Dear Brothers and Sisters of St. Andrew the Apostle,

I don't want to take all of the credit, but after mentioning Trey Mancini in last week's newsletter, the Orioles 1st baseman hit three home runs in the next six games. The Orioles, settling into midseason form, lost five of those six games. 

It will be a long season, but I can still admire the enthusiasm and perseverance. In the one game that they won this week, they did so scoring a run in their last at-bat, what is called a "walk-off" hit because, after the winning run scores as a result of the hit, every one walks off the field and goes home. At the time of that win, the Orioles had lost five of their last six games and would go on to lose their next two. But even amid that sub-mediocre stretch of playing, they celebrated that win as if it were the final game of the World Series, jumping up and down on the field and spraying their water bottles all over the place. 

Some may frown on such excessive celebration for a meaningless game. There was probably a time in my life when I would have agreed with them. But to find cause to celebrate when it is much easier to be overwhelmed by the futility of your situation is endearing and probably better for your emotional health. 

This past year has brought many reasons for disappointment. Many events and decisions have discouraged us, made us angry, and caused us to fear for ourselves and our future. Unfortunately, inordinately focusing on these difficulties has led some into a state of constant frustration, unable to recognize anything hopeful and good. This is why the Easter season seems to be perfectly situated in our lives this year. We see how the Lord Himself was rejected, seen as a criminal, and killed on a cross which reminds us that even encountering God Himself is not enough to change some men's hearts. Yet we see that even as Jesus Christ seems to be overcome by the evil of the world, ultimately He is the victor, offering salvation and eternal life for all, even those who played a role in His crucifixion - the greatest sin mankind has ever committed.

The Paschal Mystery reorients us in our suffering and frustration. It shows us that evil and crosses will always remain in this life. When we look around the world and see all the injustice and unfaithfulness, we must do what we can to end them. We would like to think that we will always be victorious in this life when we are fighting for Christ, but this was not true in the time of Christ or any time since. Our Lord Himself promises that as his followers, we will be rejected and we will bear crosses every day. He tells us this because he does not want us to be worn down and defeated by the presence of crosses and evil. He does not want us to be hopeless in the midst of what often looks like a losing battle.

St. Teresa of Avila said that this life is like a night in a bad hotel. While this seems like a pessimistic statement, it is intended to be a hopeful one. Similar to a hotel, this world is a place that we stay on the way to our final destination. Here we experience suffering and sin, but it is not our heavenly home, where every tear will be wiped away and sin and suffering will be no more. This is the understanding of the martyrs, who suffered and died in joyful hope. It is meant to be our understanding as well so that we are not overcome by this world and the evil that lives here. We are called to preach the Gospel and to fight injustice, but we will not always be successful. Yet we still have hope amid frustration and failure because we are not meant for this world. Alleluia!

You may have noticed that the parish campus was made more beautiful last weekend, and we have our youth to thank for that. Last Saturday, a group of middle and high school students spent much of the morning and afternoon weeding, laying down mulch, and planting flowers around the property. I thank all of them, with particular mention to Samantha Mauk, who organized the whole event. I also thank the adult volunteers who joined their efforts with the youth of the parish, as well as those who volunteered tools and other supplies, in particular, Tim Speidel of Classic Cuts Lawn & Landscape who supplied many tools for the project and donated all of the mulch. 

Since I have arrived, I have heard many legitimate criticisms of the sound quality in the church. The fact that I am soft-spoken does not help the situation. In the past few months, I hope that those attending Mass have also noticed the improvement in the sound quality in the church. Bob Downey, the father of one of our St. Andrew School students and a friend of mine from my first assignment at St. Leo the Great, has volunteered many hours updating our system from analog to digital and optimizing the sound quality of each of our microphones. He's also been our liaison in our next effort, which is to replace the speakers near the ceiling of the church with others closer to ground level and in the balcony to increase the sound volume directed towards the pews. 

[I apologize to anyone who knows anything about sound engineering because I'm sure my limited understanding and vocabulary in the previous paragraph have butchered the description of what Bob did and what we are doing with the speakers.]

Let us continue to pray for each other as we celebrate the Easter season. May the Lord bless us all and continue to transform us with his grace. 

And next week, I promise no stories about the Orioles, unless they do something historic!

In Christ,
Fr. Wagner