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Pastor’s Feature

Pastor’s Feature

 This coming Friday, August 24th, is the feast day of St. Bartholomew. In the New Testament, Bartholomew is mentioned as being one of the original 12 disciples. He is also identified in the Gospel of John as Nathanael, a native of Cana in Galilee who was summoned to Jesus by Philip. Upon meeting Nathanael, Jesus paid him a great compliment: “Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him” (John 1:48b). When Nathanael asked how Jesus knew him, Jesus said, “I saw you under the fig tree” (John 1:48b), to which Nathanael exclaimed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel” (John 1:49b). But Jesus countered by saying, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this. Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man” (John 1:50-51).

     After the resurrection of Jesus, Bartholomew of course did witness Jesus’ ascension into heaven, and was with the other disciples in the upper room, and therefore also received the Holy Spirit. As an apostle, it is believed he traveled to Turkey, and then finally Armenia, where he encountered obstinately addicted worshipers of idols. It is there in Armenia where Bartholomew was martyred. Modern Greek historians say that he was condemned by the governor of Albanopolis in Armenia. The method of his martyrdom was especially gruesome: He was flayed alive with a tanner’s knife. This is why St. Bartholomew is sometimes depicted with his hide draped over his arm. He is also depicted holding the instrument of his martyrdom, a tanner’s knife. If you have ever been to the Sistine Chapel in Rome, then you may have noticed that St. Bartholomew is in the scene of the last judgment, holding his hide. St. Bartholomew is the patron saint of Armenia, tanners and cheese merchants. Apparently in medieval times, some mistook the curved knife for a cheese-cutter, which explains why he is the patron saint of cheese merchants.

     God Bless, 

     Fr. Paul Ballien

     (Information for this article was taken from Butler’s ‘Lives of the Saints.’)

From the Paulpit

    This Wednesday, August 15th is the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and it is a Holy Day of Obligation. As a result, this year we will have Mass on the 15th at 9:00 am, 12 noon and 7:00 pm. Any one of these three Masses will cover your obligation for this important solemnity. The belief in the Assumption flows from our belief in and understanding of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. Since God (Jesus) would dwell in Mary when she was pregnant with Him, Mary must have been made free from all sin through the grace of God because God cannot dwell within anything that is impure and stained with sin. Therefore, if Mary was preserved from sin, she would not be bound to experience the consequences of sin and death in the same way that we do. As a result, she was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory. And the good news is that one day, we too will share in that glory and have our bodies joined with our souls in heaven at the second coming of Christ. Mary, I guess you could say was just ahead of the curve.

     How we arrived at this conclusion however, developed over time. After Christianity was legalized in the fourth century, many more people came to the faith and began to ponder who Jesus was and what was Mary’s role in our story of salvation. If you know your church’s history, then you may already know that it wasn’t until the fifth century that one of the church councils (Council of Ephesus) declared that Mary was “Theotokos” or the Mother of God. Prior to this council, there was no mention anywhere from the Church Fathers about the Assumption of Mary. But afterwards, this belief quickly began to take shape. The Assumption of Mary was first celebrated in Syria in the fifth century. By the sixth century, it was also celebrated in Jerusalem and Alexandria. The first genuine written references to the Assumption come from authors who lived in the sixth to eighth centuries. It is mentioned in sermons from saints such as St. Andrew of Crete, St. John Damascene (St. John Damascene is an eighth century saint who is considered to be the last of the church fathers), St. Modestus and others. 

     In the ninth century, the feast of the Assumption was celebrated in Spain. By the tenth to twelfth centuries, there was no dispute over the celebration of the feast in the Western Church, and was celebrated even in Rome. From the thirteenth century onward, there is certain and undisputed faith in the Assumption of Mary in the universal Church. 

     In 1950, Pope Pius XII taught infallibly (“Munificentissimus Deus”) that Mary was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory. In declaring this dogma, it also became a teaching moment. In this papal decree, Pope Pius XII alludes to the bloody world wars of the twentieth century and the growth of materialism, and then deplores how the destruction of life, the desecration of the human body, and moral corruption threaten to obviate our human sense of our God-given identity. By holding forth the example of Mary, Pope Pius XII intended that “the exalted destiny of both our soul and body may in this striking manner be brought clearly to the notice of all persons,” with subsequent growth in virtue and care for others. 

     To put it simply, the glory that Mary now has, we will one day share. We are God’s family, we are of infinite value, we are destined for glory in heaven, body and soul. As a result, we need to act like it. We need to act like we belong in heaven, since that is our true home and destiny. We need to realize that the whole human person, body and soul, are not simply commodities that people own. Consequently, we need to treat ourselves and each other with great dignity and respect because of the infinite value and glory that we share as human beings. The Assumption of Mary reminds us of this very fact.

 God Bless,

Fr. Paul Ballien

From the Paulpit

     This Tuesday, July 31st, is the feast day of St  Ignatius of Loyola. When I was in the Cayman Islands, the main church that I was pastor of was named after St. Ignatius, so I guess you could say I have a special connection to him even though I am not a Jesuit. St. Ignatius has a fascinating story and is certainly a great saint who has had a big impact on the life and history of the Church. Therefore, I thought you might be interested in reading on a brief outline of his life.

      Ignatius was born in 1491 at the family castle in Loyola, Spain. He spent his early adulthood as a courtier and in the military. By his own admission, he was a rather worldly person with worldly ambitions. At the age of 30, Ignatius was wounded in battle when a canon ball shattered his right leg, and so he had to spend a long time in bed recovering. During his long and painful recovery, he looked for books to read to pass the time, romance novels in particular was his interest, but all he could find was a book on the life of our Savior and another on the life of the saints.  Reading these books helped to stir something in him that caused him to begin to reflect on the spiritual life.

     With this new found desire to live for Christ, he eventually decided to go on pilgrimage and traveled to the shrine of our Lady at Montserrat near Manresa. He stayed there for nearly a year living very simply, and began writing down material which later became his famous book of ‘Spiritual Exercises.’ From there he made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, came back to Spain and began his formal education. While receiving his education he also lodged at a hospice, lived as a beggar, catechized children and held assemblies of devotion in the hospice. A couple of times he was imprisoned unjustly because of his teachings. While in prison in Salamanca, when a friend expressed sympathy at his plight, Ignatius responded by saying, “It is a sign that you have but little love of Christ in your heart, or you would not deem it so hard a fate to be in chains for His sake. I declare to you that all of Salamanca does not contain as many fetters, manacles and chains as I long to wear for the love of Jesus Christ.”

     After his imprisonment, Ignatius eventually made his way to Paris and completed his education at the age of 43 with a masters of arts. At that time, six students associated themselves with Ignatius in his spiritual exercises (one of whom was none other than St. Francis Xavier). These men were the original seven that was to become “the Jesuits”. Together they took a vow of poverty and chastity. On top of that, they also agreed to go to the Holy Land, but were prevented from doing so because of war, so instead of going to the Holy Land, they decided to put themselves at the service of the Pope. During that time, several of them, including Ignatius, were ordained priests. They began teaching with the Pope’s approval and eventually it was proposed that they officially form an order. Despite his objections, Ignatius was unanimously elected as the first general of the Society of Jesus, otherwise known as the Jesuits. The last fifteen years of his life were devoted to composing the Constitution of the new order. He died in Rome on July 31, 1556 and was canonized by Pope Gregory XV in 1622.

     This is but a brief outline of his life. A lot is known about this saint, and so if you get a chance to read a biography on his life, I would encourage you to do so because his story as I mentioned before is not only a fascinating one, but an inspiring one too. His spiritual exercises are also extremely insightful and helpful in developing one’s spiritual life.

     God Bless,

     Fr. Paul Ballien

From the Paulpit

     In last week’s bulletin I wrote a little bit about my background going into the priesthood, and I also wrote that I would continue with part two of that introduction for next week’s bulletin. And so as promised, here it is:

     Upon my ordination way back in the 20th century (1999), I went to St. Paul in Grosse Pointe Farms for my first assignment. Shortly after I arrived, the pastor, Msgr. Leonard Blair, was named an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Detroit. Even though he became a bishop, he remained on as pastor for St. Paul the entire time that I was there. Currently he is the Archbishop of Hartford, Connecticut. After my three year assignment was up, I moved on to Holy Family in Novi as an associate pastor. After two years at Holy Family, I moved on to St. Edith in Livonia as the administrator of the parish for one year before becoming pastor at St. Basil in Eastpointe for two years. While I was there at St. Basil I made a visit to Calcutta, India to visit with the Missionaries of Charity (Mother Theresa’s order). During my visit, my cell phone rang – it was the Moderator of the Curia, Msgr. Zenz. He asked me if I wanted to take on our mission parish in the Cayman Islands. I only had to think about it for a couple of seconds, I knew that this was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up on. As a result, I spent four years there in the Caymans as pastor.

     Now some people might think that being in the Caribbean would be a “cushy” assignment, but not necessarily so. I basically had three churches that I oversaw. The biggest one, St. Ignatius, had about 1,800 families and a school – preschool through the 12th grade. There was another church on the north end of Grand Cayman called Christ the Redeemer, which had Mass there every Sunday morning. The third church, Stella Maris, was on one of the sister islands, Cayman Brac. It was during my time there that we raised the money and built the church on Cayman Brac. Once the church was finished, either I or my associate pastor had to fly out there in a 15 seat plane each weekend to say Mass. Being there in Cayman also afforded me the opportunity to travel around the Caribbean some, and to get involved in other ministries as well such as the Pontifical Mission Society. Overall, it has been an experience that has enriched me as a priest and a person. Nevertheless, I am really glad to be back in the States. Michigan has always been my home, and it is great to be here. After my assignment in the Caymans, I have spent the last seven years as pastor at St. Linus in Dearborn Heights.

     Concerning my hobbies, I would have to say that I am into sports. I of course like to watch football, basketball, hockey and baseball. I have also played a fair amount of basketball and water basketball (which is my current favorite). I also like to swim, bike, run, golf, lift weights and occasionally play racquetball and squash. In addition, since being in Cayman, I have also gotten into scuba diving as well, which I had a blast doing.

     As I said before, I am definitely excited to be here, and I am looking forward to getting to know you all, and I hope that my time here with you will be a blessing for us all.

     God Bless,

     Fr. Paul Ballien

From the Paulpit

     Hello St. John Neumann parishioners. For those of you whom I have yet to meet, and for those of you who want to know a little more about me, let me introduce myself. I am Fr. Paul Ballien, your new pastor. I grew up in White Lake, Michigan, about 20 miles due north of here. My home parish growing up was St. Patrick in White Lake.

     Just a little bit about my family, my father is still alive and my mother passed away about twelve years ago. My father grew up in Saginaw. He eventually moved to the metro Detroit area where he worked for GMC Trucks for 30 years and is now retired (he was a sales distribution manager). He has remarried and now lives in Tennessee with his wife. My mother grew up in Petoskey, and that is where she is buried. I still have family in Petoskey and I like to visit there now and then.

     I also have two older sisters. My sister Ruth lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and my sister Jane lives in northern Virginia. Both are married. My sister Ruth was a real estate agent, and a vice president of a small company that builds homes. She became a stay-at-home mom when she had her first child. She now has four children. Her husband is a computer consultant. My other sister was working for an environmental engineering firm until she became a mom for the first time. She has two children.  Now that her last child just graduated from high school, she is now working full time at EMP 180 weight loss and fitness center as a consultant. Her husband recently retired from the Marines as a Lieutenant Colonel and now works as a manager at the Marine Corp Museum in Quantico.

     As for me, I attended Brother Rice High School and then went on to college, where I graduated from Michigan Technological University with a degree in Medical Technology. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Michigan Tech, it is in Houghton (Not Houghton Lake), in the Upper Peninsula. I recently read somewhere on the internet that the Houghton/Hancock area is the second or third snowiest town in the United States. The snowiest town I understand is somewhere in Alaska. 

     After college I moved to Traverse City, and then Tawas City. In both places I worked in a hospital laboratory as a Clinical Laboratory Scientist (a.k.a. Medical Technologist). I liked what I was doing but I couldn’t shake the feeling that perhaps God was calling me to the priesthood. So after considering the idea for a few years, I decided to enter Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit. After spending five years in the seminary, I was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Detroit on May 22, 1999.

     In next week’s bulletin I will continue my introduction and write a little more about my past assignments as a priest, and then you will know everything that there is to know about me, or at least the important stuff anyway.

     God Bless,

     Fr. Paul Ballien