From the Pastor

August 9, 2020 – THE 19th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Dear Friends,

Mass for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time will be celebrated this morning at 9:00 and 11:30 a.m. The 9:00 Mass will be live streamed on the parish Facebook page for the benefit of those unable to be present. Both Sunday morning Masses may be attended in the parish hall as well as in the church. Remember that for now the Bishop has dispensed from the Sunday obligation.
If you do attend Mass, please observe all the proper precautions regarding seating, physical distance, and the reception of Communion, and wear your face mask (completely covering your nose and mouth) the entire time, including when entering and leaving the church.
 
In a normal year, Irish Fest would have taken place yesterday. I deeply regret that we were unable to hold an Irish Fest this year, and I sincerely hope that this wonderful tradition will be able to return full strength a year from now!\
 
In order to enable parish celebrations of the sacrament of Confirmation to resume as soon as possible, Bishop Stika has granted to priests the temporary authorization to celebrate the sacrament of Confirmation. Yesterday we had our second celebration of the sacrament of Confirmation for those who were originally scheduled to receive the sacrament in May. Now all who have been prepared to receive sacrametns during the 2019-2020 cycle have done so. 
 
This coming Saturday, August 15, the Church celebrates the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Assumption is the oldest of Our Lady’s feasts and affirms the ancient belief of the Church (formally defined dogmatically by Pope Pius XII in the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus during the 1950 Jubilee Year) “that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.” The dogmatic definition of the Assumption emphasizes that this special privilege granted to the Blessed Virgin Mary is relevant for the hope of all of us, as it highlights “to what a lofty goal our bodies and souls are destined.” The Pope expressed his “hope that belief in Mary’s bodily Assumption into heaven will make our belief in our own resurrection stronger and render it more effective.”
Also, in observance of the upcoming 25th Anniversary of my ordination this October, I am inviting everyone, who is able, to donate $25 (or more) to Fr. Ron’s 25th Anniversary Fund for a Post-Pandemic Parish Future. This is intended to help our parish to stay on top of and pay for the various adaptations we will continue to have to make in response to the pandemic. You can contribute on-line or by mail or in the Sunday offering box. If paying by check, please be sure to make your check payable to “Immaculate Conception Church” and indicate on the check that your donation is for this fund.
 
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.”
 
In this trying time, let us all keep one another in prayer, as well as the sick and those who care for them, and all in material, emotional, or spiritual need at this time, including students who have returned to school and their teachers and school staff, as well as all who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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August 8, 2020

Dear Friends,

Today the Church commemorates Saint Dominic (1170-1221), a Spanish canon who, to combat the Albigensian heresy by preaching and the good example of a simple, apostolic life, founded in 1216 the Order of Preachers (Dominicans), devoted to contemplation, study, and preaching.
The Dominicans have a rich history in Tennessee. A Dominican priest, Richard Pius Miles, became the first Bishop of Nashville in 1837. (It was he who established Immaculate Conception parish and dedicated the original parish church in 1855.) The second Bishop of Nashville, James Whelan, was also a Dominican. The Congregation of Dominican Sisters of Saint Cecilia was founded in Nashville in 1860. Members of that community teach at Knoxville Catholic High School and at Saint Mary’s School in Oak Ridge.
I myself was taught by Dominican Sisters (the Dominican Sisters of Blauvelt) in elementary school.
Those of us above a certain age will all remember the Belgian “Singing Nun” (Souer Sourire) and her 1962 hit Dominque, which you can still enjoy at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EO7cD6qmydo 
Mass for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time will be celebrated this afternoon at 5:00 p.m., preceded by confessions at 4:00 p.m. Masses tomorrow morning will be at 9:00 and 11:30 a.m. The 9:00 Mass will be live streamed on the parish Facebook page for the benefit of those unable to be present. Both Sunday morning Masses may be attended in the parish hall as well as in the church. Remember that for now the Bishop has dispensed from the Sunday obligation.
If you do attend Mass, please observe all the proper precautions regarding seating, physical distance, and the reception of Communion, and wear your face mask (completely covering your nose and mouth) the entire time, including when entering and leaving the church.
This deadly disease highlights our obligations to one another in this dangerous time. Let us especially remember in prayer all the sick, and those who care for them, and all whose livelihood has been disrupted by this pandemic. May those in positions of authority and responsibility in government and society seek the common good of all and promote public health and reconciliation among communities in conflict in our country.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Saint Dominic, pray for us.
Fr. Ron
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August 7, 2020

Dear Friends,

Today the Church commemorates Pope Saint Sixtus II and his Companions, four Roman Deacons who were all arrested and martyred on August 6, 258. The most famous of the Roman Deacons, Saint Lawrence, was martyred four days later on August 10. Also commemorated today is Saint Cajetan (1480-1547), who founded the Congregation of Clerks Regular (Theatines), devoted to prayer and ministry to the poor and sick.
38 years ago today at the Paulist Novitiate in Oak Ridge, NJ, I and my seven classmates made our First Temporary Promise as members of the Paulist Fathers.  I am the only member of my class who is still a Paulist. although two of them are active priests and pastors of parishes in Ann Arbor, MI, and New York, NY.
Today is the First Friday of the month. The usual First Friday Devotions – Exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament, Litany, Vocation Prayer, Benediction – will take place at the end of the 12;10 Mass. I invite those who cannot be present to join in the Vocation Prayer from home:
Almighty and ever faithful God, you spoke your Word to the world in your Son Jesus Christ, and commissioned Saint Paul to bring your word to all nations and to the ends of the earth. Your Spirit led Servant of God Isaac Hecker to proclaim your word in North America using tools of the modern age. We ask you to call new missionaries in the line of Saint Paul and Father Hecker. May they burn with passion to give the Gospel a voice so that all may know the mystery of your love. May they follow the Lord Jesus with the seal of Saint Paul and Father Hecker as they carry on the mission of the Paulist community. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. I will celebrate the sacrament of Confirmation for those who still remain to be confirmed from those originally scheduled to be confirmed last May. In order to make sure that everyone who had been prepared actually gets confirmed this year, Bishop Stika has given priests the faculty to celebrate the sacrament in his place. Seating in the church will be limited, but the ceremony will be live streamed on the parish Facebook page.
Tomorrow, Saturday, is also the monthly cleanup day at Calvary Cemetery.
 
As of today, there have been 18,986,629 confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide, with 712,334 deaths. The U.S. has had 4,889,599 confirmed cases, with 159,588 deaths. Tennessee has had 113,519 confirmed cases, with 1,170 deaths.
 
This deadly disease highlights our obligations to one another in this dangerous time. Let us especially remember in prayer all the sick, and those who care for them, and all whose livelihood has been disrupted by this pandemic. May those in positions of authority and responsibility in government and society seek the common good of all and promote public health and reconciliation among communities in conflict in our country.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Saint Sixtus and Companions, pray for us!
Saint Cajetan, pray for us.
Fr. Ron
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August 6, 2020

Dear Friends,

Today the Church celebrates the Transfiguration of our Lord, described in today’s Gospel (Matthew 17:1-9). Celebrated for centuries in the East, this feast was inserted into the calendar of the Universal Church in 1457 to celebrate the defeat of the Turks at Belgrade, which was announced in Rome on August 6. Fittingly, August 6 is 40 days before the feast of the Holy Cross, reflecting an ancient tradition that the Transfiguration occurred 40 days before the Crucifixion, one reason why the Gospel account of the Transfiguration is always read early in Lent.
In a sermon on the Transfiguration, Saint Anastasius of Sinai (630-701) said: “Let us listen, then, to the sacred voice of God so compellingly calling us from on high, from the summit of the mountain, so that with the Lord’s chosen disciples we may penetrate the deep meaning of these holy mysteries, so far beyond our capacity to express. Jesus goes before us to show us the way, both up the mountain and into heaven, and – I speak boldly – it is for us now to follow him with all speed, yearning for the heavenly vision that will give us a share in his radiance, renew our spiritual nature and transform us into his own likeness, making us for ever sharers in his Godhead and raising us to heights as yet undreamed of.”
Happy Birthday today to our director of Religious Education and Faith Formation Brigid Johnson and to our Facilities and Maintenance Systems Director Ed Stokes! Our parish depends on Brigid and Ed in so many ways, and we wish them both a happy birthday and a future full of health and happiness.
Tomorrow is the First Friday of the month. The usual First Friday Devotions – Exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament, Litany, Vocation Prayer, Benediction – will take place at the end of the 12;10 Mass.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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August 5, 2020

Dear Friends,

Today the Church commemorates the Dedication of the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, on Rome’s Esquiline Hill, by Pope Sixtus III in 434. It is one of the four major papal basilicas of Rome and the oldest Marian basilica in the Western Church.
In its Borghese Chapel, the basilica enshrines the famous image of Maria, Salus Populi Romani, depicting Our Lady as the Help and Protectress of the Roman People. Isaac Hecker venerated that ancient image after his expulsion from the Redemptorists in 1857. Pope Francis regularly visits the basilica to venerate that treasured image before and after all papal trips, and he venerated it in Saint Peter’s Square during the special pandemic prayer service he held there in March. In the crypt under the Hight Altar is the Altar of the Crib, containing relics (boards of sycamore wood) supposedly brought back from the original manger in Bethlehem. For this reason, it was the ancient Roman stational site for the Pope’s Christmas Midnight Mass. Saint Jerome is buried in that chapel. Saint Ignatius Loyola celebrated his First Mass there on Christmas 1538.
The Basilica is sometimes referred to as Our Lady of the Snows. According to the legend, during the pontificate of Pope Liberius (352-366), a childless Roman patrician and his wife  made a vow to donate their possessions to the Virgin Mary. They prayed that she might make known to them how to dispose of their property in her honor. On August, 5 at the height of the Roman summer, snow fell during the night on the summit of the Esquiline Hill. In obedience to a vision which they had the same night, the couple had the basilica built on the very spot which was covered with snow. Because of this the church is also called the Liberian Basilica.
 
While some of our purported leaders may stubbornly persist in their refusal to recognize the reality of our changing climate and warming world, the “facts on the ground” seem to mock such ideological intransigence. In the midst of yet another summer and annually occurring horrendous heat waves, the charming medieval legend of the miraculous snowfall that supposedly fell on Rome’s Esquiline Hill on this date in the mid-4th-century seems especially appealing. Of course, August in Rome has always been hot. Hence, the manifestly miraculous character of that legendary August 5 snowfall. The story itself, commemorated annually with a shower of white rose petals from the basilica’s dome, was first reported several centuries after the supposed event and so may well have no serious historical basis, but it reminds us that God is Lord of creation, and we are not.
 
The 1st reading for today’s Mass is taken from Revelation 21 – John’s vision of a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. John heard a loud voice saying: “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them.” God’s “dwelling with the human race” is first and foremost his Son, the Incarnate Word, Jesus, and then the Church, the Body of Christ extended in space and time, which continues Christ’s presence and action in the world. We build church buildings as places for the Body of Christ to assemble (and we know from our current experience how fragile a privilege that is). As the house for the Body of Christ, a church building becomes an icon of the Church community itself. Hence, churches – big beautiful basilicas in Rome, our own “church on the hill” in Knoxville, and all the other churches big and small all over the world – are true treasures. They are treasures not just of beauty and art – although the best of them certainly are that – but privileged places treasured above all as effective signs of God’s presence in people’s lives and of his continuing action in our world here and now.
 
Knox County reported its 40th COVID-19 death yesterday. This deadly disease reminds us of our obligations to one another in this dangerous time. Let us especially remember in prayer all the sick, and those who care for them, and all whose livelihood has been disrupted by this pandemic, entrusting them on this special day to the help and protection of the Mother of God. May those in positions of authority and responsibility in government and society seek the common good of all and promote public health and reconciliation among communities in conflict in our country.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Our Lady, Safety of the Roman People, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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August 4, 2020

Dear Friends,

Today the Church commemorates Saint Jean-Marie Vianney (1786-1859), the Cure of Ars. He grew up during the social and religious chaos of the French Revolution and had to make his First Holy Communion in secret. After Napoleon made peace with the Church, he eventually entered seminary, but was a poor student. When the Bishop asked the seminary rector if Monsieur Vianney was good, the rector responded that he was very good, whereupon the Bishop supposedly said, Then let him be ordained and God will take care of the rest! He was ordained in 1815 and sent to faraway Ars in 1818, a place where he was told there was “little love of God,” and where he spent the rest of his life in tireless dedication to his people and to the sacrament of penance, spending much of his day in the confessional. He became famous as a confessor and spiritual counsellor. Pope Pius XI proclaimed him patron of parish priests.
In his Catechism on Prayer, Saint John Vianney remarked, “How often we come to church with no idea of what to do or what to ask for. And yet, whenever we got o any human being, we know well enough why we go. … I often think that, when we come to adore the Lord, we would receive everything we ask for, if we would ask with living faith and with a pure heart.”
On this day when we remember the patron saint and model of parish priests, please pray for priests as we too try to adapt to the way things are now in this time of pandemic. Many of us are getting old and are in what are considered “high risk” groups, which only adds additional anxiety to this already stressful situation.
As always let us be especially attentive to taking all the proper precautions. If attending Mass or any other parish event, please remember to wear your mask (completely covering your nose and mouth) and maintain appropriate distance.
 
As always, let us remember all the sick, and those who care for them, and all whose livelihood has been disrupted by this pandemic. May those in positions of authority and responsibility in government and society seek the common good of all and promote public health and reconciliation among communities in conflict in our country.
  
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Saint John Vianney, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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August 3, 2020

Dear Friends,

In-person classes resume today at our Catholic schools, including Saint Joseph Regional Catholic School and Knoxville Catholic High School. Let us pray especially for the health and safety of all our students and staff and their families, and for a successful academic year for all.
In a normal year, this week would be one of frantic preparation for our 13th Annual Irish Fest on the Hill. For over a decade now, Irish Fest has been the highlight of the summer season and one of the genuine highlights of the entire year at Immaculate Conception and in downtown Knoxville. Its absence leaves a big hole in our summer.  I deeply regret that we were unable to hold an Irish Fest this year. I certainly hope that this wonderful tradition will be able to return full strength a year from now!
As of yesterday, there have been 17,859,763 confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide, with 685,179 deaths. The U.S. has had 4,705,403 cases, with 156,744 – about 26% of the cases and 23% of the deaths worldwide, quite shocking considering that the US has only about 5% of the world’s population. Meanwhile, so far Tennessee has had 105,455 cases with 1,056 deaths.
 
As we watch these alarming increases, let us be especially careful in taking all the proper precautions. If attending Mass or any other parish event, please remember to wear your mask (completely covering your nose and mouth) and maintain appropriate distance.
 
As always, let us pray for all the sick and those who care for them, for all whose livelihood has been disrupted by this pandemic, and for justice for those in material need in this time of crisis. Let us pray also for those in positions of authority and responsibility in government and society that, especially in this time of pandemic, they may seek the common good of all and promote public health and reconciliation among communities in conflict in our country.
  
Our Lady, Health of the Sick,, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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August 2, 2020

Dear Friends,

On August 2, 1844, Isaac Hecker made his First Confession and First Communion. He wrote in his diary: Our soul is clothed in brightness. Its youth is restored. No clouds obscure its luster. O blessed ever blessed unfathomable divine faith. O blessed faith of Apostles Martyrs Confessors and Saints! O holy Mother of Jesus thou art my Mother. Thy tender love I feel in my heart. O holy Mother thou has beheld me! Bless me Virgin Mother of Jesus. 
 
Exactly one year later, Hecker’s spiritual journey was taking him to Europe, there to study and prepare himself to become a Redemptorist priest.
 
Mass for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time will be celebrated at 9:00 and 11:30 a.m. today. Remember that for now everyone remains dispensed from the Sunday obligation. 
The 9:00 Mass will be live streamed on the parish Facebook page. Sunday morning Masses may also be attended in the parish hall, which may be especially convenient for those unable to use the stairs or who would prefer even greater physical distance.
At Mass, please follow the instructions of the ushers, sit in the areas designated (“sit at the green and not in between”), and remain there throughout the entire Mass. Also remember that the wearing of face masks is diocesan and parish policy and is required of anyone who is in the church, the church hall, or the parish office building. Everyone in the congregation above the established age is expected to wear a mask covering one’s mouth and nose the entire time.
After the Deacon finishes distributing Holy Communion downstairs, he will continue to do so at the east aisle in the main church. the celebrant will remain at the center.
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.”
 
In this trying time, let us all keep one another in prayer, as well as the sick and those who care for them, and all in material, emotional, or spiritual need at this time, as well as all who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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August 1, 2020

Dear Friends,

Today the Church commemorates Saint Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787), a Neapolitan nobleman and lawyer, who became a priest and preached missions for the poor and marginalized. He founded the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists) to carry out the work of the missions, and at papal command he became Bishop of Sant’ Agata dei Goti. He composed hymns for use in the missions and promoted devotion to the Eucharist and the Blessed Virgin Mary. Opposing Jansenism, he stressed God’s love. He is the patron of confessors and of moral theologians, and is a Doctor of the Church (“Doctor zelantissimus”). He is one of the patrons of the Paulist Fathers. He is also patron of those who suffer from arthritis.
On August 1, 1844, a 24-year old religious seeker, Isaac Hecker, was received into the Catholic Church at Saint Patrick’s Old Cathedral in New York. The previous year, after attending Easter Mass in Catholic Church, Hecker had written in his diary: The Catholic Church alone seems to satisfy my wants … my soul is catholic and that faith answers responds to my soul in its religious aspirations and its longings. I have not wished to make myself catholic but it answers to the wants of my soul. It is so rich full.
Continuing his search, Hecker studied the Catechism of the Council of Trent and was especially impressed by Article IX, on the doctrine of the communion of saints. Years later he recalled: When, in 1843, I first read in the catechism of the Council of Trent the doctrine of the communion of saints, it went right home. It alone was to me a heavier weight on the Catholic side of the scales than the best historical argument which could be presented. … The body made alive by such truths ought to be of divine life and its origin traceable to a divine establishment: it ought to be the true church. The certainty of the distinctively Catholic doctrine of the union of God and men made the institution of the church by Christ exceedingly probable.
Exactly one year later, Hecker’s spiritual journey was taking him to Europe, there to study and prepare himself to become a Redemptorist priest.
My own spiritual and vocational journey was nowhere near as noteworthy as Hecker’s, of course, but it too brought me to the priesthood and, 10 years ago today, to Knoxville as Immaculate Conception’s 24th pastor. And, in observance of the upcoming 25th Anniversary of my ordination later this year, I would like to invite everyone, who is able to do so, to donate $25 (or more) to Fr. Ron’s 25th Anniversary Fund for a Post-Pandemic Parish Future, intended to help our parish to stay on top of and pay for the various adaptations we will continue to have to make in response to the pandemic.
Mass for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time will be celebrated this afternoon at 5:00 p.m. and Sunday morning at 9:00 and 11:30 a.m.
The texts of the hymns, the responsorial psalm, and the sung parts of the ordinary of the Mass are available each week on the parish website. So anyone with a smartphone can access it directly during Mass. Alternately, you can access it at home prior to Mass, print it, and bring the text with you to Mass. In that case, please remember to take the paper with you when you leave. In general, any paper or other materials you bring with you to Mass you should take with you when you leave. Nothing should ever be left behind in the pews.
Please remember to wear your mask at all times in Church, including while entering and leaving. Remember that the mask must completely cover your nose and mouth!
The restrooms in the parish hall will be open at Mass times.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Saint Alphonsus Liguori, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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July 31, 2020

Dear Friends,

Today the Church commemorates Saint Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556), a Spanish nobleman and soldier who founded the Jesuits (approved by Pope Paul III in 1540) and composed the Spiritual Exercises. He is patron of retreatants. (Attached is a 2012 photo of Saint Ignatius’s Tomb in the Gesu Church in Rome.)
In one of his most famous sermons, preached at the Paulist Church in New York in 1863, Servant of God Isaac Hecker said of Saint Ignatius: “At a later period still, in monasteries no longer cloistered, sprang up into life a new type of Christian perfection, differing in many ways from the former in its expression. The leader of this company was Ignatius Loyola, the Spanish soldier, who abandoned the sword for the more powerful weapon of the Cross. For enlarged conception, energy of execution, and boldness of design, he has not been surpassed, if ever equaled, in Church history.”
Tomorrow, we will resume our regular Saturday morning 8:30 Mass. Since Saturday will also be the First Saturday of the month, the Rosary will be recited after Mass. Please remember to wear your face mask and maintain appropriate physical distance during the recitation of the Rosary. 
Mass for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time will be celebrated tomorrow afternoon at 5:00 p.m., preceded by confessions from 4:00 to 4:30 p.m. Note that this will remain the regular Saturday schedule now for the foreseeable future.

As we watch the number of COVID-19 cases increasing alarmingly all around us, let us pray for all the sick and all who care for them, for the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, for those whose daily work in so many essential areas make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them. Let us pray also for healing and reconciliation in our conflicted country, for justice for victims of institutionalized violence, and for all who are in need at this time.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Saint Ignatius Loyola, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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July 30, 2020

Dear Friends,

Today the Church commemorates Saint Peter Chrysologus (406-450), Bishop of Ravenna (at that time the imperial capital of the Western Roman empire), famous for his exceptional preaching (“chrysologus” means “of golden words”). He is a Doctor of the Church.
“Christ became a child, was fed, and grew that he might inaugurate the one perfect age to remain forever as he created it. He supports humanity that humanity might no longer fall. And the creature he had formed of earth he now makes heavenly; and what he had endowed with a human soul he now vivifies to become a heavenly spirit.” (Saint Peter Chrysologus, Sermon 148)
On Saturday, August 1, we will resume our regular Saturday morning 8:30 Mass. Since Saturday will also be the First Saturday of the month, the Rosary will be recited after Mass. Please remember to wear your face mask and maintain appropriate physical distance during the recitation of the Rosary.
Also beginning on Saturday, the afternoon Mass for the following Sunday will be at 5:00, preceded by confessions from 4:00 to 4:30 p.m.
The Diocese has been hearing more and more from people in parishes expressing great concern that the mandates that the Bishop issued concerning Covid-19 are not always being followed. Bishop Stika asks us to remember these were mandates, issued in order to protect the lives of those who participate at Mass and other parish events. He also reminds us how in our region, as well as throughout the United States, cases of this virus are on the increase.
 
Needless to say, I second the Bishop’s concern. I ask everyone to observe all the appropriate precautions which, if properly observed, will make it possible for parish activities to continue. Remember to maintain appropriate physical distance from others and to wear your mask at all times in church, including while entering and leaving, so that your mask completely covers your nose and mouth!
 
As we watch the number of COVID-19 cases increasing alarmingly all around us, let us pray for all the sick and all who care for them, for the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, for those whose daily work in so many essential areas make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them. Let us pray also for healing and reconciliation in our conflicted country, for justice for victims of institutionalized violence, and for all who are in need at this time.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Saint Peter Chrysologus, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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July 29, 2020

Dear Friends,

Today the Church commemorates Saint Martha, the sister of Lazarus and Mary of Bethany, known for her hospitality to Jesus in both Luke and John’s gospels, who professed her faith in Jesus as the Son of God at Lazarus’ tomb. She is the patroness of housewives and of waiters and waitresses.
“Martha and Mary were sisters, related not only by blood but by religious aspirations. They stayed close to our Lord and both served him harmoniously when he was among them. Martha welcomed him as travelers are welcomed. But in her case the maidservant received her Lord, the invalid her Savior, the creature her Creator, to serve him bodily food while she was to be fed by the Spirit.” (Saint Augustine, Sermon 103)
At our parish staff meeting yesterday, we reviewed several concerns that have arisen recently.
Attentive to the desire of many to participate more actively in the Mass, the words of the hymns, the responsorial psalm, and the sung parts of the ordinary of the Mass will be available each week on the parish website. So anyone with a smartphone will be able to access it easily during Mass. Alternately, one can access it at home prior to Mass, print it, and bring the text with you to Mass. In that case, please remember to take the paper with you when you leave. In general, any paper or other materials you bring with you to Mass you should take with you when you leave. Nothing should ever be left behind in the pews.
Also, from now on when the Deacon finishes distributing Holy Communion downstairs on Sundays, he will continue to do so at the east aisle in the main church. the celebrant will remain at the center. This will avoid anyone lingering near the cantor’s are while she is singing.
Please remember to wear your mask at all times in Church, including while entering and leaving. Remember that the mask must completely cover your nose and mouth!

Finally, from now on, the restrooms in the parish hall will be open at Mass times.


As we watch the number of COVID-19 cases increasing alarmingly all around us, let us pray for all the sick and all who care for them, for the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, for those whose daily work in so many essential areas make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them. Let us pray also for healing and reconciliation in our conflicted country, for justice for victims of institutionalized violence, and for all who are in need at this time.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Saint Martha, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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July 28, 2020

Dear Friends,

Today the parish staff will have its biweekly staff meeting. So the parish office will open at noon today.
On Saturday, August 1, we will resume our regular Saturday morning 8:30 Mass. Since Saturday will also be the First Saturday of the month, the Rosary will be recited after Mass. Please remember to wear your face mask and maintain appropriate physical distance during the recitation of the Rosary.
 
Also beginning on Saturday, the afternoon Mass for the following Sunday will be at 5:00, preceded by confessions from 4:00 to 4:30 p.m.
Please keep in your prayers the faculty and staff of our Catholic schools as they return to work this week, and their students who will resume regular classes on Monday, August 3, for their health and safety and the long-term success of the mission of Catholic education in our community and in our country.
As we watch the number of COVID-19 cases increasing alarmingly all around us, let us pray also especially for all the sick and all who care for them, for the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, for those whose daily work in so many essential areas make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them. Let us pray also for healing and reconciliation among communities in conflict in country, for justice for victims of institutionalized violence, and for all who are in need at this time.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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July 27, 2020

Dear Friends,
The funeral for Thomas Chandler will be celebrated at 10:00 a.m. today. The family will receive friends after the Mass in the parish hall.
After the praying of the Angelus in Saint Peter’s Square yesterday, Pope Francis added this to his weekly message:
On the memorial of the Saints Joachim and Anne, Jesus “grandparents”, I would like to invite the young to perform a gesture of tenderness towards the elderly, especially the loneliest, in their homes and residences, those who have not seen their loved ones for many months. Dear young people, each one of these elderly people is your grandparent! Do not leave them by themselves. Use the inventiveness of love, make telephone calls, video calls, send messages, listen to them and, where possible, in compliance with the healthcare rules, go to visit them too. Send them a hug. They are your roots. An uprooted tree cannot grow, it does not blossom or bear fruit. This is why the bond and connection with your roots is important. “The blossom of a tree comes from what it has underground”, says a poet from my homeland. Therefore I invite you to give a big round of applause for our grandparents, everyone!
 
From now on the parish Mass schedule will be as follows:
Sunday Masses: Saturday 5:00 p.m. Sunday 9:00 and 11:30 a.m.
Monday-Friday: 12:10 p.m.
Saturday: 8:30 a.m.
Confessions: Monday-Friday 11:45 a.m. Saturday 4:00-4:30 p.m.
 
As of yesterday, the number of confirmed covid-19 cases worldwide has reached 16,055,909, with 644,661 deaths.en The U.S. total is at least 4,250,380, with 148,593 deaths. Tennessee has had 88,459 confirmed cases statewide, with 953 deaths. As I said at Mass yesterday, while, on the one hand this pandemic moment makes us shed the illusory security of false treasures, on the other it challenges us to treasure ourselves and one another as God does, deploying God’s gifts of wisdom and scientific knowledge to understand our situation and so bond with all our brothers and sisters to heal our broken world.

So, as we watch the number of COVID-19 cases increasing alarmingly all around us, let us pray for all the sick and all who care for them, for the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, for those whose daily work in so many essential areas make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them. Let us pray also for healing and reconciliation in our conflicted country, for justice for victims of institutionalized violence, and for all who are in need at this time.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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July 26, 2020

Dear Friends,

Mass for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time will be celebrated this morning at 9:00 and 11:30 a.m. Remember that for now everyone remains dispensed from the Sunday obligation. 
Sunday morning Masses may also be attended in the parish hall, which may be especially convenient for those unable to use the stairs or who would prefer even greater physical distance.
At Mass, please follow the instructions of the ushers, sit in the areas designated (“sit at the green and not in between”), and remain there throughout the entire Mass. Remember that at this time there is no access to the elevator or the restrooms on weekends. Also remember that the wearing of face masks is diocesan and parish policy and is required of anyone who is in the church, the church hall, or the parish office building. Everyone in the congregation above the established age is expected to wear a mask.
The 9:00 Mass will be live streamed on the parish Facebook page. As an alternative, you may wish to watch the First Mass of newly ordained Paulist Father Paolo Puccini on the Paulist You Tube and Facebook pages at 9:45 EDT.
Until Fr, Paolo’s ordination yesterday, I enjoyed the distinction of being the last Paulist to have been ordained a priest not in New York. I still have the distinction of being the last Paulist ordained in a foreign country!
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.”
As we watch the number of COVID-19 cases increasing alarmingly all around us, let us pray for all the sick and all who care for them, for the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, for those whose daily work in so many essential areas make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them. Let us pray also for healing and reconciliation in our conflicted country, for justice for victims of institutionalized violence, and for all who are in need at this time.
Were today not a Sunday, we would be celebrating Saints Anne and Joachim, the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We invoke their intercession as well, in our time of need.
Finally, the funeral Mass for Thomas Chandler will be celebrated tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. His obituary is attached. The family will receive friends after the Mass in the parish hall.
In this trying time, let us all keep one another in prayer, as well as the sick and those who care for them, and all in material, emotional, or spiritual need at this time, as well as all who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Saint Anne and Saint Joachim, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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July 25, 2020

Dear Friends,

Today the Church celebrates the feast of Saint James the Greater, the brother of John, two of the three apostles who witnessed Jesus’ Transfiguration and Agony in the Garden. Beheaded in the year 42, he was the first of the 12 to be martyred. He is the patron saint of Spain, where his burial site at Compostella has been a major place of European pilgrimage since the Middle Ages. 
 
Today, The Paulist Fathers will celebrate the ordination of Deacon Paolo Puccini to the holy priesthood. Deacon Paolo was originally scheduled to be ordained in New York on May 16, but the pandemic made that impossible. So his rescheduled ordination will take place at Saint Austin’s parish, Austin, TX, today at 11:00 a.m. Central Time (12:00 noon Eastern Time). Bishop Vasquez of Austin will celebrate the ordination. The ordination Mass will be live streamed on the Paulist Fathers’ You Tube and Facebook pages. The Link to our YouTube Channel is: YouTube.com/PaulistFathers    Fr. Puccini will then celebrate his First Mass at Saint Austin’s Church on Sunday, July 26, at 8:45 a.m. Central Time (9:45 a.m. Eastern Time). That Mass will also be live streamed. Please join the Paulist Fathers in congratulating Fr. Paolo on his ordination and praying that he will experience and long and fruitful and fulfilling priestly life and ministry.
Almighty and ever faithful God, you spoke your Word to the world in your Son Jesus Christ, and commissioned Saint Paul to bring your word to all nations and to the ends of the earth. Your Spirit led Servant of God Isaac Hecker to proclaim your word in North America using tools of the modern age. We ask you to call new missionaries in the line of Saint Paul and Father Hecker. May they burn with passion to give the Gospel a voice so that all may know the mystery of your love. May they follow the Lord Jesus with the seal of Saint Paul and Father Hecker as they carry on the mission of the Paulist community. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Mass for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time will be celebrated this afternoon at 4:00 p.m. and tomorrow at 9:00 and 11:30 p.m. Remember that for now everyone remains dispensed from the Sunday obligation. 
The 9:00 Mass will be live streamed on the parish Facebook page. Sunday morning Masses may also be attended in the parish hall, which may be especially convenient for those unable to use the stairs or who would prefer even greater physical distance.
At Mass, please follow the instructions of the ushers, sit in the areas designated (“sit at the green and not in between”), and remain there throughout the entire Mass. Remember that at this time there is no access to the elevator or the restrooms on weekends. Also remember that the wearing of face masks is diocesan and parish policy and is required of anyone who is in the church, the church hall, or the parish office building. Everyone in the congregation above the established age is expected to wear a mask.
Note that beginning next Saturday, August 1, morning Mass will be celebrated at 8:30 a.m., and the Saturday afternoon Sunday Mass will be celebrated at 5:00 p.m. (preceded by confessions at 4:00 p.m.).

In this trying time, let us all keep one another in prayer, as well as the sick and those who care for them, and all in material, emotional, or spiritual need at this time, as well as all who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Saint James, Apostle, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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July 24, 2020

Dear Friends,

Today the Church commemorates Saint Sharbel Makhluf (1828-1898), “the Hermit of Lebanon,” a Lebanese Maronite monk and miracle-worker, who spent his last 23 years as a hermit, and whose tomb at Saint Maron Monastery in Lebanon is a major place of pilgrimage.
Tomorrow, the Paulist Fathers will celebrate the ordination of Deacon Paolo Puccini as a priest at noon Eastern Time. The ceremony will be live-streamed on the Paulist Fathers’ YouTube and Facebook pages. In anticipation of Paolo’s ordination, I invite you to watch this video about him and his journey to this day:
In this trying time, let us all keep one another in prayer, as well as the sick and those who care for them, and all in material, emotional, or spiritual need at this time, as well as all who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Saint Sharbel Makhluf, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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July 23, 2020

Dear Friends,

Today the Church commemorates Saint Bridget of Sweden (1303-1373), a mother of eight children (one of them also a saint, Saint Catherine of Sweden), who as a widow dedicated herself to an ascetic and contemplative life and founded the Order of the Most Holy Savior (“Bridgettines”). Her Revelations record her spiritual life and experiences. She is patroness of Sweden and co-patroness of Europe together with  Saint Catherine of Siena and Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein).
 
Tomorrow from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., First Baptist Church will sponsor a Summer Blood Drive. 
To make an appointment, call 865-524-3074 or go online https://tndonor.org/donor/schedules/drive_schedule/70122.
 
The funeral Mass for Thomas Chandler will be on Monday at 10:00 a.m.
 
The Holy See’s Pontifical Academy for Life has issued a short document, “Humana Communitas in the Age of Pandemic: Untimely Meditations on Life’s Rebirth,” which I invite you to read and reflect upon. You can read it at:
 
As of yesterday the number of coronavirus cases worldwide has surpassed 15 million – 15,008,046, with 617.902 deaths. The U.S. total is just under 4 million – 3,970,671, with 144,173 deaths. Tennessee has had 80,026 cases, with 863 deaths.
 
In this trying time, let us all keep one another in prayer, as well as the sick and those who care for them, and all in material, emotional, or spiritual need at this time, as well as all who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
 
Saint Bridget, pray for us!
 
Fr. Ron
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July 22, 2020

Dear Friends,

Today the Church commemorates Saint Mary Magdalene. Having been healed of some sort of demonic possession, Mary of Magdala, a fishing town on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, became a disciple of Jesus, one of several female disciples who followed Jesus and apparently helped to fund his ministry (cf. Luke 8:2-3). She was present at Jesus’ crucifixion, and was the first to see the Risen Lord and to witness to it to the apostles (Mark 16:9-10; John 20:11-18). Mary Magdalene’s obvious importance in the Gospel story and the role she played on Easter have caused her to be called apostola apostolorum (“apostle of the apostles”). Everything about the story of Mary Magdalene that is actually certain – her healing by Jesus, her response by becoming a disciple, her generous financial support for Jesus’ mission, her fidelity at the foot of the Cross when most of the others had abandoned Jesus, her Easter encounter with Christ, and her commission to evangelize – highlight her true importance in the early Christian community and her continued significance for the life of the Church in every age. She is one of the special patrons of the Paulist Fathers.
 
For various reasons, Mary Magdalene has historically been misidentified at times with two other individuals in the New Testament: Mary of Bethany (the sister of Lazarus and Martha) and the unnamed “sinful woman” who washed Jesus’ feet in Luke 7:36-50. Because of the latter mistake, Mary Magdalene has often been given the title “Penitent.” The Eastern Churches have always avoided this mistake, have always recognized the Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany, and the “sinful woman” as separate individuals, and have never labeled Mary Magdalene a “penitent.” In 2016, today’s liturgical commemoration was elevated to a feast, comparable to the those of most of the Apostles A specific Preface was composed to refer to her explicitly as the “Apostle to the Apostles.”
 
“We should reflect on Mary’s attitude and the great love she bore for Christ; for, though the disciples had left the tomb, she remained. She was still seeking the one she had not found, and while she sought she wept; burning with the fire of love, she longed for him who she thought he had been taken away. And so it happened that the woman who stayed behind to seek Christ was the only one to see him. For perseverance is essential to any good deed.” (Saint Gregory the Great, Homily 25).
 
This Saturday, July 25, the Paulist Fathers will celebrate the ordination of Deacon Paolo Puccini to the holy priesthood. Deacon Paolo was originally scheduled to be ordained in New York on May 16, but the pandemic made that impossible. So his rescheduled ordination will take place at Saint Austin’s parish, Austin, TX, Saturday morning at 11:00 a.m. Central Time (12:00 noon Eastern Time). Bishop Vasquez of Austin will celebrate the ordination. The ordination Mass will be live streamed on the Paulist You tube and Facebook pages. Fr. Puccini will then celebrate his First Mass at Saint Austin’s Church on Sunday, July 26, at 8:45 a.m. Central Time (9:45 a.m. Eastern Time). That Mass will also be live streamed . Please join the Paulist Fathers in congratulating Fr. Paolo on his ordination and praying that he will experience and long and fruitful and fulfilling priestly life and ministry.
In anticipation of Paolo’s ordination, I invite you to watch this video about him and his journey to this day:
 
Meanwhile, let us all keep one another in prayer in this trying time, as well as the sick and those who care for them, and all in material, emotional, or spiritual need at this time, as well as all who have died and those who mourn them.
 
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Saint Mary Magdalene, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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July 21, 2020

Dear Friends,

Today the Church commemorates Saint Lawrence of Brindisi (1559-1619). famous Capuchin preacher and author, who also served as military chaplain and diplomat and is a Doctor of the Church (“Doctor apostolicus”).
Tonight Bishop Stika will ordain seminarian Matthew Donahue as a Deacon at Saint John Neumann Church.  We wish him well as he takes this important next step in his vocational journey, and we pray that the Diocese of Knoxville will be blessed with many more men and women devoted to the Church’s service as priests, deacons, religious sisters, and religious brothers.
As of yesterday, there have been 14,507,491 covid-19 cases worldwide, with 606,173 deaths.
The U.S. has had 3,834,208 cases, with 142,601 deaths. Tennessee has had 79,754 cases, with 834 deaths.
As I said on Sunday, this pandemic challenges us – as perhaps few other world events recently have – to focus on the care we owe to ourselves and one another. We need to be more, not less, vigilant in observing all the proper precautions, not just in church on Sunday but all the time. “See how they love one another” was how some described the early Christians. We all know that whether as individuals or as a Church community we have not always lived up to that as well as we should. But we are being especially challenged to do so today. As citizens, we understand that living in society, being in community with others, imposes burdens. As Christians, we believe the love we should have for one another will make those burdens more bearable.
As Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego recently said in his homily at the ordination of a new Auxiliary Bishop: “The pandmeic has worn us down and made us fearful of the way forward. … Patterns of parish life that have sustained community and the proclamation of the Gospel for decades have been ruptured by the isolation of these months and the atomization of all social life that we have witnessed. there is a great danger that that pandemic is creating a culture of increased disengagement within the life of the Church that will persist long after a vaccination is found. … There is  no more important work for the Church in the coming months than consoling those who have been broken and bringing to our world the understanding that God provides the only enduring foundation for the journey of life on this earth.”
Let us keep one another in prayer in this trying time, as well as the sick and those who care for them, and all in material, emotional, or spiritual need at this time, as well as all who have died and those who mourn them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Saint Lawrence of Brindisi, pray for us!
Fr. Ron

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July 20, 2020

Dear Friends,

Today the Church commemorates Saint Apollinaris, bishop of Ravenna (reportedly ordained by Saint Peter himself) during the reign of the Emperor Claudius, who was noted as a healer and was martyred around the year 79.
The Funeral Mass for Betty King will be celebrated this morning at 10:30 a.m The church will open at 9:00 a.m.
A written version fo my report to the parish is available on the parish website, for the benefit of anyone who may have missed my presentation yesterday but would like to read it.
As I said yesterday, the things we are called upon to do to help one another in this time of crisis, such as wearing masks and maintaining physical distance may see burdensome at times, but they are the burdens that go with being members of a society, part of a community. As disciples of Jesus, the concern we ought to have for one another will lighten that burden considerably. So let us remain hopeful and confident that our efforts will enable us to move ahead into the future we desire for ourselves, our families, our parish, and our country.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Saint Apollinaris, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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July 19, 2020 (The 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

Dear Friends,

Mass for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time will be celebrated this morning at 9:00 and 11:30 a.m. Remember that for now everyone remains dispensed from the Sunday obligation. 
The 9:00 Mass will be live streamed on the parish Facebook page. Sunday morning Masses may also be attended in the parish hall, which may be especially convenient for those unable to use the stairs or who would prefer even greater physical distance.
At Mass, please follow the instructions of the ushers, sit in the areas designated (“sit at the green and not in between”), and remain there throughout the entire Mass. Remember that at this time there is no access to the elevator or the restrooms on weekends. Also remember that the wearing of face masks is diocesan and parish policy and is required of anyone who is in the church, the church hall, or the parish office building. Everyone in the congregation above the established age is expected to wear a mask.
I will be giving a brief presentation on the state of the parish at the end of the 9:00 Mass this morning. You can listen to it live or recorded
 
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.”
As we watch the number of COVID-19 cases increasing alarmingly all around us, let us pray for all the sick and all who care for them, for the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, for those whose daily work in so many essential areas make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them. Let us pray also for healing and reconciliation in our conflicted country, for justice for victims of institutionalized violence, and for all who are in need at this time.
The Funeral Mass for Betty King will be tomorrow, Monday, July 20, at Immaculate Conception Church, at 10:30 a.m., with interment at the National Cemetery, Tyson Street, at 1:00 p.m. The church will be open, beginning at 9:00 a.m.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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July 18, 2020

Dear Friends, 

 Today the Church in the United States commemorates Saint Camillus de Lellis (1550-1614), a soldier and gambler, who consecrated his life to service to the sick, improved the treatment and care of hospital patients, and founded the Order of Ministers of the Sick.
Tomorrow is the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Mass will be celebrated this afternoon at 4:00 p.m. and Sunday morning at 9:00 and 11:30 a.m. The 9:00 Mass will be live streamed on the parish’s Facebook page.
I will be giving a brief presentation on the state of the parish at the end of the 9:00 Mass this morning. You can listen to it live or recorded.
 
As of yesterday, there have been 13,885,746 coronavirus cases worldwide, with 592,573 deaths worldwide. The U.S. has had 3,677,453 cases, more than any other country, with 140,888 deaths nationally. Tennessee has had 70,782 cases, with 786 deaths
These alarming numbers should alert all of us the continued importance of following all the prescribed precautions – wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, etc. – not just at church but wherever we may be with others, and to pray earnestly for enlightened leadership at all levels of society to help guide us through this crisis. Let us pray also and especially for the sick and those who care for them. and for those who have died and those who mourn for them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Saint Camillus de Lellis, pray for us!
Fr. Ron

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July 17, 2020

Dear Friends, 

I will be giving a brief presentation on the State of the Parish at the end of the live streamed 9:00 Mass on Sunday.  You can listen live or recorded.

 
The Funeral Mass for Betty King will be celebrated at Immaculate Conception Church on Monday, July 20, at 10:30 a.m., followed by burial at the National Cemetery, Tyson Street.
 
One week from now, on Friday, July 24, from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., First Baptist Church will sponsor a Summer Blood Drive. 
To make an appointment, call 865-524-3074 or go online to https://tndonor.org/donor/schedules/drive_schedule/70122.
 
One week from tomorrow, on Saturday, July 25, the Paulist Fathers will celebrate the ordination of Deacon Paolo Puccini as a priest on Saturday, July 25, at noon Eastern Time. The ceremony will be live- streamed on the Paulist Fathers’ YouTube and Facebook pages.
 
As we observe the alarming increases in cases of covid-19 in this part of the country, we need to intensify our caution about following following all the prescribed health and safety recommendations – wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, etc. – both at church and elsewhere and to pray earnestly for enlightened leadership at all levels of society to help guide us through this crisis. Let us pray also and especially for the sick and those who care for them. and for those who have died and those who mourn for them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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July 16, 2020

Dear Friends, 

Today the Church celebrates Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the patronal feast of the Carmelite Order, which commemorates the Blessed Virgin Mary’s apparition to Saint Simon Stock, the Superior General of the Carmelites  in 1251. Popular devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel has traditionally been associated with wearing the Brown Scapular a practice fostered by the Carmelites. Today’s feast probably originated in 14th-century England, but the Carmelites trace themselves back to Christian hermits who established themselves on Mount Carmel (modern Haifa in Israel) in the 12th and 13th centuries because of Mount Carmel’s historical association with the great Old Testament prophet Elijah, but then then migrated to Western Europe. The Stella Maris Monastery on Mount Carmel is considered still the order’s spiritual headquarters. Carmelites consider Mary the model of a life of prayer and contemplation, since she is the one who points us more surely to Christ, as when she instructed the staff at Cana, Do whatever he tells you.
As coronavirus cases continue to increase in the United States, let us redouble our efforts to observe all the prescribed precautions – wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, etc. – both at church and elsewhere, and let us pray earnestly for enlightened leadership at all levels of society to help guide us through this crisis. Let us pray also and especially for the sick and those who care for them. and for those who have died and those who mourn for them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Our Lady of Mount Carmel, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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July 15, 2020

Dear Friends, 

The Parish Staff met yesterday. We reviewed the experience of weekend and daily Masses and practical questions concerning seating, Sunday collections, etc.,  as well as other longer-term matters. I plan to give a brief, in-person report to the parish after the 9:00 a.m. Mass this Sunday, July 19.  Those present for the Mass may either remain for that or depart during the final hymn. The Facebook livestream will continue. So anyone who wishes can listen either at that time or later on, whenever convenient.  If this proves useful, I will do it again once each month until the end of the year.
Today the Church commemorates Saint Bonaventure (1221-1274), Franciscan Friar and scholar, contemporary of Saint Thomas Aquinas, who became Minister General of the Franciscans and Cardinal-Bishop of Albano. He is considered the greatest exponent of mystical theology in the Middle Ages, and is a Doctor of the Church (Doctor Seraphicus).
In his mystical treatise, The Mind’s Journey to God, Saint Bonaventure wrote: we must suspend all the operations of the mind and we must transform the peak of our affections, directing them to God alone. This is a sacred mystical experience. It cannot be comprehended by anyone unless one surrenders oneself to it; no can one surrender oneself to it unless one longs for it; nor can one long for it unless the Holy Spirit, whom Christ sent into the world, should come and influence one’s innermost soul.
The Knights of Columbus have postponed the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart at Immaculate Conception, scheduled for Sunday July 26, to some as yet undetermined future date when people may participate with perhaps less concern abouot attending a public event. 
As of yesterday, there have been 13,113,181 confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide, with 573,288 deaths. The United States has had 342,462 cases, including 137,613 deaths, way more than any other country. Tennessee has had 64,524 cases with 739 deaths.
Surely, these alarming numbers should alert us to the importance of following all the prescribed precautions – wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, etc. – both at church and elsewhere and to pray earnestly for enlightened leadership at all levels of society to help guide us through this crisis. Let us pray also and especially for the sick and those who care for them. and for those who have died and those who mourn for them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Saint Bonaventure, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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July 14, 2020

Dear Friends, 

The Parish Staff will have its biweekly meeting this morning. So the parish office will not open until 12:00 noon. 
Today the Church in the United States commemorates Saint Kateri Tekakwitha (1656-1680), known as the “Lily of the Mohawks.” She was born in the Mohawk village of Ossernenon, near what is today Auriesville, NY where Saints Isaac Jogues and Jean de Lelande had been martyred by the Iroquois nine year earlier. Orphaned at the age of four, she was raised by her uncle, the chief of the Mohawk village. When priests came to the village, Kateri was baptized at the age of 19, despite the anger of her relatives, and given the Christian name Catherine after Saint Catherine of Siena. She left her home and lived for the remaining five years of her life in a Jesuit mission village south of Montreal, where she lived a life of prayer and penance, and took a vow of virginity. She was beatified in 1980 and canonized in 2012, the first native-American woman of North America to be canonized. Isaac. Hecker’s colleague, Clarence Walworth (1820-1900), who came from the same region of New York as Kateri, was very interested in Native-American history and strongly promoted her veneration.
Some have asked about how they can follow along with the Liturgy of the Word during Mass now that we no longer have books in the pews. Anyone, of course, can bring his or her own missal or other resource that contains the texts in order to read them privately during Mass. If you have a smartphone or similar device with you, you can also always access the United States Conference fo Catholic Bishops’ website – http://www.usccb.org/ – which provides the text for the readings for each day.
The alarming increases in covid-19 cases should remind us of the importance of following all the prescribed precautions – wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, etc. – both at church and elsewhere and to pray earnestly for enlightened leadership at all levels of society to help guide us through this crisis. Let us pray also and especially for the sick and those who care for them. and for those who have died and those who mourn for them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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July 13, 2020

Dear Friends,

Today the Church commemorates Saint Henry II (973-1024), who was Holy Roman Emperor from 1002 to 1024. His wife Cunegunde (975-1040) is also a saint. So they are among the handful of the Church’s canonized couples. The Creed was introduced into the Roman liturgy as his request. He was instrumental in the christianization of Hungary and founded the See of Bamberg as a center for missions to the Slavs. he financed the construction of churches and monasteries and fostered ecclesiastical reform. Henry was successful not only in consolidating his own position but in centralizing authority in the Empire, and he built much of that authority on his personal and political relationship with the Church. He is said to have commanded the Abbot of Verdun to accept him as a monk in his monastery, whereupon, so the story goes, the Abbot then commanded him as an obedient monk to continue ruling his empire. (A Benedictine Oblate in life, Henry became the patron saint of Oblates.) In addition to serving as a model of a pious statesman, Henry exemplified a model of European integration  rooted in European Christianity. 
This coming Sunday after the 9:00 Mass, I hope to present an in-person, on-line report to the parish on the overall state of things since the pandemic began.
As of yesterday, there have been 12,552,763 confirmed cases of covid-19 worldwide. The U.S. has had 3,366,515 confirmed cases, with 137,191 deaths. Of these, Tennessee has had  61,960 cases, with  741 deaths.
These alarming numbers should remind us of the importance of following all the prescribed precautions – wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, etc. – both at church and elsewhere and to pray earnestly for enlightened leadership at all levels of society to help guide us through this crisis. Let us pray also and especially for the sick and those who care for them. and for those who have died and those who mourn for them.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Saint Henry II, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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July 12, 2020 – The 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Friends,

Mass for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time will be celebrated this morning at 9:00 and 11:30 a.m. Remember that for now everyone remains dispensed from the Sunday obligation. The 9:00 Mass will be live streamed on the parish Facebook page. Sunday morning Masses may also be attended in the parish hall, which may be especially convenient for those unable to use the stairs or who would prefer even greater physical distance.
You will notice that we have relabeled the seats in the church to make it easier for everyone to see where to sit and where not to sit. At Mass, please follow the instructions of the ushers, sit in the areas designated (“sit at the green and not in between”), and remain there throughout the entire Mass. Remember that at this time there is no access to the elevator or the restrooms on weekends. Also remember that the wearing of face masks is diocesan and parish policy and is required of anyone who is in the church or the church hall or the parish office building. Everyone in the congregation above the established age is expected to wear a mask during the entire Mass, except when actually consuming the Sacred Host at Holy Communion.
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.”
As we watch the number of COVID-19 cases increasing alarmingly all around us, let us pray for all the sick and all who care for them, for the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, for those whose daily work in so many essential areas make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them. Let us pray also for healing and reconciliation in our conflicted country, for justice for victims of institutionalized violence, and for all who are in need at this time.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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July 11, 2020

Dear Friends,

Today the Church commemorates Saint Benedict (480-547), who organized 12 monasteries devoted to a structured life of prayer and work and wrote a Rule for monks which became normative in much of Western monastic life. His Rule was epoch making in its time and remains a good guide to holiness in any age.Pope Saint Paul VI proclaimed him patron saint of Europe. Servant of God Isaac Hecker said Saint Benedict: “In the consecrated walls of monasteries and cloisters were nurtured a multitude of souls who sought in these retreats to satisfy the yearnings of their religious nature, which the world around them afforded not the means of doing.”
Mass for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time will be celebrated this afternoon at 4:00 p.m. and tomorrow morning at 9:00 and 11:30 a.m. Remember that for now everyone remains dispensed from the Sunday obligation. The 9:00 Mass will be live streamed on the parish Facebook page. Sunday morning Masses may also be attended in the parish hall, which may be especially convenient for those unable to use the stairs or who would prefer even greater physical distance.
You will notice that we have relabeled the seats in the church to make it easier for everyone to see where to sit and where not to sit. At Mass, please follow the instructions of the ushers, sit in the areas designated, and remain there throughout the entire Mass. Remember that at this time there is no access to the elevator or the restrooms on weekends. Also remember that the wearing of face masks is diocesan and parish policy and is required of anyone who is in the church or the church hall or the parish office building. Everyone in the congregation above the established age is expected to wear a mask during the entire Mass, except when actually consuming the Sacred Host at Holy Communion.
As we watch the number of COVID-19 cases increasing alarmingly all around us, let us pray for all the sick and all who care for them, for the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, for those whose daily work in so many essential areas make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them. Let us pray also for healing and reconciliation in our conflicted country, for justice for victims of institutionalized violence, and for all who are in need at this time.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick and Patroness of the United States, pray for us!
Saint Benedict, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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July 10, 2020

Dear Friends,
Some have asked for more information about the Salve Regina (“Hail, Holy Queen”), which we have recently started singing after Sunday Mass. The Salve Regina is the last of the four seasonal Marian antiphons with which the Church’s daily cycle of prayer concludes. It is traditionally prescribed for the period from Pentecost to Advent, which is what we are in now, and which in a certain sense symbolizes the period of history in which we are living. Historically, the Salve Regina may be the most commonly recited Marian prayer after the Hail Mary. Since the 12th century, the Salve Regina has been sung by the faithful in Latin to mark all sorts of occasions, both happy and sad. For much of the 20th-century, it was recited by the faithful in English at the end of “Low Mass,” something many of us are certainly old enough to remember. In that context, the priest concluded it with this prayer: O God, our refuge and our strength, look down with mercy upon the people who cry to Thee; and by the intercession of the glorious and immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of God, of Saint Joseph her spouse, of the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and of all the saints, in Thy mercy and goodness hear our prayers for the conversion of sinners, and for the liberty and exaltation of our Holy Mother the Church. Through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen. The late 19th- and 20th-century “Prayers after Low Mass” reflected a sense of unease and crisis in the Church’s relationship with the contemporary world. That, I think, makes the use of the Salve Regina seem especially appropriate in this context, when we are confronted with this powerful pandemic which and upended all out expectations of normalcy and progress.
 
As of yesterday, there have been 11,994,182 confirmed cases of covid-19 worldwide, with 547,931 deaths. The U.S. has had 3,109,500 confirmed cases, with 134,291 deaths. Of these, Tennessee has had 54,756 cases, with 678 deaths.
These alarming numbers should remind us of the importance of following all the prescribed precautions – wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, etc. – both at church and elsewhere and to pray earnestly for enlightened leadership at all levels of society to help guide us through this crisis. Let us pray also and especially for the sick and those who care for them. and for those who have died and those who mourn for them.
Our Lady, Health fo the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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July 9, 2020

Dear Friends,
Today the Church commemorates Saint Augustine Zhao Rong and his companions, 120 saints martyred in China between 1648 and 1930. eighty-seven of them were born in China, and four of those were Chinese priests, among them Saint Augustine Zhao Rong, a soldier who became a Catholic and a diocesan priest and was martyred in 1815. The foreign born martyrs were mostly priests and women religious. These Chinese saints were beatified in different groups at various times, and then they were all canonized together by Pope Saint John Paul II in the Jubilee year 2000. These martyrs remind us of the Church’s widespread extension throughout the entire world and her universal mission to make disciples of all peoples. Today is a good day to remember and pray for the Church in China which is experiencing so many difficulties at this time.
The  parish office  is closed for summer vacation this week. The office will reopen as usual on Monday, July 13. Mass will be celebrated in the church at the usual time, and the IC Bees will meet as usual in the parish hall.
The recent and  current increases in cases of covid-19 should remind us to observe all the necessary precautions both at church and everywhere else – wearing masks, observing physical distance, etc.
As we watch the number of cases increasing alarmingly all around us, let us  pray for all the sick and all who care for them, for scientists seeking to develop effective vaccines and therapies, for the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, for those whose daily work in so many essential areas make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them. Let us pray also  for healing and reconciliation in our conflicted country, for justice for victims of institutionalized violence, and for all who are in need at this time.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick and Patroness of the United States, pray for us!
Saint Augustine Zhao Rong and Companions, Holy Martyrs of China, pray for us!
Fr. Ron

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July 8, 2020

Dear Friends,
The  parish office  is closed for summer vacation this week. The office will reopen as usual on Monday, July 13. Mass will be celebrated in the church at the usual time today, and the IC Bees will meet as usual in the parish hall.
As we continue to adapt to our new situation in church, I want to express a special Thank you to  those who have helped keep things flowing easily each Saturday and Sunday as ushers. This is a real and necessary service to the community. If anyone would like to volunteer his or her service as an usher at one of the Sunday Masses, please let me know.
Also, if you know anyone who is alone or for some other reason has little contact with the community and you think he or she would benefit from a call from me or Fr. Tim, please let us know.
In this challenging time, we all need to remember that the mandates that the diocese has issued concerning the Copid-19 virus as well as those issued by the civil authorities are in order to protect the lives and health of those who gather in church for Mass and other occasions. It is my responsibility as your pastor to make sure those mandates are observed in our parish. We are all called to play our part for the common good of all. So please remember to follow the policy of wearing masks in public, cleansing of hands, and maintaining appropriate distance both here at church and elsewhere.
As we watch the number of COVID-19 cases increasing alarmingly all around us, let us  pray for all the sick and all who care for them, for scientists seeking to develop effective vaccines and therapies, for the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, for those whose daily work in so many essential areas make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them. Let us pray also  for healing and reconciliation in our conflicted country, for justice for victims of institutionalized violence, and for all who are in need at this time.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick and Patroness of the United States, pray for us!
Fr. Ron

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July 7, 2020

Dear Friends,
Exactly 162 years ago today, on July 7, 1858, Fathers Isaac Thomas Hecker, Augustine Hewitt, George Deshon, and Francis Baker (themselves all converts to Roman Catholicism and until recently also Redemptorist priests) signed the Programme of Rule and Constitution of the Congregation of Missionary Priests of St. Paul the Apostle, thus creating the religious community commonly known ever since as The Paulist Fathers – the first men’s religious community to be founded in the United States. In a circular letter printed in Catholic newspapers around the country, the new community announced that they “had organized themselves as a religious congregation for the vigorous prosecution of the missions and other works of apostolic ministry.”
From their founding until 1894, the Paulist Fathers staffed only their one original parish in New York City, which quickly became famous for the quality of its liturgical ceremonies and music and for its preaching. But the early Paulists hardly remained still during those years! In addition to staffing a growing parish in a densely populated urban neighborhood and building a big and beautiful church (sometime referred to by some New Yorkers as “Hecker’s Basilica”), the Paulist Fathers fanned out from there to preach parish missions and to give popular lectures. And, in April 1865, they founded The Catholic World – followed the next year by The Catholic Publication Society, now known as The Paulist Press. Isaac Hecker himself was active on the 1860s lecture circuit and continued to write articles in The Catholic World until the year of his death in 1888.
In 1872, the Paulists established St. Mary’s of the Lake, a vacation chapel and summer residence for Paulist priests and students at Lake George, in the beautiful Adirondack region of upstate New York. (Lake George was first discovered by French Jesuit missionary Saint Isaac Jogues, who named it the Lake of the Blessed Sacrament. It was renamed after Britain’s King George II after the British victory in the French and Indians Wars.) Many Paulist priests like to vacation at Lake George, and all the Paulist students traditionally assemble there after their summer assignments to begin a new Formation Year there each August. This year, since the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak at the seminary in Washington, which sickened several students and tragically took the life of our beloved Director of Novices, Fr. Rich Colgan, the Paulist students and novices have moved to Lake George for the summer and are taking on-line courses from there. Paulist Fr. Mike Kallock, already well known to many from his work with the Paulist Associates, has been appointed Novice Director to replace Fr. Rich. Meanwhile the Paulist and Josephite communities are working together to insure that seminary in Washington will be as safe as possible to welcome a new novitiate class and to welcome the rest of the formation community back to Washington.
Speaking of formation, on July 25, the Paulist Fathers will celebrate the ordination of Deacon Paolo Puccini to the priesthood. Deacon Paolo was originally scheduled to be ordained in New York on May 16, but the pandemic made that impossible. So his rescheduled ordination will take place at Saint Austin’s parish, Austin, TX, this Saturday at 11:00 a.m. Central Time (12:00 noon Eastern Time). Bishop Vasquez of Austin will celebrate the ordination. The ordination Mass will be livestreamed on the Paulist website. Fr. Puccini will then celebrate his First Mass at Saint Austin’s Church on Sunday, July 26, at 8:45 a.m. Central Time (9:45 a.m. Eastern Time). That Mass will also be livestreamed on the Paulist website. Please join the Paulist Fathers in congratulating Fr. Paolo on his ordination and praying that he will experience and long and fruitful and fulfilling priestly life and ministry and that others will follow him in this vocation.
The parish office will be closed for summer vacation this week. The office will reopen as usual on Monday, July 13.
As we watch the number of COVID-19 cases increasing alarmingly all around us, let us pray for all the sick and all who care for them, for the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, for those whose daily work in so many essential areas make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them. Let us pray also for healing and reconciliation in our conflicted country, for justice for victims of institutionalized violence, and for all who are in need at this time.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick and Patroness of the United States, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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July 6, 2020

Dear Friends,

For the benefit of those who would like to pray the Salve Regina while it is being sung on Sundays but do not know it by heart, I am including it here. You can save it on your phone and pray it at the appropriate time:
 
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.
 
Salve, Regina, Mater misericordiæ,
vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra, salve.
Ad te clamamus exsules filii Hevæ,
Ad te suspiramus, gementes et flentes
in hac lacrimarum valle.
Eia, ergo, advocata nostra, illos tuos
misericordes oculos ad nos converte;
Et Jesum, benedictum fructum ventris tui,
nobis post hoc exsilium ostende.
O clemens, O pia, O dulcis Virgo Maria.
 
Today the Church commemorates Saint Maria Goretti (1890-1902), patron saint of teenage girls.
The parish office will be closed for summer vacation this week. The office will reopen as usual on Monday, July 13.
When in church, please follow the guidance of the ushers, and “sit at the green, not in between.”
Also remember that the wearing of face masks is diocesan and parish policy and is required of anyone who is in the church or the church hall or the parish office building. The wearing of masks is especially important at any group gathering, such as attendance at Mass. Everyone in the congregation above the established age is expected to wear a mask during the entire Mass, except when actually consuming the Sacred Host at Holy Communion. Those officiating in the sanctuary (priest, deacon, reader, cantor) may remove their masks to perform their proper functions (e.g., reading, preaching, singing, etc.), but should wear their masks at other times – and, especially, when interacting directly with others (e.g.. distributing Holy Communion).
As of yesterday, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has reached 11,419,529 worldwide with 533,780 deaths, 2,932,047 U.S. cases with 132,007 deaths, 50,140 Tennessee cases with 637 deaths.
As we watch the number of COVID-19 cases increasing alarmingly all around us, let us pray for all the sick and all who care for them, for the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, for those whose daily work in so many essential areas make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them. Let us pray also for healing and reconciliation in our conflicted country, for justice for victims of institutionalized violence, and for all who are in need at this time.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick and Patroness of the United States, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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July 5, 2020

Dear Friends,

Today is the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Masses will be celebrated at 9:00 and 11:30 a.m. Remember that for now everyone remains dispensed from the Sunday obligationThe 9:00 Mass will be live streamed on the parish Facebook page. These Masses may also be attended in the parish hall, which may be especially convenient for those unable to use the stairs or who would prefer even greater physical distance.
We have relabeled the seats in the church to make it easier for everyone to see where to sit and where not to sit. At Mass, please follow the instructions of the ushers, sit in the areas designated, and remain there throughout the entire Mass. Remember that at this time there is no access to the elevator or the restrooms on weekends.
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.”
The parish office will be closed for summer vacation Monday through Friday this week. The office will reopen as usual on Monday, July 13.
As we watch the number of COVID-19 cases increasing alarmingly all around us, let us pray for all the sick and all who care for them, for the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, for those whose daily work in so many essential areas make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them. Let us pray also for healing and reconciliation in our conflicted country, for justice for victims of institutionalized violence, and for all who are in need at this time.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick and Patroness of the United States, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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July 4, 2020

Dear Friends,

On this Independence Day, let us recall the famous Prayer composed in 1791 by John Carroll (1736-1815), the first U.S. bishop:  
We pray you, O God of might, wisdom, and justice,
through whom authority is rightly administered,
laws are enacted, and judgment decreed,
assist with your Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude
the President of these United States,
that his administration may be conducted in righteousness,
and be eminently useful to your people, over whom he presides;
by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion;
by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy;
and by restraining vice and immorality.

 
Let the light of your divine wisdom direct
the deliberations of Congress,
and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws
framed for our rule and government,
so that they may tend to the preservation of peace,
the promotion of national happiness,
the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge;
and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty.

 
We pray for the governor of this state,
for the members of the assembly,
for all judges, magistrates, and other officers
who are appointed to guard our political welfare,
that they may be enabled, by your powerful protection,
to discharge the duties of their respective stations
with honesty and ability.

 
We recommend likewise, to your unbounded mercy,
all our fellow citizens throughout the United States,
that we may be blessed in the knowledge
and sanctified in the observance of your most holy law;
that we may be preserved in union,
and in that peace which the world cannot give;
and after enjoying the blessings of this life,
be admitted to those which are eternal.
Grant this, we beseech you, O Lord of mercy,
through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.  Amen.
 
Today is also Bishop Richard Stika’s 63rd birthday. We wish him a Happy Birthday and good health for years to come. We join with our bishop in his July Prayer Intention:
Heavenly Father, hear our prayers, especially for our nation during these most challenging times. We pray for guidance, unity, understanding, and love of one another, so that, under You, we can flourish in peace and remain a living example of faith, compassion, and resourcefulness to other nations throughout the world.  Amen
Mass for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time will be celebrated this afternoon at 4:00 p.m. and tomorrow morning at 9:00 and 11:30 a.m. Remember that for now everyone remains dispensed from the Sunday obligation. The 9:00 Mass will be live streamed on the parish Facebook page. These Masses may also be attended in the parish hall, which may be especially convenient for those unable to use the stairs or who would prefer even greater physical distance.
You will notice that we have relabeled the seats in the church to make it easier for everyone to see where to sit and where not to sit. A profound thank you to Marilyn and Mark Reda who came up with this plan and and did all the work to make it happen!
At Mass, please follow the instructions of the ushers, sit in the areas designated, and remain there throughout the entire Mass. Remember that at this time there is no access to the elevator or the restrooms on weekends.
Also remember that the wearing of face masks is diocesan and parish policy and is required of anyone who is in the church or the church hall or the parish office building. The wearing of masks is especially important at any group gathering, such as attendance at Mass. Everyone in the congregation above the established age is expected to wear a mask during the entire Mass, except when actually consuming the Sacred Host at Holy Communion. Those officiating in the sanctuary (priest, deacon, reader, cantor) may remove their masks to perform their proper functions (e.g., reading, preaching, singing, etc.), but should wear their masks at other times – and, especially, when interacting directly with others (e.g.. distributing Holy Communion).
 
As we watch the number of COVID-19 cases increasing alarmingly all around us, let us pray for all the sick and all who care for them, for the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, for those whose daily work in so many essential areas make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them. Let us pray also for healing and reconciliation in our conflicted country, for justice for victims of institutionalized violence, and for all who are in need at this time.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick and Patroness of the United States, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
 
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July 3, 2020

Dear Friends,

The parish office will be closed all day today in observance of Independence Day. Mass will be celebrated as usual at 12:10 p.m., but the usual First Friday Devotions will be omitted because of the holiday. 
 
Today, the Church commemorates Saint Thomas the Apostle, familiarly known as “Doubting Thomas.” According to tradition, he preached the Gospel in India. He is patron of India and Pakistan and also the patron saint of builders, because of a legend that he served as an architect for an Indian king.
 
I grew up when schools still taught history. Also I attended a Catholic parochial school. So the history we learned about the European settlement of the future United States started with the Spanish and French explorers, settlers, and missionaries, in contrast to an Anglo-centric narrative focused on the 13 coastal colonies. Years later a grad school classmate mentioned visiting the site of the first Mass in the U.S. I knew he meant the site in Maryland, but I couldn’t resist saying it was a long trip from Princeton to Saint Augustine, Florida! He got my point. Of course, we need to recognize and appreciate the central role of New England in constituting our American character, but we should also always be conscious of the other people (some of whom got here earlier, some of whom came involuntarily) who also played important parts in our American story.
So, in anticipation of Independence Day this year, I have treated myself to Leslie Woodcock Tentler’s new account of American Catholic history, which I am happy to recommend to others, American Catholics: A History (Yale University Press, 2020). And it was with the greatest satisfaction that I noted how the author devotes the first part of her book, “On the Fringes of Empire,” to the stories of Spanish and French explorations and settlements and the Catholic missionaries who were so central to them. That, of course, was just the beginning of the great ethnic and cultural variety that has been American Catholic life and which, Tentler suggests, “constitutes a metaphor of sorts for our shared experience as a nation.” She asks: “What is more central to our national history than the creation of one out of many – the building of a nation almost entirely peopled by immigrants and their descendants?” (Servant of God Isaac Hecker saw something similar, if somewhat uncritically, in the 19th century, ascribing this simultaneous accomplishment of “the republic and the Catholic Church” to “divine guidance, forming the various races of men and nationalities into a homogeneous people.)
As we watch the number of COVID-19 cases increasing all around us, let us pray for all the sick and all who care for them, for the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, for those whose daily work in so many essential areas make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them. Let us pray also for healing and reconciliation in our conflicted country, for justice for victims of institutionalized violence, and for all who are in need at this time. 
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Saint Thomas the Apostle, pray for us!
Fr. Ron

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July 2, 2020

Dear Friends,

The parish office will be closed all day tomorrow, July 3, in observance of Independence Day. Mass will be celebrated as usual at 12:10 p.m., but the usual First Friday Devotions will be omitted because of the holiday.
 
Funeral Arrangements for Rita Caldwell:

Visitation Thursday (July 2) 6:00-8:00 p.m.

Rose Funeral Home
1421 North Broadway
 
Funeral Mass Friday (July 3) 9:30 a.m.
Immaculate Conception Church
 
Interment Friday (July 3) 11:00 a.m.
Lynnhurst Cemetery
2300 West Adair Avenue
As we watch the number of COVID-19 cases keep increasing, let us pray for all the sick and all who care for them, for the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, for those whose daily work in so many essential areas make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them. Let us pray also for healing and reconciliation in our conflicted country, for justice for victims of institutionalized violence, and for all who are in need at this time.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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July 1, 2020

Dear Friends,

Please join the whole Church in praying daily during July for the Holy Father’s prayer intention for this month: 
Our Families,” that today’s families may be accompanied with love, respect, and guidance.
Today the Church in the United States commemorates Saint Junipero Serra (1713-1784), Spanish Franciscan missionary who established nine of the 21 California missions. He sailed from Spain to America in 1749. After arriving at Vera Cruz, Mexico on December 7, he famously walked the 250 miles between Vera Cruz and Mexico City. Zealous in preaching and in promoting both liturgical and popular devotions, he learned native languages. Economically his mission prospered through the introduction of domestic animals, the fostering of agriculture, and the development of commerce. He also defended Indian rights against non-native settlers, although some of his views would now be considered somewhat paternalistic. Pope Saint John Paul II called him “the exemplary model of the selfless evangelizer.” He was canonized by Pope Francis on September 23, 2015, during his visit to the United States. 
Saint Junipero Serra’s statue represents California in Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol. There are three other Catholic priests in Statuary Hall – Saint Damien de Veuster (Hawaii), Fr. Jacques Marquette (Wisconsin), and Fr. Eusebio Kino (Arizona).
North of the border, today is Canada Day. At various times, the Paulist Fathers served in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver, and preached parish missions in Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritime Provinces.  As a result, a good number  of Paulist vocations came from Canada, among them our former Pastor, Fr. Jim Haley. My own first assignment as a Paulist priest was in Toronto, Ontario. It was there that I was ordained 25 years ago this fall. The Paulist Fathers served at Saint Peter’s Parish in Toronto from 1914 to 2015.
As always, we pray for healing and reconciliation in our conflicted country, for justice for victims of institutionalized violence, and for all who are in need at this time. As pandemic cases continue to increase in parts of our country and in Tennessee, we pray for all the sick and all who care for them, for the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, for those whose daily work in so many essential areas 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 Junipero Serra, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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June 30, 2020

Dear Friends,

As of Sunday, the U.S. had set single-day records for new COVID-19 cases for at least five consecutive days, with the total number of nationwide infections having risen past 2.5 million — approximately 25% of the world’s total. Led by outbreaks in the South and West, this peak of confirmed cases has now surpassed the initial peak in April. As of yesterday, the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide was 10,154,984, including 502,048 deaths, while the U.S. total was 2,593,169 including 127,683 deaths. Tennessee has had 42,297 cases including 592 deaths. These frightening numbers should alert us to the seriousness of this danger and remind us how important it is to observe all appropriate precautions – particularly wearing face masks and maintaining physical distance. 
 
Yesterday, Bishop Stika announced that he has tested negative for the virus after his possible exposure in Alabama last week. He also sent this message for those who take issue with the directives to wear masks in church and to practice physical distancing: “My mandates are not to disrupt but to safeguard all people. … All you need do is to open your eyes and see the evidence of what occurs when the government lifts restrictions. Look at the bars, beaches and other public places with the lack of social distancing and the lack of the use of a mask. Thousands are now infected and who will carry this to a person who is vulnerable.”
The parish staff will have its bi-weekly zoom meeting this morning. So the parish office will not open until 12:00 noon today.
 
Today the Church Commemorates the Protomartyrs of the Holy Roman Church, those martyred during the first Roman persecution unleashed by the Emperor Nero in the aftermath of the Great Fire of Rome in July 64, which Nero accused the Christians of causing. According to the Roman Martyrology: “All were disciples of the apostles, the first fruits of those martyrs whom the Church at Rome, that rich field of witnesses to the faith, sent to heaven even before the martyrdom of the apostles themselves.”
 
As always, we pray for healing and reconciliation in our conflicted country, for justice for victims of institutionalized violence, and for all who are in need at this time. We pray for all the sick and all who care for them, for the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, for those whose daily work in so many essential areas 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!
Protomartyrs of the Holy Roman Church, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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June 29, 2020

Dear Friends,

Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Apostles Peter and Paul, who were both martyred at Rome around the year 67. On the sites of the burials stand two great papal Basilicas – Saint Peter’s on the Vatican Hill and Saint Paul’s Outside the Walls. Pagan Rome credited her founding to two brothers, Romulus and Remus, whose father was Mars, the god of war. According to the legend, the two brothers argued about which hill to build on. When Romulus began building his city wall on the Palatine hill, Remus, who preferred the Aventine hill, ridiculed his work, supposedly by jumping over it. Romulus responded by killing him – thus determining which brother Rome would be named after! In time, Rome would become the greatest city in the ancient world, the capital of the greatest empire the world had ever yet known. To that same city, some 8 centuries later, came two other men, Peter and Paul, brothers not by blood, but by their common faith in Jesus Christ, who had called them to be apostles. The old Rome of Romulus – proud, powerful, pagan Rome, based on the murder of one brother by another – was, for all its accomplishments and authentic grandeur, a human state like any other, a warring conqueror, conquered in turn by other warring conquerors. The new Christian Rome of Peter and Paul conquered that old Rome, but in a new way. Proud, powerful, pagan Rome, founded on the murder of one brother by another, was in turn conquered by the faith that empowered Peter and Paul as brothers-in-Christ to evangelize an empire and die together as witnesses to a new way of life.

 

 
Of Peter and Paul, Isaac Hecker wrote: “The great apostles, St. Peter and St. Paul, did not stop in Jerusalem, but turned their eyes and steps towards all-conquering, all-powerful Rome. Their faith and their heroism, sealed with their martyrdom, after a long and bloody contest, obtained the victory. The imperial roman eagles became proud to carry aloft the victorious cross of Christ!” (The Church and the Age1857).  
As always, we pray for healing and reconciliation in our conflicted country, for justice for victims of institutionalized violence, and for all who are in need at this time. As COVID-19 cases continue to increase in our country, we pray for all the sick and all who care for them, for the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, for those whose daily work in so many essential areas make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them.
Also, we remember Rita Caldwell, who died this weekend. May she rest in peace! We remember her husband David and pray for the consolation of all who knew and loved her.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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June 28, 2020

Dear Friends,
 
Congratulations to those who received the sacrament of Confirmation at Immaculate Conception yesterday! And thank you to our Director of Religious Education, Brigid Johnson, and to the parents, sponsors, catechists, and school teachers who helped to prepare them for this day!
 
Had it not been for the pandemic, this would have been my last Sunday at Immaculate Conception. But then came COVID-19, and as a result I am still here – for another six months anyway. Of course, six months ago no one would have predicted any of this. So perhaps prudence would recommend caution about any prognostication about what things will be like here or anywhere else in the next six months.
 
At this moment, I cannot say with any certainty exactly where I will be or what I will be doing on January 1, 2021. But I am confident that Immaculate Conception church will still be standing here on Summit Hill and that Immaculate Conception parish will still be a thriving community living and sharing the Catholic faith in downtown Knoxville. Whatever difficulties lie ahead of us, the Risen Lord’s promise to his disciples that he will remain with his Church until the end of time encourages us to trust in his faithfulness to his Church and to respond with hope to the many challenges and opportunities that await us as we continue our mission. This has been a very trying time for all of us. We have had to refocus our energy and efforts in different directions and to learn some new skills, for example learning how to live stream our Masses and to conduct zoom meetings. I am confident that the effort and resources put into these challenging technologies will serve the parish and the larger Church well in the future.
 
To be the 25th pastor of Immaculate Conception parish, the Paulist Fathers have proposed to Bishop Stika, Father Charles Donahue, presently Associate Director at the Saint Thomas More Newman Center at Ohio State University in Columbus, OH. Fr. Donahue will be no stranger to Knoxville, since from 2009 through 2014 he was Pastor of Saint John XXIII University parish and so is already very familiar with the city of Knoxville, with the Diocese, and with the Knoxville Paulist community. He will assume office as pastor of Immaculate Conception parish and superior of the local Paulist community on January 1, 2021.
Masses today will be at 9:00 and 11:30 a.m. Remember that for now everyone remains dispensed from the Sunday obligation. The 9:00 Mass will be live streamed on the parish Facebook page. Both Masses may be attended in the parish hall, which may be especially convenient for those unable to use the stairs or who would prefer even greater physical distance.
At Mass, please follow the instructions of the ushers, sit in the areas designated, and remain there throughout the entire Mass. Remember that at this time there is no access to the elevator or the restrooms on weekends.
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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June 27, 2020

Dear Friends,

Today the Church commemorates Saint Cyril of Alexandria (376-444), Patriarch of Alexandria and thus leader of the Church in Egypt, who defended the oneness of the Divine Person in Jesus and the divine maternity of Mary and her title “Mother of God,” which was affirmed by the Council of Ephesus (431).
 

Last week, Pope Francis added three new titles to the invocations in the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary, commonly called the Litany of Loreto. The three new invocations are Mater misericordiae Mother of mercy (to be inserted in the Litany after Mother of the Church), Mater spei Mother of hope (after Mother of divine grace), and Solacium migrantium Solace of migrants (after Refuge of sinners).

The sacrament of Confirmation will be celebrated for 7 of our young parishioners at Immaculate Conception Church today at 12:00 noon. Due to the limitations on numbers because of physical distance, seating in the church will be limited to those to be confirmed, their immediate family, and their sponsors. Others are welcome if there is sufficient space, and the Mass will be live streamed on the parish Facebook page.
 
For those who were due to be confirmed this spring but could not make it to today’s celebration, there will be a second parish Confirmation celebration on Saturday, August 8. 
 
Mass for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time will be celebrated this afternoon at 4:00 p.m. and tomorrow morning at 9:00 and 11:30 a.m. Remember that for now everyone remains dispensed from the Sunday obligation. The 9:00 Mass will be live streamed on the parish Facebook page. Both Masses may be attended in the parish hall, which may be especially convenient for those unable to use the stairs or who would prefer even greater physical distance.
At Mass, please follow the instructions of the ushers, sit in the areas designated, and remain there throughout the entire Mass. Remember that at this time there is no access to the elevator or the restrooms on weekends.
As always, we pray for healing and reconciliation in our conflicted country, for justice for victims of institutionalized violence, and for all who are in need at this time. We pray for all the sick and all who care for them, for the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, for those whose daily work in so many essential areas make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us!
Saint Cyril of Alexandria, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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June 26, 2020

Dear Friends,

Before the pandemic overtook us, Bishop Stika had been scheduled to celebrate the sacrament of Confirmation for a group of our younger parishioners on Sunday, May 3. Then came coronavirus and the suspension of most of the Church’s public sacramental life, and hence the postponement of Confirmation. Meanwhile the diocese has been monitoring the situation, and slowly sacramental celebrations have resumed, always in accordance with the directives issued for the sake of public health.
 
In order to enable parish celebrations of the sacrament of Confirmation to resume as soon as possible, Bishop Stika has granted to priests the temporary authorization to celebrate the sacrament of Confirmation – always observing all the procedures already prescribed and in force for the celebration of Mass, for example, the wearing of face masks, the maintenance of physical distance, etc..
 
Accordingly I will celebrate the sacrament of Confirmation for 7 of our young parishioners at Immaculate Conception Church tomorrow, June 27, at 12:00 noon. Due to the limitations on numbers because of physical distance, seating in the church will be limited to those to be confirmed, their immediate family, and their sponsors. Others are welcome if there is sufficient space, and the Mass will be live streamed on the parish Facebook page.
 
From apostolic times, the Church has imparted the gift of the Holy Spirit to complete the grace of Baptism by the laying on of hands. To this laying on of hands was added an anointing with the perfumed oil called sacred chrism. For this reason, the Eastern Churches call this sacrament Chrismation. In the West, the term Confirmation, which suggests how this sacrament confirms baptism and strength hens baptismal grace. The Western Latin tradition has also emphasized the importance of the role of the bishop in this completion of Baptism, resulting in the separation of Confirmation from Baptism and its celebration somewhat later in life. This arrangement expresses our communion with the bishop as guarantor and servant of the unity and universality of the Church and our connection with the Church’s apostolic origins. When celebrated separately from Baptism, the liturgy of Confirmation commences with a renewal of baptismal promises, after which the bishop (or the priest who takes his place) extends his hands over the group to be confirmed and invokes the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit’s seven gifts. Then each one is anointed with chrism on the forehead accompanied by the words, Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit. Like Baptism, Confirmation is given only once, for it imprints a permanent character which signifies that one has been marked by the seal of of the Spirit and empowered to be Christ’s witness in the world.
As always, we pray for healing and reconciliation in our conflicted country, for justice for victims of institutionalized violence, and for all who are in need at this time. We pray for all the sick and all who care for them, for the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, for those whose daily work in so many essential areas make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them.
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and enkindle in them the fire of your love!
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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June 25, 2020

Dear Friends,

Today is the 55th anniversary of my high school graduation! Earlier in the year, I had had hopes that there might be some sort of reunion arranged for this summer. (We had one for our 40th and another for our 50th.) But, of course, had anything actually been planned it would have had to be scuttled by the pandemic. What a lesson this experience has been in the fragility of all human plans and expectations!
 
Bishop Stika has announced that the ordination of seminarian Matthew Donahue to the transitional diaconate will take place Monday, June 29, at 11 a.m., at St. John Neumann Church in Farragut. (The ordinations of Deacons Alex Hernandez and Zach Griffith to the holy priesthood will take place Saturday, August 29, at 11 a.m., at the Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.) 
 
Meanwhile, cases of Covid-19 continue to increase, especially in the United States. As of yesterday, there have been 9,237,691 confirmed cases worldwide, with 476,911 deaths. The U.S. has had 2,392,336 confirmed cases, with 122,985 deaths. (That means that 25% of the entire world’s Covid-19 deaths have been in the U.S.)
As always, we pray for healing and reconciliation in our conflicted country, for justice for victims of institutionalized violence, and for all who are in need at this time. We pray for all the sick and all who care for them, for the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, for those whose daily work in so many essential areas 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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June 24, 2020

Dear Friends,

Today, six months before Christmas, the Church celebrates the nativity of Saint John the Baptist. Typically, the Church commemorates a saint on the day of his or her death. Other than Jesus himself and Mary, the only exception is Saint John the Baptist, because of the traditional belief that John was cleansed form original sin while still in his mother’s womb (on the occasion of the Visitation of Mary by Elizabeth).  John’s principal role in salvation history was, of course, as the precursor, the forerunner, preparing the way for the Messiah. Whereas after Jesus’ birth the days start to get longer, after John’s the days soon start to get shorter, actualizing John’s own words in the Gospel, He must increase. I must decrease. 
 
Today’s celebration transports us in spirit into an Old Testament atmosphere of pious, devout senior citizens, whose youth is symbolically restored by the great gift of fertility. In the world of the Bible, fertility and the future it made possible were seen as the greatest of gifts, a great grace, a true blessing. This blessing was now granted to Zechariah and Elizabeth, but not simply for their own satisfaction. Hence, the Gospel story recounts a whole series of special events surrounding, first, the conception, and, then, the birth, circumcision, and naming of their son. These circumstances served Zechariah and Elizabeth and their family and friends as visible signs, so to speak, of their son’s special status and mission, indicating the purpose of this miraculous event in God’s great plan for the whole human race. In the world of the Bible, naming someone was an act of authority. It signified the father’s recognition of his child. But, as the angel had foretold to Zechariah, many would rejoice at this boy’s birth. He would belong not just to his parents but to the special mission God had made him for. Hence, his name would have to be special – a name chosen by God himself and announced by an angel. Because Zechariah and Elizabeth’s friends and family were people of faith, they recognized in this a sign that God really was still present and active in the world. So, unable to keep the good news to themselves, they immediately anticipated John’s own special mission by spreading the word throughout the hill country of Judea.
Luke’s account of the birth of John concludes with his father Zechariah’s great hymn, known as the Benedictus. which celebrates John’s mission to go before the Lord to prepare his way, to prepare the way for the dawn from on high. The Benedictus is said or sung every day of the year at Lauds, the Church’s Morning Prayer.
 
As always, we pray for healing and reconciliation in our conflicted country, for justice for victims of institutionalized violence, and for all who are in need at this time. We pray for all the sick and all who care for them, for the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, for those whose daily work in so many essential areas 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 the Baptist, pray for us!
 
Fr. Ron
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June 23, 2020

Dear Friends,

For centuries, today was known as Midsummer’s Eve. This reflects an older European way of calculating the seasons, which situated the solstice or equinox close to the midpoint of the season rather than at the beginning as we do. So “summer” was thought of as extending from May Day (May 1) to Lamas Day (August 1), with “Midsummer’s Day” (the longest day and shortest night of the year) on June 24, which, being six months before Christmas (corresponding in turn to the shortest day and longest night of the year), became the feast of the Birth of Saint John the Baptist. For centuries it was common on this night to build a bonfire as part of the communal festival. Shakespeare’s familiar play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, may have been performed on such an occasion.
 
The summer solstice now happens earlier. (This year it was last Saturday, June 20.)  But, we still celebrate Saint John the Baptist’s birth tomorrow, six months before Christmas. Of Saint John the Baptist, Saint Augustine said: “John was a figure of the Old Testament and typified the law in himself; and therefore John foretold the Savior just as the law preceded grace. When not yet born, he prophesied from the hiding-place of his mother’s womb, and already bore witness to the truth … He was enkindled by the fire of the Holy Spirit, that to a world held in the night of ignorance he might show forth the light of salvation, and amid the thickest darkness of sin might by his ray point out the most resplendent Sun of Justice” (Sermon 20).
 
As we watch the number of COVID-19 cases increasing, let us pray for all the sick and all who care for them, for the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, for those whose daily work in so many essential areas make our daily lives possible, and the many who have died and those who mourn them. Let us pray also for healing and reconciliation in our conflicted country, for justice for victims of institutionalized violence, and for all who are in need at this time.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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June 22, 2020

Dear Friends,

Today the Church commemorates two of the English-speaking world’s most illustrious martyrs, Saint John Fisher (1469-1535) and Saint Thomas More (1478-1535). A Cambridge University scholar, Fisher became Bishop of Rochester, at that time the poorest diocese in England. He remained in that post for 31 years and apparently made every effort to become a model bishop. The more famous of the two, Thomas More was a married layman, a scholar, famous throughout Europe as the author of Utopia, and a practicing lawyer who served for a time as Lord Chancellor of England under King Henry VIII. Because of their prominence, both Fisher and More were required to swear an oath in support of Parliament’s Act of Supremacy, which rejected the Pope’s universal jurisdiction over the Church and recognized the King instead as Head of the Church in England. For their refusal to do so, both met with a martyr’s death – Fisher on June 22; More on July 6, 1535.
 
When we hear about St. Thomas More today, many – maybe most – of us imagine him as portrayed, for example, in the Showtime TV series The Tudors or, for those of us who are older, in Robert Bolt’s 1960s play and movie A Man for All Seasons. One of that play’s particular merits is how it highlights More’s lack of any desire to be a martyr.  Even in the early Church, when the danger of martyrdom was a common concern, the Church never encouraged any kind of self-promoting, fanatical desire for martyrdom. Jesus warned his disciples to expect and be ready for challenge and even martyrdom. But that does not mean going out of one’s way to seek or create conflict, to be looking for a fight. On the contrary, we are taught to value our human, earthly, civil community, and to contribute to its welfare as far as possible.  More did not desire to be the King’s opponent and did everything he could to avoid it. A sharp lawyer, he was willing to use whatever legal means were available to him to stay out of trouble. In practice, that meant that More was willing, for example, to recognize Parliament’s right to alter the succession to the throne – in favor of the new heirs it was widely hoped would issue from the King’s marriage to Anne Boleyn. More most certainly did not approve of the King annulling his marriage to Queen Catherine so that he could marry someone able to give him the male heir he believed he needed. But More knew how to make distinctions – as we all must. More recognized that the law of succession was part of what belonged to Caesar, and he recognized and respected Caesar’s jurisdiction. The Church, however, was another matter.
The following is a prayer by Saint Thomas More: Lord, grant me a holy heart that sees always what is fine and pure and is not frightened at the sight of sin, but creates order wherever it goes. Grant me a heart that knows nothing of boredom, weeping, and sighing. Let me not be too concerned with the bothersome thing I call “myself.” Lord, give me a sense of humor and I will find happiness in life and profit for others.
As of this morning, there have been 8,918,101 confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide, with 466,548 deaths. The U.S. has had 2,324,956 cases, with 121,766 deaths.
 
As always, we pray for healing and reconciliation in our conflicted country, for justice for victims of institutionalized violence, and for all who are in need at this time. We pray for all the sick and all who care for them, for the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, for those whose daily work in so many essential areas 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!
Saints John Fisher and Thomas More, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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June 21, 2020

Dear Friends,

Happy Father’s Day! Even in this time of pandemic and social distance, we wish all the fathers of our parish a happy and blessed Father’s Day!
 Masses today will be at 9:00 and 11:30 a.m. Remember that for now everyone remains dispensed from the Sunday obligation. The 9:00 Mass will be live streamed on the parish Facebook page. Both Masses may be attended in the parish hall, which may be especially convenient for those unable to use the stairs or who would prefer even greater physical distance.
At Mass, please follow the instructions of the ushers, sit in the areas designated, and remain there throughout the entire Mass. Remember that at this time there is no access to the elevator or the restrooms on weekends.
Today is the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time. We return now to the regular reading of Matthew’s Gospel on most Sundays for the rest of the year until Advent. The 2nd Reading from now until mid-September will be taken from Saint Paul’s Letter to the Romans, the longest of Paul’s epistles. My one-time professor, Jesuit scripture scholar Joseph Fitzmeyer, said of Romans that it  “overwhelms the reader by the density and sublimity of the topic with which it deals, the gospel of the justification and salvation of Jew and Greek alike by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, revealing the uprightness and love of God the Father.”
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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June 20, 2020

Dear Friends,
 
Summer begins today with the summer solstice at 5:44 p.m EDT.
 
Bishop Stika has issued the following statement on this week’s Supreme Court ruling regarding DACA:
“I was pleased to see the U.S. Supreme Court make a ruling this week which protected, for now, the status of young immigrants who are living, learning, and working in this country under the program we know as DACA—Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. This program has given families who have been living with uncertainty an opportunity for peace of mind, and that is good. In many cases, these young people have become productive members of our communities and have even served our nation in the armed forces. None of us wants to live with uncertainty. While protecting DACA allows families some comfort, it is imperative that our legislators work harder to find a fair and humane resolution to an issue that this country has been dealing with for far too long.”
As a sort of sequel to yesterday’s celebration of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, today the Church honors the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Like devotion to the Sacred Heart, in its modern form this devotion dates back to Saint John Eudes (1601-1680), founder of the Congregation of Jesus and Mary (“Eudists”), who also promoted devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It received further impetus in the 20th century through the revelations associated with the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima in 1917. In 1944, Pope Pius XII introduced this feast into the calendar of the universal Church. Earlier in 1942, the same Pope, during that terrible time of war which was ravaging virtually the entire world, had entrusted the entire world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Subsequent popes have repeated this consecration of the world to Mary’s Immaculate Heart – Pope Saint John Paul II in 1984, Pope Benedict XVI in 2010, and Pope Francis in 2013. Saint Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621) said “she has a heart capable of embracing all of us, and ardently desires that not even one of those souls should perish whom her divine Son redeemed with his precious blood, and his still more precious death.”
Tomorrow is the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time. We return now to the regular reading of Matthew’s Gospel on most Sundays for the rest of the year until Advent.
Sunday Mass will be celebrated this afternoon at 4:00 pm. and tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. All three Masses will also be available downstairs in the parish hall, and the 9:00 a.m. Mass will be broadcast live on the parish Facebook page. Confessions will be heard this afternoon from 3:00 to 3:30 p.m. If you come to Mass or confession, please wear your face mask and follow the prescribed precautions regarding distance, etc.
As always, we pray for healing and reconciliation in our conflicted country, for justice for victims of institutionalized violence, and for all who are in need at this time. We pray for all the sick and all who care for them, for the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, for those whose daily work in so many essential areas make our daily lives possible, and for 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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June 19, 2020

Dear Friends,

Yesterday, Saint Joseph School held its belated Graduation Mass and Awards Ceremony. It was a wonderful celebration and a tribute to the entire school community. Congratulations and best wishes to all the graduates as they move forward with their lives and on to high school! Also thank you to Andy Zengel, Saint Joseph School’s principal, and to all the faculty and staff for their excellent work – especially under the unusual and difficult circumstances in which they found themselves these past few months.
Today the Church celebrates the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Since ancient times, the blood and water which flowed from the pierced Heart of Jesus have been seen as symbolizing the Church and her sacramental life. Modern devotion to the Sacred Heart developed in part to counter an excessively rigorous religious attitude which, among other things, discouraged ordinary people from receiving the Eucharist. It was promoted by Saint John Eudes (1601-1680), founder of the Congregation of Jesus and Mary (“Eudists”) and furthered by the private revelations received by Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690). As a result of her spiritual experiences, devotion to the Sacred Heart developed and spread and was fostered especially by the Jesuits. A feast in  honor of the Sacred Heart on the Friday after the Octave of Corpus Christ was instituted by Pope Clement XIII in 1765 and extended to the whole Church by Blessed Pope Pius IX in 1856. In 1899, Pope Leo XIII consecrated the entire world to the Sacred Heart. The Preface for today’s Mass summarizes the ideas that underlie this devotion: For raised up high on the Cross, he gave himself up for us with a wonderful love and poured out blood and water from his pierced side, the wellspring of the Church’s Sacraments, so that, won over to the open heart of the Savior, all might draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.
As of yesterday, there are 8,397,036 cases of COVID-19 around the world, with 117,972 deaths. The U.S. has had 2,173,256 cases, with 117,972 deaths.
As always, we pray for healing and reconciliation in our conflicted country, for justice for victims of institutionalized violence, and for all who are in need at this time. We pray for all the sick and all who care for them, for the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, for those whose daily work in so many essential areas make our daily lives possible, and for the many who have died and those who mourn them.
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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June 18, 2020

Dear Friends,

Saint Joseph School (our regional Catholic school) will hold its belated Graduation Mass and Awards Ceremony this evening. Our congratulations to all the graduates and all the award winners as they move on to high school!
The Annual World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests will be observed tomorrow, Friday, June 19, corresponding to the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. In union with the Holy Father and the rest of the Church, all are invited to pray tomorrow in a particular way for all priests – diocesan and religious, young and old, active and retired – that they may be responsive to the gifts and graces which they have been given and that they may be effective and persevere in the ministries to which they have been called. Let us pray also for seminarians and for future vocations, especially for the Diocese of Knoxville and the Paulist Fathers.
By the way, our current seminarians who were taken sick seem to have recovered and are now continuing their studies during this unusual summer.
As always, we pray for healing and reconciliation in our conflicted country, for justice for victims of institutionalized violence, and for all who are in need at this time. We pray for all the sick and all who care for them, for the expert medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, for those whose daily work in so many essential areas 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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June 17, 2020

Dear Friends,

Happy Birthday today to our Director of Music, Karl Jacob!
 
As Bishop Stika has reminded us: “as responsible human beings living in society with our fellow man, we have a duty towards the common good and the proportionate care and caution necessary to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 disease.” Before the pandemic, Bishop Stika had been scheduled to celebrate the sacrament of Confirmation for 11 of our younger parishioners on Sunday, May 3. Then came coronavirus and the suspension of most of the Church’s public sacramental life, and hence the unfortunate but inevitable postponement of Confirmation. Meanwhile the diocese has been monitoring the situation, and slowly sacramental celebrations have resumed, always in accordance with the directives issued in the name of public health.
 
In order to enable parish celebrations of the sacrament of Confirmation to resume as soon as possible, Bishop Stika has granted to priests the temporary authorization to celebrate the sacrament of Confirmation, always observing all the procedures already prescribed and in force for the celebration of Mass, for example, the wearing of face masks, the maintenance of physical distance, etc. Accordingly I will celebrate the sacrament of Confirmation at Immaculate Conception Church on Saturday, June 27, at 12:00 noon. 
 
As cases of COVID-19 continue to increase and spread, especially in the south and west, 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 essential areas 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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June 16, 2020

Dear Friends,

The parish staff will have our biweekly staff meeting this morning. So the parish office will open at 12:00 noon today.
 
As we move forward into summer, it is no less important that we continue to maintain contact with one another. If you or anyone you know would benefit from a phone call or has some other need the parish can be assistance with, please let either me or Fr. Tim know.
 
Thank you to everyone who has stepped up to help on weekends as ushers or as cleaners after Mass. We continue to live stream the 9:00 a.m Mass on the parish’s Facebook page and to show all the Sunday Masses in the parish hall for the benefit of those who find that more accessible. 
 
In his Treatise on the Lord’s Prayer, Saint Cyprian of Carthage (200-258) wrote: “We do not say, My Father who art in heaven, nor Give me this day my daily bread. It is not for oneself alone that each person asks to be forgiven, not to be led into temptation, or to be delivered from evil. Rather, we pray in public as a community, and not for one individual but for all. For the people of God are all one.”
As always, we pray for healing and reconciliation in our conflicted country, for justice for victims of institutionalized violence, and 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 essential areas 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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June 15, 2020

Dear Friends,
 
Our weekend Mass attendance: Saturday 4:00 p.m. – 27
Sunday 9:00 a.m. – 76
11:30 a.m. – 54
TOTAL – 157

 
Mr. John Deinhart, Director of Stewardship and Strategic Planning for the Diocese of Knoxville since 2012, is leaving to take over Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos-USA as their new president and CEO on August 3.  NPH–USA operates 10 homes in Latin America and the Caribbean caring for 3,300 orphaned, abandoned, and neglected children. It also provides support for an additional 2,800 children who live outside of the home by offering education, meals, and healthcare. Since 2012, John and his team have transformed the annual Bishop’s Appeal, growing it from $900,000 to over $2.7 million annually – setting record levels in seven of the past nine years –  and also led a record fundraising achievement of $45.2 million with the Home Campaign. We will miss him.
Speaking of the 2020 Bishop’s Appeal, as of May 31, Immaculate Conception’s pledges and payments had reached $44,698.25. That is 85.6% of our $52,200.00 parish goal
Also, in addition to John Deinhart’s departure, Bishop Stika has announced Deacon Al Forsythe’s appointment as the new Director of the Diocesan Office of Marriage Preparation and Enrichment as well as Program and Development Manager for the Christ Prince of Peace Retreat Center in Benton, as of July 1. And Ms. Brittany Garcia has been named Diocesan Director of Youth, Young Adult, and Pastoral Juvenil ministries, as of July 1.
In this 11th Week in Ordinary Time, the daily Gospel reading continues to be taken from the “Sermon on the Mount.” while the daily 1st reading continues to story of the great Israelite prophet Elijah.
Go to https://youtu.be/PfRedu5_qNM for a 4-minute message from Fathers’ President Fr. Eric Andrews on CV-19, racial tensions, a note of thanks for all who expressed condolences when Fr. Rich Colgan died, and a prayer for unity
As of yesterday, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide was 7,905,781, with 432,977 deaths. The U.S. has had 2,143,235 cases, with 117,542 deaths. 
As always, we pray for healing and reconciliation in our conflicted country, for justice for victims of institutionalized violence, and for all who are in need at this time. We pray for all the sick and all who care for them, the scientists and medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders, those whose work in so many essential areas 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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June 14, 2020,

Dear Friends,

The Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday recalls the anniversary of the institution of the Eucharist, but there is so much else going on then that over the centuries it was thought appropriate to accent the Church’s joy in this wonderful sacrament on a day all its own. Hence, today’s Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, commonly called Corpus Christi. It was established by Pope Urban IV in 1264, and its Mass and Office were specially composed for the occasion by the great 13th-century Dominican Doctor of the Church Saint Thomas Aquinas. According to one legend, Saint Thomas and his contemporary, the Franciscan Saint Bonaventure, both started composing texts for the new feast. But then, while visiting Thomas one day, Bonaventure read the antiphon that Thomas had composed for today’s Evening Prayer. When he got home, Bonaventure then threw his own manuscript into the fire. Thus it is the words of St. Thomas that summarize what we celebrate today – and every day – in the Eucharist: “O Sacred Banquet, in which Christ is consumed, the memory of His Passion is renewed, the soul is filled with grace and a pledge of future glory is given us.”
The texts Thomas composed call on us to revere the sacred mysteries of Christ’s Body and Blood. Hence the special traditions of Eucharistic veneration associated with today – the traditional outdoor procession, for example, which elaborately marks this occasion in Catholic countries. As a seminarian in 1984, I had the privilege of witnessing the impressive outdoor Corpus Christi procession in Montreal’s Old City. In Germany, they have a tradition of the procession stopping at four altars erected along the way, at each of which is read the beginning of one of the four gospels before Benediction is given with the monstrance. It is a symbolic way of suggesting that the entire story can be summed up in some sense in the sacrament of the Eucharist.
As I wrote yesterday, Corpus Christi is an appropriate occasion to review the proper procedure for receiving Holy Communion. In the United States, standing is the standard posture for receiving Holy Communion, and the Bishops of the United States have mandated a bow of the head as the required act of adoration prior to receiving Communion. Upon approaching the priest or deacon, the communicant should extend one hand out flat, with the other hand under it, so that the priest or deacon can carefully place the Host on the communicant’s hand without having to touch him or her. The response of “Amen” is given to the proclamation “The Body of Christ,” and the Host is received.  The communicant should immediately consume the Host, then and there, carefully and reverently.
Masses today will be at 9:00 and 11:30 a.m. Remember that for now everyone remains dispensed from the Sunday obligation. The  9:00 Mass will be live streamed on the parish Facebook page.
At Mass, please follow the instructions of the ushers, and sit in the areas designated, remain there throughout the entire Mass. Remember that at this time there is no access to the elevator or the restrooms on weekends.
As always, we pray for healing and reconciliation in our conflicted country, for justice for victims of institutionalized violence, and 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.
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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June 13, 2020

Dear Friends,

Today the Church commemorates Saint Anthony of Padua (1195-1231), perhaps one of the Church’s most popular saints. Such was his fame that he was canonized only one year after his death. In the past, I had the great privilege of celebrating Mass both in Padua, in the shrine where his relics are venerated, and in Lisbon, in the church that marks the site of his birth. Although his popularity today is largely associated with his intercessory role as a great miracle-worker, in his time he was most appreciated as a great preacher. When his relics were transferred in 1263 and his tongue was found to be uncorrupted, the Minister General of the Franciscans, Saint Bonaventure, proclaimed: O blessed tongue, that always blessed the Lord and made others bless and praise him, it is now manifest what great merits you possess in the sight of God. In 1946, he was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church, and is known as the Doctor Evangelicus (“Evangelical Doctor”).
Today, we will resume our 2nd-Saturday-of-the-month clean-up day at Calvary Cemetery from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon. If participating, please be sure to wear a face mask and maintain appropriate distance.
Tomorrow, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, commonly called Corpus Christi. Masses will be Saturday at 4:00 p.m. and Sunday at 9:00 and 11:30 a.m. The 9:00 a.m. Mass will be live streamed on Facebook Live.
Corpus Christi is an appropriate occasion to review the proper procedure for receiving Holy Communion. In the United States, standing is the standard posture for receiving Holy Communion, and the Bishops of the United States have mandated a bow of the head as the required act of adoration prior to receiving Communion. Upon approaching the priest or deacon, the communicant should extend one hand out flat, with the other hand under it, so that the priest or deacon can carefully place the Host on the communicant’s hand without having to touch him or her. The response of “Amen” is given to the proclamation “The Body of Christ,” and the Host is received.  The communicant should immediately consume the Host, then and there, carefully and reverently. 
Pope Francis will celebrate Corpus Christi Mass at the Altar of the Chair in St Peter’s Basilica. The liturgy will conclude with exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction. A small number of the faithful will participate in the Mass, which will be live streamed by Vatican Media, beginning at 9:45 a.m. Rome time (3:45 a.m. EDT).
As always, we pray for healing and reconciliation in our conflicted country, for justice for victims of institutionalized violence, and 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 essential areas 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 Anthony, Doctor of the Church, pray for us!
Fr. Ron

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June 12, 2020

Dear Friends,

As we prepare for another weekend, I want to thank everyone for the overall spirit of cooperation that has characterized the past several Sundays. We are gradually learning how to adapt to the complexities of this current situation. The more we cooperate with one another, the more smoothly things will go, and the more our attention can be concentrated where it most belongs.
This Saturday, we will resume our 2nd-Saturday-of-the-month clean-up day at Calvary Cemetery from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon. If participating, please be sure to wear a face mask and maintain appropriate distance.
This past Wednesday, Bishop Stika issued a Decree temporarily granting to priests the faculty to administer the sacrament of Confirmation. So, sometime within the next few weeks, I will celebrate that sacrament for the benefit of those who have been properly prepared and were initially scheduled to be confirmed on May 3. 
As always, we pray for healing and reconciliation in our conflicted country, for justice for victims of institutionalized violence, and 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 essential areas 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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June 11, 2020

Dear Friends,
Happy 4th Ordination Anniversary to Deacon Doug Bitzer, ordained deacon on this day in 2016!
Today the Church commemorates Saint Barnabas. We first hear of him in Acts 4, where he is introduced as a Levite from Cyprus (hence bilingual and bicultural) who sold some property and gave the proceeds to the apostles, who named him Barnabas (“son of encouragement”). He is entitled to the title of apostle because, together with Paul, he was called and set apart by the Holy Spirit for missionary work in Acts 11. There remains a great need in the Church for apostles like Barnabas.
On this date in 1963, President John F. Kennedy gave an Oval Office Address, known as the Report to the American People on Civil Rights. Timed to coincide with the integration by federal officials of the University of Alabama, Kennedy’s speech proposed new legislation which would eventually become the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. Kennedy was a Cold War president, primarily focused on foreign not domestic policy, pressured by circumstances – the growing visibility and rising militancy of the Civil Rights movement – to respond. But, when he responded, Kennedy rose to the occasion on an issue which he acknowledged “is as old as the scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution.”
Watching Kennedy’s address that evening, as an unsophisticated high school student in a parochial corner of the Bronx, I never imagined that 57 years later our country would continue to be challenged by the same unresolved moral and legal issue. I could not foresee the stubborn persistence of our country’s foundational racial divide. As Boston’s Cardinal Archbishop Sean O’Malley recently wrote, recalling his early years of priesthood in Washington, DC, “to know that fifty years later four police officers would see themselves entitled to murder a black man with impunity makes clear how far we must yet go to achieve racial equality.”
As always, we pray for healing and reconciliation in our conflicted country, for justice for victims of institutionalized violence, and 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 essential areas 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 Barnabas, Apostle, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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June 10, 2020

Dear Friends,

This Saturday, we will resume our 2nd-Saturday-of-the-month clean-up day at Calvary Cemetery from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon. If participating, please be sure to wear a face mask and maintain appropriate distance.
As part of our gradual phased-in return to something resembling regular parish practice, it is now again possible to hold regular indoor meetings of parish organizations and groups both in the church hall and in the parish office. As always, any meeting that involves the use of any parish facilities requires my permission and the availability of appropriate space for the event, which means checking the calendar in the parish office before finalizing any event. In addition, there are now several other requirements which we must meet. They include (but are not limited to) the limitation of such gatherings to at most 50 people, the wearing of a cloth face covering when within 12 feet of anyone else, pre-screening of all attendees, temperature checks, and maintaining an attendance roster, and cleaning the area when the meeting is finished. Note that, at this time, no food is permitted at any such events. Note also that, since the church hall is presently set up for Sunday Mass attendance, an additional expectation of any group that may meet there is that, in addition to the necessary cleaning of the area at the end of their meeting, the attendees will also restore the chairs, etc., for those attending Sunday Mass.
All of these procedures are intended to minimize the health risks in gathering in a group at church. So it is important that we observe them as faithfully as we can. The more completely we cooperate, the better off we will all be.
So far, only a relatively small number of people have been attending Sunday Mass in the church hall. We will continue to make this option available, however, both for the benefit of those who cannot climb the stairs and also for those who feel more comfortable being inside with with fewer others present.
As always, we pray for healing and reconciliation in our conflicted country, for justice for victims of institutionalized violence, and 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 essential areas 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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June 9, 2020

Dear Friends,

Happy 13th Ordination Anniversary to Deacon Joe Stackhouse, ordained deacon on this day in 2007! Deacon Joe has served as deacon at Immaculate Conception since August 1, 2010. (Deacon Hieu Vinh, who used to serve at Immaculate Conception and is now assigned to Divine Mercy parish, was also ordained a deacon that same day.)
By convenient coincidence, today the Church commemorates Saint Ephrem the Deacon (306-373), also known as Saint Ephrem the Syrian. He notably defended Nicene orthodoxy by composing many poems and hymns about the mysteries of Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the Syrian Church, he is called the “Harp of the Holy Spirit.” Also ascribed to him is the so-called Prayer of Saint Ephrem, which is  prayed during all the Lenten weekday services in the Eastern Churches. He died, ministering to plague victims, on this date in 373. In 1920, Pope Benedict XV proclaimed him a Doctor of the Church. His feast is a reminder of the glorious history and great spiritual and theological contributions of the ancient Christian communities of the Middles East, many of which are now so endangered and diminished.
As of yesterday, there have been 7,065,597 reported cases of COVID-19 around the world, with 404,021 deaths. The U.S. reports 1,951,111 cases and 110,689 deaths.
As always, we pray for healing and reconciliation in our conflicted country, for justice for victims of institutionalized violence, and 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 essential areas 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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June 8, 2020

Dear Friends,

These are the attendance figures for the past two weekends:

May 30 – 4:00 p.m. – 60

May 31 – 9:00 a.m. – 65    11:30 a.m. – 56

June 6 – 4:00 p.m. – 37

June 7 – 9:00 a.m. – 60    11:30 a.m. – 40
If you attend Mass at Immaculate Conception, please follow all the prescribed procedures, particularly regarding where to sit, the wearing of masks, going to Communion, and leaving he church. If we all follow the rules, we will all be better off!
Today (Monday of the 10th Week in Ordinary Time), the Church begins the semi-continuous reading of the Gospel according to Matthew at weekday Masses, reading through most of Matthew’s Gospel from now until the end of August. Today’s reading recounts the beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount with the familiar “Beatitudes,” which have been called the “constitution of the kingdom of God,” a “constitution” which proclaims a reversal of all our typical social and political values.
As always, we pray for healing and reconciliation in our conflicted country, for justice for victims of institutionalized violence, and 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 essential areas 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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June 7, 2020

Dear Friends,

Today is Trinity Sunday. Masses will be at 9:00 and 11:30 a.m. Remember that for now everyone remains dispensed from the Sunday obligationThe  9:00 Mass will be live streamed on the parish Facebook page.
At Mass, please follow the instructions of the ushers, and sit the area designated, remain there throughout the entire Mass. Remember that at this time there is no access to the elevator or the restrooms on weekends.
As always, we pray for healing and reconciliation in our conflicted country, for justice for victims of institutionalized violence, and 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.
During this time of pandemic, the cantor will sing the Ordinary Time antiphon Salve Regina at the end of each of our Sunday Masses. 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
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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June 6, 2020

Dear Friends,

Today we will celebrate First Holy Communion for 12 of our young parishioners. Since seating in the church will be limited, we will live stream the Mass on the parish Facebook page. Congratulations to our First communicants on this special day in their lives! And a special thank you to their families, their teachers and catechists, and our Director of Religious Education Brigid Johnson
Today the Church also commemorates Saint Norbert (1080-1134), founder of the Premonstratensian Order and Archbishop of Magdeburg, who implemented the reforming agenda of Pope Saint Gregory VII.
Tomorrow is Trinity Sunday. Masses will be this afternoon at 4:00 p.m. and Sunday morning at 9:00 and 11:30 a.m. Remember that for now everyone remains dispensed from the Sunday obligationThe Sunday morning 9:00 Mass will be live streamed on the parish Facebook page.
As of yesterday, there have been 6,774,648  COVID-19 cases worldwide, with 395,611 deaths, of which 1,883,656 cases have been in the US with 108,664 deaths.
As always, we pray for healing and reconciliation in our conflicted country, for justice for victims of institutionalized violence, and 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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June 5, 2020

 

Dear Friends,

Yesterday, Bishop Stika promulgated a Decree mandating what procedures are to be followed for health and safety if and when any meetings are held in parish facilities. I have attached a copy of the Decree, so that you can read it for yourselves, which I especially encourage you to do if you are a member of a parish group that might want to hold a meeting or event on parish property any time in the foreseeable future. 
As always, any meeting that involves the use of any parish facilities requires my permission and the availability of appropriate space for the event. 
In addition, Bishop Stika has outlined several other requirements which must be met. They include (but are not limited to) the limitation of such gatherings to at most 50 people, the wearing of a cloth face covering when within 12 feet of anyone else, pre-screening of all attendees, temperature checks, and maintaining an attendance roster, and cleaning the area when the meeting is finished. Note that at this time no food is permitted at any such events. Note also that, since the church hall is presently set up for Sunday Mass attendance, an additional expectation of any group that may meet there is that, in addition to the necessary cleaning of the area at the end of their meeting, the attendees will also restore the chairs, etc., for those attending Sunday Mass. 
Today is the First Friday of June. Our customary First Friday Devotions, including the Litany of the Sacred Heart and the Paulist Vocation Prayer, will take place at the end of the 12:10 p.m. Mass today.
These are the links to the YouTube Livestream of Fr. Rich Colgan’s Wake and Funeral this today and tomorrow.
Vigil Service Friday 4:00 p.m.: https://youtu.be/xfFPnbzNv98
Funeral Mass, Saturday 11:00 a.m.:  https://youtu.be/i1zvdd6jQLw
First Communion will be celebrated in the church tomorrow at 10:00 a.m and will be live streamed on the parish Facebook page. The Saturday afternoon Mass for Trinity Sunday will be at 4:00 p.m. It will not be live streamed, but it will be possible to watch it in the parish hall.
Today the Church also commemorates Saint Boniface (680-754), an Anglo-Saxon, English Benedictine monk, missionary to Germany, first Bishop of Mainz, martyred in Frisia, who is considered Apostle of Germany.”

As always, we pray for healing and reconciliation in our conflicted country, for justice for victims of institutionalized violence, and 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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June 4, 2020

Dear Friends, 

65 years ago today, I made my First Holy Communion, preceded the day before by my First Confession. I have often recalled those momentous events of grace and joy in my life, but our recent and current experience of the suspension of so much of our public sacramental life due to the present pandemic invites further reflection. Frequent Communion (and Confession) as we have known and experienced them in my lifetime have largely been historically unique, distinctly 20th-century phenomena, which have set the era which is now ending apart from most of previous Church history. What part such practices will still play in whatever it is that lies ahead remains to be seen as we move forward into a very different world.
Meanwhile, we will celebrate First Holy Communion here at Immaculate conception on Saturday, June 6, at 10:00 a.m. Since seating in the church will be limited, we will be live streaming the Mass.
Looking ahead to this weekend, it is not necessary to “reserve” a place in the church for yourself. The reason we asked earlier how many were planning to come was just to give us some approximate idea of what we needed to plan for. The attendance last weekend ranged from 56 to 65. Since the “lower church” was virtually empty, we could nearly double our attendance before having a seating problem. Of course, when we reach the point where we are at capacity both upstairs and downstairs, then we will need to adapt accordingly. 
As I mentioned yesterday, while our overall experience of Masses last weekend was a good one, we did discern some practical difficulties that need to be addressed, especially as numbers of those attending increase, as we hope they will. So we will begin all the Masses this coming Sunday with the following announcements:
1. Welcome to Immaculate Conception Church. Please follow the directions of the ushers when entering and leaving the church and when coming to Communion. Also please sit in the designated seats to which you have been guided by the usher. If you are sitting in the main aisle, please sit between the colored stripes, one person on either side of the central partition. If you are seated in the side aisle, please sit as close to the window as possible. In either case, please do not sit next at the end of the pew next to the aisle. This is in order to maintain a safe distance between you and anyone who will be walking in the aisle. Finally, please do not leave your seat except as directed by the ushers at Communion and at the end.
2. Please remember to wear your face mask at all times during the Mass, except when actually receiving Communion. Everyone over the age of two is required to wear a mask. If you need a special children’s size mask please ask an usher for one.The purpose of the mask is to protect those around you. So please wear it so as to cover your nose and mouth completely.
3. Please follow the ushers’ directions when coming to Communion. We will start with those in the side aisles, beginning from the back row, then those in the center aisles, beginning from the back row. Please come up the center aisle in single file, maintaining appropriate distance. Before Communion, remove your mask and sanitize your hands. If Communion finishes early downstairs, the Deacon will also give Communion in the church, thus creating two suitably distanced Communion stations in the front. Please go to the one that corresponds to the side by which you will return to your seat. (If you are in the parish hall, please follow the directions of the ushers or the deacon.)
4. At the end of the Mass, please follow the ushers’ direction to leave the church a quickly as possible, starting with those seated in the back.

5. Finally, if you have given on-line or by mail, thank you. If you brought your donation with you today, please drop it in the box by the door as you leave.

As always, we pray for healing and reconciliation in our conflicted country, for justice for victims of institutionalized violence, and 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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June 3, 2020

Dear Friends, 

We had a parish staff meeting yesterday at which we reviewed our experience last weekend. Thank you again to everyone who attended Mass last weekend for your cooperation in adapting to the new procedures. While the overall experience was a good one, we did discern some practical difficulties that need to be addressed, which I will be discussing over the next few days as we approach our second weekend back in church. 
Yesterday CNN  featured a very brief tribute to Paulist Fr. Rich Colgan, who died from COVID-19 last week. (The Executive Producer of CNN New Day is a parishioner at our Paulist “Mother Church” in New York.) 
You can view it at https://youtu.be/BK_b9zjVqUk
I was briefly acquainted with the current Episcopal Bishop of Washington, DC, when we were both seminarians back in the 1980s. I was impressed by her comments concerning the recent incident at Saint John’s Church across Lafayette Park from the White House. Her comments can be found on the Episcopal Diocese of Washington website. She also gave an extended interview on the PBS News Hour last night, which is likewise well worth taking a look at. Meanwhile the Catholic Archbishop of Washington, Archbishop Wilton Gregory, also spoke out in reference to the incident at the John Paul II Shrine near Catholic University. He said: I find it baffling and reprehensible that any Catholic facility would allow itself to be so egregiously misused and manipulated in a fashion that violates our religious principles, which call us to defend the rights of all people even those with whom we might disagree. Saint Pope John Paul II was an ardent defender of the rights and dignity of human beings. His legacy bears vivid witness to that truth. He certainly would not condone the use of tear gas and other deterrents to silence, scatter or intimidate them for a photo opportunity in front of a place of worship and peace.
As we reopen our churches and shrines to the public, it is good to remind ourselves why we have sacred places, what they represent, and how easily religion can be misused.
Amid all this surrounding gloom, one piece of genuine good news the announcement Monday of the Diocese of Knoxville’s plans to reopen our schools for on-site instruction. The first day of class for students at Saint Joseph, our Regional Catholic School, will be Monday, August 3. We look forward to that happy occasion!
Today, the Church commemorates Saint Charles Lwanga (1860-1886), the chief royal court page, and his 14 Companions, all martyred by the corrupt Ugandan King on this day in 1886. They were canonized in Uganda by Pope Saint Paul VI in 1964. (Also, Paul’s predecessor, Pope Saint John XXIII, died on this date in 1963. His feast, however, is celebrated on October 11.)
As always, we pray for healing and reconciliation in our conflicted country, for justice for victims of institutionalized violence, and 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 Charles Lwanga and Companions, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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June 2, 2020

Dear Friends,

The parish Staff will be meeting this morning to evaluate our experience over the past weekend, to consider comments we have received, and to make any adaptations that appear appropriate. (Of course, many procedures are prescribed by the city, the county, or the diocese, and therefore cannot be modified unilaterally.)
The Wake and Funeral Mass for Paulist Father Rich Colgan will be live streamed from Sant Paul the Apostle Church in New York on the Paulist Fathers You Tube Page on Friday, June 5, at 4:00 p.m. and Saturday, June 6, at 11:00 a.m. respectively.
While the Church celebrates the fire of the Holy Spirit, this week our country has once again experienced fires of a different kind. I am old enough to remember the urban riots of the late 1960s, which devastated Detroit and Newark, among other once great American cities. As so often happens with intractable problems, the 1967 riots led to a Presidential Commission, the 11-member National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders. Commonly called the “Kerner Report,” the Commission’s findings, released early in 1968 famously said: This is our basic conclusion: Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal.” At the time the aspect of that formulation that seemed questionable was its use of the present progressive tense, whereas the present perfect indicative might have been more accurate: Our nation has long been two societies—separate and unequal. COVID-19 is not the only serious sickness afflicting our society. The serious symptoms of our profoundly social sickness have periodically produced inflammations in the familiar form of the social disorders of more than 50 years ago, and the social disorders on display in our country this past week reflect our persistent failure to respond justly and wisely in these intervening 50 years. Like the forest fires fed by the curse of climate change, the flames currently devouring American cities will burn out. But, like climate change, their underlying cause continues to pose an apocalyptic challenge to a society careening carelessly from one self-induced calamity to another.
In this difficult time, we pray for all the victims of institutional injustice in our society and for all whose lives are being disrupted at this time. We continue to pray for the sick and all who care for them, the expert scientific and medical personnel who are attempting to guide our national and local leaders through the pandemic, 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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June 1, 2020

Dear Friends,

Well, we made it through our first weekend!  Mass attendance was about 60 on Saturday, 65 Sunday at 9:00, and 56 Sunday at 11:30 a.m.
Thank you all for your patience and your cooperation! And a special thank you to those who helped “usher” the Masses and cleaning the church afterward!
The 1969 transformation of the Roman Calendar abolished the ancient Octave of Pentecost, but in 2018 Pope Francis restored some of the special character to Pentecost Monday by establishing today’s feast of Mary, Mother of the Church. Today’s 1st Reading (Acts 1:12-14) recalls the post-Ascension experience of the apostolic Church, united in intense prayer, gathered in the “Upper Room” with Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Jesus’ family. This theme is continued in the Preface: As the Apostles awaited the Spirit you had promised, she joined her supplication to the prayers of the disciples and so became the pattern of the Church at prayer. This mystery of spiritual motherhood has continued in Mary’s ongoing relationship with the rest of the Church. 
According to the Congregation for Divine Worship’s commentary on the introduction of this feast “The hope is that the extension of this celebration to the whole Church will remind all Christ’s disciples that, if we want to grow and to be filled with the love of God, it is necessary to plant our life firmly on three great realities: the Cross, the Eucharist, and the Mother of God. These are three mysteries that God gave to the world in order to structure, fructify, and sanctify our interior life and lead us to Jesus.”
Masses during this week will be at the usual time – 12:10 p.m. Monday-Friday. Confessions will be available in the former “Cry Room” each day at 11:45 a.m. If you come to confession, please be sure to wear your mask and observe appropriate distance, etc.
Friday will be the First Friday of the month. The usual First Friday devotions will take place at the end of the 12:10 Mass.
Finally, First Holy Communion will be celebrated on Saturday at 10:00 a.m. Seating will be limited, but the Mass will be live streamed for the benefit of all who wish to see it.
As of yesterday, there have been 6,200,204 confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide, with 371,745 deaths. The U.S, has had 1,819,792 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 105,634 deaths. These sad numbers should remind us how alert we need to be to follow all the recommended precautions for our own and everyone’s health and safety.
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, Mother of the Church and Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Fr. Ron
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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 Reginahas 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/