The Conway Communiqué, Feb. 23

Then the proconsul urged him, saying, “Swear, and I will set you at liberty: reproach Christ.”  Polycarp declared, “Eighty and six years I have served Him, and He never did me any injury: how can I blaspheme my King and Savior? Hear me declare with boldness: I am a Christian.”  – from the account of the martyrdom of Saint Polycarp

Polycarp’s story has always fascinated me.  He was a disciple of the apostle John, who eventually ordained him the bishop of Smyrna (in modern-day Turkey).  With St. Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp would travel to Rome to meet with Pope Anicetus to work out a method of determining when Easter ought to be celebrated.  Polycarp, we’re told, was a prolific writer, but only his letter to the church of Philippi remains.  It’s remarkable for its pastoral tone and his ability to seamlessly weave Scripture into the text.

His martyrdom, though, is the most compelling part of the story.  He was sentenced to death after refusing to renounce Christ, and his method of execution was to be burnt at the stake.  He convinced his executioners that he was too old to run away, and so they didn’t need to nail him to the stake.  When the flames came up, they surrounded him, but did not burn him; instead, his skin took on a golden color.  The account of his martyrdom says it was much like a loaf of bread (like the Eucharist) or like gold and silver being refined in the fire.  The odor was that of incense.

It’s a powerful story of holiness, dedication to Christ, and reliance on Christ.  In that sense, Polycarp is an excellent companion on our Lenten journey.  Through his intercession, may we persevere in our works of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving this holy season.

Some news and notes:

ADORATION:  We need help covering the 2 AM hour.  Let’s not leave Jesus alone on the altar; hasn’t He suffered enough for our sins?

PRAYERS: In your charity, please pray for Virginia Russo, who was buried this morning, and for Domenic Joseph Petrarca, who died this week.  Pray also for our young adults who will be away on retreat this weekend, and for the men who will be doing the Christ Renews His Parish experience this weekend.

LENT:  Lots of good Lenten things going on this weekend.  Confessions available from 3-4 this afternoon.  Stations of the Cross at 7.  Confessions following Stations until 9.  Solemn Evening Prayer and Benediction on Sunday at 6.  And don’t forget the Parish Mission is coming up: March 4, 5, and 6.

HOLY THURSDAY:  Once again, we’ll be making a 7 church pilgrimage on Holy Thursday after the Mass of the Lord’s Supper.  To sign up, please call the parish office.

THANK YOU:  The Knights of Columbus extend their sincere thanks to the parish – last week you donated over $1,000 to support Special Olympics.

BIRTHRIGHT:  Birthright of Pittsburgh will be in the narthex this weekend for their annual collection.  Birthright of Pittsburgh is a nonpolitical, interdenominational organization that provides assistance to pregnant women without regard to race, age, religion, or income. We do not evangelize or engage in “scare tactics,” protests, or political demonstrations. The essence of Birthright is love and compassionate support to women faced with difficult decisions regarding the life of their unborn baby.  Everyone who donates gets a miniature red rose.

APPALACHIA FUNDRAISER:  Join us for an evening of wine and spirits tasting at Greystone Fields to raise money to support our Appalachia Mission Trip.  Tickets will be available at the fish fry next week, or by visiting  For more information about this event, contact the Youth Ministry Office.

INTO THE BREACH:  You may not have read this powerful pastoral letter from Bishop Olmstead of Phoenix, but you should.  Saint Catherine’s will be hosting what should be a very interesting discussion about it on March 14th.  The event begins with a brunch immediately following St. Catherine’s 9:15 Mass, and is followed by presentations by Mark Jordan, Dave Van Vickle, and Sister Mary Gianna of the Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. There are also opportunities for small group discussion. The entire event, including brunch, is free of charge, and all participants will receive a complimentary copy of the Into the Breach pastoral letter. Registration is mandatory, and is limited to the first hundred people, so contact the St. Catherine Parish office at 412-486-6001 to confirm your spot.


Far too long of an email this week, but there’s a lot going on.  Lent’s our busy season, I guess.  (So was Advent.  And Christmas.  And Ordinary Time…) Anyway, have a great weekend, stay dry, and know that you are loved.  See you at Mass!


Fr. Mike

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