Friday, May 30, 2008

World Day of Prayer for Sanctification of Priests

Today is the tenth anniversary of my Ordination to the Priesthood, and because today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, today is also the World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests.

Each year, the Prefect for the Congregation for the Clergy puts out a letter to mark the day, with beautiful prayers at the end.  I found this on my own, but I'm wondering: Any of the Priests reading this, have you ever been told about this from your diocese?  You can see the letter by Cardinal Hummes and all the prayers by clicking here, but here's just two of the prayers included:

For the Priest himself:

Most beloved Jesus, with a singular benevolence you have called me from among thousands of men to follow you in the excellence of Priestly dignity.  I beg you for the divine strength to rightly fulfill my ministry.  I implore you, Lord Jesus, to daily renew the grace given to me through the imposition of the hands of a Bishop.  O most powerful doctor of souls, heal me so that I may not fall back into evil, that I may flee from every sin, and that I may do what is pleasing in your eyes until the hour of my death.  Amen.

A prayer for priests:

Lord Jesus, present in the Most Blessed sacrament,
and living perpetually among us through Your Priests,
grant that the words of Your Priests may be only Your words,
that their gestures be only Your gestures,
and that their lives be a true reflection of Your life.

Grant that they may be men who speak to God on behalf of His people,
and speak of His people to God.
Grant that they be courageous in service,
serving the Church as she asks to be served.

Grant that they may be men who witness to eternity in our time,
traveling on the paths of history in Your steps,
and doing good for all.

Grant that they may be faithful to their commitments,
zealous in their vocation and mission,
clear mirrors of their own identity,
and living the joy of the gift they have received.

We pray that Your Holy Mother, Mary,
present throughout Your life,
may be ever present in the life of Your Priests.  Amen.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

B16 and ACD

Much is afloat around the blogosphere about the "private" meeting (about as private as a Pontiff can get when it comes to entourage and the U.S. Secret Service) between Pope Benedict and Avery Cardinal Dulles.  The meeting took place on the grounds of St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers during the pontiff's visit for the meeting with disabled persons and the youth rally.

I had the privilege of meeting Cardinal Dulles years ago, when he visited my seminary and to deliver a lecture at a symposium.  In fact, my classmates and I owe him a bit of thanks: The morning after the lecture, he celebrated the daily 7am Mass for the seminary, and then went with the other Priests to the Priests' Refectory for breakfast.

Our first class of the day began at 8:25, so our class gathered in the classroom at our normal time --- but no teacher.  At 8:30, no teacher.  8:40, still no teacher.  Finally, at 8:50, Father X showed up all giddy.  It seems that Cardinal Dulles (or "Father Dulles", as he was at the time) started "holding court" in the refectory, and our professor decided that was time better spent than teaching us Ecclesiology.  I'm not upset; I just wish he invited all of us over to hear the conversation.  Plus, our teacher was determined to have Fr. Dulles personally autograph every book from his library that Dulles had written (which meant, of course, that he had to wait until everyone was finished with breakfast and out of the room, lest he be accused of being a brown-noser).  In the end that day, we only had a "half class", thanks to His Eminence, and the fact that our professor showed us a new "Model of the Church" called the "Shameless Suckup", LOL.

Then, in September of 2005, our paths crossed again.  This time when I was host of my diocese's radio show (a show still technically "on hiatus"), and the Cardinal had just authored a book on the history of Apologetics in the Church.  In fact, you can listen to the interview yourself:

Monday, May 26, 2008

Escriva Mass Kit available

Each year, June 26 is the feast day of Opus Dei founder St. Josemaria Escriva (who died on that day in 1975), who was canonized in 2002.  This year, it will fall on a Thursday.
NOTE: I know that, by mentioning "Escriva" and "Opus Dei", there are some of you reading this who now have the "Imperial March" from Star Wars bouncing around inside your head, but stay focused, okay?
The St. Josemaria Institute is offering a "Feast Day Mass Kit" for priests that want to celebrate the feast day in their parishes.  The kit contains posters, prayer cards, a portrait of Escriva, and other items.  The kit is free, though they'll gladly accept donations to help defray the costs.

Even if priests don't want to order the kit, the proper prayers for St. Josemaria Escriva are available on the website in either English or Spanish (having been translated from the Latin).

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

2 great things that taste great together!

No, not Reeses peanut butter cups this time.

My confrere Fr. Guy has a blog entry about a bunch of bishops that look the way I feel when I'm stuck in traffic.

But I have the cure to "turn those frowns upside-down".

An ingenious person took two of my favorite things from the 1970s (Star Wars and The Benny Hill Show), and put them together.

It's a winning formula: Anything becomes funny if you speed it up and add "Yakkety Sax" to it.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Trinity Sunday

A great bit of spiritual reading appropriate today might be the chapters in C.S. Lewis' "Mere Christianity" that deals with the Holy Trinity.  Luckily, someone has posted the appropriate chapters on the internet (AND, in a large font!).

Here's the link.  Enjoy.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Cooking for the Pope

Yes, the papal visit has come and gone, but, like any good meal, now we've had time to "digest" it and realize how much fun it was.

Speaking of meals, Lidia Bastianich, chef and host of TV's "Lidia's Italy", has a whole bunch of links on her website about her experiences cooking for the Holy Father during his stay in New York City.

First, the menus for the meals can be found by clicking here.

Next, some of the recipes for these items can be found by clicking here.  The rest, according to Lidia, can be found in her cookbooks (which she'll autograph for you if you buy them from her website).

Finally, a media kit put together by Lidia, which includes links to other articles and video footage about the papal meals, can be found by clicking here.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

From St. Ambrose

This is from today's Second Reading in the Office of Readings, from Ambrose's "Explanations of the Psalms":

"When we speak about wisdom, we are speaking of Christ.
When we speak about virtue, we are speaking of Christ.
When we speak about justice, we are speaking of Christ.
When we speak about peace, we are speaking of Christ.
When we speak about truth and life and redemption,
we are speaking of Christ."

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Clash

No, no "Rockin' the Casbah" here.

I'm wondering how many of you reading this found that, in your parishes this weekend, the liturgical feast of Pentecost was eclipsed by references to Mother's Day?

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Cricket in Carteret?!?

If you said "cricket" when I was growing up, I'd assume you meant the bugs that made a noise in our basement so annoying, that at times I found myself getting out of bed just to go downstairs and squash them to end their continuous chirping.  Then there were my high school years, when I worked at a pet shop and occasionally had to scoop live crickets into plastic bags for customers who'd buy them to feed their lizards, but that's probably food for another blog entry.

Last week, I headed back to my hometown of Port Reading, New Jersey.  To do this, I drove through the town of Carteret.  The two towns rub up against each other; so much so, that the only way you know that you've left one town and entered the other is that the street signs have changed from white concrete pillars to metal poles.  I haven't "lived" in Port Reading since 1998, but I had heard about the influx of immigrants from India and Pakistan.

That being said, nothing prepared me for what I saw as I drove the back roads of Carteret.  At a neighborhood park, a group of kids playing the game of Cricket.  Well, not really playing a "game".  They were doing with a wicket and ball what we used to do with a bat, baseball, and gloves: messing around, playing.  But still, Cricket in "Kotterett" (as we pronounced it)?

This is your typical neighborhood park, a high fence surrounding an oblong shaped piece of property.  Within the fence, a swing set and sliding board that are in desperate need of a paintjob.  A piece of blacktop with two basketball nets on either side (just rims; no net).  I remember playing a street hockey game there one night, one winter, under one streetlight.  It was so dark that we could barely see the ball.  The park is still there, only now it's home to cricket.  I have nothing against it; if I wasn't running late I probably would have stopped and watched.

To use the cliché, "If you would've told me this ... years ago, I'd have said you were nuts", doesn't do my shock justice.  Who says you can't go home?  I do.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

I got some carrr-pet, I got some carrr-pet!

By now, I'm sure, you've seen the stories in the newspaper about the Flemington Department Store giving away pieces of the carpet used during the Holy Father's visit to New York.  Needing to buy new shoes, I decided to stop at the store (which is located in my diocese).

I received two pieces of carpet, one white and the other gold.  A paper you receive with the swatches explains that the white carpet was used around the altar at the Yankee Stadium Mass...
...while the gold carpet (named "Pope Gold" by the manufacturer because it was especially made to match the gold chasuble worn by B16) was used both at the Dunwoodie youth rally, as well as Yankee Stadium, on the raised platform where Pope Benedict sat during Mass.
While there, I spoke to one of the employees, who saw my Roman collar and asked whether I was "there for the carpet".  He said the response from people since the story broke has been amazing, and the stories he told me reinforced the point.  One couple getting married in Florida wants to use it on a prie-dieu at their wedding, when they kneel for the Nuptual Blessing.  Another sent a piece to family members serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Someone came in to get a piece for a friend who has terminal cancer.  Me?  I almost felt guilty taking it simply because I'm a "Church Geek" who lives for pieces of history like this (but I took it anyway, hee-hee).

I'm told they have thousands of pieces available, all pre-cut into 9 inch squares (don't ask for enough to do your den), and if you send them a self addressed stamped big envelope, they'll be glad to send you some.  Here's their website with the address.

In the meantime, for those of you within driving distance of Flemington, Ted Resnick (the owner of the store, donated the carpet and paid for the labor to install it.  I think we Catholics should show our appreciation for his generosity by stopping in his store to buy something.  It's the least we can do for what he did to keep the Holy Father's shoes so clean.

Hey, they're Prada, right?  I think I read that on the internet someplace.

Polonia Semper Fidelis!

The other day, a package arrived with this book inside.

Yes, John Paul II for Dummies has been translated into Polish, and is now on sale in bookstores throughout Poland.

Does this mean I can add "international author" to my resumé?

Monday, May 05, 2008

The other "George W." in my life

Today is the fifteenth anniversary of the death of Bishop George W. Ahr, who was the Bishop of the Diocese of Trenton, New Jersey, from 1950 until 1979.

George William Ahr was born on June 23, 1904, in Newark, New Jersey, to George and Mary Ahr.  The elder Ahr was a mortician by trade, and all his life critics would jokingly blame his son's seemed "coldness" on the fact that he had formaldehyde running through his veins.  A graduate of Seton Hall University, he was sent to the North American College for his theology studies.  He was ordained to the Priesthood in 1928, and returned from Rome in 1929, having earned a Doctorate in Sacred Theology.  Most of his Priesthood was spent teaching, either in Seton Hall Preparatory School or Immaculate Conception Seminary, where he served as Rector from 1947 until his appointment as Bishop of Trenton in 1950.  His resignation as Bishop was accepted on June 23, 1979, his 75th birthday.

I got to know "George W." when I needed a topic for my Master's thesis in Church history, about 1995.  At the time, the only biography that existed of Bishop Ahr was part of a larger book on the history of the Trenton Diocese called "Upon This Rock".  Fr. Michael Roach, one of the Church History professors at the Mount and a great teacher and parish Priest, gave me the advice to pick a topic that piqued my curiosity, and not just a topic to "get the paper over with", otherwise the research and writing would get real boring really fast.  Bishop Ahr was bishop of my diocese, back when we were all the Diocese of Trenton.  He had been a Bishop during an amazing time in Church History: 12 years before the Second Vatican Council, and 14 years afterwards.  Plus, the little snippets I had heard for years as a seminarian about his demeanor and the fear he instilled in clergy and laity alike.  How could I not be interested?  Many contemporaries of the bishop agreed to be interviewed: Trenton Bishop John Reiss (an auxiliary bishop under Ahr and later his successor), Bp. Edward Kmiec (longtime secretary to Bp. Ahr), Priests who knew him well, such as Msgrs. William Fields, George Ardos and William Fitzgerald, Dr. Peter Ahr (the bishop's nephew), Retired Archbishop Peter Gerety of Newark, and even two Filippini sisters who often made the jaunt across the Delaware River to visit Bp. Ahr in his retirement in his home in Morrisville, Pennsylvania.  Msgr. Joe Shenrock even did the unthinkable:  knowing how seminarians love to get their grubby paws on relics of the Church's past, he allowed me time alone with storage bin after storage bin of Bp. Ahr's papers, photographs, and even a miter (and since you're dying to know, it was too small for both Msgr. Shenrock and me).  It became a labor of love trying to put together different pieces of the puzzle of George Ahr's life.  What was supposed to be about a 40 page work stretched over 100 pages, but I enjoyed every bit of it.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him.  May he rest in peace.

What the heck is an "intriguer"?

Yesterday's second reading, from the first letter of St. Peter, had this line:
"But let no one among you be made to suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as an intriguer."
O.K., I'm good with the first three, but what is an "intriguer"?  Anyone?  Anyone?  Bueller?  Bueller?

Rather than the 1998 Lectionary For Mass use of the term, "intriguer", The 1970 New American Bible translation uses "destroyer of another's rights".  The 1946 Revised Standard Version uses "mischief maker".  Why the discrepancy?

William Barclay's commentary on the passage explains it:

"A Christian, Peter says, is not to suffer as an allotriepiskopos.  The trouble is that there is no other instance of this word in Greek, and Peter may well have invented it.  It can have three possible meanings, all of which would be relevant.  It comes from two words, allotrios, 'belonging to another' and episkopos, 'looking upon' or 'looking into'.  Therefore, it literally means 'looking upon, or into, that which belongs to another.'
  1. To look upon that which is someone else's might well be to cast covetous eyes upon it.  That is how both the Latin Bible and Calvin take this word - to mean that the Christian must not be covetous.
  2. To look upon that which belongs to another might well mean to be too interested in other people's affairs and to be a meddling busybody.  That is by far the most probable meaning.  There are Christians who do an infinite deal of harm with misguided interference and criticism.  This would mean that the Christian must never be an interfering busybody.
  3. There is a third possibility.  Allotrios means 'that which belong to someone else'; that is to say, 'that which is foreign to oneself.'  Along that line 'allotriepiskopos' will mean 'looking upon that which is foreign to oneself.'  That would mean, of a Christian, entering upon undertakings which would not befit the Christian life.  This would mean that a Christian must never interest himself in things which are alien to the life that a Christian should lead.
While all three meanings are possible, we think that the third is the right one."

Saturday, May 03, 2008

From the Catholic News Agency

Fiancée of British royal abandons Catholicism to preserve succession

May 2, 2008 / 02:16 am (CNA).- A woman engaged to a member of the British royal family has renounced her Catholic faith to maintain her fiancée’s position in the line of succession.

The Times Online reports that Autumn Kelly, 31, was received into the Church of England.  She is to be married to Peter Phillips, Queen Elizabeth II’s eldest grandson, on May 17.

British monarchs and their heirs are barred from becoming or marrying Catholics according to the 1701 Act of Settlement.  Phillips, who is currently eleventh in line to the throne, would have had to renounce his claim had she not converted. (So Peter's at the ready in case his grandmother, three uncles, six cousins, and his mother should all go home to God.  You think someone's a little miffed that his parents didn't want him to have a royal title?)

Kelly was reportedly advised for several months before deciding to convert.  “She was not asked to do this; she did it of her own accord,” a source told the Daily Telegraph.

A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman confirmed the conversion had taken place and said that, "She was welcomed into the Church of England some time ago."

Kelly, a management consultant from Canada, met Phillips at the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal in 2003.  She moved to the United Kingdom to be with him shortly thereafter.

Her parents are said to be enthusiastic about their daughter’s engagement (well, c'mon, how many weddings involve Buckingham Palace?  It's gotta beat a wedding reception at the local VFW hall!).  I’ve met him a few times and he’s a great guy, a really nice person,” her mother, Kathleen, told the Times Online (Your future son-in-law, the man marrying your little girl, and the best you can say is that he's "really nice"?).

She said that she did not think that there would be a problem with her daughter being a “foreigner”.

“I think attitudes to things like that have changed,” she said. “Autumn is a very serious and intelligent young woman. She may be young, but she knows the world. And he’s a great guy. Isn’t that what counts?” (Well actually, no.)

It is not known whether Kelly was a practicing Catholic, though she was educated at Catholic schools. (NEWSFLASH: and I could spend 9 years in a zoo and it wouldn't make me into a practicing giraffe!)

Philip, James, and First Communions

Today's feast day brings back a few memories.

First, it reminds me of the trip to Rome I took last January with a mixed pilgrimage group of current and former parishioners.  On one of our "walking tours" (they called them "death marches", but my term sounds friendlier), we stopped at the "Dodici", a.k.a. the "Church of the Holy Apostles".  In the lower church lies the relics of Sts. Philip and James, in a marble sarcophagus behind a grate.  Here's a photo one of the pilgrims took.

The second memory is also about a trip to Rome with my friend, Fr. Guy Selvester.  At the time of the trip, he was Parochial Vicar of the parish of Sts. Philip & James in Phillipsburg (the parish currently next door to me now, though I wasn't here yet).  While we were in Rome on that trip, he was able to obtain relics of Philip & James for his parish.  I'm guessing they have them out for public veneration today.

Finally, that Church of the Holy Apostles is the place where, on top of the relics of Philip & James, Bishop Vincent Breen was ordained to the Priesthood, while a student at the North American College in Rome.  Bp. Breen was the Bishop that ordained me a Priest, so I've always had a soft spot for that church.  Also, this church is the titular of Giovanni Batista Cardinal Re, and I've been a "Re fan" since his days as Sostituto under Cardinal Sodano, at the time the Vatican Secretary of State.  Today, Cardinal Re heads the Congregation for Bishops, largely responsible for the vetting of candidates for the episcopacy.  So if there's anyone who needs some prayers, it's Cardinal Re.

That all being said, today is the first of our "First Holy Communions" in our little corner of God's vineyard.  I'll be honest, I dread First Communions.  They've become so much about everything else EXCEPT the fact that the children are receiving the Eucharist for the first time.  The church is downright noisy and far from a place of prayer, as parents, relatives, etc. chit chat to each other, eagerly awaiting the "show to begin".  The children have to process into the church with military precision.  The flashing lights of the cameras from adults make the center aisle of the church feel more like the red carpet of Oscar night.  They have to do all the readings, because somehow hearing the Word of God proclaimed with a cute lisp makes it more meaningful.  They have to sing a cutesy, obligatory song which cannot help but provoke applause for a "job well done".  I mean, did they sing a song at their baptisms?  Do we make newly married couples sing something at the end of the wedding (I mean before the reception, when the liquor has kicked in)?  Do new priests have to sing a song for the congregation after they've been ordained?  Then there's the flowers to their parents (some of whom haven't brought them to church in 5 years).  Now, tell me:  in the midst of everything else we've piggybacked onto the liturgical celebration of First Holy Communion in most parishes, do you think these kids have ANY time to reflect and ponder the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ which they are taking into them for the very first time?  I feel for Religious Ed Directors who would dare to begin to omit these things from the Mass.  It would truly be touching the third rail, as parents would complain that they've somehow taken the "special-ness" out of the day.

Now, lest you think I'm going to go over to church with a machete, let me give you the "rest of the story".  Yes, I dread First Communions.  But once we get into the Mass, and I see the looks of wonder on the faces of these children, I leave feeling optimistic.  I end up praying that their enthusiasm passes on to the grown-ups.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Good News, Good News!

Yes, my friends of the "Dukes of Hazzard" generation, those words of Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane (complete with the voice) rang through my head as I saw the headline in the Newark Star-Ledger this morning: "Vatican clears East Hanover priest of abuse charge."

The article tells the story of Monsignor William McCarthy of the Diocese of Paterson, New Jersey, and how Rome has ratified the decision of canonical trial exonerating him of the charges made against him.

Frankly, I was shocked.  A positive headline in the Star Ledger?  I mean, I kept reading the article looking for the obligatory quotes from David Clossey of SNAP, et al.  Where was it?  Did I miss it?  Well pickle me tink (thank you, Ned Flanders), there is no quote!

More importantly, the article gives insight into something else:  Because the criminal statute of limitations had passed between the time the accusers said the abuse took place and when they approached law enforcement authorities, there was no possibility for criminal charges to be filed.  Essentially, the civil government said there was nothing they could do.  But in Catholic Canon Law, there is no "statute of limitations" in such cases, and so it was the Church that conducted a trial on behalf of both sides.  A Tribunal made up of judges from places other than the Paterson Diocese was assembled, and testimony was heard, representing both sides.  In the end, a decision was made, and that decision (along with the transcripts of the trial) was sent to Rome for confirmation that all was done properly.  Rome returned their approval to the local Bishop, who issued a public statement announcing Msgr. McCarthy's innocence.

Years ago, New Jersey native Ray Donovan, Secretary of Labor in the Reagan Administration, was accused of corruption, and later found innocent of the charges after a lengthy trial.  When asked how he felt to have his name cleared, he responded, "Great. Now where do I go to get my reputation back?"  Having his name cleared must be a tremendous load off the back of Msgr. McCarthy, but in this "Age of Google" we live in, where can Priests who are accused of heinous acts and who are later vindicated go to "un-Google" their name?

Oops, I almost forgot.  Here's the article.

St. Athanasius of Alexandria

Today is the Feast of St. Athanasius.  Depending on whom you read, he was born in 295, 297, or 300, and died on this day in 373.  After his death, he was buried in his native Alexandria, Egypt.  But his relics were transferred to Venice.  In 1973, the Coptic Pope Shenouda III arranged for the return of his relics to Egypt, and there they remain in the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral of St. Mark in Cairo.  In fact, here's a photo I found on Wikipedia of the shrine where the relics of St. Athanasius are kept:

Last June, Pope Benedict dedicated a Wednesday Audience catechesis to Athanasius' life and contributions to the Church.  Rather than "cut & paste" the address here on the blog, here is the link.  You're all big boys and girls; Go click.