Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

Don't overdo it with the candy, or you know what'll happen...

(People laugh when a pumpkin can't hold its candy)

All Hallows Eve

As we approach the Solemnity of All Saints, the EWTN website has unveiled a "Saints of the Church" database.  It's definitely worth checking out.  Click HERE.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


The first reading for Mass today had St. Paul telling the Ephesians (in fact, this is the last passage we'll get from Ephesians; tomorrow we start hearing Philippians at Mass) about the necessity for spiritual armor in our battle against evil.

The insight there is neat to catch.  Paul is on his way to Rome to appeal his death sentence imposed in Jerusalem (as a Roman citizen, this was his prerogative).  In today's reading, he writes that he is an "ambassador in chains"; he is literally chained (albeit a very long chain) to a Roman soldier as he's writing this letter.  We can imagine him occasionally glimpsing up from his parchment as he's writing about putting on "the armor of God", checking out what the guard is wearing, and giving each piece of the guard's protective gear a supernatural metaphor.

As someone who plays hockey, and more specifically someone who plays goal, there is something special about "putting on the armor".  Last night I went back to my old stomping grounds to play with the guys and gals I played with up until my transfer last July.  I hadn't played since late June, and so my equipment hadn't been out of its bag since that time.  I was dressing next to someone watching me put on the skates, pants, pads, etc., who was fascinated with the goalie equipment.  There's something about the equipment; a goalie "bonds" with his gear.  A goalie's gear is all that lies between his body, a hard ice surface, really sharp skate blades, and hard rubber pucks fired at various angles, heights, and speeds.

So what about Priests and their "spiritual armor"?  I'm talking here about the sacred vestments they wear for the celebration of Mass.  A Missal from 1959 gives a concise explanation of the vestments a Priest wears at Mass and their supernatural meaning:
The AMICE: A square of white linen wrapped around the neck and covering the shoulders.  The Amice symbolizes the helmet of salvation, i.e., the virtue of hope (1 Thess. 5, 8), that helps the priest to overcome the attacks of Satan.

The ALB: A long, white linen garment reaching to the feet. The Alb symbolizes the innocence and purity that should adorn the soul of the priest who ascends the altar.

The CINCTURE: The cord used as a belt to gird the Alb. It symbolizes the virtues of chastity and continence required of the priest.

The STOLE: Roman magistrates wore a long scarf when engaged in their official duties, just as our judges wear a court gown. Whenever a priest celebrates Mass or administers the Sacraments, he wears the Stole as a sign that he is occupied with an official priestly duty. When placing the Stole about his neck, in vesting for Mass, the priest begs God to give him the garment of immortality that was forfeited by our sinful first parents.

The CHASUBLE: The outer vestment put on over the others. Originally, this was a very full garment, shaped like a bell and reaching almost to the feet all the way round, though today they come in various shapes and cuts.  The Chasuble symbolizes the virtue of charity, and the yoke of unselfish service for the Lord, which the priest assumes at ordination.
What many people don't know is that there are prayers associated with the putting on of each of these vestments.  Why don't they know it?  Well, a few reasons.  In our day and age, when many people see Mass as some sort of performance, they creep into coming to think of the sacristy as "backstage" before the "show", where we kibbitz, wish each other luck, etc.  From the first time I entered the sacristy of St. Peter's Basilica, I have loved what is carved into the marble in big letters for everyone to see:

The other reason is a "self-inflicted wound".  We clergy sometimes treat sacred vestments as ordinary pieces of clothing.   Many people don't know about the prayers the go with vesting because many priests (and deacons) don't USE the prayers when they put on the vestments proper to their office.  When Priests begin to think of the Mass as performance, then, for them, vestments become simply a "costume" they wear for their show.

Part of how we're going to restore the sense of the sacred at Mass is going to be showing those who are involved in serving in the various ministries that necessitate them being in the sacristy before a Mass (lectors, altar servers, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, cantors, etc.) that, when we prepare to celebrate Mass, there's stuff going on on BOTH the natural and supernatural levels.  Here I should also mention Canon 909, which says that "The priest is not to fail to make the required prayerful preparation for the celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice or the thanksgiving to God upon its completion" (as if I needed something else to confess).  As when I play hockey, I need to get my body (by wearing all my armor) as well as my mind into the game, so in my Priestly service I need to prepare in both body (with my supernatural armor) and mind (with prayerful preparation).

So what if you're Joe or Jane Catholic who don't wear vestments?  For everyone else (and for clergy besides the vestments), what's the "armor"?  Prayer.  Confession.  The Eucharist.  In the Gospel today, Jesus laments the number of times that he's offered himself to the people of Jerusalem, only to be ignored or met with casual indifference.  From within how many Tabernacles does the Lord still get met with those same attitudes?  What does Jesus need to do to get our attention?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

On St. Jude's Feast Day...

Relics of Saints Simon and Jude

The relics of these two saints can be found at St. Peter's Basilica, underneath the altar at the center of the left transept of the Basilica.  The relics were placed here in 1605.  A large photograph (too large to directly display here) can be found by clicking HERE.

A few other trivia factoids about that altar:
  • The mosaic above the altar is St. Joseph, and was placed there in 1963, and depicts St. Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church.
  • The round medallions on either side of the altar are depictions of Sts. Simon and Jude.
  • The two maroon colored porphyry columns on the altar were part of the main altar in the original St. Peter's Basilica.
  • This altar is one of the few places in the Basilica that one can attend a daily Mass.

What does this mean?

This sentence can be found at the end of a biography of St. Jude Thaddeus from a shrine to the saint in San Francisco:
"A new booklet of devotions to Saint Jude has been written and prepared in accord with the mind and wishes of Vatican Council II.  This booklet is available through the Shrine."
Now, if you're like me, you read that line and say to yourself, "Uh oh, wacky lib alert!"  I have found that, usually, any time someone wants to cite the "mind and wishes" of V2, rather than the actual words of V2, then something smells funky.  But then, I present to you another item from their gift shop:

Sure enough, I looked in the Book of Blessings, and under the section dealing with the "blessing of food or drink or other elements connected with devotion".  Paragraph 1795 gives an assortment of blessings, and among them is a blessing for oil which says, "May all who use this oil (in honor of Saint N.) be blessed with health of mind and body."

So apparently a clergyman can bless oil for use of anointing in honor of any saint you want.  I never knew that.
Benedícite, glácies et nives, Dómino

Monday, October 27, 2008

A big Young Fogeys' "Shout out"

A package arrived this morning from Amazon with a bunch of things from my wish list.

I had been tipped off that some things were coming from the St. James Womens' and Co-Ed Bible Study in beautiful Basking Ridge, New Jersey.  I was at St. James for five years, and I've watched their bible study group grow and grow and grow (is it polite to say "like weeds?").  It's a great example of what the laity can do on the parish level (aka the "frontline" of the Church).

I am overwhelmed at your generosity.  My sincere thanks to all of you.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Say goodbye to green for a while

For the next two Sundays (November 2 and 9), we get feast days (Commemoration of All Soul's and the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica) which take precedence over the Sunday's of Ordinary Time.  All Souls allows for white, violet, or black vestments, while St. John Lateran will be white.

But fear not, we'll get one more weekend of green vestments before going to the violet of Advent.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Would she be a Kings fan?

During a State Visit to Slovakia, more than 4,000 spectators then watched as Queen Elizabeth symbolically dropped the puck between Aquacity Poprad and Guildford Flames ice-hockey players in Poprad before leaving for London.

THIS JUST IN!  Thanks to my pal Father Guy, here's a link to video of the puck drop.

How about this?

I was reading the General Instruction of the Order of Christian Funerals (lest you think I'm a total nerd with no life, I was doing so while watching the Devils/Flyers game), I came across this line in paragraph 20:
"The family and friends of the deceased should not be excluded from taking part in the services sometimes provided by undertakers, for example, the preparation and laying out of the body."

What could stop a Bloomberg Three-peat?

From today's NY Daily News:

"Today, the majority of the City Council decided to give the people of New York a fuller choice in the November 2009 election. I believe that was the right choice," Bloomberg said.

Who else might be excited about being no longer burdened by term limits?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

"Synods can be a waste of time"

So say some people, but I'm inclined to disagree.

Why?  Well thanks to Fr. Tom Rosica's article from the Synod on the Word of God, I now know that the the Latin term for "Ice Hockey" is "Pilamalleus Super Glaciem".

See that?  The Universal Church spoke up, and I listened!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Preach it, brotha!

Jeff Miller's Curt Jester led me to the blog of Dominican Father Philip Neri Powell, and these 10 basic facts, which he entitled, "The Church is not WalMart":
1). The Roman Catholic Church isn't WalMart or Burger King; it's the Body of Christ.

2). Catholic priests, nuns, sisters/brothers and laity aren't employees; we are members of the Body of Christ.

3). The doctrine and dogma of the Catholic Church are not consumer products that the Church's employees sell to those who want them; Catholic doctrine and dogma express the unchanging truth of the faith.

4). Life in a Catholic parish is not a trip to Disney Land or Target or McDonald's where your consumer needs and whims are catered to by the whimpering clergy and lay staff; parish life is the life of Christ for the local Catholic family.

5). You do not come into the Catholic Church b/c you like the building better than you like the Methodist chapel; or because the priest at the Catholic parish is cuter than the Baptist preacher; or because you heard that the homilies are shorter at St. Bubba's by the Lake than they are at the Unitarian Church. You come into the Catholic Church because you believe that the Catholic faith is the truth of the gospel taught by Christ himself and given to his apostles.

6). Leaving the Catholic Church because a priest was mean to you, or because sister whacked you with a ruler, or because the church secretary looked at you funny is as stupid as giving up on the truths of math because you hate your high school algebra teacher. Why would anyone let a crazy priest or a cranky nun or anyone else for the matter drive you out of the faith you believe is true? My only conclusion: you never thought it was true to begin with; or, you have a favorite sin the Church teaches against and crazy priests and cranky nuns is as good an excuse as any to leave and pursue your sin all the while feeling justified b/c Father and/or Sister are such jerks.

7). Anyone who comes in the Catholic Church thinking that they will find clouds of angels at Mass dressed as parishioners; hordes of perfect saints kneeling for communion; seminaries packed with angelic young men burning to be priests; a parish hall stacked to the ceiling with morally pure people eager to serve; and a priest without flaw or blemish, well, you're cracked and you probably need to go back and try again. Telling Catholics that they aren't perfect makes as much sense as telling fish they're wet. We know already. Move on.

8). Of the hundreds of priests and religious I know, I know two who could count as saints right now. The rest of us are deeply flawed, impure, struggling creatures who know all too well that we fail utterly to meet the basic standards of holiness. For that matter: so do you. Get in line.

9). The Catholic Church owes no one a revision of her doctrine or dogma. She didn't change to save most of Europe from becoming Protestant, why would you imagine that she would change just to get you in one of her parishes?

10). If you want to become Catholic, do it. But do it because you think the Church teaches the true faith. If a cranky priest on a blogsite is enough to keep you from embracing the truth of the faith, then two things are painfully clear: 1) you do not believe the Church teaches the faith; 2) and you care more about expresssing your hurt consumer feelings than you do for your immortal soul.

Fr. Philip, OP

UPDATE: Yes, I am a priest, and a huge part of my ministry is to console, to be present, to advise, and to try my best to shine out the light of Christ. As a Dominican friar, I do all of that first and best by telling the truth! The best pastoral approach is always to tell the truth, so please, forget the notion that "to be pastoral" is somehow opposed to "telling the truth" or "teaching the faith." 

The Truth is Always Pastoral.

Secular society's source of solace and spirituality

I had a funeral yesterday of a woman who left behind a husband and four grown children.

At the cemetery, I did the usual Rite of Committal.  At the end of it, the funeral director (on behalf of the family) usually thanks people for coming and invites them to some sort of reception for a meal.  But not this time.  At the end of the funeral director's remarks, one of the deceased's sons produced an iPod with external speakers, and announced that the family wanted two songs played.

The first song was "Time to Say Goodbye" by Andrea Bocelli & Sarah Brightman.  A bit of a tearjerker under these circumstances, but, well, if that's what you want.  So he placed the iPod w/speakers on top of the coffin, and everyone had a good cry.

Then, still sniffling, he announced that "Mom wouldn't want us leaving on a sad note", that she'd want everyone to be happy, and that we should all have a beer for mom.  Siblings then produced cases of beer and distributed cans to anyone and everyone (no under agers, as far as I could see).  He then announced that the second song that would be played was Jimmy Buffett's "Margaritaville", clicked on the iPod, and put the contraption back on mom's casket.

As I watched it all go down, I was thinking to myself, "We had prayers for the repose of this woman's soul, readings from the Word of God, a decent homily if I may say so, reception of the Holy Eucharist, all interspersed with sacred music."  Yet none of that was going to fill the "God pocket" inside of them!  They had to do something extra.  Something for themselves.  Something that would "make them feel happy", and none of the Church's rituals did that for them.  I watched them as the song went on.  They were participating by singing along (dare I say they were doing so "fully, conscious, and actively"?), yet at the same time they were almost contemplative.

This is where the vast majority of our thirty-somethings are, when it comes to their "spirituality".  Mass attendance happens at Christmas, Easter, or when their kids (or their friends' kids) receive a Sacrament.  The Church's ceremonies have no meaning to them, except for it's theatrical aspect.  Purely natural, no supernatural.  They know little or nothing about basic doctrine about "the four last things", and so, for them, Heaven is some sort of hotel/resort that you check into but never leave (thank you, Eagles).  Everyone who dies goes to Heaven.  Oh, and their pets too.

You can't blame them; they went through Catholic religious education at a time when knowing truths about God was not as important as how they "feel or experience" God personally.  Also, since many of our thirty-somethings stopped receiving any kind of catechesis the moment after they received Confirmation, they may biologically be 30+, and they may understand the natural world as a 30+ person, but they still have the supernatural outlook of a 12 or 13 year old! Because of that, there's no comprehension of what is being done for the deceased at a Catholic funeral; they don't see any need (much less the necessity) to pray for the soul of a deceased person.  Nor do they see their need (or the deceased's need) for the Church's funeral rites.  This gets replaced by their own personal version of the same.  In short, the funeral is about THEM, and their grief at the loss of the deceased.

We're partially to blame for this.  We stopped talking about death, judgment, heaven, and hell.  We have become Egyptian in our attitude towards death and the afterlife, thinking our deceased's coffin needs to be filled with the things they enjoyed in this life: their favorite cigarettes, romance novels, transistor radio, etc.  We allow the white funeral pall, which recalls baptismal dignity, to be replaced by things like a sport jersey or some other keepsake.  We practically insist that some family member or friend, most of whom are untrained in public speaking and at the moment in some serious grief, get up at the funeral Mass in front of a crowd and read the inspired Word of God (If we're lucky, their words are discernible and they get through it without breaking down).  We allow eulogies that, at times, take longer than the Mass, give the people something to remember other than the homily, and at times are irreverent and at other times border on scandalous.  All for the sake of making the family "happy"; hoping they'll leave the funeral "feeling good" about it.  The worst nightmare of any parish priest is for a letter of complaint from a grief stricken widow or family to go to the bishop's desk (even if it is because the celebrant of the funeral would not allow the deceased's granddaughter to do her Irish step dance routine "one last time for grandpa").

As I stood there listening to the words (and don't get me wrong, Margaritaville is a fun song, in it's proper place), it hit me that this was where these people were genuinely drawing their comfort.  Not from the Church, not from a Priest, and not from their faith in eternal life through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but from Jimmy Buffett (the man who also gave us such tunes as "The @$$hole Song" and "Why Don't We Get Drunk and Screw?").

I'm sure that every time they're in some bar or some franchised restaurant with loud "good times" music on a perpetual playlist, they'll get a bit misty and think of mom.  But I ask myself if they will look for comfort in church?  Right now, my answer leans towards, "no".

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Evidently, the whole financial crisis thing is overrated

From today's Star Ledger:

The reason for the get together is a horse race.  But it's more about the crowd that tailgates like something out of a Ralph Lauren commercial.  Yes, folks, this is my diocese.  Here's a piece of the article:
After taking off multiple days from work for planning and inviting more than 175 people, she set up a table with sandwiches, desserts and a 175-pound ice sculpture of a horse's head about half the size of a person.
In The Godfather, a horse's head was a warning; In Far Hills, New Jersey, it's table decoration!

But do you need the platform shoes?

Bee Gee's "Stayin Alive" has perfect beat for timing CPR

Why the smile?

Because last night, the Devils won AND the Rangers lost.  That's why!

(Thank You, AP, for the photos)

Mission Sunday and the North American Martyrs

This morning, we'll celebrate the 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time, along with "Mission Sunday".  But thanks to a twist of fate in the calendar, We'll mark Mission Sunday on the same day as the feast of St. Issac Jogues, Jean de Brebeuf, et al.  Thanks to the magic of "right-click", "copy", and "paste", here is what I wrote last year about today's feast day:

Today is the Feast of the North American Martyrs, 8 Jesuit missionaries (Priests and Oblates) who were killed between the years of 1642 and 1649 in modern day regions of New York and Ontario. They were canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1930. Most of the time they're called by the collective term, "The North American Martyrs", though the crowd who attends daily Mass may recognize them as "Sts. Isaac Jogues, John deBrebeuf and their Companions." The way my life works, I'd be one of the companions: just as dead, not remembered.

So since these are our martyrs, with this feast day which is only celebrated here in the United States and Canada, it's good to remember what our brothers endured to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When the Priest wears red vestments to commemorate martyrs, it's meant to get the Mass attendees to ask themselves, "Would I have the same trust and courage as the martyr(s)", not "Is that red more of a maroon or a burgundy?"

So, thanks to Butler's Lives of the Saints (Revised and Updated), let's remember what these martyrs endured:

Rene Goupil was the first to die on September 29, 1642. He was tomahawked to death for making the sign of the cross on the brows of some children, while being a prisoner of the Iroquois with Isaac Jogues (see below). Goupil had entered the Jesuit novitiate, but left because of bad health. He later studied surgery and went to Canada to help the missionaries as an Oblate (a lay brother).

Fr. Isaac Jogues and Jean Lalande were ambushed on the evening of October 18, 1644. While on a visit to villages in Ossernenon (modern day Auriesville, N.Y.), Jogues was ambushed and beheaded, his head placed on a pole facing the route from which he came. The following day Lalande was beheaded and his body thrown into the river. Lalande was a Jesuit oblate. Jogues had been in the missions since 1636, and had already had a close call when he was captured while on a trip with Goupil to Quebec for supplies. They were beaten to the ground, assailed with knotted sticks, had their hair, beards, and nails torn off and their forefingers bitten off. Amazingly he survived and was freed through the efforts of Dutch colonists. He returned to France a bit of a hero and took the first opportunity he could get to return to Canada (in the days when liturgical law was very specific that the Priest had to hold the Host with his thumb and forefingers, it is said that Jogues asked for and received a dispensation so that he could still celebrate Mass without the necessary digits). He was trying to negotiate peace between the Iroquois, the Hurons, and the French, when he and Lalande were attacked.

Fr. Antony Daniel had just finished celebrating Mass for the Christian Hurons on July 4, 1648, when Iroquois attacked their village at Teanaustaye. Fr. Daniel was surrounded on all sides, shot with arrows until dead, stripped and then thrown into the small church which they set on fire.

Fr. Jean de Brebeuf and Fr. Gabriel Lalement were tortured and killed in an attack on March 16, 1649. as Fr. De Brebeuf started preaching to his attackers, they gagged his mouth, cut off his nose, tore off his lips, then mocked baptism by pouring huge amounts of boiling water on their bodies. Think that's enough? No. As Butler's relates: "large pieces of flesh were cut out of the bodies of both the priests and roasted by the Indians, who tore out their hearts before their death by means of an opening above the breast, feasting on them and on their blood, which they drank while it was still warm."

Fr. Charles Garnier was in a mission he helped found called Saint-Jean. In 1649 the mission was attacked. Rather than flee, Fr. Garnier stayed to absolve the dying and baptize those he was instructing to become Christians. While trying to reach a dying man, Fr. Garnier was shot. When he still tried to reach the dying man, he was attacked with a hatchet which pierced his brain.

Fr. Noel Chabnel was in the next mission over from Saint-Jean when they heard the attackers coming. He urged everyone to flee, but was too weak to keep up with them. Years later it was discovered that he was killed by the advancing Iroquois.

So what can we learn? I like to think of these guys when I'm throwing myself a "pity party" or having a genuinely bad day. It's that "You think you have it bad?" moment that shocks me into reality. We Priests have it pretty good, compared to many of our people and even other Priests in mission territory around the world. The first reading for the Mass for these martyrs says, "For we who live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh." (2 Cor. 4) If they can lose a finger, we can go pray or read or visit the sick or (if you're married) spend time with your spouse and kid(s).

To walk in the footsteps of these saints, you've got two choices: Shrines to these martyrs exist in both Midland, Ontario, and Auriesville, New York. Check out the website for the Canadian Shrine for great photos of the relics of the saints (including the skull of St. Jean de Brebeuf).

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Friday, October 17, 2008

Feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch

St. Ignatius was born a pagan (and not a Roman citizen) of a Syrian family.  Legend has it that he was one of the children who was blessed by Jesus (probably because, in his writings, St. Ignatius calls himself "theophorus" = "carried by God").  He converted late in life, and it was then that he came into contact with St. John the Apostle in Ephesus (he might have even served as John's scribe).  Condemned by the Emperor Trajan for his Christianity, he is sent to Rome for execution.  It is during his journey to Rome that he writes the seven letters which we have from him.  During a stop in Smyrna, he receives visitors.  He then writes farewell letters to the Christians in the towns which the visitors came from, to be read by them to the communities upon their return.  He'll write four letters from Smyrna and an additional three letters while staying in Troas.  Of the seven letters, six are addressed to towns, and one addressed to a specific person (St. Polycarp).
  1. The Letter to the Ephesians asked them to show obedience to their Bishop, Onesimus (who was probably the slave whom St. Paul sent back to his master, Philemon, with the letter we consider part of Scripture).  Ignatius places emphasis on participation in the Eucharist, and he gives us the great quote, "The Eucharist is the medicine of immortality".
  2. The Letter to the Magnesians stressed obedience to their Bishop, Damas.  He exhorted them to be sincere in their Christian life and to beware of Judaizers (a group of radical Jewish Christians who saw Christianity as simply a sect of Judaism).
  3. The Letter to the Trallians showed his concern about Docetism (a heresy that held that Jesus only seemed to be human; that he did have two natures, but the divine nature won our over the human nature).  He stressed the Incarnation of Christ: fully God and Man, and asked the people to stay loyal to their bishop and priests.
  4. The Letter to the Romans has a different tone: there the church has order and they're not struggling with heresies.  He shows reverence and respect for the Bishop of Rome.  Knowing that he's going to be killed in Rome, he asks them not to try to interfere or attempt to free him.  This is the most famous of Ignatius' letters, with the quote, "Suffer me to be eaten by the beasts, through whom I can attain to God.  I am God's wheat, and I am ground by the teeth of wild beasts that I may be found pure bread of Christ."  He also refers to the guards assigned to him as "leopards", who become angrier with him as he gets kinder to them.
  5. The Letter to the Philadelphians urges unity and loyalty.  There's lots of problems in Philadelphia, amongst them the problems of both Judaizers and Docetists.  He stresses that there be one Eucharist only, since there had probably been "rival" Eucharists established.  "Abstain from evil growths,", Ignatius writes, "which Jesus Christ does not tend, because they are not of the planting of the Father."
  6. The Letter to the Smyrnans is full of many references to particular people, since Ignatius spent some time there in confinement, and thanks them for kindness shown to him.  It is in this letter that we first hear the term "Catholic Church": "Wherever the bishop appears let the congregation be present; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. (καθολική εκκλησία)."
  7. The Letter to Polycarp of Smyrna is almost a companion to the previous letter.  Ignatius' and Polycarp's friendship goes back to the days of being with St. John.  Ignatius is giving Polycarp advice on how to exercise the office of Bishop.  He uses lots of similes, among them he compares the episcopacy with athletes:  "'Bear the sicknesses' of all as a perfect athlete.", and, "Be sober as God's athlete."
Eventually, Ignatius gets to Rome and is killed in the lion pit.  His followers collected whatever pieces of his remains that they could, and brought them back to Antioch in Syria.  Eventually some of his remains made their way back to Rome, and you can still visit them, should you visit the Eternal City.  St. Ignatius' head (or at least a skull believed to be his head) can be found in the sacristy of the Gesù, while an arm of Ignatius' is under the main altar in the church of San Clemente, along with the remains of Pope St. Clement.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Things that (could) make you go, 'hmmmm'

One of the Widgets on my iMac is a webcam that shows me St. Peter's Square.  As I write this, it's 3:19am in Rome, and the light is still on in the window of the Pope's study in the Apostolic Palace.

Is something up?  Probably not.  If he was awake, my guess is that the light in Msgr. Gänswein's office (the window to the left of the Pope's study window) would be on as well.  When the Pope is awake, nobody sleeps in the Casa Pontificia.  My guess is that he went to bed and somebody left the light on.

But it makes you think: With the Synod going on, would the Holy Father "pull an all-nighter" to study?

Feast of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

From a letter by St. Margaret Mary:

"For the Sacred Heart is an inexhaustible fountain and its sole desire is to pour itself out into the hearts of the humble so as to free them and prepare them to lead lives according to his good pleasure.

From this divine heart three streams flow endlessly.  The first is the stream of mercy for sinners; it pours into their hearts sentiments of contrition and repentance.  The second is the stream of charity which helps all in need and especially aids those seeking perfection to find the means of surmounting their difficulties.  From the third stream flow love and light for the benefit of his friends who have attained perfection; these he wishes to unite to himself so that they may share his knowledge and commandments and, in their individual ways, devote themselves wholly to advancing his glory.

This divine heart is an abyss of all blessings, and into it the poor should submerge all their needs.  It is an abyss of joy in which all of us can immerse our sorrows.  It is an abyss of lowliness to counteract our foolishness, an abyss of mercy for the wretched, an abyss of love to meet our every need."

While we're at it, here's St. Margaret Mary herself, in the Shrine of the Sacred Heart in Paray le Monial, France.

16 October 1978-2008

It was thirty years ago today...

Also, here are some photos from the movie screening held this evening in the Paul VI hall.  As I reported in an earlier blog entry, this was a screening of the docu-drama based on the memoirs of Cardinal Dziwisz of his 40+ years with Pope John Paul II.

(Thanks to Reuters and the Associated Press for the pictures)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Because it's not like he has anything else to do, right?

From the Zenit News Service:
A Blogging Benedict XVI?
Chinese Laywoman Makes Proposal at Synod

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 14, 2008 ( One of the auditors at the world Synod of Bishops has suggested that Benedict XVI opens a blog to explain the word of God in an attractive way.

The proposal was made today by Agnes Lam, president of the Catholic Biblical Association of Hong Kong.

Among her suggestions to promote the word of God so that the faithful can come to know Christ, she included the blog proposal, bringing smiles from many of the bishops.

She invited "the Holy Father to open a multi-language blog to shepherd today's world: [a] daily scriptural verse with [a] simple reflection, brief text and plentiful images."

Lam also suggested other means for spreading knowledge of the Bible.

Above all, she recommended simple methods of meditation in a complex world. As examples, she suggested reciting verses of the Bible and lectio divina.

"Reading the Bible is like eating," Lam said, "a homemade soup prepared with love and time is delicious, while fast food is tasteless."

A few personal thoughts here:
  1. The man has enough to do with, you know, running the Church.  Besides, there are at least a dozen books out there which are collections of his reflections on Sacred Scripture.
  2. He thinks, theologically, on a whole different plane then 90% of us.  A reflection from him that is "simple" and "brief" requires him to spend time essentially "dumbing it down" to the level of theological neophytes.  Plus, to ask for pretty pictures is a little insulting; I don't think he needs "filler space".
  3. We don't need something straight from the Pope every day; this is what he has bishops for!  On the diocesan level, I think a daily scripture reflection would be a great thing.  People could submit their e-mail addresses to receive periodic reflections from their local Bishop.  Come to think of it, it could also be done on the parish level, for that matter.  The New Evangelization at work!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving... our Canadian readers!

Columbus factoids

Did you know...
  1. Christopher Columbus' son, Ferdinand, said that his father was so strict in his regimen of prayer and fasting that he could have been mistaken for a member of a religious order.  He may have even been a Franciscan Tertiary.
  2. At first, Columbus had little luck in finding royal patronage for his proposed expedition.  Early in 1492, he and his son, Diego, ended up begging at a Dominican monastery at La Rabida.  At the door, Columbus asked if he could do some work in exchange for food and a bed for he and his son.  The conversation was overheard by the Prior of the monastery, Fr. Juan Perez, who also happened to be the Confessor to Queen Isabella.  Fr. Perez made the connection between Columbus and the Queen, who had Columbus presented to King Ferdinand.
  3. On August 3, 1492, the Feast of Our Lady of the Angels, Columbus departs Spain on his voyage.  Before doing so, he and his crew went to Confession and received Holy Communion.
  4. We all know the names of Columbus' three ships, but did you know that the full name of the Santa Maria was "Santa Maria de Immaculada Concepcion"?
  5. Columbus' first words upon reaching land in the new world was a sailor's prayer: "Blessed be the light of day, and the Holy Cross we say; and the Lord of Verity, and the Holy Trinity.  Blessed be the light of day, and He who sends the dark away."
  6. Columbus and his crew discovered land on October 12, 1492, the Feast of Our Lady of the Pillar, the Patroness of Spain.  Columbus had said that if he didn't find land by that date, he would turn around and head back to Spain.
  7. Diego Columbus, Christopher's younger brother, would eventually become a Catholic Priest and work in the West Indies.
  8. Tradition says that Ferdinand & Isabella gave the gold first brought from the new world to Pope Alexander VI as a gift, which was used to adorn the ceiling of the Basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome.

JP2 film

In the midst of the Synod going on in Rome, a press conference just began (12:30pm Rome time = 6:30am east coast time) to present a film based on the book, "Testimonal: A Life with Karol" by Pope John Paul's longtime private secretary, Stanisław Cardinal Dziwisz.

The film has a website where you can see a trailer.  Click HERE.

In fact, I just found this blurb from a Polish News Agency:

Pope Benedict XVI will be one of the guests of honour at the premier in the Vatican, October 16, of the film version of the best-selling 2007 memoir by Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, retelling his experiences serving John Paul II over many decades.

Testimony tells the true story by JP II's long-time secretary, friend and closest witness to the most important events of his pontificate in documentary form, plus dramatic re-enactments of some of the most important events of his papacy.

The movie reveals details not told in the original memoir, including memories of Karol Wojtyła's childhood and youth. It also depicts previously unknown and poignant moments from the Pope's private life.

The film uses documentary materials and dramatized reconstructions of events to tell its story, including an in-depth interview with Cardinal Dziwisz himself. The whole film is tied together with a narration by British actor Michael York.

Directed by Pawel Pitera and produced by Przemysław Häuser, with an original score composed by Vangelis and Polish popular musician Robert Janson, Testimony will be released in Poland on October 17. 

The date of the premiere at the Vatican, October 16, coincides with the 30th anniversary of Karol Wojtyla being elected to lead the Roman Catholic Church. He became Pope John Paul II at 17.17 CET, October 16, 1978.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Homecoming Homily

This is the approximate (because I go "off the page" at times) homily I gave at the Grotto Mass for the 2008 Priests' Homecoming at Mt. St. Mary's Seminary:

Mount Homecoming Homily
Thursday of the 27th week of Ordinary Time
Gal 3:1-5 and Luke 11:5-13
October 9, 2008

The first thing I did, upon being asked if I would preach at this Mass, was to ask, "What readings are we using at Mass?"  I was told, "Whatever ones you want."  So I checked the Ordo, and found out that there's three options today:
  1. The Feast of St. Denis, a martyr
  2. The Feast of St. John Leonardi, founder of what we know as the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, the Church's main missionary arm.
  3. Thursday of the 27th week of Ordinary Time
This, I thought, was perfect for diocesan Priests.  Why?

Tradition tells us that St. Denis, upon being beheaded, carried his head out of Paris to a nearby village.  In our ten years of Priesthood, I'm sure there have been many times that we've had our heads handed to us, whether by irate parishioners who didn't get their sponsor certificate, or a pastor who was annoyed because we dared to use the word "contraception" in a homily, or even by someone in the chancery.

Luckily, this was something the Mount prepared us well for - having our heads handed to us after a Fr. Mindling medical ethics test, or a Msgr. Satterfield final exam, or a Dr. Houghton Canon Law exam, or when we didn't know the difference between the eastern and western Syrian liturgies in Fr. Gross' class.

Church history tells us that St. John Leonardi founded not only the Society for the propagation of the faith, but also the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine.  That's appropriate, too, since each of us have done our share of teaching the faith to young and old alike.

But, realistically, the most appropriate thing to do is to use the readings for Ordinary Time, if for nothing else than to acknowledge the fact that we, the Class of 1998, are pretty ordinary parish Priests.

Pope Benedict, on the balcony following his election to the papacy, called himself a humble worker in God's vineyard.  For the past three weeks, the "vineyard" has come up again and again.  This, too, is appropriate for our Priests' Homecoming.

Three weeks ago, we heard the Gospel about the owner of the vineyard who calls worker at all hours of the day.  How many of us can think of our own classmates in the seminary, some older, some younger?  Then there is that great line in the exchange between the vineyard owner and the angry worker, "Are you envious because I am generous?"

For my classmates, we can look back and realize how generous God was to us in our years here at the Mount:
  • Fridays off in our first semester of First Theology.
  • Pope John Paul's visit to the U.S. in 1995, and being able to be with him at Camden Yards and St. Mary's Seminary.
  • The visit of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta to the Mount, and the chance to hold her hand even for a moment.
  • Our class' trip to Rome and being able to attend Mass with Pope John Paul in his private chapel.
  • Having Rectors like Monsignor Ken Roeltgen and Father (now Bishop) Kevin Rhoades.
  • The generosity of Confessors who heard our sins and forgave them, whether at St. Joe's in Emmitsburg, or Father Ed Gaffney hearing confessions in I.C. chapel every morning at 6am.
  • Not getting thrown out by Dean of Men like Father Kennedy or Father Gross when we came in after curfew.
  • To be here for the start of what would become Mount 2000, and how many young people have come (or come back) to Christ because of these retreats?
Two weeks ago, we had the Gospel in which two sons were asked to go into the vineyard to work, with one saying yes but not doing it, and the other saying no but changing his mind.
How many times has that been us?  Whether saying we'll study for a test or attend some parish function, but with no intention of actually doing it.

Last week, it was the Gospel of the vineyard owner looking for his share of the produce.  He sends workers, and eventually sends his son.  The vineyard is not ours; it's been leased to us.  But the vineyard is ultimately God's.

On one hand that's freeing.  We can become self-centered, thinking it's all about us.  This reminds us we can't do everything ourselves.  But on the other hand, it also means that God, as the owner, can ask his laborers to to something we don't necessarily want to do.  It's his vineyard; he's allowed to do that.

So how do we do it, when God asks the undesired or unwanted task?

Today's Gospel is the continuation of yesterday's Gospel (Luke 11).  It started off with Jesus praying, and the apostles asking him to show them how to pray.  He responds with the Our Father.  But that's not all.  In the same breath he gives another part: the commands to "ask", to "seek", and to "knock".

So it's praying as well as doing.  The supernatural along with the natural.  The contemplative with the active.

Plus, Jesus says we must do it with persistence.  Not just a flash in the pan for instant gratification.  Like the man in the gospel, we have to keep beating on that door, not giving up until the person inside opens up.  Maybe it's persistence in studying until you "get it".  Maybe it's that person in our parish who we can't get through to, and it'll require a persistent effort.  Sometimes, it's even us who shut the door on God, and in that case we have to be humble enough to let him in.

Why do we do it?  That we'll find in next week's Gospel: The King calls us to the feast.

In this year dedicated to St. Paul, I would risk a haunting by Sr. Joan Gormley if I didn't at least paraphrase some part of the first reading:

Like St. Paul, I ask, "Oh, stupid class of 1998, who has bewitched us", so that ten years of Priesthood has come and gone in a flash?  How many joys, sorrows, and moments of illumination and glorification have occurred in the 125 months since we left this mountain?

Ten years ago, formed here in faith and the Law, we went out into the world to tell the good news.  We did so in parishes, schools, and colleges in archdioceses and dioceses around the U.S., even at the National Shrine in Washington and emerging dioceses in Russia.  All the while, every day, repeating the words we heard as the Responsorial Psalm, the words we say in Morning Prayer.  Truly God has been good to us.

To the seminarians, I remind you of words written in two polar opposite locations:
  • In the bonechurch of the Capuchin's Church of the Immaculate Conception in Rome, where the remains of the brothers are out for all to see in decorations, there is a placard at the end which reads: "What you now are, we once were.  What we now are, you will soon be."  This should be written under every class picture in the halls of the Mount.  Today, you are the inhabitants of this hallowed building, but soon enough you'll be just a picture on the wall.  Your years here are God's gift to you.  Make the most of them, because they will go by so fast. [NOTE - in the actual homily, I said "slow", but I meant to say fast, and did correct myself]
  • The second quote can be found in the locker room of the Montreal Canadiens, the great National Hockey League franchise.  On the locker room wall, surrounded by pictures of past Stanley Cup winning teams and hall of famers, are the words, "From failing arms we hand you the torch.  Be it yours to hold high."
So that, whether God calls you to be a martyr, a missionary, or just plain ordinary, you may be a good son of the Mount.

Brodeur website

Oh, happy day!

My "inner hockey geek" pocket has been filled!  Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils now has his own website!  Lots of pictures of him, statistics, even stories from his father.  Some of it still has "coming soon" posted, but the potential of what could be on the website is pretty great.

Check it out!  Click HERE.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Back from homecoming

I got back last night from the annual Priests' Homecoming for Mount Saint Mary's Seminary.  In my ten years of priesthood, I think I've gone to seven of the ten homecomings.  They're always a great opportunity to "recharge the batteries", as well as visit towns from my past:  Emmitsburg, Gettysburg, and Thurmont.

Two things were different this time, both because of the fact that this was the 10th anniversary of ordination for me and my classmates.  The first thing was that seven of us from the Class of 1998 got together a day early for dinner at a rectory in the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia.  The homecoming is always nice, but there are just too many people there to have any meaningful conversation (usually it's literally, "Heyyyy!  How are you?  How've you been?  All going well? Great.  See ya.").  This dinner gave the seven of us a chance to hang out together before attending the homecoming, and it was a great idea.  What was it like?  Ever see the movie "Sleepers"?  Remember the end, after the trial was over, when the gang got together for dinner?  How they spent the whole night reminiscing about the past, before heading back to their lives?  That's all I could think about as we were sitting there.  We spent four years of our lives together, before heading in separate directions to begin our lives as parish Priests.  Ten years later, I treasure these guys. 

The second thing was that I was asked to preach at the alumni's Mass at the grotto, up above the Seminary.  Members of the 10 year class usually celebrate the Mass and preach the homily.  I received a phone call about two weeks ago from the seminary, asking me to preach.  An honor?  Yes.  But preaching in front of Mount alumni Priests, a seminary faculty with more degrees than a thermometer, and the most critical crowd ever: seminarians!  No pressure there, eh?

Some have asked me to post the homily, but I preach from notes that are in my own little system of "shorthand".  Let me write it out in a legible way, and then I'll post it.  The bottom line is that it was a great two days.  God is good.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Goin' Home

This morning I'm heading back to Mount St. Mary's Seminary for the annual Priests' Homecoming.  This year, being the 10th anniversary of my class' ordination, we'll get some attention paid to us.  Add to that the fact that this year is the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Mount, and it should make for a great time.  I'll be back in the blogosphere on Thursday.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

99% effective = 1% failure

Sitting here between Masses, I just watched a commercial about some new contraceptive (a plastic thingee) that, whatcha know, promises to help women escape from the difficult task of having to remember to take a pill every day.  It's advertised as being "99% effective".  So what does that mean?

Well, let's run the numbers.  I'm thinking, mathematically, that "99% effective" means, if a woman using the contraceptive has sex once a week (something the "Sex in the City generation" would consider pitiful), that within two years of starting the contraceptive, the law of averages will catch up on her, the contraceptive will fail, and she'll become pregnant.  Of course, this'll happen sooner if she's more sexually active.  Then what happens?

Am I missing something here?  Then again, I'm also the guy who figures that milk that is 2% lowfat still has 98% to account for.

Diogenes on The "Hesburgh Generation"

The ever-elusive Diogenes has an interesting blog entry, written in reaction to an interview done by the Wall Street Journal with Father Theodore Hesburgh, former President of Notre Dame.  If you want to know more about what he means by "Hesburgh is an archetype of his post-war generation of clergy", click HERE.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

word(s) of the day

From Wikipedia:

Half-time (also written halftime or half time) is the name given to the interval between the two halves of the match. Typically, after half-time teams swap ends of the field of play, in order to reduce any advantage that may be gained from wind or a slope to the pitch, for example. While it exists mainly to provide competitiors to rest briefly and recover from the play of the first half, half-time also serves a number of other purposes.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

You wanna know how much more work we still have to do?

I got this in an e-mail from a friend who is in charge of altar servers in his parish:
One of my altar servers mothers called, to say that she wants to remove her daughter from the schedule because they only go to mass when she serves and since I now require them to sign in, they no longer want to serve.  I guess that they only go to church once every 5 weeks.....

October 1 - Feast of St. Therese

My day off, so no big entry today.  My diocese is blessed to have the presence of a Carmelite monastery in Flemington, NJ.  On this feast of that cloistered Carmelite, click here to go to their website and learn more about their life.