2014 VA “Adopt -A-Vet” Holiday Program

remember-vetswithbow_225x225_thumbThe annual Holiday gift donation program for HUD-VASH & Veterans in need is now underway. Each year has been more successful; the first year the VA helped 8 Veteran families, last year, VA employees and many other community groups and agencies helped a total of 40 Veteran families in HUD-VASH and other programs. This year the VA has a list of over 40 Veterans in need who have requested items for their families this Holiday Season.

This donation program is part of Voluntary Services Holiday outreach for Veterans. A “needs” list of gifts that can be donated is being be maintained by Mike Fitzpatrick and Noney Grier. If you wish to fulfill a Family’s needs or a portion of it, or have any questions, please contact Mike Fitzpatrick at 518-626-6919 or Noney Grier at 518-626-5507.

All gifts must be brand new in original packaging and unwrapped. Gifts can be dropped off at the: Stratton VA Medical Center, 113 Holland Avenue, Room 304 or 305 “B” wing (Voluntary Services), Albany, NY 12208

In addition, rolls of wrapping paper will also be accepted and the VA will be scheduling volunteer “working parties” to help wrap the gifts at the VA prior to distribution out to Veteran families.

Thank you in advance for your continued support of our Veterans!


Reflection for the Solemnity of the Presentation

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Let’s use
those candles

“Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel.”

Candles are blessed in the Holy Church on February 2nd, the Solemnity of the Presentation of the Lord. These blessed candles remind us of Simeon’s prayer in which he glories in the Lord’s promise. Jesus came to be the light of the world and Simeon recognized this immediately.

Today we bless these candles, those to be used in church over the coming year, and those for each of us to take home.

We keep these blessed candles (Gromnica) in our homes and light them during storms or other danger. We light them when the clergy come to bring Holy Communion to the sick or when the sick are anointed. We light them when someone is dying to light their way to eternity and to recall the fact that they are on their way to the Jesus who will be their eternal light.

A painting by Piotr Stachiewicz shows snow-covered homes in dim light. The people inside their homes are afraid of the hungry wolves on rampage outside their poor village. Mary, the Mother of God, watches over the people on those cold nights with her candle. She wards off the ravenous pack of wolves and protects the people from all harm.

There is much we might fear. It is not only the cold, and it is rarely a pack of wolves, but the wolves of the world, the greed, the anger, the prejudice, the culture of death, and other immorality surrounds our homes. It attacks our children.

The funny thing is that we likely have a lifetime supply of these candles we get in church in our homes. We pick them up; solemnly take them home, and put them in a drawer – just in case.

Since the wolves of the world surround us, since these represent true danger to our eternal souls, let us resolve to use these blessed candles this year. Let us use the blessed candle we receive today, and use up those blessed candles that reside in the drawers in our homes. Put them in a candleholder. Let us gather those we live with and light our blessed candle each day. Let us reflect on the protection the Lord offers, the prayers our Blessed Mother offers for us, and pray in the words of Simeon: mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation. Let us pray that Jesus, the light of the world, would continue to dwell with us, watch over us, and protect us.


Reflection for the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Recognize your
call and live it

John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

St. John the Evangelist uses the figure of the lamb in his expression “Lamb of God” in his Holy Gospel twice. The Church fathers taught that this expression is in reference to the lamb offered at Passover. This expression, “Lamb of God,” is only found in St. John’s Gospel and signifies that the Lord Jesus Christ would be the true sacrifice, the Lamb that would atone for and take away the sins of the world.

It is important to reflect on how we know the Lamb of God. We need to recognize the fact that if it were not for people who listened, recognized their vocation, and took action we would not know Him.

John the Baptist points to Jesus and says: “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John’s naming Jesus publicly as the Lamb of God is a remarkable act of recognition that tells us about the workings of the Holy Spirit and God’s grace in the world as well as our necessity to respond.

John’s testimony continues when he refers to himself saying: “He who sent me to baptize with water said to me ‘On Whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, He is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’

John stands as a superior example of recognizing God’s grace, following the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and doing God’s will.

St. John the Baptist sees and understands that God chose him for a specific purpose and he sets out to fulfill that mission. He works every day to fulfill the mission he was given. He prays, fasts, and lives a life in accordance with the vocation he was given. He stays awake and aware and when the key moment of his ministry, his calling arrives – he recognizes it and proclaims it publically: “Behold, the Lamb of God.

All that happens in the kingdom of God depends on people, depends on us. Our testimony and witness depend on whether we, like the Baptist, allow grace to have its affect on us, and whether we choose to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit. If we listen, pray, and live regularly in accord with our calling we will be ready to give testimony. In fact, our entire lives will be witness to the Lamb of God.

Our God is a remarkable God. He came in the humblest of ways, as a lamb. He lived His human life with complete trust in the Father’s will. As He began His public ministry He did not just stand up and say, ‘here I am.’ Jesus did not announce Himself. He needed to be recognized. It is now up to us. We must be His recognizers – announcing Him by our lives.


Reflection for the Solemnity of the Baptism of our Lord

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Reveal what
has been revealed to you

After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

We know that John preached a baptism of repentance. He was calling all of Israel to repent, starting with washing in the waters of the Jordan in preparation for the coming of the Messiah who was “at hand.”

Jesus obviously had no need for a baptism of repentance. He is God and is without any sin or error. John immediately recognized this as Jesus approached him: John tried to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?”

Yet Jesus came and insisted.

Jesus was baptized because He wished to cleanse the waters. We are baptized in the waters He cleansed, waters imbued with His grace of regeneration. In being baptized Jesus set an example for everyone who would follow him. After all, if the sinless Son of God would willingly enter the waters of baptism, how much more urgent is it that we be washed in the waters of regeneration.

While these reasons are of great importance to us, and are essential to our salvation, the key reason for Jesus’ baptism is that it was His anointing as King, High Priest, Prophet, and Messiah before all of Israel. In Acts we hear Peter telling Cornelius and his household that at the baptism of Jesus: God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power.

Jesus, sent by the Father to inaugurate the Kingdom definitively was anointed by the Holy Spirit and presented before all as fulfilling His office.

The beauty of our Epiphany-tide is that in it we celebrate the moments of Jesus’ revelation. He became known to the poor and lowly through the humble shepherds. The gentiles and the wider world knew Him through the Magi. He became known to all of Israel and took His rightful place through the fullness of revelation at His baptism where the Father called Him “my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” and where all heard it and saw the Holy Spirit descend upon Him in the form of a dove.

In the waters of regeneration we became one with Jesus. He is revealed to us in His word. Through the Church and our family we learn all about Him. We must bring the Epiphany to others; making them aware of what has been revealed to us. Invite and welcome them to the waters of regeneration, to oneness with Jesus, and to a share in His kingdom with us.


Reflection for the Feast of the Holy Family

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We are
family!

“Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

In 1979 Sister Sledge recorded and released the dance song “We Are Family” The song eventually reached number one on the disco charts. It was also the theme song for the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates. The song’s authors, Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards composed it based on how a record executive described Sister Sledge (who are actually four sisters). The song is an expression of family and general solidarity. It is also the anthem of the We Are Family Foundation, which is named after the song. The foundation, established after the 9/11 attacks, works to educate people about mutual respect, understanding, and appreciation of cultural diversity.

The model of the Holy Family is a model for the entire Church as the family of Christ. This concept of family solidarity did not just start in 1979 – it starts with God from the beginning of time.

Paul wrote of life in the family of faith. Paul cared deeply for the Churches he established, but not only. His care was for the entire Church. He knew that the Church is the body of Christ and we are all joined together as one family. When the Church at Jerusalem was in need, Paul went to his people to encourage their charity toward their family in the faith. Paul’s focus on life in the family of faith is summarized in his letter to the Galatians where he says: “So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.

Doing good to all sows the seeds of faith among those who do not know Jesus. They can only come to know Him and enter His family if we offer love and welcome. We need to do this in this time of opportunity. Our family of faith, both at home and in the Church must model true life in Christ. What we live as the Christian family sends the strongest message.

Let our life at home and in Church be holy – holy and loving as one true family – and thus a shining light to all.


Reflection for the Solemnity of the Humble Shepherds

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“I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow. I will feast the soul of the priests with abundance, and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness, says the LORD.”

In 1906 a Special Holy Synod of our Church was convened and one of its actions was to declare the Sunday after Christmas the Solemnity of the Humble Shepherds.

As the faithful of the Polish National Catholic Church we annually celebrate the example of humble working people represented by the Bethlehem shepherds, the ones chosen by God in Luke’s Gospel to hear the first announcement of Jesus’ birth.

God had exalted these often shunned and discriminated individuals. God had honored their honest and humble work as He sent His Son into the world in such an extraordinarily ordinary circumstance.

This Solemnity was meant to encourage the predominantly immigrant, working class, and poor Church members of that day.

Those hard working and under-appreciated first parishioners were spiritually strengthened to maintain the good fight for a democratic, people’s Catholic church by remembering the example of the Humble Shepherds. They fully understood the humble shepherds who, when prompted by God, went to meet the newborn savior: “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” Then having seen the fulfillment they took action and made the good news known: And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child.

This Solemnity reminds us to maintain our focus. We must listen to God’s word and then we must take action. We must continue to fight against meaningless parades of pomp for the sake of glorifying clergy in carrying out our faith life. Ours is a humble Church, built by the humble, and led by humble shepherds who love Jesus and their people. This is a model of Christian faith, practiced in the PNCC for over 100 years, which other Churches are beginning to find.

On this Solemnity we also particularly remember and pray for our shepherds – the priests and bishops who lead us with love and humility. They listened to the prompting of God and took action – standing before us to make God’s word known so that we might take action. Let us ask God to bless our clergy and to call forth to Sacred Vocations those called by Christ to be the humble shepherds of our congregations. May they hear, listen, and take action.


Reflection for the Feast of St. John, Apostle and Evangelist

we have seen it and testify to it
and proclaim to you the eternal life
that was with the Father and was made visible to us—
what we have seen and heard
we proclaim now to you,
so that you too may have fellowship with us

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of St. John, apostle and evangelist.

Born in Bethsaida, John was called while mending his nets to follow Jesus. He became the beloved disciple of Jesus. He wrote the fourth Gospel, three Epistles and Revelation.

The beginning of John’s gospel tells us of the pre-existence of the Word, who by His Incarnation became the light of the world and the life of our souls. His focus on the divinity of Christ and His fraternal love for us are greatly comforting. John knew that Jesus is God among us and that He came with deep love for us, to redeem us and release us from fear and death.

John, with James, his brother, and Simon Peter, was one of the witnesses of the Transfiguration. At the Last Supper, John leaned on the Jesus’ breast. At the foot of the cross, Jesus entrusted His Mother to John’s care. St. John is known to us as “the beloved disciple.” Jesus showed particular instances of kindness and affection toward St. John above all the rest. He was the only one of the Apostles who did not forsake Jesus in the hour of His Passion and Death.

St. John remained in Jerusalem for a long time, later going on to Ephesus, where he founded Churches.

stjohnthedivinedaySt. John was the only apostle who did not undergo martyrdom. The emperors tried to kill him many times. John was brought to Rome and was cast into a caldron of boiling oil by order of Emperor Domitian. He was miraculously preserved unhurt. One of the symbols used to represent St. John is a chalice and serpent (the cup of sorrow foretold by Jesus). It is said that the emperors tried to poison John by giving him a chalice filled with poisoned wine. He prayed over the cup and serpents fell out. He drank the wine unharmed. That is why, on this day, we bless wine in his honor. With all attempts at killing him failing, the emperor exiled John to the island of Patmos.

In his extreme old age he continued to visit the Churches of Asia. St. Jerome relates that when age and weakness grew upon him so that he was no longer able to preach to the people, he would be carried to the assembly of the faithful by his disciples, with great difficulty; and every time said to his flock only these words: “My dear children, love one another.”

St. John died in peace at Ephesus in the hundredth year of the Christian era, or the sixty-sixth from the crucifixion of Christ. St. John would have been about ninety-four years old.

The key thing for us to contemplate is the fact that wine, mixed with water, becomes for us the blood of Christ in the Eucharist. In the Eucharist we engage in an act of “remembrance.” Remembrance, as we often preach, is not a mere memory of what Jesus did at the last supper, but a real and living unity with Jesus’ divine role as our redeemer. We proclaim that we are not just remembering, but in the Eucharist are indeed present at every moment of Jesus’ Divine life. It is why the Holy Mass is the key and most essential celebration we engage in as Christians. We, in that moment, are really present in Jesus life, at the last supper, in His death, resurrection, ascension, and at His return in glory; all in that holy moment. In the Eucharist we live in Jesus and Jesus lives in us. In communion we all receive Him and we are given the grace to live in Him as He lives in us.

St. John knew this. He was completely connected to Jesus, not just because he lived with Him and followed Him throughout His ministry in the cities and countryside of Israel. He was really part of Jesus, and Jesus was in Him, not just as a memory but in reality. John lived the Eucharistic reality of Jesus fully present. When St. John tells us: “My dear children, love one another” he is asking us to live in the reality of Jesus past, present, and future. In partaking of the Eucharist at communion we receive the full reality of Jesus who is in the world and will come again to fulfill all His promises to us. This is the Christian life of love we must have, a life that is eternal.

While John underwent many tortures and exile he never feared. Death to him was nothing. He remained steadfast, even as Jesus was dying on the cross as well as amid all the tortures that would visit him later in life. He knew that his life was not just for the here and now, but for all eternity. We know that too. Like John, nothing can or should separate us from the love of God – Jesus living in us. John expectantly knew that Jesus would return. He lived that reality. Jesus, the eternal Word, our Lord and God, has come and will come again casting out all fear. To John and to us death is no more. Only love and the promise of eternal life in Jesus matter.


Reflection for Christmas

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For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given. — Isaiah 9:5

Lord Jesus, as we gaze upon You, sleeping peacefully in the manger, we feel a deep peace radiate from You. A holy calm fills our hearts. You have kept Your promise, You are here, with us now.

Lord Jesus, you were not afraid to come to us; help us to be not afraid in coming to You. Give us Your deep inner peace that we might impart joy, hope, and courage to all we encounter. Open our hearts to see You more clearly, receive You more deeply, and follow You more willingly. Increase our capacity to give and receive Your love. May this Christmas Day and Season warm our hearts all year.

Who is Wise?

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him.” — Matthew 2:1-2

Millions saw the brilliant star. But only a few Wise Men left the comforts of their homes to find out what it meant.

Thousands, including Herod and the Jewish scholars, knew the Bible had predicted that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. But only the Wise Men went there.

Millions will hear Christmas Carols this season, but only the wise will listen. Thousands will attend special services and Solemn Holy Mass, but only the wise will go to Bethlehem (The House of Bread) and find the Savior.

Millions will read the Christmas story in newspapers, on-line, in the Bible, or in church programs, but only the wise will take action.

What did the Wise Men do?

  1. They had evidence that something important was happening, and they took action.
  2. They sought out and listened to those who had the facts.
  3. They responded appropriately: They rejoiced; they worshipped; they gave gifts.

How can we be wise?

  1. Recognize that the coming of Jesus Christ was a tremendous event and do something about it – take action! 
And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.Luke 2:10-11
  2. Find out the facts. Seek and listen. Go to the Bible or ask those who know Jesus as Savior Our eternal destiny deserves serious thought and consideration. 
[B]ut these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name. John 20:31
  3. Respond! Rejoice, worship, offer our gifts and talants to doing the work Jesus asks of us. Start in repentance of sin and be humble before Jesus Christ, the King of kings, the mighty Judge, the Redeemer of mankind, who loved us so much that He came to die for our salvation. We will be richly rewarded! We too will find Wisdom! 
You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heartJeremiah 29:13

O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! — Psalm 95:6

We, the wise, have come this Christmas to find Him, the greatest gift. We have recognized that something has happened, sought the facts, and continue to respond. Jesus taught them saying: “Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock” — Matthew 5:2 and Matthew 7:24

Thank you to all who have come to share this Holy Christmas Day in our community. Our community is your community! It is a place where we journey together to follow Jesus, to learn and grow together, and to serve each other and our larger community. A small church, on a small street, with a big and welcoming heart for you. May God bless you in every way.

Deacon Jim and the Parish Committee.


December 2013 Newsletter

The first day of December and the parish newsletter is complete, posted, and mailed – talk about Advent preparation! Our newsletter for December reflects on this sacred time of preparation for the Forty Days of Christmas and Jesus’ Second Coming. Check it out, stay informed and see our action packed schedule for Advent and Christmas. You may view and download a copy right here — December 2013 Newsletter.

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Our Advent and Christmas Schedule

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  • Sunday, December 1st: 1st Sunday of Advent. Service at 9:30am. School of Christian Living study and presentation preparation follows.
  • Sunday, December 8th: 2nd Sunday of Advent. Service at 9:30am. School of Christian Living study and presentation preparation follows.
  • Sunday, December 15th: 3rd Sunday of Advent. Holy Mass at 9am with Advent Penitential Service. Children’s Christmas Presentation follows. Annual Christmas Vigil potluck Dinner with Main Fish Course provided by the parish
  • Sunday, December 22nd: 4th Sunday of Advent. Service at 9:30am. Greening of the Church follows.
  • Tuesday/Wednesday, December 24th-25th: Solemnity of the Nativity of our Lord – Shepherd’s Holy Mass/Pasterka at Midnight followed by a festive repast.
  • Wednesday, December 25th: Solemnity of the Nativity of our Lord – Service for Christmas Day at 9:30am.
  • Thursday, December 26th: Feast of St. Stephen the Proto-Martyr – please keep the persecuted Church and all deacons in your prayers this day.
  • Friday, December 27th: Feast of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist – Service and Blessing of Wine at 7pm.
  • Saturday, December 28th: Commemoration of the Holy Innocents – please keep all children subject to abuse and bullying in your prayers.
  • Sunday, December 29th: Solemnity of the Humble Shepherds. Service at 9:30am.
  • Tuesday, December 31st: Solemnity of the Holy Family – please pray for God’s blessings upon all families, that they may model the life of the Holy Family.
  • Wednesday, January 1st: Solemnity of the Circumcision of our Lord – Service at 9:30am.
  • Thursday, January 2nd: Solemnity of the Holy Name of Jesus – Service at 7pm.
  • Sunday, January 5th: Feast of the Holy Family. Service at 9:30am.
  • Monday, January 6th: Solemnity of the Epiphany of our Lord. Service with blessing of chalk, charcoal, and incense at 7pm.
  • Sunday, January 12th: Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord. Service at 9:30am.

Epiphany home blessings will take place starting Tuesday, January 7th and continue through Tuesday, March 4th, 2014. Make arrangements with Deacon Jim.

Christmas