The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception


Piazza Immacolatacolonnaroma
There are many columns around the world dedicated to Mary, this one in Rome is under the title of the Immaculate Conception. It was erected shortly after the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception was promulgated.

Mary is shown with representations of the four evangelists along with her typical artistic calligraphy as the Immaculate Conception.

Since the column itself was originally raised by the local firemen, the custom of the fire department placing a bouquet at Mary's feet and a floral wreath around her outstretched arm on this date has developed. 

Mary's Immaculate Conception, her fiat or let it be done to me at the Annunciation and Jesus' Incarnation in her womb are each important parts of God's wonderful plan for our redemption.

Saint Ambrose

Saint Ambrose, bishop and one of original doctors of the Church helps keep the Chair of Peter aloft in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. He is shown on the left front in mitre, with one of his pupils, St. Augustine in miter on the right front of the chair.

Ambrose wrote, spoke eloquently and defended the Church against heterodox doctrine while guiding the direction the Church would take until this very day.

Augustine was initially attracted by Ambrose's preaching style, but stayed for his substance and through Ambrose's influence re-animated his Christian faith.


Read the Signs of the Seasons

Fig Apparently fig trees can be immense! Jesus uses them to focus our attention on paying the proper attention to the signs his ministry manifests to the world: the deaf hear, the blind see, the dead are raised, the poor are fed and the people have the Good News preached to them.

The end of the church's calendar year helps us anticipate the coming of the Advent season: let us prepare.

St. Andrew, Apostle and Martyr

Statue of St. Andrew in the Vatican

Saint Andrew is sometimes called the "first called" apostle, since it was he who introduced  his brother Simon to Jesus (in John's gospel).

Andrew's generosity and immediacy in responding to Christ's call can be a model for our discipleship. So often we ruminate on things and call it discerning God's will, when what we need is a little more of Andrew's complete commitment in following Jesus at the very first call.



The Handwriting On the Wall

Rembrandt-BelsazarToday's reading recounts Daniel's prophetic interpretation of the mysterious handwriting on the wall which appeared during a sacrilegious feast by King Belshazzar using the sacred vessels from the captured Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. 

The king could not read the message due to his hardness of heart and his drunkenness. 

These last few days of ordinary time remind us of the hostile receptions given Old Testament prophets. The new prophecy announced by the Angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary and brought to fulfillment in Jesus Christ will soon be upon us. By prayer and corporal and spiritual gifts of mercy, may our hearts be ready to receive Jesus this Christmas.

Saint Cecilia, Early Christian Martyr

SaintCeciliaAccording to legend, when St. Cecilia's body was exhumed, her fingers were found in positions interpreted as a witness to the Trinity - Three persons in One God.

Her husband and brother-in-law were martyred for piously burying the dead Christian martyrs and Cecilia's burying them both brought her to the attention of Roman authority. After refusing to renounce God and worship pagan deities, she too was martyred. Her name is included in the Roman Canon, an early Eucharistic prayer.


St. Elizabeth of Hungary

ElizabethOfHungary at Holy Cross
St. Elizabeth of Hungary at Holy Cross Church, Rumson NJ

Saint Elizabeth lived a full, but short, life: she was married at 14, mother to three children, one of whom was born shortly after her husband died, widowed at 20, dead herself at 24 years old. 

Despite her privileged upbringing as a princess married to a king, she developed a great concern for the poor after hearing the preaching and seeing the example of the Franciscans. Her generosity to the poor aroused resentment among the courtiers surrounding her husband, who accused her of misappropriating palace goods and treasures for the disadvantaged. 

One day these advisors and the king confronted Elizabeth on one of her missions of mercy, demanding to know what she carried in her cloak. She had stuffed her cloak full of bread for the hungry, but when she revealed what she was carrying to her husband, there were only roses. This is one of many times roses would be used as signals of divine intervention in the lives of the saints. 


St. Gertrude the Great

GertrudeProceeding from the central insight that Jesus is Lord and judge, but also a loving Savior, Gertrude meditated on Christ's great love for us. Her insights planted the seed in the church for the growth of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Fostering our loving relationship with Jesus requires the same measures we take to show our love to spouse, family and friends: frequent communication, times of intimacy and quiet, loving acts of sacrifice and self-donation, listening and more.


St. Albert the Great

AlbertusMagnusSt. Albert the Great had a nearly insatiable curiosity about the world and all that is in it. He studied and wrote extensively about the natural sciences, including the philosophy of the Greeks, especially Aristotle.

Through Albert, the West rediscovered Aristotle, lost to them since the fall of the Roman Empire. The ancient wisdom was kept alive by the Muslims which Albert read and studied as soon as translations from Arabic were made available.

One of his most famous students was St. Thomas Aquinas, who learned about Aristotle from Albert and went on to compose a synthesis of Aristotelian philosophy and Christian theology. His influence on philosophy and  theology into the modern age is immeasurable.

Albert preached, lectured and for a short time was bishop of a diocese, all the while laboring for the gospel and its truth. He saw no contradiction between science and faith. 

This icon of St. Albert is outside our school's science lab, since St. Albert is a patron saint of natural scientists.

Mother Frances Cabrini

MotherCabriniMother Frances Xavier Cabrini, who wanted to become a nun but was refused entry into congregations because of her poor health wound up founding her own religious community. 

She dreamed of working in China, but was sent by the pope to North America instead to work with Italian immigrants.

She wasn't welcomed with open arms in America, but set about working with the poor and orphans anyway.

So many times she had an opportunity to walk away and decide it wasn't worth the difficulty - but she didn't.

Instead this frail woman founded hospitals, schools and orphanages around the world and became the first American citizen (naturalized) to be declared a saint.


Five Were Wise, Five Were Foolish



Advent approaches

We are called to watchful attention

For the coming of the Lord in our lives

And our world.

The foolish virgins are an example

Of inattention and distraction.

Distractions are all around us

None more powerful these days

Than our electronic devices.

The computer age has certainly

Changed our world

But the age of smartphones

Revolutionized it.

And experts say they are

Changing us. 

If our phones and the

Social apps are too much

To ignore

They’re designed that way…

To be used as much as possible

…to be addictive.


A recent study tabulated

25 % of our waking hours are

Spent on our phones

Email, texting, surfing, shopping,

Gambling, game playing. 

A good portion of the rest of the time

Is spent anticipating their use

Waiting for return texts, emails

Nomophobia: fear of being separated from our mobile devices


World of Warcraft may be one of the most addictive behavioral experiences on the planet

Ten billion dollars, 100 million subscribers, 12th nation on earth


We can do and see almost anything

At the click of a button day or night:

Gamble, shop, work, look at sexual images.

Smartphones have unleashed unprecedented powerful addictions.

It isn’t that we have no willpower,

It’s that there are an army of

Highly paid experts

Behind every online app

Figuring out how to overcome

Our willpower.

Convenience, availability and the illusion of privacy are factors.

Facebook’s stroke of genius

Was adding the “like” and “friend” functions

Which provide unpredictable

But small rewards for using the app

And then digitizing the results:

       Likes, dislikes, comments, follow, unfollow;

Providing badges or awards for incremental use.


Who knows what post will be liked?

How can I expand my network of friends?

Can I get to level three?

What will go viral?

How many likes do I have now?

Click, click, click.


Work invades our leisure time with 

Nearly 24 hours of work email, texts, alerts...

Even on vacation.


Our young people are particularly susceptible

to these devices and apps.

False social values and self-worth

       Determined by Likes and followers and clicks.


Social interaction of young children - it's 

Important to be free from screen time.


Steve Jobs wouldn’t allow his children

       To have iPhones.

One of the first presidents of Facebook

       Wouldn’t allow his children

       To use the app.

Some of the best game developers

       And programmers won’t play

       World of Warcraft.

They are very powerful changers of behavior


How they change social interactions,

       Family get-togethers and other

       Functions is obvious to all of us

Even our worship is periodically invaded


So what do we do?

Work stays at work.

       One company in Europe has all the desks

       And office furniture wired to cables

       And at closing time

       The furniture is hoisted to the ceiling

       Converting the space to a recreation area

Some companies are shutting off email

       After hours and during employee

       Vacations: mail on holiday

       Providing an alternate contact for emergencies

       But not accepting new emails

       People don’t return from vacation

       With overflowing inbox.

For measures we can take:

Parents are prohibiting any unsupervised internet access to young children

And if they provide them cell phones, only those without internet connectivity

No computer screens or TV’s in childrens’ rooms

Limiting hours of screen time

       Self and others

       Social interaction

       Text-speak not the same as face-to-face communication


Advent is coming...

       Think about a plan.

       It’s easy to become distracted,

       We don’t want to be caught off guard

       And miss occasions of grace

       Gratitude and good-will.


How can we become more attentive

To what’s important,

Not distracted by irrelevant

Digital pleasures.

Advent 11 PM to Midnight Adoration

       On Wednesday nights

Spending time with God

       With family, friends

       With the poor and hungry

       With the sick and suffering

       Praying for those we miss

       In the real world

       Not the virtual world


See  Irresistible  by Adam Alter and The Power of Silence by Robert Cardinal Sarah.

St. Pope Leo the Great, Doctor of the Church

LeoToday we honor St. Leo the Great, pope and Doctor of the Church. This mural by Raphael shows the pope riding out to meet Attila the Hun and persuading him to spare Rome. Attila is said to have seen a vision of Sts. Peter and Paul brandishing swords to emphasize Pope Leo's mission.

Early popes acclaimed as "Great" generally acted in ways which strengthened the Petrine ministry as Leo did in advancing the primacy of Bishop of Rome above the Patriarchs of the Eastern church. His writings and teachings, especially on the nature of Jesus Christ and against the many Christological heresies in the early church earned him designation as Doctor of the Church.

Let us pray that the church continued to be blessed with both courageous leaders and disciples.

St. Martin de Porres

St. Martin de Porres faced poverty, a difficult childhood and prejudice, much of it stemming from the fact that he was of bi-racial origin and abandoned by his father. Despite this he was attracted to religious life and was gradually accepted into the Dominican Order and eventually even allowed to profess his vows as a Dominican brother. 

In his youth he learned barbering and first aid and continued to render care to the poor and sick in and around the monastery. He became renowned for powers of miraculous healing and is often shown with animals due to his empathy and way with them. He was canonized by St. Pope John XXIII.










Painting of St. Martin done just before or shortly after his death by an unknown artist and a photograph of a modern facial reconstruction using his skull.

All Souls Day

Candles Remembering The Dead In A Polish Cemetery

All Souls' Day is time to remember our deceased loved ones and pray they pass over to a land of rest and peace, in the words of today's opening prayer at Mass.

What gives us rest and and peace is not simply dwelling in an Eden-like place of ecological balance, but resting in the presence of our Lord and all the saints.

Our prayers, acts of penance and works of mercy can help the deceased realize their heavenly goal and have always been looked upon by the church as meritorious acts.


Jesus Heals On the Sabbath

ShutterstockIn this morning's gospel, Jesus uses two modes of healing: voice command and touch. In certain parables, Jesus uses only his voice and will to effect a cure, even at a distance, for example the centurion's servant. In the case of the woman with the deformation of the spine, he uses both touch and command. 

In the Sacrament of the Sick, the Church uses both these methods, employing prayers for healing and laying on of the priest's hands. In addition the anointing with Oil of the Sick constitutes an essential part of the sacrament. 

When it comes to the celebration of the Sacrament of the Sick, sooner is always  better than later. If the anointing is prior to non-urgent surgery, the sacrament can be prayed by the parish priest and family before admission to the hospital. If for a serious illness, anointing should ideally take place before the person loses consciousness or becomes overly confused by pain medications. In these circumstances, concerned family members can also gather to help support the sick person with prayers during the anointing. Someone who is conscious may also wish to go to confession (to use the old language). 

The Sacrament of the Sick is a beautiful sacrament that bestows much peace and inner strength, sometimes even physical strength enough to recover. 


Love God, Love Neighbor: Get the First Button Right

Shutterstock_146019983In a recently published book of his homilies, Pope Benedict reminds us that without God in our lives, it is as if we put the second button in the first buttonhole --- nothing will come out right. It's a great metaphor for mistakenly living life as a strategic game instead of a prayerful plan.

If the love of God is the foundation of our lives, then all our other relationships are based on this love. If not, we cannot love anyone. And if God disappears from our world, he warns, all is dark.

Loving God and neighbor both require practice, so confession, prayer, Eucharist and bearing with other in patience must be practiced each day. 

The book entitled, Teaching and Learning the Love of God Today: Being A Priest Today has a foreword by Pope Francis.