From the Pastor

May 31, 2020
Dear Friends,

 
Yesterday at 4:00 p.m., we celebrated our first public Sunday Mass at Immaculate Conception since March. Some 60 people attended, and we celebrated the Sacraments of Initiation for our 4 catechumens and 1 candidate for Full Communion. 
 
For the time being, the weekend Mass schedule will be Saturday at 4:00 p.m. and Sunday at 9:00 and 11:30 a.m. (We need that extra time between Masses in order to properly clean and sanitize the church.) When you come to Mass, whether in the church or in the parish hall, please follow all the required procedures regarding entering and leaving, masks, keeping distance, and receiving Holy Communion.
Also, remember that everyone remains dispensed from the Sunday obligation for the time being. So if you are concerned about venturing out right now, there is no need to do so. In fact, we will still be live streaming Sunday Mass at 9:00 a.m. for the benefit of all those who are not present.
 
Printed parish bulletins are available in the vestibule of the church for those who wish to take them. If you do not wish to handle a paper bulletin, you can still read the parish bulletin each week on the parish website.
 
Regularly scheduled confessions will resume tomorrow. Confessions will be heard Monday-Friday at 11:45 a.m. and Saturday at 3:00 p.m. (unless there is a wedding) Confessions will be heard in the former “Cry Room.” If you come to confession, be sure to wear your face mask and maintain the required distance.
Today is Pentecost Sunday. Pentecost marks the end of the Easter season and the transition to “Ordinary Time,” which resumes tomorrow, when the Church celebrates the Blessed Virgin Mary under her title of “Mother of the Church.” Beginning today, in place of the Easter antiphon Regina Coeli, the cantor will sing the Ordinary Time antiphon Salve Regina at the end of Mass. Traditionally, the Salve Regina has been one of the most commonly used prayers in the Church’s repertoire, apparently considered appropriate at almost any occasion. Those of us old enough to remember the old Leonine “Prayers after Low Mass,” will recall reciting it regularly. It seems a particularly appropriate prayer for this stressful experience in this period of pandemic. Since congregational singing is for the present discouraged, please recite it quietly while it is being chanted by the cantor. The familiar English translation is: Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve; to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears. Turn then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus, O merciful, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary! Amen.
 
For those not attending Mass today, the practice of Spiritual Communion is recommended.
“If any imperative hindrance prevents your presence at the Sovereign Sacrifice of Christ’s most true Presence, at least be sure to take part in it spiritually. If you cannot go to Church, choose some morning hour in which to unite your intention to that of the whole Christian world, and make the same interior acts of devotion wherever you are that your would make if you were really present at the Celebration of the Holy Eucharist in Church.” (Saint Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life, chapter 14).
ST. ALPHONSUS LIGUORI’S PRAYER FOR SPIRITUAL COMMUNION
“My Jesus, I believe that You are in the Blessed Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I long for You in my soul. Since I cannot now receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. As though You have already come, I embrace You and unite myself entirely to You; never permit me to be separated from You.”
 
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
 
Fr. Ron
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May 30, 2020

Dear Friends,

Today in Rome, Pope Francis will lead the recitation of the Rosary, joining the Marian Shrines of the world, to ask the Virgin Mary for help amid the pandemic. The prayer will be broadcast live to the world from the Grotto of Lourdes in the Vatican Gardens at 5.30 p.m. Rome time (11:30 a.m. EDT).  According to the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, Pope Francis at the end of this Marian month will place the sorrows of all humanity at the feet of our heavenly Mother, certain that she will not fail to help. The largest sanctuaries of the five continents will be connected online – including Lourdes, Fatima, Lujan, Milagro, Guadalupe, San Giovanni Rotondo, and Pompeii.
This afternoon at 4:00 p.m., we will celebrate our first public Sunday Mass at Immaculate Conception since March. At that Pentecost Vigil Mass, four catechumens will be baptized and confirmed and receive their First Holy Communion. They will be joined by one candidate for Full Communion who will make his Profession of Father and be Received into the Church at that Mass. Another candidate will make her Profession of Faith and be Received into the Church earlier in the day. We welcome and congratulate all our new members of the Church and thank them for their patience while their full initiation has been delayed because of the pandemic.
For the time being, the weekend Mass schedule will be Saturday at 4:00 p.m. and Sunday at 9:00 and 11:30 a.m. (We need that extra time between Masses in order to properly clean and sanitize the church.) When you come to Mass, whether in the church or in the parish hall, please follow all the required procedures regarding entering and leaving, masks, keeping distance, and receiving Holy Communion.
Also, remember that everyone remains dispensed from the Sunday obligation for the time being. So if you are concerned about venturing out right now, there is no need to do so. In fact, we will still be live streaming Sunday Mass at 9:00 a.m. for the benefit of all those who are not present.
Printed parish bulletins are available in the vestibule of the church for those who wish to take them. If you do not wish to handle a paper bulletin, you can still read the parish bulletin each week on the parish website.
Today’s 1st Reading (Acts 28:16-20, 30-31) brings Paul’s journeys and the book of Acts to its conclusion with Paul’s arrival in Rome, the capital of the empire. Under house arrest in Rome Paul continues his ministry: He received all who came to him, and with complete assurance and without hindrance he proclaimed the Kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ. Later in the mid-late 60s, after the time period treated by Acts, the Emperor Nero will initiate the first official Roman persecution of Christians, in which both Peter and Paul will die as martyrs.
Tomorrow is Pentecost Sunday. So today is the final day of our novena of prayer to the Holy Spirit. A Reflection for each day, written by Monsignor John J. Burke, CSP (1875-1936) has been posted each day on the parish Facebook page and on the parish website.
As always, we pray for all who are in need at this time. We pray for all the sick and all who care for them, the expert scientific and medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, those whose daily work in so many other essential businesses makes our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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May 29, 2020

Dear Friends,

The parish office has resumed regular hours, and the Monday-Friday 12:10 Mass has resumed. If you come to the office for any reason, or if you come to Mass, please follow all the required procedures regarding entering and leaving, masks, keeping distance, and receiving Holy Communion.

Tomorrow at 4:00 p.m., we will celebrate our first public Sunday Mass at Immaculate Conception since March. For the time being, the weekend Mass schedule will be Saturday at 4:00 p.m. and Sunday at 9:00 and 11:30 a.m. (We need that extra time between Masses in order to properly clean and sanitize the church.) When you come to Mass, whether in the church or in the parish hall, please follow all the required procedures regarding entering and leaving, masks, keeping distance, and receiving Holy Communion.
I will meet in the church with anyone who is willing to help out on the weekend as an “usher” at 12:30 today for a quick run through. If you haven’t yet volunteered but would like to, just show up tomorrow. If you can’t make it today, I will meet briefly with all who are willing to help 20 minutes before each of the Masses this weekend – i.e., at 3:40 p.m. on Saturday and at 8:40 a.m. and 11:10 a.m. on Sunday.
Also, remember that everyone remains dispensed from the Sunday obligation for the time being. So if you are concerned about venturing out right now, there is no need to do so. In fact, we will still be live streaming Sunday Mass at 9:00 a.m. for the benefit of all those who are not present.
Printed parish bulletins will be available in the vestibule of the church this weekend for those who wish to take them. If you do not wish to handle a paper bulletin, you can still read the parish bulletin each week on the parish website.
As of yesterday, there have been 5,929,312 confirmed Covid-19 cases worldwide, with 357,781 deaths, of which 1,724,416 confirmed cases have been in the US, with 101,002 deaths. Those numbers are a reminder of how important it is for everyone to follow the prescribed procedures when coming to Mass in order to minimize the dangers to oneself and to others.
Today is the eighth day of our novena of prayer to the Holy Spirit in preparation for Pentecost. A Reflection for each day, written by Monsignor John J. Burke, CSP (1875-1936) has been posted each day on the parish Facebook page and on the parish website.
Today’s 1st Reading (Acts 25:13b-21) continues the account of Paul’s appeal of his case to the Emperor – his right as a Roman citizen. Paul’s Roman citizen shop, along with his birth in a Greek-speaking city and his long-term bilingualism and biculturalism highlight his special suitability for his particular mission as Apostle to the Gentiles.
Today the Church also commemorates Pope Saint Paul VI (1897-1978). Elected Pope in 1963, he continued the Second Vatican Council (which his predecessor, Pope Saint John XXIII, had begun) and then directed and presided over its implementation.
Tomorrow in Rome, Pope Francis will lead the recitation of the Rosary, joining the Marian Shrines of the world, to ask the Virgin Mary for help amid the pandemic. The prayer will be broadcast live to the world from the Grotto of Lourdes in the Vatican Gardens at 5.30 p.m. Rome time (11:30 a.m. EDT).  According to the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization writes that at the end of this Marian month, Pope Francis will place the sorrows of all humanity at the feet of our heavenly Mother, certain that she will not fail to help. The largest sanctuaries of the five continents will be connected online – including Lourdes, Fatima, Lujan, Milagro, Guadalupe, San Giovanni Rotondo, and Pompeii.
As always, we pray for all who are in need at this time. We pray for all the sick and all who care for them, the expert scientific and medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, those whose daily work in so many other essential businesses make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Pope Saint Paul VI, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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May 28, 2020

Dear Friends,

The parish office has resumed regular hours. Likewise the Monday-Friday 12:10 Mass has resumed. If you come to the office for any reason, or if you come to Mass, please follow all the required procedures regarding entering and leaving, masks, keeping distance, and receiving Holy Communion.
As of yesterday, there have been 5,614,458 confirmed Covid-19 cases worldwide, with 350,958 deaths, of which 1,724,416 confirmed cases have been in the US, with 100,940 deaths. This should remind us that, however rapidly businesses and other activities are reopening, and however wisely or unwisely all this is happening, the dangers remain very real and very serious. So it is extremely important, if you come to Mass this weekend or any other time, to observe all the prescribed procedures as completely as possible in order to minimize the dangers to oneself and to others.
Eventually, I suppose, these precautionary procedures will become routine, but for now they will be new and will require everyone to pay attention and to follow directions. Thank you to all who have volunteered to serve as :ushers” to help guide the congregation through these steps.  I will meet in the church with anyone who is willing to help out on the weekend as an “usher” at 12:30 tomorrow for a quick run through. If you haven’t yet volunteered but would like to do so, just show up tomorrow. If you can’t make it tomorrow, I will meet briefly with all who are willing to help 20 minutes before each of the Masses this weekend – i.e., at 3:40 p.m. on Saturday and at 8:40 a.m. and 11:10 a.m. on Sunday.
Today is the seventh day of our novena of prayer to the Holy Spirit in preparation for Pentecost. A Reflection for each day, written by Monsignor John J. Burke, CSP (1875-1936) has been posted each day on the parish Facebook page and on the parish website.
Today’s 1st Reading (Acts 22:30; 23:6-11) jumps ahead to the aftermath of Paul’s arrest in Jerusalem. After his farewell talk to the Ephesian presbyters, Paul passes through several cities where his followers, our of concern for his safety, plead with him not to go to Jerusalem. Paul presses on. Upon arrival he meets with James and the Jerusalem Church leadership, who express appreciation for Paul’s ministry but tell him that many Jewish Christians are concerned about Paul’s Gentile outreach and believe he is trying to undermine the observance of Jewish religious practices even among Jewish Christians. This leads to Paul trying to demonstrate his good faith by visiting the Temple, where, however, his presence provokes a riot and results in his arrest by the Romans. The commander permits Paul to address his accusers, which gives Paul an opportunity to retell the story of his “conversion,” but when he talks about his mission to the Gentiles this sets off another disturbance. This in turn causes the commander to order Paul scourged, but Paul asserts his rights as a Roman citizen. At this point, which is where today’s reading begins the commander calls for the Sanhedrin to examine Paul. Paul identifies himself to the Sanhedrin as a Pharisee “on trial for hope in the resurrection of the dead.” Since this was a key point of controversy between Sadducees and Pharisees, this divides the Sanhedrin and results in the commander having to come to paul’s rescue again. Today’s reading ends with Paul experiencing a vision in which the Lord tells him  “Take courage. For just as you have borne witness to my cause in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness in Rome.”
As always, we pray for all who are in need at this time. We pray for all the sick and all who care for them, the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, those whose daily work in so many other essential businesses make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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May 27, 2020

Dear Friends,

The parish office has resumed regular hours. Likewise the Monday-Friday 12:10 Mass has resumed. If you come to the office for any reason, or if you come to Mass, please follow all the required procedures regarding entering and leaving, masks, keeping distance, and receiving Holy Communion.
The Paulist Fathers mourn the loss of Fr. Rich Colgan, who served the Church in such different settings as Portland,OR, Toronto, ON, Oak Ridge, NJ, and New York City, and most recently, for almost a decade, as Director of Novices in Washington, DC. His was a priestly vocation lived faithfully and well. May he now rejoice in the perpetual company of our Risen Lord and all the saints.

While we have all been correctly focused primarily on the coronavirus and its devastating effects, we have not neglected other parish needs. As you may remember, last fall our boiler reached the end of its natural life. A temporary “fix” for this past winter was installed just before Christmas at a cost of $11,552. Since then, a new permanent boiler and heating system has been installed at a cost of $68,094. Just before the pandemic took over, we planned to spend $4,355  to refurbish the church’s front doors. Hopefully that project will be completed sometime in the next several months.
Our improvements to our communications capacities – necessary for us to live-stream Masses during the pandemic and after – have also cost us.We hope to have at least some of that reimbursed from the Diocesan Education Fund.
Today is the sixth day of our novena of prayer to the Holy Spirit in preparation for Pentecost. A Reflection for each day, written by Monsignor John J. Burke, CSP (1875-1936) will be posted each day on the parish Facebook page and on the parish website.
Today’s 1st Reading (Acts 20:28-38) continues where we left off yesterday, with the conclusion of Paul’s only recorded address to a Christian audience in Acts. Speaking to the leaders of the community of Ephesus, Paul warns: “Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock of which the Holy Spirit has appointed you overseers, in which you tend the    Church of God that he acquired with his own Blood.” Paul commends the Ephesian Church leaders to God and offers his own behavior as an example: “So be vigilant and remember that for three years, night and day, I unceasingly admonished each of you with tears. And now I commend you to God and to that gracious word of his that can build you up and give you the inheritance among all who are consecrated. I have never wanted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You know well that these very hands have served my needs and my companions. In every way I have shown you that by hard work of that sort we must help the weak, and keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus who himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’.” As “Farewell Addresses” go, this is one of the most emotionally heartfelt. The emotion peaks when Paul finishes and kneels to pray, and everyone weeps “for they were deeply distressed that he had said that they would never see his face again.” Once more we see how important partners and collaborators were for Paul, and the deep human bonds that united them, and how important such relationships remain in the life and mission of the Church.
Today, the Church commemorates Saint Augustine of Canterbury, A Benedictine monk in Rome, sent by Pope Gregory the Great with 40 other monks to evangelize the Anglo-Saxons. He became the first Archbishop of Canterbury in 597. 
As always, we pray for all who are in need at this time. We pray for all the sick and all who care for them, the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, those whose daily work in so many other essential businesses make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Saint Augustine of Canterbury, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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May 26, 2020

Dear Friends,

The parish office will open at noon today (after our parish staff meeting), after which we will resume regular hours. Likewise the Monday-Friday 12:10 Mass will resume today. If you come to the office for any reason, or if you come to Mass, please follow all the required procedures regarding entering and leaving, masks, keeping distance, and receiving Holy Communion.

With great sadness, the Paulist Fathers announce the death of Fr. Richard Colgan, Director of Novices in Washington, DC, who died last night from complications of Covid-19. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen.
The Parish Pastoral Council and the Parish Finance Council will meet via zoom today at 7:00 p.m.
Today is the fifth day of our novena of prayer to the Holy Spirit in preparation for Pentecost. A Reflection for each day, written by Monsignor John J. Burke, CSP (1875-1936) will be posted each day on the parish Facebook page and on the parish website.
In today’s 1st Reading (Acts 20:17-27), we hear Paul’s only address to a Christian audience in Acts, which he delivers to the community assembled at Miletus, joined by the leaders of the community from Ephesus. En route to Jerusalem (where he will be arrested), Paul summarizes his missionary vocation and his close personal relationship to the communities he has served. It is his farewell address: “I know that none of you to whom I preached the kingdom during my travels will ever see my face again.”
Today, the Church commemorates Saint Philip Neri (1515-1595), founder of the Congregation of the Oratory, a catechist and spiritual guide noted for both his zeal and his cheerful disposition. He is sometimes referred to as a “Second Apostle of Rome.” He is one of the patrons of the Paulist Fathers.
As always, we pray for all who are in need at this time. IWe pray for all the sick and all who care for them, the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, those whose daily work in so many other essential businesses make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Saint Philip Neri, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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May 25, 2020 – Memorial Day

Dear Friends,

Yesterday at Mass, I announced that, at my request, because of the pandemic and the challenges it will continue to present for our parish life in the coming months, the Paulist Fathers have extended my time of service as your pastor at Immaculate Conception through December 31. 
Today is Memorial Day, a legal holiday. traditionally devoted to remembering those who have died in the service of our country. The parish facilities will be closed all day today.
Today is the fourth day of our novena of prayer to the Holy Spirit in preparation for Pentecost. A Reflection for each day, written by Monsignor John J. Burke, CSP (1875-1936) will be posted each day on the parish Facebook page and on the parish website.
The parish office will resume normal hours tomorrow, May 26, and the Monday-Friday 12:10 Mass will also resume tomorrow. If you come to Mass, please enter through the center door (which will be open, so no need to touch it) and sit in one of the designated seats. It is required of all who attend Mass that they wear a face mask the entire time. When coming for Communion, please approach one at a time by the center aisle and return by the side aisle, maintaining appropriate distance the entire time. While the person in front of you is receiving Communion, remove your mask, put it in your pocket temporarily, sanitize your hands, and then extend your hand open and flat to receive Holy Communion. Holy Communion will only be distributed in this manner.
If you come to the parish office for any reason, we will be required to take your temperature and record your visit and health status. so, unless it is absolutely necessary to come to the office in person, I encourage you to telephone or email instead.
The parish staff will meet via zoom tomorrow morning at 9:30 a.m. The Parish Pastoral Council and the Parish Finance Council will meet via zoom tomorrow evening at 7:00 p.m.

In today’s 1st Reading (Acts 19:1-8), Paul in Ephesus encounters a dozen disciples. When he asks them if they had received the Holy Spirit, they respond, “We have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” When Paul then asks how they were baptized, they respond, “With the baptism of John.” This interesting incident tells us that John the Baptist’s influence was wider than we might have guessed from the Gospels alone. Paul then explains to them the preparatory character of John’s baptism, after which they are baptized as followers of Jesus. Paul then lays hands on them and they receive the Holy Spirit, another reminder that the gift of the Holy Spirit is now mediated through the Church and its apostolic leaders.
Today the Church also commemorates Saint Bede the Veneerable (672-735), an AngloSaxon Benedictine monk at Jarrow in northeast England. Because of his theological writings he is a Doctor of the Church, and because of his historical writings he is called “the Father of English History.”

As of this morning,  5,411,498 COVID-19 case shave been confirmed worldwide, with 335,122 deaths. The US has had 1,677,819 confirmed cases, with 98,035 deaths.

As always, we pray for all who are in need at this time. I ask you to remember the Paulists and their Josephite hosts who are ill at our seminary in Washington, DC – and in particular one of our Paullist priests who is now seriously ill with this virus and is in Intensive Care on a ventilator. We pray for all the sick and all who care for them, the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, those whose daily work in so many other essential businesses make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Saint Bede the Venerable, pray for us!
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Fr. Ron
May 24, 2020 – The Ascension of the Lord

Dear Friends,

Yesterday we had a problem with our internet connection, which unfortunately interrupted the broadcast of our Memorial Day Mass. 

Today we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord. Mass will (if our internet behaves) be broadcast live on the parish Facebook page at 10:00 a.m. Later, a recording of it will also appear on the parish website. My “homily” and the Universal Prayer are also on the parish website and are also attached to this email.

In today’s 1st Reading (Acts 1:1-11), Luke begins Acts as he did his Gospel with a prologue. In this prologue, Luke recalls that his Gospel dealt with what Jesus had begun in his life. His second volume, the Acts of the Apostles, will deal with what the Risen Christ continues to do in the world through his Church. Today’s reading concludes after Jesus’ ascension with the apostles’ return to Jerusalem to await the fulfillment of Jesus’ parting promise that they will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Because of the Holy spirit’s prominence in Luke’s story of the early Church, the Acts of the Apostles has sometimes been referred to as “the Gospel of the Holy Spirit.”
On May 24, 1814, Pope Pius VII returned to Rome from six years of exile after his arrest by the French Emperor Napoleon. One year later, he established the feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians to be observed on this date.
Today is the third day of our novena of prayer to the Holy Spirit in preparation for Pentecost. A Reflection for each day, written by Monsignor John J. Burke, CSP (1875-1936) will be posted each day on the parish Facebook page and on the parish website.
Tomorrow is Memorial Day, a legal holiday, in observance of which the parish office will be closed all day.
The parish office will resume normal hours on Tuesday, May 26.  Please note that, if you come to the parish office for any reason, you must enter through the main entrance, and we will be required to take your temperature and record your name and your health status. So, if you can telephone or email instead of coming in person, I strongly recommend that you do so.
The daily (Monday-Friday) 12:10 p.m. Mass will also resume on Tuesday, May 26. The same procedures are to be observed as will be required at Sunday Masses. For the present, however, only the upper church will be open for weekday Mass. (The regular confession schedule, Monday-Friday 11:45-12:00 and Saturday 3:00-3:30, will resume next week on Monday, June 1.)
Whether in the church or in the parish office, everyone is required to wear a face mask and to maintain appropriate distance. In church this means entering and leaving one at a time and sitting in designated spaces only. On Sundays, starting May 30-31, the church hall will accommodate those who cannot access the church or for whom there is no more room in the church, and the Mass will be live streamed on the screen in the church hall. There will be no access to the elevator or to the rest rooms.
On Sundays, Holy Communion will be distributed simultaneously both upstairs and downstairs. Please follow the directions for the safe reception of Communion. I will discuss them in detail in my messages this week.
For those not attending Mass, the practice of Spiritual Communion is recommended.
“If any imperative hindrance prevents your presence at the Sovereign Sacrifice of Christ’s most true Presence, at least be sure to take part in it spiritually. If you cannot go to Church, choose some morning hour in which to unite your intention to that of the whole Christian world, and make the same interior acts of devotion wherever you are that your would make if you were really present at the Celebration of the Holy Eucharist in Church.” (Saint Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life, chapter 14).
ST. ALPHONSUS LIGUORI’S PRAYER FOR SPIRITUAL COMMUNION
“My Jesus, I believe that You are in the Blessed Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I long for You in my soul. Since I cannot now receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. As though You have already come, I embrace You and unite myself entirely to You; never permit me to be separated from You.”
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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May 23, 2020
Dear Friends,
Today is the second day of our novena of prayer to the Holy Spirit in preparation for Pentecost. A Reflection for each day, written by Monsignor John J. Burke, CSP (1875-1936) will be posted each day on the parish Facebook page and on the parish website.
Tomorrow (in this part of the United States) is celebrated as the Solemnity of the Ascension. Mass will be broadcast live (using our new camera equipment) on the parish Facebook page at 10:00 a.m. This will be the last Sunday when Mass will be broadcast without a congregation present. Starting the following Sunday, we will broadcast the 9:00 a.m. parish mass each week.
Tomorrow is also the day for the Annual Collection in support of the Catholic Communication Campaign and its work of evangelization. Working to keep the Gospel message in the world, CCC provides Catholic content for radio, the Internet, television, and print publications. CCC focuses on finding new ways to bring the Gospel message to you by working to be wherever the faithful and those seeking the faith are. CCC provides content the way you need it—on the Internet to strengthen marriage, in podcasts for daily readings, on television for Christmas Mass, and on Facebook for news, discussions, and sharing of the faith. Fifty percent of the funds collected will also assist the Diocese of Knoxville’s Communications Office in our local projects..
Today’s 1st Reading (Acts 18:23-28) introduces us to Apollos, whose misunderstandings are corrected by Priscilla and Aquila. In its place, at the Memorial Day Mass today, we will hear a reading from the Book of Maccabees, which contains the famous words: It is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead.
As always, we pray for all who are in need at this time. I ask you to remember the Paulists and their Josephite hosts who are ill at our seminary in Washington, DC – and in particular one of our Paulist priests who is now seriously ill with this virus and is in Intensive Care on a ventilator. We pray for all the sick and all who care for them, the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, those whose daily work in so many other essential businesses make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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May 22, 2020
Dear Friends,
Thank you to all who “virtually” attended the memorial Mass for my mother yesterday and for the many kind comments and messages I received during and after the Mass.
Today we begin our novena of prayer to the Holy Spirit in preparation for Pentecost.  A Reflection for each day, written by Monsignor John J. Burke, CSP (1875-1936) will be posted each day on the parish Facebook page and on the parish website.
Today, we will begin preparing the church for the resumption of public parish Masses next week. So the church will remain closed until it reopens for Mass on Tuesday. 
Today’s 1st Reading (Acts 18:9-18), Paul in Corinth encounters the usual pattern of opposition, but he is encouraged by a vision in which the Lord said to him: “Do not be afraid. Go on speaking, and do not be silent, for I am with you. No one will attack and harm you, for I have many people in this city.” So Paul settles in Corinth for a year and a half, before finally leaving for Syria together with Priscilla and Aquila.
Today the Church commemorates Saint Rita (1381-1457), Italian wife and mother, who as a widow became an Augustinian nun, and who was designated Patroness of Impossible Causes by Pope Leo XIII in 1900.
Tomorrow, our annual Memorial Day Mass for Those Buried at Calvary Cemetery will be broadcast live at 11:00 a.m.
As of yesterday, 5,141,118 COVID-19 cases have been reported in 213 countries around the world, 1,551,095 of them in the U.S. There have been 331,731 deaths worldwide, 93,061 of them in the U.S.
As always, we pray for all who are in need at this time. I ask you to remember the Paulists and their Josephite hosts who are ill at our seminary in Washington, DC – and in particular one of our Paullist priests who is now seriously ill with this virus and is in Intensive Care on a ventilator. We pray for all the sick and all who care for them, the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, those whose daily work in so many other essential businesses make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Saint Rita, Patroness of Impossible Causes, pay for us!
Fr. Ron
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May 21, 2020

Dear Friends,

In the Universal Church, today is the Solemnity of the Ascension, the 40th day of Easter. In the Diocese of Knoxville, as in much of the United States, however, the celebration of the Ascension is transferred to next Sunday.
Even so, tomorrow we will begin the Annual Novena to the Holy Spirit in preparation for Pentecost and the resumption of public Sunday Masses and the initiation of our catechumens. The traditional Catholic devotion of the novena, nine days of prayer in preparation for a feast, has its foundation in the formative experience of the early Church in the 9-day interval between the Ascension and Pentecost. As the Church’s original novena, this period is particularly focused on highlighting the presence and action of the Holy Spirit, who animates and empowers Christ’s mystical body, the Church, for its mission in the world. 
The 1st Reading assigned to the ordinary weekday Mass is Acts 18:1-8, which describes the beginning of Paul’s relationship with the community of Corinth, where he stayed with fellow tent maker Aquila and his wife Priscilla, who had come to Corinth after the Emperor Claudius had expelled the Jewish community from Rome. They will collaborate with Paul, hosting the local Church community in their home in Corinth and later in Rome after their return there. (Since the Mass live-streamed from the church today will be a special Memorial Mass for my recently deceased mother, the readings at that Mass will be different.)
Because of today’s Memorial Mass, the church will remain closed all day today. Also tomorrow, we will be working in the church on the setup for the resumption of public parish Masses next week. So the church will remain closed until it reopens for Mass on Tuesday.
As always, we pray for all who are in need at this time. I ask you to remember in particular one of our Paullist priests who is now seriously ill with this virus and has been hospitalized in Washington, DC. We pray for all the sick and all who care for them, the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, those whose daily work in so many other essential businesses make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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May 20, 2020

Dear Friends,

Yesterday I attended my last Chrism Mass at the Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart. The music and much of the ritual were, of course, identical with past years. On the other hand, the cathedral was empty, except for us priests, deacons, and seminarians, most of us sitting not in the sanctuary but in the pews – and wearing masks throughout the entire ceremony. The reality was the same as always, but the appearance was somewhat surreal – a fitting sign of our strange and troubled time! I was sad at the realization that this was my last Chrism Mass, but uplifted by the liturgy itself, by its celebration of continuity despite the surrounding distress and by our common commitment – symbolized by the renewal of priestly promises – to continue being what the Church is all about, for our people and for our world.
Tomorrow would have been my mother’s 98th birthday, I invite you to join me at a Memorial Mass for my mother in lieu of the funeral we have so far been unable to celebrate because of the pandemic. The Mass will be broadcast live on the parish Facebook page at 12:00 noon.
On Friday, we will begin the Novena to the Holy Spirit in preparation for Pentecost, the resumption of parish Sunday Masses, the initiation of our catechumens.
On Saturday, we will celebrate our annual Memorial Day Mass for All Buried at Calvary Cemetery. It has been our custom in recent years to celebrate this Mass at the Cemetery on Memorial Day itself. This year the Mass will be celebrated at Immaculate Conception Church on Saturday at 11:00 a.m. The Mass will be broadcast live on the parish Facebook page.
In today’s 1st Reading (Acts 17:15, 22 – 18:1), Paul is in Athens and speaks at the Areopagus, his only full sermon to an entirely Gentile audience recorded in Acts. Those of you who have visited the Paulist “Mother Church” of Saint Paul the Apostle in New York may recall the great floor mosaic at the church’s entrance. That mosaic commemorates this event. It portrays an artistic impression of ancient Athens and references the opening Greek words of Saint Paul’s sermon: “You Athenians, I see that in every respect you are very religious.” Whereas when speaking in a synagogue, Paul would have quoted Scripture, speaking here to pagans he cites a 6th-century B.C. pagan poet, “In him we live and move and have our being.” This sermon is so famous for Paul’s effort to find common ground with his pagan audience. framing his argument not in terms of biblical revelation but in terms of “natural theology” accessible in principle to all. Thus this sermon has been seen as a model of sorts for the effort to highlight the ways in which God has revealed himself to all people  through his creation, through nature, through a rationality recognizable by and accessible to all. This sermon has become a symbol of cross-cultural outreach and inter-cultural dialogue, one reason the floor mosaic recalls it at the entrance to the Paulist “Mother Church.”
Today the church also commemorates Saint Bernardine of Siena (1380-1444), a famous Franciscan preacher who promoted devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus.
As of yesterday, 4,867,515 COVID-19 cases have been reported around the world, 1,519,986 of them in the U.S. There have been 321,459 deaths worldwide, 91,179 of them in the U.S.
As always, we pray for all who are in need at this time. I ask you to remember in particular one of our Paullist priests who is now very seriously ill with this virus and has been hospitalized in Washington, DC. We pray for all the sick and all who care for them, the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, those whose daily work in so many other essential businesses make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Saint Bernardine of Siena, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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May 19, 2020

Dear Friends,

You can watch the Chrism Mass on the diocesan website at 11:00 a.m today.
The parish staff met yesterday via zoom to assess our progress toward meeting all the requirements involved in returning to something resembling normal parish operations. At the end of our broadcast Mass next Sunday, I plan to speak briefly to explain some of those requirements and how they will affect your participation at Mass. So please stay tuned!
On Thursday, May 21, which would have been my mother’s 98th birthday, I will celebrate a Memorial Mass for my mother in lieu of the funeral we have so far been unable to celebrate because of the pandemic. The Mass will be broadcast live on the parish Facebook page at 12:00 noon.
In today’s 1st Reading (Acts 16:22-34), opposition against Paul and Silas builds in Philippi, and the magistrates respond – as often happens – with more haste than prudence. Paul and Silas are beaten and then thrown into prison. Overnight in prison, while Paul and Silas pray and sing hymns, there is a sudden earthquake, which opens the prison doors. The terrified jailer is surprised to discover everyone is still inside and asks Paul and Silas what he must do to be saved. He and his household are baptized.
As of yesterday, 4,862,185 COVID-19 cases have been reported around the world, 1,490,195 of them in the U.S. There have been 318,760 deaths worldwide, 89,636 of them in the U.S. As always, we pray for all who are in need at this time. I ask you to remember in particular one of our Paullist priests who is now seriously ill with this virus and has been hospitalized in Washington, DC. We pray for all the sick and all who care for them, the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, those whose daily work in so many other essential businesses make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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May 18,2020

Dear Friends,

For some reason, some of you apparently did not get my message yesterday. If you missed it, you can read it, along with my “Homily” and the “Universal Prayer,” on the parish website https://icknoxville.org/
Yesterday, we started using our new camera equipment for live streaming the Sunday Mass. A special word of thanks to Mark Reda for all his planning and effort in acquiring and setting up this new equipment. We hope to be able to continue using it now for the foreseeable future.
The daily (Monday-Friday) 12:10 p.m. Mass will resume next week on Tuesday, May 26. The same procedures are to be observed as will be required at Sunday Masses. For the present, however, only the upper church will be open for weekday Mass. (The regular confession schedule, Monday-Friday 11:45-12:00 and Saturday 3:00-3:30, will resume the following week on Monday, June 1.)
Also on May 26, the parish office will resume normal hours. Please note that, if you come to the parish office for any reason, you must enter through the main entrance, and we will be required to take your temperature and record your name and your health status. So, if you can telephone or email instead of coming in person, I strongly recommend that you do so.
Whether  the church or in the parish office, everyone is required to wear a face mask and to maintain appropriate distance. In church this means entering and leaving one at a time and sitting in designated spaces only. On Sundays, starting May 30-31, the church hall will accommodate those who cannot access the church or for whom there is no more room in the church, and the Mass will be live streamed on the screen in the church hall. There will be no access to the elevator or to the rest rooms.
On Sundays, Holy Communion will be distributed simultaneously both upstairs and downstairs. Please follow the directions for the safe reception of Communion. I will discuss them in detail in a subsequent message.
In today’s 1st Reading (Acts 16:11-15) Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke arrive at Philippi, where they meet Lydia, a successful businesswoman who dealt in luxury cloth. And the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what Paul was saying. After Lydia and her household are baptized, she offers them the hospitality of her home. Her home became the first “house church” on the continent of Europe.
Also today the Church commemorates Pope Saint John I, Pope from 523 to 526, imprisoned by the Ostrogothic King Theodoric for allegedly conspiring with the Emperor in Constantinople.
Speaking of popes, today is the centenary of the birth of Pope Saint John Paul II, who was Pope from 1978 to 2005. Pope Francis is marking the occasion by celebrating Mass at John Paul II’s tomb in Saint Peter’s Basilica.
Tomorrow, Bishop Stika will celebrate the much-delayed Mass of the Chrism at Sacred Heart Cathedral. At this Mass, the Bishop will bless the three holy oils which will be used until next Easter in the sacraments of the Church – the Oil of the Sick, the Oil of Catechumens, and the Sacred Chrism. Also all priests who are present will ritually renew their commitment to priestly ministry. This is a very visible expression of the bonds uniting the priests of the diocese with their bishop, the priests with one another, and the priests with the people they are dedicated to serve. Usually this is a somewhat festive occasion. Circumstances this year will, of course, make it much more subdued. But it remains an important and visible expression of the unity and mission of the local Church, all the more so in this difficult time. You can watch the Mass live tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. on the diocesan website.
Please remember in your prayers members of the Paulist Formation community in Washington DC (along with their hosts in the Josephite community) Some have tested positive for the virus, and one Paulist has been hospitalized.
As always, let us remember and pray for all who are in need at this time, especially the sick and all who care for them, the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, those whose daily work in grocery stores and in so many other essential businesses make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Saint John I, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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May 17, 2020 – The 6th Sunday of Easter
Dear Friends,

Today is the 6th Sunday of Easter. Mass will be celebrated today at Immaculate Conception Church at 10:00 a.m. and broadcast via Facebook Live. Later, a recording of it will also appear on the parish website. My “homily” and the Universal Prayer are attached. 
In today’s 1st Reading (Acts 8:5-8, 14-17), Philip, one of the Seven “Deacons,” preaches tothe Samaritans, the Jews’ neighbors with whom they shared a history of conflict. This did not prevent the Samaritans from following Philip. The result was great joy in that city and yet another leap on the Church’s part, another experience of expansion, growth, and diversity (in keeping with the whole trajectory of the story of the early church in the Acts of the Apostles which, can be summarized as: Good News travels fast. Good News travels far. Good news builds the Church and heals the world.)
Even so, what Philip was doing and had done inevitably raised some serious questions back in Jerusalem. So Peter and John went to Samaria to see for themselves what was happening and to interpret what it all meant. Surrounded by Samaritans, strangers whom they would until then have probably preferred to avoid, Peter and John recognized God’s grace at work in in this unexpected way in that unexpected place, and so they laid their hands on the newly believing Samaritans, and they, in turn, received the Holy Spirit. There is only one Holy Spirit. So, if the Samaritans were going to become believers like them, then they had to be connected by that one Holy Spirit with the rest of the Church led by the apostles. 
On Tuesday, May 19, Bishop Stika will celebrate the  Annual Mass of the Chrism, which is normally celebrated during Holy Week. Attendance will be limited to priests and deacons, but the Mass will be streamed live on the diocesan website.
Thursday, May 21, would have been my mother’s 98th birthday. Because of the pandemic, she has not yet had a proper funeral. So I will celebrate a special Memorial Mass for my mother on Thursday at 12:00 noon. This Mass will be broadcast on Facebook Live.
Finally, It has been our custom in recent years to celebrate a Memorial Day Mass at Calvary Cemetery for all who are buried there. This year, the Mass will be at Immaculate Church and will be broadcast on Facebook Live on Saturday, May 23, at 11:00 a.m.
“If any imperative hindrance prevents your presence at the Sovereign Sacrifice of Christ’s most true Presence, at least be sure to take part in it spiritually. If you cannot go to Church, choose some morning hour in which to unite your intention to that of the whole Christian world, and make the same interior acts of devotion wherever you are that your would make if you were really present at the Celebration of the Holy Eucharist in Church.” (Saint Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life, chapter 14).
ST. ALPHONSUS LIGUORI’S PRAYER FOR SPIRITUAL COMMUNION
“My Jesus, I believe that You are in the Blessed Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I long for You in my soul. Since I cannot now receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. As though You have already come, I embrace You and unite myself entirely to You; never permit me to be separated from You.”
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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May 16, 2020
Dear Friends,
Today was originally to have been the day for our Paulist Deacon Paolo Puccini to be ordained a priest. Paolo is a native of Houston, TX, where he was born on April 27, 1987. In his own words: 
“I met the Paulists in Austin at the University Catholic Center; through their various student ministries, I formed many deep and lasting friendships. A desire to apply my engineering degree while traveling the world and working with different cultures led me to the oil and gas industry, where I worked for three years with opportunities to visit Europe and Africa.
“As much as I enjoyed professional life, I realized that my deepest satisfaction was found in the Church, who for me is a constant source of growth, inspiration and love. I chose to enter the Paulist formation program because of their mission to bring the profound message of Gospel to the modern world.”
Paolo entered our novitiate on August 24, 2013. He made his First Promise as a  Paulist on July 26, 2014, his Final Promise on September 6, 2019, and was ordained a transitional deacon on September 7, 2019. He hopes to be ordained later this summer at Saint Austin’s Parish, Austin, TX.
In today’s 1st Reading (Acts 16:1-10),Paul continues his mission to Lystra, where he meets Timothy, who will become one of his closest collaborators and the addressee of the two Epistles known as 1 and 2 Timothy. According to tradition, Timothy became the first bishop of Ephesus and died around the end of the first century of the Christian era. The reading ends with Paul in Troas, where he has a vision of a Macedonian, who implores him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us,” which causes Paul and Luke to leave for Macedonia at once. In one of his homilies on The Acts of the Apostles, Saint John Chrysostom (348-407) said, There is nothing colder than a Christian who does not seek to save others. No one would ever have suspected Saint Paul of that!
Mass for the 6th Sunday of Easter will be celebrated at Immaculate Conception tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. and will be broadcast on Facebook beginning at 9:55 a.m. This Sunday’s Parish Bulletin (available on-line on the parish website) lists some of the special procedures which we will soon have to follow for attendance at Mass. Next Sunday’s Bulletin will describe the procedures to be followed for the distribution and reception of Holy Communion.
As of yesterday, 4,498,579 COVID-19 cases have been reported around the world, 1,420,299 of them in the U.S. There have been 303,825 deaths worldwide, 86,228 of them in the U.S. As always, we pray for all who are in need at this time, especially the sick and all who care for them, the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, those whose daily work in so many other essential businesses make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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May 15, 2020
Dear Friends,
Congratulations to those who graduated yesterday from Saint Joseph School, our Regional Catholic School – and to their Principal, Andy Zengel, and the faculty and staff and all who participated in yesterday’s “Honk Out.” Who knows? A new “tradition” may have been started!
Yesterday, Bishop Stika met via zoom with the priests of the Smoky Mountain and Cumberland Mountain Deaneries. Bishop Stika stressed the importance of various forms of outreach to keep in contact with parishioners. He particularly stressed the importance of good, up-to-date, easily accessible websites and live-streaming Masses. Here at Immaculate Conception, we have already begun the process of investing in better video equipment for long-term use.
Our main focus right now is, of course, the many logistical requirements involved in resuming public Masses in the next two weeks. Thank you to all who have responded to my letter, and especially those who are volunteering to help with some of these novel tasks which resuming public Masses will require.

I will have a lot more information about that resumption and the procedures which will be required in the coming weeks.

Today’s 1st Reading (Acts 15:22-31) recounts the follow-up to “the Council of Jerusalem.” Paul and Barnabas return to Antioch, accompanied by representatives from Jerusalem with a letter summarizing the Council’s decisions. Its key provision is “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities.”

Today the Church in the United States commemorates Saint Isidore the Farmer (1070-1130), a devout Spanish farm-worker, noted for his assistance to others in their needs, whose wife, Maria de la Cabeza, is also a saint. Today might be an especially appropriate day to reflect upon our dependence on agricultural laborers for the very food we eat, for the complicated (and as recent events have shown easily disrupted) food supply chain that starts long before the local supermarket. 

So today let us remember and pray for all farm-workers and others in the agricultural supply chain that culminates in those who stock the shelves and serve as cashiers or delivery-workers in our grocery stores and supermarkets.
As always, we pray also for all who are in need at this time, especially the sick and all who care for them, the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, those whose daily work in so many other essential businesses make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Saint Isidore the Farmer, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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May 14, 2020

Dear Friends,

If you are planning to attend Mass at the church when public celebrations resume on Pentecost weekend, please call or email the parish office. Your cooperation will help us in planning, since space will be strictly limited because of the requirement of keeping distance. There will be many other complicated procedures to be followed, about which I will have more to say soon.
Today is the feast of Saint Matthias, the disciple chosen to replace Judas in a restored 12. Today’s 1st Reading (Acts 1:15-17, 20-26) recounts the process by which Matthias was chosen and counted with the Eleven Apostles.
Between the Ascension and Pentecost, the disciples – some 120 of them – were together in the “Upper Room” As leader of the community, Peter pointed out the need for a successor to Judas to restore the number 12 (the number of the Tribes of the original Israel, so the number of apostles as the foundation of the renewed Israel, the Church). Peter’s criteria for the candidate to replace Judas were that he be one of the men who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which he was taken up from us, and so suited to become with us a witness to his resurrection. 
In 2006, commenting on Matthias’ replacement of Judas, Pope Benedict XVI drew this lesson: “while there is no lack of unworthy and traitorous Christians in the Church, it is up to each of us to counterbalance the evil done by them with our clear witness to Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.”
Were today not Saint Matthias, the 1st reading would have been (Acts 15:7-21) which describes the actual meeting which was the central event in the story of Acts, the event known as “the Council of Jerusalem.” The account begins with Peter recalling his experience with Cornelius, which convinced him “that we [Jewish Christians] are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they” [Gentiles]. Peter’s point is reinforced by testimony from Paul and Barnabas about their experience of mission among the Gentiles, the signs and wonders God had worked among the Gentiles through them. It falls finally to James, Jesus’ relative and the leader of the Jerusalem community, to propose a compromise, according to which the legitimacy of Gentile Christianity is acknowledged and accepted, but a few particularly sensitive Jewish observances are proposed to the Gentiles in order to facilitate the maintenance of a shared Christian community life between the two groups. 
This was a pivotal point in the history of the apostolic Church, when the Church’s self-understanding expanded beyond the boundaries of Judaism and enabled the Church to develop into the world-wide, multi-cultural community it has since become. Our unity with fellow faithful all over the world should always be more important to us as Christians than any ethnic, cultural, linguistic, or national distinctions among us.
As always, let us remember and pray for all who are in need at this time, especially the sick and all who care for them, the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, those whose daily work in grocery stores and in so many other essential businesses make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Saint Matthias, pray for us!
Fr. Ron

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May 13, 2020

Dear Friends,

Today is Paulist President Fr. Eric Andrews’ 25th ordination anniversary. All are invited to join in the online celebration at 8:30 p.m. My former pastor in New York, Fr. Gil Martinez (now pastor in Los Angeles) is also be celebrating his 25th anniversary today. So the celebration will have a bi-coastal character – Fr. Eric in NY and Fr. Gil in LA.
Traditionally “Ordination Week” in May has been when Paulist Fathers commemorate special anniversaries together. In addition to  Fr. Eric Andrews and Fr. Gil Martinez, who celebrate their 25th ordination anniversary today, we recall Fr. Charles Brunick and Fr. John Collins who celebrated their 50th anniversary on March 7, Fr. Theodore Vierra, who celebrated his 60th anniversary on May 11, and Fr. Frank Sabatte who will celebrate his 40th anniversary on May 17, That is a lot of years of faithful Paulist priestly ministry. Congratulations to them all!
Today is also the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, commemorating the series of apparitions of Our Lady to three Portuguese shepherd children at Fatima in 1917 during World War I. Devotion to Our Lady of Fatima is especially associated with praying the Rosary and praying for peace.

Today’s 1st Reading (Acts 15:1-6) brings us to what will be the most important event in the entire story after the initial gift of the Holy Spirit. Unsurprisingly, the mission of Paul and Barnabas among the Gentiles has raised serious questions and provoked opposition from those who believed that the converts should be required to become Jews first (be circumcised and obey the Mosaic Law) as a prerequisite to becoming Christians. Note that the objection was not that Gentiles could not become believers, but that in order to do so they had to become Jews first. Like Peter with Cornelius, Paul and Barnabas had been willing to skip that step and baptize Gentiles directly. This was an important issue, because how it would be resolved would determine whether Christianity would remain in effect a branch of Judaism or whether it would become a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, world-wide Church. Almost as important as that was the way the dispute was resolved. The Christians of Acts had sufficient faith in the Risen Lord’s presence and action in the Church through his gift of the Holy Spirit that they were confident they could resolve the dispute. So, “The Apostles and the presbyters met together to see about this matter.”
As always, let us remember and pray for all who are in need at this time, especially the sick and all who care for them, the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, those whose daily work in grocery stores and in so many other essential businesses make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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May 12, 2020

Dear Friends,

We have had some technological difficulties with our broadcast Masses, but we are working on the problem and hopefully things will be in good order by the weekend.
The Paulist General Council will be meeting today. Closer to home, the parish staff will be meeting this morning. May the Holy Spirit enlighten all of us in our deliberations today!

By now, you should all have received my letter regarding the resumption of pubic Masses at Immaculate Conception. If you are planning to attend that first weekend, please call or email the parish office. Your cooperation will help us in planning, since space will be limited because of the requirement of keeping distance.

Today’s 1st Reading (Acts 14:19-28), continues where the story left off yesterday. Now, however, we see how the apostles’ opponents attack them, stoning Paul and dragging him out of the city. Paul and Barnabas move on to Derbe, then return to the cities they had visited earlier, exhorting the faithful, “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.” In another sign of the growth and increasing institutionalization of the Church in those places, before leaving them to return to Antioch, “They appointed presbyters for them in each Church and, with prayer and fasting, commended them to the Lord in whom they had put their faith.”
Speaking of presbyters, tomorrow will be Paulist President Fr. Eric Andrews’ 25th ordination anniversary. All are invited to join in the online celebration at 8:30 p.m. tomorrow evening. My former pastor in New York, Fr. Gil Martinez (now pastor in Los Angeles) will also be celebrating his 25th anniversary tomorrow. So the celebration will have a bi-coastal character – Fr. Eric in NY and Fr. Gil in LA.
As always, let us remember and pray for all who are in need at this time, especially the sick and all who care for them, the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, those whose daily work in grocery stores and in so many other essential businesses make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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May 11, 2020

Dear Friends,

My apologies for the technical problems we encountered with broadcasting Mass yesterday. All of a sudden, for no obvious reason, my computer refused to “Go Live.” Fortunately we were able to use other equipment. All of which highlights the long-term need to invest in proper, permanent equipment if we are to keep doing this sort of thing (which we will be expected to do).
Meanwhile, today at 12:00 noon, we will broadcast a Memorial Mass for former pastor Fr. Wilfred Brimley.
Wednesday, May 13, will be Paulist President Fr. Eric Andrews’ 25th ordination anniversary. All are invited to join in the online celebration at 8:30 p.m. that evening.
In today’s 1st Reading (Acts 14:5-18), Paul and Barnabas are preaching in Lystra (in central Anatolia, present-day Turkey), where Paul singles out “a crippled man, lame from birth” and, like Peter earlier, commands him to stand up, whereupon he is able to walk. The pagan crowd considers Paul and Barnabas gods and wants to offer sacrifice to them, which Paul tries to correct by preaching to them about the true God, “the living God,” who has revealed himself to them already in his creation.
In your prayers, please remember the Paulist Fathers’ General Council which will be deliberating this week.
Another grim milestone has been passed, as the US deaths due to COVID-19 have now reached 80,574.
So let us remember and pray for all who are in need at this time, especially the sick and all who care for them, the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, those whose daily work in grocery stores and in so many other essential businesses make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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May 10, 2020 – The 5th Sunday of Easter

Dear Friends,

To all to whom it applies, HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!
Even in this time of pandemic and social distance, I wish all the mothers of our parish a happy and blessed Mother’s Day! As you know, my own mother died (at age 97) two months ago. So this will be my first Mother’s Day without my mother. Our family’s loss is exacerbated by the fact that, because of this pandemic, we were unable to celebrate a proper Funeral Mass for her or mourn her in any of the usual ways. This is a sad reality for so many people all over the world today as even funerals have become one of the casualties of this pandemic. My sister and I appreciate all the many messages of condolences we have received these past two months and look forward to the eventual opportunity, whenever that will be, to celebrate a proper funeral in my mother’s parish church in California and burial next to my father in the family plot in New York. 
Today is the 5th Sunday of Easter. Mass will be celebrated today at Immaculate Conception Church at 10:00 a.m. and broadcast via Facebook Live. Later, a recording of it will also appear on the parish website. My “homily” and the Universal Prayer are attached.
In today’s 1st Reading (Acts 6:1-7), the Apostles’ confidence in the Risen Christ’s continued, living presence – as Lord – in his Church, enabled them to take the bold step of selecting seven “deacons.” This episode and others like it remind us yet again of the perennial problem of factional conflict, of cultural and ethnic divisiveness, and of ideological division and polarization, that characterize our world and can so easily undermine the unity and universality even of the Church and thus get in the way of its mission – not just in 1st-century Jerusalem but in every time and place. Then as now, aspects of life within the Church community can sometimes seem simply to replicate the conflicts and divisions that themselves seem to define our secular society – so much so that it is said that Americans increasingly choose their church affiliation or their local parish on the basis of their politics!
But there was more to the story of the apostolic Church than out-of-control factional conflict. The Jerusalem Church didn’t split into separate sects. Instead of a threat to their unity, this episode shows us how – trusting in the Risen Christ’s continued, living presence as Lord in his Church – the apostles responded to the challenge they faced with creative confidence. They saw how the challenge they were faced with could become an opportunity instead of a threat. 
Were today not a Sunday, we would be celebrating Saint Damien de Veuster (1840-1889), Belgian priest of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, who, from 1873 on, served the lepers at Moloka’i, Hawaii. He is certainly someone to recall during this time of pandemic. Along with Saint Damien, we might also recall Saint Marianne Cope (1838-1918), German-born Sister of the Third Order Regular of Saint Francis of Syracuse, NY, who founded two Catholic hospitals in upstate New York and then in 1883 responded to a plea from the king of Hawaii to serve the leper population there. She nursed Saint Damien as he was dying. Her feast is January 23. These were two modern saints to whom we may turn in prayer in this time os sickness, fear, and isolation.
Tomorrow, Monday, at 12:00 noon, we will celebrate a Memorial Mass for Fr. Bill Brimley, pastor of Immaculate Conception from 1987 to 1995, who died this past week.
In your prayers, please remember the Paulist Fathers’ General Council which will be deliberating this week.
“If any imperative hindrance prevents your presence at the Sovereign Sacrifice of Christ’s most true Presence, at least be sure to take part in it spiritually. If you cannot go to Church, choose some morning hour in which to unite your intention to that of the whole Christian world, and make the same interior acts of devotion wherever you are that your would make if you were really present at the Celebration of the Holy Eucharist in Church.” (Saint Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life, chapter 14).
ST. ALPHONSUS LIGUORI’S PRAYER FOR SPIRITUAL COMMUNION
“My Jesus, I believe that You are in the Blessed Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I long for You in my soul. Since I cannot now receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. As though You have already come, I embrace You and unite myself entirely to You; never permit me to be separated from You.”
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Saint Damien de Veuster and Saint Marianne Cope, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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May 9, 2020
Dear Friends,
Tomorrow is the 5th Sunday of Easter. Mass will be celebrated at Immaculate Conception at 10:00 a.m. The broadcast will begin at 9:55 a.m.
In today’s 1st Reading (Acts 13:44-52), the opposition increases against the preaching of Paul and Barnabas, and so they in turn take their case to the Gentiles. Again Acts is illustrating how opposition and challenges, far from stopping the growth of the Church, paradoxically contribute to her growth and to the spread of the Good News to more and more people.
In your prayers, please remember Fr Bill Brimley, who was pastor at Immaculate Conception from 1987 to 1995, and who died Tuesday in Boston at age 92. We will celebrate a Memorial Mass for Fr. Brimley on Monday at 12:00 noon.  The Mass will be broadcast on Facebook Live and will be available later on the parish website.
As always, I ask you to remember and pray for all who are in need at this time, especially the sick and all who care for them, the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, those whose daily work in grocery stores and in so many other essential businesses make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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May 8, 2020

Dear Friends,

Earlier this week, Bishop Stika issued final directives for the resumption of public Masses throughout the Diocese of Knoxville beginning on Pentecost weekend (May 30-31). You can read the compete texts of the Bishop’s Letter and Decree at the diocesan website https://dioknox.org/
Even so, everyone remains dispensed from the Sunday obligation for the time being. So if you are concerned about venturing out right now, there is no need to do so. In fact, we will still be livestreaming one of our Sunday Masses for the benefit of all those who are not present.
Once we resume publicly attended Sunday Masses, all sorts of special regulations will apply. For this very reason, Pope Francis recently prayed for the grace of prudence and obedience to those regulations, so that the pandemic does not return.
Crucially, this means that the number of people at each Mass must be limited, and seating areas marked off to ensure 6 feet of physical distance in all directions between individuals, couples, or groups of same-household family members. For this reason, we hope to offer additional seating downstairs in the church hall, where one will be able to hear the Mass and watch it on-screen. (Those unable to use the stairs should plan to utilize this option.) Everyone will also be required to wear a face mask and strictly follow the ushers’ directions for receiving Communion.
Because we will need an hour or so to clean and sanitize the church after each Mass, for the time being we plan to offer three Masses – Saturday at 4:00 p.m. and Sunday at 9:00 a.m. (also livestreamed) and 11:30 a.m.
So, If you think you are likely to attend Mass on Pentecost, please call (865-522-1508) or email (icoffice@bellsouth.net) the parish office to let us know your Mass-time preference (including your second-choice time, if you have one).
(At the Saturday 4:00 p.m. Mass on May 30, we will also celebrate the long-delayed Initiation of our Catechumens. So for that Mass some of the limited seating in the church will be reserved for them and their godparents and catechists.)
Celebrating Mass this way will also require volunteers to help out as readers, as “ushers” guiding people to and from their seats and to and from communion, and as “cleaners” helping to sanitize the church after Mass. If you are able to volunteer to help in any of these ways, please call or email the parish office.
In today’s 1st Reading (Acts 13:26-33), continues its description of Paul’s missionary preaching in a synagogue to devout Jews and to “God-fearing” Gentiles. Paul’s preaching highlights God’s special relationship with Israel and Jesus as the Savior God has sent to Israel. Most of Paul’s missionary preaching will take place in such settings and take a similar form.
In your prayers, please remember Fr Bill Brimley, who was pastor at Immaculate Conception from 1987 to 1995, and who died Tuesday in Boston at age 92. We will celebrate a Memorial Mass for Fr. Brimley on Monday at 12:00 noon.  The Mass will be broadcast on Facebook Live and will be available later on the parish website.
As always, I ask you to remember and pray for all who are in need at this time, especially the sick and all who care for them, the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, those whose daily work in grocery stores and in so many other essential businesses make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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May 7, 2020

Dear Friends,

Yesterday, Bishop Stika issued final directives for the resumption of public Masses throughout the Diocese of Knoxville beginning on Pentecost weekend (May 30-31). You can read the compete texts of the Bishop’s Letter and Decree at the diocesan website https://dioknox.org/In the coming days, I will discuss more of the details in the Bishop’s directives for the celebration of Mass beginning on Pentecost, particularly as they apply to the congregation.
75 years ago today, Germany surrendered unconditionally and World War II ended in Europe. (The Pacific war continued another three months more.) Normally, we would have expected to see large-scale commemorations of this event – as we saw last year for the 75th anniversary of D-Day.  But, of course, all such celebrations are cancelled this year, and our commemoration of that great moment in modern history  is inevitably muted by the contemporary tragedy we are presently experiencing.
World War II remains somehow central to our cultural consciousness. World War II movies and documentaries remain a permanent staple. (So I look forward every Sunday to the latest episode of World on Fire on PBS.) The war was even more central to the consciousness of my parents’ generation, of course. Their “greatest generation” came of age in the war and was forever formed by that experience, as was American and European politics pretty much until at least the end of the Cold War, which was in a sense the epilogue to the unfinished European and world conflict of the 20th century.

Much as World War II formed the political consciousness of those who came of age during it and participated in it, our present pandemic will likely form the political consciousness of those whose futures are being formed by it now. An important difference, however, is that World War II was largely a unifying experience for that “greatest generation.” There was a strong sense of all being in it together and all pulling their weight in support of a common purpose. It was, as Eleanor Roosevelt famous said “no ordinary time,” and the World War II generation was blessed to have no ordinary leaders. But we are not the same sort of society we were three-quarters of a century ago. This is a crisis that disproportionately damages the poorer and more marginalized and which has heightened rather than diminished the divisions and inequalities which have increasingly corrupted American society.

Maybe that is why World War II nostalgia is so strong, why World War II stories and movies exert such a perennial appeal. They remind us that evil can come perilously close to winning and that the cost of stopping it is high, but that a united society can do so, because it can call forth from its citizens the best in us.
In today’s 1st Reading (Acts 13:13-25), we get the first description of Paul’s missionary preaching. It takes place in a synagogue and is addressed to devout Jews and to “God-fearing” Gentiles. It highlights God’s special relationship with Israel from the beginning through the preaching of John the Baptist.
In your prayers, please remember Fr Bill Brimley, who was pastor at Immaculate Conception from 1987 to 1995, and who died Tuesday in Boston at age 92. We plan to celebrate a Memorial Mass for him early next week, broadcast on Facebook Live.
As always, I ask you to remember and pray for all who are in need at this time, especially the sick and all who care for them, the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, those whose daily work in grocery stores and in so many other essential businesses make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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May 6, 2020

Dear Friends,

Over the course of these past two months, we have become increasingly accustomed to the restrictions on our ordinary activities that this pandemic has imposed on us. I don’t like on-line zoom meetings and would much rather meet with people in person, but we have all had to learn that staying safe at home makes these demands on us. Likewise face masks have become as ordinary as my hat and jacket clothing whenever I leave my house. And we are nowhere near the end of this. As of yesterday, there have been 1,192,119 confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. – and 70,115 deaths.  Worldwide, there have been 3,628,824 confirmed cases and 254,430 deaths. And those numbers are still rising! All over the world, scientists continue to conduct research, but the vaccine we are all eagerly hoping for may take another year or more to develop. So strict measures to protect society are likely to be required for some time to come. It is with such complicated considerations in mind that the resumption of public Masses must be planned for. This is new territory of all of us. Mistakes may be made. But, if we err, hopefully we will do so on the side of caution, rather than carelessness.
In a week or so you will be getting a letter from me describing some of our plans in greater detail. Meanwhile, we will continue live-streaming Mass on Sunday and some other occasions. This too is an imperfect experience, but we are doing our best and hopefully improving as we become more used to this new medium. Thank you to all who have been watching and praying along with us each Sunday. 
Thank you also to all of you who have continued or have switched to on-line giving or have mailed in or delivered your donations during this unusual time. I cannot say too much or too often how important your support has been to keep our parish life going and to help us plan confidently for the future.
Today’s 1st Reading (Acts 12:24-13:5) highlights the special mission of Barnabas and Paul: Now there were in the Church at Antioch prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Symeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who was a close friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
Looking ahead, one week from today Fr. Eric Andrews, President of the Paulist Fathers, will celebrate his 25th ordination anniversary. Stay tuned for information about the online celebration! Also you can keep up with events going on around the Paulist world by joining the Facebook Group Parishioners and Friends of the Paulist Fathers.  To make a contribution to help the Paulist Fathers during this difficult time, please visit the “Bridge the Gap” page at the Paulist Fathers’ website.
As always, I ask you to remember and pray for all who are in need at this time, especially the sick and all who care for them, the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, those whose daily work in grocery stores and in so many other essential businesses make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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May 5, 2020
Dear Friends,
The parish staff will meet today to start planning for the expected resumption of public Masses at the end of the month.
Today’s 1st Reading (Acts 11:19-26) resumes the story of the spread of the Church after the martyrdom of Stephen, highlighting how others were also starting to preach to Gentiles. When this happened in Antioch, the Jerusalem community sent Barnabas there to check on what was going on there. Having satisfied himself that this was the work of the Holy Spirit, Barnabas then went to Tarsus to find Paul and bring him back to Antioch and the stable community that had formed there. The account ends noting that  it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians.
Although the reading ends there, in the text that is followed immediately by a warning of an imminent, widespread famine, which occurred during the reign of the Emperor Claudius. Unlike more contemporary examples of ignoring warnings of impending crises (from climate change to the current coronavirus), the Christians in Antioch took immediate action to send Barnabas and Paul on a relief mission to the Christians in Judea. This is the first instance of what will be a major theme in Paul’s missionary endeavor. The Jewish Christians in Judea were in real want, and needed the Gentile Christians’ help. But it was also a way to highlight that both groups were bound together in one community committed to support and assist one another – much as the different states are in the one United States of America.
As always, I ask you to remember and pray for all who are in need at this time, especially the sick and all who care for them, the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, those whose daily work in grocery stores and in so many other essential businesses make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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May 4, 2020

Dear Friends,

Today’s 1st Reading (Acts 11:1-18) recounts one of the critical events in the entire story of Acts. In chapter 9, Paul was “converted” from an opponent of Christianity who saw the movement as contrary to God’s promise and plan for Israel to an apostle who recognized in Christ the fulfillment of God’s promise and plan. Now, it is Peter who learns a lesson virtually as life-changing. In chapter 10, Peter, prepared by a mysterious mid-day dream/vision, has an encounter with the “God-fearing” Roman centurion Cornelius. Every step of this – Peter’s vision, Cornelius’ invitation, Peter’s response –  is presented as taking place under divine direction. Unexpectedly, Peter ends up preaching the good news to Cornelius and his household. Even more unexpectedly, the Holy Spirit suddenly descends upon Cornelius and his household in the same way he had descended on the apostles at Pentecost, finally clarifying for Peter the purpose of the encounter and causing him to baptize all of them. In today’s excerpt, Peter is challenged to justify his acceptance of Gentile hospitality in violation of Jewish Law, which leads him to retell the story of his vision and his encounter with Cornelius. Peter explains how God’s gift of the Holy Spirit, given to those Gentiles in the same way God had given the Holy Spirit to the apostles themselves, caused him to acknowledge those Gentiles’ faith in Jesus and baptize them. This prompts the objectors to acknowledge that “God has then granted life-giving repentance to the Gentiles too.” After this episode, the Church is finally poised to  begin its expansion out into the Gentile pagan world. It will, however, take time for all the implications of all this to become clarified, as we shall soon see.
In overcoming and bridging the seemingly total and permanent barrier between Jews and Gentiles, the early Church discovered a new identity more important than any national or cultural one. She also learned to improvise. News situations require new responses. In the face of changed and challenging circumstances it is not possible to go back to what we thought we had in some imagined past or to hold on to what we think we have in the present. We can only go forward.
As always, I ask you to remember and pray for all who are in need at this time, especially the sick and all who care for them, the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, those whose daily work in grocery stores and in so many other essential businesses make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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May 3, 2020 – THE 4th SUNDAY OF EASTER
Dear Friends,
Today is the 4th Sunday of Easter. As usual my “Homily” and the “Universal Prayer” for today are attached and are also accessible on the parish website. Sunday Mass will be celebrated at Immaculate Conception Church at 10:00 a.m. and broadcast via Facebook Live beginning at 9:55 a.m. Later, a recording of it will also appear on the parish website.
Today was supposed to be the day when some of our younger parishioners were to have received the sacrament of Confirmation. We remember them and their families today, and look forward to the day when we and they will join together again at the Lord’s Table.
In the Western Church, this month of May is especially associated with various devotions to Mary – such as the familiar “May Crowning,” a modified version of which we will celebrate at the end of Mass today. Last week, Pope Francis issued a Letter “To the Faithful for the Month of May 2020,” in which he encouraged everyone to pray the Rosary at home during this month. He also included two prayers to Our Lady to be recited at the end of the Rosary. The first is the familiar prayer that is found on our parish website and at the end of each of my daily messages. We will recite the second of those prayers at our “May Crowning” at the end of today’s Mass.
Today is also the 57thAnnual World Day of Prayer for Vocations. In his Message for this 2020 World Day of Prayer for Vocations, Pope Francis has written: If we let ourselves be daunted by the responsibilities that await us – whether in married life or priestly ministry – or by the hardships in store for us, then we will soon turn away from the gaze of Jesus and, like Peter, we will begin to sink. On the other hand, despite our frailty and poverty, faith enables us to walk towards the Risen Lord and to weather every storm. Whenever fatigue or fear make us start to sink, Jesus holds out his hand to us. He gives us the enthusiasm we need to live our vocation with joy and fervor. You can read the entire message at:
“If any imperative hindrance prevents your presence at the Sovereign Sacrifice of Christ’s most true Presence, at least be sure to take part in it spiritually. If you cannot go to Church, choose some morning hour in which to unite your intention to that of the whole Christian world, and make the same interior acts of devotion wherever you are that your would make if you were really present at the Celebration of the Holy Eucharist in Church.” (Saint Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life, chapter 14).
ST. ALPHONSUS LIGUORI’S PRAYER FOR SPIRITUAL COMMUNION
“My Jesus, I believe that You are in the Blessed Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I long for You in my soul. Since I cannot now receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. As though You have already come, I embrace You and unite myself entirely to You; never permit me to be separated from You.”
Fr. Ron
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May 2, 2020
Dear Friends,
As of the last day of April, the U.S. has had a little over 1,070,620 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 63,023 deaths. Tennessee has had 2020 cases and 204 deaths. Worldwide there have been over 3 million confirmed cases and some 231,000 deaths. Whether known to us personally or not, these were our fellow citizens, fellow inhabitants of this increasingly endangered planet, and we must mourn them and commend them to God’s mercy.
Because of yesterday’s feast of Saint Joseph the Worker, the daily sequence of readings from Acts was interrupted, and so we missed one of the most important events in the story of the early Church – the “Conversion” of Saint Paul the Apostle (Acts 9:1-20). Given Paul’s importance, we will have abundant occasions to return to him and his story. Meanwhile, today’s account (Acts 9:31-42) returns to the story of Peter. Visiting Lydda, Peter heals a paralyzed man named Aeneas. Then in Joppa, he restores to life a much loved member of the community names Tabitha, who had just died. These stories illustrate Peter’s important role in the community and how his ministry exemplifies the presence and power of the Risen Lord, who continues his work in the world through his Church.
Tomorrow is the 4th Sunday of Easter. Mass will be celebrated as usual at 10:00 a.m. The broadcast will begin at 9:55 a.m. Mass will conclude with an adapted version of our annual “May Crowning,” at which we wil sing the traditional May Hymn and pray Pope Francis’ newly composed May Prayer.
As always, I ask you to remember and pray for all who are in need at this time, especially the sick and all who care for them, the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, those whose daily work in grocery stores and in so many other essential businesses make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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May 1, 2020

Dear Friends,

Welcome to May!
Please join us on the parish Facebook page for Mass and 1st Friday Devotions today at 11:00 a.m.
Today is the feast of Saint Joseph the Worker. (My “Homily” is attached.) In addition to being the patron saint of workers, Sant Joseph is also the patron of a holy death, for which we should all pray to Saint Joseph at all times but perhaps even more especially in this time of pandemic.
Also at 3:00 p.m. today, we are all invited to join the Bishops and faithful of the Untied States and Canada in re-consecrating our two countries to Our Lady. For more information, go to http://www.usccb.org/about/communications/consecration.cfm
In the Western Church, the month of May is especially associated with various devotions to Mary – such as the familiar “May Crowning,” a modified version of which we will celebrate at the end of Sunday’s Mass. Last week, Pope Francis issued a Letter “To the Faithful for the Month of May 2020,” in which he encouraged everyone to pray the Rosary at home during this month. He also included two prayers to Our Lady to be recited at the end of the Rosary. The first of those prayers is the familiar prayer that is found on our parish website and at the end of each of my daily messages.
Yesterday, Fr. Eric Andrews, the President of the Paulist Fathers, conducted a nationwide Paulist Fathers’ zoom meeting. The two Paulists who have come down with COVID-19 have both recovered and were able to speak to us about their experiences.
Fr. Eric will be celebrating his 25th ordination anniversary on May 13, with an online anniversary Mass that evening.
As always, I ask you to remember and pray for all who are in need at this time, especially the sick and all who care for them, the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, those whose daily work in grocery stores and in so many other essential businesses make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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April 30, 2020
Dear Friends,
Tomorrow will be the 1st Friday of May. Please join us for Mass and 1st Friday Devotions (Exposition, Litany, and Benediction) on the parish Facebook page tomorrow at 11:00 a.m.
Also tomorrow at 3:00 p.m., we are all invited to join the Bishops and faithful of the Untied States and Canada in re-consecrating our two countries to Our Lady. For more information, go to http://www.usccb.org/about/communications/consecration.cfm
Today’s 1st Reading (Acts 8:26-40), continues the story of Philip evangelizing an Ethiopian eunuch, an important royal official, who had come to Jerusalem to worship, and was returning home. Although apparently a Jew, the eunuch is in important respects an outsider, disqualified from full participation in the Temple’s rituals. So this passage represents another step in the Church’s movement outward into the wider world. In addition to illustrating this outward movement, this passage also illustrates how Christians came to re-read the Old Testament scriptures in light of their experience of the death and resurrection of Christ (what Jesus himself was modeling with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus in the Gospel we heard this past Sunday). The text the eunuch was struggling to understand was Isaiah 53, know as the “Fourth Suffering Servant Song.” It is a text we now routinely treat as a prophecy of the passion and death of the Messiah, but that is not how it would have ordinarily been understood until the experience of Jesus’ death and resurrection caused his followers to re-read the Old Testament in a new way – re-interpreting it in the light of Jesus’ death and resurrection and interpreting Jesus’ death and resurrection in the light of the Old Testament. In the story, this leads the eunuch to request baptism, after which Philip disappears, while the newly baptized Christian continued on his way rejoicing.
Also today, the Church commemorates Saint Pius V (1504-1572), a Dominican, who was Pope from 1566 to 1572, implemented the Council of Trent, promulgated the standardized Roman Missal (1570), and promoted the devotion of the Rosary in connection with the Battle of Lepanto (1571).
During the week, the church will continue be open Monday-Friday from noon to 1:00 p.m. If you visit the church  – or if you got out for any other reason – please be sure to take all proper precautions, including wearing a mask and maintaining distance from others.
As always, I ask you to remember and pray for all who are in need at this time, especially the sick and all who care for them, the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, those whose daily work in grocery stores and in so many other essential businesses make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
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April 29, 2020

Dear Friends,

The United States has now reached 1 million known cases of COVID-19 – one-third of the number of cases in the entire world. Meanwhile the US death toll from the disease has surpassed 57,000.
Yesterday at his morning Mass, Pope Francis prayed: “In this time in which dispositions are beginning to be made for exiting from the quarantine, let us pray to the Lord that he gives his people, all of us, the grace of prudence and obedience to those dispositions, so the pandemic does not return.” 
Also yesterday, the Diocesan Presbyteral Council met and had a lengthy discussion about when and how to resume public Masses in the not-too-distant future. Things will be very different from what we have been accustomed to. This will require considerable preparation and coordination and lots of cooperation on everyone’s part. Meanwhile the Diocese has issued the following public statement:
Bishop Richard F. Stika has expressed his desire to resume public Masses at all of the parishes and mission churches in the Diocese of Knoxville the weekend of Pentecost Sunday, May 30-31.  “I understand how much our parishioners want to return to their churches, see their priests, and once again have a personal connection with the sacraments.  However, there are steps we need to take to ensure that we can do this safely,” Bishop Stika said.  “I realize that some businesses and churches may open their doors sooner, but we have 51 parishes and mission churches in our diocese, which covers all of East Tennessee. I feel it is necessary to carefully review the state, county, and municipal guidelines that have been issued, some as recently as this week. It is my hope that by the Solemnity of Pentecost, which we celebrate as the day the Holy Spirit came to the Apostles, and the day our Church began, we can, in some fashion, return to public Masses in our diocese.”  Bishop Stika is working with diocesan pastors, priests, and health-care experts to consider ways to implement the safety guidelines and mandates recently issued by public-health authorities. “We will need to be in compliance with these guidelines,” Bishop Stika said. “We will use the next few weeks to make sure we’re doing things properly, and I know that all of our priests join me in looking forward to celebrating the Mass with our parish families once again.”
Today’s 1st Reading (Acts 8:1b-8), describes how the apparent misfortune of the first persecution of the Church, following the martyrdom of Saint Stephen, had the result of furthering the spread of the good news and the growth of the Church, in particular through the preaching of Philip in Samaria, with the result: There was great joy in that city.
Also today the Church commemorates Saint Catherine of Siena (1347-1380). She was the youngest of 25 children! She became a Dominican tertiary, whose reputation for sanctity soon spread and attracted multitudes who came to her for help and consolation. She journeyed to Avignon and successfully persuaded Pope Gregory XI to return to Rome, thus ending the unfortunate period known as the Avignon Papacy, when the Popes had been absent from Rome. Saint Catherine is a Doctor of the Church, patroness of Italy, and co-patroness of Europe, along with Saint Bridget of Sweden and Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)
During the week, the church will continue be open Monday-Friday from noon to 1:00 p.m. If you visit the church  – or if you got out for any other reason – please be sure to take all proper precautions, including wearing a mask and maintaining distance from others.
As always, I ask you to remember and pray for all who are in need at this time, especially the sick and all who care for them, the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, those whose daily work in grocery stores and in so many other essential businesses make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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April 27, 2020

Dear Friends,

As of this morning, 55,425 Americans have died from COVID-19.
If you missed my message yesterday, I encourage you to go tohttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5XIbLb4MKcI&feature=youtu.befor a special Message from the President of the Paulist Fathers, Fr. Eric Andrews, CSP.
The diocesan presbyteral council (of which I am a member in my capacity as Dean of the Smoky Mountain Deanery) will meet tomorrow morning via zoom.  In light of that meeting. I have scheduled a parish staff zoom meeting for tomorrow afternoon and joint zoom meeting of the parish pastoral council and the parish finance council tomorrow evening. These meetings will help in evaluating our present situation and preparing for whatever lies ahead.
Today’s 1st Reading (Acts 6:8-15) introduces the story of Saint Stephen, who will become the Church’s first martyr. Earlier in Acts 6 (in a passage that would have been read on Saturday, had it not been the feast of Saint Mark), we learned of the first conflicts within the growing Christian community in Jerusalem, which led the 12 to ordain seven assistants (among them Stephen and Philip, whom we will hear more about). Church tradition sees in those seven the beginning of the office and ministry of deacon in the Church. 
According to Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, “strengthened by sacramental grace, in communion with the bishop and his group of priests, [deacons] serve in the diaconate of the liturgy, of the word, and of charity to the people of God” (Lumen Gentium, 29). Since 2007, Immaculate Conception has been blessed by the devoted service of three deacons ordained for the diocese of Knoxville – Deacon Hieu Vinh (currently serving at Divine Mercy Parish), Deacon Joe Stackhouse (since 2010), and Deacon Doug Bitzer (since 2016). We give thanks for their ministry and pray their example may inspire others to seek ways to be of greater service in the Church for the benefit of all God’s People.
A new PBS documentary Inside the Vatican premieres tomorrow, April 28, at 9:00 p.m. It promises to offer take the viewer into spaces tourists do not go, revealing the everyday work life of some of the 2,600 people working in Vatican City.
Finally, please remember in your prayers Dr. Carlyle Michelson, the father of Fr. Chris Michelson, pastor of Saint Albert the Great parish and President of Saint Jospeh School, who died yesterday.
During the week, the church will continue be open Monday-Friday from noon to 1:00 p.m. If you visit the church  – or if you got out for any other reason – please be sure to take all proper precautions, including wearing a mask and maintaining distance from others.
As always, I ask you to remember and pray for all who are in need at this time, especially the sick and all who care for them, the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, those whose daily work in grocery stores and in so many other essential businesses make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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April 26, 2020
Dear Friends,
Please go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5XIbLb4MKcI&feature=youtu.befor a special Message from the President of the Paulist Fathers, Fr. Eric Andrews, CSP.
Attached are my “Homily and the “Universal Prayer” for this 3rd Sunday of Easter.
Mass will be celebrated at Immaculate Conception Church at 10:00 a.m. and broadcast via Facebook Live. Later, a recording of it will also appear on the parish website.
“If any imperative hindrance prevents your presence at the Sovereign Sacrifice of Christ’s most true Presence, at least be sure to take part in it spiritually. If you cannot go to Church, choose some morning hour in which to unite your intention to that of the whole Christian world, and make the same interior acts of devotion wherever you are that your would make if you were really present at the Celebration of the Holy Eucharist in Church.” (Saint Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life, chapter 14).
ST. ALPHONSUS LIGUORI’S PRAYER FOR SPIRITUAL COMMUNION
“My Jesus, I believe that You are in the Blessed Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I long for You in my soul. Since I cannot now receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. As though You have already come, I embrace You and unite myself entirely to You; never permit me to be separated from You.”
Fr. Ron
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April 25, 2020.

Dear Friends,

Tracking the progress of this disease: Last Monday morning, 40, 683 US coronavirus deaths had been reported. By Friday morning, the number had risen to 49,963. By the end of the day yesterday, it had passed 50,000.
Today the Church celebrates the feast of Saint Mark, the Evangelist. Written in Greek for a predominantly Gentile Christian community, the Gospel According to Mark is thought by many to be the first Gospel account to have been composed, probably in the decade of the 60s of the first century. It is the shortest Gospel, telling the story of Jesus’ ministry from his baptism by John to his death and burial and the discovery of the empty tomb. It emphasizes the vocation and challenges of being a disciple. Each of the four evangelists has his distinctive symbol. Mark’s symbol is a lion, reflecting the Gospel’s beginning in the Judean desert (with the preaching of John the Baptist).
The first reading at today’s Mass (1 Peter 5:5b-14) mentions Mark almost in passing, but importantly highlights his presence with Peter. This has traditionally been thought to reflect the role Mark may have played as Peter’s assistant. It is one of the many passages in which Peter and Paul express their dependence upon and affection for their collaborators. It reminds us how much we all need one another in furthering the mission of the Church – just as we all need one another in ordinary life. Our unusual present experience of physical separation from one another challenges us to appreciate, all that much more, how much we need each other both in ordinary life and in the kingdom of God.
Tomorrow is the 3rd Sunday of Easter. Mass will be celebrated at Immaculate Conception Church at 10:00 a.m. and broadcast via Facebook Live. Later, a recording of it will also appear on the parish website.
Friday of next week is the First Friday of the month of May and the feast of Saint Joseph the Worker. Friday’s Mass, followed by the usual First Friday Exposition, Litany, and Benediction, will be celebrated at Immaculate Conception Church at 11:00 a.m. and broadcast via Facebook Live. Later, a recording of it will also appear on the parish website.
Also, at the request of Los Angeles’ Archbishop José H. Gomez, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Stika is inviting us to join in a prayer of reconsecration of our nation to the protection of Mary, Mother of the Church, on Friday, May 1, at 3:00 p.m. EDT. The USCCB and the diocesan office of communications will provide logistical information for a virtual connection to the ceremony and assist in the promotion of this opportunity. Expect more information about this in subsequent messages and on the parish website.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops offers a downloadable lectio divina resource for the Third Week of Easter at https://catholicdotbible.files.wordpress.com/2020/03/easter-3.pdf
As always, I ask you to remember and pray for all who are in need at this time, especially the sick and all who care for them, the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, those whose daily work in grocery stores and in so many other essential businesses make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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April 24, 2020
Dear Friends,
I was born, raised, and have lived most of my life in large cities. I instinctively treasure the values urban life promotes, its culture of interaction and interdependence. So, like so many others all over the world, I find it challenging to adjust to being so separated from people and from experiences that have mattered so much to me in the past. How do we reconcile our memories from the past and our hopes for the future with this increasingly bleak present? 
And how do we respond to sickness and death when the normal ways we would do so are ruled out? I was very struck by this statement yesterday by Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren on the death of her brother from the coronavirus. “I’m grateful to the nurses and other front-line staff who took care of my brother, but it is hard to know that there was no family to hold his hand or to say ‘I love you’ one more time. And now there’s no funeral for those of us who loved him to hold each other close. I will miss my brother.”  I am sure her comment is echoed in the feelings of many people all over the world, who are struggling with separation and loss at this time.
Today’s 1st Reading (Acts 5:34-42) continues the story of the Sanhedrin’s session with the famous intervention of the Pharisee Gamaliel, whom Saint Paul will later identify as having been his teacher in Acts 22. Referencing recent movements of other failed “messiahs,” Gamaliel suggests that history will show whether this new movement comes for God or is false. For if this endeavor or activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them. Gamaliel’s approach to what we call discernment reflects the openness that we all need to cultivate whenever we encounter anything new or different, anything that challenges our conventional expectations.
Today the Church also commemorates Saint Fidelis of Sigmaringen (1577-1622), Capuchin contemplative, preacher, and advocate for the poor, martyred in Switzerland during the religious conflicts that followed the Reformation.
As always, I ask you to remember and pray for all who are in need at this time, especially the sick and all who care for them, the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, those whose daily work in grocery stores and in so many other essential businesses make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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April 23, 2020

Dear Friends,

Today is Saint George’s Day. In Rome it is celebrated as the Onomastico (Name Day) of Pope Francis, whose baptismal name is Jorge. Saint George is, most famously, the patron saint of England, the flag of which is the red cross of Saint George on a white field. (George is thus one of the 4 patrons of the United Kingdom – along with Scotland’s Andrew, Wales’s David, and Ireland’s Patrick, three of whom are represented in the UK’s Union Flag).  And, of course, one of the stained glass windows of our own church is dedicated to Saint George
All we know for certain about Saint George himself is that he was a Roman soldier martyred in the East during the persecution of Diocletian at the beginning of the 4th century. Devotion to Saint George is very ancient, and he was widely venerated in both East and West long before the martyred Roman soldier was turned into a medieval knight, which is how he is depicted in our church’s window. Medieval tradition imagined Saint George as a gallant knight who killed a monstrous dragon. In the Book of Revelation, the Dragon is, of course, the classic image of Satan, the Devil, against whom, as Pope Francis himself has so frequently reminded us, the Christian life is a continuous battle. In his Sermon on Saint George, which is read in the Liturgy of the Hours today, Saint Peter Damian describes Saint George as “consumed with the fire of the Holy Spirit,” someone who “overcame the prince of all wicked spirits, and encouraged other soldiers of Christ to perform brave deeds in his cause.”

Celebrating Saint George’s Day also reminds me of one of my happiest experiences, which was my summer sabbatical at Saint George’s House, Windsor Castle, 15 years ago in 2005. Windsor Castle is home, of course, to the late-medieval high Gothic Saint George’s Chapel, which is both a “Royal Peculiar” and the chapel of the Most Noble Order of the Garter. The Garter Knights’ stalls, complete with each knight’s banner, were where we sat twice each day for Morning Prayer and Evensong during my month at Windsor. It was an experience of Anglicanism both at its best and in its increasing complexity.. It was an unusual experience for me – as both an American and a Roman Catholics – and I can only be grateful for that eye-opening opportunity and for the wonderful fellowship I got to experience there with my dozen or so “classmates” and with the Canons of Saint George’s. 
In these difficult times, happy memories of good experienced and valued relationships are all the more to be cherished.
Today’s 1st Reading (Acts 5:27-33) continues the theme of the conflict between the Apostles and the religious authorities, setting the stage for the important intervention of the Pharisee Gamaliel (at one time Saint Paul’s teacher) which we will hear tomorrow.
During the week, the church will continue be open Monday-Friday from noon to 1:00 p.m. As always, I ask you to remember and pray for all who are in need at this time, especially the sick and all who care for them, the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, those whose daily work in grocery stores and in so many other essential businesses make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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April 22, 2020
Dear Friends,
As of yesterday, the total number of known COVID-19 case in Knox County has been 196, of which 27 are currently considered active cases. Compared with many other places, we seem to have been quite lucky so far. (Nationally, there have been some 45,000 deaths from the disease.) Of course, to keep that number low, we must all continue to observe all possible precautions – staying at home, wearing a mask when outside, maintaining distance, etc.
Today is Earth Day, first observed 50 years ago in 1970 as a much-needed wake-up call to respond to the crisis of environmental degradation confronting our fragile planet.  Since then, Earth Day has long since lost whatever novelty or glamor it had in 1970, an event I can well remember being part of in New York’s Central Park. Earth Day for me as a college student in 1970 was fun, but the occasion seems so much more somber now.
For me, Earth Day has also become a a suitable annual opportunity to recall the Church’s lost tradition of “Rogation Days,” traditionally observed on April 25 and on the three days before the Ascension. Like so many treasured traditions, the observance on April 25 had pre-Christian roots – in this case in the ancient Roman Robigalia festival, one of ancient Rome’s significant spring agricultural commemorations. That ancient Roman festival was focused on protecting the spring and summer crops and included several chariot races. With triumph of Christianity these races were transformed into the Rogation Procession – the “Greater Litanies,” as they were known until 1969.
Ancient peoples appreciated (so much better than we) their collective dependence on the natural world and on one another. The change in religion from paganism to Christianity redirected the focus of people’s prayers, but that didn’t change their appreciation of their dependence on nature, or their social interdependence. Today’s multiple environmental woes (famines, droughts, floods, storms, fires, and pandemics) and the many social and political crises and conflicts which stem from them seriously threaten both our physical world and the human architecture of civilization that has made life on our planet special. As Pope Francis said during Holy Week: “There is an expression in Spanish: ‘God always forgives, we forgive sometimes, but nature never forgives’ … I don’t know if these are the revenge of nature, but they are certainly nature’s responses.”
The old Rogation Days are undoubtedly gone for good, but their spirit seems, if anything, even more relevant than ever!
Today’s 1st Reading (Acts 5:17-26) recounts the jailing of the apostles by the Sanhedrin and their miraculous release, enabling them to continue their mission of preaching the news of the resurrection. At this early point in the story, the movement is still confined to Jerusalem and its adherents are obviously all Jews. So the Temple – and the daily prayer in the Temple – remain central to the early community’s life. That will change as the Church expands beyond Jerusalem and beyond the Jewish people, but for now the Apostles are doing as Jesus himself did – teaching daily in the Temple.
This should remind us of the importance of sacred places. Even if, because of our special circumstances, we cannot gather in groups to celebrate the sacraments together, the church remains a special sacred place to which we are invited to come to experience in a special way God’s continued presence among his people.
During the week, the church will continue be open Monday-Friday from noon to 1:00 p.m. As always, I ask you to remember and pray for all who are in need at this time, especially the sick and all who care for them, the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, those whose daily work in grocery stores and in so many other essential businesses make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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April 21, 2020

Dear Friends,

The parish staff will meet via zoom this morning. Among other things, we will discuss the status of the Boiler Replacement Project, our ongoing communications with parishioners and particularly parishioners with particular needs, our broadcasting of Mass on Sundays and other occasions, and our plans for the foreseeable future.
Today’s daily reading from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 4:32-37) offers a second cameo picture of the life of the first Christian community. It sets a standard by which one can judge any society or community that claims to be Christian. The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. … There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the Apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need. This classic text takes on a renewed significance today as the current crisis exposes the deeply rooted injustices in our society and challenges us to respond to those injustices in a radically new way.
Today the Church also commemorates Saint Anselm (1033-1109), who was born in Italy, became a Benedictine monk in Normandy, and then served as Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of England. (That was at a time when Europe really was united by a common Catholic culture.) He is considered the Father of Scholastic Theology and is a Doctor of the Church. In 1982, after finishing the Paulist novitiate in New Jersey, my classmates and I moved to Saint Paul’s College in Washington, DC, to start our theological studies at Catholic University. On our first day, we had to take a Latin placement exam, to determine if our Latin was sufficient, or if we needed to take a make-up course. The test involved translating a passage from Saint Anselm – chapter I of book II of his classic Cur Deus Homo?, Saint Anselm’s famous treatise on the reasons for the Incarnation.
On this day when we remember one of the Church’s great scholars, let us especially keep in mind all those whose schooling (or teaching) has been disrupted and whose future educational plans are now in flux because of this pandemic. As always, we also remember and pray for all who are in need at this time, especially the sick and all who care for them, the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, those whose daily work in grocery stores and in so many other essential businesses make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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April 20, 2020

Dear Friends,

At Mass yesterday, we briefly opened the church door during the Sprinkling Rite, so I could sprinkle some Holy Water outside, symbolically blessing each of you and your homes.
Today we begin our second month without Mass celebrated with a congregation. The passage of time has only highlighted for me what a loss this has been for all of us. Of course, we have lost so many things in this time – from the simple joy of time spent with a friend to all those places and activities we used to frequent routinely and only now appreciate how precious they were. As New York Governor Andrew Cuomo expressed it, “It is repugnant not to have closeness, to be afraid of it, to recoil from it.” Most of all, perhaps, we have lost our confidence that the world we live in is predictable and that we can make plans for the future. Over and above all this, of course, has been the terrible toll this pandemic has taken on so many people’s livelihoods, jobs lost, educations interrupted. And the the greatest loss of all, those who have died, and for those they leave behind the impossibility of even grieving for them in the normal way with family and friends. These are difficult times – much more so for some than for others, but difficult for most if not all of us. And we still have along way to go! All the more reason then to allow ourselves to be stirred by the good news of the Easter story!
Easter Week is now behind us.  Even so, the Church continues its daily reading of the Acts of the Apostles from now through Pentecost. Today’s reading (Acts 4:23-31) continues the story of the aftermath of Peter’s miraculous cure of the man in the Temple. Peter and John return to the community and recount their experience with the religious authorities, which prompts the community to respond in a prayer calling upon God to enable your servants to speak your word with all boldness, as you stretch forth your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are done through the name of your holy servant Jesus. God responds to affirm the community’s prayer. As they prayed, the place where they were gathered shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. Again, Acts is attempting to teach us how the first Christian community lived and acted with a consciousness of the presence of the Risen Christ continuing his life and mission in the Church through his gift of the Holy Spirit.  It is this consciousness of the reality of the Resurrection and of the activity of the Holy Spirit which we are being invited to recover in our own lives.
During the week, the church will be open Monday-Friday from noon to 1:00 p.m. If you visit the church  – or if you got out for any other reason – please be sure to take all proper precautions, including wearing a mask and maintaining distance from others.
As always, we especially remember and pray for all who are in need at this time, especially the sick and all who care for them, the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, those whose daily work in grocery stores and in so many other essential businesses make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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April 19, 2020

Dear Friends,

Today’s 1st Reading (Acts 2:42-47) summarizes the life of the Jerusalem Christian community at its beginning. (Historically, this perhaps somewhat idealized portrait of Church community has often been used as an aspiration for religious communities in the Church.) Luke clearly intended this description to highlight some of the elements the early Christians experienced as central to their life as Church – notably their fidelity to the teaching of the Apostles and their communal life together centered on the breaking of the bread. The account’s emphasis on the Christians’ experience of togetherness surely stands out when we hear this today, when we are in a state of enforced separation and are unable to experience the togetherness that those early Christians experienced, above all the breaking of the bread. Our present situation should highlight for us that the togetherness the first Christians found in their community was not just symbolic but was meant to be a lived reality, as we must endeavor to make it in our own lived experience as well.
Sunday Mass will be broadcast from Immaculate Conception Church this morning at 10:00 a.m. on the Immaculate Conception Church Facebook page.  The Mass will be offered for the People of the Parish.
PRAYER FOR SPIRITUAL COMMUNION
“My Jesus, I believe that You are in the Blessed Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I long for You in my soul. Since I cannot now receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. As though You have already come, I embrace You and unite myself entirely to You; never permit me to be separated from You.”
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
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April 18, 2020
Dear Friends,
Thank you for the various additional email addresses – and corrections to mistaken addresses – that I have recently received!
In the early Church, today marked the end of the post-Easter instruction of the newly baptized, who, after wearing their white baptismal robes all week, wore them for the last time today. This practice reminds us that the sacraments start us off on the road of Christian living, which is itself a long-term process. 
Also long-term (but hopefully not quite so long!) is the unusual situation we are presently living through and the unusual public health measures we are required to observe. Sone of us may be old enough to remember, for example, the last polio scares of the early 1950s, which caused many people to alter their behavior and some public places to close. But obviously none of us have ever experienced anything quite like this, which (in our imaginations at least) may seem to transport us back to earlier historical periods when plagues and epidemics rolled through cities and countries, and there was little or nothing anyone could do about it – except try to get out of the way! Those earlier eras, which lacked the resources and benefits of modern science and medicine were even more at the mercy of whatever disease suddenly appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. On the other hand, because we have lived – and lived well – with the benefits of modern science and medicine, we may find it harder to adjust to the limits of what even modern science and medicine can protect us from. This experience (like the longer-term climate crisis, but compressed into one big sudden jolt) has upended our expectations of security and predictability. It is a jolt which we would all probably prefer to have lived without, but we do not have that choice.
Tomorrow is the 2nd Sunday of Easter, which since 2000 has also been called “Divine Mercy Sunday.” The devotion to the Divine Mercy, which concentrates on the mercy poured forth in Christ’s death and resurrection, has its origins in the private revelations of Saint Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938) in the 1930s in Poland. She wrote: “the Lord permitted me to see the immensity and greatness of His mercy. If souls could only realize how much God loves them! Earthly human understanding is only a pale shadow of the reality!” In his homily at her canonization, Pope Saint John Paul II pointedly referred to the fact that Saint Faustina’s mystical experience corresponded to the tumultuous period just prior to World War II: “those who remember, who were witnesses and participants in the events of those years and the horrible sufferings they caused for millions of people, know well how necessary was this message of mercy.” This remembrance of the Divine Mercy on the 2nd Sunday of Easter highlights the connection between the message of Divine Mercy and the Easter mystery of our redemption, which is the greatest revelation of Divine Mercy toward us. The Gospel account read each year on this Sunday speaks of the Risen Christ’s gift of his peace, of the Holy Spirit, and of the forgiveness of sins.
Sunday Mass will be broadcast from Immaculate Conception Church tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. on the Immaculate Conception Church Facebook page.  The Mass will be offered for the People of the Parish.
“If any imperative hindrance prevents your presence at the Sovereign Sacrifice of Christ’s most true Presence, at least be sure to take part in it spiritually. If you cannot go to Church, choose some morning hour in which to unite your intention to that of the whole Christian world, and make the same interior acts of devotion wherever you are that your would make if you were really present at the Celebration of the Holy Eucharist in Church.” (Saint Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life, chapter 14).
As always, we especially remember and pray for all who are in need at this time, especially the sick and all who care for them, the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, those whose daily work in grocery stores and in so many other essential businesses make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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April 17, 2020
Dear Friends:
Today begins the second month of these daily messages. At present this is the easiest practical way for me to remain in regular contact with as many of you as possible. Of course, not everyone has access to email,  and I do not have everyone’s up-to-date email address. But, if you know anyone who is not receiving these messages but might wish to do so, please send me his or her address and I will add it to this list. And, as always, if you know someone who would like a personal call or who has some particular need, please let us know at the parish office. Although the office is officially closed, Nancy is at the desk answering the phone most days, and Fr. Tim and I are usually there most days as well. Also. the church continues to be open daily Monday-Friday noon to 1:00 p.m. If you visit the church during that time, please observe all proper precautions such as wearing a mask and keeping distance form others.
The Diocese of Knoxville has applied under the CARES Act Paycheck Protection Program for forgivable loans for Diocesan parishes, schools, and Catholic Charities.  This may help parishes which are continuing to pay employees. If this happens, this will be a great benefit, both enabling parishes to continue operating during this crisis but also freeing parishes to plan for the future with more confidence.
The 1st Reading for today (the Friday within the Octave of Easter) is Acts 4:1-12, which continues the story with the reaction of the religious authorities to the miraculous healing performed by Peter. We learn that the priests, the captain of the temple guard, and the Sadducees confronted them, disturbed that they were teaching the people, and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. It is the first serious suggestion of conflict in what, up until now, has been a happy story of the growth and expansion of the Church. Acts, in fact, is all about the growth and expansion of the Church – both in numbers and geographically. It is a happy story. Some 30 years ago, a children’s book version of Acts was published with the apt title, Good News Travels Fast. At the same time, however, that Good News gets a lot of opposition. From this there are two lessons we are intended to draw. The first is that aligning oneself with Christ’s kingdom can put one at odds with others and with one’s society, and that this risk is inherent in the Church’s story. The second, however, is that the Church’s growth and expansion will continue in spite of opposition.
Sunday, April 19, is the Octave Day of Easter. Mass will be broadcast from Immaculate Conception via Facebook Live at 10:00 a.m. The recording remains accessible after that on the Immaculate Conception parish Facebook page and will also be available on the parish website. Before Mass, I will also, as usual, post my “homily” and Sunday’s “Universal Prayer.” The Mass will be offered for the intention of all the People of Immaculate Conception Parish.
As always, let us especially remember and pray for all, near and far, who are in need at this time, especially the sick and all who care for them, the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, those whose daily work in grocery stores and in so many other essential businesses make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them, often under these difficult circumstances without the comfort of being able to visit their loved ones before death or being able to mourn them fully with a proper funeral.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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April 16, 2020

Dear Friends,

We hav enow already passed the midpoint of April. Here in the Northern hemisphere, April and the Easter season correspond to the onset of spring. I know that many of you are taking advantage of this pause in ordinary activity to spend more time in your yards or gardens or to walk on the many nature paths and trails around town.  The famous 20th-century liturgical scholar, Pius Parsch, had this to say about Easter and spring:
“What a glorious spectacle we witness each year as nature awakens from her winter slumbers! What transformation in field and forest as the pall of ice and snow is blown aside by spring’s warm winds and buds appear on tree and bush. If our gaze could but penetrate nature’s workshops and see the tremendous activity in every sector, how tiny roots are bursting with life-giving sap, ready at a moment’s notice to break forth and for the thick, soft carpet of leaves and flowers up[on which spring will make her triumphal entry into the land. …It should be one of our objectives to regain this sense of close association with nature. the natural rhythm of the seasons should be a source of constant delight. Every tiny flower, every little animal, the rays of the sun, the chip of birds, everything that spring brings back to us should inspire sentiments of joy and gratitude over our good fortune. However we must not remain on the plane of nature; for us nature is a holy symbol. It is a picture book given by God to His children in which they may see His beauty and His live; a picture book which tells of another world which now at Easter is likewise celebrating resurrection, the world of supernatural life within us.”
Today’s 1st Reading (Acts 3:11-26) continues the story of Peter’s miraculous healing of the crippled man at the Temple. To the amazed and excited crowd, Peter explains that this miraculous healing was God’s work – the God who has glorified his servant Jesus, by faith in whom this miraculous healing has taken place. This healing is a sign of the final fulfillment of what the prophets foretold, and of the promise made long ago that in Abraham’s offspring all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
As you already know, Congress recently passed the Coronavirus, Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.  – There are 3 provisions in the Act that have been identified as areas that could impact charitable giving. This Sunday’s Bulletin, which will soon be on the parish website, will offer some further information about those provisions.
As always, we especially remember and pray for all who are in need at this time, especially the sick and all who care for them, the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, those whose daily work in grocery stores and in so many other essential businesses make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron

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April 15, 2020
Dear Friends,
If you received an earlier incomplete version of this message yesterday, my apologies! We had a zoom staff meeting yesterday morning, and I wanted to write something about it while it was all immediately fresh in my memory. So I started writing today’s message yesterday – intending, of course, to save it as a Draft before completing it today and then sending it. But then I got carried away and kept writing – and then, instead of saving it, I absent-mindedly sent the message. And, of course, once sent, it could not be unsent! Sorry about that, but such things happen! Here now is the complete, up-to-date version of today’s message.
I invite you yo follow this link to Vatican News to hear a special Easter hymn sung by our Young Adult Ensemble at the Paulist Mother Church in New York, which includes Paulist seminarian Dan Macalinao, whose editing made this piece a reality: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/world/news/2020-04/on-the-front-lives-covid-prayer-action.html

As I mentioned, the parish staff held a zoom meeting yesterday. We were all happy with our Holy Week broadcasts (which are all now viewable on the parish website) and look forward to continuing to broadcast Sunday Mass in the weeks to come. Mass this Sunday, April 19, will be at 10:00 a.m.
Our efforts continue to maintain contact with as many parishioners as possible, especially those who may be alone or who have some particular need. If you know of anyone who you believe might benefit from a phone call or who has some other specific need, please let Nancy know or Fr. Tim or me.
At our meeting yesterday, we also looked at the state of our parish finances. Since the present crisis began, the number of parishioners donating online has almost doubled. For those who are comfortable donating that way, that may well be the easiest way to do so. Others have been mailing in their envelopes or even delivering them in person. The result is that, while our weekly parish income is down from where it was before all this, the situation is far better than it might have been. So thank you to all who have continued to support our parish financially during this difficult period!. None of us can know at present either how long this situation will last or what the future will look like. But your support will make it possible for us to look forward with greater confidence to rebuilding our parish’s life in the future.
At Mass today, the 1st Reading is Acts 3:1-10, the story of Peter’s miraculous healing – in the temple area – of a man crippled from birth. In the account, Peter and John go to the Temple at the normal time for daily prayer, while the man crippled from birth assumes his usual position to beg from passersby. Hoping for alms from Peter, he gets something much more priceless – healing in the name of Jesus Christ. This is the first such miracle performed by the Apostles and is evidence that the Risen Christ continues to be present in his Church. The man leaps up, fulfilling the familiar prophecy of Isaiah, the lame shall leap like a stag (Isaiah 35:5-6). Isaiah’s ancient prophecy of Israel’s restoration is now being fulfilled in the apostolic community that continues the life and mission of the Risen Christ in the world through the power of the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Let us then earnestly pray for healing for all the wounds of the world, especially this pandemic and its countless consequences.
As always, we especially remember and pray for all who are in need at this time, especially the sick and all who care for them, the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, and the many who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health fo the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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April 14, 2020

Dear Friends

In book 3 of his Confessions, Saint Augustine (354-430) analyzed how his emotions were triggered by sad scenes when he saw them performed in the theater as a young man. Writing much later as a bishop, he realized that this wasn’t an altogether bad thing, as it facilitated empathy for real people’s real sufferings. Sadly lacking in some would-be leaders, empathy is an essential requirement not only in any good leader but in any good citizen, any member of society.  The crisis we are currently experiencing is challenging us to identify and empathize with one another, especially those who are suffering most or are otherwise in need. The bedrock of a decent civil society, such feelings will be key to rebuilding a better and more just society going forward from this tragic time.
In today’s 1st reading (Acts 2:36-41), Peter concludes his “Pentecost Sermon,” in response to which the people asked, What are we to do? To which Peter responded with the instruction to Repent and be baptized. At the end, we are told that about 3000 were baptized on that occasion.
This reading reminds us of the long-standing connection between the Easter season and the celebration of baptism. Easter Week (which in the Eastern Church is known as “Bright Week”) originated in the practice of those newly baptized at Easter attending Mass at a different Roman church every day for that week, wearing the white robes which in times past the newly baptized had received at Easter. (In Africa in Saint Augustine’s time, the newly baptized also wore special sandals all week.) In Rome the stational church for the Saturday of Easter Week is Rome’s cathedral, the Basilica of Saint John Lateran, where in ancient times the catechumens, who had been baptized there a week earlier, would wear their white robes for the last time. On the next day, Sunday, the newly baptized would appear at Mass for the first time in ordinary clothes. In an early 5th-century homily for that Sunday, Saint Augustine began: Today those who have been baptized in Christ and born again are to be mixed in with the people of God, now that the sacraments have been solidly celebrated. Reflecting that ancient tradition, the Church still celebrates this Easter Week as one week-long continuation of Easter Sunday.
Of course, this year, there won’t be any mixing of the newly baptized with the rest of the community – or indeed any mixing at all. Nor, for that matter, do we as yet have any newly baptized, although we do include in our community several catechumens who had originally hoped to be baptized this Easter and who, God willing, will soon be able to be baptized and then eventually be fully “mixed in with the people of God.” Meanwhile we remember them in a special way as they continue their journey. We remember also the children who would have made their First Holy Communion later this month and those who would have been confirmed on May 3. We will not forget them, and we look forward to the day (hopefully not too far off) when their special sacramental celebrations will take place in our community.
Note that all the broadcasts of Immaculate Conception’s Holy Week services can also now be watched on the parish website icknoxville.org. Our next broadcast Mass will be on Sunday, April 19, at 10:00 a.m.
Fr. Ron
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April 13, 2020
Dear Friends,
Thank you for the many comments complimenting our broadcasting of Easter Mass and other Holy Week services. It took time, I admit, to get up to speed technologically; but I now know what we can do and how to do it. Celebrating Mass looking out on a church full of empty pews is awkward, and it makes me that much more vividly conscious of how much I miss our ability to gather as a community and pray and socialize together, something we routinely took for granted just one month ago!
Our next broadcast Mass will be next Sunday, April 19, at 10:00 a.m.
None of us knows how long this strange situation will continue. For it to be effective, we all need to cooperate and do our part in staying home as much as possible, wearing masks when we go out, and keeping appropriate distance. If you watched our broadcast Masses, you will certainly have noticed how careful the musicians, the reader, the deacon, and I have been to maintain appropriate distance. I trust we are setting a good example!
Throughout the Easter season, the Paschal Candle, symbol of the Risen Christ, will continue in its place of honor in the church. In addition to the presence of the Easter Candle, one of the most noticeable features that distinguishes the Easter season from other seasons of the liturgical year is the daily reading from the New Testament book known as The Acts of the Apostles (from which the 1st reading is taken at Mass every day during Easter). Through our journey with the original apostles through the book of Acts, we identify ourselves with the first generation of new Christians in their experience of the Risen Christ, present and active in the Church through his gift of the Holy Spirit.
The Acts of the Apostles is actually the second half of a two-volume work, the first half of which is the Gospel of Luke.  Together, Luke and Acts make up over one quarter of the New Testament, beautifully blending together the story of the early Church with the story of Jesus. Just as Jesus in the Gospel spent 40 days in the desert in preparation for his ministry, the Risen Lord before his Ascension spent 40 days at the beginning of Acts preparing his apostles for their – the Church’s – mission, as summed up in Acts 1:8, You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Like Luke’s Gospel, Acts begins in Jerusalem; but, whereas the Gospel also ends in Jerusalem with the Risen Lord’s Ascension, Acts begins there (repeating the account of the Ascension) but ends with St. Paul’s arrival in Rome, the capital city of the empire, the center of the known world at the time, and hence the appropriate future center of the Church. St. Paul’s arrival in Rome symbolically anticipates the fulfillment of the Risen Christ’s commission of his apostles as witnesses to the end of the earth.
Today’s 1st Reading (Acts 2:14, 22-33) is from Peter’s “Pentecost Sermon,” the first public proclamation of the Good News following the disciples’ experience of the gifts of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, seven weeks after the Resurrection. Speaking to the crowds who had come to see what all the fuss was about, Peter explained God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses. Exalted at the right hand of God, he poured forth the promise of the Holy Spirit that he received from the Father, as you both see and hear. That promise of the Holy Spirit continues to be both poured forth and received in the Church today.
Our parish team of staff and volunteers is continuing to contact people in our community. If you know anyone who you believe might benefit from a call or may have some specific need someone can help with, please let us know. 

As always, let us remember and pray for all who are in need at this time, especially the sick and all who care for them, the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our nation’s leaders, and the many who have died and those who mourn them.

In this Easter season, we pray daily:
Queen of heaven, rejoice, alleluia.
The Son you merited to bear, alleluia,
Has risen as he said, alleluia.
Pray to God for us, alleluia.
℣. Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia.
℟. For the Lord has truly risen, alleluia.
Let us pray.
O God, who have been pleased to gladden the world by the Resurrection of your Son our Lord Jesus Christ, grant, we pray, that through his Mother, the Virgin Mary, we may receive the joys of everlasting life. Through Christ our Lord.             ℟. Amen
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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April 12, 2020

Dear Friends,

Happy Easter! In spite of the terrible situation in which we presently find ourselves, the Easter story still speaks, and so I wish each of you all the blessings of the Risen Christ this Easter Sunday and throughout the entire year!
Easter Sunday is the highpoint of the Church’s calendar. Saint Augustine famously called the Resurrection “God’s supreme and wholly marvelous work.” Everything we believe about Jesus and who we are as his Church are all rooted in the fundamental fact of Christ’s resurrection and in the Church’s proclamation of that fact to the whole world. That, after all, is what the Church is for – commissioned to preach to the people and testify (as Peter proclaimed in today’s 1st reading from the Acts of the Apostles) that Jesus really is risen from the dead and that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name. So great is this mystery that the Church devotes seven weeks to it. 
Easter invites us to put ourselves in the position of those first disciples – unexpectedly (and excitedly) experiencing something new in a world where everything else seems at best ordinary and old, at worst depressing and dangerous. That is why every day for the next seven weeks, the Church retells the story of the first Christian communities in the Acts of the Apostles, how they first experienced the reality of the resurrection and its power to change the world – to change even this world, which seems to have been stopped in its tracks by a dangerous disease that sickens, even kills, some, and has taken such a terrible toll on all of us.
The Easter season is also typically a time for special sacramental and other parish celebrations, such as First Communion, Confirmation, the May Crowning, and the Mother-Daughter Banquet, so many of which sadly will have to be postponed or omitted this year. But surely the day will come when we will be able again to assemble, as Catholics have assembled faithfully here on Summit Hill for 165 years, and we eagerly look forward to that day. 
Meanwhile, we will continue to celebrate the new life made possible for all of us by the Resurrection, assembling in spirit, distanced but not separated. I invite you to join us for the Mass of Easter Sunday at Immaculate Conception Church LIVE on the parish Facebook Page at 8:30 this morning. (The recording remains on the page and can also be watched later at any time.) i am grateful to all who have helped make these broadcasts possible – in particular to Natalie Martin who has operated the computer during these services, to her children who did the readings on Palm Sunday, to Brigid Johnson who has done the readings during this Easter Triduum, to Deacon Doug, and to Karl and Amanda for enabling us to sing together (and so, as Augustine famously said, to pray double). 
As usual, I have attached a copy of my Easter “Homily” and the Universal Prayer, both of which are also available on the parish website.
On this holiest and greatest day of the Church’s year, let us pray for all people and for all the needs of the Church and of the world. In particular, we remember and pray for all who are afflicted with this illness and all who care for them and all those public officials around the country who are exercising leadership in this crisis.
During this Easter Week, I will offer Mass daily in private, remembering all of you in my prayer. Then the church will be open daily (Monday-Friday) from noon to 1:00 p.m., for those who wish to pray privately in the church. If you leave your house to come to church or for any other reason, please remember to wear a “mask” and to follow all other proper precautions. This is not a time for complacency, but rather a time to intensify our efforts to manage the spread of this disease for our own good and that of all, especially those most vulnerable to serious complications.
Queen of heaven, rejoice, alleluia.
The Son you merited to bear, alleluia,
Has risen as he said, alleluia.
Pray to God for us, alleluia.
℣. Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia.
℟. For the Lord has truly risen, alleluia.
Let us pray.
O God, who have been pleased to gladden the world by the Resurrection of your Son our Lord Jesus Christ, grant, we pray, that through his Mother, the Virgin Mary, we may receive the joys of everlasting life. Through Christ our Lord.             ℟. Amen
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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April 11, 2020
Dear Friends,
We are at the mid-point in the Easter Triduum. It is one of the paradoxical consequences of this strange situation we are experiencing right now, that we have an opportunity this year to observe Holy Saturday as it is meant to be observed.  “On Holy Saturday the Church waits at the Lord’s tomb in prayer and fasting, meditating on his Passion and Death and on his Descent into hell, and awaiting his Resurrection” (Roman Missal). In American parishes, however, at least in my experience, Holy Saturday, instead of being a quiet, contemplative day, turns into a day of bustling activity, as churches are decorated and other Easter preparations are completed. (It is enough to make one nostalgic for those not-so-long-ago old days when churches were not decorated until after the Easter Vigil had finished.)
In the words of a famous ancient homily on this day:
Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. the earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. god has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.
Tomorrow, Easter Sunday, Mass will be celebrated at Immaculate Conception at 8:30 a.m. and can be watched live on the Immaculate Conception Church Facebook page.
Yesterday, Church prayed in an especially solemn way for all people and for all the needs of the Church and of the world. Let us continue to keep all those intentions in our prayers, as we remember and pray for in a special way all who are afflicted with this illness and all who care for them and all those public officials around the country who are exercising leadership in this crisis, and for all who have died and those who mourn them.

Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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April 10, 2020
Dear Friends,
Thank you to all those who keep giving me new names to add to this list, and thank you again to all who have been calling fellow parishioners or who have suggested those who might benefit from being contacted. As particular practical needs surface, we will try to meet them as best we are able.
Thank you also to those who watched our celebration of the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper yesterday and for the many kind comments made in support of this effort. It is awkward to celebrate Mass in this manner.I miss having a congregation present to celebrate with me, and this certainly has been a learning experience for me.
Please note the following schedule for further broadcasts on the Immaculate Conception Facebook page.
GOOD FRIDAY Litany of the Sacred Heart – April 10 at 12:00 noon.
GOOD FRIDAY Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion – April 10 at 3:00 p.m.
EASTER SUNDAY Mass – April 12 at 8:30 a.m.
Attached is a text for the homily I will preach at the Good Friday liturgy this afternoon.
On this holy day, when the Church prays in an especially solemn way for all people and all the needs of the Church and the world,  we remember and pray for in a special way all who are afflicted with this illness and all who care for them and all those public officials around the country who are exercising leadership in this crisis.

Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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April 9, 2020
Dear Friends,
IF YOU HAVE RECEIVED AN EMAIL OSTENSIBLY FROM ME WITH THE UNGRAMMATICAL TITLE FUNDRAISING FOR THE LESS PRIVILEGE, PLEASE BE AWARE THAT I HAVE NOT SENT IT! 
NOR HAVE I  SENT OUT ANY  OTHER FUNDRAISING APPEALS. IF YOU RECEIVE SOMETHING LIKE THAT IN THE MAIL THAT PRETENDS TO BE FROM ME, PLEASE SEND IT TO YOUR SPAM FOLDER AND DISREGARD IT!
AS IF WE DIDN’T ALL HAVE ENOUGH TO WORRY ABOUT RIGHT NOW!
Meanwhile, thank you to all those who have helped call other parishioners or who have suggested those who might benefit from being contacted. As practical needs surface, we will try to meet them as best we are able.
In this highly stressful time, Catholic Charities of East Tennessee is currently offering remote, telehealth counseling to help address the mental health needs of people throughout the Diocese of Knoxville. Licensed counselors are providing counseling via videoconferencing using a secure web-based service. Appointments are available Mondays through Thursdays, with a limited number of evening appointments available. Session costs are based on a sliding scale fee structure that takes into account a client’s income. To participate in telehealth counseling, a client needs access to a computer or smartphone with an internet connection. For more information or to request a first appointment, please contact a counselor at counseling@ccetn.org.
These next weeks will likely be critical. Please stay home. If you must go out, wear a mask and follow distancing precautions.
Please note the following schedule for the Easter Triduum.
These services will all be broadcast via Facebook Live and can be found on the Immaculate Conception Church Facebook page.
HOLY THURSDAY Mass of the Lord’s Supper – TODAY, April 9 at 5:00 p.m.
GOOD FRIDAY Litany of the Sacred Heart – April 10 at 12:00 noon.
GOOD FRIDAY Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion – April 10 at 3:00 p.m.
EASTER SUNDAY Mass – April 12 at 8:30 a.m.
For those who will not be watching this evening’s Mass of the Lord’s Supper, a written version of the “Homily” I plan to preach and the “Universal Prayer” for this evening are attached.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops offers “a downloadable lectio divina resource for the Octave of Easter”
As always, let us remember and pray for all who are afflicted by this illness, all health care personnel, and all conscientious public officials. And let us pray for those who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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April 8, 2020

Dear Friends,

Thank you to all those who keep giving me new names to add to this list, which today has exactly 100 addresses!
Thank you also to all who have helped call other parishioners or who have suggested those who might benefit from being contacted. As particular practical needs surface, we will try to meet them as best we are able.
Please note the following schedule for the Easter Triduum.
These services will all be broadcast via Facebook Live and can be found on the Immaculate Conception Church Facebook page.
HOLY THURSDAY Mass of the Lord’s Supper – April 9 at 5:00 p.m.
GOOD FRIDAY Litany of the Sacred Heart – April 10 at 12:00 noon.
GOOD FIRDAY Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion – April 10 at 3:00 p.m.
EASTER SUNDAY Mass – April 12 at 8:30 a.m.
The Easter Triduum begins tomorrow evening with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, which among other things recalls the institution of the Eucharist and the priesthood. The unprecedented crisis in which we now find ourselves, in which the food of the Eucharist is itself unavailable to most of us, is one which very directly challenges all of us to re-examine the things we have hitherto valued, and to recognize where and how we may have misplaced our priorities. This year, even more than normally, Saint Paul’s Holy Thursday message speaks loudly in our empty churches and cities to the emptiness of our hollowed out society, inviting us to undertake the urgent task of rebuilding by beginning with our own fuller transformation into the Body of Christ.
Meanwhile, tonight is Passover. We remember and pray for all our Jewish brothers and sisters around the world. 
And, as always, we remember and pray for in a special way all who are afflicted with this illness and all who care for them and all those public officials around the country who are exercising leadership in this crisis.

Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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April 7, 2020

Dear Friends,

I think I have learned how to adjust the setting on the parish Facebook page, with the result that even if you are not a Facebook user you should now be able to see the parish page and therefore last Sunday’s Mass. 

Present plans for Holy Week at Immaculate Conception are to broadcast the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on the parish Facebook page on Holy Thursday at 5:00 p.m. and the Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday at 3:00 p.m.
Also on Good Friday, Archbishop Gomez of Los Angeles, President of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, has invited everyone to join him in praying the Litany of the Sacred Heart at noon Eastern Time for an end to the coronavirus pandemic.  I will do so in the church at noon on Friday and will try to broadcast it on Facebook. I invite you to join in this brief moment of payer on Good Friday.
Today was to be the celebration of our annual Diocesan Chrism Mass – always a wonderful celebration of the unity of our local Church, one more casualty of the current crisis. As we continue to struggle to find our way through this unexpected experience, we can console ourselves with the hope that this will not last forever. As Queen Elizabeth II said in her speech Sunday (referencing a famous World War II song), “We will be with our friends again. We will be with our families again. We will meet again.”
Meanwhile, however, we appear to be heading into what may be the worst of it in the US. So I encourage everyone to do- as we are supposed to do. STAY HOME! WHEN OUTSIDE, WEAR A MASK, AND KEEP DISTANCE! 
Let us remember and pray for in a special way all who are afflicted with this illness and all who care for them and all those public officials around the country who are exercising leadership in this crisis.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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April 6.2020
Dear Friends,
Well, we succeeded at our Palm Sunday broadcast – thanks to Natalie Martin on the computer and her daughters who did the readings and Amanda and Karl who provided the music! Our next Facebook Live celebration will be the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday at 5:00 p.m.

Counting forward from today, it is six days until Easter. Presumably that accounts for the choice of today’s Gospel (John 12:1-11) which begins: Six days before Passover Jesus came to BethanyToday’s Gospel for this Monday of Holy Week does more than establish a chronology, however. It also sets a certain mood for this week. Famously, it describes how Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha, anointed Jesus with expensive perfume. When her extravagance was criticized, Jesus defended her action by referring it to his upcoming burial. 

Ritual, by its nature, is inherently somewhat extravagant. So, typically on this day, I have preached about this as an introduction to what we do during Holy Week.Like Mary, the Church this week traditionally holds nothing back, employing all the rich symbols of the liturgy to invite and enable us to enter as fully as humanly possible into the drama of Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection, so that we may more fully participate in its benefits. 

Things are obviously different this year, however, when the opportunity to participate in these extravagant sacred rites, that are normally so filled with ritual power and symbolic meaning, is necessarily confined to passive participation via visual media, and when the rites themselves are being celebrated in a simpler, somewhat stripped down form that is appropriate for these extraordinary circumstances

So this year there is perhaps a different lesson we should take from today’s Gospel. Because of circumstances beyond our control, we are unable to engage in the ritual extravagance liturgy in general and this week in particular calls for. We are, however, increasingly being called to the ritual of wasting not perfume but time.

Americans are activists, historically the practitioner’s of Max Weber’s “Protestant ethic” in its most vulgarized form. This is as true, sorry to say, of American Catholics as of American Protestants. Combined with a perverse desire to maintain as much a facade of “business as usual” as possible, the result is a widespread temptation to keep being “productive” during this enforced period of slowdown. 

Now being “productive” is not a bad thing, and there is always some work to be done, work that ought to be done. Even so, is this slowdown not also an opportunity to rediscover other, less “productive” ways of spending one’s time, other things to care about, new things to appreciate?

Bereft of the company of friends, is this instead a good time to celebrate friendship in more tranquil ways – in extended, unhurried, unbusinesslike phone conversations, for example, and perhaps even recovering the almost lost art of letter-writing?

Bereft of the constant stimulation of activity, is this instead a good time to rediscover other, more inward sources of stimulation, such as, for example, the increasingly lost art of reading real books?

Bereft of full participation in the Church’s liturgy, is this instead a good time to relearn other more reflective, more meditative forms of prayer, more consciously cultivating one’s appreciation of and relationship to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within each one of us?
Following the CDC’s recommendation, I encourage everyone to stay at home as much as possible, and I urge you to use a cloth mask if you must go outside.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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April 4, 2020

Dear Friends, 

If you have not yet done so, I encourage you to read Bishop Stika’s pastoral letter, which I attached to yesterday’s email, and which you can now read directly on the diocesan website. 
Yesterday and the day before, I celebrated the new Votive Mass “In time of Pandemic,” and I will do so again today, since it will not be possible to do so again until after Easter Week.  Should you want to pray along, the scripture readings for this Mass are Lamentations 3:21-26 or Romans 8:31b-39 and Mark 4:35-41.
Tomorrow is Palm Sunday, which Pius Parsch famously called “the gateway to Holy Week” and “the golden gateway leading to the holy mysteries of Easter.” Holy Week and Easter retain their place at the pinnacle of the Church’s calendar, but this will be a Holy Week unlike any we have ever experienced, with no public gatherings permitted whether inside or outside our churches.
Bishop Stika will celebrate the principal Liturgies for Palm Sunday and the Easter Triduum at the cathedral without a congregation but broadcast via the live-stream internet on the diocesan websites on Palm Sunday (April 5) at 9:00 a.m., on Holy Thursday (April 9) at 7:00 p.m., on Good Friday (April 10) at 3:00 p.m., on Holy Saturday (April 11) at 7:00 p.m., and on Easter Sunday (April 12) at 9:00 a.m. 

At Immaculate Conception, I will celebrate the Blessing of Palms and the Mass of Palm Sunday at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday, the traditional hour for our first Sunday morning Mass. If all goes as planned, it will be accessible live on the parish’s Facebook page. (The early hour also means that, if we are unsuccessful or if the quality is very poor, viewers will still have multiple other opportunities to watch Palm Sunday elsewhere during the day!) Before then, I will post my Sunday homily and the Universal Prayer, which I encourage you to pray in solidarity with the entire community.

There will be NO distribution of palms at church or anywhere else on Palm Sunday. The blessed palms will be refrigerated until a later date when it is safe to distribute them. 
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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April 3, 2020
Dear Friends,
O God, who in this season give your Church the grace to imitate devoutly the Blessed Virgin Mary in contemplating the Passion of Christ. grant, we pray, through her intercession, that we may cling more firmly each day to your Only begotten Son and come at last to the fullness of his grace.
This alternative optional collect for today is all that remains of the feast of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary that used to be celebrated on this Lenten Friday. (A second feast of the Seven Sorrows still survives on September 15.) Distinctive to both feasts is the special sequence Stabat Mater by Giacopone da Todi (1306). That sequence still survives in Lent in the popular devotion of the Way of the Cross, where its verses are traditionally sung by the congregation in the interval between each of the Stations. 
Of course, this year, after a promising start with well attended Friday evening Stations (and a delicious fish dinner), such Lenten customs have completely disappeared in the enforced social distancing dictated by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has inevitably completely taken over our lives and all our attention. All the more, however, does the image resonate this year of Mary’s identification with her son’s sufferings. For, in a sense, that is what we are all being called to do in a special way, to identify ourselves with the Christ suffering and dying in his people.
The presbyteral council met yesterday and we had a good discussion about the situation as it is being experienced in different parishes in the diocese.
We were reminded – as I am reminding all of you – that person-to-person contact must be minimized. Everyone should stay at home as much as possible!  Masses with a congregation are indefinitely suspended. NO Baptisms (including RCIA). NO Holy Communion. Confirmations are all postponed until the Fall at the earliest.
God willing, we will succeed at broadcasting Sunday Mass at 8:30 a.m, on Facebook Live. The recording should remain accessible there for those who want to watch it later.  I have been told it is possible to embed that on the parish website, so those without Facebook can see it there. I will be looking into that. As I have done on other Sundays, I will email and post on the  parish website my Homily and the Universal prayer for Sunday. We will bless palms but will NOT distribute palms at this time. We plan to refrigerate them until it is safe to distribute them at an appropriate later time.
has publicized a suggestion from the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit for everyone to put a branch – any kind of green branch – on one’s door or window on Palm Sunday as a sign of Holy Week solidarity. Some of our parishioners have decided to do this, and so I pass this idea on for all to consider.
Finally, I am attaching a copy of a Pastoral Letter to the Faithful fo the Diocese from Bishop Stika, which I encourage you all to read.
Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us!
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Fr. Ron
April 2, 2020
Dear Friends,
Yesterday, Fr. Eric conducted a zoom meeting for the entire Paulist community. Among other things, he advised us on the health precautions (including social distancing even in the dining room) being implemented at our Mother house and updated us on the condition of two Paulist priests – in two different cities – who probably have the virus, but who seem to be improving. These should be reminders to all of us of how important it is to stay home as much as possible and to observe appropriate precautions.
The Diocesan Presbyteral Council will meet today online. We will be discussing how parishes have been doing these past weeks and how to reach out in the future.
This week, the Holy See’s Congregation for Divine Worship authorized a new Votive Mass “In time of Pandemic.” This is the collect for that Mass:
Almighty and eternal God, our refuge in every danger, to whom we turn in our distress; in faith we pray look with compassion on the afflicted, grant eternal rest to the dead, comfort to mourners, healing to the sick, peace to the dying, strength to healthcare workers, wisdom to our leaders and the courage to reach out to all in love, so that together we may give glory to your holy name.Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
You can access the complete Mass formulary – in several languages – at:
A second decree added an additional Prayer “For the Afflicted in Time of Pandemic” to the Solemn Intercessions on Good Friday:
IX b.   For the afflicted in time of pandemic.
Let  us  pray  also  for  all  those  who  suffer  the  consequences  of  the  current  pandemic,  that  God  the Father  may  grant  health  to  the  sick,  strength  to  those  who  care  for  them,  comfort  to  families  and salvation to all the victims who have died.
Almighty ever-living God, only support of our human weakness, look with compassion upon the sorrowful condition of your children who suffer because of this pandemic; relieve the pain of the sick, give strength to those who care for them, welcome into your peace those who have died and, throughout this time of tribulation, grant that we may all find comfort in your merciful love. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Today is the 15th anniversary of the death of Pope Saint John Paul II, who is the Secondary Patron of the Diocese of Knoxville. Let us invoke his intercession as well, as we head into the next several weeks which promise to be increasingly difficult and dangerous.
As always, let us remember and pray for all the sick and those who care for them, and those public officials who are trying to provide leadership in this time of crisis. And we remember and pray for all who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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April 1, 2020

Dear Friends,

T.S. Elliot famously began The Waste Land with the words: April is the cruelest month. Let us hope that this will not be quite the case for us this year in terms of this pandemic!
Centuries before Elliot, Geoffrey Chaucer began his Canterbury Tales with a slightly more encouraging image of April:
When in April the sweet showers fall
That pierce March’s drought to the root and all
And bathed every vein in liquor that has power
To generate therein and sire the flower
If anyone wants to join our volunteers to call and keep contact with our parishioners, please email our parish receptionist at nancybstrange15@gmail.com (or the icoffice@bellsouth.net address) or leave a message on her voice mail at the parish office 865-522-1508.
At Mass yesterday, the Old Testament reading (Numbers 21:4-9) was the account of plague of “saraph serpents” that afflicted the Israelites during their wandering in the desert. When the people asked Moses to intercede with God on their behalf, “Moses prayed for the people, and the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a saraph and mount it on a pole, and whoever looks at it after being bitten will live ‘.” Moses did as he was instructed, mounting a bronze image on a pole, and healing came to the community. In John 3:14, Jesus identified the bronze image on the pole as a prophetic image of his own crucifixion and the salvation that would make possible. In the story, the infected Israelites were instructed to reorient their attention, to look not at themselves but at the bronze image. So too in this season of Christ’s passion, Jesus invites us to redirect our attention to him, specifically to Christ crucified, and to call on him with confidence for the healing we so desperately need.
At our parish leaders zoom meeting on Monday, a question was asked about the Paulist Fathers’ Hope for the Future Campaign, which was originally supposed to be starting this month. Needless to say, that will not be happening. All scheduled activities on the Campaign timeline have been cancelled, and the Campaign itself has been postponed for at least the next couple of months.
Speaking of things being postponed, our shipment of palms arrived yesterday. As with the Paulist Campaign and so many other things, it is hard to make plans when everything is inevitably in flux. But the plan at present is to bless the palms at Mass on Sunday morning – hopefully live on the parish Facebook page at 8:30 a.m. Then we will store them in a suitable place to keep them as fresh as possible, so that they can be distributed later when it becomes safe to do so.
As always, let us remember and pray for all the sick and those who care for them, and those public officials who are trying to provide leadership in this time of crisis. And we remember and pray for all who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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March 31, 2020
Dear Friends,
Well, the parish staff, pastoral council, and finance council had our on-line meeting yesterday.  It was a far-from-perfect  experience technologically, but we were able to hear and speak to one another, which is what matters. More importantly, we settled on a system to have volunteers call parishioners on the parish prayer list and others – both to keep in touch and to find out if there are any unmet needs in the community that the parish can assist with. If you know anyone you think should be on the list of those to be called, please call the parish office 865-522-1508 and leave a message with Nancy.
As of now, Immaculate Conception plans to broadcast Palm Sunday Mass on our parish Facebook page on April 5, at 8:30 a.m., the traditional hour for our first Sunday morning Mass. The early hour also means that, if we are unsuccessful  or if the quality is very poor, viewers will still have multiple other opportunities to watch Palm Sunday elsewhere during the day. If we are successful, we will attempt to continue broadcasting Sunday morning Mass on Easter and subsequent Sundays. A decision on Holy Thursday and Good Friday will be made at the beginning of next week, in light of our Palm Sunday experience. 
Also I am happy to announce that more parishioners have set up on-line giving since the cessation of public Masses in mid-March. Others have been sending in their envelopes through the mail. With all the difficulties everyone is experiencing right now, I am extremely grateful for this demonstration of concern and support for our parish, an encouraging sign going forward as we look ahead to the multiple challenges of rebuilding our parish and community life.
As always, let us remember and pray for all the sick and those who care for them, and those public officials who are trying to provide leadership in this time of crisis. And we remember and pray for all who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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March 30, 2020
Dear Friends,
We are now in the 5th Week of Lent. These last two weeks before Easter traditionally mark Lent’s final phase, as the Church focuses our attention more and more on the final events of Jesus’ earthly life – and why those events still matter for us today.  In the Preface used at Mass this week, the Church prays: through the saving Passion of your Son the whole world has received a heart to confess the infinite power of your majesty, since by the wondrous power of the Cross your judgment on the world is now revealed and the authority of Christ crucified.
Later this week, the Church will commemorate the compassion of Mary who at the foot of the Cross totally identified herself with the sufferings of her Son for the sake of humanity. As the Covid-19 pandemic has inevitably completely taken over our lives and our attention, all the more should the image resonate with us of Mary’s identification with her son’s sufferings. For, in a sense, that is what we are all being called to do in a special way, to identify ourselves with the Christ suffering and dying in his people here and now.
I think the reality is finally, if belatedly, setting in – even in those parts of the country that are just beginning to experience the inevitable rise in infection rates – that this is a serious crisis and that it will be with us for quite a while. Since we cannot gather together and since we cannot visit one another, it is all that much more important that we use all other available means of remaining in contact with one another and of supporting one another. Some of us may be in a position to be of some assistance to others who feel particularly vulnerable and so may be afraid, for example, to go shopping. With maybe more time on our hands than we usually have, maybe we can use some of that time to call one another – again especially those who live alone and who may lack lots of relatives and friends to check up on them. 
Again, do not hesitate to contact the parish office and either me or Fr. Tim, if you are aware of anyone who you believe would benefit from a phone call or needs other assistance.
The parish staff, pastoral council, and finance council will conduct a zoom meeting today at noon.  We will consider what we are doing right now and what we could do better to be of service to our community. We will also look at the pressing pastoral and financial challenges that the parish will face as we try to go forward into a very uncertain future that will likely look very different from what any of us was expecting just a while ago.

Please say a prayer for us that I don’t bungle this technology, and that we can meet successfully!

Speaking of fancy technology, the first episode of Homebound – a new video series from our Paulist seminarians in Washington, DC, is available on the parish Facebook page (along with the Holy Father’s weekly Sunday Angelus from yesterday and other previous posts).
Meanwhile, speaking of an older technology, it seems that 25 years ago, the Vatican released a  list of 45 films that the Holy See found either spiritually significant, morally compelling, or artistically meritorious. Twenty-five years later, America Media has expanded the Vatican’s list with what it considers the most groundbreaking, impressive and beautiful films released since 1995. To read the article in America, go to: https://www.americamagazine.org/arts-culture/2020/03/27/top-25-films-last-25-years?utm_source=Newsletters&utm_campaign=f20d9e6c97-ARTS_CAMPAIGN_2020_03_28&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0fe8ed70be-f20d9e6c97-58472889
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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March 28, 2020

Dear Friends,

Well, we have made it to the and of another week. I hope everyone is well. I expect we still have a long way to go.
A member of our parish recently alerted me to the following verse: Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until the wrath is past (Isaiah 26:20).
If you missed yesterday’s Prayer Service from Saint Peter’s Square in Rome, the video can be found on the Holy See’s website at http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/events/event.dir.html/content/vaticanevents/en/2020/3/27/uniti-in-preghiera.html.
Pope Francis concluded his message with these words: Dear brothers and sisters, from this place that tells of Peter’s rock-solid faith, I would like this evening to entrust all of you to the Lord, through the intercession of Mary, Health of the People and Star of the stormy Sea. From this colonnade that embraces Rome and the whole world, may God’s blessing come down upon you as a consoling embrace. Lord, may you bless the world, give health to our bodies and comfort our hearts. You ask us not to be afraid. Yet our faith is weak and we are fearful. But you, Lord, will not leave us at the mercy of the storm. Tell us again: “Do not be afraid” (Matthew 28:5). And we, together with Peter, “cast all our anxieties onto you, for you care about us” (cf. 1 Peter 5:7).
Tomorrow is the Fifth Sunday of Lent. Later today I will post my “Homily” and the “Universal Prayer” for this Sunday. I invite you to pray the Universal Prayer as if you were at Mass, thus uniting your personal prayers with those of our entire parish community.
Finally, I would like to share this important announcement from Catholic Charities:
The outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease) is having a significant impact on people throughout East Tennessee. In addition to the medical concerns the disease is causing, there are also mental health concerns affecting persons who have contracted the disease or who have a loved one who has contracted it, as well as anyone whose life has been disrupted by the disease’s social and economic consequences. Catholic Charities of East Tennessee is currently offering remote, telehealth counseling to help address the mental health needs of people throughout our diocese. Our licensed counselors are providing counseling via videoconferencing using a secure web-based service. Telehealth counseling offers people throughout east Tennessee opportunity to receive counseling to address issues such as stress, loneliness, grief, relationship issues, spiritual concerns, and milder forms of anxiety and depression. Telehealth counseling through CCETN is available to adult individuals. Due to professional licensure requirements, our counselors can provide telehealth counseling only to people located in the state of Tennessee. Telehealth services are not appropriate for persons in a crisis or people who require more intensive or more frequent services than can be provided in this therapeutic format. Counseling appointments are available Mondays through Thursdays, with a limited number of evening appointments available. Session costs are based on a sliding scale fee structure that takes into account a client’s income. To participate in telehealth counseling, a client needs access to a computer or smartphone with internet connection. For more information or to request a first appointment, please contact our counselors at counseling@ccetn.org
If you know anyone who might benefit from using this service, please encourage him or her to do so!
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us.
March 27, 2020

Dear Friends:

In the ancient Church, today was the day for the Third Scrutiny of those preparing for Baptism. So let us especially keep our catechumens and candidates in prayer today. Regarding the ancient Lenten liturgy for today, the 20th-century liturgical scholar Pius Parsch wrote: “According to liturgical thinking the catechumens and penitents who come to life spiritually at Easter, indeed the whole paschal Church experiencing holy springtime and celebrating the joyous resurrection of its members, now repeat and fulfill the miracle at Bethany,” that is, the raising of Lazarus, which will be the subject of this coming Sunday’s Gospel. Parsch’s words remind us to trust the risen Lord to raise us to beyond whatever confines us at present to a fuller life in his kingdom. “Jesus is now living and working in his Church according to the spirit and meaning of the Gospel,” Parsch continued. “If we put ourselves in the place of the biblical persons, our reading and reflecting upon the gospel will become more fruitful.”
Remember that today is the day to join Pope Francis in prayer from the steps of Saint Peter’s Basilica at 1:00 p.m. (See attached picture.) The event will include readings from the Scriptures, prayers of supplication, and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament; and it will conclude with Pope Francis giving the Urbi et Orbi Blessing, with the possibility of gaining a plenary indulgence for all those who listen to it live through the various forms of communication. (This Blessing “To the City and to the World” is normally only given on Christmas and Easter.) This will be broadcast live from the Vatican, beginning at 6:00 p.m. Rome time (1:00 p.m. EDT). “In Pope Francis’ words, We want to respond to the virus pandemic with the universality of prayer.”
Meanwhile, if you go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IPSeWLEDTx4&t=13s you can watch a short introduction to to a new video series “Homebound,” being produced by our Paulist seminarians.  
As we approach another weekend, separated and again unable to gather for Mass, the Church is being forced to experience what I am calling a new kind of “eucharistic fast” – a fast not for the Eucharist but from the Eucharist. It is jarring to our contemporary sacramental sensibilities routinely to celebrate Mass and communicate alone as I must now do. I am reminded of something Thomas Merton wrote in his Journal, on February 11, 1950“I feel as if my Communion were somehow less perfect when I cannot turn and give the Body of Christ to one of my brothers also.” 
In referring to it as “somehow less perfect,” Merton was obviously not speaking theologically but experientially, as if in 1950 he were already able to anticipate our contemporary sacramental sensibility, which involves no theological change but reflects an extraordinary experiential change from most of the Church’s history when few if any received Communion to today’s widespread expectation of almost universal routine reception of Communion. Hence the widespread dismay that suddenly so many are not able to receive Communion. And, like so much about this unprecedented situation in which we hav unexpectedly found ourselves, we simply have no way of guessing what the long-term consequences of this experience will be for each of us individually, for the future of parish life. and indeed for the future of the entire Church.
As I did last week, I will post a “Homily” for the 5th Sunday of Lent and also the “Universal Prayer.” Whether or not you read the homily, I invite you to pray the Universal Prayer as if you were at Mass, thus uniting your personal prayers with those of our entire parish community.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us.
March 26, 2020
Dear Friends,
First of all, thank you all for the many birthday greetings I have received these past few days! My Paulist brothers even bought me a cake!
For most of the week, I have been offering Mass privately at a side altar in the church and then exposing the Blessed Sacrament and opening the church for a daily hour of private prayer from noon to 1:00 p.m. The number of people who have been visiting the church during this hour seems to be increasing daily. So we look forward to continuing this, at least as long as circumstances permit.

Please remember, if you come to the church to pray during the week, to sit at some distance from others and to sanitize your hands when you arrive and when you leave.

On March 19, the Apostolic Penitentiary granted a Plenary Indulgence to those faithful who, with a spirit detached from any sin and with the will to fulfill the usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer according to the Holy Father’s intentions), as soon as possible, “offer a visit to the Blessed Sacrament, or Eucharistic adoration, or reading the Holy Scriptures for at least half an hour, or the recitation of the Holy Rosary, or the pious exercise of the Way of the Cross, or the recitation of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, to implore from Almighty God the end of the epidemic, relief for those who are afflicted and eternal salvation for those whom the Lord has called to Himself.”
Yesterday, I celebrated Mass at the main altar – broadcast, courtesy of Saint Joseph School, via the live-stream internet on the Saint Joseph School Facebook page, which I then shared to the Immaculate Conception Parish Facebook page.If you have access to Facebook, you should be able to access it still on either of those pages This was intended as an experiment to test our capability to live-stream at least some services. As you have all heard me say by now, I am not naturally good at this technology. So I need plenty of help. Also I must admit I found it somewhat awkward. it is one thing to celebrate Mass alone on behalf of the community. I is quite another thing (psychologically at least) to celebrate Mass alone but as if one were facing a congregation! Anyway, we will keep working at this and do what we reasonably can.
Of course, whether or not Immaculate Conception is able to broadcast any of Holy Week, the Cathedral will certainly be broadcasting the Bishop’s Holy Week services live on the diocesan website. The schedule has already been published, and I will reprint it beforehand here and on our parish website and FB page for your benefit. 
The Immaculate Conception Parish Office is officially closed, but members of the parish staff are at work, whether there or at home, and can most easily be reached at present via their email addresses, which are available on the cover of the parish bulletin, which appears on the parish website (icknoxville.org).
Finally, “The Secretariat of State of the Holy See has requested that all local Churches be informed that all members of the faithful and other Christians are invited to participate in the special prayer of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, taking place in Saint Peter’s Square this Friday, March 27. The Apostolic Nunciature further conveys that during this Statio Orbis, which will be streamed live on the website of Vatican News at 1 p.m. (EDT), the Holy Father will grant to all participants the Plenary Indulgence before imparting the Urbi et Orbi Blessing.”
Fr. Ron
March 25, 2020
Dear Friends,
The Diocesan Chancery has been officially closed since yesterday, but diocesan staff members and ministry directors will maintain a regular work schedule and can be contacted via their email addresses which are available on the Diocese of Knoxville website. Similarly, the Immaculate Conception parish office is closed, but members of the parish staff are at work, whether there or at home, and can most easily be reached at present via their email addresses, which are available on the cover of the parish bulletin, which appears on the parish website. 
Yesterday the parish staff had our first-ever on-line zoom meeting. There was some awkwardness with the technology at first, but we eventually got ti to work. With that hurdle past, I hope to schedule an on-line meeting of the staff with the pastoral and finance councils sometime early next week.
Today the Church celebrates the Annunciation of the Lord. I plan to pray the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary after my Mass today. If you are able, please join me in reciting that Litany, wherever you may be. 
Today was supposed to be the day for Immaculate Conception to host our annual ecumenical Lenten service, followed immediately by the traditional Lenten lunch lovingly prepared by the Immaculate Conception Women’s Group. This has always been a wonderful occasion, an opportunity offered by this Lenten season to spend time in prayer and fellowship with some of the other Christian church communities based in the downtown area. Obviously, none of that will be happening this year. Even so, today might be a good day to remember and pray for our non-Catholic Christian neighbors in the downtown area and elsewhere.
As always, since we cannot visit one another, I encourage everyone to make every effort to remain in contact by other means, especially with those who are alone or may have particular needs at this time.
Again, if you know anyone who you believe might benefit from a phone call from me or Fr. Tim, please let one of us know.
Finally, today is also my 72nd birthday. In an Address to the International Congress, “The Richness of Many Years of Life,” last January, Pope Francis said, Life is a gift, and when it is long it is a privilege, for oneself and for others…. Granting old age, God the Father gives us time to deepen our knowledge of Him, our intimacy with Him, to enter even more into His heart and surrender ourselves to Him.
The Paulist Prayer Book contains the following prayer by the late Paulist Fr. Edward Peters:
I am an oldster!
I’ve found it hard to accept, Lord,
I guess because I did not understand
what it means to be an oldster.
This much is easy to understand:
I had a youngster’s idea
of what it means to be old.
I always thought of it
as happening to someone else.
Now it’s gradually coming home to me
that I have entered a new station in life.
Help me, O Lord, to understand better
what has happened to me.
What new obligations have I assumed?
How should I deal with the new situations
in which I find myself?
I have been used to thinking of old age
as a time of declining powers;
but now it is coming home to me
that it also brings new opportunities
and new influence.
I thank you, Lord, for promoting me
to this new station in life.
Help me to fill it well.
In the name of the Father
and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us.
Fr. Ron
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March 24, 2020
Dear Friends,
This morning, the parish staff will have its first on-line staff meeting via zoom. If that succeeds, I plan to set up such a meeting with the pastoral and finance councils as well, in order to start strategizing about how to to sustain parish life through this crisis and how to keep parish life viable in the very difficult future which will follow when this has finally passed.
As I observed yesterday, it is increasingly obvious that this crisis will take a terrible toll on all of our institutions (as well as on all of us individually). The challenge will be how we respond and what resources – cultural, social, political, and religious – we will still have with which to respond in genuine solidarity with one another.
Tomorrow, nine months before Christmas, the Church celebrates the Annunciation of the Lord, recalling the Archangel Gabriel’s announcement to the Virgin Mary (recorded in Luke 1:26-38). As on Christmas, the Church invites us to contemplate the great mystery of the Incarnation, commemorating history’s most amazing moment when the Word of God became one of us. The Church ritualizes this at Mass by a genuflection during the Creed. (Of course, those of us above a certain age can recall when we always genuflected at that point during the Creed!) Like other ritual bodily gestures, genuflecting during the Creed enfleshes our faith, challenging us to own what we profess with our entire selves, not just as an intellectual abstraction. 
An enfleshed faith is, of course, very much what we need at this terrible time. For this year the Annunciation occurs in a crisis when all of ordinary life’s rhythms – sacred as well as secular – have been completely disrupted by a global pandemic that more and more feels like an impending apocalypse.

All the more reason, therefore, to invoke the intercession of the woman at the center of the Annunciation scene, Mary, Mother of God, to help us find our way. For centuries in times of trouble, Popes and the people of the local Church of Rome have called upon Mary, Mother of God, for safety. Hence the special place in Roman piety occupied by the ancient image (photo) of Mary, entitled Saluls Populi Romani, presently venerated in the Capella Paolina in the Papal Basilica of Saint Mary Major.

This is the image Isaac Hecker stopped to pray in front of, after his expulsion from the Redemptorists in 1857. This is the image Pope Francis visited after his election in 2013 to entrust his pontificate to Mary – and has regularly revisited before and after papal journeys. More recently, in response the the COVID-19 pandemic, he went on pilgrimage through the empty streets of Rome to venerated the Salus Populi Romani image at Saint Mary Major, a simple but so very powerful symbolic gesture that highlighted the perennial relevance of the incarnation – God with us!
I plan to pray the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary after my Mass tomorrow. If you are able, please join me in reciting that Litany, wherever you may be. And don’t forget the Pope’s request that we all pause to recite the Our Father at noon tomorrow! 
As always, since we cannot visit one another, let us make every effort to remain in contact by other means, especially with those who are alone or may have particular needs at this time.
Again, if you know anyone who you believe might benefit from a phone call from me or Fr. Tim, please let one of us know.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us.
Fr. Ron
PRAYER OF POPE FRANCIS TO MARY, HEALTH OF THE SICK:
O Mary, you shine continuously on our journey as a sign of salvation and hope.
We entrust ourselves to you, Health of the Sick.
At the foot of the Cross you participated in Jesus’ pain,
with steadfast faith.
You, Salvation of the Roman People, know what we need.
We are certain that you will provide, so that,
as you did at Cana of Galilee,
joy and feasting might return after this moment of trial.
Help us, Mother of Divine Love,
to conform ourselves to the Father’s will
and to do what Jesus tells us:
He who took our sufferings upon Himself, and bore our sorrows to bring us,
through the Cross, to the joy of the Resurrection. Amen.
We seek refuge under your protection, O Holy Mother of God.
Do not despise our pleas – we who are put to the test – and deliver us from every danger,
O glorious and blessed Virgin.
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March 23, 2020
Dear Friends,
“O God, who renew the world through mysteries beyond all telling, grant, we pray, that your Church may be guided by your eternal design and not be deprived of your help in this present age” (Collect for today, Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent). 

Beginning today, Immaculate Conception Church will be open, with the Blessed Sacrament exposed, from noon to 1:00 p.m., for personal private prayer. 

Depending on how that goes, I will reassess this arrangement and maintain or alter that schedule for future weeks as circumstances suggest. 

Please remember, if you come to the church to pray during the week, to sit at some distance from others and to sanitize your hands when you arrive and when you leave.

On March 19, the Apostolic Penitentiary granted a Plenary Indulgence to those faithful who, with a spirit detached from any sin and with the will to fulfill the usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer according to the Holy Father’s intentions), as soon as possible, “offer a visit to the Blessed Sacrament, or Eucharistic adoration, or reading the Holy Scriptures for at least half an hour, or the recitation of the Holy Rosary, or the pious exercise of the Way of the Cross, or the recitation of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, to implore from Almighty God the end of the epidemic, relief for those who are afflicted and eternal salvation for those whom the Lord has called to Himself.”
Looking ahead, Pope Francis has also asked all to recite the Lord’s Prayer together at noon on Wednesday, March 25 (the Solemnity of the Annunciation). On Friday, March 27, at 6:00 p.m. Rome (1:00 p.m. EST), he will lead a moment of prayer in the empty Saint Peter’s Square, at the end of which he will impart an extraordinary Urbi et Orbi Blessing.
It is already obvious that this crisis will take a terrible toll on all of our institutions. The challenge will be how we respond and what resources – cultural, social, political, and religious – we will still have with which to respond in genuine solidarity with one another.
In the ancient Church, Wednesday and Friday of this week were the days when the Second and Third Scrutinies of the Elect were celebrated. So let us also remember and pray for our catechumens and candidates this week as they journey to Baptism and Full Communion under these unusual circumstances.  Let us remember and pray for all whose lives have been disrupted by the shutting down of workplaces, schools, etc. And, most of all, let us remember and pray for those who are sick and those who are caring for them, and for those who have died. 
Finally, since we cannot visit one another, let us make every effort to remain in contact by other means, especially with those who are alone or may have particular needs at this time.
Again, if you know anyone who you believe might benefit from a phone call from me or Fr. Tim, please let one of us know.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us.
Fr. Ron           
View my current homily at https://icknoxville.org/pastors-homily/