Sunday, May 31, 2009

Back to 'Bama

I'm on my way down to Alabama to tape an interview with Marcus Grodi for an episode of The Journey Home that will air next week.

If you cannot wait until next Monday, I'm scheduled to be the celebrant for the televised Mass from the EWTN studios tomorrow morning.


Saturday, May 30, 2009


Today is the 11th anniversary of my Priestly Ordination.

I love the last part of the Gospel for this morning's Mass: "There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written."  In other words, the Gospel contains just the highlights.

Most Priests have a "highlights reel" that plays in their head when they reminisce about their years of service.  But most of it, the day to day living, the daily Masses, confessions, hospital calls, home visits, school activities, youth group stuff, retreats, etc., is all a blur.  For all of us in ordained ministry, there are "many other things what we did" that have been forgotten or, shall we say, "misplaced" in our memories. They usually come out when someone stops us on line at the supermarket, or at the airport, or at a wedding reception or the repast after a funeral, when someone comes up to us and tells us about something we did years ago.

Both the 1st Reading and the Gospel this morning are left "open ended", whether it's the conclusion of John, telling us there's more to Jesus' story, or the conclusion of Acts, where Paul is preaching to the Jews of Rome (even whilst chained to a member of the Pretorian Guard).  Eleven years have gone by, but today, my twelfth year of Priesthood begins.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Spelling makes New Jersey grate!

Spelling words like "Assemblyman" and "Legislative" = A+
Spelling words like "Great" = D

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Gotta love the Jersey Shore

I used my day off for a trip to Long Beach Island.  While the day started off as drizzly in central Jersey, by the time I made it across the Rt 72 bridge, the sun was breaking through.

If you're ever on LBI and looking for a great breakfast, check out The Chicken Or The Egg in Beach Haven.  It's a local place (not a cookie-cutter franchise) worth a visit.  Reasonably priced, too (C'mon, a $1.99 breakfast?  How can you beat that?).

I'm certainly not the kind to lay out on the beach or soak in the sun (I've got the kind of skin that's called "The Irish Curse"), I did snap the above picture of the beach.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

"Jerusalem Idol"

Can't you just see it?  Ryan Seacrest standing between Judas Barsabbas Justus and Matthias.  Matthias and Justus singing with Lionel Richie and Queen and Kiss to prove their value?

Today's First Reading tells the story of how the early Church replaced Judas Iscariot amongst the Apostles.  But first.............
AN INTERESTING POINT HERE:  Remember the timeline here - Judas left Jesus and the Apostles on Holy Thursday.  Jesus rose and spent forty days being seen by everyone, and yet never sought to replace Judas Himself.  Jesus picked the original twelve, and certainly if, within those forty days after the Resurrection, He had chosen someone and told the Apostles "This one will replace Judas", they would have accepted it without question.  But the Lord didn't do it.  So already, within days of the Ascension, the eleven understood that it was their responsibility.  Jesus let them do what He called them to do, and it's what the Church has continued to do since then.
So the task is before them: replacing Judas Iscariot.  Peter lays down the qualifications (someone who was with Jesus from His Baptism until His Ascension) as well as the job description (to become a witness with the other Apostles)  Note the word for "witness" in the Greek, μάρτυρα ("martura" - yes, I could have just spelled it in English, but I love using the gadgets on my computer), from which we get "martyr".  The Apostles knew that that no one could properly do this task well if they hadn't spent time with Jesus.

So, what about it?  Are we "with" Jesus?  Do we spend time with Him?  Do we know about His life?  Do we know who His friends were?  Have we met His mother?  Have we done any research about Him, perhaps by reading what others have written about Him (take your pick, anything from St. Paul's Letters to Pope Benedict's recent "Jesus of Nazareth")?  Would we have made the cut?

But even then, the reading shows us that the resumé is not enough. Even after the choice is narrowed down to two, the Apostles needed to pray about it.  So it's not just "booksmarts", but also asking for God's input.  If we want to be "with" Jesus, if we want to know Him, if we want to keep His commandments and if we want to be able to love one another like St. John tells us in the second reading, then we need to dedicate some time each day to praying.

Well, it's 10 in the morning and I'm already sweaty.  I hate humidity. Genesis 1 says that God separated the waters (moisture) from the heavens (air). What is humidity except water in the air?  See?  It's just not of God; the Bible backs me up on that.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Ordination Day in Metuchen

This morning, our own Bishop Bootkoski ordained three men to the Priesthood in St. Francis Cathedral in Metuchen.

Ordination Day is fun for a bunch of reasons.  First of all, because I think it brings out the optimist in the Priests who attend.  We all watch what's happening and can't help but remember when it was us on the floor of the sanctuary or with our hands in the Bishop's hands.  Sadly, Priests tend to have "pessimist" as their default setting (lowered expectations mean that your hopes have nowhere to go but up).  But we didn't start out that way, and looking at the nervousness of the newly ordained reminds us how we should always approach the Sacraments with a certain amount of awe and trembling.

Ordination day is also a chance to hang out with other Priests both before and after the Mass in a relaxed atmosphere.  As seminarians, we serve the Mass, and we're a nervous wreck that we don't screw up enough to get the Bishop to reconsider our competence.  As the ones being ordained, we're in a fog and never get a chance to relax and enjoy the moment.  But once we've gotten past our own day and begin to attend ordinations as concelebrants, it's a great morning to kibbitz with the brethren.  The other time we get together is the Chrism Mass, and smack in the midst of Holy Week, we've got a bunch of things on our minds.  In contrast, by the time we get to ordination day in late May, First Communions are over, along with most parish activities, and so we're a much more relaxed bunch.  Unfortunately I couldn't stay around afterwards to talk; I was scheduled for our 12:30 confessions.  The Mass ended around noon, and I made it back here at 12:28.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Revelation 2:11

Anyone who has spent time in a church sacristy will recognize this as a page from an "Ordo", the booklets produced annually which give the order of Mass for each day: what memorials can be celebrated, what colors worn, what readings can be used, etc.

The other thing that an Ordo does (which this picture shows) is give the necrology for the region it covers, that is, the anniversaries of death for Bishops, Priests, and Deacons of that area.

Check out this page, and you'll find that Michael V. DiGirolamo, a Deacon of the Diocese of Camden, actually died twice, on both May 11 and May 12.

Death is tough enough once, but to do it twice?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

O, what a beautiful morrrrrrrrrrning

Here's the day at St. Thomas the Apostle:

8:15 - Mass for Saturday Morning
9:00 - 1st Holy Communion Mass
11:00am - 1st Holy Communion Mass
12:30pm - Confessions
2:00pm - Wedding
4:00pm - Vigil Mass for Sunday
5:30pm - Vigil Mass for Sunday, with Ordinations to the Diaconate

Friday, May 15, 2009

Father Alberto Cutié: my two cents worth

I started paying attention to this story on a day I'll remember because, that morning, the First Reading at Mass had Saul and Barnabas being confused for gods by the people of Lystra.

Making Priests into "gods" is setting yourself up for trouble.  Giving them celebrity cult status raises them from who they are to who you imagine them to be and borders on idolatry.  Priests are ordained to be "other Christs", not "other Oprahs" or "other Brad Pitts".  Every Priest is your Priest: whether old or young, introvert or extrovert, cover of GQ or cover of New England Journal of Medicine's "Dropped at Birth" issue.  To think otherwise is to fall into the trap that the Corinthians fell into: "I belong to Paul," or, "I belong to Apollos," or "I belong to Cephas." (1 Cor 1:12)  There's only one Savior in the Church's organizational chart, and that job's been filled.

A story about this that ran in the Miami Herald had this line in it:
"Cutie told CBS he has been romantically involved with the woman in the photos for about two years."
Yes, TWO YEARS.  That's when he lost me.  This wasn't a momentary lapse in judgment.  For two years he has been living a "double life"; this was a conspiracy.  For two years he planned his life around when he could be with her and where they could go and not be recognized. Did any of the parish staff know?  Did parish funds pay for meals, etc.? What if they were simply spotted on the beach last week with no photos taken; would he be denying it right now?  Is he sorry because of breaking promises he made on Ordination day or is he sorry that he got caught? Now he says he'll begin to think about whether to leave her or to leave the Catholic Church and marry her.  I mean, really, if you're her, can you trust him?  He's already made the promise of lifetime fidelity before.

And, let's face it.  If Padre Alberto looked less like himself and more like, well, me, no one would care if he was leaving the Priesthood over a relationship.  Though they might take the girl for an eye exam.

He needs prayers, true, but he also needs a long time before the Tabernacle to understand what he has done.  So do those who are saying that the Church's centuries-old discipline of celibacy needs to change just for the sake of Padre Alberto.  After all, he's not a god.

A FHC suggestion

Because of my niece, nephew, and my parish assignment, I have been to First Holy Communion Masses in three different parishes in two dioceses over the past few weeks.  Let me just throw this suggestion out there to anyone who reads this.


Every family wants photos of their little Willie or Wendy receiving their First Holy Communion.  But I've now been witness to anarchy when it comes to people disrupting Mass because THEY want THEIR picture(s), and no one else matters.  Even grandmas and grandpas, who are usually the regular Massgoers of the crowd with some sense of Church etiquette, seem to creep into voyeurism when it comes to little Billy or Betty receiving the Host.

So what do we do?  Now, personally, I'm all for doing a whole "Don Barzini" thing on them (upon seeing someone take a picture, I snap my fingers, some usher rips the camera from their hands and gives it to me, so I can take out the memory card, crush it, and throw it to the ground).  You'd only have to do it once and I bet the rest of the adults would fall into place.  This, of course, is just a tiptoe away from the "Sonny Corleone" approach (taking the camera from them, smashing it, then peeling off some $20 bills and dropping them on the floor as I walk away).  NOW, before you shrug your shoulders in mock disgust and make that grapefruit face, realize that, as parish Priests watch this stuff going on at First Communions, this is EXACTLY what we are fantasizing about doing.  We didn't start it, but we sure know how we could end it.

So here's what I suggest:  We need to take a lesson from the Vatican.  The parish announce that no photographs will be allowed in the Church (they can take as many pictures of Lyle or Leticia as they want both before and after the event).  The parish arranges for ONE "official" photographer to be there.  He/she will take photos of everything, the kids lining up before mass, the procession in, the kids sitting in the pews, and obviously the moment that little Freddy or Felicity receive Communion. The photos will then be posted on the parish's website, the photographer's website, or some web storage database like Flickr or something, where anyone can print, download, or simply peruse the pictures.  If you take a look at this LINK from the Vatican photographers, Fotografia Felici, you get an idea of what I'm talking about (except for the fact that Felici charges for the photos).  I think people might be less likely to reduce a Mass to a school play if they knew someone was taking pictures for them.

George Weigel article

The blog American Papist led me to this column in the Denver Catholic Register by George Weigel, entitled, "What 'Church' does Notre Dame belong to?"

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Chris West on Nightline TONIGHT

Christopher West, one of the "frontline soldiers" in the New Evangelization, will appear in a segment on ABC's Nightline tonight (Thursday, May 7).

A graduate of the John Paul II Institute on Marriage and the Family in Washington, DC, Chris' expertise is in the late Pontiff's teaching on the Theology of the Body.

You can see the article based upon the interview by clicking HERE.

FRIDAY MORNING: ABC News has the video online (for at least today, anyway).  Click HERE.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

3 Steps in Vocations Promotions

No, this is not a blog on how to become a Monsignor or Bishop.

But, fresh of my last entry about Msgr. Torney's seventy years of Priestly service to the [Trenton at first and then] Metuchen Diocese, it got me thinking about last Sunday's World Day of Prayer for Vocations.

Yes, I always include it in my homilies over the weekend, and this year was no exception.  But as I was surfing around the internet, I came across an editorial from my friend Father Roger Landry, editor of The Anchor (the newspaper for the Diocese of Fall River, MA).  He gives three steps in laying the foundation for our young Catholics to give serious consideration to the vocations to Priesthood or Consecrated Life:
The first is “careful listening and prudent discernment.” Young people in particular need to be trained in the art of listening to God and discerning his voice, not merely in prayer but also in the subtle signs God gives through personal talents, the events of life, and the intervention of others. God is speaking, but to those who have never learned how to listen and discern, he is often speaking a foreign language. The Church — by which the Pope specifies families, parishes, movements, apostolic associations, religious communities and “all sectors of diocesan life” — has the duty to help people decipher and understand this often faint and mysterious idiom.

The second step is a “serious study” of the reality that is proper to the priestly and religious vocations. The integral formation of every Catholic should involve exposure to and adequate understanding of the various states of life in the Church. The practice of “vocations awareness days” in Catholic schools and CCD programs is obviously a good one, and helps to open up young people’s minds to the various manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the Church. At the same time, however, they are no substitute for what the Holy Father calls “serious study,” which implies a sincere and mature effort on the part of each of us, as well as a recommended  “plan of study” provided by pastors, parents, and teachers. Every young Catholic should be encouraged and helped to give serious consideration to each of the vocations in the Church, not merely to discern whether God might be calling him or her to one of them in particular, but also to be aware of all of them in order to assist those whom the Lord is calling. It’s obviously hard to be God’s instrument to promote and assist vocations to the Order of Virgins, for example, if one has little or no idea of what a consecrated virgin is. 

The third stage that the Pope describes is “a generous and willing adherence to the divine plan.” When people seek the will of God in their daily life and strive to follow Christ faithfully on the path of love and holiness, when they are aware of the various range of possibilities to which God might be calling them, it is much easier both to hear what God is asking and to give a free and wholehearted “yes” to his invitation. All those in the Church — but particularly families, catechists and parishes— must help young people to make the often difficult transition from saying “my will be done” to “thy will be done,” and from asking, “What do I want to be when I grow up?,” to “What does God want me to do when I grow up?” 

The Holy Father says that one great means to help us learn how to adhere generously and willingly to the divine plan is a deeper understanding of and participation in the mystery of the Eucharist. Jesus in the Eucharist, the Pope says, gives us the “eminent model of a ‘vocational dialogue’ between the free initiative of the Father and the faithful response of Christ.” He shows us in the Eucharist how to seek the Father’s will, to enter into a similarly “fruitful dialogue,” and to respond with loving trust and total surrender. “The awareness of being saved by the love of Christ, which every Mass nourishes in the faithful,” the Pope teaches, “cannot but arouse within them a trusting self-abandonment to Christ who gave his life for us. To believe in the Lord and to accept his gift, therefore, leads us to entrust ourselves to Him with thankful hearts, adhering to his plan of salvation.” In other words, the “amen!” we say to Christ in Holy Communion trains us to say “yes” to Christ freely and unreservedly when he asks us to follow him down a particular vocational path. The Communion brought about by the faithful reception of the Sacrament of the Eucharist, the Pope concludes, “thus becomes ‘co-responsibility,’ responsibility in and with Christ, through the action of his Holy Spirit; it becomes communion with the One who makes it possible for us to bear much fruit.”

Monday, May 04, 2009

Ad Multos Annos, Msgr. Torney!

Seven decades of Priesthood.

Yesterday, Monsignor John Torney of my diocese celebrated the 70th anniversary of his Priestly ordination.

Born in 1910, Msgr. Torney attended St. Charles Seminary in Catonsville and St. Mary's Seminary, both in Maryland. He was ordained on May 3, 1939, and to put things into a historical perspective, Gone With The Wind would not premiere until another seven months after his ordination!

Please say a prayer for God's continued blessings upon this amazing man. This October, please God, he will turn 99 years old.  And if you think that's an impressive age, you should meet his older sister!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Friday, May 01, 2009

Brendan the Worker

This morning I got up with the alarm (which is odd, since me and the snooze button have this ongoing relationship).  So after my Office and coffee and before I headed over for Mass, I was reading an article from Canadian Press Service on the Devils, and at the end was this quote from NHL workhorse Brendan Shanahan:
Shanahan, the 40-year-old who joined the team in midseason, said he would wait before deciding to play another season. "In the last couple of weeks I had my lip split open, my chin split open, I got stitches in my eyelid and I got hit so hard in Game 6 it actually knocked one of my false teeth out, and I loved every minute of it," he said.
On this feast of St. Joseph the Worker, what a great quote from one of the great workers in the NHL.