Month: May 2016

St. John’s School News: We Are Back in the Lunch Room!

Cora & Jessie Paulson

Cora & Jessie Paulson

This is long time St. John’s parishioner, Cora Paulson on her 87th birthday with Jessie Paulson, a student at St. John’s.  Happy birthday to you, Cora!









And then, there’s the “featured story” of this week’s Lunch Room Happenings!

The busy schedule of mid to late May at St. John’s is always filled with practices for the spring program and the first graders’ Snow White & the 7 Dwarfs and kindergartners ready to graduate. (Stay tuned for the beautiful video Mrs. Tessier created to mark this event–with graduation robes and all!)  Winding up the year is no small affair and, as usual, one of the places where holiness shows itself is a place as unremarkable as a lunch room.  But it has happened again.

Only in a Catholic school does a child look you in the eye, amid the hustle and bustle and noise and ask you to pray for her.

“Mrs. S, will you pray for me?”  The look on her face is sincere and serious.  This is no small matter, whatever it is.  “Of course, I will,” I say.  “What’s the matter?”

“I have two parts in the spring program, and I hope I do a good job.”

3rd grade.  Asking me to ask God for help to be successful in her performance that’ll take place in front of a church full of on lookers.

Maybe they all are praying for help, but This One expressed her need as easily as if she were asking for licorice from my stash.

It was the depth in her eyes and the transparency of her soul that reached me at that place within that makes me want to fall on my knees in gratitude and humility: on any given day I am privy to such naked, sacred moments.  And my gratitude is increased by knowing their parents and teachers are privy to these wonders much more often than I am.  In fact I often see the same transparency in their teachers’ eyes.  The difference is they’re so busy with their charges they don’t have time to record the  multiple stories that happen every day.  And the kids could probably do the same about their teachers.

But this event happened at the end of lunch, so instead of falling on my knees in wordless gratitude, Kate and her 3rd grade friends begged to  help me wash the tables and clean up the lunch room.  And so their chatter and laughter filled the air and mirrored the sunshine pouring in the windows: God’s great joy, I’m sure, at hearing his creations fill the air with mirth.    “I witness these events every day,” I thought, somewhat awe struck again by my good fortune.  And I pray for Kate and all her classmates and all of St. John’s school where “lunch room life” is but a smidgen of what goes on daily.

And incidentally?  Here’s a look at a happy ukulele player whose performance was outstanding!

Kate Yapel

Kate Yapel






And here are the third grade girls singing a song of welcome they recently learned at St. Scholastica.  Thank you, Mrs. Jones, for providing us with this sweet video of them!



A Rainfall of Rose Petals on Pentecost

The Pantheon on Pentecost

The Pantheon on Pentecost

Rose petals were dropped from the open oculus of the Pantheon on Sunday to celebrate the Pentecost.

The tradition is very ancient, possibly dating back to 609 AD. During the Pentecostal mass, rose petals were dropped from the oculus onto the faithful to symbolize the descent of the Holy Spirit.

At noon on Sunday, the Vigili del Fuoco (firefighters) of Rome, after climbing on top of the Pantheon’s dome (almost 44 meters high), dropped thousands of rose petals as the choir chanted the sequence of Veni Sancte Spiritus.



Father Rich’s Fatima Message

May 13th: On the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima

Our Lady of Fatima

Our Lady of Fatima


Stories Surrounding Miracle of Fatima Are Worth Retelling


As a child, my spirituality centered around one thing: Our Lady of Fatima.  My paternal grandmother was the spiritual compass of the whole extended family, and she had a deep devotion to Our Lady of Fatima and the purported apparitions three shepherd children had of the Virgin Mary in Portugal 99 years ago this month.

On the 13th of each month, from May to October, Mary appeared to the children, with the final apparition coinciding with the miracle of the “dancing of the sun,” where 60,000-plus people braved a monsoon-like downpour to witness an event that Mary said would be a sign of her presence.

Even the communist newspapers in Portugal at the time tried to describe the unexplainable event of the sun’s gyrations that immediately dried the mud-filled field the people were standing in.  The church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima on May 13.

By now there is a very well-known and famous association between Our Lady of Fatima and St. John Paul the Great because of the assassination attempt on May 13, 1981–35 years ago today.

St. John Paul credits Our Lady for saving his life.  He famously said that one hand fired the gun while another hand directed the bullet.  After he recovered from the nearly life-ending injury, he traveled to Fatima to give thanks to Our Lady and to donate the bullet that was taken from his body.

St. John Paul himself placed the bullet in the crown of the statue of Mary at the shrine.

A Lesser-Known Story

Pope John Paul I

Pope John Paul I

There is an equally compelling but practically unknown story associated with Fatima and John Paul II’s immediate predecessor, John Paul I.

In 2000, I traveled with my father to the small Italian city of Canale d’Agordo, near Belluno, to spend time with John Paul I’s family, whom I came to know through emails.

The pope’s niece, who was more like a daughter to him, told us of her very joy-filled uncle.  Cardinal Luciani was a man of great happiness, who, even after being elected pope, was often called “the smiling pope” or “God’s ray of sunshine.”   John Paul I’s niece, Pia Luciani, told my father and me about a time that her uncle’s happiness abruptly ended in early 1978.

The cardinal of Venice had traveled to Fatima in the early months of that year to make a pilgrimage, and when he returned, everything about his demeanor had changed, according to his niece; he was no longer happy, no longer joy-filled.  Everything about her uncle’s personality was different, and he did not revert back to his normal self for months, not until August 26, when he was elected the 263rd pope.

Pia Luciani said that because of the short tenure of her uncle’s reign (33 days), she never had the opportunity to ask her uncle what had happened in Fatima, but she believes it is evident now.  She has no doubt that Mary revealed to her uncle that he was to be elected pope, and likely she revealed to him that his reign would be brief.  Once the election actually happened, he was restored to his regular joy-filled demeanor.

I must admit, hearing that story from the pope’s own niece sent a chill down my spine and strengthened my devotion to Mary under the title of Our Lady of Fatima.

Today the story of Fatima has a new freshness, since Mary had encouraged Catholics everywhere to pray the rosary daily for the conversion of sinners and the “conversion of Russia.”  No doubt whole generations of the world’s Catholics heeded that request.  I remember so vividly my grandmother telling us of the importance of praying the daily rosary so that Russia would not “spread its errors throughout the world.”

The new freshness of the message of Our Lady of Fatima comes in light of the new realities on the ground in the former Soviet Union, where it seems as though some of the old behavior has cropped up again.  But the point of this article is to encourage readers to re-familiarize themselves with the inspiring story of Fatima—not only the miracles but also the heroic faith of three young children who, under the threat of death, stayed consistent with what they claimed to have experienced, and it changed the whole world in the 20th century.

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!

Here is a link to stories about Pope John Paul I, the Sunray of God’s Love:

Pope John Paul I


A World Youth Day Krakow 2016 Offering from NCCB

World Youth Day Krakow 2016

World Youth Day Krakow 2016

NCCB's World Youth Day Journal 2016

NCCB’s World Youth Day Journal 2016

The United States Council of Catholic Bishops is offering this journal to commemorate this momentous event in Krakow.  The journals may be ordered for the conference for $14:00.  They are a wonderful keepsake, particularly for our youth groups.

Let us pray together as a parish for this upcoming event.









Life in the Womb: I Am 12 Weeks Old!

I am 12 weeks old!

I am 12 weeks old!

We are happy to share the news that Saint John’s is following  a pregnancy in a series entitled,  “Life in the Womb.”
Each week we will share information about the momentous events happening in utero until, at Christmas, we will welcome a child we have slowly gotten to know over a 9 month period. 
During this time of waiting, may we pray together as a parish family for all  unborn children and for all people desiring a child.

How I Am Growing:

The most dramatic development this week: reflexes. Our baby’s fingers will soon begin to open and close, his toes will curl, his eye muscles will clench, and his mouth will make sucking movements. In fact, if you prod the abdomen, our  baby will squirm in response, although you won’t be able to feel it.

His intestines, which have grown so fast that they protrude into the umbilical cord, will start to move into his abdominal cavity about now, and his kidneys will begin excreting urine into his bladder.

Meanwhile, nerve cells are multiplying rapidly, and in our baby’s brain, synapses are forming furiously. His face looks unquestionably human: His eyes have moved from the sides to the front of his head, and his ears are right where they should be. From crown to rump, our baby is just over 2 inches long (about the size of a lime) and weighs half an ounce.

Oh Lord!  You have formed me.  You knit me together in my mother’s womb!

12 Weeks: The Size of a Lime

12 Weeks: The Size of a Lime


Oh Lord,

You formed my inmost being;
you knit me in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, because I am wonderfully made;
wonderful are your works!
My very self you know.
My bones are not hidden from you,
When I was being made in secret,
fashioned in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw me unformed;
in your book all are written down;
my days were shaped, before one came to be.

Our Baby is Ten Weeks Old!

Our baby has completed the most critical portion of development and is now officially a fetus. This is when our baby’s tissues and organs rapidly grow and mature. If you could take a peek inside your womb, you’d spot delightful details, like tiny nails forming on fingers and toes (which are fully separated and no longer webbed) and peach-fuzz hair beginning to grow on tender skin.

How our baby is growing:

Ten Weeks Old

Ten Weeks Old

Though he’s barely the size of a kumquat — a little over an inch or so long, crown to bottom — and weighs less than a quarter of an ounce, your baby has now completed the most critical portion of his development. This is the beginning of the so-called fetal period, a time when the tissues and organs in his body rapidly grow and mature.

10 weeks: Your baby is about the size of a kumquat

He’s swallowing fluid and kicking up a storm. Vital organs — including his kidneys, intestines, brain, and liver (now making red blood cells in place of the disappearing yolk sac) — are in place and starting to function, though they’ll continue to develop throughout your pregnancy.

If you could take a peek inside your womb, you’d spot minute details, like tiny nails forming on fingers and toes (no more webbing) and peach-fuzz hair beginning to grow on tender skin.

In other developments: Your baby’s limbs can bend now. His hands are flexed at the wrist and meet over his heart, and his feet may be long enough to meet in front of his body. The outline of his spine is clearly visible through translucent skin, and spinal nerves are beginning to stretch out from his spinal cord. Your baby’s forehead temporarily bulges with his developing brain and sits very high on his head, which measures half the length of his body. From crown to rump, he’s about 1 1/4 inches long. In the coming weeks, your baby will again double in size — to nearly 3 inches.