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March 2010

There's Always A Way

Determined and dedicated parishioners and school parents at Incarnation- St. James have been responding to a challenge campaign to keep their school open for the next school year and into the future.

I'm sure you've seen the article in the Monitor. You can check out their plan to raise money and increase student enrollment here or watch the the video - 

Catholic schools shouldn't be on the endangered species list - they're too important to lose.

Saint John Vianney Pray For Us

We're going to put a card or small sign next to our "mystery saint" so everyone knows who he is, but I'm a little surprised that we still get questions about who that statue is? 

Since we are in the Year Of the Priest and St. John Vianney already the patron saint of diocesan priests will be named the patron saint of the universal priesthood, we purchased this statue of John Vianney, which is imported from South America.

  IMG_0980 IMG_0980 IMG_0981   

Weathering the Storm

Our parish facilities actually fared pretty well during the weekend storm, occasional leaks, but dry basements and not too much damage from the wind. A few more unidentified pieces of the church blew off along with a shingle or two. It looks like the most conspicuous damage will be to one or two of our evergreen trees, badly damaged by the offshore winds.


The evergreen tree between the church and the carriage house bore the brunt of the winds coming from the east (left hand side of picture). 


 The eastward facing surface of the tree had many of its needles blown off, but most ominously, the tree has become partially uprooted.


Isaiah's New Jerusalem

Today's Lectionary Readings


Buildings_dome_203793 Isaiah's vision of the new Jerusalem was meant to lift the spirits of the Israelites and it should do the same for us, especially during the somber season of Lent.

Heavenly vision is in short supply these days, with so many thinking that heaven is really a wish for a social utopia here on earth. On the contrary, heaven is not earthly at all. Our hopes for it rest in Christ's resurrection to which all of Lent leads us. 

May The Wind Be Always At Your Back

St_patricks_012_01  Despite the wind and rain, and I can still hear the ocean roaring as I'm writing this, Irish parishioners and friends in name and spirit gathered for mass in Irish Gaelic followed by food and entertainment in the gymatorium. Though the procession from Sea Bright to Rumson was contained to our parking lot, our church was full and there was nary an empty seat at the tables in the gymatorium.

Thanks to Pete Hogan and his helpers for organizing such a fun event for parishioners, friends and family.

Athletes As Role Models?

Why Athletes are Not Role Models, Newsweek Magazine Article

Athlete_competes_201909  The very week we began discussing morality and ethics in professional and amateur sports with our 8th grade students, Newsweek magazine published this hard-hitting article about the image of the professional athlete in our society.

Its author, an African-American woman, has some strong words for the behavior of many professional athletes, including this quote from a leading sports sociologist, Steven Ortiz:

Spoiled-athlete syndrome begins early in sports socialization. From the time they could be picked out of a lineup because of their exceptional athletic ability, they've been pampered and catered to by coaches, classmates, teammates, family members and partners. As they get older, this becomes a pattern. Because they're spoiled, they feel they aren't accountable for their behaviors off the field. They're so used to people looking the other way.

The article is brief, and although it contains some 5o cent words, it will surely spark some interesting conversation. Check it out.

Cedars of Lebanon


Cedars of Lebanon

 Today's Lectionary Readings

This morning's reading from the prophet Hosea speaks of God's passionate love for the Israelites and his longing to give them good things. 

The cedars of Lebanon in their natural setting are described as one such example. I always imagined the cedar of Lebanon to be straight and tall, and was amazed to find this picture of some of these trees in their natural habitat: a rich, lush forest with canopy of shade - an Eden like setting.

So much of the time we take all that we have for granted. Today let us look around and give thanks to God for something we enjoy that is beautiful, given to us by a God who love us.

What is a Stiff-Necked People?

Today's Lectionary Readings

Neck_brace_139222 God complains through Jeremiah in this morning's first reading that the Israelites are a hard-hearted and stiff-necked people. What exactly is a stiff-necked people?

Apparently the image comes from oxen who were difficult to steer (bad pun). Those oxen who would not plow in straight lines or follow the directions of their driver were said to be "stiff-necked."

Those who refuse to bow their heads in reverence to God can also be said to be "stiff-necked."

So let us all limber up our necks this Lent, stive to follow the Lord's way and be reverent to God's rightful prime of place in our lives.


Ten Commandments Not Abolished

Today's Lectionary Readings

Prayer_stained_120492  Jesus reassures the Scribes and Pharisees in this morning's gospel that He has come to fulfill the Law and the Prophets (including the Ten Commandments in the First Reading).

Let us continue to work on observing all the commandments more faithfully this Lent while through prayers, fasting and almsgiving we strive to  grow closer to Jesus. This morning I'm thinking of two of them which have a special importance since we are a community which has a school.

The commandment that we keep holy the Lord's day is as important as it's ever been --even more so, since we can partake of the Eucharist at Sunday worship. As busy as the lives of our children have become with organized sports and other hobbies, it remains crucial to teach them that Sunday worship is the cornerstone of a faithful Catholic's life.

The children are once again outside at lunchtime and breaks and now that the weather is getting warmer, some of us might have the windows open for a bit of fresh air. Sadly, along with the sound of their laughter, comes frequent blasphemy even from our youngest school children. Blasphemy is never acceptable, but particularly so on our campus, at extracurricular activities and around our church. May God's name be on our lips only in prayer this Lent. 

Jesus Christ, Prophet or Buddy?

Today's Lectionary Readings

Yesll   There's a tendency for people who disagree with the church, their pastor, a parish committee chairperson, or pretty much anything or anyone in the parish to retort, "What would Jesus do?"

It's usually asked as a rhetorical question, the answer being, surely NOT whatever it is with which the questioner disagrees.

The not so subtle implication is that Jesus would never preach a homily that anyone would ever disagree with, or that would be controversial. Jesus would never ask for money, or at least too often. Jesus would never enforce any rules or codes of behavior. Jesus wouldn't care about liturgy, especially if it were too fancy. Jesus wouldn't talk too much about sin,even to condemn it. Jesus wouldn't fuss about the integrity of Christian witnesses by baptism or confirmation sponsors. Wouldn't care if we spent our Sabbath at sporting events. Jesus would really have a hard time saying, "no" to anything.

To escape controversy, some preachers had resorted to "safe" topics like love, family, country, important topics in themselves, but not until recently too controversial. Now, too Catholic an emphasis on family and love often brings a charge of intolerance, since it categorically rejects any redefinition of "marriage" to same-sex or multi-partner sexual living relationships. Now even love and family must be stretched to cover anything with Jesus' blessing.

In the name of toleration, or a false interpretation of religious pluralism, not only can nothing be condemned (it's judgmental), but we can't even hold out ideals to strive for which are difficult to achieve (it's hypocritical, focuses on our failures and makes us think too often about sin.) 

Jesus forgave sinners - even his executioners, because they needed it - not because they had done nothing wrong. If everything were OK, his passion, death and resurrection wouldn't have been necessary. The Paschal mystery is good news for sinners, not moral relativists.

Jesus rises to speak to the assembly in this morning's gospel, not to reassure those most familiar with Scripture they have it made...but to observe that the grace of God is reflected in lives who are open to it, not just closest to it. From a modern perspective, He really delivered a politically inept speech and antagonized his audience, but then again he was anointed priest, prophet and king by the Holy Spirit, he wasn't running to be elected or seeking consensus on the matter.

Lent is an appropriate time to read and reflect on the Jesus in the Scriptures, to love Jesus more deeply, the Jesus as he is, the Messiah we need, not necessarily the one we imagine.

The Power of Mystery

Today's Lectionary Readings

Moses_burning_103668 Mystery isn't a sufficient explanation for faith since the scientific revolution, but it's important that science not be used as a sufficient explanation for mystery.

Our children know all about the "Big Bang" theory of the universe, as if it confidently explains everything before and after the bang. Just as God had been too easily invoked to fill the gaps in our scientific understanding of the universe, the "God of the Gaps," so now science confidently steps over many of them without acknowleding that any scientific explanations are incomplete.

A poet once observed that what moved Moses to take off his shoes and listen to God speaking in the burning bush was obedience to the power of mystery --- an amazing phrase, "obedience to the power of mystery."

Science and modern skepticism have de-mystified the world. The mysteries in modern life that still remain, we sometimes hold in contempt, or relegate to irrelevance.

God is not a complete mystery, for we believe we have the most perfect revelation about God we will ever have until the end of time in Jesus Christ. We know much about our God, but there is much of which we cannot even speak. A favorite teacher's saying - "You don't know, what you don't know," comes to mind.

Let us cultivate a bit of mystery about God, especially as revealed to us in the Scriptures this Lent.

Jealousy Can Be A Killer

Today's Lectionary Readings

Garbage_argument_106972  Not many of us have probably thrown someone into a cistern as Joseph's jealous brothers did to Joseph. They hated Joseph so much "that they would not even greet him." (Gn 37:4)

But it's quite likely that we have either refused to greet someone, shunned someone, or given a cold or lukewarm greeting to someone of whom we were jealous. If so, then we know how easily our jealousy can match Joseph's brothers or the tenants of the vineyard in today's Gospel reading from Matthew. 

Jealousy is often a complicated mixture of fear, anger, resentment, powerlessness and other energy sapping emotions. It will suck the joy from our Easter celebration, so it's a good idea to confront it again now, and curtail it if we can.

God's love is infinite and grace is superabundant, so there is no need for internecine feuds. Let us spread the good news of God's mercy and forgiveness freely and share in the joy of this coming Easter.

Holy Cross Students Earn Diocesan Respect Life Awards

Prize_ribbon_91365 Congratulations to all our Holy Cross students who participated in the poster, essay and video contest sponsored by the Diocesan Office Of Life and Justice Ministries.

This year several Holy Cross students submitted entries which were recognized with awards:

  • John Paul Burgess 1st place video grades 6 -8
  • Mia DeLauro 1st place essay grades 6 - 8
  • Gillian Passarella 1st place video grades 3 - 5
  • Daniel Koutris 2nd place essay grades 3 - 5
  • Holly Koerwer 3rd place video grades 3 - 5
  • Francesca Zoppi 3rd place poster grades 3 - 5

The award winning entries will be displayed at St. Anthony of Padua's Parish Center on March 13 as an important component of the Diocesan Witness for LIfe Mass and Procession in Trenton. Bishop Smith will recognize the creators of the winning entries at a reception back at St. Anthony's at the conclusion of the prayer procession and rosary at Planned Parenthood in Shrewsbury.

Everyone is invited to pray the mass and participate in the Prayer Procession. Not only would it make an excellent Lenten offering to the Lord, but it is a wonderful public witness of our Catholic faith.

Archbishop Chaput on the Vocation of Christians in American Public Life

Vocations of Christians in American Public Life

Kennedy-cover   Archbishop Chaput's most recent speech on the role of Catholic faith in American public life traces the unhealthy division between a politician's private moral beliefs and their public voting records to the speech President Kennedy made about his own Catholic faith during his run for the presidency.

In erroneously viewing the history of our republic as purely secular, and reassuring the public that if elected he would not be a Catholic president, (or perhaps even as a president who was truly Catholic,) Kennedy established the principle that politicians should divorce their private moral and religious beliefs from their public advocacy. 

The Archbishop calls Kennedy's landmark speech "sincere, compelling, articulate – and wrong.  Not wrong about the patriotism of Catholics, but wrong about American history and very wrong about the role of religious faith in our nation’s ."

In this far reaching and thoughtful speech, Chaput emphasizes the importance of Catholic witness in public life decrying ecumenism based on polite behavior instead of truth as empty, and a lie.

Look at the short list of issues the Archbishop identified that confront us, and notice how many depend precisely on our beliefs as Catholics:
abortion; immigration; our obligations to the poor, the elderly and the disabled; questions of war and peace; our national confusion about sexual identity and human nature, and the attacks on marriage and family life that flow from this confusion; the growing disconnection of our science and technology from real moral reflection; the erosion of freedom of conscience in our national health-care debates; the content and quality of the schools that form our children.
Read the entire text of the Archbishop's speech on their diocese's webpage by following the link at the top of this post.

Prayer is An Egg

Today's Lectionary Readings


The poem Prayer is An Egg  by Rumi can be read in its entirety here.

"...Then you pray the prayer that is the essence 
of every ritual: God,

I have no hope. I am torn to shreds. You are my first and 
last and only refuge.

Don't do daily prayers like a bird pecking, moving its head 
up and down. Prayer is an egg.

Hatch out the total helplessness inside."

Our best prayers do not arise from a feeling of self-satisfaction or entitlement. Pray more egg-prayers.