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November 2009

October 2009

USCCB Urges Catholics to Oppose Abortion Funding as Part of Health Care Reform

On Friday, the USCCB issued electronic flyers and messages for distribution to parishes across the United States. The main purpose of this education effort is to ask Catholics to oppose Health Care reform legislation which would pay for elective abortions - "Abortion is not Health Care."

You can follow the link to their webpage here. Holy Cross will ask our bulletin company to insert the PDF informational document in our next Sunday bulletin.

Catholic Bishops in the Public Square

Archbishop_DolanRead Archbishop Dolan's thought provoking article about anti-Catholicism in the American news media. The archbishop originally submitted his article which explicity criticizes The New York Times to The New York Times as an op-ed piece. Is anyone surprised it was rejected? You won't be after you read his article.


BishopThomasTobin In a separate matter, Rhode Island Representative Patrick Kennedy has agreed to meet with Bishop Thomas Tobin on health care after Kennedy's remarks some days ago which Bishop Tobin called "irresponsible" and for which he demanded an apology. Bishop Tobin's remarks are found on the Diocese of Providence's webpage. Kennedy had criticized Catholic opposition to health care coverage which does not include a ban on abortion funding as fanning "the flames of dissent and discord." Bishop Tobin remarked that Kennedy "contines to be a disappointment to the Catholic Church and to the citizens of the State of Rhode Island."


ArchbishopPicture I hope you follow Archbishop Chaput of Denver's remarks at least from time to time. From the Archdiocesan webpage his recent remarks :

If we stand up to evil, we may lose.  But if we don’t stand up we will lose.  Our God is a God of justice; a God who does not abandon his people and who rewards courage in the face of evil.  So have courage, serve the truth, love the Church, take confidence in the Lord, and stand up to witness for your faith.  We’ve got nothing to lose.  We have everything to gain. [Oct 8]

Catholic public officials who take God seriously cannot support laws that attack human dignity without lying to themselves, misleading others and abusing the faith of their fellow Catholics.  God will demand an accounting.  Catholic doctors who take God seriously cannot do procedures, prescribe drugs or support health policies that attack the sanctity of unborn children or the elderly; or that undermine the dignity of human sexuality and the family.  God will demand an accounting.  And Catholic citizens who take God seriously cannot claim to love their Church, and then ignore her counsel on vital public issues that shape our nation’s life.  God will demand an accounting.  As individuals, we can claim to be or believe whatever we want.  We can posture, and rationalize our choices, and make alibis with each other all day long -- but no excuse for our lack of honesty and zeal will work with the God who made us.  God knows our hearts better than we do.  If we don’t conform our hearts and actions to the faith we claim to believe, we’re only fooling ourselves. [Oct 16]


An Amazing View!

What a treat it was to be invited by Mayor Maria Fernandes of Sea Bright to participate in a blessing of the new Highlands Bridge this afternoon!

Believe it or not, there is a "bridge blessing" in the Catholic Book of Blessings which I consulted for the occasion and modified slightly. We fashioned sprigs of rosemary and lavender grown in our gardens as an aspergillum and brought holy water blessed from the Shrewsbury River and Atlantic Ocean. Lori LaPlante and Susan Symington and I arrived at the foot of the bridge in Sea Bright where we joined Mayor Maria Fernandes of Sea Bright, President of the Sea Bright Council Jack Keeler, Rev. McGrail of Highlands and others and were then whisked to the foot of the Highlands' side of the new span by the Police Chief. Our small group then walked the remaining distance to mid span for a a brief ceremony and blessing.

If the bridge looks high from the roadway below, it is really high from above. There are beautiful views in every direction, including our noble and simple church steeple which could be seen readily from the bridge, even though the sun wasn't shining.


Walking from Highlands to Mid-Span of Bridge


A Group Photo: Twin Lights are seen in the Background



 Water from the Shrewsbury River and Atlantic Ocean

was used to bless the bridge and the people.



The bridge roadway from Highlands to Sea Bright

seems to lead right into the ocean!


Holy Cross' steeple peeks up from the trees.


Northbound view to Sandy Hook in foreground

Brooklyn and Staten Island in background.

Let Us Offer Each Other A Sign of Peace

With so many children absent from school, with the coughing we hear around us, and reports of swine   flu in our community, it's time to revisit the "Sign of Peace."

First, anyone who is sick is excused from the obligation to attend mass. I think it's true to say that many people never much liked the Sign of Peace to begin with...the modification we are discussing has NOTHING to do with eliminating it, simply not making it a source of germs.

In lieu of a handshake, a polite bow, a wave, a smile, a gesture of blessing all might be suitable. We should be understanding if someone chooses this  as an alternative to the handshake.

Anyone who travels in Asia knows how important a bow is for the Japanese. Here's an interesting clip from a  travel article. The Roman Ritual prescribes a simple bow of the head (before communion, for example) and a profound bow of the body (to the altar, for example). These would be roughly equivalent to the first and last bow in the accompanying diagram. A simple bow of the head to each other at the Sign of Peace would surely be suitable.


  Let us pray for health and safety during this season, and do whatever we can to help God keep us that way.

People Look East

Sunrise From earliest days, Christians prayed not toward an earthly city, e.g. like the temple in Jerusalem, or later toward Mecca like the Muslims, but faced an other worldly direction - East, the rising of the Sun/Son of God - the direction from which our Savior would return.

When our church was originally built, the property on which it was situated was not much wider than the church itself and the rectory adjacent to it. There was no parking lot or church property on which to park. A circular drive up to the front door or narthex on Ward Avenue was the only possible orientation, so our altar and people faced West for these many years.

Now that we have the opportunity to at least reconsider the issue because we have the parking lot, and as Benedict XVI reasserts the importance of the direction we face in prayer, our architect has been "facing east." I look forward to seeing the fruits of such reflection, especially since our church has a virtually unobstructed view onto the East horizon.



Drug and Alcohol Use Patterns in Our Community

0623_Alcohol_Drug_logo Educators and community leaders met last tonight at the high school to learn the results of an anonymous survey taken by all the high school students last May on their drug and alcohol use and that of their friends. Mrs. Graham and I both attended the meeting.

As many suspected, the survey reveals a significant drug and alcohol problem among our youth. Even though the survey reponses dealt primarily with drug and alcohol use among high school age youth, it may well indicate a problem with drugs and alcohol in our families and homes in general. This would surely be the case among those families which permit or encourage routine underage drinking in the home.

 The survey measured casual and first use of drugs and alcohol along with regular and heavy use. Alcohol, marijuana and cocaine, from what I can recall, seem to pose the greatest risk of abuse for young people from this area. Sadly, a significant percentage of graduating seniors already have already developed dependent patterns of drug and alcohol abuse.

As I recall, nearly all categories of drug use were higher in our community than the average of the student sample, with the exception of inhalant and hallucinogenic drug use by our young people, which were lower.

The purpose of the meeting was to present the data only. Subsequent meetings will plan a strategy to deal with what educators had suspected  and the survey confirms, an increasingly serious problem in our community. The Board of education will make the data available in the coming days and weeks. 

Holy Cross will evaluate and promote appropriate community and school programs to curb addictive use of alcohol and prevent recreational use of addictive or illegal drugs.

We Suffer With Christ So That We May Be Glorified by Him

Today's Lectionary Readings

Risen The last several weekday morning readings from Romans have been so encouraging. Earlier Paul struggled with the question of why he sins when he knows better. Today he reminds us that we love and serve a God, not as slaves, but as heirs. This dignity is the amazing gift conferred on us by our baptism through the merits of the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

We suffer, Paul says, to be like Christ and so to be glorified with him. Sometimes, I think, we would prefer that Christ came not to save us from our sins, but from our suffering. Today almost surely we will have an opportunity to suffer something with Christ, or in spite of Him.

In a world where any suffering is increasingly viewed as pointless, Paul's rejoinder - "we are joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him, so that we may be glorified with him."

Instead of jeering at Jesus' suffering on the cross with the bystanders, or sounding like the unrepentant thief who demands to be spared from his suffering as proof of Jesus' power, Let us pray for the grace to join our sufferings to His.

 Grunewald's famous Isenheim Altarpiece highlights the suffering and the glory of Jesus' invitation to follow him. The Crucifixion, surely one of the most gruesome in art, is contrasted with the glorious, smiling Risen Christ.

Some Google Blog Statistics

A couple of weeks ago, I set up Google Analytics on the site. I thought a few of the results were interesting.



 I was surprised to see that Internet Explorer is the single most popular internet browser but that it accounts for less than half the visitors when compared to other browers combined.

Here are the top 10 locations logged on in recent visits; "Red Bank" is a combined category for Rumson  and Red Bank.



Eye See What You Mean

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Some of the idoms in English we use to express our understanding of another's speech make more sense than others. As someone strives to explain something to us verbally, we say, "I hear you." But we also say, "I see what you mean" - this even when they're not drawing diagrams or talking with their hands. We can "see" meaning so even if our visual acuity is perfect, we can take blind Bartimaeus' part in prayer today.

We can ask Jesus to see as he, Jesus, sees. I suppose it's a spin on the sometimes overused question, "What would Jesus do?" to imagine "What/How Jesus would see?" We should  exercise humility whenever we ask either question, first since no one can really be certain  what Jesus would say or do, and second because the answer is often used to manipulate or criticize others for not having the same opinions or acting in the same way we do. How often do we hear, "I don't think Jesus would..." as a criticism of Church teachings or policies? "I don't think Jesus would care if I went to mass every Sunday," or "As long as we love each other, I don't think Jesus would care," or "What's wrong with in-vitro fertilization, Jesus wouldn't care," are just a few of the propositions we've heard.  Still, used with caution and prayerfully, asking for "Jesus vision" can be spiritually nourishing.

How would Jesus see the current state of our country and world? We can suspect he would pick out the "anawim" right away, the powerless and the oppressed - the homeless, the hungry, the voiceless. We have to use our imaginations to determine who they are. The underpaid foreign assembly worker and the downsized, unemployed head of household have more in common than they think: each is treated like a commodity.

As NJ Respect Life sells raffle tickets outside the church today to raise money to educate the public and politicians to reverence all human life, let us take the opportunity to look at the margins of our society as Jesus would. We should promote a culture which respects human life, especially the most vulnerable: the unborn, the frail, abandoned elderly, those without health care insurance, the unemployed, wartime refugees, children...the list of those treated like a statistic instead of a person is long. And the steps toward action begin with the vision to see the problem.

Let us ask today, Jesus, Master, let us see as you see.

Soldier Saint

Today's Lectionary Readings

014SeigeofBelgrade St. John of Capistrano (two Franciscan missions are named after him, the one to which the swallows return in Southern California, and another in Texas.) is also known as the "soldier priest." At the age of 70 he was designated by the pope to preach a crusade against the Muslim incursion into central Europe and northern Italy after Constantinople had already fallen. The crusade was successful, but John succumbed to the plague several months later.

When to walk away and when to fight? In today's first reading, St. Paul even struggles within himself in a battle between what he knows he should do and what he feels like doing.

Our church has soldiers and martyrs, warriors and peacemakers. Let us pray for prudence and wisdom on this feast of a soldier saint and for the protection of those in battle for freedom and justice.

St. John is depicted holding a cross aloft during the Siege of Belgrade.


Practically Catholic

Canterbury_cathedral My mother's mother was the 11th child of twelve and spent her childhood in upstate New York and later in Brooklyn. She came from a long line of Protestant settlers who made their way down from Conneticut after emigrating to the "New World" in the sixteen and seventeen hundreds. (Though not on the Mayflower.)

I remember my grandmother telling stories about how she had to "convert" to marry my grandfather and how nobody but the two of them seemed happy about it. She was "disowned" for quite a while by her own family and looked upon with suspicion by her Catholic in-laws. Grandma said she and Grandpa's wedding ceremony was supposed to take place in the sacristy or the rectory, but somehow they managed to exchange their vows in the sanctuary.

When her sister and brother and law would finally visit, I remember lots of conversation about the deacons in the Episcopalian church (before the permanent diaconate was restored in the Catholic church) and that their clergy could be married. I always got the impression from my great uncle that the Catholic church was newer than his older, more traditional church - they were "high" Episcopal. Meantime, my grandmother would confide, don't worry, Episcopalians were "practically Catholic."

Well, with Benedict XVI's decision last week to welcome Anglicans into the Catholic church, that turned out to be truer than she knew. Many commentators from the right are heralding the pope's move  as the most important ecumenical step in decades, while some on the left are deriding it as homophobic and misogynistic. I suppose it displeases those who always imagined that ecumenism meant the Catholic church would abandon some or all of its teachings or disciplines, or those who deride any clear cut theological doctrines or liturgical practices. It will certainly be interesting to see how things work out.

Meantime, I admire my grandmother's courage and applaud her common sense. I hope she's smiling in heaven that Pope Benedict shares her point of view.

Canterbury Cathedral

Get Much, Do Much

Today's Lectionary Readings

Card_cornucopia_187794 Jesus warns us today that to whom much is given, much is expected. Of course our most precious gift is the gift of faith, the reason we turn outward to the world to help spread the good news and bring this gift to others.

But we are also gifted in so many other ways. Think for a moment about the information at our fingertips. We discover good and bad news from around the world and our neighborhoods in seconds. What do we do with it? Do we congratulate, do we reach out to help?

All of us can travel so easily, from planes and cars to even bicycles. Do we only go shopping or to recreation, or do we visit the sick and lonely, or volunteer time, or worship God?

Let us all think of ways we can enjoy some of our many blessings this day and use them for the good of someone else.

Faith Seeking Understanding "Cathedrals" Rescheduled

France%20-%20Chartres%20Cathedral%20at%20night Our architects have asked to reschedule the time of  a meeting with Fr. Manning and have moved it to November 4th, the date of our previously announced "Gothic Cathedrals" Faith Seeking Understanding presentation and discussion. Accordingly our "Cathedrals" meeting has also been moved, one week later to November 18th, 7:00 PM in the St. Michael Media Room.

Chartres Cathedral by Gerald Brimacombe.

Great Online Reference Source for Ordo (Liturgical Calendar)


There is a great online Ordo for the United States published by the Priests of the Sacred Heart on their webpage. It is a handy and convenient reference to discover not only the mass readings of the day, but the saint(s) who are commemorated on that day. For those who pray the Liturgy of the Hours, the appropriate week in the psalter (I-IV) is also given.

American Ordo

October from the 15th Century Illuminated Manuscript Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry.

Mass with Anointing of the Sick

Today we celebrate the Sacrament of the Sick at a parish Eucharist. A communal celebration of the sacrament helps break the isolation of suffering and helps keep the vocation of suffering, as Pope John Paul II called it, before our eyes and in our hearts.

D67 Pope Benedict gave a beautiful homily at Lourdes in September, 2008 on the occasion of the 150th Anniversary of the Apparitions at Lourdes. He spoke on the nature of suffering and the grace of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick:

The grace of this sacrament consists in welcoming Christ the healer into ourselves. However, Christ is not a healer in the manner of the world. In order to heal us, he does not remain outside the suffering that is experienced; he eases it by coming to dwell within the one stricken by illness, to bear it and live it with him. Christ’s presence comes to break the isolation which pain induces. Man no longer bears his burden alone: as a suffering member of Christ, he is conformed to Christ in his self-offering to the Father, and he participates, in him, in the coming to birth of the new creation. 


Pope Benedict's homily at Lourdes, 2008

Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer

Photo-st-alphonsus2 Confused by the initials following the names of religious priests, sisters and brothers? Me too, sometimes. The key is first to know the name of the religious community in Latin - the abbreviations are taken from that.

You know that Frs. Cody and McGowan are Redemptorists, founded by St. Alphonsus Liguori and that the official name of their religious community is the "Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer." In Latin that is rendered: 

Congregatio Sanctissimi Redemptoris, or C.Ss.R. also CSSR

Diocesan priests do not belong to religious congregations and so any initials after their names are church or civil degrees.