August 2020

I met with our parish commission chairpersons Tuesday night. While many of our beloved activities, such as our Wednesday night dinners, are still on hold because of the pandemic, our catechetical and social ministries will be getting back; and that is exciting to see! My next step is to reach out to our Pastoral Council to see what will be the best way to get it meeting again safely and effectively.

The Pastoral Council exists to assist the Pastor in effectively pastoring the flock that Christ and his bishop have given him. While Canon Law technically does not require a Pastoral Council, I see great value in it as the members can give me insight into who is being ministered to and who is being neglected.

One major change being made to the Pastoral Council, though, deals with the administration of our parish finances. Up until now, it seems, the Finance Council has been viewed as just another commission of our Pastoral Council. However, the Finance Council is actually required by Canon Law as its own separate council. Canon 537 states, “In each parish there is to be a finance council... in which the Christian faithful... are to assist the pastor in the administration of the goods of the parish.” The Finance Council exists to hold the pastor accountable in his care for the temporal goods of the parish and his use of parish funds. It is the Finance Council that oversees and approves (or prevents) the spending of parish money.

Therefore, the Building and Maintenance Commission will from now on report to the parish Finance Council since, as Canon Law states, it is the Finance Council that oversee the facilities of the parish, contracts, and major spending. Under Church law (at least since 1983), the Pastoral Council has never had that authority. This will help make the Finance Council more proactive as opposed to the reactive role it had when I arrived.

The Finance Council will still have a presence on the Pastoral Council in order to make sure that our commissions understand the financial state of our parish and to aid them in making proper budgets. I believe setting things up as Church law says, to help us stay on solid financial footing while still ministering to everyone, is the most effective way possible.

– Father Scott Thomas, August 30, 2020

Masks are now a normal part of our society whenever leaving home. I have found one mask that I find to. be very convenient and expresses a big part of who I am. But unfortunately very few people know what it is. Fr Mark pointed out that now is an opportune time to explain it since the state of Mississippi is already armpit-deep in flag conversations.

What you see wrapped around my face in the attached picture is the national flag of Lebanon. Lebanon is the country directly north of Israel and the home of my father’s family. My great-grandfather came over from Lebanon in the early 20th century and made his home in Jackson. Unfortunately, only a few recipes were passed down in my family and much of the language and culture was forgotten. But I’m still proud of my heritage, and here is why.

In the center of the flag is not a Christmas tree. Rather, it is the Cedar of Lebanon, which is mentioned in the Bible well over 70 times. It was one of the most precious of woods in the ancient world because of its strength. It is a symbol of holiness and peace.

Despite its small size, the cultural influence of Lebanon can be felt in many countries around the world and especially here in the USA. You don’t have to go very far to find amazing Lebanese food. I say it is amazing not just because it tastes amazing but because Jesus ate it Himself (He had to eat when He visited Tyre and Sidon). Many Lebanese Americans have made great contributions to our country and the world. One of note is Danny Thomas who started Saint Jude Hospital in Memphis.

Lebanon also has its own Catholic Rite, the Maronite Rite, which has produced amazing saints such as St Maroun (its namesake) and St Charbel Makhlouf. Maronite Churches, which are in full communion with Rome, can be found in many major US cities. Thank you, Lebanon, for my family and your many other contributions to the world!

– Father Scott Thomas, August 23, 2020

“Hey Father, what does it take to be a member of St Mary Basilica?” Well I’m glad you asked because there’s quite a few myths surrounding this question.

One myth is that you can’t get anything out of Father Pastor if you don’t fill out that pesky registration form. Technically, you do not have to fill anything out to be a member of our parish community. According to Canon Law, anyone who lives within our territorial boundaries automatically belongs to us. That means that Fr Shoffner and I are spiritually responsible for everyone living within our territorial boundaries, whether they formally register or not. Filling out the registration form just helps us know who you are and where to send your beloved offertory envelopes. HA! But it also helps us contact you when we miss you or feel like we can minister to you in a specific way of which you may not be aware. It also proves that we are not a dying parish, that is, as long as our young adults all make sure they are registered. So please do make sure you are registered with us if you want to be counted as a parishioner!

Another myth about parish membership is that you have to be formally registered or live within the parish’s territorial boundaries for a certain amount of time before you can enjoy the spiritual benefits of the parish. But that is nowhere to be found in Canon Law. Once you take up domicile within the territory of the parish (or formally register), you are automatically a member and have rights as such. It is just good practice to have a letter sent from your previous pastor speaking of how “active” you were in your previous parish so that your new pastor won’t think you’re just church hopping to get what you want the way you want it.

An “active member” of a parish is typically someone who is formally registered in the parish, assists at Holy Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation, and contributes somehow to the life of the parish. Contributing to the life of the parish can mean either financially or by volunteering for some ministry or both. I know that not everyone can give the same amount of money. But perhaps you can give more of your time to the catechesis of our faithful or the upkeep of our buildings.

One thing that our Holy Father, Pope Francis, wants is for us to be more welcoming. And that is my goal—to make every soul feel welcome in the Holy Catholic Church, whichever Catholic parish they choose to attend.

– Father Scott Thomas, August 16, 2020

Back on the 4th we celebrated the memorial of St John Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests, who lived in France from 1786 until 1859. He was the pastor of St Sixtus Parish in Ars-Sur-Furmans, France, where his incorrupt body is entombed above an Altar. He is known for his homilies and catechetical teachings that transformed his parish.

Today his small parish church is a basilica and pilgrimage site. St John Vianney taught the following about the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass: “All the good works in the world are not equal to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass because they are the works of men; but the Mass is the work of God. Martyrdom is nothing in comparison for it is but the sacrifice of man to God; but the Mass is the sacrifice of God for man.” The current Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) looks to this truth by calling worship “the work of the Holy Trinity.” As I have stressed over and over, worship of God is less about what we do and more about what God does for us. The Second Vatican Council spoke of this in its first document, Sacrosanctum Concilium, when it said, “In the earthly liturgy, we take part in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the Holy City of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right of God...” (SC 8). So every time the Holy Mass is offered, those present are drawn up outside of space and time and into the Heavenly abode of God, where we are all destined to live with Him at the end of time.

Sadly, though, in modern times we have come to put so much focus on what we are doing at Mass as opposed to what God is doing for us. Is the music energetic enough? Is Father’s homily worth a darn? Can we see his face? But at the end of the day, none of this matters. Certainly none of it measures up in comparison to the grace of God—His divine life that He infuses in us by our reception of the various Sacraments through the Church’s public worship.

A common name for all of the public worship of the Catholic Church is “Liturgy.” The word “liturgy” comes from the Greek composite word leitourgia, which means “public work” or a “service in the name of/on behalf of the people.” Truly the sacred liturgical worship of the Catholic Church fits those definitions since it is through our liturgical worship that “Christ, our redeemer and high priest, continues the work of our redemption in, with, and through His Church” (CCC 1069). So even though we offer our “Liturgies” on behalf of society, it really is not our work that we are accomplishing. Rather, it is God’s work as He has given it to us through His Church, so as to bring His Kingdom to life on Earth.

When we consider the Holy Mass (and all the Church’s public worship, including weddings and baptisms) in this light, we see that nothing compares to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass because it is the work of God.

– Father Scott Thomas, August 9, 2020

Baseball is back! I realize that you may not care about (or agree with) the fact that Major League Baseball kicked off its 2020 regular season on July 23. But please hang with me on this. So much can be learned from baseball about life. What fascinates me the most is just how old of a game it is and how little it has changed over the years. Yes, like so much else it has modernized a great deal, but I believe that the stars of 100 years ago could still compete, if not embarrassingly defeat, the stars of today. Baseball truly has a sense of timelessness to it. The Boston Red Sox have played in the same stadium for 108 years, and the Chicago Cubs have been at Wrigley Field for 106 years! Every time I have stepped into Wrigley, I felt like I was stepping back in time. A lot like when I step into a church like St Mary Basilica!

There’s also a timelessness to our faith. The Truth as revealed by God will always remain the same. Every time we assist at the Holy Mass, we step outside of space and time joining ourselves with the Church Triumphant in Heaven. Every time the priest holds up the Sacred Host for us to adore, we gaze upon the very same Jesus Christ as the saints in Heaven.

There have been so many modern ideas proposed and enacted to help speed up the game of baseball and make it more appealing. But in my humble opinion, adding things such as an electronic strike zone and pitch clocks will kill a lot of what makes the game so educational. Simply wanting to speed up the game proves how impatient we have become. Probably the best part of baseball is that it teaches us patience in addition to teamwork and humility. I often wonder what the greats of old think of the modernized game of today.

Would we be able to follow along if St John Vianney or St Peter himself offered the Holy Mass in our church? Or have we modernized our worship so much that we’ve lost sight of what that worship should really look like? Why did we cast away such great things like chant and facing east when those practices made so many great saints? The funny thing is that if you scale back to just the bare bones of the latest Roman Missal’s rubrics, you’ll experience a Holy Mass that will look and feel much like its previous form. And that’s because the faith is eternal, and so is our worship of the eternal Godhead.

Every time I go to a baseball game, I fall in love with the crack of the bat, the smell of hotdogs and popcorn, and the cheers of the fans. I step back in time to a purer age where competition wasn’t quite as driven by money or the false comforts of the modern age. And it should be the same way every time we walk into the Holy Mass with the smell of the incense, the sounds of chant glorifying God, and the ring of the bells as Jesus Christ becomes truly present in the Most Holy Eucharist. There’s a sense of timelessness to it all. And it’s there to remind us that there is something, some One, greater than modern society. And it is He Whom we worship.

– Father Scott Thomas, August 2, 2020

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