Category Archives: Pastor message

Pastor’s Message August 12th, 2018

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Humanæ Vitæ, Blessed Pope Paul VI’s encyclical on the gift of human life. Although many have misunderstood this encyclical by reducing its message to a “No” to contraception, we reaffirm that the message of Humanæ Vitæ should be seen as an emphatic “Yes!” to the fullness of life promised to us by Jesus Christ. Humanæ Vitæ teaches that, created in the divine image, the human person is called to reflect God’s love in the world, loving the way he does – freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully – by means of our body. This is an immense responsibility. The love Jesus has for us allows us to understand better how married love is called to be an image of God’s love: a love which is life-long, exclusive, and ready to reach beyond the couple itself, even bringing forth a new life! This is why Christ has committed himself to husbands and wives in the Sacrament of Marriage. He will always be present to empower them with his infinite love. Through prayer, the Eucharist, and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, spouses will experience the grace to grow in love through life’s everyday challenges.

Christian marriage reflects the love of Jesus who lays down his life for us. In his letter to the Ephesians, Saint Paul writes: “‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’. This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the Church” (5:32). Through his incarnation, death, and resurrection, Jesus has united himself to his Bride, the Church, and the two have become “one flesh.” His offering of himself on the Cross is made really present to us in the Eucharist, so that we can experience in our bodies his gift of himself. Christ is the Bride- groom, and we are his bride. When we receive Holy Communion, we make this gift our own and participate intimately in it. Only in union with Christ can we be empowered to make the complete gift of self to which we are all called. Every Christian marriage is, therefore, called to be an image of this gift of Christ to his people. Since our sexuality is part of how we are made in God’s image, it also should take part in reflecting God’s love. Every expression of love in marriage is meant to be an image of God’s love, including the most intimate expression of marriage – sexual intercourse.

In Amoris Lætitia Pope Francis praises Humanæ Vitæ’s teaching on marriage and family, which includes “the intrinsic bond between conjugal love and the generation of life.” This means that every sexual act in marriage is meant to speak a love which is free (not coerced), total (giving one’s whole self), faithful (devoted to one’s spouse), and fruitful (open to new life and supporting the couple’s spiritual fruitfulness). Anything else distorts the beautiful language which God has written into our bodies. Weakening or falsifying this language changes the way each of the spouses experiences love; in these cases, sexual relations do not fully embody real love. While they may be well-intentioned, sexual acts that do not speak the language of such love misdirect our search for love and make it harder for us to find true and enduring love (Humanæ Vitæ, #12, 14). The Church’s teaching on sexuality reminds us that we are not made for just any kind of love; we are made for an infinite love – the very kind that led Jesus to offer his life freely on the cross for us. Nothing less than his infinite love can fill the deepest aspirations of our hearts. Thus, the Church’s teaching is not aimed at repressing our sexual desires or ensuring that each of us ends up living frustrated and boring lives. In fact, the opposite is true. The Church shows us that marriage is the place where sexuality can be fully experienced and lived out.

In the words of Blessed Paul VI, “an act of mutual love which impairs the capacity to transmit life which God the Creator, through specific laws, has built into it, frustrates His design which constitutes the norm of marriage, and contradicts the will of the Author of life. Hence to use this divine gift while depriving it, even if only partially, of its meaning and purpose, is equally repugnant to the nature of man and woman, and is, consequently, in opposition to the plan of God and His holy will” (Humanæ Vitæ, n. 13).

Since married love is called to be a reflection of God’s fruitful love, when married couples give themselves to each other totally – growing in communion and open to the blessing of fertility – their love reflects God’s love for us. They see their relationship strengthened and deepened in a true communion – “common union” – with each other. On the other hand, intentionally modifying a sexual act so as to render it sterile – e.g., through the use of contraceptives or through sterilization – ends up falsifying the language of our sexuality. In this case, we place clear limits on the gift of ourselves while giving the illusion of a total gift.

There are many married couples who have adopted fertility awareness-based methods for overcoming infertility and for responsible family planning. Because these methods do not change the language of sexual intercourse in any way, they can help couples grow more deeply in love with each other and with God. Based on modern scientific knowledge of fertility, these methods are also known as natural family planning. They allow parents to plan their family in a way which fully respects their love and their dignity.

Blessed Paul VI, with the Encyclical Humanæ Vitæ, brought out the intrinsic bond between conjugal love and the generation of life: Married love requires of husband and wife the full awareness of their obligations in the matter of responsible parenthood, which today, rightly enough, is much insisted upon, but which at the same time must be rightly understood. The exercise of responsible parenthood requires that husband and wife, keeping a right order of priorities, recognize their own duties towards God, themselves, their families, and human society.

In fact, married couples can only live out the truth contained in Humanæ Vitæ by the grace of God, our loving Father, who with his Son, Jesus, empowers us with the strength of the Holy Spirit. Marriage is indeed a noble vocation. May all married couples, in faithfulness to the grace of their baptism and marriage vows, live and experience the joy of married love as taught in Humanæ Vitæ and thus be signs of God’s loving presence in the world.

Pastor’s Message August 5, 2018

This coming October, Pope Francis will canonize six new saints for the Catholic Church. Along with the martyred El Salvadorian Archbishop, Oscar Romero (1980), is a favorite of mine, Blessed Pope Paul VI, whom I had the privilege of meeting and speaking with during a small semi-private audience in June 1967. Our group was introduced to him by none other than the (then) new Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Poland (future Pope St. John Paul II). Paul VI was a humble, scholarly pontiff, a “prophet for his time.” He suffered abuse from fellow Catholic clerics who scoffed at his masterful work of deep theological insight, “Humanae Vitae” (“On Human Life”). The widespread dissent that greeted the encyclical fifty years ago has had a dramatic impact on Catholic life ever since; the reverberations continue to this day. Years later, Pope St. John Paul worked long and hard to correct the false notions that people had of it, but by 1968, it seems that the world already embraced contraception as a “positive social development.” Catholics had expected Blessed Paul VI to accommodate himself to the sexual revolution. So, when he wrote that what had been traditionally taught as true remained true, there was a strong uproar from outside as well as inside the Church.

The dissent was early, organized and formidable. At The Catholic University of America, 77 “theologians” declared that the Holy Father was wrong. Their leader, Rev. Charles Curran and his colleagues declared, “We conclude that spouses may responsibly decide according to their conscience that artificial contraception in some circumstances is permissible and indeed necessary to preserve and foster the values and sacredness of marriage.” Father Curran was later dismissed from his CUA teaching post, but it was too late to hold back the floodgates of dissent. How was it possible for theologians to deny that the immorality of contraception was settled Catholic teaching? Pope Pius XI had already dealt with this very matter in 1930 (the year that Anglicans had departed from the ancient Christian consensus), making it abundantly clear (he wrote on this subject in his “Casti Conubii” [on Christian marriage]). Why did they think it was possible to argue that modern circumstances made it impossible to abide by the moral law? Pius wrote, “No difficulty can arise that justifies the putting aside of the law of God, which forbids all acts [that are] intrinsically evil. There is no possible circumstance in which husband and wife cannot, strengthened by the grace of God, fulfill faithfully their duties and preserve in wedlock their chastity unspotted.” The settled teaching was thought to be clear, and Paul VI had not departed from it. So, the best way for dissenting voices to get around that teaching was by erroneously appealing to another principle: “conscience.”
Curran and others argued that conscience could determine that the general moral principle did not apply in this particular circumstance. So, reclaiming a proper understanding of conscience and correcting the damage done by dissent was enormous, was beyond the capacity of Pope Paul alone. He would die 10 years after “Humanae Vitae,” having never written another encyclical. It was St. John Paul II, elected in October 1978 (after the 33-day papacy of Pope John Paul I), who would take up that task. St. John Paul spoke of “Humanae Vitae” as a “prophetic proclamation” and offered an invitation to theologians to develop the “biblical foundations, the ethical grounds and the personalistic reasons behind this doctrine.” To that end, he himself undertook the immense project of the “theology of the body” to provide the deeper foundation on marriage and family life. For several years, his weekly general audiences were devoted to the question of God’s plan for sexuality and the human body. But, like an echo of the organized dissent of 1968, many of the leading theologians of the Church restated that the teaching of “Humanae Vitae” was wrong and that Catholics in good conscience could disregard it. Together with Familiaris Consortio (1981), Veritatis Splendor – issued 25 years after Humanae Vitae – constituted a generational response to the upheavals of 1968. At the heart of “Veritatis Splendor” was that conscience is a witness to moral truth, not an independent interpreter of it. But old errors — let alone recent ones — never fully disappear. Fifty years later, the issues continue to remain in dramatic tension in the life of the Church.
Blessed Paul VI warned that a disregard for the Church’s teaching on contraception, “could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards.” This is not to say that marital infidelity did not occur prior to widespread contraceptive use, or that everyone was morally perfect before scientists invented “the pill.” Rather, Paul VI here warns that moral issues like infidelity and unchastity would flourish in a culture that approves of contraception. It was his fear that a contraceptive culture would corrupt the young, “who need incentives to keep the moral law.” Without moral standards, such as those proposed by “Humanae Vitae,” young people will not be able to form their consciences, and as a result will violate the moral law. “It is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break the law,” Paul VI writes. Scandal, after all, is a particularly nefarious evil (cf Matt. 18:5-7).
Pope Paul predicted of the coming abuse of women, particularly in the wake of the contraceptive culture. He said: “Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.” Just think for a moment about the #MeToo movement.
Blessed Paul VI was not saying that if a woman avoids contraception, she will be safe from sexual abuse.  He is saying that men in the contraceptive culture will tend to disregard the dignity of women, treating them as objects for pleasure, rather than as persons. The acceptance of contraception corrodes the conscience of the individual and of society.
While many dissenters scoffed at Blessed Paul VI’s warnings in 1968, fifty years of history have shown that Pope Paul VI’s predictions came true. Just as personal sins negatively affect other aspects of our lives, so also social sins like the contraceptive culture damage human society. Few would argue that moral standards have not lessened since 1968 (those that do doubt at least admit there has been a shift in moral values).  Recent statistics reveal that in over 1/3 of all marriages, one or both partners admit to cheating and that “People who have cheated before are 350% more likely to cheat again.” Another study shows that on average only 5% of women getting married today are virgins.
In this moral darkness, there is hope for the Church and society. Catholics who know about “Humanae Vitae” have a special mission to be witnesses to the Church’s beautiful teaching on human sexuality. As we strive to live this teaching in our marriages and in our daily lives, we will not only invite God into our own marriages, but we will also transform our culture, restoring a broken world in Christ. In our work, we have a patron in Blessed, soon to be Saint, Paul VI.

Pastor’s Message July 29, 2018

Children must understand that that once something is posted on the Internet, it will be available forever. They need to be conscious that it helps to think not just twice, but THREE times before transmitting or posting information that could affect their own reputation or that of others. Anything that is posted by, or about, the child could forever follow them in this life, and could be used against them when they are older and attempt to engage in real-life social situations, including applying for internships and positions.

Sometimes children come across foul language, inappropriate visual material or cyberbullying in their online activities. They need to know how to report users or profiles within each social networking account they operate. An important question to ask is, will they be able to address and/or report bad material? What if it’s from a friend?

A beautiful aspect of the Internet, and also a detrimental one, is the fact that there is a vast and oft-invisible audience ready to be amused and entertained 24 hours a day. Unfortunately, what starts out as seemingly “harmless” fun can quickly deteriorate into something dangerous, with public shaming, cyberbullying and even death threats. The Internet is wildly popular for laughing at others at their expense and posting the information for the world to see without realizing the devastating impact on real lives. This can cause people to act differently online than in person, putting others at risk if they don’t treat people respectfully—including a risk of suicide. Does your child know the difference between a friendly joke and actual bullying—and that when there’s an image of someone online, that person has real feelings?

Have you talked to the child about his/her private parts and the importance of respecting others? The Internet (and social media, depending on the app and ads) is inundated with pornography, and the largest consumer of online porn are children between the ages of 12-17. Online porn also contributes to the sexual trafficking of minors, as victims become part of the multitude of videos and images that are circulated. Did you know that children very likely can see these types of images outside of your sight and hearing? Do they already know how to clear their cache (research says yes, they do!)? Could they already have an addiction by age 12? If you automatically answered “no” to any of these questions, then we’re already in trouble. It’s when we think “it couldn’t’ happen here” that we’re already behind the curve.

As a caring adult, it’s imperative that you perform your own research about the pros and cons of the specific social media applications, and what the benefits and potential dangers are. Are you ready to create your own account on the same social media site(s) to better hold your child accountable? While 90% of children “believe their parents trust them to do what is right online,” almost half of them would still change their online behavior if they knew their parents were aware and watching. Do you have the discipline and courage to consistently set limits on their screen time, regularly confiscate their devices to review their posts, settings, and friend lists as ‘par for the course’ of using social media? Most parents do feel uncomfortable doing this.

Have an ongoing, open discussion with your child, and make sure you know what they’re doing online. If you can’t confidently say that you know exactly what they’re watching, seeing and doing on the Internet, you may be putting your child at risk as even websites for kids are sometimes hacked or even created with malicious intent. Caring adults will seek to protect the online identity of the child until the child can successfully navigate the Internet on his/her own. Children must also learn how to assist in guarding their own content. Helping any child to protect his/her online presence, and also guarding the information yourself, will only serve to help them in the future as we become increasingly engaged with the Internet and social networking. Hopefully, also, you’re modeling the appropriate behavior to your child in your role as a caring parent. Yet, it isn’t just the job of a parent; it’s the duty of every Christian: to help one another in life—and that means all of us!

Pastor’s Message July 22nd, 2018

Though we’re in the midst of summer, and thoughts of school may be far from your child’s mind just now, this might be a good time to take a moment to learn more about what your child might be doing/learning during the summer via social media. If he/she is begging to join a social network, it’s a serious undertaking that involves proper education and action from caring adults. Though there are many positive elements of the Internet, we also know it’s imperative to give children safe and monitored access to help them carefully navigate the Internet insofar as their maturity and development allows. Regardless of whether your child already has social media accounts, or whether they’re just beginning to enter into the online world, there are important points for caring adults to consider, including: age, maturity, psychological capability, the ability and freedom to be able to disclose when fearful or in trouble, and knowledge of reporting malicious material.

Social media use by children is extremely popular. Many are able to utilize social networking sites by using their own smart phones at younger ages than ever before. In 2015, one survey found that 75% of 4-year-olds owned or had access to smartphones or tablets! According to the Pew Research Center, 24% of teens go online “almost constantly,” attributing this to the widespread availability of smartphones. Also, 22% of teens log onto their preferred social media site/app more than 10 times each day, and more than half of tweens and teens log onto a social media site more than once a day. With the proliferation of many new apps, teens are consistently diversifying their social media usage – 70% using more than one social networking site at a time.

It’s challenging to think of a specific age that children should be before beginning to utilize social media. Many social media websites and apps require children to be 13 in order to create accounts. This isn’t to protect developing brains; rather, it’s the age set by Congress per the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which prevents companies from marketing and collecting certain types of information from youth under 13.  Yet, most children are technologically savvy enough to create their own accounts using fake information—or thru their parents help. A consumer reports survey found that 7.5 million Facebook users were younger than 13, and 5 million were under the age of 10. Among children age 10, 95% of their parents knew the child was using the site, while 78% of their parents helped create the account—despite the fact that doing so is in direct violation of the terms of service!

Aside from any legal concerns of allowing young children to join social media, there is also a more important issue of maturity and psychological capability. Some kids may be ready to handle social media under the legal age of 13, but most probably can’t. You are the best judge of your child. Ask: Can she [or he] use it in ways that are healthy and respectful of themselves and of others? And not only that, are they psychologically capable of handling what they encounter? A new phenomenon has been identified by the American Academy of Pediatrics as “Facebook depression” that develops within tweens and teens after spending large amounts of time on social networking sites such as Facebook (but also including other social media apps)—increasing social isolation and the online seeking of affirmation. Other concerns have to do with children who become preoccupied with receiving attention via their posts, developing a tendency to measure self-worth to the quantity of followers or “likes,” which might cause them to behave in ways that they would not normally behave in order to receive affirmation. God made them in His image, but the Evil One seeks to destroy!

Here are some thoughts to ponder and eventually ask your child when tasked with the responsibility of helping children navigate safely online. Can your child truly control his/her information (such as keeping passwords private, reviewing content from photos/posts and limiting the disbursement of personal information)? Prevailing data shows that children often can’t. Only 60% of children have enabled privacy settings to protect their social networking accounts, and 50% don’t disable their location and GPS services –which allows strangers within the apps to have access to their physical location. Worse, even if the GPS services were in fact disabled, many post their home addresses online. The risk of adults with bad intentions utilizing the Internet to identify the exact location of a child at any moment is incredibly high. Children may learn to avoid posting their address after you read this and remind them, but do they also know not to post pictures that provide their school colors, mascot, or images of a home or school in the background? Please carefully consider the responsibility children must exhibit to assess these measures with every post, before providing even limited access to them. Commit to reviewing privacy settings together to optimize any child’s social networking account in order to have the most secure environment possible, regardless of age. Keep in mind that privacy settings frequently change and are never “fail-safe,” as a friend’s lack of settings could make another child’s information vulnerable. (End of Part 1 – Part 2 next week)

Pastor’s Message July 15th, 2018

Some religions are superior to others, and, in my belief, Christianity is the best; and of the Christian denominations, I believe that Catholicism is the best. Yes, I know this isn’t really politically correct. You’re supposed to pretend that all religions are equal – e.g., the Comparative Religions professor (who often has comparatively no religion) teaching all religions are human inventions based on unique, interesting historical circumstances and cultures. The theory is that religions developed from animism, when cavemen grunted at the sun, moon and stars and made up stories about the people who lived there. Then they made up stories about gods, which became myths, and they started making sacrifices to the “sky people” and then they made more stories and eventually they added rules and so all the different religions just developed. Like most heresies this is a half-truth, and like most half-truths, is more believable than the full truth. At first, the full truth always seems incredible, but is completely credible on deeper examination.

Are all religions equal? If you have one of those posters with a sunset and a slogan that says, “We are all climbing the same mountain but by different paths,” then you might draw the sentimental conclusion that all religions are equal. But they’re not! Think it through for a moment. Is Judaism, with its monotheism, rituals, rules and regulations equal to an Aztec religion, with genocidal human sacrifice? I don’t think so. Is Hinduism, with its ornate mythos, ancient rituals and fascinatingly populated pantheon of gods equal to Jehovah’s Witness? Is Islamic Wahhabism, which condones violence, equal to ceremonial-rich American Episcopalianism?

Religions are not the same and they’re not equal. Some religions are theologically, morally and philosophically superior to others, just like some composers and artists are superior to others. McCartney wrote many nice tunes, but he’s not a Mozart. Rockwell painted some fine pictures, but he’s no Rembrandt. Similarly, some religions are better than others. But, Christianity is the best; and of the Christians, Catholicism is the best.

I’m not saying all other religions are rubbish. The teachings of our Catholic Church say that all other religions have elements of goodness, truth and beauty; and we affirm the goodness in those religions. But I’m saying that Christianity is the best, and I do so for one simple reason that I’ll soon explain. Yet, I’m not saying that Christians are the best people. Christians are hypocrites and sinners just like everybody else. Though we’ve had some great accomplishments in our history we’ve also had our fair share of stinkers. So, I’m not arguing here for how brilliantly the religion has been lived out, but how brilliant the religion is. G. K. Chesterton was right, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has not been tried.”

Why is Christianity a superior religion? Because of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It is the only religion that does not ignore or skirt the issue of suffering. Indeed, much suffering is at the very heart of our religion. Our central icon is a crucifix. Our central act of worship, the Mass, is a commemoration and re-presentation of the execution of an innocent victim. Other religions somewhat skirt the real issue of suffering. Buddhism and Hinduism teach that suffering is part of the karmic cycle and the way to avoid suffering is to rise above it through detachment from the material world. Epicureanism avoids the issue by teaching one to “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you die.” Stoicism teaches that one must accept suffering, if possible, with dignity, do one’s duty and pass on. Islam teaches that suffering is God’s arbitrary choice, and don’t ask questions. Primitive religions have no problem with suffering because they do not have a God who is good. Suffering for them is simply “part of the cosmos,” and fatalism is their creed. Judaism comes closest to Christianity in that the Jews accept suffering as an inexplicable part of being the chosen people of God. But consider what we do with suffering. We struggle over the question, “How can a good God allow suffering?” We debate it, and some people become atheists because of this terrible conundrum.

Christians (and most especially Catholics) say, “Yes, it is a problem, but the whole reason for our religion is God’s answer to the problem.” This is not something we sweep under the carpet. This is not something we ignore. Suffering is the whole problem, and the answer is the point of our whole religion. “We preach Christ, and Him crucified.”

We see suffering as a result of free will, and free will as the requirement for true love to exist. If you cannot love freely you cannot love. That free will ultimately produces bad choices and those bad choices produce suffering.

We acknowledge that suffering is the problem, and innocent suffering is really the heart of the problem. But, within the problem is the solution, and within the question lies the answer. We see the cycle of pride which blames others, excludes others and eventually kills others. But, Jesus Christ comes into the midst of that cycle of pride and takes the blame. He reverses the cycle, and by rising from the dead defeats the power of suffering from the inside out. Christianity is the one religion that plunges into the depth of the suffering, wrestles with the darkness and comes out the other side, bloodied but triumphant!

This is what our hero, the Lord Jesus, did on Good Friday, and this is why we say he is our Savior — because he wrestled with the devil, went through the dark and came out the other side. From that time on suffering had lost its sting and death lost its stench. For those who would follow Him, there was hope. For those who would walk with Him, there was light on the other side and calm after the terrible storm. It’s what brings sense out of the reality of suffering and gives new meaning to those who believe as Catholic Christians are called to do.

Pastor’s Message July 8, 2018

Well, our parish school students are into the middle of our summer vacation. Many families are away for much of the summer, which means weekly attendance at Mass is down, as usual for this time of year. It becomes a little bit more difficult to address the needs of our campus, so we look to the support of those who are here during the summer to assist us in ministry and financial support. Budgetary cuts are always painful but have to be realistically faced when resources become more limited. That’s why we’re especially grateful for the generous people who sustain us during such times.

I’m happy to announce that, for our parish during the month of July, Father Leon Aniszczyk, recently retired as a Pastor from the Metuchen Diocese in New Jersey, will assist us in parish ministry. This help will allow Father Danis to take some time away for a nice vacation. I’ve known Father Leon for over thirty years as a good and dedicated priest; and he has been here before to celebrate Mass with us at St. Vincent. Welcome back, Father Leon!

Very recently, Pope Francis addressed the Pontifical Academy for Life as it began its general assembly, reflecting on the theme: ‘Equal beginnings, but then? A global responsibility.’

The Pope said. “Behind the indifference toward human life lies a contagious illness that blinds people to the challenges and struggles of others. Like the mythical figure Narcissus, people risk becoming infected by a ‘contagious spiritual virus’ that turns them into ‘mirrored men and women’ who only see themselves and nothing else.”

“Evil looks to persuade us that death is the end of all things, that we have come to the world by chance and that we are destined to end in nothingness. By excluding the other from our horizon, life withdraws in itself and becomes just a good to be consumed,” he continued.

The Pope told the members that the “ethical and spiritual quality of life in all its phases” must inspire the Church’s “behavior toward human ecology”.

He also said that life from conception, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, old age, as well in those moments when it is “fragile and sick, wounded, offended, demoralized, marginalized and those cast aside” is always human life.” “When we surrender children to deprivation, the poor to hunger, the persecuted to war, the elderly to abandonment, we are not doing our own work but rather the dirty work of death. And where does the ‘dirty work’ of death come from? It comes from sin,” he said.

Speaking to journalists after the Pope’s speech, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, said it was the first time the Pope used the phrase “dirty work of death” to describe issues that threaten the sanctity and dignity of human life.

“The dirty work of death means all areas – even legislative decisions – in which life isn’t helped but rather weakened, hindered, not helped and not supported in all its forms,” Archbishop Paglia said. “In this sense, the Pope exhorts us to do, in every way possible, the beautiful work of life and not be like Pontius Pilate, who washes his hand and allow the dirty of work of death to cast innocents aside,” he added.

Pope Francis also highlighted the need for “a global vision of bioethics” inspired by Christian thought, in which the value of one’s life is not determined by sickness and death but by the “profound conviction of the irrevocable dignity of the human person”.

Citing his 2015 encyclical, “Laudato Si” (on Care for Our Common Home), the Pope called for a “holistic vision of the person” and the importance of articulating clearly the universal human condition beginning from our body. “Our body itself establishes us in a direct relationship with the environment and with other living beings. The acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home, whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation,” Pope Francis said.

Encouraging the Pontifical Academy for Life’s work in promoting a culture of life in the field of bioethics, Pope Francis said that this culture must always look toward “the final destination” where every person is called to be in communion with God.“ To recognize and appreciate this faithfulness and dedication to life raises gratitude and responsibility in us and encourages us to generously offer our knowledge and experience to the whole human community,” he said.

Pastor’s Message July 1st, 2018

I’m glad to welcome to the service of our parish, Deacon K. Greg Osgood, who was ordained for service to the Archdiocese of New York (just as deacon Frank was), and who has moved to our area with his wife, Diane. He has received the permission of our Bishop to minister in our diocese, in particular, in our parish. Deacon Greg will work with Deacon Frank in the area of adult catechesis, especially with the RCIA program that was part of deacon Rusty’s service to us. He will also assist in performing baptisms and will be appointed to the Pastoral Council at its next session in late August. WELCOME!

I wish to thank Amy Sexton and all her associates who helped pull off another successful Summer Bible Camp at the beginning of June. These wonderful volunteers and associates include: Courtney Rowling, Carrie Socha, Dawn Transleau, Katie Fischer, Tracy Nixon, Melissa Barta, Lisa Murphy, Emily Roberts, Heather Hackett, Stephanie Sexton, Frances Sharon, Heidi Guevarra, Jessica Zuraw, Michelle Bylow, Monica Yeschek, Nicole Volinsky, Tina Badame and Lola Swanson-Defalco. May God bless and reward them for all their efforts to guide our youngsters into a deeper appreciation and love of their Catholic Faith!

As part of this week’s reflection, I present The Decalogue of Pope St. John XXIII. It has become famous for its practicality as well as the depth of its spirituality. For those who may not know, a decalogue is another word for a type of 10 commandments or rules. I hope you clip this out and take the time to read it over and over.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

  1. Only for today, I will seek to live the livelong day positively without wishing to solve the problems of my life all at once.
  2. Only for today, I will take the greatest care of my appearance. I will dress modestly; I will not raise my voice; I will be courteous in my behavior; I will not criticize anyone; I will not claim to improve or to discipline anyone except myself.
  3. Only for today, I will be happy in the certainty that I was created to be happy, not only in the other world but also in this one.
  4. Only for today, I will adapt to circumstances, without requiring all circumstances to be adapted to my own wishes.
  5. Only for today, I will devote 10 minutes of my time to some good reading, remembering that just as food is necessary to the life of the body, so good reading is necessary to the life of the soul.
  6. Only for today, I will do one good deed and not tell anyone about it.
  7. Only for today, I will do at least one thing I do not like doing; and if my feelings are hurt, I will make sure that no one notices.
  8. Only for today, I will make a plan for myself. I may not follow it to the letter, but I will make it; and I will be on guard against two evils: hastiness and indecision.
  9. Only for today, I will firmly believe, despite appearances, that the good Providence of God cares for me as no one else who exists in this world.
  10. Only for today, I will have no fears. In particular, I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful and to believe in goodness. Indeed, for 12 hours I can certainly do what might cause me consternation were I to believe I had to do it all my life.

 

Pastor’s Message June 24th, 2018

Today’s message is excerpted from a letter on Corpus Christi Sunday by the Archbishop of Edinburgh and St. Andrews in Scotland to his flock. I invite you to read it and reflect upon it.

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I thought it would be helpful to write to you, especially on this day, to recall the central importance of the Sunday Eucharist as the very summit of the life of the local church.

It is true that many people think of Sunday as just part of the weekend, a welcome break from the usual routine, and perhaps a day for family, or sporting activities and so on. Naturally, it’s good to relax and make time for these things; but our culture has largely forgotten that Sunday is a weekly holiday because of its meaning as the Christian holy day.

God commanded his Chosen People to refrain from ordinary work for one day at the end the week. That “Sabbath,” now our Saturday, reminded them that life has a higher goal than physical survival or financial gain. True fulfilment lies in relationship with our Creator, and our hearts will always be restless until they rest in Him. So, the working week ended with everyone gathering in God’s presence to offer sacrifices from the fruits of their labors and to receive renewed blessings through the hands of his priests. That weekly day of rest was an earthly reflection of God’s own eternal restfulness. It was a constant commemoration of the Covenant between God and his people, and also looked forward to a time when they would enter into his heavenly peace through the coming of the Messiah.

As Christians we believe that we have found the Messiah. God has visited His people in the person of Jesus Christ, for He is God made flesh and blood. He is the at the center of everything and everything finds its true meaning and purpose in Him. That eternal Day of peace and glory— the triumph of all that is good and just and holy, which the prophets all longed for—has already begun. It began on the first Easter Sunday when Jesus rose from the dead after offering his life in atonement for our sins on the cross. This is why Sunday, which is actually the first day of week, is now our Christian Sabbath, more properly called “The Lord’s Day.”

St. John Paul II wrote a wonderful letter to the whole Church on the importance of this day, in which he said that every Sunday “is Easter which returns week by week, celebrating Christ’s victory over sin and death … It is the day which recalls in grateful adoration the world’s first day and looks forward in active hope to the last day, when Christ will come in glory and all things will be made new.” (Dies Domini, 1) And so, every seven days the Church celebrates the Easter mystery. This is a tradition going back to the Apostles, taking its origin from the actual day of Christ’s Resurrection – a day thus appropriately designated ‘the Lord’s Day’.

When we gather for Mass on Sunday it is a foretaste of heaven. Because Jesus is truly present on our altar, all the angels and saints gather with us for the feast, too). Every Mass is actually that one same sacrifice offered throughout time and space. It is only this great Sacrifice that enables us to live authentically holy lives. It is only this Blessed Sacrament of his Body and Blood that empowers us to do real and lasting good in the world. Jesus Himself said that it is only if we are joined to Him in the Eucharist that we can hope to be saved for eternal life (cf. John 6:53).

We belong to the Church because we belong to Jesus, and we can only belong fully to Jesus by being members of His Church. We are only fully members of Christ and his Church when we faithfully join ourselves to the offering of his Sacrifice in the Mass every Sunday. It is this and this alone that makes us a community and binds us together as one family in the Church.

If we cut ourselves off from this mystery of grace, we not only cut ourselves off from Him but from one another, too. The community of God’s people is impoverished by your absence. Of course, there can be unavoidable circumstances that prevent our coming to Mass; illness or caring for a sick child, for example; travelling abroad, too, although in these days of the internet we ought to be able to plan ahead. But under normal circumstances, attending Mass on Sunday is a solemn and binding obligation. If we deliberately fail in this matter, it is a grave sin and we must go to Confession before receiving Communion again (CCC # 2181).

So, I would like you to ask yourself today: “Is Jesus Christ, in the Sacrifice of the Mass, my priority every Sunday, or do other commitments take precedence sometimes?” Coming to Mass only every other week, or occasionally, is not the same as being faithful to his New Covenant. We cannot treat our Savior as one option among others for us to shuffle at our convenience.  Dear parents, you naturally want your children to achieve their full potential and find lasting happiness. There’s no better thing you can do for them than to bring them to meet the living Lord Jesus at Mass every week. If you teach them like this to seek the Kingdom of God first, you can be sure He will bless them in all the other ways that you hope for (cf. Matt. 6:33). I know it isn’t always easy in our secularized world. It may mean making sacrifices and standing up for your faith among friends or within families. But remember, Jesus already sacrificed everything for us, because He did not want anyone to be lost. At many times in the past, people have died for the Mass and, even today, in some parts of the world our fellow Catholics risk their lives in order to get to Mass, because they believe that True Life depends on it. And they are right! Christ is our life and the Mass is our lifeline. I therefore urge you to make the choice to attend Sunday Mass, to make it a priority, and to bring others with you.

Yours sincerely in Christ,

+Leo Cushley
Archbishop of St Andrews & Edinburgh

 

Pastor’s Message June 17th, 2018

During the month of June, we celebrate two special occasions which expound upon the real love that a Father has for his children. One, logically, is Father’s Day, celebrated on the 3rd Sunday of June. It’s a day set aside whereby we show expressions of filial love for our Dads, whether living or deceased. It may not seem as important as Mother’s Day, but it ranks up in the top tiers of the most important days of our lives. It’s the day when we try to express a manly sentimentality that is not sugar-coated or dripping with a type of sweetness reserved for Mom.   The other is the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which expresses THE FATHER’s love for mankind. That love, which God has for the human race, is not symbolic; it’s actual — real. It’s made known to us through the humanity of Jesus of Nazareth, and that humanity is rendered accessible in images of his Sacred Heart.

Metaphorically, the heart is the seat of our human emotions; tenderness, devotion, affection, commitment, attachment, love. In reference to Christ’s Heart these words are an attempt to convey what in his humanity He personally feels for mankind. The human feelings of the Sacred Heart of Jesus are the truest reflection that we have of what “feelings” the Godhead has for his human creation. The love radiating from Christ’s Heart is not merely a generic love for the race in aggregate. It is a personal love for individual persons. Our Lord never stops taking any of us seriously. Again and again He takes us back and renews His passionate commitment to us. Time and again when we stumble He helps us get back on our feet, so that we can keep trudging along our pilgrim way to the City of God.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart flowered in the 17th century. Both St Francis de Sales and St John Eudes were drawn to it; and from 1673 to 1675 at Paray-le-Monial in France, a Visitation nun, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, experienced visions of the Sacred Heart. In her visions, St. Margaret Mary understood that Christ promised rich blessings to those who persevered in devotion to His Heart. The Lord, she said, promises them the following: He will give them all the graces necessary for their state; He will grant peace to their family; He will console them in all their troubles; He will be their certain refuge throughout their life and above all at the time of their death; He will bestow abundant blessing on all their enterprises; in His Heart sinners will find an infinite ocean of mercy; lukewarm souls will become fervent; fervent souls will be raised up to a level of great perfection; He will bless those homes where the image of His Sacred Heart shall be displayed and honored; He will give to priests the gift of touching even the most hardened of hearts; those who propagate this devotion will have their name written on his Heart, from which it shall never be erased; to those who receive Holy Communion on the first Friday of the month, 9 times consecutively, He will grant the grace of final repentance, so that they will not die in His disfavor nor without receiving the sacraments; and that in their final moment (in their last breath) His divine Heart will be their certain refuge.

We should be slow to dismiss such assertions of God’s love on the grounds of it being simply private revelation. It is that, of course, but a private revelation which is in harmony with the general public revelation given to us through the Scriptures and the Church’s living tradition.

In 1765, the Church authorized the liturgical observance of the feast of the Sacred Heart. This was extended by popes Pius IX, Leo XIII and Pius XI. In 1899, in response to the visions of Sister Maria Droste zu Vischering, Pope Leo XIII consecrated the whole world to the Sacred Heart. Sister Maria Droste died on the feast of the Sacred Heart that year and was beatified by Paul VI in 1975.

In one’s spiritual life particular words and phrases can acquire a rich and allusive power to lift our flagging spirits. “The Sacred Heart of Jesus” is one of those phrases which never fails to warm and encourage. It is an extraordinary component of our faith that God does actually still love what He made. In spite of our rebelling fallen nature, in spite of the ocean of sin with which we pollute our moral and spiritual lives, in spite of our apparently unshakeable attachment to material things, nevertheless our Maker still takes us seriously, still thinks we are worth bothering with. The Heart of Christ is an ever-open portal, a stargate which never shuts, through which the Creator’s infinite patience flows down to us.

On many a first Friday the beautiful texts of the votive Mass of the Sacred Heart from my Latin-English Missal were imprinted on my mind, for which I can never be sufficiently grateful. It helped me to believe (subsequently) that the promises made by our Lord to St Margaret Mary are true. “The thoughts of His Heart are from generation to generation; to feed them when they hunger, to save them when they die.” May the Sacred Heart of Jesus always be praised, adored and loved with grateful affection, in every moment unto the end of time!

Pastor’s Message June 3rd, 2018

In many places, this Sunday features the (moved) Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. On this solemn feast we are called above all to have faith in the fact (as revealed by the Lord Himself) that the Eucharist, the Holy Communion of which we partake, is in fact a reception of the very Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ, whole and entire, in His glorified state. We do not partake of a symbol, as some Protestant sects teach. The Eucharist is not a metaphor; it is truly the Lord. Neither is it a “piece” of His flesh; it is Christ, whole and entire. Scripture attests to this, many times. I give you only 2 of these: 1 Cor 1:29. “For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.” John 6:51 “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.” This last quote is a profound theology of the Eucharist from Jesus Himself. He makes it clear that we are not to think of the Eucharist as symbolic or metaphorical.

As Jesus spoke the words saying that the bread was His flesh, many of the Jews, including some of his disciples, grumbled in protest. But Jesus did not seek to reassure them or to say that He was speaking only symbolically when saying that they must eat His flesh. Rather, He became even more adamant. So insistent was He that they grasp this, that He permitted most of them to leave, no longer following in His company due to this teaching.

Today, He continues to ask us, “Do you also want to leave me?” (Jn 6:67) Would that people have grasped that the Lord Himself is truly present in our Churches! Were that so, one would never be able to empty our parishes of those seeking to pray with the Lord. As it is, though, only 25% of Catholics attend Mass regularly. This is more evidence of the “narrow road” and of how few there are who find it. Jesus experienced that most left him 2000 years ago, and many today continue to leave Him (or stand far away), either through indifference or false notions. Today, we must supply our answer each time we approach the altar and hear the words, “The Body of Christ.” It is at this time that we answer the Lord, “Amen,” as if to say, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life!” (Jn 6:68)

One of the mistaken notions about the Eucharist is confusing this sacred meal with the table fellowship Jesus had with sinners. The confusion by many today about the difference between the sacred meal of the Eucharist and common table fellowship leads many to misconstrue the Eucharist; it also helps to explain the Church’s stance. Jesus was known to “welcome sinners and eat with them.” But Holy Mass is not one of those sorts of meals. This was an intimate meal celebrated in the context of faith, however weak or strong, but a faith that was presupposed. Jesus said to them, “You are the men who have stood by me in my trials” (Lk 22:28). The Last Supper, wherein the essential reality of the Mass was first set forth, was held in the context of the Passover, the annual sacred meal shared within the family. Such meals presupposed that the people gathered together were family. Jesus celebrated that Last Supper with his family, the twelve Apostles. Those who think of the Mass as the mere table fellowship Jesus had with sinners, think of the Eucharist as a “Come one, come all” sort of meal. Many also add, “Come as you are.” In their view, there are no requirements; what matters is what Jesus is offering. “Don’t worry,” they say, “about ‘membership’ or the need to be reconciled from sin. After all, Jesus ate with sinners and didn’t worry about that stuff.” They also may have missed the Gospel account of the wedding invitation and the proper garment (disposition). This is one reason that the Church has always limited the Eucharist to those who are initiated, who are “members of Christ’s Body” through faith, and who keep communion with His Body the Church through assent to her teachings, remaining members of His Body by being in a state of grace. It further explains the need to receive the Eucharist worthily by first confessing our serious sins through the Sacrament of Confession. St Paul teaches: “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died (1 Cor 11:28-30).

So, we see that the Mass is not akin to the table fellowship that Jesus, at times, kept with sinners. Rather, it is a sacred meal that presupposes membership in Christ’s Body through faith and the forgiveness of all serious sins that might have severed that communion. It is meant to strengthen a communion that already exists. Our reverence for Holy Communion requires us to receive worthily, in a state of grace that has preserved the communion we celebrate. Further, to receive worthily also requires that we have the faith of the Church, the Body of Christ, and keep communion by a belief in conformity and communion with it.

On this Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ we are summoned to deepen our faith in the Lord who is present in the Eucharist and acting through his Sacraments. Routine may have somewhat of a dulling effect, but it cannot be so much so that we receive the Lord of glory in any way that could be called mindless or lacking in the reverence we ought to have for Him.  Ask the Lord to anoint your mind so that you never forget your need for the Eucharist. Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you have no life in you (Jn 6:53). But receive this great gift worthily and with a communion that befits the Holy Communion to which we are summoned.