed to operating in an independent fashion, having strong control over nearly all of the circumstances in their life. Life has changed for now, and it is understandable that our lack of control may be difficult to accept. Let’s take our doubt, fear, frustration, anxiety, confusion, anger, and surrender it to God. Surrendering means that we resign the situation and our feelings to the Lord, trusting in faith that God can bring good about from our current situation.

4. Detachment. More time at home might encourage us to spend our time indulging in news and social media (which only heightens our anxiety) or pleasure-seeking entertainment (which only temporarily numbs our pain). We have far more devices to pacify us and distract us during this time than any other period in history. Yet, there is great value in detaching from such means, or at least learning moderation, in order to spend time deepening one’s relationship with God. When we are freed from distractions, we can begin to experience interior silence. Silence is the environment that allows us to listen to God’s voice and to those around us.

5. Greater Respect and Regard for All Human Life. By taking numerous precautions and challenging measures, people in the world seem to be working together to preserve and safeguard life. Life itself is a good – whether we are talking about the child in the womb, the poor and needy, or the elderly. Thankfully, we have started discussing how we can protect each other and especially the elderly who appear to be more vulnerable to this virus. This global experience has the opportunity to help us put aside differences and unite us in a greater goal of preserving human life. Life is very frail and is an incredibly precious gift. God is the giver of every life, and we invite the Lord to help us to learn these spiritual lessons during this difficult time.
Have a blessed week.
Fr. Chris Ciastoń

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growing in faith

September

Dear SPA Family,
We are one community of faith, the one Body of Christ. Whether we are parents with children in public or Catholic school, married, single, empty nesters, retired, or working, we all are called to be active participants in the Sunday Mass, lifelong learners in the Catholic faith, and people who welcome Christ into our hearts and homes. We understand that families and households are unique and have diverse needs – you are invited to participate in the ways that help each member of your household grow in faith, individually and together.
I encourage you to participate in the sacramental life of the Church, which is a channel of grace for your family. Jesus lives in us, most especially through the sacrament of the Mass, through listening to His Word and through prayerfully partaking in the Eucharist. As parents, I particularly encourage you to also continue to grow in your own faith. St. Paul the Apostle Parish offers many prayer opportunities even now in these COVID times. Our Director of Evangelization and Youth Formation, Lisa Filip will list and present to you some of those opportunities.
Have a blessed week and know that you and your family continue to be in my prayers. Fr. Chris Ciastoń

It’s easy to fall into thinking a parish is just a structure or a building. However, I imagine over the course of these last few months it’s not the building you missed, but the community of other likeminded believers and faith filled Catholics. Jesus never meant for our parishes to be a final stop. Our parishes are meant to be an “out post” of sorts, were we gather in community to worship, pray, and be formed to go out to the world and proclaim the Good News – the person of Jesus Christ.
Before his Ascension into Heaven, Christ commissioned his disciples, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit “(Mt 28:19). In doing so, the Lord handed on to the Church his own mission of drawing the world into a living and saving relationship with himself. Indeed, the Church exists for this mission, she exists to evangelize. She is the living and efficacious sign of God’s desire for man’s salvation and her mission is to gather the world into the embrace of Christ.
Nowhere is this mission more present than in the parish. The parish is where the gift of salvation in Christ reaches out and touches the concrete lives of the men and women of every time and place. In the parish, the human race finds the doorway into the saving mystery of God’s love.
We are in a time of the saints! A time in which the culture is hostile to Christianity. A time more than ever in which the culture is crying out for the saving power of Christ’s love, mercy and freedom. This saving grace only comes in relationship with Jesus Christ. How is the Lord calling you to be His witness during this time?
We have a few opportunities coming up to help you answer that very question. See links for more information and registration.
National Day of Prayer & Fasting and the Canaan Wine 10 Series

SPA is committed becoming a being an “out post” while meeting the safe environment guidelines. The parish is open for ministries to meet once again on-site under 50 people. Additionally, we are in the process of creating virtual communities for those not yet comfortable meeting in person. Please let the SPA Staff know how we assist in helping you grow and mature as a disciple to mission in the world. The Lord is raising up Saints, will you say yes to his call. Lisa Filip.

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clergy collar

September 6, 2020

Why I wear my Roman Collar
I spent some time on a retreat with the junior high students at my previous parish. I had a desire to speak about one of the symbols of faith that was important to me. So I had chosen in advance my chalice, which was a gift from my parents for my ordination. To me, the chalice is a powerful symbol of the priesthood, holding forth the cup of salvation for the sake of those whom I am to serve. But being my disorganized self, I packed it up and totally forgot to bring it to the room in which I would speak to the students. So, I picked the only other symbol I had on me…my collar.
The first thing I told them was, that I had intended on bringing another symbol, but forgot. They laughed…yes, typical Fr Chris.
In any case it is my view that often innocent mistakes are the result of the Holy Spirit directing me down the right path. So I popped the collar out and began talking about its importance to me. That it is a symbol of service, something that I am called to live.
Here are some after-thoughts. When I was ordained, one of the first things I did was to donate a great deal of my clothing to the St. Vincent de Paul Society. I no longer needed to dress like everyone else, so I saved some regular clothes for biking, skiing, and golfing :-)
So the first experience I had with the collar was: “this is what I will wear for the rest of my life.” At first it seemed grand. Later it became bland, and in that sense: good. Bland is good because it’s simple.
The second experience I had while wearing it was “…people are looking at me. Oh…I guess I better behave. I should be careful what movies I watch, what language I use, as I am a visible sign of Christ to others now, in the priesthood.”
But here is one of the most powerful reasons. While the New Evangelization needs to be made public, on Facebook, what about in the mall, on the highway, at Panera??? If we only do public acts of Christianity in the Church, guess what…only those who go to Church will be evangelized. So that it goes without saying…we need to, as a Christian people break outside of the church walls and meet people where they are…literally. This is WHY I wear a collar.
A little while ago I walked into Toys R Us for my cousin’s son’s birthday gift…awkward!!! A priest wearing a collar and buying toys is something you don’t see too often. I didn’t even realize that the fact that I looked like a priest at that time, so some of the shoppers smiled at me, others said something under their breath, others pointed their finger at me, and then when I was holding a teddy bear and a box of Legos, the cashier said to me; “Hi Father.”

Around Christmas time, my friend and I went to Panera for the morning meal, and I almost did not wear my collar to just grab a coffee and Bear Claw Pastry…conscience said otherwise though, so I obeyed. There was a man ahead of us in line. He looked at me a few times, almost perplexed. Then finally he said, “I wasn’t sure if I was going to say anything, but I am.”

I think to myself …” Oh crap…is this going to be a nice conversation or religious dispute?”
The man shared with me how he was not Catholic, but his wife was. She had died last year, but one of her wishes was to hear Christmas Caroling. The kids in an elementary catholic school sang to her before she died, and it really impressed him. Then, the priest arranged to have that same choir sing at her funeral.

He was having a difficult Christmas without his wife. When he saw the collar he was reminded of how God had been present to him through the Church and it gave him consolation. He literally said, “I didn’t know how I was going to get through this Christmas, but then I saw you.”
Have a blessed week.
Fr. Chris Ciastoń

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the prayer life of a priest

August 30, 2020

How Often Does A Priest Have To Pray?
Every day! Prayer occupies a central place in priestly life and ministry. Think for a moment of praying in terms of a close friendship. Can you imagine not speaking to your best friend regularly? A priest discovers that prayer - personal time with Christ Jesus - provides the source of strength, enabling him to be about the business of Heaven on earth. The Church in her wisdom knows how vital it is for the priest to be a man of prayer. One of the promises a priest makes at his ordination is to pray daily for God's people.
Of course it is not always easy to pray! Just like an athlete does not always feel liking practicing or a student doesn't feel like studying, or an employee does not feel like working, so too there are times when a priest does not feel like praying. Like parents who must rise in the night to care for their children, so too do priests receive the necessary grace to honor their commitment to pray.
Prayer has greater power than all the bombs that man has built. Prayer is something different, the strength of which man cannot produce in any way.

You know that life is not an easy business. It is a very difficult thing to deal with the troubles of life. Even if man uses all his courage to face the problems of life, he may not be always successful because man’s power is very limited. More over, he may become tired and disappointed because of the hardships of the life.

There comes the importance of prayer. Prayer will give us the courage to face all the challenges of life. It is a way of freeing ourselves by giving all our problems and worries upon the hands of God, the almighty.

Look all the virtuous people around us, do you think that they have no problems in life? Indeed, they have, but they don’t mind it. They transfer all their problems to the God and become completely free. Those who are proud of courage and strength, bear all the problems up on their shoulders, becomes tired and disappointed at last.

So dear friends, let’s be courageous and religious. Pray to GOD, the almighty; share with him all the problems.

Have a Blessed weekend
Fr. Chris Ciastoń

Registration for FSF/Confirmation/LifeTeen is open. Please, go to our website to learn more about our Faith Formation programs. We are also looking for catechists who would like to teach and share the faith with our children and teens.
The Knights of Columbus have also modified their annual Tootsie Roll campaign this fall. You can donate to the campaign to benefit people with intellectual disabilities through the St. Paul website.
You are now able to register for weekend mass up to 4 weeks in advance. Registration will close on Fridays at 5pm for the coming weekend’s masses. To register, visit our website or call the parish office. If you need to cancel an upcoming registration, you are now able to cancel through Church Center which you can access on the app or our website.

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the fruits of prayer

Dear SPA Family,
In my last bulletin article I wrote; “I have enriched the prayer in my life, once again, by watering plants, pulling weeds, cleaning, and spending time in the garden…” Today, I’d like to write about a comparison between the prayer and growing a garden. When I pray, much like when I garden, I cultivate a relationship with God that thrives with my love, attention, and prudent pruning. As I strengthen my prayer life, my words and thoughts rise from the fertile soil of my soul to the heavens, becoming fruitful and faith-full extensions of myself. And, just as rain and sun are essential elements to successful gardening, the challenges and gifts in my life also nurture me and result in even more bountiful blessings.
What do you hope to achieve from prayer? Comfort? Wisdom? Energy? Healing? Peace? Each of these, and other benefits, are possible through the quiet and focused attention you give to your prayer time. Before you begin, take a moment to collect your thoughts and design your garden of prayer around your deeply held hopes, dreams, and desires. Try to find time to prepare the Soil, your spirituality. Although it might seem almost impossible to find the time, focus, and quiet to spend a long time in prayer, in reality, all it takes is to start. Like planting seeds in the soil, you have prepared, beginning to pray, however briefly, will enable you to establish a habit of prayer that will lead deeper and deeper the more time you give it.
I remember, when my father -farmer- said to my siblings and me “sit back and hear the crops grow.” Often when I pray, I don’t think anything is happening or that anyone else is listening. Practicing prayer is partly about my words, but it is also about watching and listening. In prayer, we need to be vigilant about things that can tear us away from our inner lives and the value we place on prayer, quiet, and the desire to obtain wisdom from something other than the world outside the soul.
Prayer is strongest when it is protected through faith, determination, and consistency. Honesty in prayer, just as in any relationship, is a necessary virtue, like pruning in gardening. In order to be able to hear clearly as I pray, I need to be ready to put aside my own desires for what is, truly, the answer to our prayers. This way, I will be ready to embrace new blessings, new challenges, and a new depth of soul that I would never have imagined.
These benefits of prayer, like the food and flowers grown at our hands in the garden, are reminders that our souls play a vital role in everything we do, say, believe and are. How wonderful are the fruits of prayer! How blessed are we who work in our gardens of prayer!
Have a blessed week!
Fr. Chris Ciastoń

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the beauty of God’s creation

August 9, 2020

Dear SPA Family,
Do you know the beauty of our church campus? In this COVID time, I’ve spent a lot of time walking and taking pictures of the seasonal changes our church grounds provide. I enjoy the early morning garden the most. The dew is still on the flowers, sparkling in the morning sunlight, and seeming to emit a message of hope and joy, which we need so much at this time. I am drawn to the abundant beauty of our Lord, the simplicity of form, and the complexity of His intricate creation. I so appreciate the presence, the fragrance, the solitude, the peace, the gentleness, and the place of worship. Somehow, the flowers help soften my heart so that I may be more effective in speaking to and hearing the voice of the Lord.
I hope you have some time to spare to allow the love of our Lord to flow over you through the beauty of His own creation. Through the flowers, bushes, cylinder-shaped trees, the refreshing gentleness, and inner peace consumes me. Here, I hear our Lord speaking to us as I reach out to Him. My hope is that through God’s creation, each person will richly and deeply “experience the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:19).
While on my evening walks, I’m able to meditate and reflect looking closely at the intricacy of the spectacularly elegant Rosebush, to sense the flexibility, humility, and love in the soft and delicate cosmos, to delight in the intimacy of the Forget-Me-Not as it radiates happiness, contentment, and sincerity. Each of the flowers reach out to touch me, to hold me, and to embrace me with His love.
If I didn’t have enough of the beauty of our campus, I decided to create a veggie garden behind the Parish House. I have enriched the prayer in my life, once again, by watering plants, pulling weeds, cleaning, and spending time in the garden.
So, please, come and visit our beautiful church grounds, an outdoor sanctuary of our Lord. Many of us come to church on Sunday, but I would like to invite you to come and spend some time at our campus. You can take a seat on the benches or stroll around the church and observe the soothing beauty of God’s creation.
It’s a really beautiful and delightful place. The place where you may be able to experience God’s beauty and His grace, where you will be able to notice your own pettiness which makes us “giants” in God’s eyes, where you might immerse yourself into the immensity of our Creator, and where you may experience: a place to receive God’s love, a place to seek the Lord, a place of joy and hope, a place to hear God’s voice, a place to ask God, “Why?”, a place of softened hearts, a place of humility… and a place of renewed strength, a place to express our love, a place to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation, a place of gentleness and peace, a place to be touched by the Holy Spirit, a place to set ourselves right with God, and a place to meet with Jesus Christ!!!
Fr. Chris Ciastoń

Brent Bertke will be ordained to the diaconate this coming Wednesday, August 12th at 4pm. If you would like to watch the mass virtually, please visit our website for the livestream link or click it here https://usml.edu/aoc-livestream
We will celebrate mass on Saturday, August 15th at 10am for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This year, August 15th is not a Holy Day of Obligation. No registration is required to attend the mass.
Speaking of registration, starting this week, you are now able to register for weekend mass up to 4 weeks in advance. Registration will close on Fridays at 5pm for the coming weekend’s masses. To register, visit our website or call the parish office. Go to our website www.saintpaultheapostle.church

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The Reopening Framework for Religious Education and Youth Ministry

August 1-2, 2020

Take a SIP with SPA! (Take a Spirit-Is-Present with St. Paul the Apostle)

Dear SPA Family,
The rise of COVID-19 has created a challenge for the Church regarding gathering for Word, Sacraments, ministry meetings, and Faith Formation for our children and teens. As you know, we have reopened for liturgical gatherings, however many of us wonder about the fall, especially about Faith Formation. In this letter, I would like to update you on what has been happening at SPA on these hazy, hot, and humid days of summer.
The word of the summer is “waiting” – waiting to hear news from the state and news from the Archdiocese, about what the school year will like amid COVID concerns. As we continue to navigate the pandemic and look toward the fall, it is imperative that we continue to find new and creative ways to minister in extraordinary times while safeguarding the health of our community.
The Archdiocese of Chicago has issued new guidelines entitled “The Reopening Framework for Religious Education and Youth Ministry.” In reviewing these guidelines, our staff has been meeting to plan and review our needs in preparation for the school year.
Following the archdiocesan guidelines, and the plans from our local schools, our Faith Formation staff and I decided NOT to have on-campus, in-person formation classes for the remainder of this 2020 calendar year. We are planning to resume on-campus catechesis for children in January of 2021. The current plan is to continue with remote learning as we regularly evaluate the situation over the coming weeks/months.
To help facilitate this remote learning, we will provide prepared packets filled with books, materials, activities, and various items, all for parents and their children to use to create the “domestic church” where children and parents can together learn more about our beautiful faith.
Our Coordinators will send the detailed plan next week to families and their children who are in the Faith Formation program. The FSF staff will help support parents and their children during this coming fall. The title which we use for our Religious Education school truly fulfills the meaning of its words: FSF – Family Spiritual Formation.
Last Sunday, 16 adults and teens received the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. It was an incredibly special celebration for them, their families, and those of us who have helped them to deepen their faith in our Lord. We are also getting ready for the 1st Communion and Confirmation liturgies. For those who cannot come to church and join the excitement of our children and teens - while they receive for the first time Holy Communion and the gifts of Holy Spirit - I invite you to watch these liturgies on our website.
We for sure live in unprecedented times. This virus has complicated so many things in our normal everyday lives causing our minds to spin, our bodies to ache, and our souls to weep . It is so difficult for me to understand that something invisible to the eye - this virus - has caused so much complexity.
Have a blessed week
Fr. Chris Ciastoń

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Become a Volunteer

July 25-26, 2020

Take a SIP with SPA! (Take a Spirit-Is-Present with St. Paul the Apostle)

Dear SPA Family,
Today I would like to write why volunteering is a great way to get plugged into our church, feel like part of a community, and serve Jesus at the same time.
God has uniquely equipped every person in the Church with specific skills and gifts. As Christians, we are tasked with utilizing these gifts in our community and within our local church. Using your God-given skills as a volunteer is a fantastic way to serve the church while simultaneously lightening the load of a church’s staff during this pandemic times.
Volunteering has a spiritual benefit as well. By volunteering, an individual will often want to dive deeper into the life of the church. At the same time, they serve not only as a helping hand, but also as a witness of the Gospel message within the community.
However, while many may want to give of their time, it can be difficult to align schedules and balance other obligations. So, while the desire to volunteer may exist, people often run into roadblocks that prevent them from giving of their time.
Many people travel for work, others live far from their church, and some have families who claim their time during the week. And everyone has unique God-given gifts which can be shared with others especially during these challenging times while we have an physical-presence opportunity to worship God as a community of believers at our church. St. Paul’s staff is working hard on how approach the comprehensive reopening our Faith Formation programs this coming fall, and we will need your help too.
That's why I would like to invite you once again to consider becoming a volunteer at our beautiful church. Your time and God’s giving talents are mostly appreciated at this time. Thank you so much for that.
Have a blessed week,
Fr. Chris Ciastoń

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God in summer

July 18-19, 2020

Take a SIP with SPA (Spirit-Is-Present)

Dear SPA Family,
Summer months do not mean taking a break from God or refraining from building our spiritual lives while actively working to advance His eternal kingdom. Time spent with God, and for His glory, is time well spent. Time spent with loved ones can be considered as our 'sowing' seeds on good soil, as pulling weeds from the wheat, as planting a mustard seed into ground and looking at t how large it can grow, and as transforming a yeasty dough into bread (Mt. 13) to advance God's kingdom of love, joy and peace.
Since God is always with us, our summer break should include a few activities to help our spiritual grow. Here are three proposals for spiritual development:
• Explore different forms of Christian prayer methods – move from words into silence; meditate on your experiences and the gifts of God in creation; apply varied postures during prayer; use your imagination to journey with Jesus and encounters He had with the people in scripture. Visit our website for great ideas of various examples of prayer.
• Journey with a Saint – choose a Saint to be your summer prayer companion. Get to know your Saint through books, pamphlets, and internet gleanings. Develop relationship with your Saint by placing specific needs for his/her intercession. Ask for the grace to imitate the virtues of your Saint so that you not only measure your own growth in spirituality, but also obtain satisfaction in remodeling yourself according to the Spirit.
• Identify and commit to a prayer partner – for the summer, either face to face, social media telephone. Discern and choose someone from within your family, circle of friends or Church Ministry with whom you can share, invite to pray, and bare your soul. All exchanges are confidential. You can use the readings of the day or your own chosen scripture passage as a basis from which to start your personal sharing and insight.
The above three spiritual exercises provide rest and growth. Earnestly strive to put God at the center of your lives and apply these three exercises in faith. It is then like Paul, we too can say "all things work for good for those who love God" (Rom. 8:28), and bear fruits for His eternal kingdom and your parish by praying alone, with your family or you friends. Spread the seed of faith by inviting a neighbor to go for the Sunday Mass or becoming a volunteer at our parish so that the sharing of your time and talents can help others to pray within our parish community.
Have a blessed week.
Fr. Chris Ciastoń

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Thank you

July 4-5, 2020

Dear SPA Family,
In the book of Proverbs, we can read: “One who is gracious to others lends to the LORD, And He will repay him for his good deed.”
In this week’s message, I would like to express my gratitude for your generosity toward our beautiful parish, but also St. Vincent DePaul Society, Catholic Charities including St. Anastasia’s and Holy Family’s Food Pantries, and even you shared your treasure with other Parishes through the Sharing Parish initiative. Your donations have helped the continuity of our commitment to serving the community. This would have not been successful without your act of generosity in support of the church.
We always believe that through a movement of the gospel, it brings the formation of a peaceful and healthy community, social justice with love, and peace with God in our hearts. And thus, we conduct activities that enable everyone to experience and feel the teachings of God.
The money is most definitely helpful and will go to extremely good use, there's no doubt about that. But more than the monetary value, I so greatly appreciate the thought behind the gift. This pandemic is a burden, but your actions have really lightened the load. For that especially, I thank you.
This time has been difficult for all of us but knowing that SPA and our parish charities have the support of people like you certainly helps. Please know that your generosity will not be forgotten, because “…He will repay him for his good deed.“ Proverbs 19:17.
The SPA Family is very blessed to have you and your family in our humble congregation. Thank you again for your generous support and let us keep up the good work in this time of reopening our church!
Have a blessed weekend!
Fr. Chris Ciastoń

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13th sunday in Ordinary Time

JUNE 27-28, 2020

Dear SPA Family,
A week ago, I shared with you the struggles my family and the home parish were going through. Thank God there are no more COVID cases in my hometown and parish. Over 1200 people were tested and every person is healthy and there is no evidence of the “invisible enemy.”
I grew up in a very touristy and beautiful part of Poland. Where the beauty of small villages and resort-towns are sewn within mountains and their ski-resorts’ slopes, forests, waterfalls, and abundance of mineral water springs. Now this region has a new motto; “the healthiest place to visit, because everybody was tested!” …humorous, but kinda true ;-)
I’m so happy for my family and friends, but especially for my mom who can enjoy again her strolls with her youngest granddaughter.

I would like to share with you some new updates related to the celebration of some of the Sacrament. Our parish staff worked extra hard this week to schedule Holy Eucharist (1st Communion) and Confirmation liturgies, taking many matters into consideration.

We decided to celebrate these liturgies as follows:
1st Communion – August 2nd (Sunday) at 1:30pm & 4pm
Confirmation – July 30th (Thursday) at 7pm and August 9th (Sunday) at 2pm & 5pm
RCIA’s liturgy will take place on July 26 at 4pm.

I understand that this is not what any of us envisioned when we began our faith formation year! However, we’ve learned in the course of the past a few months that nothing has been as it used to be. I’m extremely happy that we are able to bring your children, teens, and RCIA members into the deeper sacramental relationship with our Lord which is so needed in these troublesome times.

I would like to remind you that you can register for the weekend Masses online or by calling our office on Wednesday at 9am through Friday at 5pm.

Lastly, Let's join together in bringing our parish to our homes. How? Purchase a YARD SIGN for $20 this weekend or the coming week. We have around 20 left. You can pick it up after any Mass or at the office after during the week!

In this time of anxiety and separation, let's remind one another to keep the faith, have hope for a better future, and trust that we will be all together again soon.
Take SIPS (Steps-In-Progress) with SPA!
Fr. Chris Ciastoń

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12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

June 20-21, 2020

Dear SPA Family,

We for sure live in unprecedented times. This virus complicated so many things in our normal everyday lives. It seems like we have understood the plans and actions we needed to take to stop the spread of the virus. However, now they make our minds spin and cause some sickness of mind, body, and soul. It is so difficult for me to understand that something invisible to an eye, this virus, has caused all this worldwide situation. We, humans, have been trying to deal with it in the best possible ways which have helped us to stay relatively sane ;-) This virus has affected the whole world and all of us in so many unexpected and unforeseen ways.

​Let me illustrate what I mean by using an example of one of my family members. As you may know, I am from a very small country town with one road lying in the middle of it. One sunny day in April, my mom decided to go for a walk with her youngest granddaughter Marysia. After a few steps on that one village road pushing a stroller, the police came and told her, “Ma’am, you are going back home or we will write you a ticket for breaking the Shelter-In-Place regulations!” This situation frightened my mother deeply because she recalled the time, when she was enjoying a walk, pushing another stroller with me in it on the same road in my hometown. It was the time of the Martial Law (the imposition of direct military control of normal civil functions) which started in Poland just over a year after my birth. It was the scariest time my parents had to go through. My father was taken to the Polish Army (communist at that time) and my mom would be controlled numerous times a day but the Milicja (communist Police) while she was walking on that road to her workplace.

It broke my heart that my mom had to recall those tough times in her life. In this COVID-19 time, Poland took serious actions to stop this virus. It looks like it has been working and the country is on the gradual road to be back to normal. It is estimated that my homeland is 8o% into that process.

From May 4th, my mom was able to push that Marysia’s stroller on that one road in my tiny village, enjoying the beauty for the valleys, forests, and mountains surrounding that little heaven on earth.

This new normal for mom ended suddenly again this past Monday. My home parish which includes two villages; Tylicz and my Muszynka, experienced something which destroyed that new normal. At this moment, there are 5 COVID-19 cases. Sadly, they are now in a serious health condition. These persons unaware of the virus in their system attended Corpus Christi Masses in both villages. So did my family.

​The Shelter-In-Place and self-quarantine for all inhabitants in the whole parish were established; over 2000 people in both villages. The churches, schools, stores, and businesses are closed again. 500 people are being tested daily, including my family: my mom, siblings, nieces, and nephews.

I’ve heard so many stories from you and others about how your families and theirs have experienced on their own skin the difficulties this virus has brought into their lives. I’ve been compassionate, sympathetic, and ready to help if somebody needed me. Now, for me and my family, it is just too close to home.

I have hoped and prayed that my mom would never experience anything like the early 80’s or another pandemic. As you see the reality is different now.

The happenings in my hometown bring me to my new home here where you and I live, work, worship, and receive an education.

I am so proud and grateful for the SPA’s volunteers and the Pastor’s Reopening Leadership Team which has created for you amazing strategies on how to be safe in our church. We have: – marked pews and floors with the blue tape and stickers according to directives and guidelines of CDC, state, and archdiocese – we clean and disinfect our entire church building before and after services – the social distancing is observed at every aisle, pew, seat… every corner of our campus – we figured out how to schedule mister and volunteers – Pastor’s Team created tons of materials, safety procedures, instructions, and trainings – their even some employees back in the office to help you with the registration for weekend Masses and plan for the next days, weeks and months – and so many other things and endeavors have been extensively worked on.

Please remember that the Registration for the Weekend Masses begins on Wednesday at 9am and is closed on Friday at 5pm. You can register online on our website or by calling our office on those three days between 9am and 5pm. If you’re able to call only after 5pm, then I’ll try to help you :-)

The stories I hear now from my hometown and family tell me how important it is for all of us to be careful and observe what CDC, state, and church officials advise us to do. In the meantime, I am grateful for your patience and understanding, as we honor both our longing for the Eucharist and Sacramental life, and our responsibility to keep each other safe and healthy.

I received updates from the Arch related to the Sacraments of Confirmation and Holy Eucharist (1st Communion). From this weekend on, we can welcome up to 220 attendees/worshipers into our church (20% of church seating capacity with the social distancing). That is why these larger celebrations for our kids, teems and RCIA can be scheduled and celebrated. Please wait patiently for the dates of these sacraments while the parish staff is working intensely on the dates. I hope we will be able to announce them this coming week.

I think that I, and I assume you too, need just a little laughter now: Why did the golfer bring two pair of pants? Because he may get a hole in one :-)

May God bless you and Take SIPS (Steps-In-Progress) with SPA!
Fr. Chris Ciastoń

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Corpus Christi

June 13-14, 2020

Take SIPS (Steps-In-Progress) with SPA!

Dear SPA Family,

A week ago, I told you about two positive things happening at our parish. The first positive thing was about SPA’s slow but visible reopening. We could celebrate Baptisms, Weddings, Funerals, Reconciliation for 10 people in Phase I & IA.

Now we may enjoy another positive thing; SPA has gradually reopened for the daily and Sunday Masses :-) And it’s not 10 people, but 50 people allowed at each Mass for this weekend, and 220 worshipers for each Mass starting on the weekend of June 20/21, which is 20% of our church’s seating capacity.

Since March 14, Fr. Joe, Ruth Peck, Julie Jester, Dn. Andy, a few times Dn. Mike and Fr. Brad, and I have been pre-recording our Sunday Mass. I would like to thank all who took part in those amazing times of bringing a bit of SPA to your homes. Huge thanks to the amazing skills of our Dn. Andy for recording, editing, pasting words, pictures, soundtracks into videos, downloading, uploading, and processing tens of Gigabytes of data, while learning how to do it. What an amazing, faith, and laughter filled time we had.

We are ending the virtual Masses as you know them, but we hope to live-stream our weekend Mass at 5 PM (Sat), so it will be still available to view at home at our website, as most people will not be able to be present for some time.

​This is very important: Registration for Weekend Masses is required (Daily Masses don’t have this requirement. However, we will ask for names and phone numbers of those who come for daily Masses). Registration will begin on Wednesday’s at 9am and will be closed on Friday’s at 5pm. You will need to pre-register for all weekend Masses either through our website or by calling our office between 9 to 5pm (W-F). Remember, if you are not feeling well, please stay home and take care of yourself.

​Unfortunately, due to restrictions on our seating capacity, we cannot admit anyone into the building if have not registered for a weekend Mass ahead of time. The health department wants to have a record of attendees in case everyone needs to be notified. The registrations will be wiped out after two weeks. At this time, we cannot allow Walk-ins. So, we apologize for any inconvenience.

​Fr. Joe reminded me that the next Sunday is Father’s Day. You, see in my homeland it is always on June 23 and Mother’s Day on May 26. So, we are planning to have a special Father’s Day Blessing for fathers, grandfathers, godfathers and all men of the parish present at Masses and virtually for those unable to be seated in person in the church.,

Please become a volunteer and learn more about the Reopening at our website www.saintpautheapostle.church. The more volunteers we have, the more we will be able to offer weekday and weekend Mass.

God bless you and join my prayers with yours so we won’t have to wait too long before we can get back to normal.
Fr. Chris Ciastoń

P.S. Let's join together in bringing our parish to our homes. How? Purchase a YARD SIGN for $20 on our website and we will deliver it to your home contact-free! Let us remind one another to keep the faith, have hope for a better future and trust that we will celebrate together again soon. Questions? Email Tammy Oberstar at toberstar@saintpaultheapostle.church

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Holy Trinity

June 6-7, 2020

Dear SPA Family,
This letter is for sure the longest I’ve ever wrote to you but it’s one of the most important weekly messages you have received.
One of my Facebook friends made a list of things that has changed so fast this year. I found it fascinating how much this world, this nation, this village, this church has changed not even in this year but in just past few months.
I join my friend on Facebook with the same awe:


That within a few months a virus would literally shut down the entire world.
That churches would shut down (Easter Mass would only be on TV/Internet).
That funerals couldn't happen.
That so many weddings would have to be cancelled.
That Six Flags and Gurnee Mills would close their doors of entertainment.
That toilet paper, paper towels, disinfectant, flour and other common staples, toys would be hard to find!
That playing at parks would become forbidden.
That we would have to Lysol our grocery bags and wash everything we bought, then wash our hands repeatedly.
That we would have to wear masks into a bank, grocery stores, and every other public place, and unless you made a mask, they were very hard to come by!
That school would switch to e-learning.
That we would have to be isolated for a very long time from family and friends, and… all of that social distancing out of fear that someone might be a carrier.
That many, many jobs and businesses would be lost very quickly due to the quarantine.
That just when things finally start to open up into the next "phase" after what felt like a gazillion weeks, protesters would go out to the streets, and looters would destroy businesses. That stores would shut down early again because some people would get violent, and the curfew was ordered.
That internet would get flooded again with more panic and the communities would live in fear each day for brand new reasons. That the world would be even more divided and broken.

My Facebook friend didn’t want to leave on a sad note, and wrote some positive things from the quarantine:
Parents who are home-bound would spend more time with their children or spouse. They have taken bike rides, played in the yard, played board games, cooked, baked and enjoyed life together the best they could.
Religious folk would miss attending church, and people would come together to try to support each other who are struggling to make it. :)

I would like to add my list of positive things.
And the first positive thing is that SPA has been slowly reopening. At this moment we can celebrate Baptisms, Weddings, Funerals, Reconciliation, and people can come for the Private Prayer times. At this current Phase I & IA we can welcome 10 people to enter our church.
Here is an even more positive thing; SPA will reopen for the daily and Sunday Masses :-) and it will happen very soon.

Please share this information with those you may know who do not use the internet. They can call our office to register for any Mass. The registration for weekend Masses will be available on our website soon.


The staff and the Reopening Leadership Team have been working hard to prepare our worship space for this "Homecoming".
• Hymnals have all been removed from all pews.
• The padding has also been removed from pews for easier sanitization after each mass.
• Specific pews have been roped off and marked for the prescribed social distancing.
• Blue tape marks the floor to direct the flow of traffic.
• Multiple hand sanitizing stations are set-up.
• Signs are set up inside and outside church.


We have around 60 volunteers, but we need about 50 more volunteers to help move things along smoothly at masses. Please become a volunteer and learn more about the Reopening Guidelines for attendees, worshipers, RLT Team, volunteers, and presiders at our website www.saintpautheapostle.church.
The more volunteers we have, the more we will be able to offer weekday and weekend Mass.
We have been living in unprecedented times but now we want to focus on the positive things so that we will be able to flourish even more at these new times.


Good bless you and Take SIPS (Steps-In-Progress) with SPA!
Fr. Chris Ciastoń

​P.S. Let's join together in bringing our parish to our homes. How? Purchase a YARD SIGN and we will deliver it to your home contact-free! In this time of anxiety and separation, let's remind one another to keep the faith, have hope for a better future and trust that we will celebrate together again soon. Purchase a sign for $20 and we will deliver it to your home beginning June 5th.
Questions? Email Tammy Oberstar at toberstar@saintpaultheapostle.church

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Pentecost

May 30-31, 2020

Dear SPA Family,

The Pastor's Reopening Leadership Team members already has done an enormous amount of work required for the reopening of our church, yes for a limited number of attendees and worshipers, however I'm extremely happy that our state and archdiocesan official have allowed parishes to open slowly and cautiously their churches. The team and I have completed the required training, we reviewed reopening guidelines, and completed tasks assigned to all parishes as part of a reopening certification process to be approved by the Archdiocese. I would like to announce to all of you that

The Pastor's Reopening Leadership Team with the archdiocesan approval decided to REOPEN our church on

MAY 30th with Reconciliation at 11am.

Private Prayer will begin on June 1st:

Mondays 5-7pm; Wednesdays 8-10am, Fridays 5-7pm.

The more volunteers we have, the more we will be able to extend the Private Prayer time. Please become a volunteer.
NOTE: For Reconciliation and Private Prayer, 10 or fewer worshipers can be present in the church at any time.
If there are more people present for these occasions, then they will need to wait patiently for their turn in the designated areas.

Funeral, Wedding & Baptism for 10 or fewer attendees/worshipers can be scheduled now.

The celebration of Public Daily and Sunday Mass is not yet allowed.

May God grant you His peace during this difficult time and may He manifest His love and presence to you in abundant ways.

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Fr. Chris D. Ciastoń

Become a volunteer and learn more about the Reopening Guidelines for attendees, worshipers, PLT Team, volunteers and presiders www.saintpaultheapostle.church

In the name of our parish, Our Lady of Refuge and its 4 Missions, I wish to thank Fr.Chris, Fr. Joe and all the wonderful parishioners of St. Paul the Apostle for your support. We greatly appreciate it. I boarded the plane to go back to Texas on March 2nd and since then so much has happened to change our lives. Covid-19 has truly impacted everyone. Hopefully soon, we will be able to again have Masses with people present and not just live-streaming. Let’s pray for each other and may God bless you and your families for your generosity. Padre Pablo

Let's join together in bringing our parish to our homes. How? Purchase a YARD SIGN and we will deliver it to your home contact-free! In this time of anxiety and separation, let's remind one another to keep the faith, have hope for a better future and trust that we will celebrate together again soon. Click here or on image above to purchase a sign for $20 and we will deliver it to your home beginning June 5th.

Questions? Email Tammy Oberstar at toberstar@saintpaultheapostle.church

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The Pastor's Reopening Leadership Team is planning to REOPEN our church.

May 23-24, 2020

Dear SPA Family,

The Pastor's Reopening Leadership Team members already has done an enormous amount of work required for the reopening of our church, yes for a limited number of attendees and worshipers, however I'm extremely happy that our state and archdiocesan official have allowed parishes to open slowly and cautiously their churches. The team and I have completed the required training, we reviewed reopening guidelines, and completed tasks assigned to all parishes as part of a reopening certification process to be approved by the Archdiocese. I would like to announce to all of you that

The Pastor's Reopening Leadership Team is planning to REOPEN our church on

MAY 30th with Reconciliation at 11am.

Private Prayer will begin on June 1st:

Mondays 5-7pm; Wednesdays 8-10am, Fridays 5-7pm.


The more volunteers we have, the more we will be able to extend the Private Prayer time. Please become a volunteer.
NOTE: For Reconciliation and Private Prayer, 10 or fewer worshipers can be present in the church at any time.
If there are more people present for these occasions, then they will need to wait patiently for their turn in the designated areas.

Funeral, Wedding & Baptism for 10 or fewer attendees/worshipers can be scheduled now.

The celebration of Public Daily and Sunday Mass is not yet allowed.


May God grant you His peace during this difficult time and may He manifest His love and presence to you in abundant ways.

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Fr. Chris D. Ciastoń

Become a volunteer and learn more about the Reopening Guidelines for attendees, worshipers, PLT Team, volunteers and presiders go to the Main Page

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