Updated December 6, 2020 at 7:30 PM
Dear Friends of St. Mary’s and Fatima Mission,
As Christmas approaches, I want to share some information with you to help you to plan.  St. Mary’s Christmas Mass Schedule will be:
 Christmas Eve: 3:00, 5:30 and 8:00 pm; Christmas Day: 7:30 am.  Fatima Chapel Christmas Mass Schedule will be Christmas Day: 9:30 am.
Mass times have been set to allow a complete change over of the air circulating in the church/mission and time to sanitize the church/mission.
At this writing all CDC and Diocesan Guidelines will be in effect for Christmas: masks, social distancing, Holy Communion in the hand, no congregational singing and no gathering in the narthexes.
At both St. Mary’s and the Fatima Mission I ask parishioners to exercise prudence and charity in making the best use of pew space to accommodate the most parishioners safely. At St. Mary’s that might mean larger families sitting in the back pews which can accommodate larger numbers of those from the same household. At the Fatima Mission, larger families could sit upstairs and singles and doubles could sit downstairs to safely maximize space.
When and if the church/mission becomes filled to social distancing capacity, we will need to close doors and stop admittance. Those who are not able to be admitted and who wish to wait and pray in their cars will be invited to receive Holy Communion after Mass has concluded.
It is very important to remember that Bishop Gainer has continued the dispensation from attendance at Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation (Christmas) for reasons of health and safety during the Covid-19 Pandemic.
It is also important to remember that the possibility of greater numbers attending Christmas Masses (including family members from other states on the PA Quarantine List) could pose an increased risk for those with compromised immune systems.
Bishop Gainer’s Office of Worship has offered a suggestion to those who would like to attend a Christmas Mass but who do not feel it is safe for them to do so. This year, why not consider attending a Mass within the Octave of Christmas as your Christmas Mass? Holy Mother Church celebrates the eight days after Christmas as one big Christmas celebration. Every Mass within those eight days is considered a Christmas Mass, including the Sunday, December 27th Mass of the Holy Family, as well as the 8 am morning Masses scheduled throughout the week.
2020 has presented unique challenges for our parishes. Christmas 2020 may be one of the biggest. Should there be any changes to the above information, we will let you know as best we can.
As we await the celebration of Our Lord’s Nativity, let us be informed, let us be prudent, let us be charitable.
Peace and all good,
Father Bob





Holy Trinity Sunday , June 7, 2020
On this Trinity Sunday, Pope St. John Paul II helps us to understand the full truth about ourselves in relation to the Holy Trinity. He writes, In the communion of grace with the Trinity, mans living areais broadened and raised up to the supernatural level of divine life. Man lives in God and by God.
How wonderful is that statement!
Our human living areais broadened and raised up by the Holy Trinity because we participate in the divine life of the Blessed Trinity – a life of creating, redeeming and sanctifying.
When I think of creating, I think of that Catholic cartoon going around during the pandemic. The devil says to God, I closed all your churches. God responds, Yes, and I opened one up in every home.During these past three difficult months many participated in the work of creation by transforming their homes into domestic churches, houses of prayer and schools of virtue and charity. Others created cottage industries to supply doctors, nurses and first responders with things they needed to fight the pandemic. Still others, by their impromptu works of charity, created the opportunity for hope in those who were despairing. As St. John of the Cross reminds us, Where there is no love, put love.This is the fundamental work of creation.
We are also called to participate in Our Saviors work of redemption, not only as recipients, but also as those who continue Our Lords work of healing, reparation and forgiveness. These past months have given us the opportunity to reach out to someone in need, to repair a broken relationship or to begin the often difficult work of forgiving someone. In these ways too we allow our living areato be broadened and raised up by the redeeming grace of Jesus Christ.
It is the Holy Spirit who is the prime mover of our spiritual lives. Sanctification or growth in holiness is the prime work of the Holy Spirit in the depths of our souls. Change in circumstances is always fertile ground for the Holy Spirit to exercise covert operations. And with the changing circumstances of our times, there is ample opportunity to broaden our living area by being open to the sevenfold Gifts of the Spirit – Wisdom, Knowledge, Counsel, Understanding, Fortitude, Piety and Fear of the Lord. During these difficult days for our country, may we be open to these Gifts which help us to live in that communion of grace with the Trinity, always striving to live in a kingdom of justice, love and peace.
May we be ever thankful for the great mysteries of the Holy Trinity and how we are baptized into the very life of a triune Godhead!
Let us praise the Holy Trinity, Undivided Unity, Holy God, Mighty God, God Immortal, be adored!

Father Bob for  Trinity Sunday
From the Magnificat for Pentecost Sunday, 2020. 
By the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, Christs Paschal Mystery was brought to its completion. The Holy Spirit prepares us with his grace in order to draw us to Christ. He manifests the risen Lord to us, opening our minds. He makes present the mystery of Christ. And he reconciles us, bringing us into communion with God. Saint Thomas Aquinas says that the Holy Spirit interiorly perfects our spirit, communicating to it a new dynamism so that it refrains from evil for love. With the Holy Spirit within us, it is quite natural for people who had been absorbed by the things of this world to become entirely otherworldly in outlook, and for cowards to become people of great courage(Saint Cyril of Alexandria).
Since March we have quite naturally been absorbed by the things of this world, namely the pandemic and its consequences. But as the world around us now begins to open up, we praise and thank God for the gift of the Holy Spirit. It will be the Holy Spirit who draws us to Christ and who opens our minds to the mystery of Christ. It will be the Holy Spirit who reconciles us and brings us back into communion with God and one another. It will be the Holy Spirit who perfects our spirit and helps us to refrain from evil in order to do good. It will be the Holy Spirit who fills us with courage to face the future.
In a world that has been subjected to the evil of disease and its consequences, rocked by massive social and economic challenges, and torn by so much spiritual unrest, let us pray that the Holy Spirit may come with Our Lords gift of Peace and effect the healing of our communities, our country and our world.
Come, Holy Spirit, come!
And from your celestial home
Shed a ray of light divine!
Come, Father of the poor!
Come, source of all our store!
Come, within our bosoms shine.
You, of comforters the best;
You, the souls most welcome guest;
Sweet refreshment here below;
In our labor, rest most sweet;
Grateful coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.
O most blessed Light divine,
Shine within these hearts of yours,
And our inmost being fill!
Where you are not, we have naught,
Nothing good in deed or thought,
Nothing free from taint of ill.
Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away:
Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.
On the faithful, who adore
And confess you, evermore
In your sevenfold gift descend;
Give them virtues sure reward;
Give them your salvation, Lord;
Give them joys that never end. Amen.
Father Bob

On this 7th Sunday of Easter we return to that liminal space. We find ourselves in between the Ascension and the great feast of Pentecost. Just as the disciples returned to the upper room in Jerusalem after our Lord’s Ascension and devoted themselves to prayer, so we too want to devote ourselves to prayer as we await the celebration of the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
But what will our prayer be? A prayer to return to normal? A prayer that everything will be just like it was before the pandemic?
Reading the Acts of the Apostles, I get a strong sense that the disciples knew in their hearts that there was no returning to the way things were before our Lord’s suffering, death and resurrection. After the Ascension they knew things were going to be different. That’s why they prayed. And I believe it was their prayer that opened them up to the great mystery (and reality!) of Pentecost that was unfolding in their lives.
During this in-between time, I think a healthy spirituality is going to include the kind of prayer that opens us up to mystery and reality – the reality that things are going to be different and the mystery of the Holy Spirit who will help us to negotiate these changes. In the following weeks, more details will be forthcoming regarding the kind of changes to expect at St. Mary’s and Our Lady of Fatima.
When our parish and mission open up again, change will abound. Please see Bishop Gainer’s letter regarding opening up in the Yellow Phase (See link below).  Your parish staff and volunteers are already at work preparing. Please call the office if you would like to help.
In the meantime, as we await the great feast of Pentecost, let us pray:
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.
Father Bob
Bishop Gainer Letter for Yellow Phase
The Ascension
I remember my grandfather, ever the jokester, saying as we were leaving my grandparentshouse after a visit, Some people bring joy when they come, others when they go.I always think of that zinger when I think of the Ascension. But I also think of the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI who said it would be a mistake to interpret the Ascension as the temporary absence of Christ from the world.Rather, we go to heaven to the extent that we go to Jesus Christ and enter into him.Heaven is a person: Jesus himself is what we call heaven.
Pope Francis has written, The Ascension of Jesus into heaven acquaints us with this deeply consoling reality on our journey: in Christ, true God and true man, our humanity was taken to God. Christ opened the path to us. If we entrust our life to him, if we let ourselves be guided by him, we are certain to be in safe hands, in the hands of our Savior.
It is quite easy to see the Ascension of Jesus as simply a means to an end – Jesus going up to Heaven so the Holy Spirit could come down. As our Holy Fathers explain so beautifully, the Ascension is much more than that.
So while we indeed rejoice in our Lords coming and going – his coming as man and his going to the Father in fulfillment of the Paschal Mystery – we know that we have never really been alone on the journey.  As Jesus reminds us, I am with you always until the end of the age.
Father Bob
The Sixth Sunday of Easter , May 17th 

In this Sunday
s Gospel, Jesus says that he will not leave his disciples orphans. He promises to send the Holy Spirit who is another Advocateand the Spirit of truth. Jesus also tells his disciples, … you know him, because he remains with you, and will be in you.
As we find ourselves two months into the Coronavirus restrictions, we may forget that the Holy Spirit remains with us and in us. We may even ask ourselves if there is any proof that the Holy Spirit, given in the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, is still alive within us especially when we have not received the Sacrament of the Eucharist in months?
In writing to the Galatians (5:22,23), St. Paul gets specific about evidence that the Holy Spirit is alive within believers. St. Paul calls this evidence the fruit of the Spirit. These are the virtues that Holy Mother Church has recognized as signs that the Holy Spirit is alive and well and at work within us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, modesty and chastity (St. Paul lists 9 fruits, the Tradition of the Church lists 12). Reflecting on these virtues is a good way to take our spiritual pulse.
These are the kind of times that test our resolve to believe and to live as those who have received the Advocate and the Spirit of truth. Jesus told his disciples, the world cannot accept the Spirit of truth.But we Christians do even as we find ourselves trying to discern scientific, economic, political and social justice truths in the light of the Gospel and with the help of the Advocate. Admittedly, this is not an easy task, but that is why we have been gifted with the Holy Spirit. And it is the Holy Spirit who helps us with the gifts of wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord. These spiritual gifts are given to help us to live in Gods grace and friendship. And it is the same Holy Spirit who gives growth to the many fruits which are signs that we are living in communion with the Spirits direction. During these difficult times, when the world needs an app to remain calm, Jesus simply reminds us, I will not leave you orphans.
Father Bob
From Father Bob on this 5th Sunday of Easter
Do not let your hearts be troubled.
These words were spoken by Jesus to his disciples at the Last Supper as He was trying to prepare them for his suffering, death and resurrection.
We need to hear these words today, perhaps now more than ever. And yet how difficult it is not to allow our hearts to be troubled given the wave of trouble (Trouble with a capital T!) thats chasing us.
What Jesus offered as an antidote to a troubled heart was faith – belief in Him, confident trust in Him – not in ourselves, not even in our best laid plans of mice and menbecause they often go awry. How true are those words of the poet, Robert Burns, today.
To strengthen his point about trust, Jesus said, I am the way, the truth and the life. Could this simple statement have meant anything other than follow what I have taught you, seek my truth and you will find the fullness of life? And do this in every moment of your life.
Jesus was neither a cockeyed optimist nor a fear monger. He knew what would help us to find peace in our hearts and he told his disciples to replace their fears with trust in Him. This was and remains today one of the most important things Jesus ever said.
Jesus does not say that we should suppress a whole range of human emotions, some of which do in fact trouble our hearts deeply. But he does tell us, that in the midst of our human sufferings, to look to Him – to remember His ways, to seek after His truths, and to allow His grace working on our good will, to help us find peace (which Jesus tells us only He can give in great measure).
The saints found this fullness of life, this peace of mind and heart even in troubling times, by learning to trust in Jesus as their way, their truth and their life. On this MothersDay, let us look to one of the great spiritual Mothers of the Catholic Church. St. Teresa of Avila, for encouragement. She wrote, Let nothing disturb you, let nothing frighten you. All things pass away: God never changes. Patience obtains all things. He who has God lacks nothing. God alone suffices.
Peace and all good,
Fr. Bob
A Message from Father Bob
The Fourth Sunday of Easter
In the Good ShepherdGospel, Jesus tells us that he is the gate. He is the one who stands between the sheep in the fold and the outside world. We call that kind of in-between space liminal space. I know that is the kind of space I find myself in now.
I dont think there are any words to ameliorate the range of emotion that follow the closing of a Catholic school. What I can tell you is that the closing of Lebanon Catholic was an agonizing decision. As Bishop Gainers statement says, it was a decision that took into consideration parishes struggling with financial stresses and other significant factors.
For now, I think it best to allow the grieving process to unfold. I know this wave of disbelief, anger and hurt must be allowed to happen. I also accept that I will have to bear the brunt of this wave because of where I stand as a pastor and trust administrator. I stand in that liminal space between canon law and civil law, between Diocese and parish, and between parish and school. Standing in that space charges me with making difficult decisions which seem, at times, to benefit no one. I accept that as a very heavy part of my priesthood.
But I am not the only one in that liminal space. The faculty, staff, students and families of Lebanon Catholic are also in that in-between place, facing their own challenges and uncertainties. And so it is for all of us, during this critical time, to allow faith, hope and love to occupy that space as well. How can we possibly make it through these difficult times without Gods help?
As I have said before, my ordination card is the Good Shepherd. I know there are those in the flock who would now say that imagery is lost on me and some have left the flock. They must be allowed to seek out greener pastures. But for those who remain, I will do my best to pastor the flock according to the heart of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.
Perhaps this prayerful reflection by Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ, is what we need when we find ourselves in-between:
Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability – and that it may take a very long time. And so I think it is with you; your ideas mature gradually – let them grow, let them shape themselves without undue haste. Dont try to force them on, as though you could be today what time (that is to say grace and circumstances acting on your own good will) will make of you tomorrow. Only God could say what that new spirit gradually forming within you will be. Give Our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.
During this Easter Season it is my prayer that what now presents itself as darkness and death may issue forth in light and new life. May we be ever grateful for what we have received and may we be open to what God has yet to give.
May our parish family and the Lebanon Catholic family know that you are all in my prayers.
In His Healing Grace,
Fr. Bob
April 26, 2020
The Third Sunday of Easter Message from Father Bob
On the road to Emmaus, the disciples were walking down the road of disillusionment. What they had expected from life did not happen. Jesus was dead so apparently he was not the messiah they were hoping for. But when Jesus appeared to them, spoke to them and broke bread with them, the disciples disillusionment eventually gave way to recognition. They recognized that Jesus was not dead – he was sitting right there with them – and then filled with excitement, they returned to Jerusalem to share the good news.
St. John of the Cross (1542-1591) also walked down that road of disillusionment. Together with St. Teresa of Avila, he was trying to reform the Carmelite Order. But along the way, John did not get what he expected from life. Instead of cooperation from his brother Carmelites, some of them resisted his reforms to the point of throwing him in prison! This is how Mirabai Starr, in her book, St. John of the Cross: Devotions, Prayers and Living Wisdom, describes the saints ordeal:
His cell was a tiny closet that had formerly served as a latrine. There was not enough room to lie down, and the only window was far above his head. Twice a day the friars took him out and flogged him.Denounce Teresa!they demanded. Renounce the heresy of this so-called reform!
As the months ground by, John began to fear that he had been abandoned by the Holy One. For the first time in his life, he questioned the existence of a God he could no longer feel or remember. And, as his soul dried up, he found he could no longer even conceive of this God to whom he had dedicated everything. When he tried to pray, all he encountered was a cavernous emptiness. He cried out, Where have you hidden, my Beloved?
Echoing from this cry came an outpouring of love poetry to God. He committed each poem to memory and recited them all again and again until they were etched on his heart. His poems became simultaneously a call to and a response from his Beloved.
At last after nine long months, one dark night, a sympathetic guard turned the other way as the frail friar made his escape. Taking refuge among the sisters in a nearby convent, he fell into an ecstatic state of love for God, from which he never recovered.
In our current situation, many may be experiencing a form of disillusionment that we call a dark night.  Living in our own Coronavirus captivity, our lives are marked by a lack of control and certainty. But St. John would tell us that at the threshold of uncertainty, what dwells beyond is not simply chaos. The darkness bears the Spirit of God, who broods over the waters of death and has power to work a resurrection. From darkness and death come Light and new Life. That is the impact of Easter. So, in these difficult times, let us remember we are not abandoned by God, but loved more deeply than we can imagine all the way through them. As the stories of the disciples on the road to Emmaus and the imprisonment of John of the Cross show us, life does not always give us what we expect. But our Risen Lord gives us more than we can imagine.
You looked with love upon me
And deep within your eyes imprinted grace.
This mercy set me free,
Held in your loves embrace,
To lift my eyes adoring
to your grace.
– St. John of the Cross
A Message from Fr. Bob on Divine Mercy (and Hope!) Sunday 
From the Magnificat:
On this Divine Mercy Sunday we recall the words of Saint Thomas Aquinas: mercy consists in bringing a thing out of non-being into being.We see this transpire concretely in the life of the early Church. The believers devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of bread and to prayers.They were filled with awe; they were witnesses of wondrous signs; they lived for the good of the other; they were selfless and generous; they overflowed with exultation and sincerity of heart.God in his great mercygave themand us—“a new birth to a living hopethrough the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is what the Apostle Thomas is looking for in the Lords open side.
I think this living hope is what Fr. Richard Rohr calls by another name – mystical hope. Mystical hope is different from regularhope in these ways:
1. Mystical hope is not tied to a good outcome, to the future. It lives a life of its own, seemingly without reference to external circumstances and conditions.
2. It has something to do with presencenot a future good outcome, but the immediate experience of being met, held in communion, by something intimately at hand.
3. It bears fruit within us in the sensations of strength, joy, and satisfaction: an unbearable lightness of being.But mysteriously, rather than deriving these gifts from outward expectations being met, it seems to produce them from within.
Wow. Each one of those distinctions is something to ponder!
We may all be hoping that the difficulties of the Covid-19 pandemic will end soon. We all hope for that outcome and that is a reasonable hope. But a mystical hope allows us to experience God in the present and in his great mercy – bringing into being something good where no good thing was thought to exist. (St. Thomas Aquinas above)
Let us give thanks to the Lord for he is good; his love is everlasting!
Happy Divine Mercy Sunday,
Fr. Bob
An Easter Message from Fr. Bob:
Today we celebrate Jesusvictory over death. He is risen! Death is not the end. But the Resurrection is not the end either. As I said in an earlier writing, just like those first Apostles we too, as Christians, live in the reality of the Resurrection.
I think the Easter reality – that from suffering and death new life can emerge – is evident in so many ways this year. Along with Mother Nature blossoming, it would seem that goodness has blossomed in the hearts of so many people and institutions. In the midst of so much suffering and death caused by the pandemic, we see more generosity, more compassion, more sacrifice, more helpfulness, and more understanding throughout our country. And I suspect that when we get the all clear, we will also see a wave of gratitude sweep across our nation.
For many of us this has been the Lent of a lifetime (as one parishioner put it). It has been historic and difficult, perhaps the most difficult thing some of us have ever had to endure. But hopefully we were paying attention to the lessons of love that this experience has taught us. And now, with an infusion of Easter grace (which the Holy Spirit is perfectly capable of supplying without sacraments), it is for us to live in the new reality of the Resurrection – a reality marked by goodness, generosity, compassion, sacrifice, helpfulness, understanding and gratitude – just like those first Apostles.
Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed!
Easter Blessings,
Fr. Bob
“Four Empty Things: the Church, our Hearts, the Cross, the Tomb.”
              While many see emptiness as a void with not value, we Christians understand our present emptiness as a preparation to be filled with Easter Joy. The more empty we may feel, the more room for the Risen Christ to enter and fill us with Easter Light, Happiness and Peace.”
A Holy Thursday message from Fr. Bob:
There are three important commemorations on Holy Thursday: the institution of the priesthood and the Eucharist and the giving of the great commandment to serve one another in love. This year these sacred remembrances will feel different for all of us.
Some 30 years ago I discerned a vocation to become a Trappist monk. Instead, I became a diocesan priest. This year I return to my Trappist leanings and celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper in quiet solitude, thanking God
for the gift of my vocation and the gift of the Eucharist. (By the way, don’t worry about me and alone time. I’m good at it!)
To be sure, I will also offer the Mass of the Lord’s Supper for all of you who, because of the pandemic, are not able to receive the Eucharist. As I mentioned in a homily some weeks ago, I pray that you may be resourceful and resilient like the Japanese who, beginning in the 17th century, went without priests and the Eucharist for over 200 years and still kept their Catholic faith alive.
I pray that during this difficult time, your faith is still very much alive and perhaps even going through a period of deepening transformation. Know that Fr. Dagle and I are praying for you just as monks pray for the world.
Until we are together again, let us remember to live our Lord’s great commandment to serve one another in love. As Jesus said, “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”


A Good Friday message from Fr. Bob:

Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM, a Franciscan Friar, has likened the coronavirus pandemic to a rite of initiation. He says this worldwide situation is initiating humanity into a new reality. I agree with him.

Initiation rites move us from the old to the new. That transition is often scary because it moves us from the old through the unknown to the new. Consider our Lord’s Pascal Mystery. Jesus went from his life of ministry and then transitioned to his passion and death which led to his glorious, salvific resurrection. Just as Jesus transitioned from life to death to new life, so we may see our current experience as mirroring his. Consider the normalcy of life (pre-pandemic). Now we struggle through this time of transition towards something new in the future. Let us also be aware of how important this time of transition is. It is a teacher trying to teach us valuable lessons. Like Jesus, the important thing is to not give up the struggle because we know it will issue forth in something new. This is the Pascal Mystery – the rhythms of our Lord’s life, suffering , death and resurrection being reproduced in our own. Baptism initiated us into this amazing mystery.

This Good Friday 2020 may we courageously carry our cross with Jesus, knowing that he is helping us and suffering with us. May we be thankful for his salvific death and resurrection and may we not forget that we, in these historic and difficult times, are being initiated into something new.