Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Synod resources

On today's feast of the great Scripture scholar St. Jerome, it's appropriate to give you some links to follow the Church's upcoming Synod of Bishops on "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church", which is soon to begin in Rome and run through the month of October.  I know this is going on in October, because I was hoping to get to Rome for a little visit, and trying to get a room in Rome while one of these Synods is going on is darn near impossible.  Anyway, here's the links:
  • The "Lineamenta" for the Synod can be found HERE.  Once the Pope decides to call for a convocation of the worldwide Synod on a topic of his choosing, the permanent office for the Synod of Bishops create the outline for developing and presenting the Synod topic. This is sent to bishops around the world for their suggestions, comments, etc. 
  • The "Instrumentum Laboris" (the working document that is created based on the Lineamenta and the responses from the Bishops) can be found HERE.  Based on the Instrumentum Laboris, the Bishops of the Synod will now come together in October and debate its contents, tweak it, refine it, etc.
  • The logistical information (for those who love to know the details) from the Vatican can be found by clicking HERE.
  • Jeff Cavin's Great Adventure Bible Study program has a website which will give a bunch of resources about the Synod, including podcasts, tutorials, news reports, and documents.

Monday, September 29, 2008

we knew


This morning I was outside our school as parents were dropping off their kiddies.  The New York Mets fans amongst them were lamenting the final collapse of the team this weekend (The NY Yankees fans have already moved from denial to anger to grief).  One dad said he was ready for it because the team seemed to be collapsing for the past month or so.  He couldn't imagine that, with a sold out stadium and an enthusiastic crowd cheering them on, the Mets didn't seem to be motivated.

It got me thinking, with both New York baseball teams getting new stadiums next season, this might be the chance to give the players some "incentives" to play better.  For example...

  • The home team locker room starts off with only one toilet.  For every 7 runs the team scores, another toilet gets installed.
  • There's only one shower head; 10 strikeouts by a pitcher gets another shower.  A perfect game gets a jacuzzi for the trainers' room.
  • For every double play = clean towels after the game
  • Every 5 homers = a security guard for the players' parking lot (this doesn't seem like much, but in the Bronx or Queens, that can be huge).
You wonder if such a policy could be implemented in the Church: a good homily gets the priest cable TV for the week, making a sick call gets the hot water heater turned on, etc.

I suppose the downside to this is, while we can all agree that baseball teams need to score runs and prevent the other team from doing the same, we'd never get the "Joe & Jane Catholics" to agree on what is considered "good & pleasing".  For as many that complain that the homily given by the Priest (or Deacon or Bishop) was ill-prepared or lacking any "meat", there are just as many who don't care what gets said, as long as it gets said in 3 minutes (or less).

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Paul Newman - R.I.P.

Pope John Paul I

Today, like others in the blogosphere, I should write something about Pope John Paul I.  It was thirty years ago today, in 1978, that Papa Luciani died so soon after his election as Pontiff.

His election is the first that occurred in my lifetime, and, even as a non-Catholic kid, I remember the news coverage that took place as Paul VI was laid to rest and John Paul I was elected.

As a seminarian, I came to know Pope Luciani by his book, Illustrissimi, which was a collection of fictional open letters written by the then-Patriarch of Venice to people like Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, St. Bernard, King David, Pinocchio, St. Luke, Hippocrates, even Jesus himself.  They were originally published in the diocesan newspaper, before being published as a whole body of work.

One can wonder how the Church might have been different, had John Paul I lived longer.  All sorts of writers (and not a few conspiracy theorists) have opined about what he'd have done with all sorts of things, from Vatican finances to the Church's teaching about artificial contraception.  But I think about someone else: What would have become of the Archbishop of Krakow, Karol Cardinal Wojtyla?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Life at Castelgandolfo

Hi, everyone.  Sorry for the lack of blogging for the past week; I was away for a few days.  I'll write about my trip in the days to come.

Meanwhile, the gang at the Chiesa website has the English translation for an interview with Saverio Petrillo, who is in charge of the Papal villa at Castelgandolfo.  He speaks about his experiences with "Popes on vacation", since the days of Pius XII.

Want to know about women in Pope Pacelli's bed? Or Pope Roncalli AWOL?  Check out the article by clicking here.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Pop Quiz

This is for the clergy out there.

Hypothetically, of course...

A brand new, volunteer sacristan has combined a bag of unconsecrated hosts with the consecrated hosts from the Tabernacle in a large ciborium, and there's no way to determine which are which.

Mass is now thirty minutes from starting.  How do you handle it in a way that:
  1. Stresses to the sacristan how wrong doing such a thing is.
  2. Keeps the sacristan from running out of the sacristy in tears, never to show up again.
  3. Gets the unconsecrated hosts consecrated at Mass.
  4. Prevent the appearance of the need to "reconsecrate" already consecrated hosts.
OK, take a swing at it.  Please stress what you'd do to handle the situation of the hosts, not what you'd do to torture the sacristan.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

"Things the seminary doesn't prepare you for", number 47

I just finished a wedding, at which a member of the bride's family, a Deacon, assisted.  At the preparation of the gifts, he filled the chalice to the very top.  The thing is, the couple opted for reception of Holy Communion under only the one species, so I had to consume what the deacon did not.

I'm a little "high on Jesus" right now, and I have our anticipated Mass in under an hour.  Should be fun.

I can't win. I wanna play.

Almost a year ago, the National Hockey League teamed up with Reebok, and opened a retail store in Manhattan.  I haven't been there yet.  I know that, if I go, I'll spend lots of money in a moment of weakness, only to get home and have the guilts asking myself, "What made me think I needed to buy the Columbus Bluejackets salt and pepper shakers?"  I don't know what you call it, "euphoria shopping"?  Whatever it is, something gets released in the brain that numbs the rational thinking portion, and suddenly it all makes sense.  I mean, what makes people buy a foam finger?  Let's be honest, Disney has built an empire around it; somuchso that they put retail stores all over the country, so you don't have to go to Orlando or Anaheim to shop.  But I digress.

The other day, two of the NHL's top goalies, the New York Islander's Rick DiPietro and the Buffalo Sabres' Ryan Miller, were at the NHL store together, doing a Q&A, posing for pictures with fans, and signing autographs.  I had no idea this was going to happen, so I missed it.  But, knowing me, it's probably a good thing.  I'd have spent loads on money buying their jerseys and stuff.  I'm still sorry I missed it.

I haven't played hockey for 12 weeks now, not since I moved to my new parish.  My former places where I played are now over an hour away, compared to the previous time of about twenty minutes.  But all the NHL training camps are starting up, and now I'm getting antsy for hockey.

Friday, September 19, 2008

She meant the drink (I think)

This morning, a hospital call came in at about 7:15.  On the way back, I stopped at a local Starbucks for a coffee; I figured I earned it.  Also, this is one of the first chilly mornings in a while.  For the first time in recent memory, a hot drink appealed to me more than something iced.

The lady behind the counter was a little confused as to whose drink belonged to whom; There were a few of us waiting.  Sort of recognizing me, she said, "I think this is yours, 'cause you're usually a hot kind of guy."

Me = "A hot kind of guy."

I never get told that; It made my day.

La Festa in NYC

New York's San Gennaro Feast has a website with photos and video from past events.  Check it out be clicking HERE.

La Festa

Today the Church celebrates the feast of St. Januarius, who is perhaps better known by the Italian version of his name, San'Gennaro. This biography comes from the website of Las Vegas' San'Gennaro Festa:

Who is San Gennaro?

San Gennaro never made headlines during his lifetime.

Very little is known about him except that he was bishop of Benevento, Italy, and died a martyr in 305 A.D., during the persecution spearheaded by Emperor Diocletian.

Actually, the zealous prelate seems to have signed his own death warrant when he risked the wrath of local pagan officials by visiting the deacons Sosso and Proculo and the laymen Eutichete and Acuzio in jail. The warden observed this stranger trying to comfort the Christian prisoners naturally concluded that he must be Christian. Therefore, he too must be shut up behind bars.

Shortly afterwards the proconsul Timothy had Gennaro arrested and clapped into jail. Subsequently he underwent various forms of torture, without wavering in his resolution to remain loyal to Christ.

The proconsul's agents then had the generous confessor of the faith thrown headlong into a furnace, fully convinced that the flames would reduce him to ashes. By the grace of God he came through unscathed. Furious, the agents gave themselves no rest until their victim had been sentenced to be beheaded.

Gennaro, who had refused to bow his head in cowardly fashion at the pagan leader's bidding, surrendered it to the steel's deathblow. His companions shared a similar fate.

The bishop's body, and severed head, still dripping blood, were gathered up by an old man who wrapped them reverently in a cloth. A good woman of Naples dried up the blood with a sponge and filled a phial with the precious red liquid. The body of San Gennaro is preserved in Naples, where he is honored as the city's principle patron.

The Miracle of the Blood

You who are reading this may have heard about it. You like thousands of believers and unbelievers alike, may have asked certain bewildering questions: How can this happen? Is there a genuine miracle of divine power involved? Or can it be explained through natural causes.

The blood of San Gennaro is contained in two glass phials of different shapes and sizes. Both phials are perfectly sealed and are enclosed in a metal case which permits them to be exposed to view. The blood in the larger phial reaches about the halfway mark; in the smaller container only a few drops are seen adhering to the bottom.

And the prodigy? This martyr's blood, which is normally solidified and of a dark color, occasionally becomes liquid and reddish, sometimes frothing, bubbling up, and increasing in volume. This usually occurs twice a year: on the first Sunday in May, the feast of the transfer of the saint's relics; also on September 19, the anniversary of his martyrdom.

This miracle of the blood; as it is popularly called, has naturally sparked no end of heated discussion and controversy. Various explanations involving the interplay of certain forces and factors have been brought forward over the years be earnest students of the phenomenon. So far, no one has come up with any clue that satisfies the general public. No one knows for sure how this liquefaction takes place at certain precise times.

Tradition has it that the prodigy happened for the first time about four decades after Gennaro's controversial death, when the relics were being removed from the catacombs of Naples. Accompanying the cortege that memorable day was Eusebia, the woman who originally gathered the martyred bishop's blood and who now carried the dark solidified mass, became a vivid, life like red liquid.

The recurrence of this marvel down the centuries, and even in our time, guarantees that the prestige which Gennaro has constantly enjoyed will scarcely diminish in the forseeable future. The loyal Neapolitans will never neglect their principle patron or trust devotion to him into the distant background.

Neapolitan Folklore

The people of Naples have reached their own conclusions about the Saint. In their opinion he is not merely a "specialist" to involve in certain situations, but a "general practitioner" to whom they can have recourse in all needs and circumstances.

They pray to him for protection from fire, earthquakes, and eruptions of Vesuvius; for preservation from plagues and droughts; in short, for all the favors and blessings they need or desire. In every emergency San Gennaro is their powerful champion and universal helper.

Each year on the first Sunday of May, the blood of their venerated patron preserved in two phials and his head enclosed in a silvery reliquary are carried on procession. The crowds wend their way from the Duomo of Naples to the Franciscan Church of Saint Clare, where the miraculous liquefaction takes place. The statues of several saints, including Saint Joseph and Saint Anthony of Padua, are likewise borne in the procession, which is often described as the procession "of the wreathed," because of the garlands used on this occasion.

The annual highlight is the solemn commemoration which the Neapolitans hold in their cathedral on September 19. Civil and church authorities are on hand, as are also vast numbers of the laity. The procession forms with the congregation singing the Litany of the Saints. When the prodigy of the liquefaction takes effect, the priest exhibits the phials of liquefied blood in full view of the gathering. A joyous Te Deum is sung and clergy and laity approach to venerate the relics of the ever-popular patron.

Nobody in Naples would care to miss that red letter event in honor of San Gennaro.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

St. Robert Bellarmine

Today's feast day reminds me of two things:

First, it brings me back to my college seminary days.  My last year of college seminary at Seton Hall University, the Rector was Father (now Monsignor) Robert Fuhrman.  Today is his patronal feast day.  He is a great man whose love for the Priesthood was a gift to the men who studied at St. Andrew's Hall during his years there.  When I graduated, I asked him if he'd be willing to preach at my first Mass (still presumably four years away).  On my breaks home from the Mount, I'd visit the college seminary (and him).  When I was ordained a deacon in 1997 at the Seton Basilica in Emmitsburg, he made a four hour drive to concelebrate the Mass, then got right back in his car to be back at his parish for Saturday evening Mass.  As I finished my years of major seminary, I reminded him of his promise to preach at my first Mass, and I think he was surprised that I still wanted him to preach (I suppose he thought that I'd find some other priest during my major sem years).  Like other relationships in life, it seems that, now, we only correspond with Christmas cards, but today is always the day that I think of him.

Second, today's feast reminds me of Rome.  St. Robert's remains can be found in the Church of San' Ignazio, which you pass as you walk between the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain.  Part of the Roman College, a seminary run by the Jesuits where Bellarmine first taught and eventually served as Rector, used to sit on this site.  Eventually the chapel of the seminary became too small, and so this church was built as part of the expansion.  Thanks to some amateur photographers who posted their pics on the internet, here are some pictures of St. Robert's tomb and relics.  The glare spots cannot be helped; they're from lightbulbs inside the casket.  In the closeup of the mask, you can see what appears to be a part of St. Robert's skull.

Last January, when I led a group of past & present parishioners on a pilgrimage to Rome, we stopped in this church on one of my "walking tours" (a.k.a. "death marches") of the city.  It is definitely a church worth your visit, with a very famous forced perspective "trompe d'oeil" fresco on the ceiling.  Completed in 1685, it is meant to show the missionary activities of the Jesuits around the world.  In the mural, Christ sends a ray of light into the heart of St. Ignatius Loyola, which is then sent to the (at the time) four known continents of the world.  It began, actually, as a cost-cutting maneuver; the Jesuits didn't have the money for a higher ceiling or a cupola.  So they brought in Jesuit Andrea Pozzo to create height out of paint.  

Wanna see it?  Click here then click on "full resolution" link just under the picture.  Realize, though, that as amazing as it looks, photos don't do it justice.  If you do get to Rome someday, look for a yellow marble disk in the center nave, even with the first pilaster.  It's the best spot to view the ceiling.  It makes you wonder, where are the artists of today to do such works?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Which "Church Father" Are You?

This is great.  Click here for a short quiz to see which of the great Fathers of the Church you most think like.  I'm St. Mileto of Sardis.

Our Lady of Sorrows

This title of the Blessed Mother has always been my favorite.

The day after we meditated on the Cross of Our Lord, it makes sense to turn to Our Lady at the foot of that Cross.  We can thank Pope St. Pius X for that.  It was San' Pio Diecimo who, in 1913, placed today's feast day right after the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (before then, it was celebrated on the third Sunday of September).  Some may even remember another feast, similarly attributed to Our Lady's sorrows, which was celebrated the Friday before Palm Sunday, during Passiontide.

The classic symbol for today's feast is a heart pierced with seven swords.  The swords represent the traditional "Seven Sorrows" (also known as "Dolors") of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Can you name them?
  1. The Prophecy of Simeon at the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple.
  2. The Flight into Egypt (and I don't mean Delta flight 10 out of JFK).
  3. The loss of Jesus for three days.
  4. The meeting between Jesus and Mary during the carrying of the Cross.
  5. The Crucifixion.
  6. The laying of Jesus in his mother's arms after being taken down from the Cross.
  7. The entombment of Jesus.
The other liturgical quirk of today's feast is that it's one of the few for which we still have a Sequence.  You remember Sequences?  Those verses which come (besides today) on the feasts of Easter, Pentecost, and Corpus Christi, just before the Gospel acclamation.  Just think of the little ditty which is usually sung during Stations of the Cross, as the Priest walks between the Stations: "At the Cross her station keeping, stood the mournful mother weeping..."

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Feast of St. John Chrysostom

If you're looking for something "short & sweet" to read about Chrysostom, click on these links to get Pope Benedict's Wednesday Audience addresses on St. John.  He gave them on September 19 and September 26 of 2007.  Here's a great piece from one of the addresses:
It is said of John Chrysostom that when he was seated upon the throne of the New Rome, that is, Constantinople, God caused him to be seen as a second Paul, a doctor of the Universe. Indeed, there is in Chrysostom a substantial unity of thought and action, in Antioch as in Constantinople. It is only the role and situations that change. In his commentary on Genesis, in meditating on God's eight acts in the sequence of six days, Chrysostom desired to restore the faithful from the creation to the Creator: "It is a great good", he said, "to know the creature from the Creator", He shows us the beauty of the creation and God's transparency in his creation, which thus becomes, as it were, a "ladder" to ascend to God in order to know him. To this first step, however, is added a second: this God Creator is also the God of indulgence (synkatabasis). We are weak in "climbing", our eyes grow dim. Thus, God becomes an indulgent God who sends to fallen man, foreign man, a letter, Sacred Scripture, so that the creation and Scripture may complete each another. We can decipher creation in the light of Scripture, the letter that God has given to us. God is called a "tender father" (philostorgios) (ibid.), a healer of souls (Homily on Genesis, 40, 3), a mother (ibid.) and an affectionate friend (On Providence 8, 11-12). But in addition to this second step - first, the creation as a "ladder" to God, and then, the indulgence of God through a letter which he has given to us, Sacred Scripture - there is a third step. God does not only give us a letter: ultimately, he himself comes down to us, he takes flesh, becomes truly "God-with-us", our brother until his death on a Cross. And to these three steps - God is visible in creation, God gives us a letter, God descends and becomes one of us - a fourth is added at the end. In the Christian's life and action, the vital and dynamic principle is the Holy Spirit (Pneuma) who transforms the realities of the world. God enters our very existence through the Holy Spirit and transforms us from within our hearts.

Finally, someone put together a pretty comprehensive website dedicated to all things Chrysostom.  If you're looking for some of his stuff to read, you'll find it here.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Church of the Holy Name of Mary

I just got done talking about the Feast day.  Now, let's talk about a church that bears the title of "Holy Name of Mary".

If you happen to enjoy wandering around Rome, one of the more interesting treasures amongst the churches in the city is the Church of the Holy Name of Mary (in Italian, "SS. Nome di Maria al Foro Traiano"), which can be found just on the edge of Trajan's Forum, across the street from the Vittorio Emmanuele Monument (passing by this church along its right side (see the photo) is also a great way to avoid the craziness of the traffic coming from five separate directions into the Piazza Venezia).  It's a neat church to visit, because of its relatively small size and because it is a 'church in the round'.

This church is the titular church of the retired Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, a native of Columbia.  As such, his coat of arms (along with the Pope's arms, since he is the Bishop of Rome) appears above the doorway (photo below).

His is an interesting case, because it demonstrates a neat quirk in the levels of Cardinals. In 1996, JP2 named Hoyos as the Pro-Prefect for the Congregation for the Clergy ("Pro-Prefect" because he was not yet a Cardinal; the rules say that a Prefect must be a Cardinal). He was eventually created a Cardinal-Deacon in a Consistory on Feb. 21, 1998, which is the lowest level within the rank of Cardinal.  Most members of the Roman Curia, except for a select few, are created Cardinal Deacons.  Archbishops of large archdioceses around the world who are named to the Sacred College are created Cardinal Priests.  The rank of Cardinal-Bishop is reserved for the "select few" I mentioned before: seven altogether, amongst whom is the Dean of the College of Cardinals and the Secretary of State.

BUT,,,,,,,,,, The Church's Canon Law (Canon 350, par. 5 for those of you who are into this stuff) says that a Cardinal-Deacon, after ten years of serving as such, has the right to petition the Holy Father to be raised to the order of Cardinal-Priest. That's what Cardinal Hoyos did, and on March 1, 2008, he was elevated to the order of Cardinal-Priest.  Pictures from the Consistory can be seen here, on the database of Fotografia Felici.  In the meantime, here's a picture of Cardinal Hoyos' coat of arms above and to the right of the doorway of the church.

Feast of the Holy Name of Mary

One of the "new" (for as new as the 2000 edition of the Roman Missal can still be in 2008) feast days celebrated by the universal Church is the Feast of the Holy Name of Mary.   Pope John Paul II, in the promulgation of the third edition of the Missal, restored the universal celebration of this feast day, along with the celebration of the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, celebrated on January 3rd.

The Catholic encyclopedia has this to say about the origins of today's feast:
It was instituted in 1513 at Cuenca in Spain, and assigned with proper Office to 15 Sept., the octave day of Mary's Nativity. After the reform of the Breviary by St. Pius V, by a Decree of Sixtus V (16 Jan., 1587), it was transferred to 17 Sept. In 1622 it was extended to the Archdiocese of Toledo by Gregory XV. After 1625 the Congregation of Rites hesitated for a while before authorizing its further spread, but it was celebrated by the Spanish Trinitarians in 1640 (Ordo Hispan., 1640).  On 15 Nov., 1658, the feast was granted to the Oratory of Cardinal Berulle under the title: Solemnitas Gloriosae Virginis, dupl. cum. oct., 17 Sept.  Bearing the original title, SS. Nominis B.M.V., it was granted to all Spain and the Kingdom of Naples on 26 Jan., 1671. After the siege of Vienna and the glorious victory of Sobieski over the Turks (12 Sept., 1683), the feast was extended to the universal Church by Innocent XI, and assigned to the Sunday after the Nativity of Mary by a Decree of 25 Nov., 1683; it was granted to Austria on 1 Aug., 1654. According to a Decree of 8 July, 1908, whenever this feast cannot be celebrated on its proper Sunday on account of the occurence of some feast of a higher rank, it must be kept on 12 Sept., the day on which the victory of Sobieski is commemorated in the Roman Martyrology.  (for the whole article in the Catholic Encyclopedia, click here)

On the spiritual side of today's Feast, St. Alphonsus Ligouri wrote an essay, entitled, "Mary, the Power of Her Name" in which he cites several Saints' writings with regards to Our lady's Holy Name:
Richard of St. Laurence states "there is not such powerful help in any name, nor is there any other name given to men, after that of Jesus, from which so much salvation is poured forth upon men as from the name of Mary." He continues, "that the devout invocation of this sweet and holy name leads to the acquisition of superabundant graces in this life, and a very high degree of glory in the next."

After the most sacred name of Jesus, the name of Mary is so rich in every good thing, that on earth and in heaven there is no other from which devout souls receive so much grace, hope, and sweetness.

Hence Richard of St. Laurence encourages sinners to have recourse to this great name," because it alone will suffice to cure them of all their evils; and "there is no disorder, however malignant, that does not immediately yield to the power of the name of Mary." The Blessed Raymond Jordano says, "that however hardened and diffident a heart may be, the name of this most Blessed Virgin has such efficacy, that if it is only pronounced that heart will be wonderfully softened." Moreover, it is well known, and is daily experienced by the clients of Mary, that her powerful name gives the particular strength necessary to overcome temptations against purity.

In the end, "thy name, O Mother of God, is filled with divine graces and blessings," as St. Methodius says. So much so, that St. Bonaventure declares, "that thy name, O Mary, cannot be pronounced without bringing some grace to him who does so devoutly.". . grant, O Lady, that we may often remember to name thee with love and confidence; for this practice either shows the possession of divine grace, or else is a pledge that we shall soon recover it.

On the other hand, Thomas a Kempis affirms "that the devils fear the Queen of heaven to such a degree, that only on hearing her great name pronounced, they fly from him who does so as from a burning fire." The Blessed Virgin herself revealed to St. Bridget "that there is not on earth a sinner, however devoid he may be of the love of God, from whom the devil is not obliged immediately to fly, if he invokes her holy name with a determination to repent." On another occasion she repeated the same thing to the saint, saying, "that all the devils venerate and fear her name to such a degree, that on hearing it they immediately loosen the claws with which they hold the soul captive." Our Blessed Lady also told St. Bridget, "that in the same way as the rebel angels fly from sinners who invoke the name of Mary, so also do the good angels approach nearer to just souls who pronounce her name with devotion."


Consoling indeed are the promises of help made by Jesus Christ to those who have devotion to the name of Mary; for one day in the hearing of St. Bridget, He promised His most holy Mother that He would grant three special graces to those who invoke that holy name with confidence: first, that He would grant them perfect sorrow for their sins; secondly, that their crimes should be atoned for; and, thirdly, that He would give them strength to attain perfection, and at length the glory of paradise. And then our Divine Savior added: "For thy words, O My Mother, are so sweet and agreeable to Me, that I cannot deny what thou askest."

St. Ephrem goes so far as to say, "that the name of Mary is the key of the gates of heaven," in the hands of those who devoutly invoke it. And thus it is not without reason that St. Bonaventure says "that Mary is the salvation of all who call upon her." "0 most sweet name! O Mary, what must thou thyself be, since thy name alone is thus amiable and gracious," exclaims Blessed Henry Suso.

Let us, therefore, always take advantage of the beautiful advice given us by St. Bernard, in these words: "In dangers, in perplexities, in doubtful cases, think of Mary, call on Mary; let her not leave thy lips; let her not depart from thy heart."

Names of Jesus and Mary
In every danger of forfeiting divine grace, we should think of Mary, and invoke her name, together with that of Jesus; FOR THESE TWO NAMES ALWAYS GO TOGETHER. O, then, never let us permit these two most sweet names to leave our hearts, or be off our lips; for they will give us strength not only not to yield, but to conquer all our temptations.  "The invocation of the sacred names of Jesus and Mary," says Thomas a Kempis, "is a short prayer which is as sweet to the mind, and as powerful to protect those who use it against the enemies of their salvation, as it is easy to remember."

Hour of Death

Thus we see that the most holy name of Mary is sweet indeed to her clients during life, on account of the very great graces that she obtains for them. But sweeter still will it be to them in death, on account of the tranquil and holy end that it will insure them.  Let us then, O devout reader, beg God to grant us, that at death the name of Mary may be the last word on our lips. This was the prayer of St. Germanus: "May the last movement of my tongue be to pronounce the name of the Mother of God; "O sweet, O safe is that death which is accompanied and protected by so saying a name; for God only grants the grace of invoking it to those whom He is about to save.

Father Sertorius Caputo, of the Society of Jesus, exhorted all who assist the dying frequently to pronounce the name of Mary; for this name of life and hope, when repeated at the hour of death, suffices to put the devils to flight, and to comfort such persons in their sufferings.

"Blessed is the man who loves thy name, O Mary" exclaims St. Bonaventure. "Yes, truly blessed is he who loves thy sweet name, O Mother of God! for," he continues, "thy name is so glorious and admirable, that no one who remembers it has any fears at the hour of death." Such is its power, that none of those who invoke it at the hour of death fear the assaults of their enemies.

St. Camillus de Lellis urged the members of his community to remind the dying often to utter the holy names of Jesus and Mary. Such was his custom when assisting people in their last hour.

Oh, that we may end our lives as did the Capuchin Father, Fulgentius of Ascoli, who expired singing, "O Mary, O Mary, the most beautiful of creatures! let us depart together."

Let us conclude with the tender prayer of St. Bonaventure: "I ask thee, O Mary, for the glory of thy name, to come and meet my soul when it is departing from this world, and to take it in thine arms."

Thursday, September 11, 2008

NLM on Gathering Song

Jeffrey Tucker at the New Liturgical Movement has an article titled, "There is no such thing as a 'Gathering Song'."

We've all witnessed the nightmare of "Welcome to Saint Fillintheblank's church.  I'm blahblah, and I'll be your cantor today.  Our servers are blah and blah.  Our Lector is blahblah.  Today is the 27th Sunday of Lent, and in our readings today, Jesus tells us to blahblahblahblah (for 2 minutes) blah.  Our gathering hymn can be found in our 'Breaking Wind' Music Issue, number 12.  Please rise to greet our celebrant."

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Now I'm freakin' MAD!!!!!

Three of the greatest players in the National Hockey League film a commercial at a rink in New Jersey, and I didn't know??????

Last Thursday, the New Jersey Devils Martin Brodeur, Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, and Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews filmed a promo for the opening of Canada's TSN (The Canadian version of ESPN) hockey broadcasts.  You can see pictures from the photoshoot by clicking here.

I can't believe I missed it.  Dang.

Still, it's probably a good thing.  First I sneak in, then I get chased around the rink, then come the lawyers and the restraining order and that whole "fifty yards" thing (just kidding).

Monday, September 08, 2008

Feast of the Birth of Mary

Last year I wrote a blog entry about how today's feast day always causes me to call to mind Bishop Vincent D. Breen, the prelate who ordained me to the Priesthood ten years ago.  He himself was ordained a Bishop and installed as the third Bishop of Metuchen on today's feast day, back in 1997.

Today has come, and I still think of him.

Friday, September 05, 2008

"Tune up" for Mass

With my move to a new parish two months ago, I came across a paper that came from my seminary.  It was written for the 4th year men, soon to be ordained to the Priesthood, and gave little helpful hints for the finer points of the celebration of Mass.  I think they're worth at least a reading by Young Fogey Priests.  Think of it a checklist for the occasional "tune-up" we should all give ourselves in the way we celebrate Mass.
  • Look at the people when greeting them and inviting them to pray.
  • Avoid "floating hands" (i.e.- one hand is turning the page of the Sacramentary, while the other one is still extended in the "orans" position", leaving people wondering what that hand is doing up there?)
  • Remember to bow your head when the Three Divine Persons are named together, and at the name of Jesus, of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Saint whose feast day it is.
  • Remember to pause at appropriate times during the liturgy.  When praying the prayers, pay attention to the punctuation marks.
  • Hold the purificator under your chin when drinking from the chalice.
  • Wipe the rim when the chalice is on the altar.
  • Do not rest your hands on the altar during the Prayer of Consecration.
  • Praying the private preparation prayers quietly or inaudibly does not mean mentally.
  • Don't forget to distribute consecrated hosts to any concelebrants during the Lamb of God.
  • Know when to turn your body microphone on and off at the appropriate times.  Avoid reaching for the microphone just before you consume the Body of Christ.
  • Resist turning pages in the Sacramentary as the people respond to "Pray, Brethren, ..." and at other times during the liturgy.  It gives the impression that what they're saying ("May the Lord accept...") is not important.
  • Be aware of hand gestures and your placement of hands during the Consecration.  Such gestures should always communicate reverence.
  • Practice when to extend hands following, "Let us pray," etc.
  • Begin the fracture of the Host at the start of the Lamb of God.
  • Wash and dry hands, not just fingertips.
  • Do not turn the page between the final genuflection and final elevation ("This is the Lamb of God").
  • Watch saying words too quickly.  Say, "fruit of the vine", not, "frootuduhvine," or, "it will be shed for you", not "it'll be shed..."
  • Practice the extension and coming together of hands at various moments of the Mass.
  • At the preparation prayers over the gifts: "it will become our spiritual drink" (not "it will become for us our spiritual drink").
  • Extend hands at the sign of peace ("The peace of the Lord be with you always.")
  • Allow more time after "Let us pray" and the actual prayer, and the invitation to recall sins and the Act of Penitence.
  • Practice pronunciation of Saints' names.
  • Hold paten and chalice slightly above the altar when saying the preparation prayers over the bread & wine.
  • Practice the extension and coming together again of hands at the Epiclesis and when blessing gifts and people.
  • Take care not to miss words as you pray or insert words that are not there.
  • Pause after the invitation to prayer at the General Intercessions.
  • Watch monotone voice.  Vary your voice inflection and volume when appropriate.
  • Practice hand gestures when using solemn blessing.
  • Have prepared which Greeting you are using at the beginning of Mass.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Another brick in the wall

The Jerusalem Post has a story about Israeli archaeologists unearthing the remains of a wall which used to encircle the city of Jerusalem.  In a city as ancient as Jerusalem, the archaeologists were not only unearthing the ancient wall, but also the 120 year old remains of the archaeological dig (complete with bottles of Czech beer and wine - must've been a heckuva dig!) that originally unearthed the wall.  Since the age of the wall has been determined to be 2,100 years old and was there until the Romans ransacked Jerusalem around ad70, it was certainly there at the time of Christ.  This is all part of a plan to make a promenade that will include parts of the excavation.

Unanswered questions

The Gospels are full of great unanswered questions.

The Gospel passage yesterday (Wednesday of the 22nd week of Ordinary Time) told the story about Jesus being in the home of Simon and healing his mother-in-law, following the healing of the demoniac in the Synagogue of Capernaum.  When evening comes, people show up at the house for Jesus to heal their sick family members.

From this, we get a bit of a timeline.  People show up "at sunset"?  This tells us it was a Saturday, since the Sabbath laws prohibited unnecessary labor (including walking to where Jesus was whilst carrying a sick person) until the Sabbath ended, at sunset.  It means the curing of the man possessed took place on Saturday morning, as did Simon's mother in law.  These were his first "healings on the Sabbath", which would later be something the Pharisees would freak out over.  Once the Sabbath was over (in a time when there was no precise clocks, this was established by the fact that you could see three separate stars in the sky), people who spent the Sabbath in their own homes discussing what they witnessed Jesus do in the synagogue could now bring their own sick and infirm to him for a cure.

But on to my question.  The last verse of the passage (4:44) says that "And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea."  The very next passage after that (5:1) says that he's preaching at Lake Gennesaret where he called Simon to follow Him.  My question is, how much time passed between Jesus' day in the home of Simon and their encounter on the lake?  How long did Simon have to ponder what he had seen and heard?

The previous two accounts of Jesus preaching, according to Luke, were both done in the synagogue "on the sabbath".  If he then goes on to tell us that Jesus was preaching in the synagogues of Judea, can we presume that each of those were on a Sabbath?  If so, that would mean the encounter with Peter and the miraculous catch of fish might have taken place weeks or months after the stay at his house.  In other words, Peter had time to "discern".  So did he have time, or didn't he?  How much time passed?

Many times the Gospels leave as many questions as they answer.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Future Washington Capitals season ticket holder?

"You know the difference between a hockey mom and a pitbull?

Letters. We get letters.

I don't usually do this, but someone used the comment section on my last post to pose an interesting question:
"How does something like that work in Rome for a priest who's not attached to a particular church -- do you need to schedule something ahead of time or can you just walk into a church and find an available altar and start setting up?"
Well, here's the way it goes.  Any priest may celebrate a Mass at St. Peter's Basilica.  There are certain "popular" altars that require a reservation (namely, the tomb of Pope John XXIII, the "altare alla tomba" which is downstairs on the grotto level of St. Peter's and faces the niche of the Pallia, the Clementine Chapel whose altar is the closest in actual proximity to the relics of St. Peter, and the Hungarian Chapel which houses larger groups who may have gotten bumped from the Altare alla Tomba by someone higher up on the hierarchical food chain (do I sound bitter?)).  But other than those, there are also roughly 25 altars set up for the celebration of private Masses.  Don't ask to celebrate Mass at the main altar under the baldacchino; Only the Pope, or someone delegated by him, celebrates Mass there.

How does a Priest do this?  He goes to the sacristy of St. Peter's sometime between 7 and 8am. If a reservation has already been made for one of the "primo" altars, then he reports to the desk to the right and informs the man sitting there that he has a reservation.  If any altar will suffice, he doesn't have to go to the desk.  In the sacristy he'll find all of the things necessary for Mass: vestments, a dressed chalice, and liturgical books in various languages (though each altar is equipped with a missal in Latin and Italian).  An altar server will take the Priest to a free altar.  On the way, they usually ask if you have a preference.  If you have a favorite altar (St. Gregory, St. Leo, The Transfiguration, St. Pius X, Our Lady of the Column, St. Josephat, Sts. Simon & Jude, St. Thomas, etc.), let him know.  Once he leads you to an altar, he'll usually make sure you're all set, and then leave you there.

Two things jump out at me at this point:
  1. If you have any people with you in the Basilica who will go to your Mass, tell them to wait in the Basilica by the passageway to the sacristy.  The altar server who leads you tends to walk quickly, so tip your group off that, when they see you being led by the kid, be prepared to walk just as quickly behind you.
  2. Even though there are Masses being said for the general public each morning in the Basilica, that sacristy door will become a hangout for people who want a Mass in a language other than Italian.  They will try to look at the cover of the missal you or the server is carrying, trying to catch a glimpse of what language books you took.  If they see no books, they assume you're celebrating a mass in Italian or Latin (the languages of the books already at each altar - remember?).  Some may ask you if they can follow you, but most do not.  They simply follow you.  Or, they wander around the perimeter of the Basilica, going from side altar to side altar, waiting until they hear a language they recognize.  These side altars all have a container with small communion hosts, for any Mass attendees you have.  But don't be surprised if someone shows up at your Mass well into the Eucharistic Prayer, but still expects you to give them Holy Communion.  Ugh!
Once you're done with Mass, bring the books, the chalice, and the carrier containing the cruets and finger towel, back to the sacristy.  They'll take the alb and chasuble from you and hang them up, as well as collect the cincture and toss the amice into a bin to be washed and pressed for tomorrow's private Masses.  Before you leave, sign the register on the desk, and at least once during your stay, drop some Euro into the offering box nearby, which helps pay for the hosts and wine used at these Masses.

If you have some time, hang around the sacristy afterwards.  Watch the reaction of the Vatican crowd as clergy come into the sacristy.  Priests are, so to speak, a "dime a dozen"; the only way for the sacristy gang to acknowledge you is if you do something wrong.  Monsignori?  Not likely to impress the sacristans.  A Bishop might get some sign of deference out of them (at the very least they have to act as if they're impressed), and so everyone is on the lookout for a ring or pectoral cross that is the tipoff.  Really, with the obvious exception of the Holy Father himself, only Cardinals can get the altar boys and sacristy staff to act like someone important is present and needs to be taken care of.   It's great to watch the group dynamics that go on in that sacristy; kind of the Church edition of "Wild Kingdom".

On a Sunday morning, a great thing to do is concelebrate the capitular Mass at 10:30am.  There's a schola and a big ol' pipe organ, and being in the procession up the center aisle of St. Peter's, around the Confessio, up towards the Altar of the Chair is alone worth the effort.  Simply show up in the sacristy about 10am.

I hope this answered the question.  I know it brought back some great memories.  It has always been a humbling and prayerful experience celebrating Holy Mass at St. Peter's Basilica, whether I was alone, with a Priest friend or two, or with a pilgrimage group.  Such a privilege.

Feast of St. Gregory the Great

This morning in the shower (I know, too much information), I remembered that I snapped pictures of the San Gregorio altar in St. Peter's Basilica.  It's one of my favorite altars, as well as one of the hardest altars, at which to say a private Mass.  Why?  It is the altar immediately to the left of the doorway, coming from the sacristy into the basilica, and as such it gets taken quickly by those who don't want to walk far.  But if you can get it, I mean, you're saying Mass over the bones of St. Gregory the Great!  Technically it's called the "Clementine Chapel".  A "chapel" even though it is not a separate room, and "Clementine" because it was built during the pontificate of Pope Clement VIII (1592-1605).  This fact is reinforced by looking above the altar, where Pope Clement's coat of arms can be found.

Anyway, here are my pictures.

The "chapel" of St. Gregory the Great.
The mosaic above the altar was created in 1772.
It depicts the story of the miracle which took place when Pope Gregory cut into a cloth which dripped blood after having been touched to relics of the martyrs.

A closeup of the tomb of St. Gregory underneath the altar.
His relics were placed here in 1606.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Recognizing Christ

Two things right from the start.  First, you may have noticed that, at daily Mass, we've shifted from plowing our way through Matthew's Gospel to Luke's Gospel.  Second, since yesterday's Gospel passage (Jesus in the synagogue in Nazareth), he has moved to the synagogue in Capernaum, some 20 miles away to the northeast.

So Jesus is in the synagogue.  The Messiah is in a place where prayers were constantly being offered for God to send, well basically, him.  Who recognizes Jesus in that synagogue?  Not the faithful.  The demon.
"What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have you come to destroy us?  I know who you are - the Holy One of God!"
What did the demon see that these, probably, very devoted men in the congregation did not see?  Let's look at it from another point of view:  What "baggage" did the congregation have, that the demon did not, that prevented them from recognizing the Messiah in their presence?  Was it a low self esteem that made them think God wouldn't possibly send the messiah to them?  Like the gang in the Nazareth synagogue, was it an arrogance that made them believe that the son of Joseph the carpenter could not possibly be what he was claiming to be (namely, that he was the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy about God anointing him to bring good news to the poor, etc.)?

That's our task: recognizing Christ.  Recognizing him in the Scriptures.  Recognizing him in the Eucharist, at Mass and any place we find a tabernacle.  Recognizing him in the magisterial teachings of the Church.  Recognizing him in his Vicar.  He's there whether we believe it or not.  The reality of his presence does not depend on us consenting to believe it.  How arrogant can we be to think that, if I don't believe it, than it can't be the truth?

How many times have we been someplace (a mall, a street) where our eyes catch glimpses of hundreds of people.  Yet if one of those faces we subconsciously scan is a friend, something inside of us goes off, telling us that we "know" this person.  Let us ask the Lord to help us to know what to look for in recognizing Him.

Abp. Sheen on What's My Line

Thanks to Tom Peters at American Papist for discovering this:

Watch the last 2 or 3 seconds, when Miss Kilgallen (on the far left of the panel) actually kisses his ring as he greets her. The days are gone when celebrities saw themselves as "Catholics" first, and "famous" second.

Though we gotta say goodbye, for the summer

You know the summer is over when all the sunscreen goes on sale, and bags and bags of Halloween candy make their appearance in stores (as if anyone has the willpower to buy candy now and let it sit uneaten until October 31).

Monday, September 01, 2008

A Labor Day Thought

Some comedian one remarked that only in America would we have a day celebrating labor that we honor precisely by not working.

From the church's point of view, we already have a "Labor Day" holiday.  When?  May 1st, when we celebrate the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker.  But work doesn't cease, whether a job or the work done around the house.  A while back, I came across this neat little reflection of what it means to "sanctify" our everyday tasks, and I thought it'd be a great reflection for today (that is, if you get tired of the "Law & Order", "Star Trek", "Murder, She Wrote", "CSI", "America's Next Top Model", "I Love Lucy", et al. marathons on TV).  This comes from an information page entitled, "What is Opus Dei?", which can be found by clicking here.

Sanctifying work.  Sanctifying work means to work with the spirit of Jesus Christ, to work competently and ethically, with the aim of loving God and serving others, and thus to sanctify the world from within, making the Gospel present in all activities whether they be outstanding or humble and hidden. In the eyes of God what matters is the love that is put into work, not its human success.
I love that last sentence.