Heart speaks to Heart

06-27-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

The section of the Bible in the Old Testament called the "Wisdom Literature" actually offers a lot of wisdom and insights for us who live today. Just because much of what is written in the Wisdom Books is from well over two millennia ago, it does not mean it lacks meaning and power for us now. We often dismiss our scripture as dusty and irrelevant and look to the scripture of other religions that are as old as our Judeo-Christian tradition. I often think we do this because these writings appear to be exotic and distant, and anything that is different and from far away often appeals more to many folk.


Coming Home

06-24-2021Letters From Fr. BrianRev. Brian F. Manning

Dear Parishioners and Friends of Saint Mary Parish,

Each week people are returning to their church “home” here at the Church of Saint Mary’s. People’s hearts are filled with great joy as they cross the threshold of our church to our sacred space. I know some enter with anxiety and some fear, but the feelings which fill most people when they enter are joyous. For many, they have missed their sacred place where they speak with their God and ask him for His grace and help. Church is a home where you bare your heart to our God. We can pray elsewhere, we all know that. But it is truly special to be in a sacred place where you know your God ever dwells and who waits for us to come and speak with Him. Home is where the heart is and certainly God’s heart is here in our sacred church space of Saint Mary’s. We bring our hearts to the Lord and He listens to our words and gives us the grace, strength, hope, courage or peace which we need to live our daily lives. The Celebration of the Eucharist, the Holy Mass provides us with the spiritual food of Holy Communion to go forth to live our life each day. All of us have missed in various and profound ways our Catholic Tradition and distinctive hallmark of Sunday Mass at Saint Mary’s. Live-Stream Masses provide some connection and have meaning, but to be present at Mass is far deeper and profound. Much like events which are “live” and in person, Mass has its greatest power and meaning when we are there in person.


Safe with Jesus

06-20-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

When we listen to the various passages of the Book of Job, we hear the suffering Job calling out to God. Our Old Testament reading this weekend is the first response of God to Job's calling out to Him. The irony of the situation for Job is that God's reply is not what Job had expected or hoped for. God, instead, hits Job with a very long list of unanswerable questions. Job, in asking for God to speak to him, never expected what he got when God spoke. He wanted clear direct answers from God that explained everything; instead, God gave Job a battery of unanswerable queries. Job got more than he bargained for; he wanted solutions from God. Job, instead, got confusing "mystery" and learned the very great truth that God's ways are not Job's or often even any of our ways.


Good News and Bad News

06-17-2021Letters From Fr. BrianRev. Brian F. Manning

Dear Parishioners and friends of Saint Mary Parish,

Some weeks it is a delight to write a letter to all of you because the letter’s content is all good news. Unfortunately this week I have two disappointing stories to tell you about in our Town and Parish. I also have good news too, but I must begin with the bad news. We are all now well aware of the anti-Semitic graffiti which was drawn in the boys’ bathroom in our Town high school.  I applaud our Superintendent, the Principal and the School Administration, the Educators and Staff of our high school who have taken a loud and public stand against this act. Anti-Semitism is learned behavior and is an evil. It usually starts small and grows and grows. That is why it is best to strongly condemn this act right now. The student(s) who were involved in this and all of the other students of our school now have an opportunity to learn about bias, ignorance and prejudice. Perhaps even the adult community can reflect upon these issues in our lives and the example we offer our young people in our daily lives. Our Town community seeks to be a good and safe community and in many ways this goal is achieved. There is, however, always the work that must be done to keep our community a wonderful and welcoming town which means bias, prejudice and hate must be rooted out when they are small and start to show in our Town and lives.


God is in Charge

06-13-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

One of the best ways to get people to pay attention to you is to tell them a fascinating and intriguing story. A wonderful story captures the imagination and always contains more than what the story tells. We should realize that the stories of today's scripture at Mass demand our attention and reveal much to us, even though the stories retain some mystery or secrets about God.


A Warm Welcome

06-10-2021Letters From Fr. BrianRev. Brian F. Manning

Dear Parishioners and Friends of Saint Mary’s,

Father Frank moved in last week and celebrated the 4 PM Mass on Saturday. It was a touching “homecoming” to Saint Mary’s for him. I appreciate the many folks who changed their weekend plans to come to the 4 PM Mass to say a personal “welcome” to him.


Reinstatement of Sunday Mass Obligation


Brothers and Sisters,

“Without the Lord’s day, we cannot live!” His Holiness, Pope Benedict, in his homily at the Cathedral of Saint Stephen in Vienna on September 9, 2007, quoted the Abitinian Martyrs, who during the persecution of Emperor Diocletian were arrested for celebrating Sunday Mass. The martyrs responded to the magistrate: “Sine dominico non possumus!” – without the Lord’s day, we cannot live! The Pope went on to say: “For these Christians, the Sunday Eucharist was not a commandment, but an inner necessity. Without him who sustains our lives, life itself is empty. To do without or to betray this focus would deprive life of its very foundation, would take away its inner dignity and beauty.”


We Are the Body of Christ

06-06-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

One of the best human activities we have is to gather as a family and even with friends around a table and have a wonderful meal. Sometimes it can be very fussy food and other times simple and tasty. The meal is really about sharing our connection to one another. Oftentimes this sharing actually involves certain rituals. Who are the cook(s) for special food? Who has set the table? Who serves? Do we wait for everyone to be seated? Who says grace? How does discus­sion take place? Who is in charge of the joy and laughter? Who is to re-tell the most important stories of family and friends that tell us who we really are? And, most importantly, who cleans up with washing the dishes and also the pots and pans and tidies up the kitchen and dining room? So this great symbolism of Jesus being the spiritual food for us and the preparation and ritual that go along with it are indeed most significant. This Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ re­minds us our spiritual food has great and profound meaning. This ritual meal of the Mass touch­es our inner being consciously and unconsciously.


Family is Most Important

06-03-2021Letters From Fr. BrianRev. Brian F. Manning

Dear Parishioners and Friends of Saint Mary’s,

Last weekend we launched the Celebration of our Sunday Mass under the new Protocols of the State and the Archdiocese. It was heartwarming to see some more folks in church who had not been able to attend for well over one year. Our attendance was slightly over 400 people at the three Masses.  I know over the next nine months or so each week more of our faithful church going Parishioners will be attending Mass. Please come when you are ready. Know we are here when you arrive! Our summer schedule is: Saturday 4 PM and Sunday 7:30 AM & 10:30 AM.


God is Relationship

05-30-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

In the "church world"—not only in the Catholic Church but in many other faith traditions—we often use the word "mystery." This word appears when we are unable to clearly and totally explain or define a religious reality or truth. Some folks see this as a failure, excuse, or flaw in a religion, but others see it differently. Although I do understand computers a little, I really do not understand them sufficiently or completely. I know that computers work, indeed they are quite complex, and certainly even the one at my desk is beyond my understanding, nevertheless trying to understand a "quantum computer" used for the most advanced scientific projects is impossible for me. However, I "believe in computers" and their power in our lives. It is striking how people want an absolute perfect definition or explanation about God, but settle for far less in their lives about computers, which often hold their physical lives in balance or critical safety. Lest I wander too far from today's scripture, the reality of Most Holy Trinity is a mystery, both somewhat understood and also a lot not understood. Perhaps it is because the three persons in the singular Trinity exist in a relationship of persons and human persons actually have great difficulty understanding relationships among or between people.


Responding with Love

05-27-2021Letters From Fr. BrianRev. Brian F. Manning

Dear Parishioners and Friends of Saint Mary’s,

Just before I write of many other matters and items of concern or interest, I want to tell you that our Saint Vincent de Paul made immediate contact with many of the residents and families who were displaced by the great fire a few days ago. Over 12 households were completely lost and 24 damaged to various degrees, with the result everyone is out of their home for a good stretch with some for a long, long time. Our Sacred Heart Knights of Columbus have stepped up to offer assistance to the Saint Vincent’s in helping the people. On behalf of all of us and our Parish, our Saint Vincent’s is actively helping the folks in need. Through the dedicated work of the Saint Vincent’s you are directly helping our Town people who are in need from this devastating fire.


Mass - Procedures - What's New

05-24-2021NewsRev. Brian F. Manning

Dear Parishioners and Friends of Saint Mary Parish,

With the major changes in the State Directives for the Pandemic, I am sending this special mid-week letter to you. We recognize that our devoted parishioners will be returning slowly over time as they feel it is best for them. We respect these faith filled and sincere decisions on Mass participation and welcome everyone when they are able to return. There is no correct time to return. We will be here when you return. We all miss participating at Sunday Mass and know that people will return when they are able to when they feel safe.

During this time (starting this weekend of May 29-30, 2021 Memorial Day Weekend) we will be transitioning our Parish Religious Services and Masses using the principle of caution for health safety for everyone. This is Phase One of the Transitional Phases to occur over the next nine months. We wish to remind people that part of our Pandemic values has been to remember to respect the health safety of others, besides ones’ self.


Receive the Holy Spirit

05-23-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

Many years ago when I was a young boy, I thought the time between Pentecost and Easter Sunday, all 50 days, was a very long time. It seemed that the passing of time took forever to creep along before we finally came to the great Feast of Pentecost. I remember we always sang "Come, Holy Ghost!" on that Sunday with great gusto and enthusiasm. My motivation for this desire to celebrate Pentecost was not really religious; it was because this Feast meant that going to school every day would be ending because the first weekend in June was coming soon. Religious feasts and holydays helped mark the passage of time for me. We studied about the meaning of the special Feast in school so I knew what it was about religiously, but also knew what it meant educationally!


Pandemic Protocol Changes

05-21-2021Letters From Fr. BrianRev. Brian F. Manning

Dear Parishioners and Friends of St. Mary's,

On Tuesday of this week, the Governor announced the very good news that we are now able to modify greatly the rules we have been following during the Pandemic on the start date of May 29th.

I am awaiting the Protocols from the Archdiocese, which will direct me in what changes we will be able to make regarding Mass. This applies not only to the social distancing rule and mask issues, but the various ways we participate at Mass.


In the Name of the Love of God

05-16-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

It is difficult to believe that time has passed so quickly that this week we are standing in between Ascension Thursday and the Feast of Pentecost. Holy Week, with its glorious conclu­sion of Easter Sunday, the Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus, is now far back in our rearview mirror. The Feast of the Ascension is past and Pentecost is ahead. The Feast of the As­cension is meant to direct us to understand that we have a responsibility and a mission as follow­ers of Jesus Christ. The Feast of the Ascension tells us that our role and purpose started with the apostles and now have over time been handed on to us, to you and me.

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Let Go and Let God!

05-13-2021Letters From Fr. BrianRev. Brian F. Manning

Dear Parishioners and Friends of Saint Mary Parish,

Our Parish has been especially graced by the First Communions which are taking place almost every Sunday in May at the Noon Mass. What a privilege and joy to be part of this sacred and wonderful event in the lives of our young people. This sacred ritual is so very moving.

Our weekend Mass attendance continues to steadily grow little by little. This is a very good sign that people are being vaccinated and also then feeling safe to return to church. I understand why some do not attend and why others do. It clearly will take at least to the Fall and beyond before folks are able to regularly attend Church and Mass again. We pray for those who are there and also for those who wish to be there, but are not there yet.


Love One Another

05-09-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

We older baby boomers remember well when the major reform of the Church began with the Vatican II council. When the Liturgy (Mass, mainly) was reformed and put into English, we all could then know and be part of it in a conscious, knowing, and active way. Much like the older Latin Music of our Tradition, some of the newly composed English language music was good and some of it was poor. When we think about it, only a very few Latin hymns have survived the test of time; this is also true for modern English language hymns. I remember from way back then the hymn "They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love". It is not sung very often anymore, though its meaning has stayed very true through the decades. The scriptures this weekend with their focus on the theme of the love triggered this memory.


Mother's Day

05-06-2021Letters From Fr. BrianRev. Brian F. Manning

Dear Parishioners and Friends of Saint Mary Parish,

This Sunday we honor our mothers and those who have been mothers to us in our lives. We are blessed that our Parish is dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God. We ask that with gentle care and love our God will hold our mothers who have gone before us close to His heart and that He will grace and bless those who are still with us in our lives.


Grow in Jesus, the Vine of Love

05-02-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

I read many books and articles on gardening. Some of the reading is for inspiration and some is for knowledge about plants and the skill to grow and properly care for them. Although the Gospel this weekend comes from the "Discourse of the Last Supper", the images in it are most appropriate to this season of new plant growth and the greening of our land and countryside. It is important to know that during the time of Passover the Last Supper occurred and that the Passover is always every Spring. This is the time of trees budding, plants starting to sprout from the earth, and vines beginning to grow and spread their branches. This is a very critical season for caring for plant life. What happens at this point in time influences the whole of plant life and growth onward. IN our passage this weekend, when Jesus speaks to the apostles about being grafted onto him as branches similar to a vine, they know he means he is the strong vine that will support them and always give them life. At this point Jesus is not addressing his concern over their relationship to one another; rather he is laser-focused on their relationship to him. He is to be their source of life, and indeed of all their relationships.