Monday, December 29, 2008

Dec. 29 - Feast of St. Thomas Becket

Perfect for today's feast, YouTube has the original movie trailer for the Burton/O'Toole classic.  Enjoy!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Trifecta in the Knestout family!

Now that the mad rush of Christmas is over, the clergy in the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, is getting ready for the Episcopal Ordination of Msgr. Barry Knestout.  He'll serve as an Auxiliary Bishop in the Archdiocese.

I first met him years ago in my seminary days, when he was secretary to James Cardinal Hickey.  The Cardinal had a love for the Mount, and would visit from time to time, almost always with the then-Father Knestout at the wheel (the fact that he is a Mount alumnus also meant he could probably drive up routes 270 and 15 blindfolded).

The greatest gift he ever gave me was when I was one of the house Masters of Ceremonies.  At the time, the seminary scheduled one MC for service each day.  The rector decided to have a Eucharistic Day on a day I had been scheduled to be the "MC of the day", and Cardinal Hickey was coming to celebrate Mass, lead Exposition and Adoration, take part in a Eucharistic procession, and then conclude with Vespers and Benediction.  I knew he had a secretary, so I wasn't in much of a panic (that didn't come until I found out the seminary visit from my diocese's vocations director would coincide with the Eucharistic Day), and I had enlisted the help of the other house MCs.  Then they arrived and I found out that he was letting me do it all.  What a blast that was!  Me MC-ing for a Cardinal!  Not only that, but a Cardinal who loved wearing all the trappings.  My interaction with Cardinal Hickey will be saved for another blog entry.

But back to the Bishop-Elect.

The Episcopal ordination of Msgr. Knestout will make for an interesting "trifecta" in the Church.  Knestout's father had been a Permanent Deacon before his death.  His brother, Mark, is also a Priest of the Washington Archdiocese.  It means the family will have had members in all grades of Holy Orders: Deacon, Priest, and now Bishop. Before some nit-picker writes me and says that both priests in the family had been ordained deacons, you know what I'm trying to get at.

The new Bishop's coat of arms will reflect his ecclesial career: In the bottom part of the shield is both a lion from the coat of arms of Cardinal Hickey, as well as a tower from the coat of arms of Archbishop Donald Wuerl (for whom he has served in various positions and committees).   His episcopal motto was the theme of Pope Benedict's visit to the United States (a major part of which was his visit to Washington, DC), for which the bishop-elect was co-chair of the committee handling the arrangements.

Congratulations to another Mountie entering the College of Bishops!  I suppose we know who'll be the main celebrant of the homecoming Mass in '09.

Friday, December 26, 2008

YF in the Washington Times!

Thanks to a Priest-friend of mine from the Cornhusker state for giving me a "heads up" that my humble little blog was quoted in the "Culture Briefs" section of the Washington Times' December 18 issue.

Click HERE to see it.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Pope's Christmas Stuff

Click HERE for the Holy Father's homily from Midnight Mass (scroll down for the English translation).

Click HERE for the Holy Father's Urbi et Orbi address.

Blessed Christmas to all!

My all-time favorite Christmas song (complete with lyrics):

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Vigil of Christmas

It's now about noon on December 24, a time I call the "quiet before the storm".

Right now, Priests everywhere are tweaking their homilies or doing some last minute decorating in the church.  In about three hours, the church parking lot will be full of cars parked in assorted and creative ways.  The church and our hall will be bursting at the seam with all sorts of people.  Christmas Eve in a parish is like a hurricane: an intense storm that you know is coming well in advance, lasts a pretty predictable amount of time, and then suddenly there's quiet and an aftermath of misplaced chairs, tossed bulletins, tipped over poinsettias, and the feeling of "Did that just happen?".

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Caption Contest?

(Thanks to Pilino Lepri/AP for the photo)

From the day the Holy Father merged
the Swiss Guards with the Jedi Knights,
 he never lost a zucchetto again.

Any other captions?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Mount St. Mary's in the Washington Times

The Mount, my alma mater, had a Mass in the Extraordinary Form for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, and I just found an article in the Washington Times which was written about it.

I attended the Mount from 1994-98, and certainly in those days the Mount had the reputation of being "conservative" (I always thought "traditional" was a better choice of words, but that's for another blog entry).  But even then, while other seminaries labeled the Mount "archconservative",  it was unthinkable that Mass in the Extraordinary Form would be celebrated in the college chapel as a mandatory event for the seminary and with an open invitation to the University community.  My contemporaries in the seminary remember the "smackdown" that took place when the Saturday morning private Masses of faculty priests (done in the Ordinary Form, in Latin, and ad orientem) began to attract more than a few seminarians.  Any Mounties out there remember the "I will win and you will lose" conference?

The gang at New Liturgical Movement had these photographs taken by attendees.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Father Cantalamessa's Advent sermons

Thanks to the Zenit News Service, here are this year's Advent sermons preached in the presence of Pope Benedict and the Papal Household by Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap.

The English translation of sermon three has not been posted yet.  Stay tuned.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Cardinal Dulles' funeral

Photo: Damon Winter/NYT

The New York Times has an article this morning about yesterday's funeral of Avery Card. Dulles at St. Patrick's Cathedral. So far, nothing in the Daily News or the NY Post.

A news story from the Fordham U. website gives some more information about yesterday's funeral.

I'm hoping that the website for the Archdiocese will post Cardinal Egan's homily.  In the meantime, there are some articles posted on the website for New York's Archdiocesan newspaper.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Oh my, it's time for the Advent O's

Maybe you caught it when you went to Mass this morning, or maybe you didn't.

With the arrival of December 17, Advent took a turn towards home.  To paraphrase the words I love to hear whenever I'm on a plane, "Folks, we have begun our initial descent into Christmas".

The Church's liturgy shows it a few ways:
  1. For the rest of Advent, the readings are proper to the date (Dec. 17, etc.) compared to before when it was generic (Tuesday of the 3rd week).
  2. The Mass propers at Mass also get date specific (see above).
  3. The Preface of the Eucharistic Prayer changes from Advent I ("When he humbled himself to come among us as a man...  Now we watch for the day...") to Advent II ("The Virgin mother bore him in her womb with love beyond all telling.  John the Baptist was his herald...").
  4. The classic difference (and your parish gets extra credit if they do it, and you get extra credit if your parish does it AND you go to it!) is that, at the recitation of Vespers (the Church's evening prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours), each day of the Late Days of Advent has an antiphon before the Magnificat ("My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord...") that begins with an "O" and a messianic title of Jesus.  You can read an article that It's explains it well by clicking here.
If you're a daily Mass-goer, did anything happen at Mass this morning that differed from the day before?  I'm just wondering if anything was done at your parish to make you aware that we've hit the "late days" of Advent (plus, I'm always looking for good ideas to steal).

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Avery Cardinal Dulles - R.I.P.

Word came late last week about the death of Cardinal Dulles, one of the true giants of American theologians.

Back in September of 2005, I interviewed His Eminence for my diocese's radio show.  We spoke about a book he had written on then history of apologetics.  If you'd like to hear the interview, click HERE.

"Presents" or "Presence"?

Today's celebration of Gaudete Sunday on the third Sunday of Advent is the Church giving us a chance to "come up for a breath" in our celebration of this season.

"Why do we need a breath?"  That's a good question, because if you have to ask that, then chances are good that you've bought into the cultural mentality that it's already Christmas time.  Do we act like it's Christmas already, and then stop occasionally when we step inside a church?

So what should we be doing?  The readings today give the recipe:
  • The First Reading tells us how we can do it: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me;"  At our Baptism and at our Confirmation (and for the YF Priests reading this, at our Ordination), the Holy Spirit has prepared us for this task.
  • The Responsorial Psalm tells us that "my soul rejoices in my God".  Can we honestly say that?  Do we have a soul that rejoices?  Do we have a joyful soul?  If the answer is "no", why not?  A joyful soul is the "default setting" that our soul was set on.  If not, what did we do to our soul to make it the way it is?  What has gotten into our soul to prevent it from being joyful?
  • The Second Reading is St. Paul telling us what to do, like he told the Thessalonians: "Rejoice always.  Pray without ceasing.  Give thanks.  Do not quench the Spirit.  Test everything; retain what is good.  Refrain from every kind of evil."  Does that little voice in us say, "You mean every kind of evil?"  "If I do 5 of the 6, isn't that still a good percentage?"  I dunno, ask yourself whether you'd fly on an airline that proudly announced, "Our flights land safely 84% of the time"?
  • The Gospel today jumps from Mark to John.  Long before John McCain, there was another John who gave "straight talk" without any remorse.  John the Baptist gets approached by representatives of the muckety-mucks of Jerusalem: the Levitical Priests and the Pharisees, who want to know who he is.  He humbly answers with the words of Isaiah: "I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord."  There it is.  There is the goal.  Do we prepare the way for Jesus Christ?  Do I live my life trying to make Jesus Christ known, which doesn't necessarily mean making myself known.  Remember that there were very few straight roads in biblical times, roads were bumpy, curved, steep, etc.  A straight road was a luxury.  A straight road was appreciated.  That's what we're called to do, make an easy road for the Lord to travel upon.
This is what the Church wants us to be doing in the Advent season: to bring Jesus Christ's presence into the world.  The world has told us that we can best do this if we shower our family and friends with expensive gifts.  The world says it's all about the presents, while the Church says it's all about His presence (hence the title of this blog entry).  Presents make us feel good for a while, but even the present we begged for, or heavily hinted that we wanted, will eventually get old and we'll get used to having it.  In short, presents have a "shelf life".  But presence never grows old.  As I'm getting older, my memories of Christmases past have little to do with what I got, and more and more about the family members who were there (of which some are now gone).

But before we can "be" Christ's presence, we need to "feel" Christ's presence.  At Mass.  In the Tabernacle.  In the Confessional.  In our prayer life.  Then we'll feel the joy the Church wants us to feel.  Otherwise, we're just a walking Christmas decoration: bright and cheery on the outside, but perhaps a bit of a mess on the inside.  God wants us to be prepared to celebrate the birth of Christ on the inside as well as the outside.  When it comes to Christmas, we decorate our houses with lights, we decorate trees with tinsel and ornaments, we decorate gifts with wrapping paper and bows, we decorate cookies and dining room tables and fireplace mantles.

When was the last time you decorated your soul?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The week that was

Another week has gone by, and I didn't write a word.  I apologize to those who are kind (and maybe crazy) enough to make this a stop on your wandering through the World Wide Web.  Like the plane captain says, "I know you have a choice when you make your blog reading plans, and I thank you for choosing Young Fogeys."

Advent is a season that most people don't get a chance to really dive into; there's really no "big start" to it.  I mean, Lent has Ash Wednesday, Christmas has Christmas Eve, Easter has the Easter Vigil, the Triduum has Holy Thursday, but Advent just has the 1st Sunday of Advent, usually at the tail end of Thanksgiving weekend.  Christ the King is celebrated a week before, and Advent comes like a swimmer trying to swim against the current: the world wants to jump into Christmas, and the swimmer keeps saying "not yet".  OK, this wasn't what I intended to write about, but the bottom line is that in this season of "waiting", I've been doing some waiting of my own.  I know I could've been more productive during that time, but I wasn't.  And, as an old boss of mine used to say, "You can't put the 'ding' back in the bell".  So what'd I miss writing about?

Monday was the Solemnity of Our Lady's Immaculate Conception.  I just love the reading we got in the breviary yesterday (Friday), which comes from Saint Irenaeus:
"... the good news of the truth announced by an angel to Mary, a virgin subject to a husband, undid the evil lie that seduced Eve, a virgin espoused to a husband.  As Eve was seduced by the word of an angel and so fled from God after disobeying his word, Mary in her turn was given the good news by the word of an angel, and bore God in obedience to his word.  As Eve was seduced into disobedience to God, so Mary was persuaded into obedience to God; this the Virgin Mary became the advocate of the virgin Eve."
There were four Masses scheduled at my parish, and I had the 10am, the one which our school kids attend.  How do you explain the Immaculate Conception to Kindergarteners?  Verrry slowly.  How do you do it in a homily that will give the rest of the school and the other people attending that Mass something to ponder and take home with them?  Let's just say I tried.  I spoke about "plans":  some kids make plans for what to do after school.  Teachers make plans about what to teach their students.  Parents make plans about summer vacations.  I then said that everyone makes plans, even God.  Then I went into how, after the fall of Adam and Eve that we heard in the 1st reading, God planned to send Jesus into the world, and he wanted to do it in a special way.  The 2nd reading said that God chose us, in [Jesus], before the world began.  We didn't just show up; we were planned.  God planned you and me, just like he prepared Mary to be a part of his bigger plan to bring Jesus into the world.  The kids seemed to "get it", or at least they didn't have that "huh?" look on their faces.

At night (after a wake service) I had my monthly "Q and A with Father Jay" class.  It was movie night, and in keeping with the Marian theme of the day, we watched the episode of Steve Ray's "Footprints of God" series that dealt with Mary.  It's a great series, not only on a visual level but also from an apologetic level.  Definitely worth having in a parish library.  They got to see the Basilica of the Annunciation, the Church of the Nativity, what traveling to the hill country meant, the Church of the Dormition, the House of Mary in Ephesus, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and a bunch more, all from the comfort of the parish center.

Tuesday morning was the funeral for the woman whose wake service I went to on Monday night before my Adult Ed.  Then, Tuesday night was a meeting of our parish's St. Vincent DePaul Society, which is our outreach to assist the poor (and of which I am the moderator).

Wednesday was my day off and I was gone most of the day, spending it with my mother.  Though I did get to watch on TV, as the Devils beat the Penguins.

Thursday morning we heard the confessions of 2 grades in our school.  This was the third week we've been doing it, so now the kiddies are all spiritually "clean and fresh" (or at least they were on Thursday morning).  On Thursday night I had our 7pm daily Mass.

Friday was the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  I started off with the 7am mass (I love to tell the story and explain the details about the Guadalupe image), and eventually had to go to K-Mart with the head of our Vincent DePaul Society.  We get gift cards for those who need them for Christmas gifts, clothes, etc, and he tells me they give a better discount if a Priest is there buying the cards.  At night I had the last batch of new altar servers in for an orientation.

That brings me to this morning.  We had about 160 of our 2nd graders make their first penance.  Then I heard some more confessions at our regularly scheduled 12:30 time, and here I am!  Nothing going on until the meet and greet after the 4pm Mass, and then I have the 5:30pm Mass tonight.

So how's your week been?

Saturday, December 06, 2008

A fart tax?

From Yahoo News:
For farmers, this stinks: Belching and gaseous cows and hogs could start costing them money if a federal proposal to charge fees for air-polluting animals becomes law.
See the whole article by clicking here.

(By the way, if this law passes, I know a couple of rectories where the government would make a bundle)

Friday, December 05, 2008

Table 14, lunchtime, The Olive Garden

"Can I get this without anchovies?"

"Rate your server.  Hmmm, I'm thinking a  6."

"Can I get another iced tea?"

"They call this a breadstick?"

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

parish suggestion follow-up

My last post about my partying senior citizens provoked an e-mail from a confrere (albeit from a different ecclesial communion) who had this to say:
It isn't just that they will stay until the end - people will go to any function, regardless of weather, except church. 
If it is threatening to rain or snow, its a light house, but nothing will stop the tailgate before the Jets game, or the kids soccer or football games, even sitting in the chilly rain.
It's human nature....anywhere but comfortable and safe in the Lord's arms.
This reminded me of an article written almost a decade ago by Bishop Thomas Tobin (now in Providence, but then in Youngstown, Ohio), in which he lamented the state of the Sacrament of Marriage in all its brutal reality.

But I digress.  This e-mail sent to me prompted an impromptu reply, which I've embellished a bit as I've had time to ponder it:
  • If a football coach tells parents their son needs to memorize plays to be on the team, the parents agree.  If a priest tells parents their child needs to memorize prayers or facts about their faith to be a better Catholic, the parents argue.
  • If a soccer coach tells parents they need to get their child to team practices three times a week, the parents change work schedules and arrange carpools.  If a priest tells parents they need to get their child to a practice before a big liturgy, the parents complain.
  • If a cheerleading coach tells parents that they need to raise money so the team can go to a competition at Disney World, the parents sell candy bars and wash cars.  If a priest tells parents that they need to raise money so the altar servers can get new robes, the parents remark that "It's always about money".
  • If a school teacher isn't pushing his/her students to read and do math beyond their grade level, then he/she isn't thought to be doing their job.  If a religious education program pushes students to know and understand their faith beyond their grade level, then the program is thought to be "unrealistic".
Sports parents see the connection between practices and "the game"; they understand that to play better during games, their athlete needs to attend practices in order to reinforce things already learned, as well as to learn new things. Sports parents understand that if their child does not attend the practices, chances are they will not play in the game. Parents will even send their children to special sports camps in order to get them advanced coaching and skills, so that their child can do something on the field that the other players cannot.

A significant amount (but certainly not all) of Catholic parents don't see the connection between their child(ren)'s religious education classes and Sunday Mass. Some think it is sufficient to send their child(ren) to the classes, but not attend Mass regularly.  Religious education is a service they pay for and expect to be done for them but not by them.  Like hiring someone to teach their kids to play the piano, some parents think that religious education programs are there to teach their children to have faith.   But back to kids who attend religious ed. but not Mass:  Can you imagine signing little Johnny or Judy up for soccer, taking them to the practices during the week, and then not taking them to the actual games?  Do we tell them they should just be happy attending the practices?  That's neither fair to the child(ren) nor to the team.  Unlike the goal of youth athletics, which is meant to help the athlete be the best player they can be while still understanding they are a part of a team, the goal in most religious education classes is to know exactly what the other kids know, and no more.  Religious education tests are largely "fill in the blank"; essay questions are a rarity.  We never give a child a topic and see what they can do with it.  Instead we ask them to name the 12 apostles, the 7 sacraments, the 3 Divine Persons, the names of the Pope, the Bishop, and the Pastor (and sadly, if they can do that we're astonished), and they're done.  Ask them what the Apostles did for us, or what the Sacraments do for us, etc., and you get the blank face.  Yet THAT'S what will get them through the "game times" when life experiences have them pressured or down, and they could use their Catholic faith to help them through the storm.  I'm not even getting into the question of the current obsession with "community service hours" that is now been grafted into Confirmation preparation programs.  I mean, isn't community service what the justice system gives to offenders as a punishment?

OK, enough ranting on this.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Suggestion for parishes

Last night my parish's Senior Citizens group had their "Christmas party" (I know, "Christmas on December 1?"  Don't get me started).  They started the party with a cocktail hour at 6pm.  When I left at about 9:15, they were still going strong, with no signs of stopping.

When it comes to social events at a parish, why is it that people will stay until the bitter end of the party, but duck out of Mass after Communion because of some sort of fear of avoiding the push of the crowd?

Maybe if we put a DJ in the church hall that plays the "electric slide" after Mass?

Checking in

I'm sorry that there's been a lack of entries here at "blog central".  On the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, we had 2 Masses at which about 170 kids from the parish received the Sacrament of Confirmation (we had 2 similar Masses the Saturday before I left).  I was the MC for our retired Bishop, an amazing 88 year old man.  Should I have said, "88 year old person"?  Did I offend anyone?  Sorry.

I don't believe in "blogging for blogging's sake", meaning putting something up like, "OMG, I just had the best bagel in the world!"  I'm here, but a little bit busy in the humdrum of parish life.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving...

Click here for Arlo Guthrie's classic, "Alice's Restaurant".  A Thanksgiving tradition.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Catholic roots of Thanksgiving

Ah, Thanksgiving.  The feast of family, food, football, and "Black Friday".

But does it have Catholic roots?

This article gives some interesting history.  Check it out.

Canada wrap-up

I'm sorry that I'm only now getting around to putting fingers to keyboard, but time slipped away upon my arrival home last Monday. In my last entry I said I was heading off to Niagara Falls, which I did do, but upon my arrival I found a sign on the door of the hotel's Business Center which read, "Sorry, internet service not working".

All in all, it was a great trip up north. Some people don't think there is such a thing as a relaxing vacation in a cold climate, but there are things like hats and gloves and sweatshirts, y'know?   Others posit, "How can you go on vacation alone?" But let me tell you, while I do enjoy the times I go away with friends and family, there is something freeing about not having to wonder what the other person(s) on the trip want to do. Would anyone else want to spend 2 hours at the Hockey Hall of Fame? No way (unless I was being inducted). Of course, with regards to the supernatural level, one of the best things about being a Priest is that you can say Mass whatever time you want, without worrying about how far away the local parish is and what their Mass schedule is. But enough with me writing; how about some pictures...

Making my way through customs into Canada

Tim Horton's = the Dunkin' Donuts of Canada,
and my first stop.  I have arrived!

The entrance to the Hockey Hall of Fame

The Stanley Cup

The Air Canada Centre - home of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
I forgot my camera, so this was taken with my phone.

On the ground,
looking up at the CN (Canadian National) Tower

and...... the tower, looking down on Toronto

The XM satellite radio studio,
home to NHL Home Ice (channel 204)

The gang at "Hockey This Morning"
were great to welcome me

Outside St. Michael's Cathedral in Toronto,
a plaque give its history

Wayne Gretzky's Restaurant
(try the meat loaf!)

I've got a Bachelor's and 2 Master's Degrees,
and I have no idea what this means.

Maple Leaf Gardens
home to the Leafs from 1931 to 1999

A view of Niagara Falls
from outside the hotel

The American Falls
and the Rainbow Bridge

The Canadian (Horseshoe) Falls

Me at the HSBC Center in Buffalo,
The Sabres are doing their pre-game warm up

Ryan Miller rocks!

In nearby St. Catherine's,
watching the Sudbury Wolves
and the Niagara Ice Dogs

Me and the youngest of the Staal brothers,
who plays for the Wolves.

The Carmelites have a retreat center
located above the falls.
Previously, it was Mount Carmel College.

The Carmelite chapel

The Carmelite cemetery,
located next door in the parish
of Our Lady of Peace

Next door is "Loretto House",
a former convent, boarding school and retreat house.
The sisters recently sold it.
(this was taken from the falls looking up)

Back to the USA

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

No photos yet, sorry

Greetings from snowy Toronto. It's cold here, but I hear it's cold at home, too. It's been great wandering around the city.

Today's walk:
  • The museum at the Canadian Broadcasting Centre
  • the CN Tower
  • lunch at Wayne Gretzky's restaurant
  • a pilgrimage to the Maple Leaf Gardens

Tomorrow I'm off to Niagara Falls for the last part of my trip. More to come.

Monday, November 17, 2008


I'm having trouble uploading pictures at the moment, so you'll have to be content with text.

I just got back to the hotel after going to the Air Canada Centre for a game between the Maple Leafs and the Boston Bruins. My fingers are a bit numb from the weather, but it's a blast walking around Toronto. Today I went to the Hockey Hall of Fame and spent about 2 hours wandering about (pronounced "aBOOT" up here). I flew into Buffalo and drove up from there last night.

Oh, Canada! The land of Tim Horton's on every block! If I can figure out the pics thing I've got some great ones. If not, well, they'll wait until I get home. Tomorrow I head over the the XM radio studios for NHL Home Ice. They were nice enough to offer me a chance to check the studios out, so who knows, if you listen to XM205 at the end of Hockey This Morning or the start of The War Room, maybe they'll let me say hello.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

On the road

Starting this afternoon, I'm away for a vacation up north.  I don't know whether I'll have internet access.  So, this site might either get quiet for a week, or have some cool pictures.

Where to?  Ontario!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Gutsy move

The Associated Press is running an article about Fr. Jay Scott Newman, the Pastor of Saint Mary's parish in Greenville,  South Carolina, who is attempting to teach his flock that "actions have consequences."  Check it out.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Feast of St. Leo the Great

Today's Feast day always reminds me that Pope Leo's altar is one of my favorite altars to say Mass at St. Peter's Basilica.  Some of you may remember the blog entry I did a few months ago about the "nuts and bolts" of saying Mass at St. Peter's.

I like it for a few reasons:
  1. It's in the back, left corner of the Basilica, a nice, quiet, out of the way place.
  2. I mean, c'mon, how great is it that this is you're saying Mass over Pope Leo's relics?  He was the first Pope to be buried at St. Peter's Basilica.  Before this, Pope were buried in a cemetery outside of town.  In the previous Basilica he was under the porch.  He was moved to his present location in 1606.
  3. The altarpiece is an excellent bas-relief sculpture of the meeting between Pope Leo and Attila the Hun.  It was completed in the mid 1600s.  I love Leo pointing up at the angry looking Sts. Peter and Paul, who look ready to pounce on Attila.  To see a really good closeup of it, click this link to the Web Gallery of Art, then go to the bottom index, and click on the letter "A".  In the list, click on Alessandro Algardi (the artist), then follow the links to the sculpture.
  4. If you're standing in front of the altar, about 7 yards away from the rail, look down.  You'll see a slab of marble, under which is the tomb of Pope Leo XII (who died in 1829).  The slab, which Leo placed there himself, has an inscription (which he wrote himself) that essentially says that he was the least of the Popes who were heirs to the name Leo.
Fogey Priests, when in Rome you need to say Mass at this altar (unless I'm there, then get out of my way!).

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Memento Mori

A parishioner sent me these: Some clever things on old tombstones.

Harry Edsel Smith of Albany, NY
1903 - 1942
Looked up the elevator shaft to see if the car was on the way down.
It was.

In a Thurmont, Maryland cemetery:

Here lies an Atheist.
All dressed up and no place to go.

In a London cemetery:

Here lies Anne Mann.
She lived an old maid but died an old Mann.

In a Ribbesford, England cemetery:

Anna Wallace
The children of Israel wanted bread,
And the Lord sent them manna.
Clark Wallace wanted a wife,
And the devil sent him Anna.

On a grave in Nantucket, Massachusetts:

Under the sod and under the trees,
Lies the body of Jonathan Pease.
He is not here, there's only the pod.
Pease shelled out and went to God.

Another great NLM article

Regular readers may remember the posting I did entitled, "Armor", in which I discussed the supernatural dimension of the Mass vestments worn by Priests, as well as some commentary about the way sacristys have become "backstage before the show".

Well, whilst browsing the New Liturgical Movement website, I came across an article written (a week later) by Shawn Tribe which reinforces what I had written.  Definitely worth a read.

Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica

The gang at New Liturgical Movement have a great blog entry for today's feast day.

Also, the Sacred Destinations website has another nice entry.

Check them out.

OK, get back on the ledge.

From an Associated Press article which Drudge Report linked to:

"Presidents long have used executive orders to impose policy and set priorities. One of Bush's first acts was to reinstate full abortion restrictions on U.S. overseas aid. The restrictions were first ordered by President Reagan and the first President Bush followed suit. President Clinton lifted them soon after he occupied the Oval Office and it wouldn't be surprising if Obama did the same."

"Bush used his executive power to limit federal spending on embryonic stem cell research, a position championed by opponents of abortion rights who argue that destroying embryos is akin to killing a fetus. Obama has supported the research in an effort to find cures for diseases such as Alzheimer's. Many moderate Republicans also support the research, giving it the stamp of bipartisanship."

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

OK, come off the ledge.

Things to ponder on "the day after":

1. We'll have a President named "Barack".  It's not exactly the most popular name you've ever heard.  But let's look at the bigger picture: When it comes to Presidents, we've had a Millard, a Ulysses, a Rutherford, a Chester, a Grover (he was so nice they elected him twice), a Woodrow, a Calvin, a Herbert, a Dwight, and a Lyndon.  Life goes on.  We'll adapt.

2. We'll have a Catholic Vice President who is not exactly the poster boy for orthodoxy.  Is he the first Catholic who thought he could treat doctrine like a "build your own sundae" bar?  Chances are we can all fire off the names of at least five people we see every day who do the same.  So is he the first high profile Roman Catholic in public office to think that?  Can anyone say Kennedy, Pelosi, or in New Jersey, McGreevey?  But as Catholics, we also believe that there's always hope for the sinner to come home.  I mean, really, one good confession and Biden is back, baby!

3. Catholics have crept one step closer to thinking that we can decide doctrine by popular vote.  This morning at daily Masses around the country, some Catholics are coming in with big grins on their faces like they snuck in after curfew without their parents' knowledge.  Other Catholics are coming in with faces that look like their puppy got run over.  Both may slip into feeling that this election somehow decided the fact that abortion is now somehow acceptable or permissible; It still is not.  Truth does not get determined by a popularity contest.  This election may have been about who gets to sit in the Oval Office as well as about five thousand other government agencies for the next four years, but it wasn't about who gets to say what's right and what's wrong.  That job was never on the table.

There might be more of these as the day goes on.  Stay tuned.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

All Souls spiritual reading

These all come from the Ignatius Press blog, so a thanks to them.

To Trace All Souls Day by Fr. Brian Van Hove, SJ, in St. Louis.

On November: All Souls and "Permanent Things" by Fr. James Schall, SJ, of Georgetown University.

Purgatory: Service Shop for Heaven by Fr. Anthony Zimmerman

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

Don't overdo it with the candy, or you know what'll happen...

(People laugh when a pumpkin can't hold its candy)

All Hallows Eve

As we approach the Solemnity of All Saints, the EWTN website has unveiled a "Saints of the Church" database.  It's definitely worth checking out.  Click HERE.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


The first reading for Mass today had St. Paul telling the Ephesians (in fact, this is the last passage we'll get from Ephesians; tomorrow we start hearing Philippians at Mass) about the necessity for spiritual armor in our battle against evil.

The insight there is neat to catch.  Paul is on his way to Rome to appeal his death sentence imposed in Jerusalem (as a Roman citizen, this was his prerogative).  In today's reading, he writes that he is an "ambassador in chains"; he is literally chained (albeit a very long chain) to a Roman soldier as he's writing this letter.  We can imagine him occasionally glimpsing up from his parchment as he's writing about putting on "the armor of God", checking out what the guard is wearing, and giving each piece of the guard's protective gear a supernatural metaphor.

As someone who plays hockey, and more specifically someone who plays goal, there is something special about "putting on the armor".  Last night I went back to my old stomping grounds to play with the guys and gals I played with up until my transfer last July.  I hadn't played since late June, and so my equipment hadn't been out of its bag since that time.  I was dressing next to someone watching me put on the skates, pants, pads, etc., who was fascinated with the goalie equipment.  There's something about the equipment; a goalie "bonds" with his gear.  A goalie's gear is all that lies between his body, a hard ice surface, really sharp skate blades, and hard rubber pucks fired at various angles, heights, and speeds.

So what about Priests and their "spiritual armor"?  I'm talking here about the sacred vestments they wear for the celebration of Mass.  A Missal from 1959 gives a concise explanation of the vestments a Priest wears at Mass and their supernatural meaning:
The AMICE: A square of white linen wrapped around the neck and covering the shoulders.  The Amice symbolizes the helmet of salvation, i.e., the virtue of hope (1 Thess. 5, 8), that helps the priest to overcome the attacks of Satan.

The ALB: A long, white linen garment reaching to the feet. The Alb symbolizes the innocence and purity that should adorn the soul of the priest who ascends the altar.

The CINCTURE: The cord used as a belt to gird the Alb. It symbolizes the virtues of chastity and continence required of the priest.

The STOLE: Roman magistrates wore a long scarf when engaged in their official duties, just as our judges wear a court gown. Whenever a priest celebrates Mass or administers the Sacraments, he wears the Stole as a sign that he is occupied with an official priestly duty. When placing the Stole about his neck, in vesting for Mass, the priest begs God to give him the garment of immortality that was forfeited by our sinful first parents.

The CHASUBLE: The outer vestment put on over the others. Originally, this was a very full garment, shaped like a bell and reaching almost to the feet all the way round, though today they come in various shapes and cuts.  The Chasuble symbolizes the virtue of charity, and the yoke of unselfish service for the Lord, which the priest assumes at ordination.
What many people don't know is that there are prayers associated with the putting on of each of these vestments.  Why don't they know it?  Well, a few reasons.  In our day and age, when many people see Mass as some sort of performance, they creep into coming to think of the sacristy as "backstage" before the "show", where we kibbitz, wish each other luck, etc.  From the first time I entered the sacristy of St. Peter's Basilica, I have loved what is carved into the marble in big letters for everyone to see:

The other reason is a "self-inflicted wound".  We clergy sometimes treat sacred vestments as ordinary pieces of clothing.   Many people don't know about the prayers the go with vesting because many priests (and deacons) don't USE the prayers when they put on the vestments proper to their office.  When Priests begin to think of the Mass as performance, then, for them, vestments become simply a "costume" they wear for their show.

Part of how we're going to restore the sense of the sacred at Mass is going to be showing those who are involved in serving in the various ministries that necessitate them being in the sacristy before a Mass (lectors, altar servers, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, cantors, etc.) that, when we prepare to celebrate Mass, there's stuff going on on BOTH the natural and supernatural levels.  Here I should also mention Canon 909, which says that "The priest is not to fail to make the required prayerful preparation for the celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice or the thanksgiving to God upon its completion" (as if I needed something else to confess).  As when I play hockey, I need to get my body (by wearing all my armor) as well as my mind into the game, so in my Priestly service I need to prepare in both body (with my supernatural armor) and mind (with prayerful preparation).

So what if you're Joe or Jane Catholic who don't wear vestments?  For everyone else (and for clergy besides the vestments), what's the "armor"?  Prayer.  Confession.  The Eucharist.  In the Gospel today, Jesus laments the number of times that he's offered himself to the people of Jerusalem, only to be ignored or met with casual indifference.  From within how many Tabernacles does the Lord still get met with those same attitudes?  What does Jesus need to do to get our attention?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

On St. Jude's Feast Day...

Relics of Saints Simon and Jude

The relics of these two saints can be found at St. Peter's Basilica, underneath the altar at the center of the left transept of the Basilica.  The relics were placed here in 1605.  A large photograph (too large to directly display here) can be found by clicking HERE.

A few other trivia factoids about that altar:
  • The mosaic above the altar is St. Joseph, and was placed there in 1963, and depicts St. Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church.
  • The round medallions on either side of the altar are depictions of Sts. Simon and Jude.
  • The two maroon colored porphyry columns on the altar were part of the main altar in the original St. Peter's Basilica.
  • This altar is one of the few places in the Basilica that one can attend a daily Mass.

What does this mean?

This sentence can be found at the end of a biography of St. Jude Thaddeus from a shrine to the saint in San Francisco:
"A new booklet of devotions to Saint Jude has been written and prepared in accord with the mind and wishes of Vatican Council II.  This booklet is available through the Shrine."
Now, if you're like me, you read that line and say to yourself, "Uh oh, wacky lib alert!"  I have found that, usually, any time someone wants to cite the "mind and wishes" of V2, rather than the actual words of V2, then something smells funky.  But then, I present to you another item from their gift shop:

Sure enough, I looked in the Book of Blessings, and under the section dealing with the "blessing of food or drink or other elements connected with devotion".  Paragraph 1795 gives an assortment of blessings, and among them is a blessing for oil which says, "May all who use this oil (in honor of Saint N.) be blessed with health of mind and body."

So apparently a clergyman can bless oil for use of anointing in honor of any saint you want.  I never knew that.
Benedícite, glácies et nives, Dómino

Monday, October 27, 2008

A big Young Fogeys' "Shout out"

A package arrived this morning from Amazon with a bunch of things from my wish list.

I had been tipped off that some things were coming from the St. James Womens' and Co-Ed Bible Study in beautiful Basking Ridge, New Jersey.  I was at St. James for five years, and I've watched their bible study group grow and grow and grow (is it polite to say "like weeds?").  It's a great example of what the laity can do on the parish level (aka the "frontline" of the Church).

I am overwhelmed at your generosity.  My sincere thanks to all of you.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Say goodbye to green for a while

For the next two Sundays (November 2 and 9), we get feast days (Commemoration of All Soul's and the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica) which take precedence over the Sunday's of Ordinary Time.  All Souls allows for white, violet, or black vestments, while St. John Lateran will be white.

But fear not, we'll get one more weekend of green vestments before going to the violet of Advent.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Would she be a Kings fan?

During a State Visit to Slovakia, more than 4,000 spectators then watched as Queen Elizabeth symbolically dropped the puck between Aquacity Poprad and Guildford Flames ice-hockey players in Poprad before leaving for London.

THIS JUST IN!  Thanks to my pal Father Guy, here's a link to video of the puck drop.

How about this?

I was reading the General Instruction of the Order of Christian Funerals (lest you think I'm a total nerd with no life, I was doing so while watching the Devils/Flyers game), I came across this line in paragraph 20:
"The family and friends of the deceased should not be excluded from taking part in the services sometimes provided by undertakers, for example, the preparation and laying out of the body."

What could stop a Bloomberg Three-peat?

From today's NY Daily News:

"Today, the majority of the City Council decided to give the people of New York a fuller choice in the November 2009 election. I believe that was the right choice," Bloomberg said.

Who else might be excited about being no longer burdened by term limits?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

"Synods can be a waste of time"

So say some people, but I'm inclined to disagree.

Why?  Well thanks to Fr. Tom Rosica's article from the Synod on the Word of God, I now know that the the Latin term for "Ice Hockey" is "Pilamalleus Super Glaciem".

See that?  The Universal Church spoke up, and I listened!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Preach it, brotha!

Jeff Miller's Curt Jester led me to the blog of Dominican Father Philip Neri Powell, and these 10 basic facts, which he entitled, "The Church is not WalMart":
1). The Roman Catholic Church isn't WalMart or Burger King; it's the Body of Christ.

2). Catholic priests, nuns, sisters/brothers and laity aren't employees; we are members of the Body of Christ.

3). The doctrine and dogma of the Catholic Church are not consumer products that the Church's employees sell to those who want them; Catholic doctrine and dogma express the unchanging truth of the faith.

4). Life in a Catholic parish is not a trip to Disney Land or Target or McDonald's where your consumer needs and whims are catered to by the whimpering clergy and lay staff; parish life is the life of Christ for the local Catholic family.

5). You do not come into the Catholic Church b/c you like the building better than you like the Methodist chapel; or because the priest at the Catholic parish is cuter than the Baptist preacher; or because you heard that the homilies are shorter at St. Bubba's by the Lake than they are at the Unitarian Church. You come into the Catholic Church because you believe that the Catholic faith is the truth of the gospel taught by Christ himself and given to his apostles.

6). Leaving the Catholic Church because a priest was mean to you, or because sister whacked you with a ruler, or because the church secretary looked at you funny is as stupid as giving up on the truths of math because you hate your high school algebra teacher. Why would anyone let a crazy priest or a cranky nun or anyone else for the matter drive you out of the faith you believe is true? My only conclusion: you never thought it was true to begin with; or, you have a favorite sin the Church teaches against and crazy priests and cranky nuns is as good an excuse as any to leave and pursue your sin all the while feeling justified b/c Father and/or Sister are such jerks.

7). Anyone who comes in the Catholic Church thinking that they will find clouds of angels at Mass dressed as parishioners; hordes of perfect saints kneeling for communion; seminaries packed with angelic young men burning to be priests; a parish hall stacked to the ceiling with morally pure people eager to serve; and a priest without flaw or blemish, well, you're cracked and you probably need to go back and try again. Telling Catholics that they aren't perfect makes as much sense as telling fish they're wet. We know already. Move on.

8). Of the hundreds of priests and religious I know, I know two who could count as saints right now. The rest of us are deeply flawed, impure, struggling creatures who know all too well that we fail utterly to meet the basic standards of holiness. For that matter: so do you. Get in line.

9). The Catholic Church owes no one a revision of her doctrine or dogma. She didn't change to save most of Europe from becoming Protestant, why would you imagine that she would change just to get you in one of her parishes?

10). If you want to become Catholic, do it. But do it because you think the Church teaches the true faith. If a cranky priest on a blogsite is enough to keep you from embracing the truth of the faith, then two things are painfully clear: 1) you do not believe the Church teaches the faith; 2) and you care more about expresssing your hurt consumer feelings than you do for your immortal soul.

Fr. Philip, OP

UPDATE: Yes, I am a priest, and a huge part of my ministry is to console, to be present, to advise, and to try my best to shine out the light of Christ. As a Dominican friar, I do all of that first and best by telling the truth! The best pastoral approach is always to tell the truth, so please, forget the notion that "to be pastoral" is somehow opposed to "telling the truth" or "teaching the faith." 

The Truth is Always Pastoral.

Secular society's source of solace and spirituality

I had a funeral yesterday of a woman who left behind a husband and four grown children.

At the cemetery, I did the usual Rite of Committal.  At the end of it, the funeral director (on behalf of the family) usually thanks people for coming and invites them to some sort of reception for a meal.  But not this time.  At the end of the funeral director's remarks, one of the deceased's sons produced an iPod with external speakers, and announced that the family wanted two songs played.

The first song was "Time to Say Goodbye" by Andrea Bocelli & Sarah Brightman.  A bit of a tearjerker under these circumstances, but, well, if that's what you want.  So he placed the iPod w/speakers on top of the coffin, and everyone had a good cry.

Then, still sniffling, he announced that "Mom wouldn't want us leaving on a sad note", that she'd want everyone to be happy, and that we should all have a beer for mom.  Siblings then produced cases of beer and distributed cans to anyone and everyone (no under agers, as far as I could see).  He then announced that the second song that would be played was Jimmy Buffett's "Margaritaville", clicked on the iPod, and put the contraption back on mom's casket.

As I watched it all go down, I was thinking to myself, "We had prayers for the repose of this woman's soul, readings from the Word of God, a decent homily if I may say so, reception of the Holy Eucharist, all interspersed with sacred music."  Yet none of that was going to fill the "God pocket" inside of them!  They had to do something extra.  Something for themselves.  Something that would "make them feel happy", and none of the Church's rituals did that for them.  I watched them as the song went on.  They were participating by singing along (dare I say they were doing so "fully, conscious, and actively"?), yet at the same time they were almost contemplative.

This is where the vast majority of our thirty-somethings are, when it comes to their "spirituality".  Mass attendance happens at Christmas, Easter, or when their kids (or their friends' kids) receive a Sacrament.  The Church's ceremonies have no meaning to them, except for it's theatrical aspect.  Purely natural, no supernatural.  They know little or nothing about basic doctrine about "the four last things", and so, for them, Heaven is some sort of hotel/resort that you check into but never leave (thank you, Eagles).  Everyone who dies goes to Heaven.  Oh, and their pets too.

You can't blame them; they went through Catholic religious education at a time when knowing truths about God was not as important as how they "feel or experience" God personally.  Also, since many of our thirty-somethings stopped receiving any kind of catechesis the moment after they received Confirmation, they may biologically be 30+, and they may understand the natural world as a 30+ person, but they still have the supernatural outlook of a 12 or 13 year old! Because of that, there's no comprehension of what is being done for the deceased at a Catholic funeral; they don't see any need (much less the necessity) to pray for the soul of a deceased person.  Nor do they see their need (or the deceased's need) for the Church's funeral rites.  This gets replaced by their own personal version of the same.  In short, the funeral is about THEM, and their grief at the loss of the deceased.

We're partially to blame for this.  We stopped talking about death, judgment, heaven, and hell.  We have become Egyptian in our attitude towards death and the afterlife, thinking our deceased's coffin needs to be filled with the things they enjoyed in this life: their favorite cigarettes, romance novels, transistor radio, etc.  We allow the white funeral pall, which recalls baptismal dignity, to be replaced by things like a sport jersey or some other keepsake.  We practically insist that some family member or friend, most of whom are untrained in public speaking and at the moment in some serious grief, get up at the funeral Mass in front of a crowd and read the inspired Word of God (If we're lucky, their words are discernible and they get through it without breaking down).  We allow eulogies that, at times, take longer than the Mass, give the people something to remember other than the homily, and at times are irreverent and at other times border on scandalous.  All for the sake of making the family "happy"; hoping they'll leave the funeral "feeling good" about it.  The worst nightmare of any parish priest is for a letter of complaint from a grief stricken widow or family to go to the bishop's desk (even if it is because the celebrant of the funeral would not allow the deceased's granddaughter to do her Irish step dance routine "one last time for grandpa").

As I stood there listening to the words (and don't get me wrong, Margaritaville is a fun song, in it's proper place), it hit me that this was where these people were genuinely drawing their comfort.  Not from the Church, not from a Priest, and not from their faith in eternal life through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but from Jimmy Buffett (the man who also gave us such tunes as "The @$$hole Song" and "Why Don't We Get Drunk and Screw?").

I'm sure that every time they're in some bar or some franchised restaurant with loud "good times" music on a perpetual playlist, they'll get a bit misty and think of mom.  But I ask myself if they will look for comfort in church?  Right now, my answer leans towards, "no".

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Evidently, the whole financial crisis thing is overrated

From today's Star Ledger:

The reason for the get together is a horse race.  But it's more about the crowd that tailgates like something out of a Ralph Lauren commercial.  Yes, folks, this is my diocese.  Here's a piece of the article:
After taking off multiple days from work for planning and inviting more than 175 people, she set up a table with sandwiches, desserts and a 175-pound ice sculpture of a horse's head about half the size of a person.
In The Godfather, a horse's head was a warning; In Far Hills, New Jersey, it's table decoration!