March 19 – Pope Francis’ Coronovirus Prayer
March 20 – Cardinal Thuan: A Model of Hope
March 21 – Taking a Detour with Spiritual Eyes
March 22 – Laetare Sunday
March 23 – Do We Embrace the Unpleasantness in Life
March 24 – This Storm Will Pass
March 25 – Flexibility in Time of Crisis
March 26 – Salvation is a Choice: Yes or No?
March 27 – Hope for the Best and Prepare for the Worst
March 28 – Questions from Children In Unknown Times
March 29 – How Good We Have It….
March 30 – Has No One Condemned You?
March 31 – Where Your Heart Is
April 1 – Praying with Your Heart
April 2 – The Cross is Steady While the World Turns
April 3 – Faith, Hope, and Love in Time of Crisis
April 4 – In God’s Time
April 5 – The New Normal
April 6 – JUST DO IT!
April 7 – No Chrism Mass? Commitment Remains!
April 8 – Surely It Is Not I
April 9 – WHY is This Night Different?
April 10 – Positive thinking in time of crisis
April 11 – Nothing is Unknown to Him
April 12 – Jesus conquers COVID-19 by His Resurrection from the Dead
April 13 – He has Risen!
April 14 – Trusting in the Mercy of God
April 15 – Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread
April 16 – It Requires Teamwork to Beat the COVID-19 crisis
April 17 – To Whom Do You Belong?
April 18 – We are in the Recovery Process from the Crisis
April 19 – Divine Mercy Sunday
April 20 – Time to Make the Donuts
April 21 – We Are All Essential
April 22 – Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel
April 23 – FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT!
April 24 – Giving the Next Hour Over to God
April 25 – The Voice that Makes Things Normal
April 26 – Self-quarantine is the Time for Self-reflection for a Change for the Better
April 27 – In The Breaking Of The Bread
April 28 – Need For a Booster Shot
April 29 – Woke OR Numb and Dumb?
April 30 – Expect the Unexpected and First Things First
May 1 – Essential & Diaconal
May 2 – You Shall Know the Truth, and the Truth Will Set You Free
May 3 – The only way we can get through this pandemic is to think of WE, not ME.
May 4 – We Have Mulch To Be Thankful For
May 5 – Farewell to Altar
May 6 – It’s time to recharge
May 7 – What have I Learned?
May 8 – Parenthood is a Call to Sainthood
May 9 – Wearing a face mask is essential to our new norm
May 10 – A Blessing for Mothers
May 11 – Lobbing Cans Of Beets Over The Wall
May 12 – To help us prepare for the Novena tomorrow…The Story of St. Rita
May 13 – What will you do when things start to reopen again?
May 14 – Bill Barr: the Unsung Hero of Covidtide
May 15 – Concrete dates are important and sometimes necessary in planning your life
May 16 – Terror from Another Era – A Christian Response
May 18 – John Paul the Forgotten?
May 20 – Unique acts of love during reopening process
May 21 – A Birthday Celebration
May 22 – When dealing with a crisis alone it is almost impossible to succeed
May 23 – We’re ALMOST There!
May 24 – After Trump call to reopen churches, Catholic doctor says it can be done safely
March 18, 2020
Hope is Also Contagious
A Thought from Fr. Mann
The hit movie Gladiator tells the story of a Roman General, Maximus, who was renowned for his valiant successes in battle. As would be expected, Maximus enjoyed the good graces of the emperor, to whom he was fiercely loyal. Things took a bleak turn, however, when the emperor was killed by his own son, Commodus, who was jealous of Maximus. Maximus was everything that Commodus was not—which was everything Marcus Aurelius loved about him. Commodus knew it, too. So, he imprisoned Maximus as a gladiator, which is essentially a death sentence.Maximus discovered that the gladiators were so easily slaughtered not only because of their lack of formal training, but primarily because their mortal fear compelled them to fight only for themselves—until General Maximus inspires hope.Maximus knew he could save Rome from the wicked Commodus by winning the hearts of the Roman people in defiance of the new emperor. Maximus’ hope sparked renewed hope in his team of gladiators, which led them to successfully fight for each other.The point is that our hope must be more contagious than the coronavirus. Hope enables us to see beyond the dreary doom and gloom of the moment. Hope enables us to see the good shining through the darkness looming over us.
God reminded me to remain hopeful on the sixteenth of March—just as our local worlds were crashing to a screeching halt. Allow me to share. As I prayed, it occurred to me that the date was 3/16/20. The well know bible verse came to mind (Jn 3:16). So, I decided to look it up and read Jn 3:16-20, as follows:
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19]And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed.
It got me thinking that this coronavirus thing has somehow imposed a LENT of sorts upon the whole world—for Christians, Jews, Muslims, etc. and even atheists. The world stands in need of Lenten conversion. So, let us not waste the opportunity to become prayer warriors—fighting for our own soul and that of the world at large. As Maximus illustrates, there is real strength when we band together and fight for something bigger than ourselves.
Then, there is this neat little note, which God also taught me: that the word QUARANTINE literally means: FORTY DAYS! Lent indeed. Let’s not forget that GOD IS IN CONTROL! That is why we have hope.
March 19, 2020
Pope Francis’ Coronavirus Prayer
O Mary, you shine continuously on our journey as a sign of salvation and hope. We entrust ourselves to you, Health of the Sick. At the foot of the Cross you participated in Jesus’ pain, with steadfast faith. You, Salvation of the Roman People, know what we need. We are certain that you will provide, so that, as you did at Cana of Galilee, joy and feasting might return after this moment of trial. Help us, Mother of Divine Love, to conform ourselves to the Father’s will and to do what Jesus tells us:
He who took our sufferings upon Himself, and bore our sorrows to bring us, through the Cross, to the joy of the Resurrection. Amen.
We seek refuge under your protection, O Holy Mother of God. Do not despise our pleas – we who are put to the test – and deliver us from every danger, O glorious and blessed Virgin.
Cardinal Thuan: A Model of Hope
March 20, 2020
by Fr. Pham
Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan’s life reminds Christians everywhere to proclaim the Gospel in all circumstances. He was born on April 17, 1928, and was ordained a priest in 1953. Shortly after he was made coadjutor archbishop of Saigon in 1975, he was arrested and imprisoned by the Communists because of his Catholic faith. After 13 years of imprisonment, nine of which were spent in solitary confinement, he was released on the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lady. While in prison, he manifested his virtuous life.He used his limited resources creatively in order to fulfill his duties as shepherd to the faithful. He solicited the help of a young boy to bring him old calendars. He wrote simple, sincere messages of hope on the calendars and had the young boy copied and distributed them among the faithful. His profound letters to the Catholic community strengthened them in their faith and helped them to persevere in the midst of persecution.He also used his creativity to celebrate Mass in prison. He knew that celebrating Mass was his most important duty, but he had no church, no altar, and no tabernacle. He asked his people to send him medicine for the stomach, and they knew that he meant wine. He celebrated Mass with a drop of wine on the palm of his hand. He turned his palm into an altar, his shirt pocket into a tabernacle and turned the darkness of the sleeping quarters into a dwelling place for Light Himself. Because of his faith, many prisoners regained the fervor of their faith, and prison’s guards were converted. His example teaches all Christians that faith entails an active surrender to the Lord. It means seeking the best way to proclaim Christ’s love in every moment, every circumstance, and every action. Cardinal Thuan is a model of Christian hope. Isolation, darkness, and brutality saturated his prison life.Prison life and living in solitary confinement is an extreme form of “self-quarantine” or “social distancing.” May we learn from Cardinal Thuan to accept our own situation that we find ourselves living in now, and be creative in finding ways to persevere in our faith. For example, designate an area in your home for prayer adorned with a crucifix and religious statues or images, pray the rosary or make your own holy hour in that area, and watch Masses on TV, and any other ways that you can think of.
March 21, 2020
Taking a Detour with Spiritual Eyes
by Fr. Mann
Everyone knows that feeling you get when traveling on a long road trip. Whether alone, or with family and friends—the feeling is the same. All prompted by that dreaded sign—that dreaded six letter word: DETOUR.What that odious word means in the short run, is that traffic is going to slow down. According, you will arrive to your destination later than planned. It means that the shortest distance between you and your steak dinner, your celebration or whatever you are planning is no longer a straight line—as you find yourself adjusting to a seemingly senseless series of new twists and turns. You wonder: “How can this possibly end up at my destination?”
But such a shallow understanding of a detour is so very shortsighted. Detours are just an inconvenience. Plain and simple.
In reality detours are actually a means to a permanent improvement. It may be sometime down the road, a year, maybe two. But the smoother, freshly painted road; the wider lanes; the improved flow of traffic. Are not these benefits worth your patient tolerance of a detour?
Some SPIRITUAL food for thought….The sudden and drastic changes hurled upon us by the coronavirus pandemic is nothing short of a detour of global proportions. Surely, this detour is an inconvenience. What improvement—what benefit—could possibly follow, you ask?
This week has been blessed in many ways. The news is full of stories of people stepping up to help their neighbor. Even the government has let go of petty partisan politics in a sincere effort to serve the American people. Wealthy athletes and entertainers promised to pay salaries for those typically underappreciated people who make their success possible. One lucky waiter was stunned when his client left him a $1000 tip for a bill less than $20.
COVID-19 is not the only thing that has gone viral. So has basic human kindness. So has attentiveness to others—family and friends alike—and even strangers!
Locally, I have been edified that amid the mad dash to hoard groceries, so many of you have dropped off food for the needy. When people don’t know where their next paycheck is coming from, many of you have mailed in your weekly donations—trusting in God’s providence. Friday, I had the great joy on four occasions of seeing entire families taking time together to ride bikes on a beautiful day.
May the Spirit give YOU eyes to see the blessings in this crazy, coronavirus detour. May YOUBE A BLESSING to those who God puts in your path!
Today the Universal Church celebrates Laetare Sunday before Passiontide, which is the period of time where Christ suffered and died for the forgiveness of our sins and the salvation of mankind. Laetare is a Latin word which means “rejoice” to emphasize the joy and hope of the resurrection of Christ that awaits us despite the Passiontide that we participate in along with Christ’s suffering and death. This “joyful anticipation of Christ” motivated him to embrace his suffering and death to complete the redemptive mission sent by God the Father in the Holy Spirit.
In our current life situation now in our country and the world, may we have this “joyful anticipation with the hope in God” that he will get us through these difficult times due to COVID 19. And soon be back to our normalcy, and strengthen our faith in God that he has intervened in our times of need and difficulty.
In God we place our trust and hope that all will be well!
“Well, it could be worse”. During my almost five years as an Ordained Deacon and close to two decades working in Law Enforcement, I have on probably more than a few occasions uttered those words to myself. It has been my way of trying to see the brighter side of an uncomfortable or uncertain situation. While ministering and working in the world I have often been present to witness others’ pain, misfortune, sadness, loneliness and results from others’ sinful actions. One of the questions that I have been asked a lot over the years is why does God cause bad things to happen. I always explain that God may allow bad things to happen for reasons unknown to us, but God does not cause these bad things. God has given us the gift of free will and it’s up to us to do good or do bad and we have the freedom in how we respond to unwanted situations. I usually include in my response that hopefully some day I get a chance to ask God face to face why he permitted so much evil to occur in the world; I still hope I get that opportunity some day. For many of us living during this current Global Coronavirus crisis, it may feel like God’s trying to have that face to face chat with us sooner rather than later.
It’s some consolation that if we look over human history, there have been many prior pandemics and I am sure that several people at the time thought their world was crashing upon them. As we find ourselves dealing with this new virus in modern society we have to remind ourselves, “well, it could be worse”. Yes, we are for the most part stuck inside our individual homes, many are forbidden from going to their places of employment, churches, barber/hairdresser, or even to a family member’s wedding or even a neighbor’s funeral due to the preventive safety measures our government has placed upon us. But, do we consider how lucky we actually are currently? Do we embrace the unpleasantness we are currently experiencing or are we spending our time socially distancing ourselves not just physically but also emotionally and spiritually? For those of us with minor children at home, our kids have been barred from going to their school and our kitchens and living rooms have become the new classroom. But do we realize how fortunate we are to live in this modern world?
We may complain that our children are stuck at home instead of school and that we have unwillingly become the newest substitute teacher. I’ve had my fair share of discussions over the last week from my eighth grade and third grade sons asking me why I don’t understand the “new” math and how could I have a college degree when I can’t seem to understand a particular science question. Others of us may be disappointed or even angry that we can’t attend our weekly Mass at the Church. Have we stopped to embrace these interruptions in our lives? We may not be able to physically drive to Mass, but how lucky we are to have technology that allows us to watch the Mass daily right from our living rooms via the Parish’s website and Facebook page. We worry about a vaccine not being available now instead of what officials are saying should be within the next year or so. Have we stopped to consider all of those in our community who were not physically able to get to Mass before the virus crisis? Have we stopped to consider those who previously weren’t able to obtain food or paper goods not because of a virus, but because they just couldn’t afford it? How many couples would love to have a child that they could spend time with educating them between gym class on the porch and science class in the upstairs hallway? How many people were unable to seek medical help over the years because of cost and/or lack of insurance? How many people over the history of the world had to watch loved ones die because a vaccine was never found? Yes, if we try hard enough, there’s much to complain about while we experience the results of this global virus outbreak. But, sometimes if we are open enough we may just find that embracing the unpleasantness of life may actually draw us closer to our Lord. As we continue through Lent, let us try a little harder to understand the pain our Lord went through on the Cross for our sake. If we stop to think about that, then maybe we’ll find ourselves saying about our current situation, “well, it could be worse.” May God be Praised.
I pray that you and your families are faring well in light of the current medical emergency we find ourselves. Through the Grace of God and prudently following precautions, Donna and I are blessed to be free of the symptoms connected with the COVID-19 health storm. But like all of us in CTR, the Diocese, the U.S. and the world, we are not free from the continuous rush of this storm’s tidal effects. With each of its waves splashing our lives, all of humanity becomes more aware that, like the sands on beaches, all of us are caught and rolled in this illness’ surf.
But, as we know, through GOD’s Grace and His timeline, this will pass.
Personally, the hardest and coldest wave to hit, awoke my spiritual conscience and left a distasteful saltiness on my lips. It struck my shoreline last week at morning Mass. For the first time in my 70 years I heard, …“This will be the last Public Mass to be celebrated until further notice.” The iciness of Father’s words frightened me like nothing I’d ever experienced. The thought of life with out the Eucharist in communal celebration at my will was alien and unbelievable.
But just as quickly as the harshness of this wall’s force struck, a realization of my true need for this Summit of my faith came to the forefront of my consciousness then penetrated my senses. The thought, that perhaps, I accepted this Gift too casually, a Gift that will always be there for me, when I wanted.
Yes, I’ve taken advantage of Spiritual Communion in the past, but, Live Mass – it’s always been available somewhere soon, when I was ready. Yes, TV Masses are always an option, but they’re for shut ins; not necessary for the able bodied, particularly deacons.
Of course, everyone prays that this horrific COVID-19 storm ends quickly, but perhaps there is a purpose in God’s plan for it stirring up our lives at this moment in our existence, at this time of year. Maybe, Lent 2020 will be the greatest opportunity for strengthening our relationship with our Heavenly Father, as I suggested we set our sights on back on Ash Wednesday. A true, opportunity of a lifetime. Like you, many times this quest for me has been stalled, sidetracked, and often blocked. But, with all the time I’ve had recently, and the anticipated time for the immediate weeks remaining before Easter, I can’t think of anything standing in my way this time.
Let’s take stock in ways we can be more appreciative of the gifts God has given us. In addition to His Mass and Sacraments, perhaps; *the healthy days He has given us and our children, *the ability and means to care for our families, *for our parents, and *everyone else and everything that bring us joy and peace. All those things that He gives us as residuals of His Unconditional Love. Keep your minds and hearts centered on it and it will help you through this passing storm.
In closing I’d like you to reflect on another storm that Matthew speaks about in his Gospel 14:24-33. It reads,
The boat, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear. At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how [strong] the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” After they got into the boat, the wind died down.
“Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Having a normal schedule gives us a feeling of security and order, which helps us to get things done accordingly and as planned. This is why we don’t like surprises, most especially any tragic event unexpectedly. It creates chaos and feeling of anxiety of the unknown that we now have to face with very little time to reflect and be ready for. Unfortunately, in the last few weeks, news of the COVID 19 gradually comes upon us closer and closer geographically each day that leads to more and more restrictions each day. News of the spread of the virus are all over the internet, TV, and online news through out the day and everyday. Fear and anxiety continue to grow and strengthen within each one of us. Moreover, frustration of expected events or celebrations are suspended stirs within our minds and hearts.
The one key element that I find is very helpful for us to do is “to be flexible in time of crisis”. I have been trying very hard to be flexible with my daily activities by accepting the current situation that I’m in, and making the most of what I can do. Celebrating Mass without a congregation is very tough to do because I have feelings too. Meaning, I want to see the people and feel their presence in joining me at Mass. I normally do this only once a week on my day off in my room here at the rectory or in my room at my mom’s house in Philadelphia. But now, this has become the “new norm” that I need to get used to for indefinite time. Once again, flexibility in time of crisis helps us to accept the current situation that we are in, and just making the most of what we have and can do. I invite you to do the same as we get through this time of crisis together.
I am very anxious to be back to the “original norm” to get to do so many things with you in person here in our parish, most especially to have public celebration of Mass so all of us can be nourished with the Eucharist and all the other sacraments of the Church. One last personal hope is to get our softball season starts ASAP 🙂
May God bless and protect you and your family!
Yesterday, the Catholic Church throughout the world celebrated the Solemn Feast of the Annunciation. The Annunciation is a historical moment—a YES moment. It is a moment that provokes feelings of awe and wonder, anxiety and fear. The angel’s message to Mary provokes every kind of emotion—in all circumstances—of discovering a new pregnancy.
Women: Recall what it felt like to hear the words, “you are pregnant.”
Men: Recall what it felt like to hear your wife say to you, “Honey, I’m pregnant.”
Even in the best of circumstances, such a moment is overwhelming. Joy. Fear. Awe. Wonder. So many emotions. Imagine what it would feel like in less than ideal circumstances.
Beyond the mystery… Beyond the unfathomable sublimity… The Virgin Mother of God and Saint Joseph felt all that and more. Just imagine what it was like—not with 2000 years of perspective. Imagine the raw reality of it as it was for Mary and Joseph. It was all of a sudden. It was unplanned. It was inconvenient. It was a life-changing crisis. Imagine being told you chosen to be the Mother of God! The experience is inexplicable. But that is precisely what we celebrate today. Mary’s YES will culminate nine months from now, on Christmas Day, when God is born.
But for nine months, Jesus—the omnipotent and omnipresent God—will sanctify the womb of the BVM. And so is sanctified, the womb of every pregnant woman—and so is the life of every pre-born child, linked to the INCARNATE, PRE-BORN SAVIOR—Jesus.
YOUR SALVATION is linked to the womb of Mary—and with that, to Mary’s YES to life. Not just biological life, mind you. LIFE IN CHRIST. Life for every disciple of Christ. Thinking about it, our salvation comes down to saying one thing or another to God: YES or NO. It was like that for Adam and Eve. It was like that for Mary and Jesus. It is like that for every soul: for you and for me. Yes, or no?
Our Blessed Mother—as we celebrate her YES at the Annunciation—in this time of coronavirus, closed churches and quarantine—exemplifies perfect trust in God. Mary’s YES represents an open heart and an open womb. Even in confusion. Even in crisis. Mary’s YES is our hope in these days of so much uncertainty. May this time of quarantine dispose us to being more deeply united to Christ in the womb of Mary—our mother. May Mary, form Jesus, in each us, and may Jesus be incarnated in the world through YOUR PERSONAL YES.
It has always baffled me just how obstinate Pharaoh was in the time of Moses. He was all NO. Yet today, even in the face of a deadly pandemic, how many scream NO to God. For example, those pro-abortion politicians trying to hijack COVID-19 relief to fund the culture of death: We must pray for their change of heart. YES or NO?
When I was in time of difficulty to deal with personal issues, my mind was filled with worries, nervousness, and fear of the unknown outcome. I began to spend more time in personal prayer, and seeking help from my family, and my close friends, both priests and laity, for advice and loving support.
The one common piece of advice was to “hope for the best and prepare for the worst”. One priest friend asked me: “How’s your relationship with God now?” I replied: “Oh, it is great, because I think I am in great shape with Him. It is other human beings that caused me headache and stress.” My priest friend replied: “In that case, don’t stress out too much because what is most important is your relationship with God, in the end that’s what counts.” His advice gave me much relief and motivated me to embrace my personal issues and resolve them well.
One lay friend said: “You want to be hopeful that your issues might not be as bad as you imagine, while at the same time be ready for the worst, so you won’t be surprised and yet be well prepare for it if it comes your way.” This advice helps me to be realistic and practical because some other human beings are not as loving and compassionate as God is to me.
As we are coping with the COVID-19 crisis, I invite you to “hope for the best” that soon we will find a cure and vaccine for it, and that we will return to normalcy sooner than we expected. While at the same time, I invite you to “prepare for the worst” by taking all precautionary steps as the number of people being infected increases and the virus spreads closer and closer to where we live. Secondly, have a plan set for yourself or your family members if one of you gets the virus. Because we think more clearly now and hence make more prudential decisions. Great fear and panic will be our natural response if you yourself or a family member gets the virus.
I myself already have a plan all set if I get the virus, so no one else will get it from me while I find treatment and hopefully recover from it.
May God bless your family and our parish family!
As we approach the end of the 15-day pause from the normal routines of our lives, I think it’s appropriate to take stock in our dealing with our national attempt to pull the reigns in on the COVID-19 global spread. Especially since (as I write at this moment), the numbers of cases climb, and a vaccine has not yet been discovered. A focused reflection on how we’re coping within this “voluntary”, (for the time being) societal, chemistry experiment is important, to prepare ourselves for the probable expansion of our homes’ laboratory in which it is being conducted.
As a help in this reflection, I believe sharing with you an email attachment that came to me a couple of days ago is in order. In full disclosure, it is not my work, nor does its kind sender to me, know the original author. None-the-less, it serves as the seed for what I think aids in fortifying a viable, faith filled approach to the unknowns connected to the current illness.
Please read it with an open heart with faith in our God for whom nothing is unknown. This came to me untitled, in humble indulgence and respect to the author, I’d like to call it, Questions from Children In Unknown Times.
God Bless you and your families.
Society: What about my plans?!
God: My plans for you are always better than your own. Don’t worry. I’m going to work this all out for your good.
Society: We’re not going to get anything done!
God: That’s the point. You know how you keep spinning your wheels—always working, moving, doing—but never feeling satisfied? I’ve given you permission to stop. I’ve cleared your calendars for you! Your worth isn’t tied to busyness or accomplishment. All you have to do is take care of each other.
Society: What does this all mean?
God: It means I’m in control. It means you are human, and I am God. It means I’ve given you a wonderful opportunity to be the light in a dark world. It means you are going to learn to rely on me.
Society: What are we supposed to do when we can’t leave our homes?
God: Rest. You are always so busy and overwhelmed, crying out to me weary and exhausted. Can’t you use a break from your fast-paced and over-scheduled lives? Go ahead and rest. Pray. Love your families. Be still and spend time with me.
Society: You mean we’re supposed to stay home with our kids all day, every day?
God: Yes. And you’re going to be just fine. This time together is a rare gift. The rush of daily life has come to a halt. Play games. Bake cookies. Work on projects you’ve never had the time for. Teach them kindness and grace. Show them how to endure difficult circumstances and steer them toward me.
Society: We better start hoarding anything we can get our hands on!
God: Prevention, yes. Precaution, yes. Preparedness, yes. But after that, it’s time to put the needs of others before your own. When you see someone in need, help them. Offer up what you have. Do not worry about tomorrow! Haven’t I always taken care of you? Now, go take care of someone else.
Society: Why is this happening?
God: To remind you that I’m in control. To bring your attention back to me. I’m bringing you together as families and neighbors. I’m showing you patience and perseverance. I’m reminding you of your purpose and priorities. Now is the time to learn and teach your children what this life is really about.
Society: We don’t know who to believe.
God: Believe in me. Trust me. Ask me for wisdom and I will surely give it.
Society: We’re scared!
God: I’ve got this… and… I’m with you.
Just received a phone call from a parishioner who was checking in on me to see how I am doing. I, myself, had been making similar calls to our parish staff this past week. We also connected with our ministry leaders and are encouraging them to check in on our many volunteers. I even participated in my very first ZOOM meeting (basically a teleconference) to discuss ways to stay in greater touch with our parishioners. We will be reaching out for sure.
But it is great to know we all are thinking of each other, and maybe even NOT thinking as much about ourselves. Certainly, thinking about those who are very sick with COVID-19 right now is a compelling reminder of just how good we have it.
The fact is that this opportunity to think outside of our normality is a chance to empathize with the world beyond our ordinary lifestyle. It is a moment for us to reflect on how good we have it. For we could easily waste our time dwelling upon what we don’t have in these days of quarantine—as it were, seeing “the glass as half empty.” Far better to appreciate what we have.
For example, when I lived in South Sudan, there was always a chance of contracting malaria. It was a daily threat. It is the same for all people in the developing nations. But we seldom if ever think of such people as we are blinded by what we take for granted. So, as we are mindful of one another in our current situation, let us be mindful of those who will not escape from precarious life situations.
For example, these days we are reminded to wash our hands with soap and water to the tune of “Happy Birthday.” Pretty easy for us for the most part. But think about how challenging frequently washing your hands and face—not to mention staying hydrated—would be without running water. Plumbing is another luxury we take for granted.
And then there is church. We all can’t wait for things to get back to normal there. Mass. Adoration. Confession. Seeing our fellow parishioners and feeling connected as a parish community. (So sad that many miss Mass without a second thought.) I also long for normality. But I am also so mindful of my friends in Africa who are fortunate if they have Mass in their village once or twice a year.
Let our current crisis compel us to NOT take our Church for granted. Rather, let it compel us to support our parish. Most of all, let it compel us to pray for priestly vocations. As St. John Paul the Great reminds us: “Without priests, we have no Eucharist. Without the Eucharist, we have no Church.” The Coronavirus crisis will come and go. But the shortage of priests is a crisis that endures. Let us pray!
In today’s daily Mass Gospel Reading (John 8:1-11) we hear of the time the Scribes and Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery to Jesus for his opinion on whether she should be stoned to death. Now, these men were quick to point out that Moses long ago had commanded that any woman caught in such a manner was to be killed for her sin. However, these men were not bringing this woman to Jesus out of respect for the law of Moses, but as a way to entrap Jesus into making a statement against this Law. These men knew that Jesus had been going about preaching about mercy and forgiveness. Now they had Jesus right where they wanted. He was being cornered into making either a statement of forgiveness which in their eyes would go against religious law or they would catch Jesus agreeing that the woman should be stoned to death and thus showing Jesus’ preaching of kindness, mercy and love was not to be taken seriously. Scripture tells us that instead of replying directly to the group, Jesus simply bent down and began to write on the ground. Scripture is silent about what Jesus wrote, but several guesses surround the idea that he was writing the individual sins of the men as they had lived their lives under the law. Jesus then asks “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”. We know they then walked away leaving the woman to go on with her life. Jesus then asked, “has no one condemned you?”
Jesus did not condemn the woman and he does not condemn us today in this time of virus crisis. This Gospel Passage offers us all something to reflect on while we individually, as a family, as a nation, as a church and as a world journey through the next few weeks and months. Some may feel that it’s already starting to feel like we will be stuck in our homes, forever unable to go out except for the necessities of food and medicine. Rest easy, we will be back to our normal daily lives before we know it. But, will anything in our lives have changed? When this crisis is over will we be kinder to our neighbors, co-workers, the homeless person at the stoplight who wants a dollar, or even the person that took our usual seat in the pew at Mass? Will we remember the feeling of job insecurity, worry about state and national death rates, worry how the bills will be paid, concern over food, supplies and healthcare beds running out plus the lack of safe schools for our kids? Will you and I be more willing to carry the crosses of those who will still be in crisis long after the Nation has recovered? Will we finally be able to put down the stones we’ve been throwing at the “sinful people” near us? When this virus crisis is over, will we have a deeper appreciation for the sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross. How many of us will return to our old ways still leaving our pews and hearts empty? As Saint Paul tells us, “in the end we will have three things: faith, hope and love and the greatest of these is love”. As we draw nearer to the end of Lent, use this time in confinement to realize Jesus tells us to go on with the rest of our lives and sin no more.
May God be praised.
I would imagine that the creative ways of occupying time during this extended state of affairs has exceeded what you thought was possible. Then again, some of you may have found ways to replicate Santa’s never emptying bag he carries each Christmas Eve. Never the less, it appears that whatever you’ve utilized for filling nonsleeping hours, you need to keep it going for at least another month.
Please keep in mind, on the top of our lists should be prayer.
Due to the seriousness of this global problem, I am hopefully confident that most of the Christ the Redeemer Parish Family has spent some of this time in formal prayer, e.g., viewing the streaming of Mass and Holy Hour, praying The Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet, etc., or at least a momentary reflection of gratitude for being healthy.
I know that some of us get hung up on the idea that our churches and chapels with their formal liturgies, candles and statuary are the only places where real praying can take place. But in reality, when our hearts and minds are aware that God’s presence is everywhere and in everything, our greatest prayer is possible anywhere at any moment, even here and now.
In early March, when this virus caused Italy to close its churches, like some of you, I thought, “What a contrary thing to do! We need to come together in Church. Concentrated and communal prayer is what needs to be done. This is what we did in other difficult times.” But, these times we find ourselves, are partially responsible for our managing the steps taken in treating this virus.
2020’s technological and scientific advancements afford us many advantages over the tools, hardware and limited laboratory research available prior and during the Spanish Flu of 1918. Had we been aware then of social distancing, anti-bacterial chemicals, better health habits and other medical knowledge, now readily at our fingertips, the 50 million dead when that pandemic was over may have been far less.
Our 2020 technology also affords us to have prayer at our fingertips today as well. I mentioned streaming… Even I have learned to appreciate the benefits of The Mass on the BIG Flat Screen in the comfort of my home, next to Donna (no longer the “Pew Widow”). I also have been deeply exploring the apps already on my phone, such as Laudate, Ibreviary, ipieta, Universalis.com and usccb.org. Each are a treasure trove of prayer, reflections and meditations.
Although presently, we pray privately within our homes, let us also offer a prayer in the universality of our common Baptism that we will sooner rather than later, join together in our Assumption, Sacred Heart and St. Anthony Churches for publicly celebrating The Eucharist among their candles and statuary.
In the meantime, I’d like you to read (below) about what God told David via Nathan about His not needing a roof over His head. Listen to his voice wherever you are. He is where your heart is.
God Bless you and your families. Stay Healthy in body and Soul.
1 Chronicles 17:1-15
The Oracle of Nathan.
After David had taken up residence in his house, he said to Nathan the prophet, “See, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of the covenant of the LORD is under tentcloth.” Nathan replied to David, “Whatever is in your heart, go and do, for God is with you.”
But that same night the word of God came to Nathan: “Go and tell David my servant, Thus says the LORD: ‘It is not you who are to build the house for me to dwell in. For I have neverdwelt in a house, from the day I brought Israel up, even to this day, but I have been lodging in tent or tabernacle. As long as I have wandered about with all Israel, did I ever say a word to any of the judges of Israel whom I commanded to shepherd my people, Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’
Now then, speak thus to my servant David, Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘I took you from the pasture, from following the flock, to become ruler over my people Israel. I was with you wherever you went, and I cut down all your enemies before you. I will make your name like that of the greatest on the earth. I will assign a place for my people Israel and I will plant them in it to dwell there; they will never again be disturbed, nor shall the wicked ever again oppress them, as they did at the beginning, and during all the time when I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will subdue all your enemies. Moreover, I declare to you that the LORD will build you a house: when your days have been completed and you must join your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you who will be one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He it is who shall build me a house, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me, and I will not withdraw my favor from him as I withdrew it from the one who was before you; but I will maintain him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne shall be firmly established forever.’”
In accordance with all these words and this whole vision Nathan spoke to David.
*We welcome Deacon Omar as a guest author for today’s reflection. As you may recall, he was with us at the beginning of March to preach our parish Lenten mission.
“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
In last weekend’s gospel we heard these grief-stricken words come out of Martha’s mouth right as she greeted Jesus. Mary, her sister, stayed home even though she had a friendship with Jesus. Now mind you, this was the same Mary who dried the Lord’s feet with her hair. She knew that Jesus is the Lord! But she still decided to stay home instead of going with her sister to meet up with Jesus.
Eventually though, Mary comes out to greet the Lord after Martha tells her that Jesus is looking for her. Mary comes out and meets Jesus in the same way that Martha greeted Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Put yourself there with Martha and Mary. How do you imagine them speaking to the Lord? Can you sense that emotion behind their words when they greeted Jesus? Indeed there is a raw emotion in their words.
They were upset. They were frustrated. And they did not hide their emotions from the Lord. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Keep in mind, the sisters of Lazarus sent word to Jesus that their brother was ill. So where was He when the two sisters needed Him most, why didn’t He come sooner?!
Believe it or not, as I write this reflection, I am also upset and frustrated for Martha and Mary. They were friends with Jesus, they were family! When you have family who is in trouble, and they are very ill, you take care of your family! That’s what we do. We take care of each other. And Jesus — you are part of our family! Lord, if you only were here!
My brothers and sisters, sometimes we forget that Jesus is also part of our family. Jesus desires to be part of our family. He wants that intimate relationship that we have with our loved ones and closest of friends. Jesus wants to laugh, play, and cry with us. He wants us to be genuine in our prayer (communication) to Him. You can see it in His gospels, our King enjoys a good conversation!
And sometimes in our conversations, our emotions and passion comes out. After all, Jesus in this gospel also said that He is the LIFE! There is passion and emotion in every word that Jesus speaks. His words are life-giving! There is meaning in His words. Jesus desires our emotions and passion when we communicate to Him.
Martha and Mary had that type of relationship where they were able to share their feelings with Jesus,
“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” They did not hold back from sharing their feelings with the Lord!
So my spiritual family, if you are feeling frustrated, upset, angry with the Lord because of everything going on in our world right now…. If you are questioning why this coronavirus is keeping us from receiving His Body and Blood on Sundays, and wondering why the Lord is taking His sweet time to do something…. Remember, Jesus also took His time before He traveled to go see his friends, and it led to an awesome and profound sign bringing glory to God! (In other words, it’s all in God’s time.)
But there is nothing wrong with us having words with Christ, too! Martha and Mary, they loved the Lord. They were servants of the Lord, just like we are called to be servants of the Lord, but they were not afraid of sharing their feelings with the Lord. They were friends. Jesus wants our friendship too.
Pray with your heart, my brothers and sisters! Jesus wants a good conversation. So give it to Him! Share your feelings with Him! He wants to hear your raw emotions!
Martha and Mary still loved Jesus. They still humbled themselves before Him. But they also had that relationship where they could share their grief-stricken emotions directly with Him, too. So if you are hurting, if you are in despair, if you feel alone, if you are scared because of the uncertainty, if you have a loved one ill with this virus, if you are hungering for the Eucharist — tell Him! Have that conversation with the Lord! He wants to hear from you! You can still be respectful. You can still be reverent. But Jesus also wants to hear you out! He wants that emotional and passionate, good conversation! So give it to Him!
May the grace of our Lord continue to strengthen the Community of Christ the Redeemer of Atco, NJ. Thank you for welcoming me to your parish community a few weeks ago. May the blessings received from the Lenten Parish Mission continue to nourish your spirit during these challenging times. Peace my friends!
Stat crux dum volvitur orbis
The cross is steady while the world turns
The above title is a saying of the Carthusian monks, who allegedly have more Saints than any other order. The saying means that the Cross of Christ is our strength when life throws us curve balls.
Sometimes, curve balls make us see things from a different perspective. I received an email today sharing, “A BEAUTIFUL IDEA FOR PALM SUNDAY. It’ll soon be obvious, why it reminded me of my first Palm Sunday in Moyross, County Limerick.
As a friar, we customarily had public processions on Palm Sunday. In the South Bronx, for example, every year there was a house-bound woman who would lower her basket down with twine from the fifth floor of her tenement. Every year. What could top that?
Well, in Limerick we thought we could bump it up a notch. We planned to go through the streets with all the usual fanfare. But we even had a donkey! A real, live donkey—named Bethlehem.
We thought we had everything. I mean, donkey and all. But then came Palm Sunday. Our local pastor, Fr. O’Dea, dropped off our “palms.” You should’ve seen my bewildered face when I opened the box and, low and behold, it was filled with sprigs of evergreen. Evergreen? This isn’t Christmas! It’s called “Palm Sunday” for a reason, right?
But this is how they normally celebrate Palm Sunday in Ireland, a locality not so known for its palm trees.
It got me to pay closer attention to Sacred Scripture. Consider Matthew 21:8, as follows:
The very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and strewed them on the road.
Turns out that evergreen is just a relevant at Passiontide as Yuletide.
Life is full of curve balls. The Cross of Christ is the ultimate curve ball. It even shook our Blessed Mother to the core—albeit without sin.
But here’s the point: The point is that since Jesus won our salvation by being nailed to the Cross, then we ought to cling to it wholeheartedly amid life’s crazy curve balls like COVID-19.
The cross is steady while the world turns
In time of crisis, many people find different ways or strategies to cope with the difficulties and challenges at hand. As believers of God, we have our own unique ways. This past Friday, Pope Francis made a strong case for the Universal Church to come together to publicly make an act of faith in a special Holy Hour asking God for His help and intervention for the whole world dealing with COVID-19 virus. As I attentively observed and participated in this prayer service, I noticed the feelings of sadness and worries on the face of our pope as he prayed in front of the image of our Blessed Mother and the Crucifix of Christ. I have the same feelings as his. That evening was gloomy and rainy, and the emptiness of Saint Peter’s square made me felt even worse. This scene was an opportunity for me to place my faith in God more because no one can find the solution to the crisis now but only God alone. I invite you to continue to manifest our acts of faith personally and as a parish virtually.
Having place my faith in God, and recalling the many miracles that Jesus performed in the gospels, it gives me hope that all things are possible with God, while it is almost impossible for human beings to do or to know. As a result, I feel more at peace that this crisis will have an end, and God will be praised for His intervention.
With faith and hope, I feel the love that God continues to extend His love for me and for the whole world, as well as the love that so many first responders, healthcare professionals, and others are risking their lives to heal the sick and protect others. This is a very concrete way to live out the second greatest commandment “to love your neighbor as yourself”.
May we continue to place our faith, hope, and love in God in time of crisis!
As we begin another week living in the COVID-19 world, with its “Up to the Minute” TV news, have you noticed the number of commercials, between the reports, featuring statements by companies telling us that, “We are here for you now during this challenging time”? Some harder hit businesses, such as those in travel, hospitality and food, after reminding us of the obvious, “We’re all in this together,” state, that when this disruption of normalcy is over, “We will be ready to serve you better than before!” In addition to television, how about all the emails and texts from every company, bank, website and internet vendor you ever logged into? They are echoing the same message.
Is it just another advertising message, or more of a plea, so we won’t forget how important we’ve made them in our lives? A relationship for which the jury is still out for determining who benefits more, Our overall well being, or our contribution to their products’ market share.
Bottom line is their assertive ad campaign is their acknowledgment that they need to be part of our lives more than we think they need to part of ours. They don’t want us to ever say, where have you been when we needed you.
Perhaps in this challenging moment in the world’s history, some of us are asking this question of God, “Where are you when we need you, God?” Maybe we think this is a fair question but certainly it’s not original.
Throughout history’s desperate times, men and women have cried out this frightened call. The Jewish peoples’ forty year trek in the desert is a prime example. Fourteen times they shouted, “Where are you God?” and fourteen times they were answered with blessed relief for their needs. Another reference is one we heard in last Sunday’s Gospel (Fifth Sunday of Lent – John 11:1-45). Because I’ve similarly experienced where she was, I believe Martha’s words, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”, were spoken out of anger with Jesus because He did not respond to her plea in the time frame she thought was reasonable. Several days before she sent out a call, “Jesus, Where are you?Lazarus needs you! Mary and I need you! Come Now!”
As He answered so many others before, God replied to Martha. And like those others, He did so in HIS time – NOT Martha’s. Why? Be assured, it was not for wanting to prolong her worry, anguish or pain. Certainly, He could have healed Lazarus by simply willing it from afar. So why His delay?
Let’s recall Martha’s other prominent scene in scripture (Luke 10:38-42), her dinner party for Jesus. She is seen as somewhat of a control freak, i.e., having things her way in her time, was her norm. In that light, although last week’s Gospel was a moment of high importance for Lazarus, Jesus recognized it was to Martha’s greater benefit for her expectations to be put in check. Jesus knew she had faith, but He also knew that too often, it took a back row seat when it came to her need to comply with cultural norms and etiquette.
Aren’t we like the Jews in the desert and Martha? We have faith in God when He acts in the role of The Loving Father. It may be during the good times when we also put our relationship with Him onto a back row seat. Then when things go bad, we turn on Him the moment He doesn’t live up to our expectations, or when it becomes necessary for Him to correct our errant behavior. Just perhaps, we begin to think He needs us more than we need Him. Too often we get into trouble when we take on the Martha attitude of thinking WE are in control. We are not.
Other than for the relatively few surviving members of The Greatest Generation, we are recognizing this fact like no other time in the world’s history. Our attitudes of, doing what we want, when we want and with whoever we want are quarantined in check, whether we like it or not.
During this COVID-19 scare we need to recognize that we need to strengthen our faith in God’s will for what He wants us to learn. Just as His answer was not in the style or time expected by Martha or during the nomadic sojourn of the Jews, God is in control of the plight we are presently wandering. His wisdom will enlighten us in His time, to learn the lesson we need to know, for why we are in the grip of this virus. It will only be then that we hopefully may be able to echo Martha’s other words in John 11:22, “But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”
With these words of Faith, Martha admitted knowing that God was always with her, Mary and especially Lazarus. Just as we can be assured that God is always with us. We need not doubt His presence just because science has not received His cure for the COVID-19 as yet. On the contrary we need to express our Faith in Him on a greater scale. Now is our time, our hour of need to proclaim, “I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” His Love and protection are the only products we need to improve our bottom line. Remembering this will always reinforce our confidence that God will always be ready to serve us better than before COVID-19.
Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry
In recent days, I have heard people saying “I just can’t wait for things to be back to normal.” I even had that thought myself. I miss celebrating Mass in a church packed with people, I miss going to the gym, and I miss my softball practices, among many other things.
I had plenty of time to pray and reflect, and I have come to realize this. I don’t want things to go back to the way they were. Here are my thoughts …
First, I pray that the next time I am celebrating Mass in church full of people and listening to the voices of praise that I take a moment to thank God for the gift of congregation and community.
I pray that the next time I come across a person or situation that needs prayer, I will pray as passionately and fervently as I have these past few weeks.
I pray that I never again take for granted the ability to hop in the car and go to a Sixers game, go to the hospital to visit the sick, eat in a crowded restaurant, etc.
Therefore, while daily life will for sure return to “normal” one day, I don’t want things to return to the way they were. I pray that we take the lessons of sufferings and challenges of the past few weeks and create a new normal in the way we live our lives.
My goal is to pray more fervently, love harder, and truly appreciate the daily abundance of blessings that I have taken for granted just a few weeks ago.
It is easy to under estimate the power packed into little things. Consider, for example, the nuclear power released by splitting matter the size of an atom. Or consider the damage ignited by a single spark in last year‘s devastating fires out west. And then, there is that pesky microscopic coronavirus that causes COVID-19. How can such tiny, even minuscule things package so much power?
Msgr. Mannion reminded me recently that Chaos Theory is a branch of mathematics focused on systems where seemingly-random rules of disorder are governed by deterministic laws that are highly sensitive to the initial conditions. In essence, it looks at complex systems that can be significantly impacted by just a minor change.
One of the by-products of Chaos Theory is called the “Butterfly Effect,” discovered by an American mathematician and meteorologist named Edward Lorenz. Lorenz proved that a tornado could be influenced by a tiny butterfly flapping its wings two weeks before the disturbance, which can, in turn, impact its path and strength. Essentially, one slight, consistent movement, when organized, can create an unimaginably powerful force.
Yet, the power unleashed by small things is only not about doom and gloom. Atomic energy, for instance, may be used for good or evil. It is also worth noting that God was not found by the prophet Elijah in the raging storm or earthquake. Rather, God was found in the whispering wind – a small thing. Indeed! The smallest particle, or even piece of a particle, of the Eucharistic host is more powerful and greater in goodness than the mightiest nuclear energy, for it is God Himself.
Take not for granted the good you can do with the gift you have, perhaps unopened and untried; the dream you hold, perhaps unspoken; the care you feel, perhaps yet to be done; the love that is yours, perhaps not yet. shared. Opportunities and situations await your action and response, that others may be helped, inspired, gratified by the presence of the unique person that is you.
What does that little thing even meaning to do but just don’t seem to get to it just because it won’t make that much of a difference anyway? Just do it!
Helping one another can easily inspire others to do the same, for Compassion is Contagious.
As is my daily prayer, my hope that you and your families are well in all things, and in particular, have managed to escape the daily threat of the health effects of COVID-19, goes out to each of you.
Today in the Camden Diocese, the Tuesday of Holy Week, has traditionally been when our Bishops have celebrated The Chrism Mass. But this year, in accordance with our current need for social distancing, it is not taking place. Another wise and prudent decision by Bishop Dennis Sullivan for assisting to bring an end to the grip of this virus. He has announced to all pastors this Mass will be celebrated on a future and safer date. (As a point of clarity, Holy Thursday is the official day for the Chrism Mass, and is separate from the celebration of The Liturgy of The Lord’s Supper which always stakes place in the evening of Holy Thursday. Universally, diocesan bishops have the option of moving the Chrism Mass to another day in Holy Week.)
I am confident that most of you are able, by its title, to determine what takes place at this celebration. Yes, the Sacred Chrism is consecrated, and two other sacramental oils, used in the administering of the Sacraments are blessed by diocesan bishops throughout the Catholic world.
As the science world seeks to find a medicine to totally eradicate COVID-19, slow it down or at least build up our immunity, this may be an appropriate time for remembering the physical, but more importantly the spiritual curing and strengthening capabilities of the sacred oils which the Church has been using for centuries.
The Chrism Mass has another significance that I believe also needs to be remembered in this time of fear due to the unknowns surrounding the COVID-19. The fear that prompts us to ask, “What will happen if I or my loved one needs help?” That help of course, will need to come from the people that we have learned to respectfully title, “heroes”, and rightfully so.
Compiling the short list of heroes for immediately saving life is easy. No one needs much help with that one. EMT’s, police officers, emergency room staff, doctors, nurses, let’s not forget the researchers. Then there are the lists that have what some may also lavish “hero” because as these quarantine days multiply, we come to the realization of how much we need each other, as opposed to the popular thought of, “It’s all about me.” That list might even contain the truck driver delivering toilet paper to my Shop Rite store, but I’ll stop there for now.
Getting back to the importance of the Chrism Mass. As I write this I am impelled to suggest that perhaps this liturgy is mistitled or at least needs to be co-titled to include what I think is highly important and noteworthy. Because what contributes to it being one of the most beautiful and important liturgies celebrated during the liturgical year is what happens at the end of the bishop’s homily. Every priest present rededicates themselves and their service to him and to the Church. An action that may precede the necessity for oils, in light of our understanding to be that the Eucharist is the summit of our Catholic Faith and the forgiveness and absolution through Penance cannot be exercised without our priests commitment to their vocation to their priesthood.
These priests, among them Fr. Mann and Fr. Pham, are on my list of heroes. Their reception of Holy Orders at their ordination and their recommitment at every Chrism Mass solidifies their devotion to God and energizes their daily dedication to our Church. Their promise is what allows them to care for us in the normal times of our lives. Their commitment is what awakens them from much needed sleep so they can anoint the sick and dying with the oils sacramentalized at the Chrism Mass. Blessings that are made regardless of the hour, weather, or health-risking pandemics.
Regardless of when Bishop Sullivan dates the Chrism Mass or if the oils need replenishing, I am very confident our priests’ will hold true to their commitments. Let us remember them in our daily prayers and be thankful for their commitment to their vocation.
Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry.
“Surely it is not I.” In today’s daily Mass Gospel reading (Matthew 26:14-25) we hear Judas Iscariot respond this way during the last supper when Jesus tells his Apostles that he will be betrayed by one of those present. Now, from our present age we can be very quick to point out how naïve of Judas to think that he can fool Jesus. It was both Judas’ arrogance and selfish ignorance that got him to the point where he thought he could sin without Jesus knowing. But, don’t we do the same thing? How often do we find ourselves going back to the same sins that we confessed years, months, weeks or even days ago? We act in the same manner as Judas when we promise to sin no more during the Act of Contrition but then place ourselves near the same people, places or things that led us to sin prior. We must remember, it wasn’t out of the blue that Judas betrayed Jesus. Judas grew in his comfort of sin over the years. In another Gospel (John 12:1-6) we learn that Judas as keeper of the group’s money bag was secretly (so he thought) stealing from them. Judas most likely started sinning in small ways that led to stealing donated money and eventually led to him accepting money for information on Jesus’ whereabouts. By Judas providing Jesus’ location, it led to Jesus’ capture and eventual death. Imagine being responsible for any normal person’s death, let alone be responsible for Jesus’ death. How terrible an idea. But, it’s not just a thought, it’s reality. Jesus died on that cross not just for those sins committed by Judas, he died for all of humanity’s sins since Adam and Eve, right up until today with our individual sins. There’s a saying that there’s no Easter Sunday joy without the Good Friday pain.
For many of us, the last month or so living in the world with the Coronavirus may have felt like endless pain. Many of us may have been laid off or furloughed from work, some of us may have cared for a family member that tested positive, some may have relatives or friends that died due to this virus and we weren’t allowed to attend the funeral. Perhaps a few of us may have tested positive ourselves. For many, it seems like life has been at a standstill for most of this Lent. I have found myself far too many times since March just trying to remember what day of the week it was as the days keep merging into each other during this national shut down. Hopefully each of us over the next few days of Holy Week will take some time to reflect on this experience. Have we helped our neighbor by dropping off some food to the local food pantry? Have we faithfully “attended” Mass every Sunday by watching the Parish web-site live Mass videos? Have we given alms to the poor via mail or online? Have we eaten too much out of boredom instead of fasting for Lent? Have we found ourselves during this time doing the same old sins? Overall, when we get to the end of our life’s journey what will our response be to Jesus when he asks, “have we spent our time, talent and treasure wisely?”. Hopefully to that question, your answer won’t be, “Surely Not I”.
Believe it or not, today is only Thursday. Our Christian Passover has arrived. Add a Jewish Passover meal, which is the context of the last supper, the youngest present—typically a child—asks why this night is different from any other night. We might ask ourselves that same question in terms of our Christian passover.
In the Jewish Passover, the elder—serving as the father and presiding over the rituals—reminds all those present of the marvelous things God accomplished through Moses and the events of the exodus, from slavery in Egypt. From a Christian perspective, this obviously foreshadows our great exodus from slavery under Satan and exile outside the kingdom of God. The fruit of our Christian exodus, presided over by Christ, is that we now can live in the freedom of the children of God, destined for our final redemption in heaven.
The obvious answers to what makes this night different for Christians is of course the Jesus instituted the priesthood in the Eucharist, which are inseparably linked. These two mysteries, the priesthood and the Eucharist, are inseparably enshrined in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Saint John Paul the great wrote in one of his encyclicals that without the priesthood there would be no Eucharist, and without the Eucharist, there would be no Church. In short, our very existence depends on what happened on this holy night and continues to happen in each and every Sacrifice of the Holy Mass—right to this very moment.
As amazing as these truths are, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out something else that distinguishes this night from all others. On this night, Jesus Christ—GOD—surrenders Himself into the human condition at its very worst. Betrayal. False accusations. Political intrigue. Denial of truth. Cowardice. Ultimately, scourging, mockery and crucifixion.
As horrible as COVID-19 is, in the balance it is nothing compared to the pandemic of sin unleashed by Adam, a spiritually infectious disease that plagues humanity—that led Jesus to the Cross. So, the critical question is whether we surrender ourselves to Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior in the confident knowledge let this night does not end in doom and destruction, but in resurrection and life.
Pope Francis spoke these words on Wednesday, 8 April 2020:
Dear Brothers and Sisters:
At this time of anxiety and suffering caused by the current pandemic, we all face uncertainty and may ask where God is to be found in this situation. During these days of Holy Week, we can find solace in the account of the Passion of Jesus. Our Lord also faced questions, with many wondering whether he really was the promised Messiah. It was only after his death that a centurion confirmed that Jesus truly was the Son of God. He did this after seeing Christ suffer silently on the Cross, which teaches us that God’s power is revealed in humble and self- sacrificial love. We, like the disciples, may have preferred the Lord to manifest his strength by resolving our problems according to our own measure of what is right. Yet the death and resurrection of Jesus show that while earthly power passes away, only love endures forever. Dear brothers and sisters, let us draw courage from our crucified and risen Lord, who embraces our fragility, heals our sins, and draws us close to him, transforming our doubts into faith and our fears into hope.
The Passover and exodus were only the beginning for the Jews. Then there was the trials of 40 years in the desert for their purification. Only then, did they enter triumphantly into the holy land.
So, it begins our Christian passover with the sacrifice of the Lamb of God. His very Flesh and Precious Blood will nourish us in our Eucharistic meal—or at least our Spiritual Communion. Holy Saturday might remind us of our journey into the desert. It seems to me, that this time of coronavirus quarantine is just that—a desert for purification of the human race.
But then comes the great news: JESUS CHRIST IS RISEN FROM THE TOMB!
As we contemplate and celebrate the Paschal mystery, albeit from the desert, may the Lord grant us renewed strength to fully surrender ourselves to Him, Who first surrendered Himself into our hands.
Normally speaking, no one wants to be in crisis. From my personal experience, I would feel scared, confused, and greatly upset because I find my normal routine has been greatly disrupted. Because I am in a new life situation now that I’m not familiar with. As I try to cope and adapt with the new lifestyle, the frequent result is stress and worse of all is depression. A few weeks ago, I read on the news of some people who are not able to cope with the sheltering at home and social distancing lifestyle that they committed suicide. I felt very sad knowing that news.
A few years ago, I had my own “personal crisis” that caused me great sadness and stressed me out. I even had a mild depression. As I was finding people and ways to help myself, I was able to come to find a book called “Emotional Intelligence” by Daniel Goleman. The number one key to deal with crisis is positive thinking. Because in time of crisis, our minds naturally fill with negativity, as I could attest to this truth. Positive thinking is very powerful tool to combat negative feelings and negative thinking. I took the advise to heart and began to think more positively of my personal crisis situation by counting my many blessings from God that I still have. As a result, a great sense of relief rushed into my mind and my heart. I picked myself up from the pit and was motivated to find the solutions to my life’s personal crisis. From that point on, I always recommend to anyone, who comes to me for confession or advice in time of their own personal crisis, to have positive thinking in time of crisis by counting their blessings that they still have and that there’s always a solution to any issue or crisis in life.
As we continue to deal with the COVID-19 crisis, I invite you to join me in having positive thinking to get through this crisis individually and together as a whole by naming all the blessings that you still have now and then thank God for them. Recently I come to find the following chart to help us to use positive thinking in time of crisis.
Like the Lenten Season we have just completed, this Triduum will continue to be one of firsts. The normalcies of these three sacred days are passing by with but a fraction of their beauty exercised and experienced by Catholics, and as well for the majority of the Christian world.
For us Catholics, Holy Thursday’s Mass of The Lord’s Supper did not offer us the reminder of practicing humility via our priests washing the feet of parishioners, or allow us to witness the procession of Christ’s Holy Eucharist from its centralized Tabernacle. Its absence served another reminder, that as a community, we would not be able to physically participate in the celebration of Mass in our traditional manner the following day.
Again, yesterday on Good Friday, the absence of the public commemoration of The Passion of the Lord with its veneration of the Cross by our fellow global parishioners was another Church first. And locally for us at Christ the Redeemer, the suspension of physically gathering in real time for our Live Stations was disappointing. Thankfully technology permits us to appreciate the 38 year tradition.
And today, Holy Saturday’s Easter Vigil liturgy will also be scaled to the world’s bishops’ local guidelines appropriate to their dioceses. These modifications are disappointing of course, but I believe it is necessary for all humanity to recognize, that because God love us, in God’s wisdom and His will, there is a purpose in His mind for them at this moment in our lives. This, I believe, and it is why I write at the end of these reflections Padre Pio’s words, “Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry!”
Remember these lines from Proverbs (3:5-6, 11-12);
Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
on your own intelligence do not rely;
In all your ways be mindful of him,
and he will make straight your paths…
The discipline of the LORD, my son, do not spurn;
do not disdain his reproof;
For whom the LORD loves he reproves,
as a father, the son he favors.
Certainly, there are unknowns right now, and there are things missing from the general normalcies of life, particularly in our traditional Church liturgies this year. But we should continue to have faith in the purpose I speak of, and believe. This moment, however long, is temporary both in our timeline and God’s. We need to be patient as well as faithful, not just in the short term but for the long haul.
Imagine Jesus’ disciples on that first Saturday after that first Good Friday 2000 years ago. Today we have the benefit of knowing what they did not – Jesus rose from the dead. Talk about the “unknown”. What we fret about is nothing in comparison. For some of them, the man they were hoping would free them from so many more serious conditions, were left with not only disappointment but fear of being subject to a similar end. We have seen the benefits of believing. We have the benefits of witnessing the testimonies of saints and accepting the countless miracles serving as evidence of God’s hand in our lives. These are the proofs that the disciples hoped for on that Saturday 2000 years ago. When we are patiently faithful, we need not fear what appears to be unknown to us. Nothing is unknown to Him.
Have a Happy and Blessed Easter Season.
“Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry!”
Jesus fully aware that He must face His passion and death at the hands of His enemies for the salvation of mankind. Therefore, He embraced this hardship wholeheartedly by taking upon Himself all of our sins so as to be “a sinner” and paid at the cost of His life on the cross. With the view of his upcoming resurrection that His passion and death would not end in destruction, He knows that His resurrection will be the victory of sin and death. As we just completed our Holy Week 2020, this makes me think of our current crisis that we have been facing for almost a month now, and we are still very much in the midst of this crisis leading up to Good Friday that Christ endured. More restrictions are being placed upon us and social distancing is probably going to be at least a few more months. The gloomy of the passion and death are still upon us because no true cure or vaccine are confirmed yet. Nevertheless, I think of what Jesus went through during Holy Week as a source of strength and motivation because this crisis will pass. It will not be here forever. We will beat this virus and move on to newness of life after the crisis. The victory will be ours. I think of us going through a major hurricane with strong winds, heavy rain for several inches, and hail big as a golf ball. It certainly causes much destruction as it goes through like uprooting trees, fallen trees onto streets and homes, flooding, and car accidents, where people are ordered by the state governor to stay home, and travel only when necessary, or find a safe place to stay for safety. Nevertheless, the hurricane does not stay here forever, and eventually all those negative forces will go by and the sun will come out again, and at times rainbow comes out to display the beauty and goodness of new life after the hurricane.
Just as Jesus conquers COVID-19 by His resurrection from the dead, we too, with the help of God, will beat this virus and get through this crisis.
May God be praised, now and forever!
He has risen! Our Lenten journey has come to an end! We have completed Holy
Week. Good Friday has passed and Easter is here! The hard part is over, right?
Well, not so fast. The Easter Monday morning routine we may have had last year is a bit different this year, ok a lot different. Instead of spreading some Easter joy to co-workers or eating leftover candy or driving out of town relatives back to the airport, instead of our kids beginning their Easter break from school, we are all on a “break” from the world courtesy of the coronavirus. Many of us probably were dressed in our Easter best pj’s this year and participated in Mass from our living-room pew. Some may have even spent the day thinking it would have been better if the Pope just moved Easter to a Sunday in May or June where it would be alot more convenient. But, if we take a step back, this “new” virus world is a great reminder that we too often put off Jesus from our lives until it’s much more convenient. Too many of us hold off on speaking to God until we find an extra minute that never arrives. Some of us over the years may have even skipped a Sunday Mass or two thinking, “Well, I’ll just go next Sunday, after all I gave God three of my four Sundays this month”. As we sit in this adult version of “time out”, maybe we are missing the point. Yes, our government leaders rightly are telling us that we must stay inside to protect each other’s lives. But, what if God also wants to tell us something during this time?
If we return to our “normal” lives in (hopefully) a few weeks and we haven’t changed, then how sad; what a missed opportunity if we walk back into the world the same. Yes, it might be a great time to repaint our houses or fix that fence that we’ve been meaning to complete, but if we don’t use this time to deepen or mend our relationship with God, then all of this home time truly will be wasted. If we haven’t felt the loss of the Eucharist, then maybe it’s time we talk to God. If we haven’t felt the loss of seeing each other at Mass and exchanging the sign of peace, then maybe it’s time we pick up the phone and call a fellow parishioner. If you haven’t felt a loss in not being able to go to confession, then maybe it’s time to have a conversation with Jesus. In life we usually get to pick convenient times to reach out to family and friends and drive around South Jersey when we feel like it. Fortunately for us, Jesus didn’t wait until it was convenient for him to hang on that cross and he didn’t wait until it was convenient for him to rise from the dead. So, maybe just maybe, each of us will find the time now and after the virus is behind us to deepen that personal daily relationship with Jesus. After all, he’s been patiently waiting for you.
May God be praised!
If you dropped an object into the middle of the vast ocean you would know, with deep certainty, that this object would get wet. The immensity of the ocean would consume it. So it is with the Mercy of God. It is immense and infinite. Therefore, if you trust in His Mercy, you can have a deep certainty that you will obtain it (See Diary of St. Faustina #420).
Do you trust that God will bestow His infinite Mercy upon you? The goal is to be certain of this. We do not arrive at this certainty because of our own goodness; rather, we arrive at it as a result of the unfathomable and infinite Mercy of the Most Holy Trinity.
Lord, I love You and I desire to trust in Your perfect Mercy to the point that there is no doubt in my mind and heart that You will bestow this precious gift. Help me to trust in Your Mercy because of Your infinite goodness. Purify me of all doubt, dear Lord, and help me to trust You more. Jesus, I trust in You.
*We welcome Deacon Omar as a guest author for today’s reflection. As you may recall, he was with us at the beginning of March to preach our parish Lenten mission.
Right now I am thinking, “How is my business going to survive through this pandemic? I have to re-tool and figure out how I am going to advertise my products for the manufacturing market before my line of credit runs out!” (When I am not doing ministry, I run a small machining business with my brother.) I have to pay the bills and provide for my family like everyone else. Since this pandemic hit, the phone stopped ringing and the emails stopped coming in. Oh no! Being self-employed you have to stay on top of things, figure out new strategies to market yourself, or else you don’t eat.
And yes, I will admit that my thoughts turn into worries with how am I going to pay the bills? While I am trying to cope with all of this that is going on and the reality that we are in as a nation — my buddy, Fr. Mann asked me to contribute a reflection for the parish’s website. My first thought (before I said, “Yes, I would be happy to do so”) was “What I am going to share with the people of Christ the Redeemer Parish Community? I am so uninspired right now. My mind is too preoccupied with worries.”
And then it hit me as I was doing my evening prayer — I heard that loud voice inside of me — “You BIG DOPE! Have some faith! Wake up! Then the memories began to come back of all the previous tough times I experienced in life and I began to put the pieces together of how the grace of God had always lifted me up during those times of worry and stress. Then I recited the Lord’s Prayer — I mediated for a while on the words, “Give us this day our daily bread….”
In one way or another, the Lord always takes care of us. Today as I write this reflection, the business phone rang in the morning, and a customer who runs an essential business placed a large order for an immediate delivery. This order gives us “bread” for next month! Praise God!
So what is the lesson learned from all of this — that is OK to worry and still have faith. What is most important is to still make time to pause and pray even if you do have a long list of worries. Do not let those worries take you away from nourishing your spirit with prayer. Share those worries with the Lord, and keep the faith that God may close doors, but He will open other doors. He will provide, and more importantly we will become a better version of ourselves persevering through our trials.
As I reflect on the current crisis that we are in right now. I realize that it is utmost important for all of us to have teamwork in able to beat the COVID-19 crisis which has caused our country and the world greatly for over a month now. This pandemic is a great enemy that is not easily beaten because we have not found its weaknesses and ways to defeat it yet, that is, the cure and vaccine for us to defeat it.
This makes me think of major sports in our country. About 3 years ago, the Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl VII. It required much teamwork in able to achieve their major goal. Through out the season and even in the playoffs, some keys players got hurt and those backup players had to fill in and stepped up to their new challenge that they had never encounter before. Most players and coaches had never been to the Super Bowl before either and tremendous pressure were placed upon them to succeed in a single game. Through out the big game, they had to work together well each in their own position for each particular play. The one well known play that has been mentioned much and will become a part of history whenever this super bowl game is mentioned is “Philly Special”. It showed great teamwork for it to work well and was successful.
As we are in this crisis together, we really need to have teamwork in able to beat this crisis. We often hear on the news about the healthcare professionals and first responders being in the front line in this battle. They need us to fight with them as well by sheltering at home, wash your hands regularly, and keep social distancing to slow down the spread of the virus. Otherwise, we ourselves and those around us will increase the number of those being infected and those in the front line will not be able to take care of us all. Therefore, I hope each one of us do our part in this battle and work together as a team to beat the great enemy, COVID-19 crisis.
The Risen Christ has defeated sin and death, and brings newness of life. With His help, may we together as a team defeat this crisis soon and have a newness of life as well.
To Whom Do YOU Belong?
Once upon a time, as a Corporal in the Marines, I was assigned to a crowd control detail at MCAS El Toro, California. It may not sound like a big deal, but it was at the time the second largest annual event in the United States—just under the Indie 500. There were well over one hundred thousand on-lookers over the weekend.
It was in no way an easy assignment. The week leading into it involved training in crowd control techniques—in the intense California summer heat on the blacktop tarmac. We mostly had to stand in one place for seemingly endless hours literally baking in the sunshine. Our feet paid the price worst of all: First, we were standing all day long without a break. Aggravating the matter, however, is that the uniform of the day was service charlies. That uniform requires spit-shined dress shoe. My feet were actually red from the heat. I don’t think there were a hundred of us assigned to this mammoth crowd; we could have been overrun so easily. But we had to hold the line, which we did.
For all of our troubles, each Marine was sent home with a rather ridiculous, if not humorous, souvenir—sarcastically called “a combat V.” It was the mark left on all of our forehead caused by the part of our service cover (i.e. hat) that was not exposed to the sun like the better part of our foreheads.
For the most part, the week was without incident—except for that man who was suddenly stricken by a heart attack. Sprung into action according to the protocol as per our crash course training. Basically, we called for medics and formed a perimeter to make space for the victim to preserve his privacy and to make room for the medics. At the same time, there was a bulging crowd constantly pressing forward. We had to hold them back.
The adults were challenging enough, but there was a little girl—seven or eight years old at most. She proved quite pesky. Despite repeated warnings to stay behind the established line, she kept crossing over. Not once. Not twice. But three times—at which point I yelled at the girl, “Where is your mother!” She burst into tears, but she no doubt found her mother. (I did feel bad because I didn’t mean to make her cry.)
Where is your mother? That’s just another way of asking the little girl, “Who is responsible for you? Who gives you security?” Ultimately, “To whom do you belong?”
I am very grateful for your prayers and support during these times which, like the crowd at that air show, might seem so overwhelming. I certainly pray for all of you.
Many people inquire in one or another way as to how I am doing. Personally, I’m fairing quite well. Honestly, I don’t have time to be anxious or panic-stricken. That being said, I also sense a lot of angst in many of you. So I don’t mean to be dismissive of how folks deal with things emotionally.
Actually, my point is to simply share with you a verse in Sacred Scripture that is the source of my strength and courage in adversity. Romans 14:8, which is as follows:
For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.
Remembering to Whom I belong, remembering the Cross upon which He proved the magnitude of His love, and remembering His promise: “The gates of Hell will not prevail;” is where I find peace and security.
How about YOU?
We are in the fifth week of the crisis now as I reflected on this journey that we are in. I am sure that many if not all would agree with me my following reflection. The first two weeks of lockdown with one restriction came after another every single day from our governor and our bishop, it was traumatic for me because the events that were planned for the next few months were being cancelled or postponed until further notice, causing me to constantly making adjustment and feeling frustrated and disappointed. I felt overwhelmed, and mentally and physically drained. The number of people being infected rose quickly and the number of deaths from the virus reported was high for a single day everyday. I think this crisis caught all of us by surprised and no one was ready for it. Hence we panic and try to get a handle of it as a state and as a country.
As we move on into the third and fourth weeks, I notice that we have a lot of resources in our country that could aid us quickly to provide the help where needed and to flattening the curve. In this fifth week, our country is making plans to reopen the economy and helping us to get back to our normal lifestyle. This I call it “the recovery process”. This saying makes me think of my first year in the seminary right after high school, I had a hairline fracture of my right wrist from playing indoor soccer. I slipped and fell awkwardly. I felt so much pain and swelling, and couldn’t do anything with that right hand. Hence I had to go to the hospital for help and the doctor put a cast on my right wrist. After that, I was officially in recovery process, which included that I had to wear this cast for a month, and dealing with much discomfort and inconveniences, and even after the cast was taken off, it took me two more months to fully recover from this injury. I am sure you have your own story of an injury that you had which involved much more things to be done and longer time to recover.
This current crisis is a major injury that we have and therefore requires a longer time to recover from it. In the meantime, I don’t think we are still being hurt by it at its peak. Rather I believe that we are in the recovery process now, despite any discomfort or inconvenience that we have to endure. I am certain that eventually we will make a full recovery and become stronger than ever before in all aspects.
You may recall an old TV donut commercial where the local store owner would get up very early every morning and always tell his wife before leaving the home, “time to make the donuts”. For many of us today, we might wish we were that donut maker for a few reasons: he actually gets to leave the house in a world without the coronavirus, he’s got a job to go to and he’s got a good daily routine that doesn’t consist of having to decide between wearing the casual sweatpants or the more formal pj’s. If we are not too careful, we might even fall into a routine of forgetting about our faith by rationalizing that it’s ok to put God on hold for now until we are allowed back into the Church building for Mass. Having this national shut-down can make it very easy to put our prayer life on hold- “oh, I’ll say that rosary once we get back in the pew” or “no use checking on other Church members, I’m sure they’re ok and just going through the same stuff I am daily” or “well, no sense in watching that daily or Sunday Parish Mass on the internet since it’s not the same as being there” or even “well, no sense in mailing in or submitting online my weekly offering even if I have the money as God will understand”. All things that probably crossed (no pun intended) our minds since our lives were placed on “hold” in March. So, what should our daily routine look like then?
Each of us has been bonded together by our baptism and this doesn’t change just because the outside world has changed. We are still called to love and serve the Lord in this life so we can live with him for all eternity once this life’s journey is over. As baptized Catholics we are still called to a daily personal relationship with Jesus. We are still called to care for our neighbors even if we can’t stand face to face with them right now out of health concerns. We are still called to be the Church and not just wait till we can sit in a Church building. At the end of every Mass, even those online, we are not dismissed to go sit in our living-rooms. We are instructed by the Deacon or Priest to go back into the world to bring Christ to others and then return the following Sunday again to be refreshed and renewed for another week in the world announcing the Gospel to others. That duty to go and glorify the Lord by our lives of service to others is needed even more today. Be creative in how you serve God and others: buy a little extra at the store for a food pantry, donate what you can to a worthy charity, watch Mass online to receive Jesus spiritually and to receive his call to serve. Set a daily schedule of prayer and action during this “downtime” in our lives. Then, just like that donut maker, you can rise each morning and remind your family and yourself that it’s time to make good on your baptismal promises.
May God be praised!
Each year, during the Easter Season we hear passages from St. Luke’s Acts of the Apostles, as offerings for The Holy Mass’ First Readings. In them we are reminded of the early evangelical encounters of the apostles and others, after being filled with the Holy Spirit as promised by Jesus. On the Wednesday of the Easter Octave in Acts 3:1-10 we heard of Peter and John passing through one of the 8 gates leading to the Temple area on their way to celebrating one of the holy Jewish feasts. At this “Beautiful Gate” there is a beggar who is crippled. Luke makes a point to inform us that this man needed to be carried and brought to his spot at the gate every day. He had to rely on the help of others or eventually he would die.
The beggar gets their attention by his cries for financial help. But they let him know that financially they are no better off than he is. But Peter doesn’t ignore him either. This is what he offers, “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.” And as Luke tells us, Then Peter took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles grew strong.
Peter did what he was able to do because of the power and Spirit of Jesus. He could not give the man lunch money or a more comfortable mat to lay on, but he shared with him the gifts that Jesus gave to him. At this moment in time we all find ourselves along with our fellow brothers and sisters, somewhat crippled. Not shackled by useless limbs at a public gate, but pacing to and froe in our quarantined spaces, begging for an end to our confinement. Like the beggar at the gate, we are in need of relief, and like him we cry out for help. Fortunately, there are many good people from countless professions listening to the global shout for assistance. For this we should be thanking God for their willingness to dedicate their skills and tireless efforts, to bring the relief available, as well as their continued attempts for finding a lasting remedy to this virus.
Just as those who are working towards an end to this pandemic, we, in turn, should reflect on what our contributions can be. Taking a moment to do so, will certainly alert us to the skills we possess via the gifts we have been given. Gifts that we can bring to the aid of those we hear cry out.
A simple question to ask ourselves may be this, “Have we done what we could to assist those we have passed since this crippling virus incapacitated their lives?” We may not be part of the essential workforce on the front lines of combatting COVID-19, but, we all can be like Peter and John by offering what we do have in the name of Jesus. Think about these for example:
a) For the those providing frontline care,
b) For our leaders that correct decisions are made,
c) For our homebound and reach out to them frequently,
d) A prayer of Thanksgiving, that you and your family are healthy.
2) Don’t forget the Rosary – Mary has answered the cries of so many of her desperate children throughout history. She will today as well. Let’s not forget what we have the ability to do in name of her son, Jesus Christ. Never Forget —- because of His unconditional love and infinite mercy we are all essential.
Pray — Hope —- Don’t Worry.
At Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia where I was trained and formed as a priest, there is a long tunnel that connects the two major buildings, one for college seminarians and the other one is for those in graduate study of theology. One of the main reasons for having this tunnel at the time of its creation is for the protection of seminarians in time of persecution of the Church. While I was there, I used it mainly during cold weather or snowing or raining. The tunnel is equipped with lights to guide along the path. One day while I was using it, the whole seminary’s power went out. It was pitch black. Hence I panic and felt scared because I could not see a thing around me. I froze for a few minutes to cope and adapt to this sudden change in my life. My hands were moving around to feel things as though I was blind. Thanks be to God that the thought of using my cellphone to provide light to guide me along came together mind. Hence I quickly took out my cellphone and turned the phone light on. I was in the midst of uncertainty each step from there on as I walked slowly and carefully. The road to the other end of the tunnel took much longer than normally. As I got closer to the end of the tunnel, the power went back on. The tunnel was filled with lights again. I was jumping for joy because all my fears and worries were quickly dismissed. The tunnel that I know of and the things surrounding it came back to me. I was happy and thanked God for the lights.
We have been in the darkness of this crisis for over a month now, and we are “seeing the light at the end of the tunnel” because our president, a few days ago, came out with a plan for each state to reopen economy and promising to monitor and provide whatever is needed for each state. In response to that, our Governor Phil Murphy said on Monday the 20th that within the next few days, he will announce plans to reopen our state.
I feel uplifted and excited just to know that. Even though we may not end this crisis altogether or get back to normal right away, at least “we see the light at the end of the tunnel” which will dismiss fears and worries. Let us keep moving along safely and protect each other as we are about to arrive to the end of the tunnel.
May the light of the Risen Christ shine in our hearts and guide us along each day of our lives!
The following quotation recently came across my path: “Find your purpose, your passion, your unique place in the world… and fight for it.” I have no idea who to whom to attribute it, but it rings true. It rings true existentially (i.e. for each individual), and it rings true ecclesiastically (i.e. for the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ).
This raises two key questions. What is YOUR purpose, YOUR unique place in the world? What is the purpose of the CHURCH in the world?
Interestingly, the answers to both questions are interrelated. The purpose of each human life is to achieve beatitude—that is, to get to Heaven. The Baltimore Catechism answers the question as follows: “To know, love and serve God in this life, and to be happy with him in the next life.” The Church was established to get each soul to Heaven through the ministries of teaching, governing and sanctifying—all in the manner of Jesus Christ, Who is Prophet, King and Priest. This tripartite mission of the Church is integrally bound to the preaching, hierarchy and sacraments, all ordered to the salvation of individual souls.
So, what then do we need to fight for?
The worldly culture of death holds the utilitarian notion that to be human is to be resourceful, to be useful. Life has purpose only to the extent one do something of value to others outside of one’s own person. When a person is no longer useful, he or she becomes disposable. At life’s extremes, we can think of utterly helpless preborn babies as well as the aged and infirm. Abortion and euthanasia are the utilitarian solution to useless people. Hence, the Church’s unswerving defense of the sanctity of the human person as an existential reality above and beyond each person’s utility.
Another false notion of the human person is called philosophical materialism, which either outright rejects or simply ignores human beings as spiritual beings created in the image and likeness of God. Those who espouse this view reduce men and women to being only bodily beings with no reference to the soul. We see this in our current COVID-19 crisis. Clearly, the soul is being written off as less important than the body.
This hit me hard yesterday. One of our parishioners is on a ventilator with COVID-19. The prognosis cannot be good. As one entrusted with the care of souls, I made every reasonable attempt to provide the sacraments of the Church (our most powerful help to get to Heaven). But to no avail. The best I could do was to drive the hospital and offer absolution and the final blessing from a distance. It was my most sad hospital visit ever.
Now, I trust that God desires the salvation of souls more than I do. I know first and foremost that He is not bound by the sacraments as we are. I know too that the Church, ever solicitous for the salvation of souls has made special provisions for the faithful who are deprived of the sacraments through COVID-19. I have every confidence that God will be merciful to those who desire the sacraments and are unable to receive them for one reason or another.
THAT IS NOT THE POINT.
The point is that the freedom to practice our Catholic Faith is a basic human right, enshrined in the First Amendment of the U. S. Constitution. The point is that it is inordinate to value the services of those who care for the body to the detriment of those who care for the soul. It simply is not the same for a doctor to lose a patient as it is for a priest to lose a soul. The difference is immeasurable. We have to take the coronavirus seriously. But social distancing cannot mean sacramental distancing. We have to fight for the freedom to worship (with reasonable constraints). We have to fight for the rights of the faithful to never be denied the sacraments in their most needful moment by government fiat—or that of some hospital administrator not operating with the proper priorities.
WE HAVE A LOT TO FIGHT FOR!
As this quarantine began, I was very nervous of how things in life would go over the next few months. Work for myself and my wife, school for my kids and life in general. Once we settled in for a week, I started to understand that we did so many activities outside of the house on a weekly basis. In themselves these activities are completely harmless, even beneficial for the kids in their social growth. However, I did start to understand how, if done in excess and not in balance with our family life at home, they could lead to a separation of our family values. This made me feel better about the situation we found ourselves, despite some of the negative effects it was having on the country and the world. Now I will be able to spend more time with the kids, now I will be able to pray more with my family like I always said I was going to do. Well we did, at least for a few days, and then somehow, we became distracted again. How was this possible? We are in the house together with no outside activities, yet we have become distracted from each other!
You see what I realized is that although I thought the distraction lie with external things like sports, dance, piano, meetings, dirt bikes, etc.… they don’t. The real distraction lies inside of me! Because even with all of these things gone, it is still happening. Our fallen nature still tempts us to ignore God at times, but the Holy Spirit that dwells within us compels us to turn back to God. So, I got back to the basics, the fundamental lesson I learned so long ago. The call to be holy. It is our universal call to holiness as Christians. But what is holiness? How can we achieve it? How can we be holy if we are all stuck in our homes?
We have to take each and every moment during the day and give it over to God. When I wake up in the morning, I offer the next hour to God and ask his will to be done just for that hour. I will pray, read a good book or do some work if I need to. You see, if you take the time and just go through your day with God one hour at a time, it doesn’t seem so overwhelming, so daunting. The more and more we do this, the closer we come to holiness. Holiness is simply giving of ourselves and our own will and humbling ourselves to ask God what he wants of us, and then trying our best to do it.
When this all passes and we get back to all the visual distractions in our lives we will be better equip to balance them out with our family life, prayer life and social life. Try it now, give this next hour over to God and allow him to work in your life.
May God bless you all!
In addition to those of us who have been contributing reflections to this website, a common lament shared in a COVID-19, quarantined lifestyle, or perhaps more often, bemoaned about by the general populace, is, “When will normalcy return to the world, and more importantly, to my part of it?” Unfortunately, as of this writing there is still no clear idea of the answer. Consequently, enhancing our need to remain patient, calm, and prudent as we search for additional, novel ways to deal with this novel Coronavirus continues for all of us.
While preparing my reflection for celebrating Holy Hour this past Wednesday, I was moved to attempt to recapture a concentration on the Jesus Himself and deemphasize the virus. In doing so I recalled my past, spiritually beautiful moments I was privileged to experience before His Blessed Presence. Most of my greatest encounters with Him took place during my 28 years of Private Adoration, as a retreatant at the Malvern Retreat House. It was then, I realized that my annual June trek to St. Joseph’s In The Hills would also be on hold until we return to normal. Moving along in my prep I recalled all the graces received during those private moments at Malvern and how they helped shape the person I am right now. In the early years, the “Red” retreat manual contained a prayer that set the stage for those encounters: THE VOICE FROM THE TABERNACLE. That prayer was and is my connection with what remains normal in my life. A normal that I hope you share as well. Our connection with Jesus in the Eucharist is what we share not only within the walls of our churches but universally in our whole beings. This connection is our knowing that regardless of the scope of our shared trials or individual struggles, Jesus knows and understands them, and is ready to refresh us. That is what this prayer tells me. I pray you will hear it also for helping whatever is burdening you. Jesus makes everything normal.
God Bless. Pray — Hope — Don’t Worry
THE VOICE FROM THE TABERNACLE
“Come to me all you who labor and are heavily laden, and I will refresh you.”
Come to me you who are bowed with years, for I am older than the eternal hill…“before Abraham was made, I am.”
Come to me you who are bowed down with cares. I can refresh you, for I am bearing the burden of the world. You are alone; your parents have gone to their reward; and those of your own age are dropping along life’s wayside, one by one. Perhaps there is one who cares or will understand. I can understand. I can help you to carry your cross. My sympathy and understanding will refresh you.
Come to me who are still young, for I am youth Eternal. Lay all your plans, your dreams, your hopes before me. Bring me your thoughts; I can understand. I never change. I am always young. Come to me in the freshness of your young life, and I will listen to you. Is something breaking your young heart? Do others fail to see as you see? Perhaps you are misunderstood by those who are near to you. Come to me, for I can understand. I was misunderstood, also…men mocked me; they laughed at me; they called me a fool. My heart often ached as I walked among men.
Come to me you who are bearing a burden of sorrow, and I will refresh you. Have your friends proved false? Come to me: I will understand. I was betrayed by a friend; I was forsaken by my own. Come to me; I will understand fully. Bring me the burden of your grief, the cup of your sorrow.
“All you who pass by the way, see if there be any sorrow like to my sorrow!” My heart was broken; the weight of a world of ingratitude was upon me. I know and I understand. Are you sad because you are lonely? I was alone on the Cross. My friends left me all alone. I dried the tears of others – Come and let me refresh you!
Come to me whose heart is glad. Bring me your joy and share it with me. I rejoice with those who found the Way, the Truth, the Life. The birds are my choristers; the flowers my hymns of joy. Bring me your glad heart. Let me rejoice with you! Let me smile with you!
Come to me who lead a good, decent life! Come to me you who are patient, resigned, faithful. I understand. I know. I lived in the quiet of Nazareth. I know how the indifference of men pains you. I know how your heart grieves at the boldness of sin in the world about you. Bring me your resignation, your prayers, your sacrifices. Come to me and I will refresh you!
Come to me who have tasted of sin; and I will refresh you. I know how weak men are. Do not shrink from me, ashamed. I died on the Cross for you. My sufferings were for you. In Gethsemane, I saw the horrors of sin; and the burden of man’s sin made me sweat blood. Come to me in your repentance, your remorse, your shame. You have found that sin leaves you disgusted with yourself. You come to me on your knees…Much is forgiven you, for you have loved me much. Be of good heart. Sin no more!
Come to me, all you who are heavily burdened. Who is not heavily burdened? Who can say this cry is not for him? Lift up your hearts and soul. No man is unimportant. Courage… persevere to the end!
- The flood lasted 40 days during Noah’s period.
- The Israelites spent 40 years in the desert before their entrance into the Promised Land.
- Moses spent 40 days on Mount Sinai to get the 10 Commandments.
- Jesus fasted for 40 days in the desert after His baptism by John the Baptist.
- There are 40 days in the Season of Lent.
- The Risen Christ spent 40 days on Earth before His Ascension back into Heaven.
“So, what about the Bible and the number 40? A group of theologians think that the number 40 represents ‘change’, it is the time of preparing a person or people to make a fundamental change, something will happen after these 40 days.
Therefore, I highly encouraged each one of us to use this self-quarantine period as a time for self-reflection on what things or habits that I need to make a change for the better. Once this quarantine is over, may each one of us grow in our love for God and the Church, love one another more fervently, and pray more ardently.
April 27, 2020
In The Breaking Of The Bread
by Deacon Aaron Smith
If you listened intently to the Gospel reading during this past Sunday’s Mass (as closely as your computer’s volume will allow during the coronavirus-restricted online Mass streaming) you heard that it was in the breaking of the bread that the two disciples on the road to Emmaus recognized Jesus. The Gospel readings for the remainder of this week continue the focus on the food that will not perish- that of the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ; bread that becomes true food and wine that becomes true drink. Unfortunately, most of our Protestant brothers and sisters believe that our Eucharist is only a symbol and not the true presence of Jesus consecrated through the hands of our Priests and the Holy Spirit. Even more upsetting is a pew study that was published in August of 2019 (or what I am sure in the years to come will generally be known as life before the world shutdown) that showed for every ten Catholics, seven of us do not believe in the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Yes, you read that right, 70% of Catholics DO NOT believe in the true presence of Jesus when we receive Holy Communion at Mass. To say the least, something went wrong somewhere in the teaching, preaching, and reaching of the last two or three generations of Catholics.
Now, as I said in my prior reflections and homilies, God did not cause this current virus crisis. Yes, he allows these things to happen out of respect and love for us in his gift of free will ( I’m sure a few of you are right now thinking- “that’s nice Deacon but with my family out of work and people sick and dying of COVID-19, who do I need to talk to about the gift return policy”). It is in that gift that God allows us to freely believe in his true presence. Holy Mother Church wishes nothing more than someday seeing all Catholics and the rest of the world freely choosing to believe in the true presence of Jesus and then turning our hearts and minds to all the ways of God. You’ve heard the saying that the heart grows fonder when we are away from those we love. Each of us, clergy or not, has been forced by the shutdown to limit in some way our encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist. The question is have we taken the time during our stay at home to feel that loss? Some of us will answer very affirmly, “yes, I so much miss receiving our Lord”. Others of us may be saying, “I’m good till whenever the Church reopens” and still some of us (hopefully not too many) haven’t thought about what we’ve been missing during this time away from Mass. Wherever you fall on this scale, let each of us use the remainder of our time away from in-person Mass to develop a deeper hunger for Jesus. After all, it is in that gentle embrace of Jesus through the reception of his body and blood that we are given eternal life. Let us receive it more abundantly.
May God be praised!
In the days when Polio was still causing some havoc on the health of the world’s young people in the mid-20 th century, there was a need for vaccinating those vulnerable with a “Booster Shot” for warding off the lingering potential of contracting the disease. Although there is still no specific serum against COVID-19, perhaps, as we begin the second 40 days of quarantine, there may be a need for such a booster shot to help strengthen our patience for fortuitously staying the course in exercising the prudent practices of our current normal.
I also think we may need a booster shot for strengthening the spiritual practices we may have begun or bolstered when our quarantine began in March. We may still be struggling to understand why God hasn’t responded to our prayers for ending this pandemic. Just perhaps, as I’ve suggested in the past, He’s not quite finished teaching us what we need to learn. He may be telling us that a “Booster Shot” is needed for our spiritual healing. Or, just perhaps, He’s waiting for others to stand in line for their initial dosage.
A booster Shot may have been what Jesus was administering in this past Sunday’s Gospel (4/26/20). We encountered the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Luke (24:13-35) provides a lesson for us, one that is especially helpful in these times. The lesson is this: God works in a way that we cannot always see. Only later — when we look back — do we recognize what He has been doing.
Consider the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. They could not understand the events of the crucifixion as anything but a tragedy. They didn’t know what to make of it. They didn’t even recognize Jesus when He was walking on the road beside them. Only later, after the “breaking of the bread” with Jesus, did they recognize Him. Only then did Jesus’s words make sense. They then said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning [within us] while He spoke to us?” (Lk 24:31-2).
This happened to all the disciples. Think of Peter, who was completely befuddled when Jesus stooped to wash his feet. Jesus said to him, “What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later” (Jn 13:7). In such cases throughout the Scripture, the same principle is at work: God’s plan and presence is not always clear until later. As for the disciples, so for us. For reasons that are too deep to fully understand, God’s plan for our lives is not always clear.
This time of pandemic is such a moment. It is hard to see what God’s plan is in the midst of these trials. Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, we may be discouraged and perplexed, we may be anxious and fearful, because we do not understand why he is allowing this. We do not see how a global pandemic could fit into the plans of a good and gracious Lord. But one thing we do know: God is active in our lives, and he is even now walking next to us. We are not alone.
Of course, we’re still left with question of what to do when we are unable to see the point of God’s plan?The answer is that we only need to focus on the next step — just the next step. And this kind of guidance, the step-by-step guidance, the Lord always provides. We can know the next step through our understanding of what is good, right and just, and what our Catholic faith has taught us about loving and serving others. We take the next step by keeping his commandments, and by acting faithfully to our commitments as Catholics. We gain light from prayer, from reading the Word of God, from the voices of others whom we love and trust, perhaps even through signs and wonders.
Whatever tools He uses, the Lord will guide us, one step at a time. We know that this step-by-step road will end well, because we follow the God of the Universe. He has things in hand. He knows what he is doing. And He is good. We know the depths of the Lord’s love for us from what it cost him to save us. And so, counting on His goodness, we follow and obey, one step at a time.
So, while we may see only one or two steps ahead, we will not be shaken. Let’s keep our hearts full of courage, and let’s not allow our stride to slacken. His presence may not be clearly visible in the news, in the halls of global power, in the hospitals, or even in our homes. But He is present. He is acting. He is working. He is calling. And we will follow Him receiving a booster shot each step on the way.
Pray – Hope – Don’t Worry
One of the lessons drilled into every young Marine is that when the you know what hits the fan, you resort to your training. The point is, of course, to emphasize the value and importance of training well, and training hard. I tend to think that the main difference between a pro and an amateur is—presuming a basic aptitude in the first place—how seriously one is willing to train and follow a well-founded program.
For example, Michael Jordan did not make the ninth-grade team at his high school. Yet, he became one of the all-time greatest players in NBA history. How? Did he suddenly wake up with a greater dose of natural basketball talent? Unlikely. On the contrary, he disciplined himself to train properly. In due course, his training caught up to his expectations. Without that disciplined regimen of sound training, Jordan’s natural gifts and talents would never have been perfected. The two go hand in hand. Training builds upon talent, one might say.
It makes me think of our current trophy culture. Everyone makes the team. Everyone gets a trophy. No one fails. But how many are never driven, like Jordan, to buckle down and do better JUST BECAUSE everyone gets a trophy? Just because, no one fails?
In the Church, it takes its own form. It doesn’t matter if you are holy as long as you are a good person—which basically means that you are not a killer or some other sort of common criminal. The only real mortal sin anymore is to “judge” another, when in fact you may simply be challenging someone to train in virtue, which leads to holiness. Theologically, we say, “grace builds upon nature,” in a way analogous to how training builds upon talent.”
All of this might cause us to wonder what social mechanisms exist for the purpose of inculcating discipline and sound training for achieving our personal potential in the world at large. There are two main “training camps” for life: the family and academia.
By God’s design, the family is the building block of society and the first and best school of virtue. That is how it ought to be, anyhow. A child’s future success is practically inseparable from how he or she was trained as a child. Let us not fail to pray for dysfunctional families, for the
Schools, then, are meant to reinforce and further foster the foundational virtues learned in the family. It is sort of a testing ground, where children face all sorts of challenges in order to realize their potential. But how many children are numbed down by meds to help them “cope” with life instead of learning how to live it?
Ideally, the family and the schools ought to be partners. But often there is a tension between the kind of training children receive in their homes and that offered by the schools. Far from the ideal, either party may be better or worse in one way or another.
The point, however, is to emphasize the importance of sound training that is consistent, founded upon ultimate truths and ordered toward success on earth and in heaven.
One hopefully positive outcome of this crazy coronavirus crisis is that children are potentially receiving more personal parental involvement in their education. Parents might take the time to evaluate whether the training regimens proffered by the schools measures up with Judeo-Christian values that are the basis of the American ideal.
I suspect that there is a lot of so-called education that is mostly indoctrination in a tyrannical trend towards an evermore radical “political correctness.” I think they call it “wokeness” these days. St. Paul says in Romans 13:11:
It is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.
How might YOU take up the challenge to ensure our children are not dumbed down and numbed down to the low bar of a trophy culture? A child’s life depends on it.
As we go through each phase of our life, naturally we have expectations and hopeful for good things to come our way. This is a good approach to have in life. Nevertheless, it can be harmful or destructive when we are overly hopeful or overly optimistic because when what we expected to happen do not occur or come our way, we feel frustrated, disappointed, and discouraged.
As I reflected on the whole journey of this pandemic, I never expected for the crisis to be this serious and deadly and last this long. This is the seventh week now and still not sure when it will end. I felt frustrated, disappointed and discouraged when the virus spread to our country, our state and eventually our county. The increased number of people infected or death reached way beyond my expectations. I never expected no public masses, cancellation of parish events, public events and sporting events, etc.
In the last two weeks, it was encouraging to see different states reopening slowly, and I expected the same for our state. Hence I was looking forward to our governor’s daily conference announcement a few days ago on Monday expecting to hear some concrete dates to reopen our state. I was greatly disappointed because my expectation was not meet because no concrete dates were mentioned. I felt sad and quickly try to find ways to help me to get out of this destructive mindset. After much prayer asking God for help, the two thoughts came to mind are “expect the unexpected” by not having any expectation of my own and let things naturally come my way. For example, on Wednesday our governor starts the reopening of our states by opening up parks and golf courses with some restrictions this Saturday. I never expected this to happen. I hope more good unexpected things come my way while I try not to be so hopeful.
The second thought is “first things first”. This is a great way to help those in recovery of a crisis or an addiction. This saying implies that there is a long way to go in the recovery process and it can be overwhelming to see the whole journey. Therefore, just focus on the present moment and do what you can right now that is good, productive, and meaningful in your life.
In the first readings of the Mass Liturgies during our Easter Season, we continue to hear about the events involving the principle characters of the early Church, immediately after Pentecost. Two weeks ago, I related, Peter’s & John’s encounter with the crippled beggar at the “Beautiful Gate”. I hoped to point out that, just as they gave him from what they had, vs what the Beggar was asking for, it could serve as an example, of how we could also contribute what we have, during this COVID-19 Crisis.
Although our gifts and talents may not fall under the CDC’s category of “Essential”, thereby, putting us on the front lines in the battle, or allowing us to work at our regular jobs, they could serve as a resource for assisting others during our quarantines.
We saw this in Chapter 6 of Acts with the call of Stephen and 6 other ordinary men to be the first Deacons. When the tasks of building the expanding new church became too great for the Apostles, these reliable community members rallied to the cause, by utilizing their God given, natural gifts, and learned talents, to do whatever was needed to be done. They did this to the best of their abilities, even to the sacrifice of their own lives, as we heard Stephen do in Tuesday’s reading of Chapter 7:51-60.
During this challenging period, many of you have proven your reliability by becoming very diaconal. You have done this by serving your families, neighbors and fellow parishioners outside of your regular job descriptions with your available resources. And in many ways you have dug down deep, to become creatively diaconal beyond them. In doing so, you may have even acknowledged an appreciation for the gifts and talents of those people in your lives you may have taken for granted before COVID-19. I’m confident that we all have come up with a list.
Regardless who is on yours, the important thing for each of us to do, is to remember to thank them personally and prayerfully. Not only now, but long after this crisis has melted into history. As followers of Jesus, this is one of the primary teachings we should be practicing each and every day. Just as He loved every one of His Father’s children, He called us to the same. He considered all of us to be Essential, and capable to the call of being Diaconal to each other.
And if by chance, some people don’t show us some of that diaconal love, let’s remember Stephen’s last prayer, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60)
Pray – Hope – Don’t Worry.
The Fourth Sunday of Easter is also called, “Good Shepherd Sunday.” Each of the readings chosen by Holy Mother Church invite us to reflect on one or another aspect of being good shepherds.
Of course, in Church life, we tend to think of shepherding in terms of the pastoral ministry of the clergy. There is no doubt that that is part of it. The first reading this weekend gives a stupendous example of Saint Peter as the first chief shepherd of the Church. Saint Peter speaks boldly to the whole house of Israel in Acts 2. He tells them, as follows:
Let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has
made both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.
Peter is not specifically addressing the scribes and pharisees in that moment. There is no indication of any even being present. Rather, he speaks to the “whole house of Israel.” Saint Peter literally accuses them of crucifying Jesus.” Not terribly pastoral by today’s wishy-washy standards.
To be clear, Saint Peter was not intent on being harshly judgmental, much less condemnatory. He was intent on speaking the truth, even when the truth is painful. So, one thing we can say is that good shepherding and truth telling go hand in hand. Perhaps that moral message is at the heart of the children’s story, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.”
The truth is that scribe, pharisee or not, the “whole house of Israel is responsible for Christ’s crucifixion. Indeed, all the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve are responsible. YOU and I are responsible. That is the truth.
But the Gospel message isn’t one-sided. The shepherds are not the only ones called to be good. The sheep also need to be good. Not only must the truth be spoken boldly. It must lead to repentance and conversion. It must’ve been quite the scene. Three thousand baptisms in a single day. I’m not sure we do that many in a year in the diocese! All because the first chief shepherd, Saint Peter, spoke the truth—and people responded. Good shepherd. Good sheep.
In an analogous way, Moms and Dads (and grandparents) are called to be good shepherds in the home—the domestic Church, as Saint John Paul the Great calls it. And what parent doesn’t want good sheep, right? Unfortunately, there are forces in our society whose shepherding is much more like the Pied Piper of Hamelin. His enamoring tune led to the children’s demise, much like the lies of the boy who cried wolf left his sheep utterly defenseless against the big, bad wolf.
As priest-shepherds, sometimes we have to confront God’s people with the truth when it is not palatable, not popular and quite possibly painful. We do this in a posture of love, like Saint Peter and the Apostles. We pray for the People of God to respond faithfully. We also pray for those who may need a little more time. In the end, it will be our good example beyond our good words that will win hearts that are open to God’s good graces.
As parent-shepherds, I urge you to read the Bible daily and read the catechism or other educational sources officially approved by the Church. Avoid at all costs sources that are wishy-washy or that play a tune like that of the Pied Piper. Nourish your children with the truth like a good shepherd—seeking only the most lush and lovely pastures to graze in. But don’t take my word for it. Hear the voice of THE Good Shepherd:
Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.
I recently saw a very meaningful clip about the power of sharing and taking care of each other during these challenging times and it really resonated with me.
In the video clip, a young man went to different stores to hoard necessary things during the pandemic by clearing all the shelves of all lysol wipes, hand sanitizers, syringes, etc. and he then set up a stand to resell them at 5 times the original price. His mentality was that given all the uncertainties, he does not know how long this pandemic will last, so he needs to worry only about himself.
An older woman came to his stand and asked to buy syringes to apply her insulin because she’s diabetic. The young man told her that he would sell the pack for $50 (5 times the normal price). Out of desperation for her health, the woman gave him all the money she could find in her pocketbook, and she was still short 25 cents. She pleaded, but he remained firm with the price, refusing to give her even a 25 cents discount. The woman continued to search and finally found a quarter in her pants’ pocket. She gave it to the young man, and he sold her the syringes.
Right after she left, the young man’s mother called him. His mother was sick and bedridden. The young man hurried back to see his mom to find out that his mom had used her last syringe. She went out to different stores to find some, but they were all sold out, and now she cannot take insulin without them. As a result, her health declines greatly. The young man realized that he had just sold the last pack, and as he was worrying and thinking how he could find more syringes for his mother, the doorbell ran, and his mother’s friend came by to check in on her.
Long and behold, his mother’s friend was the exact woman who had bought the syringes from this young man. The friend came to see if his mom needed the syringes because she knew his mom was diabetic and may have needed them. The young man was overjoyed and offered to pay his mom’s friend whatever price she wanted to buy back the syringes. But his mother’s friend did not take his money. She smiled and said, “just remember, the only way we can get through this pandemic is to think of WE, not ME.” This struck a cord, and it made the young man understand how selfish he was and it changed his life and himself to be a better, more giving person. At the end of the video clip, the young man stood at his stand saying out loud if anyone needs any of these necessities. Another woman came by and willing to pay for what she wanted, but he replied saying that it is all free. She thanked him by saying “God bless you”. He then said happily with a smile “God bless you too”.
For us now, more than ever before, we each need to do our part, each in our own way. We have to be selfless, we have to be considerate, we have to think of others, and we have to care about the people around us.
Therefore, the next time when you go to the grocery store, please buy only what you need and leave the rest for others. Remember, we are all in this together, and if we each do our part, we will all pull out of this pandemic together and be stronger as a community.
For those parishioners (and hopefully others) who are taking the time to read this reflection, don’t worry, that title is not a typing error. Let me explain. This past weekend I’m sure you noticed how nice the weather was on both days. After having been stuck in our homes most of the day for almost two months, I am sure many of us ventured out a little longer Saturday or Sunday to take advantage of the comfortable temperatures and fresh air. Whether you spent some time walking, running, doing yard work or just sitting on the porch, how nice it was to regain some sense of the outdoors. You may have even seen me patiently waiting in line with my son at the local gardening center to buy some flowers, top-soil and mulch to do that yard work that has been patiently waiting for me to complete (or as my wife liked to remind me several times since March, the yard missed me). Picking up those bags of mulch, putting them in the car and taking them back out of the car once I got home made me remember that I have made the same trip to the store year after year since we moved to Atco in 2004. Looking back, no matter what was going on career-wise, church-wise or family-wise, I made that same yearly trip to buy those bags of mulch. Even now, with a world-wide virus crisis going on, I still found myself doing that same ritual of putting down that mulch to help the yard look a little better (and hopefully my wife a little happier with me). We may not realize it all the time, but there is much peace and comfort in following the same rituals week after week, month after month and year after year.
One ritual (the most important ritual) that we have missed during this national coronavirus crisis is our in-person participation at Sunday Mass. How much we miss that feeling of sitting, standing and kneeling with our Parish family as we come together to praise God, hear his word, receive him in the gentle embrace of the Eucharist and receive that mandate at the end of Mass by the Deacon or Priest to ‘Go and Announce the Gospel of the Lord’ to all those unable, unknowing or unwilling to sit among us as active Christian believers and servants. Hopefully you have at least been able to virtually attend Mass via the internet live-stream video that the Parish produces daily on our web-site. We as a Parish should be glad to have the technology that allows us to view the Mass ritual. Some may remember, this equipment was made possible through a generous donation several years ago; I’m sure the donors had no idea at the time just how important this technology would be for a Parish of total homebound parishioners. What a blessing it truly has been to all. However, I pray daily that we will soon return to
in-person Church attendance. We miss the ‘smells and bells’ of a Mass ritual where the people are gathered and then sent back into the world to do our best to love and serve our family and friends, our co-workers, our communities and most importantly the one and only true God who was willing to suffer and die the most painful of deaths so we would have eternal life. Hopefully during this time of personal homebound retreat each of us will find reasons to say we have mulch and much to be thankful for in our lives.
May God Be Praised!
As you know, the Roman Catholic Church is comprised of both eastern and western rites. For example, our former church building, Saint Lucy (now Saint Jude), has been changed from the Latin Rite (western) to the Syro-Malabar Rite (eastern).
The Latin Rite traces it origins to Saint Peter, who founded the Catholic Church in Rome. The Syro-Malabar Rite traces its origins back to the Apostle Thomas, who founded the Church in Syria and in Malabar (modern-day Karola, India).
A little-known fact is that Saint Peter not only founded the Church in Rome; he also established the Church in the ancient city of Antioch. This gave rise to another eastern rite—the Maronite Rite. Many times on my annual retreat, I’ve attended what they call the Divine Liturgy (verses the Holy Mass). A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. It is absolutely beautiful.
Consider the timely thoughts of one Maronite–Chorbishop John Faris, KC*HS, as follows:
At the end of the Divine Liturgy as it is celebrated in the Maronite Catholic Church, the priest silently recites this prayer as a Farewell to the Altar:
I leave you in peace, O holy Altar,
and I hope to return to you in peace.
May the offering I have received from you
be for the forgiveness of my faults
and the remission of my sins,
that I may stand without shame or fear
before the throne of Christ.
I do not know if I shall be able to return to you again
to offer you another sacrifice.
I leave you in peace.
I must confess that at times I quickly recite rather than pray these beautiful words. Perhaps the most poignant phrase is, “I do not know if I shall be able to return to you again to offer another sacrifice.” As we finished our Masses several weeks ago, did we pastors realize that we would not be able to gather around the Altar with our flocks for a period that is still indefinite? Holy Week came and went, no washing of the feet, no processions, no visits of churches and their altars of repose. Easter came and went without baptisms–or even a congregation. The Catholic Church all over the world had changed. We did not gather for the Eucharist-we livestreamed.
Like the parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:16-21), the Church can construct buildings, programs and policies thinking that we shall be secure. A virus taught us otherwise. Just as we should not take false confidence in material goods, we should not take spiritual goods-Word and Sacraments-for granted.
This covid-19 pandemic can be a teaching moment. It may sound strange, but I was inspired when I announced to a group of faithful who came daily to the Divine Liturgy that our parish church was going to be closed indefinitely until this pandemic had worn itself out. The expressions on their faces inspired me; they were shattered, lost and afraid. This is a good thing! It revealed how very much the Eucharist means to them-and what it should mean to all of us.
Like the disciples at the table in Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35), we know Jesus in the breaking of the bread. Deprived of the Eucharist, we Christians are left with the question, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)
On the occasion of their ordination to the priesthood, some priests print remembrance cards with the phrase,
Priest of Jesus Christ, celebrate this Holy Mass as if it were your first
Mass, your last Mass, your only Mass.
I, personally, pray these words before EVERY Mass I celebrate. We must never take the celebration of the Mass for granted because truly we don’t know if we will be able to return to the Altar. Without knowing when, we know that there will be a Mass that will be our last.
Everything in life has its limits. Food has expiration dates, pets have life expectancies, seasons have certain number of days. We, as human beings, have our limits as well. We have limits with regards to our patience and our endurance.
Today, while using my phone, the battery ran low, and when the battery life went below 20 percent, I was alerted that I needed to charge it. Otherwise, the phone would eventually run out of battery and die. While having my phone in charge, I noticed how similar were my patience and my endurance.
We are now in the 8th week of quarantine, with no set date of return to normalcy, and my patience and endurance are running low, really low, below 20 percent. I know I have to do something to recharge, otherwise, I would fall into the great trap of despair.
For me, I reverted first to spontaneous prayer asking God at the very present moment for help. I prayed intensely and with conviction that He would come to my assistance. I felt a sense of hope after doing that. I also called friends and family members to share my frustrations because in psychology, it would lighten the mental burden that I had. As a result, I felt better, especially when the other person agreed with my thinking and validated my concerns. It is soothing to know that I was not alone. I also found a hobby that I was interested, like binging on movies and walked around the softball field on our parish grounds to get some fresh air to clear my mind. These are great escapes that took my mind off of the monotony of everyday life during quarantine.
For you, how are your patience and endurance? Do you need to recharge yet? What will you do to recharge? Always remember, things will get better. We don’t know when, but we can be sure, it will happen. Hang in there, recharge if needed, and be hopeful, for a better tomorrow is ahead of us.
God bless you.
As we slowly start to come out of this lock down over the next weeks and months, I cannot help but wonder what I have truly learned from this experience. I have been rereading a book by Mathew Kelly entitled “Rediscover Catholicism.” I highly recommend this book, if you haven’t read it yet, and if you have, read it again! I believe that this is what I have truly been learning during this crisis!
I have been rediscovering Catholicism, rediscovering what it means to be a Catholic, what it means to become the best-version-of-myself, an ongoing theme in all of Mathew Kelly’s books. Today especially, we sometimes lose the connection to our Catholic roots. It is sometimes hard to relate to many of the stories in the Bible and those of the early Church fathers because the world was so different then. However, with the current pandemic, it can put their experiences into perspective.
I’ve also realized that, although we have a great economic crisis on our hands moving forward,we also have a spiritual crisis as well. I say this because I have seen first-hand how, even if I am hunkered down in my house, I can still find things to distract me from my prayer life, from my connection with God.
There is a beautiful document that came out of Vatican II entitled Gaudium Et Spes thatanswers this burning question. The Latin title of this document translates to “Joy and Hope” and it starts, “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the people of today, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the same joys and hopes, griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ.”
You see this is it! This is Catholicism in every age and in every generation. This is how we can relate to all those stories from the Bible and our early Church fathers, because there is always going to be, in our own lives and the lives of everyone we know, joys, hopes, griefs, and anxiety. There are always poor and afflicted brothers and sisters around us, the followers of Christ. Because we are all one body in Christ, we are able to unite ourselves to them spiritually and share the load.
The message of the Church is the same now as it was then and will be forever. It is our universal call to holiness that starts with the beautiful and straight-to-the-point opening to Gaudium Et Spes. All people are God’s children, all people are our brothers and sisters, and we all experience joy and grief in different ways.
So, as we start to live our semi-normal lives again, let us not forget to put aside that very valuable time for God and for those whom we come into contact with throughout our days. And with every conversation or ear we lend, we will inch that much closer to becoming who God intended us to be, to becoming the best-version-of-ourselves!
Beatification Processes of St. John Paul II’s Parents Inaugurated
by Pawel Rytel-Andrianik
The first session in the processes of beatification and canonization of the Servant of God Emilia Wojtyła née Kaczorowska and the Servant of God Karol Wojtyła, parents of St. John Paul II, took place on 7 May in the Basilica of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Wadowice.
Once the tribunals have been established to examine the sanctity of both candidates for the altars, Archbishop Marek Jędraszewski, Metropolitan of Cracow, presided over a solemn Holy Mass for the successful course of the process.
The postulator of the canonization processes of Karol and Emilia Wojtyła is Fr. Sławomir Oder, who was also a postulator of the beatification and canonization process of John Paul II.
The inauguration ceremony was attended by Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, a long-standing personal secretary of Archbishop Karol Wojtyła and Pope John Paul II. “I want to testify here, at this point, in the presence of the Archbishop and the assembled priests, that as a long-standing secretary of Cardinal Karol Wojtyła and Pope John Paul II, I heard from him many times that he had holy parents,” said Cardinal Dziwisz.
“There is great joy of starting the beatification processes and great gratitude to God for the life of Emilia and Karol Wojtyła and for the fact that we will be able to get to know them more and more. They will become a model and example for many families who want to be holy,” said Fr. Paweł Rytel-Andrianik, the spokesman of the Polish Bishops’ Conference.
“Wearing a face mask” sounds simple enough, right? Everyone understands what that phrase means. The literal translation is putting on a covering to cover up part of your face, as we see all around us these days. There are various opinions about it. Some may like it, some may not. For me, it is uncomfortable and unnatural. When I first started to wear it, I had difficulty breathing in it, it makes me hot, and it hides my true self and my true identity. Every time I am out running errands, I couldn’t wait to get back into my car so that I can take off my mask and return to my own self. Don’t get me wrong, having said all that, I still agree to wear that mask to protect myself and those around me during this time of crisis.
Today, I want to explore a different aspect and meaning of wearing a mask. Have you seen the movie “The Mask” with Jim Carrey? In this movie, Jim Carrey found a mask floating on a river thinking that it was a human person being drown. He jumped into the river to rescue the person but eventually found out that it was just a mask. The mysterious aspect about this mask is that whenever he put that mask on, he turned into a different person. He did great things when he wore it, but at the same time, he also did horrible things when he had that same mask on, like stole money from banks, which he was ashamed of and fearful for his real life when polices were investigating his real person for the crimes. Most of the times though, he wasn’t himself when he wore the mask because he eventually lost control of the totally new person that he became. Therefore, at the end of the movie, Jim Carrey decided to throw that mask away and back into the river where he first found it because it changed him, he was not who he truly was.
Normally we want to be who we truly are, and especially as believers of God that we are made in His image and likeness and through baptism, we even become sons and daughters of God, that is, who we truly are, our true self. Therefore it is important for us to always remember to be our true self. You can wear that physical mask, but don’t put on a moral mask. For example, when we live out the commandments to love God and our neighbors, make sure we do it for real from the bottom of our heart and not because we are seeking some other gain or recognition.
I have a mysterious mask too as you can see the picture below : )
I can do amazing things with that mask on. Nevertheless, I prefer not to wear it because I want to be my true self as Fr. Pham
Loving God, as a mother gives life and nourishment to her children, so you watch over your Church. Bless these women, that they may be strengthened as Christian mothers. Let the example of their faith and love shine forth. Grant that we, their sons and daughters, may honor them always with a spirit of profound respect.
Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
For weeks now, I have been writing a weekly reflection centered on dealing with how to get through the day-to-day of this coronavirus shutdown. There are still people testing positive for the virus along with those dying from it. We continue to pray that God will embrace each of them and their families in his never-ending mercy, peace and love. While we continue to pray, let us also start to turn our minds and hearts to what (hopefully in a few weeks) our daily lives will look like once the shutdown is over. Although it’s been a rough time for our country, our state and our personal lives over these past two months, we have had the full attention of our Church, our Government, our Neighbors and our families all focused on helping one another. It’s comforting to have this support when dealing with sickness, job-loss, hunger, worry and sadness; having people in our lives who can relate to the same pain we experience helps us realize we are not alone. But what will our attention be as a nation, as a church and as individuals once life returns to “normal”?
If you happened to drive through East Camden over the past decade, you may have driven past the Romero Center that is on the parish grounds of St. Joseph’s Pro-Cathedral. If you haven’t had the opportunity, I highly recommend you find a way to connect with this Center once the world “re-starts”. The Romero Center is a great resource to our Diocese that provides direct interaction with and education on Catholic Social Teaching and Social Justice. The main meeting room of the Center has an eye- catching wall decoration. Painted in big, bold letters around the room is the question, “You say you love the poor, then name them”. The former Director of the Romero Center, Larry DePaul- who passed into eternal life several years ago, would often caution volunteers and retreatants to not just lobb cans of beets over some random wall and think they were done helping homeless people. Larry instead highly encouraged visitors to take the time to learn the individual names and stories of each of the
homeless they encountered. As he would often say, we all have stories to tell and the homeless are no different. He would also remind us how sad it was that the homeless may go months, if not years without anyone calling them by their name. He also encouraged us to literally and metaphorically ask our homeless brothers and sisters if they even liked to eat beets. His point was that we shouldn’t give to others the things we ourselves would not want; why expect gratefulness from others when we give them things we are just throwing away.
Hopefully this gives you some pause and reflection for what being an active Catholic will look like for you once we return to the pews for Sunday Mass. If we return to our Church buildings no different, or even worse- angry, bitter and without concern for the poor then we are truly the ones who are sick and poor in the ways of our faith. When this crisis lockdown is over, will we find ourselves still caring if our neighbors have food, housing, employment and love or will those thoughts leave us since our lives are “normal” again? Will we be willing to walk around the walls of society to meet face to face with those in need? We say we love the poor, but will we be able to name them?
May God be praised!
The Story of St. Rita
Rita was born in the year 1381 in the village of Roccaporena, near Cascia , Italy . Her parents, Antonio and Amata Lotti, considered her birth a very special gift from God, for Rita was born to them as they were already advancing in age. As a young girl Rita frequently visited the convent of the Augustinian Nuns in Cascia and dreamed of one day joining their community. Her parents, however, had promised her in marriage, according to the custom of the day, to Paolo Mancini, a good man of strong and impetuous character. Rita accepted her parents’ decision, resolved to see this as God’s will for her.
The young couple was joined in marriage and soon twin boys were born to them. Rita found herself occupied with the typical concerns of a wife, mother, and homemaker of Roccaporena, while Paolo was employed as a watchman for the town. In Cascia, as elsewhere, a great rivalry existed between two popular political factions, the Guelphs, and the Ghibellines. As a minor official of the town, Paolo often found himself drawn into the conflict, and the strain that this caused probably accounts for the tension, which he sometimes brought into the Mancini household. By her prayer, patience, and affection, however, Rita was able to ease the stress and worry her husband experienced, but she was not able to shield him altogether from the dangers to which society exposed him.
DEATH OF HUSBAND AND SONS
One day as Paolo was returning home from work he was ambushed and killed. The pain which this unexpected and violent death inflicted upon Rita was only compounded by the fear she felt that her two teenage sons, moved by the unwritten law of the “vendetta,” would seek to avenge their father’s death. Rita’s only recourse was to prayer and persuasion. As it happened, the death of both boys from natural causes a short time later removed them from physical and spiritual danger. Despite her great burden she could still thank God that they had died in peace, free of the poison of murder to which hatred and revenge might have otherwise drawn them.
Now alone in the world and without family responsibilities, Rita once more turned her thoughts to the desired vocation of her youth, that of joining the Augustinian Nuns of Saint Mary Magdalene Monastery. Some of the religious of the community, however, were relatives of the members of the political faction considered responsible for Paolo’s death, and so as not to tempt the harmony of the convent, Rita’s request for admission was denied. Fortunately, she was not to be easily dissuaded from following what she knew to be God’s plan for her. She implored her three patron saints — John the Baptist, Augustine, and Nicholas of Tolentino to assist her, and she set about the task of establishing peace between the hostile parties of Cascia with such success that her entry into the monastery was assured.
THE GIFT OF THE THORN
At the age of thirty-six Rita pledged to follow the ancient Rule of Saint Augustine. For the next forty years she gave herself wholeheartedly to prayer and works of charity, striving especially to preserve peace and harmony among the citizens of Cascia. With a pure love she wanted more and more to be intimately joined to the redemptive suffering of Jesus, and this desire of hers was satisfied in an extraordinary way. One day when she was about sixty years of age, she was meditating before an image of Christ crucified, as she was long accustomed to doing. Suddenly a small wound appeared on her forehead, as though a thorn from the crown that encircled Christ’s head had loosed itself and penetrated her own flesh. For the next fifteen years she bore this external sign of stigmatization and union with the Lord. In spite of the pain she constantly experienced, she offered herself courageously for the physical and spiritual well being of others. During the last four years of her life Rita was confined to bed and was able to eat so little that she was practically sustained on the Eucharist alone. She was, nevertheless, an inspiration to her sisters in religion and to all who came to visit her, by her patience and joyful disposition despite her great suffering.
One of those who visited her some few months before her death — a relative from her hometown of Roccaporena — was privileged to witness firsthand the extraordinary things wrought by Rita’s requests. When asked whether she had any special desires, Rita asked only that a rose from the garden of her parents’ home be brought to her. It was a small favor to ask, but quite an impossible one to grant in the month of January! Nevertheless, on returning home the woman discovered, to her amazement, a single brightly-colored blossom on the bush where the nun said it would be. Picking it, she returned immediately to the monastery and presented it to Rita who gave thanks to God for this sign of love. Thus, the saint of the thorn became the saint of the rose, and she whose impossible requests were granted her became the advocate of all those whose own requests seem impossible as well. As she breathed her last, Rita’s final words to the sisters who gathered around her were, “Remain in the holy love of Jesus. Remain in obedience to the holy Roman Church. Remain in peace and fraternal charity.”
Having faithfully and lovingly responded to God’s many invitations to her in the course of her seventy-six years, Rita returned to God in peace on May 22, 1457. Her body, which has remained incorrupt over the centuries, is venerated today in the shrine of Cascia, which bears her name. Her feast is observed on the anniversary of her death, 22 May.
Does anyone know what day of the week it is? What date is it? Is tomorrow Christmas? I don’t know about you, but I haven’t been able to keep track of my days. Everyday I struggle to figure out the most basic things. Now, being in the 9th week, this whole quarantine thing is driving me, and many others, crazy.
However, having said all that, have you looked at the news recently? Have you followed Gov. Murphy’s news briefings? Have you been talking to people about what’s happening around us? I have, and things are looking like they are moving in the right direction. Several weeks ago, Gov. Murphy announced a 6-point plan for reopening our state. In it, he mentioned things like the number of infections has to decline steadily, the number of hospitalizations has to go down, current testings must be doubled, and contact tracing must significantly increase, etc. And, for the last few weeks, things are heading in just that direction. We are getting all the right indications that a reopening is happening real soon. I am very happy to see this because it means that all of our collective sacrifices staying at home all this time is actually working.
I also read that sometimes this week, Gov. Murphy will announce his plans, with concrete dates of when to begin to reopen our state, given all these positive indicators. This gives me hope, excitement and motivation to continue to do my part. I can sense that the end is near and my hard work will pay off. Also, in response to the governor’s announcements, our bishop has also sent a memo out to all the parishes asking us to start planning for reopening. We have to submit a plan to the diocese to outline how we would reopen as a parish, with details following social distancing guidelines. I am very excited about this and doing what I can to offer my suggestions to Fr. Mann and the team.
And, in the meantime, while the team is working out the details of how to bring public masses back, I am also looking into other recreational events to consider. Today, I called the person who runs the softball league. He and I had a very productive conversation about the possibility of bringing softball back towards the end of the season, possibly in July or August. Everything is still uncertain, but at least we have a plan to execute immediately if and when we are given the green light.
So, what will you do when things start to reopen again? Do you have a plan? Whatever your plan is, may you remember the lessons learned from this entire crisis. We live and learn and we grow everyday, stronger and better than the day before.
May God bless you and your family!
May 14, 2020
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: FR. MANN’S SUMMARY OF A MAY 14, 2020 ARTICLE IN CRISIS MAGAZINE
Bill Barr: the Unsung Hero of Covidtide
by W. Edgar Thompson
[In terms of moving forward, both civic and church] leaders are divided over the next step….
In some areas not hammered so hard by Covid, bishops seem eager for parishioners to regain a sense of normalcy, and thus are reopening churches, albeit slowly. Yet others, undoubtedly responding to the risk, reject that idea. For instance, Catholic churches in Georgia will remain closed through the end of May.
As with the secular aspects of reopening, it’s good that bishops have the discretion to weigh individually public health and safety with meeting the needs of their flocks. Just as importantly, though, it’s good to know that the people of God who want to celebrate their faith under the harsh glare of lockdown advocates have U.S. Attorney General William Barr to protect forcefully their right to religious freedom.
One fallout of Covid’s rampant spread has been constitutionally dubious directives to close churches—rather than relying on pastors to do the smart thing voluntarily. The top-down lockdown has forced many priests, including my own pastor, to resort to Mass by video….
…Government officials have not helped in this regard….In an April 15 televised interview…New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy [was asked]…what authority granted the governor power essentially to “nullify the Bill of Rights.” Murphy, a Catholic, replied, “That’s above my pay grade….I wasn’t thinking of the Bill of Rights when we did this….”
[This is one of several cases that prompted]…Mr. Barr to announce that his department would protect worshipers from discriminatory Covid restrictions…. Mr. Barr sent a letter to his prosecutors that directed action on state or local authorities who failed to respect the civil rights of religious Americans.
“Even in times of emergency, when reasonable and temporary restrictions are placed on rights, the First Amendment and federal statutory law prohibit discrimination against religious institutions and religious believers,” Mr. Barr wrote. “The legal restrictions on state and local authority are not limited to discrimination against religious institutions and religious believers.…If a state or local ordinance crosses the line from an appropriate exercise of authority to stop the spread of Covid into an overbearing infringement of constitutional and statutory protections, the Department of Justice may have an obligation to address that overreach in federal court.”
Mr. Barr acknowledged in the letter that “extraordinary” restrictions on travel and gatherings may “have been necessary in order to stop the spread of a deadly disease.” Still, he wrote, “Many policies that would be unthinkable in regular times have become commonplace in recent weeks, and we do not want to unduly interfere with the important efforts of state and local officials to protect the public. But the Constitution is not suspended in times of crisis. We must therefore be vigilant to ensure its protections are preserved, at the same time that the public is protected.”
Mr. Barr’s actions theoretically could affect Catholics more than most faith traditions. In October 2018, the Pew Research Center reported that America was home to 51 million Catholics—the largest religious denomination in the country. Mr. Barr is among them….
…Moreover, with Mr. Barr’s blessing, the Justice Department in March conducted a week-long training session on religious freedom. According to The New York Times, the department noted, “Religious liberty is a core American value and a top priority for the department.” Justice officials further pointed out, “We pledge to protect the free exercise of religion when we take our oath to ‘support and defend the Constitution.’ We do so out of respect for the conscience of our fellow citizens and to preserve the civil society in which our liberal democracy can flourish.” The Times observed that “no religion was prioritized over another during the training sessions.”
AG BARR’S PIOUS, PUBLIC ACTION IN DEFENSE OF NATURAL RIGHTS IS A POIGNANT REMINDER THAT IN EXTRAORDINARY TIMES WE MAY BE CALLED UPON TO MAKE REASONABLE SACRIFICES—BUT THERE CAN NEVER BE A PERMANENT SO-CALLED NEW NORMAL.
May 15, 2020
Concrete dates are important and sometimes necessary in planning your life.
by Fr. Pham
Who’s the person in your life now that keeps saying “let’s get together sometimes for dinner or to go to a sporting event” but that has never happened yet because the person never sets a concrete date for it? How do you feel when that person keeps procrastinating about it with different excuses each time you ask the person to set a date? Obviously you feel frustrated and eventually lose hope in ever getting together with that person for an event in the near future. I have to confess that I’m that type of person ever since I was ordained a priest, to my spiritual director while I was in the seminary. He’s a priest for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. I saw him several times in the seminary when he and I went back for special events in the seminary, and each time I saw him, I always say “let’s get together for dinner sometimes” but I never follow up with it. He eventually gets frustrated and loses hope that I will ever set a concrete date at all.
Concrete dates for different events in a year help us to plan accordingly. I remembered when I was in the seminary during my last four years in the seminary, I always wanted to know concrete dates of different stages of my journey to be ordained a priest, for example, when exactly will I be ordained a deacon and in my last year wanting to know the exact date for my priesthood ordination. Even though the event may not happen right away or very soon, at least I know how long it will take for me to wait until that actual event occurs and plan accordingly. I prefer knowing the concrete date in advance rather than living in uncertainty and have no idea at all when the long waited event is going to happen.
I am sure that you have been like me in the last few weeks during this quarantine, wanting to know concrete dates of reopening our state again, especially knowing neighboring states have opened in phases already with concrete dates. “Concrete dates are important and sometimes necessary in planning my life”. As I was dying to know the concrete dates of reopening our state from our governor, I was delighted when he finally started the re-opening by opening up parks and golf courses, I quickly plan the nearest date and time of the day that I could get some fresh air in the parks, and on course I did. As our bishop feels that public masses may be in the next few phases of reopening, he sent out an email to all parishes asking each parish to be prepared with concrete instructions, this is another fresh air that I joyfully breathe into my life. It gives me concrete hope and begin planning accordingly concrete things for us to be together again in church for Mass. The next phase is to open non-essential businesses and construction, and gathering of cars for any event this upcoming Monday the 18th. For me, I excitedly plan to order an exercise ball from Modell’s Sporting Goods nearby to exercise at home whether the gym is closed or not.
The most recent reopening will be all beaches definitely before Memorial Day Weekend, the end of this month in two weeks. I love spending time on the beach and the boardwalk. You can bet for sure that I’ll be there ASAP.
I hope you make your own plans too as concrete dates are set because they are important and sometimes necessary in planning your life “happily.”
May 16, 2020
Terror from Another Era – A Christian Response
Reproduced and Retitled by Dcn. Al LaMonaca
An Article from 3/15/20 — FOOD FOR THOUGHT from Catholic World Report
A story beautifully recounted in a wonderful article by Providence College Professor Holly Taylor Coolman entitled “Amidst Plagues”, which, in spite of the title, was about foster care and not about our current pandemic, and yet whose lesson is completely relevant nonetheless:
“Between the 2nd and the 6th centuries,” writes prof. Coolman, “when Christianity was still new, a series of devastating plagues struck the Roman world. Sweeping across the Empire, they took the lives of as many as one-third of the population, devastating families, and cities. In the 3rd century, one particularly vicious outbreak appeared. At its height, from 250 to 262, 5,000 people a day were said to be dying in the capital city of Rome. Those struck down suffered a horrible, painful death.
“Even in an age that did not understand the details of germ theory, the danger of contagion was well-known. Many of those who could, fled, including pagan physicians and priests who abandoned major cities during significant outbreaks. Those who were most able to assist the victims, then, abandoned them. Those suffering were left to suffer alone. In the midst of this many Christians took a different path. Dionysius, bishop of Alexandria reported that:
Many of our Christian brothers showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves, and thinking only of one another. Heedless of the danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy; for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbor and cheerfully accepting their pains.
Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, said explicitly that he regarded the situation as a test of sorts.
What a great thing is it, how pertinent, how necessary, that pestilence and plague which seems horrible and deadly, searches out the righteousness of each one, and examines the minds of the human race, to see whether they who are in health tend the sick.
“What sort of people … were these early Christians?” asks Prof. Coolman. “What conception of justice could impel them to rush to serve those who suffered—even at profound risk to themselves? And, perhaps most importantly, what would it mean for us to imagine them as our standard and guide? We would have to imagine a people so deeply committed to their neighbors that they would risk their lives for them—and risk their lives perhaps not even to save them, but simply to be present and perhaps to speak to them of another life.”
The question Christians must ask themselves today is: can we still imagine such a people as our standard and guide? Or are we going to continue to have our imaginations filled with the ghosts and ghouls and terrors fed to us daily by the media, who feed off our anxiety and panic like a vampire feeds off blood?
Christian hope is bolstered by the blood of a different kind of death, a sacrificial death by which death was destroyed.
“Human culture,” as C. S. Lewis told his audience of frightened British citizens who would soon face the terrors of the Blitz, “has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself.”
May 18, 2020
John Paul the Forgotten?
by Richard A. Spinello
May 18, 2020, marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Saint Pope John Paul II. Karol Józef Wojtyla was born in Wadowice, a small town in the south of Poland, which was once a center of crafts in the eighteenth century. Its nine thousand residents were primarily burghers and farmers who lived in small houses and crowded apartments. From these very humble beginnings, Wojtyla overcame many adversities, including the Nazi occupation of Poland during World War II, to become a priest, bishop, and cardinal. Along the way, he earned doctoral degrees in philosophy and theology, and for a time occupied the Ethics Chair at Lublin University. He was elected to the papacy in 1978 and is credited with helping to bring down the Iron Curtain, opening the way for the liberation of Poland and other East European countries.
This philosopher-pope was also known as a prolific writer. Among his most noteworthy papal writings are three key encyclicals: Veritatis Splendor, Evangelium Vitae, and Fides et Ratio. When Pope Benedict XVI was elected as his successor in 2005, he declared that his personal mission was not to produce many new documents but to ensure that John Paul’s papal writings were assimilated because they are “a very rich treasure, the authentic interpretation of Vatican II.”
Despite Pope Benedict’s heroic efforts, however, those papal writings have not been assimilated by the Church. With certain exceptions, much of his work has fallen into relative oblivion. To some extent, this result is the inevitable fate for every former pope, as they are quickly forgotten by the faithful. Despite their theological depth and enduring relevance, John Paul’s writings will not be on the shelves in the bookstores of most Catholic universities nor find their way into the classroom.
It is also fair to say that Pope Francis and most of the elite Vatican officials who surround him are lukewarm about John Paul’s theological heritage. In both subtle and explicit ways, they have sought to sweep away his theological legacy, especially in the field of sexual morality. When John Paul was canonized in 2014, Pope Francis aptly referred to him as the “Pope of the Family.” Yet, at the 2014 Synod on the Family, his extensive catechesis on marriage and family was largely ignored.
There was a deliberate effort at that synod to temper and soften the Church’s moral voice on these issues. Some “historical minded” attendees dismissed John Paul’s writings, such as Familiaris Consortio (an apostolic exhortation on the family), as “outdated” and in need of revision. But as John Paul’s good friend, the late Cardinal Caffarra, pointed out at the time, Familiaris Consortio provides a fundamental approach for thinking about marriage and family that can never be disregarded.
What is this approach presented by John Paul? When Jesus is asked by the Pharisees about divorce (Mt. 19), He instructs them to put aside all their casuistry and simply look at how it was “in the beginning,” with marriage as an indissoluble, fruitful union between man and woman who become “one flesh.” As the dogmatic constitution Dei Verbum asserts, the words of Jesus are “the source of all saving truth and all moral teaching” they are not subject to reconsideration and constant revision.
Similarly, during the recent restructuring of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in Rome, some of John Paul’s most ardent and talented intellectual disciples were displaced by theologians holding unorthodox views on contraception and homosexual relations. Contrary to Humanae Vitae and Familiaris Consortio, one of the new faculty members has rejected the idea that the use of artificial contraception is an intrinsically evil act. He has also argued that, under certain conditions, same-sex couples can engage in sexual relations if this is the best way to live out a good relationship. Obviously, these teachings are at odds with the Christian vision of marriage—which, as John Paul explained, is marked by three essential properties: real unity, absolute fidelity, and fruitfulness.
These developments do not augur well for the Church. Its deepening amnesia regarding the former pope is regrettable, since he still has so much to teach Catholics who are committed to moral truth.
The one theme that gives coherence to John Paul II’s diverse writings is anthropology. The cultural nihilism and wrathful pessimism that plague humanity have worsened since John Paul’s death in 2005. This crisis is largely due to a flight from God and the transcendent order of truth and justice. When transcendence loses its vitality, people also rapidly lose a sense of identity along with their moral bearings. As John Paul writes in Evangelium Vitae, “when God is forgotten, the creature itself grows unintelligible” and “man is no longer able to see himself as ‘mysteriously different’ from other earthly creatures.”
Those who are beguiled by secularism’s pragmatic reasoning do not accept their divine origin or destiny. Instead, they blindly follow Heidegger’s dark vision that our origin and destiny remain obscure. We are beings that have been “thrown” into this world where we find ourselves on a solitary journey to places unknown. Moral authenticity is reduced to creative self-definition, and freedom is defined as spontaneity and open-ended possibility.
As an alternative to this bleak outlook, John Paul creatively retrieved the metaphysical, Christian humanism that is deeply embedded in Catholic doctrine. Contrary to his critics, John Paul did not disdain the social sciences. On the contrary, he recognized their place in Catholic intellectual life better than most. But he always wrote and spoke in the Church’s traditional language of metaphysics and theology. The erosion in the contemporary Church of metaphysical wisdom has greatly undermined the intelligibility of Revelation and obscured a proper comprehension of moral theology. Metaphysical presuppositions about the moral meaning of the body, reaffirmed in John Paul’s epic work, Theology of the Body, shield that theology from any accommodation to the errant principles that undergird the sexual revolution. The “metaphysical element,” he writes in Fides et Ratio, is necessary “to correct certain mistaken modes of behavior now widespread in our society.” Ethics must be grounded in a rigorous philosophical anthropology along with a metaphysics of the good that gives ethical reasoning its proper foundation.
A coherent anthropology affirms the intrinsic worth of all human persons, and the ground of that dignity is the soul. The soul’s radical capacities of will and intellect, which are expressed through the body, enable self-possession. This self-possession, which becomes evident in the examination of human experience, is expressed in two ways. First, the person has self-awareness—a conscious knowledge of himself as a subject, present to himself from within as the source of his own choices and projects. Second, a person possesses himself through self-determination because he has mastery or control over his actions. This power of self-determination, which is actualized by the will, enables the person to be responsible for both his actions and omissions.
Freedom therefore is the indelible mark of personhood, but authentic freedom aims at those intrinsic goods that fulfill us. Freedom also possesses a “relational dimension” because it seeks the true goods of marriage and friendship that build up communion and community. Truth is always the ultimate source of freedom, but only the truth of Jesus Christ can fully secure our freedom.
In Redemptor Hominis, John Paul writes that as the Second Vatican Council reflected on the mysteries of creation and redemption it penetrated to the “inward mystery of man.” He repeatedly invoked a key passage from Gaudium et Spes throughout his papal encyclicals and exhortations: “The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate word does the mystery of man take on light.”
“Christ, the new Adam, in the very revelation of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling,” John Paul continues. By focusing on the life of Christ, the “perfect man,” every human person comes to learn life’s deepest meaning: sacrificial love and self-donation. Imitating Christ, man “finds himself in the sincere gift of self,” since mutual self-donation brings us into a fulfilling communio with others and with God, imperfectly in this life, but perfectly in the next. In this striking formula from Dominum et Vivificantem, John Paul sums up the whole of Christian anthropology. Thus, revelation supported by metaphysical wisdom resolves the riddle of human existence and restores the moral order shredded by the forces of modern nihilism.
It should be evident from this sampling of his papal wisdom that the silence surrounding John Paul II in the Church since his death in 2005 has been deafening. But he continues to speak and inspire through his remarkable writings so long as we have the fortitude to listen and learn.
May 20, 2020
Unique acts of love during reopening process
by Fr. Pham
When we think of doing an act of love for someone, whether it be for a spouse, child, parent, sibling, friend, coworker, neighbor, etc, we think of doing things like spending extended time with them, shaking hands, hugging, kissing, throwing a big party for their special occasion, right? All of these are wonderful and important things we should continue to do for our loved ones, but now is not yet the right time. Today, I want to share some unique ways to show our loved ones that we truly love them. These are all aligned with Gov. Murphy’s recommendations as we start the reopening process of the state. These are the things that I will do concretely to show my love for others, especially my loved ones in the immediate future.
First, I will continue to wash my hands frequently, and before and after each time I have to leave the rectory for essential needs. We all know that this is the way to stay clean and prevent the virus to transfer to other things that we have around us. Second, I will wear my mask in public. Even if we have to breathe the same air, like inside the supermarket, we are protecting each other from the droplets. Third, I will respect social distancing guidelines whenever I am at the supermarket, pharmacy, or outside conducting essential businesses.
Next, I will minimize gatherings. This means, I will not be the one organizing parties or gathering my friends or family together for any special occasions. I will also not have any larger gatherings until things are safe again, according to CDC. This means, even when things are important enough that I feel the need to gather, I will only do it with a very small, limited number of real close ones. For example, this past Mother’s Day, I felt the need to do something special for my mom. As such, I gathered together a couple of my siblings and had a special dinner with my mom. She was full of joy. Finally, I will also make a conscious effort to disinfect all the places or surfaces that I frequently touch.
I will do all these things to protect everyone around me. I am not driven by fear selfishly for my own safety, I am driven rather by love. I know that doing all these things minimize the risks of me contracting the virus and then inadvertently passing it on to one of my loved ones. I do all these things to protect you, among all people who are very important in my life. I hope you do the same.
God bless you and your family!
May 21, 2020
A Birthday Celebration
by Michael Vitarelli
Friends, in 10 days we will be celebrating Pentecost Sunday, the birthday of the church! We know the story of how the apostles hid in the room with doors locked. They were scared out of their minds because they did not want to be crucified as Jesus was. They had no guidance of what they were supposed to do, except for the three years of 24/7 teaching that Jesus personally gave them. Fear clouded their minds and hearts; they could not see what was right in front of them.
When Jesus appeared and breathed on them, they were filled with the Holy Spirit. This was not your average pep talk to get them back on their feet! They were changed! They went from being scared and hiding for fear of death to immediately standing in the synagogues preaching and teaching fearlessly. How was this possible? What was it that changed in them? Do we experience the same change when we receive the Holy Spirit in Confirmation, when we celebrated Pentecost at Mass? We do if we are open to the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. The apostles were begging for guidance from God, and the spirit gave them that guidance.
I think it is important for us to understand that the designation of Christian was not something that the apostles gave themselves. It was the people that they preached to and ministered to that gave them that title, because they said these people act just like Jesus. That’s a great thing to be accused of, isn’t it? This was the work of the Holy Spirit that gave them fortitude and the ability to persevere in Gods will, even knowing it would mean their lives.
Is being a Christian something that we just call ourselves, or something that people see in us? It’s not easy to accomplish this on our own, in fact, it is almost impossible because of our fallen nature. However, we are not alone. Just as the apostles hide in that room scared for their lives, not knowing what to do next on their own, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to them. The same spirit that overshadowed Mary and conceived in her whom our savoir, the same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead and ascended him into heaven, dwells within us!
When we are scared and frustrated, which I know I am most of the time because of my human nature, we call upon the Holy Spirit that dwells within us, and we ask him to take over to guide us and inspire us in all that we do. All the things that scare us and cause us anxiety will still be there except now we will have the strength and guidance to persevere through whatever lies ahead.
Especially now in these times of an unknown future for families, businesses, and our government, we still have these sure things that will never change, that will never let us down, and will never leave us: The Holy Spirit, the communion of saints, the resurrection of our bodies, and life everlasting!
May 22, 2020
When dealing with a crisis alone it is almost impossible to succeed
By Fr. Pham
Have you ever tried to plan a major event on your own or prepared for a major test that makes up 60 to 70% of your final grade? Have you ever traveled alone to a foreign country and trying to truly enjoy that trip? I invite you to think of any other event or situation that you have tried and found yourself with much difficulty to succeed. The situation is even worse when you are in a crisis situation.
A crisis brings new challenges and sometimes you are not ready for it at all. It comes as a big surprise. For me, I would feel sad, disappointed, overwhelmed, and confused, etc. As a result, I have great trouble in finding the solution to the crisis, my mind would not be well enough to think clearly due to the uncertainty of the right solution and of the future. In the last two and a half months since the lockdown due to our current crisis, many of us find ourselves in a crisis, like the lost of a loved one due to the virus, or having someone dear to us who is trying to recover from the virus, over 40 millions people filed for unemployment, many small businesses hurt greatly financially and some even have to close their stores for good. I am sure this long list can go on and on as a result of the current crisis that we are going through.
In a crisis, please do not try to get through it on your own. Get as much support and love as possible from your family, relatives and friends. Give them a phone call and share your life situation. It is good to share to help you feel better, rather than withholding your thoughts and feelings to yourself which they can become “a virus of its own” that eats you up slowly each day. Your sharing with other people give them an opportunity to help you to find the solution to your own crisis and takes you off of your negativity that clouded your mind.
The one concrete example is that our parish has been having the Novena to Saint Rita which will conclude today with a special 3pm Mass on her feast day. We have been asking her for help by interceding on our behalf to God to help us deal with the current crisis and for an end to this pandemic. She is the patron saint of impossible cases, we know that with God’s help, “all things are possible”. Remember that “dealing with a crisis alone is almost impossible to succeed” but with the help of other people and of God, “all will be well.”
May 23, 2020
We’re ALMOST There!
by Fr. Mann
It is pretty safe to say that everyone has been on a long road trip. I can remember when the two-hour ride from south Philly to the shore seemed like forever. My tolerance for long rides across country has greatly increased since those lovely days of yesteryear.
Of course, parents can relate to the inevitable, invariable question shouted from the back of the vehicle: “Are we there yet?” Unfailingly, I always got the same stern answer from my parents: “We’re ALMOST there.”
I for one at this point into our lockdown road trip (which increasingly seems like a power trip from every manner of bureaucrat) find myself in a unique place. On the one hand, I am with all of us whose patience is being sorely tried—shouting out: “Are we there yet?” But as your pastor, I have to answer: “We’re ALMOST There.”
I assure you, Christ’s faithful at CTR, that we are ready, willing and able to open AS SOON AS WE ARE GIVEN PERMISSION TO DO SO FROM THE DIOCESE OF CAMDEN. Only say the word, and we can make it happen quickly.
So, PRAY… PRAY… PRAY!
Our beloved Lord once famously said: “Render unto Ceaser what is Ceaser’s, and render unto God what is God’s.” In other words, it is entirely possible to good, faithful Christian citizens when all concerned parties respect each other’s God-given authority in a right-ordered way.
The FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT says as much.
No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Much less by the Executive Decree of a governor who uttered that, “The Bill of Rights is above my paygrade,” and “He had not considered the effect of his restrictive executive orders on the Bill of Rights.”
According to the National Constitutional Center in Philadelphia…
The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment echoes that of the Fifth Amendment. The Fifth Amendment, however, applies only against the federal government. After the Civil War, Congress adopted a number of measures to protect individual rights from interference by the states. Among them was the Fourteenth Amendment, which prohibits the states from depriving “any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.
Individual rights listed in the Bill of Rights, including freedom of speech, free exercise of religion, the right to bear arms, and a variety of criminal procedure protections;
As the president recently exhorted all the governors and citizens of the states: “At this time we need more prayer. NOT LESS.”
So, PRAY… PRAY… PRAY… as good citizens and as good Catholics!
We’re ALMOST there!
Denver Newsroom, May 22, 2020 / 05:45 pm (CNA).- While President Donald Trump’s May 22 call to reopen churches has become a source of national controversy, a group of Catholic doctors has offered a plan that could expedite that process.
“I think that if we just use common sense to compare apples to apples for metrics that we know matter – like density, for example – then there’s no real kind of objective scientific reason why Mass is any more dangerous than going to the grocery store. I think the difference here is a perceived risk,” said Dr. Andrew Wang, an immunobiologist at the Yale University School of Medicine.
Wang said that while it is impossible to eliminate all risk, there are steps that churches can take to prudently reopen for Mass and Confession.
“If we have best practice for the hospital, for Home Depot, for Chick-fil-A, then why not have best practices for Mass? It just seems like it would follow naturally,” he told CNA.
Wang is one of seven Catholic doctors who released a document entitled “Road Map to Re-Opening our Catholic Churches Safely.”
The road map says that the sacraments are essential for Catholics, and argues that “churches can operate as safely as other essential services,” as long as care is taken to form and follow careful plans.
Safety protocols should be created with the help of medical experts and may need to be adjusted over time, it says, to reflect the changing realities and medical recommendations in a given area.
The document calls for Mass to be held with social distancing and the use of masks and hand sanitizer. Singing should be avoided, and those who are ill or believe they may have been exposed to the virus should stay home, it says.
It calls for confessions to be held in outdoor or well-ventilated indoor areas, with the use of masks, an impermeable barrier between the priest and penitent, and frequent sanitization of surfaces.
As the novel coronavirus spread in March, all U.S. Catholic dioceses curtailed public Masses to prevent the spread of the disease. However, beginning in mid-April, dioceses have begun resuming the offering of public Masses.
At a Friday press briefing, Trump said that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) would, at his direction, be issuing new guidance for churches to reopen. He said he was identifying houses of worship as “essential,” although a source familiar with the deliberations told CNA that the label is not an official designation by the administration.
Trump’s announcement comes after the CDC reportedly drafted guidance for reopening businesses, churches, and other places of public accommodation earlier this month. On May 7, however, the AP reported that the Trump administration had shelved a 17-page CDC report that included an “Interim Guidance for Communities of Faith.”
On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that the White House pushed against the CDC issuing guidance for churches, with the concern that it did not want to unnecessarily limit the freedom of churches.
Critics of the decision have argued that church gatherings could result in additional outbreaks of the coronavirus, which has led to more than 93,000 deaths in the U.S., according to the CDC.
However, Wang said that he thinks careful guidelines can aid in efforts to prudently reopen churches. He told CNA that he finds Trump’s announcement “very encouraging.”
“I think those of us who are Catholic would probably view attending Mass as essential,” he commented.
The guidelines laid out in the “Road Map to Re-Opening our Catholic Churches Safely” are the fruit of careful consideration, he said. They address the major points that are currently known about the transmission of the coronavirus.
In implementing the guidelines, he said, parishes will need to take local context into account. For example, a large suburban church with a sizable parking lot may be able to hold an outdoor Mass, while an urban church may find it more difficult to do so.
He also noted that the road map is “a document made by doctors, not by liturgists, so the considerations are really purely medical” and may need to be adapted as deemed appropriate by Church authorities.
In developing the document, Wang said, “what we spent the lion share of our time on was the Eucharist, because that is a bit of special case that the grocery store or Walmart may not have.”
“The moment where you take the host, that presented really a special challenge…This was discussed at length, so that we all had a consensus on what would be safest practices for that particular moment.”
Ultimately, the group of doctors concluded that the safest recommendation is to receive communion in the hand rather than on the tongue.
Wang referenced a recent study showing it is much easier to pick up the virus from saliva than a nasal swab.
While full information about the risk remains unknown, he said, “receiving on the tongue in this case, with this particular virus, may present higher risk” than reception in the hand.
Although he acknowledged that some people may object to this, Wang said that in his perspective, “it boils down to, is it better to not have communion at all – and by extension not have Mass at all?”
He added that the document’s guidelines are recommendations, but that priests and bishops can do as they see fit.
Wang also addressed the concern that HVAC systems may contribute to the spread of the coronavirus, moving contaminated air particles around even if people are spaced out within a church.
Outdoor Mass would be ideal at addressing this particular concern, he said, but it may not be logistically feasible at all parishes.
Still, he said, after a lengthy discussion, “our assessment of the literature was that it was not entirely clear that the circulation of air was necessarily something that would be limiting.” He noted that grocery stories, research labs, and other indoor facilities would also be similarly problematic if HVAC systems played a significant role in spreading the virus.
Ultimately, Wang said, going to church at this time is not risk-free, just as any other public activity is not without risk during a pandemic. He noted that dioceses throughout the country have granted dispensations from the Sunday obligation for those who are unable to attend or are not comfortable with the risk involved.
However, he believes that if churches act prudently, they can implement guidelines to minimize risk, while making the sacraments available to the people of God.
“It just boils down to one of the oldest institutions on earth having some kind of best practices, guidelines, for how one might do this as safely as is possible, based on what we currently know about COVID,” he said.