Saturday, March 29, 2008

St. Thomas' finger

"Then [Jesus] said to Thomas,
'Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe.'"

Above is the relic of the finger of St. Thomas, part of the collection of relics kept at the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Rome.  This past January, I took my tour group there to see this, and a few other great relics of the Lord's Passion.

For more on the basilica and the relics it contains, click here.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

“Were not our hearts burning within us ... when he opened the scriptures to us?"

Sandro Magister at the Chiesa website has an article entitled, "Holy Week: The Hidden Homilies of Pope Benedict", which also has English translations of the Pope's homiles from Palm Sunday to his Easter Urbi et Orbi. Check it out.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Since we're in the Easter Octave, I have a clear conscience posting a comic strip that appeared in newspapers around the country on Easter Sunday.

To see a larger size (or for you Young Fogeys who would like a copy of this autographed by the comic's author), click here.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Easter Links

The blog, Singing in the Reign, has a great entry entitled, "Five Reasons the Resurrection Was Necessary", according to St. Thomas Aquinas.

Steve Ray's blog has a link to an interactive Google Map which points out the holy shrines of Jerusalem, many of which we just got done hearing at the Triduum.

My pal Fr. Guy Selvester points out another "resurrection", this time of the sartorial style. Check it out at Shouts in the Piazza.

The Zenit news service has the Good Friday Homily of Father Cantalamessa.

The Vatican website's collection of Holy Week's photos, music, and texts of the Holy father's homilies can be found here.

Finally, click here for a link with the words to my favorite Easter hymn.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Holy Saturday

There's a beautiful reading today in the breviary's Office of Readings for this morning (Holy Saturday).  It's not attributed to anyone; it's simply called "an ancient homily on Holy Saturday".  For those who don't have the four-volume Liturgy of the Hours, I was able to find it online.  As I sit here this morning drinking my coffee on one of the few days that the rectory is uncharacteristically quiet, I hope you enjoy it.

Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.

He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all”. Christ answered him: “And with your spirit”. He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light”.

I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated. For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.

See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.

I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.

Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Casula Romana

I'm watching the Holy Father process into St. Peter's for the Good Friday liturgy, and he's wearing a red chasuble cut in the Roman style (rather than the gothic style, which most people are used to seeing).

You just know this is bringing a sourpuss to the faces of a bunch of people, and, even if he gave out the cure for cancer, THIS will be the story today in the blogosphere and around the world.

In other words, hope you've got plenty of Lysol and paper towels for what's about to hit the fan.

UPDATE - for great pictures of the Liturgy, check out the pictures posted on the New Liturgical Movement blogsite.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

O'Byrne, Oh Brother (or is it "father"?)

Today's Metro section of the New York Times has an article about Charles O'Byrne, one of new-New York Governor David Paterson's closest aides. In the article, we find out he is a Kennedy family confidant, a former speechwriter for Howard Dean, openly gay, and, oh yeah, until 2002, a Roman Catholic Priest in the Society of Jesus.

Click here to read it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Good for another year!

Last night I was in beautiful, downtown Metuchen, New Jersey, for my diocese's Chrism Mass.

The priests have a dinner first, which gives us a chance for "the family" to get together. Like any family gathering, there were lots of laughs, a little needling, and that feeling that "we should do this more often" (though in reality we know it won't happen). We even "met" the new member of the family - the man to be ordained a priest for our diocese next May, as the Bishop "called him to Orders" (formally announced his intention to ordain him to the Priesthood).

During the Chrism Mass, the Priests recommit themselves to the promises they made on their ordination days, whether it was recently (like my diocese's Fr. Bede Kim, who was ordained last year) or decades ago (like Msgr. John Torney of my diocese, ordained in 1939).

A while back on this blog, I reflected on my ninth anniversary of ordination. As I approach my tenth year (certainly acknowledging there are plenty of guys who have been ordained longer than I) I was surprised how that moment of Mass hit me last night. Being there in the cathedral in which I was ordained, standing about 10 yards from where I stood on that day, I couldn't help but go back to that day in 1998. I looked at the face of the man who'll be ordained a Priest in a few months; he had a smile on his face throughout Mass and even his voice in proclaiming the Gospel (he was Deacon of the Word last night) had joy and happiness in it. I saw the seminarians of our diocese. For the first time in a while, we actually have more seminarians than jobs for servers at Mass, so the extras sat together on the side of the sanctuary. I used to be one of them, full of zeal and energy, simply enjoying being there at the Chrism Mass. I'd bet none of them moaned about going.

It's a wise thing the Church does, having Priests come together once a year to remember their ordination. It's wise because every Priest is human, and every human being has memories that get triggered by senses. So, bring us back to the place, and we'll remember the joy, hope, and zeal we had on the day we said "yes" to God. Yes, my diocese has lost a bit of that opportunity by making the Chrism Mass as much about the lay people accepting the Holy Oils and promising to bring them back to the parishes on Holy Thursday (I think having the bishop question the parish representatives on their willingness to do that, in the same context as he questions us on our fidelity to our vocation, either exalts the task of bringing bottles home, or waters down the promises we made on ordination day). But, in spite of that, the moment was still there. I know because I experienced it. I also believe that that only way my brethren could not have experienced it was by deliberately choosing not to take in the memories that were being released by our brains into our consciousness.

We kid around with each other about the renewal of the commitment, questioning whether, if we said "no", we would stop being a priest? Afterwards, with the commitment remade like an auto registration, we're all good for another year. Bring on Holy Thursday!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Do you know the way to San Jose?

Forgive me, Church, for not posting for a few days.  This is the busy time for Priests, and I've been getting adjusted to a new computer as well.

Today is the transferred Feast of St. Joseph, moved to the first available day before Palm Sunday (that is, today).  Preaching at Mass this morning, I mentioned how there was an abundance of color in the sanctuary: the purple still covering statues, red on the altar for this weekend's Palm Sunday celebration, and me dressed in white for the Patron of the Universal Church.

Normally I decorate the St. Joseph altar in our church (for those of you who attend liturgy workshops, that would be our "worship space"), but a few things got in my way: a lot going on in my life, the fact that, being a Saturday, the decorations would be lost by the evening's vigil Mass for Palm Sunday, and the fact that, since last weekend, the statue has been unseen.

But, as I told this morning's Mass attendees, what a great metaphor for St. Joseph: unseen, veiled, but present nonetheless.  Rarely mentioned in the Scriptures, we have nothing from his mouth directly.  We know St. Joseph had his share of dreams in which God made His will known (whether it be taking Mary as his wife or bugging out to Egypt).  We know he and Mary were going crazy looking for the 12 year old Jesus after they realized he wasn't in the Nazareth-bound caravan.  I think the best compliment paid to Joey in the scriptures comes from the people of the town of Nazareth.  Years later, they still remembered Joseph when Jesus spoke. "Is this not the carpenter's son?"  Would that people recognized Christ in us the way that they recognized Joseph in Jesus.

St. Josemaria Escriva had a great love for St. Joseph.  In the mammoth 3-volume biography by Andres Vazquez de Prada, we hear of the start of Escriva's often used advice, "Ite ad Ioseph" ("Go to Joseph", which more accurately refers to the Joseph of the Old Testament).  But still, what great advice for us, to go to St. Joseph with our concerns, especially today on his feast day.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Spiritual Thought

The first reading from Numbers at Mass this morning...
THE WAY MY MIND WORKS: Just once, it would be a laugh to have a Lector come up to the ambo and say, "A reading from the Book of Numbers: four, twelve, thirty-six, one hundred and twenty, nineteen, eighty-eight, ..."  But I digress.  Back to our show.
... has the Israelites complaining to Moses:  "Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in the desert, where there is no food or water?"  They're mad at Moses for gaining them freedom!  In Egypt, they got "fleshpots and bread" (Ex 16:3), fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic (Num 11:5).  Slavery had become "safe" and "easy", with an abundant supply of food available.  So much so that they'd come to resent freedom.

For us, too, changing our lives, living in freedom, is harder than staying the way we're used to. We're more content remaining in slavery to our sins, rather than living in the freedom God calls us to and which our Baptism allows us to live.  Remember the scene in Shawshank Redemption in which Brooks, an old man released from prison after decades behind bars, commits suicide because he can't handle a life in which decisions are not made for him?

In slavery, the decisions are made for us; freedom requires decision-making and responsibility.  Our culture had glorified the status of "victimhood"; we crave having someone else to blame for the way our life has turned out (either remotely - "My parents never bought me the DVD player I wanted" - or proximately - "That jerk ahead of me is driving too slow and now I'm going to be late!").  

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Through the Eyes of a Child

Chances are really good that no one reading this will ever be named a United States Ambassador to the Holy See (though I'd love to be proven wrong).

This past February 29, U.S. Ambassador Mary Ann Glendon presented her credentials to the Holy Father, and her and her family participated in a beautiful ceremony in the Apostolic Palace and St. Peter's Basilica. Luckily, Ambassador Glendon's daughter, Elizabeth Lev, a contributor to the Zenit News Service, wrote an article describing just what happens moment-by-moment during the ceremony.

You can read the article by clicking here.

Photo: AP/L'Osservatore Romano

Friday, March 07, 2008

Star Ledger: McGreevey on Marriage

For those outside of New Jersey, the saga continues between ex-Governor, ex-Catholic, ex-husband, and ex-heterosexual Jim McGreevey, and his ex-wife. This is an op-ed by the Newark Star Ledger's Kathleen O'Brien:

Marriage redefined by McGreevey
Thursday, March 06, 2008

IS THAT the kind of marriage Jim McGreevey would want for his daughters?

McGreevey, through his lawyers, is trying a new approach in his messy divorce case: He's lowering the very definition of marriage.

"Our contention is that the purpose of marriage -- living together, having a child, having companionship -- were all fulfilled," he claims in a court filing. Neither the misrepresentation nor the concealment of his sexual preference showed any fraud, he claims.

Imagine this stripped-down McGreevey revision of the nuptial vows:

McGreevey: "I, Jim, promise to live with you, have a child, and provide companionship. End of story."

The bride: "How about two kids? I always wanted two kids."

McGreevey: "Don't push it."

Clergyperson: "For better, for worse?"

McGreevey: "Um, yeah, sure, I guess."

Clergyperson: "From this day forward?

McGreevey: "My attorneys advise me that is implied."

Clergyperson: "In sickness or in health?"

McGreevey: "Yes, but if I'm thrown out of office, she has to get her own health insurance."

Clergyperson: "For richer, for poorer?"

McGreevey: "I'll have to talk to my campaign donors and get back to you on that one."

Clergyperson: "To love and to cherish?"

McGreevey: "Ehh, not so much. It depends on whether I'm up for re-election. Or the Legislature's in session. Or Golan's in town."

Clergyperson: "I now pronounce you a marriage of convenience. You may kiss the bride. Or ignore her completely."

Cue the antiphonal trumpets! Release the doves!

Again we ask: Is this the kind of marriage he'd want for either of his daughters?

How deliciously appalling to watch Mr. Gay American, Mr. Authentic Self, Mr. Tortured Soul, now claim that sexual orientation in a relationship doesn't matter.

So...other gay men who find themselves in loveless marriages should just, what, stick it out? If McGreevey's marriage was one that fulfilled the very purpose of marriage, why is he not contesting the divorce in its entirety?

Well, it's not even worth a moment's serious thought.

(One weird side point is that this line of reasoning pokes a hole in the argument for gay marriage. McGreevey seems to be saying the very definition of marriage includes producing a child together. That would close marriage to all gays, including himself.)

You have to wonder what kind of advice McGreevey is getting -- or receiving -- these days. Every time his side files a court brief, he says something preposterous and loses ground in the court of public opinion.

Dina Matos McGreevey fares only slightly better, particularly when she addresses the topic of money. She did get the financial shaft from him. She lost her marital home (that would be Drumthwacket), her transportation (N.J. State Troopers) and her health insurance.

Yet she is acting like money will make her whole. Her accountants claim he should be making nearly $1.5 million a year, not the $50,000 he claims.

About the last thing the taxpayers of New Jersey need is for Jim McGreevey to be earning $1.5 million. Because you know the only way he could pull that off? By good old-fashioned influence-peddling, banking on his political connections to the public trough.

In his memoirs, McGreevey tells of imagining his future in the days after his resignation: "I fantasized about being in love, really in love -- ordinary, boring, romantic love, the kind that takes you into old age, the kind my parents still have."

Funny, that is never mentioned in his attorney's description of a "fulfilled" marriage.