Scammer Alert for Parishioners

DevilHornsThe Diocese of Trenton and the Atlantic Highlands Police Department have issued cautions about scammer(s) who are targeting church parishioners using the name of the parish pastor.

The email seems to come from the pastor and will ask the recipient to purchase gift cards for a worthy purpose. In Atlantic Highlands, the scammer then told the victim to send him  the gift card numbers, as the pastor was away from the parish for a while. 

Over the weekend, a member of Holy Cross staff received an email purporting to be from me saying that I wanted to reward some children who have been especially good at mass and asking if she could purchase some gift cards. Luckily, she contacted me rather than the "reply to" email and we avoided a problem. The scammer used the staff members correct first name, even though this was not obvious from the parish email address. 

The scam has nothing to do with any of the legitimate sources of online donation the parish uses. If there is any question about an email received from Holy Cross or one of the staff members, please call us to verify its authenticity, or call the local police if you have been victimized.

Several parishes around the diocese have been targeted, as have parishes in Philadelphia. Here is a link to the Atlantic Highlands article from the Monmouth Journal.

I am sure the children who attend mass will be rewarded, but not with Amazon Gift Cards!

Jesus warned us the children of darkness are crafty and persistent. Help us shine some light on this scam!

God's Forgiveness vs. Human Forgiveness

FaceForgive and Forget. You've heard the expression, maybe even had someone proffer this advice. 
There are lots of other slogans in riposte - "Forgive, but keep a list of names," "Forgive, but never forget," "Forgive what hurt you but never what you learned." Our human nature is not attuned to forgetfulness, especially for dangers or harms, but we can take the first step in the process of forgiveness by surrendering the right to get even and stating our grievance.

With God, however, forgiveness is a different story. In this morning's readings, God's forgiveness is described as complete and efficacious. We go from being on the path to destruction to the path of life. God promises to offer life and forget our sins if we turn from our sinful ways. This is the hope of repentance in Lent.


Nineveh Repents, Can We?

Jonah at the Gates of Nineveh by Rembrandt

Jonah was given a nearly impossible job, preaching repentance to the City of Nineveh. And he succeeded. This greatly distressed Jonah, who was rather looking forward to the fire and light show of God's destruction of the city. 

Lent is a perfect time for repentance - a change of how we do things with an eager anticipation that our sincere repentance will be accepted by God.


Leviticus 19

This morning's reading from Leviticus gives what the bible calls, "various rules of conduct," distinct from the 10 Commandments. A ban on tattoos, eating meat not drained of animal blood, cutting beards and other demands on daily life, were meant to remind a faithful Jew of the Lord's dominion. Also mentioned in the same passage is gleaning, the practice of leaving behind 10% of a field's produce so the poor may also harvest the land. Instead of extracting every last penny of profit, landowners were required to share their produce - a good admonition for all of us this Lent. 


The Finger Pointing To The Moon


The finger represents the spiritual practices which point toward something greater, not something to be focused on in itself. 

Although this metaphor comes from Buddhism, it has been used by Catholic spiritual directors to place proper emphasis on all spiritual practices. Spiritual practices should lead to God, not become an end in themselves. Since we love and need tangible sacramentals, there is always a risk we may place too much emphasis on them.

In Lent, these tangibles are our ascetic and charitable practices. They are meant to lead us to God, not distract us and surely not to become an end in themselves.  

Catholic spiritual writers describe the same movement in proper Marian devotion. Mary always points to Jesus.


May all our works of charity, acts of self control and prayers kindle in us a more fervent love of God.



Nature's Patterns and Rootie Kazootie

PatternsI became fascinated by the patterns of icy slush on the driveway this morning on my way to mass. Polka dot pavement everywhere. 

Well, for anyone who remembers Rootie Kazootie, Polka Dottie, Galapoochie Pup and Poison Zanzaboo, this picture may bring back some memories. One of Rootie's escapades as a detective was discovering who had stolen all the polka dots in town. Of course the culprit turned out to be Poison Zanzaboo, who was apprehended by Rootie's Dalmatian. This illustration shows Zanzaboo's bag of purloined polka dots being spilled all over town - even in rectory driveways sixty years later!


Firm Purpose of Amendment

ConfessionI always wondered why the phrase "firm purpose of amendment" sounded so technical, even before I knew there were other meanings for amendment - e.g. in the garden, in the constitution. But the phrase answers the warning given in the Book of Sirach this morning about presuming God's forgiveness before or during committing sin. 

Critics who mock the Sacrament of Reconciliation as somehow giving permission for Catholics to continue sinning with impunity miss the mark. We do not apologize to each other for wrongs in order to continue offending them and it is the same with God. 

A firm purpose of amendment must be made in loving seriousness.



Wisdom Hard To Come By


Today's reading from the book of Sirach teaches that wisdom is difficult to attain, surely not as simple as acquiring knowledge. Wisdom requires not only guidance from the Holy Spirit, but a capacity to map our life experiences and the example of others onto the new circumstances in our lives and discern a prudent course of action.

The statue of Sedes Sapientiae, Our Lady Seat of Wisdom shows the peace and serenity of quiet communication between Jesus and Mary that brings true wisdom.


The Devils in Mark's Gospel Know Jesus Best


It can be difficult to sort out fact from fiction when it comes to exorcism and demonic possession these days. Hollywood special effects invent or exaggerate signs of demonic activity and minimize the destructive everyday influence of evil.

Nevertheless, Jesus meets a demon on nearly every page of Mark's gospel. He exercises complete control over all the demons - a spiritual truth we can clutch for security and protection during temptation or distress. 


One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic

RockThe four marks of the church pertain to today's celebration of the Chair of Peter, especially the church's apostolicity. While we surely respect the occupant of the office of the Petrine ministry, it is the office and its founding by Christ from which this reverence flows. In these days, it is important to remember that the rock of Peter and the chair on which it sits gains its stability and permanence.