Saturday, July 25, 2009

Is there steak behind all that sizzle?

By now, most of the civilized world has seen the start of Jill and Kevin's wedding procession. If you haven't (perhaps you were in the bathroom or something), it's all over YouTube:

First, the disclaimer: No, this was NOT done a Catholic Church, though, like me, most Priests will now be dreading the phone calls from brides, asking if they would be able to do that at their wedding. The answer is "no".

Now I can hear the responses, "But why not, Father? Isn't a wedding about joy and happiness and dancing and fun and the chicken dance, the electric slide, the Thriller dance, the Summer Lovin' dance, and drunken friends lip synching 'Paradise By The Dashboard Light'?" [insert here some version of the pipedream that, if we allowed such stuff, young people would flock to churches like a shoppers hit the mall on the day after Thanksgiving]

Yes, a wedding is about joy and happiness. But not so much about "the moment" right now, but the whole picture: what has led up to it and what will follow afterwards. Too many weddings today are all about the glitz and flashes in the pan for a few hours, then everyone thinks it's "life back to normal" when the flowers die, the tuxes goes back to the rental place, and the dress gets professionally boxed (I won't tell you what happened to the food).

That's exactly what the Church says NOT to fall into the trap of thinking. That's why the Church asks couples to do some sort of wedding prep (also known as Engaged Encounter, Pre-Cana, God's Plan for You, Theology of the Body, etc.). "But, Father (the voice says again), couples don't have time for such things nowadays; everyone is so busy." OK, let me ask you this: How many hours do you think this wedding party rehearsed to get five minutes of dancing to go smoothly? How many couples soon to be married are, as you are reading this, calling and texting their ushers and bridesmaids, trying to do this same thing at their weddings, determined to give as many hours as it takes to put on a show? Now, the bigger question: If they'll spend hours rehearsing for five minutes, how many hours of marriage preparation do you think is proper if they want years of married life to go smoothly? People invest dozens of hours and thousands of dollars on the wedding day itself: hair and nails and dresses and tuxedos and flowers and limos and food and music and the cake and pictures and video, etc. But how much time and effort do they invest in the day after the wedding? and the day after that? and the day after that? I love to tell couples who come to me to prepare for marriage that the Church is the only entity that cares about how things go after the wedding day. 99% of everything else: caterer, limo driver, dressmaker, tux renter, hairdresser and barber, DJ, florist, etc., are all only concerned with the wedding day itself. They will (for a fee) make everything perfect for a few hours, and then they move on to their next customer; the Church is the only one who wants a couple's married life after the wedding to be just as perfect as the wedding day itself.

One of the comments on one of the YouTube versions of this video opines, "On their 50th anniversary, this will make a great big screen video and cause many hearts to smile." But see, that's the problem! Marriage is not about looking at one day in the past when everything was perfect; It's about living it day in and day out, whether it is the day of the wedding or ten, twenty five, or fifty years later. It's not about doing the dance once and doing it well; it's about doing the dance over and over again every day, whether you're happy or sad, whether you're tired or wired, whether you're bored or busy. It's about doin' the dance when one kid has to be at piano practice and the other kid just remembered to tell you there's a bake sale tomorrow and he signed you up to bring in cupcakes. It's about doin' the dance when the choice comes down to a vacation at Disney or replacing the furnace. And, yes, it's about doin' the dance when your kid gets an "A" on their math final or when the wedding anniversary comes around.

There, I feel better [exhale].

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Feast of Saint Camillus de Lellis

We're a little behind the rest of the world on this one, thanks to Blessed Kateri. She and St. Camillus share the same feast date on the Roman Calendar, and so, in the United States, St. Camillus gets bumped to the next available date after the feasts of St. Bonaventure and Our Lady of Mount Carmel. That's today.

St. Camillus (1550-1614) founded the Order of the Servants of the Sick (later to be called the Camillians), and in 1575 his community was given care of a run down church in Rome, Santa Maria Maddalena. In the building attached to the church is the Camilian's Motherhouse, and this is where St. Camillus died on July 14, 1614.

If you visit the church today, just a hop, skip, and jump from the Pantheon, you can see on the outside facade statues of St. Camillus, as well as St. Philip Neri (St. Philip lived in Rome at the same time, and served as St. Camillus' spiritual director, as well as an advisor to the new religious community).

Whilst inside the church, make sure to stop at the tomb of St. Camillus, to the right of the main altar. Also look for the reliquary which contains his heart (gotta love Rome!).

I found this church in 2006, and it moved me in a profound way. Before this, St. Camillus was one of those saints whose feast day was nothing to get excited about (right up there with St. Fidelis of Sygmaringen). To be honest, I only sought out this church because it was one of a handful of the 50 churches named in my all time favorite guidebook that I hadn't visited. Then it hit me: This is a Saint of the Church, a role model for us all. This is where he lived and worked and died. Yes, we've got our Anthonys and our Dominics and our Theréses, and, don't get me wrong, they're wonderful. But we also have these men and women who are equally part of the canon of Saints. Since then I've realized that EVERY Saint is important and deserves my attention.

For that, I thank St. Camillus. (Plus, visiting his tomb gives me the excuse to visit the Tazza D'Oro coffee shop)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Of course it's white; You were expecting neon?

Say a prayer for Pope Benedict.

Yes, he returned to his holiday in Valle d'Aosta, but consider this:

What does Pope Benedict like to do on his holidays?

Write and play the piano.

Both of these are now pretty well shot to you-know-where for the next 4 weeks.

Add to that the general discomfort that comes with a cast (difficulty buttoning buttons, eating, and all sorts of other functions - if you've ever had a cast on you know what I mean), then add to that the difficulty he's going to have in saying Mass, and you see that he may be feeling a bit down lately.

So say a prayer for Pope Benedict.

A broken wrist = Conclave?

Yes, the Holy Father slipped and has a small break in the polso (I know it's the wrist, but I like the Italian word better; it sounds like "pulse"). Can't you just hear an Italian doctor saying, "Ayyy, you brok-a the polsa", whilst smoking a cigarette, talking on his cellphone, and eyeing the nurses?

But the New York Times has taken the Pope's fall while on vacation to remind us that the Pope "appeared tired in some of his public appearances", as well as the fact that he may have suffered some slight strokes more than a decade ago.

Nice try. We all know why he went to the hospital: Jell-o. He loves the Jell-o.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Today's Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel is always a great chance to talk about the sacramentals of the Church, those "sacred signs" that "signify effects, particularly of a spiritual nature, which are obtained through the intercession of the Church" that "prepare us to receive grace and dispose us to cooperate with it." See the Catechism, paragraphs 1667-1679.

Sacramentals can be on a person (for example, the blessing of an Abbot or Abbess, or on ministers such as Lectors or Acolytes, or the blessing of a throat of the Feast of St. Blaise), or an object (such as medals, rosaries, ashes or palm branches, and, yes, scapulars).

Also at Mass, I reminded the attendees that we do, in fact, have cloistered Carmelites here in our Metuchen Diocese. Carmelites arrived in New Brunswick in the late 40's. In 1956, the sisters moved southwest to Flemington, NJ, and settled into their present location in 1972.

For more about them, click HERE to be taken to the website of the Flemington Carmel.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Back to School? ALREADY?????

Yes, because it's been a month since school ended, and parents need something to give them hope that soon their kids will be out of their hair from 8 to 3.

One of my longtime friends, Karen Gilmour, is a graphic artist whose designs are now featured in Barnes & Nobles everywhere as part of their "back to school" collection.

Congratulations, Karen! To think, I knew you when...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Honest, officer, it was just for the Vitamin D

Today's Home News Tribune has a story about a gathering of Nudists in my old haunting grounds of Basking Ridge, NJ, who were planning to participate in the "largest skinny dip across North America", today at 3pm.

When asked why they were doing this, one nudist explained that, "It's a proven fact that Vitamin D from sunshine is one of the healthiest ways to get Vitamin D and recharge your batteries."

Read the whole story by clicking HERE,

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Quote of the day

From the first reading at Mass this morning:

Joseph says to his brothers, "It was really for the sake of saving lives that God sent me here ahead of you."

Ambushed by his brothers, sold into slavery, imprisoned, his father thinks he's dead, and he sees the bigger picture.

What has God taken away in your life to give you more than you had before?

Did you see the bigger picture?

Friday, July 03, 2009

Hello, Newman!

Today's Vatican bulletin reports that Pope Benedict has approved a decree from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, confirming a miracle attributed to John Henry Cardinal Newman.

Newman currently (technically) ranks as a "Venerable", and this miracle paves the way to being raised to the level of "Blessed", the last stop before Sainthood.

Start your prayers now. Most people are quick to turn to the "old reliables" when it comes to the Communion of Saints. I like to tell people, whilst Saints Anthony, Jude, Rita, Rocco, etc., are great, why not turn to a "Blessed" of the Church. They need that last miracle for Canonization. Besides, if it's your miracle that pushes him/her over the top, you get a great seat for the Pope's ceremony.