Saturday, September 26, 2009

B16 in Prague

Pope Benedict arrived in the Czech Republic for a two day visit.

Yortuk and Jorge Felstruk were nowhere to be found.

Sts. Cosmas and Damian

Today's feast of Sts. Cosmas & Damian brought to mind (besides the thought to use the 1st Eucharistic Prayer at Mass) the Basilica bearing their names in Rome, located in the shadow of the Colosseum. Since 1998, it has been the titular church of Giovanni Cardinal Cheli, the retired President of the Vatican's Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants.
EXTRA CREDIT: When Cardinal Cheli was named to the Sacred College in '98, he was named a Cardinal Deacon, and (as Canon Law permits) after ten years, he petitioned the Holy Father, and was raised to the level of Cardinal Priest in 2008. He turns 91 this coming October 4.
This Basilica was the first to be converted into a church by using two buildings of the Roman Forum in 527 by Pope St. Felix IV. Originally, one would enter the church from the Forum itself. Now one enters from the main street: the Via dei Fori Imperiali.

Here are some pictures I found on the internet:

The Basilica's entrance, with the coats of arms of Pope Benedict and Cardinal Cheli under the arch and above the doors.

The ceiling of the Basilica has a fresco of Sts. Cosmas & Damian being welcomed into Heaven by the Virgin & Child. The coat of arms of Pope Urban IV is featured in lots of places in the Basilica: It was during his pontificate (1623-1644) that a major renovation took place. Pope Urban was a member of the Barberini family, and so the Barberini bees can be found all over the place.

The apse mosaic in the Basilica is one of the oldest (from the 5th century), and most famous in Rome; one which artists through the centuries modeled their apse designs upon in churches throughout the city. The photograph above is the depiction of Christ in center of the mosaic. Dressed in a Roman toga of gold, he stands out from the background of the blue nighttime sky and purple clouds. In his left hand is a scroll, giving him the classic pose of a Greek orator.

St. Peter is escorting St. Cosmas (or maybe St. Damian) towards Christ (though not in the picture, to the left of Christ, St. Paul escorts the other brother). St. Peter is in the white robes of heaven, while St. whichever is in red and violet robes, carrying the crown of martyrdom in his hands. The artist depicts both Cosmas and Damian in matching robes and with near identical features, emphasizing they were, in fact, blood brothers. The sheep underneath are part of a herd of 12 sheep (representing the apostles), facing the Lamb of God in the center. Where is artwork like this in churches today?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Warts and all

This is a great commercial commissioned by the government of Singapore. Sometimes it's the imperfections of a friend/spouse/sibling that we love (and will miss) the most.

Chaplains wanted. No queue in sight

Click this link for an interesting article in today's London Times about the difficulties the British Army is having in recruiting Anglican chaplains.

The problem? A lack of vocations under the age of 30.

But I thought that a church that allowed women clergy, married clergy, and expressed tolerance to homosexuals was supposed to be bursting at the seams with vocations?

Apparently not.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

St. Pio of Pietrelcina: Not too shabby, either!

In this Year for Priests, Pope Benedict has held up St. John Vianney as a role model for parish Priests, and rightly so. But today's feast day of St. Pio of Pietrelcina gives us another great example of Priesthood.

In today's Gospel, Jesus gives the "travel restrictions" of the day: "Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic." Who better exemplified this than St. Pio, who saw himself only as "a poor Friar who prays"?

Like Vianney, the crowds found Pio in a tiny, obscure corner of his native country. Like Vianney, Pio spent hours in the confessional (also like Vianney, he was not afraid to throw someone out of the Confessional if they hadn't prepared themself). But unlike St. Jean-Marie, Pio also spent hours at his desk, corresponding with those who, though unable to make the journey to San Giovanni Rotondo, wrote him letters asking for prayers and counsel (one wonders what his influence would have been, had he been born 30 years later and had internet access?).

"Pray, hope, and don't worry." Happy Feast Day!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

September 22

The readings at Mass today revolve around God's house: Ezra's account of the re-dedication of the Temple, the re-establishment of the Levitical Priesthood, and the first celebration of the Passover since the Babylonian exile; Psalm 122's "Let us go to God's house rejoicing"; Mary and Jesus' "brothers" waiting for Him outside the house he's in. It made me think of these things:
  1. Realize how awesome it is to have God, as the prayer goes, "in all the tabernacles of the world".
  2. Each year, thousands of people travel to Rome and wait on line just to be in the same hall as the Pope; to be in his presence. Jesus Christ gives Himself to us in the Eucharist each day; not just to be in the same room with Him but to consume Him and make him part of us.
  3. Mary and the others are trying to get close to Jesus, but the crowds are in their way. What's in our lives that gets between us and Christ?
  4. His family gets a message to Him. We have ability to send Christ a message whenever we want. It's called prayer.
  5. Jesus tells the crowd that anybody who hears the Word of God and acts upon it has His attention just as much as someone related to Him. Is there anyone (or anything) in our lives that competes with God for our attention? What do we do about that?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Feast of St. Matthew

I was driving around on my day off about two weeks ago, listening to Archbishop Dolan's radio show on Sirius/XM's Catholic Channel. He was asked the question, what was his favorite piece of religious art? He responded with the above painting: Caravaggio's "The Calling of Saint Matthew", painted around 1600.

It can be found in the Rome's Church of San Luigi dei Francesi because a French Cardinal, Matthieu Cointerel, desired to be buried in a side chapel there, and left money for the decoration of the chapel (which he wanted to reflect his patron, St. Matthew). The Cardinal died in 1585 without any work having been done to the chapel in the way of adornment. Another artist received the commission to do the paintings first, but he dragged his feet too long and was booted off of the job. In 1599, Caravaggio received the commission for the chapel. The painting is one of three done by Caravaggio for the chapel (the others being Matthew's martyrdom and St. Matthew with an angel), but the "Calling" is the most well known. All three paintings were done by 1602.

San' Luigi dei Francesi was established as the church for French nationals living in Rome (In fact, the Cardinal titular of this church has traditionally been the Archbishop of Paris), and is passed by most people on their way either from the Piazza Navona to the Pantheon, or vice versa. There's actually a nice supermarket around the corner from it, which is a great place to buy snacks and drinks for yourself (and those Baci chocolates for friends back home ) cheaper than snack bars sell them to tourists.

On St. Matthew's feast day, it seemed appropriate to post this on the blogosphere.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What goes through every priest's head as things come to life in a parish after Labor Day

Sts. Cornelius & Cyprian

From the Prayer Over the Gifts for today's feast. I thought the second part of it was a great "thought for the day":

"Lord, please receive the gifts that your people offer in honor of the sufferings of your holy martyrs. May what provided Saints Cornelius and Cyprian with courage in their suffering also give us strength in the midst of our trials. We ask this through Christ our Lord."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Seven Sorrows of Mary

  1. The prophecy of Simeon
  2. The flight into Egypt
  3. The three days the boy Jesus was missing
  4. The meeting between Jesus and Mary on the way to his crucifixion
  5. The crucifixion of Jesus
  6. The taking down of Jesus from the Cross, being placed in the arms of Mary.
  7. The burial of Jesus

Friday, September 11, 2009

September 11, 2009

OK, so this morning I wasn't really in the mood to write anything about 9-11. Besides, I thought (and I still think) that what I wrote back in 2007 kind of "said it all".

But then I went to Old Bridge Township's memorial service, and it got my creative juices flowing. So here's some random spewing:

Yes, pray today for the almost 3,000 who died. Pray for the repose of their souls. Pray for their families who still miss them.

But remember some other aspects of what happened on September 11, 2001:

  • Remember what could have been: The number of employees in the World Trade Center when the planes hit was far higher than the actual number of fatalities. Trying their best, terrorists were only able to kill a portion of what they intended.
  • Remember that the terrorists planned their evil deeds for months ahead of time. With no time to prepare themselves for what would happen that day, people in the Trade Center and Pentagon who faced a life threatening situation deliberately chose to help others escape, rather than only think of themselves and run. How about the Police, Firefighters and EMTs who did the unthinkable and ran INTO the buildings? It took months for the terrorists to prepare to do evil; it took seconds for the heroes to decide to be heroic.
  • Remember the generosity of shopkeepers in lower Manhattan, who opened their doors and allowed anyone to have their inventory. Shoe store owners told running ladies in their heels to grab whatever sneakers fit them, so they could run faster. How many stores gave out water and food? How many furniture shop owners gave recliner chairs and couches so the rescue teams had places to rest? Remember how blood banks announced that "they were full", and asked people no wait until the current supply of donated blood passed its shelf life to donate again.
  • Remember who people flocked to their houses of worship. Remember how Confessions spiked. Remember how weekend Masses had the numbers usually reserved for Christmas Eve or Ash Wednesday night. If only for a moment, God was back in peoples' lives.
Many of the politicians I heard at the memorial this morning said that September 11 is a "sad" day. But I also think it was a day that showed us what we are capable of when we stop thinking of ourselves and start thinking of our relationship with others (as well as our relationship with God). I suppose you can look at 9/11 as a "glass is either half-empty or half-full". I began the day in the "half empty" camp; I finished thinking "half-full".

8 years later

It's a nasty, windy, rainy day today. Much different than eight years ago. Tuesday, September 11, 2001, was a sunny, kind of "reminds you of summer", day.

A few years ago, I wrote about that day (and the days that followed). Here's a link to what I wrote two years ago.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

A bit blurry (it was early), but here's a photo of the Blessed Mother altar, all dressed up for her birthday yesterday morning.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mary

From a homily by St. Andrew of Crete:

"We are no longer to be enslaved by the elemental spirits of the world, as the apostle Paul says, or held in the yoke of slavery to the letter of the law (Col 2,8 ; Rom 7,6). This is the summary of the benefits of Christ for us; this is the unveiling of the mystery; this is nature made new: God is made man, and human nature assumed by God is deified. But so radiant, so glorious a visitation of God to us needed some prelude of joy to introduce to us the great gift of salvation. The present feast is such: the prelude is the birth of the Mother of God, and the concluding act is the union which is destined between the Word and human nature.

A virgin is now born..., and is made ready to be mother of God, the king of all for ever... A double gain will be ours: we shall be led towards the truth, and we shall be led away from a life of slavery to the letter of the law. How will this be? Clearly, inasmuch as the shadow yields to the presence of the light, and grace introduces freedom in place of the letter. The present feast stands on the border between these: it joins us to the truth instead of signs and figures, and it brings in the new in place of the old.

Let the whole creation therefore sing praise and dance and unite to celebrate the glories of this day. Today let there be one common feast of those in heaven and those on earth. Let everything that is, in the world and above the world, join together in rejoicing. For today a shrine is built for the Creator of the universe. The creature is newly made ready as a divine dwelling for the Creator."

Saturday, September 05, 2009


In the Gospel for Sunday, Jesus opens the ears of the deaf man with a word, some spitting, some groaning, and his fingers. It was a moment that struck St. Peter as so awesome that, years later in conveying the story to St. Mark, Peter could remember the very word Jesus used. Mark must have been moved by Peter's passion in telling the story, because he himself made point of including "Ephphatha" in his account of the event.

Words have power. Speeches by FDR, Churchill, JFK, etc., can still be bought on CD. Sometimes it's the event, and not necessarily the person, that makes the words memorable (such as Neil Armstrong's, "One small step for man; one giant leap for mankind."). Remember last January and the kerfuffle when President Obama misspoke the words of the Oath of Office? How he retook the oath later on that evening? There was a question that, if he did not speak the proper words, despite the election and the electoral college's confirmation, he was NOT the President. That's how powerful words can be.

In the Church, words not only have natural power, but also supernatural power. The words a couple says in the exchange of vows ties the Sacramental bond. The words of absolution that a Priest says in Confession can free the contrite soul of sins. Of course, the words of Christ at the Last Supper, "This is my body; this is the cup of my blood", has been making possible Christ's Real Presence in the Eucharist for close to two millennia.

The healing of the deaf man only came after Christ had spent some time alone with the Apostles. Mark tell us this when he says that Jesus and the twelve "left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Decapolis." It'd be like saying you went from New York to Boston by way of Chicago (something not so odd if your job requires you do a lot of air travel). One biblical scholar estimated that such a trip took close to eight months to do. Why did the Lord take the long way? Perhaps he wanted time alone with the Apostles. Only then, without distractions, could their own ears "be opened" and they could hear God's voice.

What about us? Are our lives so full of events and noise that we can't hear God? Would we be willing to wait eight months if God told us to? Our culture and our nature says, "I want it NOW", but what happens when God says, "Not yet"? But I digress.

This week, make a deliberate attempt to choose your words deliberately. Write a letter rather than pound keys on a keyboard (can anyone out there say they can recognize the handwriting of a friend or relative?).

Speaking of words, please pray for the tormented soul who left a dollar in our poor box, covered front and back with some of the most foul things one could write about the Blessed Mother. It must've been dropped into the box at the 4:30pm Mass, because I can still smell the magic marker scent on the dollar. Absolutely diabolic.

Friday, September 04, 2009

You lose some, but you win some

The Baltimore Sun has the story about Episcopalian nuns in Catonsville, Maryland, who have been received en masse into the Roman Catholic Church. The members of the All Saints Sisters of the Poor were received by Baltimore's Archbishop Edwin O'Brien.

Read the article by clicking HERE.

21st Century Challenges for Priests

Zenit News Service has part one of an interview with Fr. Nikolaus Schöch, who works at the Apostolic Segnatura. Interesting insights, such as:
  • "one must bear in mind that the parish itself -- and sometimes the diocese, too -- despite its autonomy, cannot remain isolated, particularly in these times when so many means of transportation and communication are available."
  • "Timetables should be based not so much on priests' convenience, but on people's needs, considering work and school hours. For example, there is not much point in offering the sacrament of penance only during work hours, if this means that exclusively elderly people will be able to attend."
  • "No parish priest can fully carry out his mission in an isolated or individual manner, but only joining forces with other priests, under the direction of Church authorities."
  • "Mutual understanding and assistance, and even relationships, between older priests and younger ones, are desirable and should be especially fostered."

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Saint Gregory the Great

I apologize, o faithful readers of this blog, for my negligence in posting things for YFs everywhere to feast upon (as well as those who read the blog for other reasons). Once the Feast of the Assumption comes around in the life of a parish Priest, the summer lull has ended and the workload picks up again. This year, especially, I've been occupied in getting my first glimpses of the different groups, ministries, etc., here at St. Lawrence. I hope to be more regular in the future when it comes to launching things into the blogosphere. The whispers tell me it will be a memorable autumn, so hang in there and don't stop coming back to check for new entries.

Today's feast reminded me of the altar in St. Peter's Basilica in which St. Gregory's remains are interred. Not much to write about today, but here are a few pictures for your viewing pleasure. The first one is the table to be found at the Church of St. Gregory the Great in Rome (technically called the "Church of Saints Andrew and Gregory on the Coelian Hill"). This is traditionally a table from which Pope St. Gregory served food to the poor. The bottom two pics are his tomb in St. Peter's.