A Penny For Your Thoughts!
How Cows Teach Me About Trusting In God
A Reflection by Fr. Patrick L. Connor
I used to help my Uncle Frank (RIP) on his dairy farm as a boy/teenager/young adult, especially during Haying Season. My brothers and cousins would invade his farm for that period–work, play, and fill the house and farm with noise to the point when my bachelor uncle would go to the barn and hang out with the cows to find peace and quiet! In reality, he loved the company, and us, which is why my heart aches to visit his grave and know he’s gone from this world. But I know he’s with Our Lord in Heaven, watching over me and the rest of us who once tried our hands at milking.
I managed to do it quite well, and grew quite fond of these animals, especially the little calves. I loved feeding them their bottles of milk. How their tails would wag!
This is why I love being the pastor in a rural area, where I can drive around and see cows out in the fields. Often, I see them in small herds grazing, or sometimes sitting on the ground huddled close to each other and even some of them flat on their sides as if sleeping. Then I might see one cow off by itself, chewing its cud, and staring ahead as if thinking, just looking and . . . thinking?
Do cows, animals, think? Do they have memory? Do they have fears? Do they wonder about the future?
I’m sure there are answers to these questions, and I probably could ask a farmer or even perhaps Google it. But now, as I stop and look at this bovine creature in the open field gazing ahead at apparent nothingness, I’m struck by a sudden lesson about life. To me this cow is living in the Here and Now. You might say it is my being PRESENT WITH GOD!
Sometimes, like this cow in the picture, when I find myself alone, sitting in a waiting room at a doctor’s office or such, I have thought, “God is here, in this place.” Suddenly, I sense God’s Presence—a communion happening—maybe even a prayer? I’m actually talking to God without even trying as I sit there with my mind, heart, and soul taking in His Presence just like that cow in the picture taking in the presence of the water, sky, and grass. It’s just standing there, silent, and open to the reality before it. Contemplating, if you will.
The cow is like an empty vessel being filled with the world’s presence.
That cow is a model for what happens for me in prayer: I become an empty vessel filled with the presence of the God before me: a God I cannot see or hear or touch. Yet I can sense this God through faith. Something in my mind and heart and soul tells me that I’m not alone as I sit in this doctor’s office. And I don’t mean to ignore others who might be sitting in the room with me. I mean God’s Presence is also filling this place, beckoning me to enter into His stillness and allowing me to be filled with His Love and Peace.
Just like a cow chews its cud, I associate God’s Presence with Food for the Soul that He gives me through His Word. As I sit in the stillness of His Presence, I recall His Word that I’ve read or heard. His message, which I digest as Food for the Soul, satisfies my hunger and helps me know that I’m not alone in this pasture.
Even as I may satisfy the hunger of my body, I’m surrounded by so many signs and signals communicating God’s Presence, Truth, Direction and Love.
If only I were more open and receptive—perhaps quieter in my heart and soul, less anxious, more trusting, and not so wanting to be in control all the time.
If only I could live out what we say in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy Will Be Done!” Too often, it’s more like, “My will be done,” which leads to my undoing, misery, failure . . . even sin.
It’s those times that I need God, who is Loving, Merciful and Forgiving. In the words of Psalm 103: “Merciful and gracious is the Lord, slow to anger, abounding in kindness. He will not always accuse, and nurses no lasting anger. He has not dealt with us as our sins merit, nor requited us as our sins deserve.” (Ps 103: 8-10)
Perhaps that’s what ultimately helps me pray, “Thy Will Be Done!” and place my life in the Hands of the Lord—namely, His Goodness and Love for me.
When I concentrate on those things, my heart is filled with peace, and I live in the Now and not worry about the Future, I can stay in Today instead of fretting about Tomorrow. I dwell in the pasture alone peacefully and look ahead to what’s around me and chew my cud like that cow.
There comes a time, though, when it’s time to rejoin the herd. Even if I’m content and feel at peace, there may be someone else in the herd who needs some “TLC”—Tender Loving Care! They may need a bit of a gentle stroke on the head like you see in the picture.
Or, as pictured here, just being together, side by side, as part of a group to let others know they belong, and they’re not alone; others are here to love and support them. This is what God made us for—to be loved and to love.
Let’s resolve, pondering those cows in a pasture we pass by, to be attentive to our times of solitude when we can be with God in prayer as He listens to us, and we can talk to Him even without words—just being present together in silence.
Then go forth from there to be His Hands and His Heart!
So, let’s M-O-O-O-ve it!
The Story Behind the Infant of Prague
From Deacon Dave: I’m sure many of you have seen the Infant of Prague statue on display at St. Joseph’s Church in Campbell. However, you may not be aware of the history or the significance of this statue for our Catholic Faith.
[Fr. Saunder’s article, “Straight Answers: Infant of Prague,” was published in the Arlington, Virginia, Catholic Herald on April 21, 2005, and quoted here with permission. The entire article can be found at the link provided below.]
Q: My grandmother has always had a statue of Jesus as a child dressed up like a little king with a crown. She even has different outfits for him which are very elaborate. Can you tell me anything about this?
From the description given in the question, the statue is one of the Infant of Prague. Devotion to the Holy Child Jesus is a long-standing tradition in our Catholic spirituality. The early Church Fathers, like St. Athanasius and St. Jerome, had a special devotion to the Holy Child Jesus. Some of the later great saints, including St. Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus (the Little Flower), St. Francis of Assisi, St. Anthony of Padua and St. Teresa of Avila, helped popularize this devotion to the Holy Child. (As an aside, St. Teresa of Avila traveled with her statue of the Holy Child when she visited other convents.)
In the 1300s, sculptures of the Holy Child usually made of wax or wood also grew in popularity. Keep in mind that even though the Gospels do not relate much information regarding our Lord’s childhood, “the hidden life at Nazareth allows everyone to enter into fellowship with Jesus by the most ordinary events of daily life” (Catechism, No. 533).
The devotion to the Infant of Prague originated in the mid-1500s. In 1556, Maria Manriquez de Lara of Spain married a Czech nobleman named Vratislav Perstyn. She brought with her the statue of the Holy Child (which would become the Infant of Prague sculpture), standing about 18 inches in height. (Another tradition holds that the statue came from a monastery in Bohemia and was obtained by Dona Isabella Manriquez who presented it as a wedding gift to her daughter, Marie Manriquez, and son-in-law, Vratislav Perstyn.) In 1587, Maria then presented the statue as a wedding gift to her daughter, Princess Polyxena Lobkowitz.
“Okay Father, I’ll Take It From Here!”
A Reflection by the Pastor – Father Patrick L. Connor
Pictured above: Baby HARRISON ANDREW DOMBROWSKI, baptized August 15, 2020, at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Lexington, KY.
Way Back When
Pictured above is a child at his baptism. I especially love it because he looks like he is praying!
It isn’t me but imagine for a moment it is.
This article’s title could well apply to me, now ordained 37 years (April 8, 1983). I was baptized September 30, 1951, at St. Pius V Church in Cohocton, NY, by Father William Frank, who died nine days later on October 9, 1951.
When I entered the seminary in 1976, I had to produce my Baptismal Certificate. When I went to St. Pius V’s rectory in Cohocton, the priest there, after filling it out, smiled as he handed it to me. He explained I was Farther Frank’s last baptism on earth.
“So Patrick, I guess this means God is calling you to be Father Frank’s replacement in the Priesthood!” He chuckled at first but then became serious. “Rest assured, he’s praying for you from Heaven to help you through these coming years in the seminary, and I’ll be praying for you, too!”
Food For Thought
I share this with you because every time I baptize a baby boy, at the end of the sacrament, I say to the parents and those gathered: “Now, if anything happens to me, and this is the last baptism I do, chances are God intends for this boy to replace me in the Priesthood!”
Then I look at the parents’ faces.
Sometimes they smile, as if to say, “Yes! We would be so happy and proud!”
Sometimes they frown or have a look of fear, as if to say, “Oh dear! Please no! We were hoping he would get married, have a family, and give us grandchildren!”
I then say I’m just kidding but quickly add, “On a serious note, let me say to all that you are the very ones that God uses to plant the seeds in someone’s heart for a vocation to the Priesthood. So, if you know a young man who you think would make a good priest, tell him so! Maybe explain why. Just plant that seed. It might have more effect coming from you than someone like me. God will use your words to stir up something in the mind and heart and soul of that person. You never know. Don’t underestimate the power of prayer for vocations, not just to the Priesthood, but to the Religious, which includes men and women. Pray also for Women Religious and Brothers, Permanent Deacons, and Lay Ministers to come forward in service to the People of God.”
A Young Boy’s Dream
My desire to become a priest may not have begun when I was baptized—at least I don’t remember wanting to be priest then! (Chuckle) I probably was more interested in Mom giving me my bottle and changing my diaper!
But at my First Holy Communion, I do remember watching the priest say Mass and thinking, “I’d like to do that someday.” Later, when I was an altar boy, frequently serving Mass and getting to know the priests, I wanted to be more and more like them. That was in grammar school. That desire to become a priest remained through Catholic High School, where I was taught by Franciscan priests and brothers and continued to when I worked on my uncle’s dairy farm and later the railroad.
I felt it whenever I prayed.
It all happened because of people like you, believing in me and planting those seeds of a vocation, by saying they thought I would make a good priest!
You people believed in your priests and respected them. In spite of the current Clergy Abuse Scandal that we’re facing as a Church with the help of God, we must remember there are still many priests in good standing, models of holiness, and the Priesthood is still a noble calling.
You Plant God’s Seed
So how about it? Consider a young man you know who might make a good priest and find an opportunity to plant that seed and tell him so. “Come follow Me!” Jesus said to the disciples and that was the beginning of their vocation. His voice planted a seed.
Your voice might plant the seed also. You might be creating a miracle in the making!
Finally, as I often say at Mass as I look out at the people, “Even though I became a priest 37 years ago when I got ordained by Bishop Matthew Clark, I’m still becoming a priest because of the people I serve—people like you, because of your faith and your love for God and others. I truly love being a priest, and I truly love you and thank God for you.
God bless you all!” – Father Pat
Let’s Go for a Walk!
by Father Pat
This might be a long walk—a walk back in time—to when I was a boy and a teenager. That would have been from about 1959, when I was 8 years old, to 1969 when I graduated from high school.
These events and everything in between all revolved around the church you see pictured above; more than a church, it’s a national shrine: Our Lady of Victory Basilica in Lackawanna, outside of Buffalo, NY, and built by Msgr. Nelson H. Baker, “Father Baker,” who’s now a candidate for Sainthood.
I made my First Holy Communion there on May 17, 1959. I remember the day well. My oldest brother, Michael, was one of the Altar Servers. In fact, he held the Communion Paten for old Msgr. McQuire as the priest came along the Communion rail to us as we were kneeling there with our hands folded and ready to receive on the tongue.
The Servers used Communion Patens (i.e., small metal plates with long handles) in those days to catch the Sacred Host in case they fell off the tongue. When they came to me, I closed my eyes, looked upward, opened my mouth wide and stuck my tongue way out as rehearsed earlier with our teacher, Sister Afra, SSJ. I was a little nervous but also excited about receiving Jesus into my heart! We had learned about Jesus and His Love. I was feeling a lot of Peace.
Suddenly, I felt this jab of cold metal pushing into my throat. I wanted to cough, but at the same time, I wanted to giggle as it sort of tickled! But I was afraid to giggle. After all, this was church. This was Mass, and this was a Most Sacred Moment, Holy Communion, and lots of people were watching me—my family, my friends, classmates, and Sr. Afra.
As I opened my eyes, I saw that brother of mine, Michael, watching and grinning at me as if to say, “Gotcha!” He had played a subtle trick on me that even the Monsignor didn’t notice! Just between me and him, and as I remind him, God! (Years later, Michael said he was sorry and even went to confession to tell the priest!)
These many years later when I stand as a priest at Mass with children making their First Holy Communion, I share with them my experience. Even though this gets a chuckle from many, I remind the children that in no way was my brother trying to show disrespect to Jesus, nor am I, in retelling this story. What I want to do is focus on this little boy kneeling at the Communion rail, so excited about meeting Jesus in a brand-new way. To welcome Jesus into his heart through taking the Sacred Host, the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Himself, which He gave as gift to His Apostles and to all of us on the night before He died for us.
When I went back to my pew from receiving my First Holy Communion, I felt something else—not some cold hard metal object on my throat—but something like a hand on my shoulder, as if to tell me, “I am here with you, and I will always be with you, to help and guard and guide you in all things.”
This little boy looked up at the altar on that day and saw Msgr., my brother, the other servers, and high above, the statue of Our Lady of Victory, holding the child Jesus.
My heart felt peace, and I remember thinking, “I want to become a priest!”
So I did! And as I stand at the altar as a priest, I am grateful to God that He has given people like you to continue to walk the journey with me.
P.S. When my brother Michael comes to visit, he serves Mass with me, and he is always very reverent!
Words of Remembrance for Father Erb, given by Sister Gertrude Erb
John and I are very grateful to Father Pat for this opportunity to represent the family of Father Francis Erb at his funeral Mass. We’re also very appreciative to be able to thank you—the parish staffs and members of all the parishes of the Southern Tier where Father Erb served—for the care and love which you have shown Father throughout his priestly life. He knew he was loved by all of you, and from all reports, we were sure he was loved by all of you. (Acknowledged by Deacon George and caregiver, Minh, also.)
John and I are here today representing the two large families from which Father Erb came. His father, our Uncle Frank Erb, was one of fourteen children, and his mother, our Aunt Mary Farrell-Erb, was one of sixteen children. Father was an only child! So, we are here on behalf of our many, many cousins, spanning five living generations in fact. Father Erb had 45 first cousins. There are now nine first cousins living.
Father Erb had wonderful parents. You may have met them along the way. They lived in Cohocton, NY, when Father was pastor there. They were always so loyal and supportive of his ministry. His father died in 1980, and his mother died in 1989.
Through the years, I’ve been the connecting link between the family in Rochester and Father. Since Father’s retirement especially, I had the joy of having long conversations with Father—sometimes when he treated me to lunch at St. Joseph’s Hospital and sometimes on the telephone. More recently, we had infrequent but wonderful conversations over the phone. He would tell me about his aches and pains, not in a complaining manner at all, but just as a matter of fact.
Then he would say, “I have 20/20 vision.” I would respond, “And a 100% mind.”
I will really miss those calls.
In his last call to me on January 31 of this year, Father said, “Our eternal rest is what counts.”
So it was with him. Whatever God willed for him in his life, he accepted joyfully, knowing, “Our eternal rest is what counts.”
Father Erb, may you enjoy eternal rest in the presence of the God whom you served so faithfully and completely. As found in Psalm 116: “Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his faithful ones.”
Father, may you be precious in the eyes of the Lord forever.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit. . . . This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
A Fond Farewell to Father Erb from Father Pat
Today I said goodbye to a good friend, Father Francis Erb. I presided at his funeral Mass, as he had requested me to do. He was a retired priest who helped celebrate Masses in my parish, Ss. Isidore and Maria Torribia Parish until health problems prevented him from saying anymore.
He was 91 and a priest of this Diocese of Rochester for 66 years. He once had a hobby of flying airplanes. He obtained his license, joined a club, and used to fly single engine planes for recreation until he had to give it up due to age and health issues. Now, he is up there, high above the clouds, not in a plane but walking in the Kingdom of Heaven, gazing on the Face of God and filled with bliss. May he rest in peace and pray for us.
We love you, Fr. Erb! 🙏🙏🙏♥️♥️♥️
In Memory of Father Erb from Father Pat
This morning in Morning Prayer, I prayed this Psalm 63 and thought of Fr. Erb saying it and living it. The picture above is him saying one of his last Masses.
As you read this Psalm prayerfully, imagine Fr. Erb praying it with you.
Pray for his Peace of Soul as he looks now at the Face of God forever.
O God, You are my God,
it is You I seek!
For you my body yearns;
for you my soul thirsts,
In a land parched, lifeless. and without water.
I look to You in the sanctuary
to see Your Power and Glory.
For Your Love is better than life;
my lips shall ever praise You!
I will bless You as long as I live;
I will lift up my hands, calling on Your Name.
My soul shall be satisfied as with choice food,
with joyous lips my mouth shall praise You!
I think of You upon my bed, I remember You through the watches of the night.
You are indeed my Savior, and in the shadow of Your Wings I shout for joy.
My soul clings to You;
Your Right Hand holds me
— Psalm 63: 1-9
I must confess this brought a few tears to my eyes as I thought of our dear, departed friend. Rest in peace, Father Erb. We will always love ️ you. Pray for us
Beginning to reopen our Churches!
Update: June 25, 2020
We’re very pleased to announce our parish will be open our churches for Mass beginning next weekend, June 27-28, following our regular weekend Mass schedule. We are still limited to 33% occupancy at this time.
We are doing everything we can to keep everyone safe, so while in the church, we ask that you follow these guidelines:
- Masks are required to be worn while in the church.
- Use hand sanitizers when entering the church.
- Please maintain Social Distancing.
- Avoid touching things while in the church.
- If you’re feeling sick, or have underlying health concerns, PLEASE STAY HOME.
- Recall Bishop Matano has given special dispensation from physically attending Mass, and we’ll continue to live stream our Mass each weekend.
Headed back to Church! (June 26, 2020)
Here we go again!
Today we gather, in smaller numbers, as a parish for the first time in more than 3 months. Our readings are filled with prophesy and promise, once again. Judging from what we have all been through, these readings may be “Just what the doctor ordered”.
Elisha gave a prophesy and promise to a woman who needed a son to care for her in a culture that believed she needed one. Paul reminds the Christians of the promise of life through Christ, if only we could believe without failing. In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus tells us “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” NOW THAT IS A BIG PROMISE!
Today we continue to live the promises that we have held close to our hearts when we could not gain our strength from each other in community worship. The thing is, all of us aren’t here, and cannot be, so that means our job is never completely finished. Our job is to believe the prophesies and promises as we take care of others who may not even know that they need us.
We live in a confusing and scary world and we have had to do it in isolation. So that isolation really is only as scary as we let it be, when we forget the promises that were fulfilled with the life of Christ. So, has it really been all that bad?
We have learned about loneliness, fear and uncertainty that made up the core of Christ’s life as he came to fulfill his father’s promise to humanity. I remember those feelings when I left the security of my family’s home to make my way in the world. I had to rely on values I learned from my parents and searched for how to live out those lessons alone. I failed. I succeeded. I learned. I survived.
My prayer is that you both survived and thrived. I pray that you found ways to enrich your life while relying on the lessons of faith.
Now we move forward, together still. Remember Christ promised that “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me”. I suggest we all make a list of those people who came to us as Christ in some of our darkest hours. All the things we learned about ourselves that we had forgotten because we were too busy to celebrate God’s goodness present in each person.
So here we go again, celebrating, loving. being joyful and living the good life! Whether together or still at home, today’s readings tell us we have no excuses. Take care everyone!