Ascension Thursday Mass

Today's Mass of the Ascension was celebrated with Holy Cross School students and parishioners attending together. It was the last mass of the school year where all the students will have been present, since graduations of Kindergarten and Eight Grade begin soon.

In fact, it was the last mass of Holy Cross School, since the school will change its designation to an Academy in the fall semester. 

This sculpture on the ceiling of the Ascension Chapel in Our Lady of Walsingham in England (via Fr. Tim Finigan's blog The Hermeneutic of Continuity) takes the interpretation of the Ascension quite literally! We prayerfully rely on Christ's continued presence in the Church, especially His Sacraments and the guidance of the The Holy Spirit to foster the faith in our parish and school for many generations to come.


Apostles Meet To Discuss Disputes Between Gentile and Jewish Followers of Jesus

Untitled-1The readings from Acts of the Apostles at morning Mass have been highlighting the difficulty the early church had in reconciling Jewish Law with the reception of Gentile converts as believers of Jesus, followers of the The Way. Did Gentiles need to convert to Judaism or was Jesus seen as replacing the Jewish commandments with his two commandments of love?

The early church reached a compromise, releasing Gentile converts from the necessity of circumcision and most of the Jewish dietary proscriptions, but retaining a prohibition against eating meat sacrificed to idols. Most scholars agree that it took still longer for faithful Jews and baptized Christians to diverge into completely separate religious groups.


St. Isidore the Farmer


St. Isidore the Farmer was reputed to have been helped by an angel in working his fields while he took time to worship at Mass. Whatever time we give to God is repaid in God's generosity. Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament report that they seem to have more time for the accomplishment of daily tasks more effectively when they take time out of busy schedules to pray. (Even St. Isidore had bunnies eating his crops!)


The Inspiration of the Holy Spirit Can Be Spontaneous

Today's first reading reminds us that some of the promptings of the Spirit can be spontaneous and lead to immediate action. While we might be accustomed to carefully discerning the Will of God in our lives and looking for subtle clues the Holy Spirit can also provide sudden impulses like those given to the Ethiopian eunuch to be baptized. 

Amen to the spontaneous, life-giving impulses which come to us like surprise parties!

Rembrandt's Philip Baptizing the Eunuch

A Beatification From Bayonne

SisterSister Miriam Teresa Demjanovich, a native of Bayonne, New Jersey was declared a blessed by Pope Francis. The official ceremony was held in the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Newark on October 4, 2014 and  was the first beatification to take place on American soil. Sister Miriam served in the community of the Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth in Convent Station, New Jersey. After entering religious life at the age of 24, she died only two years later. Her life of prayer and dedication to God inspired many prayers for her intercession after her death. The many favors supplicants received apparently hastened her cause for beatification. The church verified miracle for her beatification was the healing of a young boy's blindness from macular degeneration.


Holy Orders


As we hear about St. Stephen's ministry in the morning readings at mass, it's a good opportunity to think about the three holy orders of ordained ministry in the Catholic Church.

The vocations of bishop, priest and deacon have been passed down through the centuries and just as their missions are distinctive, so is their liturgical garb.

The symbol of diaconal office is the stole worn over one shoulder, the priest's office by a stole worn suspended from the neck and the bishop's by the miter and crozier. The vesture for mass is a dalmatic for the deacon and chasuble for the priest and bishop.


Sts. Philip and James

Each of these saints is mentioned in readings for today's mass. Since St. James is often depicted holding a club as the instrument of his martyrdom, his patronage has been invoked by fullers and pharmacists, both groups which use club-like instruments in their profession: fullers to flatten wool and cloth and pharmacists to grind and compound medications. 

StJamesSaint James on the main facade of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

(Does it look a little like a golf club to anyone?)

PharmHealing herbs and emollients from a pharmacist.

St. Athanasius

I liked this battered icon of St. Athanasius and though I fixed up the cracks and dents in its halo, I left the poor saint battered as I imagine he would have been from his multiple exiles for teaching the truth about the Son of God. May St. Athanasius give us courage to embrace the true faith.




The Bishop of Rome Should Live In...Rome!

St. Catherine of Sienna, a Doctor of the Church, advocated that the papacy should return to Rome from its palace in Avignon and its control by the French aristocracy. So the move back to Rome was much more than a symbolic gesture, but rather a return to the primacy of Peter and the roots of the church's martyrdom. The papacy should always be free from undue worldly political influence and the independent nature of the Vatican City State helps reinforce that capacity.



Three Men In The Fiery Furnace

Shadrach, Mesach and Abednego were spared from the fiery furnace by the LORD. They had been cast into the flames for not worshiping Babylonian gods and enraged the king for their stubborn refusal to comply even under the threat of death.

Their deliverance from the flames earned them a pardon from the king and choice appointments at court. 

The depiction of this miracle appears early in Christian art, including in the Roman catacombs. This mosaic is a 20th century in Westminster Cathedral. 


The Truth

Shutterstock_697631326Today's readings emphasize the importance of truth telling, since the testimony of two witnesses was enough to establish the truthfulness of statements made under Jewish law. Susanna's accusers were both lying, yet the truth was uncovered through important inconsistencies in their statements. 

Jesus' accusers wanted him to establish his identity as Messiah with a second witness, disallowing the proof from the many miraculous signs he was working and Jesus' allusion to support from His Father. In fact, His claims to be one with the Father only added to their rage and finalized their decision to execute Him for blasphemy.

Let us ask for the courage to tell the truth, strength to resist cooperating with those who lie and for the truth of Christ to rule our lives.


Saint Vincent Ferrer

I did a bit of reminiscing today, since St. Vincent Ferrer in Brooklyn  was my home parish growing up and the grammar school I attended. In searching for an image of St. Vincent, I discovered that my old parish has two great photos on their webpage.

StAs I recall, the mosaic is mounted above the main door to the "new school" which was opened in 1967.

St Vincent was a Dominican priest who preached during a turbulent time in the Church when there were three claimants to the papacy and the church was still trying to reconcile the Great Schism with the Eastern churches. None of the controversy diminished his apostolic zeal and he converted great numbers of people and gained a reputation for being a healer and miracle worker.


Teach Our Children Well

FamilyToday's Scriptures emphasize the importance of teaching our children the faith and not leading them into scandal. May our families and our church take this task as a sacred trust.

Children are also encouraged to share their faith with their parents by asking questions and discussing things they have learned in religion class or religious instruction. Sharing the faith isn't a one-way street.


St. Darerca - Sister of St. Patrick, Mother of Saints

Saint Darerca

St. Darerca is said to be the second most popular female saint in Ireland after St. Bridget. She was sister to St. Patrick and had 19 children, many of whom became bishops and saints themselves. She and her children helped St. Patrick evangelize Ireland. They could have made their own congregation!

Not many other specifics are known for certain about her life. I've shown her here with a shamrock on her cowl for each of her children, holding wedding bands for her motherhood and an Irish cross for her evangelizing role with her brother. 

St. Enda - Founder of Irish Monasticism

Sts. Fanchea and Enda

Saint Enda was converted from warrior-prince to priest by his sister, St. Abbess Fanchea. He spent his life as a monk, eventually becoming abbot of a monastery on the Aran Islands off the coast of Ireland. These barren islands were chosen because of their inaccessibility and difficult climate.   He was a tremendous influence on other Irish saints over history, including our own saints Kieran and  Colomba. 

St. Enda's Holy Well is located on the island of Inisheer, the easternmost of the three Aran Islands.


The Irish monks on the Aran Islands lived austere lives of poverty, penance and prayer. We need not exactly copy their example, but are nevertheless called to abstain from some pleasures, do penance and pray during Lent.

St John Nepomucene

JohnSt. John Nepomucene Statue and Memorial on the Charles River Bridge in Prague.

St. John Nepomucene was martyred on the orders of King Wencelaus IV for refusing to divulge the sins of his wife, the queen confessed in the Sacrament of Confession. He was imprisoned, tortured, burned then thrown affixed to a wheel to drown in the Charles River.

The bridge holds a memorial to St. John, including the spot from which he is said to have been thrown. Touching or rubbing his effigy on the plaque is said to bring good luck, or a guaranteed return visit to Prague. A dog, a sign of loyalty, is also featured in one of the memorial plaques and it too has been burnished by well wishers and luck seekers.

The Seal of the Sacrament of Confession has generally been respected by our nation's laws but due to the recent scandals in the church, is now under attack at the moment in New York State. Please pray we have the wisdom to deal effectively with child abuse without attacking the seal of the confessional.

Bridge Memorial
The site where St. John was thrown from the bridge.

DogA loyal hound burnished with affection.

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.