Thursday, April 30, 2009

Festa di Pio Quinto!

Here's a link to the blog entry I did for Pope St. Pius V from last year. Nothing has changed; he still did all the things I wrote last year. Click here for a photo taken of a close-up of San' Pio's remains.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Freakin' Devils give me Agita

So who is Pope Celestine V, anyway?

Stories abound of Pope Benedict's visit to the earthquake-struck region of L'Aquila, including a visit to the Basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio to venerate the relics of his predecessor, Pope St. Celestine V.  So what do we know about the 191st successor to St. Peter?  Buckle yourself in for this story.

Born Pietro dell Murrone, he was elected Pope July 5, 1294.  His predecessor as Pope, Nicholas IV, died in April of 1292, and the Church went without a Pope for 27 months, as the 12 Cardinal electors couldn't agree on, well, pretty much anything.  In October of 1293, following a few attempts at electing a Pope (broken up by summer vacations), another conclave was called in Perugia.  This was doomed from the start.  Charles II, King of Sicily, attempted to give the Cardinals a short list of four Cardinals for whom they should vote (the Cardinali declined his offer).  By May and June, trouble broke out in Rome, fighting in Orvieto, and the death of a younger brother of one of the electors, Cardinal Napoleone.

Finally, they tried again in July.  On July 5, 1294, Cardinal Latino Malabranca told his fellow conclavists that he had received a letter from a hermit telling him he had seen visions of great trouble ahead, if the Cardinals allowed the Church to go any longer without a pope.  When asked the identity of the hermit, Cardinal Malabranca indicated it came from Pietro del Murrone, a Priest and founder of a community of Benedictines who later returned to the hermetical life.  He was well known among the clergy of the region, as well as the Cardinal electors.  Starting with Malabranca, the Cardinals eventually cast their votes for del Murrone. He was 85 years old at the time of his election.

Why did the Cardinals vote for him?  Many reasons: perhaps tired of the stalemate or a desire for a change from the past. Though he protested his election as Pope, he eventually accepted.  On August 29, he was carried by a donkey and escorted by Charles II to the church of Santa Maria del Colmaggio, where he was consecrated Bishop and took the name Celestine V.

History tells us he wasn't the best of Popes, though not because he was corrupt.  Advanced age, combined with the pushy King Charles, made his pontificate a bit of a mess.  The King insisted that the Pope take up residence not in Rome, but in Naples.  Here the King was able to get his clergy friends named to key curial positions, as well as get himself named the "guardian" for the next conclave.

Pope Celestine knew he was ill prepared for the papacy, and actually resigned from the Petrine office on December 13, 1294.  Now back to being "Fra Pietro", he had hoped to return to hermetical life.  But his successor, Pope Boniface VIII, feared that the ex-pope could be used in an attempt to unseat him.  The Pope confined him to a house arrest, and though he managed to escape for a time, he was eventually confined to a tower in Castel Fumone.  There, though not mistreated, he died of an infection from an absess on May 19, 1296.  His remains were transferred to Sta. Maria di Colemaggio in 1317.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Please have your I.D. ready.

In my vacation last week, I spent some time at airports.  If you've done that, then the title of this blog entry is something you're used to hearing.

We live in an ID-obsessed culture.  You can't fly without proper identification (heck, you can't even wander around the airport without it).  Gone are the days when we used to be able to stand at the doorway of the gate itself, to welcome some relative back from their plane ride home. This past Lent when I went to hear confessions at a Catholic high school, all the students wore lanyards with a photo ID attached (so much for anonymity in Confession). Last week, we needed a photo ID just to pull into the hotel parking lot where we were having dinner. Have you ever actually counted the number of passwords and PIN numbers you're required to use? The identification, of course we know, is for safety and security.  It verifies that we are who we say we are. There's no way any one person can know everybody, and so the ID helps to assist in the recognition.

A lot of the Gospel passages we've been reading since Easter Sunday have revolved around recognizing Jesus' identity.  On the Tuesday of the Octave, we heard about Mary Magdalene recognizing Jesus, after first thinking he was the gardener.   On the Wednesday, the disciples on the road to Emmaus thought he was a fellow traveler (and a slightly ignorant one at that) before recognizing him "in the breaking of the bread."  On the Octave's Friday, John told us that none of the Apostles dared ask Jesus his identity on the seashore of Lake Tiberias, because "they realized it was the Lord."  On the 2nd Sunday of Easter, we heard Thomas' recognizing Jesus with the words, "My Lord and my God."  At Mass yesterday, Luke told us the eleven went from being "startled and terrified" to "incredulous for joy and amazed" after Jesus convinced them of His identity.

So how about us?  Do we recognize Jesus in the ways He makes Himself known in the Church? Do we recognize Him in the Scriptures? First the Emmaus disciples, and then the eleven, got the Scripture lesson of their lives when Jesus "opened their minds to understand the Scriptures."   I've gotta tell you, I love the little blurb that Joel Osteen has his congregation recite at his services: "This is my Bible.  I am what it says I am, I have what it says I have, I can do what it says I can do.  Today I'll be taught the Word of God.  I boldly confess my mind is alert, my heart is receptive, I'll never be the same, in Jesus' name."  Neat, eh?  There's nothing in that statement that we as Catholics do not believe about God's word; Can you imagine the pastor of a Catholic parish that has his parishioners memorize and recite that passage just before his homily?  Come to think of it, a parish where Catholics brought their bibles (or Missals) to Mass each Sunday might be enough to give a pastor some sort of cardiac episode.

St. John's letter (the 2nd reading yesterday) gave us the litmus test for knowing Jesus Christ: "The way we may be sure that we know him is to keep his commandments."  John is pretty clear on this: If you do that, you know Him; if you don't, you're a liar.  You've gotta love John, no gray; You either do or don't.

Most of us heard that 2nd reading yesterday and said, "uh oh".  We try, but we blow it sometimes.  St. Peter tells the crowd of people in Acts (our 1st reading) that they blew it when they condemned Jesus to death. But he also gives them hope when he tells them that all is not lost; that they should "Repent ... and be converted, that [their] sins may be wiped away." Again, that involves recognizing Christ in the Confessional. And, while we're at it, do we recognize Him in the Eucharist?  In the Priesthood?  In the Magisterium?  Do we recognize Christ in the ways He makes himself known?

Or perhaps the bigger question is, when we die and face judgment, will He recognize us?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Cantalamessa on the Church

I'm back from my annual post-Paschal vacation with some Priest-friends.  This is the fifth year we've done this and it's always a great time to both laugh and recharge the batteries.

This annual week away is a great time to catch up on things I wanted to read, but never got the chance to do.  I brought with me Pope Benedict's homilies for the Triduum (I got through the Chrism Mass and Holy Thursday) and Father Cantalamessa's book, "Loving the Church". Here's a passage that knocked me out:
"One can derive an important consequence from the words of St. Catherine [of Siena]: Christ has loved the Church, despite the iniquities that she was to commit, so who are we to find in the Church's weaknesses and misery a reason not to love her but to judge her instead?  We who also are filled with sin?

Do we actually think that Jesus doesn't know the sins of the Church as well as we do?  Did he not know for whom he was dying?  Did he not know that one of his disciples had betrayed him and that another was denying him and that the rest were fleeing?  He, however, loved this real Church, not an imaginary and ideal one.  He died to make her 'Holy and without blemish' (Eph 5:27), not because she was holy and without blemish.  He loves the Church 'in hope,' not just for what she is but also for what she is called to be and will be: the heavenly Jerusalem 'prepared as a bride adorned for her husband' (Rv 21:2).

Christ loved the Church and gave himself for her so that she would be 'without stain.'  And the Church would be without stain if we were not a part of it!  The Church would have one less wrinkle if I committed one less sin.  Martin Luther criticized Erasmus of Rotterdam for remaining in the Catholic Church despite its corruption, but Erasmus answered him: 'I put up with this Church, in the hope that one day it will become better, just as it is constrained to put up with me in the hope that one day I will become better.'"

Sunday, April 19, 2009

"Night fever, night fever.
We know how to do it."

(c'mon, you were thinking it, too!)

Tommy can you hear me?

Today's Gospel gives us the moment for which St.  Thomas has been long remembered: the moment of "doubt" which now carries his name.

Poor guy.  The apostle who said, "Let us also go [to Jerusalem] with him, that we may die with him.", never gets remembered for that display of chutzpah.  The apostle who came around and made that confession of faith, "My Lord and my God", never gets recognized for it.  Unless, of course, your music director played the Adoro Te Devote (perhaps as a Communion hymn) at today's Mass.  In it, Aquinas wrote those beautiful lines:
Plagas sicut Thomas, non intueor;
Deum tamen meum te confiteor
Fac me tibi semper magis credere,
In te spem habere, te diligere.

I do not see the wounds, as Thomas did,
and yet I, too, own you as "My God."
Grant that I believe in you more and more,
that I put my hope in you and that I love you.
Of course, today has another lesson within it.

If we satirically label Judas, "The first person to leave Mass early", then Thomas was the first to "arrive for Mass late".  Those of you who know people who habitually get to Mass late and then insist on making you get up so they can squeeze into your pew, whisper "Happy Feast Day" to them (it'll make them think).  Seriously, today is the day that the Gospel should have a special relevance for them:
  1. Thomas missed out on seeing Christ in His resurrected glory for the first time with the other Apostles.  Yes, he would see Him plenty of times, but never that first time with the other ten. Some opportunities come only one and are gone forever.
  2. The following week, you can bet Thomas learned from his mistake and made sure he got there on time.  In fact, if you read today's Gospel with a certain tone of voice, Jesus' conversation with Thomas could almost have been a chiding of the doubter.  In that light, Thomas' response to Jesus could also have been an apology.
On another front, I will be away next week, so there won't be new blog entries.  But I'll be back by the weekend, of that there can be no doubt.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The OTHER Easter miracle

Right now, I'm flipping channels between every New York channel, all of whom are covering the Installation of Archbishop Dolan.

Imagine that, multi-network coverage of the Catholic Church in a positive light!  Alleluia!

For Timothy, our Bishop

As the eyes of the Catholic Church in America are turned towards St. Patrick's Cathedral, New Yorkers will go to Mass this morning and hear the words, "for Timothy, our Bishop".

My Tim Dolan story? Wellllllll, OK.

Picture it... Sicily... 1924... Just kidding.

Back in Christmas of 1996, seventeen classmates and three faculty members from Mount St. Mary's Seminary organized a trip to Rome.  We began planning and saving our money during our first year in the seminary, knowing that the Christmas of Third Theology would be the last time we would be able to be anywhere other than in our parish assignments.  It was a great trip (but that's for another blog entry).

So, my Tim Dolan story.  On Christmas Day, 1996, following the Pope's Urbi et Orbi blessing, the Rector of the North American College, then-Monsignor Dolan, invited us up the Gianicolo for lunch.  Rome, for as big as it is, is a pretty dead city on Christmas Day, with stores, restaurants, and even churches closed.  Add to it the fact that many of us (albeit of our own free will) were away from our families at Christmas for the first time.  It was a very kind gesture.

At the lunch, which was a mix of seminarians, clergy, Rome residents, and visiting tourists (Americans all), Msgr. Dolan was an exceedingly gracious host.  He walked from table to table with that infectious smile, shaking hands and slapping backs, acting as if we were longtime friends who were doing him the favor by showing up to eat. Following lunch, he insisted everyone had to toast Christmas with a glass of champagne and a mix of panettone and chocolate (he came around personally to dispense the chocolate).

THAT is my Tim Dolan story; THAT is whom the Priests of New York got last evening as their spiritual daddy.

Want to know more about him?  Remember, you can also read the books I mentioned in a previous blog entry.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Got growth?

This evening, setting up for Mass, I had to rearrange some of the Easter plants.  They came from the greenhouse only last Saturday, but already the buds have blossomed and the stalks have grown taller. After a weekend of soaking in the warmth from the lighting in the sanctuary, they've become "top heavy".  A few of them toppled over, knocking over the plants next to them.

Significant growth already, a few days after Easter Sunday.

Some people think that we only work on spiritual growth during Lent; that somehow we can stop trying during Easter.

How about you?  Any growth since Easter?

Monday, April 13, 2009

I had a dream my life would be... so different from this hell I'm living.

Not many people have seen another Simon Cowell television program, "Britain's Got Talent".  Click here for the link to a performance by 47 year old Susan Boyle.  No one expected her to do much, she certainly didn't have the looks of a pop star, but she knocked the room dead with her performance of "I dreamed a dream".

The Easter Octave means we come back to the empty tomb each day, as if it's that first morning.  In today's Gospel, Mary of Magdala and the other Mary (the first Spice Girls) were not expecting to see anything except the dead Jesus, and we know what happened there.

This is a great lesson.  Life is full of surprises.  Go find one.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

B16 vetoes "Ambassador" Kennedy

Click this link to an article from the London Telegraph.  Apparently there have been a number of candidates proposed by the White House as the United States Ambassador to the Holy See, all of whom have been rejected; the latest of which being Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg.

Read the article, and then ask yourself the question:

"Between Pope Benedict and her granddaughter, with whom would Rose Kennedy be more disappointed?"

Holy Saturday

From an ancient Holy Saturday homily:

"Something strange is happening - there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness.  The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep.  The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began.  God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear."

Homily Texts, so far...

If you're looking for the written texts of the Triduum events from Roma, here they are (thanks to Zenit News Service):

Pope Benedict's Homily for Holy Thursday

Fr. Cantalamessa's Sermon for Good Friday

Thursday, April 09, 2009

The Chrism Mass

This morning at 3:30am New Jersey time (9:30am Rome time), Pope Benedict led the Priests of the Diocese of Rome in the celebration of the Chrism Mass.  This photo (from Reuters) shows him breathing into the oil that will become Sacred Chrism. 

Fr. Guy over at Shouts in the Piazza, had a great explanation in his blog entry last Monday (the day the Chrism Mass is held here in Metuchen, as well as other dioceses around the U.S.):

The Mass of Chrism comes once a year to your cathedral. If you've never attended it, you're missing one of the most solemn and significant liturgies of our church. During the Mass, your bishop will bless the oil of catechumens, the oil of the sick, and the oil of chrism. We use the first for adult catechumens and infants, the second for anointing the sick, and the sacred oil of chrism for baptism, confirmation, the ordination of priests and bishops, and the consecration of altars. All three are basically an olive oil; chrism spices the air with the scent of a perfume, traditionally balsam. For pastoral reasons, another vegetable oil and perfume may be used.

Since the bishop is the only one in the diocese who may consecrate chrism, this Mass highlights his ministry and our union with him. He will not baptize and confirm everyone in the parishes of the diocese, but he will be symbolically present in the chrism which the priests and deacons will use. In recent years, this Mass has also celebrated the institution of the priesthood by Christ. It invites the priests to renew their commitment of service and to receive the prayers and support of the people. The Mass of Chrism gathers the faithful of the diocese at their mother church with their shepherd and his closest collaborators in ministry to prepare for celebrations of Christ in all our churches throughout the year.

A quiet rectory

The rectory here at St. Thomas has four Priests living in it, and Holy Thursday may very well be the first morning in my memory that we all got to "sleep in".

With five separate communal penance services (2 parish wide and 3 for children), and 15 other opportunities for Confession over the course of Lent, along with other the stuff associated with this time of the liturgical year, it was downright strange to not hear at least somebody moving about the rectory in the morning.  With the only Mass of the day taking place tonight, there was no daily Mass to be had.

It was nice.

This Good Friday, an exception to the rule

As the world focuses on the earthquake in Italy and its aftermath, this morning the Vatican Press Office released this statement (my own translation, so forgive any errors):
"The Holy Father, receiving the requests of civil and religious authorities, has appointed the Eminent Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, to preside Friday, April 10, at the funeral rites for the victims of the earthquake that has hit the Abruzzese capital and the surrounding towns.

In consideration of the exceptionality of the event, the Congregation for the Divine Cult and the Discipline of the Sacraments has granted the indult for the celebration of a Holy Mass for the dead, in spite of the norm, the liturgy of Good Friday does not provide for other rites except for the 'Passion of the Lord'.

As a sign of personal closeness of the Pope to those who suffer because of the earthquake, the private secretary, Msgr. George Gänswein, will also participate at the funeral."

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Dining with Pope Benedict

I've been interested in cooking since my seminary days. One of my favorite TV chefs is Lidia Bastianich, host of Lidia's Italy, which airs on public television.

During Pope Benedict's visit to the United States last year, Lidia was asked to prepare a meal for the Holy Father during his New York stay.

I bring this up because, in honor of the one year anniversary of Lidia's culinary achievement, her restaurant in Manhattan, Felidia, will cook you the same meal which the Holy Father dined upon.  The special costs $85 dollars per person (more if you let them pair the courses off with wines), and runs from April 14 - 30.

Friday, April 03, 2009

March Madness

This is not only the time for spring and Holy Week, but basketball, too.

In this season of the NCAA basketball playoffs, click here for a link to a great story about the bond between the University of Connecticut basketball team and the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist.

The sisters do great work in various apostolates, but are perhaps best known as the sisters who were there for the birth and infancy of the Vatican website.

Thursday, April 02, 2009


'Tis the season for Lenten communal penance services, and I've just returned from St. Augustine of Canterbury parish in Kendall Park.

This was not your typical penance service for a number of reasons:
  • I was unable to count them all, but I'm not far from the truth when I say there were just under 30 Priests in attendance, a mix of diocesan and religious, young and old, bi-lingual, multilingual, etc.
  • In about 90 minutes, some 750 people received God's mercy through Sacramental Confession.  Again, I was unable to count them all (I was a bit busy), but the pastor had an usher do a headcount as people came through the main doors of the school.
  • The confessions were held, not in the church, but throughout the parish school: classrooms, offices, even the auditorium had a number of Priests stationed throughout. This meant that the church was a quiet place where you could send penitents to pray (The Blessed Sacrament was exposed) and perform their penance.  It also meant that people waiting on line for Confession weren't overhearing the sins of others. Also, you didn't have that din of the crowd that tends to happen in a church, as you tried to hear the sins of someone trying their best not to have them overheard.  With a whole classroom to myself, I could hear each person perfectly, whilst each person had no worry that they were being overheard.  Noise in the school; prayerful silence in the church.  "These are a few of my favorite things."
  • Following the penance service, there was an open house for the Priests.  A gathering of Priests can be therapeutic, and this is the season of, "After the confessions, come back to the rectory."  That's a good thing for Priests who'd normally spend their night alone, sitting in their rooms watching TV.  Many is the Priest who will tell you, "If I wanted to live with other Priests, I'd have joined a religious community."  To which I say, "But Father, if you wanted to be guaranteed to live alone, then you should have joined a hermitage."  It was a great time.
Finally, a special "shout out" to those of you who said hello to me and told me you read this blog.  Thank you for your words of encouragement.  Keep reading!

Four years today