Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Merry Christmas, new arms!

A few years ago, as a gift for the 10th anniversary of my Priestly ordination, my pal, Fr. Guy Selvester (author of the blog Omniapost, Rector of the Shrine Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament in our diocese, and a pretty well-known figure in heraldic circles in the U.S. and overseas) designed a coat of arms for me.  As I wrote in a previous blog entry, last October I became a member of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.  My coat of arms changes to reflect this, and so Father Guy has reworked my arms to reflect the change.  Here it is:

  • The decoration of a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre is obviously the new addition.
  • The black galero (hat) identifies me as a Priest.
  • The ecclesial rank of "Priest" is shown heraldically by two tassels, one on either side of the shield.  The two tassels on either side identify me as a Vicar Forane (a.k.a. a "Dean", the Bishop's representative/liaison for a specific geographic territory), an office to which my Bishop has appointed me for a term.  When I am no longer Dean, two of my tassels will disappear.
  • The burning bush commemorates my roots in Judaism.  The moment in salvation history represents God's call given to Moses.  But the bush has also been seen as an foreshadowing of Christ.  Probably the most well known artwork which shows this adorns the Paul VI Audience Hall in the Vatican, in a bronze and brass sculpture called "The Resurrection" by artist Pericle Fazzini.  No, the sculpture in Rome is not one of my favorite pieces of artwork.  It can mean God's call to me to enter the Catholic Church, His call to the Priesthood, or the constant call to holiness that all of us receive.
  • The top of the shield is black, the color most associated with Priests.  The gold fleur-de-lis are symbols of the Blessed Mother as well as the emblem of the Boy Scouts of America. The crescent, a symbol of the Immaculate Conception, appears in the coat of arms of Seton Hall University, at which I attended the College Seminary of the Immaculate Conception at St. Andrew's Hall.  The black upper is separated from the yellow lower by a series of small mounds, which represents my major Theology alma mater, Mount Saint Mary's Seminary.
  • The motto below, "Love in Deed and in Truth", comes from 1. John 3:18.
I want to publicly thank Father Guy for his artwork.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Feast of St. Stephen

"Grant, Lord, we pray,
that we may imitate what we worship,
and so learn to love even our enemies,
for we celebrate the heavenly birthday
of a man who knew how to pray even for his persecutors."

The Gospels are tough, and now so are Opening Prayers.

Merry Christmas

Monday, December 19, 2011

A "heat event"?

This is a great link to a story I do not imagine the media will be covering, the possible discovery of the remains of Sodom and Gomorrah.

The Sacred Page: Sodom and Gomorrah Excavated: By far the most interesting session at the recent Society of Biblical Literature Congress in San Francisco was one I wandered into by chance...

Saturday, December 17, 2011

"To go to a penance service, not tell your sins to a Priest, and leave thinking your forgiven is like going to the Emergency Room, not telling the doctor what hurts, and leave thinking you're all better!"

Last week's bulletin

Monday, November 28, 2011

Must've been a Kindergarten teacher

An Associated Press article about the revised translation included this gem:
Kathleen McCormack, a church volunteer and former school teacher, said she didn't like the new translation and didn't understand why the church needed a translation closer to Latin. "Consubstantial? What is that word?" McCormack said, referring to a term in the retranslated Nicene Creed that replaces language calling Jesus "one in being with the Father."
Words are hard, aren't they?  They make us sad, don't they?  Maybe if I give you some crayons and a piece of paper, you can draw me a picture of how you feel.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Breviary and its obligation

In the seminary, our Liturgy of the Hours book (also known as the Breviary) came to be known as "the wife".  Besides the promise of respect and obedience to our bishop (who would change through the years), the other promise we made was to faithfully pray the Liturgy of the Hours each day.  The joke carried on: A guy who brought his brieviary to the cafeteria was "taking his wife out to dinner".  Two guys with their breviaries were "double dating".  I saw this on the Zenit site and thought it was interesting for those of us under the obligation to pray the Liturgy of the Hours.

Obligation of the Liturgy of the Hours

ROME, NOV. 22, 2011 (Zenit.org);  Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: I learned from an older priest that the breviary obligation binds a transitional deacon and priest under pains of mortal sin. I searched canon law and the General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours but found no clear answer. What is the right way to think of that? -- L.M., Etang Rey, Haiti

A: During the development process for the 1983 Code of Canon Law it was decided to remove expressions such as "under pain of mortal sin" with respect to the external prescriptions of Church law.  In part this was done to distinguish Church law and the moral law. Church law covers the external relationship of individuals in the Christian community. Since sin also involves internal factors, the law, in itself, does not bind under pain of sin.  This technical distinction does not mean that no sin is committed by transgressing Church law. The fact that the code no longer binds attending Sunday Mass under pain of mortal sin does not change the fact that willful and inexcusable absence is mortally sinful.

With respect to the obligation of the Liturgy of the Hours for transitional deacons and priests, the Congregation for Divine Worship on Nov. 15, 2000, issued a formal response to a doubt (Prot No. 2330/00/L) on this topic. This unofficial English translation was published by the liturgy office of the U.S. bishops' conference.  The congregation first makes a substantial affirmation regarding the nature of the Liturgy of the Hours:
"The integral and daily celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours is, for priests and deacons on the way to the priesthood, a substantial part of their ecclesial ministry.
"Only an impoverished vision would look at this responsibility as a mere fulfilling of a canonical obligation, even though it is such, and not keep in mind that the sacramental ordination confers on the deacon and on the priest a special office to lift up to the one and triune God praise for His goodness, for His sovereign beauty, and for his merciful design for our supernatural salvation. Along with praise, priests and deacons present before the Divine Majesty a prayer of intercession so as to worthily respond to the spiritual and temporal necessities of the Church and all humanity.
"In effect, even in similar circumstances, these prayers do not constitute a private act but rather form part of the public worship of the Church, in such a way that upon reciting the Hours, the sacred minister fulfills his ecclesial duty: the priest or deacon who in the intimacy of the Church, or of an oratory, or his residence, gives himself over to the celebration of the Divine Office effects, even when there may be no one who is accompanying him, an act which is eminently ecclesial in the name of the Church and in favor of all the Church, and inclusive of all humanity. The Roman Pontifical reads: 'Are you resolved to maintain and deepen a spirit of prayer appropriate to your way of life and, in keeping with what is required of you, to celebrate faithfully the Liturgy of the Hours for the Church and for the whole world?' (Cf. Roman Pontifical, Rite of the Ordination of Deacons).
"Thus, in the same rite of diaconal ordination, the sacred minister asks for and receives from the Church the mandate of the recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours, which mandate pertains, therefore, to the orbit of ministerial responsibilities of the ordained, and goes beyond that of his personal piety. Sacred ministers, along with the Bishops, find themselves joined in the ministry of intercession for the People of God who have been entrusted to them, as they were to Moses (Ex 17, 8-16), to the Apostles (1 Tim 2, 1-6) and to the same Jesus Christ 'who is at the right hand of the Father and intercedes for us' (Rom 8, 34). Similarly, the General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours, no. 108 states: 'Those who pray the psalms in the liturgy of the hours do so not so much in their own name as in the name of the entire Body of Christ."
The response adds some further historical and canonical background. It then addresses the central question of the obligation of the liturgy of the hours:

"Question #1: What is the mind of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments regarding the extension of the obligation of celebration or reciting daily the Liturgy of the Hours?
"Response: Those who have been ordained are morally bound, in virtue of the same ordination they have received, to the celebration or the entire and daily recitation of the Divine Office such as is canonically established in canon 276, § 2, n. 3 of the CIC, cited previously. This recitation does not have for its part the nature of a private devotion or of a pious exercise realized by the personal will alone of the cleric but rather is an act proper to the sacred ministry and pastoral office.

"Question #2: Is the obligation sub gravi extended to the entire recitation of the Divine Office?
"Response: The following must be kept in mind:
"A serious reason, be it of health, or of pastoral service in ministry, or of an act of charity, or of fatigue, not a simple inconvenience, may excuse the partial recitation and even the entire Divine Office, according to the general principle that establishes that a mere ecclesiastical law does not bind when a serious inconvenience is present;
"The total or partial omission of the Office due to laziness alone or due to the performance of activities of unnecessary diversion, is not licit, and even more so, constitutes an underestimation, according to the gravity of the matter, of the ministerial office and of the positive law of the Church;
"To omit the Hours of Morning Prayer (Lauds) and Evening Prayer (Vespers) requires a greater reason still, given that these Hours are the 'double hinge of the daily Office' (SC 89);
"If a priest must celebrate Mass several times on the same day or hear confessions for several hours or preach several times on the same day, and this causes him fatigue, he may consider, with tranquility of conscience, that he has a legitimate excuse for omitting a proportionate part of the Office;
"The proper Ordinary of the priest or deacon can, for a just or serious reason, according to the case, dispense him totally or partially from the recitation of the Divine Office, or commute it to another act of piety (as, for example, the Holy Rosary, the Stations of the Cross, a biblical or spiritual reading, a time of mental prayer reasonably prolonged, etc.).

"Question: What role does the criterion of 'veritas temporis' (correspondence to time of day) play concerning this question?
"Response: The answer must be given in parts, to clarify the diverse cases.
"The 'Office of Readings' does not have a strict time assigned, and may be celebrated at any hour, and it can be omitted if there exists one of the reasons signalled out in the answer indicated under number 2 above. According to custom, the Office of Readings may be celebrated any time beginning with the evening hours or night time hours of the previous day, after Evening Prayer (Vespers) (Cf. GILH, 59).
"The same holds true for the 'intermediate hours,' which, nevertheless, have no set time for their celebration. For their recitation, the time that intervenes between morning and afternoon should be observed. Outside of choir, of the three hours, Mid-Morning Prayer (Tertia), Mid-Day Prayer (Sexta), and Mid-Afternoon Prayer (Nona), it is fitting to select one of these three, the one that more easily corresponds to the time of day, so that the tradition of praying during the day, in the midst of working, be maintained (Cf. GILH, 77).
"By itself, Morning Prayer (Lauds) should be recited during the morning hours and Evening Prayer (Vespers) during the evening hours, as the names of these parts of the Office indicate. If someone cannot recite Morning Prayer (Lauds) in the morning, he has the obligation of reciting it as soon thereafter as possible. In the same way, if Evening Prayer (Vespers) cannot be recited during the evening hours, it must be recited as soon thereafter as possible (SC 89). In other words, the obstacle, which impedes the observation of the 'true time of the hours', is not by itself a cause that excuses the recitation either of Morning Prayer (Lauds) or of Evening Prayer (Vespers), because it is a question of the 'Principal Hours' (SC, 89) which 'merit the greatest esteem' (GILH, 40).
"Whoever willingly recites the Liturgy of the Hours and endeavors to celebrate the praises of the Creator of the universe with dedication, can at least recite the psalmody of the hour that has been omitted without the hymn and conclude with only a short reading and the prayer."

Monday, November 21, 2011

They grow 'em big in Slovakia

Check out this clip from a Boston Bruins game played on Veterans Day.

Not only a great moment put together for this soldier's parents, but a great idea of just how big Zdeno Chara is.  Six foot nine...  Plus skates.  Whoa.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The storm on the horizon and my grief about it

No, I'm not talking about weather.  For two times in the last four days, I've been contacted to anoint someone who is dying.  Certainly, this is not a problem; this is "what we do" as Parish Priests.  The two live in the parish boundaries, and no one is questioning the state of their health.  But here's what both have in common:

  • Neither appears on our books as a parishioner.
  • Neither had family members contact us that the person is at the end of their life (in one case, it was neighbors; in the other case, the hospice caregiver).
  • One of the two lived alone.  The other is living with children, who also aren't registered parishioners.
  • I know it's petty, but neither asked if we could come, but ordered a priest to come, as if they were calling for a pizza to be delivered to their home.
Priests reading this will probably recognize the situation.  The elderly, fairly Catholic, Mass-attending, faith-having believers are old and dying.  Their children (and grandchildren) don't attend Mass and don't see the need for it.  They see no need to come to Mass to pray for their sick loved ones, or even to stop in a church to spend some time with the Eucharistic Lord, and now, to keep their consciences clear, they want a Priest to come and give their loved one "last rites" (though they really don't know what that is or that we stopped using the term decades ago).

There's a generation of Catholics out there, generally in their 40s to 50s in age, whose years of religious education left them with nothing to turn to in their adulthood.  Back then, doctrine went out the window, only to be replaced with arts and crafts and music time.  They know very little about the Sacraments (if given a word pool, they could probably name all seven), and essentially don't see the need for them on our road to Heaven.  Church, for them, is a commodity, like bread, milk, or eggs: They like having convenience stores nearby that will sell it to them when they want it, but they certainly don't believe they have any dependence on it for survival.  And, since in their minds, "all eggs are the same", it doesn't matter whether we get our eggs at Quick-Chek or WaWas.  Faith is more about instant gratification than eternal redemption.  If Blah-Blah Bible Church has better donuts than St. Fillintheblank's, we'll go there instead.  After all, it's all the same.

I was having lunch with a Priest-friend who lamented about a morning meeting he had.  A woman called the office, requesting a sponsor certificate to be a Godparent.  She identified herself as a parishioner, though there was no record of her.  She was in a marriage not recognized by the Church.  Oh yes, and the baptism was four days away, in St. Louis!  The woman, of course, was not happy that she wasn't getting the sponsor certificate.  My friend opined, "And somehow, all of this is MY fault.", when we explain why they really shouldn't have a letter from the parish identifying them as a practicing Catholic.  Whenever we talk about inactive Catholics, it's almost always with a presupposition that the institutional Church is the reason they're away from the Sacraments.  No one dares say that the reason they've been away is because they chose to do so.  Yes, we've had plenty of talk about the "New Evangelization", but what I fear we're dreadfully unprepared for is the question of what happens when we preach the Gospel to our own team, and they choose to walk away?  Do we, like Christ, have enough of a conviction of our beliefs to let them go, as he did with those who did not understand his Bread of Life discourse?

If all of this weren't enough, the generation of "Catholic-in-theory" has bred.  Their children, having been brought up with the church as "location, not vocation", only know the church as a physical place, and not as the Divinely instituted community of heaven and earth (of which, by the way, they are already members through Baptism).  Truthfully, most have spent more actual hours in basements of churches going to religious education than in the church itself attending Mass and praying.  They have been sent to us to gain an understanding of the Triune God, of Jesus Christ, of the Church and all she professes, much like parents send their kids for lessons in piano or gymnastics (something they buy, but don't do themselves).  To these families, we spend lots of time attempting a kind of ecclesial-seduction: We schedule special Masses and confessions at the same time that their children normally attend religious education, hoping in our hearts that this will get them to begin a regular practice of their faith.  In reality though, we know that, if we do not schedule Sacraments while the kids are here, many parents will not do it for themselves.  In their minds, this is "what they pay us for."  We try to instill in the parents an understanding of the need to take their children to Mass.  To do this, we try things like a sign-in sheet at the door, or prayer slips that are supposed to be placed in the collection basket.  Parents, meanwhile, treat this as a game of Cat & Mouse, in which they do what they can to avoid Sunday Mass, yet at the same time trying to fool us into thinking they went.  It used to be that church and parents worked together for the children; now it seems we've become adversaries.

I know that there's a quote out there from Pope Benedict which says that the Church of the future will be "less populated, but more faith-filled".  Maybe in other parts of the world, but not in the United States.  Our crowd of marginal Catholics will continue to live their lives separate from the Church, coming around for Christmas Eve, Easter Sunday, Baptisms, 1st Communions, Confirmations, and funerals.  We'll allow it, avoiding any conversations about accountability or responsibility.

Truth is, we really don't want them to change their ways.  Uncatechized adult Catholics would require work, time spent instructing them in the Truth and destructing what they've come to believe as truth, and we don't want that.  Priests have a work schedule largely unaccountable to anyone, and many of them take advantage of that.  We'd rather take their occasional envelopes and go on making them feel that what they do is perfectly fine.  For their part, most of these marginal Catholics disagree with celibacy, the papacy, contraception, abortion, and moral absolutes, yet are unwilling to make the commitment of formally leaving the Catholic Church and going to a community that espouses those very things.  They want none of the rules but all of the privileges.  They haven't played one game of the regular season or playoffs, but they still want the champagne bath of a champion!

Please forgive this rant if you are one of those families who do go out of your way to fight the cultural tide and hang on to your Catholic faith.  I do know you're out there and that your decisions sometimes make you the "bad guys" to your kids and "religious zealots" to your neighbors.  None of this rant applies to you.  It's just that sometimes pastors feel like we work and work and work to get somewhere, and we're still right where we started.

Still, time marches on.  Little by little, the older generation dies, and THIS will be the next generation.  The generation that put $10. in their envelope each week will be replaced by the generation that puts $10. in an envelope 4-5 times a year.  Since Priests are also the managers of their parish's budget, this is something that will affect us all.  The stormclouds are on the horizon, I'm just sayin'.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

John 21:12

A link from New Advent took me to another blogger, who has an entry entitled, "50 of the World's Best Breakfasts".  Some look attractive, some I'd consider skipping, but all of them are interesting to see.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Bacteria trained to save art

Sacred art restorers have a new ally in their efforts to restore centuries-old frescos.  L'Osservatore Romano has the story of specially trained bacteria that eat the glue that had been used to do repairs in the past, but had done damage to the original paintings.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

New Bishop for Harlem

Not quite ours, but I thought it was interesting.

This morning, Pope Benedict appoint a new Auxiliary Bishop for the Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam in the Netherlands.  A neat reminder of the Dutch roots of New York City.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Just who said what today in Rome?

Much has been written today about the Vatican's supposed call for a central world bank.  Bob Moynihan of Inside The Vatican has a nice explanation of just what did come from Rome today:

The important piece of news out of Rome today is that the Vatican has allegedly called for a "central world bank" in reponse to the continuing speculation and instability in the world financial system.
I say "allegedly" because the text in which this call appears is not by Pope Benedict, but by a Vatican office, the Council for Justice and Peace. Such an office can issue papers which do not bear the Pope's "seal of approval" in the same way that a papal encyclical would.
We are dealing here, then, with something on the order of a "position paper," not a text containing authoritative magisterial teaching.
It is a serious document, worth weighing with real attention ... but not a document with binding doctrinal authority.
Nevertheless, after the Vatican released the document at a press conference this morning, the internet was abuzz with reports like ... one from Reuters, suggesting that this document's call for some controls over global financial speculation links the Vatican ideologically to the US protest movement "Occupy Wall Street" (!!!).
That's a bit of a stretch.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Newsflash: 84 year old Pope is old!

The big story at the opening Mass for the Synod on the New Evangelization was not the call for a "Year of Faith".  It was the fact that the Pope stood on the same moveable platform built for Pope John Paul II.  I think that makes it a 2nd Class relic, doesn't it?

MSNBC made a point of reminding us that the Pope is "aging" (add to that USA Today and the AP).  Gotta love those reporters.  You think they had anonymous sources?  You think they did any research, digging out the Pope's birth certificate?  Maybe they can send their ace investigators to find our President's birth certificate.

A few things to remember here:

  1. Yes, the Pope is 84 years old.
  2. The aisle of St. Peter's Basilica is long.  Walking up the center aisle would be about the equivalent of walking a football field from goalpost to goalpost.
  3. The Pope is 5'6 (without miter).  The platform raises him up another two feet, allowing people to see him other than those who squeeze onto the aisle.
  4. A crazy woman jumped the Pope a few Christmases ago.  The platform makes it harder for nutjobs to get at him.
  5. Staying on the "crazy" tangent, there are mothers who literally hold their infants out into the aisle, hoping to get the Pope to stop by them.  The platform stops what must be child abuse in some form.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Feast of St. Francis of Assisi.

I know, about four days after the feast.  But I was away during the middle of the week, and didn't have the chance to give some thoughts.  Well, one big thought, really.  I used this at the homily I gave at morning Mass.

I'm not sure how many of you are Star Trek fans, but the plot of one of the many movies jumped out at me early Tuesday morning, as I wondered what to preach about.  Remember Star Trek: First Contact, when the crew goes back in time (I know, they always go back in time) to make sure the Borg don't prevent Zephram Cochrane from making the first contact with a passing Vulcan ship?
Geek diversion: In the Star Trek world, Cochrane's experimental Warp Drive flight catches the attention of a passing ship of Vulcans, convincing them that humans are not so primitive and are ready to find out that they're not alone in the universe.  The Vulcans make the historic "first contact" with human beings.

Going back in time to stop the Borg from preventing First Contact, the Enterprise crew meet Zephram Cochrane, the man they grew up knowing as this almost mythical,  legendary figure.  In the future, there are monuments to him, high schools named after him, his theories are required courses in Starfleet Academy, and the place where his rocket took off has become a National Park and historic site.  But when they meet him, he's not the larger than life-pioneer-scientist they expected him to be.  He's a slob.  He drinks too much.  He flirts with the girls.  He likes Roy Orbison music.  He burps and makes other bodily noises.  When they tell him the truth about their mission there, he tries to run away.  It's all too much for him to comprehend.  He tries telling them, "I'm not a statue, I'm just a man!"

What would St. Francis say to us, if we all went back in time to meet him?  Certainly we'd all want to touch him, shake his hand, whip out our iPhones and snap a photo with him (preferably with a bird on his shoulders).  Maybe we'd tell him how his little Porziuncola is now surrounded by a mammoth Basilica.  Maybe we'd thank him for Nativity Scenes and "Make me a channel of your peace..." (Though he'd look at us funny, since he didn't write it).  Perhaps Francis would laugh, thinking we're joking.  He, too, might run away from all the attention, all this being too much for him to comprehend.  He, too, might say, I'm not a statue (or a stained glass window); I'm just a man."

Maybe we've made St. Francis "larger than life", too.  Maybe we've made him so out of our league when it comes to works and holiness that we can't even imagine genuine imitation of him.  Being so far out of our range makes him "safe", we all agree he's too unreachable so we all agree not to try.  Maybe we forget that the Saints were human beings like us, given the same graces, having the same weaknesses.

What if it were the other way?  What if Francis came to our time, came to your parish, came to a Mass you were at, and sat next to you.  Maybe you make small talk with him; maybe he introduces himself to you.  What if he tells you he came from the past to tell us that sanctity is possible?  What if someone else came and sat next to you at Mass, and told you they were from the future, and in their parish is a statue of you.  How would you react?

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Make your way to the movies!

Last Monday, I was invited to a screening of the movie, The Way, starring Martin Sheen and written, produced, and directed by his son, Emilio Estevez.  Why was I invited?  I wish I could tell you it was because I am an influential member of the Catholic media, or that I was going to have Sheen and/or Estevez on my old radio show (at times I do miss it).  Truth be told, my name is still on old contact lists for some media outlets that have Catholic connections, so off to Bensalem, Pennsylvania I went, bringing along my bud, Fr. Guy Selvester.

The movie begins with a father (played by Sheen) being told that his son (played in cameos by Estevez) was killed in a weather-related accident while making the ancient Camino pilgrimage from France and across Spain.  Once there to identify and bring his son's body home, Sheen decides to make the pilgrimage himself, bringing his son's cremated remains along on last "father/son" thing they would ever do.  Along the way, he meets people who both change him and are changed by him.

No surprise to anyone we're a sedentary society.  The same holds true for Catholics, who sit in a car to get to Mass, sit in a pew, and then sit in the car again to go home.  This movie reminds us of one of the most ancient and overlooked traditions of our faith: The pilgrimage.  Can anything else be more Christlike than to go from town to town, being welcomed into homes and eating what's there?  In the Q&A afterwards, Sheen put it this way: "People on pilgrimage tend to overpack, and as they walk, they discard what they find they don't really need.  It starts with things, but after a while, they start letting go of feelings: anger, hostility; things they've been carrying for 35 years."

It's a great movie, and I wholeheartedly recommend seeing it.  Just be prepared to hear that little voice in you question whether a pilgrimage wouldn't be good for you?  I know it did that for me.  For more information about the movie and where it is showing, click HERE.

Monday, October 03, 2011


Do not adjust your computer screens, people, yes, that's me all dressed up.  This past weekend I was invested into [deep breath] The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, at a ceremony at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan.  No, I didn't have to get on a horse (I know PETA would've called that animal cruelty).  I'm in the mozzetta that Priest Knights wear: white with the Jerusalem Cross in red on the side.  This picture was taken at the Vigil Service the day before, held at the Church of Our Saviour, also in NYC.  Bishop Barres of Allentown presided at that Mass, in which we were "presented" with the mozzetta.  The investiture Mass was done by Archbishop O'Brien, former Abp. of Baltimore, New York native, and the Pro-Grand Master of the Order (the "Pro" gets removed when he is created a Cardinal, which is practically a "done deal" by being named to the office), in the presence of Abp. Dolan of New York, and a bunch of other prelates.  In the picture, I'm not yet wearing the actual decoration, which hangs on a black ribbon around the neck.  We received that after the Investiture Mass.

For more information about the order, click on this LINK from the Vatican website.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Thoughts for this Sunday's Gospel

Again with the vineyard!  Two weeks ago it was about the vineyard owner's generosity in paying full day's wages to those who hadn't worked a full day.  Last week it was about his sons, one a whiner who ends up doing what he's told, and the other a sweet-talker who tells you what you want to hear but doesn't carry through.

This Sunday's readings give us our last glimpse into this vineyard, and we go out in style:  Isaiah gives us his friend's vineyard song, Psalm 80 is our Responsorial Psalm (all about a vine), and the Gospel tells about nasty vineyard tenant farmers who refuse to give the owner what he's owed from the harvest.

In the parable, Jesus makes a point of mentioning 3 attributes of the vineyard:
  • A hedge, which was almost always a thick thorn bush, deliberately chosen to keep out animals and discourage human thieves.
  • A winepress, used to crush the grapes and get the juice.
  • A watchtower, which not only gave a view to see any thieves approaching, but was a place to house workers.
Those details jumped out at me this weekend.  They're not really necessary for the point of the parable to be made, and yet we're told about them.  Let's focus on them:

The hedge.  From what has God been protecting us?

The winepress.  What has stubbornness done to us?  What does God have to "squeeze" out of us in order to obtain?

The tower.  Perspective changes everything.  What would we have done differently in our lives, had we seen it from another point of view?

Possible miracle of Archbishop Fulton Sheen under investigation

Could we be getting ready for "Blessed Fulton Sheen"?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Mass during a hurricane

I rediscovered this picture just now. On the Sunday morning when Hurricane Irene was overhead, I snapped this picture after finishing the 8am Mass. Power was out in the church, but the church has no shortage of candles!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Immaculate Conception Chapel - Mt. St. Mary's University

The I.C. Chapel of Mount St. Mary's University in Emmitsburg, Maryland, serves the whole community, both the college students and the seminarians.  Last week (after rescheduling the event due to Abp. Chaput's installation and the memorial Mass for Abp. Sambi) a rededication Mass took place, to commemorate the chapel renovations.  Thankfully, they put the ceremony on YouTube.

Photos of the chapel and dedication can be found by clicking HERE.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Gospel of [gasp] Oprah!

Last week's Sunday readings gave us the theme of forgiveness.  This week, we bounce off of that and tackle the question of generosity.  MT 20:15 is such a great line:
"Are you envious because I am generous?"
To see this Gospel lived out, I present to you a clip from this past season of the Oprah Winfrey Show.  I first saw this watching a great show Oprah did about the "behind the scenes" stuff of what went into producing the episodes of her show's 25th (and final) season.

Everyone knows about Oprah's "Favorite Things" episodes, where an unsuspecting audience hits the jackpot and gets to take home all sorts of things that Oprah had deemed her "favorites".  This year, to do things bigger in her last season, she decided to do not one, but two "Favorite Thing" episodes.  The first episode went as normal, with an audience getting their gifts on the way out of the taping.  This time, though, the producers did a cruel thing: they routed the departing audience past the crowd waiting to be the audience for the next taping.  Of course, the departing crowd carrying bags of stuff with smiles frozen on their faces told the story of what had happened in that previous taping.  No longer happy simply with being able to be part of an Oprah taping, the resentment brewed within them, resentment that they missed that taping and resentment at Oprah's famed generosity.  The link below takes you to where Oprah (knowing exactly what was about to happen) leads them on in letting out their anger.  You can almost hear her the landowner's question, "Are you envious because I am generous?"

Click HERE.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Mosaic work - "I'm not dead yet"

Yesterday I took the train into Manhattan.  I came out in front of a new exit out of Penn Station on 7th Avenue.  As I was taking an escalator up, my eyes caught the most beautiful and detailed mosaic tile artwork.  Their beauty caught my attention, A clock, the Post Office, a Greek column.

I did some digging on the internet, and found the company that made them.  Check out the panels by clicking HERE.  The work was done by The Unicorn Studio, located in New York City.

How wonderful it would be to see some newly created mosaic work in churches.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

My pal, Fr. Guy, put a "Cross" themed song up on his blog. I've always liked this one.

Abp. Gomez's history lesson

I both love and hate when American civil holidays intersect with the Church's calendar.  I love reminding people that July 4 is the Feast of St. Elizabeth of Portugal.  I love telling people in Confession that they didn't have to confess they missed Mass on Thanksgiving Day.  I hate having the fight with musicians who want to play patriotic music as a hymn on Memorial Day or Veterans Day weekend (even though the actual day we celebrate it is not the Saturday night or Sunday in question).  My most favorite moment was a year July 4 fell on a Saturday, and so Independence Day was "celebrated" on Monday, July 6.  I was preparing for daily Mass on the Feast of St. Maria Goretti, when the parish organist came into the sacristy, telling me they would be playing for the Mass, "Because I always play on the 4th of July."  I told them I'm not celebrating the 4th of July today (right about now I noticed the organist's red, white, and blue couture); I did that on the past Saturday, and that I was celebrating the Feast of St. Maria Goretti.  In short, I was celebrating July 6 on July 6.

But I digress.  What I love, when American civil holidays come, is to give a quick reminder of the Catholic roots of United States History.  I like to remind people about how the full name of Christopher Columbus' third ship was "Santa Maria de Immaculada Concepcion", and the role of a Priest, Fr. Juan Perez, in introducing Columbus to the Spanish Royals.  I love to talk about the influence of St. Robert Bellarmine on the thinking of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.  But, above all, I love telling the story of the first explorers of America, largely Catholic, and the remnants of their explorations.

Archbishop Gomez of Los Angeles brought this to light as part of a speech he game recently titled, Immigration and the Next America: Perspectives From Our History.  You can read it by clicking HERE; The history part starts on page 2 of the speech.

Monday, September 12, 2011

I'm in a New York state of mind

Archbishop Dolan's Blog has links to both his homily at the Mass he celebrated at St. Patrick's Cathedral yesterday, as well as Cardinal Egan's homily from the Mass he celebrated yesterday at St. Peter's Church, just across from Ground Zero.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

My 9/11/11 Homily

Aha, I gotcha!  Yes, I'll get to this weekend's homily.  But first you must sit through this informative presentation about a wonderful opportunity to own vacation property in Laurence Harbor, New Jersey.  Well, not really. But this might be helpful to understand before I get to the homilies I preached this weekend.

My homilies are not, so to speak, "set in stone."  They morph, they flow, they change from Mass to Mass.  I've used the metaphor before, but I look at preaching a homily the way people use batting cages.  You know, get in the cage, pop some quarters into the machine, 10 baseballs come at you, your job is to hit them.  When I do it, the first round of batting cage baseballs is all about simply making contact with the ball; fouled off, bouncer to the pitcher, I don't care.  The next round is about making decent contact with the ball: not just hitting it, but hitting it solidly.  Once I've got this down, the rounds after this are when the fun begins.  Now that I'm "in the groove", so to speak, it's time to see what I can do with the ball.  Can I pull it?  Can I go opposite field?  Can I hit a power homer straightaway center field?  Can I deliberately hit a base hit between the 3rd baseman and shortstop?  Two weekends a month, in my parish, a Deacon preaches two Masses, leaving me to preach the other two.  But the other two weekends (and the occasional fifth weekend in the month), I preach all the Masses.  On those 4-homily weekends, the "batting cage" philosophy goes into effect.

Except for a Homiletics class I took in the seminary, I have never preached a word-for-word prepared text.  Years ago in my political days I read a book of collected speeches by President Ronald Reagan, in which he revealed that he used a kind of written shorthand for notes for his speeches.  My years of watching political speeches taught me that prepared texts do not keep peoples' attentions for long, so I made the resolution long ago to stay away from them. The papers I read from the Ambo are actually just the notes of what I want to say, things that jar my memory. If you read them out loud, they make little sense.  They are, so to speak, the bat I will use to swing at these baseballs that will come at me.  And what are the "baseballs", metaphorically speaking?  The ideas, the concepts, the thoughts I want the people in the pews to hear, to understand, to think about and hopefully to take with them out of the church when Mass is over.

For the first homily, on Saturday night, I'm just concerned about getting my timing down as I'm delivering the homily.  The Saturday night crowd is this subculture the Church has created whose overriding attitude is that Mass is something to be gotten out of the way so Sundays can be free for whatever reason.  Believe me, many are sitting through my homily pondering not what I'm saying, but whether they'd rather go to the diner for dinner or for Chinese food?
Yes, I know what they're thinking.  I can read minds.  I'm also a Jedi Knight.  I just haven't figured out how to use the Force to lock the church doors so they can't all blow out of Mass early.
By the end of that homily, I know whether the jokes work, whether something is worded awkwardly, and whether my notes take me where I want to go.  After the homily is over, probably like most Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, I think of what I could have said that would have been better.  So on Saturday night the homily again gets tweaked for use at Sunday Masses.

The second homily happens at the first Mass on Sunday, and here that's the 8:00am Mass.  The 8am crowd is, in some ways, like the 4:30 crowd from last night, except they've resolved that the Sunday is all theirs' AFTER Mass.  The tougher thing about the 8am Mass crowd is to get a reaction from them.  It's early in the morning, and very few are keen on laughing out loud (and certainly not answering any questions if I give them a 'pop quiz' on what they remember from last weekend's Mass?).  "If you get the 8am Mass crowd to laugh out loud", I've told visiting clergy, "you've essentially jumped through two hoops.  You were funny and you were funny enough to get a reaction out of them."  That means I have to work harder to get my message into their heads, and so therein lies the connection to the second round of batting cage balls.  I need to not just make contact with the balls, but good, solid contact.  It's the "Pete Rose homily": mostly base hits, with the occasional strikeout and the rare home run.

If I've done that, then the next two Masses become the fun homilies. Having in my head what I want to say and how I can get that message out of me best, I can now have some fun with the homilies.  Maybe a new opening?  Maybe a quote from someone?  Maybe a new joke?  Maybe a different ending?  Maybe a line from the weekend's readings that I didn't focus on before?  The other homilies I focused on the Gospel; maybe this time I'll tackle what the 2nd Reading has to say and why it was included this Sunday?  It would be personally boring to me to give the same exact homily multiple times at Sunday Masses, and if I'm bored with it I know that will seep out into my delivery and body language.  The fear is that it leads to the "He doesn't care, why should I care?" attitude.

I tell you all of this as the world's HUGE-EST preface: In passing along my homily from this past weekend, I'm not really telling you what I said verbatim. I'm really synthesizing all four homilies, and in doing so presenting myself in the best possible light.

That being said, It's now more than an hour later than when I started typing.  Now I'm hungry, and so you'll have to wait a little longer for the homily.

[It's the next day now - and here's the homily]

I'm always amazed how, more often than not each week, the Sunday readings seem to come have some relevance to both local and world events.  A few weeks ago, last Monday, knowing what we'd be remembering this weekend, I looked at the readings, and there it was in front of me: "Lord, how often must I forgive?"  I thought, "Whoa, Lord, you're good."

On this weekend when it seems that every channel on TV is re-presenting the events of ten years ago, begging us to remember the feelings we had, this weekend the Lord puts in front of us "The f-word": Forgiveness.

What can we say about forgiveness?  We know that it's so important that, when Jesus gives the Apostles the Our Father (a prayer in which we ask for 7 things), He makes a point of having us ask God to forgive our sins.  But he didn't stop there!  He put a condition on it: "Forgive us our trespasses ...as we forgive those who trespass against us."  In other words, we're asking God to only forgive our sins as much as we forgive those who hurt us.

That's the point of today's parable in the Gospel.  The servant owes the King a huge amount, he can't pay it, and the King decides to forget about the whole debt.  We call that "Grace": a free gift from God.  Over the course of our lives, we've had thousands of those "grace meetings" with God, some graces we know about (going to Confession, receiving Holy Communion), some graces we won't know about until after we die.  So the King forgives the huge debt of the servant, and that same servant refuses to forgive the debt he is owed by another servant.  Matthew makes a point of telling us there's physical violence: the one servant chokes the other!  Then the King finds out, and there's another meeting.  This time, there's no grace, just judgment.  We'll have thousands of "grace meetings" with God, AND, like the servant, we'll have exactly one "judgment meeting" with The King.

This time, I noticed the King has "torturers".  St. Matthew makes a point of telling us there is more than one of them (he uses the plural).  How do you get that job?  Is there an exam you have to pass?  Is it a civil service job?  Do you start as an apprentice torturer and then work your way up?  Can you imagine the job description?  So he sends the servant to the torturers until he "pays the debt".  THAT'S WHAT WE DO TO OURSELVES.  When we refuse to forgive, we send ourselves to the torturers over and over.

The 1st Reading from Sirach lays it out so beautifully.  "Forgive your neighbor's injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.", and, "Could anyone refuse mercy to another like himself, can he seek pardon for his own sins?"  Once again, we can only expect God to forgive our own sins if we show Him that we are trying to forgive others who hurt us, just as He Himself does.

Why do we do it?  First, because as St. Paul tells us in the 2nd Reading, "whether we live or die, we are the Lord's."  But also because of what Sirach says, "Remember your last days."  In other words, remember there will come a time when your life in this world will end, and think of what really matters in consideration of that.  I was watching a show last night about the phone messages made by people trapped in the Twin Towers to their families.  Knowing their lives were in danger, did they call their enemies to tell them, "I still don't like you!"?  No, they called their families and said, "I want you to know I love you."  When lives were on the line at Ground Zero, humanity wanted to give: store owners gave out food, cases of water, sneakers, whatever they had and people needed.  Furniture owners sent recliner chairs to the site so rescuers could take breaks.  Towns around the country sent filter masks, gloves, and even their own fire and rescue squads.  Lines went out the door at Blood Banks around the country, as people wanted to give their own blood.  Children around the world sent stuffed animals to the children of the deceased.

The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (which is like the "Cliff notes" to the Catechism itself, says this in talking about forgiveness:
Compendium #595 – “Mercy can penetrate our hearts only if we ourselves learn how to forgive – even our enemies. Now even if it seems impossible for us to satisfy this requirement, the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit can, like Christ, love even to love’s extreme; it can turn injury into compassion and transform hurt into intercession. Forgiveness participates in the divine mercy and is a high-point of Christian prayer.”
"Even if it seems impossible" - the Church knows it's going to be hard for us.  Forgiveness isn't a reflex like breathing, that a baby is born knowing how to do.  Forgiveness is a learned behavior; we have to learn to know how to do it.  It means we're not going to be good at it at first, but if we practice it, we'll get better at it.  And not just in words, but to forgive, as Jesus says, "from the heart".

On this weekend, yes, we absolutely pray for the repose of the souls of those who were killed ten years ago.  We pray for the families who lost loved ones and still feel their loss.  Free will allowed evil men to commit an evil deed that killed thousands of people and directly affected all of our lives today (you know this if you've had to take your shoes off in an airport or bring 8 forms of identification just to renew your Driver's License).  But free will can also be used for good.  No one held a gun to police and firefighters and ordered them to try to save people in the Twin Towers or at the Pentagon; they freely chose to do so.  No one demanded the passengers of Flight 93 over Shanksville get out of their seats and attack the hijackers; they freely chose to do so.  God has given humanity a share in His free will.  It means the decision rests with us to use our free will for good or bad intent.  Forgiveness is a good.  Forgiveness is more for ourselves, saying, "I won't let those who hurt me hurt me anymore.  I won't let hate eat at me from the inside like rust."  Today, whether it is a world event like 9/11, or a struggle with another person, or even a mistake we know we ourselves made, we ask God to give us the grace to "participate in the divine mercy", and forgive.

My 9/11/01 Memories

Here is a link to my blog entry from this day in 2007, when I sat at the keyboard and just began to type what I remembered from my day on Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Bishops: An Arranged Marriage

An impressive homily, definitely worth a read.

Homily and Closing Remarks of Abp. Chaput

September 8 - Our Lady's Birthday

First, the intellectual...

"In the 8th century, Andrew of Crete was the first theologian to see a new creation in Mary's birth.  This is how he reasoned: 'Today humanity, in all the radiance of her immaculate nobility, receives its ancient beauty.  The shame of sin had darkened the splendor and attraction of human nature, but when the mother of the fair one par excellence is born, this nature regains in her person its ancient privileges and is fashioned according to a more perfect model truly worthy of God. ... The reform of our nature begins today and the aged world, subjected to a wholly divine transformation, receives the first fruits of the second creation' (Sermon I on the Birth of Mary)."

Pope John Paul II
General Audience
May 15, 1996

Now, the personal...

Today is the 14th anniversary of the one and only episcopal ordination we've experienced in the Metuchen Diocese.  On Sept. 8, 1997, Msgr. Vincent D. Breen was ordained and installed as the 3rd Bishop of Metuchen.  I was a Deacon at the time, and my most vivid memory of the day was that I think I had some heat exhaustion.  We were crammed into the sanctuary of St. Francis Cathedral, Bishops, Diocesan muckety-mucks, Servers, etc.  Add to that a warm day and the heavy Holyrood dalmatics they had us vested in, and I could feel a headache and nausea sneaking up on me as the Mass went on.  It wasn't until about 30 minutes into the reception at The Pines Manor that I began to come out of it (thanks to eating dinner rolls and sipping Diet Coke).

At the end of the evening (you know seminarians, we'll stay anywhere as long as there's free food), two of us who were going to be ordained Priests the following May introduced ourselves to the Bishop by saying we would be his first ordination class.  His face lit up, he put his arms around the both of us, and said, "I'm very excited."  I was just thankful I didn't throw up on him.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

If you're reading this, say a prayer for Fr. Roberto Busa, SJ

L'Osservatore Romano's weekly English edition has an article about the death of Jesuit Father Roberto Busa this past August 9 at the age of 97. It's an interesting article to read, especially as you're sitting in front of a computer screen.

Why? I'll let the author of the article tell you:

"If you surf on the Internet, it is thanks to him. If you jump from one site to another, clicking on links highlighted in blue, it is thanks to him. If you use a PC to write emails and documents, it is thanks to him. And if you can read this article, it is thanks to him."

Read the article HERE.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Friday, August 26, 2011

Matthew 7:25

Here's a sentence I never thought I'd be typing: After experiencing an earthquake this past week, I now get ready to get myself and the buildings and grounds of St. Lawrence parish through tomorrow's hurricane.

But what about the people? There's really not much for me to do for them now; That's what government and public safety is for. People are "Doin' what they gotta do" (as we say in New Jersey): shopping, putting things away, even evacuating some places. Once the storm has passed, that's when the Church goes to work, helping those who have suffered any losses.

As the one who signs the checks to pay the bills here, it kills me that this storm arrives on a Saturday afternoon and continues through Sunday afternoon. Another weekend we'll lose a collection we need to pay bills (not to mention any repairs that may be necessary from hurricane damage). I ask anyone reading this, who will not be able to make Mass at their parishes this weekend, to "double dip" next weekend, and give two week's worth of contributions next weekend. And, if you were planning on blowing off Mass because of Labor Day weekend next weekend, then you've got to "triple dip" the weekend after that!

But, as the one who is shepherd of souls for this parish community, I ask all of you reading this to use common sense. IT IS NOT "FUN" OR "HEROIC" TO DRIVE THROUGH A HURRICANE-LEVEL STORM TO GO TO MASS; IT IS SELFISH AND FOOLISH. You not only put yourself and any passengers in the car at risk, but also the emergency service volunteers who will have to go out into the storm to rescue you, should something bad happen. Stay indoors. Pray. Read the Sunday Scriptures. Pray a Rosary as a family. Download some hymns from iTunes.

Remember, a hurricane is just a warm blizzard. Treat it appropriately.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Your mission this week

Watch for (any) mainstream media coverage of World Youth Day. See the contrast between the angry youth of the English riots/looting with the participants of WYD.

See if the media tries to draw comparisons.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

A personal pondering: Is proficiency prevented by pudge?

Last week the Governor of New Jersey had an asthma attack, something he has kept under control for a number of years. Smelling blood (or maybe his breath, I suppose), the national media moved in to dogmatically declare a flaw in a potential Chris Christie run for the Presidency.

Said nicely, he has "health issues". The underlying message which you got, once the media included pictures of the Governor's girth: "He's too fat to be President".

Not a day later, the L.A. Times opined about Governor Christie: "Is America ready for a President who, frankly, doesn't look healthy?" O.K., let's start by getting the sarcastic replies out of the way:
  • "Really, and how did a bodybuilder governor work out for you, California?"
  • "Are we really striving for a President whose waist size matches the unemployment rate?"
  • "Hey, California, 37 million people in your state you could've voted for and you brought back Jerry Brown. Seriously?"
This is just another passive-aggressive tactic of the liberal, democratic biased mainstream media. Their signal to let everyone start to pounce on Governor Christie. Leno, go to work. Conan, do your thing. Piers Morgan, well, no one really watches you anyway. Hey, maybe Tina Fey can put on a fat suit and try to do to Christie what she did to Sarah Palin? Maybe they can just refurbish the fat jokes they used on Ted Kennedy. Oh wait, they left his waistline alone.

Sad but true, the same bias exists in ecclesial circles. From the moment we're seminarians, we learn very quickly there's another evaluation going on besides academic or intellectual ability. I'll say it: Seminarians (and later Priests) are judged on their physical looks. I can remember getting off a bus with other seminarians during the 1996 visit of Pope John Paul to Baltimore. As we stepped off, a Priest pulled some guys out of the line and put them by themselves. We wondered what was happening? We found out: He needed seminarians to be interviewed on TV about the Papal visit, and was picking guys based on their looks (we knew this because the guys chosen looked like a GQ cover shoot; not a zit between the 5 or 6 of them). Nevermind some of these guys had never read any of the Pope's encyclicals; I'd bet some of them couldn't even spell "papal"! It carries through into Priesthood. If you're thin, somehow the judgment is made that you're a good, successful Priest, without anyone ever checking to see if they spend more time worrying about their looks than the parish to which they're assigned. If you're fat, the presumption is made that you've got something wrong with you. Hindsight, though, is always wonderfully honest in this regard. Nothing is less surprising in the Church then when a bella-figura Priest drops off the radar or announces he's leaving, the moment he's not the center of attention anymore. A well known example of this in recent history is the story of a young priest who had to be literally begged by a bishop (now retired) to become his secretary. The young man had a condition: he'd take the job only if, after a few years, he'd be allowed to go for further studies in Rome. The Bishop ok'ed it, and the young priest served as secretary, and then was sent to Rome. When he finished his studies and returned home to his diocese in the northeast, he found he couldn't function. He missed Rome, and in particular, a young Italian man he met while studying theology on his diocese's dime. When last heard from he was living in Europe with his special friend and teaching English to foreigners.

The truth will come as no shock that Governor Christie's brain is separate from his stomach. His ability to make decisions and lead has nothing to do with what he has for lunch... or dinner... or as a snack at 11pm. The same rings true for Priests. This is nothing more than schoolyard bullying modified for grown-ups who never, well, grew up. You want to wish he would lose weight so he can feel healthier? That's fine. But to say he shouldn't be President because he can't say no to Yodels or because Americans don't want to see a President with some meat on him insults both him and all of us.

Monday, July 25, 2011

R.I.P. - Virgilio Cardinal Noë

The Vatican Information Service reported the death of Cardinal Noë yesterday at the age of 89. His Eminence had served as Papal Master of Ceremonies under Popes Paul VI, John Paul I and II, before being made Archpriest of the Vatican Basilica and created a Cardinal in 1991. He retired in 2002.

I first met the Cardinal in 1995, when my home parish made a pilgrimage to Rome. I was able to serve as Master of Ceremonies for a Mass he celebrated for our pilgrimage group at the Altare Alla Tomba. A few times after that initial meeting, I stopped in on him for visits on subsequent trips to Rome. He was always a gentle and kind man, gracious to me and the friends who came with me to visit.

May he rest in peace.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

What's it worth?

These crazy days of 100+ degree weather meant that I spent a little more time than normal sitting in my air conditioned room watching TV. When some form of Law & Order was not on, I watched some of this new wave of shows:

Pawn Stars - the story of a family run pawn shop in Las Vegas, and the things that people think are valuable enough to sell.

Auction Hunters - two guys who travel around, bidding low on abandoned storage units and hoping to find treasures inside to sell high.

American Pickers - two more guys who travel around to meet people who've amassed all sorts of stuff, hoping to buy some of it from them to sell others at a higher price.

The Gospel this weekend fit right into these shows, as Jesus gave 3 parables about treasure. The first two parables compliment each other: the first guy finds the treasure by accident; he wasn't expecting it and suddenly there it is. The second guy knows what treasure he's looking for, and has spent his life looking for perfection before he finally finds it. In both cases, Jesus says the same thing: each guy "sells all that he has" to purchase their respective treasures. A great question for us. Would we be so bold to make that kind of commitment to gain a treasure?

What about the treasure of our faith? The opening prayer of today's Mass has the great line, "God our Father and protector, without you nothing is holy, nothing has value"(the better translation is nothing is "worthwhile", but "value" works better for my train of thought). It makes sense; we'll pay more for something that we want more (that's why air conditioners cost more this time of year than snow blowers!). So, I suppose, the first question to be asked is, "Is our faith a 'treasure' in our eyes?" Is it precious? valuable? something to be protected and guarded?

What are we willing to pay (or give up) for our treasure? Will we give our time for it? This should be easy, our time costs relatively nothing. Will we give time to God each day? Do I give God time in mental prayer? Do I give God time each week by my Mass attendance? As a Priest, do I freely give the Church my time with the Breviary? Do I see it as something I have to do or as something I have to "get over with" so I can do something else? The same with Mass; Do I celebrate/participate at Mass because I "have" to, or because I "want" to? Is Mass an encounter with God to be treasured, or some kind of spiritual jury duty I want to get out of as soon as possible? Too many of the laity, most particularly this time of year, simply blow off Mass. Mass is unimportant to them, and therefore not really a treasure. It's sad, really, the way they don't see any need to give God part of their time, and yet when their life falls apart they expect the Church to give of her time telling them they did nothing wrong. No, God didn't care that you missed Mass because your children play summer baseball, soccer, or compete in martial arts or cheerleading. You just keep on reinforcing these twisted priorities in your child's head; they'll come in handy later on when you're in a nursing home desperate for visitors and little Bobby or Betty have Yankee tickets.

So what is our faith worth to us? If you had to have your faith appraised, what would you be able to show the appraiser to get him to up the value? This week's Gospel (along with the past 2 weekends) asked us to consider God's presence in the world and our response to Him.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Week in the Life of a Priest

YouTube has this great video produced by the Archdiocese of Sydney (and featuring their Vocation Director).

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Sandro Magister on "how it happened"

Italian Vaticanista journalist Sandro Magister, writing about today's appointment of Archbishop Chaput on his Chiesa blog, seems to give the backstory of who else was in consideration. An interesting read, check it out HERE.

Abp. Chaput to Philadelphia

This morning's appointment of Archbishop Chaput to the See of Philadelphia has been announced by every Catholic journalist and blogger... AND NOW is finally official because of the announcement by Rome.

John Allen has what may be the first interview with the Archbishop about the move east. It's available by following this LINK to the website of the National Catholic Reporter.

(See, I can link to the NCR and not get the cooties! By the way, the picture was taken in 2000)

Friday, July 15, 2011


Today I received in the mail an advance copy ofThe Word Among Us' Advent edition. Last Advent I bought copies for parishioners so they could have something extra for their Advent preparations.

Besides the daily meditations, the booklet also has an insert with the daily Mass readings, as well as the Mass parts. This year it means the new translation, and it's odd to see it in print in something so familiar as The Word Among Us.

I read through the 2nd Eucharistic Prayer, and all I could say was "Whoa!".

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Big posters on the wall of the Mount

Two weeks ago, I was on retreat at my alma mater, Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland. The seminary organizes this annual retreat for alumni (though any Priest is welcome), which gives us the chance to roam the halls, campus, and vicinity as we did when we were students.

On a bulletin board in the hallway which contains faculty offices, two large posters were on a bulletin board. I took pictures of them, and I think you can click to enlarge them.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

The Gospel of Matthew 11:25-30

“I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to little ones.
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father. ...
Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

The New Colossus, by Emma Lazarus (1883)

"Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Fr. Corapi and the bigger issue

For Priests of my generation, Fr. Corapi has been a well-known figure. A frequent face on EWTN, we are used to getting his name mentioned to us by regular church-goers. "I love watching Father Corapi" is something we're all used to hearing.

Maybe that's why I've always had a small amount of resentment towards him.

It's not about his shows. I can honestly say I have never really sat through a Fr. Corapi TV show, but from what I have seen and heard his stuff is pretty orthodox. His voice has always seemed a bit "over the top", but no more than other Priests and Deacons I've known that have a "Mass voice" and a "Regular voice". The truth is his voice has always reminded me of the public speaking voice of Jim McGreevey, and I think anyone who has heard both of them speak from behind a podium will attest to this. What I resented about Father C. is probably the same resentment infantry soldiers have towards fighter pilots: While infantry soldiers are "on the ground" fighting for every square inch of ground to gain in the battle, the pilots take off from someplace behind the battle lines, fly over, drop a few bombs, then go back to land at the safe spot. To some extent, it's easy to be orthodox if you have gigs like this. You show up at an event. Your audience is almost completely those who feel the same way as you do, you make them laugh, get serious, tell Catholics what the liberals are doing wrong, say Mass, sign some autographs, and you're done and out of the town 6 hours after you arrived. Oh yeah, and you get paid, not only for being there, but for all the tapes, books, CDs, and DVDs people are encouraged to buy.

When this is all said and done, my hunch is that it's not going to be about sex, it's going to be about money. This guy lives on a ranch in Montana. Once I went searching for information on his website about the possibility of having him speak in a parish I was assigned to at the time. The fee was something like $3,000, beside his expenses (travel to and from Montana, which can't be cheap).

The latest blog entry I heard is that his religious superior asked him to stop living alone in Montana and live in community with other clergy. This Fr. Corapi refused to do, and this is where his abandonment of the Priesthood stems.

This is the Priesthood epidemic of our age: Priests owning property. Secular (diocesan) priests certainly can own property, they make no actual vow of poverty as those entering religious life do. Those who do have another place have it for varieties of very legitimate reasons: Perhaps they inherited the home or money when their parent(s) passed away. Some saved money for years and perhaps share ownership with another priest or with family members. Some were able to buy the place at a significantly reduced price from an older Priest whose health now prevents him from using the home. I don't want this in any way to appear as if I'm saying the Priest acquired the house through illegal means (that's a whole other conversation). I'm simply talking, in this case, about diocesan priests who own private property.

In my humble opinion, the danger is this: This situation is radioactive; it may not affect them at once, but little by little, over a period of time, it has the potential to do so. The house can slowly change the way the Priest thinks about his life as a Priest in the Roman Catholic Church. How does it show itself? A Priest with a private home doesn't want to be assigned too far away from that home, so there goes his flexibility in assignments. Suddenly, besides the normal considerations, the house is a factor in where to exercise ministry. Priests are allowed a day or day-and-a-half off. Is that enough time spent in their retreat? A priest who owns another home soon finds that his day off expands to two days, then more (I know of a Priest who would leave his parish after his Sunday Masses, and then return on Wednesday morning). Another question to ask: Do his neighbors know he's a priest? Not that he has to put a blinking neon sign on the door, but has he deliberately gone out of the way to hide the fact that he is a priest? Some of my brothers, I fear, see the house as an "alternate reality", one in which they stop being priests in their minds the moment they enter this house. This place becomes their "home", while the rectory and parish they're assigned to as a spiritual father simply becomes the place they "work". If Bishops want to tackle the next great problem, here's where to start digging. Find out how many of your priests own or rent a private home.

In their defense, a little honesty here. I actually do envy those who do have their own apartment/condo/townhouse/home. So much in our priesthood is out of our control. One never knows, when you're going downstairs for a cup of coffee, who will be sitting in your kitchen. Some Parochial Vicars (Associate Pastors) live with Pastors who make it abundantly clear that they are only "borders" in the house, and that everything from having guests, to putting things on the shopping list, to inviting people for meals, must be run past the Pastor. So much of what we "have" is not really ours. You can see how the idea of having a place that no Bishop can take us away from with one phone call is inviting; we Priests love to "nest". The danger is in how much of our time does it occupy? How much does it factor in our commitment to obedience? If we choose it over our Priesthood, then there will be more Father Corapi's down the road.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Priest on "Father's Day"

With Father’s Day upon us, I’d like to share a poem I read in a book of talks given by Archbishop Tim Dolan. This comes from his book, Priests for the Third Millennium. He concludes a talk on parish priesthood with a poem published in The Priest magazine, written about the fatherhood of the priest:

Who are you, man of Mystery, our Father?
By what arrogance do you approach the Holy –
offering your manliness to mate with Sacred Spouse,
and vowing with such singular abandonment
to wed yourself to Holy Mother Church
and so with her, in promiscuity divine, the seeds of Life?

Or can it be that, led by ceaseless calling,
summoned by the Matchmaker who serves the cause of Love,
pursued by the Relentless One, you have succumbed -
and so it is submission which, to unholy eyes, appears presumption?

How is it that, child-free, you are our Father?

Is it that you daily bear God’s children?
Is it that, with human voice, you speak a Father’s Word?
Is it that you, fasting and breaking fasts, call us to supper
and gather us at table for meal of Bread and Wine?
Or that you celebrate our rites of passage,
advising, chastising, baptizing us with water and with fire?

Is it that you lift us in prayer, holding,
embracing and blessing as only a Father might?
Or that you hear our calling in the dark
and come to take our hand and light a light –
Or, in your priestly parenting,
you come anointing, pointing the way past death to life?

Who are you, man of Mystery, our Father?
You’ve wed yourself to Holy Mother Church and, everywhere,
you sow with her, in promiscuity divine, the seeds of Life.
You bear and speak and feed, you shape and renew
and heal and bless as only a Father can do.
And so we, on this Father’s Day, your untold children, grateful, pray,
“May life and Holy Spouse and God bless you.”

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Tony Blair on children

I'm in the midst of reading Tony Blair's memoirs. This part made me laugh out loud:

"As things settled down a little, I took a break in Tuscany ... I had a great time with [his youngest son] Leo, able to spend proper moments with him. At five years old, he was getting to that fascinating age where you can almost see the brain sprouting forth. Except to the doting parents, babies are frankly pretty boring - sweet and cuddly, but still a bit inanimate, if you see what I mean. From about age three onwards, they get interesting and remain like that up to around twelve, when the dark mists of hell envelop them. Unbelievably, they emerge again as semi-civilized human beings around the age of twenty, you stop thinking you are a bad parent or there is genetic delinquency in the family, and realise they are still your children and you love them. There are exceptions, of course, but that's my experience." (pg. 525)

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Reflection on the Priesthood by St. Norbert

Founder Statue of St Norbert in St Peter's Basilica

On the occasion of his ordination to the priesthood, Norbert said, "O Priest! You are not yourself because you are God. You are not of yourself because you are the servant and minister of Christ. You are not your own because you are the spouse of the Church. You are not yourself because you are the mediator between God and man. You are not from yourself because you are nothing. What then are you? Nothing and everything. O Priest! Take care lest what was said to Christ on the cross be said to you: 'He saved others, himself he cannot save!'"

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Has it really been?

I know, I promised I would write more on this little blog. Today, though, marks a new step in the life of my blogging. I'm writing is from balmy Orlando, Florida, on my new "toy", an iPad.

Since 2005, I've always been able to get away from the parish sometime on the 2nd week of Easter. It started when some of us were still Parochial Vicars, and so time off on the first week of Easter was usually reserved for our Pastors. This also worked out well with the schedule down in Orlando, which tended to be super crowded when schools were off, either Holy Week or Easter Week. This year, though, Easter was extraordinarily late, and the 2nd week of Easter was actually the first week of May. In looking at the calendar, with religious education over for the year and 1st Communion and May Crowning out of the way, I was able to get down.

So there you go, a blog entry from an undisclosed location. I'm here on the blogosphere, and now it doesn't matter where "here" is.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Bishop Conley on the new Mass translation

Click HERE for a transcript (provided by Zenit News Service) of an address by Bp. James Conley, auxiliary of Denver - and alumnus of Mount St. Mary's Seminary. Here are some appetite-whetting quotes:

In Advent, we are going to introduce a major new English translation of the Mass with the third typical edition of the Roman Missal.

What are Catholics in the pews going to make of the changes in the words they pray and the words they hear the priest praying? Will the changes make any difference in their experience of the Mass? In the way they worship? In the way they live their faith in the world?

This new edition of the Missal is the Church’s gift to our generation. It restores the ancient understanding of the Eucharist as a sacred mystery. It renews the vertical dimension of the liturgy — as a spiritual sacrifice that we offer in union with the sacrifice that our heavenly High Priest celebrates unceasingly in the eternal liturgy.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

First Holy Communion rant

That's probably a bad title, because what I'm about to tell you can easily be seen at other church events. Pick one: wedding, confirmation, baptism, funeral. It's there.

Look at the irony: we spend weeks teaching the 2nd grade children that the Eucharist is an amazing gift from God, and that every church has the Eucharist kept in the Tabernacle, and that, when we are in the presence of the Tabernacle, that Jesus can see and hear us and we can speak to him. We teach them that the day they receive their 1st Holy Communion will be a truly special day, and that they should behave in a way that shows they understand it is a special day. We rehearse them to walk in a solemn procession, to keep their hands folded together in a prayerful gesture, to stand and sit and kneel at the proper times, to receive the Blessed Sacrament properly (either tongue or hand), and then to go back to their seat and reflect on that great gift in silence. Of course, we tell them not to spend the Mass speaking to the children on either side of them.

Then, the day of the Mass comes. The kids are fine. The grown ups? THEY SUCK!

I'll leave it at that.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Priests can relate

Some go for the stunning sunset, but there is no more magnificent sight to behold than an empty parking lot, that only a week before was loaded with cars because of CCD.

Excuse me, I need a tissue.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

The Tomb of Sts. Philip and James

I took this during a 2008 trip to Rome. Their tomb is located in the crypt level of the Church of the Holy Apostles in Rome. In 570, Pope John III placed the bones of Sts. Philip & James, recently brought back from the east, in this church and dedicated it to them and to all the Apostles.

A seminary buddy, Fr. Gary Coulter, studied in Rome and has posted many of his pictures online. Here is a photo he took of the tomb.

Beatification: NOT the last stop!

Fourteen years ago, I was in the spring semester of Third Theology, preparing for ordination to the Diaconate. There were two of us from the Metuchen Diocese at The Mount, and both of us wanted to be ordained with our seminary classmates at the Basilica of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg. I went to see my Bishop, to ask him for permission for the two of us to be ordained "out west". Bishop Hughes said he had no problem with it. Diaconate ordinations, he said, can get a little "over the top", especially when done at the home parish of the guy being ordained. The zeal of the parishioners to make it a wonderful celebration means it can, at times, end up eclipsing the Priesthood ordination that will follow the following year.

This was a thought I've been having in the aftermath of Pope John Paul's Beatification. What could be done to top it? Could the crowd be any bigger? The all-star lineup any more impressive? The weather nicer? The music more glorious? Sadly, there's nowhere to go BUT down when it comes to expectations from both within and outside the Church (and the media will be looking for some way to criticize it).

In the case of seminarians, the Diaconate is wonderful, but not the ultimate goal. Similarly, Beatification is marvelous and terrific and (to be British for a moment) brilliant, but not the final goal. The final goal is Canonization. There is no "striving for permanent beatification", and stopping there.

There is another thought here (my head is full of 'em): Pope Benedict is no fool. He is the one who returned the tradition of beatification Masses being celebrated not by the Pope, but by a designated Cardinal (usually the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints). Of course, being Pope has it's perks, and when it's someone you have a fondness for, you can always bump the tradition and do it yourself. Pope Benedict did for Blessed John Henry Newman, and obviously here for Blessed Pope John Paul. But maybe he allowed all the pomp and devotion because he doesn't think the canonization will happen in the foreseeable future. Maybe like the Hebrew slaved freed from Egypt, they will not see the promised land, but their children will. For us, this may be it for what we will see in our lifetimes.

In the meantime, this is a neat little video explaining the difference between Beatification and Canonization, explained by Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, former Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.