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October 2009

Stem Cell Research


The eight graders have asked to discuss stem cell research during my time with them this week. I will be distributing a copy of the brochure I wrote for the Diocese a few years ago and revised recently. It occured to me that others may find it useful as it contains a brief summary of the Catholic Church's teachings on stem cell research and several good references for further reading.

PDF file available:  Download StemCellBrochure2009

St. Gerard Majella - Patron of Expectant Mothers

AlphonseAndGerard2 Not in the American Lectionary, but today is the memorial of St. Gerard Majella, a Redemptorist brother, who is also patron of those wrongly accused. A woman jealous of St. Gerard's popularity accused the brother of fathering her child and St. Gerard kept silent even when accused and when St. Alponsus, his superior, imposed a penance. After two months, his accuser relented and his penances were lifted.

He is perhaps most popular for interceding on behalf of expectant mothers and their babies and has become one of the icons of the Pro-Life movement. A hagiography of his life, beatification, canonization and miracles worked through his intercession are detailed in a 1907 work by Rev. Edward Saint-Omer, The Wonder Worker of Our Days: Life, Virtues and Miracles of St. Gerard Majella. Read or download the pdf file of the book here.

A reproduction from this work shows St. Gerard explaining to St. Alphonsus why he kept silent even when falsely accused.

St. Teresa of Avila

Today's Lectionary Readings

A giant of the Church, there are too many aspects to her vigorous and holy life to appreciate all at once. Every year, revisit her biography, prayers and spiritual writings to be nourished by something familiar, or discover something new. A tough reformer and traveler despite illness, soul mate of St. John of the Cross, mystic, doctor of the Church and in death, one of the incorruptibles.

Bernini's masterpiece of St. Teresa in Ecstasy gives us some idea of the love and passion for Christ the mystics experience. Simon Schama's discussion of Bernini's St. Teresa is both remarkable and thought provoking. You may still be able to find it on the PBS Series, "The Power of Art" or read it in Schama's companion book, which is a wonderful book worth owning for its art and its prose.


links to photo credit and other photos

Mint and Rue


Today's Lectionary Readings

Congratulations to one of our 4th graders for knowing that "rue" means regret or sorrow. It is also a garden herb, popular for cooking in some countries, but not often used in the United States because it is quite bitter. It is also called the "herb of grace," perhaps because of an old custom of its use by the priest in the sprinkling rite on certain Sunday masses. It was cited by Shakespeare in at least two plays; do you know which ones?

Tithes were not required to be paid on herbs, but with great fanfare and scrupulosity, the Pharisees did. Sadly, they neglected the main part of faithfulness, completely missing out on Jesus as Messiah. Jesus never condemned piety, per se, but misplaced or hypocritcal piety.

Imagine sending hundreds of Christmas cards, but keeping a Scrooge-like heart, or failing to express gratitude and worship of Christ at Christmas.

Let us attend to details, but never lose sight of the big picture. We should never omit acts of worship or piety, but they should express a loving heart, open to loving God and neighbor - the two big commandments Jesus gave us.

Poll on Use of Internet Church Sites


We're considering transferring some or all of the contents of our parish history archive to a blog or webpage setting.

There are many photographs, articles and stories we were unable to feature in our 125th Anniversary Booklet and many would make interesting material to explore on the web.

Tell us how you like the idea and whether or not you would view such a site by taking our quick questionnaire by either clicking here or on our parish webpage.

Click Here to take Internet survey

Remember to Pray for the Dead

We have been praying many funeral masses in the last few months. From the earliest days of the church, it has been a tradition to pray for the deceased, that they may enter into heavenly glory.

The Commemoration of All Souls Day is coming in a few weeks, a day on which we will remember the deceased in a special way, but it is a laudable practice to pray daily for our beloved dead.


Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.

And let perpetual light shine upon them

May they rest in peace.


Camels and Needles


Twenty Eight Sunday in Ordinary Time

The scripture scholars are all over the lot on this gospel! That's probably not a surprise since it appears to deal with our possessions and our money. One says, no not money, our relationships. Another says, no not our money, our spiritual attitudes. A third, not about having possessions, but being greedy about them.Frankly, it seems one can have virtually any amount of money and possessions and find a scriptural interpretation which doesn't require parting with any of it.

Except, we know that in the end, we part with ALL of it. And that's surely beyond argument or scriptural nuance. So how do we live in the meantime?

At least with that in mind. Surely generously, holding onto our possessions lightly. Deliberately practicing for parting with all of them, by occasionally parting with some of them. 

And the whole point, not about the possessions or lack of them at all, but following Jesus from the here and now to the eternal hereafter.

The Prophet Joel

Today's Lectionary Readings

TissJoel The book of Joel foretells the last days and the judgment of the Lord upon the nations. A plague of locusts invaded Judah, presaging the coming of the Lord on judgment day. After an assembly of the people was gathered and the priests prayed for deliverance, the Lord heard their prayer and promised to send peace and prosperity on Judah instead. Still, the Lord's vengeance will be meted out on  Judah's faithless neighbors as God sounds not only jealous of Judah's affection, but angry over the suffering they have borne from their neighbors.

 There's never a time I consider God's justice and mercy that my head doesn't start spinning after a while. It's a good thing I don't have to figure it out. It's well that we remember "God is God, and I am not."

Our response is fairly simple: confess our sins and depend on the mercy and justice of God; confess our sins and receive Jesus' Body and Blood. I'm not sure Tissot's Joel would be too merciful a fellow, just looking at him. I'll take Jesus, thank you.



Joel by James Tissot.

St. Denis - Martyr and Window into Gothic Architecture

38550992.StDenisDetailonNotreDa We know so little about St. Denis (bishop of Paris martyred c. 250 AD in the Roman persecutions) that it might be a good opportunity to take some time on his feastday to learn about our Catholic heritage.

St. Denis is shown in iconography carrying his own mitred-head. There was a legend that after his martyrdom on Montmarte, he walked (and preached) to the site of the current Basilica named in his honor. Montmarte (mountain of martyr) derives its name from St. Denis' martyrdom.

The Basilica of the Sacred Heart sits high atop Montmarte and is notable not only for its striking domes, but for the continuous Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament on the main altar since 1885.

The Basilica of St. Denis, one of the earliest examples of Gothic architecture, is noted for its beautiful stained glass windows and for being the burial place of French kings.

So much of the sacred and secular geography of Montmarte and environs takes shape around the death of St. Denis

The church needs martyrs ("the weak who are made strong" by the Lord) to witness to the truth of the Gospel in every age. An unflinching look at St. Denis carrying his head may give us a bit of courage before our morning coffee.

Evildoers Prosper and Even Tempt God with Impunity

Today's Lectionary Readings

Spc010719clh Have we outgrown the idea of heaven? It's good if we've outgrown the idea that there's an eternity in a city paved with gold, or a place filled with whatever will make us happy. Aquinas vision of heaven the Beatific Vision, we see God. Heaven isn't a place which serves our needs, it's a place where we praise God in joy and happiness. 

As anemic as some of our visions of heaven have become, we are loathe to think of the Last Judgement at all. Everyone is saved, aren't they?

The Israelites had begun to grumble over this very issue. The evil were seen to prosper; there seemed to no profit in keeping God's commandments. The prophet reminds them there will be a reckoning. 

Couldn't Malachi 3:15 be a headline from today's news?: "Evildoers Prosper and Even Tempt God with Impunity." Not for us to figure out, simply to be faithful. We have to keep reading, vv. 20-21: "You will see the distinction between the just and the wicked...for you who fear my ways, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays."

Arise, Oh Son of Justice!

Discussion of the New Translations of the Roman Missal Tonite

St Jerome St. Jerome spent a great deal of his time translating the Scriptures since he read Hebrew and Greek, the source languages of the Old and New Testaments, respectively. He translated them into Latin for use in the Roman Church called the Latin Vulgate, a translation which was in use from his day until Vatican II. The English translation of the Latin Vulgate is called the Duoay-Rheims Bible.

This is a portrait of St. Jerome by George de La Tour in the Prado, Madrid, entitled St. Jerome Reading a Letter.

Sts. Augustine and Jerome carried on a lively, if not altogether cordial correspondence; their letters make interesting reading.

The art of translation is quite a challenge. Join us tonight for a discussion of the new translations of the Roman Missal which will soon be used at Mass.

St. Michael Media room in the school at 7:00 PM

Our Moods Come With Us

Today's Lectionary Readings

Rain_storm_116430 Jonah is having a "terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day." His preaching mission from which he ran, succeeded miraculously. He's petulant the Ninevites are saved from God's wrath and the little shade he has found withers away in the midday heat. At his patience's end, he begs God to stop torturing him and just kill him outright.

It's no laughing matter, but we don't share Jonah's angst like Job's. We're tempted to politely decline the invitation to Jonah's pity party, while we know down deep we cannot escape our turn on Job's ash heap.

Jonah's not in depression or despair, he's whining. So we need not fear we sound like one of Job's three comforters if we encourage Jonah to change his attitude and get with the program.

More times than we like to think, the problem is  us.

The Serenity Prayer asks 

God grant me the serenity 

to accept the things I cannot change,

the courage to change the things I can, 

and the wisdom to know the difference.

Dare we ask God for serenity, courage and wisdom today?

Continue reading "Our Moods Come With Us" »

Respect Life Sunday - Videos for Life

46613 Thanks to all who stayed after our masses to view the beautiful videos of developing human life. We had so many positive comments about them. I noticed the hushed silence at the most remarkable times and the laughter and surprise of the children when the baby in the womb smiled!

Lori LaPlante and the Respect Life Committee put together a great table of information and displays and collected many, many signatures for the Respect Marriage petition. More photocopies of the petition had to be made on Sunday because all the ones on hand were filled with signatures.

We're looking into the possibility of a kiosk in one of the local malls in which to show the video. If you're interested in helping research or fund the effort, let Fr. Manning or Lori LaPlante know.

Jonah Jettisoned on His Way

Today's Lectionary Readings

 TissJona Jonah and the Good Samaritan, what a perfect combination in today's readings. I wish I could say that for most times in my life I have been the Good Samaritan, voluntarily going out of my way to help others and to do the will of the Lord. But more times than not, I confess to being like Jonah, pushed and cajoled, sometimes listening to God only as a last resort. The best news about Jonah is that even under those circumstances, he met with success.

Let us pray today that our steps run toward the Lord, not away, but let us also rejoice that even if we feel like we have run far away, we're still in God's loving care.

Jonah by James Tissot. There is an extensive collection of Tissot's works at Christian Theological Seminary here.

Respect Life Sunday - A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

Sunday's Lectionary Readings


Baby  It’s been said a picture is worth 1,000 words. Pictures evoke the full range of emotions in us. There are pictures which tug at our heartstrings, pictures which inspire, pictures which disgust.

I can still remember pictures of the first lunar landing and the first pictures of “earthrise,” taken from the surface of the moon. The pictures we might discover of a long-forgotten ancestor, or a newly born member of the family may inspire us. Some pictures, as LIFE magazine suggested, have the power to change the world. The pictures of police firing water cannons at the peaceful civil rights demonstrators in the South or the gnarling dogs pushing demonstrators up against storefronts advanced the cause of the civil rights movement. The human rights abuses at Abu Ghraib were revealed and stopped by photographs.

So it’s wonderful news that advances in modern medicine have made it possible to see photographs of the developing human person in the womb with so much clarity and detail that anyone can interpret them, not just a trained radiologist. Babies in the womb can be seen to twist and turn, suck their thumb, sneeze, open their eyes – and to all appearances – smile!

We’ll be showing a 3 minute video of ultrasound images immediately following mass after allowing enough time for those who cannot or do not wish to stay to leave. I would say the video is rated “G” – in this case “G” for God and God’s generosity and generativity. It’s suitable for children who have had a conversation with mommy or daddy about where babies come from, or who’ve been lucky enough to place their hand on mom’s abdomen when a little brother or sister inside kicks.

These pictures have educated us about the hidden life of babies. These pictures have saved lives: many mothers surprised or inconvenienced by a pregnancy have determined to give birth to their baby after seeing their own baby inside the womb. The more people who see these videos, the healthier respect for life will be.  A picture can save a life. A picture can soften a hardened heart. 


4 D Ultrasounds of Human Development 



St Francis and Blessing of the Animals

StFrancis-Crusifix-Low2 Saint Francis' radical poverty and intense life of prayer scandalized some but attracted so many others. His love of all God's creation was grounded in love and respect for each human person, especially the poor, the sick and the powerless. His message was so powerful and challenging that when people refused to listen, the birds and animals did. His identification with animals and God's creation comes from his radical conformity to Christ crucified, not to a new age eco-spirituality. Those who feed the birds and recycle plastic, but neglect the poor aren't imitating Francis.

So it is in the spirit of Francis with respect for all God's creation, that we ask God's blessing on our pets and animal companions. Many of the blessing prayers emphasize our responsibility in caring for them wisely, and our wish that they have contented lives.We trust in God's providence and care, for we too are God's creatures, albeit His most special creatures, formed in God's very image and likeness.IMG_0193

Dodge Dart and An Angel

3373157272_20e40e6aa9 Today's feast of the Guardian Angels encourages us to renew our faith in things unseen. The angels are God's antidotes to our modern mindset that counts only that which can be seen and measured as real.

We're not obliged in faith to believe in angels, but people of many different faiths have expressed belief in them over hundreds of centuries. 

Many believe that God gives us a guardian angel as soon as we're conceived, who accompanies us throughout our lives on earth and even to purgatory if need be and eventually heaven. They play a role in protecting us from spiritual and moral evil, sadly it would seem an all too minor role. Plenty of bad things happen to good people, if our guardian angels were truly empowered to stop them, aren't they paying enough attention? Sometimes, though, it does seem as if we are saved from a difficulty from out of the blue. Is it luck, or an angel?

Here's my candidate for angel story. 

When I was finishing college, I borrowed $800 and used it to buy my first car - a six year old, ivy green 1969 Dodge Dart. My research on used cars in Consumer Report told me this was the most reliable used car on the market. I guess it was true, because I passed my car down to my brother, who passed it on to a cousin and I think it ran until it rusted apart. (Now that I remember, the transmission gave out on day 28 of a 30 day warantee!) 

About two years ago, I was driving down Joline Avenue toward Long Branch  in my brand new Prius (more Consumer Report research), when I spied what I thought was a 1969 Dodge Dart parked behind a condominium near Ocean Avenue. The next time I was coming back to Holy Cross, I decided to take a good look at it. The light ahead was green, and traffic was flowing, so I turned my head to really gawk. As clear as day I heard, "Look out!" and turned back to the road to notice that a car making a left hand turn had stopped traffic. My new brakes passed the test as I narrowly missed ramming into the car ahead of me. I only take quick glimpses of the old Dodge now, and never without giving thanks for avoiding a messy collision. 

So was it peripheral vision or an angel? My mind talking to me, or something else? Ask someone if they have an angel story.

Whatever you believe about angels, believe the truth they assert: there are many things that are real that are unseen. Angels, God, truth, love, heaven.