Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Third Week of Advent

On the Third Sunday of Advent, we join the deep blue of the Advent vesture with the rose colored vesture. Advent is almost over, and we mark this point by singing "Gaudete" or "Rejoice"....reflecting our joy in the knowledge that the Lord, our salvation, is very near.

Advent is about having eyes, ears, and hearts able to recognize how close the Lord is to each and every one of us, saints and sinners, young and old, rich and poor. This realization is a cause for joy! As we light the third candle of the Advent Wreath, the rose-colored candle, let us pray for joy:

Pray for the joy Christ's coming promises...
Pray for the joy that survives life's trials...
Pray for the joy the lonely thirst for...
Pray for the joy only peace can bring...
Pray for the joy that smiles even in grief...
Pray for the joy that is deep, not passing...
Pray for the joy that helps us see beyond the moment...
Pray for the joy only God can give us...
Pray for the joy others invite us to share...
Pray for the joy someone waits for me to share...

Friday, December 14, 2007

My Byzantine Friends

Some of you know that I am very friendly with several priests of the Byzantine Eparchy of Passaic, NJ. Ever since I was a college student in Northeastern Pennsylvania, I have held a certain fascination for the "Greek Catholics" whose worship resembles Orthodox practices, but who profess loyalty to the Bishop of Rome.
My graduate studies in Liturgiology helped me to better appreciate this rich prayer-form of our Eastern brothers and sisters. At the present time, I am discerning an interest in seeking Bi-ritual faculties for celebrating in both the Latin and Eastern-Rites. I believe that some of my ancestors that emigrated from Slovakia in the late 19th century, may have been Eastern-Rite Catholics.
Anyway, I recently received some great news about one of my Byzantine friends, Fr. Gerald Dino, pastor in Linden, NJ. Fr. Gerald was named to be the new Bishop of the Byzantine Eparchy (diocese) of Van Nuys, in California, whose territory encompasses the entire West Coast of the United States! Bishop-designate Dino will move from beautiful Linden, NJ to his Cathedral City of Phoenix, AZ in late March. He'll be "enthroned" as Bishop on March 27, in the midst of Bright Week (the Easter Octave for us Latins). Bishop Dino will be consecrated by the Metropolitan Archbishop of Pittsburgh, Archbishop Basil, in a ceremony dating back one thousand years, replete with much biblical and liturgical symbolism.
I hope to be able to travel out to Phoenix for this wonderful celebration, to witness a priest-friend become a Bishop, and to celebrate with his new diocesan family the beginning of a new era in their living the Gospel. It's truly a joy to be able to celebrate with my friends, and it gives me great hope that our Church will continue to grow "with both lungs of the Church, the East and West" (as Pope John Paul II used to say), and that Eastern and Western Catholics will continue to flourish and grow in this great land of ours. Let us continue to pray for each other!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Advent Reconciliation on Guadalupe Day

Tonight, December 12, our parish celebrated an Advent Penance Service as well as the First Penance for some 80 of our children. With the help of Fr. Chuck Griffith and Fr. Mike Sullivan, we had a nice, peaceful celebration of God's mercy for our children, their parents, and for all of our parishioners.

I was thinking about my own first time of celebrating the sacrament of reconciliation. I was not with my parents, but with my second-grade classmates and our teacher, a Sister of Mercy named Sister Marcella. It was a Friday morning, and the church building was dark and deserted. We were under strict orders not to make any noise, lest we be yanked by the ear and led painfully to the office of the principal.....where untold horrors awaited us!

I remember feeling very afraid that I would forget parts of the "Act of Contrition", which the sisters had told us was the most important part of the whole transaction. They told us that we HAD to memorize the entire prayer, and that if we made a mistake, it was another mortal sin that would keep us forever from the joys of heaven. I have to tell you, that's a lot of pressure for a second grader.

There were two priests hearing those first confessions that day, the Administrator of the Parish, an old, strict Monsignor, and the nice, cool young associate, who used to hang out at my family's home and play with us kids. He had baptized my brother and two youngest sisters, and even used to bring his collection of pet snakes over to our house....to the horror of my mother, but to our delight.

I lucked out that day, and got the cool, young priest. I dutifully began, "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.....This is my first confession." All of a sudden, the priest, from behind the screen says, "OK, Geno, what are you sorry for?" At first, I thought, "Oh man, I'm busted! He knows who I am! " Then, I thought, "Oh well, might as well lay it all out." Then I recited my list of my transgressions, and at the end of my recitation, I remember the priest said: "OK....those are all good things to work on. Try to be nicer to your brother and sisters, and try to be good for your parents...you know they love you very much. Say one Our Father for your parents tonight before you go to sleep, and pray for them every night before you go to sleep. That's your penance, Gene. Try to be a good boy!" Then he said the prayer of absolution, and out I strode, shriven of my sins and feeling like a hundred bucks, ready to take on the world free of sins and ready to do good to others and for God.

Some of my other classmates were not so lucky. They got the old monsignor, who thought that the sins of second-graders were the most terrible and serious of any persons, and who gave penances like 3 Rosaries, 6 weeks of Fasting, or 100 Hail Mary's. I remember my friend Jimmy coming out of the confessional looking alabaster white and literally shaking, responding to my question "What'd ya get?" He told us, "Man, I got 10 whole Rosaries!" We all thought, "Wow, what did he confess? Did he do a murder or something?"

Anyway, I much prefer the way we celebrate First Penance today.....with kids surrounded by their families, with no big lists of "mortal" or "venial" sins, in a brightly lit church and with a whole community to pray with them and support them. I truly believe we've changed for the better on this issue. Let's keep it up!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Second Week of Advent

The Second Week of Advent.

One more candle lit, one more light to brighten the wreath. More light to shine in the darkness of our existence.

Our parish hosts 4 families this week in our church building. Families seeking comfort through the Interfaith Hospitality Network have come to St. Anselm for hospitality this week. Many people have volunteered to cook a breakfast, or a dinner, or to stay overnight, or to help with evening activities for the families. All help to these families brings more light into their lives. Your loving assistance helps each family to grow in the spirit. We all seek to help these families grow in their dignity, to grow into an appreciation of the Lord's gifts in their lives.

Truth be told, for me, the presence of these families in our parish is a gift from the Lord. Their presence reminds me of the wonderful ways in which God has gifted us with the gifts of security, of the attitude of care for our less-fortunate neighbors, and with the gift of desiring to "do something" for people less-fortunate than we are at the present time. Yes, I consider these to be 'gifts' of the Spirit at this time of year. I beleive God calls us to remember these people, and all of the others who want in this world....and they are so many....and I believe God calls us to stretch in these special days to he aware of, and to welcome these messengers of God's presence in our lives today!

Image of Saint Anelm

I've been searching the Web and other sources for images of Saint Anselm. Recently, I came across the website for the Pontifical Liturgical Institute in Rome, San Anselmo. There, I found this image of a statue in the College's courtyard. This image of Anselm shows him in his Benedictine habit, and crowned with the mitre and carrying a crozier, symbols of his office as Archbishop of Canterbury. He's also pictured carrying a Book of Gospels, symbolizing his missionary efforts to bring the Gospel to the people of England and France.

The Hope of Advent

Just finished reading Pope Benedict's recent Encyclical letter, "Spe Salvi". A wonderful meditation on Christian hope. For full text, visit "Spe Salvi" - Encyclical Letter of His Holiness Benedict XVI on Christian Hope