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July 2017

August 2017

Eclipse of Faith?

For a moment today, the sun will be darkened by planetary motions which scientists can predict even if not fully understand.

Shutterstock_475042897Faith in things unseen is a fundamental principle of the Christian view of the world. Religious faith is more complicated than having faith that the sun is still there even when we can’t see it. It’s a belief in things that cannot be seen or measured, but are nevertheless real – a spiritual world exists too. We can know enough about this realm using our human reason alone to agree on a public morality which should allow us to live in mutual respect and peace.

Through Divine Revelation, we believe that higher truth has been revealed through the Scripture and Sacred Tradition of the Church, enabling us to profess our faith in the Nicene Creed we pray every week at Mass.

Saints and spiritual writers encourage us to keep the faith during times of personal faith eclipse – times in our lives when God may seem absent and our spirits dark. When such feelings persist, St. John of the Cross called them the “Dark Night of the Soul.” We learn much about God and move into closer union with God, not by fleeing the dark night, but by learning to find God in the dark. Faith that God is near, even when we can’t see.


St. Pius X and Holy Communion

HolyCommunionPope St. Pius X promoted both frequent, even daily, reception of Holy Communion for adults and ensured that the practice of the Church was to welcome children to First Communion and First Penance when they had reached the age of reason, age seven.

They need not have a perfect understanding of Holy Eucharist, but merely an understanding that the Eucharistic Bread is different from ordinary bread and to receive it with a degree of piety and reverence appropriate for their age. 

The Pope called the reception of Holy Communion the "surest, easiest, shortest way" to heaven.

 


Saint Helena, Empress

Saint Helena's statue in the Vatican
St. Helena in St. Peter's

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Helena, an important saint in the church and in the iconography of our own parish.

St. Helena, whose son battled his way to imperial power ultimately under the banner of the Christian cross, was brought to the imperial court by her son and deputed to search for sites important to Christians in the Holy Land. Well into her senior years, she directed the demolition of pagan shrines often built over these sites and undertook excavations in Jerusalem which ultimately uncovered the True Cross, the tomb of Jesus and other precious relics.

Her pilgrimage and building opened the way for countless other pilgrims through the centuries to make the difficult journey to the holy sites in and around Jerusalem.

Travel pilgrimages survive today as a form of devotion, though usually not as perilous as those of yesteryear. The journey theme itself, however, is still an important metaphor for the life of Christian discipleship: we begin our challenging journey in this life in the footsteps of Jesus and follow His Way to the heavenly Kingdom. 

St. Helena's energy and enthusiasm for new projects in her senior years, her resilience of spirit following her divorce by her husband and her hope to search for the unseen can be inspirations for us today. We too, should revere Jesus' memory and the places he trod during His earthly life.

Let us ask her protection on life's journey as we follow Jesus on The Way.

 

 


Forgive Us Our Trespasses As We Forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us


The Balance ScalesWhat interesting Scripture readings for mass this morning. The first reading recounts Joshua's passage through the River Jordan with the Ark of the Covenant and the entire people of Israel, mirroring Moses' passage through the Red Sea - both leading the people to the Promised Land.

The gospel is from Matthew, whose gospel is carefully constructed around Mosaic themes, depicting Jesus as the "New Moses," who fulfills the Old Covenant and forms a new Covenant with his people. Like Moses and Joshua, but surpassing them both, Jesus leads them into the Kingdom of God.

The parable of the unforgiving servant reminds us that old rules no longer apply in the New Kingdom. The "lex talionis" or eye-for-an-eye is an overly rigorous expression of justice. Instead, we should show the same freely given forgiveness Jesus issues to us to our brothers and sisters in return.

Today, some grudge, resentment or unpaid debt will surely come to mind before Communion. Let us ask Jesus to help us release it, for in doing so we not only release our debtor, but our own spirit too. If we can't find the forgiveness in our own heart yet, we can surely find it in the Heart of Jesus.

 

 

 


New High Resolution Security Cameras

SecurityHoly Cross recently completed the installation of high resolution security cameras in and around the church. The school, of course has had such cameras for some time now and the old church had security cameras, but the new church has been without them until now.

Technology advances quickly and the quality of the images from modern security cameras far surpass those of even a few years ago. But electronic security cannot substitute for watchful eyes and the importance of reporting suspicious activity in and around the church to parish staff or the police.

There have been a few episodes of robbery from churches recently in our diocese. Keep watch on God's House!

 


St. King Stephen and Secular Power

St. Stephen of Hungary was crowned king by Pope Sylvester II in 1000 A.D. after Stephen consolidated his rule over competing tribal chieftains and allied with Christianity as a unifying dimension of his kingdom. He later founded many monasteries and built churches emphasizing liturgical and faithful unity with the papacy. 

Since the early days of the church,  the question of the use of force by Christian leaders has been a thorny one. St. Augustine's City of God famously dealt with the issue and much later, Martin Luther had more to say on the subject. The days of papal armies are long gone, the pope wielding moral authority more than worldly power. What are the legitimate uses of force, including lethal force, against evil? This question still prompts vigorous discussion. 

St. Stephen of Hungary from wikimedia
Bronze statue of St. Stephen in Aachen

 

Holy Crown of Stephen from Wiki
Crown of St. Stephen

The Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary

In 1950 Pius XII infallibly defined the dogma of the Assumption of Mary, a belief already held by Catholics and many other Christians since the early days of the church. The dogma deliberately leaves open the question of whether Mary suffered death before her assumption prevented bodily deterioration. 

In 2005 on the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary,  the statue of Our Lady of Grace which stands atop our Carriage House was dedicated in Mary's honor and with prayers that she intercede for our parish and its people.

Dedication of Our Lady of Grace Statue at Holy Cross, Solemnity of the Assumption
Our Lady Of Grace at Holy Cross Church Rumson


St. Maximilian Kolbe, Martyr of Charity

Saints in Heavenly CloudsWhile canon lawyers are still discussing the technical requirements of the Catholic church for being declared a martyr, we should not miss Maximilian Kolbe's heroic life of virtue long before he volunteered to take the place of a condemned man in a Nazi concentration camp. His self-sacrifice and service to others continued even in the bleak starvation bunker with his fellow prisoners.

Pope Francis' recent motu proprio, "Greater Love Than This" defined a new category of sainthood -an offering of life. Traditionally, the death of a martyr for the faith had to occur as a direct and immediate hatred for the Catholic faith on the part of the oppressor toward the victim. 

 “They are worthy of special consideration and honor, those Christians who, following in the footsteps and teachings of the Lord Jesus, have voluntarily and freely offered their lives for others and have persevered until death in this regard.”

Pope Francis, Majorem hac dilectionem.

 

 


Stormy Seas and Seawalking

bicycle riding, learning, parents, training wheels

I laughed when St. Peter's sinking

into the stormy waves

reminded me of learning

To ride a bike.

For my first brief solo flights

without training wheels, 

I was fine until I realized

Dad wasn’t holding on anymore.

And then...crash...right into the hedges!

 

 

This gospel is wonderful encouragement

as we strive to follow Jesus.

First, encouragement not to lose faith

For it is then we begin to sink.

       There’s a point at which

       All the books about prayer

       Can’t teach us to pray

       If we don’t begin to pray

       And then stop worrying

       If we’re doing it right.

Second, reassurance

That if we’re heading

In the right direction...toward Jesus

And following his commands

He won’t let us sink.

 

St. Augustine preached

A wonderful homily

On this gospel

On which we can reflect

After we realize that

Augustine asks us

To make, “Lord, I’m sinking.”

Is not always easy to admit.

But we need not keep

Up a bravado with God - 

A false front of security

And calm, even if done

For the sake of others.

God doesn’t require it.

You are not walking on the lake like Peter
but on another sea, for this world is a sea;
Trials its waves, temptations its storms,
and men devouring each other as fishes do.
Don't be afraid, step out stoutly lest you sink.
When the gale blows and the waves rise,
and your weakness makes you fear you will be lost,
cry out, 'Lord, I am sinking,'
and he who bade you walk will not let you perish.

St. Augustine via At The Edge of the Enclosure a wonderful resource for prayerful reflection on Scripture each Sunday.


Could St. Clare Watch Television With You?

TvPope Pius XII named St Clare, virgin and abbess,  patron saint of television due to her reported ability to "watch" mass on the wall of her room when she was unable to attend in the chapel due to illness. She had one of the earliest big screen televisions?

Her radical commitment to poverty, chaste living and prayer, especially in the Eucharist are counter-cultural images to our age of acquisition, sexual promiscuity and self-deification. 

Could we invite her to watch the television images we project on our walls?

 


St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr

 

Treasure
Jesus told us that where our treasure is, there also will be our heart.

The lure of earthly possessions, reputation,  and other things which pass can attract our heart away from things which last forever.

St. Lawrence had it right when he counted not the possessions of the church as its riches, but its people gathered around Christ - especially its poor, sick and powerless.

We can profess our love for God, family and brothers and sisters in Christ, but our heart may have been tempted away from them.

Let us pray today, that we keep our hearts in the right place - centered in Christ.

 

 


Edith Stein, Saint Sr. Benedicta of the Cross


Untitled-1
A photo of Edith Stein before her professed life as a Carmelite nun, and later as Sr. Benedicta of the Cross. Edith was born a German Jew and distinguished herself as an excellent scholar, eventually becoming as associate of Edmund Husserl, the famous philosopher. An interesting aspect of the school of Phenomenology was its analysis of events and issues as we encounter them, suspending any preconceived notions or prejudices. Some think this is why she became open to Catholic teachings, eventually embracing them completely and converting  to the Catholic faith. 

She entered the Carmelite order in Germany, eventually being transferred to a Carmel in Holland as the Nazis rose to power in Germany. For a short time, she lived safely in the obscurity of the convent, even after Hitler invaded the Netherlands, composing, at the direction of her superiors, a work she entitled "The Science of the Cross," which discussed the spirituality of St. John of the Cross. In reprisal for the Pastoral Letter issued by the Dutch Catholic church against the Nazis, among the first groups of Jews sent to the gas chambers at Auschwitz from the Netherlands were thousands of Jewish converts to Catholicism, among them Edith Stein and her sister (who by this time had also converted to Catholicism and had become a Carmelite nun).

It was not only philosophical and theological ideas which attracted her to Catholicism, but the love of Jesus Christ for us. She was particularly moved when as she toured a church before her conversion, a street vendor selling flowers came into the church, put aside her flowers and spent many minutes in prayer before picking up her flowers and resuming her day. Edith wanted to be able to pray to a God with whom she could have such a personal relationship and who mattered in our everyday lives.

She is one of the patron saints of Europe - a reminder of the time when several leading intellectuals were attracted to Catholicism instead of mocking it. She experienced oppression as a woman by the German academic community and as Jew by the Nazis but was never embittered. She, along with St. Maximillian Kolbe have been called "martyrs of love" by St. Pope John Paul II.

 


Enough? Enough!

Loaves and Fishes

Many times we find ourselves asking the question, "Enough?"

If we fall under the spell of modern advertisers our answer is certainly "no." We become convinced no one can never have enough money or popularity or youth or time. When we find ourselves in this state of worry, the tone my parents used to signal an end to family bickering is appropriate - "Enough."

In prayer, we might approach God with an earnest plea for help or courage or assistance in carrying out a project, dealing with a difficulty or using a blessing. "Enough?"

Whatever the circumstance, God's grace is sufficient. There is enough mercy, enough love. God's gentle, reassuring answer through Christ,  "Enough!"


Parish Day of Recollection in Advent - December 5th at Saint Alfonso Retreat House

Save the date:                                         

Tuesday, December 5th    9:00 AM - 2:30 PM

Saint Alfonso Retreat House, West Long Branch

$ 35/person includes lunch and refreshments

Three Redemptorist priests will preach the retreat which concludes with Mass at 2:30 P.M.

Confession will be available.

 

 

                


Saint John Vianney

FirePrivate prayer is like straw scattered here and there: if you set it on fire, it makes a lot of little flames.

But gather these straws into a bundle and light them, and you get a mighty fire, rising like a column into the sky; public prayer is like that.

St. John Vianney