Friday, October 30, 2009

"I'm Catholic, though there are some issues I disagree with the Church about."

How many of us have heard the statement? We sometimes treat the Church's teachings like we treat traffic laws: "I'm all for stopping at red lights and staying on the right side of the yellow line, but I don't think the 65 mph speed limit is something I have to follow."

A friend of mine, Fr. Greg Shaffer, is the Catholic chaplain of George Washington University in Washington, DC. On his blog recently, he gave the basics on the corner you paint yourself into once you think that disagreeing with Church teachings is perfectly acceptable:

1) The teachings of the Catholic Church are from the Holy Spirit.
Neither student knew the answer to this question: "when did the Catholic Church begin?" The answer is 33 A.D. The Church began at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles. The Lord promised to send the Spirit, "the Spirit of truth" who "will guide you to all truth" (Jn 16:13). The Spirit of truth has been guiding the Church for 2000 years. This guarantees us that what the Church teaches us is Truth. All of her teachings in faith and morals are free from error. They are the Truth!

2) The teachings of the Church are the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Our Lord gives the authority to the Apostles to continue his teach in his name and in the name of Heaven. He does this first with Peter (the first pope): "Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Mt 16:19). He gives the same authority to the other Apostles (the first bishops) in Matthew 18:18. They have passed down this authority to their successors (popes and bishops) for 2000 years...this is know as Apostolic Tradition. This unbroken tradition guarantees us that what the current pope and bishops teach is from Christ himself.

3) Christ and the Church are one.
Jesus makes this clear in the Gospel (e.g., "I am the vine, you are branches" - Jn 15:5). This point is also made by St Paul throughout his letters (e.g., "Christ is the head of the body, the church" - Col 1:18). Christ is the head, the Church is the body. Because Christ and the Church are one, what we say about the Church is what we say about Christ. If we disagree with the Church, we disagree with Christ. But, the more we are with the Church in mind and heart, the more we are in union with Christ.

Finally, a spiritual point about the Church and Christ that is also practical in our modern world. Think about what got Christ killed. Why was he crucified? What did he do wrong? He didn't do anything wrong. All he did was speak the truth. People either weren't ready for it or they didn't want to hear it. So, they killed him for it. He was hated and crucified by the world because he spoke Truth. The same has happened to his body, the Church. The Church is hated and crucified every day by the world because she speaks the truth. Many people still don't want to hear the truth even though "the truth will set you free" (Jn 8:32). Knowing that this would bring about his death, Jesus spoke the truth in love. The Church continues to do this in the modern world.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sorry that I've "gone silent" for a week. It was a bit of a tough one, with the death of a friend of mine. Ben Wickes was first my Scoutmaster, then a fellow adult leader when I was active in Boy Scouts. In those years he also became a "another father" and a friend. A week ago today he suffered a series of heart attacks (on his birthday, how's that?) and died on Tuesday morning. I celebrated his funeral Mass yesterday, following a wake that had become a reunion of Boy Scout Troop 31 of Port Reading. Others, now living a distance away, made their feelings known through things like Facebook. It was good to see everyone again, even in sad circumstances; it's exactly what Ben would've wanted: laughter, old stories, etc.

So now that week is over, and tonight was supposed to be the start of the Metuchen Diocese's Priest Convocation. Unfortunately it was cancelled, because the scheduled speaker, Fr. Tom Acklin, OSB, had some health concerns. Like many of my brothers, we'd already found coverage for our parish's Masses in anticipation of being away, so I'm still taking the days for a little "mini retreat" down at my alma mater, Mount St. Mary's Seminary. Be back mid-week.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Ezekiel 36:26

Please remember in your prayers Fr. Richard Lyons, Judicial Vicar of my diocese (and retired Pastor of St. John's in Dunellen), who will be undergoing heart transplant surgery today at 3pm.

UPDATE - Weds., 10/14: After making it through the surgery, he's doing well in the IC Unit.

ANOTHER UPDATE - Thurs., 10/15: He's been talking to visitors and is already being scheduled for physical therapy.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Bishop Michael Saltarelli (1932-2009)

This past Thursday, retired Wilmington (Delaware) Bishop Michael Saltarelli passed away after a battle with cancer. I feel the need to tell you about my friend.

I was a college seminarian at Seton Hall back in the early 1990s, and by the time I arrived it was a "house job" that college seminarians served the 11am Mass each Sunday at Sacred Heart Cathedral (not yet a Basilica back then) in Newark. A good number of my friends were natives of south Jersey, and (since we were free on weekends) many of them spent the weekend in places like Deptford, Williamstown, and Bridgeton. Since I lived only about 25 minutes from the cathedral, I had no problem substituting for them on the serving schedule. I mean, how could you not absolutely love serving at a Mass in one of the true gems of ecclesial architecture, feasting your eyes on the stone and stained glass and your ears on the Cathedral choir that sang at the 11? As a result, I was at Sacred Heart for many 11am Sunday Masses, which was also the Mass that then-Rector Bishop Saltarelli usually celebrated.

It was a joy to serve at that Mass and especially to serve Mass for Bp. Saltarelli. He was always in a good mood, always friendly, always asking questions about how seminary life was going. In that huge cathedral sacristy, I watched him deal with many people, occasionally switching to Italian or Spanish in the process. Today's Gospel spoke about the rich young man who approaches Jesus, asking what he must do to inherit eternal life. I wondered, at one or two of my homilies this weekend, about how he had come to that moment, and opined whether it may have been the witness of a few of the apostles or disciples that led this man to approach Jesus to help satisfy the yearning he still felt in his soul. I told the Mass attendees that we'll never know what it was that he saw that got him to think, "Jesus has the answers I'm looking for!", and that we should never underestimate the power we have to bring others to Christ by our actions and words which are seen by people we don't even know are watching. Bishop Saltarelli was one of those "witnesses" whose character brought many to Jesus Christ.

After I graduated Seton Hall, we continued to keep in touch, whether I visited him during seminary breaks or by letters. In my years after ordination, we had lost contact, though I always tried to call him on his birthday. The last time I saw him was at the funeral of my bishop's mother. We exchanged pleasantries, and talked about me coming down for a visit. It never happened. Like John Lennon wrote, "Life is what happens when we're busy making other plans." Still, he was one of those guys whose example formed my understanding of Priesthood. A fatherly figure. A man of faith. An apostle.

May he rest in peace.

Veritatis Splendor revisited

Today's Gospel exchange between Jesus and the rich young man was the "springing off point" for Veritatis Splendor, Pope John Paul II (remember him?)'s 1993 kick@$$ encyclical on morality. In First Theology at Mount St. Mary's, we spent the better part of the semester reading this in our Moral Theology class.

OK, he used Matthew's version of the story (we read Mark's today), but you get the idea.

"They have lavished choice portions upon the priests."

Well, not exactly, but this is still worth noting.

To all my brother Priests out there (especially those in the Diocese of Metuchen who read this --- I know you're out there), the Daughters of St. Paul are giving Priests a 20% discount this coming week (October 12-17) on anything you buy in their Edison store. It's their way of commemorating the Year for Priests.

Thank you, Sisters!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Star Ledger Article

Today's Star Ledger has a front page article about Opus Dei. Unlike most of what is printed in the mainstream media, this seems to be a pretty positive piece, with an interview of Seton Hall University professor John Coverdale (A numerary of Opus Dei) and the series he taped for EWTN along with Damon Owens. Owens, in fact, recently came to my diocese for seminars on marriage and same sex unions. He's no slouch, either, when it comes to public speaking.

October 6 - Feast of St. Bruno

Today's feast of St. Bruno made me think of a few things, which I thought I'd share. It is my blog, after all.

First is that you need to see the movie, Into Great Silence, the award winning documentary which showed the life of Carthusians at Le Grand Chartreuse in France. I've shown it at adult ed programs, and it always intrigues people (plus, they love when I bring along bottles of green and yellow Chartreuse, you know, to show our support of the monks).

Next is this statue of St. Bruno:

In St. Peter's Basilica

I love this one. A few times, Pope Urban II tried to get his former teacher to accept appointment to the episcopacy. Bruno always refused, which is wonderfully depicted as Bruno repulses from the putto trying to get his attention to hand him a miter and crozier.

Finally, those who may want to know more about Carthusians can also check out their website.

Monday, October 05, 2009

October 5

A great day for readings today. But first, a "cheat sheet" on the readings used at Mass. If you need it, read it, if not, skip over it.

Sunday readings have a theme running through them. The First Reading, Responsorial Psalm, Second Reading, and Gospel are chosen to convey an idea, a thought, well... a theme.

Weekday readings, on the other hand, come together almost by chance. First, let me say that by "weekday readings", I mean the readings used at Masses for the days of Ordinary Time. Readings for the Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter seasons and the readings for Saints' feast days are more like Sundays in that regard. When the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council decided that it would be a good thing that the readings at Mass exposed Catholics to more of Sacred Scripture, the Lectionary cycle was created so that one could hear just about all of Scripture at one time or another over a five-year period (Sunday Readings are on a three-year cycle, whilst Weekday Readings are on a two-year cycle).

I loved today's readings together. The readings from Jonah and Luke's Gospel paired off very nicely.

  • Jonah had every reason to preach to the Ninevites (I mean, God asked him to do it), and ran the other way.
  • The Good Samaritan had every reason to walk the other way (given the tensions between Jews and Samaritans), and still forgot about what was going on in his own life in order to care for the man.
What a great lesson in our own lives of the hundreds of little "forks in the road" that we face. Do I help this person or not? Do I engage in the gossip or not? Do I wander on the internet or not? Do I check on my elderly neighbor or not? Do I go to this meeting or not? Our holiness is not in making one big decision well, but lots and lots of little decisions well.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Feast of the Guardian Angels

No, not THOSE Guardian Angels.

Fresh off of the Feast of the Archangels on September 29, essentially the top of the angelic hierarchy, today we reflect on the angels assigned to each and every one of us.

Peter Kreeft of Boston College had a great catechesis on angels, worth rereading today:

"A woman clothed with the sun"

The Home News Tribune has a photo essay of artists completing a mosaic mural outside St. Mary's Coptic Orthodox Church in East Brunswick, NJ. Check it out by clicking HERE.

Ambassador Diaz with the Pope

This morning, our new Ambassador to the Holy See presented his credentials to Pope Benedict. Rome Reports has footage.