Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Freedom of Choice Act: How it's playing overseas?

From Gerald Warner of the London Telegraph:
"To anyone who kept his head, the string of Christmas cracker mottoes booming through the public address system on Washington's National Mall can only excite scepticism. It is crucial to recall the reality that lies behind the rhetoric. Denouncing "those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents" comes ill from a man whose flagship legislation, the Freedom of Choice Act, will impose abortion, including partial-birth abortion, on every state in the Union. It seems the era of Hope is to be inaugurated with a slaughter of the innocents."

Monday, January 26, 2009

Our "Catholic" Speaker of the House: Contraception needed (until the economy gets better)

This comes to us from Drudge Report.  And, with an homage to Father Z., my emphases are in red:

Sun Jan 25 2009 22:13:43 ET

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi boldly defended a move to add birth control funding to the new economic "stimulus" package, claiming "contraception will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government."

Pelosi, the mother of 5 children and 6 grandchildren, who once said, "Nothing in my life will ever, ever compare to being a mom," seemed to imply babies are somehow a burden on the treasury.

The revelation came during an exchange Sunday morning on ABC's THIS WEEK.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Hundreds of millions of dollars to expand family planning services. How is that stimulus?

PELOSI: Well, the family planning services reduce cost. They reduce cost. The states are in terrible fiscal budget crises now and part of what we do for children's health, education and some of those elements are to help the states meet their financial needs. (None of which will see their budgets drop if we stop conceptions from taking place.  If Speaker Pelosi is true to those intentions, then the answer is to kill children aged age 1 through perhaps 7.  They're the ones who need immunizations and schooling)  One of those - one of the initiatives you mentioned, the contraception, will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government. (and I bet Herod's kingdom's economy improved, right?)

STEPHANOPOULOS: So no apologies for that?

PELOSI: No apologies. No. we have to deal with the consequences of the downturn in our economy. (in other words, "You didn't buy enough iPods or make good on your mortgages, therefore you must be punished.")

Note from Father Jay- Those of you who want to bookmark the website for the Archdiocese of San Francisco, so you can be ready for the reprimand from her Archbishop, can click HERE...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

St. Agnes Day tradition

Another lesser known tradition took place yesterday at the Vatican.  Each year on January 21, the Feast of St. Agnes, two lambs (in Italian, agnelli) are blessed by the Pope.  The lambs' wool will be used to weave the Pallia presented, on June 29, to those Metropolitan Archbishops who were named in the past year.  According to the daily press bulletin issued by the Vatican, "The Pallium is a liturgical sign of honor and of jurisdiction worn by the Pope and by Metropolitan Archbishops in their churches [i.e., their Archdioceses] and in those of their Province.  It is made up of a band of white wool on which stands out six crosses in black wool."

The blessing took place following the Wednesday General Audience, and is obviously more than just a passing "quickie event", as evidenced by the fact that the Holy Father took the time to put on a rochet, mozzetta, and stole.  While there is a rite of blessing that takes place, I haven't been able to find the blessing published anywhere, probably because only the Pope does it.  I suppose we can call that.....

wait for it...


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Yes he did (again)

Photo: Pete Souza/The White House

In yesterday's blog entry about the oath of office being maimed by the heads of our nation's executive and judicial branches (and Lord only knows what would've happened if Congress got their hands on it), I wrote...
I'll make you a bet there's going to be a very quiet ducking into a small room in the Capitol, where he'll recite the oath again in its entirety.
Well, Drudge Report has this tidbit today about the scene at the White House last night:
At 735 pm, Roberts administred the oath of office again to Obama in the map room. Robert gibbs said the wh counsel, greg craig, believes the oath was fine Tuesday, but one word was out of sequence so they did this out of a "an abundance of caution." "We decided it was so much fun..." Obama joked while sitting on a couch. Obama stood and walked over to make small talk with pool as roberts donned his black robe. "Are you ready to take the oath?" Roberts asked. "I am, and we're going to do it very slowly," obama replied. Oath took 25 seconds. After a flawless recitation, roberts smiled and said, "congratulations, again." Obama said, "thank you, sir." Smattering of applause. "All right." Obama said. "The bad news for the pool is there's 12 more balls."

January 21 - Feast of St. Agnes

In the catacombs beneath the Basilica of Sant'Agnese Fuori le Mura, one can venerate a sarcophagus containing the relics of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr (who died about the year 305).  This picture come to you from a postcard I bought whilst visiting the Basilica back in 2006.

She has two well known churches named for her in Rome.  The other, Sant'Agnese in Agone, is located in the Piazza Navona, and is more frequently visited than the other one.  She was beheaded in Domitian's Stadium (which was the forerunner of the Piazza), and then taken outside of the city walls to a cemetery (where the photo above was taken).  While the above sarcophagus contains her body, her skull is venerated in the Piazza Navona Basilica.

Fr. Zuhlsdorf has a great blog entry about all of this.  Check it out by clicking HERE.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Did he or didn't he?

I haven't seen the replay on YouTube yet, but I don't think Barack Obama said the whole oath of office.

Whether it was the Chief Justice's nervousness (it was his first Presidential oath of office, too), or the President-Elect's nervousness, I don't think he spoke the first part of the oath.

Now, do we have a leader?  Yeah.  But I'll make you a bet there's going to be a very quiet ducking into a small room in the Capitol, where he'll recite the oath again in its entirety.

In the meantime, the conspiracy kooks can decide whether "Bush's Chief Justice" intentionally screwed it up, whether Bush is still President, or whether Dick Cheney masterminded all of this from his wheelchair.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Reuters: Vatican to get own YouTube Channel

Read the article HERE

Just until after January 20. Then it's OK?

WUSA9 story: "'Prostitution Free Zone' During Inauguration"

Jan. 17 - St. Antony of the Desert

Today's feast day fools some people, who see "St. Anthony" in the Mass listing in their parish's bulletin and presume this is feast day of the Franciscan from Padua.  Not so.

This Anthony (or Antony) is from the 3rd century and considered the founder of monasticism (not too shabby).  His life story was written by Saint Athanasius, and is available in bookstores or by ordering online.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Jesus Price?

ESPN magazine's latest issue has a cover story on Carey Price, the Montreal Canadiens' number one goalie.

Because of his occupation to make "saves", and apparently because his last name has one syllable and a "hard I" sound, they've taken to calling him "Jesus Price".

It's an interesting story, showing how hockey in Quebec has pretty much taken the place of the Catholicism as the predominant religion of the people.  At the very least, out of the two choices, it's the one they're more likely to be proud about, defend the most vehemently, and even attempt to evangelize you towards.

Read the article by clicking HERE.

"Which is easier?"

Today's Gospel from Mark 2:1-12 gives us the story about the paralytic healed by Jesus after he was brought to his home (imagine for a while being the next door neighbor of Jesus Christ) and lowered through the roof by four friends.

The Gospel tells us that Jesus saw "their faith", the faith of the men who carried their friend to Jesus' home, and because of that faith, told the paralytic, "Your sins are forgiven."  A great thing to remember: we can bring our friends to Christ (physically or spiritually) and our efforts can have an effect.  But that's not why I wrote this.

"Which is easier?" is what Jesus responds when the Scribes in his home watch him have the audacity to presume to forgive the sins of the paralytic.  Of course he could forgive the man's sins, but that's another topic, too.  I love that line, "Which is easier?"

Our culture says that whatever is easier must be better.  A meal that is cooked in 2 minutes, 30 seconds in a microwave must be better than a meal that takes forty-five minutes to prepare.  A workout plan that involves twenty minutes of exercise a day must be better than a workout plan that involves an hour at the gym.

In our faith life, we can fall into the same trap.  On Sunday, it's "easier" to stay inside and relax than to get everyone up and dressed and into the car for Mass.  It's "easier" to tell my sins to God directly then to have to get to the church for Confession.  It's "easier" to read what the secular news writes about some new Church document than it is to download the document and read the pages myself.  For a clergyman, it's "easier" to use a, shall we say, "certified previously owned" homily than it is to write a new one for the weekend.

Easier? Definitely.  But better?  Nope.

We take the lesson from Christ.  It would have been easy for him to simply say to the paralytic, "Your sins are forgiven."  It's challenge-proof; who would be able to tell if they were forgiven or not?  But, as the Gospel relates, "knowing the thoughts of the Scribes" (I love that part; there's no fooling God), he chooses to do the more difficult of the two things:  He heals the man.  Interesting, isn't it?  For the faith of the four friends, he forgives the paralytic's sins; for the disbelief of the scribes, he heals his body.  The paralytic neither asks for anything nor says anything in today's Gospel.  He "rises, picks up his mat, and walks away".

Now, all we've gotta figure out is who's gonna fix Jesus' roof?

Today's Office of Readings in the breviary

"Cold northern blasts he sends that turn the ponds to lumps of ice.  He freezes over every body of water, and clothes each pool with a coat of mail."

(from the Book of Sirach, Ch. 43)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

US Airways plane crash into Hudson River

OK, now that the news reports are all in agreement that the passengers and flight crew are all safe, I can begin to laugh.  I laugh because I am such a fraidycat when it comes to flying, and maybe this is my defense mechanism.

News reports talk about how this might have been caused by damage to the engines caused by (to quote one news reporter) "a flock of seagulls".

I know he probably meant a flock of geese, but you know what that made me think of...

I mean, really, if these guys were on a plane with you, wouldn't you opt for bailing out?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

RIP - Pious Lakes (1922-2009)

The announcement was made in Rome of the death of Pio Cardinal Laghi.

Laghi had been Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education from 1990 to 1999.  Before that, he had been both Apostolic Delegate and then (once President Reagan established formal diplomatic relations between the United States and the Holy See) Nuncio to the United States from 1980 to 1990.

Wanna know my "Pio Laghi" story?  I've got two, really.

The first one happened in my seminary days.  In September of 1995, Cardinal Laghi paid a visit to Mount Saint Mary's.  The Rector of the Mount, Msgr. Ken Roeltgen, wanted to host a lunch for the Cardinal, the faculty, and some seminary benefactors following Mass.  A few of us had already made a name for ourselves by doing some outrageous cooking in the community kitchen; you can only eat cafeteria food so many times a week. Msgr. Roeltgen ended up asking us to cook the lunch for the reception.  It was late summer, sweet tomatos were abundant, and so I made a 
nice Insalata Caprese for everyone.  Though I was down in the kitchen and never saw it, I was later told that the Cardinal's face lit up when he saw the tomato, mozzarella, and basil salad.  Since then, "Cardinal Laghi" means "Caprese salad" in my brain.

Fast forward about 5 years for my second story.  I was in on vacation Rome with my pal Fr. Guy Selvester, who is the best guy (no pun) to have around if you want to spot a Cardinal on a crowded Roman street.  We were walking away from the colonnade of St. Peter's heading towards the Borgo Pio, when he says, "Hey, there's Cardinal Laghi!"  So we went over and introduced ourselves as Priests of the Diocese of Metuchen.  His face lit up as he recognized the diocese's name and said, "Ah, yes, you are a young diocese, but already on your third bishop."  Afterwards we marveled that, ten years removed as Nuncio to the United States, he could get approached out of the blue and asked a question about a diocese and he had something intelligent to say.

Cardinal Laghi's funeral is scheduled for St. Peter's Basilica on Tuesday.  Riposino in Pace.

(If the post's title confused you, in Italian, pio = pious and laghi = lakes.  So Pio Laghi = pious lakes)

Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

From a sermon by St. Gregory Nazianzus, bishop:

"Christ is bathed in light; let us also be bathed in light.  Christ is baptized; let us also go down with him, and rise with him.

Today let us do honor to Christ's baptism and celebrate this feast in holiness.  Be cleansed entirely and continue to be cleansed.  Nothing gives such pleasure to God as the conversion and salvation of men, for whom his every word and every revelation exist.  He wants you to become a living force for all mankind, lights shining in the world.  You are to be radiant lights as you stand beside Christ, the great light, bathed in the glory of him who is the light of heaven.  You are to enjoy more and more the pure and dazzling light of the Trinity, as now you have received - though not in its fullness - a ray of its splendor, proceeding from the one God, in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be glory and power for ever and ever.  Amen."

Friday, January 09, 2009

"We are born to die."

Thus begins a 2000 essay by Fr. Neuhaus entitled, "Born Toward Dying", that has taken on a poignancy with his passing yesterday.

Read the essay by clicking HERE.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Neuhaus update

The First Things website reports that Fr. Neuhaus died about 10:00 this morning.

Eternal Rest grant unto him, O Lord...

Father Neuhaus

Word is out and about in the blogosphere about the hospitalization of Father Richard J. Neuhaus.  Depending on whose blog you read, he's either (in the words of the Beatles) "getting better all the time" or (in the words of Bob Dylan) "knock- knock- knocking on heaven's door".

My favorite "Neuhaus moment" came back in April of 2005, when he served as "color commentator" for EWTN's coverage of the Conclave.  Just after Cardinal Medina-Estevez announced to the world the election of Joseph Ratzinger, an open microphone caught Neuhaus' spontaneous  joy of that moment in a disbelieving, "Oh my God!".

God be with you, Father.

Got Death?

It seems that, since January arrived, we've had funeral after funeral (sometimes two a day).  For some reason, the time immediately after Christmas seems to be the time when a disproportionate amount of people die.  I suppose, for Catholics, the hope and optimism that Christmas brings might be enough to get those facing death to deliberately will to "hold it off".  Others, maybe, don't want to die around Christmas, so their families won't associate Christmas with their passing.

Any other parish Priests facing the same situation?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Monday, January 05, 2009

"Hello, Neumann"

Today's Feast of St. John Neumann has special relevance here in New Jersey.

But just what part of the Garden State was Neumann the shepherd of?

The story goes like this:  Originally the American colonies were considered mission territory of the Diocese of London.  Then that little thing we like to call the "American Revolution" happened.  Following the establishment of the United States, Rome creates the Diocese of Baltimore in 1788 for the pastoral care of Catholic Americans, with John Carroll as the first Bishop.  By 1808,  the population has gotten too huge, and on April 8, Pius VII creates the Dioceses of Boston, New York, and Bardstown, whilst bumping Baltimore up to an Archdiocese (remember why Pope Benedict came to the U.S. last year?  It was for the bicentennial of that 1808 split).

So how was New Jersey affected?  The pastoral care of New Jersey Catholics was shared by the Dioceses of New York and Philadelphia, with the state split according to the original 1664 English colonial land grant to Lord Berkeley and Sir George Carteret, which created the territories of "East Jersey" and "West Jersey".  At first, this ambiguous division worked, since few Catholics actually lived along the east/west border; most were pretty clearly in the vicinities of either New York or Philadelphia.  But by the 1820s, the population of the central part of the state by Catholics begged the question, "Who's in charge here?"  The Papal Bulls establishing the Dioceses of New York and Philly were of no help; they simply referred to East Jersey being part of New York, and West Jersey being part of Philadelphia.  Eventually a bishop was dispatched from Rome to solve the dispute, and a line from Easton, Pennsylvania, to Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey, was defined as the diocesan border between New York and Philadelphia.  This was confirmed by Pope Gregory XVI in 1834, and remained this way until 1853, when Pius IX made New Jersey its own See as the Diocese of Newark. 

What it means is that Neumann was bishop of a part of New Jersey for seventeen months, from the day of his Episcopal Consecration as Bishop of Philadelphia on March 28, 1852, until the Newark Diocese's establishment on July 29, 1853.  How much of New Jersey?  The entire modern day counties of Cape May, Cumberland, Salem, Gloucester, and Camden, and parts of the counties of Warren, Hunterdon, Mercer, Burlington, Ocean, and Atlantic.  Today, those counties make up all of the Diocese of Camden, and parts of the Dioceses of Trenton and my own Metuchen.

OK, enough history for today.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Gives "Cross-check" a whole new meaning

Jan. 4 - Feast of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

I know, we lose her feast day this year to the transferred Feast of the Epiphany.

Still, it's good to remember her feast day. So how about some pictures of the Basilica built in her honor down in Emmitsburg.  Also, in looking through the blog's archives, I found this entry about her feast day, written two years ago.

Happy feast day, Betty.

Friday, January 02, 2009

NHL Winter Classic

A blog comment asked me the question, "What did you think of the Hockey game at Wrigley yesterday?"

Good question.

Pond hockey is something Americans "don't get", unless you live in the northern one-quarter of the United States.  My hockey experiences growing up included a little bit of pond hockey, but winters rarely got cold enough for ponds to freeze solid.  We were content carrying our shovels along with our gear and cleaning off the asphalt of the basketball court before we played.  Once in a while we treated ourselves, and rented a municipal ice rink in the wee hours of the morning.  We'd try to grab some sleep (but not too much, lest we oversleep and miss playing), then play from 3-5am, then hit the diner for some breakfast and to defrost ourselves, before heading home for some sleep.

A Canadian I play with once told me that ice rinks in Canada are as numerous as basketball courts are here in the U.S.: there's one (or more) nearby every Canadian kid's house.  Those with some land in the backyard (and a dad who was willing) had a part of their yard set aside as a rink each winter.  Last year the Staal brothers brought cameras back to their own backyard rink to explain the role it played in their love for hockey.  YouTube has it:

To understand the Winter Classic, imagine if the Yankees and Mets played each other in some little league ballpark.  Or, imagine if the Giants and Jets had a game on a Pop Warner field.  That's the closest metaphor I can think of in other sports.  Most, if not all, of these NHL players grew up playing pond hockey, whether it was in Canada, the U.S., Russia, Sweden, etc.  Now that the NHL has expanded to the southern United States, one wonders what'll happen when the inevitable kid who grew up in Atlanta, San Jose, or Raleigh, makes the NHL, and has no memory of cold winter afternoons spent playing in driveways, streets, or on ponds.

It's good for the game of hockey in the U.S., because it wreaks of nostalgia.  It's a major undertaking to build a professional hockey rink in the middle of a football or baseball stadium, and to be honest, the seating in a ballpark is horrible for watching a hockey game.  It's about watching adults (whether they are 18 or 19 like Patrick Kane or Jonathan Toews, or as old as 46 year old Chris Chelios) play outside.  But it's good old shmaltzy fun.

For those of us who play recreational hockey, at times on rinks that are partially enclosed, it's a blast watching NHL players deal with the same things we deal with: fog, freezing cold, soft spots on the ice, etc.  For a moment, we put ourselves in their shoes (well, their skates, actually) and think for a second that we can do what they do.

In this day and age when kids are more likely to be found playing virtual sports on a Nintendo Wii than actually playing the sport itself (and they wonder why we have a childhood obesity problem?), kids begin to think that every swing of a bat they'll take will be a home run off a 100 mile an hour fastball.  It's only when (and if) they head to a batting cage and actually try to hit a 100mph ball that they realize how much harder it is to actually do what they were pretending to do so well on a computer.

OK, now for the Theology metaphor:  In this Christmas season, we focus on God lowering Himself to become a man (something which Abp. Fulton Sheen once said was the equivalent of a human being choosing to become a dog).  The Winter Classic lets us think, for a second, that the pros have become "just like one of us".  Maybe, after watching it, I may try to lift my game up by trying to become more like the a player I just watched.   If Sidney Crosby or Ryan Miller or Kane and Toews, or Henrik Zetterberg or Chris Osgood can inspire a hockey player to strive to improve their game, then what should my attitude be when I contemplate the Word made flesh?  How does He call me to "elevate my game"? 

Who thought hockey could be "incarnational"?

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

Some may ask, "Why does Pope Benedict wear
that big tall miter,
that huge cope,
and that frilly surplice?"

The answer is simple:
Because he can.

"end of the Christmas Octave",
and a blessed new year to all!

(Photo by Andrew Medichini/AP)