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May 2010

Holy Cross Church Commemorates Memorial Day 2010

It was a beautiful Memorial Day and many Holy Cross parishioners took time not only to relax and enjoy the sunshine, but also to mark the day as special.

Of course, no better way to start the day than with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, especially on this Feast of the Visitation - the time when Mary in her first trimester of pregnancy travelled to visit Elizabeth in her third and helped Elizabeth when John the Baptist was born. This visit is the idea behind the Elizabeth Ministry, a group of women who help each other and their families especially in bearing and rearing children. We are blessed to have such a group in Holy Cross parish.

Father Manning attended the Memorial Service at Sea Bright Fire Station and along with Pastor Rob Long of Sea Bright who gave the Benediction and Invocation in turn.Col. Cris J. Boyd, Operations Officer for the Research, Development and Engineering Command addressed the group on the challenges of military service and the dedication of those now serving our country. After the 30 minute service, Fr. Manning and Pastor Long blessed the brand new Ladder truck delivered only days ago to the Sea Bright Fire Department and we then enjoyed refreshments and the beautiful weather with sea breeze.

Father Manning pastor of Holy Cross Rumson blesses Sea Bright's new Ladder Truck

Meantime, a bit closer to home, the Memorial Day Parade was underway in Rumson and Holy Cross participated in the parade. Our anniversary banner led the Holy Cross contingent who were accompanied by Mr. Feerst, our team mascot and Eugenia Kelly on Mike's truck. Our copper cross from Holy Rosary was processed and safely secured on a cart. 

    Holy Cross Anniversary Banner leads the Holy Cross contingent at the Memorial Day Parade
The old cross from Holy Rosary is processed in the Memorial Day Parade

Traffic was difficult everywhere (even on the Shrewsbury River!) and there was one serious accident at Ward and Rumson and another right outside the Sea Bright Fire Station during the Memorial Service!


That's Hypostatic Not Hybrid

Today's Lectionary Readings

Illus-36  Throughout history it's been a challenge to hold a correct view of Jesus Christ, God and man and we don't always get the balance right. Two opposing heresies attract follower down through the ages: on the one hand to believe that Jesus was truly God, but only seemed truly human - a kind of invulnerable super-hero; its opposite, that Jesus was truly human but somehow not equal to God, perhaps a kind of super-saint or human being who got a divine promotion. Jesus was truly God and truly man, not an admixture of the two, not one nature overshadowing the other.

Today's gospel from Mark shows Jesus hungry, apparently annoyed at the fig tree and angry at the money changers in the temple - all very human traits which challenge any view that these human characteristics were alien to Jesus. Of course it can be said that Jesus only seemed to be hungry, etc. and that enables those who cling to this view to dismiss any human portrayal of Jesus in the gospels as stagecraft.

Having just heard the Gospel of John throughout the Pentecost season in which Jesus' divine nature is emphasized, Mark's unabashed insight into Jesus' human nature feels jarring.

Jesus, my brother, Jesus my God.

Saint Augustine of Canterbury

Saints Gregory the Great and Augustine of Canterbury  Several years ago in preparing my morning's homily, I confused St. Augustine of Canterbuy with St. Augustine of Hippo and was all set to preach about the famous "our hearts are restless until they rest in thee" Augustine. I feel only slightly better to learn that early church historians made the same mistake!

St. Augustine of Canterbury, however, is a good saint to know about. A friend of Pope St. Gregory the Great, he was sent to convert an Anglo-Saxon king (who had married a Christian, thus giving some hope of success.) Tales of the ferocity of the Celts and Saxons reached Augustine and he thought better about going to Britain without better preparation. Gregory the Great eventually persuaded him to continue his journey and he did succeed in converting the king along with many of his subjects. His mission to Britain was a mixture of successes and failures, however.

How many times we set a goal and retreat from it because we find it too difficult, or refrain from setting one in the first place. How often we are tempted to consider results rather than faithfulness the measure of our service.

May we all have St. Augustine's perseverance and persuasive friends like Gregory the Great.

St. Philip Neri, Apostle of Rome

Philip St. Philip Neri founded a society of diocesan priests who lived together, prayed together and took at least some meals together, but  whose work consisted of apostolic works in and around Rome. They took no vows of poverty, in fact, had to chip in for their room and board; the leadership model for the oratory sounds much like the servant/leader model written about today. Unlike the monasteries, which were enclosed, an oratory served as a nucleus or a kind of home base from which to go out and change the world.

There are many stories about Philip, including an early biography which describe his affable personality, love of humor, apostolic zeal and diplomacy. One day, a visitor brought along his dog and the dog refused to leave Philip's side, becoming his life-long companion. Philip used to take his dog for walks back in the day when leading a dog on a leash was considered a humiliating experience - recall the unflattering images of dogs in Scripture. Philip apparently asked the high and mighty to help him walk his dog as both a physical and spiritual exercise. I'll never look at my pooper-scooper in quite the same way again!

A Simple Phone Call Can Mean So Much

6a0120a4f88a1c970b0133ee26eeb9970b-800wi   Our seventh graders were asked to reflect on their phone call to the missioners in Kenya; some of their answers were amazing:

“From the conference call, I learned that it should be a global effort to stop the spread of HIV/Aids.  The volunteer nurses inspired me to do my part in learning about the avenues to prevent and treat the disease. C.L. 

 “The conference call had an imprint on my life.”  The two nurses engaged in the CMMB program explained how many people are effected with HIV/Aids.  In addition, they spoke of the Mother to Mother program which is an educational program of infected mothers helping and instructing  incoming infected mothers on preventing transmission to their child.” K.L.

 “The phone call touched me.  The nurses explained the medical conditions of the poor and their lifestyle.”  J.L.

 “The phone call made me so proud that I am in a country that is very privileged, and that we have American volunteers in the CMMB program that are willing to care for people in Kenya.  I was amazed how productive the CMMB program…” M.G.

 “The phone conference inspired us to help Kenya and other good deeds…but all would never forget this special phone call to Kenya.” D.W.

 “While I was listening to them talk,  I realize that CMMB was bringing hope to Kenya by showing them that they are not only going to help them, but they can help each other.“  A.D.

“Speaking to the nurses, Irene and Amanda, opened my eyes to the vast world around me.  As Amanda and Irene responded to our questions, I realized that I could make a positive difference in the world too!   I hope to follow in their footsteps and live out Jesus’ message.”  J.O.

2010 Diocesan Increased Offertory Program


Untitled Holy Cross along with all  parishes across the diocese is preparing to conduct an increased offertory program this coming Fall. Many parishes are struggling to maintain fiscal health in these trying economic times, and rather than emphasizing giving once to a specific fund, this program will emphasize the importance of weekly generosity to the parish church -more emphasis on stewardship and less on fund drives.

Sensitive to the criticism that the church is "always asking for money," we have seriously tried to limit the number of times we ask at church, directly or indirectly, inside the church and outside. Several of the requests come from outside the parish: the Bishop's Annual Appeal, the annual appeal from a visiting missionary and many of the routine non-diocesan collection envelopes and appeals included in the parish mailings. In past years, I have made an appeal for generosity at Christmas at some or all of the masses and with a special mailing and we try to provide the right amount of financial information in the bulletin on a weekly basis. I think that the number of fund raising requests from our school need study, from the big ones by the parish to many smaller ones by classes and drives for various causes.

The cost of the increased offertory campaign is being paid by the diocese and will be conducted by a firm called "Letter Concepts" with main office in Berlin, CT.

The Invisible Gorilla and the Holy Spirit

Perhaps you've seen the YouTube video of the experiment: two groups of college students, about three per team assemble in a hallway. One team in white shirts, the other in black. During a one minute video, they pass the basketball back and forth within a few feet of each other. Observers are asked to count how many times the players in white shirts pass the ball and ignore other passes. About 30 seconds into the video, another student dressed in a full-body gorilla costume, strides into frame, faces the camera, pounds her chest and leaves - about a 9 second walk-on cameo. The observers are asked to report the number of passes they counted and then asked, "What did you think about the gorilla?" Fifty percent of all observers reply, "What gorilla?" A newly published book by the researchers who conducted this experiment, "the invisible gorilla" looks interesting, but I haven't had a chance to read it yet.

The power of the Holy Spirit was dramatically manifested on Pentecost and described as a driving wind, tongues of fire, miraculous speaking in tongues and transformation of the apostles into bold evangelists. We may surely experience such powerful manifestations of the Spirit in our lives, but the urgings of the Holy Spirit are just as often described as whispers, breezes, intuitions, subtle signs. If we keep distracted and busy every waking moment, how in the world will we be able to discern the Holy Spirit in our lives when we all have a good chance of missing a full grown gorilla?

Prayer, contemplation and silence sensitize us to the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives, even small amounts of it each day. 

A wonderful one-act play of C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters has returned to off Broadway at the Westside Theatre. A senior devil is tutoring a junior devil on how to tempt a human "patient" to whom he has been assigned. In one of the monologues, the devil discloses how dangerous music and silence are to their diabolical cause and that neither are permitted in hell. Noise, noise, noise!! Screwtape Letters Off-Broadway

Max McClean and Karen Eleanor Wight in C.S. Lewis'  "Screwtape Letters" 

Without prayer, contemplation and silence we're as likely to miss the Holy Spirit as we are to overlook a chest-thumping gorilla.

Aren't Funerals About Eternal Life Anymore?

Funerals  Last year Dr. Thomas Long, Professor of Preaching at Emory University's Candler School of Theology, published an interesting book Accompany Them With Singing - The Christian Funeral. In this modern study of Christian funeral rites, he laments the loss of the other worldly and transcendent at funerals and the all too common emphasis on the earthly life of the deceased instead. 

It's said that baby-boomers are not using traditional funeral rites to bury their parents and even sometimes ignoring their parents' wishes for a church funeral. The convenience and perhaps lesser expense of a service at the funeral home seems to make more sense to many of the survivors, especially since many of them no longer attend church regularly. Besides, since funeral directors will do just about anything you pay them to do, there are not likely to be many restrictions on the family's funeral requests.

The majority of those seeking a Catholic funeral are sincere and devout. Some others, however, stand out. There is the group that seems agnostic about whether heaven exists. The funeral is primarily a celebration of the deceased's earthly accomplishments. Even well meaning families have fallen into the trap; you've seen the Worship Aids - "A Celebration of the Life of ..." You'll hear that the deceased lives on through the descendants s/he left behind and in their memories and the stories they will tell. No one should be sad, because the deceased doesn't want us to be. There is usually no mention of faith, religion, God or the Catholic church in the often obligatory eulogy at these funerals. In fact, the admission that "Joe wasn't a church-goer, but a good person" is a pretty common refrain. Coming together as a group is an opportunity to pay tribute to the deceased, not necessarily to share the Eucharist. Nature scenes and secular poetry are often featured on the memorial cards. The animistic poem "Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep" is a favorite. It ends not with death and the promise of resurrection but the odd assertion that "I did not die." Catholic clergy have read this poem and/or allowed it at funerals!  (One of the prayers in the Catholic committal service reminds us that even Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus, his friend and asks Jesus to comfort us in our grief.)

Another group is pretty sure heaven exists, and certain that the deceased is already there. They're sometimes engaged in their favorite earthly pastime, often cooking, gardening or golfing, or helping God organize heaven. Sometimes God appears to have called the deceased home to heaven because God needed them. Anyone who ever mentions "purgatory" is under suspicion, but it is especially incorrect to even whisper it at funerals. The longstanding practice of having masses said for the soul's release from purgatory appears to have morphed into an opportunity to have their name published in the bulletin, announced at mass or keep their memory alive on earth.

In many cases, the least churched generation in history is demanding (and sometimes being given) the most control ever of the Church's funeral rites, sometimes by the very generation of church leaders who failed so miserably to catechize them in the 70's and 80's.  Everyone wants a funeral like the Kennedy's or Sonny Bono's or Princess Diana's. That usually means at least several speakers, lots of patriotic and secular music and plenty of flowers. Worship aids, originally designed to help the mourners follow the liturgy, now are packed with photos, and farewells to the deceased. Personalization in each and every detail of the funeral is the order of the day. Sociologists tell us this is a particular characteristic of the boomer generation.

A Catholic funeral properly celebrated and with appropriate family participation is infinitely more consoling than any number of speeches or songs could be. Even those not expecting grace often receive it. A funeral liturgy is a priceless opportunity to evangelize family and their friends and reintroduce them to the dignity and consoling beauty of a Catholic funeral. Nearly everyone listens intently during funeral homilies, especially for the kind of hope the world cannot give. Nearly all priests and ministers would truly miss praying at funerals. It's only when funerals are morphed by over-personalization into something only resembling a Catholic liturgy that they become a strain. The more secular they become, the less hope they can offer. The words of the liturgy are true: Almighty God, all our hope is in you.

Why exactly shouldn't a Catholic funeral mass have "Danny Boy," "When the Saints go Marching In," or a doleful broadway tune for a communion reflection? Good question, especially when we all know that wherever they're used, they're never challenged. What's the difference between a eulogy and Words of Remembrance? Another good question. We'll take up the Catholic Church's liturgical norms for funerals in subsequent posts.

Who Were St. Christopher Magallanes and Companions?

Saint Christopher Magallanes  Very frequently the liturgical calendar of the church takes odd twists and turns with events in the modern world. The irony of yesterday's feast of St. Christopher Magallanes and companions coming on the heels of the President of Mexico being received warmly by a joint session of Congress and given the opportunity to lecture us about human rights is strange indeed.

St. Christopher and his companions (20 diocesan priests and 3 lay persons) were executed as traitors by the Mexican government between 1915 and 1937, a period in Mexican history when by provisions in the national Constitution, property of the Catholic church was confiscated, seminaries were closed, priests were deprived of the right to vote and forbidden to appear in public in clerical attire and preaching criticizing the government could be a capital crime.

The priests and people in certain dioceses of Mexico formed resistance movements to these anti-Catholic provisions of the Mexican constitution. One of these more formally organized groups was called the Cristeros. It was for membership in this group and resistance to the government's policy against the Catholic church that these martyrs were either shot or hanged. 

I wonder if I would have the courage to be a martyr if the landscape around me suddenly changed and witnessing to Christ in one act became necessary rather than a reasonably quiet life of daily commitments to Christ. 

John Paul II was criticized for beatifying and canonizing these saints, since it was (and remains) quite politically incorrect to even call attention to the persecution of the Catholic church by the Mexican government, and even worse to canonize individuals who were executed as traitors. Since these martyrdoms were so recent, documentation surrounding the circumstances of their deaths are relatively easy to find and read. 

To make matters a bit more complicated, one of the saints (Fr. Toribio Romo) is invoked as a patron of immigrants making their way into the United States from Mexico with documents or without. 

Read about these martyrs and decide for yourself: traitors or saints? 

Fr Manning Going to the Dogs (Again)

Capture Father Manning will be judging a local dog show on May 29th. Monmouth County Kennel Club is holding its all-breed dog show and obedience trial at East Freehold Park and he will be judging a variety of Non-Sporting and Sporting dogs. There are shows at this site for all four days of the Memorial Day Weekend. Check here for Judging Programs.

The entry for the entire show looks good, so its a handy place to come and see a variety of many breeds, get acquainted with the dogs temperaments and meet their breeders and handlers. Tons of doggie related merchandise is also on sale.

Stop by and say hello if you get to the show!

Saint Paul: Truth or Tact?

Today's Lectionary Readings

Lie It's impossible not to smile while reading today's Scripture as Paul successfully captilizes on the divided beliefs of his accusers and pits the Pharisees against the Saducees. He professed his belief in the existence of spirits, resurrection of the dead and an afterlife - the precise points on which these two groups disagreed. It caused division allright, an uproar so serious Paul had to be rescued by the military.

His testimony didn't gain Paul his freedom, but it wasn't a bad try. Of course, Paul would preach the truth whatever the consequences and that's one way he differs from many orators, preachers and politicians today. Being tactful doesn't necessarily exclude telling the truth, but today's political correctness and political double-speak seems specifically designed to either prevent the truth from coming to light or causing offense.

Let us pray for the courage to discern the truth and the courage and prudence to act on it. It would be a perfect prayer to offer on Pentecost.


Farewell But Not Forever

Today's Lectionary Readings

Two farewells are related in today's readings: Paul's departure from the Ephesians and Jesus' High Priestly Prayer anticipating his passion, death and resurrection. Both are poignant and sad. But it's reassuring to know that no Christian farewell, the little daily ones or the final one at our death, lasts forever.

The very best of Christian leave-taking allows room for the grief and sadness even while supported by faith in eternal life. The manner in which our funeral rites are celebrated seems to have struck a balance between the stark solemnity and judgement-fearing funerals of pre-Vatican II days and the celebratory, dutifully joyful funerals immediately following the Council. Now there is room for grief and mourning in a context of hope and faith. Tears and sadness are a true expression of the human condition and not necessarily a betrayal of our faith in eternal life; they are not out of place, they are perfectly in context.

As one of the Eucharist prayers for funerals affirms, "life is changed, not ended." Farewell, but not forever.


Drug and Alcohol Task Force Leadership Meeting

Meeting_conference_141616  Many community leaders, including myself and Mrs. Graham met two weeks ago for a follow-up discussion of how to minimize drug and alcohol abuse in our community, especially in our schools. The meeting was kindly hosted by Nativity parish. Many of the participants were faculty, staff or volunteers of the high school.

We listened to a presentation by Caron Institute on drug education and prevention in a community using a model they have tested in a town in Connecticut. Brainstorming, small group process (groan!) was done on three questions, perhaps most importantly, who should be involved in the education/prevention process. A group of individuals were identified and will be invited to participate in the ongoing planning discussions.

Opinions were varied and ranged between the view that education of the community about the dangers of addictions would be effective, while others insisted that only a strict enforcement of a consequence-based policy of sobriety within the school and community would be effective.  

It seems to me there is not only one correct measure to take, otherwise the solution would be self-evident. So far, not so good. I hope the group finds direction; it's such an important problem to prevent in the first place if possible, and if young people are addicted to detect it to save lives.

Meantime, we have had at least two presentations and discussions with parents of our children about the extent of drug and alcohol abuse among the young people in our area. It's important for us, even as a community with a grammar school to educate our children, and be vigilant about how they spend their free time especially as they transition from grammar school to high school.

We'll keep you posted about further developments. 

Not Only is Our Garden Growing, So Are Our Families

We had a wonderful "reunion" of some of our families who have baptized a baby here at Holy Cross in the past year. Parents, godparents and siblings were invited to the last Sunday's 10:30 AM mass and what a tremendous response! It was so beautiful for the rest of the congregation to see the growing, happy families at Holy Cross. One amazing thing was that there was hardly any crying at Mass - at least I didn't hear it! I was too happy to see so many children maturing in the Lord and loved by their parents.

Baptism blessing 051610 6

BaptBlessing 051610 1

Rain and Blooms

Guess you can't have one without the other.

Saint Fiacre is hardly visible with the daylilies growing up around him. That's red Penstemon in front of him and a Foxglove from the Youth Group's plant sale alongside. 

  Saint Fiacre, Patron Saint of Gardeners with daylillies, foxglove and penstemon.

The first of the California poppies returning from last season have started to open. There will be hundreds of these dotting the edges of the parish field and the parking islands. Notice its delicate, lace-like leaves. We've also planted many of the Red poppies and it will interesting to see if they bloom as readily as their yellow California cousins.

California poppies in early bloomthe 


More of the white Rosa rugosa. It's about to bloom in hundreds of flowers and its aroma is wonderful. Be sure to walk over to this bush and enjoy its fragrance. "Rugosa" means wrinkled; the leaves are not smooth like many roses, but have a slightly wrinkled appearance. This group of roses tolerate sea salt spray and sandy soils. 

Rosa rugosa shrub rose

Lupine and Home Run roses. The lupine which have become established are growing larger and larger each year. Newly scattered seed also seems to have a particularly high germination rate here. The fan shaped lupine leaves are easy to identify, even in young seedlings.

Home Run Roses and Lupine

The lavender had a hard winter, I think in the very last frost, but it's beginning to send up new growth. There is quite a bit of it tucked here and there, including some new plants along the western wall of the gymatorium in between the Ink Berry shrubs. A nice stand is growing just in front of the church as well.

Early blooming lavender

Most of the clematis seem to be doing very well. Some of the healthiest are sprawling up the fencing around the air conditioners next to the church and the fence along the tennis club. These are paired with a pale pink rose, which will hopefully bloom along with the clematis. There's a photo from a few years ago when both plants were very young. Some of the plants seem to have their eyes on the new fencing around the dumpster and recycling bin!

Clematis among the rose bush

Clematis and Roses bloom together

One Five Spot

Five Spot plant

OK, I have to look this up. I call it the Satellite Plant and it looks like it's happy so far.


  That's all for now. Susan has sent me many great shots of our many roses, but I can't identify which is which until I match the photos with the plants....on a sunny day.

Moms, don't forget to plant your seeds from Mother's Day and send us a photo of what grows!

Does it Rain More on Tuesdays?

Maybe it just seems like it because there's no gardening today, that's for sure. In the meantime, here is some of what's blooming:

The bearded iris which have enough sun are doing well, but there are some which are in too much shade. They'll have to be moved. As the evergreen trees grow taller and fuller, some areas which used to enjoy sun get little of it now. In fact, the sprinkler system on the parish field is now directly under some of the branches of trees which have increased in girth.

Blue bearded iris

Climbing red roses and Nepeta are doing well. Does someone plan this stuff? This rose bush had suffered black spot badly, and had reached gangly proportions, so we treated it and cut it back severely. That may be Obedience plant to the left (or weeds!).

Red roses and Nepeta Complementary colors

Mass Attendance May 15 - 16


Good going 4B!


Man29 You may note that figures for the 8th grades are missing. They are so low, I wouldn't want to embarass the parish by publishing them.

With so many privileges about to be showered on them at graduation, parties, class trips, etc. it makes it difficult to be joyful when eight years of formation in the faith yield such poor commitment to weekly worship.