Holy Days, Silence, and Hope

10-27-2019Pastor's LetterFather Gregory Wilson

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Fall Back! Don’t forget that next Sunday is the end of daylight savings time. That 8:30am Mass will feel like 7:30am, so be sure to stop by Parish Perks after that Mass to get you some coffee and face time with fellow parishioners.

We have a beautiful Holy Day of Obligation this week – the Solemnity of All Saints Day, November 1. The feast was known as All Hallows Day in older English, “hallow” meaning “holy” / “saint”. The previous day – the Eve – was known as Hallows’ Even, (for evening), later contracted to Hallowe’en, and later ended up as Halloween. The rather pagan associations with Halloween are just that – pagan. Our celebration of All Saints Day has its origins around the legalization of Christianity in 313 when a common liturgical celebration of the Saints, especially the Martyrs, appears in various parts of the Church. November 1 seems to have been settled on sometime in the 8th century and eventually became the universal norm.


A Heart Full of Gratitude

10-20-2019Pastor's LetterFather Gregory Wilson

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In the spirit of last Sunday’s Gospel, I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart for all who wished me a happy birthday either verbally, through email, a card, through cakes, cookies, or other creative ways. I truly feel your love and support. Certainly, the past few months have been difficult; however, you, the parishioners of St. Mary’s, never cease to amaze me with your unfailing love, support, and generosity. So, while it is inadequate to describe the depth of my gratitude to you, I say again, thank you!

This weekend we will have a special Vocations Weekend. We welcome Fr. Matthew Gray, the vocations director for our diocese, who will celebrate most of our Masses. Father Gray brings with him an extraordinary zeal for inviting people to consider a vocation to the priesthood or consecrated life. In particular (and we feel this especially at St. Mary’s) we need more men to answer to call to be a holy priest. The Church continues to look for those who are willing to live the life of Jesus Himself in a radical way – as Jesus lived it. To take a bride, yes, but a bride that is the Church. I became a priest because (1) God called me, and (2) someone from my parish encouraged me to consider it. Vocations come from you, the holy People of God. Encourage a young man today!


The Original Multitasking

10-13-2019Pastor's LetterFather Gregory Wilson

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

One of the most recognizable and enduring of Catholic devotions is the holy rosary. In recent years it has experienced a resurgence in popularity from Catholics, who would like to take their faith to the next level.

The use of beads to help guide one’s prayers is not confined to Christianity. In fact, the word “bead” is derived from the Old English word for “prayer.” (We get the word “bid” – “to ask” – from the same root.) The rosary’s original number of 15 mysteries came together because the laity wanted to in some way share the prayer-life of local monasteries, who prayed the 150 Psalms. (With ten Hail Mary’s per decade/mystery, you end up with 150 – the number of the Psalms.)

Although earlier forms existed, it was undoubtedly St. Dominic in 1214 who spread its popularity. Unfortunately, some Catholics have not grown up with the rosary as a devotion in their homes. It’s not too late to change that, whether you teach your children or yourself!


Life is Good

10-06-2019Pastor's LetterFather Gregory Wilson

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I have had to write this column a little early since I’ll be attending the diaconate ordination in Rome of one of the sons of our parish, Will Frei. What a joy! For the last eight years we have watched Will go through college seminary, an intense philosophy program, and finally major seminary at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. We have had a front row seat in seeing Will grow in his vocation, in love, and in knowledge of Christ and His Church as he prepares for the holy priesthood. There were many smaller steps along the way, but as of Thursday, October 3, Will has received the Sacrament of Holy Orders, being ordained a deacon. (In the Catholic Church, the diaconate is the first of three ranks in ordained ministry, bishop and priest being the other two. Deacons preparing for the priesthood are transitional deacons.)


The Art of Being Outraged

09-29-2019Pastor's LetterFather Gregory Wilson

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In recent article on Word On Fire titled, “How the News and Politics Is Destroying Your Soul (And What You Can Do About It),” by Joe Heschmeyer, Heschmeyer points out that our biggest problem is not “fake news” but junk news, news that exists only to entertain and which actually makes us worse people when we consume too much of it. From his article:
“Part of the reason is our addiction to outrage. … What happens is that anger can lead to similar ‘rushes’ as thrill-seeking activities where danger triggers dopamine reward receptors in the brain, or like other forms of addiction such as gambling, extreme sports, even drugs like cocaine and methamphetamines. Psychology Today, 2015 …

“The desire to know everything just for the sake of it (or for the sake of feeding your outrage-addiction) is a sin that used to be something that we warned against. Catholic theologians like Aquinas describe the vice of curiositas, an unhealthy curiosity that’s not motivated out of a sincere love for the truth. …


Faith in Glorious Color

09-22-2019Pastor's LetterFather Gregory Wilson

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
By now a great number of you have seen the three newly installed stained glass windows. We are indebted to the generosity of the donors, who have made this project of beauty possible. These are three of eventually sixteen windows depicting various scenes from the life of Christ. We should receive three more every three to four months as they are made. These were the choices of the first donors of the windows. They are created by the Mayer of Munich in Germany, the same company and artist that created the three windows we already have above the doors of the church.

The Nativity takes place in a cave. The center is the Child Jesus. The Virgin Mary’s position holding Jesus in her lap is throne-like. Saint Joseph holds a lighted lamp symbolizing Jesus as the Light of the world. One shepherd holds the shepherd’s staff/crook, denoting Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Another holds a lamb since Jesus is the true Lamb of God. Another shepherd has removed his sandals as Moses did in the presence of God at the burning bush. Near the ox and the ass we find wheat, symbolizing Jesus, the Bread of Life. The Star of Bethlehem fills the sky, shedding its light on the city of Bethlehem. The scripture verse is from the message of the Angels to the shepherds, “To you is born this day a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (St. Luke 2:11).


Giving God Our All

09-15-2019Pastor's LetterFather Gregory Wilson

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Although Hurricane Dorian itself has passed on, the trail of destruction it left, especially in the Bahama Islands, remains colossal. Many people have asked how they can help. One of the ways to donate much needed assistance is through Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the humanitarian arm of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. From their website: “Catholic Relief Services – along with local partners – is working quickly to assess immediate needs. Donations help bring relief, in the form of food, emergency shelter, and safe water, to affected families.” Simply go to crs.org and you’ll find the link to donate specifically to help those affected by the hurricane. And, of course, let us never forget to pray both for those who survived and must rebuild their lives and for the many who have died – may they rest in Christ’s eternal peace.


Go Forth and Change Hearts!

09-08-2019Pastor's LetterFather Gregory Wilson

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As of Tuesday when I wrote this column, Hurricane Dorian has done unbelievable damage to the Bahamas. It was next forecast to go up the coast. We pray for all those who have been affected by the storm, especially those who have died. May they rest in God’s eternal light.

In addition to natural disasters, perpetrators of mass shootings continue to take innocent lives. Hardly a week goes by without another sad event. While people work out political differences on how to fix the problem, one thing we as disciples of Jesus Christ can all agree on is that hearts need to be changed. We know from the lives of the Saints that when our faith is truly lived, the value of every life – from its silent beginnings in the womb at conception to its natural end – is finally understood as the beautiful miracle it truly is. The Gospel will not be spread by other people; it’s spread by us. The very end of Mass is not superfluous. It is a mandate for the gathered Body of Christ to “Go!” into the world as one, to truly live the Good News, and to change hearts.

In more uplifting news, Wednesday, September 11, St. Mary’s School celebrates Grandparent’s Mass at 8:15am in the church (not Old St. Mary’s). Afterwards, all are invited to a coffee and donuts mini-reception in the school cafeteria. Our grandparents have such an impact on our lives. May God continue to bless them as they provide their wisdom, good example, and above all, love.


O Sacrament Most Holy

09-01-2019Pastor's LetterFather Gregory Wilson

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This Thursday, September 5, the Church celebrates the memorial of St. Teresa of Calcutta – Mother Teresa. We are blessed to have a relic of Mother Teresa, which you will be able to venerate at the end of the 5:30pm daily Mass.

I want to thank both Fr. Ernie Hepner and Fr. Renaurd West for their incredible help while the search is on for a parochial vicar. Their wonderful assistance helps make sure we can continue the Mass schedule as it presently is, which is designed for two priests. The search is still on, so please pray for whoever our new parochial vicar will be.

As I mentioned last week, I couldn’t help but be alarmed at the results of a recent study that said 69% of Catholics in the United States believe that the bread and wine used in Mass “are symbols of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.” If that number is correct for the people of St. Mary’s, then I and every priest before me have failed you tremendously in not getting across one of the most vital, long standing teachings of our divine faith.

We are speaking of two thousand years of Catholic tradition, running from Scripture through the Church Fathers and right up to the present day. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) teaches that, beginning “at the moment of consecration” (CCC 1377), the bread and wine offered at Mass “become Christ's Body and Blood” (CCC 1333).

This is not a metaphor, a symbol, or a spiritual idea; it really happens. In the Communion we receive, the Most Blessed Sacrament, “the Body and Blood, together with the Soul and Divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained” (CCC 1374).


New Beginnings

08-25-2019Pastor's LetterFather Gregory Wilson

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

God always provides us with amazing opportunities to make a fresh start. In terms of faith, a soul is born again in Baptism. With a good, honest Confession, we are restored yet again to the beauty of our baptismal holiness through Christ’s forgiveness.

Even in everyday life, God allows us to make new beginnings with marvelous possibilities for the future. As I write, I just left the first day of St. Mary’s School. How exciting to see faces old and new, excited and a bit not-so-sure, but all with the same opportunities for a fresh start and a new beginning! Like always we begin by invoking the Holy Spirit and entrusting our path to Him. Of course, it’s not too late to give your child an amazing education in the loving environment of faith. Simply contact the school office at 803-649-2071 or email our principal, Ms. Charlene Krushinsky, ckrushinsky@stmaryschoolaiken.com.


A New Catechisical Year is About to Begin!

08-18-2019Pastor's LetterFather Gregory Wilson

Dear Parents, please know that we want to help you in teaching the Gospel to all our parish children, whether attending our parish school or another school. For those not in St. Mary’s School, please note that we offer Christian Formation (CCD) on Sunday’s for children K4-12.

Sunday Morning Christian Formation Classes will meet on Sundays at 9:45am – 10:45am, starting Sunday, September 8th. Classes will be held in St. Mary School buildings and in Smith Hall. Registration forms and the calendar are available on the parish website at http://www.stmarys-aiken.org/ccd or in the parish office.


Let the Church Roll On . . .

08-11-2019Pastor's LetterFather Gregory Wilson

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
August 10th marked eight years since I came to St. Mary’s as your pastor. When I arrived, I was immediately impressed by the warmth and devotion of the faithful here. The loving support that you have shown me personally over the past few weeks has only increased my admiration for the good people of this parish. From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank all who have expressed their prayers and support. I could not be more grateful. It’s time now to get back into the mission. Saint Mary’s is a large parish with many wonderful ministries and opportunities to deepen our faith in Jesus Christ. Let’s dive back into the mission with renewed dedication and enthusiasm for what Christ has called us to do – to learn how to be a saint. So, let’s do it…

Don’t forget this Thursday, August 15, is a beloved Holy Day of Obligation, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Masses will be Aug. 14 (Vigil) at 5:30pm in the church and 7:00pm (Spanish) in Old St. Mary’s; the Aug. 15 at 7:00am in Old St. Mary’s; and 12:00pm & 5:30pm in the church.


Rising to the Occasion

08-04-2019Pastor's LetterRev. Gregory B. Wilson, VF

My very dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
It has been a challenging week for our parish, and I am grateful for the prayers you have offered for our entire Church community. Please continue to keep those prayers going.

If you were not able to attend Mass over the weekend, let me share with you some news. Father Raymond, our parochial vicar, was placed on administrative leave for engaging in behavior inappropriate for a priest. During this time, he is not allowed to perform priestly functions.