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October 2009

September 2009

Plower's Remorse


Today's Lectionary Readings

Buyer's remorse is the regret we often feel immediately after a purchase, especially a big ticket item. Before a decision we may enjoy the feeling of power our many options give us. After a choice is made, we may experience the negative aspects of our choice. We may fear we have missed out on other opportunities, or that others may criticize our decision. The decision may have been taken without adequate deliberation or with inadequate or faulty information.

How about plower's remorse? Having taken up the plow and set out on our journey with Christ in Baptism, how many times do we look back over our shoulder or slacken our pace, change our direction or wander off inattentively daydreaming about possibilities we're missing out on? What happens when we hit rocky ground?

Jesus encourages us to keep going. It's been said that to plow a straight line, you've got to look ahead. Even the best excuses we can offer for becoming distracted don't merit consideration. Prayer and frequent reception of the Eucharist offer some of the best course corrections we can take.

Diocesan Accountant Concludes Audit At Holy Cross


Father Manning and Roger Trendowski, our Parish Business Manager, met with the Diocesan Financial Auditor who completed his audit of our parish today. 

Roger, in conjunction with our own accountant and under the supervision of both Parish and School Finance Committees, manages the deposits and disbursements from parish accounts including payroll for parish and school employees. 

The diocesan auditor suggested some relatively minor adjustments in the way transfers are made between parish accounts, and prior approval for major payments by chairpersons and parish staff to outside vendors. He familiarized us with several new procedures for tracking the pension plan and benefits of parish employees. 

He was favorably impressed with our internal control procedures and handling of all deposits. He provided us with a written report of his findings and recommendations, which we will provide for our Finance Committees. We thank him for his courteous and professional demeanor during his stay in our parish.

Congratulations and thank you to Roger Trendowski for expediting the audit and for his diligent stewardship of parish resources.

Michael and Archangels


On Angels

All was taken away from you: white dresses,
wings, even existence.
Yet I believe in you,mesengers.

There, where the world is turned inside out,
a heavy fabric embroidered with stars and beasts,
you stroll, inspecting the trustworthy seems.

Short is your stay here:
now and then at a matinal hour, if the sky is clear,
in a melody repeated by a bird,
or in the smell of apples at close of day
when the light makes the orchards magic.

They say somebody has invented you
but to me this does not sound convincing
for the humans invented themselves as well.

The voice -- no doubt it is a valid proof,
as it can belong only to radiant creatures,
weightless and winged (after all, why not?),
girdled with the lightning.

I have heard that voice many a time when asleep
and, what is strange, I understood more or less
an order or an appeal in an unearthly tongue:

day draws near
another one
do what you can.

Czeslaw Milosz

in Risking Everything: 110 Poems of Love and Revelation, ed. Roger Housden; Harmony Books: NY, 2003.

One of my favorite images of St. Michael and one of my favorite poetic images of angels. Can you imagine turning a rich tapestry over, examining the back and inspecting all the intricate, interconnecting threads that hold it together? An old fashioned telephone switchboard with all the plugs crisscrossing and connecting? Today's modern image might be a circuit board, or a silicone wafer with countless, unseen connections which enable the miracle of computing and telecommunications.

Angels remind us that there is more to the world than what we see. They teach us humility and prayerfulness. And when we try to act rightly, mercifully, they console us that this can be a struggle. That's when I find it helpful to look at this sculpture of St. Michael: to remember that good triumphs.

St. Michael's Cathedral Coventy, England.

No False Pretenses

Today's Lectionary Readings



      by Percy Bysshe Shelley

    I met a traveler from an antique land
    Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
    Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
    Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
    And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
    Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
    Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
    The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
    And on the pedestal these words appear:
    My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
    Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair
    Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
    Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
    The lone and level sands stretch far away.

    I remember this poem well from the first time I encountered it in high school. Sonnets were not my favorites, and most of them not too easy to understand, but here was a plain and simple message.

    Jesus warns us against self-aggrandizement and lording it over others. Instead he champions a young child, reminds us that the greatest among us serve, while the least make the most of themselves.

    Let us get down off our pedestals to worship the Lord this day.

The Green Eyed Monster Which Mocks the Meat It Feeds On

Lectionary Readings 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time


Green connotes many good things like spring, hope, new growth, youth, life, vitality, ordinary time, but since the time of Shakespeare, also the especially negative emotions - jealousy and envy.

The green of jealousy or envy is thought to derive from the idea that those who harbor such emotions have too much bile, and so a sickly pale. Envy is the desire for something someone else has, while jealousy is the fear that someone or something we have will be taken away if we share.

Jesus challenges both emotions, but in today's gospel and in the Hebrew Scripture reading from Numbers, jealousy takes the limelight. 

The anointed 72 who resent the prophesizing of the absent-from-the-commissioning-meeting-without-explanation Eldad and Medad are chastized for their jealousy by Moses; Jesus likewise challenges the disciples who resent that outsiders are using Jesus' name to work exorcisms.

All of us tend to create "in" groups and "out" groups. Not everyone is a member of my family, or my neighborhood, not everyone lives in Rumson, not everyone is Catholic, not everyone is my friend, not everyone is my race, not everyone suits my personality. It natural for us to make distinctions, but sinful to deny someone their human dignity because of an arbitrary decision on our part. And we diminish our enjoyment of whatever we have by jealous fear.

How can I open a circle I belong to, how can I be less afraid I will lose by sharing, less jealous?

Do You Know Who Jesus Is?

Today's Lectionary Readings


Jesus has higher expectations of his followers than he does of "the crowd." The question he asks Peter in this morning's gospel is not "Do you love me?," which he asks in John's gospel. Love, to be sure, is important. He asks, instead, a question about his identity and Peter answers not with an avowal of love, but with "the Christ of God." Christ, the anointed one, the messiah, sent by God is the correct answer, but Peter and all the disciples have yet to learn that this messiah must suffer, die and rise again. He will not ride triumphantly into Jerusalem and expel the Romans. 

Who is Christ? Jesus expects an answer from us, just as he did from Peter and our answer should be formed by reading, thinking and prayer from the time we're in school to the time we leave this world.

What can I do today to learn something I didn't know about Jesus?





The Flagellation  by Georges Rouault. Stained glass at Notre Dame de toute Grace.

Baptism, not Property or Pedigree

Today's Lectionary Readings


Today's reading from Haggai chastises those who are pre-occupied with their own business and forget proper worship and praise of God. The prophet compares the lavish expenditures of the Israelites on their own homes with their neglect of a suitable place to worship God. This reading probably wouldn't generate a lot of good will at the start of a capital building campaign! How graphic a reminder though for those who work for a "bag with holes," and condemnation of consumerism as relevant today as it was centuries ago.

Jesus reminds us in the gospel that our relationship with him, our membership in his family comes not through privileged pedigree, or property, but by hearing the Word of God and acting on it. Our privilege is the treasure of our baptism, not in a trust fund.

Let us resolve to work for spiritual treasures and help build God's kingdom on earth, even while we wait for Jesus to bring it to fulfillment.



Mass Attendance at Holy Cross School


It was great to see the gymatorium so crowded again with families and children of all ages. Now that there's babysitting at the 10:30 AM Sunday mass, some of our parents are getting a break during mass and are able to pray without spending too much time supervising their little ones.

Our attendance has started out well. Let's keep up the momentum and even improve from week to week. Each week the class with the best mass attendance is awarded the copper Holy Cross to keep in their classroom - the same venerable cross that stood atop Holy Rosary Church for so many years.

Attending weekly mass is the best way to form and practice our faith; see you there!

Litter Patrol on The Job


The completion of Phase I of our construction project, the summer rains, and our groundskeeper's hard work have given us a beautiful campus. It a challenge to keep it that way. Grubs have been trouble lately,  but litter is always a problem.

It helps if everyone cleans up after themselves, especially candy papers and the plastic water bottles which seem to turn up everywhere. 

We have a secret weapon against the residual trash though...our Canine Trash Patrol: MAX / HOPE. Along with Fr. Manning and Sue Symington, they patrol the grounds regularly and pick up plenty of stray papers, wrappers and bottles. The dogs are a little slow on the paper wrappers, but if there is an uneaten lunch snack or piece of candy anywhere, they will find it! Hope (on the left) particularly likes retreiving the plastic bottles.

Thanks to everyone for keeping our parish grounds clean!

Bare Ruined Choirs Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang


Sonnet 73

That time of year thou mayst in me behold

When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang

Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,

Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.

In me thou see'st the twilight of such day

As after sunset fadeth in the west;

Which by and by black night doth take away,

Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.

In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire,

That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,

As the death-bed, whereon it must expire,

Consumed with that which it was nourish'd by.

This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong,

To love that well, which thou must leave ere long.

William Shakespeare
I'll never forget the Rector's Conference at St. Mary's Seminary during which our rector, musing on the relative emptiness of the seminary in the 90's compared to its peak-filled capacity of the 50's and 60's quoted this sonnet, especially the verse:
    bare ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang.
When I came upon this picture of cassocks hanging on the line to dry, I thought of that rector's conference and Shakespeare's sonnet. I suppose the rector looked at so many empty pews in chapel and thought back to younger days when no seat could be spared.
Though the rector was thinking primarily about the death or passing of an age in the church, this sonnet surely gives us pause to consider our own mortality. And more than the verse about singing birds, its last two verses have sustained me and given me much to pray about at funerals and during times of other losses:
    this thou perceiv'st which makes thy love more strong
    to love that well, which thou must leave ere long.

Thanks Fr. Leavitt, thanks William Shakespeare.

Kenyans Helping Kenyans


Holy Cross is sponsoring the stipend for a Kenyan licensed medical professional to serve in Kenya to help build a medical infrastructure in this African nation whose trained medical professionals tend to emigrate to higher paying jobs in other nations. 

The Program is Called "Kenyans Helping Kenyans" and is being sponsored by the Catholic Medical Mission Board (CMMB)   We look forward to establishing contact with our sponsee and to learn more about this interesting program in the  near future.

I needed to consult a map to find Kenya, so I've included one in this post. (At least I looked on the right continent!)

St. Matthew, Evangelist

Lectionary Readings for St. Matthew


While I suppose there are still some dedicated letter writers around, many of us put off writing, at least any serious writing as long as we can. Oh, we zip off emails and text messages, but term papers, letters to friends we haven’t seen in years, and reports due at work tend to put off to the last minute.

Writing itself, in cursive script, seems even on the way out.

So today on the feast of St. Matthew, let us give thanks for the dedication of the evangelist who gave up ciphering for Rome and not only followed the Lord but who in name and in community, wrote the words and deeds of Jesus down, enabling us to hear Jesus’ words 2000 years later.

 How can we do our part to spread the Word of the Lord? 

God the Rock of My Life


It was a pleasure to meet Msgr. Luigi Genami from Vatican City and to hear his touching reflections on the meaning of suffering in our lives, illustrated so well through the eyes of his ailing mother.

Msgr. spoke at our 5:00 PM Saturday and 12 noon Sunday masses. There was an opportunity to make a donation for his book, "God the Rock of My Life," which discusses his mother's illness during a particularly challenging time in the Intensive Care Unit. 

Despite Msgr.'s daily work in the Apostolic Palace of the Vatican, his humble and prayerful ways were edifying. He promised to pray us and we for him.

For those who would like more information about Msgr.'s book or his work, check his website here.

Receive the Light of Christ

Readings for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time


I love celebrating infant Baptism: it is such an occasion of joy and happiness not only for the families involved, but the parish family as well. One of the sacramental signs given by the priest or deacon to the parents and godparents is a candle lighted from the Easter or Paschal Candle. "Receive the Light of Christ," the parents are told, and as the candle is lit and then handed to the family by the priest, the child often stares intently at the candle with the wide open, innocent eyes as they take in the light. Sometimes you can even see the reflection of the flame in their eyes.

At that moment, I imagine the "Light of Christ" flooding their souls with love and illuminating their minds. How I wish we could keep that fascination with the Light of Christ our whole lifelong. Trouble is we often become preoccupied with other things; our attention is diverted so easily by too much television, too many video games. Seeking Christ, not only in the Eucharist and at Eucharistic adoration, but also in each other is more and more difficult if our Christ-vision becomes cloudy. 

Let us pray to seek the Light of Christ as a child, as Jesus reminds us: less skeptical, more open-eyed.

WoW...I mean Deo Gratias


Last weekend's ministry sign-up was a great success: so far there are 44 parishioners who volunteered for 18 different ministries and forms are still coming in by mail and email.

Added to the already impressive roster of dedicated parish volunteers, the parish will be well served indeed.

Thanks to everyone who helped staff the volunteer tables, move them from gym to church and back again, and who served as an encouraging and welcoming presence.

Eugenia Kelly tells me that enrollment in RCIA is moving along with the same Spirit!

I think we're all in for an exciting year!!!

Church Bells to Ring to Praise God and Atone for Blasphemy

Well, you’d think it’s a non-controversial topic: that our school children as young as 

48397 third graders shouldn’t take the name of the Lord in vain on the school playground. But since it’s difficult to stop because we hear it all around us, the solution seems to be to hope Fr Manning tires of talking about it, rather than that we get the blasphemy to stop.

Interesting. Luckily our children do not use foul language on the playground, and they hear that all around them as well. So they are very effectively being taught not to use foul language. What will it take for blasphemy to be ruled out of bounds as well?

One problem is that unless we are sensitized to it, we don’t hear ourselves or others do it. So we cannot correct it unless someone points it out.

Another problem in stopping it may be that the perception that blasphemy is no big deal in a Catholic school.

Here’s the relevant section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church concerning the sin of blasphemy, i.e. taking the name of the Lord God in vain:

Blasphemy is directly opposed to the second commandment. It consists in uttering against God—inwardly or outwardly—words of hatred, reproach, or defiance; in speaking ill of God; in failing in respect toward him in one's speech; in misusing God's name. St. James condemns those "who blaspheme that honorable name [of Jesus] by which you are called." The prohibition of blasphemy extends to LANGUAGE against Christ's Church, the saints, and sacred things. It is also blasphemous to make use of God's name to cover up criminal practices, to reduce peoples to servitude, to torture persons or put them to death. The misuse of God's name to commit a crime can provoke others to repudiate religion.
Blasphemy is contrary to the respect due God and his holy name. It is in itself a grave sin.

We’ve tried a few solutions, and two years ago, I think we made some real progress. It seems as though we’ve given up. To help remind the children not to blaspheme, we will chime the church bells each time we hear the name of the Lord screamed in vain during lunch recess and after-school team practices. We’ve asked coaches, teachers and playground monitors to help call attention to this careless sin. 

We've also begun praying The Divine Praises after Eucharistic Adoration on Wednesdays. This prayer was specifically developed to atone for the times the Lord's name is taken in vain. 

 It doesn’t seem like asking much: God’s name used in prayer and praise near the church, not in anger, surprise or disappointment.

Let’s all try and keep our speech holy. It really does matter.


Bible Study Off To Great Start

Romans Wow, the first day of Bible study is off to a great start. The Conference Room was packed and the enthusiasm was high for the group's study of St. Paul's Letter to the Romans.

The study group meets on Thursdays, September through April,from 9:30 to 11am in the Parish Center. Come to morning mass and Eucharist at 9:00 AM!

You don't need to be a Biblical expert, so consider joining the discussion on this richest of Paul's epistles. Call Eugenia Kelly at the Parish Office.

You can check out the flyers and registration forms at our website here.

God's Overwhelming Generosity Calls for Our Generous Response

Today's Lectionary Readings

Tiepolo Stingy, stingy, many times we ration our praise and worship of God in a meager fashion, treating it like our prayer and worship of God is like everything else in our busy schedules.

The first reading reminds us our salvation depends on our response to God's love and grace in our lives. 

Many priests at the Diocesan Convocation this week were discussing the inordinately large number of funerals they have had so far this year:that is certainly our experience here at Holy Cross.

Priests are lucky, in the sense that having constant contact with the sick and dying and praying at so many funerals helps keep the focus on the ultimate nature of things. This isn't to say that I don't get wrapped up in petty concerns all too often, but a trip to the hospital or the cemetery has a way of putting things in perspective.

How many times do we hear that someone "wasn't a church go-er" or that we like the quickest masses, or the masses where there is no preaching? Everyone is busy, even for our 9/11 evening prayer service?

God's generosity is extravagant, and he calls on us for the same response. Not tears and ointment, but generous praise and worship.

Painting is The Meal at the House of Simon The Pharisee, Paolo Veronese

Diocesan Financial Auditor at Holy Cross

Accountant_visor_141884 I forgot to mention at the 12 noon mass that the financial auditor from the Diocese will be here for the next two weeks or so inspecting our books, minutes and financial practices. Our last audit was two years ago and you will recall we received an excellent rating. Please extend every courtesy to him and answer his questions honestly if you meet him or he asks to speak with you. Thank you.