Thursday, November 30, 2006

Great Saint Andrew, Friend of Jesus...

"...Lover of his glorious cross.
Quickly, at the Master's bidding,
Called from ease to pain and loss.
Strong Saint Andrew, Simon's brother,
Like him started life anew,
Gladly spread the holy gospel
Which from Word of God he drew.
Blest Saint Andrew, noble herald,
True apostle, martyr bold,
Who by deeds his words confirming
Sealed with blood the truth he told."

Today's Feast of the Apostle St. Andrew always has a special place in my heart because of the two years I spent at St. Andrew's Hall, the College Seminary at Seton Hall University. In fact, the picture here is from my own personal stash; this statue of St. Andrew can be found in the chapel of the college seminary; his right arm is holding a miniature of the seminary building. I can remember how the thought of spending two years there seemed like such a long time. Then I finished that and spent four very fast years at Mount St. Mary's Seminary. Now, it's been a little over eight years since I left Emmitsburg, and it is almost unthinkable that it's been that long.

The word "seminary" is rooted in the word seed; the idea being that it is a place where a vocation to the Priesthood can be fed and grow. So many memories come back as I remember people and events from those two years. Say a prayer today for the men who currently study at the house on Centre Street, for those who studied there and for those whom God will call to study there in the future.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Advent of "Advent"

December brings Advent, and Advent is one of those seasons that Priests hop from place to place assisting with parish penance services, conduct days of recollection, attend the Christmas parties of every parish organization, and generally fill their calendar with stuff until the afternoon of Christmas Day, when we all collapse after that last Mass on 12/25. But be not afraid. Generally by Christmas evening, we've made a full recovery and most are ready to spend the next 5 days recovering from their absolute fatigue by going on vacations filled with non-stop activity.

Especially during Advent, I try to get the radio show episodes done early in the month, and yesterday I taped two episodes. The first was on the Death Penalty and our Catholic response as we advocate a "Culture of Life". Two guests were on: One, Celeste Fitzgerald, is working on the grassroots level in New Jersey to eliminate the death penalty. The other, Kirk Bloodsworth, was wrongfully convicted of a brutal rape and murder back in 1984. As science developed the ability to test evidence for DNA, he pushed for testing of the evidence that convicted him (which incredibly laid in a paper bag in the closet of a judge's chambers -- the gang on CSI would go nuts!). The tests proved he was innocent and he was released after spending 9 years in prison. He now works for an organization that lobbys state legislators to reconsider executions, for fear they could be killing innocent persons.

The second episode had a much more pleasant topic. The Brotherhood of Hope is doing excellent work since their start in New Jersey 26 years ago. Bishop John Smith, currently Ordinary of Trenton, brought them down to Florida State University during his previous assignment as Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee. Cardinal Law, during his years as Archbishop of Boston, met them while speaking at Seton Hall University's International Institute for Clergy Formation (the brothers lived in a house just outside a side gate of Seton Hall, and a conversation developed after Law was recognized by some BHs sitting outside while the Cardinal was out for a walk), and brought them up to Massachusetts, where they do great work at Northeastern U. and Boston University. Their most recent move was a return to New Jersey, where my bishop, Paul Bootkoski, invited them to work in campus ministry at the Catholic Center of Rutgers University. Anyway, the brothers have a new CD of music and meditations that are meant to get everyone to reflect on our vocation to holiness. I spoke to the Brotherhood's General Superior, Brother Rahl Bunsa, whom I've known for a few years. You can get the CD from the Brotherhood's website. The brothers also have a CD of purely Advent seasonal music, which you can also order from the site.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Jon Voight Interview

This morning I taped an interview with actor Jon Voight for my diocesan radio show. Last December, CBS aired a made-for-TV movie on the life of JP2, and in the movie Voight played Pope John Paul in the years between his election to the Papacy in 1978 until his death in 2005.

It was a great rush to have someone famous on the show; certainly he is the most famous person outside of Church circles that I've had on as a guest. But I also have to say he was very nice and certainly had no "I'm an Oscar-winner" attitude about him. In fact, he's such a "regular guy" that when I called him to arrange the time for the interview, he was talking to me on his cell phone while cleaning his house in anticipation of a trip he was about to take.

We obviously spoke about the movie, Pope John Paul II, which was released on DVD a few weeks ago. We spoke about the research he put into preparing for the role (reading the Pope's encyclicals and poetry, watching footage, listening to recordings of his voice). We spoke about the film's shooting on locations near and dear to JP2's heart: The Vatican and Krakow, and we spoke about meetings he had with those close to the Pope, especially Cardinal Dziwisz, JP2's former secretary.

The interview will be online for a week, starting this Friday, if you click on the link for "Proclaim the Good News Radio Show" to the right of your screen. In the meantime, if you're looking for a Christmas gift for a Young Fogey in your life, or anyone for that matter, it's a 3 hour movie with a bunch of extras on the DVD.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Curt Jester is running a "caption contest" on this picture, so here's my humble entry:

"Rowan, help me out here.

9 across: 'Second wife of Henry VIII'

That's up your alley, right?"

Friday, November 24, 2006

B16 on Thanksgiving

No, he doesn't have a preference for white or dark meat (well maybe he does, but it's not like I've ever had dinner with him). And since Italy has no Thanksgiving holiday, it's not like Euroclero or Mancinelli's open at 5am for sacerdotal shopaholics. Me? I've had my share of "Black Fridays" from my years working at Woodbridge Center Mall (As an aside: It wasn't shoppers who coined the term "Black Friday"; it was employees who created that term because of the customers who take up all the parking spots, ask dumb questions, and usually don't actually buy anything).

But in a collection of articles, homilies, and lectures on the Eucharist which Ignatius Press published under the title, God Is Near Us, Pope Benedict has this to say about thanksgiving to God in the old Covenant being continued in the new Covenant:

"The heart of Israel's worship has always been what we express in the Latin word memoriale: remembrance. Whenever the Passover is celebrated, before the lamb is eaten, the head of the household recites the Passover Haggadah, that is to say, an account praising the great works God has done for Israel. ...

It was into the texture of the Passover Haggadah, this thanksgiving prayer, that Jesus wove his sayings at the Last Supper, ... The Canon of the Roman Mass developed directly from these Jewish prayers of thanksgiving; it is the direct descendant and continuation of the prayer of Jesus at the Last Supper and is thereby the heart of the Eucharist. It is the genuine vehicle of the sacrifice, since thereby Jesus Christ transformed his death into verbal form - a prayer - and, in so doing, changed the world. ...

Because he turned death into a proclamation of thanksgiving and love, he is now able to be present down through all the ages as the wellspring of life, and we can enter into him by praying with him. ... The magnitude of Christ's achievement consists in precisely in his not remaining someone else, over and against us, who might thus relegate us once more to a merely passive role; he does not merely bear with us; rather, he bears us up; he identifies himself with us to such an extent that our sins belong to him and his being to us: he truly accepts us and takes us up, so that we ourselves become active with his support and alongside him, so that we ourselves cooperate and join in the sacrifice with him, participating in the mystery ourselves. Thus our own life and suffering, our own hoping and loving, can also become fruitful, in the new heart he has given us." (God Is Near Us, pp.49-50)

Only For Today

A month ago, on the Feast day of Blessed John XXIII (October 11), Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone celebrated a Mass at the Pope's tomb in St. Peter's Basilica. This morning, the Vatican newshounds at Zenit published an English translation of Cardinal Bertone's homily. In it, he gives what he calls the "Daily Decalogue of Pope John XXIII". In this world that obsesses on "Chicken Soup for the Soul", it's good to remember the great (and sometimes untapped) resource we have in the wisdom of the Saints.

1) Only for today, I will seek to live the livelong day positively without wishing to solve the problems of my life all at once.

2) Only for today, I will take the greatest care of my appearance: I will dress modestly; I will not raise my voice; I will be courteous in my behavior; I will not criticize anyone; I will not claim to improve or to discipline anyone except myself.

3) Only for today, I will be happy in the certainty that I was created to be happy, not only in the other world but also in this one.

4) Only for today, I will adapt to circumstances, without requiring all circumstances to be adapted to my own wishes.

5) Only for today, I will devote 10 minutes of my time to some good reading, remembering that just as food is necessary to the life of the body, so good reading is necessary to the life of the soul.

6) Only for today, I will do one good deed and not tell anyone about it.

7) Only for today, I will do at least one thing I do not like doing; and if my feelings are hurt, I will make sure that no one notices.

8) Only for today, I will make a plan for myself: I may not follow it to the letter, but I will make it. And I will be on guard against two evils: hastiness and indecision.

9) Only for today, I will firmly believe, despite appearances, that the good providence of God cares for me as no one else who exists in this world.

10) Only for today, I will have no fears. In particular, I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful and to believe in goodness. Indeed, for 12 hours I can certainly do what might cause me consternation were I to believe I had to do it all my life.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving: The one day a year when the rest of America does what Catholics do at Mass every day

First Thanksgiving Proclamation of President George Washington:

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor -- and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me "to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness."

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be -- That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks -- for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation -- for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the tranquility [sic], union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed -- for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted -- for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions -- to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually -- to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed -- to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn [sic] kindness onto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord -- To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease [sic] of science among them and us -- and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York
the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

George Washington

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

How Many Trees?, Holy Father, HOW MANY?

Stories are abundant in this morning's news that Pope Benedict's first book since his election is to be released in the spring. Volume One of "Jesus of Nazareth" will reportedly be a series of reflections on the life of Christ from his Baptism to the Transfiguration. During this past summer's stay in the Italian Alps and at Castelgandolfo, word was out that the Holy Father was putting finishing touches on a book.

Today's New York Times reports that Pope Benedict "has finished the first ten chapters of a longer projected life of Jesus." In the preface to the book (released by the Vatican), the Holy Father writes that the work is the fruit of a "long, personal journey" that began as a young man.

Of course, things are a little different for the pen of the prolific Pontiff. Now, when he writes (on matters of faith and morals, anyway) there's the whole question of Infallibility. Can a scholarly Pope go off on a theological tangent? Can he float a theory he has without intimidating theologians? Have no fear. B16 explains that the book is "solely a reflection of [his] personal research.", and then added, "Therefore, everyone is free to contradict me."

Another book? How much knowledge is in that mind of his? Will he ever stop writing? How many trees has this man been responsible for murdering just so he can keep Ignatius Press fiscally solvent?!? Stop writing, Holy Father, and give us all a chance to "catch up"!

Just kidding. Do what you want.

[WARNING: SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION FOLLOWS] I've just found out that the book I collaborated on, John Paul II For Dummies, is now available for pre-order on for delivery on or about December 18th. Bookstores won't have it in stock until after Christmas. Make it a Christmas gift for the YF in your life.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Penguin Envy

"Y'know, Fred, it used to be such an easy life as a marine mammal, until a bunch of penguins make a movie and now we've got to be cute as well as intelligent!"

Feast of the Presentation of Mary

Today's Feast brought a tidbit I never remember hearing before: On this day the Church prays in a special way for the intentions of cloistered religious. In his Sunday Angelus message last Sunday, Pope Benedict said this (thanks to for the translation):

"The day after tomorrow, November 21, on the occasion of the liturgical memorial of the Presentation of Mary Most Holy in the Temple, we celebrate "pro Orantibus" Day, dedicated to remembering cloistered religious communities. It is a particularly appropriate occasion to thank the Lord for the gift of so many persons who, in monasteries and hermitages, are totally dedicated to God in prayer, silence and hiddenness.

Some wonder about the meaning and value of their presence in our time, in which many urgent situations of poverty and need must be addressed. Why "shut oneself" forever behind the walls of a monastery and deprive others of the contribution of one's talents and experiences? What efficacy can prayer have to resolve the numerous concrete problems that continue to afflict humanity?

In fact, also today numerous persons often surprise friends and acquaintances when they abandon professional careers, often promising careers, to embrace the austere rule of a cloistered monastery. What leads them to take such a committed step if not their having understood, as the Gospel teaches, that the Kingdom of heaven is "a treasure" for which it is worth abandoning everything (cf. Matthew 13:44)?

These brothers and sisters silently witness that in the midst of daily vicissitudes, at times extremely convulsive, God is the only support that never falters, the unbreakable rock of fidelity and love. "Todo se pasa, Dios no se muda" [Everything passes, God is unchanging], wrote the great spiritual teacher Teresa of Avila in her famous text. And, given the widespread need that many experience to leave the daily routine of the great urban agglomerations in search of appropriate spaces for silence and meditation, monasteries of contemplative life appear as "oases" in which man, a pilgrim on earth, can go to the sources of the Spirit and slake his thirst along the way.

These places, apparently useless, are, on the contrary, indispensable, like the green "lungs" of a city: They are beneficial for all, including for those who do not visit them or perhaps do not know that they exist.

Dear brothers and sisters: Let us thank the Lord, who in his providence, has willed that there be cloistered communities, masculine and feminine. May they not lack our spiritual and also material support so that they will be able to fulfill their mission of keeping alive in the Church the ardent expectation of Christ's return. Let us invoke, for this reason, the intercession of Mary, whom, in the memorial of the Presentation in the Temple, we will contemplate as mother and model of the Church, who unites in herself both vocations: to virginity and to marriage, to the contemplative and to the active life."

I've been blessed in my life to have some interaction with cloistered religious. In my first year of seminary, I was assigned to a food pantry/soup kitchen in Alexandria, Virginia. One day we loaded up trucks and brought food to a Monastery of Poor Clares. The sister who greeted us asked where I was from, and when I responded I was from New Jersey, her face lit up and she told me she was from Red Bank in the Garden State! This began a "pen pal" relationship which has continued since. That first day, my fellow Jerseyan gave me a book to read about cloistered life, written by a Poor Clare Abbess. I was so happy when I saw it appear in an Ignatius Press catalog, because it'll give anyone a deeper appreciation and understanding of the particularly unique vocation to cloistered life (as well as make you laugh out loud at times). Maybe you'll want to put the book on your Christmas list, just in case the cable goes out during a winter storm.

Here in my diocese we're blessed to have a cloistered community of Carmelites. Take some time to check out their website to get a good read on their vocation.

Of Mike and Mel...

OK, so Michael Richards gets caught on tape letting out a bunch of racist comments that make us all wonder what's going on inside this guy's mind? This is no rookie on the comedy stage. Long before Seinfeld, I remember watching this guy on a show in the 1980s called "Fridays" (which was ABC's attempt to copy NBC's Saturday Night Live). In short, the man has been doing stand up comedy for decades and should be well-experienced in how to deal with hecklers from the audience. He's apologized and expressed his deep regrets over the momentary loss of the chip in his brain that filters the connection between his brain and his mouth. But hasn't this song been played before?

It wasn't too long ago that something similiar happened to Mel Gibson, and Hollywood went ballistic about an uncontrolled tirade full of bigoted comments. Only some things were different: Mel's comments were included word-for-word in every journalistic account of the story, while Michael's are being asterisk'ed out and described with an ambiguous "racist remarks". Mel was documented to be intoxicated, while Michael was essentially "at work". Gibson has been the target of late-night comedic jokes and insults, while Michael was given free airtime on David Letterman and a sympathetic forum from Dave and Jerry Seinfeld to publicly express his contrition. Gibson has been called "The Most Frigid" Hollywood personality because Hollywood as a corporate body has decreed Mel needs to be punished for his deeds. Season 7 of "Seinfeld" comes out tomorrow on DVD; think anyone will suggest a boycott to show the same attitude towards Richards?

Both men deepy wish they could turn back time and lose their respective 15 minutes of infamy. But for now, why does it seem that Mike is in nowhere as much hot water as Mel? Hmmm, guess it's a good thing Mike never made a Jesus movie.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

There is a House in Steubenville...

"The House of the Rising Son: The Book of Hebrews" That's the name of Scott Hahn's intense study of the Letter to the Hebrews. It was recorded during a university summer session course, and it's available from St. Joseph's Communications. Be warned: Dr. Hahn's stuff is densely packed as he starts teaching about stuff he's passionate about. Young Fogeys can certainly listen to it while driving in a car, but to get the most out of it, this is one of those things you're also going to want to listen to at a desk with your bible and a notepad handy. The tapes/CDs are arranged by chapter, so you can read the chapter ahead of time, or judge how many of them to bring along (depending on the length of your road trip).

Why do I bring this up? Since the beginning of October, the second reading on Sundays has been from the Letter to the Hebrews. Since the 29th Sunday (October 22), the passages have been about the superiority of the eternal Priesthood of Jesus Christ over the Levitcal Priesthood previously established by God.

The readings are filled with passages such as, "passed through the heavens", "according to the order of Melchizedek", "he has no need to offer sacrifice day and night", "offering the sacrifices that can never take away sins", etc. Terms we can't fully appreciate unless we have a little understanding of the theology of Old Testament Jewish Priesthood and what liturgical worship was like back then. Then we can see how Christ's Priesthood is the perfect consummation of what was only only temporarily accomplished by the Temple Priests on earth.

And while you're in the Christmas shopping season, you should check out the entire catalog of St. Joseph's Communications. They've got it all: tapes, CDs, DVDs, videos, for the Young Fogey in your life who seeks to learn more about their faith.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

"Hey Giuseppe, whos gonna tell them we've only got 12 PlayStations to sell?"

Feast of the Dedication of the Basilicas of Sts. Peter & Paul

Why November 18? On November 18, 326, the first St. Peter's Basilica was consecrated by Pope Sylvester I. When the original basilica was demolished and rebuilt (taking 120 years to do - 1506-1626), the new basilica was consecrated by Pope Urban VIII on November 18, 1626: the 1,300th anniversary of the previous basilica's consecration.

Friday, November 17, 2006

My Fr. Fessio Interview

On Tuesday I taped an interview with Fr. Joe Fessio for my radio show. He's the founder of Ignatius Press, as well as Provost of Ave Maria University down in Florida. Ignatius has three new books out, two of them by Pope Benedict, and one of them about him. This is the second time he's been a guest on the show, and it's always a great half-hour of radio when he gets going.

Of course, the coolest thing about Fr. Fessio is that, in his years of formation in the Jesuits, he studied under two of the great theologians of the 20th century. Studying in France in the early 1970's, Fessio's advisor, Jesuit Fr. Henri deLubac, suggested he write his doctoral dissertation on the writings of theologian Fr. Hans Urs von Balthasar. To do this, deLubac sent him to the University of Regensburg in Germany to complete his work under the tutelage of a German professor named Fr. Josef Ratzinger. Talk about brushes with greatness! deLubac was named a Cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 1983, von Balthasar was named a Cardinal in 1988 (but sadly died the eve before the ceremony), and Ratzinger was, well, you know the story. Fessio and the other doctoral students of Professor Ratzinger formed a Schulerkreis, a "student circle" that continued to meet with their former teacher every year in a seminar setting. With the election of Ratzinger to the papacy, they assumed the meetings would stop. But as Fessio explains it, the Holy Father wanted to keep the meetings going. Last year's seminar at Castelgandolfo discussed Islam, while the seminar this past September discussed creation and evolution.

I'm in my fourth year of hosting the radio show, and I've had some well-known guests. But Fr. Fessio is certainly in the top 5 for a little diocesan radio show. Who's my "dream guest"? C'mon, is there any question?

Ave PlayStation 3, Spes Unica!

This morning, stories about the release of Sony's PlayStation 3 are filling the airwaves. For hours, lines of twenty-somethings sat outside stores in anticipation of the "privilege" of shelling out $650. to buy a game. Some did it for noble reasons (one story I read told of a woman hoping to buy the game for a younger relative displaced last year by Hurricane Katrina), while some did it for the game's resale value on Ebay (as of now around $10,000.-- Milton Friedman would be proud). But most are doing it for themselves. GenY wants PS3. What they wanted last Christmas doesn't matter; that was then. By next Christmas, PlayStation 4 might be out, and if so, this game will be old and not satisfying anymore so they'll move on.

You wonder why new vocations to the Priesthood and Religious Life are in a "crisis"? Don't blame celibacy. Don't blame the sexual abuse crisis. Blame commitment ("What if something cooler comes along? Can't I just walk away and move on?"). Blame the "instant gratification" society ("I want to use it now, while it's fun and trendy and pleases me."). Blame prosperity ("Mom? Dad? If you realllllly love me, you'll forsake paying all the utility bills for a month so you can get me this toy! John and Marys' parents got it for them; they must be loved more.").

If the "vocations well" was dry, while young people were still getting married in their 20s, then we could say the problem lies with us. But most Young Fogey Priests know the average age of couples coming to us for marriage is about 30, and with living together so widely accepted there's no reason to commit. Until we solve the puzzle of how to make young people understand the permanent commitment (in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health...), don't look for baby-faced brides, grooms, priests, brothers or sisters.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Church is Bigger Than Us

Fr. Jim Tucker of the Diocese of Arlington has a great reflection on his blog, Dappled Things, on a situation many Priests have faced: What to say to someone who has been turned off from the Church by someone on the "inside" (a Priest, Deacon, or Religious).

St. Paul and the New Evangelization

In his address to the Bishops of the United States last Monday, Papal Nuncio Archbishop Pietro Sambi spoke about key aspects necessary in evangelization, and said this with regards to use of the Mass Media:

"The first Catholic newspapers were born in Baltimore, where the necessity
for them was truly seen. Today, Mass media has developed enormously. Media can
cause damage, but can be used also for great good. With competent and well
trained personnel, the Catholic Church should find ways to utilize the media
more effectively for the service of the Gospel and in the service of humanity. We can only imagine how Saint Paul would have used the Mass Media of today."

Abp. Sambi is only reiterating what's been a consistent theme from Rome for over forty years. One of the Second Vatican Council's 16 documents was on the topic of social communications. 1963's Inter Mirifica called upon all members of the Church to "make a concerted effort to ensure that the means of communication are put at the service of the multiple forms of the [social communications] apostolate without delay and as energetically as possible, where and when they are needed. (par. 13)" In one of his final documents, 2005's Apostolic Letter The Rapid Development, Pope John Paul II wrote, "New technologies ... create further opportunities for communications understood as a service to the pastoral government and organization of the different tasks of the Christian community. One clear example today is how the Internet not only provides resources for more information, but habituates persons to interactive communication (par. 9)."

Young Fogey Priests take heed: The New Evangelization is here and we've got to respond. Ask yourselves how you get information and, if you're like me, it comes from television and the internet. TV time is usually far too expensive for any single person to buy, but don't underestimate the local public-access stations and their openness to air 30 minutes of prerecorded catechetics. The internet is clearly the way to go for the future, which nowadays covers everything from television (YouTube, for example), radio, and print media.

Communications in the 21st century is instant and on-demand; your average parishioner with internet access wants to know the news at any given time they choose to sit in front of their computer. Setting up a Blog is free and can be an extension of our preaching and teaching. Some parishes even record the weekend homilies of their Priests/Deacons and stream them over their parish's website. Dioceses should have their diocesan newspapers available on-line. Even secular newspapers admit a constant decline in subscribers (why? By the time the next day's newspaper hits the stands it's 'old news' in the age of the 24-hour cable news channels - people read newspapers today more for the columnists than for the columns). Parishes could have homilies downloadable for iPods (mp3 players are huuuuuuge amongst teens, college kids, and the 20-somethings) or for the worker who comes home from the 3-11 shift and checks e-mails at 2am. Who can say how many souls we can touch who don't attend Mass regularly or who can't attend Mass because of sickness or a work schedule that prevents it?

The reasons against it? It takes time and effort. It may require more thought be put into homily preparation if it's going out into cyberspace. It may mean more work, as people with questions about the faith send e-mails or people who haven't been to church in years come back. But as Archbishop Sambi called St. Paul to mind, wondering how he'd have used today's communications possibilities in his apostolic work, we can only make his words our own, "I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of ... hands; for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control. (2 Tim 1:6-7)"

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Good Grief!

First, let me say that there was something much more profound (well, as profound as you can get coming from me) set to be posted. Then my computer went all crazy and the post was gone. So I'm afraid you'll have to settle for this.

Yesterday was one of those Charlie Brown days (and I mean this guy pictured, not the American Monsignor of the same name who works for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith). I had a couple come in who wants to get married. We had a fine meeting and at the end the bride-to-be shook my hand and said, "I'm so glad I met you." It's one of those moments which make the Priesthood fulfilling.

I should have called it a day right there, and ended on a high note. But no.

After the meeting I taught my weekly adult education class. As usual, I began (a la Carol Burnett) by asking if they had any questions. A new face was there; someone I never saw in the 3+ years I've been teaching this class at my parish. Out of the blue, she asked a question about why we've changed something at our weekend Masses. I answered that not all change is bad, there's variety in life, etc. What followed was what I know to be usual, but perhaps a first-timer did not. The crowd that attends is pretty regular. Everybody knows everybody else, and that familiarity allows for some interesting remarks. Well she didn't know that, and when she felt the crowd "turn on her", she picked up her bag, tucked her chair under the table, and walked out. Whereupon I spent the rest of my night wondering if I answered wrong, if I could've controlled the crowd, etc.

I should have called it a day and ended on a high note, but no. Good grief.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Theology at 36,000 Feet

I'm back from a few days of vacation; a vacation which put me on an airplane. While I'm not the worst of "nervous fliers", I'm certainly not at ease on a plane (and the movie about snakes on a plane didn't help that at all-- thanks a lot, Hollywood). In short, if the flight doesn't go as smooth as a hockey puck on top of ice, I'm a nervous mess. Intellectually, I know that turbulence is not uncommon. Heck, even a dog knows that if you stick your face out of a car window while driving, you get a face full of wind resistance. So what do I do in anticipation of a plane flight? I bring plenty of stuff to read and some over-the-counter medication to bring about some sleep, albeit for 15 minutes a pop.

This time, thankfully, in the middle of the flight, we hit some smooth skies, and I began to pray my Liturgy of the Hours. It was then that I read these words from Psalm 148:
"Praise the Lord from the heavens,
praise him in the heights. ...
The splendor of his name reaches beyond heaven and earth."

Now in my 8 years of Priesthood, I've read those words plenty of times. But to be up in the air and looking out of an airplane window, looking down at the ground below and seeing the clouds from what must be God's perspective, the words took on a whole new beauty. Aboard that plane, I learned a lesson about how things, seen from another point of view, can look totally different.

Today's Gospel places two widows in our sights. Whenever we read about widows in the Sacred Scriptures, we must get the Anna Nicole Smiths out of our head (widows who get left loads of cash). Widows were usually quite poor, having no one to support them and no version of "Survivors' benefits Social Security" to provide any income (In fact, Acts 5:35 records one of the earliest deeds of the young Christian community as selling their personal property to provide a common fund for the relief of the needy, amongst them the widows). If they had no family to take them in, and no child(ren) who were old enough to support them, they lived from hand to mouth. So when we read that the widow of Zarephath gave the last of her oil and flour for Elijah's bread, and the widow in the Temple putting her 2 meager coins (Mark uses the Greek lepton, meaning 'thin ones') amidst the wealthy putting huge amounts into the Temple treasury, we realize they're giving all they have.

In this age when society hails Oprah Winfrey for giving away $1000 bank cards to her audience (well, Bank of America footed the bill, actually) with the condition being that the money had to be used for someone else's good along with a camera to record the good deed, we need to ask the question: Does a good need need to be known by everyone (and recorded on video) in order for the deed to be "good"?

In the end, all that matters is that we understand that, as Christians, we are called to "not only keep the faith and live on it, but also profess it, confidently bear witness to it, and spread it." (Catechism 1813), and that God Our Father, who "sees in secret, will reward [us]." (Matthew 6:6) Our lives are not television shows, and thankfully God is not some studio executive who bases our success on our popularity. In the end, we have an audience of one (well, three in One, actually).

And let me tell you, if the view from 36,000 feet is amazing, then the view from Heaven must be awesome!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

What? No Big Mass?

In photos released by the Vatican on November 2nd, Pope Benedict is seen in the Vatican grottoes, praying at the tombs of his predecessors St. Peter, Pius XII, Paul VI, and John Paul I. St. Peter's Basilica is open to the public from 7am to 6pm (really at about 5:30 the ushers start politely "encouraging" you to head towards the door), and the Holy Father's visit began at 6pm and was called a "private" visit in the Vatican's daily press bulletin. If you ever get to St. Peter's Basilica, do not forget to head downstairs to this level of the basilica (look for the signs that say "Le Grotte Vaticane - I Tombi dei Papi"). Remember, in the month of November it's a great thing to make a visit to a cemetery, not only the graves of those we knew while they were alive, but all the deceased.

When most parishes add an extra Mass for All-Souls Day, one could ask why didn't Pope Benedict didn't have a public Mass on November 2nd? All Souls Day technically ranks as a Feast, certainly not too shabby, but less than the day before, All Saints Day, which is a Solemnity and a Holy Day of Obligation. Many people, however, invert the order (not unlike the way Christmas Eve has totally eclipsed Christmas Day in the hearts of many of the laity). They miss the Holy Day of Obligation and go all-out for All Souls. The fact that the Pope does not have a "public" event on All Souls Day (unlike the day before) reinforces the fact that it's a day for private prayer and remembrance of the dead. Now don't get me wrong. I love a good shmaltzy, overly-pious Catholic devotion (and a visit to a cemetery on All Souls Day certainly has the potential for that) as much as the next Young Fogey. But our outward expressions of piety are always meant to be the result of our inner devotion, and not a substitute.

Pope John Paul hit this topic in his 2003 Encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia. In Chapter Four, he explains that we call the Eucharist "Holy Communion" for a good reason; that before we can participate in the visible dimension of receiving the Eucharist, there is a "presupposition" that the invisible dimension of communion already exists (paragraph 35). In other words, I don't receive the Eucharist with the hope that it'll make me believe in the Church's teachings; I first make the inward union with (in Latin, "cum union") Christ and His Church, and then I reinforce that with an outward expression of that unity (paragraphs 36 & 38). And if, upon reflection, I know that there are some sins that I have committed which constricted the flow of communion between myself and the Church, then in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Church has given me the means to "declog the arteries" and resume normal blood flow (paragraph 37). To receive Holy Communion without this inner "submission" to Jesus Christ and His Church vaguely resembles the couple living together without marriage: they enjoy the outward expressions of union without first making the inner commitment. But I digressed...

This morning, reinforcing our understanding that November is a whole month to remember the dead, Pope Benedict celebrated the annual Mass at St. Peter's Basilica to pray for the Cardinals and Bishops who have died in the previous year. A few years ago (2003) I was privileged to attend this Mass and help with the distribution of Holy Communion. A friend who is now a Priest of my diocese was a student at the North American College, told me "You've GOT to do this (assist at a Papal Mass) once in your life!", and got me the pass to help. Lots of things made it special: A front row seat just behind Bernini's baldachino and the main altar, a great view (and my last in-person sighting) of Pope John Paul II, and the Mass celebrated by Cardinal Ratzinger. But what made it extra-special was a fact that I totally forgot until I looked through the booklet they give you with the names of all the prelates who died during the past year: among them was the Bishop that ordained me to the Priesthood. I hope Bp. Breen was happy that two of the ten men he ordained were present at that Mass.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Have A Seat, and We'll Call Your Name...

Whether it's been the office of a doctor, lawyer, indian chief (or even the bishop), we've all been there before. The waiting room. Sometimes, just to add to the anxiety, there's the faint sound of a dentist's drill, or the muffled, behind the closed doors laugh of workers you're sure are giggling because they're preparing to cause you pain, or perhaps taking bets on how long they can make you sit there before your breaking point. Waiting rooms are a place to do nothing but sit and ponder what will happen next. In it, we are powerless. We sit there, not knowing whether our turn will come in one minute or one hour. In a lesson we've all learned at one time or another, neither complaining about our wait-time nor staring at the clock on the wall will make the time go any faster. Instead, we sit and hope there's someone in there who'll have pity on us and let us in. Until then, we sit with everyone else and wait, and wait, and wait.

Today the Church remembers ("commemorates", technically) all the faithful departed. Yesterday, we honored those who've died and are in the eternal presence of the Trinity in Heaven: the holy ones, the Sancti, the Saints. Yesterday we prayed to these holy men and women, asking them to intercede on our behalf and help us live good, holy lives on earth. Today our thoughts turn to those who've died and are not yet ready to enter the presence of God, and, unlike yesterday, when we pray today we pray for them. They've come with some sins on their souls. A little bit of baggage that needs to be reconciled. Not enough to deny them the pearly gates, but enough that they're in need of a supernatural makeover. If you get that, then you understand the concept of the place we traditionally call "Purgatory".

Purgatory has been called "Heaven's waiting room." The idea behind it being that we're going to get into Heaven, but first we've got to settle some supernatural issues. What we call it isn't important. The bottom line revolves around 2 things: First, the Church's teaching on Purgatory was never "supressed" or done away with in the age of Vatican II (if you don't believe me, check out questions 210 & 211 in the 2006 Catechism Compendium, which points you back to questions 1030-1032 of the 1995 Catechism). Second, even if you don't buy into the whole "dogma" of it all, the bottom line is that Purgatory makes sense. Every one of us has, at one time or another, gone to some big event: the prom, a wedding, the Oscars (well, not me, but maybe you). What do we do? We prepare. We shower and shave and gargle and wonder what we're going to wear, all for that "big night" that will last a few hours. Now, think of what Heaven is (here's a refresher) and realize that we'll be there for all eternity and for all eternity we'll be in the presence of God the Father, Jesus Christ, The Blessed Virgin Mary, all the angels, all the Saints. A most impressive party, and Purgatory gets us ready for the A-List party that will never end.

So on All Souls Day, and for the whole month of November (as the Church recommends to us), we take some extra time to pray for those sitting in that waiting room, powerless to get themselves out and hoping that someone on the other side of the door will pull some strings and get them inside. Why? Because some day you and I could be in that waiting room, and then we're going to need someone praying for us. During this month of November, every time you pass a cemetery along the road, say a quick little prayer for the folks buried there. Some day one of them (maybe one that you prayed into Heaven) may return the favor when it's your turn in the waiting room.

Besides, depending on who you're sitting next to, you may not wanna spend too much time waiting.

Derek Kehoe

One of my first entries in the blogosphere was about a 19 year-old man whom I was called to visit in the hospital. Last Sunday I heard the news that he passed away on Saturday. He'll be laid to rest this morning. November is the month we remember the souls of all the departed, and if you could please remember him and his family in your prayers, I'd appreciate it.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Saints - Our "Hall of Famers"

We've all traveled to them, to Cooperstown or Canton, Springfield or Toronto. Wherever we went, it's always the same: We go into some hushed and hallowed hall where individual plaques enshrine those who have excelled at their sport to the point of becoming more than just one player on a team. They stood out. They changed the way the game is played. They inspired generations of young people to follow in their shoes.

Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of All Saints. The canon (list or "roll call") of Saints are our Catholic "Hall of Fame". They're the men and women who were human beings created in the image of God just like us, receivers of the Sacraments of the Church just like us, lived their lives as men & women, some married and some clergy, some murdered and some died naturally, some scholars and some not-so-smart, some-- well, you get the idea. And for as many as the Church acknowledges as Saints, we know there are countless others known by God (a "great multitude", as St. John told us in this morning's reading from Revelation, "which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue").

To use an overused word, their "diversity" is their beauty: St. Augustine is nothing like St. Anthony of Padua. St. JoseMaria Escriva is not St. Maria Goretti. St. Therese of Lisieux is not St. Frances Cabrini. And yet all are called Saints, Sancte, holy. In a homily on All Saints Day, St. John Vianney said, "If the friendship of Saints living in this world fills us with love for God, how much more then shall we gain by considering the Saints in glory, by invoking them, and taking them for our Protectors!" Pope Benedict, in his homily this morning, said, "How can we become saints, friends of God? An initial response to this question is this: To be saints it is not necessary to perform extraordinary deeds and works, nor is it necessary to possess exceptional charisms. But this only tells us what sainthood is not. The positive answer is that to become a saint it is above all necessary to listen to Jesus and then to follow him and not lose heart in the face of difficulties."

Next time you're in Church, take a look at the statues and the figures in the stained glass. They surround us like spectators at a marathon, offering us nourishment and encouragement, urging us to complete the race they've already run.

Why Kids Don't "Trick or Treat" at Young Fogey Rectories...

"All I got was a rock."
"All I got was a book. What's Humanae Vitae?"

All Saints' Day

This is, of course, outside the New Orleans Superdome.
But wouldn't this be great outside of every Catholic Church?