Saturday, April 30, 2011

Getting ready for Divine Mercy Sunday

>>>Nice explanation of the Feast of Divine Mercy Sunday which we celebrate tomorrow.  And this year we celebrate the beatification of Pope John Paul II on this day!

What is Divine Mercy Sunday?
Among all of the elements of devotion to The Divine Mercy requested by our Lord through St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, the Feast of Mercy holds first place. The Lord's will with regard to its establishment was already made known in His first revelation to the saint, as recorded in her Diary. In all, there were 14 revelations concerning the desired feast.

Our Lord's explicit desire is that this feast be celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. This Sunday is designated in "The Liturgy of the Hours and the Celebration of the Eucharist" as the "Octave Day of Easter." It was officially called the Second Sunday of Easter after the liturgical reform of Vatican II. Now, by the Decree of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the name of this liturgical day has been changed to: "Second Sunday of Easter, or Divine Mercy Sunday."

'Now On Throughout the Church'
Pope John Paul II made the surprise announcement of this change in his homily at the canonization of St. Faustina on April 30, 2000. There, he declared: "It is important then that we accept the whole message that comes to us from the word of God on this Second Sunday of Easter, which from now on throughout the Church, will be called ‘Divine Mercy Sunday.' "

By the words "the whole message," Pope John Paul II was referring to the connection between the "Easter Mystery of the Redemption" — in other words, the suffering, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, followed by the sending of the Holy Spirit — and this Feast of Divine Mercy, the Octave Day of Easter, which fulfills the grace of atonement as lived through by Christ Jesus and offered to all who come to Him with trust.

This connection is evident from the scripture readings appointed for this Sunday. As John Paul said, citing the Responsorial Psalm of the Liturgy, "The Church sings … as if receiving from Christ's lips these words of the Psalm." "Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; His steadfast love (= mercy) endures forever" (Ps 118:1). And then, Pope John Paul II developed the connection further: "[This comes] from the lips of the risen Christ, who bears the great message of Divine Mercy and entrusts its ministry to the Apostles in the Upper Room: ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, even so I send you. … Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" (Jn 20:21-23).

The Importance of the Image
During his homily, John Paul also made clear that the Image of The Divine Mercy St. Faustina saw, which is to be venerated on Divine Mercy Sunday, represents the Risen Christ bringing mercy to the world (see Diary 49, 88, 299, 341, 570, 742). Pope John Paul II said: "Jesus shows His hands and His side [to the Apostles]. He points, that is, to the wounds of the Passion, especially the wound in His Heart, the source from which flows the great wave of mercy poured out on humanity.

"From that Heart, Sr. Faustina Kowalska, the blessed whom from now on we will call a saint, will see two rays of light shining from that Heart and illuminating the world: ‘The two rays,' Jesus Himself explained to her one day, ‘represent blood and water' (Diary, 299).

"Blood and water! We immediately think of the testimony given by the Evangelist John, who, when a soldier on Calvary pierced Christ's side with his spear, sees blood and water flowing from it (see Jn 19:34). Moreover, if the blood recalls the sacrifice of the cross and the gift of the Eucharist, the water, in Johannine symbolism, represents not only Baptism but also the gift of the Holy Spirit" (see Jn 3:5; 4:14; 7:37-39).

The Meaning of the Day
Clearly, Divine Mercy Sunday is not a new feast established to celebrate St. Faustina's revelations. Indeed, it is not primarily about St. Faustina at all — nor is it altogether a new feast! As many commentators have pointed out, The Second Sunday of Easter was already a solemnity as the Octave Day of Easter; nevertheless, the title "Divine Mercy Sunday" does highlight and amplify the meaning of the day. In this way, it recovers an ancient liturgical tradition, reflected in a teaching attributed to St. Augustine about the Easter Octave, which he called "the days of mercy and pardon," and the Octave Day itself "the compendium of the days of mercy."

Liturgically the Easter Octave has always been centered on the theme of Divine Mercy and forgiveness. Divine Mercy Sunday, therefore, point us to the merciful love of God that lies behind the whole Paschal Mystery — the whole mystery of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ — made present for us in the Eucharist. In this way, it also sums up the whole Easter Octave. As Pope John Paul II pointed out in his Regina Caeli address on Divine Mercy Sunday, 1995: "the whole octave of Easter is like a single day," and the Octave Sunday is meant to be the day of "thanksgiving for the goodness God has shown to man in the whole Easter mystery."

Given the liturgical appropriateness of the title "Divine Mercy Sunday" for the Octave Day of Easter, therefore, the Holy See did not give this title to the Second Sunday of Easter merely as an "option," for those dioceses who happen to like that sort of thing! Rather, the decree issued on May 5, 2000, by the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship and The Discipline of the Sacraments clearly states: "the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II has graciously determined that in the Roman Missal, after the title Second Sunday of Easter, there shall henceforth be added the appellation ‘or [that is] Divine Mercy Sunday'…".

Divine Mercy Sunday, therefore, is not an optional title for this solemnity; rather, Divine Mercy is the integral name for this Feast Day. In a similar way, the Octave Day of the Nativity of Our Lord was named by the Church "The Feast of the Mother of God."

Not Just an Option
This means that preaching on God's mercy is also not just an option for the clergy on that day — it is soundly expected. To fail to preach on God's mercy on that day would mean largely to ignore the prayers, readings and psalms appointed for that day, as well as the title "Divine Mercy Sunday" now given to that day in the Roman Missal.

Clearly, the celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday does not compete with, nor endanger the integrity of, the Easter Season. After all, Divine Mercy Sunday is the Octave Day of Easter, a day that celebrates the merciful love of God shining through the whole Easter Triduum and the whole Easter mystery. It is a day of declaration of reparation for all sin, thus the Day of Atonement.

A Saintly Pope

St. Pius V, Pope

Feastday: April 30

Pope from 1566-1572 and one of the foremost leaders of the Catholic Reformation. Born Antonio Ghislieri in Bosco, Italy, to a poor family, he labored as a shepherd until the age of fourteen and then joined the Dominicans, being ordained in 1528. Called Brother Michele, he studied at Bologna and Genoa, and then taught theology and philosophy for sixteen years before holding the posts of master of novices and prior for several Dominican houses. Named inquisitor for Como and Bergamo, he was so capable in the fulfillment of his office that by 1551, and at the urging of the powerful Cardinal Carafa, he was named by Pope Julius III commissary general of the Inquisition. In 1555, Carafa was elected Pope Paul IV and was responsible for Ghislieri’s swift rise as a bishop of Nepi and Sutri in 1556, cardinal in 1557, and grand inquisitor in 1558. While out of favor for a time under Pope Pius IV who disliked his reputation for excessive zeal, Ghislieri was unanimously elected a pope in succession to Pius on January 7, 1566. As pope, Pius saw his main objective as the continuation of the massive program of reform for the Church, in particular the full implementation of the decrees of the Council of Trent. He published the Roman Catechism, the revised Roman Breviary, and the Roman Missal; he also declared Thomas Aquinas a Doctor of the Church, commanded a new edition of the works of Thomas Aquinas, and created a commission to revise the Vulgate. The decrees of Trent were published throughout all Catholic lands, including Europe, Asia, Africa, and the New World, and the pontiff insisted on their strict adherence. In 1571, Pius created the Congregation of the Index to give strength to the Church’s resistance to Protestant and heretical writings, and he used the Inquisition to prevent any Protestant ideas from gaining a foot hold in Italy. In dealing with the threat of the Ottoman Turks who were advancing steadily across the Mediterranean, Pius organized a formidable alliance between Venice and Spain, culminating in the Battle of Lepanto, which was a complete and shattering triumph over the Turks. The day of the victory was declared the Feast Day of Our Lady of Victory in recognition of Our Lady’s intercession in answer to the saying of the Rosary all over Catholic Europe. Pius also spurred the reforms of the Church by example. He insisted upon wearing his coarse Dominican robes, even beneath the magnificent vestments worn by the popes, and was wholeheartedly devoted to the religious life. His reign was blemished only by the continuing oppression of the Inquisition; the often brutal treatment of the Jews of Rome; and the ill advised decision to excommunicate Queen Elizabeth I of England in February 1570, an act which also declared her deposed and which only worsened the plight of English Catholics. These were overshadowed in the view of later generations by his contributions to the Catholic Reformation. Pope Clement beatified him on May 1, 1672, and Pope Clement XI canonized him on May 22, 1712.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The royal wedding and the beatification of a beloved Pope. Are you kidding me.

In case you missed it, there was this "royal" wedding today in London.  The son of Charles and Diana, Prince William, exchanged vows with Kate Middleton in Westminster Abbey.  What a "royal" fuss has been made worldwide over this event.  The media is absolutely insane and quite frankly, I've had it up to here with the Amercian media.  NBC viewed this event as so stupendeous that the Today crew has been in London all week.  Good grief.  I think we all can agree that we wish William and Kate well; I pray that more effort has gone into a lifetime of marriage than went into preparing for the wedding.  And I am quite pleased that the Anglican Archbishop of Cantebury did give a great homily extolling married life; he even called all weddings "royal" weddings.  The Archbishop even evoked the role God plays in marriage.  Hmmm.  Makes me pray harder that the Anglicans, Episcopalians, et al really return to the proper theology on marriage.

By the way, did you catch goofy NBC with a countdown clock to the "royal" kiss?  Talk about juvenile.

Just a little something for Catholics to consider.  The British, by law, and fully supported by the Church of England and the Monarchy, continue to discriminate and reject Catholicism.  What?  Did not Great Britain lay out the royal red carpet for Pope Benedict?  Yes they did.  And they remain stunned at the fallout; Catholic converts in record numbers, the Anglican ordinariate where Church of England types are converting en masse.  But to my brother and sister Catholics: it is still British law that no member of the monarchy may marry a Catholic.  He/she may marry many folks; just not Catholics.  300 years later, the Brits still cling to the Settlement Act of 1701 which says no heir to the throne may marry a Catholic.  And God forbid, if a Catholic falls in love with a royal, he/she must renounce Holy Mother Church for the royal.  Seems crazy; not so fast.  It happened in just the last 10 years or so.  Sad.  In 2011 the Brits, the Royals and the Church of England still disdain the Catholic Church.
Today, while the world sat like deer in the headlight of a "royal" wedding and will he kiss her or not, the bodily remains of Pope John Paul II were moved ahead of the Sunday beatification  of the beloved Pope.  Rome witnessed another day of pilgrims, obviously capable of functioning this day without being glued to the TV, flocking to Rome to take part in the beatification ceremonies.  The beatification of Pope John Paul II is indeed something I will wake up early for.  I must admit, I did  get up early during today's events because the bathroom was calling(middle-age man humor).  But I will get up joyfully and eagerly to soak up all the events of Sunday as the Pope of my lifetime becomes Blessed.

So tonight, I can pray for William & Kate because I am a huge fan of marriage.  My bride and I have been at it for 34 years and I love preparing young couples for married life.  So I hope these "royals" will make a go of married life not just over hyped weddings.  But for me, my focus this weekend will be on Rome and the events from the Vatican.  I cannot wait til Sunday when with the entire Church I can say, Blessed Pope John Paul II, pray for us. 

As people of faith, we need to keep our priorities straight!

St. Catherine of Siena; powerful witness to the faith

.St. Catherine of Siena
Doctor of the Church

Feastday: April 29
Patron Fire prevention
1347 - 1380

The 25th child of a wool dyer in northern Italy, St. Catherine started having mystical experiences when she was only 6, seeing guardian angels as clearly as the people they protected. She became a Dominican tertiary when she was 16, and continued to have visions of Christ, Mary, and the saints. St. Catherine was one of the most brilliant theological minds of her day, although she never had any formal education. She persuaded the Pope to go back to Rome from Avignon, in 1377, and when she died she was endeavoring to heal the Great Western Schism. In 1375 Our Lord give her the Stigmata, which was visible only after her death. Her spiritual director was Blessed Raymond of Capua. St, Catherine's letters, and a treatise called "a dialogue" are considered among the most brilliant writings in the history of the Catholic Church. She died when she was only 33, and her body was found incorrupt in 1430.

St. Gianna Molla a pro-life mother in every sense...

St. Gianna Beretta Molla

Feastday: April 28
Patron mothers, physicians, preborn children

Gianna Francesca Beretta was born in Magenta in Italy. She was the tenth of thirteen children in her family, only nine of whom survived to adulthood. When she was three, her family moved to Bergamo, and she grew up in the Lombardy region of Italy.

In 1942, Gianna began her study of medicine in Milan. Outside of her schooling, she was active in Azione Cattolica. She received a medical diploma in 1949, and opened an office in Mesero, near her hometown of Magenta, where she specialized in pediatrics.

Gianna hoped to join her brother, a missionary priest in Brazil, where she intended to offer her medical expertise in gynecology to poor women. However, her chronic ill health made this impractical, and she continued her practice in Italy.

In December 1954, Gianna met Pietro Molla, an engineer who worked in her office, ten years older than she. They were officially engaged the following April, and they married in September 1955.

The couple had Pierluigi, born in 1956, Maria Zita, in 1957 and Laura, was born in 1959. Gianna suffered two miscarriages after this.

In 1961, Gianna was once again expecting. During the second month, Gianna developed a fibroma on her uterus. After examination, the doctors gave her three choices: an abortion, which would save her life and allow her to continue to have children; a complete hysterectomy, which would preserve her life, but take the unborn child's life, and prevent further pregnancy; or removal of only the fibroma, with the potential of further complications. Roman Catholic teaching would have allowed her to obtain a hysterectomy, but would forbid an abortion. Wanting to preserve her child's life, she opted for the removal of the fibroma.

After the operation, complications continued throughout her pregnancy. Gianna was quite clear about her wishes, expressing to her family, "This time it will be a difficult delivery, and they may have to save one or the other -- I want them to save my baby."

On April 21, 1962, Good Friday of that year, Gianna went to the hospital, where her fourth child, Gianna Emanuela, was successfully delivered via Caesarean section. However, Gianna continued to have severe pain, and died of septic peritonitis 7 days after the birth.

Gianna was beatified by Pope John Paul II on April 24, 1994, and officially canonized as a saint on May 16, 2004. Gianna's husband Pietro and their last child, Gianna, were present at the canonization ceremony.

The miracle recognized by the Roman Catholic Church to canonize Gianna Molla involved a mother, Elizabeth Comparini, who was 16 weeks pregnant in 2003 and sustained a tear in her placenta that drained her womb of all amniotic fluid. Because a normal term of pregnancy is 40 weeks, Comparini was told by her doctors the baby's chance of survival was "nil."

Through praying to Gianna Molla and asking for her intercession, Comparini delivered by Caesarean a healthy baby despite the lack of amniotic fluid for the remainder of her pregnancy.

In his homily at her canonization Mass, Pope John Paul II called Gianna "a simple, but more than ever, significant messenger of divine love."

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Saintly Devotion to Mary & the Rosary

St. Louis de Montfort

Feastday: April 28

Confessor, Marian devotee, and founder of the Sisters of Divine Wisdom He was born Louis Maie Grignon in Montfort, France, in 1673. Educated at Rennes, he was ordained there in 1700, becoming a chaplain in a hospital in Poitiers. His congregation, also called the Daughters of Divine Wisdom, started there. As his missions and sermons raised complaints, Louis went to Rome, where Pope Clement XI appointed him as a missionary apostolic. Louis is famous for fostering devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Rosary. In 1715, he also founded the Missionaries of the Company of Mary. His True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin remains popular. Louis died at Saint-Laurent-sur-Sevre. He was canonized in 1947.

A Saintly example of a great Priest

St. Peter Chanel

Feastday: April 28
1803 - 1841

In St. Peter Chanel, Priest and Martyr (Feast day - April 28) The protomartyr of the South Seas, St. Peter Chanel was born in 1803 at Clet in the diocese of Belley, France. His intelligence and simple piety brought him to the attention of the local priest, Father Trompier, who saw to his elementary education. Entering the diocesan Seminary, Peter won the affection and the esteem of both students and professors. After his ordination he found himself in a rundown country parish and completely revitalized it in the three year span that he remained there. However, his mind was set on missionary work; so, in 1831, he joined the newly formed Society of Mary (Marists) which concentrated on missionary work at home and abroad. To his dismay, he was appointed to teach at the seminary at Belley and remained there for the next five years, diligently performing his duties.

In 1836, the Society was given the New Hebrides in the Pacific as a field for evangelization, and the jubilant St. Peter was appointed Superior of a little band of missionaries sent to proclaim the Faith to its inhabitants. On reaching their destination after an arduous ten month journey, the band split up and St. Peter went to the Island of Futuna accompanied by a laybrother and an English layman, Thomas Boog. They were at first well received by the pagans and their king Niuliki who had only recently forbidden canabalism. However, the kings jealousy and fear were aroused when the missionaries learned the language and gained the people's confidence; he realized the adoption of the Christian Faith would lead to the abolition of some of the prerogatives he enjoyed as both highpriest and sovereign.

Finally, when his own son expressed a desire to be baptized, the king's hatred erupted and he dispatched a group of his warriors to set upon the saintly head of the missionaries. Thus, on April 28, 1841, three years after his arrival, St. Peter was seized and clubbed to death by those he had come to save. And his death brought his work to completion - within five months the entire island was converted to Christianity.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Just reflecting on a Tuesday afternoon

April is about to come to an end.  As we move closer to May we move closer to summer.  I don't care much for summer.  It already has been unseasonably hot for April and we all know how violent the weather has been across the country.  April was an amazingly beautiful month in terms of following our Lenten journey to the high holy days of the Triduum and this weekend's glorious celebration of Easter!  As an ordained Permanent Deacon the end of Lent and the beginning of the Easter season is physically and spiritually demanding; although it leaves you so remarkably fulfilled. 

As we enter May so early in the Easter season we have a rare opportunity to carry the Easter alleluia's well into the month of June.  Still ahead for our celebrations are the Ascension and Pentecost, both of which will be in June.  It is not until Pentecost Sunday that we end the Easter season and begin ordinary time again. 

In our everyday comings and goings this Easter Season will see the increased influence of late spring, which in southeast Louisiana means increased heat and humidity, rapidly growing grass and the end of the good crawfish season.  We will turn our attention more to baseball than basketball, although we in New Orleans are enjoying the competiveness of our Hornets as they battle the dreaded Lakers.  And yes, alas, we are reminded in the weeks ahead to be prepared for hurricane season.

In just one week, we will celebrate with the Church the beatification ceremonies for our beloved John Paul II.  That's the one thing I plan on waking up early for this week, not some wedding from the country we defeated to earn our independence some 235 years ago.

May, like last year when we celebrated our son's wedding, will give rise to another joyful event as our daughter Elizabeth graduates from LSU.  What an amazing day that will be.  She has excelled at LSU and I'm so proud that both my children graduated from my favorite all time university.

So I look forward to the end of April and the beginning of May and continuing my rich ministries both at Rayburn Prison, Most Holy Trinity Parish and the work that I do with the candidates for the diaconate.  And I continue to pledge to endure these warm weather months taking great joy that October is only about 125 days away.

Today is a Marian feastday: Our Lady of Good Counsel

Feast of Our Lady of Good Counsel

Records dating from the reign of Paul II (1464-71) relate that the picture of Our Lady, at first called "La Madonna del Paradiso" and now better known as "Madonna del Buon Consiglio", appeared at Genazzano, a town about twenty-five miles southeast of Rome, on St. Mark's Day, 25 April, 1467, in the old church of Santa Maria, which had been under the care of Augustinians since 1356. The venerated icon itself, which is drawn on a thin scale of wall-plaster little thicker than a visiting-card, was observed to hang suspended in the air without the slightest apparent support; thus early tradition, which furthermore tells how one might have passed a thread around the image without touching it. At once devotion to Our Lady in Santa Maria sprang up; pilgrim-bands began to resort thither; while miracles in ever-increasing numbers, of which a register was opened two days after the event, were wrought, as they still continue to be, at the shrine. In July following, Pope Paul deputed two bishops to investigate the alleged wonder-working image. Their report, however, is not known to be extant. The cult of Our Lady increased. In 1630 Urban VIII himself went to Genazzano on a pilgrimage, as did Pius IX in 1864. On 17 November, 1682, Innocent XI had the picture crowned with gold by the Vatican Basilica. In 1727 Benedict XIII granted the clergy of Genazzano an Office and Mass of Our Lady for 25 April, anniversary of the apparition, elsewhere the feast being kept a day later so as not to conflict with that of St. Mark the Evangelist . On 2 July, 1753, Benedict XIV approved of the Pious Union of Our Lady of Good Counsel for the faithful at large, and was himself enrolled therein as its pioneer member; Pius IX was a member, and also Leo XIII . On 18 December, 1779, Pius VI , while re-approving the cult of Our Lady, granted all Augustinians an Office with hymns, lessons, prayer and Mass proper of double-major rite ; with a plenary indulgence also for the faithful, to which Pius VIII added another for visitors to the shrine. On 18 December, 1884, Leo XIII approved of a new Office and Mass of second-class rite for all Augustinians, while on 17 March, 1903, he elevated the church of Santa Maria -- one of the four parish churches at Genazzano -- to the rank of minor basilica ; and, on 22 April following, authorized the insertion in the Litany of Loreto of the invocation "Mater Boni Consillii" to follow that of "Mater Admirabilis". The same pontiff, ten years earlier (21 December, 1893) had sanctioned the use of the White Scapular of Our Lady of Good Counsel for the faithful. In the United States there are many churches and institutions in honour of Our Lady of Good Counsel.

John Paul II; a contradiction?

>>>Interesting article but no news here and no contradiction for this Catholic; santo subito!

In death as in life, John Paul a sign of contradiction
by John L Allen Jr on Apr. 26, 2011 NCR Today

ROME -- Pope John Paul II reigned for almost 27 years, and during that time he was often a sign of contradiction – a charismatic and beloved figure around the world who also stirred strong opposition in several different camps, including church reformers, social progressives, and Catholic traditionalists.

The May 1 beatification of the late pope seems to be generating a similar range of reactions. While critics object to both the speed of the beatification and what some see as the political agenda underlying it, Rome is preparing for a tidal wave of devotees, a host of books and TV programs are celebrating the life and legacy of John Paul II, and new polling suggests that the late pontiff, six years after his death, remains remarkably popular at the grassroots.

Many of those objecting to the beatification tend to put special emphasis on a perceived failure by the Vatican under John Paul II to respond adequately to the Catholic sexual abuse crisis. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd yesterday put the argument in typically blunt fashion: “How can you be a saint if you fail to protect innocent children?”

From a decidedly different perspective, the breakaway Society of St. Pius X, which objects to liberal currents in Catholicism since the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), has announced that it regards the beatification as a serious new obstacle to reunion with Rome, since John Paul II was the author of an inter-religious summit in Assisi in 1986 which traditionalists regarded as an exercise in religious relativism.

How history will judge John Paul remains to be seen, but in the here and now, evidence suggests that most people continue to see the late pope favorably.

A new poll released today conducted by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion in Poughkeepsie, New York, found that 74 percent of Americans generally, and an overwhelming 90 percent of American Catholics, believe that John Paul is a good candidate for the honor of beatification.

The same poll found that almost 60 percent of Americans believe that John Paul was either the best pope of the Catholic church or among the best, with 82 percent of American Catholics saying the same thing. Only two percent of Americans, and less than one percent of American Catholics, believe John Paul II was either the worst pope or among the worst.

The poll, conducted in mid-April, was sponsored by the Knights of Columbus.

In Rome, the old John Paul magic is very much in the air. The city is festooned with banners with the late pope’s image and sayings (including a famous line he once offered in the traditional Roman dialect, “Dàmose da fa’! Semo Romani!” – “Let’s get going! We’re Romans!”) On Saturday evening, many Romans are planning to light candles in their windows in honor of the late pope, whose beatification is the next day.

At present, city officials say they expect roughly two million people to take part in the various beatification-related events, with a crowd of at least 300,000 expected turn out for the beatification Mass on Sunday celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI.

The city of Rome has allocated almost $6 million to cover expenses for the event, including extra police protection, cleaning services and transportation. Eight churches in the center of Rome will stay open throughout Saturday night to accommodate pilgrims wishing to pray, and the Vatican Museums have announced extended opening hours up to midnight throughout this week.

Taking advantage of the John Paul boomlet, the Catholic charitable organization Caritas in the Rome diocese has announced that it’s renaming a major feeding and social service center near the main train station Termini in honor of the late pope, hoping to piggyback on the beatification to raise $4 million for renovation.

Throughout this week, events are taking place in Rome commemorating the life and legacy of John Paul II, including concerts, art exhibits, and panel discussions featuring people who worked closely with him, such as Cardinal Camillo Ruini, former president of the Italian bishops’ conference, and Spanish layman Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the late pope’s spokesperson.

Virtually every nationally distributed Italian publication has a special issue in honor of John Paul II, and programs dedicated to the late pope are a staple of this week’s TV line-up.

Monday night, for instance, the most-watched current affairs program in Italy, “Porta a Porta”, focused on the assassination attempt against John Paul II on May 13, 1981. Thirty years later it’s still not clear who, if anyone, was actually behind Mehmet Ali Ağca’s attempt on John Paul’s life, in part because Ali Ağca himself has given such shifting accounts – by one estimate, he’s offered 51 different versions of events. Journalists Marco Ansaldo and Yasemïn Taşkin have a new book out arguing that the radical Turkish group the Gray Wolves is the most likely author of the plot, as opposed to the KGB.

Major news events often create markets for new books, and the beatification has occasioned a slew of new titles on John Paul II. Andrea Riccardi, the founder of the Sant’Egidio Community, has published a biography, billed as “the first true biography written on a scientific and documentary basis.” Even Vatican officials are getting in on the act. The Vatican’s Secretary of State, Italian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, has a book-length interview with journalist Michele Zannucchi titled Un Cuore Grande: Omaggio a Giovanni Paolo II (“A Great Heart: Tribute to John Paul II”).

On Thursday, Italy plans to issue a new national stamp in honor of John Paul II, featuring an image of the late pope from 1999, blessing of the statue of the Virgin Mary in Rome’s Piazza di Spagna. Friday night, a Roman parish is organizing a “Via Lucis” procession (as opposed to the “Via Crucis” of Good Friday) through the streets of the city, meditating on themes drawn from John Paul’s teaching at various World Youth Day events.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Three things you'll never see on the Vortex

By now you know that I don't care for chicken little Catholicism.  While it may be right to call attention to those things that weaken the faith it's always over the top to find nothing right and than blame always the Bishops, with no regard to Catholic principles of solidarity and subsidiarity.  And imagine having a Catholic website that never shares any good news.  Ouch.

So we won't hear about the amazing numbers of new Catholics that entered the Church Saturday night, both in this country and worldwide.  Of course most of these new Catholics were shepherded in via the RCIA program.  Now since the this was given new and robust life by the 2nd Vatican Council, chances are you ain't gonna hear much about this!  See my previous post from a few days ago.

You won't hear this either, of course unless he can spin it.  Vocations in the USA are, well, what's the word, UP.  480 men to be ordained this year, up from 440 last year.  And seminaries are gaining momentum; no, not everywhere, but net UP.  This surely must be a downer for chicken little.

And finally, what about Catholics Come Home?  Just this lent many dioceses used this program, and as is always the case with this ministry, there is evidence of Catholics returning home.  Even in Boston.  Big reports from Boston.  I experienced this personally on Easter morning when a lady waited for me after Mass to tell me her story.  After 8 years, she came home!

You know, I love all my brother and sister Catholics; the Latin only crowd, the charasmatic, the churched and not so churched, the devout and the many who may have made their way to Mass yesterday for the 1st time since Christmas, or last Easter.  The Church is always made up of imperfect people, striving for perfection, sinners who fall on the mercy of Christ.  The Church will always have problems, with governance, liturgy, scandal, human matters.  We should be vigilant, we should be corrective but we must be kind, compassionate and caring.  And we should celebrate the little, and not so little victories; we should smell the roses, especially if we always wake up and smell the coffee.

To sum up; tell the whole story; the entire story.  Acknowledge failures if you must, but to do so without being a "solution" is just noise.  And acknowledge the good; the good that comes from Jesus Christ and His Church and the people of God, human nature and all.

Unbroken Succession: Feast of the 3rd Pope

St. Cletus

Feastday: April 26

St. Cletus Popes, Martyrs April 26 A.D. 91 St. Cletus was the third bishop of Rome, and succeeded St. Linus, which circumstance alone shows his eminent virtue among the first disciples of St. Peter in the West. He sat twelve years, from 76 to 89. The canon of the Roman mass, (which Bossuet and all others agree to be of primitive antiquity,) Bede, and other Martyrologists, style him a martyr. He was buried near St. Linus, on the Vatican, end his relics still remain in that church.

>>>More to celebrate during the Easter Octave!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Monday and the Feast of St. Mark

St. Mark

Feastday: April 25
Patron of notaries

The second Gospel was written by St. Mark, who, in the New Testament, is sometimes called John Mark. Both he and his mother, Mary, were highly esteemed in the early Church, and his mother's house in Jerusalem served as a meeting place for Christians there.

St. Mark was associated with St. Paul and St. Barnabas (who was Mark's cousin) on their missionary journey through the island of Cyprus. Later he accompanied St. Barnabas alone. We know also that he was in Rome with St. Peter and St. Paul. Tradition ascribes to him the founding of the Church in Alexandria.

St. Mark wrote the second Gospel, probably in Rome sometime before the year 60 A.D.; he wrote it in Greek for the Gentile converts to Christianity. Tradition tells us that St. Mark was requested by the Romans to set down the teachings of St. Peter. This seems to be confirmed by the position which St. Peter has in this Gospel. In this way the second Gospel is a record of the life of Jesus as seen throuhh the eyes of the Prince of the Apostles. His feast day is April 25. He is the patron saint of notaries.

The feast of feasts deserves 8 days!

Happy Easter and Blessed Easter should ring from our lips all week long!  Easter is more than today; the date fixed on the calendar this year to celebrate Resurrection Sunday.  The Church, in her holy wisdom, tells us that Easter is an Octave; we celebrate all the glory of Easter all week long, all the way to next Sunday.

Each and every Mass, all the liturgies of the next week, will be Easter liturgies.  The same alleluias will ring out, sprinkling rites are common and daily Mass takes on a more Sunday feel.

For each of us who profess the Resurrection of Our Lord, we must live that Easter joy all week.  Many of us may not be able to make daily Mass or pray the Divine Office.  We should, in our own prayer life, recall the glory of this Easter Day and then live, work, play with our fellow man as a witness to the Resurrection.

On top of everything Easter, what a wonderful week ahead of us.  We celebrate the Feast of St. Mark, one of the Gospel authors, along with great Saints like Peter Chanel and St. Catherine of Siena.  When we arrive at the weekend the 8th day of the Octave is Divine Mercy Sunday.  I'll have more on that later in the week.  And if all of this is not enough, on Divine Mercy Sunday we will witness the Beatification of Pope John Paul II.

So celebrate Monday - next Sunday with all the fervor of Easter glory because it truly is Easter day!!

Easter Sequence

Christians, to the Paschal Victim Offer your thankful praises!

A Lamb the sheep redeems: Christ, who only is sinless, Reconciles sinners to the Father.

Death and life have contended in that combat stupendous: The Prince of life, who died, reigns immortal.

Speak, Mary, declaring What you saw, wayfaring. "The tomb of Christ, who is living, The glory of Jesus' resurrection;

Bright angels attesting, The shroud and napkin resting. Yes, my Christ my hope is arisen:

To Galilee he goes before you." Christ indeed from death is risen, our new life obtaining. Have mercy, victor King, ever reigning!

Amen. Alleluia.

What a glorious celebration of the Easter Vigil

This night was my first celebration of the great Easter Vigil liturgy at Most Holy Trinity Parish.  As I have often been told, no two parishes celebrate this liturgy exactly the same and I now know this to be true.  A nice sized congregation was present on this night and we all gatheres outside on a very warm and breezy April evening to light and bless the new fire.  For me, my new parish would be the 1st opportunity for me as a Deacon to process with the Easter candle and proclaim three times: Christ our Light!  The Church was dark and the Easter Candle the only light but soon all the lighted candles begin to bathe the Church in light from back to front as the Easter Candle and I made our way to the front.

Now, I may have been able to do the Christ our Light but not so much for the Exultet, whic instead was proclaimed beautifully by our cantor.  Neither myself or our senior Deacon were blessed with a great singing voice.

Next came one of the differences that I have never experienced before.  As a church family, we read every possible reading; all 7 of them from the Old Testament.  That's 7 readings, 7 responsorial psalms and 7 prayers.  Who continues to say Catholics shy away from Scripture?  At the Gloria all the lights came on in the Church and the Easter flowers and lillies were placed around the sanctuary.  After the Epistle and Gospel and a bried homily, we moved to the rites for our new Catholic.

We sang the litany of the saints, a version of which I have never heard before.  Quite beautiful!  The water was blessed, our candidate professed her faith and was confirmed and Mass continued.  All in all, a beautiful liturgy that took about 2 and a half hours.

This is my 3rd Easter as a Deacon.  I've participated in theVigil liturgy many times, several as a lector, 2 as an acolyte and now these 3.  I must say they never fail to inspire and help me in appreciation of the story of our salvation history and to grasp the awesomeness of Jesus' act of unselfish love.

Now, when I should be asleep before I start all over again with our sunrise liturgy at 7 a.m. I find myself watching the liturgy live from the Vatican and reflecting on my Vigil experience.

The Lord is Risen, He is truly Risen!  Alleluia!!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Exultet: sung in every Catholic Church world-wide this very night

Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels!
Exult, all creation around God's throne!
Jesus Christ, our King, is risen!
Sound the trumpet of salvation!

Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendor,
radiant in the brightness of your King!
Christ has conquered! Glory fills you!
Darkness vanishes for ever!

Rejoice, O Mother Church! Exult in glory!
The risen Savior shines upon you!
Let this place resound with joy,
echoing the mighty song of all God's people!

My dearest friends,
standing with me in this holy light,
join me in asking God for mercy,

that he may give his unworthy minister
grace to sing his Easter praises.

Deacon: The Lord be with you.
People: And also with you.
Deacon: Lift up your hearts.
People: We lift them up to the Lord.
Deacon: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
People: It is right to give him thanks and praise.

It is truly right
that with full hearts and minds and voices
we should praise the unseen God, the all-powerful Father,
and his only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

For Christ has ransomed us with his blood,
and paid for us the price of Adam's sin to our eternal Father!

This is our passover feast,
when Christ, the true Lamb, is slain,
whose blood consecrates the homes of all believers.

This is the night
when first you saved our fathers:
you freed the people of Israel from their slavery
and led them dry-shod through the sea.

This is the night
when the pillar of fire destroyed the darkness of sin!

This is the night
when Christians everywhere,
washed clean of sin and freed from all defilement,
are restored to grace and grow together in holiness.

This is the night
when Jesus Christ broke the chains of death
and rose triumphant from the grave.

What good would life have been to us,
had Christ not come as our Redeemer?
Father, how wonderful your care for us!
How boundless your merciful love!
To ransom a slave you gave away your Son.

O happy fault,
O necessary sin of Adam,
which gained for us so great a Redeemer!

Most blessed of all nights,
chosen by God to see Christ rising from the dead!

Of this night scripture says:
"The night will be as clear as day:
it will become my light, my joy."

The power of this holy night dispels all evil,
washes guilt away, restores lost innocence,
brings mourners joy;
it casts out hatred, brings us peace,
and humbles earthly pride.

Night truly blessed when heaven is wedded to earth
and man is reconciled with God!

Therefore, heavenly Father,
in the joy of this night,
receive our evening sacrifice of praise,
your Church's solemn offering.

Accept this Easter candle,
a flame divided but undimmed,
a pillar of fire that glows to the honor of God.
Let it mingle with the lights of heaven
and continue bravely burning
to dispel the darkness of this night!

May the Morning Star which never sets
find this flame still burning:
Christ, that Morning Star,
who came back from the dead,
and shed his peaceful light on all mankind,
your Son, who lives and reigns for ever and ever.

Tens of thousands of new Catholics; great joy & hope; see, the sky aint falling

>>>With some people,usually Catholic, always bashing the Church(because they want a Church made in their image) and declaring it is dying(such an affront to the Holy Spirit) this must be bad news.  But for the vast majority of faithful Catholics who trust in its' founder, Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit, this is great joy!  The RCIA program, robust today because of Vatican II, has been the catalyst for these types of numbers for years.  While it is true that so many of the old northeast bastions of Catholicism have struggled, converts and growth of the faith are exploding in the deep south, particularly in old Bible Belt areas that used to be anti-Catholic, the west and the Pacific northwest.

Another news flash for the chicken little crowd, while acknowledging that problems indeed exist(because the Church is still run by human beings),the Church is not declining or dying, as is the clarion call of the chicken little crowd.  Here may be a startling fact; the Church universal, since Vatican  II, despite it's warts, is roughly now 400miilion souls larger than pre Vatican II. The article below describes what is happening just this year in the USA.  You should see the numbers in Asia and Africa!  Enjoy:

New U.S. Catholics Include Former Abortion Clinic Administrator, Marine, Seven Family Members

Thousands around the country will join Catholic Church at Easter

WASHINGTON (April 14, 2011) —A young adult raised in communist Cuba, an African woman who grew up as a Muslim, a marine being deployed in June, and a former abortion clinic administrator, along with tens of thousands others around the country, are joining the Catholic Church in the United States at Easter.

These catechumens, now known as “the elect,” and candidates for full communion have all participated in a process of conversion and study of the Catholic faith through Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). The RCIA has several stages, the most important of which is the moment when they will receive or complete the sacraments of initiation, usually at the Easter Vigil. A catechumen is a person who has never been baptized; a candidate is someone who was baptized in a Christian tradition and now desires to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church. In some dioceses, the candidates also include baptized Catholics who never completed their sacraments of initiation and weren’t raised in the faith.

José Pujols, is one of the 148 “elect” in the Diocese of Paterson, New Jersey, who will receive the sacraments of initiation—Baptism, Confirmation and First Eucharist— at the Easter Vigil. His wedding to his fiancé Eli sparked his desire to become a Catholic. Growing up in Cuba (Pujols came to the United States in 1993), he never felt a part of a Church. After going through the RCIA process, he says he especially appreciates the sense of community the Church has brought him. “It’s the best. I feel welcomed and a part of something important. Becoming Catholic has given me this freedom and it feels good.” The ceremony will be all the more special as his baby son, Felix, will also be baptized then. “It’s symbolic in a way to share this with him,” said Pujols.

Ahdija Cheumbike Baker is the daughter of a Detroit man and a Tanzanian woman. She was raised as a Muslim. Ahdija means “to be loved,” and Cheumbike means “one who is blessed.” She is one of the 282 catechumens and candidates that the Catholic Church in New Orleans will be welcoming at Easter. Converting to Christianity from Islam was not an easy decision. Through her young adult life she struggled with some of her Muslim beliefs. “The love of the Lord” and a love interest drove her to start attending a Catholic church. After Hurricane Katrina, “I felt compelled to look for a church to call home so that I could give my thanks to God,” Baker said. “If I had gone to a church that gets you in and out in 45 minutes, I probably wouldn’t have changed my religion; but at St. Peter Claver I feel a deep connection. The way that the priest speaks in his homilies moved me. I felt at home and accepted, and they have become my family.” Her friend’s parents will become her godparents when she is baptized during the Easter Vigil.

Kalene Laforest is an 18-year-old catechumen at St. Peter’s Church in LaGrange, Georgia. She is a Marine and feels a strong urge to join the Catholic Church before going on assignment in June. She said she wanted a faith with depth, history, deep spirituality, tradition, and “no all-over-the-place craziness.” She is among 1,912 new Catholics in the Atlanta Archdiocese.

In the Austin, Texas, area, Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood clinic director and author of the bestselling book “Unplanned,” is getting ready for yet another “unplanned” conversion that will bring her into the Catholic Church. In September 2009, Johnson was asked to hold the ultrasound probe during an abortion. In the monitor, she saw the baby struggle to get away. This experience, and her unease with Planned Parenthood’s emphasis on increasing abortions, gave her the courage to leave her job and undertake a journey of conversion. She went to the Coalition for Life’s office down the street, a Christian pro-life organization whose members were a constant, prayerful and peaceful presence outside the clinic. There she received practical help as she navigated joblessness, legal problems with Planned Parenthood and broken friendships. Her pro-life advocacy also met the disapproval of her pro-choice church. Many of her new friends are Catholic, and through them she has learned about the faith. She and her family will join the Church at Easter, along with 911 others in the Austin Diocese.

Dana Laviano is a baptized Catholic who was raised unchurched. After four years as a secretary at the Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire, Laviano decided she wanted to go through the RCIA process. She has been chronicling her conversion journey and experiences on a blog ( and is one of 319 catechumens and candidates in the diocese.

For many, taking the step of joining the Church is a family affair. At the Archdiocese of San Francisco’s St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Burlingame, California, seven members of the House family will join the Catholic Church this Easter season. Parents James and Michelle House will come into full communion at the Easter Vigil, and in the following week, infant David, 2 months old, will be baptized and children Kristina, 7, James, 6, Alexandra, 4, and Joseph 2 will be received into the Catholic Church. Michelle House said the family, formerly Episcopalians, found a welcoming community at St. Catherine Parish when they moved to Northern California.

Young people whose parents are in the RCIA program or who are past the usual age for receiving the sacraments of initiation can join a special version of the RCIA for children. The Archdiocese of New Orleans reports that of the 132 catechumens entering the church at Easter, 48 are under age 18; and of the 150 candidates, 10 are children. Likewise, the Diocese of Toledo, Ohio, shows that 56 of the 206 catechumens and 28 of 366 candidates are children.

Though larger archdioceses usually boast the largest overall number of converts—New York (1,600), Philadelphia (811) Washington (1,100), Seattle (1,000+), Portland-in-Oregon (875), Cincinnati (1,100), Galveston-Houston (2,490), Atlanta (1,912), Louisville (504), Milwaukee (613), Saint Paul and Minneapolis (643) — the Diocese of San Diego, with 1,253 people (425 catechumens, 828 candidates) entering the Church at Easter, is proof that you don’t need to be large to show some very impressive numbers.

Comparatively smaller (in population) dioceses also report numbers that illustrate the vitality of the Catholic Church in the Midwest, South and Southeast of the United States. The Diocese Birmingham, Alabama, has 487 people joining the Church at Easter; the Diocese of Savannah, Georgia, 421 people; the Diocese of Jackson, Mississippi, 355 people. The Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, will add 800 new Catholics; the Diocese of Cleveland, 513; the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, 450; the Diocese of Toledo, 572 people; and Grand Rapids, 568.

The Diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania, will welcome 434 people (98 elect and 336 candidates). Over half (224) are Hispanic, the fastest growing ethnic group in the diocese.

Some rural dioceses, which encompass an entire state—such as the Diocese of Boise, Idaho, with 195 catechumens, and the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia, with 128 catechumens and 247 candidates, for a total of 375 soon-to-be new Catholics— also are signs of active and effective evangelizing faith communities.

Even dioceses in remote areas like Juneau, Alaska, where the Catholic communities are few and far apart, small parishes sometimes comprised of a handful of families, will welcome new Catholics into the Church. Juneau Diocese will proudly add seven new members at Easter.

These numbers are based on participation in the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion, a part of the RCIA process usually conducted at the beginning of Lent. They do not include infant baptisms, which in 2010 totaled 857,410 according to the Official Catholic Directory (OCD). For 2010, OCD reported that there were 43,279 adult baptisms in the United States and 75,724 people received into full communion.

Cheryl Sickle, a staff member in the Office of Worship and Sacraments in Wheeling-Charleston, summarized the feelings of catechumens and candidates, and of the communities welcoming them, as the life-changing moment approaches.

“Each year, some of the most touching moments at the Rite of Election include the emotions expressed. We see faces full of joy as catechumens and candidates alike realize the bigger picture of their decision to join the Church. We see the smiles of proud grandparents as their young grandchildren painstakingly sign the Book of the Elect, and the overwhelming emotions of wives or husbands, brought to tears, whose spouses are converting to the Roman Catholic faith after years of marriage. We see physically challenged people with a look of determination as they slowly and resolutely process forward, and the bond of belonging on the faces of a family who welcome into their midst and into their faith a newly-adopted son or daughter of a different ethnicity. It is a one-time Rite, but the RCIA formation behind it lasts — and changes — a lifetime.”

Holy Saturday

A day of great contrast; Holy Saturday dawns with the tabernacles of the all the Catholic Churches across the world empty.  The sanctuary lamps are not burning.  We recall that on this day, Jesus was still in the tomb.  But we are anxious with anticipation for tonight, the Church explodes in Easter glory with the Vigil Mass.  Even as I sit to write this, on a quiet Holy Saturday afternoon, the Easter Vigil Mass from Rome is about to start on the TV.

On Holy Saturday I attended practice this morning and helped with some of the beind the scenes rituals of this day.  First, the Church must be prepared for the glory of tonight.  Down comes all the purple and red and up goes the Easter white and gold.  The new oils are prepared and the old ones set aside to be tossed in the new fire of this evenings opening rites.  The catechumens and candidates are in church on this morning preparing for their entry into the fullness of communion tonight.

The Easter candle is prepared as is the incense and the font.

Now it is time to rest, still mindful that this day is for remembering that our Lord lay in that tomb; the same tomb he emerged from with His Easter Resurrection.

I pray that every Catholic, dare I say every Christian, would attend and participate in the Easter Vigil.  It is the liturgy of liturgies.  I look forward to being present at Most Holy Trinity, my new parish, for this wonderful celebration!

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Dragon slayer: St. George

>>>Please note: during these Holy days we are not "officially" celebrating individual Saints feast days.  Tomorrow is in fact Holy Saturday.  However, since the date is reserved for St. George I have included his information below:

St. George
Feastday: April 23

Pictures of St. George usually show him killing a dragon to rescue a beautiful lady. The dragon stands for wickedness. The lady stands for God's holy truth. St. George was a brave martyr who was victorious over the devil.

He was a soldier in the army of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, and he was one of the Emperor's favorite soldiers. Now Diocletian was a pagan and a bitter enemy to the Christians. He put to death every Christian he could find. George was a brave Christian, a real soldier of Christ. Without fear, he went to the Emperor and sternly scolded him for being so cruel. Then he gave up his position in the Roman army. For this he was tortured in many terrible ways and finally beheaded.

So boldly daring and so cheerful was St. George in declaring his Faith and in dying for it that Christians felt courage when they heard about it. Many songs and poems were written about this martyr. Soldiers, especially, have always been devoted to him.

We all have some "dragon" we have to conquer. It might be pride, or anger, or laziness, or greediness, or something else. Let us make sure we fight against these "dragons", with God's help. Then we can call ourselves real soldiers of Christ. .

How did you spend Good Friday?

I've been hearing a lot lately about this subject.  Has Good Friday lost the penetential feeling from years gone by?  Is there just too much to do these days to spend a Friday in prayer and reflection?

In these parts it was not all that uncommon to see many businesses closed for Good Friday so the employees could attend church services.  If they did not close they certainly would shut down early before the 3 p.m. Passion and Veneration of the Cross.

When I was a young lad, say growing up in the mid to late sixties, my grandmother made sure me and my sisters had a calm day off from school; no rowdy playing, no TV or radio.

Today I noticed more businesses open.  In fact my employer remained open all day; no time off for religious services.  In these parts we hear more and more of families and friends throwing big crawfish boils.  At least they are not eating meat.  Many of these events come complete with beer or other alcohol and take on a huge party atmosphere.

Without being overly judgemental, this just does not seem like the appropriate way to spend the day we recall the death of Jesus.  It's not a day to be sad, but certainly a day to reflect profoundly on this ultimate act of love that opened for us the gates of heaven. 

For those who spent time today at Church for the afternoon service is it not profound to witness the clergy prostrated on the altar, to hear the Passion once again and to personally verbalize "Crucify Him, Crucify Him?  Then what do you feel when you come forward and kiss the cross?  How appropriate to receive Communion today, not from the consecration of a Mass, but from a reserved place where the Eucharist has been kept since the end of Holy Thursday night.

Today, Good Friday, is the second day in our walk through the Paschal Triduum. It is the most solemn of these days.  We transition to Holy Saturday where we await Jesus, in the tomb, to explode in a pagentry of light and alleluia's.

May we continue to live fully the totality of these special holy days.

Good Friday news about my new parish!

Archdiocese to meet with residents next week to discuss plans for new church near Mandeville

By Christine Harvey, The Times-Picayune The Times-Picayune

 Nearly two years after St. Tammany Parish government shot down its plans for a large church, school and 1,400-home development north of Mandeville, officials with Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church will meet with residents next week to discuss plans for a new church development at the same site.

 The church has operated since its inception in 2006 in the former Mr. Fish pet store on the U.S. 190 service road.

The Rev. Rodney Bourg, the church's pastor, and representatives from the Archdiocese of New Orleans, which owns 360 acres east of Westwood Drive for the development, will host the meeting Tuesday. It starts at 7 p.m. at the church's temporary home, the former Mr. Fish pet store on the nearby U.S. 190 Service Road.

The site is slated to include the church, as well as a funeral home and cemetery, on 54 acres between Dove Park Road and a planned extension of Judge Tanner Boulevard.

But perhaps of equal interest to some neighbors, the plan also includes a bypass road connecting Dove Park and Judge Tanner that is expected to keep traffic from clogging Westwood Drive, as well as Beech and Orleans streets.

The meeting will take place exactly one week before the St. Tammany Parish Zoning Commission hears a request from the archdiocese to change the zoning designation on the parcels slated for the 25,000-square-foot church, the funeral home and cemetery.

The archdiocese wishes to change the designation from A-1, or single-family residential, to community-based facilities district for the church, and to public facilities district for the funeral home and cemetery.

The Zoning Commission will meet May 3 at 6 p.m. in the Parish Council's chambers on Koop Drive near Mandeville. The Parish Council will make the final decision in the matter sometime after that.

Mandeville City Councilman Marty Gould contacted Bourg last year about building a permanent home for Most Holy Trinity, which began holding services in 2006.

The discussion followed the decision in 2009 by the New Orleans Archdiocese to abandon plans for a 1,400-home traditional neighborhood development, which included a new church and a school, at the same location.

Nearby residents, worried about increased traffic and potential drainage problems, fought the plan. The Zoning Commission ultimately denied the project a permit, plus the archdiocese had difficulty obtaining a wetlands permit on the land from the Army Corps of Engineers.

Gould said then that he thought the project could have moved forward with just the church and school components, though now plans for a school are on hold.

The archdiocese has done everything Gould has asked with regard to changing the project, so now it's time for the residents to be reasonable, he said. Of those who live near the site, most of the people he has spoken to seem content with the plan in its present form, Gould said.

And he's excited about the bypass road, which would be called Most Holy Trinity Drive and run parallel to Westwood Drive, and would provide better access to those residents trying to reach Dove Park Road from Judge Tanner Drive.

While the current church seats about 400, the new church would house roughly 900. In addition, the site immediately adjacent to the church would include a family life center, a pastoral center and a rectory, with all of the structures totaling 47,000 square feet, said Jeff Schoen, the attorney representing the archdiocese.

The funeral home and cemetery would be located on 45 acres to the east of the church. Though the project as a whole does impact wetlands, meaning the archdiocese would need to secure a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers, the vast majority would be preserved under the current plan, Schoen said.

The plan includes a 100-foot, no-cut buffer along the length of Westwood Drive, with the depth of the buffer between the road and the actual church reaching as much as 300 feet at some points, in an effort to protect the neighbors on the other side, he said. Buffers will exist along other edges of the property as well, Schoen said.

The archdiocese has agreed to donate 80 acres south of the church to the parish to remain as a wildlife preserve, he said. It also will create two detention ponds that not only will serve the church's needs but, later, in a regional detention capacity to handle drainage from the north, Schoen said.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Triduum continues; now Good Friday

The day of Jesus' death and there is NO Mass today.  There is no formal beginning or end to the Celebration of the Lord's Passion which begins at 3 p.m.; the hour of His death.  This time also coincides with the exact time the lambs were slaughtered in the Temple of Jerusalem for the Passover feast.

The liturgy begins in complete silence and the priests and deacons simply enter.  There are no candles and no cross.  The altar is bear and the ministers prostrate before the altar.  This symbolizes the grief and sorrow of the Church and reminds us that we are mere creatures.

The liturgy today gives us the reading of the Passion from St. John.  His account presents sharp differences from the Passion narrative of Matthew, Mark and Luke.  After prayers for the Church and the world the veneration of the Cross takes place.  We come forward and kiss the cross to not just mourn the death of Jesus but to acknowledge that by his victory over the cross we are all led to glory.

Holy Communion is distributed from the consecrated hosts from Thursday night's liturgy. 

A prayer is said and all are dismissed in silence.

What a fitting way to remember the day that Jesus gave up his life so we all may live.

Friday should not be a day of great partying and revelry.  It is the appropriate day to fast and pray and reflect on the depth of Jesus and the Father's great love for us.

My first Holy Thursday at Most Holy Trinity

A beautiful liturgy to remember the Lord's Supper at my new parish; a fitting and solemn celebration.  A very nice turnout, including young families and young people helped us to remember that night when Jesus gave us the Eucharist, the Mass, the Priesthood and He washed our feet.

A full contingent of altar servers with incense and music, the singing of the Gloria with bells, the rich liturgy of the Word with the Exodus story of Passover and the blood of the lamb that saved from the angel of death, St. Paul writing to the Corinthians about the Eucharist and how it is the Real Presence of Christ and how he instructed his Apostles: DO THIS!  And then John's Gospel and the washing of the feet.

I was quite surprised and humbled to preach tonight.  I focused on the connection between the Eucharist and the washing of the feet.  Receive Eucharist = Be Eucharist; to one another in humble service.

The liturgy includes the presentation of the sacred oils and the normal liturgy of the Eucharist.  After Communion and a final prayer, Jesus, in the Blessed Sacrament is reposed to a special place and remains there until midnight tonight. 

My first Holy Thursday experience at Most Holy Trinity was just what it should be and I am spiritually satisfied tonight as I prepare now for Good Friday!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Triduum begins tomorrow; what about Holy Thursday

Until the sun sets tomorrow evening we still are in the Lenten season.  At sunset, Lent ends and the Paschal Triduum begins.  There is no morning or afternoon Mass on Holy Thursday.  We celebrate the Mass of the Lord's Supper in the evening.  This is a rich liturgy.  At this celebration we boldly sing the Gloria after not singing this prayer since Lent begin.  It is accompanied by music and perhaps bells.  At the conclusion of the singing of the Gloria, the instruments go silent.  The readings are beautiful; the story of the Passover, the letter from St. Paul as he tells of the institution of the Eucharist, as handed on to him and the Gospel of John which tells of the washing of the feet.  At this special Mass, we have washing of the feet, done per local custom.  This is not a reenactment but a reminder to all that Jesus calls us to service to one another just as we are called to love one another.

During this Mass the new oils, blessed at the Cathedral at the Chrism Mass are presented.  These three oils will be used in the Easter Vigil on Saturday evening and throughout the year for the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Anointing of the Sick.

At the end of Mass, the Mass does not end.  The Eucharist is transferred, in sacred procession, to the tabernacle of repose.  The altar is stripped bare.  The Eucharist is adored until midnight by the faithful.  For those who cannot stay for the evening they simply disperse in silence and continue their prayer and fasting at home.

If at all possible, please make every effort to spend Holy Thursday with the Lord and the community in celebrating the Mass of the Lord's Super.

Holy Week continues: Spy Wednesday

Spy Wednesday conversion to Holy Wednesday

One of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot,
went to the chief priests and said,
"What are you willing to give me
if I hand him over to you?"
They paid him thirty pieces of silver,
and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread,
the disciples approached Jesus and said,
"Where do you want us to prepare
for you to eat the Passover?"
He said,
"Go into the city to a certain man and tell him,
'The teacher says, "My appointed time draws near;
in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples."'"
The disciples then did as Jesus had ordered,
and prepared the Passover.

When it was evening,
he reclined at table with the Twelve.
And while they were eating, he said,
"Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me."
Deeply distressed at this,
they began to say to him one after another,
"Surely it is not I, Lord?"
He said in reply,
"He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me
is the one who will betray me.
The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him,
but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed.
It would be better for that man if he had never been born."
Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply,
"Surely it is not I, Rabbi?"
He answered, "You have said so."

Wednesday's Gospel reading preludes the betrayal of Judas. How appropriate then is the sometimes used phrase of, "Spy Wednesday," for this period before our celebration of the Sacred Triduum. The events that lead Jesus to the cross are filled with intrigue, suspense and an impending sense of disaster.

Clearly, the powers of good and evil, light and darkness, sin and salvation are poised to exhibit themselves at the place we call Golgotha. The Joannine account of Jesus betrayal seems to show Jesus' deep understanding of His role as the Messianic fulfillment. Judas in his interrogatory and somewhat cynical half statement of,"Surely it is not I, Rabbi?" provides the catalyst for the process of darkness to unravel. What is so significant about this ,"Spy Wednesday" is that it theologically reflects the daily struggles we all endure in order to accept a relationship with the Lord.

To live the life that Jesus intended for us is a perpetual struggle on a daily basis with good and evil. Sometimes when we are questioned about our transgressions, we, sometimes answer back. "It's not me Lord." But the tranquility of Jesus' realization of His mission provides us with hope in the days to come. Rather than provide a discourse to the Twelve, Jesus calmly recalls the Old Testament references to Him and even shares a piece of food with Judas, simultaneously dipping a morsel into the bowl. We should remember that the act of sharing a meal with others is a deeply rooted Semite notion of intimacy and close relationship. Jesus is sharing the meal, not with strangers, but with intimate friends.

Often, we dip morsels and share food with those we love; we feign intimacy and even deceive one another. Jesus is not blind to the events that are revealing themselves as a result of Judas' clandestine negotiations. Judas has turned on Jesus' friendship and love. We too in our lives are sometimes turned against Jesus' love through sinful and unloving activities. There is a real message here in Jesus' tranquil resignation to the events that are coming. Faith in the love and power of the Father.

As believers in the power of God's love and goodness, Spy Wednesday, should provide a period for reflection and introspective prayer. We need to examine our lives and look for the moments that we have falsely shared intimacy with our brothers and sisters in faith. More precisely, contemplate of lack of true, "communio" in our lives. With Judas' false interrogatory response to Jesus, he reveals his true self. Betrayer. Jesus sees right through Judas' false piety and friendship. Jesus sees right through our own appearances when we falsely present ourselves as holy and faithful followers. Our frail human spirit reflects in our sinful acts and lack of faith.

Jesus recognizes this and offers new hope to Judas and us. The "morsel" which Jesus offers to Judas is an offering of friendship and love. Some biblical scholars have even indicated that the "morsel" is symbolic of Jesus' Eucharistic manifestation. Judas does not partake of the meal with Jesus, but he was invited just the same. There is a sense that Jesus recognizes Judas' confrontation with the powers of evil. Jesus does not admonish him or chastise him, but permits Judas to engage in this struggle and reveal the implications of his actions and unfaithfulness. There is hope for conversion. There is hope for grace. There is hope in Jesus' acceptance of the Father's plan. There is hope for Easter glory.

As preparations begin for the Church's celebration of our New Passover ,this Wednesday before the Triduum invites all of us to share in, "Holy Wednesday", not to pursue darkness and evil, but progress on the path of light and life. The Church in its wisdom sees this period of "Holy Wednesday" as a time for personal preparation. Unlike Judas, our preparations should be motivated by the promise of new life in the Paschal Mystery and not a rejection of the "morsel" which Jesus offers to us in friendship and love.

St. Anselm

>>>Tomorrow begins the Sacred Triduum with Holy Thursday.  The date, April 21st, is also the feast of a pretty important saint: St. Anselm.  My neighbors to the west and south in Madisonville, LA honor him as the only Catholic Church in that town is named for him.  Please read:
St. Anselm

St. Anselm, Philosopher/Theologian

•Born: 1033
•Birthplace: Aosta, Piedmont
•Died: 21 April 1109
•Best Known As: Archbishop of Canterbury, England, 1093-1109

Born near the border between what are now Italy and France, Anselm entered the monastic school of Bec in Normandy in 1060. He eventually became the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1093, and is considered one of the most influential thinkers of medieval Europe and Christianity. His motto credo ut intelligam ("I believe so that I may understand") reflected his intention to explain faith in God through reason. St. Anselm is most famous for his argument for the existence of God, called the ontological argument. It goes like this: we understand God to be the greatest possible being; but a God who exists only in our minds isn't as great as one who is in our minds and who really exists; and since God is, by definition, the greatest possible being, he must exist in our minds and in reality. St. Anselm was canonized in 1494.

Archbishop Aymond marks anniversary of BP Disaster

Gulf oil rig explosion anniversary: Prayers for fishers lost in the BP claims process

By David Hammer, The Times-Picayune The Times-Picayune
There has been no shortage of stories about the BP oil spill on this first anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion, and the world's media is reminding all who will read or listen that coastal communities are still reeling.

But Archbishop Gregory Aymond knows news stories can get repetitive, compromising our ability to empathize. So, on bended knee, Aymond tended to the needs of depressed and bewildered fishers, restaurant workers and others who came to the Catholic Charities office in Violet for counseling and help with their spill damage claims.

"A year after this event, we get used to reading about it and we forget the people and the burdens of it," Aymond said as he offered prayers for those laid low by the spill, which began exactly a year earlier.

Lois Neville of Violet had just leased 200 acres of oyster beds west of Pointe a la Hache a few weeks before the rig exploded on April 20, 2010. She was just beginning to work on them when the whole area of oyster beds was shut down because of the incursion of oil.

The area is still closed.

BP quickly made her lease payments for her. Then, in August, the company turned its claims process over to Kenneth Feinberg, the man named jointly by BP and President Barack Obama to administer a $20 billion claims trust fund.

Neville hasn't seen another dime. She filed for her final settlement on Dec. 30. Feinberg's Gulf Coast Claims Facility is supposed to make a final settlement offer within 90 days after receiving a claim. That deadline has long since passed, but she can't get any further information.

She's convinced that Feinberg is delaying full payments for larger claims so he can string them out and keep making his $1.25 million monthly salary from BP. The truth is, Feinberg's law firm is getting paid to administer the fund for three years, no matter how fast claimants are paid, but Neville's jaundiced view is the norm in the coastal parishes.

"I'm barely making ends meet with my savings and rental income, and I'm depressed, I'm stressed out," Neville said. "I get very angry. I hate to even watch the news because there are other people in a worse predicament than me."

One of those people is her son-in-law, Christopher Mackey, a shrimper from Violet. He owns a small boat and figures he's owed upwards of $50,000 for his past and anticipated losses, based on Feinberg's plan to pay for twice claimants' 2010 losses.

But Mackey has made no headway with his claim since receiving emergency payments last year, and he can't make his mortgage and other bill payments without some cash flow. So he's caving and taking a quick $25,000 settlement that forces him to sign away his right to pursue any further claims against BP or the other oil-field companies involved in the Deepwater Horizon.

"If more oil come up later, I can't do nothing about it," Mackey said.

"Fishermen like him are getting cheated," his mother-in-law added.

Father John Arnone, the pastor at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Violet, said he's seen an uptick in suicides among fishers. Last month, Arnone said, a fisherman came into the Catholic Charities office and began writhing on the floor, overcome with distress about his unpaid damage claim and the bills piling up on his kitchen table.

Feinberg has said he and his system of 2,700 claims analysts, adjusters, accountants and investigators are facing a massive workload. More than 500,000 claimants have filed more than 800,000 claims. He's paid 178,000 individuals and businesses almost $3.9 billion, but most of those took the quick settlements that Mackey was forced to turn to.

Tom Costanza of Catholic Charities said he isn't seeing many full, final payments to fishers or others who are in the most directly affected sectors. About 11 percent of those seeking a full-review final payment for more detailed, ongoing claims have received a settlement.

Meanwhile, Tuesday brought news that a factory that makes omega-3 fish oil and fish meal products got the largest settlement yet from Feinberg, more than $44 million. The company, Omega Protein Inc., has a fleet of 28 fishing boats in the Gulf, in Abbeyville and Cameron, La., and in Moss Point, Miss. While it doesn't catch fish for direct consumption, it considers itself the largest fishing company in the region by volume.

The idea that a big company would get money before the local fishers angered Mike Campiere of Chalmette, a builder who had come to Catholic Charities for some emotional counseling.

"Guys who are losing their families and livelihoods might have to wait for years and a plant like that is getting $44 million? Incredible," Campiere said.

Aymond said he wonders if Feinberg's system is simply stretched too thin.

"It's not the people, it's the structure and the system," the archbishop said. "It does a lot of emotional damage to people, so they lose the ability to trust in the people and the system, and now they wonder, 'Where is God and where is justice in this?'"

On this Holy Week and spill anniversary, the most he could do was offer words of encouragement and an Easter message of hope.

"We pray with you and pray for you. We want to walk with you and we ask you not to lose hope," Aymond said.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Holy Week continues: Chrism Mass

>>>Excellent article on the Chrism Mass of Holy Week.  As the author indicates, the Mass can be celebrated any day of Holy Week.  Today at St. Louis Cathedral, Archbishop Gregory Aymond celebrated with his brother Priests throughout the Archdiocese of New Orleans.  After the Mass, the Priests carry back to each home parish the fresh oils to be used beginning with the Easter Vigil celebration this Saturday night.  The article is very insightful; please enjoy: 

The Chrism Mass   Fr. William Saunders
Would you please explain the significance of the Chrism Mass?

On Holy Thursday morning (in some dioceses it may be another morning during Holy Week), the bishop, joined by the priests of the diocese, gather at the Cathedral to celebrate the Chrism Mass. This Mass manifests the unity of the priests with their bishop.

Here the bishop blesses three oils — the oil of catechumens (oleum catechumenorum or oleum sanctorum), the oil of the infirm (oleum infirmorum) and holy chrism (sacrum chrisma) — which will be used in the administration of the sacraments throughout the diocese for the year. This tradition is rooted in the early Church as noted in the Gelasian Sacramentary (named after Pope Gelasius I, d. 496), but was later absorbed into the Holy Thursday evening Mass; Pope Pius XII issued a new Ordinal for Holy Week, which reinstituted a special Mass of the chrism distinct from the evening Mass.

Throughout the Bible, various references indicate the importance of olive oil in daily life. Oil was used in cooking, particularly in the making of bread, that basic food substance for nourishment (e.g. Nm 11:7-9); as a fuel for lamps (e.g. Mt 25:1-9); and as a healing agent in medicine (e.g. Is 1:6 and Lk 10:34). Moreover, with oil the Jews anointed the head of a guest as a sign of welcome (e.g. Lk 7:46), beautified one’s appearance (e.g. Ru 3:3) and prepared a body for burial (e.g. Mk 16:1).

In religious practices, the Jews also used oil to offer sacrifices (e.g. Ex 29:40); to dedicate a memorial stone in honor of God (e.g. Gn 28:18); and to consecrate the meeting tent, the ark of the covenant, the table, the lampstand, the laver, the altar of incense, and the altar of holocausts (e.g. Ex 31:26-29). The use of oil was clearly a part of the daily life of the people.

Sacred Scripture also attests to the spiritual symbolism of oil. For instance, Psalm 23:5 reads, “You anoint my head with oil,” signifying favor and strength from the Lord; and Psalm 45:8 reads, “You love justice and hate wickedness; therefore, God your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellow kings,” signifying the special designation from God and the joy of being His servant. Moreover, to be “the anointed” of the Lord indicated receiving a special vocation from the Lord and the empowerment with the Holy Spirit to fulfill that vocation: Jesus, echoing the words of Isaiah, spoke, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me; therefore, He has anointed me” (Lk 4:18). St. Paul emphasized this point, “God is the one Who firmly establishes us along with you in Christ; it is He Who anointed us and has sealed us, thereby depositing the first payment, the Spirit in our hearts” (2 Cor 1:21). Therefore, the symbolism of oil is rich sanctification, healing, strengthening, beautification, dedication, consecration and sacrifice.

Given this heritage, the early Church adopted the use of olive oil for its sacramental rituals. The Oil of Catechumens is used in connection with the sacrament of baptism. St. Hippolytus, in his Apostolic Tradition (A.D. 215), wrote of an “oil of exorcism” used to anoint the candidates immediately before baptism. This practice continues: In the current baptismal liturgy, the priest offers the prayer of exorcism and then with the oil of catechumens anoints the person to be baptized on the chest, saying, “We anoint you with the oil of salvation in the name of Christ our Savior; may He strengthen you with His power, Who lives and reigns forever and ever.”

Anointing with the oil of catechumens following a prayer of exorcism may also take place during the period of the catechumenate on one or several occasions. In both cases this anointing symbolizes the person’s need for the help and strength of God to sever the bondage of the past and to overcome the opposition of the devil so that he may profess his faith, come to baptism and live as a child of God.

The oil of the infirm is used in the sacrament of the anointing of the sick (formerly known as extreme unction). St. James wrote, “Is there anyone sick among you? He should ask for the priests of the Church. They in turn are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. This prayer uttered in faith will reclaim the one who is ill, and the Lord will restore him to health. If he has committed any sins, forgiveness will be his” (Jas 5:14-15).

The Apostolic Tradition of St. Hippolytus recorded one of the earliest formulas for blessing the oil of the infirm. Also, in the early Church, a priest (or several priests) would bless this oil at the time it was to be used, a tradition that has been retained in the Eastern Churches. However, in the Latin Rite, at least since the time of the Middles Ages, priests have used oil blessed by the bishop; for instance, St. Boniface in 730 ordered all priests in Germany to use the oil of the infirm blessed by bishops only. Presently, the priest, anointing the forehead of the person, says, “Through this holy anointing, may the Lord in His love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit,” and then anointing his hands, says, “May the Lord who frees you from sin, save you and raise you up.” Another body part may also be anointed if the hands are not accessible or if there is another particular need.

Finally, holy chrism is a mixture of olive oil and balsam, an aromatic resin. This oil is linked with the sanctification of individuals. In the Old Testament times, the priest, prophets and kings of the Jewish people were anointed. This oil is used in the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and holy orders, since they impart an indelible sacramental character. The blessing of the holy chrism is different from that of the other oils: Here the bishop breathes over the vessel of chrism, a gesture which symbolizes both the Holy Spirit coming down to consecrate this oil, and the life-giving, sanctifying nature of the sacraments for which it is used. (Recall how our Lord “breathed” on the Apostles on the night of Easter, saying, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (Jn 20:22).) The concelebrants at the Chrism Mass also extend their right hands toward the chrism as the bishop says the consecratory prayer, signifying that in union with their bishop they share “in the authority by which Christ Himself builds up and sanctifies and rules His Body,” the Church (Vatican II, Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, No. 2).

Regarding baptism, St. Hippolytus in the Apsotolic Tradition spoke of an anointing after the actual baptism with the “oil of thanksgiving.” Similarly, right after the actual baptism in the present rite, the priest anoints the person on the crown of the head with chrism, saying, “God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has freed you from sin and given you a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit. He now anoints with the chrism of salvation. As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet and King, so may you live always as a member of His body, sharing everlasting life. Amen.”

In the sacrament of confirmation, the bishop anoints the forehead of the candidate with chrism saying, “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Sacred chrism is also used in the sacrament of holy orders. In the ordination rite of a priest, the bishop anoints with chrism the palms of each new priest. In the ordination rite of a bishop, the consecrating bishop anoints the head of the new bishop.

Finally, holy chrism is used in the dedication ceremony of a church. Here the bishop anoints the altar, pouring holy chrism on the middle of the altar and on each of its four corners. It is recommended that the bishop anoint the entire altar. After anointing the altar, he anoints the walls of the church in 12 or four places marked by crosses.

As our bishop blesses these three oils at the Chrism Mass this year, our hearts turn to our gracious Lord who bestows His infinite love and mercy to us through these sacraments. Let us also pray for our bishop and the priests who are the ministers of the sacraments in the parish, that they may be the humble and generous servants of the Lord.

Six years already: Pope Benedict XVI

With Holy Week upon us, Easter around the corner and the beatification of Pope John Paul II just a few weeks away, today the Church pauses and remembers the election of Pope Benedict XVI six years ago today.

As he is introduced to the crowds in St. Peter's Square here is his short yet poignant greeting as the Vicar of Christ:

Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Six Years On....
Not to divert from your Holy Week or anything, church... still in all, though, the anniversary of this Election Day is one well worth recalling.....

“Dear Brothers and Sisters,

After the great Pope John Paul II, the cardinals have chosen me -- a simple and humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord.

It consoles me that the Lord knows how to work and to act even with inadequate instruments, so above all, I entrust myself to your prayers.

In the joy of the Risen Lord, trusting in his unfailing help, let us move forward, that the Lord will help us and Mary, his Most Holy Mother, might be by our side.

Thank you.”

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Archbishop Dolan for Holy Week: spot on!

A Blessed Holy Week
Let’s see now: we’ve got a Sunday night series on one of the most corrupt and tawdry families in Church history, the Borgias, with popes, cardinals, bishops, and priests, all part of this big, happy family; we’ve heard non-stop for a decade about abusive priests, (albeit a small minority) and lax bishops who reassigned them; we’ve got front page stories of priests who embezzled money from their parishes; and I saw one not long ago about a priest arrested for DUI.

Yes, all this is scandalous, sinful, sickening, and criminal.

But, it is not new.

Popes, cardinals, bishops, priests, deacons, nuns, brothers are human.

That means, we are sinners.

Granted, when one of us falls, it hurts and shocks more. People rightly expect their spiritual leaders to practice what we preach. When we don’t, we’re hypocrites. And we know what Jesus thought about hypocrites.

But, this is not new.

If you think it worse today than in the past, I ask you to consider the solemn days we will observe next week, Holy Week: Holy Thursday and Good Friday.

Within an hour or so after Jesus had ordained His very first bishops and priests — the twelve apostles — what happened? They fell asleep when He asked them to pray with Him; one betrayed Him for thirty silver coins; one — the first Pope — denied three times even knowing Him; and all but one, the youngest, ran away scared at the time He most needed them. That lonely loyal one, St. John, was there with our blessed Mother at the foot of the cross on a hill called Calvary on a Friday strangely called “good.”

Not a very good start for bishops and priests. Within a few hours after their ordination, 11/12 had abandoned Him. That’s a worse record than even the Mets!

What’s the point? That we should tolerate and overlook the sins and vices of the clergy? Absolutely not! Or, worse, that we priests and bishops should stop seeking the heroic virtue, holiness, and perfection called for by Jesus? Never!

The point is that, if the life, vigor, holiness, and efficacy of the Church depended only upon the virtue of priests and bishops, it would have been dead-on-arrival, not surviving that afternoon when the sun hid in shame and the earth shuddered in sadness.

Our faith is not in popes, cardinals, bishops, priests, or even in monsignors. Nope: our faith is only in Jesus. He and He alone will never let us down; He will never sin; He and He alone will never break a promise; He and He alone deserves our absolute trust and confidence.

That’s why it’s especially tragic when someone leaves Jesus and His Church because of a sin, scandal, or slight from a priest or bishop. If your faith depended on us, it was misplaced to begin with. We priests and bishops might represent Jesus and shepherd His Church, however awkwardly — but we are not Jesus and His Church.

One of the more moving, sad, yet, usually “sacramental” duties I have as a bishop is to meet at times with victim survivors of sexual abuse by clergy, and on occasion their families. Some of them tell me they have left the Church, they hate the Church, they have lost their faith. Most of them, though, tell me that, as shattered, sickened, and angry as they may be, nobody, nowhere, nohow is going to take their faith away! These are an inspiration to me.

The wife of one victim once graciously said to me, “Archbishop, you have helped me regain my faith in the Church! I am putting my trust in you!”

I replied, “I’m flattered and grateful, but, please, don’t put absolute confidence in me. I’ll work everyday to earn and keep your trust, and pray daily I’ll never, ever let you down, but, believe me, sooner-or-later, sadly, I’m afraid I will let you down and disappoint you. Please, put your total faith and trust only in Jesus! Anything else is idolatry!”

Maybe, maybe there’s a decent reason for leaving the Church. I’ve never heard one, but a lot of people apparently think they have good cause, since “ex-Catholics” sadly number in the millions.

However, leaving because of something a priest or bishop may have done or not done is surely not a decent reason.

When I was about six-or-seven, I spent Saturday night with my grandpa and grandma, “Nonnie” and “Pata.” On Sunday morning, we got ready for Mass. Pata wasn’t budging from his EZ chair with the sports page and a second cup of coffee.

“Let’s go, Dad! (that’s what Nonnie called him),” yells Nonnie. “We’ll be late for Mass.”

“I’m not going. I can’t stand that new priest, Father McCarthy,” replies Pata.

“Oh, yeah,” responds Nonnie. “You can’t stand the new bartender up at Nick’s, either, but that sure doesn’t seem to keep you from going up there! Get moving!”

All three of us went to Mass . . .

Frank Sheed, that great Catholic lay theologian of last century, expressed it a bit more eloquently than Nonnie: “We are not baptized into the hierarchy; we do not receive the cardinals sacramentally; will not spend an eternity in the beatific vision of the pope. Christ is the point. I, myself, admire the present pope, but even if I criticized him as harshly as some do, even if his successor proved to be as bad as some of those who have gone before, even if I find the Church, as I have to live with it, a pain in the neck, I should still say that nothing that a pope, a bishop, a priest could do or say would make me wish to leave the Church (although I might well wish that they would).”

Pray for us bishops and priests, please. We’re sorry when we hurt you. We must try harder to conform our lives to Jesus. But don’t ever let our sins drive you away.

A blessed Holy Week!

Holy Week and the Paschal Triduum

With this weekends Palm Sunday liturgies we have officially begun Holy Week.  The rich liturgy of Palm Sunday, where we hear the Gospel at the start of Mass of Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem to the reading of the Passion, sets the mood for the week ahead.  We continue the normal daily cycle of masses and readings for Monday - Wednesday and we wear the color of Lent - purple.  It is common for many church parishes in these three days to make available extra times for reconciliation.  Then we reach Thursday, Holy Thursday and we realize that there is no daily Mass.  There is no more purple.  We have begun the Paschal Triduum.

The word triduum is a Latin term meaning three days.  The Paschal Triduum refers to the three days of Christ's Passion, Death and Resurrection.  This period begins at sunset on Holy Thursday and continues to sunrise at Easter Sunday.

The Paschal Triduum is the most solemn event of the Christian year.  It contains three main liturgies; the evening Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday, the Solemn Service of Good Friday afternoon which includes the reading and reflection of the Passion and Death of Jesus and the veneration of the Cross, and finally the joyful Easter Vigil Mass, begun in darkness and transitions to light.  It is at this celebration that all the new Catholics, both those being baptized and those making a profession of faith, are welcomed into the Church.

I'll describe more of the details of these celebrations later in the week.  For now, on this beautiful Palm Sunday, may we plan on fully and actively participating in Holy Week and the Paschal Triduum.