Friday, November 30, 2007

Hope you've got time to read

Pope Benedict's latest (published today) encyclical is on the virtue of hope, and can be downloaded from the Vatican website by clicking here. Happy reading.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Advent Cards?

Just wondering, anyone ever see greeting cards for Advent? You know, something like, "Have a good Advent", or, "Advent is when we take the time to prepare for our Savior's coming. Hope you make good use of it."

If you know of any place that sells them, let me know. If not, and I gave you the idea that you'll make a small fortune off of, then give me like 25% of the profits or I'll start praying those cursing psalms against you.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Anglican Angst over America

Reuters has an article in which Dr. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has criticized the United States:

Asked in an interview with the Muslim lifestyle magazine Emel, if he [Dr. Williams] thought the United States had lost the high moral ground since the 9/11 attacks, he replied "Yes".

Really? Well, if anyone would know what the warning signs are when a world power loses their moral authority, I suppose he's the man who knows what to look for.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

"Black Friday" gives way to "Scarlet Saturday"

I just got done watching EWTN's repeat broadcast of the ceremony from Rome for the creation of the new Cardinals. I love "Church things", but getting up at 4:30am to watch it live is too much. Although now that I think of it, I suppose getting up at 4:30am to watch Pope Benedict create new Cardinals is the ecclesial equivilent of getting up at 4:30am to be at some store when it opens at 5am the day after Thanksgiving for some Christmas shopping! Besides, I was there in St. Peter's Square when Pope Benedict made the announcement, thangyaverymuch. I even got myself a copy of L'Osservatore Romano that evening (the next day's edition always comes out in the late afternoon of the day before) with the announcement of the nuovi Cardinali from the kiosk along the right side of the colonnade, complete with their names in their order of precedence. That was the second time I was there when Pope Benedict announced his creation of new Cardinals, the other being a Wednesday audience on the Feast of the Chair of Peter back in 2006. I'm always there for the announcement, but never the actual Consistory. Oh well, what do they say? "Always the bridesmaid..."

However, at the last minute with fears of an impending downpour, the ceremony was moved from an outdoor event in the Piazza San Pietro, to inside the basilica itself. Kudos to those who made such a change at the last minute seem so flawless (on television, anyway). I understand that there was no way to fit everyone in the square into the basilica, and so many people watched the event on the jumbotron monitors placed throughout the square (if only Bernini could see his square today). But anyone who has been invited to a high school graduation knows there's always that chance that a June thunderstorm will move the ceremony into a cramped gymnasium without advance notice. Romans have a great attitude about such things: they show contempt, then shrug and deal with it. But I can imagine the "wails and gnashing of teeth" that must've been coming from the foreigners who came specifically to watch that event. Especially, I'm thinking of the Americans, because we can have a sense of, "How can something like this happen to someone as important as ME?" I mean, put yourself there: The announcement has been made that the ceremony is moving indoors, and each Cardinal can have, let's say, 125 tickets to gain someone entrance. Who gets in? More importantly, who doesn't get in? Here I'm also thinking of my brother Priests, because some of us can get awfully cliquish and elitist when we want to be. I'm sure there were plenty of clergy who said, "It's OK, give my ticket to someone else." But I'm sure there were also plenty who said, "I HAVE to be there. Don't these people know who I am? How many committees I'm on? If I'm not in there, what will people say about me?" Hehehehehe, ah, the "high school lunchtable drama" of it all.

Getting back to the ceremony, it was nice to watch Cardinal Foley receive his biretta. I've met him a few times through his work for the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and my work in radio. He was even kind enough to come on my show as a guest. I saw him last month during my Rome visit, and he was kind enough to sit and chat for about a half hour at the headquarters for the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre. He never let on that he was about to be named a Cardinal, though I'm sure by then he knew it was going to happen. He put in a lot of years in service to the universal Church, and his creation as Cardinal is a well-deserved reward for his work (despite the fact that some bloggers are acting as if it's something "long overdue"). Congratulations to him, as well as Cardinal DiNardo. I wonder if Stetson makes a hat in red watered silk?

(thank you Reuters for the photos)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Two of my favorite moments on one of my favorite television shows (The West Wing) had to do with Thanksgiving. Thankfully, YouTube has made them available for all to see. Enjoy.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Papal Pranzo

I want a number 2 combo with a diet Sprite,
and remember to tell them extra ketchup packets.
(thank you AP for the photo)

Bp. Serratelli's Trifecta

Back in June, Paterson Bishop Arthur Serratelli began a four part series of articles on the Church's liturgy and maintaining the sense of the Sacred. The latest piece of that takes the form of a pastoral letter to the priests of his diocese (though he's letting the rest of us know what the letter says - because it is a beautiful letter for all the Catholic faithful to read, but also probably so that Joe & Jane Catholicparishioner will know the letter their pastor got and perhaps hold him a little accountable to it). You can link to the past two entries by clicking on Part one and Part two, but if you want to go straight to the pastoral letter, click here. Better yet, if you want Bp. Serratelli's letter with an concurrent explanation, check out Fr. Z's commentary.

As I did with the other two letters, let me give you a taste without spoiling your appetite for the meal:
  • "The priest presides at the Eucharist in persona Christi. The priest is the servant of the Liturgy."

  • "Priests, as well as deacons, are not free to change the rubrics or substitute their own words for the prescribed texts. Such fidelity expresses true love for the people we serve."

  • "Only when there is a necessity may extraordinary ministers assist the Priest celebrant in accordance with the norm of law."

  • "It may take a child-like humility to do as the Church asks in the celebration of the Liturgy. However, true love is never proud."

Finally, after reading the letter, take a step back and consider this: Bishop Serratelli was just made the Chairman of United States Bishops Committee on Liturgy.

To quote "The Great One", mmmmmmm how sweet it is!

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Broglio Brouhaha

Today's announcement from the Vatican that Pope Benedict has appointed American Archbishop Timothy Broglio to succeed Abp. Edwin O'Brien as head of the U.S. Military Ordinariate has been making its way around the blogosphere. So let me put me 2 Euro in the pot:

I first met the Archbishop when he was just Monsignor Broglio, one of the Priest-Secretaries to the then-Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano. My seminary class was in Rome for a pilgrimage during Christmas of 1996, and one of the Priests who accompanied us was classmates with Msgr. Broglio at the Pontifical Gregorian University. One evening during the trip, Msgr. Broglio took us on a tour of the public rooms of the Apostolic Palace. We saw it all: from the Bronze Doors, past the statue of Constantine up the Scala Regia stairs, into the Sala Regia, and into the Sala Ducale. Absolutely amazing. But two parts of the tour were, in particular, the "kickers":
  1. We were walking through the Sala Ducale, and honestly none of us were looking out the windows since we were so busy looking around the rooms we were being shown. So at one point, Msgr. Broglio stops, pulls a huge floor-to-ceiling curtain aside, and says, "and THIS is the central balcony of St. Peter's." Here we were in the spot where the Popes not only appear at Christmas and Easter, but standing in the spot where they all passed following their elections. I found some photos I took of the moment:

  2. As we were walking back from the central balcony, Msgr. Broglio waved at a maintenance man as if to say, "have a good night". The man walked over, said something in Italian to him, and Msgr. B. turned towards us and said, "Oh, this is neat, I wasn't expecting this. Follow him and I'll be right with you." With that, he walked away, and we followed the man to a closed door. He reached into his coat, pulled out a set of keys, opened the door, and gestured for us to go in. There we were, only 17 of us, in the Sistine Chapel. We had it all to ourselves, and what I remember was the quiet. All of us were shocked into a stunned silence as we looked at the walls and ceiling. Now I've been in there a few times before whilst visiting the Vatican Museums, but there's always a crowd and always noise. This time it was all ours, if only for 10 minutes or so. Sorry, no pictures allowed in the Sistine Chapel.

So that's my Msgr. Broglio story. Following that trip he eventually because Apostolic Nuncio to the Dominican Republic and to Puerto Rico, and now he becomes the spiritual father to our Catholic military personnel. Ad multos annos! Thanks again for the tour.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Thought of the day

Only in America do drugstores make the sick walk all the way to the back of the store to get their prescriptions, while healthy people can buy cigarettes at the front.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Just once...

You "Young Fogey" Priests out there will relate to this.

Picture it: You're a Priest helping out at one of these penance services that are about to spring up all around, now that Advent is around the corner (I know this because I'm getting the requests to help at them!). You get that person who treats the Sacrament with that casual indifference that secretly causes you to have the desire to go all "Old Testament wailing and gnashing of teeth" on them. But you ignore their "blah" attitude, talk to them, give them a penance, and then ask them for an Act of Contrition. And what do you get? "Oh my God, I am hardly sorry for offending thee and I... and I... uh, I... [giggle, giggle] I can't remember it, Father. Oh, well." [giggle, giggle]

Just once, I'm dying to say, "Oh, that's O.K. God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son, has reconciled the world to himself, and sent... and sent... [giggle, giggle] Well, what do you know, I can't remember the absolution, either! Well, I guess you're not getting forgiven!" [giggle, giggle]

"Oh, Father, I can't remember."
Why I oughtaaaaaa

First Love, Now Hope

Fr. Zuhlsdorf's blog has the story about the impending release of Pope Benedict's second encyclical, this time on the virtue of hope. Check out what Fr. Z has to say.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

That's just wrong!

Today, as I drove through a residential neighborhood back to the rectory on an overcast day, a sight caught the corner of my eye.

No, it couldn't be. Impossible. On November 14, someone already has their Christmas tree up and lit in their house for passers-by to see.

Instantly, I knew what had to be done. I had to call in the Church's elite squad dedicated to preventing the premature celebration of Christmas: the Advent Traditionalist Force (or ATF, for short). This little known corps of ecclesiastical agents give a whole new meaning to "The Church Militant". Surprise is their best weapon, and so they're not too keen of gathering publicity for themselves or being photographed (I was lucky enough to sneak this photo a few years ago while I watched them on a raid). Any of you thinking about stringing up some garland early? YOU'VE BEEN WARNED!

Joan, Jeanne, Joseph, and Chico

I was in Rome last October when the book "Joseph and Chico" hit the bookstores. It's a hardcover children's book, in Italian (which is why I could read it without too much use of a dictionary), which looks at the life of Pope Benedict through the eyes of one of his feline neighbors from Germany. Its publication gained gravitas when Msgr. Georg Gänswein, the Pope's personal secretary, wrote the book's introduction.

I tell you this because Joan Lewis' blog today tells the story of her meeting with Jeanne Perego, the book's author, who was in Rome to meet Pope Benedict for the first time. The whole story is here, but the tagline is the best part:

She happily recounted her Wednesday meeting with Benedict XVI – Chico’s friend Joseph. Then she came to the punch line. At the end of their conversation Pope Benedict looked at her, smiled broadly, and said, “You know, I always wanted to write a book about cats, and now a cat is writing a book about me!”

How humble I am

I probably shouldn't be telling you how lucky I am, but I just want to prove a point:

For the last year, I've been getting an amazing amount of confidential e-mails from more than a few widows of foreign despots, as well as lawyers for dozens of deceased distant relatives (I never knew I had) who named me as the sole beneficiary in their wills. They all want to give me millions of dollars, if I'd just send them my name, mailing address, bank and credit card account numbers.

Now, nothing would be more fun than to spend the $1.9 trillion dollars I'd have in my bank account by now, if you add up all the money these e-mails wanted to give me. But the truth is that I need to remain humble, and so I have forsaken these opportunities for easy wealth in favor of staying simple.

However, being the kind of guy who doesn't mind "sharing the wealth", if you think you can handle "instant wealth", please send me your name, address, bank account and credit card numbers, and I'll pass them along the next time I get one of those e-mails.

Two reasons why I shouldn't read the newspaper in the morning

Each morning I go through three newspapers: a local one, a state one, and a national one. This morning two articles made me nuts enough to choke on my morning coffee:

The first one was in today's Star-Ledger (our state newspaper). Right off the bat, it annoyed me with the headline,"A limited American visit for an older pope" (italics added by me). You can hear the undertone, "Here we go again, another John Paul II. A feeble old man who can't do much. He'll be dead soon, so no point is listening to what he has to say." I mean, the Dalai Lama is 72, but the press never prefaces their stories about him with comments about how he's not getting any younger! Soon we'll be getting the stories about how "Pope Benedict comes to visit a flock largely divided on issues such as abortion, birth control, homosexuality, the ordination of women, 'less filling' or 'tastes great', Ginger or Maryann, Darren 1 or Darren 2, Sean Connery or Roger Moore, etc." The bottom line is that Pope Benedict has shown himself not to be a traveller. So the very fact that he chooses to make a visit to the United States, when you can only count on one hand the other countries he has visited, says something about how he perceives a need for a visit.

The second article was an AP article that appeared in the Express-Times (our local newspaper). In the section called "Teen Scene", talking about how the ever-ambiguous "many people" feel that school nurses in middle schools should be able to dispense contraceptives (without parents' knowledge, of course). Unfortunately it's not posted on their website, so I can't give you the link so you can share my rage. When I was in 6th grade, our school nurse gave vision tests, scoliosis tests, and handled nosebleeds from schoolyard fights. My, how times have changed!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Pope John XXIII

YouTube has some great video snippets I hadn't seen before, including this one with footage of Pope Blessed John XXIII. I've certainly seen plenty of photos of him, but never so much of him speaking conversationally.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Wow, that was fast!

From the Catholic World News:

Baltimore, Nov. 9, 2007 ( - Baltimore's Archbishop Edwin O'Brien has removed a pastor who invited a female Episcopalian priest to join him in celebrating a funeral Mass, the Baltimore Sun reports.

Father Martin was removed from his parish assignment at a meeting with archdiocesan officials on November 8. The priest, whose unorthodox liturgical practices had prompted several prior complaints, said that the Episcopalian priest had not participated in the Consecration during the October funeral liturgy, although he had invited her to read the Gospel. There were conflicting reports on whether or not the Episcopalian cleric had received Communion; Father Martin said that he could not recall administering the Eucharist to her.

On the orders of the archbishop, Father Martin resigned his parish assignment and issued an apology for "bringing scandal to the Church," the Sun reports. A spokesman for the Baltimore archdiocese explained that the pastor's removal was called for because "he has repeatedly violated Church teaching."

Father Martin was serving as pastor of three different parishes in south Baltimore, where he had worked for 5 years. His removal comes just 6 weeks after Archbishop O'Brien was installed as head of the Baltimore archdiocese.

But, "I gotta be meeeeeeeeeee"

Check out this article from the Catholic News Agency.

Evidently, a Jesuit Priest at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia used the Sunday evening Mass to announce to everyone in attendance what he called one of the "worst-kept secrets on campus": that he is (in the words of New Jersey's previous governor), a "gay American". Thankfully, though, he didn't get into specifics about what went on on campus that made his homosexuality such a badly kept secret.

Well, Fr. Tom Euteneuer of Human Life International has written an open letter to the priest, in part, saying, "Holy Mass is not a forum for your self-expression.", and, "Not only do you owe them an apology, you owe them a better example of priesthood,".

Amen! If the start and the end are like that, imagine the middle. See Fr. Euteneuer's whole letter by clicking here.

PS - once Homiletic & Pastoral Review updates their website to post the articles in this month's issue, check out an article on Priestly narcissism. Also included in the article: what's behind the growing phenomenon of the "obligation" to applaud the choir at the end of Mass. Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Anyone have paper towels for the spilled milk?

Doing their post-election wrap up, today's Star Ledger has an article which blames Tuesday's defeat of the $450 million stem cell ballot question on two "forces":

"Supporters failed to grasp an unintentional alliance of two forces: public discontent with the state's borrowing, and the work of conservatives and religious leaders who opposed the ballot question's passage."

"Religious leaders"? Why, whomever could they mean? Read further:
"Last month, Catholic bishops in the state sent letters to all churches explaining the Catholic position against embryonic stem cell research. Pastors read the letters at Mass and put them in church bulletins, said James Goodness, a spokesman for the Newark Archdiocese. The dioceses also produced a 14-minute video with the Knights of Columbus.

'I think that certainly a number of people did hear what the bishops had to say about the Catholic Church's position and were moved by that,' Goodness said."

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Warts and all!

Thank You, New Jersey!

I know New Jersey gets picked on a lot (most of all by those of us who live here). But this morning, I've gotta tell you, I just LOVE my state.

Today's Newark Star Ledger has the story about how, yesterday, Garden State voters rejected a ballot question which sought permission to spend $450 million of taxpayer money to fund Stem Cell research. Research which would have been heavily dependent stem cells obtained through the destruction of human life.

The politicians were pushing "big time" for the passage of this question. Our governor even held a "groundbreaking" for a stem cell research facility at Rutgers University which, I believe thanks to the election results, now has no funding. The State of New Jersey has some serious fiscal problems, which are the result of some serious political problems. Their great hope was that one of these state-owned research labs would find a cure to some major disease (they tried "selling" this proposition to voters by giving them a litany of things that they guaranteed Stem Cells will cure: diabetes, paralysis, Parkinson's Disease, Alzheimers, global warming, rising oil prices, etc.). The state would then cash in on a healthy commission for bankrolling the research and development of the cure.

Here let me inject the fact that it's not all stem cell research that is morally wrong. Research using adult Stem Cells, including from adult fat cells? Fine; in fact, here I am. Research using Stem Cells obtained from umbilical cord blood? No problem. Research from fetal Stem Cells that have come from an unborn child that has tragically died in the womb of natural causes? Okay. After all, experience has taught us that these are the only Stem Cells that have produced any successful results. The problem is when human life will be intentionally destroyed in order to obtain the desired Stem Cells that we've crossed the line.

Also, separate from the ethical issues, pharmaceutical companies just aren't willing to cough up the bucks to fund the research themselves. Why not? A 2006 report on the cost of drug development noted that, "For drugs entering human clinical trials for the first time between 1989 and 2002, ... the cost per new drug [was estimated] to be $868 million. However, our estimates vary from around $500 million to more than $2,000 million, depending on the therapy or the developing firm." Isn't the $450 million being asked for a bargain, comparatively speaking? If science is "so close" to a breakthrough, shouldn't New Jersey's pharmaceutical companies be in open competition with each other to throw money at the project? Why are they keen on taxpayers footing the bill?

That's where the politicos erred. They thought they had promised enough cures to enough people to get the project approved. Believe me, I know that New Jersey voters weren't all suddenly struck with a "crisis of conscience" yesterday. But winning ugly is still a win, and I'll take it.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Ruini: Religious, Get Blogging!

The Zenit News site has an article about an address given by Camillo Cardinal Ruini, the Holy Father's Vicar for the Diocese of Rome, at a conference of the Superiors of Religious Communities of the Diocese of Rome. In the address, Cardinal Ruini said he had been told by a priest that young people have been using internet chatrooms and blogs to discuss Jesus Christ, and not necessarily in a good way.

How can the Church "get involved" in the discussion? His Eminence said, "I don’t understand the Internet, but especially young religious ought to enter blogs and correct the opinions of the youth, showing them the true Jesus.”

There's the challenge! The aereopagus of today is no longer a physical place, but a "cyber location". Young people (and not so young) thrive on the anonymity the internet offers to ask the deeper questions that they fear secular society would ridicule them over, should they ask them "in person". Clergy and religious should make themselves available on the internet so that these people with genuine questions have a place they can go for answers.

Friday, November 02, 2007

All Saints Day in Alpha, NJ

Yesterday's Solemnity of All Saints saw a "first" at my parish. Inspired by a classmate in Rhode Island who does something similar at his parish, I put out a display of all the relics of Saints that I, my pastor, and the parish possess. Here are some pictures; first, the "far off" view:

And now, the "close up" view:

In all, there were the relics of 33 Saints of the Church: Agatha, Agnes, Albert the Great, Ambrose, Anselm, Anthony of Padua, Augustine, Bonaventure, Catherine Laboure, Charles Borromeo, Elizabeth Seton, Gregory the Great, James the Greater, Jerome, John Chrysostom, John Neumann, John of the Cross, John Vianney, Josemaria Escriva, Laurence, Leo the Great, Lucy, Maria Goretti, Monica, Philip Neri, Pio of Pietrelcino, Pope Pius V, Pope Pius X, Robert Bellarmine, Theresa of Avila, Therese of Lisieux, Thomas Aquinas, and Vincent DePaul. Add to that the relics of Saints Clement and Perpetua which were encased in the altar on the day of their dedication in 1961, and a white zucchetto worn by the Servant of God, Pope John Paul II, and it was a great reminder of the "great cloud of witnesses" who spur us on to holiness.

A Tale of Two Cities

The front page of today's New York Times has a story about the town of Beit Shemesh, an ultra-orthodox Jewish community in Israel. The people who live there (about 32,000), including a fair number of migrants from western Europe and the United States, have chosen to live in this community where the town's Rabbinate Council makes sure that orthodox Judaism is strictly followed. And, in true unbiased journalistic fashion, the article's author simply reports the facts without putting in his personal opinions about approved kosher cell phones that block 10,000 "questionable" phone numbers, public transportation that segregates men from women, etc. The reporter writes that the Israeli market economy has adjusted to meet the needs of these people, and that politicians are paying attention to them because of the power they'll wield in national elections. According to the article, "Because they live in tight communities like this one, and obey their rabbis, they have significant power in the marketplace, as well as in the voting booth, said Rafi Melnick, dean of the Lauder School of Government at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya." These are Orthodox Jews committed to living their lives in a certain way. They live in a community with others who feel the same way. In the words of my deceased Jewish grandmother, "They should live and be well."


Remember back in July when the town of Ave Maria, Florida, had a community "open house" to show prospective residents and merchants the residential and commercial properties available for people who wish to live amongst committed Roman Catholics?
If you're a late-comer to the world of Young Fogeys, or if you forgot, I wrote about it in a previous blog entry.
Remember the journalistic cynicism as they spoke about the town they labelled, "Bibleland"? Evidently, in the world of mainstream media, you can be an orthodox Jew, but not an orthodox Roman Catholic. Remember how the ACLU said they were going to be "watching this town very carefully"?

In the end, it is a tale of two cities. Two cities inhabited by people who want to live their lives following God in the way they believe He asks them to do so. They should both live and be well, no matter what anyone thinks.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Comedy Relief

This has nothing to do with the normal, "Church" topics that this blog usually features. But it's one of my favorite commercials.

For the "hockey ignorant", Daniel and Henrik Sedin are identical twin brothers who play on the Vancouver Canucks. Also, at the end when they talk about how much money they made, a "Looney" is a Canadian one dollar coin (because it has a Loon on it), and a "Tooney" is the Canadian two dollar coin (probably because it rhymes with "Looney" and has the obvious connection to "Looney Tunes").