Once again every window in our school is illluminated with a candle for the Advent season, and the four columns outside the school are festooned with banners in the color of Advent wreath candles.
Susan is our seamstress and engineer, and Francisco braved the heights, wind and rain to afix the banners.
This year students from 8B, Mrs. Tamaino's class and 7A, Ms. Ciampoli's class installed all the window candles in the school building - no small feat. Thank you.
As you may know, it is said that a lit candle in the window is an old Irish tradition, indicating that a family of faith lived in the house, and during the persecution of the Catholic Church in Ireland, a priest was welcome to visit and say mass. In modern times, it signifies Advent hope.
In the church, our Advent wreath of greens symbolizes hope, eternity, new life, vitality and it hangs horizontally, directly over the congregation as did many of the first Advent wreaths. It is said that the Advent wreath represents a portal to heaven; when you stand directly under a wreath like ours and look up, such an understanding is easy to appreciate.
From now until several days before Christmas, the parish decorations and the liturgical environment observe the rich, expectant season of Advent. Only when Christmas is near will our tree be illuminated, the infant Jesus be placed in the manger, and the church be festively decorated.
Last year's arrival of the animals for our outdoor creche
Congratulations and thank you to all those who volunteered their time to help collect food this Thanksgiving. Our trailer was filled! Janet Wood and her team of volunteers are to be commended for a job well done.
Though numbers don't count either dedication or gratitude, they are nonetheless helpful.
Totals for Holy Cross Thanksgiving Food Drive 2009
(160 bags of food & 118 turkeys)
St. Anthony’s Church = 50 bags of food & 25 turkeys
Sea Bright Methodist Church = 6 bags of food & 6 turkeys
Biological brother of St. Simon Peter and literally the First Disciple of Jesus, Andrew assumed a leadership role in the Eastern Church after Jesus' death and resurrection. Eventually martyred by crucifixion, tradition has it he was bound to a saltire or x-shaped cross at his own request in order not to be executed exactly like Jesus was.
HIs relics were venerated from the earliest days of the church and enventually divided; his head was sent to St. Peter's in Rome where it was enshrined for centuries in one of the four main columns of the basilica until it was returned to the Eastern Orthodox Church as an ecumenical gesture Paul VI.
His relics are said to exude the manna or oil of St. Andrew, both directly from the bones and from the tomb itself. The oil is collected in vials and distributed for its healing properties.
Perhaps we can take a lesson from St. Andrew and make a gracious introduction and watch a relationship flourish without trying to control it, become jealous of it, or keep in the spotlight.
The congregation at the 12 noon mass did a great job chanting the first ever Advent Introits! We've been chanting Wednesday morning prayer, so a number of people have gotten experience reading psalm tones and the Gregorian-based tones are easy to sing and within everyone's range.
Many church musicians are urging a return to the sung Introit instead of a thematically chosen "gathering" or "entrance hymn" because the Introits change each week and are related to the Scripture readings of the liturgy, whereas the hymnody is tangentially related. This can be attempted now that English Introits are being written and becoming available for the congregation.
The words are in the missalettes, but neither the pointing of the text which indicates when to change notes, nor the notes themselves are, so additional sheets need to be handed out. If the experiment goes well, perhaps we can continue the chanted Introits into the year and introduce them at other masses.
Advent Wreath The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent. Three candles are purple and one is rose. The purple candles in particular symbolize the prayer, penance, and preparatory sacrifices and goods works undertaken at this time. The rose candle is lit on the third Sunday, Gaudete Sunday, when the priest also wears rose vestments at Mass; Gaudete Sunday is the Sunday of rejoicing, because the faithful have arrived at the midpoint of Advent, when their preparation is now half over and they are close to Christmas. The progressive lighting of the candles symbolizes the expectation and hope surrounding our Lord’s first coming into the world and the anticipation of his second coming to judge the living and the dead. (USCCB)
There's a great family Advent activity calendar from the USCCB here, which has a timely suggestion each day for observing Advent.
The USCCB has a valuable movie review section from which these reviews are excerpted. The full reviews are helpful for their insight and comments about movie plots and specific scenes:
The film contains considerable action violence, a vague sexual reference and at least one mildly crass term. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
Catholics should be forewarned that Emmerich dispatches the faithful in the Vatican with particular relish, collapsing the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel onto praying prelates and dropping the dome of St. Peter's Basilica onto the reverent masses assembled in St. Peter's Square. He also goes out of his way to show Rio de Janeiro's statue of Christ the Redeemer falling down. After all that, it's difficult to feel hopeful -- let alone ennobled -- at the conclusion of "2012."
The film contains considerable crude and crass language, much profanity, a rough gesture and a few instances of sexual innuendo. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
Our Thanksgiving holiday gives us pause to reflect and give prayerful thanks for the blessings we have received from God and for our families, friends and food.
Thanks to so many who donated food items for our Thanksgiving Food Drive. Our trailer was filled with food and Janet Wood and her dedicated volunteers kept the flow of donations to their recipients going smoothly. Temporarily storing and arranging for the delivery of so many turkeys is no easy task. We'll have a tally on how many families were served after the holiday, but I know it was many.
A prayerful mindset is a good preparation for the Season of Advent which begins this weekend. The USCCB has interesting and helpful resources online to help families observe Advent. Many of our families have already made an Advent wreath after last Sunday's mass, but it's surely not too late to fix up an Advent wreath in time for the beginning of Advent on this Sunday.
There's been some talk in the Parish Center about some sheep visiting this year during our Advent Stations, but I can't promise yet.
Bishop Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island has been making the rounds of television and media outlets explaining why he asked Representative Kennedy to refrain from receiving Holy Communion. It seems many in the media have sided with Kennedy and are calling the bishop's position inconsisent with other teachings of the church, or an interference with the separation between Church and state.
Mr. O'Reilly, for example, wondered as a "confused" Catholic, why, if the Church is against abortion and capital punishment, the church does not sanction those politicians who are in favor of capital punishment. The bishop explained the intrinsically evil nature of abortion, which can never be right compared to the theoretical necessity for the state to protect itself by the use of capital punishment, which can be permitted in exceptional cases. (John Paul II's strong condemnation of capital punishment in Evangelium vitae is coupled with the reservation of its right by the state in rare, "practically non-existent" cases.) Ths is surely a difficult concept to explain during the typical sound bite, confrontational news program.
Mr. Matthews seems intent on browbeating Bishop Tobin, first by accusing him of transgressing into politics by his public correction of Congressman Kennedy, and then by being unwilling to define what penalty (presumably legal one) a woman should incur who procures an abortion.
Several of the interviews and discussions conflate the everyday use of the word "scandal," with its technical use in Church law. Scandalous behavior these days would seem to be in the eye of the beholder: Adam Lambert's behavior at the American Music Awards was scandalous enough to get him disinvited from ABC, but made him a hot property for CBS. Scandalous in canon law does not mean something which generates shock or surprise.
According to Archbishop Raymond Burke, "The theological meaning of scandal is to do or omit something which leads others into error or sin. The second meaning is to do or omit something which causes wonderment (admiratio) in others. Denying Holy Communion publicly to the occult sinner involves scandal in the second sense. Giving Holy Communion to the obstinately serious and public sinner involves scandal in the first sense."
Separation Between Church and State
Whatever the constitutional "separation between church and state" means, it clearly does not mean that politicians ought to have a wall of separation between their moral beliefs and their voting behavior or public advocacy. This theoretical comparmentalization was first announced by John Kennedy, refined by Mario Cuomo and used by politicians ever since to justify voting for intrinsically wrong acts like abortion or destructive human embryonic stem cell research. The latest generation Kennedy has moved beyond privately holding that abortion is wrong, but voting for it anyway; he avows, as a Catholic, the right to have an abortion belongs to every woman. And then implies that the prohibition against abortion is just one among many rules, with which Catholics are free to disagree, even publicly.
Private morals vs. Public votes
What does this supposed separation betweeen moral beliefs and public policy mean? Does it mean my moral beliefs are private, and I will act against them whenever it's politically expedient? Does it mean my moral beliefs are private, and I will suspend them and advocate whatever the majority wants? Which moral beliefs do not have a hold on public voting or advocacy? The moral belief against murder? The moral belief that telling the truth is a virtue? The moral belief that stealing is wrong? The moral belief that each human person is created with equal dignity by God?
No one argues that laws should be passed which specifically protect the Catholic church, or that Catholic politicians should vote to outlaw the consumption of meat on Fridays during Lent. No one argues that a Catholic politician must do whatever his/her bishop or the pope instructs them to do. (This was a fear raised by modern day Know Nothings, if John F. Kennedy was elected. There is no small measure of anti-Catholicism in the conspiracy theories which picture Catholic bishops huddled in Washington writing our nation's laws.) But there can't be a disconnect between the moral beliefs of our politicians and their public actions. And if you choose to call yourself Catholic, there is a presumption that the beliefs of Catholicism infuse your thoughts and inform your moral behavior, even and especially your voting.
Today is the optional memorial of the virgin, martyr Catherine of Alexandria, one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers invoked for protection and healing during the black plague.
Her life and heroic martyrdom was extolled for centuries in the early church, but the historicity of her birth and death came under scrutiny during the post-Vatican II revision of the Roman calendar and her feastday was removed from the universal church calendar in 1969, along with Sts. Christopher and Barbara and others.
During his historic trip to the Holy Land in 2000 it was John Paul II's fervent prayer to advance the reunification of the Western Latin Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. Accordingly, he visited the Monastery of St. Catherine at Mount Sinai, the place where it is said the burning bush appeared to Moses and the location of St. Catherine's tomb.
The pope prayed and delivered a homily there, and the Orthodox Archbishop Damianos greeted him and presented him with gifts, but refused to pray with the pope, calling him only the "president" of the Roman Catholic Church. The primacy of the Pope as Bishop of Rome is one of the issues dividing both churches. John Paul had originally wished to pray with representatives of Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Orthodox leaders on Sinai, but signs of division were still too strong for such a gesture.
Pope John Paul II took the relatively unusual step of inserting several saints back into the Roman calendar in 2002, among them St. Catherine of Alexandria - a hope of Christian unity.
The gymnatorium was packed at the Sunday 10:30 for Hospitality Sunday and there was a wonderful welcome of our RCIA and RCIC candidates and catechumens at the Saturday 5 PM. Thanks to the members of our parish Social Concerns Committee for hosting Hospitality on Sunday. Congratulations to Mrs. Davis and her students, 4A, who consistently set a wonderful example of faithful discipleship.
It's hard to know what Representative Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island needs most, a press agent or a catechist. His puzzling public statement yesterday that his bishop banned him from receiving Holy Communion gave the clear impression that the bishop's action was recent and probably in response to Kennedy's position on the Health Care Reform bill now in the Senate.
Kennedy will soon learn he cannot make public statements which misrepresent Church teachings or his bishop's actions without swift and accurate correction. Bishop Tobin confirmed that in a private, written communication in 2007 (!), he asked Kennedy to refrain from taking communion due to his advocacy for abortion rights.
Knowing that the bishop had already privately rebuked Kennedy for his public advocacy of abortion rights, Kennedy's interview of Oct. 22, 2009 is even more off base than it appears on its own:
“I can’t understand for the life of me how the Catholic Church could be against the biggest social justice issue of our time, where the very dignity of the human person is being respected by the fact that we’re caring and giving health care to the human person--that right now we have 50 million people who are uninsured. You mean to tell me the Catholic Church is going to be denying those people life saving health care? I thought they were pro-life?” said Kennedy. “If the church is pro-life, then they ought to be for health care reform because it’s going to provide health care that are going to keep people alive. So this is an absolute red herring and I don’t think that it does anything but to fan the flames of dissent and discord and I don’t think it’s productive at all." Watch the interview
The "Catholic Church" denying health care? In New Jersey in 2003, Catholic hospitals provided over 22 million dollars in unreimbursed Medicaid costs, and 23% of New Jersey's documented charity care ($33 million unreimbursed care). The bishops have spoken out clearly in favor of health care reform, just not health care reform that kills unborn babies.Budget Committee Hearings 2005
By speaking publicly and distorting the US bishops' views, while at the same time not even addressing their chief concern, Kennedy creates a public record that needs correction. It is certain that bishops have had private communication with Catholic politicians in their dioceses regarding the reception of Holy Communion whenever that would give scandal. That Mr. Kennedy has chosen to make Bishop Tobin's communication public was his own choice. That his facts were inaccurate became Bishop Tobin's responsibility to correct. Bishop Tobin and Representative Kennedy had been scheduled to meet privately but this meeting has been postponed. Bishop Tobin has made it clear that his door is always open. It would be good if that meeting took place.
While yesterday's solemnity of Christ the King still stirs in our hearts, we celebrate today the feast of Blessed Miguel Pro, Jesuit martyr during the Mexican government's persecution of the Catholic Church at the turn of the last century. His last words before the firing squad which executed him were, "Long live Christ the King!" as he spread his arms open in the sign of the cross.
Blessed Miguel's execution in 1917 is recent enough, and the President of Mexico was proud enough of it, to allow the press to photograph his shooting. Miguel's courage and his eventual exoneration backfired however, and the photographs helped galvanize public support for the Church.
John Paul II beatified Miguel as a martyr in 1988.
Miguel's cry of "Long Live Christ the King" affirmed his faith that though the government seized the power to execute him, Jesus reigns over all.
In 1969 Paul VI moved the Feast of Christ the King to the Last Sunday in Ordinary Time and elevated it to a Solemnity. It had been established in 1925 by Pius XI to counterbalance the rising spirit of Nationalism and the drums of war.
There are many statues of Christ the King, but perhaps the most famous, now one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, is the statue of Christ the Redeemer which looks over Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. This amazing statue was erected in 1931 and has withstood not only secularism, but even lightning strikes.
Of course along with St. Peter's Basilica, the statue tumbles in the disaster movie 2012. The importance of the Solemnity is precisely to affirm that Christ is sovereign over all, me, you, and even Hollywood. In today's global community, perhaps even the forces of nationalism don't command reverence as much as the global economy does. The world market is alluded to like a power which looms over all. Not so. Christ reigns in our hearts, Christ reigns in the universe, now despite appearances and when he comes again, obvious for all to see.
Our sponsored medical missionary is a nurse who works in Mwea Catholic Mission Hospital in Wang'uru in Kenya. Through our sponsorship, Catholic Medical Mission Board will further our nurse's training to offer basic primary medical care in Kenya.
Our school children will begin email and other correspondence with her as they learn about Africa and Kenya and the diseases and other challenges native Kenyans face.
That's not necessarily a good thing. The eerie mixture of eroticism, the occult and death along with the franchise's world-wide popularity has prompted Msgr. Franco Perazzolo of the Pontifical Council of Culture to remark, "The theme of vampires in Twilight combines a mixture of excesses that as ever is aimed at young people and gives a heavy esoteric element. It is once again that age-old trick or ideal formula of using extremes to make an impact at the box office. This film is nothing more than a moral vacuum with a deviant message and as such should be of concern."
One young teenage girl twittered: "Love knows no boundaries. Edward is a vampire and Bella is a human, and the difference is completely disregarded."
Today's first reading describes the circumstances surrounding the re-dedication of the Temple after the victory of the Maccabees had restored it to Jewish control. The eight day celebration is commemorated down to the present time with the celebration of Hanukkah. This year Hanukkah begins at sundown on December 11th.
The document acknowledges the prevalence (one in six couples are estimated to experience infertility) and suffering brought on by infertility in marriage. It addresses the various technological methods at hand to correct or promote conception and endorses
hormonal treatments and other medications, conventional or laser surgery to repair damaged or blocked fallopian tubes, means for alleviating male infertility factors and other restorative treatments are available. The techniques of natural family planning (NFP) can aalso be used to locate the most fertile time of a woman's cycle in order to maximize the chances of conceiving. These and other methods do not substitute for the married couple's act of loving union; rather, they assist this act in reaching its potential to conceive a new human life.
The bishops articulate no new teaching in the document, but take the opportunity to comment on many of the developing reproductive technologies in an up to date and pastoral document. They emphasize the importance of the Catholic church's teaching that the unitive and procreative aspects of marriage must not be separated. Because of this stringent and instrinsic moral principle, the bishops reject in-vitro fertilization (IVF), surrogate mothering, human cloning and related procedures.
The pastoral tone of the document is welcome, but footnotes would be helpful for several assertions it makes about scientific facts. Perhaps the final published version will provide them.
At their November meeting the US Bishops approved a 5th edition of the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services. One of the primary reasons for revising the document was to make the use of artificial nutrition and hydration more explicit, especially for patients in the "persistent vegetative state" (PVS) for whom such feeding had been listed as controversial in the previous edition.
While medically assisted nutrition and hydration are not morally obligatory in certain cases, these forms of basic care should in principle be provided to all patients who need them, including patients diagnosed as being in a "persistent vegetative state" (PVS), because even the most severely debilitated and helpless patient retains the full dignity of a human person and must receive ordinary and proportionate care.