Saturday, August 25, 2007

Pop Quiz

O.K., YFs, put your thinking caps on for this:

An elderly gentleman passed away. A former member of the parish who had not been active for years, he wasn't "inactive" because of any illness or anything; he simply "wasn't religious" (according to his family).

His children (all adults and not really religious, either) do not want a funeral Mass for him. Instead, they want a short ceremony (very short, the funeral director tells you) to be done at the funeral home.

Outrageous? Not really. This is not such an out of the ordinary situation for Priests today, and there are lots of ways to handle this, so do you...
  1. Tell the funeral director that since the deceased was not a registered parishioner at this parish, they have no right to be buried from here.
  2. Insist that deceased Catholics should have their funeral within the context of a Mass (and essentially "force" the family into church)?
  3. Do what the family wants (and in doing so give them an implied affirmation that the way their father lived 'irreligious', as well as their own casual indifference towards God, is a valid option)?
  4. Perform a "Funeral Outside of Mass" at the funeral home, and use it as an opportunity to remind the family that deliberately choosing to not attend Mass and make use of the other Sacraments is a serious sin and not the best way to show God we want Heaven when our life here is over.

Ready? O.K., Pick up your pencils and begin the quiz.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Postpartum Depression Interview

This weekend's episode of Proclaim the Good News has been posted to the Podbean site.

In the episode, I interviewed Charlotte Feeney, a nurse educator, about a program called "Speak Up When You're Down", meant to educate people about the warning signs of Postpartum Depression.

Through the New Jersey Catholic Conference, each of the 5 dioceses in New Jersey (The Archdiocese of Newark, as well as the Dioceses of Camden, Metuchen, Paterson, and Trenton) will host this seminar in an effort to have clergy and parish staff learn the warning signs of PPD.

And whilst speaking about the Apostles...

This reflection of the Apostles was in today's Office of Readings of the Liturgy of the Hours. From a homily by St. John Chrysostom:

"For the good deeds which tax-collectors and fishermen were able to accomplish by God's grace, the philosophers, the rulers, the countless multitudes cannot even imagine.

Paul had this in mind when he said: The weakness of God is stronger than men. That the preaching of these men was indeed divine is brought home to us in the same way. For how otherwise could twelve uneducated men, who lived on lakes and rivers and wastelands, get the idea for such an immense enterprise? How could men who perhaps had never been in a city or a public square think of setting out to do battle with the whole world? That they were fearful, timid men, the evangelist makes clear; he did not reject the fact or try to hide their weaknesses. Indeed he turned these into a proof of the truth... .

How then account for the fact that these men, who in Christ's lifetime did not stand up to the attacks ..., set forth to do battle with the whole world once Christ was dead - if, as you claim, Christ did not rise and speak to them and rouse their courage?

... It is evident, then, that if they had not seen him risen and had proof of his power, they would not have risked so much."

St. Bartholomew's Day

Today's feast gives us a chance to re-read Pope Benedict's Wednesday audience reflection on St. Bartholomew (my own emphases added):

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the series on the Apostles called by Jesus during his earthly life, today it is the Apostle Bartholomew who attracts our attention. In the ancient lists of the Twelve he always comes before Matthew, whereas the name of the Apostle who precedes him varies; it may be Philip (cf.Mt 10: 3; Mk 3: 18; Lk 6: 14) or Thomas (cf. Acts 1: 13).

His name is clearly a patronymic, since it is formulated with an explicit reference to his father's name. Indeed, it is probably a name with an Aramaic stamp, bar Talmay, which means precisely: "son of Talmay".

We have no special information about Bartholomew; indeed, his name always and only appears in the lists of the Twelve mentioned above and is therefore never central to any narrative. However, it has traditionally been identified with Nathanael: a name that means "God has given".

This Nathanael came from Cana (cf. Jn 21: 2) and he may therefore have witnessed the great "sign" that Jesus worked in that place (cf. Jn 2: 1-11). It is likely that the identification of the two figures stems from the fact that Nathanael is placed in the scene of his calling, recounted in John's Gospel, next to Philip, in other words, the place that Bartholomew occupies in the lists of the Apostles mentioned in the other Gospels.

Philip told this Nathanael that he had found "him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph" (Jn 1: 45). As we know, Nathanael's retort was rather strongly prejudiced: "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" (Jn 1: 46). In its own way, this form of protestation is important for us. Indeed, it makes us see that according to Judaic expectations the Messiah could not come from such an obscure village as, precisely, Nazareth (see also Jn 7: 42).

But at the same time Nathanael's protest highlights God's freedom, which baffles our expectations by causing him to be found in the very place where we least expect him. Moreover, we actually know that Jesus was not exclusively "from Nazareth" but was born in Bethlehem (cf. Mt 2: 1; Lk 2: 4) and came ultimately from Heaven, from the
Father who is in Heaven.

Nathanael's reaction suggests another thought to us: in our relationship with Jesus we must not be satisfied with words alone. In his answer, Philip offers Nathanael a meaningful invitation: "Come and see!" (Jn 1: 46). Our knowledge of Jesus needs above all a first-hand experience: someone else's testimony is of course important, for normally the whole of our Christian life begins with the proclamation handed down to us by one or more witnesses.

However, we ourselves must then be personally involved in a close and deep relationship with Jesus; in a similar way, when the Samaritans had heard the testimony of their fellow citizen whom Jesus had met at Jacob's well, they wanted to talk to him directly, and after this conversation they told the woman: "It is no longer because of your words that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world" (Jn 4: 42).

Returning to the scene of Nathanael's vocation, the Evangelist tells us that when Jesus sees Nathanael approaching, he exclaims: "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile!" (Jn 1: 47). This is praise reminiscent of the text of a Psalm: "Blessed is the man... in whose spirit there is no deceit" (32[31]: 2), but provokes the curiosity of Nathanael who answers in amazement: "How do you know me?" (Jn 1: 48).

Jesus' reply cannot immediately be understood. He says: "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you" (Jn 1: 48). We do not know what had happened under this fig tree. It is obvious that it had to do with a decisive moment in Nathanael's life.

His heart is moved by Jesus' words, he feels understood and he understands: "This man knows everything about me, he knows and is familiar with the road of life; I can truly trust this man". And so he answers with a clear and beautiful confession of faith: "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!" (Jn 1:49). In this confession is conveyed a first important step in the journey of attachment to Jesus.

Nathanael's words shed light on a twofold, complementary aspect of Jesus' identity: he is recognized both in his special relationship with God the Father, of whom he is the Only-begotten Son, and in his relationship with the People of Israel, of whom he is the declared King, precisely the description of the awaited Messiah. We must never lose sight of either of these two elements because if we only proclaim Jesus' heavenly dimension, we risk making him an ethereal and evanescent being; and if, on the contrary, we recognize only his concrete place in history, we end by neglecting the divine dimension that properly qualifies him.

We have no precise information about Bartholomew-Nathanael's subsequent apostolic activity. According to information handed down by Eusebius, the fourth-century historian, a certain Pantaenus is supposed to have discovered traces of Bartholomew's presence even in India (cf. Hist. eccl. V, 10, 3).

In later tradition, as from the Middle Ages, the account of his death by flaying became very popular. Only think of the famous scene of the Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel in which Michelangelo painted St Bartholomew, who is holding his own skin in his left hand, on which the artist left his self-portrait.

St Bartholomew's relics are venerated here in Rome in the Church dedicated to him on the Tiber Island, where they are said to have been brought by the German Emperor Otto III in the year 983.

To conclude, we can say that despite the scarcity of information about him, St Bartholomew stands before us to tell us that attachment to Jesus can also be lived and witnessed to without performing sensational deeds. Jesus himself, to whom each one of us is called to dedicate his or her own life and death, is and remains extraordinary.

Based on the Holy Father's discourse, here are some photos I found on the net:

The remains of St. Bartholomew are under the main altar of the Roman church of San Bartolomeo all'Isola (named so because it's on an island in the middle of the Tiber).

Here's St. Bartholomew as pictured in the "Last Judgment" on the back wall of the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo's self portrait is in the skin being held by St. Bart.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Great Quotes

Twice today I've read quotes that have jumped out at me. Maybe you'll like them, too. First, the sacred; then, the secular:

"If only mortals would learn how great it is to possess divine grace, how beautiful, how noble, how precious. How many riches it hides within itself, how many joys and delights!" - St. Rose of Lima

"Regret is an awful thing - a poisonous luxury. The less you have of it, the better." - Henry Rollins

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Thank You!

It's only been about a month since I archived episodes of my radio program on the Podbean website, and already the website has had over 1,000 visitors! But more impressive than how many of you have listened in on the show has been where the show is now being heard. Try these places on for size:

In Canada: Moncton, New Brunswick; Hamilton, Ontario; Regina, Saskatchewan; and Vancouver, British Columbia

In Argentina, Belgium, England, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, and in the Philippines.

And in 25 of the 50 states of the U.S. of A, as well as the District of Columbia.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Antoinette Bosco Interview

No new episode of Proclaim the Good News this weekend. We're running a repeat of an interview with author Antoinette Bosco about her book, Mother Benedict: Foundress of the Abbey of Regina Laudis.

Keeping up our "Elvis" theme this week, the interview includes the story of actress Dolores Hart, who appeared with Presley in Loving You and King Creole. In 1962, Hart left Hollywood and entered religious life at Regina Laudis Abbey, where she continues to live today as prioress of the Abbey.

To hear the interview, click here

Friday, August 17, 2007

Fr. Fred Miller interview

At last (and as promised), the interview I did last year with Fr. Fred Miller on the Feast of the Assumption of Mary is now uploaded and ready for your listening pleasure. Fr. Miller is a Priest of the Archdiocese of Newark, and currently a professor at Mount St. Mary's Seminary, in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Check it out here.

Preventing Rectories From Becoming Wrecks

Bishop Julian Porteous, an auxiliary of the Archdiocese of Sydney, has written an essay about the daily life of a parish Priest. In it, he compares life in a "presbytery" (what Americans call the "rectory") in the past with the present day rectory living conditions.

Young Fogey Priests, take a read: he makes some valid points about the need for a home life and community, even in the secular Priesthood. Many rectories today are not so much residences for a parish's clergy as much as boarding houses for bachelors who lead totally separate lives from each other. Some make the argument, "If I wanted community life, I'd have joined a religious community." To which I respond, "Yes, but if you wanted a solitary life, you should have remained a layman or become a canonical hermit."

Check out the article.

...and while we're at it

Speaking of marriage, a student at Franciscan University of Steubenville has posted his song of woe and lament about dating on the campus of a Catholic college.

Today's Gospel on Love and Marriage

Today's Gospel gets into the Church's teachings about marriage and divorce. Scott Hahn's Ignatius Study Bible: The Gospel of Matthew gives a great explanation on the interpretations of the passage. Sadly the book is not online, but Dr. Hahn's St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology has some resources available.

I spoke to Dr. Hahn about the Ignatius study bible series in an interview you can get to by clicking here.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Thank You. Thank You Very Much.

Today, being the 30th anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley, a fellow blogger has come up with "Five Catholic Facts About Elvis".

Give it a read, and you're guaranteed not to wince the next time you hear that a baby was baptized with the name Elvis.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

On the Assumption

From St. Gregory of Tours (written between 575-593ad):

"The course of this life having been completed by Blessed Mary, when now she would be called from the world, all the Apostles came together from their various regions to her house. And when they had heard that she was about to be taken from the world, they kept watch together with her. And behold, the Lord Jesus came with His angels, and taking her soul, He gave it over to the Angel Michael and withdrew. At daybreak, however, the Apostles took up her body on a bier and placed it in a tomb; and they guarded it, expecting the Lord to come. And behold, again the Lord stood by them; and the holy body having been received, He commanded that it be taken in a cloud into paradise: where now, rejoined to the soul, [Mary] rejoices with the Lord's chosen ones, and it is the enjoyment of the good of an eternity that will never end."

From St. Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople (730ad):

"When Christ had willed that His Mother, she who had borne Life Itself within her, should be taken upwards to Himself, He tells her, by the message of an angel who was already known to her, that the time of her falling asleep is now at hand. And this He did so that through the imitation of Her coming death, she might not be troubled at her departure from the living; as will happen to the rest of mortal men. ... Mary the Mother of Life has been assumed."

From a sermon by St. John Vianney (1786-1859):

"It is thought that the same angel who announced to her the mystery of the Incarnation told her also the hour of her death. The Blessed Virgin is said to have answered to the angel: 'O what bliss, and how ardently I desire after this moment!' ... When the hour arrived, she felt herself burning with so great a love that her soul could no longer remain in her body. O blessed moment! Can we, dear brethren, contemplate this death, without feeling an ardent desire to live a good life and to die such a holy death? We can certainly not expect to die of love; but we may hope at least to die in the love of God. Mary had no fear of death, for death was to place her in possession of eternal bliss; she knew that heaven was waiting for her, and that she was to be one of its choicest ornaments. Her Son and the whole celestial court were advancing to meet her, the Saints of heaven were waiting to conduct her in triumph into their kingdom. Everything in heaven was ready to receive her; she was to enjoy honors which are above everything which we can possibly imagine to ourselves."

From St. Josemaria Escriva, in a homily on the Assumption (1961):

"Mary has gone to heaven in both body and soul, and the angels rejoice. I can imagine, too, the delight of St. Joseph, her most chaste spouse, who awaited her in paradise. The feast of the Assumption of our Lady prompts us to acknowledge the basis for ... joyful hope. Yes, we are still pilgrims, but our mother has gone on ahead, where she points to the reward of our efforts. She tells us that we can make it. And, if we are faithful, we will reach home. The blessed Virgin is not only our model, she is the help of Christians. And as we besiege her with our petitions - 'Show that you are our Mother' - she cannot help but watch over her children with motherly care."

From a Wednesday general audience of Pope John Paul II (July 2, 1997):

"The dogma of the Assumption affirms that Mary's body was glorified after her death. While for other human beings the resurrection of the body will take place at the end of the world, for Mary the glorification of her body was anticipated by a special privilege. ... After Christ, the incarnate Word, Mary is the first human being to achieve the eschatological ideal, anticipating the fullness of happiness promised to the elect through the resurrection of the body. ... We can also see the divine will to advance woman. In a way analogous to what happened at the beginning of the human race and of salvation history, in God's plan the eschatological ideal was not to be revealed in an individual, but in a couple. ... In the face of the profanation and debasement to which modern society frequently subjects the female body, the mystery of the assumption proclaims the supernatural destiny and dignity of every human body, called by the Lord to become an instrument of holiness and to share in his glory."

O.K., I tried

The CD with the Fr. Fred Miller interview on Our lady's Assumption was there at the studio, ready for me to take home and upload onto the Podbean site. I took it home with me, popped it into the CD drive, and it wasn't in a format which the website supports.

Gadzooks. Foiled again.

The episode (with the proper format) is being mailed to me via snail mail. The computers in my diocese's chancery does not allow for internet access, except for a few select terminals, so the person doing the file conversion can't e-mail me the show. As soon as I get it, you'll get it.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Cardinal Tomko interview

Still feeling guilty for not being able to post this past week's episode of Proclaim the Good News, I've posted a recent interview with Josef Cardinal Tomko about his new book, On Missionary Roads. From 1985 until 2001, Cardinal Tomko was the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and his book recounts his experiences as head of the Church's evangelization efforts.

Click on the "PGN Radio Show Archives" link on the right to hear the interview. And I should have the show on the Assumption of the BVM posted (hopefully) by Wednesday.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

"I was perfectly fine in my adulterous infidelity, and now I want compensation!"

Check out these two articles:

  1. This article says that divorce lawyers are using EZ-Pass (the automated toll-paying gizmo most people now have attached to their car's windshield) records as evidence to expose adulterous affairs.
  2. This article tells the story of a man suing 1-800 FLOWERS because the wife of a man who sent flowers to his chickeepie discovered his affair thanks to the company's receipt for the flower order. Now the wife wants more money in the divorce settlement, so the husband wants damages from the florist.

What can I say? Let's use the "condom use" argument: People are going to have affairs anyway, so, adulterous shkeeves out there: We all know that married persons should not have affairs! but if you choose to do so, be safe and pay for tolls and flowers in cash!

Fr. Fred Miller Interview

Back from being away, but I've been delayed at posting this week's episode of Proclaim the Good News. This week's episode is actually a rebroadcast of an interview I did with Fr. Fred Miller, a well known Mariologist and professor at Mount St. Mary's Seminary. The interview, which aired this same time last year, was about Our Lady's Assumption. I hope to get it posted by the feast day, because it was a pretty good interview. Stay tuned!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

"Our life, our sweetness, and our hope"

This morning between Masses I passed a statue of Our Lady, and found that someone has placed a packet of Splenda "at her feet" where the statue rests on a base.

C'mon, there's nothing artificial about Mary!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

St. Jean-Marie Vianney (1786-1859)

Today is the Feast Day of St. John Vianney, the "Curé (French for 'curate', or parish Priest) of Ars" and the patron saint of parish Priests, who died on this day in 1859. So check out the website for the shrine of St. John Vianney in Ars, France, can be found by clicking here.

While most of Pere Vianney's exploits are legendary (battles with the devil, the conversion of the village of Ars), some others are not so lofty. Take, for example, the well known fact that St. John lived on potatoes. Heck, french fries, tater tots, hash browns, and Wise Potato Chips have been a staple of my diet for years!

Also, St. John Vianney is best known, perhaps along with St. Pio of Pietrelcina, as "saints of the confessional". It was said that Vianney spent between 16 and 18 hours a day hearing the confessions of an unending line of Catholics who came to pour out their sins to him. That may have been his first miracle; not the hours spent in the confessional, but the fact that there were that many Catholics who actually wanted to go to confession!

I'm just kidding; it's my feast day!

Jack McKeon Interview

I've just posted this week's episode of Proclaim The Good News. The show this week is about the recently released DVD, Champions of Faith, which interviews major league baseball players who are committed to their Catholic faith. My guest on the show was former Florida Marlins manager Jack McKeon, who grew up across the river from me in South Amboy, N.J. (albeit decades earlier), and appears on the DVD.

Listen to it by clicking on the "PGN show archives" link on the right.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Dead Babies or Just Clumps?

From the Wall Street Journal's online Opinion Journal:

The Associated Press describes a gruesome possible crime scene in Ocean City, Md.:

Investigators must determine whether all four bodies found at the home were the offspring of Christy Freeman. Freeman, who also has four living children, has been charged in the death of one newborn found last week wrapped in a bloodied towel under her bathroom sink.

That body was determined to have been at 26-weeks gestation. Investigators still need to figure out how old the others were when they died, when they died, and whether Freeman or someone else was responsible for the deaths.

The timing is critical. If the pre-term infants were too young to be considered viable outside the womb, Freeman can't be charged with murder. And if they were old enough to live outside the womb, but died before Maryland passed its 2005 fetal homicide law, it may not be a crime even if Freeman caused their deaths.

The AP story is a bit unclear as to whether Freeman could be charged even if she did kill the "pre-term infants":

The 2005 fetal homicide was designed to penalize those who kill a pregnant woman or her viable fetus, but it includes a provision shielding pregnant women from prosecution for actions that result in their own fetus's death....

State Delegate Susan K. McComas, a Republican who co-sponsored the 2005 bill, said the exemption was added by majority Democrats who feared the bill would restrict a woman's right to abortion. "We weren't contemplating a woman doing something to her own fetus," McComas said.

Right, because abortion has nothing to do with "a woman doing something to her own fetus."

New Bloggers

The Sisters of Jesus Our Hope are a religious community in the Diocese of Metuchen who have entered the "New Evangelization" with a blog site called "Hope-full Signs".

Welcome to the blog-o-neighborhood!

Fr. Benedict Groeschel Interview

I just posted an interview I did with Fr. Benedict Groeschel two years ago as part of the "Best of Proclaim the Good News". To hear the interview, click on the PGN Radio Show Archives link on the right.

Or just click here.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

"The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers!"

Never underestimate the value of the "unlikely hero" in the pursuit for holiness.

Sometimes it's not even a person, but a thing. Such was the case yesterday, as the Church honored St. Ignatius of Loyola. In his case, the "hero" was a cannonball; the cannonball that shattered his leg and forced him to convalesce with nothing to read except books on the life of Christ and the saints. This led to his question about whether he could live the heroic life of a saint, which led him to form the Society of Jesus. Think about it: No cannonball = no injury. No injury = no time to consider where his life was going and what he wanted to do with it.

Today we honor St. Alphonsus Ligouri, who by his mid 20s was well-entrenched in the legal profession in the Kingdom of Naples. This was a bright man; a prodigy who had degrees in canon as well as civil law. The story is told that, after experiencing first-hand a corrupt legal system in the Kingdom of Naples, St. Alphonsus turned away from a career in the law and began to seriously discern a call to the Priesthood. The "hero" here? A corrupt lawyer? A crooked judge? A witness who'd say anything? We don't know, but without whomever would we have had the Redemptorist Order today?

Think about other saints and what they experienced. Would St. Elizabeth Ann Seton have gone down to Baltimore (eventually to form the Daughters of Charity) if she wasn't treated like an outcast by the society crowd of New York City after becoming a Catholic? What if St. Paul was only a mildly observant Jew? Would the upstart Christians have irked him enough to head down to Damascus in an effort to drag them back to Jerusalem for trial?

So, if you're feeling that someone or something is setting you back on your road to holiness, don't lament it; embrace it. It might be what "puts you over the top"!

In fact, learn from the examples of the saints. While we may not come across cannonballs all that often today, there's certainly a fair amount of lawyers still out there!