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May 2010

April 2010

You May Even Find Yourself Fighting Against God

Today's Lectionary Readings

The criticisms and media hysteria swirling around the Pope continue and almost as if on cue, today's readings give us solace. While the Church has and always will undergo continuous reform, many of the cries against her sound more anti-religious and hate-filled by the day.

Let us renew our prayers for Pope Benedict, especially for his spiritual strength and moral courage.


We Gave You Strict Orders To Stop Teaching In That Name, Did We Not?

Today's Lectionary Readings

The apostles kept preaching the good news about Jesus Christ and stuck together as a band of missioners even when threatened by the Sanhedrin.

Our resolve should be as great, but manytimes we surrender to popular thinking or criticism and give up when faithful discipleship becomes difficult.

However tiring it may be to defend Pope Benedict from outrageous charges, especially when the threat that doing so may seem to condone molesting children, we must persevere in his defence and condemn wrongdoing at the same time. The latest outrageous plan by some in Britain to arrest our pope when he travels there for "crimes against humanity" would be ludicrous if they were not also fueled by hate-filled invective.

Let us pray for the pope and our church. 

Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Benedict XVI Study Group at Holy Cross

On Wednesday night, May 5th we will begin a study group on the book, Jesus of Nazareth (part 1) by Benedict XVI using an accompanying study guide by Mark Bramley.

Everyone is invited. You may acquire the books on your own, or a pick up copies of both books in the parish office; a $15 donation covers the cost of both books. We'll meet at least until school closes for summer vacation and decide as a group whether to break or continue through the summer months.


Jealousy Can Motivate for the Good or Turn And Attack Goodness

Bully Today's Lectionary Readings

The high priest and all his companions...filled with jealousy, laid hands upon the apostles and put them in the public jail.

Jealousy can be a powerful emotion and if we act on it, it's often for the bad. In this morning's readings the jealousy of the leaders turned to attack goodness in the person of the apostles who were proclaiming the good news of the gospel.

If we're trying to be good and imitate Jesus, we should expect it to be difficult. He promised us it would be.

Whenever we experience jealousy, we should resist acting against someone and let jealousy shine a light on our own behavior. It might motivate us to become a better parent, or priest, or student - if those are people we envy. Or we might be inspired to train harder to become a more accomplished athlete. But we shouldn't attack goodness.

Nicodemus Moves From Darkness to Light

Today's Lectionary Readings

NIcodemus has a public reputation to uphold, so he comes to ask Jesus questions under cover of darkness. Afraid of being seen in public as anything other than a critic of Jesus, his search for truth forces him to take the first tentative steps toward Jesus. His encounter with Christ must have had a positive impact on him, since not long after, he is unafraid to accompany Joseph of Arimathea and help bury Jesus' body.

Sad to say we're enduring a period of time when it's not easy to be seen in public as anything other than a critic of Jesus' church. Many are more intent on generating heat, even smoke, than searching for the light of truth. It is difficult, but necessary, to avoid condoning reprehensible behavior by priests or bishops and yet to condemn inaccurate, incomplete or agenda-driven reporting.

Slowly but surely, more truth is coming to light. There are several commentators and reporters that are putting the incendiary reporting of the New York Times in perspective. See "Mean Men" by Pat Wingert in Newsweek, which puts the sad statistics in the Catholic church in context with the even more alarming figures outside the church; also "What Went Wrong: Don't Blame Celibacy," by George Weigel.


The painting is by Henry Ossawa Tanner, an African-American ex-patriot living in France, who painted many biblical and spiritual themes. You may know his painting the "Banjo Lesson," which I believe is owned by Bill Cosby.

Spring Brings Blooms and New Growth

Spring daffodils blooming under Holy Cross Church Sign on Rumson Road  The regeneration and new growth we see in nature during Springtime mirror our spiritual reinvigoration after the Triduum and joyful Easter. Gardeners know this only too well. 

Many of the new plantings on the campus are returning and showing signs of growth. Last year we planted many Nepeta seedlings and it looks like most of them survived the winter and are already starting to grow. The blanket flowers have established themselves well and there are many cosmos already germinating having reseeded from last year. Lupine seems to do quite well in certain areas along with the coreopsis which was transplanted from a parish celebration many years ago. The roses are really beginning to come alive and hopefully we can keep them from black spot this year; we've selected disease resistant varieties, but you never know. 

The California poppies have reseeded themselves successfully and most of the hosta look like they have multiplied and are just about to unfurl their leaves. Last year we managed to keep most of the deer away and there wasn't too much damage from slugs. The iris in the sunny locations have multiplied and look healthy, though there are some in shade which haven't fared as well. It appears we will have a bumper crop of daylillies.

We have wildflower seeds of several varieties which we will try this year, selecting those which reseed freely and need relatively little care. 

Most of the foundation plantings are in pretty good shape; our two leaning evergreen trees will soon be staked. Some of the newly planted evergreen trees by the mulched area behind the school alongside the parish field haven't fared too well and will be replaced, and we are grateful to the Sea Bright Lawn and Tennis Club for their help in transplanting some mature trees along the fence line.

There hadn't been any water available on the Rumson Road side of the school, so planting there was always a risky enterprise.  The repair of the plumbing enabled us to begin some interesting plants. Beginning with the generous donation of the Kindergarten Garden and continuing with the planting of some wildflowers and bulbs, we started to show some tender loving care to the plantings on that side of the school. Thank you to members of the Fair Haven Garden Club for helping to plant some of the many hundreds of bulbs now blooming on Rumson Road.

Moral Panic: Changing Concepts of the Child Molester in America

Ocyp Until recently, I had never heard the term "moral panic." I came across the term in researching articles about the latest child abuse scandals in the Church, which attributed the media frenzy to such a state. Philip Jenkins did not originate the term, but he has carefully explored the pheonomenon, especially when it comes to protecting children, the Catholic church and its clergy.

Two of his books are of note: Moral Panic:Changing Concepts of the Child Molester in America (Yale University Press, 2004) and Pedophiles and Priests:Anatomy of a Contemporary Crisis (Oxford Press, 2001)

Professor Jenkins' work is a bit old, but not really outdated, especially since he clearly outlines the different groups of "moral entrepreneurs" who are clamoring loudly even now about the meaning, context and remedy for the abuse.

He clearly distinguishes pedophilia (sexual attraction to pre-pubescent children) from ephebophilia (sexual attraction to adolescents), pointing out that the vast number of abuse cases in the Catholic church are ephebophilia. His research shows that neither are more common in Catholic clergy than clergy of other denominations, or in the general population - a controversial assertion these days to be sure. But loudly screaming or printing daily that these perversions are exclusive to the Catholic priesthood and the structure of the Catholic church does not make it true either.

If you've read the more popular books by Berry, Bruni, Doyle or Podles, then you should read either of Jenkin's books. Berry has just published a new book discussing John Paul II and Fr. Maciel of the Legionnaires of Christ, which I have not yet read. In light of the continuing media coverage, including a front page article in today's Asbury Park Press, it might be well to schedule a Wednesday night Faith Seeking Understanding discussion on the recent abuse scandal news articles - not to feed the frenzy, but to shed some light. 

Let me know if you would be interested; send an email to the webmaster on the Church's homepage, or leave a signed, courteous comment here.

New England Journal of Medicine Hails Catholic Health Association and Leadership Council of Women Religious for Their "Pro-Life" Support of Obama's Health Care Reform

Intrauterine Surgery to save life of baby  Many have written about the damage done by the CHA and the Leadership Council of Women Religious because of their support for the recently passed Health Care reform bill.

Here's a bit more of the fallout: George Annas, JD, MPH a frequent contributor to NEJM, who has criticized restricting a woman's right to abortion, recently authored an article congratulating the CHA and Leadership Council of Women Religious for their support of the Health Care Reform Act without the Stupak-Pitts Amendment to explicitly exlude elective abortions as a health care benefit. Here's the concluding paragraph:

"Perhaps the most conspicuous winners are the Catholic Health Association of the United States and the Catholic women's religious orders, whose members deliver health care in 1200 facilities and organizations nationwide. In mid-March, shortly before the final vote, both groups came out very strongly in favor of the Senate bill without the Stupak-Pitts amendment; the nuns noted that the bill "will not provide taxpayer funding for elective abortions. It will uphold longstanding conscience protections, and it will make historic new support of pregnant women. This is the REAL pro-life stance, and we as Catholics are all for it." Amen."

(The cynical co-opting of pro-life language is the responsibility of the nuns group. The cynical use of "Amen" to conclude the less than prayerful opinion piece, is George Annas'. A congratulations from the pro physician-assisted suicide NEJM is only a Catholic merit badge in certain circles. Since Annas does not use the nuns' formal title, I wonder if he is aware that there is another group representing "Catholic religious orders?")

The US Bishops, however, and their legal consultants, concluded that the bill did not adequately protect the individual consciences of those opposed to abortion, nor continue the ban on the use of federal funds for abortions. Here's their statement:

 Health care reform must protect life and conscience, not threaten them. The Senate bill extends abortion coverage, allows federal funds to pay for elective abortions (for example, through a new appropriation for services at Community Health Centers that bypasses the Hyde amendment), and denies adequate conscience protection to individuals and institutions.

The regulations to prevent clever channeling of federal funds to abortion coverage have not yet been written. The bill's provision to allocate federal funds to Community Health Centers (e.g. run by Planned Parenthood) also did not concern CHA or LCWR.

Since the media didn't cover the statement by the "other" nuns leadership council, the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, here is their statement:

In a March 15th statement, Cardinal Francis George, OMI, of Chicago, president

of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, spoke on behalf of the United

States Bishops in opposition to the Senate’s version of the health care legislation

under consideration because of its expansion of abortion funding and its lack of

adequate provision for conscience protection. Recent statements from groups like

Network, the Catholic Health Association and the Leadership Conference of

Women Religious (LCWR) directly oppose the Catholic Church’s position on

critical issues of health care reform.

The Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, the second conference of

Major Superiors of Women Religious in the United States, finds the provision of

the bill to include expansion of abortion funding and fails to include conscience

protection. We believe the bill needs to include the Hyde Amendment as passed by the House in November.

Protection of life and freedom of conscience are central to morally responsible

judgment. We join the bishops in seeking ethically sound legislation.

As Annas confides in his article, "There's no politics like abortion politics." How true. It is unfortunate that some Catholic groups are aligning themselves with those who have no interest whatsoever in limiting abortion or anything that the Church teaches, for a slice of the federal pie. At least Judas didn't keep the money.

The Real Pro-Life Stance - Health Care Reform and Abortion Funding, New England Journal of Medicine

US Bishops to House of Representatives: Fix Flaws or Vote No on Health Care Reform Statement from Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious

Statement from Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious

Statement from Leadership Conference of Women Religious 

The photo shows life-saving surgery on a baby within its mothers womb.

Rumson-Fair Haven Community Leaders Task Force Meeting May 5th

Silhouette of unidentified male teen drinking beer Community leaders of both the Rumson and Fair Haven communities have been invited to a Task Force meeting on the problem of adolescent drug and alcohol use. This is a follow-up to the first meeting which reviewed data from a self-reported survey of our high school students. Since the community leaders meeting, 94% of our high school parents have seen the same statistics. Now it's time to do something about them. Representatives from the Caron Foundation, an addiction recovery and research group, will also attend the meeting.

Parishes Asked to Schedule "Reminder Weekends" for Bishop's Annual Appeal

BAA10_logo (1)

Thanks to so many who contributed generously to Holy Cross at Easter, and to those who, with great difficulty are honoring pledges to the Lift High the Cross campaign. The good news of their generosity will soon appear on the Memorial Wall and be announced in the bulletin. For your dedication and honor to your pledge, the parish is truly grateful.

However, as many of you may have realized, the weekend scheduled for the Bishop's Annual Appeal In-Pew appeal was a weather disaster, and even though our appeal weekend was scheduled for a week later, the weather effects were still obvious. Our appeal response is significantly below the last two years.This week shows our total parish pledge at approx. $26,000 which is 26% of our total requested goal.

In fact, contributions to the Church were substantially down for at least three weeks, beginning the weekend of the storm.

Due to the storm, I must report that even the Pancake Breakfast, though it was a social success, barely broke even financially. Only with the donation of all three 50/50 raffle winners' proceeds back to the church did it realize a profit of $500. While the primary goal of this day was building community, the Men's Group also use the proceeds to help fund our bus to the March for Life in Washington, D.C. and the purchase of other materials for those children and young adults who attend the March.

Happily, it appears that Easter contributions were back on track to at least match last year's, though this depends on our receiving the usual number of Easter contributions in the mail  within the next few weeks.

The Diocese is a different matter, however, and they have asked parishes who have not acheived 85% of their goal to repeat an in-pew reminder weekend (without the Bishop's video) on April 24 - 25th. Please be generous and make a contribution once again this year, or consider a new contribution if you have never made one before, so that Holy Cross can do its part to sustain the Church of the Diocese of Trenton of which we are an important part. Please be patient with this effort if you have already made a donation and realize we take part in this effort to be faithful to the local diocesan church from which our identity flows.

Easter Vigil Services Tonight at 8 PM

Paschal_candle Please join us tonight for a celebration of the beginning of Easter at the Easter Vigil services beginning at 8 PM. It is imperative that the ceremony begins after darkness, as the blessing of the new fire and the new Paschal Candle illumine the church.

This year we will welcome twelve new members into the fullness of the Catholic faith: several will be baptized, many will be confirmed and all will receive first Holy Communion. These baptisms, confirmations and communions are always a source of great joy.

Beginning tonight, we will also return to distributing Eucharist under both species at weekend masses.

Holy Saturday Morning Prayer, Blessing of the Easter Food and Ephphatha Rite

A sealed tomb entrance in Palestine On Holy Saturday, morning prayer will begin in the Church at 9 AM followed immediately by the Blessing of the Easter Food and the Ephphatha Rite (for the Aramaic, "Be Thou Opened'). Our RCIA team will gather for the last time before the Solemn Easter Vigil this evening at 8 PM. 

The Ephphatha Rite recalls Jesus' healing of the man born deaf and mute and confers a blessing of those to be received into the fullness of the Catholic faith to enable them to be faithful witnesses to the truth.

The tabernacle is empty, the altar is bare, the statues and furniture has been removed and before the decoration for Easter begins, it's important to spend time as if we were present at Jesus' sealed tomb, grieving and doubting that he was the Messiah. 

Holy Cross Church Rumson After Good Friday Service showing empty tabernacle and bare altar

Tenebrae Service on Good Friday

Candles will be extinguised at Tenebrae Services on Good Friday   Tonight at 7 PM we will pray Tenebrae services, a liturgy of sacred song and reflection on the passion and saving death of Jesus. There are several variations of the liturgy, but we will begin with lit candelabra providing the only illumination in the church. One by one, after an interlude of prayer and song, the candles are extinguished until at the service's conclusion, the church is in darkness.

Tenebrae is Latin for shadows or darkness and it symbolizes the darkness which enveloped the world after Jesus death, until his resurrection broke through the darkness on Easter morn.