St. John the Baptist and the Glories of Summer

Throughout Europe the Feast of the Nativity (fancy word for birth) of St. John the Baptist is celebrated with great solemnity every June 24th. Close to the summer solstice, the last of the prophets and forerunner of the Messiah acts as a sort of gatekeeper on the path to summer. Interestingly, the celebration of his passion in the form for martyrdom by beheading is commemorated towards the end of the summer on August 29. Let’s not think about summer coming to an end, but rather savor its beginnings.

I once spent John the Baptist’s Birthday in the cradle of the Renaissance in Florence. The evening fireworks were unlike anything I had ever experienced before, especially watching dusk fall on the majestic city of domes, towers and tangled streets with the Arno River running through it. St. John the Baptist is patron of that city and it also turns out that the prized relic of its legendarily famous Duomo is the pointer finger of the man who pointed Christ out when He came. They say that it is not nice to point, but John the Baptist lived and died to bear witness to the Christ.

 Florence, Italy - celebration of St. John the Baptist's birthday

Florence, Italy - celebration of St. John the Baptist's birthday

Why is his feast greeted with such ecstatic celebration in Florence and throughout the Church? Could it be for the fact that His life is the ultimate pattern for the Christian. The older cousin of Jesus, St. John the Baptist was quite literally called “from [his] mother’s womb” as today’s First Reading from Isaiah 49 would have it. Remember the occasion of Mary’s errand of mercy to visit her older kinswoman Elizabeth who was advanced in years and anticipating the birth of a child. Upon Mary’s greeting, the unborn child leapt in his mother’s womb. One of my favorite verses in the Scripture is in today’s Responsorial Psalm 139. We could imagine it upon the lips of the young St. John the Baptist as he was growing into full statute according to God’s call: “I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made!” John’s profound humility shines through in Paul’s preaching from the Second Reading taken from the Acts of the Apostles 13: “as John was completing his course, he would say, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. Behold, one is coming after me; I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet.’” If the Christian is honest, he must echo these words—for the whole being of a Christian must point towards Christ in both His first and second coming and His Sacred Presence in the Eucharist. Lastly, we hear from the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel that from the day of his birth and having been entrusted with the name John according to the message of the Angel Gabriel that “the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel”. In effect, our readings today for this great birthday feast serve not only as a gateway to summer but to a fuller reflection on the meaning of our lives as Catholic Christians. John the Baptist stands as a model for what the unfolding of our lives is meant to look like, from birth to death and every moment in between. As he said, so he lived: “He must increase, I must decrease” (John 3:30).

I conclude my article with a variety of somewhat unrelated and lighthearted comments:

+ Thanks to all who participated in our annual Meet, Greet and Bowl event at Elsie’s last Friday evening. Some lanes had better bowlers than others, but a good time was had by all! I heard  many encouraging comments. I love the tagline for Elsie’s: “Where Northeast meets…” – so true! Thanks to our organizers. Too bad we can’t still bowl in Kolbe Hall as once upon a time. I guess we could, but without lanes or bumpers I’m not sure if I could hit a single pin.

+ Our next all-parish get-together is our Ice Cream Social at St. Hedwig. Don’t miss it! Save the date for Tuesday evening, August 14th, the Feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe. We will be outside unless, like last year, the rain keeps us in.

+ Speaking of ice cream, following the 9 am St. Clement Mass on July 4th, I am inviting anyone who wishes to join me for a leisurely walking rosary through the neighborhood with our destination set on ice cream to celebrate our nation’s independence. Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, a young Italian saint who died on July 4, 1925 would very much approve of both the rosary and the ice cream, although he might have called it gelato!

+ In early July we will be blessed to have a priest from Cameroon present as a Missionary Preacher, Fr. Bienvenu Tsanga. Over the course of two weekends Fr. Bienvenu will be present at most of our Masses and assist with a number of weekday Masses and confessions.  I am grateful for his willingness to help while he is here. This visit is organized through the Center for Mission and their annual mission appeal. It provides a great opportunity for us to respond in generosity to the real missionary work of the Church underway around the globe.

+ Our summer parish youth activities are off to a great start. If you have missed them so far, there are still plenty of opportunities to get involved. In addition to Kyle Etzel, we have also been blessed to have Jonathan Hank, a seminarian in formation with the Oblates of the Virgin Mary arrive as well to spend about six weeks here. These two semiarians have been great interacting with our young people and lending a hand to projects in the parish office and around the parish.

+ There is still time to register for Totus Tuus faith experience from July 8-12 at St. Charles Borromeo which is taking the place of our Vacation Bible School (VBS) this summer. It is sure to be a splendid week and a tremendous bargain at $10 per child, 1-12 grade. See this bulletin and our website for more details and to register. I can’t recommend this opportunity enough.

+ Lastly, I want to offer an invitation to any teens from 9th-12th grade to join Fr. Hagan and youth from Sts. Peter and Paul in Loretto and St. Thomas the Apostle in Corcoran for Camp Veritas which runs from August 5-9 at Broomtree Family Retreat Center near Yankton, SD. These five days of faith and fun will include talks to help you grow in faith, daily Mass, Confession, Adoration, glow-in the-dark capture the flag, kickball, and tons of other outdoor activities. The cost is $225 per student. There may still be need for some college age or young adult chaperones. Contact Ryan Heim at rheim@saintsppta.org or 763-479-0525 if interested.

All for now! Have a blessed Sunday!

Fr. Howe


Beginning July 1st the following daily Masses will be added on a weekly basis:

+ 5:45 PM on Fridays at St. Clement

+ 6:15 AM on Wednesdays at Holy Cross—immediately before the 6:45 AM Mass, which will continue